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Preceded by:
Ramesses I
Pharaoh of Egypt
19th Dynasty
Succeeded by:
Ramesses II
Seti I
Seti-Merenptah
Hellenized: Sethos I
Seti i

Seti I on a wall relief from his temple in Abydos.

Reign
1288-1279 BC (9 years) or
1290-1279 BC (11 years)
Praenomen
M23
t
L2
t
<
raC10mn
>
Menmaatre
The Justice of Re is Eternal
Nomen
G39N5
<
p
t
HC7iiU6
n
>
Seti-Merenptah
The One of Seth,
Beloved of Ptah
Horus name
G5E1
D40
N28mR19sS34N19O33
Kanakhte-Khaemwaset
Seankhtawy
Strong Bull, Who Appears in
Thebes and Sustains the
Two Lands
Nebty name
G16F25F31swt
Z2
S42Aa1
O39
pF23
D46
r
D44
T10
t
Z3Z3Z3
Wehemmesut-Sekhemkhepesh
Derpedjut 9
Renewing Births,
the strong-armed one who has
Repelled the Nine Bows
Golden Horus
G8F25N28
Z2
F12sr
D44
T10
T10
T10
mN17
N17
N17
nb
Z2
Wehemkhau-Userpedjutem-
tawnebu
Powerful of Effectiveness,
Who has Subdued his
Enemies
Legacy
Father Ramesses I
Mother Sitre
Consort(s) Tuya, Tanedjmet (?)
Issue Nebkhasetnebet (?), Tia,
Ramesses II, Henutmire
Died 1179 BC
Burial KV17 (initial), TT320 (reburial)
Monuments Mortuary temple at Qurna,
Great temple of Abydos
Great Hypostyle Hall at Karnak
For other pages by this name, see Seti or Merenptah.

Menmaatre Seti I was the second Pharaoh of the Nineteenth Dynasty of Egypt during the New Kingdom. Manetho incorrectly considered him to be the founder of the 19th dynasty. Seti I was 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.

Name[]

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 throne name (or prenomen) mn-mꜣꜥt-rꜥ, which often translates as Menmaatre, meaning "Eternal is the Justice of Re." His better known birth name (or nomen) is technically transliterated as sty mr-n-ptḥ, which is usually realised as Seti-Merenptah, meaning "The One of Set, Beloved of Ptah". The later Greeks (including Manetho) called him Sethos or Sethosis.

Origins and Family[]

See also: 19th Dynasty Family Tree.

Seti I was of non-royal birth, being born into a noble military family from the Eastern Nile Delta region, possibly near the former Hyksos capital Avaris. He was the son of Pharaoh Ramesses I and Queen Sitre. Seti's queen consort was Tuya, with whom he is known to have had three children; Tia, Ramesses II, and probably Henutmire. His daughter Tia was married to a high-ranking civil servant who was also called Tia.[3] Her son Ramesses II later succeeded his father and married his probable younger sister Henutmire. Another theory suggests that Seti I and Tuya's eldest son was a certain Nebkhasetnebet, who died in infancy.[4]

Prior to Accession[]

Seti's father, Ramesses I (named Paramessu at the time), rose rapidly in prominence at the royal court of Pharaoh Horemheb, who appointed the former as his Vizier and heir. Seti was a troops commander at Sile and succeeded his father in both the offices of Vizier and High Priest of Set, when the latter ascended to the throne.[5][6] The temple and priesthood of Set was situated at Avaris. As high priests, they would have played an important role in the restoration of the old religion following the Amarna heresy of a generation earlier, during the reign of Akhenaten. Both Ramesses I and Seti I were connected with various aspects of Banebdjedet, whose cult was centered at the nearby city of Mendes, and Wadjet, who was worshipped throughout Lower Egypt.[5]

Dates and Length of Reign[]

Seti i

Seti I

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.[7] Seti I's reign length was either 9 or 11 Full Years. However, the English Egyptologist Kenneth Kitchen believes that it was 15 years. There are no dates known for Seti I after his 9th 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 Years 10 to 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.[8] 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.)[9] 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. [10] This explanation conforms a reign of 9 or 11 years 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.[11] 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).[12]

Setii

Seti I

However, despite this promise, Brand writes that: "there are few obelisks and apparently no colossi inscribed for Seti. Had he ruled on until his fourteenth or fifteenth year, then surely more of the obelisks and colossi he commissioned in [his] Year 9 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."[13]

A reign of 11 years for Seti I is based on a sandstone stela from Gebel Barkal that contains a date usually read as Year 11, IV Shemu day 12 or 13.[13][14] However, Van Dijk suggests that this damaged date attests Seti I’s regnal Year 3 instead of 11.[15] Moreover the figure of Seti I on the stela is shown standing erect rather then bowing forward, which stylistically belongs to Seti I's earlier regnal years.[16] The highest attestation of Seti I should therefore be his regnal Year 9. This is further supported by wine dockets found in the Valley of the Kings, of which the highest date is his Year 8, indicating that Seti I probably died before the vintage of his regnal Year 9.[17]

Foreign Policy[]

Seti-I-chariot-drawing-karnak

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.

Monuments and Attestations[]

Despite his single decade reign and military activity, Seti I launched large building projects. Particularly at Thebes and Abydos. Seti I also expanded the temple of Set at his hometown Avaris, which Horemheb had built and where Seti himself held the office of High Priest prior to his kingship.[18]

Great temple of Abydos[]

Main article: Great temple of Abydos.

One of Seti I's largest construction projects was the Great temple of Abydos, which had also been completed during his reign. The temple is decorated with many impressive relief inscriptions, the most notible of which is the Abydos King List. This is a chronological list showing cartouches of most dynastic pharaohs of Egypt from Menes until Seti I himself. At the rear of the temple there is the Osireion, which is also argued to have been constructed under Seti's rule as well. However, this remains speculative.

Great Hypostyle Hall[]

Main article: Great Hypostyle Hall.

The Great Hypostyle Hall of the temple of Amun at Karnak is one of the most famous monuments of Ancient Egypt. The 134 papyrus columns represent the primeval papyrus swamp from which Atum, a self-created deity, arose from the waters of Nun at the beginning of creation. The northern side of the hall is decorated in raised relief, and was mainly Seti I's work. The southern side of the hall was completed by his son and successor, Ramesses II, in sunk relief although he used raised relief at the very beginning of his reign before changing to the sunk relief style and re-editing his own raised reliefs. Ramesses II also usurped decoration of his father along the main north-south and east-west processional ways of the hall, giving the casual observer the idea that he was responsible for the building. However, most of Seti I's reliefs in the northern part of the hall were respected.

Mortuary temple[]

Main article: Mortuary temple of Seti I.

The mortuary temple of Seti I is situated near the town of Qurna in the Theban Necropolis, which is located at the westbank of the Nile, across the river from Thebes (modern Luxor). The temple seems to have been constructed toward the end of the reign of Seti, and may have been completed by his son Ramesses II after his death.[19] The entire court and any pylons associated with the site are now in ruins, and much of the eastern part of the complex is buried under the modern town of Qurna.

Burial and Succession[]

Sett

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. His sarcophagus is currently held at the Sir John Soane's Museum in London, England.[20]

Mummy[]

Despite the discovery of his impressive tomb, Seti's mummy was not found until 1881, in the royal cache at Deir el-Bahari, and has since been kept at the Cairo Museum. His mummy has the inventory number CG 61077.[21]

Seti I Mummy

Mummy of Seti I (Smith 1912).

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 was likely caused post mortem by tomb robbers. The Amun priests had 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 the afterlife.[citation needed] Seti I's mummy is about 1.7 metres (5 ft 7 in) tall.[22]

In April 2021 his mummy was moved from the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities to National Museum of Egyptian Civilization along with those of 17 other kings and 4 queens in an event termed the Pharaohs' Golden Parade.[23]

Alleged co-regency with Ramesses II[]

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[24] 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[25] 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.[26] 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.[27] 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."[28]

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."[29]

Legacy[]

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.

See also[]

References[]

  1. Rice 1999.
  2. Von Beckerath 1997, p. 190.
  3. Tyldesley 2000, p. 116.
  4. Schneider 2002, p. 354-355.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Montert 1974, p. 197.
  6. Shaw 2000, p. 294.
  7. Brand 2000, p. 301-302.
  8. Brand 1997, p. 101-114.
  9. Brand 1997, p. 106-107.
  10. Brand 1997, p. 114.
  11. Brand 1997, p. 107.
  12. Brand 1997, p. 104.
  13. 13.0 13.1 Brand 2000, p. 308.
  14. Von Beckerath 1997, p. 190.
  15. Van Dijk 2011.
  16. Brand 2000, p. 14.
  17. Aston 2012.
  18. Shaw 2000, p. 295.
  19. Weigall 1910, p. 258.
  20. "Egyptian Collection at the Sir John Soane's Museum". soane.org.
  21. Habicht et al. 2016.
  22. Hobson 1993, p. 97.
  23. Parisse, Emmanuel (5 April 2021). "22 Ancient Pharaohs Have Been Carried Across Cairo in an Epic Golden Parade". ScienceAlert.
  24. Brand 2000.
  25. Murnane 1977.
  26. Murnane 1990, p. 93, footnote 90.
  27. Kitchen 1982, p. 27-30.
  28. Brand 2000, p. 315-316.
  29. Brand 2000, p. 316.

Bibliography[]

  • Aston, D., 2012: Radiocarbon, Wine Jars and New Kingdom Chronology. Ägypten Und Levante / Egypt and the Levant, 22/23.
  • Beckerath, J. von, 1997: Chronologie des Pharaonischen Ägypten. Philip Von Zabern, Mainz.
  • Brand, P.J., 1997: The 'Lost' Obelisks and Colossi of Seti I. Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt, Vol. 34.
  • Brand, P.J., 2000: The Monuments of Seti I: Epigraphic, Historical and Art Historical Analysis. Leiden.
  • Dijk, J. van, 2011: The Date of the Gebal Barkal Stela of Seti I. In: Aston, D./Bader, B./Gallorini, C./Nicholson, P./Buckingham, S., (eds): Under the Potter's tree. Studies on Ancient Egypt presented to Janine Bourriau on the Occasion of her 70th Birthday (= Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta 204), Uitgeverij Peeters en Departement Oosterse Studies, Leuven - Paris - Walpole.
  • Gaballa, A., 1976: Narrative in Egyptian Art. Mainz.
  • Habicht, M./Rühli, F./Bouwman, A., 2016: Identification of Ancient Egyptian Royal Mummies from the 18th Dynasty reconsidered. American Journal of Physical Anthropology.
  • Hobson, C., 1993: Exploring the World of the Pharaohs: A Complete Guide to Ancient Egypt. Thames & Hudson, London.
  • Kitchen, K.A., 1982: Pharaoh Triumphant: The Life and Times of Ramesses II, King of Egypt. Benben Publication, Warminster.
  • Montert, P., 1974: Everyday Life in Egypt in the Days of Ramesses The Great.
  • Murnane, W.J., 1977: Ancient Egyptian Coregencies. Studies in Ancient Oriental Civilization, Vol. 40, Chicago.
  • Murnane, W.J., 1990: The Road to Kadesh: A Historical interpretation of the battle reliefs of King Sety I at Karnak. Studies in Ancient Oriental Civilization, Chicago.
  • Rice, M., 1999: Who's Who in Ancient Egypt. Routledge.
  • Schneider, T., 2002: Lexikon der Pharaonen. Patmos, Düsseldorf.
  • Shaw, I., 2000: The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt. Oxford University Press.
  • Smith, G.E., 1912: The Royal Mummies. Duckworth. (Reprinted year 2000 version).
  • Tyldesley, J., 2000: Ramesses: Egypt's Greatest Pharaohs. Penguin Books.
  • Weigall, A., 1910: A Guide to the Antiquities of Upper Egypt. Mentheun & Co, London.
Predecessor:
Ramesses I
Pharaoh of Egypt
Nineteenth Dynasty
Successor:
Ramesses II
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