The Battle of Carcar (or Qarqar) was fought in 853 BC when the army of Assyria, led by king Shalmaneser III, encountered an allied army of 12 kings at Karkar led by Hadadezer (also called Adad-idr. Not to be confused with Ben Hadad as the Biblical account would claim, as he ruled 50 years later) of Damascus and King Ahab of Israel. This battle is notable for having a larger number of combatants than any previous battle, and for being the first instance some peoples enter recorded history (such as the Arabs). It is recorded on The Kurkh Monolith. The ancient town of Qarqar at which the battle took place has generally been identified with the modern archaeological site of Tell Qarqur.
According to an inscription later erected by Shalmaneser, 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 Qarqar, he encountered the allied forces near the Orontes River.
The Contending Allied Forces
Shalmaneser's inscription describes the forces of his opponent Hadadezer in considerable detail as follows:
King Hadadezer himself commanded 1,200 chariots, 1,200 horsemen and 20,000 soldiers;
King Irhuleni of Hamath commanded 700 chariots, 700 horsemen and 10,000 soldiers;
King Ahab of Israel sent 2,000 chariots and 10,000 soldiers;
The land of KUR Gu-a-a (sometimes identified with Que - Cilicia) sent 500 soldiers;
The land of KUR Mu-us-ra- (sometimes identified with Egypt but possibly somewhere near Que) sent 1,000 soldiers;
The land of Irqanata (Tell Arqa) sent 10 chariots and 10,000 soldiers;
King Ba'asa, son of Ruhubi, of the land of Aman (anti-Lebanon) - numbers lost.
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 royal inscriptions from this period are notoriously unreliable and never directly acknowledge defeats, and sometimes claim victories won by ancestors or predecessors. If Shalmaneser had won a clear victory at Qarqar, 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: though Ahab of Israel died shortly afterwards in an unrelated battle, Hadadezer was king of Damascus until at least 841 BC.