Friday, January 4, 2013

The Edict of Telepinus

The Edict of Telepinus is an interesting document from the ancient Hittite kingdom at Hattusha, now Boghazkoy. It comes from the dark ages between the Hittite Old and New Kingdoms. It also contains some Hittite history that otherwise is not preserved. Like most Hittite legal treatises, historical precedent is invoked as the reason for legislation.

Telepinus begins by discussing the idyllic times under Labarnas:
Previously Labarnas was the great king. Then his sons, his brothers, his relatives, his family, and his soldiers were united (1.2-4).
So the Hittites went conquering as they went.
Then Hattusilis became king. Then his sons, his brothers, his relatives, his family, and his soldiers were likewise united (1.13-15).
Then, too, the Hittites were always victorious. But things did not remain so.
When the subjects of the princes later rebelled, they started to take their property, to conspire against their masters, and to shed their blood (1.21-23).
Under Mursilis too (you have to love the name since it sounds like merciless), the Hittites were generally united and victorious, defeating the Hurrians and sacking Babylon (1.24-29). But then Hantilis, the butler and Musilis's brother-in-law, conspired with Zidantas and killed Mursilis (1.30-33).

Zidantas in turn killed Hantilis's sons to become king (1.63-66). Ammunas, Zidantas's son, killen Zidantas to become king (1.66-69). Unfortunately, everything went badly for him; the crops failed and so did the campaigns (1.69-2.3).

The Hittite kingdom descended into a series of internecine coups that Telepinus tracks down to his own day. One suspects that it did not cease with Telepinus. In fact, we know it did not because many years after Telepinus, Hattusilis III usurped the throne from his nephew Urhiteshup.

Telepinus tries to set forth legislation that will put an end to the internecine rivalries plaguing the Hittites. For the most part it seems to have worked. The legislation, however, just seems have regularized the succession patterns. It does not seem to have necessarily guaranteed that the Hittites had the best rulers.