Ancient History & Civilisation



The fall of Ur at the close of the third millennium B.C. is one of the major turning-points in the history of ancient Iraq: it does not only ring the knell of a dynasty and of an empire, it marks the end of the Sumerian nation and type of society. Intervening at the last moment, the Elamites had taken the capital-city, but the secession of entire provinces, the revolt of Ibbi-Sin's officials and the Amorite invasion were the real causes of the Sumerian defeat. The Elamites were soon expelled from Iraq; the Semites remained. From then on they were to hold the reins of government for nearly fifteen hundred years.

Even before Ur was captured, the Sumerian empire had collapsed, and Mesopotamia had been shattered into a mosaic of large or small kingdoms, the most important being those of Isin and Larsa in the south, Assur and Eshnunna in the north. For about two centuries (c. 2000 – 1800 B.C.) these kingdoms coexisted, though by no means peacefully, those of the south fighting each other for the possession of Ur and the sovereignty over Sumer and Akkad; those of the north, for the control of the great trade routes which crossed Upper Mesopotamia. Meanwhile, waves of nomadic Semites continued to enter Iraq from the west, pitching their tents up to the foot of the Zagros or founding new kingdoms around the towns they occupied. The rulers of one of these towns, Babylon, soon became powerful enough to compete with their neighbours, and during the first half of the eighteenth century B.C. Hammurabi succeeded in eliminating his rivals and subdued the whole of Mesopotamia. The empire he built alone – the ‘Old Babylonian Empire’ as it may be called – was short-lived, but even after its fall Babylon remained, together with its rival Assur, one of the two poles of Mesopotamian history and civilization.

The rulers who replaced the Sumerians on the political stage were either Akkadians from Iraq or Western Semites – ‘Amorites’ in the broad sense of the term – from Syria and the western desert. The former were highly civilized; the latter, allegedly uncouth bedouins, assimilated the Sumero-Akkadian culture with remarkable ease and rapidity, partly because they came from regions long under its influence, and partly because the language presented them with no major difficulty. As they spoke Semitic dialects they adopted in writing the Akkadian language, and slowly in the south, rapidly in the north, the latter prevailed over Sumerian in private and official inscriptions. But this linguistic revolution hardly affected the religious, ethical and artistic concepts current in Mesopotamia since proto-historic times. The newcomers worshipped the Sumerian gods and the old Sumerian myths and epic tales were piously copied, translated or adapted with in general only minor alterations. As for the scarce artistic production of the period, there is practically nothing to distinguish it from that of the preceding Ur III period. Generally speaking, the civilization created by the Sumerians outlived them and survived these years of turmoil as it had survived the Akkadian domination and the Gutian conquest.

The advent of the Western Semites, however, had deep and lasting repercussions on the political, social and economic structure of ancient Mesopotamia.1 The division of the country into kingdoms erased all traces of city-states, and with the city-states disappeared most of the principles upon which they were founded. Men, land and cattle ceased to belong physically to the gods, as in proto-historic times, or to the temples and the king, as under the Third Dynasty of Ur. The new monarchs seized or purchased large pieces of land, parts of which were worked by peasants for the Palace while others were distributed to their families and courtiers who in turn let them out to tenant farmers against payments in kind. Thus emerged a mixed society of big or medium-sized landowners and tenants who made up the bulk of the population. The ‘industrial’ production units inherited from the Third Dynasty of Ur were now much smaller, but craft workshops multiplied. Trade with foreign countries was in the hands of merchants2 who remained State employees but also worked for themselves: organized into associations (karum), they embarked upon fruitful commercial ventures, sharing capital, risks and profits; they also benefited from government loans, bought the left-overs from the Palace and sold them at a much higher price, and acted as lenders to chronically endebted people. Deprived of their privileges, the temples became ‘land-owners among other land-owners, tax-payers among other tax-payers’.3 The priests assumed the service of the gods and cared for the spiritual needs of the people, while the king governed and cared for the welfare of his subjects, but the economic life of the country was no longer exclusively – or almost exclusively – in their hands. If, as in the past, each kingdom identified itself with its chief-god, if each sovereign claimed to owe his sceptre to divine favour, the traditional view according to which no prince could rule over Sumer and Akkad unless he had been elected by Enlil in Nippur became obsolete. The Sumerian lugals had invoked Enlil's blessings to justify their conquests; to the ruthless sheikhs who had seized the power by the sword and knew no other law than that of razzia, the investiture of the local god appeared sufficient. Thus Nippur lost its importance and Enlil his royal prerogative.

The period which opens with the fall of Ur and ends with the reign of Hammurabi – the so-called ‘Isin-Larsa period’ – is extremely rich in events. For greater clarity we must treat separately northern and southern Mesopotamia, beginning with the latter.

Isin, Larsa and Babylon

The kingdoms of Isin and Larsa4 were founded within eight years of each other, but for almost a century Isin overshadowed Larsa. While the Amorite prince of Larsa, Naplânum, had to content himself with hardly more than the town he had conquered, Ishbi-Irra of Isin possessed the three important centres of Nippur, Uruk and Eridu. Towards the end of his reign he captured the Elamite garrison of Ur and recovered the ruined, but still prestigious city. His son, Shu-ilishu (1984 – 1975 B.C.) managed to bring back from Elam the statue of Nanna, the moon-god of Ur. The occupation of Sippar by Iddin-Dagan (1974 – 1954 B.C.), brought the frontiers of the kingdom from the Persian Gulf to the latitude of Baghdad; it now extended along the whole course of the Lower Euphrates, the vital artery of Sumer. As for Ishme-Dagan (1953 – 1935 B.C.) he attacked without success the famed city of Kish, then the capital of a small independent kingdom.

Ishbi-Irra was, it will be recalled, an Akkadian from Mari, and in the names of two of his descendants appears the great god of that city, the wheat-god Dagan. Yet these Semites considered themselves as the true successors of the Sumerian kings of Ur. Most of them were deified, like Shulgi and Amar-Sin, and hymns were composed in their honour.5 They took the titles ‘King of Ur, King of Sumer and Akkad’, restored and embellished the former capital-city, renewed active commercial relations with Dilmun,6 and ironically were obliged to defend their kingdom against those to whom they owed it, fighting the Elamites, building fortresses against the MAR.TU and imposing tribute upon their nomadic tribes. In official inscriptions from Isin the Sumerian language is used exclusively, and it must be emphasized that practically all the great pieces of Sumerian literature found in the famous ‘library’ of Nippur were composed or copied during that period at the request of monarchs craving for Sumerian culture. Sumer in those days was like the declining Roman empire where everything was Latin, save the emperors.

The supremacy of Isin went on unhindered until the reign of Lipit-Ishtar (1934 – 1924 B.C.), the author of a ‘Code’ of Law of which some forty-three articles and parts of the prologue and epilogue have survived.7 As it happens, these laws deal mostly with succession, real estates, hire contracts and the condition of privately owned slaves, and therefore give us a limited but interesting insight into the society which was then taking shape. Unfortunately, this peaceful legislator entered into conflict with a formidable warrior whose name sounds like the beat of a battle-drum, Gungunum, King of Larsa. Gungunum had already campaigned in the Zagros when, in his eighth year (1924 B.C.), he attacked the kingdom of Isin and occupied Ur, claiming sovereignty over Sumer and Akkad. A few years later Lagash, Susa and perhaps Uruk fell into his hands. Larsa now possessed one-half of southern Iraq and a door on the ‘Lower Sea’.

The loss of its main town and seaport was for Isin a severe setback further aggravated by the extinction of the ruling family. Lipit-Ishtar – who died the year he lost Ur – was replaced by an usurper, Ur-Ninurta, who in turn was defeated and killed by Abi-sare of Larsa. About twenty years later another usurper called Irra-imitti lost Nippur to his rival Sumu-El, and soon the kingdom was reduced to Isin and its immediate neighbourhood. The story of Irra-imitti's death and succession deserves to be told, since it illustrates a rare and strange Mesopotamian institution: on occasions, when omens were exceptionally sombre and the king feared the wrath of the gods, a commoner was placed upon the throne as ‘substitute king’, reigned for a certain time and was then put to death. This is how a Babylonian chronicle describes what happened in Isin:8

That the dynasty might not end, King Irra-imitti made the gardener Enlil-bâni take his place upon his throne and put the royal crown upon his head. Irra-imitti died in his palace because he had swallowed boiling broth. Enlil-bâni who was upon the throne did not relinquish it and was installed as king.9

We must add that the lucky gardener was deified and managed for twenty-four years (1860 – 1837) to govern what little remained of the kingdom of Isin, while Nûr-Adad and Sin-idinnam of Larsa, pushing their troops northwards, conquered city after city. By now, however, the two rivals had in that region a common enemy, Babylon.

The first kings of Isin had kept the Amorites at bay, but after their decline the latter once again crossed the Euphrates in large numbers and poured into Iraq. In Kish, Uruk, Sippar, Marad10 and other towns their chiefs proclaimed themselves kings, adding to the political confusion. In the first year of Sumu-El of Larsa (1894 B.C.) one of these sheikhs, Sumuabum, chose for his capital a city a few miles to the west of Kish, on the left bank of the Euphrates, in that ‘waist’ of Mesopotamia the historical importance of which has already been stressed. This city had been governed by an ensi at least under the Third Dynasty of Ur, but had never played a part in Sumerian politics. Its name in Sumerian was KÁ.DINGIR.RA, in Akkadian Bâb-ilâni, both meaning ‘The Gate of the Gods’; we call it, after the Greeks, Babylon. It was clear from the start that the energetic and clever rulers of Babylon were strongly determined to make it not only a great and rich city but the capital of the whole country. The war waging between Isin and Larsa and the multiplicity of small Amorite kingdoms gave them all the pretexts they needed. It took them nearly sixty years, but with infinite patience, using sometimes diplomacy and sometimes brute force, the first five kings of the First Dynasty of Babylon piece by piece, conquered the whole country of Akkad. They were approaching Nippur, key of Sumer, when they met with the strongest resistance from the foreign princes who now held the sceptre in Larsa.

The Elamites, as we well know, never missed an opportunity of interfering in Mesopotamian affairs. In 1834 B.C. the throne of Larsa was vacant, Silli-Adad having been killed in the war with Babylon after a brief reign. Kudur-Mabuk, an Elamite official who controlled the Amorite tribes established between the Tigris and the Zagros, occupied Larsa and appointed one of his sons king in that city, contenting himself with the title ‘Father (i.e. protector) of Amurru’. It is remarkable that the two sons of Kudur-Mabuk, Warad-Sin (‘slave of Sin’) and Rim-Sin (‘bull of Sin’), who reigned successively in Larsa, bear Semitic and not Elamite names. Even more remarkable is the fact that these freshly imported foreigners behaved in every respect like genuine Mesopotamian monarchs, building no less than nine temples and a dozen important monuments in the city of Ur alone. In other times they would have been great pacific rulers like Ur-Nammu, but as long as Isin was still alive and Babylon active there could be no peace in Sumer. Rim-Sin defeated a dangerous coalition led by his Babylonian rival and in 1794 B.C. succeeded in taking Isin, overthrowing at last Larsa's oldest enemy. Two years later, Hammurabi ascended the throne of Babylon.

At this point we must leave the south for a while and turn our attention towards the northern half of Iraq. There again we meet with ‘warring kingdoms’ in fierce competition, but the cultural setting and the political and economic motives of the conflict are markedly different.

Eshnunna and Assur

Situated between the Tigris and the Zagros mountains, sixteen kilometres to the east of the Diyala River, Eshnunna (Tell Asmar) was a relay on the road from Upper Mesopotamia to Elam, and as such was subject to a triple current of influences: it lay within the sphere of the Sumero-Akkadian civilization, had close contact with the northern countries – its main god Tishpak was probably identical with the Hurrian god Teshup – and was linked to Elam by strong economic, political and cultural ties.11 It was therefore perhaps not mere coincidence if Eshnunna was, with Susa, the first city-state to break away from Ur in the second year of Ibbi-Sin (2027 B.C.). As far as we know, the passage to freedom was swift and smooth: the rulers of Eshnunna called themselves ‘servant of the god Tishpak’ instead of ‘servant of the King of Ur’ and replaced by local names the names of months and years in use throughout the Sumerian empire; in the capital-city the temple once built for the deified King of Ur Shu-Sin was secularized, and a large palace was erected beside it; in official inscriptions Akkadian replaced the Sumerian language. These early rulers, who responded to Semitic or Elamite names, immediately enlarged their kingdom far beyond its original boundaries: with the help of Amorite bands they occupied the entire valley of the lower Diyala, including the important centre of Tutub (Khafaje), and went as far north as the region of Kirkuk. One of them, Bilalama – a contemporary of the second king of Isin – is credited by some scholars with a ‘Code’ of Law, written in Akkadian, which antedates by about one century the Code of Hammurabi and has with it many points in common.12 The ‘Laws of Eshnunna’, incidentally, were not found at Tell Asmar but at Tell Harmal, a small mound at the outskirts of Baghdad, excavated by the Iraqis between 1945 and 1949.13 Tell Harmal (ancient Shaduppum) was the administrative centre of an agricultural district of the kingdom of Eshnunna, and a copy of the royal laws was kept in the ‘town-hall’ for easy reference. The same site has also yielded a number of interesting tablets, in particular date-lists and mathematical problems.

The reign of Bilalama was followed by a period of repeated setbacks during which Eshnunna was sacked by the King of Dêr (modern Badrah, about one hundred kilometres east of Tell Asmar), defeated in war by the ruler of Kish and deprived of most of its possessions. But the fortune of the kingdom was eventually restored, and in about 1850 B.C., with ‘the enlarger of Eshnunna’, as Ipiq-Adad II called himself, began a new period of expansion marked by the occupation of Rapiqum on the Euphrates (somewhere near Ramâdi). The situation of this town clearly indicates that the king of Eshnunna aimed at establishing a bridgehead on that river in order to control one of the main ‘tin roads’ which from the north and west converged towards his capital city in the general direction of Susa. The strenuous efforts made by his successors were at first successful, but they finally met with failure since three other major powers, Babylon, Larsa and the great ‘Upper Mesopotamian Kingdom’, were soon to encircle Eshnunna and oppose a strong barrier to the ambitions of its rulers.

The birth and development of the Assyrian kingdom which, from the thirteenth century onwards was to play an ever increasing role in the history of Mesopotamia and the whole Near East, are worth retracing here. The city which gave its name to this kingdom, Assur14 (or, more exactly, Ash-shur)* lay in a strong strategic position: built on a hill overlooking the Tigris just upstream of the point where it enters the Fat-ha gorge through Jabal Hamrin, protected on one side by the great river, on the other by a canal, and strongly fortified, it commanded the road which, from Sumer or Akkad, went up the Tigris valley either to Kurdistan or to Upper Jaziah. Successively Sargon, Narâm-Sin and the kings of Ur had occupied this key place, the origins of which went back to the Early Dynastic period and probably earlier, and there is no evidence that Assur was independent before the second millennium B.C. Yet the northern equivalent of the Sumerian King List, the great Assyrian King List found at Khorsabad and published by A. Poebel in 1942,15 gives a series of seventeen kings of Assur who, if we were to take the list at its face value, would have lived in Early Dynastic times. But here, as in the Sumerian list, dynasties recorded as successive may have been in fact parallel; in addition, our document states that these kings ‘lived in tents’, which may mean that they did not actually govern the city of Assur but some important tribe in the neighbourhood; and finally, it must be noted that the names of several early Assyrian monarchs – such as Tudia, Ushpia, Sulili or Kikkia – are neither Semitic nor Sumerian, but belong to some other ethnic stratum, possibly Hurrian.16

After the fall of the Sumerian Empire Assur, like many other cities, became independent. Puzur-Ashur I, who must have reigned about 2000 B.C., opens a new line of kings bearing such genuine Akkadian names as Sargon or Narâm-Sin. Two of them, Ilushuma and Erishum I, have left inscriptions mentioning the building of temples for Ashur, Adad and Ishtar in the city.17 Moreover, Ilushuma is known to have raided deep into southern Iraq during the reign of Ishme-Dagan of Isin (1953-1935 B.C.). But the true founders of the future Assyrian might were the Western Semites, who during the first centuries of the second millennium flooded northern Iraq as they flooded the southern regions. Halê, the chief of an Amorite tribe, pitched his tent somewhere between the Khabur and the Tigris, and his alleged descendants made of northern Mesopotamia (Assyria included) a large, prosperous and powerful kingdom in which the true Assyrians played a very small role.

Mari and the Kingdom of Upper Mesopotamia

The reader may remember that we left Mari at the time when Narâm-Sin of Akkad seized this town on his way to northern Syria. Thereafter, for about three centuries Mari was governed by rulers who called themselves shakkanakku (literally ‘military governor’, a title they had initially received from their Akkadian overlords and continued to use, although they behaved as kings). Little is known about the history of Mari during this long period, but recent excavations on the site have brought to light the palace of theshakkanakku – a vast building with impressive underground tombs – and inscriptions from which could be drawn a list of these rulers in chronological order, from 2266 to 1920 B.C., when we lose their trail.18

When light shines again on Mari, we find it, and the greatest part of northern Mesopotamia, occupied by a large group of Amorites called the Hanaeans (Hana) divided into two main tribes: the Beni-Iamina or Iaminites (literally ‘sons of the right’, i.e. the South) and the Beni-Sima'al or Simalites (‘sons of the left, i.e. the North).19 The majority of Iaminites were semi-nomads in the desert west of Mari, but several of their clans lived in villages and towns on the Euphrates and the lower Khabur river. In contrast, most of the Simalites were settled in clusters of small or medium-sized ‘kingdoms’ in the region called Idamaras, the very fertile triangle formed by the many tributaries of the Khabur. The eastern part of Jazirah and the Tigris valley were also populated by Amorite tribes.

In about 1830 B.C., a ‘Simalite’ chief named Iaggid-Lim established friendly relations with another Amorite, Ilâ-kabkâbu, who reigned over the small kingdom of Ekallâtum, an as yet unidentified town on the banks of the middle Tigris. The two chiefs exchanged ‘solemn oaths’, but for some untold reason the friendship was broken. Ilâ-kabkâbu attacked Iaggid-Lim, destroyed his fortress and seized his son Iahdun-Lim. A few years later the king of Ekallâtum died, leaving the throne to one of his two sons, Samsi-Addu (the Amorite form of Akkadian Shamshi-Adad).* We do not know when Iaggid-Lim passed away, nor when his son was set free, but in c. 1820 Iahdun-Lim took possession of Mari and proclaimed himself ‘king of Mari and of the country of the Hanaeans’, that is to say the Khabur basin. The renown of the old city, its wealth as the major trading station between Syria and Babylonia and, probably, the ‘charisma’ of the new king enabled him to exert a kind of benevolent protection over a large number of small independent states in Jazirah. Iahdun-Lim rebuilt the city wall of Mari and its neighbour Terqa, opened canals, founded a town bearing his name and erected a temple to the sun-god Shamash. He also embarked on an adventurous military and economic expedition in northern Syria, up to the Mediterranean Sea. In a long inscription repeated on nine large bricks used as foundation deposits for the temple of Shamash, he says that he offered sacrifices to the ‘Ocean’, had his soldiers bathe in it and removed quantities of trees from the high mountains, then imposed a perpetual tribute on countries bordering the sea.20 This must have frightened the chiefs of other Amorite tribes, for three of them attacked him in the same year and, not surprisingly, Sumu-Ebuh, King of Iamhad (the region of Aleppo) and master of northern Syria, whose territory had been invaded and plundered, lent them his support. In the same inscription Iahdun-Lim claims to have defeated them all.

Meanwhile, on the eastern side of Jazirah a series of momentous events had taken place. Soon after Samsi-Addu ascended the throne of Ekallâtum, Narâm-Sin, the king of Eshnunna who had succeeded Ibiq-Adad, took his army across the Diyala River into the Tigris valley, seized Ekallâtum and other towns further north, and occupied the Euphrates valley up to the vicinity of Mari. Samsi-Addu fled and took refuge in Babylon whence he returned after a while to reconquer his capital-city (c. 1815 B.C.).21 Five years later, he liberated Assur. In 1800 B.C.or thereabouts Iahdun-Lim, who had defeated Samsi-Addu at Nagar, was assassinated by his own son (?) and successor Sumu-Iaman, who reigned for barely two years before being murdered by his servants. This gave Samsi-Addu an opportunity to seize Mari without shooting an arrow and to put his younger son Iasmah-Addu in charge of the town and its territory (c. 1796). Five years earlier, he had appointed another of his sons, Ishme-Dagan, viceroy of Ekallâtum. As for him, he seems to have moved from place to place; towards the end of his reign, he took up residence in the third-millennium town of Shehna which he renamed Subat-Enlil, now definitively identified as Tell Leilan, a large mound between two eastern tributaries of the Khabur.22 The son of Ilâ-kabkâbu had solidly established his power on two pillars: the Tigris and the Euphrates.

The first task of Samsi-Addu was to obtain, by diplomacy or by force, the submission of the numerous princes of the Hanaeans and to consolidate his authority over the inhabitants of Northern, or Upper, Mesopotamia. It was most probably at that time that Nineveh, hitherto an independent city-state, was made subservient to Assur. As far as they can be reconstructed, the frontiers of the new kingdom at its greatest extent roughly followed the present Syro-Turko-Iraqi border from the great bend of the Euphrates to the extreme north of modern Iraq, ran along this river down to the vicinity of Ramadi and, in the east, skirted the foothills of the Zagros range to reach the Diyala River. In modern terms, they embraced the northern half of Iraq and the whole of Transeuphrataean Syria. This vast territory has been, and is still frequently referred to as ‘Assyria’ or ‘The First Assyrian Empire‘, but it should be called the ‘Kingdom of Upper Mesopotamia’ because, as a Danish Assyriologist put it briefly: ‘Shamshi-Adad's empire did not originate in, and was not built upon the men and the power of the city-state Assur’.23 Besides, although Samsi-Addu figures (as Shamshi-Adad) on the Assyrian King List, he was in fact a usurper, later rejected by the Assyrian tradition.

In the whole history of ancient Iraq few periods are as well documented as the reign of Samsi-Addu and his sons. Moreover, our information is derived not from the usual official inscriptions, but from the most accurate and reliable documents that an historian can expect: the letters exchanged between the three princes and between Iasmah-Adad and other rulers, and the reports from various officials to their masters; in all, more than five thousand tablets forming part of the royal archives found in the palace of Mari.24While these letters are generally undated and therefore difficult to arrange in chronological order, they throw an invaluable light on the daily routine of the court and on the relationship between the governments of Assur, Mari and Ekallâtum and the various peoples, kingdoms and tribes surrounding them. Besides – and this is not the least of their interest – they offer a first-hand moral portrait of the three rulers. For the first time we are in the presence not of mere names but of living persons with their qualities and defects: Ishme-Dagan, a born warrior like his father, always ready to go to battle and proud to announce his victories to his brother – ‘At Shimanahe we fought and I have taken the entire country. Be glad!’25 – but on occasion taking him under his wing:

Do not write to the king. The country where I stay is nearer the capital city. The things you want to write to the king, write them to me, so that I can advise you…

Iasmah-Adad of Mari, on the contrary, docile, obedient, but lazy, negligent, cowardly:

You remain a child, writes his father, there is no beard on your chin, and even now, in the ripeness of age, you have not built up a ‘house’…

Or again:

While your brother here is inflicting defeats, you, over there, you lie about amidst women. So now, when you go to Qatanum with the army, be a man! As your brother is making a great name for himself, you too, in your country, make a great name for yourself!

And finally, Samsi-Addu the father, wise, cunning, meticulous, sometimes humorous, who advises, reprimands or congratulates his sons and keeps Mari under very close control.

The kingdom of Samsi-Addu was more rigidly organized than that, more modest, of his predecessor. It was divided into provinces with, in the main cities, governors assisted by professional civil servants and controlled by the king, his sons and royal inspectors. Iasmah-Adad lived in the palace of Iahdun-Lim which he had received intact (an inventory had even been made on that occasion). The scribes of the kingdom wrote the purest Old Babylonian language introduced by Iahdun-Lim to replace the archaic Mari dialect loosely related to the language of Ebla.

The main internal problems faced by the governors, the viceroys and, when needed, the great king himself were of two kinds: on the one hand, the rivalries, disputes and even wars between the petty rulers of Upper Mesopotamia (notably in Idamaras and the Jabal Sinjar region), which could be solved by arbitration, and occasional rebellions which had to be crushed; on the other hand, the unruly behaviour of certain semi-nomadic clans in the vicinity of Mari,26 and in particular the Iaminites, always ready for a razzia, who tried to escape control, dodged the royal census and recruitment, and sometimes even lent assistance to foreign invaders, not to mention the Sutû, inveterate bandits who attacked caravans and ravaged entire districts. In Ekallâtum, Ishme-Dagan had to fight on frequent occasions against the Turukkû of what is now Kurdistan, people more feared than had ever been their predecessors, the Lullubi and Guti, and who raided all the way to the rich Idamaras.

Relations between the Upper Mespotamian kingdom and its neighbours varied with time and circumstances. Iamhad (Aleppo), the greatest kingdom in the west was hostile, mainly because Samsi-Addu supported Qatna and even sent troops there in a protracted conflict between this smaller state and Aleppo.27 The marriage of Iasmah-Adad to the daughter of the King of Qatna could only increase the hostility of the Aleppine monarch, but there is so far no evidence that war broke out between the two main major powers. Conversely, Iasmah-Adad entertained excellent relations with, for example, Karkemish whose king Aplahanda sent ‘very good wine’, food, ornaments and fine clothing to his ‘brother’, granted him the monopoly over certain copper mines in his territory and offered to give him ‘whatever he desired’.28

The situation was very different in the East, where the kings of Eshnunna were as keen as ever to enlarge their domain, both to the north in the ‘corridor’ between the Tigris and the Zagros range in the direction of Assur and Ekallâtum, and to the west along the Euphrates towards Mari. The chronology here remains uncertain. Assuming that Narâm-Sin withdrew his troops from the middle Euphrates when Samsi-Addu conquered Upper Mesopotamia, hostilities in that region were probably resumed either by him or by his successor Dadusha, causing panic in Mari, since Iasmah-Adad wrote to his brother ‘promptly send me numerous troops, the distance is long’.29 Then we have an inscription of Samsi-Addu, who seems to have tried, without much success, to dislodge the Eshnunaeans from the key-town of Qabra which commanded the passage of the Lower Zab, coming from the south. In this inscription, the king says that he ‘crossed the Zab, made a razzia in the land of Qabra, destroyed the harvest in that land, captured the fortified cities in the land of Urbêl (Erbil) and established garrisons everywhere’.30 At an as yet undetermined date, an attack of Eshnunna was stopped, and a peace treaty was signed by the two belligerents. A recently found but not yet fully published stele of Dadusha tends to support the hypothesis of an alliance between the man of Eshnunna and the powerful north Mesopotamian monarch. This inscription, thought to have been written one year before Dadusha's death, describes a war against one Bunnu-Eshtar, King of Urbêl, and curiously states that Dadusha abandoned the territory conquered to Samsi-Addu, ‘King of Ekallâtum’.31

Finally, we come to Babylon, the third powerful neighbour of Assyria. With Babylon relations were cold but polite, since neither Sin-muballit (1812 – 1793 B.C.) nor Hammurabi (1792-1750 B.C.) – both contemporaries of Samsi-Addu – had yet turned their ambition towards the north. Thus Shamshi-Adad dispatched to Hammurabi tablets copied at his request, and Iasmah-Adad returned to Babylon a caravan which had been delayed in Mari and a Turrukû captive who had escaped and sought refuge in that city.32 In only one letter do we feel a shadow of anxiety: apparently, Iasmah-Adad had been informed of certain unfriendly projects of ‘the man of Babylon’, but after inquiry one of his officials reassures him:

Now, may my lord's heart be at ease, for the man of Babylon will never do harm to my lord.33

Some thirty years later, however, Hammurabi was to take and destroy Mari.

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