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ASSYRIA: Natural features & civilization | chronology | history | BABYLONIA: Natural features | history | literature | religion.


1. Natural features and Civilization.

Geographically speaking, Assyria was a small district bounded by the Tigris valley on the W., the mountains of Armenia and Kurdistan on the N. and E., and the Lower Zab on the S., but historically its dominion gradually extended to include the whole of the Fertile Crescent from the Persian Gulf to the Egyptian border, with parts of Asia Minor and Egypt. The land took its name from Asshur, its capital from the earliest times to the 7th cent. BC, a city on the W. bank of the Tigris, about midway between the Upper and the Lower Zab. For the most part hilly, with well watered valleys and a wide plain along the Tigris, Assyria was fertile and populous. Of the chief cities, Calah, near the mouth of the Upper Zab, and Nineveh, further N., lay in the Tigris valley. Dur-Sharrukin (modem Khorsabad) was NE. of Nineveh. In the E. of the country lay Arbela.

The climate was temperate. The slopes of the hills were well wooded with oak, plane, and pine; the plains and valleys produced figs, olives, and vines. Wheat, barley, and millet were cultivated. In the days of the Empire the orchards were stocked with trees, among which have been recognized date palms, orange, lemon, pomegranate, apricot, mulberry, and other fruits. A great variety of vegetables were grown in the gardens, including beans, peas, cucumbers, onions, lentils. The hills furnished plenty of excellent building stone, the soft alabaster specially lent itself to the decoration of halls with sculptures in low relief, while fine marbles, hard limestone, conglomerate and basalt were worked into stone vessels, pillars, altars, etc. Iron, lead, and copper were obtainable in the mountains near. The lion and wild ox, the boar, deer, gazelle, goat, and hare were hunted. The wild ass, mountain sheep, bear, fox, jackal, and many other less easily recognized animals are named. The eagle, bustard, crane, stork, wild goose, various ducks, partridge, plover, the dove, raven, swallow, are named, besides many other birds. Fish were plentiful. The Assyrians had domesticated oxen, asses, sheep, goats, and dogs. Camels and horses were introduced from abroad.

The Assyrians belonged largely to the North Semitic group, being closely akin to the Aramaeans, Phoenicians, and Hebrews, but contained a large non-Semitic and non-Indo-European element akin to modern Caucasian peoples. Assyria early came under the predominating influence of Babylonia. The Assyrians of historic times were more robust, warlike, 'fierce' (Is.33.19), than the mild, industrial Babylonians. This may have been due partly to the influence of climate and incessant warfare; but it also indicates the difference in race. The culture and religion of Assyria were essentially Babylonian, save for the predominance of the national god Ashur. The king was a despot at home, general of the army abroad, and he rarely missed an annual expedition to exact tribute or plunder some State. The whole organization of the State was essentially military. The literature was largely borrowed from Babylonia, and to the library of the last great king, Ashurbanipal, we owe most of the Babylonian classics. The Assyrians were historians more than the Babylonians, and they invented a chronology which is the basis of all dating for Western Asia. They were a predatory race, and amassed the spoils of all Mesopotamia in their treasure-houses, but they at least learned to value what they had stolen. The enormous influx of manufactured articles from abroad and the military demands prevented a genuinely native industrial development, but the Assyrians made splendid use of foreign talent. In later times, the land became peopled by captives, while the drain upon the Assyrian army to conquer, garrison, colonize, and hold down the vast Empire probably robbed the country of resisting power.

2. Chronology.

(a) Eponym lists. - The Assyrians named each year after a particular official, calling it his limmu or eponymy. Originally he was selected by lot but later a fixed order was followed, namely, the king, the Tartan (generalissimo), the chief of the levy, various other officials, then the governors of the provincial cities. As the empire extended, the governors of such distant places as Carchemish, Razappa, Kummuh, and even Samaria became eponyms. Surviving lists of these officials in their actual order of succession, known as the Eponym lists, are complete from 892-668 BC and they can be restored for some earlier periods and down to 648 BC.

(b) King lists. - Assyrian king lists give the names of the rulers of Assyria, with in most cases their father's name and the length of their reign, from about 1900 BC to the fall of Assyria. There are however, small errors and mutual divergencies in the lists. Babylonian dynastic lists classify under their city names the rulers of Babylonian cities back to prehistoric times, stating the number of kings in each dynasty, its duration in years, the names of the kings in chronological order and the length of each reign. Large sections of the lists, however, are defective. Errors and inconsistencies also occur and for the earliest dynasties the reigns are impossibly long. No indication, moreover, is given that some dynasties overlap. Some of the early names appear in Babylonian mythology as gods and some kings are omitted whose actual contemporary records have survived. The general reliability of the lists to the middle of the 3rd millennium is, however, confirmed by extant historical inscriptions in which a king mentions his father, grandfather and other ancestors.

(c) Synchronistic lists. - Synchronisms can sometimes be established between Assyrian and Babylonian kings through the mention by one of another in his inscriptions. There are also a fragmentary synchronistic history and some synchronistic king lists and chronicles from both countries which are particularly useful between the 11 th and 9th cent. In some cases, Babylonian dynasties can be synchronized as far back as the middle of the 3rd millennium by royal and other inscriptions.

(d) Chronological statements. - Royal inscriptions sometimes cite the number of years since an earlier king's reign and although some of these figures are unreliable others accord with information from other sources. Thus Shalmaneser I. states that Erishum built the temple of Ashur in Asshur which Shamshi-Adad rebuilt 159 years later but which was destroyed 580 years later by a fire and built afresh by him. Esarhaddon also states that the temple was built by Erishum, restored by Shamshi-Adad and again by Shalmaneser 434 years later and again by himself. Sennacherib's Bavian inscription states that he recovered the gods of Ekallate which had been carried away by Marduk-nadin-ahhe, king ofAkkad, in the days of Tiglath-pileser 418 years before. This dates both Marduk-nadin-ahhe and Tiglath-pileser i. at about 1107. Tiglath-pileser tells us that he rebuilt the temple of Ashur and Adad which had been pulled down by his great-grandfather, Ashur-dan, sixty years before and had then stood 641 years since its foundation by Shamshi-Adad, son ofIshme-Dagan. This puts Shamshi-Adad about 1810 (rather early ?) and Ashur-dan about 1170. Nabonidus states that he restored a temple in Sippar which had not been restored since Shagarakti-Shuriash ; this puts that king about 1350 (a little too early). It is evident that all such dates are vague.

(c) Year-names. - From as early as the dynasty of Akkad in the middle of the 3rd millennium various cities of Babylonia gave each year an individual designation which usually included the king's name. Thus the names of the first four years of Hammurabi are (1) 'the year in which Hammurabi became king'; (2) 'the year in which Hammurabi the king established justice in the land'; (3) ' the year in which Hammurabi the king established the throne for the main dais of Nanna in Babylon'; (4) 'the year in which the wall of the holy precinct was built.' The date-formula was fixed early in the year and was circulated to the principal districts. Until a new formula was fixed, the year was dated in terms of the preceding year as ' the year after.' Thus the third year of Hammurabi would be called ' the year after that in which Hammurabi the king established justice in the land.' A record of these dates was kept and long lists of year-names has been preserved, each recording some event, usually domestic, religious or military. Other year-names have been recovered from legal documents. The kings of Larsa developed an era in which the years were called the first, second, etc., up to the thirtieth, 'after the capture of Isin.' The Kassite dynasty introduced the method of dating according to the regnal year of the reigning king. If a king died in the twentieth year of his reign he was said to have reigned twenty years, the remainder of the year being described as the 'accession year' of his successor, and his own 'first year' began on the 1st Nisan after his accession. Thus over a long series of years the sum of the regnal years is accurately the duration in years except for a margin at the beginning and end ; it is exact to a year.

(f) Astronomical data. - A series of astrological tablets gives the dates of the rising and setting of the planet Venus for the twenty-one years of the reign of Ammi-zaduga of Babylon, so that this king's reign can be definitely located in one of a few definite periods, although there are unfortunately some slight divergences between different copies of the tablets.

(g) The Canon of Ptolemy, an Egyptian document of the second Christian century, begins with Nabonassar, king of Babylonia, and gives the names and regnal years of all the Babylonian kings down to Nabonidus, then the Achaemenids to Alexander the Great, the Ptolemies and Romans, so connecting with well-known dates ; it also mentions three Assyrian kings and can thus be coordinated with Assyrian history. Its accuracy is corroborated by the mention in the Assyrian eponym canon of a total solar eclipse in the ninth year of Ashur-dan which can be proved to be 763 BC. The use of the Assyrian limmu lists enables Assyrian dates to be fixed back to 912 BC and before that date the Assyrian king lists, in so far as they are reliable, give a chronological framework back to about 1750 BC. A possible margin of error of about fifty years must be allowed, however, throughout the 2nd millennium. The fragmentary nature of the Babylonian king lists renders it impossible at the present time to date Babylonian kings exactly before 747 BC, since the exact duration of many of the reigns is unknown and established synchronisms with Assyrian kings are few. The contemporaneous deaths of Adad-shum-nazir of Babylonia and Enlil-kudurra-uzur of Assyria (c 1206 BC) enable, however, exact provisional dates to be assigned to a number of Babylonian kings before and after that date since the Babylonian king lists for that period are intact. Since, however, they are not entirely in accord at this point with the evidence of the Assyrian lists, some adjustment has to be made. For the earlier part of the 2nd millennium, the known synchronism of Hammurabi with Shamsi-adad I. is very important, but there is divergence among scholars about the date of Hammurabi. The dates usually suggested for his accession are 1792, or 1728, or 1704 BC, but some scholars would date it as early as 1848 BC, and various intermediate datings have also been proposed. For earlier dates back to the dynasty of Akkad (c 2300 BC) the margin of error is scarcely larger.

The following list of dates is based largely on the views of Cornelius who adopts 1728 BC as the date for Hammurabi's accession and accepts the tradition of the Assyrian king lists as substantially trustworthy. He assigns, however, sixteen years to the reign of Mutakkil-Nusku of Assyria, thus raising his dates for Assyrian kings before 1131 BC about twenty years higher than some would favour. The first Elamite dynasty, 1163-1156 BC, is not included in any Babylonian king list but there seem to be sound reasons for assuming it. In order to harmonize the Babylonian with the Assyrian king lists, Adad-shum-iddin is here placed after Adad-shum-nazir although there is perhaps stronger evidence for putting him immediately before him. Regnal years of Babylonian kings prior to 747 BC are, when known, entered in brackets after the royal name; where such evidence is lacking no attempt at exact dating has been made but the names are arranged in chronological order. Synchronisms (prior to 747 BC) validated by historical inscriptions which mention two kings as contemporaries are indicated by = with the addition, where appropriate, of square brackets. 'S' and 'B' represent respectively 'son of' and 'brother of' the preceding king.

  BABYLON: 1st DYNASTY      
1830 Samu-abum (14)   Puzur-Ashur I 1830
      Shallim-ahhe, S  
      Ilu-shuma, S  
1816 Sumu-la-ilum   Erishum I, S c.1817
      Ikunum, S  
1780 Zabum, S (14)   Sharru-kin (Sargon) I. S  
1766 Apil-Sin, S (18)   Puzur-Ashur II. S  
      Naram-Sin, S  
1748 Sin-muballit, S (20)   Erishum II. S  
1728 Hammu-rabi, S (43) = Shamshi-Adad I. 1750
      Ishme-Dagan I. S 1717
      ? 1697
1686 Samsi-iluna, S (38)   Pazur-Sin 1697
      Ashur-dugul 1677
      Ashur-apla-Idi 1676
      Nazir-Sin 1675
      Sin-namir 1674
      Ipki-Ishtar 1673
      Adad-zalulu 1672
      Adasi 1671
      Belu-bani 1671
      Libaya, S or B 1660
1648 Abi-eshuh, S (28)   Sharma-Adad I. S or B 1643
      Iptar-Sin, S or B 1631
1620 Ammi-ditana, S (37)   Bazaya 1619
      Lulaya 1591
1583 Ammi-zaduga, S (21?)   Kidin-Ninua 1585
      Sharma-Adad II. S or B 1571
1562 Samsu-ditana, S (31?)   Erishum III. B 1568
      Shamshi-Adad II. S or B 1555
      Ishme-Dagan II. S 1549
c.1539 Agum II.   Shamshi-Adad III. S 1533
      Ashur-nirari I. B 1517
  Burna-Buriash I. = Puzur-Ashur III. S 1491
  Kashtiliash II. S   Enlil-nazir I. S 1478
      Nur-ili, S or B 1465
  Ulam-Buriash, B   Ashur-shaduni, S or B 1453
      Ashur-rabi I. 1452
      Ashur-nadin-ahhe I. S or B 1444
  Agum III.   Enlilnazir II. B 1444
      Ashur-nirari II. B 1438
  Kara-Indash II. = Ashur-bel-nisheshu, S 1431
  Kadashman-Harbe I. S   Ashur-rim-nisheshu, B 1422
  Kurugalzu I.   Ashur-nadin-ahhe II. S or B 1414
      Eriba-Adad I. B 1404
c.1360 Burna-Buriash II. (25) = Ashur-uballit I. S 1377
  Kadashman-Harbe II.      
1341 Nazubugash      
1341 Kurigalzu II. (23) = Enlil-nirari, S 1341
      Arik-den-ili, S 1331
1318 Nazi-Maruttash, S (26) = Adad-nirari I. S 1287
1269 Kudur-Enlil II. S (9)      
1260 Shagarakti-Shuriash, S (13)      
1247 Kashtiliash III. S (18) = Tukulti-Ninurta I. S 1257
1239 Enlil-nadin-shumi (1½)   Ashur-nadin-apli, S 1220
1238 Kadashman-Harbe III. (1½)   Ashur-nirari III. 1217
1236 Adad-shum-nazir (30) = Enlil-kudurra-uzur 1211
1206 Adad-shum-iddin (6)   Ninurta-apil-ekur 1206
1199 Melishipak (15)      
1183 Marduk-apla-iddin (Merodach-baladan) I. (13)      
1169 Zababa-shum-iddin (1) = Ashur-dan I. S


1167 Enlil-nadin-ahhe (3)      
1163 Shutruk-Nahhunte (or Kutir-Nahhunte)      
  DYNASTY OF ISIN (Pas-she)      
1156 Marduk-kabit-ahheshu (18) = Ninurta-tukulti-Asshur, S 1147
1137 Itti-Marduk-balatu (8)   Mutakkil-Nusku, B 1147
1128 Ninurta-nadin-shumi (6) = Ashur-resha-ishi I. S   1131
1121 Nabu-kadurra-uzur (Nebuchadrezzar) I. (22) S      


Enlil-nadin-apli (4) S = Tukulti-apil-esharra (Tiglath-pileser), S 1113
1091 Marduk-nadin-ahhe (18)   Ashurid-apil-ekur, S 1074
1073 Marduk-shapik-zeri (13) = Ashur-bel-kala, S 1072
1060 Adad-apla-iddin (22)   Eriba-Adad II. S 1054
      Shamshi-Adad IV. 1052
1037 Marduk-ahhe-eriba (14)   Ashur-nazir-apil (Ashurnazirpal) I. S 1048
1034 Marduk-zer-[ibni (?)] (12)   Shalmanu-asherid (Shalmaneser) II. S 1029
1021 Nabu-shum-libur (8)   Ashur-nirari IV. S 1017
1012 Shimbar-Shipak (18)   Ashur-rabi II. 1011
993 Ea-mukin-shumi (5/12)      
991 Kashshu-nadin-ahhe (3)      
  DYNASTY OF SHASHI (Bazu)      
987 Eulmash-shakin-shumi (17)      
969 Ninurta-kudurra-uzur I. (3)   Ashur-resha-ishi II. S 970
965 Shiriktu-Shukamuna (1/4)      
964 Marbiti-apla-uzur (6)   Tukulti-apil-esharra (Tiglath-pileser) II. 965
  DYNASTY 'H'      
957 Nabu-mukin-apli (36)      
920 Ninurta-kudurra-uzur II. S   Ashur-dan II. S 933
  Marbiti-aha-iddin, B      
  Shamash-mudammik = Adad-nirari II. 910
  Nabu-shum-ukin I. S   Tukulti-Ninurta II. S 889
  Nabu-apla-iddin, S = Ashur-nazir-apli (Ashurnazirpal) II. S 883
  Marduk-zakir-shumi I. S   Shulmanu-asharid (Shalmaneser) III. S 858
  Marduk-balatsu-ikbi. S = Shamshi-Adad V. S 823
  Bau-aha-iddin = Adad-nirari III. S 810
  Marduk-apla-uzur   Shulmanu-asharid (Shamaneser) IV. S 782
  Eriba-Marduk   Ashur-dan III. B 772
  Marduk-apla-iddin I.      
  Nabu-shum-ishkin, S   Ashur-nirari V. B 754
747 Nabu-nazir (Nabonassar)   Tukulti-apil-esharra (Tiglath-pileser) III. B (?) 744
733 Nabu-nadin-zeri, S      
732 Nabu-shum-ukin II.      
  DYNASTY 'J'      
  (Period of Assyrian domination.)      
731 Ukin-zera (Mukin-zeri)      
728 Pulu (Tiglath-pileser III.)      
726 Ululaia (Shalmaneser V.), S   Shulmanu-asharid (Shalmaneser) V. S 726
721 Marduk-apla-iddin (Merodach-baladan) II.   Sharru-kin (Sargon) II. B (?) 721
709 Sharru-kin (Sargon) II.      
704 Sin-ahhe-eriba (Sennacherib), S   Sin-ahhe-eriba (Sennacherib), S 704
703 Marduk-zakir-shumi II.      
703 Marduk-apla-iddin (Merodach-baladan) II. (again)      
702 Bel-idni      
699 Ashur-nadin-shumi      
693 Nergal-ushezib      
691 Mushezib-Marduk      
687 Sin-ahhe-eriba (Sennacherib) (again)      
680 Ashur-aha-iddina (Esar-haddon), S   Ashur-aha-iddina (Esar-haddon), S 680
668 Shamash-shum-ukin, S   Ashur-ban-apli (Ashurbanipal), S 668
648 Kandalanu   (Sin-sharra-ishkin ?), S (627 ?)
      Ashur-etil-ulani, B c 626
626 Nabu-apla-uzur (Nabopolassar)   (Sin-shum-lishir ?) ?
      Ashur-uballit II. 612 (?)
605 Nabu-kudurra-uzur (Nebuchadrezzar) II. S   End of Assyrian kingdom. 606
561 Amel-Marduk (Evil-Merodach), S      
560 Nergal-sharra-uzur (Nergal-sharezer)      
556 Labashi-Marduk, S      
555 Nabu-naid (Nabonidus)      
539 End of Babylonian kingdom.      

3. History.

See MAP - ASSYRIA | (a) Sources | (b) Earliest period | (c) Relations with Egypt, Babylonia, and the Hittites | (d) Tiglath-pileser I | (e) Shamaneser III, etc | (f) Tiglath-pileser III | (g) Sargon | (h) Sennacherib | (i) Esarhaddon | (j) Ashurbanipal | (k) Fall of Assyria.
(a) Sources. - Excavations have recovered a great mass of cuneiform documents from Assyria and Babylonia which can be used for the reconstruction of the history. Besides this primary source of information, chiefly contemporaneous with the events it records, there are scattered incidental notices in the historical and prophetical books of the OT giving an important external view and some records in the Greek and Latin classics mostly too late and uncritical to be of direct value.

The bulk of the history is derived from the inscriptions of the kings themselves. Here there is an often remarked difference between Assyrian and Babylonian usage. The former are usually very full concerning the wars of conquest, the latter almost entirely concerned with temple buildings or domestic affairs, such as palaces, walls, canals, etc. Many Assyrian kings arrange their campaigns in chronological order, forming what are called Annals. Others are content to sum up their conquests in a list of lands subdued. We rarely have anything like Annals from Babylonia.

The value to be attached to these inscriptions is very various. They are contemporary, and for geography invaluable. A king would hardly boast of conquering a country which did not exist. The historical value is more open to question. A ' conquest' meant little more than a raid successful in exacting tribute. The Assyrians, however, gradually learnt to consolidate their conquests. They planted colonies of Assyrian people, endowing them with conquered lands. They transplanted the people of a conquered State to some other part of the Empire, allotting them lands and houses, vineyards and gardens, even cattle, and so endeavoured to destroy national spirit and produce a blended population of one language and one civilization. The weakness of the plan lay in the heavy taxation which prevented loyal attachment. The population of the Empire had no objection to the substitution of one master for another. The demands on the subject States for men and supplies For the incessant wars weakened all without attaching my. The population of Assyria proper was insufficient to officer and garrison so large an empire, and every change of monarch was the signal for rebellion in all autlying parts. A new dynasty usually had to reconquer most of the Empire. Civil war occurred several limes, and always led to great weakness, finally rendering :he Empire an easy prey to the invader.

(b) Earliest period. - Neolithic settlements from the 5th or 4th millennium have been excavated at Nineveh md elsewhere in. Assyria. Later cultures, using copper, had affinities, sometimes close, with those of Iran and Babylonia. Probably as early as the beginning of the third millennium, Asshur was the most important town n the area and it continued to be so, with few interruptions, to the end of Assyrian history. Late king lists preserve the names of its early rulers, who probably iwed allegiance to successive Babylonian city-states, from at least as early as the dynasty of Akkad (c 2300 BC) and its buildings and associated objects show from that time onwards Sumerian cultural influence. Most of the early rulers have Semitic, though not Akkadian, names but some are non-Semitic and the population probably already included the large Subaraean element. characteristic of later periods. The first seventeen kings are described in the lists as 'dwelling in tents' but the sixteenth, Ushpia, who dates probably from the time of the 3rd dynasty of Ur (c 2000 BC), built a temple to Ashur, the city-god, and is reputed to have founded a dynasty that lasted until displaced by Kik(k)ia, the twenty-eighth ruler and builder of the city-wall. From Puzur-Ashur I., founder of another long dynasty extending to the death of Erishum II, (c 1830 BC), all but a few of the Assyrian rulers bore Akkadian names. With Shallim-ahhe, his son, royal inscriptions begin. From the time of Erishum I. until the reign of Shamshi-Adad I. a wealthy Assyrian trading colony flourished at Kanesh in Cappadocia. Under Erishum and his successors, Ikunum and Sharru-kin I., the prosperity and influence of Asshur increased, but the dynasty ended when Erishum II. was displaced from the throne (c 1750 BC) by Shamshi-Adad I., an Amorite usurper from the West, many of whose letters have been excavated at Mari. During Shamshi-Adad's long reign Assyrian influence extended far to the N. and W. and although in his closing years both Asshur and Nineveh seem to have owed allegiance to Hammurabi of Babylon, Ishme-Dagan I., owing perhaps to the Kassite invasion of Babylonia, restored Assyrian independence. After a succession of usurpers had occupied the throne for brief periods, a dynasty founded in 1671 BC by Adasi or his son Belu-bani continued in power for half a century. A new dynasty was established by Kidin-Ninua, 1585 BC, but during its regime there is little to record except the buildings of such kings as Ishme-Dagan II., Shamshi-Adad III., and Ashurnirari I. which attest the city's growing prosperity. The dynasty was displaced by Ashur-rabi I. in 1452.

(c) Relations with Egypt, Babylonia, and the Hittites. - During the 17th and 16th cent. there were large racial movements in Western Asia from E. to W. and from N. to S. By 1530 the Kassites, infiltrating westward across the Tigris, had gained control of Babylonia, and by about the same time the Hurrians, expanding SW. from the region of Lake Van in Armenia, had established the powerful military state of Mitanni (later called Hanigalbat) in upper Mesopotamia between the Assyrians and the Hittites, becoming a thorn in the flesh to both people and sitting astride the trade-routes into Asia Minor. Assyria suffered a severe defeat from them about the time of Ashur-rabi I. Egypt was also interesting itself in Western Asia; Thothmes i. (c 1525 BC) had advanced as far as upper Mesopotamia and Thothmes III. (1504-1450 BC) made a punitive expedition across the Euphrates into Mitanni and received gifts from Babylonia and the Hittites as well as from Enlil-nazir I. of Assyria. At this time there were chronic petty wars between Assyria and its nearest neighbours. Puzur-Ashur III. (1491-1478 BC) made a boundary-treaty with Burna-Buriash I. of Babylonia. Mitanni was now however becoming a more dangerous foe. The international situation is illustrated by the El-Amarna letters which show that while Egypt had control of Palestine under Amenophis m. (1416-1379 BC) a precarious balance of power farther N. was maintained by a succession of temporary alliances between Egypt and one or more of the kingdoms of Assyria, Babylonia, Mitanni, and the Hittites, with the object of keeping both Mitanni and the Hittites in check. Diplomatic marriages were also sometimes arranged between the royal families, and gifts were exchanged. Ashur-bel-nisheshu of Assyria, after being obliged to pay tribute to Mitanni, took part in a defensive alliance with Kara-Indash II. of Babylonia and Amenophis III., although this did not interrupt the friendly relationship between Egypt and Mitanni. After the death of Amenophis III. Egypt began to move out of Asia and a throne-dispute in Mitanni enabled Ashur-uballit I., in alliance with the Hittites, to assert his independence of Mitanni. A daughter of Ashur-uballit was married to the son of Burna-Buriash II. of Babylonia after whose death the Assyrian king helped Kadashman-Harbe II., his own grandson, to ascend the Babylonian throne. When Kadashman-Harbe was murdered, Ashur-uballit assisted Kurigalzu II. to secure the kingship but subsequently a frontier war was waged between Kurigalzu and Ashur-uballit's son and successor, Enlil-nirari.

Toward the end of the 14th cent. movements of Mediterranean peoples (the same factor as that which brought the Philistines into Palestine) weakened the power of Mitanni and the Hittites. At the same time, bedouin Aramaean groups, especially Ahlame and Sute, began to move in large numbers into both Babylonia and Hanigalbat (Mitanni). Ark-den-ili, the earliest Assyrian monarch to record systematically his campaigns, had to overcome their pressure on his W. frontier. His successor, Adad-nirari i., subdued the W. regions as far as Carchemish and extracted tribute from them, with the Hittites powerless to prevent it. He also led conquering expeditions eastward into the Zagros mountains and, after a war with Nazi-Maruttash of Babylonia, adjusted his southern frontier in Assyria's favour. In Asshur he rebuilt the royal palace, some temples, and the city walls. His son, Shalmaneser I., had to repel an attack from the Hurrian peoples of Urartu (Ararat), or Nairi, in Armenia, and to suppress serious revolts, fomented by the Hittites, in Hanigalbat, but he considerably extended the eastern border among the Zagros foothills. He also built the fortress-city of Calah, about midway between Asshur and Nineveh.

Tukulti-Ninurta I. (1257-1220 BC) firmly consolidated Assyrian power in the N. and W. and his renewed eastward expansion led to a war with Babylonia in which he captured its king, Kashtiliash III., and plundered his capital, thus becoming ruler of an empire from Carchemish to the Persian Gulf. He built a new residence-city, Kar-tukulti-Ninurta, but was killed seven years later in a revolt by his son. Babylon then regained its independence and Assyria entered upon a long period of weakness and decline. Ashur-nirari III. and Enlil-kudurra-uzur owed allegiance to the Babylonian king, Adad-shum-nazir, and although Assyria partly revived under Ninurta-apil-ekur and Ashur-dan I., their successors, Ninurta-tukulti-Asshur and Mutakkil-Nusku, became vassals of Babylonia, where the Kassites had just been replaced by the dynasty of Isin. Assyrian fortunes began to rise again under Ashur-resha-ishi I. (1131-1113 BC) who repelled a Babylonian incursion by Nebuchadrezzar i. and fought victorious campaigns against the Aramaeans to the W.

(d) Tiglath-pileser I. and his successors. - Tiglath-pileser I. (1113-1074 BC) has left very full accounts of his long reign and his abundant conquests. His successes were gained chiefly in upper Mesopotamia along the base of the Caucasus, in Armenia (the Nairi lands), and W. through Syria to the NE. corner of the Mediterranean where he received tribute from Arvad, Gebal (Byblos), and Sidon. Invading bedouin Ahlame were driven back across the Euphrates. The Babylonian king, Marduk-nadin-ahhe, attacked Assyria but after two years North Babylonia was ravaged and his capital was taken and sacked. Tiglath-pileser carried out extensive building operations in his own country and acclimatized useful trees and garden plants. After _his death, however, Assyrian power relapsed. Ashur-bel-kala had to subdue a rebellion in Nairi. He entered into a treaty of friendship with Marduk-shapik-zeri of Babylonia, probably in face of the common Aramaean threat, but after the Aramaeans, infiltrating into S. Babylonia, dethroned the Babylonian king he married the daughter of the new Aramaean ruler, Adad-apla-iddin. During the following century the Aramaeans gradually increased their pressure on N. Mesopotamia and eventually established there a series of independent kingdoms, even penetrating into the Assyrian homeland. Both Assyria and Babylonia entered on a long period of decline about which little is known, but Assyrian revival began under Ashur-dan II. (933-910 BC). Adad-nirari II. warred with Shamash-mudammik and Nabu-shum-ukin i. of Babylonia; Tukulti-Ninurta II. continued the subjugation of the mountaineers N. of Assyria, gradually winning back the Empire of Tiglath-pileser I.

With Ashur-nazir-apli II. began a fresh tide of Assyrian conquest, 883 BC. He rebuilt Calah, and made it his capital. The small Aramaean State of Bit-Adini, between the Balih and Euphrates, held out against him, but he conquered, in the N., Kutmuh and Kirruri and, in the E., Zamua. Carchemish and Unki ('Amk) or Hattina on the Orontes were raided, and the army reached the Lebanon. Tyre, Sidon, Gebal, Arvad, etc., were fain to buy off the conqueror. Ashur-nazir-apli had invaded the Babylonian sphere of influence, and Nabu-apla-iddina sent his brother Zabdanu to support his allies. Ashur-nazir-apli took Zabdanu and 3000 troops prisoners.

(e) Shalmaneser III., etc. - [see 'Bible & Spade': Chapter XI.] The reign of Shalmaneser III., his son and successor, was one long campaign. He began to annex his conquests by placing governors over the conquered districts. The Armenian Empire now began to bar Assyria's progress north. Assyria now first appeared on Israel's horizon as a threatening danger. Black ObeliskShalmaneser's celebrated bronze doors at Balawat and the Black Obelisk give us pictures of scenes in his reign. They represent ambassadors from Gilzan near Lake Urmia, from Ja'ua (Jehu) of Israel, from Musri, from Suhi, and from Hattina. This Musri is NE. of Cilicia (1 K.10.28), whence Solomon brought his horses. Shalmaneser invaded Kue in Cilicia, and Tabal (Tubal), where he annexed the silver, salt, and alabaster works. He reached Tarzi (Tarsus, the birthplace of St. Paul). To the NE. he penetrated Parsua, the original Persia. In Babylonia, Nabu-apla-iddina was followed by his son, Marduk-zakir-shumi i., against whom arose his brother Marduk-bel-usate, who held the southern States of the Sealand, already peopled by the Chaldaeans. Shalmaneser invaded Babylonia, and, passing to the E., besieged Marduk-bel-usate, drove him from one stronghold to another, and finally killed him and all his partisans. In the role of a friend of Babylon, Shalmaneser visited the chief cities and sacrificed to the gods, captured most of the southern States, and laid them under tribute.

Shalmaneser's campaign against Hamath on the Orontes took place in 853 BC. The fall of Bit-Adini had roused all N. Syria to make a stand. At Karkar the Assyrian army had against them a truly wonderful combination.

  Chariots. Horsemen. Foot.
Adad-idri of Damascus 1,200 1,200 20,000
Irhuleni of Hamath 700 700 10,000
Ahabbu of Sir'il 2,000 .. 10,000
The Gui (Kue) .. .. 500
Musri .. .. 1,000
Irkanati 10 .. 10,000
Matinu-ba'il .. .. 200
Isanati .. .. 200
Adunu-ba'il 30 .. 10,000
Ba'sa of Ammon. .. .. 1,000
Gindibu the Arab 1,000 camels.    

The presence of Ahab in this battle in which Shalmaneser claims to have won the victory is most interesting. The battle was not productive of any settled results, as Shalmaneser had to fight the same foes in 849 BC and again in 846 BC. In 842 BC Shalmaneser defeated Hazael, besieged him in Damascus, and carried off the spoils of his residence. At this time he received tribute from Tyre, Sidon, and Jehu, 'of the house of Omri.' Jehu's tribute includes silver, gold, a golden bowl, a golden vase, golden goblets and buckets, and tin.

Shalmaneser's last years were clouded by the rebellion of his son Ashur-danin-apli, who alienated more than half the Empire, and was not subdued by the successor to the throne, his brother Shamshi-Adad v., until the second year of his reign. Shamshi-Adad had to fight the Babylonian kings Marduk-balatsu-ikbi and Bau-aha-iddin. Adad-nirari in, fought in Media and in the W. From the upper part of the Euphrates to Tyre, Sidon, the land of Omri (Israel), Udumu (Edom), and Palastu (Philistia), to the Mediterranean, he exacted tribute. He besieged Mari, king of Damascus, in his capital, captured it and carried off rich spoil.

(f) Tiglath-pileser III. - [see 'Bible & Spade': Chapter XII.] Armenia was steadily rising in power, and under Shalmaneser IV. Assyria lost all its northern conquests in Upper Mesopotamia; Tiglath-pileser III., who was perhaps a usurper, came to the throne in 744 BC. The world of small States had given way to a few strong kingdoms; the Chaldaeans were strongly forcing their way into lower Babylonia; in the N., Armenia was powerful and ready to threaten W. Syria; Egypt was soon to awaken and interfere in Palestine. Assyria and Babylonia bade fair to fall a prey to stronger nations, when Tiglath-pileser III. roused the old energy. The Aramaeans were pouring into Babylonia, filled the Tigris basin from the lower Zab to the Uknu, and held some of the most celebrated cities ofAkkad. Tiglath-pileser scourged them into subjection, and deported multitudes to the NE. hills. The Medes were set in order, and then Tiglath-pileser turned to the W. The new kingdom of Arpad was strongly supported by Armenia, and Tiglath-pileser swept into Kummuh, and took the Armenians in the rear. He crushed them, and for the time was left to deal with the W. Arpad took three years to reduce: then gradually all N. Syria came into Assyrian hands, 740 BC. Hamath allied itself with Azrija'u of Ja'udi (not to be confused with Azariah of Judah) and Panammu of Sam'al. Tiglath-pileser broke up the coalition, devastated Hamath, and made the district an Assyrian province. The Southern States hastened to avoid invasion by paying tribute. Menahem of Israel, Zabibi of Arabia, Rahianu (Rezon) of Damascus, Hiram of Tyre are noteworthy; but Gebal, Carchemish, Hamath, Milidia, Tabal, Kullani (Calno, Is.10.9) also submitted, 734 BC. Hanno of Gaza was defeated. In 732 BC Damascus was besieged and taken, Israel was invaded, the whole of Naphtali taken, and Pekah had to pay heavy toll. In 732 BC he was murdered, and Tiglath-pileser acknowledged Hoshea as successor. Ammon, Moab, Ashkelon, Edom, and Ahaz of Judah paid tribute. Samsi, queen of the Arabians, was defeated and the Sabaeans sent presents. This Tiglath-pileser is the Pul of 2 K.15.19f, who, after defeating the Chaldaean Ukin-zer, who had ascended the Babylonian throne, was crowned king of Babylon, as Pulu.

Sargon II.

(g) Sargon. - Shalmaneser V. seems to have been the son of Tiglath-pileser. He was king of Babylonia as Ululai, and succeeded to Tiglath-pileser's empire. In 724 BC he began the siege of Samaria, but we have no annals of his reign. Sargon II., his successor, may have founded a new dynasty or was perhaps a brother of Shalmaneser V. Samaria fell almost immediately (721 BC), and the flower of the nation, to the number of 27,290 persons, was deported and settled about Halah on the Habur, in the province of Gozan, and in Media (2 K.17.6), being replaced by Babylonians and Syrians. Merodach-baladan II., a king of Bit lakin, a Chaldaean state in S. Babylonia, who had been tributary to Tiglath-pileser III., had made himself master of Babylon, and was supported there by Elam. Sargon met the Elamites in a battle which he claimed as a victory, but he had to leave Merodach-baladan alone as king in Babylon for twelve years. This failure roused the West under laubidi of Hamath, who secured Arpad, Simirra, Damascus, and Samaria as allies, supported by Hanno of Gaza. Sargon in 720 BC set out to recover his power here. At Karkar, laubidi was defeated and captured, and the southern branch of the confederacy was crushed at Raphia. Hanno was carried to Assyria, 9000 people deported, Sibu (Sewe, So), the Tartan of Egypt, fled, the Arabians submitted and paid tribute. Azuri of Ashdod, who began to intrigue with Egypt, was deposed and replaced by his brother, Ahimiti. A rebellion in Ashdod led to a pretender being installed, but Sargon sent his Tartan to Ashdod (Is.20.1), the pretender fled, and Ashdod and Gath were reduced to Assyrian provinces. Judah, Edom, and Moab staved off vengeance by heavy toll. Sargon's heaviest task was the reduction of Armenia. Rusa I. was able to enlist all Upper Mesopotamia, including Mita of Mushki, and it took ten years to subdue the foe. Sargon's efforts were clearly aided by the incursions of the Gimirrai (Gomer, Cimmerians) into N. Armenia. Having triumphed everywhere else, Sargon turned his veterans against Babylonia. The change of kings in Elam was a favourable opportunity for attacking Merodach-baladan, who was merely holding down the country by Chaldaean troops. Sargon marched down the Tigris, seized the chief posts on the east, screened off the Elamites and threatened Merodach-baladan's rear. He therefore abandoned Babylon and fell on Sargon's rear, but, meeting no support, retreated S. to his old kingdom and fortified it strongly. Sargon entered Babylon, welcomed as a deliverer, and in 709 BC became king of Babylon. The army stormed Bit lakin, but Merodach-baladan escaped over sea. Sargon then restored the ancient cities of Babylonia. Dilmun, an island far down the Persian Gulf, did homage. Sargon founded a magnificient city, Dur-Sharrukin, modern Khorsabad, to the NE. of Nineveh. He died a violent death, but how or where is now uncertain.

The Seige of Lachish. Original transcript, Henry Larard, Calah wall panel.

(h) Sennacherib. - [see 'Bible & Spade': Chapter XIII.] Sennacherib soon had to put down rebellion in the SE. and NW., but his Empire was very well held together, and his chief wars were to meet the intrigues of his neighbours, Elam and Egypt. Babylonia was split up into semi-independent States, peopled by Aramaeans, Chaldaeans, and kindred folk, all restless and ambitious. Merodach-baladan seized the throne of Babylon from Marduk-zakir-shumi, Sargon's viceroy, 704 BC. The Aramaeans and Elam supported him. Sennacherib defeated him at Kish, 703 BC, and drove him out of Babylon after nine months' reign. Sennacherib entered Babylon, spoiled the palace, swept out the Chaldaeans from the land, and carried off 208,000 people as captives. On the throne of Babylon he set Bel-ibni, of the Babylonian seed royal, but educated at his court. Merodach-baladan had succeeded in stirring the W., where Tyre had widely extended its power, and Hezekiah of Judah had grown wealthy and ambitious, to revolt. Ammon, Moab, Edom, the Arabians joined the confederacy, and Egypt encouraged. Padi, king of Ekron, a faithful vassal of Assyria, was overthrown by a rebellion in his city and sent in chains to Hezekiah. Sennacherib, early in 701 BC, appeared on the Mediterranean coast, received the submission of the Phoenician cities, isolated Tyre, and had tribute from Ammon, Moab, and Edom. Tyre he could not capture, so he made Ethbaal of Sidon overlord of Phoenicia, and assailed Tyre with the allied fleet. Its king escaped to Cyprus, but the city held out. Sennacherib meanwhile passed down the coast, reduced Ashkelon, but was met at Eitekeh by the Arabians and Egyptians. He gained an easy victory, and captured Eitekeh, Timnath, and Ekron. Then he concentrated his attention upon Judah, captured forty-six fortified cities, deported 200,150 people, and shut up Hezekiah, 'like a bird in a cage,' in Jerusalem (2 K.18, 19). He assigned the Judaean cities to the kings of Ashdod, Ekron, and Gaza, imposed fresh tribute, and received of Hezekiah thirty talents of gold, eight hundred talents of silver, precious stones, antimony, precious woods, his daughters, his palace women, male and female singers, etc., an enormous spoil, which was carried to Nineveh. His siege of Lachish is depicted on his monuments. Sennacherib continued South but suddenly changed his plans and returned to Babylonia, probably because the Egyptian army was advancing to meet him or because he had heard that Merodach-baladan had again appeared in Babylon. Biblical and Greek evidence also suggest that his army suffered a disaster, probably an outbreak of bubonic plague. If the year was 700 BC an eclipse of the sun may have led him to abandon his campaign.

In Babylonia, Bel-ibni proved unfaithful and was recalled. Ashur-nadin-shumi, Sennacherib's son, was installed as king, and reigned six years. Sennacherib devastated Bit lakin. He then employed Phoenician shipbuilders and sailors to build ships at Til-barsip, on the Euphrates, and at Nineveh, on the Tigris. He floated his fleets down to the mouth of the rivers, shipped his army, and landed at the mouth of the Karun, where the Chaldaeans had taken refuge, 695 BC. He sent the captives by ship to Assyria, and marched his army into S. Elam. The king of Elam, however, swooped down on Babylon and carried off Ashur-nadin-shumi to Elam. Nergal-ushezib was raised to the throne, and, aided by Elamite troops, proceeded to capture the Assyrian garrisons and cut off the southern army. Sennacherib moved to Erech and awaited Nergal-ushezib, who had occupied Nippur. He was defeated, captured, and taken to Assyria, 693 BC. A revolution in Elam tempted Sennacherib to invade that country, perhaps in hope of rescuing his son. He swept all before him, the Elamite king retreating to the mountains, but the severe winter forced Sennacherib to retreat, 692 BC. Mushezib-Marduk and the Babylonians opened the treasury of Marduk to bribe the Elamites for support. A great army of Elamites, Aramaeans, Chaldaeans, and Babylonians barred Sennacherib's return at Halule, on the E. of the Tigris, 691 BC. Sennacherib claimed the victory, but had no power to do more, and left Mushezib-Marduk alone for the time. He came back to Babylonia in 690 BC, and the new Elamite king being unable to assist, Babylon was taken. Mushezib-Marduk was deposed and sent to Nineveh. Babylon was then sacked, fortifications and walls, temples and palaces razed to the ground, the inhabitants massacred, the canals turned over the ruins, 689 BC. Sennacherib made Babylonia an Assyrian province, and was king himself till his death (681 BC).

Sennacherib chose Nineveh, which had become a second-rate city, as his capital, and, by his magnificent buildings and great fortifications, made it a formidable rival to Calah, Asshur, and even Babylon before its destruction. His last few years are in obscurity, but he was murdered by his son or sons. See ADRAMMELECH.


(i) Esarhaddon came to the throne (680 BC), after a short struggle with the murderers of his father and their party, and he rebuilt Babylon. He had to repel an incursion of the Cimmerians in the beginning of his reign, and then defeated the Medes. In 677 BC Sidon was in revolt, but was taken and destroyed, a new city called Kar-Esarhaddon being built to replace it and colonized with captives from Elam and Babylonia (Ezr.4.2). In 676 BC, Esarhaddon marched into Arabia and conquered the eight kings of Bazu and Hazu (Buz and Huz of Gn.22.21). In 674 BC he invaded Egypt and again in 673. In 670 B.C. he made his great effort to conquer Egypt, drove back the Egyptian army from the frontier to Memphis, winning three severe battles. Memphis surrendered, Tirhakah fled to Thebes, and Egypt was made an Assyrian province. In 668 BC it revolted, and on the march to reduce it Esarhaddon died. He divided the Empire between his two sons, Ashurbanipal being king of Assyria and the Empire, while Shamash-shum-ukin was king of Babylon as a vassal of his brother.

(j) Ashurbanipal at once prosecuted his father's reduction of Egypt to submission. Tirhakah had drawn the Assyrian governors, some of them native Egyptians, as Neco, into a coalition against Assyria. Some remained faithful, and the rising was suppressed; Tirhakah was driven back to Ethiopia, where he died (664 BC). Tanutamon, the son of Tirhakah, invaded Egypt and Ashurbanipal in 662 BC again suppressed a rising, drove the Ethiopian out, and captured Thebes. Ashurbanipal besieged Ba'al, king of Tyre, and although unable to capture the city, obtained its submission and that of Arvad, Tabal, and Cilicia. Gyges, king of Lydia, exchanged embassies, and sent Ashurbanipal two captive Cimmerians, but he afterwards allied himself with Psammetichus, son of Neco, and assisted him to throw off the Assyrian yoke. The Mannai had been restless, and Ashurbanipal next reduced them. Elam was a more formidable foe. Allying himself with the Aramaeans and Chaldaeans, Urtaku, king of Elam, invaded Babylonia, but died and his throne was seized by Teumman. Ashurbanipal took advantage of the accession dispute to invade Elam and capture Susa; and after killing Teumman put Ummanigash and Tammaritu, two sons of Urtaku, on the thrones of two districts of Elam. He then took vengeance on the Aramaeans, E. of the Tigris. His brother, Shamash-shum-ukin, now began to plot for independence. He enlisted the Chaldaeans, Aramaeans, and Ummanigash of Elam, Arabia, and Egypt. A simultaneous rising took place, and Ashurbanipal seemed likely to lose his Empire. He invaded Babylonia. In Elam, Tammaritu put to death Ummanigash and all his family, but was defeated by Indabigash, and had to flee to Assyria. Ashurbanipal defeated his opponents and laid siege to Babylon, Borsippa, Sippar, and Cutha, capturing one after the other. Shamash-shum-ukin burnt his palace over his head, and Babylon surrendered (648 BC). The conquest of S. Babylonia and Chaldaea was followed by campaigns against Elam, culminating in the capture of Susa and its destruction in 639 BC. The last years of his reign are in obscurity.

(k) Fall of Assyria. - Ashurbanipal was succeeded by Ashur-etil-ilani, his son. Another son, Sin-sharra-ishkun, and a general, Sin-shum-lishir, seem to have disputed the succession and perhaps both held the throne for a time. Sin-sharra-ishkun may have become king after Ashur-etil-ilani's death. Under these kings, the western provinces were occupied by the Scythians, and Nabo-polassar, an Aramaean, achieved the independence of Babylonia with the help of Cyaxares the Mede. The Medes, after being kept at bay for a time by the Assyrians, with the aid of the Scythians and of Psammetichus I. of Egypt, destroyed Asshur in 614 BC and Nineveh in 612 BC. Ashur-uballit II., a general of perhaps royal lineage, retreated westwards with the army to Harran but the Medes captured it in 608 BC and in 606 BC the Assyrian kingdom came to an end.

Map - Near East c 660bce


1. Natural features.

Babylonia is the name given to the great alluvial plain between the Tigris and the Euphrates S. of the point where the rivers come closest together, about the latitude of modern Baghdad. There were also extensions NW. up the Euphrates and NE. in the Diyala valley. In ancient times the Persian Gulf penetrated much farther inland, and as the sea receded vast marshy tracts with islands were left which gradually came to be cultivated as the land dried. An elaborate system of irrigation was necessary and the need to control it led early to a strong government by city-states and to frequent wars between them. The smaller, northern part of the country came to be called Akkad and was mainly populated by Semites; the larger, southern part was named Sumer and its population was chiefly Sumerian. The central cities of Akkad v/ere Kish, Kuta, Sippar (Sepharvaim), and Akkad; to the NE. lay Akshak and Eshnunna and to the NW., on the Euphrates, Mari. In the SE. were Babylon, the city of the god Marduk, and its sister city, Borsippa where Nebo was worshipped. The oldest city in Sumer was Eridu, on the Persian Gulf, the seat of the cult of Ea; a little to the N. lay Ur, whose patron was Sin, the moon-god. To the N. lay Larsa with its temple of Shamash, the sun-god, Uruk (Erech), whose chief god was Anu, and Lagash, with its shrine of Ningirsu. Farther N. were Umma, Adab and Shuruppak and beyond that the cities of Nippur, the abode of Enlil, the earth-god, and Isin, Great commercial rivalry existed between the states, and at one time or another several exercised in turn lordship over the greater part of Babylonia.

2. History.

(a) Prehistoric period. - Three successive chalcolithic cultures have been distinguished in Babylonia in the 4th and 3rd millennia, centred respectively at 'Ubaid (near Ur), Uruk (in Sumer), and at modern Jemdet Nasr (in Akkad). The first and third are related to the painted pottery cultures of Iran (Susa, etc.) and N. Mesopotamia (Tell Halaf, etc.) and the second may also be. Building (with mud bricks), agriculture, cattle-breeding, fishing, weaving, brewing, metal-working, and decorative arts were practised. As early as the Uruk period, when writing first appears, the Sumerians entered the country, settling among Subaraeans, Semites, and perhaps others.

(b) The city-states. - What is called the early dynastic period began soon after 3000 BC when many city-states existed under their several kings. Babylonian king-lists classify these in dynasties named after the cities but of most of the earliest kings nothing more is known. A few, however, such as Ziusudra of Shuruppak, Dumuzi (Tammuz) of Bad-tibira, Etana of Kish, and Gilgamish of Uruk occur also in legend or mythology; some of these were later worshipped as gods. The earliest are described as ruling 'before the flood' but of this event nothing is known; floods were common in early Babylonia. Some notable names and some powerful dynasties known from early cuneiform sources are not included in the king-lists. The earliest royal inscriptions are perhaps those of Mesilim of Kish (c 2600 BC ?), who included in his dominions Lagash and Umma, and of his contemporary, Iku-Shamash of Mari. History virtually begins with the 1st dynasty of Ur (c 2450-2300 BC) founded by Mesannipadda and noted for its 'royal cemetery' with its evidences of human sacrifice and its wealth of gold jewellery. During this dynasty, Lagash, though apparently subject to Ur, was ruled by notable kings such as Ur-Nanshe, Eannatum, and Enannatum I. and n. Supremacy passed for brief periods to various cities until Lugalzaggisi of Uruk, after defeating Urukagina of Lagash and Ur-Zababa of Kish, was overcome by Sargon of Akkad (c 2300 BC) who founded the Semitic dynasty of Akkad, uniting all Babylonia under his rule and conducting campaigns as far as Asia Minor. Akkad flourished under his successors, Rimush, Manishtusu, and Naram-Sin, but in the reign of Sharkalisharri (c 2150 BC) its power declined. Soon after his death Babylonia passed under the rule of barbarian invaders from Gutium, a district E. of the Tigris, but in spite of this domination Sumerian culture reached a lofty height at Lagash under its ruler Gudea. Deliverance from Gutium came through Utuhegal of Uruk but dominion then almost immediately passed (c 2050 B.C.) to Ur-Nammu, founder of the brilliant 3rd dynasty of Ur during which the Sumerian civilization reached its zenith. His son, Shulgi (or Dungi?), and the succeeding kings, Bur-Sin and Shu-Sin (or Gimil-Sin?) exacted tribute from Elam and Assyria, but the fifth king, Ibbi-Sin, was defeated and captured by the Elamites (c 1960 BC) and supreme power in Babylonia was then shared between Isin and Larsa under dynasties recently founded by Ishbi-Erra and Naplanum respectively, Amorite leaders who had infiltrated with their troops from the Euphrates region to the NW. In NE. Babylonia Eshnunna maintained its independence under an Akkadian dynasty. Isin at first dominated the scene and its earliest kings, like the latter kings of the preceding Ur dynasty, received divine worship. The fifth king was Lipit-Ishtar whose law-code has been recovered from the excavations. He was displaced, however, by a usurper, Ur-Ninurta, and from that time Larsa began to contest with some measure of success for the leading place, under Gungunum, its fifth king, and his successors, Abisare and Sumuilum.

(c) The Hammurabi dynasty. - Meanwiiile, another Amorite dynasty, the 1st dynasty of Babylon, led by Sumu-abum, took possession (c 1830 BC) of the hitherto unimportant town of Babylon, and under his successors, Sumu-la-ilum, Zabum, Apil-Sin, and Sin-muballit, its power rapidly grew. In the reign of Zabum of Babylon, Kudur-Mabug, an Elamite, conquered Larsa, appointing as king his elder son, Warad-Sin, and after the latter's death, his second son, Rim-Sin. Rim-Sin dethroned Damik-ilishu of Isin and assumed for a time rule over most of Babylonia but in the sixtieth year of his reign (c 1698 BC) he was himself defeated by Hammurabi of Babylon who united all Babylonia under his dominion. The Amorites adopted the Akkadian language and accepted into their pantheon the chief gods of Babylonia, but the Sumerian language and much of the Sumerian culture were soon extinguished and Babylonia became a Semitic country, with Marduk, the god of Babylon, as its principal deity. Under Hammurabi's wise and firm administration, the land grew very wealthy. Great attention was paid to irrigation and commerce, and science and letters flourished. Hammurabi's code of laws was based partly on earlier codes. Much light has been thrown on Amorite history and culture (and perhaps on the origins of the Hebrews) by the great hoard of documents, especially letters, found at Mari, an important city-state on the Euphrates, N. of Babylon, whose king, Zimri-lim, was subdued by Hammurabi. Even Asshur and Nineveh acknowledged Hammurabi as overlord, but after his death the power of Babylon declined. In the ninth year (c 1677 BC) of his successor, Samsu-iluna, great parts of Babylonia fell under the rule of invading Kassites (perhaps the Cush of Gn.10.8), coming from Iran under their leader Gandash.

(d) Kassite supremacy and the rise of Assyria. - During Samsu-iluna's reign a rival, but effete, 'Maritime' dynasty was inaugurated (c 1658 BC) by Iluma-ilum in the S. of Babylonia, but the Hammurabi dynasty continued to rule most of the country until the sack of Babylon by the Hittite king, Mursilis i. (c 1531 BC), which ended the reign of its last king, Samsu-ditana. Agum ii., the Kassite king, took advantage of this event to assume control of the whole of Babylonia. The Kassites gave to Babylonia the name Kar-duniash, and although they adopted the Babylonian language and the Babylonian gods their earliest kings bore Kassite names. Burna-Buriash i. (c 1485) was a contemporary of Puzur-Ashur in. of Assyria, with whom he had a boundary dispute. The Maritime dynasty was brought to an end by Ulam-Buriash (c 1453 BC). Kara-Indash n. concluded a frontier agreement with Ashur-bel-nisheshu of Assyria, and his daughter was married to Amenophis in. of Egypt. Three letters of his son, Kadashman-Harbe I., to Amenophis and two replies are found among the El-Amarna correspondence, and the Egyptian king appears to have married his sister. Kurigalzu I., the next king, declined to join a Canaanite coalition against Amenophis. In an expedition into Elam, he captured Susa, its capital, and on his N. frontier he built a fortified city, Dur-Kurigalzu (modern Aqarquf), as a defence against Assyria. Burna-Buriash II. (c 1360) was allied with Amenophis iv. of Egypt against Suppiluliuma the Hittite king, Mitanni, Egypt's former ally, being now in decline. His son married a daughter of Ashur-uballit i. of Assyria, and after Kadashman-Harbe n., the offspring of this union, was killed in a revolt led by a pretender, Nazibugash, the Assyrian king helped Kurigalzu n., a son of Burna-buriash II., to gain the throne. Later, however, frontier wars developed between Kurigalzu and Enlil-nirari of Assyria and afterwards between his son, Nazi-Maruttash, and the Assyrian king Adad-nirari I. Kadashman-Turgu and Kadashman-Enlil II. were allied with the Hittite king Hattusilis in. against Assyria, but in the next reign Kashtiliash in. was taken captive by Tukulti-Ninurta I. and his capital was plundered. The next kings of Babylonia owed allegiance to Assyria and the land was raided by the Elamites, but after the murder of Tukulti-Ninurta Adad-shum-nazir gained the upper hand over his northern neighbour. Ashur-nirari ni. of Assyria and his son Enlil-kudurra-uzur became in turn his vassals until, in an Assyrian rising, Enlil-kudurra-uzur and he both lost their lives in the same battle. The reigns of Melishipak and Merodach-baladan I. were comparatively peaceful, but Zababa-shum-iddin (1169-1167 BC) was besieged in his capital by Ashur-dan i. of Assyria. The dynasty was brought to an end, however, through the defeat of Enlil-nadin-ahhe by Shutruk-nahhunte i. of Elam, who seems to have appointed his son, Kutur-nahhunte, to rule in his place as king of Babylonia.

(e) The dynasty of Isin and its successors. - Independence for Babylonia was shortly afterwards regained under Marduk-kabit-ahheshu, an Aramaean prince of Isin, who founded a new dynasty. His reign and those of his two successors seem to have been prosperous and the next king, Nebuchadrezzar i., although fighting indecisively with Ashur-resha-ishi i. of Assyria, had a signal victory over the Elamites. Marduk-nadin-ahhe, however, after routing an Assyrian army was decisively defeated and lost his life when Tiglath-pileser i. of Assyria retaliated by ravaging Babylonia. Marduk-shapik-zeri had amicable relations with Ashur-bel-kala of Assyria, to whom his successor, Adad-apla-iddin, married his daughter after a preliminary conflict. Of the remainder of this dynasty and the next four dynasties practically nothing is known. The Aramaean migration swallowed up Mesopotamia and drove back both Assyria and Babylonia. The Chaldaeans followed the old route from Arabia by Ur, and established themselves firmly in the S. of Babylonia. Akkad was plundered by the Sute. Thus cut off from the West, the absence of Babylonian power allowed the rise of Philistia ; Israel consolidated, Phoenicia grew into power. Hamath, Aleppo, Sam'al became independent States. Damascus became an Aramaean power. Egypt also was split up, and could influence Palestine but little. When Assyria revived under Adad-nirari in., the whole West was a new country and had to be reconquered. Babylonia had no hand in it. She was occupied in suppressing the Chaldaeans and Aramaeans on her borders ; and had to call for Assyrian assistance in the time of Shalmaneser IV. Finally, Tiglath-pileser III. became master of Babylonia, and after him it fell into the hands of the Chaldaean Merodach-baladan, till Sargon drove him out. Under Sennacherib it was a mere dependency of Assyria, till he destroyed Babylon. Under Esarhaddon and Ashurbanipal Babylonia revived somewhat, and under Nabopolassar, a Chaldaean, found in the weakness of Assyria and the fall of Nineveh a chance to recover.

Nabopolassar reckoned his reign from 625 BC, [see 'Bible & Spade': Chapter XIV.] but during the early years of his rule some Southern Babylonian cities such as Erech continued to acknowledge Sin-sharra-ishkun, but he allied himself with the Medes who devastated Mesopotamia and captured Nineveh. The Medes made no attempt to hold Mesopotamia, and Pharaoh Neco, who was advancing from Egypt to take Syria, was defeated at Carchemish (605 BC) by Nebuchadrezzar II. So Babylonia succeeded to the W. part of the Assyrian Empire. Nebuchadrezzar attacked Egypt itself in 601 BC but retired after a battle in which both sides suffered severely. In 597 BC, however, he occupied Jerusalem and in 586 BC, after a further siege, he destroyed it. After a thirteen years' siege he captured Tyre in 573 BC, but various conflicts with Egypt ended indecisively.

Nebuchadrezzar's inscriptions hardly mention anything but his buildings. He fortified Babylon, enriched it with temples and palaces; restored temples at Sippara, Larsa, Ur, Dilbat, Erech, Kutha, Marad, and other cities; cleaned out and walled with quays the Arahtu canal which ran through Babylon, and dug a canal N. of Sippar.

Amel-Marduk (Evil-Merodach), his son, was not acceptable to the priests, and was murdered by his brother-in-law Neriglissar, who had married a daughter of Nebuchadrezzar. He, too, was occupied chiefly with the temples of his land. Neriglissar was succeeded by his son Labashi-Marduk, a ' bad character,' whom the priests deposed, setting up Nabonidus, a Babylonian. He rebuilt many of the oldest Babylonian temples, and in exploring their ruins found records which have helped to date early kings. Partly owing to his unpopularity with the Babylonian priesthood and partly in order to strengthen his western defences he spent the later years of his reign at Harran in N. Mesopotamia and eventually at Teima (Tema) in N. Arabia, leaving the command of the army in Babylonia to his son Belshazzar. Meanwhile, Cyrus, king of Anshan in Persia, by his overthrow of Astyages the Mede, became king of Persia and then conquered Croesus of Lydia. He began to threaten Babylonia and in 539 BC Nabonidus returned to Babylon, but when Cyrus marched against it, it opened its gates and in October 539 BC Cyrus entered without resistance. Nabonidus was spared and sent to Karmania; Belshazzar was probably killed. Cyrus was acceptable to the Babylonians, worshipped at the ancient shrines, glorified the gods who had given him leadership over their land and people, made Babylon a royal city, and took the old native titles, but the sceptre had departed from the Semitic world.

3. Literature.

How Cuneiform is written.

Babylonia was very early in possession of a form of writing. The earliest specimens of which we know are little removed from pictorial writing; but the use of flat pieces of soft clay, afterwards dried in the sun or baked hard in a furnace, as writing material, and strokes of a triangular reed, soon led to conventional forms of characters in which the curved lines of a picture were replaced by one or more short marks on the line. These were gradually reduced in number until the resultant group of strokes bore little resemblance to the original. The short pointed wedge-shaped 'dabs' of the reed have given rise to the name 'cuneiform.' The necessities of the engraver on stone led him to reproduce these wedges with an emphasized head that gives the appearance of nails, but all such graphic varieties make no essential difference. The signs denoted primarily concrete objects, such as a man's head, but from the Sumerian and the Semitic words for 'head' (sag, reshu) were derived syllabic values, shak, rish, etc., which were used in spelling out words syllabically. From the concrete objects were also developed ideas; the picture of a bull's head symbolized power, courage, and greatness. The picture of a star denoted the sky, the supreme god (Anu) and the ideas of divinity and loftiness ; and from the Sumerian word an, 'sky,' and the Semitic word ilu, 'god,' were derived the phonetic values an and il. Thus many signs have several ideographic and phonetic values. The script, containing over six hundred signs and first used by the Sumerians, was adopted by the Assyrians and Babylonians to write their own language (Akkadian), which superseded Sumerian early in the 2nd millennium except for some liturgical and literary purposes. The earliest inscriptions date back to the late 4th or early 3rd millennium and come from temple archives, and relate to offerings to the gods or gifts to the temples. From very early times, however, contracts such as deeds of sale, dispositions of property, marriage settlements, etc., were preserved in the archives, together with large quantities of deeds, letters, business accounts, etc., and we have enormous collections in our museums of material relating to the private life and customs of the people at almost all periods of the history.

The Babylonians early drew up codes of laws, hymns, ritual texts, and mythology. The supposed influence of the heavenly bodies led to works associating celestial phenomena with terrestrial events - the so-called astrological texts which recorded astronomical observations from very early dates. A wonderful collection of extraordinary events, as births of monsters or abnormal beings, were regarded as ominous, and an attempt was made to connect them with events in national or private history. These 'omen tablets' also deal with morals, attaching to human acts consequences evincing royal or Divine displeasure. Evil conduct was thus placed under a ban, and the punishment of it was assigned to the 'hand of God or the king.' It was a very high morality that was so inculcated: to say yea with the lips and nay in the heart, to use false weights, to betray a friend, 10 estrange relations, to slander or backbite, are all forbidden. The conduct of a good king, of a good man, of a faithful son of his god, are set out with great care, and culminate in the precept, 'To him that does thee wrong do no evil; recompense thine adversary with good.' Medicine was extensively written upon, and the number of cases prescribed for is very great. We are not able, as a rule, to recognize either the ailment or the prescription; but magical spells were often used to drive out the demon supposed to be the cause of the disease.

The Babylonians had some acquaintance with mathematics, so far as necessary for the calculation of areas, and they early drew up tables of squares and cubes, as well as of their measures of surface and capacity. To them we owe the division of time into hours, minutes, and seconds. See WEIGHTS AND MEASURES.

The Babylonian Literature was extensive, and much of it has striking similarities to portions of the Bible (see CREATION, DELUGE, etc.). It also seems to have had influence upon classical mythology.

4. Religion.

The religion of Babylonia was a syncretic result of the union of a number of city and local cults. Consequently Shamash the sun-god; Sin the Moon-god; Ishtar, Venus; Marduk the god of Babylon, Nabu of Borsippa, Enlil of Nippur, Nergal the god of pestilence, Nusku the new-moon crescent, and a host of others, were worshipped with equal reverence by both kings and people. Most men, however, were specially devoted to one god, determined for them by hereditary cult, or possibly personal choice: a man was 'son of his god' and the god was his 'father.' In the course of time almost every god absorbed much of the attributes of every other god, so that, with the exception of such epithets as were peculiarly appropriate to him, Shamash could be addressed or hymned in much the same words as Marduk or Sin. By some teachers all the gods were said to be Marduk in one or other manifestation of his Divine activity. The whole pantheon became organized and simplified by the identification of deities originally distinct, as a result of political unification or theological system. The ideal of Divinity was high and pure, often very poetic and beautiful, but the Babylonian was tolerant of other gods, and indisposed to deny the right of others to call a god by another name than that which best summed up for him his own conception.

Magic entered largely into the beliefs and practices of life, invading religion in spite of spiritual authority. The universe was peopled with spirits, good and bad, who had to be appeased or propitiated. Conjurations, magic spells, forecasts, omens were resorted to in order to bind or check the malign influences of demons. The augurs, conjurers, magicians, soothsayers were a numerous class, and were usually called in whenever disease or fear suggested occult influence. The priest was devoted to the service of his god, and originally every head of a family was priest of the local god, the right to minister in the temple descending in certain families to the latest times. The office was later much subdivided, and as the temple became an overwhelming factor in the city life, its officials and employees formed a large part of the population. A temple corresponded to a monastery in the Middle Ages, having lands, houses, tenants, and a host of dependants, as well as enormous wealth, which it employed on the whole in good deeds, and certainly threw its influence on the side of peace and security. Although distinct classes, the judges, scribes, physicians, and even skilled manufacturers were usually attached to the temple, and priests often exercised these functions. Originally the god, and soon his temple, were the visible embodiment of the city life. The king grew out of the high priest. He was the vicegerent of the god on earth, and retained his priestly power to the last, but he especially represented its external aspect. He was ruler, leader of the army, chief judge, supreme builder of palaces and temples, guardian of right, defender of the weak and oppressed, accessible to the meanest subject. The expansion of city territory by force of arms, the growth of kingdoms and rise of empires, led to a military caste, rapacious for foreign spoils, and domestic politics became a struggle for power between the war party of expansion and conquest and the party of peace and consolidation.
[Article: Dictionary of the Bible, J.Hastings, 2nd Ed., T&T.Clark, 1963. - C.H.W.J.]