History of the Neo -Assyrians - Part 3.

The History of Assyria.

Sargon II.

Circa 721 - 705 BC.


One of the most important leaders during the Neo Assyrian period was Sargon II, 721 - 705 BC, who restructured the Assyrian State from the bottom up. Sargon conducted annual military campaigns, incorporating the conquered territories into the Assyrian provinces. Cleverly Sargon increased the number of provinces from 12 to 25 smaller ones, which decreased the power of the provincial governors.


One of the most important provinces within the Assyrian Empire was Sumeria, also known as Israel. It repeatedly rebelled against its Assyrian over lords until in 722BC the Assyrians had had enough and invaded Sumeria. The result was a brutal subjugation of the Israelites. The Assyrians killed many and sent the rest into forced exile.


According to the Assyrian Chronicles Sargon II said, “I besieged and conquered Sumeria, led away as booty 27,290 inhabitants of it. I formed from among them a contingent of 50 chariots and made remaining (inhabitants) assume their (social) positions. I installed over them an officer of mine and imposed upon them the tribute of the former king. Hanno, king of Gaza and also Sib’e, the turtan of Egypt set out from Rapihu against me to deliver a decisive battle. I defeated them; Sib’e ran away, afraid when he (only) heard the noise of my (approaching) army, and has not been seen again. Hanno, I captured personally.”


The Assyrian account reveals that others in the region, namely the Egyptians, were involved on Israel's side to a certain extent. But it is uncertain how many troops were sent with Sib’e because this account cannot be corroborate by any known Egyptian source.


Perhaps the most striking piece of information is that nearly 30,000 Israelites were removed from the region. The forced removal of the rebellious populations by the Assyrians was a brutal but effective tactic that they came to commonly use against their enemies.


The Biblical account shows that The Assyrians besieged Sumeria for three years firstly led by King Shalmaneser V, 726 - 722BC, and then by his brother Sargon II, who finished the conquest. This is confirmed by the Assyrian role of Kings. Modern Scholars believe that Sargon II replaced Shalmaneser V in a coupe and claimed the capture of Sumeria for himself.


The example of the siege and conquest of Summaria demonstrates the tactics that the Assyrians used to control their provinces. The threat of invasion leading to mass expulsions must have been a compelling lever in the armoury of Assyrian diplomats when persuading vassal states to fall in line with Assyrian orders.


Sargon II ascended to the Assyrian throne during a period of countrywide rebellion. Some academics believe he may have overthrown his brother King Shalmaneser V by force as Sargon accuses his brother in inscriptions of having been godless and of robbing the city of Assur of its traditional privileges.


The history of Sargon II is unknown prior to him becoming king as it has not been determined yet what his name was before he took his king name. He has therefore not yet been identified in the Assyrian archives of the period. Sargon's throne name means “the king legitimate” again hinting at an overthrow of Shalmaneser V.


Sargon was 40 when he became King and his son Sennacherib, as crown prince, became responsible for running the Assyrian State. Sargon portrayed himself as a restorer of order “My name which the great gods assigned to me in order to uphold justice, to help the powerless prevail and to protect the weak”.


Sargon faced heavy opposition and it is not clear whether this was because he had engineered a coupe because the Assyrian Empire was starting to fall apart or whether he stepped in to deal effectively with a rebellion. The Sumerian uprising was joined by uprisings in Damascus, Arpad and Hama all of which Sargon crushed, destroying Hama in 720 BC. Sargon then exiling the 6300 Assyrians rebels to Hama to rebuild the city.


In Babylon unrest was headed by Merodach-Baladn, chief of the Bit-Yakin tribe. He took advantage of Sargon's problems to cease the throne of Babylon. Sargon marched against Merodach-Baladn who had joined forces with the King of Elam. The two opposing sides met in Battle on the plains around the city of Der in 720 BC. The battle was undeceive and the Assyrians were pushed back.


Undeterred Sargon slowly consolidated his hold over Assyria and he used the spoils from his conquest of last Neo-Hittite State at Carchemis in 717 BC to pay for a consolidated army. The treasury at Carchemis contained 730 lb. (330 kg) of pure gold and 70 tons (63,000 kg) of silver plus huge stores of bronze, tin, iron and ivory. With this wealth Sargon could pay for a huge standing army and start constructing huge fortresses, so consolidating his position.


The Fortress City of Dur-Sharrukin.


Sargon II began building the new fortress city of Dur-Sharrukin in 713 BC, which became his crowing glory. The ground plan of Dur-Sharrakin is modelled on nearby Kalhu (Nimrud). It is a perfectly semantical plan with 7 city gates at regular intervals. The gateways to the Palace were flanked by huge sculptures of human headed winged bulls known as lamassu, Assyrian protective deities who guarded the entrances to the Palace.


The city consists of 2 gigantic platforms, one of which contained the Palace and temples the other of which contained the military arsenal. A ziggurat was built that stood about 145 feet high with a similar sized base.


The walls of the palace were adorned with Orthostats relief sculpture depicting his conquest and tributes being paid to him by the rulers of his vassal states. Completed in 706 BC after only 8 years, Dur-Sharrukin became the administrative centre and court of Sargon II. Aspects of Dur-Sharrukin were copied by subsequent Assyrian Kings in their Palaces but Dur-Sharrukin was the only one to be built on a new site.


During Sargon’s reign the Assyrian continued their policy of conquest that characterised the reign of his brother Shalmaneser V and his predecessor Tiglath-pileser III. Sargon added 2 more provinces in the Zargos Mountains in 716 BC, annexed Ashdod in Philista and the Neo Hittite kingdom of Gurgum in 711 BC, and in 710 BC finally ousted Merodach-Baladan from the throne of Babylon and took the crown for himself to become the dual king of Babylon and Assyria. Sargon took up residence in Babylon whilst Sennacherib ruled the administrative state from Kalhu.


In 705 BC in a battle to restore Tabal as an Assyrian province, Sargon II was killed and his corpse was lost to the enemy. The sudden and unexpected loss of Sargon II sent a shock through Assyria. The palace at Dur-Sharrukin was abandoned and his heir Sennacherib assumed the throne from 705 BC – 681 BC.




Where Was Dur-Sharrukin?


Museopics the free museum History


Coordinates: 36°30′34″N 43°13′46″E

Coordinates: 36.509444, 43.229444






Related MuseoPics Pages

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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