Burna-Buriash II

Burna-Buriaš II
King of Babylon

Reverse of clay cuneiform tablet, EA 9, letter from Burna-Buriaš II to Nibḫurrereya (Tutankhamun?) from Room 55 of the British Museum
Reign 1359 – 1333 BC
Predecessor Kadašman-Enlil I
Successor Kara-ḫardaš
Royal House Kassite

Burna-Buriaš II, meaning servant of the Lord of the lands,[1] where Buriaš is a Kassite storm god possibly corresponding to the Greek Boreas,[2] was a king in the Kassite dynasty of Babylon, in a kingdom called Karduniaš at the time, ruling ca. 1359–1333 BC (short chronology). Recorded as the 19th King to ascend the Kassite throne, he succeeded Kadašman-Enlil I, who was likely his father, and ruled for 27 years. He was a contemporary of the Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten.


Correspondence with Egypt

The diplomatic correspondence with the Pharaohs' is preserved in nine of the Amarna letters, designated EA 6 to 14. The relationship between Babylon and Egypt during his reign was friendly at the start (EA 6), and a marriage alliance was in the making. “From the time my ancestors and your ancestors made a mutual declaration of friendship, they sent beautiful greeting-gifts to each other, and refused no request for anything beautiful.” Burna-Buriaš was obsessed with being received as an equal and often refers to his counterpart as “brother”.[3] They exchanged presents, horses, lapis-lazuli and other precious stones from Burna-Buriaš and ivory, ebony and gold from Akhenaten.[2]

But then things began to go sour. On EA 7, lines 69 to 72, he complains that the gold sent was underweight.[4] “You have detained my messenger for two years!” he declares in consternation.[5] He reproached the Egyptian for not having sent his condolences when he was ill[5] and, when his daughter's wedding was underway, he complained that only five carriages were sent to convey her to Egypt.[6] The bridal gifts filled 4 columns and 307 lines of cuneiform inventory on tablet EA 13.[7]

Not only were matters of state of concern. “What you want from my land, write and it shall be brought, and what I want from your land, I will write, that it may be brought.”[8] But even in matters of trade, things went awry and, in EA 8, he complains that Egypt's Canaanite vassals had robbed and murdered his merchants. He demanded vengeance, naming Šum-Adda, the son of Balumme, affiliation unknown, and Šutatna, the son of Šaratum of Akka, as the villainous perpetrators.[9]

In his correspondence with the Pharaohs’, he did not hesitate to remind them of their obligations, quoting ancient loyalties: -

In the time of Kurgalzu, my ancestor, all the Canaanites wrote here to him saying, “Come to the border of the country so we can revolt and be allied with you.” My ancestor sent this (reply), saying, “Forget about being allied with me. If you become enemies of the king of Egypt, and are allied with anyone else, will I not then come and plunder you?”… For the sake of your ancestor my ancestor did not listen to them.[10]
Burna-Buriašfrom tablet EA 9, BM 29785, line 19 onward.

Posterity has not preserved any Egyptian response, however, Abdi-Heba, the Canaanite Mayor of Jerusalem, then a small hillside town, wrote in EA 287 that Kassite agents had attempted to break into his home and assassinate him.

With regard to the Kassites,… Though the house is well fortified, they attempted a very serious crime. They took their tools, and I had to seek shelter by a support for the roof. And so if he (pharaoh) is going to send troops into Jerusalem, let them come with a garrison for regular service…. And please make the Kassites responsible for the evil deed. I was almost killed by the Kassites in my own house. May the king make an inquiry in their regard.
Abdi-HebaEl-Amarna tablet EA 287.

The letters present a playful, forthright and at times petulant repartee, but perhaps conceal a cunning interplay between them, to confirm their relative status’, cajole the provision of desirable commodities and measure their respective threat, best exemplified by Burna-Buriaš’ feigned ignorance of the distance between their countries, a four month journey by caravan.[5] Here he seems to test Akhenaten to shame him into sending gold[11] or perhaps just to gage the extent of his potential military reach.

International Relations

Diplomacy with Babylon's neighbor, Elam, was conducted through royal marriages. A Neo-Babylonian copy of a literary text which takes the form of a letter, now located in the Vorderasiatisches Museum in Berlin, is addressed to the Kassite court by an Elamite King. It details the genealogy of the Elamite royalty of this period, and from it we find that Pahir-Ishshan married Kurigalzu I’s sister and Humban-Numena married his daughter and their son, Untash-Napirisha was betrothed to Burna-Buriaš’s daughter.[12] This may have been Napir-asu, whose headless statue now resides in the Louvre in Paris.

It is likely that Suppiluliuma I, king of the Hittites, married yet another of Burna Buriaš’s daughters, who thereafter became known as Tawananna, and this may have been the cause of his neutrality in the face of the Mitanni succession crisis. He refused asylum to the fleeing Shattiwaza, who received a more favorable response in Hatti, where Suppiluliuma I supported his reinstatement in a diminished vassal state.[13] According to her step son Mursili II, she became quite a troublemaker, scheming and murderous, as in the case of Mursili’s wife, foistering her strange foreign ways on the Hittite court and ultimately being exiled.[14] His testimony is preserved in two prayers in which he condemned her.[15]

Kassite influence reached to Bahrain, ancient Dilmun, where two letters found in Nippur were sent by a Kassite official, Ilī-ippašra, in Dilmun to Ililiya, a hypocoristic form of Enlil-kidinni, who was the governor, or šandabakku, of Nippur during Burna Buriaš’s reign and that of his immediate successors.[16][17] In the first letter, the hapless Ili-ippašra complains that the anarchic local Aḫlamû tribesmen have stolen his dates and “there is nothing I can do” while in the second letter they “certainly speak words of hostility and plunder to me”.[18] An inscribed cylinder seal makes reference to a governor (šakkanakku) of Dilmun.[19]

Domestic Affairs

Building activity increased markedly in the latter half of the fourteenth century with Burna-Buriaš and his successors undertaking restoration work of sacred structures.[20] Inscriptions from three door sockets and bricks, some of which are still in situ, bear witness to his restoration of the Ebabbar of the sun god Šamaš in Larsa. A tablet provides an exhortation to Enlil and a brick refers to work on the great socle of the Ekiur of Ninlil in Nippur.[21] A cylinder inscription of Nabonidus recalls Burna-Buriaš’ earlier work on the temenos at Sippar:

The foundation record of Ebarra which Burna-buriaš, a king of former times, my predecessor, had made, he saw and upon the foundation record of Burna-buriaš, not a finger-breadth too high, not a finger-breadth beyond, the foundation of that Ebarra he laid.[22]
Inscription of Naboniduscylinder BM 104738, column I, lines 49 to 52.

There are around 87 economic texts, most of which were found at successive excavations in Nippur, providing a date formula based on reignal years, which progress up to year 27. Many of them are personnel rosters dealing with servile laborers, who were evidently working under duress as the terms ZÁḤ, “escapee”, and ka-mu, “fettered”, are used to classify some of them.[23] Apparently thousands of men were employed in construction and agriculture and women in the textile industry. An oppressive regime developed to constrain their movements and prevent their escape.[24] Other texts include two extispicy reports provide divinations based on examination of animal entrails.[21] Nippur seems to have enjoyed the status of a secondary capital. The presence of the royal retinue replete with scribes would have provided the means for the creation of business records for the local population.

Kara-ḫardaš, Nazi-Bugaš and the events at end of his reign

Later in his reign the Assyrian king Aššur-uballiṭ I was received at the Egyptian court by Tutankhamen, who had by then ascended the throne. This caused a great deal of dismay from Burna-Buriaš who claimed the Assyrians were his vassals, “Why have they been received in your land? If I am dear to you, do not let them conclude any business. May they return here with empty hands!” on EA 9.[25] Finally released from beneath the yoke of Mitannite hegemony, Assyria emerged as a great power during his reign, threatening the northern border of the kingdom.

Perhaps to patch up relations, Muballiṭat-Šērūa, daughter of Aššur-uballiṭ, was married to either Burna-Buriaš[26] or possibly his son,[27] Kara-ḫardaš, the historical sources do not agree,[28] however, the scenario proposed by Brinkman[29] has come to be considered the orthodox interpretation of these events. A poorly preserved letter in the Pergamon Museum possibly mentions him and a princess or mārat šarri.[30] Kara-ḫardaš was murdered, shortly after succeeding his father to the throne, during a rebellion by the Kassite army in 1333 BC. This incited Aššur-uballiṭ to invade, depose the usurper installed by the army, one Nazi-Bugaš or Šuzigaš, described as "a Kassite, son of a nobody",[31] and install Kurigalzu II, “the younger”, variously rendered as son of Burnaburiaš[32] and son of Kadašman-Ḫarbe, likely a scribal error for Kara-ḫardaš.[33] Note, however, that there are more than a dozen royal inscriptions of Kurigalzu II identifying Burna-Buriaš as his father.


  1. ^ Arnaud Fournet (June 2011). "The Kassite Language In a Comparative Perspective with Hurrian and Urartean". The Macro-Comparative Journal 2 (1): 8. 
  2. ^ a b Georges Roux (1964). Ancient Iraq. George Allen & Unwin. pp. 221, 233–234. 
  3. ^ Amanda H. Podany (2010). Brotherhood of Kings: How International Relations Shaped the Ancient Near East. Oxford University Press. p. 206. 
  4. ^ Raymond Westbrook (Jul. - Sep., 2000). Babylonian Diplomacy in the Amarna Letters. 120. Journal of the American Oriental Society. pp. 377–382. 
  5. ^ a b c Tablet EA 7, VAT 150, obverse lines 49 to 50, lines 14 to 25, lines 26 to 32.
  6. ^ Tablet EA 11, VAT 151 & 1878, obverse lines 21 to 22.
  7. ^ Stephen Bertman (2003). Handbook to life in ancient Mesopotamia. Oxford University Press. p. 81. 
  8. ^ Tablet EA 6, VAT 149, lines 13 to 17.
  9. ^ Tablet EA 8, VAT 152, lines 8 to 42.
  10. ^ William L. Moran (2000). The Amarna Letters. Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 18. 
  11. ^ Raymond Westbrook (Jul. - Sep., 2000). "Babylonian Diplomacy in the Amarna Letters". Journal of the American Oriental Society 120 (3): 377–382. 
  12. ^ Daniel T. Potts (1999). The archaeology of Elam: formation and transformation of an ancient Iranian State. Cambridge University Press. p. 207. 
  13. ^ Trevor Bryce (2005). The Kingdom of the Hittites. Oxford University Press. p. 159. 
  14. ^ Trevor Bryce (2003). Letters of the Great Kings of the Ancient Near East: The Royal Correspondence of the Late Bronze Age. Routledge. pp. 14, 103. 
  15. ^ Harry A. Hoffner, Jr. (Jan. - Mar., 1983). "A Prayer of Muršili II about His Stepmother". Journal of the American Oriental Society 103 (1): 187-192. JSTOR 601872.  discussing tablets K Bo 4.8 and KUB 14.4.
  16. ^ P. B. Cornwall (1952). "Two Letters from Dilmun". Journal of Cuneiform Studies 6 (4): 137–145. JSTOR 1359537. 
  17. ^ Albrecht Goetze (1952). "The texts Ni. 615 and 641 of the Istanbul Museum". Journal of Cuneiform Studies (6): 142–145. 
  18. ^ Eric Olijdam (1997). "Nippur and Dilmun in the second half of the fourteenth century BC: a re-evaluation of the Ilī-ippašra letters". Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies 27: 199–203. 
  19. ^ Potts, D.T. (2006). "Elamites and Kassites in the Persian Gulf". JNES (65): 111–119. JSTOR 504986. 
  20. ^ Richard L. Zettler et al. (1993). Nippur III, Kassite Buildings in Area WC-1. Oriental Institute Publication. p. 8. 
  21. ^ a b J. A. Brinkman (1976). "Burna-Buriaš". Materials for the Study of Kassite History, Vol. I (MSKH I). Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago. pp. 105–108. 
  22. ^ S. Langdon (Jan. 1916). "New Inscriptions of Nabuna'id". The American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures 32 (2): 112. JSTOR 52834. 
  23. ^ J. A. Brinkman (May 1982). "Sex, Age, and Physical Condition Designations for Servile Laborers in the Middle Babylonian Period". In G. van Driel. Zikir Sumin. V.U. Uitgeverij. pp. 1—8. 
  24. ^ J. A. Brinkman (Jan., 1980). "Forced Laborers in the Middle Babylonian Period". Journal of Cuneiform Studies 32 (1): 17—22. JSTOR 1359787. 
  25. ^ J. A. Brinkman (Jul., 1972). "Foreign Relations of Babylonia from 1600 to 625 B. C.: The Documentary Evidence". American Journal of Archaeology 76 (3): 271–281. 
  26. ^ Sarah C. Melville (2004). "16 Royal Women and the Exercise of Power in the Near East". In Daniel C. Snell. A companion to the ancient Near East. p. 225. 
  27. ^ Paul Collins (2008). From Egypt to Babylon: the international age 1550-500 BC. Trustees of the British Museum. p. 65. 
  28. ^ Albert Kirk Grayson (1975). Assyrian and Babylonian chronicles. J. J. Augustin. p. 211. 
  29. ^ J. A. Brinkman. "The Chronicle Tradition Concerning the Deposing of the Grandson of Aššur-uballiṭ I". MSKH I. pp. 418–423. 
  30. ^ VAT 11187 line 1 and 3.
  31. ^ Amélie Kuhrt (1995). The ancient Near East, c. 3000-330 BC. Routledge. 
  32. ^ The Synchronistic Chronicle (ABC 21) Column 1, line A16.
  33. ^ Chronicle P (ABC 22) line 14

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