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Assyria, a Greek name formed from Asshur (אשׁוּר, 'ashshūr; Ἀσσούρ, Assoúr; Assyrian Assur): The primitive capital of the country.

The name derived from the city Asshur on the Tigris, the original capital of the country, was originally a colony from Babylonia, and was ruled by viceroys from that kingdom. It was a mountainous region lying to the north of Babylonia, extending along the Tigris as far as to the high mountain range of Armenia, the Gordiaean or Carduchian mountains. It was founded in 1700 BC under Bel-kap-kapu, and became an independent and a conquering power, and shook off the yoke of its Babylonian masters. It subdued the whole of Northern Asia. The Assyrians were Semites (Genesis 10:22), but in process of time non-Semite tribes mingled with the inhabitants. They were a military people, the “Romans of the East.”

See map, of Assyria

Of the early history of the kingdom of Assyria little is positively known. In 1120 BC Tiglath-pileser I., the greatest of the Assyrian kings, “crossed the Euphrates, defeated the kings of the Hittites, captured the city of Carchemish, and advanced as far as the shores of the Mediterranean.” He may be regarded as the founder of the first Assyrian empire. After this the Assyrians gradually extended their power, subjugating the states of Northern Syria. In the reign of Ahab, king of Israel, Shalmaneser II. marched an army against the Syrian states, whose allied army he encountered and vanquished at Karkar. This led to Ahab's casting off the yoke of Damascus and allying himself with Judah. Some years after this the Assyrian king marched an army against Hazael, king of Damascus. He besieged and took that city. He also brought under tribute Jehu, and the cities of Tyre and Sidon.

About a hundred years after this (745 BC the crown was seized by a military adventurer called Pul, who assumed the name of Tiglath-pileser III. He directed his armies into Syria, which had by this time regained its independence, and took (740 BC) Arpad, near Aleppo, after a siege of three years, and reduced Hamath. Azariah (Uzziah) was an ally of the king of Hamath, and thus was compelled by Tiglath-pileser to do him homage and pay a yearly tribute.

In 738 BC, in the reign of Menahem, king of Israel, Pul invaded Israel, and imposed on it a heavy tribute (2 Kings 15:19). Ahaz, the king of Judah, when engaged in a war against Israel and Syria, appealed for help to this Assyrian king by means of a present of gold and silver (2 Kings 16:8); who accordingly “marched against Damascus, defeated and put Rezin to death, and besieged the city itself.” Leaving a portion of his army to continue the siege, “he advanced through the province east of Jordan, spreading fire and sword,” and became master of Philistia, and took Samaria and Damascus. He died 727 BC, and was succeeded by Shalmanezer IV., who ruled till 722 BC. He also invaded Syria (2 Kings 17:5), but was deposed in favour of Sargon (q.v.) the Tartan, or commander-in-chief of the army, who took Samaria (q.v.) after a siege of three years, and so put an end to the kingdom of Israel, carrying the people away into captivity, 722 BC (2 Kings 17:1-6, 2 Kings 17:24; 2 Kings 18:7, 2 Kings 18:9). He also overran the land of Judah, and took the city of Jerusalem (Isaiah 10:6, Isaiah 10:12, Isaiah 10:22, Isaiah 10:24, Isaiah 10:34). Mention is next made of Sennacherib (705 BC), the son and successor of Sargon (2 Kings 18:13; 2 Kings 19:37; Isaiah 7:17, Isaiah 7:18); and then of Esar-haddon, his son and successor, who took Manasseh, king of Judah, captive, and kept him for some time a prisoner at Babylon, which he alone of all the Assyrian kings made the seat of his government (2 Kings 19:37; Isaiah 37:38).

Assur-bani-pal, the son of Esarhaddon, became king, and in Ezra 4:10 is referred to as Asnapper. From an early period Assyria had entered on a conquering career, and having absorbed Babylon, the kingdoms of Hamath, Damascus, and Samaria, it conquered Phoenicia, and made Judea feudatory, and subjected Philistia and Idumea. At length, however, its power declined. In 727 BC the Babylonians threw off the rule of the Assyrians, under the leadership of the powerful Chaldean prince Merodach-baladan (2 Kings 20:12), who, after twelve years, was subdued by Sargon, who now reunited the kingdom, and ruled over a vast empire. But on his death the smouldering flames of rebellion again burst forth, and the Babylonians and Medes successfully asserted their independence (625 BC), and Assyria fell according to the prophecies of Isaiah (Isaiah 10:5-19), Nahum (Nahum 3:19), and Zephaniah (Zephaniah 3:13), and the many separate kingdoms of which it was composed ceased to recognize the “great king” (2 Kings 18:19; Isaiah 36:4). Ezekiel (Ezekiel 31) attests (about 586 BC) how completely Assyria was overthrown. Nineveh, Babylon.)


I. Geography

The origin of the city (now Kala'at Shergat), which was built on the western bank of the Tigris between the Upper and Lower Zab, went back to pre-Sem times, and the meaning of the name was forgotten (see Genesis 2:14, where the Hiddekel or Tigris is said to flow on the eastern side of Asshur). To the North of the junction of the Tigris and Upper Zab, and opposite the modern Mossul, was a shrine of the goddess Ishtar, around which grew up the town of Nina, Ninua or Nineveh (now Kouyunjik and Nebi Yunus). Another early sanctuary of Ishtar was at Urbillu, Arbailu or Arbela, East of the Upper Zab. North of Nineveh was Dur-Sargina (now Khorsabad) where Sargon built his palace (720 BC). All this district was embraced in the kingdom of Assyria which extended from Babylonia northward to the Kurdish mountains and at times included the country westward to the Euphrates and the Khabur.

II. Early History

The whole region was known to the early Babylonians as Subartu. Its possession was disputed between Semitic Amurrû or Amorites (which see) and a non-Semitic people from the North called Mitannians. The earlier high priests of Assur known to us bear Mitannian names. About 2500 BC the country was occupied by Babylonian Semites, who brought with them the religion, law, customs, script and Semitic language of Babylonia (Genesis 10:11, Genesis 10:12, where we should read “He went forth to Asshur”; see Micah 5:6). The foundation of Nineveh, Rehoboth-'Ir (Assyrian Rebît-Ali, “the suburbs of the city”), Calah and Resen (Assyrian Res-eni, “head of the spring”) is ascribed to them. The triangle formed by the Tigris and Zab, which enclosed these cities, was in later times included within the fortifications of the “great city” (Genesis 10:12; Jonah 3:3). Assyria is always distinguished from Babylonia in the Old Testament, and not confounded with it as by Herodotus and other classical writers.

III. Climate and Productions

Assyria, speaking generally, was a limestone plateau with a temperate climate, cold and wet in winter, but warm during the summer months. On the banks of the rivers there was abundant cultivation, besides pasture-land. The apple of the North grew by the side of the palm-tree of the South. Figs, olives, pomegranates, almonds, mulberries and vines were also cultivated as well as all kinds of grain. Cotton is mentioned by Sennacherib (King, PSBA, December, 1909). The forests were tenanted by lions, and the plains by wild bulls (rimi, Hebrew re'ēmīm), wild asses, wild goats and gazelles. Horses were imported from Cappadocia; ducks were kept, and mastiffs were employed in hunting.

IV. Population

The dominant type was Semitic, with full lips, somewhat hooked nose, high forehead, black hair and eyes, fresh complexion and abundance of beard. In character the Assyrians were cruel and ferocious in war, keen traders, stern disciplinarians, and where religion was concerned, intense and intolerant. Like the Ottoman Turks they formed a military state, at the head of which was the king, who was both leader in war and chief priest, and which offered a striking contrast to theocratic state of the Babylonians. It seems probable that every male was liable to conscription, and under the Second Empire, if not earlier, there was a large standing army, part of which consisted of mercenaries and recruits from the subject races. One result of this was the necessity for constant war in order to occupy the soldiery and satisfy their demands with captured booty; and the result, as in the Northern Kingdom of Israel, was military revolution, with the seizure of the throne by the successful general. As might be expected, education was confined to the upper classes, more especially to the priests and scribes.

V. Trade and Law

As far back as the age of Abraham, when Assyria was still a dependency of Babylonia, trade was carried on with Cappadocia and an Assyrian colony of merchants settled at Kara Eyuk near Kaisariyeh. Down the Euphrates came the silver, copper and bronze of Asia Minor, together with horses. Cedar wood was brought from Mount Amanus, and there was already trade, through Syria, with the Mediterranean. Nineveh itself was probably founded in the interests of the trade with the North. In later days commercial reasons had much to do with the efforts of the Assyrian kings to conquer eastern Asia Minor and the Mediterranean coast of Syria and Pal: under the Second Empire no pains were spared to obtain possession of the Phoenician cities and divert their commerce into Assyrian hands. Hence the importance of the capture of the Hittite stronghold, Carchemish, by Sargon in 717 BC, as it commanded the road to Syria and the passage across the Euphrates. Nineveh had at that time already become a great resort of merchants, among whom the Semitic Arameans were the most numerous. Aramaic, accordingly, became the language of trade, and then of diplomacy (compare 2 Kings 18:26), and commercial documents written in cuneiform were provided with Aramaic dockets. As in Babylonia, land and houses were leased knd sold, money was lent at interest, and the leading firms employed numerous damgari or commercial agents.

Assyrian law was, in general, derived from Babylonia and much of it was connected with trade. The code of Khammu-rabi (Code of H̬ammurabi) or Amraphel (which see) underlay it, and the same system of judicial procedure, with pleading before judges, the hearing of witnesses, and an appeal to the king, prevailed in both countries.

VI. Art

Unlike Babylonia, Assyria abounded in stone; the brick buildings of Babylonia, accordingly, were replaced by stone, and the painted or tiled walls by sculptured slabs. In the bas-reliefs discovered at Nineveh three periods of artistic progress may be traced. Under Assur-nazir-pal the sculpture is bold and vigorous, but the work is immature and the perspective faulty. From the beginning of the Second Empire to the reign of Esar-haddon the bas-reliefs often remind us of embroidery in stone. Attempts are made to imitate the rich detail and delicate finish of the ivory carvings; the background is filled in with a profusion of subjects, and there is a marked realism in the delineation of them. The third period is that of Assur-bani-pal, when the overcrowding is avoided by once more leaving the background bare, while the animal and vegetable forms are distinguished by a certain softness, if not effeminacy of tone. Sculpture in the round, however, lagged far behind that in relief, and the statuary of Assyria is very inferior to that of Babylonia. It is only the human-headed bulls and winged lions that can be called successful: they were set on either side of a gate to prevent the entrance of evil spirits, and their majestic proportions were calculated to strike the observer with awe (compare the description of the four cherubim in Ezekiel 1).

In bronze work the Assyrians excelled, much of the work being cast. But in general it was hammered, and the scenes hammered in relief on the bronze gates discovered by Mr. Rassam at Balawât near Nineveh are among the best examples of ancient oriental metallurgy at present known. Gold and silver were also worked into artistic forms; iron was reserved for more utilitarian purposes. The beautiful ivory carvings found at Nineveh were probably the work of foreign artificers, but gems and seal cylinders were engraved by native artists in imitation of those of Babylonia, and the Babylonian art of painting and glazing tiles was also practiced. The terra-cotta figures which can be assigned to the Assyrian period are poor. Glass was also manufactured.

VII. Mechanics

The Assyrians were skilled in the transport of large blocks of stone, whether sculptured or otherwise. They understood the use of the lever, the pulley and the roller, and they had invented various engines of war for demolishing or undermining the walls of a city or for protecting the assailants. A crystal lens, turned on the lathe, has been found at Kouyunjik: it must have been useful to the scribes, the cuneiform characters inscribed on the tablets being frequently very minute. Water was raised from the river by means of a shaduf.

VIII. Furniture, Pottery and Embroidery

The furniture even of the palace was scanty, consisting mainly of couches, chairs, stools, tables, rugs and curtains. The chairs and couches were frequently of an artistic shape, and were provided with feet in the form of the legs of an ox. All kinds of vases, bowls and dishes were made of earthenware, but they were rarely decorated. Clothes, curtains and rugs, on the other hand, were richly dyed and embroidered, and were manufactured from wool and flax, and (in the age of the Second Empire) from cotton. The rug, of which the Persian rug is the modern representative, was a Babylonian invention.

IX. Language, Literature and Science

The Assyrian language was Semitic, and differed only dialectically from Semitic Babylonian. In course of time, however, differences grew up between the spoken language and the language of literature, which had incorporated many Summerian words, and retained grammatical terminations that the vernacular had lost, though these differences were never very great. Assyrian literature, moreover, was mainly derived from Babylonia. Assur-bani-pal employed agents to ransack the libraries of Babylonia and send their contents to Nineveh, where his library was filled with scribes who busied themselves in copying and editing ancient texts. Commentaries were often written upon these, and grammars, vocabularies and interlinear translations were compiled to enable the student to understand the extinct Sumerian, which had long been the Latin of Semitic Babylonia. The writing material was clay, upon which the cuneiform characters were impressed with a stylus while it was still moist: the tablet was afterward baked in the sun or (in Assyria) in a kiln. The contents of the library of Nineveh were very various; religion, mythology, law, history, geography, zoology, philology, mathematics, astronomy, astrology and the pseudo-science of omens were all represented in it, as well as poetry and legendary romance. See Library Of Nineveh.

X. Government and Army

Assyria was a military kingdom which, like the Northern Kingdom of Israel, had established itself by a successful revolt from Babylonia. In contradistinction to Babylonia, which was a theocratic state, the king being subordinate to the priest, the Assyrian king was supreme. Whereas in Babylonia the temple was the chief public building, in Assyria the royal palace dominated everything, the temple being merely a royal chapel attached to the palace. The king, in fact, was the commander of an army, and this army was the Assyrian people. How far the whole male population was liable to conscription is still uncertain; but the fact that the wars of Assur-bani-pal so exhausted the fighting strength of the nation as to render it unable to resist the invaders from the North shows that the majority of the males must have been soldiers. Hence the constant wars partly to occupy the army and prevent revolts, partly for the sake of booty with which to pay it. Hence too, the military revolutions, which, as in the kingdom of Israel, resulted in changes of dynasty and the seizure of the throne by successful generals. The turtannu or commander-in-chief, who took the place of the king when the latter was unable or unwilling to lead his forces, ranked next to the sovereign. From the reign of Tiglath-pileser IV onward, however, the autocracy was tempered by a centralized bureaucracy, and in the provinces a civil governor was appointed by the side of the military commander. Among the high officials at court were the rab-saki or “vizier,” and the rab-sa-risi or “controller,” the rabhṣārīṣ (Rab-Saris (which see)) of the Old Testament.

The army consisted of cavalry, infantry, bowmen and slingers, as well as of a corps of charioteers. After the rise of the Second Empire the cavalry were increased at the expense of the chariotry, and were provided with saddles and boots, while the unarmed groom who had run by the side of the horse became a mounted archer. Sennacherib further clothed the horseman in a coat of mail. The infantry were about ten times as numerous as the calvary, and under Sargon were divided into bowmen and spearmen, the bowmen again being subdivided into heavy-armed and light-armed, the latter being apparently of foreign origin. Sennacherib introduced a corps of slingers, clad in helmet and cuirass, leather drawers and boots. He also deprived the heavy-armed bowmen of the long robes they used to wear, and established a body of pioneers with double-headed axes, helmets and buskins. Shields were also worn by all classes of soldiers, and the army carried with it standards, tents, battering-rams and baggage-carts. The royal sleeping-tent was accompanied by tents for cooking and dining. No pains, in fact, were spared to make the army both in equipment and discipline an irresistible engine of war. The terror it excited in western Asia is therefore easily intelligible (Isaiah 10:5-14; Nahum 2:11-13; Nahum 3:1-4).

XI. Religion

The state religion of Assyria was derived from Babylonia (which see) and in its main outlines is Babylonian. But it differed from the religion of Babylonia in two important respects:

(1) The king, and not the high priest, was supreme, and

(2) at the head of it was the national god Asur or Assur, whose high priest and representative was the king.

Asur was originally Asir, “the leader” in war, who is accordingly depicted as a warrior-god armed with a bow and who in the age when solar worship became general in Babylonia was identified with the sun-god. But the similarity of the name caused him to be also identified with the city of Asur, where he was worshipped, at a time when the cities of northern Babylonia came to be deified, probably under Hittite influence. Later still, the scribes explained his name as a corruption of that of the primeval cosmogonic deity An-sar, the upper firmament, which in the neo-Babylonian age was pronounced Assōr. The combination of the attributes of the warrior-god, who was the peculiar god of the commander of the army, with the deified city to which the army belonged, caused Assur to become the national deity of a military nation in a way of which no Babylonian divinity was capable. The army were “the troops of Assur,” the enemies were “the enemies of Assur” who required that they should acknowledge his supremacy or be destroyed. Assur was not only supreme over the other gods, he was also, in fact, unlike them, without father or wife. Originally, it is true, his feminine counterpart, Asirtu, the Asherah (which see) of the Old Testament, had stood at his side, and later literary pedants endeavored to find a wife for him in Belit, “the Lady,” or Ishtar, or some other Babylonian goddess, but the attempts remained purely literary. When Nineveh took the place of Assur as the capital of the kingdom, Ishtar, around whose sanctuary Nineveh had grown up, began to share with him some of the honor of worship, though her position continued to be secondary to the end. This was also the case with the war-god Nin-ip, called Mas in Assyria, whose cult was specially patronized by the Assyrian kings.

See Religion Of Babylonia And Assyria.

XII. Excavations

Rich, who had first visited Mossul in 1811, examined the mounds opposite in 1820 and concluded that they represented the site of Nineveh. The few antiquities he discovered were contained in a single case in the British Museum, but the results of his researches were not published until 1836. In 1843-45 the Frenchman Botta disinterred the palace of Sargon at Khorsabad, 15 miles North of Nineveh, while at Nimrud (Calah) and Kouyunjik (Nineveh) Layard (1845-51) brought to light the ruins of the great Assyrian palaces and the library of Assur-bani-pal. His work was continued by Rassam (1851-54). Nothing more was done until 1873-75 when George Smith resumed excavations on the site of Assur-bani-pal's library; this was followed in 1877-79 by the excavations of Rassam, who discovered among other things the bronze gates of Balawât. At present a German expedition under Andrae is working at Kala'at Shergat (Assur) where the English excavators had already found the cylinder-inscription of Tiglath-pileser I (see Sherghat).

XIII. Chronology

The Assyrians reckoned time by means of limmi, certain officials appointed every New Year's day, after whom their year of office was named. The lists of limmi or “Eponyms” which have come down to us form the basis of Assyrian chronology. Portions of a “synchronous” history of Assyria and Babylonia have also been discovered, as well as fragments of two “Babylonian Chronicles” written from a Babylonian point of view. The “Eponym” lists carry back an exact dating of time to the beginning of the 10th century bc. Before that period Sennacherib states that Tiglath-pileser I reigned 418 years before himself. Tiglath-pileser, moreover, tells us that Šamaš-Ramman son of Isme-Dagon had built a temple at Assur 641 years earlier, while Shalmaneser I places Šamaš-Ramman 580 years before his own reign and Erisu 159 years before Šamaš-Ramman, though Esar-haddon gives the dates differently. Apart from the native documents, the only trustworthy sources for the chronology (as for the history) of Assyria are the Old Testament records. In return the “Eponym” lists have enabled us to correct the chronology of the Books Of Kings (which see).

XIV. History

1. Early Period

Assyrian history begins with the high priests (patesis) of Assur. The earliest known to us are Auspia and Kikia, who bear Mitannian names. The early Semitic rulers, however, were subject to Babylonia, and under KH̬ammurabi (Amraphel) Assyria was still a Babylonian province. According to Esar-haddon the kingdom was founded by Bel-bani son of Adasi, who first made himself independent; Hadad-nirari, however, ascribes its foundation to Zulili. Assyrian merchants and soldiers had already made their way as far as Cappadocia, from whence copper and silver were brought to Assyria, and an Assyrian colony was established at Kara Eyuk near Kaisariyeh, where the Assyrian mode of reckoning time by means of limmi was in use. In the age of Tell el-Amarna Letters (1400 BC) Assur-uballid was king of Assyria. He corresponded with the Egyptian Pharaoh and married his daughter to the Bah king, thereby providing for himself a pretext for interfering in the affairs of Babylonia. The result was that his son-in-law was murdered, and Assur-uballid sent troops to Babylonia who put the murderers to death and placed the grandson of the Assyrian king on the Babylonian throne. Babylonia had fallen into decay and been forced to protect herself from the rising power of Assyria by forming an alliance with Mitanni (Mesopotamia) and Egypt, and subsequently, when Mitanni had been absorbed by the Hittites, by practically becoming dependent on the Hittite king. Shalmaneser I (1300 BC), accordingly, devoted himself to crippling the Hittite power and cutting it off from communication with Babylonia. Campaign after campaign was undertaken against the Syrian and more eastern provinces of the Hittite empire, Malatiyeh was destroyed, and Carehemish threatened. Shalmaneser's son and successor Tukulti-Mas entered into the fruits of his father's labors. The Hittites had been rendered powerless by an invasion of the northern barbarians, and the Assyrian king was thus left free to crush Babylonia. Babylon was taken by storm, and for seven years Tukulti-Mas was master of all the lands watered by the Tigris and Euphrates. The image of Merodach was carried to Assur as a sign that the scepter had passed from Babylon to the parvenu Assyria. A successful revolt, however, finally drove the Assyrian conqueror back to his own country, and when he was murdered soon afterward by his own son, the Babylonians saw in the deed a punishment inflicted by the god of Babylon.

2. The Older Empire

A few years later the Assyrian king Bel-kudur-uzur lost his life in battle against the Babylonians, and a new dynasty appears to have mounted the Assyrian throne. About 1120 BC the Assyrian king was Tiglath-pileser I, whose successful wars extended the Assyrian empire as far westward as Cappadocia. In one of his campaigns he made his way to the Mediterranean, and received presents from the king of Egypt, which included a crocodile. At Assur he planted a botanical garden stocked with trees from the conquered provinces. After his death the Assyrian power declined; Pitru (Pethor, Numbers 22:5) fell into the hands of the Arameans and the road to the Mediterranean was blocked. A revival came under Assur-nazir-pal III (884-860 BC) who rebuilt Calah (which see) and established the seat of the government at Nineveh, where he erected a palace. Various campaigns were carried on in the direction of Armenia and Comagene, the brutalities executed upon the enemy being described in detail by their conqueror. He then turned westward, and after receiving homage from the Hittite king of Carchemish, laid the Phoenicians under tribute. The road to the West was thus again secured for the merchants of Assyria. Assur-nazir-pal was succeeded by his son Shalmaneser II (859-825 BC), who, instead of contenting himself, like his father, with mere raids for the sake of booty, endeavored to organize and administer the countries which his armies had subdued. The famous bronze gates of Balawât were erected by him in commemoration of his victories. In his reign the Israelites and Syrians of Damascus first came into direct relation with the Assyrians. In 854 BC he attacked Hamath and at Qarqar defeated an army which included 1,200 chariots, 1,200 cavalry and 20,000 infantry from Ben-hadad of Damascus, 2,000 chariots, and 10,000 infantry from. “Ahab of Israel,” besides considerable contingents from Ammon, Arvad, Arabia and elsewhere. In 842 BC Shalmaneser penetrated to Damascus where Hazael, the successor of Ben-hadad, who had already been defeated in the open field, was closely besieged. The surrounding country was ravaged, and “Jehu son of Omri” hastened to offer tribute to the conqueror. The scene is represented on the Black Obelisk found at Nimrud and now in the British Museum. Shalmaneser's campaigns were not confined to the West. He overran Armenia, where the kingdom of Van had just been established, made his way to Tarsus in Cilicia, took possession of the mines of silver, salt and alabaster in the Taurus mountains among the Tabal or Tubal, and obliged the Babylonian king to acknowledge his supremacy. In his later days, when too old to take the field himself, his armies were led by the turtannu or commander-in-chief, and a rebellion, headed by his son Assur-danin-pal (Sardanapalus) broke out at home, where Nineveh and Assur were jealous of the preference shown for Calah. Nineveh, however, was captured and the revolt suppressed after two years' duration by another son, Šamaš-Ramman IV, who shortly afterward, on his father's death, succeeded to the throne (824-812 BC). His chief campaigns were directed against Media. His son Hadad-nirari III (811-783 BC) was the next king, whose mother was Sammu-ramat (Semiramis). He claims to have reduced to subjection the whole of Syria, including Phoenicia, Edom and Philistia, and to have taken Mari'a, king of Damascus, prisoner in his capital city. After this, however, Assyria once more fell into a state of decay, from which it was delivered by the successful revolt of a military officer Pulu (Pul), who put an end to the old line of kings and took the name of Tiglath-pileser IV (745-727 BC).

3. The Second Empire

Tiglath-pileser founded the second Assyrian empire, and made Assyria the dominant power in western Asia. The army was reorganized and made irresistible, and a new administrative system was introduced, the empire being centralized at Nineveh and governed by a bureaucracy at the head of which was the king. Tiglath-pileser's policy was twofold: to weld western Asia into a single empire, held together by military force and fiscal laws, and to secure the trade of the world for the merchants of Nineveh. These objects were steadily kept in view throughout the reigns of Tiglath-pileser and his successors. For the history of his reign, see Tiglath-Pileser. In 738 BC Tiglath-pileser put an end to the independent existence of the kingdom of Hamath, Menahem of Samaria becoming his tributary, and in 733 BC he commenced a campaign against Rezin of Damascus which ended in the fall of Damascus, the city being placed under an Assyrian governor. At the same time the land of Naphtali was annexed to Assyria, and Yahu-khazi (Ahaz) of Judah became an Assyrian vassal, while in 731 BC, after the murder of Pekah, Hoshea was appointed king of Israel (compare 2 Kings 15 through 17). In 728 BC Tiglath-pileser was solemnly crowned at Babylon and the following year he died. His successor was another military adventurer, Shalmaneser IV (727-722 BC), whose original name was Ululā. While engaged in the siege of Samaria Shalmaneser died or was murdered, and the throne was seized by another general who took the name of Sargon (722-705 BC). Sargon, for whose history see Sargon, captured Samaria in 722 BC, carrying 27,290 of its inhabitants into captivity. A large part of his reign was spent in combating a great confederation of the northern nations (Armenia, Mannâ, etc.) against Assyria. Carchemish, the Hittite capital, was captured in 717 BC, a revolt of the states in southern Palestine was suppressed in 711 BC and Merodach-Baladan, the Chaldean, who had possessed himself of Babylonia in 722 BC, was driven back to the marshlands at the head of the Persian Gulf. In 705 BC Sargon was murdered, and succeeded by his son Sennacherib (which see). Sennacherib (705-681 BC) had neither the military skill nor the administrative abilities of his father. His campaign against Hezekiah of Judah in 701 BC was a failure; so, also, was his policy in Babylonia which was in a constant state of revolt against his rule, and which ended in his razing the sacred city of Babylon to the ground in 689 BC. Nine years previously his troops had been called upon to suppress a revolt in Cilicia, where a battle was fought with the Greeks.

4. Last Period and Fall of the Empire

His son Esar-haddon, who succeeded him (681-669 BC) after his murder by two other sons on the 20th Tebet (compare 2 Kings 19:37), was as distinguished a general and administrator as his father had been the reverse. For his history see Esarhaddon. Under him the Second Empire reached the acme of its power and prosperity. Babylon was rebuilt and made the second capital of the empire, Palestine became an obedient province, and Egypt was conquered (674 and 671 BC), while an invasion of the Cimmerians (Gomer) was repelled, and campaigns were made into the heart of both Media and Arabia. Esar-haddon died while on his way to repress a revolt in Egypt, and his son Assur-bani-pal succeeded him in the empire (669-626 BC), while another son Šamaš-šum-ukîn was appointed viceroy of Babylonia. Assur-bani-pal was a munificent patron of learning, and the library of Nineveh owed most of its treasures to him, but extravagant luxury had now invaded the court, and the king conducted his wars through his' generals, while he himself remained at home. The great palace at Kouyunjik (Nineveh) was built by him. Egypt demanded his first attention. Tirhakah the Ethiopian who had headed its revolt was driven back to his own country, and for a time there was peace. Then under Tandamane, Tirhakah's successor, Egypt revolted again. This time the Assyrian punishment was merciless. Thebes - “No-amon” (Nahum 3:8) - was destroyed, its booty carried away and two obelisks transported to Nineveh as trophies of victory. Meanwhile Tyre, which had rebelled, was forced to sue for peace, and ambassadors arrived from Gyges of Lydia asking for help against the Cimmerians. Elam still remained independent and endeavored to stir up disaffection in Babylonia. Against his will, therefore, Assur-bani-pal was obliged to interfere in the internal affairs of that country, with the result that the Elamites were finally overthrown in a battle on the Eulaeus beneath the walls of Susa, and the conquered land divided between two vassal kings. Then suddenly a revolt broke out throughout the greater part of the Assyrian empire, headed by Assur-bani-pal's brother, the viceroy of Babylonia. For a time the issue was doubtful. Egypt recovered its independence under Psammetichus, the founder of the 26th Dynasty (660 BC) who had received help from Lydia, but Babylonia was reconquered and Babylon after a long siege was starved out, Šamaš-šum-ukîn burning himself in the ruins of his palace. Elam remained to be dealt with, and an Assyrian army made its way to Susa, which was leveled to the ground, the shrines of its gods profaned and the bones of its ancient kings torn from their graves. Then came the turn of northern Arabia, where the rebel sheikhs were compelled to submit. But the struggle had exhausted Assyria; its exchequer was empty, and its fighting population killed. When the Cimmerians descended upon the empire shortly afterward, it was no longer in a condition to resist them. Under Assur-etil-ilāni, the son and successor of Assur-bani-pal, Calah was taken and sacked, and two reigns later, Sin-sar-iskun, the last king of Assyria, fell fighting against the Scythians (606 BC). Nineveh was utterly destroyed, never again to be inhabited, and northern Babylonia passed into the hands of Nabopolassar, the viceroy of Babylon, who had joined the northern invaders. Assur, the old capital of the country, was still standing in the age of Cyrus, but it had become a small provincial town; as for Nineveh and Calah, their very sites were forgotten.


See G. Rawlinson, Five Great Monarchies of the Eastern World, 1862-67; Perrot and Chipiez, Histoire de l'art dans l'antiquité, II, 1884; Maspero, Struggle of the Nations, and Passing of the Empires, 3 volumes, 1894-1900; Rogers, A History of Babylonia and Assyria, 1900; Johns, Assyrian Deeds and Documents, 1898; Schrader, KAT, English translation by Whitehouse, 1885; Pinches, The Old Testament in the Light of the Historical Records of Assyria and Babylonia, 1902.

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