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Assyrian Hunters from Khorsabad

Assyrian Hunters from Khorsabad

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The Assyrian empire has been described as the "first military power in history". [10] Mesopotamia was the site of some of the earliest recorded battles in history. [11] [12] In fact, the first recorded battle was between the forces of Lagash and Umma c. 2450 BC. Like many Mesopotamian records, it contains elements of fiction. The ruler of Lagash, Eanatum, was inspired by the god Ningirsu to attack the rival kingdom of Umma the two were involved in minor skirmishes and raids along their respective borders. [12] Although Eanatum triumphed, he was struck in the eye by an arrow. After the battle, he had the Stele of the Vultures erected to celebrate his victory.

Akkadian and Old Assyrian Edit

According to legend, Sargon, the first ruler of the Akkadian Empire, was discovered by a gardener in Mesopotamia in a basket. [12] In time, he would found the city of Agade and raise an army of 5,400 men, [12] and then conquer much of modern-day Iraq. His inscriptions boast of 34 victories and "5,400 men eating bread before Sargon", exemplifying both the vast manpower and the obedience of his troops (and possibly a standing army as well). Though small by the standards of later kings, Sargon's army was larger and more sophisticated than others of the time, utilizing a combination of spears and missile weapons. Bronze swords and four wheeled chariots [12] brushed aside any resistance as he carved out his empire, which may well have included (at least briefly) parts of the Mediterranean, Anatolia and western Iran. [11] Siege warfare was not a problem most of the cities that were walled at the time of Sargon were made of mud and his inscriptions further boast of the destruction he brought on their walls. [12]

The earliest Old Assyrian king Tudiya was a contemporary of Ibrium of Ebla. [3] [13] It evolved from the Akkadian Empire of the late 3rd millennium BC. [14] Assyria was a strong nation under the rule of Ilushuma (1945–1906 BC), who founded colonies in Asia Minor and raided Isin and other Sumero-Akkadian states in southern Mesopotamia.

Middle Assyrian Edit

Under Shamshi-Adad I (1813–1791 BC) and his successor Ishme-Dagan (1790–1754 BC), Assyria was the seat of a regional empire controlling northern Mesopotamia and regions in Asia Minor and northern Syria. From 1365 to 1076 BC, Assyria became a major empire and world power, rivalling Egypt. Kings such as Ashur-uballit I (1365–1330 BC), Enlil-nirari (1329–1308 BC), Arik-den-ili (c. 1307–1296 BC), Adad-nirari I (1295–1275 BC), Shalmaneser I (1274–1245 BC), Tukulti-Ninurta I (1244–1208 BC), Ashur-resh-ishi I (1133–1116 BC) and Tiglath-Pileser I (1115–1077 BC) forged an empire which at its peak stretched from the Mediterranean Sea to the Caspian Sea, and from the foothills of the Caucasus to Arabia. [15] The 11th and 10th centuries BC were a dark age for the entire Near East, North Africa, Caucasus, Mediterranean and Balkan regions, with great upheavals and mass movements of people. Despite the apparent weakness of Assyria, at heart it remained a solid, well defended nation whose warriors were the best in the world. Assyria, with its stable monarchy and secure borders, was in a stronger position during this time than potential rivals such as Egypt, Babylonia, Elam, Phrygia, Urartu, Persia and Media. [16]

Information on the Assyrian army during this time is difficult to make out. The Assyrians were able to establish their independence on two occasions, during the Old Assyrian Empire and the Middle Assyrian Empire, with the latter reaching as far as Babylon in their pursuit of conquest. However, military tactics mainly involved using troops raised from farmers who had finished planting their fields and so could campaign for the king until harvest time called for their attention again. The result was that military campaigning was limited to a few months of the year. As a result, armies could not conquer vast amounts of land without having to rest (and hence allow their enemy to recover) and even if they did they would not be able to garrison conquered lands with troops for long.

The Assyrian army's hierarchy was typical of the Mesopotamian armies at the time. The King whose rule was sanctioned by the gods, would be the commander of the entire army of the Empire. He would appoint senior officers on certain occasions to campaign in his place if his presence on the battlefield could or had to be spared. [17] The Neo-Assyrian Empire took advantage of many different types and styles of militaristic vessels and engines for warfare. This includes chariots, cavalry, and siege engines.

Pre-reform Edit

Before the reforms of Tiglath-Pileser III, the Assyrian army was also very much similar to the other Mesopotamian armies of the time. Soldiers were mostly raised farmers, who had to return to their fields to collect the harvest. Professional soldiers were limited to a few bodyguards that protected the King and or other nobles and officials, but these would not have been deployed or wasted in battle unless the situation became urgent, as it later did.

Assyrian armies could be very large Shalmaneser III once boasted a force of 120,000 men in his campaigns against Syria. [2] Such a force required men to be extracted from conquered peoples. A large army also needed more food and supplies and for this the Assyrians organized what they needed for a campaign before they set out.

Preparations for a new campaign Edit

Preparations for a new campaign required first and foremost the assembly of troops at a designated base. In Assyria, the designated locations included Nineveh, Kalhu or Khorsabad. On some occasions the designated meeting points would change depending upon the campaign. Governors were instructed to accumulate supplies of grain, oil and war material. Other requirements of the Governors included calling up the needed manpower. Vassal states were in particular required to present troops as part of their tribute to the Assyrian king and in good time: failure to do so would have almost certainly been seen as an act of rebellion. [2]

The arrival of the King and his bodyguard ended the preliminary stage and the army would move on to the target of their campaign. The army would march in good order in the vanguard came the standard of the Gods, signifying the servitude of the Assyrian Kings to their primary God Assur. Following this was the King, the humble servant of Assur surrounded by his bodyguard with the support of the main chariot divisions and cavalry, the elite of the army. In the rear was the infantry the Assyrian troops followed by the conquered peoples. Following this would be the siege train, supply wagons and then the camp followers. Such a formation would have been very vulnerable to a rear attack. Some columns of troops could travel 30 miles a day and such speed would have been used to surprise and frighten an opponent into submission. [2]

Reforms of Tiglath-Pileser III Edit

Before long, the weaknesses of the Assyrian army soon began to show itself. Battle after battle killed off important soldiers, while the seasons ensured that soldiers returned after a short time to their fields without achieving decisive conquests. By the mid-eighth century BC, the Assyrian levy-army could not cope with the demands of an empire that often stretched from the Mediterranean Sea to the Persian Gulf. [18]

All was to change when Tiglath-Pileser III came to the throne in 745 BC. After increasing the efficiency of the Assyrian administration, [7] he went on to change the Assyrian army as well. [18] The most important aspect of his reform was the introduction of a standing army. This included a larger number of foreign soldiers but mixed in with other Assyrian soldiers. [17] [18] These men could be supplied by vassal states as tribute or when demanded by the Assyrian King. They were given Assyrian equipment and uniform which made them indistinguishable from one another, possibly to increase their integration. [18] While the infantry in the standing army contained a large number of foreigners (including Aramaeans and even Greeks), the Assyrian cavalry and charioteers continued to be dominated by Assyrians. [17] There were exceptions however, and as casualties mounted additional troops would not be unwelcome Sargon II reports that he managed to incorporate 60 Israelite chariot teams into his army. [18]

Transportation and communication Edit

With the rise of the Assyrian Empire, new demands were placed on transport and communication. Prior to the Neo-Assyrian Empire, roads in Mesopotamia were little more than well-trodden pathways used by the locals. However, this was inadequate for an empire whose armies were constantly on the move, repressing one revolt after another. The Assyrians were the first to institute, control and maintain a system of roads throughout their empire. A state communication system with regular way stations for messengers to rest and/or exchange mounts were established. Later, these would form the basis for the Persians to expand this system to their own empire. [20]

Rugged mountains were cut through thus greatly decreasing travel time. Engineers built fine stone pavements leading up to the grand cities of Assur and Nineveh, so as to impress foreigners with the wealth of Assyria. By the 2nd millennium BC, wooden bridges were built across the Euphrates. By the 1st millennium BC, Nineveh and Assur had stone bridges, [20] testament to the wealth of the kingdom of Ashur. The construction of roads and increased transport meant that goods would flow through the empire with greater ease, thus feeding the Assyrian war effort further. Of course, roads that sped up Assyrian troops would not discriminate and would speed up enemy troops as well.

Use of camels Edit

The Assyrians were the first to use camels as beasts of burden for their military campaigns. Camels were of greater use than donkeys because they could carry five times the load but required less watering. Camels were not domesticated until shortly before 1000 BC, on the eve of the Neo-Assyrian Empire. [21] The first camel to be domesticated was the dromedary. [22]

Wheeled vehicles Edit

Traditionally, the Sumerians are credited for inventing the wheel sometime before 3000 BC, although there is increasing evidence to support an Indo-European origin in the Black Sea region of Ukraine (Wolchover, Scientific American, 2012). In any case, the Assyrians were the first to manufacture tires of metal, made from copper, bronze and later iron. [21] Metal-covered wheels have the advantage of being more durable.

Weapons Edit

    consisting of a wooden shaft tipped with a lethal iron spearhead 5 feet long altogether for fight in close range for slitting throats to break shields

Chariots Edit

The core of the Assyrian army lay in its chariots. The chariot was a fast and extremely maneuverable vessel. The use of chariots in warfare resembled a well disciplined army that dominated the battlefield in flanking maneuvers, causing opposing forces to divide or flee the battlefield. Chariots usually consisted of two or three horses, a platform with two wheels, and two soldiers. One soldier would have control of the reins to steer while the other wielded a bow and arrow to fire at enemy troops. The use of chariots is limited to a relatively flat battleground, making it effective in certain locations. [23] The Ancient Egyptians and Sumerians used war chariots in this fashion as firing mobile platforms or as mobile command platforms the elevated view would give the general some ability to see how the troops fared in battle. Because the chariot was fast and easily maneuverable, an alternative use for chariots was to send messages to and from the battlefield. They were also a prestigious vessel used by Assyrian kings to display wealth and power. [24]

However, the rise of cavalry in the 1st millennium BC meant that by the 7th century BC, the chariot was demoted to combat duties only lighter chariots consisting of two to three horses were later upgraded under the reign of Ashurbanipal to heavy four-horse chariots. Such chariots could contain up to four men. Heavier chariots also found new roles, smashing into enemy formations and dispersing the infantry in the process. [25] The Assyrian cavalry and infantry would then be able to exploit the gap and rout the enemy, thereby taking the battlefield.

Cavalry Edit

The use of cavalry was the result of having different and new enemies in rough and mountainous terrains. Chariots could not operate on rough terrain which meant that a new tactic needed to be developed. The cavalry operated as the chariot corps did, as an intimidating, well armored, elite class of soldiers that could dominate the battlefield and turn the tides of war. Cavalry units were well equipped with light armor, spears or lances as well as bows and arrows. The use of the cavalry in the 9th century BC operated almost the same as the chariots did two horses with one soldier controlling the reins while another soldier wielded a ranged weapon. Over the course of nearly two centuries, the Assyrians were able to master the art of the cavalry. [26] However, Assyrian attempts were not without difficulties horse archers were used but could not use their bows and the reins of their horses at the same time. As a result, cavalry under Ashurnasirpal are depicted in pairs, with one rider holding both reins and the other shooting with a bow. The Assyrians experienced fewer problems with cavalry when they were deployed as lancers under Tiglath-Pileser III, the Assyrian cavalry continued to be paired, but this time each warrior held his own lance and controlled his own horse. [25] By the 7th century BC, mounted Assyrian warriors were well armed with a bow and a lance, [25] and armored with lamellar armour, while their mounts were equipped with fabric armour, providing limited yet useful protection in close combat and against missiles. Cavalry were to form the core of the later Assyrian armies. Cavalry could dominate the battlefields but their one weakness when attempting to divide enemy troops would have been long spears. Long spears were capable of eliminating cavalry units from a safe distance, allowing enemy troops to hold the line. [27]

Cavalry were rarely used by the Assyrians or many other Mesopotamians until the 9th century BC, when their use is mentioned during the reign of Tukulti-Ninurta II. [25] Before then, many nomads or steppe warriors who raided Assyrian lands relied on cavalry. The Assyrians had to counter this mobile form of warfare and so beat their opponents, notably the Iranians, at their own game. [28] Perhaps the greatest outside influence was that of the Iranian Medes. The raiding by that people assisted Assyrian attempts in building a cavalry army with which to destroy the Kingdom of Elam.

Large units of cavalry were required to be deployed by the Assyrians some units consisted of hundreds or even a thousand horsemen. There is little doubt that without a continuous supply of horses, the Assyrian war machine would have collapsed. As the empire suffered horrendous casualties under Ashurbanipal's campaigns of conquest, the rebellions following his death may have contributed significantly to the downfall of the empire as fewer vassals were available to pay tribute horses and other war material needed. Horses were a very important war resource and the Assyrian king himself took a personal interest in overseeing an adequate horse supply. Three main sources of horses were:

  • Raids designed to steal horses from opponents, such as the Scythians or other steppe peoples.
  • Tribute paid by vassal states.
  • High-ranking state officers overseeing horse production and reporting to the King. [28]

Horses were drawn from outlying provinces and brought in to be trained with new recruits for war. [28]

Infantry Edit

While cavalry provided the most expensive and effective arm of the Assyrian Empire, infantry were cheaper and more numerous. In the right circumstances, they were also more effective, for example in siege warfare, where the mobility provided by horsemen would be of no advantage. Assyrian infantry were composed of both native Assyrians and foreigners employed as auxiliaries, spearmen, slingers, shield bearers or archers. The latter type was the most dominant in Assyrian armies. [28] From the time of Ashurnasirpal, archers would be accompanied by a shield bearer while slingers would aim to distract the enemy into lowering their shield to protect against the stones, thereby allowing the archers to shoot above their shield walls and slay their enemies. Even in siege warfare, arrows were used to drive back defenders from the wall while engineers advanced against the fortifications.

Many different types of bows are recorded by the Assyrians, including Akkadian, Cimmerian and their own "Assyrian" type. However, it is most likely that these were simply different variants of the powerful composite bow. Depending upon the bow, an archer would have a range of anything between 250 to 650 meters. Vast numbers of arrows could be expended in battle so in preparation for war many arrows would be made. Facilities also existed that would travel with the army's supply train that could manufacture more arrows. [29]

Lancers were introduced to the infantry under Tiglath-pileser III. [29] Depictions of infantry with special bronze scale metal protection are rare and reconstructions show the smallest vests to weigh as much as 20 pounds (9 kg), with armoured suits up to the ankles tripling that weight of metal and leather. [30]

Tactics Edit

At the command of the god Ashur, the great Lord, I rushed upon the enemy like the approach of a hurricane. I put them to rout and turned them back. I transfixed the troops of the enemy with javelins and arrows. Humban-undasha, the commander in chief of the king of Elam, together with his nobles. I cut their throats like sheep. My prancing steeds, trained to harness, plunged into their welling blood as into a river the wheels of my battle chariot were bespattered with blood and filth. I filled the plain with corpses of their warriors like herbage

Assyrian frontal assaults were designed to shock the enemy and surprise them. However, they were also a strategy employed when time was not on their side:

The harassed troops of Ashur, who had come a long way, very weary slow to respond, who had crossed and re-crossed sheer mountains innumerable, of great trouble for ascent and descent, their morale turned mutinous. I could give no ease to their weariness, no water to quench their thirst I could set up no camp, nor fix defences

Despite the above, Sargon II's instinct saved the day leading his exhausted troops, he launched a surprise attack against his Urartian opponents who broke at the speed and surprise of the attack. So vicious was the battle that the Urartian King abandoned his state officials, governors, 230 members of the royal family, many cavalry and infantry, and even the capital itself.

Overall war strategy Edit

The nature of Mesopotamia, plain and fertile with few natural defenses, meant that defensive operations were out of the question only a decisive attack could defend such vulnerable yet valuable locations. The cities of Assur and Nineveh were both sandwiched between rivers Nineveh was more enclosed and protected by the Tigris, while Assur, while being close to the Tigris, was a fair distance away from the Euphrates. The result was that both cities had a measure of natural protection. However, rivers would not stop a determined army, so attacking and destroying their enemies' ability to wage war was the best method of ensuring the survival of the Assyrians. To this end, the Assyrians sought a decisive encounter that would destroy their enemies' armies.

Colonization: The Assyrians, in conjunction with their deportation policies (see below), would also send some of their own into foreign lands and settle them as colonists. The primary aim was to establish a loyal power base taxes, food and troops could be raised here as reliably as at their homeland, or at least that must have been the hope. Furthermore, their presence would bring innumerable benefits: resistance to other conquerors, a counter to any rebellions by the natives and assisting the provincial Assyrian governors in ensuring that the vassal state was loyal to Assyria.

Destruction of cities: One must be careful before assuming that the Assyrians utilized total war. However, it is known that the Assyrians, as part of their overall strategy of weakening their opponents and of exacting revenge, would violently destroy what they could not take back or could not consolidate. Regarding the Assyrian conquest of Elam, Ashurbanipal recorded:

For a distance of a month and twenty-five days' journey I devastated the provinces of Elam. Salt and sihlu I scattered over them. The dust of Susa, Madaktu, Haltemash and the rest of the cities I gathered together and took to Assyria. The noise of people, the tread of cattle and sheep, the glad shouts of rejoicing, I banished from its fields. Wild asses, gazelles and all kinds of beasts of the plain I caused to lie down among them, as if at home.

The Assyrians fully appreciated the use of terrorizing their enemies. To conserve manpower and rapidly move on to solve Assyria's multiple problems, the Assyrians preferred to accept the surrender of their opponents or else destroy their ability to resist a surrender. This in part explains their offensive strategy and tactics.

The fortified citadel to the north of the city had two gates guarded by bulls. At the foot of the palace were four residences (K, L, J and M) and a temple dedicated to Nabu, the god of scribes. Built to resemble small palaces, the residences were assigned to high dignitaries but only Residence L has been clearly identified as belonging to the Grand Vizir, the brother of Sargon, Sinahusur.

The palace stood on a terrace straddling the city wall, a disposition not found in other palaces in Mesopotamia, and was itself protected by an enceinte. It was built on an artificial earth terrace with a stone support wall some 10 metres high and accessed via a large ramp. The palace facade with a triple gateway was decorated with large reliefs of bulls, genies and heroes. It opened on to a large courtyard giving access to the various sectors: the palace to the north, the temples to the southwest, and the storage areas to the east.

First Assyrian rooms

The Louvre was then divided into several specialised museums covering a wide variety of fields including the Museum of Antiquities, the Algerian Museum, and later the Mexican Museum and the Ethnographic Museum. The Assyrian museum was located at the northeast corner of the Cour carrée. Since it served as an archaeological repository for the discoveries made by French archaeologists in the Near East, the museum expanded rapidly. As soon as Victor Place’s convoy arrived, it was extended to the north of the Colonnade.

Architecture Of The Ancient Near East

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ARC 110 History of Architecture I Module 3 Architecture of the Ancient Near East

Module Outline • Lecture 6 – Historical Background • Location and period • Social characteristics and beliefs

– Architecture of the Civilization • Sumerian Architecture

• Lecture 7 • Assyrian architecture • Babylonian Architecture • Persian architecture

• Lecture 8 – Architectural Characteristics • Buildings and other architectural elements • Building materials, construction and technologies • Architectural Organizing principles

Learning Outcomes • We should expect to learn the following about the civilization – Evolution of early human society and civilization, including kingship and empires – Architectural responses to geography and the need for religious symbols – Architecture of Power and Authority – Temple and Palace architecture – Architecture and construction in mud

Module 3 Lecture 6 Architecture of the Ancient Near East

Outline of Lecture • Lecture 6 – Historical Background • Location and period • Social characteristics and beliefs

– Architecture of the Civilization • Sumerian Architecture

Historical Background Location • Located in and around the valley of Tigris and Euphrates rivers in modern Iraq • Area is also known as Mesopotamia or land between two rivers • The land had poorly defined edges • The land stretches from Mediterranean to eastern borders of present Iran

Historical Background Location • To the south and west, it fades into the Arabian desert • To the north and west, it fades into the plains of Syria • The Tigris and Euphrates rivers sit in the land as dominant physical feature • The Rivers were unpredictable, being subject to alternating flood and drought

Historical Background Period • The area witnessed the earliest rise of human civilization around 4500 BC • Transformation from prehistory, to villages and cities occurred there • Civilization there lasted for 5000 years • Cultural development was not homogenous during the period • Different cultures established city states and empires at different periods • The cultures include Sumerian, Akkadian, Assyrian, Babylonian, and Persian

Historical Background Period • It has not been possible to trace a neat order of the history of the cultures • An acceptable order is presented • Sequence of Civilization – 4500 to 2000 BC – – – – – –

2350 – 2200 BC 2000- 1600 BC 1600 – 1717 BC 1350 – 612 BC 612 – 539 BC 539 – 330 BC

Sumerian culture, peaking in 3300 BC Akkadian Period Babylonian Culture Kessites and Hittites Assyrian Culture Neo Babylonian culture Persian culture

Historical Background Social Characteristics & Beliefs • Mesopotamia is the cradle of civilization • What do we mean by civilization? – Civilization is usually associated with the cultural practices of cities and urban living, the presence of writing and written law

• In Mesopotamia, earliest cities were established and urban culture took hold • Between 4000 and 3000 BC, large number of people began living in a small area creating first cities • Many people began to have jobs that is unrelated to agriculture

Historical Background Social Characteristics & Beliefs • Once established, cities grew and increased power and importance • As cities grew in power and importance, rivalries developed between them for military and economic control • The ANE was land without natural defenses • Warfare was common throughout its history • The Tigris and Euphrates also suffered from alternate drought and floods • Combination of warfare and frequent drought and flood made a continuous homogenous civilization impossible • The result is that several cultures flourished and died out during the ANE period

Historical Background Social Characteristics & Beliefs • Cities in the ANE initially developed with authority residing in an assembly of male citizens • Short term leaders were selected during wars • When war leaders were retained during peace time, kingship evolved • It was initially elective and later hereditary • As some cities became more powerful, they defeated weaker ones to create empires and kingdoms • This led to collective rule of city states by a sovereign king

Historical Background Social Characteristics & Beliefs • With kingship also came monumental palaces as place of residence and administration for the king • Almost all ANE culture worshiped many gods and goddesses • ANE people did not believe in immortality or eternal life • They believed only gods were immortal • Rather, they believed in divine rewards for moral conduct

Historical Background Social Characteristics & Beliefs • The reward was enjoyed in this life • The rewards include increased worldly goods, numerous offspring and long life • The most popular and earliest religious cults related to fertility • Fertility goddesses influenced the growth of crops • Aspects of life such as war, weather, disease, were explained by the actions of gods • The Sumerian had a religion based on the elements- sky, earth, water, sun, moon, etc

Historical Background Social Characteristics & Beliefs • This reflected the agrarian nature of their society • As ANE people came together to live in cities, they needed a means of communication and record keeping • Around 3500, the Sumerians invented a system of writing based on pictograph • This was later developed into a simpler writing called the cuneiform • Development of written language enabled them to produce historical records

Historical Background Social Characteristics & Beliefs • Written records also led to the development of written law as in the code of King Hummurabi • Cities in ancient Mesopotamia were enclosed by wall fortifications • The fabric of the cities are a blend of residential, commercial and industrial buildings • Houses were one story high and mostly of mud brick • Rooms were arranged around courtyards

Historical Background Social Characteristics & Beliefs • Houses looked inward • Rooms were narrow with thick walls and flat, vault or dome roofs • Timber and stone were scarce, clay was abundant and mud brick was most common building material • Buildings were usually raised on platforms to protect them from the floods • Clay was also used for pottery • Mesopotamians invented astrology, wheeled vehicle & made advances in science & math

Architecture of the Civilization

Architecture of the Civilization • Sequence of Treatment – Sumerian Architecture – Assyrian Architecture – Babylonian Architecture – Persian Architecture

Sumerian Architecture Introduction • The transition from prehistory was made around 4500 BC with the rise of the Sumerian civilization • Sumerians established an irrigation system that made the capable of food production to support urban living • They were also skilled in metal craft • The Sumerians invented the cuneiform system of writing

Sumerian Architecture Introduction • The Sumerians invented the cuneiform system of writing • The major cities of the Sumerian civilization were Kish, Uruk and Ur • The Sumerian were the first civilization to make a conscious attempt of designing public buildings • Mud was their building material • Mud was formed into brick, sun dried and built into massive walls

Sumerian Architecture Introduction • Mud was their main building material • Mud was formed into brick, sun dried and built into massive walls • Walls were thick to compensate the weakness of mud • They were reinforce with buttresses • Spaces were narrow because of the walling material

Sumerian Architecture Introduction • Spaces were narrow because of the walling material • Façade of buildings were whitewashed and painted to disguise the lack of attraction of the material • Buttresses and recesses also relieve the monotony of the plastered wall surfaces • Temples was their major building type • We will examine Sumerian house organization and their temple forms

Sumerian Architecture Introduction • The clearest example of the cities of the ancient Near East is found in the Sumerian city of Ur • Cities were enclosed in walls with Ziggurat temples and palace as centers of the city • Fabric of the city is made up of residences mixed with commercial and industrial buildings

Sumerian Architecture Introduction • The houses are densely packed with narrow streets between them. • Streets were fronted by courtyard houses of one story high • The houses streets were usually punctuated by narrow openings that serve as entrance to houses

Sumerian Architecture Architectural Monument- Temples • Temples were the principal architectural monuments of Sumerian cities • Temples consist of chief and city temples • We will examine two examples of chief temples- the white temple at Uruk and the Great Ziggurat at Ur • And we will examine on city temple, the Oval temple at Khafaje

Sumerian Architecture White Temple Uruk • Uruk was a major Sumerian city by 3300 BC • Uruk is also known as warka in arabic • The name Iraq is derived from Uruk • The city covered an area of 2 square kilometer • Had a population of 40,000 people • White temple was located at Uruk

Sumerian Architecture White Temple Uruk • The white temple was built around 3000 BC • The white temple is an example of earliest development of Sumerian temples and Ziggurat

Sumerian Architecture White Temple Uruk • The temple is place on a great mound of earth called Ziggurat, rising more than 12 meters above ground • The ziggurat and temple are built with mud bricks • The temple is rectangular in shape • Temple walls were thick and supported by buttresses • In the inner part of the temple was a long sanctuary, that contains an alter and offering table

Sumerian Architecture White Temple Uruk • Rooms oblong and in shape and vaulted surrounded the long side of the sanctuary • The temple had imposing doorways located at its either end • Worshippers to the temple however enter through a side room

Sumerian Architecture White Temple Uruk • Series of staircases and stepped levels lead worships to the entrance of the temple • The temple was plastered white externally, making it visible for miles in the landscape

Sumerian Architecture Great Ziggurat Ur • Ur was a Sumerian city located near the mouth of the Euphrates river • The city was a thriving place by 2600 BC • It was considered sacred to Nnanna, the moon god • The white temple was built around 2113 to 2048 BC by the ruler Urnammu • It was built on the ruins of previous temples and incorporated their remains

Sumerian Architecture Great Ziggurat Ur • It was constructed of mud bricks reinforced with thin layers of matting and cables of twisted reeds • The Great Ziggurat was located as part of a temple complex • The complex comprised of the ziggurat and its court and a secondary court attached to it called the court of Nannar • The king was the chief priest of the temple and lived close to it

Sumerian Architecture Great Ziggurat Ur • The temple sits on a three multi-tiered Ziggurat mountain • Access to the temple is through triple stairways that converge at the summit of the first platform • From this stage, one passed through a portal with dome roof to fourth staircase

Sumerian Architecture Great Ziggurat Ur • The fourth staircase gave access to the second and third stages of the ziggurat and to the temple • The temple is usually access only by the priest, where gods are believed to come down and give instructions

Sumerian Architecture Great Ziggurat Ur • The ziggurat is believed by the Sumerians to unit the heavens and the earth • The people believed that climbing the staircase of the ziggurat gives a holy experience • The chief temple was also used as a last line of defense during times of war • Most of what is known about what exist on top of the ziggurat is projection

Sumerian Architecture Oval Temple- Khafaje • Oval temple is an example of second type of Sumerian temples • It was constructed around 2600 BC • The temple is named oval because of its massive oval walls surrounding the temple • Located in the city, emphasis in its organization is on enclosing space within courtyards

Sumerian Architecture Oval Temple Khafaje • Space is enclosed to create island of peace from a busy city • The temple is raised on a simple platform enclosed within the oval walls • It had subsidiary chambers at the ground level • The outer wall was extended to protect a priestly residence with its own chapel

Sumerian Architecture Oval Temple Khafaje • The inner court had an offering table and showed evidence of animal sacrifices • The inner court also had basins for ablution as well as workshops and storage rooms

End of Module 3 Lecture 6

Module 3 Lecture 6 Architecture of the Ancient Near East

Outline of Lecture 7 • Assyrian architecture – Introduction – City of Khorsabad – Palace of Sargon at Khorsabad

• Babylonian Architecture – Introduction – City of Babylon – Architecture in the city of Babylon

• Persian architecture – Introduction – Palace at Parsepolis

Assyrian Architecture Introduction • Assyria is the name for a part of ancient Mesopotamia located on the upper Tigris • The principal cities of Assyria were Nineveh, Dun, Khorsabad, Nimrud and Assur • The Assyrians were great warriors and hunters, and this was reflected in their art • They produced violent sculptures and relief carving in stone that was used to ornament their houses

Assyrian Architecture Introduction • During the Assyrian periods, temples lost their importance to palaces • Assyrian kings built walled cities, in which palaces took precedent over religious buildings • Palaces were raised on brick platforms, and their principal entrance ways were flanked by guardian figures of human headed bulls or lions of stone • Their halls and corridors were lined with pictures and inscriptions carved in relief on stone slabs up to 9 feet high

Assyrian Architecture Introduction • The interiors were richly decorated and luxurious. • The walls of cities were usually strengthened by many towers serving as defensive positions • The city of Khorsabad demonstrate the might and authority of the Assyrian kings • It is also at this place that the remains of Assyrian architecture can be found

Assyrian Architecture City of Khorsabad • Khorsabad was designed as the royal capital of Assyria • The city was built on a flat land with an area of about a square mile and was enclosed by a double wall with seven city gates • Only a part of the city including palaces, temples and administrative headquarters was built • The palace was located on the north west side of the city

Assyrian Architecture Palace of Sargon • The palace is approached at ground level through a walled citadel • Within the citadel is found the main palace, two minor palaces and a temple dedicated to Nabu • The main palace was set on a platform located on the northern side of the citadel • All the buildings within the citadel were arranged around courtyards

Assyrian Architecture Palace of Sargon • The palace was arranged around two major courtyards about which were grouped smaller courtyards • The palace consisted of large and smaller rooms with the throne room being the largest • The building was decorated with relief sculpture and glazed brick

Babylonian Architecture Introduction • After the fall of Nineveh in 612 BC and the end of the Assyrian civilization, focus of Mesopotamian civilization shifted to old Babylon • A new dynasty of kings, including Nebuchadnezzar, revived old Babylonian culture to create a NeoBabylonian civilization • Old Sumerian cities were rebuilt

Babylonian Architecture Introduction • The capital old Babylon was enlarged and heavily fortified • It was also adorned with magnificent new buildings • The traditional style of Mesopotamian building reached its peak during the period • Traditional building was enhanced by a new form of façade ornament consisting of figures designed in colored glazed brick work

Babylonian Architecture City of Babylon • The city of Babylon is shaped in the form of a quadrangle sitting across and pierced by the Euphrates[64] • The city was surrounded by a fortification of double walls • These had defensive towers that project well above the walls

Babylonian Architecture City of Babylon • The walls also had a large moat in front, which was also used for navigation • The length of the wall and moat is about five and a quarter miles • The city had a palace, Nebuchadnezzar’s palace, located on its northern side on the outer wall

Babylonian Architecture Ishtar Gate • From the palace originated a procession street that cuts through the city raised above the ground to the tower of Babel • The procession street enters the city through the famous Ishtar gate • The Ishtar gate is built across the double walls of the city fortification • The gate had a pair of projecting towers on each wall

Babylonian Architecture Ishtar Gate • All the facades of gates and adjoining streets were faced with blue glazed bricks and ornamented with figures of heraldic animals- lions, bulls, and dragons • These were modeled in relief and glazed in other colors • None of the buildings of old Babylon has survived to the present age

Babylonian Architecture Architecture in the city of Babylon • Nebuchadnezzar’s palace covered a land area of 900 feet by 600 feet • It had administrative offices, barracks, the king’s harem, private apartment all arranged around five courtyards • The palace is also praised for its legendary hanging garden • This is recorded as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, but exact knowledge of the nature of this garden is not known

Babylonian Architecture Architecture in the city of Babylon • Temples and towers were also prominent architectural elements of Babylon • The legendary tower of Babel located at the end of procession street is mentioned in the Christian bible • There is also no information about the design and construction of the tower • Most of what is available on the tower is hypothetical

Persian Architecture Introduction • The Persian empire started in about 560 BC when Cyrus the great from the province of Fars swept over the region with his powerful cavalry • By the end of the century, Cyrus and his successors, Darius 1 and Xerxes had conquered the entire civilized world from Indus to Danube River with the exception of Greece • It was the wish of the Persians to construct great buildings • They were to achieve greatness with their architectural solutions • The architectural solutions were a synthesis of ideas gathered from almost all parts of their empire and from the Greeks an Egyptians

Persian Architecture Introduction • Their materials of construction was also from different locations • Material included mud-brick from Babylon, wooden roof beams from Lebanon, precious material from India and Egypt, Stone columns quarried and carved by Ionic Greeks • Despite sourcing materials and ideas from different areas, their architecture was original and distinctive in style

Persian Architecture Palace at Perspolis • Persian architecture achieved its greatest monumentality at Parsepolis • It was constructed as a new capital for the Persian Empire • The city was started 510 BC and finished in 460 BC • It is set along the face of a mountain leveled to create a large platform 1800 feet by 900 feet • It was surrounded by a fortification wall • The site was more than half covered by buildings

Persian Architecture Palace at Perspolis • The palace consisted of three parts: • An approach of monumental staircases, gate ways and avenues • Two great state halls towards the center of the platform • The palace of Xerxes, the harem, and other living quarters at the south end of the site

Persian Architecture Palace at Perspolis • Structurally, the buildings relied on a hypostyle scheme throughout • They used it to achieve spaces of varying scale • Some of the spaces were very big and generally square in plan • The spaces were enclosed by mud brick walls • The most impressive aspect of the palace was the royal audience hall

Persian Architecture Palace at Perspolis • • • • • • •

The Royal audience hall was a square 250 feet in length It contained 36 slender columns widely space & 67 feet high The columns had a lower diameter of only 5 feet The centers of the columns were spaced 20 feet or 4 diameters apart The column was the greatest invention of the Persians The columns were fluted and stand on inverted bell shaped bases Their capital combine Greek motifs with Egyptian palm leaf topped by an impost of paired beast

Persian Architecture Palace at Perspolis • Another famous aspect of the palace at parsepolis was the throne room • This was also known as hall of a 100 columns • The columns in the room were 37 feet high, with a diameter of only 3 feet • They were spaced 20 feet apart or seven diameters from axis to axis • The slim nature of the column created room and spacious feeling in the room when compared to the audience hall

Assyrian Architecture Palace at Perspolis • The monumental entrance to Parsepolis is also one of the unique aspects of the Palace • The monumental gateway ensure a dramatic entry to the Palace • It was heavily adorned with relief sculpture ornamenting its stairway

Assyrian Architecture Palace at Perspolis • The relief structure addresses different themes relating to the role of Parsepolis as the capital of the Persian Empire

Assyrian Architecture Palace at Perspolis • In some places, the sculpture shows delegates from the different parts of the Persian bringing gifts and rare animals to the king during celebrations • In some places, royal guards and nobles of the imperial court are shown • Elsewhere, the king is seen in conflict with animals or seated beneath a ceremonial umbrella

Assyrian Architecture Palace at Perspolis • The ruins of Parsepolis have survived to the present day • Existing ruins however give a faulty expression of the city’s original appearance • Some columns supporting the halls of the great halls have survived • The mud brick fabric of the palace and its enclosing walls have perished completely

Assyrian Architecture Palace at Perspolis • Only the sculptures which adorn doorways or windows and openings and the relief ornamenting its entrance way remain

End of Module 3 Lecture 7

Module 3 Lecture 8 Architecture of the Ancient Near East

Outline of Lecture • Lecture 8 – Architectural Characteristics • Buildings and other architectural elements • Building materials, construction and technologies • Architectural Organizing principles

Buildings & Other Arch Elements

Buildings & Other Arch. Elements Building Types • 3 building types examined in ANE Cities and houses, temples and palaces • Temples and palaces were the most outstanding buildings types in ANE • Significant development in house organization and city fortification was also witnessed • In Sumerian civilization, development in house organization led to the evolution of the inward looking courtyard house • Houses formed the dominant buildings of the city with narrow passages to distribute people

Buildings & Other Arch. Elements Building Types • Across all the civilizations, cities were usually walled • The walls were of massive brick material, with evenly distributed towers serving as buttresses. • Examples of city wall or fortification examined include City of Khorsabad and Babylon • The chief’s house at precinct of the Great Ziggurat and the Palace at Parsepolis were also fortified with brick walls.

Buildings & Other Arch. Elements Temples and Palaces • Importance of temples and palaces varied during the different periods of the ANE • Temples started during the Sumerian period and were also common during the Babylonian period. • The Sumerian temples were raised on Ziggurats, while the character of the Babylonian temples is not certain because there is no trace of them • The Sumerian temples had chief temples located outside the city and the city temple located within the fabric of the city

Buildings & Other Arch. Elements Temples and Palaces • Neo-Babylonians also built great palaces. The legendary palace of Nebuchadnezzar with its hanging garden is widely reported in history • Temple building declined during the Assyrian period, when palaces took over as the prominent building type • The Palaces at Khorsabad and Parsepolis shows the rise of the palace as the focus of architectural development over the temple

Materials, Construction & Tech. Materials • Stone and timber suitable for building was rare in the plains of the Tigris and Euphrates. • Clay was however in abundance • This was compressed in moulds and dried in the sun to provide bricks for all buildings • Sun dried brick became the standard building material • It was used across all the cultures of the ancient Near East

Materials, Construction & Tech. Materials • Wood was scarce but was imported from Lebanon • Wood was probably applied mainly for roofing or for producing tools and ornaments • Stone was used by the Assyrians but only for relieve carving and for columnar support • It was in ancient Persia that extensive use of stone witnessed • The Babylonians introduce glazed brick, which was used in the façade of their gates and prominent buildings

Materials, Construction & Tech. Construction • The abundance of mud brick led to the development of construction methods appropriate to its physical properties. • Structurally Mud brick is weak when compared to stone • To compensate, walls were very thick and reinforced with buttresses. • This construction system is evident in the Sumerian temples. • Vaulting was known and used during the Mesopotamian period

Materials, Construction & Tech. Construction • Rooms were usually roofed with domes or vaults. • Tunnel vaults were used to cover long narrow oblong spaces. • Columnar construction was not very popular in the ANE • It was used in few instances in the late Assyrian and Neo-babylonian periods. • It was however extensively used by the Persians • Persian architecture, was an architecture that borrowed from other cultures in the region, including Egypt and Greek sources

Materials, Construction & Tech. Technology • Two technologies appear to have been commonly used in the Ancient Near East passive cooling and water supply. • The evolution of courtyard in Mesopotamia was probably a product of its desert environment and the need for climate modification. • Courtyards were used for cooling to create livable environments in houses • The thick walls of houses may also have served as a thermal storage • They help to mitigate against the wide fluctuations of temperature

Materials, Construction & Tech. Technology • People of the ancient Near East also mastered the earth of water supply • Channels were used to move water and supply it to agricultural fields and houses. • Ancient Babylon was said to have an aqueduct that supplied water to the city. • The hanging garden in Nebuchadnezzar’s palace would also be impossible without a means of transporting water from the ground to the garden

Principles of Arch. Organization

Principles of Arch. Organization Principles • Three principles appear to predominant in the organization of architectural form and space – Courtyard organization – Lifting of buildings on artificial mountains – Organic organization of city fabric

Forces Shaping Arch. Organ. Forces • Three forces account for the prevailing architectural organizing principles observed • Geography, • Symbolism and meaning to the people • Social factors

• Combination of the factors account for the architectural forms that are witnessed in all the cultures of the ANE

Forces Shaping Arch. Organ. Geography • A strong factor in shaping spatial organization and built form • Limited the availability of construction material and constrained the development of construction technology • Desert environment also meant t hash climatic conditions which lead to the evolution of the courtyard form of building • Prevalence of mud bricks coupled with the use of courtyard fixed the form of buildings as a regional solution. • Most buildings- whether house or palace, were of one story multi-courtyard form

Forces Shaping Arch. Organ. Symbolism and Meaning • Organizing principles may also be a factor of symbolisms and meaning • The role of symbolism is evident in the Ziggurat • Sumerians think of ziggurat as a ladder to the sky and to god • They believed that God came down to the Ziggurat to communicating with the chief priest • Climbing the ziggurat is also associated with a holy experience. • Symbolic meaning of ziggurat provides motivation for the construction of larger and more impressive mountains

Forces Shaping Arch. Organ. Symbolism and Meaning • Palaces also symbolize power and authority • In Assyria, architecture expressed the authority and power of the king • The palace at Khorsabad also shows the decline in the symbolic importance of the temple compared to the palace of the king, which is the center of authority. • At Parsepolis, the palace also expresses the authority and power of the emperor of the Persian empire • This power is evident in the ability to commandeer resources from as far as Egypt and Lebanon to create a unique palace

Forces Shaping Arch. Organ. Social Concerns • Social concerns contributed to the evolution of design principles • There was need for defense due to warfare • Led to construction of wall fortifications for cities • Also to ziggurat as a place of refuge from attack • Concerns for privacy • Courtyard house may have evolved because of privacy needs


The town was of rectangular layout and measured 1758.6 by 1635 metres. The enclosed area comprised 3 square kilometres, or 288 hectares. The length of the walls was 16280 Assyrian units, which corresponded to the numerical value of Sargon's name. [ citation needed ] The city walls were massive and 157 towers protected its sides. Seven gates entered the city from all directions. A walled terrace contained temples and the royal palace. The main temples were dedicated to the gods Nabu, Shamash and Sin, while Adad, Ningal and Ninurta had smaller shrines. A temple tower, ziqqurat, was also constructed. The palace was adorned with sculptures and wall reliefs, and the gates were flanked with winged-bull shedu statues weighing up to 40 tons. Sargon supposedly lost at least one of these winged bulls in the river.

In addition to the great city, there was a royal hunting park and a garden that included "all the aromatic plants of Hatti [3] and the fruit-trees of every mountain", a "record of power and conquest", as Robin Lane Fox has observed. [4] Surviving correspondence mentions the moving of thousands of young fruit trees, quinces, almonds, apples and medlars. [5]

"On the central canal of Sargon's garden stood a pillared pleasure-pavilion which looked up to a great topographic creation: a man-made Garden Mound. This Mound was planted with cedars and cypresses and was modelled after a foreign landscape, the Amanus mountains in north Syria, which had so amazed the Assyrian kings. In their flat palace-gardens they built a replica of what they had encountered." [6]


Paolo Emilio Botta, who was sent to Mosul as the French Consul in 1842, explored at Kuyunjik and Nebi Yunus and then began investigating ancient stone foundations at Nebi Yunus. Muhammed/Mehmed Pasha and local religious leaders, who were worried that the tomb of prophet Yunus (Jonah) and a local mosque would be destroyed by the excavations, opposed these investigations and the work stopped as a result. After Nebi Yunus, Botta started to work at Kuyunjik in December 1842. While his workers were busy at Kuyunjik, someone from the village of Khorsabad talked about stones with inscriptions and reliefs on them on top of a hill. After three months of exhaustive work at Kuyunjik, on March 20th, 1843 Botta sent a group of workers to Khorsabad for excavation. However, problems arose about Botta's work in Mosul. The Pasha of the province in particular created obstructions. We have done research in the Ottoman Archives of the Prime Ministry of Turkey on Botta's excavation permits and documents, the obstructions created by the Pasha of Mosul, the details of the story of Botta's experiences at Khorsabad and the relevant correspondence. In these archives we have found documents about the problems Botta experienced at Khorsabad, the conditions for excavation permits and the construction of an excavation house, the plan of the excavation house mentioned by Botta, which was drafted like a fortress next to the village houses and sent to Istanbul, as well as petitions of the villagers opposing Botta's work and his excavation house. Here, we attempt to re-read Botta's excavation seasons, permits and the problems he encountered through the documents in the Ottoman Archives in order to understand how this period is to be understood. Through these documents and correspondence, we were able to study the problems that arose between the Ottoman State and France as a result of Botta's excavations at Khorsabad.

Assyrian Hunters from Khorsabad - History

Israelites and the Assyrians –

On the Margins of Empire

Discuss the world's favourite imaginary friend on the JNE YouTube channel

Between the Tigris and Euphrates, Assyrians. On the coastal plain, 'Sea Peoples' and Philistines. But where were the Israelites?

In contrast to the mythic empire of David and Solomon, the cities of Assyria, Phoenicia and Nabatea have left extant and extensive ruins.

Their artifacts are to be found in all the major museums of the world.

Nimrud - fortress and capital of the Assyrian empire from about 879 to 706 BC .

Assyria - under construction

Shalmaneser III (858-824), a genuine Semitic imperialist. He defeated an alliance of the Syrian kingdoms of Damascus and Hamah – and Ahab's Israel at Qarqur in 854 BC.

"Unfortunately, the archaeology of early Israel is silent in the sense that the excavated monuments are virtually bereft of historical inscriptions, thus failing to provide confirmation of the chronological framework for the biblical narratives."

Tiglath-Pileser III (743 -727) transformed Assyria from a powerful kingdom into a true Empire.

Assyrian inscriptions list the king's wars, booty and buildings – just like the 'Book of Kings' !

7th century BC Nineveh (a conjecture from the archaeological evidence!)

The sojourn in Babylon was a time of inspiration for the priestly fraudsters of the Jews.

One Babylonian myth &ndash recorded on a 4000-year-old clay tablet &ndash tells of a decision by the gods to destroy the human race with a flood. But a dissenting god Enki chooses one man, Atram-Hasis, to build a boat and gather in wild animals, "two by two."

Atram-Hasis is instructed in great detail to build what amounts to a giant coracle, a scaled-up version of the round boats still used on the Tigris and Euphrates in the 1920s.

The Jewish priests made the story their own, changing some of the detail. For Atram-Hasis read Noah!

(see: Dr. Irving Finkel, Assyriologist at the British Museum)

Beginning in the Early Bronze Age (circa 3500 BC) pastoral nomads – indigenous to the region – periodically settled the Canaanite highlands. Settlement was a response to grain shortage induced by disruption of lowland agriculture. But then drought forced these marginal farmers back into nomadism again. A second phase of settlement occurred during the Middle Bronze Age (from around 2000 BC) and a third, and final, period of highland settlement occurred after 1200 BC.

The catalyst for this final phase of migration to subsistence farming was the collapse of the cities of Canaan, overwhelmed by an invasion by the Sea Peoples. One consequence was that fringe subsistence farmers in the hills became the original 'Israelites' – most settling in the central highlands of Samaria, rather fewer further south in Judaea. But to the north and east of the sparse, tribal enclaves of the 'Israelites', expansive city-based empires were emerging that would overshadow their entire world. Foremost among them was Assyria, a terror and an inspiration to the Jews.

Sargon of Akkad was the first king to assert control outside of his city-state as early as 2371 BC. In 1813 BC Shamshi-Adad united the cities of Ashur, Nineveh, Arbel and Nimrud into a cohesive unit – Assyria. Several Assyrian empires rose and fell over the following 1200 years. The last period of imperial conquest began with Shalmaneser III in the 9th century BC. Assyria's main rival, of course, was Egypt.

Shalmaneser and Nimrud (Kalah)

The Assyrian king Shalmaneser III (858-824) ruled his empire from the mighty city of Nimrud on the Tigris. The 37 metre thick walls, 8 km in length, enclosed 3.6 sq km. (900 acres) of palaces, temples and parks and dwellings for an estimated 63,000 inhabitants. The city was quadrilateral in shape, with a Ziggurat in the south-west and “Fort Shalmaneser” in the south-east.

After the Assyrian intrusion into Syria/Palestine of 841 BC King Jehu of Israel was forced to pay tribute. The Aramean Kingdom of Damascus under King Hazael maintained a protracted resistance.

Four warrior kings in particular built the Assyrian Empire :

Shalmaneser III (859-824), Tiglath Pilesar III (743-726), Esarhaddon (680-669) and Assurbanipal (668-627).

The secret of their success appears to have been iron-working, the war chariot, and an efficient civil service collecting tax.

Hebrew settlements to the southwest of Damascus (the tiny 'Kingdoms of Judah and Israel') were vassals of the Damascenes, who, for a time, held the Assyrians at bay.

Some Semites escaped. Trading fleets out of Tyre established a sea route to the western Mediterranean for the Phoenicians (the foundation for the future 'Carthaginian' maritime empire).

But all the small kingdoms of Palestine were conquered by Assyria about 725 BC and Egypt itself a century later.

An Israelite Empire? Don't Blink!

"This is what archaeologists have learned from their excavations in the Land of Israel . the united monarchy of David and Solomon, which is described by the Bible as a regional power, was at most a small tribal kingdom."

&ndash Ha'aretz Magazine, October 1999.

Meanwhile, in the Mountains .

In the clash of the Egyptian empire to the south west and the Assyrian/ Babylonian empires to the northeast, the Israelites were at best mercenaries and conscripts. The intrusion of Shalmaneser III in 841 BC – recorded on Assyrian monuments – is not mentioned in the sacred texts, but the subsequent fall of the northern kingdom of Israel in 722 BC (to Sargon II, though erroneously credited to Shalmaneser [V] in 2 Kings 17.6) is noted. Supposedly 㢮 tribes of the Jewish race’ were lost through conquest.

"Therefore the LORD was very angry with Israel, and removed them out of his sight: there was none left but the tribe of Judah only." &ndash 2 Kings 17.18.

The traumatic loss of most of the Israelite 'nation' was to be the catalyst for a profound religious revolution: Yahweh priests, fleeing south to the tiny enclave of Judah, stiffened Jewish resistance by dreaming up the notion of a former 'great empire' which, under priestly direction, would rise again.

In 701 BC the Assyrians returned, devastated Judah and occupied the province. The Jewish king Hezekiah (715 - 687 BC) was besieged in Jerusalem but plague compelled the Assyrians to move on. Judah – reduced to little more than the environs of Jerusalem – maintained a precarious existence for another century by costly tributes to the Assyrian king.

Putting a brave face on events, Hezekiah's priests heralded the reprieve of Jerusalem as a victory for Yahweh!

Isaiah would have us believe that overnight the 'angel of the LORD' smote the Assyrians, leaving 185,000 to "arise early in the morning, and behold, they were all dead corpses." (Isaiah, 37.36). (To give a comparison, Hadrian's legions wiped Judaea off the map early in the 2nd century AD with about 40,000 troops.)

Over the next half century "Judaism" emerged – a religious response to the Assyrian assault and the total loss of the northern kingdom.

Sargon's Khorsabad ( Dur Sharrukin)

Although his predecessor Shalmaneser IV gets the credit (2 Kings 17), the Assyrian Sargon II (722 - 705) made biblical headlines in his inaugural year by a campaign in the west which, among other triumphs, included the conquest of the northern kingdom of Israel and its capital Samaria.

Assyrians were settled in the province.

Yahweh priests fleeing south to Judah stiffened Jewish resistance by dreaming up the notion of a former 'great empire' which, under priestly direction, would rise again.

A triumphant Sargon returned to the Assyrian heartland and built himself a new capital &ndash Khorsabad.

Evidence of Khorsabad

Massive human-headed, winged bulls represented the might of Assyria

Reconstruction of Khorsabad

The city Khorsabad flourished after Sargon's death in 705 BC, though his son Sennacherib (705 - 681 BC) moved the capital to Nineveh.

Archaeology has revealed the plan of Sargon II's capital Khorsabad:

It covered about 300 hectares (741 acres) .

In comparison, 'Solomon's' Jerusalem was 1/20th size of Assyrian Khorsabad &ndash and even that's just a theory!

Extant ruins of Khorsabad

Letters to and from the royal architect Tab-shar-Ashur, written on clay tablets, reveal that cedar from Lebanon was used extensively.

Meanwhile, in the Mountains (Part 2)

Hezekiah was followed by his son Manasseh (686 - 642 BC) and grandson Amon (641 -640) – both castigated in the sacred texts for ignoring priestly dictates – but then a hero of Judaism emerged: the 8-year-old Josiah.During his 'guided' reign (639 - 609 BC) 'reform' elevated the priests of Yahweh and eliminated the competition. Sacred 'high places' in the countryside were destroyed and rival priests were murdered. Communion with God now became a monopoly of the Jerusalem Yahwehists.

Conveniently, a second statement of 'The Law of Moses' – Deuteronomy– was 'found' in the Temple to give the divine seal of approval.

To graphically illustrate what was possible in a dynastic theocracy the fable of the 'Yahweh-guided, fabulous kingdom'– of Saul, David and Solomon – set 300 years earlier, was now fleshed out in painstaking detail (Samuel, Kings, Chronicles).

The fable of 'Imperial Israel' – long on court intrigue and adulteries but short on how the empire was won – reflects incidental detail from the empires the Israelites themselves faced as an enemy – the Assyrians and Babylonians of the 9th - 6th centuries!

The pious fantasy was further embellished in in the 6th and 5th centuries, in the aftermath of Babylonian conquest of Judah and the "captivity" (597-539 BC).

Sennacherib (705-681 BC) moved the Assyrian capital to Nineveh, a vast walled city of 7.5 sq km.

The Temple of Ishtar alone was half a kilometre long!

The reality of Sennacherib''s Palace:

Fitments to the Royal Palace of Sennacherib included three kilometres of carvings, over 100 massive bulls and sphinxes and vast quantities of Lebanese cedar, carried over 500 miles, and decorated with gold and silver.

In 701 BC Sennacherib devastated Judah, the minor 'southern' kingdom allied with Egypt and Phoenicia. The Assyrians occupied 46 walled towns and compelled the Jewish king Hezekiah to shut himself up in Jerusalem "like a bird in a cage."

Plague compelled Sennacherib to abandon the siege and Judah – reduced to little more than the environs of Jerusalem – maintained a precarious existence for another century by costly tributes to the Assyrian king.

Putting a brave face on events, Hezekiah's priests heralded the reprieve as a victory for Yahweh!

The fantasy of Solomon's Palace:

"The throne had six steps . and two lions stood beside the stays. And twelve lions stood there on the one side and on the other upon the six steps . And all king Solomon's drinking vessels were of gold, and all the vessels of the house of the forest of Lebanon were of pure gold none were of silver: it was nothing accounted of in the days of Solomon." &ndash 1 Kings 10. 19-21.

The fantasy of vast tribute &ndash and 666!

"And when the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon . she gave the king an hundred and twenty talents of gold, and of spices very great store, and precious stones . And the navy also of Hiram, that brought gold from Ophir .

Now the weight of gold that came to Solomon in one year was six hundred threescore and six talents of gold .

So king Solomon exceeded all the kings of the earth for riches and for wisdom." &ndash 1 Kings 10. 4-23.

Egypt's Last Bid for Empire: Pharaoh Nekau II

Herodotus records that Nekau succeeded his father Psamtik I in 610 BC as pharaoh and assigns him a reign of sixteen years. Monuments and artifacts attest to his existence. It seems that the declining 7th century Assyrian conquerors of Egypt installed a vassal called Nekau (circa 655 BC) and this 'governor' in the delta was the grandfather of the future pharaoh Nekau II.

Nekau seems to have been an enterprising king: Herodotus writes that he attempted to complete the canal connecting the Red Sea with the Nile, and when he abandoned that project he sent a Phoenician expedition to circumnavigate Africa, which was successfully accomplished in three years.

In real history, Pharaoh Nekau II saw an opportunity to revive an Egyptian empire in Syria by assisting his Assyrian ally after the fall of Nineveh to the Babylonians in 612 BC.

Archaeologists, aware that Josiah was in no position to challenge the mighty Egyptian army, suspect that Nekau merely summoned Josiah to some sort of royal parley and had him killed for unknown reasons. With Josiah dead (609 BC) Nekau continued north but was himself defeated at Carchemish (605 BC).

The biblical Necho has a slightly different career .

At last! – a genuine biblical pharaoh: 'Necho'

Nekau – Pharaoh, 6th century BC

2 Kings and 2 Chronicles tell of Pharaoh Necho.

In the biblical fantasy, for no very good reason Josiah, King of Judah, gets in the way of Nekau's army, moving north. The odd behaviour of the Judaean king includes 'disguise' and choosing an unfavourable battleground. But Nekau is on 'God's business' and Josiah is being silly. The point, of course, is theological: Don't you dare go against the Lord!

"Necho king of Egypt came up to fight against Carchemish by Euphrates: and Josiah went out against him . and hearkened not unto the words of Necho from the mouth of God, and came to fight in the valley of Megiddo." &ndash 2 Chr. 35.20,22 .

In this silly story, the polytheistic Egyptian king has become the mouthpiece of the Hebrew "God" who has sent him on a mission!

"But he sent ambassadors to him, saying, What have I to do with thee, thou king of Judah? I come not against thee this day, but against the house wherewith I have war: for God commanded me to make haste: forbear thee from meddling with God, who is with me,that he destroy thee not." &ndash 2 Chr. 35.21 .

In a carefully woven weave, real history is mixed into a sacred legend. In any event, the (mostly!) righteous king is killed and Judah slides into oblivion.

As to Nekau giving 'Josiah' a knock-out blow on his way to the Euphrates, Herodotus says nothing – but then Herodotus had never heard of the Jews anyway!


On his return from the northern front – according to the Bible – Nekau installed a puppet king ('Jehoiakim') in Jerusalem but poor Jehoiakim also "does evil in the sight of the LORD" and gets his own divine comeuppance – this time from Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon (601 BC).

Judah is conquered in 586 BC and its people carried into exile.

In the biblical story, Babylon's governor is murdered and fearing retribution, Jews (that is, the ones who didn't get carried into exile! ) – flee to Egypt. This includes 'Jeremiah,' a phantom 7th century prophet created by the 3rd/4th century BC scribe who wrote the entire Josiah saga (2 Chronicles, Jeremiah). At this stage the Jews are under Persian rule, Egypt is weak but nominally independent.

The Jewish priestly scribe hammers home his point about 'bad kings' indulging in 'foreign practices.' Reiterating the central message of Deuteronomy (the "fifth book of Moses") – supposedly 'found' during Josiah's rebuilding of the Temple &ndash, it looks forward to happier times, when pious kings are controlled by priests and 'fear God':

"Thou shalt in any wise set him king over thee, whom the LORD thy God shall choose . When he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites: And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the LORD his God . "

&ndash Deuteronomy 17.14,20.

The Assyrian King List

Assyrian King List: list of rulers of ancient Assyria, used as a framework for the study of Mesopotamian chronology.

Incomplete lists of Assyrian kings have been discovered in each of Assyria's three capitals: Aššur, Dur-Šarukkin, and Nineveh. There are also two fragments. The texts of these copies are more or less consistent and goes back to one original, which was based on the list of yearly limmu-officials, who were appointed by the king and had to preside the celebration of the New Year festival.

As a consequence, modern scholars tend to believe that the numbers of regnal years mentioned in the Assyrian King List are correct however, there are minor differences between the copies. Down to the reign of Aššur-dan I, they offer identical information, and it is therefore reasonable to assume that the list is more or less reliable until his regnal years, 1178-1133. Before 1178, the three documents show divergences.


Jean-Jacques Glassner, Chroniques Mésopotamiennes (1993) (translated as Mesopotamian Chronicles, 2004)

Assyrian King List

[1-17] Tudija, Adamu, Janqi, Sahlamu, Harharu, Mandaru, Imsu, Harsu, Didanu, Hanu, Zuabu, Nuabu, Abazu, Belu, Azarah, Ušpija, Apiašal.
Total: 17 kings who lived in tents. note [Probably, the author of the Assyrian King List wanted to create the impression that these rulers, with their rhyming, invented names, were nomad kings.]
[18-26] Aminu was the son of Ilu-kabkabu, Ila-kabkabi of Yazkur-el, Jazkur-ilu of Yakmeni, Jakmeni of Yakmesi, Jakmesi of Ilu-Mer, Ilu-Mer of Hayani, Hajanu of Samani,Samanu of Hale, Hale of Apiašal, Apiašal of Ušpia.
Total: 10 kings who were ancestors. note [It is not clear what is meant with "ancestors" nor is it understood why the sequence of kings is reverted. Perhaps, we must read "my predecessors", but this raises the question who is their descendant. Note the calculating error: the writer has mentioned ten kings, but one of them, Apiašal son of Ušpia, has already been mentioned among the seventeen who lived in tents.]
[27-32] Sulili son of Aminu, Kikkija, Akija, Puzur-Aššur [I] , Šalim-ahum, Ilušuma.
Total: 6 kings named on bricks, note [Bricks with inscriptions of some of these rulers are indeed known.] whose number of limmu-officials is unknown.
[33] Erišum [I] , son of Ilušuma, [. ] ruled for 30/40 years.
[34] Ikunum, son of Erishu, ruled for [. ] years.
[35] Sargon [I] , son of Ikunu, ruled for [. ] years. note [Sargon and Naram-Sin are also the names of kings of Akkad who probably ruled in the twenty-fourth and twenty-third centuries BCE. However, the two men mentioned in this list appear to be more recent.]
[36] Puzur-Aššur [II] , son of Sargon, ruled for [. ] years.
[37] Naram-Sin, son of Puzur-Aššur, ruled for N+4 years.
[38] Erišum [II] , son of Naram-Sin, ruled for [. ] years.
[ 39] Šamši-Adad [I] , son note [If this Ila-kabkabi is identical to the king mentioned before, the word "son" must be read as "descendant".] of Ila-kabkabi, went to Karduniaš in the time of Naram-Sin. In the eponymy of Ibni-Adad, Šamši-Adad went up from Karduniaš. He took Ekallatum, where he stayed three years. In the eponymy of Atamar-Ištar, Šamši-Adad went up from Ekallatum. He ousted Erišum, son of Naram-Sin, from the throne and took it. He ruled for 33 years. (1813-1781)
[40] Išme-Dagan [I] , son of Šamši-Adad, ruled for 40 years.
[41] Aššur-dugul, son of a nobody, note ["Son of a nobody" means that someone seized power, although he did not belong to the royal dynasty. It appears that Aššur-dugul's reign was contested not only by the six kings mentioned in the next section, but also by Mut-Aškur, Rimu-xxx, and Asinum.] who had no title to the throne, ruled for 6 years.
[42-47] In the time of Aššur-dugul, son of a nobody, Aššur-apla-idi, Nasir-Sin, Sin-namir, Ipqi-Ištar, Adad-salulu, and Adasi, six sons of nobodies, ruled at the beginning of his brief reign.
[48] Belu-bani, son of Adasi, ruled for 10 years.
[49] Libaja, son of Belu-Bani, ruled for 17 years.
[50] Šarma-Adad [I] , son of Libaja, ruled for 12 years.
[51] Iptar-Sin, son of Šarma-Adad, ruled for 12 years.
[52] Bazaja, son of Iptar-Sin, ruled for 28 years.
[53] Lullaja, son of a nobody, ruled for 6 years.
[54] Šu-Ninua, son of Bazaja, ruled for 14 years.
[55] Šarma-Adad [II] , son of Šu-Ninua, ruled for 3 years.
[56] Erišum [III] , son of Šu-Ninua, ruled for 13 years.
[57] Šamši-Adad [II] , son of Erišum, ruled for 6 years.
[58] Išme-Dagan [II] , son of Šamši-Adad, ruled for 16 years.
[59] Šamši-Adad [III] , son of [another] Išme-Dagan, brother of Šarma-Adad [II] , son of Šu-Ninua, ruled for 16 years.
[60] Aššur-nirari [I] , son of Išme-Dagan, ruled for 26 years.
[61] Puzur-Aššur [III] , son of Aššur-nirari, ruled for 24/14 years.
[62] Enlil-nasir [I] , son of Puzur-Aššur, ruled for 13 years.
[63] Nur-ili, son of Enlil-nasir, ruled for 12 years.
[64] Aššur-šaduni, son of Nur-ili, ruled for 1 month.
[65] Aššur-rabi [I] , son of Enlil-nasir, ousted him, seized the throne and ruled for [. ] years.
[66] Aššur-nadin-ahhe [I] , son of Aššur-rabi, ruled for [. ] years.
[67] Enlil-nasir [II] , his brother, ousted him and ruled for 6 years (1420-1415) . note [This appears to be the correct date. The implication is that Aššur-nadin-apli ruled four years (the tablets mention 3 and 4) and Ninurta-apil-Ekur three (the tablets mention 3 and 13).]
[68] Aššur-nirari [II] , son of Enlil-nasir, ruled for 7 years (1414-1408) .
[69] Aššur-bêl-nišešu, son of Aššur-nirari, ruled for 9 years (1407-1399) .
[70] Aššur-rem-nišešu, son of Aššur-bêl-nišešu, ruled for 8 years (1398-1391) .
[71] Aššur-nadin-ahhe [II] , son of Aššur-rem-nišešu, ruled for 10 years (1390-1381) .
[72] Eriba-Adad [I] , son of Aššur-bêl-nišešu, ruled for 27 years (1380-1354) .
[73] Aššur-uballit [I] , son of Eriba-Adad, ruled for 36 years (1353-1318) .
[74] Enlil-nirari, son of Aššur-uballit, ruled for 10 years (1317-1308) .
[75] Arik-den-ili, son of Enlil-nirari, ruled for 12 years (1307-1296) .
[76] Adad-nirari [I] , son of Arik-den-ili, ruled for 32 years (1295-1264) .
[77] Šalmaneser [I] , son of Adad-nirari, ruled for 30 years (1263-1234) .
[78] Tukulti-ninurta [I] , son of Šalmaneser, ruled for 37 years (1233-1197) .
[79] During the lifetime of Tukulti-ninurta, Aššur-nadin-apli, his son, seized the throne and ruled for 4 years (1196-1193) .
[80] Aššur-nirari [III] , son of Aššur-nadin-apli, ruled for 6 years (1192-1187) .
[81] Enlil-kudurri-usur, son of Tukulti-ninurta, ruled for 5 years (1186-1182) .
[82] Ninurta-apil-Ekur, son of Ila-Hadda, a descendant of Eriba-Adad, went to Karduniaš. He came up from Karduniaš, seized the throne and ruled for 3 years (1181-1179) .
[83] Aššur-dan [I] , son of Aššur-nadin-apli, ruled for 46 years (1178-1133) .
[84] Ninurta-tukulti-Aššur, son of Aššur-dan, briefly. note [It is difficult to establish the length of the two "brief" reigns of Ninurta-tukulti-Aššur and Mutakkil-Nusku, which makes all the dates offered above hard to verify. However, we know for certain that Aššur-uballit I, who was dated to 1353-1318, exchanged letters with his Egyptian colleague Akhenaten (1353-1336). The error cannot be very large (five years?).]
[85] Mutakkil-Nusku, his brother, fought him and took him to Karduniaš. Mutakkil-Nusku held the throne briefly, then died.
[86] Aššur-reš-iši [I] , son of Mutakkil-Nusku, ruled for 18 years (1132-1115) .
[87] Tiglath-pileser [I] , son of Aššur-reš-iši, ruled for 39 years (1114-1076) .
[88] Ašarid-apil-Ekur, son of Tiglath-pileser, ruled for 2 years (1075-1074) .
[89] Aššur-bêl-kala, son of Tiglath-pileser, ruled for 18 years (1073-1056) .
[90] Eriba-Adad [II] , son of Aššur-bêl-kala, ruled for 2 years (1055-1054) .
[91] Šamši-Adad [IV] , son of Tiglath-pileser, came up from Karduniaš. He ousted Eriba-Adad, son of Aššur-bêl-kala, seized the throne and ruled for 4 years (1053-1050) .
[92] Aššurnasirpal [I] , son of Šamši-Adad, ruled for 19 years (1049-1031) .
[93] Šalmaneser [II] , son of Aššurnasirpal, ruled for 12 years (1030-1019) .
[94] Aššur-nirari [IV] , son of Šalmaneser, ruled for 6 years (1018-1013) .
[95] Aššur-rabi [II] , son of Aššurnasirpal, ruled for 41 years (1012-972) .
[96] Aššur-reš-iši [II] , son of Aššur-rabi, ruled for 5 years (971-967) .
[97] Tiglath-pileser [II] , son of Aššur-reš-iši, ruled for 32 years (966-935) .
[98] Aššur-dan [II] , son of Tiglath-pileser, ruled for 23 years (934-912) .
[99] Adad-nirari [II] , son of Aššur-dan, ruled for 21 years (911-891) .
[100] Tukulti-Ninurta [II] , son of Adad-nirari, ruled for 7 years (890-884) .
[101] Aššurnasirpal [II] , son of Tukulti-Ninurta, ruled for 25 years (883-859) .
[102] Šalmaneser [III] , son of Aššurnasirpal, ruled for 35 years (858-824) .
[103] Šamši-Adad [V] , son of Šalmaneser, ruled for 13 years (823-811) .
[104] Adad-nirari [III] , son of Šamši-Adad, ruled for 28 years (810-783) .
[105] Šalmaneser [IV] , son of Adad-nirari, ruled for 10 years (782-773) .
[106] Aššur-dan [III] , son of Šalmaneser, ruled for 18 years (772-755) .
[107] Aššur-nirari [V] , son of Adad-nirari, ruled for 10 years (754-745) .
[108] Tiglath-pileser [III] , son of Aššur-nirari, ruled for 18 years (744-727) . note [From the Assyrian Eponym List, it is known that Tiglath-pileser III became king in April/May 745.]
[109] Šalmaneser [V] , son of Tiglath-pileser, ruled for 5 years (726-722) .
Aššur copy. Hand of Kandalanu, scribe of the temple of Arbela. 20 Lulubû, eponomy of Adad-bela-ka'in, governor of Aššur, during his second eponomy.

Alternative ending

Another tablet, written by a different scribe, contains another colophon:

What's missing

The next king, Sargon II (r.721-705) came to power after a coup d'état, which may have been the immediate cause for making this king list. The remaining kings were:

Watch the video: Ancient Mesopotamian Music - Assyrian Fortress (May 2022).