Thutmose III: Biography, Military Campaigns, and Greatest Accomplishments
Thutmose III, one of ancient Egypt’s greatest rulers, was the 6th pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty. His reign, which spanned from around 1479 to 1425 BC, was one marked by his unrelenting thirst for dominance and power. Arguably Egypt’s greatest warrior king, Thutmose III built upon the laurels and works of predecessors like his stepmother Hatshepsut and his father Thutmose II.
With a total of 17 military campaigns, this powerful king was able to stretch the boundaries of Egypt, turning Egypt into the most dominant power in the region. It is generally accepted among Egyptologists and scholars alike that Egypt reached its pinnacle during the reign of Thutmose III. What were some of his most famous military campaigns? And how did Thutmose III bring the mighty Mitannians to submission?
Below, World History Edu explores the life, family tree, military campaigns, and major achievements of ancient Egyptian pharaoh Thutmose III.
Quick facts about Thutmose III
Birth: c. 1481 BC
Died: c. 1425 BC
Burial place: Valley of the Kings, Luxor, Egypt
Religion: Ancient Egyptian religion
Father: Thutmose II
Spouses: Satiah, Nebtu, Menwi, Menhet, Merti, Nebsemi
Chief consort: Merytre-Hatshepsut
Children: Menkheperre, Nebetiunet, Merytamun C, Merytamun D, Iset, Siamun, Nefertiri, Amenemhat, Amenhotep II
Reign: 1479-1425 BC
Predecessor: Queen Hatshepsut
Successor: Amenhotep II
Epithets: “Lasting is the Manifestation of Ra”, “The Lasting One of the Manifestation of Ra”
Other names: Thutmosis (“Born of Thoth” or “Thoth is born”)
Most known for: Steering ancient Egypt to its zenith ever
Conquests: northern Syria, parts of Nubia, Palestine, Niya Kingdom
Birth and early life
Son of Egyptian ruler Thutmose II and Queen Iset, Thutmose III was born around 1481 BC. Following the death of his father in 1479 BC, he was the most eligible person to rise to throne. However, he was only just child at the time. Hence his stepmother Queen Hatshepsut ruled on his behalf as regent of Egypt.
Growing up, the young boy-king received the best of education befitting of an Egyptian monarch. Thutmose III also received training in military tactics, horse and chariot riding, archery, and among others. Right from an early age, he had a knack for horsemanship, as he was very well built and a good marksman.
Names and epithets
As it was common for ancient Egyptian kings and queens, Thutmose III went by a number of names and epithets. His two main names were associated with major Egyptian gods Ra and Thoth. For example his name Tuthmosis or Thutmose evokes the meaning of “Thoth is born” or “Born of Thoth”. The god Thoth was the Egyptian deity of the moon, time, and wisdom.’
Thutmose III’s other name mn-ḫpr-rˁ ḏḥwty-ms means “Lasting is the Manifestation of Ra” or “The Lasting One of the Manifestation of Ra”. Egyptians believed that the sun god Ra, also known as the chief of the Egyptian pantheon, steered his sun barge through the sky bringing sunlight to land.
Thutmose II – Thutmose III’s father
Thutmose II was the father of Thutmose III. Born to Pharaoh Thutmose I and Queen Mutnofret, Thutmose II was the fourth pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty of Egypt. His reign is said to have started in 1493 and ended upon his death in 1479. During his reign he achieved a number of things, including quelling revolts in the Levant and Nubia.
In addition to Iset, Thutmose III’s mother, Thutmose II had a number of consorts. Upon his death in 1479, Thutmose II’s chief consort Queen Hatshepsut succeeded him to the throne.
Queen Iset – Thutmose III’s mother
With Hatshepsut taking the role as the Great Royal Wife of Thutmose II, Queen Iset was the secondary wife of Thutmose II. Iset’s name was derived from the name of the ancient Egyptian mother goddess Isis. In some ancient texts and inscriptions, Iset is referred to as the chief consort of Thutmose II. Thutmose III’s mother’s name appears on his mummy wrappings as well as a statue of the king in the Karnak Temple Complex. Upon her son’s coronation as the sole ruler of Egypt in 1458 BC (i.e. after the death of Queen Hatshepsut), Iset received the epithet “King’s Mother”.
A number of Iset’s images and depictions can be found in the tomb of Thutmose III at the Valley of the Kings. Many of those depictions see her revered as the manifestation of the Egyptian goddess Isis. In one depiction, she can be seen standing behind Thutmose III on a boat.
Queen Hatshepsut’s regency, co-regency and ultimate rule
Following the death of Thutmose II around 1479 BC, the Great Royal Wife Hatshepsut became regent Thutmose II’s only son Thutmose III, who was too young to reign as king. Even long before the death of Thutmose II, Hatshepsut’s power in the kingdom was quite immense, with some describing her as the real power behind Thutmose II’s reign. Thutmose II, a lesser son of Thutmose I, had to marry Hatshepsut in order to consolidate his power.
About seven years into her regency, Hatshepsut will go from regent of Egypt to co-ruler of the kingdom until her death in 1458 BC. She thus co-ruled with her stepson Thutmose III. Upon her death, Thutmose III became the sole ruler of Egypt.
Hatshepsut assigned herself full titles of a pharaoh. She donned clothes similar to the ones Egyptian pharaohs wore. Bent on dominating the affairs of land of Egypt, she also assumed the insignia of the Egyptian pharaoh. Effectively ruling as pharaoh from c. 1479 to 1458 BC, Hatshepsut, who was also known as “Foremost of Noble Ladies”, steered Egypt to great heights.
Thutmose III and Hatshepsut
Upon attaining the age of maturity, Queen Hatshepsut appointed Thutmose III as the commander of her army. Egyptologists note that Thutmose III served as the co-ruler of Egypt throughout the reign of Hatshepsut. There was hardly any grudge between the two as they worked in tandem. Both rulers had royal names and insignia.
As a matter of fact their different leadership traits complemented perfectly. Some scholars have noted that the co-rulership of Hatshepsut and Thutmose III proved extremely beneficial for the latter’s sole reign over Egypt.
Major achievements of Thutmose III
Like many 18th Dynasty pharaohs of ancient Egypt, Thutmose III benefited a lot from the technology transferred to Egypt during the reign of Hyksos rulers [Fifteenth Dynasty (c. 1650-1550 BC)]. Armed with military innovations like the horse and chariot, the sickle sword and the composite bow, Thutmose III embarked on many military campaigns and conquests. By so doing, he was able to wield tremendous influence in the region, from southern Syria and Canaan to the east to Nubia to the south. Ancient Egypt was truly a superpower during the reign of Pharaoh Thutmose III.
During his reign from 1479 BC to 1425 BC, Thutmose III was able to accomplish a lot of outstanding things. Some of his major accomplishments are as follows:
Ancient Egypt’s Napoleon
Egyptologists often opine that there was hardly any ancient Egyptian ruler that could rival the expansionist ambitions of Thutmose III. It’s been estimated that he spent more than twenty years of his thirty-year reign as Egypt’s sole ruler campaigning in foreign lands. It is for this reason some historians like to refer to him as ancient Egypt’s Napoleon.
Thutmose III embarked upon a total of 17 campaigns in foreign territories, capturing several hundreds of cities in the process. By the time he was through, he had expanded Egypt’s influence and dominion to places as far as the Near East, Nubia in the south, and the Euphrates.
An astute commander of Egypt’s army
As co-ruler and commander of Egypt’s army, Thutmose III prepared himself adequately to reassert Egypt’s influence in northern Syria, Nubia and Palestine. For many years since his grandfather Thutmose I’s conquest of those regions, Egypt’s hold over those regions had gradually faded. During his father Thutmose II’s reign, the tributes that Egypt received from those foreign rulers steadily fell.
And the fact that Egypt was left with a boy-king following the death of Thutmose II in some way emboldened those foreign Syrian princes to rebel against Egypt’s influence in the region. The task of bringing those regions back under Egypt’s control fell squarely on Thutmose III. Realizing this, co-ruler Queen Hatshepsut was right in naming her stepson and co-ruler Thutmose III the commander-in-chief of Egypt’s army.
By his mid-20s, he had grown into a fine warrior, knowledgeable in many military tactics and skilled at weapon handling. Thutmose was ready to begin his military campaigns in Syria and other surrounding regions in Mesopotamia.
Thutmose III led what was possible the mightiest and largest Egyptian army ever
Thutmose III’s early introduction into the army proved extremely useful for him going forward. Steadily he went on to build a very large army that instilled a lot fear in Egypt’s foreign enemies. Historians and Egyptologists like to believe that Thutmose’s reign saw the Egyptian army reach its peak, boasting of the largest army in ancient Egypt’s history.
Marched his army to capture Megiddo
In what is widely recognized as Thutmose III’s first campaign, the young Egyptian ruler led his army to halt the growing power of the king of Kadesh. Thutmose’s army went through Jamnia before arriving at Megiddo.
Before facing off the king of Kadesh in the Battle of Megiddo, Thutmose is said to have made a very brave decision of taking the most challenging route to the battle ground. Contrary to the advice of his war counsel, the Egyptian king chose to take the riskiest path through a narrow mountain pass in the Wadi Ara (present-day in Israel). The path allowed Thutmose and his army to strategically place themselves between the rear side of the enemy forces and Megiddo. The battle, which was the biggest of all the 17 campaigns of Thutmose III, ended in a resounding victory for Thutmose. The Pharaoh laid siege to the city for about eight months before bringing Megiddo to its knees. As the troops made their way back to Egypt, they helped themselves to plundering much of the resources of Megiddo.
Wielded control over all of Canaan and large parts of Syria
The capture of Megiddo meant that Thutmose III had placed himself in firm control of all of Canaan and many other parts of Syria. In order to maintain that firm control of those places he ordered the payment of large annual tributes to Egypt. Those foreign lands were also required to send their princes and heirs to Egypt where they were Egyptionalized so to speak. By so doing, Egypt was able to secure strong loyalty from those princes once they turned to rulers of their respective cities.
Conquered Kadesh and other cities in Al-Biqa valley
Furthermore, Thutmose conquered many ports on the Phoenician coast, allowing him to gain greater control of Syria. After plundering the town of Ardata, he turned the place into an important strategic base for Egypt. In his sixth campaign, the Egyptian king proceeded to take and pillage many Kadesh territories. As part of his effort to prevent those conquered territories from rebelling, he sometimes plundered a lot of their resources, thereby leaving them impoverished with no ability to mount a rebellion.
Brought the state of Mitanni under Egypt’s control
Beginning around the end of Thutmose III’s grandfather’s reign, Thutmose I, the rulers of Mitanni, a Mesopotamian kingdom, had started to grow in power and influence in the region. Thutmose III was bent on clipping Mitanni’s rise. In his 33rd year, he led his army on an eight campaign. After crossing the Euphrates River, he took on the Mitannian forces, who were anything but ready for an invasion. The king of Mitanni fled, allowing Thutmose III to force Mitanni into complete submission. The Egyptian king is said to have taking about more than 30 members of the Mitannian’s harem and several hundreds of soldiers prisoners.
To commemorate his spectacular victory, he erected a stele next to his grandfather’s stele in the region. Thutmose thus became the first Egyptian monarch since Thutmose I to cross the Euphrates.
A prominent builder of spectacular buildings
A great patron of the arts and architecture, Thutmose III is said to have tasked his architects to build many magnificent structures, most famous among them came at the Temple of Amun at Karnak. Thutmose is credited with enlarging the complex by erecting new buildings and obelisks. For example he rebuilt his grandfather Thutmose I’s hypostyle hall. He also built a jubilee hall to mark his reign during the Sed festival. He also built a new temple at Dayr al-Bahri, just close to Hatshepsut’s mortuary temple.
More Thutmose III facts
As a result of the immense influence he had, many foreign princes and monarchs, from the Hittite region to the Mesopotamian region, frequently presented him a wide array of gifts. Rulers from as far as the Aegean and the Greek mainland sent envoys and gifts to Thutmose III.
Much of what we know about Thutmose III comes from the records of Thanuny, a royal scribe and commander in Thutmose III’s army.
He was a known hunter of elephant in the land of Niy in the Orontes Valley.
Often times, the prisoners of war and the loot that he took from foreign lands were presented to the god Amun (Amon).
After conquering a foreign land, Thutmose III would deploy native rulers to govern those territories. Those rulers were required to remain loyal, keep the peace, and pay annual tributes to Egypt. During his reign, Egypt received tributes from Nubia (Sudan), Syria, and Palestine.
Typical of many Egyptian pharaohs, the records of Thutmose III are a bit boastful, exaggerating the abilities of the Egyptian king.
It was during Thutmose III’s reign that Egyptian artisans mastered glass making.
In his final few years on the throne, some of his courtiers, along with his heir Amenhotep II, tried to erase the records, including images and cartouches, of Hatshepsut and her reign. In some cases, Hatshepsut’s achievements were appropriated to Thutmose II and Thutmose I.
He loved to bring animals and plants from far and wide into his kingdom. Some of those foreign beasts and plants can be seen on the walls of the Festival Hall at Karnak.
For quite a number of centuries, Egyptians took to inscribing the name of Thutmose III on amulets. It was believed that those amulets protected the wearer.
Mummy and memorial temple
Thutmose III was buried in a very remote corner of the Valley of the Kings in western Thebes.
His mummy was discovered in 1889. Archaeologists believe that the 21st dynasty priest-kings (1076- c. 945 BC) kept his mummy in that place in order to protect it from being desecrated.
Based on his mummy, Thutmose III’s height was in the region of five feet three inches (around 1.6 meters).
Discovered in 1962, Thutmose III’s memorial temple was sited next to Hatshepsut’s memorial temple in Dayr al-Bahri.
More Thutmose III achievements
His final military campaign saw him put down a rebellion (instigated by some exiled members of the Mitannian royal family) in the Arka plain. He also destroyed many Mitannian garrisons in the region.
Around his 50th regnal year, he turned his attention to his southern borders, where he captured many Nubian territories, including Napata and Kurgus. He is famed for being the first Egyptian king to march an army as far as the fourth cataract of the Nile River.
Shortly after securing those Nubian regions, he erected a temple in honor of the god Amun. He also captured a number of prisoners that he would later send to the gold mines. Scholars state that the produce from those gold mines formed a significant portion of Egypt’s wealth.
Thutmose III’s consorts and children
In some texts it’s noted that Thutmose III married his half-sister Neferure, who was the daughter of Thutmose II and Pharaoh-Queen Hatshepsut. Neferure was at some point was even referred to as the God’s Wife.
In another account, the great royal wife of Thutmose III was rather Merytre-Hatshepsut. By her, Thutmose III gave birth to Amenhotep II, his successor. Merytre-Hatshepsut became the chief consort of the king after the death of Satiah. Additionally, Merytre-Hatshepsut was the mother of Thutmose’s successor Amenhotep II. In the course of her life, Merytre-Hatshepsut had titles like Great King’s Wife, God’s Wife, King’s Mother, Sole One, Beloved of Ra, and First among the nobles.
Other famous wives of Thutmose III include Menwi, Merti, and Menhet. Those three women were princesses from foreign lands who were sent to the royal harem of the pharaoh. Although they were regarded as minor wives of the king, the three women still held a bit of influence in the royal court, receiving titles like King’s Wife.
Thutmose III also had the likes of Nebtu, Nebsemi and Satiah in his royal harem. It’s been stated that by later, Thutmose III bore his eldest son Prince Amenemhat. Satiah was psossibly Thutmose III’s first Great Royal Wife.
King Thutmose III had many children, including Menkheperre, Nebetiunet, Merytamun C, Merytamun D, Iset, and Nefertiri.
Family Tree of Thutmose III
Thutmose III’s reign spanned for about 54 years; the first twenty-two years of his reign was spent serving as the co-ruler of Egypt with his stepmother Queen Hatshepsut. In his final few years, he appointed his son and heir Amenhotep II as a junior co-regent.
His eldest son and heir, Amenemhat, predeceased him, possibly dying of a plague. Following the death of Amenemhat, Amenhotep II became heir to Thutmose III.