Battle of Kadesh

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Battle of Kadesh
Part of the Egyptian-Hittite wars
Image:Ramses II at Kadesh.jpg
Ramses atop chariot, at the battle of Kadesh. (Relief inside his Abu Simbel temple.)
Date c. 1274 BC
Location On the Orontes River near Kadesh
Result Tactical: Egypt pyrrhic victory

Operative: Egyptian failure (campaign ended)
Strategic: Draw, Hittite Empire saved from invasion

New Kingdom of Egypt Hittite Empire
Ramesses II Muwatalli
ca. 2,000 chariots and ca. 16,000 infantry ca. 3,000 chariots and ca. 20,000 infantry (not engaged)
Unknown (considerably higher) Unknown (considerably lower)

The Battle of Kadesh (also spelled "Qa'desh") took place between Egypt and the Hittite forces of Muwatalli II, on the Orontes River of modern Syria. The battle is generally dated to 1274 BC, during the reign of Egypt's Ramesses II (12791213 BC). It was probably the largest chariot battle ever fought, involving some 5,000 chariots. It also involved over 9,000 foot soldiers.


[edit] Background

For most of the 18th and 19th Dynasties the Egyptians had been gradually pushed back from upper Retnu (The Orontes River watershed) into the Djadi (The Jordan River watershed). During the reign of Amenophis I, also known as Amenhotep I, the Mittani empire had begun to expand in Syria.

It was against this foe that the farthest extent of Egyptian occupation had occurred, during the reign of Thutmosis I, whose campaigns may have reached the Euphrates River probably somewhere around Mari in Northern Syria.

At the start of this period the Hittites were still a loosely organized group of trading states and Kadesh was probably the more powerful foe, exerting influence as far south as Megiddo. Amenophis II, the son and coregent of Thutmosis III, fought battles against Kadesh both before and after his father's death (1425 BC).

Many of the Egyptian campaign accounts between c 1400 and 1300 BC reflect general destabilization of the region of the djadi, including endemic banditry.

The reigns of Thutmose IV and Amenophis III were undistinguished except that Egypt continued to lose power to the Mitanni in northeastern Syria and to Kadesh in the region Biblically referred to as Mount Hermon.

During the reign of Akhenaten (or Amenophis IV) the Amarna letters tell the story of the decline of Egyptian influence in the region. After Akhenaten, Haremhab continued the campaign and in the 19th Dynasty so did Ramesses I. Like his father, Ramesses I, Seti I was a military commander and set out to restore Egypt's empire back to the vast glory days of the Tuthmosis kings almost a century before. Inscriptions on Karnak show the details of him campaigning into Palestine and Syria. He took 20,000 men and reoccupied abandoned Egyptian posts and garrisoned cities. He made peace with the Hittites, took control of coastal areas along the Mediterranean, and continued to fight against the bandits in Palestine. A second campaign led him to Kadesh where a stela commemerated his victory and his son and heir Ramesses II campaigned with him.

[edit] Battle

Pharaoh Ramesses II and the Hittite king met at Kadesh in the mountains containing the headwaters of the Orontes in northern Syria around May 1274 B.C.

Ramesses II recorded the names of the Hittite allies who opposed him; among them are the following: 1) Pi-da-sa, 2) Da-ar-d(a)-an-ya, 3) Ma-sa, 4) Qa-r(a)-qi-sa, 5) Ru-ka, and 6) Arzawa. The first name has been associated with Pedasos in Mysia of the Troad south of Troy, the second with the Dardanoi of the Troad, the third with southwest Anatolia, the fourth with Caria, the fifth with Lukka/Lycia, and the sixth with Arzawa in western Anatolia (Barnett 1975, 359-62; Breasted 1906, 3:123ff.; Gardiner 1961, 262ff.). [1]

This battle marked a stalemate between Hittite power and the power of 19th Dynasty Egypt, where the two met face to face along their outermost marches, in what is now Syria. The Hittites, based at Carchemish, were angry over the defection of Amurru to Egypt and wanted to bring it back under control – on the other hand the Egyptians wanted to protect their new vassal.

Image:Hittite Empire.png
The Hittite (red) and Egyptian (green) spheres of influence overlapped at Kadesh

The Hittite king Muwatallis, who had mustered several of his allies (among them Rimisharrinaa, the king of Aleppo), had positioned his troops behind the hill at Kadesh, but Ramesses thought they were at Aleppo and learned the truth only after capturing two Hittites. Immediately Ramesses sent messengers to hasten the coming of the Ptah and Setekh divisions of his army which were still on the far side of the river Orontes.

Before Ramesses could gather them all together, however, 2500 of Muwatallis' chariots attacked the Ra and Amon divisions and plundered the Egyptian camp. The Egyptians retreated, and Ramesses himself narrowly escaped capture, mainly thanks to the intervention of a troop contingent from Amurru, which suddenly arrived to assist the pharaoh and drive the Hittites back. The Egyptians regrouped and almost surrounded the Hittites, but the Hittite chariots retreated back across the Orontes to join their infantry.

[edit] Aftermath

Muwatallis called for a truce with Ramesses. Though both sides later proclaimed the battle a victory, Ramesses' troops had suffered many casualties and he was unable to capture any more territory. The Hittite king, on the other hand, continued to campaign successfully as far south as Apa. Kadesh remained in Hittite hands, and Amurru was recaptured by the Hittites. The consequent loss of prestige sparked revolts within the Egyptian empire, and Ramesses could not resume direct hostilities against the Hittites until 1269 BC.

The conflicts were finally concluded by a peace treaty in 1258 BC, in the 21st year of Ramesses II's reign, with the new king of the Hittites, Hattusili III. [2]

The treaty bond that was established was inscribed on a silver tablet, of which a clay copy survives. An enlargement of the clay tablet hangs on a wall at the headquarters of the United Nations, as one of the earliest international peace treaties. Its text, in the Hittite version, appears in the links below. An Egyptian version survives in a papyrus.

The First two lines of the treaty reads as so:

1. The twenty-first year, the twenty-first day of Tybi,[1] in the reign of King RA-USER-mA,[2] approved by the Sun, Son of the Sun, RAmEssu-MERIAmEN,[3] endowed with life eternal and for ever; lover of AMEN-RA, HARmAcHu, PTAH of Memphis, MAUT Lady of Asheru, and CHENsu-NEFERHoTEP; invested upon the throne of HoRus, among the living, like his father HARmACHU, eternally and for ever.

2. On this day behold His Majesty was in the city of the House of Ramessu-Meriamen, making propitiations to his father AMEN-RA, to HARmAcHu, to AToM Lord of On, to AMEN of Ramessu-Meriamen, to PTAH of Ramessu-Meriamem, to SuTEcH the most glorious son of NUT; may they grant him an eternity of thirty-years' festivals, an infinity of years of peace, all lands, all nations, being bowed down beneath his feet for ever.

[edit] External links

The Kadesh peace agreement - on display at the Istanbul Museum of Archeology

[edit] Further reading

  • Qadesh 1300 B.C., Clash of the Warrior Kings, Mark Healy; Osprey Campaign Series #22, Osprey Publishing, 1993.

Shaw, Ian. “The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt.” Oxford: University Press. 2003.

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Battle of Kadesh

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