Thutmose III was quite a warrior prince of Thebes and arguably, the greatest of all militaristic Pharaohs in Egyptian history. Unlike many Pharaohs before and after him, he did not permit his military training and experience in war to narrow his intellect.
He was no military mechanic or a mere technician of war; instead, he was an integral man who retained his interest in all topics like: botany, biology, religion, warfare, literature and language, and architecture to the end of his life. Thutmose III later was considered one of history’s greatest patrons of arts, architecture and culture.When he was not at war, he focused heavily on affairs of the states and fostering internal growth.
His broad understanding of his world sharpened his already literate, comprehensive and adaptive mind, and his early education and training prepared him to reason clearly. He was a brilliant strategic thinker. It is to him that Egypt owes the beginning of a new strategic vision that permitted a once defeated and narrow-minded society to become a great nation of imperial dimensions that ruled the entire Middle East and Northwest Africa for years to come. Military Campaigns of Thutmose IIIThutmose III was a fair-minded and sincere Pharaoh, who was very gifted militarily. He was a brilliant general who never lost a battle, and eventually merited him the title, “Napoleon of Egypt” (coined by American Egyptologist James Henry Breasted) and even ancient Egypt’s Alexander the Great. This gifted military genius showed that he understood the many aspects to war and showed he understood the value of logistics and lines of supply, the necessity of rapid movement, sudden surprise attacks and prominent advancements to the technology used by the Egyptian standing army.Thutmose III, known for wearing his famous “Blue War Crown” into battle, was himself an accomplished horseman, archer, athlete, and administrator.
Unlike many other Pharaohs and military leaders, Thutmose III was known for his lack of brutality and preferred using the tactic of pushing his enemies into submission than go into a full-fledged man vs. man battle. Pharaoh Thutmose III had a royal military scribe, named Tjaneni, who recorded and compiled ll the military campaigns led by Thutmose III and recorded these details at Thutmose III’s Hall of Annuls in the Temple of Amun at Karnak. Pharaoh Thutmose III led around 17 campaigns over the span of his reign to crush rebellions within and to extend the boundaries of Egypt and established a type of “Pax Egyptiaca”. At the end of all 17 campaigns, he is said to have captured 350 cities and brought back a myriad of wealth and treasure from spoils of his campaigns and tributes from vassal states, while establishing the empire to boundaries never set before by any other Pharaoh.Initial Campaigns Most of his initial campaigns were campaigns to crush down revolts led and sponsored by Kadesh and other states and empires located above Egypt (like Mitannian Empire, Hittites, Syrians and so on). Later on they became campaigns to conquer and capture these states and empires.
Thutmose III’s military advisors of the war council suggested that the Levant offered the greatest potential to grow and prosper, while venturing into new lands and possibly exploring more of the world.Thutmose III had marched from Thebes up the Syrian coast fighting decisive battles, capturing three cities, and then returned back to Thebes. Over the next 18 years, his armies would march against Syria every summer and by the end of that period, he established Egyptian dominance over Palestine through the development of ships for quicker transport, taking hostages of princes of Syrian royal families and looting of Syrian resources (often stored at harbors).Battle and Siege of Megiddo One of the biggest and more prominent moments in Thutmose III’s first campaign, was the Battle and Siege of Megiddo. A prince from the state of Kadesh pooled together resources and chieftains/ princes from other city-states up north (supported by the military of the Mitannian Empire) and mobilized the army to revolt against Egypt and sought to declare their independence. The coalitions’ Canaanite-Syrian army, decided to occupy a place called Megiddo.Megiddo was chosen because it was a fortress that had great influence strategically (in terms of trade routes and military strategy).
Not daunted by the challenge, Pharaoh Thutmose III mustered his army (and enforced conscription when he heard his standing army might be too small) and marched to their border fortress of Tjaru and then onto Yaham, twenty one days later. Here, at a war council hosted by Pharaoh Thutmose III, a crucial decision was made.There were three routes to Megiddo from Yaham, a northern route, a southern route, and a treacherous mountain pass (Aruna Pass).
After many talks, the Pharaoh disregarded his ministers’ advice of taking either of the safe routes and decided to take the treacherous route since it would be the shortest and would land them closest to the fortress. It is here that the first major tactical move is made by Thutmose III and the first time he makes an inspirational speech to the council and his army.This decision proved to be wise, since the coalition had set up big chunks of their army on both of the “safe” paths, leaving the pass unguarded. The Egyptian army under Thutmose III decisively routed the Caananite-Syrian army after crossing the pass and possibly could have killed the remaining survivors (who were headed back to the protection of the fortress), but the Egyptian army was too busy looting the bodies of the dead taking away the quick victory.While Pharaoh Thutmose III got mad at the fact that his army plundered instead of capturing the survivors, he knew that hundreds of princes were now located in Megiddo, he besieged the place and seven or eight months later, the siege was over as the inhabitants inside the fortress surrendered. The spoils of war were great: 894 chariots (including two covered with gold), 200 suites of armor (two of bronze), as well as over 2,000 horses and 25,000 other animals. Never again did the Canaanites try something this big again.
Campaigns on MitanniAfter a firm grasp over the Syrians, Pharaoh Thutmose III focused on targeting the Mitanni Empire. The Syrians acted as a buffer between the Mitannian Empire and that of Egypt’s, and when Egypt took Syria, they set sights on Mitanni. Using naval power at first, they launched numerous raids on the Mitanni and then crossed the Euphrates into Carchemish. By this quick move by the Egyptians, the Mitannian king was caught off guard and had not expected an invasion and thus did not have an army to defend against Thutmose III.This left Thutmose III to freely pillage Mitanni for some time, and when the Mitannian king hastily put together an army, they fared very poorly against the Egyptian army under Thutmose III. While the Egyptians racked up victories against the Mitannian, it did not lead to any permanent territorial gains. The psychological gain of this campaign was perhaps greater than its military success, for Babylonia, Assyria, and the Hittites all sent tribute in recognition of Egyptian dominance.
Campaigns in Nubia Thutmose III’s last campaign was in Nubia to stretch Egypt’s boundaries further down South.Thutmose III knew that Egyptian culture had already greatly influenced the Nubians but he wanted to bring as much as Nubia as he could under complete Egyptian rule. If he succeeded in doing this, he would gain access to a plethora of exotic items and immense wealth, while militarily gaining an “elite fighting division”, since the Nubians were known to be very skilled fighters. Thutmose III succeeded in penetrating down south into Nubian territory; however he stopped four “cataracts” down the Nile and returned to his capital of Thebes.