The Ancient Egyptians had a standing army. The Ancient Egyptian soldier had either decided that this was a good career choice and could lead to security and advancement or the other type of soldier was the conscript who joined
the armed forces of Egypt against his will. The Ancient Military consisted of both an army and a navy. Some potential would cause themselves damage, such as breaking their thumbs to them from conscription into the army.
Ancient Egyptian Soldier - The Enemies
The enemies of Egypt changed over the years and different periods in Egyptian history. The rich land of Egypt was susceptible to invasion on all fronts.
The West Delta of the Nile was threatened by desert raiders
The East Delta of the Nile was threatened by invaders from Asia - first the Hittites from Palestine and Syria and then the Hyksos. The Mitanni also mounted invasions from northern Mesopotamia.
The south brought Kushite raiders from Nubia and the Sudan
This vulnerability of Egypt provides an insight as to why the Ancient Egyptian soldier was so important to the country. The standing army was also required not only for defence but also to make pre-emptive strikes against their enemies.
The Ancient Egyptian soldier who was a raw recruit to the armed forces was put through rigorous training at the Ancient training barracks. A soldier first received a regimented hair cut and in later Egyptian periods was issued with a coat of wadded leather and a leather or bronze helmet. The Ancient Egyptian soldier was expected to achieve a high level of fitness and was under the authority of the drill master. Soldiers were trained in wrestling, tactics and the use of weapons. An Ancient Egyptian soldier was expected to be able to cover 20 miles (32 kilometres) in one day. Discipline was strict and punishments, by beatings, were severe.
The Defensive Role of the Ancient Egyptian Soldier
The role of the Ancient Egyptian soldier was to either defend the country or be prepared to make pre-emptive strikes against their enemies. A series of fortresses were built on strategic locations on each of the borders of Egypt. Many of the soldiers were sent to these forts, a boring, monotonous but relatively safe role which brought little reward.
The Attacking Role of the Ancient Egyptian Soldier
The Rewards The military campaigns against enemies provided the Ancient Egyptian soldier with excitement and danger. But there were rewards. The rewards to a brave soldier included not only promotion and medals but also goods, grants of lands, pensions on retirement and even slaves.
The Wages of the Ancient Egyptian Soldier
The economy of Ancient Egypt was not based on the exchange of money. The state claimed produce from the farmers in the form of taxes and this was used as a form of payment and wages. This was supplemented by exchange and bartering. Prices were set in units of value that referred directly to commodities. The
basic wage of a low ranking Egyptian soldier consisted of ten loaves of bread and one-third to two full jugs of beer per day. The higher the rank of the soldier the more he would receive.
The Weapons used by the Ancient Egyptian Soldier
The soldier was equipped with a variety of different weapons which, by the period of the New Kingdom included the sling, mace, spear, battle axes, bow and arrow, swords, scimitars, daggers and the chariot.
The Structure of the Army and the Division of Soldiers
The size of the standing army by the period of the New Kingdom and the reign of Ramses II aka Ramses the Great (1279 BC – 1213 BC) numbered 20,000 soldiers. These soldiers were divided into 4 divisions of 5000 who were named after the gods Seth, Amun, Ptah, and Ra. Each of these divisions were divided into 20 companies which in turn consisted of 250 soldiers. These were finally divided into 5 platoons of fifty men.