- Education and Science»
- History & Archaeology»
- History of the Middle East
Pharaoh Ramesses II And The Battle Of Kadesh-The Earlier Art Of Spin And Propaganda
In Egypt at the age of fourteen, Rameses or Ramesses was appointed Prince Regent by his father Seti I. Rameses probably took the throne in his early 20s. He ruled Egypt from about 1279 BC to 1213 BC, 66 years.
Princess of Egypt
A little music while you read?
Once upon a time there was an Egyptian Pharaoh named Rameses II. He had a beef with the Hittites .
In about the fifth year of his reign, the Pharaoh was determined to take Kadesh from the powerful Hittites.
Now this was around 1275 BC. So let’s do some math here…2010 plus 1275 equals 3285 years ago. Yikes! This was 1500 years after the Pyramid Age. Egypt had collapsed and revived twice since then.
So anyway, Rameses had this big fight with the Hittites. When the dust settles he tells everybody how it went down.
He went on and on.
Nobody could shut him up.
He spread grand art throughout Egypt, in stone no less, depicting how he, the Pharaoh, won the battle almost single handedly. He passed this story about his battle down through centuries- as it was etched in stone.
The version of the Battle of Kadesh that Rameses likes:
Rameses (“he who was the majesty of Horus, the Mighty Bull, Beloved of Truth; King of Upper and Lower Egypt; Son of Re, given life forever”) (a little pretentious don’t you think?) says the campaign against the Hittite began on the ninth day of the ninth month of the fifth year of his reign, just after his birthday. Apparently killing people was a desired manner of celebrating one’s birthday.
The Pharaoh marched north through Sinai and the land of Canaan. Most people would either prostrate themselves before the Pharaoh or wet their pants.
After many days this put them at Usermare-Meriamon.
From here they amazed the folks in Shabtuna which was within striking distance of Kadesh. So it’s here that two members of the local Shasu (Bedouin-type wanderers who became the Israelites) tell the Pharaoh, “Our families, who are among the greatest of the Hittites, have instructed us to say to Pharaoh: ‘We will be your subjects, O Pharaoh, and we will abandon the King of Kheta, King Muwatalli; for he is currently in the land of Aleppos, to the north of Tunip, and he will not come south because he fears you.’”
But these guys are spies. They’re working for King Muwatalli. They were all trying to mess with the Egyptians and wanted the Egyptians to be unprepared.
Believing this story, Rameses splits his forces and he marches on to Kadesh.
Well, you know it! King Muwatalli was there and had invited everybody from the ends of the earth to kick the daylights out of Rameses and the Egyptians.
Of course very soon the Pharaoh and his army were looking like Custer’s Last Stand a few thousand years earlier.
Pharaoh became infuriated. “How dare they kill me!” He said. He became enraged and “became like Baal in his fury”. Rameses charged into the army of King Muwatalli and all his allies! As he looked around he saw that his army did not follow. 2500 enemy chariots surrounded him. The Pharaoh’s rage knew no bounds. He was like Sutekh the great in strength.
He was slaying, smiting, hurling them headlong, one after the other and then he got really mad!
King Muwatalli was a great loser and laid the capital of the Hittite Empire at Rameses feet and ceded all claim to Kadesh.
So this is the “digested version” of the story Rameses told all his friends and enemies far and wide.
He added toward the end that:
“I attacked the Kheta (Hittites) and their allies while I was alone, my infantry and my chariots having forsaken me. Not one of them stood to turn about. I swear, as Re loves me, as my father, Arum, favors me, that, as for every matter which I have stated, I did it in truth, in the presence of my infantry and my chariots.”
The Truth- Lucky To Be Alive
I guess most folks could figure that one man, blood-doping with EPO and steroids, couldn’t overtake thousands on chariots and what-not.
The country’s reputation was at stake. Rameses couldn’t let the truth get out that he had his behind handed to him.
16,000 Hittites were hiding behind the city. Rameses sent messengers to summon his other three divisions that were sent away. But the Hittites attacked! The Hittites were sporting the latest in killing tools and fashion. They were using iron weapons and three men chariots. The Egyptians were using old, war surplus, bronze weapons. The Hittites went through the Egyptians faster than a politician can lie.
The Pharaoh was surrounded by a few of his own old, used, repossessed, chariots. But the Pharaoh was lucky. A division of his infantry appeared and prevented the total defeat. Also, the Hittite army didn’t chase the Egyptians but started pillaging. The Hittite soldiers worked for free but could keep all that they could pillage. They were going through the tents and bodies of the dead.
In their haste for shiny objects, Rameses and the military nobility of Egypt got away.
The Egyptian archers played a big role as the Hittites plundered and bogged down in bodies of men, horses, and chariots.
The battle for Kadesh was about a tie. The Egyptians forced the Hittites to retreat but Rameses was unable to capture Kadesh.
Both armies were exhausted. The leaders agreed on a truce. Rameses was allowed to get the heck out of Kadesh with his behind intact.
The majority of accounts of this battle are Egyptian but there are many Hittite sources that paint a balanced picture.
Battle of Kadesh (Part 1/3)
The Battle of Kadesh between the Hittites and Egyptians has been tauted as the first true battle for study.
Battle of Kadesh (Part 2/3)
It is the first time in history where enough historical evidence survives, to paint an accurate picture.
Battle of Kadesh (Part 3/3)
It was a mess!
Why did Rameses create his fictional version?
Rameses was a builder, warrior, king, and living god (self portrait). He had a huge ego but was also embarrassed by his humble beginnings.
His Grand-dad was a minor Egyptian official who “was in the right place at the right time.” What does that mean? Was there an earthquake?
But “that right place and time” made him Pharaoh. Rameses II was to make sure his name would be remembered, even more than his father, Seti I.
Rameses II ruled for 66 years. He had extensive military and building programs. He built many new cities, temples, and monuments.
Pharaoh II erased the names of other pharaohs from buildings and monuments and etched his own where their names were. He placed statues of himself all over the land as far as he could. Rameses was etched in cliffs.
No matter where you went THERE HE WAS! Geez!
Much of the Pharaoh’s fame was gained by this ridiculous account by Rameses. He couldn’t live with the reality of Kadesh.
So on his return from the battle of Kadesh, Rameses inscribed in dozens of his temples, straight-away, that he was the big cheese at Kadesh. His army abandoned him. He hurled himself at the thousands of Hittites. He was smiting right and left and rivers ran red with the blood of his enemies!
With no contrary sources of information (evidently the media was owned by the Pharaoh like it is today), the ancient Egyptians chose to believe that Rameses and Governor Connelly were shot by the same bullet….oops! Excuse me. Egyptians chose to believe that the World Trade Center fell at the rate of gravity …oops!
Sorry. So without any media to support any other theories, the Egyptians chose to believe that Rameses was Superman.
This legacy that he invented enabled him to retain Egypt’s possessions and military reputation to the extent that Egypt was not seriously challenged for 150 years.
Of course there were other leaders who claimed “improbable victories” such as Pharaoh Thutmose III’s campaign against the Mitanni of 1445 BC but the evidence that survives doesn’t refute the events.
An Ancient Spindoctor
2 minutes 54 seconds - the digested version
Ramesses II, The Builder
One minute 34 seconds of Ramses the builder.
I’m just glad that we’re living in an age where you can trust everything our government says.
I'm thankful that no one would dare try such cover-up campaigns to salvage the reputation of a government on this present world stage!