Luxor, Egypt :
Seti I was the Pharaoh who fought against the Libyans, Syrians and Hittites in an effort to win back the empire of Thutmose III. He succeeded in reconquering territories spreading from Mesopotamia to the island of Cyprus and carried home vast treasures to adorn his temples, hath this one at Kurna and the marvelous one at Abydos. Seti encouraged art and architecture, and his two temples with no doubt hold some of the most exquisite relief work in the entire Nile Valley.
Whilst approaching this 19th Dynasty mortuary temple it would be as well to remember that the execution of funerary art was inherited from long-established traditions and was considered sacred. Similar themes and unvarying treatment followed from one dynasty to the next, the only real difference lying in the competence of its execution. It is here that the real value of this temple lies. The reliefs show that craftsmanship had reached a remarkable stage of maturity. There is little doubt that the artists in Seti's reign were aware of foreshortening and knew how to cope with it. Yet they interpreted their figures as did the artists of the Old Kingdom, never violating the pattern of established art . They merely concentrated their efforts on precise and refined detail.
This temple, apart from being constructed to continue the cult of the deceased Pharaoh and to honor Amon, was also built in reverent memory of Seti's father, Ramses I, who died before constructing a temple of his own. It was not completed by Seti I, but by his son, Ramses II, who supplied the missing reliefs and inscriptions.
Of the original length of some 158 meters only about 47 meters of the temple remain, mostly the area containing the sanctuary, Its halls and ante-chambers. Most of the frontal courts and pylons are in ruin but because of the execution of the reliefs, a visit is immensely worthwhile. For example, just beyond the eight remaining columns of the colonnade are three doors leading to the inner part of the temple. The walls between, at, carry representations of the provinces of Upper Egypt - a woman and a man alternately - bearing dishes laden with flowers, cakes and wine (to the left) and similar representations of Lower Egypt (to the right), On their heads the former have lotuses, the emblem of Upper Egypt. The latter have papyri, that of Lower Egypt. Above the left-hand relief the Pharaoh offers incense to the barge of Amon carried by priests. And above the right-hand relief he appears before various deities. It is immediately apparent that the lines are sensitive and refined while the drawing is boldly executed.
The hypostyle hall which we enter through the middle doorway has slabs on the roof of the central aisle on which there are flying vultures, the winged sun-disc and the names of Seti I between two vertical rows of hieroglyphs. Low on the walls Set II and Ramses II are seen before various deities. At (b) and (c) are Mut and Hathor, nourishing Seti.
On each side of the hypostyle hall are three chambers. The last two on each side, (d), (e), (f) and (g), have fine reliefs which depict Seti offering incense or performing ceremonies in the presence of the deities. In chamber (d) Thoth, the God of Science, can be seen before the sacred barge of the Pharaoh (on the left-hand wall) while (on the right-hand wall) the Pharaoh is seated before an offering table. On the rear wall Seti is depicted as the god Osiris, seated in a shrine surrounded by deities. Chamber (h) bears the sunken, cruder reliefs of Ramses II, who enters the temple (to the right) and offers incense to Amon, Mut and Khonsu to the left).
Beyond the hypostyle hall is the sanctuary (B).which has four simple square pillars, and the decorations on the sidewalls depict Seti I offering incense before the barge of Amon. The base of Amon's sacred barge still stands here. The chambers beyond are in ruin.
In the right-hand division of the temple is a long hall of Ramses II (C). Again we can compare these sunken reliefs with those of the main building. They are clearly far inferior work.
On the corresponding left-hand division of the temple Is a small shrine constructed by Ramses I (D) and probably usurped by Ramses II. Adjoining it are three chambers. In the middle one. (i) Seti offers incense to the barge of Amon and, on the rear wall , is a stele shaped like a door, to Ramses II, who appears in Osiris form presided over by Isis as a hawk. The two flanking chambers have reliefs dating from Ramses II and show him before the deities.