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Burna-Buriash II

Burna-Buriaš II
King of Babylon
Seal dedicated to Burna-Buriash II.[1]
Reign1359–1333 BC
PredecessorKadašman-Enlil I
Kurigalzu II

Burna-Buriaš II (rendered in cuneiform as Bur-na- or Bur-ra-Bu-ri-ia-aš, and meaning servant/protégé of the Lord of the lands in the Kassite language), was a king in the Kassite dynasty of Babylon, in a kingdom contemporarily called Karduniaš, ruling ca. 1359–1333 BC,[2] where the Short and Middle chronologies have converged. 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 Pharaohs Amenhotep III and Akhenaten. The proverb "the time of checking the books is the shepherds' ordeal" was attributed to him in a letter to the later king Esarhaddon from his agent Mar-Issar.[3]

Correspondence with Egypt

The diplomatic correspondence between Burna-Buriaš and the pharaohs is preserved in nine of the Amarna letters, designated EA (for El Amarna) 6 to 14. The relationship between Babylon and Egypt during his reign was friendly at the start, [i 1] 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."[i 2] Burna-Buriaš was obsessed with being received as an equal and often refers to his counterpart as "brother".[4] They exchanged presents: horses, lapis-lazuli and other precious stones from Burna-Buriaš and ivory, ebony and gold from Akhenaten. On one occasion, Burna-Buriaš sent a necklace of lapis-lazuli by way of congratulation for the birth of Akhenaten's first child, the princess Meritaten.[i 3]

But then things began to sour. On EA 10,[i 4] he complains that the gold sent was underweight.[5] "You have detained my messenger for two years!" he declares in consternation.[i 5]: 49–50  He reproached the Egyptian for not having sent his condolences when he was ill[i 5]: 14–25  and, when his daughter's wedding was underway, he complained that only five carriages were sent to convey her to Egypt.[i 6]: 21–22  The bridal gifts filled 4 columns and 307 lines of cuneiform inventory on tablet EA 13.[i 7][6]

Reverse of clay cuneiform tablet, EA 9, letter from Burna-Buriaš II to Nibḫurrereya (Tutankhamun?) from Room 55 of the British Museum.

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."[i 1]: 13–17  But even in matters of trade, things went awry and, in EA 8,[i 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.[i 8]: 8–42 

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.[7]

— Burna-Buriaš, from 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[i 9] 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-Heba, El-Amarna tablet EA 287.

One letter[i 10] preserves the apologetic response from a mārat šarri, or princess, to her mbé-lí-ia, or lord (Nefertiti to Burna-Buriaš?). 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.[i 5] Here he seems to test Akhenaten to shame him into sending gold[5] or perhaps just to gauge the extent of his potential military reach.

International relations

Bronze statue of Napir-asu[i 11] in the Louvre.

Diplomacy with Babylon's neighbor, Elam, was conducted through royal marriages.[8] A Neo-Babylonian copy of a literary text which takes the form of a letter,[i 12] 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-Iššan married Kurigalzu I's sister and Humban-Numena married his daughter and their son, Untash-Napirisha was betrothed to Burna-Buriaš's daughter.[9] This may have been Napir-asu, whose headless statue[i 11] (pictured) 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, his third and final wife, who thereafter was known under the traditional title 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.[10] According to her stepson Mursili II, she became quite a troublemaker, scheming and murderous, as in the case of Mursili's wife, foisting her strange foreign ways on the Hittite court and ultimately being exiled.[11] His testimony is preserved in two prayers in which he condemned her.[12]

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.[13][14] 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".[15]

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.[16] 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.[17] A thirteen line bilingual inscription can now probably be assigned to him.[i 13][18] Neo-Babylonian temple inventory from Ur mentions him along with successors as a benefactor.[i 14] A cylinder inscription of Nabonidus[i 15] 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.[19]

— Inscription of Nabonidus, cylinder BM 104738.

There are around 87 economic texts, most of which were found at successive excavations in Nippur, providing a date formula based on regnal 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.[20] 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.[21] Other texts include two extispicy reports provide divinations based on examination of animal entrails.[17] 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 the end of his reign

Later in his reign the emissaries of Assyrian king Aššur-uballiṭ I were 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.[22] With the destruction of Mitanni by the Hittites, Assyria emerged as a great power during his reign, threatening the northern border of the Kassite kingdom.

Perhaps to cement relations, Muballiṭat-Šērūa, daughter of Aššur-uballiṭ, had been married to either Burna-Buriaš[23] or possibly his son,[24] Kara-ḫardaš; the historical sources do not agree.[25] The scenario proposed by Brinkman[26] 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.[i 16] Kara-ḫardaš was murdered, shortly after succeeding his father to the throne, during a rebellion by the Kassite army in 1333 BC. According to an Assyrian chronicle 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",[27] and install Kurigalzu II, "the younger", variously rendered as son of Burnaburiaš[i 17] and son of Kadašman-Ḫarbe, likely a scribal error for Kara-ḫardaš.[i 18] Note, however, that there are more than a dozen royal inscriptions of Kurigalzu II identifying Burna-Buriaš as his father.


  1. ^ a b EA 6, Burna-Buriaš to Nummuwarea (Amenhotep III): "An offer of friendship," tablet VAT 149 in the Vorderasiatisches Museum, Berlin, CDLI ORACC Transliteration
  2. ^ EA 9, Burna-Buriaš to Nibḫurrereya (Tutankhamen?): "Ancient loyalties, new requests," tablet BM 29785 in the British Museum, London, CDLI ORACC Transliteration
  3. ^ EA 14, Egyptian king to Burna-Buriaš: "Inventory of Egyptian gifts," tablets VAT 1651 and VAT 2711 in the Vorderasiatisches Museum, Berlin, and 1893.1-41 in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, CDLI ORACC Transliteration
  4. ^ EA 10, Burna-Buriaš to Napḫureya (Akhenaten): "Egyptian gold and carpenters," tablet BM 29786 in the British Museum, London, CDLI ORACC Transliteration
  5. ^ a b c EA 7, Burna-Buriaš to Napḫureya (Akhenaten): "A lesson in geography," tablet VAT 150 in the Vorderasiatisches Museum, Berlin, CDLI ORACC Transliteration
  6. ^ EA 11, Burna-Buriaš to Napḫureya (Akhenaten): "Proper escort for a betrothed princess," tablet VAT 151 + 1878 in the Vorderasiatisches Museum, Berlin, CDLI ORACC Transliteration
  7. ^ EA 13, Burna-Buriaš to Napḫureya (Akhenaten): "Inventory of a dowry," tablet VAT 1717 in the Vorderasiatisches Museum, Berlin, CDLI ORACC Transliteration
  8. ^ a b EA 8, Burna-Buriaš to Napḫureya (Akhenaten): "Merchants murdered, vengeance demanded," tablet VAT 152 in the Vorderasiatisches Museum, Berlin, CDLI ORACC Transliteration
  9. ^ EA 287, Abdi-Heba to Egyptian Pharaoh: "A very serious crime," tablet VAT 1644 in the Vorderasiatisches Museum, Berlin, CDLI ORACC transliteration
  10. ^ EA 12, Princess to King: "A letter from a princess," tablet VAT 1605 in the Vorderasiatisches Museum, Berlin, CDLI ORACC Transliteration
  11. ^ a b Sb 2731, Statue of Queen Napirasu, wife of Untash-Napirisha.
  12. ^ Šutruk-Naḫḫunte (?) to Kassite court, Tablet VAT 17020 CDLI
  13. ^ Bilingual inscription Sm. 699, K. 4807 + Sm. 977 + 79-7-8,80 + 79-7-8,314.
  14. ^ Temple inventory UET 4 143 (now = IM 57150).
  15. ^ Cylinder BM 104738, column I, lines 49 to 52.
  16. ^ Tablet VAT 11187 published as KAV 097 CDLI, line 1: [ka-ra-] ḫar-da-aš, and 3: a-ma DUMU MUNUS MAN di-mu.
  17. ^ The Synchronistic Chronicle (ABC 21), K4401a, Column 1, line A16.
  18. ^ Chronicle P (ABC 22), tablet BM 92701, line 14


  1. ^ Ancient Seals of the East. 1940. p. 29.
  2. ^ J. A. Brinkman (1977). "Appendix: Mesopotamian Chronology of the Historical Period". In A. Leo Openheim (ed.). Ancient Mesopotamia: Portrait of a Dead Civilization. University of Chicago Press. p. 338.
  3. ^ K. Fabritius (1999). K. Radner (ed.). The Prosopography of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, Volume 1, Part II: B–G. The Neo-Assyrian Text Corpus Project. p. 354.
  4. ^ Amanda H. Podany (2010). Brotherhood of Kings: How International Relations Shaped the Ancient Near East. Oxford University Press. p. 206.
  5. ^ a b Raymond Westbrook (Jul–Sep 2000). Babylonian Diplomacy in the Amarna Letters. Vol. 120. Journal of the American Oriental Society. pp. 377–382.
  6. ^ Stephen Bertman (2003). Handbook to life in ancient Mesopotamia. Oxford University Press. p. 81.
  7. ^ William L. Moran (2000). The Amarna Letters. Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 18.
  8. ^ Miller, Jared L.. "3. Political Interactions between Kassite Babylonia and Assyria, Egypt and Ḫatti during the Amarna Age". Volume 1 Karduniaš. Babylonia under the Kassites 1, edited by Alexa Bartelmus and Katja Sternitzke, Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter, 2017, pp. 93–111
  9. ^ D. T. Potts (1999). The archaeology of Elam: formation and transformation of an ancient Iranian State. Cambridge University Press. p. 207.
  10. ^ Trevor Bryce (2005). The Kingdom of the Hittites. Oxford University Press. p. 159.
  11. ^ 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.
  12. ^ 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. doi:10.2307/601872. JSTOR 601872. discussing tablets K Bo 4.8 and KUB 14.4.
  13. ^ P. B. Cornwall (1952). "Two Letters from Dilmun". Journal of Cuneiform Studies. 6 (4): 137–145. doi:10.2307/1359537. JSTOR 1359537. S2CID 163785258.
  14. ^ Albrecht Goetze (1952). "The texts Ni. 615 and 641 of the Istanbul Museum". Journal of Cuneiform Studies (6): 142–145. JSTOR 1359537.
  15. ^ 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.
  16. ^ Richard L. Zettler; et al. (1993). Nippur III, Kassite Buildings in Area WC-1. Oriental Institute Publication. p. 8.
  17. ^ a b J. A. Brinkman (1976). "Burna-Buriaš". Materials and Studies for Kassite History, Vol. I (MSKH I). Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago. pp. 105–108.
  18. ^ J. A. Brinkman (Autumn 1985). "Texts and Fragments". Journal of Cuneiform Studies. 37 (2): 249–252. doi:10.2307/1359870. JSTOR 1359870. S2CID 163180195.
  19. ^ S. Langdon (Jan 1916). "New Inscriptions of Nabuna'id". The American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures. 32 (2): 112. doi:10.1086/369788. JSTOR 52834.
  20. ^ J. A. Brinkman (May 1982). "Sex, Age, and Physical Condition Designations for Servile Laborers in the Middle Babylonian Period". In G. van Driel (ed.). Zikir Sumin. V.U. Uitgeverij. pp. 1–8.
  21. ^ J. A. Brinkman (Jan 1980). "Forced Laborers in the Middle Babylonian Period". Journal of Cuneiform Studies. 32 (1): 17–22. doi:10.2307/1359787. JSTOR 1359787. S2CID 159673039.
  22. ^ 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. doi:10.2307/503920. JSTOR 503920. S2CID 163403916.
  23. ^ Sarah C. Melville (2004). "16 Royal Women and the Exercise of Power in the Near East". In Daniel C. Snell (ed.). A companion to the ancient Near East. p. 225.
  24. ^ Paul Collins (2008). From Egypt to Babylon: the international age 1550-500 BC. Trustees of the British Museum. p. 65.
  25. ^ A. K. Grayson (1975). Assyrian and Babylonian chronicles. J. J. Augustin. p. 211.
  26. ^ J. A. Brinkman. "The Chronicle Tradition Concerning the Deposing of the Grandson of Aššur-uballiṭ I". MSKH I. pp. 418–423.
  27. ^ Amélie Kuhrt (1995). The ancient Near East, c. 3000-330 BC. Routledge.
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Burna-Buriash II
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