Mitanni

MITANNI mĭ tä’ nē. An important kingdom in N Mesopotamia which flourished during the period c. 1500-1340 b.c. The ruling class of this kingdom, whose capital (the ruins of which have not yet been identified) bore the name Washukanni, seem to have been Indo-Iranian. Their names are linguistically Indo-Iranian, containing recognizable names of Indic deities such as Indra, Mitra, Varuna, etc. The Indo-Iranian term for such warlords seems to have been maryannu. They are thought to have introduced into the Near E at this time techniques for the training of chariot horses. A manual for the training of chariot horses has been found at the ancient Hitt. capital. Its author, a certain Kikkuli, employs technical terms for the craft which are clearly Indo-Iranian. The rank and file of Mitanni’s citizenry, on the other hand, were not Indo-Iranians, but Hurrians, and it is the Hurrian and Akkadian languages which the Mitannian kings employ for official correspondence. At the height of Mitanni’s power it controlled Mesopotamia, SE Asia Minor (Kizzuwatna), all of N Syria and most of S Syria. Mitannian princesses entered the harem of the pharaohs of Egypt and became quite influential in the Egyp. court. An end was put to the Mitannian kingdom as an independent state by the Hitt. emperor Suppiluliuma I (c. 1345 b.c.), who recognized as a vassal ruler of the conquered state a certain Kurtiwaza (formerly read Mattiwaza).

The name Mitanni does not occur in the OT. But the Hurrians, who made up the majority of Mitanni’s citizens, also constituted a significant minority group in the pre-Israelite Pal. It is possible that Hurrian customs underlie many mysterious actions in the patriarchal narratives, and more than one personage in the OT bears a Hurrian name. It is likely that the ethnic term “Horite” owes its existence in one form or the other to the term Hurrian, Hurrî.

Bibliography

I. J. Gelb, Hurrians and Subarians (1944); E. A. Speiser, JAOS 68 (1948), 1-13; H. G. Guterbock, Journal of World History 2 (1954), 383, 394; H. W. F. Saggs, The Greatness That Was Babylon (1962), 90-92; W. Helck, Die Beziehungen Ägyptens zu Vorderasien im 3. und 2. Jahrtausend v. Chr. (1962), 174ff.; H. Klengel, Geschichte Syriens im 2. Jahrtausend v. u. Zeit (1965).