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As an enormous civilization, the ancient Egyptians had to defend itself from time to time against the forces of the outsiders and the invaders who attacked hoping to gain its wealth.

A few fully documented great battles were achieved by powerful pharaohs . One of the greatest is the THE BATTLE OF KADESH – 1300BC

KING RAMSES II is considered one of the greatest pharaohs of Egypt. It was in his reign that this battle was fought. At the beginning of his reign in which he succeeded his father Seti I, there were some minor campaigns against the Nubians and the Libyans. SETHOS I or Seti I also early in his reign was challenged by a powerful alliance of Amorites and Aramaeans with the prince of Hamath. He sent three separate armies and defeated all three opponents before they could combine.

Rameses II then tuned his attention to Canaan and Syria as their states-Kadesh- was before an important Egyptian vassals and economic and strategic points to the Egyptians in the time of one of his great ancestors TUTHMOSIS III. In recent years, Kadesh had come under the control of the kings of Hatti once again, and Rameses’ aim was to recapture the strategically important citadel from the Hittite king, Muwatallis.

Rameses led his army north through Canaan and Syria from Egypt.. The army travelled in four divisions, each of around 5,000 men. Each division was a self-contained army corps consisting of about 4,000 infantry and 1,000 chariot-crew in 500 chariots. The divisions marched as distinct bodies along different routes for ease of travel and supply. They were spaced some eight hours normal march apart, and were to meet at Kadesh to join battle with the Hittites.



.Muwatallis did not take the threat to the Hittite’s power in their own neighbourhood lightly. Upon finding out about Rameses’ plans, he raised the largest army the Hittites and their vassals and allies had ever fielded. It consisted of some 18-19,000 infantry and 3,500 chariots. These marched south to Kadesh to meet the Egyptians.

The Hittite kings had in the past proven themselves to be masters of strategy, and Muwatallis was no different. He reached Kadesh before the Egyptian army and deployed his army behind the treeline of the Orontes river and the mound of the citadel of Kadesh. His main chariot force of some 2,500 chariots was positioned at fords on the river ready to emerge from concealment and assault the marching Egyptians.

Rameses intelligence proved to be somewhat lacking, leading him to suspect nothing of the Hittite’s intentions. His own scouts failed to locate the Hittites behind Kadesh and two Hittite mercenary Bedouin scouts were captured, giving Rameses the false information that the Hittites were several days march to the north. Thus Rameses did not hasten to concentrate his army, but instead allowed them to continue with their current rate of march.

Ramses with one of his divisions arrived first at Kadesh and started to camp below the city. As the second division was attempting to cross the river, the Egyptian scouts finally brought Pharaoh information about the presence of the Hittite army. A furious Rameses sent fast messengers to the most distant of his remaining two divisions to hasten their march to Kadesh.

Muwatallis had now set his trap. His massive chariot force charged out of hiding, smashing into the surprised second division, routing the infantry and forcing the chariotry to flee and join up with Pharoah and the first division at their camp. The tiring Hittite chariotry pursued and were met by the first division defending the camp and the combined chariotry of the two divisions personally led by Rameses.

Rameses called upon the god (his father!) Amun for victory and fought powerfully to stop the Hitties. Muwatallis tried to pursue the Egyptians by his chariots.

At this stage, a force of allied Canaanite chariotry called the Ne’arin arrived from the north and with Pharaoh’s remaining force caused the Hittites to flee back to their reserve and infantry main body with Muwatallis across the river. The Hittites had suffered terrible casualties, including a large number of nobility, and including relatives of the King.

The battered Egyptians retired to their camp and were reinforced by the third division which had force marched to the battlefield. Rameses led his army out the following morning to fight the Hittites, who sent envoys for peace, which Rameses’ generals urged him to accept. Both armies retired from the field, with the Hittites still in possession of Kadesh. Both armies had suffered crippling losses. Rameses returned to Egypt able to claim a ‘victory’ in the battle itself, despite the fact that the Hittites followed the retreating Egyptians and captured more Canaanite cities before a treaty was agreed several years later and sealed with Rameses marriage to a Hittite princess. 

king Rameses II in battle.

RAMESES III (1186-1154BC) , was another pharaoh of great ability. He was a King of the Twentieth Dynasty. He defended Egypt against attempted invasions by Libyans (western nomads) and peoples said to come from islands and sea lands (known as 'Sea Peoples', perhaps mainly Aegean and west Anatolian groups). All of his great achievements in trade, mining and great buildings were achieved against a state of almost permanent warfare. The Libyans attacked again and were repulsed again. The People of the sea attempted a direct invasion by sea and land, ( these tribes moved both by land from Anatolia and by sea) and a great sea battle was fought off the Delta, with archers firing from the ships and the vessels then ramming the enemy. The raiders in Egypt allied with the Libyan tribes. Whilst the Libyans invaded Egypt from the west, they penetrated into the Nile delta, where a major naval battle was fought against them by the fleet of Pharaoh Rameses III.

King Ahmosis I was another great king. He  finally succeeded in defeating the Hyksos (The Hekau-Khasut i.e Foreign Rulers as the Ancient Egyptians called them). The wars to expel the Hyksos were initiated by Seqenenre Tao II & Kamose but ultimate success came to King Ahmosis I (1550/1525 BC) the founder of the 18th Dynasty and what is called the "New Kingdom".

Weapons used in ancient Egypt were not much but the introduction of chariots with archers made victory in battles successful.

The mace was a type of club that was used in battles. It was a powerful weapon, made of stone and wood,  that could be deadly if the person using it was very strong.


Ivory fragment showing pharaoh with mace

Swords of different lengths were used in battles in ancient Egypt. The blades were made of copper or bronze and attached to wooden handles. Many swords belonging to the pharaoh, or wealthy people were decorated with carved scenes, precious metals and valuable stones.

Many knives made of flint, copper, and bronze have been found in Egypt. Knives were used as weapons, but also as tools in everyday life for cutting rope, or animal hides.




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