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Kassite Rule in Mesopotamia

c. 1500 BC


Little is known about the origins of the Kassite people. This is true also of the circumstances under which they rose to political power in Babylon. The Kassites were a minority in Mesopotamia, speaking a different language than the resident population. They first entered the historical scene during the rule of Hammurabi (c. 1750 BC), but within two centuries the initial hostilities [1] were replaced with peaceful coexistence. The Kassites were, at that point, scattered over a large area and remained a nomadic minority. Nevertheless, they were highly integrated into the Akkadian society.

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When the local government of Babylon collapsed in 1595 BC, the Kassites where able to take over. Kassite rule saw the end of the city-state era. Mesopotamia became their empire with Babylon as its capital. This dynasty lasted 450 years -- a record in Mesopotamian history. Art, architecture and business flourished, and Babylonia became an important power internationally, renowned for its jewelry, textile and medicine. Religion was modified over time to better suit the new social and political structures that were developed, and in fact, the Babylonian Creation Myth (which was written down about three centuries into the Kassite dynasty) may be one of the most important existing sources from this period.

Another important source of information about the mechanics of this society is preserved in the Kudurru stones-- a combination of a border marking and ownership contract. Inscribed and often decorated, they suggest the extent to which the king's favor was desired. The monarch would give substantial pieces of lands to specially favored subjects. In return, it can be surmised, they would continue to support him or a mutual cause. Only rarely do the Kudurru promise political control over the area in question. However, it is possible that those who developed personal relationships with the sovereign could influence political decisions along with the king's advisors and sages.

Even the Kassite gods could not avoid politics, frequently seeking council from each other. [2] Furthermore, an assembly was required when the god Marduk was installed as the supreme ruler of heaven and earth. Even Marduk himself turned, first to his father, and then to the assembly of gods, before humankind was created.


Walter Sommerfeld, "The Kassites of Ancient Mesopotamia," Civilizations of the Ancient Near East , vol. II, ed. Jack M. Sasson. (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons)

Silvero Fiore, Voices from the Clay: The Development of Assyro-Babylonian Literature, (Norman, OK; University of Oklahoma Press, 1965)


[1] Sommerfeld, "The Kassites," p. 917.

[2] Fiore, Voices from the Clay, p. 51-53.

Edited, Researched and Written by:
P. Magnus Hillbo
September 30, 1996

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