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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Unique Correspondence of Kings over 3,000 years ago, 9 July 2010
By 
Legal Vampire (Buckinghamshire, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Amarna Letters (Paperback)
This book consists mainly of translations of the correspondence from a couple of decades during the Fourteenth Century B.C. between the kings of Egypt (Akhenaten, his father Amenophis III and Akhenaten's short-lived immediate successors) and other Middle Eastern Kings and Princes of the time.

Although this represents a tiny part of the long span of Ancient history, the survival of this correspondence in the abandoned royal palace at Amarna is virtually unique, although some letters are badly damaged or missing.

The letters were written to serve the immediate concerns of people over three thousand years ago, not for our interest or benefit. In parts they are obscure or repetitive. Someone who does not yet know that much about the period would do better to start with less specialised and more populist works then this book.

However, if you already know a reasonable amount about New Kingdom Egypt then you will almost certainly want to read and be interested by especially the correspondence with the major foreign kings.

Pharoah's correspondents included the rulers of major powers like Babylon, Assyria and the Hittites, who addressed the king of Egypt as their "brother", and whose letters are the more interesting, lively and revealing of character. It is strange to read the very words these people from long lost civilizations had to say to one another.

The last and longest part of the book consists of letters from more obscure Canaanite and Syrain princes who addressed the king of Egypt as their "lord" and in theory were under his authority, although they sometimes enjoyed enough independence to wage war against each other, and sometimes intrigued disloyally with foreign powers. Their letters tend to be repetitive (and grovelling), although they give at least some idea of how the only loosely controlled Egyptian 'empire' in Palestine and Syria worked.

The Ancient Egyptian language was never widely known outside Egypt, so the letters were in Akkadian [language of the Babylonians and Assyrians] or occasionally other ancient languages like Hittite or Hurrian. One ruler whose court was too remote to know other languages wrote "The tablets that write to us, write to us in Hittite!". Fortunately all the letters have been translated into English for this book!

There was no customary method of dating letters at the time so it is often only possible to guess the order in which they were written. This makes it difficult to fit them into an overall story. For example, many letters refer to Egyptian vassal princes in Syria who remained loyal coming under attack from neighbours, and of others rebelling. However, without dates we do not know if these events mostly occurred around the same time, indicating e.g. a weakening of Egyptian power under Akhenaten, or whether this kind of thing happened equally frequently throughout the period, and it was just always like this.

The correspondence is with the countries to the west and north of Egypt such as modern Cyprus, Turkey, Syria and Iraq. If any rulers in Egypt's African neighbours (Libya and Nubia/ Sudan) had literate people at their courts able to communicate in writing with the king of Egypt then such correspondence may have been of a different language and character; if any separate archive of that once existed, it has not been found.

If you know the Amarna letters from an older translation, this book does significantly change understanding of some of them e.g. there are surprisingly no proven references to Akhenaten's new religion, momentous though the change must surely have seemed within Egypt.

I can only review this book from the background of an amateur knowledge of Ancient Egypt. I am not qualified to say how much someone primarily interested in Mesopotamia or the Hittites would gain from it, but hope that someone else may be able to add such a review here.

Two other interesting books (which do not always reach the same conclusions as Moran's book I am reviewing here) that also consider the Amarna letters are Amarna Diplomacy: The Beginnings of International Relations and Tutankhamun's Armies: Battle and Conquest During Ancient Egypt's Late Eighteenth Dynasty, which covers much more than its title suggests.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Amarna Letters, 25 Jan. 2009
By 
Amazon Customer (Hampshire, England. www.suemoseley.com) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Amarna Letters (Paperback)
William Moran has scored a triumph in his book The Amarna Letters. These "letters" were discovered at the end of the 19th century, on the site of Akhenaten's ancient city in a remote part of Egypt. They are simply clay tablets written in cuneiform, and represent correspondences to and from Egyptian Pharaohs and neighbouring rulers. The information in the letters helps in our understanding of the social and political history of Egypt, Syria and Palestine in the fourteenth century BC.

This book sets out the letters in order and gives a literal translation on each one. The reader can instantly see what was sent from Mittani to Egypt, or from Egypt to Qadesh etc. Moran includes notes from authors and academics which gives a broader understanding of the meanings of the letters.

It is of interest to anyone who wants to know more about life at the end of the 18th dynasty of Ancient Egypt, and to scholars who would like to dig more deeply into their understanding of the political situation.

A map of the Near East is included and I would recommend this book as essential reading for anyone interested in the Amarna period.
Amarna... the Missing Evidence
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent book, 29 Oct. 2011
By 
Ms. C. R. Stillman-lowe "Cathy SL" (Reading Berks) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Amarna Letters (Paperback)
For the serious historian who is unafraid of a 'heavy' read, this book will make a very interesting gift. My brother in law (who is interested in Egyptology) was delighted to receive a copy.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent translation, 26 Oct. 2013
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This review is from: The Amarna Letters (Paperback)
I have read a number of translations of the Amarna Letters and find Moran excellent. His translations are excellent as are his footnotes but he makes the letters easy to read with headings which both reflect the content of each letter which also add a fun element.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Letters from the past, 26 April 2014
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This review is from: The Amarna Letters (Paperback)
Arrived promptly, well packaged and in excellent condition. a fascinating read, which brings people to life. The letters give a wonderful glimpse into life three thousand years ago.
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The Amarna Letters
The Amarna Letters by William L. Moran (Paperback - 31 Oct. 2000)
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