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36     The Political Abroach to the Classical World
driven back the turbulent peoples who harried his northern and
north-western borders, he at once set about encouraging the
disintegrating tendencies of the S7rian possessions of Egypt.
Our knowledge of this interesting stage of Near Eastern
politics, with which Egypt was so vitally concerned, is mainly
derived from two sources, the Tell el-fAmarna letters and the
royal tablets from Boghaz-keui. The former are what remains
of the diplomatic correspondence which passed between the
Pharaohs Amenophis III and Amenophis IV (Akhenaton), and
their brother monarchs and subject princes of the Near East.
The latter are a collection of similar documents from the Hittite
court record office. Both series are written in Akkadian, the
language of diplomacy, and from them the main sequence of
events can be reconstructed.
The key-state in Hither Asia at that time was Mitanni. Lying
as she did in an arena of constant dispute, surrounded by grow-
ing Powers all hungry for territory, she was bound to be the
pivot round which events turned. For a century or more after
the collapse of Babylonia and the retirement of the Hittites, she
may for a time have been the most powerful State in the Near
East, with an empire stretching from the North Syrian coast to
the Tigris. Tuthmosis III in his campaigns limited the terri-
tory of Mitanni, but there remained a strong Khurrian element
in the population of the cities of the west, and by the time of
Amenophis III she seems again to have extended her domination
over much of North Syria. Egypt, now unable to check her
expansion, courted her friendship instead, by subsidies of Nubian
gold and by a series of marriages between the Pharaohs and the
princesses of Mitanni. But the Khurrians found themselves
menaced on either side. While Shubbiluliuma and Ashuruballit
wrote letters protesting friendship to Egypt, they were each
plotting the annexation of Mitanni. At this stage Egypt would
have done well to consider the danger of the situation and rein-
force her Syrian possessions. But Amenophis did little, and he