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Ancient Kassites

Selected Excerpt on the Kassites

Chiefdoms and Early States in the Near East
Monographs in World Archaeology # 18
Edited by Gil Stein and Mitchell Rothman
Prehistory Press (1994) : LC # GN 778.2 U22 C48

Chapter 12: (Pages 209-223)

Structure, Power and Legitimation(*) in Kassite Babylonia
by Christopher Edens (Harvard University)

Excerpts and Definitions and Addendums

The term Kassite refers variously to an (1) ethnic group with a [Zagros] Mountain origin; (2) their language; (3) a dynasty in [Old] Babylonian political history; and (4) a period of time. The cuneiform sources first mention ethnic Kassites in the early first millennium BC when Kassites are mentioned as raiding groups (1741 BC). Kings with Kassite names appeared on the middle Euphrates during the 17th century BC but Kassite kings did not appear in Babylonia proper until the early 16th century BC (soon after 1595).

During the 16th century Babylonia was divided into two regions, the area of Kassite control in the north around Babylon and the Sealands to the south [bordering the Persian Gulf] where a seemingly non-literate polity controlled places like Ur and Uruk. The efforts of several Kassite kings succeeded in reincorporating the Sealands into Babylonia by circa 1465 BC thus permitting unencumbered Babylonian access to the Persian Gulf for the first time since the 18th century BC.

Babylonia [under Kassite rule] then entered into wider relations with lands to the west, first with emissaries to and gift-exchange with Egyptian invaders of Syria and then with the establishment of regular messenger service between the two powers. At this point at the end of the 15th century the late Bronze Age system of shifting diplomatic relations between great powers began to emerge. Best seen from the Egyptian point of view in the Amarna archives of the mid-14th century this diplomatic world pitted Egypt, Babylon, Hatti, [Hurrian] Mitannia and Assyria in an imperial struggle for client states in Syro-Palestine. Babylonian [and hence Kassite] actions in these power relations seem mostly confined to diplomatic efforts.

On the subject of Syro-Palestine control see:

The late 15th through late 13th centuries mark the phase of greatest prosperity in Kassite Babylonia. Literate administration was fully restored throughout the region after a long hiatus; major building projects were undertaken in many older cities and new cities were founded. These two centuries mark the longest period of stable political integration and economic prosperity in Babylonian history.

The Assyrian invasion and brief occupation of Babylonia in 1225 BC marked the beginning of the Kassite decline. Under the later Kassite kings and continuing in post-Kassite times after 1157 BC political authority was increasingly decentralized as peripheral provinces [city-states] detached themselves from effective state control and as many outlying areas became tribalized. These developments reflect tendencies which correspond to the wider collapse of the Late Bronze Age world order and to the movements of tribal people into Mesopotamia ...

(*) Legitimation in the social sciences refers to the process whereby an act, process or ideology becomes legitimate by its attachment to norms and values within a given society ...

The History of the Ancient Near East Electronic Compendium