Old Assyrian Empire
|Old Assyrian Empire|
|Capital||Aššur 2025 BCE
Šubat-Enlil 1754 BCE
Aššur 1681 BCE
|Languages||Sumerian language, Akkadian language|
|Religion||Ancient Mesopotamian religion|
|•||c. 2025 BCE||Puzur-Aššur I (first)|
|•||c. 1388 BCE||Aššur-nādin-ahhē II (last)|
|Historical era||Bronze Age|
|Today part of||Syria|
The Old Assyrian Empire is one of three periods in which the history of Assyria is divided, the other two being: the Middle Assyrian Empire and the Neo-Assyrian Empire. The first written inscriptions by urbanized Assyrian kings appear c. 2050 BC, after they had shrugged off Sumerian domination. The land of Assyria as a whole then consisted of a number of city-states and small Semitic kingdoms, some of which were initially independent of Assyria. The foundation of the first major temple in the city of Aššur was traditionally ascribed to king Ushpia who reigned c. 2050 BCE, possibly a contemporary of Ishbi-Erra of Isin and Naplanum of Larsa. He was reputedly succeeded by kings named Apiashal, Sulili, Kikkiya and Akiya (died c. 2026 BCE), of whom little is known, apart from much later mentions of Kikkiya conducting fortifications on the city walls, and building work on temples in Aššur.
In approximately 2025 BCE, Puzur-Aššur I is speculated to have overthrown Kikkia and founded a native Assyrian dynasty which was to survive for (or 216 years) until Erišum II (c. 1760 BCE — c. 1754 BCE), son of Narām-Sîn, was overthrown by the Amorite Šamši-Adad I (c. 1754 BCE — c. 1721 BCE), son of Ila-kabkabu. Although regarded as an Amorite by later Assyrian tradition, Šamši-Adad I's descent is suggested to be from the same line as the native Mesopotamian ruler Ushpia in the Assyrian King List. He put his son Išme-Dagān I on the throne of a nearby Assyrian city, Ekallatum, and maintained Assyria's Anatolian colonies. Šamši-Adad I then went on to conquer the kingdom of Mari on the Euphrates river putting another of his sons, Yasmah-Adad on the throne there. Šamši-Adad I's Assyria now encompassed the whole of northern Mesopotamia and included territory in central Mesopotamia, Asia Minor and northern Syria.
Išme-Dagān I (c. 1721 BCE — c. 1681 BCE), son and successor of Šamši-Adad I, like his father was a great warrior, and in addition to repelling Babylonian attacks, campaigned successfully against the Turukku and Lullubi of the Zagros Mountains (in modern Iran) who had attacked the Assyrian city of Ekallatum, and against Dadusha, king of Eshnunna, and the state of Iamhad. Hammurabi of Babylon (c. 1696 BCE — c. 1654 BCE), after first conquering Mari, Larsa, and Eshnunna, eventually prevailed over Mut-Aškur. With Hammurabi, the various kârum colonies in Anatolia ceased trade activity—probably because the goods of Assyria were now being traded with the Babylonians. The Assyrian monarchy survived, however the three Amorite kings succeeding Išme-Dagān I, Mut-Aškur (c. 1681 BCE — c. 1671 BCE), Rīmuš (c. 1671 BCE — c. 1665 BCE), and Asīnûm (c. 1665 BCE), were vassals, dependent on the Babylonians during the reign of Hammurabi, and for a short time, of his successor Samsu-iluna. The short lived Babylonian Empire quickly began to unravel upon the death of Hammurabi, and Babylonia lost control over Assyria during the reign of Hammurabi's successor Samsu-iluna.
A period of civil war ensued after Asīnûm was deposed c. 1665 BCE by a powerful native Assyrian vice regent named Puzur-Sîn, who regarded Asīnûm as both a foreigner and a former lackey of Babylon. A native king named Aššūr-dugul seized the throne in 1665 BCE, probably with the help of Puzur-Sîn. However, he was unable to retain control for long, and was soon deposed by a rival claimant, Aššūr-apla-idi. Internal instability ensued with four further kings (Nasir-Sin, Sin-namir, Ipqi-Ishtar and Adad-salulu) all reigning in quick succession over a period of approximately six years between c. 1659 BCE — c. 1653 BCE. Finally, a king named Adasi came to the fore c. 1653 BCE and managed to quell the civil unrest and stabilize the situation in Assyria.
Aššur-nadin-ahhe I (c. 1430 BCE — c. 1415 BCE), son and successor of Aššur-rabi I, was courted by the Egyptians, who were rivals of Mitanni, and attempting to gain a foothold in the near east. Amenhotep II sent the Assyrian king a tribute of gold to seal an alliance against the Mitanni. It is likely that this alliance prompted Šauštatar, the emperor of Mitanni, to invade Assyria, and sack the city of Aššur, after which Assyria became a sometime vassal state, with Aššur-nādin-ahhē I being forced to pay tribute to Šauštatar. He was deposed by his own brother IIlil-nāṣir II (c. 1415 BCE — c. 1409 BCE) possibly with the aid of Mitanni, who received tribute from the new king. Eriba-Adad I (c. 1378 BCE — c. 1354 BCE), a son of Aššūr-bēl-nīšēšu, ascended the throne c. 1378 BCE and finally broke the ties to the Mitanni.
- 1 Names
- 2 Cities of the Old Assyrian Empire
- 3 History
- 3.1 Dynasty of Puzur-Aššur I
- 3.2 Upper Mesopotamian Empire
- 3.3 Assyria under Babylonian domination, c. 1750 BCE — c. 1732 BCE
- 3.4 Assyrian Adaside dynasty, c. 1732 BCE — c. 1451 BCE
- 3.4.1 Reign of Adasi, c. 1718 BCE — c. 1699 BCE
- 3.4.2 Reign of Bel-bani, c. 1699 BCE — c. 1689 BCE
- 3.4.3 Reign of Libaya, c. 1689 BCE — c. 1673 BCE
- 3.4.4 Reign of Iptar-Sin, c. 1673 BCE — c. 1661 BCE
- 3.4.5 Reign of Bazaya, c. 1661 BCE — c. 1633 BCE
- 3.4.6 Reign of Lullaya, c. 1633 BCE — c. 1627 BCE
- 3.5 Assyria in decline, c. 1450 BCE — c. 1393 BCE
- 4 Government
- 5 See also
- 6 Inscriptions
- 7 Notes
- 8 References
- 9 External links
Assyria is named for its original capital, the ancient city of Aššur. The city Aššur is itself named after its patron deity Aššur. Assyria was also sometimes known as Azuhinum prior to the rise of the city-state of Aššūr, after which it was Aššūrāyu. “Assyria” can also refer to the geographic region or heartland where Assyria, its empires and the Assyrian people were centered. Scholars suggest that Šubarri may have been an early name for Assyria proper on the Tigris river and westward, although there are various other theories placing it sometimes a little farther to the east and/or north.
Cities of the Old Assyrian Empire
Aššur was the capital city of Assyria c. 2025 BCE — c. 1754 BCE and c. 1681 BCE — c. 1379 BCE. The remains of the city are situated on the western bank of the Tigris River, north of the confluence with the tributary Little Zab river, in modern-day Iraq, more precisely in the Al-Shirqat District (a small panhandle of the Saladin Governorate). It is about 65 kilometers (40 miles) south of the former Nimrud and 100 kilometers (60 miles) south of Nineveh. Archaeology reveals the site of Aššur was occupied by c. 2600 BCE. The oldest remains of the city were discovered in the foundations of the Ištar temple, as well as at the Old Palace.
An Assyrian king named Ushpia who reigned c. 2030 BCE is credited with dedicating the first temple of the god Aššur in his home city. By the time the Neo-Sumerian Empire collapsed at the hands of the Elamites c. 2004 BCE, the local Akkadian kings, including those in Aššur, had shaken off the Sumerian yoke. In around 2025 BCE, Puzur-Aššur I founded a new dynasty, and his successors such as Ilu-šūma, Erišum I and Šarru-kīn I left inscriptions regarding the building of temples to the gods Aššur, Adad and Ištar in the city. Aššur developed rapidly into a center for trade, and trade routes led from the city to Anatolia, where merchants from Aššur established trading colonies. These Assyrian colonies in Asia Minor were called kārum, and traded mostly with tin and wool.
In the city of Aššur, the first great temples to the city god Aššur and the weather god Adad were erected. Aššur was the capital of the empire of Šamši-Adad I (c. 1754 BCE — c. 1721 BCE). He expanded the city's power and influence beyond the Tigris River valley, creating what some regard as the first Assyrian Empire. In this period, the Great Royal Palace was built, and the temple of Aššur was expanded and enlarged with a ziggurat. This empire came to end when Hammurabi, the Amorite king of Babylon incorporated the city into his short lived empire following the death of Išme-Dagān I c. 1681 BCE, and the next three Assyrian kings were regarded as vassals.
A native king named Adasi drove the Babylonians and Amorites from Aššur and Assyria as a whole c. 1720 BCE, however little is known of his successors. Renewed building activity is known a few centuries later, during the reign of a native king Puzur-Aššur III, when the city was refortified and the southern quarters incorporated into the main city defenses. Temples to the moon god Sin and the sun god Shamash were erected c. 1490 BCE. The city was then subjugated by the king of Mitanni, Šauštatar c. 1450 BCE, who removed the gold and silver doors of the temple to his capital, Washukanni, as plunder. Aššur-uballiṭ I overthrew the Mitanni c. 1365 BCE, and the Assyrians benefited from this development by taking control of the eastern portion of Mitanni territory, and later also annexing Hittite, Babylonian, Amorite and Hurrian territories.
Aššur remained occupied during the Islamic period until c. 1405 CE when the Mongol Timur conducted a massacre of indigenous Assyrian people. After that there are no traces of a settlement in the archaeological and numismatic record. Exploration of the site of Aššur began in 1898 by German archaeologists. The territory around the ancient site was occupied by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in 2015. According to some sources, the citadel of Aššur was blown up in May 2015 using improvised explosive devices.
Šubat-Enlil was the capital city of Assyria c. 1754 BCE — c. 1681 BCE. The site has been occupied since c. 5000 BCE. Around 2000 BCE, Šubat-Enlil was known as Shekhna. Around 1754 BCE, the site was renamed "Šubat-Enlil" by the Assyrian king, Šamši-Adad I and it became the capital city of Assyria in Upper Mesopotamia. Šubat-Enlil was abandoned c. 1681 BCE.
The site is located close to some other flourishing cities of the time. Hamoukar is about fifty kilometers away to the southeast. Tell Brak is also about fifty kilometers away to the southwest, and also in the Khabur river basin. Tell Mozan is, too, about fifty kilometers to the west. Tell Leilan, Tell Brak and Tell Mozan were particularly prominent during the Akkadian period.
The city originated c. 5000 BCE as a small farming village and grew to be a large city c. 2600 BCE, roughly two hundred years before the Akkadian Empire. A three-foot layer of sediment at Šubat-Enlil containing no evidence of human habitation offered clues as to the cause of the demise of the Akkadian imperial city; analysis indicated that c. 2200 BCE, a three-century drought was severe enough to affect agriculture and settlement. The conquest of the region by Šamši-Adad I (c. 1754 BCE — c. 1721 BCE) of Assyria revived the abandoned site of Šubat-Enlil. Šamši-Adad I saw the great potential in the rich agricultural production of the region and made it the capital city of his empire. He renamed it from Shekhna to Šubat-Enlil, meaning, "the residence of the god Enlil" in the Akkadian language.
In the city a royal palace was built and a temple acropolis to which a straight paved street led from the city gate. There was also a planned residential area and the entire city was enclosed by a wall. The city size was about 90 hectares (220 acres). Šubat-Enlil may have had a population of 20,000 people at its peak. After the death of Šamši-Adad I, the city became the capital of Apum and prospered until king Samsu-iluna of Babylon sacked it c. 1681 BCE in an attempt to maintain Babylonia's failing influence over Assyria.
The Babylonians were defeated driven out of Assyria by the Assyrian king Adasi, however Šubat-Enlil was never reoccupied and the Assyrian capital city was transferred to its traditional home in Aššur. The mound of Šubat-Enlil is being excavated by a team of archaeologists from Yale University. The excavation started in 1979 led by Harvey Weiss and the study of the site and the region is continuing. Among many important discoveries at Šubat-Enlil is an archive of 1,100 cuneiform clay tablets maintained by the rulers of the city. These tablets date to c. 1700 BCE and record the dealings with other Mesopotamian states and how the city administration worked.
Assyrian merchants established a kârum which was called, “Kârum Kaneš” meaning, "merchant-colony city of Kaneš" in the Assyrian language c. 1974 BCE — c. 1836 BCE. The kârum was set aside by local officials for the early Assyrian merchants to use without paying taxes, as long as the goods remained inside the kârum. Kaneš appears to have served as "the administrative and distribution center of the entire Assyrian colony network in Anatolia." This important kârum was inhabited by soldiers and merchants from Assyria for hundreds of years, who traded local tin and wool for luxury items, foodstuffs and spices, and, woven fabrics from the Assyrian homeland and from Elam. Craftsmen in Kaneš specialized in earthen drinking vessels, in the shapes of animals, that were often used for religious rituals.
Kaneš was destroyed by fire c. 1836 BCE, which some attribute to the conquest of the city of Aššur by the kings of Eshnunna; but Bryce blames it on the raid of Uhna. The inhabitants left most of their possessions behind, which were later to be found by modern archaeologists. The findings have included numerous baked-clay tablets, some of which were enclosed in clay envelopes stamped with cylinder seals. The documents record common activities such as trade between the Assyrian colony and the city state of Aššur and between Assyrian merchants and local people. The trade was run by families rather than by the state.
The Kültepe texts are the oldest documents from Anatolia. Although they are written in Old Assyrian, the Hittite loanwords and names in these texts constitute the oldest record of any language of the Indo-European language family. Most of the archaeological evidence is typical of Anatolia rather than of Assyria, but the use of both cuneiform and the dialect is the best indication of Assyrian presence. To date, over 20,000 cuneiform tablets have been recovered from the site. The destruction of Kaneš caused by the fire was so total that no wood survived for dendrochronological studies.
Kaneš is the result of several superimposed stratigraphic periods. New buildings were constructed on top of the remains of the earlier periods; thus, there is a deep stratigraphy from prehistoric times to the early Hittite period. Kaneš was rebuilt over the ruins of the old and again became a prosperous trade center c. 1798 BCE — c. 1740 BCE. This trade was under the control of Išme-Dagān I (c. 1721 BCE — c. 1681 BCE), who was put in control of Aššur when his father, Šamši-Adad I (c. 1754 BCE — c. 1721 BCE), conquered Ekallatum and Aššur. Kaneš was again destroyed by fire which some attribute Kaneš's second burning to the fall of Aššur, to other nearby kings, and, eventually, to Hammurabi of Babylon (c. 1696 BCE — c. 1654 BCE.)
Kaneš was later reinhabitated not by the Assyrians but by the Hittites. Kaneš's name in the Hittite language became either, "Neša,” "Kaneša," or “Anisa.” The native term for the Hittite language was Nešili meaning, "language of Neša." The king of Zalpuwa, Uhna, raided Neša, after which the Zalpuwans carried off Neša's "Sius" idol. Pithana, the king of Kussara, conquered Neša "in the night, by force" but "did not do evil to anyone in it." Neša revolted against the rule of Pithana's son, Anitta, but Anitta quashed the revolt and made Neša his capital. Anitta further invaded Zalpuwa, captured its king Huzziya, and recovered the Sius idol for Neša. Anitta's descendants moved their capital to Ḫattuša (which Anitta had cursed), thus founding the line of Hittite kings c. 1600 BCE.
Dynasty of Puzur-Aššur I
Puzur-Aššur I (c. 2025 BCE) is speculated to have overthrown Kikkia and founded a native Assyrian dynasty which was to survive for 8 generations (or 216 years) until Erišum II was overthrown by the Amorite Šamši-Adad I. Puzur-Aššur I's descendants left inscriptions mentioning him regarding the building of temples to gods such as Aššur, Adad and Ištar in Assyria. The length of Puzur-Aššur I's reign is unknown. Puzur-Aššur I's clearly Assyrian name (meaning "servant of Aššur") distinguishes him from his three immediate predecessors on the Assyrian King List, who possibly bore non-Semitic names, and from the earlier, Amorite-named "Kings who are ancestors" (also translatable as "Kings whose fathers are known"), often interpreted as a list of Shamshi-Adad's ancestors. Hildegard Levy, writing in the Cambridge Ancient History, rejects this interpretation and sees Puzur-Aššur I as part of a longer dynasty started by one of his predecessors, Sulili. Inscriptions link Puzur-Aššur I to his immediate successors, who, according to the Assyrian King List, are related to the following kings down to Erišum II.
Šalim-ahum (c. 2025 BCE — c. 1995 BCE), son and successor of Puzur-Aššur I, is the earliest independent ruler to be attested in a contemporary inscription. Carved in curious archaic character mirror-writing in old Assyrian on an alabaster block found during the German excavations at Aššur under Walter Andrae, this sole exemplar of his contemporary inscriptions records that the god Aššur “requested of him” the construction of a temple and that he had “beer vats and storage area” built in the “temple area.”:6–7 He ruled during a period when nascent Assyrian merchant companies were branching out into Anatolia to trade textiles and tin from Aššur for silver. Šalim-ahum and his successors bore the title išši’ak aššur, vice regent of Aššur, as well as ensí.
Ilu-šūma, inscribed DINGIR-šum-ma,[i 1] (c. 1945 BCE — c. 1906 BCE), son and successor of Šalim-ahum,:7–8 and is known from his inscription (extant in several copies) where he claims to have "washed the copper" and "established liberty" for the Akkadians in the Sumerian city-states Ur, Nippur, and Der. This has been taken by some scholars to imply that he made military campaigns into Southern Mesopotamia to relieve his fellow Mesopotamians from Amorite and Elamite invasions. However, the historian M. Trolle Larsen has suggested that this represented an attempt to lure traders from the south of Aššur with tax privileges and exemptions, to monopolize the exchange of copper from the gulf for tin from the east. The cities cited therefore are the three major caravan routes the commodities would have traveled rather than campaign routes for the king. His construction activities included building the old temple of Ištar, a city wall, subdivision of the city into house plots and diversion of the flow of two springs to the city gates, “Aushum” and “Wertum.”
Erišu(m) I (inscribed me-ri-šu, or mAPIN-ìš in later texts but always with an initial i in his own seal, inscriptions, and those of his immediate successors,:40 “he has desired,”) (c. 1906 BCE — c. 1876 BCE), son and successor of Ilu-šūma, vigorously expanded Assyrian colonies in Asia Minor during his long reign. It was during his reign that kārums were established along trade routes into Anatolia in the lower city of Kaneš, Amkuwa, Ḫattuša, and eighteen other locations yet to be identified, some designated warbatums, satellites of and subordinate to the kārums. The markets traded tin, textiles, lapis lazuli, iron, antimony, copper, bronze, wool, and grain. His numerous contemporary inscriptions commemorate his building of the temple for Aššur, called “Wild Bull,” with its courtyard. Erišum I’s other civic constructions included the temples of Ištar and that of Adad.
Ikunum (c. 1876 BCE — c. 1861 BCE), son and successor of Ilu-šūma, built a major temple for the god Ningal. He further strengthened the fortifications of the city of Aššur and maintained Assyria's colonies in Asia Minor. The following are the sixteen annual limmu officials from the year of accession of Ikunum to his death: Buzi son of Adad-rabi (c. 1876), Šuli son of Šalmah (c. 1875), Iddin-Suen son of Šalmah (c. 1874), Ikunum son of Šudaya (c. 1873), Dan-Wer son of Ahu-ahi (c. 1872), Šu-Anum from Nerabtim (c. 1871), Il-massu son of Aššur-ṭab (c. 1870), Šu-Hubur son of Šuli (c. 1869), Idua son of Ṣulili (c. 1868), Laqip son of Puzur-Laba (c. 1867), Šu-Anum the hapirum (c. 1866), Uku son of Bila (c. 1865), Aššur-malik son of Panaka (c. 1864), Dan-Aššur son of Puzur-Wer (c. 1863), Šu-Kubum son of Ahu-ahi (c. 1862), Irišum son of Iddin-Aššur (c. 1861).
Šarru-kīn I or Sargon I (c. 1861 BCE — c. 1822 BCE), son and successor of Ikunum, reigned as king of the Old Assyrian Empire. Šarru-kīn I may have been named after Sargon of Akkad. The name, “Sargon” means, “the king is legitimate” in Akkadian. Šarru-kīn I is known for his work refortifying Aššur. Very little is known about this king.
Puzur-Aššur II (c. 1822 BCE — c. 1814 BCE), son and successor of Šarru-kīn I, was king of the Old Assyrian Empire for eight years. Due to his father's long reign he came to the throne at a late age since one of his sons, named Ili-bani, was a witness in a contract (and so already a grown man) eleven years before Puzur-Aššur II became ruler.
Narām-Sîn or Narām–Suen, inscribed in cuneiform on contemporary seal impressions as dna-ra-am-dEN.ZU, was the ensí or waklum of Aššur (da-šùr), listed as the thirty-seventh king of Assyria on the later Assyrian King Lists, where he is inscribed mna-ram-dEN.ZU,[i 2][i 3][i 4] or a fragmentary list where he appears as -d30.[i 5] (c. 1814 BCE — c. 1760 BCE), son and successor of Puzur-Aššur II, was named for the illustrious Narām-Sîn of Akkad and, like his grandfather, Šarru-kīn I, took the divine determinative in his name. He should not be confused with the Narām-Sîn who ruled Eshnunna for around twelve years, the successor and son, as identified on an inscription, of the long-reigning Ebiq-Adad II. The city-state of Aššur which he had inherited would have been fairly wealthy as the hub of the trading network at the height of the Old Assyrian Empire's activity and, despite the destruction of the trading post at Kaneš partway through his reign, commerce apparently continued elsewhere.:46 The Assyrian King List records that Šamši-Adad I, “went away to Babylonia in the time of Narām-Sîn.” Šamši-Adad I was not to return until taking Ekallatum, pausing three years and then overthrowing Erišum II (c. 1760 BCE — c. 1754 BCE), son and successor of Narām-Sîn.
Upper Mesopotamian Empire
Šamši-Adad I (c. 1754 BCE — c. 1721 BCE), son of Ila-kabkabu, inherited the throne in Terqa from his father c. 1785 BCE. Šamši-Adad I was forced to flee to Babylon while Naram-Suen of Eshnunna attacked Ekallatum c. 1761 BCE. Šamši-Adad I conquered Aššur, emerged as the first Amorite king of Assyria, took over the long-abandoned town of Shekhna in north-eastern Syria, converted it into his capital city, and renamed it to Šubat-Enlil c. 1754 BCE. Šamši-Adad I placed his sons in key geographical locations and gave them responsibility to look over those areas. While he remained in Šubat-Enlil, his eldest son, Išme-Dagān I was put on the throne of Ekallatum.
A main target for expansion was the city Mari, which controlled the caravan route between Anatolia and Mesopotamia. The king of Mari, Iakhdunlim, was assassinated by his own servants, possibly on Šamši-Adad I's orders. Šamši-Adad I seized the opportunity and occupied Mari c. 1741 BCE. Šamši-Adad I put his second son, Yasmah-Adad on the throne in Mari, and then returned to Šubat-Enlil. With the annexation of Mari, Shamshi-Adad was in control of a large empire, controlling the whole of Upper Mesopotamia.
While Išme-Dagān I probably was a competent ruler, his brother Yasmah-Adad appears to have been a man of weak character; something the disappointed father was not above mentioning. Šamši-Adad I clearly kept a firm control on the actions of his sons, as shown in his many letters to them. At one point he arranged a political marriage between Yasmah-Adad to Beltum, the princess of his ally in Qatna. Yasmah-Adad already had a leading wife and put Beltum in a secondary position of power. Šamši-Adad I did not approve and forced his son to keep Beltum in the palace in a leading position.
Dadusha, a king of the neighboring state Eshnunna, made an alliance with Šamši-Adad I in order to conquer the area between the two Zab rivers c. 1727 BCE. This military campaign of joint forces was commemorated on a victory stele which states that Dadusha gives the lands to Šamši-Adad I. Šamši-Adad I later turned against Dadusha by attacking cities including Shaduppum and Nerebtum. After the death of Šamši-Adad I, Eshnunna captured cities around Aššur. Naturally, Šamši-Adad I's rise to glory earned him the envy of neighboring kings and tribes, and throughout his reign, he and his sons faced several threats to their control.
Išme-Dagān I (c. 1721 BCE — c. 1681 BCE), son and successor of Šamši-Adad I, an Amorite king of his father's Upper Mesopotamian Empire. Išme-Dagān I held the capital of his realm of influence in Ekallatum and ruled over the southeastern region of Upper Mesopotamia, including the city-state Aššur. Išme-Dagān I’s main challenge was in keeping his enemies in check; to his east were the foothills of the Zagros Mountains, inhabited by warlike pastoral peoples, and to the south was the Mesopotamian kingdom of Eshnunna. Although his father counted Išme-Dagān I as politically astute and a capable soldier, commending him as he berated Yasmah-Adad in their letters, Išme-Dagān I was not able to hold his father’s empire for long after his father died. Išme-Dagān I eventually lost most of his domain, and was reduced to holding Aššur and Ekallatum, despite waging several counter offensives to try to regain the upper Khabur area.
Assyria under Babylonian domination, c. 1750 BCE — c. 1732 BCE
Hammurabi of Babylon (ruled the Paleo-Babylonian Empire c. 1728 BCE — c. 1686 BCE) (short chronology timeline of the Near East), after first conquering Mari, Larsa, and Eshnunna, eventually prevailed over Ishme-Dagan I (ruled the Old Assyrian Empire c. 1774 BCE — c. 1734 BCE)'s replacement Mut-Ashkur (c. 1734 BCE — c. 1724 BCE), and subjected him to Babylon c. 1734 BCE. With Hammurabi, the various karum colonies in Anatolia ceased trade activity—probably because the goods of Assyria were now being traded with the Babylonians. The Assyrian monarchy survived, however the three Amorite kings succeeding Ishme-Dagan, Mut-Ashkur (who was the son of Ishme-Dagan and married to a Hurrian queen), Rimush (1739–1733 BCE) and Asinum (1732 BCE), were vassals, dependent on the Babylonians during the reign of Hammurabi, and for a short time, of his successor Samsu-iluna.
Reign of Mut-Ashkur, c. 1734 BCE — c. 1724 BCE
Reign of Asinum, c. 1724 BCE
Asinum was an Assyrian king, grandson of Shamshi-Adad I, driven out by vice-regent Puzur-Sin because he was of Amorite extraction; not included in the standard King List, but attested in Puzur-Suen's inscription.
Reign of Aššūr-dugul, c. 1724 BCE — c. 1718 BCE
Aššūr-dugul, inscribed maš-šur-du-gul, "Look to (the god) Aššur!", was the king of Assyria probably during the 18th century BC, a period of confusion in Assyrian history. Reigning for six years, he was the 44th ruler to be listed on the Assyrian Kinglist, and was designated by the list as a usurper.
He seized power in the aftermath of the overthrow of the dynasty first established by Šamši-Adad I, when native warlords jockeyed for power in the vacuum left by its demise. Šamši-Adad had been an Amorite who founded a brief, foreign dynasty apparently greatly resented by the locals judging by an alabaster slab inscription left by Puzur-Sîn, an otherwise unattested Assyrian monarch who had deposed the son of Asinum, descendant of Šamši-Adad. The Assyrian Kinglist[i 6][i 7] says of Aššūr-dugul that he was a "son of a nobody, without right to the throne" meaning that he was not of royal descent and consequently unqualified to govern according to the patrilineal principle of legitimacy relied upon by later monarchs.
During his reign six other kings, "sons of nobodies also ruled at the time." This may suggest a fragmentation in the small Assyrian kingdom, with rival claims to the throne. Alternatively, Newgrosh proposes that these may actually have been his limmu’s, the officials appointed each year who gave the year its name, providing the eponym dating system, and that a later scribe may have confused them for kings. The last of these, Adasi, was to go on to found the succeeding dynasty. Apart from the two copies of the kinglist, there are no other extant references to him.
He was succeeded by Bēl-bāni, the son of Adasi.
Assyrian Adaside dynasty, c. 1732 BCE — c. 1451 BCE
The short lived Babylonian Empire quickly began to unravel upon the death of Hammurabi, and Babylonia lost control over Assyria during the reign of Hammurabi's successor Samsu-iluna (1750–1712 BCE). A period of civil war ensued after Asinum (a grandson of Shamshi-Adad I and the last Amorite ruler of Assyria) was deposed in approximately 1732 BCE by a powerful native Assyrian vice regent named Puzur-Sin, who regarded Asinum as both a foreigner and a former lackey of Babylon.
A native king named Ashur-dugul seized the throne in 1732 BCE, probably with the help of Puzur-Sin. However, he was unable to retain control for long, and was soon deposed by a rival claimant, Ashur-apla-idi. Internal instability ensued with four further kings (Nasir-Sin, Sin-namir, Ipqi-Ishtar and Adad-salulu) all reigning in quick succession over a period of approximately six years between 1732 and 1727 BCE. Babylonia seems to have been too powerless to intervene or take advantage of this situation.
Finally, a king named Adasi (1726–1701 BCE) came to the fore c. 1726 BCE and managed to quell the civil unrest and stabilize the situation in Assyria. Adasi completely drove the Babylonians and Amorites from the Assyrian sphere of influence during his reign, and Babylonian power began to quickly wane in Mesopotamia as a whole, also losing the far south of Mesopotamia (an area roughly corresponding to ancient Sumer) to the native Akkadian-speaking Sealand Dynasty, although the Amorites would retain control over a much reduced and weak Babylonia itself until 1595 BCE, when they were overthrown by the Kassites, a people from the Zagros Mountains who spoke a language isolate and were neither Semites nor Indo-Europeans.
Adasi was succeeded by Bel-bani (1700–1691 BCE) who is credited in Assyrian annals with inflicting further defeats on the Babylonians and Amorites, and further strengthening and stabilising the kingdom.
Little is currently known of many of the kings that followed such as; Libaya (1690–1674 BCE), Sharma-Adad I (1673–1662 BCE), Iptar-Sin (1661–1650 BCE), Bazaya (1649–1622 BCE) (a contemporary of Peshgaldaramesh of the Sealand Dynasty), Lullaya (1621–1618 BCE) (who usurperped the throne from Bazaya), Shu-Ninua (1615–1602 BCE) and Sharma-Adad II (1601–1599 BCE). However, Assyria seems to have been a relatively strong and stable nation, existing undisturbed by its neighbours such as the Hattians, Hittites, Hurrians, Amorites, Babylonians, Elamites or Mitannians during this period.
Assyria remained strong and secure; when Babylon was sacked and its Amorite rulers deposed by the Hittite Empire, and subsequently fell to the Kassites in 1595 BCE, both powers were unable to make any inroads into Assyria, and there seems to have been no trouble between the first Kassite ruler of Babylon, Agum II, and Erishum III (1598–1586 BCE) of Assyria, and a mutually beneficial treaty was signed between the two rulers.
Shamshi-Adad II (1585–1580 BCE), Ishme-Dagan II (1579–1562 BCE) and Shamshi-Adad III (1562–1548 BCE) seem also to have had peaceful tenures, although few records have thus far been discovered about their reigns. Similarly, Ashur-nirari I (1547–1522 BCE) seems not to have been troubled by the newly founded Mitanni Empire in Asia Minor, the Hittite empire, or Babylon during his 25-year reign. He is known to have been an active king, improving the infrastructure, dedicating temples and conducting various building projects throughout the kingdom.
Puzur-Ashur III (1521–1498 BCE) proved to be a strong and energetic ruler. He undertook much rebuilding work in Assur, the city was refortified and the southern quarters incorporated into the main city defenses. Temples to the moon god Sin (Nanna) and the sun god Shamash were erected during his reign. He signed a treaty with Burna-Buriash I the Kassite king of Babylon, defining the borders of the two nations in the late 16th century BCE. He was succeeded by Enlil-nasir I (1497–1483 BCE) who appears to have had a peaceful and uneventful reign, as does his successor Nur-ili (1482–1471 BCE).
The son of Nur-ili, Ashur-shaduni (1470 BCE) was deposed by his uncle Ashur-rabi I (1470–1451 BCE) in his first year of rule. Little is known about his nineteen-year reign, but it appears to have been largely uneventful.
Reign of Adasi, c. 1718 BCE — c. 1699 BCE
Adasi was an Assyrian king, the last in a line of 7 kings designated by the Assyrian King List as usurpers of the Assyrian throne, who reigned from 1718 - 1699 BC after the ejection of the Amorite ruled Babylonians from Assyria. He is credited in the Assyrian King List with stabilising Assyria and freeing it from civil war and Amorite influence. The Adaside dynasty of Assyria was named after him. He was succeeded by Bel-bani.
Reign of Bel-bani, c. 1699 BCE — c. 1689 BCE
Bēl-bāni, inscribed mdEN-ba-ni, "the Lord is the creator," was the king of Assyria c. 1699 BC (short chronology) and was the first ruler of what was later to be called the dynasty of the Adasides. His reign marks the inauguration of a new historical phase following the turmoil of the competing claims of the seven usurpers who preceded him. He was the 48th king to appear on the Assyrian King List and reigned for ten years.
He was the son of Adasi, the last of the seven monarchs who were "sons of nobody," i.e. unrelated to previous kings, and who had competed for the throne over a period of six years. He was to be revered by later monarchs, notably Esarhaddon (681 – 669 BC) but also his second and third sons Šamaš-šumu-ukin and Aššur-bāni-apli, for restoring stability and founding a dynasty which endured and where he assumed semi-mythical status as their ancestor figure. Esarhaddon described himself as "a lasting offspring (liplippi dārû) of Belu-bani the son of Adasi, precious scion of Baltil (pir'i BAL.TIL sûquru)." Baltil, the "city of wisdom," was the name of the ancient precincts of the god Aššur in the innermost part of the city of Aššur.
Reign of Libaya, c. 1689 BCE — c. 1673 BCE
Little is known of his reign, however Assyria appears to have been a relatively peaceful, secure and stable nation during this period.
The Assyrian King List provides a sequence of five kings with short reigns purported to be father-son successions, leading Landsberger to suggest that Labaj(j)a, Šarma-Adad I and IB.TAR.Sîn may have been brothers of Bēlu-bāni rather than his descendants. It reports him as the son of Šarma-Adad I. He is omitted from the list on another fragment.[i 8] He is called LIK.KUD-Šamaš on the Synchronistic King List[i 9] which gives his Babylonian counterpart as mDIŠ+U-EN (reading unknown), an unidentified person inserted between the reigns of Gulkišar and his son Pešgaldarameš of the Sealand Dynasty.
He was succeeded by Bazaj(j)a, son of Bēlu-bāni.
Reign of Iptar-Sin, c. 1673 BCE — c. 1661 BCE
Reign of Bazaya, c. 1661 BCE — c. 1633 BCE
Bāzāia or Bāzāiu, inscribed mba-za-a-a and of uncertain meaning, was the ruler of Assyria rather speculatively c. 1661 BCE — c. 1633 BCE, the 52nd listed on the Assyrian King List, succeeding IB.TAR.Sîn, to whom he was supposedly a great-uncle. He reigned for twenty-eight years and has left no known inscriptions.
The Assyrian king lists[i 11][i 12][i 13] give Bāzāiu’s five predecessors as father-son successors, although all reigned during a fifty-two period, stretching genealogical credibility. All three extant copies give his father as Bēl-bāni, the second in the sequence, whose reign had ended forty-one years earlier and who had been the great-grandfather of his immediate predecessor. The literal reading of the list was challenged by Landsberger who suggested that the three preceding kings, Libaia, Šarma-Adad I and IB.TAR.Sîn, may have been Bēl-bāni's brothers.
The Synchronistic Kinglist[i 14] gives his Babylonian counterpart as Pešgaldarameš of the Sealand Dynasty. He was succeeded by Lullaia, a usurper, whose brief reign was followed by that of Bāzāiu’s own son, ŠÚ-Ninua.
Reign of Lullaya, c. 1633 BCE — c. 1627 BCE
Lullaya was the 53rd king of Assyria to be added to the Assyrian King List. He was a "son of a nobody," i.e. unrelated to a previously monarch, and reigned 6 years, from c. 1633 BCE — c. 1627 BCE, during a period when a rather diminished Assyria was overshadowed by its more powerful neighbor, the Mitanni. Reade speculates that he may be identified with the earlier king, Aššūr-dugul, on the basis of their similar lengths of reign and lack of royal parentage.
He was the last in the sequence of kings omitted from the dissident Assyrian Kinglist known as KAV 14,[i 15] which otherwise provides the only extant sequence of Šamši-Adad I’s later successors, [Mu]t-Aškur and Rīmu[š]. The Synchronistic Kinglist[i 16] gives his Babylonian counterpart as Ayadaragalama of the Sealand Dynasty. There are no extant inscriptions from Lullaia's or his predecessor's reigns in marked contrast with their Sealand contemporaries.
Assyria in decline, c. 1450 BCE — c. 1393 BCE
The emergence of the Mitanni Empire in the 16th century BCE did eventually lead to a short period of sporadic Mitannian-Hurrian domination in the latter half of the 15th century. The Indo-European-speaking Mitannians are thought to have conquered and formed the ruling class over the indigenous Hurrians of eastern Anatolia. The Hurrians spoke a language isolate, i.e. neither Semitic nor Indo-European.
Ashur-nadin-ahhe I (1450–1431 BCE) was courted by the Egyptians, who were rivals of Mitanni, and attempting to gain a foothold in the Near East. Amenhotep II sent the Assyrian king a tribute of gold to seal an alliance against the Hurri-Mitannian empire. It is likely that this alliance prompted Saushtatar, the emperor of Mitanni, to invade Assyria, and sack the city of Ashur, after which Assyria became a sometime vassal state, with Ashur-nadin-ahhe I being forced to pay tribute to Saushtatar. He was deposed by his own brother Enlil-nasir II (1430–1425 BCE) in 1430 BCE, possibly with the aid of Mitanni, who received tribute from the new king. Ashur-nirari II (1424–1418 BCE) had an uneventful reign, and appears to have also paid tribute to the Mitanni Empire.
The Assyrian monarchy survived, and the Mitannian influence appears to have been sporadic. They appear not to have been always willing or indeed able to interfere in Assyrian internal and international affairs.
Ashur-bel-nisheshu (1417–1409 BCE) seems to have been independent of Mitannian influence, as evidenced by his signing a mutually beneficial treaty with Karaindash, the Kassite king of Babylonia in the late 15th century. He also undertook extensive rebuilding work in Ashur itself, and Assyria appears to have redeveloped its former highly sophisticated financial and economic systems during his reign.
Ashur-rim-nisheshu (1408–1401 BCE) also undertook building work, strengthening the city walls of the capital.
Ashur-nadin-ahhe II (1400–1393 BCE) also received a tribute of gold and diplomatic overtures from Egypt, probably in an attempt to gain Assyrian military support against Egypt's Mitannian and Hittite rivals in the region. However, the Assyrian king appears not to have been in a strong enough position to challenge Mitanni or the Hittites.
Eriba-Adad I (1392–1366 BCE), a son of Ashur-bel-nisheshu, ascended the throne in 1392 BCE and finally broke the ties to the Mitanni Empire.
There are dozens of Mesopotamian cuneiform texts from this period, with precise observations of solar and lunar eclipses, that have been used as 'anchors' in the various attempts to define the chronology of Babylonia and Assyria for the early 2nd millennium BCE (i.e., the "high", "middle", and "low" chronologies.)
Reign of Ashur-nadin-ahhe I, c. 1435 BCE — c. 1420 BCE
Ashur-nadin-ahhe I was the king of Assyria from c. 1435 BCE — c. 1420 BCE. He took power after the death of his father, Ashur-rabi I. Beginning with his reign, Assyria became a vassal of Mitanni. After a 15-year rule, he was overthrown by his brother Enlil-Nasir II.
Around 2400 BCE, Assyrian kings were pastoral leaders and like many nations in Mesopotamian history, Assyria was originally, to a great extent, an oligarchy rather than a monarchy. Authority was considered to lie with Aššur and the polity had three main centers of power—an assembly of elders, a hereditary ruler, and an eponym.
The išši’ak aššur
The ruler was designated as "the steward of Aššur" (išši’ak aššur) where the term for “steward” is borrowing from Sumerian ensí. Ensí is a Sumerian language title designating the ruler or prince of a city-state. The išši’ak aššur presided over the assembly and carried out its decisions. Puzur-Aššur I's successors bore the title išši’ak aššur, vice regent of the city's patron deity Aššur, as well as ensi. The institution of the eponym as well as the formula iššiak Assur lingered on as ceremonial vestiges of this early system throughout the history of the Assyrian monarchy.
The limmu was annually elected by lot. Although picked by lot, there was most likely a limited group, such as the men of the most prominent families or perhaps members of the city assembly. The Assyrians used the name of the limmu for that year to designate the year on official documents. The limmu was responsible for the economic administration of the city which included the power to detain people and confiscate property. At the beginning of the reign of an Assyrian king, the limmu, an appointed royal official, would preside over the New Year festival at the capital city.
- Akkadian Empire
- Timeline of the Assyrian Empire
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- List of Assyrian kings
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- Name of Syria
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- Assyrian Kinglist fragment VAT 9812 = KAV 14: ‘3
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- KAV 14.
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- Morris Jastrow, Jr., The Civilization of Babylonia and Assyria: its remains, language, history, religion, commerce, law, art, and literature, London: Lippincott (1915)—a searchable facsimile at the University of Georgia Libraries; also available in layered PDF format
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