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Myths of Babylonia and Assyria

Page: 149

The Egyptian natives, ever so eager to sell antiquities so as to make a fortune and retire for life, offered some specimens of the tablets for sale. One or two were sent to Paris, where they were promptly declared to be forgeries, with the result that for a time the inscribed bricks were not a marketable commodity. Ere their value was discovered, the natives had packed them into sacks, with the result that many were damaged and some completely destroyed. At length, however, the majority of them reached the British Museum and the Berlin Museum, while others drifted into the museums at Cairo, St. Petersburg, and Paris. When they were deciphered, Mitanni was discovered, and a flood of light thrown on the internal affairs of Egypt and its relations with various kingdoms in Asia, while glimpses were also afforded of the life and manners of the times.

The letters covered the reigns of Amenhotep III, the great-grandson of Thothmes III, and of his son Akhenaton, "the dreamer king", and included communications from the kings of Babylonia, Assyria, Mitanni, Cyprus, the Hittites, and the princes of Phoenicia and Canaan. The copies of two letters from Amenhotep III to Kallima-Sin, King of Babylonia, had also been preserved. One deals with statements made by Babylonian ambassadors, whom the Pharaoh stigmatizes as liars. Kallima-Sin had sent his daughter to the royal harem of Egypt, and desired to know if she was alive and well. He also asked for "much gold" to enable him to carry on the work of extending his temple. When twenty minas of gold was sent to him, he complained in due course that the quantity received was not only short but that the gold was not pure; it had been melted in the furnace, and less than five minas came out. In return he sent to Akhenaton two minas of enamel, and some jewels for his daughter, who was in the Egyptian royal harem.

Ashur-uballit, king of Ashur, once wrote intimating to Akhenaton that he was gifting him horses and chariots and a jewel seal. He asked for gold to assist in building his palace. "In your country", he added, "gold is as plentiful as dust." He also made an illuminating statement to the effect that no ambassador had gone from Assyria to Egypt since the days of his ancestor Ashur-nadin-akhe. It would therefore appear that Ashur-uballit had freed part of Assyria from the yoke of Mitanni.

The contemporary king of Mitanni was Tushratta. He corresponded both with his cousin Amenhotep III and his son-in-law Akhenaton. In his correspondence with Amenhotep III Tushratta tells that his kingdom had been invaded by the Hittites, but his god Teshup had delivered them into his hand, and he destroyed them; "not one of them", he declared, "returned to his own country". Out of the booty captured he sent Amenhotep several chariots and horses, and a boy and a girl. To his sister Gilu-khipa, who was one of the Egyptian Pharaoh's wives, he gifted golden ornaments and a jar of oil. In another letter Tushratta asked for a large quantity of gold "without measure". He complained that he did not receive enough on previous occasions, and hinted that some of the Egyptian gold looked as if it were alloyed with copper. Like the Assyrian king, he hinted that gold was as plentiful as dust in Egypt. His own presents to the Pharaoh included precious stones, gold ornaments, chariots and horses, and women (probably slaves). This may have been tribute. It was during the third Amenhotep's illness that Tushratta forwarded the Nineveh image of Ishtar to Egypt, and he made reference to its having been previously sent thither by his father, Sutarna.


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