The spectacular tomb of Seti I reveals the importance of his reign. As the son of Ramses I, Seti was only the second pharaoh of the 19th dynasty. However, many Egyptologists consider him the greatest pharaoh of the New Kingdom.
A Military Man
As the son of Ramses I and Queen Sitre, Seti Merenptah followed in his father’s footsteps as a military man. Egyptians considered him a powerful man, and he earned multiple titles, including troop commander, vizier and head archer. He led many campaigns during the reign of his father and during his own reign.
Upon the death of his father, Seti took the name Menmaatre Seti as his official pharaoh name, which meant “Established is the Justice of Re.” He married Tuya, the daughter of a military lieutenant. They had four children together. Their third child, Ramses II, would succeed Ramses on the throne in approximately 1279 BC.
Blurring of Dates
© Wally Gobetz - Stela of Seti I
The exact dates of Seti’s reign are uncertain. Egyptian pharaohs frequently changed the dates of previous reigns to remove unpopular pharaohs from history. Because of this practice, many theories exist as to when rulers actually ascended to the throne and how long they remained in power.
Most researchers believe Seti reigned from 1290 BC to 1279 BC. Estimates of this vary from 5 to 20 years. The longest estimate is that he ruled for 55 years, although there is little evidence to this claim. Because of the revisions to history, birth and death dates are unknown.
Restoration of Egypt
Seti’s strong military experience played a major role during his reign. He personally led many military campaigns into Syria and Lybia. He continued expanding Egypt to the east and worked to restore the empire to the past glory of the 18th dynasty. His troops were the first Egyptian forces to meet the Hittites in battle, keeping them from invading Egypt.
Egyptians knew Seti as the “Repeater of Births,” meaning he began an era of order and restoration. Approximately 30 years had elapsed between the reigns of Tutankhamen and Seti I. The pharaohs during this time period focused on the restoration of not only the empire, but also the reliefs vandalized during the reign of King Akhenaten. Egyptologists recognize Seti I as the best known of all the restorer pharaohs due to his marking of repairs with his name.
Many of Seti’s restorations and additions are considered continuations of work left incomplete by previous rulers. He continued the work started by his father on the great Hypostyle hall at Karnak. He also began the construction of the Great Temple of Abydos, but left it to be finished by his son.
© Rick Manwaring - Seti I Hypostyle Hall
Archaeologist Giovanni Belzoni discovered the tomb of Seti I in October of 1817. Located in the Valley of the Kings in western Thebes, the tomb features an amazing display of display of tomb paintings covering the walls, columns and ceilings. The paintings and bas reliefs provide researchers with valuable information full of meaning and symbolism.
Belzoni considered the tomb the finest tomb of all the pharaohs. Hidden passageways revealed secret rooms, while long corridors served to confuse tomb robbers. Despite the amazing tomb, Seti’s sarcophagus and mummy were missing. It would take archaeologists 70 years to find the final resting place of Seti I.
© Zanaq - Mortuary Temple of Seti I
In 1881, Seti’s mummy was found in the mummy cache at Deir el-Bahri. Damage to his alabaster sarcophagus indicated that his tomb had been robbed and his body disturbed during antiquity. His mummy was damaged, but he had been carefully repaired and re-wrapped.
Examinations of his mummy revealed Seti died of unknown causes before the age of forty. Some researchers believe he died of an illness involving his heart. The hearts of most pharaohs remained in place during mummification. Seti’s mummified heart was located on the wrong side of the body, leading to the theory that perhaps it had been relocated in an effort to cleanse it of disease.
- Seti is often seen as the Egyptian Pharaoh in the Biblical Moses story.
- His tomb was the largest and most extravagant of all sepulchers in the Valley of the Kings.
- The Abydos temple presented Seti as the Egyptian god Osiris.