The Battle of Kadesh

History of War - War in The Middle East




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The Battle of Kadesh in 1274 BC was one of the largest chariot battles fought which involved between 5,000 to 6,000 chariots.This battle was between the Egyptian Empire under Ramesses ll and the Hittite Empire which was under Muwatalli.

After the banishment of the Hykos 15th Dynasty the Egyptian New Kingdom rulers were more belligerent about asserting control over their states borders. The decline of the Egyptian influence in the region are told through the Amarna Letters which took place in the late Egyptian 18th Dynasty.
This campaign continued into the 19th Dynaysty. Seti wanted to rebuild Egypt Empire to when the Tuthmosis Kings, a century before.

Details of his campaigns are recorded through inscriptions on the walls of the Karnak Temple. The Egyptian posts and garrisoned cities which were once abandoned were reoccupied with the use of 20,000 of his men. Seti also restored peace with the Hittites, campaigned in Canaan and the coastal areas along the Mediterranean were under his control. Kadesh was captured under a second campaign and Amurru commemorated his victory. A large amount of weapons ordered by Ramesses ll the year prior to the expedition he led in his fifth final year are found in historical records.


It is considered that both reigns may have lapsed into Hittite control at some point but it is also suggested that it was more likely that it remained a Hittite vassal state. Ramesses ll marched into Syria in the fourth year of his reign as a last effort to confirm his vassal's loyalty and explore the land of potential battles and at a chance of recapturing Amurru.

Muwatalli's motivation for marching south to confront the Egyptians were spurred on by the recovery of Amurru. Ramesses army marched for a month and reached the South of Kadesh and crossed the Egyptian border in the spring in the fifth year of his reign. Muwatalli the Hittite King had rounded up several of his allies and placed them behind the “Old Kadesh” but Ramesses thought that the Hittite forces were still far off at Aleppo and instructed his force to set up camp under misleading information by two captured spies.

Ramesses commanded an army of four divisions which were Amun, Re, Seth, and the Ptah division. There was evidence that a possible Canaanite military mercenaries with Egyptian allegiance which Ramesses left in Amurru as to secure the port of Sumur. This division would come to play a crucial part in the battle. The presence of Sherden troops among the Egyptian army was of significance as this was the first time they appear as Egyptian mercenaries. Ramesses and the Egyptian advance guard were about 11 kilometres from Kadesh he met two nomads that told him that the Hittites were in Aleppo.

Egyptian scouts then brought to the camp two new prisoners. These spies were captured and beaten until they revealed the truth that the entire Hittite army and king were close. In order to capture Kadesh, Ramesses made a major error increasing the distance between his Amun division and the remaining divisions which split up his forces. This resulted in Ramesses being deserted and surrounded by enemies. Ramesses claimed victory but in reality all he had managed was to rescue his army. Although it was a personal triumph after the disastrous ambush and collecting his troops to fight on the battlefield managing to death and capture.





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