The Sons (and Daughters) of Ramesses II
by Jimmy Dunn
Ramesses II probably had over 100 children by his principal wives and consorts. As with the flip of a coin, approximately half of them were sons and the other half daughters. About 29 of the 30 sons of mostly principal queens are known. They would have had the title, "King's Son of His Body", a title not conferred on the sons of lesser consorts. He probably had a few additions sons by principal queens who died in infancy, but these are not recorded. We also know the names of a few of the sons of lesser consorts, but how many sons he had by them is unknown.
We do not know near as much about Ramesses the Great's (Ramesses II) home life as we do about his many great public accomplishments. Yet it is very easy to imagine him playing with his children, and spending intimate moments with one of his major queens. Unlike many pharaohs, his family is attested to with numerous monuments including Nefertari's small temple at Abu Simbel and her great tomb in the Valley of the Queens. He also built one of the most unusual and largest tomb in Egypt for a number of his sons in the Valley of the Kings on the West Bank at Luxor (ancient Thebes) very near his own tomb. In fact, he had statues or images engraved of various sons and daughters on a number of his building projects around Egypt. These statues and engravings were not done in order to boast of his fertility, but rather to recommend his children to the mercy of the gods. Most of these also included the son or daughter's name.
- The Temple at Abu Simbel, where 8 sons and 9 daughters or represented in processions.
- The Temple of Derr, with identical scenes to Abu Simbel.
- Luxor Tempe, where a number of scenes are found. In one, 17 sons are shown, with the 15th omitted and sons 9 and 10 have been switched. Another scene is similar, but includes the 15th son. And in yet another scene at Luxor, 25 sons are represented.
- The Ramesseum, where in one scene, 23 sons are depicted in procession, while in another scene, only 11 sons are shown.
- At Wadi es-Sebua 30 sons and 8 daughters are depicted, and in a second scene, 25 sons are shown along with at least 8 daughters.
- At Abydos in the Temple of Seti I, we find two scenes, one with 29 sons and sixteen daughters and the second with 27 sons and 22 daughters.
Probably one of Ramesses II's sons at Abu Simbel
We number the sons because in processions they are usually in the same order, and it is believed that they were depicted in the order of their birth. The difference in the number of sons and daughters listed is believed to be a matter of when within his reign the scenes were recorded. In other words, the scenes with fewer sons and daughters were recorded earlier in his reign than the scenes with more sons and daughters. In addition, there are other locations were only a limited number of children are shown. These are usually not processions, but rather scenes of action recording events.
The Temple at Abu Simbel, where one scene shows sons 1, 2 and 3 in war chariots following their father into battle and another shows two sons standing. Another scene in the same temple shows sons 1, 2, 5 and 6 with daughters 3, 4 and 5.
At Karnak, one scene shows12 of his sons bringing prisoners back from a foreign campaign.
In Luxor Temple, a similar scene shows sons 1 through 4 and 7 through 14 also accompanying prisoners.
At the Ramesseum two sons are shown climbing storming ladders while two more or shown slaying enemies and four more stand behind shields.
A colossal statue from Tanis shows sons 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8.
At Beit el-Wali, we see son 1 and 4 standing in war chariots.
There is also reliefs at Aswan and Gebel es-Silsileh that show Khaemwese, one of Ramesses II's best known sons, along with sons 2 and 13 and a daughter of Ramesses II named Bint-Aneth. These were all children of Isisnofret, one of Ramesses II's chief wives, and the decorations were apparently commissioned by Khaemwese rather than Ramesses II.
From these records, we know the names of 29 of Ramesses II's sons, and a number of his daughters. The first 16 sons include:
- Amun-her-khepseshef (Amun Is with His Strong Arm). Ramesses II's first born son by Nefertari, he was born before Ramesses II's ascent to the throne, until which time Amun-her-khepseshef was known as Amun-her-wenemef (Amun Is on His Right Hand). he was crown prince until his death between the age of 40 and 52. He was probably buried in the Tomb of Ramesses II's sons in the Valley of the Kings.
- Ramesses, who Egyptologist sometimes refer to Ramesses Junior to avoid confusion. He is now also being referred to as Ramessu. He was a son of Isisnofret and lived until about the 52nd year of his father's rule. He was probably buried in the Tomb of Ramesses II's sons.
- Pa-Re-her-wenemef, who was the second son of Nefertari and who died early, probably before year 30 of Ramesses II's rule.
- Khaemwese was the second son of Isisnofret. He is probably one of Ramesses II's best known sons, having made his way to the head of the priesthood. He probably died in between year 52 and 55 of Ramesses II's reign. Khaemwese is most likely buried either at Giza, or Saqqara.
- Montu-her-khepeshef, who was called Montu-her-wenemef in the Luxor Temple.
- Neben-kharru, who we know almost nothing about.
- Mery-Amun, who we also know almost nothing of.
- Amun-em-wia, who was probably the same son called Seth-em-wia on some lists.
- Sethy, who may have been named after the father of Ramesses I. he probably died before the kings 30 year, and appears to have been buried in the Tomb of Ramesses II's sons.
- Setep-en-Re, who we know almost nothing about.
- Mery-Re I, who was a son of Nefertari and who died very young, probably in his 20th year.
- Hor-her-wenemef, who we know nothing about.
- Merenptah, who was a son of Isisnofret and who succeeded his father as pharaoh of Egypt. He is buried in his own tomb, KV 8 in the Valley of the Kings.
- Amenhotep, who we know nothing about.
- Itamun, who we know nothing about.
- Mery-Atum, who we likewise no nothing about, other than his probable burial in KV 5, the Tomb of Ramesses II's sons.
We wish we knew more about Ramesses II's sons and daughters. Many of the sons appear to have become priests of one nature or another, and undoubtedly, both the sons and daughters, with so many of them, held high positions and influenced Egypt's administration and religion for years to come. Right: A bust of Merit-Amun Daughters Just for the record, we also attempted to do some research on Ramesses II's daughters, but less is known about most of them. However, we do have the following:
- Merit-Amun (Meryetamun), was the oldest daughter of Ramesses II and Nefertari. A statue of her is in the open air museum at Sohag.She was most likely buried in tomb 68 in the Valley of the Queens. She is also shown at Abu Simbel, where she accompanied her parents for the temple's dedication and there was bust of her found at the Ramesseum. She apparently also married Ramesses II after the death of her mother.
- Hentmire (Henutmire, Henutmira) may have been a daughter of either Ramesses II or Seti, his father. She apparently also married Ramesses II.
- Takha'e was possibly a daughter of Ramesses II.
- Isis, who was possibly a daughter of Ramesses II, probably died around the age of 14 or 15. Her mummy is in the Faculty of Medicine of the Complutense University of Madrid. It was discovered at Akhmim.
- We also know of a Queens Nebttaui (Nebtaui. Nebettawy) and Bent'anta (Bintanath, Bint-Anath, Bintanat), buried in tombs 60 and 71, respectively, in the Valley of the Queens. Queen Bent'anta may have become one of Ramesses II's consorts, perhaps after the death's of the king's principal wives. Uncertain is a statue of her, that might be of Nefertari instead, located at the feet of the colossal granite statue of Ramesses II in the first courtyard of the temple at Karnak.
Sarcophagus of Merenptah Successor Son Unfortunately, the long life and reign of Ramesses II, ended up creating succession problems. While his thirteenth son, Merenptah succeeded Ramesses II, by that time Merenptah himself was probably an old man and at the end of his reign, it appears that his son, Seti II, may not have succeeded him directly. It appears that a Amenemesse, who may have been one of Ramesses II's children by a minor wife, most likely followed Merenptah to the throne, or at least ruled southern Egypt.
Last Updated: June 20th, 2011