NEW KINGDOM EGYPTIAN
(1543 BC - 1069 BC)
(DBA I/22)

By Tom Ryan

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The New Kingdom in Egyptian history is probably its most glorious in terms of building, culture and military accomplishments. It began with the expulsion of the Hyksos and from this point on, most of its Pharaohs were generals and foreign policy centered more and more around security, especially in Syria. The Pharaohs regarded Syria as not only economically vital, but also their manifest destiny.

18th Dynasty (1550-1307 BCE)
1550-1525 Ahmose (Amonhotep)
1525-1504 Amenophis I
1504-1492 Thuthmose I (Tuthmosis)
1492-1479 Thuthmose II (Tuthmosis)
1479-1425 Thuthmose III (Tuthmosis)
1473-1458 Hatshepsut
1427-1401 Amenophis II
1401-1391 Tuthmosis IV
1391-1353 Amenophis III
1353-1335 Amenophis IV (Akhenaten)
1335-1333 Smenkhkare
1333-1323 Tutankhamun
1323-1319 Aya (Ay)
1319-1307 Haremhab (Horemhab)

 

After the expulsion of the Hyksos, Amenhotep I, who reigned 1551-1524 BC, began to extend Egypt's boundaries in Nubia and Palestine. When Thutmose III achieved sole rule after the death of his mother, Hatshepsut in 1483 BC, he reconquered Syria and Palestine, which had broken away during their co-regency. He then continued to expand his empire southward beyond the fifth cataract, into Nubia and westward into Libya. Amenhotep II, who reigned 1453-1419 BC, and Thutmose IV tried to maintain the Asian conquests in the face of growing threats from the Mitanni and Hittites, but they found it necessary to use negotiations as well as force to penetration further into Mesopotamia.

While Amenhotep III ruled peacefully from 1386-1349 BC, the Hittites had been establishing control over Syria and threatening Egypt's position in Palestine. He was only successful in maintaining the balance of power among Egypt's neighbours by diplomacy. His son and successor, Amenhotep IV, more commonly known as Akhenaton, was a religious reformer who fought the power of the Amon priesthood. His only military contribution was to let the imperial possessions slip away, thereby setting the stage for the more dynamic external and military affairs of the 19th Dynasty.

19th Dynasty (1307-1196 BCE)

1307-1306 Ramesses I
1306-1290 Seti I
1290-1224 Ramesses II
1224-1214 Merneptah
1214-1204 Seti II
1204-1198 Siptah
1198-1196 Twosre

 

The 19th Dynasty was founded by Ramses I, who had served his predecessor, Horemhab, as vizier and commander of the army. He reigned for only two years, from 1293-1291 BC. He was succeeded by his son, Seti I, who reigned 1291-1279 BC and is considered to be one of the most active and successful military leaders of the period. He led campaigns against Syria, Palestine, the Libyans, and the Hittites.

His most famous son, Ramses II, succeeded him and reigned for nearly 67 years. He was responsible for a great deal of construction at sites such as Luxor and Karnak. He built the Ramesseum (his funerary temple at Thebes), the rock-cut temples at Abu Simbel, as well as sanctuaries at Abydos and Memphis and these provide an invaluable source of information on this period. After campaigns against the Hittites, climaxing in the much interpreted battle of Qadesh around 1300, Ramses concluded a treaty with them culminating in a marriage to a Hittite princess.

His son Merneptah, who reigned 1212-1202 BC, defeated one wave of Sea Peoples, and he is reported to have caused some havoc in Israel. Later rulers of this dynasty had to contend with constant uprisings by subject peoples within the empire.

20th Dynasty (1196-1070 BCE)

1196-1194 Sethnakhte
1194-1094 Ramesses III-XI

 

The second ruler of the 20th Dynasty, Ramses III, halted, but did not defeat the Sea Peoples. He gave them land in Canaan, which became Philistia. His mortuary complex at Medinet Habu, near Thebes documents his military victories.

The rising power of the priesthood of Amon and that of the army contributed to the decline of the New Kingdom and a general state of chaos after Ramses' death. This period offers a backdrop for wargame battles that are rarely seen, that is, civil war scenarios.

 

Army Composition

I/22a (1543-1200 BCE) I/22b (1199 -
1069 BCE)
Notes

1x LCh (Gen)

Pharoah and his retainers.
3x LCh These represent the light, fast, maneuverable chariots that differentiated the New Kingdom armies from those that came before. The role of the chariotry was to support the infantry in battle. They were crewed by a driver (kedjen) who would also act as a shield bearer, and an archer (seneny). For variety, one of these elements might be replaced by a Syrian allied Maryannu, such as those that may have comprised the Ne'arin division at the Battle of Qadesh.

3x 3/4Bd 4Bd represent Egyptian "menfat" soldiers carrying a large axe which would be swung two-handed while the shield is slung over his back. After 1279 BC they might depict Shardana Royal Guard, a special unit of Sherden warriors with their distinctive horned helmets and long swords.

3Bd represent Egyptian Royal guards and other close fighters with spear and side arm, usually an axe or klopesh. Elements can also be depicted as Sherden after 1200 BC and/or Sea Peoples colonists after 1176 AD.

After 1279 BCE, Egyptian close fighters are more likely to have advanced in a phalanx type of a formation, thrusting their spears from behind an overlapping shield wall.

4x 4Bw 3x 4Bw Much of an Egyptian army would have been made up of archers, many of them formed in close order. Their role was to shower the enemy with a large volume of arrows in support of the close fighters.
  1x 3Wb Libyan swordsmen or Gasgan mercenary/slave soldiers.
1x 2Ps 1x 2Ps They might be Egyptians or recruits from vassal or allied states, or mercenaries, such as Nubian or Syrian archers or Libyan, Palestinian or Bedouin javelinmen.

Enemies

The 18th and 19th Dynasties (I/22a) must contend with the Nubians (I/3), Early Bedouin (I/6ab), Early Libyan (I/7ab), Hyksos (I/17b), Mitanni (I/19), Syro-Cannanites (I/20b), Hittites (I/24ab), Middle/Early Neo-Assyrians (I/25a), and Neo-Hittites (I/31a).  The 20th Dynasty must also contend with the Sea-Peoples (I/28), Philistines (I/29ab) and Early Hebrews (I/27) as well as the  Early Bedouins (I/6b), Early Libyans (I/7b), Ugarit and Syro-Cannanites (I/20ab), Hittites (I/24b) and Neo-Hittites (I/31a).

Tactics

The Egyptians had developed relatively sophisticated infantry tactics in the Old and Middle Kingdoms involving coordination between massed archers and close combat infantry. With the introduction of chariots by the Hyksos, the New Kingdom generals were able to add a mobile missile platform and scouting arm which helped to make Egypt the most powerful civilization in the region. The chariots would normally open the battle with volleys of arrows intended to break up enemy infantry formations and chariotry. This tactic proved successful, especially against the slower, bulkier chariots of the Hittites. The archers would also provide softening up and support fire for the main offensive arm, the close combat infantry.

Camps and BUAs

One of the reliefs at Luxor commemorating the battle of Qadesh shows a detailed depiction of Rameses' camp. A shield wall encloses the camp that contains unhitched chariots, supplies, beasts of burden, tents, a pet lion and a Royal enclosure for Pharaoh and his entourage.

Chris Brantley:  Baueda offers an Egyptian-style tent in their scenics range.  Grendel Miniatures has a number of Egyptian gates and ruins.  Hovels' 10mm fantasy range includes a number of Egyptian items, including an obelisk (1F200) that makes a great Barker Marker.

Here is some Egyptian eyecandy inspiration, courtesy of the Fanatici:

Figures

15mm New Kingdom Egyptian ranges are available from a wide assortment of manufacturers including Chariot, Essex (NKE and Later NKE), Falcon UK, Gladiator, Hall of Ancient Soldiers, Irregular, Lancashire, Minifigs, Museum, MY Miniatures, Old Glory, Peter Pig, and others.  Peter Pig's range includes NKE casualty figures. Amazon, Essex, Old Glory, Hourglass, Irregular, Lamming, Minfigs, Wargames Foundry and others offer NKE in 25/28mm.  In 6mm, look to Baccus, Irregular and Heroics and Ross.

Painting Tips

In a nutshell, common Egyptian soldiers wore white kilts and white headgear. The headgear is usually decorated with stripes that could be black, blue, yellow or as is most commonly depicted, red. Shields were normally covered in hide. The more senior officers probably had shields covered in more exotic hides than the bulk of the soldiers whose would probably be covered in cowhide. Chariots were constructed of a wooden frame covered with leather, either painted or not, with woven, wicker floors. Horse panoply would likely have been very colourful. While iron was available, it was far too rare and expensive even for Pharaoh's weapons or armour, so all metal should be depicted as bronze. In very rare instances gold might be used for decoration.

Other Resources

Osprey publishes three reference titles featuring pictures of New Kingdom Egyptian soldiers: Ancient Armies of the Middle East (Men-at-Arms 109), New Kingdom Egypt (Elite 40), and Qadesh 1300 BC (Campaign 22).  Pictures are typically repeated between titles, with the Elite title providing the better reference for painters and the Campaign title having additional historical information.

New Kingdom Egypt is a popular subject among the Fanatici, who have contributed the following galleries:

Chris Brantley:  Keep your eyes peeled for Anthony Spalinger's War in Ancient Egypt, which is due out later this year (2004) from Blackwell Publishing.


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Last Update: 2 July 2004

My thanks to Tom Ryan for the original essay,
which has been updated for DBA 2.2
.

Questions, comments and feedback welcome.
Send input to Chris Brantley at IamFanaticus@gmail.com.