King Ramesses I, Founder of the 19th Dynasty

King Ramesses I, Founder of the 19th Dynasty

by Jimmy Dunn

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The cartouches of  Ramesses I

Ramesses I was the founder of the 19th Dynasty (though there is some evidence to suggest that they themselves saw Horemheb as he dynastic founder) and the grandfather of the great and famous pharaoh, Ramesses II. Though he began a Dynasty that would actually see several powerful kings, his reign was really somewhat of a low point during the New Kingdom. A vizier under the last king of the 18th Dynasty, Horemheb, Ramesses I appears to have come to the throne as an appointment of his predecessor, who seems to have produced no heir.

Ramesses had been a colleague of Horemheb while the earlier king was still serving as an army commander, and he may even be depicted in Horemheb's Saqqara tomb being rewarded by the King's Deputy. Ramesses rose in army rank, holding a number of military titles including that of commander of the fortress of Sile, an important stronghold on the land-bridge connecting the Egyptian Delta with Syria-Palestine, before ultimately receiving the civil title of (presumably Northern) vizier. His high status was further confirmed by the office of Overseer of Priests of Upper and Lower Egypt, thus placing him at the head of the civil and religious communities. Ramesses I, who may have even served as a co-regent of Horemheb, took the throne rather late during Ramesses I's life, when he was perhaps around fifty years of age.

Probable carved,  granodiorite head of Ramesses prior to his accession to the throne

His birth name, Ramesses (Ramses, Paramessu) means "Re has Fashioned him". His throne name was Menpehtyre, which means "Eternal is the Strength of Re". Horemheb's selection of Ramesses as his successor seems to have been well thought out, for Ramesses I chose the Golden Horus name of "He who confirms Ma'at throughout the Two Lands", indicating his desire to carry on the work of Horemheb in re-establishing religious order after the heretic rule of Akhenaten. His names and titles also stresses the privileged nature of his relationship with Re, the sun god.

Ramesses was not of royal blood, but rather a career army officer who was the son of a troop commander and judge named Seti. His mother is unknown. His family came from the north-eastern Delta area of Avaris (probably modern Tell el-Dab'a), which had been the capital of the Hyksos invaders some 400 years earlier. We do know of one of his wives named Sitre, who's parentage is unknown but who was probably the daughter of another army officer. Together, Ramesses I and Sitre had one son, Seti I, who held the titles vizier and Troop Commander under his father prior to succeeding him. He also may have served as a co-regent with his father.

Ramesses I being led  before Osiris from his tomb

During the last few months of Ramesses I's life, Seti may have led an expedition to Palestine, which would be the only military action we are aware of during his father's reign. Early on in the reign of Ramesses I, Seti was appointed vizier and commander of Sile, but also held a number of priestly titles linking him with various gods worshipped in the Delta, including that of high priest of Seth.

Life-size wooden

Ramesses I probably only ruled Egypt for about two years, which hardly gave him the time needed to make his mark in Egyptian history. This is evidenced by the fact that Ramesses I's son, and perhaps even his grandson had been borne before his accession. However, there were a few reliefs added to the Second Pylon in the Temple of Amun at Karnak that was completed by Ramesses I during his reign, and a stele dated early in his second regnal year found at Wadi Halfa. Otherwise, he focused mot of his building efforts on the construction of a chapel and a temple at Abydos, which had to be finished by Seti I after Ramesses I's death.

After his death, Ramesses I was buried in his small tomb (KV 16) in the Valley of the Kings on the West Bank of Thebes (modern Luxor). Around October 10th of 1817, the strongman of Egyptology, Belzoni, discovered his tomb, which showed to have been a hasty interment. In fact, the burial chamber was unfinished, and had been intended to be merely an antechamber in a much larger tomb. The decorative theme of this tomb was modeled on that of Horemheb, and featured the Book of Gates. Though some of the burial provisions were left behind, including a large granite sarcophagus, a pair of almost two meter high wooden statues of the king once covered with gold foil and a number of wooden statuettes of underworld deities and curious animal heads, the tomb had been robbed during antiquity. However, these funerary goods seem stylistically similar to those at the beginning of the 18th Dynasty.

The mummy believed to  be that of Ramesses I

Though the mummy of Ramesses I has remained unidentified from many years, some scientists now believe that a mummy discovered in the Niagra Falls Museum and Daredevil Hall of Fame is none other than that of Ramesses I. In 1999, this facility closed its doors and sold off its antiquities, which were purchased by the Carlos Museum. After careful analysis of a number of different factors related to this mummy, such as the care with which the mummification took place, its general appearance in relationship to others of the 19th Dynasty kings, and other factors, these scientists have concluded that this must have been Ramesses I. In light of all this evidence, Egyptian authorities have accepted the return of the mummy in a spirit of cooperation.

The burial of Queen Sitre broke with earlier tradition where the queen was apparently buried in her husband's tomb at a later date if she outlived him. Sitre's tomb set a new precedent by being situated in the Valley of the Queens on the West Bank. However, her tomb was also unfinished, with only a few paintings on the walls of the first chamber.

Ramesses I flanked by  the






Reference Number

Chronicle of the Pharaohs (The Reign-By-Reign Record of the Rulers and Dynasties of Ancient Egypt)

Clayton, Peter A.


Thames and Hudson Ltd

ISBN 0-500-05074-0

History of Ancient Egypt, A

Grimal, Nicolas



None Stated

Monarchs of the Nile

Dodson, Aidan


Rubicon Press

ISBN 0-948695-20-x

Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, The

Shaw, Ian


Oxford University Press

ISBN 0-19-815034-2


Last Updated: June 22nd, 2011