History Files


Middle East Kingdoms

Ancient Mesopotamia




MapFeatures for Ancient MesopotamiaAmorites

The fall of Sumerian civilisation in circa 2004 BC left a vacuum that lasted for about a century. Conflict and chaos in Mesopotamia were eventually overcome as the non-Semitic Amorites, who had inherited much of their civilisation and culture from Sumer, began to rise in power and importance.

The Amorites began to arrive in the territory to the west of the Euphrates, modern Syria, from around 2500 BC. The Akkadians called them Amurru, and they probably originated from Arabia (a less popular theory places them in India). Although there was no actual invasion, for a period of five hundred years they drifted down into southern Mesopotamia, integrating into Sumerian civilisation where they lived in enclaves. They served in the armies of Third Dynasty Ur, and provided general labour for both Ur and Akkad before that. As Ur declined, and with it Sumerian civilisation, many Amorites rose to positions of power. When the final end of Ur came at the hands of the Elamites, the Amorites, virtually Sumerians themselves by now, were in a strong position to pick up the pieces.

Rather than maintain the Sumerian system of city states, where farms, cattle and people belonged to the gods or the temples (ie. the king), the Amorites founded kingdoms which had their capitals at many of the old cities, even if some of these new kingdoms were virtually the equivalent of a city state in their size and power. As well as inheriting the surviving Sumerian cities, the Amorites also built a number of large and powerful cities of their own, from Syria down to southern Mesopotamia.

They also created a new society of free subjects able to farm their own lands and conduct business as they saw fit. Their discoveries contributed extensively to the development of civilisation. They founded many of the basics concepts of early literature and mathematics, and they developed multiplication, aiding in mercantile and sales transactions. This flowering of knowledge led to the creation of the Code of Hammurabi, one of the most important documents in Babylon's history. This was a series of 'laws' which emphasised the pursuit of justice, especially in relation to business transactions, and it set the form for later law codes.

c.2004 - 1900 BC

With the collapse of the Sumerian city states, Mesopotamia endures a century or so of chaos. The Amorites, who for several centuries had been living amongst the Sumerians, rise to power in southern and central Mesopotamia, as well as in northern Mesopotamia and Syria.

They found or expand cities and create kingdoms of their own, such as Amrit, Amurru, Andarig, Arvad, Dilbat, Ekallatum, Eshnunna, Hamath, Isin, Karana, Qattara, Razama, Terqa, and Tuttul (and probably Der as well, although records here are sketchy). They also assume control of older city states throughout Mesopotamia, Syria, and Canaan, such as Alalakh, Alep (Aleppo), Borsippa, Carchemish, Ebla, Gebal, Kazallu, Kish, Lagash, Larsa, Mari, Nippur, Qatna, Sippar, Tuba, Ur and Uruk.

Amorite 'Sea Gate'
The 'Sea Gate' of the Amorites is dated to about 2000 BC

c.1940 BC

The early Assyrians begin making raids into southern Mesopotamia.

c.1897 BC

Although records are sketchy and imprecise, the small Amorite kingdom of Babylon seems to emerge approximately a century after the collapse of Sumer.

By now, many cities in northern Mesopotamia and Syria are under Amorite control, with each local ruler being associated with a city, such as Tuttul, and a land or territory which bears a tribal (and state) name, such as Amnanum, and this evidently refers to the ruler's less sedentary Amorite subject peoples. This practise is prevalent down to the smallest tribal 'kingdoms' such as Yaminite Samanum and Abattum in the Middle Euphrates, near Terqa.

c.1600 - 1100 BC

In the dark age of approximately a century and a half which is triggered by a general power vacuum in the region, and during which the Kassites take over Babylonia, the language of the Amorites disappears from southern and central Mesopotamia. However, in Syria and Canaan it becomes dominant (in Bashan, for example), with perhaps Ammon being the southernmost state to have an Amorite influence. In Assyrian inscriptions from about 1100 BC, the term Amurru designates part of Syria and all of Phoenicia and Palestine but no longer refers to any specific kingdom, language, or population.