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Ramses I: The Rise of a Pharaoh from the Working Class (Demo)

Ramses I came from a nonroyal lineage, but he became the first pharaoh of the 19th dynasty. Historians commented that his regime served as a bridge between the mighty hands of Horemheb, who built a strong Egypt, and the ambitious regimes of the succeeding pharaohs, particularly Seti I and Ramesses II.

You could say that his brief reign from 1292 BC to 1290 BC was a stepping stone for his descendants to occupy the mightiest position in the world at that time.

He was born into a working-class family, but his determination to change his life was made evident when he became a pharaoh. His kingship was short-lived, and his influence in Egypt was limited.

However, in the long run, you would learn that his lineage grew to be as dominant as that of the ancient Egyptian pharaohs. Such an opportunity only happened during the time of Ramses I, the impressive leader of Egypt who was also called Menpehtyre, meaningEstablished by the strength of Ra.”

Who Was Ramses I?

Paramessu or Ramses I was born from a noble family of military heritage from the Nile Delta. It was called the former Hyksos capital of Avaris. He took Sitre as his consort, and they had an only son named Seti I.

Meanwhile, Seti, the renowned father of Ramses I, was a troop commander of the Egyptian military. His uncle was Khaemwaset, who got married to Tamwadjesy, the matriarch of the Harem of Amun. She was a relative of Huy, who was the viceroy of Kush. You might remember that being a viceroy was a vital post in the government in ancient times.

Knowing these people behind his lineage reveals to us the significance of his origin. Ramses the First found favor in the eyes of Horemheb, the last pharaoh of the 18th dynasty who ruled the nation without an heir. Horemheb was also the king who trusted Ramses I when he was still the vizier because Ramses I supported Horemheb with loyalty and perseverance.

Ramses I worked his way up by taking low-level work until he became the king.

Would you believe that he also worked as a high priest?

Taking the role of a high priest enabled him to restore the old religion called Amarna heresy of a generation under Akhenaten.

Legacy of Ramses I

According to Egyptologists, King Ramses I was around 50 years of age at the time of his crowning, which was considered relatively old at that time. Ramses ruled for about a year and four months, according to papyrus writings. ​

He was interred in a modestly constructed grave located in the Valley of the Kings. When his corpse was found, it was relocated to a hidden place of rest during the time of political turmoil in Egypt.

Furthermore, it has been said that his tomb was discovered in the late 19th century, but the king’s remnants had already been looted. Despite the promising beginnings, Ramses I’s authority and power ended so quickly that his grave was only less than half completed when he died.

Compared with the gigantic tombs of other kings, such as Seti I and Rameses II, you could see that Ramses I tomb was almost nothing in size.

Archeologists who found his tomb described his final resting place as a burial chamber made carelessly. It was composed of a single corridor with an unfinished chamber and walls painted with symbols associated with the god Osiris.

His sarcophagus was made of red granite and painted rather than carved by a skilled artist. You could notice that it was not well prepared, as shown by the errors in the paintings.

Unfortunately, Ramses I mummy was stolen from its care in Egypt. Investigations revealed that it had been on display in a private museum in Canada for years.

Fortunately, it was finally returned to Egypt after a long diplomatic resolution. Modern technology solved the questions about the authenticity of the corpse through CT scans, X-rays, and radio-carbon dating performed by accredited researchers at Emory University.

Research experts about mummies helped in validating the features of the newly found mummy in Canada. Luckily, all aesthetic interpretations resembled Ramses I, particularly his folded arms high across his chest. Historians added that such an arm position was only for the royal family members of Egypt in 600 BC.

In honor of Ramses I, his son, Seti I, built a small chapel with meticulously made reliefs as his offering for the bravery and power of his father who led Egypt toward its success later in history.

Ramses I’s Achievements

Egyptian pharaoh Ramses established a nation that influenced the path of Egyptian history. Ramses I dynasty was short-lived compared with the dynasty of other rulers who reigned in Egypt. Nevertheless, he enjoyed his brief power, as illustrated in monuments featuring his achievements.

Ramses I was not able to establish a glorious throne, but his legacy was manifested in the success of his descendants. For instance, Seti I was a courageous successor of Ramses I. He was determined to remain victorious in all of his military campaigns to give honor to his father, Ramses I.

The military campaigns of Ramses I followed a frightening path called the Ways of Horus. It’s where he led his soldiers along the road of Tjaru in the northeast of the Nile Delta to Sinai and down to Canaan in the modern Gaza strip. This long region was fortified with military forts and wells to sustain the needs of the soldiers.

Ramses I had fought with the Bedouins called Shasu in Sinai. All of their encounters were documented on the walls of the Karnak Hypostyle Hall. The Shasu were well-trained soldiers who fought relentlessly despite hunger and fatigue, such that they received warm recognition from the cities they visited, such as Beth-shan and Yenoam.

Their fights were inspiring for Ramses I because he and his men were valiant soldiers. They continued their campaign with faith that Egypt would remain a politically and economically solid nation.

Ramses I and His Military Background

Growing up in a military family was beneficial for Ramses I because he was able to discipline himself and learn integrity at an early age. The families of his father and mother were all in the military service. Hence, you could say that his background was perfect for the king’s service.

Interestingly, Ramses I did not disappoint the people around him. Whether at home or in the palace, he displayed a highly respectable manner worthy of a royal family member. This attitude won the trust of his master, Horemheb, who was then too old and had to leave the throne without an heir.

You might recall that Horemheb was also a mighty soldier, which was probably why he trusted Ramses I. As the right hand of the king, Ramses I performed royal duties that won the respect of his master.

He was later on recognized as the Commander of the Fortress, Master of Horse, and King’s Envoy to Every Foreign Land, to name a few. Highly skilled and well-disciplined, Ramses I displayed valor in his palace duties.

Royal Transition

Ramses I served King Horemheb with all of his wisdom and courage. He was the perfect successor to the throne, and it was a job that he did with justice.

However, his reign was extremely short, such that his leadership did not have a compelling effect on the country. Historians respected him as well, and for many of them, Ramses I symbolized a peaceful and steady relegation of power.

The throne honored his contributions to saving the royal house of Horemheb from its complete vanishment. He continued the unfinished projects of Horemheb. To do this, he commissioned selected scribes to complete the inscriptions on the temple in Karnak. He also revived old temples and guided palace workers to fulfill their jobs with care.

In addition, he commissioned his men strategically in reviving the monuments and the old religion of the kingdom. Ramses I also instructed the chiefs of the garrisons in Nubia and Buhen to strengthen their armada and ensure the political security of the nation. Furthermore, he asked his artisans to revive the symbols on the temples and chapels at Abydos.


Here are the important points you should remember of Ramses I’s reign:

  • Ramses I came from a nonroyal but elite family of military heritage.
  • His father, Seti, was the commander of the Egyptian army in the 18th dynasty.
  • Ramses I was favored by Horemheb for his loyalty. Thus, he was made coregent of the king.
  • Ramses I was able to complete the design of the second pylon at the Karnak temple of Amun in Thebes. It was initially built by Horemheb, his predecessor.
  • Before his death, he was also able to establish a colonnaded hall at the Karnak temple.
  • It was believed that he was buried in a very humble tomb at the Valley of the Kings.

Critics complained that the ceremonies and tomb given to him did not fit an honorable king. Although he was not born a royal prince, he offered his life to the service of the throne, through which he proved his integrity enough to be remembered by the people.

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