History of the city
The ancient near eastern town of Emar/Imar was situated on the middle Euphrates in northwest Syria, about 100 km east of Aleppo. Due to its geographical situation connecting Mesopotamia with the Mediterranean coast and with Anatolia, the town had a strategic function. Already the earliest mentionings in writing, namely in the palace archives of Ebla, ca. 2500 BC, and especially in the Mari texts from the 18th century BC, point to the town’s importance as traffic junction and contact zone between the Assyro-Babylonian and the Syro-Anatolian cultural spheres.
Contrary to its importance as a commercial center, Emar was never the center of a supra-regional power, but was rather awkwardly positioned between rivaling states. The history of Emar can be followed down to the middle of the third millennium BC, or, in archeological terms, down to the Early Bronze Age, when the town came under the influence of the rulers of Ebla and was mentioned in their archives at several instances. Later news appear in the Mari texts (18th century BC, Middle Bronze Age) according to which Emar was under the influence of the neighboring state of Yamhad. For the 13th and the early 12th centuries BC (the Late Bronze Age), there is written documentation from Emar itself and also references in contemporaneous texts from Boazköy/Hattua, Ras Shamra/Ugarit and from Assyria. At that time, the town was part of the Hittite Empire, situated close to the frontier of the rivaling state of Assyria. Emar was subject to the king of Karkami, who represented the Hittite ruler in Syria, a member of the Hittite royal family and the connecting link between Hattua the Hittite capital in central Anatolia, and the Syrian “vassal states”.
The Late Bronze Age town was excavated by a French team in the 1970s (see State of research).Occupation layers of the Middle and Early Bronze Ages were brought to light by recent Syrian-German excavations (see The excavation). Archeological as well as written documentation come to an end in the second third of the 12th century BC. The site was resettled on a larger scale in Byzantine times, only (see Barbalissos – The restoration).
Up to now, we know of ca. 1,170 cuneiform texts from Emar. They are, with those from Ugarit, Mari and Ebla, among the most important tablet finds in Syria. About 800 texts come from the French excavations, the rest have turned up in the art market. The large majority is written in Akkadian. Besides, there are about 100 Hurrian texts (still unpublished) and two Hittite letters. Other than in the towns of Ugarit, Mari and Ebla, where most texts belong to the palace archives, the Emar texts have mainly been found in private houses. They are, above all, judicial records – concerning, for example, dealings in real estate, marriages, last wills, adoptions – illustrating the private life of the population and, at the same time, showing the consequences of the Hittite conquest for the training of scribes and for society, in general. In the house of a priest, the so-called Temple du Devin (M1), a library was found containing, besides literary and lexical texts in the Mesopotamian tradition, ritual texts for local cults. Particularly noteworthy is the ritual for the installation of the priestess of the weathergod Ba’al of which there exist several copies.
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