Pharaoh Ramesses III and the Harem Conspiracy
An Ancient Lesson: Always Be Careful of the Company You Keep
Dr. J. E. Moore
Travel back; back to Egypt’s Twentieth Dynasty, sometime amidst the years 1189 BC and 1077 BC, before the notions of Christianity and Islam were ever established, taking hold of the minds of the masses. Consider a man, a pharaoh: Ramses (or Ramesses) III, who was marked as perhaps one of the last pharaohs of the era, at the end of the New Kingdom with great military dominance in the northern regions of Africa, expanding territories deep into Nubia to the south, and engulfing eastward sanctions as well… as far as what we identify as Syria today. This territory was expansive.
Notable pharaohs of this time prior to Ramesses III were Akhenatan, or Amenhotep IV, who introduced monotheism to the people. Now consider Ramses, or Ramesses, III who marched troops to modern day Israel and Palenstine, Syria and even Lebanon, successfully battling the Hittites.
We find ourselves understanding Usermaatre Meryamun, better known as Ramesses III: the son of Setnakhte, who was a warrior in his own right. The Great Harris Papyrus tell us Ramesses III ruled for just over 31 years. Though he reigned during tumultuous times in the Mediterranean, the same regions that witnessed the Trojan War, as well as the fall of Mycenae. He was amidst a giant uptick of misplaced peoples. Most notably, in approximately the eighth year of the pharaohship, a large amount of people bound together to form the group history knows as the “Sea Peoples.” These were essentially refugees from the Mediterranean who had deserted their villages due to war, lack of food, and perhaps illnesses. They quelled the Nile River Delta, seeking shelter in Ramesses III’s kingdom.
And no. He wasn’t having that.
Their attempts to come into Egypt through the eastern borders meant Ramesses III had to act strategically to quell their uproar, sending armies to fight off the people. And he succeeded.
He also was known for his civil works projects, like the creation of domestic buildings and beautifying the villages with his attunement with neighborhood aesthetics, notably tree and flower planting. He made sure there were temples that received a vast amount of protected lands, including temples in Thebes. But Ramesses III is arguably the last ruler to have a stronghold on Egypt, as his authority declined. Royal tomb workers went on strike. Back pay was allegedly owed to these workers. And there is evidence indicating he may have been assassinated.
By who? Someone who worked with one of his secondary, or side, wives. And her son.
Mummy scans indicate that not only did he have one of his big toe chopped off at the time of his death, but he also had his throat slit. There were two different weapons apparently used, so perhaps there was more than one assailant who attacked him. It is even questioned as to whether or not their were multiple people who attacked him. Weapons could have been an ax or a sword for his toe, and a knife or dagger for his throat, according to reports such as those in LiveScience.
The Gza from Wu-Tang Clan may have stated it best in 1995 when he lyrically stated, “I gotcha back but you best to watch your front.”
Will we ever unveil the exact assassins provoked by his secondary wife (and her son Pentawere too)? Probably not. However, Jason Daley of Smithsonian (2016) notes the “ancient document titled the Papyrus of Turin details the plot to assassinate Ramesses III. It reveals that his secondary wife Tiye and her son Pentawere conspired with others to kill the pharaoh, who had selected a heir from a more senior wife.” Nevertheless, Ramesses III was murdered, but his heir was not. Pentawere went on to commit suicide, and Tiye, along with many other harems and people who were in the company of her plot, were allegedly arrested. Ramesses IV took the throne, immediately to put Tiye and Pentware (secondary "wife" and son) onto trial. Members of the royal household had questions to answer. Did they ever come forward and come clean? Perhaps to an extent yes, according to the Papyrus of Turin.
Ramesses III’s wounds appear to have been augmented though, and there is evidence of some surgical tampering with his body, including the creation of a false toe. This was suspicious, along with an amulet placed upon his throat gash, but these practices were most likely to prepare him for the afterlife. A pharaoh may have lost his life, but thankfully, his DNA lives on in many among us. His elaborate temple, Mortuary Temple of Ramses III at Medinet Habu, contains many artistic depictions of his reign: a long-lost art of warriorship within.
Research sources further below. Always move deeper into the information. Knowledge knows no bounds:
Clayton, Peter A., Chronicle of the Pharaohs: The Reign-by-Reign Record of the Rulers and Dynasties of Ancient Egypt. Thames & Hudson, New York, 2006.
Daley, Jason. “CT Scan Shows Pharaoh Ramesses III Was Murdered by Multiple Assassins.” Smithsonian.com, Smithsonian Institution, 25 Mar. 2016. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/ct-scan-shows-pharoah-Ramesses-iii-was-murdered-multiple-assassins-180958559/.
Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum. “New Kingdom Rulers Ramses III.” New Kingdom Rulers, 2021, https://egyptianmuseum.org/explore/new-kingdom-ruler-ramses-iii.
The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. “Ramses III.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 4 Apr. 2007, https://www.britannica.com/biography/Ramses-III.
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