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Thutmosis III - Trustworthy?
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Unas
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PostPosted: Fri May 29, 2015 11:00 pm    Post subject: Thutmosis III - Trustworthy? Reply with quote

The great 'Pharaohs of the Exodus' thread got me thinking about the process of judging historical sources, and even if a source should be considered historical.

I was thinking about Thutmosis III and the Battle of Megiddo--specifically, that well-loved story about when Thutmosis makes the daring choice to go through the narrow valley "single file."

As far as I'm aware, we only have the Egyptian record. So my thinking goes like this:

Can we trust that Thutmosis III gave us an accurate description of his daring plan? My first thought is, no, he probably exaggerated.

But then I question myself: why should I think he exaggerated? I'm living thousands of years later--shouldn't I value more the record of those who were there at the time?

I read somewhere that Thusmosis must have exaggerated, because the valley today isn't that narrow. But how do we know it wasn't narrower at the time?

Then I wonder: can the account even be considered historical, due to it's story-like quality (not the whole battle--just the part about the valley)? Should it be treated as fiction entirely?

I'd love to hear other thoughts. I don't know a great deal about Thutmosis III so there are likely additional details I've not heard of.
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herper
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PostPosted: Sat May 30, 2015 9:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Don't forget, the Pharaohs had to keep up the idea That they were Gods, and the protectors of ma'at .
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PostPosted: Sun May 31, 2015 9:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Don't forget, the Pharaohs had to keep up the idea That they were Gods, and the protectors of ma'at .


Did the Pharaohs actually think they were gods? That is, did they believe their own press?
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 02, 2015 4:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Unas wrote:
Quote:
Don't forget, the Pharaohs had to keep up the idea That they were Gods, and the protectors of ma'at .


Did the Pharaohs actually think they were gods? That is, did they believe their own press?


Pharaohs knew they were mortal, but their position in the hierarchy indicated to them that they - and they alone - were the only beings who could (and should) communicate directly with the gods. This they did on behalf of the whole society - that was part of their main purpose in life.

The regular populace viewed kings as semi-divine for this reason - the rationale going that if these kings could communicate and sway the gods to act to the benefit of the whole of Egyptian society, then such kings possessed a certain divine element of their own. This rationale also gave rise to the idea that the king became one of the gods after his death, as the gods would then greet such a king as "one of their children".

The idea of personal piety - that is, that an individual could have a personal relationship with his/her god and supplicate said gods for favour - arrives relatively late in the Egyptian culture, and was never so strong a belief system to overcome the idea that kings were the main communicators with the divine, and/or that temples governed an individual's ability to communicate effectively with the divine.

On this issue see:

Assmann, J. 2002. The Mind of Egypt: History and Meaning in the Time of the Pharaohs. A. Jenkins, transl. New York: Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt and Co.

Fairman, H. W. 1958. The Kingship Rituals of Ancient Egypt. In S. H. Hooke, Ed. Myth, Ritual, and Kingship. Essays on the Theory and Practice of Kingship in the Ancient Near East and Israel: 74-104. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Frankfort, H. 1978 (1948). Kingship and the Gods. A Study of Ancient Near Eastern Religion as the Integration of Society and Nature. Chicago/London: University of Chicago Press.

Goyon, J.-C. 1998. Rê, Maât et Pharaon, ou le destin de l'Egypte Antique. Collection Egyptologie.Lyon: Edition A. C. V.

Moftah, R. 1985. Studien zum Ägyptischen Königsdogma in Neuen Reich. DAIK 20.Mainz: von Zabern.

Morenz, S. 1964. Die Heraufkunft des Transzendenten Gottes in Ägypten. Sitzungsberichte der Sächsischen Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Leipzig. Philologisch-historische Klasse Band 109/2.Berlin: Akademie. (On the advent of personal piety)

Tobin, V. A. 1989. Theological principles of Egyptian religion. American University Studies. Series 7, Theology and Religion 59.New York: Peter Lang. (concerning the semi-divine nature of the king)

HTH.
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 04, 2015 2:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've been working on an historical novel which culminates in the Battle of Megiddo so I've been researching the subject in order to be able to put myself into the scene.

While we'll probably never know how close to the truth (our idea of the truth--not the Egyptian truth) this story lies there are ways to check some of the details. For example Thutmose III's account tells how long for it took for his army to go from Tjaru to Gaza and then on to Megiddo. Comparing the distances traveled with the known capabilities of other unmechanized armies, e.g. Roman legions shows that the Egyptian army could have, with good planning, made the journey in the time specified. The terrain described is a pretty good match for the actual area around Megiddo. Mind you there's a modern four lane highway going through the Aruna pass these days but there's a pretty cool account written in 1913 by Harold Hayden Nelson who followed the then primitive route on foot. Nelson's "Battle of Megiddo" is available on Google Books and is a pretty good read. Of course Roman engineers had put a road through there two thousand before Nelson made his journey so it's likely that the Egyptian army went down a path that was even more primitive. There was one point near Megiddo which was very steep and narrow and in Nelson's day was a favorite ambush point for local outlaws.

Where the Egyptian account becomes suspect is the part where the king lays out his plan to take narrow pass and his generals pretty much go all weak in the knees. "Don't make us go down this dangerous road!" The king of course displays daring, leadership and a godlike confidence and tells his generals that he will go down the dangerous path alone if he has to. Naturally the generals give in.

This is a great story but it is also a stereotyped story, a royal story a Konigsnovelle. Thutmose III is doing what a pharaoh does, even it it seems reckless and crazy. Damn it he has Amun Ra, Montu, Horus and Sekhmet at his side so he can afford to be reckless. Even if the reality was that the road was wide and easy or the king in reality said, OK you guys have a point, there is no way that he could never admit it. A pharaoh can't be a wuss.

Now maybe Thutmose really did stare down his generals and led his troops single file through the Aruna pass. I'd love to think he did. On the other hand there's no proof that he didn't do it either so we're back to square one . Hopefully this one can get over that third world did.

Here's the link for "Nelson's Battle of Megiddo" https://books.google.com/books?id=TN0VAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA1&dq=Battle+of+Megiddo&hl=en&sa=X&ei=jbFvVdSlEqqwsATanIHYBQ&ved=0CCYQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=Battle%20of%20Megiddo&f=false
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 04, 2015 10:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Naunacht wrote:
I've been working on an historical novel which culminates in the Battle of Megiddo so I've been researching the subject in order to be able to put myself into the scene.

While we'll probably never know how close to the truth (our idea of the truth--not the Egyptian truth) this story lies there are ways to check some of the details. For example Thutmose III's account tells how long for it took for his army to go from Tjaru to Gaza and then on to Megiddo. Comparing the distances traveled with the known capabilities of other unmechanized armies, e.g. Roman legions shows that the Egyptian army could have, with good planning, made the journey in the time specified. The terrain described is a pretty good match for the actual area around Megiddo. Mind you there's a modern four lane highway going through the Aruna pass these days but there's a pretty cool account written in 1913 by Harold Hayden Nelson who followed the then primitive route on foot. Nelson's "Battle of Megiddo" is available on Google Books and is a pretty good read. Of course Roman engineers had put a road through there two thousand before Nelson made his journey so it's likely that the Egyptian army went down a path that was even more primitive. There was one point near Megiddo which was very steep and narrow and in Nelson's day was a favorite ambush point for local outlaws.

Where the Egyptian account becomes suspect is the part where the king lays out his plan to take narrow pass and his generals pretty much go all weak in the knees. "Don't make us go down this dangerous road!" The king of course displays daring, leadership and a godlike confidence and tells his generals that he will go down the dangerous path alone if he has to. Naturally the generals give in.

This is a great story but it is also a stereotyped story, a royal story a Konigsnovelle. Thutmose III is doing what a pharaoh does, even it it seems reckless and crazy. Damn it he has Amun Ra, Montu, Horus and Sekhmet at his side so he can afford to be reckless. Even if the reality was that the road was wide and easy or the king in reality said, OK you guys have a point, there is no way that he could never admit it. A pharaoh can't be a wuss.

Now maybe Thutmose really did stare down his generals and led his troops single file through the Aruna pass. I'd love to think he did. On the other hand there's no proof that he didn't do it either so we're back to square one . Hopefully this one can get over that third world did.

Here's the link for "Nelson's Battle of Megiddo" https://books.google.com/books?id=TN0VAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA1&dq=Battle+of+Megiddo&hl=en&sa=X&ei=jbFvVdSlEqqwsATanIHYBQ&ved=0CCYQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=Battle%20of%20Megiddo&f=false


Sorry about that last sentence. It was late last night, I was nodding off and I have no idea what I was trying to say there. At any rate my point was that any historical account would have been fitted into what the Egyptians considered the eternal truth. Pharoah MUST be brave, daring and bold. Yes, the divine king can make mistakes. Thutmose (or his scribes) admits that he lost control of his troops resulting in the escape of the princes of Kadesh and Megiddo and a long siege period. He can be reckless, even put his troops at risk (see Ramses II at Kadesh). He must be invincible!

I personally think that the story is largely true. The generals had good reason to be wary of this young king's leadership--he may have had some battlefield experience but since Hatshepsut had been running things for years even after he became a man they may have had doubts about his judgment. Thutmose too would have been aware of the need to conform to this image of the bold, invincible king and he probably believed that the gods would support him.
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 04, 2015 5:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This has been debated endlessly but you can't say that Hatshepsut didn't at least allow Tuthmosis to become the Pharaoh that he was. Given his success it can be believed that she nurtured his kingship, even while holding on to power for so long. Sadly we don't have proof - except that Tuthmosis had a long sole reign.

Given his reputation, and that comes from his character ultimately, it is believable that he did debate strategy with his generals and was decisive. It is the role of a leader to be brave and challenging after all, just as it is the role of those supporting him to offer different perspectives. The fact that generals are mentioned shows that he did at least have them around to perform this function (even if he ignored some of their advice).
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 05, 2015 6:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

karnsculpture wrote:
This has been debated endlessly but you can't say that Hatshepsut didn't at least allow Tuthmosis to become the Pharaoh that he was. Given his success it can be believed that she nurtured his kingship, even while holding on to power for so long. Sadly we don't have proof - except that Tuthmosis had a long sole reign.

Given his reputation, and that comes from his character ultimately, it is believable that he did debate strategy with his generals and was decisive. It is the role of a leader to be brave and challenging after all, just as it is the role of those supporting him to offer different perspectives. The fact that generals are mentioned shows that he did at least have them around to perform this function (even if he ignored some of their advice).


There's a later scene in the Annals where the Egyptian army comes in sight of Megiddo and Thutmose sees that the enemy is not aware that they are there. He considers attacking immediately but the generals argue with him, saying, something like "listen to us this time, wait for the rest of the army to catch up". The king agrees and they wait for the entire army to emerge from the pass before advancing to the place where they camp for the night. That also reflects character--a willingness to listen to good advice.

I think that, whether he liked it or not, Thutmose III and Hatshepsut needed each other and also that the years he spent in her shadow helped to shape his character for the better.
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 06, 2015 1:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

But what is the best way to treat the tale? I see three options:

1. There is no proof, so it could be treated as fiction.

2. There is no proof against it either, so it could be treated as fact.

3. Due to the lack of proof, it could be treated as a mixture of history and myth.

At first glance #3 seems the most sensible (and likely the most common viewpoint), but is it really taking a position at all, or just "playing it safe?" And again, who are we--centuries later--to make decisions about the accuracy of something we are so removed from?

I find this a fascinating problem--the kind that is fun to think about while working. Smile
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 06, 2015 5:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's a version of the truth, just as any modern piece of writing is. It's fact as Tuthmosis and the Egyptians saw things at the time. Isn't that enough, if there isn't another source of information that contradicts it?
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 06, 2015 5:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Unas wrote:
... And again, who are we--centuries later--to make decisions about the accuracy of something we are so removed from? ...

And who do you think you are when you write :

Unas : Sat May 09, 2015 2:25 pm wrote:
... for me ... [the bible] ... isn't a soup of unrelated writings, it's the Word of God, and all of it is accurate and true, be it the Pentateuch or any other part. ...

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Unas
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 06, 2015 1:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
It's a version of the truth, just as any modern piece of writing is. It's fact as Tuthmosis and the Egyptians saw things at the time. Isn't that enough, if there isn't another source of information that contradicts it?


I agree that this viewpoint carries some good value. Since we don't have any particular reason to doubt Thutmosis (or his scribe), we might as well go ahead and assume that the account is valid. That was my point here...

Quote:
And again, who are we--centuries later--to make decisions about the accuracy of something we are so removed from?


...that the account of a writer close to events should be valued.
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 06, 2015 1:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

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I think that, whether he liked it or not, Thutmose III and Hatshepsut needed each other and also that the years he spent in her shadow helped to shape his character for the better.


I really like this concept, but how best to imagine it? Do you view Hatshepsut as a 'mentor,' or as a roadblock for Thutmosis?
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 06, 2015 2:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

A mentor, but the fact that she remained on the throne until he was well into adulthood indicates that she may have held him back. They may have reasoned at the time that it made sense to maintain the dual rulership; that's what happened anyway, as evidenced by the majority of courtiers continuing under Tuthmosis, a notable exception being Senenmut.
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 06, 2015 7:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

karnsculpture wrote:
... They may have reasoned at the time that it made sense to maintain the dual rulership; ...


They may not have had a whole lot of choice? A regent can step back into the shadows. A co-ruler who becomes a pharaoh may not have been able to abdicate.

I do not think there are examples of kings who abdicated. I am not that well versed in the theology behind the kingship, but if they believed in their own divinity, then stepping down might have caused problems?
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