Search This Blog

Thursday, March 10, 2022

ANE TODAY - 202203 -Did Kings Meet Each Other Face-to-Face During the Late Bronze Age? - American Society of Overseas Research (ASOR)

Did Kings Meet Each Other Face-to-Face During the Late Bronze Age?

By Mohy-Eldin E. Abo-Eleaz


During the Late Bronze Age (ca. 1550–1200 BCE) five great powers – Egypt, Mitanni, Babylon, Ḫatti, and Assyria – arose and divided control of Western Asia among them. Surrounded by subordinate vassals, there was a need to communicate with each other and to strengthen political, military and economic dominance and control over specific regions. This system was based on a large network of messengers, scribes, and skilled personnel. Communication was also conducted through establishing political alliances, treaties, marriage alliances, and a large quantity of royal gift exchanges.

The Marriage Stele of Ramesses II at Abu Simbel (

Although economic and security interests were fundamental to Great Power relationships, working relationships between great kings were also vital self-interests. Kings primarily each dealt with each other through deputies. Thus, in addition to official reports, kings gave special attention to non-official impressions of the personalities of their rivals, their weaknesses and temperaments. But the need to understand the personality of other kings raises the question: Did the kings and princes meet each other face-to-face?

Invitations to meet kings

Many of Great Kings often expressed the wish to see each other, and to know each other's country, as they exchanged greetings. They also frequently invited each other to attend the celebration of an important festival, or the inauguration of a new palace. For example, the Babylonian king Kadašman-Enlil I sent a message to Amenhotep III inviting the Pharaoh to attend the grand opening of a new palace in Babylonia. There are also many invitations from the vassals for the Great Kings to visit their country. But how often were these invitations taken up?

The large block of black granite dates from Ramesses II. Ḫattušili III and his daughter, Maâthorneferourê are represented (

Possible meetings between Great Kings

There is some evidence of a possible meeting in 1271 BCE between Ramesses II and Ḫattušili III in Egypt that resulted in a treaty between the two powers after the famous Battle of Qadeš. But despite a few references in the Egyptian and Hittites sources this possible visit remains a subject of controversy among scholars. Meetings between Great Kings must remain a tantalizing possibility, except in the context of battle and their aftermath.

Confirmed meetings

Times of battle were important opportunities for large numbers of kings and princes to meet, primarily thanks to the emergency situation of maintaining political and military alliances between kingdoms. For example, according to the Annals of Tuthmosis III, at the battle of Megiddo in 1457 BCE the prince of Qadeš led an alliance of 360 local kings against the Pharaoh. This battle was necessarily conducted after an unknown number of meetings that were required to assemble the alliance and to discuss war plans.

Relief in the Karnak Temple, showing Thutmosis III slaying Canaanite captives from the Battle of Megiddo. (

Meetings between the Great King and his vassals

In contrast to the rare meetings between Great Kings in Late Bronze Age, the kings of Egypt, Mitanni, Babylon, Ḫatti, and Assyria met their vassals frequently. These could be routine diplomatic conferences or summit-like crisis meetings. Opportunities for vassals to declare their loyalty and swear oaths of obedience were frequent after successful military campaigns. Tuthmosis III, for example, appointed an Egyptian chief for each city with whom the vassal leader met to swear an oath of allegiance. But Amenhotep II also met the prince of Qadeš face-to-face, who then swore an oath of allegiance to the Pharaoh, as did his children. During that visit the prince of Qadeš prepared a hunting trip for the Pharaoh to forests the south of the city. The prince of Qadeš probably accompanied Amenhotep II throughout the trip.

Sety I's battle scenes at Karnak from the early 13th century depict the Pharaoh personally receiving homage from Lebanese rulers. It appears likely that Sety sat down with these rulers to discuss the quantities of tribute, and, according to Sety, Lebanese rulers expressed their happiness at seeing him. The meeting either took place at the city of Yenoam or within the famed cedar forests of the Lebanese coast.

Sety I forces the chiefs of Lebanon to cut down cedar trees in Lebanon. (

Syrian and Levantine kings and princes also occasionally came to Egypt to meet the king and appear before him bearing the annual tribute. In the 14th century collection of diplomatic correspondence known as the Amarna letters, Egyptian vassals from the Levant frequently expressed how they much they looked forward to seeing the face of the king. Levantine rulers also had to appear at the Royal Court during the important celebrations every year. It is certain that they were met by their Great King; according to hospitality rules, they were given food and drink in the presence of the king which demonstrated his dominant position as 'father' and provider. However, an Egyptian king's request to meet represented a great burden on vassals, who often use excuses such as illness or the threat of war.

Facsimile of a painting depicting a ruler of Tunip bringing his son to court. (E. Morris, (2018). Ancient Egyptian Imperialism. John Wiley & Sons, 155)

Scene of Asiatic tribute-bearers in two registers (Tomb of Sobekhotep). (
Foreign envoys from Libya and the Near East bow and scrape before Horemheb. (Morris, 2018, 133)

Similar relationships prevailed among other great powers. After establishing domination over Syrian territory in the early 14th century, the resurgent Hittites imposed treaties on their vassals. These treaties were issued by the Hittite king, and imposed obligations on his subordinates. Vassals were also required to make periodic visits to reaffirm devotion to the Hittite ruler at a personal audience. At these meetings vassals could also request military assistance or even choose a Hittite wife, in order to cement relations further. In contrast, Egyptian princesses were never married to foreign rulers.

Crises required additional meetings. For example, in year nine of the annals of Muršili II, there was a summit meeting between Muršili II and his brother Šarri-Kusuḫ, the viceroy king of Karkamiš. The meeting was held in Kummanni during the celebration of the festival of Hepat, but the real purpose was to discuss the mounting problems in the Syrian region, and how to deal with them.

Obstacles to the meetings between the kings

Meetings between Great Kings of equal rank, who called each other 'brother,' were rare. The long distances between the royal palaces, often across unsettled or disputed territories, made travelling distances somewhat dangerous and time-consuming. In one case a Hittite prince summoned Egypt to marry the widow of Tutankamun was even murdered en route. Kings everywhere also feared internal crises and threats to the throne during their absence. But Late Bronze Age diplomacy, from Great Kings on down, was constant until the very end.


Mohy-Eldin E. Abo-Eleaz is Associate Professor History and Civilization of Egypt and Ancient Near East at Minia University.

For further reading:

Mohy-Eldin E. Abo-Eleaz, 2019, Face to face: Meetings between the kings of Egypt, Ḫatti and their vassals in the Levant during the Late Bronze Age, Studien zur Altägyptischen Kultur 48, 1-21.

--   Sent from my Linux system.

No comments:

Post a Comment