A brief history of the Fertile Crescent 3000BCE – 570BCE (3)

Posted: February 9, 2016 in Ancient Near Eastern History, History
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Fertile Crescent (By 92bari (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)

Fertile Crescent (By 92bari (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons)

The political structure of the area was disrupted around the year 1750 BCE with the arrival of the Mittani, an Indo-Ayrian people into the region. Like the Hurrians before them their place of origin is unknown. Unlike the Hurrians, the Mittani were a warrior elite and have been credited with the introduction of the newly evolved, 3 man light chariot into the area. These chariots had a complement of three warriors each; an archer, a spear-man and the charioteer.

 

3 man chariot Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:C%2BB-Chariot-Fig7-HittiteChariot.PNG#/media/File:C%2BB-Chariot-Fig7-HittiteChariot.PNG

3 man chariot
Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Study of their religion reveals a divine pantheon not dissimilar to that of early Hinduism, which may suggest that they have a similar origin as the civilisations which settled in the Indus Valley. The Mittani incorporated themselves into the Hurrian kingdom. Best guess estimates are that they made up about 5% of the population, but because of their military prowess, they quickly became the ruling elite of the kingdom. They abandoned the accommodating stance of the Hurrians and by 1550 had expanded West to the Mediterranean and into Northern Syria and to the South West into Assyria. 

It is interesting to note that sometime around the year 1650, the Hittites also began using the 3 man light chariot. It is unclear whether this was a separate development, unconnected to the activities of the Hurrian-Mittani Kingdom but to me it seems more likely that the either they gained this technology as a result of being an ally of the Mittani against the kingdoms of northern Syria or as a result of having to fight off Mittani attempts to expand into their own territory. Whichever of these is the case over the next 50 years, the Hittites themselves began to expand south and south-west into  Hurrian-Mittani territory. 1600 sees the height of the Hittite Empire. The wonderfully named Mursilas the first, the third recorded Hittite king led an ambitious raid South West through Hurrian-Mittani territory, Assyria and into Babylonia, where he proceeded to sack Babylon. However, trouble at home forced him to withdraw from the areas he had subdued and return to the Hittite homeland. Here he was promptly murdered, apparently by nobles angry at the effects at home of the absence of their king and of his foreign campaigns. This put me in mind of the problems in England when Richard the first was away on the Crusades and I imagine it could well have been the same sort of problems that occurred. Whilst Mursilas’ campaign did him little good, it was also very bad news for the remnant of the line of Hammurabi, who were still ruling in Babylon. They never recovered control of their kingdom and as the Hittites withdrew , the Kassites invaded from the East and much as had happened in the Hurrian kingdom, a Kassite warrior elite replaced the dynasty of Hammurabi as the rulers of the Babylonian kingdom. It is interesting to note that the Kassites had also by this time acquired the knowledge of the use of the 3 man light chariot, whilst there is no evidence from the records that they had yet become part of the Babylonian military armoury. Whilst the Kassites took control of core Babylonian territory, they seemed to have had little or no interest in the lands to the north and north-east and consequently we see at this time the rise of Assyrian kingdom, and beyond them, the re-expansion of MIttani territory both West to the Mediterranean coast and east to the borders of Assyria.

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