NameWritten in (''ma-riki''), the name of the city can be traced to , an ancient of northern and Syria, who was considered the of the city, noted that the name of the city was spelled identically to that of the storm god and concluded that Mari was named after him.
The first kingdomMari is not considered a small settlement that later grew, but rather a new city that was purposely founded during the Mesopotamian c. 2900 BC, to control the waterways of the trade routes that connect the with the ian south. The city was built about 1 to 2 kilometers away from the Euphrates river to protect it from floods, and was connected to the river by an artificial that was between 7 and 10 kilometers long, depending on which it used for transport, which is hard to identify today. The city is difficult to excavate as it is buried deep under later layers of habitation. A defensive system against floods composed of a circular embankment was unearthed, in addition to a circular 6.7 m thick internal rampart to protect the city from enemies. An area 300 meters in length filled with gardens and craftsmen quarters separated the outer embankment from the inner rampart, which had a height of 8 to 10 meters and was strengthened by defensive towers. Other findings include one of the city gates, a street beginning at the center and ending at the gate, and residential houses. Mari had a central mound, but no temple or palace has been unearthed there. A large building was however excavated (with dimensions of 32 meters X 25 meters) and seems to have had an administrative function. It had stone foundations and rooms up to 12 meters long and 6 meters wide. The city was abandoned at the end of the c. 2550 BC for unknown reasons.
The second kingdomAround the beginning of (earlier than 2500 BC) Mari was rebuilt and populated again. The new city kept many of the first city's exterior features, including the internal rampart and gate. Also kept was the outer circular embankment measuring 1.9 km in diameter, which was topped by a wall two meters thick capable of protecting archers. However, the internal urban structure was completely changed and the new city was carefully planned. First to be built were the streets that descended from the elevated center into the gates, ensuring the drainage of rain water. At the heart of the city, a was built that also served as a temple. Four successive architectural levels from the second kingdom's palace have been unearthed (the oldest is designated ''P3'', while the latest is ''P0''). The last two levels are dated to the . The first two levels were excavated; the findings include a temple named the Enceinte Sacrée, which was the largest in the city but it is unknown for whom it was dedicated. Also unearthed were a pillared throne room and a hall with three double wood pillars leading to the temple. Six more temples were discovered in the city, including the temple called the Massif Rouge (to whom it was dedicated is unknown), and temples dedicated to , , , and . All the temples were located in the center of the city except for the Ishtar temple; the area between the Enceinte Sacrée and the Massif Rouge is considered to have been the administrative center of the . The second kingdom appears to have been a powerful and prosperous political center, its kings held the title of , and many are attested in the city, the most important source being the letter of king c. 2350 BC, which was sent to of ,. In it, the Mariote king mentions his predecessors and their military achievements. However, the reading of this letter is still problematic and many interpretations have been presented by scholars.
Mari-Ebla warThe earliest attested king in the letter of Enna-Dagan is , who is mentioned as attacking Ebla, the traditional rival of Mari with whom it had a long war, and conquering many of Ebla's cities, including the land of . The next king mentioned in the letter is , who conquered the lands of and . King of Ebla defeated Mari in the middle of the 25th century BC. The war continued with of Mari's conquest of at a time of Eblaite weakness in the mid-24th century BC. King of Ebla had to pay tribute to of Mari, who is mentioned in the letter, conquering many of Ebla's cities and campaigning in the region. Enna-Dagan also received tribute; his reign fell entirely within the reign of of Ebla, who managed to defeat Mari and end the tribute. Mari defeated Ebla's ally in year seven of the Eblaite vizier 's term, causing the blockage of trade routes between Ebla and southern Mesopotamia via upper Mesopotamia. The war reached a climax when the Eblaite vizier made an alliance with Nagar and to defeat Mari in a battle near . Ebla itself suffered its first destruction a few years after Terqa in c. 2300 BC, during the reign of the Mariote king . According to , Hidar was succeeded by whose royal seal was discovered. It depicts battle scenes, causing Archi to suggest that he was responsible for the destruction of Ebla while still a general.
Destruction of Mari by Sargon of AkkadJust a decade after Ebla's destruction (c. 2300 BC middle chronology), Mari itself was destroyed and burned by , as shown by one of his years names ("''Year in which Mari was destroyed''"). proposed the date as c. 2265 BC (). was probably the last king of Mari before the conquests by the . collected tribute from Mari and :
The third kingdomMari was deserted for two generations before being restored by the Akkadian king . A governor was appointed to govern the city who held the title (military governor). Akkad kept direct control over the city, which is evident by 's appointment of two of his daughters to priestly offices in the city.
The Shakkanakku dynastyThe first member of the Shakkanakku dynasty on the lists is , who was appointed in c. 2266 BC. According to the lists, Ididish ruled for 60 years and was succeeded by his son, making the position hereditary. The third Mari followed the second city in terms of general structure, phase ''P0'' of the old royal palace was replaced by a new palace for the Shakkanakku. Another smaller palace was built in the eastern part of the city, and contained royal burials that date to the former periods. The ramparts were rebuilt and strengthened while the embankment was turned into a defensive wall that reached 10 meters in width. The former sacred inclosure was maintained, so was the temple of Ninhursag. However, the temples of Ninni-Zaza and Ishtarat disappeared, while a new temple called the "temple of lions" (dedicated to ), was built by the Shakkanakku and attached to it, was a rectangular terrace that measured 40 x 20 meters for sacrifices. Akkad disintegrated during 's reign, and Mari gained its independence, but the use of the Shakkanakku title continued during the following period. A princess of Mari married the son of king of , and Mari was nominally under Ur hegemony. However, the vassalage did not impede the independence of Mari, and some Shakkanakkus used the royal title in their votive inscriptions, while using the title of Shakkanakku in their correspondence with the Ur's court. The dynasty ended for unknown reasons not long before the establishment of the next dynasty, which took place in the second half of the 19th century BC.
The Lim dynastyThe second millennium BC in the was characterized by the expansion of the , which culminated with them dominating and ruling most of the region, including Mari which in c. 1830 BC, became the seat of the Amorite Lim dynasty under king . However, the and archaeological evidences showed a high degree of continuity between the Shakkanakku and the Amorite eras. Yaggid-Lim was the ruler of before establishing himself in Mari, he entered an alliance with of , but the relations between the two monarchs changed to an open war. The conflict ended with Ila-kabkabu capturing Yaggid-Lim's heir and according to a tablet found in Mari, Yaggid-Lim who survived Ila-kabkabu was killed by his servants. However, in c. 1820 BC Yahdun-Lim was firmly in control as king of Mari. Yahdun-Lim started his reign by subduing seven of his rebelling tribal leaders, and rebuilding the walls of Mari and Terqa in addition to building a new fort which he named Dur-Yahdun-Lim. He then expanded west and claimed to have reached the , however he later had to face a rebellion by the ''Banu-Yamina'' nomads who were centered at , and the rebels were supported by 's king , whose interests were threatened by the recently established alliance between Yahdun-Lim and . Yahdun-Lim defeated the Yamina but an open war with Yamhad was avoided, as the Mariote king became occupied by his rivalry with of , the son of the late Ila-kabkabu. The war ended in a defeat for Mari, and Yahdun-Lim was assassinated in c. 1798 BC by his possible son , who himself got assassinated two years after ascending the throne while Shamshi-Adad advanced and annexed Mari.
=The Assyrian era and the Lim restoration= Shamshi-Adad appointed his son on the throne of Mari, the new king married Yahdun-Lim's daughter, while the rest of the Lim family took refuge in Yamhad, and the annexation was officially justified by what Shamshi-Adad considered sinful acts on the side of the Lim family. To strengthen his position against his new enemy Yamhad, Shamshi-Adad married Yasmah-Adad to Betlum, the daughter of of . 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, while the armies of of Yamhad were advancing in support of , the heir of the Lim dynasty. As Zimri-Lim advanced, a leader of the ''Banu-Simaal'' (Zimri-Lim's tribe) overthrew Yasmah-Adad, opening the road for Zimri-Lim who arrived a few months after Yasmah-Adad's escape, and married princess the daughter of Yarim-Lim I a short time after his enthronement in c. 1776 BC. 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 and Zimri-Lim, who declared himself a servant of Hadad. Zimri-Lim started his reign with a campaign against the ''Banu-Yamina'', he also established alliances with Eshnunna and of , and sent his armies to aid the Babylonians. The new king directed his expansion policy toward the north in the region, which was named , where he subjugated the local petty kingdoms in the region such as , and , forcing them into vassalage. The expansion was met by the resistance of , the king of , whom Zimri-Lim defeated, securing the Mariote control over the region in c. 1771 BC, and the kingdom prospered as a trading center and entered a period of relative peace. Zimri-Lim's greatest heritage was the renovation of the , which was expanded greatly to contain 275 rooms, exquisite artifacts such as ''The Goddess of the Vase'' statue, and a royal archive that contained thousands of tablets. The relations with Babylon worsened with a dispute over the city of that consumed much time in negotiations, during which a war against involved both kingdoms in c. 1765 BC. Finally, the kingdom was invaded by Hammurabi who defeated Zimri-Lim in battle in c. 1761 BC and ended the Lim dynasty, while Terqa became the capital of a rump state named the .
Later periodsMari survived the destruction and rebelled against Babylon in c. 1759 BC, causing Hammurabi to destroy the whole city. However, Mari was allowed to survive as a small village under Babylonian administration, an act that Hammurabi considered merciful. Later, Mari became part of and was listed among the territories conquered by the Assyrian king (reigned 1243–1207 BC). Afterward, Mari constantly changed hands between Assyria and Babylon. In the middle of the eleventh century BC, Mari became part of Hana whose king took the title ''king of Mari'' and rebelled against Assyria, causing the Assyrian king to attack the city. Mari came firmly under the authority of the , and was assigned in the first half of the 8th century BC to a certain to govern under the authority of king (reigned 810–783 BC). In c. 760 BC, , an autonomous governor ruling parts of the upper middle Euphrates under the nominal authority of , styled himself the governor of the lands of and Mari, so did his son . However, by that time, Mari was known to be located in the so-called , making it unlikely that the Usur family actually controlled it, and suggesting that the title was employed out of historical reasons. The city continued as a small settlement until the before disappearing from records.
People, language and governmentThe founders of the first city may have been Sumerians or more probably speaking people from in the north. relates Mari's foundation with the , which was a cultural entity of East Semitic speaking populations, that stretched from the center of Mesopotamia to Ebla in the western Levant. At its height, the second city was the home of about 40,000 people. This population was East-Semitic speaking one, and used a dialect much similar to the language of Ebla (the ), while the Shakkanakku period had an East-Semitic speaking population. names started to be attested in Mari since the second kingdom era, and by the middle , the west Semitic tribes became the majority of the pastoral groups in the middle Euphrates and valleys. Amorite names started to be observed in the city toward the end of the Shakkanakku period, even among the ruling dynasty members. During the Lim era, the population became predominantly Amorite but also included Akkadian named people, and although the became the dominant tongue, Akkadian remained the language of writing. The pastoral Amorites in Mari were called the ''Haneans'', a term that indicate nomads in general, 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. The kingdom was also a home to tribes of who lived in the district of . Mari was an absolute monarchy, with the king controlling every aspect of the administration, helped by the s who played the role of administrators. During the Lim era, Mari was divided into four provinces in addition to the capital, the provincial seats were located at Terqa, , and Tuttul. Each province had its own bureaucracy, the government supplied the villagers with ploughs and agricultural equipments, in return for a share in the harvest.
Culture and religionThe first and second kingdoms were heavily influenced by the Sumerian south. The society was led by an urban , and the citizens were well known for elaborate hair styles and dress. The calendar was based on a divided into twelve months, and was the same calendar used in Ebla "the old Eblaite calendar". Scribes wrote in and the art was indistinguishable from Sumerian art, so was the architectural style. Mesopotamian influence continued to affect Mari's culture during the Amorite period, which is evident in the Babylonian scribal style used in the city. 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. The society was a tribal one, it consisted mostly of farmers and nomads (Haneans), and in contrast to Mesopotamia, the temple had a minor role in everyday life as the power was mostly invested in the palace. Women enjoyed a relative equality to men, 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. The Pantheon included both Sumerian and Semitic deities, and throughout most of its history, was Mari's head of the Pantheon, while Mer was the patron deity. Other deities included the Semitic deities; Ishtar the goddess of fertility, , and , the Sun god who was regarded among the city most important deities, and believed to be all-knowing and all-seeing. Sumerian deities included Ninhursag, , , , and . had an important role for the society, temples included prophets, who gave council to the king and participated in the religious festivals.
EconomyThe first Mari provided the oldest wheels workshop to be discovered in Syria, and was a center of bronze . The city also contained districts devoted to , and pottery manufacturing, charcoal was brought by river boats from the upper and Euphrates area. The second kingdom's economy was based on both agriculture and trade. The economy was centralized and directed through a communal organization, where grains were stored in communal granaries, and distributed amongst the population according to social status. The organization also controlled the animal herds in the kingdom. Some people were directly connected to the palace instead of the communal organization, those included the metal and textile producers and the military officials. Ebla was an important trading partner and rival, Mari's position made it an important trading center as it controlled the road linking between the Levant and Mesopotamia. The Amorite Mari maintained the older aspects of the economy, which was still largely based on irrigated agriculture along the Euphrates valley. The city kept its trading role and was a center for merchants from Babylonia and other kingdoms, it received goods from the south and east through riverboats and distributed them north, north west and west. The main merchandises handled by Mari were metals and tin imported from the and then exported west as far as . Other goods included copper from , silver from , woods from , gold from , olive oil, wine, and textiles in addition to precious stones from modern .
Excavations and archiveMari was discovered in 1933, on the eastern flank of Syria, near the Iraqi border. A 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. After the news reached the authorities currently in of Syria, the report was investigated, and digging on the site was started on December 14, 1933 by archaeologists from the in Paris. The location of the fragment was excavated, revealing the temple of Ishtar, which led to the commencing of the full scale excavations. Mari was classified by the archaeologists as the "most westerly outpost of Sumerian culture". Since the beginning of excavations, over 25,000 clay tablets in Akkadian language written in were discovered. Finds from the excavation are on display in the , the , the , and the . In the latter, the southern of the ''Court of the Palms'' room from has been reconstructed, including the wall paintings. Mari has been excavated in annual campaigns in 1933–1939, 1951–1956, and since 1960. conducted the first 21 seasons up to 1974, and was followed by (1979–2004), and (starting in 2005). A journal devoted to the site since 1982, is ''Mari: Annales de recherches interdisciplinaires''. 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."
Mari tabletsOver 25,000 tablets were found in the burnt library of Zimri-Lim written in Akkadian from a period of 50 years between circa 1800 – 1750 BC. They give information about the kingdom, its customs, and the names of people who lived during that time. More than 3000 are letters, the remainder includes administrative, economic, and judicial texts. Almost all the tablets found were dated to the last 50 years of Mari's independence , and most have now been published. The language of the texts is official , but proper names and hints in syntax show that the common language of Mari's inhabitants was .
Current situationExcavations stopped as a result of the that began in 2011 and continues to the present (2021). The site came under the control of armed gangs and suffered large scale looting. A 2014 official report revealed that robbers were focusing on the royal palace, the public baths, the temple of Ishtar and the temple of Dagan.
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