Ancient World Conflict- 6 Battles that Changed Ancient Egypt
Ancient World Conflict- 6 Battles that Changed Ancient Egypt

Ancient World Conflict- 6 Battles that Changed Ancient Egypt

Patrick Lynch - November 14, 2016

Ancient World Conflict- 6 Battles that Changed Ancient Egypt
Generation Word Bible Teaching

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.

Ancient World Conflict- 6 Battles that Changed Ancient Egypt
Ancient History Encyclopedia (Bastet)

6 – Battle of Pelusium – 525 BC

This battle took place near the eastern edge of Egypt’s Nile Delta in 525 BC between Pharaoh Psamtik III and Achaemenid king Cambyses II of Persia. It was the first big battle between the ancient Egyptian and Achaemenid Empires. The Persian ruler was furious that the Egyptian Pharaoh’s father (Amasis) had sent him a ‘fake’ daughter and decided to invade Egypt as retribution. By the time Cambyses was ready to invade, Amasis had died which meant his son had to deal with the invaders.

Psamtik was prepared for the attack and strengthened his position at Pelusium. While he believed his forces could repel attacks and withstand a siege, he was unprepared for his crafty enemy. At that time, Bastet was one of Egypt’s most popular goddesses and was known to be a loving and kind deity unless she was offended. In this case, she would become her wicked and spiteful alter ego Sekhmet. In ancient Egypt, you could be executed for the crime of killing a cat such was the reverence the Egyptians showed for this animal.

On the day of the Battle of Pelusium, it is said that Cambyses ordered his men to paint the image of Bastet on their shields. Another source suggests he told his army to pin cats to their shields as a means of psychologically paralyzing the Egyptians. 2nd Century AD Macedonian writer Polyaenus claimed the Persians placed various animals sacred to the Egyptians on their front line including cats, sheep and dogs. We will never know the precise story but it does appear as if Cambyses used some cunning strategy to win the day.

The Egyptians suffered a terrible defeat and up to 50,000 of them died on the battlefield compared to approximately 7,000 Persians. Once again, it is claimed that the Egyptians surrendered their position due to the sight of cats/Bastet on enemy shields (or clothing). Retreating Egyptians fled to the city of Memphis and a siege ensued. Cambyses finally lifted the siege and killed an estimated 2,000 of his enemies. Egypt was annexed by the Persians and Cambyses became the new Pharaoh. While Psamtik III was initially spared, he attempted a rebellion and was promptly executed.