The history and noble heritage of Egypt (Kemet) is one that every Black African should be proud of, for it is indeed one of the noblest feet achieved by the black race. In a world where Euro-centric Egyptologists are doing their best to erase the true Black identities of the ancient and true Egyptians, it gives us the joy to document the advances and achievements of our ancestors, in many fields of endeavor.
Before we give the accounts of Egyptian warfare, we will love to say that the word “Egypt” is the Greek name of the Black people of ancient Kemet, and it would be more respectful for Africans to define the builders of the ancient Pyramids, as people of Kemet.
Egypt, for as long as time can recall, has been surrounded by a desert, the Mediterranean sea to its north, and the five cataracts of the river Nile guarding its south.
These natural borders surrounding it served as the country’s walls of defense against numerous invaders that would have made them an easy target for conquest especially as they were busy undertaking activities for the preservation of their lives.
The ancient Egyptians of the early periods before the Middle Kingdom (2040- 1782 BCE) period were not interested in the conquest of other lands, although there was civil unrest between various factions fighting for the throne until they were unified into one kingdom by King Menes or Narmer( The Early Dynastic Period 3150-2613 BCE).
Within the Egyptian’s Military history was a time in which it lacked innovations, strategies and tactics before it overtime became one of the great Military forces in history.
There was also a time in which the soldiers who fought in it were paid mercenaries or people who were simply volunteers (the Old Kingdom. 2613-2181 BCE) whose loyalties were with their nomarch, their community, and their brothers-in-arms. However, this early militia still achieved victory as they were required to achieve smalls goals like quelling uprisings and securing the border.
The Armies & Weapons Of The Old Kingdom Egypt
The weapons used in the Old Kingdom were the bow and arrow, and some of the shields were made of hides, and the troops were dressed in simple kilts or were naked. This weaponry was merely a slight change from the maces, daggers, and spears that were used in the predynastic era.
The Middle Kingdom Warfare (2134–1690 BC)
During the Middle Kingdom, the army was well organized, and in the 12th dynasty it had a core of professional soldiers who served for prolonged periods of time abroad, but recruitments were still done from the provinces. The troop’s weapons were made standard and they played a greater role.
Troops carried copper axes and swords with long, bronze spear and they wore body armors of leather over short kilts. At this time, there was the existence of short troops that were used as the vanguard. The army was split into units with an officer in charge who reported to the minister of war or the commander in chief. These positions were first introduced in this period.
In this period the military-led by the warrior-king Senusret III (1878-1860 BC) made major campaigns in Nubia and Palestine, abolished the position of nomarch, and took more direct control of the regions his soldiers came from and secured Egypt’s borders with manned fortifications.
The Hyksos who wielded control in Egypt during the beginning of the Second Intermediate Period ( 1782-1570 BCE) at a time known as the dark age, introduced the composite bow, a scimitar-shaped sword which was known as the Khopesh, and a bronze dagger with a narrow blade. They also introduced the horse-drawn war chariot to the military, and innovation that was significant to Egypt’s warfare and weaponry.
The New Kingdom Warfare (1549–1069 BC)
The period of the New Kingdom was a period in which Egypt was in an almost permanent state of war. In this period Egypt expanded its empire but was always at war. In this period the southern borders was expanded to Nubia. The Kings in this period were very famous for their exploits.
In this period Thutmose III led more than 17 different campaigns in 20years with the help of the professional army which had become a first-class military force with appropriate hierarchy and divisions (chariot and infantry) numbering approximately 5,000 men. Modifications were also made to warfare; the hyksos chariot was made lighter and the chariot forces were divided into squadrons of 12 chariots and 24 men with a thirteenth as squadron commander.
This improvement gave the Army an advantage during the famous “Battle of Kadesh (1274 BC)” which was led by Rameses II against the Hittites. It was after this battle that the world’s first peace treaty was signed in 1258 BC.
It was in the New Kingdom that the navy which was the third branch of the military became more prestigious as they helped in the defeat of the Sea Peoples invaders which was a land battle fought on water and led by Rameses II.
The Inevitable Decline of the Egyptian Military
During the Third Intermediate Period of Egypt (1069-525 BCE) which was after the death of Rameses II, Egypt entered the so-called Iron Age II in 1000 BC. They began producing iron tools and weapons but forging iron required charcoal from burned lumber, and Egypt had few trees. Because of this detriment, the military was rendered weak and Egypt was vulnerable to attacks by foreign forces like Assyria and subsequently Persia in 525 BC after the “Battle of Pelusium”, although the Persian conquest of Egypt was not attributed to superior military strength rather it was through intelligence.
The Ptolemies who later conquered Egypt (323BC) made use of their country’s military tactics and weaponry throughout their rule of Egypt, thus, the history of ancient Egyptian warfare essentially ended with the New Kingdom.