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Karchemish: ancient city on the east bank of the river Euphrates, capital of a Neohittite kingdom.


Early History

Iron Age

The vacuum created by the demise of the Hittite Empire was filled by several new nations - the Aramaeans in Syria are a case in point - and states. Some of these new, Iron Age principalities, however, continued the languages and traditions of the Bronze Age Hittites and are therefore called "Neo-Hittites". This label is of course a bit subjective, but it is certainly significant that the neighbors of these states called them Hittite. Initially, there were two main successor states, Tarhuntassa in southern Anatolia and Karchemish in Syria and the land of the Upper Euphrates.

The ruler of Karchemish called himself “great king” and appointed other rulers, which soon became more or less independent. They include Malida (later known as Melitene) and Kummaha (in the Classical period known as Commagene) in the northwestern arc of the Euphrates; Kurkuma along the Upper Pyramos; Halpa (i.e., Aleppo) and Patina (along th Lower Orontes).

Although Karchemish would lose control of its northern and western territories, it remained an important kingdom. Uriah the Hittite, one of the courtiers of king David in Jerusalem, must have been from Karchemish.note

Within the successor states of Karchemish, we find people who spoke Aramaic. Some principalities had a dynasty that also spoke this language. However, it is possible to overstate the importance of the difference. In Sam’al, the rulers first had Hittite names and later Aramaic names, but there appears to have been no great break.

In the end, most of the Neo-Hittite states were taken over by the Assyrians, who had finished their conquest of Syria by the end of the eighth century BCE. Karchemish itself fell in 717.

Later History

This page was created in 2017; last modified on 9 October 2020.

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