Treaty of Kadesh: The World’s First Peace Treaty
The Treaty of Kadesh, also known as the Peace Treaty of Ramses II and Hattusili III, was a significant treaty signed in the 13th century BC between the Egyptian pharaoh Ramses II and the Hittite king Hattusili III.
How did the Treaty of Kadesh come about?
The treaty was a result of the hostilities and conflicts between the Egyptian and Hittite empires during the Late Bronze Age.
Desiring the very lucrative trade routes heading to Syria, the Egyptian king Ramses II launched a massive assault on the city of Kadesh. With Kadesh falling into the hands of the Egyptians, Ramses II was placed in a direct collision course with the Hittite king Muwatalli II.
For many decades, the Hittite Empire posed a huge threat to the Egyptians as they grew in military and political power in the region.
Many of Ramses II’s predecessors, including Akhenaten and Tutankhamun, tried their hardest to stifle the rising influence of the Hittite’s rulers, who had taken to a habit of encroaching into the territories of Egypt. Pharaoh Seti I, Ramses II’s father, was perhaps the only predecessor of Ramses II who made huge strides in Egypt’s attempt to regain Kadesh, Amurru, and other cities in northern Syria from the Hittites. However, those gains were not long-lasting. The task, therefore, fell to Ramses II.
Kadesh was simply one of those territories in northern Syria that Ramses II sought to secure permanently for Egypt. Fought in 1274 BC, the Battle of Kadesh was a major confrontation between Ramses II and Muwatalli II of the Hittite Empire.
According to some accounts, Ramses II led a powerful army of more than 20,000 men. On the other hand, the Hittites had almost 40,000 men. The Egyptian forces initially faced a surprise attack from Hittite chariot units but managed to regroup and launch counterattacks.
The battle’s outcome remains a matter of debate. While Ramses II claimed victory in his official accounts, the battle ultimately ended in a stalemate, with no clear victor.
Basically, Ramses II and his forces, heavily relying on their two-man chariot, could not capture the city of Kadesh. Muwatlli II and his forces, who predominantly used the three-man chariot, managed to retain the city but could not defeat the Egyptians. It is important to mention that both sides did suffer a significantly in terms of casualties.
Following the battle, diplomatic negotiations took place between Ramses II and the Hittite king, resulting in the signing of the Treaty of Kadesh, a peace agreement that aimed to restore stable relations between the two powers.
By the time the peace treaty was signed, Muwatalli II had passed away. This meant that the signing had to be done by his successor, Hattusili III.
Terms and Provisions of the treaty
The treaty recognized the sovereignty and legitimacy of both the Egyptian and Hittite empires. It acknowledged each party as equals and established a framework for diplomatic relations and peaceful coexistence.
It outlined various provisions, including a non-aggression pact, cooperation against common enemies, extradition of political refugees, and the establishment of diplomatic channels for communication between the two empires.
In the Egyptian version, Ramses II even promised to offer ample aid to not just Hattusili III’s claim to the Hittite throne but also Hattusili’s successors.
Also, there is some bit of evidence suggesting that around the 34th year of Ramesses II’s reign, the Egyptian king tied the knot with a princess from the Hittite empire. This was part of a concerted effort to forge stronger familial ties between the two powers.
Basically, the provision required both sides to respect each other’s claims to territories in Syria. It effectively, established clear boundaries for the disputed territory.
Documentation of the treaty
Both Ramses II and Hattusili III documented the treaty on inscriptions and reliefs found in their respective territories. These inscriptions, known as the “Ramses-Hattusili Treaty,” provide valuable historical evidence of the agreement and its significance.
The two sides heavily invoked several hundreds of powerful deities of Egypt and Hatti to bear witness to the peace treaty. This was meant to prevent any side from reneging on their promises.
Both Egypt and Hatti hoped that the peace between them would last forever, and that the descendants of the signatories would live harmoniously and support each other until the end of time.
The Treaty of Kadesh resulted in a relatively stable period of peace and non-aggression between Egypt and the Hittite Empire. It established a precedent for future diplomatic negotiations and paved the way for continued communication and trade between the two powers.
Also, the peace resulting from the treaty facilitated cultural exchange and trade between Egypt and the Hittite Empire. It opened up avenues for interaction, which led to the exchange of ideas, technologies, and goods between the two Near Eastern powers.
To this day, the Treaty of Kadesh remains an important historical document that highlights the diplomatic efforts and political complexities of the Late Bronze Age. It stands as one of the earliest recorded peace treaties in history and showcases the potential for resolving conflicts through negotiation and diplomacy.
The above explains why a copy of the Peace of Kadesh is displayed on a wall in the United Nations Headquarters in New York City, U.S.
Did you know…?
Also known as the Egyptian-Hittite Peace Treaty, the Treaty of Kadesh is the only Ancient Near Eastern treaty for which the versions of both sides have survived.
Typical of many peace treaties, the Treaty of Kadesh was negotiated by representatives of the two monarchs – Ramses II and Hattusili III. The two kings never met in person.
As Hattušiliš III was the one who first initiated the peace talks, Ramses II saw this as the Hittite king’s acknowledging Egypt’s victory over the Hittites. This explains why Ramses communicated the peace treaty as more than a diplomatic victory. However, in reality this could not be further from the truth. Scholars now know that the neither sides managed to secure an upper hand over the other in the conflict.
Questions and Answers about the Treaty of Kadesh
Here’s what you need to know about the Treaty of Kadesh:
Who was Ramses II?
Ramses II, also known as Ramesses II or Ramesses the Great, was an ancient Egyptian pharaoh who reigned from 1279 to 1213 BC during the New Kingdom period. He is considered one of Egypt’s most powerful and influential pharaohs.
This Egyptian pharaoh led numerous military campaigns during his reign to secure and expand Egypt’s territories. One of his most famous military engagements was the Battle of Kadesh against the Hittites.
He was also renowned for his ambitious construction projects. He commissioned the construction of numerous grand temples, including the famous Abu Simbel temples and the Ramesseum, his mortuary temple.
It is a well-known fact that Ramses II had a large family, including multiple wives and numerous children. He fathered more than 100 children, several of whom went on to become pharaohs after him.
Who was Hattusili III?
Hattusili III, also known as Hattusili III, was a prominent king of the Hittite Empire during the late Bronze Age. Belonging to the New Kingdom period of the Hittite Empire, Hattusili III ruled as the king of the Hittite Empire from approximately 1267 to 1237 BC. During his reign, he worked to strengthen the central administration, enact legal reforms, and consolidate the empire’s power.
Hattusili III’s reign was followed by that of his son, Tudhaliya IV, marking a smooth transition of power within the Hittite Empire. His reign and the diplomatic achievements during his time played a role in shaping the empire’s standing in the ancient Near East.
When was the Treaty of Kadesh signed?
The exact date of the signing of the Treaty of Kadesh is not known with certainty. However, it is generally believed to have been concluded sometime after the Battle of Kadesh.
As the Battle of Kadesh took place in 1274 BC, it is generally held that the Peace of Kadesh was signed about a decade and a half after the battle.
According to ancient Egyptian accounts, the treaty was ratified in the 21st year of Ramses II’s reign, which was around 1258 BC.
Why was the treaty signed?
With Egypt and Hittites unable to secure any real victory against the other, the treaty was seen as really important to end all the bloodshed between the two powers. Besides, the Egyptians wanted peace so that they could concentrate their resources into defeating a threat closer at home – i.e. the “Sea Peoples”. Ramses II and his Egyptian generals had also grown very concerned of the rising power of Assyria. The Egyptian king hoped that securing a peace and alliance pact with the land of Hatti would enable the two fight off the Assyrians – and by so doing they could preserve the status quo in the region.
Similar to the Egyptians, the Hittites badly needed to free resources in order to counter the rising power of Assyria, their neighbors to the east. It has also been stated despite the Hittites having a slightly upper hand, Hattušiliš III’s relatively weak position – both domestically and abroad – made him very eager to end the sort of cold war situation with Egypt.
Who were the key parties involved in the Treaty of Kadesh?
The key parties involved in the Treaty of Kadesh were Ramses II, the pharaoh of Egypt, and Hattusili III, the king of the Hittite Empire. Ramses II was one of the most prominent pharaohs of the New Kingdom of Egypt, while Hattusili III ruled over the powerful Hittite Empire.
These two leaders, represented by their officials, played crucial roles in the negotiations and signing of the treaty, which aimed to bring an end to the conflicts between their respective empires. The Treaty of Kadesh represented a significant diplomatic achievement between these influential rulers of the ancient Near East.
How long did the Treaty of Kadesh remain in effect?
The exact duration of the Treaty of Kadesh is uncertain. While historical records do not provide specific information about the length of its validity, it is generally believed that the treaty remained in effect for a considerable period.
It has been stated that treaty most likely remained observed for about a century – until the time the land of Hatti capitulated to Assyria around the 12th century BC.
Are there any surviving records or artifacts related to the Treaty of Kadesh?
Yes, there are surviving records and artifacts related to the Treaty of Kadesh. One of the most notable sources of information is the “Ramses-Hattusili Treaty,” which is a collection of inscriptions and reliefs found in Egypt and Hittite lands. These inscriptions depict scenes from the battle and the subsequent negotiations. The inscriptions include detailed accounts of the events leading to the treaty, the terms of the agreement, and the diplomatic correspondence exchanged between Ramses II and Hattusili III.
Additionally, there are other historical documents and diplomatic correspondence between the Egyptian and Hittite courts that provide insights into the treaty and its aftermath. These documents include the Amarna Letters, a collection of diplomatic correspondence from the 14th century BC, which shed light on the broader diplomatic relations between Egypt and the Hittites.
How does the Treaty of Kadesh compare to other ancient treaties or peace agreements?
Unlike some earlier treaties that imposed harsh terms on defeated parties, the Treaty of Kadesh granted equal recognition and legitimacy to both Egypt and the Hittite Empire. This approach differed from earlier conqueror-vanquished dynamics and emphasized a more balanced diplomatic relationship.
Where were the Egyptian and Kadesh versions of the treaty found?
Both sides proudly displayed the treaty on large temple inscriptions for many, many years in the ancient times. The Egyptian version was written hieroglyphics, and the inscriptions can be found on the walls of two temples of Ramses II in Thebes – the Precinct of Amun-Re and the Ramesseum.
The Hittite version of the treaty was discovered in Hattusa by a joint Turkish-German team of archeologist in the first decade of the 20th century. The discovery, made in 1906 by German archeologist Hugo Winckler (1863-1913), was among over 9500 clay tablets of royal archives written in cuneiform, an ancient language script that was used in the Near East for many millennia.
The Museum of the Ancient Orient, housed within the Istanbul Archaeology Museums, showcases two of the Hittite tablets, while the third tablet is exhibited in the Berlin State Museums in Germany.
The city of Hattusa served as the capital of the Hittite Empire in the late Bronze Age. Hattusa is found in today’s Boğazkale in Turkiye.
What were the causes of the Battle of Kadesh leading to the treaty?
Both Egypt and the Hittite Empire sought to expand their influence and control over the region surrounding Kadesh, a strategic city located in modern-day Syria. This led to competing claims and tensions between the two powers.
Prior to the battle, both Egypt and the Hittites had formed alliances with various city-states in the region. However, these alliances collapsed, leading to a breakdown in diplomatic relations and an escalation of hostilities.
What was the outcome of the Battle of Kadesh?
The Battle of Kadesh ended in a stalemate, with neither side achieving a decisive victory. Both the Egyptian and Hittite forces suffered heavy casualties, and the battle exposed the limitations of military power for both empires.
The battle served as a wake-up call for both Ramses II and Hattusili III, as they recognized the need to seek a peaceful resolution to the conflict. This led to diplomatic negotiations, resulting in the signing of the Treaty of Kadesh.
Basically, it laid the foundation for diplomatic relations, trade, and cultural exchange between the two powers, fostering a sense of stability in the region.
How are the Kadesh inscriptions a propaganda tool?
Obviously a skewed account of the Battle of Kadesh, the Kadesh inscriptions provide detailed accounts of the battle, emphasizing Ramses II’s bravery and leadership. They describe the initial surprise attack by Hittite forces, the subsequent Egyptian counteroffensive, and Ramses II’s personal heroics.
The inscriptions attribute the ultimate victory and protection of Ramses II to the intervention of various Egyptian deities, particularly the god Amun-Ra. These accounts highlight the pharaoh’s divine mandate and reinforce his legitimacy as a ruler. They depict Ramses II as a powerful and invincible leader.
Are there any older known treaty than the Peace of Kadesh in world history?
Not really. Perhaps the only treaty older than the Treaty of Kadesh is the Treaty of Mesilim. However, that treaty cannot really be considered a peace treaty – it is instead more of a treaty that set the borders between two groups.
The Treaty of Mesilim, also known as the Treaty of Umma and Lagash, is an ancient treaty dating back to around 2550 BC. It was an agreement between the Mesopotamian city-states of Umma and Lagash, which were situated in what is now modern-day Iraq.
The fact that it was a treaty between Mesopotamian deities, scholars don’t like to consider it an actual peace treaty.
The above is why the Peace of Kadesh remains the first-known peace treaty in world history.