Cradle of Civilization

A Blog about the Birth of Our Civilisation and Development

Teshub, and his two steeds Seri and Hurri

Posted by Fredsvenn on January 11, 2015

Teshub (also written Teshup or Tešup; cuneiform dIM) was the Hurrian god of sky and storm. Teshub is depicted holding a triple thunderbolt and a weapon, usually an axe (often double-headed) or mace. The sacred bull common throughout Anatolia was his signature animal, represented by his horned crown or by his steeds Seri and Hurri, who drew his chariot or carried him on their backs.

Teshub is related to the Hattian Taru. His Hittite and Luwian name was Tarhun (with variant stem forms Tarhunt, Tarhuwant, Tarhunta), although this name is from the Hittite root *tarh- “to defeat, conquer”.

In Norse mythology, Thor (from Old Norse Þórr) is a hammer-wielding god associated with thunder, lightning, storms, oak trees, strength, the protection of mankind, and also hallowing, healing and fertility. The cognate deity in wider Germanic mythology and paganism was known in Old English as Þunor and in Old High German as Donar (runic þonar ᚦᛟᚾᚨᚱ), stemming from a Common Germanic *Þunraz (meaning “thunder”).

Aratta (Sumerian) – Uratri (Hurri-Urartian) – Urartu/Ararat (Assyrian) – Urashtu (Babylonian) – Armenia (Persian)

Ar/As  – Urartu/Urashtu – Armenia/Assyria – Kurmaji/(A)Sorani

Aratta

Aratta is a land that appears in Sumerian myths surrounding Enmerkar and Lugalbanda, two early and possibly mythical kings of Uruk also mentioned on the Sumerian king list.

Aratta is described as follows in Sumerian literature as a fabulously wealthy place full of gold, silver, lapis lazuli and other precious materials, as well as the artisans to craft them. It is remote and difficult to reach, home to the goddess Inana, who transfers her allegiance from Aratta to Uruk, but is conquered by Enmerkar of Uruk.

There are certain Bronze Age records identified with the toponym in both Mesopotamian and Egyptian sources. The earliest is from an inscription which mentions Armânum together with Ibla (Ebla) as territories conquered by Naram-Sin of Akkad in ca. 2250 BC identified with an Akkadian colony in the Diarbekr region.

However, many historians, such as Wayne Horowitz, identify Armanî which was conquered by Naram-Sin of Akkad, with the Syrian city of Aleppo and not with the Armenian Highland.

Another mention by pharaoh Thutmose III of Egypt in the 33rd year of his reign (1446 BC) as the people of Ermenen, and says in their land “heaven rests upon its four pillars”. The name has also been claimed as a variant of Urmani (or Urmenu), attested epigraphically in an inscription of Menuas of Urartu.

It has been suggested by early 20th century Armenologists that Old Persian Armina and the Greek Armenoi are continuations of an Assyrian toponym Armânum or Armanî.

The Kura–Araxes culture

The Kura–Araxes culture or the early trans-Caucasian culture was a civilization that existed from 3400 BC until about 2000 BC, which has traditionally been regarded as the date of its end, but it may have disappeared as early as 2600 or 2700 BC. The earliest evidence for this culture is found on the Ararat plain.

The name of the culture is derived from the Kura and Araxes river valleys. Its territory corresponds to parts of modern Armenia, Azerbaijan, Chechnya, Dagestan, Georgia, Ingushetia and North Ossetia. Altogether, the early Trans-Caucasian culture, at its greatest spread, enveloped a vast area approximately 1,000 km by 500 km.

There is evidence of trade with Mesopotamia, as well as Asia Minor. It is, however, considered above all to be indigenous to the Caucasus, and its major variants characterized (according to Caucasus historian Amjad Jaimoukha) later major cultures in the region.

The spread of their pottery, along with archaeological evidence of invasions, suggests that the Kura-Araxes people may have spread outward from their original homes, and most certainly, had extensive trade contacts.

The Hurro-Urartians

The Hurro-Urartian languages are an extinct language family of the Ancient Near East, comprising only two known languages: Hurrian and Urartian, both of which were spoken in the Taurus mountains area.

Hurrian was the language of the Hurrians (occasionally called “Hurrites”), and was spoken in the northern parts of Mesopotamia and Syria and the southeastern parts of Anatolia between at least last quarter of the third millennium BC and its extinction towards the end of the second millennium BC.

There have been various Hurrian-speaking states, of which the most prominent one was the kingdom of Mitanni (1450–1270 BC). It has also been proposed that two little known groups, the Nairi and the Mannae, might have been Hurrian speakers, but as little is known about them, it is hard to draw any conclusions about what languages they spoke. Furthermore, the Kassite language was possibly related to Hurro-Urartian.

There was also a strong Hurrian influence on Hittite culture in ancient times, so many Hurrian texts are preserved from Hittite political centres. The population of the Indo-European-speaking Hittite Empire in Anatolia included a large population of Hurrians, and there is significant Hurrian influence in Hittite mythology.

Mitanni/Mayannu

It is believed that its southern expanse is attributable primarily to Mitanni (Maryannu) and the Hurrians. It may have given rise to the later Khirbet Kerak ware culture found in Syria and Canaan after the fall of the Akkadian Empire.

Mitanni (Hittite cuneiform KUR URUMi-ta-an-ni; also Mittani Mi-it-ta-ni) or Hanigalbat (Assyrian Hanigalbat, Khanigalbat cuneiform Ḫa-ni-gal-bat) or Naharin in ancient Egyptian texts was a Hurrian-speaking state in northern Syria and southeast Anatolia from ca. 1500 BC–1300 BC.

Founded by an Indo-Aryan ruling class governing a predominantly Hurrian population, Mitanni came to be a regional power after the Hittite destruction of Amorite Babylon and a series of ineffectual Assyrian kings created a power vacuum in Mesopotamia.

A treatise on the training of chariot horses by Kikkuli contains a number of Indo-Aryan glosses. Kammenhuber (1968) suggested that this vocabulary was derived from the still undivided Indo-Iranian language, but Mayrhofer (1974) has shown that specifically Indo-Aryan features are present.

A Hurrian passage in the Amarna letters – usually composed in Akkadian, the lingua franca of the day – indicates that the royal family of Mitanni was by then speaking Hurrian as well.

The Mitanni variety is chiefly known from the so-called “Mitanni letter” from Hurrian Tushratta to pharaoh Amenhotep III surviving in the Amarna archives. The “Old Hurrian” variety is known from some early royal inscriptions and from religious and literary texts, especially from Hittite centres.

Maryannu is an ancient word for the caste of chariot-mounted hereditary warrior nobility which dominated many of the societies of the Middle East during the Bronze Age. The term is attested in the Amarna letters written by Haapi.

Robert Drews writes that the name ‘maryannu’ although plural takes the singular ‘marya’, which in Sanskrit means young warrior, and attaches a Hurrian suffix. He suggests that at the beginning of the Late Bronze Age most would have spoken either Hurrian or Aryan but by the end of the 14th century most of the Levant maryannu had Semitic names.

Urartu (Ararat)

By the Early Iron Age, the Hurrians had been assimilated with other peoples, except perhaps in the kingdom of Urartu. Scholars believe that Urartu is an Akkadian variation of Ararat of the Old Testament. Indeed, Mount Ararat is located in ancient Urartian territory, approximately 120 km north of its former capital.

Urartian is attested from the late 9th century BC to the late 7th century BC as the official written language of the state of Urartu and was probably spoken by the majority of the population in the mountainous areas around Lake Van and the upper Zab valley. It branched off from Hurrian at approximately the beginning of the second millennium BC.

Urartu (Assyrian: māt Urarṭu; Babylonian: Urashtu), corresponding to the biblical Kingdom of Ararat or Kingdom of Van (Urartian: Biai, Biainili;) was an Iron Age kingdom centred on Lake Van in the Armenian Highlands.

Armenia

In the early 6th century BC, the Urartian Kingdom was replaced by the Armenian Orontid dynasty. In the trilingual Behistun inscription, carved in 521 or 520 BC by the order of Darius the Great of Persia, the country referred to as Urartu in Assyrian is called Arminiya in Old Persian and Harminuia in Elamite.

Old Armenian has what have been called a Caucasian substratum, identified by earlier scholars, consisting of loans from the Kartvelian and Northeast Caucasian languages such as Udi. Noting that the Hurro-Urartian peoples inhabited the Armenian homeland in the second millennium b.c., there is in Armenian a Hurro-Urartian substratum of social, cultural, and animal and plant terms. Some of the terms have an Akkadian or Sumerian provenance.

Subartu

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.

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-, among the lands under his control. Ishbi-Erra of Isin and Hammurabi also claimed victories over Subar.

Shupria (Shubria) or Arme-Shupria (Akkadian: Armani-Subartu from the 3rd millennium BC) was a Hurrian-speaking kingdom, known from Assyrian sources beginning in the 13th century BC, located in what was much later to become the Armenian Highland, to the southwest of Lake Van, bordering on Ararat proper. The capital was called Ubbumu. Scholars have linked the district in the area called Arme or Armani, to the name Armenia.

Weidner interpreted textual evidence to indicate that after the Hurrian king Shattuara of Mitanni was defeated by Adad-nirari I of the Middle Assyrian Empire in the early 13th century BC, he then became ruler of a reduced vassal state known as Shubria or Subartu. The name Subartu (Sumerian: Shubur) for the region is attested much earlier, from the time of the earliest Mesopotamian records (mid 3rd millennium BC).

Together with Armani-Subartu (Hurri-Mitanni), Hayasa-Azzi and other populations of the region such as the Nairi fell under Urartian (Kingdom of Ararat) rule in the 9th century BC, and their descendants, according to most scholars, later contributed to the ethnogenesis of the early Armenians.

Shubria was part of the Urartu confederation. Later, there is reference to a district in the area called Arme or Urme, which some scholars have linked to the name Armenia.

Akkadians

In prehistoric times, the region that was to become known as Assyria (and Subartu) was home to a Neanderthal culture such as has been found at the Shanidar Cave. The earliest Neolithic sites in Assyria were the Jarmo culture c. 7100 BC and Tell Hassuna, the centre of the Hassuna culture, c. 6000 BC.

During the 3rd millennium BC, a very intimate cultural symbiosis developed between the Sumerians and the Semitic Akkadians throughout Mesopotamia, which included widespread bilingualism.

The influence of Sumerian (a language isolate, i.e. not related to any other language) on Akkadian (and vice versa) is evident in all areas, from lexical borrowing on a massive scale, to syntactic, morphological, and phonological convergence. This has prompted scholars to refer to Sumerian and Akkadian in the 3rd millennium BC as a sprachbund.

Akkad

Akkad (also spelled Akkade or Agade) was the capital of the Akkadian Empire, which was the dominant political force in Mesopotamia at the end of the third millennium BCE. The existence of Akkad is known only from textual sources; its location has not yet been identified, although scholars have proposed a number of different sites. Most recent proposals point to a location east of the Tigris.

The form Agade appears in Sumerian, for example in the Sumerian King List; the later Assyro-Babylonian form Akkadû (“of or belonging to Akkad”) was likely derived from this. The name of the city is spelled as a-ga-dèKI or URIKI, which is variously transcribed into English as Akkad, Akkade or Agade. The etymology of a-ga-dè is unclear but not of Akkadian origin. Sumerian, Hurrian and Lullubean etymologies have been proposed instead.

The non-Akkadian origin of the city’s name suggests that the site may have already been occupied in pre-Sargonic times, as also suggested by the mentioning of the city in one pre-Sargonic year-name. The inscription on the Bassetki Statue records that the inhabitants of Akkad built a temple for Naram-Sin after he had crushed a revolt against his rule.

The main goddess of Akkad was Ishtar, who was called ‘Aštar-annunîtum or ‘Warlike Ishtar’ and who was identified with the Sumerian goddess Inanna. Her husband Ilaba was also revered in Akkad. Ishtar and Ilaba were later worshipped at Sippar in the Old Babylonian period, possibly because Akkad itself had been destroyed by that time.

Assyria

Assyria was a major Mesopotamian East Semitic kingdom, and often empire, of the Ancient Near East, existing as an independent state for a period of approximately nineteen centuries from c. 2500 BC to 605 BC, spanning the Early Bronze Age through to the late Iron Age.

Assyria is named for its original capital, the ancient city of Aššur (a.k.a. Ashur) which dates to c. 2600 BC (located in what is now the Saladin Province of northern Iraq), originally one of a number of Akkadian city states in Mesopotamia.

In the 25th and 24th centuries BC, Assyrian kings were pastoral leaders, and from the late 24th century BC became subject to Sargon of Akkad, who united all the Akkadian Semites and Sumerian-speaking peoples of Mesopotamia under the Akkadian Empire, which lasted from c. 2334 BC to 2154 BC.

Following the fall of the Akkadian Empire c. 2154 BC, and the short lived succeeding Neo-Sumerian Empire which ruled southern Assyria but not the north, Assyria regained full independence.

Centered on the Upper Tigris river, in northern Mesopotamia (modern northern Iraq, northeastern Syria and southeastern Turkey) the Assyrians came to rule powerful empires at several times, the last of which grew to be the largest and most powerful empire the world had yet seen.

As a substantial part of the greater Mesopotamian “cradle of civilization” which included Sumer, Akkad and much later Babylonia, Assyria was at the height of technological, scientific and cultural achievements for its time. At its peak, the Assyrian empire stretched from Cyprus in the Mediterranean Sea to Persia (Iran), and from what is now Armenia to the Arabian Peninsula and Egypt.

Assyria was also sometimes known as Subartu prior to the rise of the city state of Ashur, and after its fall, from 605 BC through to the late 7th century AD variously as Athura and also referenced as Atouria according to Strabo, Syria (Greek), Assyria (Latin) and Assuristan.

After its dissolution in the mid 7th century AD it remained The Ecclesiastical Province of Ator. The term Assyria can also refer to the geographic region or heartland where Assyria, its empires and the Assyrian people were (and still are) centered.

The modern Assyrian Christian (AKA Chaldo-Assyrian) ethnic minority in northern Iraq, north east Syria, south east Turkey and north west Iran are the descendants of the ancient Assyrians (see Assyrian continuity).

Ashur

The cities of Assur (also spelled Ashur or Aššur) and Nineveh, together with a number of other towns and cities, existed since at least before the middle of the 3rd millennium BC (c. 2600 BC), although they appear to have been Sumerian-ruled administrative centres at this time, rather than independent states.

The oldest remains of the city were discovered in the foundations of the Ishtar temple, as well as at the Old Palace. In the following Old Akkadian period, the city was ruled by kings from Akkad.

The site of Assur is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but was placed on the list of World Heritage Sites in danger in 2003, in part due to the conflict in that area, and also due to a proposed dam, that would flood part of the site.

Assyrian tradition lists an early Assyrian king named Ushpia as having dedicated the first temple to the god Ashur in the city in the 21st century BC. It is highly likely that the city was named in honour of its patron Assyrian god with the same name.

Ushpia was an early Assyrian king who ruled circa 2030 BC, according to the Assyrian King List (AKL). Like most other of the “kings who lived in tents”, his name is not regarded as Semitic, but more likely Hurrian.

Ushpia is also alleged to have founded the temple of Ashur at the city of Assur, according to the much later inscriptions of Shalmaneser I (13th century BC) and Esarhaddon (8th century BC). However, he has yet to be confirmed by contemporary artifacts and nothing else of him is known.

Aššur is the name of the city, of the land ruled by the city, and of its tutelary deity. At a late date it appears in Assyrian literature in the forms An-sar, An-sar (ki), which form was presumably read Assur. The name of the deity is written A-šur or Aš-sùr, and in Neo-assyrian often shortened to Aš.

In the Creation tablet, the heavens personified collectively were indicated by this term An-sar, “host of heaven,” in contradistinction to the earth, Ki-sar, “host of earth.”

In view of this fact, it seems highly probable that the late writing An-sar for Assur was a more or less conscious attempt on the part of the Assyrian scribes to identify the peculiarly Assyrian deity Asur with the Creation deity An-sar.

On the other hand, there is an epithet Asir or Ashir (“overseer”) applied to several gods and particularly to the deity Asur, a fact which introduced a third element of confusion into the discussion of the name Assur. It is probable then that there is a triple popular etymology in the various forms of writing the name Assur; viz. A-usar, An-sar and the stem asdru.

Kurds

The Kurds are an Iranian ethnic group in the Middle East, mostly inhabiting a region known as Kurdistan, which spans adjacent parts of Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey. The Kurds are an Iranian people and speak the Kurdish languages, which form a subgroup of the Northwestern Iranian branch of Iranian languages.

The Kurds as an ethnicity within the Northwestern Iranian group enter the historical record at the end of the medieval period, during the Safavid era. The name Kurds (Arabic kurd, plural akrad) is used throughout the medieval period, from the Islamic conquests, as a generic term for Iranian nomadic tribes.

The term “Kurd” is first encountered in Arabic sources of the seventh century. Books from the early Islamic era, including those containing legends like the Shahnameh and the Middle Persian Kar-Namag i Ardashir i Pabagan and other early Islamic sources provide early attestation of the name Kurd.

While Kurdish is generally categorized as one of the Northwestern Iranian languages along with Baluchi, it also shares many traits with Southwestern Iranian languages like Persian, apparently due to longstanding and intense historical contacts, and some authorities have gone so far as to classify Kurmanji as a Southwestern or “southern” Iranian language.

The Kurdish people are believed to be of heterogeneous origins combining a number of earlier tribal or ethnic groups including Median, Lullubi, Guti, Cyrtians, Carduchi. They have also absorbed some elements from Semitic, Turkic and Armenian people.

The emergence of the Kurds as speakers of an identifiably Northwestern Iranian language (viz. Kurdish) necessarily post-dates the unity of the Northwestern branch. This would correspond to the time following the breakup of the Median Empire in the 6th century BC.

Developing the ideas of P. Tedesco (1921: 255) and regarding the common phonetic isoglosses shared by Kurdish, Persian, and Baluchi, D.N. Mackenzie concluded that the speakers of these three languages form a unity within Northwestern Iranian. He has tried to reconstruct such a Persian-Kurdish-Baluchi linguistic unity presumably in the central parts of Iran.

According to his theory, the Persians (or Proto-Persians) occupied the province of Fars in the southwest (proceeding from the assumption that the Achaemenids spoke Persian), the Balochs (Proto-Balochs) inhabited the central areas of Western Iran, and the Kurds (Proto-Kurds), in the wording of G. Windfuhr (1975: 459), lived either in northwestern Luristan or in the province of Isfahan.

In 641 AD, Arab commander Utba ibn Farqad conquered Kurdish forts of Adiabene. Around this time, Kurds lived a partly sedentary life and raised sheep and cattle in the regions of Beth Begash and Beth Kartewaye above Arbil in Adiabene. In 696, Kurds joined the Khariji revolt near Hulwan.

The eclipse of the Sasanian and Byzantine power, by the Muslim caliphate, and its own subsequent weakening, let the Kurdish principalities and “mountain administrators” set up new independent states. The Shaddadids of Armenia and Arran, the Rawadids of Azerbaijan, the Marwandis of eastern Anatolia, the Hasanwayhids, Fadhilwayhids, and Ayyarids of the central Zagros are some of these Kurdish dynasties and principalities.

Throughout Kurdish history after the Muslim conquests, there was a tendency for Kurdish tribes to move westwards as vassals of greater Muslim powers—from the Zagros to east Assyria and south-central Armenia, to west Assyria and west Armenia, to in modern times, migration of individuals into western Turkey, western Europe or even the Western Hemisphere.

In its written form today, Kurdish has two principal dialects, namely Kurmanji in the northern parts of the geographical region of Kurdistan, and Sorani further east and south.

Kumanji

Kurmanji (Kurmancî; also written Kermanji and varians; also known as Bādīnānī) or Northern Kurdish, is the most widespread dialect group of the Kurdish languages. The Kurmanji language, which uses the Latin script, is the most common dialect of the Kurdish language, spoken by 80% of all Kurds. However, the earliest textual record of the Kurdish language dates to the 16th century.

The main theory about the etymology of Kurmanji is that the term Kurmanji, according to Prince Celadet Bedirxan, the great Kurdish intellectual who prepared the Latin Kurdish alphabet, comes from Kurd+man+cî which means, those Kurds who remained in their places (not moved like others).

Sorani

Central Kurdish is a group of Kurdish dialects spoken in Iran and Iraq, in a region centered on the neighboring provinces of the Iraqi Sulaymaniyah Governorate and the Iranian Kurdistan Province. Central Kurdish dialects are spoken by an estimated 6–7 million people (out of a total of c. 30 million Kurdish speakers).

The term Soranî, after the name of the former principality of Soran, is used especially to refer to a written, standardized form of Central Kurdish written in an adapted form of the Perso-Arabic script, developed in the 1920s by Sa’íd Sidqi Kaban and Taufiq Wahby.

Soran was a Kurdish emirate based in the geographic region of Kurdistan, specifically in what is today known as Iraqi (i.e. southern) Kurdistan. Its Kurdish-speaking rulers were of different ethnic origins, despite their assimilation into the Kurdish cultural and linguistic sphere.

Sorani is the second official language of Iraq and is referred to in political documents simply as “Kurdish”, whereas the recognized minority language in Armenia is Kurmanji, which is also spoken in Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran.

Asha/Arta

Arta/Asha is the Avestan language term (corresponding to Vedic language ṛta) for a concept of cardinal importance to Zoroastrian theology and doctrine. In the moral sphere, aša/arta represents what has been called “the decisive confessional concept of Zoroastrianism.” The opposite of Avestan aša is druj, “lie.”

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