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Oldest Stories

Author: James Bleckley

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This show is focused on the history and myth of the Cradle of Civilization, bronze age Mesopotamia, beginning with the dawn of writing. The show will cover the full history of Mesopotamia, from Gilgamesh to Nabonidas, a span of some 2500 years, with myths of heroes and gods, and tales of daily life peppered throughout. New episodes every Wednesday. Online at oldeststories.net. I hang at a discord at https://discord.gg/q8XPnpg
84 Episodes
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Magic, science, and medicine are our topic today, focusing primarily one the good number of documents on these topics which survive from the Middle Hittite period. We are going to learn how to cure diseases like impotence and argumentativeness, and we are going to learn which animals are and are not ok to have sexual relations with. The rituals we are looking at today provide one more window into the mindset of the ancients, and offer one more puzzle piece to fill in our picture of the late bronze age.
Things are tough for the Hittite Empire. The vassals who promise to be loyal keep being disloyal, the enemies who promise to attack keep attacking, and we can't even know for certain what the logistical situation looked like, though it was surely quite grim, given the number of folks who appear unwilling to show up to work when called on. That said, the Tudhaliya and Arnuwanda tag team is the rocky beginning of the uphill climb for the Hittite empire, and things are going to end up still uncertain, but certainly moving in the right direction.
We return to Anatolia, where our tale remains just as poorly documented and fast moving as it is in Babylon, thought there is light at the end of the tunnel this week as we finally get into the transition to the Hittite New Kingdom, with all the renewed conquest and court drama that entails. Actually, so little happens in the Hittite Middle Kingdom that much of the first half of the show is dedicated to one of the more peculiar incidents, the tale of Idrimi, a deposed prince who turns himself into a major Syrian power. Online at oldeststories.net
The Amarna letters are famous because nowhere else in bronze age history do we have a cache of documents quite like it. Thirteen letters from Kadashman-Enlil, and later his son Burna-Buriash, addressed to Pharoah Akhenaten of Egypt, give us insights into the nuts and bolts of bronze age international diplomacy that even most bronze age folks would have not understood unless they were part of the royal courts. What did ancient kings know about their neighbors, how did they think about their kingdom, and how did they solve disputes? All these and more are in the Amarna letters, and as an added benefit, these letters will take us through the reigns of these two kings, continuing the tale of Kassite Babylonian history. Online at oldeststories.net
The growth of Kassite Babylonia, also called Karduniash, continues apace. Just like last week, Kassite Babylonia is very poorly documented, and thus we are going to cover all the way from Pharaoh Thutmose III to Pharaoh Akhenaten. That's right, Kassite Babylonia has so little history that we make our bookmarks against Egyptian history instead of Babylonian, but this does mean that we will start looking at the famous Amarna letters, the diplomatic correspondence between Kadashman-Enlil and the Egyptian Pharaoh. It is a little bit of war, a little bit of construction, and a thirty five hundred year old missing person case.
Babylon is reborn! Following the decline and sack of Babylon, the entire region was devastated for decades. However, even in these ashes lay the seeds of a new growth, the Kassite Dynasty, which will emerge to rebuild not just Babylon but the whole region. This is a relatively poorly documented century, but a significant one, meaning that our story is going to be jumping around quite a bit, but this will give us a good view of many different parts of the rising dynasty.
True crime! Corruption in city hall! A gang of thugs terrorizing a town! One of the most interesting finds in the town of Nuzi is a series of court documents which contain testimony about a large number of criminal activities by a gang of thugs, including men who have positions in city hall. Today we get an on the ground look at what sort of crime went on in Nuzi, and what was done about it. Plus, we will start to get a sense of how many sheep the Hurrians actually had.
Happy Mesopotamian New Year! Akitu was celebrated at the start of the year from Sumerian times until the end of Babylonian civilization, and naturally the details changed significantly over the course of thousands of years. However, this is something of a reconstructed outline of what went on, with attention particularly paid both to the cultural context of many of the events, as well as to how some of those might be adjusted for modern neo-pagans attempting to reconstruct the holiday.
OS72 - Lawyers of Nuzi

OS72 - Lawyers of Nuzi

2021-03-1033:41

Today we have a very real discussion about some very real people, hearing from the Hurrians in their own words by looking at the goings on in a town called Nuzi. When two groups disagree about who is the rightful owner of some land, the matter gets resolved in a peaceful and civilized fashion, with a well ordered and reasonable lawsuit. This may be the bronze age, but it turns out that we can, in fact, resolve our problems using words instead of violence. Today we are using actual court documents surrounding a particular lawsuit to follow a legal dispute from start to finish, and in the process learn quite a bit about how the Hurrians lived.
OS 71 - Hurrian Wisdom

OS 71 - Hurrian Wisdom

2021-03-0334:33

The Hurrian Song of Release is an odd text. Part wisdom, part legend, the best we can guess is that it was a set of rituals, cultural memories, and advice to accompany what may have been a monumental life event, when a debtor or perhaps slave was released from bondage. Or perhaps when a whole city's worth of slaves are released. Or perhaps it is actually just a number of unrelated texts recorded on the same clay tablet because they were individually too small and there was still plenty of space on the tablet. We don't really know. But, there is some fascinating wisdom here, a look at ideas of wealth and status in Hurrian society, and a very, very interesting debate on whether slaves should be freed. Online at oldeststories.net
Finishing up the Kumarbi Cycle with the biggest of monsters, the Song of Hedammu and the Song of Ullikummi are the two tales that see some actual character development, as Ea, god of wisdom, slowly moves out of Kumarbi's camp and is finally convinced to begin supporting Tessub as rightful king of heaven. A massive sea monster and a huge stone are our opponents today, and even the gods will have trouble defeating them in direct battles. Online at oldeststories.net
The Song of Lamma and the song of Silver, two further adventures in the Kumarbi cycle. Tessub may be the Hurrian king in heaven, but Kumarbi still wants to pull him down, and hatches scheme after scheme to defeat his usurper. Lamma is an obscure god, possibly a Lamassu, possibly the god Karhuhi, but he will be turned to Kumarbi's side and sent to battle Tessub. Silver is a demi-god, a champion of mortal mother and divine father, who will even overcome his father on his way to the throne. Online at oldeststories.net
Today we begin the great epic of the Hurrians, the Kumarbi cycle, which in multiple fragmentary episodes discusses the multiple conflicts over kingship that the Hurrian gods have with each other. Focusing particularly on the battle between Tessub and Kumarbi, it draws in a number of gods from both native Hurrian as well as southern Mesopotamian and Anatolian tradition. The end result is a work about the cosmic order that finds many parallels, and may well have influenced, later Greek myth, especially Hesiod's Thegony.
This may be the late bronze age, but it is the golden age of chariot warfare. To a great degree, the power of the great kingdoms is all built upon chariot warfare, from the Maryannu elites of Mitanni to the heavy chariots of the Hittites, to the personal valor of the Egyptian pharoahs, to the flat plains of Kassite Babylon. What did war look like in a time dominated by the the great chariots? We will look at how thoroughly a chariot army could dominate and raid into places that had no chariots for themselves, and then we will take a look at what it looked like when two full armies confronted each other. Online at oldeststories.net
The world of the Late Bronze Age is expanding, and today we introduce the two final players to the near east battleground. Egypt is probably familiar to many, though worth a bit of an introduction to see what exactly the Nile valley is doing to bring it into our story. Mitanni, however, and its people, the Hurrians, is quite a bit more obscure. Note that next week there will be no normal episode, instead I am doing some reworkings of the very first episodes, so remember to scroll down to check out the brand new Episode 3. Online at oldeststories.net
The Hittites are not going to exceed the heights of king Mursili for a long, long time, if indeed they ever do. Today we are going to look at a dark century of decline, as the Kaskans and Hurrians press on the ever shrinking borders, and kings begin to off each other right and left in the capitol. We will look most extensively at Hantili and Telipinu, since they have the most surviving details for us to get at, but all in all it is a pretty poorly documented period. Still, there are some fun tales of murder and divine vengeance here as well. Apologies for the poor audio quality, I am stuck recording this in some sub-optimal conditions. It should get back to normal soon. Online at oldeststories.net
Part two of daily life in Anatolia under the Hittites continues where we left off last time. And also doesn't get as far as I had planned this time either, but it turns out that we just have a lot of great detail about how people lived in late bronze age anatolia. We discuss the law code, agriculture, the different types of slavery, and death in Hittite society. Online at oldeststories.net
OS 63 - Village People

OS 63 - Village People

2020-12-3033:001

Daily life for the average anatolian living under the Hittites was not all that terrible, and though much of it is poorly documented, there are still quite a bit we can say about how it may have looked to be an inhabitant of one of the many villages that dotted the valleys of Anatolia. These villages were often quite well organized, even if the houses themselves were of questionable construction, and a fair life could have been lived here, at least as far as we can tell. This is part one of daily life in anatolia, next week will focus more heavily on the economic and legal issues a villager would expect to navigate as he toiled for his daily bread.
Mursili I destroyed two empires, plundering Aleppo and Babylon, and ruled for thirty of the best years in Hittite history. His conquests would pave the way for the great battles of the late bronze age. And yet he is almost completely obscure, despite being the singular catalyst for everything that was to come. Today I want to focus in on a man who has failed to receive the immortality he deserved, and to look at the military machine that helped him achieve these things.
Hattusili I has already shown himself to be a cut above the Anatolian kings that have come before him, but like all the most ambitious of men he has set his sights far higher than just Greatest Anatolian King. Today he marches eastward to challenge the Syrian kingdom of Yamhad, where he will campaign for the rest of his life in an effort to outdo the great Sargon of Akkad. Then he will die after a pretty good showing, but the drama doesn't end there. On his deathbed, the family squabble over succession will force the ill and aged king to re-order dynastic politics. Online at oldeststories.net
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Comments (1)

Serial277something Something

That was a bit uncomfortable

May 25th
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