Template:Pharaoh Infobox Menpehtyre Ramessu I (traditional English: Ramesses, also Ramses or Rameses) was the founding Pharaoh of Ancient Egypt's 19th dynasty. The dates for his short reign are not completely known but the time-line of late 1292-1290 BCE is frequently cited[1] as well as 1295-1294 BCE[2]. While Ramesses I was the founder of the 19th Dynasty, in reality his brief reign marked the transition between the reign of Horemheb who had stabilised Egypt and the rule of the powerful Pharaohs of this dynasty, in particular Seti I and Ramesses II, who would bring Egypt up to new heights of imperial power.


Originally called Pa-ra-mes-su, Ramesses I was of non-royal birth, being born into a noble family from the Nile delta region, perhaps near the former Hyksos capital of Avaris. He was a career soldier, originally the chief of the archers (a position he inherited from his father, Seti), and ultimately general of the armies.[citation needed] He found favor with Horemheb, the last pharaoh of the tumultuous Eighteenth dynasty, who appointed Ramesses as his Vizier. He also served as the High Priest of Amun – as such, he would have played an important role in the restoration of the old religion following the Amarna heresy of a generation earlier, under Akhenaten.

Horemheb himself had been a nobleman from outside the immediate royal family, who rose through the ranks of the Egyptian army to serve as royal advisor and, ultimately, Pharaoh. Having no son of his own to continue his own lineage, Horemheb chose Ramesses to be his heir in the final years of his reign presumably because Ramesses I was both an able administrator and had a son and a grandson (the future Ramesses II) to succeed him and avoid any succession difficulties.

Upon his accession, Ramesses took a prenomen, or royal name, which is written in Egyptian hieroglyphs to the right. When transliterated, the name is mn-pḥty-r‘, which is usually interpreted as Menpehtyre, meaning "Established by the strength of Ra". However, he is better known by his nomen, or personal name. This is transliterated as r‘-ms-sw, and is usually realised as Ramessu or Ramesses, meaning 'Ra bore him'. Already an old man when he was crowned, Ramesses appointed his son, the later pharaoh Seti I, to serve as the Crown Prince and chosen successor. Seti was charged with undertaking several military operations during this time– in particular, an attempt to recoup some of Egypt's lost possessions in Syria. Ramesses appears to have taken charge of domestic matters: most memorably, he completed the second pylon at Karnak Temple, begun under Horemheb.


Ramesses enjoyed a very brief reign, as evidenced by the general paucity of contemporary monuments mentioning him: the king had little time to build any major buildings in his reign and was hurriedly buried in a small and hastily finished tomb.[3] The Egyptian priest Manetho assigns him a reign of 16 months but Ramesses certainly ruled Egypt for a minimum of 17 months based on his highest known date which is a Year 2 II Peret day 20 (Louvre C57) stela which ordered the provision of new endowments of food and priests for the Temple of Ptah within the Egyptian fortress of Buhen.[4] Jürgen von Beckerath observes that Ramesses I died just 5 months later--in June 1290 BC--since his son Seti I succeeded to power on III Shemu day 24.[5] Ramesses I's only known action was to order the provision of endowments for the aforementioned Nubian temple at Buhen and "the construction of a chapel and a temple (which was to be finished by his son) at Abydos."[6] The aged Ramesses I was buried in the Valley of the Kings. His tomb, discovered by Giovanni Belzoni in 1817 and designated KV16, is small in size and gives the impression of having been completed with haste. Joyce Tyldesley states that Ramesses I's tomb consisted of a single corridor and one unfinished room whose

"walls, after a hurried coat of plaster, were painted to show the king with his gods, with Osiris allowed a prominent position. The red granite sarcophagus too was painted rather than carved with inscriptions which, due to their hasty preparation, included a number of unfortunate errors."[7]


According to current theory, his mummy was stolen by the Abu-Rassul family of grave robbers and brought to North America around 1860 by Dr. James Douglas. It was then placed in the Niagara Museum and Daredevil Hall of Fame in Ontario, Canada. Ramesses I remained here, his identity unknown, next to other curiosities and so-called freaks of nature for more than 130 years but was eventually sold in 1999 by Canadian businessman William Jamieson to the Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. His identity cannot be conclusively determined, but is persuasively deduced from CT scans, X-rays and radio-carbon dating tests by researchers at the University, as well as aesthetic interpretations of family resemblance. His mummy was returned to Egypt on October 24, 2003 with full official honors.


  1. Jürgen von Beckerath, Chronologie des Äegyptischen Pharaonischen (Mainz: Phillip von Zabern, 1997), p.190
  2. Michael Rice, Who's Who in Ancient Egypt (London: Routledge, 1999)
  3. Joyce Tyldesley, Ramesses: Egypt's Greatest Pharaoh (New York: Penguin Books, 2000), pp.37-38
  4. Peter J. Brand, The Monuments of Seti I: Epigraphic, Historical and Art Historical Analysis (Leiden: Brill, 2000), pp.289, 300 and 311.
  5. von Beckerath, 'Chronologie, p.190
  6. Nicolas Grimal, A History of Ancient Egypt (Oxford: Blackwell Books, 1992), p. 245
  7. Tyldesley, Ramesses, p.38

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Preceded by:
Pharaoh of Egypt
Nineteenth Dynasty
Succeeded by:
Seti I

Template:Ancient Egyptians