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Ozymandias, the Greek name for the Egyptian pharaoh Ramses II, is portrayed in Shelley's poem as domineering and cruel. His face, sculpted on a monument that lies in the sand separated from his body, bears a "sneer of cold command." Ozymandias had carved on his pedestal a message that suggested he was arrogant, as he claimed he was "the king of kings." Also on the pedestal were the words "Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!" In other words, Ozymandias regarded himself and the temples and monuments he ordered constructed as better and greater than anything anyone else could construct. In Shelley's portrait, the pharaoh's arrogance is so great that he believes that anyone looking at his works will despair of ever coming close to achieving what he has achieved. Of course, the irony is that in Shelley's poem, Ozymandias' monument of himself stands in a state of decay, and around it stretches the barren dessert. He fancied himself immortal, but time has shown him to be as mortal and prone to decay as everything and everyone else.
Ozymandias is Greek for Ramses II, regarded as the greatest, most powerful pharaoh in the Egyptian Empire. Diodorus Siculus, a Greek historian of the first century B. C. E., claimed that this largest statue in Egypt had the inscription "I am Ozmandias, king of kings; if anyone wishes to know what I am and where I lie, let him surpass me in some of my exploits." Ramses II (Ozymandias) erected more statues of himself than any other pharaoh. He also had the engravings on the statues cut deeper to protect against erosion but mostly to prevent against anyone trying to alter the inscription in the future. He was clearly proud and definitively set on immortalizing his legacy.
The speaker in the poem notes that the sculptor understood Ozymandias, so he carved a face with a frown, a "sneer of cold command." The frowning sneer indicates a haughty, condescending man, proud of being in a superior position to everyone else. The inscription tells onlookers to consider the statue and the pharaoh's accomplishments and feel humbled and inadequate. Of the seven deadly sins, pride is certainly one that fits Ozymandias. The sculptor has portrayed him as a proud, arrogant, disdainful man who wanted his legend to live forever.
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