27 March 2017

Herstory: Isabella of Castile - the queen at war

...For me, Isabella of Castile will always remain a cruel villain. She couched the quest for Spain’s trade domination across the Mediterranean Sea and control of the kingdom of Granada’s gold supply from Africa as a religious crusade. She ensured the aid of the Catholic Church for her dynastic aims and brought about the ruin of Moorish Granada; ultimately, the end of Muslim Spain.

Civil war among the Moors allowed Isabella to take advantage of an already worsening situation. Through guile and ruthless calculation, she exploited the divisions between the last Nasrid rulers Abu’l-Hasan Ali, his brother Muhammad al-Zaghal and their rival Muhammad, respectively a son and nephew to both men.

Within a few years of Muhammad’s departure from his homeland, she had violated each of the terms offered on behalf of his people in the Capitulations of 1491, specifically the stipulation allowing the Moors to “…live in their own religion,” and “…not permit that their mosques be taken from them….” She unleashed the Inquisition on conquered southern Spain and bore responsibility for thousands of fiery deaths among innocents of the Muslim, Jewish and even Christian faiths. - From the author's note of Sultana: The White Mountains.
Isabella's portrait - a picture taken while
visiting Segovia Castle
Historians have often portrayed the Catholic monarch Isabella, the queen at war as a shining example of female courage in the struggle between Moors and Christians from 1482 to 1492. The sight of her on the edge of a battlefield or at a lengthy siege could boost morale and lead to victory. Against all odds, including difficult terrain and a determined enemy who could strike hard and fast against the Spanish Christians before disappearing through the mountain passes, Isabella and her husband secured the official surrender of Moorish Spain on January 2, 1492.  

Isabella may have never anticipated a future as queen of Castile. In the line of succession, two elder brothers Enrique and Alfonso preceded her. She might not have imagined a union with Ferdinand of Aragon or how their marriage would lay the groundwork for a future Spanish dynasty. Like her ancestors, she could have idled and watched the Moors of southern Spain destroy each other in foolish civil war. Instead, she pursued a ten-year campaign against them and sought the hegemony of Spain under Christian rule.

The campaign against the Moors didn't begin at the direction of Isabella or her husband. For centuries beforehand, Isabella's ancestors had struggled against the kingdom of Granada, which encompassed most of modern-day Andalusia, in a series of intermittent border raids and sieges. When they were not fighting. the Castilian sovereigns accepted payments of tribute from the Moorish rulers, whom they considered their vassals. It's clear the Moors did not always accept this subordinate role because several Sultans refused to submit the gold coins. Last among them was Abu'l-Hasan Ali, known among the Spanish as Muley Hacén. 

His soldiers seized the city of Zahara in December 1481, provoking the response of Rodrigo Ponce de León, Marqués of Cádiz, who then attacked and claimed Alhama. Isabella and the Marqués did not always enjoy good relations; at the death of her elder brother Enrique, Rodrigo Ponce de León first supported the rival claim of the princess Juana, Enrique's daughter and Isabella's niece. The propaganda of Isabella's supporters made the supposed heir of Castile the illegitimate child of another man. Juana eventually resigned herself to a convent. Although Isabella and Ferdinand had not ordered the reprisal at Alhama, they planned to use it as a base for future conquests. Ferdinand came south to attack Loja, but the forces of Abu'l-Hasan Ali turned his quest into a resounding defeat. 

What happened to the momentum after the victory at Alhama? At Loja, Isabella's husband became aware of the difficulties their campaign would face in every Moorish territory. The cities of Andalusia were not only defended by stout walls and cannon, but the terrain itself made the movement of massive armies and siege weapons a struggle. Men and artillery required money the monarchs did not have. So, the king and queen sent a delegation to the Pope Sixtus IV seeking a papal bull. 

The words, "We have not been moved to this war by any desire to enlarge our realms...but our desire to serve God, and our zeal for His Holy Catholic faith, made us put all other interests aside...." had the intended effect and the Pope granted the bull. It turned centuries-long warfare between the kingdoms into a religious crusade. The indulgences the Church gave to those who fought against the Moors, including absolution for any violence committed, bolstered the numbers in the army and brought the funds the king and queen required. To secure future victories and avoid the embarrassment at Loja, they employed the services of Francisco Ramírez de Madrid, Master of Artillery.

Internal divisions within Granada also buoyed their efforts. Abu'l-Hasan Ali's eldest son Muhammad then claimed the throne in the summer of 1482, relegating his father to the area around Malaga, which was then the governorship of Muhammad Al-Zaghal, brother of Abu'l-Hasan Ali. During April 1483 in an attempt to raid the Castilian border, the new Sultan fell into the hands of Isabella and Ferdinand. They gave him an ultimatum; he would gain release if he fought against his father and turned his toddler son and younger brother over as hostages. In the interim, the Castilian forces kept up the attacks on Abu'l-Hasan Ali. They also built up the Castilian navy's presence in the Mediterranean Sea and interrupted the centuries-long supply of Muslim troops from Morocco in defense of Granada, as well as gold from the mines of Africa.

Isabella and Ferdinand released the young Sultan in exchange for his son, whom they kept at their court until 1492. Then they began the campaign in earnest with the siege weapons the master of artillery had developed. Faced with merciless bombardment under heavy mortar and cannon, city after city fell into their hands. Ronda surrendered in 1485, as did Marbella. Then Malaga in 1487, Vera in 1488, Guadix, Almeria and Baza in 1489, and finally Granada in 1492. At almost every siege, which sometimes occurred during Isabella's numerous pregnancies, she joined her husband, even with their children as at Los Ojos de Huescar where an eight-month siege culminated in June 1491.

The Capitulations, Pradilla - from Wiki Commons
Despite the ravages of the campaign and the abandonment of the treaty terms between the Catholic monarchs and the last Muslim ruler of Spain, Isabella is largely responsible for the preservation of the fragile beauty of Muhammad’s Alhambra palace as we see it today. She lies buried at Granada, the city she claimed through determined efforts, accomplishing in ten years what none of her ancestors had done in centuries past.

--Images are mine or derived from Wiki Commons. Sources include:

Ferdinand and Isabella – Profiles in Power by John Edwards (Routledge – 2013), Granada 1492: The twilight of Moorish Spain by David Nicolle, illustrated by Angus McBride (Osprey Publishing -1998), Isabel the Queen: Life and Times by Peggy K. Liss (University of Pennsylvania Press – 2004) and The Military Orders and the War of Granada (1350-1492) by Enrique Rodríguez-Picavea, Mediterranean Studies, Vol. 19 (2010), pp. 14-42 http://www.jstor.org/stable/41167026 (published by Penn State University Press - 2010)

** An Excerpt from Sultana: The White Mountains**

Chapter 25

Sultana Moraima

Gharnatah, Al-Andalus or Granada, Andalusia
15 Ramadan 896 AH / Friday, July 22, AD 1491

“Welcome to Santa Fe.”

Moraima and Aisha whirled as the queen of Castilla-León entered the enormous tent from some adjoining quarter concealed behind a gap in the diamond-patterned fabric. She had not arrived alone, without protections. Plate armor contrasted with vibrant green silk, trimmed in black lace and shimmery pearls. So much fabric, for the sovereign had thickened since they last saw her at the bridge over the Guadalquivir River. The white material atop her head evoked the odd combination of a Moorish veil and a Jewish skullcap, except for two flaps draped on either side of her sallow, puffy cheeks.

The burly officer Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba followed his queen. The one who had aided Muhammad against his uncle and concealed his awareness of the Berber tongues. Moraima shuddered at the memory of his cruel touch. Muhammad should have known the truth. As his beloved, she could have exposed the Castillan.

His mistress strolled to the twin thrones at the opposite end of the tent and sat. Although other chairs lined the space, she offered no comfort. Córdoba joined her, hovering at her right. His palm rested atop the pommel of the sword girded at his stout waist. His black gaze, like the portent of a terrible storm, roved over Moraima and Aisha. Did he recall the threat once brandished against them? Would he kill them now if given another chance?

Aisha matched his fury. “This region is called Atqa! Still a part of the kingdom of Granada.”

Queen Isabella settled back against the plush cushion behind her. “I have claimed this territory for the kingdom of Castilla-León. You should be accustomed to the conquests of my husband by now, Sultana.”

“I'm aware of his actions, la reina. The enslavement of Moors. The brutal deaths of renegados who had embraced the true faith, burnt as apostates by your inquisitors. You Trastámaras have a long history of violence and theft. You’ve always murdered and stolen for your gains. Even for a crown.”

As the Christian monarch stiffened, Moraima cautioned her mother-in-law with a tug of her long sleeve. “Ummi, please! We didn’t come to argue but to recover my son. You promised me before we arrived. Ahmad must be the focus of our negotiations. If you love your grandson….”

“You do not have to ask. Forgive me, dear daughter.” Aisha leaned closer. “Ours is an ancient hatred. Nasrids have despised the Trastámaras and their descendants since their murder of the legitimate king of Castilla-León, Pedro, half-brother of the Conde de Trastámara, Enrique. My noble ancestor Muhammad al-Ghani bi-llah, may Allah sustain his memory, shared a strong bond with Pedro. Then the Conde Enrique killed his brother like a coward and ushered in a new dynasty bent upon our annihilation. This queen of war descends from such evil. But she forgets who we are. Nasrids. Our memories are long. Our vengeance is unyielding. Although more than a century has passed, we have never forgotten our allies. We also do not forgive enemies, theirs or ours.”

Lisa J. Yarde writes fiction inspired by the Middle Ages in Europe. She is the author of two historical novels set in medieval England and Normandy, The Burning Candle, based on the life of one of the first countesses of Leicester and Surrey, Isabel de Vermandois, and On Falcon's Wings, chronicling the star-crossed romance between Norman and Saxon lovers before the Battle of Hastings. Lisa has also completed a six-part series set in Moorish Spain, Sultana, Sultana’s Legacy, Sultana: Two SistersSultana: The Bride Price, Sultana: The Pomegranate Tree, and Sultana: The White Mountains, where rivalries and ambitions threaten the fragile bonds between members of a powerful family. Her short story, The Legend Rises, which chronicles the Welsh princess Gwenllian of Gwynedd’s valiant fight against English invaders, is also available.

26 March 2017

Author Interview & Book Giveaway: P.L. PARKER on RILEY'S JOURNEY TRILOGY

This week, we're pleased to welcome author P.L PARKER with her three-part historical time-travel series, the Riley’s Journey Trilogy: Riley’s Journey, Into the Savage Dawn and Beyond Tomorrow. One lucky winner will receive the novels in the series, format to be determined by the author. Here's the blurb about the series.

The research project was only supposed to be for an "extended period." No one said anything about forever! Sent back 40,000 years to the ends of the last great Ice Age, the time travelers embark on a journey of survival and discovery. The brutal and cannibalistic Cro-Magnons discover the small band and attack. Forced to flee from their high mountain encampment, the tribe heads into the dawn, towards the Pacific Ocean and their dream of ultimately reaching North America. Survival of the fittest - that is the law of primordial earth.

**Q&A with P.L. Parker**

What inspired you to write time travel novels?

I’ve always been a fan of time travel.  One of my favorite old movies was The Time Machine with Rod Taylor and Yvette Mimieux.  My preference is the older version as opposed to the newer one.  I grew up imagining myself stepping through a portal (consciously or accidentally) and ending up somewhere vastly different from the world today!

How did the idea for the Riley’s Journey Trilogy originate?

            Ancient history, not the ancient history of the Romans or Greeks, but the less “civilized” groups—the Tartars of Russian Steppes, the Celts, the Vikings, etc., is a favorite subject of mine and nothing catches my attention more than some small bit of unusual historical data unearthed and brought to life.
           After a particularly engrossing chapter of the Discovery Channel about the discovery of the Oetzi, the frozen mummified body in the Alps,  http://dsc.discovery.com/news/2008/08/22/oetzi-iceman.html, the idea for my time travel trilogy came into being.  I was captivated by the trials and tribulations this ancient man must have endured before his eventual death.  Why was he in that place, frozen for all time? 
The Iceman was shot with an arrow--the head of which remained lodged in his shoulder -- that fatally severed his left subclavian artery. He also suffered a traumatic cerebral lesion, the consequence of a trauma from a blow or a fall onto the rocks.

What would modern man require to survive 40,000 years ago?

            My creative juices flowed.  How would modern man measure up under the same circumstances?  Would he fare better?  Worse?   Without modern conveniences, would he even survive?  My personal opinion was…perhaps.  But it would have to be individuals skilled in living off the land, comfortable with crafting and using ancient weaponry, and the daring to go forth and multiply.  A lone person might survive (Nathan in Riley’s Journey, Geena in Into the Savage Dawn), but without human society, would he or she have the will to continue?  Okay, so perhaps a band of time travelers, each with skills essential to begin life in a prehistoric setting would be a better fit under the circumstances.

Why did you pick the time period you did for the Trilogy? 

            In the beginning, I contemplated the trilogy taking place at about the same time period as the Oetzi mummy.  Ultimately, I went back even farther, to 40,000 years ago during the last great Ice Age when Cro-Magnon and Neanderthals both inhabited the earth. 

What about location, why did you select the location that you did?

I needed to set up the location where the time travelers would ultimately end.  Early man is thought to have migrated from Africa and spread out.  See, for example, The Real Eve, Modern Man’s Journey Out of Africa by Stephen Oppenheimer.  Research into the nearby land masses led me to decide on an area of the Far East, in what would eventually be the southern areas of China.  This area’s climatology 40,000 years ago would support the basic needs of life in primordial Earth.  (Id.)
            Early humans were hunter/gatherers.  What animals existed in that time and place and which were predators and which were prey?  In Riley’s Journey, the antagonists were the aggressive Cro-Magnon and their influx into the primitive Neanderthals’ territory.  In the sequel to Riley’s Journey, Into the Savage Dawn, the antagonists are still the Cro-Magnon but with the added twist of a giant cave bear who stalks Geena and Seth (hero and heroine) after they involuntarily intrude on his territory.  In the third of the trilogy, Beyond Tomorrow, once again the antagonists are the savage Cro-Magnon who kidnap Rachel, much to the half-breed Hawk’s dismay.

What fascinates you about this time period?

            Research into primordial Earth is fascinating.  Cave bears, saber-toothed cats and giant sloths were just a few of the many creatures who have suffered from the effects of evolution along with the giant megaloceros (elk), the wooly mammoths and the wooly rhinoceros.

Are any more books planned in this series?

            Not at the moment, but you can never tell!  I’ve had a lot of requests for the series to continue and I’ve played around with a few ideas for another book.  We shall see.
For more information, the following sites are good reading for all ages:

About the Author

Learn more about P.L. Parker:
Romantic Adventure at its Best


24 March 2017

Herstory: Beyond Baby-Making - The Role of Carolingian Queens

Although seldom mentioned in annals, queens in Carolingian era (eighth and ninth century Francia) had a much more important role than a casual 21st-century observer might think.

If the king did not already have heirs, the queen’s primary role was to produce healthy sons to inherit the realm, and some kings tried to divorce wives unable to bear children. My main characters’ inability to conceive becomes a point of contention in my first novel, The Cross and the Dragon(Paradoxically, a Carolingian king would not want too many sons born in wedlock because each one of them would expect kingdom when his father died, and the realm would not pass to the next generation intact.)

Yet a queen’s responsibilities went beyond baby-making, and if the question of heirs was already settled, she could have tremendous influence.

The ninth-century treatise The Government of the Palace says the queen’s role is “to release the king from all domestic and palace cares, leaving him free to turn his mind to the state of his realm.”

This does not mean the queen is relegated to the role of housewife. In the Middle Ages, the personal and political were intertwined. The queen was the guardian of the treasury, and she controlled access to her husband. The courtier and scholar Alcuin wrote to the queen to find out where Charlemagne was spending the winter.

When houseguests were foreign dignitaries, royal hospitality was key to international relations. Hospitality was more than just showing good manners. Frankish royalty would want their guests to report to their own rulers that the palace was beautiful and sturdy, the baths were hot, the table was laden, the host well dressed, and the guards and servants well cared for. All signs of power, important to project even to one’s own allies whose support could shift.

Of course, this time period was hardly ideal for women. Girls as young as 12 or 13 were considered marriageable and their families chose their husbands. Among aristocrats, marriage was most often for political reasons. Canon law gave women the right to consent to a marriage at age 15 or 16, but that could be beaten or starved out of them.

However, the reason for Women’s History Month and for posts like these is that too often women are portrayed only as victims and not as full human beings who could influence events around them and contribute to their societies. Carolingian queens certainly did both.

Illustrations are from Costumes of All Nations (1882).


Women at the Court of Charlemagne, Janet Nelson

Daily Life in the World of Charlemagne, Pierre Riché (translated by Jo Ann McNamara)

**An Excerpt from The Ashes of Heaven's Pillar**

"What are the furs the girl is holding?" Hildegard asked.

"Rabbit, my queen."

"Child, bring them to me. Oh, she holds them up without being asked. She is a good servant, Ragenard, and will fetch a good price should you want to sell her."

Sunwynn stood rigid and trembling. Leova swayed and steadied herself. She turned and fixed her gazed on Ragenard's face. For a moment, they locked eyes.

"Thank you, my lady queen," he said, "the girl is a good servant, and if you run your hand over the rabbit furs she is holding, you will find they are of the finest quality."

Fury rose from Leova's gorge, causing her hands to shake under the furs. Her child could be lost to her because of a Frank's whim!

Stroking the rabbit furs, Hildegard gazed at her husband across the room, smiled, and nodded as if to herself. "I want the rabbit furs, some leather, and the bolts of linen and wool. I'll pay two hundred dernier."

"My lady queen, they are worth more than that. Let the linen flow between your fingers; feel the fine texture of the wool. They are worth two hundred fifty dernier."

"I must be a good wife and spend my husband's treasure wisely. Two hundred twenty-five."

"You are a good wife and a good queen. Two hundred twenty-five it is." He bowed.

Relief washed through Leova. She barely noticed the clerk scribbling on the wax tablet. Sunwynn would stay with her—for now.

 Kim Rendfeld is the author of two novels set in 8th century Francia: The Cross and the Dragon, a tale of love set amid wars and blood feuds, and The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar, about a peasant going to great lengths to protect her children. Her work in progress, Queen of the Darkest Hour, features Fastrada, Charlemagne’s influential fourth wife. Connect with Kim on her website (kimrendfeld.com), her blog (kimrendfeld.wordpress.com), Facebook (facebook.com/authorkimrendfeld), and Twitter (@kimrendfeld).

23 March 2017


This week, we're pleased to welcome author P.L PARKER with her three-part historical time-travel series, the Riley’s Journey Trilogy: Riley’s Journey, Into the Savage Dawn and Beyond Tomorrow. One lucky winner will receive the novels in the series, format to be determined by the author. Join us again on Sunday for an author interview, with more details about the story behind the series. Here's the blurb about the series.

The research project was only supposed to be for an "extended period." No one said anything about forever! Sent back 40,000 years to the ends of the last great Ice Age, the time travelers embark on a journey of survival and discovery. The brutal and cannibalistic Cro-Magnons discover the small band and attack. Forced to flee from their high mountain encampment, the tribe heads into the dawn, towards the Pacific Ocean and their dream of ultimately reaching North America. Survival of the fittest - that is the law of primordial earth.

**An Excerpt from Riley’s Journey – Book 1**

The nightmare began in earnest at midnight. Screams echoed through the campsite. Confused team members ran wildly in every direction, attempting to locate the source of the attack. Firelight flickered across faces distorted by fear. Only the Black Ops members retained their composure, hurriedly forming a semi-circle near Jonas and bracing for battle. Another scream rent the air!
Frozen for a moment, the team gaped in horror as an unidentified woman staggered into view, blood dripping from a scalp torn halfway off and partially obscuring her ravaged face.
“There! Over there!” Jonas whirled in response, his bowels contracting at the sheer size of the massive bear stalking the mutilated woman, his hate-filled yellow eyes gleaming wickedly in the light of the campfire.
Jesus H. Christ!” Geena gasped, backpedaling in an effort to gain some maneuverability.
The woman, weak from loss of blood, stumbled and fell as the great beast raked her with a giant claw. Steel jaws seized the woman’s nape, bones cracking audibly as the behemoth ground the neck bones to mush, mercifully ending her suffering. Roaring in rage, the bear began pulling the decimated woman from the campsite, aggressively defending his kill as the team rushed in. Spears shoved deep into the animal’s sides only served to further enrage the beast. Dropping his prize, the bear advanced on his attackers, his elongated canines dripping blood from jaws forged in the fires of hell. Bellowing his defiance, the rotten-flesh stench of his hot breath permeating the pristine air, vicious claws raking and lashing out, he was a creature from some demented fantasy.
Micah wrenched a burning brand from the fire pit, shoving it hard into the monster’s face, singeing fur and charring the fiend’s tender snout. Howling in pain and fury, the bear gave ground, backing off and retreating to the edge of the clearing.
“Behind us! There’s another one!” Allie’s shrill voice pierced the turmoil. From the corner of his eye, Jonas perceived movement. Another bear lumbered into view, fully as huge and terrifying as the first!
“And another one!” The team now faced not one, but three of the ferocious carnivores! Unless they did something quick, there would be no escape!
“Into the trees!” Jonas screamed. “Into the trees!” 

About the Author

Learn more about P.L. Parker:
Romantic Adventure at its Best


22 March 2017

Herstory: An Ancient Cold War Resolved by a Marriage

By Judith Starkston

Toward the end of the Late Bronze Age, in the decade after their colossal confrontation at Kadesh in
Ramses II,  Temple at Abu Simbel
1274 BCE, the two major world powers, Egypt and the Hittite Empire, eyed each other with hostility. Rather like the U.S. and Russia during the Cold War, neither could afford to restart open warfare, but the treaty they had signed formed an uneasy peace.

(If you are caught by surprise at the mention of the Hittites as a major world power at any period, you are merely a victim of what we might call the Forgotten Empire Syndrome. The Hittites got buried and lost to memory until not so long ago when modern archaeology dug them up.)

Rock carving of Queen Puduhepa (far right) making an offering
Into this diplomatic breach stepped Great Queen Puduhepa, the indomitable leader of the Hittites, who frequently took state and judicial affairs into her own hands on behalf of her husband Great King Hattusili III. Theirs was a genuine partnership of equals. Hittite law and custom allowed queens plenty of latitude but few took every inch of that power the way Puduhepa did. She reigned until she was at least 80 and probably started before she passed 20. An impressive run, with many impressive accomplishments.

We often think of the power of women through much of history as arising from their use as brides to kings, sealers of bonds between two dominant men. This reeks more than a bit of chattel. Certainly it isn’t the role we most admire and celebrate when we study women’s history.

But in Puduhepa’s case we get the bizarre mixture of a powerful woman using a lot of mostly anonymous young women as guarantors of her country’s peace and power. She arranged politically adept marriages for her husband’s many daughters and sons, both sending out Hattusili’s girls and bringing in foreign potentates’ daughters for his sons. (Only some of these children were literally Puduhepa’s. Concubines were the norm, but only for the royal family. Before Puduhepa arrived in the palace, there was already a good stock of future political brides and loyal generals. The loins of the king were the supplier of the state department staff and military leadership, so to speak…)

Of all the marriages Puduhepa arranged, the most complicated and tricky was between Pharaoh Ramses II and one of Puduhepa’s own daughters. She had to negotiate for months—years—the appropriate size of dowry, the travel arrangements, the status once of this wife within Pharaoh’s court, and most challenging, she had to first convince Pharaoh that he wanted a new wife.

This marriage was the crowning achievement of her peacemaking. The Hittite Empire needed this surety that Pharaoh would not back Hattusili’s challengers far more than Pharaoh needed anything from the Hittites. Hattusili and Puduhepa had usurped the throne from a secondary son of a concubine who as near as history can tell us was singularly untalented at ruling judiciously. They may have been right to take the throne, but that didn’t eliminate all the challenges of establishing a legitimate claim. Marriage with Pharaoh settled the question.

Rameses smiting the Hittites
A really BIG Pharaoh
in Egyptian iconography
Puduhepa’s other difficulty in making this peace-sealing marriage happen lay in Ramses’s personality. He shows clear signs of an ego even bigger than the one of a certain recently elected U.S. president. Not an easy guy to talk into doing something that might imply that he is equal to, not greater than, his least favorite “Brother” king. (If you were important enough, you got to address your fellow king as brother. Most kings didn’t qualify.)

In defense of Puduhepa’s chattel-like use of her daughter, other than that it was the norm and the best expected outcome for said daughter, the queen took extreme precautions to assure her daughter’s status as Ramses’ “first wife.” He was an old man with a large harem and women tended to disappear into oblivion at his court. They probably led comfortable lives, but who knew for sure? None of the ambassadors Puduhepa sent could reassure her on this point. The Babylonian princess had been denied access to her family’s messengers once the marriage was consummated. Sadly, Ramses went back on his promise to keep this newest wife as the top lady. But Puduhepa tried. If he hadn’t lied, she’d have won that one, too. Along with world peace and economic well being for her country. Not too bad with one marriage deal.

Here are some trimmed excerpts from her most famous letter to Ramses, giving him a hard time
A cuneiform letter similar to Puduhepa's
next to its clay envelope
Istanbul Archaeological Museum
about his complaints. He has accused her of stalling, but she points out putting a dowry together is tricky because the king before Hattusili (whom Hattusili usurped and who is now living in exile with Ramses) stole most of the state treasury (or something like that, the words aren’t totally clear, as is true with pretty much every word in every Hittite document for reasons I won’t go into, but that are fascinating.)

After her dig about the missing treasury, which she tells Ramses to ask his pal the ex-king about, she carries on with some salesmanship:
“To whom shall I compare the daughter of heaven and earth whom I will give to my brother: Should I compare her to the daughter of Babylonia, of Zulabi, or of Assyria? [absolutely not, she’s way better]

[Then back to the dowry quarrels, Ramses wants a lot] Does my brother have nothing at all? Only if the Son of the Sun God, The Son of the Storm God, and the Sea have nothing, do you have nothing! Yet, my brother, you want to enrich yourself at my expense! It (i.e., such behavior) is unworthy of name and lordly status.”

A later bit of salesmanship about the daughter Puduhepa has chosen for Ramses comes in this sentence: “And may the gods likewise endow the daughter whom I will give to my brother with the Queen’s experience and capacity for nurture.”

As she hints in the letter, Puduhepa counted as one of her greatest accomplishments her mothering and loving raising of her children and, quite inclusively, Hattusili’s children by his concubines. Sometimes that poses challenges for the modern mind to get around—just what was this equal partnership really like?

About the author

Judith Starkston is the author of Hand of Fire: A Novel of Briseis and the Trojan War

Her website is a great place to subscribe to if you enjoy engaging windows into ancient history and archaeology. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter