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Ramses II and His Time (Ages of Chaos) by…

Ramses II and His Time (Ages of Chaos) (original 1978; edition 1978)

by Immanuel Velikovsky

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Title:Ramses II and His Time (Ages of Chaos)
Authors:Immanuel Velikovsky
Info:Doubleday & Co. (1978), Edition: 1st, Hardcover, 270 pages
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Ramses II and His Time (Ages of Chaos) by Immanuel Velikovsky (1978)



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I keep reading the Velikovsky books because there are still some die-hard Velikovskians around and if I ever run into one I don’t want to be accused of not having read his works. Plus it’s practice for spotting logical fallacies. Still, it’s a chore.

Velikovsky’s first published book was Worlds in Collision, which proposed Jupiter had ejected a “comet” in the 15th century BC that zipped around the solar system for a while, causing the various events described in Exodus, temporarily stopping the Earth’s rotation, setting the planet on fire, and generally raising havoc until it settled down and became the planet Venus. If he had been ignored, he would have been gradually faded away as one of history’s many loons (ever heard of Lawsonomy? How about World Ice Theory? Both were woowoo once roughly on Velikovsky’s level in terms of temporary popularity). However, astronomers Harlow Shapley and Cecelia Payne-Gaposchkin organized a boycott against Velikovsky’s publisher, Macmillan, threatening not to buy textbooks unless Macmillan dropped the book. This was a singularly bad idea; it gave Velikovsky notoriety for “standing up to authority” and Macmillan simply transferred the book to its rival Doubleday, where it made the best-seller list. Science historian Henry Bauer suggested (Beyond Velikovsky) suggested that some of the reaction to Velikovsky was a result of the dethroning liberal arts by the science as the pinnacle of human achievement. For years, a liberal arts degree had been the ticket of admission to the corridors of power; now, suddenly, with the development of atomic weapons and radar and all the other scientific marvels during WWII, physics and chemistry were suddenly important and a liberal arts degree was the ticket to nowhere in particular. In reaction, supposedly, the philosophers and psychologists and sociologists and lawyers all took up Velikovsky’s cause as demonstrating science was flawed – hadn’t Dr. Velikovsky proved the value of classical education by refuting accepted science with his careful study of ancient texts? I don’t know that I buy that argument fully but there may be something to it.

At any rate, Velikovsky followed up Worlds in Collision with a whole shelf full of woowoo, writing Near Eastern history to fit the Old Testament narratives: Ages in Chaos, Oedipus and Ankhenaton, Ramses II and his Time (there are a couple of other books in the series that were never published in paper but are available on line). An interesting thing here is despite Velikovsky’s uncritical and literal acceptance of the Old Testament as history, he was not particularly religious; all the miracles of the Bible had physical explanations and didn’t require any Divine intervention (of course, Velikovsky’s physics was complete woowoo, created on the fly to fit). In the other books, Velkovsky can be credited as the inventor of “phantom history”; the idea that large periods of accepted history are fabrications, invented for political reasons. A corollary is many historical figures are actually the same person under two different names. (The most extreme example is presented by Russian Anatoly Fomenko, who contends all of human history before about 800AD was invented by medieval chroniclers – but that’s another bucket of woo).

The key problem for Velikovsky and the other Biblical phantom history advocates is reconciling the Old Testament accounts with archaeology. The “begats” put the United Monarchy of Israel – the empires of Saul, David, and Solomon – in the Late Bronze Age, but there’s no archaeological evidence that there ever was a “United Monarchy” or that any such persons as Saul, David or Solomon ever existed, and the evidence is that the Levant – including what would eventually be Israel and Judah – were Egyptian colonies during the supposed United Monarchy period. This is the problem that Velikovsky and the other “revised chronologies” and “new chronologies” have to deal with, and the solution is the subtract a big chunk of Egyptian history so it conforms with Old Testament.

That, finally, brings us to Ramses II and His Time. Velikovsy uses the “duplicate historical figure” argument; Ramses II of the 19th Dynasty is actually the same person as the “Pharaoh Necho” of the Old Testament (rather than the Egyptological assignment of Pharaoh Necho to Nekau Wahemibre of the 26th Dynasty). What’s more, the Hittite King Hattusili II is actually the Neobabylonian (Velikovsky uses the obsolete term “Chaldean”) Nebuchadnezzar, and there never was any such thing as a “Hittite Empire”; it was actually the Chaldeans. Velikovsky’s arguments for this partially based on the unstated assumption that anybody mentioned in the Old Testament must be important and therefore Pharaoh Necho can’t possibly be the obscure Nekau Wahemibre. Velikovsky’s second line of evidence of supposed parallel accounts of the battle of Carchemish in Jeremiah and the battle of Kadesh in Egypt. Jeremiah’s account (chapter 46) has Necho (who Velikovsky claims is Ramses II) defeated by Nebuchadnezzar (who Velikovsky claims is Hatusili II) at Carchemish (which Velikovsky claims is Kadesh) and fleeing to the north; the Egyptian accounts (Velikovsky mentions The Poem of Pentaur and inscriptions at Abu Simbel) have Ramses II defeated by Hatusili II at Kadesh and part of the Egyptian army retreating to the north. QED, according to Velikovsky.

Except, of course, it doesn’t end there; Velikovsky completely ignores the remainder of the Egyptian descriptions of Kadesh. The Hittites stop their pursuit to plunder the Egyptian baggage; the Egyptians rally, additional forces come up, and now it’s the Hittites turn to be routed; the Egyptian army does not withdraw in defeat as Jeremiah describes. This omission has to be deliberate.

There are many other things that Velikovsky cites as “evidence”. As noted by several of his critics, Velikovsky couldn’t read any of the ancient texts he cites in the original language and had to depend on translations. He cherry-picked translations to fit his claims; he habitually used obsolete translations, and he only used archaeological reports when they seemed to fit his theses. There really isn’t much point in going into all of them.

Some photographs. Good maps of the Near East on the endpapers. No bibliography; you would have to peruse all the footnotes to track Velikovsky’s sources. As mentioned, only of interest if you need to debunk a Velikovskian, which would probably be as futile as trying to argue with a Flat Earther or an antivaxxer. ( )
  setnahkt | Dec 17, 2017 |
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