Forgotten Civilisation 11: Ebla Kingdom

Ruins of the outer wall and the "Damascus Gate"

Ebla was one of the earliest kingdoms in Syria. Its remains constitute a tell situated about 34 miles ( 55 km) south of Aleppo near the Mardikh village. Ebla was an influential center throughout the 3rd millennium BCE and in the first few decades of the 2nd millennium BCE. Its discovery ultimately proved the Levant was a center of centralized, ancient civilization equal to Mesopotamia and Egypt and ruled out the view that the latter two were the only successful centers in the Near East during the first half of the Bronze Age. The first Eblaite kingdom has been characterized as the first documented world power.

The Origin of the Name Ebla

A possible meaning of the English word “Ebla” is “white rock,” referring to the limestone land on which ancient humans built the city.

History of Ebla Kingdom

The History of Ebla is divided into different kingdom-periods that we will explore below.

First kingdom – Early Period

During the first kingdom era between about 3000 BCE and 2300 BCE, Ebla was the most striking kingdom among the Syrian nations, particularly during the second half of the 3rd millennium BCE, which is famously known as “the age of the archives” after the Ebla tablets.

The early ancient era between 3000 BCE and 2400 BCE is designated “Mardikh IIA.”

Royal palace “G”

Most of the knowledge about the town’s rich history before the written archives is obtained through extensive excavations. The first stages of Mardikh IIA are recognized with building “CC,” and structures that form construction “G2,” which was apparently a royal palace built 2700 BCE. Toward the conclusion of this era, a hundred years’ war with Mari began. Mari ultimately gained the upper hand through the actions of its autocratic king Saʿumu, who captured many of Ebla’s towns. In the mid-25th century BC, king Kun-Damu finally defeated Mari, but its power diminished following his reign.

Archive period

The archive period, which is characterized as “Mardikh IIB1”, lasted from 2400 BCE until c. 2300 BCE. The end of the era is known as the “first destruction,” mainly referring to the elimination of the royal palace (also called palace “G” and developed over the earlier “G2”) and much of the ancient acropolis. During the archive years, Ebla had military and political dominance over the other Syrian towns of eastern and northern Syria, mentioned in the archives. Most of the tablets, which record from that period, are about economic matters but also include diplomatic documents and royal letters.

Second kingdom

The second kingdom’s period is recognized as “Mardikh IIB2” and spans between 2300 BCE and 2000 BCE. The second kingdom persisted until Ebla’s second destruction occurred anytime between 2050 BCE and 1950 BCE, with the 2000 BCE dating being a formal date. The Akkadians, possibly under Sargon of Akkad and his probable descendant Naram-Sin raided the northern borders of Ebla, aiming for Amanus Mountain forests; the intrusions were divided by roughly 90 years, and the regions attacked were not attached to Akkad. By the time of the next Naram-Sin, Armi was the hegemonic town in northern Syria and was devastated by the invading Akkadian king.

Akkadian soldier of Naram-Sin, with helmet and long sword, on the Nasiriyah stele. He carries a metal vessel of Anatolian type

Third kingdom

The third kingdom is recognized as “Mardikh III”; it is split into eras “A” (c. 2000 BCE–1800 BCE) and “B” (c. 1800 BCE –1600 BCE). In period “A,” Ebla was quickly restored as a planned town.

The foundations covered Mardikh II’s remains; new temples and palaces were constructed, and new fortifications were extensively built in two circles—one for the low town and one exclusively for the acropolis. The town was laid out on regular lines, and grand public buildings were built. Further development took place in era “B.”

Later Years

The vizier palace

Ebla never really improved after its third destruction. It was a small town in the phase recognized as “Mardikh IV” (1600 BCE–1200 BCE) and was mentioned in the Alalakh records as a mere vassal to the Idrimi dynasty. “Mardikh V” (1200 BCE–535 BCE) was an early, rural Iron Age settlement that flourished in size during later days. Further development transpired during “Mardikh VI,” which lasted until 60 CE. “Mardikh VII” started in the 3rd century CE and lasted until the 7th century, after which the site was finally abandoned.

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