5 – Battle of Carchemish – 605 BC
This significant battle involved an alliance of Egypt and Assyria against the Babylonians who were aided by the Scythians, Persians and Medes. Carchemish was to be Egypt’s last attempt to take control of the Middle East. Seven years previously, Assyria lost its capital Nineveh to the Babylonians (and their allies) and was forced to change its capital to Harran. In 609 B.C., the Babylonian alliance also captured Harran so the Assyrians moved their capital to Carchemish.
In the same year, the Egyptians under Pharaoh Necho II defeated King Josiah, the ruler of the kingdom of Judah, at Megiddo. Then the Egyptians joined the Assyrians in an unsuccessful attempt to retake Harran. In 605 BC, the Babylonian alliance, led by Nebuchadnezzar II, faced the Egyptian alliance at Carchemish.
It is difficult to ascertain the precise army sizes at Carchemish but we do know that the Egyptians lost a reasonable share of its army at Megiddo. The Assyrians had also suffered numerous casualties during the losses of Nineveh and Harran. Yet ancient sources suggest the Egyptians had up to 40,000 men against the 18,000 men of the Babylonian alliance.
According to the Chronicle of Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian commander quickly crossed the Euphrates River and attacked the Egyptian army in what became a bloody battle. Necho’s men were the first to leave the field and the remaining soldiers were massacred. The fleeing Egyptians left their weapons behind and were easy prey for the Babylonians as Nebuchadnezzar conquered the entire Hamath area. Nebuchadnezzar ended up on the Babylonian throne soon after the battle and began an empire that stretched from Egypt to Persia.