The Tell el-Amarna Tablets

The Tell el-Amarna tablets were discovered in 1887 in the city of Akhetaton about 190 miles South of Cairo, which was the capital ciry of Pharoh Amenhotep IV (Akhenaton) (1379 - 1362 BC). Shortly after Akhenaton's death the capital was returned to Thebes and Akhetaton was deserted with the royal archives buried amidst the debris. There are 377 letters written on cuneiform tablets mostly in Akkadian (the diplomatic language of the time) these letters are writtten to Amenhotep III and Amenhotep IV (Akhenaton). Due to Akhenaton's sole interest in religious affairs, the military and thereby the empire deteriorated and resulted in instability in the middle east with expansion of the Hettites under King Suppiluliuma and Hapiru. King Suppiluliuma and Hapiru, to avoid direct clashes with Egypt, encouraged Abdi-Ashirta and his sons Aziru and Amorite princes of Lebanon to attack Canaanite cities still loyal to the Egypt. The smaller cities fell to the princes but they besieged Byblos, Beirut and Tyre all the while asserting their allegiance to Egypt.

The Tell el-Amarna tablets contain letters from Rib-Addi (Byblos), Abi-Milki (Tyre) and Zimrida (Sidon). They show that the cities of Canaan were taking sides with Byblos and Tyre remaining loyal to Eqypt, but not Sidon.

In a correspondence from Rib-Addi (Byblos) he complains to Amenhotep III about Adbi-Ashirta that dependent cities of Byblos were aligning with Adbi-Ashirta, but despite his difficulites he was able to send copper axes to assist Tyre. (number 77 letter 2).

In a latter letter, Rib-Addi reports that Zimrida (Sidon) has made a treaty with Abdi-Ashirta and that the situation in Byblos is getting despartate fo Rib-Addi has sent his sister, her children and his possessions to Tyre for safety. (number 83 letter 11).

Latter Rib-Addi writes that a revolution has taken place in Tyre with those loyal to Egypt being killed including the King, his sister and her daughters Rib-Addi writes:

"See the deed of Tyre. therefore have I fear... I have secured help for Tyre; but they are against me. They have really killed their regent together with my sister and her children. The daughters of my sister I had sent to Tyre away from Abdi-Ashirta" (number 89 letter 15).

The Tell el-Amarna tablets contain 10 letters written to Aknenaton by Abi-Milki (Abimelech), who probably ruled after the assasination of the above referenced king. The first letter after standard salutations to the Pharoh only requests provisions:

"Behold I have said to the sun-god. The father of the king; My lord, 'When shall I see the face of the King, My lord?' But behold, I am guarding Tyre, the great city, for the King, My Lord, Until the mighty power of the King comes out unto me, to give water for me to drink and wood to warm me. Further Zimrida, the King of Sidon, has written day-by-day to the criminal Aziru the son of Abdi-Ashirta, concerning, everything that he has heard from Egypt. Behold I have written to my lord for it is good that you should Know." (number 147 letter 2).

Latter it appears that Abi-Miliki has been told that he would get supplies from Sidon and Arvad, but neither arrives; Abi-Milki writes to Pharoh:

"I am the deputy of the King, My lord, and I am one who brings good news as well as evil to the King. My lord, May the King send twenty foot soldiers to protect his city" (number 149 letter 4).

The letter continues that Zimrida (king of Sidon), Aziru and the people of Arvad have taken an oath to besiege Tyre by land and sea. Abi-Milki reports that Sumr has been turned over to Aziru and that he is surrounded on all sides. Abi-Milki reports that he does not have wood or water and is only able to obtain supplies with the greatest difficulty by his ships because of a blocade. He entreats Pharaoh to send him instructions and to take steps to protect him and Tyre. He requests an immediate answer. via the soldier carrying the message and points out how destitute he is that he must send this request by a single soldier without gifts for Pharaoh rather that a proper envoy.(number 149 letter 4).

In reply to Pharaoh's command to report the news from Canaaan, Abi-Miliki again begs for wood and water and points out that this time he is sending his messenger Ilimilku with a gift. He reports the news from Canaan:

"The king of Danuna is dead and his brother has become king in his stead, and his land is quiet, and fire has consumed Ugarit, the city of the king, Half of it has consumed and its (other) half is not, and the people of the army of Hatti are not." (number 151 letter 6) - Note: this is probably the earthquake in which the alphabetic cuneiform tablets of Ugarit were burned about 1365 BC.

Some help appears to have arrived from Eqypt and Abi-Milki writes:

"The whole land is afraid of the soldiers of the King, my Lord. I have permitted my people to board ships for the meeting of the soldiers of the King, my lord, and he who hearkens not his house remains not, nor his power. Behold I protect the city of the King, my lord." (number 155 letter 8).

In another letter Abi-Miliki insists for more help against Zimrida (Sidon). He states that Zimrida will not allow the Tyrians to go on the mainland for supplies from the letter the situation seems desparate: He pleads to Pharaoh that he is still loyal and wants to defend Tyre, however his people are preparing to flee from the city. In his letter he refers to the new queen Meritaten who has replaced Nefertiti. The letter ends as follows:

"Further let my Lord, the king, as there is no wood, no water, no straw, no earth, no place for the dead, let the king, my lord care for the servant of Salmayati that life be given to him when the King, my lord gives, water to drink for the servant of Salmayati then I set my face towards his service, then let the King care for his servant and for Tyre, the city of Salmayati let the King ask the deputy if he dwells in Sumura. Behold, the man of Beruta has gone in a ship, and the man of Sidon goes away in two ships and I go away with all the ships and my whole city so let the King care for his servant and protect the ships of the King in..." (number 155 letter 10).

This is the last letter from the archive, so the fate of Abi-Miliki is unknown.

There are also 5 letters from Abdi-Ashirta claiming loyalty:

"To the King, my lord, say, thus saith Abdi-Astarti, the servant of the King, at the feet of the King, my lord, I have fallen seven times, feet of the King, my lord, and seven times in addition upon breast as well as back, May the King, my Lord learn that enmity is mighty against me, so may it seem good to the King, my lord, to send a powerfull man to protect me, furthermore, the words which the King, my lord has written to me I will truly obey, all the words of the King, my Lord, I have truly heard behold, ten women whom I had forgotten I have brought." (number 64 letter 4)

Asiru also claims loyalty"

"Let the messenger of my lord come, and all that I have said in the presence of my lord I will give, provisions, ships, oil, boxwood and other woods I will give. (number 101 letter 5).