Tuthmosis III, the Greatest Military Pharaoh of All Time

FROM THE LECTURE SERIES: History of Ancient Egypt

By Bob Brier, Ph.D., Long Island University

Tuthmosis III became the king of Egypt after Hatshepsut, the only female pharaoh, who had built impressive obelisks that stand to date. He did not have an easy job as the new king, but not only did he outperform Hatshepsut in many aspects, he also overtook all the pharaohs that ever existed in a few aspects. He pioneered some things and carved his name in history. How did he do all this?

Photo shows Egyptian hieroglyphs.
Tuthmosis III had enough military training and enthusiasm to march up to Syria every year for tribute and booty. (Image: Lui, Tat Mun/Shutterstock)

When Hatshepsut began ruling over Egypt, Tuthmosis III was too young to be crowned. However, Hatshepsut ruled much longer than he needed to become old enough: 22 years. Most probably, he was sent to military training. He married Hatshepsut’s only daughter, who died very early and left him, but that was enough to make him the next king. When Hatshepsut died, he started to finally rule.

Marching to Megiddo

In his second year as king, Tuthmosis III marched with his army to Megiddo in the north, present-day Syria and Palestine. All kings before him, including Hatshepsut, had marched to Nubia in the south. However, Hatshepsut was not the most military-wise active king. Thus, Syria and Palestine were growing independent.

Photo shows Hatshepsut's sculpture.
Queen Hatshepsut’s statue also looks like Tuthmosis III in terms of their noses. She made Tuthmosis wait 22 years before gaining the crown. (Image: BlackMac/Shutterstock)

Both countries used to send tribute to Egypt to keep them from attacks, but now they were stopping it, and Tuthmosis III was not happy with it. He made his first bold move before the war really started. Out of the three ways that they could pick, he chose the one that went through a valley, not the two that went through plains. His generals asked him if that was a wise choice, and he replied that he was the falcon, the pharaoh, and he was not going to put his army in danger.

This is a transcript from the video series History of Ancient Egypt. Watch it now, on The Great Courses Plus.

The First Victory

The army followed Tuthmosis III into the valley, surprised the army at Megiddo, took them off guard, and wiped them out. The military scribes say that the Egyptian army made their usual pile of dead enemies in the middle of the field and began taking whatever that was not nailed down. This was the normal Egyptian way: to take everything that they can bring back home.

The ones from Megiddo that had not been killed ran back to the city and made the second victory a lot harder.

The Seven-Month Wait

It was a mistake to let the enemy retreat, but Tuthmosis was only in the second year of his rule. Megiddo was walled all around, and when the Egyptians got there, all the entrances were shut. The military scribe records say: Because the men plundered, we had to siege this city for seven months.

The city had its own water supplies and enough food for seven months. The walls were also thick and strong with soldiers situated at the top, throwing down boulders in case anyone wanted to climb the wall. Thus, Egyptians invented the forefathers of today’s tanks: little hut on wheels that could protect the ones inside from getting hit by the boulders. Finally, they got the city, and Tuthmosis III went back home as a hero.

Learn more about The Fabulous XVIIIth Dynasty Rolls On.

The Next 18 Marches

Tuthmosis III marched to Syria every year after this victory. This continued for 18 years. It had a religious reason. Ancient Egyptians were resurrectionists who believed they could only be resurrected if they were buried in Egypt. Thus, they never had colonies and always had their base in Egypt.

Egyptians had the one-month march every year to remind Syrians of the tribute they wanted. Besides the amount of gold that they demanded, they took whatever they could: cattle, people as slaves, and everything that they found useful. The Syrians would not send the tribute if the Egyptians did not remind them, so every year, they had to go in person.

Learn more about Queen Hatshepsut.

The Constant State of War

Due to religious reasons, and as Egyptians believed Egypt was the best place on earth, they never had a large body of people that were willing to live in a foreign country. Still, they wanted the loot and tribute. They could get the wealth from other countries only with war if they did not want to colonize the country. So, this was what they did: constant wars, but never moving out of Egypt.

Tuthmosis loved it. His statues show a sophisticated face with a big nose, like the other Tuthmosis statues, and even Hatshepsut’s. Their family had big noses compared to other Egyptian kings.

Stone carved frieze in the Ramesseum temple of Pharaoh Ramses II, Luxor, Egypt.
Tuthmosis not only wrote about his military gains but also about the plants that he had seen in Syria in every expedition. (Image: BasPhoto/Shutterstock)

Every time Tuthmosis returned from Syria, he usually carved the results of his expeditions on his temple walls at Karnak in Thebes. He was the first king to write about plants in another country. Although the drawings are not accurate, he still tried to carve what he had seen on the walls of his temple.

Tuthmosis III was the greatest military pharaoh, but it does not mean he was a savage with no soul.

Common Questions about Tuthmosis III

Q: Where did Tuthmosis III first attack?

Tuthmosis III first attacked Megiddo, present-day Syria and Palestine, because it was increasingly growing independent.

Q: What is Thutmosis III best known for?

There are two things that Tuthmosis III is best known for: being the greatest military pharaoh who gained significant amounts of booty from other countries, and being the first king to build his tomb under the ground to protect it from robbers.

Q: How did Tuthmosis III rise to power?

Tuthmosis III was somehow held back from the throne by Hatshepsut, but he married her daughter and after Hatshepsut died, he became the new king of Egypt.

Q: What was the relationship between Thutmosis III and Hatshepsut?

Tuthmosis III was the nephew and stepson of Queen Hatshepsut. He also married Hatshepsut’s daughter, who died at a very young age.

Keep Reading
Religion and Deities of Ancient Egypt
Religious Order of Ancient Egypt
Private Religion and Monotheism in Ancient Egypt