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An Egyptian Account of the Battle of Megiddo

ca. 1482 BCE
Mighty Bull, Shining in Thebes; King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Lord of the Two Lands; Menkheperre; Son of Re.
    His Majesty commanded to cause to be recorded his victories which his father, Amon, gave to him, upon a tablet in the temple which his majesty made for his father, Amon, setting forth each expedition by its name, together with the plunder which his majesty carried away therein. It was done according to all the command which his father, Re, gave to him.
-Menkheperre: Thutmose III (c.1504-1450)
    Year 22, fourth month of the second season, on the twenty-fifth day his majesty was in Tharu on the first victorious expedition to extend the boundaries of Egypt with might.
    Now, at that period the Asiatics had fallen into disagreement, each man fighting against his neighbor. Now, it happened that the tribes - the people, who were there in the city of Sharuhen; behold, from Yeraza to the marshes of the earth, they had begun to revolt against his majesty.
-Year 22, fourth month of the second season, on the twenty-fifth day: Julian date: April, ca. 1482 BCE
-Tharu: Egyptian border town in the east of the Delta.
-Sharuhen: Town in the southern Negev. Had been the last refuge of the Hyksos fleeing before Ahmose I.
-from Yeraza to the marshes of the earth: Breasted: that is, from northern Judea to beyond the Euphrates.
    Year 23, first month of the third season, on the fourth day, the day of the feast of the king's coronation, he arrived at the city, the possession of the ruler, Gaza.
    Year 23, first month of the third season, on the fifth day; departure from this place in might, - in power, and in triumph, to overthrow that wretched foe, to extend the boundaries of Egypt, according as his father, Amon-Re, had commanded that he seize.
-Year 23, first month of the third season, on the fourth day: Julian date: ca. 10th May, 1481 BCE
Marching 200 km through the northern Sinai desert took the army nine days.
-wretched foe: Breasted: the king of Kadesh
    Year 23, first month of the third season, on the sixteenth day, he arrived at the city of Yehem.
    [His majesty] ordered a consultation with his valiant troops, saying as follows: "That wretched enemy, the chief of Kadesh, has come and entered into Megiddo; he [is there] at this moment. He has gathered to himself the chiefs of all the countries which are on the water of Egypt, and as far as Naharin, consisting of [the countries] of the Kharu, the Kode, their horses, their troops, ///////. Thus he speaks, 'I have arisen to [fight against his majesty] in Megiddo.' Tell ye me //////."
-Year 23, first month of the third season, on the sixteenth day: Thutmose's army needed 11 days to march from Gaza to Yaham.
-Naharin: today's Syria.
-Tell ye me //////: Breasted: The king's demand upon his officers is for information concerning the road, as the subsequent developments show.
    They spoke in the presence of his majesty, "How is it, that we should go upon this road, which threatens to be narrow? While they [come] and say that the enemy is there waiting, [hold]ing the way against a multitude. Will not horse come behind [horse and man] behind man likewise? Shall our [advance-guard] be fighting while our [rear-guard] is yet standing yonder in Aruna not having fought? There are yet two (other) roads: one road, behold, it [will] /// us, for it comes forth at Taanach, the other, [behol]d, it will [bring us upon] the way north of Zefti, so that we shall come out to the north of Megiddo. Let our victorious lord proceed upon the road he desires; (but) cause us not to go by a difficult road." -difficult: Breasted: The same word ((Sta) is applied to the road upon which the great block for the el Bersheh colossus was brought. It means "inaccessible" or "difficult", it is also used by Thutmose III of the celestial road of the sun.
    Then [went (?)] messengers concerning [this] design which they had uttered, in view of what had been said [by (?)] the majesty of the Court: "I [swear], as Re loves me, as my father Amon, favors me, as my [nostrils] are rejuvenated with satisfying life, my majesty will proceed upon this road of Aruna. Let him who will among you, go upon those roads ye have mentioned, and let him who will among you, come in the following of my majesty. Shall they think among those enemies whom Re detests: 'Does his majesty proceed upon another road? He begins to be fearful of us,' so will they think." -road of Aruna: today's Wadi Ara
    They spoke before his majesty: "May thy father Amon, lord of Thebes, presider over Karnak, [grant thee life]. Behold, we are the following of thy majesty in every place, whither [thy majesty] proceedeth; as the servant is behind [his] master."
    [Then his majesty] commanded the entire army [to march] /////// [upon] that road which threatened to be [narrow. His majesty] swore, saying: "None shall go forth [in the way] before my majesty, in //////////." He went forth at the head of his army himself, [showing the way] by his (own) footsteps; horse behind [horse], [his majesty] being at the head of his army.
-horse behind [horse]: Breasted: The army here enters the mountain pass.
-[his majesty]: Breasted: or possibly: "the vanguard"
    Year 23, first month of the third season, on the nineteenth day; the watch in [safety] in the royal tent was at the city of Aruna. "My majesty proceeded northward under the protection of my father, Amon-Re, lord of Thebes, [who went] before me, while Harakhte [strengthened my arms] /////// (my) father, Amon-Re, lord of Thebes, victorious of the sword /////// over my majesty."
    The enemy went forth ///////// in numerous battle array /////////. The southern wing was in Taa[nach] the northern wing was on the ground south of ////////. His majesty cried out to them before ///////// they fell; behold, that wretched foe //////////////////// of [the city] Aruna.
    Now, the rear of the victorious army of his majesty was at the city of Aruna, the front was going forth to the valley of ///a; they filled the opening of this valley. Then [they] said in the presence of his majesty, L. P. H.: "Behold, his majesty goeth forth with his victorious army, and it has filled the hollow of the valley; let our victorious lord hearken to us this time and let our lord protect for us the rear of his army and his people. Let the rear of this army come forth to us behind; then shall they (also) fight against these barbarians; then we shall not need to take thought for the rear of our army." His majesty halted outside and waited there, protecting the rear of his victorious army.
-Year 23, first month of the third season, on the nineteenth day: The army had been on the road for 24 days since leaving Egypt.
-in [safety]: Breasted: Perhaps we should supply" "life prosperity and health" as in Ramses II's march to Kadesh; but above, the said phraseis used after "tent", to express the adjective "royal", and would hardly appear twice in the same phrase.
-south of ////////: Breasted: Maspero following Brugsch supplies "Megiddo" here. This is quite possible, but only on a different supposition from that of Maspero and Brugschm viz., that the position described here is that of the Asiatic forces, not of the Egyptians, forthe latter do not arrive "south of Megiddo" until long after this. Furthermore, it is quite impossible for the Egyptians to have had their south wing at Taanach, while defiling through the Megoddo road. This seems to have been the view in Petries "History" (II, 106), but no mention is made of an encounter with the enemy in the mountains in the summary. The passage is important, for it decisively determines (even without supplying Megiddo above) the location of Megiddo against Conder's identification with Mujedda. An Asiatic army which we know, fought before Megiddo, has the southern wing at Taanach, which is known to be Tannuk of today; it must follow that Megiddo is northward from Tannuk.
-that wretched foe: Breasted: There was some encounter with the enemy here in the mountains, and this moves the officers to urge calling in the straggling rear as soon as possible.
-His majesty halted: Thutmose did take his generals' opinions and counsel into consideration.
    Behold, when the front had reached the exit upon this road, the shadow had turned, and when his majesty arrived at the south of Megiddo on the bank of the brook of Kina, the seventh hour was turning, measured by the sun.
    Then was set up the camp of his majesty, and command was given to the whole army, saying: "Equip yourselves! Prepare your weapons! for we shall advance to fight with that wretched foe in the morning." Therefore the king rested in the royal tent, the affairs of the chiefs were arranged, and the provisions of the attendants. The watch of the army went about, saying, "Steady of heart! Steady of heart! Watchful! Watchful! Watch for life at the tent of the king." One came to say to his majesty, "The land is well, and the infantry of the South and North likewise."
-the shadow had turned: Breasted: It was past midday
-his majesty arrived at the south of Megiddo: Breasted: The army here emerges in safety upon the plain in the afternoon of the twentieth, and camps unmolested that night, to go forth tobattle in the morning of the twenty-first.
-the seventh hour was turning: Breasted: about one o'clock P.M.
-Watchful! Watchful!: Breasted: Lit. "Watchful of head!", meaning "to be vigilant", e.g. of the king (Amenhotep III) on the architrave at Luxor: "The Good God who is very vigilant over the house of his father, Amon" and often of the vigilance of a faithful official.
    Year 23, first (month) of the third season, on the twenty-first day, the day of the feast of the new moon, [corresponding to (?)] the royal coronation, early in the morning, behold, command was given to the entire army to move /// ///. His majesty went forth in a chariot of electrum, arrayed in his weapons of war, like Horus, the Smiter, lord of power; like Montu of Thebes, while his father, Amon, strengthened his arms. The southern wing of this army of his majesty was on a hill south of the [brook of] Kina, the norther wing was at the northwest of Megiddo, while his majesty was in their center, with Amon as the protection of his members, the valor of his limbs. Then his majesty prevailed against them at the head of his army, and when they saw his majesty prevailing against them they fled headlong to Megiddo in fear, abandoning their horses and their chariots of gold and silver. The people hauled them up, pulling them by their clothing, into this city; the people of this city having closed it against them and lowered clothing to pull them up into this city. Now, if only the army of his majesty had not given their heart to plundering the things of the enemy, they would have captured Megiddo at this moment, when the wretched foe of Kadesh and the wretched foe of this city were hauled up in haste to bring them into this city. The fear of his majesty had entered their hearts, their arms were powerless, his serpent diadem was victorious among them. -Year 23, first month of the third season, on the twenty-first day: Julian date: ca. 15th May 1481
-at the northwest of Megiddo: Breasted: This shows that Thutmose has gone around Megiddo toward the west and, having his army partially on the north of the city, has intercepted the enemy's northern line of retreat; at the same time probably securing his own line of retraet along the Zefti road. This position corroborates the position of the Asiatics with their northern wing at Taanach on the day before the battle. This move must have been made by Thutmose in the afternoon or during the night before the battle.
-the wretched foe of Kadesh and the wretched foe of this city: the kings of Kadesh and Megiddo
    Then were captured their horses, their chariots of gold and silver were made spoil, their champions lay stretched out like fishes on the ground. The victorious army of his majesty went around counting their portions. Behold, there was captured the tent of that wretched foe [in] which was [his] son /// /// //////////. The whole army made jubilee, giving praise to Amon for the victory which he had granted to his son on [this day, giving praise] to his majesty, exalting his victories. They brought up the booty which they had taken, consisting of hands, of living prisoners, of horses, chariots of gold and silver, of /// /// /////////.
    [Then spake his majesty on hearing (?)] the words of his army, saying: "Had ye captured this city afterward, behold, I would have given ///////// Re this day; because every chief of every country that has revolted is within it; and because it is the capture of a thousand cities, this capture of Megiddo. Capture ye [mightily, mightily (?)] /// /// /////////."
-hands: the Egyptians cut of hands or, if they were uncircumcised, genitals of their fallen enemies, counted them and offered them to Amen.
-Had ye captured this city afterward: the Egyptians probably could not have taken the city by storm, as the gates were shut even before all the fleeing Canaanite forces had entered the city.
-///////// Re this day: Breasted: Three or four words are lacking, probably "[very many offerings to] Re this day."
    [His majesty commanded] the [officers (?)] of the troops to go /// ///, [assigning to (?)] each his place. They measured this city, [surrounding it (?)] with an inclosure, walled about with green timber of all their pleasant trees. His majesty himself was upon the fortification east of this city, [inspecting (?)] ///////////.
    It was [wa]lled about with its thick wall /// /// /// with its thick wall. Its name was made: "Menkheperre-is-the-Surrounder-of-the-Asiatics." People were stationed to watch over the tent of his majesty; to whom it was said: "Steady of heart! Watch //////////." His majesty [commanded, saying: "Let not o]ne among them [come forth] outside, beyond this wall, except to come out in order to [knock (?)] at the other door of their fortification."
    Now, all that his majesty did to this city, to that wretched foe and his wretched army, was recorded on (each) day by its (the day's) name. Then it was recorded upon a roll of leather in the temple of Amon this day.
-pleasant trees: Breasted: Thutmose describes the trees in his own garden in the same way. Possibly fruit trees are meant, as the word rendered "pleasant" (bnr) literally means "sweet".
-its thick wall: Breasted: The same "thick wall" is also referred to in the building inscription of the Ptah-temple.
-to [knock (?)] at the other door of their fortification: Breasted: Probably meaning to offer themselves as prisoners.
-it was recorded: Breasted: The royal secretary Thaneni was apparently the one who kept this record.
-leather: leather was apparently preferred to papyrus for documents which were frequently consulted (such as law codices).
    Behold, the chiefs of this country came to render their portions, to do obeisance to the fame of his majesty, to crave breath for their nostrils, because of the greatness of his power, because of the might of the fame of his majesty /// /// the country ///////////////// came to his fame, bearing their gifts, consisting of silver, gold, lapis lazuli, malachite; bringing clean grain, wine, large cattle, and small cattle /// for the army of his majesty. [Each of the Kode (?)] among them bore the tribute southward. Behold, his majesty appointed the chiefs anew for //////////. -to do obeisance: Breasted: Lit., "to smell the earth" - i.e. prostrate themselves.
-[Each of the Kode (?)]: Breasted: The sentence is uncertain in the original, both as to text and meaning. The Kode are coast-people, it may possibly refer to their shipping the spoil to Egypt for the soldiers.
    ////////////// 340 living prisoners; 83 hands; 2,041 mares; 191 foals; 6 stallions; a chariot, wrought with gold, its pole of gold, belonging to that foe; a beautiful chariot, wrought with gold, belonging to the chief of [Megiddo]; //////////// 892 chariot[s] of his wretched army; total, 924 chariots; a beautiful [suit (?)] of bronze armor, belonging to that foe; a beautiful [suit (?)] of bronze armor, belonging to the chief of Megiddo; //////////////// 200 suits of armor, belonging to his wretched army; 502 bows; 7 poles of mry wood, wrought with silver, belonging to the tent of that foe. Behold, the army of his majesty took 1,929 large cattle, 2,000 small cattle, 20,500 white small cattle. -mares: Breasted: This word (ssmw.t) I have elsewhere translated "horses" for whar seem to me sufficient reasons, but in this context we have a clear distinction between mares and stallions.
-924 chariots: Breasted: There must be thirty chariots mentioned in the lacuna which would probably be those of the officers or other chiefs
-that foe: Breasted: The king of Kadesh
-1,929 large cattle, 2,000 small cattle, 20,500 white small cattle: Canaan was a sheep and goat rather than a cattle country. As to "small cattle" and "small white cattle" Breasted thought that these may refer to sheep and goats respectively.
    List of that which was afterward taken by the king, of the household goods of that foe who was [in the city of] Yenoam, in Nuges, and in Herenkeru, together with all the goods of those cities which submitted themselves, which were brought [to his majesty: 474] ////////; 38 lords of theirs, 87 children of that foe and of the chiefs who were with him, 5 lords of theirs, 1,796 male and female slaves with their children, non-combatants who surrendered because of famine with that foe, 103 men; total 2,503. Besides flat dishes of costly stone and gold, various vessels, /////////////, a large (two-handled) vase of the work of Kharu, vases, flat dishes, (xntw)-dishes, various drinking-vessels, 3 large kettles, [8]7 knives, amounting to 784 deben. Gold in rings found in the hands of the artificers, and silver in many rings, 966 deben and 1 kidet. A silver statue in beaten work, ///////////// the head of gold, the staff with human faces; 6 chairs of that foe, of ivory, ebony and carob wood, wrought with gold; 6 footstools belonging to them; 6 large tables of ivory and carob wood, a staff of carob wood, wrought with gold and all costly stones in the fashion of a scepter, belonging to that foe, all of it wrought with gold; a statue of that foe, of ebony wrought with gold, the head of which [was inlaid (?)] with lapis lazuli ///////////; vessels of bronze, much clothing of that foe.

James Henry Breasted Ancient Records of Egypt: Historical Documents (Chicago: 1906), Part Two, §§ 407ff.

 

-Yenoam, in Nuges, and in Herenkeru: Breasted: These three cities lay close together at the southern end of Lebanon. That Thutmose III marched to Lebanon after the fall of Megiddo is shown by the fact that he built a fortress there just before returning to Thebes: ... as a fortress which his majesty built in his victories among the chiefs of Lebanon. The three cities formed a polirtical whole under a single ruler and were given as a whole to Amon by Thutmose III
-total 2,503: Breasted: The prisoners enumerated foot up to 2,029; hence 474 must have been mentioned in the lacuna. These must have included "that foe and the chiefs who were with him", and probably others whom we cannot identify.

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November 2001
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