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Myths of Babylonia and Assyria

Page: 190

It is necessary at this point to review briefly the history of Palestine and north Syria after the period of Hittite expansion under King Subbi-luliuma and the decline of Egyptian power under Akhenaton. The western part of Mitanni and the most of northern Syria had been colonized by the Hittites.[410] Farther south, their allies, the Amorites, formed a buffer State on the borders of Egypt's limited sphere of influence in southern Palestine, and of Babylonia's sphere in southern Mesopotamia. Mitanni was governed by a subject king who was expected to prevent the acquisition by Assyria of territory in the north-west.

Subbi-luliuma was succeeded on the Hittite throne by his son, King Mursil, who was known to the Egyptians as "Meraser", or "Maurasar". The greater part of this monarch's reign appears to have been peaceful and prosperous. His allies protected his frontiers, and he was able to devote himself to the work of consolidating his empire in Asia Minor and North Syria. He erected a great palace at Boghaz Köi, and appears to have had dreams of imitating the splendours of the royal Courts of Egypt, Assyria, and Babylon.

At this period the Hittite Empire was approaching the zenith of its power. It controlled the caravan roads of Babylonia and Egypt, and its rulers appear not only to have had intimate diplomatic relations with both these countries, but even to have concerned themselves regarding their internal affairs. When Rameses I came to the Egyptian throne, at the beginning of the Nineteenth Dynasty, he sealed an agreement with the Hittites, and at a later date the Hittite ambassador at Babylon, who represented Hattusil II, the second son of King Mursil, actually intervened in a dispute regarding the selection of a successor to the throne.

The closing years of King Mursil's reign were disturbed by the military conquests of Egypt, which had renewed its strength under Rameses I. Seti I, the son of Rameses I, and the third Pharaoh of the powerful Nineteenth Dynasty, took advantage of the inactivity of the Hittite ruler by invading southern Syria. He had first to grapple with the Amorites, whom he successfully defeated. Then he pressed northward as far as Tunip, and won a decisive victory over a Hittite army, which secured to Egypt for a period the control of Palestine as far north as Phoenicia.

When Mursil died he was succeeded on the Hittite throne by his son Mutallu, whom the Egyptians referred to as "Metella" or "Mautinel". He was a vigorous and aggressive monarch, and appears to have lost no time in compelling the Amorites to throw off their allegiance to Egypt and recognize him as their overlord. As a result, when Rameses II ascended the Egyptian throne he had to undertake the task of winning back the Asiatic possessions of his father.

The preliminary operations conducted by Rameses on the Palestinian coast were attended with much success. Then, in his fifth year, he marched northward with a great army, with purpose, it would appear, to emulate the achievements of Thothmes III and win fame as a mighty conqueror. But he underestimated the strength of his rival and narrowly escaped disaster. Advancing impetuously, with but two of his four divisions, he suddenly found himself surrounded by the army of the wily Hittite, King Mutallu, in the vicinity of the city of Kadesh, on the Orontes. His first division remained intact, but his second was put to flight by an intervening force of the enemy. From this perilous position Rameses extricated himself by leading a daring charge against the Hittite lines on the river bank, which proved successful. Thrown into confusion, his enemies sought refuge in the city, but the Pharaoh refrained from attacking them there.


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