History of The Assyrian Middle Period.


The History of the Middle Assyrian Period

Museopics the free museum History

circa 1400-1050BC


The Assyrian Empire we are familiar with today developed between the 14th and 10th centuries BC. Slowly Assyria expanded its territories taking advantage of the unrest caused by Hittite expansion to its west. Assyria expanded first by annexing its neighbours, and as it did so Assyrian society started to become dominated by the military and less by the merchants. It developed a system not unlike the feudal system of the Middle Ages within which the Assyrian King, who owned all the land of Assur, would grant land to those that performed well in his military campaigns, in return for which they would become his vassals. By the 10th century BC Assyria had developed into a military juggernaut that could hold its own against the old super powers of the region.


The success of the Assyrians was not only due to their highly effective military machine but also to the effectiveness of Assyrian diplomats. Diplomacy enabled them to start competing with the super powers that surrounded them by persuading new client states to join Assyria. in the late 15th century BC the three major kingdoms of the ancient Middle East, The Egyptians, Hittites and Babylonians expanded their borders until they met. This led to constant border battles between them. These three Middle Eastern Empires are referred to by some scholars as the “Great Powers Club” and the era as the “Period of the Great Empires”. The Assyrians entered this power struggle late but by the late 13th century BC they were competing with the other ancient super powers on their own terms.


The Assyrian expansion started in the reign of Ashuruballit I circa 1365 - 1330 BC. Burnaburiash II king of neighbouring super power Babylon considered Assur to be one of his vassal states. This was a one sided belief as by this period the Assyrians saw themselves as the equal to Babylon. Burnaburiash II was therefore upset with Ashuruballit when he courted alliances with Egypt, Babylon's major rival, by exchanging gifts with them, in this case a chariot, two horses and precious stones. Even though Burnaburiash complained to the Egyptians for trying to influence what he saw as his vassal state it soon became apparent to him that his Assyrian neighbours had become a power to be reckoned with. To resolve the dispute Burnaburiash II married the daughter of Ashuruballit to create an blood alliance between Babylon and Assyria.


Upon the death of Burnaburiash II the son of that union, prince Kara-hardash, took the throne of Babylon, but he was assassinated during an anti-Assyrian palace rebellion. Ashuruballit retaliated against the assignation of his grandson and invaded Babylon putting Kurigalzu II, possibly the grandson of Burnaburiash II, on the throne.


Kurigalzu II did not remain loyal to Ashur-uballit though and attacked Assur. This resulted in the Battle of Sugagu and according to the Synchronistic Chronicle, Tablet A “At Sugagi, which is on the Tigris, Enlil-nīrāri, king of Assyria (Ashur-uballit I), fought with Kurigalzu. He brought about his total defeat, slaughtered his troops and carried off his camp. They divided the districts from Šasili of Subartu, to Karduniaš into two and fixed the boundary-line”.


By the time of King Arik-den-ili, 1317 - 1306 BC the Assyrian rulers had grown in so much in confidence that they gave themselves the title “Mighty Kings of Assyria”.


Arik-den-ili was succeeded by his son Adad-nirari I, 1305 - 1274 BC, who took Assyrian power to new heights. Adad-nirari concentrated his forces on taking Hanigalbot, the successor state to Mitanni in Syria. According to inscriptions the Hannigalbatean king, Shattuara, committed hostilities against the Assyrians. As a reprisal Adad-nirari attacked Hanigalbot took Shattuara captive and returned him to Assur where he was forcefully persuaded to swear fealty to Adad-nirari. This is also reported in Hittite sources as Hanigalbot was a client states of the Hittites. This demonstrates the growing confidence of the Assyrians that they could risk the wrath of the mighty Hittite Empire. On his return to Hanigalbot, Shattuara called on the Hittites for aid but they were tied up in an Anatolian conflict so could not help. On hearing of this Adad-nirari once again attacked Hanigalbot this time conquering the old Mitanni capital of Washukanni.


In the Adad-nirari epic fragments it is related how Adad-nirari also fought his Babylonian rival Nazi-Maruttash, who he beat in battle.


On his death Adad-nirari I was followed by his son Shalmaneser I, 1273 - 1244 BC. Shalmaneser concentrated on the Urartians to his north who lived around Lake Van in present day Turkey. During this period the Urartians were a powerful people but were probably divided into small sates. This allowed Adad-nirari to attack them individually and deport Urartians to work in Assyria. This gives an indication of how Assyria had expanded that it needed more workers for either farm labouring or city and fortress building. Shalmaneser also claimed to have taken 14,000 people from Hanigalbot when he attacked it again.


Attacks by Shalmaneser on Hanigalbot are also recorded in Hittite texts which called for a complete embargo on trading with Assyria. This suggests that Assyria had grown powerful enough to hold off potential Hittites attacks.


So by the rule of Assyrian King Tukulti-Ninurta I circa 1243 - 1207BC the Assyrians had conquered their one time over lords, the Mitanni kingdom. Tukulti-Ninurta also won a major victory against the Hittite Empire at the Battle of Nihriya in the first half of his reign so capturing Hittite territory in Asia Minor and The Levant. He then went on to defeat Kashtiliash IV, the Kassite king of Babylonia, capturing Babylon and ensuring Assyrian supremacy over Mesopotamia.


By the early 1200’s BC Assyria was recognised as a serious player in the power struggle in the Middle East. When the Hittite King Totalier IV 1237 - 1209 BC concluded a treaty with his vassal state Amulu he listed the Assyrians as one of the great powers in the region.


But the pendulum of power suddenly took a dramatic swing against all the super powers of the period. Two things changed the ancient Middle East for ever. The end of the Bronze Age and the start of the Iron Age brought a shift of power in the region, but that was nothing compared to the devastation of the Eastern Mediterranean that was unleashed by sudden appearance of the mysterious “Sea People”.




Related MuseoPics Pages


Assyrian history In the Begining Sam'al Hittite Artefacts Relief Sculptures History of the Old Assyrian Kingdom History of the Middle Assyrian Kingdom History of the Neo-Assyrians History of Assyrian King Ashurnasirpal-II History of Assyrian King Sargon II History of Assyrian King Senacherib & Nineveh History of Assyrian Warefare & Military Army History of Assyrian Warefare & Military Army History of the downfall of the Assyrian Empire History of the Assyrian Palace at Ninevah, Kalha History of the Assyrian Palace at Dur Sharrukin History of the Assyrian Palace at Neneveh


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