The NavyThe Military
“I went down on the sea in a ship of one hundred and fifty cubits long and forty cubits wide, with one hundred and fifty sailors of the best of Egypt who had seen heaven and earth, and whose hearts were stronger than lions”
Tale of the Shipwrecked Sailor
The earliest use of boats in any form of ‘Navy’ were required to relocate troops up and down the Nile, although it could be considered that the crew of these boats were specialists in navigating the Nile’s waters so could be a more modern view of Navy. These Boats were usually made from Reeds. To learn more about these Boats, click here.
When Egypt commenced moving troops in seagoing vessels from their North Coast or via the Red Sea then they utilised, perhaps commandeering, trading vessels which were hewn from Cedar Wood, probably from current day Lebanon.
We know this due to the depiction of Egypt’s forces being transported to Syria in Pharaoh Sahure’s Mortuary Temple at Abusir from Pharaonic Dynasty 5. Further confirmation is made in records which confirm that Royal Official Weni used the Boats to move Troops to Palestine in Dynasty 6.
Egyptologists are aware that Theban located Egyptian Pharaoh Kamose, and Pharaoh Ahmose used some form of naval operations in their war against their northern counterparts, the Hyksos Pharaohs who were based at Avaris. To learn more about their conflicts, click here.
A Navy was thoroughly established in Egypt’s New Kingdom Period, especially when Pharaoh Tuthmose III had a large fleet built at Perunefer, the Royal Dockyard near Memphis which transported soldiers to the Asiatic coast to fight against mutinying Canaanites without warning. To learn more about Pharaoh Tuthmose III and his Military Campaigns, click here. At this point, the Navy’s instructions were to:
- Transport Troops and often additional Troops as needed
- Transport Supplies and carry Communications
- Fight the land or water-based enemy by firing arrows at them from on board boats or ships
- Damage, destroy and sink the enemy’s boats or ships
- Transport Prisoners
When the nomadic water faring collection known as the Sea Peoples set their sights on Egypt during the reigns of Pharaoh Ramses II and his successor Pharaoh Merneptah, the Egyptians and their Navy were well trained and slick at constructing their Boats and Ships. It is thought that they had 2 Rudder Oars with 50 Rowers and/or a square sail Mast for propulsion which was well needed as they may have weighed 70 to 80 tons.
At the latter part of the New Kingdom Period, during the reign of Ramses III, the Sea Peoples attacked Egypt once again and we have learnt about this through the record which Pharaoh left at his Mortuary Temple of Medinet Habu. The largest of his Vessels could carry up to 250 soldiers at any one time whereas the standard boats would carry 50 Marines and 20 Sailors. But still, life in the Navy did not always mean fighting on board but also using boats to lay traps. To learn how Pharaoh Ramses III battled against the Sea Peoples, click here.
After the New Kingdom Period Egypt could not be considered a maritime superpower any longer. This accolade went to the Phoenicians and the Greeks, and later the Persians who turned their occupancy of the Greek and Phoenician Lands to their use by using their well-established Navy as their own.