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Battle of Kadesh

Battle of Kadesh
Part of Second Syrian campaign of Ramesses II

Ramesses atop chariot, at the battle of Kadesh. (Relief inside his Abu Simbel temple.)
Date Late May 1274 BC[1]
Location On the Orontes River near Kadesh
Result

Egyptian tactical victory, strategically indecisive. [2][3] Negotiated peace treaty[4]
Tactical: Egyptian victory

Strategic: Both sides claimed victory
Belligerents
New Kingdom of Egypt Hittite Empire
Commanders and leaders

Ramesses II

Muwatalli II

  • Hattusili III
  • Mittanamuwash of Pitassa
  • Masturish of Seha River Land
  • Piyama-Inarash of Wilusa
  • Sahurunuwash of Carchemish
  • Sattuara of Mittani
  • Niqmepa of Ugarit
  • Talmi-Sarruma of Aleppo
  • Niqmaddu of Kadesh
Strength

20,000 men
(half engaged)

  • 16,000 infantry[5]
  • 2,000 chariots[6]
    • 4,000 men[5]

Somewhere between 23,000–50,000 men

  • Somewhere between 15,000[7]–40,000 infantry[8]
    (not engaged)
  • Somewhere between 2,500–3,700 chariots[8]
    • Somewhere between 9,000–11,100 men[9]
Casualties and losses
Unknown Unknown

The Battle of Kadesh (also Qadesh) took place between the forces of the Egyptian Empire under Ramesses II and the Hittite Empire under Muwatalli II at the city of Kadesh on the Orontes River, just upstream of Lake Homs near the modern Syrian-Lebanese border[10]

The battle is generally dated to 1274 BC of the conventional Egyptian chronology,[11] and is the earliest battle in recorded history for which details of tactics and formations are known. It was probably the largest chariot battle ever fought, involving perhaps 5,000–6,000 chariots.[12]

Contents

  • Background 1
  • Kadesh campaign 2
    • The contending forces 2.1
    • Battle 2.2
  • Aftermath 3
  • Documentation 4
    • Hittite allies 4.1
    • Hittite fallen 4.2
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • Further reading 7
  • External links 8

Background

After expelling the Hyksos 15th dynasty, the native Egyptian New Kingdom rulers became more aggressive in reclaiming control of their state's borders. Thutmose I, Thutmose III and his son and coregent Amenhotep II fought battles from Megiddo north to the Orontes River, including conflict with Kadesh.

Many of the Egyptian campaign accounts between c. 1400 and 1300 BC reflect the general destabilization of the region of the Djahi. The reigns of Thutmose IV and Amenhotep III were undistinguished, except that Egypt continued to lose territory to Mitanni in northern Syria.

During the late Egyptian 18th dynasty, the Amarna Letters[13] tell the story of the decline of Egyptian influence in the region. The Egyptians showed flagging interest here until almost the end of the dynasty. Horemheb, the last ruler of this dynasty, campaigned in this region, finally beginning to turn Egyptian interest back to this region.

This process continued in the 19th Dynasty. Like his father Ramesses I, Seti I was a military commander and set out to restore Egypt's empire to the days of the Tuthmosis kings almost a century before. Inscriptions on Karnak temple walls record the details of his campaigns into Canaan and Syria.[14] He took 20,000 men and reoccupied abandoned Egyptian posts and garrisoned cities. He made an informal peace with the Hittites, took control of coastal areas along the Mediterranean, and continued to campaign in Canaan. A second campaign led him to capture Kadesh (where a stela commemorated his victory) and Amurru. His son and heir Ramesses II campaigned with him. Historical records exist which record a large weapons order by Ramesses II the year prior to the expedition he led to Kadesh in his fifth regnal year.

However, at some point, both regions may have lapsed back into Hittite control. What exactly happened to Amurru is disputed. The Hittitologist Trevor Bryce suggests that, although it may have fallen once again under Hittite control, it is more likely Amurru remained a Hittite vassal state.[15]

The immediate antecedents to the Battle of Kadesh were the early campaigns of Ramesses II into Canaan. In the fourth year of his reign, he marched north into Syria, either to recapture Amurru[16] or, as a probing effort, to confirm his vassals' loyalty and explore the terrain of possible battles.[15] The recovery of Amurru was Muwatalli's stated motivation for marching south to confront the Egyptians. Ramesses marched north in the fifth year of his reign and encountered the Hittites at Kadesh.

Kadesh campaign

The Egyptian Empire under Ramesses II (green) bordering on the Hittite Empire (red) at the height of its power in ca. 1279 BC

Ramesses' army crossed the Egyptian border in the spring of year five of his reign and, after a month's march, reached the area of Kadesh from the South.

The Hittite king Muwatalli, who had mustered several of his allies (among them Rimisharrinaa, the king of Aleppo), had positioned his troops behind "Old Kadesh", but Ramesses, misled by two spies whom the Egyptians had captured, thought the Hittite forces were still far off, at Aleppo, and ordered his forces to set up camp.

The contending forces

In the spring of the fifth year of his reign, in May 1274 BC, Ramesses II launched his campaign from his capital Pi-Ramesses (modern Qantir). The army moved beyond the fortress of Tjel and along the coast leading to Gaza.[17] Ramesses led an army of four divisions: Amun, Re (P're), Seth (Suteh) and the apparently newly formed Ptah division.[18]

There was also a poorly documented troop called the nrrn (Ne'arin or Nearin), possibly Canaanite military mercenaries with Egyptian allegiance[19] or even Egyptians,[20] which Ramesses II had left in Amurru, apparently in order to secure the port of Sumur.[21] This division would come to play a critical role in the battle. Also significant was the presence of Sherden troops among the Egyptian army. This is the first time they appear as Egyptian mercenaries, and they would play an increasingly significant role in Late Bronze Age history, ultimately appearing among the Sea Peoples that ravaged the east Mediterranean at the end of the Bronze Age. Healy in Armies of the Pharaohs observes:

"It is not possible to be precise about the size of the Egyptian chariot force at Kadesh though it could not have numbered less than 2,000 vehicles spread though the corps of Amun, P'Re, Ptah and Sutekh, assuming that approx. 500 machines were allocated to each corps. To this we may need to add those of the Ne'arin, for if they were not native Egyptian troops their number may not have been formed from chariots detached from the army corps."[22]

On the Hittite side, Ramesses II recorded a long list of nineteen Hittite allies brought to Kadesh by Muwatalli. This list is of considerable interest to Hittitologists as it reflects the extent of Hittite influence at the time.

Battle

Ramesses II describes his arrival on the battlefield in the two principal inscriptions he wrote concerning the battle, the so-called "Poem" and the "Bulletin":

The Shasu spies shown being beaten by the Egyptians

As Ramesses and the Egyptian advance guard were about 11 kilometers from Kadesh, south of Shabtuna, he met two Shasu (nomads) who told him that the Hittites were "in the land of Aleppo, on the north of Tunip" 200 kilometers away, where, the Shasu said, they were "(too much) afraid of Pharaoh, L.P.H., to come south."[24] This was, state the Egyptian texts, a false report ordered by the Hittites "with the aim of preventing the army of His Majesty from drawing up to combat with the foe of Hatti."[24] Egyptian scouts then returned to his camp bringing two new Hittite prisoners. Ramesses II only learned of the true nature of his dire predicament when these spies were captured, beaten and forced to reveal the truth before him. Under torture, the second group of spies revealed that the entire Hittite army and the Hittite king were actually close at hand:

The Hittite chariots attack the Re division.

In his haste to capture

  • The Eternal treaty from the Hittite perspective (thebritishmuseum.ac.uk)
  • André Dollinger (reshafim.org.il):
    • End of Egyptian–Hittite hostilities
    • The peace treaty between Ramses II and Hattusili III
  • The Battle of Kadesh in the context of Hittite history (hittites.info)
  • Battle of Kadesh (historynet.com)

Media related to at Wikimedia Commons

External links

  • includes information of the clash of the Egyptians and Hittites including the battle of Kadesh and maps of the regions controlled by the peoples named in the accounts.

Further reading

  1. ^ Lorna Oakes, Pyramids, Temples & Tombs of Ancient Egypt: An Illustrated Atlas of the Land of the Pharaohs, Hermes House: 2003. P. 142.
  2. ^ a b Nicholas Grimal, A History of Ancient Egypt, Blackwell Books: 1992, p.256
  3. ^ a b c d e f g
  4. ^ 100 Battles, Decisive Battles that Shaped the World, Dougherty, Martin, J., Parragon, p.10–11
  5. ^ a b M. Healy, Qadesh 1300 BC: Clash of the warrior kings, 32
  6. ^ M. Healy, Qadesh 1300 BC: Clash of the warrior kings, 39
  7. ^ Richard Holmes, , 2006
  8. ^ a b M. Healy, Qadesh 1300 BC: Clash of the warrior kings, 22
  9. ^ M. Healy, Qadesh 1300 BC: Clash of the warrior kings, 21
  10. ^ near the modern village of Al-Houz in Syria's Al-Qusayr District. see Kitchen, K. A., "Ramesside Inscriptions", volume 2, Blackwell Publishing Limited, 1996, pp. 16–17.
  11. ^ Around "Year 5 III Shemu day 9" of Ramesses II's reign (BAR III, p. 317) or more precisely: May 12, 1274 BC based on Ramesses' commonly accepted accession date in 1279 BC.
  12. ^
  13. ^ Moran, William L., "The Amarna Letters", Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992
  14. ^ [1] W. J. Murnane, The Road to Kadesh: A Historical Interpretation of the Battle Reliefs of King Sety I at Karnak. (Second Edition Revised), Chicago: The Oriental Institute, 1990, ISBN 0-918986-67-2
  15. ^ a b Bryce, Trevor, The Kingdom of the Hittites, Oxford University Press, new edition 2005, ISBN 0-19-927908-X, p.233
  16. ^ Grimal, Nicolas, A History of Ancient Egypt (1994) pp. 253ff.
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^ a b c d The Battle of Kadesh in the context of Hittite history
  22. ^ Mark Healy, Armies of the Pharaohs, Osprey Publishing, 2000. p.39
  23. ^ Pritchard, James B. (1969). Ancient Near Eastern Texts. Princeton, ISBN 978-0-691-03503-1. (ANET), "The Asiatic Campaigning of Ramses II," pp.255–256
  24. ^ a b Wilson, John A, "The Texts of the Battle of Kadesh", The American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures, Vol. 34, no. 4, July 1927, p.278
  25. ^ Joyce Tyldesley, Ramesses II: Egypt's Greatest Pharaoh, Penguin Books, 2000. pp.70–71
  26. ^ Santosuosso, Antonio, "Kadesh Revisited: Reconstructing the Battle Between the Egyptians and the Hittites " The Journal of Military History, Vol 60 no. 3, July 1996
  27. ^ a b Mark Healy, op. cit., p.61
  28. ^
  29. ^ Mark Healy, p.62
  30. ^
  31. ^
  32. ^
  33. ^ a b Joyce Tyldesley, Ramesses: Egypt's Greatest Pharaoh, Penguin Books, 2000. p.73
  34. ^ Tyldesley, p.75
  35. ^ James Henry Breasted, A History of the Ancient Egyptians (1908) sect. 305
  36. ^
  37. ^ TG James, Pharaoh's People: Scenes from Life in Imperial Egypt, 2007. James says 'This romanticized record of the Battle of Qadesh cannot be treated as a truthful account of what happened, and I doubt whether many ancient Egyptians would have accepted it wholly as an historical record' (page 26). He notes however that the 'broad facts' are 'probably reported with a fair degree of accuracy' (page 27).
  38. ^ Some of the harshest criticism of Ramesses has come from Egyptologists. "It is all too clear that he was a stupid and culpably inefficient general and that he failed to gain his objectives at Kadesh" (John A. Wilson, The Culture of Ancient Egypt (1951) p. 247. Although Wilson does recognize the personal bravery of Ramesses, and the improvement of his skills in subsequent campaigns.)
  39. ^ Gardiner, Alan, The Kadesh Inscriptions of Ramesses II (1975) pp.2–4. However, Miriam Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature, Vol. 2: The New Kingdom (1978) p. 58, maintains that the Poem is truly just that, contra Gardiner, and prefers to maintain the older tripartite division of the documentation.
  40. ^
  41. ^ Breasted, James Henry, Ancient Records of Egypt: Historical Documents" (1906) p. 58.
  42. ^ Kitchen, Kenneth A., Ramesside Inscriptions, Notes and Comments Volume II (1999) pp. 13ff.
  43. ^ "Review: Some Recent Works on Ancient Syria and the Sea People", Michael C. Astour, Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 92, No. 3, (July–September, 1972), pp. 447–459 writing about someone who identified the Dardanians with the Trojans: "Which is, incidentally, not so: the Iliad carefully distinguishes the Dardanians from the Trojans, not only in the list of Trojan allies (11:816–823) but also in the frequently repeated formula keklyte meu, Tr6es kai Dardanoi ed' epikuroi (e.g., III:456)
  44. ^ A problematical name. Gardiner translates the title as "chief of suite of suite". If the Chief of the Royal Bodyguard is meant here, then that position was held by his brother Hattusili, who quite clearly did not die.

References

See also

Name Title
Spţr Brother of Muwattalli
Trgnns Charioteer
Grbts Shield-bearer
Trgtţs Troop-captain of those of Qbsw(?)
'Agm Troop-captain
Kmyţ A head of thr-warriors (infantry?)
Ḥrpsr Royal scribe
Tydr Chief of the bodyguard[44]
Pys Charioteer
Smrts Charioteer
Rbsnn Troop-captain of 'Inns.
Ḥmţrm Brother of Muwattalli
Tdr Head of the thr-warriors
Ţ..m Shield-bearer(?)
Ţwţs Troop-captain of 'Ins
Bnq(?) Charioteer
[?] [One further name and title, lost]

Source: Gardiner, Alan, The Kadesh Inscriptions of Ramesses II (1975) pp. 39–41.

Hittite fallen

In addition to these allies, the Hittite king also hired the services of some of the local Shasu tribes.

Egyptian Name Location
Ḥt Ḥatti (central Anatolia)
Nhrn Nahrin = Mitanni
I҆rṭw Arzawa (western Anatolia)
Pds Pitassa (central Anatolia)
Drdny Dardania (allies of the Trojans,[43] northwest Anatolia)
Ms Masa (Mysia, northwest Anatolia)
Krkš Karkisa (Anatolia)
Krkmš Carchemish, in Syria
Qd A poorly defined area in northern Syria
Qdš Kadesh (in Syria)
Ꜥkrṭ Ugarit (in north Syria)
Mwšꜣnt Mushanet (Unknown)
Kškš Kaska (northern Anatolia)
Lk Lukka lands (Lycia and Caria, southwest Anatolia)
Qḍwdn Kizzuwatna (Cilicia)
Nwgs Nuḥḥašši (in Syria)
I҆rwnt (sic!) Arawanna (In Anatolia)
Ḥlb Ḥalba (Aleppo, in Syria. Led by its king, Talmi-Sarruma, grandson of Suppiluliuma I.)
I҆ns Inesa (Unknown, possibly Neša in central Anatolia)

Sources: Goetze, A., "The Hittites and Syria (1300–1200 B.C.)", in Cambridge Ancient History (1975) p. 253; Gardiner, Alan, The Kadesh Inscriptions of Ramesses II (1975) pp. 57ff.; Breasted, James Henry, Ancient Records of Egypt; Historical Records (1906) pp. 125ff.; Lichtheim, Mirian, Ancient Egyptian Literature, Vol. 2: The New Kingdom (1978) pp. 57ff.

Hittite allies

Hittite references to the battle, including the above letter, have been found at Hattusa, although no annals have been discovered that might describe it as part of a campaign. Instead, there are various references made to it in the context of other events. This is especially true of Hattusili III, for whom the battle marked an important milestone in his career.

In addition to these lengthy presentations, there are also numerous small captions used to point out various elements of the battle. Outside of the inscriptions, there are textual occurrences preserved in Papyrus Raifet and Papyrus Sallier III,[41] and a rendering of these same events in a letter from Ramesses to Hattusili III written in response to a scoffing complaint by Hattusili about the pharaoh's victorious depiction of the battle.[42]

The main source of information is in the Egyptian record of the battle, for which a general level of accuracy is assumed despite factual errors and propaganda.[37] The bombastic nature of Ramesses' version has long been recognized.[38] The Egyptian version of the battle of Kadesh is recorded in two primary forms, known as the Poem and the Bulletin. The Poem has been questioned as actual verse, as opposed to a prose account similar to what other pharaohs had recorded. Similarly, the Bulletin is itself simply a lengthy caption accompanying the reliefs.[39] These inscriptions are repeated multiple times (seven for the Bulletin and eight for the Poem, in temples in Abydos, Temple of Luxor, Karnak, Abu Simbel and the Ramesseum).[40]

Although there is more evidence in the form of texts and wall reliefs for this battle than for any other battle in the Ancient Near East, almost all of it is from an Egyptian perspective, and indeed the first scholarly report on the battle, by James Henry Breasted in 1903, praised these sources which allowed the reconstruction the battle with certainty.[35] However, some historians argue that the battle was a draw at best, and that Egyptian influence over Amurru and Qadesh seems to have been lost forever.[36]

Documentation

The running borderlands conflicts were finally concluded some fifteen years after the Battle of Kadesh[3] by an official peace treaty in the 21st year of Ramesses II's reign (1258 BC in conventional chronology), with Hattusili III, the new king of the Hittites. The treaty that was established was inscribed on a silver tablet, of which a clay copy survived in the Hittite capital of Hattusa, in modern Turkey, and is on display at the Istanbul Archaeology Museum. An enlarged replica of the Kadesh agreement hangs on a wall at the headquarters of the United Nations, as the earliest international peace treaty known to historians.[3] Its text, in the Hittite version, appears in the links below. An Egyptian version survives on a papyrus.

In the eighth and ninth years of his reign, Ramesses extended his military successes; this time, he proved more successful against his Hittite foes when he successfully captured the cities of Dapur and Tunip,[34] where no Egyptian soldier had been seen since the time of Thutmose III almost 120 years previously. His victory proved to be ephemeral, however. The thin strip of territory pinched between Amurru and Kadesh did not make for a stable possession. Within a year, they had returned to the Hittite fold, which meant that Ramesses had to march against Dapur once more in his tenth year. His second success here was equally as meaningless as his first, since neither Egypt nor Hatti could decisively defeat the other in battle.[21]

The Hittite king, Muwatalli II, continued to campaign as far south as the Egyptian province of Upi (Apa), which he captured and placed under the control of his brother Hattusili, the future Hattusili III.[33] Egypt's sphere of influence in Asia was now restricted to Canaan.[33] Even this was threatened for a time by revolts among Egypt's vassal states in the Levant, and Ramesses was compelled to embark on a series of campaigns in Canaan in order to uphold his authority there before he could initiate further assaults against the Hittite Empire.

The Egyptian–Hittite peace treaty—on display at the Istanbul Archaeology Museum—is believed to be the earliest example of any written international agreement of any kind.[3]

Hittite records from Boghazkoy, however, tell of a very different conclusion to the greater campaign, where a chastened Ramesses was forced to depart from Kadesh in defeat. Modern historians essentially conclude the battle was a draw, a great moral victory for the Egyptians, who had developed new technologies and rearmed before pushing back against the years-long steady incursions by the Hittites.[3]

Logistically[3] unable to support a long siege of the walled city of Kadesh, Ramesses gathered his troops and retreated south towards Damascus and ultimately back to Egypt. Once back in Egypt, Ramesses proclaimed victory, having routed his enemies, however he didn't try further to capture Kadesh.[2] In a personal sense, however, the Battle of Kadesh was a triumph for Ramesses since, after blundering into a devastating Hittite chariot ambush, the young king had courageously rallied his scattered troops to fight on the battlefield while escaping death or capture. The new lighter, faster, two-man Egyptian chariots were able to pursue and take down the slower three-man Hittite chariots from behind as they overtook them. The leading elements of Hittites' retreating chariots were thus pinned against the river and in several hieroglyphic inscriptions related to Ramesses II, said to flee across the river, abandoning their chariots, "swimming as fast as any crocodile" in their flight.[3]

Aftermath

There is no consensus about the outcome or what took place, with views ranging from an Egyptian victory to a draw,[31] or, in the view of Iranian Egyptologist Mehdi Yarahmadi, an Egyptian defeat (with the Egyptian accounts simply propaganda).[32]

The next morning, a second, inconclusive battle was fought. Muwatalli is reported by Ramesses to have called for a truce, but this may be propaganda since Hittite records note no such arrangement. Neither side gained total victory. Both the Egyptians and the Hittites had suffered heavy casualties; the Egyptian army failed to break Kadesh's defenses, while the Hittite army had failed to gain a victory in the face of what earlier must have seemed certain success.[21]

After six charges, the Hittite forces were almost surrounded, and the survivors were faced with the humiliation of having to swim back across the Orontes River to rejoin their infantry.[21] Pinned against the Orontes, the elements remaining of the Hittites not overtaken in the withdrawal were forced to abandon their chariots and attempt to swim the Orontes, according to Egyptian accounts hurriedly ("as fast as Crocodiles swimming"), where many of them drowned.[30]

Although he had suffered a significant reversal, Muwatalli still commanded a large force of reserve chariotry and infantry plus the walls of the town. As the retreat reached the river, he ordered another thousand chariots to attack the Egyptians, the stiffening element consisting of the high nobles who surrounded the king. As the Hittite forces approached the Egyptian camp again, the Ne'arin troop contingent from Amurru suddenly arrived, this time surprising the Hittites. Ramesses had also reorganized his forces and, expecting the help, also attacked from the camp.

final phase of the battle.

The Hittites, meanwhile, who understandably believed their enemies to be totally routed, had stopped to loot the Egyptian camp and, in doing so, became easy targets for Ramesses' counterattack. Ramesses' action was successful in driving the Hittites back towards the Orontes and away from the Egyptian camp,[29] while in the ensuing pursuit, the heavier Hittite chariots were easily overtaken and dispatched by the lighter, faster, Egyptian chariots.

The pharaoh, now facing a desperate fight for his life, summoned up his courage, called upon his god Amun, and fought valiantly to save himself. Ramesses personally led several charges into the Hittite ranks together with his personal guard, some of the chariots from his Amun division and survivors from the routed division of Re,[27] and using the superior maneuverability of their chariots and the power and range of Egyptian composite bows, deployed and attacked the overextended and tired Hittite chariotry.

Ramesses counterattacks.

"...I was before them like Set in his moment. I found the mass of chariots in whose midst I was, scattering them before my horses..."

Only with help from the gods did Ramesses II personally defeat his attackers and return to the Egyptian lines:

"...No officer was with me, no charioteer, no soldier of the army, no shield-bearer ..."[28]

In the Egyptian account of the battle, Ramesses describes himself as being deserted and surrounded by enemies: [27]

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