First Recorded Battle

On this day in 1457 BCE, the Egyptians defeated a Canaanite coalition to establish dominance over Judea in the Battle of Megiddo. It is considered the first battle recorded in detail, the first with a body count, and the first use of the composite bow.

Around 1457 BCE, the Canaanites of Palestine sought to achieve independence from Egyptian rule. Allying with the kingdoms of Mitanni, Megiddo, and Kadesh, the Canaanites, under Durusha, the King of Kadesh, fomented a rebellion against Pharaoh Thutmose III. Upon hearing the news, Thutmose began marching north with his army to reassert Egyptian rule. Not expecting the Egyptians to travel through the narrow Aruna Valley where they could be easily attacked, the Canaanites deployed to the east and west to meet the Pharaoh’s army. But Thutmose, ignoring his own generals, marched straight into the valley, taking the Canaanites by surprise and sending them racing back to assume a hasty defense. It was too late.

Thutmose attacked and routed the rebellious Canaanites. But before the battle was even over, the Egyptians began looting the rebel camp, giving the surviving Canaanites an opportunity to retreat and secure their city. As such, Thutmose was forced to besiege Megiddo for a prolonged period of time. Eventually, Megiddo fell to the Pharaoh’s forces and Thutmose reestablished Egyptian dominance in the Levant. For the victorious Egyptians, the Battle of Megiddo marked the beginning of explosive growth of the Egyptian Empire under Thutmose III.

Thanks to Thutmose’s personal scribe, Tjaneni, Megiddo was the first battle in history to be recorded in some detail. Tjaneni kept a daily journal on parchment describing the 14 campaigns Thutmose led in the Levant, the booty gained and tribute received, and the offerings to the Egyptian god Amun-Re. According to Tjaneni’s account, Thutmose led an army of some 10,000 to 20,000 men. Durusha, the King of Kadesh, had an army of some 10,000 to 15,000, 83 of whom were killed and 340 captured. The Egyptians also took some 2,041 mares, 191 foals, 6 stallions, 924 chariots, 200 suits of armor, 502 bows, 1,929 cattle, 22,500 sheep, and the royal armor, chariot, and tent poles of the Canaanite army.

However, the Battle of Megiddo was only the beginning of the pacification of the Levant, which would continue to harbor separatist motives for years. It was also the beginning of an era of Egyptian dominance in the region.