- See also Muwatalli I
Depiction of Muwatalli II on a relief at Sirkeli Höyük
|Other names||Muwatallis II|
|Title||King of the Hittites|
|Relatives||Hattusili III (brother)|
Tudhaliya IV (nephew)
Egyptologists suspect that some time prior to Ramesses II's accession to the Egyptian throne, Muwattalli had reached an informal peace treaty or understanding with Seti I over Kadesh to avoid a clash between the two powers over control of Syria. In it, Seti effectively ceded Kadesh to the Hittite king in order to focus on domestic issues in Egypt.
Muwatalli had a wife named Tanu-Ḫepa and at least two children. One was Urhi-Teshup, who became king as Mursili III until his uncle Hattusili III deposed him. Another was Kurunta who became the vassal ruler of Tarhuntassa during the reign of Hattusili III. Another person named Ulmi-Teshup is suggested to be a third son of Muwatalli II but it is quite likely that Ulmi-Teshup and Kurunta are the same person.
Move to Tarhuntassa
At the start of Muwatalli II’s reign the capital of Hatti was Hattusa, located in the northern region of Anatolia. Not long after he came into power, he made the decision to move the capital to a new location, which he named Tarhuntassa. There is no documentation stating the reason why the capital was moved, but scholars, based on later texts written by his brother Hattusili III and the campaigns Muwatalli II fought, have come up with two possible reasons.
The first theory is that Muwatlli II moved the capital because of the border skirmishes between the Hittites and the Kaska, and later the rebellion by Piyamaradu. These disputes were on the northern border, and the capital of Hattusa is located near the northern border. After stabilizing the northern border, he moved the capital farther south, to the new location of Tarhuntassa. This new location was not only farther away from the troublesome northern border, but it was also strategically better for the upcoming fight against Egypt over Syria.
The second theory of why Muwatalli II moved his capital south is for religious reasons. Itamar Singer, in his essay “The Failed Reforms of Akhenaten and Muwatalli” states that the reason for the move had deeper roots in a religious reform, although he does acknowledge the political advantages of the move. The main evidence for this is how the depiction of the Storm God on his royal seals changes significantly after the expulsion of Danuhepa. Muwatalli II introduces a new motif for seals that is followed by all the Hittite kings that rule after him: the Umarmungsszene. This style is identifiable because it shows the king being embraced by one (or more) gods. In Muwatalli II’s seals, he is being embraced by the Storm God of Lightning instead of the traditional Storm God of Heaven.
Battle of Kadesh
Although both sides claimed victory in this war, scholars generally believe that the battle ended badly for both sides, especially Ramesses II. This is because both sides suffered heavy losses and their military strength was reduced. What makes this battle unique is not how it ended, but that out of all the battles that Ramses II fought during his reign, he gave special attention to this battle. This is evident by the fact that he produced two official versions of the battle: the Literary Record, sometimes referred to as the Poem, and the Pictorial Record, which includes the Bulletin, a short record of the battle and carved images. These two depictions of the battle are found inscribed in five different Egyptian temples, including the Ramesseum. The second thing that makes this battle noteworthy is the tactics that Muwatalli II used against the Egyptian Army.
The general outline of the battle is this: Muwatlli II gathered his troops in northern Syria and sent out scouts and spies to ascertain the location of Ramesses II army. The spies reached Ramesses II and the division of Amun, when he was first approaching Kadesh. The spies, pretending to be deserters, gained the ear of Ramses II. They used this to convince him that the Hittite army was over hundred miles away in Aleppo. Sometime later, other Hittite scouts were caught, and Ramesses II discovered the ruse: Muwatalli II was right outside of Kadesh with his forces.
The battle began when the Hittite forces attacked the Egyptian army that was marching towards Kadesh. Ramses II, at his camp in Kadesh, had gone ahead of his other divisions and only had one division of his army with him. While the division to the south of Ramses II was being attacked by one attachment of Hittite charioteers, Muwatalli II had sent a second division of charioteers to attack Ramses II camp. Ramses II forces managed to fend off the Hittite attack and “win” the battle on the following day.
The two accounts that Ramses II created of the battle depict it as an epic struggle against the Hittite army, where Ramses II shows off his prowess as a brilliant military leader. In the shorter Bulletin, Muwatalli II is frequently described as “the vile Chief of Khatti.”  Ramses II admits to having heard the false reports of Muwatalli II’s whereabouts, but when he discovers where Muwatalli II’s forces really are, he claims that “His majesty slaughtered them in their places; they sprawled before his horses; and his majesty was alone, no other was with him.” In the longer Poem, Ramesses II again calls Muwatalli II the “vile foe of Khatti” but in this version he also depicts Muwatalli II as being afraid of him, saying “the vile Chief of Khattii stood in the midst of the army that was with him and did not come out to fight for fear of his majesty” and “the wretched Chief of Khatti stood among his troops and chariots… stood turning, shrinking, afraid.” The Poem and Bulletin both end with Ramesses II winning a stunning victory over Muwatalli II and the Poem ends with Muwatalli signing a peace treaty with Ramesses II out of fear.
Despite the enthusiastic depiction of the battle by Ramesses II, scholars have concluded that the battle was a disaster for Ramesses II. This is because after the battle, Muwatalli II continued to expand into Syria and the Egyptian expansion was stopped in the area of Palestine.
- cf. 'The Shift of the royal seat to Tarhuntassa' by Trevor Bryce, The Kingdom of the Hittites (new edition), Oxford University Press, 2005. p.230
- Houwink ten Cate, Ph. H. J. (1994) "Urhi-Tessup revisited," Bibliotheca Orientalis 51, pp. 233–59
- Gurney, O. R. "Ulmi-Tešup Treaty," Anatolian Studies 43, p. 13–28; Bryce, T. (2005) Kingdom of the Hittites pp. 270–71
- Bryce, Trevor. The Kingdom of the Hittites. New ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005 pg. 224-227.
- Bryce, Trevor. The Kingdom of the Hittites. New ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005 pg. 230-233.
- Singer, Itamar. “The Failed Reforms of Akhenaten and Muwatalli.” BMSAES 6 (October 2006): 37-58
- Miriam Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature: The New Kingdom, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006), 43
- Translation of the Battle of Kadesh Egyptian texts taken from: Miriam Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature: The New Kingdom, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006), 44.
- Translation of the Battle of Kadesh Egyptian texts taken from: Miriam Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature: The New Kingdom, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006), 48, 50.
- Marc Van De Mieroop, A History of the Ancient Near East. ca. 3000-323 BC, 3rd ed. (West Sussex: Wiley Blackwell, 2016), 169.
- Reign of Muwatalli II
- The failed reforms of Akhenaten and Muwatalli by Itamar Singer in British Museum Studies in Ancient Egypt and Sudan (BMSAES) 6(2006), pp. 37–58
| Hittite king
c. 1295–1272 BC