Anthony J. Spalinger (University of Auckland, New Zealand)

Demonizing the Enemy: The Ramesside Libyans

In contrast to recent studies of the historical accounts of Ramesses III at Medinet Habu that have focused upon the organization of the registers or the narrative techniques employed, I shall attempt a visual appreciation of one of the accounts to delineate the radically different presentation of historical information relating to warfare. I shall focus upon the language employed and how it reveals an aspect of an age that was considerably different from any before. The authors reflect what the elite society of Ramesside Egypt felt was worth stressing.
A baroque presentation was “coined” in which the western enemy was demonized to a far greater degree than earlier. This new direction can be traced back to the Kadesh Poem, but now a harsh judgment is imposed upon the Libyans and the necessary retribution. The enemy is demonized through highly developed visual aspects, and the violence takes on greater significance by means of the lexical items chosen for their inbuilt sense of the vicious, a feeling that ascends to the grotesque. These Ramesside narratives of Libyan wars are characterized by a heightened sense of the baroque. The choice of special vocabulary reflects a completely different world than the past. The attitude is not merely juridical one. It is now an overflowing sensory account replete with tactile and horrible vocabulary, one that allows the authors full play when describing the Libyans as brutal automatons who attempted to diabolize Egypt.


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