This is the first book length collection in English of letters from the ancient kingdom of the Hittites All known well preserved examples, including the important corpus of letters from the provincial capital of Tapikka, are reproduced here in romanized transcription and English translation, accompanied by introductory essays, explanatory notes on the text and its translation, and a complete description of the rules of Hittite correspondence compared with that of other ancient Middle Eastern states Letters containing correspondence between kings and their foreign peers, between kings and their officials in the provinces, and between these officials themselves reveal rich details of provincial administration, the relationships and duties of the officials, and tantalizing glimpses of their private lives Matters discussed include oversight of agriculture, tax liabilities, litigation, inheritance rights, defense against hostile groups on the kingdom s periphery, and consulting the gods by means of oracular procedures


10 thoughts on “Letters from the Hittite Kingdom

  1. Judith Starkston Judith Starkston says:

    Hoffner s Letters from the Hittite Kingdom is a scholarly but approachable collection of translations and commentary on an extensive corpus of letters from the Hittite capital of Hattusa as well as other provincial centers from 1600 to 1200 BCE Hoffner begins with a thorough introduction to ancient Near Eastern letter writing He summarizes his book in this manner It will be the purpose of this book to acquaint the wider public to the rich epistolary documentation of the ancient Hittite kingd Hoffner s Letters from the Hittite Kingdom is a scholarly but approachable collection of translations and commentary on an extensive corpus of letters from the Hittite capital of Hattusa as well as other provincial centers from 1600 to 1200 BCE Hoffner begins with a thorough introduction to ancient Near Eastern letter writing He summarizes his book in this manner It will be the purpose of this book to acquaint the wider public to the rich epistolary documentation of the ancient Hittite kingdom The approach will be as follows First, the subject of letter writing will be explored as it manifests itself in all the major kingdoms of the ancient Hear East Egypt, Syro Palestine, Anatolia, Assyria, and Babylonia Secondly, the practice of writing, sending, receiving, and storing of letters in the Hittite kingdom itself will be outlined This will provide the necessary background for the understanding of the present letter corpus, which forms the third major division Hoffner s first two sections are invaluable for anyone wishing to understand how the Hittite king maintained communications throughout his empire No personal letters have survived, only official mail either between the king or queen and others, or between governmental or military officials.The letters themselves tantalize the lay reader with glimpses into this complex empire, but they will also frustrate at times since too often the clay tablet is broken off or illegible just at the place where the key information was originally written down Additionally, the translation of the Hittite language is still a work in progress and, while Hoffner is one of the very foremost scholars of Hittite philology, the meaning of some words in these letters remains to be unlocked Do not expect to read long, flowing discourses Instead the reader gains insight in starts and stops as the vagaries of current knowledge and clay tablet survival permit At times the voice of the writer oroften person dictating the letter to a scribe comes through vividly, as in a letter from the Hittite king either Muwattalli II or Mursili III to King Adad nirari I of Assyria The Assyrian king has committed the apparently unforgiveable gaff of addressing the Hittite king as Brother, the standard term of address between the Great Kings, such as the Egyptian pharaoh and the Hittite king At this point in time the Assyrian king is not included in this exclusive club of equals So you ve become a Great King, have you But why do you continue to speak about brotherhood and about coming to Mt Ammana What is this, this brotherhood For what reason should I call you my brother From page 323 At other times the letters soundlike a conversation on a bad cell phone connection disconnected words that never quite form sense Because I deferred lit., rose to Your Majesty, to Your Majesty, to Your Majesty, my lord, a finished word across the not yet anywhere I will take the matter in hand, and will look the matters over , and will write it to the regional palace the princess of Babylonia not yet will come down quickly from page 346 Read cover to cover, Letters from the Hittite Kingdom will give the dedicated reader a much deeper sense of the Hittite world than secondary sources alone can provide To hear through these letters the actual voices of Hittite kings, queens, and officials from 1600 to 1200 BCE is an awe inspiring experience