The Battle of Kadesh was one the most famous battles in Egypt's history, comparing it to Actium and other famous Egyptian battles. It was one of Ramses ll's most important battles, because it showed his valiance and bravery.
Ramses ll was leading a campaign through Syria-Palestine. He was battling Muwatalli and his Hittite soldiers, known for a violent chariot warfare. He had begun by putting down rebels, yet then he reached disputed land. Muwatalli and the Hittite Empire claimed it for themselves, yet Ramses dared to bid on the land too. He began to advance on the Hittite town and stronghold of Kadesh at the river Orontes. Not only was the city allied with Muwatalli, it led to major trade routes up north. Ramses wanted to take the city.
Muwatalli believed the youthful Ramses was too inexperienced to make battle with his force. He felt no threat from the Egyptian pharaoh.
Ramses believed otherwise. He marched at Kadesh with 20,000 strong , determined. He believed the principal Hittite army was at Aleppo. He quelled remaining princes and other leaders that posed a threat to Egyptian power.
Ramses' men captured two Hittite soldiers. They claimed to be deserters, but were really spies. They told Ramses that Muwatalli was several days travel further north, at Aleppo. Ramses took the advice and probably set the spies free. Everything was working for Muwatalli, who was really encircling the Egyptians with clever strategy. Muwatalli saw his opportunity to get rid of Ramses once and for all.
At the plain extending in front of Kadesh, Muwatalli launched his ambush. He attacked with his 2,500 + chariots in the sand and dust. It most likely became the largest chariot battle ever, with 5,000 chariots battling. Ramses ll became cut off from his army and soon, the tide was turning towards the Hittites. His leading divisions broke up, disarrayed by the Hittite attack. Ramses asked Amun, whom he considered his divine father, what he should do. "Amun, will you ignore your son?" he cried. "Haven't I had sacrifices made for you? Haven't I had temples built for you?" were some of the things he cried out. According to Ramses, Amun responded. He began to fight like a god! He galloped around his troops, rallying them. The soldiers took this as a great inspiration and began to fight harder with the arrival of a task force. Other accounts say Ramses was only saved from complete disaster by the Egyptian task garrison. Ramses drew a stalemate, yet he immediately saw an opportunity to create himself as a great leader. But the failure to take Kadesh was a blow to Egyptian pride.
Ramses was a great leader, yet he found a way to advertise himself as a godlike commander. He had Egyptian artists paint scenes of the battle on the walls of temples, Pi-Ramesse, and Thebes. These scenes showed Ramses as a giant on his war chariot, his arrows piercing the necks of the Hittites. Their horses kick, buck, and trip, terrified of Ramses. He also had scenes of his speech to his cowardly soldiers after the battle. They make Ramses look like an angry god of war.
At Qatna, Ramses defeated Muwatalli once and for all. He married Maathorneferure to satisfy Muwatalli in the peace treaty they signed, as the Hittites were still a threat. It is one of the oldest treaties that still exists.
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