Battle of Kadesh summary
The battle is generally dated to 1274 BCE and is the earliest battle in recorded history for which details of tactics and formations are known. It was probably the largest chariot battle ever fought, involving perhaps 5,000–6,000 chariots.
- Pharaoh Ramesses and the Egyptian advance guard captured two nomads who told him that the Hittites were 200 kilometers away and where too much afraid of Pharaoh, to come south. This was a false report ordered by the Hittites. Ramesses II only learned of the truth predicament when two new spies were captured, beaten and forced to reveal the truth before him. Under torture, the second group of spies revealed that the entire Hittite army and the Hittite king were actually close at hand.
- In his haste to capture Kadesh, Ramesses II committed a major tactical error. He increased the distance between his Amun Division and the remaining Re, Ptah and Seth divisions, thereby splitting up his combined forces.
- When he realized how close the Hittites were the pharaoh sent urgent messengers to hasten the arrival of the Ptah and Seth divisions of his army, which were still some distance away on the far side of the River Orontes. Before Ramesses could organize his troops, however, Hittite chariots attacked the Re division, which was caught in the open and almost destroyed. Some of its survivors fled to the safety of the Amun camp, but they were pursued by the Hittite forces.
- The Hittite chariots crashed through the Amun camp's shield wall and began their assault. This created panic among the Amun troops as well. However, the momentum of the Hittite attack was already starting to wane, as the impending obstacles of such a large camp forced many Hittite charioteers to slow their attack.
- Ramesses personally led several charges into the Hittite ranks together with his personal guard, some of the chariots from his Amun division and survivors from the routed division of Re. Using the superior maneuverability of their chariots and the power and range of Egyptian composite bows, deployed and attacked the overextended and tired Hittites.
- The Hittites, who believed their enemies to be totally routed, had stopped to loot the Egyptian camp and, in doing so, became easy targets for Ramesses' counterattack. Ramesses' action was successful in driving the Hittites back towards the Orontes and away from the Egyptian camp, while in the ensuing pursuit, the heavier Hittite chariots were easily overtaken and dispatched by the lighter, faster, Egyptian chariots.
- Although he had suffered a significant reversal, Hittite king Muwatalli still commanded a large force of reserve chariots and infantry plus the walls of the town. As the retreat reached the river, he ordered another thousand chariots to attack the Egyptians, the stiffening element consisting of the high nobles who surrounded the king.
- As the Hittite forces approached the Egyptian camp again, the Nearin troop contingent from Amurru suddenly arrived, this time surprising the Hittites. Ramesses had also reorganized his forces and, expecting the help, also attacked from the camp.
- After six charges, the Hittite forces were almost surrounded, and the survivors were forced to swim back across the Orontes River to rejoin their infantry.