Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Dream of the Rood

The Dream of the Rood is one of the earliest poems in Old English poetry, as well as being one of the earliest examples of Old English literature.  The longest surviving copy exists in the tenth century Vercelli book, an anthology of Old English poetry bound into a codex and which is housed in the Basilica of Sant’Andrea, in Vercelli, Italy.  The manuscript itself contains over twenty homilies, which are interspersed with six poems.  The book itself is in fact a florilegium¸copied by a scribe onto manuscript at the end of the tenth century, who appears to have copied the works therein from a miscellany of sources.  The scribe appears to have remained true to his source material and neither embellished nor changed the works with latter emendations, staying true to the structure, punctuation and dialect of his sources.  The works which have been transcribed in the book are diverse in nature, not following a specific theme or sequence, and appear to have been selected for private reading and reflection.    It is believed that the surviving copy of this poem is not a tenth century work, but possibly dates from the eighth century, or earlier still.

The Dream of the Rood, in the Vercelli book.

This suggestion that The Dream of the Rood is earlier than tenth century is based in part upon the fact that various extracts have been found to be inscribed on the Ruthwell Cross, which in itself dates approximately from the eighth century.  The cross itself would have been approximately eighteen foot in height, and possibly was used in order to convert its visitors to Christianity.  It is carved with scenes taken from the life of Jesus, including the Annunciation and the healing of the blind, together with runes carved on the sides of the cross.  During the Reformation in the sixteenth century, the cross itself was torn down and badly damaged, and it was not until many years later that the broken cross was eventually reconstructed. 

The author of The Dream of the Rood remains unknown; however, owing to the presence of runic extracts and the dating of the cross to the eighth century suggest that the poem was reasonably well known and may have been in circulation amongst religious communities.  Due to this likely proliferation of the poem, it might well be earlier in date still than the proposed eighth century date ascribed to it.  Scholars have tentatively suggested two known Anglo-Saxon poets as possible authors: Caedmon and Cynewulf. 

The Ruthwell Cross.

The scholar Daniel H. Haigh has proposed that the poem is by the hand of Caedmon.  Haigh's suggestion is that the Cross itself was erected in the mid seventh century, in c. 665, basing his suggestion upon references made by Bede in the Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum (Ecclesiastical History of the English People) in relation to Caedmon and his poetic talent.  The little that is known of Caedmon is in fact directly attributed to Bede, informing his readers that Caedmon underwent a transformation following an inspired dream in which he went from being an illiterate herdsman to a great poet, singing hymns and composing poems glorifying God. 

Þa he ða þær in gelimplice tide his leomu on reste gesette ond onslepte, þa stod him sum mon æt þurh swefn ond hine halette ond grette ond hine be his noman nemnde: 'Cedmon, sing me hwæthwugu.' Þa ondswarede he ond cwæð: 'Ne con ic noht singan ond ic forþon of þeossum gebeorscipe uteode ond hider gewat, forþon ic naht singan ne cuðe.' Eft he cwæð, se ðe wið hine sprecende wæs: 'Hwæðreþu meaht singan.' Þa cwæð he: 'Hwæt sceal ic singan?' Cwæð he: 'Sing me frumsceaft.' Þa he ða þas andsware onfeng, þa ongon he sona singan in herenesse Godes Scyppends þa fers ond þa word þe he næfre gehyrde...

Þa aras he from þæm slæpe, ond eal þa þe he slæpende song, fæste in gemynde hæfde, ond þæm wordum sona monig word in þæt ilce gemet Gode wyrðes songes togeþeodde. Þa com he on morgenne to þæm tungerefan, þe his ealdormon wæs. Sægde him hwylc gife he onfeng, ond he hine sona to þære abbudissan gelædde ond hire þæt cyðde ond sægde. Þa heht heo gesomnian ealle þa gelæredestan men ond þa leorneras, ond him ondweardum het secgan þæt swefn ond þæt leoð singan, þæt ealra heora dome gecoren wære, hwæt oððe hwonon þæt cumen wære.

The first page of Bede's Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum.

When he there at a suitable time set his limbs at rest and fell asleep, then some man stood by him in his dream and hailed and greeted him and addressed him by his name: 'Caedmon, sing me something.' Then he answered and said: 'I do not know how to sing and for that reason I went out from this feast and went hither, because I did not know how to sing at all.' Again he said, he who was speaking with him: 'Nevertheless, you must sing.' Then he said: 'What must I sing?' Said he: 'Sing to me of the first Creation.' When he received this answer, then he began immediately to sing in praise of God the Creator verses and words which he had never heard...

Then he arose from that sleep, and all of those (songs) which he sang while sleeping he had fast in his memory, and he soon added in the same manner to those words many words of songs worthy of God. Then in the morning he came to the town-reeve, who was his alderman. He said to him which gift did he bring, and he directly lead him to the abbess and made it known and declared to her. Then she ordered all of the most learned men and scholars to assemble, and to those who were present commanded him to tell of that dream and sing that song, so that it might be determined by the judgement of all of them: what it was and whence it had come. Then it was seen by all even as it was, that to him from God himself a heavenly gift had been given.

The 6th century Crux Vaticana, believed to house relics of the True Cross.

Haigh’s attribution to the work as being that of Caedmon is based upon the high standard of the poetry, stating that Caedmon was the only English Christian poet of note prior to Bede.  He infers that the dating of the poem’s composition can be roughly aligned with the lifetime of that of Caedmon, and therefore, he must be the author of the work.  This idea has been backed up by the runic scholar, George Stephens, who claims there to be a runic inscription on the cross reading “Caedmon made me”.  Stephens echoes Haigh’s theory of attribution of the poem to Caedmon, owing to lack of evidence of any other known poets during this period of history.  Despite these brave suggestions, and apparent runic evidence, most scholars tend to disagree with Haigh and Stephens’ theories.  Furthermore, many question the attribution of the runic inscription proposed by Stephens as being to Caedmon.

The other candidate for the authorship of the poem proposed is that of Cynewulf, who lived approximately a century after Caedmon, in the late eighth century.  Of Cynewulf’s life, nothing is known other than what can be derived from his poetry.  Two of his signed poems were found in the Vercelli book and scholars believe that owing to the presence of the two other poems that the scribe was using a common source, therefore all six poems in the book are actually his.  It has also been suggested that there are marked similarities between the poem Elene, signed by Cynewulf, and The Dream of the Rood.  Elene tells in part the story of St. Helena and her finding of the True Cross.  The poem intersperses history and historical personalities, the most notable being Helena and her son, the emperor Constantine, with a tale of Judas.  The poem tells of Judas' alleged conversion to Christianity, and the ensuing conflict with Satan as a result.  Elene could be tentatively proposed as being an early form of allegory, with Helena representative of the Church, and Judas to be that of man, and the human condition.  Both poems share do share similar themes such as a principal subject of both works being the Cross (or “rood”, literally meaning “tree”), and its suffering alongside Christ.
The Vercelli book, complete with Saxon homilies and poems.

Sandra McEntire has discussed the importance placed in the devotion of the cross that arose from the fourth century onwards.  McEntire states that the cross itself became a popular image to worship from the third century, and this devotion became more ardent from the fifth century onwards.  This veneration begun in earnest in the wake of the supposed discovery of the true Cross.  Liturgies were written to the devotion that was to be bestowed upon the Cross by Christians.  In addition, grand ornate reliquaries were designed to house pieces of wood purporting to be from the Cross itself.  In Christian worship, the Sign of the Cross began to become an intrinsic part of Christian ritual and doctrine by priests and worshipers alike.  This sign was initially made by Christians upon their foreheads. However, this later extended to protect their whole body, and with prayers made, arms extended echoing the Crucifixion.  The very shape of the cross was/is imbued with significant allegorical and cosmological meanings, as well as being recognised as a symbol for salvation.   

The poem itself is unusual on numerous levels, although centred around the theme of the Passion of Christ, does not appear to have been influenced by either hymns or by the Gospels of the New Testament.  The influences behind the composition of the poem remain obscure and cannot be pinned down to a specific text, Biblical or otherwise.  It does seem to tie in with the Anglo Saxon belief to the person of Christ and the symbolic significance attributed to the cross at the time.  Paradoxes are evident in the work. The rood/cross appears to be both triumphant yet suffering – mirroring the Christian message behind the Crucifixion, with the imagery of blood seeping from the resplendent, bejeweled cross in the prelude to the poem.

Syllic wæs se sigebēam, ond ic synnum fāh,
forwunded mid wommum.  Geseah ic wuldres trēow, 
wædum geweorðod wynnum scīnan, 
gegyred mid golde; gimmas hæfdon
bewrigen weorðlīce wealdendes trēow.
Hwæðre ic þurh þæt gold ongytan meahte 
earmra ærgewin, þæt hit ærest ongan 
swætan on þā swīðran healfe.

Sublime, the tree was, and I was foul with sin, 
wounded and filthy. I saw the wondrous tree 
become more beautiful, bound with streamers, 
wound with gold; gems gathered nobly covering the King's tree. 
But through the gold I could glimpse, 
though buried by sinfulness,
that it began to bleed on its right side.

The poem conveys the popular idea of a dual co-existence of paradoxical natures in Christ, man yet divine son of God, and through suffering bring about victory and redemption.  At the time of writing the poem, these conflicting elements had caused a significant rupture in the forming of the Christian church.  This state of affairs was due in part to the doctrine of docetism.  Docetism has long been believed to have been integral to the teachings of the early Christian belief system of a number of the Gnostic schools.  Part of the doctrine of these various schools was to refute the suggestion that God, in the form of Christ, had taken human form and been allowed to suffer and die on the cross.  This was tied in with the belief that the human body is composed of matter, and therefore evil.  However the spirit is considered eternal making the body of Christ that suffered and died on the cross nothing more than mere illusion.  A number of the apocryphal Gospels contained such docetic ideas and thought; these included The Gospel of Philip, The Acts of John, and The Gospel of Judas.

This ideology extended further into the Docetists allegedly refusing to participate in the sacrament of the Eucharist,  where the bread and wine represented the body and blood of Christ.  Docetism was deemed heretical by the Early Church, eventually to peter out in Christian teachings.  The interpretation of the significance of the Crucifixion was wholly dependent upon the stress in which the early Christians placed upon the actual event.  The question of stress arose from whether it was to be seen as suffering or triumph, and if this event was due to an act Christ as God, or Christ as a man.   Differing schools of thought veered from one philosophical doctrine to the other, in the belief that it was impossible to reconcile the two ideas into any form of unity. 

 The Third Ecumenical Council at Ephesus in 431.

Among the widespread Christian schools of thought in the fifth and sixth centuries were the Nestorians, headed up by the bishop Nestorius.  His teachings including the revoking of the title bestowed upon the Virgin Mary of Θεοτόκος or Theotokos (‘Bearer of God’). This repudiation of her title implied that Nestorius and his followers did not believe in the divinity of Christ.  Nestorius himself was initially labelled a heretic by Eusebius, bishop of Dorylaeum, and later by the Patriarch, Cyril of Alexandria.  As a result, Nestorius was excommunicated by the Pope, Celestine of Rome, and officially denounced as a heretic in 431 at the Council of Ephesus.  This was met with objections from the Eastern Church, led by John I of Antioch.  Nonetheless, Nestorius was sent into exile to a monastery in the Great Oasis of Hibis, where he was to die several years afterwards.   For many centuries the belief that Nestorius was guilty of heresy for his beliefs was held by many orthodox Christians. The exception to this being the Assyrian Church of the East, where he is honoured as a saint.

In the mid eighteenth century, a copy of a manuscript entitled the Bazaar of Heracleides was discovered.  This copy, in Syriac, was apparently written by Nestorius towards the end of his life, in which he repudiates the charges of heresy laid against him.  The doctrine in the Bazaar suggests that Nestorius affirmed his belief in the dual nature of Christ - “the same One is twofold”.   Despite Nestorius and his followers appearing to have acknowledged the two natures of Christ, they seemed to have overemphasized his humanity over his divinity.  This heresy led to a school of thought wherein the followers were called the Monophysites; an antithesis to the teachings of Nestorius, which placing emphasis upon the divinity of Christ over his human nature.  This school of thought was also later considered to be heretical in its teaching and refuted by the Church Fathers.

With so much debate and dispute between these (and other) schools of thought, the Christian Church in Rome held the Council of Chalcedon in 449.  At Chalcedon, the council decided that Jesus Christ had indeed been one person but that he had two natures: the human and the divine.  This definition was confirmed by Pope Leo I in his Tome wherein he identified the characteristics and attributes of Christ which made him human, but at the same time those which made him divine.  Through this work, a description for Christ’s life and nature were established, and is still recognised by most Christians as orthodox to this day.  However, it did not put a complete end to the dispute over the divinity of Christ, and other so-called heresies arose over the centuries, provoking further dissent.  

As touched upon in the previous article The Culdee, the Copts, and the Celtic Church, the British Isles and Ireland were open to influences outside of the Church of Rome and her doctrines.  Although Christianity was prevalent in the Britain and Ireland during the Anglo-Saxon era, the isolation and remoteness of the islands themselves did not mean that the ecclesiastics and clergy, relatively newly converted to the Christian creed, did not question some of doctrine from Rome, despite not having the philosophical heritage of say, Greece or Rome.  It seems likely that, although not as many of the teachings of those accused of heresy would have reached British shores that both through trade routes with Spain, Egypt and beyond, that it was through the instruction against heresy that the early English church fathers would have become further aware of their existence.

Such instruction would have been found in readily circulated works, such as those of Ambrose, Augustine and Jerome and their reinforced stance against heresy.  These attitudes are mirrored in the works of Bede and his commentaries on the Gospels.  These commentaries clearly draw their stance from other works, and through their repudiation of heretics, it is clear that Bede was at least aware of their existence if not their doctrines.  It is uncertain how the unorthodox dogma would have been greeted on British shores, whether with curiosity or with and might have given rise to the questioning of teachings coming from Rome.  The Anglo-Saxons were far from an uncultured, barbaric race and would have had, at the very least, an understanding of the theological teachings of their new, widespread Christian beliefs, yet would have had neither the fanatical zeal nor philosophical reason to dispute doctrine.  A synod was held in Hatfield in 679 to determine the doctrine and beliefs held by the seventh century Anglo-Saxon church.  The synod, led by Theodore, Archbishop of Canterbury, condemned heretics and their teachings such as Nestorius, and affirmed belief in existing doctrine, including Leo’s Tome. Therefore, by extension, it seems unlikely that the author of The Dream of the Rood would not have been aware of the Christological debate taking place as to Christ’s divinity/humanity.

A mediaeval representation of Council of Chalcedon 

Although the aspects of Christ’s suffering and triumph on the Cross were to be separated into two separate aspects in the Middle Ages, The Dream of the Rood successfully manages to weave the two ideas into his poem.  The Crucifixion was seen during the Mediaeval era as being one of suffering and anguish by Christ on the cross, with the ultimate conclusion, his death on the cross.    His triumph was to come following the Harrowing of Hell, and in his resurrection from the dead on the third day.  The words of the poet depict a considerably different portrayal from the orthodox image of Christ.  Christ is portrayed as a warrior and hero, and the actual crucifixion as a conflict and salvation or redemption as his victory.  This imagery of Christ as a chivalrous knight was to largely die out until it returned in the allegorical motifs adopted by the idea of courtly love; the knight battling to the death to save the lady he loves and his lady-love representative of his church, and mankind.  This allegorical motif is equally apparent in the later Piers Plowman by William Langland.

Christ’s heroism is emphasised in The Dream of the Rood, by his acceptance of his quest.  He approaches the tree/cross with bravery and determination, strips, and then ascends it.  This idea is consistent with the motifs of the Crucifixion in the Early Church, it was only in Mediaeval imagery that Christ was depicted as suffering under the cross despite the synoptic Gospels suggesting that the cross itself was in fact carried for some of the journey by Simon of Cyrene.  Again, the Mediaeval commentaries on the Gospels and the subsequent Stations of the Cross in Catholic churches have shown the soldiers gambling for Christ’s garments before he was crucified.  The Early Church father, Ambrose, suggests the opposite in his commentary on St. Luke, in that Christ removed his clothes willingly.  Again, this theme is akin with that of a warrior stripping himself in preparation for battle.  This voluntary stripping and subsequent ascension is played out in The Dream of the Rood.  Christ’s death upon the cross is not detailed in the poem, the poet simply tells of his presence there.

An illuminated version of Piers Plowman.

Ealle ic mihte
feondas gefyllan, hwæðre ic fæste stod.
Ongyrede hine þa geong hæleð, (þæt wæs god ælmihtig),
strang ond stiðmod. Gestah he on gealgan heanne,
modig on manigra gesyhðe, þa he wolde mancyn lysan.
Bifode ic þa me se beorn ymbclypte: 

I was able to destroy
all the enemies, nevertheless, I stood firmly,
The young hero stripped himself the (that was God Almighty)
strong and resolute. He ascended onto the high gallows
brave in the sight of many, there, since he wished to release mankind
I trembled when the man embraced me.  However, I dared not bow to the earth,
fall to the surface of the earth, but I had to stand fast:
I was raised as a cross.

Scholars have placed much emphasis upon the treatment of the cross, for its humility at having to bear Christ upon it.  The device used by the poet of making the Cross speak is unusual but not unique to the poem.  In the passage of one of the apocryphal Gospels, the Gospel of Peter, the Cross is said to possess human attributes and one point does indeed speak.  The gospel itself was rejected by the Early Church fathers when compiling the books to be included in the Canon of the New Testament.  A fragment of the gospel was recovered in 1886 by Urbain Bouriant in Akhmim, where it had been buried with an Egyptian monk, in a grave dating from the eighth or ninth century.  Despite the work having been officially excluded, it appears that the work was considered valuable and important enough to have been buried, possibly with its owner, some five or six centuries after its proscription.      

The partial remains of the Gospel of Peter, found in a 8th-9th century grave.

In conclusion, The Dream of the Rood, is clearly influenced by the writings of Cynewulf, if in fact he wasn't the actual author of the poem.  However, as evidenced by runes on the Ruthwell Cross, the poem may well have been also influenced by the earlier Biblical inspired works of Caedmon.  The Dream of the Rood is important in that it is not simply a poetic interpretation nor paraphrase of the Canonical Passion stories presented in a style that would have been immediately recognisable to its contemporary readers. The poem allows its present readers an insight into understanding the Christian doctrine of the early English Church.  In addition, despite its misgivings, it is still a richly textured work; full of beautiful yet dramatic imagery, allegory, and devotion.

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Dakhamunzu Affair

During the decline of the Amarna period an extraordinary series of events was to take place; one of the most enigmatic of these has become known to Egyptologists as the “Dakhamunzu Affair”, or the “Zannanza Affair”.  During the second half of the fourteenth century BC, relations between Egypt and the other kingdoms in the region had become increasingly strained with the continual threat of uprisings, struggles and war.  The Egyptian empire had only a century before been expansive and magnificent.   This immense empire is apparent from our surviving knowledge of the campaigns of Tuthmose III (later dubbed “the Egyptian Napoleon”), stepson of Hatshepsut and great grandfather of Akhenaten-Amenhotep IV.  Tuthmose had expanded the frontiers of the Egyptian empire and its vassals where he is recorded as having captured over 350 cities.  Significant advances in warfare tactics together with improved weaponry allowed Egypt to take land through successful military campaigns.  These campaigns are recorded by Thanuny, commander of the army and chief royal scribe.  Despite the usual Egyptian propaganda to glorify their successes in battle, it appears that by the end of the Tuthmose’s long reign the Egyptian Empire extended all the way from Canaan to Syria. 
By the time Tutankhamun had ascended the throne in the late fourteenth century BC, the once great empire was no more with much of it having been lost.  These circumstances need to considered and understood when reflecting upon the events surrounding the events of the Armana era during and after the death of Akheneten.   Egypt’s relations with her neighbours had become increasingly strained with power struggle occurring between the nations; in particular between Egypt, Hatti, and Mitanni.  Hatti, and its subjects, the Hittites, were endeavouring to expand their own empire under their king, Suppiluliuma I.   With records of events in Egypt are sparse for the reigns of the pharaohs during the “Amarna period”, one has to draw upon the Hittite records for information relating to this turbulent period of Egyptian history.  Some of these events are recorded in the fragmentary Deeds of Suppiluliuma, compiled after his death by his son, Mursili II.

Suppiluliuma, the Hittite leader.
In Hatti, a onetime general named Suppiluliuma had captured the throne by force, overthrowing king Tudhaliya III.  The disillusioned Suppiluliuma had served under the deposed king’s father, Tudhaliya II.  Suppiluliuma seems to have set about expanding the Hittite empire through alliances and dynastic marriages with his own family.  He also took full advantage of the rather erratic behaviour of the Egyptian pharaoh, Akhenaten.   Akhenaten appears to have had a lack of interest and concern in Egyptian foreign affairs preferring to focus upon implementing his monotheistic reforms, and the building of the city of Akhetaten.  Owing to this apparent indifference to events around him, Egypt lost much of its empire to the north following Hittite invasions.  These acts of aggression against the various kingdoms incited discontentment amongst the subjects, leading to further disruption and revolution.
Nonetheless, Hatti further sought to extend its empire, and went to war with Mitanni.  Mitanni had long been one of Egypt’s allies, owing to dynastic marriages between the royal princes of Egypt and princesses of Mitanni.  Eventually the Egyptians decided to act, and in the region of Kadesh, the Egyptians attempted to defend the city.  This conduct probably followed from repeated requests made by its king to Akhenaten as can be seen in the Amarna letters.  Despite these requests, Egypt lost hold of the city.  Subsequent attempts of later pharaohs Tutankhamun and Horemheb to regain the city were largely unsuccessful, and it did not return to Egyptian rule until the reign of Seti I.  The victorious Suppiluliuma sent forces elsewhere in Mitanni as well as to Amqu (modern day Northern Lebanon).  The Armana letters recount events that occurred in Amqu by Abdi-Risa, its ruler:-
One of the Amarna letters.

Say to the king, my lord, my god, my Sun: Message of Abdi-Risa, your servant, the ruler of Enišasi.  I fall in the dirt under the feet of the king, my lord, seven times and seven times. Look, we are in Amqu, in cities of the king, my lord, and Etakkama, the ruler of Qinsa (ie Kadesh), assisted the troops of Hatti and set the cities of the king, my lord, on fire. May the king, my lord, take cognizance, and may the king, my lord, give archers that we may (re)gain the cities of the king, my lord, and dwell in the cities of the king, my lord, my god, my Sun."  [EA 363]

Following events at Amqu, the Deeds of Suppiluliuma record that: “[The Egyptians] were afraid.  And since, in addition, their lord Nibhururiya had died, therefore the queen of Egypt, who was Dakhamunzu, sent a messenger to [Suppiluliuma].”  In this message, the apparently destitute dowager queen wrote stating that “my husband has died.  I do not have a son.  But they say, many are your sons.  If you would give me one of your sons, he would become my husband.  I shall never pick out a servant of mine and make him my husband.  I am afraid.
Having received this request for help and a dynastic marriage, not unsurprisingly, it was greeted by Suppiluliuma with both surprise and suspicion.  Such an event was unprecedented.  Previously, under the reign of Amenhotep III, the pharaoh had made it clear that dynastic marriages in Egypt were specifically to be just between foreign princesses and Egyptian princes or kings, and never the reverse.  Evidence of this prejudice against marriages of Egyptian princesses to non-Egyptians is detailed in the Armana letters.  In the correspondence, a request for a marriage to a royal princess was made to Amenhotep III by the Babylonian king Kadašman-Enlil, appealing to his status as pharaoh and ruler (“You are still the king, and can act as you wish”.)   In a somewhat contradictory statement, Amenhotep III appears to express his dismay at such an idea.  Reference is made to as one of his sisters being previously sent as a consort to Babylon, yet no one has seen her and knows whether she is alive or dead since her departure from Egypt.  Scant surviving evidence of marriages between Egyptian royal males remains, and is found in the Armana letters and inscribed upon a few scarabs commemorating the marriage made between the pharaoh and a foreign princess.  These princesses were usually given a household and taken as a secondary wife.
Drawing showing the likeness of an Egyptian princess, found on a vase in Ugarit

It is intriguing to find evidence that at some point during the late 18th dynasty of a marriage having occurred between an unnamed royal princess (or lady of the court) and of Niqmaddu II, king of Ugarit, incised on the surviving fragments of an alabaster vase.  Christiane Desroches Noblecourt suggested stylistically that the lady depicted upon the vase appears to date from the final years of the reign of Akhenaten up until to that of Ay, which suggests that a possible candidate of this union was one of the surviving daughters of Akhenaten.  The elaborately dressed lady, who strongly resembles an Egyptian, is shown to be in Niqmaddu’s presence, standing beneath a kiosk or canopy, pouring him a drink.   Despite this seemingly dramatic swing in foreign relations, there is no evidence elsewhere to suggest that Akhenaten detracted from standard policy in relation to alliances and marriages, leaving the identification of the lady obscure. 
Wary to this request made from the Egyptians, Suppiluliuma exclaimed that “such a thing has never happened to me in my whole life”.  However, with his curiosity aroused, and appreciating the importance and value of an alliance between Egypt and Hatti, Suppiluliuma sent a chamberlain to further investigate the truth behind this extraordinary request.
A likeness of Akhenaten and his Chief Royal Wife, Nefertiti.

Despite the request for a dynastic marriage between the dowager queen and a royal Hittite prince, Suppiluliuma still successfully took hold of the city of Kadesh that winter.  The following spring, the chamberlain returned to the Hittite court with a messenger from the queen.  The messenger addressed the king, further imploring the Hittite ruler for his aid, and for a son to be sent to Egypt for the widowed queen to marry and make her husband.  The letter addressed the Hittite king’s doubts, once again making a more specific, urgent request for an alliance via marriage to be made between the two families.  As relayed in the Deeds, Dakhamunzu reaffirms her desperate need, saying:-
“Why did you say ‘they deceive me’ in that way?  If I had a son, would I write to you of my shame and that of my country?  You didn’t believe me and have told me so.  My husband has died.  I have no son.  Never shall I take a servant of mine and make him my husband.  I have written to no other country but yours.   They say you have many sons, so give me one of yours.   He will be my husband, and to Egypt he will be king.”
Suppiluliuma remained suspicious and after numerous negotiations with the Egyptian messenger finally decided to send one of his sons, Zannanza, to Egypt. Suppiluliuma was concerned nonetheless and feared that his son would be captured and taken hostage once in Egypt.  His fears were justified, en route to Egypt, possibly even before he arrived, the Hittite prince was killed.  His death was treated with immediate suspicion by the Hittites and their ruler, who believed the Egyptians to have been responsible for his being murdered.  Reporting back to Suppiluliuma, they told him of how Zannanza had been killed by the people of Egypt.  After grieving, and anger and retaliation for the murder of his son and the treachery of the Egyptians, Suppiluliuma once again attacked Anqu.  He then returned victorious to his capital, Hattusa, with Egyptian prisoners and hostages.  Unbeknownst to Suppiluliuma and his heir Arnuwanda II, the hostages were carrying a deadly plague to which both rulers were to later succumb.
 A likeness of the young Meritaten, daughter of Akhenaten.
The identity of Dakhamunzu remains enigmatic and uncertain;  Three possible candidates have been proposed as being the dowager queen in question.  These women are Nefertiti, and two of her daughters, Meritaten and Ankhesenamun.   At one time, in the early days of scholarship; it was suggested that Dakhamunzu was simply a Hittite corruption of the name Ankhesenamun, the widow of Tutankhamun.  However, this explanation now seems to be improbable and unjustified.  It is now generally accepted and believed that the name is derived from the Hittite rendering of the Egyptian ta hemet nesu, an Egyptian title meaning “the King’s wife” rather than being a proper name.  The confusion arises from confusions in the recognised chronology of events in pharaonic Egypt’s historical timescale, allowing for approximately twenty years to be placed on either side of events that occur within its history.  Further confusion surrounds the identity of the deceased pharaoh, named “Nibhururiya”.  This Hittite interpretation of his name might refer to the prenomen of either Akhenaten [Neferkheperure] , or Tutankhamun [Nebkheperure]. 
Close-up of the the gold shrine, showing Tutankhamun and Ankhesenamun.

In the identification of Nibhururiya as Tutankhamun, the case rests upon the facts that Tutankhamun left no surviving (male) heirs.  Additionally, his widow appears to have eventually married Ay.  Ay may well have been her own grandfather;  but also had been grand vizier in the court of the late Tutankhamun.  This status could well have been seen as that of being a servant despite his close affiliation and blood ties with the royal family.  Although most accept this marriage as having occurred, evidence for a marriage between Ankhesenamun and Ay is rather tenuous, based upon the existence of one ring , and another reported as having been seen by Percy Newberry.  In a letter written to Howard Carter, Newberry speaks of having found a ring bearing the cartouches of Ay and Ankhesenamun together, suggesting that the two were at one point married.  A ring similar to the one described which bears both inscriptions is housed in Berlin.  The marriage itself would have been purely to reinforce Ay’s claim to the empty throne.  Despite her royal heritage and being the “daughter of a god”, Ay never made Ankhesenamun his Chief Royal Wife; that accolade and title having been conferred to the lady Tey.  Tey had been married to Ay for many years and had been named as being the former wet-nurse of Nefertiti.   Ankhesenamun appears in none of the funerary decorations in Ay’s tomb suggesting that he did not wish her to accompany him into the afterlife as his consort.
The eventual fate of Ankhesenamun remains uncertain.   Noblecourt proposed that she was executed by Horemheb, possibly as a result of her role in the Zannanza affair.  Her body is now believed to be one of the ladies whose skeletal remains were found in KV21; having been named as Mummy KV21A, and through DNA testing as being the mother of the foetuses found in the tomb of Tutankhamun.  The recently discovered tomb KV63 has been suggested having been Akhenaten’s original resting place, owing to its close proximity to KV62.  This theory is supported by the presence of a woman’s coffin, women’s clothing and jewellery, as well as pottery bearing the partial name of “-paaten”,  Ankhesenamun’s birth name, being found in the tomb. 
Not all scholars agree with the identification of the anonymous queen as being Ankhesenamun, but propose the suggestion her identity might be attributed to either Nefertiti or Meritaten.  Certainly both women had attained the title of “Chief Royal Wife” and would have seen themselves as being “the King’s wife”.  Nefertiti’s attribution of this title and status is obvious from the role she played during her husband’s reign, but in relation to Meritaten, it remains somewhat more obscure and vague.  Meritaten seems to have entertained this title during the reign of her father, whom she apparently later married (and may have sired his children).  She also would appear to have been the “Chief Royal Wife” of at least one of his successors/co-regents, viz. Ankhkheprure Neferneferuaten and Smenkhkare (see The Heirs of Akhenaten for further details on this fascinating subject). 
The Newberry ring, showing the cartouches of Ay and Ankhesenamun
Identifying Nefertiti as Dakhamunzu has gained support by leading scholars such as Nicholas Reeves, based upon a number of differing factors.  The first of these is based upon the title adopted by the queen if indeed Dakhamunzu is indeed a re-rendering of ta hemet nesu.   The ancient Egyptian language rarely utilised the definite article, and the presence of the word “ta” (feminine form of “the”) to be included in the queen’s title would suggest a certain prominence in her status, above that of other women in the royal household, and above those  of the pharaoh’s other surviving wives.  Reeves has suggested that the inclusion of the definite article is to emphasise the import of the role which Nefertiti, as Chief Royal Wife, held; owing to Akhenaten having various wives (see The Wives of Akhenaten).  The use of the word “ta” was to exalt and emphasise the queen’s rank, from being just that of a wife to the king to being one of the “king’s wife par excellence”, to the Hittites.  Nefertiti had no known (or surviving) sons, nor did Meritaten; The identities of the parents of the young Tutankhaten still remain uncertain, and if his father is not Akhenaten but another royal prince, he would not have been accorded the status of being a royal son.     
William McMurray has corroborated the theories proposed by Reeves in his article Towards an Absolute Chronology for Ancient Egypt where McMurray makes use of astronomical phenomena such as solar eclipses, as well as sources outside of Egypt and the Near East, to draw together a chronology of events.  In parallel to this research, Jared Miller has attempted to draw up a chronology of events that took place in the Hittite empire. His theories have furthered the likelihood of Akhenaten being the deceased pharaoh “Nibhuririya”.   In calculating the probable times of the year of Akhenaten and Tutankhumun’s deaths; a suggestion of late September has been made for that of Akhenaten based upon the vintaging of wine around this time, and that of late December based upon the flora and fauna found in Tutankhamun’s tomb.  Comparing these findings with the seasons recounted in the letters to Suppiluliuma and the taking of Anqu, the first letter appears to the Hittite king would appear to have arrived in the late autumn.  This theory is further endorsed by the Amarna letters which speak of the military campaigns in Anqu, echoing those reported in The Deeds of Suppiluliuma.  The city of Akhetaten (where the letters were found) was abandoned during the reign of Tutankhamun coinciding with the restoration of the old religion and return to Thebes as the royal capital.  These events back up the theory that Tutankhamun cannot have been “Nibhururiya.”  Horemheb (given the name/title of Armaa) has recently been suggested as being the commander and viceroy in Asia mentioned in a Hittite document which relates to events from regnal years 7 and 9 of Suppiluliuma’s successor, Mursili II.  This position of responsibility would have been held by Horemheb prior to his ascension to the throne, further ruling out the likelihood of Tutankhamun as being the deceased king.

For scholars such as Reeves who believe that Akhenaten was succeeded as pharaoh by his consort, Nefertiti, under the newly adopted kingly name of Nefneferuaten Ankhkheprure, all of these goings-on this were part of her gradual progression from Chief Royal Wife to (possibly) co-regent to sole ruler/pharaoh.  Therefore, although Nefertiti (under her newly assumed name) might well have been recognised as pharaoh by her court, she would still have been seen as the (former) king’s wife to neighbouring kingdoms.  Most telling is that thus far neither a tomb nor funerary goods have ever been located and identified with having belonged with definite certainty to Nefertiti.  There is a broken shabti figure bearing her name and queenly titles; but it also bears traces of her husband’s name and titles, which suggests that the figure could indeed have been intended for the burial of the latter as a votive offering.  
The fragment of the shabti figure in the Louvre.
When considering the political climate Egypt found herself in, it seems unlikely that foreign powers would have recognised a woman ascending to the throne and taking on the duties of kingship.   The presence and rule of a female pharaoh during this period is mentioned in later (inaccurate) histories, notably those of Manetho.  Faience bezel rings have been found at Armana, which have female pharaonic epithets inscribed upon them.   This era continues to remain shrouded in mystery, and facts cannot be determined with any definite certainty.  Other scholars have suggested that Nefertiti predeceased her husband by several years, and that Akhenaten was succeeded by Meritaten.  This theory was popularised by Krauss in the late 1970s, identifying Meritaten as the daughter named by Manetho as “Akenkheres”, of “Oros” (i.e. Akhenaten).  This would make the shadowy, ephemeral pharaoh Smenkhkare as being either the servant she demonstrated such reluctance to marry, or in an even less likely circumstance, that it was Zannanza under a newly assumed, and more Egyptian, name.