The ancient Egyptian armed forces: The changing army of the New Kingdom, organization, standards of behaviour, the navy
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The armed forces
The armyUntil the takeover of Lower Egypt by the Hyksos, most conflicts the Egyptians had fought had been civil wars, where mainly armies of conscripted peasants and artisans led by noblemen opposed each other, or relatively short campaigns south into Nubia extending the southern borders of the realm, or east and west into the desert regions.
Commission which the eldest king's son, the treasurer of the god, commander of the army, Zaty, called Kenofer, executed.From the Old Kingdom on foreigners were incorporated into the army. The Egyptians possibly even signed contracts with foreign potentates to insure the supply of mercenaries. Weni who lived during the 6th dynasty wrote
When his majesty took action against the Asiatic sand-dwellers, his majesty made an army of many tens of thousands from all of Upper Egypt: ...; from Lower Egypt: ...; and from Irtjet-Nubians, Medja-Nubians, Yam-Nubians, Wawat-Nubians, Kaau-Nubians; and from Tjemeh-land."Nubian Medjay entered Egypt during the turmoils of the First Intermediate Period, formed mercenary archer units and served in the armed constabulary. They are known to have fought under Kamose against the Hyksos.
Draftees fought in regional contingents, led by local noblemen. Ameni, son of Khnumhotep I led his men on several campaigns against Nubia
I sailed southward, as the son of a count, wearer of the royal seal, and commander in chief of the troops of the Oryx nome, as a man represents his old father, according to [his] favor in the palace and his love in the court.On his second expedition he
... sailed southward, with a number, 400 of all the choicest of my troops, who returned in safety, having suffered no loss.On a further campaign he led 600 of all the bravest of the Oryx nome. equipment was basic at the beginning of Egyptian history: something to throw at the enemy or hit him with (see a predynastic battle scene) and a heavy shield to hide behind, and the need to improve the weaponry remained small for a long time.
After the Hyksos had taken control of the Delta , the Theban pharaohs of the 17th and 18th dynasties adopted new weapons and strategies, a prerequisite for empire building in the Middle East, a region where the constant development of new and better weapons was necessary for survival. Their presence also caused changes in the role of the military in Egyptian society. As the length of the campaigns grew, the use of conscripts became impractical, and the army turned professional, with the nobility in the role of officers and charioteers, and the king fighting among them, generally in closed ranks.
Many specialized troops evolved, such as sappers with heavy shields using battering rams and scaling ladders, trench digging pioneers and, after the reconquest of Nubia, Kushite shock troops and Nubian archers.
New Kingdom military trumpeter und drummer playing a hand drum
The name of the brave man will last because of what he's done. It will never disappear from this earth.
A number of army commanders reached kingship, among them Horemheb and Ramses I (XIX Dynasty) and many kings surrounded themselves with former soldiers whose loyalty and self-sacrifice they had experienced. Didu, a professional soldier, was appointed to the post of responsible for the deserts east of Thebes, then became the king's envoy to foreign countries, later standard bearer of the king's guard, captain of the ship Meri-amen and finally commander of the police force. After a long and blameless service Neb-amen, another standard bearer, was appointed chief of police of western Thebes.
Amenhotep IV (Akhenaten), whose bodyguard consisted mostly of foreigners -Syrians, Libyans and Nubians - used the army to break the power of the priesthood and the bureaucrats. But after his death the military establishment made peace with the civil service and the clergy. Subsequent pharaohs had to take into account the interest of all three sectors.Apart from the regular infantry and the chariotry which under Seti I's reign appears to have been separate from the rest of the army already, there were apparently less professional units as well. The king speaks of the DAm.w, interpreted as militia, in a stela:
The good (god), son of Amun, who smites multitudes of persons, bringing captives (?) .... He loves the infantry and chariotry, the great noble, who protects the youth and brings up the militia of Egypt.With the expanding empire and the need to find capable soldiers, the Egyptians began to induct prisoners of war into their army, such as Sherden captured during the incursions of the Sea Peoples.
Now his majesty had made ready his infantry and his chariotry, and the Sherden in his majesty's captivity whom he had brought back in the victories of his strong arm. They had been supplied with all their weapons, and battle orders had been given to them.Their loyalty to the throne was such, that Sherden only were chosen for the bodyguard of Ramses II.
It was probably during the reign of Ramses II that the first regular mounted cavalry—as opposed to horse-drawn chariots—was introduced in any army, but it was only the Persians in the 6th century BCE who realized its full potential.
The XIX and XX Dynasties saw some of the most spectacular exploits of Egyptian power but also its decline, with Egypt barely able to defend its frontiers and relying heavily on mercenaries. By the middle of the 12th century sixty percent of the soldiers were non-Egyptians. Sheshonq I (XXII Dynasty) recreated the royal army after years of neglect
Sesonchosis created an elite of the most robust men... he raised 600,000 foot soldiers, 24,000 knights, 27,000 war chariots. He shared government with the companions of his youth, all experienced at fighting, full of bravery, numbering 1700 and more. Sesonchosis gave them the best land so they could devote themselves entirely to war, being economically secure.Ionians and Carians, Jews, Aramaeans, Phoenicians and others. They were deployed when native forces were considered to be unreliable. Jewish contingents were stationed at Elephantine and Aramaeans at Syene after Egyptian troops had deserted and fled into Nubia.
Statue of General Djed-ptah-iuf-ankh, who served under Psamtik I
Still, there was a feeling of loyalty to their employer, to their officers and to each other, which all soldiers need to be able to function in the battle field; and when their trust was betrayed their reaction could be savage: after Phanes of Halicarnassos had deserted to Cambyses his troops punished him by killing his children before his eyes. mode of mass transportation until the advent of the railway.
Marching an army to its destination took much longer, even when depots of food and water were available. On his way to Megiddo Thutmose III crossed the Sinai Desert from Tharu on the eastern border of Egypt to the closest major Canaanite town, Gaza, a distance of about 200 km in 9 days , at a speed of about 22 km per day.
His progress through Canaan was much slower, about 10 km per day , probably mostly due to the fact that in ancient times armies in enemy territory generally provisioned themselves by looting the countryside which slowed down their advance.
At the end of a marching day a camp surrounded by a shield wall had to be set up when one had to spend the night in the open. Into this protected space the pack animals could be herded and unloaded, tents could be erected there, skilled craftsmen could look after broken equipment and grooms tend the animals.
The camp of Ramses II near Kadesh5]. The Egyptian army of the New Kingdom was composed of three divisions under Seti I on his Canaan campaign, named Suteh (Set)–"the heroic archers", Amen–"the mighty archers" and Re–"the many-armed",  and of four under Ramses II on his Kadesh campaign, the forth being named Ptah.
After R. Lepsius, Denkmäler aus Aegypten und Aethiopien, Abth,III, Bl.154
A division numbered several thousand men, typically 4000 infantry and 1000 chariotry, organized into ten battalions of about 500 soldiers, which were subdivided into companies 250 strong, platoons of fifty men and ten men squads.
The overall command lay in the hands of the pharaoh himself or one of his close relatives, generally a son. Similar to the administration of the whole kingdom, the army was divided into a northern and a southern corps overseen by Chief Deputies. The line of command included ranks corresponding to the modern generals, battalion commanders, standard bearers and adjutants at the company level, lieutenants leading the platoons, and non-commissioned officers in charge of squads. 
Come, [let me tell] you the woes of the soldier, and how many are his superiors: the general, the troop-commander, the officer who leads, the standard-bearer, the lieutenant, the scribe, the commander of fifty, and the garrison-captain.The chariotry was led by marshals (jmj-rA ssmwt - Ami-Re-sesemut). It was divided into brigades, each of which was comprised of two or more squadrons. Five companies of ten chariots each made up a squadron. Egyptian chariots were manned by two soldiers, a driver and an archer.
Parallel to the combat line of command there was a scribal administration organized on hierarchical lines and distinct from the combat officers. 12]. In many of his letters he asked his friends to beg the gods to intercede on his behalf: And you shall get water for Amen of the thrones of both lands and tell him to preserve me! 
The treatment of the injured was generally haphazard until the introduction of medical corps in modern times. Little is known about how the Egyptians prepared themselves for dealing with expected casualties, but some measures were taken; the above mentioned Thutmose, also called Tjari, for instance, received the following order:
The general of Pharaoh, l.p.h., to the scribe Tjari.The survival chances of the wounded were probably slim despite the Egyptian physicians' extensive knowledge of how to treat serious injuries, knowledge collected in scrolls such as the Edwin Smith papyrus. Narmer Palette and decapitated bodies discovered near Middle Kingdom fortresses in Nubia seem to indicate, often by enslaving survivors both civilian and military, or plundering their possessions and destroying their means of livelihood:
This army returned in peace, [after] it had torn down its forts.Sometimes sizable parts of the population were displaced. Snefru carried off thousands of Nubians after a victory in ca. 2599 BCE. It has been suggested that they were settled in Egyptian villages (domains) founded the following year:
(Year 14 ?) Hacking up of the land of the Nubian. Bringing of 7,000 prisoners and 200,000 large and small cattle.Fallen enemies were often mutilated in the name of Amen and their corpses left to the crows, vultures and other scavengers, as is depicted so graphically on the Battlefield Palette.
The Battlefield Palette
... he slew with his own weapon the seven princes, who had been in the district of Tikhsi, and had been placed head downward at the prow of his majesty's barge .... One hanged the six men of those fallen ones, before the walls of Thebes; those hands likewise. Then the other fallen one was taken up-river to Nubia and hanged on the wall of Napata ...Following the conquest of Megiddo by Thutmose III the surviving princes surrendered to the pharaoh, and, after accepting the Egyptian king as their overlord, they were allowed to continue ruling their cities:
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.Booty was important as a source of remuneration of one's followers and was sometimes the reason for not achieving military success. During the battle of Kadesh the Hittite charioteers seem to have abandoned the pursuit of Ramses and the remnants of his forces in order to plunder the Egyptian camp, which gave the pharaoh time to reorganize his forces and drive the Hittites back towards Kadesh.
Thutmose III exercised better control over his troops at Megiddo. Plundering started after the victory over the enemy chariotry was complete, though it prevented, according to the chronicler, the taking of the town by assault. The booty belonged to the king who distributed it to those he deemed deserving.
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 chariots 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.Some conquered territories like Nubia and the Sinai were annexed, administered by Egyptian officials and controlled with the help of the army, while in others, like Canaan, local kings subservient to the pharaohs ruled with armies of their own.
After a victory was achieved the plunder was distributed, the deserving were honoured and the gods were thanked.
Asiatic fortress conquered by Ramses II
Most Egyptian victories were achieved over enemies of little significance, bedouins in the eastern desert, tribes in Nubia or ill organized city states in Canaan. When Egypt came up against major powers its military performance was less admirable. Against the Hittites or Mitanni during the New Kingdom the Egyptians managed to come to political understandings which preserved their sphere of influence in Canaan, but during the first millennium BCE they repeatedly collapsed under the onslaught of foreign armies, be they Kushite, Assyrian or Persian, and their country was occupied.
3], kebentiu from Byblos and Egyptian transports patrolled the eastern Mediterranean.
Unlike the later Greeks who developed special naval techniques (used also by Late Period Egypt), maritime battles by New Kingdom Egyptians and their opponents, the Sea Peoples, were fought by seaborne land troops. The Egyptian deployment of archers and the fact, that Egyptian ships could both be sailed and rowed, gave them a decisive advantage, despite the inferiority of the vessels themselves, which were at times quite sizable carrying up to two hundred and fifty soldiers.
But often the navy was little more than a means for getting land troops to where they were needed. Senusret III reached Nubia by ship
Master of the double cabinet, Sisatet, he saith: "I came to Abydos, together with the chief treasurer, Ikhernofret, to carve (a statue of) Osiris, lord of Abydos, when the King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Khekure (Sesostris III), living forever, journeyed, while overthrowing the wretched Kush, in the year 19."Soldiers could also be transported at great speed to the Asiatic coast where they came upon the rebellious Canaanites without warning. Thutmose III employed this technique with great success.
Egypt lost its role of maritime superpower after the end of the New Kingdom. Phoenicians and Greeks became the main players in the Mediterranean. Continental powers like the Persians used these sea-faring nations to impose their control on the seas.
 L'armée égyptienne (in French): http://digilander.iol.it/megiddo/armee.htm, now available only through the WayBack machine: http://web.archive.org/web/*/http://digilander.iol.it/megiddo/armee.htm
 Actually very little is known about the Hyksos. They are mostly credited with the introduction of chariot and compound bow because they had come from the Middle East, where these practices had originated, and because the Egyptians began to change their tactics and materiel after coming into contact with them and often used Semitic words to describe the weaponry.
 keftiu : possibly Cretan
 The names of the three divisions can be found on the Beth Shan stela
 H.H. Nelson estimates the size of the army of Thutmose III to have been about 10,000. Robert B. Partridge in Weapons and Warfare in Ancient Egypt gives the size of a division as 5,000. Thus, Seti I would have had about 15,000 men with him, and Ramses II's army at Kadesh would have counted 20,000.
Forces were even smaller in the local conflicts between the rulers of the various city states of Retenu, where the intervention of a single battalion could, at least in the opinion of Rib-Addi, ruler of Byblos, change the fortunes of the whole region.
 In reliefs depicting the Feast of Min four ducks or other birds are sent forth in the four wind directions to make known the enthronement of the king.
 One should be wary of the numbers given by Diodorus.
Letter by Djehuti-mesu to Bu-teh-Amen
 Thesaurus Linguae Aegyptiae => aaew => Altägyptisches Wörterbuch, Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften => Briefe => Briefe des Neuen Reiches => Verwaltung/Alltag => Briefe aus Theben => Briefwechsel des Djehuti-mesu => pBM 10419 => Brief des Djehuti-mesu an Hafy
 According to depictions and inscriptions either penises or hands. The first physical proof of this practice emerged during excavations of a palace at Avaris where sixteen severed right hands were found buried in pits. (http://www.livescience.com/22267-severed-hands-ancient-egypt-palace.html accessed on 11/8/2012)
Bibliography for this and related pages
||Army life and its rewards|
| An Egyptian Account of the Battle of Megiddo|
|The autobiography of Weni|
|The battle of Megiddo|
|The Palestine campaign of Seti I|
|The battle of Kadesh|
|Index of Topics|
|Offsite links||(Opening in a new window)|
|These are just suggestions for further reading. I do not assume any responsibility for the content or availability of these websites.|
| A Foreign Captive at Medinet Habu by Elaine A. Evans|
|Armee (in German)|
|L'armée égyptienne by Pietro Testa (in French)|
| The Battlefield Palette (Francesco Raffaele)|
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