THE ART OF IRAN PREISLAMIC
THE CASSITI AND THEIR DOMAIN ON MESOPOTAMIA
As has already been said, the Cassites were an Asian population that populated the center and west of Iran and the valleys of the Zagros mountains. It has not yet been clarified whether the Lullubi of Luristan, the Guti of Kurdistan and the Manners of the shores of Lake Orumiyeh, which established states in different eras, were originally Cassites, or groups of Asians with different cultures and languages.
What is certain, however, is that each of these peoples over time opted for forms of urban life and formed a state. It is possible that these people because of their main activity - which consisted of agriculture and breeding - took into account above all their material needs and for this reason they did not have much interest in inventing a writing or importing it from nearby Elamites or from the Sumerians, on the other side of the Zagros, and showed little or no consideration for recording the events.
The Cassites, who initially lived in the valleys and plains between the Zagros and the mountainous areas of central Iran, gradually entered the center of the plateau, reaching the area of today's Tehran and the central region called Boghestan (Bujistan, Arabic). In recent excavations carried out by the Iranian Organization for Cultural Heritage, traces of a highly evolved civilization dating back to the third millennium (perhaps even the second half of the fourth) have been found, halfway between the cities of Tehran, Saveh and Qom , in a place called Robat-e Karim and in the area of the new international airport. The sites must have been the city of the Cassites, as the evidence suggests that the main activities carried out there were ceramics, agriculture and fruit growing.
The Cassites were adjacent to two or three Iranian peoples who lived close to the Elamites in the south and the Lullubi, Guti and Mannei in the north. Being stronger, the Guti assimilated in fact the Lullubi who joined them in the frequent attacks on Mesopotamian lands. These continuous attacks caused many inconveniences to the inhabitants of Mesopotamia, and despite the strenuous resistance opposed by the Akkadian ruler Shar-Kali-Sharri, Guti and Lullubi eventually succeeded in advancing and overturning the Akkadian rule, ruling over central Mesopotamia for a period of about 125 years.
The center of their power was the city of Arrapkha, which, although no traces have yet been found, must have been located in the area of today's Kirkuk. The Guti were very hard with the Mesopotamian populations, collecting saltious tributes and looting the statues of their deities. There are not many artistic testimonies of the Guti period left; we have some inscriptions engraved on stone that shows the names of their sovereigns, names which, however, do not appear in the lists of Mesopotamian kings.
The Guti government was interrupted by the fifth dynasty of Uruk, that is, by the Sumerians, and by Atu-Hagal, the prince and initiator of the royal dynasty of Uruk. The inhabitants of the Zagros, however, did not remain with their hands, especially the Cassites, who had constituted states in Central and Western Iran and were much more peaceful and moderate than the Guti. For reasons not clear - one of which was perhaps the drying up of large areas of central Iran gradually descended from the Zagros to Mesopotamia and settled in its cities, especially in Babylon, adopting customs and traditions.
During the reign of Hammurabi, the Cassites had attacked Babylon several times in an attempt to take possession of it, without ever succeeding. At the end of the period of splendor enjoyed under Hammurabi, however, during the rule of his weak successors, the Cassites moved to Mesopotamia in small groups and set in motion a sudden and definitive assault. According to Pier Amiet, they managed to take the city in 1.471 a. C., and established a Cassitic kingdom that governed Babylon, for more than three centuries (two, according to Hrozny).
The Cassites rebuilt the ancient temples, also erecting new ones for both the Babylonian and the cassitic deities. They also conquered the Elam, sparing it from devastation. Of the Cassites there remain inscriptions and bas-reliefs, but no new artistic productions emerge from their obscure period of domination; all their art and architecture was but a continuation of that of the first Babylonian dynasty.
The Cassites, as we have said, were horse breeders; they were the ones who introduced the horse and the war chariot to Babylon and Mesopotamia. They also introduced some changes in the Mesopotamian clothing; until the age of Gud-Anghesh the clothing consisted of a simple dress tied with ribbons sewn around. In the age of the first Babylonian dynasty, during the reign of Hammurabi, jewelry and precious stones were added to this garment, but it was the Cassites that covered it with embroidery and floral motifs, a use that was later taken up again by the Assyrians. Their kings wore a cylindrical headdress woven with gold, to which wings were added.
The Cassites, in Mesopotamia, more than dealing with plastic arts, devoted themselves to architecture, an architecture worthy of mention. The best example is found in the small temple of Karandash, erected in honor of the goddess Inanna of Uruk in the late fifteenth century.
The building is very interesting and has rare links with the architectural tradition of the fourteenth century by Tepe Gura. The constructive philosophy of this tradition foresaw that for the external decoration we used bricks printed with relief drawings, a technique of the sixteenth century. The niches and recesses that traditionally separated the pillars from each other were covered with relief drawings; the images of the deities of the mountain and water were represented alternately.
These mythological entities were the representation of the original and primary forces of the earth, which was also a goddess, whose temple was an image of her dwelling in the universe. Shortly thereafter, Karigalzu I (1.390-1.379 BC), probably the representative of the deity, founded a new city called Dur-Karigalzu and equipped with a palace and a temple.
The palace, richly decorated, was enriched by gardens that wound along the perimeter of the area containing the pavilions and the halls. Yet he had designed the palace in such a way that it was not easy to enter and leave. The temple had a high, multi-storey tower whose central core was eighty-seven meters high, so that travelers, when they saw it, thought that it was the remains of the Tower of Babel. The Cassite rulers used to offer many gifts to the temples, gifts whose meaning is explained in the inscriptions in the Akkadian language carved on the stones next to the temple, under the protection of the deity.
Since it was supposed that the population would not be able to interpret the images correctly, next to them the name of the gods was carved; or the deity was identified by the animal that bore, like Marduk, a powerful and majestic god of Babylon, identified by a snake with horns. Even the seals were etched in this way, but with a sort of return to nature and abstraction in the intelligent forms, which were composed and juxtaposed together.