10.6.09

Pictures of Battle of Kadesh

From the poet we pass to the unknown painter and sculptor, who has chiselled in deep work on the stone of the same wall, with a bold execution of the several parts, the procession of the warriors, the battle before Kadesh, the storming of the fortress, the overthrow of the enemy, and the camp life of the Egyptians. The whole conception must even at this day be acknowledged to be grand beyond measure, for the representation sets before our eyes the deeds which were performed more vividly than any description in words and with the richest handling of the material, and displays the whole composition even to its smallest details.

Here in the camp of the Egyptians, which was laid out as a square, and was surrounded by an artificial wall of the shields of the Egyptian warriors placed side by side, we see displayed the actions and life of the soldiers and the camp-servants, who rest on the ground by the side of the baggage and the numerous necessaries for a long journey. Among them wander asses, and even the favourite lion of the king has his place within the enclosure. The tent of Pharaoh is seen in the middle of the camp, and near it the movable shrine of the great gods of Egypt. Above the whole is placed the inscription:

“This is the first legion of Amon, who bestows victory on King Ramses II. The Pharaoh is with it. It is occupied in pitching its camp”

Not far off the king sits on his throne, and receives the report of his generals, or gives the necessary orders to his followers. Important episodes are not wanting. Thus the Egyptians are dragging forward two foreigners, about whom the appended inscription thus informs us:

“This is the arrival of the spies of Pharaoh; they bring two spies of the people of the Khita before Pharaoh. They are beating them to make them declare where the King of Khita is”

There the chariots of war and the warriors of the king are passing in good order before Pharaoh: among them the legions of Amon, Ptah, Pra, and Sutekh. Then, after the gods, the hosts of the warriors are for the most part mentioned by name. Mercenary troops also are not wanting, for the Colchian Shardana, whose fine linen was well known to antiquity under the name of Sardonian, appear among the Egyptian allies. They are particularly distinguished by their helmets with horns and a ball-shaped crest, by their long swords and the round shields on their left arm, while then- right hand grasps a spear.

The host also of the Khita and of their allies are represented with a lively pictorial expression, for the artist has been guided by the intention of bringing before the eyes of the beholder the orderly masses of the Khita warriors, and the less regular and warlike troops of the allied peoples, according to their costume and arms. The Canaanites are distinguished in the most striking manner from the allies, of races unknown to us, who are attired with turban-like coverings for the head, or with high caps such as are still worn at the present day by the Persians. Short swords, lances, bows and arrows, form the weapons of the enemies of the Egyptians. We have already made the necessary observations on the warlike and truly chivalrous appearance of the Khita, and must now particularly mention the Tuhir, or “chosen ones” who follow in the train of their king. To these belong the Qel'au, or slingers, who attended close about the person of their prince.

Wonderfully rich is the great battle-picture which represents the fight of the chariots before Kadesh on the banks of the Orontes. While the gigantic form of Ramses, in the very midst of the mass of hostile chariots, performs deeds of the highest prowess, to the astonishment of the Egjrptians and of their enemies, his brave son, Prahiunamif, as the chief commander of the chariots, heads the attack on the chariots of the enemy. Several of his brothers, the children of Ramses, take part in the battle. The chariots of the Khita and their warriors are thrown into the river; and among them the King of Khilibu, whom his warriors have just dragged out of the water, and are endeavouring to restore to animation while the battle is raging. They hold their lord by the legs, with his head hanging down. The inscription by the side runs thus:

“This is the King of Khilibu. His warriors raise him up after the Pharaoh has thrown him into the water”

The battle, or rather its beginning, is described in the following manner in a short annexed inscription on the picture:

“When the king had halted, he sat down to the north- west of the town of Kadesh. He had come up with the hostile hosts of Khita, being quite alone, no other was with him. There were thousands and hundreds of chariots round about him on all sides.

He dashed them down in heaps of dead bodies before his horses. He killed all the kings of all the peoples who were allies of the king of Khita, together with his princes and elders, his warriors and his horses. He threw them one upon another, head over heels, into the water of the Orontes. There the King of Khita turned round, and raised up his hands to implore the divine benefactor”

The battle, or rather the butchery, seems to have been as little agreeable to the people of the Khita as to their lords, for:

“The hostile Khita speak, praising the divine benefactor, thus: “Give us freedom (literally, breath) from thy hand, O good king! Let us lie at thy feet; the fear of thee has opened the land of Khita. We are like the foals of mares, which tremble in terror at the sight of the grim lion.””

In the customary manner, above described, the inscriptions sing the praise of their king:

“The brave and bold conqueror of the nations, of the highest valour in the field of battle, firm on horseback, and glorious on his chariot, whom none can escape when he seizes his bow and arrows.”

- Ramses II and The Inferiority of Buildings and Sculptures.