2 Publication history
3 Smith's poem
4 Cultural influence
6 Further reading
7 External links
1817 draft by Percy Bysshe Shelley, Bodleian Library
Percy Bysshe Shelley's 1817 fair copy, Bodleian Library
The central theme of "Ozymandias" is the inevitable decline of all leaders, and of the empires they build, however mighty in their own time.
The 'Younger Memnon' statue of Ramesses II in the British Museum thought to have inspired the poem Ozymandias represents a transliteration into Greek of a part of Ramesses' throne name, User-maat-re Setep-en-re. The sonnet paraphrases the inscription on the base of the statue, given by Diodorus Siculus in his Bibliotheca historica, 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." Shelley's poem is often said to have been inspired by the 1821 arrival in London of a colossal statue of Ramesses II, acquired for the British Museum by the Italian adventurer Giovanni Belzoni in 1816. Rodenbeck and Chaney, however, point out that the poem was written and published before the statue arrived in Britain, and thus that Shelley could not have seen it. Its repute in Western Europe preceded its actual arrival in Britain (Napoleon had previously made an unsuccessful attempt to...