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(mĭtăn`ē), ancient kingdom established in the 2d millennium B.C. in NW Mesopotamia. It was founded by Aryans but was later made up predominantly of Hurrians. Washshukanni was its capital. Mitanni controlled Assyria for a period and was engaged in military efforts to hold back Egyptian forces intent on conquering Syria. In c.1450 B.C. the army of Thutmose III of Egypt successfully advanced as far as the Euphrates; the king of Mitanni surrendered, sending tribute to Egypt, which halted its invasion. Friendly relations later developed between the two powers as evidenced by correspondence between King Tushratta of Mitanni and Amenhotep III of Egypt. In the 14th cent. B.C., Mitanni became involved in struggles with the Hittites and c.1335 fell to the Hittites as well as to resurgent Assyrian forces.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(Hanigalbat), an ancient state in northern Mesopotamia, on the territory of presentday northern Syria. Mitanni probably arose in the 16th century B.C. Its population consisted of Hurrians and Semites. The official languages were Akkadian and Hurrian, but the kings bore Indo-Iranian names, and it is possible that the dynasty came from the Iranian Plateau. Mitanni warriors were highly skilled in horse breeding and chariot warfare, enabling the Mitanni dynasty to unite the small Hurrian tribal groups of Mesopotamia and to subjugate the Semitic (Amorite-Akkadian) city-states.

At its height the Mitanni state headed a loose union of small kingdoms and city-states stretching from the Mediterranean and the Taurus Mountains of Asia Minor to the mountains bordering on Iran. In the 15th century B.C. the Mitanni relinquished to Egypt the lands west of the Euphrates and established friendly relations with Egypt that were reinforced by dynastic marriages, documented in the correspondence of the Mittani king Tushratta with the Egyptian pharaohs Amenhotep III and Akhenaton in the 14th century B.C. An internecine struggle after the death of Tushratta led to intervention by the Hittite king Suppiluliumas I, and the Mitanni state lost its political importance. It was finally overthrown in the 13th century B.C. by Assyria, formerly a Mitanni dependency. No written works of Mitanni have survived, with the exception of Tushratta’s letters, found in Egypt. However, governmental and private commercial archives of the small kingdoms that were subjects of Mitanni have survived, including Alalakh (excavations at Tel Atchana in northern Syria), Arrapkha (excavations at modern Kirkuk), and Nuzi (excavations at Yorghan-Tepe in Iraq). These documents have provided valuable information about the history of an ancient commune.


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The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.