Text #9364"Mitanni", in .
Mitanni (/mɪˈtæni/; Hittite cuneiform KUR URUMi-ta-an-ni; Mittani Mi-it-ta-ni), also called Hanigalbat (Hanigalbat, Khanigalbat cuneiform Ḫa-ni-gal-bat) in Assyrian or Naharin in Egyptian texts, was a Hurrian-speaking state in northern Syria and southeast Anatolia from ca. 1500 BC–1300 BC. Founded by an Indo-Aryan ruling class governing a predominantly Hurrian population, Mitanni came to be a regional power after the Hittite destruction of Amorite Babylon and a series of ineffectual Assyrian kings created a power vacuum in Mesopotamia. At the beginning of its history, Mitanni’s major rival was Egypt under the Thutmosids. However, with the ascent of the Hittite empire, Mitanni and Egypt made an alliance to protect their mutual interests from the threat of Hittite domination. At the height of its power, during the 14th century BC, Mitanni had outposts centered on its capital, Washukanni, whose location has been determined by archaeologists to be on the headwaters of the Khabur River. Eventually, Mitanni succumbed to Hittite and later Assyrian attacks, and was reduced to the status of a province of the Middle Assyrian Empire.
Their sphere of influence is shown in Hurrian place names, personal names and the spread through Syria and the Levant of a distinct pottery type.
The Mitanni controlled trade routes down the Khabur to Mari and up the Euphrates from there to Charchamesh. For a time they also controlled the Assyrian territories of the upper Tigris and its headwaters at Nineveh, Arbil, Assur and Nuzi. Their allies included Kizuwatna in southeastern Anatolia, Mukish which stretched between Ugarit and Quatna west of the Orontes to the sea, and the Niya which controlled the east bank of the Orontes from Alalah down through Aleppo, Ebla and Hama to Qatna and Kadesh. To the east, they had good relations with the Kassites. The land of Mitanni in northern Syria extended from the Taurus mountains to its west and as far east as Nuzi (modern Kirkuk) and the river Tigris in the east. In the south, it extended from Aleppo across (Nuhashshe) to Mari on the Euphrates in the east. Its centre was in the Khabur River valley, with two capitals: Taite and Washshukanni called Taidu and Ushshukana respectively in Assyrian sources. The whole area allows agriculture without artificial irrigation; cattle, sheep and goats were raised. It is very similar to Assyria in climate, and was settled by both indigenous Hurrian and Amoritic-speaking (Amurru) populations.
The Mitanni kingdom was referred to as the Maryannu, Nahrin or Mitanni by the Egyptians, the Hurri by the Hittites, and the Hanigalbat by the Assyrians. The different names seem to have referred to the same kingdom and were used interchangeably, according to Michael C. Astour. Hittite annals mention a people called Hurri (Ḫu-ur-ri), located in northeastern Syria. A Hittite fragment, probably from the time of Mursili I, mentions a “King of the Hurri”. The Assyro-Akkadian version of the text renders “Hurri” as Hanigalbat. Tushratta, who styles himself “king of Mitanni” in his Akkadian Amarna letters, refers to his kingdom as Hanigalbat.
Egyptian sources call Mitanni “nhrn”, which is usually pronounced as Naharin/Naharina from the Assyro-Akkadian word for “river”, cf. Aram-Naharaim. The name Mitanni is first found in the “memoirs” of the Syrian wars (ca. 1480 BC) of the official astronomer and clockmaker Amenemhet, who returned from the “foreign country called Me-ta-ni” at the time of Thutmose I. The expedition to the Naharina announced by Thutmosis I at the beginning of his reign may have actually taken place during the long previous reign of Amenhotep I Helck believes that this was the expedition mentioned by Amenhotep II.
The ethnicity of the people of Mitanni is difficult to ascertain. A treatise on the training of chariot horses by Kikkuli contains a number of Indo-Aryan glosses. Kammenhuber (1968) suggested that this vocabulary was derived from the still undivided Indo-Iranian language, but Mayrhofer (1974) has shown that specifically Indo-Aryan features are present.
The names of the Mitanni aristocracy frequently are of Indo-Aryan origin, but it is specifically their deities which show Indo-Aryan roots (Mitra, Varuna, Indra, Nasatya), though some think that they are more immediately related to the Kassites. The common people’s language, the Hurrian language, is neither Indo-European nor Semitic. Hurrian is related to Urartian, the language of Urartu, both belonging to the Hurro-Urartian language family. It had been held that nothing more can be deduced from current evidence. A Hurrian passage in the Amarna letters – usually composed in Akkadian, the lingua franca of the day – indicates that the royal family of Mitanni was by then speaking Hurrian as well.
Bearers of names in the Hurrian language are attested in wide areas of Syria and the northern Levant that are clearly outside the area of the political entity known to Assyria as Hanilgalbat. There is no indication that these persons owed allegiance to the political entity of Mitanni; although the German term Auslandshurriter (“Hurrian expatriates”) has been used by some authors. In the 14th century BC numerous city-states in northern Syria and Canaan were ruled by persons with Hurrian and some Indo-Aryan names. If this can be taken to mean that the population of these states was Hurrian as well, then it is possible that these entities were a part of a larger polity with a shared Hurrian identity. This is often assumed, but without a critical examination of the sources. Differences in dialect and regionally different pantheons (Hepat/Shawushka, Sharruma/Tilla etc.) point to the existence of several groups of Hurrian speakers.
As early as Akkadian times, Hurrians are known to have lived east of the river Tigris on the northern rim of Mesopotamia, and in the Khabur Valley. The group which became Mitanni gradually moved south into Mesopotamia before the 17th century BC.
Hurrians are mentioned in the private Nuzi texts, in Ugarit, and the Hittite archives in Hattushsha (Boğazköy). Cuneiform texts from Mari mention rulers of city-states in upper Mesopotamia with both Amurru (Amorite) and Hurrian names. Rulers with Hurrian names are also attested for Urshum and Hashshum, and tablets from Alalakh (layer VII, from the later part of the old-Babylonian period) mention people with Hurrian names at the mouth of the Orontes. There is no evidence for any invasion from the North-east. Generally, these onomastic sources have been taken as evidence for a Hurrian expansion to the South and the West.
A Hittite fragment, probably from the time of Mursili I, mentions a “King of the Hurrians” (LUGAL ERÍN.MEŠ Hurri). This terminology was last used for King Tushratta of Mitanni, in a letter in the Amarna archives. The normal title of the king was ‘King of the Hurri-men’ (without the determinative KUR indicating a country).
It is believed that the warring Hurrian tribes and city states became united under one dynasty after the collapse of Babylon due to the Hittite sack by Mursili I and the Kassite invasion. The Hittite conquest of Aleppo (Yamkhad), the weak middle Assyrian kings, and the internal strifes of the Hittites had created a power vacuum in upper Mesopotamia. This led to the formation of the kingdom of Mitanni. The legendary founder of the Mitannian dynasty was a king called Kirta, who was followed by a king Shuttarna. Nothing is known about these early kings.
King Barattarna of Mitanni expanded the kingdom west to Halab (Aleppo) and made the Canaanite king Idrimi of Alalakh his vassal. The state of Kizzuwatna in the west also shifted its allegiance to Mitanni, and Assyria in the east had become largely a Mitannian vassal state by the mid-15th century BC. The nation grew stronger during the reign of Shaushtatar but the Hurrians were keen to keep the Hittites inside the Anatolian highland. Kizzuwatna in the west and Ishuwa in the north were important allies against the hostile Hittites.
After a few successful clashes with the Pharaohs over the control of Syria, Mitanni sought peace with Egypt and an alliance was formed. During the reign of Shuttarna in the early 14th century BC the relationship was very amicable, and he sent his daughter Gilu-Hepa to Egypt for a marriage with Pharaoh Amenhotep III. Mitanni was now at its peak of power.
However, by the reign of Eriba-Adad I (1390 BC - 1366 BC) Mitanni influence over Assyria was on the wane. Eriba-Adad I became involved in a dynastic battle between Tushratta and his brother Artatama II and after this his son Shuttarna II, who called himself king of the Hurri while seeking support from the Assyrians. A pro-Hurri/Assyria faction appeared at the royal Mitanni court. Eriba-Adad I had thus loosened Mitanni influence over Assyria, and in turn had now made Assyria an influence over Mitanni affairs. King Ashur-Uballit I (1365 BC - 1330 BC) of Assyria attacked Shuttarna and annexed Mittani territory in the middle of the 14th century BC, making Assyria once more a great power.
At the death of Shuttarna, Mitanni was ravaged by a war of succession. Eventually Tushratta, a son of Shuttarna, ascended the throne, but the kingdom had been weakened considerably and both the Hittite and Assyrian threats increased. At the same time, the diplomatic relationship with Egypt went cold, the Egyptians fearing the growing power of the Hittites and Assyrians. The Hittite king Suppiluliuma I invaded the Mitanni vassal states in northern Syria and replaced them with loyal subjects.
In the capital Washukanni, a new power struggle broke out. The Hittites and the Assyrians supported different pretenders to the throne. Finally a Hittite army conquered the capital Washukkanni and installed Shattiwaza, the son of Tushratta, as their vassal king of Mitanni in the late 14th century BC. The kingdom had by now been reduced to the Khabur Valley. The Assyrians had not given up their claim on Mitanni, and in the 13th century BC, Shalmaneser I annexed the kingdom.
A part of the population was deported and served as cheap labour. Administrative documents mention barley allotted to “uprooted men”, deportees from Mitanni. For example, the Assyrian governor of the city Nahur, Meli-Sah received barley to be distributed to deported persons from Shuduhu “as seed, food for their oxen and for themselves”. The Assyrians built a line of frontier fortifications against the Hittites on the Balikh River.
Mitanni was now ruled by the Assyrian grand-vizier Ilī-padâ, a member of the royal family, who took the title of king (sharru) of Hanigalbat. He resided in the newly built Assyrian administrative centre at Tell Sabi Abyad, governed by the Assyrian steward Tammitte. Assyrians maintained not only military and political control, but seem to have dominated trade as well, as no Hurrian or Mitanni names appear in private records of Shalmaneser’s time.
Under the Assyrian king Tukulti-Ninurta I (c. 1243–1207) there were again numerous deportations from Hanigalbat (east Mitanni) to Ashur, probably in connection with the construction of a new palace. As the royal inscriptions mention an invasion of Hanigalbat by a Hittite king, there may have been a new rebellion, or at least native support of a Hittite invasion. The Mitanni towns may have been sacked at this time, as destruction levels have been found in some excavations that cannot be dated with precision, however. Tell Sabi Abyad, seat of the Assyrian government in Mitanni in the times of Shalmaneser, was deserted between 1200 and 1150 B.C.
In the time of Ashur-nirari III (ca. 1200 BC, the beginning Bronze Age collapse), the Phrygians and others invaded and destroyed the Hittite Empire, already weakened by defeats against Assyria. Some parts of Assyrian-ruled Hanigalbat was temporarily lost to the Phrygians also; however, the Assyrians defeated the Phrygians and regained these colonies. The Hurrians still held Katmuhu and Paphu. In the transitional period to the Early Iron Age, Mitanni was settled by invading Semitic Aramaean tribes.
Some theonyms, proper names and other terminology of the Mitanni exhibit close similarities to Indo-Aryan, suggesting that an Indo-Aryan elite imposed itself over the Hurrian population in the course of the Indo-Aryan expansion. In a treaty between the Hittites and the Mitanni, the deities Mitra, Varuna, Indra, and Nasatya (Ashvins) are invoked. Kikkuli’s horse training text includes technical terms such as aika (eka, one), tera (tri, three), panza (pancha, five), satta (sapta, seven), na (nava, nine), vartana (vartana, turn, round in the horse race). The numeral aika “one” is of particular importance because it places the superstrate in the vicinity of Indo-Aryan proper as opposed to Indo-Iranian or early Iranian (which has “aiva”) in general.
Another text has babru (babhru, brown), parita (palita, grey), and pinkara (pingala, red). Their chief festival was the celebration of the solstice (vishuva) which was common in most cultures in the ancient world. The Mitanni warriors were called marya, the term for warrior in Sanskrit as well; note mišta-nnu (= miẓḍha,~ Sanskrit mīḍha) “payment (for catching a fugitive)”.
Sanskritic interpretations of Mitanni royal names render Artashumara (artaššumara) as Arta-smara “who thinks of Arta/Ṛta”, Biridashva (biridašṷa, biriiašṷa) as Prītāśva “whose horse is dear”, Priyamazda (priiamazda) as Priyamedha “whose wisdom is dear”, Citrarata as citraratha “whose chariot is shining”, Indaruda/Endaruta as Indrota “helped by Indra”, Shativaza (šattiṷaza) as Sātivāja “winning the race price”, Šubandhu as Subandhu “having good relatives”, Tushratta (tṷišeratta, tušratta, etc.) as *tṷaiašaratha, Vedic Tvastr “whose chariot is vehement”.