The Sea Peoples

 "...The countries which came from their isles in the midst of the sea, they advanced to Egypt, their hearts relying upon their arms. The net was made ready for them..."


"I, king Ramses III, was made a far-striding hero, conscious of his might, valiant to lead his army in the day of battle. ..."

"...(Thus) I turned back the waters to remember Egypt; when they mention my name in their land, may it consume them, while I sit upon the throne of Harakhte, and the serpent-diadem is fixed upon my head, like Re. I permit not the countries to see the boundaries of Egypt to [--] [among] them. As for the Nine Bows, I have taken away their land and their boundaries; they are added to mine. Their chiefs and their people (come) to me with praise. I carried out the plans of the All-Lord, the august, divine father, lord of the gods. ..."

Ramses III presents the prisoners to the god Amon-Re 

(The first Pylon of the temple Medinet Habu)

Text before the king: Utterance of king Ramses III to his father, Amon-Re, ruler of the gods: "Great is thy might, O lord of gods. The things which issue from thy mouth, they come to pass without fail. . . . . . Thy strength is behind as a shield, that I may slay the lands and countries that invade my border. Thou puttest great terror of me in the hearts of their chiefs; the fear and dread of me before them; that I may carry off their warriors, bound in my grasp, to lead them to thy ka, O my august father, -- -- -- -- --. Come, to [take] them, being: Peleset, Denyen, Shekelesh. Thy strength it was which was before me, overthrowing their seed, -- thy might, O lord of gods.




Ramsesses in battle against the Sea Peoples ( Medinet Habu I )

A scene depicting the naval battle between the Egyptians and the Sea Peoples, with the king in his chariot on the shore:
    Text by the king: The Good God, Montu over Egypt, great in might, like Baal in the countries, mighty in strength, far-reaching in courage (lit., heart), strong-horned, terrible in his might, a -- wall, covering Egypt, so that every one coming shall not see it, King Ramses III.

    Text over the chariot: Lo, the northern countries, which are in their isles, are restless in their limbs; they infest the ways of the river-mouths. Their nostrils and their hearts cease breathing breath, when his majesty goes forth like a storm-wind against them, fighting upon the strand like a warrior. His puissance and the terror of him penetrate into their limbs. Capsized and perishing in their places, their hearts are taken, their souls fly away, and their weapons are cast out upon the sea. His arrows pierce whomsoever he will among them, and he who is hit falls into the water. His majesty is like an enraged lion, tearing him that confronts him with his hands (sic), fighting at close quarters on his right, valiant on his left, like Set; destroying the foe, like Amon-Re. He has laid low the lands, he has crushed every land beneath his feet, the king of Upper and Lower Egypt, the Lord of the Two Lands, Usermare-Meriamon.

Ramesses and his troops in action in Djahi ( pl. 32 in Medinet Habu I )

"...His majesty marches out in victorious might, to destroy the rebellious countries. His majesty {marches out} for Zahi, like the form of Montu, to crush every country that has transgressed his boundary. His infantry are like bulls, ready for battle upon the field. {His} horses are like hawks in the midst of his fowl before him. The Nine Bows are under (his) power. Amon, his august father, is for him a shield, King -- --, Lord of the Two Lands, Ramses III...." 

 detail from Panel XII : pl.32 in MedinetHabu I


        In 1208 before our era Libyans and five other groups—the Shardana, Shekelesh, Akawasha, Lukka and Tursha—invaded the Nile Delta. An inscription on a wall erected by the Egyptian pharaoh Merneptah in the temple of Amun at Karnak describes the Libyans’ allies as “northerners” or “of the Countries of the Sea.” So modern scholars have come to call these invaders the Sea Peoples.
Some of these Sea Peoples had been known in the eastern Mediterranean for more than a century. A letter written to the Egyptian pharaoh Akhenaten (c. 1350–1334 before our era) refers to piratical raids on coastal towns in Cyprus and Syria by the Lukka people. The Shardana also had launched surprise attacks by sea, occasionally pillaging Egypt’s coast from the time of Akhenaten’s father, Amenhotep III (c. 1388–1350 before our era). Ramesses II (c. 1279–1212 before our era), too, complained about Shardana pirates who “came boldly [sailing] in their warships from the midst of the sea, none being able to withstand them.” Because of the Shardana’s reputation as fierce warriors, 19th Dynasty pharaohs sometimes hired them as mercenaries; there were even Shardana in Ramesses II’s royal bodyguard.
About a generation after the Libyan-Sea Peoples’ invasion of Egypt, Ramesses III (c. 1182–1151 before our era) met an even greater menace. Heading toward Egypt was a coalition of marauding groups that had progressed through Anatolia and northern Syria. Inscriptions and reliefs (see photos above) on Ramesses III’s mortuary temple at Medinet Habu record the threat:
  • The foreign countries made a conspiracy in their islands. All at once the lands were removed and scattered in the fray. No land could stand before their arms, from Hatti [the Hittite Empire], Kode [Cilicia], Carchemish [a city on the Euphrates in Syria], Arzawa [a Hittite vassal state in western Anatolia], and Alashiya [Cyprus] on, being cut off at (one time). A camp was set up in one place in Amurru [coastal Syria]. They desolated its people, and its land was like that which has never come into being. They were coming forward toward Egypt, while the flame was prepared before them. Their confederation was the Peleset, Tjeker, Shekelesh, Denyen and Weshesh lands united. They laid their hands upon the land as far as the circuit of the earth, their hearts confident and trusting: “Our plans will succeed!”  (trans. John Wilson, in James B. Pritchard, ed., Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament [Princeton, 1955])
Ramesses III defeated the Sea Peoples’ army, probably in Canaan. The Sea Peoples’ naval fleet, however, sailed on to Egypt, where it was decimated by the Egyptians. The Harris Papyrus, a long record of the piety and benefactions of Ramesses III, states that the pharaoh settled the Sea Peoples as mercenaries in garrison towns of Palestine and Syria. Soon after his death, Egypt lost control over Canaan. The garrisons of Sea Peoples, perhaps supplemented by more recent arrivals, gained control of a number of coastal sites in the Levant.
Who were these mysterious tribes? 
Of the many groups mentioned in the Egyptian texts, only two can be identified with a high degree of probability. The Peleset were likely the Philistines, and the Lukka were probably the ancestors of the Lycians, who in classical times inhabited southwestern Anatolia.
According to the Bible, the Philistines came to Canaan from Caphtor (see, for example, Deuteronomy 2:23), the place called Kaptara in Akkadian texts and Keftiu in Egyptian ones. Other biblical texts refer to Philistines as “Cherethites” (probably Cretans) and to part of the Philistine coast as “the Cretan Negev” (1 Samuel 30:14). 
  • The Egyptians described Keftiu as a place “in the midst of the Great Green” (the Mediterranean Sea) and depicted its people wearing Minoan-Mycenaean costumes and carrying Minoan-Mycenaean objects, such as long, conical ceremonial cups and vessels in the shape of a bull’s head. So Caphtor/Keftiu probably was the ancient Near Eastern name for Crete or for the region of Minoan-Mycenaean cultural influence (that is, the Aegean).
Archaeologists have traced much of the Philistine material culture to the Aegean. Many types of pottery from 12th-century before our era strata of Philistine cities in Palestine developed from Mycenaean prototypes, the style known as Late Helladic IIIC1. This Aegean-Philistine pottery was not imported from the Aegean or even copied from imported ware; rather, Philistine potters in the Levant simply had retained most of their Aegean traditions.
Although these Philistine ceramic traditions are predominantly Mycenaean, some Philistine pottery types reflect Cypriot styles. We know that many Mycenaeans settled in Cyprus in the late 13th century before our era, and there was an additional influx of Aegean groups into Cyprus during the early 12th century before our era. All in all, the evidence supports Israeli archaeologist Trude Dothan’s conclusion that the Philistines acquired various cultural influences as they migrated from the Aegean into the Near East.
  • The Lukka, who were also from the Aegean area, were known as seafaring pirates during the 14th century before our era Hittite and Ugaritic sources indicate that the Lukka lands probably were located in southwestern Anatolia. This corner of Anatolia was called Lycia ( Λυκία in Greek) in classical times.
The other Sea Peoples mentioned in the Egyptian accounts—such as the Akawasha, Denyen, Tursha, Shardana and Shekelesh—probably came largely from the eastern Aegean region and coastal Anatolia. Some scholars have suggested that the Akawasha should be identified with Homer’s Achaeans. 
  • The Denyen have often been equated with the Danaans (Δαναοί), a synonym for Achaeans in the Iliad.
  • According to some scholars, the Tursha are from a place in western Anatolia called Taruisa by the Hittites, perhaps to be identified with Troy.
  • Τhe Shardana came from around Sardis and finally settled in and named Sardinia their new settlement.
  • Τhe Shekelesh (Σικελοί) later settled in and named Sicily the island named formerly Trinakria and Trinakia (Τρινακρία και Τρινακία) after .



 Anubis with Ramses and his son.



 Re, Mut, Ammon, Ramses III
Tempus: ca. 1160 a. Chr. n.
Locus repertionis: Thebae (Aegyptus)
Altitudo: 42,5 cm
Materia: Papyrus
Museum: London, British Museum


Ramses III and Hathor




Different hieroglyphic cartouches* of the name of Ramses III


* The Cartouche is a representation of an oval loop of rope which is tied at the ends. Inside the oval loop are the hieroglyphs which form the pharaoh's royal names. Snefru, builder of the Bent and Red pyramids at Dahshur, was the first to introduce the cartouche in the 4th Dynasty. The cartouche subsequently replaced the serekh, or Horus name in identifying the king. During the 5th Dynasty, Neferirkare introduced a second cartouche: the first cartouche contained his throne name, given to him upon his accession to the throne, and the second contained his birth name.





Cartouche de Ramsès 3 à Medinet Habou.


Ousermaatre Mery Amon (la vérité puissante de Ré, aimé d'Amon)

Ramses heqa Iunu (Ramsès seigneur d'Héliopolis)








 Ramses III, Ramses IV and Ramses IX




Ramses III and Isis

Mummy of Ramses III