I’ve just uploaded my paper on suzerains and vassals in the diplomacy of the ancient Near East (2nd millennium BC). I will be presenting this paper in New Orleans at the International Studies Association Annual Convention. Here’s the abstract:
This paper looks at institutional patterns of hierarchical arrangements between suzerain kings and vassal kings in the diplomacy of the ancient Near East (ANE). The focus falls on the 2nd and (to a lesser extent) the 1st millennia BC, with important structural differences between the earlier and later periods. Five recurring features are analysed, based on primary and secondary sources: Asymmetrical covenant treaties shaping suzerain-vassal relationships; Enforcement mechanisms for defection in in the periphery; Diplomatic communication; Diplomatic gift exchange; and royal marriages as part of the alliance policy. All five points not only helped stabilise hierarchical dyads in the ANE, but also reinforced domestic legitimacy on both sides. Regardless of the structural distinctions between the earlier and later periods, the portrait is that of a long lasting two-tier system in which core states actively pursued the construction of networks of vassal states. These five institutional patterns of hierarchical arrangements highlight the relevance not only of military power, but also of religion, trade and gender as important arenas of shared norms and values. Not all historical approaches in the discipline of International Relations regard those as important, yet their relevance in centuries of diplomacy in the ANE should not be ignored.