Rameses the Great

Osirid statues of Ramses III at his temple in Karnak (in the first courtyard of the Great Temple of Amun) with what appears to be a Leprechaun in the foreground.

Rameses the Great was the third pharaoh of the Nineteenth Dynasty of Egypt. He is often talked of as the greatest and most powerful pharaoh of the Egyptian Empire. Later generations of Egyptians referred to him as the Great Ancestor.

Son of Seti, he was born around 1303 BC and died in 1213 BC. His reign lasted from 1279 to 1213 BC. His great longevity was one of the factors that led to his renown, living until the age of ninety when the average age at death was 54 years for men and 58 for women. This lengthy life and reign enabled him to leave a much richer legacy to Egyptologists than many of the shorter reigning Pharaohs.

Double history Rameses the Great
Rameses the Great with a bottle kiln on his head reading Braille.

Much of his life and work is still being sifted and catalogued. Of particular interest is a series of 15 leather-bound papyrus codices found buried by a French archeo palaeontologist in a sealed jar on the banks of what he calls ‘De Nile’, strangely echoing the later Nag Hamedi find (except that was not found on the banks of De Nile by a  Cairo dwelling Frenchman.)

The writings in these codices comprise mostly religious treatises but two stand out by their extraordinary difference. The first appears to be what we would describe as a cookery book. It is a series of papyri in Hieroglyphics which are believed to be in Pharaoh’s own hand. However unlikely this may seem Pharaohs could and did write. It would not be seemly for a ruler to be an uneducated man and this Pharaoh was particularly accomplished in writing, drawing, mathematics, logic and what we would call science. He was also a dab hand at cooking! He loved his food as is evidenced in the second of the unusual papyri which is in two parts.

For the high ranking in Egypt at this time, the diet was varied and interesting; some meat, fish, water fowl, vegetables, fruit, beer and wine were part of their regular diet, as was the bread in one of its many forms. The Egyptians used condiments and spices familiar to us: salt, cumin (tpnn – tepenen), dill (jms.t – ameset), coriander (Saw – shaw), vinegar (HmD – hemedj) and lettuce seeds. Mustard was also grown in Egypt and cinnamon and rosemary were used widely.

These bounty days were not to last however and the first known labour strike in recorded history occurred during the twenty ninth year of Ramesses III’s reign, when the food rations for the Egypt’s  royal craftsmen and tom builders in the village of Set Maat her imenty Waset could not be provided. Something, possibly a volcanic eruption, prevented sunlight from reaching the ground and stunted tree growth for almost two  decades until 1140 BC. The result in Egypt was a substantial increase in grain prices under the later reigns of Ramesses VI–VII, whereas the prices for fowl and slaves remained constant.

The first part of the papyri is a list of all the meals, foods, condiments and chefs that he held in high esteem and includes some wonderful tips on economy and thrift in times of paucity of food.

The second part of this document lists all the foods he abhorred, the meals that had not worked out well and the chefs he had had to have punished for producing abysmal dishes. Throughout the document we can hear Rameses voice as clearly as if he were speaking to us today. He is outspoken, his words are angry and he uses Egyptian curses and swear words with amazing regularity.

Channel 4 TV here in the UK is currently filming a series about this document. The document and series is entitled ‘’Rameses’ Kitchen Nightmares’’…

Need I say more?

Source: There is no one universally accepted definition for the source de Nile.

Jeff ‘Jefferty’ Jeff is missing Mrs JJ and wishing he knew how to make friends and influence people. The two small people who hang around the house are staying with their Aunty Margaret in Burgundy and even the dog does not exist, except in JJ’s imagination.

He has been writing this whilst listening to two pieces of music:

The Lark Ascending, by Vaughn Williams

The Lark Going Back Down Again by William Vaughns


The feature photograph is of Rameses sparking up a primitive cigarette.

© Jeff ‘Jefferty’ Jeff 21.05.15


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