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 Assyrian Empire

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PostSubject: Assyrian Empire   Mon Mar 26, 2007 6:39 am

he earliest historical times, the term Assyria (Akkadian: Aur; Aramaic: אתור/ܐܬܘܪ, Aṯr; Hebrew: אשור‎, Ar) referred to a region on the Upper Tigris river, named for its original capital, the ancient city of Assur. Later, as a nation and empire that came to control all of the Fertile Crescent, Egypt and much of Anatolia, the term "Assyria proper" referred to roughly the northern half of Mesopotamia (the southern half being Babylonia), with Nineveh as its capital.

The Assyrian homeland was located near a mountainous region, extending along the Tigris as far as the high Gordiaean or Carduchian mountain range of Armenia, sometimes known as the "Mountains of Ashur".

The Assyrian kings controlled a large kingdom at three different times in history. These are called the Old, Middle, and Neo-Assyrian kingdoms, or periods. The most powerful and best-known nation of these periods is the Neo-Assyrian kingdom, 911-612 BC.

Assyrians invented excavation to undermine city walls, battering rams to knock down walls and gates, concept of a corps of engineers, who bridged rivers with pontoons or provided soldiers with inflatable skins for swimming.
Contents
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* 1 Early history
* 2 Early Assyrian city-states and kingdoms
o 2.1 City state of Ashur
o 2.2 Kingdom of Shamshi-Adad I
o 2.3 Assyria reduced to vassal states
* 3 Middle Assyrian period
o 3.1 Ashur-uballit I
o 3.2 Assyrian expansion
o 3.3 Tiglath-Pileser I reaches the Mediterranean Sea
o 3.4 Society in the Middle Assyrian period
* 4 Neo-Assyrian Empire
o 4.1 Assyrian empire-building
o 4.2 Second Assyrian Empire
o 4.3 Sargonid dynasty
o 4.4 Downfall and legacy
* 5 Language
* 6 Assyrian art
* 7 Astronomy
* 8 See also
* 9 References and further reading
* 10 External links

[edit] Early history

The most neolithic site in Assyria is at Tell Hassuna, the center of the Hassuna culture.

Of the early history of the kingdom of Assyria, little is positively known. According to some Judeo-Christian traditions, the city of Ashur (also spelled Assur or Aur) was founded by Ashur the son of Shem, who was deified by later generations as the city's patron god.

The upper Tigris River valley seems to have been ruled by Sumer, Akkad, and northern Babylonia in its earliest stages; once a part of Sargon the Great's empire, it was destroyed by barbarians in the Gutian period, then rebuilt, and ended up being governed as part of the Empire of the 3rd dynasty of Ur.

[edit] Early Assyrian city-states and kingdoms

The first inscriptions of Assyrian rulers appear after 2000 BC. Assyria then consisted of a number of city states and small Semitic kingdoms. The foundation of the Assyrian monarchy was traditionally ascribed to Zulilu, who is said to have lived after Bel-kap-kapu (Bel-kapkapi or Belkabi, ca. 1900 BC), the ancestor of Shalmaneser I.

[edit] City state of Ashur

The city-state of Ashur had extensive contact with cities on the Anatolian plateau. The Assyrians established "merchant colonies" in Cappadocia, e.g., at Kanesh (modern Kltepe) circa 1920 BC1840 BC and 1798 BC1740 BC. These colonies, called karum, the Akkadian word for 'port', were attached to Anatolian cities, but physically separate, and had special tax status. They must have arisen from a long tradition of trade between Ashur and the Anatolian cities, but no archaeological or written records show this. The trade consisted of metal (perhaps lead or tin; the terminology here is not entirely clear) and textiles from Assyria, that were traded for precious metals in Anatolia.

[edit] Kingdom of Shamshi-Adad I

The city of Ashur was conquered by Shamshi-Adad I (1813 BC1791 BC) in the expansion of Amorite tribes from the Khabur river delta. He put his son Ishme-Dagan on the throne of nearby city Ekallatum, and allowed the former Anatolian trade to continue. Shamshi-Adad I also conquered the kingdom of Mari on the Euphrates and put another of his sons, Yasmah-Adad on the throne there. Shamshi-Adad's kingdom now encompassed the whole of northern Mesopotamia. He himself resided in a new capital city founded in the Khabur valley, called Shubat-Enlil. Ishme-Dagan inherited the kingdom, but Yasmah-Adad was overthrown and Mari was lost. The new king of Mari allied himself with Hammurabi of Babylon. Assyria now faced the rising power of Babylon in the south. Ishme-Dagan responded by making an alliance with the enemies of Babylon, and the power struggle continued for decades.

[edit] Assyria reduced to vassal states

Hammurabi eventually prevailed over Ishme-Dagan, and conquered Ashur for Babylon. With Hammurabi, the various karum in Anatolia ceased trade activity probably because the goods of Assyria were now being traded with the Babylonians' partners.

Assyria was ruled by vassal kings dependent on the Babylonians for a century. After Babylon fell to the Kassites, the Hurrians dominated the northern region, including Ashur.
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PostSubject: continuation   Mon Mar 26, 2007 6:40 am

(Scholars variously date the beginning of the "Middle Assyrian period" to either the fall of the Old Assyrian kingdom of Shamshi-Adad I, or to when Ashur-uballit I ascended to the throne of Assyria.)

[edit] Ashur-uballit I

In the 15th century BC, Saushtatar, king of Hanilgalbat (Hurrians of Mitanni), sacked Ashur and made Assyria a vassal. Assyria paid tribute to Hanilgalbat until Mitanni power collapsed from Hittite pressure from the north-west and Assyrian pressure from the east, enabling Ashur-uballit I (1365 BC1330 BC) to again make Assyria an independent and conquering power at the expense of Babylonia; and a time came when the Kassite king in Babylon was glad to marry the daughter of Ashur-uballit, whose letters to Akhenaten of Egypt form part of the Amarna letters. This marriage led to disastrous results, as the Kassite faction at court murdered the Babylonian king and placed a pretender on the throne. Assur-uballit promptly marched into Babylonia and avenged his son-in-law, making Kurigalzu of the royal line king there.

[edit] Assyrian expansion

Hanilgalbat was finally conquered under Adad-nirari I, who described himself as a "Great-King" (Sharru rab) in letters to the Hittite rulers. Adad-nirari I's successor, Shalmaneser I (c. 1300 BC), threw off the pretense of Babylonian suzerainty, made Calah his capital, and followed up on expansion to the northwest, mainly at the expense of the Hittites, reaching as far as Carchemish and beyond.

Shalmaneser's son and successor, Tukulti-Ninurta I, deposed Kadashman-Buriash of Babylon and ruled there himself as king for seven years, taking on the old title "king of Sumer and Akkad". Following this, Babylon revolted against Tukulti-Ninurta, and later even made Assyria tributary during the reigns of the Babylonian kings Melishipak II and Marduk-apal-iddin I, another weak period for Assyria.

[edit] Tiglath-Pileser I reaches the Mediterranean Sea

As the Hittite empire collapsed from onslaught of the Phrygians (called Mushki in Assyrian annals), Babylon and Assyria began to vie for Amorite regions, formerly under firm Hittite control. The Assyrian king Ashur-resh-ishi I defeated Nebuchadnezzar I of Babylon in a battle, when their forces encountered one another in this region.

Ashur-resh-ishi's son, Tiglath-Pileser I, may be regarded as the founder of the first Assyrian empire. In 1120 BC, he crossed the Euphrates, capturing Carchemish, defeated the Mushki and the remnants of the Hittiteseven claiming to reach the Black Seaand advanced to the Mediterranean, subjugating Phoenicia, where he hunted wild bulls. He also marched into Babylon twice, assuming the old title "King of Sumer and Akkad", although he was unable to depose the actual king in Babylonia, where the old Kassite dynasty had now succumbed to an Elamite one.

[edit] Society in the Middle Assyrian period

Assyria had difficulties with keeping the trade routes open. Unlike the situation in the Old Assyrian period, the Anatolian metal trade was effectively dominated by the Hittites and the Hurrians. They also controlled the Mediterranean ports while the Kassites controlled the river route south to the Persian Gulf.

The Middle Assyrian kingdom was well organized and in the firm control of the king. The king also functioned as the High Priest of Ashur, the state god. He had certain obligations to fulfill in the cult, and had to provide resources for the temples. The priesthood became a major power in Assyrian society. Conflicts with the priesthood were probably behind the murder of king Tukulti-Ninurta I.

The population of Assyria was rather small, and the main cities were Ashur, Kalhu and Nineveh, all situated in the Tigris river valley. All free male citizens were obliged to serve in the army for a time; this system was called the ilku-service. The Assyrian law code was compiled during this period. This code is notable for a repressive attitude towards women in their society.

[edit] Neo-Assyrian Empire

[edit] Assyrian empire-building

After Tiglath-Pileser I, the Assyrians were in decline for nearly two centuries, a time of weak and ineffective rulers, wars with neighboring Urartu, and encroachments by Aramaean nomads. This long period of weakness ended with the accession in 911 BC of Adad-nirari II. He firmly subjugated the areas previously under nominal Assyrian vassalage, deporting populations in the north to far-off places. Apart from pushing the boundary with Babylonia slightly southward, he did not engage in actual expansion, and the borders of the empire he consolidated reached only as far west as the Khabur. He was succeeded by Tukulti-Ninurta II, who made some gains in the north during his short reign.

The next king, Ashurnasirpal II (883 BC859 BC), embarked on a vast program of merciless expansion, first terrorizing the peoples to the north as far as Nairi, then conquering the Aramaeans between the Khabur and the Euphrates. His harshness prompted a revolt that was crushed decisively in a pitched, two-day battle. Following this victory, he advanced without opposition as far as the Mediterranean and exacted tribute from Phoenicia. Unlike any before, the Assyrians began boasting in their ruthlessness around this time. Ashurnasirpal II also moved his capital to the city of Kalhu (Nimrud). The palaces, temples and other buildings raised by him bear witness to a considerable development of wealth and art.
Assyrian Empire
Assyrian Empire

Ashurnasirpal's son, Shalmaneser III (858 BC823 BC), had a long reign of 34 years, when the capital was converted into an armed camp. Each year the Assyrian armies marched out to plunder and destroy. Babylon was occupied, and Babylonia reduced to vassalage. He fought against Urartu, and marched an army against an alliance of Syrian states headed by Hadadezer of Damascus, and including Ahab, king of Israel, at the Battle of Qarqar in (853 BC). Despite Shalmaneser's description of 'vanquishing the opposition', it seems that the battle ended in a deadlock, as the Assyrian forces were withdrawn soon afterwards.

Shalmaneser retook Carchemish in 849 BC, and in 841 BC marched an army against Hazael, King of Damascus, besieging that city but not taking it. He also brought under tribute Jehu of Israel, Tyre, and Sidon. His black obelisk, discovered at Kalhu, records many military exploits of his reign. [1] The last few years of his life were disturbed by the rebellion of his eldest son that nearly proved fatal. Assur, Arbela and other places joined the pretender, and the revolt was quashed with difficulty by Shamshi-Adad V, Shalmaneser's second son, who soon afterwards succeeded him (824 BC).

In the following century, Assyria again experienced a relative decline, owing to weaker rulers (including Queen Semiramis) and a resurgence in expansion by Urartu. The notable exception was Adad-nirari III (810 BC782 BC), who captured Damascus in 804, bringing Syria under tribute as far south as Samaria and Edom, and who advanced against the Medes, perhaps even penetrating to the Caspian Sea.

[edit] Second Assyrian Empire

When Nabonassar began the neo-Babylonian dynasty in 747 BC Assyria was in the throes of a revolution. Civil war and pestilence were devastating the country, and its northern provinces had been wrested from it by Urartu. In 746 BC Kalhu joined the rebels, and on the 13th of Iyyar in the following year, a general named Pulu, who took the name of Tiglath-pileser III, seized the crown, and made sweeping changes to the Assyrian government, considerably improving its efficiency and security.

The conquered provinces were organized under an elaborate bureaucracy, with the king at the head each district paying a fixed tribute and providing a military contingent. The Assyrian forces at this time became a standing army, that by successive improvements became an irresistible fighting machine; and Assyrian policy was henceforth directed toward reducing the whole civilized world into a single empire, throwing its trade and wealth into Assyrian hands. These changes are often identified as the beginning of the "Second Assyrian Empire".

When Tiglath-Pileser III had ascended the throne of Assyria, he went down to Babylonia and abducted the gods of apazza; the Assyrian-Babylonian Chronicle informs us (ABC 1 Col.1:5). After subjecting Babylon to tribute, severely punishing Urartu, and defeating the Medes and Neo-Hittites, Tiglath-Pileser III directed his armies into Syria, which had regained its independence, and the commercially successful Mediterranean seaports of Phoenicia. He took Arpad near Aleppo in 740 BC after a siege of three years, and reduced Hamath. Azariah (Uzziah) had been an ally of the king of Hamath, and thus was compelled by Tiglath-Pileser to do him homage and pay yearly tribute.

In 738 BC, in the reign of Menahem, king of Israel, Tiglath-Pileser III occupied Philistia and invaded Israel, imposing on it a heavy tribute (2 Kings 15:19). Ahaz, king of Judah, 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:Cool; he accordingly "marched against Damascus, defeated and put Rezin to death, and besieged the city itself." Leaving part of his army to continue the siege, he advanced, ravaging with fire and sword the province east of the Jordan, Philistia, and Samaria (northern Israel; and in 732 BC he took Damascus, deporting its inhabitants and those of Samaria to Assyria. In 729 BC, Tiglath-Pileser III, went to Babylonia and captured Nabu-mukin-zeri, the king of Babylon (ABC 1 Col.1:21). He had himself crowned as "King Pul of Babylon".

Tiglath-Pileser III died in 727 BC, and was succeeded by Shalmaneser V, who reorganized the Empire into provinces, replacing troublesome vassal kings with Assyrian governors. However, King Hoshea of Israel suspended paying tribute, and allied himself with Egypt against Assyria in 725 BC. This led Shalmaneser to invade Syria (2 Kings 17:5) and besiege Samaria (capital city of Israel) for three years. Shalmaneser ravaged Samaria, the capital of Israel (ABC 1 Col.1:27).
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