RAMSES (Egyptian R ʿ-ms-sw ; "Re is he that has borne him"; name of several Egyptian rulers of the 19th and the 20th dynasties. Connected with the sun god of Heliopolis, the name is significant for the orientation toward Lower Egypt that accompanied the attempt to regain power over Asia, which had been lost in the Amarna period. Ramses i (c. 1306–1305 b.c.e.) rose to become founder of the 19th dynasty from a non-royal position as vizier. It was left to his grandson Ramses ii (c. 1290–1223 b.c.e.) to restore Egypt to her former greatness. His long reign, splendid building activities (additions to the Karnak and Luxor temples, the Ramesseum, the monumental rock-cut temple at Abu Simbel), and numerous offspring (over 100 children) made him a legendary figure for later times. The enlargement of his residence at Tanis, renamed Per-Ramses in his honor, agrees with the biblical record (Ex. 1:11) of the building of *Ramses and *Pithom (Tell el-Maskhouta in the eastern Delta) by the Israelites, and makes him the probable *pharaoh of the Exodus. A battle with the Hittites at Kadesh in his fifth year ended in a stalemate. Campaigns in Palestine, southern Phoenicia, and Edom are attested for the following years. In year 21 of his reign a treaty with Hatti was drawn up in the face of the new common menace embodied in the advancing Sea Peoples. The full impact of these peoples fell on Ramses iii (c. 1188–1157 b.c.e.), the son of the founder of the 20th dynasty. He warded off their attack in his eighth year, after they had overrun the Hittites. He also managed to check the Libyans and maintained authority over Palestine. However, after his death by a harem intrigue, Palestine, now settled by Philistines and the Israelites, was forever lost to Egypt. A list of his temple donations shows that increasing wealth accumulated in the hands of the priests of Amun at Thebes. Under his successors (Ramses iv–xi, c. 1157–1085 b.c.e.), political influence was also taken over by the priests, while the might of the rulers steadily declined in a country lacking foreign influence and troubled by poverty and inflation.
M.B. Rowton, in: Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, 34 (1948), 57–74; J.A. Wilson, The Burden of Egypt (1951), 239ff.; P. Montet, Géographie de l'Egypte ancienne, 1 (1957), 214; O. Eissfeldt, in: cah2, vol. 2, ch. 26, 17–19; R.O. Faulkner, ibid., ch. 23.