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Battle of Kadesh (c.1275 BC)

By Chris Jones

The Egyptian Empire in Syria and Palestine had been created and extended under the great warrior Pharaohs of the early Eighteenth Dynasty. The army created during the driving of the Hittite invaders out of Egypt had then been used by Thutmose III and Amenhotep II to carve out a zone of influence among the small independent states of Syria and Palestine. The Levant had been divided between Egypt and the kingdom of Mitanni in the north and a settlement had been made through diplomacy. However, during the reign of Amenhotep III and later his son the heretic Pharaoh Akhenaten, military and political affairs were allowed lapse and Egyptian influence waned. The archives of political correspondence from the reign of Akhenaten has numerous calls for help from Egyptian vassals which appear to have been largely ignored.

After the reign of Akhenaten, Horemheb and Seti I both sent expeditions into Syria to attempt to reimpose Egyptian rule. Mitanni influence had in the interval been replaced by an aggressive Hittite Empire and Egypt did well to hold their own.

Seti Išs son, Ramses II, found himself forced to lead his army out to combat the Hittite King, Muwatallis, to decide the fate of Syrai and Palestine. Ramses II is known as the Great and had a very long reign and many wives and sons. His building programs in Egypt have made him one of the best known of the Pharaohs and everywhere we see his cartouches with his names - "Usr- maat-re-setep-en-Re" "Ra-mese." The walls of his temples are the main source for the battle that was to follow being decorated with pictorial and written scenes of the events about to unfold.

In 1275 B.C., Ramses led his army north. The Army marched as usual in four divisions. First came the Army of Amun commanded by the Pharaoh in person. This was followed by the Army of Re, then the Army of Ptah, while the Army of Set brought up the rear. Each division was an all arms unit containing chariotry, archers and spearmen. In addition there was a detached force marching separately described as the Našarn, the exact nature of which is unclear but who appear to have been chariotry from the wall drawings and who were to have an important part to play in the battle to come.

The exact location of the Hittite army was unknown. The main strength of the Hittite army was its chariotry, generally heavier than its Egyptian counterpart and depicted as carrying three crew instead of two. These were supported by lighter chariots from the Hittitešs Syrian vassals. The infantry were light and often not even involved in the battle.

Ramses captured a number of Shsou herdsmen who informed him under torture that the Hittite King was far to the north gathering his forces and apparently afraid of Ramses. So Ramses pressed on swiftly towards the town of Kadesh. Ramses with the army of Amun started to make camp while the other divisions marched towards him each well separated from each other.

At this point, the Hittite King who, unbeknownst to Ramses was hidden behind the town of Kadesh with his whole army, sent his chariot forces consisting of 2,500 chariots to attack the Division of Re as it passed in marching order. His infantry remained across the river Orontes as did he himself to await the expected victory. The scouts that Ramses had captured had been his agents and he had achieved supreme tactical surprise. The battle was about to begin.

The Historical Battle

The Division of Re taken by surprise was swept away by the Hittite chariots, who then swung north to assail the camp with Ramses himself and the Army of Amun. Ramses sent his vizier post-haste to bring the Division of Ptah. The Hittite attack on the camp was fierce and in doubt when the Našarn chariots arrived and attacked the Hittites in the flank. The combination of this attack and the heroic example of Ramses himself first drove back the Hittite chariots, then swept them in rout over the river Orontes in which many would have been drowned. The temple inscriptions show a Hittite leader being held upside down to drain the water from him!

The Division of Ptah arrived at this point and was left only with the task of picking up prisoners. The Hittite infantry, some 39,000 strong was not engaged. The next day both armies again faced each other but neither side appeared to want a decisive engagement so they marched away from each other. The settlement of Egyptian/Hittite relations was eventually made through a diplomatic treaty, which was carved on the Temples of Ramses for eternity. Ramses despite his long reign never went to war again and so all his monuments record his "great victory" at Kadesh.

Simulating Kadesh in DBA

Order of Battle

Egyptian

  • Amun -- 1x LCh, 1x Bd, 1x Sp, 1x Bw (in camp)
  • Re -- 1x LCh, 1x Sp, 1x Bw
  • Ptah -- 1x LCh, 1x Sp, 1x Bw
  • Našarn -- 2x LCh

Hittite -- 2x HCh, 4x LCh, 4x Aux, 2xPs

Terrain

The river Orontes should run across the board in the Hittite half of the table. The town of Kadesh should be represented by a village mound near the center along the right edge (from the Hittite baseline)

Deployment

The Egyptian army should be deployed as follows:

  • Amun and General in camp on the Egyptian left,
  • Re near the centre of the table in column,
  • Ptah on the extreme right of the table near the centre line entering on turn 1, and
  • Našarn off table.

The Hittites can deploy their chariot forces between their own baseline and within one move of Re on turn 1

Special Rules

The Našarn enter anywhere on the Egyptian left table edge when the Egyptian general rolls 5 or 6 for PIPs.

For this scenario, the Egyptian LCh general is allowed to defend the camp as if infantry. The camp is large enough to contain 4 elements and is treated as an extended DBA camp.

Victory Conditions

Normal DBA.


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Last Update: Feb. 2, 2000

My thanks to Chris Jones for this scenario. Comments, questions, and suggestions are welcome. Send them to Chris Brantley at IamFanaticus@gmail.com.