RAMESSES IV, BEGINNING THE EMPIRE'S COLLAPSE
BY JIMMY DUNN --
The story of the Ramessid kings following Ramesses III is one of decline and the end of the great
empire ruled under the rule of Egyptians. Afterwards, Egypt would mostly be ruled by foreigners of
one kind or another.
However, Ramesses III's son, probably by either Queen Isis or Queen Titi, did seem to have enjoyed
a fairly prosperous, albeit short reign. Of course, we know from many other kings during this
period that his birth name, Ramesses, means "Re has Fashioned Him". His throne name, Heqamaatre
means "Ruler of Justice like Re. We know that he had a chief wife named Tentopet, who was buried in
QV74 in the Valley of the Queens, as little else of his family is known.
Ramesses IV became crown prince in the twenty-two of his father's reign. Though only the fifth son
of his Ramesses III, his four older brother's predeceased their father. Whether or not he ruled as
a co-regent of his father, during the closing years of Ramesses III's life, his son took on
increasing responsibilities. For example, as early as year 27 of Ramesses III's reign, he Ramesses
IV is depicted as being responsible for the appointment of one Amenemopet as the High Priest of Mut
Some scholars maintain that it was Ramesses IV who resided over the court that tried those arrested
in the "Harem Conspiracy" involving his father, but this is by no means certain. His father may, or
may not have survived that conspiracy, but irregardless, it is clear that the assassination attempt
was aimed at eliminating Ramesses IV as the crown prince. Obviously, this did not take place.
Though little in the way of military action can be documented during Ramesses IV's reign, there is
some slight evidence of a sea action, in Ramesses IV's third year, perhaps with the Sea People that
were such a bother to his father. And though we know of the viceroy of Nubia, one Hori II, who's
father had served under Siptah at the end of the 19th Dynasty, there is little other evidence for
Ramesses IV's activities outside Egypt proper.
We do know, from several inscribed stele in the Wadi Hammamat, that he sent large expeditions out
to obtain good stone for statues. One of these included 8,368 men, that included some 2,000
soldiers. Prior to this, little activity had taken place at Wadi Hammamat prior to the reign of
Seti I. Apparently the soldiers were not sent so much to defend the workmen, but rather to control
We also find recorded expeditions to the turquoise mines at Serabit el-Khadim in the Sinai, as well
as southern campaigns into Nubia as far south as the fort of Buhen, that lies just north of the
Second Cataract (rapids) on the Nile River.
He was also responsible, together with his father, for major work on enlargement of the temple of
Khonsu at Karnak. He also apparently at least began a mortuary temple, intended to be even larger
than that of his father's, near the temple of Hatshepsut. There is another, smaller temple
associated with him north of Medinet Habu, of which even less is known.
It has been suggested that the larger temple was abandoned for the less demanding size of the
smaller. In addition, he is attested to by a stela at Koptos and from other smaller monuments in
the Sinai, as well as a statue from Memphis and an Obelisk from Heliopols. Due to his building
actives, he apparently increased, and perhaps even doubled, the work force at Deir el-Medina.
However, as at the end of his father's reign, further delays in the delivery of basic commodities
needed by these workmen occurred, that, in hindsight at the end of the 20th Dynasty, can be seen to
have had a significant impact on the demise of the Egyptian Empire. These problems coincided with
the growing influence of the High Priest of Amun. Ramesesnakht, the older of that high office, was
soon accompanying the state officials when they went to pay the men their monthly rations, which
indicates that probably the temple of Amun, and not the Egyptian state itself, was now at least
partially responsible for their wages. In fact, Ramesesnakht controlled a powerful family
consisting of many priests in the temple of Amun. His son, Usermaatranakht was "steward of the
estate of Amun" and as such, he not only controlled a vast Temple estate, but also a majority of
the state owned land in Middle Egypt.
The High Priest of Amun was now a hereditary position, and its heirs would become more and more
independent of the king so that by the time of Ramesses XI at the end of the 20th Dynasty, the
Egypt would finally be divided between the High Priests at Thebes and the Lower Egyptian King,
resulting in the Third Intermediate Period.
Despite all of the good work for the gods and his prayer to Osiris for a long reign [as my
predecessor], recorded on a stele discovered by Mariette at Abydos that dates to year four of
Ramesses IV's reign, the king died after only about six years on the throne. He was succeeded on
the throne by a brother who continued the line of Ramessid names (Ramesses V). Ramesses IV was
buried on the West Bank of ancient Thebes (modern Luxor) just outside the earlier main grouping of
tombs in the Eastern Valley of the Kings in KV2, but his body was later discovered in the royal
cache unearthed in the tomb of Amenhotep II (KV35) and is now in the Egyptian Antiquities Museum in
Heqamaatre Ramesses IV (also written Ramses or Rameses) was the third pharaoh of the Twentieth Dynasty of the New
Kingdom of Ancient Egypt. His name prior to assuming the crown was Amonhirkhopshef. He was the fifth son of
Ramesses III and was appointed to the position of crown prince by the twenty-second year of his father's reign when
all four of his elder brothers predeceased him. His promotion to crown prince:
'is suggested by his appearance (suitably entitled) in a scene of the festival of Min at the Ramesses III temple at
Karnak, which may have been completed by Year 22 [of his father's reign]. (the date is mentioned in the poem
As his father's chosen successor the Prince employed three distinctive titles: "Hereditary Prince", "Royal scribe"
and "Generalissimo"; the latter two of his titles are mentioned in a text at Amenhotep III's temple at Soleb and
all three royal titles appear on a lintel now in Florence, Italy. As heir-apparent he took on increasing
responsibilities; for instance, in Year 27 of his father's reign, he is depicted appointing a certain Amenemopet to
the important position of Third Prophet of Amun in the latter's TT 148 tomb. Amenemope's Theban tomb also
accords prince Ramesses all three of his aforementioned sets of royal titles. Due to the three decade long rule
of Ramesses III, Ramesses IV is believed to have been a man in his forties when he took the throne. His rule has
been dated to either 1151 to 1145 BC or 1155 to 1149 BC.
At the start of his reign, the pharaoh initiated a substantial building campaign program on the scale of Ramesses
II by doubling the size of the work gangs at Deir el-Medina to a total of 120 men and dispatching numerous
expeditions to the stone quarries of Wadi Hammamat and the turquoise mines of the Sinai. The Great Rock stela of
Ramesses IV at Wadi Hammamat records that the largest expedition-dated to his Year 3, third month of Shemu day 27-
consisted of 8,368 men alone including 5,000 soldiers, 2,000 personnel of the Amun temples, 800 Apiru and 130
stonemasons and quarrymen under the personal command of the High Priest of Amun, Ramessesnakht. The scribes who
composed the text conscientiously noted that this figure excluded 900 men "who are dead and omitted from this
list." Consequently, once this omitted figure is added to the tally of 8,368 men who survived the Year 3 quarry
expedition, a total of 900 men out of an original expedition of 9,268 men perished during this massive endeavour
for a mortality rate of almost 10%. This gives an indication of the harshness of life in Egypt's stone quarries.
Some of the stones which were dragged 60 miles to the Nile from Wadi Hammamat weighed 40 tons or more. Other
Egyptian quarries including Aswan were located much closer to the Nile which enabled them to use barges to
transport stones long distances.
Part of the king's program included the extensive enlargement of his father's Temple of Khonsu at Karnak and the
construction of a large mortuary temple near the Temple of Hatshepsut. Ramesses IV also sent several expeditions to
the turquoise mines the Sinai; a total of four expeditions are known prior to his fourth year. The Serabit el-
Khadim stela of the Royal Butler Sobekhotep states: "Year 3, third month of Shomu. His Majesty sent his favoured
and beloved one, the confident of his lord, the Overseer of the Treasury of Silver and Gold, Chief of the Secrets
of the august Palace, Sobekhotep, justified, to bring for him all that his heart desired of turquoise (on) his
fourth expedition." This expedition dates to either Ramesses III or IV's reign since Sobekhotep is attested in
office until at least the reign of Ramesses V. Ramesses IV's final venture to the turquoise mines of the Sinai
is documented by the stela of a senior army scribe named Panufer. Panufer states that this expedition's mission was
both to procure turquoise and to establish a cult chapel of king Ramesses IV at the Hathor temple of Serabit el-
Khadim. The stela reads:
Year 5, second month of Shomu [ie: summer]. The sending by His Majesty build the Mansion of Millions of Years
of Ramesses IV in the temple of Hathor, Lady of Turquoise, by Panefer, the Scribe of the Commands of the Army, son
of Pairy, justified.
While little is known regarding the route that the mining missions took from Egypt to Serabit el-Khadim in the
Sinai, AJ Peden who wrote a biography of Ramesses IV's reign in 1994 states that there were "two obvious routes" to
reach this site:
"The first was a straightforward march from a Delta base, such as Memphis, east south-east and then south into
Sinai. Surviving a march in this inhospitable land would have presented formidable logistical obstacles, perhaps
forcing an alternative route to be adopted. This would involve a departure from the Delta to a site near the modern
port of Suez. From here they could have proceeded by boat to the ports of Abu Zenima or El-Markha on the west coast
of the Sinai peninsula and from there it is a short journey inland of only a day or two to the actual site of
Ramesses IV is attested by his aforementioned building activity at Wadi Hammamat and Serabit el-Khadim in the Sinai
as well as several papyri and even one obelisk. The creation of a royal cult in the Temple of Hathor is known under
his reign at Serabit el-Khadim in the Sinai while Papyrus Mallet (or P. Louvre 1050) dates to Years 3 and 4 of his
reign. Papyrus Mallet is a six column text dealing partly with agricultural affairs; its first column lists the
prices for various commodities between Year 31 of Ramesses III until Year 3 of Ramesses IV. The final four
columns contain a memorandum of 2 letters composed by the Superintendent of Cattle of the Estate of Amen-Re,
Bakenkhons, to several mid-level administrators and their subordinates. Meanwhile, surviving monuments of
Ramesses IV in the Delta consists of an obelisk recovered in Cairo and a pair of his cartouches found on a pylon
gateway both originally from Heliopolis.
The most important document to survive from this pharaoh's rule is Papyrus Harris I, which honours the life of his
father, Ramesses III, by listing the latter's many accomplishments and gifts to the temples of Egypt, and the Turin
papyrus, the earliest known geologic map. Ramesses IV was perhaps the last New Kingdom king to engage in large-
scale monumental building after his father as "there was a marked decline in temple building even during the longer
reigns of Ramesses IX and VI. The only apparent exception was the attempt of Ramesses V and VI to continue the vast
and uncompleted mortuary temple of Ramesses IV at the Assasif."
Despite Ramesses IV's many endeavours for the gods and his prayer to Osiris-preserved on a Year 4 stela at Abydos-
that "thou shalt give me the great age with a long reign [as my predecessor]", the king did not live long enough to
accomplish his ambitious goals.
After a short reign of about six and a half years, Ramesses IV died and was buried in tomb KV2 in the Valley of the
Kings. His mummy was found in the royal cache of Amenhotep II's tomb KV35 in 1898. His chief wife is Queen
Duatentopet or Tentopet who was buried in QV74. His son, Ramesses V, would succeed him to the throne.