Was The Mummy’s Seti A Real Person?


1999’s The Mummy contains many exciting adaptations of Egyptian history, culture, and mythology, but its portrayal of a lesser-known character Seti I – the pharaoh whose assassination sets the film’s events in motion – is one of the most interesting. The popular action-adventure tale follows librarian and passionate Egyptologist Evelyn Carnahan (Rachel Weisz) and her brother Jonathan (John Hannah) in their search for Hamunaptra, the fictional city of the dead. Recruiting adventurer Rick O’Connell (Brendan Fraser) along the way, they manage to locate the city, only to accidentally unleash a deadly curse and resurrect an ancient evil.


While it primarily takes place in 1920s Egypt, The Mummy opens in 1290 BC Thebes, in the prosperous reign of Pharaoh Seti I. When Seti (Aharon Ipalé) discovers an affair between his high priest Imhotep (Arnold Vosloo) and mistress Anck-su-namun (Patricia Velásquez), Imhotep brutally murders him before the Medjai – the pharaohs’ personal bodyguards – can prevent the act. Hoping to resurrect Anck-su-namun following her suicide, Imhotep then takes her body to Hamunaptra where he is captured by the Medjai and buried alive in a sarcophagus filled with flesh-eating scarab beetles. As the protagonists later discover, if one opens the tomb of Imhotep – the series’ eponymous ‘Mummy’ – a curse will be unleashed that brings with it the biblical ten plagues of Egypt.

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Just as the character of Imhotep is loosely based on a historical figure of the same name, The Mummy’s Seti is a fictionalized version of a real Pharaoh also named Seti. In The Mummy, Evelyn notes that Seti was “the 2nd pharaoh of the 19th Dynasty” and was also “said to be the wealthiest pharaoh of them all,” which is clear from the lavish jewelry, golden palaces, and extravagant architecture depicted in the film’s prologue. The real Seti I was indeed the second Pharaoh of the 19th dynasty and was instrumental in advancing the wealth and prosperity of Egypt. He continued his father’s work on the hypostyle hall at Karnak – one of Ancient Egypt’s most striking architectural feats – and built the memorial temple at Abydos. Nonetheless, The Mummy made several key changes to the historical Seti I that made the story far more interesting.

How The Mummy’s Changes Made Seti More Interesting

The first and perhaps most important difference between the fictional and historical Seti is his relationship with Imhotep. While Imhotep is Seti’s high priest in the film, the historical Imhotep died almost 1300 years before Seti took the throne. In reality, Imhotep was the chief minister of the Pharoah Djoser who reigned in the 3rd dynasty of Egypt, far over a millennia before Seti was born. In addition, while little is known of Seti’s life and death, it is believed that his death was caused by some form of heart disease, not the brutal assassination seen in Stephen Sommers’ film. Moreover, no mistress has been attributed to the real Seti I, whose actual wife was named Tuya. Anck-su-namun is incidentally an adaptation of Tutankhamun’s wife Ankhesenamun who, unlike in The Mummy franchise timeline, lived in the 18th dynasty of Egypt, more than 50 years before Seti’s reign.

These changes made Seti’s story in The Mummy far more dramatic than the life of the pragmatic military campaigner of history, whose character and temperament are almost completely unknown. Imhotep is one of the most popular and revered figures of ancient Egyptian history, so merging his and Seti’s storyline aligns two fascinating periods of history into one narrative. Seti’s demise, at the hands of his own high priest, is a more interesting conclusion than a solitary death by disease, and the addition of a mistress, who Seti treats as his own private property, hints at a tyrannical nature that is missing from historical accounts. While The Mummy‘s Seti may have ruled in the same period as his historical counterpart, the fictional pharaoh is far a more interesting addition to The Mummy franchise than a historically accurate character would have been.

Next: The Original Idea For The Mummy Was VERY Different


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