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The land of Subartu (Akkadian Šubartum/Subartum/ina Šú-ba-ri, Assyrian mât Šubarri) or Subar (Sumerian Su-bir4/Subar/Šubur) is mentioned in Bronze Age literature. The name also appears as Subari in the Amarna letters, and, in the form Šbr, in Ugarit, and came to be known as the Hurrians or Subarians and their country was known as Subir, Subartu or Shubar.[1]

Subartu was apparently a polity in Northern Mesopotamia, at the upper Tigris. Most scholars accept Subartu as an early name for Assyria proper on the Tigris, although there are various other theories placing it sometimes a little farther to the east, north or west of there. Its precise location has not been identified. From the point of view of the Akkadian Empire, Subartu marked the northern geographical horizon, just as Martu, Elam and Sumer marked "west", "east" and "south", respectively.


The Sumerian mythological epic Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta lists the countries where the "languages are confused" as Subartu, Hamazi, Sumer, Uri-ki (Akkad), and the Martu land (the Amorites). Similarly, the earliest references to the "four quarters" by the kings of Akkad name Subartu as one of these quarters around Akkad, along with Martu, Elam, and Sumer. Subartu in the earliest texts seem to have been farming mountain dwellers, frequently raided for slaves.

Eannatum of Lagash was said to have smitten Subartu or Shubur, and it was listed as a province of the empire of Lugal-Anne-Mundu; in a later era Sargon of Akkad campaigned against Subar, and his grandson Naram-Sin listed Subar along with Armani (Armenians), -which has been identified with Aleppo-,[2] among the lands under his control. Ishbi-Erra of Isin and Hammurabi also claimed victories over Subar.

Three of the 14th century BC Amarna letters, Akkadian cuneiform correspondence found in Egypt, mention Subari as a toponym. All are addressed to Akhenaten; in two (EA 108 and 109), Rib-Hadda, king of Byblos, complains that Abdi-Ashirta, ruler of Amurru, had sold captives to Subari, while another (EA 100), from the city of Irqata, also alludes to having transferred captured goods to Subari.

There is also a mention of "Subartu" in the 8th century BC Poem of Erra (IV, 132), along with other lands that have harassed Babylonia.[3] In Neo-Babylonian times (under Nabopolassar, Nebuchadnezzar II and Nabonidus), Subartu was used as a generic term for Assyria.


Zeki V. Togan explains the word "Subar" as a Turkic name composed of two word stems Sub ('water') and er ('man, people, tribesman'), which means 'water people' or 'river people'.[4] The philologists F. Ağasıoğlu and M. Zakiev propose the same Turkic etymologization,[5] (cf. Old Turk. śub, sub, suv "water"[6][7] and Old Turk. er "man, tribesman, soldier"[8][9]).


Subartu may have been in the general sphere of influence of the Hurrians.[10]

There are various alternate theories associating the ancient Subartu with one or more modern cultures, including Armenian,[11] Turkic,[4][12] Hungarian (Ugric)[13] or Kurdish tribes. Based on C. A. Macartney's ascertaining, the Hungarian philologist and historian Gyula Moravcsik asserts that the Sabartoi of classical sources, which the Byzantine emperor Konstantinos Porphyrogenitos called Hungarians, could be identical with the North-Mesopotamian Subartu (or Subir-ki).[14] Some scholars, such as Harvard Professor Mehrdad Izady, claim to have identified Subartu with the current Kurdish tribe of Zibaris inhabiting the northern ring around Mosul up to Hakkari in Turkey.[15]

A connection with the Sabir people of classical sources, which modern scholars associate with Turkic tribes, was proposed by a number of scholars such as Édouard P. Dhorme,[16] Igor M. Diakonoff,[17] and Zeki V. Togan.[4] Some scholars also tried to identify them with the Turkic Suars.[18] However, the American historian Ignace J. Gelb is not in accordance with these scholars and determines that these connections at present remain unprovable, but phonetically admissible.[16]

Amongst the names of peoples mentioned in the Sanskrit epic of ancient India Mahābhārata, there occurs a name Sauvīra secondary nominal derivative of *Suvīra whch may be Subīra with a v < b correspondence.[1]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b Malati J. Shendge, The Language of the Harappans: From Akkadian to Sanskrit, 1997, p. 47.
  2. ^ Wayne Horowitz, Mesopotamian Cosmic Geography, Eisenbrauns 1998, ISBN 0-931464-99-4
  3. ^ BOTTERO Jean, KRAMER Samuel Noah, Lorsque les dieux faisaient l'homme, Gallimard, Paris, 1989, p.704.
  4. ^ a b c A. Z. Velidi Togan, Umumi Türk tarihine giriş: En eski devirlerden 16. Asra Kadar, Enderun, 1946, pp. 40, 143, 163. quote from pages 143 and 163:
    • "Muhtelif istikamette yayılan bir Türk urugunun da Subar (Suar, Sabir)lar olduğunu yukarıda anlatmıştım. [...]. Milâdın 305 yılında Sabir Türkleri, Kafkasya'nın şimalinden cenubuna geçtiler. Bunlar, eski dünyanın muhtelif taraflarında izleri görülen Subar (Sub + er) ve bu ismin muhtelif telâffuz şekillerine göre adlanan Türk boyunun Hazar'lara karışarak yaşıyan bir kısmıdır;... ."
  5. ^ O. Karatay, In: "Karadeni̇z araştırmaları, Issues 1-3", chapter: "Doğu Avrupa Türk Tarihi", KaraM 2004, pp. 16-19. quote from page 17:
    • "Ağasıoğlu ve Zekiev gibi bilginlere göre, Suvar < Subar kelimesi sub + ar/er (su halkı, ırmak boyu sakinleri) şeklinde çözümlenir."
    1. Firudin Ağasıoğlu Cəlilov, Azär halgy: (sečmä jazylar), Baku 2000, pp. 129-130.
    2. Zakiev Mirfatyh, "Törki-Tatar etnogenezi", Kazan/Moscow 1998, p. 223.
  6. ^ Starostin, Sergei; Dybo, Vladimir; Mudrak, Oleg (2003). "“*sɨb”". Etymological Dictionary of the Altaic Languages. Leiden, Netherlands: Brill Academic Publishers. 
  7. ^ “su” in Nişanyan Dictionary
  8. ^ Starostin, Sergei; Dybo, Vladimir; Mudrak, Oleg (2003). "“*ēr”". Etymological Dictionary of the Altaic Languages. Leiden, Netherlands: Brill Academic Publishers. 
  9. ^ “er” in Nişanyan Dictionary
  10. ^ Finkelstein J.J. (1955), "Subartu and Subarians in Old Babylonian Sources" (Journal of Cuneiform Studies, Vol 9, No.1)
  11. ^ Armenians article, Great Soviet Encyclopedia
  12. ^ Türkoloji dergisi, Volume 8, Ankara Üniversitesi Basimevi, 1979, p. 51. quote:
    • "Bu duruma göre, Kuzey Asya'dan Güney Mezopotamya'ya doğru göç eden ve bir kısmı da göç yollan boyunca yerleşen Türk asıllı kavimleri şöyle sıralayabiliriz: 1. Sabir'ler, Subar'lar, Subir'ler, Sibir'ler ve Sümerler."
  13. ^ Bíró József, A Szabir-Magyarok: A "Sumirok" tanítómesterei, A szerzö Kiadása, Budapest 2002.
  14. ^ Gyula Moravcsik (1970), Byzantium and the Magyars. In: Bollettino del Centro Camuno di Studi Preistorici, Volumes 15-16, Centro camuno di studi preistorici, 1977, p. 37. quote:
    • "Konstantinos Porphyrogenitos called the Hungarians «Sabartoi asphaloi» (Moravcsik, 1970). Macartney (1930) comes nearest to the truth in ascertaining that «Sabartoi» is identical with the North-Mesopotamia Subartu (Subir-ki) and Asphaloi is «only the usual Greek epitheton ornans» (Badinv, 1974, pp. 68-69; pp. 72-73). C Gostony (1975, pp. 58-111) tees in the ward «asphaloi» the Sumerian usbar, a composition of us (blood) and bar (body, skin), meaning: relative, descendant on matrilineal line."
  15. ^ Izady, Mehrdad R (1992). The Kurds: A concise handbook. ISBN 978-0-8448-1727-9. . quote from page 74:
    • "There are considerable number of clans, tribes, and tribal confederations in Kurdistan today, each with its own defined territory. Many of these tribes have been in existence - with the same names - for several thousand years. The modern Zibari tribe, for example, is mentioned as the Saubaru/Sibaru by Sumerian and Akkadian sources. Variations of the tribal names... appear in the Greco-Roman, Aramaic, Middle Persian, and Armenian records."
  16. ^ a b P. Dhorme, Soubartou-Mitani, Revue d’Assyriologie, Volume VIII (Paris 1911), pp. 92 & 98f. Pauly-Wissowa-Kroll, Real-Encyclopädie der classischen Altertumswissenschaft, under Sabiroi and Saspeires. In: Ignace J. Gelb, Hurrians and Subarians, The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, Studies in Ancient Oriental Civilization, 1944 - No.22, p. 30. The University of Chicago Press - Chicago - Illinois. Quote:
    • "P. Dhorme's identification of the Sáspeires, Sápeires, Sábeires, Sábiroi, and Sábēroi (to whom might possibly be added some other similarly named peoples not cited by Dhorme) of classical sources with the Subarians, although phonetically admissible, is at present unprovable. The chief difficulty lies in the fact that it is impossible to localize the peoples of the classical sources in one definite region; at various periods they seem to have occupied widely separated areas of Asia, such as Armenia, Iran, and Turkestan."
  17. ^ Igor Mikhailovich Diakonoff (1971), Вавилон легендарный и Вавилон исторический [Babylon legends and history of Babylon]. In: Bollettino del Centro Camuno di Studi Preistorici, Volumes 15-16, Centro camuno di studi preistorici, 1977, p. 37. quote:
    • "The Subarians expanding to the north, reached Siberia which received its name from the Sabir people (Diakonoff, 1971) like the city in western Hungary;..."
  18. ^ Mehmet Bilgin, Karadeniz'de postmodern pontusculuk, 2008, pp. 215, 222.