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(CIVILIZATION in MESOPOTAMIA – continued)

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CIVILIZATION in MESOPOTAMIA (5 of 8)

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Arrival of Hittites, Hurrians and Kassites

The Hittites into Mesopotamia

By the year 2000 an illiterate warlike Indo-European people called Hittites had migrated on foot southward into Asia Minor, where they overran and conquered tribal bronze-age farming communities. Like Sargon's warriors, the conquering Hittites made themselves an aristocratic warrior elite living off the labors of those they had conquered. Like Sargon and others, they saw their victories as willed by their gods and as proof of the righteousness of their conquests. Like others, the Hittites made deities of their dead kings, but they saw their living kings as human and expected them to obey their laws. Their neighbors considered them sexually lax. But the Hittites were less brutal than some: they disliked the mutilations of human bodies that they saw among other peoples, and they were less inclined to punish people by killing them.

Mideast, 1279 BCE

Two empires in 1279 and the reign of Ramses II.

The Hittite king, Mursilis I, forced a loose federation of city-states into the first Hittite empire. A Hittite army crossed the Taurus Mountains into Mesopotamia, and in 1593 BCE they sacked Babylon, ending the dynasty that had been created there by Hammurabi. But Babylon was too distant for the Hittites to rule – 1200 miles from their capital at Hattusas – and the Hittites withdrew from Babylon. In 1590 the Hittite king, Mursilis, was assassinated by his brother-in-law. More palace intrigues and murderous struggles for power followed among Hittite princes, priests, nobles, regents and ambitious widows. It was to be a recurring development elsewhere in the world, and for the Hittites it brought what it would often bring to others: a decline in power.

The Hurrians and Kassites into Mesopotamia

After the Hittite invasion of Mesopotamia, an Indo-Iranian people called Hurrians, from the Zagros Mountains, poured into Mesopotamia and overran peoples. The Hurrians settled down, gradually adopted civilized ways and became dominant in such cities as Mari, on the upper Euphrates, and Nuzi, which became a thriving commercial center.

Then came another wave of invaders, the Kassites, from the mountainous region just east of Mesopotamia – the first people known to have entered Mesopotamia on horseback. Hurrians continued to control their areas, and Kassites became rulers of great estates from which they dominated surrounding territory. From this Kassite elite came Babylon's new kings. In the early 1500s they began what would become a 500-year reign at Babylon. They accepted Babylon's literature as sacred, and with this they laid the ground for a new Babylonian culture.

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