Monday, October 10, 2011

From Memphis to Gaza--the Road to Conquest

Related to the post, below, is a check of the annals of Thutmose III and his trek with his army from Memphis to Gaza.  Unfortunately, the day in the fourth month of winter that the king set out from his northern capital is not known, but he passed the fortress of Djaru [Sile] , the gateway to Canaan in Year 22, the fourth month of winter Day 25.  It took the pharaoh nine days to reach Gaza from Djaru.

Above:  Thutmose III in middle age by M. Luban

That this is the truth is, ironically, corroborated by a Jewish traveler, Meshullam ben Menachem of Volterra, who made the same trip in 1481 CE.  Thutmose III possibly made his journey in 1482 BCE.  Meshullam, an Italian jeweler, merely wanted to see the Holy Land via Egypt, as he also wished to learn about the  Jews in that country and their number.  The traveler wrote that it was 298 miles from Cairo to Gaza and that was about the distance from ancient Memphis to Gaza, as well.   Meshullam left Cairo on the 4th of July, a time of much greater heat than the departure of Thutmose in the spring.  But Meshullam was not walking and rode donkeys and camels.  He waited  at a place called "Alhanika, that is Rephidim", two miles from Cairo, for a caravan, and left with it at dawn on July 12, reaching Bilbeis in the eastern Delta on the same day.  Meshullam figured that Bilbeis was Goshen.   The caravan left Bilbeis on the 13th of July and  arrived at a small place known as Hatara and from there "entered the desert".   Leaving Hatara, Meshullam and company got as far as Salahia on July 14 where they had to pay a tax [one of many] to the guardian of the roads and riders.  This Salahia is suspiciously Sile, which also once monitored the main way out of Egypt.  [Note of Oct. 11:  An old Encyclopedia Britannica of 1910 confirms this, stating that "Salihia" is just south of Lake Menzala and was the start of a caravan route from Egypt.] There Meshullam remained until the 15 of July and after that continued on to Rivayrar, a spot that meant "wells", according to the traveler.  On the 16th of July Meshullam advanced to Kastaia, " a fine city with many palm trees" and his caravan decided to rest there until Sunday the 18th. 

That same day Meshullam found Bir-Debur "a place of brackish water".  On the 19th El-Arish was reached.  Meshullam sensibly deduced this must be the Succoth of the Torah on account of its name meaning "reed hut".  On the 21st of the month the caravan was at Gaza.   Meshullam's journey from near Cairo to Gaza took nine days but, again, he was not on the march.  The forces of Thutmose III required nine days to reach Gaza from Sile on foot  and they made very good time as it required Meshullam seven days by camel to traverse the same distance.   It is reasonable to think that Thutmose and his men halted and rested at the same places that Meshullam did, although they probably did not have the leisure to sojourn two days at the spot with all the palm trees.   It only required two days for Meshullam of Volterra to get from Cairo to where the desert began and, at most, the pharaoh's army needed four on foot--unless they by some chance had some business to conduct at Avaris in the eastern Delta.  Were it not for that lacuna where it stated the day of departure from Memphis, we might have a pretty good idea if there were any protracted stops along the way to Djaru.  If the army went straight through, it probably left Menphis on the 21st Day of the fourth month of winter.  See my post about "Lemonade" for a description of the winged creatures that bit Meshullam and the men en route. 


Richard Paschal said...

I would be interested to learn the source used that a traveler in 1482 CE professed to be Jewish. As to the drawing of Thutmose III there is a statue of him in the Museum at Luxor where he is depicted with a pronounced nose and there is a larger statue of him in the same museum without a pronounced nose. Further, there are statues of him at the Museum in Turin and at the Museum at the University of Pennsylvania where he does not have a pronounced nose. I have inspected personally all of these statutes. There are others including a large one of him standing without a pronounced nose that was in the Quest for Immortality exhibit. His mummy I have also viewed and one can argue either way but it looks to be his nose was smashed into his face either during mummification or more likely during the time it was brutally damaged looking for treasure. My conclusion is that his nose was not pronounced in part based on the larger number of statutes of him sans a pronounced nose and what looks to have been a blow or great pressure exerted on the face of his mummy resulting in his nose being distorted.

Richard Paschal

Marianne Luban said...

I agree that the representations of Thutmose III vary but the mummy, especially from the profile view, shows it to gave been quite pronounced. If you want to know about Meshullam ben Menachem of Volterra, just do a Google. You can probably find the entire account of his trip from Egypt.