Trojans at the Battle of Qadesh
The Battle of Qadesh (Kadesh) immortalized the embellished feats of Ramesses II (i.e. Ramesses the Great), the 19th Dynasty Pharaoh of the New Kingdom of Egypt ca. 1279 - 1213 BCE. The pharaoh would use this battle as a marketing tool to show his Egyptian subjects and then the rest of the world, that he is not one to contend with. The year was 1274 BCE and the location, Qadesh, an ancient Levantine city in what is now part of Western Syria. Ramesses led the Egyptians while Muwatalli II (ca. 1295 - 1272 BCE) led the Hittites (Healy, 21). In his youth and the early part of his reign, Ramesses campaigned northeast of his kingdom as he felt it was his obligation to reclaim the land his forefathers once ruled (Healy, 19). The land in question was overtaken by the Hittite forces under the direction of Mursilis II (ca. 1321 - 1295 BCE).
What would culminate into the Battle of Qadesh extends generations back into the past, toward the beginning of the Late Bronze Age (as early as the late 16th Century BCE). It all began with the desire of the great powers of the ancient Near East to exploit the economic resources and trade of the Levant. During this period Syria was at the crossroads of world commerce. Goods from the Aegean and beyond entered and left the Near East via ports such as Ugarit (modern Ras Shamra). These traded goods ranged from copper, tin, chemicals, tools, glass, ingots, ivory, faience, jewelry, timber, textiles, to even foodstuffs. Once reaching the Levant, the trade then expanded beyond that point by a network of extensive trade routes. It was an ideal location for imperial control. It is not surprising that the great powers of Egypt, Mitanni, and Hatti spilled a lot of blood in wars designated to ensure their respective control of this attractive region (Healy, 9-18).
In the early part of the 14th century BCE, the Hittite monarch Suppiluliumas extended his empire into Mitanni territory in what was northern Syria. This event would soon invalidate a few decades old peace treaty between the kingdom of Mitanni, or Hurrians, and Egypt, which originally gave Egypt claim to the land of Amurru, the Eleutheros valley, and Qadesh (Healy, 14). It was during this time of peace that the Egyptian New Kingdom reached its apogee, enjoying a period of wealth and prosperity. Tributes poured in from Egypt’s possession of Canaan and the established secure borders with Mitanni allowed for the unimpeded movement of goods along the Near Eastern trade routes (Healy, 9). So when that prosperous period was challenged by the Hittites and began to deteriorate everything that the Egyptians worked hard for, it was only natural for Egypt to defend its land. It was also only a matter of time before the power of Mitanni fell to the Hittites, leaving the Egyptians in conflict with the Hittites alone. During the Hittite expansion into Syrian territory toward the south, the province of Qadesh was eventually taken. Its recovery would be the focus of the Egyptians until the time of Ramesses II (Healy, 19).
The Hittite Empire at the height of its power (red), bordering on the Egyptian Empire (green). Credit: Wikipedia
The battle between two giant forces would eventually take place. In the aftermath, the Egyptians would boast of their victory. Its events would be retold and written on inscriptions and reliefs through the land. Archaeology, however, has shown us a different side to this tale. When the Hittite language was deciphered in the mid-20th Century CE (Macqueen, 24), a peace treaty between the two opponents would be translated, indicating that both parties had called for a truce. Neither side would truly emerge victorious. The Egyptian account of this event would also reveal the allies of the Hittites, which included tributary nations and mercenaries for hire, one of which is of particular interest; the one being the Trojans.
The Hittite Peace Treaty. Credit: Wikimedia
The province of Wilusa (Greek: Ilion) or Truwisa (Greek: Troya) was a subject or tributary state to the greater Hittite empire. They paid tribute to receive aid and protection from Hatti (Bryce, 74). References to this province are routinely mentioned in the archives found at the old Hittite capital of Hattusha. A lot of those references also relate to a conflict between Wilusa and Ahhiyawa (Achaeans), one of the names given to the ancient Greeks, placing the ancient Greeks on Anatolian soil as early as the 14th-13th centuries BCE and inspiring the epic poem, the Iliad (Bryce, 102).