The Battle of Kadesh

The First International Peace Treaty

“What . . .?  The Battle of Kadesh?? That doesn’t sound like a ‘Travel Tale”!

Well that title isn’t, but the alternate title is, as it’s about the first international peace treaty ever written between two countries.  Let’s start at the beginning:

Actually, I wanted to talk about museums.  Everywhere you travel, you will run into museums, museums for everything you can think of.  The ones I’m thinking of are the museums mainly of history, archaeology, or examples of the art of a particular place or society.  Most museums can bore you to death, but once in a while, you come across one that is truly spectacular.  For example; the Thimble museum in Cregligen, Germany; the antique car museum in Mulhouse, France is absolutely spectacular; the Medieval Crime Museum in Rothenburg, Germany (full of torturing devices); or the clock museum in the Black Forest, Germany.  Every one has its charm and incredible detail about the subjects they display.   If you are interested in museums, it is well worth while to spend some time researching the area you are planning to visit, if only to see if there is something worth visiting.  The following is a short story about a museum I visited briefly in Istanbul, Turkey, and what I found there.

During a tour we took of Turkey a few years ago, we were seeing some of the sights in Istanbul.  I should say I was seeing the sights, Diana was laid up with a bad cold and stayed in the hotel all that day.

 By the way, Turkey has to be one of the most fantastic places to visit!  It doesn’t matter what ‘turns your crank’, Turkey has it.  From ancient archaeological sites, fantastic geological oddities, great food, drink, beaches, and incredible markets and bazaars.  The great bazaar in Istanbul being questionably the greatest in the world?

Sometimes you find something that’s just good for a laugh  . . . like this sign . . . offering “Genuine Fake Watches”.  I’m not sure what that means, and we didn’t waste any time finding out.  

Genuine Fake watches - The Battle of Kadesh
Genuine Fake Watches

Back to Istanbul . . . our tour guide, a delightful young man called Ilker Avci, a very personable,  knowledgable fellow, with excellent English, and very accommodating for your every wish.  As the group walked around, that day we visited the Topkapi Palace, a highlight of most tourist’s bucket list.  Every turn, every room, the queues were longer and more frustrating.  We had just finished visiting the Harem, and were all queued up to see the Topkapi dagger and jewels.  Ilker could see I was not enjoying the tour, so he took me aside and said “If you’re not into this glitz and glamour, the Istanbul Archaeological Museum is just around the corner . . . and they have the original tablets of the Kadesh Peace Treaty.”

“Wow!” I had no idea!  I had only heard about this treaty years before after I had read a series of novels about the Great Rameses II of Egypt.

So I thanked him and politely left the group, walked quickly the few blocks to the Istanbul Archaeological Museum.

The Istanbul Archaeological Museum
The Istanbul Archaeological Museum

As I walked through the museum, I was amazed by the collection of items from the ancient world of the Romans, Greeks, Hittites, and other civilizations. 

Ancient Head
Ancient Head

I tried not to get side-tracked and finally found what I was looking for . . . what is referred to as “The Kadesh Treaty”. 

The significance of this artifact is that it is the first international peace treaty ever written between two countries.  Think about that a moment . . . the first international peace treaty!

Treaty of Kadesh
Treaty of Kadesh

It was created more than three thousand years ago in 1283 BC between the King (Pharaoh) of Egypt, the Great Rameses II, and The Hittite King Hattusili III.  It is written in Akkadian cuneiform, ancient language of diplomacy of the time.  A separate copy is engraved in hieroglyphics in Ramsese’s Temple of Karnak in Egypt.  These remaining pieces of the treaty are clay tablets were found in the Hittite capital, Hattusha, near present day Ankara in Turkey.  Apparently the originals were cast in silver, so the treaty is often referred to as ‘The Silver Treaty’.  This war, “The Battle of Kadesh” was waged between the Hittites and the Egyptians for decades.  It is interesting to note that the document itself does not even mention the battle, and was actually written about sixteen years after it had ended. 

The treaty ends with a warning, actually a curse, which reads “To whomever acts against these words, may the thousand gods of the Land of Hatti and the thousand gods of Egypt destroy his home, his land, and his servants.”  Pretty strong stuff!  Unfortunately, the curse has not been totally successful, as the the battles still rage in the area in question, part of the Hittite empire, modern day Turkey, and which is now Syria.  Even after thousands of years, they still have not settled their differences?

This document is so significant that a copy of it is displayed in the United Nations Headquarters in New York City.

Actual Clay tablets of the treaty
Actual Clay tablets of the treaty

So again . . . you never know what lies ahead , unless you check things out in advance, do a little research . . . there are some amazing sights to see if you just take the time so you know where to look.

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