Ozymandias Questions and Answers
by Percy Bysshe Shelley

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What kind of king  was Ozymandias?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The vision depicted in the poem indicates that Ozymandias was a strong ruler.  He was probably one that ruled out of fear and conquest, and ruled with a strong sense of control.  The fact that he would have a statement such as "Look on my works, ye mighty and despair," indicates that there is a sense of ego within the ruler.  The fact that the statue is now decrepit and broken down indicates that the ruler is not one that is viewed in the modern setting with a sense of reverence of respect.  They might have ruled out of fear, but now, when there is no longer a fear of the ruler's extent, he is forgotten.  Perhaps, Shelley is making a statement here about the nature of political power and how it should be utilized.

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coachingcorner eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The poem "Ozymandias" by Percy Bysse Shelley was reputedly written about the Egyptian King Rameses 11 - Ozymandias was his Greek name. He was an Egyptian pharaoh from 1279-1213 b.c.e. and was famous for his statesmanship, architecture,military leadership, administrative abilities, and building activity. He set the benchmark by which subsequent rulers of Egypt measured themselves.His own story of his rights to power were that he was born of Egypt’s great god Amen (personified by King Seti I) and Queen Tuya, Ramses was designated “while yet in the egg” as a future Pharaoh of Egypt.This was his own story of his  birth. The time he was born under  was the New Kingdom, when Egypt was trying to keep control of a huge empire that ranged from the Fourth Cataract of the Nile in the Sudan to the provinces of North Syria.

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Doug Stuva eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The Ozymandias of Shelley's poem of the same name was sculpted with a "frown," a "wrinkled lip," and a "sneer of cold command."  And the words carved on the pedestal were:

"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:

Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"

Thus, one can assume that, since the quote uses the plural works the king must have had plenty.  So he apparently was wealthy and successful, and powerful (to be so wealthy and to be able to command multitudes of workers or slaves).  And frown and wrinkled lip and sneer suggest disdain and dominance, and despair suggests haughtiness. 

So the king was wealthy and powerful and disdainful and haughty and was a dominant ruler.

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lit24 | Student

Ozymandias  is the transliteration into Greek  of a part of Ramesses II's  throne name  User-maat-re Setep-en-re. Ramesses II who ruled Egypt around 12th century B.C. is regarded as the greatest and most powerful of all the Pharaohs.

Diodorus Siculus the Greek historian has recorded one of the inscriptions found at the base of Ramesses II's throne as "King of Kings am I, Osymandias. If anyone would know how great I am and where I lie, let him surpass one of my works." It is this inscription which forms the basis for Shelley's "Ozymandias" (1818).

Ozymandias was obviously a very proud and arrogant man. He was vain enough to imagine that he was the most powerful ruler on earth and he wanted every one to be terrified of him. He was always scowling and frowning in order to scare every one around him. It is this angry frowning face which the ancient sculptor has faithfully recorded for posterity in his statue:

a shattered visage lies, whose frown, 
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,

The Bible tells us in the Book of Proverbs 16:18 that,

“Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.”

This is the theme of Shelley's poem. All the great rulers in history try to perpetuate their memories by building mammoth statues. Their pride and arrogance knows no bounds as they erect these huge statues and vainly inscribe bombastic claims about the superiority of the kingdoms which they rule. They do this without realizing that they are only ordinary mortals who have to return to dust along with all their endeavors.

The colossal size of the statue only emphasizes the king sized ego of Ramesses II and only underscores the futility of his attempts to perpetuate his anonymity, because today,

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay 
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare

The lone and level sands stretch far away.

This even though when he was alive he had boastfully claimed,

“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: 
Look upon my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”

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