The period of Thutmose III
The New Kingdom Army
This tutorial was
Through an investigation of the archaeological and written sources for New Kingdom Egypt to the death of Thutmose IV, students learn about significant developments, forces and relevant historiographical issues that shaped the historical period.
|H1.1||describe and assess the significance of key people, groups, events, institutions, societies and sites within the historical context|
|H3.3||analyse and evaluate sources for their usefulness and reliability|
Students learn about :
The expansion of Egypt’s boundaries:
Thutmose III began his reign in a co-regency with Hatshepsut. During this time Egypt experienced a stable period of peace and prosperity. This stability was threatened on Hatshepsut’s death when a coalition of 330 Syrian princes gathered at the city of Megiddo to win freedom from Egypt. After defeating this coalition, Thutmose III campaigned regularly in Syria–Palestine until Year 42 of his reign, consolidating Egyptian control in this area and re-establishing the boundaries achieved by Thutmose I. He was able to achieve this because of the professional New Kingdom army and his own tactical genius. Thutmose III’s reign was characterised by magnificent artwork, superb tombs, exquisitely crafted buildings as well as military exploits and conquests.
I (Amun) gave you valour and victory over all lands.
I set your might, your fear in every country,
The dread of you as far as heaven’s four supports.
I magnified your awe in every body
I made your person’s fame traverse the Nine Bows.
You have built my temple as a work of eternity,
Made longer and wider than it had been,
With its great gateway ‘Menkheperre-feasts-Amun Ra’,
Your monuments surpass those of all former kings.
From the Stela of Thutmose III
The pharaoh headed Egypt’s armed forces as commander-in-chief. As the warrior king he led a highly organised and professional standing army and navy. Tactics and strategies were decided upon by the pharaoh, in consultation with his war council. During the time of Thutmose III there appears to have been only two army divisions: Amun based in Thebes and Ra based in Heliopolis.
Each division numbered approximately five thousand troops. Divisions were then organised into smaller units of approximately two hundred and fifty soldiers who were commanded by a standard bearer. A group of “shock troops” known as the Braves of the King served as the pharaoh’s personal bodyguard.
The highly disciplined infantry or mesha was the largest group and gave Egypt an advantage over its enemies such as the Mitanni. These infantry units were composed of spearmen, archers, axe-bearers, clubmen and slingers. Many foot soldiers lacked adequate armour; some were even without shields. Within the infantry there were three main groups of soldiers: the elite first class warriors called the braves, the experienced soldiers and the new recruits of whom many were conscripts.
The elite of the army were the charioteers or sennyw. Charioteers backed up the infantry by scouting and protecting the foot soldiers from enemy chariot attack. Each chariot was drawn by a pair of horses and was manned by a driver and a fighter armed with spear, bow and arrows.
The auxillary troops
Medjay troops from Nubia were first used in Egypt as mercenaries against the Hyksos. The Medjay and other foreign recruits from vassal states such as Libya became indispensable to the New Kingdom army.
The navy was first used in combined land and sea campaigns against the Hyksos. It was primarily a transport unit carrying troops and supplies to combat regions. Naval organisation was based on the size of individual vessels, i.e. larger ships carried bigger crews.
I spent my youth in the city of Nekheb, my father being an officer of the king of Upper and Lower Egypt, Sekenenre triumphant.... Then I served as an officer in his stead in the ship “The Offering”...Then after I set up a household I was transferred to the northern fleet, because of my valour. I followed the king on foot when he rode abroad in his chariot...
One captured Avaris; I took captive there one man and three women, total four heads, his majesty gave them to me for slaves.
...his majesty made a great slaughter among (the Nubian Troglodytes). Then I took captive there two living men, and three hands. One presented me with gold in double measure, besides giving to me two female slaves...
There came an enemy of the South...His majesty carried him off as a living prisoner and all his people carried captive. I carried away two archers as a seizure in the ship of the enemy, one gave to me five heads besides pieces of land amounting to five stat (one stat is about a quarter hectare) in my city. It was done to all the sailors likewise.
From the Autobiography of Ahmose, son of Ebana
During the New Kingdom period three areas could be described as being under Egyptian control:
The psychological impact of the Hyksos invasion was to make Egypt aware of the danger of the lands to the north. Early New Kingdom pharaohs had destroyed the Hyksos bases in Retjenu, and Thutmose I had campaigned to extend Egypt’s boundaries as far as the Euphrates River. As his activities show, Thutmose III was determined to maintain and increase Egyptian control in this region. The evidence relating to the nature and extent of Egyptian control of the northern lands is scanty prior to Thutmose III. Tribute is recorded as flowing into Egypt from Palestine from this period but it was certainly Thutmose III who was successful in consolidating the loyalty of the northern princes by Year 42 of his reign.
Egypt’s primary foreign policy aims were to protect the land against invasion and to further its commercial interests by maintaining control of major trade routes and vital resources. The southern lands, called Nubia, were traditionally regarded as an Egyptian province. The early New Kingdom pharaohs rapidly asserted their authority over this region. This brought to Egypt great wealth from the many gold and amethyst mines. Egypt also gained access to the luxury goods of equatorial Africa through the trade routes of Kush. During times of Egyptian political instability Libyan nomads and the Bedouin from the Sinai had crossed the borders into Egypt and conducted raids. The powerful New Kingdom warrior pharaohs ensured that their borders were secure and exploited the precious copper and turquoise mines of the Sinai peninsular.
Continue with your glossary of terms.
The Egyptian army had remained well equipped and prepared during Thutmose’s co-regency with Hatshepsut. During this period he had campaigned in western Asia and made expeditions into Nubia. On the death of Hatshepsut, resentment towards Egyptian dominance of Syria–Palestine came to the fore. According to the Annals which contains an account of the Battle of Megiddo, a coalition of 330 Syrian princes gathered at Megiddo under the leadership of Darush , the Prince of Kadesh. Thutmose's victory against this coalition is widely regarded as his finest military achievement. (see the following Case Study)
During the Years 23 to 42 of his reign, Thutmose III continued his campaigning in this region to ensure permanent Egyptian domination. In Year 33 of his reign, after crossing the Euphrates, he attacked Egypt’s greatest enemy, the Mitanni. This Euphrates campaign is described on a stela found in the Nubian temple of Tirhaqu. In Years 30 and 42 of his reign he attacked the city of Kadesh whose ruler had an alliance with the Mitanni. The biography of Amenemhab relates how the Egyptians breached the new wall of Kadesh and describes the distinguished acts of bravery that occurred during these campaigns.
Thutmose III’s reputation as a brilliant strategist and organiser was firmly established through the innovative and diverse methods he used to gain these victories. Examples of his military skill include:
The chief military campaigns during Thutmose's career were:
Megiddo was a very important city during the time of Thutmose III. It has been claimed that whoever controlled Megiddo controlled the trade route of the ancient world. For almost seven months Thutmose III besieged the well-fortified city of Megiddo. Thutmose III’s eventual victory at Megiddo began a new phase of his military and economic policy.
Bradley, P. (1999) Ancient Egypt: Reconstructing the Past, Cambridge University Press.
Callender, G. (1993) The Eye of Horus, Longman Cheshire Pty Ltd.
Forty, J. (1998) Ancient Egyptian Pharaohs, PRC Publishing Limited.
Hennessy, D. (ed.) (1994) Studies in Ancient Egypt, Thomas Nelson Australia.
Lichtheim, M. (1976) Ancient Egyptian Literature, Vol. 11: The New Kingdom, University of California Press.
Pemberton, D. (1992) Ancient Egypt, Chronicle Books.
Schulz, R. and Seidel, M. (ed.) (1998) Egypt: The World of the Pharaohs, Konemann.