Mitanni-Egypt Relations

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The purpose of this paper is to review the relationships between Egypt and the Kingdom of Mitanni (also known as Naharin in Egyptian sources) during the reign of Amenhotep III, King of Egypt (c. 1390-1352 BCE), and Tushratta, King of Mitan-ni. It is commonly accepted that they were peaceful during the reign of Amenhotep III. However, reading texts carefully, deterioration in relations and even a short period of animosity between them can be observed, though relations soon improved. In this article I shall forward the evidence and suggest a reason for this animosity.
 

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A. Struggle for Dominion of Northern Syria





During the middle of the 16th century BCE the Theban 17th Dynasty dislodged the Hyksos rulers and regained control over the whole of Egypt. After conquering Canaan, the Egyptian army marched northward and reached the Euphrates. During this period the Kingdom of Mitanni, which was on the ascent, expanded its borders into northern Syria as well. Both kingdoms were on the verge of collision.

Mitanni is first mentioned in the inscription of Amenemhat, the court astronomer during the reigns of Amenhotep I and Thutmose I. Although the context is broken, it seems that one of these kings warred against Mitanni c. 1500 BCE. The inscriptions of Ahmose, son of Ebana and Ahmose Pennekheb, who served under Thutmose I in the Egyptian army, mention their bravery in battle against Naharin. These private inscriptions add to the royal inscriptions of Thutmose III, who reports setting a stele next to his grandfather’s stele, Thutmose I, on the bank of the Euphrates.
 

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No mention is made of military activity against Mitanni by Thutmose III during the early years of his sole reign. The battle at Megiddo against the Canaanite coalition, headed by the king of Qidshu (on the Orontes), the dominant military force in the Southern Levant, may have had a Hurrian leadership. During Thutmose III’s eighth campaign in his 33rd regnal year he crossed the Euphrates and attacked the heartland of Mitanni, though its king escaped.

Two years later, in his 35th regnal year, Thutmose attacked the Mitannian heartland for the second time. Despite these attacks on Mitanni proper, its control over northern Syria remained, continuing to subjugate Haleb, Nuhasse, and other states in northern Syria. Thutmose III’s son, Amenhotep II did not succeed in changing the power balance in northern Syria. The description of the capture of the Mitannian courier in the Sharon Valley led scholars to claim that Mitannian hostile activity against Egypt penetrated into Egyptian held territory in Canaan.

However, Singer raised the possibility that the valley mentioned should rather be identified as being the Siryon Valley, close to the Hermon (Snir) mountain. Furthermore, Singer proposed that the cylinder seal carried by the Mitannian courier was containing a request for peace with the Egyptian king and not an attempt to incite rebellion in the Egyptian held territories of Canaan. It is possible that following this request a peace treaty was concluded between Mitanni and Egypt. However, this fragile peace did not last long, for in less than twenty years there is hostility between the two powers.
 

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Relatively little is known about this princess of Mitanni. She is believed to have been born around Year 21 of the reign of Egyptian Pharaoh Amenhotep III, (c. 1366 BC). Fifteen years later, Tushratta married his daughter to his ally Amenhotep III to cement their two states alliances in Year 36 of Amenhotep III's reign (1352 BC). Tadukhipa is referenced in seven of Tushratta's thirteen Amarna letters, of about 1350-1340 BC.

Tushratta requested that his daughter would become a queen consort, even though that position was held by Queen Tiye. The gifts sent to Egypt by Tushratta include a pair of horses and a chariot, plated with gold and inlaid with precious stones, a litter for a camel adorned with gold and precious stones, cloth and garments, jewelry such as bracelets, armlets and other ornaments, a saddle for a horse adorned with gold eagles, more dresses colored purple, green and crimson and a large chest to hold the items.

In return, Amenhotep III never sent the golden statues he offered and, after his death, Tushratta sent some missives complaining about the lack of reciprocity.
 

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Some scholars tentatively identify Tadukhipa with Kiya, a wife of Akhenaten. It has been suggested that the story of Kiya may be the source for the New Kingdom story called the "Tale of Two Brothers". This fable tells the story of how the pharaoh fell in love with a beautiful foreign woman after smelling her hair. If Tadukhipa was later known as Kiya, then she would have lived at Amarna where she had her own sunshade and was depicted with the pharaoh and at least one daughter.

Others such as Petrie, Drioton and Vandier have suggested that Tadukhipa was given a new name after becoming the consort of Akhenaten and is to be identified the famous queen Nefertiti. This theory suggests that Nefertiti's name "the beautiful one has come" refers to Nefertiti's foreign origin as Tadukhipa. Seele, Meyer and others have pointed out that Tey, wife of Ay, held the title of nurse to Nefertiti, and that this argues against this identification. A mature princess arriving in Egypt would not need a nurse.
 

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