second king of the nineteenth dynasty, New Kingdom. Sety I's throne name was Men-maat-re “Enduring is the Divine Order of Re,” and his birth name, Setekhy, means “he who belongs to the god Setekh.” His Horus name, wḥm-mswt, “repeating the creation” alludes to the beginning of a new era after the disturbances of the Amarna period—Sety I was the first king to succeed legitimately to the throne after his father Ramesses I. It may also allude to the beginning of a new Sothis cycle that nearly coincided with the ascent of Ramesses I during his short reign of two years. There is no proof at all, however, for a coregency between the two, or for a coregency between Sety I and his son Ramesses II. Sety's mother was Queen Satre, owner of tomb 38 in the Valley of the Queens; she is not identical with the lady Tju of the Four Hundred Year Stela, nor are Ramesses I and Sety I identical with the viziers of the same name on this stela, who are probably their ancestors. Sety's queen, (Mut)-Tuya, was the mother of the future king Ramesses II and of a daughter, Tja.

Renowned as an extremely pious son and king, Sety I enclosed a large mortuary chapel in his own funerary temple in Thebes for his father Ramesses I and built another one at Abydos where he is depicted with two brothers and three or more sisters in front of Osiris and his deified father. Sety I reigned only about ten years, but his deeds and achievements equal those of a longer reign. Dynamic battle reliefs on the outer northern wall of the Great Hypostyle Hall in Karnak show him as a triumphant warrior-king in two campaigns: one occurred in southern Palestine against the Shasu-Bedouin, the other took place in the Orontes Valley in Syria, where he repelled Hittite troops and regained the town of Kadesh. His building activities included the restoration of temples, reliefs, and sculptures from Elephantine in the South to Heliopolis in the North. At Thebes, he constructed the Great Hypostyle Hall in front of the temple of Amun at Karnak and on the western side of the Nile River, he built a mortuary temple and spendid royal tomb (tomb 17 in the Valley of the Kings) with elegant, colorful reliefs and an astronomical ceiling. In Abydos, he constructed a mortuary temple for the great gods of Egypt and his royal ancestors, the kings of Egypt from Menes until his reign, which was a national shrine and the most beautiful temple of ancient Egypt. To secure the revenues of this temple, Sety I reopened and explored the gold mines of the Eastern Desert and Nubia, laying out caravan roads and drilling wells for expeditions into that wild and desolate region. In the eastern Delta he inaugurated a splendid summer residence that later, under his son Ramesses II, was to become the famous city of Piramesse. When Sety I died in his midforties, he was buried in a magnificent anthropoid sarcophagus of calcite (Egyptian alabaster) that was decorated lavishly inside and outside with scenes and texts from the Book of Gates. His well-preserved mummy was later reburied in the cachette of Deir el-Bahri and recovered in 1881, revealing the impressive face of a great king.

Sety I

Sety I. Relief from Abydos depicting Sety I offering Maal. (Courtesy David P. Silverman)


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Rainer Stadelmann