Rameses and Nefertari - A love story?

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king tutankhamun
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Rameses and Nefertari - A love story?

Bericht door king tutankhamun » di 11 mei 2010, 16:16

The history and legends of ancient Egypt abound with love stories. We wonder at the grand love of Amunhotep III and Tiye and we weep at the tragic story Anthony and Cleopatra. We are touched by the poignant young love of Tutankhamun and Ankhesenamun and we marvel at the symbolically rich love of Akhenaten and Nefertiti. We are spellbound by the divine passion of Osiris and Isis while we ponder the secret affair of Hatshepsut and Senenmut. And when it comes to enduring statements of love, none can compare to that of Rameses II for his great royal wife Nefertari. The two master-pieces that emphasize the depth of the relationship are Nefertari’s Tomb in the Valley of the Queens and the Temple to Hathor at Abu Simbel, called the Small Temple or the Temple of Nefertari. These statements of Rameses’ love for his first wife are magnificent examples of nineteenth dynasty art. Let us take a look at the Temple to Hathor.
Rameses II reigned for 67 years from 1279BC to 1212BC. His names in hieroglyphics enclosed in royal cartouches found on his many monuments are user-maat-Ra (the truth of Ra is powerful) - Shelley used Ozymandias, the Greek version of this name in the poem inspired by the fallen statue of the Pharaoh – and setep-en-Ra (chosen of Ra). Rameses (son of Ra) is coupled with mery-Amun (beloved of Amun).
It was the era of grand titles and Nefertari (the most beautiful) had dozens of them! The epithet found in her cartouche is mery-Mut (beloved of Mut). Her other titles include hemet-nesu-wert (king’s great wife), henut-shemeu-tamhu (mistress of south and north), werut-hesut (of great favour), nebet-yamet (of great attraction), jedt-khet-nebet-ir-tu-en-es (all she says is obeyed), erit-be-et (the inheriting princess), nebet-tawi (the mistress of two lands), hemet-ka-nekhet (wife of the strong bull), benert-merut (pretty beloved), sehteb (who pleases god), nefret her (of beautiful face) and enet-em-shuty (pleasant in the twin plumes – referring to Amun’s head-dress).
Nefertari was of a noble Theban family (the inheriting princess). Rameses came from the Delta so the marriage had a sound political as well as an emotional basis. Nefertari married in her early teens and quickly presented Rameses with his first son, Amunherkhepshef. She subsequently gave birth to other sons called Parherunemef, Meri-Ra and Meri-Atum and daughters named Merit-Amun and Henut-Tauy. The title ‘Mother of the King’ was added to Nefertari’s list of honours indicating that one of her sons was already chosen to succeed his father. It transpired that Rameses outlived hers and many other sons. In fact it was Merneptah his thirteenth son by another wife who was the oldest survivor when Rameses finally died in his nineties.
Soon after ascending the throne, Rameses commissioned the building of the mighty Sun Temple at Abu Simbel. It was to take twenty years to complete during which time Rameses’ excursion against the Hittites was undertaken and the pharaoh’s version of the battle was etched in stone on the temple walls. At the same time and almost as a sideline the beautiful small temple of Hathor, dedicated to Nefertari was built about a hundred metres north-east of the Sun Temple. Modern day visitors stand in wonder as they gaze at the colossal statues of Rameses outside the rock-cut Sun Temple. They enter its magnificence and view the murals and statues which form part of the great statement of awesome majesty portrayed within. Then, in the short time of their visit remaining, they wander over to the temple of Nefertari. Its proximity to the Sun Temple adds enchantment to Nefertari’s temple and the contrast could not be greater.
The rock-cut facade slopes away like the pylons of more traditional temples. Six major statues stand ten metres high, three on each side of the entrance. Four statues portray Rameses wearing various crowns and striding forth, while two statues depict Nefertari, in equal size wearing the twin plumed head-dress associated with Amun. In ancient Egyptian iconography king’s wives were seldom depicted standing higher than the pharaoh’s knee. This equality in scale is a clear reflection of Rameses’ respect for and love of his wife, and an indication of her status in the ruling process. Statues of their six children stand in diminished scale alongside the statues of their parents.
The layout of the small temple is a simplified version of the great Sun Temple. The hypostyle hall is supported by six square columns, each carved with a depiction of a giant sistrum with the head of Hathor and the rattle box above. The columns are decorated with scenes of Nefertari playing the sistrum. The face of each column shows a different god (Horus, Khnum, Khonsu, Thoth and Rameses presenting incense) or a goddess (Hathor, Isis, Maat, Mut, Satis and Taweret) . The carvings on the walls are beautifully executed and they illustrate the deification of Rameses. Just in case you missed the point in the other temple his victories over his enemies in the north and south are illustrated, although in this portrayal the pharaoh is accompanied by Nefertari! In other scenes Nefertari is shown making offerings to Hathor and Mut. The hypostyle hall leads into a transverse vestibule via three large openings. On the south and north walls of the vestibule are bas-reliefs of Rameses and Nefertari presenting papyrus plants to Hathor who is shown as a cow on a boat sailing among the papyri. On the west wall the king and his royal wife make offering to Horus and the divinities of the cataract Satis, Anukis and Khnum.
The small sanctuary is the final chamber lying on the axis of the temple. In a niche in the rear wall, the goddess Hathor is depicted in high relief as a cow emerging from the western mountain with Rameses standing beneath her chin. Unfortunately this art work is badly damaged and some imagination is needed. On the right wall a significant painting shows Rameses as the king worshipping images of his own and his wife’s deified selves.
The great temples at Abu Simbel were consecrated in the twenty-fourth year of Rameses’ reign. Regrettably Nefertari is noticeably absent from the records of the dedication ceremonies, her place being taken by Merit-Amun, her daughter. We do not know the cause of Nefertari’s death, but sometime in her late thirties she entered the Afterlife.
As you leave this haven of love and peace you may be fortunate enough to have a guide point to the text on the temple façade. It declares:
“Rameses has made a temple, excavated in the mountain of eternal workmanship in Nubia…for the king’s great wife Nefertari, beloved of Mut forever and ever…Nefertari…for whom the sun does shine.
the defender of her royal highness, the supreme queen of egypt, Ankhesenamun :)

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