Ramses and Rebellion: Showdown of False and True Horus

Ramses and Rebellion: Showdown of False and True Horus

Peter Feinman

Paper presented at the April 24-26, 1998 ARCE Conference at the University of California at Berkeley and the November 22, 1998 conference of the Society of Biblical Literature


Who was Mehy and what became of him? This somewhat mysterious figure has been a continuous but peripheral presence in Egyptology in the twentieth century. In this paper, I will: first, review the highlights of scholarship about him by James Henry Breasted, in Egyptian love poetry, and by Bill Murnane; second, reconsider the suggestion of John Schmidt about the occurrence of rebellion during the reign of Ramses II; and third conclude with my own understanding based in part of the concept of counter-religion recently expressed by Jan Assmann.

Nearly a century ago, in 1899, Breasted identified a figure in the Karnak reliefs as the older brother of Ramses and the first-born son of Seti. This figure appears to have been chiseled out of the Libyan battle scene by Ramses II who then inserted himself into the relief. Breasted designated this nameless older brother of Ramses as “X.” At that time he concluded that the battle relief consisted of 3 layers:

1. the original scene and text with no princes;

2. the insertion by Seti’s oldest son of himself;

3. the erasure of the oldest son by Ramses II and his insertion of his own name.

So it seemed clear to Breasted that Ramses II had engaged in some retrojected legitimation of his position.5 Writing in A History of Egypt in 1905, Breasted elaborated on the events behind this sequence of alterations. He claimed that as the 30th anniversary of Seti’s nomination as crown prince approached, the eldest son, whose name ?still was unknown to Breasted, was appointed heir.

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