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Religion in Aegean-Hittite Diplomacy: The Evidence of the Hittite Ahhiyawa Texts

Ian Rutherford

Religion plays a major role in diplomacy in Bronze Age cultures, as we see from treaties between different states, where lists of gods on either side are called on as witnesses. In order for the treaty to have validity, it is essential that the ideas of the deities are understood by both sides, i.e. are "translatable" (see Smith 2008). No such treaty survives for relations between the Hittites and Ahhiyawa or between any Western Anatolian state and Ahhiyawa, although they probably existed. Contact between the two at the level of religion is shown by the presence of deities of Ahhiyawa and Lazpa at the Hittite court (AhT20§24). Diplomatic correspondence also reveals shared assumptions about the gods: 1. Gods as responsible for actions: AhT6, a letter from the king of Ahhiyawa to the king of Hatti, refers to "a certain storm god" as having granted the possession of territory; a similar expression is found in AhT7§4 in the context of "purple dyers of Lazpa" who had belonged to the Hittites but were seized by Piyamaradu acting for Ahhiyawa. 2. Gods as witnesses. In AhT4 the Tawagalawa Letter, written to the king of Ahhiyawa, the Hittite king invokes the storm god and other gods as an audience (§3); he also mentions the Sun-God (§15). The general nature of these references suggests that common religious understanding between the Hittites and Ahhiyawans was at a very general level, involving general categories of gods, but not specific deities. Further evidence of cultural distance is the fact that the Hittite king has to explain to the king of Ahhiyawa the Hittite principle of "safe-conduct" (< zarsiya) (AhT4§8). 

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Lesbos and Anatolia: Linguistic, Archaeological, and Documentary Evidence for Greek-Anatolian Contact in the Late Bronze and Early Iron Ages

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