Bookmark and Share

Open the online Arabic language course

Ca. 2000-1600 BCE

Ancient World /
Akkadian: amurru or tidnum
Sumerian: martu
Egyptian: amar
Hebrew: 'emori

1. Kingdoms
2. Definitions
3. Culture
4. Religion
5. Language
6. History

Ancient Semitic people of Mesopotamia, Syria and Palestine, emerging as the dominating people around 2000 BCE, controlling the region until disappearing around 1600 BCE.
It is believed that the Amorites originated in Arabia, coming to Mesopotamia as occupants, and within a century or so continuing further into Syria. During the same era, another emigration wave followed the path south of the Syrian desert, the Amorites emerge as the people to the east of the Hebrews, in Canaan.
While Amorite intrusion to Mesopotamia came by the force of the sword, they appear to have entered thinly populated lands in Canaan.
Amorites came to the forefront following the destruction of Ur of Sumer (the main country of Mesopotamia). They did not win over the original rulers of Mesopotamia by their own capabilities only; Sumerian city-states were weakened by continuous attacks from the land of Elam to the east.
Amorites are mentioned in the Old Testament, they were among the first peoples Moses fought upon returning with the Hebrews from Sinai.

The Amorites appears to have originally been nomadic, but were both willing and capable to embrace city cultures. Small kingdoms emerged at first, replacing the city-states. The change from city-states to kingdoms represented the most important forced by the Amorites upon Sumer: it allowed the emergence of big farmers, it removed the structures that controlled the freedom of the citizens and allowed trade and the development of a merchant class.
Some of the greatest historical kings of Mesopotamia were Amorite, like Hammurabi of Babylon. Of the main Amorite kingdoms in Mesopotamia were those of Babylon, Larsa, Isin and Ashur, in Syria Mari, Yamkhad and Qatna, in Turkey Alalakh.

Culturally and politically, the Amorites would merge with the inhabitants of the lands they took control over, and original cultures seem to have survived well.

Exactly from what and where the term for "amorite" came is impossible to determine, whether it was the people, a region, or a god? It could be what they called themselves, or what other peoples called them, by theory it could well originate in a derogatory term, or in a very positive one.
But at least over time the term came to designate more than just the ethnic group, like the language and the region corresponding to modern Syria and Palestine. Among the longer lasting Amorite strongholds here were Mari, Ebla and Hazor.
With the general decline of the region from around 1600, the Amorite identity was be lost, peoples mixed and migrated and new cultures emerged. In Assyrian inscriptions from about 1100 BCE, the term Amurru still exists, but then only to designate the geographical region of Syria and Palestine.

2300 BCE: Jericho is settled by the Amorites.
21st century BCE: Heavy immigration of Amorites from Arabia, into the lands of Assyria in the north and Canaan and Lebanon in the west.
Around 2017 BCE: An independent dynasty is established in Isin by Amorite chief, Ishbi-Erra.
Around 1900: The Amorites conquer most of Mesopotamia, and establishes its kings in Babylon.
About 1894: Babylon becomes an independent city state, under the Amorite king, Sumu-abum.
Around 1850: Ebla is rebuilt to a major city by the Amorites, but not to reach quite the level as in the 3rd millennium. Ebla would now only continue as a village.
Around 1830: In Northern Syria, the Amorite kingdom, Yamkhad, is established with Aleppo as its capital.
1792-1750: Hammurabi, the most famous Amorite ruler, king of Babylonia.
Ca. 1595 Hittites attack and largely destroys Babylon, ending the Amorite dynasty ruling here.
Around 1100: A people called Amorites conquers Padam-Aram in Harran.

Confused? Try to find a good place to start learning about Mesopotamia in
Where to begin?Detailed article

By Tore Kjeilen