Cultures > Assyria

Assyria

Assyria-Babylonia Decoration

Background

Assyria was a great empire and the first superpower to exist in ancient history. The Assyrians are credited with ruling over the largest empire to exist in ancient Mesopotamia, at its height covering over 750 hectares and encompassing everywhere from Nubia to Egypt to Babylonia and all of the rest of the cultures of Mesopotamia. Thankfully the Assyrians left a great deal of written material behind in order for us to study and figure out the facts and discern their history. The Assyrians leave a long and storied legacy that continues to exist into the present day.

Urartu-Assyria War - Assyrian Empire Map (750-625 BCE)

Assyrian Empire Map (750-625 BCE) - Historical Atlas (1923)

The Assyrian Kings were known to be great builders and their capital existed at Ashur and then later at the city of Nineveh. It was actually at Nineveh that a great massive gardens and palace was built by the king. It would be this garden that Nebuchadnezzar II would copy to create his Ancient World Wonder, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.

Assyria is a civilization that has origins stretching back into the furthest recesses of time and is broken up into three major periods, the Old Assyrian Kingdom, the Middle Assyrian Kingdom and the Neo-Assyrian Empire. While they can be classified as distinct political entities for the most part the day to day life of the average citizens along with the major culture and religion probably changed very little until the final collapse of the Assyrian Empire at the hands of neighboring Babylonia.

The Assyrian Empire would finally be brought down for good by a combined coalition consisted of many of the states and civilizations they had previously subjugated as vassals. Led by the Chaldean tribal leader named Nabopolassar along with the king of Media named Cyaxares. Following a series of battles known as the Revolt of Babylon, it would see the complete decimation of Assyria for good and allow the rise of the Neo-Babylonian Empire.

Origins

Assyria was built out of the remnants of the Akkadian Empire after it was crushed by both internal and external forces. The people of Assyria were largely Semitic like the Akkadians before them and actually used the Akkadian spoken and written language. It is interesting to note that later the Assyrians would later adopt the easier to use Aramaic language of the Achaemenid Empire.

Assyria - Ashur Emblem Relief

Ashur Emblem Relief

Assyria was not always centered around the city of Nineveh though. When the empire first began its headquarters was in the city of Ashur, known to the Sumerians as Subartu. Ashur was located northeast of the fledgling city of Babylon. The city itself was named after the god Ashur in Assyrian culture despite other biblical myths to the contrary. This appears to be more in keeping with their belief system as the Assyrians later converted to Christianity and these accounts are only found in later texts.

Akkadian Empire - Akkadian Empire Territories Map

Akkadian Empire Territories Map

One of the major features of the early Assyrians was their development of a trade route between northern Mesopotamia and Anatolia (Asia Minor) which was controlled majorly by the Hittites. This trade network led the city of Ashur to become very wealthy and able to spread its influence throughout the region.

Assyrian Religion

See Assyrian Religion

Old Assyrian Kingdom

See Old Assyrian Kingdom.

The Old Assyrian Kingdom was a

Middle Assyrian Kingdom

See Middle Assyrian Kingdom.

Neo-Assyrian Empire

See Neo-Assyrian Empire.

The Neo-Assyrian Empire was a major Iron Age empire that existed between 911 BCE and 609 BCE. The Neo-Assyrian Empire was formed in the aftermath of the reforms of Tiglath-Pileser III in the 8th century BCE which saw the power of Assyrian surpass that of neighboring Babylonia and Egypt.

The Neo-Assyrian Empire succeeded the Middle Assyrian period of the Late Bronze Age. During this period, Aramaic was also made an official language of the empire, alongside the Akkadian language.[4] Upon the death of Ashurbanipal in 627 BC, the empire began to disintegrate. In 616 BC, Cyaxares king of the Medes made an alliance with Nabopolassar against Assyria. At the battle at Harran (609 BC) the Babylonians and Medes defeated an Assyrian-Egyptian alliance, after which Assyria ceased to exist as an independent state.[5] Half a century later, Babylonia and Assyria became provinces of the Persian Empire.

Assyria Collapse

See Assyria Collapse

Legacy

Despite the complete and utter collapse of their civilization, the people of Assyria actually continue to live on into the present day, although they aren't out conquering too much. In fact many Christian faith Assyrians are known to live in Iran, Iraq and elsewhere throughout the modern region. In fact their survival is currently threatened by the rampant civil wars that have plagued the Middle East for years. At its height the Assyrian Empires were the greatest in all of Mesopotamia, surpassing that of the previous Akkadian Empire as well as Babylonia and that of Sumer.

In fact, it should be noted that even during the time of Herodotus (484–425 BCE), nearly all of Mesopotamia was still considered Assyria. The early study of Mesopotamian culture was also known as Assyriology until recently as we did not originally know about the Sumerians and the Akkadians.

The Assyrians were well known as primary sources in many of the Greek and Roman volumes which goes to show how widespread and influential the Assyrian culture was during the ancient period. It is because of these works that researchers are able to understand a great deal about Assyrian culture as well as translate the Akkadian language that was primarily used throughout the empire.

Translation of Akkadian

See Translation of Akkadian

Nazi Comparison

See Nazi Comparison

Assyrian King List

The list of Assyrian Kings is a relatively unbroken chain of linage that dates back several hundred years during the bulk of the Assyrian Empire. It is important to note for how long this single linage was able to persevere for despite what was going on in the rest of the ancient world at the time.

The King List is known from several different tablets and fragments that can be put together to form a cohesive chain of lineage.

King NameYears of RuleKingdom
Eriba-Adad I1380–1353 BCEOld Assyrian Kingdom
Ashur-uballit I1353–1318 BCEOld Assyrian Kingdom
Enlil-nirari1317–1308 BCEMiddle Assyrian Empire
Arik-den-ili1307–1296 BCEMiddle Assyrian Empire
Adad-nirari I1295–1264 BCEMiddle Assyrian Empire
Shalmaneser I1263–1234 BCEMiddle Assyrian Empire
Tukulti-Ninurta I1233–1197 BCEMiddle Assyrian Empire
Ashur-nadin-apli1196–1194 BCEMiddle Assyrian Empire
Ashur-nirari III1193–1188 BCEMiddle Assyrian Empire
Enlil-kudurri-usur1187–1183 BCEMiddle Assyrian Empire
Ninurta-apal-Ekur1182–1180 BCEMiddle Assyrian Empire
Ashur-Dan I1179-1133 BCEMiddle Assyrian Empire
Ninurta-tukulti-Ashur1333 BCEMiddle Assyrian Empire
Mutakkil-nusku1333 BCEMiddle Assyrian Empire
Ashur-resh-ishi I1133-1115 BCEMiddle Assyrian Empire
Tiglath-Pileser I1115-1076 BCEMiddle Assyrian Empire
Asharid-apal-Ekur1076-1074 BCEMiddle Assyrian Empire
Ashur-bel-kala1074-1056 BCEMiddle Assyrian Empire
Eriba-Adad II1056-1054 BCEMiddle Assyrian Empire
Shamshi-Adad IV1054-1050 BCEMiddle Assyrian Empire
Ashur-nasir-pal I1050-1031 BCEMiddle Assyrian Empire
Shalmaneser II1031-1019 BCEMiddle Assyrian Empire
Ashur-nirari IV1019-1013 BCEMiddle Assyrian Empire
Ashur-rabi II1013-972 BCEMiddle Assyrian Empire
Ashur-resh-ishi II972-967 BCEMiddle Assyrian Empire
Tiglath-Pileser II967-935 BCEMiddle Assyrian Empire
Ashur-Dan II935-912 BCEMiddle Assyrian Empire
Adad-nirari II912-891 BCEMiddle Assyrian Empire
Tukulti-Ninurta II891-884 BCEMiddle Assyrian Empire
Ashur-nasir-pal II884-859 BCEMiddle Assyrian Empire
Shalmaneser III859-824 BCEMiddle Assyrian Empire
Shamshi-adad V824-811 BCEMiddle Assyrian Empire
Shammu-ramat811-808 BCENeo-Assyrian Empire
Adad-nirari III811-783 BCENeo-Assyrian Empire
Shalmeneser IV783-773 BCENeo-Assyrian Empire
Ashur-dan III773-755 BCENeo-Assyrian Empire
Ashur-nirari V755-745 BCENeo-Assyrian Empire
Tiglath-Pileser III745-727 BCENeo-Assyrian Empire
Shalmaneser V727-722 BCENeo-Assyrian Empire
Sargon II722–705 BCENeo-Assyrian Empire
Sennacherib705–681 BCENeo-Assyrian Empire
Esarhaddon681–669 BCENeo-Assyrian Empire
Ashurbanipal669–631 BCENeo-Assyrian Empire
Ashur-etli-ilani631-627 BCENeo-Assyrian Empire
Sin-shumu-lishir626 BCENeo-Assyrian Empire
Sin-shar-ishkun627-612 BCENeo-Assyrian Empire
Ashur-uballit II612-608 BCENeo-Assyrian Empire
Assyria - Assyrian Chapter Decoration

Syria was called Phoenician for a time then Aram. Then Ashur-yia based out of Assur that became an empire that took over the entire region of Aram/Phoenician. The Romans called the entire Assyria, and then divided into Assyria and Syria where Aram used to be. It also was called Coele-Syria. Arabic language brought to Syria by the Arabic invasion after the Islamic conquests of AD 600.

Sources

Primary Sources

Secondary Sources

Assyria, Its Princes, Priests and People by A. H. Sayce.