Rameses (City)

RAAMSES, RAMESES (city) Ră’ ăm sez, Răm’ ə sez (רַעְמְסֵ֑ס; LXX ̔Ραμεσσης, Rhamessēs; from Egyp. [Pr-] R’mss, i.e. estate of King Ramses). Residence city of the nineteenth and twentieth Egyp. dynasties in the NE Delta, where the Hebrews labored and from where they set forth on the Exodus.

The site of Egyp. Pi-Ramessē (original of Heb. Raamses) has been much debated in Egyptology: at Tanis (Heb. Zoan, q.v.) S of Lake Menzaleh, or near Qantir c. seventeen m. further to SSW. Tanis was advocated by its excavator Montet and by Gardiner, mainly on the sheer quantity of monuments of Ramses II found there (blocks, columns, statues, stelae, obelisks, from temples)—if this was not Pi-Ramessē, what was it called in that period? The case for Qantir was proposed by Hamza on the basis of vineyard ostraca found there and naming Pi-Ramessē. Subsequently, Habachi assembled from the Qantir district a whole series of doorways from houses of officials of Ramses II and III, and showed that the “Horbeit stelae” actually originated from Qantir, there witnessing to a garrison and cult of Ramses II. Then S. Adam excavated the remains of a colossus of Ramses II, appropriate to a major temple there. Thus, like Tanis, Qantir has Ramesside remains of considerable importance, but (unlike Tanis) has never been fully excavated.

Several factors clearly favor Qantir as the probable site of Raamses. First, nothing of Ramesside (or earlier) date at Tanis was found in situ—all was reused by later kings (Habachi, orally; van Seters, Hyksos, 129-131). Neither palaces nor tombs were found; contrast Qantir, whence came a tiled palace-doorway of Sethos I (now in the Louvre), and similar tiles of Ramses II. Second, Pi-Ramessē was situated on the Waters of Ra, i.e., the Bubastite-Pelusiac (old eastern) arm of the Nile, navigable from the sea—true of Qantir in antiquity, but not of Tanis. Third, the fertility of the Raamses region indicated in contemporary papyri (e.g., ANET, 471) agrees well with Qantir but not with the salt flats of Tanis. Fourth, Pi-Ramessē (410) and Tanis (417) occur as separate entities in the Onomasticon list (Gardiner, Ancient Egyptian Onomastica, II [1947], 171*ff., 199*ff.), which does not favor identifying them. Fifth, Raamses was at the head of the main route to Pal. via Sile (near modern Qantara), fitting Qantir but not Tanis. Sixth, Qantir as Raamses agrees better with other requirements of the route of the Exodus, e.g. for Succoth (see Exodus).

Bibliography Qantir finds, M. Hamza, Annales du Service des Antiquités de l’Égypte, XXX (1930), 31-68; L. Habachi, ibid., LII (1954), 443-447, 500, 510-514, 545-559; S. Adam, ibid., LV (1958), 318-324; J. van Seters, The Hyksos (1966), 127-151, best recent discussion; references also; K. A. Kitchen, Ancient Orient and Old Testament (1966), 58, 59, nn. 5, 7-9.