Ancient Egyptian Armies

Before the New Kingdom the ancient Egyptian armies were made up of soldiers recruited temporarily for the duration of the military campaign. These soldiers were just strong, able men from different villages. They would then return to their homes and original careers once the campaign is finished.

This proved to be a disadvantage after a while. Conscription took time, the soldiers had no proper training, and Egypt was left vulnerable to surprise attacks.

Finally, during the New Kingdom, the ruler of Egypt decided that it was just about time to have a full-time army ready for orders from the Pharaoh. The King now didn't need to rely on the nomarch's to conscript men from their provinces. He commanded his own ancient Egyptian armies with the help of his generals.

This intelligent king was the Pharaoh Ahmose. His decision was to be one of the most important in all of ancient Egypt's history...


Ancient Egyptian Military Organization

At the head of the army of course was the King. He was the main decision maker of military campaigns.

Under him were his generals. One of the more intelligent decisions the Pharaoh made was to appoint 2 army generals rather than one. This way the power was divided rather than centralized, and the threat of overthrowing the thrown by a general was halved.

There were 2 main ancient Egyptian armies - those of Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt, with one of the 2 generals at the head of each.

Also, another intelligent tactic by the Pharaoh was to appoint these generals from his own royal family (such as princes). This kept more power in the family.

Then the next division was according to the soldiers' skills. There were charioteers, spearmen and archers.

And then the foot soldiers were divided into infantries of 5,000 men each. These were further divided into platoons and squads of smaller numbers of soldiers.

Read about the lives of ancient Egyptian soldiers.

Ancient Egyptian armies were not only well organized, but they were well-trained and well-equipped too - with training sometimes starting from the age of 5!


Pharaoh's Battle Tactics

One of the great weapons of war during ancient times was the chariot. Funnily enough, before the introduction of the chariot to Egypt by the Asiatics during the Second Intermediate Period, the Egyptians didn't have much use for wheels. They did use them in certain circumstances, but with desert terrains wheels were not very practical.

That was until Egypt was threatened by them...

The invasion of the Hyksos is probably one of the most famous periods of war in all of ancient Egypt. The Egyptians had to gather all their wits and resources to fight them.

Read the next section for more info on the most important ancient Egyptian military campaigns.

Another battle tactic was to build fortresses in the areas the army has invaded or secured. These fortresses had towers from which the soldiers could shoot arrows from. They had thick walls and ditches to protect their perimeter.

One of the most important battle rituals back then was to imbue the army and the ancient Egyptian weapons with religious power. Army divisions were named after Gods, soldiers were adorned with protective symbols, and incantations and spells were chanted whenever suitable.

And finally, one of the more gory practices by the ancient Egyptian armies was to sever body parts of the enemy's dead in order to identify them for the records. They would cut off a specific arm (and sometimes other unmentionable parts) and leave them for the scribes to count :S

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