Carchemish (pr. kArkemish or karkEmish; called Europus by the Romans) was an important ancient city of the Mitanni and Hittite empires, now on the frontier between Turkey and Syria. It was the location of an important battle between the Babylonians and Egyptians, mentioned in the Bible.
Carchemish is now an extensive set of ruins, located on the West bank of Euphrates River, about 60 km southeast of Gaziantep, Turkey and 100 km northeast of Aleppo, Syria. The site lies in Turkish territory near the frontier between the two countries, not far from the historical city of Jerablus in Syria. A Turkish military base has been built on the Carchemish acropolis, and access to the site is presently restricted.
In ancient times the city commanded the main ford across the Euphrates, a situation which must have contributed greatly to its historical and strategic importance.
The site has been occupied since the Neolithic period, with pottery finds from ca. 3000 BC and tombs from ca. 2300 BC (Early Bronze Age). The city is mentioned in documents found in the Ebla archives of the 3rd millennium BC. According to documents from the archives of Mari and Alalakh, dated from ca. 1800 BC, Carchemish was then ruled by a king named Aplahanda , and an important center of timber trade. It had treaty relationships with Ugarit and Mitanni (Hanilgalbat).
Pharaoh Thutmose I of the Eighteenth Dynasty erected a stela near Carchemish to celebrate his conquest of Syria and other lands beyond the Euphrates.
Around the end of the reign of Pharaoh Akhenaten, Carchemish was captured by king Suppiluliumas I of the Hittites (ca. 14th century BC), who made it into a kingdom ruled by his son Piyashshili. The city became one of the most important in the Hittite Empire, during the Late Bronze Age, and reached its apogee around the 9th century BC.
The patron of Carchemish under the Hittites was Kubaba, a goddess of apparently Hurrian origins. She was represented as a dignified woman wearing a long robe, standing or seated, and holding a mirror.
After the Hittite empire fell to the Sea Peoples, Carchemish continued to be the capital of an important "Neo-Hittite" kingdom in the Iron Age, and important trade center.
In the 9th century BC, the city paid tribute to Kings Ashurnasirpal II and Shalmaneser III of Assyria, and was conquered by Sargon II in 717 BC, in the reign of King Pisiris .
In the summer of 605 BC (or 607 BC by some sources), an important battle was fought there by the Babylonian army of Nebuchadrezzar II and that of Pharaoh Necho of Egypt (Jer. 46:2). The aim of Necho's campaign was to contain the Westward advance of the Persian Empire and cut off its trade route across the Euphrates. However the Egyptians were defeated by the unexpected attack of the Babylonians and were eventually expelled from Syria.
Rediscovery and exploration
Carchemish has always been well-known to scholars because of its mentions in the Bible (Jer. 46:2; 2 Chr. 35:20; Isa. 10:9) and in Egyptian and Assyrian texts. However its location was identified only in 1876 by George Smith. The city had been previously identified, incorrectly, with Circesium at the confluence of the Chebar and the Euphrates. It has also been identified with the Hierapolis of the Greek, although the modern Pamukkale in Turkey also had that name.
The site was excavated initially by the British Museum, chiefly between 1911 and 1914, by D. G. Hogarth , R. C. Thompson , C. L. Woolley, and T. E. Lawrence ("Lawrence of Arabia"). These expeditions uncovered substantial remains of the Assyrian and Neo-Hittite periods, including defensive structures, temples, palaces, and numerous basalt statues and reliefs with Hittite hieroglyphic inscriptions.
Kings of Carchemish
- Piyassilis , or Sharri-Kushukh, son of the Hittite king Suppiluliumas
- Ini-Teshub I
- Ini-Teshub II
- Suhis I
- Suhis II
- Pisiris , the last king, defeated by Sargon II.
Last updated: 05-07-2005 06:53:25
Last updated: 05-13-2005 07:56:04