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Brotherhood of Kings: How International Relations Shaped the Ancient Near East Hardcover – July 9, 2010

ISBN-13: 978-0195313987 ISBN-10: 0195313984 Edition: 1st

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Editorial Reviews

From 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.
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Review


"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

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (July 9, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195313984
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195313987
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 1.5 x 6.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,395,928 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Amanda H. Podany is a professor of history and chair of the history department at Cal Poly Pomona, specializing in ancient Mesopotamia and Syria. Her most recent book is The Ancient Near East: A Very Short Introduction, which appeared in November 2013. Podany's award-winning book, Brotherhood of Kings: How International Relations Shaped the Ancient Near East, was published by Oxford University Press in 2010, with the paperback edition coming out in 2012. It explores the relationships between kingdoms and individuals across the Near East and beyond, from 2300 to 1300 BCE.

Her previous books include The Land of Hana, about the chronology of an ancient Syrian kingdom, and The Ancient Near Eastern World (co-written with Marni McGee, a wonderful children's book author), a general work designed for secondary school students--though adult readers have also said that they enjoyed it.

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
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See all 8 customer reviews
It is full of fascinating information and tells numerous interesting tales in a very lively manner.
John O. Freed
Podany's research is up to date and she always informs the reader if there is scholarly debate about the exact nature of a given fact.
Copyzombie
This is a good read for someone with a basic knowledge of Ancient Near Eastern and Egyptian history.
T. Randall

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Jan Keller on August 18, 2010
Format: Hardcover
In the epilogue of her engaging study, Dr. Podany observes that the ancient Near East lacks a storyteller like Herodotus for ancient Greece or Livy for Roman history. Although she is obviously no "ancient", she certainly is a storyteller par excellence. She draws her readers into the Near Eastern world of 2500-1300 BCE. One encounters the familiar in places like Babylonia and Egypt, but, more important, unfamiliar realms like Ebla, Mittani, and Hatti. The same is true in terms of historical persons: the familiar Sargon, Amenhotep, and Nefertiti and the unfamiliar Irkab-damu, Suppiluliuma, and Tushratta. Besides elucidating the diplomatic relationships between these ancient kings, Dr. Podany provides us with an amazing view into the daily lives of ordinary people who lived in the ancient Near East. To keep track of persons and gods, she provides a "Cast of Main Characters" and a "Time Line", so her readers will know who lived where and when. Although she does not pursue the issue to any great degree, certain parallels are perceptible in present diplomatic relationships. The general reader will find this a fascinating and worthwhile adventure and will benefit from suggestions for further reading. The scholarly reader will appreciate the footnotes at the end of the text, as well as the ample bibliography.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By james hill on March 25, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Dr. Podany explains, for both the expert and non-expert, that rulers of the ancient 'near east' spent considerable time and energy on what is presently called diplomatic relations. Beginning with ancient Ebla around 2400 BCE, Dr. Podany shows how rulers at the time, again 500 years later, and yet again another 500 years on, usually found peace to be far more viable than war. In each of the three time periods, kings related to each other as family members, designating each other to be a 'brother' and creating extended family ties though marriage. Such arrangements led to increased trade and prosperity for the peoples of each society. Those rulers who relied on war and invasion to expand empire (Sargon of Akkad in the earliest time period; Amenhotep II of Egypt in the third) or the rise of new powers such as the Hittites would upset the diplomatic applecart, but eventually they, or their descendents, would rejoin 'the brotherhood' of rulers and more calm relations would once again prevail.
Dr. Podany explains very precisely what is known from preserved clay tablets and other documents, and is careful to illustrate the unknown with other contemporary evidence. Overall, the reader finds many less well known rulers and kingdoms interacting with each other in the diplomatic arena. The preserved clay tablets of Ebla are some of the oldest records of letters of kings to each other, and diplomatic behavior among kings was not new when first written about. Dr. Podany reminds us that new discoveries will not doubt add to, clarify, and perhaps change our understandings of the past. Yet that these were "the first kings to discover the benefits of peaceful coexistence" (p. 309) brings the reader to think about modern and current international issues in a very broad context.
This is q very readable and entertaining book, easy to understand, very well documented, with elaborate timelines and maps.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By John O. Freed on April 24, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Brotherhood of Kings, by Amanda Podany, is one of the most interesting books on Near Eastern Archaeology that I have read in a long time.

This book tells the history of the Bronze Age Middle East through the eyes of Kings, Queens, Princes, Princesses and vassals who wrote letters found in archives preserved in Mesopotamia, Syria and Egypt. These letters reveal the personalities of the writers in a very human way. Some of the Kings were greedy for gold; others constantly whined that the gifts that had been sent to them by other Kings were not sufficient. Amenhotep III of Egypt seemed to have an interest in marrying as many foreign princesses as possible and several letters reveal the size of the dowry and bridal gifts exchanged by the Pharaoh and his father-in-law.

Some of the stories are familiar to students of the Ancient Near East. For example, the letters between an Egyptian Queen (Ankhesenamen, the widow of Tutankhamen?) and the King of the Hittites, in which the Egyptian Queen asks for the Hittite King to send one of his sons to Egypt so that she can marry him (as her husband has died and she does not want to marry one of her subjects) is a well-known, and fascinating, story. One wonders how history would have changed if the Hittite Prince had married the Egyptian Queen (instead of being assassinated en route to Egypt).

Other sets of correspondence were not familiar to me. One of the most interesting of these, are the set of letters between Zimri-Lim (King of Mari) and a number of other Kings to whom he had married his daughters. One of the young ladies was very unhappily married and seems to have genuinely feared for her life. She was probably quite relieved when her husband divorced her and sent her home.

This book is well written and easy to read. It is full of fascinating information and tells numerous interesting tales in a very lively manner. I recommend it highly to anyone interested in ancient Near Eastern history.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on October 18, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a outstanding read. It covers the period 2300BC-1300BC. This book shows how the Great Powers of this age kept a balance of power among themselves. It covers trade relations, war, peace, and friendship. The friendship is unusual in that these Great Kings, as they styled themselves, called each other Brothers even though they usually had and would never meet. I understand that some of this was mere formality but sometimes these "words of friendship' were really meant as the author surmises. This "Brotherhood" was carried out thousand of years before the UN. 200 years later it was all destroyed with the coming of the Sea Peoples, outsiders hungry for land and wealth and no interest in this "Brotherhood". The Hittites were gone for good and replaced by a group of smaller powers in Anatolia, Egypt hiding behind her deserts and water barriers again, Babylon still in play but weaken, and the rise of Assyria who would tolerate no balance of powers. Assyria had to be the one and only power. This relates today with the "Great Powers", in the process of being overrun by hordes of new "Sea Peoples", who are completely antagonistic to this modern "Brotherhood". Deja Vu!!
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