The Battle of Karkar (or Qarqar) was fought in 853 BC when the army of Assyria, led by king Shalmaneser III, encountered an allied army of 12 kings at Karkar led by Hadadezer (also called Adad-idri and possibly the same as Ben Hadad) of Damascus and King Ahab of Israel. This battle is notable for having a larger number of combatants than any previous battle, and for being the first instance some peoples enter recorded history (such as the Arabs). It is recorded on The Kurkh Monolith. The ancient town of Qarqar at which the battle took place has generally been identified with the modern archaeological site of Tell Qarqur.
According to an inscription later erected by Shalmaneser, he had started his annual campaign, leaving Nineveh on the 14th day of Aiaru. He crossed both the Tigris and Euphrates without incident, receiving the submission and tribute of several cities along the way, including that of Aleppo. Once past Aleppo, he encountered his first resistance from troops of Iruleni, king of Hamath, whom he defeated; in retribution, he plundered both the palaces and the cities of Iruleni's kingdom. Continuing his march after having sacked Karkar, he encountered the allied forces near the Orontes River.
Shalmaneser's inscription describes the forces of his opponent Hadadezer in considerable detail as follows:
Shalmaneser boasts that his troops inflicted 14,000 casualties upon the allied army, capturing countless chariots and horses, and describes the damage he inflicted on his opponents in savage detail. However, the royal inscriptions from this period are notoriously unreliable and never directly acknowledge defeats, and sometimes claim victories won by ancestors or predecessors. If Shalmaneser had won a clear victory at Karkar, it did not immediately enable further Assyrian conquests in Syria. Assyrian records make it clear that he campaigned in the region several more times in the following decade, engaging Hadadezer six times, who was supported by Iruleni of Hamath at least twice. Shalmaneser's opponents held on to their thrones after this battle: Hadadezer was king of Damascus until at least 841 BC, while Ahab was king of Israel until around 850 BC.
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