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Assyrian New Empire - 911-609 BC

Name from until
Late Period
Adad-Nirari II 911 BC 891 BC
Tukulti-Ninurta II 890 BC 884 BC
Ashurnasirpal II 883 BC 859 BC
Shalmaneser III 858 BC 824 BC
Shamshi-Adad V 823 BC 811 BC
(Queen) Shamiram 811 BC 806 BC
Adad-Nirari III 806 BC 783 BC
Shalmaneser IV 782 BC 773 BC
Ashur-Dan III 772 BC 755 BC
Ashur-Nirari V 754 BC 745 BC
New Empire
Tiglath-Pileser III 744 BC 727 BC
Shalmaneser V 726 BC 722 BC
Sargon II 721 BC 705 BC
Sennacherib 704 BC 681 BC
Esarhaddon 680 BC 669 BC
Ashurbanipal 668 BC 627 BC
Ashur-Etel-Ilani 627 BC 624 BC
Sin-Shar-Ishkun 623 BC 612 BC
Ashur-Uballit II 612 BC 609 BC
Because of what has been called "the barbarous and unspeakable cruelty of the Assyrians," the names of such Assyrian kings as Ashurnasirpal (883-859 BC), Tiglath-Pileser III (745-727 BC), Sennacherib (704-681 BC), and Ashurbanipal (669-626 BC) continue to evoke images of powerful, militarily brilliant, but brutally savage conquerors.

In 745 BC arose another Tiglath Pileser, Tiglath Pileser III, the Tiglath Pileser of the Bible [II. Kings xv. 20, and xvi. 7 et seq]. He not only directed the transfer of the Israelites to Media (the «Lost Ten Tribes» whose ultimate fate has exercised so many curious minds) but he conquered and ruled Babylon, so founding what historians know as the New Assyrian Empire.

The Assyrians, at the close of a long revolt, recovered their independence. Tiglath-pileser II, father of Sardanapalus V, founded the second Assyrian or Ninivite Empire (744). Several prosperous campaigns made him master of nearly all the inheritance of his ancestors. The impious Achaz, King of Juda, called him to his aid against tha kings of Israel and Damascus. Tiglath-pileser, in return for his protection, obliged Achaz to acknowledge himself his vassal, and to give over to him all the treasures of the Temple of Jerusalem. Then were accomplished the prophecies of Isaias and Amos: the kingdom of Damascus, called also Syria, was destroyed, the half of the kingdom of Israel was occupied by the conqueror, and the other half condemned to pay an onerous tribute, it is thought that Tiglath-pileser gave the first example of the barbarous policy-adopted by his successors - of transporting the entire conquered nation to the interior of his empire and replacing them by his own subjects. This was the beginning of the captivity of the ten tribes (721).

The prophet Isaias, scandalized at the crimes and idolatry of the Israelites, foretold to them: "The Lord shall bring upon thee, and upon thy people, and upon the house of thy father, days that have not come since the time of the separation of Ephraim from Juda with the king of the Assyrians. And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall hiss for the fly, that Is in the uttermost part of the rivers of Egypt, and for the bee that is in the land of Assyria." Notwithstanding these terrible threats, Osee, King of Israel, made an alliance with the king of Egypt and refused to pay tribute to the Assyrians.

Salmanasar VI (727-722) besieged Samaria, but died before it was taken, when Sargon (721-704) (mentioned in Isaias), the general of his troops, usurped the crown, took Samaria, and sent the tea tribes captive to Assyria. Tobias, one of the exiles, gained the good-will of the king and used his influence to better the lot of his brethren. A large number of strangers, transported from the shores of the Tigris to the environs of Samaria, mingling pagan rites with the law of Moses, formed a new people, known by the name of Samaritans.

The name Sargon was mentioned in Isaiah xx in these words - "In the year that Tartan came unto Ashdod (when Sargon the king of Assyria sent him) and fought against Ashdod and took it; at the same time spake the Lord by Isaiah the son of Amoz." This is the only place in Scripture where the name of "Sargon" is to be found; and not until the unearthing of the ruins of Babylon and Nineveh had the historians been able to discover his place and actions in Assyrian annals. Indeed, so obscure did he seem that some critics doubted the existence of such a character. But there is abundant evidence of it, with details of Sargon II enterprises and wars in full.

The Sargon II is not to be confused with the Sargon [r Sargon 2340-2285], the founder of the much earlier Akkadian Empire. In 711 BC the famous expedition to Ashdod, of which special account is taken, not only by Hebrew prophecy, bat also by King Sargon II himself. Besides otber notices he left an inscription devoted solely to that enterprise. A monolith of Sargon with an inscription on it has been found in the Island of Cyprus which is now in the Berlin Museum.

Sargon II defeated the king of Egypt at Raphia, in Palestine (718), but failed to capture Tyre, which he was not able to blockade by sea. His rule, however, extended from the Mediterranean shore to the isle of Cyprus. A great victory over the Chaldeans opened to him the gates of Babylon (709), when he retaliated the evils inflicted upon Niniveh twenty years before. In short, after subjugating all the countries of Asia from Cilicia to the frontiers of India, this invincible conqueror, who boasted of having forced three hundred and fifty kings to adore his god Bel, fell by the poniard of an assassin.

Sargon II founded a city a few miles north of Nineveh, now known as Khorsabad, where be created a magnificent palace, which has remained since its excavation and exploration by Botta in 1844 and Place in 1852 the most complete representation of Assyrian architecture which has been preserved to us. This palace was occupied by Sargon 2nd, whom McCurdy speaks of as "the most powerful ruler and greatest benefactor whom Assyria had yet known." In the year 706 B. C., and in the summer of the next year he died by the hand of an assassin. Sargons's successor on the throne of Assyria was Sinacherib, famous in Bible history as recorded in Isaiah 36th and 37th Chapters and '2 Kings Chapters 18th and 19th for his invasion of Judah and Jerusalem when Hezekiah was king in the year 710 BC.

Sennacherib (704-681) undertook to treat the kingdom of Juda as his father had treated that of Israel. The holy King Ezechias at first hoped to resist him with the aid of the Egyptians and Philistines ; but Sennacherib, having crushed his allies, invaded and devastated. Juda. " As to Ezechias," be himself says in an inscription, "I will shut him up in Jerusalem, the city of his greatness, as a bird in a cage. I will invest and blockade all the forts around the city. Then the fear of my majesty shall terrify Ezechias, King of Juda." The holy king consented to pay a considerable tribute in gold and silver; but this, instead of appeasing his ferocious enemy, made him still more intractable. It was then that God visibly took up his defence, charging the prophet Isaias to announce to him his speedy deliverancaand the terrible chastisement of Sennacherib : I" When thou wast mad against me, thy pride came up to my ears : therefore I will put a ring in thy nose, and a bit between thy lips, and I will turn thee back by the way by which thou eamest."!

The following night the exterminating angel, passing through the Assyrian camp, slew 180,000 men. Sennacherib was obliged to fly, and to return,- covered with shame, before those nations which had shortly before beheld him so haughty and menacing. The vengeance of Heaven pursued this impious prii.se even to Ninive, where he was slain in a temple of his idols by two of his sons, who, after that horrible parricide, took refuge in Armenia.

Assar-Haddon (681-667), the fourth son of Sennacherib, profited by the crime of his brothers io seize the crown. After taking Sidaft and ravaging all Phoenicia, he invaded the kingdom of Juda. King Manasses, by his idolatry and cruelty, had drawn upon himself and his people the anger of God. Made prisoner in Jerusalem, he was carried captive to Babylon, where he passed many years in the depths of a dungeon. V Assar-Haddon restored him to liberty only on condition that he should pay tribute. This indefatigable conqueror, having subjugated all of Arabia, spread like a torrent over Egypt, which he devastated as far as the cataracts of Syene (672). To his titles of king of Assyria and vicegerent of the gods he added that of king of Egypt and Ethiopia. A great number of Egyptians were transported to the banks of the Tigris. All the roads were covered with the unhappy captives, whom the conqueror, according to custom, drove before him like cattle.

Assar-Haddon [ Esarhaddin ] bequeathed Babylonia to one son and Assyria and the major part of the empire to another, Ashurbanipal. It was this latter king who assembled at Nineveh a great library of some 35,000 clay tablets which have given much of the knowledge of Mesopotamia up through their time. Unfortunately, civil war broke out between the brothers with the victorious Ashurbanipal allying with a semitic group called the Chaldeans who had been settling in Babylon since 1000 BC. Sardanapalus VI (667-647), a warrior not less terrible than his father, quenched in blood a revolt in Egypt. During his reign he had to struggle to maintain his authority throughout his vast empire, which he extended to the southern coast of Asia Minor. This was the last conquest of Assyria, now exhausted by its victories.

Phraortes, proclaimed king of Media, drove out the Assyrians and united Persia to his new kingdom. Believing himself powerful enough to overcome the Assyrians, he marched against the army of King Assourdan as far as Ragan; but he,lost both the battle and his life (635). His son, Cyaxeres, inherited his crown and his ambition. An invasion of Media by the Scythians soon taxed all the energies of the young monarch. No sooner had he repelled the barbarians than he lent his aid to Nabopolassar, governor of Babylon, to besiege Niniveh.

In 612 BC, revolts of subject peoples combined with the allied forces of two new kingdoms, those of the Medes and the Chaldeans (Neo-Babylonians), effectively to extinguish Assyrian power. The strength and beauty of Niniveh corresponded to its greatness. It contained a great number of temples and magnificent palaces, built by its last kings. Its walls were said to be one hundred feet in height, and so broad that on them it was said three chariots could easily drive abreast. These walls were flanked with fifteen hundred towers, each not less than two hundred feet in height. All these means of defence, however, could not preserve Niniveh from the rage of the Medes and the Babylonians. Assourdan slew himself in despair, and the conquerors, irritated by the long resistance of Ninive, reduced that superb city to a mere heap of ruins.

Nineveh was razed. The hatred that the Assyrians inspired, particularly for their policy of wholesale resettlement of subject peoples, was sufficiently great to ensure that few traces of Assyrian rule remained two years later. The Assyrians had used the visual arts to depict their many conquests, and Assyrian friezes, executed in minute detail, continue to be the best artifacts of Assyrian civilization. Ultimately, the Chaldeans (or Neo-Babylonians) usurped the power of Assyria, capturing Nineveh in 612 BC under their leader Nabopolazzar and finally finishing off the last remnant of their forces along with their Egyptian allies in 605 BC.

Yahweh had announced by the prophets that he would revenge himself on Niniveh for the blood of his people which she had shed, and that he would destroy her utterly, and there should remain no trace of the proud city. Indeed, the Greeks and the Romans were unable to recognize its site. The place where Niniveh once existed was not known until about the year 1843, when M. Botta, French consul at Mosul, having excavated some of the vast mounds on the left bank of the Tigris, discovered there some ruins of the capital of the Assyrian Empire.

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Page last modified: 09-07-2011 02:48:26 ZULU