The Political Approach to the Classical World 39
lis great opportunity, and had to content himself with his policy
Df encroaching on Egyptian territory in Syria, down to the
borders of Palestine. When he died, in about 1350 B.C., his
successors carried on his work, and it was left for the vigorous
Pharaohs of the next dynasty to re-establish Egypt's position
Sethos I, in a series of brilliant campaigns, came into conflict
with a Hittite confederation and defeated them more than once.
His son Ramesses II advanced farther into Syria and met the
coalition in the plain of Coele- Syria, between the mountains of
Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon. Here at Kadesh on the Orontes
was fought that great battle between the Egyptian army, with
its auxiliaries from the still loyal Phoenician cities, and the
Hittites with their host of allies from Asia Minor and Syria,
which became an epic theme for the Egyptian court poets.
Rashly advancing in divisions too widely spaced, Ramesses found
himself ambushed near the city and cut off from the bulk of his
army. But his bravery in charging the enemy, and the timely
arrival of reinforcements from the coast, saved the situation.
The battle was to neither side, though the Egyptians claimed
to have routed their enemies, and the king caused long hymns
of victory to be inscribed on the walls of his temples. Both
nations were weary of the struggle and not long after, on the
accession of a less bellicose king to the Hittite throne, hostilities
came to an end. A treaty, of which we have both the Egyptian
and the Hittite versions, was drawn up between Hattusil and
Ramesses II, and cemented by vows of eternal friendship and the
marriage of the Pharaoh to a Hittite princess. By the terms of
the treaty the status quo was maintained—in writing at least.
But there has been a tendency in recent years to underestimate
the extent of Ramesses' achievement, and evidence has recently
been accumulating that in reality much of Syria renewed its
allegiance to Egypt not long after the battle of Kadesh. Centres
of commercial activity, especially those on the Phoenician coast.