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Kadesh
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Kadesh

Kadesh (the most popular spelling; more accurately Qadesh) is a Canaanite city located on the Orontes River in what is now western Syria. The remains of the ancient city are preserved in a large mound, Tell Nebi Mend, the present site of a small Arab village.

Kadesh first achieved notice in the ancient world as one of two Canaanite cities - the other being Megiddo - that led a coalition of city states opposing the conquest of the Levant by Thutmose III. In mounting this opposition, Kadesh was probably guided by the ruler of Mittani, Egypt's primary foreign rival in control of the Levant. Defeat in the subsequent Battle of Megiddo ultimately led to the extension of Egyptian hegemony over the city, as well as the rest of southern Syria. Correspondence between the ruler of Kadesh and the pharaoh Akhenaten is preserved amongst the Amarna Letters.

The city is best known, however, as the location of the best documented battles of the ancient world, the Battle of Kadesh, staged between the superpowers of the 13th century BCE: the Egyptian and the Hittite Empires. An Egyptian vassal for approximately 150 years, Kadesh eventually defected to Hittite suzereinity, thereby placing the city on the contested frontier between the two rival empires. In response to this Hittite ascendancy and expansion southwards, the Egyptian pharaoh Ramesses II prepared an aggressive military reponse. The subsequent battle, fought near Kadesh, very nearly witnessed an Egyptian military disaster. Ramesses II was able to recover the initiative however, and the two armies withdrew in stalemate, both claiming victory. Kadesh, however, remained under Hittite overlordship.

The subsequent impasse between Egypt and Hatti ultimately led to what is now recognised as one of the earliest surviving international peace treaties, concluded several decades later between Ramesses II and his Hittite counterpart.