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Amarna tablets: Letters from foreign rulers to the pharaohs Amenhotep III and Akhenaten
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The Amarna Letters
(Late Bronze Age, 14th century BCE)
after the Amarna Revolution

To the King my lord, my sun, my god, the breath of my life... your slave and dust under your feet. At the feet of the King my lord, my sun, my god, the breath of my life, I bowed down seven times seven times. I heard the words of the tablets of the King my lord, my sun, my god, the breath of my life, and the heat of your slave and the dust under the feet of the King, my lord, my sun, my god, the breath of my life, is exceeding glad that the breath of the King my lord, my sun, my god has gone out to his slave and to the dust under his feet.
 
Who is your servant but a dog? and they prostrate themselves before the Pharaoh Seven times and seven times on both back and belly.

The tablets

Map of Akhetaten     In 1887 about 350 clay tablets were found at el Amarna, the site of Akhenaten's capital Akhetaten. Most of these are now in European Museums (200 in Berlin, 80 in the British Museum and twenty at Oxford). They are written in cuneiform characters in the diplomatic language of the day, Akkadian. Most of the letters are dated to the reigns of Amenhotep III (1402-1364) and Akhenaten (Amenhotep IV, 1350-1334).
    They reflect the lively correspondence between the Egyptian administration and its representatives in Canaan and Amurru and the state of international affairs between Egypt and the major powers of the Middle East, Babylonia, Mitanni and Assyria, and the lesser countries such as Arzawa in western Anatolia.
    Five cuneiform tablets were found naming Tushratta, a Mitanni king who was father-in-law to Amenhotep III and Akhenaten, another five from the Babylonian king Kadashman-Enlil and a few letters mentioning by name the Kassite king of Babylonia Burnaburiash, and the king of Arzawa.

 

Letters from the Great Kings

Letter of Tushratta to Amenhotep III
Letter of Tushratta to Amenhotep III informing the pharaoh, that he is sending him a statue of the goddess Ishtar.
(Source: The British Museum website)
    Kings of major powers talked to the pharaoh as equals, calling him brother and often marrying a close relative to him. The pharaohs on the other hand never saw foreign kings as being quite their equals: no Egyptian royal was ever given in marriage to a foreign prince.

Letters from Canaanite rulers

Foreign envoys prostrating themselves before Horemheb     The rulers of the Canaanite and Syrian towns under Egyptian sway on the other hand had to grovel before the pharaoh, figuratively in their letters - seven times and seven times, on the belly and on the back - and quite possibly literally when the pharaoh came their way.

Foreign envoys prostrating themselves before Horemheb (who is not shown in this illustration)

Letters found at el Amarna

A tablet found at Tell-el-Hesy

    Some of the Egyptian-Canaanite correspondence survived in Canaan
    These tablets from Retenu and Canaan document the decay of Egyptian influence in the Levant, how the supporters of the status quo were replaced, left to their own, insufficient, devices by their southern overlord. Local rulers pleaded for Egyptian help. So did at times the populace seemingly represented by a council
    And now Dunip, your city weeps, and her tears are running, and there is no help for us. For 20 years we have been sending to our lord, the king, the king of Egypt, but there has not come to us a word from our lord, not one.
W.M.Flinders Petrie A History of Egypt, 1924, Part Two, p.293

 


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Offsite links(open a new window)
These are just suggestions for further reading. I do not assume any responsibility for the content or availability of these sites
 
-The el-Amarna letters: An introduction by Ian Hutchesson.
-The Lab'aya Affair as seen in the el-Amarna letters - EA 253, EA 254, EA 252, EA 255, EA 287, EA 289, EA 237, EA 244, EA 245, EA 246, EA 250, EA 280
-The Amarna Letters: The Jerusalem Correspondence (Translation by Charles E. Carter) - EA 280, EA 286, EA 288
-Mineralogical and chemical studies of the Amarna tablets by Yuval Goren, Israel Finkelstein and Nadav Na'aman , Department of Archaeology and Ancient Near Eastern Cultures, Tel-Aviv University
-The new datum of 1012 NC
-Discovery of the Amarna Tablets by E.A. Wallis Budge
-Amarna, Capital City of Ancient Egypt
-Cartas de Amarna (in Spanish) by Jaime E. Cabria
-Ägypten liegt nicht in der Nähe" - Diplomatie vor 3500 Jahren by PD Dr. Michael P. Streck
-Amarna Letters Containing References to the Sea Peoples
-The Encyclopedia of El Amarna Research Tool (The rest of this site is mostly about 'alternative' chronology)
-The tomb of Ramose. View 47 shows foreigners being received by the vizier)
 

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© August 2000
Updates:
August 2002
November 2001

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