II. Ancient and Classical Periods, 3500 B.C.E.–500 C.E. > B. Kingdoms of Western Asia and Africa, to 323 B.C.E. > 2. Mesopotamia, c. 3500–539 B.C.E. > f. The Neo-Assyrians and the Neo-Babylonians
  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
f. The Neo-Assyrians and the Neo-Babylonians
THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE NEO-ASSYRIAN EMPIRE. Ashurdan II (934–912) built up a new Assyrian Empire. Further conquests were carried out by Adad-nirari II (911–890), Tukulti-Ninurta II (890–884), and Ashur-nasir-apli II (883–859), by which time the Assyrians again ruled from the Tigris to the Mediterranean, and from Lake Van to the borders of Babylonia. Ashur-nasir-apli was the chief architect of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, developing its centralized bureaucracy and building Kalah (Nimrud) as a capital. Its palaces and temples combined traditional Mesopotamian mud-brick architecture with monumental stone sculptures and wall-reliefs.  1
THE REIGN OF SHALMENESER III. Shalmeneser III began integrating conquered areas into the empire as provinces. Vassals, who could not yet be wholly subjugated, paid tribute. Shalmeneser moved west to conquer the Aramean kingdoms of Syria. Though initially stopped at the Battle of Qarqar (853) by a coalition of Hamath, Damascus, and Israel, in 842 Shalmeneser captured Damascus and received tribute from Tyre and from Israel (See 885–841). He defeated Kizzuwatna (Cilicia) and Urartu, “washing his weapons” in Lake Van. After Shalmeneser's death, there was a civil war between two of his sons, which led to a period of Urartian domination.  2
URARTIAN DOMINATION OF ASSYRIA. Shamshi-Adad V (823–811) took the throne after defeating his brother, though parts of the empire were lost. He was succeeded by his minor son, Adad-nirari III (810–783). For the first four years of the child's reign, his mother Sammuramat (Greek Semiramis) ruled as regent. Adad-nirari briefly reimposed tribute on the western states, including Israel, but increasingly Assyria retreated before Urartu. Commagene and Melitene in southern Anatolia and Carchemish in Syria came under Urartian control, and Assyria became practically a vassal of Urartu.  3
THE REIGN OF TIGLATH-PILESER III. The youngest son of Adad-nirari III, Tiglath-Pileser III introduced the last and greatest period of the Neo-Assyrian Empire. In the years 743–738, the Urartians and their Neo-Hittite allies were defeated at the Battle of Arpad, as was a coalition of Aramean kings under the leadership of Judah. In 735, Tiglath-Pileser III defeated the Urartians again and annexed the region around Lake Urmia. He then subdued Damascus and Israel, annexing all of Damascus's territory and the Israelite provinces of Gilead and Galilee, all of which were made into Assyrian provinces (See 752–722). In 731, a revolt broke out in Babylonia, and after crushing it, Tiglath-Pileser named himself king of Babylon.  5
SHALMENESER V AND SARGON II. Upon taking the throne, Shalmeneser V (726–722) was immediately faced with a new rebellion in the west. Both Tyre and Samaria, the capital of Israel, were besieged. Samaria fell late in 722 after a three-year siege (shortly before the death of Shalmeneser), but Tyre held out. When Sargon II (721–705) mounted the throne, another revolt broke out in Babylon under Merodach-Baladan II, which Sargon failed to quell initially. In 720, Sargon moved west, reconquering Hamath, Samaria, Ekron, and Gaza. King Ahaz of Judah paid tribute and Tyre finally capitulated after a five-year siege (See 768–715). In 717–716, Sargon took and annexed Carchemish and defeated the Egyptians at Raphia, the farthest west the Assyrians had yet penetrated. Urartu was again crushed in 714, and in 712 the Assyrians took Ashdod and annexed Philistia. Finally, in 709, the revolt in Babylon was suppressed, and Merodach-Baladan went into exile in Elam. Sargon built a new capital, which he named Dur-Sharrukin (Khorsabad).  6
The REIGN OF SENNACHERIB (Sin-ahhi-eriba). In 703 Merodach-Baladan II again seized power in Babylon, and though Sennacherib quickly put down the revolt, resistance continued for the next 13 years. Sennacherib campaigned to the north, taking tribute from the Medes, then west, defeating the Egyptians at the Battle of Elteqeh in 701. Next it was Judah's turn and Sennacherib besieged Jerusalem. But when King Hezekiah paid tribute, the Assyrians broke off the siege (See 715–640). In 689, Babylon revolted again, with Elamite assistance, but was sacked and burnt to the ground. Sennacherib transformed Nineveh, on the east bank of the Tigris, into a city of unparalleled splendor, and it remained the Assyrian capital until the end of the empire. In the 7th century, the population of Mesopotamia reached a height (until modern times) of around 2 million inhabitants. Sennacherib's eldest son had died before him, so he designated his youngest son Esarhaddon as heir. This led to a revolt by his older sons, and the king's assassination.  7
THE REIGN OF ESARHADDON. With the active assistance of his mother, Naqia (Greek Nitocris), Esarhaddon put down the revolt by his brothers. He then rebuilt Babylon and made one of his sons Shamash-shum-ukin its king; he gave another son, Ashurbanipal, the title king of Assyria. While Scythian and Cimmerian tribes appeared on Assyria's northern border, Esarhaddon was preoccupied with plans to conquer Egypt. The first Assyrian invasion of Egypt (674–673) was unsuccessful, but Esarhaddon struck with full force in 671, routed the Pharaoh Taharka, and took Memphis (See 747–656). In 669, Esarhaddon went to Egypt to prepare for an invasion of Ethiopia, but he fell sick and died.  8
THE REIGN OF ASHURBANIPAL. Ashurbanipal was both a great military commander and a patron of arts and letters. His palace reliefs are among the finest examples of Assyrian art, and he gathered a great library of tablets, which remains one of our main sources for knowledge of Sumero-Akkadian literature. The king boasted he could read and write the cuneiform script. Ashurbanipal attacked Egypt and, in two campaigns (667–666 and 664–663), defeated Pharaoh Taharka and his son Tenuatamun and extended Assyrian power as far south as Thebes (See 747–656). In 652, Shamash-shuma-ukin tried to overthrow his brother with Elamite help, and civil war raged until 648, when Shamash-shuma-ukin finally surrendered in Babylon. Susa was taken and sacked in 639, but the civil wars had revealed Assyria's weakness to its enemies.  9
THE LAST DAYS OF ASSYRIA. The Assyrian Empire collapsed quickly. There was apparently a revolt on Ashurbanipal's death, and his son Ashur-etil-ilani (626) ruled only a few months. The usurper, Sin-shum-lishar (626), also kept the throne only a short period. At this point, the Chaldean Nabopolassar declared himself king of Babylon. Sin-shar-ishkun (626–612), another son of Ashurbanipal, took back the throne of Assyria and stabilized the internal situation. Soon, however, Cyaxares, king of the Medes, and the Babylonian king, Nabopolassar, joined forces to attack Assyria. After a protracted struggle, Nineveh fell in 612 and was completely destroyed. An Assyrian noble, Ashur-uballit II (611–609) proclaimed himself king at Harran in Syria. The Babylonians took Harran in 610, however, and an attempt by the Assyrians, now allied to the Egyptians, to retake the city failed. Ashur-uballit died in obscurity.  10
8TH AND 9TH DYNASTIES OF BABYLON. After a period of political confusion, Nabu-mukin-apli (977–942) reestablished an 8th Dynasty of Babylon, though his rule did not extend far beyond the city itself. While unimportant politically, Babylon continued to be a cultural and intellectual center. Under Nabonassar (Nabu-nasir, 747–734) an important calendar reform was instituted in which the monthly lunar cycle was reconciled with the solar year, a standard system still used in the Jewish calendar. In 731 an Aramean dynasty came to power under Nabu-mukin-zeri (731–729), and the first use of Aramaic is attested in Babylonian documents. The Assyrians conquered Babylon in 728, but the Chaldean King Merodach-Baladan II (Marduk-apal-iddina) drove them out. From 710 to 626, Chaldean kings, often supported by Elam, alternated with Assyrian rulers (See c. 820–640).  11
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.