Battle of Megiddo

Battle of Megiddo

The first battle in history to be recorded by eyewitnesses, this engagement was fought near the city of Megiddo (Armageddon in Hebrew) in central Palestine in May 1479 BCE. Egyptian power was declining, and following the death of the Egyptian co-regent Hatshepsut in 1482, Durusha, the king of Kadesh, led a revolt of cities of Palestine and Syria.

Thutmose’s adversaries, who were similarly armed, were led by the king of Kadesh. He assembled a large force at the fortified city of Megiddo, north of Mount Carmel. Disregarding the advice of his generals, who feared an ambush, Thutmose chose the most direct route north to Megiddo, through a narrow pass. Apparently the king of Kadesh believed that the Egyptians would consider this route too risky, for he had deployed the bulk of his forces along another road to the east. Leading in person in a chariot, Thutmose pushed through Megiddo Pass, scattering its few defenders. He then consolidated his forces while the king of Kadesh withdrew his covering troops back on Megiddo.Pharaoh Thutmose III was anxious to assert his power and restore Egyptian authority in the Levant. After ordering the removal of Hatshepsut’s name from all public buildings, Thutmose rebuilt the Egyptian Army, which had been dormant for decades, and led a rapid advance into Palestine. The size of his army has been estimated at 10,000–30,000 men; it is believed to have consisted largely of infantry, with some chariots. The infantrymen were armed with swords and axes and carried shields. The nobility fought from the chariots, probably as archers.

Thutmose drew up his army in a concave formation of three main groups southwest of Megiddo and athwart the small Kina River. Both flanks were on high ground, with the left flank extending to the northwest of Megiddo to cut off any enemy escape along a road from the city. The rebel force was drawn up on high ground near Megiddo.

While the southern wing of his army held his adversary, Thutmose personally led the northern wing in an attack that sliced between the rebel left flank and Megiddo itself, enveloping the enemy force and winning the battle. The surviving enemy soldiers fled; they were momentarily saved by the fact that the Egyptian soldiers halted their pursuit to loot the enemy camp, something that greatly displeased Thutmose.

Thutmose then subjected Megiddo to a siege that lasted at least three months. On the surrender of Megiddo, Thutmose took most of the rebel kings prisoner, although the king of Kadesh escaped. Thutmose did capture the king’s son and took him back to Egypt as a hostage along with the sons of other captured kings. Among the spoils of war the Egyptians recorded more than 900 chariots and 2,200 horses as well as 200 suits of armor. Reportedly, in the entire campaign Thutmose acquired 426 pounds of gold and silver.

References

Benson, Douglas. Ancient Egypt’s Warfare. Ashland, OH: Book Masters, 1995.

Gabriel, Richard, and Donald Boose. The Great Battles of Antiquity. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1994.

Steindorff, George, and Keith Seele. When Egypt Ruled the East. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957.