Mesopotamia

The Kassites




   History has been unkind to the Kassites, a people who come onto the stage of history in the one of the most chaotic periods in the Middle East. In the middle of the second millenium BC, Indo-European peoples began vast and chaotic migrations out of Europe towards Persia and India; this migration was powered by a stunning new technology: the military use of horses and chariots. These invasions displaced many peoples who began to migrate in many directions, and some headed towards Mesopotamia and Palestine. These were Asian people who had adopted Indo-European authority and military structures, and many of them were invaders who set up miniature kingdoms dotting the landscape of the Middle East and Asia Minor. The Hittites were the most successful of these new invaders. But they didn't control the center of Mesopotamia, the city of Babylon, for very long before another Indo-European people, the Kassites, roared in and dominated a large part of Mesopotamia. The Hittite empire continued for several hundred years, but the Kassites would dominate the center of Mesopotamia both militarily and commercially.

   After storming into Babylon, they renamed the city, Karanduniash, and made their capital in a new city that they built from scratch, Durkurigalzu. In this respect, we can see in the dim dust of history an attempt to do something new culturally in Mesopotamia. But the Kassites are gone within a blink of an eye, as wave after wave of migrations put pressure on their fragile hold on power. By 1200, all the great Indo-European kingdoms, that great human experiment in transforming Mesopotamia into an Indo-European culture, have been weakened by the incessant troubles of war and invasion, and the Assyrians, a Semitic people angered by Indo-European domination, would return the area to Semitic control. Under the Assyrian king, Ashur-Dan, the last Kassite king was driven from the Babylonian throne in the twelfth century BC.

   History, of course, is written by the winners. We know very little about the Kassites except that their conquerors felt that they were barbarians and savages. What they intended culturally we will never know, whether they would adopt the genealogy of Sumerian culture as so many peoples had done before them or whether they would have forged something new. But their story was swallowed up in the soil they thought they owned, and with dust their paper they left us only their names.

Richard Hooker



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1996, Richard Hooker
Updated 9-25-97