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Despite this successful campaign and the new fortresses with their permanent garrisons of full-time professional soldiers, relations with the Nubians remained uneasy, and in regnal year 12 (1863 BC) 'his Majesty journeyed to overthrow Kush', and again in regnal year 16 (1859 BC). On each occasion Nubia was plundered. Senusret tells how he 'captured their women ... carried off their subjects, went forth to their wells, smote their bulls ... reaped their grain and set fire thereto'. Regnal year 19 (1856 BC) saw yet another campaign to 'overthrow the wretched Kush' (Agyptischen Museum, Berlin 14753). The 'wretched' Nubians probably conducted guerrilla-type warfare against the Egyptians, with small hit-and-run raids here and there. Senusret had to lead a total of four punitive raids into Nubia to maintain Egyptian control there, but the chain of manned fortresses and good communications meant he could, and did, react swiftly to any disturbance and punish any resistance. The Egyptian army of this period acted as a deterrent rather than an instrument of conquest, achieving its main success as a policing force rather than a fighting force. It was useful and easy to lead a raiding expedition south, find a few uncooperative Nubians to kill, a settlement or two to plunder, then to return to Egypt with tales of glory and piles of booty. For, as we have seen, not only were these fortresses garrisons for troops, but they also served as m~or trading posts and storage depots for the acquisition and importation of luxury goods into Egypt via Nubia. Military action in Nubia, therefore, was limited to dealing with those Nubians who tried to interfere with the mining of precious metals and stones, and to ensure that trade flowed unhindered.



In predynastic Egypt, the rituals of war, that is, the magic and taboos needed to accomplish certain objectives such as secure victory, make your warriors invulnerable, curse the enemy, and so on, assume a theocratic function. The tribal chieftain was a deputy of the gods, and all warfare had to be explained as an act of the gods, fought for their honour and glory and the honour and glory of their mortal champion. The arrival of the pharaohs did not have much effect on the ideology of war. The rituals of war became more costly and ferocious, and the gods and their myths were more clearly defined by organized temple priesthoods. But all aspects of warfare, even as an instrument of state policy, were still interpreted in terms of theocratic kingly militarism. The motives for war are still revenge and prestige. The difference is that wars are now fought to avenge wrongs against the pharaoh and for the honour and glory of the pharaoh (Dawson 1996: 40-42). Whilst the pharaoh, who was both the quasi-divine benefactor of humankind and the physical incarnation of bellicosity, and his appointed priests, could talk directly to the gods and invoke their help in times of conflict, it is not known how Egyptian soldiers approached religion when on campaign. The population at large regarded religion primarily as a method of averting disaster or harm on a more personal level. Perhaps soldiers, therefore, had their own favoured household gods, maybe the local deities of their hometowns, or perhaps they were content to leave such matters to the pharaoh and the priests.

Osprey warrior 121 soldier of the pharaoh  
Osprey warrior 121 soldier of the pharaoh