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The Many Complaints to Pharaoh of Rib-Addi of Byblos


This paper examines the nature and frequency of the complaints of Rib-Addi of Byblos to
Pharaoh about neglect. Rib-Addi, the mayor of Byblos in the fourteenth century B.C.E. and
an Egyptian vassal, is a unique character in the Amarna letters, both in terms of the volume
of information that he provides, and the colorful ways in which he provides it. There are
currendy 350 letters and inventories in the 382 Amarna tablets. Of these 350, around 64
are thought to have been written to or by Rib-Addi of Byblos, ' meaning that this corpus
comprises almost one-fifth of the total number of letters and inventories. Rib-Addi's zeal as
a correspondent cannot be doubted, but the abundance of primary source material provided
by his letters is something of a mixed blessing. The Rib-Addi correspondence is characterized by its magnitude but also by the writer's frequent repetitiveness. This creates a situation
in Rib-Addi's letters in which less frequently stated information could be overlooked and
changes to commonly used themes could go unnoticed, having a negative impact on the
accuracy of the interpretation. In order to utilize the information that Rib-Addi provides, it is
necessary to organize the information contained in his correspondence in a systematic way
that is to the benefit of its clarification and analysis.
In this study the method employed will be to identify Rib-Addi's repeated phrases and
ideas on the theme of neglect, ^ and then to consider the frequency and context of this theme
within the corpus of letters. It will be shown that there are three main types of complaint
about neglect made by Rib-Addi, and that his usage of these complaints changes throughout
the course of his correspondence. The chronological ordering of the Rib-Addi letters in the
study at hand follows the work of Knudtzon and Moran. ^ Thus letters EA 68-95 are considered as having been written under the rule of Amenophis III, and letters EA 102 onwards are
thought to be from the time of Akhenaton.
The theme of neglect within the Rib-Addi letters is one with particular relevance to scholarly debate. The suggestion that Akhenaton was negligent in foreign policy due to his preoccupation with religious reform'* was once widely accepted and has been a subject of much
discussion. Later, probably due to the infiuence of Gardiner,^ the accepted view tended to
lay the blame for the supposed neglect of vassals on both Amenophis III and Akhenaton.
Abbreviation employed here are those of The Chicago Assyrian Dictionary.
1. This tally excludes EA 97, 98, 99, and 100, as they are neither written to or by Rib-Addi.
2. The importance of the underlying thematic content of Rib-Addi's letters was first recognized by M. Liverani,
"Rib-Adda, giusto sofferente," AoF 1 (1974): 175-205.
3. J. A. Knudtzon, El-Amarna-Tafeln (Leipzig: Hinrichs, 1915; repr. Aalen: Otto Zeller, 1965); W. L. Moran,
Amarna Letters (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1992). In "Rib-Hadda: Job at Byblos?" in Biblical and
Related Studies Presented to Samuel wry, ed. A. Kort and S. Morschauser (Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 1985),
173-81, Moran added the dimension of chronology to the study of the thematic content of the Rib-Addi letters,
dividing the passages from the letters chronologically by attributing them to the reign either of Amenophis III or
of Akhenaton.
4. J. H. Breasted, History of Egypt (London: Hodder & Stoughton, [1906] 1951), 379; C. Aldred, "Egypt: The
Amarna Period and the End of the Eighteenth Dynasty," Cambridge Ancient History, vol. II/2 (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, [1975], 1990), 52.
5. A. Gardiner, Egypt of the Pharaohs (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1961), 230.

Journal of the American Oriental Society 131.3(2011)



Journal of the American Oriental Society 131.3 (2011)

The Rib-Addi letters, with their unceasing requests for assistance and reports of impending
disaster, have undoubtedly had a crucial role in the development of this negative view ^ and
its persistence in modem scholarship. ''
By systematically analyzing the data from tbe Rib-Addi letters it can be recognized that,
contrary to the traditional view, there was a decrease in complaints of neglect under the reign
of Akhenaton from what can be observed under Amenophis III. What also becomes apparent in the course of this analysis is tbat Rib-Addi of Byblos can be shown by the evidence
to have been a shrewd political operator, highly focused on his own situation and that of the
surrounding territories.
As well as categorizing Rib-Addi's complaints of negligence and analyzing tbeir frequency, this paper will examine the content and context of the complaints in an attempt
to gain a better insight into what motivations caused tbe Byblian vassal to complain. It is
the view held here that the context of the thematic material in Rib-Addi's letters is of great
importance for ascertaining the meaning of tbis material. An example of this is the wellknown theme of loyalty. Although this is not the main point of this paper, Rib-Addi's image
has been so shaped in modern scholarship by the theme of loyalty that it deserves a short
comment. Moran expertly revealed tbat, with his frequent comments expressing loyalty to
the king, Rib-Addi presented an image of himself as Pharaoh's arad kitti or loyal servant. ^
If Rib-Addi's comments about loyalty are analyzed in terms of content and context, it can
be shown that Rib-Addi's most common motivation for making a declaration of loyalty
is the pursuit of a reward, either in tbe form of military aid or material goods. Twenty out
of forty-five declarations of loyalty seem to have this motivation,' Only twelve comments
about loyalty have no obvious motive, '^ and the remaining thirteen seem actually to have
been motivated by the need to refute an allegation of disloyalty. ' ' The importance of material
goods and military aid to Rib-Addi is an issue which will resurface in the analysis below, but
this brief example has already shown the importance of context when considering Rib-Addi's
political motives.

The three main types of comment about neglect by Rib-Addi that will be examined in this
study can be classified as follows:
1) comments tbat mention neglect directly (accusatory and non-accusatory), often with
the use of the verb qlu; 2) comments that refer to Rib-Addi's words being unheeded (accusatory only); 3) comments that create a comparison between Rib-Addi's current situation and
a previous one, tbe "comparison complaint."

6. D. B. Redford, Akhenaton, Heretic King (Princeton, Princeton Univ. Press, 1984), 201-3.
7. N. Reeves, Akhenaton, Egypt's False Prophet (London: Thames and Hudson, 2001), 152-53.
8. Moran, "Rib-Hadda: Job at Byblos?"
9. EA 74: 8-10, 10-12, 55-58, EA 85: 15-19, EA 88: 42-45, EA 94: 74-76, EA 103: 23-24, EA 105: 81-83,
EA 107: 35-36, EA 114: 41-43, 54, 67-68, EA 116: 29, 55-56, 57-58, EA 117: 78-80, EA 123: 23-26, EA 124:
10-11, EA 137: 52, EA 138: 117-19 (reconstructed).
10. EA 68: 9-11, EA 74: 5-8, EA 85: 59-63, EA 103: 5-7, EA 106: 4-5, 7, EA 109: 42-44, 51-55, 62-69,
EA 132: 8-9, EA 134: 25-26, EA 136: 8-15.
11. EA 94: 5-6, 7-8, EA 107: 8-11, 11-13, EA 108: 22-25, 68, EA 116: 14-16, EA 119: 23-25, 26-29, 36-39,
39-45, EA 127: 24-25, EA 129a: 51-53.


The Many Complaints to Pharaoh of Rib-Addi of Byblos


Comments Directly Mentioning Neglect

The accusatory form of this complaint is usually a comment that makes a clear assertion
of negligence or a neglectful deed, e.g., "Why have you neglected your country?" (EA 74:
48). '2 The non-accusatory form of this type of complaint urges the king not to be negligent:
"May the king not neglect this deed, since a commissioner was killed" (EA 132: 43-46).
While the accusatory form of this type of complaint is clearly the more damaging to the
king's reputation, the non-accusatory form is also significant. Urging the king not to be negligent shows Rib-Addi using stronger terms than if he had employed other common tropes,
such as suggesting that the king heed his words. It must be assumed that Rib-Addi's choice
of stronger i ^rms for his warning was a deliberate one.
Comments Referring to the Heeding of Rib-Addi's Words
Like the accusatory form of the complaint, this form of complaint refers directly to an
action that the king did not take, either by not heeding Rib-Addi's words, or not replying to
his letters: "[Then fr]om Batruna I wr[ote to yo]u, 'Send men to ta[ke the ci]ty for you.' [My]
words went [u]nheeded" (EA 90: 14-17). There is also a non-accusatory form of this complaint that urges the king to heed Rib-Addi's advice: "[And] may my lord heed the wor[ds]
of his [servant]" (EA 78: 17-18).
It is difficult to classify the seriousness of the non-accusatory type of this complaint, as
its meaning seems to be quite context-sensitive. Rib-Addi frequently makes this type of
comment preceding a request to the king, and in this usage its meaning could be considered
exhortative. This form of complaint can also be seen in more negative contexts, however,
seemingly urging against further neglect: "Why have you neglected your country? I have
written like this to the palace, but you do not heed my words. Look, Amanappa is with you.
Ask him. He is the one that knows and has experienced the stra[its] I am in. May the king
heed the words of his servant" (EA 74: 48-53).
Given the wide-ranging nature of this non-accusatory form of complaint, only the accusatory form, which directly makes mention of Rib-Addi's words going unheeded, will be considered here. Rib-Addi also makes frequent comments urging the king to "give thought" to
a subject or issue. '^ In usage and context, these comments are similar to the non-accusatory
"heeding of words" comments: "I was in Sigata and I wr[ote] to [y]ou, 'Give thought to
[your] city lest Abdi-Asirta take it.' [But] you did not listen to m[e]" (EA 90: 9-13). '''
The variable nature of the meaning of this type of comment, as well as that of the nonaccusatory "heeding of words" comment, makes the meaningful interpretation of their data
difficult and these comments are therefore excluded from consideration here. It should be
noted that this exclusion has no marked effect on the shape of the data; with or without their
inclusion the main outcomes of the analysis of the data are the same. '^
12. The translations in this study are from W. L. Moran's Amarna Letters.
13. EA 74: 58, EA 85: 36-39, EA 89: 59-60, EA 90: 9-13, EA 91: 42-44, EA 94: 70-71, EA 105: 6-7,
EA 114: 20-22, 54, 67, EA 116: 14-16, 17, EA 121: 24-25, EA 124: 10-11, 24-25 (reconstructed), EA 126: 61,
EA 132: 8-9, EA 133: 2-4, EA 136: 35-36, 39-40.
14. EA 90: 9-13.
15. The frequency of the "giving thought" complaint shows a small increase overall in the corpus of Akhenaton
letters, although on average marginally fewer individual letters within this corpus contain a complaint of this type.
Amenophis III: EA 74: 58, EA 85: 36-39, EA 89: 59-60, EA 90: 9-13, EA 91: 42-44, EA 94: 70-71. 6 mentions in 17 letters or 35%.
Akhenaton: EA 105: 6-7, EA 114: 20-22, 54, 67, EA 116: 14-16, 17, EA 121: 24-25, EA 124: 10-11, 24-25
(reconstructed), EA 126: 61, EA 132: 8-9, EA 133: 2-4, EA 136: 35-36, 39-40. 14 in 30 letters or 47%.


Journal of the American Oriental Society 131.3 (2011 )

The Comparison Complaint

This type of complaint about neglect draws a comparison between Rib-Addi's current
situation and better times in the past. The use of the comparison complaint by Rib-Addi is
quite complex and therefore the analysis of this type will be more detailed than that of the
two types considered above.
"Previously, provisions of the king were at [m]y disposal, and we could pay the hi<r>e of
a man whom we sent. But [lo]ok, now there are n[o prov]isions from the king . . ." (EA 112:
50-55). This example shows how Rib-Addi can use the comparison complaint directly to
allege a deterioration in his circumstances. Interestingly, in this type of complaint there are
not generally found the personal accusafions of neglect, utilizing the second person singular
that are commonly seen in phrases from other types, such as "why are you negligent?" and
"you do not reply."
"A[s] to the king's saying: 'Guard yourself,' consider that previously, in the days of my
ancestors, there was a garrison of the king with them and property of the king was at their
disposal, but as far as I am concerned, there are no provisions of the king at my dis[pos]al,
and there is no garrison of the king with me" (EA 122: 9-18). The fixation on Rib-Addi's
own situation, using the first person singular instead of the more accusatory second person
singular, is typical of the comparison type of complaint. '^
However, there are two clear exceptions to this, where Rib-Addi can be seen to attach a
personal accusation to the king in this particular trope: "For years archers would come out
to inspect [the coun]try, and yet now that the land of the king and Sumur, your garrisoncity, have been joined to the Apiru, you have done nothing" (EA 76: 31-37). And "In times
past, whenever the [ki]ng of Mittana was at war with your ancestors, your ancestors did not
deser[t my] ance[stors]. Now the sons of Abdi-Asirta, the [servan]t and dog, have t[aken]
the cities of the king and the [ci]ties of his mayor, just as they please; [they] are the ones that
[took] A[rda]ta for themselves. And you did nothing [about t]heir [actions] when you heard
(of them)" (EA 109: 5-14). These examples seem to be the only ones among some fifteen
usages of this form of complaint where, either within the same phrase or directly following,
Rib-Addi combines this complaint with a personal accusation, utilizing the second person
singular form.
There are two other instances where it could be argued that Rib-Addi uses the second personal singular form in a way similar to this type of complaint: "Pre[vi]ously, my peasantry
got provisions from the land of Yarimuta, but now, now Yapah-Hadda does not let them go.
W[hy are you negl]igent?" (EA 114: 54-60). There is some debate about the translation of
this passage, ''' but it will be very tentatively added to the other examples here, in line with

In contrast, the non-accusatory form of the "heeding of words" complaint decreases in frequency under Akhenaton, both in overall mentions and in the number of letters containing a mention of this type.
Amenophis III: EA 74: 53-55, EA 75: 20-21, EA 78: 17-18, EA 79: 20, EA 83: 14, EA 85: 16-19, 47, 75,
EA 88: 23, EA 89: 13, 53-54, EA 91: 32-33 (reconstructed), 36-37 (reconstructed). 13 mentions in 17 letters or
Akhenaton: EA 103: 5-7, 23-24, 32-33, EA 107: 11-13, 25, 35-36, EA 108: 64-68, EA 116: 44-47, EA 121:
44-49, EA 122: 44-48, 53, EA 136: 6-7. 12 mentions in 30 letters or 40%.
16. The importance of Rib-Addi's use of the independent pronoun anaku in adding emphasis to this type of
contrastive juxtaposition has been demonstrated by A. Gianto, Word Order Variation in the Akkadian of Byhlos
(Rome: Pontificio Istituto Biblico, 1990), 84-87.
17. See Knudtzon, El-Amarna-Tafeln, vol. I, 498-501. Moran defends his reading of 1. 60 and argues against
Knudtzon's transliteration mAmarna Letters, 190 n. 13.


The Many Complaints to Pharaoh of Rib-Addi ofByblos


Moran. '^ And, of a somewhat different variety: "Fo[r my ancesto]rs, earlier kings guard[ed]
Gubia, and you yourself must not abandon it. If there are no archers this year, then send ships
to fetch me, along with (my) living god, to my lord" (EA 129: 46-51).
This example uses the second personal singular within its comparative complaint, and
the overall tone of the phrase is much less accusatory than what has been seen earlier from
Rib-Addi. This is because Rib-Addi here uses the form "you" in the context of encouraging
the king not to neglect him, rather than confronting the king about prior negligence. The use
by Rib-Addi of the second person singular in a comparison complaint in this letter does not
appear to make this an accusatory form, but does give further evidence of the complexity and
variety with which Rib-Addi constructs his remarks to the king.
It has been mentioned above that there are two letters (EA 76 and 109) where Rib-Addi
clearly uses the comparison complaint in an accusatory manner. It can be shown that there
is a factor in these two letters that caused Rib-Addi to alter the traditional formula of his
comparison complaint. Of all the letters in the Amenophis III corpus, EA 76 has among the
highest number of serious complaints about negligence, and, more importantly, it is here that
Rib-Addi reports to Pharaoh that Sumur has fallen to Abdi-Asirta. Furthermore, it is with
precisely this development that Rib-Addi is confronting the king in his comparison complaint
of negligence: "For years archers would come out to inspect [the coun]try, and yet now that
the land of the king and Sumur, your garrison-city, have been joined to the Apiru, you have
done nothing" (EA 76: 31-37).
This is not a finding subject to the tyranny of chronological uncertainties; it can be seen
that in this single letter a dramatic development such as the fall of Sumur elicits a marked
change in Rib-Addi's traditional rhetoric. EA 109 shows similar evidence of Rib-Addi
responding to pressure with a change in rhetoric. Although there is no clear correspondence
with a major event as in EA 76, EA 109 comes at a juncture in the correspondence where
Rib-Addi has been under considerable pressure from the sons of Abdi-Asirta for an extended
period of time. The cities of Ardata, Ullassa, and Sigata have recently fallen and are being
used by the sons of Abdi-Asirta as a base for hostilities (EA 109: 9-15). It is clear from RibAddi's use of emphasis that it is the sons of Abdi-Asirta who are the focus of his concern in
EA 109.'9
At this point in the letters Rib-Addi has also had twelve of his men kidnapped and reports
this for the first time (EA 109: 25-29). In addition, this letter contains the first clear reference to internal problems in Byblos: "Moreover, I am una[ble] to [g]et this man of yours into
S[um]ur. All my towns are at war with me, on the side of the sons of Abdi-Asirta" (EA 109:
56-59). It would therefore seem that when Rib-Addi here makes his comparison complaint
accusatory in tone, he is responding to increased domestic and external pressures, rather than
introducing an arbitrary change. This would support the view that Rib-Addi in the Amarna
letters takes a considered approach to his comments to the king, rather than dispatching a
large quantity of letters with interchangeable meanings.

18. It should be noted that, had Knudtzon's translation been accepted, this would have better supported the
findings of this study.
19. The word order of this complaint, with the subject preceding the verb, has been shown by Gianto to provide
a particularly strong contrast between the two subjects, in this case the King of Mittana and the sons of Abdi-Asirta.
See Gianto, Word Order Variation, 93-99.


Journal of the American Oriental Society 131.3 (2011)


It would now seem useful to examine whether there are any observable differences in the
frequency and content of Rib-Addi's complaints about negligence in his letters to Amenophis III compared to what is seen in those to Akhenaton. This is undertaken in an effort to
examine more fully and understand Rib-Addi's political stratagems, but also in light of the
debate about Akhenaton's possible neglect of his vassals. If Akhenaton was truly a more
negligent ruler than his father, then it would be expected that there would be a higher number of complaints about neglect in letters to him from Rib-Addi than in letters to his father.
There are seventeen letters in the Rib-Addi corpus thought to have been addressed to
Amenophis III. ^^ When the three main types of neglect are considered, the evidence shows
that, contrary to the traditional view, there are a higher overall number of complaints to
Amenophis III than to Akhenaton. There are a total of thirty-four complaints in the seventeen
letters to Amenophis III, and thirty-two in the thirty letters to Akhenaton. 2' If the data are
adjusted to reflect the fact that there are almost twice as many letters to Akhenaton, it can
be shown that, on average, Rib-Addi complains almost twice as frequently about negligence
in his letters to Amenophis III as in those to Akhenaton. There are approximately two such
complaints per missive in the Amenophis III letters, but slightly more than one per letter in
the Akhenaton corpus. In addition, there are a larger number of letters to Akhenaton that contain no complaints about negligence than in those to Amenophis III. Among the Amenophis
III letters, fourteen of seventeen contain at least one complaint of negligence, with only three
(EA 70, 78, and 79) containing none. In the Akhenaton corpus, there are sixteen letters with
such complaints and fourteen without. ^^ In the Amenophis III letters there is an 82% probability of any given letter containing one or more complaints about neglect; in the Akhenaton
letters the probability is 53%.
It could be argued that some of the relevant letters in the Akhenaton corpus have so few
complaints because they are very short and badly damaged. This is certainly true of EA 110
and 111. Only a few lines of these tablets can be read, and all are incomplete, but the tone
of EA 110 makes it possible that a complaint about neglect could have been present in this
letter when it was intact; "[W]hy does he not giv[e me] (some of) the royal [pro]perty?"
(EA 110; 50-51). Unfortunately, this restoration is too uncertain to be reliable. The damaged states of letters EA 110 and 111 mean that these two letters have been removed from
consideration. Had they been included, the results of the data analysis would not have been
appreciably altered.
EA 133 and 134 are also comparatively short, but remain in consideration for Akhenaton
since Rib-Addi may be seen even in these few lines to utilize some of his familiar themes,
20. The ten letters (EA 69, 71, 73, 77, 82, 86, 87, 93, 95, and 102) addressed to people other than Pharaoh are
excluded from consideration, since it is letters to the Egyptian king that are the focus here. EA 101 has also been
excluded, due to the uncertainty over its authorship. Finally, EA 137 and 138 have been omitted from the thirty
pieces thought to be addressed to Akhenaton, since they are anomalous, both due to their reference to Rib-Addi's
exile and their highly unusual content. If these letters had been taken into consideration, however, the overall results
the comparison would not have differed.
21. EA 68: 14-16, EA 74: 8-10, 13, 48, 49-50, EA 75: 17-20, EA 76: 30-37, 34-37, 43-46, EA 81: 22-24
(reconstructed), 27 (reconstructed), 28, 48-51, EA 83: 7-9, 10-14, 15, 21-23, EA 84: 10, 16, EA 85: 6-7, 55-59
(reconstructed), 82-83, EA 88: 8-9 (reconstructed), 12, EA 89: 12-13, 36-37, EA 90: 13, 16-18, 23-24, EA 91:
3-5, 7-8, 27-30, EA 92: 12-14, EA 94: 4-5, EA 104: 24-26, EA 109: 5-13, 13, 23,44-46, EA 112: 50-56, 53-60,
EA 114: 54-56, 60, EA 117: 85-88, 91-92, EA 121: 11-17, 14-17, 53, EA 122: 11-19, 15-19, 53-55, EA 124:
50-52, EA 125: 14-21, EA 126: 15-18, 18-28, 25-28, 49-50, 53-55, EA 129: 46-48, EA 130: 19-30, 21-30,
EA 131: 58-60, EA 132: 8-22, 43-45, 51-53, EA 136: 21-23.
22. EA 103, 105, 106, 107, 113, 116, 118, 119, 120, 123, 127, 129a, 133, and 134.


The Many Complaints to Pharaoh of Rib-Addi of Byblos


such as the mention of the severity of the war and the request for military support. Similarly
brief but informative, EA 70 from the Amenophis III corpus is likewise included.
It is my view that Rib-Addi was a skilled political strategist who showed a great degree
of subtlety of expression. It is this very intricate quality in Rib-Addi's writings that makes a
detailed and systematic analysis of such great value. After the preceding consideration of the
data as a whole, it would seem worthwhile to consider Rib-Addi's usage of each of the main
types of complaints individually. The aim here is to compare changes in frequency between
the reigns of the two Pharaohs, but also to consider the context in which the complaints are

If the Rib-Addi evidence were considered in the most superficial way, then the analysis
could simply tally how many times Rib-Addi actually makes a claim of negligence against
Amenophis III and then against Akhenaton. Rib-Addi complains of the king's negligence
fourteen times in the Amenophis III corpus, ^^ spread across nine letters. Of these fourteen
complaints, ten use the neglect word qlu. 2"
"Why have you neglected your country?" (EA 74: 48). This example is quite general, but
other complaints of this type can be very specific about the details of the alleged neglect: "[I
wrote to you, 'W]hy have you sat idly by [and] done nothing, so that the Apiru dog tak[es
you]r cities?"' (EA 91: 2-5). Taking into account the probable motivation behind Rib-Addi's
usage of these complaints, it would appear tbat at least ten of fourteen concerning the king's
negligence in the Amenophis III corpus are closely related to the war with Abdi-Asirta and
the Apiru. Only EA 89 and possibly the second complaints in EA 74 and 83 contain complaints of this type where this is not the motivation.
EA 89 contains the one clear exception to tbe apparent main motivation behind RibAddi's accusatory and direct complaints. This letter is almost exclusively concerned with tbe
welfare of a relative of Rib-Addi in the city of Tyre (EA 89: 10-13). The relevant passage in
EA 83 deals with the king's failure to supply Rib-Addi with some requested items (EA 83:
16-23). Although not as clear as in other examples, it again seems that the most likely motivation for this complaint is the war with the Apiru.
EA 74 contains a complaint about negligence, which, like that from EA 83, is not easily
categorized: "Like a bird in a trap: ki-lu-bi (cage), so am I in Gubia. Why have you neglected
your country?" (EA 74: 45-48). The content of this letter is primarily concerned with the
war with Abdi-Asirta and the Apiru, but there are also comments on a lack of provisions. It
is likely that both concerns motivated Rib-Addi's complaint of neglect. It would thus seem
that external military problems, particularly those involving Abdi-Asirta and the Apiru, were
the overwhelming cause of Rib-Addi's complaints of this nature in the Amenophis III letters.
In addition to a higher number of complaints of neglect generally, the Amenopbis III
letters contain a much higher number of the most serious type of complaint of negligence.
Wbile fourteen complaints directly mention neglect in the seventeen letters to Amenophis
III, there are only thirteen complaints of this type in tbe thirty letters to Akhenaton. ^^ On
23. EA 74: 8-10, 48, EA 76: 34-37, EA 81: 28, EA 83: 15, 21-23, EA 84: 10, 16, EA 88: 8-9 (reconstructed),
12, EA 89: 12-13, EA 90: 23-24, EA 91: 3-5, 7-8.
24. EA 74: 48, EA 76: 34-37, EA 81: 28, EA 83: 15, EA 84: 10, 16, EA 88: 8-9 (reconstructed), EA 90: 23-24,
EA 91: 3-5, 7-8 (reconstructed).
25. EA 104: 24-26, EA 109: 13, 23, EA 112: 50-56, EA 114: 60, EA 121: 11-17, 53, 122: 11-19, EA 124:
50-52 (reconstructed), EA 126: 16-18, 24-28, 49-50, 130: 21-30.


Journal of the American Oriental Society 131.3 (2011 )

average, there are thus approximately twice as many complaints of this variety in the Amenophis III letters as in those to Akhenaton.
There is a definite change between the two corpora in terms of the nature of these complaints. In the Amenophis III letters, over two-thirds of the complaints of this type use the
verb qlu. A complaint of this variety may be found in six of the seventeen Amenophis III
letters, an average of about one in three. In contrast, only four of the thirty letters to Akhenaton contain this usage, ^* which is an average of around one in ten. This seems to indicate a
progressive shift in the rhetoric Rib-Addi employs in his most serious form of complaint of
neglect. Four letters in the Akhenaton corpus (EA 104, 109, 114, and 121) contain the only
uses of qlu comparable to what is seen in the letters to Amenophis III. In EA 114, tentatively included here, it seems likely to relate to domestic instability within Byblos. In letter
EA 121 the context of the accusation is largely illegible, but Moran suggests it involves the
killing of sirdanu-people,'^'^ an event also mentioned in EA 123: 9-18.
The content and tone of Rib-Addi's complaints in letters EA 104 and 109 are strongly
reminiscent of his complaints to Amenophis III, largely motivated by external military problems: "Who are the sons of Abdi-Asirta, the servant and dog? Are they the king of Kassu or
the king of Mittani that they take the land of the king for themselves? Previously, they would
t[ak]e cities of your mayors, and you did nothing" (EA 104: 17-26). And "Now the sons of
A[bd]i-Asirta, the [servan]t and dog, have t[ake]n the cities of the king and the [ci]ties of his
mayor, just as they please; they are the ones that [took] A[rdat]a for themselves. And you did
nothing [about t]heir [actions] when you heard of them" (EA 109: 9-14).
The main difference between these two examples and the Amenophis III examples is that
it is the sons of Abdi-Asirta, rather than Abdi-Asirta himself, who are identified as the prime
cause of concern for Rib-Addi. These two letters contain the only complaints of neglect of
this type easily comparable in form and content to the bulk of the mentions of neglect that
have been considered from the Amenophis III letters.
It seems clear that Rib-Addi uses the complaint of serious neglect that he favored under
Amenophis III much less frequently under the rule of Akhenaton. In this analysis, however,
all complaints made by Rib-Addi that indicate an act of negligence are considered, and, to
complicate matters, it would appear that Rib-Addi finds innovative ways to express his concerns of neglect in writing to Akhenaton.
EA 124 and 126 contain complaints of a different form. Both of these comments call the
king's attention to a lack, but do not use the accusatory second person singular, and the question form arguably softens the impact. Rib-Addi attempts to open a dialogue about his lack
of material support, rather than directly lambasting the king for its absence: "Why has the
king <not> sent [charijoteers (and) archers to take the ci[ties]?" (EA 124: 50-52). Although
there is some debate about the translation of EA 126: 49-51,^^ it has been included here in
line with Moran's interpretation: "Why is nothing given to me from the palace?"
Two more complaints directly mention neglect. In the first, Rib-Addi makes a comparison
between his treatment and that of others: "Moreover, why does the king give every provision
to the mayors, my colleagues, but gives nothing to me?" (EA 126: 14-18). A further passage
from the same letter: "Previously, money and everything for the<ir> provisions were sent
from the palace to my ancestors, and my lord would send troops to them. But now I write
for troops, but a garrison is not sent, and nothing at all is given [to m]e" (EA 126: 18-28).
26. EA 104: 24-26, EA 109: 13, 23, EA 114: 60, EA 121: 53.
27. Amarna Letters, 202.
28. Amarna Letters, 204.


The Many Complaints to Pharaoh of Rib-Addi of Byblos


This type of complaint, where a direct mention of neglect is attached to a comparison,

occurs another four times in the letters to Akhenaton (EA 112: 50-56, EA 121: 11-17,
EA 122: 11-19, EA 130: 21-30). This form of accusatory complaint of neglect is the most
common under Akhenaton's reign, and its new prominence must be considered deliberate.
Although these complaints still refer to actions not taken by the king, the avoidance of the
second person singular and qlu renders the tone less critical. The motivation for the comments to Akhenaton also seems to be different from that behind those to Amenophis III. In
the Akhenaton letters Rib-Addi focuses upon requesting further material support from the
king, rather than criticizing him for military actions not taken, and "doing nothing" while
Egyptian lands are seized. The exception to this change of focus is the three comments
found in letters EA 104 and 109, which are very similar to the form of this complaint under
Amenophis III and are concerned with external military problems. These complaints show
that Rib-Addi is capable of using the same harsh tone to Akhenaton, but normally chooses
not to. Regarding his most serious complaint, the evidence is emphatically against an actual
increase in negligent behavior by Akhenaton.

In the Amenophis III corpus Rib-Addi uses the non-accusatory form of the direct type of
complaint of neglect four times (EA 68: 14-16, EA 74: 13, EA 76: 43-46, EA 81: 27 [reconstructed]). For example: "The w[a]r [agai]nst us is extremely severe, and so may the king
not [ne]glect his [ci]ties" (EA 68: 29-32). It can be stated without equivocation that the use
of each of these comments by Rib-Addi in this corpus is linked to the war with Abdi-Asirta
and the Apiru: "Do not be negligent of your servant. Behold, the war of the Apiru against
<me> is severe and, as the gods of y[our] land [are ali]ve, our sons and daughters (as well as
we ourselves) are gone since they have been sold in the land of Yarimuta for provisions to
keep us alive" (EA 74: 13-17).
EA 81 is badly damaged, but Moran restores the line: "Do not [be negligent]."^'
Note that in addition to comments about the war with Abdi-Asirta in close proximity to
the complaint of neglect, EA 68 and 74 both mention a lack of provisions.
There appear to be at most two occurrences of the non-accusatory form of the direct type
of complaint of neglect in the Akhenaton letters: "Now Ha'ip has hand[ed over] Sumur. May
the king not neglect this deed, since a commissioner was killed" (EA 132: 42-46). This comment is related to the event described in EA 131, where Rib-Addi reports the fall of Sumur
(EA 131: 7-9). It is possible that a second complaint of this type can be found in this same
letter: "He must not ne[glec]t [his city. If] he does not send (them) [to Gubl]a, they will take
it. .."(EA 131: 58-60). 30

Rib-Addi frequently complains that his words have gone unheeded. Considering the many
demands that Rib-Addi makes and the unusual frequency with which he writes, it is hardly
surprising that much of his copious advice is not followed by the Egyptian king. Even if
a Pharaoh had been in the habit of taking the advice of his vassals, the most zealous ruler

29. Amarna Letters, 151.

30. This translation is based on Moran's reading of the broken section of line 58 {Amarna Letters, 215). Knudtzon's transliteration (El-Amarna-Tafeln, 559) of this passage yields a different translation: "May it (the city) not


Journal of the American Oriental Society 131.3 (2011)

would have been hard pressed to acquiesce to all of Rib-Addi's demands. Nonetheless, the
"heeding of words" complaint in its accusatory form would appear to be an indication of a
lack of action and diligence and so must be considered seriously.
In the Amenophis III corpus there are thirteen mentions of the accusatory form of the
"heeding of words" complaint in seventeen letters.^' This is a far greater number than can
be seen in the Akhenaton corpus, which contains only five complaints of this type in thirty
letters. ^^ In the Amenophis III corpus more than half of the letters contain at least one complaint of this type (ten in seventeen letters). In contrast, the average in the Akhenaton letters
is one in six (five in thirty).
Rib-Addi seems to make his complaints about unheeded advice to Amenophis III for a
variety of reasons. It would seem that his concerns about the war with the Apiru and AbdiAsirta are the most common motivation; the comments of this type in letters EA 74, 83, 90,
91, 92, and 93 all appear close to complaints about these issues. For example, "A[n]d now an
evil war has been waged against [me], and I sent my tablet and [m]y [messenger] to the king,
my lord, but the k[ing] paid no attention to the words of my tablet and [my] me[ssenger]. So
wh[at] am [I t]o do? I sent my messenger to the king, [m]y lord, [in regard to] my cities that
Abdi-Asirta had taken" (EA 92: 10-18).
A lack of provisions seems to be another key motivating factor for Rib-Addi in this set
of letters: "Though I keep writing like this to the king, my lord, he does not heed my words.
Since he has attacked me three times this year, and for two years I have been repeatedly
robbed of my grain, we have no grain to eat" (EA 85: 6-11).
The number of complaints about advice being unheeded in the letters sent to Akhenaton
is very small and therefore it is difficult to ascertain the vassal's likely motivation for the
usage of this complaint, particularly as each of the complaints in this set seems to have a
different cause. The first complaint of this type from Rib-Addi occurs in letter EA 117 and
seems likely to be motivated by internal security problems: "I [have become af]raid of my
peasantry. Thus must I be the one that keeps writing [to] the palace fo[r] a garrison and men
from Meluhha. But you have not wri<tt>en" (EA 117: 90-92).
There appears to be a similar motivation in letter EA 122: 40-55, where Rib-Addi
expresses the concern that the city of Byblos may revolt against him. His complaint in letter
EA 132 seems to be related to the fall of Sumur, and that in EA 136: 8-23 is written from
exile. The context here seems to be Rib-Addi reflecting on his own loyalty while ruling Byblos, and on not receiving adequate support.
In the Amenophis III letters we see Rib-Addi's complaints of neglect again motivated by
his external military problems with Abdi-Asirta and the Apiru. Under the reign of Akhenaton, Rib-Addi seems influenced by the fall of Sumur, internal security problems, and his own
subsequent exile.

The usage of the comparison complaint is of special interest as, contrary to the frequency
patterns of the other main forms of complaint considered here, its usage increases in frequency under Akhenaton's reign rather than decreasing. It is not only the frequency of its
usage that changes, but also the complaint's content and the nature of its application. There

31. EA 74: 49-50, EA 75: 17-20, EA 81: 22-24 (reconstructed), EA 83: 7-9, 10-14, EA 85: 6-7, 55-59 (reconstructed), EA 89: 36-37, EA 90: 13, 16-18, EA 91: 27-30, EA 92: 12-14, EA 94: 4-5.
32. EA 117: 90-92, EA 122: 53-55, EA 126: 53-55, EA 132: 51-53, EA 136: 21-23.


The Many Complaints to Pharaoh of Rib-Addi of Byblos


are three uses of the comparison complaint under Amenophis IlP^ and twelve under Akhenaton. 3'* On closer inspection, it would appear that these comparison complaints are not all
interchangeable in form, with a new form arising in the Akhenaton letters. All such complaints in the letters written to Amenophis III seem to be referring to a relatively recent
change in circumstance. A clear example is "[Pre]viously Sumur and [its] men were [st]rong,
and there was a [gar]rison with us. Wh[at] can I [d]o by my[sel]f?" (EA 81; 48-51).
Based on current chronology, the context of this complaint is the fall of Sumur (EA 76;
34-37) only a few letters earlier. The comparison complaints in two other letters also appear
to be related to this event (EA 76; 30-37, EA 85; 82-84). In contrast, the majority of comparison complaints written in the time of Akhenaton do not refer to a recent change, but to
one that has occurred over generations. This form of the complaint is typically accompanied
by a reference to Rib-Addi's ancestors and somedmes also to the ancestors of Pharaoh. This
example illustrates this change; "May the king send this man of mine with all speed and give
a garrison to guard his loyal servant and his city, and along with them men from Meluhha,
according to the practice of your ancestors. Moreover, as to the king's saying, 'Guard! Be
on your guar[d],' [wh]at i[s to guard me? Look, in] the days of [my] an[cestors, there was
property of the king at their disposal, and] a garri[son of the king] was with them. [But now],
as for me, the wa[r is severe again]st me" (EA 117; 76-90).
The discussion of ancestors by Rib-Addi is a common feature in the letters to Akhenaton, ^^
but almost entirely absent from those to Amenophis III, the one exception being part of a
greeting in EA 74; 5-8. Seven of the comparison complaints under Akhenaton are of this
ancestor variety, with the five remaining involving a more recent change or vagueness on
the matter. Those complaints that do not refer to ancestors occur in letters EA 109, 112,
114, 125, and 132. No single clear motivation is apparent for each of these complaints, but
a lack of provisions seems to be a recurring concern; "Previously, provisions from the king
were at m[y] disposal, and we could pay the hi<r>e of a man whom we sent. But [lo]ok, now
there are n[o prov]isions from the king, [and there is no garri]son [at my disposal]" (EA 112;
This is not the only mention in this letter by Rib-Addi of a lack of provisions. "Every[thing
of] mine [is gon]e through being sol[d i]n the land of Yarimuta for provisions to keep me
alive" (EA 112; 27-30). In addition, a complaint in EA 114; 54-60 seems to be motivated
by a shortage of provisions. Later, the fall of Sumur may be the cause for the comparison
complaint in letter EA 132. Rib-Addi reports that Sumur has fallen in EA 131, and he refers
again to trouble there in EA 132; 42-46.
A thematic analysis of Rib-Addi's usage of the comparison complaint demonstrates that
there is little difference in the frequency of the usage of this complaint between letters sent to
Amenophis III and those sent to Akhenaton. The average for both sets is about one comment
per six letters. 3^ This figure is reasonably static across the whole of the Rib-Addi corpus.
Where, on a superficial reading, there had appeared to be a sharp increase under Akhenaton's reign, it can be seen instead that under Akhenaton there is a change. The comparison
complaint is not concerned with a recent deterioration in Rib-Addi's situation, but rather
33. EA 76: 30-37, EA 81: 48-51, EA 85: 82-83.
34. EA 109:5-13,44-49, EA 112: 50-56, EA 114: 54-60, EA 117: 86-90 (reconstructed), 121: 11-17, 122:
11-19, EA 125: 14-21, EA 126: 18-28, EA 129: 46-48, EA 130: 21-30, EA 132: 8-22 (reconstructed).
35. EA 109: 6-8, EA 117: 86-90, EA 121: 10-17, EA 122: 11-19, EA 125: 45-48, EA 126: 18-28, EA 129:
46-48, EA 130:21-30.
36. Amenophis III: EA 76: 30-37, EA 81: 48-51, EA 85: 82-83 (three in seventeen letters); Akhenaton: EA 109:
44-49, EA 112: 50-56, EA 114: 54-60, EA 125: 14-21, EA 132: 8-22 (reconstructed) (five in thirty letters).


Journal of the American Oriental Society 131.3 (2011 )

involves an almost nostalgic preoccupation with the relationship between Egypt and Byblos
from generations before. The precise time and circumstances that Rib-Addi adduces in comparison in these usages are vague and unspecified. It would seem likely that Rib-Addi's lack
of detail means that it is the idea of ancestors receiving favourable treatment tbat is his main
message here, rather than the specific details of this treatment. The frequency and context
within which Rib-Addi uses these complaints make it likely that his purpose is to create tbe
impression of a long tradition of material support from the king in order to strengthen the
case for receiving more,
This paper has identified three main types of complaint of neglect by Rib-Addi to Pharaoh: those that directly mention negligence (accusatory and non-accusatory), complaints
regarding Rib-Addi's words being unheeded, and the comparison complaint. Of these three
types of complaint, two experienced a reduction in frequency under Akhenaton's rule compared to that of Amenopbis III. Only the comparison complaint increases in frequency, and
this change has been shown to be caused by tbe development of a new form of this complaint, focused on ancestors. Despite this increase, the evidence still suggests tbat Rib-Addi
experienced less neglect under Akhenaton than under Amenophis III. This is particularly
evident in the sharp reduction in frequency during the latter's reign of the most serious types
of complaint least open to subjective interpretation, that is, complaints directly mentioning
an act of neglect (accusatory) and those referring to the neglect of Rib-Addi's words.
The main factors behind Rib-Addi's complaints about negligence under Amenophis III
seem to have been the war with the Apiru and Abdi-Asirta and a lack of provisions. Under
Akhenaton the motivation appears to have been trouble with the sons of Abdi-Asirta, the fall
of Sumur, ^^ a lack of provisions, and internal security problems. The majority of his complaints about negligence seem to have been brought about by either external hostilities or a
lack of material support. Only the two complaints in EA 117 and 122 are likely to have had
a different motivation, namely the threat of internal revolt.
Within the framework of the three types identified here, Rib-Addi of Byblos shows a
sophisticated ability subtly to shift the content and form of his complaints over the course of
his correspondence, at times being very specific and at others vague and general. The study
of his complaints has provided an insight into the vassal's expectation of his treatment by
Pharaoh, and how well his actual experience matched this expectation. We have also identified the issues dominating the Byblian vassal's agenda and seen how they progressed during
a time of great political change.

37. The frequency of complaints concerning trouble in Sumur in letters to Akhenaton could mislead us into
thinking that Sumur was in greater peril then than in the time of Amenophis III. If the letters of both sets are carefully examined, however, it can be seen that Sumur remained longer under Egyptian control in the Akhenaton letters
than in those of Amenophis III, Sumur is reported as having fallen in EA 76 of the Amenophis III corpus and was
returned to Egyptian hands sometime in the break between the two sets of letters. This means that Sumur was not
under Egyptian control for 75% of the Amenophis III letters. In the Akhenaton corpus it is not until letter EA 129
(or possibly 131) that Sumur is seized, meaning that Sumur was outside of Egyptian control for only 32% of the
Akhenaton letters, despite Rib-Addi's complaints.

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