Egyptian accounts of the battle of Kadesh : The poem of Pentaur, the official record
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Peoples and cities

Egyptian Accounts of the Battle of Kadesh

The Poem of Pentaur [1]

    Beginning of the victory of King Usermare-Setepnere Ramses II, who is given life, forever, which he achieved in the land of Kheta and Naharin, in the land of Arvad [2], in Pedes [3], in the Derden [4], in the land of Mesa, in the land of Kelekesh [5], Carchemish, Kode [6], the land of Kadesh, in the land of Ekereth [7], and Mesheneth [8].

    Behold, his majesty prepared his infantry and his chariotry, the Sherden of the captivity of his majesty from the victories of his word - they gave the plan of battle. His majesty proceeded northward, his infantry and his chariotry being with him. He began the goodly way to march.
    Year 5, the second month of the third season tenth month, on the ninth day, his majesty passed the fortress of Tharu, like Montu when he goes forth. Every country trembled before him, fear was in their hearts; all the rebels came bowing down for fear of the fame of his majesty, when his army came upon the narrow road, being like one who is upon the highway.

    Now, after many days after this, behold, his majesty was in Usermare-Meriamon, the city of cedar. His majesty proceeded northward, and he then arrived at the highland of Kadesh. Then his majesty marched before, like his father, Montu lord of Thebes, and crossed over the channel of the Orontes, there being with him the first division of Amon named: "Victory-of-King-Usermare-Setepnere."

    When his majesty reached the city, behold, the wretched, vanquished [9] chief of Kheta had come, having gathered together all countries from the ends of the sea to the land of Kheta, which came entire: the Naharin likewise, and Arvad, Mesa, Keshkesh, Kelekesh, Luka, Kezweden, Carchemish, Ekereth, Kode, the entire land of Nuges, Mesheneth, and Kadesh. He left not a country which was not brought together with their chiefs who were with him, every man bringing his chariotry, an exceeding great multitude, without its like. They covered the mountains and the valleys; they were like grasshoppers with their multitudes. He left not silver nor gold in his land but he plundered it of all its possessions and gave to every country, in order to bring them with him to battle.

Kadesh     Behold, the wretched, vanquished chief of Kheta, together with numerous allied countries, were stationed in battle array, concealed on the northwest of the city of Kadesh, while his majesty was alone by himself, with his bodyguard, and the division of Amon was marching behind him. The division of Re crossed over the river-bed on the south side of the town of Shabtuna, at the distance of an iter [10] from the division of Amon; the division of Ptah was on the south of the city of Aranami; and the division of Sutekh was marching upon the road. His majesty had formed the first rank of all the leaders of his army, while they were on the shore in the land of the Amor.

The mound of Kadesh (from Koldewey)
J.H.Breasted, Ancient Records of Egypt, Part Three, § 335

    Behold, the wretched vanquished chief of Kheta was stationed in the midst of the infantry which was with him, and he came not out to fight, for fear of his majesty. Then he made to go the people of the chariotry, an exceedingly numerous multitude like the sand, being three people to each span [11]. Now, they had made their combinations thus: among every three youths was one man of the vanquished of Kheta, equipped with all the weapons of battle. Lo, they had stationed them in battle array, concealed northwest of the city of Kadesh.

    They came forth from the southern side of Kadesh, and they cut through the division of Re in its middle, while they were marching without knowing and without being drawn up for battle. The infantry and chariotry of his majesty retreated before them. Now, his majesty had halted on the north of the city of Kadesh, on the western side of the Orontes. Then came one to tell it to his majesty

    His majesty shone like his father Montu, when he took the adornments of war; as he seized his coat of mail, he was like Baal in his hour. The great span which bore his majesty called: "Victory-in-Tebes," from the great stables of Ramses II, was in the midst of the leaders. His majesty halted in the rout; then he charged into the foe, the vanquished of Kheta, being alone by himself and none other with him. When his majesty went to look behind him, he found 2,500 chariotry surrounding him, in his way out, being all the youth of the wretched Kheta, together with its numerous allied countries: from Arvad, from Mesa [12], from Pedes [3], from Keshkesh, from Erwenet, from Kezweden [13], from Aleppo, Eketeri [14], Kadesh, and Luka, being three men to a span, acting in unison.

James Henry Breasted Ancient Records of Egypt: Historical Documents
(Chicago: 1906), III; §§ 306 ff.

The first 44 lines of the following translation equal the last three paragraphs of Breasted's translation above.

    Then the king of Khita-land,
With his warriors made a stand,
But he durst not risk his hand
In battle with our Pharaoh;
So his chariots drew away,
Unnumbered as the sand,
And they stood, three men of war
On each car;
And gathered all in force
Was the flower of his army,
for the fight in full array,
But advance, he did not dare,
Foot or horse.
So in ambush there they lay,
Northwest of Kadesh town;
And while these were in their lair,
Others went forth south of Kadesh,
on our midst, their charge was thrown
With such weight, our men went down,
For they took us unaware,
And the legion of Pra-Hormakhu [15] gave way.
But at the western side
Of Arunatha's [16] tide,
Near the city's northern wall,
our Pharaoh had his place.
And they came unto the king,
And they told him our disgrace;
Then Rameses uprose,
like his father, Montu in might,
All his weapons took in hand,
And his armor did he don,
Just like Baal, fit for fight;
And the noble pair of horses that carried Pharaoh on,
Lo! "Victory of Thebes" was their name,
And from out the royal stables of great Miamun [17] they came.
Then the king he lashed each horse,
And they quickened up their course,
And he dashed into the middle of the hostile, Hittite host,
All alone, none other with him, for he counted not the cost.
Then he looked behind, and found
That the foe were all around,
Two thousand and five hundred of their chariots of war;
And the flower of the Hittites, and their helpers, in a ring---
Men of Masu [12], Keshkesh [18], Pidasa [3], Malunna, Arathu,
Qazauadana, Kadesh, Akerith [14], Leka and Khilibu---
Cut off the way behind,
Retreat he could not find;
There were three men on each car,
And they gathered all together, and closed upon the king.
"Yea, and not one of my princes, of my chief men and my great,
Was with me, not a captain, not a knight;
For my warriors and chariots had left me to my fate,
Not one was there to take his part in fight."
Then spake Pharaoh, and he cried:
"Father Ammon, where are you?
Shall a sire forget his son?
Is there anything without your knowledge I have done?
From the judgments of your mouth when have I gone?
Have I e'er transgressed your word?
Disobeyed, or broke a vow?
Is it right, who rules in Egypt, Egypt's lord,
Should e'er before the foreign peoples bow,
Or own their rod?
Whate'er may be the mind of this Hittite herdsman horde,
Sure Ammon should stand higher
than the wretch who knows no God?
Father Ammon, is it nought
That to you I dedicated noble monuments, and filled
Your temples with the prisoners of war?
That for you a thousand years shall stand the shrines
I dared to build?
(The king, probably, is here identifying himself with Ammon.)
That to you my palace-substance I have brought,
That tribute unto you from afar
A whole land comes to pay,
That to you ten thousand oxen for sacrifice I fell,
And burn upon your altars the sweetest woods that smell;
That all your heart required, my hand did ne'er gainsay?
I have built for you tall gates and wondrous works beside the Nile,
I have raised you mast on mast,
For eternity to last,
From Elephantine's isle
The obelisks for you I have conveyed,
It is I who brought alone
The everlasting stone,
It is I who sent for you,
The ships upon the sea,
To pour into your coffers the wealth of foreign trade;
Is it told that such a thing
By any other king,
At any other time, was done at all?
Let the wretch be put to shame
Who refuses your commands,
But honor to his name
Who to Ammon lifts his hands.
To the full of my endeavor,
With a willing heart forever,
I have acted unto you,
And to you, great God, I call;
For behold! now, Ammon, I,
In the midst of many peoples, all unknown,
Unnumbered as the sand,
Here I stand,
All alone;
There is no one at my side,
My warriors and chariots afeared,
Have deserted me, none heard
My voice, when to the cravens I, their king, for succor, cried.
But I find that Ammon's grace
Is better far to me
Than a million fighting men and ten thousand chariots be.
Yea, better than ten thousand, be they brother, be they son,
When with hearts that beat like one,
Together for to help me they are gathered in one place.
The might of men is nothing, it is Ammon who is lord,
What has happened here to me is according to your word,
And I will not now trangress your command;
But alone, as here I stand,
To you my cry I send,
Unto earth's extremest end,
Saying, 'Help me, father Ammon, against the Hittite horde."'
Then my voice it found an echo in Hermonthis' [19] temple-hall,
Ammon heard it, and he came unto my call;
And for joy I gave a shout,
From behind, his voice cried out,
"I have hastened to you, Ramses Miamun,
Behold! I stand with you,
Behold! 'tis I am he,
Own father thine, the great god Ra, the sun.
Lo! mine hand with thine shall fight,
And mine arm is strong above
The hundreds of ten thousands, who against you do unite,
Of victory am I lord, and the brave heart do I love,
I have found in you a spirit that is right,
And my soul it does rejoice in your valor and your might."
Then all this came to pass, I was changed in my heart
Like Monthu, god of war, was I made,
With my left hand hurled the dart,
With my right I swung the blade,
Fierce as Baal in his time, before their sight.
Two thousand and five hundred pairs of horses were around,
And I flew into the middle of their ring,
By my horse-hoofs they were dashed all in pieces to the ground,
None raised his hand in fight,
For the courage in their breasts had sunken quite;
And their limbs were loosed for fear,
And they could not hurl the dart,
And they had not any heart
To use the spear;
And I cast them to the water,
Just as crocodiles fall in from the bank,
So they sank.
And they tumbled on their faces, one by one.
At my pleasure I made slaughter,
So that none
E'er had time to look behind, or backward fled;
Where he fell, did each one lay
On that day,
From the dust none ever lifted up his head.
Then the wretched king of Khita, he stood still,
With his warriors and his chariots all about him in a ring,
Just to gaze upon the valor of our king
In the fray.
And the king was all alone,
Of his men and chariots none
To help him; but the Hittite of his gazing soon had fill,
For he turned his face in flight, and sped away.
Then his princes forth he sent,
To battle with our lord,
Well equipped with bow and sword
And all goodly armament,
Chiefs of Leka, Masa, Kings of Malunna, Arathu,
Qar-qa-mash, of the Dardani, of Keshkesh, Khilibu.
And the brothers of the king were all gathered in on place,
Two thousand and five hundred pairs of horse---
And they came right on in force,
The fury of their faces to the flaming of my face.
Then, like Monthu in his might,
I rushed on them apace,
And I let them taste my hand
In a twinkling moment's space.
Then cried one unto his mate,
"This is no man, this is he,
This is Sutek, god of hate,
With Baal in his blood;
Let us hasten, let us flee,
Let us save our souls from death,
Let us take to heel and try our lungs and breath."
And before the king's attack,
Lands fell, and limbs were slack,
They could neither aim the bow, nor thrust the spear,
But just looked at him who came
Charging on them, like a flame,
And the King was as a griffin in the rear.
Behold thus speaks the Pharaoh, let all know,
I struck them down, and there escaped me none
Then I lifted up my voice, and I spake,
Ho! my warriors, charioteers,
Away with craven fears,
Halt, stand, and courage take,
Behold I am alone,
Yet Ammon is my helper, and his hand is with me now."
When my Menna, charioteer, beheld in his dismay,
How the horses swarmed around us, lo! his courage fled away,
And terror and affright
Took possession of him quite;
And straightway he cried out to me, and said,
"Gracious lord and bravest king, savior-guard
Of Egypt in the battle, be our ward;
Behold we stand alone, in the hostile Hittite ring,
Save for us the breath of life,
Give deliverance from the strife,
Oh! protect us, Ramses Miamun!
Oh! save us, mighty King!"
Then the King spake to his squire,
"Halt! take courage, charioteer,
As a sparrow-hawk swoops down upon his prey,
So I swoop upon the foe, and I will slay,
I will hew them into pieces, I will dash them into dust;
Have no fear,
Cast such evil thought away,
These godless men are wretches that in Ammon put no trust."
Then the king, he hurried forward, on the Hittite host he flew,
"For the sixth time that I charged them," says the king---and listen well,
"Like Baal in his strength, on their rearward, lo! I fell,
And I killed them, none escaped me, and I slew, and slew, and slew."

Source: From: Eva March Tappan, ed., The World's Story: A History of the World in Story, Song and Art, (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1914), Vol. III: Egypt, Africa, and Arabia, trans. W. K. Flinders Petrie, pp. 154-162.
Scanned by: J. S. Arkenberg, Dept. of History, Cal. State Fullerton. Prof. Arkenberg has modernized the text.

The official record

    Year 5, third month of the third season, day 9; under the majesty of Horus: Mighty Bull, Beloved of Truth; King of Upper and Lower Egypt: Usermare-Setepnere; Son of Re; Ramses-Meriamon, given life forever.

    Lo, his majesty was in Zahi [20] on his second victorious campaign. The goodly watch in life, prosperity and health, in the tent of his majesty, was on the highland south of Kadesh.

    When his majesty appeared like the rising of Re, he assumed the adornments of his father, Montu. When the king proceeded northward, and his majesty had arrived at the locality south of the town of Shabtuna, there came two Shasu [21], to speak to his majesty as follows: "Our brethren, who belong to the greatest of the families with the vanquished chief of Kheta, have made us come to his majesty, to say: 'We will be subjects of Pharaoh and we will flee from the vanquished chief of Kheta; for the vanquished chief of Kheta sits in the land of Aleppo [22], on the north of Tunip. He fears because of Pharaoh to come southward.'"
    Now, these Shasu spake these words, which they spake to his majesty, falsely, for the vanquished chief of Kheta made them come to spy where his majesty was, in order to cause the army of his majesty not to draw up for fighting him, to battle with the vanquished chief of Kheta.

    Lo, the vanquished chief of Kheta came with every chief of every country, their infantry and their chariotry, which he had brought with him by force, and stood, equipped, drawn up in line of battle behind Kadesh the Deceitful, while his majesty knew it not. Then his majesty proceeded northward and arrived on the northwest of Kadesh; and the army of his majesty made camp there.

    Then, as his majesty sat upon a throne of gold, there arrived a scout who was in the following of his majesty, and he brought two scouts of the vanquished chief of Kheta. They were conducted into the presence, and his majesty said to them: "What are ye?" They said: "As for us, the vanquished chief of the Kheta has caused that we should come to spy out where his majesty is."
    Said his majesty to them: "He! Where is he, the vanquished chief of Kheta? Behold, I have heard, saying: 'He is in the land of Aleppo.'"
    Said they: "See, the vanquished chief of Kheta is stationed, together with many countries, which he has brought with him by force, being every country which is in the districts of the land of Kheta, the land of Naharin, and all Kode. They are equipped with infantry and chariotry, bearing their weapons; more numerous are they than the sand of the shore. See, they are standing, drawn up for battle, behind Kadesh the Deceitful."

    Then his majesty had the princes called into the presence, and had them hear every word which the two scouts of the vanquished chief of Kheta, who were in the presence, had spoken. Said his majesty to them: "See ye the manner wherewith the chiefs of the peasantry and the officials under whom is the land of Pharaoh have stood, daily, saying to the Pharaoh: 'The vanquished chief of Kheta is in the land of Aleppo; he has fled before his majesty, since hearing that, behold, he came.' So spake they to his majesty daily. But see, I have held a hearing in this very hour, with the two scouts of the vanquished chief of Kheta, to the effect that the vanquished chief of Kheta is coming, together with the numerous countries that are with him, being people and horses, like the multitudes of the sand. They are stationed behind Kadesh the Deceitful. But the governors of the countries and the officials under whose authority is the land of Pharaoh were not able to tell it to us."

    Said the princes who were in the presence of his majesty: "It is a great fault, which the governors of the countries and the officials of Pharaoh have committed in not informing that the vanquished chief of Kheta was near the king; and in that they told his report to his majesty daily."

    Then the vizier was ordered to hasten the army of his majesty, while they were marching on the south of Shabtuna, in order to bring them to the place where his majesty was.

    Lo, while his majesty sat talking with the princes, the vanquished chief of Kheta came, and the numerous countries, which were with him. They crossed over the channel on the south of Kadesh, and charged into the army of his majesty while they were marching, and not expecting it. Then the infantry and chariotry of his majesty retreated before them, northward to the place where his majesty was. Lo, the foes of the vanquished chief of Kheta surrounded the bodyguard of his majesty, who were by his side.

    When his majesty saw them, he was enraged against them, like his father, Montu, lord of Thebes. He seized the adornments of battle, and arrayed himself in his coat of mail. He was like Baal in his hour. Then he betook himself to his horses, and led quickly on, being alone by himself. He charged into the foes of the vanquished chief of Kheta, and the numerous countries which were with him. His majesty was like Sutekh, the great in strength, smiting and slaying among them; his majesty hurled them headlong, one upon another into the water of the Orontes.

    "I charged all countries, while I was alone, my infantry and my chariotry having forsaken me. Not one among them stood to turn about. I swear, as Re loves me, as my father, Atum, favors me, that, as for every matter which his majesty has stated, I did it in truth, in the presence of my infantry and my chariotry."

James Henry Breasted Ancient Records of Egypt: Historical Documents Part Three, §§ 317 ff.


[1] Pentaur (pntAwr.t) : the scribe who made the copy now known as Papyrus Sallier III
[2] Arvad: Arzawa according to Christiane Desroches-Noblecourt, south west of Hatti on the Mediterranean coast
[3] Pedes - Pidasa: Town in Asia Minor near Miletos
[4] Derden: Dardani, in western Asia Minor
[5] Kelekesh: Karkisha, in western Asia Minor (Christiane Desroches-Noblecourt)
[6] Kode: Kady (Christiane Desroches-Noblecourt), Land in northern Syria
[7] Ekeret:Ugarit (Christiane Desroches-Noblecourt), Town in Laodicea
[8] Meshenet:Syrian locality (Breasted)
[9] wretched, vanquished: common epithets the Egyptians used for their enemies
[10] iter: about 2 km according to Breasted, 10.5 km according to Christiane Desroches-Noblecourt
[11] The Egyptian chariots were manned by two.
[12] Mesa - Masu: Land in Syria (Breasted), south western Asia Minor (Christiane Desroches-Noblecourt)
[13] Kezweden: Land in Syria (Breasted), Kizzuwadna in south-eastern Asia Minor(Christiane Desroches-Noblecourt)
[14] Eketeri - Akerith: Land in Syria
[15] Pra-Hormakhu: Re Harmachis, the Rising Sun
[16] Arunatha: Arnath, Orontes
[17] Miamun: Ramses
[18] Keshkesh: Land in Syria (Breasted), by the Black Sea (Christiane Desroches-Noblecourt)
[19] Hermontis: Town, 13 km south of Thebes.
[20] Zahi: Djahi, region in northern Canaan.
[21] Shasu: Nomads from the region of Edom or Moab.
[22] land of Aleppo: North-western Syria, Halab.

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Pen-ta-ur: The Victory of Ramses II Over the Khita, 1326 BCE
La troisième bataille de Qadesh, d'après le poème de Pantaour by Christiane Desroches-Noblecourt

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November 2003