The Ideology of Brotherhood
With its unmistakable suggestion of domination, the ‘protection’ metaphor, even if reciprocal and multi-directional, is best reserved for unequal relationships: those between a great and a small king, or between a king and his officials. Where peer relations are concerned, it is much better to employ another metaphor, also springing from family and small group relationships, namely, the metaphor of ‘brotherhood’ (ahhūtu). 1 The legal procedure of ‘adoption in brotherhood’ was so common in the Late Bronze age that the metaphor had no problem in being perfectly understood and widely accepted. ‘Brotherhood’ is a conventional relationship, but it has the same force and meaning as one of blood. It is therefore one that is perfectly convenient for the expression of a political alliance between peers, emphasizing (in comparison to other more technical terms) 2 the personal and voluntary involvement of the partners. Moreover, intermarriage between royal families was intensive enough to supply a further incentive and justification for using the metaphor. Many kings were in fact linked by brother-in-law relationships, and many more were always involved in negotiations with this end in view: ‘Are you not looking for brotherhood and good relations, in order to keep closer each other, when you write to me about marriage? And I, just for that, for brotherhood and good relations, in order to keep closer each other, I write to you about marriage.’ 3
The cumulative effect of intermarriage and conventional brotherhood is the ground for considering all the royal houses as belonging to a unique extended family in an international setting. The class feeling, the consciousness of the homologous structure of the political hierarchy in every kingdom, produce a horizontal solidarity no less important than the vertical ‘national’ solidarity which is sharply fractured by the basic distinction between lords and servants.
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Publication information: Book title: International Relations in the Ancient Near East, 1600-1100 B.C. Contributors: Mario Liverani - Author. Publisher: Palgrave. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 2001. Page number: 135.
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