Ramesses I (Menpehtyre)

Paramessu (before he became Ramesses I) (copyright Keith Schengili-Roberts)

Ramesses I Menpehtyre (“Born of Ra, Established by the strength of Ra”) was the first pharaoh of the nineteenth dynasty (New Kingdom) of Ancient Egypt. He is recorded by Manetho and modern chronologies as the founder of the nineteenth dynasty although the Ancient Egyptians seem to have accorded this honour to Horemheb.

His reign was short (maybe two years but possibly less than one) but he probably deserves to keep this title as he established an exceptionally powerful dynasty exemplified by his two immediate successors; his son Seti I and his grandson Ramesses II.

Ramesses was originally known as Paramesses. He hailed from the north-eastern Delta (near to the Hyksos stronghold of Avaris). His father was the troop commander Seti. His genealogy is further clarified by an unprovenanced stele dedicated to his father, (OI 11456) on which there is a reference to the stable master, Ramose, who some have considered to be Ramesses. However, other authorities have suggested that Ramose and Paramesses were not the same individuals.

The stele also confirms that his uncle Khaemwaset was married to a relative of Huy, the Viceroy of Kush, so his family clearly had some political influence. Although we do not know who the parents of his wife, Sitre, were it is likely that she was the daughter of another army officer.

Stele of Ramesses I

He recorded his early career on two seated statues found in Karnak (on which he is named as the General and Vizier) and another now held in the Edinburgh Museum (on which he is named as General and Overseer of the Royal Granaries).

Ramesses I Menpehtyre served in the army with Horemheb before the latter became pharaoh and like his father he was promoted to the role of commander of the fortress of Sile (in the eastern Delta). When Horemheb rose to power, Ramesses was given the positions of Vizier and Overseer of Priests of Upper and Lower Egypt. When it became apparent that Horemheb would be unable to produce an heir to succeed him Ramesses was named as his successor and may even have served a brief co-regency with him.

Although he was already of a fairly advanced age (possibly in his fifties) when he was named as the heir of Horemheb, he was clearly a capable man and had both a living son and grandson, which made him an eminently sensible choice.

We know of one expedition to Palestine during his reign, which was probably led by his son Seti and is placed within the latter’s reign by some scholars. Like his father, Seti was given the titles Vizier and Commander of Sile and he was probably also named as his father’s co-regent to ensure his succession.

Chapel of Ramesses I at Abydos (copyright John Campana)

Ramesses I completed the Second Pylon of the Temple of Amun at Karnak which had been initiated by Horemheb and placed a stele at Wadi Halfa. He also began a temple and chapel at Abydos which were completed by his son Seti.

He was buried in an unfinished and hastily prepared tomb in the Valley of the Kings (KV 16). His wife was the first to be buried in the Valley of the Queens (although her tomb was also unfinished). Recently, it has been suggested that a mummy discovered in the Niagara Falls Museum and Daredevil Hall of Fame is his.

Pharaoh’s Names

Manetho: Ramesses

Horus Name: Kanakht wadjnesut

Nebty name; Khaemnisutmiatum (“Who appears to the King like Atum“)

Golden Horus name: Semenmaatkhettawy (“He who confirms Ma┬┤at throughout the Two Lands”)

Nomen: Ramesses (“Born of Ra“)

Prenomen: Menpehtyre (Abydos Kings List)(“Eternal or established is the Strength of Re”)

  • Bard, Kathryn (2008) An introduction to the Archaeology of Ancient Egypt
  • Clayton, Peter A (1994) Chronicle of the Pharaohs
  • Cruz-Uribe, Eugene (1978) The Father of Ramses I from The Journal of Near Eastern Studies pp. 237-244
  • Dodson, A and Hilton, D. (2004) The Complete Royal Families of Ancient Egypt
  • Hornung, Eric (1999) History of Ancient Egypt
  • Rice, Michael (1999) Who’s Who in Ancient Egypt
  • Van Dijk, J (2003) “The Amarna Period and later New Kingdom” in Oxford History of Ancient Egypt. Edited by I Shaw
  • Van De Mieroop, Marc (1999) A History of Ancient Egypt

Copyright J Hill 2016