History Files


Middle East Kingdoms

Ancient Mesopotamia




MapHurrian Empire of Mitanni (Naharina / Hanigalbat)
c.1500 - c.1330 BC

FeatureCentred on eastern Syria and northern Mesopotamia, geographically, the Hurrians were situated amongst much better attested ancient peoples. The Assyrians were immediately to the east. To the north-west there were the Hittites, to the west and south-west were Syria, Canaan and Egypt, and to the south lay Babylonia. The middle of the second millennium was a critical time in the history of the region. An 'age of internationalism' flourished with large states reaching out to each other for the first time. There were intensive contacts between rulers, and the Hurrians played a significant role in transmitting both goods and ideas back and forth among the great empires of the area and out into the Mediterranean world.

Although the Hurrians became a dominant political force in their own right in the region of Urkesh and, separately, in Arrapha, their rise to greatness seems to have been triggered around four hundred years after their arrival by a new influx of settlers. Around 1600 BC an Indo-Iranian people called the Mitanni established themselves amidst the Hurrians as a warrior class. This warrior class was originally Indo-European, and may have been part of the migration towards India or Iran. The two peoples quickly merged together in a feudal state and during the dark age of 1600-1500 BC came to dominate their neighbours. The capital of Washukkanni has never been positively identified by modern scholars, but Tell al-Fakhariyeh in modern Syria is the favoured location.

The pharaohs of Egypt corresponded with the Mitanni rulers of the empire, calling it Naharina after the Akkadian word for river, and Syrian musicians at Ugarit performed Hurrian compositions. The later Hurrian empire of Mitanni became a world power a little before 1500 BC, but survived for less than three hundred years. By the thirteenth century BC, the Hurrians had been blotted out by the Hittites to the west and the Assyrians to the east, and they ceased being significant participants in international affairs. Little of their own writings survived, other than a treaty with the Hittites.

Dates here should be taken as approximate, as they are calculated against the more concrete dates known for other kingdoms. No king lists exist for Mitanni and its early history is a mystery. Its people have been linked by some scholars to the 'Qutils', a group that has also been linked to the Gutians of the previous millennia, and to the modern-day Kurds.

c.1595 BC

The Hittite destruction of Alep and its sack of Babylon allows other states to emerge, most notably the Hurrian empire of Mitanni, where the warring Hurrian tribes and city states become united under one dynasty. Many cities which previously formed small states of their own are incorporated into the new empire, including Andarig, Apum, Carchemish, Nawar, Qatna, Qattara, Razama, Tuttul, and Urkesh. Nothing is known about the earliest Mitanni kings.

c.1530 - 1500 BC

Parattarna I

Probably same as Barattarna, below.

c.1500 - 1490 BC


Near legendary figure who shaped the empire.

c.1490 - 1470 BC

Shuttarna I

Son. Or ruled c.1560 BC?

1478 BC

Egypt begins to move into Syria, on Mitanni's southern border, reaching the Euphrates, building ships, and ravaging the banks all the way from Carchemish to Emar, towns that belong to Mitanni. Ugarit is taken, but the Egyptians are unable to gain control of the Syrian interior. Mitanni apparently controls Ishuwa during Shuttarna's reign.

c.1475 - 1392 BC

The Hurrians annexe the Adasi Assyrians.

c.1470 - 1450 BC

Barattarna / Baratama


May be the same king as Barattarna.

c.1470 - 1450 BC

Barattarna (or Parattarna) expands the kingdom west to Halab (Alep) and secures Idrimi of Alalakh as a vassal. To the west, the state of Kizzuwatna is conquered by Mitanni.

1453 BC

Tuthmosis III of Egypt defeats Mitanni at the battle of Megiddo, weakening the empire. The state of Amurru and several other Mitanni subjects in southern Syria are lost. However, Arrapha in the east and Terqa in the south become vassal states by c.1450 BC, and Mitanni becomes involved in the Hittite succession war at around the same time.

c.1440 - 1410 BC

Saushtatar / Saustatar

Son. Contemporary of Niqmepuh of Alakhtum.

c.1430 BC

Ishuwa is defeated by the Hittite king, Tudhaliya II (I), and then sides with Mitanni. Tudhaliya is unable to take Ishuwa, so he successfully attacks Kizzuwatna instead.

1420 BC

The empire stretches from the Mediterranean (including Alalakh in northern Syria), all the way to the northern Zagros Mountains (including Nuzi, Kurrukhanni, and Arrapha (roughly corresponding to modern Kurdistan), and into western Iran). The northern boundary dividing Mitanni from the Hittites and the other Hurrian states is never fixed, with Kizzuwatna and Ishuwa being used as buffer states between the two. The latter now becomes a vassal of Mitanni after it is attacked by the Hittites. Also, friendly relations are finally established between Tuthmose IV of Egypt and Artatama I soon after this date.

c.1415 BC

Saushtatar reduces Assyria, and humiliates its inhabitants by sending the doors of the famous temple of Ashur back to Washukkanni.

Parrattarna II

It is uncertain if this king existed.

c.1410 - 1400 BC

Artatama I

Married his daughter to Pharaoh Thutmose IV.

c.1400 BC

The Hittites conquer Mitanni's vassal, Kizzuwatna, in eastern Anatolia. Further south, an apparent vassal king is allowed to rule in Qatna.

c.1400 - 1385 BC

Shuttarna II

Married his daughter to Pharaoh Amenhotep III.

c.1392 BC

The Hittites take control of the Assyrians from Mitanni, and appear to annexe the Mitanni capital to Kizzuwatna, if only briefly.

c.1385 - 1380 BC


Son. Murdered by Uthi and replaced by his younger brother.

c.1380 BC

Artashumara is murdered by Uthi, and the latter places his young brother, Tushratta, on the throne, with himself acting as regent. Tushratta's brother, Artatama II, sets up a rival kingship in the east of the state. initially receiving support from the Hittites.

c.1380 - 1350 BC

Tushratta / Tusratta

FeatureBrother. Considered a proto-Croatian.

c.1380 - 1370? BC

Uthi / UD-hi

Regent and murder of Artashumara. Executed.

Tushratta only manages to re-establish friendly relations with Egypt when he has Uthi and all his supporters executed. Later he marries his daughter to Pharaoh Amenhotep III, and the two kings (and later Amenhotep's son, Amenhotep IV) conduct a long and detailed correspondence, mostly on commerce, Tushratta's desire for gold (to fight his civil war), and marriage.

Tushratta tablet to Amenhotep III
The cuneiform tablet inscribed with a letter from Tushratta to Amenhotep III

c.1380? - ? BC

Artatama II

Brother and rival claimant. Based in the east.

c.1375 BC

The Kaskans suffer the loss of their grain to locusts so, in search of food, they join up with Hayasa-Azzi, Ishuwa, and the Lukka, as well as other Hittite enemies. The devastation to the grain crops may also have been suffered by others, making it not only easy to get them all to unite but highly necessary, and the Hittites may be taken by surprise by the sheer forcefulness of the attack.

It is possible that Ishuwa receives support, or at least encouragement, from Tushratta of Mitanni to join the attack upon the Hittites. It would certainly be in Tushratta's interest to do anything he can to weaken potential Hittite support for his brother and rival. Recent Hittite resurgence indeed does suffer a knock when their fort of Masat is burned down, but then the capital, Hattusa, is itself attacked and burned. This disaster personally weakens the position of the Hittite king but seemingly does little to set back the Hittites themselves.

c.1360s BC

The Hurrians are devastatingly defeated by the Hittites in a shock reversal of fortunes, also losing territory in Syria to them and, now a Hittite vassal, the kingdom rapidly declines. A confused period develops with rival claimants and short-lived rulers hastening the process of decline.

c.1350 BC

Tushratta is assassinated (possibly by Shuttarna III), sparking a fresh dynastic struggle between his now exiled son and his nephew. The important administrative centre of Nuzi on the edge of the kingdom is lost to the resurgent Assyrians, and it seems likely that Arrapha is lost at the same time.

c.1350 BC

Shuttarna III

Son. Gained overall control.

Gaining overall control in Mitanni, Shuttarna shifts his allegiance to Assyria. The Hittite king, Suppiluliuma, is enraged by this and decides to support the exiled Kili-Teshub, son of Tushratta. He provides Kili-Teshub with troops and together they defeat Shuttarna. Kili-Teshub is placed on the throne of what remains of Mitanni (the west of the state) under the name Shattiwaza, is married off to one of the Hittite king's daughters, and becomes a vassal. By the 1320s BC, Syria falls under Hittite overlordship while the Assyrians dominate the regions which previously formed eastern Mitanni. The territory of Ashtata and the city of Carchemish are given to one of Suppiluliuma's sons.

c.1350 - 1320 BC

Shattiwaza / Mattiwaza / Kili-Teshub

Son of Tushratta. Exiled. Returned as a Hittite vassal.

c.1339 BC

By now, the Mitanni warrior class has been totally absorbed into the Hurrian populace, leaving little trace of its existence, including its Indo-Iranian language.

c.1320 - 1300 BC

Shattuara I


c.1300 - 1270 BC

The now-independent Assyrians gradually take control of Mitanni (which they had always called Hanigalbat) from a weakening Hittite regime, leaving a native dynasty in place as vassals. The remains of the Mitanni state regularly resist, seeking help from the Hittites and the newly arriving Aramaeans.

c.1300 - 1280 BC



c.1280 - 1270 BC

Shattuara II

Son or nephew. May be the same as Shattuara I.

c.1270 BC

Shattuara rebels against Assyrian overlordship, but his forces are crushed by Shalmaneser I. Hanigalbat (eastern Mitanni) falls totally under Assyrian control and part of the population is deported to serve as cheap labour.

c.1270 - 1240 BC


Assyrian grand vizier who served as king of Hangilbat.

c.1240? BC

A second rebellion against Assyrian overlordship in the northern and western areas of Hangilbat leads Tukulti-Ninurta I to annexe the entirety of northern Syria east of the Euphrates.

c.1200 BC

Following the general upheavals in the region at the end of the century, centralised administration disappears completely. The Hurrians are absorbed into Assyrian and later cultures and leave few traces of their own culture or language behind them, although they can possibly be associated with the later Armenians and Kurds.