Monday 25 September 2023

Rameses II was Ozymandias


The past is another country. They do things differently there.

I refer to 2020-21. I went to Bodrum for a week in October 2020 and stayed for six months to avoid Covid nonsense, but finally and reluctantly returned to Bucharest to get vaccinated. I then had to go to Egypt in May to escape being confined to my Bucharest flat for a fortnight. 

I was a digital nomad but also had great adventures.

Everywhere in Egypt was empty and the guides at the Great Temple of Luxor disconsolately rested against monuments. I took Moses and he showed me round the sights jumping onto a bus or hailing down the most cranky taxi I ever saw. 

He took me of course to the Colosseum of Memnon and the Ramesseum early in the morning, before the heat became unbearable by half past 9. 

I only discovered after I returned that Ozymandias is the Greek version of Rameses and that Shelley wrote his poem after the British Museum announced that it had acquired a large fragment of a statue of Rameses from the Italian Belzoni.

"I met a traveller from an antique land,

Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone

Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,

Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,

And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,

Tell that its sculptor well those passions read

Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,

The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;

And on the pedestal, these words appear:

My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;

Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay

Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare

The lone and level sands stretch far away.”


I missed Egypt and shortly after flew to Turin and went to the Egypt Museum there which is the biggest Egyptian collection in the world outside Cairo. The great reactionary King Charles Felix of Sardinia-Piedmont, who reigned in Turin in the eighteen-twenties, bought pieces taken from Egypt by Belzoni, Drovetti and other Italian adventurers. The interest of the House of Piedmont in Egypt begins with a legend that states that Turin was founded by an Egyptian prince who journeyed there in 1523 BC with a large army.

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