War and battle in ancient Egypt

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Victims of civil war, bound with ropes and with their heads cut off and placed between their legs, from the Narmer palette, about 3000 BC

Victims of civil war in ancient Egypt. They’re bound with ropes and have their heads cut off and placed between their legs. (from the Narmer palette, about 3000 BC)

Civil wars in ancient Egypt

Because it is surrounded by deserts like the Land of Oz, Egypt is pretty hard to invade. So a lot of the time Egypt was at peace.

More about Egypt’s geography
Lots of Ancient Egypt articles

But not all the time. The Egyptians fought among themselves over who would be in charge of their country, and over whether the country would be united (as in the First Intermediate Period).

Soldiers from the 11th Dynasty (about 2000 BC)

Soldiers from the 11th Dynasty (about 2000 BC)

Who invaded Egypt?

The Egyptians also sometimes fought off invasions from the Libyans to their west, or from the Nubians to their south (and sometimes they lost to these attacks too).

More about the Nubians

Around 1700 BC, there was a big invasion of Hyksos from the north. They brought the first horses and chariots to Egypt.

More about the Hyksos

War chariots and weapons in ancient Egypt

The Egyptian army had bronze-tipped spears and shields made of wood and ox-hide. They also had highly trained archers who used bows and arrows. Egyptian soldiers do not seem to have worn armor, maybe because it was too hot.

More about bows and arrows

The Pharaohs in the New Kingdom fought from chariots drawn by horses, but probably before the New Kingdom the Egyptians did not have horse-drawn war chariots.
Egyptian Pharaoh Rameses at the Battle of Kadesh (Abu Simbel, New Kingdom)

Egyptian Pharaoh Rameses at the Battle of Qadesh (Abu Simbel, New Kingdom)

Ancient Egypt’s mercenary soldiers from Sudan and Greece

Beginning as early as the Middle Kingdom, Egyptian pharaohs hired Nubian mercenaries from Sudan to fight in their wars.

More about mercenary soldiers

It is likely (though not proven) that the New Kingdom Egyptians hired Greek mercenary soldiers to fight in their wars with them about 1500 BC.

Greek hoplite soldiers

Certainly many Greek soldiers fought for Egypt while Egypt was revolting against Persian rule in the 500s and 400s BC.

Learn by doing: archery
More about bows and arrows
And more about the Nubians

Bibliography and further reading about Egyptian warfare:

Eyewitness: Ancient Egypt, by George Hart. Easy reading.

The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, by Ian Shaw (2002).

History of Ancient Egypt: An Introduction, by Erik Hornung (1999). A college textbook. On the conservative side – not much on new developments.

Ancient Near Eastern History and Culture, by William H. Stiebing (2002). Expensive for a paperback, but brief and very up to date. And yes, it includes Egypt in the Near East.

More about African warfare
More about chariots and horses
And more about mercenary soldiers
More about ancient Egypt
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By |2018-11-12T13:50:53+00:00June 19th, 2017|Africa, Egypt, War|15 Comments
Cite this page: Carr, K.E. War and battle in ancient Egypt. Quatr.us Study Guides, June 19, 2017. Web. November 16, 2018.

About the Author:

Dr. Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram, Pinterest, or Facebook, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.

15 Comments

  1. Jasmine October 18, 2018 at 9:40 am - Reply

    Dear Karen carr,
    did Menes go to war?

    • Karen Carr October 18, 2018 at 9:54 am

      Menes is really more a story than a person – we don’t even know if there ever was a real Menes. But in the story, yes, Menes fought to make all of Egypt into one country. You can read more about him here: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Menes

  2. regina September 24, 2018 at 10:09 pm - Reply

    thanks but maybe try to add more info 🙂

    • Karen Carr September 25, 2018 at 4:35 am

      Sure! What were you trying to find out, Regina?

  3. sophia lippert September 14, 2018 at 6:40 am - Reply

    This did not help me with my project at all.

    • Karen Carr September 14, 2018 at 11:54 am

      Sorry to hear it, Sophia! What were you trying to find out?

  4. Kat D Von Doo May 8, 2018 at 9:10 pm - Reply

    To Professor Karen Carr,
    I found this article very interesting and I would like to congratulate you on it it is great to see that all those years of hard work payed off,

    Sincerely,

    Kat D Von Doo

    (ps please do not try to contact me)

  5. Kat D Von Doo May 8, 2018 at 5:24 pm - Reply

    To Professor Karen Carr
    it was a great article that helped me very much
    Sincerely,
    Kat D Von Doo

    • Karen Carr May 8, 2018 at 8:24 pm

      Thank you! I’m delighted to hear it.

  6. mattog8391 April 23, 2018 at 9:07 am - Reply

    i think thats rude

  7. mr.imosible101 April 16, 2018 at 10:06 am - Reply

    this was not helpful as it needs to talk about conflict and war so you didnt include conflict so thats why it wasnt helpful

  8. jojo April 13, 2018 at 8:32 am - Reply

    it was the best thing ever in my life yh keep going and dont stop with this article they help a lot

  9. ??@_@?? April 11, 2018 at 7:28 am - Reply

    😛

  10. dfsahewfh January 22, 2018 at 9:49 am - Reply

    not the best article check out mine
    https://www.ancient.eu/Egyptian_Warfare/

    • Karen Carr January 22, 2018 at 9:50 am

      Thanks for the suggestion!

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