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Work Letter from the king of the Hittites to the king of Ugarit

Department of Near Eastern Antiquities: Anatolia

Lettre du roi hittite au roi d'Ugarit

© 2001 Musée du Louvre / Christian Larrieu

Near Eastern Antiquities

Prévotat Arnaud

This letter found at Ugarit is written in Akkadian. It is an edict by Tudhaliya IV, king of the Hittites, concerning horses used by messengers between the Egyptian and Hittite empires. The kingdom of Ugarit, within the Hittite sphere of influence, was responsible for enforcing this ruling. The authenticity of the letter is shown by the king's seal.

The international context

After the battle of Qadesh in the fourteenth century BC, a balance of power prevailed between the two great empires, Egyptian and Hittite, that shared the Near East. The kingdoms of the Levantine coast were divided between the empires' two zones of influence, the kingdom of Ugarit being a vassal of the Hittite empire.

A royal edict

This letter by king Tudhaliya IV of the Hittites is addressed to his vassal, the king of Ugarit. The small terracotta tablet bears a cuneiform text in Akkadian, the diplomatic language of the Near East. It is not a simple letter but an edict promulgated by Tudhaliya IV. It establishes rules for the use of horses by messengers between Hatti (the homeland of the Hittites) and Egypt. It forbids Hittite messengers from taking Egyptian horses and, conversely, forbids Egyptian messengers from using Hittite horses. The king of Ugarit is to enforce this ruling as the messengers between the two empires have to pass through his small kingdom.

The royal seal

The letter is shown to be authentic by the royal seal in the center of the tablet. The Hittite royal seal was circular, contrasting with the frequent use of cylindrical seals in Mesopotamia. In the center, beneath a hieroglyph of a winged sun, the symbol of Hittite royalty, are Hittite hieroglyphs giving the name of the king, flanked symmetrically by two other signs meaning "Great King." Cuneiform signs around the border of the seal give the king's title in two concentric registers: "Seal of Tabarna Tudhaliya, Great King, king of Hatti."

Technical description

  • Lettre du roi hittite au roi d'Ugarit

    Vers 1250 - 1220 avant J.-C.

    Ras-Shamra, ancienne Ugarit, Syrie

  • Tablette en terre cuite

    H. : 10,10 cm. ; L. : 7,80 cm. ; Pr. : 4,50 cm.

  • AO 21091

  • Near Eastern Antiquities

    Richelieu wing
    Ground floor
    Anatolian civilizations, from the earliest times to the 1st millennium BC
    Room 230

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