Kadesh - powerful city long time ago, but only a mound of debris of it was preserved to these days on Syrian plain. It was right there, where Ramesses II. and his army fought an phenomenal battle with the Hittite army in 1,274 BC. The Egyptian army had 20,000 soldiers at that time and the Hittites were led by king Muwatalli. This battle was a finale of the conflict between Egypt and the Hittite empire that lasted for more than 100 years. The conflict was about taking control over the Syrian plain as an important crossroad of business ways between Euphrates and the Mediterranean Sea.
The Hittite Kingdom
The Hittite Kingdom originated in 17th century BC, but its dominancy over this territory wasn't confirmed until around the year 1,350 BC. The Hittites seized Syria then under Suppiluliuma rule, they conquered Mitanni and gained Phoenicia (an Egyptian protectorate). The Egyptian rulers were indifferent to this distant neighbour at first, but gradually they were alarmed by influence of the Hittites in the Near East. Several Pharaohs of the 18th dynasty decided for military campaigns into Syria, but none of them achieved a permanent or decisive victory.
Seti I., Ramesses II. and the Hittites
When Seti I. came to the Egyptian throne, Muwatalli came to the Hittite throne and both sides got to an open war. But two victorious Egyptian campaigns didn't solve anything - although Seti I. defeated his rival, he gained only recognition of river Orontes as a natural boundary between Egypt and the Hittite Empire.
Ramesses II. decided to fight with the Hittites in the 5th year of his rule. But the battle couldn't be fight at Kadesh - it was a fortified city, situated strategically at an orifice of a valley, through which led most of business ways between Mesopotamia and the Mediterranean.
Preparing for the battle of Kadesh
Ramesses II. dedicated the spring in 1,274 BC to buiding up an army that was really creditable at that time - it had 20,000 soldiers, who were divided into four divisions named after the main Egyptian gods - Amun's, Ra's, Ptah's and Seth's division. Every division had both cavalry and infantry and the Pharaoh himself was accompanied by the royal garda, which was created of elite soldiers and mercenaries. Just these troops were crucial at the most difficult moments of the battle.
The battle with Ramesses II eyes
Ramesses II made every effort to made history of his campaign. This battle with unclear result was interpreted as an overwhelming victory of Ramesses II, but in fact the Hittite army was close to the victory. It was only the intrasigence of Ramesses II and the courage of his soldiers that enabled the Egyptians to gain predominance and temporarily defeat the enemy.
The battle didn't have an explicit winner and a peace treaty was signed by Egypt and the Hittite empire after this battle.