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ASSYRIA: THE MIGHT OF ANCIENT IRAQ INFORMATION & PICTURES SOURCED FROM NELSON ANCIENT HISTORY, THE NEAR EAST
introduction Assyrian culture was spread widely through the Near East from approximately 3000 BCE. It was influential in spreading religion, art as well as advances in science, technology and medicine during this time. The powerful Assyrian Empire rose to power in 744 BCE, under the rule of Tiglath-Pileser III. Using their superior military and technology, the Assyrians swept across the Fertile Crescent like a destructive storm. They would either threaten their enemies into submission or crush them in battle. When they controlled a new territory, they would relocate the recently conquered people to other areas of the Assyrian Empire as slaves.
Introduction continued The Assyrians were the dominant culture in the land until 608 BCE when they were defeated by the Medes (who would later join together with the Persians to form a great empire). The Assyrian Empire stretched across modern day Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Israel and Egypt. The Assyrians were one of the most brutal and cruel nations in all of history, though they should not be remembered for this alone. they also built impressive cities, magnificent palaces, imposing temples. Citizens of their cities had constant flowing water, cities had beautiful gardens and parks and public libraries contained huge works of literature, religion, history, science and medicine.
Significant sites: The Royal Cities Ashur (or Assur) Nimrud (or Calah) Dur-Sharrukin (modern Khorsabad) Nineveh
Ashur Became the capital of the Assyrian Empire sometime between 1363-1328 BCE It remained the religious capital for more than 600 years. Ashur, the god of the city, became the chief-god of the whole empire and was responsible for determining the fate of kings. “The god Ashur … has entrusted me with unrivalled kingship.” (Sennacherib’s Annals) Location: the city was built at the top of a cliff edge, above the Tigris River. It was also the central point of many trade roads to the west and the north-west. The largest buildings in the city was Ashur’s temple, a ziggurat built to Ashur and Enlil, and a temple to Ishtar.
Nimrud Was the capital of the Assyrian Empire between 883-824 BCE, and maybe after this date also (historians cannot agree about this) Assurnasripal II built: a large palace; a temple and a ziggurat to the god, Ninurta; a temple to Nabu; a huge military arsenal; large domestic housing, similar to apartment buildings. Assurnasripal II decorated his palace with dramatic scenes of hunting lions and bulls as well as his war against the Hittites. Nimrud remained one of the most important military cities until the end of the Assyrian Empire.
Black Obelisk In 1846, archaeologist Henry Layard a 2m high stele. It is a large stone with four sides, recording the 31 year history of the reign of Shalmaneser III (son of Assurnasripal II). On one panel of this stone is recorded a visit by King Jehu, son of Omri, who made a large tribute payment to Shalmaneser III. King Jehu was King of Israel between 841-813 bce. This is the only picture that archaeologists have found of a king of Israel so far.
Dur-Sharrukin Dur-Sharrukin, the Fortress of Sargon, was built by King Sargon II in 722 BCE, to replace the city of Nimrud. (Today, there is a modern city, named Khorsabad on this site.) Sargon II built this military fortress to defend against the Urartu tribes and to protect a very important road through the Taurus mountains. There were seven gates that allowed entrance through the city walls. There was a large palace, many administration buildings, a large city square where people could meet together and many homes for administration people. The city was dedicated in 706 bce, though the royal family didn’t have a chance to live there as Sargon was killed in 705 bce.
Nineveh For a long time, Nineveh wasn’t an important city. It was the religious capital for the worship of the goddess Ishtar. After Sargon II died, his son, Sennacherib chose Nineveh as his capital city. After this, it was made into a city without rival. Sennacherib built a huge palace, consisting of more than 70 rooms. The walls are covered in detailed pictures and written information about Assyrian society and life. . Sennacherib improved the water supply to the city and also to the surrounding farmland by ordering the construction of canals and aqueducts. He built new roads, widened existing roads, built parks and new walls and gates to protect the city.
Nineveh continued Sennacherib also built a huge military palace/arsenal for his army headquarters, as well as storage houses for booty and military equipment. Esarhaddon, Sennacherib’s son, extended the military palace and also built another arsenal in the city. Sennacherib’s grandson, Ashurbanipal also added many buildings to the city. The most exciting find for archaeologists and historians is the Royal Library. It contained thousands of clay tablets and cylinders with written records about myths, religious rituals, royal letters, contracts and magical incantations. Nineveh was destroyed in 612 bce by a combined army of Chaldeans (Babylonians) and Medes. The leader of the army was Nabopolassar, father of Nebuchadnezzar.
Nineveh is destroyed Nahum 2:1,6: “An attacker advances against you, Nineveh… Guard the fortress, watch the road. Brace yourself, marshal all your strength! … The river gates are thrown open and the palace collapses; it is decreed that the city be exiled and carried away.” Archaeologist, Henry Layard, identifies that the city was destroyed by fire: “The sculptures, faintly seen through the gloom, were still well preserved… although, with the rest of the bas-reliefs of [the palace], the fire had nearly [destroyed them]… and had cracked them into a thousand pieces.”