History Files
 

Near East Kingdoms

Ancient Syria

 

Yadiya

The ancient city of Yadiya was located in the far north of Syria, near the modern town of Zincirli Hyk (in the Nur Mountains of southern Turkey, also referred to as the Amanos Mountains). Essentially, the 'pointed finger' of north-eastern Cyprus points towards it, set back from the Anatolian coastline (see the map below for precise positioning). The city was founded either as a Hittite settlement or was refounded by the Hittites after being captured from their early enemy, the city of Yamkhad. Capture in battle of ancient cities often involved a process of refounding, either simply by claiming to be the original founders or by rebuilding and probably expanding it.

The forty hectare site of the former city was excavated between 1888-1902, uncovering a teardrop-shaped citadel surrounded by a town which was not to be properly examined until 2006. A long-term excavation project was put in place at that point. Thanks to its location on the border of Anatolian and Syrian spheres of influence, the city combined native western Semitic traditions with those of the Indo-European Luwians who arrived in central and southern Anatolia around midway through the latter half of the third millennium BC.

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from Ancient Israel and Its Neighbours: Interaction and Counteraction. Collected Essays Vol 1, Nadav Na'aman, from The Cambridge Ancient History, edited by I E S Edwards, from Hittite Diplomatic Texts, Gary Beckman (Second Ed, Scholars Press, Atlanta, 1999), from The Kingdom of the Hittites, Trevor Bryce (1998), from The Hittites, O R Gurney (1991), from The Hittites, J G Macqueen (1996), and from External Links: A Brief History of Hattusha/Boğazky (Archive.today), and Anatolian Conference abstracts, Emory University, and Expedition to Zincirli (University of Chicago).)

c.1725 - 1200 BC

The city is founded as a Hittite colony, or possibly refounded after being captured from Yamkhad during their long war. This is towards the beginning of the Old Empire period when the Hittites are only just beginning to push outwards. In fact, Tadiya may be one of their very first colonies to be formed under the rule of Tudhaliya I, king of Kussara in the Hittite heartland. As such, it is maintained until the collapse of the (new) empire.

Map of Anatolia and Environs 1550 BC
Small cities and minor states that had been founded by the Hittites littered the meeting point between Anatolia and Syria (in the ancient period there was significant overlap between the two), with Yadiya being located within this band of daughter cities (click or tap on map to view full sized)

c.1200 BC

Already decaying from late in the thirteenth century BC, as Assyria has risen and instability has gripped the Mediterranean coast, the Hittite empire is now looted and destroyed by various surrounding peoples, including the Kaskans and the Sea Peoples (and perhaps even selectively by its own populace). Following a short dark age the city of Yadiya emerges as a post-Hittite principality, probably controlled from Carchemish.

Sam'al / Yadi / Zincirli / Bit-Gabbari

The international system came under increasingly intense strain during the thirteenth century BC. Waves of peasants and the poor were leaving the cities and abandoning their crops. Around the end of the century the entire region was also hit by drought and the loss of surviving crops. Food supplies dwindled and the number of raids by habiru and other groups of peoples who had banded together greatly increased until, by about 1200 BC, this flood had turned into a tidal wave that destroyed the Hittite empire and many other regional states. Some important Hittite cities and states, such as Tarhuntassa and Ugarit, disappeared but others, such as Carchemish, survived, and the latter controlled many more nearby minor cities such as this one at Yadiya (Yadi).

A brief flourish by the early Assyrians faded in the twelfth to tenth centuries BC while much of the Near East experienced a short dark age following the collapse of systems around 1200 BC. During this period the region came under pressure from a new people, the Aramaeans, who gradually moved into ancient Syria and took over many cities. The historical record is very sketchy until the ninth century, so little is known of how they took over formerly Hittite Yadiya, removing it from the control of Carchemish and forming a minor independent state of their own.

Most inscriptions from the refounded city were written in Phoenician, Aramaic, and the local dialect, Sam'alian. The city's Luwian (Hittite) name, Yadiya, was mangled somewhat by the new arrivals into Y'dy or Yadi, while the new state they founded was called Yadiya-Sam'al or, eventually, simply Sam'al. The modern, Turkish, name for the nearby town is Zincirli Hyk, which is sometimes also applied to the archaeological site. Aramaeans were subdivided into groups which were identified as belonging to the 'house of...'. In Akkadian this was 'Bit' plus the name of a person who was considered to be a tribal ancestor. Some of their states also bore this designation, with Bit-Gabbari being the 'house of Gabbar', the city's first Aramaean ruler. As his successors are thought to be of different houses this designation may have been brief, although it could have lingered in popular consciousness as favoured names often do.

The ruins of Palmyra in Syria

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from Ancient Israel and Its Neighbours: Interaction and Counteraction. Collected Essays Vol 1, Nadav Na'aman, from The Cambridge Ancient History, edited by I E S Edwards, from Hittite Diplomatic Texts, Gary Beckman (Second Ed, Scholars Press, Atlanta, 1999), from The Kingdom of the Hittites, Trevor Bryce (1998), from The Hittites, O R Gurney (1991), from The Hittites, J G Macqueen (1996), and from External Links: A Brief History of Hattusha/Boğazky (Archive.today), and Anatolian Conference abstracts, Emory University, and Expedition to Zincirli (University of Chicago).)

c.1200 - 900 BC

With political chaos engulfing Anatolia, Syria, and the Levant coast, and Assyria weakening, there is nothing to stop Aramaean tribes from migrating southwards and eastwards. Over the course of the twelfth to ninth centuries they mount attacks which destroy cities such as Qatna and Qattara, and take control in many established cities, including Yadiya.

c.940 BC

An Aramaean kingdom is founded at Sam'al, with Que bordering it to the west, Gurgum to the north and east, and Pattin to the south. The later inscription of Kilammuwa records that the first king, Gabbar, 'did nothing' (possibly in reference to territorial expansion), and Bamah is just the same - propaganda to label the earlier rulers as being ineffective before Kilammuwa himself establishes his own dynasty.

The modern site and village of Zincirli in Turkey
The modern archaeological site at Zincirli was found to contain a heavily-fortified teardrop-shaped citadel which had been ritually buried along with five large stone lion statues, presumably when the city lost its independence and then its importance

fl c.875 BC

Gabbar

First Aramaean king of Yadiya-Sam'al (Bit-Gabbari).

Bamah

Probably of a different house to Gabbar.

fl c.850s BC

Khayan / Khaianu / Hayya

Probably of a different house to Bamah.

c.857? BC

Shalmaneser III of Assyria exacts tribute from Hayya. Assyrian inscriptions also attest his reign in 858, 857, and 853, the period in which a union of kingdoms in southern Syria defies and seemingly even defeats the Assyrians in their struggle to retain their independence (see map, below).

Sheil / Saul

Son. Dethroned by Kilammuwa.

c.840 - 830/25 BC

Kilammuwa / Kilamuwa

Brother. Won the throne in a family struggle.

c.840 BC

Despite gaining the throne through internal struggle and founding his own dynasty that would now rule the city  for the remainder of its independent existence, Kilammuwa still acknowledges his subservience to the Assyrian king, and is pictured looking exactly the same as his more powerful master. However, by paying tribute he is guaranteed Assyrian protection against any enemies.

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)

Qural / Qaral

Son? Vassal of Assyria.

mid-700s BC

Panammu I / Panamuwa

Son. Vassal of Assyria.

? - c.740? BC

Bar-Sur

Vassal of Assyria. Killed.

c.740? - 737 BC

As recorded on a fragmentary text written by Kilammuwa's grandson, the region faces a rebellion of some magnitude. King Bar-Sur, plus the nearby city of Hamath and many others, are attacked by Azriyau of Yaudi, possibly with support from Urartu. Yaudi or Yadi is supposedly the very heartland of Sam'al, with the Aramaic translation of the name Sam'al being given as 'Ya'udi' (in opposition to this is a suggestion that Yaudi could be Judah, and Azriyau is an exile from the south). Bar-Sur is killed, as are many of his family, although his son escapes while Azriyau seizes the city and rules it as his own. Azriyau's coalition is defeated in battle by Tiglath-Pileser III. Some scholars disbelieve this entire episode.

? - 737 BC

Azriyau of Yaudi

Usurper and conqueror. Killed by Assyria.

late 700s BC

Panammu II / Panamuwa

Son of Bar-Sur. Restored by Assyria.

late 700s BC

Bar-Rekkab / Bar-Rakib / Barrakub

Son. Vassal of Assyria. Last king.

c.680 - 609 BC

Esarhaddon ends local rule in Yadiya-Sam'al, drawing the state under direct Assyrian control. He has been drawn into campaigns against the Cimmerians and then in Hilakku (Khilakku), followed by further action being taken against the Anatolian prince of Kundu (Cyinda) and Sissu (Sisium, modern Sis). In fact the regions to the north of the Cilician plain are repeatedly causing trouble for Assyria so it would seem that Esarhaddon feels that having a compliant governor in Sam'al is more convenient than a client king.

Cimmerian warriors
This image shows Cimmerians battling early Greeks - prior to the advent of accepted 'Classical' Greece - with the mounted Cimmerians warriors apparently being accompanied by their dogs (republican Romans did much the same thing)

The city remains an Assyrian possession until the empire collapses in 612 BC with the fall of Kalakh and Ninevah to Media and Babylonia, supported by Egypt and groups such as the Scythians, who divide the spoils between them. The commander of the Assyrian western army, based in the northern Syrian city of Harran, claims the crown and names himself after the founder of the empire. His rump state falls in 609 BC with the result that Babylonia claims the entire region before that too falls and a much greater empire - Persia - rules the entire region.