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Near East Kingdoms

Ancient Syria


Gan Dunias

FeatureAncient Syria was much larger than its modern counterpart, being bordered by the Taurus Mountains in the north, the Upper Euphrates to the north-east, and the Syrian Desert to the south-east. The name is Greek, which they used to describe various Assyrian peoples. Amorites began to arrive in the territory to the west of the Euphrates, within modern Syria, from around 2500 BC. The Akkadians called them Amurru, and groups of them drifted down into Sumer where they eventually replaced the Sumerians as rulers in Mesopotamia. By the first part of the second millennium BC, most of the Syrian peoples spoke Semitic dialects, but in the northern areas of Syria there is also evidence of non-Semitic Hurrian, a fairly obscure population group.

In first millennium BC Syria, following its recovery, two-or-so centuries after the collapse of the international system and the Hittite empire which dominated much of Syria, there existed a great many cities and large towns of all sizes. Not all of them are well recorded, with some being little more than footnotes on lists of conquests. Today there exist a great many tells, or mounds, which contain the archaeological remnants of those cities and towns. Many of these locations were never home to any kingship, while others may have flourished under such rule for only a brief period of time, and with even briefer mentions of the names and details of their rulers.

Gan Dunias (or Kar-Dunias) is just such a city. Apparently a short-lived state it flourished in the ninth century BC, being conquered by the Assyrians in the middle of the century. At present the name cannot be matched up to a specific tell, although there is the possibility that it has closer links to Babylonia than it does to Syria. It was probably either Akkadian or Aramaean, although the confused ethnic make-up of Babylonia at this time could add Kassite, Chaldaean, or Arab influences into this mix. If it is not to be equated with Babylonia itself then it may be of many still-unlocated cities in modern Syria.

The ruins of Palmyra in Syria

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from the Columbia Encyclopaedia, Sixth Edition (2010), from the Britannica Concise Encyclopaedia (2010), from Historical Atlas of the Ancient World, 4,000,000 to 500 BC, John Haywood (Barnes & Noble, 2000), from The Ancient Near East, c.3000-330 BC, Amélie Kuhrt (Routledge, 2000, Volumes I & II), from The Penguin Atlas of Ancient History, Colon McEvedy (Penguin Books, 1967, revised 2002), from Cultural Atlas of Mesopotamia and the Ancient Near East, Michael Road (Facts on File, 2000), from Mesopotamia: Assyrians, Sumerians, Babylonians (Dictionaries of Civilizations 1), Enrico Ascalone (University of California Press, 2007), from The Cambridge Ancient History, Iorwerth Eiddon Stephen Edwards (Cambridge University Press, 1973), from A History of the Ancient Near East c.3000-323 BC, Marc van der Mieroop (Blackwell Publishing, 2004, 2007), from Ancient Assyria, C H W Johns (Cambridge University Press, 2012), and from Prophets and Prophecy in the Ancient Near East, Martti Nissinen, Robert Kriech Ritner, & Choon Leong Seow (Society of Biblical Literature, 2003).)

870 - 857 BC

The Assyrians invade and subjugate Syrian states, including Bit Adini, Bit Agusi, Carchemish, and Pattin, by which time many small and semi-obscure cities have arisen, such as Gamgum and Gan Dunias, along with the kingdom of Kedar in eastern Syria. However, the Battle of Qarqar in 853 BC weakens Assyrian control in areas of Syria for a century and more, and it could be this weakening of control that allows small cities such as Gamgum and Gan Dunias to form their own kingships.

 Shamshi-Adad V stela
Shown here is a stela which has been dated to the reign of Shamshi-Adad V of Assyria (823-811 BC), discovered at the site of Kalhu in the mid-nineteenth century AD

mid-800s BC


Son of Nadinu.

The presence in Gan Dunias of a ruler with such a name - Marduk-suma-iddin - points to a good degree of Babylonian influence. Babylonia is replete with 'Marduk-' royal names during this period, so perhaps this helps to narrow down the location of Gan Dunias within Syria, more towards the east or south than the north. In fact, as Kar-Dunias, the city can even be equated with Babylon itself. The standard kingship lists fails to show him though, so perhaps he is a rival. It would also appear that he is challenged for the throne during his reign, by another Marduk - Marduk-bila-Yu'sate.


Fought Marduk-suma-iddin for the throne.


Otherwise unknown.

853 BC

FeatureAssyria fights the Battle of Qarqar against twelve Syrian and Canaanite kings, including those of Ammon, Arvad, Byblos, Damas, Edom, Egypt, Hamath, Kedar, and Samaria. The battle consists of the largest known number of combatants to date, and is the first historical mention of the Arabs from the southern deserts.

Map of Canaan and Syria c.850 BC
When the Neo-Assyrian empire threatened the various city states of southern Syria and Canaan around 853 BC, they united to protect their joint territory - successfully it seems, at least for a time (click or tap on map to view full sized)

Despite claims to the contrary, the Assyrians are defeated, since they do not press on to their nearest target, Hamath, and do not resume their attacks on Hamath and Damas for about six years. However, in the same year, Babylonia and the rich area of southern Mesopotamia is taken, as is Gan Dunias.