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Archers (Egyptian pítati)

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Rahotep statue

Rahotep, a superintendent of the military, and military supplies, including archers–(Note Archer hieroglyph, and quiver hieroglyph).
(Superintendent-(overseer): is 'Emir', represented by the Owl above mouth hieroglyphs, for "m-r", 'emeer'.)

The Pítati (pí-ta-ti) were a contingent of archers in the Egyptian Empire, often requested and dispatched, to support the Egyptian vassalage in Canaan, or northern Canaan. They are recorded in the correspondence of the 1350 BC Amarna letters, and were often requested to defend against the Habiru, also rogue vassal-kings and foreign troops of neighboring kingdoms-(for example Hatti), who were on the attack.

The vassal cities, and 'city-states' were constantly requesting the services-(protection) of the Pharaoh's armies, by means of this "archer-army" force, basically garrison forces. A request for lodging, and preparations of food, drink, straw, and other supplies required,[1] is often demanded by the pharaoh, for a small, or a large contingent.

The pítati archer force were mercenaries from the southern Egyptian "land of Kush"-(named Kaša, or Kaši in the letters).

The first use of Nubian mercenaries was by Weni the Elder of the 6th Dynasty, (the Old Kingdom of about 2300 BC).

A letter example--no. 337

A vassal–state letter example from Hiziru, a 'mayor'-(often referred to as the Man of the City-()), in ancient Palestine is EA 337-(EA for 'el Amarna'), entitled: "Abundant supplies ready". The letter is short, and undamaged:

"Say to the king, my lord, my Sun, my god: Message of Hiziru, your servant. I fall at the feet of the king, my lord, 7 times and 7 times. The king, my lord, wrote to me, "Prepare the supplies before the arrival of a large army of pí-ta-ti of the king, [m]y l[ord]." May the god of the king, my lord, grant that the king, my lord, come forth along with his large army and learn about his lands. I have indeed prepared accordingly abundant supplies before the arrival of a large army of the king, my lord.
The king, my lord, wrote to me, "Guard Maya," the commissioner of the king, my lord. Truly. I guard Maya very carefully." -EA 337, lines 1-30 (complete)

"Archers and myrrh"

Letter no. 3 of 5 by Milkilu of Gazru, modern Gezer:

"Say to the king, my lord, my god, my Sun: Message of Milkilu, your servant, the dirt at your feet. I fall at the feet of the king, my lord, my god, my Sun, 7 times and 7 times. I have heard what the king, my lord, wrote to me, and so may the king, my lord, send the archers to his servants, and may the king, my lord send myrrh for medication." -EA 269, lines 1-17 (complete)


Part of the debate in analyzing the army-archer-force is whether the army just annually accompanied the pharaoh's commissioner/envoy and were then extracting tribute, or whether the archer-force duty was strictly military, and in support of the Egyptian borderlands control and influence. The short time period of the Amarna letters, 15-20 years, (17?), may give an answer to the influence of the archer-forces.

See also

  • Letters from Yidya, (EA 325)


  1. Moran, William L., 1992. The Amarna Letters, p. 352-353. EA 325: Title: (from, Man of the City: Yidya): Preparations completed, (2),
    "...indeed prepared absolutely everything—food, strong drink, oxen, 'sheep and goats', grain, straw, absolutely everything that the king, my lord, commanded."

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