Kassites

It has long been suggested by many scholars that Kassites were, at least partially, ancestors of the Kurds. They base this claim on historical migrations, and the fact that after having conquered Mesopotamia, renamed their empire to ”Karduniash” (land of Kardun).

The Kassites were people of the ancient Near East, who controlled Babylonia after the fall of the Old Babylonian Empire c. 1531 BC and until c. 1155 BC . The endonym of the Kassites was probably Galzu, although they have also been referred to by the names Kaššu, Kassi, Kasi or Kashi.

Kassite, member of an ancient people known primarily for establishing the second, or middle, Babylonian dynasty; they were believed (perhaps wrongly) to have originated in the Zagros Mountains of Iran. First mentioned in Elamite texts of the late 3rd millennium BC, they penetrated into Mesopotamia in the 2nd millennium, were repulsed by Hammurabi’s son, but secured holdings within the Tigris-Euphrates valley on the northern frontiers of Babylonia and later established the second Babylonian dynasty. Chronicles and king lists are imprecise, and although the Kassite kings traditionally ruled over Babylonia for 576 years, it is probable that the first Kassite kings reigned in Babylonia simultaneously with the last kings of the first Babylonian dynasty; thus Gandash, the first Kassite king, possibly began his reign about the middle of the 18th century BC, but not at Babylon.

The Kassite kings appear to have been members of a small military aristocracy but were apparently efficient rulers and not locally unpopular. Their capital city was Dur-Kurigalzu. The horse, the sacred animal of the Kassites, probably first came into use in Babylonia at this time. Contemporary Kassite records are not numerous. Most belong to the archives of the guenna (provincial governor) of the city of Nippur and seem to indicate a feudal system of government during the 14th and 13th centuries.

One Kassite invention was the boundary stone (kudurru), a block of stone that served as a record of a grant of land by the king to favoured persons. The interest of the boundary stones for modern scholars is not only economic and religious but also artistic. The temples that the Kassite kings built or rebuilt are mainly in the Babylonian tradition, although one Kassite innovation was the use of molded bricks to form figures in relief.

One Kassite invention was the boundary stone (kudurru), a block of stone that served as a record of a grant of land by the king to favoured persons.

In the 12th century Elam struck the final blow at Kassite power in Babylonia, already weakened by local insurrection. In the 1st millennium the Kassites withdrew to the Zagros Mountains, where they opposed the eastward expansion of Assyrian power and paid tribute to Persia.

This would have been everything, but the Kassites, which seem to have been semi-autonomous in the Achaemenid Empire, unexpectedly return in our sources in the first weeks of the year 323, when the Macedonian king Alexander sets out from Ecbatana to Babylon, and on his way encounters, defeats, and destroys the Kassites. The campaign was extremely bloody, and Alexander’s contemporaries thought that their king was venting his emotions because his lover Hephaestion had died.

The Kassites were not exterminated. Kassites soldiers served in the Macedonian army, and in 317 BCE, the Macedonian commander Antigonus Monophthalmus still encountered people in this area. However, it is significant that they are called cavemen, and no longer nomadic pastoralists.



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2 Comments
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