Making Camp

When they were on campaign, Egyptian soldiers made camp every night. Workers piled up a mound of earth and planted shields on top to form a defensive wall. This protected the troops within from all but the most determined attack. Behind the wall, troops erected tents in neat rows with the king’s tent at the centre and the tent housing statues of the gods close by. Areas were set aside for both the horses and chariots and the donkeys that carried the supplies.

Tents were made of leather, stretched over wooden frames. Ordinary soldiers slept ten to a tent but paintings of officers’ tents have shown that they enjoyed more room.

Mounted scouts continually patrolled the area around the camp on fast horses to locate the enemy and make sure that the Egyptian army was not in danger of a surprise attack. Spies might also slip in with news of enemy movements.

Servants and doctors looked after the troops, grooms and vets tended the animals, and armourers repaired damaged weapons. There were also priests with the army to look for omens that revealed the gods’ will, especially that of Amen-Re, King of the Gods, who personally advised the king when to go to war.

To avoid conflict whenever possible, ancient kings in the Middle East had a well-established diplomatic practice. Ambassadors, with special passports guaranteeing their safety, lived at foreign courts. Special messengers dashed between capital cities. Presents and letters of goodwill were exchanged by the various rulers. The kings of Egypt, Babylon, the Mitanni and the Hittites called each other “Brother”. Rulers of less powerful states addressed these monarchs as “Father” or “My Lord”.

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