Settlements > Kadesh

Kadesh

Background

The city of Kadesh, also spelled Qadesh or Qidshu according to the Amarna Letters was an important city in Mesopotamia that was located near the Orontes River. The city rose to great prominence during the Late Bronze Age and was the location of the great Battle of Kadesh between the Hittites and the Egyptians during the 13th century BCE. It was corroborated in the Amarna Letters

The name is from the West Semitic (Canaanite) root Q-D-Š "holy". It is rendered Qdšw in Egyptian and Kadeš in Hittite. Akkadian spelling variants include Kinza, Kidiši, Kidša, Gizza.[1] Kadesh is identified with the ruins at Tell Nebi Mend,[2] about 24 kilometers (15 mi) southwest of Homs near al-Qusayr and adjacent to the modern-day Syrian village of Tell al-Nabi Mando. The text of the inscriptions at the Battle of Kadesh locates Kadesh as being near Tunip in the land of the Amurru, itself assumed to have been near the Orontes River (perhaps at Tell Salhab). Some scholars also identify Kadesh with the city of Kadytis mentioned by Herodotus (2.159, an alternative identification for Kadytis being Gaza.[1] The site of Tell Nebi Mend was first occupied during the Chalcolithic period.[citation needed] Kadesh was coming under the influence of the growing Hittite Empire between 1500 and 1285 BC. It was the target of military campaigns by most of the pharaohs of the Eighteenth Dynasty of Egypt. Between 1504 and 1492 BC Thutmosis I campaigned north into Syria against the Mitanni, a vassal of the Hittites and, along with Aram, an ally of Kadesh. In the time of Hatshepsut there were no campaigns against Kadesh as she was focused on developing trade across the Red Sea and southward. Kadesh is first noted as one of two Canaanite cities (the other being Megiddo) that led a coalition of city-states opposing the conquest of the Levant by Thutmose III. In mounting this opposition, the king of Kadesh was probably guided by the ruler of Mittani, Egypt's primary foreign rival in control of the Levant. Defeat in the subsequent Battle of Megiddo ultimately led to the extension of Egyptian hegemony over the city, as well as the rest of southern Syria. Although Amenophis II campaigned in the Djadi from then on until the reign of Horemheb (1319–1307) for a century and a half Canaan was independent of Egyptian rule. An Egyptian vassal for approximately 150 years, Kadesh eventually defected to Hittite suzerainty, thereby placing the city on the contested frontier between the two rival empires. The names of three kings of Kadesh survive from contemporary sources: Suttarna (or Sutatarra; fl. c. 1350 BC);[3][4] Etakkama (c. 1340s) and his son Ari-Teshub (fl. c. 1330–1325).

Armana Letters

One of the great artifacts discovered was a clay tablet letter written in Akkadian that was correspondence between the Egyptian king Akhenaten and his Kadesh contemporary.

Campaign of Seti I

Kadesh was captured by the Egyptian king named Seti I in 1306 BCE during his military campaign. The last Egyptian king to control the city had been Akhenaten. Following its loss to the Hittites, both Tutankhamun and Horemheb unsuccessfully attempted to capture the city and was continually a major territorial goal of the Egyptian Empire.

However, in 1306 BCE Set I finally managed to defeat the Hittites and rode into the city with his son and heir Ramesses II where they erected a stele describing their military victory. Despite the great success the Hittites under Mursilis II easily recaptured the city from the Egyptians and ruled the city through a vassal in nearby Carchemish. This did not make the Egyptians too happy so Ramesses I prepared to launch a military campaign to once again regain the city.

Battle of Kadesh

In response to the Hittite capture of Kadesh, Ramesses assembled a massive force of chariots, infantry and archers and marched over 1,600 km (1,000 miles) in order to recapture the city. The ensuing Battle of Kadesh is one of the best documented battles in the ancient world due to the peace treaty that was signed over it and one of the best insights into ancient warfare.

In addition to capturing the state of Amurru, Ramesses led his thousands of chariots and thousands of infantry and archers right into one of the largest battles the ancient world had ever seen on the massive flat plain to the south of the city and west of the Orontes River. Historians believe that each of the combating powers had a massive cavalry force of between 5,000 and 6,000 chariots each and the ensuing battle became the stories of legend.

The city of Kadesh The next year, the Hittites moved south to recover Amurru, while the Egyptians moved north to continue their expansion into Syria. The inhabitants of the city of Kadesh had cut a channel from the river to a stream south of town, which had turned the town into a virtual island. The subsequent battle, fought at Kadesh, saw the Egyptians turning a near defeat into victory, routing the enemy forces. After Hittite spies convinced the Egyptians that the Hittites were further away than they were, the Hittites surprised the Egyptians in their own camp. The Egyptian army was only saved by the arrival of a supporting force from coastal Amurru. Ramesses II was able to recover the initiative, and the two armies withdrew in stalemate, both claiming victory.[6]

Hittites

Following the Battle of Kadesh the city of Kadesh remained under control by the Hittites and Ramesses II and the Egyptians retreated. The Hittites Kadesh, however, remained under Hittite overlordship, Amurru returned to the Hittite fold, and the Hittite army continued its conquests southward as far as Upi, the territory around Damascus. The subsequent impasse between Egypt and Hatti ultimately led to what is now recognised as one of the earliest surviving international peace treaties, concluded several decades later between Ramesses II and his Hittite counterpart, Hattusili III.

Destruction & Legacy

Following the invasion of the Sea Peoples around 1178 BCE during the period of what is known as the Bronze Age Collapse the walled city of Kadesh was completely destroyed and the people most likely forced to migrate throughout the region. The Bronze Age Collapse saw the complete social and political unrest of the western Mesopotamian region.

Despite its destruction during this period it appears to have been the site of a Hellenistic Period tell and summit and continuously occupied throughout the Islamic period. It is believed that the mound was named after a local Muslim saint or prophet known as Nebi Mend. By the time of the Byzantine Empire.

Kadesh vanished from history after it was destroyed by the invading Sea Peoples in around 1178 BC. However, Hellenistic remains have been found in the upper levels of the tell (ruin-mound), and the summit is still occupied today. Continuous occupation throughout the Islamic period is likely, the mound having been named after a local Muslim saint or prophet, Nebi Mend. In Byzantine times, widespread occupation is evidenced by extensive remains at the foot of the tell, which is believed to represent the city of Laodicea ad Libanum.

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Primary Sources

Secondary Sources