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Carchemish (called Europus by the Greco-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. The city is said to be known locally as Jarablos (also Jarâblos) , linking it to the Biblical city of Jerablus; a corrupted form of the name is Djerabis. Indeed, just to the south of the Turkish-Syrian border lies the town of Carablus; the other side of the border hosts the Turkish town of Karkamis.
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. A Turkish military base has been built on the Carchemish acropolis, and access to the site is presently restricted. Part of the location of the city may also lie on Syrian territory.
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 Suppiluliuma 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 centres in the Hittite Empire, during the Late Bronze Age, and reached its apogee around the 11th century BC. While the Hittite empire fell to the Sea Peoples during the Bronze Age collapse, Carchemish survived the Sea People's attacks to continue to be the capital of an important "Neo-Hittite" kingdom in the Iron Age, and a trading center. Although Ramesses III states in an inscription dating to his 8th Year from his Medinet Habu mortuary temple that Carchemish was destroyed by the Sea Peoples, the city evidently survived the onslaught of the Sea Peoples. King Kuzi-Tesup I is attested in power here and was the son of Talmi-Teshub who was a contemporary of the last surviving Hittite king, Suppiluliuma II. He and his successors ruled a small empire stretching from Southeast Asia Minor to Northern Syria and the West Bend of the Euphrates. under the title of 'Great Kings.' This suggests that Kuzi-Tesub saw himself as the true heir of the line of the great Suppiliuma I and that the central dynasty at Hattusa was now defunct. This Empire lasted from c.1175 to 990 BC when it lost control of its imperial possessions and became a mere local city state centred around Carchemish.
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.
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 II of Egypt (Jer. 46:2). The aim of Necho's campaign was to contain the Westward advance of the Babylonian 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 several references to it 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 Bambyce of the Greek, although the modern Pamukkale in Turkey also had that name.
The site was initially excavated 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 Luwian hieroglyphic inscriptions.
Kings of Carchemish
- Piyassilis, or Sharri-Kushukh, son of the Hittite king Suppiluliumas (d. ca. 1315)
- [...]sharruma, son of Piyassilis
- Sharkhurunuwa, son of Piyassilis
- Ini-Teshub I (fl. ca. 1230s)
- Talmi-Teshub (fl. ca. 1200)
- Kuzi-Teshub (fl. ca. 1170), claimed the title of "Great King" after the fall of Hatti
- Ini-Teshub II (fl. ca. 1100)
- Tudhaliya (ca. 1100, either before or after Ini-Teshub II)
- Suhis I
- Suhis II
- Katuwas (fl. ca. 900)
- Sangara (870-848)
- Astiruwas (ca. 840)
- Yariris or Araras (ca. 815)
- Kamanis (ca. 790)
- Sasturas (ca. 760)
- Pisiris (fl. 730s), the last king, defeated in 717 by Sargon II.
- ↑ Gary Beckman, "Hittite Chronology", Akkadica, pp.119-120 (2000), p.23
- ↑ K.A. Kitchen, On the Reliability of the Old Testament, William B. Eerdsman Publishing Co, pp.99 & 140
- ↑ Kitchen, op. cit., p.99
- ↑ Trevor R. Bryce, The Kingdom of the Hittites, Oxford University Press, p.384
- ↑ Kitchen, op. cit., p.100
- ↑ CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Circesium
- C. L. Woolley, Carchemish. British Museum (1914–1952).
- C. W. Ceram, The Secret of the Hittites: The Discovery of an Ancient Empire. Phoenix Press (2001), ISBN 1-84212-295-9.
- J. D. Hawkins, Corpus of Hieroglyphic Luwian Inscriptions I/1. de Gruyter, Berlin 2000, ISBN 978-3-11-010864-4.
- Map of Early Syria
- Historical demographic data of Syrian urban centers
- 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica entry on Hittites
- References that Carchemish and Jerablus are the same city