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Near East Kingdoms

Ancient Syria


Tuttul / State of Amnanum (Syria)

Tuttul was a religious centre which was strategically located at modern Tell Bi'a (or Tell Bian, near Raqqa), where it could control the confluence of the River Balikh with the Euphrates in ancient Syria. Today the site is a mound of some thirty-five to forty hectares in size, but when the city first appeared in the second half of the third millennium BC it was one of a wave of such new cities, founded by the Amorites.

This Semitic-speaking people emerged to become a dominant if not unified force following the final collapse of Sumerian civilisation circa 2004 BC and the resulting short dark age. They were initially concentrated largely to the west of the Euphrates, but Tuttul's location on the river probably made it vulnerable from an early date. Early Syrian states such as this tended to rely on rain-fed agriculture, so yields were lower than in Sumer and larger areas had to be cultivated (although with less labour). As a result, northern cities tended to be smaller with more people living in outlying settlements. Although they were still city states at heart, they had more of an appearance of being small kingdoms due to the extended nature of their territory.

Amorite power during the second millennium BC period usually meant that a king was associated both with a city, such as Tuttul, and this extended outlying settlement region or 'land' which bore a tribal name such as Amnanum. So in this case the city state would be Tuttul, while the larger territorial state would be the land of Amnanum. Tuttul was generally independent around this time, or was at least governed locally while being subject to external domination.

Like other urban centres of the period, Tuttul was provided with a fortified enclosure wall and a gate with a tower or bastion. With the city's rise came a certain sense of religious unity, with rulers of various cities being attested as taking oaths in the temple of Dagan at Tuttul. As a result of the temple's presence here, and its apparently neutral status, the city may have had the same regional prestige as Nippur in Sumer, perhaps in relation to the city of Emar. Because of that, it may not necessarily have had many kings of its own, and what little information there is mentions just one king and two high priests who may have been city chiefs.

The ruins of Alalakh in Syria

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information 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 The Ancient Name of Tell Rimah, D Charpin & J-M Durand (Journal of Assyriology and Eastern Archaeology 81 / 2, 1987, p 125-146), from Mari and Karana: Two Old Babylonian Cities, Stephanie Dalley (London & New York, 1984), from The Cambridge Ancient History, Iorwerth Eiddon Stephen Edwards (Cambridge University Press, 1973), and from Letters to the King of Mari: A New Translation, with Historical Introduction, Notes, and Commentary, Wolfgang Heimpel (Eisenbrauns, 2003).)

c.2500 BC

Datable to this point in time are six above-ground mud brick tombs within the city walls. Each has a uniform three-room plan which is reminiscent of the elite tombs of the Royal Cemetery of Ur, and all of them are clearly for high status burials, perhaps for local rulers and their families.

Map of Anatolia and Environs 2000 BC
At the start of the second millennium BC, a series of small city states in Anatolia which had existed for perhaps a millennium now began to emerge from obscurity (click or tap on map to view full sized)

Excavated above these graves, although apparently not associated with them, is a burned palace with its contents still in situ. Pottery and dating place the palace to the twenty-fourth century BC, making it a contemporary of Ebla Palace G.

c.1809 - 1776 BC

The city is dominated by Shamshi-Adad and his kingdom of Upper Mesopotamia for over thirty years of the ruler's lifetime. Tuttul appears to be at the western edge of the empire, meaning that the Euphrates forms part of its border.

fl c.1800 BC


King of the city of Tuttul and the land of Amnanum.

c.1800? BC

Yahdun-Lim of Mari sends troops to join those of Yamkhad to fight against several hostile northern Mesopotamia tribal states, including Abattum, Samanum, and Tuttul, defeating their armies and attacking their cities.

He claims to destroy their ramparts and turn their cities into ruin mounds. Given the fact that Shamshi-Adad's kingdom of Upper Mesopotamia soon conquers Mari and replaces its ruler, this would seem to be an attempt to fight back against him which ultimately fails.

Towards the end of his life Shamshi-Adad himself comes under attack, by Yamkhad and Eshnunna, after which he dies, although the exact circumstances are unknown. His empire breaks up and Tuttul is restored to independence.

Shamshi-Adad's soldiers
Shamshi-Adad's soldiers, who had proven to be so successful in forming a short-lived but powerful regional empire to the east of the Euphrates, are shown in this Assyrian relief

c.1770s BC

Bahdi-Lim, an official of the court of Zimri-Lim of Mari in the city of Tuttul, records the arrival of Dagan's entry into the city, accompanied by two persons, both of whom may be Yaminite chiefs in northern Mesopotamia.

The city is at this time under the protection of Mari (meaning that Mari has subjugated the city following the collapse of the kingdom of Upper Mesopotamia). However, Bahdi-Lim's predecessor there, Lanasum, has already pointed out that the populace are uneasy about having Mari's representative there (ie. him) to the extent that it affects the running of the city's religious life. It seems that relations are still closer with Emar than with Mari.

fl c.1770s BC


High priest of Dagan and possible city leader.

fl c.1770s BC


High priest of Dagan and possible city leader.

Two religious leaders are mentioned for this period, one succeeding the other, and they may be the city leaders as well as its high priests. Yakbar-Lim is described as having 'acceded to the throne' - whether this is simply his enthronement as high priest is not known.

The accession of Yakbar-Lim seems to be a concession to the dynasty of Mari, called the 'dynasty of Lim'. If this is true then it corresponds with an improvement in relations between the two cities (mostly because Mari would now seem to be fully dominant).

Sumerian clay tablet
This tablet from eighteenth century BC Mari contains records of food supplies, with the symbol of a human head with a triangular object in front of it being the verb 'to eat' in later Sumerian

c.1730/15 BC

The invading Kassite army under the leadership of Gandash is crushed by Iluma-Ilum of the Sealand dynasty of Babylon. However, Gandash does successfully conquer Mari, and the Kassite kings reside there. Tuttul's fate during this period is unknown, but the lack of records concerning rulers or high priests may point either to its complete subjugation within the Kassite state or a degree of decline in standards of civilisation.

c.1595 BC

In the political collapse which follows the Hittite destruction of Alep and their sacking of Babylon, the Kassites are able to move in on Babylon. To the north and west of this and Mari, Tuttul and many other regional city states decline. By the end of the century Tuttul is part of the Mitanni state which reunifies much of the region.

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