I never expected to get a story into a flash-fiction romance magazine. But the theme was “Ancient History,” so I couldn’t resist! (Don’t worry—most of the stories in Spark are G or PG rated. Mine is definitely G.)
There’s a lot you can’t include in a 700-word story, so I thought that I would give you some historical background here.
My story is set in the town of Nuzi in the 1300s BC. Even though Nuzi was pretty close to Assur, the then-capital of Assyria, it was part of the small kingdom of Arraphe. The king of Arraphe, in turn, was the vassal of the Great King of Mittani, a Hurrian kingdom as powerful as the Egypt, Babylon, and Hatti (Hittites) of that era. Assyria had been under the control of the Mitanni, but shortly before my story, the Mitanni had begun to lose strength and the Assyrians to gain it. A few decades after “Bride-Price,” Nuzi was abandoned due to pressure from Assyria.
(Mitanni cylinder seal imprint)We don’t know as much about the ancient city of Arraphe as we would like, because the modern city of Kirkuk is built on top of it. No one is in a hurry to move their condos so that we can dig under them. *sigh*
Fortunately, we have lots and lots of data from Nuzi, including excavation reports showing the houses of people from the 1400s and 1300s BC and hundreds of tablets, mostly from family archives. Families kept records of their many many legal transactions, which included adoptions, marriage contracts, and more. Since you basically weren’t allowed to sell land to someone who wasn’t a family member, they got around this by adopting anyone who wanted to buy land from them!
Maynard Maidman’s 2010 book Nuzi Texts and Their Uses as Historical Evidence is a great place to start if you are interested in what was going in with each of the families at what point in history. One multi-generational family archive includes texts that mention Tehip-tilla, his wife Hinzuri, their five children, eleven grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren!
From the primary source texts, we know that Hinzuri had a complicated life before become the wife of Tehip-tilla and matriarch of his clan. After her father died, it looks like Hinzuri and her brother Zikipa fell on hard times, so Zikipa negotiated her a contract “for sisterhood” with Hut-Arraphe. Hut-Arraphe then gave goods worth 20 shekels of silver to Zikipa and settled an additional 20 shekels on Hinzuri (literally, “on the fringes [of her garment]”) for her dowry. Zikipa got liquid assets, Hut-Arraphe got a hard worker and the chance to marry Hinzuri off to his advantage. Eventually, he married her to Tehip-tilla. This contract (JEN [Joint Expedition to Nuzi] # 78) is the background of my story.
But that hadn’t been the beginning of the real-life Hinzuri’s experiences. Before being given “for sisterhood” to Hut-Arraphe, Zikipa had previously given Hinzuri “for sisterhood” to Inni son of Enna-mati. We don’t have all of the relevant texts, but it looks like this eventually turned into a marriage. After a while, however, Inni had what he wanted: sons. He released Hinzuri back to her brother (along with her daughter Zige) in exchange for an undisclosed amount of money (JEN 636). It was only after this that Hinzuri was given in sisterhood to Hut-Arraphe and then in marriage to Tehip-tilla. I left this out of my story, for obvious reasons!