Sargon II (Assyrian Šarru-ukīn (LUGAL-GI.NA 𒈗𒄀𒈾); Aramaic
סרגן; reigned 722–705 BC) was an Assyrian king. A son of
Tiglath-Pileser III, he came to power relatively late in life,
possibly by usurping the throne from his older brother, Shalmaneser V.
Sargon II suppressed rebellions, conquered the Kingdom of Israel, and,
in 710 BC, conquered Babylon, thus reuniting
Assyria with its southern
rival, Babylonia, from which it had been separate since after the
Hammurabi in 1750 BC.
The Neo-Assyrian pronunciation of the name was presumably /sargi:n(u)/
or /sarga:n(u)/; the spelling Sargon is based on the Biblical form of
the name (סרגון), mentioned in Isaiah 20:1. The regnal number
is modern, applied for disambiguation from the Old Assyrian king
Sargon I and the still-older Akkadian ruler Sargon the Elder.
1 Early reign
2 Military campaigns
2.1 Conquest of Israel
2.2 Campaign against Babylonia
3 Later reign
3.1 Building projects
5 See also
8 External links
Sargon II was a son of
Tiglath-Pileser III and appears to have seized
the throne from his brother,
Shalmaneser V in a violent coup.
Sargon was already middle-aged when he came to the throne, and was
assisted by his son, the crown prince, Sennacherib. Sargon's
brother, Sinahusur, served as his grand vizier.
Palace of Dur-Sharrukin.
Sargon was beset with widespread rebellions by the beginning of his
rule. Marduk-apla-iddina II, a chieftain of the Chaldean tribes in the
marshes of the south, declared himself king of
Babylon and was crowned
king in 721 BC. In 720 BC, Sargon and Marduk-apla-iddina met in battle
on the plains east of Babylon, near the city of Der.
Marduk-apla-iddina was supported by the Elamite king Humban-Nikash I.
The Elamite troops were able to push back the Assyrian army, and he
retained control of the south and the title of king of Babylon. The
three kings concluded a treaty to stabilize their relationship, a
détente that would last ten years.
In 717 BC, the
Syro-Hittite city of
Carchemish on the Upper Euphrates
Carchemish was a small kingdom situated at an important
Euphrates crossing. Sargon violated existing treaties in attacking the
city, but with the wealth seized was able to continue to fund his
In 716 BC he moved against the Mannaeans, where the ruler Aza, son of
Iranzu, had been deposed by Ullusunu with the help of the Urartuans.
Sargon took the capital Izirtu, and stationed troops in
original home of the Persian tribe, on lake Urmia) and Kar-Nergal
(Kishesim). He built new bases in Media as well, the main one being
Harhar which he renamed Kar-Sharrukin. In 715 BC, others were to
follow: Kar-Nabu, Kar-Sin and Kar-Ishtar — all named after
Babylonian gods and resettled by Assyrian subjects.
The eighth campaign of Sargon against
Urartu in 714 BC is well known
from a letter from Sargon to the god Ashur (found in the town of
Assur, now in the Louvre) and the bas-reliefs in the palace of
Dur-Sharrukin. The reliefs show the difficulties of the terrain: the
war-chariots had to be dismantled and carried by soldiers (with the
king still in the chariot); the letter describes how paths had to be
cut into the intractable forests. The campaign was probably motivated
by the fact that the Urartians had been weakened by incursions of the
Cimmerians, a nomadic steppe tribe. One Urartian army had been
completely annihilated, and the general Qaqqadanu taken
The Inscription of
Sargon II at Tang-i Var pass near the village of
Tang-i Var, Hawraman, Iran
After reaching Lake Urmia, he turned east and entered
Andia on the Caspian slopes of the Caucasus. When news reached him
Rusa I was moving against him, he turned back to Lake Urmia
in forced marches and defeated a Urartian army in a steep valley of
the Uaush (probably the Sahend, east of Lake Urmia, or further to the
south, in Mannaea country), a steep mountain that reached the clouds
and whose flanks were covered by snow. The battle is described as the
usual carnage, but King Rusas managed to escape. The horses of his
chariot had been killed by Assyrian spears, forcing him to ride a mare
in order to get away, very unbecoming for a king.
Sargon plundered the fertile lands at the southern and western shore
of Lake Urmia, felling orchards and burning the harvest. In the royal
resort of Ulhu, the wine-cellar of the Urartian kings was plundered;
wine was scooped up like water. The Assyrian army then plundered
Sangibuti and marched north to Van without meeting resistance, the
people having retreated to their castles or fled into the mountains,
having been warned by fire-signals. Sargon claims to have destroyed
430 empty villages.
After reaching Lake Van, Sargon left
Urartu via Uaiaish. In Hubushkia
he received the tribute of the "Nairi" lands. While most of the army
returned to Assyria, Sargon went on to sack the Urartian temple of the
god Haldi and his wife Bagbartu at
Musasir (Ardini). The loot must
have been impressive; its description takes up fifty columns in the
letter to Ashur. More than one ton of gold and five tons of silver
fell into the hands of the Assyrians; 334,000 objects in total. A
Dur-Sharrukin depicted the sack of
Musasir as well (which
fell into the
Tigris in 1846 when the archaeologist Paul-Émile Botta
was transporting his artifacts to Paris).
Musasir was annexed. Sargon
claims to have lost only one charioteer, two horsemen and three
couriers on this occasion. King Rusa was said to be despondent when he
heard of the loss of Musasir, and fell ill. According to the imperial
annals, he took his own life with his own iron sword.
In 713 BC, Sargon stayed at home; his troops took, among others,
Tabal and Cilicia. Persian and Mede rulers offered tribute.
In 711 BC,
Gurgum was conquered. An uprising in the Philistine city of
Ashdod, supported by Judah, Moab,
Edom and Egypt, was suppressed, and
Philistia became an Assyrian province.
Conquest of Israel
Under his rule, the Assyrians completed the defeat of the Kingdom of
Samaria after a siege of three years and exiling the
inhabitants. This became the basis of the legends of the Lost Ten
Tribes. According to the Bible, other people were brought to Samaria,
the Samaritans, under his predecessor
Shalmaneser V (2 Kings 18).
Sargon's name actually appears in the
Bible only once, in the Book of
Isaiah, which records the Assyrian capture of
Ashdod in 711 BC.
Campaign against Babylonia
In 710 BC Sargon felt safe enough in his rule to move against his
Babylonian arch-enemy Marduk-apla-iddina II. One army moved against
Elam and its new king Shutur-Nahhunte II to prevent them from
supplying aid to Marduk-apla-iddina; the other, under Sargon himself,
proceeded against Babylon. Sargon first moved against Dūr-Athara
which he renamed Dūr-Nabû and made the capital of the new province
of Gambalu. He then laid siege to Babylon, and Marduk-apla-iddina II
fled. Sargon claimed that he entered
Babylon at the request of the
priests and civil servants.
Babylon yielded to Sargon and he was
proclaimed king of
Babylonia in 710, thus restoring the dual monarchy
Babylonia and Assyria. He remained in
Babylon for three years; in
709 BC, he led the new-year procession as king of Babylon.
Marduk-apla-iddina attempted to flee to
Elam but the king forbade him
entry. Taking hostages from Ur, Uruk, and other towns, he went to his
ancestral city of Dūr-Jakin which he further fortified by adding to
the walls and digging a canal from the
Euphrates to flood the
surrounding area. In 709 BC Sargon's troops gained a victory outside
the city but could not take Dūr-Jakin, where Marduk-apla-iddina had
fled. A negotiated settlement was reached whereby Sargon would spare
Marduk-apla-iddina's life provided the city walls were demolished. It
is not clear whether they were, since two years later, Sargon returned
to take them down himself.
Sargon had his son, crown-prince Sennacherib, married to the Aramean
noblewoman Naqi'a, and stayed in the south to pacify the Aramaic and
Chaldean tribes of the lower
Euphrates as well as the
Some areas in
Elam were occupied as well.
In 710 BC, the seven Greek kings of Ia' (Cyprus) had accepted Assyrian
sovereignty; in 709, Midas, king of Phrygia, beset by the nomadic
Cimmerians, submitted to Assyrian rule and in 708 BC, Kummuhu
(Commagene) became an Assyrian province.
Assyria was at the apogee of
Urartu had almost succumbed to the Cimmerians,
Marduk-apla-iddina II was powerless, and the Egyptian
influence in the Levant had been thwarted.
Sargon II (left) faces a high-ranking official, possibly Sennacherib
his son and crown prince. 710–705 BC. From Khorsabad, Iraq. The
British Museum, London
Human-headed winged bull, found during Botta's excavation.
A lamassu from the palace of
Sargon II at Dur-Sharrukin.
Dur-Sharrukin ("Fort Sargon") was constructed as a new capital city by
Sargon II shortly after he came to the throne in 721 BC. The city
measured about a square mile in area. It was enclosed within a great
wall of unbaked brick pierced by seven gates. Protective genies were
placed on either side of these entrances to act as guardians. The
palace was richly decorated with relief-carved stone slabs.
The land in the environs of the town was taken under cultivation, and
olive groves were planted to increase Assyria's deficient oil
production. The town was of rectangular layout and measured 1760 by
1635 m. The length of the walls was 16,283 Assyrian units,
corresponding to the numerical value of Sargon's name. The town was
partly settled by prisoners of war and deportees under the control of
Assyrian officials, who had to ensure they were paying sufficient
respect to the gods and the king. The court moved to
706 BC, although it was not completely finished.
In 705 BC, Sargon was killed while leading a campaign to Tabal, which
had rebelled against Assyrian rule seven years prior. His body was
never recovered. Sargon was succeeded by his son Sennacherib
Ancient Near East portal
Kings of Assyria
Annals of Sargon
^ References to
Sargon II are mostly spelled logographically, as
LUGAL-GI.NA or LUGAL-GIN, but occasional phonetic spelling in ú-kin
appears to support the form Šarru-ukīn over Šarru-kēn(u) (based on
a single spelling in -ke-e-nu found in Khorsabad). The name of the Old
Sargon I is spelled as LUGAL-ke-en or LUGAL-ki-in in
king lists. In addition to the Biblical form (סרגון), the Hebrew
spelling סרגן has been found in an inscription in Khorsabad,
suggesting that the name in the Neo-Assyrian period might have been
pronounced Sar(ru)gīn, the voicing representing a regular development
in Neo-Assyrian. Eckart Frahm, "Observations on the Name and Age of
Sargon II and on Some Patterns of Assyrian Royal Onomastics", NABU
^ 5623. Sargon, Strong's Concordance.
^ a b ""Sargon II, King of
Assyria (721-705 BC)", The British
^ a b c Radner, Karen "Sargon II, king of
Assyria (721-705 BC)",
Assyrian empire builders, University College London, 2012
^ a b "Excavations At
Khorsabad - The Oriental Institute of the
University of Chicago". oi.uchicago.edu.
^ Melville, Sarah "The Campaigns of Sargon II, King of Assyria,
721-705 B.C.", University of Oklahoma, 2016
Cimmerians were mentioned a number of times in letters by the
crown-prince Sennacherib, who ran his father's intelligence service.
They cannot be dated exactly, but are believed to have been composed
before 713 BC. The letters relate how Sargon crossed the
Great Zab and
Little Zab and moved over the mountains of Kullar in the direction
of Lake Urmia, crossing the country of Zikirtu, whose ruler Metatti
had fled to Uishdish, the provinces of Surikash, Allabria and parts of
^ Isaiah 20:1
^ a b Van Der Spek, R., "The Struggle of King
Sargon II of Assyria
Against the Chaldaean Meradoch-Baladan (710-707 BC)", Jaarberecht,
No.25, Leiden (1977-78)
^ "Winged human-headed bull" – via Musée du Louvre.
Victor Avigdor Hurowitz, ""Shutting Up" the Enemy: Literary Gleanings
from Sargon's Eighth Campaign," in Mordechai Cogan and Dan'el Kahn
(eds), Treasures on Camels' Humps: Historical and Literary Studies
from the Ancient Near East Presented to Israel Eph'al (Jerusalem,
Magnes Press, 2008),
Albert Ten Eyck Olmstead (1906). Western Asia in the days of Sargon of
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Sargon II.
Great Inscription of Khorsaband. Babilonian and Assyrian Literature
Sargon’s VIII Campaign
"Sargon". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). 1911.
Sargon II, king of
Assyria (721-705 BC)
King of Assyria
722 – 705 BC
King of Babylon
710 – 705 BC su
Early Bronze Age
"Kings who lived in tents"
(ca. 2500 – 2000 BC)
"Kings who were forefathers"
(ca. 2000 BC)
"Kings whose eponyms are destroyed"
(ca. 2000 – 1900 BC)
Middle Bronze Age
Old Assyrian period
(ca. 1906 – 1380 BC)
(Seven usurpers: Ashur-dugul
Late Bronze Age
Middle Assyrian period
(ca. 1353 – 1180 BC)
Middle Assyrian period
(ca. 1179 – 912 BC)
(ca. 912 – 609 BC)