Battle of Megiddo (15th century BC)

Battle of Megiddo (15th century BC)

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The Battle of Megiddo was fought between Egyptian
Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt was an ancient civilization of Northeastern Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in what is now the modern country of Egypt. Egyptian civilization coalesced around 3150 BC with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under the first pharaoh...

 forces under the command of Pharaoh
Pharaoh
Pharaoh is a title used in many modern discussions of the ancient Egyptian rulers of all periods. The title originates in the term "pr-aa" which means "great house" and describes the royal palace...

 Thutmose III
Thutmose III
Thutmose III was the sixth Pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty. During the first twenty-two years of Thutmose's reign he was co-regent with his stepmother, Hatshepsut, who was named the pharaoh...

 and a large Canaan
Canaan
Canaan is a historical region roughly corresponding to modern-day Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, and the western parts of Jordan...

ite coalition under the king of Kadesh
Kadesh
This article is about Kadesh in the lands of the Amurru, bordering on Damascus Syria up to Hammath; see also Kadesh or Kedesh Kadesh was an ancient city of the Levant, located on or near the headwaters or ford of the Orontes River...

. It is the first battle
Battle
Generally, a battle is a conceptual component in the hierarchy of combat in warfare between two or more armed forces, or combatants. In a battle, each combatant will seek to defeat the others, with defeat determined by the conditions of a military campaign...

 to have been recorded in what is accepted as relatively reliable detail. Megiddo is also the first recorded use of the composite bow
Composite bow
A composite bow is a bow made from horn, wood, and sinew laminated together. The horn is on the belly, facing the archer, and sinew on the back of a wooden core. Sinew and horn will store more energy than wood for the same length of bow...

 and the first body count
Body count
A body count is the total number of people killed in a particular event. In combat, a body count is often based on the number of confirmed kills, but occasionally only an estimate.-Military use:...

. All details of the battle come from Egyptian sources—primarily the hieroglyphic writings on the Hall of Annals in the Temple of Amun-Re at Karnak
Karnak
The Karnak Temple Complex—usually called Karnak—comprises a vast mix of decayed temples, chapels, pylons, and other buildings, notably the Great Temple of Amun and a massive structure begun by Pharaoh Ramses II . Sacred Lake is part of the site as well. It is located near Luxor, some...

, Thebes
Thebes, Egypt
Thebes is the Greek name for a city in Ancient Egypt located about 800 km south of the Mediterranean, on the east bank of the river Nile within the modern city of Luxor. The Theban Necropolis is situated nearby on the west bank of the Nile.-History:...

 (now Luxor
Luxor
Luxor is a city in Upper Egypt and the capital of Luxor Governorate. The population numbers 487,896 , with an area of approximately . As the site of the Ancient Egyptian city of Thebes, Luxor has frequently been characterized as the "world's greatest open air museum", as the ruins of the temple...

), by the military scribe Tjaneni.

The ancient Egyptian account gives the date of the battle as the 21st day of the first month of the third season, of Year 23 of the reign of Thutmose III. It has been claimed that this was April 16, 1457 BC
1450s BC
-Events and trends:* Battle of Megiddo between Thutmose III and a coalition under the King of Kadesh. It is the first battle to have been recorded in what is accepted as relatively reliable detail. The battle took place in year 23 I Shemsu day 20...

 according to the Middle Chronology, although other publications place the battle in 1482 BC
1480s BC
-Events and trends:* 1487 BC—Amphictyon, son of Deucalion and Pyrrha and legendary King of Athens, dies after a reign of 10 years and is succeeded by Erichthonius I of Athens, a grandson of Cranaus.* 1481 BC—August 27—Lunar Saros 43 begins....

 or 1479 BC
1470s BC
-Events:* c. 1478 BC–1390 BC—Hand mirror, Eighteenth dynasty of Egypt, is made. It is now at The Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York.* c. 1473 BC—Hatshepsut started to rule. She is a daughter of Thutmose I. Married to her half brother Thutmose II....

. The Battle of Megiddo was an Egyptian victory and resulted in a rout of the Canaanite forces, which fled to safety in the city of Megiddo
Megiddo (place)
Megiddo is a tell in modern Israel near Megiddo Kibbutz, known for its historical, geographical, and theological importance especially under its Greek name Armageddon. In ancient times Megiddo was an important city-state. Excavations have unearthed 26 layers of ruins, indicated a long period of...

. Their action resulted in the subsequent lengthy Siege of Megiddo.

By reestablishing Egyptian dominance in the Levant
Levant
The Levant or ) is the geographic region and culture zone of the "eastern Mediterranean littoral between Anatolia and Egypt" . The Levant includes most of modern Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel, the Palestinian territories, and sometimes parts of Turkey and Iraq, and corresponds roughly to the...

, Pharaoh Thutmose III began a reign in which the Egyptian Empire reached its greatest expanse.

Annals of Thutmose III


During Thutmose III
Thutmose III
Thutmose III was the sixth Pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty. During the first twenty-two years of Thutmose's reign he was co-regent with his stepmother, Hatshepsut, who was named the pharaoh...

's first campaign in the Levant
Levant
The Levant or ) is the geographic region and culture zone of the "eastern Mediterranean littoral between Anatolia and Egypt" . The Levant includes most of modern Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel, the Palestinian territories, and sometimes parts of Turkey and Iraq, and corresponds roughly to the...

, his personal scribe, Tjaneni, kept a daily journal on parchment. In approximately his 42nd regnal year, many years after his campaigns in the Levant
Levant
The Levant or ) is the geographic region and culture zone of the "eastern Mediterranean littoral between Anatolia and Egypt" . The Levant includes most of modern Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel, the Palestinian territories, and sometimes parts of Turkey and Iraq, and corresponds roughly to the...

 had ended, Thutmose III
Thutmose III
Thutmose III was the sixth Pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty. During the first twenty-two years of Thutmose's reign he was co-regent with his stepmother, Hatshepsut, who was named the pharaoh...

 instructed his artisans to inscribe his military exploits into the walls of Amun-Re's temple at Karnak
Karnak
The Karnak Temple Complex—usually called Karnak—comprises a vast mix of decayed temples, chapels, pylons, and other buildings, notably the Great Temple of Amun and a massive structure begun by Pharaoh Ramses II . Sacred Lake is part of the site as well. It is located near Luxor, some...

. The annals describe in lavish detail 14 campaigns led by Thutmose III in the Levant, the booty gained through his campaigning, tribute received from conquered regions, and, lastly, offerings to Amun-Re. The sequence of depictions indicate the New Kingdom's belief on the interactions of the gods with warfare: praise and offerings to the deities in exchange for their divine help in war.

Additionally, the annals show the long-lasting effects of the battle of Megiddo. After Thutmose III's victory at Megiddo and his successful campaigns in the Levant over the next 20 years, Egypt's rise to power in the international community and its evolution into an empire is evident in the annals. Depictions show international diplomacy through the giving of gifts from Babylon, the Hittite Empire, and other prominent and powerful regions during this time period.

Campaign against the rebels in Canaan


Pharaoh Thutmose III
Thutmose III
Thutmose III was the sixth Pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty. During the first twenty-two years of Thutmose's reign he was co-regent with his stepmother, Hatshepsut, who was named the pharaoh...

 began a reign in which the Egyptian Empire reached its greatest expanse by reinforcing the long standing Egyptian presence in the Levant
Levant
The Levant or ) is the geographic region and culture zone of the "eastern Mediterranean littoral between Anatolia and Egypt" . The Levant includes most of modern Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel, the Palestinian territories, and sometimes parts of Turkey and Iraq, and corresponds roughly to the...

. After waiting impatiently for the end of his regency by the female Egyptian Pharaoh Hatshepsut
Hatshepsut
Hatshepsut also Hatchepsut; meaning Foremost of Noble Ladies;1508–1458 BC) was the fifth pharaoh of the eighteenth dynasty of Ancient Egypt...

, he immediately responded to a revolt of local rulers near Kadesh in the vicinity of modern-day Syria
Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

. As Egyptians buffer provinces in the land of the Amurru along the border with the Hittites attempted to change their vassalage, Thutmose III, dealt with the threat personally. The Canaanites are thought to have been allied with the Mitanni
Mitanni
Mitanni or Hanigalbat was a loosely organized Hurrian-speaking state in northern Syria and south-east Anatolia from ca. 1500 BC–1300 BC...

 and Amurru from the region of the two rivers between the headwaters of the Orantes and the Jordan. The driving and main force behind this revolt was the King of Kadesh
Kadesh
This article is about Kadesh in the lands of the Amurru, bordering on Damascus Syria up to Hammath; see also Kadesh or Kedesh Kadesh was an ancient city of the Levant, located on or near the headwaters or ford of the Orontes River...

. The powerful fortress of Kadesh offered protection to him and the city. The King of Megiddo, with an equally strong fortress, joined the alliance. The importance of Megiddo was its geographical location along the southwestern edge of the Jezreel Valley
Jezreel Valley
-Etymology:The Jezreel Valley takes its name from the ancient city of Jezreel which was located on a low hill overlooking the southern edge of the valley, though some scholars think that the name of the city originates from the name of the clan which founded it, and whose existence is mentioned in...

 just beyond the Mount Carmel ridge and the Mediterranean. From this location, Megiddo controlled the Via Maris
Via Maris
Via Maris is the modern name for an ancient trade route, dating from the early Bronze Age, linking Egypt with the northern empires of Syria, Anatolia and Mesopotamia — modern day Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Syria....

, the main trade route between Egypt and Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia is a toponym for the area of the Tigris–Euphrates river system, largely corresponding to modern-day Iraq, northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey and southwestern Iran.Widely considered to be the cradle of civilization, Bronze Age Mesopotamia included Sumer and the...

.

The Egyptian inscriptions of the campaign on the Temple of Karnak come from a daily journal kept by the scribe Tjaneni during the campaign. In the Egyptian account Thutmose III
Thutmose III
Thutmose III was the sixth Pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty. During the first twenty-two years of Thutmose's reign he was co-regent with his stepmother, Hatshepsut, who was named the pharaoh...

 gathered an army of chariot
Chariot
The chariot is a type of horse carriage used in both peace and war as the chief vehicle of many ancient peoples. Ox carts, proto-chariots, were built by the Proto-Indo-Europeans and also built in Mesopotamia as early as 3000 BC. The original horse chariot was a fast, light, open, two wheeled...

s and infantry
Infantry
Infantrymen are soldiers who are specifically trained for the role of fighting on foot to engage the enemy face to face and have historically borne the brunt of the casualties of combat in wars. As the oldest branch of combat arms, they are the backbone of armies...

 that numbered between ten and twenty thousand men. As the Egyptians mustered their forces the king of Kadesh gathered many tribal chieftains from Syria, Aram and Canaan around him, estimated at between ten and fifteen thousand, entered Megiddo and set his forces at the waters of Taanach. He expected that his enemy would come by way of Dothaim - Taanach, the main route from the Mediterranean lowlands into the Valley of Kishon, and from Egypt to Mesopotamia. The army assembled at the border fortress Tjaru
Zarw
Tjaru was an ancient Egyptian fortress on the Way of Horus, the major road leading out of Egypt into Canaan. It also appeared, though much less commonly, under the names Zaru, Tharu, Djaru and Tjel, and was known to the Greeks as Zele or Sile...

 (called Sile
Sile
Şile is a small holiday city on the Black Sea, 70 km from the city of Istanbul, Turkey. Şile is the also the name of the district and the municipality that contain the city center of Şile...

in Greek) and arrived ten days later at the loyal city of Gaza
Gaza
Gaza , also referred to as Gaza City, is a Palestinian city in the Gaza Strip, with a population of about 450,000, making it the largest city in the Palestinian territories.Inhabited since at least the 15th century BC,...

. After one day's rest, it left for the city of Yehem, which was reached after 11 days. Here, Thutmose sent out scouts
Reconnaissance
Reconnaissance is the military term for exploring beyond the area occupied by friendly forces to gain information about enemy forces or features of the environment....

. To continue north, they had to pass the Mount Carmel
Mount Carmel
Mount Carmel ; , Kármēlos; , Kurmul or جبل مار إلياس Jabal Mar Elyas 'Mount Saint Elias') is a coastal mountain range in northern Israel stretching from the Mediterranean Sea towards the southeast. Archaeologists have discovered ancient wine and oil presses at various locations on Mt. Carmel...

 ridge. Behind it lay the city and fortress of Megiddo
Megiddo
Megiddo is a Hebrew place name that can refer to:* Tel Megiddo, site of an ancient city in northern Israel's Jezreel valley** Battle of Megiddo ** Battle of Megiddo ** Battle of Megiddo...

, where the revolting forces had gathered. There were three possible routes from Yehem to Megiddo. Both the northern route, via Zefti, and the southern route, by way of Taanach, gave safe access to the Jezreel Valley
Jezreel Valley
-Etymology:The Jezreel Valley takes its name from the ancient city of Jezreel which was located on a low hill overlooking the southern edge of the valley, though some scholars think that the name of the city originates from the name of the clan which founded it, and whose existence is mentioned in...

. The middle route, via Aruna (modern Wadi Ara
Wadi Ara
Wadi Ara or Nahal Iron , refers to an area within Israel that is mostly populated by Arabs. It is located northwest of the Green Line and is mostly within Israel's Haifa District. Today, Highway 65 runs through the wadi.-Geography:...

), was more direct but risky; it followed a narrow ravine, and the troops could only travel single-file. If the enemy waited at the end of the ravine, the Egyptians would risk being cut down piecemeal. The army leaders pleaded with him not to take the difficult road but to take either of the two easier roads. Instead, with information from the scouts, Thutmose III decided to take the direct path to Megiddo. He believed that if his generals advise him the easy route, then his enemy would also, so he decided to do the unexpected.

The King of Kadesh had left large infantry detachments guarding the two more likely paths, and virtually ignored Aruna, the narrow mountain pass coming in from the south. Ignoring the danger of spreading out his army in the mountains where leading elements might be subject to enemy ambush in narrow mountain passes, and his main force still far behind in Aruna, unable to come to their aid, Thutmose took the direct route through Wadi Ara
Wadi Ara
Wadi Ara or Nahal Iron , refers to an area within Israel that is mostly populated by Arabs. It is located northwest of the Green Line and is mostly within Israel's Haifa District. Today, Highway 65 runs through the wadi.-Geography:...

. To reduce the risk, Thutmose himself led his men through Aruna. With his infantry and the light cavalry of mounted bowmen, known as haibrw or the horsemen going by the side of the mountains, to take out any scouts that might be posted and leaving the road to the main force of chariots, he moved in quickly. With the city lightly guarded by the enemy, Thutmose led a quick assault, scattered the rebels and entered the valley unopposed. Now, the Egyptian army had a clear path to Megiddo, with large parts of the rebel army far away to the north and south.

Battle and siege


Thutmose seized the opportunity. He set up camp and, during the night, arrayed his forces close to the enemy. The next morning, they attacked. It cannot be established if the surprised king of Kadesh had managed to invert his front lines in time, and prepare for battle. Even if he did that, it did not bring him much help. His rebel forces were on high ground adjacent to the fortress. The Egyptian line was arranged in a concave formation, consisting of three wings, that threatened both rebel flanks. Both the Egyptians and the rebels are estimated to have had around 1,000 chariots and 10,000 infantry. The Pharaoh led the attack from the center. The combination of position and numbers, superior maneuverability of their left wing along with an early, bold attack, broke the enemy's will; their line immediately collapsed. Those near the city fled into it, closing the gates behind them.

The Egyptian soldiers fell to plundering the enemy camp. During the plunder they captured 924 chariots and 200 suits of armor. Unfortunately for the Egyptians, during this confusion, the scattered rebel forces, including the kings of Kadesh and Megiddo, were able to rejoin the defenders inside the city. Those inside lowered clothing to the men and chariots and pulled them up over the walls. Thus, the opportunity of a quick capture of the city following the battle was lost.

The city was besieged for seven months and the King of Kadesh escaped. Tuthmoses set up siege-works and encircled the town, eventually forcing its occupants to surrender. At Karnak it is recorded that the victorious army took home 340 prisoners, 2,041 mares, 191 foals, 6 stallions, 924 chariots, 200 suits of armor, 502 bows, 1,929 cattle, 22,500 sheep, and the royal armor, chariot and tent-poles of the King of Megiddo. The city and citizens were spared. A number of other cities in the Jezreel Valley were conquered and Egyptian authority in the area was restored.

Results


Egypt's realm was expanded by this campaign. As Paul K. Davis wrote, "By reestablishing Egyptian dominance in Palestine, Thutmose began a reign in which Egypt reached its greatest expanse as an empire." Thutmose III
Thutmose III
Thutmose III was the sixth Pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty. During the first twenty-two years of Thutmose's reign he was co-regent with his stepmother, Hatshepsut, who was named the pharaoh...

required from the defeated kings that they each send a son to the Egyptian court. There, they received an Egyptian education. When they returned to their homelands, they governed with Egyptian sympathies. Nevertheless, the victory at Megiddo was only the beginning of the pacification of the Levant. Only after several further campaigns, conducted almost annually, was the unrest cooled.

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