Historic Battles Series: The Battle of Delta

A Philistine Ship of War.

The Battle of the Delta was a naval battle between Sea People and Egypt in 1175 BCE when the Egyptian pharaoh Ramesses III snubbed a significant sea invasion. The conflict occurred somewhere at the eastern Nile Delta’s shores and partially on the borders of the Egyptian Empire in Syria, although their exact locations are unknown. This major conflict is inscribed on the pantheon walls of the mortuary temple of pharaoh Ramesses III at Medinet Habu.

Background of the Battle of Delta

In the 1200 BCE, the Sea Peoples (which consisted of numerous groups, such as Peleset, Tjekker, and Sherden) attacked the Middle East from the eastern Mediterranean Sea. They plundered and destroyed Hattusha, capital of the Hittite Empire, and invaded Syria and the Southern Levant, where many cities were ruined and burnt. Cyprus was bewildered, and its capital was ransacked. Since the Medinet Habu engravings depict children and women loaded in ox-carts, the attackers are thought to have been migrants looking for a home to settle.

The Sea People’s intrusions are often recorded among the symptoms or causes of the collapse of the Bronze Age. Ramesses had attacked the Sea Peoples in southern Lebanon, at the Battle of Djahy.

The Battle of Delta

After crushing the Sea Peoples on land in Syria, Ramesses hurried back to Egypt, where arrangements for the invaders’ onslaught had already been completed. Ramesses lured the Sea Peoples and their ships into the mouth of the Nile, where he had gathered a fleet in ambush. Ramesses also lined the banks of the Nile Delta with degrees of archers ready to deliver volleys of arrows into the sea people’s ships if they tried to land. Once within reach, Ramesses commanded the archers’ fire at the enemy ships, forcing them back towards Ramesses’ fleet now coming in to cut off the Sea Peoples’ rescue route. This Egyptian fleet forced the Sea Peoples’ boats towards the shore. Then infantrymen and archers both on the sea and on the land ravaged the enemy. The Sea People’s ships were overturned, many were captured and killed, and some even crept to the shore where they were killed. 

In the inscriptions, Ramesses proclaims: “Those who entered my boundary, their seed is not; their souls and hearts are finished forever and ever. As for those who had gathered before them on the sea, the full flame was their front before the harbor mouths, and a wall of metal upon the shore surrounded them. They were overturned, dragged, and laid low upon the beach; slain and made heaps from stern to bow of their galleys, while all their items were cast upon the water.”

The victory at the Delta protected Egypt from the destruction. 

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