Battle of Kadesh

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The Battle of Kadesh (also spelled Qadesh) took place between Egypt and the Hittite forces of Muwatallis, on the Orontes River of modern Syria, during the reign of Ramesses II (13041237 BC). It was probably the largest chariot-battle ever fought, with some 5000 vehicles involved.

The exact date of the battle is unknown, although it has been frequently dated to either 1299 BC or around 1285 BC. Almost all our information on the battle comes from Egyptian accounts, and may be biased or inaccurate. Subsequent dates given in this article assume the 1299 date.

This battle marked a stalemate between Hittite power and the power of 19th Dynasty Egypt, where the two met face to face along their outermost marches, in what is now Syria. The Hittites, based at Carchemish, were angry over the defection of Amurru to Egypt and wanted to bring it back under control – on the other hand the Egyptians wanted to protect their new vassal.

The Hittite king Muwatallis, who had mustered several of his allies (among them Rimisharrinaa, the king of Aleppo), had positioned his troops behind the hill at Kadesh, but Ramesses thought they were at Aleppo and learned the truth only after capturing two Hittites. Immediately Ramesses sent messengers to hasten the coming of the Ptah and Setekh divisions of his army which were still on the far side of the river Orontes.

Before Ramesses could gather them all together, however, 2500 of Muwatillis' chariots attacked the Ra and Amon divisions and plundered the Egyptian camp. The Egyptians retreated, and Ramesses himself narrowly escaped capture, mainly thanks to the intervention of a troop contingent from Amurru, which suddenly arrived to assist the pharaoh and drive the Hittites back. The Egyptians regrouped and almost surrounded the Hittites, but the Hittite chariots retreated back across the Orontes to join their infantry.

Muwatallis called for a truce with Ramesses. Though both sides later proclaimed the battle a victory, Ramesses' troops had suffered many casualties and he was unable to capture any more territory. Kadesh and Amurru were later recaptured by the Hittites. The consequent loss of prestige sparked revolts within the Egyptian empire, and Ramesses could not resume direct hostilities against the Hittites until 1294 BC.

The conflicts were finally concluded by a peace treaty in 1283 BC, in the 21st year of Ramesses II's reign, with the new king of the Hittites, Hattusili III.

The treaty bond that was established was inscribed on a silver tablet, of which a clay copy survives. An enlargement of the clay tablet hangs on a wall at the headquarters of the United Nations, as one of the earliest international peace treaties. Its text, in the Hittite version, appears in the links below. An Egyptian version survives in a papyrus.

External links

fr:Bataille de Qadesh ja:カデシュの戦い nl:Slag bij Kadesh pl:Bitwa pod Kadesz zh:卡迭石战役

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