Egyptian king of the 18th dynasty (reigned 1479-26 BC), often regarded as the greatest of the rulers of ancient Egypt. Thutmose III was a skilled warrior who brought the Egyptian empire to the zenith of its power by conquering all of Syria, crossing the Euphrates to defeat the Mitannians, and penetrating south along the Nile to Napata in the Sudan. He also built a great number of temples and monuments to commemorate his deeds.
Thutmose III was the son of Thutmose II; his mother was one of the king's minor wives or concubines, named Isis. Since there was no prince with a better claim to the throne, the boy was crowned king on the early death of his father; he was about 10 at the time and was betrothed to the heiress, his half-sister Neferure. Neferure's mother, Hatshepsut, the daughter of Thutmose I and wife and sister of
Thutmose II, acted as regent. In the second year of his reign this strong-minded and ambitious woman herself assumed the attributes, dress, and insignia of a king and to all intents and purposes reigned in his stead. As one of her courtiers says, "she directed the affairs of the whole land according to her wishes." Still, Thutmose was given an education befitting his royal station. He was taught all military skills, especially archery, which he demonstrated in public display, and horsemanship, in which he showed considerable prowess. He was later to boast that none among his followers could equal him in physical strength and in marksmanship.
As he grew up, Thutmose may even have been entrusted with command of the army on campaign in Nubia; whether he also fought in Palestine is doubtful. His grandfather Thutmose I had penetrated into northern Syria; Thutmose II, though far from a weakling, had not followed this success, and Hatshepsut, as a woman, may have been unwilling to send an army into the field. Thus, through inaction, Egyptian influence in Syria and Palestine had declined. The sons and grandsons of the Syrian princes who had surrendered to Thutmose I no longer sent tribute, and the king of Mitanni, a powerful Mesopotamian kingdom with its capital beyond the Euphrates, was able to extend his control westward to the Mediterranean.
In the 22nd year of Thutmose's reign, a formidable coalition was formed against Egypt, led by the king of Kadesh in northern Syria, and no doubt supported by the Mitanni. At this moment of crisis Hatshepsut died. Her death was opportune; whether her nephew was responsible is a matter of surmise only, but later in his reign he decreed that her name be obliterated on all her monuments, her statues smashed, and her figure erased from reliefs.
After a few months' preparation the king was ready to march at the head of his army. The first campaign is recorded in some detail on the walls of the temple he built at Karnak in Thebes, which depict the march to Gaza and thence to Yahmai south of the Carmel Range, the council of war, and the king's bold decision to surprise the enemy encamped at Megiddo, northeast of Carmel and about 18 miles (29 km) southeast of the modern city of Haifa. Thutmose's approach was by the route least expected—a narrow defile over the mountain. It was successful. The enemy was defeated, and Megiddo was taken after a siege of eight months. In subsequent campaigns, which are less fully described in the annals, ports on the Phoenician coast were converted into Egyptian supply bases, and Kadesh and other cities in the al-Biqa' (Bekaa) Valley were taken.
In the 33rd year of Thutmose's reign, the time was at last ripe for his most audacious move, an attack on the kingdom of Mitanni itself, which had grown stronger since the day when Thutmose I had taken its army by surprise. Thutmose planned the campaign well; pontoon boats were transported across Syria on oxcarts for the crossing of the Euphrates River. The ensuing encounter, which must have taken place on the eastern bank, is not…