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Publishers WeeklyPodany (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.
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