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The Kassites were a mountain tribe of obscure origins that conquered Mesopotamia, bringing the Old Babylonian era to an end and for the first time welding together the network of independent, feuding city-states into a territory that can be called 'Babylonia.' Kassite hegemony in Babylon, Nippur and other centers lasted from about 1595 to 1155 BCE.

Table of contents
1 History
2 Kassite language
3 References
4 External Links


We already hear of Kassites as attacking Babylonia in the 9th year of Samsu-ilana (reigned 1749 - 1712 BCE) the son of Hammurabi. The circumstances of Kassite rise to power are hidden in the 'Dark Age' of Babylon, so named from the spectacular gap in documentation. The Kassite kings gained control of northern Babylonia sometime after the fall of Babylon to the Hittites in 1595 BCE, and conquered the southern part of the land by about 1475. When written records resume, Babylon under Kassite kings has re-emerged as a political and military power in the Near East. The dynasty they founded at Babylon is based on a surviving, but incomplete king-list.

This success was built upon the relative political stability that the Kassite monarchs achieved. The Kassite kings ruled Babylonia practically without interruption for over four hundred years - the longest rule by any dynasty in Babylonian history. Even after a minor revolt in 1333 BCE and a seven-year Assyrian hiatus in the thirteenth century, the ruling Kassite family managed to regain the throne.

The transformation of southern Mesopotamia into a national state made Babylonia an international power. Kassite kings established trade and diplomacy with Assyria, Egypt, Elam, and Hittites, and the royal house intermarried with their royal families. There were foreign merchants in Babylon and other cities, and Babylonian merchants were active from Egypt (a major source of gold) to Assyria and Anatolia: Kassite seals and weights — the tools of commerce — have been found in Thebes in Greece, in southern Armenia, even in a shipwreck off the southern coast of Turkey.

Kassite kings maintained control of the land through a network of provinces administered by governors. Almost equal with the royal cities of Babylon and Dur-Kurigalzu, the revived city of Nippur was the most important provincial center. The formerly great city of Nippur, which had been virtually abandoned about 1730 BCE, was rebuilt in the Kassite period, with temples meticulously re-sited on their old foundations.

Other important centers during the Kassite period were Larsa, Sippar and Susa. Even after the Kassite dynasty was overthrown in 1155 BCE, the system of provincial administration continued and the country remained united under the succeeding rule, the Second Dynasty of Isin. Comparisons of Kassite Babylonia with feudalism are now considered more misleading than useful, but the prestige of Nippur was enough for a series of 13th century Kassite kings to reassume the title 'governor of Nippur' for themselves.

Documentation of the Kassite period depends heavily on the scattered and disarticulated tablets from Nippur, where since the 1880s more than twelve thousand tablets and fragments have been excavated, but are largely unpublished. They include administrative and legal texts, letters, seal inscriptions, kudurrus (comparable to land grants and administrative prerogatives), private votive inscriptions, and even a literary text (usually identified as a fragment of a historical epic). They will constitute a remarkable source for illuminating provincial administration.

Kassite rulers in Babylon were also scrupulous to follow existing forms of expression, and the public and private patterns of behavior 'and even went beyong that — as zealous neophytes do, or outsiders, who take up a superior civilization — by favoring an extremely conservative attitude, at least in palace circle.' (Oppenheim, p. 62). In the course of centuries, however, the Kassites were absorbed into the Babylonian population; Eight among the last kings of the Kassite 'dynasty' have Akkadian names, and Kassite princesses married into the royal family of Assyria. The contributions that Kassites brought to native Babylonian culture are still being debated, partly through identifying the few later Akkadian words of Kassite origin.

The Kassite tribe of Khabira seems to have settled in the Babylonian plain. Remnants of Kassite tribes were living in the mountains northwest of Elam, immediately south of Holwan, when Sennacherib attacked them in 702 BC. They are the Kossaeans of Ptolemy, who divides Susiana between them and the Elymaeans; according to Strabo (xi. 13,3,6) they were the neighbours of the Medes. Th. Nöldeke (Gott. G. G., 1874, pp. 173 seq.) has shown that they are the Kissians of the older Greek authors who are identified with the Susians by Aeschylus (Choeph. 424, Pers. 17, 120) and Herodotus (v. 49, 52).

Kassite language

Like the other languages of the non-Semitic tribes of Elam, that of the Kassites, was agglutinative; a fragment of Kassite vocabulary has survived in a single Cuneiform tablet. There is as well as a list of Kassite names with their Semitic equivalents, and a few technical terms. Some of the Kassite deities were introduced into the Babylonian pantheon. Nothing beside remains. Apparently Kassite has no connection with Indo-European, as has erroneously been supposed. The study of Kassite is hindered by the fact that the Kassite bureaucracy conducted business in Akkadian. So lists of Kassites names have assumed an prominent importance.


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