Life on the road to Thebes is hard for anyone, not the least for a foreigner from the land of Egypt’s former enemy. Not that it makes much difference if you have money. The poor walk; the rich take horses or camels. If you are walking along the roads and are suspected of being a foreigner, be prepared to be harassed. As for me, I am fortunate. I am neither poor, nor rich for I have some skills of value. These skills I would consider modest in comparison to the military conquests of other men which have defined most of my life.
My name is Jakarob, the son of a stone mason from the land of Syria, but that land has long been abandoned by my family. The Hittite invasion swept away my father’s house. As a result, I received very little knowledge of stonemasonry and instead, survived by learning the art of languages such as Akkadian, Sumerian, and Egyptian. My knowledge of the surrounding regions, languages, and eventual journey into Egypt has made me a valuable asset to the court of Pharaoh Ahmose I.
The caravan I ride with is apart of a group of professionals answering the request of the pharaoh; many of them have military expertise. These men are like me in ancestry. We are Semites who came across the Sinai into the land of Egypt seeking refuge in the land of Egypt from the Hittites. Our kings are referred to by the Egyptians as Hyksos, or “rulers of foreign lands” (Kishlansky, p. 22). We settled throughout the land of Egypt, taking up their customs, traditions, and assimilating into their culture. My father was among the first Semites to arrive in Egypt and settle.
However, regardless of how assimilated our people have become in Egypt, we will never fully be accepted as Egyptian. To them we will always be foreigners. The most important innovation our people brought to the Egyptians was military technology, and hence the reason the caravan I am in consists of primarily military men. Before the Semites, the Egyptians had an army which was not very mobile. We introduced the chariot, along with a variety of tactics associated with using the chariot in combat. Then around 1552 B. C. E.
, Ahmose I was able to expel the Hyksos and begin again the reign of Egyptian pharaohs (p. 23). Now it seems that no matter what Ahmose does, he will never get rid of his need for Semite military expertise, not to mention translators like myself. The chariot has become a symbol of Egyptian power, and in order for them to continue dominating local dissenters, the pharaoh must rely on our knowledge of chariot methods and tactics. Personally I have no qualms with helping the pharaoh build his base of power. Life under the Egyptians is much more preferable to life under the Hittites.
Before coming to Egypt, my family spent a number of years fleeing the Hittites in Babylon and southern Mesopotamia. In this region I learned how to use the character system of writing of “cuneiform” and the language of Akkadian (p. 14). With this knowledge I was also able to learn how to write characters in my native tongue of Sumerian. The reason for this similarity I learned was that “for over a thousand years, scribes used the same symbols to write not only in Sumerian but also in the other languages of Mesopotamia, such as Akkadian, Babylonian, and Persian” (p.
15). Thus, culturally the peoples of Mesopotamia and Egypt share a common link in their system of languages. In contrast, the Hittites do not share in this cultural similarity. Instead, they originate from the Indo-European people with writing traditions vastly different than the cuneiform system. At one time, part of the Hittites’ land was of the Akkadian Empire under King Sargon and the Hittite influence was minimal (p. 16).
Alas, that time has long since past, as well as the later period in which the Babylonian Hammurabi ruled his strong empire and prevented the Hittites from forming theirs. Over a period of time, Hammurabi’s successors were unable to deter the rise of the Hittites, and Babylon was overrun. Now on the road to Thebes, the threat of Hittite invasion is very far away. The Sinai desert protects Egypt from incursions by Hittite chariots. Egypt is a land of great wonder and ancient power, for the reign of the pharaohs has stretched back for generations.
The source of Egyptian power comes from multiple sources, including religious authority, strong government bureaucracy, and the magnificent pyramids. Each of these pillars of Egyptian strength supports the other. King Zoser, “the founder of the Old Kingdom who built the first of the pyramid temples, the Step Pyramid at Sakkara,” could not have done so without an efficient bureaucracy and religious legitimacy (p. 21). Likewise, the pyramids reinforce a pharaoh’s power and religious significance, for the pyramids is the resting place for pharaohs in the afterlife.
In other words, “the pyramids strengthen the image of the living king by honoring the physical remains of his predecessors” (p. 21). This focus on the afterlife is partially the reason for their early downfall. As I make each step closer to Thebes, I think about how the focus of Ahmose I have changed since his predecessors. Men from a multitude of backgrounds can contribute to the pharaoh’s court, even peasants (p. 22). I have no doubt my contribution will expand its power and that the second rise of Egypt’s power has just begun.