Archaeologists discover Assyrian fortifications from a legendary battle

Archaeologists discover Assyrian fortifications from a legendary battle

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About 3,000 years ago during the Iron Age, the Assyrians were a major power in the Middle East and North Africa. Their military might was terrifying. And now, a new archaeological finding reveals more about the defensive strategies of this once powerful empire.

A team headed by Dr Alexander Fantalkin of Tel Aviv University has announced the discovery of one of the largest construction projects in the entire Mediterranean basin: a massive mud and stone wall dating to the 8 th century BC, which would have been used to defend the artificial harbour, approximately 3 miles from what is today the Israeli city of Ashdod.

“This is the ancient harbour of the Philistine city of Ashdod, We found there a very impressive fortification system comprised of 18 ft. tall mud brick walls. This brick wall is the core of a system of dykes that are combined into a huge, horseshoe shaped fortification, protecting a man-made pier,” said Dr Fantalkin.

It's likely that this wall was built in the midst of several conflicts between the Assyrians and two Israeli kingdoms, as well as Israel's neighbours the Philistines. One legendary battle took place between the Assyrians and a Philistine uprising led by a king called Yamani. Assyrian inscriptions reveal that at the end of the century, Yamani, the rebel king of Ashdod, led a rebellion against Sargon II, the king of the Assyrian Empire. The Kingdom of Judah, under King Hezekiah, rejected Yamani's call to join the insurrection.

“Following the Philistine rebellion, the Assyrians sent down an army in 712 BCE, and the rebelling king fled to Egypt,” said Dr Fantalkin. “The Assyrians demanded the Egyptian extradite him, which they did. The entire affair is mentioned both in the Bible and in Assyrian sources. (For Gaza will be abandoned And Ashkelon a desolation; Ashdod will be driven out at noon And Ekron will be uprooted. Zephaniah 2:4) The rebellion was put down forcefully by the Assyrians and the city of Ashdod was destroyed.”

The fortifications seem to be related to these events, but it is not yet clear exactly how. They could have been built before or after the Ashdod rebellion was put down, either at the initiative of the locals or at the orders of the Assyrians. What is clear, however, is that an incredible amount of time and energy was invested in building the wall and embankments and it must have been for good reason.

    Archaeologists Discover They’ve Been Excavating Lost Assyrian City

    (Peter Pfälzner, University of Tübingen)

    In 2013, archaeologists from the University of Tübingen in Germany began excavations on an ancient Assyrian city in the Kurdistan region of modern-day Iraq. While they were able to establish the city dated back as early as 2800 to 2650 B.C., they weren’t sure exactly what city it was that they were excavating, according to Owen Jarus at LiveScience. That is until last summer. While digging in a site that was once a palace, they unearthed 92 cuneiform tablets hidden in a piece of pottery that revealed where, exactly, they were working: the lost city of Mardaman.

    According to a press release, the city was once an important commercial hub that’s been cited in many writings. Over the course of its 1,000-year history, Mardaman was captured, destroyed and rebuilt several times. Notably, during that time span, its position on trading routes between Mesopotamia, Anatolia and Syria, made it a desirable slice of geography, and it served for a time as a capital of a Mesopotamian province and at one point was its own independent kingdom.

    The crumbling tablets were deciphered by Betina Faist of the University of Heidelberg, who is a specialist of the Assyrian language. Using photographs of the texts, she found that they date from the Middle Assyrian Empire and reveal that Mardaman was the administrative seat of a previously unknown Assyrian province. The texts appear to be documents from a governor of the province named Assur-nasir, and they describe some of his daily activities.

    The find adds a coda to the long story of Mardaman. By the time it appears in the historical record around 2250 B.C. it was already established and was leveled by Naram-Sin, who ruled the Akkadian Empire, the first multi-national empire in known history. Between 2000 and 2100 B.C.E. it was an important trade center on the edge of Mesopotamia and the center of its own kingdom, which was conquered in 1786 B.C.E. by Shamshi-Adad I, who acquired much of the ancient Near East, creating the Upper Mesopotamian Empire and proclaiming himself “King of All.”

    After that Mardaman regained its independence and became a prosperous independent kingdom again. But the good times didn’t last the Turukkaean people from the nearby Zagros Mountains flattened the city. There Mardaman disappeared from recorded history until the new writings were discovered. “The cuneiform texts and our findings from the excavations in Bassetki now make it clear that that was not the end,” Peter Pfälzner of the University of Tübingen, who is heading the excavations, says in the press release. “The city existed continuously and achieved a final significance as a Middle Assyrian governor’s seat between 1,250 and 1,200 B.C.”

    Pfälzner explains that the tablets may have been a sort of message-in-a-bottle. They were found in the earthenware vessel covered in a thick layer of clay. “They may have been hidden this way shortly after the surrounding building had been destroyed. Perhaps the information inside it was meant to be protected and preserved for posterity.”

    Mardaman is not the only lost city in Iraq. Last month, officials revealed that looted artifacts purchased by Hobby Lobby likely came from a lost Sumerian City in the country called Irisagrig. Last year, researchers also revealed that they are using quantitative analysis to find the locations of 11 lost Assyrian cities by analyzing 12,000 cuneiform tablets from traders, who moved merchandise between those cities and other known cities in the Bronze Age.

    New Excavation Will Examine Germany’s Legendary “Founding Battle”

    In the year A.D. 9, a combined force of deeply independent Germanic tribes led by the Roman-trained chieftain Arminius ambushed and destroyed three legions of elite Roman soldiers over the course of three days. It was the event that galvanized and temporarily united chieftains from  present-day Holland to Poland  against Rome, which was never able to absorb the heavily forested wilderness east of the Rhine into its empire.

    In 1987, researchers believed that they uncovered the spot of the legendary battle in northwestern Germany. Since then, they have dug up many compelling artifacts, but there is still no irrefutable proof that the site near Kalkriese hill was the venue of Arminius’ great victory since the Romans and chieftans clashed all over the frontier. Now, Deutsche Welle reports, researchers want to get a definitive answer. Come September, the local Kalkriese Museum will undertake a major new excavation at the site as well begin a three-year project to analyze the metallurgical profiles of artifacts uncovered there.

    There’s lots of evidence that something took place at Kalkriese. In 2006, Fergus M. Bordewich wrote in Smithsonian magazine that archaeologists have recovered more thanم,000 artifacts in the area, including a Roman standard-bearer’s silver facemask, spearheads, tent pegs, medical instruments and even human skulls split by swords. Notably, they also found coins stamped "VAR," indicating they were medals given by the ill-fated Roman politician and general Publius Quinctilius Varus, who fell on his sword during the battle rather than let himself get captured.

    Still, researchers have yet to find an absolute smoking gun that this was the site of the famous battle. “We haven’t got final proof we haven’t found anything with the inscription of the 19th or 18th or 17th legions,” professor Salvatore Ortisi of the University of Munich, who will lead the dig, tells DW. “We’re hoping for some piece of a helmet with an inscription or a plaque with the name of a unit, or a stamped artillery bolt.”

    The new dig will be on the look out for signs of hastily constructed fortifications built by the Romans, some of which were uncovered in previous digs. “It would suggest the fortifications we have there were a Roman camp that was overrun by the Germans,” Ortisi tells DW . “That would fit in with historical accounts of the battle.”

    The metallurgy tests that will take place over the next few years will contribute their own historical evidence by determining whether metal objects from the site were from Varus’ legions or if they came from the later armies led by the Roman commander Germanicus, which attempted to pacify the region.

    While the battle is the foundational myth of German, David Crossland at Der Spiegel reports that many Germans are unfamiliar with the actual history of the event. That’s because during the 18th and 19th century a "cult of Hermann" as Arminius was later known as, developed in Germany, with fact-free legends about superior tribes of ancient Germans united by the hero helping to support the aggressive nationalism and racism that resulted in the Third Reich. Since then, Germany’s "founding battle" has been downplayed, and even the 2,000th anniversary of the battle in 2009 was a subdued celebration.

    Researchers are split on just how influential the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest really was. “This was a battle that changed the course of history,” Peter S. Wells, archaeologist and author of The Battle That Stopped Rome, tells Bordewich. “It was one of the most devastating defeats ever suffered by the Roman Army, and its consequences were the most far-reaching. The battle led to the creation of a militarized frontier in the middle of Europe that endured for 400 years, and it created a boundary between Germanic and Latin cultures that lasted 2,000 years.”

    Crossland, however, points out that Germanicus and Roman forces were back in the area just six years after the battle, and went on to win some substantial victories, though they eventually did abandon the area. The myth of Arminius as a grand uniter is also exaggerated. Evidence suggests he convinced roughly five tribes to fight with him at Teutoburg. After that he made an effort to become king, an idea that many people in his own tribe, the Cherusci, resented. He was later murdered by political opponents.

    “The battle became the big bang of the German nation in terms of myth and legend. But in terms of real history, it was no such thing." Tillmann Bendikowski, a German journalist who has also written a book about the myth of Hermann, tells Crossland. “It’s typically German to say world history was shaped on German soil. We know that this was one battle among many and that there was a range of factors behind Rome's eventual retreat to the Rhine. Everyone who needed this myth regarded it as the turning point of history. For many it remains the turning point. But it wasn’t.”

    Wherever you stand on the impact of the battle in halting the Roman Empire’s spread into the middle of Europe, new details from the Kalkriese dig are sure to add more fact to what remains an irrefutably remarkable feat.

    About Jason Daley

    Jason Daley is a Madison, Wisconsin-based writer specializing in natural history, science, travel, and the environment. His work has appeared in Discover, Popular Science, Outside, Men’s Journal, and other magazines.

    Archaeologists Discover Goliath’s Village in Southern Israel

    Archeologists have been digging at Tell es-Safi in southern Israel for over two decades but the finds uncovered in the past season have them convinced the site is the location of Biblical Gath.

    “I’ve been digging here for 23 years, and this place still manages to surprise me,” Aren Maeir, a professor of archaeology at Bar-Ilan University who leads the expedition in Gath told Haaretz . “All along we had this older, giant city that was hiding just a meter under the city we were digging.”

    Remains of the city wall of the Philistine city of Gath. (Photo: Prof. Aren Maeir/ Bar Ilan University)

    The site has hosted human civilization at many stages ranging from an Arab village evacuated in 1948 and a medieval Crusader castle. Archeologists began digging in 1996 but never found evidence of a city standing at the time that a young shepherd named David faced off against a heavily armored Philistine giant from the city of Gath.

    But archaeologists are now sure that the city at Tell es-Safi was inhabited by the Philistines as far back as 5,000 BCE. Researchers have yet to find any conclusive evidence naming the site explicitly as Gath but Tell es-Safi is the best candidate.

    “No comparably colossal structures are known in the rest of the Levant from this period—or even from the later incarnation of Philistine Gath,” Maier told Haaretz.

    The 11th-century BCE city was outstandingly large and would have covered an area of 123.5 acres.

    This year, archaeologists focused on a terraced area of the section of the city. They discovered that the terraces were resting on massive fortifications of walls four meters thick. They also discovered larger buildings made of huge stone boulders and fired bricks. Based on pottery discovered at the site, they dated the city to the 11th century BCE or possibly earlier.

    This establishes Gath as a major regional power already in the early Iron Age in a manner consistent with the Biblical narrative. The settlement was destroyed by the Aramean King Hazael around 830 BCE as described in the book of II Kings.

    Though many archaeologists assert that the Biblical account of Goliath is fictitious, in 2006, Maier presented his find of the “Goliath Inscription”: a Philistine inscription from the mid-ninth century BCE, the oldest ever discovered, which was found at Tell es-Safi. The inscription included two names, the first consists of four Semitic letters: TWLA [Hebrew font, alef-lamed-vav-tav], which Maeir said may be the equivalent of the name Goliath. Although it was written with Semitic letters, the name was known to be Philistine.

    In his report, the archaeologist insisted that the inscription could not be referring to an actual historical person named Goliath.

    “Maeir stresses that the Goliath of the inscription from Gath is not the Biblical Goliath,” the report read . “Most scholars regard the Goliath story as legend rather than history. The inscription does, however, give a real-life context to the story, and it demonstrates that the name Goliath was probably in circulation in Gath about a century or so after the legendary battle between David and Goliath, according to the Biblical chronology.

    Site was prohibited for researchers

    The site of the expedition was near the town of Faida, which lies close to Turkey. Due to modern conflict, this site was prohibited for researchers for nearly half a century. A British team had noted the tops of at least three stones back in 1973, however, the tensions between the Kurds and the Baathist regime in Iraq prevent further work for many years. Morandi Bonacossi-led expedition had again returned in 2012 but ISIS invasion again halted the research. The main battle line between the Islamic State and the Kurdish forces is reportedly 20 miles away from the site.

    The expedition by Morandi Bonacossi and Hasan Ahmed Qasim from Iraq Kurdistan&rsquos Dohuk department of antiquities unveiled ten reliefs set along the banks of a four-mile-long canal. As per the research, the carvings display a king (Sargon II) observing a procession of Assyrian gods, including a deity Ashur riding on a dragon and a horned lion, along with his consort Mullissu on a lion-supported throne.

    Other figures such as the goddess of love and war, Ishtar, Shamash, the sun god and Nabu, the god of wisdom were also found on the reliefs. According to the archaeologists, such figures were carved in order to lay emphasis on the passerby's that fertility comes from both, divine and earthly power.

    Hanging Gardens Existed, but not in Babylon

    Greek and Roman texts paint vivid pictures of the luxurious Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Amid the hot, arid landscape of ancient Babylon, lush vegetation cascaded like waterfalls down the terraces of the 75-foot-high garden. Exotic plants, herbs and flowers dazzled the eyes, and fragrances wafted through the towering botanical oasis dotted with statues and tall stone columns.

    Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar II was said to have constructed the luxurious Hanging Gardens in the sixth century B.C. as a gift to his wife, Amytis, who was homesick for the beautiful vegetation and mountains of her native Media (the northwestern part of modern-day Iran). To make the desert bloom, a marvel of irrigation engineering would have been required. Scientists have surmised that a system of pumps, waterwheels and cisterns would have been employed to raise and deliver the water from the nearby Euphrates River to the top of the gardens.

    The multiple Greek and Roman accounts of the Hanging Gardens, however, were second-hand–written centuries after the wonder’s alleged destruction. First-hand accounts did not exist, and for centuries, archaeologists have hunted in vain for the remains of the gardens. A group of German archaeologists even spent two decades at the turn of the 20th century trying to unearth signs of the ancient wonder without any luck. The lack of any relics has caused skeptics to question whether the supposed desert wonder was just an “historical mirage.”

    However, Dr. Stephanie Dalley, an honorary research fellow and part of the Oriental Institute at England’s Oxford University, believes she has found evidence of the existence of the legendary Wonder of the Ancient World. In her soon-to-be-released book “The Mystery of the Hanging Garden of Babylon: An Elusive World Wonder Traced,” published by Oxford University Press, Dalley asserts that the reason why no traces of the Hanging Gardens have ever been found in Babylon is because they were never built there in the first place.

    Dalley, who has spent the better part of two decades researching the Hanging Gardens and studying ancient cuneiform texts, believes they were constructed 300 miles to the north of Babylon in Nineveh, the capital of the rival Assyrian empire. She asserts the Assyrian king Sennacherib, not Nebuchadnezzar II, built the marvel in the early seventh century B.C., a century earlier than scholars had previously thought.

    According to Oxford University, Dalley, who is a scholar in ancient Mesopotamian languages, found evidence in new translations of the ancient texts of King Sennacherib that describe his own “unrivaled palace” and a “wonder for all peoples.” He also mentioned a bronze water-raising screw—similar to Archimedes’ screw developed four centuries later—that could have been used to irrigate the gardens.

    Recent excavations around Nineveh, near the modern-day Iraqi city of Mosul, have uncovered evidence of an extensive aqueduct system that delivered water from the mountains with the inscription: “Sennacherib king of the world…Over a great distance I had a watercourse directed to the environs of Nineveh.” Bas reliefs from the royal palace in Nineveh depicted a lush garden watered by an aqueduct, and unlike the flat surroundings of Babylon, the more rugged topography around the Assyrian capital would have made the logistical challenges in elevating water to the gardens far easier for an ancient civilization to overcome.

    Archaeologists Discover A Lost City In A Rural Field in Kansas

    In the Great Plains of Kansas, researchers have made an innovative and unexpected discovery: a massive town abandoned centuries ago. Donald Blakeslee discovered a few years ago the lost city of Etzanoa in Arkansas City, Kan, a Wichita State University anthropologist, and an archaeology professor. Anthropologist and archaeology professor Donald Blakeslee in one of the pits being excavated in Arkansas City, Kan.

    local residents found in that small town in south-central Kansas the arrowhead and the gold mine below the town, pottery, and other ancient items in the fields and rivers of the area for decades.

    Blakeslee used newly-translated records written by the Spanish conquistador who came through the world about 400 years ago to point out that the objects once belonged to the city of Etzanoa, which was lost in the Americas.

    Kacie Larsen of Wichita State University shakes dirt through a screened box to see what artefacts may emerge.

    “‘I thought, ‘Wow, their eyewitness descriptions are so clear it’s like you were there,’” Blakeslee told the Times about reading the conquistador’s accounts. “I wanted to see if the archaeology fit their descriptions. Every single detail matched this place.”

    The city of Etzanoa is believed to have been around from 1450 to 1700 and was home to approximately 20,000 people. Blakeslee said that the city was the second-largest settlement in the present-day United States at the time and spanned across at least five miles of the space between the Walnut and Arkansas rivers.

    The 20,000 inhabitants of Etzanoa were said to have lived in “thatched, beehive-shaped houses.”

    In 1541, conquistador Francisco Vazquez de Coronado came to the town hoping to discover its fabled gold but instead found Native Americans in a collection of settlements that he called Quivira.

    Sixty years later in 1601, Juan de Oñate led a team of 70 conquistadors from New Mexico to Quivira, also hoping to find its gold but they ran into a tribe called the Escanxaques, who told them of the nearby city of Etzanoa.

    Oñate and his team arrived at the city and were greeted peacefully by the inhabitants of Etzanoa. However, things quickly went south when the conquistadors started taking hostages, which then caused the city’s residents to flee in fear.

    The group of conquistadors explored the vast area of more than 2,000 houses but feared an attack from the peoples they dislodged and decided to return home.

    On their return trip, they were attacked by some 1,000 members of the Escanxaque tribe and a huge battle took place. The conquistadors lost and returned home to New Mexico, never to come back to the area again.

    French explorers came nearly a century later to that part of south-central Kansas but did not find any evidence of Etzanoa or its people. It is believed that disease caused the untimely demise of the population.

    However, traces of the people and their city would not stay hidden forever. Blakeslee and a team of excavators found the site of the ancient battle in a neighborhood in Arkansas City and found remanents from the battle.

    Locals in the area had been uncovering artifacts from the lost city for decades but didn’t understand why until evidence of the city itself was discovered by Blakeslee.

    “Lots of artifacts have been taken from here,” Warren “Hap” McLeod, a resident of Arkansas City who lives on the spot where the battle took place, told the Times. “Now we know why. There were 20,000 people living here for over 200 years.” One local resident said that the sheer amount of artifacts that people in the area have is mindblowing.

    Russell Bishop, a former Arkansas City resident, shows off the arrowheads he found in the area as a kid. Professor Donald Blakeslee of Wichita State University shows a black pot unearthed by student Jeremiah Perkins, behind him.

    “My boss had an entire basement full of pottery and all kinds of artifacts,” Russell Bishop told the Times. “We’d be out there working and he would recognize a black spot on the ground as an ancient campfire site … I don’t think anyone knew how big this all was. I’m glad they’re finally getting to the bottom of it.”

    The Great Plains were long-regarded as huge, empty spaces in ancient times that were populated mainly by nomadic tribes. But Blakeslee’s discovery of Etzanoa could prove that some of the tribes in the area weren’t nomadic and were actually more urban than previously believed.

    Blakeslee has also discovered evidence that similar, large-scale lost cities could be located in nearby counties which might have been around during the time of Etzanoa.

    These latest groundbreaking archaeological finds are helping researchers fill in huge blanks in early American history.

    Archaeologists discover Assyrian fortifications from a legendary battle - History

    Bible Accuracy and Archaeology

    After thousands of years of scrutiny, the Bible has stood the divine test of time as historic, archaeological, philosophical and spiritual perfection.

    Why is the Bible different from all other books that have ever been written? Aside from the primary reason of eternal salvation in Christ or the amazing logic and wisdom of the Scriptures, no other book in history comes close to offering as much precise historic and archaeological data about human civilization. The Bible also provides the blueprint for the future of mankind. As a civilization, the Bible teaches us that the best way to know our future, is to obtain an accurate representation and understanding of our past.

    To many skeptics, the Bible is often judged as an irrelevant book of myths used by the political and religious elite to mislead the ignorant. Yet over the years, when I've had the opportunity to encounter those who doubt Scripture, I have always discovered one thing. They should have investigated the Bible further.

    &ldquoThe first gulp from the glass of natural science will turn you into an atheist,

    but at the bottom of the glass God is waiting for you.&rdquo

    - Werner Heisenberg, Nobel Prize winner

    For those who do in-depth research, they end up having a profound change of heart. For the more one researches the Scriptures and reflects on science and history, they will discover that the Bible is miraculously accurate. Unfortunately, for many critics, they never take the time and effort to reach the threshold where they discover the logic and evidence they claimed to to need.

    Roman Occupation of Israel​

    It is often claimed that there is little evidence that Christ existed because there is no account of Jesus in official Roman and Jewish records. In fact, this should be no surprise since Christ&rsquos life and ministry occurred in an era when Israel was under Roman occupation . While many provinces accepted Roman conquest, the threat of a revolt in Israel was always near the surface throughout the first century era and especially true during Jewish holidays like Passover . Because of this, anyone who questioned Roman authority or the Jewish leaders they installed were obviously suppressed or put to death.

    The Jewish religious and political leadership at the time of Christ were under the control of their Roman superiors and often motivated by their own status or financial gain as the Temple had turned into a religious marketplace . Several of the Jewish religious leaders in the Sanhedrin saw Jesus as a threat who exposed their greed and hunger for power. While there were members of the Sanhedrin (like Joseph of Arimathea ) who supported the ministry of Jesus, Caiaphas (the Jewish high priest ) plotted to have Jesus killed.

    The Jewish revolts (also known as the Jewish-Roman wars) are another reason why the Romans would have censored the life of Christ. These revolts eventually led to the Roman destruction of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem in 70AD. So the last thing the Jewish and Roman leadership wanted to do was to legitimize the leader of a local Jewish religious sect by documenting His existence.

    Contrary to what many are led to believe, Christ is well documented by several well-known Roman and Jewish historians. Publius Cornelius Tacitus is a famous Roman senator and historian who documented Christ and execution by Pontius Pilate .

    The first-century historian Titus Flavius Josephus documented both Jesus and John the Baptist on several occasions.

    According to the Roman historian Eusebius , the emperor Hadrian buried Christ&rsquos tomb with a temple honoring the Roman deity Venus in an attempt to erase his existence. This location was common knowledge for early Christians during the first few centuries after Christ's resurrection. In 325AD, the Roman ruler Constantine the Great had the temple removed to expose Christ&rsquos original tomb , known today as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre . Here is a very informative documentary from National Geographic on the recent excavation of Christ&rsquos tomb.

    Our history books and scholars accept that Alexander the Great existed. Meanwhile, many are still skeptical of the existence of Christ, even though Jesus is surprisingly documented by far more individuals in history. It is true that Alexander the Great led thousands of soldiers to great military conquests that no sane person will dispute. With vast amounts of archaeological evidence and historical documentation confirming Biblical events, it would also be illogical to assume that the existence of Christ derives from the realm of fictional mythology.

    In this era, the greater relevant question is:

    "With the massive geopolitical influence

    and status that Alexander the Great acquired,

    how much relevance does Alexander the Great have today

    compared to that of Jesus Christ?"

    With the reality of two billion Christians living on Earth at present and the philosophy of Christ that provided the foundation for our current Western civilization, Jesus casts a shadow that has left Alexander the Great in the dark. The teachings of Christ are so incredibly profound, He has to easily be considered the most influential person in all of human history. Amen!

    Up until the beginning of the 20th century, Old Testament stories about Babylon and Jericho were considered myths because there was no physical proof of their existence. Yet, the location of these cities were eventually discovered by archaeologists just as they were described in the Bible. Modern archaeology has even discovered evidence that the walls of Jericho were indeed destroyed in a catastrophic battle .

    Another popular Biblical tale (involving Babylon ) that many have viewed as myth, is the story of the ancient Tower of Babel . Even today the Encyclopedia Britannica incorrectly refers to this building as myth. In reality, archeologists have already discovered it's location and obtained detailed artifacts from the 6th century BC that even provide drawings. Here is a link to an informative documentary from the Smithsonian about the location of Babylon and the Tower of Babel.

    mv2.png/v1/fill/w_160,h_146,al_c,usm_0.66_1.00_0.01,blur_2/Tower%20of%20Babel%20on%20tablet.png" />

    Tablet enhanced showing the tower and Nebuchadnezzar II (Screenshot from the Smithsonian Channel )

    For centuries civilizations like the Canaanites , Hittites , Assyrians , and Phoenicians were all thought to be mythical cultures, until they were also discovered by curious archaeologists. The repeating scenario of secular academia's continued referrals of "mythical" Bible accounts has become very stale and outdated. It's as if popular secular culture exists in an alternate reality of denial.

    One of the most profound archaeological discoveries legitimizing the Bible's historic accuracy are the Dead Sea Scrolls . Found in the Qumran Caves in the Judaean Desert , this treasure trove of revealing documents covering the books of the Old Testament are dated from the 3rd century B.C. through the 1st century A.D..

    mv2.jpg/v1/fill/w_211,h_67,al_c,q_80,usm_0.66_1.00_0.01,blur_2/Dead%20Sea%20Scrolls%20(Book%20of%20Isaiah).jpg" />

    Dead Sea Scrolls - Book of Isaiah

    mv2.jpg/v1/fill/w_213,h_48,al_c,q_80,usm_0.66_1.00_0.01,blur_2/Dead%20Sea%20Scrolls%20(Book%20of%20Psalms).jpg" />

    Dead Sea Scrolls - Book of Psalms

    New Testament Archaeological Discoveries

    ​​​​​​ New discoveries that confirm the Bible's historic accuracy are still occurring every year. As cities and eventful sites are located, they have always matched the accounts and descriptions found in the Bible. As archaeological technologies advance, we should expect mores sites to be rapidly discovered in the coming years.

    ​​ Pool of Siloam, Pilgrimage Road and King David's Palace

    In 2004 a water pipe ruptured in the city of Jerusalem and a municipal maintenance crew was sent while accompanied by an archaeologist. As they began to dig, the archaeologist noticed something very significant. They had just uncovered first-century stone stairs. This accidental discovery led to very significant findings that included the the Biblical Pool of Siloam , the ancient Pilgrimage Road and what is believed to be King David&rsquos Palace that included seals bearing the Hebrew names of many biblical figures from the House of David.

    Built by King Hezekiah , the Pilgrimage Road served Jewish pilgrims in ascending to the ancient Jewish Temple . The discovery of this ancient thoroughfare revealed countless archaeological treasures and a commitment to Jerusalem as an anchor of Western civilization.

    mv2.jpg/v1/fill/w_191,h_104,al_c,q_80,usm_0.66_1.00_0.01,blur_2/Pilgrimage%20Road%20Jerusalem_JPG.jpg" />

    The ancient city of Bethsaida had been lost for centuries, but was recently excavated. Mentioned in Luke 9:10 as the site where Jesus fed the multitude of 5,000 and in John 1:44 where it is identified as the home of Andrew, Peter and Philip. The ancient gate, from the time of King David, has also been discovered in Bethsaida just as the Bible described.

    mv2.png/v1/fill/w_180,h_115,al_c,usm_0.66_1.00_0.01,blur_2/Bethsaida.png" />

    Crucifixion at Givat Hamivtar

    Many Bible skeptics claim that crucified individuals during 1st century Israel would not have had a proper burial and most likely would have been scavenged by animals. A crucified heel bone artifact discovered in Giv&rsquoat ha-Mivtar, a Jewish neighborhood in north-east Jerusalem, proves that a victim of Roman crucifixion could receive a proper, honorable Jewish burial.

    The Crucifixion at Givat Hamivtar provides clear evidence that the Biblical narrative of Christ's burial was the norm. The story of this discovery begins in 1968 when building contractors unexpectedly uncovered an ancient burial site containing about 35 bodies. One body was found in an 18-inch long limestone ossuary (or bone-box), and a seven-inch nail had been driven through the heel bone of his left foot. This ossuary contained a crucified body with the name Yehohanan, who is estimated to be between 24 and 28 years old at his time of death. This example demonstrates that crucifixion victims were buried, just as the Gospel accounts suggest.

    mv2.jpg/v1/fill/w_142,h_106,al_c,q_80,usm_0.66_1.00_0.01,blur_2/Crucifixion%20at%20Givat%20Hamivtar.jpg" />

    Christians recognize the name " Jesus of Nazareth ". But many modern historical scholars have claimed that the town did not exist in the era of Christ. This is because of the lack of mention of Nazareth in the historical record outside the Bible until after the 1st century time period of Jesus.

    Fortunately, in December 2009, archaeologists from the Israeli Antiquities Authority, discovered a house from first century Nazareth . To quote the excavation site director Yardenna Alexandre: &ldquoThe discovery is of the utmost importance since it reveals for the very first time a house from the Jewish village of Nazareth and thereby sheds light on the way of life at the time of Jesus."

    mv2.jpg/v1/fill/w_180,h_115,al_c,q_80,usm_0.66_1.00_0.01,blur_2/Nazareth%2C_by_Fadil_Saba.jpg" />

    After presiding over the trial of Jesus and ordering his crucifixion, Pontius Pilate was the fifth governor of the Roman province of Judea, serving under Emperor Tiberius from 26/27 to 36/37 AD. Unfortunately there is very little about Pilate in the historical record.


    &ldquoTo Tiberius &ndash Pontius Pilate, Prefect of Judea.&rdquo

    Dated to the early 1st century, this was the first direct evidence that confirms the existence of Pontius Pilote's leadership during the time of Jesus' crucifixion.

    mv2.jpg/v1/fill/w_99,h_168,al_c,q_80,usm_0.66_1.00_0.01,blur_2/Pontius_Pilate_Stone.jpg" />

    Ossuary of James (brother of Jesus)

    James, the brother of Jesus , was martyred around 69 AD when he was thrown off of the temple roof in Jerusalem. Though he originally was supposedly a skeptic of the divinity of his brother Jesus, he eventually became an inspiring leader of the early Church in Jerusalem .

    The Ossuary of James is a very exciting archaeological find. Discovered in 2002, it bears this inscription: &ldquoYa&rsquoakov bar Yosef akhui di Yeshua&rdquo (&ldquoJames, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus&rdquo)

    It was originally considered a forgery, but paleogrophers confirmed it authentic in 2005 and 2012.

    New Testament scholar Ben Witherington is quoted: &ldquoIf, as seems probable, the ossuary found in the vicinity of Jerusalem and dated to about AD 63 is indeed the burial box of James, the brother of Jesus, this inscription is the most important extra-biblical evidence of its kind.&rdquo

    mv2.jpg/v1/fill/w_180,h_59,al_c,q_80,usm_0.66_1.00_0.01,blur_2/Ossuary%20of%20James.jpg" />

    Underneath the remains of an octagonal shaped church from the fifth century AD, archaeologists (in 1968) discovered the remains of an earlier church. This church was built around what was originally a private house containing first century Christian graffiti. Considering the location, date, graffiti and the fact that a church was built around this enshrined first century home, it is very likely the original home of Simon Peter .

    Peter Walker, professor of Biblical Studies at Trinity School for Ministry, says:

    &ldquoGraffiti that referred to Jesus as Lord and Messiah. provides strong evidence that the room was used as a place of Christian worship &ndash almost certainly because it was believed to be the room used by Jesus, perhaps the home of Simon Peter (Luke 4:38). Given that the early tradition goes back to the first century, this is almost certainly the very place where Jesus stayed in the home of his chief apostle, Peter.&rdquo

    Mentioned on several occasions in the Bible, Jesus would have spent quite of bit of time at the home of Peter. He even healed many in need while at this sacred home.

    "As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. Simon&rsquos mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they immediately told Jesus about her. So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them. That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. The whole town gathered at the door, and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was." - Mark 1:29-34

    Today a modern church exists , suspended above the site, with the excavation site visible through a glass floor.

    mv2.jpg/v1/fill/w_193,h_76,al_c,q_80,usm_0.66_1.00_0.01,blur_2/Peter's%20Home%20in%20Capernaum.jpg" />

    Old Testament Archaeological Discoveries

    Another recent archaeological discovery is the City of Sodom . Mentioned in the Book of Genesis as a city that was destroyed by God for its salacious wickedness, recent evidence shows that it was likely vaporized by an asteroid that incinerated the city matching the Biblical account. The History Channel created an informative documentary about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

    The archaeological discovery and date verification of the destruction of Sodom is important since it signifies and verifies events not long after God's Covenant with Abraham and the arrival into the land of Canaan where Abraham's nephew (Lot) had been living in the city of Sodom.

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    Settlements of First Israelites in Canaan

    Over the last several years archaeologists have been discovering foot-shaped settlement walls in locations in the Jordan Valley and Mount Ebal (in Israel's central highlands). These various settlements all date back 3200 years ago. It is precisely the 13th century BC when most historical scholars believe the Israelites first entered the land of Canaan. The very first were known as the Twelve Spies (one each from the twelve tribes of Israel).

    Israeli archaeologist Adam Zertal discovered the foot-shaped on the north-eastern side of Mt. Ebal which lies north of modern-day city of Nablus. Scholars have been postulating that the 13th century BC Mount Ebal site is likely connected to the biblical narrative of an altar erected by Joshua on Mount Ebal ( Joshua 8:31&ndash35 ) during the very same time period.

    The 13th century conquest of Canaan occurred after the twelve tribes of Israel had wondered in the Sinai desert for 40 years following their enslavement in Egypt.

    mv2.jpg/v1/fill/w_125,h_146,al_c,q_80,usm_0.66_1.00_0.01,blur_2/Foot-Shaped%20Settlements.jpg" />

    Credit: The Jordan Valley Excavation Project

    This Egyptian stone tablet is the earliest known reference to the nation of Israel. Dated from the late 13th-century BC it references &lsquoIsraelite&rsquo settlements in the land of Canaan central hills region. this tablet is specifically dated under the order of Merneptah, king of the 19th Egyptian Dynasty, who reigned between approximately 1213 and 1203 BC.

    The Merneptah Stele tablet is quite significant, since it is a non-Biblical textual reference relating to the precise era when the nation of Israel is was in its infancy. This ancient tablet is largely an account of Egyptian ruler Merneptah's victory over the Libyans and their allies, but the last 3 of the 28 lines deal with a separate campaign in the land of Canaan .

    The tablet was discovered in 1896 by Flinders Petrie in the ancient Egyptian capital of Thebes.

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    When Napoleon invaded Egypt back in 1798, he brought a scientific team of scholars and draftsmen to survey the monuments of the land. The Rosetta Stone was by far their most important discovery. Dated to the period of Ptolemy V (204&ndash180 BC), this tablet was actually inscribed with three languages (Greek, demotic, and hieroglyphic). This archaeological discovery in 1799 was an extremely important find since for the first time it allowed modern science to translate hieroglyphics. It also marked the beginning of the study of ancient Egyptian texts and grammar and provided the basis for modern Egyptology studies.

    The Rosetta Stone also allowed etymologists to read ancient hieroglyphics pertaining to Israel and and biblical events. Understanding the Merneptah Stele is a prime example.

    mv2.jpg/v1/fill/w_108,h_144,al_c,q_80,usm_0.66_1.00_0.01,blur_2/Rosetta%20Stone%20image.jpg" />

    Discovered in 1993 in Tel-Dan by Gila Cook, a member of an archaeological team lead by Avraham Biran , this ancient tablet included the word BYTDWD on it. Archaeologists at the site understood this word to mean &ldquo House of David &rdquo. The stone tablet was also dated to the ninth century BC and later sealed by a Assyrian destruction layer firmly dated to 733/722 BC.

    The Tel Dan Inscription is seen by most scholars as having been erected by Syrian King Hazael after he defeated the Kings of Israel and Judah. The inscription is in several pieces and contains several lines of Aramaic , a closely related Israeli language of Hebrew and also spoken by most Jews in the era of Christ hundreds of years later.

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    Conquests of Gath, Home of Goliath Discovered

    One of the five principal cities of the Philistines, the city of Gath, known today as Tel es-Safi, is mentioned in the Bible more often than any of the other Philistine cities.

    Archaeological evidence of both Israel's and Syrian King Hazael's destruction of the Philistine city of Gath has now been unearthed.

    Surprisingly, excavations at Gath show that there was a massive city beneath the previously studied levels. This is now thought to be the remains of the home town of Goliath , who was slayed by David and recorded in the book of 1 Samual 17 .

    Mentioned in Joshua 11:21-22 , Gath is portrayed as a city of the legendary &ldquoAnakim&rdquo(meaning "a race of giants"), remnants of the early Canaanite population of the land.

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    King Soloman, Hazor, Gezer and Megiddo

    Located in the book of I Kings 9:15-17 , the biblical narrative says that King Solomon's building projects fortified the settlements of Hazor , Gezer and Megiddo .

    Evidence at the site of the ancient City of Gezer reveals its violent past. When the Israelites returned to Canaan after the exodus from Egypt, Gezer was a city near the coastal plain they could not conquer.

    Gezer&rsquos King Horam was killed by Joshua when his army went to the aid of an ally. But it wasn&rsquot until Solomon&rsquos reign, hundreds of years later, that Gezer became part of the Israelite empire. This was after the Egyptian Pharaoh devastated the city and offered it to Solomon as a dowry when marrying his daughter.

    These three locations have all been excavated thoroughly exposing where large-scale city gates were found. These sites are all revealing evidence of large scale construction from the 10th century B.C. ironically when standard biblical chronology matches the period of King Solomon's reign . Which, interestingly, is not mentioned in any non-biblical source.

    mv2.jpg/v1/fill/w_112,h_130,al_c,q_80,usm_0.66_1.00_0.01,blur_2/Megiddo%20ruins.jpg" />

    10th or 9th century BC ruins at Megiddo, now a Unesco World Heritage Site. (Image by Alamy)

    Jeremiah 34 describes how Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon wages war against Jerusalem and all its surrounding towns. Physical evidence of these events were confirmed by the discoveries of the Lachish Letters .

    The city of Lachish lies about twenty-five miles southwest of Jerusalem and is one of the key sites in the Bible&rsquos account of the Israelite conquest of Canaan when conquered by Joshua around 1220 B.C..

    During the Old Testament era, letters were written on papyrus paper, parchment, clay tablets or on broken pottery (known as potsherds). Thousands of potsherds, including the Lachish Letters , have been unearthed throughout Judah, Samaria and Egypt.

    mv2.png/v1/fill/w_108,h_108,al_c,usm_0.66_1.00_0.01,blur_2/Lachish%20on%20a%20map.png" />

    In 1935 and again in 1938, archaeologist JL Starkey unearthed 18 potsherds in the gate tower of Lachish (known today as Tell ed-Duweir).

    Lachish and Azekah were two important Judaean cities which sat on separate hills that could communicate by lighting beacons.

    Some of the Lachish Letters contain writings about the lights going out at the nearby city of Azekah in the wake of an invasion by the dreaded Babylonian army around 587 BC.

    At this time the Babylonians marched right over the city of Lachish and then north to Jerusalem, setting fire to the city. These events are then recorded in both 2 Kings 25:1-21 and Jeremiah 39:1-10 .

    For countless events and locations from Mideast antiquity, the Bible remains a flawless source to find accurate historical records and reliable narratives for the countless cities and civilizations that have been lost to Western history.

    It is often assumed by many that when a natural or cosmic event is used to explain a Biblical narrative, it discounts the Scriptural account. In fact, the reality is the very opposite, as God can easily use natural or cosmic events to further His will. A couple of examples would be the Biblical account of the Star of Bethlehem or the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

    If Sodom was indeed destroyed by a meteor or asteroid, the ironic fact that a stellar object traveled for thousands (or millions) of years across the vastness of outer space, to ironically fall in the exact location and time on Earth that God had forewarned to Lot. This scenario is as spectacular as any event imaginable. This kind of miracle exemplifies God's absolute majestic control over time and the immense reaches of the universe.

    Unfortunately, the Bible still doesn't receive proper recognition in the secular academic community for its historical and archaeological accuracy. In my opinion and for those who have performed thorough research, the Bible is easily the greatest historical document ever written. It is modern civilization's most reliable historical account of the ancient Middle East and overwhelmingly the inspiration for today's Western culture .

    Nebuchadnezzar II

    Our editors will review what you’ve submitted and determine whether to revise the article.

    Nebuchadnezzar II, also spelled Nebuchadrezzar II, (born c. 630—died c. 561 bce ), second and greatest king of the Chaldean dynasty of Babylonia (reigned c. 605–c. 561 bce ). He was known for his military might, the splendour of his capital, Babylon, and his important part in Jewish history.

    What is Nebuchadnezzar II known for?

    Nebuchadnezzar II is known as the greatest king of the Chaldean dynasty of Babylonia. He conquered Syria and Palestine and made Babylon a splendid city. He destroyed the Temple of Jerusalem and initiated the Babylonian Captivity of the Jewish population.

    How does Nebuchadnezzar II appear in the Bible?

    Jeremiah and Ezekiel describe Nebuchadnezzar II as God’s instrument against wrongdoers. He appears most prominently in the Book of Daniel, in which Daniel interprets Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. Nebuchadnezzar is humbled twice by God: when he tries to punish the Israelites for refusing to worship an idol and when God punishes him with seven years of madness.

    Are all the stories told of Nebuchadnezzar II true?

    There is no evidence for the story in the Book of Daniel of Nebuchadnezzar II’s seven years of madness. Nebuchadnezzar was credited with creating the Hanging Gardens of Babylon to remind his wife of her homeland, but archaeologists have found no trace of these legendary gardens.

    Nebuchadnezzar II was the eldest son and successor of Nabopolassar, founder of the Chaldean empire. He is known from cuneiform inscriptions, the Bible and later Jewish sources, and classical authors. His name, from the Akkadian Nabu-kudurri-uṣur, means “O Nabu, watch over my heir.”

    While his father disclaimed royal descent, Nebuchadnezzar claimed the third-millennium Akkadian ruler Naram-Sin as ancestor. The year of his birth is uncertain, but it is not likely to have been before 630 bce , for according to tradition Nebuchadnezzar began his military career as a young man, appearing as a military administrator by 610. He is first mentioned by his father as working as a labourer in the restoration of the temple of Marduk, the chief god of the city of Babylon and the national god of Babylonia.

    In 607/606, as crown prince, Nebuchadnezzar commanded an army with his father in the mountains north of Assyria, subsequently leading independent operations after Nabopolassar’s return to Babylon. After a Babylonian reverse at the hands of Egypt in 606/605, he served as commander in chief in his father’s place and by brilliant generalship shattered the Egyptian army at Carchemish and Hamath, thereby securing control of all Syria. After his father’s death on August 16, 605, Nebuchadnezzar returned to Babylon and ascended the throne within three weeks. This rapid consolidation of his accession and the fact that he could return to Syria shortly afterward reflected his strong grip on the empire.

    On expeditions in Syria and Palestine from June to December of 604, Nebuchadnezzar received the submission of local states, including Judah, and captured the city of Ashkelon. With Greek mercenaries in his armies, further campaigns to extend Babylonian control in Palestine followed in the three succeeding years. On the last occasion (601/600), Nebuchadnezzar clashed with an Egyptian army, with heavy losses this reverse was followed by the defection of certain vassal states, Judah among them. This brought an intermission in the series of annual campaigns in 600/599, while Nebuchadnezzar remained in Babylonia repairing his losses of chariots. Measures to regain control were resumed at the end of 599/598 (December to March). Nebuchadnezzar’s strategic planning appeared in his attack on the Arab tribes of northwestern Arabia, in preparation for the occupation of Judah. He attacked Judah a year later and captured Jerusalem on March 16, 597, deporting King Jehoiachin to Babylon. After a further brief Syrian campaign in 596/595, Nebuchadnezzar had to act in eastern Babylonia to repel a threatened invasion, probably from Elam (modern southwestern Iran). Tensions in Babylonia were revealed by a rebellion late in 595/594 involving elements of the army, but he was able to put this down decisively enough to undertake two further campaigns in Syria during 594.

    Nebuchadnezzar’s further military activities are known not from extant chronicles but from other sources, particularly the Bible, which records another attack on Jerusalem and a siege of Tyre (lasting 13 years, according to the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus) and hints at an invasion of Egypt. The siege of Jerusalem ended in its capture in 587/586 and in the deportation of prominent citizens, with a further deportation in 582. In this respect he followed the methods of his Assyrian predecessors.

    Much influenced by the Assyrian imperial tradition, Nebuchadnezzar consciously pursued a policy of expansion, claiming the grant of universal kingship by Marduk and praying to have “no opponent from horizon to sky.” From cuneiform fragments he is known to have attempted the invasion of Egypt, the culmination of his expansionist policy, in 568/567.

    In addition to being a brilliant tactician and strategist, Nebuchadnezzar was prominent in international diplomacy, as shown in his sending an ambassador (probably Nabonidus, a successor) to mediate between the Medes and Lydians in Asia Minor. He died about 561 and was succeeded by his son Awil-Marduk (Evil-Merodach of 2 Kings).

    Nebuchadnezzar’s main activity, other than as military commander, was the rebuilding of Babylon. He completed and extended fortifications begun by his father, built a great moat and a new outer defense wall, paved the ceremonial Processional Way with limestone, rebuilt and embellished the principal temples, and cut canals. This he did not only for his own glorification but also in honour of the gods. He claimed to be “the one who set in the mouth of the people reverence for the great gods” and disparaged predecessors who had built palaces elsewhere than at Babylon and had only journeyed there for the New Year Feast.

    Little is known of his family life beyond the tradition that he married a Median princess, whose yearning for her native terrain he sought to ease by creating gardens simulating hills. A structure representing these hanging gardens cannot be positively identified in either the cuneiform texts or the archaeological remains.

    Despite the fateful part he played in Judah’s history, Nebuchadnezzar is seen in Jewish tradition in a predominantly favourable light. It was claimed that he gave orders for the protection of Jeremiah, who regarded him as God’s appointed instrument whom it was impiety to disobey, and the prophet Ezekiel expressed a similar view at the attack on Tyre. A corresponding attitude to Nebuchadnezzar, as God’s instrument against wrongdoers, occurs in the Apocrypha in 1 Esdras and, as protector to be prayed for, in Baruch. In Daniel (Old Testament) and in Bel and the Dragon (Apocrypha), Nebuchadnezzar appears as a man, initially deceived by bad advisers, who welcomes the situation in which truth is triumphant and God is vindicated.

    There is no independent support for the tradition in Daniel of Nebuchadnezzar’s seven years’ madness, and the story probably arose from a fanciful later interpretation of texts concerned with events under Nabonidus, who showed apparent eccentricity in deserting Babylon for a decade to live in Arabia.

    In modern times Nebuchadnezzar has been treated as the type of godless conqueror Napoleon was compared to him. The story of Nebuchadnezzar is the basis of Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Nabucco, while his supposed madness is the theme of William Blake’s picture “Nebuchadnezzar.”


    Political situation in Assyria Edit

    Sargon's reign was immediately preceded by the reigns of the two kings Tiglath-Pileser III ( r . 745–727 BC) and Shalmaneser V ( r . 727–722 BC). The nature of Tiglath-Pileser's rise to the throne of Assyria in 745 BC is unclear and disputed. [5] Several pieces of evidence, including that there was a revolt in Nimrud, the capital of the Assyrian Empire, in 746/745 BC, [5] [6] that ancient Assyrian sources give conflicting information in regards to Tiglath-Pileser's lineage, and that Tiglath-Pileser in his inscriptions attributes his rise to the throne solely to divine selection rather than both divine selection and his royal ancestry (typically done by Assyrian kings), have been interpreted as indicating that he was a usurper. [5] Though some have gone as far as suggesting that Tiglath-Pileser was not part of the previous royal dynasty, the long-lasting Adaside dynasty, at all, [7] his claims of royal descent were probably true, meaning that regardless of whether he usurped the throne or not, he was a legitimate contender for it. [6]

    Though it was chiefly during the time of Sargon and his successors that Assyria was transformed from a kingdom primarily based in the Mesopotamian heartland to a truly multinational and multi-ethnic empire, the foundations which allowed this development were laid during Tiglath-Pileser's reign through extensive civil and military reforms. Furthermore, Tiglath-Pileser began a successful series of conquests, subjugating the kingdoms of Babylon and Urartu and conquering the Mediterranean coastline. His successful military innovations, including replacing conscription with levies being supplied from each province, made the Assyrian army one of the most effective armies assembled up until that point. [8]

    After a reign of only five years, Tiglath-Pileser's son Shalmaneser V was replaced as king by Sargon, supposedly another of Tiglath-Pileser's sons. Nothing is known of Sargon before he became king. [9] Probably born c. 762 BC, Sargon would have grown up during a period of civil unrest in Assyria. Outbreaks of rebellion and plague marked the ill-fated reigns of kings Ashur-dan III ( r . 773–755 BC) and Ashur-nirari V ( r . 755–745 BC). During their reigns, the prestige and power of Assyria had dramatically declined, a trend which was reversed only during the tenure of Tiglath-Pileser. [1] The exact events surrounding the death of Sargon's predecessor Shalmaneser V and Sargon's rise to the throne are not entirely clear. [9] It is often assumed that Sargon deposed and assassinated Shalmaneser in a palace coup. [8]

    Many historians accept Sargon's claim to have been a son of Tiglath-Pileser, but do not believe him to have been the legitimate heir to the throne as the next-in-line after the end of Shalmaneser's reign. [10] Even then, his claim to have been Tiglath-Pileser's son is generally treated with more caution than Tiglath-Pileser's own claims of royal ancestry. [11] Some Assyriologists, such as J. A. Brinkman, believe that Sargon, at the very least, did not belong to the direct dynastic lineage. [12]

    Usurpation Edit

    Whether Sargon usurped the Assyrian throne or not is disputed. That he would have been a usurper is mainly based on one of several possible interpretations of the meaning behind his name (that it would mean "the legitimate king") and on that his numerous inscriptions rarely discuss his origin. This absence of explanation as how the king fit into the established genealogy of the Assyrian kings is not only a feature of Sargon's inscriptions but also a feature of the inscriptions of both his supposed father, Tiglath-Pileser, and of his son and successor, Sennacherib. Though Tiglath-Pileser is known to have been a usurper, Sennacherib was the legitimate son and heir of Sargon. [13] Several explanations have been offered for Sennacherib's silence on his father, the most accepted being that Sennacherib was superstitious and fearful of the terrible fate that befell his father. [14] Alternatively, Sennacherib might have wished to inaugurate a new period of Assyrian history, [13] or might have felt resentment against his father. [15]

    Sargon did sometimes reference Tiglath-Pileser. He explicitly identified himself as Tiglath-Pileser's son in only two of his many inscriptions and referred to his "royal fathers" in one of his stelae. [13] If Sargon was the son of Tiglath-Pileser, he would probably have held some important administrative or military position during the reigns of his father and brother, but this can not be verified since the name used by Sargon before he became king is unknown. It is possible that he had some form of priestly role since he showed repeated affection for religious institutions throughout his reign and he might have been the important sukkallu ("vizier") of the city Harran. Whether he was the son of Tiglath-Pileser or not, Sargon wished to stand apart from his predecessors and is today seen as the founder of Assyria's final ruling dynasty, the Sargonid dynasty. [16] There are references as late as the 670s, during the reign of Sargon's grandson Esarhaddon, to the possibility that "descendants of former royalty" might try to seize the throne. This suggests that the Sargonid dynasty was not necessarily well connected to previous Assyrian monarchs. [17] Babylonian king lists dynastically separate Sargon and his descendants from Tiglath-Pileser and Shalmaneser V: Tiglath-Pileser and Shalmaneser are recorded as of the "dynasty of Baltil" (Baltil possibly being the oldest portion of the ancient Assyrian capital of Assur), whereas the Sargonids are recorded as of the "dynasty of Ḫanigalbat", possibly connecting them to an ancient Middle Assyrian junior branch of the Assyrian royal family who governed as viceroys in the western parts of the Assyrian Empire with the title "king of Hanigalbat". [18]

    Regardless of his parentage, the succession from Shalmaneser V to Sargon is likely to have been awkward. [19] Shalmaneser is only mentioned in one of Sargon's inscriptions:

    Shalmaneser, who did not fear the king of the world, whose hands have brought sacrilege in this city [Assur], put on his people, he imposed the compulsory work and a heavy corvée, paid them like a working class. The Illil of the gods, in the wrath of his heart, overthrew his rule and appointed me, Sargon, as king of Assyria. He raised my head let me take hold of the scepter, the throne and the tiara. [19]

    This inscription serves more to explain Sargon's rise to the throne than to explain Shalmaneser's downfall. As attested in other inscriptions, Sargon did not see the injustices described as actually having been imposed by Shalmaneser V. Other inscriptions by Sargon state that the tax exemptions of important cities like Assur and Harran had been revoked "in ancient times" and the compulsory work described would have been conducted in the reign of Tiglath-Pileser, not Shalmaneser. [19]

    Name Edit

    Two previous ancient Mesopotamian kings had used the name Sargon Sargon I, a minor Assyrian king of the 19th century BC, and the far more famous Sargon of Akkad, who had ruled most of Mesopotamia as the first king of the Akkadian Empire in the 24th to 23rd centuries BC. [20] Sargon II sharing the name of one of Mesopotamia's greatest ancient conquerors was not coincidental names in ancient Mesopotamia were important and deliberate. Sargon himself appears to have mainly connected his name to justice. [21] This is illustrated in several inscriptions, such as the following, which relates to Sargon paying those who had owned the land he chose to construct his capital Dur-Sharrukin on:

    In accordance with the name which the great gods have given me – to maintain justice and right, to give guidance to those who are not strong, not to injure the weak – the price of the fields of that town [Khorsabad] I paid back to their owners . [21]

    The name was most commonly written Šarru-kīn (or Šarru-kēn), with another version, Šarru-ukīn, only being attested in less important royal inscriptions and letters. The direct meaning of the name, based on Sargon's self-perception, is commonly interpreted as "the faithful king" in the sense of righteousness and justice. Another alternative is that Šarru-kīn is a phonetic reproduction of the contracted pronunciation of Šarru-ukīn to Šarrukīn, which means that it should be interpreted as "the king has obtained/established order", possibly referencing disorder either during the reign of his predecessor or disorder created by Sargon's usurpation. The modern conventional rendering of the name, "Sargon", probably derives from the spelling of his name in the Bible, srgwn. [3]

    Sargon's name was probably not a birth name, but rather a throne name he adopted upon his rise to the throne. It is far more likely that he chose the name based on its use by the famous Akkadian king rather than its use by his predecessor in Assyria. In late Assyrian texts, the name of both Sargon II and Sargon of Akkad are written with the same spellings and Sargon II is sometimes explicitly called the "second Sargon" (Šarru-kīn arkû). Sargon as such likely sought to emulate aspects of the ancient Akkadian king. [4] Though the exact extent of the ancient Sargon's conquests had been forgotten by the time of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, the legendary ruler was still remembered as a "conqueror of the world" and would have been an enticing model to follow. [22]

    Another possible interpretation is that the name means "the legitimate king" and thus might have been a name chosen to enforce the king's legitimacy after his usurpation of the throne. [8] Sargon of Akkad had also risen to the throne through usurpation, beginning his reign by seizing power from the ruler of the city Kish, Ur-Zababa. [4]

    Early reign and rebellions Edit

    Sargon was already middle-aged when he became king, probably in his forties, [23] and resided in the palace of Ashurnasirpal II ( r . 883–859 BC) at Nimrud. [24] Sargon's predecessor, Shalmaneser V, had tried to continue the expansionism of his father but his military efforts had been both slower and less efficient than those of Tiglath-Pileser III. Notably, his prolonged siege of Samaria, which had lasted three years, might still have been ongoing by the time of his death. After Sargon ascended to the throne, he quickly abolished the tax and labor policies that were in place (and which he criticized in his later inscriptions) and might then have proceeded to quickly resolve Shalmaneser's campaigns. Samaria was swiftly conquered and through its conquest, the Kingdom of Israel fell. According to Sargon's own inscriptions, 27,290 Israelites were deported from Israel and resettled across the Assyrian Empire, following the standard Assyrian way of dealing with defeated enemy peoples through resettlement. This specific resettlement resulted in the famous loss of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel. [15] It is alternatively plausible that Shalmaneser had resolved the siege of Samaria before he was deposed by Sargon: Sargon being the captor Samaria derives from Sargon's own inscriptions, whereas both the Bible and the Babylonian Chronicle ascribe the victory to Shalmaneser. [25]

    Initially, Sargon's rule was met with opposition in the Assyrian heartland and in regions on the empire's periphery, [26] possibly on account of him being a usurper. [8] Among the most prolific early rebels against Sargon were several of the previously independent kingdoms in the Levant, such as Damascus, Hamath and Arpad. Hamath, led by a man called Yau-bi'di, became the leading power of this Levantine revolt, but was successfully crushed in 720 BC. [26] After Hamath had been destroyed, Sargon continued by defeating Damascus and Arpad in battle at Qarqar in the same year. With order restored, Sargon returned to Nimrud and forced 6,000–6,300 "guilty Assyrians" or "ungrateful citizens", people who had either rebelled in the heartland of the empire or had failed to support Sargon's rise to the throne, to move to Syria and rebuild Hamath and the other cities destroyed or damaged in the conflict. [15] [26]

    The political uncertainty in Assyria also led to a rebellion in Babylonia, the once independent kingdom in southern Mesopotamia. Marduk-apla-iddina II, the leader of the Bit-Yakin, a powerful Chaldean tribe, seized control of Babylon and announced an end of Assyrian rule over the region. Sargon's response to this insurrection was to immediately march his army to defeat Marduk-apla-iddina. To counteract Sargon, the new Babylonian king quickly allied with one of Assyria's ancient enemies, Elam, and assembled a massive army. In 720 BC, the Assyrians and Elamites (the Babylonians arriving too late to the battlefield to actually fight) met in battle at the plains outside the city Der, the same battlefield where the Persians two centuries later would defeat the forces of the last Babylonian king, Nabonidus. Sargon's army was defeated and Marduk-apla-iddina secured control of southern Mesopotamia. [26]

    Conquest of Carchemish and dealings with Urartu Edit

    In 717 BC, Sargon conquered the small, but wealthy, Kingdom of Carchemish. Carchemish was positioned at a crossroads between Assyria, Anatolia and the Mediterranean, controlled an important crossing of the Euphrates and had for centuries profited from international trade. Further increasing the prestige of the small kingdom was its role as the recognized heir of the ancient Hittite Empire of the 2nd millennium BC, holding a semi-hegemonic position among the Anatolian and Syrian kingdoms in former Hittite lands. [26]

    To attack Carchemish, previously an Assyrian ally, Sargon violated existing treaties with the kingdom, using the excuse that Pisiri, Carchemish's king, had betrayed him to his enemies. There was little the small kingdom could do to resist Assyria, and so it was conquered by Sargon. This conquest allowed Sargon to secure Pisiri's large treasury, including 330 kilograms of purified gold, large amounts of bronze, tin, ivory and iron and over 60 tonnes of silver. [26] The treasury secured from Carchemish was so rich in silver that the Assyrian economy changed from being primarily bronze-based to being primarily silver-based. [15] This allowed Sargon to compensate the increasing costs of his intense deployments of the Assyrian army. [26]

    Sargon's 716 BC campaign saw him attack the Mannaeans in modern Iran, plundering their temples, and in 715 BC, Sargon's armies were in the region called Media, conquering settlements and cities and securing treasure and prisoners to be sent back to Nimrud. [15] During these two northern campaigns, it had become evident that the northern Kingdom of Urartu, a precursor of the later Armenia and a frequent enemy of the Assyrians, presented a persistent problem. Though the kingdom had been suppressed by Tiglath-Pileser III, it had not been completely conquered or defeated and had risen again during Shalmaneser V's time as king and had begun making repeated border incursions into Assyrian territory. [15]

    These border incursions continued into Sargon's reign. In 719 BC and 717 BC, the Urartians conducted minor invasions across the northern border, forcing Sargon to send troops to keep them away. A full-scale assault was made in 715 BC, during which the Urartians successfully seized 22 Assyrian border cities. Though the cities were quickly retaken and Sargon retaliated by razing the southern provinces of Urartu, the king knew that the incursions would continue and would consume important time and resources each time. To triumph, Sargon needed to defeat Urartu once and for all, a task which had been impossible for previous Assyrian kings due to the kingdom's strategic location in the foothills of the Taurus Mountains when the Assyrians invaded, the Urartians usually simply retreated into the mountains to regroup and later return. Though Urartu were Sargon's enemies, his own inscriptions speak of the kingdom with respect, showing admiration for its swift communication system, its horses and its canal systems. [15]

    Campaign against Urartu Edit

    In 715 BC, Urartu had been severely weakened by a number of its enemies. First, Rusa I's campaign against the Cimmerians, a nomadic Indo-European people in the central Caucasus, had been a disaster, with the army defeated, the commander in chief Kakkadana captured and the king fleeing the battlefield. Following their victory, the Cimmerians had attacked Urartu, penetrating deep into the kingdom as far as south-west of Lake Urmia. In the same year, the Mannaeans, subjected to Urartu and living around Lake Urmia, rebelled due to the 716 BC Assyrian attack against them and had to be suppressed. [27]

    Sargon probably perceived Urartu as a weak target following the news of Rusa I's defeat against the Cimmerians. Rusa was aware that the Assyrians were likely to invade his kingdom and had probably kept most of his remaining army by Lake Urmia following his victory over the Mannaeans as the lake was close to the Assyrian border. Because the kingdom had been threatened by the Assyrians before, the southern border of Urartu was not entirely defenseless. [27] The shortest path from Assyria to Urartu's heartland went through the Kel-i-šin pass in the Taurus Mountains. One of the most important places in all of Urartu, the holy city Musasir, was located just west of this pass and as such it required extensive protection. This protection was to come from a series of fortifications and during his preparations for Sargon's attack, Rusa ordered the construction of a new fortress called the Gerdesorah. Though the Gerdesorah was small, measuring about 95 x 81 metres (311.7 x 265.7 ft), it was strategically positioned on a hill about 55 metres (180.4 ft) higher than the rest of the terrain and had 2.5 (8.2 ft) metre thick walls and defensive towers. [28] One weakness of the Gerdesorah was that it had not yet completely finished construction, only starting to be built c. mid-June of 714 BC. [29]

    Sargon left Nimrud to attack Urartu in July 714 BC and would have needed at least ten days to reach the Kel-i-šin pass, 190 kilometres (118 miles) away. Though the pass was the fastest way into Urartu, Sargon chose to not take it. Instead, Sargon marched his army through the rivers Great and Little Zab over the course of three days before halting at the great mountain Mount Kullar (the location of which remains unidentified) and then deciding that he would attack Urartu by a longer route, through the region Kermanshah. The reasoning behind this route was probably not fear of Urartu's fortifications but rather because Sargon knew that the Urartians anticipated him to attack through the Kel-i-šin pass. [30] Furthermore, the Assyrians were primarily lowland fighters with no experience in mountain warfare. By not entering Urartu through the mountain pass, Sargon avoided having to fight in terrain the Urartians were more experienced with. [15]

    Sargon's decision was a costly one on the longer route he had to cross several mountains with his entire army and this, combined with the greater distance, made the campaign take longer time than a direct attack would have. The lack of time forced Sargon to abandon his plan to fully conquer Urartu and take the kingdom's capital, Tushpa, because his campaign had to be completed before October so that the mountain passes did not become blocked by snow. [30]

    Once Sargon reached the land of Gilzanu, near Lake Urmia, he made camp and began considering his next move. Sargon's bypassing of the Gerdesorah meant that the Urartian forces had to abandon their original defensive plan, quickly regrouping and constructing new fortifications to the west and south of Lake Urmia. [31] At this point, the Assyrians had been marching through difficult and unfamiliar terrain and though they had been granted supplies and waters by the recently subjugated Medes, they were exhausted. According to Sargon's own account, "their morale turned mutinous. I could give no ease to their weariness, no water to quench their thirst". When Rusa I arrived with his army to defend his country, Sargon's army refused to fight. Sargon, determined to not surrender or retreat, called upon his personal bodyguard and led them in a brutal and almost suicidal attack against the nearest portions of Rusa's army. As this portion of the Urartian army fled, the rest of the Assyrian army was inspired by Sargon personally leading the charge and followed their king into battle. The Urartians were defeated and retreated, being chased westwards by the Assyrians, far past Lake Urmia. Rusa fled into the mountains rather than rallying to defend his capital. [15]

    Having defeated his enemy and fearing that his army may turn on him if he pursued Rusa into the mountains or pushed them further into Urartu, Sargon decided to march back to Assyria. [15] On their way home the Assyrians destroyed the Gerdesorah (which at that point was probably garrisoned only by a skeleton crew) and captured and plundered the city Musasir. [31] The official casus belli explicitly for the plunder of this holy city was that its ruler, Urzana, had betrayed the Assyrians but the real reasons were probably economical. The city's great temple, the temple of Haldi (the Urartian god of war), had been revered since the late 3rd millennium BC and had received gifts and donations for centuries. Sargon's plunder of the temples and palaces in the city resulted in the king securing, among other treasures, about ten tonnes of silver and over a tonne of gold. [26] According to Sargon's inscriptions, Rusa committed suicide once he heard of the sack of Musasir, although there is some evidence for his continued presence. [15] [32]

    Construction of Dur-Sharrukin Edit

    In 713 BC, his finances bolstered by his successful campaigns, Sargon began the construction of Dur-Sharrukin (Akkadian: Dur-Šarru-kīn, meaning "Sargon's fortress"), intending it to be his new capital. Unlike the efforts of previous Assyrian kings to move the capital (such as Ashurnasirpal II's renovation of Nimrud centuries prior or Sennacherib's move to Nineveh after Sargon's death), Dur-Sharrukin was not the expansion of an existing city but the construction of an entirely new city. The location decided upon by Sargon, quite near Nimrud, was what Sargon perceived as the perfect site for the Assyrian Empire's center. [26]

    The project was an enormous task and Sargon intended the new city to be his greatest achievement. The land the city was constructed on had previously been owned by villagers in the nearby village Maganubba and in foundation inscriptions from the city, Sargon himself proudly claims credit for recognizing the location as optimal and emphasizes that he paid the villagers in Maganubba the market rate for their lands. With a projected area of almost three square kilometres, the city was to be the largest city in Assyria and Sargon began irrigation projects to provide water for the massive amount of agriculture which would be required to sustain the city's inhabitants. [26] Sargon was highly involved in the construction project, constantly supervising it while also holding court at Nimrud and receiving and entertaining foreign envoys from countries such as Egypt or Kush. [15] In one letter to the governor of Nimrud, Sargon wrote the following:

    The king’s word to the governor of Nimrud: 700 bales of straw and 700 bundles of reed, each bundle more than a donkey can carry, must arrive in Dur-Sharrukin by the first of the month Kislev. Should one day pass by, you will die. [15]

    Though inspiration was taken from the layout of Nimrud, the plans of the two cities were not identical. While Nimrud had been renovated extensively by Ashurnasirpal II, it was still a settlement that had grown over time somewhat organically. Sargon's city was perfectly symmetrical, with no concern being taken for the landscape surrounding the construction site. Everything in the city two gigentic platforms (one housing the royal arsenal, the other housing the temples and the palace), the fortified city wall and seven monumental city gates where constructed completely from scratch. The city gates were placed at regular intervals with no regard for the road networks which already existed in the empire. [26] Sargon's palace at Dur-Sharrukin was larger and more decorated than the palaces of all of his predecessors. [26] Reliefs adorning the walls within the palace depicted scenes of Sargon's conquests, especially the Urartu campaign and Sargon's sack of Musasir. [15]

    Sargon's later campaigns varied in success. Sargon was successful in conquering the Kingdom of Ashdod in modern-day Israel in 711 BC and successfully incorporated the Syro-Hittite kingdoms of Gurgum (711 BC) and Kummuhhu (708 BC) into the Assyrian Empire. Sargon's 713 BC campaign in central Anatolia, aimed at conquering the small kingdom of Tabal and establishing it as an Assyrian province was successful, but the province was lost in 712 BC following a bloody rebellion, something which had never before happened in Assyrian history. [26]

    Reconquest of Babylon Edit

    Sargon's greatest victory was his 710–709 BC defeat of his rival Marduk-apla-iddina II in Babylon. [26] Since his defeat in his first attempt to restore Assyrian authority in the south, Babylonia had represented a thorn in his side but he knew that he had to attempt another tactic than the straightforward method he had previously used. [15] When Sargon marched south in 710 BC, the administration of the empire and the supervision of his construction project was left in the hands of his son and crown prince, Sennacherib. [15] Sargon did not immediately march to Babylon, instead marching alongside the eastern bank of the river Tigris until he reached the city Dur-Athara, near a river the Assyrians called the Surappu. Dur-Athara had been fortified by Marduk-apla-iddina but was quickly taken by Sargon's forces and renamed Dur-Nabu with a new province, "Gambulu", proclaimed as composing the territory surrounding the city. Sargon spent some time at Dur-Nabu, sending his troops on expeditions to the east and south to make the people living there submit to his rule. In the lands surrounding a river called the Uknu, Sargon's forces defeated Aramean and Elamite soldiers, which would prevent these peoples aiding Marduk-apla-iddina. [33]

    Sargon then turned to attack Babylon itself, marching his forces towards the city from the southeast. [15] Once Sargon had crossed the Tigris and one of the branches of the Euphrates and arrived at the city Dur-Ladinni, near Babylon, Marduk-apla-iddina became frightened, possibly because he either had little true support from the people and priesthood of Babylon or because most of his army had already been defeated at Dur-Athara. [33] Because he did not wish to fight the Assyrians, he left Babylon at night, carrying with him as much of the treasury and his personal royal furniture (including his throne) as his entourage could carry. These treasures were used by Marduk-apla-iddina in an attempt to gain asylum in Elam, offering them as a bribe to the Elamite king Shutur-Nahhunte II in order to be admitted entry into his country. Though the Elamite king accepted the treasures, Marduk-apla-iddina was not allowed to enter Elam due to fears of Assyrian retribution. [15] [33]

    Instead, Marduk-apla-iddina took up residence in the city Iqbi-Bel, but Sargon soon pursued him there and the city surrendered to him without the need for a battle. Marduk-apla-iddina then fled to his home city near the shores of the Persian Gulf, Dur-Jakin. [15] [33] The city was fortified, a great ditch was dug surrounding its walls and the surrounding countryside was flooded through a canal dug from the Euphrates. Guarded by the flooded terrain, Marduk-apla-iddina set up his camp at some point outside the city walls, where they would soon be defeated by Sargon's army, which had crossed through the flooded terrain unimpeded. Marduk-apla-iddina fled into the city as the Assyrians began collecting spoils of war from his fallen soldiers. [34] After the battle, Sargon besieged Dur-Jakin but was unable to take the city. As the siege dragged on, negotiations were started and in 709 BC it was agreed that the city would surrender and tear down its exterior walls in exchange for Sargon sparing the life of Marduk-apla-iddina. [35]

    Final years Edit

    After the Babylonian reconquest, Sargon was proclaimed king of Babylon by the citizens of the city and spent the next three years in Babylon, in Marduk-apla-iddina's palace, [33] receiving homage and gifts from rulers as far away from the heartland of his empire as Bahrain and Cyprus. [15] [26] In 707 BC, [36] several Cypriote kingdoms were defeated by the Assyrian vassal state Tyre, with Assyrian aid. Through the campaign, which did not serve to establish Assyrian rule on the island, but just to aid their ally, the Assyrians gained detailed knowledge of Cyprus (which they called Adnana) for the first time in their history. [37] After the campaign had concluded, the Cypriotes, probably with the aid of an Assyrian stonemason sent by the royal court, [38] fashioned the Sargon Stele. The stele was not intended to serve as some permanent claim to rule the island, but rather as an ideological marker indicating the boundary of the Assyrian king's sphere of influence. The stele served to mark the incorporation of Cyprus into the "known world" (the Assyrians now having gained sufficient knowledge of the island) and since it had the king's image and words on it, served as representation of Sargon and a substitute for his presence. [37] Had the Assyrians wished to conquer Cyprus for themselves, they would have been unable to do so. They completely lacked a fleet. [39]

    Sargon participated in the Babylonian New Year's festivals, dug a new canal from Borsippa to Babylon, and defeated a people called the Hamaranaeans which had been plundering caravans in the vicinity of the city Sippar. [33] While Sargon resided at Babylon, Sennacherib continued to act as regent in Nimrud, Sargon only returning to the Assyrian heartland when the court was moved to Dur-Sharrukin in 706 BC. Though the city was not yet completely finished, Sargon finally got to enjoy the capital which he had dreamt of building in his own honor, though he would not get to enjoy it for long. [15] [26]

    In 705 BC, Sargon returned to the rebellious province of Tabal, intending to once more turn it into an Assyrian province. As with his successful campaign against Babylonia, Sargon left Sennacherib in charge of the Assyrian heartland and personally led his army through Mesopotamia and into Anatolia. [15] [26] Sargon, who apparently did not realize the true threat represented by a minor country such as Tabal (which had recently been strengthened through an alliance with the Cimmerians, a people which would return in later years to plague the Assyrians), charged at the enemy personally and met a violent end in battle, [40] to the shock of his army. His body could not be recovered by the soldiers and was lost to the enemy. [15] [26]

    Though Sargon's relation to his supposed father Tiglath-Pileser III and supposed older brother Shalmaneser V is not entirely certain, he is confidently known to have had a younger brother, Sîn-ahu-usur, who by 714 BC was in command of Sargon's royal cavalry guard and had his own residence at Dur-Sharrukin. If Sargon was the son of Tiglath-Pileser, his mother could possibly have been Tiglath-Pileser's first wife Iabâ. [16] Around the time of Tiglath-Pileser's rise to the throne, Sargon married a woman by the name Ra'īmâ, who was the mother of at least his first three children. He also had a second wife, Atalia, whose grave was discovered at Nimrud in the 1980s. [1] The known children of Sargon are:

    • Two older sons (names unknown) of Sargon and Ra'īmâ, dead before Sennacherib was born. [1]
    • Sennacherib (Akkadian: Sîn-ahhī-erība) [41] – son of Sargon and Ra'īmâ, Sargon's successor as king of Assyria 705–681 BC. [1]
    • Ahat-abisha (Akkadian: Ahat-abiša) [42] – a daughter. [1] Was married off to Ambaris, the king of Tabal. When Ambaris was dethroned during Sargon's first 713 BC campaign in Tabal, Ahat-abisha was probably forced to return to Assyria. [42]
    • At least two younger sons (names unknown). [1]

    Sargon II was a warrior king and conqueror who commanded his armies in person and dreamed of conquering the entire world, following in the footsteps of Sargon of Akkad. Sargon II used many of the most prestigious ancient Mesopotamian royal titles to signify his desire to reach this goal, such as "king of the universe" and "king of the four corners of the world". His power and greatness were expressed with titles such as "great king" and "mighty king". Sargon wanted to be perceived as a brave, omnipresent warlord always throwing himself into battle, describing himself in his inscriptions as a "brave warrior" and a "mighty hero". [43] The king sought to project an image of piety, justice, energy, intelligence and strength. [44]

    Although Sargon's inscriptions contain acts of brutal retribution against Assyria's enemies, as the inscriptions of most Assyrian kings do, they do not contain any overt sadism (unlike the inscriptions of some other kings, such as Ashurnasirpal II). Sargon's brutal actions against his enemies should be understood in the context of the Assyrian worldview since Sargon perceived himself as having been bestowed with the kingship by the gods, the gods approved his policies, and thus his wars were just. The enemies of Assyria were seen as peoples who did not respect the gods and they were thus treated and punished as criminals. [45] The support of the gods is reinforced in Sargon's own inscriptions, which (like those of other Assyrian kings) always begin with mentions of the gods. [46] There are situations in which Sargon showed mercy (and other Assyrian kings might not have), such as sparing the lives of the people who had rebelled against him in the Assyrian heartland early in his reign and sparing the life of his rival, Marduk-apla-iddina. [15] [26] The most brutal atrocities described in Sargon's inscriptions do not necessarily reflect reality though scribes would have been present during his campaigns, realism and accuracy were not as important as propaganda (serving both to reinforce the king's glory and to intimidate Assyria's other enemies). [45]

    Though his exploits are likely exaggerated in his inscriptions, Sargon appears to have been a skilled strategist. The king had an extensive spy network, useful for administration and military activities, and employed well-trained scouts for reconnaissance when on campaign. Because most of the states bordering the Neo-Assyrian Empire were Sargon's enemies, targets for campaigns had to be picked wisely to avoid disaster. [47]

    Unlike some "great conquerors" of history, such as Alexander the Great, Sargon was not a charismatic leader. His own troops appear to have feared him as much as his enemies, with the king threatening punishments, such as impalement and the slaughter of families, to ensure discipline and obedience. Since there exist no records of such punishment ever actually being carried out, it is likely that these were simply threats. His soldiers, familiar with these actions being carried out against Sargon's enemies, might have seen the threats as enough and not required actual examples to be made for obedience. The main incentive to continue serving in the Assyrian army was probably not fear, but rather the frequent spoils of war that could be taken after victories. [48]

    Archaeological discoveries Edit

    Though not as famous as Sargon of Akkad, who had become legendary even in Sargon II's time, the large amount of sources left behind from Sargon II's reign means that he is better known from historical sources than the Akkadian king. [49] Like all other Assyrian kings, Sargon went to great lengths to leave behind testimonies to his glory, striving to outdo the accomplishments of his predecessors, creating detailed annals and a vast amount of royal inscriptions and erecting stelae and monuments to commememorate his conquests and mark the borders of his empire. [50] Further sources for Sargon's time include the numerous clay tablets dating to his reign, including legal and administrative documents and personal letters. In total, 1,155–1,300 letters have been discovered from Sargon's time, though many of these are unrelated to the king himself. [51]

    The rediscovery of Dur-Sharrukin was made by chance. The discoverer, French archaeologist and consul Paul-Émile Botta had originally been excavating a nearby site which did not give any immediate results (unknown to Botta, this site was the later and far grander capital Nineveh) and moved his excavation to the village of Khorsabad in 1843. There, Botta discovered the ruins of Sargon's ancient palace and its surroundings and excavated much of it together with another French archaeologist, Victor Place. Place excavated almost the entire palace as well as large parts of the surrounding town. Further excavations were made by Iraqi archaeologists in the 1990s. Though much what was excavated at Dur-Sharrukin was left at Khorsabad, reliefs and other artefacts have since been transported away and are today exhibited across the world, notably at the Louvre, the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago and the Iraq Museum. [24]

    The site in Khorsabad suffered extensive damage during the Iraqi Civil War of 2014–2017, allegedly being looted by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in the spring of 2015 and in October 2016, the site was damaged as Kurdish Peshmerga forces bulldozed and built large military posts on top of archaeological remains. [52]

    Legacy and assessment by historians Edit

    Sargon's death in battle and the loss of his body was a tragedy to the Assyrians at the time and was perceived as an evil omen. To suffer this fate, it was believed that Sargon had somehow committed some form of sin which caused the gods to abandon him on the battlefield. Fearing the same fate would befall him, Sargon's heir Sennacherib abandoned Dur-Sharrukin immediately and moved the capital to Nineveh. [15] Sennacherib's reaction to the fate of his father was to distance himself from Sargon [53] and appears to have been denial, refusing to acknowledge and deal with what happened to him. Before he began any other major projects, one of Sennacherib's first actions as king was to rebuild a temple dedicated to the god Nergal, associated with death, disaster and war, at the city Tarbisu. [54]

    Sennacherib was superstitious and spent much time asking his diviners what kind of sin Sargon could have committed to suffer the fate that he did. [14] A minor 704 BC [55] campaign (unmentioned in Sennacherib's later historical accounts), led by Sennacherib's magnates rather than the king himself, was sent against Tabal in order to avenge Sargon. Sennacherib spent a lot of time and effort to rid the empire of Sargon's imagery. Images which Sargon had created at the temple in Assur were made invisible through raising the level of the courtyard, Sargon's wife Atalia was buried hastily when she died without regard to the traditional burial practices (and in the same coffin as another woman, the queen of the previous king Tiglath-Pileser III), and Sargon is never mentioned in his inscriptions. [56] Sennacherib's treatment of his father's legacy suggests that the people of Assyria were quickly encouraged to forget that Sargon had ever ruled them. [15] After Sennacherib's reign, Sargon was sometimes mentioned as the ancestor of later kings. He is mentioned in the inscriptions of his grandson Esarhaddon ( r . 681–669 BC), [57] his great-grandson Shamash-shum-ukin ( r . 668–648 BC in Babylonia) [58] and his great-great-grandson Sinsharishkun ( r . 627–612 BC). [59]

    Prior to the rediscovery of Dur-Sharrukin in the 1840s, Sargon was an obscure figure in Assyriology. At the time, scholars of the Ancient Near East were dependent on classical authors and the Old Testament of the Bible. Though some Assyrian kings are mentioned in several places (and some appear very prominently), such as Sennacherib and Esarhaddon, Sargon is only mentioned once in the Bible. [60] Scholars were puzzled by the mention of the obscure Sargon and tended to identify him with one of the better known kings, either Shalmaneser V, Sennacherib or Esarhaddon. In 1845, Assyriologist Isidor Löwenstern was the first to suggest that the Sargon briefly mentioned in the Bible was the builder of Dur-Sharrukin, though he still believed this was the same king as Esarhaddon. [61] The exhibition of architecture excavated at Dur-Sharrukin and the translation of the inscriptions uncovered at the city in the 1860s substantiated the idea that Sargon was a king distinct from the others. In the Ninth Edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica (1886), Sargon had his own entry and by the turn of the century he was as accepted and recognized as his previously more well-known predecessors and successors. [62]

    The modern image of Sargon derives from his own inscriptions from Dur-Sharrukin and the work of later Mesopotamian chroniclers. Today, Sargon is recognized as one of the Neo-Assyrian Empire's most important kings through his role in founding the Sargonid dynasty, which would rule Assyria until its fall roughly a century after his death. Through study of his greatest building project, Dur-Sharrukin, he has been seen as a patron of the arts and culture and he was a prolific builder of monuments and temples, both in Dur-Sharrukin and elsewhere. His successful military campaigns have cemented the king's legacy as a great military leader and tactician. [15]

    Sargon's 707 BC stele from Cyprus accords the king the following titulature:

    Sargon, the great king, the mighty king, king of the universe, king of Assyria, viceroy of Babylon, king of Sumer and Akkad, king of the four regions of the earth, favorite of the great gods, who go before me Assur, Nabû and Marduk have intrusted to me an unrivaled kingdom and have caused my gracious name to attain unto highest renown. [63]

    In an account of restoration work done to Ashurnasirpal II's palace in Nimrud (written before his victory over Marduk-apla-iddina II), Sargon uses the following longer titulature:

    Sargon, prefect of Enlil, priest of Assur, elect of Anu and Enlil, the mighty king, king of the universe, king of Assyria, king of the four quarters of the world, favorite of the great gods, rightful ruler, whom Assur and Marduk have called, and whose name they have caused to attain unto the highest renown mighty hero, clothed in terror, who sends forth his weapon to bring low the foe brave warrior, since the day of whose accession to rulership, there has been no prince equal to him, who has been without conqueror or rival who has brought under his sway all lands from the rising to the setting sun and has assumed the rulership of the subjects of Enlil warlike leader, to whom Nudimmud has granted the greatest might, whose hand has drawn a sword which cannot be withstood exalted prince, who came face to face with Humbanigash, king of Elam, in the outskirts of Dêr and defeated him subduer of the land of Judah, which lies far away who carried off the people of Hamath, whose hands captured Yau-bi'di, their king who repulsed the people of Kakmê, wicked enemies who set in order the disordered Mannean tribes who gladdened the heart of his land who extended the border of Assyria painstaking ruler snare of the faithless whose hand captured Pisiris, king of Hatti, and set his official over Carchemish, his capital who carried off the people of Shinuhtu, belonging to Kiakki, king of Tabal, and brought them to Assur, his capital who placed his yoke on the land of Muski who conquered the Manneans, Karallu and Paddiri who avenged his land who overthrew the distant Medes as far as the rising sun. [64]

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