The Battle of Kadesh

The Poem

(1) Beginning of the victory of the King of Upper and Lower Egypt: Usermare-sotpenre; the Son of Re: Ramesse, Beloved of Amun, given life forever, which he won over the land of Khatti, of Nahrin, the land of Arzawa, of Pidasa, that of Dardany, the land of Masa, the land of Karkisha and Luka, Carchemish, Kedy, the land of Kadesh, the land of Ugarit, and Mushanet."

His majesty was a youthful lord,
Active and without his like;
His arms mighty, his heart stout,
His strength like Mont in his hour.
Of perfect form like Atum,
Hailed when his beauty is seen;
Victorious over all lands,
Wily in launching a fight.
Strong wall around his soldiers,
Their shield on the day of battle;
A bowman without his equal,
Who prevails over vast numbers.
Head on he charges a multitude,
His heart trusting his strength;
Stout-hearted in the hour of combat,
Like the flame when it consumes.
Firm-hearted like a bull ready for battle,
He heeds not all the lands combined;
A thousand men cannot withstand him,
A hundred thousand fail at his sight.
Lord of fear, great of fame,
In the hearts of all the lands;
Great of awe, rich in glory,
As is Seth upon his mountain;
[Casting fear] in foreigners' hearts,
Like a wild lion in a valley of goats.
Who goes forth in valour, returns in triumph,
Looking straight and free of boasting;
Firm in conduct, good in planning,
Whose first response is ever right.
Who saves his troops on battle day,
Greatly aids his charioteers;
Brings home his followers, rescues his soldiers,
With a heart that is like a mountain of copper:
The King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Usermare-sotpenre,
The Son of Re, Ramesse, Beloved of Amun,
Given life forever like Re.

Now his majesty had made ready his infantry and his chariotry, and the Sherden in his majesty's captivity whom he had brought back in the victories of his strong arm. They had been supplied with all their weapons, and battle orders had been given to them. His majesty journeyed northward. his infantry and his chariotry with him, having made a good start with the march in year 5, second month of summer, day 9. His majesty passed the fortress of Sile, being mighty like Mont in his going forth, all foreign lands trembling before him, their chiefs bringing their gifts, and all rebels coming bowed down through fear of his majesty's might. His majesty's army travelled on the narrow paths as if on the roads of Egypt.

Now when days had passed over this, his majesty was in Ramesse-meramun, the town which is in the Valley of the Pine, and his majesty proceeded northward. And when his majesty reached the hill country of Kadesh, his majesty went ahead like Mont, the lord of Thebes. He crossed the ford of the Orontes with the first army, "Amun-gives-victory-to-Usermare-sotpenre," and his majesty arrived at the town of Kadesh.

Now the vile Foe from Khatti had come and brought together all the foreign lands as far as the end of the sea. The entire land of Khatti had come, that of Nahrin also, that of Arzawa and Dardany, that of Keshkesh, those of Masa, those of Pidasa, that of Irun, that of Karkisha, that of Luka, Kizzuwadna, Carchemish, Ugarit, Kedy, the entire land of Nuges, Mushanet, and Kadesh. He had not spared a country from being brought, of all those distant lands, and their chiefs were there with him, each one with his infantry and chariotry, a great number without equal. They covered the mountains and valleys and were like locusts in their multitude. He had left no silver in his land. He had stripped it of all its possessions and had given them to all the foreign countries in order to bring them with him to fight.

Now the vile Foe from Khatti and the many foreign countries with him stood concealed and ready to the northeast of the town of Kadesh, while his majesty was alone by himself with his attendants the army of Amun marching behind him, the army of Pre crossing the ford in the neighbourhood south of the town of Shabtuna at a distance of 1 iter from where his majesty was, the army of Ptah being to the south of the town of Ironama, and the army of Seth marching on the road. And his majesty had made a first battle force from the best of his army, and it was on the shore of the land of Amor. Now the vile Chief of Khatti stood in the midst of the army that was with him and did not come out to fight for fear of his majesty, though he had caused men and horses to come in very great numbers like the sand- they were three men to a chariot and equipped with all weapons of warfare - and they had been made to stand concealed behind the town of Kadesh.

Then they came forth from the south side of Kadesh and attacked the army of Pre in its middle, as they were marching unaware and not prepared to fight. Then the infantry and chariotry of his majesty weakened before them, while his majesty was stationed to the north of the town of Kadesh, on the west bank of the Orontes. They came to tell it to his majesty, and his majesty rose like his father Mont. He seized his weapons of war; he girded his coat of mail; he was like Baal in his hour. The great horse that bore his majesty was "Victory-in-Thebes" of the great stable of Usermare-sotpenre, beloved of Amun.

Then his majesty drove at a gallop and charged the forces of the Foe from Khatti, being alone by himself, none other with him. His majesty proceeded to look about him and found 2,500 chariots ringing him on his way out, of all the fast troops of the Foe from Khatti and the many countries with him-Arzawa, Masa, Pidasa, Keshkesh Irun, Kizzawadna, Khaleb, Ugarit, Kadesh and Luka, three men to a team acting together.

No officer was with me, no charioteer,
No soldier of the army, no shield-bearer;
My infantry, my chariotry yielded before them,
Not one of them stood firm to fight with them.
His majesty spoke: "What is this, father Amun?
Is it right for a father to ignore his son?
Are my deeds a matter for you to ignore?
Do I not walk and stand at your word?
I have not neglected an order you gave.
Too great is he, the great lord of Egypt,
To allow aliens to step on his path!
What are these Asiatics to you, O Amun,
The wretches ignorant of god?
Have I not made for you many great monuments,
Filled your temple with my booty,
Built for you my mansion of Millions-of-Years,
Given you all my wealth as endowment?
I brought you all lands to supply your altars,
I sacrificed to you ten thousands of cattle,
And all kinds of sweet-scented herbs.
I did not abstain from any good deed,
So as not to perform it in your court.
I built great pylons for you,
Myself I erected their flagstaffs;
I brought you obelisks from Yebu,
It was I who fetched their stones.
I conveyed to you ships from the sea,
To haul the lands' produce to you.
Shall it be said: 'The gain is small
For him who entrusts himself to your will'?
Do good to him who counts on you,
Then one will serve you with loving heart.
I call to you, my father Amun,
I am among a host of strangers;
All countries are arrayed against me,
I am alone, there's none with me!
My numerous troops have deserted me,
Not one of my chariotry looks for me;
I keep on shouting for them,
But none of them heeds my call.
I know Amun helps me more than a million troops,
More than a hundred thousand charioteers,
More than ten thousand brothers and sons
Who are united as one heart.
The labours of many people are nothing,
Amun is more helpful than they;
I came here by the command of your mouth,
O Amun, I have not transgressed your command!"

Now though I prayed in the distant land,
My voice resounded in Southern On.
I found Amun came when I called to him,
He gave me his hand and I rejoiced.
He called from behind as if near by:
"Forward, I am with you,
I, your father, my hand is with you,
I prevail over a hundred thousand men,
I am lord of victory, lover of valor!"
I found my heart stout, my breast in joy,
All I did succeeded, I was like Mont.
I shot on my right. grasped with my left,
I was before them like Seth in his moment.
I found the mass of chariots in whose midst I was
Scattering before my horses;
Not one of them found his hand to fight,
Their hearts failed in their bodies through fear of me.
Their arms all slackened, they could not shoot,
They had no heart to grasp their spears;
I made them plunge into the water as crocodiles plunge,
They fell on their faces one on the other.
I slaughtered among them at my will,
Not one looked behind him,
Not one turned around,
Whoever fell down did not rise.

And the wretched Chief of Khatti stood among his troops and chariots,
Watching his majesty fight all alone,
Without his soldiers and charioteers,
Stood turning, shrinking, afraid.
Then he caused many chiefs to come,
Each of them with his chariotry,
Equipped with their weapons of warfare:
The chief of Arzawa and he of Masa,
The chief of Irun and he of Luka,
He of Dardany, the chief of Carchemish,:
The chief of Karkisha, he of Khaleb,
The brothers of him of Khatti all together,
Their total of a thousand chariots came straight into the fire.
I charged toward them, being like Mont,
In a moment I gave them a taste of my hand,
I slaughtered among them, they were slain on the spot,
One called out to the other saying:
"No man is he who is among us,
It is Seth great-of-strength, Baal in person;
Not deeds of man are these his doings,
They are of one who is unique,
Who fights a hundred thousand without soldiers and chariots,
Come quick, flee before him,
To seek life and breathe air;
For he who attempts to get close to him,
His hands, all his limbs grow limp.
One cannot hold either bow or spears,
When one sees him come racing along!"
My majesty hunted them like a griffin,
I slaughtered among them unceasingly.

I raised my voice to shout to my army: "Steady, steady your hearts, my soldiers;
Behold me victorious, me alone,
For Amun is my helper, his hand is with me.
How faint are your hearts, O my charioteers,
None among you is worthy of trust!
Is there none among you whom I helped in my land?
Did I not rise as lord when you were lowly,
And made you into chiefs by my will every day?
I have placed a son on his father's portion,
I have banished all evil from the land.
I released your servants to you
Gave you things that were taken from you.
Whosoever made a petition,
'I will do it,' said I to him daily.
No lord has done for his soldiers
What my majesty did for your sakes.
I let you dwell in your villages
Without doing a soldier's service;
So with my chariotry also,
I released them to their towns;
Saying, 'I shall find them just as today
In the hour of joining battle.'
But behold, you have all been cowards,
Not one among you stood fast,
To lend me a hand while I fought!
As the ka of my father Amun endures,
I wish I were in Egypt,
Like my fathers who did not see Syrians,
And did not fight them abroad!
For not one among you has come,
That he might speak of his service in Egypt!
What a good deed to him who raised monuments
In Thebes, the city of Amun;
This crime of my soldiers and charioteers,
That is too great to tell!"

Behold, Amun gave me his strength,
When I had no soldiers, no chariotry;
He caused every distant land to see
My victory through my strong arm,
I being alone, no captain behind me,
No charioteer, foot soldier, officer.
The lands that beheld me will tell my name,
As far as distant lands unknown.
Whoever among them escaped from my hand,
They stood turned back to see my deeds.
When I attacked their multitudes,
Their feet were infirm and they fled;
All those who shot in my direction,
Their arrows veered as they attacked me.

Now when Menena my shield-bearer saw
That a large number of chariots surrounded me,
He became weak and faint-hearted,
Great fear invading his body.
He said to his majesty: "My good lord,
Strong ruler, great savior of Egypt in wartime,
We stand alone in the midst of battle,
Abandoned by soldiers and chariotry,
What for do you stand to protect them?
Let us get clear, save us. Usermare-sotpenre!"
His majesty said to his shield-bearer:
"Stand firm, steady your heart, my shield-bearer!
I will charge them as a falcon pounces,
I will slaughter, butcher, fling to the ground;
Why do you fear these weaklings
Whose multitudes I disregard?"
His majesty then rushed forward,
At a gallop he charged the midst of the foe,
For the sixth time he charged them.
I was after them like Baal in his moment of power,
I slew them without pause.

Now when my soldiers and chariotry saw
That I was like Mont, strong-armed,
That my father Amun was with me,
Making the foreign lands into chaff before me,
They started coming one by one,
To enter the camp at time of night.
They found all the foreign lands I had charged
Lying fallen in their blood;
All the good warriors of Khatti,
The sons and brothers of their chiefs.
For I had wrecked the plain of Kadesh,
It could not be trodden because of their mass.
Thereupon my soldiers came to praise me,
Their faces [bright] at the sight of my deeds;
My captains came to extol my strong arm,
My charioteers likewise exalted my name:
"Hail, O good warrior, firm of heart,
You have saved your soldiers, your chariotry;
You are Amun's son who acts with his arms,
You have felled Khatti by your valiant strength.
You are the perfect fighter, there's none like you,
A king who battles for his army on battle day;
You are great-hearted, first in the ranks,
You heed not all the lands combined.
You are greatly victorious before your army,
Before the whole land, it is no boast;
Protector of Egypt, curber of foreign lands,
You have broken the back of Khatti forever!"

Said his majesty to his infantry,
His captains and his chariotry:
"What about you, my captains, soldiers,
My charioteers, who shirked the fight?
Does a man not act to be acclaimed in his town,
When he returns as one brave before his lord?
A name made through combat is truly good,
A man is ever respected for valour.
Have I not done good to any of you,
That you should leave me alone in the midst of battle?
You are lucky to be alive at all,
You who took the air while I was alone!
Did you not know it in your hearts:
I am your rampart of iron!
What will men say when they hear of it,
That you left me alone without a comrade,
That no chief, charioteer, or soldier came,
To lend me a hand while I was fighting?
I crushed a million countries by myself
On Victory-in-Thebes, Mut-is-content, my great horses;
It was they wbom I found supporting me,
When I alone fought many lands.
They shall henceforth be fed in my presence,
Whenever I reside in my palace;
It was they whom I found in the midst of battle,
And charioteer Menena, my shield-bearer,
And my household butlers who were at my side,
My witnesses in combat, behold, I found them!"
My majesty paused in valour and victory,
Having felled hundred thousands by my strong arm.

At dawn I marshaled the ranks for battle,
I was ready to fight like an eager bull;
I arose against them in the likeness of Mont,
Equipped with my weapons of victory.
I charged their ranks fighting as a falcon pounces,
The serpent on my brow felled my foes,
Cast her fiery breath in my enemies' faces,
I was like Re when he rises at dawn.
My rays, they burned the rebels' bodies,
They called out to one another: "Beware, take care, don't approach him,
Sakhmet the Great is she who is with him,
She's with him on his horses, her hand is with him;
Anyone who goes to approach him,
Fire's breath comes to burn his body!"
Thereupon they stood at a distance,
Touching the ground with their hands before me.
My majesty overpowered them,
I slew them without sparing them;
They sprawled before my horses,
And lay slain in heaps in their blood.

Then the vile Chief of Khatti wrote and worshiped my name like that of Re, saying: "You are Seth, Baal in person; the dread of you is a fire in the land of Khatti." He sent his envoy with a letter in his hand (addressed) to the great name of my majesty, greeting the Majesty of the Palace: "Re-Harakhti, The Strong-Bull-beloved-of-Maat, the Sovereign who protects his army, mighty on account of his strong arm, rampart of his soldiers on the day of battle, King of Upper and Lower Egypt: Usemare-sotpenre, the Son of Re, the lion lord of strength: Ramesse, Beloved of Amun, given life forever":

"Your servant speaks to let it be known that you are the Son of Re who came from his body. He has given you all the lands together. As for the land of Egypt and the land of Khatti, they are your servants, under your feet. Pre, your august father, has given them to you. Do not overwhelm us. Lo, your might is great, your strength is heavy upon the land of Khatti. Is it good that you slay your servants, your face savage toward them and without pity? Look, you spent yesterday killing a hundred thousand, and today you came back and left no heirs. Be not hard in your dealings, victorious king! Peace is better than fighting. Give us breath!"

Then my majesty relented in life and dominion, being like Mont at his moment when his attack is done. My majesty ordered brought to me all the leaders of my infantry and my chariotry, all my officers assembled together, to let them hear the matter about which he had written. My majesty let them hear these words which the vile Chief of Khatti had written to me. Then they said with one voice: "Very excellent is peace, O Sovereign our Lord! There is no blame in peace when you make it. Who could resist you on the day of your wrath?" My majesty commanded to hearken to his words, and I moved in peace southward.

His majesty returned in peace to Egypt with his infantry and his chariotry, all life, stability, and dominion being with him, and the gods and goddesses protecting his body. He had crushed all lands through fear of him; his majesty's strength had protected his army; all foreign lands gave praise to his fair face.

Arrival in peace in Egypt, in Per-Ramesse-meramun-great-of-victories. Resting in his palace of life and dominion like Re in his horizon, the gods of this land hailing him and saying: "Welcome, our beloved son, King Usemare-sotpenre, the Son of Re, Ramesse, Beloved of Amun, given life!" They granted him millions of jubilees forever on the throne of Re, all lowlands and all highlands Iying prostrate under his feet for ever and all time.

Colophon of Papyrus Sallier III

This writing [was written] in year 9, second month 'of summer, of the King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Usermare-sotpenre, the Son of Re, Ramesse, Beloved of Amun, given life for all eternity like his father Re.

[It has been brought to a successful conclusion] through the agency of the Chief Archivist of the Royal Treasury, Amenemone, the Scribe of the Royal Treasury, Amenemwia, and the Scribe of the Royal Treasury, ~

Made by the Scribe Pentwere.