Shibtu was a princess of the kingdom of Yamhad (now Aleppo, Syria) when she was married as part of a tactical alliance to King Zimrilim. His connection with her family allowed the king to take back his own Kingdom of Mari, with Shibtu as his queen.
As was the case with many kings of the ancient Middle East, Zimrilim was often away on military campaigns, expanding his territories and defending his borders. While he was away, Shibtu proved that she was a capable politician and leader, handling the administration of the kingdom and regularly corresponding with her husband.
The clay tablets found at Mari exchanged between Shibtu and her husband are evidence of a loving marriage and a strong political partnership. The letters are often administrative in nature, including reports on the state of the city as well as military and intelligence briefings.
Personal letters were also exchanged, including one notifying the king of Shibtu’s having given birth to twins. Shibtu’s letters reflect deep affection for her husband and concern over his health and wellbeing during his campaigns. Zimrilim, likewise, sent letters back updating her on his battles and whereabouts, and instructing her on the running of the city.
Letter from Shibtu to Zimrilim:
I have asked my questions about Babylon. That man is plotting many things against this country, but he will not succeed. My Lord will see what the god will do to him. You will capture and overpower him. His days are numbered and he will not live long. My Lord should know!
- The Ancient Near Eastern World – Amanda H. Podany & Marni McGee
- Women, Crime and Punishment in Ancient Law and Society: Vol. 1 The Ancient Near East – Elizabeth Meier Tellow