I, the Sun, by Janet Morris Available on Amazon for around $26.00 in paperback and $10.00 in Kindle.
Since history is one of my first and most cherished loves I am rather picky when seeking the “historical fiction” story. It’s not because I don’t enjoy a great story, it’s because I want to read the work of authors that cared enough to really do their homework when it comes to describing people, places and events somewhere in our past. Janet Morris took me on a journey that I have rarely experienced. Be prepared to stay up late at night and grab moments in the day until you help The Sun mount his chariot for his final ride.
Throughout the reading of this fascinating and meticulously written history I had to constantly resist the urge to return to my own history texts to see what would happen next. Morris laces the book with the words of Suppilulima I himself (although in a slightly modernized version of the ancient record). Her story is peopled with documented participants from the court of the king of Hattie (save for one very unfortunate slave girl).
Suppiluliam I was the throne name of the king of the Hittites ca 1344-1322 BCE. Taking the throne by force in his late teens he immediately proceeded to rebuild the reputation of the ancient Hittite Empire through statescraft and war. Through his early connections with mercenaries, and one of his father-in-laws, he built one of the most extensive and responsive intelligence networks in the ancient world. He was nearly killed in a war against Mitanni, but regained his strength and eventually reduced that country to a vassal state. His most unfortunate error in timing and strategic planning was the offer of his son, Zannanza to the widow of Tutankhamun. On the way to Egypt, Zannanza’s party was attacked by the forces of Horemheb and all were murdered. The elderly Ay then took the throne of Egypt at the side of the young widow.
The assault against Zannanza ignited a firestorm in the Hittite Empire and The Sun set out to do battle against any and all of Egypt’s protectorates just as the country was beginning to awaken from the daze imposed by Akhenaten and the worship of his one god – Aten. Successful in battle, the armies were not able to combat the plague introduced by the Egyptian prisoners. The plague killed both Suppiluliuma I and his successor and eldest son, Arnuwanda II.
It is not an easy task to bring these ancient courts to life. Often a writer comes across stilted or sounds like a monument builder more than a recorder of human activities including their joys and pain. Many of these stories have no life, no everyday struggles that make up the recorded history. What manner of men and women built these great empires and suffered these epic defeats? Morris brings these people alive and does so in brilliant prose. Painting the picture of a man who struck terror in the hearts of many a king; she also shows the warrior taken and held by the touch of a woman that could match him as a king. Most obvious in the story is the love Suppiluliam I had for his queen Khinti. A woman left to rule in his place while he sought control of the ancient Middle East; and who in her loneliness could not resist the temptation of those left at home. As beloved as she was, Morris paints the pain of a sovereign granted the status of a god when he is forced to exile his wife for adultery rather than have her killed as demanded by the law. It is many years before a son of his first queen reunites the two.
The history of the Hittite kingdom is not a great mystery since a large amount of information has survived that tells us about the events, people and life style of the kingdom in the form of clay tablets and stone monuments. If, however, you prefer to take your history in the form of a story told by those who lived it, I highly recommend this wonderful and engrossing read.