The Battle of Kadesh
- In the year 1275 B.C. a war occurred in the ancient Near East. I had to do with a rivalry between two major powers. One was Egypt, which was ruled by the pharaoh Ramses II. The other was the Hittite empire whose ruler was Muwatallish.The Hittite empire was based in Anatolia. Under Muwatallish the Hittites began taking territory in Syria. This did not please Ramses, for much of Syria had been under Egyptian rule. The Syrian kingdom of Amurru had defected to the Hittites. Rimiharrinas, the ruler of the Syrian kingdom of Alepp, made an alliance with Muwatallish. In conjunction with this treaty a declaration was made. It said, "The gods of Hatti and the gods of Aleppo will be witnesses and guarantors of this treaty."The Egyptian pharaoh Ramses decided to go to war with the Hittites. He gathered an army that was of considerable size. It included 20,000 soldiers. Not all the troops were Egyptians. There were some Sherdan mercenaries. In addition the army also had some recruits from Amurru who opposed the Amurru alliance with the Hittites. Ramses personally led the army as it marched north to Syria.Some incorrect information worked against Ramses. He had been told that the Hittites and their allies were still near Haleb. Ramses split his army into two parts. He led the one in the front while the other division marched seven miles behind his unit.Then Ramses found out the truth. He learned fromtwo captured Hittites that the enemy was much closer. Ramses sent two messengers (One was his grand vizier.) south to tell the other division to hurry and link up with him. Ramses halted his army and began setting up camp.But the Hittites and their allies attacked sooner than expected. Ramses and his division stood alone. Muwatallish had a powerful force that included 2500 war chariots. His allies, the kings of Aleppo and Karkhemish, had 1000 chariots. They smashed into the Egyptian army and a major battle took place by the Orontes River that ran by the hill of Kadesh.Things did not go especially well for the Egyptians. Their losses were heavy. Hittite troops crushed a major part of the Egyptian force and charged into the camp of Ramses, surrounding him. Ramses had only his personal bodyguards and servants by his side. He was on the verge of being captures.Then a contingent of Egyptian troops arrived who had not even been authorized to go on the campaign. They were soldiers who had just finished their basic training and had had no combat experience. These soldiers were led by cadets who were not yet full fledged officers.But they did an amazing thing. They broke through the Hittite line at a certain point and rescued their pharaoh. Ramses must have been glad of that. Those young men had wanted to prove themselves and they certainly did it.The Egyptian army retreated south and the Hittites did not pursue them. Ramses had almost been captured and he had suffered a high casualty rate.Ramses got back to Egypt and berated his troops. He blamed them for the failure. It was really his own fault. He had not sent enough scouts to explore the countryside in Syria. Splitting up his troops had been a serious mistake.Egypt and the Hittite empire signed a peace treaty not long after the battle of Kadesh. It acknowledged Hittite domination in Syria.Neal Robbins
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