(3000-1543 BC)
(DBA I/2ab)

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According to ancient Egyptian history, King Menes or Narmer united Upper and Lower Egypt around approximately 3000 BC, and built the great city of Memphis to celebrate the unification. The dualistic nature of Egypt survived through ten Dynasties of rulers, as the kingdom prospered and declined in turn. The power of the Kings, however, was constantly challenged by provincial governors and reoccuring splits between the North and South. The rise of the Heracleopolitan Kings (9th and 10th Dynasties) saw a divided Egypt with the north in ascendancy as the Old Kingdom period came to a close.

Prince Mentuhotep Nebhepetre of Thebes (a.k.a. Wesat, Luxor) reunited the Upper and Lower Kingdoms of Egypt circa 2040 BC, beginning what is referred to as the Middle Kingdom Period, which lasted until approximately 1640 BC. During the reigns of Sesostris I and Sesostris III (c. 1962-1842 BC), the Egyptians campaigned in Libya and consolidated their hold over Lower Nubia by building a line of at least sixteen forts and fortified towns along a 35 kilometer stretch of the Nile River known as the Second Cataract.

Following the Middle Kingdom, there was an intermediate period in which weak 14th, 16th and 17th Dynasty kings ruled a fragmented Egypt, co-existing with the15th Dynasty of the Asiatic Hyksos rulers, who controlled large portions of Northern Egypt after 1645 BC. The DBA list ends in approximately 1543 BC, when Khamose reformed the army and starting driving out the Hyksos, founding the first of the New Egyptian dynasties.


The Old & Middle Kingdom Egyptian army was comprised primarily of spear and bowmen, each recruited from three different classes: Shemsu (retainers), Ahauty (warriors) and Nome (conscripts). In addition, there was a small proportion of the army (i.e. groups of Ahauty and the famous Menhat Axemen) who carried waraxes.

Old Kingdom (I/2a) Middle Kingdom (I/2b) Notes
1x 4Bd or Lit (Gen) 1x LCh (Gen) Pharaoh or General with his Shemshu (retainers)
5x 4Bw 4x 4Bw Ahouty (warrior class) archers
2x 3Bd 3x 3Bd Ahouty (warrior class), including Menfat axemen, marines, and spearmen of the residence.
1x 3Bd or 3Bw More Ahouty or Medjay/Nubian archers.
1x 7Hd Nome (Egyptian conscripts)
2x 2Ps Egyptian Javelinmen (w/quiver carriers), Bedouin slingers, and/or Medjay/Nubian archers

The DBM Early Egyptian (I/2) army list allows for up to 8 javelinmen with quiver carriers as Reg. Ax(O) or Reg. Ps(S), which suggests that at least one of the 2Ps elements could be reclassed as 1x 3Ax or 2Ps. The DBM list also allows for upgrading the CnC element as Reg. Cv (O) after 1640 BC, which suggests that the I/2b CnC should be revised as 1x LCh or Cv (Gen).


Historically, the close fighters formed lines or columns in the center of the battleline supported by archers and lighter auxiliaries on the wings. The archers would discharge a rain of arrows at short range, and then the spear and axe-armed fighters would close for the decisive melee. Middle Kingdom chariots were primarily missile platforms, often held in reserve to be unleased in the pursuit.

As a low aggression, littoral army, the Early Egyptians lack killer elements, but have a few tricks up their sleeve. Egyptian bow can shoot from bad going marsh or dunes, giving them some protection against enemy chariots and Blades. Psiloi can give the Egyptian Blades rear support against chariots or other mounted. The Egyptian Blade fights well in all going, although it will not want to confront Warband in bad going. The army is not very mobile, but can make up for it in part with the flank threat posed by a littoral landing. The Egyptian litter general (I/2a) and the horde element will require some experience to use effectively.

Against Nubian bow and psiloi, Pharoah will want to close quickly with his Blades, with Bow in support. The early Bedouin, Libyans and Early Syrians should be met in good going to offset their Auxilia and/or Psiloi heavy force. The Later Amorites and Early Hyksos are similar in composition, with the Egyptians having more bow and the Amorites more auxilia. Deployment will be critical. The later Hyskos are more mobile, and require a skilled use of the Egyptian bow.

Camps and BUAs

An Egyptian-style tent or party of slave bearers makes for a simple but appropriate camp. Anther possibility is a group of priests bearing a statue or representation of the Egyptian gods Horus or Seth.  Baueda offers an Egyptian-style tent in their scenics range.

For BUAs, subjects include walled cities such as Memphis and great temples. One colorful possibility would be a pyramid, which were built during the Old Kingdom period.

Geoff Nurcombe's Middle Kingdom Army (Essex)


Chariot (Navigator), Essex and Gladiator (Bi1-Bi10) offer ranges of 15mm early Egyptians suitable for the Old and Middle Kingdom period. Nubians can also be found in most New Kingdom Egyptian ranges. Simon Bargery at Bend Sinister Miniatures is developing several specialty packs, including Egyptian fan bearers and Pharoah in litter.

Other Resources

Bill MacGillivray's Early Egyptians (Essex Miniatures)

Osprey's Ancient Armies of the Middle East, with illustrations by Angus MacBride, lightly touches on Egypt of the Old and Middle Kingdom period.

Other general historical titles from the De Bellis Bookstore include the Penquin Historical Atlas of Ancient Egypt and the Oxford Illustrated History of Ancient Egypt.

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of Egypt-related websites. A few that may be helpful include:

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Last Updated: 27 June 2004

Questions, comments, suggestions welcome. Send them to Chris Brantley, IamFanaticus@gmail.com.