Pharaoh Infobox | Name=Setnakhte|

Caption=Year 4 stela of Setnakhte
Alt=Also written Setnakht
NomenHiero= N5-C12-C7-D40:N36-r:r
Nomen="Setnakht Meryamunra"
Seth Is Victorious; Beloved Of Amon-Re [ [ Setnakht] ]
PrenomenHiero= N5-wsr-N28:Z2-N5-U21:n
Powerful are the forms of Re, Chosen of Re
Horus="Kanakht Werpehti"
Reign=1190–1186 BC
Successor=Ramesses III
Dynasty=20th Dynasty
Died= 1186 BC
Burial= KV14

Userkhaure-setepenre Setnakhte (or Setnakht) was the first Pharaoh (1190 BC–1186 BC) of the Twentieth Dynasty of the New Kingdom of Ancient Egypt and the father of Ramesses III.

Setnakhte was not the son, brother or a direct descendant of the previous Pharaoh, Merneptah Siptah, nor his predecessor Seti II who Setnakht formally considered the last legitimate ruler. It is possible that he was an usurper who seized the throne during a time of crisis and political unrest or he could have been a member of a minor line of the Ramesside royal family who emerged as Pharaoh. He married Queen Tiy-merenese, perhaps a daughter of Merenptah. A connection between Setnakhte's successors and the preceding 19th dynasty is suggested by the fact that one of Ramesses II's children also bore this name and that similar names are shared by Setnakhte's descendants such as Ramesses, Amun-her-khepshef, Seth-her-khepshef and Monthu-her-khepshef. [Nos ancêtres de l'Antiquité" 1991. Christian Settipani, p.153, 173 & 175]

Reign Length

Setnakhte was originally believed to have enjoyed a reign of only 2 Years based upon his Year 2 Elephantine stela but his third regnal year is now attested in Inscription No.271 on Mount Sinai [Von Beckerath, Chronologie des Pharaonischen Ägypten, 1997, p. 201-202] If his theoretical accession date is assumed to be II Shemu 10 based on the date of his Elephantine stela, Setnakhte would have ruled Egypt for at least 2 Years and 11 Months before he died, or nearly 3 Full Years. This date is only 3 months removed from Twosret's Highest known date of Year 8, III Peret 5 and is based upon a calculation of Ramesses III's known accession date of I Shemu 26. [E.F. Wente & C.C. Van Siclen, "A Chronology of the New Kingdom" in Studies in Honor of George R. Hughes, (SAOC 39) 1976, pp.236-237] Peter Clayton also assigned Setnakhte a reign of 3 years in his 1994 book on the Egyptian Pharaohs. [Peter Clayton, Chronicle of the Pharaohs, Thames & Hudson Ltd, 1994, p.160]

In a mid-January 2007 issue of the Egyptian weekly Al-Ahram, however, Egyptian antiquity officials announced that a recently discovered and well preserved quartz stela belonging to the High Priest Bakenkhunsu was explicitly dated to Year 4 of Setnakhte's reign. The Al-Ahram article notes that this data: : "contradicts...the official record, which says Setnakhte ruled Egypt for only three years. According to the new information provided by the stela, Setnakhte's reign certainly lasted for four years, and may have continued for [a little] longer"." [Al-Ahram Weekly, 11-17 January 2007, Issue No.827]

Consequently, Setnakhte likely ruled Egypt for around 4 years. Zahi Hawass, the current Secretary general of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities declared the discovery to be one of the most important finds of 2006 because "it adjusts the history of the 20th dynasty and reveals more about the life of Bakenkhunsu." [Al-Ahram Weekly, 11-17 January 2007, Issue No.827] As Setnakhte's reign was short, he may have come to the throne fairly late in life.


While Setnakhte's reign was still comparatively brief, it was just long enough for him to stabilize the political situation in Egypt and establish his son, Rameses III, as his successor to the throne of Egypt. The Bakenkhunsu stela reveals that Setnakhte began the construction of a Temple of Amun-Re in Karnak which was completed by his son, Ramesses III. Setnakhte also started work on a tomb, KV11, in the Valley of the Kings, but stopped it when the tombcarvers accidentally broke into the tomb of the Nineteenth Dynasty Pharaoh Amenmesse. Setnakhte then appropriated the tomb of Queen Twosret (KV14) for his own use. Setnakhte's origins are not known, and he may have been a commoner, although some Egyptologists believe that he was related to the previous dynasty, the Nineteenth, through his mother and may thus have been a grandson of Ramesses II. His son, Ramesses III, is regarded as the last great king of the New Kingdom.

Papyrus Harris

The beginning of the Great Harris Papyrus or Papyrus Harris I, which documents the reign of Ramesses III, provides some details about Setnakhte's rise to power. An excerpt of James Henry Breasted's 1906 translation of this document is provided below:

:"The land of Egypt was overthrown from without, and every man was thrown out of his right; they had no "chief mouth" for many years formerly until other times. The land of Egypt was in the hands of chiefs and of rulers of towns; one slew his neighbour, great and small. Other times having come after it, with empty years, Irsu ('a self-made man'), a certain Syrian (Kharu) was with them as chief (wr). He set plundering their (i.e.: the people's) possessions. They made gods like men, and no offerings were presented in the temples."

:"But when the gods inclined themselves to peace, to set the land in its rights according to its accustomed manner, they established their son, who came forth from their limbs, to be ruler, LPH, of every land, upon their great throne, Userkhaure-setepenre-meryamun, LPH, the son of Re, Setnakht-merire-meryamun, LPH. He was Khepri-Set, when he is enraged; he set in order the entire land which had been rebellious; he slew the rebels who were in the land of Egypt; he cleansed the great throne of Egypt; he was ruler of the Two Lands, on the throne of Atum. He gave ready faces to those who had been turned away. Every man knew his brother who had been walled in. He established the temples in possession of divine offerings, to offer to the gods acccording to their customary stipulations." [James H. Breasted, Ancient Records of Egypt, Vol No.4,(1906), pp.198-199]

Significantly, the Harris Papyrus does not say that Setnakhte killed Chancellor Bay who is the only plausible candidate for this Irsu. Rather, Setnakhte is only credited with establishing order after an exaggerated period of chaos and civil war. This detail conforms well with the historical evidence which shows that Bay probably died in Year 5 of Siptah.

Siptah's Stele at Elephantine seems to have referred to these chaotic period and refers explicitly to the expulsion of certain Asiatics, who fled, abandoning the gold which they looted from Egyptian temples behind. It is uncertain the degree to which this inscription referred to contemporary events or rather repeated anti-Asiatic sentiment from the reign of Pharaoh Ahmose I. Setnakhte identified with the God Atum or Temu, and built a temple to this God at Per-Atum (Biblical Pithom}

Setnakhte may have been the first Pharaoh mentioned in Greek mythology. Marianne Luban [Luban, Marianne "Setnakhte and the Classical Memory"] quotes Diodorus Siculus: "A man of obscure origin was chosen king, whom the Egyptians call 'Ketes', but who among the Greeks is thought to be that Proteus who lived at the time of the war about Ilium." Ketes, from Egyptian Khenti, means the same as Proteios, meaning "first". King Setnakht may have been a commoner or a prince of royal blood who was somehow connected to the 19th Dynasty.


* James H. Breasted, Ancient Records of Egypt, Vol No.4,(1906)
* Erik Hornung, "Untersuchungen zur Chronologie und Geschichte des Neuen Reiches" (1964)
* J. Von Beckerath, Chronologie des Pharaonischen Ägypten, Philip Von Zabern, (Mainz: 1997), pp.94-98 and pp.201-202
* Luban, Marianne "Setnakhte and the Classical Memory"
* [ Dynasty revealed] The new information not only illustrates the growing power of the Amun priesthood during the New Kingdom, but also changes some concepts of the 20th dynasty, especially the facts, figures and reign relating to its founder, Pharaoh Setnakhte.

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