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The History of the Near East - from 2,000 BC to 1,200 BC

Posted in Uncategorized  by antiques

the-history-of-the-near-east-from-2000-bc-to-1200-bcAs the great Sumerian empire that had stood for 1,500 years started to fall to the Amorites, the city of Isin broke free of the empire and claimed it’s independence.

Isin, together with the now Amorite ruled city of Larsa in the south, and Mari, Assur and Eshnunna in the west, formed the most powerful cities of this new Amorite period.

In the nineteenth century BC the cities of Assur and Nineveh joined to form an Assyrian kingdom, which went on to become the first Assyrian empire in 1869 BC when Shamshi-Adad, with the help of his 2 sons, conquered the cities of Mari, which had been the dominant city of the area, and Ekallutum.

In 1848 BC a new king was crowned in the city of Babylon that would change the landscape of the region. The Babylon that Hammurabi inherited from his father was quite small in both size and power, but over the next 40 years Hammurabi went on to conquer his two main rivals in the south, Isin and Larsa, then the city of Mari and the lands held by the Assyrians, uniting Mesopotamia briefly under Babylonian rule. Hammurabi, though, is best known for his code of laws that he had carved in stone blocks and displayed in temples in each city.

Hammurabi’s son, Samsu-iluna, saw the Assyrians and the city of Sumer regain their independence, as well as Babylonia coming under increasing attacks by peoples such as the Kassites, Sutaeans and Elamites. As the Indo-European Kassites started to settle in the land, the Babylon kings were restricted to the region of Akkad (Agade).

At around the same time another Indo-European people started to make a mark on the Near East. The Hittites of Anatolia slowly grew in power until, in 1595 BC, they marched their armies from Anatolia to the great city of Babylon and sacked it, bringing to an end the Old Babylonian empire. Due to internal politics the Hittite king, Mursili, abandoned Babylon to return his capital Hattusas where he was promptly assassinated, leaving Babylon to the Kassites who would rule Babylonia for over 400 years. During the sixteenth century BC the Hurrians, who had been steadily migrating into northern Mesopotamia, formed the Mitanni empire. The Mitanni annexed their neighbours, Assyria, and also came into conflict with the Egyptian king Thutmose III when they tried to expand into Syria. The Mitanni empire, though, came to end as a power in their own right when a revitalised Hittite army under king Suppiluliuma defeated them in battle in 1366 BC. From that point on the Mitanni became vassals of the Hittites. The Hittites, though, continued their march into Syria, all the way to the town of Kadesh.

Suppiluliuma & Tutenkamen:

Around 1353 BC the young Egyptian Pharoah Tutenkamen died unexpectedly. His widow sent an urgent message to the Hittite king Suppiluliuma asking for a Hittite prince to marry so she could hold onto power in Egypt. Political intrigue was a large part of Hittite life, and Suppiluliuma immediately suspected a trap.

It appears that the Hittite spies sent to investigate were not subtle enough, as the Egyptian queen discovered their activities. Although highly offended by the Hittite actions, she repeated her request, one which Suppiluliuma now took seriously. But he had delayed too long. As the Hittite prince arrived in Egypt with his personal army, the queen had already lost power. The prince was put to death, adding further to the strain on relations between the two major powers.

With long running disputes continuing over Syria, the two great empires were destined to end their quarrels in conflict. In 1285 BC the Egyptian king Rameses II marched his armies north, where he encountered the Hittite armies of king Muwatalli at the city of Kadesh. After an initial Hittite victory, followed by a successful Egyptian counter offence, the two armies ended in a stalemate that lasted 16 years. The conflict concluded with a peace treaty, both sides worried about the growing power of Assyria who were in the process of overthrowing and destroying the cities of their former rulers, the Mitanni.

The Assyrians went on the capture Babylon in 1225 BC, holding it for 7 years before the city successfully revolted. As a result of the sacking of Babylon, the Assyrian king, Tukulti-Ninurta I, was murdered in 1208 BC by his son and the Assyrian nobles for “bringing evil” on Babylon, who’s city god, Marduk, had become an important god in the Assyrian worship system. The growing Assyrian empire, though, were kept in check by a relatively new people to the region, the Aramaeans.

The Hittite empire came to an end around 1200 BC when, after a succession of weak kings, they were invaded by a group of people that the Egyptians called the “Sea Peoples”. These Mediterranean people were of unknown origin, but had a huge influence on the Near East. Not only did they destroy the Hittites, but they fought the Egyptians in the Nile delta, forcing Egypt to end their presence in Palestine and Syria and concentrate on defending their own homeland. As a result a power vacuum appear in the region that would be filled by a number of smaller kingdoms ruled by the Canaanites, Israelites, Aramaeans and Philistines. —

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