Carchemish, Turkey

by David Padfield

Carchemish (now Karkamis) was an important ancient city of the northern Hittite empire, located on the border between Turkey and Syria. It was also the location of one of the decisive battles in world history. It was here that the armies of Babylon and Egypt met in battle (Jer. 46:2; 2 Chr. 35:20-24). The prophet Isaiah lists Carchemish as one of the kingdoms overthrown by Sargon II of Assyria in 717 BC (Isa. 10:9). Carchemish is also mentioned in Egyptian and Assyrian texts.

CarchemishThe ruins of Carchemish are located on the West bank of Euphrates River, about 35 miles southeast of Gaziantep, Turkey. The site lies in Turkish territory on the border of Syria. A large Turkish military now stands on the Carchemish acropolis, and access to the site is now heavily restricted and is out of bounds to archaeological exploration.

The site was excavated three different times before World War One by the British Museum, led by David George Hogarth, Reginald C. Thompson, Leonard Woolley, and T. E. Lawrence ("Lawrence of Arabia"). These expeditions uncovered substantial remains of the Assyrian and Neo-Hittite periods, including forts, palaces, temples, market places, and a great wall sculptured with a procession of warriors, with the king and crown prince celebrating a great victory.

The Battle Of Carchemish

The Battle of Carchemish was fought in May/June of 605 BC between an allied army of Egyptians and Assyrians against the Babylonian army.

When the Assyrian capital of Ninevah was overrun by the Babylonians in 612 BC, the Assyrians moved their capital to Harran (now in Turkey). When the Babylonians captured Harran in 608 BC, the Assyrian capital was moved to Carchemish.

Egypt was allied with the Assyrians, and marched to their aid against the Babylonians. In 609 BC, the Egyptian army of Pharaoh Necho II was delayed at Megiddo (in Israel) by the forces of King Josiah of Judah. Josiah was killed and his army was defeated.

"After all this, when Josiah had prepared the temple, Necho king of Egypt came up to fight against Carchemish by the Euphrates; and Josiah went out against him. But he sent messengers to him, saying, 'What have I to do with you, king of Judah? I have not come against you this day, but against the house with which I have war; for God commanded me to make haste. Refrain from meddling with God, who is with me, lest He destroy you.' Nevertheless Josiah would not turn his face from him, but disguised himself so that he might fight with him, and did not heed the words of Necho from the mouth of God. So he came to fight in the Valley of Megiddo. And the archers shot King Josiah; and the king said to his servants, 'Take me away, for I am severely wounded.' His servants therefore took him out of that chariot and put him in the second chariot that he had, and they brought him to Jerusalem. So he died, and was buried in one of the tombs of his fathers. And all Judah and Jerusalem mourned for Josiah." (2 Chr. 35:20-24).

The Egyptians were further delayed at Riblah, and Necho arrived at Carchemish too late. Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar had surprised the Assyrians and had captured Carchemish. He then turned on the Egyptians and thoroughly defeated them in a bloody battle and the combined Egyptian and Assyrian forces were devastated.

Battle of CarchemishThe Babylonian Chronicles, now housed in the British Museum, claim that Nebuchadnezzar "crossed the river to go against the Egyptian army which lay in Carchemish. The armies fought with each other and the Egyptian army withdrew before him. He accomplished their defeat and beat them to nonexistence. As for the rest of the Egyptian army which had escaped from the defeat so quickly that no weapon had reached them, the Babylonians overtook and defeated them in the district of Hamath so that not a single man escaped to his own country. At that time Nebuchadnezzar conquered the whole of Hatti-land."

Before the battle of Carchemish, Egypt had one of the greatest armies in northern Africa and was a threat to the Middle East, but the battle of Carchemish changed all of that when the Babylonians destroyed the power of Egypt and the independent existence of Assyria. The Battle of Carchemish was the end of the Assyrian Empire, and Egypt was reduced to a second-rate power. Babylon became master of the Middle East.

Photographs Of Carchemish

Since photography is prohibited in the area around Carchemish today (due to the military base), it is nearly impossible to find photographs of the site. However, in 2007 I was able to visit the site with Ferrell Jenkins, Gene Taylor and Leon Mauldin. As a result, we now have a series of high quality photographs of Carchemish available for use in PowerPoint presentations.