28. The warrior Pharaoh who snatched victory from the jaws of defeat
When Ramesses II reached Kadesh, the Hittites were right behind the city. Nomads falsely informed the pharaoh that the Hittites were nowhere near. Emboldened, Ramesses hurried with the Amon Division to Kadesh, leaving the rest of his army behind. As Ramesses advanced, the Hittites circled around the city, keeping Kadesh between themselves and the Egyptians. While Ramesses and the Division of Amon made camp, the Division of Re straggled up up the road behind. That was when 2000 massed Hittite chariots charged directly across the Egyptian line of march. They wrecked the Division of Re, then surrounded Ramesses in his camp.
Ramesses gathered his personal guards, and led a desperate charge that drove some Hittite leaders into the river. Fortunately, the Hittites behind Ramesses abandoned their chariots to loot the Egyptian camp. That was when the Division of Sutekh arrived, and slaughtered the looters. As King Muwatalli sent in the rest of his chariots, the last Egyptian Division of Ptah arrived, and the battle lasted until sunset. After prolonged slaughter, the Hittites finally withdrew into Kadesh, leaving the field – and victory – to Ramesses. Upon his return, the warrior pharaoh littered Egypt with monuments and murals detailing the engagement and describing himself as “Ramesses, the Great, Conqueror of the Hittites” – which is how we know so much about the battle.