History Files


Middle East Kingdoms

Ancient Anatolia




MapIshuwa / Isuwa

Ishuwa was situated in eastern Anatolia, in the Upper Euphrates, to the north-east of Kizzuwatna and north of Mitanni, but was constantly under threat of attack by the Hittites to the immediate west. North of the river, a vast plain stretched up towards the mountain range around the Black Sea. There is a suggestion that the state's name came from the proto-Indo-European word for horse, making it 'horse land', and its people seem to have been a mix of Hatti, Hittites, and Hurrians. Although there may not have been an single capital, the city of Melid was certainly a focus of the resistance to Hittite attacks and was heavily fortified.

The state was centred on the river valley, which provided abundant rain-fed water, making irrigation much easier than it was in southern Mesopotamia. The area was perfect for intensive agriculture and the keeping of livestock. Although it was one of the places in which agriculture was developed in the Neolithic Period, and urban centres appeared there from around 3000 BC, nothing much is known of local events until the Hittites began to record them (few sources of information have been found from Ishuwa itself), and the state may have been little more than a confederation of tribes which united under a central figure in times of war. Unfortunately, even the names of most of its leaders are unknown. Today most of the former state has vanished beneath various dam projects in Turkey.

c.3000 BC

The first urban centres appear in the region.

c.1630s BC

The Hittite king, Hattusili I, marches across the Euphrates and destroys cities in Ishuwa. Archaeologists have discovered destruction layers which are comparable with this date.

c.1470 BC

With the Hittites at a low-point in terms of power and influence, neighbouring Kizzuwatna is conquered by Mitanni. With Ishuwa also independent of Hittite control (and a vassal of Mitanni), the Hittites are contained in central Anatolia except for the south-eastern Taurus passes into Syria.

Upper Euphrates
Much of the Upper Euphrates which used to form Ishuwa's territory is now under water

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. Whichever side is responsible for the outbreak of hostilities, the Ishuwans respond by becoming more hostile to the Hittites in subsequent years as Mitanni to the south seeks a strong alliance with Ishuwa against their common enemy.

c.1375 BC

The Kaskans join up with Hayasa-Azzi and Ishuwa, as well as other Hittite enemies, and burn down the Hittite fort of Masat, as well as the capital, Hattusa. It is possible that Ishuwa receives support, or at least encouragement, from Tushratta of Mitanni to attack the Hittites.

c.1350 BC

The Hittite king, Suppiluliuma I, crosses the border with his troops, and claims to make Ishuwa a subject state. The state continues to be ruled by kings who are Hittite vassals.


Dates unknown, name on clay seal, possibly from this period.

c.1200s BC


Vassal king of the Hittites.

c.1200 BC

Following the fall of the Hittite empire and the period of disruption which follows, a neo-Hittite state called Kummuhu emerges in the region centred on the city of Melid, while the kingdom of Urartu eventually emerges to the immediate east. By the sixth century the land is occupied by the newly-arrived Armenians.