People > Ramesses III

Ramesses III

Egypt History - Egyptian Chapter Decoration


Ramesses III was the second pharaoh of the 20th Dynasty of ancient Egypt, reigning from approximately 1186 to 1155 BCE. He is considered the last great pharaoh of the New Kingdom and is known for his military prowess, extensive building projects, and efforts to defend Egypt against invasions by the Sea Peoples and other foreign threats. Here is an overview of Ramesses III and his reign:


  1. 20th Dynasty:

    • The 20th Dynasty is often seen as the final phase of the New Kingdom, which was characterized by both great achievements and eventual decline.
    • Ramesses III was the son of Setnakhte, the founder of the 20th Dynasty, who restored order after a period of turmoil at the end of the 19th Dynasty.
  2. Early Life:

    • Ramesses III was well-prepared for kingship, having been trained in military and administrative matters from a young age. He ascended to the throne following his father's brief reign.

Reign of Ramesses III

  1. Military Campaigns:

    • Defeating the Sea Peoples: One of Ramesses III’s most significant achievements was his successful defense against the Sea Peoples, a confederation of maritime invaders who threatened Egypt and other regions of the Eastern Mediterranean. In the eighth year of his reign, he defeated them in a major naval battle at the mouths of the Nile.
    • Libyan Invasions: Ramesses III also repelled two major Libyan invasions. The first occurred in the fifth year of his reign, and the second in his eleventh year. Both campaigns were successfully thwarted, securing Egypt's western borders.
    • Campaigns in Canaan and Syria: He also conducted military campaigns in Canaan and Syria to maintain Egyptian dominance in these regions and secure trade routes.
  2. Building Projects:

    • Mortuary Temple at Medinet Habu: One of Ramesses III’s most famous architectural achievements is his mortuary temple at Medinet Habu, near Thebes. The temple is renowned for its detailed reliefs depicting his military victories and scenes of religious rituals.
    • Additions to Karnak and Luxor: He continued the work of his predecessors by adding to the great temple complexes at Karnak and Luxor, enhancing their grandeur and religious significance.
    • Other Construction Projects: Ramesses III also built and restored temples and monuments throughout Egypt, including those in Nubia and the Delta region, reinforcing his image as a pious and powerful ruler.
  3. Administrative and Economic Measures:

    • Restoration of Order: Ramesses III worked to restore and maintain internal stability following the upheavals of the late 19th Dynasty. He reorganized the administrative structure and reinforced central authority.
    • Economic Initiatives: He implemented measures to boost the economy, including enhancing agricultural production and securing trade routes. However, despite his efforts, the later years of his reign saw increasing economic difficulties, including labor strikes and shortages of resources.

Challenges and Decline

  1. Economic Strain:

    • Despite his military successes and extensive building projects, Ramesses III’s reign faced significant economic challenges. The cost of his military campaigns and construction projects placed a heavy burden on the state’s resources.
    • Papyrus Harris I, a major contemporary document, details the wealth distributed to temples and officials but also hints at the economic difficulties faced by the country.
  2. Internal Unrest:

    • The latter part of his reign was marked by increasing internal unrest, including the first recorded labor strike in history by the workers at Deir el-Medina, who protested against delayed payments.
    • There were also conspiracies within the royal court, including the Harem Conspiracy, in which members of his own household plotted to assassinate him. The plot was uncovered, and the conspirators were executed, but it highlighted the instability and intrigue at the court.

Death and Burial

  1. Death:

    • Ramesses III died in 1155 BCE under mysterious circumstances. Recent forensic analysis of his mummy suggests he may have been murdered, possibly as part of the Harem Conspiracy.
  2. Burial:

    • He was buried in the Valley of the Kings in tomb KV11, which is one of the more elaborately decorated tombs in the valley. His mummy was discovered in the Deir el-Bahri cache (DB320) and showed evidence of severe injuries consistent with an assassination.


  1. Historical Significance:

    • Ramesses III is often considered the last great pharaoh of the New Kingdom due to his successful military campaigns, his efforts to maintain Egypt’s traditional culture, and his extensive building projects.
    • His reign, however, marked the beginning of the end for the New Kingdom. The economic difficulties and internal strife during his rule foreshadowed the decline that would follow in subsequent dynasties.
  2. Cultural Impact:

    • The detailed records and reliefs from his reign, especially those at Medinet Habu, provide invaluable insights into the military, religious, and daily life of ancient Egypt during the late New Kingdom.
    • His efforts to restore and maintain traditional religious practices reinforced the cultural continuity of ancient Egypt during a time of significant external threats and internal challenges.


Ramesses III was the second pharaoh of the 20th Dynasty, reigning from approximately 1186 to 1155 BCE. His reign is notable for successful military campaigns against the Sea Peoples and Libyans, extensive building projects, and efforts to restore stability and economic prosperity to Egypt. Despite these achievements, his reign also faced significant challenges, including economic difficulties, internal unrest, and conspiracies. Ramesses III's legacy as the last great pharaoh of the New Kingdom is marked by his contributions to Egypt's military, cultural, and architectural heritage, as well as the insights provided by his detailed historical records.

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