Subtitle - How International
Relations Shaped The Ancient Near East, Oxford Univ. press, 2010, index,
bibliography, notes, illustrations, maps, time line, list of personalities,
recommended reading, paperback
This book is a delight to read. Dr. Podany published it before her book and
lecture on the History of Mesopotamia, but
I listened to and read the text of that book first. Thus, when reading this one
I can hear her voice as if she were presenting this as another lecture. The
time frame for this book is more limited than the other, which includes
Mesopotamia from Neolithic times to the Persian conquest, But this one is more
extensive in geographic inclusion as it also includes Egypt, Anatolia, and the
parts of the Eastern Mediterranian that participated in 'international' trade.
And that is the subject of this book - but a narrow and specific kind of
international trade. The book reveals a fascinating and (I believe) well know
to scholars but little known to the general reader 'trade'. This is the highly
organized 'gift giving' conducted by the 'brotherhood' of kings - especially
among the 'high kings' that is 3 or 4 or sometimes 5 rulers of the major
powers; Egypt, Mittani, Babylonia, Assyria, and Hatti. Dr. Podany's book is
based on the surprisingly large troves of cuneiform tablets found mostly in
various royal palaces or even private homes. But even this large harvest of
tablets is limited in the content of topics discussed. One of the remarkable
collections is called the 'Amarna letters' since it was found in the Egyptian
palace archives at Amarna, Egypt. ( The Amarna letters are catalogued
and available on Wikipedia.
Another remarkable fact is that they are written in Akkadian language - not
spoken by either the Egyptians nor the senders, nor read by the kings who
generally could not even read their own languages. The documents were read to
them by their own scribes and/or by the visiting diplomats.
Dr. Podany is meticulous in her copious notes citing her scholarly sources. And
the notes indicate the large volume of recent scholarship on Mesopotamia and
the ancient Near East. The bibliography shows the same thing. The student today
should be critical of any books published before WWII on this subject.
But based on these documents plus much other archeological research and
documents Dr. Podany fills in many otherwise missing details. She is careful to
distinguish between what is most likely known and what she presumes from what
evidence is available.
In her epilogue Dr. Podany writes her own words of caution: "This book has
barely scratched the surface of its topic. Each event, city, and character
touched on could be expanded into an entire book, and, indeed, each of them has
been studied and written about by a great many scholars.... As with any field
of history, scholars can use the same evidence to argue for somewhat different
conclusions. In exploring the ancient Near East, historians have plenty of room
to disagree with one another because there are so many gaps in our
One of the central subjects Dr. Podany discusses is the remarkable, extensive
'gift exchanging' in which the various kings engaged - according to customary
protocols - great king to great king as equals - and lesser king to a greater
king as a subordinate. The activity and its significance to these kings is
shown for us in the elaborate letters they sent to each other announcing the
'gifts' being sent and complaining about 'gifts' being received or not
received. She comments on the purposes for this activity, but I believe much
more can be seen in it. For instance, what constituted 'luxury gifts', and why
were specific items asked for or offered? What were the specific purposes the
various kings had in mind for each exchange. The reader looks for discussion of
the interaction of economic and political means to achieve personal end
including psychological ones.
The list of characters, time line, and maps she provides are very useful -
especially the extensive list of names, obscure to the general reader. I
include some of these below. I hope my comments here will encourage the readers
to buy and enjoy the book.
More reviewer thoughts:
Dr. Podany has written a masterful , vivid description of her subject - the
evolution of diplomacy between kings in the Near East, focused on the period
generally from 2300 to 1200 BC. Her full quotations from the personal letters
sent between these kings reveal much more than the content's subject and her
reconstruction of the background and a eye-witness view of the delivery add
immeasurably to both understanding and enjoyment of the story.
But there is even more to gain from this correspondence. These are the
personal, and that means very intimate thoughts of both senders and recipients
of these missives. The letters reveal much, for instance their motives, their
presumptions, the belief systems in which they conduct affairs, and more.
These are absolute rulers, but all rulers depend on two fundamental beliefs
held by themselves and their subjects. These are that they are the exclusive
source of betterment for their subjects motivated to achieve that, plus that
their subjects believe that there are no other sources available to the
subjects for their own betterment than the favor of and capability of the
The kings who are sending 'gifts' to each other are sending their OWN personal
property, not government property nor societies' property. They have the
absolute authority to send 'gifts' to anyone they choose. "Gifts' means
'gifts' - no economic commerce is involved. But reciprocity is jealously
demanded to the extent it can be achieved. It is evidence of the acceptance by
the foreign king of their friendship.
They desire assets that they do not have available domestically and are willing
to send assets of which they have a surplus or are at least willing to part
Take the Egyptian king; he owns all his gold by virtue of edict and it is free
to him and he has more than he can use, even lavishing much of it in the tombs
of predecessors. Its display is a means for a psychological end - evidence of
his power. He also has the enjoyment of more Egyptian women than he can
accommodate, and also even foreign women. But what he does not have is foreign
Princesses. These can only be obtained by diplomacy and agreement with foreign
kings. It is clear to everyone, subjects and allies and foreign rulers that the
king has achieved something evidencing his power when he displays a foreign
princess. No foreign king would be willing, not to mention eager, to send his
own daughter to just any foreigners. Moreover the Egyptian king further
evidences his power by refusing to send his own daughters and other Egyptian
princesses to a foreign king.
The other kings, in turn, absent Egyptian princesses, are eager to display gold
and other precious items to their guests and subjects as evidence of their own
power, and of the friendship of other Great Kings. They say so right in the
letters when stating why they want gold. And all of this psychological
motivation comes from the fundamental political- military- economic reality of
the era and the several kings' recognition of it.
As Dr. Podany briefly notes, subsequently, several centuries later, that
environment had changed greatly and the subject content of diplomatic letters
changed with it. But not the fundamental motivation of rulers to enhance their
own 'betterment'. That persists to the present time.
Next, the matter of treatment of 'gods'. Just as the ancient communities could
not conceive of themselves lacking a ruler to avoid the inherent tendency
toward social chaos, so too they could not conceive of the society lacking a
powerful 'god' to ward off the inherent chaos in the natural environment. Each
community recognized the potential support of their own god, but also accepted
that every other community would have its own equally legitimate protecting
'god'. There was not understanding of such a abstract concept as 'religion'
needed. It was then an inherent responsibility of the ruler - king - to
propitiate the 'god' with precise liturgy. And the king would profess to his
subjects his own personal responsibility to care for his subject both in the
social sphere and in the natural sphere. He might go to war in reality for his
own personal aggrandizement, but always to the public at the behest of either a
direct statement from the 'god' or with the 'gods' approval.
Dr. Podany describes the results when a great Hittite king, having conquered
all he could, nevertheless fell due to his violation of two oaths sworn to his
most powerful 'god'.
Dr. Podany starts right off in her delightful style telling us about a very
special (historically) but generally overlooked tablet of baked clay in a glass
case in the British Museum - (object E 29793 and we see it in her illustration.
It is full of precise lines of squiggles). It is a letter from Tushratta,
of Mittani, to Amenhotep III,
pharaoh of Egypt and is now dated by scholars to about 1350 BC. (The first
paragraphs of the letter are here.
Wow, we are immediately excited. Of course we have heard frequently about the
great Amenhotep III, but who is this Tushratta and why did he write this
'letter' and why has it been preserved and now displayed? We know that we will
find out and learn much more by reading this book. And our author immediately
increases our interest by conjuring from her wide knowledge and understanding a
full, but (necessarily imaginary) description of the history of this piece of
clay from its creation to its display for us. Her narrative shifts from London
to a room in a brick palace somewhere in this Mittani (in northern Syria now
but never found -so far). A high official of the king, Keliya, is tasked by
Tushratta, dictating in Hurrian, to
write this letter in the 'international' language - Akkadian - with
a stylus in clay using cuneiform script. And
this is not a routine letter, no, it is an announcement explaining for
Amenhotep Tushratta's undying love, but even more, the arrival of the great
'goddess' Shaushka for a second visit to Egypt. The 'goddess' appears to us as a
gold statue, but is undoubtedly for everyone living then living Inside that
Dr. Podany describes for us the elaborate preparations for such a momentous
journey and details of the long trip on foot by Keliya, the 'goddess' in a
litter, servants, priests, soldiers and attendants across Syria, through the
Jordan valley, down the coast to the Nile. The trip takes at least six weeks.
There they are met by Egyptian soldiers, border guards, and then transported by
boat up the Nile to Thebes. Dr. Podany then describes the whole scene of the
ambassador's audience with Amenhotep and the reading of the letter. As noted,
it is in Akkadian, so it will be translated either by Keliya himself or by a
professional translator into Egyptian.
She quotes the letter exactly for us in English. She informs us that the letter
no doubt was received 'warmly'. For one reason among others Amenhotep is
married to (among many others) Tushratta's youngest daughter, Tadu-Hepa and to
This marriage is described in detail by Dr. Podany in another chapter here and
in her book on the history of Mesopotamia. The two kings have been
corresponding about many subjects for years although they have never met. Dr.
Podany continues by describing what likely happened after the audience to the
envoy, Keliya, and to the letter (safely deposited in the pharaoh's archives.
The archive was moved down river to Amarna by order of Akhenaten (another very
familiar pharaoh). Centuries passed, there is was buried with thousands of
other cuneiform tablets and papyrus scrolls (which disintegrated). Then, in
1887, the archives was discovered by peasants digging. Many of the tablets were
broken in the process, but many were distributed to museums around the world.
The scholarly process of transcription, translation, analysis, commentary
began. We will meet these two distinguished gentlemen again in Chapter Seven,
meanwhile we journey back a thousand years with Dr. Podany through several
empires that successively occupied the same territory as
Mittani and disappeared
just as Mittani did.
The Wikipedia article that mentions this event, notes that Shauskha was sent to
Egypt due to a recent illness of Amenhotep and was thought to be able to
provide a cure. She was a Hurrian goddess of love, fertility, war and healing.
The First International Community
The opening section is a means for generating interest. In this section Dr.
Podany shifts to a discussion of the broader subject - diplomacy - of which
this fun (for us) letter is a tiny example. She notes that by then the standard
protocols of diplomacy were 1000 years old by the time of Tushratta. She
discusses how the recovered cuneiform tablets enable us to learn a great deal
about all this. They include not only letters, but also full treaties, accounts
of wars and victories, boasts, administrative documents, tax records,
meticulously listed items in these 'gift' exchanges, and more. They are
supplemented by paintings on walls (especially Egyptian) and artifacts such as
statues and weapons or jewelry. All the communities and larger societies were
ruled by kings of various hierarchal standing. Diplomacy was gradually created
as a way to avoid war between them. It succeeded at times for lengthy periods
and broke down during others.
The Three Syrian Kings
As representatives of the system during widely separated periods Dr. Podany
chose three Syrian kings since Syria was at the center of the larger region.
They are King Irakab-darnu, ruler of Ebla in the 23rd century BC. The Early
Dynastic Period: King Zimri-Lim, who ruled Mari in the 18th century BC. the Old
Babylonian Period; and King Tushratta who ruled Mittani in the 14th century BC.
the Amarna Period. She remarks that these worthies were not necessarily the
most powerful rulers of their times but they happen to be men of whom we know
more about from the recovered documents. And the three eras are also
representative of the larger evolution of Mesopotamian culture from the 23rd to
the 14th century BC. And all three ruled domains that roughly followed each
other in the same location - a cresent across northern Mesopotamia and Syria.
Changes over a Thousand Years.
Dr. Podany writes that her focus in this book is on the evolution of
international relations during this thousand years. - a thousand years.! But
such relations began centuries prior to the 23rd, but that was before we have
written sources. She outlines the bok content by parts:
I about the Early Dynastic era;
II about the Old Babylonian era;
III about the changing interval of the 15th and 16th centuries BC;
then Part IV is about the Amarna era
Part I The Early Dynastic period and Akkadian
Empire, 2500 - 1000 BC
Chapter 1 - The First Evidence of Diplomacy
Dr. Podany chose the city of Ebla whose
king was Irakab-darnu as representative of Syria. It was located south-west of present
day Antioch. The population numbered about 20,000. It was a wealthy
manufacturing center for textiles and an agricultural center with olive trees
and vineyards producing wine and olive oil. Artifacts found in the excavations
show that Ebla had commercial - trading - relations with a vast area from Egypt
to the border of China. It was the capital of a territory about 125 miles
square. Most of the families worked for the palace, receiving rations from the
king - in other words payment in kind not currency. To use Ebla may seem
ancient to us, but to its people it was already 600 years old. The palace has
been excavated, and hundreds of documents uncovered, which makes it an ideal
study. It burned down in 2250 BC. Even the city's daily records were found
among many other documents including diplomatic ones.
But the city records show details of income and expense,
production and consumption, but the author focuses here on the 'international
affairs' these reveal. The wide region was the home of many such independent
cities. And King Irakab-darnu was in regular written contact with many far and
wide. They were all culturally similar and spoke similar Sematic languages.
They all had kings and established administrations and worshiped the same or
similar gods. And they had all adopted cuneiform brought from Mesopotamia
hundreds of years before. Originally it had been developed for administrative
purposes, keeping track of production and consumption - rations and payments.
The scribes in all these places were trained in similar schools. By 2300 they
had expanded their repertory to include letters, dictionaries, and text books.
Dr. Podany is interested, in this book, about the 'international', well
inter-city, relations both wars (of which there were many) and efforts toward
peace. And the kings were much interested in maintaining peace. Mari
Euphrates was one chief opponent.
She discusses at length what she terms "The first Known Diplomatic
Letter", between Ebla and Hamazi, a distant city. It stated "I am
(your) brother and you are (my) brother" a standard claim that continued
in kingly diplomatic letters for centuries. The letter asked for 'gifts' but
the protocol was that such 'gifts' would be repaid with other 'gifts' of equal
value. Such a 'gift' accompanied the letter. She also discusses the proper
protocol in the terms ' brother', 'father', and 'son'. Kings of equal status
were 'brothers'. Kings of higher status were 'fathers' and of lower status
'sons'. She also discusses a Abarsal treaty - between Ebla and that city.
Treaties also had rigid protocols in verbiage and meanings. She continues with
descriptions and analysis of other treaties and letters. Then she turns to the
matter of diplomatic marriages These also followed custom and precedent with
elaborate ceremonies and exchange of valuable 'gifts' and dowries.
She writes:" One's tendency is, perhaps, to assume that humans have
progressed a long way since the beginning of civilization. So it might come as
a surprise to find much that is familiar so early in human history".
Chapter 2 - Traders and Ships from Distant
Dr. Podany continues with Ebla, commenting that its archives list large
quantities of gold and silver despite the fact that no gold or silver was mined
in its territory. The excavations have also unearthed quantities of gold and
silver objects. Gold and silver were exchanged between the king and his
subjects in both directions. They were also significant components of the
'international' 'gifts. There were other precious objects in the excavations of
this city built of mud bricks And these came from very distant locations, such
as Afghanistan for lapis lazuli. Similar artifacts have been found in many
other cities, such as Mari and far to the south in famous Ur.
Dr. Podany switches locale to discuss the fabulous wealth uncovered in the
1920's in Ur by Sir Leonard Woolley. This leads her to the subject of
long-distance trade. Where did all these luxury goods come from and how were
they moved? She notes that even Ebla and Mari were a distance of 2 weeks
journey apart. She relies on archeologists who have found trading posts over a
She writes: "Traders had been moving around Asia for thousands of years by
the time Irakab-damu was ruling Ebla." Next, she turns to the new city,
Akkad, and its founder, Sharrukin - Sargon
us. Perhaps typically, he was never forgotten and occupies a prominent place in
our histories today because he was a ruthless conqueror. He united by force and
conquest the first 'empire' in the Middle East, extending from the Persian Gulf
to the Mediterranean Sea. For Dr. Podany he represents the era in which we have
copious documents and artifacts relating to the trade between Mesopotamia and
Dilmun (Bahrain) and Magan (Oman) and Meluhha (Pakistan). She devotes pages and
pages to vivid description of the content and methods of this international
Part II - The Old Babylonian Period - 2000 -
Chapter 3 - War and Allegiance
Dr. Podany begins with a summary. "The Early Dynastic and Akkadian
Empire kings seem to have been fascinated by lands beyond their own,
making alliances diplomatic marriages, treaties, trading relationships, and
(especially in the cases of Sargon and Naram-Sin)
As the representative of the next era, she selects an obvious leading
character, King Hammurabi of Babylon.
ruled from 1792 to 1750 BC. Again, he is especially well known today due to the
archeological finds related to him, namely the stone monoliths he had carved
with lists of his 'laws' which actually are not really laws.
But Dr. Podany actually turns to another characters, King
Zimri-Lim of Mari. And again, this is because his huge palace also burned (by
Hammurabi no less) and was left underground as it was until the last century.
Its archives contain another 'treasure trove' of baked mud tablets. She
describes how Zimri-Lim lived in opulent luxury in his 250 room palace complete
with bathroom, bath tub, and toilet with running water, while his subjects
lived in tiny mud houses. He was the last in the long line of kings of Mari.
This may be an appropriate place to interject that these ancient Mesopotamian
kings and their senior officials lived at a far greater distant economic level
from their subjects than the much attacked upper .01% do today.
The relatively extensive documentary records in the Mari archives enable Dr.
Podany ( and of course other scholars now) to comment on and analyze a much
more detailed record of diplomacy and government administration than those of
Ebla. But the general picture is much the same - letters between kings, rich
'gifts', royal marriages, extensive trade in luxury goods demanded by the
kings. But the letters and records contain much more discussion of military
issues and war than those of Ebla.
Chapter 4 - Long Journeys away from Home
I thoroughly enjoy Dr. Podany's verve and style. Her prose is fun to read even
though it is fully scholarly in content. In this chapter she switched from
court affairs to trading, especially long distance trading. She retains the
unfortunate King Zimri-Lim as the main protagonist, at least his regnal period.
She begins with a fun factoid, his scribes reported from the archives that his
letters and documents mentioned hundreds of cities, towns, and villages just in
a period of 30 years. And he dealt with 160 other men called 'brother', 'son' ,
or 'father' - all presumably kings of some place or other. She inquires, how
could he keep track of so many individuals? She offers another imaginary scene
between king and officials discussing identities. She points out that some of
the major imports from distant realms were vital for the economy as a while,
while the luxury goods were for the king and nobility. There was a high demand
for copper and tin to make bronze - for weapons and useful objects. And silver,
by this time had become the basic medium of exchange and basis for the money
supply, even though it was not coined.
She turns to a discussion of each of the foreign lands beginning with the Indus
civilization known as Meluhha. Lapis lazuli could come from there, but it
originated in Afghanistan and was imported directly from there. Next she
discusses Magan (Oman), a source of copper but direct contact had been lost so
it came indirectly from Dilmun. She devotes special attention to describe Mr.
Emn-nasir, a professional trader with Dilmun. Next, she looks back several
centuries to describe the Assyrian traders who established permanent trading
posts then in Kanesh, in central Anatolia. Returning to the king of Mari, she
describes his own personal visit to the Levant port cities This in turn brings
her to discuss the Mediterranian seafarers and trade with Cyprus and beyond.
More anecdotes and interesting personal stories exemplify this area and trade.
Part III - A Time of Crisis and Change: 1595
- 1400 BC
Chapter 5 - Attack on Babylon by a Distant
Now, back to Hammurabi's successors over 5 generations. They were confronted by
new arrivals, the Kassites. Then, in 1595 Babylon suffered a real shock when
the Hittite king, Mursili I ,
appeared with his army, having marched from central Anatolia across the
mountains and clear down the Euphrates. They captured Babylon city, sacked it,
and then returned home. Most shocking of all is that they took Marduk
his wife, Sarpanitum, with them. Left without their god, the Babylonians were
totally in a funk. By 1550 they were ruled by a new, Kassite, dynasty. A new
Kassite king, Agum-kakrime, realized the political value to himself by
negotiating for the return of Marduk and Sarpanitum, which he accomplished
Chapter 6 - A Clash Between Expanding Empires
This chapter contains the story of the clash between Egypt and Hatti as both
strove to expand their influence into the Levant and western Syria. It also
includes the first conflict between Egypt and Mittani. Most of the chapter is
about the early development of Mittani based on records recovered from other
places since the Mittani capital has never been found and very few tablets
about it have been found in other location, except Amarna and Hatti.
The section headings are: Egyptian Forces Venture North; Parattarna I - A
Syrian Match for Thutmose I; Egypt before Thutmose I; A Woman in Charge,
Hatshepsut and her death by Toothache; Thutmose III Faces Rebellion in Canaan;
The expanding Empires Class Again; Aegean Painters Working for the Pharaoh;
Gifts from Foreign Kings; Shaushtatar II of Mittani; The Land of Mittani; The
Household of a Vassal Prince in the East; A Vassal Kingdom in the West; The
Value of Swearing an Oath as a Vassal;
The first Egyptian pharaoh to take the war path was Thutmose I.
His army reached into Mittani at the Euphrates and then
retired. And the next major Egyptian invader of Mittani was Thutmose III
. During this period both Egypt and Mittani were
aggressive in attempting to expand their borders, which met in western Syria
around Kadesh. Babylonia and Hatti remained quiet.
Dr. Podany summarizes the 'international situation from Thutmose I to Thutmose
III (and the latter's contemporary Mittanian ruler Shaushtatar II as one of
increasing aggressive efforts at conquest. And she considers that both probably
had come to recognize each other's military power.
Dr. Podany mentions Mittani chariots. The reader can see that chariots are
often mentioned in the Amarna and other letters between kings, right in the
opening salutation in which the sender is inquiring about the health and status
of the family and critical assets. But she does not discuss warfare in detail.
Other books (below) credit Mittani with the introduction and development of
chariots as a source of its power. Cottrell discusses Indo-European people
being in or passing though Mittani as a source of expertise in chariot warfare.
The Wikipedia entries state that the native population of Mittani was mostly
Hurrian (non-Semetic) but that the ruling class were Indo-European (Aryan)
occupiers who probably brought the chariot technology.
Chapter 7 - Diplomatic Overtures between the
An Athletic and Aggressive King: Amenhotep II
Dr. Podany begins this chapter by jumping ahead to Egyptian Pharaoh Amenhotep
II the son of Thutmose III. He was another proudly aggressive warrior skilled
in chariot warfare and archery.
The following sections are titled: Foreign Delegations Appeal to Egypt, Why the
King of Mittani Sought Peace, How the King of Mittani Sought Peace, Why
Amenhotep II Agreed, Possible Treaty Provisions, Treaties Proliferate,
Cementing the Ties, A new Generation of Allies, and The Amarna Letters.
Together these sections describe the impact of the new aggressive behavior of
Egyptian pharaoh's in campaigning north and east of Canaan for the first time.
Both Babylonia and Hatti had negotiations previously with Egypt but at a great
distance with others, especially Mittani in between. Egyptian pharaohs had not
been active in the centuries old established diplomatic game. Now it was
critical to bring Egypt into the fold, and Egyptian self-assurance did not see
the point at first since it considered itself superior to everyone. And
Mittani, despite being powerful itself, was the front line kingdom. Plus
Mittani had three not so friendly other kingdoms - Assyria ( still a second
rate power, Babylonia, and Hatti (at first also weak) on its other sides. The
rulers considered the 'balance of power' and decided that formal peace
considerations were less expensive than warfare. Plus, they each had treasures
the others wanted and wanted treasures the others had in abundance, so why not
Part IV - The Amarna Age, 1400 - 1300 BC
We come to the culmination of the story. This is the centerpiece of the book
the most detailed accounts due to the remarkable discovered documents, and the
most fascinating and enjoyable to read.
Chapter 8 - Brother Kings United and at Peace
The major powers engaged in a remarkable interchange of letters, treaties,
'gifts', marriages, and trade. Our first acquaintances, Pharaoh Amenhotep III
and King Tushratta take center stage, but only for a time. Amenhotep was only
12 when his father, Thutmose IV died in 1391 BC. He ruled for 38 years and
Artatama I was king of Mittani at the beginning to be fallowed by Shuttarna II
(who was followed briefly by Artashurmarn and then Tushratta). At the time
Hatti and Assyria were weak, and the principal powers conducting diplomacy with
Egypt were Mittani and Babylonia. But by the end of the era Hatti and Assyria
had conquered the western and eastern half of Mittani, respectively.
Dr. Podany divides the chapter into sections: Amenhotep III: A Peaceable Man;
Assassinations and Broken Ties; Keliya's Mission to Egypt; Mending Fences;
Keliya's Return to Mittani; Tushratta: A Pious and Affectionate Man;
Ambassadors, at Home in Both Worlds;
These sections and the following chapter are mostly based on the Amarna
Chapter 9 - Diplomatic Marriages
The story continues with King Tushratta's efforts (complex but ultimately
successful) to have his favorite daughter, Tadu-Hepa, married to Pharaoh
Amenhotep III, who was already married to (among many others) Tushratta's
sister, Kilu-Hepa. The richly detailed story is an example of the standard and
widespread diplomatic policy of marrying kings' daughters to other kings. Dr.
Podany also includes a lengthy description of this marriage in her lecture on
The sections read: Preparations for Tadu-Hepa's Marriage; Bride-wealth and
Dowries: Wealth 'Beyond Measure'; Tushratta's Hopes; Tadu-Hepa's Arrival; Death
of the Pharaoh; The Roles of the Foreign Princesses; Akhenaten: Departing from
Tradition; The Gold Statues;
Chapter 10 - Luxury Goods from Everywhere
In this chapter Dr. Podany takes a break from narration of the events to
discuss this matter of 'luxury Goods'. These are the extraordinarily valuable
'gifts' passed between kings. They were strictly 'gifts' not barter, but
diplomatic protocol expected that they would be exchanged with reciprocal
'gifts' of reasonably equal value. The exchange was based on the fact that each
king had in his domain highly valuable items lacking in the other king's
domains and of course visa versa. These included, copper, tin, gold, silver,
lapis lazuli, carnelian, purple dye, fine cloth, chariots, horses, princesses
and some spices. Each king knew what the others lacked and wanted. Amenhotep
III had the most gold and he most wanted princesses, thus a fair bargain could
The chapter sections reveal the elements: Gift-Giving between the Great Kings;
Greeting Gifts; Large Shipments of Gold; Problems of the Gold Shipments; Copper
from Alashiya; A Shipwrecked Load of Luxury Goods; The Puzzle of Mycenae;
It is clear that we are considering a special kind of trade; that conducted by
monarchs (not peasants), over very long distances (hence expensive to ship), of
critically desired (hence relatively valuable) unique items. The trade is not
really economic in purpose, but politically motivated, but for some things like
gold actually psychologically important because they were desired by kings to
impress their visitors and subjects with demonstrations of their power. The
role of routine trade - exchange of goods - in the course of basic economic
activity is not the topic here.
Chapter 11 - A Crisis in the Brotherhood
The section headings tell the sad story: Tushratta's Worries; Suppilulimua's
Determination to Isolate Tushratta; The Hittites Attack Mittani; Ugarit Sides
with Hatti; More Conquests by Hatti; Hittite Campaigns in Egyptian Territory;
How Suppilulimna Saw His Successes; Strains in the Brotherhood of Great Kings;
Tutankhamen: A Young Pharaoh Ruling at a Crucial Moment; The Egyptian Queen's
Unprecedented offer to Suppilulimua.
The story is that the new and hyper-aggressive Hittite king, Suppilulimua, laid
eyes on western Mittani and northern Canaan and saw his chance with Egypt in
internal disarray to defeat Mittani by gradually slicing off its western
territory and western allies such as the wealthy seaport Ugarit. Pharaoh
Amenhotep III died and was succeeded by the 'heretic' ruler, Akhenaten, who was
most interested in totally revamping Egyptian religion and culture and move the
capital down the Nile to Amarna. He was distracted from affairs with Mittani
and didn't even send the promised gold statues, let alone troops, even when
Suppilulimua took some of his own allies in the northern Levant. Suppilulimua
was soon even able to capture the major Mittani city, Carchemish, .and also the
Egyptian vassal, Kadesh. Seeing its opportunity, Assyria revolted and retook
its ancient territories in eastern Mittani. Meanwhile Akhenaten died and so did
Tutankhamen. The final heading above relates the amazing and thoroughly
unprecedented development. Tutankhamen's widow, queen Ankhesenamen, sent a
letter to Suppilulimua asking his to send one of his sons to be her husband -
and of course pharaoh. He was so astounded that he dithered and by the time he
did send a son, the prince was murdered and an Egyptian general seized the
throne and was soon replaced by another official names Ay, and then by general
Haremhab. Multi-sided war continued.
Chapter 12 - The End of an Empire
Again the section headings tell the story: The Death of Tushratta; A Mittanian
Prince Fleas to Hatti; The Capture of Mittani; The Treaty between Suppilulimua
of Hatti and Shattiwaza of Mittani; The death of Suppilulimua; The Brotherhood
of Great Kings in Harmony Again.
The looser was the Mittani Empire. It disappeared. But the inhabitants
continued as usual and actually flourished under new management - that of
Assyria and Hatti. Egypt and Hatti continued in off and on again war,
culminating in the famous Battle at Kadesh in 1275 BC in which Pharaoh Ramesses
II ostentatiously claimed victory and the Hittites also claimed victory. But in
1245 Ramesses II returned to diplomacy and married a Hittite princess. The
Great Kings (now Hatti, Egypt and Babylonia) continued to send letters to each
other and to keep Assyria down for a few centuries.
But another loser was Suppilulimua. He died of a plague his troops had brought
back from Canaan, along with thousands of his citizens. The universal
assessment was that he had been killed by the Storm-god of Hatti for violating
two sacred oaths he had sworn to that all powerful god. His heir and successor,
Mursili II, spent years in painful abnegation attempting to receive mercy from
Dr. Podany sums up what is known and hopes for discovery of what is still not
known, including some things she particularly hopes for. She writes that the
'brotherhood of kings' about which she writes so eloquently finally died in the
12th century BC. This is the Catastrophe that Robert Drews describes in his
book on the End of the Bronze Age. Then in the 10th century BC Assyria began to
expand and create "a new kind of empire. They fought almost constantly and
had no desire to acknowledge any other kingdom as an equal as they swallowed up
much of the Near East." She tells this story in her other excellent
Her final comment: "The near East is often described as the birthplace of
law, home to the earliest cities, and the 'cradle of civilization." It was
also home to the first diplomats and to the first kings to discover the
benefits of peaceful coexistence."
Some of the leading characters, the author
lists many more:
plus many more google entries
Enlil, king of the Mesopotamian gods;
Inanna/Ishtar, Mesopotamian goddess of love;
Marduk, Mesopotamian god of Babylon;
Shamash, Mesopotamian sun god;
Teshup, Hurrian storm god;
Ahmose, king of Egypt 1550 - 1525 BC;
Akhenaten, king of Egypt 1425-1336 BC;
Amenhotep III, king of Egypt 1391 - 1353 BC;
Artatama I, king of Mittani 1400 - 1382 BC;
Burna-buriash II, king of Babylonia 1359 -1333 BC;
Hammurabi, king of Babylon 1792-1750 BC;
Hatshepsut, female king of Egypt 1479 - 1458 BC;
Hattusili I, king of Hatti 1650 - 1620 BC;
Keliya, ambassador from Mittani 14th century BC;
Kilu-Hepa, princess of Mittani wife of Amenhotep III, 14th century BC;
Naram-Sin, king of Akkad 2254 - 2218 BC;
Ramsses II, king of Egypt 1279 - 1213 BC;
Sargon, king of Akkad 2334 - 2279 BC;
Suppilulimua, king of Hatti 1344 - 1322 BC;
Tadu-Hepa, princess of Mittani, wife of Amenhotep III and king Akhenaten 14th
Thutmose III king of Egypt 1479 - 1425 BC;
Tushratta, king of Mittani 1372 - 1326 BC.
Graeber, David, - Debt, The First 5,000
Years One of the few histories of money that discusses the topic during the
ancient civilizations in any detail.
Drews, Robert - The End of the Bronze
Age The year 1200 BC and close to it was 1000 years after Dr. Podany's
story took place. But Dr. Drews gives us a further look at what followed.
Cotterell, Arthur - Chariot Warfare
during the Amarna and for some time prior was centered on chariots Dr.
Cotterell describes in more detail than other references the chariots
themselves, their use, the training of their users and more.
Podany, Amanda - Ancient Mesopotamia
Note also the longer list of references there.
Landes, David, Joel Mokyr &William Baumol
ed - The Invention of Enterprise - In this comprehensive study of the
role of enterprise and entrepreneurs throughout history there are two essays
that are especially relevant to this book.
Chapter 1 - Michael Hudson. "Entrepreneurs: From the Near Eastern Takeoff
to the Roman Collapse" This essay describes the economic situation with
respect to money, credit, debt, public and private merchants and entrepreneurs
in Mesopotamia in broad terms and is especially interesting in the sections
that compare this with a general deterioration in classical Greek and Roman
Chapter 2 - Cornellia Wunsch, "Neo_Babylonian Entrepreneurs" is a
more detailed study of a period for which there is even more information than
in earlier millennia.
Both essays dispel the many myths and misunderstanding of overall economic
conditions and especially such topics and barter, money, credit, debt, private
and public property and business during the ancient Mesopotamia millennia.
Roaf, Michael, Mesopotamia and the Ancient
Near East - The Cultural Atlas of the World series, Stonehenge Press,
Alexandria, 1994, 238 pgs., index, bibliography, gazetteer, many illustrations,
maps, large format, chronology, king lists, glossary, This book greatly
supplements Dr. Podany's lectures, especially with the excellent illustrations
Saggs, H. W. F. - The Greatness that was
Babylon: A sketch of the ancient civilization of the Tigris-Euphrates
valley, Hawthorn Books, NY., 1962, 562 pgs., index, illustrations ,
bibliography, chronological tables, index to words, king lists. This is an
extensive study organized in part one chronologically from prehistoric times to
the Persian conquest, and in part two by subject topics including many aspects
of social, cultural, economic and political life.
Macqueen, J. G. The Hittites and their
Contemporaries in Asia Minor, Westview Press, Boulder, CO., 206 pgs., maps,
illustrations. index, notes, The author includes Assyria, Mittani, Babylon and
many other neighbors that Dr. Podany discusses with connections to the
Healy, Mark - The Ancient Assyrians,
Osprey, London, 1991, 63 pgs, index, many illustrations, paperback. This is
useful for the color illustrations not usually found in academic studies of
Assyria or the Middle East.
de Souza, Philip, ed. The Ancient World at
War, Thames & Hudson, London, 2008, 320 pgs., index, sources, many
illustrations. The first three chapters, by specialist scholars, are relevant
to the period in Dr. Podany's lectures. They are excellent.