Yamhad kingdom at its greatest boundaries
|King, Great King |
|-||c. 1810 – c. 1780 BC||Sumu-Epuh|
|-||c. 1780 – c. 1764 BC||Yarim-Lim I|
|-||mid-16th century – c. 1525 BC||Ilim-Ilimma I|
|Historical era||Bronze Age|
|-||Established||c. 1810 BC|
|-||Disestablished||c. 1525 BC|
|-||1750 BC est.||43,000 km² (16,602 sq mi)|
|Today part of|| Syria
Yamhad (also written Yamkhad or Jamhad) was an ancient Levantine kingdom centered at Ḥalab (or Ḥalba), modern day Aleppo, Syria. The people were predominately Amorites with a substantial Hurrian population who settled in the kingdom, adding the influence of their culture.
An important religious and trade center, Yamhad was powerful during the early Bronze Age. Its biggest rivals were Assyria to the East and Qatna to the south. Yamhad dominated northern, northwestern and eastern Syria and had influence over small kingdoms in Mesopotamia at the borders of Elam. It was eventually destroyed by the Hittites, then annexed by Mitanni in the 16th century BC.
Little of Halab has been excavated by archaeologists, since Halab was never abandoned during its long history and the modern city is situated above the ancient site. Therefore, most of the knowledge about Yamhad comes from tablets discovered at Alalakh and Mari.
The name Yamhad was likely an Amorite tribal name and is used synonymously with Halab. Halab has been a religious center in northern Syria since the times of Ebla, when it was mentioned as Ha-lam. Halab fame as a Holy City, contributed to its later prominence, the main temple of the storm god Hadad was located on the citadel hill in the center of the city, and the city was known as the "City of Hadad". Both Ebla and Halab came under the domination of Akkadians during the reign of Naram-Sin, the power vacuum in the region caused by the fall of Ebla paved the way for Halab later rise.
The names Halab as well as that of Yamhad appeared for the first time during the Old Babylonian period. The first Yamhadite king Sumu-Epuh already lord of Alalakh, Tuba and Arpad was attested in a seal from Mari that mentions him as the ruler of the land of Yamhad.
Sumu-Epuh consolidated the kingdom. He formed an alliance with other Syrian states, including Tuttul and supported the Yaminite tribes against Yahdun-Lim of Mari who campaigned in the north threatening Yamhad. Yahdun-Lim defeated his enemies, but was soon killed by his son Sumu-Yamam.
Rivalry with Assyria and Expansion
The rise of Shamshi-Adad I of Assyria proved more dangerous to Yamhad than Mari, the Assyrian king was an ambitious conqueror with the aim to rule Mesopotamia and the Levant calling himself king of the World. Shamshi-Adad surrounded Yamhad by alliances with Charchemish and Urshu to the north and by conquering Mari to the east forcing Zimri-Lim the heir of Mari to flee. Sumu-Epuh welcomed Zimri-Lim and later gave him the city of Alalakh.
The most dangerous alliance was with Qatna, its king Ishi-Adad became Assyria agent at Yamhad borders, he married his daughter to Yasmah-Adad son of Shamshshi-Adad who was installed by his father as king of Mari. Sumu-Epuh was apparently killed during his fight with Shamshi-Adad and was succeeded by his son Yarim-Lim I who cemented his father kingdom turning it into the most powerful kingdom in Syria and northern Mesopotamia.
Yarim-Lim surrounded Shamshi-Adad by alliances with Hammurabi of Babylon and Ibal-pi-el II of Eshnunna. In 1777 B.C he advanced to the east conquering Tuttul and installing Zimri-Lim as governor of the city. The death of the Assyrian king came a year later, Yarim-Lim then sent his army with Zimri-Lim to restore his ancestors throne as a vassal to Yamhad, later Yarim-Lim married his daughter Shibtu to Zimri-Lim several months after his enthronement.
Yarim-Lim spent the next years of his reign subduing other Syrian city-states through alliances or force. Ebla and Ugarit were allied to Yamhad, while Qatna was forced into peace, as it has lost its ally the late Shamshi-Adad I and was left alone in the face of Yamhad. A sample of Yarim-Lim policy of diplomacy and war can be read in a tablet discovered at Mari sent to the kings of the cities of Dēr and Diniktum which included a declaration of war against those two cities and mentions the stationing of 500 Aleppan warships for twelve years in Diniktum. Yarim-Lim accomplishments elevated Yamhad into the status of Great Kingdom, the Aleppan king title became the Great King. A tablet from the archives of Mari mentions the extensive authority that Yamhad had :
|“||There is no king who is mighty by himself. Ten or fifteen kings follow Hammurabi the ruler of Babylon, a like number of Rim-Sin of Larsa, a like number of Ibal-pi-el of Eshnunna, a like number of Amud-pi-el of Qatanum, but twenty follow Yarim-Lim of Yamhad.||”|
Yarim-Lim I was succeeded by his son Hammurabi I who had a peaceful reign, Halab remained the strongest Syrian kingdom for the next 150 years. Hammurabi was able to force Charchemish into Aleppan domination and sent troops to aid Hammurabi of Babylon against Larsa and Elam. The alliance ended after the Babylonian king sacked Mari and destroyed it, Babylon didn't attack Halab and relations between the two kingdoms remained peaceful during the later years. Abba-El I son of Hammurabi I continued his father policy, during his reign a rebellion by Zitraddu governor of Irridu against Abbal-El brother Yarim-Lim was quashed and the city destroyed, Abba-El compensated his brother by giving him the throne of Alalakh.
Decline and End
Yarim-Lim III imposed Yamhad hegemony over Qatna, but the fortunes of Yamhad started to faint with the Hittites kingdom rising in the north. The weakening was obvious as Alalakh had became virtually independent under Ammitakum who declared himself king but not independent. In spite of this regression, the king of Halab remained the mightiest king of the Syrian states as he was referred to as Great King by the Hittites hence he was the diplomatic equal of the Hittite king.
Yamhad was able to withstand the Hittite king Hattusili I aggressions through alliances with the Hurrians. Hattusili chose not to attack Halab directly and began with conquering Yamhad vassals and Allies, starting with Alalakh in the second year of his Syrian campaigns c. 1650 BC (Middle chronology) or slightly later. He then turned to attack the Hurrians in Urshu northeast of Halab and won in despite of Halab and Charchemish military support. After defeating Yamhad in a direct battle, Hattusili sacked Khashshum and several other Hurrian cities.
After many campaigns Hattusili I finally attacked Halab during the reign of Hammurabi III, the attack ended in a defeat, the wounding of the Hittite king and his later death in c. 1620 BC. Hattusili Campaigns considerably weakened Halab causing it to lose its status and the ruler of Yamhad ceased to be a Great King.
Hattusili was succeeded by his grandchild Mursili I who conquered Halab in c. 1600 BC and destroyed Yamhad as a major power in the Levant. Mursili then left for Babylon and sacked it but was assassinated upon his return to his capital Hattusa, his empire disintegrated which opened the way for the dynasty to continue. Halab was rebuilt and the kingdom expanded to include Alalakh again. It was ruled by kings of which nothing but names is known, the first is Sarra-El who might have been the son of Yarim-Lim III. The last king of the dynasty to rule as king of Halab was Ilim-Ilimma I, he was killed during a rebellion orchestrated by king Parshatatar of Mitanni, his son Idrimi fled and was later able to take Alalakh and continued the line of kings there, while Halab lost its independence and stayed under the Mittanian rule.
Halab was taken by the Hittites during the reign of Suppiluliuma I in the 14th century BC who installed his son Telipinus as king of Halab but the use of the name Yamhad ended.
Kings of Yamhad
|King||Reigned||Title||Relation to Previous King|
|Sumu-Epuh||c. 1810 BC – c. 1780 BC||King|
|Yarim-Lim I||c. 1780 BC – c. 1764 BC||Great King||Son|
|Hammurabi I||c. 1764 BC – c. 1750 BC||Great King||Son|
|Abba-El I||c. 1750 BC – c. 1720 BC||Great King||Son|
|Yarim-Lim II||c. 1720 BC – c. 1700 BC||Great King||Son|
|Niqmi-Epuh||c. 1700 BC – c. 1675 BC||Great King||Son|
|Irkabtum||c. 1675 BC – Mid-17th century BC||Great King||Son|
|Hammurabi II||Mid-17th century BC||Great King||Unknown|
|Yarim-Lim III||Mid-17th century BC – c. 1625 BC||Great King||Son or Brother of Irkabtum|
|Hammurabi III||c. 1625 BC – c. 1600 BC||King||Son or Cousin|
|Sarra-El||Early 16th century BC||King||Probable Brother|
|Abba-El II||Mid-16th century BC||King||Son|
|Ilim-Ilimma I||Mid-16th century BC - c. 1525 BC||King||Probable Son|
Halab location has always been a factor in its prominence as an economic center, Yamhad economy was based on trade with Mesopotamia and Anatolia, the city of Emar, was Halab port on the Euphrates, Alalakh with its proximity to the Sea was the port on the Mediterranean.
The actions of Yarim-Lim I proved vital for the kingdom economy, for he has secured the road between Babylon and Yamhad with his son in low the king of Mari protecting the caravans crossing from the Persian Gulf to Anatolia.
Emar attracted many Babylonian merchants who lived in the city and had a lasting impact on the local scribal conventions since as late as the 14th-century BC texts of the so-called (Syrian type) from Emar preserve distinct Babylonian traits.
The invading of Mari by Babylon had a negative impact on trade between the two kingdoms as the road became dangerous because of the loss of Mari protection to the caravans crossing that road, which led Samsu-iluna to build strongholds up the river valley and to set colonies of mercenaries known as the Kassite Houses to protect the middle Euphrates area. Those colonies later evolved into semi independent polities that waged war against Babylonian king Ammi-Saduqa which caused the trade to stop temporarily.
The markets of yamhad became a source of mountain (probably Anatolian) and Cypriot copper, and economy remained prosperous until the Hittites Invasion in the beginning of the 16th century BC. Halab regained its economic status after the Hittites withdrawal and remained a Commercial center even after the end of Yamhad thanks to its location.
People and culture
The people of Yamhad were Amorites, spoke the Amorite language and belonged to the Amorite culture with Mesopotamian influence. Since Halab wasn't excavated, the architecture of the city can be imagined by looking into other cities in the area of that age, especially Alalakh which is the best archaeological representation of Yamhad, and was subordinate to Halab with a king belonging to the Aleppan royal family. The Amorites in general built large palaces that bear architectural similarities to old Baylonian palaces that were adorned with grand central courtyards, throne rooms, tiled floors, drainage systems and plastered walls which suggest the employment of specialized labor, evidences exist for the presence of Minoan Aegean Frisco artists who painted elaborate scenes on the walls of palaces in Alalakh.
Yamhad had a distinctive Syrian Iconography, Egyptian influence was minimum and limited to the Ankh, the seals of kings gives prominence to Syrian gods, the use of the Ankh cannot be interpreted as an emulation of Egyptian rituals, it was merely a substitute to the cup held by the god.
Yamhad had a special pattern of trim called the Yamhad style and was favored in Mari during the reign of king Zimri-Lim whose queen was Shibtu the daughter of Yarim-Lim I.
After the fall of the Akkadian Empire, Hurrians began to settle in the city and its surroundings, blending with the Amorites and spreading their culture. by c. 1725 BC they constitute a sizable portion of the population. the presence of large Hurrian population brought Hurrian culture and religion to Halab, evidenced by the worship of Hurrian gods Teshub, his wife Hebat and certain religious festivals that bear Hurrian names.
the people of Yamhad practiced the Amorite Religion, with a Mesopotamian influence, they worshiped Semitic deities such as Astarte and Dagon, but Hadad was the most important deity and the head of the Pantheon, he was known as the storm god of Halab since the middle of the 3rd millennium BC.
The main temple of Hadad was located on the citadel hill in the center of the city, it remained in use from the 24th century BC  to at least the 9th century BC, as evidenced by reliefs discovered at it during excavations by German archaeologist Kay Kohlmeyer.
Beside the general gods, kings had a Head God, that is a God that has an intimate connection for the worshiper. king Yarim-Lim I describe Hadad as the god of the state but the Mesopotamian God Sin as the god of his head so does his son Hammurabi I.
As the hurrian presence grow, so did the hurrian religious effects, hurrian deities found a place in the Aleppan pantheon, king Abba-El I thanked hurrian Goddess hebat for his victory in one of Alalakh Tablets, Hebat was Teshub wife but in Abba-El I tablet she is associated with Hadad, later in history the hurrians started to identify Teshub with Hadad who became Teshub the storm god of Halab.
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