Ashurnasirpal II
The King of Assyria was also called King of the Universe and King of the Four Corners of the World. The first great Assyrian king, King Ashurnasirpal II (883 to 859 B.C.) moved the capital of Assyria to Nimrud in 879 B.C. and then to Nineveh in 863 B.C. Semiramis was an Assyrian queen renowned for her beauty.

Tiglath-Pileser II (745-727 B.C.) took Damascus and claimed Syria. Sargon II (722-705 B.C.) built a great palace north of Nineveh that covered 25 acres. It had 1,000 rooms, far exceeding anything built up to that time, and was flanked by a seven-story ziggurat. He also made Israel an Assyrian province and brought 30,000 Israelites (“The Lost Tribes of Israel”) into the central part of his empire.

Sennacherib (705 to 681 B.C.) expanded Ninevah, built three massive palaces, one with two miles of sculptured inner walls, and led a number of military campaigns. He destroyed Babylon, conquered Sidon in Phoenicia and invaded Judia and led attacks in the Persian Gulf and Mediterranean. His attack on Tyre was thwarted.

Sennacherib was the son of Sargon II. He is probably remembered most for his unsuccessful siege of Jerusalem in 701 B.C. When the leader of Jerusalem Hezekiah said he was going to seek help from the Egyptians, the Assyrians, as recorded in the Bible’s Book of Kings replied: “Thou trustest upon the staff of this bruised reed [of] Egypt , in which if a man leans, it will go into his hands and pierce it: So is Pharaoh king of Egypt unto all that trust in him.”

The siege was cut short, according to the Bible, by intervention by angels. The account of Sennacherib’s siege of Jerusalem was written on six-sided clay book. An inscription on a statue found in the doorway of Sennacherib’s throne room recounts a story of Biblical story of bribery, the first known independent written account corresponding to a story in the Bible.

Sennacherib advanced into Egypt in 701 B.C. but was stopped by a Nubian army. After the failed siege to Jerusalem her returned to Assyria in disgrace and was murdered 18 years later, reportedly by his own sons. He was succeeded by Esarhaddon (681-668 B.C.) of Assyrian sacked Memphis in Egypt in 671 B.C. and conquered lower Egypt.

The last great Assyrian king Ashurbanipal (668-626 B.C.) defeated the Elamites in the east and extended the Assyrian empire to its greatest extent. He was first trained for priestly position and only made king after his elder brother was kidnapped and killed by the Babylonians . He was unique among rulers in ancient Mesopotamia in that could read and write and seems to have enjoyed literature and was proud of his literacy. He founded the world’s first serious library. Archaeologists found the library and unearthed good copies of the epic of Gilgamesh and Mesopotamia poetry there.

Websites and Resources on Mesopotamia: Ancient History Encyclopedia ; Mesopotamia University of Chicago site; British Museum ; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Mesopotamia ; Louvre ; Metropolitan Museum of Art ; University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology ; Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago ; Iraq Museum Database ; Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; ABZU; Oriental Institute Virtual Museum ; Treasures from the Royal Tombs of Ur ; Ancient Near Eastern Art Metropolitan Museum of Art

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Letter from an Assyrian-Babylonian Prince the Egyptian Pharaoh Akhnaton

On the “Letter of Pabi, Prince of Lachish, to Akhnaton, King of Kemet (i.e. Egypt), circa 1350 B.C..”, Robert William Rogers wrote: This letter was found in the mound of Tell-el-Hesy (ancient Lachish) Clay 14, 1.i92, by F. I. Bliss, and awakened great interest because it obviously belongs to the same series as the Tell-el-Amarna letters and possesses the additional interest of having been actually discovered in the soil of Palestine. [Source: Robert William Rogers, ed., “Cuneiform Parallels to the Old Testament” (New York: Eaton & Mains, & Cincinnati: Jennings & Graham, 1912), pp. 268-278, Published by Hilprecht, "Expedition of the University of Pennsylvania," vol. I; "Old Babylonian Inscriptions," part 2, Plate 64, No. 147]

“To the Great One, thus speaks Pabi, at your feet do I fall.

You must know that Shipti-Ba'al and Zimrida are conspiring, and Shipti-Ba'al has said to Zimrida "My father of the city Yarami has written to me: give me six bows, three daggers and three swords. If I take the field against the land of the king and you march at my side, I shall surely conquer. He who makes this plan is Pabi. Send him before me."

Now have I sent you Rapha-el. He will bring to the Great man intelligence concerning the matter.

List of Rulers of Assyria

Palace pf Sargon II

Old Assyrian dynasty Shamshi-Adad: 1813–1781 B.C.; Dynasty of Mari; Zimri-Lim: 1775 B.C.

Middle Assyrian dynasty Ashur-uballit I: 1365–1330 B.C.; Enlil-nirari: 1329–1320 B.C.; Adad-nirari I: 1307–1275 B.C.; Tukulti-Ninurta I: 1244–1208 B.C.; Ashur-dan I: 1179–1134 B.C.; Tiglath-pileser I: 1114–1076 B.C.; Ashur-bel-kala: 1073–1056 B.C.

Neo-Assyrian dynasty: Ashurnasirpal II: 883–859 B.C.; Shalmaneser III: 858–824 B.C.; Shamshi-Adad V: 823–811 B.C.; Adad-nirari III: 810–783 B.C.; Shalmaneser IV: 782–773 B.C.; Ashur-dan III: 772–755 B.C.; Ashur-nirari V: 754–745 B.C.; Tiglath-pileser III: 745–727 B.C.; Shalmaneser V: 726–722 B.C.; Sargon II: 721–705 B.C.; Sennacherib: 704–681 B.C.; Esarhaddon: 680–669 B.C.; Ashurbanipal: 668–627 B.C.; Ashur-etel-ilani: 626–623 B.C.; Sin-shar-ishkun: 622–612 B.C.; Ashur-uballit II: 611–609 B.C.; Mesopotamia United [Source: Department of Ancient Near Eastern Art. "List of Rulers of Mesopotamia", Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, (October 2004)

Herodotus on the Women Ruler of Assyria

Herodotus wrote in 430 B.C.: “Many sovereigns have ruled over this city of Babylon, and lent their aid to the building of its walls and the adornment of its temples, of whom I shall make mention in my Assyrian history. Among them two were women. Of these, the earlier, called Semiramis, held the throne five generations before the later princess. She raised certain embankments well worthy of inspection, in the plain near Babylon, to control the river, which, till then, used to overflow, and flood the whole country round about. I.185: The later of the two queens, whose name was Nitocris, a wiser princess than her predecessor, not only left behind her, as memorials of her occupancy of the throne, the works which I shall presently describe, but also, observing the great power and restless enterprise of the Medes, who had taken so large a number of cities, and among them Nineveh, and expecting to be attacked in her turn, made all possible exertions to increase the defenses of her empire. [Source: Herodotus, “The History”, translated by George Rawlinson, (New York: Dutton & Co., 1862]

“And first, whereas the river Euphrates, which traverses the city, ran formerly with a straight course to Babylon, she, by certain excavations which she made at some distance up the stream, rendered it so winding that it comes three several times in sight of the same village, a village in Assyria, which is called Ardericea; and to this day, they who would go from our sea to Babylon, on descending to the river touch three times, and on three different days, at this very place. She also made an embankment along each side of the Euphrates, wonderful both for breadth and height, and dug a basin for a lake a great way above Babylon, close alongside of the stream, which was sunk everywhere to the point where they came to water, and was of such breadth that the whole circuit measured four hundred and twenty furlongs. The soil dug out of this basin was made use of in the embankments along the waterside. When the excavation was finished, she had stones brought, and bordered with them the entire margin of the reservoir. These two things were done, the river made to wind, and the lake excavated, that the stream might be slacker by reason of the number of curves, and the voyage be rendered circuitous, and that at the end of the voyage it might be necessary to skirt the lake and so make a long round. All these works were on that side of Babylon where the passes lay, and the roads into Media were the straightest, and the aim of the queen in making them was to prevent the Medes from holding intercourse with the Babylonians, and so to keep them in ignorance of her affairs. I.186:

“While the soil from the excavation was being thus used for the defense of the city, Nitocris engaged also in another undertaking, a mere by-work compared with those we have already mentioned. The city, as I said, was divided by the river into two distinct portions. Under the former kings, if a man wanted to pass from one of these divisions to the other, he had to cross in a boat; which must, it seems to me, have been very troublesome. Accordingly, while she was digging the lake, Nitocris be. thought herself of turning it to a use which should at once remove this inconvenience, and enable her to leave another monument of her reign over Babylon. She gave orders for the hewing of immense blocks of stone, and when they were ready and the basin was excavated, she turned the entire stream of the Euphrates into the cutting, and thus for a time, while the basin was filling, the natural channel of the river was left dry. Forthwith she set to work, and in the first place lined the banks of the stream within the city with quays of burnt brick, and also bricked the landing-places opposite the river-gates, adopting throughout the same fashion of brickwork which had been used in the town wall; after which, with the materials which had been prepared, she built, as near the middle of the town as possible, a stone bridge, the blocks whereof were bound together with iron and lead. In the daytime square wooden platforms were laid along from pier to pier, on which the inhabitants crossed the stream; but at night they were withdrawn, to prevent people passing from side to side in the dark to commit robberies. When the river had filled the cutting, and the bridge was finished, the Euphrates was turned back again into its ancient bed; and thus the basin, transformed suddenly into a lake, was seen to answer the purpose for which it was made, and the inhabitants, by help of the basin, obtained the advantage of a bridge. I.187:

“It was this same princess by whom a remarkable deception was planned. She had her tomb constructed in the upper part of one of the principal gateways of the city, high above the heads of the passers by, with this inscription cut upon it: "If there be one among my successors on the throne of Babylon who is in want of treasure, let him open my tomb, and take as much as he chooses---not, however, unless he be truly in want, for it will not be for his good." This tomb continued untouched until Darius came to the kingdom. To him it seemed a monstrous thing that he should be unable to use one of the gates of the town, and that a sum of money should be lying idle, and moreover inviting his grasp, and he not seize upon it. Now he could not use the gate, because, as he drove through, the dead body would have been over his head. Accordingly he opened the tomb; but instead of money, found only the dead body, and a writing which said: "Had you not been insatiate of money, and careless how you got it, you would not have broken open the sepulchers of the dead." I.188:

Tiglathpileser I

Tiglath-Pileser II (745-727 B.C.) took Damascus and claimed Syria. Sargon II (722-705 B.C.) built a great palace north of Nineveh that covered 25 acres. It had 1,000 rooms, far exceeding anything built up to that time, and was flanked by a seven-story ziggurat. He also made Israel an Assyrian province and brought 30,000 Israelites (“The Lost Tribes of Israel”) into the central part of his empire.

Morris Jastrow said: “As a counterpart to Sargon in the south, we have Tiglathpileser I. in the north (ca. 1130-1100 B.C.). He succeeded in quelling the opposition of the Hittites, carried his triumphant arms to the Mediterranean coast, entered into relations with Egypt, as some of the Kassite rulers had done centuries before, and for a time held in check Babylonia, now again ruled by native kings. Like Sargon’s conquests, the glory of the new empire of Tiglath-Pileser was of short duration. Even before his death there were indications of threatened trouble. For about two centuries Assyria was partially eclipsed, after which the kings of Assyria, supported by large standing armies, bear, without interruption till the fall of Nineveh in 606 B.C., the proud title of “King of Universal Rule,” which, as we have seen, took the place of the Babylonian “King of the Four Regions.” [Source: Morris Jastrow, Lectures more than ten years after publishing his book “Aspects of Religious Belief and Practice in Babylonia and Assyria” 1911 <>]

“Though “Aramaean” hordes (perhaps identical with Amorites, or a special branch of the latter) continue to give Assyrian rulers, from time to time, considerable trouble, they are, however, held in check until in the reign of Ashumasirpal (884-860 B.C.) their power is effectually broken. This energetic ruler and his successors push on to the north and north-west into the indefinite district known as Nairi, as well as to the west and south-west. Once more the Mediterranean coast is reached, and at a pass on the Nahr-el-Kelb (the “Dog” river) outside of Beirut, Ashurnasirpal and his son Shalmaneser II. (860-824 B.C.) set up images of themselves with records of their achievements. <>

“We are reaching the period when Assyria begins to interfere with the internal affairs of the Hebrew kingdoms in Palestine. Another century, and the northern kingdom (722 B.C.) falls a prey to Assyria’s insatiable greed of empire. Babylonia, reduced to playing the ignoble part of fomenting trouble for Assyria, succeeds in keeping Assyrian armies well occupied, and so wards off the time of her own humiliation. Compelled to acknowledge the superiority of her northern rival in various ways, Babylonia exhausts the patience of Assyrian rulers, to whose credit it must be said that they endeavoured to make their yoke as light as was consistent with their dignity. The consideration that rulers like Sargon of Assyria (721-705 B.C.) showed for the time-honoured prestige of the south was repaid by frequent attempts to throw off the hated yoke, light though it was.” <>

Tiglathpileser I Inscription

Tiglathpileser I ruled the Assyrian Empire from 1115-1077 B.C.. In this inscription he describes his conquests. “Tiglath-pileser, the powerful king, king of hosts, who has no rival, king of the four quarters (of the world), king of all rulers, lord of lords, king of kings; the lofty prince . . . who rules over the nations, the legitimate shepherd whose name is exalted above all rulers; the lofty judge, whose weapons Ashur has sharpened, and whose name, as ruler over the four quarters (of the world), he has proclaimed forever; the conqueror of distant lands, which form the boundaries on north and south; the brilliant day, whose splendor overthrows the world's regions; the terrible, destroying flame, which like the rush of the storm sweeps over the enemy's country; who . . . has no adversary, and overthrows the foes of Ashur. [Source: R. F. Harper, Assyrian and Babylonian Literature (New York; D. Appleton, 1904) pp. 12-14. Reprinted in Marvin Peryy, Joseph R. Peden and Theodore H. Von Laue, eds., Sources of the Western Tradition, Vol. I: From Ancient Times to the Enlightenment, 2nd ed., (Boston; Houghton Mifflin, 1991) pp. 20-21]

Tiglathpileser I

“Ashur and the great gods who have enlarged my kingdom, who have given me strength and power as my portion, commanded me to extend the territory of their (the gods') country, putting into my hand their powerful weapons, the cyclone of battle. I subjugated lands and mountains, cities and their rulers, enemies of Ashur, and conquered their territories. With sixty kings I fought, spreading terror (among them), and achieved a glorious victory over them. A rival in combat, or an adversary in battle, I did not have. To Assyria I added more land, to its people I added more people, enlarging the boundaries of my land and conquering all (neighboring?) territories.

“In the beginning of my government, five kings . . . with an army of twenty thousand men . . .--and whose power no king had ever broken and overcome in battle--trusting to their strength rushed down and conquered the land of Qummuh (Commagene). With the help of Ashur, my lord, I gathered my war chariots and assembled my warriors; I made no delay, but traversed Kashiari, an almost impassable region. I waged battle in Qummuh with these five kings and their twenty thousand soldiers and accomplished their defeat. Like the Thunderer (the storm god Adad) I crushed the corpses of their warriors in the battle that caused their overthrow. I made their blood to flow over all the ravines and high places of mountains. I cut off their heads and piled them up at the walls of their cities like heaps of grain. I carried off their booty, their goods, and their property beyond reckoning. Six thousand, the rest of their troops, who had fled before my weapons and had thrown themselves at my feet, I took away as prisoners and added to the people of my country.

“At that time I marched also against the people of Qummuh, who had become unsubmissive, withholding the tax and tribute due to Ashur, my lord. I conquered Qummuh to its whole extent, and carried off their booty, their goods, and their property; I burned their cities with fire, destroyed, and devastated.

Assur-nasir-pal (prob. r. 883 to 858 B.C.)

Concerning Assur-nasir-habal or Assur-nasir-pal (i.e., "Assur preserves the son") we possess fuller historical records than of any other of the Assyrian monarchs. From the inscription upon his statue discovered the ruins of one of the Nimroud temples, we learn that he was the son of Tuklat-Adar or Tuklat-Ninip, that he reigned over a territory extending from the "Tigris to the Lebanon, and that he brought the great sea and all countries from the sunrise to the sunset under his sway." [Source: "Babylonian and Assyrian Literature", Translator: Rev. J. M. Rodwell, M.A., Publisher: P. F. Collier & Son, New York,, 1901]

There is considerable difficulty and a consequent divergence of opinion as to the precise date when Assur-nasir-pal ascended the throne. But he most probably reigned from 883 to 858 B.C. It need scarcely be remarked that Assur-nasir-pal is a different person from the well-known Sardanapalus of classic writers, or Assur-bani-pal, the son of Esar-haddon, who reigned from about B.C. 668 to 625.

From the inscription on his statue we see that the campaigns of Assur-nasir-pal took place in the mountains of Armenia, in Commagene and the provinces of the Pontus, inhabited by the Moschi and other tribes. He probably advanced into Media and a portion of western Persia. The countries on the banks of the Euphrates submitted to his arms, and in one of his expeditions he vanquished Nabu-bal-iddin, King of Babylon. Westward, he reduced the southern part of Syria, and advanced to the mountain chains of the Amanus and Lebanon, but though he penetrated as far as to Tyre and Sidon and exacted tribute from both as well as from Byblus and Aradus, he did not subdue Phoenicia. The kingdoms of Israel and Judah, under the sway of Ahab and Jehosaphat, were no doubt too powerful, as is evinced by the armies which they must have maintained for their struggle with the Syrians, for Assur-nasir-pal to have ventured upon attacking them. This feat was reserved for his successors on the throne of Assyria.

Annals of Assur-nasir-pal

Column 1 of the Annals of Assur-nasir-pal, written on his statue at one of the Nimroud temples, reads: To Ninip most powerful hero, great, chief of the gods, warrior, powerful Lord, whose onset in battle has not been opposed, eldest son,
crusher of opponents, first-born son of Nukimmut, supporter of the seven, noble ruler, King of the gods the producers, governor, he who rolls along the mass
of heaven and earth, opener of canals, treader of the wide earth, the god who in his divinity nourishes heaven and earth, the beneficent,
the exalted, the powerful, who has not lessened the glory of his face, head of nations, bestower of sceptres, glorious, over all cities a ruler,
valiant, the renown of whose sceptre is not approached, chief of widespread influence, great among the gods, shading from the southern sun, Lord of Lords, whose hand the vault of heaven
(and) earth has controlled, a King in battle mighty who has vanquished opposition, victorious, powerful, Lord of water-courses and seas,
strong, not yielding, whose onset brings down the green corn, smiting the land of the enemy, like the cutting of reeds, the deity who changes not his purposes,
the light of heaven and earth, a bold leader on the waters, destroyer of them that hate (him), a spoiler (and) Lord of the disobedient, dividing enemies, whose name in the speech of the gods... [Source: "Babylonian and Assyrian Literature", Translator: Rev. J. M. Rodwell, M.A., Publisher: P. F. Collier & Son, New York,, 1901]

King of multitudes, a Prince unequalled, Lord of all the four countries, powerful over hosts of men, the possession of Bel and Ninip the exalted and Anu
and of Dakan, a servant of the great gods in the lofty shrine for great (O Ninip) is thy heart; a worshipper of Bel whose might upon
thy great deity is founded, and thou makest righteous his life, valiant, warrior, who in the service of Assur his Lord hath proceeded, and among the Kings
of the four regions who has not his fellow, a Prince for admiration, not sparing opponents, mighty leader, who an equal
has not, a Prince reducing to order his disobedient ones, who has subdued whole multitudes of men, a strong worker, treading down
the heads of his enemies, trampling on all foes, crushing assemblages of rebels, who in the service of the great gods his Lords
marched vigorously and the lands of all of them his hand captured, caused the forests of all of them to fall, and received their tribute, taking
securities, establishing laws over all lands, when Assur the Lord who proclaims my name and augments my Royalty
laid hold upon his invincible power for the forces of my Lordship, for Assur-nasir-pal, glorious Prince, worshipper of the great gods
the generous, the great, the powerful, acquirer of cities and forests and the territory of all of them, King of Lords, destroying the wicked, strengthening

I am a King, I am a Lord, I am glorious, I am great, I am mighty, I have arisen, I am Chief, I am a Prince, I am a warrior
I am great and I am glorious, Assur-nasir-habal, a mighty King of Assyria, proclaimer of the Moon-god, worshipper of Anu, exalter of Yav, suppliant of the gods
am I, servant unyielding, subduing the land of his foeman, a King mighty in battle, destroyer of cities and forests,
Chief over opponents, King of the four regions, expeller of his foes, prostrating all his enemies, Prince of a multitude of lands of all Kings
Even of all, a Prince subduing those disobedient to him, who is ruling all the multitudes of men. These aspirations to the face of the great gods
have gone up; on my destiny steadfastly have they determined; at the wishes of my heart and the uplifting of my hand, Istar, exalted Lady,
hath favored me in my intentions, and to the conduct of (my) battles and warfare hath applied her heart. In those days I Assur-nasir-pal, glorious Prince, worshipper of the great gods
the wishes of whose heart Bel will cause him to attain, and who has conquered all Kings who disobey him, and by his hand capturing
his enemies, who in difficult places has beaten down assemblages of rebels; when Assur, mighty Lord, proclaimer of my name
aggrandizer of my royalty over the Kings of the four regions, bountifully hath added his invincible power to the forces of my government,

(and) in my first campaign when the Sun-god guider of the lands threw over me his beneficent protection on the throne of my dominion I firmly seated myself; a sceptre
the dread of man into my hands I took; my chariots (and) armies I collected; rugged paths, difficult mountains, which for the passage
of chariots and armies was not suited I passed, and to the land of Nairi I went: Libie, their capital city, the cities Zurra and Abuqu
Arura Arubie, situated within the limits of the land of Aruni and Etini, fortified cities, I took, their fighting-men
in numbers I slew; their spoil, their wealth, their cattle I spoiled; their soldiers were discouraged; they took possession of a difficult mountain, a mountain exceedingly difficult; after them
I did not proceed, for it was a mountain ascending up like lofty points of iron, and the beautiful birds of heaven had not reached up into it: like nests
of the young birds in the midst of the mountain their defence they placed, into which none of the Kings my fathers had ever penetrated: in three days

[Source: 1.51] successfully on one large mountain, his courage vanquished opposition: along the feet of that mountain I crept and hid: their nests, their tents,
I broke up; 200 of their warriors with weapons I destroyed; their spoil in abundance like the young of sheep I carried off;
their corpses like rubbish on the mountains I heaped up; their relics in tangled hollows of the mountains I consumed; their cities
I overthrew, I demolished, in fire I burned: from the land of Nummi to the land of Kirruri I came down; the tribute of Kirruri
of the territory of Zimizi, Zimira, Ulmanya, Adavas, Kargai, Harmasai, horses, (fish .
oxen, horned sheep in numbers, copper, as their tribute I received: an officer to guard boundaries over them I placed. While in the land of Kirruri

the fortified city of the province of Hulai. I drew near; with the impetuosity of my formidable attack I besieged and took the town; 600 of their fighting men
with (my) arms I destroyed; 3,000 of their captives I consigned to the flames; as hostages I left not one of them alive; Hulai
the governor of their town I captured by (my) hand alive; their corpses into piles I built; their boys and maidens I dishonored;
Hulai the governor of their city I flayed: his skin on the walls of Damdamusa I placed in contempt; the city I overthrew demolished, burned with fire;
the city of Mariru within their territory I took; 50 warrior fighting men by ( my ) weapons I destroyed; 200 of their captives in the flame I burned;
the soldiers of the land of Nirbi I slew in fight in the desert; their spoil, their oxen, their sheep, I brought away; Nirbu which is at the foot of mount Ukhira
I boldly took; I then passed over to Tila their fortified city; from Kinabu I withdrew; to Tila I drew near;
a strong city with three forts facing each other: the soldiers to their strong forts and numerous army trusted and would not submit;
my yoke they would not accept; (then,) with onset and attack I besieged the city; their fighting men with my weapons I destroyed; of their spoil,
their riches, oxen and sheep, I made plunder; much booty I burned with fire; many soldiers I captured alive;
of some I chopped off the hands and feet; of others the noses and ears I cut off; of many soldiers I destroyed the eyes;
one pile of bodies while yet alive, and one of heads I reared up on the heights within their town; their heads in the midst I hoisted; their boys
and their maidens I dishonored, the city I overthrew, razed and burned with fire, In those days the cities of the land of Nirbi

Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III (d. 823 B.C.)

Shalmaneser III

Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III (d. 823 B.C.) is a five-foot-high bacl marble obelisk found by the archaeologist Austen Henry Layard in the centre of the Mound at Nimrod, and now is in the British Museum. Each of its four sides is divided into five compartments of sculpture representing the tribute brought to the Assyrian King by vassal princes, with Jehu of Israel being among them.Shalmaneser, whose annals and conquests are recorded upon it, was the son of Assur-natsir-pal, and died in 823 B.C.. after a reign of thirty-five years. The Shalmaneser here has been renumbered as III rather than II. [Source: British Museum]

Face A reads: [Source: 1] Assur, the great Lord, the King of all
[2] the great gods; Anu, King of the spirits of heaven
[3] and the spirits of earth, the god, Lord of the world; Bel
[4] the Supreme, Father of the gods, the Creator;
[5] Hea, King of the deep, determiner of destinies,
[6] the King of crowns, drinking in brilliance;
[7] Rimmon, the crowned hero, Lord of canals; the Sun-god
[8] the Judge of heaven and earth, the urger on of all;
[9] (Merodach), Prince of the gods, Lord of battles; Adar, the terrible,
[10] (Lord) of the spirits of heaven and the spirits of earth, the exceeding strong god; Nergal,
[11] the powerful (god), King of the battle; Nebo, the bearer of the high sceptre,
[12] the god, the Father above; Beltis, the wife of Bel, mother of the (great) gods;
[13] Istar, sovereign of heaven and earth, who the face of heroism perfectest;
[14] the great (gods), determining destinies, making great my kingdom.
[15] (I am) Shalmaneser, King of multitudes of men, prince (and) hero of Assur, the strong King,
[16] King of all the four zones of the Sun (and) of multitudes of men, the marcher over
[17] the whole world; Son of Assur-natsir-pal, the supreme hero, who his heroism over the gods
[18] has made good and has caused all the world to kiss his feet;

Face B reads:
[Source: 19] the noble offspring of Tiglath-Adar
[20] who has laid his yoke upon all lands hostile to him, and
[21] has swept (them) like a whirlwind.
[22] At the beginning of my reign, when on the throne
[23] of royalty mightily I had seated myself, the chariots
[24] of my host I collected. Into the lowlands of the country of 'Sime'si
[25] I descended. The city of Aridu, the strong city
[26] of Ninni, I took. In my first year
[27] the Euphrates in its flood I crossed. To the sea of the setting sun
[28] I went. My weapons on the sea I rested. Victims
[29] for my gods I took. To mount Amanus I went up.
[30] Logs of cedar-wood and pine-wood I cut. To
[31] the country of Lallar I ascended. An image of my Royalty in the midst (of it) I erected.
[32] In my second year to the city of Tel-Barsip I approached. The cities
[33] of Akhuni the son of Adin I captured. In his city I shut him up. The Euphrates
[34] in its flood I crossed. The city of Dabigu, a choice city of the Hittites
[35] together with the cities which (were) dependent upon it I captured. In my third year Akhuni
[36] the son of Adin, from the face of my mighty weapons fled, and the city of Tel-Barsip,

Shalmaneser III

Face C reads:
[Source: 37] his royal city, he fortified. The Euphrates I crossed.
[38] The city unto Assyria I restored. I took it. (The town) which (is) on the further side
[39] of the Euphrates which (is) upon the river 'Sagurri, which the Kings
[40] of the Hittites call the city of Pitru,
[41] for myself I took. At my return
[42] into the lowlands of the country of Alzi I descended. The country of Alzi I conquered.
[43] The countries of Dayaeni (and) Elam, (and) the city of Arzascunu, the royal city
[44] of Arame of the country of the Armenians, the country of Gozan (and) the country of Khupuscia.
[45] During the eponymy of Dayan-Assur from the city of Nineveh I departed. The Euphrates
[46] in its upper part I crossed. After Akhuni the son of Adin I went.
[47] The heights on the banks of the Euphrates as his stronghold he made.
[48] The mountains I attacked, I captured. Akhuni with his gods, his chariots,
[49] his horses, his sons (and) his daughters I carried away. To my city Assur
[50] I brought (them). In that same year the country of Kullar I crossed. To the country of Zamua
[51] of Bit-Ani I went down. The cities of Nigdiara of the city of the Idians
[52] (and) Nigdima I captured. In my fifth year to the country of Kasyari I ascended.
[53] The strongholds I captured. Elkhitti of the Serurians (in) his city I shut up. His tribute
[54] to a large amount I received. In my sixth year to the cities on the banks of the river Balikhi

Face D reads:
[Source: 55] I approached. Gi'ammu, their Governor, I smote.
[56] To the city of Tel-abil-akhi I descended.
[57] The Euphrates in its upper part I crossed.
[58] The tribute of the Kings of the Hittites
[59] all of them I received. In those days Rimmon-idri
[60] of Damascus, Irkhulina of Hamath,. and the Kings
[61] of the Hittites and of the sea-coasts to the forces of each other
[62] trusted, and to make war and battle
[63] against me came. By the command of Assur, the great Lord, my Lord,
[64] with them I fought. A destruction of them I made.
[65] Their chariots, their war-carriages, their war-material I took from them.
[66] 20,500 of their fighting men with arrows I slew.
[67] In my seventh year to the cities of Khabini of the city of Tel-Abni I went.
[68] The City of Tel-Abni, his stronghold, together with the cities which (were) dependent on it I captured.
[69] To the head of the river, the springs of the Tigris, the place where the waters rise, I went.
[70] The weapons of Assur in the midst (of it) I rested. Sacrifices for my gods I took. Feasts and rejoicing
[71] I made. An image of my Royalty of large size I constructed. The laws of Assur my Lord, the records
[72] of my victories, whatsoever in the world I had done, in the midst of it I wrote. In the middle (of the country) I set (it) up.



Sennacherib (705 to 681 B.C.) expanded Ninevah, built three massive palaces, one with two miles of sculptured inner walls, and led a number of military campaigns. He destroyed Babylon, conquered Sidon in Phoenicia and invaded Judia and led attacks in the Persian Gulf and Mediterranean. His attack on Tyre was thwarted.

Sennacherib was the son of Sargon II. He is probably remembered most for his unsuccessful siege of Jerusalem in 701 B.C. When the leader of Jerusalem Hezekiah said he was going to seek help from the Egyptians, the Assyrians, as recorded in the Bible’s Book of Kings replied: “Thou trustest upon the staff of this bruised reed [of] Egypt , in which if a man leans, it will go into his hands and pierce it: So is Pharaoh king of Egypt unto all that trust in him.”

The siege was cut short, according to the Bible, by intervention by angels. The account of Sennacherib’s siege of Jerusalem was written on six-sided clay book. An inscription on a statue found in the doorway of Sennacherib’s throne room recounts a story of Biblical story of bribery, the first known independent written account corresponding to a story in the Bible.

Sennacherib advanced into Egypt in 701 B.C. but was stopped by a Nubian army. After the failed siege to Jerusalem her returned to Assyria in disgrace and was murdered 18 years later, reportedly by his own sons. He was succeeded by Esarhaddon (681-668 B.C.) of Assyrian sacked Memphis in Egypt in 671 B.C. and conquered lower Egypt.

Morris Jastrow said: “Sennacherib (705-681 B.C.) determines upon a more aggressive policy, and at last in 689 B.C., Babylon is taken and mercilessly destroyed. Sennacherib boasts of the thoroughness with which he carried out the work of destruction. He pillaged the city of its treasures. He besieged and captured all the larger cities of the south—Sippar, Uruk, Cuthah, Kish, and Nippur—and when, a few years later, the south organised another revolt, the king, to show his power, put Babylon under water, and thus obliterated almost all vestiges of the past. The excavations at Babylon carried on by the German expedition show how truthfully Sennacherib described his work of destruction; few traces of the older Babylon have been revealed by the spade of the explorer. What is found dates chiefly from the time of the Neo-Babylonian dynasty, and particularly from the days of Nebuchadnezzar, who, as the restorer of the past glory of the capital, is justified in boasting, as in the Book of Daniel, “Is not this great Babylon that I have built!” Babylonia, however, had the satisfaction of surviving Assyria. By a combination of hordes from the north with Medes of the south-east,—the latter abetted no doubt by Babylonia,—Nineveh is taken in 606 B.C., and the haughty Assyrian power is crushed for ever. [Source: Morris Jastrow, Lectures more than ten years after publishing his book “Aspects of Religious Belief and Practice in Babylonia and Assyria” 1911]

Sennacherib Campaign in 701 B.C.

The Sennacherib Prism — a hexagonal clay prism that records the campaigns of Sennacherib written in the Akkadian language in 689 B.C. — reads: “In my third campaign I marched against Hatti. Luli, king of Sidon, whom the terror-inspiring glamor of my lordship had overwhelmed, fled far overseas and perished.... As to Hezekiah, the Jew, he did not submit to my yoke, I laid siege to his strong cities, walled forts, and countless small villages, and conquered them by means of well-stamped earth-ramps and battering-rams brought near the walls with an attack by foot soldiers, using mines, breeches as well as trenches. I drove out 200,150 people, young and old, male and female, horses, mules, donkeys, camels, big and small cattle beyond counting, and considered them slaves. Himself I made a prisoner in Jerusalem, his royal residence, like a bird in a cage. I surrounded him with earthwork in order to molest those who were his city's gate. Thus I reduced his country, but I still increased the tribute and the presents to me as overlord which I imposed upon him beyond the former tribute, to be delivered annually. Hezekiah himself, did send me, later, to Nineveh, my lordly city, together with 30 talents of gold, 800 talents of silver, precious stones, antimony, large cuts of red stone, couches inlaid with ivory, nimedu-chairs inlaid with ivory, elephant-hides, ebony-wood, boxwood and all kinds of valuable treasures, his own daughters and concubines.” [Source: Oliver J. Thatcher, ed., The Library of Original Sources, (Milwaukee: University Research Extension Co., 1907), Vol. I: The Ancient World]

According to II Kings 18-19 in the Old Testament, Sennacherib's invincible army was laid low by the angel of the Lord, after which Sennacherib returned to Nineveh where he was murdered by his sons. 2 Kings 18-19 in the The Hebrew Bible, reads: “In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah, Sennacherib, king of Assyria, went on an expedition against all the fortified cities of Judah and captured them. Hezekiah, king of Judah, sent this message to the king of Assyria at Lachish: "I have done wrong. Leave me, and I will pay whatever tribute you impose on me." The king of Assyria exacted three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold from Hezekiah, king of Judah. Hezekiah paid him all the funds there were in the temple of the Lord and in the palace treasuries...That night the angel of the Lord went forth and struck down 185,000 men in the Assyrian camp. Early the next morning, there they were, all the corpses of the dead. So Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, broke camp and went back home to Nineveh. When he was worshiping in the temple of his god Nisroch, his sons Adram-melech and Sharezer slew him with the sword and fled into the land of Ararat.”

From The Hebrew Bible, 2 Chronicles 32: “But after he had proved his [Hezekiah's] fidelity by such deeds, Sennacherib, king of Assyria, came. He invaded Judah, besieged the fortified cities, and proposed to take them by storm. . . .His officials said still more against the Lord God and against his servant Hezekiah, for he had written letters to deride the Lord, the God of Israel. . . They spoke of the God of Israel as though he were one of the gods of the other peoples of the earth, a work of human hands. But because of this, King Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah, son of Amos, prayed and called out to him. Then the Lord sent an angel, who destroyed every valiant warrior, leader and commander in the camp of the Assyrian king, so that he had to return shamefaced to his own country. And when he entered the temple of his own god, some of his own offspring struck him down there with the sword.

Palace of Sennacherib

Destruction of Sennacherib by Lord Byron

Destruction of Sennacherib by Lord Byron (George Gordon, 1813) reads: The Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold,
And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold;
And the sheen of their spears was like stars on the sea,
When the blue wave rolls nightly on deep Galilee.

Like the leaves of the forest when Summer is green,
That host with their banners at sunset were seen:
Like the leaves of the forest when Autumn hath blown,
That host on the morrow lay withered and strown.

For the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast,
And breathed in the face of the foe as he passed;
And the eyes of the sleepers waxed deadly and chill,
And their hearts but once heaved, and for ever grew still!

And there lay the steed with his nostril all wide,
But through it there rolled not the breath of his pride;
And the foam of his gasping lay white on the turf,
And cold as the spray of the rock-beating surf.

And there lay the rider distorted and pale,
With the dew on his brow, and the rust on his mail:
And the tents were all silent, the banners alone,
The lances unlifted, the trumpet unblown.

And the widows of Ashur are loud in their wail,
And the idols are broke in the temple of Baal;
And the might of the Gentile, unsmote by the sword,
Hath melted like snow in the glance of the Lord!

Sennacherib's Conquest of Judea 701 B.C.

The Sennacherib Prism,(ii - iii 49) reads: “In my third campaign I marched against Hatti. Luli, king of Sidon, whom the terror-inspiring glamor of my lordship had overwhelmed, fled far overseas and perished.¡ The awe-inspiring splendor of the "Weapon" of Ashur, my lord, overwhelmed his strong cities (such as) Great Sidon, Little Sidon, Bit-Zitti, Zaribtu, Mahal liba, Ushu (i.e. the mainland settlement of Tyre), Akzib (and) Akko, (all) his fortress cities, walled (and well) provided with feed and water for his garrisons, and they bowed in submission to my feet. I installed Ethba'al (Tuba'lu) upon the throne to be their king and imposed upon him tribute (due) to me (as his) overlord (to be paid) annually without interruption. As to all the kings of AmurruÑMenahem (Mi-inhi-im-mu) from Samsimuruna, Tuba'lu from Sidon, Abdili'ti from Arvad, Urumilki from Byblos, Mitinti from Ashdod, Buduili from Beth-Ammon, Kammusunadbi from Moab (and) Aiarammu from Edom, they brought sumptuous gifts (igisu) andÑfourfoldÑtheir heavy tamartu -presents to me and kissed my feet. Sidqia, however, king of Ashkelon, who did not bow to my yoke, I deported and sent to Assyria, his family gods, himself, his wife, his children, his brothers, all the male descendants of his family. I set Sharruludari, son of Rukibtu, their former king, over the inhabitants of Ashkelon and imposed upon him the payment of tribute (and of) katru -presents (due) to me (as) overlordÑ and he (now) pulls the straps (of my yoke) ! [Source: Internet Archive, from ANET, pp. 287-88 The Siege of Jerusalem and the campaign of Sennarcherib are recorded on the Oriental Institutes Prism of Sennacherib. Further references to the campaign (particularly the siege of Lachich) are found on the palace reliefs.]

In the continuation of my campaign I besieged Beth Dagon, Joppa, Banai-Barqa, Azuru, cities belonging to Sidqia who did not bow to my feet quickly (enough); I conquered (them) and carried their spoils away. The officials, the patricians and the (common) people of Ekron3Ñwho had thrown Padi, their king, into fetters (because he was) loyal to (his) solemn oath (sworn) by the god Ashur, and had handed him over to Hezekiah, the Jew (Ha-za-qi-(i)a-u ame~la-u'-da-ai)Ñ (and) he (Hezekiah) held him in prison, unlawfully, as if he (Padi) be an enemyÑhad become afraid and had called (for help) upon the kings of Egypt (Mu,s(u)ri) (and) the bowmen, the chariot(-corps) and the cavalry of the king of Ethiopia (Meluhha), an army beyond countingÑand they (actually) had come to their assistance. In the plain of Eltekeh (A1-ta-qu-u), their battle lines were drawn up against me and they sharpened their weapons. Upon a trust(-inspiring) oracle (given) by Ashur, my lord, I fought with them and inflicted a defeat upon them.

“In the mle of the battle, I personally captured alive the Egyptian charioteers with the(ir) princes and (also) the charioteers of the king of Ethiopia. I besieged Eltekeh (and) Timnah (Ta-amna-a), conquered (them) and carried their spoils away. I assaulted Ekron and killed the officials and patricians who had committed the crime and hung their bodies on poles surrounding the city. The (common) citizens who were guilty of minor crimes, I considered prisoners of war. The rest of them, those who were not of crimes and misbehavior, I released. I made Padi, their king, come from Jerusalem (Ur-sa-li-im-mu) and set him as their lord on the throne, imposing upon him the tribute (due) to me (as) overlord.

“As to Hezekiah, the Jew, he did not submit to my yoke, I laid siege to 46 of his strong cities, walled forts and to the countless small villages in their vicinity, and conquered (them) by means of well-stamped (earth-)ramps and battering-rams brought (thus) near (to the walls) (combined with) the attack by foot soldiers, (using) mines, breeches as well as sapper work. I drove out (of them) 200,150 people, young and old, male and female, horses, mules, donkeys, camels, big and small cattle beyond counting, and considered (them) booty. Himself I made a prisoner in Jerusalem, his royal residence, like a bird in a cage. I surrounded him with earthwork in order to molest those who were his city's gate.

“His towns which I had plundered, I took away from his country and gave them (over) to Mitinti, king of Ashdod, Padi, king of Ekron, and Sillibel, king of Gaza. Thus I reduced his country, but I still increased the tribute and the katru -presents (due) to me (as his) overlord which I imposed (later) upon him beyond the former tribute, to be delivered annually. Hezekiah himself, whom the terror-inspiring splendor of my lordship had overwhelmed and whose irregular and elite troops which he had brought into Jerusalem, his royal residence, in order to strengthen (it), had deserted him, did send me, later, to Nineveh, my lordly city, together with 30 talents of gold, 800 talents of silver, precious stones, antimony, large cuts of red stone, couches (inlaid) with ivory, nimedu-chairs (inlaid) with ivory, elephant-hides, ebony-wood, boxwood (and) all kinds of valuable treasures, his (own) daughters, concubines, male and female musicians. In order to deliver the tribute to do obeisance as a slave he sent his (personal) messenger.”

Hanging Gardens

Sennacherib, not Nebuchadnezzar, the Builder of the Hanging Gardens?

The bas-relief from Sennacherib’s palace in Nineveh taht portray the hanging gardens appears to suggest that he — not Nebuchadnezzar — was the builder of the hanging gardens. “It’s taken many years to find the evidence to demonstrate that the gardens and associated system of aqueducts and canals were built by Sennacherib at Nineveh and not by Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon. For the first time it can be shown that the Hanging Garden really did exist” said Dr. Dalley.” *=*

David Keys wrote in The Independent: “The newly revealed builder of the Hanging Gardens,Sennacherib of Assyria - and Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon who was traditionally associated with them - were both aggressive military leaders. Sennacherib’s campaign against Jerusalem was immortalized some 2500 years later in a poem by Lord Byron describing how “the Assyrians came down like a wolf on the fold,” his cohorts “gleaming in purple and gold.” [Source: David Keys, The Independent, May 6, 2013 *=*]

“Both were also notorious for destroying iconic religious buildings. Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon destroyed Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem and according to one much later tradition was temporarily turned into a beast for his sins against God. Sennacherib of Assyria destroyed the great temples of Babylon, an act which was said to have shocked the Mesopotamian world. Indeed tradition holds that when he was later murdered by two of his sons, it was divine retribution for his destruction of those temples. *=*

“Bizarrely it may be that the Hanging Gardens were the first of the seven ‘wonders’ of the world to be so described – for Sennacherib himself referred to his palace gardens, built in around 700BC or shortly after, as “a wonder for all the peoples”. It’s only now however that the new research has finally revealed that his palace gardens were indeed one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Some historians have thought that the Hanging Gardens may even have been purely legendary. The new research finally demonstrates that they really did exist. *=*

Death of Sennacherib

Assyrians Versus Nubians in Egypt

Taharqa (690–664 B.C.) ruled Egypt-Nubia for 26 years. He needed lots of cedar and juniper from Lebanon to realize his building campaign. When the Assyrian ruler King Esarhaddon tried to shut down the trade, Taharqa sent troops to the southern Levant to support a revolt against the Assyrians. Esarhaddon stopped the effort and launched an attack into Egypt which Taharqa's army pushed back in 674 B.C.

Sennacherib’s son, Esarhaddon, avenged Taharka support for Palestine’s revolt and defeated Taharka’s army. Memphis was captured, along with its royal harem. When Esarhaddon withdrew from Egypt, Taharka returned from his sanctuary in Upper Egypt and massacred all the Assyrians he could get his hands on. He controlled Egypt until he was defeated by Esarhaddon’s son, Ashurbanipal, after which he fled south to Nubia. How Taharqa spent his final years is unknown but he was allowed to remain in power in Nubia. Like his father Piye he was buried in a pyramid. [Source: Mark Millmore,]

Robert Draper wrote in National Geographic, The Nubian initial victory against the Babylonians “clearly went to the Nubian's head, Rebel states along the Mediterranean shared his giddiness and entered into an alliance against Esarhaddon. In 671 B.C., the Assyrians marched with their camels into the Sinai desert to quell the rebellion, Success was instant: now it was Esarhaddon who brimmed with bloodlust. He directed his troops towards the Nile Delta."

In 671 B.C. The Assyrians sacked Memphis, “Taharqa and his arm squared off against the Assyrians. For 15 days they fought pitched battles—“very bloody”---by Esarhaddon's own admission. But the Nubians were pushed back all the way to Memphis. Wounded five times Taharqa escaped with his life and abandoned Memphis. In typical Assyrian fashion, Esarhaddon slaughtered the villagers and “erected piles of theirs heads."

The Assyrians later wrote: “His queen, his harem, Ushankhuru his heir, and the rets of his ons and daughters, his property and his goods, his horses, his cattle, his sheep, in countless numbers I carried off to Assyria. The root of Kush I tore up out of Egypt." To commemorate the event a stelae was raised that showed Taharqa's son Ushankhuru, kneeling before the Assyrian king with a rope around his neck.

In 669 B.C. Esarhaddon died on route to Egypt but his successor quickly mounted an assault on Egypt. Taharqa knew he was outnumbered this time and fled to Napata never to return to Egypt again.


Ashurbanipal (r.668-627 B.C.) was the ruler of ancient Assyria when it was at its military and cultural peak. David Giles of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrote: He is known in Greek writings as Sardanapalus and as Asnappeer or Osnapper in the Bible. Through military conquests Ashurbanipal also expanded Assyrian territory and its number of vassal states. However, of far greater importance to posterity was Ashurbanipal's establishment of a great library in the city of Nineveh. The military and territorial gains made by this ruler barely outlived him but the Library he established has survived partially intact. [Source: David Giles, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Library of King Ashurbanipal Web Page]

Ashurbanipal by George Stuart

Morris Jastrow said: “Shortly before the end, however, Assyria witnessed the most brilliant reign in her history—that of Ashurbanapal (668-626 B.C.)who was destined to realise the dreams of his predecessors, Sargon, Sennacherib, and Esarhaddon; of whom all four had been fired with the ambition to make Assyria the mistress of the world. Their reigns were spent in carrying on incessant warfare in all directions. During Ashurbanapal’s long reign, Babylonia endured the humiliation of being governed by Assyrian princes. The Hittites no longer dared to organise revolt, Phoenicia and Palestine acknowledged the sway of Assyria, and the lands to the east and northeast were kept in submission. From Susa, the capital of Elam, Ashurbanapal carried back in triumph a statue of Nana,—the Ishtar of Uruk,—which had been captured over 1600 years before, and—greatest triumph of all—the Assyrian standards were planted on the banks of the Nile, though the control of Egypt, as was soon shown, was more nominal than real. [Source: Morris Jastrow, Lectures more than ten years after publishing his book “Aspects of Religious Belief and Practice in Babylonia and Assyria” 1911 <>]

“Thus the seed of dominating imperialism, planted by the old Sargon of Agade, had borne fruit. But the spirit of Hammurabi, too, hovered over Assyria. Ashurbanapal was more than a conqueror. Like Hammurabi, he was a promoter of culture and learning. It is to him that we owe practically all that has been preserved of the literature produced in Babylonia. Recognising that the greatness of the south lay in her intellectual prowess, in the civilisation achieved by her and transferred to Assyria, he sent scribes to the archives, gathered in the temple-schools of the south, and had copies made of the extensive collections of omens, oracles, hymns, incantations, medical series, legends, myths, and religious rituals of all kinds that had accumulated in the course of many ages. Only a portion, alas! of the library has been recovered through the excavations of Layard and Rassam (1849-1854) and their successors on the site of Ashurbanapal’s palace at Nineveh in which the great collection was stored.” <>

Ashurbanipal’s Library

Ashurbanipal's library was not the first library of its kind but it was one of the largest and one of the ones to survive to the present day. Discovered in the late 19th century, most of it is now in the possession of the British Museum or the Iraq Department of Antiquities. A collection of 20,000 to 30,000 cuneiform tablets containing approximately 1,200 distinct texts remains for scholars to study today.

Venus tablet from Ashurbanipal’s Library

Morris Jastrow said: “About 20,000 fragments of clay bricks have found their way to the British Museum, but it is safe to say that this represents less than one half of the extent of the great library which Ashurbanapal had accumulated. His immediate purpose in doing so was to emphasise by an unmistakable act that Assyria had assumed the position of Babylonia, not only as an imperial power and as a stronghold of culture, but also as the great religious centre. [Source: Morris Jastrow, Lectures more than ten years after publishing his book “Aspects of Religious Belief and Practice in Babylonia and Assyria” 1911 <>]

David Giles of the University of Tennessee wrote: “The importance of Ashurbanipal's Library can not be overstated. It was buried by invaders centuries before the famous library at Alexandria was established and gives modern historians much information about the peoples of the Ancient Near East. The ancient Sumerian "Epic of Gilgamesh" and a nearly complete list of ancient Near Eastern rulers among other priceless writings were preserved in Ashurbanipal's palace library at Nineveh. Ashurbanipal's accomplishments are also of great importance to scholars of library history. As a scholar Ashurbanipal reached greatnesss. [Source: David Giles, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Library of King Ashurbanipal Web Page]

“Though this library was not the first of its kind, it was one of the largest and the first library modern scholars can document as having most or even all of the attributes one expects to find in a modern library. Like a modern library this collection was spread out into many rooms according to subject matter. Some rooms were devoted to history and government, others to religion and magic and still others to geography, science, poetry, etc. Ashurbanipal's collection even held what could be called classified government materials. The findings of spies and secret affairs of state were held secure from access in deep recesses of the palace much like a modern government archive.

“Each group of tablets contained a brief citation to identify the contents and each room contained a tablet near the door to classify the general contents of each room in Ashurbanipal's library. The actual cataloging activities under Ashurbanipal's direction would not be seen in Europe for centuries. Partially through military conquests and partially through the employment of numerous scribes there was significant effort placed into what modern librarians would call collection development. Thus, centuries before the library at Alexandria, a library with many of the characteristics of a modern institution was in existence.”

Ashurbanapal, Religion and Scholarship

Morris Jastrow said: “The bulk, nay, practically, the whole of the literature of Babylonia was of a religious character, or touched religion and religious beliefs and customs at some point, in accord with the close bond between religion and culture which, we have seen, was so characteristic a feature of the Euphratean civilisation. The old centres of religion and culture, like Nippur, Sippar, Cuthah, Uruk, and Ur, had retained much of their importance, despite the centralising influence of the capital of the Babylonian empire. Hammurabi and his successors had endeavoured, as we have seen, to give to Marduk the attributes of the other great gods, Enlil, Anu, Ea, Shamash, Adad, and Sin, and, to emphasise it, had placed shrines to these gods and others in the great temples of Marduk, and of his close associate, Nebo, in Babylon, and in the neighbouring Borsippa. [Source: Morris Jastrow, Lectures more than ten years after publishing his book “Aspects of Religious Belief and Practice in Babylonia and Assyria” 1911 <>]

“Along with this policy went, also, a centralising tendency in the cult and, as a consequence, the rituals, omens, and incantations produced in the older centres were transferred to Babylon and combined with the indigenous features of the Marduk cult. Yet this process of gathering in one place the literary remains of the past had never been fully carried out. It was left for Ashurbanapal to harvest within his palace the silent witnesses to the glory of these older centres. While Babylon and Borsippa constituted the chief sources whence came the copies that he had prepared for the royal library, internal evidence shows that he also gathered the literary treasures of other centres, such as Sippar, Nippur, Uruk. The great bulk of the religious literature in Ashurbanapal’s library represents copies or editions of omen-series, incanta-tion-rituals, myths, legends, and collections of prayers, made for the temple-schools, where the candidates for the various branches of the priesthood received their training. Hence we find supplemental to the literature proper, the pedagogical apparatus of those days—lists of signs, grammatical exercises; analyses of texts, texts with commentaries, and commentaries on texts, specimen texts, and school extracts, and pupils’ exercises. <>

Multicultural Assyria

“The temple school appears to have been the depository in each centre of the religious texts that served a purely practical purpose, as handbooks and guides in the cult. Purely literary collections were not made in the south, not even in the temples of Babylon and Borsippa, in which the more comprehensive character of the religious texts was merely a consequence of the centralising tendency in the cult, and, therefore, likewise prompted by purely practical motives and needs. There are no temple libraries in any proper sense of the word, either in Babylonia or in Assyria. Ashurbanapal is the first genuine collector of the literature of the past, and it is significant that he places the library which he gathered, in his palace and not in a temple. Had there been temple libraries in the south, he would undoubtedly have placed the royal library in the chief temple of Ashur—as his homage to the patron deity of Assyria and the protector of her armies. <>

“At the same time, by transferring the literature of all the important religious centres of the south to his royal residence in Nineveh, Ashurbanapal clearly intended to give an unmistakable indication of his desire to make Nineveh the intellectual and religious as well as the political capital. His dream was not that of the Hebrew prophets who hoped for the day when from Zion would proceed the law and light for the entire world, when all nations would come to Jerusalem to pay homage to Jahweh, but his ambition partook somewhat of this character, limited only by his narrower religious horizon which shut him in. For Ashurbanapal, Nineveh was to be a gathering place of all the gods and goddesses of the world grouped around Ashur, just as courtiers surround a monarch whose sway all acknowledge. To gather in his capital the texts that had grown up around the homage paid in the past to these gods and goddesses in their respective centres, was his method of giving expression to his hope of centralising the worship of these deities around the great figure of Ashur. Ashur-banapal’s policy, thus, illustrates again the continued strength of the bond between culture and religion, despite the fact that in its external form the bond appeared political rather than intellectual. <>

“The king’s ambition, however, had its idealistic side which must not be overlooked. The god Ashur was in some respects well adapted to become the emblem of centralised divine power, as well as of political centralisation. The symbol of the god was not, as was the case with other deities, an image in human shape, but a disc from which rays or wings proceed, a reminder, to be sure, that Ashur was in his origin a solar deity,yet sufficiently abstract and impersonal to lead men’s thoughts away from the purely naturalistic or animistic conceptions connected with Ashur. This symbol appears above the images of the kings on the monuments which they erected to themselves. It hovers over the pictures of the Assyrian armies on their march against their enemies. It was carried into the battle as a sacred palladium —a symbol of the presence of the gods as an irresistible ally of the royal armies; and the kings never fail to ascribe to the support of Ashur the victories that crowned their efforts. <>

“Professor Sayce has properly emphasised the influence of this imageless worship of the chief deity on the development of religious ideas in Assyria. Dependent as Assyria was to a large extent upon Babylonia for her culture, her art, and her religion, she made at least one important contribution to what she adopted from the south, in giving to Ashur a more spiritual type, as it were, than Enlil, Ninib, Shamash, Nergal, Anu, Ea, Marduk, or Nebo could ever claim. On the other hand, the limitation in the development of this more spiritual conception of divine power is marked by the disfiguring addition, to the winged disc, of the picture of a man with a bow and arrow within the circle. It was the emblem of the military genius of Assyria. <>

Ashurbanapal hunting

“The old solar deity as the protector of the Assyrian armies had become essentially a god of war, and the royal warriors could not resist the temptation to emphasise by a direct appeal to the eyes the perfect accord between the god and his subjects. This despiritualisation of the winged disc no doubt acted as a check on a conceivable growth of Ashur, which might have tended under more favourable circumstances towards a purer monotheistic conception of the divine government of the universe; for in his case the transference of the attributes of all the other great gods was more fully carried out than in the case of Marduk.In his capacity as a solar deity, Ashur absorbs the character of all other localised sun-gods. Myths in which Ninib, Enlil, Ea, and Marduk appear as heroes are remodelled under Assyrian influence and transferred to Ashur. We have traces of an Assyrian myth of creation in which the sphere of creator is given to Ashur. <>

“Ishtar, the great goddess of fertility, the mother-goddess presiding over births, becomes Ashur’s consort. The cult of the other great gods, of Shamash, Ninib, Nergal, Sin, Ea, Marduk, and even Enlil, is maintained in full vigour in the city of Ashur, and in the subsequent capital Nineveh, but these as well as other gods take on, as it were, the colour of Ashur. They give the impression of little Ashurs by the side of the great one, so entirely does the older solar deity, as the guardian of mighty Assyrian armies, and as the embodiment of Assyria’s martial spirit, overshadow all other manifestations of divine power. This aspect of Ashur receives its most perfect expression during the reign of the four rulers—Sargon, Sennacherib, Esarhaddon, and Ashurbanapal—when Assyrian power reached its highest point. The success of the Assyrian armies, and consequent political aggrandisement served to increase the glory of Ashur, to whose protection and aid everything was ascribed—but it is Ashur the war-god, the warrior with bow and arrow within the solar circle, who gains in prestige thereby, while the spiritual phase of the deity as symbolised by the winged disc sinks into the background. <>

“For all this, culture and religion go hand in hand with political and material growth, and the Eu-phratean civilisation with its Assyrian upper layer reaches its zenith in the reign and achievements of Ashurbanapal. From the remains of his edifices with their pictorial embellishment of elaborate sculptures on the soft limestone slabs that lined the walls of palaces and temples, we can reconstruct the architecture and art of the entire historical period from the remote past to his own days; and through the contents of the library of clay tablets we can trace the unfolding of culture from the days of Sargon, Gudea, and Hammurabi, through the sway of the Kassites, and the later native dynasties down to the time when the leadership passes for ever into the hands of the cruder but more energetic and fearless Assyrians. The figure of Ashurbanapal rises before us as the heir of all the ages—the embodiment of the genius of the Babylonian-Assyrian civilisation, with its strength and its weaknesses, its spiritual force and its materialistic form.

Prayer of Ashurbanipal to the Sun God Shamash

Prayer of Ashurbanipal to Shamash (the sun god) (A prayer for the well-being of Ashurbanipal):
O light of the great gods, light of the earth, illuminator of the world-regions,
... exalted judge, the honored one of the upper and lower regions,
... Thou dost look into all the lands with thy light.
As one who does not cease from revelation, daily thou dost determine the decisions of heaven and earth.
Thy [rising] is a flaming fire; all the stars in heaven are covered over.
Thou art uniquely brilliant; no one among the gods is equal with thee.
With Sin, thy father, thou dost hold court; thou dost deliver ordinances.
Anu and Enlil without thy consent establish no decision. [Source:]

Shamash and the Star of Ashur

Ea, (patron god of music) the determiner of judgment in the midst of the Deep,
depends upon thee. [literally "looks upon thy face"]
The attention of all the gods is turned to thy bright rising.
They inhale incense; they receive pure bread-offerings.
The incantation priests [bow down] under thee in order to cause signs of evil to pass away.
The oracel priests [stand before] thee in order to make the hands worthy to bring oracles.
[Source: I am] thy [servant], Ashurbanipal, the exercising of whose kingship thou didst command in a vision,
[The worshiper of] thy bright divinity, who makes glorious the appurtenances of thy divinity,
[The proclaimer of] thy greatness, who glorifies thy praise to widespread peoples.
Judge his case; turn his fate to prosperity.
[Keep] him in splendor; daily let him walk safely.
[Forever] may he rule over thy people whom thou hast given him in righteousness.
[In the house] which he made, and within which he caused thee to dwell in joy,

May he rejoice in his heart, in his disposition may he be happy, may he be satisified in living.
Whoever shall sing this psalm, (and) name the name of Ashurbanipal,
In abundance and righteousness may he rule over the people of Enlil.
Whoever shal l learn this text (and) glorify the judge of the gods,
May Shamash enrich his ...; may he make pleasing his command over the people.
Whoever shall cause this song to cease,
(and) shall not glorify Shamash (Sun God), the light of the great gods,
Or shall change the name of Ashurbanipal,
the exercise of whose kingship Shamash in a vision commanded,
and then shall name another royal name,
May his playing on the harp be displeasing to the people;
may his song of rejoicing be a thorn and a thistle.

Banquet of Ashurnasirpal II (669-626 B.C.),

The last great Assyrian king Ashurbanipal (668-626 B.C.) defeated the Elamites in the east and extended the Assyrian empire to its greatest extent. He was first trained for priestly position and only made king after his elder brother was kidnapped and killed by the Babylonians . He was unique among rulers in ancient Mesopotamia in that could read and write and seems to have enjoyed literature and was proud of his literacy. He founded the world’s first serious library. Archaeologists found the library and unearthed good copies of the epic of Gilgamesh and Mesopotamia poetry there.

Ashurnasirpal II with an official

The Banquet Stele of Assurnasirpal II was found in Nimrud and is written in the Akkadian language. It currently resides the Mosul Museum in Iraq, which was savagely destroyed by the Islamic State extremist group. Eva Miller of the University of Oxford wrote: “The Banquet Stele of Assurnasirpal II records the ninth century Neo-Assyrian king's renovation of the city of Kalhu (modern-day Nimrud), which he made his capital. It boasts of the lavish palace and gardens he built, the restoration of temples, and the resettlement and rejuvenation of surrounding towns. The 'banquet' moniker derives from its most unique claim: that in 879 B.C., Assurnasirpal II celebrated his new capital with a lavish feast at which he served 69574 people–male and female, local and foreign envoy–with an obscene amount of meat, poultry, vegetables, and alcohol. This number seems impossibly high, and was likely a typically bombastic royal exaggeration. All the same, this is good evidence that luxurious mass public feasting was one possible feature of royal events.

The Banquet Stele of Ashurnasirpal II reads: I. “This is the palace of Ashurnasirpal, the high priest of Ashur, chosen by Enlil and Ninurta, the favorite of Anu and of Dagan who is destruction personified among all the great gods – the legitimate king, the king of the world, the king of Assyria, son of Tukulti-Ninurta, great king, legitimate king, king of the world, king of Assyria who was the son of Adad-Nirari, likewise great king, legitimate king, king of the world and king of Assyria – the heroic warrior who always acts upon trust-inspiring signs given by his lord Ashur and therefore has no rival among the rulers of the four quarters of the world; the shepherd of all mortals, not afraid of battle but on onrushing flood which brooks no resistance; the king who subdues the unsubmissive and rules over all mankind; the king who always acts upon trust-inspiring signs given by his lords, the great gods, and therefore has personally conquered all the countries; who has acquired dominion over the mountain regions and received their tribute; he takes hostages, triumphs over all the countries from beyond the Tigris to the Lebanon and the Great Sea, he has brought into submission the entire country of Laqe and the region of Suhu as far as the town of Rapiqu; personally he conquered the region from the source of the Subnat River to Urartu. [Source: James B. Pritchard, “The Ancient Near East, Volume II, a book of primary documents from the Near Eas, Edition(s): Wiseman, D.J. 1952,]

“When Ashurnasirpal, king of Assyria, inaugurated the palace in Calah, a palace of joy, and erected with great ingenuity, he invited into it Ashur, the great lord and the gods of his entire country. He prepared a banquet of 1,000 fattened head of cattle, 1,000 calves, 10,000 stable sheep, 15, 000 lambs – for my lady Ishtar alone 200 head of cattle and 1,000 sihhu-sheep – 1,000 spring lambs, 500 stags, 500 gazelles, 1,000 ducks, 500 geese, 5000 kurku-geese, 1,000 mesuku-birds, 1,000 qaribu-birds, 10,000 doves, 10,000 sukanunu-doves, 10,000 other, assorted, small birds, 10,000 assorted fish, 10,000jerboa, 10,000 assorted eggs, 10,000 loaves of bread, 10,000 jars of beer, 10,000 skins with wine, 10,000 pointed bottom vessels with su’u-seeds in sesame oil, 10,000 small pots with sarhu-condiment, 1,000 wooden crates with vegetables, 300containers with oil, 300 containers with salted seeds, 300 containers with mixed raqqute-plants, 100 with kudimmu-spice, 100 containers with […] 100 containers with parched barley, 100 containers with green abahsinnu-stalks, 100 containers with fine mixed beer, 100 pomegranates, 100 bunches of grapes, 100 mixed zamru-fruits, 100 pistachio cones, 100 with the fruits of the susi-tree, 100 with garlic, 100 with onions, 100 with kuniphu seeds, 100 with the […] of turnips, 100 with hinhinnu-spice, 100 with budu-spice, 100 with honey, 100 with rendered butter, 100 with roasted […] barley, 100 with roasted su’u-seeds, 100 with karkartu-plants, 100 with fruits of the ti’atu-tree, 100 with kasu-plants, 100 with milk, 100 with cheese, 100 jars with `mixture’, 100 with pickled arsuppu-grain, ten homer of shelled luddu-nuts, ten homer of shelled pistachio nuts, ten homer of fruits of the susu-tree, ten homer of fruits of the kabba-ququ-tree, ten homer of dates, ten homer of the fruits of the titip tree, ten homer of cumin, ten honer of sahhunu, ten homer of urianu, ten homer of andahsu-bulbs, then homer of sisanibbe-plants, (iv) ten homer of the fruits of the simburu-tree, ten homer of thyme, ten homer of perfumed oil, ten homer of sweet smelling matters, ten homer of […] ten homer of the fruits of the nasubu-tree, homer of […], ten homer of the fruits of the nasubu-tree, ten homer of zimzimmu-onions, ten homer of olives.

“When I inaugurated the palace at Calah I treated for ten days with food and drink 47,074 persons, men and women, who were bid to come from across my entire country, also 5,000 important persons, delegates from the country Suhu, from Hindana, Hattina, Hatti, Tyre, Sidon, Gurguma, Malida, Hubushka, Gilzana, Kuma and Mushashir, also 16,000 inhabitants of Calah from all ways of life, 1,500 officials of all my palaces, altogether 69,574 invited guests from all the mentioned countries including the people of Calah; I furthermore provided them with the means to clean and anoint themselves. I did them due honors and sent them back, healthy and happy, to their countries.”

Boasts by Ashurnasirpal II

The Banquet Stele of Ashurnasirpal II reads: I returned to the territory of my own country the regions of the pass which leads to the country Kirrure as far as Gilsani, from beyond the Lower Zab River to the town of Til-bari which is upstream of the land of Zamua – from Til-sha-abtani to Til-sha-sabtani – also Hirimu and Harrutu in the fortified border region of Babylonia (Karduniash). I listed as inhabitants of my own country the people living from the pass of Mt. Babite to the land of Hashmar. [Source: James B. Pritchard, “The Ancient Near East, Volume II, a book of primary documents from the Near Eas, Edition(s): Wiseman, D.J. 1952,]

Banquet scene

“Ashur, the Great Lord, has chosen me and made a pronouncement concerning my world rule with his own holy mouth as follows: Ashurnasirpal is the king whose fame is power! I took over again the city of Calah in that wisdom of mine, the knowledge which Ea, the king of the subterranean waters, has bestowed upon me, I removed the old hill of rubble; I dug down to the water level; I heaped up a new terrace measuring from the water level to the upper edge 120 layers of bricks; upon that I erected as my royal seat and for my personal enjoyment7 beautiful halls roofed with boxwood, Magan-ash, cedar, cypress, terebinth, tarpi’u, and mehru beams; I sheathed doors made of cedar, cypress, juniper, boxwood and Magan-ash with bands of bronze; I hung them in their doorways; I surrounded them, the doors, with decorative bronze bolts; to proclaim my heroic deeds I painted on their (the palaces) walls with vivid blue paint how I have marched across the mountain ranges, the foreign countries and the seas, my conquests in all countries; I had lapis lazuli colored glazed bricks made and set them in the wall above the gates. I brought in people from the countries over which I rule, those who were conquered by me personally, that is from the country Suhi those of the town […] from the entire land of Samua, the countries Bit-Samani and Kirrure, the town of Sirqu which is across the Euphrates, and many inhabitants of Laqe, of Syria and who are subjects of Lubarna, the ruler of Hattina; I settled them therein the city of Calah.

“I dug a canal from the Upper Zab River; I cut for this purpose straight through the mountains; I called it Patti-hegalli (“Channel of Abundance”); I provided the lowlands along the Tigris with irrigation; I planted orchards at the city’s outskirts, with all sorts of fruit trees. I pressed grapes and offered them as first fruits in a libation to my lord Ashur and to all the sanctuaries of my country. I then dedicated that city to my lord Ashur.

“I collected and planted in my garden, from the countries through which I marched and the mountains which I crossed, the trees and plants raised from seeds from wherever I discovered them, such as: cedars, cypresses, simmesallu-perfume trees, burasu-junipers, myrrh-producing trees, dapranu-junipers, nut bearing trees, date palms, ebony, Magan-ash, olive trees, tamarind, oaks, tarpi’u-terebinth trees, luddu-nut-bearing trees, pistachio and cornel trees, mehru-trees, se.mur-trees, tijatu-trees, Kanish oaks, willows, sadanu-trees, pomegranates, plum trees, fir trees, ingirasu-trees, kamesseru-pear trees, supur-gillu-bearing trees, fig trees, grape vines, angasu-pear trees, aromatic sumlalu-trees, titip-trees, hip/butu-trees, zansaliqqu-trees, swamp apple trees, hambuququ-trees, nuhurtu-trees, ursinu-trees, resinous kanaktu-trees [and others]. In the gardens in Calah they vied with each other in fragrance; the paths in the gardens were well kept, the irrigation weirs distributed the water evenly; its pomegranates glow in the pleasure garden like the stars in the sky, they are interwoven like grapes on the vine […] in the pleasure garden […] in the garden of happiness flourished like cedar trees.

ii: “I erected in Calah, the center of my overlordship, temples such as those of Enlil and Ninurta which did not exist there before; I rebuilt in it the following temples of the great gods: the temples of Ea-sharru and Damkina, of Adad and Shala, of Gula, Sin, Nabu, Belet-nathi, Sibittu and of Ishtar-kidmuri. In them I established the sacred pedestals of these, my divine lords. I decorated them splendidly; I roofed them with cedar beams, made large cedar doors, sheathed them with bands of bronze, placed them in their doorways. I placed figural representations made of shining bronze in their doorways. I made the images of their great godheads sumptuous with red gold and shining stone. I presented them with golden jewelry and many other precious objects which I had won as booty.

“I lined the inner shrine of my lord Ninurta with gold and lapis lazuli, I placed right and left of it objects made of bronze, I placed at his pedestal fierce usumgallu-dragons of gold. I performed his festival in the months Shabatu and Ululu. I arranged for them the materials needed for scatter and incense offerings so that his festival in Shabatu should be one of great display. I fashioned a statue of myself as king in the likeness of my own features out of red gold and polished stones and placed it before my lord Ninurta.

“I organized the abandoned towns which during the rule of my fathers had become hills of rubble, and had many people settle therein; I rebuilt the old palaces across my entire country in due splendour; I stored in them barley and straw. Ninurta and Palil, who love me as their high priest, handed over to me all the wild animals and ordered me to hunt them. I killed 450 big lions; I killed 390 wild bulls from my open chariots in direct assault as befits a ruler; I cut off the heads of 200 ostriches as if they were caged birds; I caught 30 elephants in pitfalls. I caught 50 wild bulls, 140 ostriches, and 20 big lions with my own [hands] and stave.

iii: “I received five live elephants as tribute from the governor of Suhu, the Middle Euphrates Region, and the governor of Lubda (South East Assyria toward Babylonia); they used to travel with me on my campaigns. I organized herds of wild bulls, lions, ostriches, and male and female monkeys and had them breed like flocks of domestic animals. I added land to the land of Assyria, many people to its people.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Mesopotamia , National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, especially Merle Severy, National Geographic, May 1991 and Marion Steinmann, Smithsonian, December 1988, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Discover magazine, Times of London, Natural History magazine, Archaeology magazine, The New Yorker, BBC, Encyclopædia Britannica, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Time, Newsweek, Wikipedia, Reuters, Associated Press, The Guardian, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, World Religions edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); History of Warfare by John Keegan (Vintage Books); History of Art by H.W. Janson Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.), Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated September 2018

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