the fourteenth son of Ramesses II by his queen Istnofret

Merneptah (1213–1203 BC) was the fourth pharaoh of Ancient Egypt’s Nineteenth Dynasty. According to contemporaneous historical accounts, he governed Egypt for about 10 years. He was Ramesses II’s thirteenth son, and he only rose to power after all of his elder brothers, including his full brother Khaemwaset, had perished. He was probably approximately sixty years old when he rose to the throne. Ba-en-re Mery-netjeru was his throne name, which meant “The Soul of Ra, Beloved of the Gods.”


Ramesses II was one of, if not the, oldest pharaohs in Egyptian history, living far into his nineties. Ramesses outlived many of his heirs, and Merneptah was the son who would finally replace him. He would have been prepared to be pharaoh because of his government responsibilities. He had been elevated to Overseer of the Army by Year 40. He was formally proclaimed crown prince in the year 55. By acting as Prince Regent for the remaining twelve years of Ramesses II’s life, he earned extra obligations.


By the time that Ramesses II died, he had apparently outlived twelve of his sons, so it was his 13th son, Merenptah who ascended the throne of Egypt.

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Stela of Merneptah

Stela of Merneptah

The Merneptah Stele, also known as the Merneptah Victory Stele, was found in the first court of Merneptah’s funeral temple at Thebes in 1896 by W. M. Flinders Petrie. It is carved on the back of a massive granite stele created by Amenhotep III, but afterwards inscribed by Merneptah of Egypt, who ruled Egypt. The black granite stele recalls a victory against the Libyans and Meshwesh Libyans and their Sea People allies in a war, while the last two lines allude to a previous military battle in Canaan, in which he claims to have conquered them. It is kept in Cairo’s Museum of Egyptian Antiquities.


Death and burial

Merneptah died an old man after a nearly decade-long reign, suffering from arthritis and atherosclerosis. Merneptah was initially buried in the Valley of the Kings’ tomb KV8, but his mummy was never discovered there. Victor Loret discovered it, along with eighteen other corpses, in the mummy cache discovered in the tomb of Amenhotep II (KV35) in 1898. Merneptah’s mummy was transported to Cairo and unwrapped on July 8, 1907, by Dr. G. Elliott Smith.
He was nearly bald, with just a thin fringe of white hair on the temples and occiput (now trimmed so close that it could only be seen with effort). On the top lip, a few small (approximately 2 millimetre) black hairs were discovered, as well as dispersed, closely trimmed hairs on the cheeks and chin. The basic appearance of the face is similar to Ramesses II’s, but the shape of the skull and the dimensions of the face are more closer to those of his grandfather, Seti I.


How old was Merneptah when he became pharaoh?

Merneptah, the 13th son of his long-lived father, Ramesses II, was approaching 60 years old when he took power in 1213 BC.

When was Merneptah born?

Merneptah was the fourth pharaoh of Ancient Egypt’s Nineteenth Dynasty. He was born in 1273 BC and ruled Egypt for nearly 10 years, from 1213 BC until 1203 BC.

What is the Merneptah stele describing?

Merneptah’s military campaigns in northern Africa against the Libyans and their allies, as well as the Sea Peoples, especially the Biblical Philistines, are described in detail on the stele. The closing verses of the stele, however, tell of a victorious campaign to the territories of Canaan, which is now known as the Levant in the Middle East.

How did Merneptah die?

Merneptah died as an elderly man after a nearly ten-year reign, suffering from arthritis and atherosclerosis. Merneptah was initially buried in the Valley of the Kings’ tomb KV8, but his mummy was never discovered there.

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