Ancient Egypt
Pharaoh Eclipsed Image Credit: Ancient Egypt
Pharaoh Eclipsed Image Credit: Ancient Egypt

Pharaoh Eclipsed

Nicky Nielsen surveys the achievements of Sety I, a King who was instrumental in founding the Nineteenth Dynasty.

Nicky Nielson

In the spring of 1289 BC, a new pharaoh of Egypt,Sety I, surveyed his troops as they mustered at the bor-der fortress of Tjaru. Soldiers hurried around him down the cramped streets between workshops and magazines. Scribes distributed axes, spears, bows and arrows to the waiting throngs. In the distance, scouts prepared to leave well-ahead of the vanguard and the king himself. As he readied himself to face rebellious Bedouin and disloyal vassals, Sety must have wondered at the unusual circumstances which saw him – the son of a military officer – leading this army, rather than be counted as another soldier within it.

Son of a Soldier

The series of events which led to Sety’s inheritance of the throne of Egypt from his father, Ramesses I, began long before Sety himself was born. The administrative and religious centralisation undertaken by Akhenaten, in conjunction with the short and confused reigns of his successors,weakened the ruling Theban family. Into this vacuum stepped Horemheb, a general who himself came from humble beginnings. With Horemheb’s ascension in what amounted to a military coup, the power of the army was bolstered.

It was also during the Amarna Period and its immediate aftermath that the first traces of Sety’s family can be found. An Egyptian commissioner and military officer named Sjuta appears in two of the Amarna Letters – diplomatic missives sent to and from the Egyptian court by rulers of other great powers in the Near East or by Egyptian vassal states. This name appears to be a corrupted version of the Egyptian name ‘Sety’.


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