KASSITES: THE MAIN MESOPOTAMIAN POWER AFTER THE FIRST BABYLONIAN EMPIRE

AFTER THE FIRST BABYLONIAN EMPIRE


Aqar Quf

After Hammurabi’s death, the Babylonians were harassed by Indo-European tribes in the northern mountains. The Babylon empire came to an end when the Indo-European Hittites sacked Babylon in 1595 B.C. Around the same time the Hykos invaded Egypt and the Hurrians occupied Syria. The late second millennium B.C. has been called “the first international age.” It was a time when there was more interaction between kingdoms.

The Kassites, a tribe from the Zagros mountains in present-day Iran, arrived in Babylonia and filled a vacuum left by the Hittite invasion. The Kassites, controlled Mesopotamia from 1595 to 1157 B.C. They introduced war chariots, The Kassites were defeated by the Elamites in 1157 B.C. A 300-year Middle Eastern Dark lasted from 1157 to 883 B.C. During this period the Assyrians in what is now northern Syria gained strength.

Around the second millennia B.C. the Indo Europeans tribes from north of India similar to the Aryans invaded Asia Minor. The Hittites, and later the Greeks, Romans, Celts and nearly all Europeans and North Americans descended from these tribes. They carried bronze daggers.

The Hittite Empire dominated Asia Minor and parts of the Middle East from 1750 B.C. to 1200 B.C. Once regarded as a magical people, the Hittites were known for their military skill, the of development of an advanced chariot, and as one of the first cultures to smelt iron and forge it weapons and tools. They fought with spears from chariots and did not possess more advanced composite bow.

The Hittites were an Indo-European people that served as a conduit and bridge for the cultures of Asia, the Middle East and Europe. They created a society with a government and laws, similar to those in Sumer. The Hittites fought against Kings of Babylonians and the Pharaohs of Egypt for possession what is now Israel, Lebanon and Syria. In the 12th century their empire fell to the Assyrians. The Hittites were charioteers who wrote manuals on horsemanship. Ninth century B.C. stone reliefs show Hittite warriors in chariots. "Charioteers were the first great aggressors in human history," writes historian Jack Keegan. They had an easy time conquering the nomads and farmers that inhabited the region. Donkeys were their fastest animal.

Around 2000 B.C. the Hittites were unified under a king named Labarna. A later king pushed their domain into Mesopotamia and Syria. The empire lasted into 1650 B.C. A more powerful kingdom rose in 1450 B.C. This kingdom possessed iron. The Battle of Kadesh in 1288 B.C. between the ancient Egyptians and the Hittites marked the beginning of a decline for the Hittites. After the fall of the empire a number of small Hittite states were created. By the 8th century they were absorbed by the Assyrians.

Websites and Resources on Mesopotamia: Ancient History Encyclopedia ancient.eu.com/Mesopotamia ; Mesopotamia University of Chicago site mesopotamia.lib.uchicago.edu; British Museum mesopotamia.co.uk ; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Mesopotamia sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Louvre louvre.fr/llv/oeuvres/detail_periode.jsp ; Metropolitan Museum of Art metmuseum.org/toah ; University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology penn.museum/sites/iraq ; Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago uchicago.edu/museum/highlights/meso ; Iraq Museum Database oi.uchicago.edu/OI/IRAQ/dbfiles/Iraqdatabasehome ; Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; ABZU etana.org/abzubib; Oriental Institute Virtual Museum oi.uchicago.edu/virtualtour ; Treasures from the Royal Tombs of Ur oi.uchicago.edu/museum-exhibits ; Ancient Near Eastern Art Metropolitan Museum of Art www.metmuseum.org

Archaeology News and Resources: Anthropology.net anthropology.net : serves the online community interested in anthropology and archaeology; archaeologica.org archaeologica.org is good source for archaeological news and information. Archaeology in Europe archeurope.com features educational resources, original material on many archaeological subjects and has information on archaeological events, study tours, field trips and archaeological courses, links to web sites and articles; Archaeology magazine archaeology.org has archaeology news and articles and is a publication of the Archaeological Institute of America; Archaeology News Network archaeologynewsnetwork is a non-profit, online open access, pro- community news website on archaeology; British Archaeology magazine british-archaeology-magazine is an excellent source published by the Council for British Archaeology; Current Archaeology magazine archaeology.co.uk is produced by the UK’s leading archaeology magazine; HeritageDaily heritagedaily.com is an online heritage and archaeology magazine, highlighting the latest news and new discoveries; Livescience livescience.com/ : general science website with plenty of archaeological content and news. Past Horizons : online magazine site covering archaeology and heritage news as well as news on other science fields; The Archaeology Channel archaeologychannel.org explores archaeology and cultural heritage through streaming media; Ancient History Encyclopedia ancient.eu : is put out by a non-profit organization and includes articles on pre-history; Best of History Websites besthistorysites.net is a good source for links to other sites; Essential Humanities essential-humanities.net: provides information on History and Art History, including sections Prehistory

Kassites


Kudurru

The Kassites were an ancient Near Eastern people who seized power in Babylonia following the fall of the first Babylonian Dynasty in 1531 B.C. and subsequently went on to rule it for around 350 years during the late Bronze Age. The Kassite language is thought to have been related to Hurrian, and not Indo-European or Semitic although the evidence for its affiliation is limited due to the scarcity of Kassite texts.[Source: Crystal Links \+/]

After the death of the great Babylonian leader Hammurabi, the Babylonians were harassed by Indo-European tribes in the northern mountains. The Babylon empire came to an end when the Indo-European Hittites sacked Babylon in 1595 B.C. Around the same time the Hykos invaded Egypt and the Hurrians occupied Syria.

The Kassites, originally a tribe from the Zagros mountains in present-day Iran, arrived in Babylonia and filled a vacuum left by the Hittite invasion They introduced war chariots to the region, . The Kassites, controlled Mesopotamia from 1595 to 1157 B.C. in spite of comparative economic and military weakness and a lack of social or technological innovation. The Kassites were defeated by the Elamites in 1157 B.C. Kingdoms that dominated Mesopotamia After the Kassites were the Elamites (1160-1138); Neo-Babylonians (Chaldeans, 1137-729) and Assyrians, (1300-625).

In spite of the fact that some of them took Babylonian names, the Kassites retained their traditional clan and tribal structure, in contrast to the smaller family unit of the Babylonians. They were proud of their affiliation with their tribal houses, rather than their own fathers, and preserved their customs of fratriarchal property ownership and inheritance. The most notable Kassite artifacts are their Kudurru steles. Used for marking boundaries and making proclamations, they were also carved with a high degree of artistic skill. \+/

History of the Kassites

The original homeland of the Kassites is not well known, but appears to have been located in the Zagros Mountains in Lorestan in what is now modern Iran, although, like the Elamites, Gutians and Manneans, they were unrelated to the later Indo-European/Iranic Medes and Persians who came to dominate the region a thousand years later. They first appeared in the annals of history in the 18th century B.C. when they attacked Babylonia in the 9th year of the reign of Samsu-iluna (reigned ca. 1749-1712 B.C.), the son of Hammurabi. Samsu-iluna repelled them, as did Abi-Eshuh, but they subsequently gained control of Babylonia circa 1570 B.C. some 25 years after the fall of Babylon to the Hittites in ca. 1595 B.C., and went on to conquer the southern part of Mesopotamia, roughly corresponding to ancient Sumer and known as the Dynasty of the Sealand by ca. 1460 B.C.. [Source: Wikipedia +]

The Hittites had carried off the idol of the god Marduk, but the Kassite rulers regained possession, returned Marduk to Babylon, and made him the equal of the Kassite Shuqamuna. The circumstances of their rise to power are unknown, due to a lack of documentation from this so-called "Dark Age" period of widespread dislocation. No inscription or document in the Kassite language has been preserved, an absence that cannot be purely accidental, suggesting a severe regression of literacy in official circles. Babylon under Kassite rulers, who renamed the city Karanduniash, re-emerged as a political and military power in Mesopotamia. A newly built capital city Dur-Kurigalzu was named in honour of Kurigalzu I (ca. early 14th century B.C.). +

Their success was built upon the relative political stability that the Kassite monarchs achieved. They ruled Babylonia practically without interruption for almost four hundred yearsÑ the longest rule by any dynasty in Babylonian history. The transformation of southern Mesopotamia into a territorial state, rather than a network of allied or combatative city states, made Babylonia an international power, although it was often overshadowed by its northern neighbour, Assyria and by Elam to the east. Kassite kings established trade and diplomacy with Assyria. (Puzur-Ashur III of Assyria and Burna-Buriash I signed a treaty agreeing the border between the two states in the mid 16th Century B.C.), Egypt, Elam, and the Hittites, and the Kassite royal house intermarried with their royal families. There were foreign merchants in Babylon and other cities, and Babylonian merchants were active from Egypt (a major source of Nubian gold) to Assyria and Anatolia. Kassite weights and seals, the packet-identifying and measuring tools of commerce, have been found in as far afield as Thebes in Greece, in southern Armenia, and even in a shipwreck off the southern coast of today's Turkey. +



Kassite Dynasty

Kassite dynasty was comprised of 36 kings that lasted for 576 years. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia:“The tablet with this list is unfortunately mutilated, but almost all the nineteen missing names can with some exactness be supplied from other sources, such as the Assyrian-synchronistic history and the correspondence with Egypt. This dynasty was a foreign one, but its place of origin is not easy to ascertain. In their own official designation they style themselves kings of Kardunyash and the King of Egypt addresses Kadashman Bel as King of Kardunyash. This Kardunyash has been tentatively identified with South Elam. [Source: J.P. Arendzen, transcribed by Rev. Richard Giroux, Catholic Encyclopedia |=|]

“Information about the Kassite period is obtained but sparsely. We possess an Assyrian copy of an inscription of Agum-Kakrime, perhaps the seventh King of this dynasty: he styles himself: "King of Kasshu and Akkad, King of the broad land of Babylon, who caused much people to settle in the land of Ashmumak, King of Padan and Alvan, King of the land of Guti, wide extended peoples, a king who rules the four quarters of the world." The extent of territory thus under dominion of the Babylonian monarch is wider than even that under the Amorite dynasty; but in the royal title, which is altogether unusual in its form, Babylon takes but the third place; only a few generations later, however, the old style and title is resumed, and Babylon again stands first; the foreign conquerors were evidently conquered by the peaceful conquest of superior Babylonian civilization. This Agum-Kakrime with all his wide dominions had yet to send an embassy to the land of Khani to obtain the gods Marduk and Zarpanit, the most sacred national idols, which had evidently been captured by the enemy. The next king of whom we have any knowledge is Karaindash (1450 B.C.) who settled the boundary lines of his kingdom with his contemporary Asshur-bel-nisheshu of Assyria. |=|

“From the Tell-el-et-marna tablets we conclude that in 1400 B.C., Babylon was no longer the one great power of Western Asia; the kingdom of Assyria and the Kingdom of Mitanni were its rivals and wellnigh equals. Yet, in the letters which passed between Kadashman-Bel and Amenophis III, King of Egypt, it is evident that the King of Babylon could assume a more independent tone of fair equality with the great Pharao than the kings of Assyria or Mitanni. When Amenophis asks for Kadashman-Bel's sister in marriage, Kadashman-Bel promptly asks for Amenophis' sister in return; and when Amenophis demurs, Kadashman-Bel promptly answers that, unless some fair Egyptian of princely rank be sent, Amenophis shall not have his sister. When Assyria has sought Egyptian help against Babylon, Kadashman-Bel diplomatically reminds Pharao that Babylon has in times past given no assistance to Syrian vassal princes against their Egyptian suzerain, and expects Egypt now to act in the same way in not granting help to Assyria. And when a Babylonian caravan has been robbed by the people of Akko in Canaan, the Egyptian Government receives a preemptory letter from Babylon for amende honorable and restitution. Amenophis is held responsible, "for Canaan is thy country, and thou art its King".; Kadashman-Bel was succeeded by Burnaburiash I, Kurigalzu I, Burnaburiash II. Six letters of the last-named to Amenhotep IV of Egypt suggest a period of perfect tranquillity and prosperity. For the cause and result of the first great conflict between Assyria and Babylon.” |=|


Kassite cylinder seals


The Kassite kings maintained control of their realm through a network of provinces administered by governors. Almost equal with the royal cities of Babylon and Dur-Kurigalzu, the revived city of Nippur was the most important provincial center. Nippur, the formerly great city, which had been virtually abandoned ca. 1730 B.C., was rebuilt in the Kassite period, with temples meticulously re-built on their old foundations. In fact, under the Kassite government, the governor of Nippur, who took the Sumerian-derived title of Guennakku, ruled as a sort of secondary and lesser king. The prestige of Nippur was enough for a series of 13th century B.C. Kassite kings to reassume the title 'governor of Nippur' for themselves. Other important centers during the Kassite period were Larsa, Sippar and Susa. After the Kassite dynasty was overthrown in 1155 B.C., the system of provincial administration continued and the country remained united under the succeeding rule, the Second Dynasty of Isin. [Source: Wikipedia +]

Documentation of the Kassite period depends heavily on the scattered and disarticulated tablets from Nippur, where thousands of tablets and fragments have been excavated. They include administrative and legal texts, letters, seal inscriptions, kudurrus (land grants and administrative regulations), private votive inscriptions, and even a literary text (usually identified as a fragment of a historical epic).

"Kassite rulers in Babylon were also scrupulous to follow existing forms of expression, and the public and private patterns of behavior "and even went beyond that - as zealous neophytes do, or outsiders, who take up a superior civilization - by favoring an extremely conservative attitude, at least in palace circles." (Oppenheim 1964, p. 62). Over the centuries, however, the Kassites were absorbed into the Babylonian population. Eight among the last kings of the Kassite dynasty have Akkadian names, Kudur-Enlil's name is part Elamite and part Sumerian and Kassite princesses married into the royal family of Assyria.

The Book of Judges in the Hebrew Bible contains a reference to what appears to be a Kassite ruler, who is named as Cushan-Rishathaim and described as ruler of "Aram Naharaim". "Cushan" is interpreted by Biblical scholars to mean "Kassite" and "Aram Naharaim" to mean northwest Mesopotamia. According to Judges, Cushan-Rishathaim conquered Israel shortly after the death of Joshua and held it for eight years.

Herodotus and Strabo on the Kassites


Kassite amulet

Herodotus and other ancient Greek writers sometimes referred to the region around Susa as "Cissia", a variant of the Kassite name. However, it is not clear if Kassites were actually living in that region so late. Herodotus was almost certainly referring to Kassites when he described "Asiatic Ethiopians" in the Persian army that invaded Greece in 492 B.C.. Herodotus was presumably repeating an account that had originally used the name "Cush", or something similar, to describe the Kassites; "Cush" was also a name for Ethiopia. A similar confusion of Kassites with Ethiopians is evident in various ancient Greek accounts of the Trojan war hero Memnon, who was sometimes described as a "Cissian" and founder of Susa, and other times as Ethiopian. According to Herodotus, the "Asiatic Ethiopians" lived not in Cissia, but to the north, bordering on "Paricanians" who in turn bordered on the Medes. [Source: Wikipedia +]

During the later Achaemenid period, the Kassites, referred to as "Kossaei", lived in the mountains to the east of Media and were one of several "predatory" mountain tribes that regularly extracted "gifts" from the Achaemenid Persians, according to a citation of Nearchus by Strabo (13.3.6). But Kassites again fought on the Persian side in the Battle of Gaugamela in 331 B.C., in which the Persian Empire fell to Alexander the Great, according to Diodorus Siculus (17.59) (who called them "Kossaei") and Curtius Rufus (4.12) (who called them "inhabitants of the Cossaean mountains"). According to Strabo's citation of Nearchus, Alexander later separately attacked the Kassites "in the winter", after which they stopped their tribute-seeking raids. +

Strabo also wrote that the "Kossaei" contributed 13,000 archers to the army of Elymais in a war against Susa and Babylon. This statement is hard to understand, as Babylon had lost importance under Seleucid rule by the time Elymais emerged around 160 B.C.. If "Babylon" is understood to mean the Seleucids, then this battle would have occurred sometime between the emergence of Elymais and Strabo's death around 25 AD. If "Elymais" is understood to mean Elam, then the battle probably occurred in the 6th century B.C.. Note that Susa was the capital of Elam and later of Elymais, so Strabo's statement implies that the Kassites intervened to support a particular group within Elam or Elymais against their own capital, which at that moment was apparently allied with or subject to Babylon or the Seleucids.” +

Kassite Language

Kassite (Cassite) was a language spoken by Kassites in northern Mesopotamia from approximately the 18th to the 4th century B.C.. From the 16th to 12th centuries B.C., kings of Kassite origin ruled in Babylon until they were overthrown by Elamites. Genetic relations of the Kassite language are unclear, although it's believed to be unrelated to Semitic; relation with Elamite is doubtful. Some words may have been adopted from the Indo-Iranian languages. The Kassite language was possibly related to Hurro-Urartian. Morphemes are not known; the words buri (ruler) and burna (protected) probably have the same root. [Source: Wikipedia +]

Kassites in the Babylon state used mostly the Akkadian language. Traces of the Kassite language are few: a short Kassite-Akkadian dictionary containing agricultural and technical terms, names of colors etc., and lists of personal names (some names are collated with Semitic equivalents), names of deities and horses. A lack of Kassite texts makes the reconstruction of Kassite grammar impossible at present.

Of the three hundred or so known Kassite words, around thirty of them are thought to be the names of deities, some strikingly similar to Indo-European god-names and this has been conjectured to be through contact transmission rather than linguistic affiliation. The language itself has been compared to several, such as Hittite and Elamite but genetically found wanting, possibly with the exception of the Hurrian language.

Kassite Deities and Religion


The Kassites possessed a pantheon of gods but few are known beyond the laconic mention in the theophoric element of a name. The only Kassite deities who had separate and distinct temples anywhere in Babylonia were apparently the patron deities of the royal family, Suqamuna and Sumaliya. [Source: Wikipedia +]

The evidence available for assembling a list of the pantheon of Kassite gods is meager. Perhaps three bilingual lists exist which provide Akkadian equivalents to Kassite gods, translations of names which include Kassite theophoric elements, or a handful of Kassite words, including god-names, with their Assyrian counterparts but some of these identifications must be considered tentative due to the circumstantial evidence that the elements actually represent deities, rather than, for example, some topographical feature. +

The evidence from the Kassite-Akkadian vocablary discovered by Hormuzd Rassam and the Kassite-Akkadian name list is that the Kassites identified their gods with those of Mesopotamia, if these sources are sufficiently contemporary. Mountain gods were a popular motif in Kassite art, on cylinder seals and, for example, the brickwork faade of the temple of Karaindas, he "Eanna of Inanna." The generic term for ÒgodÓ in the Kassite language was mashu or bash. +

Decline and Fall of the Kassite Dynasty

A treaty between the Kassite king Kurigalzu I and Ashur-bel-nisheshu of Assyria was agreed in the mid 15th century. However, Babylonia found itself under attack and domination from Assyria for much of the next few centuries after the accession of Ashur-uballit I in 1365 B.C. who made Assyria (along with the Hittites and Egyptians) the major power in the Near East. [Source: Crystal Links \+/]

Babylon was sacked by the Assyrian king Ashur-uballit I (1365 B.C. - 1330 B.C.)) in the 1360s after the Kassite king in Babylon who was married to the daughter of Ashur-uballit was murdered. Ashur-uballit promptly marched into Babylonia and avenged his son-in-law, deposing the king and installing Kurigalzu II of the royal Kassite line as king there. His successor Enlil-nirari (1330 B.C. - 1319) also attacked Babylonia and his great grandson Adad-nirari I (1307 - 1275 B.C.) annexed Bablonian territory when he became king. Tukulti-Ninurta I (1244 B.C. - 1208 B.C.) not content with merely dominating Babylonia went further, conquering Babylonia, deposing Kashtiliash IV and ruling there for 8 years in person from 1235 B.C. to 1227 B.C.. \+/

The Elamites conquered Babylonia in the 12th century B.C., thus ending the Kassite state. The last Kassite king, Enlil-nadin-ahi, was taken to Susa and imprisoned there, where he also died. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia:““How the long Kassite dynasty came to an end we know not, but it was succeeded by the dynasty of Pashi (some read Isin), eleven kings in 132 years (about 1200-1064 B.C.). The greatest monarch of this house was Nabuchodonosor I (about 1135-25 B.C.); thought twice defeated by Assyria, he was successful against the Lulubi, punished Elam, and invaded Syria, and by his brilliant achievements stayed the inevitable decline of Babylon. The next two dynasties are known as those of the Sealand, and of Bazi, of three kings each and these were followed by one Elamite king (c. 1064-900 B.C.). Upon these obscure dynasties follows the long series of Babylonian kings, who reigned mostly as vassals, sometimes quasi-independent, sometimes as rebel-kings in the period of Assyrian supremacy (for which see Assyria). [Source: J.P. Arendzen, transcribed by Rev. Richard Giroux, Catholic Encyclopedia ]



Second Kassite Rule

The Kassites briefly regained control over Babylonia with Dynasty V (1025 B.C.-1004 B.C.), however they were deposed once more, this time by an Aramean dynasty. Kassites survived as a distinct ethnic group in the mountains of Lorestan (Luristan) long after the Kassite state collapsed. Babylonian records describe how the Assyrian king Sennacherib on his eastern campaign of 702 B.C. subdued the Kassites in a battle near Hulwan, Iran. The latest evidence of Kassite culture is a reference by the 2nd century geographer Ptolemy, who described "Kossaei" as living in the Susa region, adjacent to the "Elymeans". This could represent one of many cases where Ptolemy relied on out-of-date sources. It is believed that the name of the Kassites is preserved in the name of the Kashgan River, in Lorestan. [Source: Wikipedia]

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Mesopotamia sourcebooks.fordham.edu , National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, especially Merle Severy, National Geographic, May 1991 and Marion Steinmann, Smithsonian, December 1988, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Discover magazine, Times of London, Natural History magazine, Archaeology magazine, The New Yorker, BBC, Encyclopædia Britannica, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Time, Newsweek, Wikipedia, Reuters, Associated Press, The Guardian, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, World Religions edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); History of Warfare by John Keegan (Vintage Books); History of Art by H.W. Janson Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.), Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated September 2018

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