Settlements > Mari



Mari was an ancient city located along the western bank of the Euphrates River in Mesopotamia. The city was extremely prosperous and successful as a commerce center between 2900 BCE and 1759 BCE due to its central location in Mesopotamia. Currently the city is known as Tell Hariri and lies about 120 km southeast of Deir ez-Zor and 11 km northwest of Abu Kamal in Syria.

Mari was first abandoned in the middle of the 26th century BC but was rebuilt and became the capital of a hegemonic East-Semitic state before 2500 BC. This second Mari engaged in a long war with its rival Ebla, and is known for its strong affinity with the Sumerian culture. The name of the city can be traced to Mer, an ancient storm deity of northern Mesopotamia and Syria who was considered the patron deity of the city,[1] Georges Dossin noted that the name of the city was spelled identically like the name of the storm god and concluded that Mari was named after him.[2]

First Mariote Kingdom

See First Mariote Kingdom

Second Mariote Kingdom

See Second Mariote Kingdom

Mari-Ebla War

See Mari-Ebla War

Third Mariote Kingdom

See Third Mariote Kingdom

Shakkanakku Dynasty

See Shakkanakku Dynasty

Lim Dynasty

See Lim Dynasty


See Assyria

Shamshi-Adad appointed his son Yasmah-Adad on the throne of Mari, the new king married Yahdun-Lim's daughter,[76][77] while the rest of the Lim family took refuge in Yamhad,[78] and the annexation was officially justified by what Shamshi-Adad considered sinful acts on the side of the Lim family.[79] To strengthen his position against his new enemy Yamhad, Shamshi-Adad married Yasmah-Adad to Betlum, the daughter of Ishi-Adad of Qatna.[77] However, Yasmah-Adad neglected his bride causing a crisis with Qatna, and he proved to be an unable leader causing the rage of his father who died in c. 1776 BC,[77][80][81] while the armies of Yarim-Lim I of Yamhad were advancing in support of Zimri-Lim, the heir of the Lim dynasty.[note 13][81] Investiture of Zimri-Lim. (18th century BC) As Zimri-Lim advanced, a leader of the Banu-Simaal (Zimri-Lim's tribe) overthrew Yasmah-Adad,[83] opening the road for Zimri-Lim who arrived a few months after Yasmah-Adad's escape,[84] and married princess Shibtu the daughter of Yarim-Lim I a short time after his enthronement in c. 1776 BC.[81] Zimri-Lim's ascension to the throne with the help of Yarim-Lim I affected Mari's status, Zimri-Lim referred to Yarim-Lim as his father, and the Yamhadite king was able to order Mari as the mediator between Yamhad's main deity Hadad and Zimri-Lim, who declared himself a servant of Hadad.[85] Zimri-Lim started his reign with a campaign against the Banu-Yamina, he also established alliances with Eshnunna and Hammurabi of Babylon,[78] and sent his armies to aid the Babylonians.[86] The new king directed his expansion policy toward the north in the Upper Khabur region, which was named Izdamaraz,[87] where he subjugated the local petty kingdoms in the region such as Urkesh,[88] and Talhayum, forcing them into vassalage.[89] The expansion was met by the resistance of Qarni-Lim, the king of Andarig,[90] whom Zimri-Lim defeated, securing the Mariote control over the region in c. 1771 BC,[91] and the kingdom prospered as a trading center and entered a period of relative peace.[81] Zimri-Lim's greatest heritage was the renovation of the Royal Palace, which was expanded greatly to contain 275 rooms,[45][92] exquisite artifacts such as The Goddess of the Vase statue,[93] and a royal archive that contained 25000 tablets.[94] Mari's alliance with Eshnunna contributed to its demise, as that city later became an enemy of Hammurabi.[95] The relations with Babylon worsened with a dispute over the city of Hīt that consumed much time in negotiations,[96] during which a war against Elam involved both kingdoms in c. 1765 BC.[97] Finally, the kingdom was invaded by Hammurabi who defeated Zimri-Lim in battle in c. 1761 BC and ended the Lim dynasty,[98][99] while Terqa became the capital of a rump state named the Kingdom of Hana.[100] Later periods[edit] Shamash-Risha-Usur (c. 760 BC) Mari survived the destruction and rebelled against Babylon in c. 1759 BC, causing Hammurabi to destroy the whole city.[101] However, Mari was allowed to survive as a small village under Babylonian administration, an act that Hammurabi considered merciful.[101] Later, Mari became part of Assyria and was listed among the territories conquered by the Assyrian king Tukulti-Ninurta I (reigned 1243–1207 BC).[102] Afterward, Mari constantly changed hands between Assyria and Babylon.[102] In the middle of the eleventh century BC, Mari became part of Hana whose king Tukulti-Mer took the title king of Mari and rebelled against Assyria, causing the Assyrian king Ashur-bel-kala to attack the city.[102] Mari came firmly under the authority of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, and was assigned in the first half of the 8th century BC to a certain Nergal-Erish to govern under the authority of king Adad-Nirari III (reigned 810-783 BC).[102] In c. 760 BC, Shamash-Risha-Usur,[103] an autonomous governor ruling parts of the upper middle Euphrates under the nominal authority of Ashur-dan III, styled himself the governor of the lands of Suhu and Mari, so did his son Ninurta-Kudurri-Usur.[102] However, by that time, Mari was known to be located in the so-called Land of Laqe,[note 14] making it unlikely that the Usur family actually controlled it, and suggesting that the title was employed out of historical reasons.[102] The city continued as a small settlement until the Hellenistic period before disappearing from records.[102] People, language and government[edit] A Mariote from the second kingdom. (25th century BC) The founders of the first city may have been Sumerians or more probably East Semitic speaking people from Terqa in the north.[3] I. J. Gelb relates Mari's foundation with the Kish civilization,[105] which was a cultural entity of East Semitic speaking populations, that stretched from the center of Mesopotamia to Ebla in the western Levant.[106] At its height, the second city was the home of about 40,000 people.[107] This population was East-Semitic speaking one, and used a dialect much similar to the language of Ebla (the Eblaite language),[9][108] while the Shakkanakku period had an East-Semitic Akkadian speaking population.[109] West Semitic names started to be attested in Mari since the second kingdom era,[110] and by the middle Bronze-Age, the west Semitic Amorite tribes became the majority of the pastoral groups in the middle Euphrates and Khabur valleys.[111] Amorite names started to be observed in the city toward the end of the Shakkanakku period, even among the ruling dynasty members.[112] During the Lim era, the population became predominantly Amorite but also included Akkadian named people,[note 15] and although the Amorite language became the dominant tongue, Akkadian remained the language of writing.[113][114][115] The pastoral Amorites in Mari were called the Haneans, a term that indicate nomads in general,[116] those Haneans were split into the Banu-Yamina (sons of the right) and Banu-Simaal (sons of the left), with the ruling house belonging to the Banu-Simaal branch.[116] The kingdom was also a home to tribes of Suteans who lived in the district of Terqa.[117]

Mariote Government

Mari was an absolute monarchy, with the king controlling every aspect of the administration, helped by the scribes who played the role of administrators.[118][119] During the Lim era, Mari was divided into four provinces in addition to the capital, the provincial seats were located at Terqa, Saggaratum, Qattunan and Tuttul. Each province had its own bureaucracy,[119] the government supplied the villagers with ploughs and agricultural equipments, in return for a share in the harvest.[120]

Kings of Mari

The Sumerian King List (SKL) record a dynasty of six kings from Mari enjoying hegemony between the dynasty of Adab and the dynasty of Kish.[121] The names of the Mariote kings were damaged on the early copies of the list,[23] and those kings were correlated with historical kings that belonged to the second city.[9] However, an undamaged copy of the list that date to the old Babylonian period was discovered in Shubat-Enlil,[23] and the names bears no resemblance to any of the historically attested monarchs of the second city,[23] indicating that the compilers of the list had an older and probably a legendary dynasty in mind, that predate the second city.[23] The chronological order of the kings from the second kingdom era is highly uncertain; nevertheless, it is assumed that the letter of Enna-Dagan lists them in a chronological order.[122] Many of the kings were attested through their own votive objects discovered in the city,[123][124] and the dates are highly speculative.[124] For the Shakkanakkus, the lists are incomplete and after Hanun-Dagan who ruled at the end of the Ur era c. 2008 BC (c. 1920 BC Short chronology), they become full of lacunae.[125] Roughly 13 more Shakkanakkus succeeded Hanun-Dagan but only few are known, with the last known one reigning not too long before the reign of Yaggid-Lim who founded the Lim dynasty in c. 1830 BC.[58][126] The first and second kingdoms were heavily influenced by the Sumerian south.[154] The society was led by an urban oligarchy,[155] and the citizens were well known for elaborate hair styles and dress.[156][157] The calendar was based on a solar year divided into twelve months, and was the same calendar used in Ebla "the old Eblaite calendar".[158][159] Scribes wrote in Sumerian language and the art was indistinguishable from Sumerian art, so was the architectural style.[160] Mesopotamian influence continued to affect Mari's culture during the Amorite period,[161] which is evident in the Babylonian scribal style used in the city.[162] However, it was less influential than the former periods and a distinct Syrian style prevailed, which is noticeable in the seals of kings, which reflect a clear Syrian origin.[161] The society was a tribal one,[163] it consisted mostly of farmers and nomads (Haneans),[164] and in contrast to Mesopotamia, the temple had a minor role in everyday life as the power was mostly invested in the palace.[165] Women enjoyed a relative equality to men,[166] queen Shibtu ruled in her husband's name while he was away, and had an extensive administrative role and authority over her husband's highest officials.[167] The Pantheon included both Sumerian and Semitic deities,[168] and throughout most of its history, Dagan was Mari's head of the Pantheon,[169][170] while Mer was the patron deity.[1] Other deities included the Semitic deities; Ishtar the goddess of fertility,[168] Athtar,[171] and Shamash, the Sun god who was regarded among the city most important deities,[172] and believed to be all-knowing and all-seeing.[173] Sumerian deities included Ninhursag,[168] Dumuzi,[174] Enki, Anu, and Enlil.[175] Prophecy had an important role for the society, temples included prophets,[176] who gave council to the king and participated in the religious festivals.[177]

Mariote Economy

See Mariote Economy

Akkadian Empire

See Akkadian Empire

It was destroyed in the 23rd century BC by the Akkadians who allowed the city to be rebuilt and appointed a military governor bearing the title of Shakkanakku (military governor). The governors later became independent with the rapid disintegration of the Akkadian empire and rebuilt the city as a regional center in the middle Euphrates valley. The Shakkanakkus ruled Mari until the second half of the 19th century BC when the dynasty collapsed for unknown reasons.


A short time after the Shakkanakku collapse, Mari became the capital of the Amorite Lim dynasty. The Amorite Mari was short lived as it was annexed by Babylonia in c. 1761 BC, but the city survived as a small settlement under the rule of the Babylonians and the Assyrians before being abandoned and forgotten during the Hellenistic period.



The Mariotes worshiped both Semitic and Sumerian deities and established their city as a center of old trade. However, although the pre-Amorite periods were characterized by heavy Sumerian cultural influence, Mari was not a city of Sumerian immigrants but rather a Semitic speaking nation that used a dialect similar to Eblaite. The Amorites were West-Semites who began to settle the area before the 21st century BC; by the Lim dynasty's era (c. 1830 BC), they became the dominant population in the Fertile Crescent.


Mari was uncovered by archeologists in 1933 and revealed a massive treasure trove of over 25,000 tablets regarding the administration of the government and the interactions with other political entities in the region. The tablets displayed evidence of the massive trade network in the ancient world of which Mari was apart of. From Afghanistan to Crete and beyond, humans in the ancient world were prolific traders and consumers, willing to travel extremely long distances to find new goods, markets and riches.

Excavations and archive[edit] Parts of the walls Mari was discovered in 1933, on the eastern flank of Syria, near the Iraqi border.[183] A Bedouin tribe was digging through a mound called Tell Hariri for a gravestone that would be used for a recently deceased tribesman, when they came across a headless statue.[183] After the news reached the French authorities currently in control of Syria, the report was investigated, and digging on the site was started on December 14, 1933 by archaeologists from the Louvre in Paris.[183] Discoveries came quickly, with the temple of Ishtar being discovered in the next month.[94] Mari was classified by the archaeologists as the "most westerly outpost of Sumerian culture".[184] Since the beginning of excavations, over 25,000 clay tablets in Akkadian language written in cuneiform were discovered.[94] Finds from the excavation are on display in the Louvre,[185][186] the National Museum of Aleppo,[187] the National Museum of Damascus,[173] and the Deir ez-Zor Museum. In the latter, the southern façade of the Court of the Palms room from Zimri-Lim's palace has been reconstructed, including the wall paintings.[188] Mari has been excavated in annual campaigns between 1933-1939, 1951-1956, and since 1960,[189] and the first 21 seasons up to 1975 were led by André Parrot,[190] followed by Jean-Claude Margueron (until 2004),[191] and Pascal Butterlin (starting in 2005).[192] A journal devoted to the site since 1982, is Mari: Annales de recherches interdisciplinaires.[193][194] Archaeologists have tried to determine how many layers the site descends, according to French archaeologist André Parrot, "each time a vertical probe was commenced in order to trace the site's history down to virgin soil, such important discoveries were made that horizontal digging had to be resumed."[195]

Mari King List

Ruler Length of reign Notes Kings from the SKL Anbu 30 years This name is also read as Ilshu.[127] Anba 17 years His epithet was given as "the son of Anbu" on the list.[128] Bazi 30 years His epithet was given as "the leatherworker" on the list.[128] Zizi 20 years His epithet was given as "the fuller" on the list.[128] Limer 30 years His epithet was given as "the 'gudug' priest" on the list.[note 16][128] Sharrum-iter 9 years "Then Mari was defeated and the kingship was taken to Kish.[128]" The second kingdom Ikun-Shamash His votive statue was discovered in Mari,[19] reigned before the reign of Ur-Nanshe of Lagash.[121] Ikun-Mari This name is inscribed on a jar in Mari.[130] Ikun-Shamagan c. 2453 BC His votive statue was discovered in Mari.[131] Ansud c. 2423-2416 BC His name is inscribed on a jar (as Hanusum) sent to Mari by Mesannepada of Ur.[9][23] The name was read by Pettinato as Anubu.[20][132] Saʿumu c. 2416-2400 BC He was attested in Enna-Dagan's letter as conquering many lands.[22] Išhtup-Išar c. 2400 BC He was attested in Enna-Dagan's letter as conquering Emar and other Eblaite vassals.[22] Iblul-Il c. 2380 BC He forced Ebla to pay tribute.[22] Nizi His reign lasted three years.[133] Enna-Dagan c. 2340 BC He wrote a letter to Irkab-Damu of Ebla to assert Mari's authority.[19] Ikun-Ishar c. 2320 BC He is attested in the Eblaite archives.[134] Hidar c. 2300 BC He is attested in the archives of Ebla, which was destroyed during his reign.[135] Isqi-Mari His name was previously read as Lamgi-Mari.[136] Hypothetically the last king.[29] The Shakkanakkus Ididish c. 2266-2206 BC Shu-Dagan c. 2206-2200 BC He was the son of Ididish.[42] Ishme-Dagan c. 2199-2154 BC He ruled for 45 years.[41][137] Nûr-Mêr c. 2153-2148 BC He was the son of Ishme-Dagan.[41] Ishtup-Ilum c. 2147-2136 BC He was the brother of Nûr-Mêr.[41] Ishgum-Addu c. 2135-2127 BC He reigned for eight years.[41] Apîl-kîn c. 2126-2091 BC He was the son of Ishme-Dagan.[41][138] Used the royal title Lugal in his votive inscription.[139] Iddin-El c. 2090-2085 BC His name is also read as Iddi-Ilum.[140] His name was inscribed on his votive statue.[141] Ili-Ishar c. 2084-2072 BC His name is inscribed on a brick.[142] Turam-Dagan c. 2071-2051 BC He was the son of Apîl-kîn and the brother of Ili-Ishar.[143] Puzur-Ishtar c. 2050-2025 BC He was the son of Turam-Dagan.[41] Used the royal title.[144] Hitlal-Erra c. 2024-2017 BC He was the son of Puzur-Ishtar.[145] Used the royal title.[144] Hanun-Dagan c. 2016-2008 BC He was the son of Puzur-Ishtar.[146] Used the royal title.[144] Isi-Dagan c. 2000 BC This name is inscribed on a seal.[147] Ennin-Dagan He was the son of Isi-Dagan.[148] Itur-(...) This name is damaged but could be Itur-Mer,[149] a gap separate him from Ennin-Dagan.[58] Amer-Nunu This name is inscribed on a seal.[150][151] Tir-Dagan He was the son of Itur-(...).[152] Dagan-(...) This name is damaged and is the last attested Shakkanakku.[153] The Lim dynasty Yaggid-Lim c. 1830-1820 BC He may have ruled in Suprum rather than in Mari.[63][66] Yahdun-Lim c. 1820-1798 BC Sumu-Yamam c. 1798-1796 BC Assyrian period Yasmah-Adad c. 1796-1776 BC He was the son of Shamshi-Adad I of Assyria.[77] Ishar-Lim c. 1776 BC He was an Assyrian official who usurped the throne for a few months between Yasmah-Adad's escape and Zimri-Lim's arrival.[84] Lim restoration Zimri-Lim c. 1776-1761 BC


Primary Sources

Secondary Sources