Monday, September 29, 2008

Book Review: War in Ancient Egypt

Scholia Reviews

Sorry about all the bizarre characters in this - they are copied directly from the website.

Scholia Reviews ns 17 (2008) 13.

Anthony J. Spalinger, War in Ancient Egypt: The New Kingdom. Ancient World at War. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2005. Pp. xx + 291, incl. figures and maps. ISBN 1-4051-1372-3. UK£16.99. Further Details.

Sakkie Cornelius
Ancient Studies, University of Stellenbosch, South Africa

During the period of the New Kingdom (ca. 1500-1100 BCE) Egypt ‘ruled the east’[[1]] and its armies marched into Canaan, but also into Kush (Nubia) in the south. Egypt developed a standing, professional army. In this book Anthony Spalinger, a well-known Egyptologist at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, introduces us to the Egyptian war machine under the ‘war pharaohs’ of dynasty 18 and the Ramesside dynasty. In the volume ‘Companion to the Ancient Near East’[[2]] he has already written a chapter on this aspect of the history Egypt.

There are other books on war in Egypt, going back to Wolf,[[3]] the relevant parts in General Yigael Yadin’s ‘Art of Warfare in Biblical Lands’,[[4]] and more recently Ian Shaw’s little book in the Shire Egyptology series,[[5]] Partridge’s ‘Fighting Pharaohs’,[[6]] and McDermott’s[[7]] well-illustrated overview, to mention only a few. Spalinger does not deal with the weapons of warfare in detail, but the focus (and therefore the strong point and the greatest contribution of the book) is on the socio-political aspects of warfare; the military classes and logistics (following the method of the German military historian Hans Delbrack, cf. p. xiii), showing how the military was organised, fed, and equipped, which made the Egyptian war machine so effective and creating a "˜world power". The sources analysed and discussed include texts, iconography, and artefacts. Spalinger is also well acquainted with the German and even the Russian literature on the topic. Of great value to classicists are the many comparisons made, for example, to the way in which the armies of Alexander the Great were organised, again with regard to logistics.

Each chapter has an excursus (printed in grey) which gives more information on logistical matters and other issues, and deals with the important literature in which such matters are discussed, followed by notes which also include references to the literature. At the back is a general bibliography and an index (of names, but also authors and concepts such as chariots and horses).

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