Ramesses’s most impressive undertaking was the battle in Kadesh against the Ittiti.
Returning from the military campaign, the pharaoh ordered to engrave the scenes on the walls of the Ramesseo (in western Tebe), in Abu Simbel, in Karnak and in Luxor.
Great representations represent the warriors, the Egyptian encampment, the clash, the enemies enslaved and mostly ramesses, while alone he defeated the enemy.
Of the battle we have two accounts, the most important of which, the Pentaur Poem accompanies the scenes in the temples.
The chronicle according to the Egyptian
1275 before Christ, the end of the month of April, the pharaohmarches toward the volley of the Oronte river to conquer Kadesh city, one of the main ittite forts in Syria.
He’s at the head of 20 thousand men and 200 carts, divided in four armies that have gods’ names: Amon, Ptah, Ra and Seth.
The reason contended are the territories of Northern Syria, the opponent, the sovereign Mwwatallish, at the head of a coalition counts 10 thousand infantry soldiers and over 3500 war carts.
Near the Oronte river, the pharaoh’s guards capture two men who say they are deserters from the ittita army and that they have useful information for the Egyptians.
Brought before ramesses the “confess” that Mwwatallish and his soldiers are very for away, and that the pharaoh wouldn’t take any risk in attacking.
Certain that the conquer of Kadesh would have been very easy, Ramesses leaves without waiting for the rest of the army, and at the head of only the Amon army he goes toward the plain in front of Kadesh where he camps. Only when his guard capture two enemies of a scouting party, he realizes he has fallen in a trap.
But it’s too late.
The ittita army, hidden behind the fortified city, suddenly attacks. Taken by the surprise, the pharaoh’s infantry escapes and only ramesses, with his faithful body guards, tries to block the advancing of the Ittiti. “He was able to do it thanks to two fortunate “unforeseen events”. “
Above all the ittita fury begins to lessen.
Once the Egyptian encampment was conquered in fact the Ittiti prefer to sack everything left by the enemies when they escaped instead of concentrating on the defence.
The “final blow” is the arrival of an Egyptian contingent that helps the pharaoh and his guards. At this point the result of the fight is overturned: from an easy victory, the Ittiti find themselver in difficulties.
At sunset the hostilities are suspended, but during the night other Egyptian regiments reach the pharaoh.
The morning after, a series of valiant officers of the Egyptian army force the ittita king to ask an armistice. It’s probable that things went a bit differently: Muwatallish loses a lot of his carts (more numerous but heavier and hard to drive than the light Egyptian war carts), but he keeps the infantry intact that isn’t involved.
To Ramesses, instead, the surprise attack by the ittita troops, cost at least the destruction of at least one oh his four regiments.
The result was so a draw that forces ramesses to renounce to conquer Kadesh.
But his propagandist ability is able to transform a defeat he barely avoided to an heroic undertaking of a great leader..