September 06, 2017

Product Spotlight: The New Kingdom Armies of Ancient Egypt and the Battle of Kadesh by Morgan Miniatures Part 1

The Battle of Kadesh
Egyptians, Sherdens and Hittites from the period known as the Egyptian New Kingdom (NK) come to life with the first figures in the new Morgan Miniatures range examining the organizations, weapons and uniforms of the forces who fought on both sides of the ancient biblical conflict known as The Battle of Kadesh. Look for future releases of Pharaohs & Kings & Chariots too! 

Morgan Miniatures are 60mm (1/30th scale), matt painted, white metal figures produced in the U.K. Each figure is individually hand-painted in the connoisseur style. These figures are compatible with King & Country Egyptains.

For many people ancient Egypt is all about religion and the afterlife, as manifested in the various pyramids and temples still to be found there, not to mention mummies. Her endeavours and achievements on the field of battle are much less appreciated, and yet Egypt was a superpower of the region for much of the period, and particularly in the New Kingdom when she exercised that power to maintain her interests against many different enemies.

One of the oldest civilisations on earth, Egypt had long benefited from its relative isolation from other centres of population, which meant it was naturally well protected and did not require large effective armies. As a result, when a potent threat did appear in the form of the Hyksos, Egypt, or at least Lower Egypt, seems to have crumbled fairly swiftly. However Upper Egypt was not attacked or occupied, and in time they learned the lessons of their enemy and drove the Hyksos out, ushering in the phase known as the New Kingdom, which was to be much more militaristic and imperial in tone, with effective and powerful armies carving out an empire, particularly in Palestine and Syria.
View of the Orontes River Near the Battlefield in Syria
The New Kingdom Battle of Kadesh (also Qadesh) took place between the forces of the Egyptian Empire under Ramesses II and the Hittite Empire under Muwatalli II at the city of Kadesh on the Orontes River, in what is now Syria. The battle is generally dated to 1274 BCE, and is the earliest battle in recorded history for which details of tactics and formations are known.

Morgan Hittite

The empire of the Hittites who once lived in what is modern Turkey and northern Syria, was, in its day, as powerful and important as that of Egypt. It had first began to appear around the late 17th century BCE, and finally collapsed about 1200 BCE (The New Kingdom Hittite Empire lasted from 1400-1200 BCE), but in the interim it was a regional power that stretched at its height from the Dardanelles to Palestine. Inevitably this brought it into contact, and conflict, with the Nile domain of the pharaohs as both competed for territory and influence along their common border. 

Morgan Egyptian Heavy Infantry
In his fourth year, Ramesses marched north along the Canaanite coast and reached Amurru, advancing as far as the DogRiver (Nahr El Kelb). Ramesses secured the allegiance of the King of Amurru, Benteshina, who deserted his former overlord the King of Hatti. This annoyed Muwatalli greatly, and would have been taken as just cause for war by the Hittites. The Hittites subsequently regarded the war as fought against both Egypt and Amurru.  Muwatalli made preparations for retaking Amurru and fighting Egypt. The battle of Kadesh would be fought because Kadesh was the Pharaoh’s next objective, and this time the Egyptians would be opposed by all the might of the Hittite King.

Modern Day View of the Battlefield in Syria
The Battle
Ramesses' army crossed the Egyptian border in the spring of year five of his reign and, after a month's march, reached the area of Kadesh from the South. The Hittite king Muwatalli, who had mustered several of his allies, had positioned his troops behind "Old Kadesh", but Ramesses, misled by two spies whom the Egyptians had captured, thought the Hittite forces were still far off, at Aleppo, and ordered his forces to set up camp. Ramesses led an army of four divisions: Amun, Re, Seth and Ptah. These are often called ‘divisions’, but the Egyptian word translates as ‘army’ indicating that they were self-contained forces that included infantry and chariotry; and which could operate independently. From period documents it has been suggested that each army included at least 5000 men.

While the Egyptians advanced between the Lebanese mountains and along the ‘valley of the cedars’ (the Bekaa valley) a huge Hittite force arrived in the vicinity of Aleppo, anciently known as Kaleb, about 100 miles north of Kadesh. As Egyptian texts say, ‘they covered the mountains and the valleys like locusts in their multitudes.’  The list of Hittite allied contingents given in Egyptian records shows the vast extent of the Hittite king’s empire at this time. As well as troops from the Hittite heartland and those provided according to treaty obligations by vassal kingdoms, there were mercenary contingents hired from various friendly kingdoms and tribes. 

Morgan Sherden Warrior
The Pharaoh was with his bodyguard troops, which included household chariotry and Sherden warriors on foot, leading the army of Amun. They made camp on the hills overlooking the Orontes valley and the plain of Kadesh. Ramesses probably originally intended to wait here for the rest of his forces to arrive, before crossing the Orontes for the final advance to Kadesh but in his haste to capture Kadesh, Ramesses II committed a major tactical error. He increased the distance between his Amun Division and the remaining Re, Ptah and Seth divisions, thereby splitting up his combined forces. When they were attacked by the Hittites, the pharaoh quickly sent urgent messengers to hasten the arrival of the Ptah and Seth divisions of his army, which were still some distance away on the far side of the River Orontes. Before Ramesses could organize his troops, however, Muwatalli's chariots attacked the Re division, which was caught in the open and almost destroyed. Some of its survivors fled to the safety of the Amun camp, but they were pursued by the Hittite forces. The Hittite chariotry crashed through the Amun camp's shield wall and began their assault. This created panic among the Amun troops as well. However, the momentum of the Hittite attack was already starting to wane, as the impending obstacles of such a large camp forced many Hittite charioteers to slow their attack.

In the Egyptian account of the battle, Ramesses describes himself as being deserted and surrounded by enemies: "...No officer was with me, no charioteer, no soldier of the army, no shield-bearer ..."

Only with help from the gods did Ramesses II personally defeat his attackers and return to the Egyptian lines: "...I was before them like Set in his moment. I found the mass of chariots in whose midst I was, scattering them before my horses..."

Ramesses Counterattacks.
The Pharaoh, now facing a desperate fight for his life, summoned up his courage, called upon his god Amun, and fought valiantly to save himself. Ramesses personally led several charges into the Hittite ranks together with his personal guard, some of the chariots from his Amun division and survivors from the routed division of Re, and using the superior maneuverability of their chariots and the power and range of Egyptian composite bows, deployed and attacked the overextended and tired Hittite chariotry.

The Hittites, meanwhile, who understandably believed their enemies to be totally routed, had stopped to loot the Egyptian camp and, in doing so, became easy targets for Ramesses' counterattack. Ramesses' action was successful in driving the Hittites back towards the Orontes and away from the Egyptian camp, while in the ensuing pursuit, the heavier Hittite chariots were easily overtaken and dispatched by the lighter, faster, Egyptian chariots.

Final phase of the battle.
Although he had suffered a significant reversal, Muwatalli still commanded a large force of reserve chariotry and infantry plus the walls of the town. As the retreat reached the river, he ordered another thousand chariots to attack the Egyptians, the stiffening element consisting of the high nobles who surrounded the king. As the Hittite forces approached the Egyptian camp again, the Ne'arin troop contingent from Amurru suddenly arrived, this time surprising the Hittites. Ramesses had also reorganized his forces and, expecting the help, also attacked from the camp.

After six charges, the Hittite forces were almost surrounded, and the survivors were faced with the humiliation of having to swim back across the Orontes River to rejoin their infantry. Pinned against the Orontes, the elements remaining of the Hittites not overtaken in the withdrawal were forced to abandon their chariots and attempt to swim the Orontes (This flight is depicted in Egyptian inscriptions as "hurried" to say the least—"as fast as Crocodiles swimming"), where many of them drowned.

The next morning, a second, inconclusive battle was fought. Muwatalli is reported by Ramesses to have called for a truce, but this may be propaganda since Hittite records note no such arrangement. Neither side gained total victory. Both the Egyptians and the Hittites had suffered heavy casualties; the Egyptian army failed to break Kadesh's defenses, while the Hittite army had failed to gain a victory in the face of what earlier must have seemed certain success.

There is no consensus about the outcome or what took place, with views ranging from an Egyptian victory, a draw, and, according to the view of Iranian Egyptologist Mehdi Yarahmadi,  an Egyptian defeat (with the Egyptian accounts simply propaganda).

View Our Morgan Kadesh Listings


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