Weakness of the ancient Egyptian Army

Dan Howard

Ad Honorem
Aug 2014
4,753
Australia
The Egyptians were only interested in securing materials and commodities from outside of Egypt --not occupying or conquering foreign territory --why? Egypt was the best place to be. Egyptians were worried about dying during battle in a foreign country and not having their body returned tom Egypt. As far as the military of the New Kingdom, it was widely feared; the Egyptians had excellent chariots improved from the original Hyksos examples, and the chariot archers had powerful angular composite bows. Egypt was a wealthy country, and doubtless had plenty of armour as needed --linen, scale armour (hide, bronze and composite hide and bronze). They had bronze helmets and scale armour helmets, and also received arms and armour through tribute.
Combine this with Egypt's capacity to organise (both people and resources), the number of men it could recruit into its armies, the speed with which it could move men around, and its agricultural surplus, which kept its armies well-victualled.
 
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sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
4,971
Sydney
It seems that ancient Egypt had the same outlook as Imperial china
"who care about all those crappy foreigners , they are just good for troubles"
Egypt seized the Sinai for its copper resources ,
kept pushing the Nubian out of sight
crushed the Libyan tribes ( the seven bows )
did a bit of the imperial glory and found it was very overrated
on the whole , whatever they needed , they would trade for it or get is as some "tribute "

The result is that they were always a bit behind the curve in military matters
but since they had the numbers a great strategic position and the money , it hardly mattered
 

Scaeva

Ad Honorem
Oct 2012
5,630
Let's not forget that Egypt had to deal with other powerful empires. During the bronze age you had themiddle Assyrian,Babylonian mitanni and Hittite empires. Then when Egypt resurged after it had to still compete with the neo Assyrians etc. Serious competition between these empires woul have limited expansion
The Egyptian empire at it's height was also not small by the standard of the times.

It may appear small if compared to much later empires like the Romans or Macedonians under Alexander, but that comparison would not be fair, and the empire controlled by Egypt was not small compared to competing empires like the Hittites or Mitanni in the same era.
 
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Larrey

Ad Honorem
Sep 2011
5,741
The Egyptian empire at it's height was also not small by the standard of the times.

It may appear small if compared to much later empires like the Romans or Macedonians under Alexander, but that comparison would not be fair, and the empire controlled by Egypt was not small compared to competing empires like the Hittites or Mitanni in the same era.
Exactly.

And compared to Egypt, Mitanni and the Hittites, or even Assyria and the Babylonian periods of empire, were temporary relative flash-in-the-pan stuff. Egypt grew to ancient-empire-size before the rest, and then, for the most part, just kept on trucking through the millennia.

I don't entirely agree with this rather ambitious vid (underestimates the reach of Old Kingdom Egypt into Sinai and the like fx, and treats some of the admittedly tricky Egyptian Intermediary periods sometimes a bit weirdly imo), but it does bring out the sheer amount of traffic in the Mid East empire building department, and the early and relative stability of Egypt.

Weirdly Egypt because of its sheer longevity seems sometime to have brought out a weird kind of disparagement from various historians. Old Toynbee referred to it as and "old circus horse" just going around in circles, which somehow says more about Toynbee's aversion than anything the ancient Egyptians did.
 
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Dan Howard

Ad Honorem
Aug 2014
4,753
Australia
It always comes back to logistics. Every single man needs around 4 pounds of food every day he is on active duty. So one needs to find, organise, process, and transport 80,000 pounds of food every day to maintain an army of 20,000 men. That amounts to approximately 1,200 tons of food for a campaign that lasts a single month. Egypt could do this because of the Nile.
 
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Sep 2012
1,093
Tarkington, Texas
One other factor is the weakness of Egyptian Army was the presence of Schistosomiasis or the Blood Fluke. The illness can be found over all of Africa. It is started when snails lay eggs in the water supply and they hatch. The larva enter human feet and legs through sores on the feet and legs. The larva can migrate into the Brain, Liver and eyes. This causes the carrier fatigue and they can't do a lot of activity. Many lose their sight. Some go insane. This affects present day Egypt as well. Many young men are rejected for the Draft in the Egyptian Army for this condition. It also affected Roman troops sent there.

Pruitt
 

AlpinLuke

Forum Staff
Oct 2011
27,019
Italy, Lago Maggiore
Mitanni was an allied kingdom and the Kings of Mitanni respected so much the authority of Egypt to send their daughters to KmT to get married with a Horo. In good substance Mitanni was at the limit of being a servant Kingdom [when Tushratta, Mitanni King, complained with Akhenaten about the golden statues he was expecting, he didn't obtain a lot ... this usually indicates a hierarchy of power].

Probably we should change perspective: it wasn't the surface of the controlled territory, but the dimension of the population to determine if a kingdom was a great kingdom or not. Overall when male adults meant military power.

And, at the end, even the Hyksos had to surrender to the Egyptians after invading and dominating them.

The problem of Egypt is that the country presented an evident limit: desert. With the iron age and the development of new models of expansion, Egypt had a written destiny: to be conquered, sooner or later. End of history. And this happened.
 
Jun 2019
6
London
The Egyptian empire at it's height was also not small by the standard of the times.

It may appear small if compared to much later empires like the Romans or Macedonians under Alexander, but that comparison would not be fair, and the empire controlled by Egypt was not small compared to competing empires like the Hittites or Mitanni in the same era.
Good point. I really don't buy into the idea that Ancient Egypt was inherently weak or something. It was one of the major players in the Ancient near East for more or less a thousand years? Give or take periods of weakness
 
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betgo

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
6,333
The Egyptian empire at it's height was also not small by the standard of the times.

It may appear small if compared to much later empires like the Romans or Macedonians under Alexander, but that comparison would not be fair, and the empire controlled by Egypt was not small compared to competing empires like the Hittites or Mitanni in the same era.
It was a big empire for the time. It's hey day was really early. At that time, countries were really small, like the Greek city states. Look at what is now the US and Canada before Europeans with small tribes or countries. The HRE was sort of a bunch of small countries. Similarly, Ireland in 1500 was many small countries, some of which were under the English king.
 
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