Ancient Egypt Wiki
Preceded by:
Pharaoh of Egypt
20th Dynasty
Succeeded by:
Ramesses III
Setnakht, Sethnakht

Setnakhte on the lid of his stone sarcophagus from KV14.

1189-1186 BC (3 years)
Powerful are the
Appearances of Re,
Chosen of Re
Seth is Victorious,
Beloved of Amun-Re
Horus name
Strong Bull, Great of Might
Nebty name
The Image of Appearances
like Tatenen
Golden Horus
Powerful of Effectiveness,
Who has Subdued his
Consort(s) Tiye-Mereniset, Hemdjeret (?)[1]
Issue Ramesses III, Tyti,
Iset-Tahemdjeret (?)[1]
Died 1186 BC
Burial KV14

Userkhaure-Setepenre Setnakhte (reigned 1189 B.C.E. - 1186 B.C.E.) was the first Pharaoh of the Twentieth Dynasty of Egypt. The Papyrus Harris I mentions a time of crisis and political unrest (i.e. the last years of the Nineteenth Dynasty) from which Setnakhte rose and restored order, gaining the throne in the process. He was probably a distant relative of the extended Ramesside royal family, or less likely, a usurper. His son Ramesses III would be the last great pharaoh of the New Kingdom.


Upon coronation, Setnakhte adopted the throne name (or prenomen) Userkhaure-Setepenre (ancient Egyptian: wsr-ḫꜥw-n-rꜥ stp-n-rꜥ, "Powerful are the Appearances of Re, Chosen of Re"). He added the epithet Mereramunre (ancient Egyptian: mrr-ỉmn-rꜥ, "Beloved of Amun-Re") to his birth name (or nomen). His name is thus realised as Userkhaure-Setepenre Setnakhte-Mereramunre.


See also: 20th Dynasty Family Tree.

Setnakhte was not the son, brother or a direct descendant of either Tausret or Siptah - the immediately preceding two pharaohs - nor that of Siptah's predecessor Seti II, whom Setnakhte formally considered the last "legitimate ruler".[2] It is possible that he was a usurper and he could easily have been a descendant of Ramesses II. Setnakhte's queen consort was Tiye-Mereniset, perhaps a daughter of Merenptah.

Setnakhte and Tiye-Mereniset are known to have had a son, who succeeded his father as Ramesses III, and a daughter Tyti, who became her brother's queen consort. Setnakhte might have aquired an Asiatic bride in diplomatic marriage called Hemdjeret,[1] in which case Iset-Tahemdjeret, the other queen consort of Ramesses III, was their daughter.

Prior to Accession[]

Setnakhte rose to power in a civil war, which is documented in the Elephantine stela dated to Year 2 of his reign. The stela touches on this chaotic period and looting of gold from Egyptian temples by Asiatics. At the time, Tausret ruled as pharaoh over Egypt. It is not known if she was overthrown by Setnakhte or whether she died peacefully in her own reign; if the latter is the case, then a struggle may have ensued among various factions at court for the throne in which Setnakhte emerged victorious. However, it appears more likely that Setnakhte overthrew Tausret from power in the unfolding civil war.

The beginning of the Papyrus Harris I, which documents the reign of Ramesses III, provides some details about Setnakhte's rise to power. An excerpt of James Henry Breasted's 1906 translation of this document is provided below:

"The land of Egypt was overthrown from without, and every man was thrown out of his right; they had no "chief mouth" for many years formerly until other times. The land of Egypt was in the hands of chiefs and of rulers of towns; one slew his neighbour, great and small. Other times having come after it, with empty years, Irsu ('a self-made man'), a certain Syrian (Kharu) was with them as chief (wr). He set plundering their (i.e., the people's) possessions. They made gods like men, and no offerings were presented in the temples.
But when the gods inclined themselves to peace, to set the land in its rights according to its accustomed manner, they established their son, who came forth from their limbs, to be ruler, LPH, of every land, upon their great throne, Userkhaure-setepenre-meryamun, LPH, the son of Re, Setnakht-merire-meryamun, LPH. He was Khepri-Set, when he is enraged; he set in order the entire land which had been rebellious; he slew the rebels who were in the land of Egypt; he cleansed the great throne of Egypt; he was ruler of the Two Lands, on the throne of Atum. He gave ready faces to those who had been turned away. Every man knew his brother who had been walled in. He established the temples in possession of divine offerings, to offer to the gods according to their customary stipulations."[3]

Setnakhte and his son Ramesses III described the late 19th Dynasty as a time of chaos. Ramesses III later excluded Tausret and Siptah from his Medinet Habu list of Egyptian kings, thereby delegitimizing their kingship in the eyes of the public.[4]

Dates and Length of Reign[]

Setnakhte was originally believed to have enjoyed a reign of only two years based upon his Year 2 Elephantine stela but his third regnal year is now attested in Inscription No. 271 on Mount Sinai.[5] If his theoretical accession date is assumed to be II Shemu 10, based on the date of his Elephantine stela, Setnakhte would have ruled Egypt for at least two years and 11 months before he died, or nearly three full years. This date is only three months removed from Tausret's highest known date of Year 8, III Peret 5, and is based upon a calculation of Ramesses III's known accession date of I Shemu 26.[6] Peter Clayton also assigned Setnakhte a reign of three years in his 1994 book on the Egyptian pharaohs.[7]

In 2007 a well-preserved quartz stela belonging to the High Priest of Amun Bakenkhunsu was discovered, which explicitly dated to Year 4 of Setnakhte's reign. Setnakhte likely truly ruled Egypt for only three, rather than four, full years since there are no Year 1 dates attested for him, and his famous Year 2 Elephantine stela states that Setnakhte finally secured his kingship after defeating all his opponents and challengers to the throne in his second year. The date of the Elephantine stela in Year 2 II Shemu 10 of Setnakhte's reign[8] — the date of which is mentioned only halfway in the stela rather than at its start — is immediately followed by this proclamation: "There were no opponents against His Majesty, l.p.h., in all the lands."[9]

This reference to the defeat of Setnakhte's enemies implies that this specific date marked the termination of a conflict—presumably Setnakhte's struggle for the throne—which extended partly into his second year and means that Setnakhte's first year would have overlapped with Tausret's final year, if Tausret was his opponent. Therefore, he likely did not even rule Egypt in his theoretical first year and could only properly administer the country from sometime during his second year. In any event, there was an interregnum lasting at least a year in which no ruler controlled all of Egypt and Setnakhte's effective reign length should be reduced by a year from 4 to 3 years.

Monuments and Attestations[]

The stela of Bakenkhonsu II reveals that it was Setnakhte who began the construction of a temple of Amun-Re at Karnak which was eventually completed by his son, Ramesses III.

Burial and Succession[]

While Setnakhte's reign was still comparatively brief, it was just long enough for him to stabilize the political situation in Egypt and establish his son, Rameses III, as his successor to the throne of Egypt. Setnakhte also started work on a tomb, KV11, in the Valley of the Kings, but stopped it when the tombcarvers accidentally broke into the tomb of the Nineteenth Dynasty Pharaoh Amenmesses. Setnakhte then appropriated the KV14 rock-cut tomb of his predecessor Tausret, for his own use.[10]


Main article: Mummy on the Boat.

The whereabouts of Setnakhte's mummy remain unknown. Although the so–called "Mummy on the Boat" found in KV35 was sometimes identified as his, such an attribution is rejected by Aidan Dodson who rather believes the body belonged to a royal family member of Amenhotep II of the 18th Dynasty. In any case the mummy was destroyed in a looting in 1901, thus preventing any analysis on it.

See also[]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Černý 1958, p. 31-37.
  2. Harris & Wente 1980, p. 147.
  3. Breasted 1906, p. 198-199.
  4. Epigraphic Survey, Medinet Habu IV: Festival Scenes of Ramesses III, University of Chicago Oriental Institute Publications, vol. 51 (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1940), pl. 203.
  5. Von Beckerath 1997, p. 201-202.
  6. Wente & Van Siclen 1976, p. 236-237.
  7. Clayton 1994, p. 160.
  8. Bidoli 1972, 192 ff., pl. 49.
  9. KRI V: 671, §251 (13).
  10. Schneider 2010, p. 386–387.


  • Beckerath, J. von, 1997: Chronologie des Pharaonischen Ägypten. Philip Von Zabern, Mainz.
  • Bidoli, D., 1972: Stadt und Temple von Elephantine. Dritter Grabungsbericht. MDAIK 28.
  • Breasted, J.H., 1906: Ancient Records of Egypt. Vol. 4.
  • Černý, J., 1958: Queen Ēse of the Twentieth Dynasty and Her Mother. Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, Vol. 44.
  • Clayton, P., 1994: Chronicle of the Pharaohs. Thames & Hudson, London.
  • Harris, J.E./Wente, E.F., 1980: An X-Ray Atlas of the Royal Mummies. Chicago.
  • Schneider, T., 2010: Contributions to the Chronology of the New Kingdom and the Third Intermediate Period. Ägypten & Levante. Vol. 20.
  • Wente, E.F./Siclen, C.C. van, 1976: A Chronology of the New Kingdom. In: Studies in Honor of George R. Hughes. SAOC 39.
Pharaoh of Egypt
Twentieth Dynasty
Ramesses III