Seti I was born Seti Meryenptah, which literally translates as "he of the god Seth
, beloved of Ptah
." He was the second pharaoh of the 19th dynasty in Ancient Egypt
and ruled c. 1294-1279 B.C.E. His throne name was Menmaatre, which means "eternal is the justice of Re
," and the Greeks knew him as Sethos I
. He was born to Ramses I
and Queen Sitre
Seti I was an excellent military leader. He led campains in Asia, taking 60,000 men there; he also reoccupied many abandoned Egyptian posts and garrisoned cities in Assyria. He fought in Palestine, on the coast of Gaza, and pressed ahead to Tyre before going back to the fortress of Tjel. He brought Damascus back under Egyptian rule during these early campaigns. His campaigns from his first six years as pharaoh are all documented at Karnak, as well as on a stele from Bath-Shan. Even more important, he forged a treaty with the Hittites of Anatolia after having fought them for the first time; they had become the most powerful state in the region. His attentions were also focused domestically, working to stabilize his state after earlier conflict under the Amarna pharaohs; he developed many building projects during his reign.
Seti I's first wife was Tuya, who was a member of his military caste as a daughter of a lieutenant of charioteers. He had four children; his first son died while he was young, but his second son was the future great ruler Ramses II. He also had two daughters named Tia and Henutmire.
The reign of Seti I could be considered a Golden Age in Egypt, particularly due to achievements in politics, art, architecture, and culture. His building projects were never surpassed in later years due to the high quality of some of the relief scenes created. In Karnak, he began the vast hypostyle hall between the second and third pylons in the Temple of Amun, which his son would later finish. The north side of the building features Seti I's reliefs; they are distinctive in terms of beauty.
It is at Abydos that one of Seti I's most spectacular building achievements is located. It is a massive temple with seven sanctuaries which are dedicated to himself, Horus, Isis, Osiris, Amun-Re, Ptah and Re-Harakhte. There is one feature of the temple which especially interests egyptologists; the temple contains a Hall of Records, and on one wall there is a list of all of the pharaohs dating back to the earliest days of the empire. However, all of the names of the Amarna rulers aren't listed, like they never existed; this is symbolic of Seti I's efforts to abolish the disunification that their rule caused. Behind the temple lies the Osireion, a long tunnel buried completely underground which has walls covered in scenes from The Book of Gates. The structure gradually ascends from deep in the earth and is surrounded by canal water; it is thought that this is representative of the origins of life from the primeval waters.
Also, Seti I built his mortuary temple at Thebes; his greatest building project beyond all of his others is considered to be his own tomb in the Valley of the Kings. It was one of the few that was completed, as well as the longest and deepest one there. It was cut 300 feet into the rock. Buried with him were over 700 shabti, carved wooden or stone figures that were supposed to follow him into the afterlife. Seti I's mummy is extremely well preserved; it is said to be in the best condition compared to all others recovered. It was found in the Deir el-Bahari cache in 1881, and it had been restored c. 1080-1074 B.C.E. and again c. 1055 B.C.E.