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Pharaoh Seti I

Seti I and his son, the future Ramesses the Great.
Seti I and his son, the future Ramesses the Great.

Seti I or Menmaatre Seti I (1290-1279 BCE) was a Nineteenth Dynasty pharaoh of Egypt’s New Kingdom. As with many ancient Egypt dates, the precise dates of Seti I’s reign remain a point of contention amongst historians. A common alternate date for Seti I’s reign is 1294 BC to 1279 BC.

After ascending to the throne, Seti I largely continued the reformation and revitalization of Egypt. His father had inherited these tasks from Horemheb while initiating his own contribution to Egypt’s Temple of Amun at Karnak, particularly the great Hypostyle hall. Seti I also began the construction of the Great Temple of Abydos, which was left to his son to complete. He also renovated Egypt’s many neglected shrines and temples and groomed his son to rule after him.

Due to this zeal for restoration, ancient Egyptians called Seti I the “Repeater of Births.” Seti I championed restoring traditional order. In the 30 years separating the rule of Tutankhamen and Seti, the pharaohs had focused on restoring the reliefs mutilated during Akhenaten’s reign and reclaiming the sundered boundaries of the Egyptian empire.

Today, Egyptologists acknowledge Seti I as the most widely publicised of these pharaohs thanks to his widespread marking of repairs with his symbol.

Facts About Seti I

  • Seti I contributed to the great Hypostyle Hall in Egypt’s Temple of Amun at Karnak, began the construction of the Great Temple of Abydos and renovated Egypt’s many neglected shrines and temples
  • Championed restoring traditional order. He focused on restoring the reliefs mutilated during Akhenaten’s reign and reclaiming the boundaries of the Egyptian empire
  • Seti I died of unknown causes before the age of forty
  • Seti I’s spectacular tomb was discovered in October 1817 in the Valley of the Kings
  • His tomb is decorated with breathtaking tomb art covering the tomb’s walls, ceilings and columns with superb bas-reliefs and paintings representing the meaning and symbolism of Seti I’s reign.

Seti I’s Lineage

Seti I was the son of the Pharaoh Ramesses I and Queen Sitre and the father of Ramesses II. ‘Seti’ translates as “of Set”, indicating Seti was consecrated in the service of the god Set or “Seth.”Seti adopted several names during his rule. Upon his enthronement, he took the prenomen “mn-m3‘t-r‘,“ usually pronounced in Egyptian as Menmaatre meaning “Established is the Justice of Re.” Seti I’s more widely known birth name is “sty mry-n-ptḥ” or Sety Merenptah, meaning “Man of Set, beloved of Ptah.”

Seti married Tuya, the daughter of a military lieutenant. Together they had four children. Ramses II their third child eventually succeeded to the throne c. 1279 BC.

The stunningly decorated spectacular tomb of Seti I clearly shows how important his rule was to Egypt. Seti may have been Nineteenth Dynasty’s second pharaoh, however, many scholars view Seti I as the greatest of all New Kingdom pharaohs.

A Military Pedigree

Seti I followed in the footsteps of his father Ramses I and demonstrated his military pedigree with punitive expeditions to reclaim Egyptian territory lost during Akhenaten’s introspective reign.

Seti I’s Egyptian subjects viewed him as a formidable military leader, and he earned several military titles, including vizier, head archer and troop commander. During his father’s reign, Seti I personally led many of Ramses’ military campaigns and continued this practice well into his own reign.

Restoring Egypt’s Territorial Integrity

The extensive military experience Seti acquired during his father’s reign exerted a significant influence on him during his time on the throne. He personally directed military campaigns, which pushed into Syria and Libya and continued Egypt’s eastern expansion. Strategically, Seti was motivated by a desire to restore his Egyptian Empire to its past glory established by the 18th Dynasty. His forces were the first Egyptian troops to clash with the formidable Hittites in open combat. His decisive actions prevented a Hittite invasion of Egypt.

Seti I’s Magnificent Tomb

Seti I’s grand tomb was discovered in October 1817 by the colourful archaeologist Giovanni Belzoni. Carved into the Valley of the Kings in western Thebes, the tomb is decorated with a stupendous display of tomb art. Its decorative paintings cover the tomb’s entire walls, ceilings and columns. These superb bas-reliefs and paintings represent a rich recording of priceless information conveying the full meaning and symbolism of Seti I’s time.

Privately, Belzoni viewed Seti I’s tomb as perhaps the finest tomb of all the pharaohs. Disguised passageways lead to hidden rooms, while long corridors were used to distract and confuse potential tomb robbers. Despite the amazing tomb, Seti’s sarcophagus and mummy were found to be missing. A further 70 years would go by before archaeologists discovered Seti I’s final resting place.

Seti I’s Death

In 1881, Seti’s mummy was located amongst the cache of mummies at Deir el-Bahri. The damage to his alabaster sarcophagus suggested his tomb had been robbed in ancient times and his body disturbed by the thieves. Seti’s mummy was slightly damaged, but he had been respectfully re-wrapped.

Examinations of Seti I’s mummy revealed he probably died of unknown causes before the age of forty. Some historians speculate Seti I died of a heart-related illness. During mummification, the hearts of most pharaohs were left in place. Seti’s mummified heart was found to be on the wrong side of the body when his mummy was examined. This finding prompted a theory that Seti I’s heart had been relocated in an attempt to cleanse it of impurity or disease.

Reflecting On The Past

We may not know the actual dates of Seti I’s reign, however, his military accomplishments and construction projects did much to restore ancient Egypt’s stability and prosperity.

Header image courtesy: Daderot [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

David Rymer BA MBT

David is a freelance writer, non-fiction and fiction author and university lecturer in journalism, marketing and law. He has been based in the Middle East for over a decade travelling extensively in the region, including Egypt indulging in his passion for archaeology. He amuses himself in his down time by writing.

David can be found at @daviddoeswords and www.zaharablu.com

Cite this article

David Rymer BA MBT, "Pharaoh Seti I," Give Me History, March 12, 2019, https://givemehistory.com/seti-i.

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