Seti I
Seti i
Reign 1290BC - 1279BC
Dynasty 19th Dynasty
Praenomen Menmaatre
(Eternal is the Justice of Re)
Nomen Sety Merenptah
(Man of Set, beloved of Ptah)
Nebty Wehemmesut Sekhemkhepesh Derpedjetpesdjet
Horus Kanakht Khaemwaset-Seankhtawy
Golden Horus Wehemkhau Weserpedjutemtawnebu
Family Ramesses I (father)

Queen Sitre (mother)
Queen Tuya (wife)
Ramesses II (son)

Burial Place KV17
Monuments Mortuary Temple of Seti I,
Temple at Abydos

Menmaatre Seti I was a Pharaoh of Ancient Egypt (Nineteenth Dynasty), the son of Ramesses I and Queen Sitre, and the father of Ramesses II. As with all dates in Ancient Egypt, the actual dates of his reign are unclear, and various historians claim different dates, with 1294 B.C.E. – 1279 B.C.E[1] and 1290 B.C.E. to 1279 B.C.E[2] being the most commonly used by scholars today. These 2 dates are dependent on the chronological system used by a particular Egyptologist. The ancient Egyptians counted time from a king's accession day as Year One of a Pharaoh's reign. When a Pharaoh died or fell from power, the following day immediately became Year number 1 of his successor's reign. To identify Seti I's Year 1 with a specific BC year, a chronologist must not only take into account the existing evidence from various sources, but which set of interpretations that he/she finds valid, so different chronologists and historians can have different views on the subject.

The name Seti means "of Set", which indicates that he was consecrated to the god Set. As with most Pharaohs, Seti had a number of names. Upon his ascension, he took the prenomen mn-m3‘t-r‘, which translates as Menmaatre in Egyptian, meaning "Eternal is the Justice of Re." His better known nomen, or birth name is technically transliterated as sty mry-n-ptḥ, which is usually realised as Sety Merenptah, meaning "Man of Set, beloved of Ptah". The Greeks called him Sethosis. Manetho incorrectly considered him to be the founder of the 19th dynasty.

The Alleged Coregency of Seti I

Setti i

Seti i

Around Year 9 of his reign, Seti appointed his son Rameses II as the Crown Prince and his chosen successor, but the evidence for a coregency between the two kings is likely illusory. Peter J. Brand who has published an extensive biography on this Pharaoh and his numerous works, stresses in his thesis[3] that relief decorations at various temple sites at Karnak, Qurnah and Abydos which associate Ramesses II with Seti I, were actually carved after Seti's death by Ramesses and cannot be used to argue in favour of a coregency between the two monarchs. In addition, the late William Murnane who first endorsed the idea of a coregency between Seti I and Ramesses II[4] later revised his view of the presumed coregency and rejected the idea that Ramesses II had begun to count his own regnal years while Seti I was still alive.[5] Finally Kenneth Kitchen rejects the term coregency to describe the relationship between Seti I and Ramesses II; he describes the earliest phase of Ramesses II's career as a "prince regency" where the young Ramesses enjoyed all the trappings of royalty including the use of a royal titulary and harem but did not count his Regnal years until after his father's death.[6] This is due to the fact that the evidence for a coregency between the two kings is vague and highly ambiguous. Brand observes in his exhaustive 464 page book--The Monuments of Seti I: Epigraphic, Historical and Art Historical Analysis--that two important inscriptions from the first decade of Ramesses' reign, namely the Abydos
Seti I Battle Scene with the Hittites

Seti I Battle Scene with the Hittites

Dedicatory Inscription and the Kuban Stela of Ramesses II, consistently give the latter titles associated with those of a Crown Prince only--namely the "king's eldest son and hereditary prince" or "child-heir" to the throne "along with some military titles."[7]

Hence, no clear evidence supports the hypothesis that Ramesses II was already a coregent under his father. Brand stresses that "Ramesses' claim that he was crowned king by Seti, even as a child in his arms [in the Dedicatory Inscription], is highly self-serving and open to question although his descripion of his role as crown prince is more accurate...The most reliable and concrete portion of this statement is the enumeration of Ramesses' titles as eldest king's son and heir apparent, well attested in sources contemporary with Seti's reign."[8]


Seti i

Seti I

Seti I's reign length was either 11 or 15 Full Years. While the English Egyptologist Kenneth Kitchen believes that it was 15 years, circumstantial evidence currently suggests that the shorter figure is the right one. There are no dates known for Seti I after his 11th Year which is significant if he enjoyed a reign of 15 Years because he is quite well documented in the historical records. A continuous break in the record for his Year 12, 13, 14 or 15 appears somewhat unlikely. More importantly, Peter J. Brand noted that the king personally opened new rock quarries at Aswan to build obelisks and colossal statues in his Year 9.[9] This event is commemorated on two rock stelas in Aswan. However, most of Seti's obelisks and statues — such as the Flaminian and Luxor obelisks were only partly finished or decorated by the time of his death since they were completed early under his son's reign based on epigraphic evidence. (Ramesses II exclusively used the prenomen 'Usermaatre' in his first year and did not adopt the final form of his royal title--'Usermaatre Setepenre'--until late into his second year.)[10] Brand aptly notes that this evidence calls into question the idea of a long 15 Year reign for Seti I and suggests that "Seti died after a ten to eleven year reign" because only two Years would have passed between the opening of the Rock Quarries and the partial completion and decoration of these monuments. [11] This explanation conforms better with the evidence of the unfinished state of Seti II's monuments and the fact that Ramesses II had to complete the decorations on "many of his father's unfinished monuments, including the southern half of the Hypostyle Hall at Karnak and portions of his father's temples at Gurnah and Abydos" during the very first Year of his own reign.[12] Critically, Brand notes that the larger Aswan rock stela states that Seti I "has ordered the commissioning of multitudinous works for the making of very great obelisks and great and wondrous statues (ie: colossi) in the name of His Majesty, L.P.H. He made great barges for transporting them, and ships crews to match them for ferrying them from the quarry." (KRI 74:12-14)[13]. However, despite this promise, Brand writes that: "there are few obelisks and apparently no colossi inscribed for Seti. Ramesses II, however, was able to complete the two obelisks and four seated colossi from Luxor within the first years of his reign, the two

Seti I

obelisks in particular being partly inscribed before he adopted the final form of his prenomen sometime in [his] year two. This state of affairs strongly implies that Seti died after ten to eleven years. Had he ruled on until his fourteenth or fifteenth year, then surely more of the obelisks and colossi he commissioned in [his] year nine would have been completed, in particular those from Luxor. If he in fact died after little more than a decade on the throne, however, then at most two years would have elapsed since the Aswan quarries were opened in year nine, and only a fraction of the great monoliths would have been complete and inscribed at his death, with others just emerging from the quarries so that Ramesses would be able to decorate them shortly after his accession....It now seems clear that a long, fourteen-to fifteen-year reign for Seti I can be rejected for lack of evidence. Rather, a tenure of ten or more likely probably eleven, years appears the most likely scenario."[14]

The German Egyptologist Jürgen von Beckerath also accepts that Seti I's reign lasted only 11 Years.[15] Seti's Highest known date is Year 11, IV Shemu day 12 or 13 on a sandstone stela from Gebel Barkal[16] but he would have briefly survived for 2 to 3 days into his Year 12 before dying based on the date of Ramesses II's rise to power. Seti I's accession date has been determined by Wolfgang Helck to be III Shemu day 24, which is very close to Ramesses II's known accession date of III Shemu day 27. [17]

After the enormous social upheavals generated by Akhenaten's religious reform, Horemheb's, Ramesses I's and Seti I's main purpose was to re-establish order in the kingdom and to reaffirm Egypt's sovereignty over Canaan and Syria, which had been compromised by the increasing external pressures from the Hittites state. Seti, with energy and determination, confronted the Hittites several times in battle. Without succeeding in destroying the Hittites as a potent danger to Egypt, he reconquered most of the disputed territories for Egypt and generally concluded his military campaigns with victories. The memory of such enterprises was perpetuated by some large pictures placed on the front of the temple of Amun, situated in Karnak. A funerary temple for Seti was constructed in what is now known as Qurna, on the west bank of the Nile at Thebes while a magnificient temple at Abydos with exquisite relief scenes was started by Seti, and completed by his son. His capital was at Memphis. He was considered a great king by his peers, but his fame has been overshadowed since ancient times by that of his son Ramesses II.

Wars of Seti I


Seti I

Seti I fought a series of wars in Western Asia, Libya and Nubia in the first decade of his reign. The main source for Seti’s military activities are his battle scenes on the north exterior wall of the Karnak Hypostyle Hall, along with several royal stela with inscriptions mentioning battles in Canaan and Nubia.

In his first regnal year, he led his armies along the “Ways of Horus,” the costal road that led from the Egyptian city of Tjaru (Zarw/Sile) in the north-east corner of the Egyptian Nile Delta along the northern coast of the Sinai peninsula ending in the town of “Canaan” in the modern Gaza strip. The Ways of Horus consisted of a series of military forts, each with a well, that are depicted in detail in the king’s war scenes on the north wall of the Karnak Hypostyle Hall. While crossing the Sinai, the king’s army fought local beduins called the Shasu. In Canaan, he received the tribute of some of the city states he visited. Others, including Beth-Shan and Yenoam, had to be captured but were easily defeated. The attack on Yenoam is illustrated in his war scenes, while other battles, such as the defeat of Beth-Shan, were not shown because the king himself did not participate, sending a division of the army instead. The year one campaign continued into Lebanon where the king received the submission of its chiefs who were compelled to cut down valuable cedar wood themselves as tribute.

At some unknown point in the reign, Seti I defeated an incursion of Libyan tribesmen on his western border. Although
Smiting his enemies

Seti I striking his enemies

defeated, the Libyans would pose an ever increasing threat to Egypt in the reigns of Merenptah and Ramesses III. The Egyptian army also put down a minor “rebellion” in Nubia in the 8th year of Seti I. Pharaoh himself did not participate, although his Crown Prince, the future Ramesses II, may have.

The greatest achievement of Seti I’s foreign policy was the capture of the Syrian town of Kadesh and neighboring territory of Amurru from the Hittite Empire. Kadesh had been lost to Egypt since the time of Akhenaten. Akhenaten and Tutankhamen had both failed to recapture the city from the Hittites. Seti I was successful here and defeated a Hittite army that tried to reclaim it. Kadesh, however, soon reverted to Hittite control because the Egyptians did not or could not maintain a permanent military occupation of Kadesh and Amurru which were close to the Hittite homelands. It is unlikely, however, that Seti I made a peace treaty with the Hittites or voluntarily returned Kadesh and Amurru to them. Five years after Seti I’s death, his son Ramesses II made a failed attempt to recapture Kadesh and it was effectively lost to the Egyptians forever.

The traditional view of Seti I’s wars is that he restored the Egyptian empire after it had been lost in the time of Akhenaten. This view was based on the chaotic picture of Egyptian controlled Syria and Palestine seen in the Amarna letters, a cache of diplomatic correspondence from the time of Akhenaten found at Akhenaten’s capital at modern El-Amarna in Middle Egypt. Recent scholarship indicates that the Empire was not lost at this time, except for its northern border provinces of Kadesh and Amurru. While evidence for the military activities of Akhenaten, Tutankhamen and Horemheb is fragmentary or ambiguous, Seti I has left us an impressive war monument that glorifies his achievement along with a number of texts, all of which tend to magnify his personal achievements on the battlefield.



Seti I

Seti's well preserved tomb (KV17) was found in 1817 by Giovanni Belzoni, in the Valley of the Kings; it proved to be the longest—at more than 120 meters—and deepest of all the New Kingdom royal tombs. It was also the first tomb to feature decorations on every passageway and chamber with highly refined bas-reliefs and colorful paintings - fragments of which, including a large column depicting Seti I with the goddess Hathor, can be seen in the Museo Archeologico, Florence. This decorative style set a precedent which was followed in full or in part in the tombs of later New Kingdom kings. However's Seti's mummy was not discovered until 1881, in the mummy cache (tomb DB320) at Deir el-Bahri, and has since been kept at the Cairo Museum.

His sarcophagus is in the Sir John Soane's Museum[18], in London, England. From an examination of this extremely well preserved mummy, Seti I appears to have been less than forty years old when he died unexpectedly. This is in stark contrast to the situation with Horemheb, Ramesses I and Ramesses II who all lived to an advanced age. The reasons for his relatively early death are uncertain, but there is no evidence of violence on his mummy. His mummy was found with its head decapitated, but this may have been caused after his death by tomb robbers. The Amun priestly carefully reattached his head to his body with the use of linen cloths. It has been suggested that he died from a disease which had affected him for years, possibly related to his heart. The latter was found placed in the right part of the body, while the usual practice of the day was to place it in the left part during the mummification process. Opinions vary whether this was a mistake, an attempt to have Seti's heart work better in his afterlife than it did during his lifetime or even that Seti was born with his heart on the right side of his body, a rare occurrence [citation needed].


  • In the films The Ten Commandments (1956 film) and The Prince of Egypt,the Pharaoh of the Exodus is identified as Ramesses II who succeeds Seti I.
  • Seti I makes an appearance in the The Mummy (1999 film) and its sequel The Mummy Returns as a pharaoh who is murdered by his high priest, Imhotep, and mistress Anck-su-namun.


  1. Michael Rice, Who's Who in Ancient Egypt, Routledge, 1999
  2. J. von Beckerath, Chronologie des Äegyptischen Pharaonischen, Phillip von Zabern,1997, p.190
  3. Peter J. Brand, The Monuments of Seti I and their Historical Significance, Chapter 4
  4. William Murnane, Ancient Egyptian Coregencies, 1977 – Seminal book on the Egyptian coregency system
  5. W. Murnane, The road to Kadesh: A Historical interpretation of the battle reliefs of King Sety I at Karnak (SAOC), 1990, pp.93 footnote 90
  6. KA Kitchen, Pharaoh Triumphant: The Life and Times of Ramesses II, King of Egypt, Benben Publication, (1982), pp.27-30
  7. Peter J. Brand, The Monuments of Seti I: Epigraphic, Historical and Art Historical Analysis, Brill, NV Leiden, (2000), pp.315-316
  8. Brand, The Monuments of Seti I, p.316
  9. Peter J. Brand, pp.101-114 paper titled "The 'Lost' Obelisks and Colossi of Seti I JARCE 34(1997)
  10. Brand., JARCE 34, pp.106-107
  11. Brand., JARCE 34, p.114
  12. Brand., JARCE 34, p.107
  13. Brand., JARCE 34, p.104
  14. Brand, The Monuments of Seti I, p.308
  15. von Beckerath, Chronologie, p.190
  16. Brand, The Monuments of Seti I, p.308
  17. Brand, The Monuments of Seti I, pp.301-302
  18. [1] – Egyptian Collection at the Sir John Soane's Museum
  • Jürgen von Beckerath, Chronologie des Pharaonischen Ägypten, Philip Von Zabern, Mainz(1997), pp. 190 and p.201
  • Epigraphic Survey, The Battle Reliefs of King Sety I. Reliefs and Inscriptions at Karnak vol. 4. (Chicago, 1985).
  • Gaballa A. Gaballa, Narrative in Egyptian Art. (Mainz, 1976)
  • Michael G. Hasel, Domination & Resistance: Egyptian Military Activity in the Southern Levant, 1300-1185 BC, (Leiden, 1998).
  • Kenneth A. Kitchen, Pharaoh Triumphant: The Life and Times of Ramesses II (Warminster, 1982).
  • Mario Liverani, Three Amarna Essays, Monographs on the Ancient Near East 1/5 (Malibu, 1979).
  • William J. Murnane, The Road to Kadesh, (Chicago, 1990)
  • Alan R. Schulman, “Hittites, Helmets & Amarna: Akhenaten’s First Hittite War,” Akhenaten Tmple Project volume II, (Toronto, 1988), 53-79.
  • Anthony J. Spalinger, “The Northern Wars of Seti I: An Integrative Study.” Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt 16 (1979). 29–46.
  • Anthony J. Spalinger, “Egyptian-Hittite Relations at the Close of the Amarna Age and Some Notes on Hittite Military Strategy in North Syria,” Bulletin of the Egyptological Seminar 1 (1979):55-89.

External links

Preceded by:
Ramesses I
Pharaoh of Egypt
Nineteenth Dynasty
Succeeded by:
Ramesses II
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