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Egypt: Ramses the Great, The Pharaoh Who Made Peace with his Enemies And the First Peace Treaty in History


The Pharaoh Who Made Peace with his Enemies
And the First Peace Treaty in History

By Dr. Sameh M. Arab


Ramses II", who reigned for 67 years during the 19th dynasty of the 12th century BC, was known as "Ramses the Great". His glories surpassed all other Pharaohs, and Egypt reached an overwhelming state of prosperity during his reign. Not only is he known as one of Egypt's greatest warriors, but also as a peace-maker and for the monuments he left behind all over Egypt. He was the first king in history to sign a peace treaty with his enemies, the Hittites, ending long years of wars and hostility. The treaty can still be considered a conclusive model, even when applying todays standards.


Who are the Hittites?

Their rise and hostility with Egypt: The Hittites were a minor nation in Anatolia, who started to penetrate peacefully east and west through monopolizing political power in the Near East. By the second millennium BC, they became a great power that finally replaced the Babylonian state around 1530 BC. They started challenging the Egyptian Empire during its decline under the reign of Akhen-Aton (18th dynasty). International correspondence from the Asian princes in Palestine and Syria (known as the Amarna Letters) were sent to Akhen-Aton and his court requesting help, and warnings of the Hittites growing influence. The pharaoh unfortunately neglected them and never replied. This resulted in Egypt loosing control over considerable territory in Syria when aggressors, aided by the Hittites, invaded. After the death of Akhen-Aton, and the murder (or death) of his successor Tut-Ankh-Amon, his wife (and Akhen-Atons daughter), "Ankh-Esenpa-Aton", attempted a diplomatic coup with the Hittites. In order to secure her position, she sent a secret letter to their king asking him for a son whom she could marry and make pharaoh. As this offer was astounding, the king suspected treachery and sent an ambassador to test the queens true intentions. In response to her assurance, the king sent his son. However, he was captured and murdered by the Egyptian commander of the army, Horemheb (who later became pharaoh). Hostility between Egypt and the Hittites was further augmented.

The war between Egypt and Hatti:

With the rise of the 19th dynasty in Egypt, "Seti I" began to reestablish Egypts power in the Near East. Within the first two years of his reign, he was able to restore all of Palestine and the city of Kadesh to Egyptian control. Afterwards, a short-lived truce was signed between the two empires.

During the reign of Seti I's son, "Ramses II", advances were made against Syria that reached Kadesh one more. The resulting battle is one of the most famous in Egyptian history. It lasted four days, and initially Ramses was losing the battle. However, his army managed to fight bravely until reinforcements arrived, turning the defeat into victory. The Hittites asked for a cease-fire, and Ramses officers advised him to make peace, saying,

"There is no reproach in reconciliation when you make it."

After the death of the Hittite king, "Hattusili III" usurped the throne from the legitimate prince who fled to Egypt and was granted political asylum by "Ramses II". Hittite documents record Hattusilis complaint:

"When I wrote to him: send me my enemy, he didn't extradite him. Therefore there was anger between me and the King of Egypt."

While another round of war was on the horizon, both empires were under pressure with the Hittites were facing the reemerging Assyria in Mesopotamia, and Egypt was facing a threat from the Libyans in the west. Diplomatic negotiations took place for two years until a peace treaty was concluded in the 21st regal year of Ramses reign with "Hattusilis III" in 1280 BC.

The peace treaty:

Egypts acceptance of a peace treaty that would end the war in Syria meant that there would be no chance to restore Kadesh and Amuru. However in return for this sacrifice, the dispute between the two countries would end with a clear line of demarcation between the Egyptian and the Syrian territories. Moreover, Egypt guaranteed the Syrians the right to use their Phenecian harbors, while the Hittites agreed to allow Egyptians free passage to the north as far as Ugarit without interference. This was a privilege lost for more than a century.

Two copies of the treaty were recorded, one in hieroglyph and the other Akaddian, and both still survive. Both copies are identical except for the overture, in which the Egyptian version stated that it was the Hittite king who demanded peace, whereas in the Hittite version, it was Ramses who sent them emissaries. The Egyptian version was recorded on a silver plaque presented by Hattusili to Ramses, then copied on stone at the Karnak and Ramesseum temples.

Akaddian Version of Treaty

The treaty was composed of 18 articles. After a long introduction recording the kings titles and referring to establishment of good fraternity and peace, one article was included to exclude any further attacks on the other countrys territories:

"Reamasesa, the great king, the king of the country of Egypt, shall never attack the country of Hatti to take possession of a part (of this country). And Hattusili, the great king, the king of the country of Hatti, shall never attack the country of Egypt to take possession of a part (of that country). "

Hattusili and his Wife, Puduhepa

Two articles follow that established the mutual alliance against any foreign attack on either country:

"If a foreign enemy marches against the country of Hatti and if Hattusili, the king of the country of Hatti, sends me this message: "Come to my help against him", Reamasesa, the great king, the king of the Egyptian country, has to send his troops and his chariots to kill this enemy and to give satisfaction to the country of Hatti."

"If a foreigner marches against the country of Egypt and if Reamasesa, the great king, the king of the country of Egypt, your brother, sends to Hattusili, the king of the country of Hatti, his brother, the following message: "Come to my help against him", then Hattusili, king of the country of Hatti, shall send his troops and his chariots and kill my enemy. "

The treaty then included three articles establishing mutual collaboration against any internal mutiny or coups in either country:

"If Hattusili, the great king, the king of the country of Hatti, rises in anger against his citizens after they have committed a crime against him and if, for this reason, you send to Reamasesa the great king, the king of the country of Egypt, then Reamasesa has to send his troops and his chariots and these should exterminate all those that he has risen in anger against. "

"If Reamasesa, king of the country of Egypt, rises in anger against his citizens after they have committed a wrong against him and by reason of this he sends (a message) to Hattusili, the great king, the king of the country of Hatti, my brother, has to send his troops and his chariots and they have to exterminate all those against whom I have risen in anger. "

"Look, the son of Hattusili, king of the country of Hatti, has to assure his sovereignty of the country of Hatti instead of Hattusili, his father, after the numerous years of Hattusili, king of the country of Hatti. If the children of the country of Hatti transgress against him, then Reamasesa has to send to his help troops and chariots and to give him support."

To avoid any further dispute, if a refugee flees to the other country, ten articles were dedicated to their extradition. This was the first extradition agreement in history between two nations. The treaty did not exclude any person, and regardless of whether they were "great men", nobles or "unknown persons":

"If a great person flees from the country of Hatti and if he comes to Reamasesa, the great king, king of the country of Egypt, then Reamasesa, the great king, the king of the country of Egypt, has to take hold of him and deliver him into hands of Hattusili, the great king, the king of the country of Hatti. "

"If a great person flees from the country of Egypt and he escapes to the country of Amurru or a city and he comes to the king of Amurru, then Benteshina, king of the country of Amurru, has to take hold of him and take him to the king of the country of Hatti; and Hattusili, the great king, the king of the country of Hatti, shall have him to be taken to Reamasesa, the great king, the king of the country of Egypt."

"If a nobleman flees from the country of Hatti, or two men, and if they don't want to serve the king of Hatti, and if they flee from the Great King's country, the king of the land of Hatti, in order not to serve him, then Reamasesa has to take hold of them and order them be taken to Hattusili, the Great King, king of the land of Hatti, his brother, and he shall not allow them to reside in the country of Egypt."

"If a nobleman or two flee from the country of Egypt and if they leave for the Land of Hatti, then Hattusili, the great king, the king of the country of Hatti, has to take hold of them and make them be taken to Reamasesa, the Great King, the king of the country of Egypt, his brother. "

"If a man or two men who are unknown flee, and if they come to Reamasesa, to serve him, then Reamasesa has to take hold of them and deliver them into the hands of Hattusili, king of the country of Hatti."

"If a man or two men who are unknown flee, and if they escape from the country of Egypt and if they don't want to serve him, then Hattusili, the great king, the king of the country of Hatti, has to deliver them into his brother's hands and he shall not allow them to inhabit the country of Hatti."

"If a man flees from the country of Hatti, or two people, and if they flee from the country of Hatti, and if they come to the country of Egypt, and if a nobleman flees from the country of Hatti or of a city and they flee from the country of Hatti to go to the country of Egypt, then Reamasesa has to order them to be taken to his brother. Look, the sons of the country of Hatti and the children of the country of Egypt are at peace."

"If some people flee from the country of Egypt to go to the country of Hatti, then Hattusili, the great king, the king of the country of Hatti, has to order them to be taken to his brother. Look, Hattusili the great king, the king of the country of Hatti, and Reamasesa, the great king, the king of the country of Egypt, your brother, are at peace."

Fugitives were to be treated with dignity and returned without being punished.

"If a man flees from the country of Hatti, or two men, or three men, and if they come to Reamasesa, the Great King, the king of the country of Egypt, his brother, then Reamasesa, the Great King, the king of the country of Egypt, has to take hold of them and to order them to be taken to Hattusili, his brother, since they are brothers. As for their crime, it should not be imputed; their language and their eyes are not to be pulled out; their ears and their feet are not to be cut off; their houses with their wives and their children are not to be destroyed. "

"If a (man flees from the country of Reamasesa, the Great King, king of the country of Egypt), or two men, or three men, and if they come (to Hattusili, the Great King), the king of the country of Hatti, my brother, then Hattusili, the Great King, king of the country of Hatti, my brother, has to take hold of them and to order them to be taken to Reamasesa, the Great King, the king of the country of Egypt, because Reamasesa, the Great King, king of the country of Egypt, and Hattusili are brothers. As for their crime, it should not be imputed; their language and their eyes are not to be pulled out; their ears and their feet are not to cut off; their houses with their wives and their children are not to be destroyed. "

The 1000 gods of either land were invoked as witnesses and guarantors of this peace in the remaining two articles. Only some of the gods were named, including Ra of Egypt and Teshub of Hatti:

"If Reamasesa and the children of the country of Egypt don't observe this treaty, then the gods and the goddesses of the country of Egypt and the gods and goddesses of the country of Hatti shall exterminate the descendants of Reamasesa, the Great King, the king of the country of Egypt.

If Reamasesa and the children of the country of Egypt observe this treaty, then the gods of the oath shall protect them and their ."

"They who observe the words that are in the silver tablet the great gods of the country of Egypt and the great gods of the country of Hatti shall allow them to live and prosper in their houses, their country and with their servants.

They who do not observe the words that are in this silver tablet, the great gods of the country of Egypt as well as the great gods of the country of Hatti will exterminate their houses, their country and their servants. "

The borders of the two countries were not laid out in this treaty but were in other documents. A papyrus enumerates the Phoenician coastal towns under Egyptian control, with the harbor town of Sumur being the northern-most town belonging to Egypt.

As soon as the treaty became effectiveness, greetings were exchanged between the two courts, particularly form the two queens, Nefertari of Egypt and the Hittite "Budu-Khebi". Nefertari wrote:

"I hear, my sister, that you have written to ask after my peace and the relations of good peace and fraternity that exist between the Great King of Egypt and the Great King of Hatti, his brother. Ra and Teshub will deal with this so you can raise your look, may Ra assure the peace and strengthen the good fraternity between the Great King of Egypt and the Great King of Hatti, his brother, for ever."

The tension after the treaty:

Despite the readiness of both courts to abide by the treaty, some tension persisted owing to the presence of the deposed Hittite prince who remained in political asylum in Egypt for 10 years after the treaty. Though Hattusili requested his surrender, Ramses refused to apply the treaty in retrospect. This was probably due to the Hittites refusal to re-adjust the borders between Egypt and Syria to their pre-treaty positions. This, together with the bitterness Hattusili felt due to the arrogant tone in Ramses messages, continued to create tension between the two courts. In letters, Ramses had to remind Hattusili of their fraternity, and reproached him on their exchange of gifts. Hattusili had send but one handicapped slave as a gift, while Ramses had sent a number of physicians who were in high demand worldwide, along with a substantial quantity of herbs.

As Babel began to establish diplomatic relations with Egypt, Ramses accepted a Babylonian princess among his harem. Jealousy of the relationship between these two kingdoms, Hattusili cemented the treaty 13 years later by offering his daughter to Ramses. The royal wedding was depicted on the temples of Karnak, Elephentine and Abu-Simbel.

Tension started to fade gradually after the marriage, and later diplomatic missions came to include more elite personnel. A visit by the Hittite crown prince was arranged to Egypt, and upon his return with gifts, Hattusili himself accepted Ramses invitation to visit Egypt. Ramses greeted him at Canaan and escorted him to Pi-Ramses, where perhaps the world first summit meeting took place. Later, another princess was sent to the Egyptian court.

During the next 46 regal years of Ramses II, peace continued and the treaty was respected until the fall of the Hittite Empire. When the king of Mira in Asia Minor attempted to form a coalition with Egypt against the Hittites, Ramses refused saying:

"Today there is fraternity between the Great King of Egypt and the king of Hatti, between Ra and Teshub."

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