Army: Old-Kingdom Egyptian Army

[From Michael Kolb, Assistant Professor of Archaeology, Northern Illinois University]

Please see background discussion, below.

Constructing an Old Kingdom army is somewhat conjectural since little written records exist about Egypt's early conflicts. They army would be spear and archer heavy with no horse or chariots since they were not introduced into Egypt until the Middle or second Intermediate.

One interesting option would be to devise different armies for both lower and upper Egypt, since so many of their conflicts were centered around centralized control and a united pharohship. I would suspect there would be little difference except perhaps with the deities/spirits.

The army I am constructing consists of 15mm Peter Pig Old Kingdom Egyptians who have the typical arched-door full shields, and waist-robes painted the appropriate bright colors (I have yet to purchase the creatures). I am going for the Egyptian mural look: robes are painted white, with blue, red, orange, or pink trim added as appropriate, and then washed with a light brown to give it a papyrus-look. Skin is painted with a bronzed flesh look, then washed with a red to give skin a reddish sun-burnt appearance. Some Upper Egyptian units are getting a black wash to represent Yammish (Nubian) units.

Unit Type
Point Cost
1General   150
1Wizard Ptah (see background discussion, below) 100
1 Foot Hero   20
1 Elite Undead HW Mummy 40
1 Large Monster Sphynx 80
5 Spear   360
7 Bow   140
1 Elite Bow   30
1 Elite Blade   40
4 Irregulars   40


Change from FR! conventions include one Elite bow, 1 Elite Mummy (any ideas for figures?), and no chariots.


The most famous Old Kingdom Generals is Narmer (3100 BC), First Pharoh of Egypt, unifier of both Upper and Lower lands. A Sphynx would make a great Large Monster, and deities could be classed as either major spirits or wizards.

An interesting general wold be Pepi II (circa 2250 BC), last Pharoh of the Old Kingdom. He sent his army on numerous "trading expeditions' to Yam (Nubia/Sudan). His general Harkhuf (read Hero) found a dancing dwarf (read Wizard) with magical powers.

I would not permit more than one deity per army, particularly those who did not get along. Deities would not be killed, but ony banished from the battle field. They would not submit to capture.

Prominent Old Kingdom Gods/Goddesses

Isis (Sat) was the greatest of the goddesses and held power from everything from family life to fertility. Isis is depicted as a woman wearing a vulture head-dress and the solar disk between a pair of horns. Occasionally she wears the double-crowns of the North and the South with the feather of Maat, or a pair of ram's horns. Isis as a woman (not a goddess) is portrayed with ordinary head-dress, but with the cobra over her forehead. In the Book of the Dead, Isis is regarded as the giver of life and food to the dead. She was a great magician and is famous for the use of her magical skills. For example, when she created the first cobra and used it's venomous bite to coerce Re into revealing his secret name. She would make a good Cleric.

One of the most famous Old Kingdom gods was Amon (Amen, Amun, Ammon, Amoun). He was the patron god of Thebes, he was usually depicted in human form wearing the crown of Upper Egypt. He was viewed (along with his consort Amenet) as a primordial creation-deity. Up to the time of the XIIth Dynasty Amon was a god of no more than local importance, but as soon as the princes of Thebes had conquered their rival claimants to the rule of Egypt, and had succeeded in making their city a new capital of the country, their god Amon became a prominent god in Upper Egypt. It was probably under that dynasty that the attempt was made to assign to him the proud position which was afterwards claimed for him of "king of the gods". Amon was represented in five forms: as a man holding in one hand the sceptre, and in the other the symbol of "life"; as a man with the head of a frog; as a man with the head of a cobra; as an ape; as a lion crouching upon a pedestal. Make Amon a Wizard.

Shu is a very old god whose name means "dry, parched, withered." He was associated with the heat of the sunlight and the dryness of the air. Shu is considered to be the god of the space and light between the sky and the earth. Shu was believed to hold power over snakes and he was the one that held the Ladder the deceased used to climb to heaven. Shu was depicted as a man dressed in blue. Air Shaman.

Sobek (Sebek) was an ancient crocodile-god. He was worshipped in cities that depended on water, such as the oasis city of Arsinoe (Crocodilopis), where the reptiles were kept in pools and adorned with jewels. He was portrayed as a man with the head of a crocodile, or just as a crocodile. In the Book of the Dead, he assists in the birth of Horus and helps to destroy Seth. Could be a Magic-casting Monster.

One of my favorite Old Kingdom deities is Ptah, a local god of Memphis and patron of craftsmen. Legends say he knew the true names of all the things in the world and thereby caused them to spring to existence. He was also the builder of the heavenly body on which the souls of men would dwell in the afterlife. Other myths say he worked under Thoth's orders, creating the heavens and earth as Thoth specified. Ptah is depicted as a bearded man wearing a dark-blue skullcap and shrouded as a mummy. His hands emerge from wrappings in front of his body and hold the Uas (phoenix-headed) scepter, an Ankh (hieroglyph meaning "Life") and a Djed (sign of stability). Ptah would make an excellent Planar Wizard or Necromancer. I plan to attach him to an entourage of undead mummies. I need to find and modify an appropriate mummy figure.

Khnemu (Khnum) was one of the oldest gods of Egypt. The Egyptians' views of him changed somewhat through Egyptian history. He always was an important god and he remained so even in some semi-Christian sects two to three centuries after the birth of Christ! His symbol was the flat-horned ram; he was depicted as a ram-headed man who wears the White Crown on his head. Khnemu was originally a water-god, and as such he is shown with water flowing over his outstretched hands and wearing a jug on his head above his horns. His name comes from the root khnem, "to build". It was believed that he built the first egg from which the sun sprang. Khnemu also made the gods and sculpted the first man on a potter's wheel, and he continued to "build up" their bodies and maintain their life. Khnemu built up the material universe (with Ptah) under the guidance and direction of Thoth. Khnemu's principal sanctuaries were at the First Cataract (Elephantine and Philae). Hydromancer.

One of the most important gods would be Re (or Ra), sun god who became the state diety during the 5th dynasty. Ra is similar in apearance to Horus, being half hawk half-man, or sometimes depicted only as a hawk (you could either use Chipco's falcon-headed Horus figure or a hawk). Re, being the keeper of the Sun, travelled in a sky-galley during the day, and a barge during the night. Imagine Re as a Wizard charging with a flying war-galley (flying warwagon - 90 points). Wow!

Another Thoth offshoot was Khensu (Khonsu) the moon-god and the son of Re and Mut. His name derives from the root, "khens" which means to travel, to move about, to run. He was usually portrayed as a man with the head of a hawk dressed in red and wearing the lunar disk (a yellow helm). Khensu was a very old god of primitive times. Khensu was associated with the moon and was considered a form of Thoth by the people of Thebes. Cleric.

Sekhmet was the goddess of war and destruction and should be mentioned here as a favorite Old Kingdom diety. She is generally portrayed as a woman with the head of a lioness surmounted by the solar disk and the uraeus. The name "Sekhmet" comes from the root sekhem which means "to be strong, mighty, violent". She was identified with the goddess Bastet, and they were called the Goddesses of the West (Sekhmet) and the East (Bastet). Both were shown with the heads of lionesses, although Bastet was said to wear green, while Sekhmet wore red.

Copyright © 1999 by Samuel Reynolds. All rights reserved. Last modified 1998/08/14.
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