Thursday, July 13, 2006

Scribal Postscripts

A refreshing bit of personality can be found in some of the diplomatic letters of the Hittites and their contemporaries. It is not from the rulers themselves, but from the scribes, who would have dictated and read for the king the letters which he sent and received. Occasionally, according to Bryce, Life and Society in the Hittite World, page 70, the scribes would write notes to each other after the closing of the official letter. He gives several examples: a scribe asks for his counterpart's name, and requests that they converse in Hittite rather than Akkadian; another asks after his counterpart's health; another, writing from Maşat, asks the scribes in Hattusa for information about the family and property that he left behind while serving for a period elsewhere. We do not know how the rulers felt about this habit. Bryce suggests they may have been unaware that it was going on, since the scribe would certainly not have read the postscript aloud as part of the letter.


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