First Armies

Here are some quick facts on Egypt’s first armies:

During the Old Kingdom (2700-2100BC), the kings of Egypt possessed a troop of bodyguards and a small regular army. These forces were usually enough to protect trade and deal with border raids by neighbouring states. All Egyptians owed the king a labour tax, so if more soldiers were required for any reason, taxpayers were called up, trained and sent off to war.

In the Middle Kingdom (2040-1790BC) Egypt began to build an empire. The kings led large well-trained armies against Nubia. They eventually conquered it and held it as a buffer between Egypt and the warlike peoples of Kush to the south.


Bedouin and Canaanites
The Bedouin, a nomadic people of the Eastern Desert, often attacked Egyptian trade caravans. Canaanites came from the area of Modern Israel. Some traded with Egypt; others, were hostile.

To the Libyans of the arid Western Desert, Egypt’s lush Delta farmland was temptation. Given any opportunity, they invaded. Strong Egyptian kings usually repelled such attacks, but in the First Intermediate Period the Libyans managed to seize land and settle.

Nubians and Kushites
Nubians came from the south. They were trading partners and later subjects of the Egyptians. The Kushites lived south of the Nile’s Third Cataract and were a great threat to Egypt. They were not conquered until the New Kingdom (1550-1080BC).

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