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Kassites

From Academic Kids

The Kassites were a mountain tribe of obscure origins, who spoke a non-Indo-European language. They conquered Mesopotamia, bringing the Old Babylonian era to an end and for the first time welding together the network of independent, feuding city-states into a territory that can be called 'Babylonia.' Kassite hegemony in Babylon, Nippur and other centers lasted from about 1595 to 1155 BC.

Contents

History

The original homeland of the Kassites is obscure, but appears to have been located in the Zagros Mountains. Their first historical appearance occurred in the 18th century BC when they attacked Babylonia in the 9th year of the reign of Samsu-Iluna (reigned 1749 BC - 1712 BC), the son of Hammurabi. Samsu-Iluna repelled them, but they subsequently gained control of northern Babylonia sometime after the fall of Babylon to the Hittites in 1595 BC, and conquered the southern part of the kingdom by about 1475 BC. The Hittites had carried off the idol of 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 retraction of literacy in official circles. Babylon under Kassite rulers, who renamed the city Karanduniash, re-emerged as a political and military power in the Ancient Near East. A newly built capital city Dur-Kurigalzu was named to honour Kurigalzu I (ca. 1400 — ca. 1375). His successors Kadashman-Enlil I (c. 1375-c. 1360) and Burnaburiash II (c. 1360-c. 1333) were in correspondence with the Egyptian rulers Amenhotep III and Akhenaton (Amenhotep IV) (see Amarna letters).

Their success was built upon the relative political stability that the Kassite monarchs achieved. They ruled Babylonia practically without interruption for over four hundred years— the longest rule by any dynasty in Babylonian history. Even after a minor revolt in 1333 BC and a seven-year Assyrian hiatus in the 13th century BC, the ruling Kassite family managed to regain the throne.

The transformation of southern Mesopotamia into a territorial state, rather than a network of allied or combatative temple-cities, made Babylonia an international power. Kassite kings established trade and diplomacy with Assyria, 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 Thebes in Greece, in southern Armenia, and even in a shipwreck off the southern coast of Turkey.

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 about 1730 BC, was rebuilt in the Kassite period, with temples meticulously re-sited on their old foundations.

Other important centers during the Kassite period were Larsa, Sippar and Susa. Even after the Kassite dynasty was overthrown in 1155 BC, the system of provincial administration continued and the country remained united under the succeeding rule, the Second Dynasty of Isin. Comparisons of Kassite Babylonia with feudalism are now considered more misleading than useful, but the prestige of Nippur was enough for a series of 13th century Kassite kings to reassume the title 'governor of Nippur' for themselves.

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 (comparable to land grants and administrative prerogatives), 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 beyong that — as zealous neophytes do, or outsiders, who take up a superior civilization — by favoring an extremely conservative attitude, at least in palace circle." (Oppenheim 1964, p. 62). In the course of centuries, however, the Kassites were absorbed into the Babylonian population. Eight among the last kings of the Kassite dynasty have Akkadian names, and Kassite princesses married into the royal family of Assyria.

Under the Assyrian king, Ashur-Dan, the last Kassite king was driven from Babylonia in the twelfth century BC, and the "interregnum" in Mesopotamia came to a close.

Kassite survivals

The contributions that Kassites brought to native Babylonian culture are still being debated, partly through identifying the few hundred later Akkadian words of Kassite origin, about ten percent of them names of gods.

The Kassite tribe of Khabira seems to have settled in the Babylonian plain. Remnants of Kassite tribes were living in the mountains northwest of Elam, immediately south of Holwan, when Sennacherib attacked them in 702 BC. They are doubtless the "Kossaeans" of Ptolemy, who divides Susiana between them and the Elymaeans. Alexander the great battled Kossaeans in the winter of 323 on his way from Ecbatana to Babylon; according to Strabo (xi. 13,3,6) the Kossaeans were the neighbours of the Medes. Th. Nöldeke (Gott. G. G., 1874, pp. 173 seq.) has shown that they are the Kissians of the older Greek authors who are identified with the Susians by Aeschylus (Choephorae 424, Persians 17, 120) and by Herodotus (v. 49, 52).

Language

Like the other languages of the non-Semitic tribes of Elam, that of the Kassites was agglutinative; a fragment of Kassite vocabulary has survived in a single Cuneiform tablet. There is also a list of Kassite names with their Semitic equivalents, and a few technical terms. Some of the Kassite deities were introduced into the Babylonian pantheon. Nothing else remains. Apparently, Kassite has no connection with Indo-European, as had once erroneously been supposed. The study of Kassite is hindered by the fact that the Kassite bureaucracy conducted business in Akkadian. Consequently, lists of Kassite names have assumed a prominent importance.

References

External links

nl:Kassieten

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