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c. 1810 BC–c. 1525 BC
Yamhad at its greatest extent c. 1752 BC
Capital Halab
Languages Amorite, Hurrian
Religion Levantine Relegion (Hadad) was the supreme deity.[1]
Government Absolute monarchy
King, Great King.[2][3]
 -  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.[2] 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.[4] The kingdom was ruled by the Yamhad dynasty and the people were predominately Amorites with a substantial Hurrian population who settled in the kingdom, adding the influence of their culture.

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.

An important religious and trading center, Yamhad controlled a wide trading network being a gateway between the eastern Iranian plateau and the Aegean region in the west. The capital Halab was considered a holy city among the other Syrian cities being the center for worshiping Hadad who was regarded as the main deity of northern Syria.

Little of Halab has been excavated by archaeologists as Halab was never abandoned during its long history and the modern city is situated above the ancient site.[5] 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 when referring to the kingdom.[2][6][7] The city of Halab has been a religious center in northern Syria since the times of Ebla, when it was mentioned as a vassal with the name of Ha-lam.[8] Halab fame as a Holy City contributed to its later prominence,[9][10] the main temple of the storm god Hadad was located on top of the citadel hill in the center of the city,[11] and the city was known as the City of Hadad.[9] Ebla which controlled most of northern Syria was destroyed twice at the end of the 3rd millennium,[12] and the power vacuum in the region caused by its fall paved the way for Halab later rise.[13]

The name Halab as well as that of Yamhad appeared for the first time during the Old Babylonian period,[6] when Sumu-Epuh the first Yamhadite king was attested in a seal from Mari as the ruler of the land of Yamhad,[14] which included in addition to Halab the cities of Alalakh and Tuba.[15][16] Sumu-Epuh consolidated the kingdom and faced Yahdun-Lim of Mari who had a dynastic alliance with Yamhad to oppose Assyria,[17] but eventually campaigned in the north threatening the kingdom.[18] The Yamhadite king supported the Yaminite tribes and formed an alliance with other Syrian states including Tuttul, Urshu, Hassum and Carchemish,[19][20] against the Mariote king who defeated his enemies,[21] but was eventually killed by his son Sumu-Yamam.[22]

Rivalry with Assyria and expansion[edit]

Legal case from Niqmi-Epuh, to the king of Alalakh.

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.[23] Shamshi-Adad surrounded Yamhad by alliances with Charchemish, Hassum 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-Limand aimed to use him against Assyria since he was the legitimate heir of Mari.[22]

Shamshi-Adad most dangerous alliance was with Qatna whose king Ishi-Adad became Assyria agent at Yamhad borders and married his daughter to Yasmah-Adad, the son of the Assyrian king who was installed by his father as king of Mari.[24] Sumu-Epuh was apparently killed during his fight with Shamshi-Adad and was succeeded by his son Yarim-Lim I,[25] who cemented his father kingdom and turned it into the most powerful kingdom in Syria and northern Mesopotamia.[1][26][27] Yarim-Lim surrounded Shamshi-Adad by alliances with Hammurabi of Babylon and Ibal-pi-el II of Eshnunna,[28] then in 1777 BC he advanced to the east conquering Tuttul and installing Zimri-Lim as governor of the city.[28] 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,[28] and the relation was cemented through a dynastic marriage between the new Mariote king and Shibtu the daughter of Yarim-Lim.[29]

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,[2][30] 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.[24][31] A sample of Yarim-Lim policy of diplomacy and war can be read in a tablet discovered at Mari that was sent to the king of Dēr in southern Mesopotamia, which included a declaration of war against Der and its neighbor Diniktum,[32] the tablet mentions the stationing of 500 Yamhadite warships for twelve years in Diniktum and the Yamhadite military support of Der for 15 years.[32] Yarim-Lim accomplishments elevated Yamhad into the status of a Great Kingdom and the Yamhadite king title became the Great King.[2][24] 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.[1]

Yarim-Lim I was succeeded by his son Hammurabi I who had a peaceful reign,[28] he was able to force Charchemish into submission,[28] and sent troops to aid Hammurabi of Babylon against Larsa and Elam.[33] The alliance ended after the Babylonian king sacked Mari and destroyed it, however Babylon didn't attack Yamhad and the relations between the two kingdoms remained peaceful during the later years.[24] Abba-El I son of Hammurabi I continued his father policy, during his reign a rebellion by Zitraddu the governor of Irridu against Abbal-El brother Yarim-Lim was quashed and the city was destroyed, Abba-El compensated his brother by giving him the throne of Alalakh.[34]

Decline and end[edit]

God head discovered near Jabbul (c. 1600 BC).[35]

Yarim-Lim III ruled a weakened kingdom, although he imposed Yamhad hegemony over Qatna,[34] the weakening was obvious as Alalakh had become virtually independent under Ammitakum who declared himself king but not independent.[36] In spite of this regression, the king of Yamhad remained the mightiest king of the Syrian states as he was referred to as a Great King by the Hittites hence he was the diplomatic equal of the Hittite king.[3]

The rise of the Hittite kingdom in the north posed the biggest threat to Yamhad,[37] Yarim-Lim III and his successor Hammurabi III were able to withstand the aggressions of the Hittite king Hattusili I through alliances with the Hurrian principalities.[34] 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.[38][39] He then turned to attack the Hurrians in Urshu northeast of Halab and won in spite of Halab and Charchemish military support.[40] The Hittite king then defeated Yamhad in the battle of mount Atalur,[41] and sacked Hassum along with several other Hurrian cities in the sixth year of his Syrian wars.[38] 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.[42][43] Hattusili Campaigns considerably weakened Yamhad causing it to lose its status and the monarch ceased to be a Great King.[44]

Hattusili was succeeded by his grandson Mursili I who conquered Halab in c. 1600 BC and destroyed Yamhad as a major power in the Levant,[45] Mursili then left for Babylon and sacked it but was assassinated upon his return to his capital Hattusa and his empire disintegrated.[46] Halab was rebuilt and the kingdom expanded to include Alalakh again,[47] but the use of the name Yamhad ended.[48] Halab 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.[49] The last king of the dynasty to rule as king of Halab was Ilim-Ilimma I,[50] he was killed during a rebellion orchestrated by king Parshatatar of Mitanni, his son Idrimi fled to Emar then conquered Alalakh in c. 1518 BC and continued the line of kings there,[51][52] while Halab lost its independence and stayed under the Mitannian rule.[53]

Kings of Yamhad[edit]

Dates are estimated and given by the Middle chronology.[3]

Abba-El I seal.
Niqmi-Epuh seal.

People and culture[edit]

Abba-El II seal, the Egyptian Ankh was a replacement for the cup usually held by the deity.

The people of Yamhad were Amorites, spoke the Amorite language and aside from a few Mesopotamian, Egyptian and Aegean influences,[54][55] Yamhad belonged mainly to the middle-Bronze Age Syrian culture in regard to architecture and temples functions, which were mainly cultic while the political authority was invested in the royal palace in contrast to the important political role of the temples in Mesopotamia.[56]

Since Halab the capital wasn't excavated, the architecture of the kingdom is archaeologically best represented by the city of Alalakh,[57] which was subordinate to Halab and ruled by a king belonging to the Yamhadite royal House.[58] The Amorites in general built large palaces that bear architectural similarities to old Baylonian-era palaces that were adorned with grand central courtyards, throne rooms, tiled floors, drainage systems and plastered walls which suggest the employment of specialized labor,[59] evidences exist for the presence of Minoan Aegean frisco artists who painted elaborate scenes on the walls of the palaces in Alalakh.[59]

Yamhad had a distinctive Syrian Iconography, which is clear in the seals of the kings that gave prominence to the Syrian gods, Egyptian influence was minimum and limited to the Ankh, which cannot be interpreted as an emulation of Egyptian rituals but rather a mere substitute to the cup held by the deity.[60] 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.[61]

After the fall of the Akkadian Empire, Hurrians began to settle in the city and its surroundings,[62] and by c. 1725 BC they constituted a sizable portion of the population.[63] the presence of a large Hurrian population brought the Hurrian culture and religion to Halab, which is evidenced by the existence of certain religious festivals that bear Hurrian names.[64]


Halab location has always been a factor in its prominence as an economic center,[65] Yamhad economy was based on trade with Mesopotamia, Cyprus and Anatolia,[66] with the city of Emar as the port on the Euphrates,[24][67] and Alalakh with its proximity to the sea as the port on the Mediterranean.[68]

The actions of Yarim-Lim I and his alliance with Babylon proved vital for the kingdom economy, for they had secured the trade between Mesopotamia and northern Syria with the king of Mari protecting the caravans crossing from the Persian Gulf to Anatolia.[69] 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 a distinct Babylonian traits.[69]

The markets of yamhad became a source of mountains (probably Anatolian) and Cypriot copper,[70] however the invading of Mari by Babylon had a negative impact on the trade between the two kingdoms,[69] as the road became dangerous because of the loss of Mari protection to the caravans,[69] which led the Babylonian king Samsu-iluna to build many strongholds up the river valley and to set colonies of mercenaries known as the Kassite Houses to protect the middle Euphrates area.[69] Those colonies later evolved into semi independent polities that waged a war against the Babylonian king Ammi-Saduqa and caused the trade to stop temporarily.[69]


Hadad Temple, Aleppo Citadel.

The people of Yamhad practiced the Amorite Religion,[71] and mainly worshiped the Northwest Semitic deities with Hadad as the most important god and the head of the Pantheon.[72] The kingdom was known as the land of Hadad who was famous as the storm god of Halab city since the middle of the 3rd millennium BC,[72] his main temple was located on the citadel hill in the center of the city and remained in use from the 24th century BC,[73] to at least the 9th century BC.[74]

The title Beloved of Hadad was one of the king titles,[72][75] Hadad was the kingdom patron god, all treaties were concluded in his name which was also used to threaten other kingdoms,[76] and to declare wars.[77] As the Hurrian presence grow, so did the Hurrian religious influences and some of the Hurrian deities found a place in the Yamhadite pantheon,[64] king Abba-El I mentioned receiving the support of the Hurrian goddess Hebat in one of Alalakh tablets, Hebat was the spouse of the Huurian main deity Teshub but in Abba-El I tablet she is associated with Hadad.[64] Later in history the Hurrians started to identify Teshub with Hadad who became Teshub the storm god of Halab.[78]

Beside the general gods the kings had a Head God, that is a deity who had an intimate connection for the worshiper. king Yarim-Lim I describe Hadad as the god of the state but the Mesopotamian deity Sin as the god of his head so does his son Hammurabi I.[79][80]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b c Stephanie Dalley (2002). Mari and Karana: Two Old Babylonian Cities. p. 44. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Gordon Douglas Young (1981). Ugarit in Retrospect. p. 7. 
  3. ^ a b c William J. Hamblin (2006). Warfare in the Ancient Near East to 1600 BC. p. 253. 
  4. ^ Martin Sicker (2000). The pre-Islamic Middle East. p. 26. 
  5. ^ Ahmad Arhim Hebbo (1993). History of Ancient Levant (part 1) Syria. p. 30. 
  6. ^ a b John David Hawkins (2000). Inscriptions of the Iron Age: Part 1. p. 388. 
  7. ^ D. T. Potts (2012). A Companion to the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East. p. 781. 
  8. ^ alfonso archi (1994). Orientalia: Vol. 63. p. 250. 
  9. ^ a b Lluís Feliu (2003). The God Dagan in Bronze Age Syria. p. 192. 
  10. ^ Ulf Oldenburg (1969). Diss Ertationes : The Conflict Between El and Ba'al in Canaanite Religion. p. 65. 
  11. ^ Trevor Bryce (2014). Ancient Syria: A Three Thousand Year History. p. 111. 
  12. ^ Paolo Matthiae, Licia Romano (2010). 6 ICAANE. p. 253. 
  13. ^ Tess Dawson (2009). Whisper of Stone: Natib Qadish: Modern Canaanite Religion. p. 13. 
  14. ^ Douglas Frayne (1990). Old Babylonian Period (2003–1595 BC). p. 780. 
  15. ^ Trudy Ring,Robert M. Salkin,Sharon La Boda (1995). International Dictionary of Historic Places: Southern Europe. p. 10. 
  16. ^ Sarah Melville,Alice Slotsky (2010). Opening the Tablet Box: Near Eastern Studies in Honor of Benjamin R. Foster. p. 376. 
  17. ^ Mario Liverani (2013). The Ancient Near East: History, Society and Economy. p. 354. 
  18. ^ Arne Wossink (2009). Challenging Climate Change: Competition and Cooperation Among Pastoralists and Agriculturalists in Northern Mesopotamia. p. 128. 
  19. ^ Jack M. Sasson (1969). The Military Establishments at Mari. p. 45. 
  20. ^ Yuhong Wu (1994). A Political History of Eshnunna, Mari and Assyria During the Early Old Babylonian Period: From the End of Ur III to the Death of Šamši-Adad. p. 131. 
  21. ^ Douglas Frayne (1990). Old Babylonian Period (2003–1595 BC). p. 606. 
  22. ^ a b Michael David Coogan (2001). The Oxford History of the Biblical World. p. 68. 
  23. ^ Joan Aruz, Sarah B. Graff, and Yelena Rakic (2013). Cultures in Contact: From Mesopotamia to the Mediterranean in the Second Millennium BC. p. 9. 
  24. ^ a b c d e Mario Liverani (2013). The Ancient Near East: History, Society and Economy. p. 234. 
  25. ^ Trevor Bryce (2009). The Routledge Handbook of the Peoples and Places of Ancient Western Asia: The Near East from the Early Bronze Age to the Fall of the Persian Empire. p. 773. 
  26. ^ Pelio Fronzaroli (2003). Semitic and Assyriological Studies. p. 383. 
  27. ^ Michael David Coogan (2001). The Oxford History of the Biblical World. p. 70. 
  28. ^ a b c d e William J. Hamblin (2006). Warfare in the Ancient Near East to 1600 BC: Holy Warriors at the Dawn of History. p. 254. 
  29. ^ Karen Radner,Eleanor Robson (2011). The Oxford Handbook of Cuneiform Culture. p. 257. 
  30. ^ Mogens Herman Hansen (2000). A Comparative Study of Thirty City-state Cultures: An Investigation, Volume 21. p. 61. 
  31. ^ Michael David Coogan (2001). The Oxford History of the Biblical World. p. 71. 
  32. ^ a b Jack M. Sasson (1969). The Military Establishments at Mari. p. 2. 
  33. ^ Dominique Charpin (2010). Writing, Law, and Kingship in Old Babylonian Mesopotamia. p. 102. 
  34. ^ a b c William J. Hamblin (2006). Warfare in the Ancient Near East to 1600 BC: Holy Warriors at the Dawn of History. p. 255. 
  35. ^ jabbul head louvre
  36. ^ THOMAS, D. WINTON (1967). Archaeology and Old Testament study: jubilee volume of the Society for Old Testament Study, 1917–1967. p. 121. 
  37. ^ Trevor Bryce (2014). Ancient Syria: A Three Thousand Year History. p. 27. 
  38. ^ a b Mario Liverani (2013). The Ancient Near East: History, Society and Economy. p. 260. 
  39. ^ Dominique Collon (1995). Ancient Near Eastern Art. p. 97. 
  40. ^ William J. Hamblin (2006). Warfare in the Ancient Near East to 1600 BC. p. 289. 
  41. ^ Trevor Bryce (1999). The Kingdom of the Hittites. p. 83. 
  42. ^ Trevor Bryce (2014). Ancient Syria: A Three Thousand Year History. p. 29. 
  43. ^ Charles Burney (2004). Historical Dictionary of the Hittites. p. 107. 
  44. ^ Trevor Bryce (1999). The Kingdom of the Hittites. p. 152. 
  45. ^ William J. Hamblin (2006). Warfare in the Ancient Near East to 1600 BC. p. 256. 
  46. ^ Annick Payne (2012). Iron Age Hieroglyphic Luwian Inscriptions. p. 3. 
  47. ^ Trevor Bryce (1999). The Kingdom of the Hittites. p. 126. 
  48. ^ Gordon Douglas Young (1981). Ugarit in Retrospect: Fifty Years of Ugarit and Ugaritic. p. 9. 
  49. ^ M.C. Astour (1969). Orientalia: Vol. 38. p. 382. 
  50. ^ Iorwerth Eiddon Stephen Edwards (1973). The Cambridge Ancient History. p. 433. 
  51. ^ Thomas Nelson (2008). The Chronological Study Bible. p. 393. 
  52. ^ Dominique Collon (1995). Ancient Near Eastern Art. p. 109. 
  53. ^ Eric H. Cline,David B. O'Connor (2006). Thutmose III: A New Biography. p. 12. 
  54. ^ Joan Aruz (2013). Cultures in Contact: From Mesopotamia to the Mediterranean in the Second Millennium B.C.. p. 3. 
  55. ^ Joan Aruz (2013). Cultures in Contact: From Mesopotamia to the Mediterranean in the Second Millennium B.C.. p. 10. 
  56. ^ Mario Liverani (2013). The Ancient Near East: History, Society and Economy. p. 232. 
  57. ^ Marlies Heinz,Marian H. Feldman (2007). Representations of Political Power. p. 55. 
  58. ^ wilfred van soldt (1999). Akkadica, Volumes 111-120. p. 109. 
  59. ^ a b Margreet L. Steiner,Ann E. Killebrew (2013). The Oxford Handbook of the Archaeology of the Levant: c. 8000-332 BCE. p. 409. 
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  61. ^ Stephanie Dalley (2002). Mari and Karana: Two Old Babylonian Cities. p. 51. 
  62. ^ David Noel Freedman,Allen C. Myers (2000). Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible. p. 618. 
  63. ^ Michael Nathanson (2013). Between Myth & Mandate. p. 72. 
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  65. ^ Tsevi Zohar,Zvi Zohar (2013). Rabbinic Creativity in the Modern Middle East. p. 95. 
  66. ^ Martin Sicker (2003). The Rise and Fall of the Ancient Israelite States. p. 32. 
  67. ^ Marlies Heinz,Marian H. Feldman (2007). Representations of Political Power. p. 23. 
  68. ^ Billie Jean Collins (2007). The Hittites and Their World. p. 46. 
  69. ^ a b c d e f Gwendolyn Leick (2009). The Babylonian World. p. 212. 
  70. ^ Gwendolyn Leick (2009). The Babylonian World. p. 213. 
  71. ^ Timothy Insoll (2011). The Oxford Handbook of the Archaeology of Ritual and Religion. p. 896. 
  72. ^ a b c Piotr Taracha (2009). Religions of Second Millennium Anatolia. p. 121. 
  73. ^ Hugh N. Kennedy (2006). Muslim Military Architecture in Greater Syria. p. 166. 
  74. ^ Gülru Necipoğlu,Karen Leal (2010). Muqarnas. p. 114. 
  75. ^ Ulf Oldenburg (1969). The Conflict Between El and Ba'al in Canaanite Religion. p. 67. 
  76. ^ Ulf Oldenburg (1969). The Conflict Between El and Ba'al in Canaanite Religion. p. 160. 
  77. ^ Alberto Ravinell Whitney Green (2003). The Storm-god in the Ancient Near East. p. 181. 
  78. ^ Alberto Ravinell Whitney Green (2003). The Storm God in the Ancient Near East. p. 170. 
  79. ^ K. Van Der Toorn (1996). Family Religion in Babylonia, Ugarit and Israel. p. 77. 
  80. ^ K. Van Der Toorn (1996). Family Religion in Babylonia, Ugarit and Israel. p. 88. 


External links[edit]