“I was like a flame in the kings’ hands” (Kilamuwa Palace Inscription)
This Phoenician inscription from ~830 BCE was found in a palace excavated in modern southeast Turkey. It illustrates a historical tension between the local population, which was Neo-Hittite, and the ruling elite, which was Aramean. King Kilamuwa claims that not only did he fight off external threats, he also appeased and protected the indigenous population; his own name is Hittite, not Semitic, reflecting a desire to assimilate.
I am Kilamuwa bar Hayya.
Gabbar reigned over Yauday, but he was useless.
Then there was Bamah, but he was useless.
Then there was Hayya, but he was useless.
Then there was my brother Shaul, but he was useless.
But I am Kilamuwa son of Tiamah; what I did, my predecessors could not do.
My father’s house was surrounded by imposing kings; each of them reached out to devour us. But I was like a flame in the kings’ hands, a flame consuming beard and hand alike.
The king of the Dannuni was imposing over me, so I hired the king of Assyria against him. He traded me a maid for each sheep and a man for each tunic.
I am Kilamuwa bar Hayya. I sat upon my father’s throne. Before, under earlier kings, the indigenous people moaned like dogs. I, though — to some I was father; to some I was mother; to some I was brother. I took one who had never seen a sheep’s face and gave him ownership of a flock; I took one who had never seen a cow’s face and gave him ownership of a herd — and ownership of silver and gold. In my time, those who had not seen linen since youth were clothed with sea silk. I myself held the indigenous peoples by the hand, so that they felt the warmth of an orphan for its mother.
But if any of my descendants takes my place and destroys this message, may the indigenous people not respect the aristocrats, and may the aristocrats not respect the indigenous people. And if anyone destroys this message, may Ba’al-Ṣemed, whom Gabbar chose, destroy his head; and may Ba’al-Hammon, whom Bamah and Rakkibel chose, lord of the house, destroy his head.