Ekwesh ('-k-w'-s')

Scholars generally accept that the name Ekwesh or Akwasha is the Egyptian equivalent of Achaean and Ahhiyawa of the Hittite text. If that is valid, the Bronze Age Greeks are to be recognized as one of the Sea Peoples. According to the best reading of the numbers inscribed at Karnak, there were 1213 Ekwesh casualties, and they were the largest group among the Sea Peoples, the core of this Sea People force. Further, the Karnak inscriptions clearly imply that the Akwash or Ekwesh were circumcised. Hardly anyone thinks that the Greeks of the Bronze Age were circumcised, but of course, no one really Knows. It is certainly possible that the Ekwesh were the Achaeans.

Achaeans (Homer)


In Several Hittite texts the population of Ahhiyawa, which occurred at an early date as the name of a country, is mentioned. Not only does this name bear an obvious phonetic resemblance to the Achai(w)oi.

On Linear B tablet C 914 from Knossos "...a hecatomb of cattle is sent to akhaiwian.." which seems to be a unique Cretan reference to the mainland Greeks. But this word also, considered geographically and politically, seems to point to the people we know as "Achaeans".

In the so-called Taswagalawa letter the Hittite King Hattusili II (about 1265-1240 BC) consistency addresses the King of Ahhiyawa formally, using the style " my brother". The significance of this is that the King of Ahhiyawa is placed on the same level as the Kings of Egypt, Babylon, Assuria and the Hittite King himself. Furthermore it is clear that, at least at the time the letter was written, the Ahhiyawa were a political and military force to be reckoned with. Some expressions like "By ship" and "crossing" suggested that the Ahhiyawa were located overseas most likely to the west of Asia Minor.

Based on some Hittite tablets the Ahhiyawa operational center in Anatolia was located in the city of Millawanda following the Hittite army trip of King Hattusili II to reach the area and based on some other places mentioned in association with Millawanda, that can be located in the inter-land of Miletus, it is clear that the geographical location of Millawanda correspond to the city of Miletus.

In Miletus an Achaean style citadel as well as pottery, and other Mycenaean elements have been actually discovered. Based on Hittite documents this settlement was attacked and sacked around 1315 BC by Mursili II and by Hattusili II around 1250 BC. Evidences of destruction in the Achaean Miletus are in fact also attested by the archaeological excavations. In these periods the Achaeans settlements in the Anatolian coast and the relevant diplomatic relationship with the Hittite empire seems to be lead by the Achaean.

Bronze Achaean and Hittite swords from the Achaean acropolis of Miletus dated 13th Century BC

There are several Hittite documents in which Ahhiyawa appears:

1) The earliest is an Oracle Report (AHT 22). It dates late 15th-early 14th century BC under the reign of Tudhaliya I/II. In this tablet the name Ahhiya is associated with an enemy ruler of them.

2) The second one is the so-called Indictment of Madduwata (AHT 3). It dates late 15th-early 14th century BC under the reign of Arnuwanda I, even if many of the events narrated in this text had taken place under the preceding king Tudhaliya I/II, and recounts Hittite dealing with a certain Madduwata, forced to flee his country by Attarissiya (Forrer sought to identify this name with the Achaean king Atreus) whom the Hittites called Man of Ahhiya(wa). Madduwata was installed as a Hittite vassal ruler somewhere in southwestern Anatolian; however, he proved to be an ungrateful and overambitious person, who caused serious trouble for his overlord by attacking Hittite posesions in what appears to have been the area of classical Lycia and Caria. Later he even invaded Cyprus in alliance with his former enemy Attarissiya. In this table is also indicated that Attarissiya fought in the area with 100 chariots and thousand infranty and that one of his officer was killed.

3) In another tablet known as Ten-Years Annals of Mursili II (AHT 1A) dated late 14th century BC, it is mentioned that a man called Piyama-Kurunta son of the Arzawan king Uhha-ziti come out from the sea, and he entered (into exile) with the King of Ahhiyawa.

4) The next reference which is correlated with the previous tablet comes from the Ten-Years Annals of Mursili II (AHT 1B). He conquered the country of Arzawa, which lay in the area of classical Lydia, with its capital Apasa (classical Ephesus). Relying on the King of Ahhiyawa, it engaged in hostilities against the Hittites and incited the land of Millawanda to rebellion, but was defeated and its prince probably handed over to the Hittites by Ahhiyawa King.

5) Other references of Ahhiyawa are present in the Oracle Report (AHT 20) dated late 14th-early 13th century BC (Mursili II). In this report the rituals prescribed include summoning the god of Ahhiyawa and the god of Lazpa, and determining the appropriate ritual to be used for them. We do not know which particular gods of Ahhiyawa and Lazpa were fetched.

6) In the so-called Prayer of Mursili II/Muwattalli II/Urhi-Teshshup(?) (AHT 12) dated late 14th-middle 13th century BC the fragmentary text seems to constitute a self-justification of the speaker, certainly a Hittite King, before the gods. In this prayer the King said that while his father was still alive , and because (s)he became hostile to his mother, his father dispatched him/her to the Land of Ahhiyawa, beside the sea.

7) The survived portion of letter (AHT 9), dated Mid 14th-13th century BC from a king of Hatti (perhaps Mursili II or Hattusili III to a king of Ahhiyawa), appears to deal with someone (Piyamaradu ?) or something , brought from Ahhiyawa to another place . There is reference to a legal dispute, and to a tablet perhaps connected with it that the writer has separately dispatched to his addressee.

8) In the letter (AHT 7), from Manapa-Tarhunta of the Seha River Land to a King of Hatti (probably Muwattalli II) dated early 13th century BC, the main topic is the defection of a group of skilled Hittite craftsmen, dyers, to a ruler by name < b="">. Although Ahhiyawa is not mentioned in the preserved lines, the missive definitely belongs to this corpus, as demonstrated by the appearance of Piyamaradu, Wilusa, and Lazpa (Lesbos).

9) In the letter (AHT 6) dated Early-to mid 13th century BC from a King of Ahhiyawa to Hittite King (probably Muwattalli II) (written in Hittite but the linguistic features of the text confirm that the writer spoke Greek, rather than Hittite, as his mother tongue) the King of Ahhiyawa cites a previous letter from his correspondent. This means that by the time this letter was written a regular exchange of correspondence was established between Hattusa and Ahhiyawa. The letter deals with the matter of the islands which originally belonged to Assuwa. The Hitite King asserted in his message that these islands belonged to him. The King of Ahhiyawa objects that an ancestor of his received the islands from the King of Assuwa. These islands were very likely Lemnos, Imbros, and/or Samothrace. Furthermore the Ahhiyawa king explains that a forebear of his had given his daughter in marriage to the then King of Assuwa (which after the chronology of Kings know to us must have been in the fifteenth century) and that consequently the islands had come into possession of Ahhiyawa.

10) Probably the most important, and certainly the longest, Hittite text regarding Ahhiyawa is the so-called Tawagalawa letter (AHT 4) dated Mid-13th century BC. It is the letter of the Hittite King Hattusili III (about 1267-1237 BC), to the Great King of Ahhiyawa, whose name is unfortunately not preserved. The letter is named after the first person mentioned in it, which is Tawagalawa, brother of the Ahhiyawa King. A more suitable label, however, would be "the Piyamaradu letter" because it is a complaint of the Hittite King to his fellow sovereign in Ahhiyawa about the depredations of Piyamaradu on Hittite territory, apparently committed with the tacit approval of the Ahhiyawa King. The most prominent feature of the letter is the apologetic and conciliatory tone used by the Hittite King to address the King of Ahhiyawa, probably a proof that the country of the latter was a respectable military power beyond Hittite reach. All this compatible with the facts known to us about the Achaeans of that age.

11) In a letter (AHT 8) dated Mid-13th century BC from a Hittite official to a King of Hatti (Hattusili III ?) there is a passage refers to the dispatch of gifts to Egypt and to the King of Ahhiyawa, within the context of the conduct of diplomatic relations between the Hittite King and his counterparts in Egypt and Ahhiyawa. It is clear that at the time of the letter's composition, the Hittite King who was its recipient enjoyed peaceful relations with both Egypt and Ahhiyawa. This makes it likely that the man in question was Hattusili III, and that the letter is probably to be dated to the period shortly before or in the aftermath of the treaty which he concluded with the pharaoh Ramesses II in 1259 BC .

12) In another letter (AHT 15) dated 13th century BC from a King of Hatti (Hattusili III?) to another Great King is mentioned the King of Ahhiyawa and Piyamaradu, who long acted as an agent of Ahhiyawan interests in the west.

13) In the votive prayer (AHT 26), dated Mid-13th century BC, of Poduhepa? (wife of Hattusili III) there is no reference to Ahhiyawa but its references to Piyamaradu, who had been supported by the Ahhiyawan King in his anti-Hittite enterprises, indicates the Hittite regime's continuing concern over his activities.

14) In the "Boundary" list (AHT 18) dated Mid-to late 13th century BC (Reign of Hattusili III or Tudhaliya IV) there are references to the lands of Tarhuntassa, Mira and Ahhiyawa and other kingdoms of western and southern Anatolia. That Ahhiyawan-controlled territory in western Anatolia bordered on the kingdom of Mira can be inferred from the fact that a King or Kings of Ahhiyawa exercised for a time sovereignty over the land of Millawanda (Miletus), which lay directly south of Mira.

15) In the Extract from a letter (AHT 14) dated Mid-to late 13th century BC, from a King of Hatti (Tudhaliya IV?) concerning Urhi-Teshshup, it is mentioned that following Urhi-Teshshup' removal from the Hittite throne by his uncle Hattusili III, the deposed King was assigned a place of banishment in the Nuhashshi Lands in Syria. He was determined, however, to get his throne back, and in his bid to do so sought the support of both foreign kings and his former vassal rulers. In a passage of the leter it seems that Urhi-Teshshup had also made approaches to the king of Ahhiyawa. This suggests that Ahhiyawa still had a significant presence in the Nera Eastern world, at least i the westernmost part of it.

16) In the letter (AHT 11) dated Late-13th century BC, Offenses of the Seha River Land (royal edict of Tudhaliya IV?) a personal involvement of the Great King of Ahhiyawa to support the rebellion of the Seha River Land. It may well be that Ahhiyawan support for the rebellion finally induced Tudhaliya IV to force a military showdown with the Ahhiyawan regime-an action that may have resulted in the elimination of Ahhiyawa's sovereignty over Milawata, and the end of an effective Ahhiyawan political and military presence anywhere in western Anatolia.

17) In the survived fragments of a letter known as "Milawata Letter"(AHT 5) dated Late-13th century BC from a king of Hatti (probably Tudhaliya IV) to a western Anatolia ruler (Tarkasnawa, king of Mira?) the Ahhiyawa are not mentioned but there is reference to several individuals and political entities deeply involved with them. The rogue Piyamaradu, the land of Wilusa, and the city of Milawata. The reinstallation of Walmu as King of Wilusa leads us to conclude that the Great King here was probably one of the successors of Muwattali II, in whose reign Wilusa was governed by Alaksandu. The most likely author of the dispatch is Tudhaliya IV.

18) In the Treaty (AHT 2) between Tudhaliya IV and Shaushga-muwa king of Amurru dated Late-13th century BC there is a reference to the king of Ahhiyawa in the list of foreign rulers whom Tudhaliya IV considers his equlas. Unsurprisingly, the rulers of Egypt, Babylonia, and Assyria are included in the list. And originaly the list also contained the King of Ahhiyawa-the name subsequently being erased. A possible conclusion is that the Ahhiyawan King had indeed enjoyed the status of one of the Great Kings of the Late Bronze Age world, at least in Hittite diplomatic terminology, but had recently lost this status.

19) The two letters (AHT 27A and B) dated Late-13th century BC respectively from Suppiluliuma II (1207-? BC) and Penti-Sharruma, a Hittite official, to Ammurapi king of Ugarit, deals about an unacceptable delay of shipment of (copper) ingots from Ugarit to Ahhiyawans currently present in the land of Lukka. This is the last known reference to Ahhiyawa in Late Bronze Age sources. By this time the Ahhiyawan kingdom referred to in earlier Hittite text had lost its Anatolian territories. The Hiyawa-men were no doubt private groups of adventurers who remained n the Anatolian mainland in the wake of the loss of Ahhiyawan sovereignty in the region or came their living as freebooters or as mercenaries in a foreign king's hire.

20) The Ahhiyawa are also mentioned in other very fragmentary tablets (AHT 10, 13, 16, 17, 19, 21, 23, 24, 25) dated durign the 13th century BC which are too fragmentary for translation or comments.

It was now clear from the Hittite tablets and from several archaeological evidences that the Achaeans of the 14th and 13th centuries BC (the heyday of their civilization) were largely involved in trade, diplomatic and armed foray along the shores and islands of the western Anatolian.