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kingdoms addressed each other as "brother." Correspondence between the Egyptian king and his royal rivals centers largely on the exchange of "gifts" and brides. The pharaoh sought foreign royal brides to forge or strengthen political alliances and to enhance his position as the foremost potentate in the ancient Near East. Egypt never returned the favor, however, and no Egyptian women were sent abroad as royal mates. What foreign rulers demanded most from Egypt was gold, which Egypt reputedly pos-sessed in limitless quantities. Much ceremony accompanied the exchange of consorts and gifts, the latter including raw materials, manufactured commodities, and human and animal resources. The majority of the Amarna letters deal with the administration of Egypt's empire in Syria-Palestine. The pharaoh wrote to his vassals to procure goods and personnel, to introduce Egyptian officials and certify their authority, and to exact needed logistical support for Egyptian activities. The vassals seem to have written to the Egyptian court neither regularly nor by choice, communicating only in response to some request of the king. Unfortunately, vassals were not permitted to address a king by name, which makes it difficult for us to correlate letters and monarchs. As a whole, the vassals' letters are a litany of bitter grievances against compatriots, charges and countercharges of sedition, assertions of innocence and fawning protestations of loyalty, and urgent requests for Egyptian military aid. An unappetizing picture emerges of petty dynasts jockeying for position vis-a-vis each other and their overlord. In the north, the Amarna letters reflect increasing political and military pressure from a revitalized Hittite state in Anatolia. Some ofthe Syrian vassals soon acceded to the more immediate demands of this close and growing power. Others, also far from Egypt, embarked on their own glorification and expansion; the most successful was Amurru, which transformed itself into an important kingdom. In the south, vassal pol-itics remained more insular, and the Amarna letters reflect shifting local coalitions and internecine rivalry and conflict. In the thick of this strife were the Apiru, the outcasts and troublemakers first documented in the area under Amenhotep II, who generally allied themselves with the less loyal of Egypt's vassals. Abdi-Hepa, ruler ofJerusalem, complained of the havoc wreaked by the Apiru in the central hills as he pleaded for Egyptian military support. We have few corroborating sources for the Amarna letters. It is therefore difficult to assess the validity of the vassals' complaints. Had Egypt really abandoned its empire? Originally, scholars assumed that the correspondence reflected a disintegrating Egyptian empire neglected by a religious fanatic. Today it is believed that the documents reflect only business as usual in the quarrelsome Asiatic provinces, with the vassals attempting 1 1 3
1 1 4 CAROL A. REDMOUNT to exploit each other and to extort Egyptian support. Leaving the vassals to their own