Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Golden Sword of Marian Apocalypse (continued 11)

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Part Twenty Six: “The Assuruballit Problem”

(i): Stating the ‘Problem’




Damien F. Mackey




The supposedly mid-C9th BC Assyrian king, Shalmaneser III,

lies at the heart of one of the revision’s most awkward conundrums,

now known as “The Assuruballit Problem” [TAP].


Shalmaneser III an awkward ‘fit’ in revised EA


According to the Velikovskian revision of the El Amarna [EA] period, which I accept in general, though by no means in all of its details, the vast correspondence of the EA archives belongs to the mid-C9th BC period of the Divided Kingdom of Israel and Judah.

Whilst Dr. I. Velikovsky managed to lay down a set of biblico-historical anchors that have stood the test of time, e.g., the sturdy synchronism of EA’s Amurrite kings with C9th BC Syrian ones, he also left unresolved some extremely complex problems.

At the beginning of Chapter 3 of my thesis (Volume One, p. 52):


A Revised History of the Era of King Hezekiah of Judah

and its Background



I named what I then considered to be:


“… the three most problematical aspects of the [Velikovskian] matrix: namely,


(i) ‘The Assuruballit Problem’ [henceforth TAP];

(ii) where to locate Ramses II in the new scheme; and

(iii) the resolution of the complex [Third Intermediate Period] TIP”.


Though I was hopeful at the time, in retrospect I do not believe that I managed to solve any of these (i) - (iii).


And I think that I can fairly safely say that these are still amongst the three most vexing problems.


Here, though, I am concerned only with (i) TAP, towards the resolution of which difficulty I dedicated an Excursus: ‘The Assuruballit Problem’ [TAP], beginning on p. 230 (Chapter Ten) of my thesis. There I re-stated TAP that had already been well addressed by other revisionists, such as Peter. James (“Some Notes on the “Assuruballit Problem”,” 1979). I explained:


“TAP is this:

If EA is to be lowered to the mid-C9th BC, as Velikovsky had argued, why then is EA’s ‘king of Assyria’ called ‘Assuruballit’ (EA 15 & 16), and not ‘Shalmaneser’, since Shalmaneser III – by current reckoning – completely straddles the middle part of this century (c. 858-824 BC)?

Velikovsky’s part solution to the problem was to identify Shalmaneser III, as ruler of Babylon, with EA correspondent and Kassite ruler of Babylonian Karduniash, Burnaburiash (so-called II).

Until now, I have considered that suggestion of Velikovsky’s to be quite plausible.

I no longer do.

There is no doubt that the Kassites, albeit most powerful kings, are so sorely lacking an archaeological culture within conventional history as to demand alter egos.

And, regarding EA’s Assuruballit, James (op. cit.) tells of:


“…. Velikovsky’s Unpublished Solution.


Although he has yet to publish in full his own answer to the problem, Velikovsky does consider, like Courville, that the differences in the paternities of the el-Amarna Assuruballit and Assuruballit I cast doubt on their assumed identity and relieve the problem – there must have been another Assuruballit in the mid-9th century who wrote to Akhnaton. Velikovsky stressed this point in a letter to Professor SAMUEL MERCER, author of an English edition of the el-Amarna letters, as long ago as 1947. He has also considered the possibility that Assuruballit was not a king of Assyria, but a Syrian ruler, perhaps an Assyrian governor of Carchemish, albeit one not mentioned in the contemporary records [14]. Such a solution would have to explain the usual reading “King of Assyria” in EA 15 and 16 [15], and how, “within the ethics of that day”, an Assyrian governor could write to the king of Egypt on equal terms and describe himself as a “great king”.


My own argument went along lines somewhat similar, with Shalmaneser III (= Burnaburiash) as ruler of Assyria and Babylonia, and Assuruballit as the Syrian Aziru (= biblical Hazael), who would come to dominate Assyria and Egypt – both of whom, Shalmaneser III and Assuruballit, being amongst those despised “sons of Abdi-ashirta, the dog”, the bane of EA correspondent Rib-Addi of Gubla. That was my provisional suggestion, whilst still being open to a more satisfactory location of Shalmaneser III within EA.


And that brings me to the purpose of this new series.


I now suspect that Shalmaneser III does not fit at all within an EA scenario – that he has must be removed right out of the mid-C9th BC. Basically, Shalmaneser III is the problem of TAP.


Un-hooking Shalmaneser III from the mid-C9th BC


If Shalmaneser III is to be removed from the mid-C9th BC biblico-historical scene,

then it will be necessary to show that the ‘pins’

ostensibly fastening him to that era are insecure.


 Although I - by no means averse to the use of alter egos - had previously searched about for a possible identification of Shalmaneser III with some other potent Assyrian king, I was probably unable ultimately to detach him from his apparent mid-C9th BC links.

For one, Shalmaneser III is considered to have campaigned against Ben-Hadad [I] of Damascus, and, afterwards, against Hazael. And this Syrian sequence appears to represent the biblical succession of kings of these very names - properly identified by Dr. I. Velikovsky, I believe, in EA’s Amurrite succession of Abdi-ashirta and Aziru.


“Ben-hadad and Shalmaneser


The relations between Ben-hadad and the Assyrian king Shalmaneser II[I] are very clear. The Syrian forces were utterly defeated at Karkar on the Orontes in 853 B.C., in spite of the enormous armament which the Damascene had brought to his aid. The inscriptions of Shalmaneser in one passage give the number of the slain as 20,500. With 120,000 men in 845 B.C. Shalmaneser again entered Syria and overthrew Ben-hadad and a large army of allies.

According to II Kings viii. 7-15, Ben-hadad fell ill and sent Hazael to the prophet Elisha—who was then in Damascus—in order to inquire whether he would recover. Elisha prophesied that Hazael would be king in Ben-hadad's stead and would do much evil to Israel. On Hazael's return to his master he smothered Ben-hadad with a wet cloth and declared himself king (see Hazael). When, in 841, the Assyrian king once more encountered the forces of Damascus, his chief foe was Hazael, who, it is known, was Ben-hadad's successor, so that the latter must have died between 845 and 841 B.C”.


Data such as this seemed to me to lock Shalmaneser III firmly into place in the mid-C9th BC.

Furthermore, one of Ben-Hadad’s allies at Karkar (Qarqar), A-ha-ab-bu Sir-’i-la-a-a, has commonly been identified with king Ahab of Israel, who was a contemporary of Ben-hadad I.

And, finally, there was the famous Black Obelisk inscription of Shalmaneser III, supposedly recording the submission to the king of Assyria of Jehu king of Israel. We read this excited account of apparent biblical import at:


The obelisk contains five different scenes on five different rows.  Each row depicts the tribute of a foreign king. A tribute would usually entail a foreign king coming before Shalmaneser and bowing down before him showing Shalmaneser to be the ultimate king of his land.

Guess what? The second row of pictures on the Obelisk depicts the tribute of one particular king whom we know. When the ancient Assyrian Cuneiform inscription was translated the biblical world was shocked. The inscription reads, “The tribute of Jehu, son of Omri: I received from him silver, gold, a golden bowl, a golden vase with pointed bottom, golden tumblers, golden buckets, tin, a staff for a king [and] spears.”



This is the ONLY, to my knowledge, contemporary artistic depiction of anyone mentioned in the Bible. What do I mean by contemporary? This is the only artistic depiction of someone in the Bible done by a person who actually lived during the same time. The Obelisk you see before you was created while Jehu was still the king sitting on his throne in Israel. The people knew what Jehu looked like. History outside of the Bible tells us Jehu and Shalmaneser were kings at the same time.



Surely then, based on the above, Shalmaneser III must firmly belong to the mid-C9th BC era of Ben-hadad I and Hazael of Syria, and Ahab and Jehu of Israel!


But, then again, must he?


Since these biblico-historical synchronisms with Shalmaneser III are occasionally challenged - and especially given the immense problem that a mid-C9th BC Shalmaneser III presents to the revision - it may well be worthwhile exploring some alternative possibilities.


Part Twenty Six: “The Assuruballit Problem”

(ii): Battle of Qarqar Reconsidered




Shalmaneser III does not actually name his Damascene foe at Qarqar as Ben-Hadad.

And the widely held view that the A-ha-ab-bu Sir-’i-la-a-a of the Kurkh Monolith inscription is king Ahab of Israel himself is in fact quite a controversial one.




Ben-Hadad of Damascus


H. Rossier writes in 2 Kings: Meditations on the Second Book of Kings, regarding the name, Ben-Hadad, “… we must not forget that Ben-Hadad is a generic name for the kings of Syria …”, and he there reminds the reader that a king of this name had preceded Hazael, whilst another of the same name, Ben-Hadad, had succeeded Hazael.

So, mention of the name alone as a participant in the battle of Qarqar does not guarantee that Shalmaneser III was fighting against Ben-Hadad I, the contemporary of king Ahab of Israel. But, beyond all that, the name of the Damascene ruler given in the Kurkh Monolith account of the battle is Adad-idri, or, preferably, the Assyrian version (ilu) IM-idri.


Some render this as “Hadadezer”.


And, though this Assyrian name is generally just assumed to be a proper match with the name Ben-Hadad (variously given as I or II) – it being common to read, e.g., as at Jewish Virtual Library ( “… 20,000 [foot-]soldiers of Adad-idri [Hadadezer = "Ben-Hadad II"]”, a detailed analysis by D. Luckenbill ( will firmly conclude that:

“…. Benhadad of I Kings, chap. 20 is not the same person as the Adad-’idri of Shalmaneser’s inscriptions. The fact that the names cannot be equated was shown by the first part of this paper”.


Luckenbill, for his part, thinks that this Adad-’idri must have been a Syrian king ruling for a time between Ben-Hadad and Hazael.


Ahab of Israel


We read about the lengthy and contentious history of this proposed identification at:


"Ahab of Israel" ….


The identification of "A-ha-ab-bu Sir-ila-a-a" with "Ahab of Israel" was first proposed[19] by Julius Oppert in his 1865 Histoire des Empires de Chaldée et d'Assyrie.[20]

Eberhard Schrader dealt with parts of the inscription on the Shalmaneser III Monolith in 1872, in his Die Keilinschriften und das Alte Testament ("Cuneiform inscriptions and the Old Testament").[21] The first full translation of the Shalmaneser III Monolith was provided by James Alexander Craig in 1887.[22]

Schrader wrote that the name "Israel" ("Sir-ila-a-a") was found only on this artifact in cuneiform inscriptions at that time, a fact which remains the case today. This fact has been brought up by some scholars who dispute the proposed translation.[4][23]

Schrader also noted that whilst Assyriologists such as Fritz Hommel[24] had disputed whether the name was "Israel" or "Jezreel",[21][25] because the first character is the phonetic "sir" and the place-determinative "mat". Schrader described the rationale for the reading "Israel", which became the scholarly consensus, as:

"the fact that here Ahab Sir'lit, and Ben-hadad of Damascus appear next to each other, and that in an inscription of this same king [Shalmaneser]'s Nimrud obelisk appears Jehu, son of Omri, and commemorates the descendant Hazael of Damascus, leaves no doubt that this Ahab Sir'lit is the biblical Ahab of Israel. That Ahab appears in cahoots with Damascus is quite in keeping with the biblical accounts, which Ahab concluded after the Battle of Aphek an alliance with Benhadad against their hereditary enemy Assyria."[21]

The identification was challenged by other contemporary scholars such as George Smith and Daniel Henry Haigh.[19]

The identification as Ahab of Israel has been challenged in more recent years by Werner Gugler and Adam van der Woude, who believe that "Achab from the monolith-inscription should be construed as a king from Northwestern Syria".[26]

According to the inscription, Ahab committed a force of 10,000 foot soldiers and 2,000 chariots to Assyrian led war coalition. The size of Ahab's contribution indicates that the Kingdom of Israel was a major military power in the region of Syria-Palestine during the first half on 9th century BCE.[27]

Due to the size of Ahab's army, which was presented as extraordinarily large for ancient times, the translation raised polemics among scholars. Also, the usage of the term "Israel" was unique among Assyrian inscriptions, as the usual Assyrian terms for the Northern Kingdom of Israel were the "The Land of Omri" or Samaria.

According to Shigeo Yamada, the designation of a state by two alternative names is not unusual in the inscription of Shalmaneser.

Nadav Neeman proposed a scribal error in regard to the size of Ahab army and suggested that the army consisted of 200 instead of 2,000 chariots.

Summarizing scholarly works on this subject, Kelle suggests that the evidence "allows one to say that the inscription contains the first designation for the Northern Kingdom. Moreover, the designation "Israel" seems to have represented an entity that included several vassal states." The latter may have included Moab, Edom and Judah. ….”.


I find it extremely difficult to imagine that the heavily defeated (by Ahab) Ben-Hadad I of Syria, long a foe of Israel, could - in the short window of time allowable by this very tight chronology - have so raised himself up as to have been capable of leading this impressive collation against the might of Shalmaneser III. 

Moreover, the Bible provides absolutely no indication at the time of Ben-Hadad I and Ahab of a rampant Assyria in the region of Syro-Palestine. This further inclines me to think that the Assyrian king Shalmaneser III was not contemporaneous with this phase of Israel’s Divided Kingdom, which - in a revised context - belongs contemporaneous with the EA era of 18th dynasty Egyptian history.

Another historian who has difficulty with the identification of Shalmaneser III’s Qarqar opponent, A-ha-ab-bu Sir-ila-a-a, with Ahab, is James B. Jordan, who writes along similar lines, asking:


Ahab and Assyria (Chronologies and Kings VIII)

by James B. Jordan


… Was Ahab at Qarqar?


Allis writes: “According to his Monolith Inscription, Shalmaneser III, in his sixth year (854 B.C.) made an expedition to the West and at Qarqar defeated Irhuleni of Hamath and a confederacy of 12 kings, called by him `kings of Hatti and the seacoast.’ Qarqar is described as the royal residence of Irhuleni. It was there, not far from Hamath, that the battle took place. Irhuleni was the one most directly concerned. But in describing the allied forces, Shalmaneser lists them in the following order:

He brought along to help him 1,200 chariots, 1,200 cavalrymen, 20,000 foot soldiers of     Adad-’idri of Damascus; 700 chariots, 700 cavalrymen, 10,000 foot soldiers of Irhuleni     from Hamath; 2,000 chariots, 10,000 foot soldiers of A-ha-ab-bu Sir-’i-la-a-a.

These three are probably mentioned first as the most important. It is rather odd that Irhuleni’s troops are mentioned only second in the list, inserted between Adad-’idri’s and Ahabbu’s. Then follow in order the contingents of Que, Musri, Irqanata, Matinu-ba’lu of Arvad, Usanata, Adunu-ba’lu of Shian, Gindibu’ of Arabia, Ba’sa of Ammon. Most of these countries were clearly in the distant north, Syria and Ammon being the nearest to Israel, and both of them Israel’s bitter enemies. Among the eleven listed (he speaks of twelve kings), only five brought chariots; and most of them brought fewer troops than the first three, though some of the figures cannot be accurately determined, because of the condition of the inscription.

“In view of the make-up of this confederacy of kings, the question naturally arises whether Ahab, who had been recently at war with Ben-haded [sic] and was soon to renew hostilities with him, would have joined a coalition of kings of countries, most of which were quite distant, and the nearest of which were bitterly hostile, to go and fight against a king with whom he had never been at war,–an expedition which involved leaving his capital city and taking a considerable army to a distance of some 300 miles and through mountainous country, and, most questionable of all, leaving Damascus, the capital of his recent enemy Ben-hadad in his rear (thus exposing himself to attack), in order to oppose a distant foe whose coming was no immediate threat to his own land or people. …. Such an undertaking by Ahab, king of Israel, seems highly improbable to say the least.


Jordan then proceeds to query:


“The name Ahab (Ahabbu), while uncommon, is not unique. We meet is as the name of a false prophet, who was put to death by Nebuchadnezzar (Jer. 29:21). The name appears to mean `father’s brother,’ i.e., `uncle.’ It may possibly be shortened from Ahabbiram (my uncle is exalted) or a similar name. But it is to be noted that the name Ahabbu might be read equally well as Ahappu and be an entirely different name than Ahab, quite probably Hurrian, which would accord well with the make-up of the confederacy.

“The name of Ahabbu’s country is given as Sir’ila-a-a. The reading is somewhat uncertain, since the first character might also be read as shud or shut. Even if sir is correct, the name is a poor spelling of Israel; and it is double questionable because nowhere else on Assyrian tablets is Israel given this name. On the monuments it is called mat Humri, the land of Omri. It is perhaps not without significance that although the battle of Qarqar is mentioned in several of Shalmaneser’s inscriptions, Ahabbu is mentioned on only one of them. The Assyrian kings were great braggarts. Israel was quite remote from Shalmaneser’s sphere of influence. If Ahab of Israel were referred to, we might perhaps expect more than this one slight mention of him.


And also Adad-idri:


“Adad-’idri was apparently Irhuleni’s chief ally, being mentioned first. If this Syrian king was the enemy-friend of Ahab, we might expect him to be called Hadad-ezer, which is the Hebrew equivalent of the name and is given to the king of Zobah of David’s time. The name Adad-’idri may stand for Bar (Hebrew, Ben)-Adad-’idri (Heb., ezer), and so be shortened at either end, to Ben-hadad or Hadad-ezer. So it may be, that the Ben-hadad of the Bible and the Adad-’idri of Shalmaneser’s Annals are the same king.”

But not necessarily, says Allis. Assuming that Adad-`idri is the same as Ben-hadad does not tell us which of many Ben-hadads this was. “Ancient rulers often had the same name. We now know of three kings who bore the famous name Hammurabi. There were 5 Shamsi-Adads, 5 Shalmanesers, 5 Ashur-niraris among the Assyrian kings. Egypt has 4 Amenhoteps, 4 Amenemhets, 12 Rameses, 3 Shishaks, and 14 Ptolemies. Syria had apparently both Ben-hadads and Hadad-ezers. Israel had 2 Jeroboams; and both Judah and Israel had a Jehoash, a Jehoram, and an Ahaziah in common. It may be that Ba’sa king of Ammon who fought at Qarqar, had the same name as Baasha king of Israel. Names may be distinctive and definitive; they may also be confusing and misleading.


Finally, as already mentioned, the Bible gives not the slightest clue about the movement, at this time, of significant military forces:


“There is no mention of the battle of Qarqar in the Bible. It is generally assumed that it was fought several years before Ahab’s death, though Thiele claims that the battle of Ramoth-gilead took place only a few months after Qarqar.

“In the account which Shalmaneser gives of this battle, he claims a glorious victory. On the Monolith Inscription, which gives the fullest account of it, we read: `The plain was too small to let (all) their (text: his) souls descend (into the nether world), the vest field gave out (when it came) to bury them. With their (text: sing.) corpses I spanned the Orontes before there was a bridge. Even during the battle I took from them their chariots, their horses broken to the yoke.’ We are accustomed to such bragging by an Assyrian king and to discount it. But this certainly does not read like a drawn battle or a victory for the allies; and if there is any considerable element of truth in the claim made by Shalmaneser, `even during the battle I took from them their chariots, their horses broken to the yoke,’ this loss would have fallen more heavily on Ahabbu than on any other of the confederates, since Shalmaneser attributes to him 2,000 chariots, as compared with Adad-’idri’s 1,200 and Irhuleni’s 700. If Ahab had suffered so severely at Qarqar, would he have been likely to pick a quarrel with a recent ally and to do it so soon? The fact that Shalmaneser had to fight against this coalition again in the 10th, 11th, and 14th years of his reign does not prove this glorious victory to have been a real defeat for Shalmaneser. Yet, despite what would appear to have been very serious losses for the coalition (all their chariots and horses), we find according to the construction of the evidence generally accepted today, Ahab in a couple of years or, according to Thiele in the same year, picking a quarrel or renewing an old one with his recent comrade-in-arms, Ben-hadad, and fighting a disastrous battle against him (1 Kings 22); and a few years later we find Ben-hadad again fighting against Israel (2 Kings 6:8-18), and even besieging Samaria (vss. 24ff.). Is this really probable? Clearly Ben-hadad had no love for Israel!

“The biblical historian describes the battle at Ramoth-gilead together with the preparations for it, in considerable detail (1 Kings 22), as he later describes the attack on Dothan (2 Kings 6:8-23) and the siege of Samaria which followed it. Of Qarqar he says not a single word. Why this should be the case if Ahab was actually at Qarqar is by no means clear. It was not because the Hebrew historian did not wish to mention a successful expedition of wicked king Ahab, for he has given a vivid account of Ahab’s great victory of Ben-hadad (1 Kings 20:1-34) which led even to the capture of the king of Syria himself. And, if Qarqar had been a humiliating defeat for Ahab, we might expect that the biblical writer would have recorded it as a divine judgment on the wicked king of Israel, as he does the battle at Ramoth-gilead, in which Ahab perished.

“It is of course true that the record of Ahab’s reign is not complete (1 Kings 23:39). His oppression of Moab is mentioned only indirectly in connection with an event in the reign of Jehoahaz (2 Kings 3:4f.). It is the Mesha inscription which gives us certain details. Yet in view of its importance the omission of any reference to a battle with Shalmaneser in which Ahab took a prominent part would be strange, to say the least.” (Allis, pp. 414-417).

In my opinion, Allis’s arguments settle the question. There is no good reason to believe that the Ahabbu or Ahappu of the Shalmaneser Monolith Inscription is the same as the Ahab of the Bible. All evidence is against it. Accordingly, the alleged synchronism between the Assyrian Eponym Canon and the Biblical chronology does not exist, and there is no reason to try and shorten the chronology found in the books of Kings and Chronicles. ….


I would tend to agree that arguments such as the above “settle the question”.


It is highly unlikely that King Ahab of Israel could have fought alongside Ben-Hadad I of Syria, the leader of a large coalition against Shalmaneser III, a Great King of Assyria.


Sapalulme the Hittite


Shalmaneser III claimed in his Annals (Kurkh Monolith) to have campaigned in his Year 1 against a Sapalulme the Hattinite, making it a very attractive proposition - in a revised context - that this latter was none other than the great Hittite emperor, Suppiluliumas of Hatti, a contemporary of Ben-Hadad I and Ahab. 


Previously, I had regarded this particular incident, and had written about it, as what I had called “A Key ‘Year 1’ Synchronism”.

Shalmaneser III, not long prior to his 5th regnal year Battle of Qarqar, had prevailed against a Hittite king who, in a revised context - if the Assyrian king really straddled the mid-C9th BC time of EA in Egypt - could only be the great Suppiluliumas himself. Thus I wrote:


Assyrian king Shalmaneser III’s apparent reference to the Hittite king, Suppiluliumas, cannot possibly be, in conventional terms, a reference to the long-reigning Hittite ruler of the El Amarna [EA] period - but it can well be if EA belongs to the era of Shalmaneser III.


Shalmaneser III and Suppiluliumas


Perhaps revisionists have not made enough of king Shalmaneser III’s Year 1 reference to “Sapalulme of Khattina”, who can only be, I would suggest, Suppiluliumas of Hatti. The Assyrian records (


I left Mount Amanus and crossed the Orontes River coming to Alimush, the stronghold of Sapalulme the Hattinite. Sapalulme, to save his life, called on Ahûni, Sagara, and Haianu, as well as Kate the Kuean, Pihirisi the Hilukite, Buranate the Iasbukite, and Ada… Assur, (Col. II)… I shattered their forces. ….


This could be a most vital synchronism for a revised EA. And it may well become one in the hands of some astute revisionist.

A major problem, though, is that the chronology of Suppiluliumas himself is so watery, at present, as to disallow for his serving as a really solid chronological anchor.

Dates for the Hittite emperor, Suppiluliumas, currently range from c. 1386-1345 BC ( to c. 1344-1322 BC ( A long span indeed! So long, in fact, that the conventional chronology presents us with two kings Suppiluliumas of Hatti, the supposed second of whom being dated to c. 1207–1178 BC. And so does Dr. I. Velikovsky, using a completely different time in his radical book, Ramses II and His Time (1978), Epilogue section: “Two Suppiluliumas”.

Whilst Velikovsky’s reconstruction is, in the case of the 19th dynasty Ramessides, demonstrably erroneous, the conventional assessment of two kings Suppiluliumas might turn out to be correct, though the chronology will be about half a millennium too early.     


Possible bookends for Suppiluliumas


According to what will follow, a Hittite Suppiluliumas may already have been active late in the reign of pharaoh Amenhotep III, hence the early dating of Suppiluliumas to c. 1386-1345 BC. And a Suppiluliumas (given as II) was a known contemporary of pharaoh Ramses I (c. 1290 BC, conventional dating).


Let us consider these two cases separately.


In Ugarit in Retrospect: Fifty Years of Ugarit and Ugaritic (edited by Gordon Douglas Young):, we are told of some further possible synchronisms between Suppiluliumas and EA kings. I shall find it necessary to include some of my own comments here:


Ammištamru and the "First Hittite Foray"


Ammištamru's letter to the Pharaoh (EA 45) is significant for another reason besides being a piece of evidence on Ugarit's dependence on Egypt.


Long ago Knudtzon completed LUGAL KUR [URU Ḫa-at-te] in line 22, and restored [LUGAL KUR URU Ḫa-at-te] in line 30. His guess must be accepted as correct, despite Liverani's attempt to see here a reference to hostile actions by Abdi-Aširta of Amurru which are mentioned in the treaty between Niqmaddu and Aziru. …. Abdi-Aširta was never called "king," ….


… and the least appropriate place of calling him so would have been a letter a letter to his Egyptian sovereign. ….


Comment needed here: The fact is, however, that none of EA’s letters from Ugarit, including this EA # 45, ever mentions the intended recipient as a “pharaoh” or “of Egypt”. That becomes apparent from the following excerpt from A. Altman’s article,


Ugarit's political standing in the Beginning of the 14th Century BCE reconsidered”



2.1 Features indicating dependence


The characteristic stylistic features of the opening of these letters, as well as certain expressions, from which Ugarit’s subordination to Egypt might have been inferred, are as follows:

a. The letters do not mention the Egyptian king by name, nor do they address him as “the king of Egypt”. Rather, they are addressed “to the king, the Sun, my lord”; an address which has been fully preserved in EA 49, 1. An omission of the name of the addressee may occur in the correspondence between sovereign kings or rulers of equal standing of this period, but their writers never fail to identify the addressee by his country. ….


So perhaps the recipient is not an EA pharaoh at all.

The same article makes the surprising admission that: “… Amenhotep III and Amenhotep IV … [the EA pharaohs] are not known as having conducted military campaigns to northern Syria …”.

Returning, now, to EA 45 and Ammištamru, we now arrive at mention of Suppilulimas:    


Conversely, the Hittite interpretation permits us to link Ammištamru's letter to the Hittite foray into the dominion of Tušratta, king of Mitanni, who defeated it, and sent news of his victory to his ally, Amenhotep III, together with some gifts from the Hittite booty. …. As K. Kitchen has demonstrated, Tušratta's letter in question, EA 17, could not have been written after year 34 of Amenhotep III, and might date back to year 30.

In absolute figures, following the system of chronology accepted in this paper, this would assign the "first Syrian foray" to one of the years between 1388 and 1385. Now who was the Hittite king who sent out, or led, the unsuccessful foray? Was it already Šuppiluliumaš?


Now to a Suppiluliumas contemporaneous with pharaoh Ramses I.

I breathed a sigh of relief when I was able to table the following set of synchronisms between 19th dynasty Egyptian pharaohs and their Hittite ruling contemporaries in my thesis:  


A Revised History of the Era of King Hezekiah of Judah

and its Background



(Volume One, p. 260, Table 2):


Thankfully, the conventional sequence of the early Ramessides, at least, is secure due to a known correlation with a sequence of contemporary Hittite kings. A peace treaty between Egypt and the Hittites was signed by Usermare Setepenre (royal name of Ramses II), son of Menmare (Seti I), grandson of Menpeḥtire (Ramses I); and by Khetasar (Hattusilis), son of Merosar (Mursilis), grandson of Seplel (Suppiluliumas). ….


Table 2: Egyptian-Hittite Syncretisms


This early Ramesside order in relation to the Hittite succession for this era is a vital chronological link considering the dearth of such links that so often confronts the historian. This is a rock-solid synchronism that can serve as a constant point of reference; it being especially important in the context of the revision, given the confusion that arises with the names ‘Seti’ and ‘Sethos’ in connection with the 19th dynasty ….

We can be extremely grateful for this much certainty at least (Table 2 above).


Whether this conventionally very long span of time encompassing the two supposed kings Suppiluliumas will eventually be so reduced in time, in a revised scheme, so as to make it possible for just the one king Suppiluliumas of Hatti, of, say, some 40 years of reign (as favoured by the proponents of the c. 1386-1345 BC scenario), remains to be seen.


What we do know for sure from the campaign records of Shalmaneser III is that this most potent king of Assyria had, in his first year (conventionally dated to c. 858 BC), encountered with great force one “Sapalulme of Khattina”.

Given how this present series is progressing, with Shalmaneser III now looking rather shaky in his conventional mid-C9th BC location, I would now definitely favour the general view of more than one king of Hatti by the name of Suppiluliumas. 


Brief Summary


The purpose of these TAP articles has been to consider whether it is plausible to remove those biblico-historical ‘pins’ seemingly fixing Shalmaneser III to the mid-C9th BC. This is not an aprioristically determined methodology in order just to ‘get rid of’ Shalmaneser III, who has loomed as so troublesome for a revised [EA] Egypto-Mesopotamian history. It is based on inherent problems pertaining to those conventional identifications of biblical characters in the Assyrian king’s historical documents as discussed.

To remove Shalmaneser III from his mid-C9th BC location would immediately solve the problems with which Schneider and others have had to contend, regarding a presumed descendant of Omri’s wiping out his father’s house; problems relating to Jehu’s grandfather; and an apparent Assyrian ignorance of the genealogical situation. Jehu, the son of Jehoshaphat, son of Nimshi - who claims to have followed Ahab into battle, and Ahab was Omri’s direct son - was simply from a different line.


Jehu himself was not an Omride.


Ben-Hadad I of Syria and Ahab of Israel have been shown to be seriously in doubt as likely opponents of the Assyrian king Shalmaneser III at the Battle of Qarqar (Karkar) in c. 853 BC (conventional dating), as recorded in the Kurkh Monolith.

And king Jehu of Israel has been shown to be a rather poor fit for the Omride king mentioned in Shalmaneser III’s Black Obelisk – this Jehu (c. 841 BC, conventional dating) probably having been chosen as that Omride king for chronological reasons in relation to the presumed activity of Ben-Hadad I and Ahab some dozen or so years earlier.


With these biblico-historical ‘pins’ now greatly loosened, one may consider the merits of prising Shalmaneser III way from his customary era and vastly re-considering his history. 

(More on this in subsequent articles)