The following are the first 2 chapters from the book “The Assyrian Empire
Explore the Thrilling History of the Assyrians and their Fearful Empire in the Ancient Mesopotamia”
Where did the Assyrian Empire Begin?
Geographically, the Assyrian Kingdom was situated in northern Mesopotamia with the Tigris River flowing through its boundaries. Mesopotamia was the ancient land nestled between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers which encompassed most of modern-day Iraq. The Assyrian Kingdom bordered eastern Syria and parts of Anatolia (modern-day Turkey). Their ancient rival, the Babylonians, were positioned in the southern section of Mesopotamia.
The land of the Assyrians was protected by the Taurus Mountains to the north and the Zagros Mountains to the east. Due to the fertile soil of the land they occupied, they were able to grow an abundance of crops such as grain and barley. In addition to the plethora of crops available to feed its people, the Assyrians hunted animals such as antelope and bears.
This perfect location served as the epicenter for the Assyrian Kingdom to grow into one of the most formidable forces the world had ever seen at the time.
The Beginning of an Empire
The foundation of the Assyrian Kingdom can be traced back to the ancient city-state of Ashur. Ashur became wealthy through extensive trade networks in the region of Anatolia.
Roughly one century after Ashur rose to prominence around 1900 BCE, King Shamashi Adad I drove out the Amorites who inhabited the region. After the death of Shamashi Adad I, the Assyrians fell under control of the rising Babylonian Empire to the south. Assyria was able to break away from Babylonian control after the death of Hammurabi, but they would fall under control of the Mitanni.
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Once the Mitanni were driven out of the region, this allowed King Adad Nirari I to make the first significant expansion of the Assyrian realm. At the turn of the 13th century BCE, Adad Nirari I, began to exert Assyrian influence throughout Mesopotamia and this fierce ambition would be present in many powerful kings of the future.
The foundation of Assyrian society and what separated it from other Mesopotamian groups was their military acumen. Their vast rise to power was due to a strict and extensive military relentlessly trained to conquer foreign enemies. This fierce ambition began at the top of society with a series of ruthless kings who had a lust for power and glory. From Tiglath-Pileser I to Ashurbanipal, generations of highly-skilled military tacticians were fearless in battle and led their soldiers into battle with the promise of glory for the entire kingdom.
As inspirational as the kings were in Assyrian society, the thousands of soldiers on the frontline were equally as important to the strength of the empire. Without a tenacious group of skilled fighters, the Assyrians would have never risen to claim a vast stretch of territory in the ancient world. To protect the strength of the military, Assyrians bred young men for the war machine. Not only were the Assyrians the first true empire the world had ever seen, but they were the first culture to create the professional soldier.
In the early stages of the Assyrian Empire, it was unheard of for armies to campaign throughout the entirety of the year. Those who went to battle had to harvest crops during season and the army could not fight year-round. Once Tiglath-Pileser III rose to power, he would recruit an army whose sole purpose was to fight. This transformation in war tactics was unprecedented and it changed the military landscape in the Near East.
Men in the Assyrian military had one duty and that was to fight to the death. Assyrian soldiers fought ruthlessly for their king and showed no mercy in battle. As the empire grew in size, more and more young men were forced into the military from a young age. This standing army would sometimes be equipped with well over 100,000 fighters. This gigantic, well-oiled war machine was an intimidating presence for foes of the Assyrians. Provinces throughout the territory had to provide fighters to go to battle at any point in time. Enhancing the might of the army was no laughing matter and it was the focal point of Assyrian society.
On the battlefield, the Assyrians were extremely brutal to the groups of people they conquered. Deportation was a common practice for the ones whose lives were spared by the Assyrian kings. Enemies of the Assyrian Empire who fought till the end, as opposed to submitting, were brutally slaughtered. It was not uncommon to see heads decapitated, bodies mutilated, and entire cities burned to the ground. This was all done on the basis of fear. Assyrian kings ruled on fear and this is what they fed upon to assert their dominance in Mesopotamia and elsewhere. Those who were conquered by the Assyrian army were often enslaved or brutalized. Although they were deeply hated by the majority of other neighboring groups, they were certainly feared for the destructive potential of the army.
To no surprise, the Assyrians dominated the resources throughout the region and became an extremely wealthy group. Kings in particular basked in their newfound riches through conquering and seizing prizes formerly belonging to their enemies. Many kings used the acquired wealth to build lavish palaces to honor themselves and others could marvel at their accomplishments. Along the walls of these tremendous palaces were the greatest and most noteworthy military accomplishments of the king.
In a society dominated by military success, this only scratched the surface of how much the Assyrians marveled at the feats of their greatest kings. Much of their artwork and decorations for public display featured kings defeating enemies in battle, as well as Assyrian warriors violently killing their enemies through intricate methods. Several of the most notable Assyrian kings were also active hunters for wild game (such as lions) and some public artwork would be dedicated to the slaying of giant beasts from the wild.
The effectiveness and sheer destruction of the Assyrian military could not have been accomplished without being meticulously organized. This dedication to the strength and size of their standing army enabled them to become the world’s first super power. Due to the violence and bloodshed the Assyrian Empire resorted to in conquering of neighboring groups of people, they gained many comparisons to other cruel empires such as the Romans, Mongols, and Nazi Germany. The motivations of the Assyrians to build a powerful army may have differed than other powerful empires throughout history, but there was no restraint in their brutality.
One of the factors that contributed to their desire for possessing the most powerful military in the world was the economic riches at stake in the region. Their ancient rivals, the Babylonians, were based in the southern lands of Mesopotamia and there was always a threat from tribes to the north. A lack of military strength would leave the Assyrians vulnerable to an attack and in danger of losing their way of life.
Early in the 2nd millennium BCE, the Assyrians became strong enough to repel invaders from their original capital city of Ashur, but it would take hundreds of years before they possessed the military fortitude to expand their territory. The lust for further economic prosperity can be tied to their commitment to military strength. This lay the foundation for the empire as it began to have a bigger influence on the economic affairs of Mesopotamia and neighboring regions where trade was common.
It would not be until the reign of Tiglath-Pileser I where military expansion of the empire would truly take form and Assyria would become one of the primary aggressors in the region. The increased commitment to military strength in Assyrian society made them the most powerful entity in the ancient world at the cusp of the Neo-Assyrian Age. This would correlate to the greatest amount of economic fortunes the empire had ever seen.
As the Assyrian Empire continued to expand and claim more territory, they possessed firm control of lucrative trading routes that provided them access to many valuables from other empires. The economy of the Assyrian Empire prospered and extravagant riches came pouring in to the hands of its kings and royals. Through invading, conquering, and trading, the Assyrian realm became a home to one of the biggest collections of valuable resources in the world.
At the forefront of Assyrian power was its powerful king. Throughout its history, the Assyrian Empire had a long line of ambitious, ruthless, and intellectual kings. This played a significant role in the expansion of the empire over the centuries. There were periods in Assyrian history where a weak and indecisive ruler was in charge. Even though the empire appeared to falter to foreign and domestic pressures, it bounced back stronger than ever when a king with a clear vision ascended to the throne.
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Some of the most prosperous eras in Assyrian history were led by the most famous kings to ever take the throne. Names like Tiglath-Pileser I, Tiglath-Pileser III, Sargon II, Sennacherib, and Ashurbanipal are names that have been remembered for thousands of years. They were the kings that yearned for power and were willing to go to great lengths to secure vast wealth for all Assyrians. This often meant the brutal slaughter of enemies to the empire and their forced assimilation into Assyrian society.
Other than having an army that was able to topple any fighting force put in front of it, the Assyrians controlled the region through widespread fear and intimidation. The kings who went into battle and led the massacre of opposing groups accounted their triumphs of war in the annals written in the empire’s history. The extreme brutality sent widespread fear into conquered groups in the region. This psychological tool of warfare terrified others and made them think twice about fighting for their independence.
The military culture of the Assyrians led them to accumulate power unseen in the ancient world. The commitment they made to securing a highly-skilled, professional army made them unstoppable when they set out to conquer neighboring lands. This enabled their economy to flourish and the kingdom became unimaginably wealthy. However, this philosophy could not be carried as the empire continued to grow. Their viciousness and brutality drove other kingdoms to band together and take them down by any means possible.
The Assyrians shared much of the same religious beliefs as their southern Mesopotamian neighbors, the Babylonians. The two ancient civilizations worshipped many of the same deities and were both heavily influenced by the earlier Sumerian culture.
The sacred temples constructed within city walls within the empire were called ziggurats and one can compare their importance to Assyrian culture as the pyramids were to ancient Egypt. The purpose of each ziggurat was to worship the main god of the city it was built. These large structures were constructed in a square shape and would have multiple levels to tower above the landscape. A shrine dedicated to the god or goddess of the city would usually be placed toward the top of the steep structure.
The central god in the Assyrian culture was Ashur and the first capital city of the empire was named to honor him. Although there were multiple gods passed down to the culture from its predecessors, Ashur would increasingly become the only god worshipped in the Assyrian Empire. Originally, the worship of Ashur was relegated to the capital city of the empire but the belief in the chief god was spread throughout the entire realm to all conquered groups.
The king was viewed as a close link to Ashur and his rule would be considered all-powerful as long as the empire believed Ashur favored him. This divine right the king possessed could be swiftly taken if the public believed he had committed an act to fall out of favor with the chief god. Along with the high priests, the kings of the empire were the most central religious figures in Assyrian society.
Although the Assyrians acknowledged the existence and worshipped other gods/goddesses, the empire became increasingly monotheistic over time with Ashur being the only god worshipped. This was in large part due to population control and to limit revolts throughout the growing kingdom as best as possible.
Although the Assyrian king was the highest authority of the administration and the closest connection to Ashur, there were numerous positions that assisted him maintain order throughout the realm. This became crucial as the empire continued to swell into the Neo-Assyrian Age when Assyrian dominance was at its peak. From the palace at the capital city to the outskirts of the empire along the borders, there were important positions that assisted the king.
The focal point of the Assyrian realm began in the religious and cultural mecca of Ashur. Although the capital would change several times, the surrounding regions would be organized into provinces that would be controlled by designated local leaders. Governors would be appointed at the king’s discretion and they would have complete authority over the province allocated to them. These appointed governors would normally be the king’s must trusted officials or military generals.
As the Assyrians increased their scope of power, those who maintained independence still had to consult officials close to the king when deciding on policy. The local governors and the rest of the king’s closest officials had to report directly to him. It was extremely important for the king that he maintained the loyalty of his appointed officials. The members of this administration were known as the “Great Ones of Assyria” and a collaborative relationship between the Great Ones and the king secured the stability of the empire.
Particularly during the Neo-Assyrian Empire, these appointed positions were earned through skill and accomplishment rather than familial ties. One way the Assyrian kings prevented appointed officials from making attempts to revolt and steal the throne was to rely mostly on eunuchs. These were castrated males whose sole purpose was meant to serve the king in the selected capacity. The inability of eunuchs to have children assured that they held no interest in furthering their family line. Eunuchs would often give up their past life, all family connections, and even their previous name to commit their services solely for the king.
Not all members of the administration were eunuchs, but numerous accounts of the king being overthrown were caused by those who had not been made eunuchs. This was primarily due to one of the king’s sons not designated to be the heir to the throne. It is likely that these members of the Royal family were not required to be eunuchs despite not being chosen by the king to be next in line. Two of the most formidable Assyrian kings, who were not the heirs to the throne of their father, were Tiglath-Pileser III and Sargon II.
Tiglath-Pileser III went by a different name and was the governor of the province of the former capital Kahlu. Ironically, Sargon II seized power from his brother much like his father (Tiglath-Pileser III) before him. It is unclear what capacity in the administration Sargon II possessed before vanquishing his brother from the throne, but he was not forced to be a eunuch.
Not only did the Assyrian king have to worry about members of the Royal family attempting to seize the throne, he had to worry about appointed governors acquiring increased power over their designated province. As the empire continued to grow, governors who held their own ambitions increasingly disregarded the king’s commands. Their local power became so vast that it was not out of the question for them to attempt to turn their province into an independent state.
This became a widespread problem until Tiglath-Pileser III seized the throne from his ineffective brother. Many of the provincial governors had acquired enough power to act on their own and this vastly shrank the king’s power. Tiglath-Pileser III restructured the government to regain central authority for the king. His simultaneous strengthening of the military ensured the transition of power was successful for future generations.
Although it is unclear how often the king would meet with all the Great Ones collectively, he is likely to have met with many of them on a selective basis when campaigning to expand the empire. The king would normally campaign throughout his rule and governors would have to allocate troops to the battlefield. This would bring the king and governors into close contact with each other.
Relying on a select few officials in a massive empire was crucial for the king to maintain stability in the Assyrian realm. If the appointed governors and officials had hidden ambitions, then the power and safety of the king could be in jeopardy. Even though there were several civil wars that afflicted the empire, a group of trusted officials helped to prevent its collapse from the inside.
Much of the influence of Assyrian architecture and design came from the previous Sumerian and Akkadian societies. However, the Assyrians would develop a distinct craft over the years that would set it apart from its predecessors.
Many Assyrian kings ordered the construction of elaborate buildings and temples to symbolize the wealth and superiority of the kingdom. As opposed to the single tower ziggurats built by earlier societies, the Assyrians constructed ziggurats with two towers. These distinct ziggurats were highlighted by octagonal and circular domes.
Through the empire’s history, many great Assyrian kings would commence the construction of their own extravagant palaces, meant to surpass the beauty of their predecessors.
Women in the Assyrian Empire
The lives of women in the Assyrian Empire were not recorded in great detail. However, due to written law codes that detailed brutal punishments for women (often much harsher than those for men), it can be assumed that the lives of women were extremely difficult. Not only could women be held accountable for their own actions, they could be reprimanded for the actions of their family members. The eye for an eye principle laid out in the Code of Hammurabi was enforced through the different periods of the Assyrian Empire, but punishments for women were believed to be far more severe under Assyrian rulers.
This was especially the case under the rule of Tiglath-Pileser I during the Middle Empire. Women underwent excruciatingly painful punishments for crimes committed by their husbands. The types of physical torment ranged from severe beatings to the ripping off of body parts such as the ears or nose.
Ordinary women were expected to be subservient to their husbands in the household and men faced no punishment for beating their wives. Women had no control over their own sexuality and any actions that were deemed impure would tarnish the family name. This was the common view through the region, but the Assyrians took things to another level. The fierce control of women’s lives was strict and women were clearly lower class citizens compared to their male counterparts.
The only women in Assyrian society who appeared to have substantially better treatment were those in positions of royalty.
Periods of the Assyrian Empire
The Old Kingdom
The formation of the Assyrian Empire can be traced to the city-state of Ashur around 1900 BCE. Although it existed as a community long before it was officially recognized as a city, the aforementioned year was the approximate year the temple was built.
Much of what historians know about the earliest days of Assyria come from Ashur’s trade with the colony of Karum Kanesh. The trading networks Karum Kanesh had with Ashur and other city-states in the region made it extremely wealthy. Citizens of Ashur made the journey to Karum Kanesh in order to establish businesses and returned when their affairs were secured.
As Ashur became wealthier, they acquired the resources needed to become one of the most influential city-states early in the 2nd millennium. Ashur would be able to secure its borders under the leadership of King Shamashi Adad I when he forced the Amorites out of the region. This officially made Ashur the capital of the Assyrian Empire, but other groups still held prominent areas around the Assyrian realm. The Hurrians, Hatti, and Hittites all influenced the region, but the most notable was the rising power of Babylon.
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Led by Hammurabi, the Babylonian Empire was the dominant kingdom in Mesopotamia and Assyria became little more than a vassal state to Babylon. However, the rule of the Babylonians would not last long as their empire would fall apart after Hammurabi’s death. Although the Assyrians were able to break free from Babylonian control, the kings during this era did not seek to expand the kingdom’s territory. It is likely that other groups held too much power in the region and the Assyrians had not yet built the powerful army seen in later centuries.
Middle Assyrian Empire
The Assyrians were finally able to rise to prominence in the region when they ousted the Mitanni from the region. The ancient cities of Ashur, Nineveh, and Arbela all came under Assyrian control and this became the foundation where the empire would prosper for centuries. Their scope of influence spread all the way to the Euphrates River and they would eventually shock the ancient world by toppling the powerful city of Babylon.
King Tukulti-Ninurta I led the overthrow of the Babylonian king and the Assyrians established control of southern Mesopotamia for decades. Their control of Babylon would not last long as a series of weak kings would hold the throne. It would not be until the reign of King Tiglath-Pileser I in 1115 BCE where the empire would expand its borders once again.
The kings that came immediately before Tiglath-Pileser I were unable to utilize the newfound power after the conquest of the Mitanni. Everything changed when Tiglath-Pileser I orchestrated numerous military campaigns to conquer nearby groups that had been greatly weakened by the end of the Bronze Age. Many of these conquered groups were assimilated into Assyrian culture and the population growth created a more versatile empire.
The military became more powerful and the seized resources led to a boom of wealth for the economy. Tiglath-Pileser was a tireless worker to preserve Assyrian culture and help it thrive for centuries to come. He commissioned widespread building projects and initiated the collection of cuneiform tablets to be preserved for future generations. Not only did the arts and literature thrive under his leadership, but the landscape of the kingdom was enriched with beautiful parks and gardens.
This Renaissance-type reign under Tiglath-Pileser I was an inspiration for future kings to continue to expand the empire and preserve Assyrian culture through massive building projects and literary collections. However, the kings that took over immediately after were not successful at expanding the empire any further than Tiglath-Pileser I. Quarrels for power led to civil wars and the tight grip the Assyrians had on previously conquered groups began to slip away.
The Assyrians faced significant challenges from the Arameans and Amorites to maintain control over the areas along the borders of the expanded empire. There was no king that could strengthen the military to resist the flurry of rebellions that occurred along the Assyrian borders. The Assyrian Kingdom managed to hang on to their territory around the capital of Ashur, but the borders were less stable until more assertive kings ascended to the throne.
After a period of substantial decline, a series of ambitious kings led the Assyrian Empire to its greatest scope of power and influence. Starting sometime in the 10th century BCE, the Assyrian army conquered further territory in the region and built the most powerful empire the world had ever seen. This age of Assyrian rule in Mesopotamia and beyond would become the most familiar era for historians.
Not only did the Assyrians strengthen the military to an unprecedented level and establish the first massive empire in the Near East, but they developed an intensified reputation for utter brutality against the groups they conquered. For roughly three centuries, the Assyrian war machine was the most equipped fighting force in the region and they showed no mercy. The gross displays of violence by the Assyrian military can be compared to the most vicious empires throughout human civilization.
A technological boom solidified by the use of iron in warfare gave the Assyrian Kingdom a decisive edge on the battlefield. The advanced iron weaponry the Assyrians possessed manhandled the weaker bronze weapons of their enemies. Technology, highly-skilled soldiers, an army of tremendous volume, and power-hungry rulers bolstered the Assyrians to control more land than any realm ever before.
Beginning with the reign of King Adad Nirari II in 912 BCE, the Assyrian military flexed their might over Mesopotamia and spread the empire to sections of Anatolia (modern-day Turkey), the Levant, and Egypt. This time period also saw the Assyrians come into conflict with the Israelites and the conquests of the Assyrian Empire is depicted numerous times in the Hebrew Bible.
Adad Nirari II succeeded where so many kings before him failed, by recapturing the borders that had been lost to the Arameans. The remaining survivors of the Arameans were assimilated into Assyrian culture. A powerful alliance was made with southern power Babylon and this threat to Assyrian rule in the region was eliminated for nearly a century.
Now that the borders had been firmly secured under the rule of Adad Nirari II, it lay the foundation for future kings to expand the kingdom’s scope of power. They set their sights on lands to the north, but the military would need to be more efficient before launching any attacks.
The successive rule of Shalmaneser III witnessed a further expansion of Assyrian power after the defeats of Tyre, Sidon, and the Armenian Kingdom of Urartu. A more diverse group of people continued to be assimilated into Assyrian culture, but the local deities they previously worshipped were slowly replaced by the Assyrian god Ashur. The gods that the assimilated groups previously worshipped were now simply believed to be a different image of Ashur. This transition stifled the desire from many conquered groups to revolt against Assyrian authority.
Although the Assyrian Kingdom flourished for decades, a series of lackadaisical kings would cause another period of decline that would last for roughly 50 years. A lack of ambition of the kings during this brief period of lapse during the Neo-Assyrian Empire would cause the military to weaken and central authority to be slowly sucked from the throne.
That all changed when Tiglath-Pileser III rose to power in 745 BCE. He initiated sweeping changes through the empire to seize power from regional provinces. This drastic change in the structure of the government placed far more power in the hands of the king. Tiglath-Pileser III utilized this newfound power over the kingdom’s provinces and vassal states to solidify the military as the most elite fighting force the world had ever seen.
Under the rule Tiglath-Pileser III, expansion policies were reinstituted and he reconquered the pesky Urartu Kingdom. The tremendous expansion of their empire was in large part due to a standing army that was easily the most formidable in the region. Not only were Assyrian soldiers trained for war since their youth, the advanced weaponry and battle tactics made their fighting force far superior than any other kingdom. The use of iron weapons as opposed to bronze created havoc for neighboring tribes on the battlefield.
Tiglath-Pileser III was the first of many powerful kings who each had a vision to continue the expansion of Assyrian culture. The next 100plus years, beginning with Tiglath-Pileser III, would lay witness to the most rapid expansion of the Assyrian realm.
This time period of widespread expansion of Assyrian territory was coupled with intense cruelty. The Assyrian military showed no mercy to conquered people of the region and they went to great lengths to assert control. The brutality utilized by the Assyrian military made them the most feared in the region and their viciousness can be compared to other empires such as Ancient Rome. In order to limit uprisings from conquered peoples, mass deportation was practiced assimilating them into Assyrian society.
The veracity of the Assyrian soldiers was coupled by their remarkable efficiency and skill in battle. They were the most highly trained and well equipped soldiers in the region and the battle tactics employed allowed them to destroy city after city along their path. The next kings after Tiglath-Pileser III, Shalmaneser V and Sargon II, took the empire to even further heights. The longtime rival of the Assyrians, the Urartu Kingdom, was defeated by Sargon II to help the Assyrian Empire reach its highest peak at the time.
Toward the end of Sargon II’s reign, the empire would begin to destabilize and his son Sennacherib would inherit a kingdom on the cusp of widespread uprisings. In response, Sennacherib led some of the most ruthless and historically documented military campaigns of the Assyrian Empire. Under Sennacherib’s command, the Assyrians marched against the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah. This is when the famous siege of Jerusalem occurred that has fascinated historians for generations.
Sennacherib was a king who viciously campaigned to conquer many groups, but he also turned the city of Nineveh to one of the most beautiful cities of the ancient world. Upon making the city the new capital of the empire, he created a marvelous palace and decorated the city with lush gardens.
Despite the new lavish capital city and successful military campaigns, the city of Babylon continued to be a thorn in Sennacherib’s side. His decision to destroy the ancient city would be one to haunt him and would ultimately lead to his demise.
His heir, Esarhaddon, took the opposite approach to rebuild Babylon to its former glory. After the resurrection of Babylon was complete, he focused his attention on continuing the military campaigns as his father before him. He conquered lands as far away as Egypt, modern-day Iran, Nubia, and into Anatolia.
Under Esarhaddon’s strict control of the kingdom, the arts, science, architecture, and others flourished. Learning from the tribulations he had to go through to claim the throne, he ensured his heir would have no qualms leading the kingdom after his death.
The last powerful king to make a tremendous impact for the Assyrians was Ashurbanipal. He was more known for his intellect and affinity for the arts than arguably any other Assyrian king, but he was not afraid to lay the hammer down when needed to enforce authority.
Ashurbanipal had a successful rule of the kingdom for over 40 years, but the expansion of the empire had reached a breaking point. The vast stretch of land the Assyrians occupied became too large for them to effectively govern. By this point, the Assyrians created so many enemies, they were willing to do anything to see the empire crumble. Assyrian rule under Ashurbanipal was too fierce to topple the empire, but that would dramatically change during the next transition in power.
After the death of Ashurbanipal, the empire began to collapse in large part due to the ineffectiveness of his sons and the difficulties maintaining control of the large kingdom. The Assyrian army was still the most powerful in the Middle East at the time, but they were spread too thin to prevent the subsequent uprisings. The fall of the powerful Assyrian Empire was imminent!
Collapse of the Assyrian Empire
By the 7th century BCE, the Assyrian Empire had expanded to a point where ruthless control of the territory led to constant uprisings and internal conflict. During the final decades of Assyrian rule in the region, the empire was led by a series of weak kings who steadily lost control over previously conquered sectors.
The sons of Ashurbanipal, Ashur-etli-Ilani, and Sin-Shar-Ishkun, were not nearly as efficient ruling the empire as their father. They plunged the Assyrian Empire into civil war and were unable to retain control of the borders.
The subsequent rise of Nabopolassar in Babylon and the arrival of the Medes in the region put the wheels in motion to the final Assyrian decline. Years of brutal Assyrian treatment of conquered groups motivated Babylonians, Medes, Scythians, and others to band together to take the Assyrians down. It would take nearly 20 years of vicious fighting, but the alliance would slowly and effectively wipe out the Assyrian civilization.
Nabopolassar led an attack on the great Assyrian city of Ashur but was unable to capture the city. When the Medes sacked Ashur in 614 BCE, they had greater success and one of the most prominent cities in the Assyrian world had fallen.
After their monumental victory, the Medes joined the Babylonians and that spelled further doom for the Assyrian Empire. In 612 BCE, the city of Nineveh was captured by the allied armies and Assyrian forces were sent into complete disarray. The next few years of fighting would lead to the final collapse of the Assyrians and it would be the last hoorah for the once mighty Mesopotamian power.
The great cities of Ashur and Nineveh had been decimated by the invading armies and they disappeared off the face of the Earth for thousands of years. It would take excavations by talented archaeologists to discover the buried ruins of these two former thriving cities in modern-day Iraq.
The conquerors of Ashur, Nineveh, and other Assyrian strongholds wanted to annihilate them in retaliation for years of torment, but remnants of the culture have survived for modern scholars to study. One of the most groundbreaking discoveries would be none other than Ashurbanipal’s library which shed light on Mesopotamian culture.