Kassite Empire
c. 1595 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 language
• c. 1595 BC
Agum II (first)
• c. 1157—1155 BC
Enlil-nadin-ahi (last)
Historical eraBronze Age
• Established
c. 1595 BC
c. 1595 BC
c. 1158 BC
• Disestablished
c. 1155 BC
Preceded by
Succeeded by
First Babylonian dynasty
First Sealand dynasty
Middle Babylonian period
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. 1595 BC and until c. 1155 BC (middle chronology).

They gained control of Babylonia after the Hittite sack of the city in 1595 BC (i.e. 1531 BC per the short chronology), and established a dynasty generally assumed to have been based first in Babylon. Later rule shifted to the new city of Dur-Kurigalzu.[1][2] 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 the Babylon's interests and sometimes against.[3]

The origin and classification of the Kassite language, like the Sumerian language and Hurrian language is uncertain, and like them generating 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. The chief gods, titular gods of the kings, were Shuqamuna and Shumaliya.[5] 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.[6]


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). Unfortunately, many of those tablets have not yet been published, including hundreds held in the Ottoman Museum in Istanbul.[7][8] About 100 Kassite tablets were found at Dur-Kurigalzu.[9][10] A few inscribed building materials of Kurigalzu I were found at Kish.[11] Several tablets dated to the reign of Agum III were found at the Dilmun site of Qal'at al-Bahrain.[12] A number of seals have also been found.[13][14] Kudurrus, stone stele used to record land grants and related documents provide another source for Kassite history. This practice continued for several centuries after the end of the Kassite Dynasty.[15] Often being on the surface many were found early and made their way to museums around the world.[16]

The Kassite kings maintained control of their realm 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. Nippur, the formerly great city, which had been virtually abandoned c. 1730 BC, was rebuilt in the Kassite period, with temples meticulously re-built on their old foundations. In fact, under the Kassite government, the governor of Nippur, who took the Sumerian-derived title of Guennakku, ruled as a sort of secondary and lesser king. The prestige of Nippur was enough for a series of 13th-century BC Kassite kings to reassume the title 'governor of Nippur' for themselves.

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

Other important centers during the Kassite period were Larsa, Sippar and Susa. The Kassites were very active at Ur.[17] 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.

Middle Bronze Age

The origin of the Kassites is uncertain, though a number of theories have been advanced.[18] They were reported in Babylonia by 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").[19] As the Babylonian empire weakened in the following years the Kassites became a part of the landscape, even at times supplying troops for Babylon.[20] 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.
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 vacumn 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. 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).[21] 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.[22] That ruler initiated significant building efforts in Ur and other soutern Mesopotamia cities.[23] The Kassites also extended their power into the Persian Gulf, including at Qal'at al-Bahrain.[24] Being in close proximity the Assyrians and Kassites often came into political and military conflict over the next few centuries.

Iron Age

Kassite cylinder seal, ca. 16th–12th century BC.
Kassite cylinder seal, ca. 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.[25] 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.[26]

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 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.[27][28][29]

Kassite king Meli-Shipak II on a kudurru-Land presenting his daughter to the goddess Ḫunnubat-Nanaya. The eight-pointed star 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 king Meli-Shipak II on a kudurru-Land presenting his daughter to the goddess Ḫunnubat-Nanaya. The eight-pointed star 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

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.[30][31] Another Kassite king, Hašmar-galšu, is known from five inscriptions from the Nippur area.[32][33]

Note that the relative order of Kadashman-Turgu and Kadashman-Enlil II have been questioned.[34]

Kassite language

Babylonian Kudurru stele of the late Kassite period, in the reign of Kassite king Marduk-nadin-akhi (ca. 1099–1082 BC). Found near Baghdad by the French botanist André Michaux (Cabinet des Médailles, Paris)
Babylonian Kudurru stele of the late Kassite period, in the reign of Kassite king Marduk-nadin-akhi (ca. 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.[35] 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 Asia Minor.[36]

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.[37][38]

Kassite art


The Kassites produced a substantial amount of pottery. It is found in many Moesoptamia cities including Eridu and Tell Khaiber. Archaeologists divide it into three periods, Early Kassite (pre c. 1415 BC), Middle Kassite (c 1415 BC - 1225 BC), and Late Kassite (c. 1225 BC - 1155 BC).[39] 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.[40] 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 in the ruins of Hasanlu, in northwest Iran. The site was burned to the ground in the later part of the ninth century BCE, preserving many objects often lost in other sites, after the end of the Kassite rule. The glassworks found inside one of the structures had been preserved from the Kassite era as precious keepsakes, based on the richness of the other artifacts found alongside the glass fragments. The building the pieces were found in has been determined to be a temple, and it is theorized that the glass beakers were utilized in ritual and devotional practices.[41]

The imagery on these beakers includes commonly used motifs in Kassite art. On Beaker A male figures in rich robes are depicted parading around the middle section. They have large, blue beards and tall hats on the figures that could be markers of the divine or royal. Beneath this line of figures, separated by a line of geometric patterns, is the depiction of two horned quadrupeds facing a central plant. This motif is often seen in other works that were used as dedicatory or ritual practice in the Kassite religion (see also: Kassite Deities). The panes of glass used to create these images were very brightly colored, and closer analysis has revealed that they were bright blue, white, and red-orange.[41]

The process of making pieces such as these would have required high levels of specialization in glass crafting. These pieces were made to look like mosaics using molds and carefully controlled kilns.[41]

Seal impressions

See also: Cylinder Seal

Kassite 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. 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. The seals were generally made of stone, glass, or clay. The images were made by stamping or rolling the seals into wet clay.[42] The Kassites made these seals using tools and techniques such as bow-driven lapidary wheels, abrasives, micro flaking, drilling, and filing.[43]


See also


  1. ^ [1] Brinkman, J.A. 1976. Materials and Studies for Kassite History. Vol. 1, pt. A, Catalogue of Cuneiform Sources Pertaining to Specific Monarchs of the Kassite Dynasty. Chicago: Chicago University Press.
  2. ^ Brinkman, J.A. 2017. “Babylonia Under the Kassites: Some Aspects for Consideration.” In Karduniaš: Babylonia Under the Kas-sites. Proceedings of the Symposium Held in Munich 30 Juni to 2 July 2011, 2 vols., edited by A. Bartelmus and K. Ster-nitzke, 1:1–44. UAVA 11.1. Berlin: De Gruyter.
  3. ^ 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
  4. ^ Pinches, T. G. “The Question of the Kassite Language.” Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, 1907, pp. 685–685
  5. ^ Krebernik, M., and Seidl, U. (2012). "Šuqamuna und Šu/imalija." [in:] Reallexikon der Assyriologie und vorderasiatischen Archäologie vol 13, p. 323-325
  6. ^ Tenney, J. S. (2016). The elevation of Marduk revisited: Festivals and sacrifices at Nippur during the High Kassite period. Journal of Cuneiform Studies, 68(1), 153-180. Pg 154 note 4.
  7. ^ [2] Veldhuis, Niek. "Kassite Exercises: Literary and Lexical Extracts." Journal of Cuneiform Studies, vol. 52, 2000, pp. 67–94
  8. ^ Biggs, Robert D. “A Letter from Kassite Nippur.” Journal of Cuneiform Studies, vol. 19, no. 4, 1965, pp. 95–102
  9. ^ O. R. Gurney, Texts from Dur-Kurigalzu, Iraq, vol. 11, no. 1, pp. 131–149, 1949
  10. ^ O. R. Gurney, Further Texts from Dur-Kurigalzu, Sumer, vol. 9, pp. 21–34, 1953
  11. ^ T. Clayden. “Kish in the Kassite Period (c. 1650-1150 B.C.).” Iraq, vol. 54, 1992, pp. 141–55
  12. ^ Højlund, Flemming. Qala'at al-Bahrain/2 The central monumental buildings. Aarhus Univ. Press, 1997
  13. ^ [3] Donalds M Matthews, The Kassite Glyptic of Nippur, Freiburg, Switzerland / Göttingen,Germany: Universitätsverlag / Vandenhoeck Ruprecht, 1992
  14. ^ Kjaerum, F. “SEALS OF ‘DILMUN-TYPE’ FROM FAILAKA, KUWAIT.” Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies, vol. 10, 1980, pp. 45–53
  15. ^ Brinkman, J. A. “Babylonian Royal Land Grants, Memorials of Financial Interest, and Invocation of the Divine.” Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, vol. 49, no. 1, 2006, pp. 1–47
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  18. ^ J. A. Brinkman, “Kassiten (Kassû),” RLA, vol. 5 (1976–80
  19. ^ Year Names at CDLI
  20. ^ [4] Claudia Glatz, et al., Babylonian Encounters in the Upper Diyala River Valley: Contextualizing the Results of Regional Survey and the 2016–2017 Excavations at Khani Masi, American Journal of Archaeology, Vol. 123, No. 3 (July 2019), pp. 439-471
  21. ^ Schulman, Alan R. “Diplomatic Marriage in the Egyptian New Kingdom.” Journal of Near Eastern Studies, vol. 38, no. 3, 1979, pp. 177–93
  22. ^ Frans van Koppen (2006). "Inscription of Kurigalzu I". In Mark William Chavalas (ed.). The ancient Near East: historical sources in translation. Blackwell Publishing Ltd
  23. ^ Clayden, Tim. "Ur in the Kassite Period". Babylonia under the Sealand and Kassite Dynasties, edited by Susanne Paulus and Tim Clayden, Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter, 2020, pp. 88-124
  24. ^ Potts, D. T. “Elamites and Kassites in the Persian Gulf.” Journal of Near Eastern Studies, vol. 65, no. 2, 2006, pp. 111–19
  25. ^ Potts, Daniel T. (1999). "The Archaeology of Elam: Formation and Transformation of an Ancient Iranian State." Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-563585. pp. 233–234
  26. ^ Albert Kirk Grayson, Assyrian and Babylonian Chronicles, Locust Valley, N.Y. : J.J. Augustin, 1975 ISBN 978-1575060491
  27. ^ Levine, Louis D. “The Second Campaign of Sennacherib.” Journal of Near Eastern Studies, vol. 32, no. 3, 1973, pp. 312–17
  28. ^ Levine, Louis D. "Geographical Studies in the Neo-Assyrian Zagros—I." Iran 11.1 (1973): 1-27
  29. ^ Levine, Louis D. "Geographical Studies in the Neo-Assyrian Zagros—II." Iran 12.1 (1974): 99-124
  30. ^ Chen, Fei (2020). Study on the Synchronistic King List from Ashur. Leiden: BRILL. ISBN 978-9004430914.
  31. ^ Astour, Michael C. “The Name of the Ninth Kassite Ruler.” Journal of the American Oriental Society, vol. 106, no. 2, 1986, pp. 327–31
  32. ^ Horowitz, W., Reeves, S., Stillman, L., White, M., & Zilberg, P. (2015). Cuneiform Texts in The Otago Museum: A preliminary report. Buried History, 51, 57-60
  33. ^ MacGinnis, J. (2015). Ira Spar, Michael Jursa: Cuneiform Texts from the Metropolitan Museum of Art IV: The Ebabbar Temple Archive and Other Texts from the Fourth to the First Millennium BC. Zeitschrift für Assyriologie und vorderasiatische Archäologie, 105(2), 255-257.
  34. ^ Donbaz, Veysel. “A Middle Babylonian Legal Document Raising Problems in Kassite Chronology.” Journal of Near Eastern Studies, vol. 41, no. 3, 1982, pp. 207–12
  35. ^ Brinkman, J. A. “Foreign Relations of Babylonia from 1600 to 625 B. C.: The Documentary Evidence.” American Journal of Archaeology, vol. 76, no. 3, 1972, pp. 271–81
  36. ^ Schneider, Thomas (2003). "Kassitisch und Hurro-Urartäisch. Ein Diskussionsbeitrag zu möglichen lexikalischen Isoglossen". Altorientalische Forschungen (in German) (30): 372–381.
  37. ^ L. Sassmannshausen (2000). "The adaptation of the Kassites to the Babylonian Civilization". In K. Van Lerberghe and G. Voet (ed.). Languages and Cultures in Contact at the Crossroads of Civilizations in the Syro-Mesopotamia Realm. Peeters Publishers. p. 413. footnote 22.
  38. ^ Brinkman, J. A. “Administration and Society in Kassite Babylonia.” Journal of the American Oriental Society, vol. 124, no. 2, 2004, pp. 283–304
  39. ^ Armstrong, James A., and Hermann Gasche. 2014. Mesopotamian Pottery. A Guide to the Babylonian Tradition in the Second Millennium B.C. Mesopotamian History and Bibliography 257 Environment, Series II, Memoirs IV. Ghent and Chicago: The University of Ghent and The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago.
  40. ^ Armstrong, James A. “West of Edin: Tell al-Deylam and the Babylonian City of Dilbat” The Biblical Archaeologist , Vol. 55, No. 4 (Dec., 1992), pp. 221-223
  41. ^ a b c Marcus, Michelle I. “The Mosaic Glass Vessels from Hasanlu, Iran: A Study in Large-Scale Stylistic Trait Distribution” The Art Bulletin , Vol. 73, No. 4 (Dec., 1991), pp. 535-545
  42. ^ Buchanan, Briggs. “On the Seal Impressions on Some Old Babylonian Tablets” Journal of Cuneiform Studies, Vol. 11, No. 2 (1957), pp. 45-52
  43. ^ Sax, Margaret, Meeks, Nigel D. and Collon, Dominique “The Early Development of the Lapidary Engraving Wheel in Mesopotamia” Iraq , Vol. 62, (2000), pp. 157-158
  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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