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

By Mario Liverani | Go to book overview
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12
War as Elimination of the Rebels

Before leaving for war, the army has to be reassured that the enemy is really inferior, lacking any ability to resist and launch a counter-attack. For magical purposes, the Egyptians broke clay figurines representing their enemies and inscribed with their names. 1 The Hittites performed various rituals, mostly based upon magical procedures:

They divide the young men into two halves, and they name them: one half they call ‘men of Hatti’ and the other half they call ‘men of Masha’. The men of Hatti have bronze weapons, the men of Masha have reed weapons. They fight together and the men of Hatti win. 2

We made two figurines, one of cedar and one of clay. On the one of cedar we placed the name of the enemy of His Majesty, and on the one of clay we put the name of Hishmi-Sharruma. 3

Take from them (= the enemies) masculinity, prowess, robust health, swords, battle-axes, bows, arrows, daggers! And bring them to Hatti! Place in their hands the spindle and mirror of a woman! Dress them as women! Put on their (heads) the kureššar (headgear for women)! And take away from them your favour! 4

Deprived of their gods, weapons and valour, their enemies now fitted perfectly the idea of an inferior entity, whose impotence is paralleled by their wickedness and foolish insubordination.

Besides being reassured about their military superiority, our soldiers also have to be reassured about the moral correctness of their actions. The ‘guilt complex’, always connected with the act of killing, has to be appeased. This is achieved by spreading the conviction that the enemies

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