Sunday, November 1, 2015

THE FIRST SUPERPOWER, ASSYRIA

Still in Mesopotamian civilizations and the last to discuss is the Assyrian civilization the first super power in history, which started in today's North Iraq and conquered the known world at the time. Sometimes referred to as the war machine in reference to the number of wars and battles they started and the number of lands they occupied, and if you look into the you tube or the majority of books you will find them discussing the war effort which is a major part of their civilization. But, behind this fighting might there must be knowledge in both war art and administrating the vast empire. W e will try to concentrate on one period and also their relations with Israel and Judah for the people learning the Bible, also their amazing sculpture and wall figures art.
The 3 periods of this empire are:
1)      The early empire 1813 – 1755 BC
2)      Middle empire 1500 – 1350 BC
3)      Neo-Assyrian empire 911- 612 BC
We will concentrate at the neo-Assyrian period, but not to forget what the previous periods established. The early Assyrians founded the city of Ashur named after the father god and his wife goddess Ishtar of war and might. This city will remain important to them throughout their different empires along with other 5 cities are the heart of the Assyrian empire and their spiritual centers, Harran,Calah,Ninevah, Dur- shrunken, Arbela and of course Ashur. It is worth noting two things that happens throughout their history
1 – After every king's death there is a revolt somewhere in the empire

2 – Every land they occupy they displace the population there with people from other region, and they take the cream of the population they occupy back to their capital city.


The first king to start the revival of the Assyrian empire is Addad-Nirari II(911 – 891 BC) started by occupying Kadumuh and Nisibin both Aramaic cities and by taking the noble and educated back with them to Ashur which had a great influence on the language. As the Assyrians liked the Aramaic alphabets being only 28 compared to the 700 symbols and adopted it in 850BC while cuneiform remained for the king letters until 700BC when cuneiform seized (we will pick the influential kings only).
The third king was Ashurnasripal II (883-859) whom built his palace in Calah and was found by the excavation's of Austin Layard in 1845, and in it we find the reason he moved from Ashur. It was because of several revolts that occurred as he took power, one of which is the city of Suru south of Khabour river, where he describes on a tablet what happened." To the city of Suru I drew near, and the terror and splendor of Ashur overwhelmed them. The chief and the elders of the city, to save their lives came forth into my presence and embraced my feet saying "if it is thy pleasure slay! If it is thy pleasure let live! That which thy heart desireth do!" In the velour of my heart and with the fury of my weapons I stormed the city, all the rebels they seized and delivered them up"
In other text found he says that he beheaded some, others burnt alive, eyes put out and ears and noses cut. He was known to be one of the most ruthless of the Assyrian kings

                                                     Ashurnasripal II in British museum

He started his campaign by neutralizing the Aramaean kingdom of Bit Adini and from there headed North to the neo-Hittite area occupied that in search of copper then came down along the Mediterranean to seize Tyre,Siddon,Byblos and others reaching all the way to Cyprus.
The sixth king was the greatest among all the kings of Assyria Tiglath-pilesar III (745-727 BC) also called the REFORMER

Stella from Tiglath-Pilesar III palace wall (British meseum)
                                                

This King took drastic measures in order to keep the empire stable and expand as much as possible he introduced:
1 – the deportation on a massive scale in the regions that he thinks that could rebel like parts of median where he displaced 65,000  of its population to other regions of the empire also 30,00 of Hamah Syria he deported them to the Zargos mountains.
2 – he broke the big regions to small administrative authorities with their own governments to prevent kings from uniting a big uncontrolled one.
3 – Compulsory military service to every citizen of the empire regardless of his origin
4 – Communication by a group of riders that criss-cross the empire allowing the rapid dissemination of orders from the king and the delivery of reports from the provinces
5 – A multi –ethnic system where he managed to make the Arabs. Egyptians, Israelis and Syrians work together, pay taxes and join the army and reach political positions like any other citizen while maintaining the cultural customs.
The 8th king was Sargon II (721-705 BC) as we learnt from the first Sargon of Akkad that the name means legitimate king which means he killed the king existing

and for that reason a vast rebellion occurred in the empire:
1-      Babylon first falls to a Chaldean from old Sumer named Merodach Balaldan with the help of Elam and manages to rule for 10 years until 708BC when Sargon II defeats him 
2-      Ashdod city Philistia close to Egypt also revolted with the help of the Egyptians, they were also defeated
3-      Lower Egypt fell at 710 BC punished for supporting the rebels and it was always what the Assyrians wanted to complete their empire.

This shows clearly their might of organizing military campaigns with careful planning and swift execution

The 11th king was the last of the great kings of Assyria Ashurbanipal (669-627 BC)

 this king was known for his love to art and literature. When he built his great palace in Nineveh he made sure to build a library, the first known library in history to keep some 22,000 tablets written in cuneiform collecting all the writings of Summer and Akkad and the early Assyrian heritage. The wall of his palace was full of awesome relief drawings which we will see later. At his reign Assyria became the first superpower in history when in 667 BC took his armies to Egypt and reached all the way to Thebes the spiritual capital of the Egyptians and in other words he took lower and Upper Egypt and that is the entire known world at the time. In 2 years time the Egyptians managed to regain their country but not for long as Ashurbanipal came in 664 BC to regain it and put a puppet king .
In 653 BC several revolts occurred, it always starts by one or two then the rest joins, it all started by:
1 – Lydia in Asia Minor joining the Egyptians as their puppet king revolted
2 – Elam in the East
3 – Judah
4 – Philistia
5 – Media in Iran
6 – Phoenicia on the Mediterranean
In only 5 years Ashurbanipal managed to suppress all of them and took their kings to prison, which makes you think about their might and capability to accomplish all of this.

The art we have is either a portrait of the king  and his hunting or the army and they were so detailed and relieved on the walls. But the artifacts remaining where astonishing with details written on them, here the most famous






below is a close up to the side  were king Jehu of Israel submit by bowing to the Shalmanaser


THE WINGED BULL GUARD OF ISHTAR GATES


           THE FAMOUS DYING LIONESS WHICH SURPRISED THE ARTISTS BY ITS DETAILS