The Mitanni (also, more correctly, Mittani) was the name of the Hurrian population in West Asia in the second millennium BC, around the Khabur River in upper Mesopotamia, and, most notably, to a ruling dynasty of maybe Indo-Aryan origin who dominated that population during the 15th and 14th centuries BC. Theirs was a feudal state led by a warrior nobility.
The kingdom Hanilgalbat ruled northern Mesopotamia (including Syria), with the capitals Washshukanni (vasu-khani, would mean "mine of wealth" in sanskrit, but c.f. Luwian vasu- "good") and Taite.
The daughter of the King Tushratta, Princess Tadukhipa, became the second queen of Akhenaten; the daughter of King Artatama was married to Thutmose IV, Akhenaten's grandfather; and the daughter of Sutarna II (Gilukhipa) was married to his father, Amenhotep III, the great builder of temples who ruled during 1390-1352 BC (khipa of these names is compared to Sanskrit kshipa "night"). In his old age, Amenhotep wrote to Tushratta many times wishing to marry his daughter, Tadukhipa. It appears that by the time she arrived Amenhotep III was dead. Tadukhipa married the new king Akhenaten and she may have became famous as the Queen Kiya (short for Khipa?). Some theories however identify her with Nefertiti, also a Queen of Akhenaten.
By approximately 1350 BC, the Mitanni kingdom had weakened, and had become practically dependent on the Hittites, then under the rule of Shuppiluliuma I. Assyria, previously under Mitanni control, was able to assert its independence during the reigns of Ashuruballit I and Mattivaza, in approximately 1330 BC.
The Mitanni appear to have been renowned in the Hittite Empire for their horsemanship, and surviving Hittite texts on horse-training and chariotry are attributed to one Kikkuli the Mitanni. More speculative is the attribution of the introduction of the chariot to Mesopotamia to early Mitanni.
Possible connections to Sanskrit
Some scholars try to equate the deities venerated by the Mittanni with Vedic deities and try to trace the names used by the aristocracy to Indo-Aryan roots. In a treaty between the Hittites and the Mitanni, the deities Mitra, Varuna, Indra, and Nasatya (Ashvins) are invoked. A text by a Mitannian named Kikkuli uses words such as aika (eka, one), tera (tri, three), panza (pancha, five), satta (sapta, seven), na (nava, nine), vartana (vartana, round). Another text has babru (babhru, brown), parita (palita, grey), and pinkara (pingala, red). Their chief festival was the celebration of vishuva (solstice) which was common in most cultures in the ancient world. The Mitanni warriors were called marya, which is the term for warrior in Sanskrit as well.
Sanskritic interpretations of Mitani royal names render Shuttarna as Sutarna ("good sun"), Baratarna as Paratarna ("great sun"), Parsatatar as Parashukshatra ("ruler with axe"), Saustatar as Saukshatra ("son of Sukshatra, the good ruler"), Artatama as "most righteous", Tushratta as Dasharatha ("having ten chariots"?), and, finally, Mattivaza as Mativaja ("whose wealth is prayer"). Some people believe that it is not only the kings who had Sanskrit names; a large number of other names which resemble Sanskrit have been unearthed in records from the area. Others point out that overinterpretation of ancient names is an issue that must be taken into account.
- Thieme, P. , The 'Aryan Gods' of the Mitanni Treaties, Journal of the American Oriental Society 80, 301-317 (1960)
- The Hurrian Culture (http://ancientneareast.tripod.com/Hurrian_Kingdom_of_Mitanni.html)
- The Mitanni and their influence on Egypt (http://www.ece.lsu.edu/kak/akhena.pdf)