Friday, August 15, 2014

Assyrian-Hurrian Wars (c. 1350–1245 B.C.E.)

Assyrian-Hurrian Wars (c. 1350–1245 B.C.E.)

PRINCIPAL COMBATANTS: Hurrian Mitanni vs. Assyria

PRINCIPAL THEATER(S): Present-day Middle East


Mitanni fought against Assyria, a vassal state of the
Mitanni Empire that first won its independence then
began to build an empire of its own.

OUTCOME: Ultimately, the Assyrians conquered the
Hurrians and made Mitanni part of the Assyrian Empire.




The Hurrians, a nomadic people from eastern Anatolia,
settled in Mesopotamia at the beginning of the second
millennium B.C.E. By the 15th century B.C.E. the Hurrians
had been assimilated into the Mitanni Empire. At its peak,
during the reign of Tushratta (fl. c. 1390–c. 1340), the
Mitanni Empire stretched from the Mediterranean to the
Zagros Mountains and into northern Syria. The capital
city, Wassukkani, located along the banks of the Khabur
River in Mesopotamia, served as a buffer between the
Egyptians and the Hittites, both of whom coveted favorable
relations with Mitanni rulers.
At the beginning of the 14th century B.C.E. Assyria
was a semiautonomous kingdom within the Mitanni
Empire, subject to Mitanni leaders, to whom Assyria paid
tribute. Around 1350 the Assyrian king Ashur-uballit I
(fl. c. 1365–c. 1330), with the aid of the Hittite leader
Shubbiluliuma (fl. c. 1375–c. 1335), staged a revolt against
his overlord Tushratta (r. 1300s). The Mitannis, caught
off guard and already exhausted from war with the Hittites,
were forced to acknowledge an independent Assyria
and give up territory in northern Mesopotamia. The new
kingdom, which Ashur-uballit named the land of Ashur,
was the homeland from which Assyria’s own empire was
Shortly after losing Assyria, Tushratta was arrested
and executed by his son Artatama. With the Hurrian-
Mitanni kingdom now in disarray, Assyria and an allied
neighboring state, Alshe, attacked, conquered, and
divided between them the Mitanni Empire. The kingdom
of Mitanni itself retained some of its autonomy for the
time being owing to the relations between royal families.
Upon the death of the Assyrian king Ashur-uballit, his
son Enlil-nirari (fl. c. 1328–c. 1320) began a series of wars
against Babylonia and the Kassites. At Sugagi, located in
the Tigris, Enlil-nirari’s army met a Kassite force led by
Kurigalzu (14th century B.C.E.) and crushed it, thus
extending Assyrian borders even farther. Assyrian expansion,
however, opened the door for trouble among the
Mitanni. Mitanni king Artatama II (r. 1400s), who was
friendly with the Assyrians, faced an internal coup made
up of anti-Assyrian rebels. These rebels, mostly a people
called the Harri, supported a pretender to the throne
named Mattiuaza (fl. 1400s). Artatama persecuted the
Harri, forcing them to flee to the Kassites for aid. The Kassites,
still reeling from their defeat at Sugagi, were in no
shape to anger Assyria and refused to come to the aid of
the Harri. By then, however, the Hittite king Shubbiluliuma
had seen an opportunity to establish a puppet regime
in Mitanni; deciding to support the Harri rebels, he
invaded Mitanni, placed Mattiuaza on the throne, and
drove the Assyrians out of the kingdom.
The new Assyrian king, Arik-den-ili (fl. c. 1307–c.
1275), was too busy conquering the eastern territories of
Niginti, Arnuni, and Kuti as well as the western Semitic
tribes of the Sutu and Akhlamu to respond to Shubbiluliuma’s
gambit. It was not until his son Adad-nirari (fl. c.
1397–c. 1275) ascended to the throne that the Assyrians
confronted the Mitanni situation. After conquering the
Kassite king Nazimaruttash II (1308–1282) at Kar-Ishtar,
Adad-nirari avenged the loss of Mitanni by defeating both
Mitanni king Shattuara I (fl. c. 1300) and his Hurrian successor
Wasashatta (fl. c. 1300) around 1300, victories that
consolidated Assyria’s Mesopotamian conquests into an
Adad-narari’s son Shalmanser I (fl. c. 1274–c. 1245)—
one of the first practitioners of psychological warfare (it
was reported that he blinded his enemies in one eye)—
expanded the Assyrian borders into southern Armenia by
conquering the territory of Uruatru. Under Adad-nararith
(1307–1275), the last of the Hurrian strongholds in
Mitanni capitulated, and Assyria began its march toward
becoming the dominant power in the Middle East.

See also ASSYRIAN WARS (c. 1244–1200).

Further reading: Robert W. Rogers, A History of Babylonia
and Assyria (Santa Clarita, Calif.: Books for Libraries,

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