Egyptian-Hittite relations: The "Zannanza affair"
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The "Zannanza affair"

The account of Mursili II

The ancient Near East     While my father [1] was in the country of Karkemish [5], he sent Lupakkish and Teshub[?]- Zalmash to the country of Amqa. They left; they ravaged the country of Amqa and brought back to my father prisoners and cattle large and small.
    When the people of Misra [2] learned of the destruction of Amqa, they were afraid, for to make matters worse their master, Nibhururia [3] had just died and the widowed queen[4] of Egypt sent an ambassador to my father and wrote to him in these terms: "My husband is dead and I have no son. People say that you have many sons [or that your sons are adult]. If you send me one of your sons he will become my husband for it is repugnant to me to take one of my servants [subjectsl to husband."
    When my father learned this he called together the council of the great [and said to them] : "Since the most ancient times such a thing has never happened before."
    He decided to send Hattu-Zittish, the chamberlain, [saying] "Go, bring me information worthy of belief; they may try to deceive me; and as to the possibility that they may have a prince, bring me back information worthy of belief."
    While Hattu-Zittish was absent on the soil of Egypt, my father vanquished the city of Karkemish ...The ambassador of Egypt, the lord Hanis, came to him.
    Because my father had instructed Hattu-Zittish when he went to the country of Egypt as follows:
    "Perhaps they have a prince, they may be trying to deceive me and do not really want one of my sons to reign over them" ;
    The Egyptian queen answered my father in a letter in these words: "Why do you say 'They are trying to deceive me?' If I had a son, should I write to a foreign country in a manner humiliating to me and to my country? You do not believe me and you even say so to me! He who was my husband is dead and I have no son. Should I then perhaps take one of my servants and make of him my husband? I have written to no other country, I have written [only] to you. They say that you have many sons. Give me one of your sons and he will be my husband and lord of the land of Egypt."
    Because my father was generous, he granted the lady's request and decided to send his son.
DesRoches-Noblecourt Tutankhamen 1963, pp. 275-6
    In a much fragmented Hittite letter draft Suppililiuma as good as accused the Egyptians of being responsible for his son's death:
.... I was ready to send my son to be king. But you were already on the throne and I did not know. Concerning what you have written to me: "Your son has died, but I have not caused him any ill."
When the queen of Egypt wrote me again, you did not /////. But if you had ascended to the throne in the meanwhile, you should have sent my son back to his home ///// your servant Hani holds us responsible ////// What have you done with my son?
Concerning the fact that no blood has been spilled between us before: the blood spilled since between us is not right....
Letter fom Suppililiuma to the pharaoh, KUB XIX, 20 + Kbo 12, 23
After Juan de la Torre Suárez, La Carta de Amarna EA12: Nueva interpretación y sus consecuencias históricas.
    Much remains unclear in this affair.
  • Who was the dead pharaoh? The cuneiform name Nibkhururia of the text might just possibly refer to Akhenaten, generally called Napkhururia, though Tutankhamen Nebkheprure, transliterated as Nibkhururia, may be more likely [8], but Jared L. Miller [9], equating an Egyptian official named 'Arma'a with Horemheb before his accession, argues that Nibhururia probably was Akhenaten.
  • The identity of the Egyptian queen is unproven; Ankhesenamen seems to fit best.
  • The name of the Hittite prince, Zannanza, is speculative, though nowadays accepted by most: No names are mentioned in the correspondence. A Hittite tablet in bad shape has been found on which Suppililiuma laments the murder of a person named Zannanza, but no mention is made that this is his son.
  • The cause of death of the Hittite prince is also open to doubt: The Egyptians just acknowledge his death, while the Hittites speak of killing, but even they don't claim to know what happened, which did not prevent them from attacking Egypt. The prince may well have fallen victim to one of his father's Hittite enemies.
  • The pharaoh Suppililiuma wrote to may have been Ay, but this is uncertain.
    This affair was followed by an outbreak of hostilities. Invading northern Canaan the Hittites fell victims to a plague which they carried back to their country with devastating effects.


[1] father: Suppiliuma
[2] Misra: Semitic name for Egypt (Hebrew Mitzraim, Arabic Misr)
[3] Nibhururia: possibly Nebkheprure, i.e. Tutankhamen or Napkhururia, i.e. Akhenaten
[4] queen: in Hittite Dakhamunzu seemingly from the Egyptian TA Hm.t nsw (Tahemnesu), i.e. the King's Wife.
[5] Karkemish: The Mitanni had attacked a Hittite contingent near Karkemish in 1354 BCE. A Hittite army under Telebinu, a son of Suppililiuma, was sent and conquered most of the region. After Telebinu had returned to Kummani, the Mitanni tried to retake the conquered lands and attacked the Hittites led by Luppaki. The Egyptians meanwhile conducted raids in the region of Kadesh, and some local Syrian kingdoms tried to shake off Hittite control. The Hittites under prince Arnuwanda laid siege to Karkemish, while another army under Luppaki and Tarhunda-Zalma was sent south into Amqa. Suppililiuma joined his Karkemish army when he received the letter the Egyptian queen.
[9] Jared L.Miller, "Amarna Age Chronology and the Identity of Nibhururiya in the Light of a Newly Reconstructed Hittite Text", in Altorientalische Forschungen, Vol. 34 (2007) Issue 2, pp.252-293


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-The Zannanza affair
-Overview of correspondence in the 'Zannanza Affair'
-[8] La lettre aux hittites par Elise Devidal, Paris
-Cronología de oriente próximo y medio: Supiluliuma I


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