8

In 1457 BC, Thutmose III and his army had to pass the mountains to reach Megiddo. He had three passes he could go through, one in the North, called Jokneam Pass, and another pass in the South, called Dothan Pass.

The enemy army was stationed at the end of these 2 passes, right behind the mountain. So Thutmose III decided to take the third (and most risky) pass through the middle of the mountains, called the Aruna Pass. This route would take him through the mountains and directly to the south of Megiddo itself.

Overview of the three passes

Thutmose III's scribe said that the pass was so difficult and so tight that they had to disassemble the chariots and carry them with them and that in some areas the troops had to walk in single file.

Possible Aruna Pass options

In any case, no matter what route Thutmose III's army took, there was an empty space between where they emerged from the pass and Megiddo of, at most, 2 Kilometres (1.2 Miles).

Empty Space

How come Thutmose III's army was not seen by the people in Megiddo? The Egyptian army took 7 hours for the last man in the army to pass the mountain!

  1. Did the rebels really not leave any garrison behind?

  2. How did the citizens and the people inside Megiddo itself not see the Egyptian army? Knowing that Megiddo is located on top of a hill, so they could have easily seen the army from the comfort of their homes.

  3. A quote from the inscriptions:

    Behold, when the front had reached the exit upon this road, the shadow had turned, and when his majesty arrived at the south of Megiddo on the bank of the brook of Kina, the seventh hour was turning, measured by the sun.

    Then was set up the camp of his majesty, and command was given to the whole army, saying: "Equip yourselves! Prepare your weapons! for we shall advance to fight with that wretched foe in the morning."

    So after 7 hours for the last man in the army to go through the mountain, they actually camped there. How come?!

  • 1
    Where exactly are the passes that required the army to march single line, in relation to Meggido? Because a sensible army commander could take the risk of using that pass, but ASAP he would have ordered his army to regroup (instead of letting it just keep walking in a single column towards the objective). Maybe (just maybe) the egyptians did not arrive peacemeal, despite all. – SJuan76 Aug 27 '17 at 23:06
  • @SJuan76 I am not sure I understand your comment. But the Egyptian army took the Aruna pass which made the Egyptians at some parts of the pass march single line. They came out of the pass south/southwest of Megiddo. The distance between them and Megiddo itself couldn't be any more than 2 Kilometers. Which is why I asked: how come they were not attacked on sight? Also, it did not happen ASAP, it was a large army and the last man in the army took 7 hours to reach the other side of the mountain. They did regroup when they reached the other side but they did not fight until the next morning. – Kareem Aug 27 '17 at 23:15
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    What I mean is that maybe they regroupped (at least partially) before exiting the pass. As you mention, it is only at certain spots that they had to walk in single line; after passing those spots it would seem sensible to reorganize the army as much as it was possible inside the pass, in order to exit the pass in force (thus avoiding any risk of the enemy attacking when the army was discovered). – SJuan76 Aug 27 '17 at 23:22
7

Although the Battle of Megiddo is often described as "the first recorded battle of military history", the truth is that we only have the Egyptian account of the battle. Clearly, that account is unlikely to be completely impartial. We cannot know what wasn't recorded, and so we have to speculate about many of the details - particularly as regards the actions of the King of Kadesh and the armies of Megiddo. However, with that caveat in mind ...


What do we know about how events transpired?

As you say, Thutmose III took the route that passed through the Aruna Pass. When he emerged at Aruna (the area now called Wadi Ara) with his army, Thutmose could see how King Durusha of Kadesh had arrayed his forces. He had infantry units guarding the roads at Djefti in the north and Taanakh in the south. His chariots were deployed in the centre near the city of Megiddo itself.

Given this deployment, we can infer that Durusha had intended for Thutmose to attack the infantry units when he emerged from either the northern or southern route. The infantry could then feign retreat, and the Egyptians would presumably pursue them. This would split Thutmose's forces and leave them vulnerable to a massed attack by Durusha's chariots.

Whatever King Durusha's plans had been, they were effectively nullified by Thutmose taking the Aruna pass route. The Egyptian forces would have needed to rest after such a long march. Darusha's forces were fresh, but in the wrong place to attack Thutmose. Thutmose established his camp as we know from the record, and his army prepared for battle the following day.

Presumably Durusha spent whatever daylight remained redeploying his forces in preparation for an attack on Thutmose's position the following day.

We know that on the following morning Thutmose found himself facing the Cananite army of Megiddo. This army consisted mainly of men from the upper classes who had trained from a very young age. Most came from warrior families and were held in high esteem. They were well armed, having a sword, spear and shield, and they were highly skilled in using these weapons.

Rather than waiting for Darusha to get all his forces in place, Thutmose launched a pre-emptive attack.

For all their strengths, it seems that the army of Megiddo lacked a unified command structure, and that was probably a major factor in why they broke so quickly under Thutmose's attack.

At this point, the Egyptian army stopped to plunder the Cananite camp. This kind of behaviour was normal in battles in the ancient world. However, this delay in pressing home the attack on Megiddo allowed the town to reorganise its defences, and what could have been a swift victory became a siege which lasted some seven months.

For more detail, see The Battle of Megiddo and its Result, or the sources listed below.


1 - Did the rebels really not leave any garrison behind?

Obviously we can't know for certain, but it seems likely that any garrison left in Megiddo would have been relatively small. King Durusha needed his forces in numbers in the field, ready to attack Thutmose. Any garrison remaining in the town would probably have been far too small to offer any effective resistance to the Egyptian army.

2 - How did the citizens and the people inside Megiddo itself not see the Egyptian army?

They almost certainly did. However, they may not have realised initially that they were seeing the arrival of the main Egyptian army. By the time they realised, it would have been too late, and in any event they would have been ill-equipped to tackle a large Egyptian army.

It is reasonably safe to assume that they sent messengers to King Darusha and his commanders to warn them that Thutmose wasn't where they had expected him to be.

3 - Why did the Egyptians set up camp?

Ancient battles were almost never fought at night. Even moving large forces at night was unusual. The Egyptian army had just endured a long march and would have been tired, while Darusha's forces were fresh, but out of position.

As the inscription states, the Egyptian army could use the time to prepare for the battle the following day, which they did.


Sources:

  • Epstein, Claire: That Wretched Enemy of Kadesh, Journal of Near Eastern Studies, Vol. 22, No. 4 (Oct., 1963), pp. 242-246, University of Chicago Press
  • Faulkner, R.O: The Battle of Megiddo, Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, Vol. 28 (Dec., 1942), pp 2-15, Egypt Exploration Society
  • I think you actually confirmed what I was thinking: They saw the Egyptian army and sent messengers to the troops that are stationed to the South and the North. The rebel army came back at dawn tired and not ready and the Egyptian army was already ready and in position. But How come the rebel army in the south did not pass by the Egyptian camp? How come the Egyptian scouts did not see at least the army that was at Taanach? – Kareem Aug 27 '17 at 21:02
  • The King of Kadesh (Dorusha, I think, from memory?) had set a trap for Thutmose, and all his forces were out of position when Thutmose suddenly appeared at Aruna. None of the forces were in position for a battle before nightfall. I'll add some details about the deployments to my answer when I get home. – sempaiscuba Aug 27 '17 at 21:09
  • Maybe, like you said, armies did not move at night at that time. So the rebel army may have moved at dawn and they immediately engaged with the Egyptians once they arrived. Quote from the inscription "The southern wing of this army of his majesty was on a hill south of the brook of Kina, the norther wing was at the northwest of Megiddo, while his majesty was in their center" But more information here would be highly appreciated. – Kareem Aug 27 '17 at 21:29
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    @Kareem It would make sense to ask this as a new question. I'll need to re-read the texts. – sempaiscuba Aug 29 '17 at 10:59
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    Thanks for your reply on my other question. I found that Breasted explains in the same book that the army did indeed face some enemies in the pass (or as they were exiting the pass): "There was some encounter with the enemy here in the mountains, and this moves the officers to urge calling in the straggling rear as soon as possible. This encounter has escaped all the historians except Meyer (Geschickte, 239); cf. Maspero, Struggle of the Nations, 257: Wiedemann, Aegyptische Geschichte, 347; Petrie, History of Egypt, 11, 101; etc. ".. I just thought it would be interesting to share with you. – Kareem Aug 29 '17 at 23:03
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Q: How come Thutmose III's army was not seen by the people in Megiddo? The Egyptian army took 7 hours for the last man in the army to pass the mountain!

Answer: Apparently, it was 12 hours. They weren't seen because there was no one guarding the middle pass (because it was unlikely Thutmose would use this pass, the most dangerous).


Q1- Did the rebels really not leave any garrison behind?

Answer: Nope, unless you count old men, women, and children.


Q2- How did the citizens and the people inside Megiddo itself not see the Egyptian army? Knowing that Megiddo is located on top of a hill, so they could have easily seen the army from the comfort of their homes.

Answer: No idea - can't figure out the topo just from the image. Let's also remember this was about 3,500 years ago ... who knows what the landscape was like then. Finally, weather, sun-light, etc. could be factors too (But I'm guessing - have no data/info).


Q3- So After 7 hours for the last man in the army to go through the mountain, they actually camped there. How come?!

Answer: I believe they were looting camps of the Canaanite rebels. Not camping as such.


The source of the answers provided should be evident in entire paragraph below, taken from Eric H. Cline's "1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed", Princeton, 2014, Chapter 1, EGYPT AND CANAAN AT THE BATTLE OF MEGIDDO, 1479 BC:

His generals, according to the written account, suggested that they take either the northern or the southern route because these were wider and less susceptible to an ambush. Thutmose replied that such tactics were exactly what the Canaanites would be expecting; they would never believe him to be so stupid as to go up the central route since it was so narrow and vulnerable to an ambush.

And yet, precisely because that was their thinking, he would indeed march with the army up the central route, hoping to catch the Canaanites by surprise, and that is exactly what transpired. It took the Egyptians nearly twelve hours to get through the central pass (known, at various times throughout history, as the Wadi Ara, the Nahal Iron, and/or the Musmus Pass) from the first man to the last, but they got through without a scratch and found nobody guarding either Megiddo or the temporary enemy camps surrounding it. The Canaanite forces were all at Yokneam to the north and Ta’anach to the south, just as Thutmose III had predicted.

The only mistake that Thutmose III made was in allowing his men to stop to loot and plunder the enemy camps before actually capturing the city. This was an error that allowed the few defenders of Megiddo—mostly old men, women, and children—time to close the city gates. This in turn resulted in a prolonged siege lasting seven more months before the Egyptians were able to capture the city.

Finally, as Wikipedia entry of this battle states, the date of this battle can be different from the one you've provided (1457 BC). This battle given by Cline is dated 1479 BC.

  • 1 and 2: Even if they did not leave garrison behind, it would be logical to believe, like @sempaiscuba said, that they at least sent someone to warn the armies. 3: I do not know where the 12 hours came from, almost all books and inscription translations say 7 hours, and that when the last soldier passed through the mountain, the sun was already starting to set. And again, how come the rebel army in the South did not pass by the Egyptian camp and how come the Egyptian scouts did not see that army? – Kareem Aug 27 '17 at 21:11
  • @Kareem - Yes, I agree most state 7 hour but that's what Cline has. I don't really know antiquity so I wouldn't have numbers, formations, tactics but I'll venture why they wouldn't attack on sight. Most likely because Kadesh needed the fortifications or surprise attack against at 10k - 20k army. And as I understand, Thutmose was a highly respected military leader. Who knows why exactly, but Canaanite rebels vs Egyptian army ... I'd say the rebels should not go linear (i.e. pitch-battles). Probably suicidal. I'm just guessing ... not good enough in antiquity. – J Asia Aug 27 '17 at 22:50
  • On point 3, I think you are confusing the arrival of Thutmose when he and his army had emerged from the Aruna Pass, and the looting that followed the battle with the Canaanites the following day. It is fairly clear from the inscriptions that the Egyptians set up camp for the night, presumably wanting to rest so as to be fresh for battle the following day. – sempaiscuba Aug 27 '17 at 23:03
  • @sempaiscuba - Me? Lol ... very likely guilty as charged. Incl Cline, I've read the battle accounts at most, not more than 5 times ... so, I'd say yep. They did stay overnight but it wasn't for anything other than quick rest (from the march) and looting. – J Asia Aug 27 '17 at 23:13
  • I had to transcribe, transliterate, and then translate the inscription as an assignment. Yep, it was almost as much fun as it sounds! ;-) – sempaiscuba Aug 27 '17 at 23:16

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