Kassite Empire
c. 1531 BC – c. 1155 BC
The Babylonian Empire under the Kassites, c. 13th century BC.
The Babylonian Empire under the Kassites, c. 13th century BC.
Common languagesKassite, Akkadian
• c. 1531 BC
Agum II (first)
• c. 1157—1155 BC
Enlil-nadin-ahi (last)
Historical eraBronze Age
• Established
c. 1531 BC
c. 1531 BC
• Invasions by Elam
c. 1155 BC
• Disestablished
c. 1155 BC
Preceded by
Succeeded by
First Babylonian dynasty
First Sealand dynasty
Middle Assyrian Empire
Elamite Empire
Today part ofIraq, Iran, Kuwait
Kassites is located in Iraq
Map of Iraq showing important sites that were occupied by the Kassite dynasty (clickable map)

The Kassites (/ˈkæsts/) 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 (short chronology).

They gained control of Babylonia after the Hittite sack of Babylon in 1531 BC, and established a dynasty generally assumed to have been based first in that city, after a hiatus. Later rule shifted to the new city of Dur-Kurigalzu.[1] By the time of Babylon's fall, the Kassites had already been part of the region for a century and a half, acting sometimes with Babylon's interests and sometimes against.[2] There are records of Kassite and Babylonian interactions, in the context of military employment, during the reigns of Babylonian kings Samsu-iluna (1686 to 1648 BC), Abī-ešuh, and Ammī-ditāna.[3]

The origin and classification of the Kassite language, like the Sumerian language and Hurrian language, is uncertain, and, also like the two latter languages, has generated a wide array of speculation over the years, even to the point of linking it to Sanskrit.[4] The Kassite religion is also poorly known. The names of some Kassite deities are known.[5] The chief gods, titular gods of the kings, were Shuqamuna and Shumaliya.[6] As was typical in the region, there was some cross pollination with other religions. After Babylon came within the Kassite sphere of control its city-god, Marduk was absorbed into the Kassite pantheon.[7]


Documentation of the Kassite period depends heavily on the scattered and disarticulated tablets from Nippur, where thousands of tablets and fragments have been excavated. They include administrative and legal texts, letters, seal inscriptions, private votive inscriptions, and even a literary text (usually identified as a fragment of a historical epic). Many of those tablets have not yet been published, including hundreds held in the Ottoman Museum in Istanbul.[8][9]

About 100 Kassite tablets were found at Dur-Kurigalzu.[10][11] A few inscribed building materials of Kurigalzu I were found at Kish.[12] Several tablets dated to the reign of Agum III were found at the Dilmun site of Qal'at al-Bahrain.[13] In total, about 12,000 Kassite period documents have been recovered, of which only around 10% have been published. There are also a number of building inscriptions, all but one written in Sumerian unlike the Akkadian typically used by the Kassites.[14] A number of seals have also been found.[15][16] Kudurrus, stone stele used to record land grants and related documents, provide another source for Kassite history.[17] This practice continued for several centuries after the end of the Kassite Dynasty.[18] Often situated on the surface, many were found early and made their way to museums around the world.[19]

Cylinder seal of Kassite king Kurigalzu II (c. 1332–1308 BC). Louvre Museum AOD 105

The ancient city of Nippur was a major focus for the Kassites. Early on, refurbishments were conducted of the various religious and administrative buildings, the first of these datable to Kurigalzu I. Major construction occurred under Kadashman-Enlil, Kudur-Enlil, and Shagarakti-Shuriash, with lesser levels of repair work under Adad-shuma-usur and Meli-Shipak.[20] Other important centers during the Kassite period were Larsa, Sippar and Susa. The Kassites were very active at Ur.[21] At the site of Isin, which had been abandoned after the time of Samsu-iluna, major rebuilding work occurred on the religious district including the temple of Gula. The work at Isin was initiated by Kurigalzu I and continued by Kadashman-Enlil I, and after a lapse, by Adad-shuma-usur and Meli-Shipak II.[22] After the Kassite dynasty was overthrown in 1155 BC, the system of provincial administration continued and the country remained united under the succeeding rule, the Second Dynasty of Isin.[23]


The origin of the Kassites is uncertain, though a number of theories have been advanced. Several suspected Kassite names are recorded in economic documents from the Ur III period (c. 2112–2004 BC) in southern Babylon, but their origin is ambiguous.[24] They are thought to originate from the Zagros Mountains.[25] Kassites were first reported in Babylonia in the 18th century BC, especially around the area of Sippar. The 9th year name of king Samsu-iluna (1749–1712 BC) of Babylon, the son of Hammurabi mentions them ie. ("Year in which Samsu-iluna the king (defeated) the totality of the strength of the army / the troops of the Kassites").[26]

Middle Bronze Age

As the Babylonian empire weakened in the following years the Kassites became a part of the landscape, even at times supplying troops for Babylon.[27] The Hittites had carried off the idol of the god Marduk, but the Kassite rulers regained possession, returned Marduk to Babylon, and made him the equal of the Kassite Shuqamuna. Babylon under Kassite rulers, who renamed the city Karanduniash, re-emerged as a political and military power in Mesopotamia.

Late Bronze Age

Kassite Kudurru stele of Kassite king Marduk-apla-iddina I. Louvre Museum.

The fall of the First Sealand dynasty in 1460 BC created a power vacuum which the Kassites filled. After the destruction of the Mittani by the Hittites in the early 14th century BC Assyria rose in power creating a three way power structure in the region between the Kassites, Hittites, and Assyrians with Elam exerting influence from the east and Egypt from the south. A number of the Amarna Letters are correspondence between the respective rulers (including 14 between the Pharaoh and the Kassite ruler).[28] An International System came into place between these parties connected by widespread trade, treaties, and intermarriage between the ruling classes (especially between the Kassites and Elamites).[29][30] A typical treaties include the Egyptian–Hittite peace treaty (c.1259 BC) and the treaty between the Kassite ruler Karaindash and the Assyrian ruler Ashur-bel-nisheshu (c. 1410 BC).

At the peak of their power the Kassites, under Kurigalzu I in the mid 14h century BC, conquered Elam and sacked the capital of Susa.[31] That ruler initiated significant building efforts in Ur and other southern Mesopotamia cities.[32] The most notable of these efforts was the construction of a new city, Dur-Kurigalzu. It contained a number of palaces and also temples to many Babylonia gods including Enlil, Ninlil, and Ninurta.[33][34] The Kassites also extended their power into the Persian Gulf, including at Qal'at al-Bahrain.[35] Being in close proximity the Assyrians and Kassites often came into political and military conflict over the next few centuries. For a time in the early reign of Tukulti-Ninurta I Assyria gained ascendancy, until the Elamites under Kidin-Hutran III intervened. This period is marked by a building hiatus at Babylon, similar to the one after the fall of the First Babylonian dynasty.[36][37]

Iron Age

Kassite cylinder seal, c. 16th–12th century BC.

The Elamites of the Shutrukid dynasty conquered Babylonia, carrying away the Statue of Marduk, in the 12th century BC, thus ending the Kassite state.[38] According to the Assyrian Synchronistic Chronicle, which is not considered reliable, the last Kassite king, Enlil-nadin-ahi, was taken to Susa and imprisoned there in 1155 BC, where he also died.[39]

The annals of the Assyrian king Sennacherib detail that on his second, eastern, campaign of 702 BC he campaigned against the land of the Kassites, that being along the Diyala River between the Jebel Hamrin and the Darband-i-Khan. The Kassites took refuge in the mountains but were brought down and resettled, in standard Assyrian practice, in Hardispi and Bit Kubatti, which were made part of the Arrapha district.[40][41][42]

Kassite king Meli-Shipak II on a kudurru land grant presenting his daughter Ḫunnubat-Nanaya to the goddess Nanaya (pictured enthroned). The eight-pointed star seen above was Inanna-Ishtar's most common symbol. Here it is shown alongside the solar disk of her brother Shamash (Sumerian Utu) and the crescent moon of her father Sin (Sumerian Nanna) on a boundary stone of Meli-Shipak II, dating to the twelfth century BC.[i 1]

Kassite dynasty

Main article: Kassite dynasty

The Babylonian and Assyrian king lists mention eight or nine early Kassite rulers whose names are not fully known and who precede the following kings.[43][44] Another Kassite king, Hašmar-galšu, is known from five inscriptions from the Nippur area.[45][46]

Ruler Reign
(short chronology)
Agum-Kakrime Returns Marduk statue to Babylon
Burnaburiash I c. 1500 BC Treaty with Puzur-Ashur III of Assyria
Kashtiliash III Son of Burnaburiash I, Grandson of Agum-Kakrime
Ulamburiash c. 1480 BC Conquers the first Sealand Dynasty
Agum III c. 1470 BC Possible campaigns against "The Sealand" and "in Dilmun"
Karaindash c. 1410 BC Treaty with Ashur-bel-nisheshu of Assyria
Kadashman-harbe I c. 1400 BC Campaign against the Suteans
Kurigalzu I c. x–1375 BC Founder of Dur-Kurigalzu and contemporary of Thutmose IV
Kadashman-Enlil I c. 1374–1360 BC Contemporary of Amenophis III of the Egyptian Amarna letters
Burnaburiash II c. 1359–1333 BC Contemporary of Akhenaten and Ashur-uballit I
Kara-hardash c. 1333 BC Grandson of Ashur-uballit I of Assyria
Nazi-Bugash c. 1333 BC Usurper "son of a nobody"
Kurigalzu II c. 1332–1308 BC Son of Burnaburiash II, Battle of Sugagi with Enlil-nirari of Assyria
Nazi-Maruttash c. 1307–1282 BC Contemporary of Adad-nirari I of Assyria
Kadashman-Turgu c. 1281–1264 BC Contemporary of Hattusili III of the Hittites
Kadashman-Enlil II c. 1263–1255 BC Contemporary of Hattusili III of the Hittites
Kudur-Enlil c. 1254–1246 BC Time of Nippur renaissance
Shagarakti-Shuriash c. 1245–1233 BC "Non-son of Kudur-Enlil" according to Tukulti-Ninurta I of Assyria
Kashtiliashu IV c. 1232–1225 BC Deposed by Tukulti-Ninurta I of Assyria
Enlil-nadin-shumi c. 1224 BC Deposed by Elamite king Kidin-Hutran III
Kadashman-Harbe II c. 1223 BC
Adad-shuma-iddina c. 1222–1217 BC Son of Kashtiliashu IV
Adad-shuma-usur c. 1216–1187 BC Sender of rude letter to Aššur-nirari and Ilī-ḫaddâ, the kings of Assyria
Meli-Shipak II c. 1186–1172 BC Correspondence with Ninurta-apal-Ekur
Marduk-apla-iddina I c. 1171–1159 BC Son of Meli-Shipak II
Zababa-shuma-iddin c. 1158 BC Defeated by Shutruk-Nahhunte of Elam
Enlil-nadin-ahi c. 1157–1155 BC Defeated by Kutir-Nahhunte II of Elam

Note that the relative order of Kadashman-Turgu and Kadashman-Enlil II have been questioned.[47]

Kassite language

Babylonian Kudurru stele of the late Kassite period, in the reign of Kassite king Marduk-nadin-akhi (c. 1099–1082 BC). Found near Baghdad by the French botanist André Michaux (Cabinet des Médailles, Paris)

The Kassite language has not been classified. The few sources consist of personal names, a few documents, and some technical terms related to horses and chariotry.[48] What is known is that their language was not related to either the Indo-European language group, nor to Semitic or other Afro-Asiatic languages, and is most likely to have been a language isolate, although some linguists have proposed a link to the Hurro-Urartian languages of the Armenian highlands and Northern Mesopotamia.[49]

It has been suggested that several Kassite leaders bore Indo-European names, and they might have had an Indo-European elite similar to the Mitanni. Over the centuries, however, the Kassites were absorbed into the Babylonian population. Eight among the last kings of the Kassite dynasty have Akkadian names. It has also been suggested that the first element in Kudur-Enlil's name is derived from Elamite but that is disputed.[50][51]

Kassite art


The Kassites produced a substantial amount of pottery.[52] It is found in many Moesoptamia cities including Eridu and Tell Khaiber. Archaeologists divide it into three periods, Early Kassite (before c. 1415 BC), Middle Kassite (c. 1415–1225 BC), and Late Kassite (c. 1225–1155 BC).[53] Many small pottery kilns, generally no bigger than 2 meters in diameter with domed tops, were found in the Babylonian city of Dilbat. Goblets and wavy sided bowls are commonly found in Kassite pottery deposits. Other ceramic goods, such as traps for small animals and vessels commonly thought to be fruit stands were found also.[54] Kassite pottery deposits have been found as far away as Al Khor Island in the Persian Gulf area.

Glass works

Remnants of two Kassite glass beakers were found during the 1964 excavation in a (c. 800 BC) destruction layer of Hasanlu, in northwest Iran. The mosaic glass beakers are thought to have been heirlooms, possibly for ritual use the find spot being a temple. The panes of glass used to create these images were very brightly colored, and closer analysis has revealed that they were bright green, blue, white, and red-orange.[55] A Kassite text found at Dur-Kurigalzu mentions glass given to artisans for palace decoration and similar glass was found there.[56] Other similar glass dated 1500 BC was found at Tell al-Rimah.[57]

Seal impressions

See also: Cylinder Seal

Kassite cylinder seal

Seals were used widely across the Near Eastern kingdoms during the Kassite rule. They were used to mark official items and ownership.[58] The images created by these seals were unique to each seal, but many shared the same subject matter. Bearded men, religious symbols, horned quadrupeds, and fauna are often shown in these images.[59] The seals were generally made of stone, glass, or clay. The images were made by stamping or rolling the seals into wet clay.[60]


See also


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  2. ^ van Koppen, Frans. “THE OLD TO MIDDLE BABYLONIAN TRANSITION: HISTORY AND CHRONOLOGY OF THE MESOPOTAMIAN DARK AGE.” Ägypten Und Levante / Egypt and the Levant, vol. 20, 2010, pp. 453–63
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  5. ^ Malko, Helen. "The Kassites of Babylonia: A Re-examination of an Ethnic Identity". Babylonia under the Sealand and Kassite Dynasties, edited by Susanne Paulus and Tim Clayden, Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter, 2020, pp. 177-189
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  11. ^ O. R. Gurney, Further Texts from Dur-Kurigalzu, Sumer, vol. 9, pp. 21–34, 1953
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  1. ^ Land grant to Ḫunnubat-Nanaya kudurru, Sb 23, published as MDP X 87, found with Sb 22 during the French excavations at Susa.


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