The Amorites - World History

The Amorites - World History
Posted on 27-12-2022

The Amorites ( 2000 ) The Amorites invade Mesopotamia.

The period of anarchy in which Mesopotamia was involved at the end of the third millennium facilitated a new invasion of the territory by a new wave of Semitic peoples. These called themselves Amurru, but today they are better known as Amorites or Amorites .The invasion was not as traumatic as the previous ones, partly because this time the chaos in the region had not been caused by them, partly because their language was very similar to Akkadian, so they were easily assimilated and not considered hateful. foreigners, as had happened with the Guti. Perhaps it would not be an exaggeration to say that the Amorites, despite their lack of culture, imposed the order necessary for Mesopotamian culture to continue to flourish. However, it took about two centuries for life to return to what it was before. The Amorites settled in what had been Accad and also in Canaan. The most important city after the fall of Ur was Isin. The kingdom of Elam also exerted its influence on the nearest Mesopotamian cities. Further north stood out the old cities of Mari and Assur, as well as the city of Eshnunna. They were not occupied by the Amorites, but they seem to have been heavily dependent on them.


The Amorites did not introduce much new. They limited themselves to assimilating the pre-existing culture. They did not even introduce new gods, since the similarity of their language with Akkadian favored their gods being identified with some of the existing ones. They had a national god, Amurru, who survived as a secondary god.

There were also movements in the north. The Indo-Europeans domesticated the horse. Until then the only pack animals were oxen and donkeys. The horse, even domesticated, was useless for these purposes, since the primitive harnesses oppressed their trachea and suffocated them. For a couple of centuries it was perhaps used solely for food. Long ago an Indo-European people had settled in northern Greece, and now another has settled in southeastern Anatolia. They are known as Hittites. As usual, both the Hittites and the Greeks took several centuries to assimilate the culture of the area and during this period they gave little to speak of.

At the same time, civilization began to take hold in two areas of America: In Mexico, the first urban centers appeared with rectangular houses with thatched roofs. In the cities a self-sufficient economy based on agriculture, hunting, fishing and gathering developed. The metal was unknown. In Peru the advances were more spectacular, there the cities had public buildings for ceremonies and in Las HaldasA pyramidal temple made up of seven superimposed terraces stands out. We do not know many details about the society that carried out these constructions, but in any case we can deduce that there were economic surpluses and a stratified social organization that regulated communal activity.

The island of Crete became a new power. It had long been trading by sea mainly with Egypt and Canaan, but now the island was united under a powerful government, whose capital was the city of Knossos. Now Cretan trading ships were protected by a military fleet. The island's prosperity and influence gradually increased in the following centuries. Continental Greece was occupied by an Indo-European people who implanted a homogeneous culture in the region, typical of the early phases of the Bronze Age. However, this culture did not reach the Peloponnese or the coastal areas, which continued to be inhabited by a native population under the influence of Crete.

Egypt was in the heyday of the Middle Kingdom. Kings Mentuhotep IV and Mentuhotep V had an able prime minister named Amenemhat, of Theban origin. He somehow rebelled and in 1991 he became king under the name of Amenemhat I, thus inaugurating the 12th dynasty. He moved the capital of the empire to Lisht,near Memphis, for he must have judged Thebes to be too far south to control Lower Egypt effectively. The construction of pyramids continued, although these never again reached the proportions of those of the Old Kingdom. Amenemhat strengthened Egyptian rule over the Sinai, reestablished trade with the south, and kept the nobility in check. Likewise, he ordered the cleaning and restoration of the channel that linked the Nile with Lake Moeris, which considerably increased the fertility of the region.

The XII dynasty was considered in later times as the Golden Age of Egyptian literature. The oldest known examples of fictional literature unrelated to mythology correspond to this period, such as the tale of the shipwrecked man who encounters a monstrous snake, or the tale of Sinuhé, which tells of the life of an Egyptian exile among the tribes. Syrian nomads. The sciences also progressed. A papyrus is known that explains how to operate with fractions, as well as the calculation of certain areas and volumes. There are collections of sayings and proverbs. It is believed that one of them was written by Amenemhat I himself for his son. It seems that life in the palace was not entirely easy, because among other tips we read:

Be careful with your subordinates... be careful with your brother, don't meet the friend and don't be intimate with anyone...

In 1971 Amenemhat I was succeeded by his son Sesostris I, who conquered the region of Nubia, located south of the first cataract of the Nile. The natives were a primitive people who had nothing to do with the Egyptian army. Fifteen centuries later, when Egypt had lost its power, the priests told legendary stories of the extraordinary feats of the kings of the past, who had conquered the entire known world, and the greatest of all conquerors was Sesostris I.

Meanwhile, in Mesopotamia, the city of Larsa broke free from Elam's domination, defeated Isin in 1924 and had its own century of greatness. We can say that around 1900the Sumerians had disappeared from history. They were not exterminated or expelled. They simply lost their national identity. No one spoke Sumerian anymore, although the language was preserved as a "cultured language" in religious rituals (something similar to what would happen to Latin much later). For 2,000 years the Sumerians had invented wheeled transportation, astronomy, mathematics, trading enterprise, large-scale brick construction, and writing, and from then on they were gradually forgotten, to such an extent that they were never seen again. know of its existence until the archaeological discoveries of the 19th century AD

The events narrated in the final part of the book of genesis, in the Bible, correspond to this time. Genesis was written by Jewish priests over a thousand years later. Its first part is a version of the Sumerian myths about the Deluge and previous times, drastically and systematically adapted to leave the Jewish god as the sole protagonist, who at the time we are dealing with did not yet exist. For example, a Sumerian tablet from this period has been preserved that refers to a conflict between a shepherd god and a farmer god, in which it is not difficult to recognize those whom the Bible presents as Cain and Abel.The ten legendary kings from before the Flood are replaced by ten patriarchs from Adam to Noah. Then comes the adaptation of the legend about the men who wanted to build a tower that would reach heaven. Now it is the Jewish god who prevents it by making everyone speak a different language. The Bible places the story in the city of Babel or Babylon. Apparently the Jews found a false etymology that relates the name to the word "confusion", when in fact Babel is a derivation of Bab-Ilum (Gate of God), name of a small Mesopotamian city that the Amorites took over and that was soon to stand out in the region. After a long list of descendants of Noah, Genesis continues with the story of the patriarch Abram. The sources of this last part are no longer Mesopotamian, but Canaanite. No other version is known than that of the Bible itself. In principle, the entire Abram story could be a much later invention, but there are indications that there is a substratum that actually dates back to the late 20th or early 19th century. On the one hand, a political situation is described that fits with historical reality:

It happened at that time that Amrafel, king of Senaar; Arioch, king of Ellasar; Codorlahomor, king of Elam and Tadal, king of Nations, made war against Bara, king of Sodom, and against Bersa, king of Gomorrah, and against Senaab, king of Adama, and against the king of Bala, the same that was later called Segor. All these came together in the Valley of the Jungles, which is now the salty sea. And the reason was that, having been subject to Codorlahomor for twelve years, on the thirteenth they shook off the yoke. (Gen. XIV, 1-4)

Sennaar is the Bible's name for Mesopotamia, while Elasar must be Larsa, and obviously the salty sea is the Dead Sea. The cities of Sodom, Gomorrah, etc. they were canaanites. They must have been near the Dead Sea, as the Bible continues to explain that the confrontation took place there as a result of which they were defeated and looted. In the text there is an apparent contradiction, since it seems that Elam is the most powerful power (it was the one that had the Canaanite cities subjected), while Amrafel is presented as king of Mesopotamia. Probably Amrafel was king of Babel, and the government of all Mesopotamia is anachronistically attributed to him, since shortly after the city would really dominate the entire region.

Another indication of the historical value of the last part of Genesis is that Abram's story seems to have been modified several times, particularly to fit it with the next book of the Bible, Exodus. Thus, the protagonists change names suddenly and sometimes very forced. Abram himself (great father) is renamed Abraham (father of a great multitude), his wife Sarai (my mistress) is renamed Sarah (lady) and his grandsons Esau (hairy) and Jacob (who trips) become called Edom and Israel. These modifications suggest that there was a first version that had to be reconciled with the one that best suited the Jews.

The core of Abram's story is as follows: Abram leaves Ur with his father, his wife, and his nephew and settles in Canaan (where his father dies). During a period of famine they travel to Egypt, where they are well received by the king, but Abram makes him believe that Sarai is her sister, the king takes her as his wife and God punishes Egypt with terrible plagues. When the king learns that Sarai is Abram's wife, he invites her to leave her land with her and all of her family. They return to Canaan. Abram is based in the city of Hebron, halfway between the coast and the Dead Sea, while his nephew Lot is based in Sodom, which must have been next to the Jordan, north of the Dead Sea. Then the confrontation described above took place, in which Lot was taken prisoner by Codorlahomor. Abram finds out, raises an army, pursues and defeats Chodorlahomor, thus freeing Lot and restoring to Sodom the prisoners and wealth seized from him. Then Abram goes to the city of Gerara, where again he makes his king believe that Sarai is his sister and the same incident as in Egypt is repeated, but this time things are cleared up and the king of Gerara allows Abram to occupy the part of his territory that he pleases. But the most important part of the legend is that, at various times, God promises Abram that he will give his descendants all the land of Canaan. From now on,

Abram's firstborn is Ishmael and the Bible states that his descendants populated the Arabian coast of the Red Sea. (More than two thousand years later, Muhammad would consider himself a descendant of Ishmael.) But it turned out that he was not the son of Sarai, the legitimate wife, but of a slave, so the true firstborn was Isaac. In turn, he had two twin sons, Esau was born first and Jacob was born after holding him by the ankle (as if trying to be born before, hence his name). Theoretically, Esau owned Canaan, but he sold it to his brother for a bowl of pottage, and Jacob tricked Isaac into ratifying the deal on his deathbed.

A possible analysis of this fable would be the following: The fact that Abram was able to recruit an army indicates that in reality he must have been a king of some city or a leader of one of the Amorite tribes that arrived from Arabia. The provenance of Ur is not plausible. After all the soap opera about Abram's offspring, the Jews ended up being (obviously) the legitimate heirs of him. There are many peoples that trace its origin to a specific character, and always try to attribute an illustrious origin to it. When Genesis was written, the city of Ur preserved the legend of its ancient fame, and it is natural that the Jews chose it as the homeland of their ancestor. The most reasonable thing is that Abram was an Amorite leader who did not get a good territory in the invasion, so he led his men towards Egypt in the hope of finding better opportunities. There he encountered a powerful Middle Empire who must have pushed him back with little effort. Naturally Abram's men must have quickly silenced this part of the story, so it became an obscure spot that the Jews filled in with later fragments: on the one hand, the plagues of Egypt are taken from the next biblical book, Exodus, and the incident between Sarai and the king has every trace of being a duplication of the analogous incident with the king of Gerara. It is likely that Abram's men were dissatisfied with a chieftain who took them from one place to another without success. Perhaps Abram placated them with some story about a mighty god angry with the Canaanites and (remaining) Amorites and willing to use them as his vengeful arm, so that with his help they would conquer all of Canaan. We cannot know anything about Abram's god, since the Bible attributed all divine intervention to the god of the Jews, eliminating any trace of another religion. In any case, it seems that Abram's men took heart and, back in Canaan, had some notable victory (probably not as important as defeating the king of Elam). Finally they were able to settle in Gerara (the story of the king voluntarily offering his territory to them is incredible). Either way, it is plausible that the Amorites of some city in Canaan formed the legend that a god had granted them the territory they occupied through a pact with their first leader, Abram. Perhaps there were many of the rude Amorite invaders who felt self-conscious about the culture of the conquered peoples, which is why they welcomed history and rushed to find genealogical lines that traced them back to the patriarch and thus legitimized (with divine will) their dominant position. The genealogy of Abram that the Bible collects is later,

Another notable fact that Genesis narrates is the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. It is possible that a meteorite fall or, more likely, an earthquake wiped out these cities. Naturally, a catastrophe of this magnitude must have given rise to many stories whose natural conclusion was divine punishment. In any case, there must not have been many details (or those that were there must have been at odds with the Jewish religion) because in order to describe the sinful life of Sodom and Gomorrah, the biblical authors had to adapt a later story contained in the book of Judges about some men who tried to sodomize a Levite (chapter XIX) and instead he offered his wife to be raped. (Ironically,

At this time, the major cities in southern Canaan were Shechem, Bethel, Salem, Hebron, and Beersheba. Salem should not be the most prominent at this time, but perhaps it was the best located, on a hill with water sources, which made it easy to defend and enabled it to resist sieges. Later it would gain importance under the modified name of Jerusalem. In general, the Amorites spent the 20th and 19th centuries between tensions and disputes. During the 19th century, the city of Kish had a period of dominance, but it did not take long to cede it to Babel. In 1850 the Amorites took the city of Assur, then a prosperous trading city.

In 1842 the King of Egypt Sesostris III died, shortly after having subdued all of Canaan under his rule. He was succeeded by his son From him Amenemhat III,which extended Egyptian hegemony to some inner cities of Syria. The city of Byblos benefited from its long tradition of good relations with Egypt, and enjoyed special protection. To the south, Egypt controlled the course of the Nile up to the third cataract. Around this time, circumcision must have been introduced in Canaan, an Egyptian rite perhaps related to fertility that the Canaanites would end up interpreting as a symbol of the pact between Abram and his god. Although we know nothing for sure about this god, the fact that the Canaanites were circumcised in his name indicates that being identified as Abram's descendant was of paramount importance to them.

Amenenmhat III built two pyramids next to Lake Moeris, as well as numerous colossal statues with his image and a complex group of palaces, all surrounded by the same wall. Apparently the construction had three thousand five hundred rooms, half of which were underground and were used as burial chambers. Apparently the king tried to outwit the grave robbers by hiding the mummies and treasures in a complicated system of passages instead of under a mass of stone. The Egyptians named this construction with a word that means "the temple at the entrance of the lake", but the Greeks of later times deformed it to Labyrinthos, that is, Labyrinth. The Egyptian Labyrinth must have been an imposing work, made of white marble, with careful ornamentation, although it did not fulfill its purpose, since all the tombs it contained were looted over time. Also the city of Thebes was embellished with new temples, statues and other notable buildings.

In 1822 , King Rim-Sin took the throne of Larsa , who had to fight frequently with Isin to maintain the supremacy of his city over the region. In 1814 an Amorite managed to seize power in Assur, founding a dynasty that would rule for a thousand years. His name was Shamshi-Adad I. He subdued Mari, which at that time was the other great commercial power in the area, and thus dominated northern Mesopotamia, forming a small empire that would later grow and be known as the Assyrian Empire.

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