We use cookies to enhance your experience on our website. By continuing to use our website, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Find out more
Select Bible Use this Lookup to open a specific Bible and passage. Start here to select a Bible.
Make selected Bible the default for Lookup tool.
Book: Ch.V. Select book from A-Z list, enter chapter and verse number, and click "Go."
:
OR
  • Previous Result
  • Results
  • Look It Up Highlight any word or phrase, then click the button to begin a new search.
  • Highlight On / Off
  • Next Result

The Oxford History of the Biblical World An in-depth chaptered work by leading scholars providing a chronological overview of the history of biblical times.

Western and Central Syria during the Middle Bronze Age

The most powerful kingdom to the west of the Euphrates was Yamhad, which thwarted the expansive plans not only of Shamshi-Adad but also of Hammurapi. It continued to dominate the north through the seventeenth century. Despite its importance, we know little about Yamhad during the Middle Bronze Age. Excavations at Aleppo, its capital, have uncovered no levels of this period and only one fragmentary inscription (as yet unpublished). We know Yamhad only from outside sources, such as the Mari tablets and a small but helpful archive from an important trade city along the Orontes River called Alalakh, over which ruled members of the royal family of Yamhad for about a century. The Alalakh archive dates to a few decades after the fall of Mari and provides information about the late eighteenth and part of the seventeenth centuries BCE.

The Mari letters illuminate the conflict between Shamshi-Adad and Yamhad. The two states were evenly matched, both militarily and politically. Thus Shamshi-Adad astutely formed an alliance with Qatna, the major power south of Yamhad, while the kings of Yamhad allied themselves with Hammurapi of Babylon, who opposed Shamshi-Adad from the southeast. After Shamshi-Adad's death, Yamhad played a major role in the sundering of his empire, as shown by Yarim-Lim's success in returning Zimri-Lim to the throne of Mari as a staunch ally of Yamhad.

Hammurapi of Babylon seems not to have attempted to conquer Yamhad, which continued to prosper into the seventeenth century. The Hittites, who rose to power in Anatolia in the seventeenth century, spoke of Yamhad as having a “great kingship,” a term they used only in referring to the most powerful states. We do not know the full extent of Yamhad's domain, but the Alalakh tablets indicate that city to have been Yamhad's vassal, as Ugarit on the coast may also have been. To the south Yamhad controlled Ebla, and to the southeast it dominated Emar on the Euphrates. Yamhad maintained its leadership in northern Syria until the opening years of the sixteenth century. Then, during a burst of military energy, the Hittites of what is today central Turkey, led by King Mursilis I, attacked and destroyed Aleppo. Although the Hittites could not exploit their great victory, Yamhad never recovered from the disaster.

To the south of Yamhad the next major power was Qatna. Again, the site itself has provided no written sources, but the city is mentioned in the Mari tablets. It formed the western end of an important trade route that crossed the Syrian desert from Mari, running through Tadmor (Palmyra) to Qatna. This was a much shorter route from Mesopotamia to the southwestern Levant, cutting many miles off the road that looped north along the Euphrates, and it made Qatna one of the major trade hubs of the Near East. The kings of Qatna found it important to befriend whoever controlled Mari, the eastern terminus of the route. When Shamshi-Adad took control of Mari, Ishkhi-Adad of Qatna made an alliance with him, sealing it by marrying his daughter to Shamshi-Adad's younger son, Yasmah-Adad, now the king of Mari. Such an alliance also greatly benefited Shamshi-Adad, whose northern access to the Mediterranean Sea Yamhad blocked. But when Zimri-Lim returned to Mari, the new king of Qatna, Amut-pi-el, became his ally, and they too maintained cordial relations. The Mari letters also indicate that Amut-pi-el made peace during this period with Yamhad. Otherwise little is currently known of Qatna.

Even more obscurity shrouds the area south of Qatna. The Mari letters called it the land of Amurru (“the West”), which appears to have consisted of several small kingdoms. We know that the Damascus area was known as the land of Apum, the name also given to the land around Shubat-Enlil in northern Syria. This southerly Apum is mentioned in an Egyptian document, and also apparently in as-yet-unpublished Mari letters. It is here that Egyptian influence begins to outweigh that of Mesopotamia and northern Syria.

  • Previous Result
  • Results
  • Look It Up Highlight any word or phrase, then click the button to begin a new search.
  • Highlight On / Off
  • Next Result
Oxford University Press

© 2019. All Rights Reserved. Cookie Policy | Privacy Policy | Legal Notice