The Eastern Mediterranean in the Age of Ramesses II


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The Eastern Mediterranean in the Age of Ramesses II

When their son, Kara-hardash, was murdered in an uprising, Assur-uballit intervened, deposed the Kassite claimant to the throne, and replaced him with Kurigalzu II, probably his own grandson. By , Assur-uballit had thus placed Assyria firmly on the political map. The final major player on the Eastern Mediterranean scene was the kingdom of the Hittites, called Hatti in native, Assyrian, Babylonian, and Egyptian texts. Its capital city, Hattusa in central Anatolia, is our predominant source of texts, which contain much information on political history.

The writing of that history is faced with chronological difficulties, however. In particular the absolute chronology is problematic. The Hittites did not leave king lists with the lengths of reigns, and even for the great creator of the New Kingdom Hittite state, Suppiluliuma I, scholars have made suggestions about the length of his reign that vary from 22 to 40 years.

While in practice we assign absolute dates to the individual rulers, these are approximate and may need to be shifted, especially following adjustments in Egyptian chronology. The core was in central Anatolia in the basin of the Halys River, and expansion focused especially on the south, where in its heyday Hatti dominated Syria as far south as Canaan.

It is uncertain that Hittite rule in the north and west extended to the shores of the Black and Aegean seas, although they were closer to Hattusa than was Syria. Throughout the period discussed here the Hittites showed a greater interest in Syria than in the peripheral areas of Anatolia.

The political core of their state lay thus at its northern edge. The Hittite state existed for a relatively short time, from about to It knew two periods of great regional strength, one in the seventeenth century scholars refer to as the Old Kingdom, the other from about to , the so-called New Kingdom. In between the two, Hatti went through a phase of weakness.

A number of poorly known rulers, including two with the name of Tudhaliya, led the road to recovery. In the early fourteenth century, they reaffirmed Hittite dominance over central and southern Anatolia, including the area of Kizzuwatna on the southeast coast, which Mittanni had previously controlled. They also forced Aleppo, the foremost city in northwestern Syria and the key for access to regions farther south, to shift allegiance from Mittanni to Hatti. Diplomatic marriages and the exchange of letters between the two countries show the change in attitudes.

In order to weaken the emerging Hittite power, Egypt also tried to establish good relations with Arzawa, a country to the west of Hatti, and went so far as to suggest a diplomatic marriage. Indeed, the west and north presented great difficulties to Hatti: the Gasga, a people from the south coast of the Black Sea, attacked and perhaps even destroyed Hattusa, and a client of the west, Madduwatta, conquered southwest Anatolia and Cyprus.

Ramesses II

King Suppiluliuma I ruled — reversed these setbacks, however. He destroyed Mittanni and pushed back Egypt. Suppiluliuma and his successors were at the heart of the regional power struggles that ensued after the formation of the great states of the Eastern Mediterranean. Regional Power Struggles From to a series of states had thus originated in the Eastern Mediterranean region. Domestic forces propelled the evolution of each one of them and the actions of one or more kings were fundamental in their creation.

They arose out of the Dark Age that characterized the middle of the second millennium and started by solidifying their home bases before they engaged in expansion. Pairs of primary players succeeded one another in the military competition: at first Egyptians and Mittanni, then Egyptians and Hittites, later Hittites and Assyrians. The main area of conflict between them was Syria, which formed an interstitial zone. But the conflicts were not limited to the central part of this world. Also in the east Elam, Babylonia, and Assyria competed with one another, whereas on the western fringe of the Eastern Mediterranean world the Mycenaeans fought the Hittites.

As an example of these struggles we can look at the wars involving Mittanni. That state was one of the earliest to emerge in the region, and for years dominated the north of Syria. At first its only real competitor was Egypt, whose long-distance campaigns in the north could not go beyond the Euphrates River, as this would have involved an invasion of the Mittanni heartland. The two states vied with one another over clients in northwestern Syria, but their rivalry ended shortly before when the Egyptian Amenhotep II ruled — married the daughter of the Mittannian Artatama I.

Fifty years later, Mittanni was still regarded as a major power in the region, and the kings of Egypt honored its king, Tushratta, as an equal. The diplomatic correspondence of the time — the Amarna letters see chapter 5 — tell, however, that there was trouble in the land of Mittanni: various branches of the royal family competed for power, and this struggle became internationalized because the opposing parties sought outside support. As can be expected, the situation was confused.

Information about it derives only from a variety of sources found outside the Mittanni state. The Babylonian king confiscated the troops and chariots and tried to assassinate Aki-Teshub and Shattiwaza. Artashumara: elder?

Artatama II: brother of Artashumara and Tushratta, received support of the Hittite Suppiluliuma in his claim to the throne. Tushratta: brother of Artashumara and Artatama II, placed on the throne by Uthi, whom he later killed. Outsiders Assur-uballit I: Assyrian king ruled — , whose support Shuttarna III sought in his claim to the Mittannian throne, but whose troops Shattiwaza chased away.

Piyassili: Hittite prince, son of Suppiluliuma I, who helped Shattiwaza in the war against the Assyrians. He killed his lord. Therefore he did not allow me to have an alliance with anyone who cared for me.

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I was not indifferent to the evil things that had been done in my land, and I killed the murderers of my brother Artashumara and all their dependants. Because you were an ally of my father, I wrote to you to inform you about this, so that my brother would hear it and rejoice. My father loved you and you loved my father, and on the basis of that love my father sent you my sister. Who else but you had such relations with my father? More of these events are told by the party that ultimately won the struggle for power, at the expense of having sold out to the Hittites.

Both were composed in the Hittite and Babylonian languages and all the available manuscripts were kept in the archives of the Hittite capital. Each king gave a different account of events, which makes the story more confusing, but shows the complexity of the political and military situation at the time better. In the historical introduction to his treaty Shattiwaza narrates: Before Shuttarna, the son of Artatama, [ ], changed the [ ] of the land of Mittanni, Artatama, his father, acted in an improper way.

Win lose or draw?

He destroyed the royal palace with its treasures by giving them to the lands of Assyria and Alshe. King Tushratta, my father, had built the palace and filled it with riches, but Shuttarna destroyed it and it became impoverished.


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He broke the [ ] of the kings, of silver and gold, and the silver basins of the bathhouse. Thus he brought to an end the Hurrian people. But Aki-Teshub fled from him to the land Karduniash Babylonia. He tried to kill him. He would also have killed me, Shattiwaza, son of King Tushratta, but I escaped and implored the gods of Your Majesty, Suppiluliuma, great king, King of Hatti, beloved hero of the god Teshub.

They guided me on a road without [ ]. He also eliminated the military leaders of the land, but one of them, Aki-Teshub, fled to Babylonia with a large contingent of charioteers, including Shattiwaza. The unnamed Babylonian king, probably Burnaburiash II ruled — , confiscated the men and property, however, and tried to assassinate Aki-Teshub and Shattiwaza, who fled to Suppiluliuma, the Hittite king.

They sent envoys seeking alliances to the cities of Mittanni, but Shuttarna had bribed inhabitants to back him.

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Consequently Shattiwaza and Piyassili together conquered some cities in northern Syria. Meanwhile, when the Assyrians besieged the Mittannian capital Washshukkanni its people asked Shattiwaza and Piyassili for assistance, causing the attackers to flee. The story ends abruptly as the passage where the defeat of Shuttarna was narrated has not survived.

Mittanni was not a client state, but a protectorate, which gave Shattiwaza the right to present his rise to power in an honorable way. Suppiluliuma crossed into Mittanni land and plundered Washshukkanni, and Tushratta fled. The moment of conquest came when a palace revolt happened in Mittanni. He attempted also to kill Shattiwaza, who fled to Suppiluliuma. The Hittite states: 34 the primary actors: states The god Teshub has decided his case.

When a plague caused chaos in Hatti after his death, Shattiwaza broke off ties with the Hittites, who lost the ability to interfere in Mittanni affairs. In the late fourteenth century, the Hittite King Mursili II ruled — lamented: The neighboring protectorates Mittanni and Arzawa are all in revolt. They do not respect the gods.

They have broken the oath of the gods and they seek to pillage the temples of the gods. Let loose the plague, rebellion, famine, and severe fever upon Mittanni and Arzawa. He may have been able to make Assyria independent from Mittanni, and then meddled in the political situation there.


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The Hittite reaction to his support of a royal line seems to have ended that influence, but after the death of Suppiluliuma the Assyrians may have regained control. That is at least how the Assyrian Adad-nirari ruled — presented matters. In a royal inscription he stated, using the name Hanigalbat for the country of Mittanni: When Shattuara, king of the land of Hanigalbat, became hostile to me and did evil things, I captured him and brought him to my city Assur, at the command of the god Assur, my lord and helper, and of the great gods who give good advice to me.

Marc Van De Mieroop

I made him take an oath and let him go back home. Annually as long as he lived I received his tribute in Assur.


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After his death, his son Wasashatta rebelled, became hostile to me, and did evil things. He turned to the land of Hatti for help. The Hittites took his bribes but did nothing to help him. When his son, Wasashatta, rebelled, he sought support from the Hittites, but they were preoccupied with their struggle against Egypt and did not help. Adad-nirari went on a rampage through the country of Mittanni, reaching the Euphrates, and he took Wasashatta and his family to Assur.

Although he claims that he turned the population into his subjects, his successor Shalmaneser I ruled — needed to return with the army, this time facing a new king called Shattuara II. Although the Hittites and Ahlamu nomads supported the latter, Shalmaneser claimed a complete victory: When at the command of the great gods, with the great strength of Assur, my lord, I marched to the land of Hanigalbat, I opened up most difficult paths and passes.

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Shattuara, king of the land of Hanigalbat, and the armies of Hatti and the Ahlamu, seized the passes and my watering places. When my army was thirsty and tired, their army attacked fiercely, but I beat it back and defeated it. I killed countless numbers of their large army. As for him, I chased him at arrow-point until sunset.

I slaughtered like sheep the army of Hatti and the Ahlamu, his allies. The latter used the region as a launching pad for campaigns to the north and the west. These wars continued until the end of the thirteenth century; Tukulti-Ninurta I ruled — crossed the Euphrates to fight the Hittites, and the conflict between those two states dominated the lives of people in northern Syria.

Assyria retained control over the region east of the Euphrates through administrative centers and a systematic exploitation of the land.

The Eastern Mediterranean in the Age of Ramesses II The Eastern Mediterranean in the Age of Ramesses II
The Eastern Mediterranean in the Age of Ramesses II The Eastern Mediterranean in the Age of Ramesses II
The Eastern Mediterranean in the Age of Ramesses II The Eastern Mediterranean in the Age of Ramesses II
The Eastern Mediterranean in the Age of Ramesses II The Eastern Mediterranean in the Age of Ramesses II
The Eastern Mediterranean in the Age of Ramesses II The Eastern Mediterranean in the Age of Ramesses II
The Eastern Mediterranean in the Age of Ramesses II The Eastern Mediterranean in the Age of Ramesses II
The Eastern Mediterranean in the Age of Ramesses II The Eastern Mediterranean in the Age of Ramesses II
The Eastern Mediterranean in the Age of Ramesses II The Eastern Mediterranean in the Age of Ramesses II

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