Battle of Kadesh II

Battle of Kadesh II

Fought near Kadesh (believed to be Carchemish on the Euphrates River in northwestern Syria) in 1298 BCE, the Battle of Kadesh was waged between Egyptian forces led by Pharaoh Ramses II and a Hittite army led by King Muwatallish.

Almost everything about this battle is in dispute, including the exact date, the location, the strength of the forces involved, and the performance of the Egyptian troops. It is, however, mentioned in both Egyptian and biblical accounts, so its occurrence is fairly certain. Apparently Ramses was campaigning in Syria, with his army in four separate divisions and advancing against Hittite forces whom he believed to be to the north. Ramses was with the Amon division and decided to camp northwest of Kadesh, which he had bypassed. The main Hittite army was secreted behind Kadesh. No sooner had the Egyptians begun to set up camp than the Hittite leader Muwatallish appeared from the south, sending a reported 2,500 chariots (some across the Euphrates, probably by means of a dam) to attack the Re division, which was unprepared for battle. The Egyptians fled to the north away from their supply bases.

Meanwhile, Ramses and the Amon division came under attack in their camp from another Hittite force from south of Kadesh. Ramses sent messengers by a side route to the west to speed the arrival from the south of the two other Egyptian divisions, the Ptah and Sutekh.

Deserted by many if not most of his troops, who fled northward, Ramses was saved by his bravery in standing his ground but also by the timely arrival of elite auxiliary forces—probably mercenaries from Judah who were not part of the four Egyptian divisions—who cut through the Hittites surrounding the pharaoh. This saved him from death or captivity and brought him out to the Ptah and Sutekh divisions, which had not participated in the battle. Ramses’ generals urged him to return to Egypt with his remaining forces, which he did.

Although the Hittites had inflicted a serious setback on Ramses and retained control of Syria, they found themselves under pressure from both the Assyrians and the Egyptians and ultimately sought a peace treaty with Egypt.

References

Goedicke, Hans, ed. Perspectives on the Battle of Kadesh. Baltimore: Halgo, 1985.

Kitchen, Kenneth A. Pharaoh Triumphant: The Life and Times of Ramses II. Warminster, UK: Aris and Philips, 1982.

Murnane, William J. The Road to Kadesh. Chicago: Oriental Institute, 1990.

Velikovsky, Immanuel. Ramses II and His Time. New York: Doubleday, 1978.