Assyria
Part Ten
Author: Godspeed, George

Assyrian Empire At Its Height Sargon II. 722-705 B.C.

203. Although Sargon gives no indication in his inscriptions that he
was related by blood to his immediate predecessors, the fact that he
ascended the throne without opposition in the month that Shalmaneser IV.
died, shows that he was no usurper, but was recognized as the logical
successor of that king. In his foreign politics and his administrative
activity he followed in the footsteps of Tiglathpileser III., and thereby
carried forward the empire to a height of splendor, solidity, and power
hitherto unattained. In one respect, indeed, and that a very important one,
it is claimed that he reversed the policy of the two preceding kings. He
favored the commercial and hierarchical interests as over against the
peasantry (sects. 185 f.). I, "who preserved the supremacy of (the city)
Assur which had ceased," and "extended" my "protection over Haran and in
accordance with the will of Anu and Dagan wrote its charter," - are two
statements in his cylinder inscription which, as doing honor to these
centres of priestly rule, illustrate his friendly attitude toward the
hierarchy and their interests. His name in one of its forms, Sharruukin,
"the king has set in order," may embody a reference to this policy, which he
conceived of as a restoration of the old order, the re-establishment of
justice and right, ignored by his predecessors. While the king's opposition
to them may not have been so intense or express as to warrant the claim that
he deliberately threw himself into the hands of the other party, facts like
those already mentioned and others, which will later appear, are explicable
from this point of view.

204. The abounding religiosity of his inscriptions is in manifest
contrast to the ritual barrenness of those of Tiglathpileser III. Long
passages glorify the gods, whose names make up a pantheon surpassing in
number and variety those of any preceding ruler. A devotion to
ecclesiastical archaeology, characteristic of a priestly regime, appears in
the resuscitation of old cults like that of Ningal, the recognition of half-
forgotten divine names such as Damku, Sharru-ilu, and Shanitka (?). The
reappearance of the triad of Anu, Bel, and Ea (sect. 89) suggests a revival
of the old orthodoxy. Sin, Shamash, Ninib, and Nergal are honored with
temple, festival, or gift. As though in express contrast with
Tiglathpileser (sect. 187), though perhaps unconsciously, Sargon, when he
built his lordly palace and city, gave its gates names which testified
directly to the overmastering power and presence of the gods and illustrate
the extent of his pantheon.

In front and behind, on both sides, in the direction of the eight winds
I opened eight city-gates: "Shamash, who granted to me victory," "Adad, who
controls its prosperity," I named the gates of Shamash and Adad on the east
side; "Bel, who laid the foundation of my city," "Belit, who gives riches in
abundance," I named the gates of Bel and Belit on the north side; "Anu, who
gave success to the work of my hands," "Ishtar, who causes its people to
flourish," I made the names of the gates of Anu and Ishtar on the west side;
"Ea, who controls its springs," "Belit-ilani, who grants to it numerous
offspring," I ordered to be the names of the gates of Ea and Belit-ilani on
the south side. (I called) its inner wall "Ashur, who granted long reign to
the king, its builder, and protected his armies;" and its outer wall "Ninib,
who laid the foundation of the new building for all time to come" (Cyl.
Inscr., 66-71).

205. The siege of Samaria, a bequest of Shalmaneser IV. (sect. 202),
was in its final stage when Sargon became king, and the city fell in the
last months of 722 B.C. The flower of the nation, to the number of twenty-
seven thousand two hundred and ninety persons, was deported to Mesopotamia
and Media. The rest of the people were left in the wasted land, and a
shuparshaku (sect. 199) was appointed to administer it as an Assyrian
province. Later in the king's reign, captives from Babylonia and Syria were
settled there.

206. Sargon could hardly have been present at the fall of Samaria,
though, doubtless, the measures connected with its organization into a
province were directed by him. The necessary adjustments of his home
government and, particularly, the problem of Babylonia would require his
presence in Assyria. Three months after his accession in Assyria, he would
have to be in Babylon on New Year's day (Nisan) to "take the hands of Bel"
as lawful Babylonian king. But what must have been an unexpected obstacle
brought his purpose to naught. Tiglathpileser's annihilation of the Kaldean
principality of Bit Amukani (sect. 198) had served to consolidate and
strengthen the power of another Kaldean prince, Mardukbaliddin, of Bit
Jakin, who at that time had paid rich tribute and now pressed forward to
seize the vacant throne. He was supported, if not in his claims to the
throne, at least in his opposition to Assyria, by Elam, a power which for
centuries had not interfered in the affairs of the Mesopotamian valley. The
Babylonian kings' list, indeed, records the rule of an Elamite over Babylon
somewhere in the eleventh century, but nothing is known of his relation to
the Elamite kingdom. Two new forces brought Elam upon the scene, and made
it, from this time forth, an important element in Babylonio-Assyrian
politics. First, the pressure of the new peoples from the far east,
represented by the Medes in the northeastern mountains, was being felt in
the rear of Elam, insensibly cramping and irritating the eastern and
northern Elamites and forcing them westward. Second, the aggressive
campaign of Tiglathpileser III. against the Aramean tribes on the lower
Tigris had cleared that indeterminate region between the two countries and
brought the frontier of Assyria up to the border of Elam. Collision was,
therefore, as inevitable as between Assyria and the Median tribes farther
north. Elam entered promptly into the complications of Babylonian politics
and naturally took the anti-Assyrian side. While Mardukbaliddin advanced
northward, Khumbanigash, the Elamite king, descended from the highlands and
laid siege to Dur Ilu, a fortress on the lower Tigris. Sargon moved rapidly
down the east bank of the river and engaged the Elamite army before the
Kaldeans came up. The result of the battle was indecisive, a fact which
practically meant defeat for the Assyrians. After punishing some Aramean
tribes that had taken the side of the Kaldi and transporting them to the far
west (Samaria), he turned back, leaving Mardukbaliddin to the possession of
Babylon and the kingship, which he assumed in the lawful fashion on the
first day of the new year (Bab. Chr., I. 32).

207. This serious set-back in Babylonia involved, at the beginning of
Sargon's reign, a loss of prestige that had its effect upon all sides. It
encouraged the rivals of Assyria to intrigue more actively in the provinces,
and gave new heart to those among the subject peoples inclined to rebellion.
In the west, Egypt, after centuries of impotence, was ready to engage in the
affairs of the larger world. The innumerable petty princes who had divided
up the imperial power among them had been formed into two groups, - one, the
southern group, under the dominance of Ethiopia; the other, the northern
group, under the authority of the prince of Sais, a certain Tefnakht. His
son, Bok-en-renf (Greek, Bocchoris), unified his power yet more distinctly.
He has gained a place in the Manethonian list as the sole representative of
the twenty-fourth dynasty. About the year 722 B.C. he assumed the rank of
Pharaoh. Shut off from the south by his Ethiopian rivals, he looked to the
north for the extension of his power, and naturally began to interfere in
the affairs of Syria, whither, both by reason of immemorial Egyptian claims
to the suzerainty and in view of commercial interests, his hopes were
directed. His representatives began to appear at the courts of the vassal
kings, and made large promises of Egyptian aid to those who would throw off
the Assyrian yoke. Already representations of this sort had induced Hoshea
of Israel to refuse the tribute, though in his case rebellion had been
disastrous (sect. 201). Now a new conspiracy was formed, and the unlucky
Babylonian campaign of Sargon gave the occasion for its launching. A
certain Ilubidi, also called Jaubidi of Hamath, a man of the common people,
usually the greatest sufferers from Assyrian oppression, had succeeded in
deposing the king of that city, and took the throne as representing the
anti-Assyrian party. He secured adherents in the provinces of Arpad,
Cimirra, Damascus, and Samaria. Allied with him was Hanno of Gaza, who was
ready to try once more the dangerous game, relying upon his Bedouin friends.
Gaza, the end of the caravan routes from south and east, was a centre of
trade for the Bedouin, and they were likewise hampered by Assyrian
authority. Among these Arabian communities were the Mucri, already referred
to (sect. 197), the likeness of whose name to that of Egypt (Mucur) probably
led the Assyrian scribes into a confusion of the two peoples, which was
encouraged by the geographical proximity of the localities. This confusion
appears also in the Hebrew writings, where Sewe (So) is called "king of
Egypt" (Micraim) rather than of Mucri; here it is due to the fact that the
impulse to conspiracy came from the Egyptians, although the Mucri were
members of the league against Assyria (sect. 201).

208. Sargon hastened to the west in 720 B.C. and took the rebels in
detail. Ilubidi was met at Qarqar, where the king defeated, captured, and
flayed him alive. Sargon pushed southward and fought the southern army at
Rapikhi (Raphia). Shabi (Sibi, Sewe, So), called, by a mixture of titles in
the Assyrian account, "turtan of Piru (Pharaoh), king of Mucri," - a
statement which has led some scholars to regard him as a petty Egyptian
prince under the Pharaoh, - fled into the desert "like a shepherd whose
sheep have been taken." Hanno was captured and brought to Assur. Nine
hundred thirty-three people were deported. The Arabian chiefs offered
tribute, - Piru of Mucri, Samsi of Aribi, and Itamara of Saba. The
rebellion was crushed, punishments were duly inflicted, and provinces were
reorganized. Having clearly demonstrated the consequences of revolt from
Assyria, Sargon returned home. Seven years passed before trouble appeared
again in Palestine, stirred up from the same sources as before. In the
intervening period Sargon had, according to his annals, in 715 B.C. made an
expedition into Arabia in consequence of which Piru of Mucri, Samsi of
Aribi, and Itamara of Saba again paid tribute. The Pharaoh, Bocchoris, had
fallen before the aggressive Ethiopian king, Shabako, who about 715 B.C.
united all Egypt under his sway, and ruled as the first Pharaoh of the
twenty-fifth dynasty. He did not wait long before undertaking the same
measures as the Saite king to extend Egyptian influence in Asia. His agents
began their work at all the vassal courts in Palestine. In Judah, Edom,
Moab, and the Philistine cities, Egyptian sympathizers were found
everywhere. Proposals were made for a league between these states. In
Judah the chief opponent of this policy was the prophet Isaiah, who was
moved to the strange action mentioned in Isaiah xx. 2. He kept it up for
three years, at the end of which time the air had cleared. In Ashdod King
Azuri openly favored the new movement, but so vigilant were the Assyrians
that he was promptly deposed, and his brother Akhimiti substituted. This
seems only to have added fuel to the flame, and by 711 B.C. the fire broke
out. Akhimiti was overthrown; the leader of the mercenaries, a man from
Cyprus, was made king, and allegiance to Assyria thrown off. The Assyrian,
however, was now wide awake, and the conspirators were again taken
unprepared. Sargon sent some of his finest troops in a forced march to
Ashdod. The rebel leader was driven from his city before his allies could
gather, and fled into the desert, where, in the fastnesses of the Sinaitic
peninsula, he fell into the hands of a chieftain of Milukhkha, who delivered
him up to the Assyrians. Ashdod and its dependencies, Gath and Ashdudimma,
were put under a provincial government. Judah, Edom, and Moab hastened to
assure the Assyrian of their faithfulness, and fresh gifts were required of
them by way of punishment for their evil inclinations. Some time later,
even Ashdod was permitted to resume its own government under a king Mitinti.
Another instructive evidence had been given the Palestinians of the folly of
seeking the aid of "Pharaoh of Egypt, a king who could not save them."

209. By far the greater number of Sargon's expeditions were directed
toward the north, and occasioned by the renewed efforts of the kingdom of
Urartu to unite the northern tribes against the Assyrians. Sarduris III.
had left Assyria in peace after his punishment by Tiglathpileser III. in 735
B.C. (sect. 193), and was succeeded about 730 B.C. by Rusas I., called in
the Assyrian inscriptions Rusa or Ursa. Under his vigorous and ambitious
measures, Urartu entered upon its supreme effort for the control of the
north and the overthrow of Assyrian supremacy. A combination was formed of
states extending from the upper Mediterranean to the eastern shores of Lake
Urmia, and the struggle that ensued lasted, in its various ramifications,
for more than ten years (719-708 B.C.). The eastern peoples were led by
Urartu itself; in the west the Mushki were the leading spirits under their
king, Mita; both nations, however, evidently in mutual understanding and
sympathy sought the same ends and used the same means.
210. After the humiliation of Urartu, Tiglathpileser III. had sought
to build up, in the district between the two lakes, Van and Urmia, a kingdom
which, in close dependence on Assyria, would offset the influence of Urartu.
This was the kingdom of the Mannai, which had already attained some degree
of unity under its king, Iranzu, and controlled a number of principalities,
among which were Zikirtu, Uishdish, and Bit Daiukki. Unable to break down
Iranzu's fidelity to Assyria, Rusas succeeded in drawing away the
principalities from their allegiance and even detached some cities of the
Mannai from Iranzu. Sargon promptly punished these latter in 719 B.C. In
716 Iranzu was succeeded by his son Aza, whose declared fidelity to his
Assyrian overlord provoked a storm. The chiefs of the rebellious
principalities succeeded in having him murdered, and raised Bagdatti of
Uishdish to the throne. Sargon appeared again upon the scene, seized
Bagdatti and flayed him alive. The rebels raised to the throne Ullusunu,
brother of Bagdatti, who, after a brief struggle, submitted to Sargon and
was permitted to remain king. The next year, 715 B.C., under the influence
of Rusas, Daiukki, chief of another Mannean principality, rebelled against
Ullusunu and was deported by Sargon. Expeditions to the east and southeast
carried Sargon's armies among the Medes, who were evidently pressing more
closely upon the mountain barrier and absorbing the tribes of that region.
The campaign of 714 B.C. brought him face to face with Rusas himself. He
entered Zikirtu, overthrew its prince, and devastated the country. The army
of Rusas, which came to its relief, he utterly defeated, and drove the king
himself in hasty flight to the mountains. The Assyrian narrative reports
that, seeing his land ravaged, his cities burned, and portions of his
territory given to the king of Man, in despair Rusas slew himself. It
seems, however, according to Urartian inscriptions, that he lived to fight
again. The reduction of the other districts followed without difficulty.
From Illipi, in the far southeast on the borders of Elam, westward beyond
Lake Van, and eastward as far as the Caspian, gifts and tribute were the
signs of Assyrian authority. The usual citadels were built, and provinces
established for administrative purposes, where vassal kings were not
continued in their authority. Urartu, however, somehow escaped
incorporation. A new king, Argistis II., continued to maintain the
independence of his country, and even to interfere in Assyrian affairs, but
with no success. The aggressive power of the state was broken, and the
Assyrians were satisfied to let well enough alone. That Urartu was
practically left to itself and yet was closely watched, is illustrated by a
despatch which has been preserved from the Crown Prince Sennacherib, who in
the last years of Sargon was the commanding general, stationed on the
frontier between Urartu and Assyria.

211. In the northwest the Mushki were situated as advantageously for
disturbing the Assyrian borders as was Urartu in the east. Perched high up
among the Taurus mountains, they saw beneath them Qui (Cilicia) to the
southwest, Tabal and the north Syrian states to the south, Qummukh to the
southeast, and Milid to the east, beyond which Urartu extended to the
mountains of Ararat. They themselves were moved to activity, doubtless, by
the pressure of peoples behind them, caused by the westward movement of the
Indo-European tribes, of whom the Medes in the east formed one branch, and
who were to make themselves felt more distinctly within half a century.
They entered heartily, therefore, into the schemes of Rusas of Urartu, and
did their part toward breaking down Assyrian influence on these frontiers.
A beginning was made in Tabal in 718 B.C. by a rebellion in Sinukhtu, one of
its principalities. The rising was put down, the guilty tribe deported, and
its territory given to a neighboring prince. The next year, tempted by the
promise of help from Mita, King of Mushki, Pisiris, king of Karkhemish,
threw off the yoke, but, if a general rising was expected, it was prevented
by the vigilance and promptness of Sargon, who stormed the ancient city,
carried away its inhabitants, and settled Assyrians in their places. The
city became the capital of an Assyrian province. Mita had, meanwhile, been
making advances to Qui. Its king had been faithful to Assyria at first. He
was consequently attacked by the Mushki and lost some of his cities.
Finally he fell away to the enemy, however, and was punished with the loss
of his kingdom for, later in Sargon's reign, an Assyrian provincial governor
administered Qui and conducted campaigns against the Mushki. In 713 B.C.
the king of Tabal, son of the prince raised to the throne by Tiglathpileser
III. (sect. 197), and himself married to an Assyrian princess, declared his
independence, in spite of the fact that his territory had been twice
enlarged by Sargon. The Assyrian overran the country, carried away the king
and his people, settled other captives in the land, and brought it directly
under Assyrian authority. The year following, it was the turn of Milid to
revolt. Its king had overrun Kammanu, a land under Assyrian protection, and
had annexed it. Sargon punished this aggression by the removal of the royal
house, the deportation of the inhabitants, and the settlement of people from
the Suti in the land. The country was fortified by a line of posts on
either side over against Mushki and Urartu. Certain of its cities were
conferred upon the king of the Qummukhi. In Gamgum, a small kingdom on the
southern slopes of the Taurus, the reigning king had been murdered by his
son, who seized the throne. Sargon, regarding this usurpation as inspired
from the same source as the other movements in these regions, sent, in 711
B.C., a body of troops thither, by whom the same measures were carried
through as elsewhere, and a new Assyrian province established. Meanwhile
the governor of Qui had succeeded in his campaigns against Mita of Mushki,
who in 709 B.C. made his formal submission to Sargon. At the same time
seven kings of the island of Cyprus, who had somehow been involved in the
wars of these states in the northwest, sent gifts to the king, who, in
return, set up in that island a stele in token of his supremacy. That an
Assyrian administration was introduced there, is not clear. Finally, the
hitherto faithful kingdom of Qummukh, seduced by Argistis II., the new king
of Urartu, threw off the Assyrian yoke. Sargon was then engaged in the
thick of the struggle with his Babylonian rival. With its triumphant
conclusion in 708 B.C., the king of Qummukh lost heart and did not await the
advance of the Assyrian army. His land was overrun, and another province
was added to the empire. Already, during these years, the kingdom of Samal,
whose kings had been so loyal to Tiglathpileser III. (sect. 196), had
disappeared, so that now all the west and north, with the exception of some
of the Palestinian and Phoenician states, was directly incorporated into the
Assyrian empire.

212. The overthrow of the northern coalition, by the defeat of Rusas of
Urartu and Mita of Mushki, left Sargon free to finish the task which he had
abandoned in the first year of his reign after the doubtful victory over the
king of Elam (sect. 206). For more than a decade had Mardukbaliddin ruled
in Babylon, undisturbed by his Assyrian rival. But now his turn had come to
feel the weight of Assyrian vengeance, made all the heavier by delay, and by
the added might of the Assyrian power, everywhere else victorious. The
Kaldean king had, meanwhile, found it no easy task to administer his new
domain. The Babylonian priesthood, while nominally acquiescing in his
supremacy, were at heart enemies of Kaldean rule and devoted to Assyria,
especially since Sargon was inclined to favor hierarchical assumptions. Nor
had Mardukbaliddin seized the throne with any other purpose than to give his
Kaldeans the supreme positions in Babylonia, and, in pursuing this policy,
he appears to have dispossessed not a few Babylonian nobles in favor of his
own partisans. A document which has been preserved recites his purpose "to
give ground-plots to his subjects in Sippar, Nippur, Babylon, and the cities
of Akkad," and describes such a gift to Bel-akhi-erba, mayor of Babylon, who
was most probably one of his own people (ABL, 64 ff.). While Sargon's
claims that his rival despised the Babylonian gods are disproved by the
pious tone of that document, it appears that southern Babylonia particularly
had been so rebellious that the Kaldean king had carried away the leading
citizens of such cities as Ur and Uruk along with their city-gods to his
capital, and even held confined there people of Sippar, Nippur, Babylon, and
Borsippa. The Aramean tribes, also, had been permitted to resume their
former independence as a bulwark against Assyria on the lower Tigris, and
the Suti were active along the northern frontiers of Babylonia. Moreover,
in 717 B.C., Khumbanigash of Elam, the ally of the Kaldean king, was
succeeded by Shuturnakhundi, whose zeal for his support had not yet been put
to the test. Under such conditions Mardukbaliddin was forced to meet the
advance of Sargon.

213. The campaigns of the years 710-709 B.C. were occupied with this
war in Babylonia. The weakness of the Kaldean king was apparent
immediately. Sargon's account of his operations has been variously
interpreted. Some assume two Assyrian armies, - one directed toward the
east of the Tigris and the other, led by Sargon himself, moving west of the
Euphrates. No good reason for the western transeuphratean movement can
possibly be imagined; indeed it was the worst sort of tactics to separate
the two armies so widely. The campaign becomes clear however, if, in the
annals (1.287), we read "Tigris" for "Euphrates." The Assyrian army advanced
down the eastern bank of the Tigris without opposition from Elam, and
encountered only the Aramean tribes. The chief resistance was offered by
the Gambuli, whose city of Duratkhara, though garrisoned by a corps of
Kaldean troops in addition to its native defenders, was taken by storm,
rebuilt and, as Dur Nabi, made the capital of an Assyrian province. The
whole region down to the Uknu, and eastward into the borders of Elam, was
overrun, devastated, and made Assyrian territory. Thus Elamite intervention
was cut off. The Elamite king drew back into the mountains. Then the army
turned westward toward Babylonia, crossed the Tigris (?), and entered the
Kaldean principality of Bit Dakurri. Now Sargon stood between
Mardukbaliddin and his Kaldean base; hence the Kaldean king must meet his
enemy in Babylon. But his resources were not yet exhausted. He recognized
his danger, abandoned Babylon, and hurried eastward with his forces into the
region just traversed by the Assyrians, to the border of Elam, to unite with
the Elamite forces, and follow up the Assyrian army. It was a bold, but
thoroughly strategic move. Shuturnakhundi, however, had lost heart, and no
inducements could avail to secure his co-operation. Now one resource only
remained for the Kaldean. He moved rapidly to the south, eluded the
Assyrians, and threw himself into a citadel of his own principality, Bit
Jakin, and there, fortifying it strongly, awaited the Assyrian attack.

214. Sargon, meanwhile, had fortified the capital of Bit Dakurri, and
was preparing to advance northward toward Babylon. The news of
Mardukbaliddin's escape was followed by the coming of the priesthoods of
Borsippa and Babylon, who brought their rikhat (sect. 189) and, accompanied
by a deputation of the chief citizens, invited Sargon to enter the city. He
accepted the invitation, and showed his gratification by royal gifts and
services befitting a devoted worshipper of the gods of Babylon. Sippar,
which had been seized by an Aramean tribe driven westward by his advance
down the Tigris, was recovered by a detachment sent out from Babylon. The
next year (709 B.C.), Sargon "took the hands of Bel" and became lawful king
of Babylon. The punishment of Mardukbaliddin followed. His principality of
Bit Jakin was fiercely attacked, his citadel stormed in spite of a desperate
resistance, the land laid waste, the inhabitants deported, and new peoples
settled there. The Kaldean prince, however, succeeded in making his escape,
and was destined still to be a troubler of Assyria. The landowners,
dispossessed under the Kaldean regime, were restored to their estates. The
imprisoned Babylonians were released, and the city-gods of Uruk, Eridu, and
other ancient shrines were brought back and honored with gifts. From the
king of Dilmun, an island "which lay like a fish thirty kasbu out in the
Persian gulf," came gifts in token of homage.

215. Little is known of the course of events in Sargon's reign after
708 B.C. It is clear, however, that during this period his city and palace
of Dur Sharrukin were completed and occupied. The king had lived
principally at Kalkhi, where he had restored the famous Ashurnacirpal palace
(sect. 170). But his overmastering ambition suggested to him an achievement
which had not entered into the minds of his predecessors. They had erected
palaces. He would build a city in which his palace should stand. For this
purpose, with an eye to the natural beauty of the location, he chose a plain
to the northeast of Nineveh, well watered and fertile, in full view of the
mountains. A rectangle was marked out, its sides more than a mile in
length, its corners lying on the four cardinal points. It was surrounded by
walls nearly fifty feet in height, on which at regular intervals rose towers
to a further height of some fifteen feet. Eight gates elaborately finished
and dedicated to the gods (sect. 204) gave entrance through these walls into
the city, which was laid out with streets and parks in a thoroughly modern
fashion, and was capable of housing eighty thousand people. Upon the
northwest side stood the royal palace on an artificial elevation raised to
the height of the wall. This mound was in the shape of the letter T, the
base projecting from the outer wall, the arms falling within and facing the
city. An area of about twenty-five acres thus obtained was completely
covered by the palace, which consisted of a complex of rooms, courts,
towers, and gardens, numbering in all not less than two hundred. The main
entrance was from the city front through a most splendid gateway which
admitted to the central square. From its three sides opened the three main
quarters of the palace, to the right the storehouses, to the left the harem,
and directly across, the king's apartments and the court rooms. This latter
portion was finished in the highest artistic fashion of the period. The
halls were lined with bas-reliefs of the king's campaigns; the doorways were
flanked with winged bulls, and the archways adorned with bands of enamelled
tiles. In the less elaborate chambers colored stucco and frescoes are
found. The artistic character of the bas-reliefs, however, is not
distinctly higher than that of previous periods. The variety of detail
already noted as appearing in the bronzes of Shalmaneser II. (sect. 175) is
the most striking characteristic of these sculptures. It is in the
mechanical skill displayed, in the finish of the tiling, in the coloring of
the frescoes, in the modelling of the furniture, in the forms of weapons and
the like, that the art here exhibited is chiefly remarkable. In addition,
the colossal character of the whole design of city and palace, culminating
in the lofty ziggurat, with its seven stories in different colors, rising to
the height of one hundred and forty feet from the court in the middle of the
southwest face of the palace mound, gives a vivid impression of the wealth,
resourcefulness, and magnificent powers of the Assyrian empire as it lay in
the hand of Sargon, who brought it to its height and gave it this unique
monument.

216. Sargon's administration of the empire reveals a curious mixture of
progressiveness and conservatism, of strength and weakness, which makes the
task of estimating his ability and achievement not a little difficult. His
reign was one series of wars, yet a large number of his campaigns were
against petty tribes and insignificant peoples. Over against his good
generalship, illustrated in the skilful campaign of 710 B.C. against
Mardukbaliddin, must be placed the serious reverse in the same region in 721
B.C. Good fortune did much for him in Babylonia and in the west, where
rebellious combinations never materialized. He overthrew his enemies in
detail or found them deserted by those who had promised help. It is evident
that Urartu itself offered him nothing like the resistance it had shown to
Tiglathpileser III. His system of provincial government, involving the
exchange of populations, was an inheritance from his predecessors. He
carried it out more extensively, establishing provinces on all borders and
deporting peoples from one end of the empire to the other in enormous
numbers. His new city of Dur Sharrukin was composed almost entirely of the
odds and ends of populations from every part of his domains. So intent on
making provinces was he, that he seems at times to take advantage of
insignificant difficulties in vassal kingdoms to overturn the government and
incorporate them into the empire. Was he wise in this? Or was the policy
of Tiglathpileser III. more far-sighted? He, while establishing provinces
in important centres, not only permitted vassal kings to hold their thrones,
but even encouraged the growth of such states, as in the case of the kingdom
of the Mannai. The task of organizing and unifying this mass of provinces
and of meeting the responsibilities of their administration was certainly
severe. National spirit had disappeared with the deportation of the people,
and imperial attachment had to be fostered in its place. All the details of
government and administration, left otherwise to local and tribal officials,
must be taken over by the imperial administration. Officials had to be
obtained and trained. Military forces must be maintained for their
protection and authority. If Sargon had before him the vision of a mighty
organization like this, he had not wisely estimated the difficulties of its
successful maintenance. As ruler of Babylon, he particularly felt the
inconvenience of presenting himself yearly at the city to receive the royal
office at the hands of Bel, and therefore contented himself with the title
of "Governor" (Shakkanak Bel), by which he exercised the power, even if he
must forego the honors, of kingship.

217. A severer indictment against Sargon is found by those who hold
that he reversed the policy of Tiglathpileser III. relative to the
priesthood (sect. 203). An immediate result of this would be the
substitution of a mercenary soldiery for the usual native troops. Sargon
certainly revived the policy instituted by Shalmaneser II. of incorporating
the soldiers of conquered states into his armies. His inscriptions testify
to this in the case of Samaria, Tabal, Karkhemish, and Qummukh. But the
maintenance of mercenary troops involves their employment in constant wars
to keep them active and secure them booty. When these fail, they sell
themselves to a higher bidder, or turn their arms against the state. The
policy of Sargon also involved the subordination of the Assyrian peasantry
to the commercial and industrial interests of the state or to the possessors
of great landed estates. The burdens of taxes fell upon the farmers even
more heavily. They dwindled away, became serfs on the estates, or slaves in
the manufactories, and their places were supplied by aliens from without,
transplanted into the native soil. Thus the state as organized by Sargon
became more and more an artificial structure, of splendid proportions,
indeed, but the foundations of which were altogether insufficient. Whether
this judgment is unduly severe or not, it is clear that none of these evils
appeared in the king's time. Assyria was never so great in extent, never so
rich in silver and gold and all precious things, never so brilliant in the
achievements of art and architecture, never more devoted to the gods and
their temples. Nor was Sargon unmindful of the economic welfare of his
country, as his inscriptions testify. He directed his attention to the
colonization of ruined sites, to the planting of fields, to making the
barren hills productive, and causing the waste dry lands to bring forth
grain, to rebuilding reservoirs and dams for irrigation. He sought to fill
the granaries with food, to protect the needy against want, to make oil
cheap, to make sesame of the same price with corn, and to establish a
uniform price for all commodities. When he had settled strangers from the
four quarters of the earth in his new city, he sent to them Assyrians, men
of knowledge and insight, learned men and scribes, to teach them the fear of
God and the king (Cyl. Inscr., ABL, pp. 62 ff.). These were high
conceptions of the responsibilities of empire, however imperfectly they may
have been realized.

218. Hardly had Sargon been settled in his new city and palace when his
end came. A violent death is recorded, but whether in battle or by a
murderer's hand in his palace, the broken lines of the inscription do not
make clear. His son and heir, Sennacherib, was summoned from the frontier,
where he was acting as general, and without opposition ascended the throne
toward the close of July, 705 B.C.

 

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