A history of ancient Assyria (Assyrians) from its rise to fall including Nineveh, its kings, cities, laws and contributions to civilization

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Part Five

Part Six

Part Seven

Part Eight

Part Nine

Part Ten

Part Eleven

Part Twelve

Part Thirteen

Part Fourteen

Part Fifteen

Part Sixteen

Additional Topics

Ashurbanipal

Tiglathpileser

Nineveh

Fall of Assyria

Downloadable Assyrian Text

Map of Assyrian Empire

assyrianmap.jpg (186109 bytes)

Care to express an opinion on a current or past historical event?

Need to ask a question from our many visitors?

Just visit our Forum and leave your message.

Forum

Weekly Poll

Please Help Keep Us On the Web.

We are a Non-Profit Organization and the cost of continuing is becoming more than we can handle.  Therefore, we are asking you to please donate anything you can to help keep us on the web.

Please Help Click Here

History Of The Babylonians And Assyrians

Book:        Part III: The Ascendancy Of Assyria

Author:      Godspeed, George

 

Last Days Of Splendor Ashurbanipal.  668-626 B.C.

 

     248. Upon the death of Esarhaddon the arrangements made by him for the

succession were smoothly and promptly carried out; the empire passed to

Ashurbanipal, while his brother Shamash-shumukin became king in Babylon.

The queen mother, Naqia, who had already acted as regent in the absence of

her son, issued a proclamation calling for obedience to these, the legally

constituted rulers.  For Shamashshumukin, however, a further ceremonial was

requisite.  He must, according to precedent, "take the hands of Bel" in the

city of Babylon.  But the images of the gods of Babylon, removed to Assur at

the time of the destruction of Babylon, had never been returned to the

reconstructed capital.  At the command of the sun-god, Ashurbanipal ordered

their return to their temples, and with stately ceremonial the coronation of

the new king of Babylon proceeded in the ancient fashion intermitted for

more than half a century.  All seemed to promise well for the peace and

prosperity of the state.  The brothers were well disposed toward each other,

and proceeded to the tasks which lay before them, the king of Babylon to

continue the rebuilding of his city and to revive its industrial activities,

the Assyrian ruler to guard and extend the boundaries of the empire.

 

     249. The affairs of Egypt were the first to require the attention of

Ashurbanipal.  Esarhaddon's death, while on the march to Egypt to drive back

a new invasion of Taharqa, apparently had not caused a more than temporary

delay of the expedition.  The presence of an army in the western provinces,

indeed, at the time of a change of rulers in Assyria was desirable for

holding disaffected peoples to their allegiance.  The general of the forces

seems to have improved the moment to obtain renewal of homage and gifts, as

well as a substantial contingent of troops, from the twenty-two vassal kings

of the states already mentioned by Esarhaddon as subject to him (sect. 241).

The only new royal names in the list of Ashurbanipal are Iakinlu of Arvad

and Amminadbi of Ammon.  Manasseh king of Judah again appears there, as also

Baal of Tyre, who had evidently submitted so far as nominally to recognize

Assyrian supremacy.  The Ethiopian king was already in Memphis, and his

troops met the Assyrians somewhere between that city and the border.  The

battle went against Taharqa, who retired to the vicinity of Thebes.  Whether

the Assyrians pursued him thither, as one of the several somewhat

contradictory inscriptions states, is doubtful.  With good reason it has

been held that the Assyrians were content to renew their sway over lower

Egypt only, restoring the vassal princes to their cities under oath of

fidelity to Assyria, and did not attempt to advance farther up the river.

In the years that followed stirring events occurred.  The princes, led by

Necho, Sharruludari, and Paqruru, were discovered to be intriguing with

Taharqa; their cities were severely punished, and the two chief culprits

sent to Nineveh for punishment.  Ashurbanipal determined to try a new policy

similar to that employed for Babylon; he pardoned Necho and returned him as

a kind of vassal ruler of Assyrian Egypt, sustained by Assyrian troops.  The

plan worked well.  Taharqa was quiet till his death (666 B.C.), and his

successor, Tanutamon (Assyr., Tandamani), made no move for at least three

years.  Then he, in consequence of divine monitions, and also invited, no

doubt, by the petty princes who were jealous of Necho, marched northward.

Necho and his Assyrians fought bravely, but were too few to make a

successful resistance.  Necho was slain, and Pisamilku (Psamtik), his son,

with his troops, was driven out.  In 661 B.C. - the date is attested

astronomically - Ashurbanipal sent an army against the Ethiopian invader, to

which the latter made but feeble opposition, retiring at last into Ethiopia,

never again to return to Egypt.  The Assyrian army now for the first time

captured Thebes and carried away abundant spoil, returning "with full hands"

to Nineveh.  The administration of Egypt under Assyrian supremacy continued

as before.  People from Kirbit in Elam were deported thither, after

Ashurbanipal's conquest of that rebellious district.  Pisamilku occupied the

position held by his father, Necho, sustained, as he had been, by Assyrian

troops.

 

     250. During these years, or at the close of this second campaign of 661

B.C., the affairs of the west were placed in order.  Baal of Tyre, whose

allegiance to Assyria varied according to Assyrian success in Egypt, had

finally roused Ashurbanipal's wrath, and was shut up in his island-city so

strictly that famine forced him to make terms.  He sent his son, as a

hostage, and his own daughter with the daughters of his brother for the

king's harem, with rich gifts.  The women and the gifts Ashurbanipal

graciously accepted, but returned the son to his father.  Iakinlu of Arvad,

who had shown himself only nominally submissive hitherto, now, likewise,

sent his daughter to the king, as did also Mukallu of Tabal and Sandasarme,

a prince of Cilicia.  Some special reason induced the Assyrian king to

remove the king of Arvad and place his son Azibaal upon the throne.  Tribute

was laid upon all these states.  It is not improbable that the difficulties

which these northwestern communities were having with the Kimmerians induced

their kings to seek Assyria's aid in opposing these new enemies.  This is

the reason assigned by Ashurbanipal for the appeal of king Gyges of Lydia,

for Assyrian help.  This ruler, under whom the Lydian state comes forth into

the world's history, was establishing and extending his power chiefly

through the employment of mercenary soldiers from Caria.  The Kimmerians

assailing him in fresh swarms, he was led, by the revival of Assyrian

influence in Tabal and Cilicia, to send ambassadors to Ashurbanipal.

Before, however, any aid was rendered, it appears that the Kimmerian crisis

had passed away, and Gyges had no intention of paying tribute to the far-off

monarch on the banks of the Tigris.  The latter, however, did not hesitate

in his inscriptions to make the most of the appeal.  The affair is notable,

chiefly as showing how the world of international politics was widening

toward the west, and new factors were entering to make more complex the

political relations of the times.

 

     251. The friendly relations with Elam which characterized the later

years of Esarhaddon (sect. 239) gave place, soon after his death, to a

renewal of hostilities.  By 665 B.C. Urtaki of Elam, in conjunction with

Kaldean and Aramean tribes, raided northern Babylonia and besieged Babylon.

Ashurbanipal was satisfied to drive the invaders back into their own land,

where in a short time Urtaki was succeeded by his brother Te-umman, who

attempted to kill off all members of the royal house.  Sixty of them

succeeded in escaping to Assyria.  Teumman demanded that they be given up to

him.  Ashurbanipal's refusal led to another Elamite invasion which was

checked by the advance of an Assyrian army to Dur Ilu and thence toward

Susa, the Elamite capital.  The decisive battle was fought at Tulliz on the

Ula River before Susa, and resulted in an overwhelming defeat for Elam.  The

king and his son were killed; the army cut to pieces.  The event marked,

according to Billerbeck (Susa, p. 105), the end of the old kingdom of Susa.

The Assyrians made Khumbanigash, son of Urtaki, king of Elam; his son,

Tammaritu, became prince of Khidal, one of the royal fiefs.  The division of

power was evidently made with the purpose of intensifying the dynastic

conflicts in the kingdom, which hitherto had contributed more to the

overthrow of the Elamite power than had the defeats of its armies.  The

punishment of the Gambulians, the Aramean tribe whose secession from Assyria

had played so large a part in inducing hostilities, formed another and

concluding stage of the war.  Their chiefs were captured and suffered

shameful deaths in Assyria (about 660 B.C.).

 

     252. For some years affairs in Babylonia and Elam remained on a

peaceful footing.  The latter country had been too frightfully devastated

and left too thoroughly in confusion to permit hostile movements there.  In

Babylonia, too, Shamashshumukin had ruled in harmony with his brother,

content to administer the affairs of his city, to direct the religious

ceremonial, and to enjoy the prerogatives which were the prized possession

of the king of that wealthy capital and the holy seat of the great gods.  In

the very nature of the situation, however, contradictions existed which were

bound to produce trouble.  Babylon's claims to supremacy were secular as

well as religious, and her nobles never relinquished their rights to

supremacy over the world of nations as well as over the world of the gods.

Their king, too, was an Assyrian, with the ambitions of a warrior and a

statesman as well as the aspirations of a priest.  Yet, in the very nature

of things, Ashurbanipal was lord of the empire and the army, the protector

of the peace, and conqueror of the enemies of the state, the defender of

Babylon from assailants, its head in the political sphere.  A clash was

therefore inevitable, and it speaks well for the brotherly confidence of

both rulers that for fifteen years they worked together peacefully.  Nor is

it possible to indicate any special reasons which brought on the conflict

that in its various ramifications shook the state to its foundations.  The

ambition of the younger brother was doubtless intensified by the intrigues

of his priestly advisers, and his pride wounded by the achievements of

Ashurbanipal and the glorification of them.  It appears, also, that an

economic crisis, caused by a series of bad harvests, was imminent in

Babylonia about this time, which may have brought things to a head.

Shamashshumukin determined to declare his independence.  The course of

events shows how carefully he laid his plans and how wide a sweep was taken

by his ambitious design, which in its fulness comprehended nothing less than

the substitution of Babylon for Assyria as ruler of the world.  Two main

lines of activity were followed: (1) agents were employed to foment

rebellion in the vassal states; (2) the treasures of the temples were freely

used to engage the help of the peoples about Babylon in driving the

Assyrians from Babylonia, and to raise an army of mercenaries to defend and

maintain the new centre of the empire.  How far these emissaries succeeded

in the former work is not certain, but Ashurbanipal found traces of their

activity in the provinces of southern Babylonia, along the eastern

mountains, in Syria, and Palestine and in western Arabia, while Egypt and

far-off Lydia are supposed to have been tampered with by them.  Northern

Babylonia was already secure for Shamashshumukin, and his gold had found

acceptance in Elam, Arabia, and among Kaldean and Aramean tribes.  Even some

Assyrian officers and garrisons had been corrupted.

 

     253. The conspiracy was well advanced before any knowledge of it came

to the surface.  The prefect of Ur, who had been approached in the interests

of the plot, sent word to his superior officer, the prefect of Uruk, that

Shamashshumukin's envoys were abroad in that city.  The news was immediately

sent to Ashurbanipal, who seems to have been taken take utterly by surprise.

If he had had suspicions, they had been allayed by a recent embassy of noble

Babylonians who had brought to him renewed assurances of loyalty on the part

of his brother.  His feelings are expressed in the following words of his

inscription:

 

     At that time Shamashshumukin, the faithless brother, to whom I had done

good, and whom I had established as king of Babylon, and for whom I had made

every possible kind of royal decoration, and had given him, and had gathered

together soldiers, horses, and chariots, and had intrusted them to him, and

had given him cities, fields, and woods, and the men dwelling in them, even

more than my father had commanded - even he forgot that favor I had shown

him, and he planned evil.  Outwardly with his lips he spoke friendly things,

while inwardly his heart plotted murder (Rm Cyl., III. 70-81; ABL, p. 107).

 

     254. Shamashshumukin now threw off the mask and launched the rebellion

(652 B.C.).  He closed the gates of his fortresses and cut off the

sacrifices offered on his brother's behalf before the Babylonian gods.  The

various kings and peoples were either summoned to his aid, or invited to

throw off the Assyrian yoke.  The southern Babylonians responded by

besieging and overcoming Ur and Uruk.  The king of Elam entered Babylonia

with an army.  Ashurbanipal, though taken unawares, was not disconcerted.

Obtaining a favorable oracle from the moon-god, he mustered his troops and

sent them against the rebels.  Meanwhile his partisans in Elam also set to

work.  Suspicion and intrigue, however, brought to naught all assistance

expected by the Babylonians from that quarter.  Khumbanigash lost his throne

to Tammaritu, and he, in turn, to Indabigash, who withdrew his forces from

Babylonia (about 650 B.C.).  Meanwhile Ashurbanipal's army had shut up the

rebels in the great cities, Sippar, Kutha, and Babylon, and cleared the

south of invaders, driving the Kaldeans under their leader, Nabu-bel-shume,

a grandson of Mardukbaliddin, back into Elam.  The three sieges lasted a

year or more, and the cities yielded only when famine and pestilence had

done their work.  The despairing king killed himself, apparently by setting

fire to his palace and throwing himself into the flames.  With his death the

struggle was over (648 B.C.).  Wholesale vengeance was taken upon all who

were implicated in the plot; the streets of the cities ran with blood.

Ashurbanipal had conquered, but the problem of Babylon remained.  He

reorganized the government, and himself "took the hands of Bel," becoming

king of Babylon under the name of Kandalanu (647 B.C.).

 

     255. It remained to punish the associates of Shamashshumukin in the

great conspiracy.  Elam was the first to suffer.  Ashurbanipal demanded of

Indabigash the surrender of the Kaldean, Nabu-bel-shume, who had not only

violated his oath, but had captured and carried away Assyrian soldiers.  On

the refusal of the Elamite, an Assyrian army entered Elam.  Indabigash fell

a victim to a palace conspiracy, and was succeeded by Khummakhaldash III.,

who retired before the Assyrians.  They set up in his place Tammaritu (sect.

251), who had escaped and made his peace with Assyria.  He, too, soon proved

false to his patron and plotted to destroy all Assyrian garrisons in Elam.

The plot was discovered and the king thrown into prison.  Khummakhaldash

III. remained, and met the advance of the enraged Assyrians in their next

campaign.  They would not be restrained, but drove the Elamites back on all

sides, devastated the land and encompassed Susa, which was finally taken and

plundered (about 645 B.C.).  The royal narrative dwells with flowing detail

upon the destruction wrought upon palaces and temples, the indignities

inflicted upon royal tombs and images of the gods, and the rescue and return

to its shrine of the famous statue of Nana of Uruk, carried away by the

Elamites sixteen hundred and thirty-five years before (sect. 63).  Again

Ashurbanipal demanded the surrender of the Kaldean fugitive, but the latter

saved the wretched Elamite king the shame of yielding him up by falling upon

the sword of his shield-bearer.  Khummakhaldash himself, together with

another claimant to the Elamite throne, Pa'e, finally fell into the hands of

the Assyrians.  Elam was thus at last subdued under the Assyrian yoke, and

disappeared from the scene (about 640 B.C.).

 

     256. The Arabians, also, felt the weight of Assyrian displeasure.

Yailu, king of Aribi, who had been placed upon his throne by Esarhaddon

(sect. 242), had been persuaded to throw off allegiance to Assyria.  He sent

a detachment to the aid of Shamashshumukin, and also began to make raids

into the Syrian and Palestinian provinces.  The Assyrian troops succeeded in

holding him back and finally in defeating him so completely that he fled

from his kingdom and, finding no refuge, was compelled to surrender.  His

throne went to Uaite, who, in his turn, made common cause with the enemies

of Assyria, uniting with the Kedarenes and the Nabateans, Bedouin tribes to

the south and southeast of Palestine, in withholding tribute and harassing

the borders of the western states.  Ashurbanipal sent an expedition from

Nineveh, straight across the desert, to take the Arabians in the rear.

After many hardships by the way, defeating and scattering the tribes, it

reached Damascus with much spoil.  Then the army marched southward, clearing

the border of the Bedouin and moving out into the desert to the oases of the

Kedarenes and Nabateans.  The chiefs were killed or captured, camels and

other spoil were gathered in such numbers that the market in Nineveh was

glutted, camels bringing at auction "from a half-shekel to a shekel of

silver apiece (?)." In connection with this campaign the Phoenician cities

of Ushu (Tyre on the mainland) and Akko (Acre) were punished for rebellion.

It is strange that other states of Palestine had not yielded to the

solicitations of the king of Babylon.  The Second Book of Chronicles

(xxxiii. 11), indeed, tells how Manasseh, Mansasseh, king of Judah, was

taken by the captains of the host of the king of Assyria and carried in

chains to Babylon.  Does a reminiscence of punishment for rebellion along

with Shamashshumukin linger here?  Possibly, though neither the Books of

Kings nor the Assyrian inscriptions refer to it.  Not improbably the excess

of zeal on the part of the rebellious Arabians, which led them to attack the

frontiers of these Palestinian states, soon discouraged any inclination in

these communities to rise against Assyria, whose armies protected them

against just such fierce raids from their desert neighbors.  Those who had

withheld tribute must have soon made their peace, among them, it may be,

Manasseh of Judah.  It was precisely the coast cities, because they were in

no danger from the Arabs, that persisted in the rebelliousness for which

they now suffered.

 

     257. The policy of his predecessors made the difficulties of

Ashurbanipal, upon his northern borders, of comparatively slight moment.

That policy which was followed and developed by him, consisted essentially

in arraying the northern tribes against one another, and in avoiding, where

possible, direct hostilities with them.  Thus, friendly relations were

cultivated with the kings of Urartu, Ursa (Rusa) III. and Sarduris IV.,

whose deputations to the Assyrian court were cordially received.  The

Mannai, however, continued aggressively hostile, and their king, Akhsheri,

valiantly resisted an expedition sent against him.  When he had been

defeated he fled; a rising of his people against him followed in which he

was slain; his son, Ualli, was placed by Ashurbanipal upon the throne as a

vassal king.  Other chieftains of the Medes and Sakhi, and Andaria, a

rebellious prince of the Lubdi, were likewise subdued.  In the far northwest

Gyges of Lydia (sect. 250) had fallen before a renewed attack of the

Kimmerians under Tugdammi, a fate in which Ashurbanipal saw the reward of

defection from Assyria.  His son, Ardys, renewed the request for Assyrian

aid, and the forces of Tugdammi were met by the Assyrians in Cilicia, and

beaten back with the loss of their king (about 645 B.C.).  Thus, all along

these mountain barriers, Ashurbanipal might boast that he had maintained the

integrity and the glory of the Assyrian empire.  He was not aware what

momentous changes were in progress behind these distant mountains, what

states were rounding into form, what new masses of migratory peoples were

gathering to hurl themselves upon the plains and shatter the huge fabric of

the Assyrian state.

 

     258. By the year 640 B.C. the campaigns of Ashurbanipal were over.  The

empire was at peace.  Its fame and splendor had never seemed so great, nor,

in reality, had they ever been so impressive.  The king, like his

predecessors, sought the welfare of his country, and thus bears witness to

its prosperity under his rule:

 

     From the time that Ashur, Sin, Shamash, Adad, Bel, Nabu, Ishtar of

Nineveh, Queen of Kidmuri, Ishtar of Arbela, Ninib, Nergal, and Nusku

graciously established me upon the throne of my father, Adad has let loose

his showers, and Ea has opened up his springs; the grain has grown to a

height of five yards, the ears have been five-sixths of a yard long, the

produce of the land - the increase of Nisaba - has been abundant, the land

has constantly yielded heavily, the fruit trees have borne fruit richly, and

the cattle have done well in bearing.  During my reign plenty abounded;

during my years abundance prevailed (Rassam Cyl. I. 42 ff.).

 

     259. Ashurbanipal, too, was a builder.  Temples in Nineveh, Arbela, and

Tarbish, in Babylon, Borsippa, Sippar, Nippur, and Uruk were embellished or

rebuilt by him.  Nineveh owed almost as much to him as to his grandfather

Sennacherib.  He repaired and enlarged its defences, and reared on the

northern part of the terrace, upon the site of the harem built by

Sennacherib, a palace of remarkable beauty.  In form this palace did not

differ from other similar structures, but it was adorned with an

extraordinary variety and richness of ornamentation, and with sculptures

surpassing the achievements of all previous artists.  Sennacherib had led

the way, but the sculptors of Ashurbanipal improved upon the art of the

former day in the elaboration of the scenes depicted, the delicacy and

refinement of details, and the freedom and vigor of the treatment.  For some

of these excellences, particularly the breadth and fulness of the battle

scenes, it has been said that the new knowledge gained of Egyptian mural art

was responsible.  But in the hunting sculptures and the representations of

animals, the Assyrian artist of Ashurbanipal's time has attained the highest

range of original and effective delineation that is offered by antiquity.

The reliefs of the wounded lioness, of the two demonic creatures about to

clinch, and of a dozen other figures represented in the hunting scenes, are

instinct with life and power; they belong to the permanent aesthetic

treasures of mankind.

 

     260. Within the palace was, also, the remarkable library which has made

this king's name famous among modern scholars.  Whether it was founded upon

the nucleus of the royal library which Sennacherib had gathered in Nineveh,

or was an original collection of Ashurbanipal, is uncertain, but in size and

importance it surpasses all other Assyrian collections at present known.

Tens of thousands of clay tablets, systematically arranged on shelves for

easy consultation, contained, besides official despatches and other

archives, the choicest religious, historical, and scientific literature of

the Babylonio-Assyrian world.  Under the inspiration of the king's literary

zeal, scribes copied and translated the ancient sacred classics of primitive

Babylonia for this library, so that, from its remains, can be reconstructed,

not merely the details of the government and administration of the Assyria

of his time, but the life and thought of the far distant Babylonian world.

It is not surprising, then, that the inscriptions of this king, produced in

such an atmosphere, are superior to all others in literary character.  The

narratives are full and free; the descriptions graphic and spirited, with a

sense for stylistic excellence which reveals a well-trained and original

literary quality in the writers of the court.  The impulse had been felt in

the time of Sennacherib (sect. 231), and was gained, no doubt, from the new

literary reinforcements which Nineveh received from Babylon at the time of

the destruction of that ancient city.  After two generations this school of

writers had attained the high excellence which these inscriptions disclose.

 

     261.  It is evident that the king himself was personally interested in

this higher side of the life which appears in the art and literature of his

day.  He has left a charming picture of his early years, how, in the harem,

which he afterwards transformed into a splendid palace, he "acquired the

wisdom of Nabu, learned all the knowledge of writing of all the scribes, as

many as there were, and learned how to shoot with the bow, to ride on horses

and in chariots and to hold the reins" (R. Cyl. I. 31 ff.; ABL, p. 95).  The

latter part of this statement reveals, also, his training in the more active

life characteristic of the Assyrian king.  The truth of the description is

vouched for by the many representations of the king's hunting adventures,

the pursuit of the gazelle and the wild boar, the slaying of wild oxen and

lions.  His was no effeminate or indolent life.  This union of culture and

manly vigor is the characteristic of a strong personality.

 

     262.  As an imperial administrator, he both resembled and differed from

his predecessors.  He added nothing to the methods of provincial government,

but was content to use the best ideas of his time.  Deportation was employed

by him in Egypt, where peoples from Kirbit in Elam were settled, and in

Samaria, where, on the testimony of Ezra iv. 10, he (there called Osnappar)

placed inhabitants of Susa, Babylonia, and other eastern peoples, with the

resulting confusion of worships referred to in 2 Kings xvii. 24-41.  His

father's policy of uniting various districts under one vassal king (sect.

246) was continued; the most striking example of this is found in his

dealing with Egypt.  His armies were recruited, as before, from subject and

conquered peoples.  In one remarkable respect, indeed, he departed from past

precedents.  His armies were, rarely if ever, led by himself in person; his

generals usually carried on the campaigns.  This has been thought to reflect

upon his personal courage and manliness.  Yet it may be that the variety of

demands made upon the ruler of so vast an empire decided him in favor of

this reversal of immemorial policy.  It is certain that in his case the

change proved wise.  No whisper of rebellion among his generals has been

recorded.  His armies, directed in their general activities from one centre,

and given free scope in the matter of detail in the field, reflect credit

upon the new system by their almost uniformly brilliant success.  His

predecessors had worn themselves out by long and severe campaigns, which

only iron constitutions like that of Ashurnacirpal or Shalmaneser II. could

endure for many years.  During their continuance in the field, moreover,

internal administration must be neglected.  Ashurnacirpal was able to hold

his throne for nearly half a century; the victories of peace which he won in

the fields of culture and administration rivalled, if they did not surpass,

the achievement of his armies.

 

     263.  Under Ashurbanipal the tendencies toward "orientalism" which

appeared in his father's day reached their height.  The splendor of his

court was on a scale quite unequalled.  It formed the model for future

kings, and served as the theme for later tradition.  Thus, the Greek

historians have much to tell of the famous Sardanapalus, the voluptuary who

lived in the harem clad in woman's garb, and whose end came in the flames of

his own gorgeous palace.  While Ashurbanipal was anything but such a

weakling, he loved pomp and show, the pleasures of the court, and the

splendor of the throne.  If the daughters of kings sent to his harem were,

in fact, pledges of political fidelity, it is clear that the senders knew

what kind of pledges were pleasing to his royal majesty.  A famous bas-

relief represents him in the garden, feasting with his queen, while, hanging

from one of the trees, is the head of the conquered Teumman of Elam.  In an

oriental court of such a type, pomp and cruelty were not far separated.  It

is not strange, therefore, that in his finely wrought sculptures and

brilliantly written inscriptions are depicted scenes of hideous brutality.

Plunder, torture, anguish, and slaughter are dwelt upon with something of

delight by the king, who sees in them the vengeance of the gods upon those

that have broken their faith.  The very religiousness of the royal butcher

makes the shadows blacker.  No Assyrian king was ever more devoted to the

gods and dependent upon them.  Among all the divine beings, his chief was

the goddess Ishtar, the well-beloved who loved him, and who appeared to him

in dreams and spoke oracles of comfort and success.  As her love was the

more glowing, so her hate was the more bitter and violent.  Captive kings

were caged like dogs and exposed "at the entrance of Temple street" in

Nineveh.  No more thrilling and instructive picture of the union of religion

and personal glorification can be found than that given by the king in the

supreme moment of his proud reign when, all his wars victoriously

accomplished, he took the four kings, Tammaritu, Pa'e, Khummakhaldash, and

Uaite, and harnessed them to his chariot.  Then, to use his own words, "they

drew it beneath me to the gate of the temple" of Ishtar of Nineveh.

"Because Ashur, Sin, Shamash, Adad, Bel, Nabu, Ishtar of Nineveh, Queen of

Kidmuri, Ishtar of Arbela, Ninib, Nergal, and Nusku had subjected to my yoke

those who were unsubmissive, and with might and power had placed me over my

enemies, I threw myself upon my face and exalted their deity, and praised

their power in the midst of my hosts" (R. Cyl. X. 31 ff.)


 

Main Page

International History Project