Brotherhood of Kings: How International Relations Shaped the Ancient Near East

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Amanda Podany here takes readers on a vivid tour through a thousand years of ancient Near Eastern history, from 2300 to 1300 BCE, paying particular attention to the lively interactions that took place between the great kings of the day.

Allowing them to speak in their own words, Podany reveals how these leaders and their ambassadors devised a remarkably sophisticated system of diplomacy and trade. What the kings forged, as they saw it, was a relationship of friends-brothers-across hundreds of miles. Over centuries they worked out ways for their ambassadors to travel safely to one another's capitals, they created formal rules of interaction and ways to work out disagreements, they agreed to treaties and abided by them, and their efforts had paid off with the exchange of luxury goods that each country wanted from the other. Tied to one another through peace treaties and powerful obligations, they were also often bound together as in-laws, as a result of marrying one another's daughters. These rulers had almost never met one another in person, but they felt a strong connection—a real brotherhood—which gradually made wars between them less common. Indeed, any one of the great powers of the time could have tried to take over the others through warfare, but diplomacy usually prevailed and provided a respite from bloodshed. Instead of fighting, the kings learned from one another, and cooperated in peace.

A remarkable account of a pivotal moment in world history—the establishment of international diplomacy thousands of years before the United Nations—Brotherhood of Kings offers a vibrantly written history of the region often known as the "cradle of civilization."

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Podany (The Ancient Near Eastern World), a professor of Near Eastern History, examines 1000 years of letters documenting a diplomatic period estimated to have begun in 2300 BCE. Correspondence between the kings of Syria, Mesopotamia, Egypt, and others (who were illiterate) were dictated to scribes, transcribed onto fragile clay cuneiform tablets, hand-delivered, and then read aloud to recipients. Podany enters the palaces of the high and mighty, imaginatively recreating the exchanges that could have taken place. In one such letter (now housed in a gallery at the British Museum), Tushratta, the King of Mittani, tells his Egyptian counterpart and son-in-law, Amenhotep III, that the goddess Shashka wishes to visit him. Occasionally letters would be followed by meetings where kings would "work out stipulations of a treaty and swear an oath to the gods." Using the letters to carefully recreate this surprisingly peaceful period, when alliances were solidified by dynastic marriages and luxury gifts with the help of an active diplomatic correspondence, Podany has penned an historical, if academic, quest of particular interest to Biblical scholars. Photos.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
From the Publisher
"Podany has...broken new ground in the study of international relations in pre-classical antiquity...This work is the product of excellent, detailed, and groundbreaking scholarship." —Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research

"An engaging book that manages to provide a nuanced analysis and insightful observations while setting out the general history of the Near East over the period of two millennia .Shows that the balance between force, negotiation of peace, and family ties (and the use of the language of family ties) was (and still is) at the heart of international relations .An astounding success." —Greece and Rome

"This readable book breathes life into the dusty documents of the ancient Near East. Erudite and imaginative, Brotherhood of Kings brings us back to the origins of diplomacy and the first international community. The events date back three or four thousand years but Amanda Podany makes them seem fresh." - Barry Strauss, author of The Spartacus War

"This is an attractive and accessible work. It is based securely on the ancient sources from which the author quotes a generous amount in translation. Podany's approach is imaginative without being excessively speculative and her style is easy, clear, and flowing. In her hands these ancient people come to life and a world which was not well known is now better known." —Etudes Classiques

"Lively and vigorous, detailed and dramatic, Amanda Podany's compelling narrative provides a sweeping view across centuries of diplomacy and history in the ancient Near East. Her descriptions breathe life into dusty documents and revive the ancient monarchs and messengers, populists and people, in a tale told in vivid color, replete with sights, sounds, smells, and textures. This is truly a joy to read, a treasure to remember."-Eric H. Cline, author of Biblical Archaeology: A Very Short Introduction

"Something like this book has begged to be written. It is as good as anything I have seen for making this ancient world interesting, even fascinating, in a way that will draw in the uninitiated. This is really a volume on ancient history and culture, told through stories. Through a thousand years of diplomacy, Amanda Podany presents a history of life in the Near East, full of eye-catching attractions and riveting tales."-Daniel Fleming, New York University

"A lively, enjoyable book." -Amélie Kuhrt, History Today

"This book is always interesting and often fascinating—it is not just creative but conveys critical information without stultifying the non-specialist." —History Book Club

"Joins a small but growing number of books which move Ancient Near Eastern scholarship out to a wider readership. The author has masterfully assembled disparate literatures, rendered them accessible, and taught us something new: about our seemingly unflagging ability to manage and solve complex political problems of our own creation-for this, Podany deserves our applause."—Ancient History Bulletin

"Podany enters the palaces of the high and mighty, imaginatively recreating the exchanges that could have taken placeEL. Using the letters to carefully recreate this surprisingly peaceful period, when alliances were solidified by dynastic marriages and luxury gifts with the help of an active diplomatic correspondence, Podany has penned an historical, if academic, quest." —Publishers Weekly

"[Podany's] book is fun to read and... should be widely read both by scholars in the field and by laymen. The latter so that they can discover how engaging Near Eastern history can be; the former to remind themselves of the same and to remember that they are dealing with real people whose fears, pleasures, and other emotions are as worthy of attention as a join between two tablet fragments, if not more so."—Bibliotheca Orientalis

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195313987
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 7/9/2010
  • Pages: 432
  • Product dimensions: 6.60 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Amanda H. Podany is Professor of History at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. She has published a number of books and articles on topics in ancient Near Eastern history, including The Ancient Near Eastern World.

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Table of Contents

A Word about Chronology and Translation
Cast of Characters
Time Line
Part I: The Early Dynastic Period and Akkadian Empire, 1500-2000 BCE
Ch 1: The First Evidence for Diplomacy ("I am your brother and you are my brother")
Ch 2: Traders and Ships from Different Lands ("At the wharf of Akkad he made moor ships")

Part II: The Old Babylonian Period, 2000-1595 BCE
Ch 3: War and Allegiance ("I have always done good things for him and his heart knows the good deeds that I have done for him")
Ch 4: Long Journeys away from Home ("Who is there who would sell lapis-lazuli?")

Part III: A Time of Crisis and Change, 1595-1400 BCE
Ch 5: Attack on Babylon by a Distant Enemy ("I sent to a far-off land")
Ch 6: A Clash between Expanding Empires ("Prepare yourselves! Make your weapons ready! For one will engage in combat with that wretched foe in the morning")
Ch 7: Diplomatic Overtures between the Great Powers ("A notable event! The like of this occurrence had not been heard of since the time of the demigods"

Part IV: The Amarna Age, 1400-1300 BCE
Ch 8: Brother Kings United and at Peace ("My brother, whom I love and who loves me")
Ch 9: Diplomatic Marriages ("We, between us, are one, the Hurrian land and the land of Egypt ")
Ch 10: Luxury Goods from Eveyrwhere ("The gold is much. Among the kings there are brotherhood, amity, peace, and good relations")
Ch 11: A Crisis in the Brotherhood ("My father became hostile")
Ch 12: The End of an Empire and the Restoration of Peace ("My ancestors and your ancestors made a mutual declaration of friendship")
Further Reading

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