BY JIMMY DUNN
Seti I was the father of perhaps Egypt's greatest rulers, Ramesses II, and was in his own right also a great leader. His birth name is
Seti Mery-en-ptah, meaning "He of the god Seth, beloved of Ptah. To the Greeks, he was Sethos I, and his throne name was Men-maat-re,
meaning "Eternal is the Justice of Re". He ruled Egypt for 13 years (though some Egyptologists differ on this matter, giving him a reign
of between 15 and 20 years) from 1291 through 1278 BC. In order to rectify the instability under the Amarna kings, he early on set a
policy of major building at home and a committed foreign policy.
Seti was the son of Ramesses I and his queen, Sitre. He probably ruled as co-regent, evidenced by an inscription on a statue from
Medamud. Seti married into his own military caste. His first wife was Tuya, who was the daughter of a lieutenant of charioteers. His
first son died young, but his second son was Ramesses II. There was also a daughter, Tia, and a second daughter named Henutmire, who
would become a minor queen of Ramesses II.
This was truly a great period in Egypt, and perhaps the greatest in regards to art and culture. In the building projects that Seti I
undertook, the quality of the reliefs and other designs were probably never surpassed by later rulers. He is responsible for beginning
the great Hypostyle Hall in the Temple of Amun at Karnak, which his son Ramesses II later finished. Seti's reliefs are on the north side
and their fine style is evident when compared to later additions.
However, at Abydos, he built perhaps the most remarkable temple ever constructed in Egypt. It has seven sanctuaries, dedicated to
himself, Ptah, Re-Harakhte, Amun-Re, Osiris, Isis and Horus. Interestingly, in this temple a part called the Hall of Records or sometimes
the Gallery of Lists, Seti is shown with his son before a long official list of the pharaohs beginning with the earliest times. However,
the names of the Amarna pharaohs are omitted, as if they never existed, and the list jumps from Amenhotep III directly to Horemheb.
Behind the temple at Abydos Seti build another remarkable structure known as the Osireion. Completely underground, originally a long
tunnel decorated with painted scenes from the Book of Gates led to a huge hall. This whole structure with a central mound surrounded by
canal water was symbolic of the origins of life from the primeval waters. It was here that Seti rested after his death and before being
taken to his tomb in the Valley of the Kings.
Other building projects included a small temple at Abydos dedicated to Seti's father, Ramesses I, his own mortuary temple at Thebes, and
his best building project of all, his tomb in the Valley of the Kings. This tomb, one of the few actually completed, was without doubt
the finest in the Valley of the Kings, as well as the longest and deepest.
Militarily, Seti let an expedition to Syria as early as his first year as king. This was probably understandable, as he had also led
campaigns to Palestine during the last months of his father, Ramesses I's rule. This, and other campaign during his first six years of
rule are documented on the outer north and east wall of the great temple of Amun at Karnak. There is also a stele from Beth-Shan, for
some time a major Egyptian center in Palestine, that records his early campaign. The attack was up the coast of Gaza, where he secured
wells along the main trade route, and then taking the town, before pressing on further north. He took the area up to Tyre before
returning to the fortress of Tjel in the north east Delta.
There was a latter attack on Syria and Lebanon where he (and the Egyptians) fought the Hittites for the first time. One scene at Karnak
shows the capture of Kadesh, which would also be attacked later by Ramesses II. He also fought campaigns against the Libyans of the
western desert. We further learn that in year eight of Seti's reign, he had to crush a rebellion in Nubia in the region of Irem, where he
carried off over six hundred prisoners. However, apparently this was a minor problem as the campaign only lasted for seven days.
Seti's mummy is said to be the finest of all surviving royal mummies, though it was not found in his tomb. Rather, it was found in the
Deir el-Bahari cache in 1881. Dockets on the mummy show that it had been restored during the reign of the High Priest of Amun, Heribor
(1080-1074 BC) and again in year 15 of Smendes (about 1054 BC).
Menmaatre Seti I (also called Sethos I after the Greeks) was a Pharaoh of Ancient Egypt (Nineteenth dynasty of
Egypt), 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 BC – 1279 BC
and 1290 BC to 1279 BC being the most commonly used by scholars today.
The name Seti means "of Set", which indicates that he was consecrated to the god Set (commonly "Seth"). As with
most Pharaohs, Seti had several 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, or Sety Merenptah, meaning "Man of Set, beloved of Ptah". Manetho
incorrectly considered him to be the founder of the 19th dynasty.
The alleged coregency of Seti I
Around Year 9 of his reign, Seti appointed his son Ramesses 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 that relief decorations at
various temple sites at Karnak, Qurna and Abydos which associate Ramesses II with Seti I, were actually carved
after Seti's death by Ramesses II himself and, hence, cannot be used as source material to support a co-regency
between the two monarchs. In addition, the late William Murnane who first endorsed the theory of a co-regency
between Seti I and Ramesses II later revised his view of the proposed co-regency and rejected the idea that
Ramesses II had begun to count his own regnal years while Seti I was still alive. Finally, Kenneth Kitchen
rejects the term co-regency 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. This is due to the fact that the evidence for a co-regency between the two kings is vague and highly
ambiguous. Two important inscriptions from the first decade of Ramesses' reign, namely the Abydos 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."
Hence, no clear evidence supports the hypothesis that Ramesses II was already a co-regent under his father. Brand
" 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 description 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."...