Battle of Megiddo (15th century BC)

Battle of Megiddo (15th century BC)

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Battle of Megiddo

caption=Aerial view of Tel Megiddo from the north east.
date=16 April 1457 BC (9 May traditional)
place=Megiddo, Israel
casus=Canaanite uprising
result=Egyptian victory
commander1=Thutmose III
commander2=King of Kadesh
strength1=10,000 men
(possibly 20,000 men?)
strength2=Unknown, probably fewer than Egyptian forces
casualties2=83 killed,
340 captured

The Battle of Megiddo (15th century BC) was fought between Egyptian forces under the command of pharaoh Thutmose III and a large Canaanite coalition under the King of Kadesh. It is the first battle to have been recorded in what is accepted as relatively reliable detail. Various precise dates have been suggested for the battle. The date is April 16, 1457 BC (according to the accepted Middle Chronology), although other publications place the battle in 1482 BC or 1479 BC. The Battle of Megiddo was an Egyptian victory and resulted in a rout of the Canaanite forces, which fled to safety in the city of Megiddo. Their action resulted in the subsequent lengthy Siege of Megiddo. Megiddo is the first battle of which there is a detailed historical account. It is also the first recorded use of the composite bow and the first body count. [Trevor N. Dupuy, "Evolution of Weapons and Warfare".] All details of the battle come from Egyptian sources -- primarily the hieroglyphic writings on the Hall of Annals in the Temple of Amun at Karnak, Thebes (now Luxor), by the military scribe Tjaneni. By reestablishing Egyptian dominance in the Levant, Pharaoh Thutmose III began a reign in which Egyptian Empire reached its greatest expanse.

Canaanite revolt

At the end of the reign of the female Egyptian Pharaoh Hatshepsut, local rulers in the vicinity of modern-day Syria attempted to throw off the yoke of Egyptian hegemony. Thutmose III, who became pharaoh following the death of his stepmother Hatshepsut, had to deal immediately with this revolt.

The Canaanites united and allied with the Kingdom of Mitanni on the banks of the Euphrates. The driving and main force behind this revolt was the King of Kadesh. The powerful fortress of Kadesh offered protection to him and the city. The King of Megiddo, with an equally strong fortress, joined the alliance. The importance of Megiddo was always its geographical location. The city was located along the southwestern edge of Jezreel Valley just beyond the Mount Carmel ridge and the Mediterranean. From this location, Megiddo controlled the main trade route between Egypt and Mesopotamia.

Egyptian campaign

Thutmose III gathered an army of chariots and infantry that numbered as much as 10,000 men. This high number is consistent with the length of the line-of-march described, which was apparently several kilometers long. Although many scholars have claimed that the army had as many as 20,000 soldiers. However, this was unlikely since King Ramesses II's army of 20,000 men at the Battle of Kadesh, was said to have been the largest the Kingdom of Egypt had ever assembled up to that point.M. Healy, "Qadesh 1300 BC: Clash of the warrior kings", 27]

The army assembled at the border fortress Tjaru (called "Sile" in Greek) and arrived ten days later at the loyal city of Gaza. After one day's rest, it left for the city of Yehem, which was reached after 11 days. Here, Thutmose sent out scouts. To continue north, they had to pass the Mount Carmel ridge. Behind it lay the city and fortress of Megiddo, where the revolting forces had gathered. There were three possible routes from Yehem to Megiddo. Both the northern route, via Zefti, and the southern route, by way of Taanach, gave safe access to the Jezreel Valley. The middle route, via Aruna, was risky; it followed a narrow ravine, and the troops could only travel single-file. If the enemy waited at the end of the ravine, the Egyptians would risk being cut down piecemeal. The army leaders pleaded therefore to take either of the two easier roads. Instead, with information from the scouts, Thutmose III decided to take the direct path to Megiddo. He believed that if his generals advise him the easy route, then his enemy probably expects the same, so he decided to do the unexpected.

Meanwhile, his opponent, the king of Kadesh, who had gathered many other small ruler from Syria and Canaan around him, entered Megiddo and set his forces at the city of Taanach. He expected that his enemy will come by the way of Dothaim - Taanach, the main route from the Mediterranian lowlands into the Valley of Kison, or also the main route from Egypt to Mesopotamia. [Tomac Petar, Vojna Istorija, 1959. p.21]

But Thutmose, by taking the direct, narrow path through Vadi Araha, had decided to surprise his opponent. He neglected the danger that followed the elongation of his army whose front side could encounter the enemy while its end would still be far behind, as far as Aruna. To reduce this risk, he quickly led the front side of his chariotery by the side of the mountains, which ensured easy passing of the main force. Thutmose himself led his men on a forced march to Aruna. The city was lightly guarded by the enemy; the Pharaoh led a quick assault that scattered the rebels. His army then entered the valley unopposed. The King of Kadesh had left large infantry detachments guarding the two more likely paths, and all but ignored the middle path. Now, the Egyptian army had a clear path to Megiddo, with large parts of the rebel army far away to the north and south. [Tomac Petar, Vojna Istorija, 1959. p.21]

Battle and siege

Thutmose seized the opportunity. He set up camp and, during the night, arrayed his forces close to the enemy. The next morning, they attacked. It can't be established if the surprised king of Kadesh had managed to invert his front lines in time, and prepare for battle. Even if he did that, it did not bring him much help. His rebel forces were on high ground adjacent to the fortress. The Egyptian line was arranged in a concave formation, consisting of three wings, that threatened both rebel flanks. The Pharaoh led the attack from the center. The combination of position and numbers, superior maneuverability of their left wing along with an early, bold attack, broke the enemy's will; their line immediately collapsed. Those near the city fled into it, closing the gates behind them.

The Egyptian soldiers fell to plundering the enemy camp. During the plunder they captured 924 chariots and 200 suits of armor. Unfortunately for the Egyptians, during this confusion, the scattered rebel forces, including the kings of Kadesh and Megiddo, were able to rejoin the defenders inside the city. Those inside lowered clothing to the men and chariots and actually pulled them up over the walls. Thus, the opportunity of a quick capture of the city following the battle was lost.

The Egyptians besieged the city. They sent forces throughout the rebel lands; these all readily recognized the sovereignty of Egypt. Still, the city held out for some time -- as much as seven months by some estimates.

The victorious army took home 340 prisoners, 2,041 mares, 191 foals, 6 stallions, 924 chariots, 200 suits of armor, 502 bows, 1,929 cattle, 22,500 sheep, and the royal armor, chariot and tent-poles of the King of Megiddo. The city and citizens were spared.


Egypt's realm was expanded by this campaign. Thutmose III required from the defeated kings that they each send a son to the Egyptian court. There, they received an Egyptian education. When they returned to their homelands, they governed with Egyptian sympathies. However, the victory at Megiddo was only the beginning of the pacification of the Levant. Only after several further campaigns, conducted almost annually, was the unrest cooled.



* Dupuy, Trevor Nesbit. "The Evolution of Weapons and Warfare". DaCapo, 1990. ISBN 0-306-80384-4
* Dupuy, Richard Ernest, and Dupuy, Trevor Nesbit. "The encyclopedia of military history from 3500 B.C. to the present".
* Redford, Donald B. "Wars in Syria and Palestine of Thutmose III". E J Brill, 2003. ISBN 90-04-12989-8

External links

* [ A modern description of the Battle of Megiddo]
* [ "Thutmosis III - The Napoleon of Ancient Egypt" (in German)]

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