A by-product of the traditional battle axes used in the Bronze Age, the khopesh sword was used to arm the fierce warriors of the Ancient Egyptian Empire. Many scholars and historians define the khopesh as a sickle-sword due to its curved point. Sickle-swords were commonly used during battle by ancient civilisations in the Middle East, North Africa and the Indian subcontinent.
A photograph of an authentic khopesh being displayed at the Lourve in France.
A famous monument called the Stele of the Vultures from the Early Dynastic III Period (2600-2350 BC) displayed King Ennatum of Lagash holding a khopesh and is the earliest recorded sighting of the sword. The monument was based on a battle between the Lagash and Umma city-states in Mesopotamia. Now known as modern-day Iraq, Mesopotamia was a region in the Middle East where historians believe the first khopesh was forged. Following its inception, the khopesh started being distributed to Syrian and Caananite warriors before making its way to Egypt during the New Kingdom Period.
Dimensions and Capabilities
Most khopesh swords are generally 50-60cm long but do come in smaller variations. While the weapon was originally forged using bronze, many swordsmiths began using iron to create the khopesh throughout the New Kingdom Period. During combat, many warriors used the curved tip of the sword to hook away their enemies shield or latch onto their arm to gain control of the opponent. Warriors could also slash, stab or thrust into their opponents due to the unique shape of the sword. Despite combat being its primary use, the khopesh was also used as a tribute for many high-ranking Ancient Egyptians. Unlike the common khopesh, the swords used as tributes weren't sharpened and have been uncovered in the tombs of several Ancient Egyptian Pharaohs including Tutankhamun's.
When American archaeologist Howard Carter first uncovered the prestigious Tomb of Tutankhamun, he found 2 khopeshes buried within its chambers.
Forged For Victory
Throughout the New Kingdom Period, Ancient Egypt was considered one of the most powerful empires in the world. Wielding the deadly khopesh, Ancient Egyptian warriors conquered many of their neighbouring enemies during this period. In late May of 1274 BC, the New Kingdom of Egypt began warring against the Hittite Empire during the Battle of Kadesh. Slicing through their enemies using the khopesh, the Egyptians were able to hold off the valiant Hittite forces and register a strategic victory over their rivals.
For many years the Ancient Egyptian warriors wielded the khopesh in battle. Using our Sword Guide, you can now find what blade channels your inner warrior.
Before the clash between the Egyptian and Hittite forces, the khopesh was also used in the Battle of Qadar by Neo-Assyrian warriors. The Neo-Assyrian forces faced the 12 Kings Alliance that included the Kingdom's of Arabia, Israel and Damascus. Although the battle ended without a clear result, the Neo-Assyrians were able to fend off the mighty alliance despite being outnumbered. Needless to say, the khopesh was a highly effective weapon and helped many armies succeed during combat.
Inspiring the Future Generations of Swords
Scholars believe that the khopesh was phased out from 1300 B.C onwards. Although the sword wasn't being used, it continued to inspire the future generation of weapons. Many empires started using sickle-swords that resembled the khopesh, such as the kopis (AKA the machaira) wielded by the Greeks. Sickle-swords were also found in African regions including Rwanda and Burundi. Dravidian regions like Southern India also forged swords that resembled the khopesh. Unlike a traditional blade, the curved shape of the khopesh allowed warriors to perform a variety of advanced techniques. Its unique capabilities may have inspired the other civilisations to gain an advantage on the battlefield by creating a similar sword.
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