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Ancient Civilizations

Late Babylonian Period and Neo-Assyrian Period (1000 BC – 606 BC)

The two Babylonia and Assyria were under raised Aramaean pressure and having great problems repulsing the persistent Aramaean strikes in the early 1st century BC. At precisely the exact same time when Assyria reached its height, Babylonia was under direct or indirect Assyrian control and couldn’t attain any greater importance prior to the collapse of Neo-Assyrian Empire at 626 BC.

Ashurnasirpal II

Under Ashur-dan II (934-912 BC) that the Assyrians was able to overtake the initiative, suppressed the Aramaeans and stabilized the Assyrian boundaries, while his successor further strengthened the Assyrian kingdom and extended its boundaries. Territorial scope of Assyria under Ashurnasirpal II (883-859 BC) was comparable with the one under Tiglath-Pileser I. Ashurnasirpal II is best known for his military accomplishments and for good building activities such as for construction of the new Assyrian capital at Kalhu or Nimrud (Kalakh from the Old Testament) and for his brutality against his enemies. He was succeeded by his son Shalmaneser III (858-824 BC) who enlarged the land he inherited from his dad. Shalmaneser III defeated northern Syria, forced King Jehu of Israel to pay tribute and for a brief while also subdued Cilicia. On the east, he led attempts to western Iran but as among his most significant accomplishments, he believed his conquest of Babylonia. Like his dad, Shalmaneser III was also famous for his construction activities, although the best-known work from his time is possibly the Black Obelisk (now in British Museum) which depicts King Jehu of Israel paying tribute. At the end of his rule, Shalmaneser III was confronted with the rebellion of his son Shamsi-Adad V (husband of the mythical Shammuramat) who succeeded him after his death at 824 BC. Shamsi-Adad III has been forced to fight against the Babylonians though his wife was a Babylonian. He campaigned with varying success but in the end, he was able to conquer Babylonia although the latter kept its independence. Following his untimely death, his wife Sammuramat (Semiramis) took over the regency and allegedly mastered quite profitable. But she’s more a mythical figure and little is known about her from historic sources.

Tiglath-Pileser III

Assyrian power was greatly weakened after the passing of Adadnirari III in 783 BC before the accession of Tiglath-Pileser III in 745 BC. Tiglath-Pileser III (745-727 BC) was among the best rulers of Assyria and brought the empire to its greatest extent, although the year of his accession to the Assyrian throne is usually marked as the start of Neo-Assyrian Empire. After he settled the inner ailments Tiglath-Pileser III started a campaign against the Aramaeans in Babylonia. In a number of expeditions, he defeated the Aramaean kingdoms in north Syria and conquered Urartu. Afterwards, he invaded southern Syria and Palestine, and seriously defeated Israel. In 731 BC he turned against Babylonia in which the Aramaean Ukin-zero crowned himself king. The Aramaean king of Babylonia was captured and deposed in 729 BC, while Tiglath-Pileser III became the first Assyrian king of Babylonia under the title Pulu (Paul from the Old Testament).

Following short and comparatively unimportant rein of his son Shalmaneser V (726-722BC), the crown of Assyria was supposed by Sharru-kin broadly called Sargon II (721-705BC) who had been among the best rulers of Assyrian Empire. The change on the Assyrian throne has been taken advantage by Aramaeans in Babylonia and the Aramaean prince Marduk-apla-adding II managed to grab power in Babylon. Sargon II first attempted to regain control over Babylon however, the Aramaean king was able to keep himself 710 BC when Sargon finally managed to crush the Aramaeans and crowned himself king of Babylonia. Like his predecessors, Sargon II continued military campaigns on the east and defeated Israel including its capital Samaria, defeated the Egyptians, ruined Urartu and compelled Phrygia and Cilicia to pay tribute. Sargon died on a military effort in 705 BC and was succeeded by his son Sennacherib (704-681 BC) who moved Assyrian funds to the city of Nineveh. Sennacherib’s reign was marked by battles with Elam as well as by problems with Babylonia. Marduk-apla-Idina crowned himself king of Babylon with assistance from Elam for the second time in 703 BC. Sennacherib was able to defeat the allied forces of Babylonians, Elamites and Aramaeans one year later and installed a puppet king in Babylonia. Sennacherib is probably best known for his campaign against Syria and Palestine and the siege of Jerusalem which based on the Old Testament failed due to an outbreak of epidemic which decimated Sennacherib’s forces and compelled him to leave Palestine. At the end of the rule that the power of Assyria started to decline and civil war broke out after Sennacherib’s murder in 681 BC.

Esarhaddon, the youngest son of Sennacherib won the civil war and assumed power in exactly the exact same year of his father’s death. Immediately after his accession to the throne, Esarhaddon settled the internal disturbances and soon later rebuilt the city of Babylon which was destroyed by his dad Sennacherib. Esarhaddon was successful against the Aramaeans and Cimmerians and led successful campaigns against the territory of Bazu (northeastern Arabic Peninsula), Syria and Palestine. In 671 BC he defeated Memphis and proclaimed himself king of Egypt but when his forces left the Egyptians rebelled against Assyrian overrule. Esarhaddon guaranteed series to his third son Ashurbanipal, while his second born son Shamash-Shum-skin was crown prince of Babylonia (the eldest son died early). Thus both Esarhaddon’s sons succeeded him following his death in 668 BC: Ashurbanipal (668-627 BC) succeeded him as king of Assyria and Shamash-Shum-kin (668-648 BC) took the throne of Babylonia.

Ashurbanipal 1

Ashurbanipal was the last great king of Assyria. Soon after his accession to the throne he put down the rebellion in Egypt and ruled Egypt until 655 BC when Egyptians revived their independence. Ashurbanipal was in the time occupied with Elamites who were invading Babylonia. He was able to conquer the Elamites in 653 BC but his brother Shamash-Shum-kin formed a secret alliance directed against Ashurbanipal with Elamites, Aramaeans, Iranians and Egyptians. Shamash-Shum-kin launched an attack soon after Ashurbanipal decisively defeated the Elamites that were no longer in condition to contribute to the key alliance. Following a three-year-long siege, Ashurbanipal defeated his brother who died in his burning palace in the town of Babylon. When he conquered the Babylonian upheaval Ashurbanipal launched several campaigns against the Arabs who supported Babylonia against him is the main goal was the conquest of Elam. He invaded Elam in 646 BC, captured and destroyed Susa and made Elam an Assyrian province. Despite his successful military campaigns Ashurbanipal is probably better known for establishing the first systematically organized library in Nineveh – the Library of Ashurbanipal. Following Ashurbanipal’s death in 626 BC the ability of Assyrian Empire started to decline. He was succeeded by his son Ashur-Etel-ilani (625-621 BC) but his brother Sin-shar-ishkin (620-612) refuse to recognize him and rebelled. The Neo-Assyrian Empire, weakened by internal struggles perhaps also by a civil war eventually collapsed in 612 BC when the Medes and Babylonians captured the Assyrian capital city of Nineveh. The last Assyrian king was Ashur-uballit II (612-609 BC) but with the fall of Nineveh in 612 BC, Assyria came to an end.

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