Ozymandias was the title of a sonnet written by the English romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792–1822).
First published in the 11 January 1818 issue of The Examiner in London, it was included the following year in Shelley's collection Rosalind and Helen, A Modern Eclogue; with Other Poems (1819) and in a posthumous compilation of his poems published in 1826. "Ozymandias" is regarded as one of Shelley's most famous works and is frequently anthologized.
In antiquity, Ozymandias was an alternative name for the Egyptian pharaoh Ramesses II. Shelley began writing his poem in 1817, soon after the announcement of the British Museum's acquisition of a large fragment of a statue of Ramesses II from the thirteenth-century BCE, and some scholars consider that Shelley was inspired by this. The 7.25-ton fragment of the statue's head and torso had been removed in 1816 from the mortuary temple of Ramesses at Thebes by the Italian adventurer Giovanni Battista Belzoni (1778–1823). It was expected to arrive in London in 1818, but did not arrive until 1821.
Shelley wrote the poem in friendly competition with his friend and fellow poet Horace Smith (1779–1849) who also wrote a sonnet on the topic. Smith's poem would be first published in The Examiner a few weeks after Shelley's sonnet. Both poems explore the fate of history and the ravages of time—that all prominent men and the empires they build are impermanent and their legacies fated to decay and oblivion.