This poem from the New Kingdom period (1326 BCE) celebrates an Egyptian victory over a people known as the Khita, who were related to the Hittites. The poem was inscribed on walls in the Temple of Karnak (pictured below, as it looked in 1914 CE).
THEN the king of Khita-land,
With his warriors made a stand,
But he durst not risk his hand
In battle with our Pharaoh;
So his chariots drew away,
Unnumbered as the sand,
And they stood, three men of war
On each car;
And gathered all in force
Was the flower of his army,
for the fight in full array,
But advance, he did not dare,
Foot or horse.
So in ambush there they lay,
Northwest of Kadesh town;
And while these were in their lair,
Others went forth south of Kadesh,
on our midst, their charge was thrown
With such weight, our men went down,
For they took us unaware,
And the legion of Pra-Hormakhu gave way.
But at the western side
Of Arunatha’s tide,
Near the city’s northern wall,
our Pharaoh had his place.
And they came unto the king,
And they told him our disgrace;
Then Rameses uprose,
like his father, Montu in might,
All his weapons took in hand,
And his armor did he don,
Just like Baal, fit for fight;
And the noble pair of horses that carried Pharaoh on,
Lo! “Victory of Thebes” was their name,
And from out the royal stables of great Miamun they came.
Then the king he lashed each horse,
And they quickened up their course,
And he dashed into the middle of the hostile, Hittite host,
All alone, none other with him, for he counted not the cost.
Then he looked behind, and found
That the foe were all around,
Two thousand and five hundred of their chariots of war;
And the flower of the Hittites, and their helpers, in a ring—
Men of Masu, Keshkesh, Pidasa, Malunna, Arathu,
Qazauadana, Kadesh, Akerith, Leka and Khilibu—
Cut off the way behind,
Retreat he could not find;
There were three men on each car,
And they gathered all together, and closed upon the king.
“Yea, and not one of my princes, of my chief men and my great,
Was with me, not a captain, not a knight;
For my warriors and chariots had left me to my fate,
Not one was there to take his part in fight.”
Then spake Pharaoh, and he cried:
“Father Ammon, where are you?
Shall a sire forget his son?
Is there anything without your knowledge I have done?
From the judgments of your mouth when have I gone?
Have I e’er transgressed your word?
Disobeyed, or broke a vow?
Is it right, who rules in Egypt, Egypt’s lord,
Should e’er before the foreign peoples bow,
Or own their rod?
Whate’er may be the mind of this Hittite herdsman horde,
Sure Ammon at should stand higher
than the wretch who knows no God?
Father Ammon, is it nought
That to you I dedicated noble monuments, and filled
Your temples with the prisoners of war?
That for you a thousand years shall stand the shrines
I dared to build?
The king, probably, is here identifying himself with Ammon.
That to you my palace-substance I have brought,
That tribute unto you from afar
A whole land comes to pay,
That to you ten thousand oxen for sacrifice I fell,
And burn upon your altars the sweetest woods that smell;
That all your heart required, my hand did ne’er gainsay?
I have built for you tall gates and wondrous works beside the Nile,
I have raised you mast on mast,
For eternity to last,
From Elephantin’s isle
The obelisks for you I have conveyed,
It is I who brought alone
The everlasting stone,
It is I who sent for you,
The ships upon the sea,
To pour into your coffers the wealth of foreign trade;
Is it told that such a thing
By any other king,
At any other time, was done at all?
Let the wretch be put to shame
Who refuses your commands,
But honor to his name
Who to Ammon lifts his hands.
To the full of my endeavor,
With a willing heart forever,
I have acted unto you,
And to you, great God, I call;
For behold! now, Ammon, I,
In the midst of many peoples, all unknown,
Unnumbered as the sand,
Here I stand,
There is no one at my side,
My warriors and chariots afeared,
Have deserted me, none heard
My voice, when to the cravens I, their king, for succor, cried.
But I find that Ammon’s grace
Is better far to me
Than a million fighting men and ten thousand chariots be.
Yea, better than ten thousand, be they brother, be they son,
When with hearts that beat like one,
Together for to help me they are gathered in one place.
The might of men is nothing, it is Ammon who is lord,
What has happened here to me is according to your word,
And I will not now trangress your command;
But alone, as here I stand,
To you my cry I send,
Unto earth’s extremest end,
Saying, ‘Help me, father Ammon, against the Hittite horde.”‘
Then my voice it found an echo in Hermonthis’ temple-hall,
Ammon heard it, and he came unto my call;
And for joy I gave a shout,
From behind, his voice cried out,
“I have hastened to you, Ramses Miamun,
Behold! I stand with you,
Behold! ’tis I am he,
Own father thine, the great god Ra, the sun.
Lo! mine hand with thine shall fight,
And mine arm is strong above
The hundreds of ten thousands, who against you do unite,
Of victory am I lord, and the brave heart do I love,
I have found in you a spirit that is right,
And my soul it does rejoice in your valor and your might.”
Then all this came to pass, I was changed in my heart
Like Monthu, god of war, was I made,
With my left hand hurled the dart,
With my right I swung the blade,
Fierce as Baal in his time, before their sight.
Two thousand and five hundred pairs of horses were around,
And I flew into the middle of their ring,
By my horse-hoofs they were dashed all in pieces to the ground,
None raised his hand in fight,
For the courage in their breasts had sunken quite;
And their limbs were loosed for fear,
And they could not hurl the dart,
And they had not any heart
To use the spear;
And I cast them to the water,
Just as crocodiles fall in from the bank,
So they sank.
And they tumbled on their faces, one by one.
At my pleasure I made slaughter,
So that none
E’er had time to look behind, or backward fled;
Where he fell, did each one lay
On that day,
From the dust none ever lifted up his head.
Then the wretched king of Khita, he stood still,
With his warriors and his chariots all about him in a ring,
Just to gaze upon the valor of our king
In the fray.
And the king was all alone,
Of his men and chariots none
To help him; but the Hittite of his gazing soon had fill,
For he turned his face in flight, and sped away.
Then his princes forth he sent,
To battle with our lord,
Well equipped with bow and sword
And all goodly armament,
Chiefs of Leka, Masa, Kings of Malunna, Arathu,
Qar-qa-mash, of the Dardani, of Keshkesh, Khilibu.
And the brothers of the king were all gathered in on place,
Two thousand and five hundred pairs of horse—
And they came right on in force,
The fury of their faces to the flaming of my face.
Then, like Monthu in his might,
I rushed on them apace,
And I let them taste my hand
In a twinkling moment’s space.
Then cried one unto his mate,
“This is no man, this is he,
This is Sutek, god of hate,
With Baal in his blood;
Let us hasten, let us flee,
Let us save our souls from death,
Let us take to heel and try our lungs and breath.”
And before the king’s attack,
Lands fell, and limbs were slack,
They could neither aim the bow, nor thrust the spear,
But just looked at him who came
Charging on them, like a flame,
And the King was as a griffin in the rear.
Behold thus speaks the Pharaoh, let all know,
I struck them down, and there escaped me none
Then I lifted up my voice, and I spake,
Ho! my warriors, charioteers,
Away with craven fears,
Halt, stand, and courage take,
Behold I am alone,
Yet Ammon is my helper, and his hand is with me now.”
When my Menna, charioteer, beheld in his dismay,
How the horses swarmed around us, lo! his courage fled away,
And terror and affright
Took possession of him quite;
And straightway he cried out to me, and said,
“Gracious lord and bravest king, savior-guard
Of Egypt in the battle, be our ward;
Behold we stand alone, in the hostile Hittite ring,
Save for us the breath of life,
Give deliverance from the strife,
Oh! protect us, Ramses Miamun!
Oh! save us, mighty King!”
Then the King spake to his squire,
“Halt! take courage, charioteer,
As a sparrow-hawk swoops down upon his prey,
So I swoop upon the foe, and I will slay,
I will hew them into pieces, I will dash them into dust;
Have no fear,
Cast such evil thought away,
These godless men are wretches that in Ammon put no trust.”
Then the king, he hurried forward, on the Hittite host he flew,
“For the sixth time that I charged them,” says the king—and listen well,
“Like Baal in his strength, on their rearward, lo! I fell,
And I killed them, none escaped me, and I slew, and slew, and slew.”
Questions for consideration:
- In what ways might htis source be a biased account of this battle?
- Using this source, describe the nature of warfare at this time.
- How does the poem characterize the Khita/Hittite enemy?