ASHURBANIPAL (Akkadian : Aššur-bāni-apli; Syriac : ܐܫܘܪ ܒܢܐ
ܐܦܠܐ; 'Ashur is the creator of an heir'), also spelled
ASSURBANIPAL or ASHSHURBANIPAL, was King of the Neo-Assyrian Empire
from 668 BC to c. 627 BC, the son of
Esarhaddon and the last strong
ruler of the empire, which is usually dated between 934 and 609 BC.
He is famed for amassing a significant collection of cuneiform
documents for his royal palace at
Nineveh . This collection, known as
Library of Ashurbanipal
Library of Ashurbanipal , now in the
British Museum , which also
holds the famous
Lion Hunt of Ashurbanipal set of Assyrian palace
In the Hebrew Bible he is called ASENAPPAR (Hebrew :
אָסְנַפַּר, Modern 'Asnapar, Tiberian 'Āsenapar - Ezra
4:10). Roman historian Justinus identified him as
although the fictional
Sardanapalus is depicted as the last king of
Assyria and an ineffectual, effete and debauched character, whereas
three further kings succeeded Ashurbanipal, who was in fact an
educated, efficient, highly capable and ambitious warrior king.
* 1 Early life
* 2 Royal succession
* 3 Military accomplishments
Library of Ashurbanipal
Library of Ashurbanipal
* 5 Art and culture
* 6 See also
* 7 References and footnotes
* 8 Sources
* 9 Further reading
* 10 External links
Ashurbanipal was born toward the end of a 1,500-year period of
His father, Esarhaddon, the youngest son of
Sennacherib , had become
heir when the crown prince,
Ashur-nadin-shumi , was deposed by rebels
from his position as vassal for
Esarhaddon was the son not
of Sennacherib's queen, Tashmetum-sharrat , but of the "palace woman "
Zakutu, "the pure" (cf. Modern Standard Arabic زكاة , "that which
purifies"), known by her native name, Naqi\'a . There are some
suggestions Zakutu may have been an
while others point to her family origins being in the northern
Assyrian city of
Harran . The only queen known for
Ashur-hamat , who died in 672 BC.
Ashurbanipal grew up in the small palace called Bit Reduti (house of
succession), built by his grandfather
Sennacherib when he was crown
prince in the northern quadrant of
Nineveh . In 694 BC, Sennacherib
had completed the "Palace Without Rival" at the southwest corner of
the acropolis , obliterating most of the older structures. The "House
of Succession" had become the palace of Esarhaddon, the crown prince.
In this house, Ashurbanipal's grandfather was assassinated by uncles
identified only from the biblical account as
Adrammelech , Abimlech
and Sharezer . From this conspiracy,
Esarhaddon emerged as king in 681
BC. He proceeded to rebuild as his residence the Bit Masharti (weapons
house, or arsenal ). The "House of Succession" was left to his mother
and the younger children, including Ashurbanipal.
The names of five brothers and one sister are known. Sin-iddin-apli
, the intended crown prince, died prior to 672 BC. Not having been
expected to become heir to the throne,
Ashurbanipal was trained in
scholarly pursuits as well as the usual horsemanship , hunting ,
chariotry , soldiery , craftsmanship , and royal decorum. In a unique
Ashurbanipal specified his youthful
scholarly pursuits as having included oil divination, mathematics ,
and reading and writing; he was able to read and write in Sumerian ,
Akkadian and Aramaic .
Detail of a stone monument of
Ashurbanipal II as a
basket-bearer. 668-655 BC. From the temple of Nabu at Borsippa, Iraq,
currently housed in the
Ashurbanipal succeeded his father
Esarhaddon (reigned 681–669 BC)
as king of
Assyria and ruler of the Assyrian Empire in 668 BC.
Esarhaddon had prepared for the accession of his son by imposing a
vassal treaty upon his Persian ,
Median and Parthian subjects,
ensuring that they accepted Ashurbanipal's dominance in advance. He
had also rebuilt
Babylon and set up another of his sons
Shamash-shum-ukin to rule there, subject to his brother Ashurbanipal
Despite being a popular king among his subjects, he was also known
for his cruelty to his enemies. Some pictures depict him putting a dog
chain through the jaw of a defeated Arab king and then making him live
in a dog kennel. Many paintings of the period exhibit his brutality;
however, Assyrian harshness was reserved solely for those who took up
arms against the Assyrian king, and neither
Ashurbanipal nor his
predecessors conducted genocides , massacres or ethnic cleansings
against civilian populations.
Ashurbanipal inherited from
Esarhaddon not only the throne of the
empire but also the ongoing war in
Egypt with Kush /
Ashurbanipal ended Egyptian interference in the Near East, destroyed
Kushite Empire , drove the Kushites/Nubians from Egypt, and
Libya . However the Nubians still had ambitions to
regain control of
Egypt and resurrect their empire.
Ashurbanipal sent an army against them in 667 BC that defeated the
Taharqa , near Memphis , while
Ashurbanipal stayed at his
Nineveh . At the same time some Egyptian vassals rebelled
and were also defeated. All of the vanquished leaders save one were
sent to Nineveh. Only
Necho I , the native Egyptian Prince of
convinced the Assyrians of his loyalty and was sent back to become the
Pharaoh of Egypt. After the death of
Taharqa in 664 BC
his nephew and successor
Tantamani invaded Upper
Egypt and took
control of Thebes . In Memphis he defeated the native Egyptian princes
and Necho may have died in the battle. Another army was sent by
Ashurbanipal and again it succeeded in defeating the Kushites/Nubians.
Tantamani was routed and driven back to his homeland in
Nubia and was
never again to threaten
Assyria or Egypt. The Assyrians plundered
Thebes and took much booty home with them. How Assyrian rule in Egypt
ended is not certain, but at some point Necho's son Psammetichus I
gained independence while wisely keeping his relations with Assyria
An Assyrian royal inscription tells how the Lydian king Gyges
received dreams from the Assyrian god Ashur . The dreams told him that
when he submitted to
Ashurbanipal he would conquer his foes. After
Gyges sent his ambassadors to accept Assyrian vassalage he defeated
Cimmerian enemies. But later when he supported the rebellion of
the Egyptian rebels his country was overrun by the Cilicians .
Assyria was by then master of the largest empire the world had yet
seen, stretching from the Caucasus in the north to
North Africa and
Arabian peninsula in the south, and from
Cyprus and the east
Mediterranean in the west, to central
Iran in the east. Ashurbanipal
enjoyed the subjugation of a myriad of nations and peoples, including
Chaldea , Media ,
Parthia , Cissia ,
Phoenicia , Canaan
Sinai , Israel , Judah ,
Edom , Ammon
Arabia , the
Scythia , Cimmeria ,
Cyprus , with few problems during
Ashurbanipal's reign. For the time being, the dual monarchy in
Mesopotamia went well, with
Shamash-shum-ukin accepting his position
as the vassal of his brother peaceably.
For his assignment of his brother,
Ashurbanipal sent a statue of the
Marduk with him as sign of good will. Shamash-shuma-ukin's
power was limited. He performed Babylonian rituals but the official
building projects were still executed by his younger brother. During
his first years
Elam was still in peace as it was under his father.
Ashurbanipal sent food supplies to the Elamites during a famine.
Around 664 BC the situation changed and
Urtaku , the Elamite king,
attacked Assyria's colony of
Babylonia by surprise.
Assyria delayed in
sending aid to Babylon. This could have been caused for two reasons:
either the soothing messages of Elamite ambassadors or Ashurbanipal
might simply not have been present at that time. However the Assyrians
eventually attacked and the Elamites retreated before the Assyrian
troops, and in the same year
Urtaku died. He was succeeded by Teumman
(Tempti-Khumma-In-Shushinak ), who was not his legitimate heir, so
many Elamite princes had to flee to Ashurbanipal's court, including
Urtaku's oldest son Humban-nikash . In 658/657 BC the two empires
clashed again, when the province of
Gambulu in 664 rebelled against
the Assyrians and
Ashurbanipal decided to punish them. On the other
Teumman saw his authority threatened by the Elamite princes at
the Assyrian court and demanded their extradition. The Assyrian forces
Elam and fought a battle at the Ulaya river .
Elam was defeated in the battle in which, according to Assyrian
Teumman committed suicide.
Humban-nikash as king of Madaktu and another prince, Tammaritu , as
king of the city Hidalu .
Elam was considered a vassal of
tribute was imposed on it. With the Elamite problem solved the
Assyrians could finally punish
Gambulu and seized its capital. Then
the victorious army marched home taking with them the head of Teumman.
In Nineveh, when the Elamite ambassadors saw the head, one tore out
his beard and the other committed suicide. As further humiliation the
head of the Elamite king was put on display at the port of Nineveh.
The death and head of
Teumman was depicted multiple times in the
reliefs of Ashurbanipal's palace.
Friction grew between the two brother kings and in 652 BC Babylon
rebelled. This time
Babylon was not alone – it had allied itself
with a host of peoples resentful of Assyrian rule, including
Aramean tribes dwelling in its southern regions, the
kings of "
Gutium ", Amurru , and
Meluhha , the
Persians , the Arabs
Nabateans dwelling in the
Arabian Peninsula , and even
According to a later Aramaic tale on Papyrus 63, Shamash-shum-ukin
formally declared war on
Ashurbanipal in a letter where he claims that
his brother is only the governor of
Nineveh and his subject. Again
the Assyrians delayed an answer, this time due to unfavourable omens.
It is not certain how the rebellion affected the Assyrian heartlands
but there was some unrest in the cities. When
Babylon finally was
attacked, the Assyrians were victorious. Civil war prevented by
further military aid, and in 648 BC
besieged. Without aid the situation was hopeless. After two years
Shamash-shum-ukin met his end in his burning palace just before the
city surrendered. This time
Babylon was not destroyed, as under
Sennacherib , but a massacre of the rebels took place, according to
the king's inscriptions, with the Assyrians exacting savage revenge
upon the Babylonians, Arameans, Chaldeans and Persians, together with
an invasion of
Arabia and the brutal subjugation of the Arab tribes to
the south of Mesopotamia.
Babylon to keep its
semi autonomous position, but it became more formalized than before.
The next king
Kandalanu (an Assyrian governor) left no official
inscription, probably as his function was only ritual.
During the final two decades of Ashurbanipal's rule,
peaceful and its dominance went unchallenged, but the country
apparently faced an underlying decline due to over-expansion, the lack
of funds from its devastated colonies, and insufficient troops to
govern its vast empire. Documentation from the last years of
Ashurbanipal's reign is scarce. The last attestations of
Ashurbanipal's reign are of his year 38 (631 BC), but according to the
Greek historian Castor, he reigned for 42 years until 627 BC.
After Ashurbanipal's death c. 627 BC he was succeeded by
Ashur-etil-ilani (626–623 BC). However,
Assyria soon descended into
a series of internal civil wars that would ultimately lead to its
LIBRARY OF ASHURBANIPAL
Library of Ashurbanipal
Library of Ashurbanipal The king, detail from the
Lion Hunt of Ashurbanipal
Ashurbanipal was proud of his scribal education. He asserts this in
the statement: “I Assurbanipal within , took care of the wisdom of
Nebo, the whole of the inscribed tablets, of all the clay tablets, the
whole of their mysteries and difficulties, I solved.” He was one of
the few kings who could read the cuneiform script in Akkadian and
Sumerian , and claimed that he even read texts from before the great
flood . He was also able to solve mathematical problems. During his
reign, he collected cuneiform texts from all over
Babylonia , in his royal library at Nineveh, the Assyrian
capital. He commissioned copies of literary works from libraries
around the kingdom in order to obtain "the hidden treasures of the
scribe's knowledge." The results were stored in what became known as
Library of Ashurbanipal
Library of Ashurbanipal .
Nineveh was destroyed in 612 BC but many of the library's clay
tablets survived the devastation. Ashurbanipal’s palace was
excavated in December 1853 and the surviving contents of the library
re-discovered. Over 30,000 clay tablets and fragments were uncovered
in the library, providing archaeologists with a wealth of
Mesopotamian literary, religious and administrative work. The library
included hymns and prayers, medical, mathematical, ritual, divinatory
and astrological texts, alongside all sorts of administrative
documents, letters and contracts. Other genres found during
excavations included standard lists used by scribes and scholars, word
lists, bilingual vocabularies, lists of signs and synonyms, lists of
medical diagnoses, astronomic/astrological texts. The scribal texts
proved to be very helpful in deciphering cuneiform.
Ashurbanipal is considered by some library scholars as an archetypal
academic librarian, in that his library set the course for how the
libraries of today operate. While the library at Ninevah was utilized
by a select elite and
Ashurbanipal himself, the basic purposes of the
library and the services provided are similar to those currently seen
in modern academic libraries.
ART AND CULTURE
British Museum in London has the
Lion Hunt of Ashurbanipal , a
Assyrian palace reliefs from the North Palace of Ashurbanipal,
also excavated at Nineveh, depicting the king hunting and killing
Mesopotamian lions . In Assyria, the lion hunt was seen as a royal
sport; the depictions were seen as a symbol of the king’s ability to
guard the nation. The “Garden Party” relief shows the king and
his queen having a banquet celebrating the Assyrian triumph over
Tuemman in the campaign against Elam. The fine carvings serve as
testimony to Ashurbanipal’s high regard for art, but also
communicate an important message meant to be passed down for
The sculptor Fred Parhad (1947–) created a larger-than-life statue
Ashurbanipal , which was placed on a street near the San Francisco
City Hall main square in 1988. The sculpture shows Asurbanipal
wearing a short tunic and holds a lion cub in his proper right arm.
The figure stands on a concrete base, with bronze plaque and rosettes.
The statue stands across from City Hall next to the Asian Art Museum
and faces the San Francisco Library.
Robert E. Howard wrote a short story entitled "The Fire of
Asshurbanipal" (sic), first published in the December 1936 issue of
Weird Tales magazine, about an "accursed jewel belonging to a king of
long ago, whom the Grecians called
Sardanapalus and the Semitic
Ashurbanipal was used as the ruler of the Assyrians in the second
expansion pack (Brave New World) for the game
Civilization V .
* Ancient Near East portal
Kings of Assyria
REFERENCES AND FOOTNOTES
* ^ These are the dates according to the Assyrian King list,
* ^ "
Ashurbanipal - king of Assyria". Encyclopedia Britannica.
* ^ See other versions at Ezra 4:10
Marcus Junianus Justinus . "Epitome of the Philippic History of
Pompeius Trogus". His successors too, following his example, gave
answers to their people through their ministers. The Assyrians, who
were afterwards called Syrians, held their empire thirteen hundred
years. The last king that reigned over them was Sardanapalus, a man
more effeminate than a woman.
* ^ A B C Northen Magill, Frank; Christina J. Moose; Alison Aves;
Taylor and Francis (1998). Dictionary of World Biography: The ancient
world. pp. 141–142.
* ^ 1.^ Jump up to: a b c d e f Melville, Sarah C. (1999). The role
of Naqia/Zakutu in Sargonid politics. Helsinki: Neo-Assyrian Text
Corpus Project. ISBN 9514590406 .
* ^ Luckenbill, D.D. Ancient Records of
* ^ "It must be noted, however, that these atrocities were usually
reserved for those local princes and their nobles who had revolted and
that in contrast with the Israelites, for instance, who exterminated
the Amalekites for purely ethno-cultural reasons, the Assyrians never
indulged in systematic genocides." (Georges Roux, Ancient Iraq, Third
Edition, p. 291)
* ^ They have been maligned. Certainly they could be rough and
tough to maintain order, but they were defenders of civilization, not
barbarian destroyers." (H.W.F. Saggs, The Might That Was Assyria, p.
* ^ Roaf, M. Cultural atlas of
Mesopotamia and the ancient near
east 2004. pp. 190–191.
* ^ Georges Roux – Ancient Iraq
* ^ Frame, G.
Babylonia 689-627. p. 104.
* ^ This is the name according to Assyrian sources; the river is
today identified with either the
* ^ Banipal, Cem (1986). The War of Banipalian. Çankaya:
Bilkentftp Press. pp. 31–52.
* ^ Frame, G.
Babylonia 689–627 BC. pp. 118–124.
* ^ Steiner and Ninms, RB 92 1985
* ^ Frame, G.
Babylonia 689–627 BC. pp. 131–141.
* ^ Oates, J. (2003). Babylon. p. 123.
* ^ Most important examples are the
Harran inscription and the Uruk
* ^ Cylinder A, Column I, Lines 31–33, in Smith, George. History
of Assurbanipal, Translated from the
Cuneiform Inscriptions. London:
Harrison and Sons, 1871: pg.6
* ^ A B Roaf, M. (2004). Cultural Atlas of
Mesopotamia and the
Ancient Near East. p. 191.
* ^ Murray, Stuart (2009). The Library: An Illustrated History.
Chicago: ALA Editions.
* ^ Coogan, Michael (2009). A Brief Introduction to the Old
Testament. New York City: Oxford University Press. p. 292.
* ^ Murray, Stuart (2009). The Library: An Illustrated History. New
York, NY: Skyhorse Publishing. pp. 3–10. ISBN 9780838909911 .
"Assurbanipal Library Phase 1",
British Museum One
* ^ Briscoe, Peter; Bodtke-Roberts, Alice; Douglas, Nancy; Heinold,
Michele; Koller, Nancy; Peirce, Roberta (1986). "Ashurbanipal' s
Enduring Archetype: Thoughts on the Library's Role in the Future".
College & Research Libraries: 121.
* ^ Ashrafian, H. (2011). "An extinct Mesopotamian lion
subspecies". Veterinary Heritage. 34 (2): 47–49.
* ^ ""Assyria: Lion Hunt (Room 10a)." British Museum". Retrieved 23
* ^ ""\'Garden Party\' relief from the North Palace of Ashurbanipal
(Room S),". British Museum". Retrieved 23 November 2014.
* ^ "Smithsonian Art Inventories Catalog – Ashurbanipal,
(sculpture)". Retrieved 23 November 2014.
* ^ "
Ashurbanipal Statue at the Main San Francisco Library in San
Francisco". Retrieved 23 November 2014.
* ^ Price, R. M. (ed.): Nameless Cults: The Cthulhu Mythos Fiction
of Robert E. Howard, Chaosium (2001), pp. 99–118.
* ^ "Civ V\'s Brave New World expansion lets you conquer the world
with trade or culture wars". Venture Beat. 12/04/2013. Retrieved
10/01/2018. Check date values in: access-date=, date= (help )
* Barnett, R. D. (1976). Sculptures from the North Palace of
Nineveh (668–627). London: British Museum.
* Grayson, A. K. (1980). "The Chronology of the Reign of
Ashurbanipal". Zeitschrift für Assyriologie. 70 (2): 227–245. doi
* Luckenbill, Daniel David (1926). Ancient Records of
Babylonia: From Sargon to the End. 2. Chicago: University of Chicago
* Murray, S. (2009). The Library: An Illustrated History. New York,
NY:: Skyhorse Pub.
* Oates, J. (1965). "Assyrian Chronology, 631-612 B.C". Iraq. 27
(2): 135–159. doi :10.2307/4199788 .
* Olmstead, A. T. (1923). History of Assyria. New York: Scribner.
* Russell, John Malcolm (1991). Sennacherib's Palace without Rival
at Nineveh. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
* Ito, Sanae (2015). Royal Image and Political Thinking in the
Letters of Assurbanipal. Ph.D. thesis. Helsinki: University of
Helsinki. ISBN 978-951-51-0972-9 .
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