Comparative Essay of Ramses II and Ashoka

Assignment 2: Comparative Essay of Ramses II and Ashoka

Stephen Bell

Gail Gregory



King Ramses II of Egypt and Emperor Ashoka of India were both great leaders in ancient times. Although Ramses II and Ashoka reigned in different times and cultures, they both had very similar accomplishments during their reigns. An analysis of the lives of Ramses II and Ashoka revealed that although they both started their reigns with war and conflict; they were also both well known for their extensive building programs in their empires, and they were both very religious rulers as well.

Ramses II and Ashoka both were respected military leaders even before they became leaders of their empires due to their militaristic upbringing, and training they received at a young age. Before he became king, Ramses II would accompany his father Seti I on military campaigns and wars, and at the very young age of ten Ramses II was a captain in the army. Ramses II accompanied his father Seti I on military campaigns in Canaan, Syria, and Libya, which helped him learn warfare and prepared him to be king. Before Ashoka became emperor, he too was involved in military campaigns. Ashoka’s father Bindusara called on Ashoka several times to put down revolts in the empire, and also act as a viceroy in regions, which also prepared Asoka to be emperor. After Ramses II and Ashoka came to power, they both had famous military accomplishments early on in their reigns. In the fourth year of his reign, Ramses II led an army north to recover the lost provinces his father had been unable to conquer permanently. He successfully conquered the Syrians, and led many campaigns against the Hittites, until a truce was called between them. Ramses II also led a war against the Libyans, who were constantly trying to invade and settle in the delta area of Egypt. Ashoka was also known for expanding his empire early on in his reign. In the eighth year of his reign, Asoka led a successful but bloody expedition to conquer the Kalinga country on the east coast of India. One key difference between Ramses II and Ashoka is that Ramses II was continually involved in military campaigns early on in his reign; but Ashoka was not. After Ashoka conquered the Kalinga country, the sufferings that the war inflicted on the defeated people moved him to such remorse that he renounced all armed conquests. However, both Ramses II and Ashoka were known for peace in the latter half of their reigns.

Ramses II and Ashoka were both were both well known for being great builders in their empires. Ramses II was most well known for his building of temples and statues in Egypt. He completed the great hypostyle hall at Karnak, and continued work on the temple built by his father Seti I at Abydos. In Nubia Ramses II is known for completing six temples, and is probably best known for the two massive statues carved out of a cliff side at Abu Simbel. In fact, Ramses II built more monuments to Egypt’s gods than any other Egyptian king. Ashoka was also known for his extensive building in the empire. He was known for his religious pillar edicts that were engravings on rock pillars at various religious sites throughout his empire. These pillars had engravings about Ashoka’s teachings and morals. But Ashoka was not just known for building religious buildings. He is also known for building hospitals and digging new wells in towns. Ashoka also wanted to make transportation easier for his people, and planted trees along the roads in the empire and also built rest houses for travelers.

Ramses II and Ashoka were both very religious rulers. Although they both started their reigns with military operations, the latter half of their reigns are both marked by peace and religious practices, although they went about it in different ways. Ramses II religious accomplishments were mainly building temples and monuments to the Egyptian gods, and restoring holy sites in Egypt. But during Ramses II reign it was also known to be a time of religious permissiveness in Egypt, with foreign gods allowed to be worshiped as well as Egyptian gods. Ashoka’s reign was all about religion and his personal beliefs and practices. After Ashoka conquered the Kalinga country, he renounced armed conflict and adopted Buddhism, and he created his own personal teachings that he called dharma, which were his principles on how to live a good life. Ashoka’s religious practices were different from Ramses II because Ashoka not only erected religious pillars, but essentially dedicated his life to his beliefs and his dharmas, and made it his life’s work to try and make his people’s lives better, and to teach them morals and how to live a good life.

I think that both Ramses II and Ashoka are good examples of leadership for today. Although they both started their reigns with war and conflict, most of their reign was filled with peace and prosperity. Ramses II ended up becoming a great statesman in Egypt, creating treaties and peace with his neighbors, and Ashoka dedicated his life to teaching his people morals and making their everyday lives better. Modern day political leaders could learn a lot from studying both of their lives.


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