We’re diving back into the Age of Bronze this week, as the armies of Pharoh Amunhotep II cross the Orontes to do battle with fearsome Mitanni charioteers!
“His Majesty raised his hand to shield his eyes from the sun’s glare and spotted a band of Asiatic horsemen galloping towards him…”
This is an encounter between two opposing mainly chariot vanguards, the vanguard of the Egyptian army of Amunhotep II pushing across the River Orontes and the vanguard of the Mitannian army, contesting the Egyptian advance to the Euphrates. Amunhotep was the son and successor of the great conqueror Thutmose III and his father’s achievement was a tough act to follow. The new Pharaoh was confronted with a rebellion in Upper Retennu which he crushed and when the Pharaoh’s warship returned to Egypt and sailed up the Nile in triumph the executed rebel princes were hanging upside down from the prow.
The resurgent kingdom of Mitanni was to prove much harder to deal with. Saushtatar, king of Mitanni, had extended his power in the region. Assyria was now a subject kingdom rendering tribute, as was the kingdom of Kizzuwatna (Kedy) in Anatolia. The frontiers of the Hittite kingdom had been thrown back and their earlier conquests had fallen to the Hurrians. King Idrimi had regained his throne in Alalakh, having previously fled a palace coup with only his chariot and joined the Habiru bandits. With their help, he recaptured Alalakh, became an ally of the king of Mitanni and went on to make deep raids into Hittite territory. Egyptian claims to the region west of the Euphrates were now to be contested by Mitanni.
War comes to the Orontes
When Amunhotep arrived with the vanguard of his army at the Orontes on his second campaign, the region beyond – up to the Euphrates – was hostile territory. Amunhotep’s Karnak stele inscription reports what happened on the 26th day of the 1st month of the 3rd season in regnal year 2: “His Majesty crossed over the ford of the Orontes on this day. He raised his hand to shield his eyes from the sun’s glare in order to scan the horizon and spotted a few ‘Asiatics’ (Setjetjyu) on horses coming on at the gallop. His Majesty was equipped with his weapons of battle and conquered behind the might of Set.”
The Pharaoh led an impetuous charge against the enemy who, observing the crossing of the river Orontes from the hills on the far side, made a hasty retreat. Amunhotep managed to catch up with one of the Maryannu chariot warriors and engage him in a close combat chariot duel.
“His Majesty himself overthrew their chief with his javelin; behold, he captured the Asiatic, his horses, his chariot and all his weapons of battle!”
As diligently noted by the military scribe: “Captured: two horses, chariot, coat of scale, two bows, a quiver full of arrows, scale hauberk.”
Pharaoh Amunhotep II was brought up by his father to be a warrior pharaoh. He was also quite an athlete, horseman and archer, who was buried with his bow in his sarcophagus. His exploits were recorded on his Sphinx Stela at Giza: “He knew all the arts of war and had no equal on the battlefield. He knew horses and there was not anyone like him in the entire army. Not one among them could draw his bow and he could not be matched at running!” It goes on to say that “he drew 300 strong bows, to compare the workmanship of the craftsmen.”
Then it reports that he mounted his chariot for a training exercise and “found set up for him four targets of Asiatic copper of one palm in thickness with a distance of 20 cubits between one post and the next.” Amunhotep “drew his bow while holding four arrows together in his fist. Thus he rode forward, shooting at the targets, each arrow coming out at the back of the target while he attacked the next post! It was a feat never yet done or even heard about! Shooting an arrow at a copper target so that it went through and dropped to the ground!”
The battle is Joined!
You can find a scenario covering this clash of Bronze Age empires in a brand-new Hail Caesar supplement. Complete with special rules covering the daring Mitanni chariot wedge formation and army lists for both forces, it is the perfect place to start a Bronze Age collection!