Ancient Egypt Wiki
Preceded by:
Pharaoh of Egypt
20th Dynasty
Succeeded by:
Ramesses IV
Ramesses III
Hellenized: Rhampsinitus

Ramesses III on the lid of his stone sarcophagus from KV11.

1186-1155 BC (31 years)
The Justice of Re is Powerful,
Beloved of Amun
Re Fashioned Him,
Ruler of Heliopolis
Horus name
Strong Bull, Great of Kingship
Nebty name
Great of Sed Festivals
like Tatenen
Golden Horus
Rich in years like Atum
Father Setnakhte
Mother Tiye-Mereniset
Consort(s) Tyti, Iset-Tahemdjeret, Minefer,
Tiye, Hemdjeret (?)[1]
Issue Amunherkhepeshef, Ramesses IV,
Pareherwenemef, Khaemwaset,
Ramesses VI, Ramesses VIII,
Mentuherkhepeshef, Meryamun,
Meryatum, Pentawer,
Duatentopet (?)
Died 1155 BC
Burial KV11 (initial), TT320 (reburial)
Monuments Mortuary temple at Medinet Habu,
Barque Shrine Temple at Karnak,
Temple of Khonsu at Karnak
For other pages by this name, see Ramesses.

Usermaatre-Meryamun Ramesses III (reigned 1186 B.C.E. – 1155 B.C.E.) was the second Pharaoh of the Twentieth Dynasty and is considered to be the last great New Kingdom king to wield any substantial authority over Egypt.


Upon ascending the throne, Ramesses III took the throne name (or prenomen) Usermaatre-Meryamun (transliterated: wsr-mꜣꜥt-rꜥ mry-ỉmn, meaning: "Powerful is the Justice of Re, Beloved of Amun". He added the epithet Heqaiunu (transliterated: ḥqꜣ-ỉwnw, meaning: "Ruler of Heliopolis") to his birth name (or nomen) Ramesses (transliterated: rꜥ-ms-s, meaning: "Re Fashioned Him"). His name is thus realised as Usermaatre-Meryamun Ramesses-Heqaiunu. The Ancient Greeks knew him as Rhampsinitus which is a corruption of Ramesses III's popular Egyptian name: Ra-mes-su-pa-netjer.[2]


See also: 20th Dynasty Family Tree.

Ramesses III was the son of Pharaoh Setnakhte and Queen Tiye-Mereniset. His first queen consort was his full-sister Tyti, while Iset-Tahemdjeret, another queen consort of his, could be his half-sister.[3]

Ramesses III's sons are well-attested in a procession of princes at the king's mortuary temple at Medinet Habu. The list appears in similar fashion as Ramesses II had previously done at the Ramesseum. Ramesses III clearly sought to emulate his great predecessor, since even the names of his sons were inspired by Ramesses II. Namely; Amunherkhepeshef, Ramesses IV, Pareherwenemef, Khaemwaset, Mentuherkhepeshef, Meryamun, and Meryatum. Aditionally, another prince Amunherkhepeshef, who became king as Ramesses VI, and Setherkhepeshef, who briefly ascended the throne as Ramesses VIII, are listed as sons of Ramesses III in the procession of princes as well. This second prince Amunherkhepeshef was born after the death of his namesake brother. The infamous Pentawer is the only known son to be absent from this list.

No daughters of Ramesses III are known with certainty. Duatentopet, the queen consort of Ramesses IV and mother of Ramesses V, is believed to be Ramesses III's daughter. Additionally, Queen Iset-Tahemdjeret may instead of a sister-wife be his daughter-wife,[1] in which case not Setnakhte but Ramesses III fathered her with Hemdjeret, an Asiatic bride aquired in diplomatic marriage.

Dates and Length of Reign[]

According to Jürgen von Beckerath, Ramesses III reigned from March 7, 1183 to April 16, 1152 BC.[4] This is based on his known accession date of I Shemu day 26 and his death on Year 32 III Shemu day 15 for a reign of 31 years, 1 month and 19 days.[5] Alternate dates for this king are 1187/1186 to 1156/1155 BC.

Tenure and chaos[]

During his long tenure in the midst of the surrounding political chaos of the Greek Dark Ages, Egypt was beset by foreign invaders (including the so-called Sea Peoples and the Libyans) and experienced the beginnings of increasing economic difficulties and internal strife which would eventually lead to the collapse of the Twentieth Dynasty. In Year 8 of his reign, the Sea Peoples, including Peleset, Denyen and Tjekker, invaded Egypt by land and sea. Although Ramesses III defeated them in two great land and sea battles, he seems to have incorporated them as subject peoples and settled them in Southern Canaan. This policy may have contributed to the formation of new states in this region such as Philistia after the collapse of the Egyptian Empire. The heavy cost of these battles slowly exhausted Egypt's treasury and contributed to the gradual decline of the Egyptian Empire in Asia. The severity of these difficulties is stressed by the fact that the first known labor strike in recorded history occurred during Year 29 of Ramesses' reign, when the food rations for the favoured royal tomb-builders in the village of Set-Maat (now known as Deir el-Medina), could not be provisioned. The main reason for this deficiency was due to the massive and extended 1159 BC to 1140 BC eruption of the Hekla III volcano in Iceland, which expelled large amounts of smoke and rock into the atmosphere thereby causing large-scale failures of the crop harvest.[6] The presence of significant quantities of volcanic soot in the air prevented much sunlight from reaching the ground and also arrested global tree growth for almost two full decades until 1140 BC. The result in Egypt was a substantial inflation in grain prices under the later reigns of Ramesses VI-VII whereas the prices for fowl and slaves remained constant.[7] The eruption, hence, affected Ramesses III's final years and impaired his ability to provide a constant supply of grain rations to the workman of Deir el-Medina community.[8]


Osirid statues of Ramses III at his temple at Medinet Habu.

These difficult realities are completely ignored by the images of continuity and stability presented in Ramesses' official monuments – most of which seek to emulate his more famous predecessor, Ramesses II. He built important additions to the temples at Luxor and Karnak, and his funerary temple and administrative complex at Medinet Habu is amongst the largest and best preserved in Egypt – however, the uncertainty of Ramesses' times is apparent from the massive fortifications which were built to enclose the latter. No Egyptian temple in the heart of Egypt prior to Ramesses' reign had ever needed to be protected in such a manner.

Burial and Succession[]

Conspiracy and Death[]

Main article: Harem Conspiracy.

The Judicial Papyrus of Turin records the trials held against conspirators plotting to assassinate Ramesses III in what is referred to as the "Harem Conspiracy". The papyrus contains the entire list of those who participated in the conspiracy, as well as their verdict and the punishment they received.[9]

The harem conspiracy was a plot to murder the Egyptian pharaoh Ramesses III. The principal figure behind the plot was one of the pharaoh's secondary wives, Tiye, who hoped to put her son Pentawer on the throne instead of the pharaoh's chosen successor, Ramesses IV. The plan was organized by the court official Pebekkamen. During the Beautiful Festival of the Valley the plotters succeeded at assassinating Ramesses III, but ultimately failed to place Pentawer on the throne. The intended heir, Ramesses IV, was able to succeed his father and the conspirators were arrested and put on trial, including Tiye and Pentawer.

Pentawer was sentenced to suicide. Tiye's fate is not recorded in the papyrus,[10] but given her role in the conspiracy and the harsh punishments, she was certainly sentenced to death as well.


Ramesses III was buried in his KV11 rock-cut tomb in the Valley of the Kings, which is considered one of the largest in the valley. His mummy was later moved to the royal cache at Deir el-Bahari, where it was found in 1881.

In 2012 the mummy called "Unknown Man E", also buried in the Deir el-Bahari cache, was positively identified as Ramesses III's infamous son Pentawer.[11]

Ramesses III Mummy

Mummyhead of Ramesses III (Smith 1912).

Recent CT scanning on Ramesses III's mummy revealed that beneath the bandages on his neck was a large gash that cut all the way to the bone. This injury proved fatal.[11][12] This finding confirms the murder and the theory that the trial of the conspirators was carried out by Ramesses IV in the name of his father, rather than by Ramesses III himself.[9] It was also revealed that Ramesses III's left big toe was missing and likely chopped off by a heavy sharp object like an ax. There were no signs of bone healing so this injury must have happened shortly before death. The embalmers placed a prosthesis-like object made of linen in place of the amputated toe.[11][12]

In April 2021 his mummy was moved from the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities to National Museum of Egyptian Civilization along with those of 17 other kings and 4 queens in an event termed the Pharaohs' Golden Parade.[13]


The Great Harris Papyrus or Papyrus Harris I, which was commissioned by his son and chosen successor Ramesses IV, chronicles this king's vast donations of land, gold statues and monumental construction to Egypt's various temples at Pi-Ramesses, Heliopolis, Memphis, Athribis, Hermopolis, Thinis, Abydos, Coptos, Eileithyiaspolis and other cities in Nubia and Syria. It also records that the king dispatched a trading expedition to the Land of Punt and quarried the copper mines of Timna. More notably, Ramesses III began the reconstruction of the Temple of Khonsu[14] at Karnak from the foundations of an earlier temple of Amenhotep III and completed the Temple of Medinet Habu around his Year 12. He decorated the walls of his Medinet Habu temple with scenes of his Naval and Land battles against the Sea Peoples.

See also[]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Grist 1985.
  2. "Rhampsinitus". Online Encyclopedia.
  3. Černý 1958, p. 31-37.
  4. Von Beckerath 1997, p. 190.
  5. Wente & Van Siclen 1976, p. 235.
  6. Yurco 1999, p. 456-458.
  7. Yurco op. cit. 1999, p. 456.
  8. Edgerton 1951, p. 137-145.
  9. 9.0 9.1 De Buck 1937.
  10. Goedicke 1963.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Hawass et al. 2012.
  12. 12.0 12.1 Hawass & Saleem 2016.
  13. Parisse, Emmanuel (5 April 2021). "22 Ancient Pharaohs Have Been Carried Across Cairo in an Epic Golden Parade". ScienceAlert.
  14. "Khonsu Temple at Karnak"


  • Beckerath, J. von, 1997: Chronologie des Äegyptischen Pharaonischen. Phillip von Zabern, Mainz.
  • Buck, A. de, 1937: The Judicial Papyrus of Turin. The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology. Egyptian Exploration Society. 23 (2).
  • Černý, J., 1958: Queen Ēse of the Twentieth Dynasty and Her Mother. Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, Vol. 44.
  • Edgerton, W., 1951: The Strikes in Ramses III's Twenty-Ninth Year. Journal of Near Eastern Studies, Vol. 10, No. 3. The University of Chicago Press.
  • Goedicke, H., 1963: Was Magic Used in the Harem Conspiracy against Ramesses III? (P.Rollin and P.Lee). The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, Vol. 49.
  • Grist, J., 1985: Grist: The Identity of the Ramesside Queen Tyti. Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, Vol. 71.
  • Hawass, Z./Ismail, S./Selim, A./Saleem, S.N/Fathalla, D./Wasef, S./Gad, A.Z/Saad, R./Fares, S./Amer, H./Gostner, P./Gad, Y.Z./Pusch, C.M./Zink, A.R, 2012: Revisiting the harem conspiracy and death of Ramesses III: anthropological, forensic, radiological, and genetic study. BMJ Publishing Group Ltd. 345.
  • Hawass, Z./Saleem, S.N., 2016: Scanning the Pharaohs: CT Imaging of the New Kingdom Royal Mummies. Cairo: The American University in Cairo Press.
  • Smith, G.E., 1912: The Royal Mummies. (2000 reprint ed.). Bath, UK: Duckworth.
  • Wente, E.F./Siclen, C.C. van, 1976: A Chronology of the New Kingdom. In: Studies in Honor of George R. Hughes. SAOC, Vol. 39.
  • Yurco, F.J., 1999: End of the Late Bronze Age and Other Crisis Periods: A Volcanic Cause. In: Gold of Praise: Studies on Ancient Egypt in Honor of Edward F. Wente, ed: Emily Teeter & John Larson. SAOC, Vol. 58.

External links[]

Pharaoh of Egypt
Twentieth Dynasty
Ramesses IV