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The Demons of Armageddon. The Mycenaean Warriors at the battle of Megiddo

05/05/2013

Exodus 33:2  And I will send an angel before thee; and I will drive out the Canaanite, the Amorite, and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite

The word Armageddon in the Western thinking refers to a series of cataclysmic events culminating in a titanic struggle in the place of Megiddo that will bring the end of the World, as we know it. The basis of this, are the historical events that took place in the Bronze Age in the Middle East and led to the battle of Megiddo. This battle was fought in the 15th century BC) between Egyptian forces commanded by the pharaoh Thutmose III and a large Canaanite league headed by the King of Kadesh. Scholars consider it as the first battle of the Ancient World whose details have been recorded in a somewhat in a reliable manner. If we accept Middle Egyptian Chronology the battler took place on May 9th , 1457 BC. It was an Egyptian victory that resulted to the total rout of the Canaanite forces, which fled to safety in the city of Megiddo. This resulted in the lengthy siege of Megiddo, which ended with the city’s capitulation. Our main sources are the writings of the military scribe Tjaneni from the Egyptian temples of what is now Luxor.

Canaanite sickle sword

The Syrian rulers who thought that the Egyptian queen Hatshepsut was too weak to stop them, allied with the Kingdom of Mitanni in order to gain independence from Egypt. Thutmose III who succeeded the queen had to deal immediately with the revolt. The Syro-Canaanite army decides to concentrate at Megiddo, a city located just behind the Mount Carmel ridge. Standing on a hill fortress, Megiddo dominated the southwest edge of Jezreel Valley and controlled the trade routes between Egypt and Mesopotamia.

Egyptians fight Canaanites Source: civilization.ca

Thutmose III gathered an army of 10,000 men, composed from chariots and infantry. The army assembled at the Syro-Egyptian border and after by a show of force that cowed the southern Syrians, reached Yehem in 11 days. Thinking that the Syrians would have blocked the passable approaches the Pharaoh led his army thought the Mount Carmel perilous passes and outmaneuvered the Syrians. The Syro-Canaanite and their Mittani allies through forced marches managed to block the Egyptians way to the city in the nick of time. Still they held the higher ground and the Mittani were considered the best chariot troops of their time.

The Pharaoh undaunted set up camp and, arrayed his forces close to the enemy. The next morning the rebels who held the high ground adjacent to the fortress attacked Pharaoh’s army. The Egyptian line was formed in a concave array that threatened both Syro-Canaanite flanks. Yet the rebel force had confidence in the elite Mittani charioteers (marianu) who were considered better than their Egyptian counterparts the naarin. The Pharaoh led the attack from the center fighting among  his charioteers. The enemy chariots who thought they would terrorize and run down the Egyptian infantry. Bronze Age footmen used to panic from the terrible sight of the massed chariot charge and stared fleeing only to be butchered by the chariot crews. But thiw day the chariot crews were in for a big surprise, for among the Egyptian ranks  sprang the Mycanean promachoi. For at that time the sources point out that Egyptian rules had either allies or hired mercenaries among the kingdoms of the Aegean.

mycaenean spearman reconstucted by Sydney Ancients

mycaenean spearman reconstucted by Sydney Ancients

The strange men with even stranger armor composed from bronze plates rather than scales and with exotic weapons that could punch through the marianu armor were truly terrible. Their horned helmets made them look like demons from the netherworld-demons who did not flinch to stand on foot against chariotry and kill men and horses! Parallel to the vigorous Egyptian attacks it must have been equally terrible that the “demonic” infantrymen of the Pharaoh slew the «unbeatable» chariot crews. The ruler of Egypt seemd to have been favored by the Lord of Hosts.

A Mycaenean "demonic warrior" reconstructed by Matt Poitras at MP Filmcraft.

A Mycaenean «demonic warrior» reconstructed by Matt Poitras at MP Filmcraft.

The combination of  all these was too much for the Syro-Canaanites, who lost their will to fight and their ranks collapsed. Those near the city fled into it, closing the gates behind them. The Egyptian soldiers started looting the enemy’s camp. This gave their beaten enemies their chance to flee and lock themselves in the city of Megiddo. The city’s inhabitants lowered ropes to fugitives and pulled them up over the walls, but the opportunity of a quick capture of the city following the battle was lost for the Pharaoh. The Egyptians put the city under siege and send forces throughout the rebel lands; these all readily submitted to the Pharaoh. The city and citizens of Megiddo were spared when the city finally surrendered.

Bronze plate made in Egypt with the stamp of Ramesses. Fount at Salamis exacavations

Bronze plate made in Egypt with the stamp of Ramses. Fount at Salamis excavations and it it testifies to the Greek -Egyptian trade and military realations

Roughly 12 and a half centuries later another Pharaoh would lead an army to the same place mad history of Greek troops fighting in Megiddo would repeat itsself in a strange way. Necho II of Egypt answered the call of his allies the Assyrians and lead his army though Palestine against the Babylonians at Carchemish in northern Syria. The Egyptians had to pass through territory controlled by the Kingdom of Judah whose king, Josiah, refused to grand passage to the Egyptians. The solid phalanx of Necho’s Greek mercenary hoplites crushed the Jewish militia and King Josiah was taken, badly wounded out of the battle by his bodyguards, only to die later.

Charging hoplites. Source hoplites.org

Sources

E. Cline TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SAILOR: MINOANS AND MYCENAEANS ABROAD

E. Cline «Rethinking Mycenaean International Trade» 2007

Richard A. Gabriel “The Military History of Ancient Israel” ISBN 0-275-97798-6

Aaron A. Burke  “Canaan under Siege The History and Archaeology of Egypt’s War in Canaan

during the Early Eighteenth Dynasty”

Ergasteria: Works Presented to John Ellis Jones on his 80th Birthday ed. Nicholas Sekunda

Gdansk University 2010

Sofia Voutsaki “MORTUARY DISPLAY, PRESTIGE AND IDENTITY IN THE SHAFT

GRAVE ERA” ELITEN IN DER BRONZEZEIT ERGEBNISSE ZWEIER KOLLOQUIEN IN MAINZ UND ATHEN, MONOGRAPHIEN DES ROMISCH-GERMANISCHEN ZENTRALMUSEUMS 43  MAINZ 1999

Fabrice De Backer Strasbourg / Louvain-La-Neuve “Evolution of War Chariot Tacticsin the Ancient Near East”

http://www.fhw.gr/chronos/02/mainland/en/mg/economy/trade/index.html

Cline, Eric H. (2000), The Battles of Armageddon: Megiddo and the Jezreel Valley from the Bronze Age to the Nuclear Age, University of Michigan Press, ISBN 0-472-09739-3

Histories of Herodotus, 2:159;

The old Testament 2 Kings 23:29-30, II Chronicles 35:20-35, II Kings 22:15-20

7 σχόλια
  1. Gary Thomas Jr permalink

    Efharisto Stefanos! Most interesting and enlightening. This era of history is much overlooked. I also enjoy seeing where the term Promakhoi came from. Does the term Promakhoi not mean «those of the front lines» ?.
    Thank you Stefanos and I will speak to you on Promakhoi ( facebook).
    Gary

    • yes promachos is the warrior fighting in the front ranks

      • Yes Mr. Page. I am working on a more academic version of this article.
        Glad that you liked it Thank you

  2. M Harold Page permalink

    Awesome! It’s an amazing era. I can feel a story or two coming on.

  3. Reblogged this on Lenora's Culture Center and Foray into History.

  4. War is a fascinating subject. Despite the dubious morality of using violence to achieve personal or political aims. It remains that conflict has been used to do just that throughout recorded history.

    Your article is very well done, a good read.

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