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Encyclopedia > Chronology of the Ancient Orient

Ancient Mesopotamia
Cities / Empires
Sumer: UrukUrEridu
Akkadian Empire: Agade
Assyria: AssurNineveh
Kings of Sumer
Kings of Assyria
Kings of Babylon
Cuneiform script
Enuma Elish

The Chronology of the Ancient Orient deals with the notoriously difficult task of assigning years of the Common Era to various events, rulers and dynasties of the 3rd and 2nd millennia BC.

The chronology of this region is based on five sets of primary materials. They are, from the most recent to the earliest:

1. The Canon of Ptolemy. This is a list of the kings of Babylon and the Persian Empire, from Nabonassar down to Alexander the Great, which Claudius Ptolemy added to one of his books because of the astronomical observations connected with this information.

2. An unbroken series of Neo-Assyrian king names ranging from Ashur-uballit II (died in 609) up to Adad-nirari II (ascended in 911). These years, all named for the official known as a limmu, and some bearing an important event for the previous year, are fixed with the precision of a year due to the mention of the solar eclipse of June 16, 763 BC. These two sets overlap for over a hundred years, and help to supplement each other.

3. For the centuries between the previous two groups and the ones following, we depend upon a group of interrelated, yet incomplete, documents: Babylonian King Lists A and B, the Synchronistic Chronicle, the Assyrian King List, and a number of shorter lists of year names recovered from Babylon and Assyria.

4. The First Dynasty of Babylon. Not only have all of the year names for Hammurabi and his descendants survived more or less intact, but a record of astronomical observations made during the eighth regnal year of Ammisaduqa, offer another opportunity to reliably fix these floating dates. Unfortunately, due to ambiguities in the text, as well as disagreements over the interpretation of these observations, there are three possibles dates for these observations, which have led to three different dating schemes for dates between the 10th and 21st centuries:

  • The low or short chronology, most commonly used today, sets the eighth year of Ammisaduqa at the year 1531 BC as the end of the first dynasty (with a reign of king Hammurabi 1728 BC1686 BC).
  • The middle chronology is 64 years (one period between identical conjunctions of Venus, Sun and Moon) earlier than the short chronology (Hammurabi 1792 BC1750 BC).
  • The long chronology is 120 years earlier than the short chronology (Hammurabi 1848 BC1806 BC).

5. The Sumerian King List.

The beginning of the third dynasty of Ur (Ur-Nammu; 2047 BC short ch.) is the earliest date that may be directly calculated from dates of Assyrian or Babylonian sources. Preceding this date is the Gutian period, variously estimated to have lasted between 45 and 120 years. The preceding Akkadian period is again well_documented, leading to a year of ca. 2235 BC for the ascension of Sargon of Akkad. Yet earlier dates are subjected to increasing uncertainty.


Synchronisms between Assur and Babylon

The chronology of Babylon and Assur can be aligned by the list of wars and treaties between the two cities from the time of king Ashurbanipal. Hittite chronology is dependent on Assyria and Egypt. For times earlier than 1500 BC, various systems based on the Venus tablets of Ammisaduqa have been proposed. The death of Shamshi-Adad I of Assur in the 17th year of the reign of Hammurabi (1712 BC short ch.)

The entries of the Synchronistic Chronicle mentioned above record which Assyrian king was ruling during which Babylonian king's reign, and vice versa.

Synchronisms between Mesopotamia and Egypt

Some authorities believed that Mesopotamian influence affected predynastic Upper Egypt (also known as the Mesopotamian Stimulation) between 34th31st centuries BC. As of this date, the evidence is not conclusive.

The Amarna letters provide the earliest known synchronisms between Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. They provide clear evidence that the New Kingdom kings Amenhotep III and Akhenaten were contemporaries of Kadashman-Enlil I and Burnaburiash II of Babylon, Ashur-uballit I of Assyria, and Suppiluliumas I of the Hittite empire.

Other synchronisms between Mesopotamia and Egypt are indirect, depending on synchronisms between Egypt and the Hittite empire. For example, because Ramesses II signed a peace treaty with Hattusili III in Ramesses' 21st regnal year, and letters from Hattusili III to Kadashman-Turgu and Adad-nirari I of Assyria exist, one can argue that the reign of Ramesses overlapped the reigns of Kadashman-Turgu and Adad-nirari I.

Direct synchronisms between Egypt and Assyria return in the Late Period of Egypt, when Assyrian armies attacked and conquered Egypt.

See Egyptian chronology.

Synchronisms between Mesopotamia and the Hittite Empire

The sack of Babylon by the Hittite king Mursilis I, which ended the reign of Samsu-Ditana, provides an anchor for the earliest dates in Hittite history.

The Battle of Nihriya links Tudhaliya IV and Adad-nirari I as contemporaries.

The correspondence of the Hittite kings Hattusili III and Tudhaliya IV with the Assyrian chancellor Babu-ahu-iddina conclusively proves that they were the contemporaries of Adad-nirari I, Shalmaneser I and Tukulti-Ninurta I, not their later namesakes.

See also

External links

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