"Critically explain the nature and problems of evidence for Ramesses II"
When investigating any historical event, personality or period the evaluation of relevant evidence is one's main objective. The evaluation should be chiefly concerned with the reliability of available evidence as it is common for sources to be deceiving due to embellishment and exaggeration of circumstance as a result of bias. In some cases there may be a single surviving piece of evidence for a particular area of interest, and even then one should question the integrity of the source.
This apprehensive approach is vital for the study of Ramesses II, the 19th dynasty Egyptian pharaoh known as 'the Great'. Most evidence that remains from his 67 year reign is in the form of propaganda created as a means of self-glorification. Propaganda concerning Ramesses is not of the modern idea of biased or brainwashing reporting, but is of the innocuous sense of exaggeration for self-promotion.
One, therefore, must appreciate that evidence for Ramesses was largely composed with poetic licence as a means of flattering his image rather than to provide and accurate account of history.
One such example of this self-promotion is the account of the Battle of Kadesh in year 5 of Ramesses' reign. Depicted at Luxor, Abu Simbel, Abydos and the Ramesseum, Ramesses was alleged to have defeated an entire force of the Hittite army single handed after learning of their ambush plans.
"His majesty slew the entire force of the foe from KhattiÃ¢ÂÂ¦His majesty slaughtered them in their places; they sprawled before his horses; and his majesty was alone, none other with him." (M.Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature, Vol.2, p. 62)
This idea of Ramesses solitarily prevailing over enemies of Egypt is indicative of the pharaoh's self-glorification scheme. This kind of exaggeration was acceptable to...