Caravans Of Treasure And A Goddess Go To Egypt

Caravans Of Treasure And A Goddess Go To Egypt

Although King Tushratta, the Hurrian King of Mittani, (ca.1372-1324 B.C.E.) had his troubles with Egypt in the past, at the height of the Amarna Age he would send his daughter, Tadhukhipa, to be a bride for the Pharaoh Akhenaten (ca. 1353-1335 B.C.E.). Several letters from the Amarna Archive show the lengths that Tushratta was willing to go to impress his intent of goodwill upon the Pharaoh. Caravans Of Treasure And A Goddess Go To Egypt

A Marriage Alliance Is Established

Amarna letter 21, (EA 21), is the first in a short series of letters that list the vast array of gifts being sent from Mittani to Egypt as part of the negotiation for this marriage alliance between these two late bronze age powers. In this letter, after a traditional greeting and a bestowal of blessings upon the coming marriage, Tushratta announces the return of the Egyptian diplomats, Mane and Hane, who had been sent as the Pharaohs representitives to the Mittani court earlier in the negotiations. Following the language of the previous letter, EA 20, it seems possible that these men had remained as virtual hostages in Mittani until the marriage alliance between the two kingdoms could be finalized. Now they are to be returned with a man named Nahramashshi, who is identified as Tushrattas brother.

Whether or not Nahramashshi can be seen as Tushrattas actual familial relation, or just a close associate, is unknown. However, this Mittanni messenger apparently brought with him to Egypt the first in a series of remarkable gifts. This particular offering is described as a necklace made of lapis-lazuli and gold, and went with a wish that, [it may] lay on the neck of my brother for 100,000 years”.

A Catalog of Gifts

The next letter found in the archive, EA 22, is an inventory of thousands of items sent as part of the Princess Tadhukhipa’s official dowry. The letter lists at least 170 separate entries, some of them denoting thousands of items such as large bundles of arrows of all types, and hundreds of ornate bows. The list is highlighted by a golden chariot and a set of ornate gold weapons. Additionally, several daggers and maces are listed as being made of iron which was, at the time, a rarity.

Other dowry items on the list include the expected garments and scented oils, as well as more specialized items, such as alabaster figurines set with lapis-lazuli inlays. Although the number of luxury goods is extensive, the inventory is most striking for its inclusion of large amounts or arms and armaments of both ornate and functional designs.

The Healing Goddess Shaushka

Sometime after the arrival of this fantastic dowry in Egypt it is believed that word reached the Mittani King that the Pharaoh Akhenaten has fallen ill. The next letter in the series, EA 23, tells of Tushratta’s interesting response to this news. In this short letter, Tushratta quotes the goddess Shaushka as saying, I wish to go to Egypt, a country that I love, and then return. Without further ado, Tushratta announces he is sending a statue of the goddess to the pharaoh. Caravans Of Treasure And A Goddess Go To Egypt

In the Late Bronze Age mythos, Shaushka is the Hurrian name for the more widely known Ishtar, commonly regarded as a goddess of healing, war, and fertility. The fact the Mittani King sent a statue of her to Egypt was not without precedent, as Tushratta mentions in his letter. Apparently some time in the past this same statue had already made the journey to Egypt, and was, in due time, returned. Although she did arrive at the Amarna Pharaohs court, the actual illness of the Pharaoh remains a mystery.

These letters, and a few others from the archive, encompass a large part of our knowledge about the Mittani Kingdom. Its many generations of rule in Syria was ending and, within a decade of this diplomatic marriage alliance with Egypt, the Kingdom would be reduced to a vassal state torn between the Hittites and the Assyrians. Although a wealthy kingdom at the time of the Amarna Letters, with the ability to send an enviable dowry along with its daughter for the pharaoh to wed, within a century the proud land would vanish altogether from the pages of history until rediscovered in modern times. Caravans Of Treasure And A Goddess Go To Egypt

Sources:

Klengel, Horst. Syria: 3000 to 300 B.C. (Akademie Verlag.)

Moran, William, The Amarna Letters, (Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press)

Roaf, Michael, Cultural Atlas of Mesopotamia, (Andromeda, Oxfordshire.)

Shaw, Ian. The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt. (Oxford University Press, Oxford.)

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