Ramses II was not the first Egyptian Pharaoh to bring military power against the Hittite kingdom. He was the most flamboyant for certain. Subbiluliumas, a former Hittite King, had pushed Ramses’ father, Ramses I, back against the town of Kadesh, which now lies in modern day Syria. So Ramses II, seeking the fame and glory of a fully successful pharaoh, assembled an army of approximately 20,000 men, including 6000 cavalry or chariot soldiers. The fact is that the widow of the young-king Tutankhamun wanted to marry the son off to the daughter of Subbiluliumas. But he was assassinated on the way to meet her. But the Hittites were not to be played. They wanted to expand their empire and so Subbiluliumas assembled a force of about 40,000 troops consisting of many allied tribal bands in the northern Levant.
Ahhh history….Different circus, same clowns.
The boundaries of the Egyptian and Hittite kingdoms was the Eleutheros Valley a boundary that was disputatious to say the least. It was a flat easy to traverse area that allowed easy trade and travel from the Mediterranean and Central Asia. Seti I tried to take it and lost a battle to the Hittites. Ramses II had no lack of ego or ambition and thought he could easily take it.
Ramses assembled his troops in 1275 BC and approached the Orontes River from the south through the Robawi Forest, his forces divided into 4 divisions. In the rear was the Set Division. North of them was the Ptah Division, and then the Re division. All three were about a day apart. In the lead was Ramses and his own soldiers in the Amun Division.
Egyptian scouts captured two Bedouin locals and asked them where the Hittite troops under King Mutawali were. They told the Egyptians the Hittites were bivouacked at Aleppo, quite some distance. The fact of the matter is that the Amun division set camp and relaxed. The two Bedouins were spies sent to fool the Egyptian forces, the Egyptians eventually discovered. Two more captured Hittites succumbed to torture and revealed that the Hittite army was close at hand.
The next day, Ramses led his forces up across the Orontes River. The Hittites took a chariot division, swung around the city of Kadesh and slammed into the Re division. They were overwhelmed by the Hittite charioteers and fled the battle field. Then the Hittites attacked the Amun division and mauled it severely. As the Egyptians fled that battlefield, the Hittites began plundering the dead and killing the wounded. Just then an auxiliary division named the Nearen that had been sent for ploughed into the unprepared Hittite group and forced them into the river.
A few more back and forth slugging matches occurred throughout the day when both sides retreated. The Egyptians lost territory in Syria to the Hittites but otherwise the Pharaoh survived intact. The Hittites vastly outnumbered the Egyptians but could not effect the kind of organized redeployment a large army needs to counter attack. So who won?
According to Ramses, he won decisively. And he did it on his own.
“…No officer was with me, no charioteer, no soldier of the army, no shield-bearer …” Ramses had inscribed on massive architectral structure erected by him, in his name and honor.
“…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…”
History, as they say, is written by the victors. And if no one else tells a competing story, then history is written by the losers.
A Reader, Michael, Submitted this :
Ramses I was Ramses II’s grandfather and-
Seti I actually succeeded in taking Kadesh. He relinquished it when he realised he could not maintain it indefinitely so far from home. He was certainly a greater leader than his overhyped son, that’s for sure.