The First Recorded Battle
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The First Recorded Battle

The Egyptian Pharaoh Thutmose III commemorated his victory at the Battle of Megiddo with an inscription and pictorial reliefs at Karnak. The battle took place in the twenty-second year of his reign, around 1460 BC. There were many other battles preceding Megiddo, no doubt, but it was the first, for which any account exists, making it the first battle recorded in history. Reviewing what is known about the battle and considering its implications offers an introduction to the state of warfare at the time and the evolution of warfare to that point. 


The Battle
Thutmose led his army out of Egypt into what is now Israel to establish (or reestablish) control over the Levant. In opposition were several Canaanite kingdoms under the leadership of the king of Kadesh. When the pharaoh’s army learned that the Canaanites were massed near Megiddo, aides urged caution, lest they be attacked while deployed in column along the road of approach. Thutmose ignored their advice and put himself at the head of the advancing column. Once in the Qina Valley, the army was deployed across its breadth. The pharaoh paused, however, delaying the attack against Megiddo until the next day.
At dawn the pharaoh deployed his battle line of chariots in the valley, with his own chariot in the center. Historians estimate he had at least 1000 chariots, which could have extended two miles if deployed in a single rank. It is presumed that the Canaanites charged out with their own chariots but nothing is known of the engagement. The inscriptions report that the Canaanite army broke and fled back to Megiddo. Chariot crews were lifted back into the city over the walls by ropes after the city gates were shut. Thutmose built a fort outside the city and besieged the town.
Megiddo surrendered after seven months of starvation. The military booty from the battle and siege was over 350 living prisoners, 900 chariots (two partially made of gold), two fine suits of bronze mail armor belonging to leaders, 200 leather coats of armor, over 2000 horses, and 502 bows.

The Egyptians were able to march an army very quickly into hostile territory (150 miles from the Nile delta border to Gaza in 9 days) and keep themselves supplied throughout a seven-month siege. This implies a sophisticated system of supply, supplemented probably by local sources. The army consisted of an estimated 1000 chariots (2000 horses minimum) and a contingent of infantry that must have carried out the siege. The existence of so many chariots would require an advanced industry for making them, plus a system for obtaining and training horses. The deployment and attack of chariots required training in battlefield maneuvers. The battle itself was a chariot engagement. All of the captured war booty is chariot equipment.
The chariots were probably used as mobile platforms for composite bow archers. The composite bow was more powerful than the simple bow but much more difficult to construct. Use of the composite bow was an additional indication of an advanced weapons manufacturing capability.
It is clear from the pharaoh’s accounts that military affairs had advanced significantly by the time of this first recorded battle. We see already evidence of logistics, leadership, strategy, battle tactics, the military/industrial complex, and weapons technology.