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Ancient World / Syria /
Mesopotamia / Cities /


1. Economy
2. Governance
3. Religion and Culture
4. History

Unearthing of a basalt statue of King Ishtup-Ilum, ca. 2100 BCE at Mari
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Unearthing of a basalt statue of King Ishtup-Ilum, ca. 2100 BCE

From the royal palace of Zimrilim at Mari
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Mural from the royal palace of Zimrilim at Mari, showing a priest bringing a bull to be sacrificed.

Ancient city of eastern Syria, being one of the regional strongholds from ca. 2900-1750 BCE (Bronze Age).
Its location is at Tell Hariri, 10 km north of modern Abu Kamal, right before the Euphrates river crosses into Iraq. Culturally, Mari belongs to Mesopotamia, not Syria. It is thought of as the westernmost point of Mesopotamian culture.
It is its extreme position, between two cultures, that made Mari possible, being a border post for trade and a stronghold against invaders from Syria.
Excavations at Mari are still undergoing, always discovering new archaeological layers.

Mari used the Euphrates river for all it was worth in transportation. Among the main products traded through Mari were timber and stone from Syria, destined for Sumer, some 400 km down the river.

Mari was, at least during its second golden age, governed by a king. Judged from the size of the palace of 18th century King Zimrilim, which consisted so many as 300 rooms, the king's position was strong. This may be a reflection of external powers being considered a threat to the safety of the city-state, hence the local elite did little to challenge the position of the king, which would weaken them all to the common enemy.

Religion and Culture
The religion of Mari fits the framework of Sumerian religion, with Dagan, Ishtar and Shamash as main gods all having dedicated temples. By Mari, Sumerian gods were exported to lands to the west.
Inhabitants of Mari were Semites, speaking Akkadian. The total of 25,000 clay tablets found here, are written in Akkadian using cuneiform script.

Mari was settled in the 5th millennium BCE.
Around 2900 BCE: Mari emerges as a strong regional trade and transit city.
24th century: Mari is destroyed, either by Ebla or by Akkadian Empire.
Around 1900: Mari again develops into a strong city, beginning a second golden age.
1759: Mari is conquered by Babylonian king, Hammurabi, and destroyed. It would only survive as a village.

Modern times
1933 CE: Ruins of Mari are discovered by accident by local Bedouins. Same year, excavations begin, unearthing Zimrilim's palace and thousands of clay tablets.

By Tore Kjeilen