Ramesses IV, the Beginning the Empire's Collapse

Ramesses IV, Beginning the Empire's Collapse

by Jimmy Dunn

The cartouches of Ramesses IV

The story of the Ramessid kings following Ramesses III is one of decline and the end of the great empire ruled under the rule of Egyptians. Afterwards, Egypt would mostly be ruled by foreigners of one kind or another.

However, Ramesses III's son, probably by either Queen Isis or Queen Titi, did seem to have enjoyed a fairly prosperous, albeit short reign. Of course, we know from many other kings during this period that his birth name, Ramesses, means "Re has Fashioned Him". His throne name, Heqamaatre means "Ruler of Justice like Re. We know that he had a chief wife named Tentopet, who was buried in QV74 in the Valley of the Queens, as little else of his family is known.

Ramesses IV became crown prince in the twenty-two of his father's reign. Though only the fifth son of his Ramesses III, his four older brother's predeceased their father. Whether or not he ruled as a co-regent of his father, during the closing years of Ramesses III's life, his son took on increasing responsibilities. For example, as early as year 27 of Ramesses III's reign, he Ramesses IV is depicted as being responsible for the appointment of one Amenemopet as the High Priest of Mut at Karnak.

A Statue fo the King

Some scholars maintain that it was Ramesses IV who resided over the court that tried those arrested in the "Harem Conspiracy" involving his father, but this is by no means certain.His father may, or may not have survived that conspiracy, but irregardless, it is clear that the assassination attempt was aimed at eliminating Ramesses IV as the crown prince. Obviously, this did not take place.

Though little in the way of military action can be documented during Ramesses IV's reign, there is some slight evidence of a sea action, in Ramesses IV's third year, perhaps with the Sea People that were such a bother to his father. And though we know of the viceroy of Nubia, one Hori II, who's father had served under Siptah at the end of the 19th Dynasty, there is little other evidence for Ramesses IV's activities outside Egypt proper.

A Shawabty figure said to represent Ramesses IV

We do know, from several inscribed stele in the Wadi Hammamat, that he sent large expeditions out to obtain good stone for statues. One of these included 8,368 men, that included some 2,000 soldiers. Prior to this, little activity had taken place at Wadi Hammamat prior to the reign of Seti I. Apparently the soldiers were not sent so much to defend the workmen, but rather to control them.

We also find recorded expeditions to the turquoise mines at Serabit el-Khadim in the Sinai, as well as southern campaigns into Nubia as far south as the fort of Buhen, that lies just north of the Second Cataract (rapids) on the Nile River.

He was also responsible, together with his father, for major work on enlargement of the temple of Khonsu at Karnak. He also apparently at least began a mortuary temple, intended to be even larger than that of his father's, near the temple of Hatshepsut. There is another, smaller temple associated with him north of Medinet Habu, of which even less is known.

Ramesses IV wearing  the atef crown of Egypt

It has been suggested that the larger temple was abandoned for the less demanding size of the smaller.In addition, he is attested to by a stela at Koptos and from other smaller monuments in the Sinai, as well as a statue from Memphis and an Obelisk from Heliopols. Due to his building actives, he apparently increased, and perhaps even doubled, the work force at Deir el-Medina.

However, as at the end of his father's reign, further delays in the delivery of basic commodities needed by these workmen occurred, that, in hindsight at the end of the 20th Dynasty, can be seen to have had a significant impact on the demise of the Egyptian Empire. These problems coincided with the growing influence of the High Priest of Amun. Ramesesnakht, the older of that high office, was soon accompanying the state officials when they went to pay the men their monthly rations, which indicates that probably the temple of Amun, and not the Egyptian state itself, was now at least partially responsible for their wages. In fact, Ramesesnakht controlled a powerful family consisting of many priests in the temple of Amun. His son, Usermaatranakht was "steward of the estate of Amun" and as such, he not only controlled a vast Temple estate, but also a majority of the state owned land in Middle Egypt.

Ostracon bearing the  cartouches of the king

The High Priest of Amun was now a hereditary position, and its heirs would become more and more independent of the king so that by the time of Ramesses XI at the end of the 20th Dynasty, the Egypt would finally be divided between the High Priests at Thebes and the Lower Egyptian King, resulting in the Third Intermediate Period.

Despite all of the good work for the gods and his prayer to Osiris for a long reign [as my predecessor], recorded on a stele discovered by Mariette at Abydos that dates to year four of Ramesses IV's reign, the king died after only about six years on the throne. He was succeeded on the throne by a brother who continued the line of Ramessid names (Ramesses V). Ramesses IV was buried on the West Bank of ancient Thebes (modern Luxor) just outside the earlier main grouping of tombs in the Eastern Valley of the Kings in KV2, but his body was later discovered in the royal cache unearthed in the tomb of Amenhotep II (KV35) and is now in the Egyptian Antiquities Museum in Cairo.

Last Updated: Aug 4th, 2011






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