Ancient Egyptian Battles

While the Ancient Egyptians are not famous for their wars like the Romans and Ancient Greeks were, the country still had a highly developed military.

Egyptian soldiers were very well trained and equipped, and their weapons are frequently found by archaeologists (a person who studies history by digging in historical sites) even nowadays.

Pharaonic war chariot from Egyptian banknotes – Pounds

The most commonly used weapon by the Ancient Egyptians was the bow and arrow.

A bow is a curved piece of wood lined with a string that is pulled back to fire an arrow – an arrow being a wooden stick with a sharp point made of stone or metal.

A simple form of the bow and arrow was carried by nearly every soldier on the battlefields of Ancient Egypt, but a more complex form of the bow called a “composite bow” was also invented.

A composite bow was a much larger and more powerful version of the normal bow, but they weren’t used often because they were awkward to set up.

Composite bows had to be dismantled and put back together after every battle. This took two people to do, so they weren’t as easily used as the regular bow.

The Ancient Egyptians also used chariots in battle. A chariot was a two-wheeled vehicle driven by horses.

Every chariot had a team working on it. A chariot team usually consisted of the driver (who held a whip and the reins of the horses) the archer (who carried a bow, arrows, and small spears for when he ran out of arrows) and runners who moved alongside the chariot to keep it safe.

The chariot was one of the few places where the composite bow was used, because it was more important to have a powerful shot in the chariot than when a soldier was on foot. The image of the pharaoh riding into battle in a chariot was used frequently to show how brave the Egyptian leader was.

Most battles began with the archers of both sides firing a hail of arrows. When the other side had been softened up by the falling arrows, the infantry (foot soldiers) would rush in, carrying hand-to-hand weapons.

Popular weapons for infantry use included swords, spears, knives, maces, and a special curved sword called a “khopesh” that was used for disarming enemies.

The Ancient Egyptian infantry were highly skilled fighters, but unlike the Romans, did not take part in many invasions of foreign territory. For the most part, they just defended their own country, and didn’t really attack others – or at least, not as much as the Romans and Ancient Greeks did.

Besides the infantry, archers, and chariot riders, there were also soldiers in the Egyptian army who served in the navy.

Though sea battles weren’t very common in Ancient Egypt – most battles were fought on land – the navy was used to transport infantry from place to place. However, in the later period of Ancient Egypt’s history, the navy became more important as invaders began to threaten Egypt by sea.

The most famous of these invaders were the “Sea Peoples,” a pirate band made up of people from different countries who wanted to steal Egyptian treasure and land.

The battle with the Sea Peoples, like most battles of the Egyptian navy, was fought at sea by land troops.

Although the soldiers were trained to fight on water, they were not sailors. The Ancient Egyptians didn’t take a lot of pride in their sailing skills, and their navy provides evidence for this.

The ships were often incredibly large, with a crew of 250 men, while smaller ships had only 50 men.

On the smaller ships, roughly 20 of the 50 only rowed and manoeuvred the ship in combat, while the other 30 fought. The navy was really only valuable to the Ancient Egyptians because it scared away foreign invaders, and encouraged them to attack a country with less ships!

Facts about Ancient Egyptian Warfare:

  • The most commonly used type of weapon in Ancient Egypt was the bow and arrow.
  • Foot soldiers (called infantry) used swords, spears, maces, knives, and always carried a bow and arrow with them.
  • Chariots were used in Ancient Egypt.
  • Every chariot was manned by a two-man team (driver and archer) and was accompanied by runners who followed to protect the horses.
  • The image of a pharaoh riding into battle on a chariot was often used to promote the idea of the pharaoh being a strong military leader.
  • Though the Ancient Egyptians did have a navy, it was not very well developed.
  • Most navy ships were manned by land soldiers.
  • The most famous sea battles were between the navy and the invader group called the “Sea Peoples.”

What did you learn?

  • What was the most common weapon in Ancient Egypt?
    Bow and arrow.
  • What was the name given to the special curved sword carried by infantry?
  • What was it used for?
    Disarming enemies (taking their weapons from them.)
  • Who were the main two members of a chariot team in Ancient Egypt?
    Driver and archer.
  • What was the name of the most famous invader group who attacked Egypt by sea?
    The Sea Peoples