16 of History's Most Devastating and Dramatic Surprise Attacks

Battle of Megiddo. Egypt Tours Portal

10. Pharaoh Thutmose III Surprises Canaanites at Megiddo

History’s earliest recorded battle for which reliable details exist was The Battle of Megiddo, 1457 BC, pitting Egyptians led by Pharaoh Thutmose III, and rebellious Canaanites seeking to free themselves of Egyptian vassalage. The rebellion was centered in the city of Megiddo, at the southern edge of the Jezreel Valley, astride the main trade route between Mesopotamia and Egypt.

Thutmose marched with his army to Yaham. From there, he had to choose between three routes: a southern one via Taanach, a northern route via Yoqneam, and a central one via Aruna that would take him straight to Megiddo (see map). The southern and northern routes were longer, but safer. The central route was quicker but risky, with a  passage through narrow ravines in which an army would have to advance single file, vulnerable to being bottled up front and rear.

Routes to Megiddo. History Bytes

Thutmose figured that the central route was so obviously dangerous that no reasonable commander would risk his army in its ravines. He also guessed that the rebels would leave it unguarded because they would not expect the Egyptians to court disaster by running such an obvious risk. So he chose the central route, and as he had guessed, it was unguarded. The Egyptians arrived at Megiddo sooner than expected, caught the Canaanites flat footed, and won a decisive victory that secured Egyptian hegemony over the region for centuries.

Over three millennia later, during WWI, British general Edmund Allenby, a student of ancient history, faced the same choice as Thutmose III as he led an army advancing from the south against entrenched Turks and Germans in the Jezreel Valley. He stole a march upon them and burst unexpected in front of Megiddo with an advance through the central route via Aruna.