Ramesses I

Founder of the 19th Dynasty

Ramesses I founded the 19th Dynasty and was the grandfather of Ramesses II, the renowned and famous pharaoh. Despite the fact that he started a Dynasty that would eventually produce numerous successful kings, his reign was a low period in the New Kingdom. Ramesses I, a vizier under Horemheb, the final king of the 18th Dynasty, appears to have ascended to the throne as a result of his predecessor’s failure to produce an heir. Ramesses was a colleague of Horemheb’s while the latter was still an army commander, and he may even be represented being awarded by the King’s Deputy in Horemheb’s Saqqara tomb. Ramesses progressed through the ranks of the army, holding positions such as commander of the fortress of Sile, a key bastion on the land-bridge between the Egyptian Delta and Syria-Palestine, before earning the civil title of (probably Northern) vizier. The job of Overseer of Priests of Upper and Lower Egypt further reaffirmed his exalted standing, placing him at the top of the civil and religious communities. Ramesses I, who may have even served as a co-regent of Horemheb, ascended to the throne in his latter years, when he was roughly fifty years old.

Ramesses I

Ramesses I was born into a prominent military family from the Nile Delta area, possibly near the old Hyksos city of Avaris, and was originally known as Pa-ra-mes-su. He was the son of Seti, a military leader. His army officer uncle Khaemwaset married Tamwadjesy, the matron of the Harem of Amun, who was a cousin of Huy, the viceroy of Kush, a powerful governmental position. This demonstrates Ramesses’ family’s excellent social standing. Horemheb, the penultimate pharaoh of the chaotic Eighteenth Dynasty, favoured Ramesses I and chose him as his vizier. Ramesses was also the High Priest of Set, and as such, he would have played a key part in the restoration of the ancient faith following the Amarna heresy under Akhenaten a generation before.


“The reign of Ramesses I was short but he laid the foundation of an exceptionally powerful dynasty, which can be clearly seen by his two successors: his son Seti I and his grandson Ramesses II.”

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Pharaoh Ramesses I making an offering before Osiris

Ramesses I’s Rule

Ramesses I governed Egypt for barely two years, which was insufficient time for him to make an impact on Egyptian history. The fact that Ramesses I’s son and maybe even grandson were born before his accession attests to this. During his reign, a few reliefs were added to the Second Pylon at the Temple of Amun at Karnak, and a stele dated early in his second regnal year was discovered in Wadi Halfa. Otherwise, he devoted most of his building efforts to the construction of a chapel and temple at Abydos, which Seti I had to complete after he died.
The focal feature of a chapel dedicated to him by Seti is the west wall, which is portrayed here. It’s split down the middle, featuring scenes of him on the right and his son Seti I on the left. The figure of Osiris is substituted with a cult emblem of the deity that was employed at Abydos in the two scenes from the lower register that have been preserved here.

Overview of the display of the Chapel of Ramesses I from Abydos

Reliefs from a Chapel of Ramesses I

The adjacent western wall, is divided centrally. On the right, Ramesses I, accompaniend by Isis, presents a floral bouquet to the Abydene cult symbol of Osiris. On the left, it is his son Seti I, with the falcon-headed god Horus, who offers a statue of himself with a jar of myrrh to the Osiris fetish. In return for the fetish, Osiris says to Seti: “My chosen son of my body, lord of Two Lands, Menmaatre (Seti’s throne name), my heart is happy and content because you have acted. You are my son and protector. As long as the sun exists, your name will exist. As long as the sky exists, your deeds will exist.” The register above this, now lost, centered on another symbol of Osiris, the djed pillar.

Ramesses I
Western wall
North Wall of the Chapel of Ramesses I at Abydos
North wall

On the north wall, He is depicted as a deceased king who has become divinized and identified with the god Osiris, ruler of the dead. The king is seated, with one hand stretched out toward a small offering table, with piles of food and drink to the right. Above is a list of offerings, now partially lost. This is followed by a long series of spells, originally from the Pyramid Texts (Old Kingdom, ca. 2400 B.C.), designed to ensure that “the mouth of the Son of Re, Ramesses, shall not thirst, nor shall it hunger.” The small figures to the lower right perform offering rituals. There would once have been a figure of Seti I leading these rituals; this is now lost. The king’s chair rests on a platform whose central support takes the shape of the hieroglyph for “unite,” around which two Nile gods tie the symbols of Upper and Lower Egypt (the papyrus and lotus plants). Additional Nile gods bring vases of fresh water symbolizing “life, all happiness, all food, all provisions.”

Relief from the South Wall of a Chapel of Ramesses I
South wall

The south wall shows Ramesses I and his family presenting offerings to a statue of Osiris, behind which stand figures of Isis and Hathor. he is seen “making incense and libation” over offerings piled before the shrine of Osiris. Ramesses, who is shown “making incense and libation” offering a pile of offerings, is accompanied by his queen, Sitre, shaking two rattles known as sistra. Behind her was a procession of men and women carrying bouquets (not on display). The scene in the lower register continued onto the short west face of the doorway, with two more women bearing bouquets. The upper register (now lost) showed Ramesses leading four young bulls to “Osiris Onnophris.” Source

Ramesses I

Death and burial

Ramesses I was buried in the Valley of the Kings on the West Bank of Thebes, in his little tomb (KV 16). Giovanni Belzoni discovered his grave on October 10th, 1817, and it appeared to have been a quick internment. The burial room, in reality, was incomplete and was only meant to serve as an antechamber to a much bigger tomb. The Book of Gates was used in the ornamental motif of this tomb, which was based after Horemheb’s. The tomb had been robbed during antiquity, though some of the burial provisions were left behind, including a large granite sarcophagus, a pair of nearly two metre high wooden statues of the king once covered in gold foil, and a number of wooden statuettes of underworld deities and curious animal heads. These burial objects, on the other hand, appear to be aesthetically comparable to those from the beginning of the 18th Dynasty.


How did Ramesses I become pharaoh?

The name Ramesses was proudly embraced by ten succeeding pharaohs, with Ramesses XI dying 237 years after his namesake ascended the throne, bringing the so-called Ramesside reign to an end. Ramesses I, on the other hand, was not descended from royalty. By Egyptian standards, he became pharaoh when he was already elderly (probably in his 50s).

What did Ramesses I do?

Ramesses, also known as Rameses, was the founder of Egypt’s 19th dynasty, reigning from 1292–1290 BC. Because the old monarch lacked a son, he appointed Ramses as his coregent shortly before his death.

What was Ramesses I known for?

Ramesses I, founder of the 19th dynasty of ancient Egypt. He became the coregent of Horemheb, the last king of the 18th dynasty, who died without an heir.

When did Ramesses I die?

1290 BC

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