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Encyclopedia > Battle of Karkar
Battle of Karkar
Conflict
Date 853 BC
Place Northern Syria
Result
Combatants
Assyria An alliance of 12 kings
Commanders
Shalmaneser III Hadadezer, king of Damascus
Strength
Assyrian records claim
100,000 troops; modern
scholars believe Assyrian
forces were smaller
60,000 men, 2450 chariots,
1900 horsemen, and
10,000 camel riders
Casualties
Unknown Unknown

The Battle of Karkar (or Qarqar) was fought in 853 BC when the army of Assyria, led by king Shalmaneser III, encountered an allied army of 12 kings led by Hadadezer of Damascus. This battle is notable for having a larger number of combatants than any previous battle.


According to the inscription of Shalmaneser which he later erected, he had started his annual campaign, leaving Nineveh on the 14th day of Aiaru. He crossed both the Tigris and Euphrates without incident, receiving the submission and tribute of several cities along the way, including that of Aleppo. Once past Aleppo, he encountered his first resistance from troops of Iruleni, king of Hamath, whom he defeated; in retribution, he plundered both the palaces and the cities of Iruleni's kingdom. Continuing his march after having sacked Karkar, he encountered the allied forces near the Orontes River.


Shalmaneser's inscription describes the forces of his opponent Hadadezer in considerable detail as follows:

  1. Hadadezer himself commanded 1200 chariots, 1200 horsemen and 20,000 soldiers;
  2. Iruleni commanded 700 chariots, 700 horsemen and 10,000 soldiers;
  3. King Ahab of Israel sent 2000 chariots and 10,000 soldiers;
  4. The land of Kizzuwadne (Byblos) sent 500 soldiers;
  5. The land of Musri sent 1000 soldiers;
  6. King Irqanata sent 10 chariots and 10,000 soldiers;
  7. King Matinu-ba'lu of Arwad sent 200 soldiers;
  8. King Usannata sent 200 soldiers;
  9. King Adunu-ba'lu of Shianu sent 30 chariots and "thousands" of soldiers;
  10. King Gindibu of Arabia sent 10,000 camel_riders;
  11. King Ba'asa, son of Ruhubi, of the Ammonites sent "hundreds" of soldiers;

Notes:

  1. Musri (Akkadian for "march") is usually translated here as "Egypt"; however, beginning with H. Winckler (Alttestamentliche Untersuchen, Leipzig: 1892), some translators believe this name refers to a northern Syrian territory near Kizzuwadne.
  2. There is no mention of this battle in either Kings or Chronicles.
  3. Where the number in the inscription has been damaged, the approximate amount has been listed here.

Shalmaneser boasts that his troops inflicted 14,000 casualties upon the allied army, capturing countless chariots and horses, and describes the damage he inflicted on his opponents in savage detail. However, the inscriptions of kings from this period never acknowledge defeats, and sometimes claim victories those won by ancestors or predecessors. If Shalmaneser had won a clear victory at Karkar, it did not immediately enable further Assyrian conquests in Syria. Assyrian records make it clear that he campaigned in the region several more times in the following decade, engaging Hadadezer six times, who was supported by Iruleni of Hamath at least twice. Shalmaneser's opponents held on to their thrones after this battle: Hadadezer was king of Damascus until at least 841 BC, while Ahab was king of Israel until around 850 BC.






 
 

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