Who is Sethos?

Rameses I. reigned for only a year or two, and was then followed by his warlike son, Seti I. or Merenptah, called Sethos by the Greeks. Sethos coming in the rashness of youth to the leadership of a nation, which his predecessors had made strong, united and wealthy, turned his thoughts toward world empire, the dream which had lured the earlier conquerors of the preceding dynasty. In the very first year of his reign Sethos marched an army into Asia. The nomadic folk of Palestine were unprepared for his coming, and if we may accept the boastful account of his monuments, his army ravaged the land as far as the Phoenician cities and returned home loaded down with every form of plunder. These riches fascinated both him and his people. In the following year he returned to ravage the Asiatic lands again. No longer, however, did he meet the same easy success. The Hittite cities, Damascus, Karchemish and the others, met him with a strength that matched his own. Egypt became the acknowledged master of southern Palestine, but could get no further. Sethos made peace treaties with the Hittites on equal terms.

He next turned his attention to improving the sources of wealth within his own country. He built a great canal connecting the Nile with the Red Sea, thus making a water passage from the Mediterranean to the Far East more than three thousand years before the modern world prided itself on accomplishing the same end by means of the Suez Canal. Sethos also set his people to working the mines of Sinai and the Red Sea region. They found gold there, and an old treasure map has come down to us, the oldest map in the world, showing where the gold lay and the routes that led to it. Instead of arrow marks such as we use to show directions, the roads in this first map are dotted with foot-marks all leading toward the mines, as though many men went thither but none returned. The gold-bearing regions themselves are colored in bright red, as if to suggest at once their richness and their danger.

Sethos was also a builder. To emphasize his devotion to the ancient gods, who were his forefathers and had raised his dynasty to the throne, he erected the wonderful "hypostyle" or "hall of columns" at Karnak. It was a temple to the god Amon, and was intended to accommodate all the enormous train of priests and soldiers who surrounded Sethos in the gorgeous ceremonies of worship which were as much in honor of him as of the god, his ancestor. The Hypostyle is the vastest hall of ceremonies ever erected, and its columns are the heaviest, most solid and stupendous ever placed within a building.

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Read about Who is Sethos? in the The Story of the Greatest Nations and the Worlds Famous Events Vol 1

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