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4

When Horemheb had repaired all his chariots, summoned auxiliary forces from Egypt, assembled in Gaza all the horses of southern Egypt, and exercised his troops, he issued a proclamation declaring that he came as liberator to Syria and in no way as conqueror. Under the kindly protection of Egypt, said he, all the Syrian cities had enjoyed freedom and unrestricted trade, each under its own king. By the villainous treachery of Aziru these cities had been forced to yield to his tyranny. Aziru had bereft the kings of their lineal crowns and oppressed the cities with burdensome taxation. In his greed he had sold Syria to the Hittites, of whose cruelty and evil practices the Syrians had daily proof. Therefore he, Horemheb the Invincible, Son of the Falcon, came to liberate Syria from the yoke of slavery, to encourage trade, and to reinstate the former kings so that under the protection of Egypt the land might flourish and prosper as before. He promised his help to every city that expelled the Hittites and closed its gates to Aziru. Those cities that continued to resist he would burn, plunder, and destroy, level their walls forever and carry away the citizens into slavery.

Finally Horemheb marched on Joppa and sent his fleet to close the harbor. With the help of his spies he noised abroad his proclamation, which aroused much uneasiness and indecision among the cities and disputes among his enemies, which was indeed its sole purpose. But Kaptah, like the cautious man he was, remained within the walls of Gaza in case Horemheb should suffer defeat, for both Aziru and the Hittites were gathering together a mighty force inland.

Roju Bull-Neck was reconciled with Kaptah, who cured him of his delusion by explaining that the soldiers, ravenous during the siege, had stolen the four hundred cruppers from the harness store and eaten them, for they were of soft leather and could be chewed to dull the edge of hunger. When Roju heard this, his frenzy subsided so that he could be loosed from his bonds, and he forgave his comrades the theft because of their great valor.

When Horemheb had departed with his men, Roj u closed the gates of Gaza, vowing that never again would he admit any troops into the city. He drank wine and watched Kaptah's play with the guard. At the time of Horemheb's departure, Kaptah had won back from the old man only one and a half million deben of gold. They drank and threw dice from morning till night; they quarreled and hurled the dice in each others' faces; they spat in their palms and cast the dice from the cup so that they rolled on the floor. The old man was miserly and desired to play for small stakes only, and he mourned and bewailed his losses. When Horemheb laid siege to Joppa, Kaptah made the guard raise his stakes, and when a messenger brought news that Horemheb had breached the walls, Kaptah beggared his opponent so thoroughly in a few throws as to reverse the debt to the tune of some hundred thousand deben of gold. Kaptah was magnanimous, however, and forgave it. He bestowed new clothes on him and a handful or so of silver so that the old man wept for joy and blessed him as his benefactor.

(...)

 

(Mika Waltari, The Egyptian)

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