The Dictionary

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SAHURE (reigned c. 2487–2475 BC). Pharaoh of the Fifth Dynasty. His pyramid temple at Abusir near Memphis was decorated with elaborate reliefs, of which only fragments survive. These show the pharaoh smiting a chief of the Libyans; part of the booty or tribute of Asia, including two Syrian bears; soldiers running, accompanying a ship; and chiefs of the Nubians. The scene of the Libyan chief was duplicated in the temple of Pepy II. The scenes suggest the foreign relations of Egypt during this reign and hint at military activities in Libya and Asia, the latter using the navy, but without more precise inscriptional evidence, nothing more substantial can be said about them. Sahure also sent an expedition along the Red Sea to Punt, but this was to acquire precious commodities, notably incense, although it was doubtless accompanied by soldiers.

SAI. Island in the Nile between the Second and Third Cataracts. Sai was the seat of the Kushite kingdom of Shaat, documented in Egyptian records from the Sixth Dynasty to the Middle Kingdom. It may have been absorbed by Kerma, to which it appears to have been vassal. It also served as a northern buffer zone between Kerma and the Egyptian Middle Kingdom border at Semna. There is a large cemetery of the Kerma culture on the island. An Egyptian fortress and settlement was established here in the early 18th Dynasty. The names of Ahmose I and Amenhotep I suggest that the fort was founded then, following the Egyptian recapture of Buhen and the Second Cataract. Initially, the early 18th Dynasty pharaohs appear not to have aimed at conquering Kerma. The inscription of Thutmose I implies a relatively peaceful phase during which the garrison pastured their cattle in the lusher territory of Kerma. Sai must have formed the main base from which the attacks on Kush were launched in the reigns of Thutmose I, Thutmose II, Hatshepsut, and Thutmose III. In the later 18th Dynasty, new towns were built a little to the south of Sai, at Sedeinga, Soleb, and Sesebi. These were foundations of Amenhotep III and Akhenaten, which focused on large temples. In the 19th Dynasty, Sety I founded a fortified town near Sai, at Amara West. Sai was presumably abandoned by the Egyptians at the end of the 20th Dynasty, as was Amara.


SAKHMET. Belligerent lioness-headed goddess, identified with the “Eye of Re” (hence with Hathor and Tefnut). She was the personification of divine rage. She was the wife of the god Ptah of Memphis, but in the 18th Dynasty was also equated with the goddess Mut, consort of Amun. In the temple of Mut in Thebes were more than 700 statues of Sakhmet. Many of these carry epithets revealing the goddess’s fearsome nature: “flame of Mut,” “smiter of the Nubians.” At the battle of Qadesh, Ramesses II was identified with a number of bellicose deities, notably Monthu, Seth, Baal, and the griffon, and he is also likened to “Sakhmet in the moment of her rage.” His enemies warn that Sakhmet is with him and that her fiery breath burns those who approach him. This association goes back to the Middle Kingdom when the wrath of the pharaoh against rebels was “like the rage of Sakhmet” and Sinuhe said that the fear of King Amenemhat I was “throughout the lands like Sakhmet in a year of plague.”

SANAKHT (fl.c. 2686–2667 BC). A pharaoh of the Third Dynasty. A fragmentary sandstone relief from Wadi Maghara in Sinai records Sanakht. This depicts the king smiting a now-lost figure and presumably relates to a campaign in the vicinity of the turquoise mines.

SAPPERS. Men are shown with large stakes undermining the walls of a fortified settlement in the late Old Kingdom tomb of Inti at Deshasheh and the contemporary tomb of Kaemheset at Saqqara. The reliefs of the attack on Lachish by the king of Assyria, Sennacherib, in 701 BC show a similar, if more sophisticated, attempt to undermine the walls. Because Egyptian fortifications were of unburned mud brick, undermining was possible, although most fortress walls are extremely thick.

SAQQARA. The main necropolis of the city of Memphis standing on the desert plateau overlooking the Nile Valley. The site is dominated by the pyramid complexes of pharaohs of the Third, Fifth, and Sixth Dynasties. Some of these (Userkaf, Unas, and Pepy II) contained scenes depicting soldiers and military action. The late Old Kingdom tomb of Kaemheset is one of the earliest to depict an attack on a fortress, with scaling ladders and sappers undermining the walls. A number of tombs of military officials of the late 18th and early 19th Dynasties have been excavated, and more will doubtless be identified as this area of the site is explored further. One of the most significant of these is the tomb of Horemheb, which was prepared for him before he became pharaoh. Dating from the reign of Tutankhamun, when Horemheb was the leading general, the tomb has important relief decoration showing the reward following military actions in Nubia and in Syria against the Hittites. Close to Horemheb’s tomb is that of his close contemporary, Ramose. There is also the tomb of the army scribe Huy, who lived in the early 19th Dynasty. Sculptured blocks from New Kingdom tombs were found near the pyramid of Teti and include scenes depicting the manufacture of arrows and drill exercises (from the tomb of Ipuia).

SARGON II (reigned 720–705 BC). Emperor of Assyria. At Sargon’s accession, rebellions broke out throughout the empire. In Syria, Yau-bi’di king of Hamath led the rebellion of Arpad, Damascus, and Samaria, but Sargon swiftly marched his armies west, confronting the coalition at the battle of Qarqar (720 BC). He then moved south recapturing the rebel cities and advanced on Gaza where the Egyptians had restored their vassal, Khanunu. He continued toward Egypt, defeating an Egyptian army, led by a general, Re’e, at Raphia (720 BC), which was looted and destroyed. Sargon did not advance farther in this campaign, but in 716 BC, he installed an Arab leader of one of the tribes of north Sinai in the “city of the Brook-of-Egypt,” giving him some control over the Ways of Horus. In the same year, the Assyrians record tribute of horses paid by an Egyptian ruler called “Shilkanni,” who must be the pharaoh Osorkon, probably of Per-Bastet (Bubastis).

Sargon received further tribute of horses around 712 BC, from the rulers of Egypt and Gaza. These rulers were certainly Libyan dynasts of the Delta. Some time after 712 BC came the rebellion of Yamani, ruler of Ashdod. The date of this is still uncertain; most scholars assuming the period 712–710 BC, but in the light of a recently published rock inscription at Tang-i Var (in Iran), a date as late as 706 BC has been proposed for the subsequent events. As the Assyrians approached Ashdod, Yamani fled to “Meluhha” (Kush), but was extradited by the ruler. The incident is important because it is the first recorded direct contact between the Kushite rulers and Assyria. The identity of the Kushite king is still unclear: it could be Piye, Shabaqo, or Shebitqo. The event must have taken place before Shabaqo had defeated Tefnakht of Sau and brought all of Egypt under his rule, after which the Kushites appear to have become hostile to Assyrian ambitions.

SATRAP. The term used for the Governor of Egypt when under the rule of the Great Kings of Persia (525–332 BC, with interruptions). The Satrap was responsible for both civil and military matters. The first satrap, Aryandes, was appointed by Cambyses. According to a late literary tradition, Aryandes was driven out of Egypt following the death of Cambyses (522 BC), perhaps when an Egyptian prince (possibly Pedubast III) attempted to make himself pharaoh. Aryandes was restored in 518 BC by Darius I and sent a military expedition against Barca in Cyrenaica. According to Herodotos, Aryandes was executed by Darius I in about 496 BC, being replaced by Pherendates who might have been killed in the rebellion of 486–85 BC.

On his accession, Xerxes I (486–465 BC) suppressed the rebellion and installed his brother, Achaimenes, as satrap (c. 486–85 BC). Achaimenes pursued a more suppressive policy, and his reign (c. 486/85–459 BC) saw further bids for independence by local Egyptian princes. Psamtik IV, the ruler of the far western Delta, led one rebellion (perhaps 486 BC or c. 470), followed by the much larger rebellion of his son Inaros, which broke out at Xerxes death (465 BC). Inaros and Amyrtaios (1) received aid and mercenaries from Athens. They had some successes, capturing Memphis. Achaimenes was killed at the battle of Papremis, but the rebels were besieged for 18 months at Prosopitis, before being captured. Following the death of Achaimenes, Megabyxus, satrap of Syria, commanded the Persian forces in Egypt. There were other Egyptian princes operating anti-Persian policy with support from Athens, another Psamtik and Amyrtaios (2) of Sau (probably the later pharaoh).

The next documented satrap, also a member of the royal family, was Arsames, appointed by Artaxerxes I (c. 428 BC). Arsames supported Darius II in the brief dynastic war that followed Artaxerxes’ death (424 BC). Evidence from the archive of the Jewish mercenaries on Abu (Elephantine) indicates that Arsames was absent from Egypt for an extended period (c. 410–407/406 BC), apparently some of the time being spent on his estates in Babylonia. Arsames appears to have died before the great rebellion on the death of Darius II (404 BC), which gained independence for Egypt under the pharaoh Amyrtaios.

The satrap headed the administration from his main residence in Memphis. District governors (frataraka) were subordinate to the satrap, but also officials who reported on his actions: satraps frequently attempted to make their satrapies kingdoms, and themselves kings. Such moves usually took place on the death of the Great King, when disputed succession and rebellion throughout the empire were usual. In Egypt, only Aryandes seems to have been deposed for assuming too royal a style.

The satrap was also responsible for the garrisons that are well documented in the Persian period. There were Jewish mercenaries at Abu (Elephantine) and other Asiatics at Aswan. Other garrisons were at Pelusion and Marea in the western Delta. The fortress of Babylon was constructed at this time.

With the reconquest of Egypt by Artaxerxes III a satrap, Pherendates was again appointed (343 BC). His successor, Sabaces, was killed following the Persian defeat at the battle of Issos (333 BC). When the Macedonian adventurer, Amyntas, entered Egypt later in the same year, he claimed that he was the new satrap appointed by Darius III. The real appointee, Mazaces, defeated Amyntas but yielded Egypt to Alexander the Great. Alexander made a number of appointments in Egypt, placing the civil and military under different officials. He acknowledged Kleomenes as satrap of Egypt. Following Alexander’s death at Babylon (323 BC), Egypt was seized by the general Ptolemy (Ptolemy I), who put Kleomenes to death and assumed the title of satrap himself. Ptolemy reigned as satrap for 18 years, acknowledging the nominal authority of the Macedonian kings Alexander IV and Philip Arrhidaios, before following the example of the other diadochoi and proclaiming himself king (305 BC).

SAU. City of the western Delta, standing on a branch of the Nile. It is generally known by the Greek form of the name, Sais. Of ancient origin, it came under the rule of Libyan dynasts in the Third Intermediate Period and was the seat of Tefnakht, who expanded his power to Memphis and into Middle Egypt, provoking the campaign of Piye. Tefnakht’s successor, Bakenranef, assumed royal style and the later ruler of Sais, Nekau I, was a vassal of Assyria. However, when Nekau changed sides, the Assyrians invaded the Delta and attacked Sau, flaying the rebels and hanging their skins from the walls. Another Assyrian text states that the hearts of the rebels were impaled on stakes around the city. Nekau’s son Psamtik I reunited Egypt and threw off the Assyrian yoke, establishing the 26th Dynasty. During this period, Sau was one of the main royal residences and the kings encouraged the Greek trading center at Naukratis nearby.

SCALING LADDER. Scaling ladders are found intermittently in Egyptian military records. They appear in the Old Kingdom scenes of attacks on walled settlements in the tombs of Inti at Deshasheh and Kaemheset at Saqqara; being used against Egyptian towns in the early Middle Kingdom tombs at Beni Hasan; and in Ramesside attacks on the towns of Syria. The Victory Stela of Piye refers to scaling ladders in the attacks on the walled towns of Middle Egypt. In the attack on Memphis, the masts of the ships were used as a form of scaling ladder to breach the walls. The reliefs showing the attack by the army of Sennacherib, king of Assyria, on Lachish (701 BC) also show scaling ladders.

SCIMITAR. A curved sword, with the cutting edge on the inner side. The Egyptians did not use the true scimitar, although the term has been applied to the khepesh, which was a similar shape, but was a heavy slashing weapon.

SCORPION (reigned c. 3200 BC). The name used in Egyptological literature to identify a king of Upper Egypt of the late Predynastic Period (now called Dynasty 0), who dedicated a ceremonial mace head at Nekhen. This carries scenes including the royal standards with rekhyt birds hanging from them, suggestive of defeat of peoples in the unification of Egypt.

SEA PEOPLES. A term applied to a number of ethnic groups who were involved in conflict with Egypt in the 19th and 20th Dynasties. The Sea Peoples have also been associated with mass movement of population and major destruction of sites throughout Anatolia and western Asia at the end of the Late Bronze Age (c. 1200–1150 BC). The peoples involved were the Peleset, Lukki, Shekelesh, Weshesh, Shardana, Tjekker, Teresh, and Ekwesh. Some of these peoples are known independently from a variety of Egyptian sources from the late 18th Dynasty onward. Some of the names can certainly be associated with specific places (such as the Peleset and Palestine), others have generated more controversy (and are noted in the appropriate entries here). How we choose to understand the geographical associations of the names is fundamental to our interpretation of the nature of the Sea Peoples episodes. For example, the name Shardana (or Sherden) is generally accepted as being connected with Sardinia: but whether the Shardana came from the island we call Sardinia or whether they went there from the eastern Mediterranean after these events is central to the problem.

In Egypt, the evidence comes from the inscriptions relating to invasions in year 5 of Merenptah and year 8 of Ramesses III. The groups involved in the invasion of year 5 of Merenptah were the Shardana, Teresh, Shekelesh, Ekwesh, and Lukka. The majority of the force were, however, Libyans and the Sea Peoples were less than a third of the total number. In this instance, it seems most likely that the Libyans were the prime movers, accompanied by the other groups as mercenaries. In year 8 of Ramesses III, the Libyans were not involved and the invaders were the Shardana, Teresh, Shekelesh, Peleset, Denyen, Weshesh, and Tjekker. The presence of carts carrying women and children has suggested that this invasion represents a movement of population in search of somewhere to settle by both land and sea.

The scholarly view of the Sea Peoples that developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and which can be found in many histories, was that of invasions from the north displacing populations in Anatolia who were then forced southward into Syria and Palestine. The effect was to destabilize the Hittite Empire and cause massive destructions in major sites along the coast, such as Ugarit. The collapse of Mycenaean Greece is also attributed to the same ultimate cause. The reassessment by Robert Drews suggests that many of the peoples came from the places whose names they appear to carry, and that they were mercenaries, pirates, and raiders, rather than a mass population movement.

SEKHEMKHET (reigned c. 2648–2640 BC). Pharaoh of the Third Dynasty. A relief from Wadi Maghara in Sinai shows Sekhemkhet smiting with a mace. This is one of a series of reliefs of the Third and Fourth Dynasties that record Egyptian activities in Sinai, related to the turquoise mines. Although conventional royal images, they perhaps indicate some military activities.

SELEUKIDS. On the death of Alexander the Great at Babylon in 323 BC, the generals recognized his half-brother and infant son as his legitimate heirs, but in actuality partitioned the empire among themselves. The succeeding two decades saw the power struggles of the diadochoi (“Successors”) for control of parts of, or attempts to reunite, the empire. The contest culminated at the battle of Ipsos in 301 BC. This left Seleukos I as “King of Syria,” although his empire actually stretched as far as India.

The heirs of Seleukos I, most with the names Antiochos and Seleukos, controlled parts of Asia Minor, north Syria, Mesopotamia, and Persia, with their major cities at Sardes in Lydia, Antioch near the mouth of the Orontes, Babylon, and Susa. There were frequent conflicts with the Ptolemies for control of Coele Syria, which had been occupied by Ptolemy I. These Syrian Wars culminated in the Egyptian victory at the battle of Raphia. Although the Syrian question was largely resolved by the marriage of Ptolemy V with Kleopatra I, the complex intermarriages of their descendants, various Kleopatras, with rival Seleukid kings, resulted in dynastic wars. This was further aggravated by the conflict of Kleopatra III and Ptolemy IX in the Syrian War of 103–101 BC.

The Seleukid Empire lost its easternmost provinces to the Indian ruler Chandragupta Maurya and Greek and Macedonian adventurers who established small kingdoms in Baktria. Later, the Parthians, the new power in Persia, removed the central part of the empire from the Seleukids. The Seleukids used elephants in their armies, a practice that was copied by the Ptolemies.

SEMA-KHASUT. Nubian fortress, somewhere in the vicinity of Gebel Barkal and the Fourth Cataract. It was built by Thutmose III and is referred to on a stela later erected in the temple of Amun at Gebel Barkal. This text states that the fortress had a chapel dedicated to the god Amun. No archaeological remains that can be associated with the fortress have yet been identified in the region. There is a possibility that, like most of the fortresses farther north in Nubia, Sema-khasut stood on an island. However, such a theory can only be confirmed by survey. It is generally assumed that Sema-khasut is identical with Napata in the inscription of year 3 of Amenhotep II at Amada. The fortress name means “Destroying the foreign lands.”

SEMNA. Nubian fortress at the head of the Second Cataract, controlling, with Kumma and the outpost of Semna South, a narrow channel running through a rocky gorge at the head of the cataract. Semna stood in a commanding position on the west bank of the Nile at a point that marked Egypt’s southern frontier in the Middle and early New Kingdoms. It stood in one of the most desolate parts of Nubia at the southern end of the Batn el-Hagar (Belly of Rock). Semna was within signaling distance of the island fortress of Uronarti and part of a communication network going to Mirgissa.

Semna was built by Senusret III. It had an L-shaped plan dictated by the eminence on which it was built. The fort was surrounded by a dry ditch on the, north, west, and south sides. On the east, the rocky escarpment sloped down to the river. The massive mud-brick walls, 6.8 meters thick, were built on masonry foundations and had projecting towers. The north and south gates, of conventional design with inner and outer gates and space between, stood at either end of the “main street,” which itself formed part of the pomoerium. The external access to both gates was uphill. The only other gate was the much smaller water gate that gave access, down 131 steps between defensive walls, to the river. The main walls were over 10 meters high, although nowhere preserved to their original height. They were built on a foundation of granite rubble and in places on the natural bedrock. The walls were of unbaked mud brick strengthened with timbers. These timbers ran through the walls both parallel to the faces and through the thickness. As in some other Nubian forts, some of these strengthening timbers had burned (perhaps during an attack), resulting in the firing of the mud bricks of a large area of the west end of the fort. The walls have bastions at the corners, gateways and other defensive points.

The accommodation at Semna is dominated by barrack-style complexes of three rooms, and held the largest garrison south of Mirgissa. These complexes could have housed between 4 and 10 men each, allowing a rough estimate of between 216 and 540 for the west wing alone (the excavator, George Reisner, gave a rather conservative maximum of 300 men for the whole fort). A recent assessment of the defense needs of a fort, at one man per meter of wall, provides a much higher figure, 800 men. Even if this was necessary for full defense, that capacity may only have been reached occasionally. If we allow 1 to 2 meters of wall per man, Semna would have required about 400 men, consistent with the higher estimate of barrack potential.

There were remains of three temples, associated with the three major periods of occupation during the Middle and New Kingdoms and the reign of the Kushite pharaoh Taharqo (690–664 BC). The facade of the New Kingdom temple (built by Thutmose III) carries a relief and inscription of the Kushite queen Karimala referring to civil war in the country (probably to be dated sometime during the 9th–8th centuries BC).

The fortress name was Sekhem-Khakaure, “Kha-kau-Re is Powerful,” Kha-kau-Re being the throne name of Senusret III. The fort marked his southern boundary. The Semna stelae (now in the Berlin Museum) give an account of Senusret III’s command to his troops to protect the border and the role of pharaoh to extend the boundaries of Egypt. One role of the fortress was to control Kushites passing northward by land or river and allowing only those who had come to trade (which was carried out at the great depot of Mirgissa). A papyrus document, the Semna Dispatches (London, British Museum), details the observations made of people passing the fort in the late Middle Kingdom.

A small outpost, Semna South, stood on the west bank about one kilometer to the south of the main fort, controlling the access to the narrow river gorge. Surrounded by a stone glacis 10 meters wide, it had an outer girdle wall of mud brick four meters wide and a dry ditch 7.50 meters wide. Inside this was the main enclosure with square bastions. The walls, 12 meters wide at the base, were built on an artificial terrace cut into the alluvium. All of these defenses enclosed an internal area measuring 34 meters by 33 meters, but without any permanent structures. There might have been spur walls in the river to make the channels deeper and therefore easier for navigation, and to direct ships toward the narrow rocky channel. Semna South also prevented any enemy troops landing close to the main fortress.

SENMUT. The name of a fortress in the region of Aswan and the First Cataract. It has often been equated with the large island of Bigga, at the head of the cataract, and there is evidence that the island had that name in the Ptolemaic and Roman periods. However, it has recently been suggested that the earlier fortress of Senmut might actually be a name for the whole region enclosed by the wall that ran from Aswan to the head of the cataract, and which probably dates to the joint reign of Amenemhat II and Senusret II.

SENNACHERIB (reigned 704–681 BC). Emperor of Assyria, of the Sargonid dynasty. Sennacherib ascended the throne on the death of his father, Sargon II. In response to the “rebellion” of Hezekiah of Judah, Sennacherib led the Assyrian armies westward in 701 BC. Hezekiah sought help from Egypt, and an army was dispatched, according to the biblical narrative, under the command of Taharqo. The reigning pharaoh was probably Shabaqo. The Egyptian force was defeated at the battle of Eltekeh and withdrew to Gaza. Sennacherib’s army divided, one part besieging Lachish and the other Jerusalem, until Hezekiah capitulated. The later years of Sennacherib’s reign were preoccupied with events in Babylon, allowing Egypt under Shebitqo and Taharqo to expand their influence in Syria and Palestine.

SENUSRET I (reigned c. 1965–1920 BC). Pharaoh of the 12th Dynasty. Most Egyptologists think that there was a joint rule between Senusret I and his father Amenemhat I, lasting for 10 years. This would have included some of the major military actions in Nubia. Senusret I continued the Egyptian expansion into Nubia begun by Menthuhotep II and Amenemhat I. This began with the conquest of Wawat, as far as Girgawi, followed by the journey through the southern part of Wawat by the Vizier Inyotefiqer to “pacify” the country and a final advance to Buhen and the Second Cataract. Senusret I was responsible for the construction of some of the Nubian fortresses: Kubban, Ikkur, and Aniba, between Aswan and the Second Cataract, and Buhen. The Nubian campaigns are recorded by the rock inscriptions of Inyotefiqer and others at Girgawi, and by inscriptions of high officials from various parts of Egypt. Among those who took part were Ameny, the no-march of Beni Hassan in Middle Egypt, and Sirenput I of Aswan. Two stelae in the Florence Museum also record the victories. Senusret I was also active in the amethyst mines of Wadi el Hudi in Lower Nubia, the Wadi Hammamat and desert route to the Red Sea. A fragment of a battle scene was recovered from his pyramid complex at Lisht.

SENUSRET II (reigned c. 1880–1874 BC). An inscription of the official Hepu, dated after Senusret II’s year 35, is carved on a rock on which the wall from Aswan to the head of the First Cataract is constructed. This suggests that the wall was built at that time.

SENUSRET III (reigned c. 1874–1855 BC). Pharaoh of the 12th Dynasty. Senusret III consolidated the Egyptian expansion into Nubia and control of Wawat and the Second Cataract. There was an advance south of the cataract into the territory of Kush, but this was not followed up. The events are documented by rock inscriptions from Aswan to Dal, by private stelae of officials, and by two stelae from Semna, now in the Berlin Museum. The first campaign was in year 8. This established the boundary at Semna and saw the construction of a fort there. The canal through the First Cataract at Sehel was cleared for shipping. A second campaign might have taken place in year 9. A third expedition in year 10 went south of the Second Cataract. It is recorded on its return journey at Dal, but there is no reference or indication of military actions (although doubtless large contingents of the army accompanied it) and it might have been peaceful, or a show of strength south of the border. Year 16 saw the completion of the fortress of Uronarti and the setting up of the second stela at Semna. A rock inscription at Uronarti and a private stela of the official, Sasetet, record a military action in year 19. Senusret completed the construction of the Second Cataract forts, most notably those protecting the narrowest point of the river, Semna, and Kumma. The two stelae in Berlin define Senusret’s attitude toward the frontier and its defense. There was one Asiatic campaign, documented by the stela of Sobekhu now in the Manchester Museum (3306). This involved an attack on Shechem. A fragment of a battle scene was recovered from the pyramid complex at Dashur.

SEPED. Libyan tribal group. The Seped were associated with the Meshwesh, and the Libu in the Libyan War of year 5 of Ramesses III.


SESOSTRIS or SESONCHOSIS LEGEND. The legend of the world conqueror Sesostris appears in a number of Greek and Roman sources. It is clearly based upon Ramesses II and his throne name Usermaetre.

SETH. Belligerent deity associated with deserts and storms. Seth was the son of the goddess Nut, from whose body he violently ripped his entry into the world. He was depicted with an animal’s head with a long snout and tall, straight, flat-tipped ears. The Egyptians had an ambivalent attitude to this deity, although he was favored in certain districts and at certain periods. Seth became associated with the Syrian thunder god Baal, and texts will often parallel the two, so in a literary fragment relating to Thutmose III’s Syrian Wars, the horses of the pharaoh’s enemies become Baal and Seth. Ramesses II, however, is himself likened to “Seth great-of-strength, Baal in person” at the battle of Qadesh. Other inscriptions of the pharaoh’s rage in battle allude to Seth as “the son of Nut” without actually naming him. Through the equation with Baal, Seth became associated with the goddesses Anath and Astarte.

SETY I (reigned c. 1294–1279 BC). Pharaoh of the 19th Dynasty. Sety was a military officer and governor of Tjaru in the reign of Horemheb. Horemheb appears to have appointed an elderly military official as his successor, who ascended the throne as Ramesses I, although it seems certain that he took a longer view and intended the throne for Sety and his sons. In his first year Sety led a campaign against the Shasu. This involved a march from Tjaru to Gaza along the Ways of Horus. The ruler of Hammath sent troops to occupy Beth Shean. In response, Sety sent divisions against Hammath, Beth–Shean (where a stela was set up), and Yenoam, all of which were captured. The effect was to secure the Esdraelon plain and north Jordan Valley. Sety was now probably able to occupy Galilee and the coast as far as Tyre.

In succeeding campaigns, Sety led his armies to Yenoam and Damascus, and along the Sea Coast through Tyre, Sidon, Byblos, and Sumur. The third or fourth campaign involved an engagement with the Hittites. In year 4 or 5 Sety led his army westward against the Libyans. This was the first major offensive recorded against the Libyans for a considerable period of time. This action marks an Egyptian response to the eastward movement of Libyans, a process that continued in the reign of Ramesses II and culminated with a Libyan invasion of Egypt in the reign of Merenptah. The importance that Sety accorded to his Libyan campaign is indicated by its inclusion among the other wars, which were depicted in relief on the north exterior wall of the hypostyle hall of the temple of Amun at Karnak (Thebes).

In year 5 or 6, Sety I directed a campaign against Qadesh. This was part of the continuing hostility between Egypt and the Hittites, which had begun late in the reign of Akhenaten and had come to conflict in the reign of Tutankhamun and also, perhaps, that of Horemheb. The army was probably transported by ship to the Phoenician coast, from where it marched inland. Qadesh was captured and a stela set up within it. The city seems to have come under Hittite control again shortly after and a peace treaty may have been drawn up. However, hostilities broke out again early in the reign of Ramesses II.

In year 8, attention was directed to the south, when Irem in Nubia rebelled. Two stelae, from Amara and Sai, record that the army left the Nile Valley and crossed the desert. Following a battle, they returned with captives and booty. The text is typically imprecise, and a number of alternative locations for Irem, and hence direction of the expedition, have been suggested. Arguments have been made in favor of the oases to the west of the Nile in the Abri-Delgo Reach, the Bayuda Desert itself, or the Berber-Shendi Reach of the Nile.

The reign of Sety I marks a return to a much more active military involvement in western Asia following the relative peace of the later 18th Dynasty when Egypt was recognized as pre-eminent. This is a direct result of the collapse of the kingdom of Mitanni and the expansion of the Hittites into north Syria. The battle reliefs at Karnak vividly depict the expeditions and are some of the most important of such scenes to survive. The temple of Ramesses II at Beit el-Wali in Nubia also has scenes showing Nubian, Libyan, and Asiatic wars. Because the temple was constructed very early in Ramesses’s reign, these military actions can be ascribed to the period when he was active as crown prince.

SETY II (reigned c. 1202–1196 BC). Pharaoh of the 19th Dynasty, son of Merenptah. Although Sety is attested as crown prince in his father’s reign, there was a dynastic war following Merenptah’s death, in which Amenmesse seized power in Upper Egypt. It is still not entirely clear whether the four-year reign of Amenmesse preceded, or was entirely within, that of Sety. No details of the incident are known, although it seems to have been effective, particularly in Thebes and in Nubia. Sety II suppressed it, and the usurper’s monuments were reinscribed.

SHABAQO (reigned c. 711–695 BC). Kushite pharaoh of the 25th Dynasty (the name is often spelled Shabaka). According to the Graeco-Roman tradition, Shabaqo invaded Lower Egypt and defeated the Saite pharaoh Bakenranef (Bocchoris) in battle, then put him to death. Dated contemporary monuments show that Shabaqo was acknowledged throughout Egypt in his second regnal year. There are, however, no inscriptions recording the military activities that must have established his authority. In Kush and Upper Egypt, Shabaqo was the successor of Piye. The text on a large commemorative scarab in Toronto (Royal Ontario Museum) can be read as the record of military action in Sinai, but otherwise there are no known military texts of this reign. The biblical and Assyrian sources reveal that Egypt under Shabaqo became actively involved in the politics of western Asia. Early in Shabaqo’s reign, Yamani, the ruler of Ashdod who had rebelled against Sargon II, was extradited to Assyria, and it was undoubtedly Shabaqo who later supported the rebellion of Hezekiah of Judah against the Assyrians. Although it seems unlikely that Shabaqo himself led the army, an Egyptian–Kushite force was sent to Hezekiah’s aid and engaged the Assyrians at the battle of Eltekeh (701 BC). This change of policy was undoubtedly connected with an increase in Egyptian influence in western Asia, and perhaps also with the change of ruler in Assyria itself.

SHALFAK. Fortress of the Second Cataract. Part of the defensive network of Senusret III. The fortress is similar in plan to Uronarti and likewise dictated by the topography of the site. The fort was situated on the west bank, and its defensive spur wall had towers on the desert side. Internally, it was regularly planned. Its garrison accommodation was been between 60 and 150; its defense needs 180–360 or 220–480 including the spur walls. It was within signaling distance of both Uronarti, to the south, and another island fortress, Askut, to the north.

SHANGAR. The name for Babylonia as it appears in the Amarna Letters, with its capital at Babylon (Karduniash). At the time of the Amarna Letters, the Late Bronze Age of the Near East, Babylonia was ruled by the Kassites (c. 1595–1155 BC).

SHARDANA. One of the Sea Peoples who also appear as mercenaries in the Egyptian army of the late New Kingdom. In documents of the 20th Dynasty they are found settled as veterans in Middle Egypt, in the region of Herakleopolis. The name Shardana (or Sherden) is generally thought to relate to that of Sardinia. The usual interpretation is that, following the repulse of the Sea Peoples in year 8 of Ramesses III, the different groups were forced back into southern Palestine. Some groups, such as the Peleset (Philistines) settled there, but others sailed west, and settled in new homelands (e.g., the Shardana). A new interpretation, by Robert Drews, suggests that the Shardana actually came from Sardinia—and should be regarded as pirates, mercenaries, and raiders—at the close of the Late Bronze Age. In Egyptian reliefs from the time of Ramesses II and Ramesses III, the Shardana have distinctive facial features and wear a horned helmet. They carry sharp swords, spears, and a round shield. Bronze figures with similar horned helmets and weapons have been found on Sardinia, lending weight to an association of the Shardana with the island.

SHARUHEN. City of Canaan, its identity with surviving archaeological sites is still not absolutely certain: Tell el Far’a, Tell el Ajjul, and Tel Harer, all being proposed. The evidence from the whole region shows that there was a rapid process of large-scale and highly organized urban settlement in the Middle Bronze II–III periods. All the sites, large and small, coastal and inland, were fortified. They were situated at an average of 10 kilometers apart, which is a high density for the environmental conditions. Sharuhen became the chief city of a kingdom flanked on the north by the kingdom of Ashkelon and on the east the kingdom of Hebron. The kingdom of Sharuhen was closely connected with the Hyksos kingdom of Avaris. The autobiographical text of Ahmose son of Ibana states that after the capture of Avaris, Ahmose I pursued the fleeing Hyksos, who took refuge at Sharuhen. There was either a siege lasting three years, or three consecutive campaigns, before the city fell. Sharuhen is later mentioned in the list of towns captured by Sheshonq I.

SHASU. A term used for nomadic peoples, Bedouin, of the eastern border of Egypt, Sinai, Canaan, and the Negeb. It is found in Egyptian texts from the 18th Dynasty to the Kushite period. Unlike more modern comparable groups, they did not have the camel as transport or pack animals. As with other populations that were not permanently settled and that could not therefore be controlled by the central authority (e.g., the Libyans), they were considered a threat and often associated in the bureaucratic mind with criminals and malcontents. Nomadic groups are attested as entering Egypt along the Ways of Horus in the Old Kingdom, in order to pasture their flocks during times when their own water sources dried. The texts locate the Shasu in Transjordan, Moab, and Edom. Timna, the copper mining region of Sinai was also part of the Shasu lands. Seasonal movements and raids were possible along a number of routes into north Syria and toward the coast. Of these, that through the Jordan and Jezreel Valleys was controlled by the Egyptian garrison at Beth-Shean. Military actions by pharaohs against the Shasu are documented for the reigns of Sety I and Ramesses II. A text probably of the reign of Merenptah reports that the Shasu had been given controlled entry through a frontier fortress to the wells of the Wadi Tumilat. There were settlements of Shasu in Middle Egypt at Spermeru, in the 20th Dynasty, and at Atfih. See also ARABS.

SHEBITQO (reigned c. 695–690 BC). Kushite pharaoh of the 25th Dynasty (the name is often spelled Shabataka). Because of uncertainties about the precise length of his reign, it has been proposed that he was the pharaoh who was responsible for sending an army to the aid of Hezekiah of Judah, which confronted the army of Sennacherib, king of Assyria, at the battle of Eltekeh in 701 BC. However, it seems more likely that this was his predecessor Shabaqo. The biblical record confuses the issue further by attributing the action to Taharqo. Shebitqo adopted an imperialist titulary, although there are no firmly documented campaigns during the reign. He is also shown being presented with the khepesh-sword by the god Amun in reliefs at Thebes. An inscription of the reign of Taharqo states that Shebitqo summoned him to Egypt, along with other princes and the army.

SHEKELESH. Ethnic group who served as mercenaries in the Egyptian army. Also one of the Sea Peoples. Their name associates them with Sicily. Earlier Egyptologists assumed that they eventually settled on the island, although it has more recently been suggested that they came from Sicily as raiders and mercenary troops in the Late Bronze Age.


SHESHONQ I (reigned c. 945–924 BC). Libyan pharaoh of the 22nd Dynasty. Apparently related to an earlier Libyan pharaoh, Osorkon (known in literature as “Osochor” or “Osorkon the elder”), and descended from a line of increasingly powerful and influential Libyan chieftains, Sheshonq I established a new dynasty. His center of power was in the eastern Delta, at Per-Bastet (Bubastis), where Libyans had been settled in military encampments during the reign of Ramesses II. It took some time for Sheshonq to assert his authority over the whole of Egypt because he is still described as the “Chief of the Ma,” a Libyan tribal title, rather than by royal titles, in an inscription of his second year at Karnak. His highest known regnal year is 21.

The principal military record of the reign is the large relief on the south exterior wall of the great hypostyle hall in the temple of Karnak (Thebes). This depicted Sheshonq on a vast scale, smiting his enemies before an equally large figure of the god Amun, who grasps the lines of loops that contain the names of captured towns and countries. Altogether, 154 towns are named, many of which can confidently be identified. It is, however, more difficult to reconstruct the actual course of the campaign. The toponyms fall into several distinct groups, and it has been concluded that, after a coastal march through Raphia and Gaza, the army split into two or more divisions, one marching through southern Judah and the Negeb, the other through Israel. The southern army might have split into even smaller units: it certainly “captured” Sharuhen. The northern army marched along a well-used route through Gezer, Aijalon, Beth-Horon to Shechem, Tirzah, Succoth, and eventually up to Beth Shean, Taanach and Megiddo, before turning back south to Aphek.

At Megiddo, Sheshonq set up a stela, of which only a small fragment survives. This is the only archaeological evidence that confirms the campaign, although attempts have been made to identify destruction levels at sites throughout Palestine with it. The equation of destruction levels with events recorded in literary sources is always difficult, and rarely accurate, relying as it does on the interpretations and premises of the excavators. It is also likely that many of the towns capitulated with the minimum of force being required (especially if they received little military assistance from the Israelite or Judaean kings). Sheshonq’s campaign is certainly the most aggressive Egyptian military action in western Asia since late Ramesside times (the reign of Ramesses VI, if not that of Ramesses III), but does not appear to have had any lasting results. Statues of Sheshonq I and two of his immediate successors suggest that Egyptian trading relations with Byblos continued, but the internal politics of Israel and Judah, with the interventions of Damascus and Assyria, (and perhaps also the ineffectiveness of the pharaohs themselves) prevented further Egyptian consolidation of Sheshonq’s expedition.

It has been widely assumed that Sheshonq I led only one Asiatic campaign and that this came late in his reign. There are very few dated records of events in this reign and there is nothing to preclude a much earlier date for the campaign. It is also possible that the Karnak record in fact includes several different actions. If we are to assume that the Karnak list is of one season, then Sheshonq must have had enormous military reserves to be able to separate his army into so many divisions. A series of more concentrated expeditions, over perhaps three seasons, would have enabled him to direct the whole of his army against the fortified cities of Israel.

The campaign of Sheshonq I has generally been identified by Egyptologists with that of the “Shishak, king of Egypt” recorded in the biblical record (1 Kings, 14:25–6; 2 Chronicles 12:3–4). Shishak is said to have captured Jerusalem in the fifth year of the reign of Rehoboam, which can be dated quite confidently to 925 BC. Close examination of the two records shows that the campaigns are certainly not the same. Nevertheless, the equation of “Shishak” with Sheshonq I is still generally recognized and has served as a chronological fixed-point.

SHIELD. The shield (in Egyptian ikem) was used as a defense against most weapons in hand-to-hand combat and against arrows. It comprised a wooden frame with animal hide stretched over it. This was frequently ox hide, indicated in depictions by the coloring and patterning and in writing by the use of an ox hide in the spelling of the word. Scenes of the tribute of Nubia depict shields covered with more exotic animal skins, probably cheetah and giraffe. Shields with ox hide were also part of the Nubian tribute, leather working being a product of Kush. Most shields were worn attached to the left arm and were flat along the base, with a pointed, arced, or semicircular top. Some shields tall enough to conceal a man are shown in Middle Kingdom scenes. Circular shields were used by the Shardana, the Hittites, and the Assyrians. In chariot warfare, the shield was carried by the driver of the chariot. Ramesses II names his shield-bearer at the battle of Qadesh, and in the scenes of the battle, the Egyptian camp is surrounded by a palisade of shields. Four functional and four ceremonial shields were found in the tomb of Tutankhamun. The ceremonial shields have gilded openwork scenes in wood, showing, for example, the pharaoh as a victorious sphinx or slaying lions. The functional shields were covered with cheetah and antelope skins. Tutankhamun’s ceremonial shields were between 0.83 and 0.89 meters and the functional ones about 0.79 meters high. There is evidence that figure-of-eight shaped shields, used by the Hittites, were also manufactured in Egypt, but the rules affecting depiction of Egyptians means that they do not appear in scenes of battle.

SHISHAK. Pharaoh of Egypt referred to in the biblical record (1 Kings 14: 25–6; 2 Chronicles 12: 3–4). Shishak is said to have invaded Judah in the year 5 of king Rehoboam, captured Jerusalem, and taken the furnishings of Solomon’s temple and palace as tribute, instead of destroying the city. The event can be accurately dated to 925 BC. Shishak’s army comprised 1,200 chariots, 60,000 parasiim (taken to mean “horsemen”), and a number of foreign troops: Libyans, Sukiim, and Kushites. If parasiim is really to be understood as “cavalry,” it is an unexpectedly large number at a time when chariot warfare was still favored in Egypt, and the armies of Assyria deployed only small numbers of cavalry, mainly as outriders. Rehoboam had fortified 15 cities in Judah, all of which were captured in Shishak’s advance. Egyptologists have always identified Shishak with Sheshonq I and related the biblical record to that of Sheshonq’s Asiatic campaign recorded at Karnak. Some dissenting voices pointed out the fundamental differences between the campaign of Sheshonq I as documented by the Karnak inscription and that of Shishak in the biblical narrative. The campaign of Sheshonq I was certainly directed toward the Negeb region of Judah in the south and toward the kingdom of Israel, rather than to central Judah. Of the towns captured by Sheshonq I, only Aijalon is found among those that fell to Shishaq. Even if “Shishak” is to be identified with Sheshonq I, it is certain that the biblical account and the Karnak inscription record two completely different campaigns.

SHUNET EL ZEBIB. Early Dynastic monument at Abydos, also known as the “Middle Fort.” It is a large rectangular enclosure with massive walls of mud brick, oriented to the cardinal points. It is similar in design to, and probably closely contemporary with, a mud-brick structure of the reign of Khasekhemwy at Nekhen (Hierakonpolis). Both structures were thought by earlier archaeologists to be fortresses, but are now thought to be religious, rather than military, edifices, associated with the burials of the Early Dynastic pharaohs. Nevertheless, the architecture must have close similarities to early defensive structures.

SIAMUN (reigned c. 978–950 BC). To this obscure pharaoh, an Asiatic campaign has been attributed on scanty evidence. A relief block from Tanis depicts Siamun smiting a figure of which only the hands are preserved. Siamun has been identified as the unnamed pharaoh who, according to the biblical account of 1 Kings 9:16, captured Gezer, and gave it as a dowry to his daughter who married Solomon, king of Israel. The Tanis relief fragment is cited in support of the biblical record. It is claimed that the foreign figure holds a double-headed axe reminiscent of a type used in the Aegean and western Anatolia and that it therefore represents a Philistine or one of the Sea Peoples. As a result, it is stated that Siamun pursued a war in Philistia and was an ally of Israel. The equation of Siamun with the unnamed biblical pharaoh is based solely on the assumption that the dates calculated for the reigns of Solomon and Siamun are correct, which they probably are not. In consequence, Siamun’s military activities and political involvement with Israel are unsubstantiated. The relief is most probably a conventional smiting scene.

SIEGE. Attacks on fortifications are depicted in the late Old Kingdom in the tomb of Kaemheset at Saqqara and Inti at Deshasheh. These employed scaling ladders and sappers to undermine the walls. Similar attacks on fortified towns appear in the late First Intermediate Period and early Middle Kingdom tombs at Beni Hasan.

Physical evidence of attack comes from the fortress of Buhen in Nubia. Such attacks may have followed sieges, but the direct evidence for siege is in the literature. In his pursuit of the Hyksos, Ahmose I besieged Sharuhen for three years, or in three campaigns. Thutmose III besieged Megiddo for eight months. Piye laid siege to Khmunu, while his vassal, Peftjauawybast, was himself besieged within Herakleopolis. These, and other sieges reported during Piye’s campaign, were relatively short, probably lasting between days and months.

The length of a siege was dictated by practical factors of how long the occupants could withstand, depending on food supplies stored within the city and access to water. Tefnakht prepared for Memphis to be placed under siege by Piye, ensuring that the walls were in good order, the garrison equipped, and food brought into the city. Hezekiah of Judah prepared for the assault on Jerusalem by Sennacherib by constructing the Siloam tunnel to gain access to a good water supply. The scenes of Sennacherib’s assault on Lachish, following the siege of the city, show the use of siege towers, sappers, and battering rams. Resistance by the besieged includes the usual weapons and a rain of lighted torches being thrown down on the attacking army.

Sieges were apparently accompanied by intensive diplomatic activity involving royal envoys to encourage capitulation. At Jerusalem, in an attempt to encourage internal opposition, Sennacherib’s envoys broke protocol by using Hebrew to address the population gathered on the walls directly, rather than the diplomatic language. At Khmunu, the royal women of both sides acted as intermediaries between the besieged Nimlot and Piye.


SINAI. A mountainous peninsula lying immediately east of Egypt. It is roughly triangular in shape, flanked by the northern branches of the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aqaba, and the Gulf of Suez. The northern coastal plain is sandy and was difficult to cross in ancient times. The coast road, the Ways of Horus, or Via Maris ran from the Egyptian frontier fortresses of Tjaru (Tell el-Hebwa) and Pelusion to Brook-of-Egypt (Rhinocolura) and Gaza. The difficulties of this road gave Egypt some protection from invasions, but not complete security, and significant battles occurred along its route. The southern parts of the peninsula have some important mineral resources, notably turquoise and copper. Sinai was inhabited by Bedouin Arabs and Shasu. These groups entered Egypt, sometimes seasonally, and the fortifications, in the Wadi Tumilat might have been, in part, intended to control them.

The First Dynasty pharaoh Den might have been active in Sinai, and evidence from the reign of Khasekhemwy, at the end of the Second Dynasty, has also been interpreted as referring to military actions in the region. Rock inscriptions of the Old Kingdom at the turquoise mines of Wadi Maghara usually depict the pharaoh in the act of smiting an “enemy,” although there are no detailed records of military activities. Doubtless any mining expedition was accompanied by contingents of the army. The pharaohs attested are Sanakht, Sekhemkhet, and Sneferu.

The pharaoh Menthuhotep II led one or more campaigns into Sinai after his reunification of Egypt. During the Middle Kingdom, activity was renewed at the turquoise mines of Wadi Maghara and Serabit el-Khadim. A defensive system, called the Walls of the Ruler was built by Amenemhat I to defend the Egyptian border. There is extensive archaeological evidence for the New Kingdom defenses of the border region, notably at Tjaru. Egyptian mining activity was concentrated at Serabit el-Khadim for turquoise and Timna for copper. The evidence from Timna spans the 19th and 20th Dynasties from the reign of Ramesses II to that of Ramesses V.

Most of the later evidence relating to Sinai is concerned with the coastal road, rather than the peninsula proper. A scarab of the Kushite pharaoh Shabaqo suggests military action against the Shasu. The Assyrian emperors, Sargon II, Esarhaddon, and Ashurbanipal, invaded Egypt and engaged Egyptian armies at Gaza and Raphia. The Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar II, also invaded Egypt using this route, as did the armies of Persia, the Macedonian adventurer Amyntas, and Alexander the Great. Along the coast, the Ptolemies confronted invasion by the diadochoi, and various Seleukid kings of Syria, most importantly when Ptolemy IV repulsed Antiochos III at the battle of Raphia (217 BC).

SINUHE. The Tale of Sinuhe is a literary work of Middle Kingdom date, surviving in numerous copies. The narrative begins with the death of Amenemhat I, while his son and coregent, Senusret I, was on a military campaign against the Libyans. The narrative tells that Sinuhe is with the expedition and overhears the plotting of one of the princes: he flees. The remainder of the tale recounts his time abroad and eventual return to Egypt. Sinuhe spends his time with seminomadic tent-dwellers in Retenu. These would be comparable with, although they are not called, the Shasu. Sinuhe becomes commander of troops for the ruler of Retenu. He has to fight with the champion of Retenu. Sinuhe lists the weapons he uses: the self-bow (pedjet), dagger (bagesu), javelin (nywv), and axe (minb). In the combat, they begin with battle axe and shield and end with bow and arrow. Having slain his opponent, Sinuhe shouts his war cry, then takes his goods and his cattle.

SLING. A simple but effective weapon for firing stones. The sling is shown being used in assault on towns in the early Middle Kingdom tombs at Beni Hasan. Examples found in the tomb of Tutankhamun were made of linen. Despite its rare appearance in battle scenes, it was probably widely used. At the siege of Lachish, the army of Sennacherib, king of Assyria, includes soldiers using the sling. A sling shot from the Ptolemaic and Roman periods could be made of lead, and carried inscribed messages for the unfortunate recipient.

SNEFERU (reigned c. 2613–2589 BC). Pharaoh of the Fourth Dynasty. There are some indications that this reign might actually have been up to 48 years. The Palermo Stone records a campaign in Nubia against the Nehesyu, in which the king captured 7,000 people and 200,000 cattle. This might have been into the Eastern Desert, where there were seminomadic cattle herders or south of the Second Cataract, into the region later known as Kush. A rock-cut scene of the king smiting an enemy was carved at Wadi Mahgara in Sinai, probably in relation to the turquoise mines. The king is also known to have constructed a large fleet, including sea-going vessels built with cedar from Lebanon. He built a fortified defense on the eastern border called the “walls of the Southland and of the Northland called the Houses of Sneferu.” This might be a precursor of the Walls of the Ruler and the defense with a canal of the New Kingdom known from the 12th Dynasty,

SOBEKHU (fl.c. 1860 BC). Military official whose career under Senusret III is documented by a stela now in Manchester Museum (3306). Sobekhu was a warrior of the royal bodyguard and commanded seven men of the King’s Residence. He later became a follower (Shemsu) of the ruler with the command of 60 men. He finally rose to be an instructor of retainers with a contingent of 100 men “as a reward.” He served with the pharaoh on both Nubian and Asiatic campaigns.

SOCIAL ADVANCEMENT. Still a controversial subject in Egyptology. There is a strongly held view that the New Kingdom military service enabled individuals to gain social advancement. The evidence seems to indicate a very closed elite, but nevertheless, both military and scribal talents might have led to social advancement, as in other societies. Even in closed elites, ability plays an important role, and with only a very limited number of top jobs, it must have been significant in an official’s appointment. Reward was a reflection of, but also an aid to, advancement. There is good evidence for the award of plots of land to soldiers who, even if originally of quite humble origin, might thereby have acquired enough economic power to gain entry to the scribal class. The son of a soldier, Ahmose son of Ebana also began his career as a soldier, rising to become a crew commander. Active in many campaigns, he was rewarded with gold, slaves, and land. His tomb at Nekheb was at least partially decorated by his grandson, Paheri, who was a scribe of the treasury and mayor of the towns of Nekheb and Esna. It could be that Ahmose was the founder of the family fortunes.

SOLDIER. Although there must have been some men who became fulltime soldiers in the Old Kingdom, the bulk of the army was conscripted for specific purposes. The Egyptians employed mercenaries from a very early date, and these always formed a significant proportion of the army. The first mercenary troops attested are Nubians; later large numbers of Libyans and Asiatics, notably some of the Sea People, such as the Shardana, were recruited. In the Late and Ptolemaic Periods, Greeks from the Aegean and Anatolia, and Jews, also served.

Egyptian literature compares the hard life of the foot soldier with that of the bureaucracy who had the power to conscript levies and had a relatively easy life. Certainly training and drill was rigorous, but it was possible to achieve some wealth through reward after a battle, including parcels of land. Veterans (in the Ptolemaic period, called cleruchs) were also given land and this perhaps led to social advancement. The Greek writer Herodotos describes the military caste, called the machimoi, of the Late Period, although there is no evidence of it in earlier periods. Even though Egypt had a large fleet and navy, it was ordinary soldiers that fought on the ships.

SOMEIRA. Small fortress or watchtower of late Roman or Byzantine date, in the northern part of Kharga Oasis. The fort stands on the plain about two kilometers south of the almost identical tower of el-Gib. It is roughly square, 14 meters each side, with round corner towers (now collapsed) and an entrance on the south side. The interior is inaccessible, being a mass of fallen brickwork.

SPARTA. City and kingdom of southern Greece. Sparta was the dominant city of the Peloponnese and main political rival of Athens. It was at times supported by Persia—and as a monarchy was considered pro-Persian—compared with Athens’ usual anti-Persian position. Sparta had direct involvement with Egypt in the reign of Nefaarud I. In 396 BC, the Spartan king, Agesilaos II, sought an alliance with Nefaarud, prior to leading the Greek army against the Persians. This was refused, but in the following year, Nefaarud supplied the Spartan fleet, which was at Rhodes, with equipment for 100 triremes and 500,000 measures of corn. Nakhtnebef entered into an anti-Persian alliance with Sparta and Athens. Agesilaos II commanded a large force of Greek mercenaries when Djedhor invaded Palestine in 360 BC but lent his aid to the rebellion of Nakhthorheb later the same year.

In the reign of Ptolemy III, the rapid rise of Sparta under Kleomenes III (reigned c. 235–222 BC) dictated a change of Ptolemaic policy on mainland Greece. Kleomenes was supported by Egypt, but following his defeat by the Macedonian king, he fled to Alexandria. At the beginning of the reign of Ptolemy IV, he attempted a coup in Alexandria, but this collapsed and Kleomenes committed suicide (220–219 BC).

SPEAR. A stabbing weapon, the spear (in Egyptian henty) is first depicted on the late Predynastic Hunter’s Palette, and many flint blades survive. It became a principal weapon of the infantry, but was also used by chariot warriors. A large wooden model of a contingent of Egyptian spearmen formed a companion to one of Nubian archers in the 12th Dynasty tomb of Mesehti at Asyut (these are now in the Cairo Museum). The blade, leaf-shaped, was of copper alloy (bronze) with a tang for attachment. Blades with sockets are common from the New Kingdom. The wooden handle of the spear could be long or short. Battle scenes show the short-handled spear being used as a stabbing weapon in close conflict. Chariot warriors are also shown using a short-handled stabbing spear. The long-handled spear (the lance) is also shown. The light-throwing spear (javelin) appears in the conflict between Sinuhe and the champion of Retenu. From the reign of Sety I, a quiver for javelins is shown attached to the royal chariot. The Ptolemaic army used the extremely long pike developed in Macedonia, the sarissa. This was organized in the phalanx of rows of soldiers, and is a completely different military formation to that of earlier periods. The phalanx was used with notable success by Ptolemy IV at the battle of Raphia (217 BC).

SPHINX. Solar image, usually combining a human head with a lion’s body. The sphinx was the image of the pharaoh as the celestial conqueror. The sphinx could also have a falcon head (hieraco-sphinx or griffon), which usually identified it with Monthu; or a ram-head (criosphinx), identified with Amun. Female sphinxes could represent female members of the royal family and usually wore a wig with two long curls associated with the goddess Hathor. In the later 18th Dynasty, the female sphinx was the violent manifestation of the goddess Hathor, Tefnut. Tiye, queen of Amenhotep III, was depicted as a female sphinx in the temple at Sedeinga in Nubia, where she was worshipped as the “Great of Terror.” Nefertiti wife of Akhenaten was also depicted as a female sphinx, trampling the female enemies of Egypt.

SQUAD. The smallest unit of the army, comprising 10 men. Five squads formed one platoon.

STANDARD, MILITARY. The standard was a square or rectangular plaque carried on a pole. It is shown as carrying a scene that is relevant to the name of the particular troop. The police also had standards. Royal standards accompanying the pharaoh carry images or emblems of deities. These are usually the canine Wepwawet and falcon Horus.

SUPPILULIUMA I (reigned c. 1344–1322 BC). Great King of the Hittites. The reign of Suppiluliuma saw Hittite expansion into north Syria, at the expense of Mitanni and Egypt. Evidence for events comes from a number of sources, notably a later text called “the Deeds of Suppiluliuma,” several peace treaties, and the Amarna Letters. The campaigns were not initially successful, and the king of Mitanni was able to send a chariot as gift to Amenhotep III from the captured booty. Later actions involved the sack of the capital of Mitanni and campaigns against Nukhashshe, Amurru, and Aleppo. The result was that former allies of Mitanni became vassals of the Hittites and, in some cases, were ruled by Hittite princes.

There is some indication of hostility late in the reign of Akhenaten and indications of conflict in the reign of Tutankhamun. Hittite captives and tribute are shown being presented by the general, Horemheb, to the pharaoh in his tomb at Saqqara. Following the death of Tutankhamun, the pharaoh’s widow apparently sought a Hittite prince in diplomatic marriage. Suppiluliuma at first did not believe the request, but a prince, Zannanza, was eventually sent to Egypt. He was, however, murdered en route. This led to the renewal of hostilities, which came to a head in the succeeding reigns of Sety I and Ramesses II and the Hittite kings Muwatalli and Mursili II.

SUPPLIES. Large amounts of foodstuffs and equipment were needed for the army, either when it was on campaign or stationed in a frontier fortress. Textual and pictorial evidence shows that when the army went on campaign, it was accompanied by millers, bakers, and brewers, who were responsible for the staple rations of bread and beer. There were also butchers. Cattle to accompany the army are shown in the tomb of Tjanuni. Supplies taken with the army would have been supplemented by forage and by the seizure of harvests from conquered territories. Spares for chariots (poles and wheels), fodder for horses, and materials and personnel for the repair and manufacture of weapons all accompanied the expedition. Within the fortress, these personnel would have been accommodated alongside the garrison. At the Second Cataract, the island fortress of Askut seems to have served as a main grain reserve storage for a number of the forts, whereas the large forts of Buhen and Mirgissa were equipped as supply depots and might have included the support services.

SWORD. The Egyptian sword (called mesu and neken) was basically a larger version (over 40 centimeters) of the dagger, used for stabbing and thrusting in close combat. Swords were made of copper alloy (bronze) and only much later of iron. The cutting or slashing sword was a later introduction. The Egyptian type of the slashing sword was the sickle-shaped khepesh appearing in the New Kingdom.

SYRIA. A loose term for the region of western Asia largely coincident with the modern states of Syria and Lebanon. There are numerous names for different regions and states, including Amurru, Nukhashshe, Niy, Dhjahy, Takhsy, Tunip, Dapur, Hamath, Aleppo, Damascus. Syria embraced different regions of forested mountains along the coast, high steppe, the Orontes Valley, and desert to the east. The trading cities of Tyre, Byblos, Beirut, Ugarit, and Sumur along the coast, are known under the name Phoenicia and some had contacts with Egypt from the Early Dynastic Period. The Egyptians gained control over much of Syria in the New Kingdom, through the campaigns of Amenhotep I, Thutmose I, Thutmose III, and Amenhotep II, but their influence and control of the northern parts was contested by the kingdoms of Mitanni and the Hittites. In the later periods, Egypt’s attempts to regain influence in Syria were opposed by Assyria and Babylon. Major battles for control of Syria were fought at Qadesh, Qarqar, and Carchemish. Syria later came under the rule of Persia, from whom it was taken by Alexander the Great. Following his death, much of Syria became part of the empire of the Seleukids, although Coele Syria was mainly ruled by the Ptolemies and was the focus of disputes in the Syrian Wars.

SYRIAN WARS (PTOLEMAIC). There was regular conflict between the Ptolemies and the Seleukids for control of Coele Syria, which had been seized by Ptolemy I.

First Syrian War (274–271 BC). Started by Ptolemy II. In response, Antiochos I mobilized to invade Egypt. Ptolemy ensured the defenses of the eastern Delta, but circumstances caused Antiochos to abandon his plans. A peace treaty retained the status quo.

Second Syrian War (260–253 BC). Against Antiochos II. In 259/258 BC, Antiochos gained control of Miletos and Samos, and later, following the defeat of the Ptolemaic navy at sea, Ephesos. A second naval defeat at the battle of Kos (255 BC) ended Ptolemaic control of the Island League. Ptolemy II led his army into Syria in 257 BC, but the progress of the campaign is unknown. Peace was concluded in 253 BC and sealed by diplomatic marriage. Ptolemy II yielded no territory in Syria, although Antiochos made substantial gains in Anatolia.

Third Syrian War (246–241 BC). Also known as the Laodicean War, this began as a Seleukid dynastic war. On the (suspicious) death of Antiochos II, his former wife, Laodike, proclaimed her son, Seleukos II, king. In response, Antiochos’s second wife, the Ptolemaic princess, Berenike, proclaimed her own young son, and sought the help of her brother Ptolemy III who had just ascended the Egyptian throne. Ptolemy sailed to Syria, where Berenike controlled the heart of the kingdom, the cities of Seleukeia in Pieria, at the mouth of the Orontes, and Antioch. Arriving in Antioch, Ptolemy found that Berenike and her sons had been murdered. Instead of returning to Egypt, Ptolemy III marched through Syria to the Euphrates. The king’s records of the war (the Adulis incription and a papyrus from Gurob) claim he conquered Baktria. Ptolemy was forced to return in 245 BC, because of a rebellion by the native Egyptians.

Seleukos II moved to regain the lost territory, was soon recognized in Babylon, and then throughout the kingdom. A late source says that Seleukos attempted to invade Egypt, but this is unsubstantiated. Ptolemy III and his army were active in Asia, but there were also conflicts in the Aegean. Ptolemy’s half-brother, Ptolemaios Andromachos, lost the naval battle of Andros against Antigonos Gonatas, king of Macedon, (perhaps in 246 BC), but in the same year, Ephesos was recaptured and remained a Ptolemaic possession until 197 BC. At the end of the war, Ptolemy III could claim that some territory had been gained or reclaimed. One of Ptolemy’s most important gains was the vital port of Seleukeia in Pieria, close to his new territories in Cilicia and Pamphylia and the old ones of Cyprus and Coele Syria. This effectively gave Egypt control of much of the Mediterranean coast from the western border of Cyrenaica to Thrace.

Fourth Syrian War (219–217BC). The ambitious young Seleukid king, Antiochos III (reigned 223/222–187 BC), planned to restore the empire of Seleukos I and pursue old claims to Coele Syria. The prologue to the war began in 221 BC, when, despite threats to his rule in Anatolia and in the east of his empire, Antiochos took advantage of the problems attending the accession of Ptolemy IV to move on the province. In the Beqa Valley, Ptolemaic forces under the commander-in-chief of Coele Syria, Theodotos, held Gerrha and Brochoi and prepared for attack by erecting a blockade with rampart and ditches. Antiochos suffered great losses but failed to advance. He withdrew with news of defeats in the east of his empire, granting Ptolemaic forces a reprieve.

In 219 BC, hostilities were opened when Antiochos III reasserted Seleukid control over Seleukeia in Pieria, captured 27 years before by Ptolemy III. Theodotos, who had fallen from favor through intrigues at the Alexandrian court, now offered to give Coele Syria to Antiochos. The Seleukid army marched south, taking Tyre and Ptolemais (Ake) and seizing 40 vessels of the Ptolemaic fleet. Antiochos’s advance was slowed by local resistance, forcing him to lay siege to a number of towns. Antiochos failed to capture Dora and Sidon, and a truce was agreed by both sides for the winter 219/218 BC. The four-month break in the war allowed preparations for an Egyptian response. Most significantly, this involved the formation of a force of 20,000 native Egyptian soldiers, trained as a Macedonian phalanx. At the end of the truce in 218 BC, Antiochos III returned to the offensive, but Ptolemy IV held back until his preparations were complete. The army’s progress along the coast was shadowed by the fleet. A Seleukid victory by sea and land at the Porphyrion pass near Beirut enabled Antiochos to march on Philadelphia (Rabbat Ammon, modern Amman) and from there to Ptolemais (Ake), where they wintered (218/217 BC).

Antiochos continued his march along the coast toward Egypt, but Ptolemy IV was now prepared. On 22 June 217 BC, the two armies clashed at Raphia. The Ptolemaic victory forced Antiochos to retreat. With the possibility of increased dynastic problems in Anatolia, Antiochos sought a swift resolution. Ptolemy IV apparently conceded Seleukeia in Pieria, which was expensive to hold, but added further pressure by a raid in Syria in late summer 217 BC. Following Raphia, Antiochos III evacuated Coele Syria and Lebanon but reasserted his authority over the east of his empire and over Anatolia.

Fifth Syrian War (202–194/3 BC). Shortly after the accession of Ptolemy V as a minor, Antiochos III of Syria and Philip V of Macedon moved to divide the Ptolemaic Empire between themselves. Philip V was to take Cyrene, the Ionian coast of Asia Minor, and the Cyclades; Antiochos was to have Egypt and Coele Syria. In 202 BC, Antiochos III began the march south. Capturing Damascus and much of Palestine in 201, he advanced on Gaza. The Ptolemaic commanderin-chief of Coele Syria and Phoenicia, Ptolemaios son of Thraseas, went over to the Seleukid side. Antiochos established garrisons and retired for the winter of 201/200 BC, but the Ptolemaic army, with new recruits from Greece, under the command of Skopas, an Aetolian, reoccupied much of Coele Syria during the winter of 200 BC.

On the Macedonian front, Philip V took Samos in 201 BC, followed by the capture of Ptolemaic possessions in Thrace. In 200 BC, Rome moved to support Ptolemy to prevent the formation of a large anti-Roman state and to prevent the alliance between Macedon and Syria. Rome attacked Philip in 200 BC, but Antiochos was still free to attack Egyptian territory. The two armies came to confront each other in the summer of 200 BC. Skopas apparently marched north from Gaza to Jerusalem, Samaria, and through Galilee. Advancing farther north toward Damascus, the Ptolemaic force encountered the Seleukid army on the slopes of Mount Hermon, at Panion. An account of the battle is given by Polybius (16:18–19). The Ptolemaic force was defeated. Skopas and 10,000 survivors took refuge in the Ptolemaic stronghold of Sidon, hoping to be evacuated by sea. The Egyptian navy was delayed, Sidon besieged, and Skopas and the army were forced to surrender, after which they were allowed to leave (200/199 BC).

Antiochos gained control of south Syria (198 BC)before turning to Asia Minor, where he captured Ptolemaic possessions in Cilicia, Lycia, and Caria (Kaunos, Myndos, and Halikarnassos), and Ionia (Ephesos) in 197 BC. Direct Roman intervention in Macedon (the Second Macedonian War) culminated with the defeat of Philip V at the battle of Kynoskephalai (197 BC). The Syrian War ended with the Peace of Lysimacheia (late 196 or early 195 BC), at which Rome represented Ptolemaic Egypt. Antiochos III, however, delivered a diplomatic coup, announcing agreements with Ptolemy V and the forthcoming marriage between Ptolemy and his daughter, Kleopatra I. This took place at Raphia, The princess received Coele Syria as her dowry, but Antiochos III actually retained control of the territory. The Fifth Syrian War ended with Egypt’s loss of Coele Syria and the coastal bases in Anatolia. As a result, the importance of the remaining Ptolemaic possession, Cyprus, increased enormously.

SYRIAN WAR (SIXTH, 170/169–168 BC). Conflict between Ptolemy VI and his uncle Antiochos IV over ownership of Coele Syria. The regents for Ptolemy VI entered into the war to regain Coele Syria without the appropriate preparations. Both Ptolemaic and Seleukid envoys were sent to Rome where the senate attempted to be conciliatory without taking sides because it was preparing for war with Macedon. It was Antiochos IV of Syria who moved first, marching past Gaza and defeating the Ptolemaic army between Mount Kasios and Pelusion, which was besieged. Antiochos IV quickly took control of large parts of Lower Egypt. Ptolemy VI went to see Antiochos in person in his camp, but the Alexandrians immediately hailed his brother, Ptolemy VIII, as sole king. In response, Antiochos besieged Alexandria, and the government sent an embassy to Rome seeking help (summer 169 BC). The annual inundation made the attack on Alexandria even more difficult, and Antiochos left Egypt in the autumn of 169 BC to deal with matters in Syria or Palestine.

Ptolemy VI now returned to Alexandria, where he was associated with his brother and sister as joint ruler. In response, Antiochos IV marched back to Egypt in spring 168 BC, gaining Memphis and much of Lower Egypt. An expedition sent to Cyprus successfully captured it for the Seleukids. Antiochos was acting as king of Egypt and he might have been crowned at Memphis. In June 168 BC, he marched on Alexandria. Victorious in the Macedonian War, the Romans now intervened, sending Caius Popilius Laenas to Egypt. In July 168 BC, Antiochos was forced to leave Egypt, sailing from Pelusion, and Cyprus was returned to Egyptian rule. Rome’s intervention had saved Egypt as an independent kingdom, but the royal family increasingly relied on Roman support in their dynastic disputes.

SYRIAN WAR (103–101 BC). Partly territorial, but principally a dynastic war, of Kleopatra III and Ptolemy X Alexander I against Ptolemy IX Soter II. The conflict also involved the rival Seleukid kings, Antiochos Cyzicenus and Antiochos Grypus (both of whom had married daughters of Kleopatra III), and the Jewish high priest and king, Alexander Iannaios. Documents from Pathyris reveal that troops from Upper Egypt were being mobilized by June 103 BC.

The war began when Iannaois moved to conquer Ptolemais (Ake) in the late winter of 103 BC. Its inhabitants appealed to Soter II who arrived from Cyprus with an army of 30,000, but the city refused to admit him. Iannaios proposed to Kleopatra III that they launch a joint attack on Soter II. Soter II now divided his army, part of it laying siege to Ptolemais, which was captured. Soter marched with the remainder of the army into Judea to punish Iannaios, defeating him at the battle of Asophon near the River Jordan. He sought the aid of one of the two feuding Seleukid kings, Antiochos Cyzicenus, whom he had supported in the past. Kleopatra took moves to neutralize the rival Seleukid, Antiochos Grypos, sending her daughter Kleopatra Selene to be his wife.

Kleopatra III and the army, under the command of the Jewish generals Chelkias and Ananias, set out for Palestine by land. Alexander I, commanding the fleet, left a little later. Kleopatra and Ananias led their forces to Ptolemais, which they besieged, while Chelkias went in pursuit of Soter II, on which mission Chelkias was killed. Iannaios came to an agreement with Kleopatra, which had the added advantage for her of creating problems in the future for Cyzicenus. With both his mother and brother in Palestine, Egypt lay open to Soter II, who now struck for Pelusion. Alexander I, who was leading a force to Damascus, turned back in order to repulse his brother’s advance, in which he was successful.

Soter’s ambitions thus came to an end, and he returned to Cyprus. Wary of Rome’s reaction, Kleopatra dropped her ambition of regaining Coele Syria or of making Judaea a province. She installed a garrison in Ptolemais and returned to Egypt sometime in 102 BC, leaving Iannaios to expand his power further.

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