“Ramses, Great King, King of Egypt, is in good peace and good brotherhood with Hattusili, great King of Hatti. The sons of Ramses, Beloved of Amon, Great King, King of Egypt, will be at peace and brothers with the sons of Hattusili, great King, King of Hatti, forever.”a Thus proclaims an Akkadian-language cuneiform tablet (above) from the Hittite capital of Hattusa (modern Bogazköy in central Turkey).

Oddly enough, this copy of the peace treaty between the Egyptian pharaoh Ramesses II and the Hittite king Hattusili III drawn up 13 years after the Battle of Kadesh (1274 B.C.) represents the Egyptian version of the peace accord. After diplomats from both powers agreed on the treaty’s terms, each side wrote down its own version of the agreement—one in Egyptian hieroglyphics and the other in the Hittite language. Each side then translated its version of the treaty into Akkadian and inscribed it on metal (perhaps silver) tablets in cuneiform. (Akkadian, a Semitic language used by the Babylonians and Assyrians, served as the international lingua franca of the Late Bronze Age.)

These documents were then exchanged, with the Akkadian translation of the Egyptian version going to Hatti and the Akkadian translation of the Hittite version going to Egypt. Both the Egyptians and the Hittites had copies made of the version they received from their rival—such as the tablet from Hattusa and the inscription and carvings on the walls of the temple of Amun at Karnak (below).

The principal purpose of the Kadesh treaty was to maintain the integrity of both powers. For example, it included provisions that neither state invade the other and that each would come to the other’s aid if invaded by a third party. One of the clauses in the treaty the Hittites sent to Egypt, however, was a bit of political maneuvering. The Hittite king Hattusili III had earlier wrested power from his nephew, Urhi-Tesub, the legitimate successor to King Muwatalli II, who had fought the Battle of Kadesh. To help secure the legitimacy of his regime, Hattusili included statements in the treaty urging Egypt to accept the rule of his family line: “The son of Hattusili, King of Hatti, shall be made King of Hatti in place of Hattusili, his father, after the many years of Hattusili, King of Hatti. And if the people of Hatti commit an offense against him, then Ramses, Beloved of Amon, must send infantry and chariotry to his aid and take revenge for him.”