International Relations in the Ancient Near East, 1600-1100 B.C.

By Mario Liverani | Go to book overview

10
Messengers and ‘Ambassadors’

The obvious medium of communication between distant kings is the letter that a messenger delivers and, if necessary, explains. In the Late Bronze period, the complementarity of the spoken and written message is much more strict than that to which we are accustomed, the letter actually keeping the form of a spoken message. 1 Moreover its delivery is a rather complicated affair, for the king cannot read and is often ignorant of Babylonian, the ‘diplomatic language’ of the period. As a result, he needs the assistance of scribes and interpreters, and the messenger himself is expected to help in ‘reading’ the message in such a way as to convey its ‘authentic’ meaning. More importantly, since a dialogue at so remote a distance would take years to complete if reliance were to be placed solely on the seasonal rhythm of written messages, the messenger has other functions. He must also answer questions, add explanations and disclose the full intentions of the sender; in short, he must elaborate on all of those matters that could not have been put into writing. This being the case, it is of course possible that a messenger might misrepresent the intentions of his king, and this is openly admitted:

In regard to a tablet which I send you, a tablet upon which words have been set down, and (= as compared to) the words of the messenger, which he speaks orally in response to you: if the words of the messenger are in agreement with the words of the tablet, trust the messenger, o Shunashura. But if the words of the messenger are not in agreement with the words of the tablet, you, Shunashura, shall not trust the messenger and shall not take to heart the evil content of his report. 2

Of course, the role and rank of the messenger vary with the message he carries, although the terms for ‘messenger’ (Babylonian mār šipri, Egyptian wpwty) are always the same. Routine messages and administrative orders

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International Relations in the Ancient Near East, 1600-1100 B.C.
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • Abbreviations xiii
  • Introduction 1
  • Part I - Territory and Borders 15
  • 1 - Inner vs. Outer Territory 17
  • 2 - Universal Control 23
  • 3 - The Boundaries of the World 29
  • 4 - Symbolic Attainment of the World Border 34
  • 5 - The Coexistence of Different States 38
  • 6 - Moving Borders 46
  • 7 - The Boundary as a Watershed for Taxation 52
  • 8 - The Boundary as a Watershed for Responsibilities 57
  • 9 - Runaways and Extradition 66
  • 10 - Messengers and ‘Ambassadors’ 71
  • Part II - War and Alliance 77
  • 11 - The One Against Many 79
  • 12 - War as Elimination of the Rebels 86
  • 13 - Conquest as a Cosmic Organization 91
  • 14 - Peace as Submission 97
  • 15 - Ordeal by War 101
  • 16 - The Rules of War 108
  • 17 - The Battle of Megiddo 116
  • 18 - Peace as Mutual Recognition 122
  • 19 - The Ideology of Protection 128
  • 20 - The Ideology of Brotherhood 135
  • Part III - Circulation of Goods 139
  • 21 - Priority and Continuity of the Redistributive Pattern 141
  • 22 - Intervention of the Reciprocal Pattern 146
  • 23 - Accumulation vs. Circulation 151
  • 24 - Self-Sufficiency vs. Interdependence 155
  • 25 - The Ideology of Life 160
  • 26 - Hatshepsut and Punt: Trade or Tribute? 166
  • 27 - Wen-Amun and Zakar-Ba'Al: Gift or Trade? 170
  • 28 - The Annals of Tuthmosis Iii: Tribute or Gift? 176
  • 29 - The Origins of Tribute 183
  • 30 - Equal vs. Unequal Marriages 189
  • 31 - Conclusions 196
  • Chronologies 203
  • Notes 205
  • Index 233
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