Old Assyrian Empire

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Old Assyrian Empire

Inscription mat Assur-ki for Assyria in the Rassam cylinder, 1st column, line 5.png
mat aš-šur KI
2025 BC–1378 BC
Map showing the approximate extent of the Upper Mesopotamian Empire at the death of Shamshi-Adad I c. 1721 BC.
Map showing the approximate extent of the Upper Mesopotamian Empire at the death of Shamshi-Adad I c. 1721 BC.
CapitalAssur 2025 BC
Shubat-Enlil 1754 BC
Assur 1681 BC
Common languagesAkkadian (official)
Sumerian (official)
Ancient Mesopotamian religion
išši’ak Aššur 
• c. 2025 BC
Puzur-Ashur I (first)
• c. 1378 BC
Ashur-nadin-ahhe II (last)
Historical eraBronze Age
• Established
2025 BC
• Disestablished
1378 BC
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Early Assyrian Period
Middle Assyrian Empire
Old Babylonian Empire
Today part ofTurkey

The Old Assyrian Empire (Sumero-Akkadian cuneiform: 𒆳𒀭𒊹𒆠 KUR AN-ŠAR2KI, Assyrian cuneiform: Inscription mat Assur-ki for Assyria in the Rassam cylinder, 1st column, line 5.jpg mat aš-šur KI, "Country of the city of god Aššur"; also phonetically Mat d A-shur for Assyria in Amarna letter AE 15 circa 1340 BCE.jpg mat da-šur)[lower-alpha 1] is the second of four periods into which the history of Assyria is divided, the other three being the Early Assyrian Period (2600–2025 BC), the Middle Assyrian Empire (1392–934 BC), and the Neo-Assyrian Empire (911–609 BC). Assyria was a major Mesopotamian East Semitic-speaking kingdom and empire of the ancient Near East. Centered on the Tigris–Euphrates river system in Upper Mesopotamia, the Assyrian people came to rule powerful empires at several times. Making up a substantial part of the "cradle of civilization", which included Sumer, the Akkadian Empire, and Babylonia, Assyria was at the height of technological, scientific and cultural achievements at its peak.

At its peak, the Assyrian empire ruled over what the ancient Mesopotamian religion referred to as the "four corners of the world": as far north as the Caucasus Mountains within the lands of what is today called Armenia and Azerbaijan, as far east as the Zagros Mountains within the territory of present-day Iran, as far south as the Arabian Desert of today's Saudi Arabia, as far west as the island of Cyprus in the Mediterranean Sea, and even further to the west in Egypt and eastern Libya.[9]

Assyria is named for its original capital, the ancient city of Assur, which dates to c. 2600 BC, originally one of a number of Akkadian city states in Mesopotamia. Assyria was also sometimes known as Subartu and Azuhinum prior to the rise of the city-state of Assur, and during the Sasanian Empire as Asōristān.


Cylinder seal and modern impression: human figures and demons,ca. 1820–1730 BC, Syria
Cylinder seal and modern impression. Royal worshiper before a god on a throne; human-headed bulls below,ca. 1820–1730 B.C. Old Syrian

In the Old Assyrian Empire, Assyria established colonies in Anatolia and the Levant and, under king Ilu-shuma, it dominated southern Mesopotamia (what was later to become Babylonia). The first written inscriptions by urbanized Assyrian kings appear c. 2450 BC, after they had shrugged off Sumerian domination. The land of Assyria as a whole then consisted of a number of city-states and small Semitic-speaking kingdoms, some of which were initially independent of Assyria. The foundation of the first major temple in the city of Aššur was traditionally ascribed to king Ushpia who reigned c. 2050 BC, possibly a contemporary of Ishbi-Erra of Isin and Naplanum of Larsa. He was reputedly succeeded by kings named Apiashal, Sulili, Kikkia and Akiya (died c. 2026 BC), of whom little is known, apart from much later mentions of Kikkiya constructing fortifications on the city walls, and building work on temples in Aššur.

Between c. 2500 BC and c. 2400 BC, Assyrian kings were pastoral leaders. The main rivals, neighbors or trading partners to early Assyrian kings between c. 2200 BC and c. 2000 BC would have been the Hattians and Hurrians to the north in Anatolia, the Gutian people, Lullubi and Turukkaeans to the east in the Zagros Mountains of the northwest Iranian Plateau, Elam to the southeast in what is now south central Iran, the Amorites to the west in what is today Syria, and their fellow Sumero-Akkadian city-states of southern Mesopotamia such as Isin, Kish, Ur, Eshnunna and Larsa.[10] Around 2400 BC, the Assyrians became subject to Sargon of Akkad, who united all the Sumero-Akkadian-speaking peoples of Mesopotamia under the Akkadian Empire, which lasted from c. 2334 BC to c. 2154 BC.[11] At that time, the Sumerians were eventually absorbed into the Akkadian (Assyro-Babylonian) population.[12][13] Assyria became a regionally powerful nation in the Old Assyrian Empire from c. 2100 BC to c. 1800 BC.

The Amorites had overrun the kingdoms of southern Mesopotamia and the Levant between c. 2100 BC and c. 1900 BC, but had hitherto been successfully repelled by the Assyrian kings during this period. However, Erishum II (c. 1818 BC – c. 1809 BC) was to be the last king of the dynasty of Puzur-Ashur I, founded c. 2025 BC. In c. 1808 BC he was deposed and the throne of Assyria was usurped by Shamshi-Adad I (c. 1809 BC – 1776 BC) in the expansion of Amorite tribes from the Khabur River delta in the north eastern Levant.

About 1800 BC, Assyria came into conflict with the newly created city state of Babylon, which eventually eclipsed the far older Sumero-Akkadian states and cities in the south such as Ur, Isin, Larsa, Kish, Nippur, Eridu, Lagash, Umma, Uruk, Akshak and Adab, and incorporated them into a greater Babylonia. Assyria remained untroubled by the emergence of the Hittites and Mitanni, both to the north of Assyria, and by the Kassites who had seized Babylon from its Amorite founders. After securing its borders on all sides, Assyria entered into a quiet and peaceful period in its history which lasted for two and a half centuries. The emergence of the Mitanni Empire in c. 1600 BC did eventually lead to a short period of sporadic Mitannian-Hurrian domination in c. 1500 BC. The Indo-European-speaking Mitanni are thought to have conquered and formed the ruling class over the indigenous Hurrians of eastern Anatolia. The Hurrians spoke their own Hurrian language, that was neither Semitic nor Indo-European.

Origin of name

File:NC Mesopotamia sites.jpg
Map showing the approximate location of the geographical region or heartland referred to as "Assyria" in what is today referred to as the Middle East.

"Assyria" is named after its first capital city, Assur. The city Assur is itself named after its patron deity, Ashur. Assyria was also sometimes known as "Azuhinum", prior to the rise of the city-state of Assur, after which it was referred to as "Aššūrāyu"." “Assyria” can also refer to the geographic region of the Assyrian homeland, roughly equivalent to the territory of the Old Assyrian Empire, and still the homeland of the indigenous Christian Assyrians. Scholars suggest that Subartu may have been an early name for Assyria proper along the Tigris river and further upriver into Upper Mesopotamia, although there are various other theories placing it sometimes a little further out to the north, west, and/or east within the Tigris–Euphrates river system.


Capital cities


Layout of Assur throughout the centuries.

Assur was the capital city of Assyria c. 2025 BC – c. 1754 BC and c. 1681 BC – c. 1379 BC. The oldest remains of the city were discovered in the foundations of the Ishtar temple, as well as at the Old Palace. In around 2025 BC, Puzur-Ashur I founded a new dynasty, and his successors such as Ilu-shuma, Erishum I and Sargon I left inscriptions regarding the building of temples to the gods Ashur, Adad and Ishtar in the city.

Assur developed rapidly into a center for trade, and trade routes led from the city to Anatolia, where merchants from Assur established trading colonies. These Assyrian colonies in Asia Minor were called karu, and traded mostly with tin and wool. In the city of Assur, the first great temples to the city god Ashur and the weather god Adad were erected. Assur was the capital of the empire of Shamshi-Adad I (c. 1754 BC – c. 1721 BC).

He expanded the city's power and influence beyond the Tigris River valley, creating what some regard as the first Assyrian Empire. In this period, the Great Royal Palace was built, and the temple of Ashur was expanded and enlarged with a ziggurat. This empire came to an end when Hammurabi, the Amorite king of Babylon, incorporated the city into his short-lived empire following the death of Ishme-Dagan I c. 1681 BC, and the next three Assyrian kings were regarded as vassals. A king named Adasi drove the Babylonians and Amorites from Assur and Assyria as a whole c. 1720 BC, however little is known of his successors. Renewed building activity is known a few centuries later, during the reign of a king Puzur-Ashur III, when the city was refortified and the southern quarters incorporated into the main city defenses.

Temples to the moon god Sin and the sun god Shamash were erected c. 1490 BC. The city was then subjugated by the king of Mitanni, Shaushtatar c. 1450 BC, who removed the gold and silver doors of the temple to his capital, Washukanni, as plunder.[14] Ashur-uballit I overthrew the Mitanni c. 1365 BC, and the Assyrians benefited from this development by taking control of the eastern portion of Mitanni territory, and later also annexing Hittite, Babylonian, Amorite and Hurrian territories.


Cylinder seal, ca. 1820–1730 B.C. Old Syrian

Shubat-Enlil was the capital city of Assyria c. 1754 BC – c. 1681 BC. Shubat-Enlil was known as Shekhna c. 2000 BC. The conquest of the region by Shamshi-Adad I (c. 1754 BC – c. 1721 BC of Assyria revived the abandoned site of Shekhna. He renamed it from Shekhna to Shubat-Enlil, meaning, "the residence of the god Enlil" in the Akkadian language.[15]

In the city a royal palace was built and a temple acropolis to which a straight paved street led from the city gate. There was also a planned residential area and the entire city was enclosed by a wall. The Babylonians were defeated and driven out of Assyria by the Assyrian king Adasi, however Shubat-Enlil was never reoccupied and the Assyrian capital city was transferred to its traditional home in Assur.

Among many important discoveries at Šubat-Enlil is an archive of 1,100 cuneiform clay tablets maintained by the rulers of the city. These tablets date to c. 1700 BC and record the dealings with other Mesopotamian states and how the city administration worked.[16] Šubat-Enlil was abandoned c. 1681 BC.

Other cities


Nineveh was an ancient Assyrian city of Upper Mesopotamia. The historic Nineveh is mentioned during the reign of Shamshi-Adad I (c. 1754 BC – c. 1721 BC) as a centre of worship for the god Ishtar, whose cult was responsible for the city's early importance. The goddess' statue was sent to the Egyptian Pharaoh Amenhotep III (c. 1386 BC – c. 1349 BC), by orders of the king of the Mitanni. The Assyrian city of Ninâ became one of Mitanni's vassals for half a century until c. 1378 BC.


Map showing central Anatolia during the kārum-period.

Assyrian merchants had established the karum (Akkadian: kārum "quay, port, commercial district", plural kārū, from Sumerian kar "fortification (of a harbor), break-water"[17][18][19]) small colonial settlements next to Anatolian cities which paid taxes to the rulers of the cities c. 1960 BC. Among them were: Kanesh, Ankuwa, and Ḫattuša. There were also smaller trade stations which were called mabartū. The number of karū and mabartū was probably around twenty. Early references to karū come from the Ebla tablets; in particular, a vizier known as Ebrium concluded the earliest treaty fully known to archaeology, known variously as the, "Treaty between Ebla and Assur", or the "Treaty with Abarsal".

Currency had not yet been invented, so Assyrian merchants used gold for wholesale trade and silver for retail trade during this time. Gold was considered eight times more valuable than silver. But there was one more metal, amutum, which was even more valuable than gold. Amutum is thought to be the newly discovered iron and was forty times more valuable than silver. The most important Anatolian export was copper, and the Assyrian merchants sold tin and clothing to Anatolia.

Karum Kanesh

View from lower town to the actual tell.

Assyrian merchants established a karum which was called, “Karum Kanesh”, meaning "merchant-colony city of Kanesh" in the Assyrian language c. 1974 BC – c. 1836 BC. The karum was set aside by local officials for the early Assyrian merchants to use without paying taxes, as long as the goods remained inside the karum. Kanesh appears to have served as "the administrative and distribution centre of the entire Assyrian colony network in Anatolia."[20] This important karum was inhabited by soldiers and merchants from Assyria for hundreds of years, who traded local tin and wool for luxury items, foodstuffs and spices, and, woven fabrics from the Assyrian homeland and from Elam. Craftsmen in Kanesh specialized in earthen drinking vessels, in the shapes of animals, that were often used for religious rituals.

Kanesh was destroyed by fire c. 1836 BC, which some attribute to the conquest of the city of Assur by the kings of Eshnunna; but Bryce blames it on the raid of Uhna. The inhabitants left most of their possessions behind, which were later to be found by modern archaeologists. The findings have included numerous baked-clay tablets, some of which were enclosed in clay envelopes stamped with cylinder seals. The documents record common activities such as trade between the Assyrian colony and the city state of Assur and between Assyrian merchants and local people. The trade was run by families rather than by the state.

The Kültepe texts are the oldest documents from Anatolia. Although they are written in Old Assyrian, the Hittite loanwords and names in these texts constitute the oldest record of any language of the Indo-European language family. Most of the archaeological evidence is typical of Anatolia rather than of Assyria, but the use of both cuneiform and the dialect is the best indication of Assyrian presence. To date, over 20,000 cuneiform tablets have been recovered from the site.[21][22] The destruction of Kaneš caused by the fire was so total that no wood survived for dendrochronological studies.

Kanesh is the result of several superimposed stratigraphic periods. New buildings were constructed on top of the remains of the earlier periods; thus, there is a deep stratigraphy from prehistoric times to the early Hittite period. Kaneš was rebuilt over the ruins of the old and again became a prosperous trade center c. 1798 BC – c. 1740 BC. This trade was under the control of Ishme-Dagan (c. 1721 BC – c. 1681 BC), who was put in control of Assur when his father, Shamshi-Adad I (c. 1754 BC – c. 1721 BC), conquered Ekallatum and Assur. Kanesh was again destroyed by fire which some attribute Kanesh's second burning to the fall of Assur, to other nearby kings, and eventually to Hammurabi of Babylon (c. 1696 BC – c. 1654 BC.)


Ankuwa was an ancient Hattian and Hittite settlement in central Anatolia. Along with Hattusa and Katapa, Ankuwa was one of the capital cities from which the Hittite kings reigned. Traveling from Hattusa, the royal entourage would arrive at Imralla on the first night, Hobigassa on the second, and Ankuwa on the third. Ankuwa has been linked to present-day Ankara for etymological reasons, but Hittite sources have been discovered to place the settlement along the southern bend of the Kızılırmak River. Alişar Hüyük, which has also been suggested as a location, is an archeological site near the present-day village of Alişar. Alişar Hüyük was occupied from the Copper Age (c. 5000 BC — c. 3300 BC) then well into the Bronze Age (c. 3300 BC – c. 1200 BC.) A number of Hittite-era cuneiform tablets written in the Old Assyrian cuneiform script of the Cappadocia-type have been found here. Mention in those tablets of “Ankuwa” has caused speculation that the archaeological site is the Ankuwa mentioned in other Hittite texts.

About twelve kilometers northwest of Alişar Hüyük is another important archaeological site named Çadır Höyük. Excavators of Çadır Höyük have identified this site tentatively with the Hittite city of Zippalanda.[23] Evidence of the first known settlement at Çadır Höyük has been radio-carbon dated to the Copper Age (c. 5000 BC – c. 3300 BC); nevertheless the occupation may well be even earlier than that, and go back to the New Stone Age (c. 5500 BC.) Çadır Höyük appears to have flourished during both the Middle Bronze Age (c. 2100 BC – c. 1550 BC) and Late Bronze Age (c. 1550 BC – c. 1200 BC.) The site was excavated from 1927 to 1932 by a team from the Oriental Institute of Chicago; excavation resumed in 1992, led by Ronald Gorny as part of the Alişar Regional Project, though most of the work has been at nearby Çadır Höyük.


Hattusa was the capital city of the Hittite Empire in the late Bronze Age. Its ruins lie near Boğazkale, within the great loop of the Kızılırmak River. At its peak, the city covered 1.8 km² and comprised an inner and outer portion, both surrounded by a massive and still visible course of walls erected during the reign of Suppiluliuma I. The inner city covered an area of some 0.8 km² and was occupied by a citadel with large administrative buildings and temples.

The landscape surrounding the city included rich agricultural fields and hill lands for pasture and for woods. Smaller woods are still found outside the city, but in ancient times, they were far more widespread. This meant the inhabitants had an excellent supply of timber when building their houses and other structures. The fields provided the people with a subsistence crop of wheat, barley and lentils. Flax was also harvested, but their primary source for clothing was wool. They also hunted deer in the forest, but this was probably a luxury reserved for the nobility. Domestic animals provided meat.

The earliest traces of settlement on the site are from c. 6000 BC. Before 2000 BC, a settlement of the apparently indigenous Hatti people was established on sites that had been occupied even earlier and referred to the site as Hattush. Merchants from Assur in Assyria established a trading post here, setting up in their own separate quarter of the city c. 1900 BC – c. 1700 BC. The center of their trade network was located in Karum Kanesh. Business dealings required record-keeping: the trade network from Assur introduced writing to Hattusa, in the form of cuneiform.

A carbonized layer apparent in excavations attests to the burning and ruin of the city of Hattusa c. 1700 BC. The responsible party appears to have been king Anitta from Kussara, who took credit for the act and erected an inscribed curse for good measure:

Whoever after me becomes king resettles Hattusas, let the Stormgod of the Sky strike him![24]

Only a generation later, a Hittite-speaking king had chosen the site as his residence and capital. The Hittite language had been gaining speakers at the Hattic language's expense for some time. The Hattic Hattus now became the Hittite Hattusa, and the king took the name of Hattusili I, the "one from Hattusa."

Modern estimates put the population of the city between forty-thousand and fifty-thousand at the peak; in the early period, the inner city housed a third of that number. The dwelling houses that were built with timber and mud bricks have vanished from the site, leaving only the stone-built walls of temples and palaces. Excavations suggest that Hattusa was gradually abandoned over a period of several decades as the Hittite empire disintegrated. One of the most important discoveries at the site has been the cuneiform royal archives of clay tablets, consisting of official correspondence and contracts, as well as legal codes, procedures for cult ceremony, oracular prophecies and literature of the ancient near east. Although the thirty-thousand or so clay tablets recovered from Ḫattuša form the main corpus of Hittite literature, archives have since appeared at other centres in Anatolia, such as Tabigga and Sapinuwa.


Around 2400 BC, Assyrian kings were pastoral leaders and like many nations in Mesopotamian history, Assyria was to a great extent, an oligarchy rather than a monarchy. Authority was considered to lie with Assur and the polity had three main centres of power—an assembly of elders, a hereditary ruler, and an eponym.

The šarrum

The ruler was not to be referred to with the usual Akkadian term for "king" (sharrum); that was instead reserved for the city's patron deity: Ashur.

The išši’ak Aššur

The ruler was designated as "the steward of Ashur" (išši’ak aššur) where the term for “steward” is borrowing from Sumerian ensí. Ensí is a Sumerian language title designating the ruler or prince of a city-state. The išši’ak Aššur presided over the assembly and carried out its decisions. Puzur-Ashur I's successors bore the title išši’ak Aššur, vice regent of the city's patron deity Ashur, as well as ensi.[25] The institution of the eponym and the formula iššiak Aššur lingered as ceremonial vestiges of this early system throughout the history of the Assyrian monarchy.[26]

The limmu

The limmu was annually elected by lot. Although picked by lot, there was most likely a limited group, such as the men of the most prominent families or perhaps members of the city assembly. The Assyrians used the name of the limmu for that year to designate the year on official documents. The limmu was responsible for the economic administration of the city which included the power to detain people and confiscate property. At the beginning of the reign of an Assyrian king, the limmu, an appointed royal official, would preside over the New Year festival at the capital city.

Eponym dating system

The eponym dating system was a calendar system for Assyria, for a period of over one thousand years. Every year was associated with the name, an eponym, of the limmu, the individual holding office. The dating system is thought to have originated in the ancient city of Assur, and remained the official dating system in Assyria until the end of the Neo-Assyrian Empire in 605 BC. The names of the limmu who became eponyms were chosen by lot, until c. 1000 BC it became a fixed rotation of officers headed by the king who constituted the limmu. The earliest known attestations of a year eponyms are at Karum Kanesh, and became used in other Assyrian colonies in Anatolia. Its spread was due to Shamshi-Adad I's unification of Upper Mesopotamia (c. 1754 BC — c. 1721 BC.)[27]



A very intimate cultural symbiosis developed between the Sumerian people and the Akkadian Empire, which included widespread bilingualism c. 2400 BC.[12] The influence of Sumerian on Akkadian (and vice versa) is evident in all areas, from lexical borrowing on a massive scale, to syntactic, morphological, and phonological convergence.[12] This has prompted scholars to refer to Sumerian and Akkadian c. 2400 BC as a sprachbund.[12] The Akkadian language gradually replaced Sumerian as the spoken language of Mesopotamia between c. 2400 BC and c. 2000 BC (the exact dating being a matter of debate),[13] but Sumerian continued to be used as a sacred, ceremonial, literary and scientific language. In ancient times, Assyrians spoke a dialect of the Akkadian language, an eastern branch of the Semitic languages. The first inscriptions, called Old Assyrian (OA), were made in the Old Assyrian period.[28]


Cuneiform script[nb 1] is one of the earliest systems of writing[29] distinguished by its wedge-shaped marks on clay tablets, made by means of a blunt reed for a stylus. Emerging in Sumer c. 3500 BC, cuneiform writing began as a system of pictograms. Around 3000 BC, the pictorial representations became simplified and more abstract as the number of characters in use grew smaller. The original Sumerian script was adapted for the writing of the Akkadian, Assyrian, and Hittite languages.

The cuneiform script underwent considerable changes over a period of more than two millennia. The image below shows the development of the sign SAG "head" (Borger nr. 184, U+12295 𒊕).

Evolution of the cuneiform sign SAG "head", 3000–1000 BC


  1. shows the pictogram as it was drawn c. 3000 BC.
  2. shows the rotated pictogram as written c. 2800 BC.
  3. shows the abstracted glyph in archaic monumental inscriptions, from c. 2600 BC.
  4. is the sign as written in clay, contemporary to stage 3.
  5. represents c. 2000 BC.
  6. represents Old Assyrian ductus from c. 1990 BC, as adopted into Hittite.
  7. is the simplified sign as written by Assyrian scribes c. 1000 BC, and until the script's extinction.
Around 20,000 clay tablets were found at the site of Karum Kanesh. Such a large find indicates that the city had an extensive commercial quarter, where foreign Assyrian merchants lived and operated. Sent from Itur-ili in Assyria to Ennam-Ashur in Karum Kanesh, this letter concerns the important trade in precious metals. Itur-ili, the senior partner, offers wise words of advice to Ennam-Ashur: "This is important; no dishonest man must cheat you! So do not succumb to drink!" c. 1850 BC - c. 1700 BC (Old Assyrian)

The first documents unequivocally written in Sumerian date to c. 3000 BC at Jemdet Nasr. Originally, pictographs were either drawn on clay tablets in vertical columns with a sharpened reed stylus or incised in stone. This early style lacked the characteristic wedge shape of the strokes. Certain signs to indicate names of gods, countries, cities, vessels, birds, trees, etc., are known as determinatives, and were the Sumerian signs of the terms in question, added as a guide for the reader. Proper names continued to be usually written in purely "logographic" fashion.

The archaic cuneiform script was adopted by the Akkadian Empire from c. 2500 BC, and by 2000 BC had evolved into Old Assyrian cuneiform, with many modifications to Sumerian orthography. The Semitic languages employed equivalents for many signs that were distorted or abbreviated to represent new values because the syllabic nature of the script as refined by the Sumerians was not intuitive to Semitic speakers.

At this stage, the former pictograms were reduced to a high level of abstraction, and were composed of only five basic wedge shapes: horizontal, vertical, two diagonals and the Winkelhaken impressed vertically by the tip of the stylus. The signs exemplary of these basic wedges are

  • AŠ (B001, U+12038) 𒀸: horizontal;
  • DIŠ (B748, U+12079) 𒁹: vertical;
  • GE23, DIŠ tenû (B575, U+12039) 𒀹: downward diagonal;
  • GE22 (B647, U+1203A) 𒀺: upward diagonal;
  • U (B661, U+1230B) 𒌋: the Winkelhaken.

Except for the Winkelhaken which has no tail, the length of the wedges' tails could vary as required for sign composition.

Signs tilted by about 45 degrees are called tenû in Akkadian, thus DIŠ is a vertical wedge and DIŠ tenû a diagonal one. If a sign is modified with additional wedges, this is called gunû or "gunification;" if signs are crosshatched with additional Winkelhaken, they are called šešig; if signs are modified by the removal of a wedge or wedges, they are called nutillu. KAxGUR7 (𒅬); the KA sign (𒅗) was a Sumerian compound marker, and appears frequently in ligatures enclosing other signs. GUR7 is itself a ligature of SÍG.AḪ.ME.U, meaning "to pile up; grain-heap" (Akkadian kamāru; karû).

"Typical" signs have usually in the range of about five to ten wedges, while complex ligatures can consist of twenty or more (although it is not always clear if a ligature should be considered a single sign or two collated but still distinct signs); the ligature KAxGUR7 consists of 31 strokes. Most later adaptations of Sumerian cuneiform preserved at least some aspects of the Sumerian script. Written Akkadian included phonetic symbols from the Sumerian syllabary, together with logograms that were read as whole words. Many signs in the script were polyvalent, having both a syllabic and logographic meaning. The complexity of the system bears a resemblance to Old Japanese, written in a Chinese-derived script, where some of these Sinograms were used as logograms, and others as phonetic characters.

This "mixed" method of writing continued throughout the Old Assyrian Period, although there were periods when "purism" was in fashion and there was a more marked tendency to spell out the words laboriously, in preference to using signs with a phonetic complement. Hittite cuneiform is an adaptation of the Old Assyrian cuneiform of c. 1800 BC to the Hittite language. When the cuneiform script was adapted to writing Hittite, a layer of Akkadian logographic spellings was added to the script, thus the pronunciations of many Hittite words which were conventionally written by logograms are now unknown. The complexity of the system prompted the development of a number of simplified versions of the script. Old Persian cuneiform was written as a semi-alphabetic syllabary, using far fewer wedge strokes than Assyrian used, together with a handful of logograms for frequently occurring words like "god" and "king."


The Assyrians, like the rest of the Mesopotamian peoples, followed the ancient Mesopotamian religion, with the national god Assur having pride of place at the head of the Old Assyrian Empire. Other major gods within the pantheon of the Old Assyrian Empire were: Ishtar, Adad, Sin, Ninurta, Nergal, and Ninlil. Assyrian architecture, like that of Babylonia, was influenced by Sumero-Akkadian styles (and to some degree Mitanni), but early on developed its own distinctive style. Palaces sported colorful wall decorations, and seal-cutting (an art learned from Mittani) developed apace. Schools for scribes taught both the Babylonian and Assyrian dialects of the Akkadian language, and Sumerian and Akkadian literary works were often copied with an Assyrian flavor.



Ashur was the head of the Assyrian pantheon in Mesopotamian religion, worshipped mainly in Upper Mesopotamia which constituted old Assyria. Ashur was a deified form of the city of Assur, which dates from c. 2600 BC and was the capital city of the Old Assyrian Empire.[30] During the various periods of Assyrian conquest, such as the Upper Mesopotamian Empire of Shamshi-Adad I (c. 1754 BC – c. 1721 BC) Assyrian imperial propaganda proclaimed the supremacy of Ashur and declared that the conquered peoples had been abandoned by their gods. Ashur did not originally have a family, but as the cult came under the influence of Lower Mesopotamia, he came to be regarded as the Assyrian equivalent of Enlil, the chief god of Nippur, which was the most important god of Lower Mesopotamia's pantheon from c. 2990 BC until Hammurabi of Babylon (c. 1696 BC – c. 1654 BC) founded the Paleo-Babylonian Empire, after which Marduk replaced Enlil as the chief god in Lower Mesopotamia. In Upper Mesopotamia, Ashur absorbed Enlil's wife Ninlil and his sons Ninurta and Zababa—this process began c. 1390 BC.

The symbols of Ashur include:

1. A winged disc with horns, enclosing four circles revolving round a middle circle; rippling rays fall down from either side of the disc. 2. A circle or wheel, suspended from wings, and enclosing a warrior drawing his bow to discharge an arrow. 3. The same circle; the warrior's bow; however, is carried in his left hand, while the right hand is uplifted as if to bless his worshippers. An Assyrian standard, which probably represented the world column, has the disc mounted on a bull's head with horns. The upper part of the disc is occupied by a warrior, whose head, part of his bow, and the point of his arrow protrude from the circle. The rippling water rays are V-shaped, and two bulls, treading river-like rays, occupy the divisions thus formed. There are also two heads—a lion's and a man's—with gaping mouths, which may symbolize tempests, the destroying power of the sun, or the sources of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Jastrow regards the winged disc as "the purer and more genuine symbol of Ashur as a solar deity.” He calls it, “a sun disc with protruding rays," and says, "to this symbol the warrior with the bow and arrow was added—a despiritualization that reflects the martial spirit of the Assyrian empire."[31]


Adad was the weather god in ancient Mesopotamian religion. In some texts Adad is sometimes son of the moon god Sin by Ningal and brother of Shamash and Ishtar. He is also occasionally son of Enlil. Adad's consort was Shala, a goddess of grain, who is also sometimes associated with the god Dagana. Adad's special animal is the bull.

Adad presents two aspects in the hymns, incantations, and votive inscriptions. On the one hand he is the god who, through bringing on the rain in due season, causes the land to become fertile, and, on the other hand, the storms that he sends out bring havoc and destruction. He is pictured on monuments and cylinder seals (sometimes with a horned helmet) with the lightning and the thunderbolt (sometimes in the form of a spear), and in the hymns the sombre aspects of the god on the whole predominate. His association with the sun-god, Shamash, due to the natural combination of the two deities who alternate in the control of nature, leads to imbuing him with some of the traits belonging to a solar deity. Shamash and Adad became in combination the gods of oracles and of divination in general.


Dynasty of Puzur-Ashur I

Puzur-Ashur I (c. 2025 BC) is speculated to have overthrown Kikkia and founded an Assyrian dynasty which was to survive for eight generations (or 216 years) until Erishum II was overthrown by the Amorite Shamshi-Adad I. Puzur-Ashur I's descendants left with inscriptions mentioning him regarding the building of temples to gods such as Ashur, Adad and Ishtar in Assyria. The length of Puzur-Ashur I's reign is unknown. Puzur-Ar I's clearly Assyrian name (meaning "servant of Ashur") distinguishes him from his three immediate predecessors on the Assyrian King List, who possibly bore non-Semitic names, and from the earlier, Amorite-named "Kings who are ancestors" (also translatable as "Kings whose fathers are known"), often interpreted as a list of Shamshi-Adad's ancestors. Hildegard Levy, writing in the Cambridge Ancient History, rejects this interpretation and sees Puzur-Ashur I as part of a longer dynasty started by one of his predecessors, Sulili. Inscriptions link Puzur-Ashur I to his immediate successors, who, according to the Assyrian King List, are related to the following kings down to Erishum II.

Shalim-ahum (c. 2025 BC – c. 1995 BC),[32] son and successor of Puzur-Ashur I,[33] is the earliest independent ruler to be attested in a contemporary inscription. Carved in curious archaic character mirror-writing in old Assyrian on an alabaster block found during the German excavations at Assur under Walter Andrae, this sole exemplar of his contemporary inscriptions records that the god Ashur “requested of him” the construction of a temple and that he had “beer vats and storage area” built in the “temple area.”[34]:6–7 He ruled during a period when nascent Assyrian merchant companies were branching out into Anatolia to trade textiles and tin from Assur for silver.[32] Shalim-ahum and his successors bore the title išši’ak aššur, vice regent of Assur, as well as ensí.[25]

Ilu-shuma, inscribed DINGIR-šum-ma[i 1] (c. 1945 BC – c. 1906 BC), son and successor of Shalim-ahum,[34]:7–8 and is known from his inscription (extant in several copies) where he claims to have "washed the copper" and "established liberty" for the Akkadians in the Sumerian city-states Ur, Nippur, and Der. This has been taken by some scholars to imply that he made military campaigns into Southern Mesopotamia to relieve his fellow Mesopotamians from Amorite and Elamite invasions. However, the historian M. Trolle Larsen has suggested that this represented an attempt to lure traders from the south of Assur with tax privileges and exemptions, to monopolize the exchange of copper from the gulf for tin from the east. The cities cited therefore are the three major caravan routes the commodities would have traveled rather than campaign routes for the king. His construction activities included building the old temple of Ishtar, a city wall, subdivision of the city into house plots and diversion of the flow of two springs to the city gates, “Aushum” and “Wertum”.

Erishum I (inscribed me-ri-šu, or mAPIN-ìš in later texts but always with an initial i in his own seal, inscriptions, and those of his immediate successors,[35]:40 “he has desired,”[36]) (c. 1906 BC – c. 1876 BC), son and successor of Ilu-shuma, vigorously expanded Assyrian colonies in Asia Minor during his long reign. It was during his reign that karums were established along trade routes into Anatolia in the lower city of Kanesh, Amkuwa, Hattusa, and eighteen other locations yet to be identified, some designated warbatums, satellites of and subordinate to the karums. The markets traded tin, textiles, lapis lazuli, iron, antimony, copper, bronze, wool, and grain. His numerous contemporary inscriptions commemorate his building of the temple for Assur, called “Wild Bull,” with its courtyard. Erishum I's other civic constructions included the temples of Ishtar and that of Adad.

Ikunum (c. 1876 BC – c. 1861 BC), son and successor of Ilu-shuma, built a major temple for the god Ningal.[37] He further strengthened the fortifications of the city of Assur and maintained Assyria's colonies in Asia Minor.[38] The following are the sixteen annual limmu officials from the year of accession of Ikunum to his death:[39] Buzi son of Adad-rabi (c. 1876), Shuli son of Shalmah (c. 1875), Iddin-Suen son of Shalmah (c. 1874), Ikunum son of Shudaya (c. 1873), Dan-Wer son of Ahu-ahi (c. 1872), Shu-Anum from Nerabtim (c. 1871), Il-massu son of Ashur-tab (c. 1870), Shu-Hubur son of Shuli (c. 1869), Idua son of Shulili (c. 1868), Laqip son of Puzur-Laba (c. 1867), Shu-Anum the hapirum (c. 1866), Uku son of Bila (c. 1865), Ashur-malik son of Panaka (c. 1864), Dan-Ashur son of Puzur-Wer (c. 1863), Shu-Kubum son of Ahu-ahi (c. 1862), Irishum son of Iddin-Ashur (c. 1861).

Sargon I or Šarru-kīn I (c. 1861 BC – c. 1822 BC), son and successor of Ikunum, reigned as king of the Old Assyrian Empire. Sargon I might have been named after Sargon of Akkad. The name “Sargon” means “the king is legitimate” in Akkadian.[40] Sargon I is known for his work refortifying Assur.[41] Very little is known about this king.[42]

Puzur-Ashur II (c. 1822 BC – c. 1814 BC), son and successor of Sargon I, was king of the Old Assyrian Empire for eight years. Due to his father's long reign he came to the throne at a late age since one of his sons, named Ili-bani, was a witness in a contract (and so already a grown man) eleven years before Puzur-Ashur II became ruler.

Naram-Sin or Narām–Suen, inscribed in cuneiform on contemporary seal impressions as dna-ra-am-dEN.ZU, was the ensí or waklum of Aššur (da-šùr), listed as the thirty-seventh king of Assyria on the later Assyrian King Lists, where he is inscribed mna-ram-dEN.ZU,[i 2][i 3][i 4] or a fragmentary list where he appears as -d30.[i 5] (c. 1814 BC – c. 1760 BC), son and successor of Puzur-Ashur II, was named for the illustrious Naram-Sin of Akkad and, like his grandfather, Sargon I, took the divine determinative in his name. He should not be confused with the Naram-Sin who ruled Eshnunna for around twelve years, the successor and son, as identified on an inscription, of the long-reigning Ebiq-Adad II.[43] The city-state of Assur which he had inherited would have been fairly wealthy as the hub of the trading network at the height of the Old Assyrian Empire's activity and, despite the destruction of the trading post at Kanesh partway through his reign, commerce apparently continued elsewhere.[44]:46 The Assyrian King List records that Shamshi-Adad I, “went away to Babylonia in the time of Narām-Sîn.” Shamshi-Adad I was not to return until taking Ekallatum, pausing three years and then overthrowing Erishum II (c. 1760 BC – c. 1754 BC), son and successor of Naram-Sin.[45]

Map showing the political situation around Assyria (olive green) near the other contemporary great powers of the region such as: Babylonia, Mari, Eshnunna, Andarig, Yamhad, and Qatna before the conquests of Shamshi-Adad I (c. 1754 BC — c. 1721 BC.)

Upper Mesopotamian Empire

Map showing the approximate extent of the Upper Mesopotamian Empire at the death of Shamshi-Adad I c. 1721 BC.

Shamshi-Adad I (c. 1754 BC – c. 1721 BC), son of Ila-kabkabu, inherited the throne in Ekallatum from his father c. 1785 BC. Shamshi-Adad I was forced to flee to Babylon while Naram-Suen of Eshnunna attacked Ekallatum c. 1761 BC. Shamshi-Adad I conquered Assur,[46] took over the long-abandoned town of Shekhna in north-eastern Syria,[47] converted it into the capital city of his Upper Mesopotamian Empire, renamed it to Shubat-Enlil, and emerged as the first Amorite king of Assyria c. 1754 BC. Shamshi-Adad I placed his sons in key geographical locations and gave them responsibility to look over those areas. While he remained in Šubat-Enlil, his eldest son, Ishme-Dagan I was put on the throne of Ekallatum.

A main target for expansion was the city Mari, which controlled the caravan route between Anatolia and Mesopotamia. The king of Mari, Iakhdunlim, was assassinated by his own servants, possibly on Shamshi-Adad I's orders. Shamshi-Adad I seized the opportunity and occupied Mari c. 1741 BC. Shamshi-Adad I put his second son, Yasmah-Adad on the throne in Mari,[46] and then returned to Shubat-Enlil. With the annexation of Mari, Shamshi-Adad was in control of a large empire,[48] controlling the whole of Upper Mesopotamia.

While Ishme-Dagan I probably was a competent ruler, his brother Yasmah-Adad appears to have been a man of weak character; something the disappointed father was not above mentioning. Shamshi-Adad I clearly kept a firm control on the actions of his sons, as shown in his many letters to them. At one point he arranged a political marriage between Yasmah-Adad to Beltum, the princess of his ally in Qatna. Yasmah-Adad already had a leading wife and put Beltum in a secondary position of power.[46] Shamshi-Adad I did not approve and forced his son to keep Beltum in the palace in a leading position.

Dadusha, a king of the neighbouring state Eshnunna, made an alliance with Shamshi-Adad I in order to conquer the area between the two Zab rivers c. 1727 BC. This military campaign of joint forces was commemorated on a victory stele which states that Dadusha gives the lands to Shmshi-Adad I. Shamshi-Adad I later turned against Dadusha by attacking cities including Shaduppum and Nerebtum. After the death of Shamshi-Adad I, Eshnunna captured cities around Assur.[46] Shamsi-Adad I's rise to glory was envied by neighbouring kings and tribes, and throughout his reign, he and his sons faced several threats to their control.

Ishme-Dagan I (c. 1721 BC – c. 1681 BC), son and successor of Shamshi-Adad I, held the capital city of his realm of influence in Ekallatum and ruled over the southeastern region of Upper Mesopotamia, including the city-state Assur. Ishme-Dagan I's main challenge was in keeping his enemies in check; to his east were the foothills of the Zagros Mountains, inhabited by warlike pastoral peoples, and to the south was the Mesopotamian kingdom of Eshnunna. Although his father counted Ishme-Dagan I as politically astute and a capable soldier, commending him as he berated Yasmah-Adad in their letters, Ishme-Dagan I was not able to hold his father's empire for long after his father died. Ishme-Dagan I eventually lost most of his domain, and was reduced to holding Assur and Ekallatum, despite waging several counter offensives to try to regain the upper Khabur area.

First Dynasty of Babylon

Map of the Ancient Near East showing the city-state Assur within the territory of the First Dynasty of Babylon during the reign of King Hammurabi's son and successor, Samsu-iluna (light green) c. 1654 BC.

Mut-Ashkur (c. 1681 BC – c. 1671 BC), son and successor of Ishme-Dagan I, was arranged by his father to marry the daughter of the Hurrian king Zaziya.[49] Hammurabi of Babylon (c. 1696 BC — c. 1654 BC), after first conquering Mari, Larsa, and Eshnunna, eventually prevailed over Mut-Ashkur. With Hammurabi, the various kārum colonies in Anatolia ceased trade activity—probably because the goods of Assyria were now being traded with the Babylonians. The Assyrian monarchy survived; however, the three Amorite kings succeeding Ishme-Dagan I (including Mut-Ashkur) were vassals and dependent on the Babylonians during the reign of Hammurabi.

Rimush, inscribed mri-mu-u[š] on the only variant king list on which he appears,[i 6] (c. 1671 BC – c. 1665 BC), a successor to and probably a descendant of Išme-Dagān I, would appear to be named for the second king of the Akkadian Empire Rimush of Akkad (c. 2214 BC – c. 2206 BC). This perhaps reflects the extent to which Shamshi-Adad and his successors identified with the prestigious Dynasty of Akkad, although the earlier Rimush was apparently assassinated by his own courtiers, “with their seals”, according to a liver-omen of the monumental Bārûtu series, a somewhat ignominious end.[50] The events resulting in the demise of the dynasty are witnessed in only one inscription, that of Puzur-Sin, who boasted of overthrowing the son of Asinum, descendant of Shamshi-Adad I, whose name has not been preserved.[51] This may have been Rimush, or if Asinum followed him, perhaps his grandson. The result was apparently turmoil as a rapid succession of seven usurpers took power, each reigning briefly before being overthrown.

Asinum (c. 1665 BC), possibly successor or descendant to either Rimush or Mut-Ashkur, was an Amorite king driven out by the Assyrian vice-regent Puzur-Sin; not included in the standard King List; however, attested in Puzur-Sin's inscription. Asinum is believed to had been a descendant of Shamshi-Adad who had founded the brief, foreign Amorite dynasty apparently greatly resented by the locals judging by an alabaster slab inscription left by Puzur-Sin. Puzur-Sin is believed to had been an otherwise unattested Assyrian monarch. Puzur-Sin deposed Asinum to allow for the Assyrian king Ashur-dugul to seize the throne. A period of civil war followed this event which ended Babylonian and Amorite influence in Assyria c. 1665 BC.

Ashur-dugul, inscribed maš-šur-du-gul, “Look to (the god) Ashur!”, (c. 1665 BC – c. 1659 BC), apparently, “son of a nobody”, seized the throne from the three unpopular Amorite vassals. The Assyrian King List says of Ashur-dugul that he was a “son of a nobody, without right to the throne” meaning that he was not of royal descent and consequently unqualified to govern according to the patrilineal principle of legitimacy relied upon by later monarchs. During Ashur-dugul's reign six other kings, “sons of nobodies also ruled at the time”. This may suggest a fragmentation in the small Assyrian kingdom, with rival claims to the throne. Ashur-dugul was unable to retain control for long, and was soon deposed by a rival claimant, Ashur-apla-idi.

Adasi (c. 1659 BC—c. 1640 BC), “son of a nobody”, was the last of the six kings who ruled during the reign of Ashur-dugul. He managed to quell the civil unrest and stabilize the situation in Assyria. During his reign, he completely drove the Babylonians and Amorites from the Assyrian sphere of influence. Babylonian power began to quickly wane in Mesopotamia as a whole to the Sealand Dynasty. The Adaside dynasty of Assyria was named after Adasi.

Adaside Dynasty

The short-lived Babylonian Empire quickly began to unravel upon the death of Hammurabi, and Babylonia lost control over Assyria during the reign of Hammurabi's successor Samsu-iluna (1750–1712 BC). A period of civil war ensued after Asinum (a grandson of Shamshi-Adad I and the last Amorite ruler of Assyria) was deposed in approximately 1732 BC by a powerful native Assyrian vice regent named Puzur-Sin, who regarded Asinum as both a foreigner and a former lackey of Babylon.

A native king named Ashur-dugul seized the throne in 1732 BC, probably with the help of Puzur-Sin. However, he was unable to retain control for long, and was soon deposed by a rival claimant, Ashur-apla-idi. Internal instability ensued with four further kings (Nasir-Sin, Sin-namir, Ipqi-Ishtar and Adad-salulu) all reigning in quick succession over a period of approximately six years between 1732 and 1727 BC. Babylonia seems to have been too powerless to intervene or take advantage of this situation.

Finally, a king named Adasi (1726–1701 BC) came to the fore c. 1726 BC and managed to quell the civil unrest and stabilize the situation in Assyria. Adasi completely drove the Babylonians and Amorites from the Assyrian sphere of influence during his reign, and Babylonian power began to quickly wane in Mesopotamia as a whole, also losing the far south of Mesopotamia (an area roughly corresponding to ancient Sumer) to the native Akkadian-speaking Sealand Dynasty, although the Amorites would retain control over a much reduced and weak Babylonia itself until 1595 BC, when they were overthrown by the Kassites, a people from the Zagros Mountains who spoke a language isolate and were neither Semites nor Indo-Europeans.

Adasi was an Assyrian king, the last in a line of seven kings designated by the Assyrian King List as usurpers of the Assyrian throne, who reigned from 1718–1699 BC after the ejection of the Amorite ruled Babylonians from Assyria. He is credited in the Assyrian King List with stabilising Assyria and freeing it from civil war and Amorite influence.[52] The Adaside dynasty of Assyria was named after him. He was succeeded by Bel-bani.

Adasi was succeeded by Bel-bani (1700–1691 BC) who is credited in Assyrian annals with inflicting further defeats on the Babylonians and Amorites, and further strengthening and stabilising the kingdom. Bel-bani, inscribed mdEN-ba-ni, “the Lord is the creator”, (c. 1640 BC – c. 1630 BC), son and successor of Adasi,) and was the first ruler of what was later to be called the dynasty of the Adasides.[53] His reign marks the inauguration of a new historical phase following the turmoil of the competing claims of the seven usurpers who preceded him. He was the 48th king to appear on the Assyrian King List and reigned for ten years.[54]

Libaya (c. 1630 BC – c. 1613 BC), successor and possibly either son or brother of Bel-bani, ruled over a relatively peaceful, secure, and stable Assyria[52] existing undisturbed by its neighbours such as the Hattians, Hittites, Hurrians, Amorites, Babylonians, Elamites, and Mitanni. He succeeded Bel-bani in the Adaside Dynasty which came to the fore after the ejection of the Babylonians and Amorites from Assyria.[55] Little is currently known of many of the kings that followed such as Sharma-Adad I (c. 1613 BC – c. 1602 BC), Iptar-Sin (c. 1602 BC – c. 1590 BC), Bazaya (c. 1590 BC – c. 1562 BC), Lullaya (c. 1562 BC – c. 1556 BC), Shu-Ninua (c. 1556 BC – c. 1542 BC), and Sharma-Adad II (c. 1542 BC – c. 1539 BC.)

Iptar-Sin, inscribed IB.TAR.Sîn [nb 2] (reading uncertain), (c. 1602 BC – c. 1590 BC) may have been a brother of both his predecessors Libaya and Bel-bani and was the 51st Assyrian king according to the Assyrian King List.[i 7] He reigned for 12 years some time during the 17th century BC.

Bazaya (c. 1590 BC – c. 1562 BC), son of either Iptar-Sin or Belu-bani, was the fifty-second king listed on the Assyrian King List. He reigned for twenty-eight years and has left no known inscriptions.[56]:30–31

Lullaya (c. 1562 BC – c. 1556 BC), “son of nobody,” was the fifty-third king of Assyria to be added to the Assyrian King List. He was a "son of a nobody", i.e., unrelated to a previous monarch, and reigned 6 years, from c. 1633 BC – c. 1627 BC, during a period when a rather diminished Assyria was overshadowed by its more powerful neighbor, the Mitanni.[57] Reade speculates that he may be identified with the earlier king, Ashur-dugul, on the basis of their similar lengths of reign and lack of royal parentage.[58]

Shu-Ninua (c. 1556 BC – c. 1542 BC), son of Bazaya, succeeded the presumed usurper, Lullaya. There are no contemporary inscriptions of his reign. He is recorded as having been a contemporary of Akurduana of the Second Dynasty of Babylon in the Synchronistic King List, rather than any supposed ruler from the Third Dynasty of Babylon. The Assyrian King List records that he reigned for fourteen years before being succeeded by his sons. His sons were Sharma-Adad II and Erishum III.

Shamshi-Adad II (c. 1529 BC – c. 1526 BC), son and successor of Shu-Ninua (c. 1542 BC – c. 1529 BC), is implausibly stated by the Synchronistic King List to have had eight different contemporary Kassite rulers. Ashur-nirari I (1547–1522 BC) seems not to have been troubled by the newly founded Mitanni Empire in Asia Minor, the Hittite empire, or Babylon during his 25-year reign. He is known to have been an active king, improving the infrastructure, dedicating temples and conducting various building projects throughout the kingdom.

Ishme-Dagan II (c. 1526 BC – c. 1510 BC), son and successor of Shamshi-Adad II, was a rather obscure ruler of Assyria in the midst of a Dark Age. He is only known from the Assyrian King List. The relationship with his successor is uncertain as the copies describe Shamshi-Adad III's father as Ishme-Dagan II, the brother of Sharma-Adad II, who was in turn the son of Shu-Ninua. This Ishme-Dagan, however, has his filiation clearly given as son of Shamshi-Adad II. This led Yamada to suggest that Shamshi-Adad III's father was a different homonymous individual from a collateral line of descent from Shu-Ninua.

Ashur-nirari I (c. 1510 BC – c. 1484 BC), son and successor of Ishme-Dagan II, The Synchronistic King List gives his Babylonian contemporary as Kashtiliashu III. Evidence of his construction activities survives, with four short inscriptions commemorating work building the temple of Bel-ibrīia on bricks recovered from an old ravine, restoring the Abaru forecourt and rebuilding the Sin-Shamash temple. He ruled in a peaceful and uneventful period of Assyrian history between the overthrow of the Babylonians and Amorites by Puzur-Sin c. 1732 BC and the rise of the Mitanni in c. 1450 BC.

Puzur-Ashur III (c. 1484 BC – c. 1460 BC), son and successor of Ashur-narari I, is the first Assyrian king to appear in the synchronistic history, where he is described as a contemporary of Burnaburiash of Babylon. He undertook much rebuilding work in Assur, the city was refortified and the southern quarters incorporated into the main city defenses. Temples to the moon god Sin (Nanna) and the sun god Shamash were erected during his reign. He signed a treaty with Burna-Buriash I the Kassite king of Babylon, defining the borders of the two nations in the late 16th century BC. He was succeeded by Enlil-nasir I (1497–1483 BC) who appears to have had a peaceful and uneventful reign, as does his successor Nur-ili (1482–1471 BC).

Enlil-nasir I (c. 1484 BC – c. 1460 BC), son and successor of Puzur-Ashur III, is mentioned in the Synchronistic King List, but the name of the Babylonian counterpart is illegible. His name is present on two clay cones from Assur.

Nur-ili (c. 1460 BC – c. 1448 BC), son and successor of Enlil-nasir I, was the king of Assyria.

Ashur-shaduni (c. 1448 BC), son and successor of Nur-ili, was the ruler of Assyria for just "one complete month". There remains uncertainty concerning the dating of his accession, as the two subsequent Assyrian kings have unknown reign lengths, effectively disconnecting him and his predecessors from the firmer chronology of the later Assyrian King List. Although there are no extant contemporary inscriptions for him or his immediate predecessor or successors, his name appears on two of the Assyrian King Lists and faintly at the end of the first column of the Synchronistic King List, level with where one of the successors' to Kassite Babylonian king Kashtiliashu III might be supposed to appear. The King Lists describe his overthrow: "from the throne, he deposed, the throne he seized".

Ashur-rabi I (c. 1448 BC – c. 1430 BC), son of Enlil-nasir I, seized the throne after a coup against Assur-shadduni.

Assyria remained strong and secure; when Babylon was sacked and its Amorite rulers deposed by the Hittite Empire, and subsequently fell to the Kassites in 1595 BC, both powers were unable to make any inroads into Assyria, and there seems to have been no trouble between the first Kassite ruler of Babylon, Agum II, and Erishum III (1598–1586 BC) of Assyria, and a mutually beneficial treaty was signed between the two rulers.


Map of the Ancient Near East showing the city-state Assur within the territory of the Mitanni at their maximum extent. The Mitanni heartland (dark purple) and the approximate maximal extension of the Mitanni dominion (light purple) c. 1430 BC.

The emergence of the Mitanni c. 1500 BC eventually led to a short period of sporadic Mitanni domination c. 1450 BC. The Indo-European-language-family-speaking Mitanni are thought to have conquered and formed the ruling class over the indigenous Hurrians in eastern Anatolia. The Hurrians had spoken a language isolate, one neither of the Afroasiatic language family nor the Indo-European language family. There are dozens of Mesopotamian cuneiform texts from this period, with precise observations of solar and lunar eclipses, that have been used as "anchors" in the various attempts to define the chronology of Babylonia and Assyria between c. 2000 BC – c. 1300 BC.)

Ashur-nadin-ahhe I (c. 1430 BC – c. 1415 BC), son and successor of Ashur-rabi I, was courted by the Egyptian Empire, which was a rival of the Mitanni, and attempting to gain a foothold in the Ancient Near East. Amenhotep II sent the Assyrian king a gift of gold to seal an alliance against the Mitanni. It is likely that this alliance prompted Saushtatar, the ruler of the Mitanni, to invade Assyria, and sack its capital city, after which Assyria had become a vassal state, with Ashur-nadin-ahhe I being forced to pay tribute to Shaushtatar. After a fifteen-year-long rule, Ashur-nadin-ahhe I was overthrown by his brother Enlil-Nasir II (c. 1415 BC – c. 1409 BC). Ashur-nirari II, inscribed maš-šur-ERIM.GABA (=DÁḪ), "Ashur is my help,"[59] (c. 1409 BC – c. 1402 BC), son and successor of Enlil-nasir II, ruled over Assyria in a time when it was still recovering from the sack of Assur by the Mitanni ruler Shaushtatar. According to the Khorsabad Kings List,[i 8] Ashur-nerari II reigned for seven years, the corresponding columns on the Nassouhi Kings List and SDAS Kings List are damaged at this point.[60] A legal text[i 9] from Assur is dated to the, “eponym of Ber-nadin-ahhe, son of Ashur-nerari II, supreme judge”, and another gives the witness, “Shamash-kidinnu, son of Ibashi-ilu, son of Ber-nadin-hhe, supreme judge”. Ashur-nerari II had an uneventful reign, and appears to have also paid tribute to the Mitanni. The Assyrian monarchy survived, and the Mitanni influence appears to had been sporadic. They appear not to have been always willing or indeed able to interfere in Assyrian internal and international affairs.

Ashur-bel-nisheshu, inscribed mdaš-šur-EN-UN.MEŠ--šú,[i 10][i 11][i 12] and meaning “Ashur is lord of his people,”[59]:171 (c. 1402 BC – c. 1394 BC) also undertook extensive rebuilding work in Assur itself. Assyria appears to had redeveloped its former highly sophisticated financial and economic systems during his reign, and to have been independent of Mitanni influence, as evidenced by his signing a mutually beneficial treaty with Karaindash, the Kassite king of Babylonia c. 1400 BC. Ashur-bel-nisheshu succeeded his father, Ashur-nerari II, to the throne. As was the practice during this period of the Assyrian monarchy, he modestly titled himself, “vice-regent”, or išši'ak Aššur, of the god Ashur.[56]:38 §236–240 The Synchronistic Chronicle[i 13] records his apparently amicable territorial treaty with Karaindash, king of Babylon, and recounts that they “took an oath together concerning this very boundary”.[61]:158, 209 His numerous clay cone inscriptions (line art for an example pictured) celebrate his re-facing of Puzur-Ashur III’s wall of the “New City” district of Assur.[56]

Ashur-rim-nisheshu, inscribed mdaš-šur-ÁG-UN.MEŠ-šu, meaning “Ashur loves his people”,[59]:209 was ruler of Assyria, or išši’ak Aššur, “vice-regent of Assur”, written in Sumerian: PA.TE.SI (=ÉNSI), (c. 1394 BC – c. 1387 BC), son and successor of Assur-bel-nisheshu II, is best known for his reconstruction of the inner city wall of Assur. All three extant Assyrian King Lists give his filiation as, “son of Ashur-bel-nisheshu", the monarch who immediately preceded him, but this is contradicted by the sole extant contemporary inscription, a clay nail giving a dedicatory inscription for the reconstruction of the wall of the inner city of Assur, which gives his father as Assur-nerari II,[62] the same as his predecessor who was presumably therefore his brother. With Ber-nadin-aye, another son of Assur-nerari who was given the title, "supreme judge", it seems he may have been the third of Assur-nerari's sons to rule.[63] The clay nail identifies the previous restorers as Kikkia (c. 2100 BC), Ikunum (c. 1876 BC – c. 1861 BC), Sargon I (c. 1861 BC – c. 1822 BC), Puzur-Ashur II (c. 1822 BC – c. 1814 BC), and Ashur-nirari I (c. 1510 BC – c. 1484 BC.)[64]

Ashur-nadin-ahhe II, whose name is a personal Assyrian name meaning “Ashur has given a brother” (c. 1387 BC – c. 1378 BC), also received a gift of gold and diplomatic overtures from the Egyptian Empire, probably in an attempt to gain Assyrian military support against the Egyptian Empire's rivals in West Asia: the Hittite Empire and the Mitanni. However, the Assyrian king appears to have been in a strong enough position to challenge neither the Mitanni nor the Hittites. Two Assyrian kings ruling between c. 1430 BC – c. 1379 BC were called Ashur-nadin-ahhe. Hardly anything is known about these kings, but one of them is mentioned in one of the Amarna letters. In the letter from king Ashur-uballit I of Assyria to the pharaoh of the Egyptian Empire, numbered EA 16, Ashur-nadin-ahhe II is referred to as his ancestor who wrote to Egypt and received gold in return. This would imply an earlier diplomatic alliance between Assyria and Egypt during his reign. The name Ashur-nadin-ahhe II mentioned in EA 16 has been contested as a faulty writing of Ashur-nadin-apli, another Assyrian king.[65] He was succeeded by his brother, Eriba-Adad I, the first king of the Middle Assyrian Empire.[65]

See also


  1. Name used in Neo-Babylonian inscriptions, such as the Rassam cylinder of Ashurbanipal
  2. Rassam cylinder transcription in "CDLI-Archival View". cdli.ucla.edu.
  3. "The country of Assyria, which in the Assyro-Babylonian literature is known as mat Aššur (ki), “land of Assur,” took its name from the ancient city of Aššur" in Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume II Slice VII - "Assur" entry. 1911.
  4. "rinap/rinap4". oracc.museum.upenn.edu.
  5. "The name Anshar, softened into Aushar, and subsequently into Ashshur, was first applied to the town and then to the whole country" in Sayce, A. H. (2005). History of Egypt, Chald_a, Syria, Babylonia, and Assyria, Volume 6 (of 12). Library of Alexandria. p. 223. ISBN 978-1-4655-4330-1.
  6. Pongratz-Leisten, Beate (2015). Religion and Ideology in Assyria. Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co KG. p. 110. ISBN 978-1-61451-426-8.
  7. Quentin, A. (1895). "Inscription Inédite du Roi Assurbanipal: Copiée Au Musée Britannique le 24 Avril 1886". Revue Biblique (1892-1940). 4 (4): 554. ISSN 1240-3032. JSTOR 44100170.
  8. "Sumerian dictionary entry: Aššur [ASSYRIA] (GN)". oracc.iaas.upenn.edu.
  9. Albert Kirk Grayson (1972). Assyrian Royal Inscriptions: Volume I. Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz. p. 108. §716.
  10. Georges Roux (1964), Ancient Iraq[page needed]
  11. Georges Roux (1964), Ancient Iraq, pp. 161–191.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 Deutscher, Guy (2007). Syntactic Change in Akkadian: The Evolution of Sentential Complementation. Oxford University Press US. pp. 20–21. ISBN 978-0-19-953222-3.
  13. 13.0 13.1 Woods C. 2006 "Bilingualism, Scribal Learning, and the Death of Sumerian". In S. L. Sanders (ed) Margins of Writing, Origins of Culture: 91–120 Chicago [1]
  14. "Ashur". World History Encyclopedia. Retrieved 29 May 2016.
  15. Harvey Weiss, Tell Leilan and Shubat Enlil, Mari, Annales de Recherches Interdisciplinaires, vol. 4, pp. 269-92, 1985
  16. Jesper Eidem, with a contribution by Lauren Ristvet and Harvey Weiss: The Royal Archives from Tell Leilan. Old Babylonian Letters and Treaties from the Lower Town Palace East (PIHANS 117). The Netherlands Institute for the Near East, Leiden, 2011.
  17. Rubio, Gonzalo (2 February 2005). "Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2005.02.02". Bryn Mawr Classical Review. Bryn Mawr College. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 14 August 2014.
  18. Eilers, W. (15 December 1988). "BANDAR ("Harbor")". Encyclopaedia Iranica. Ehsan Yarshater. Retrieved 14 August 2014.
  19. Jagersma, Bram (2007). "Review of: Sumerian grammar / by Dietz Otto Edzard". Zeitschrift für Assyriologie 97 (2007): 142-147. Leiden, Netherlands: Academia, Inc. Retrieved 14 August 2014.
  20. Bryce, Trevor (2005). Kingdom of the Hittites: New Edition. Oxford University Press. p. 37. ISBN 0199281327.
  21. E. Bilgic and S Bayram, Ankara Kultepe Tabletleri II, Turk Tarih Kurumu Basimevi, 1995, ISBN 975-16-0246-7
  22. K. R. Veenhof, Ankara Kultepe Tabletleri V, Turk Tarih Kurumu, 2010, ISBN 978-975-16-2235-8
  23. Site History Çadır Höyük Archaeological Project - www.cadirhoyuk.com
  24. Hamblin, William J. Warfare in the Ancient Near East to 1600 BC: Holy Warriors at the Dawn of History. New York: Routledge, 2006.
  25. 25.0 25.1 Barbara Cifola (1995). Analysis of variants in the Assyrian royal titulary from the origins to Tiglath-Pileser III. Istituto universitario orientale. p. 8.
  26. Larsen, Mogens Trolle (2000). "The old Assyrian city-state". In Hansen, Mogens Herman (ed.). A comparative study of thirty city-state cultures: an investigation / conducted by the Copenhagen Polis Centre. pp. 77–89.
  27. "Dating in Archaeology - NET".
  28. Georges Roux (1964), Ancient Iraq, p. 188
  29. Egyptian hieroglyphs also have a claim,Template:Original research inline and it is unsettled which system began first. See Visible Language. Inventions of Writing in the Ancient Middle East and Beyond, Oriental Institute Museum Publications, 32, Chicago: University of Chicago, p. 13, ISBN 978-1-885923-76-9
  30. Karel van der Toorn, Bob Becking, Pieter Willem van der Horst, Dictionary of deities and demons in the Bible, pp. 108–9
  31. Donald A. Mackenzie Myths of Babylonia and Assyria (1915), chapter 15: "Ashur the National God of Assyria"
  32. 32.0 32.1 J. A. Brinkman (2001). "Assyria". In Bruce Manning Metzger, Michael David Coogan (ed.). The Oxford companion to the Bible. Oxford University Press. p. 63.
  33. Albert Kirk Grayson (2002). Assyrian Rulers. Volume1: 1114 – 859 BC. p. 14.
  34. 34.0 34.1 Albert Kirk Grayson (1972). Assyrian Royal Inscriptions, Volume 1. Otto Harrassowitz. pp. 6–8.
  35. K. R. Veenhof (2003). The Old Assyrian List of Year Eponyms from Karum Kanish and its Chronological Implications. Turkish Historical Society. pp. 40, 3–10.
  36. E. Frahm (1998). K. Radner (ed.). The Prosopography of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, Volume 1, Part II: A. The Neo-Assyrian Text Corpus Project. p. 404.
  37. Rogers, Robert (2003). A History of Babylonia and Assyria. Lost Arts Media. ISBN 978-1-59016-317-7.
  38. Bertman, Stephen (2005). Handbook to Life in Ancient Mesopotamia. New York: Oxford UP. p. 88.
  39. Cahit Günbattı, An Eponym List (KEL G) from Kültepe Altoriental. Forsch. 35 (2008) 1, 103-132.
  40. Chavalas, Mark William (29 Jun 2006). The ancient Near East: historical sources in translation. Wiley-Blackwell. p. 23. ISBN 978-0-631-23580-4.
  41. Leick, Gwendolyn (2001). Who's Who in the Ancient Near East. Routledge. p. 139. ISBN 978-0-415-13231-2.
  42. Bromiley, Geoffrey (31 Dec 1996). The international standard Bible encyclopedia (Revised ed.). William B Eerdmans. ISBN 978-0-8028-3784-4.
  43. Stephanie Dalley, A. T. Reyes (1998). "Mesopotamian Contact and Influence in the Greek World". In Stephanie Dalley (ed.). The Legacy of Mesopotamia. Oxford University Press. p. 87.
  44. Klaas R. Veenhof (2003). The Old Assyrian List of Year Eponyns from Karum Kanish and its Chronological Implications. Turkish History Society.
  45. I. J. Gelb (1954). "Two Assyrian King Lists". Journal of Near Eastern Studies. 13 (4): 212–213. doi:10.1086/371224. S2CID 161512733.
  46. 46.0 46.1 46.2 46.3 Van De Mieroop, Marc (2004). A History of the Ancient Near East ca. 3000-323 BC (2nd ed.). Blackwell Publishing. p. 107. ISBN 9781405149112.
  47. Leilan.yale.edu, Harvey Weiss et al., The genesis and collapse of Third Millennium north Mesopotamian Civilization, Science, vol. 291, pp. 995-1088, 1993
  48. Some of the Mari letters addressed to Shamshi-Adad I by his son can be found in the Mari Letters section of Shaika Haya Ali Al Khalifa and Michael Rice (1986). Bahrain through the Ages. KPI. ISBN 0-7103-0112-X.
  49. Who's who in the ancient Near East By Gwendolyn Leick
  50. Ulla Koch-Westenholz (2000). Babylonian Liver Omens: The Chapters Manzazu, Padanu, and Pan Takalti of the Babylonian Extispicy Series Mainly from Assurbanipal's Library. Museum Tusculanum. p. 394.
  51. A. K. Grayson (1972). Assyrian Royal Inscriptions, Volume 1. Otto Harrassowitz. pp. 29–30.
  52. 52.0 52.1 Georges Roux - Ancient Iraq
  53. K. R. Veenhof (2008). Mesopotamia: The Old Assyrian Period. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. p. 24.
  54. A. Leo Oppenheim (1969). "Babylonian and Assyrian Historical Texts". In J. B. Pritchard (ed.). Ancient near eastern texts. Princeton University Press. p. 565.
  55. K. R. Veenhof (2008). Mesopotamia: The Old Assyrian Period. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. p.24.
  56. 56.0 56.1 56.2 A. K. Grayson (1972). Assyrian Royal Inscriptions, Volume 1. Otto Harrassowitz. ISBN 9783447013826.
  57. Stephanie Dalley (2009). Babylonian Tablets from the First Sealand Dynasty in the Schoyen Collection. CDL Press. p. 3.
  58. Julian Reade (Jan 2001). "Assyrian King-Lists, the Royal Tombs of Ur, and Indus Origins". Journal of Near Eastern Studies. 60 (1): 7. doi:10.1086/468883. JSTOR 545577. S2CID 161480780.
  59. 59.0 59.1 59.2 A. Fuchs, K. Radner (1998). "Aššur-nērārī II". In K. Radner (ed.). The Prosopography of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, Volume 1, Part I: A. The Neo-Assyrian Text Corpus Project. p. 208.
  60. I. J.Gelb (1954). "Two Assyrian King Lists". Journal of Near Eastern Studies. XIII (4): 217. doi:10.1086/371224. S2CID 161512733.
  61. A. K. Grayson (1975). Assyrian and Babylonian chronicles. J. J. Augustin. ISBN 9781575060491.
  62. J. A. Brinkman (1973). "Comments on the Nasouhi Kinglist and the Assyrian Kinglist Tradition". Orientalia. 42: 312.
  63. B. Newgrosh (1999). "The Chronology of Ancient Assyria Re-assessed". JAVF. 8: 80.
  64. A. K. Grayson (1972). Assyrian Royal Inscriptions, Volume I. Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz. pp. 39–40.
  65. 65.0 65.1 "Ashur-nadin-ahhe II (king of Assyria) -- Britannica Online Encyclopedia". Britannica.com. Retrieved 2012-11-24.


  1. Khorsabad copy of the Assyrian King List i 24, 26.
  2. SDAS List, IM 60484, i 34.
  3. Nassouhi List, Istanbul A. 116 (Assur 8836), i 33.
  4. Khorsabad List, IM 60017 (excavation nos.: DS 828, DS 32-54), i 34.
  5. Assyrian Kinglist fragment VAT 9812 = KAV 14: ‘3
  6. Assyrian Kinglist fragment VAT 9812 = KAV 14: 5.
  7. Ḫorsābād King List ii 18.
  8. Khorsabad Kinglist, tablet IM 60017 (excavation nos.: DS 828, DS 32-54), iii 3.
  9. KAJ 174.
  10. Nassouhi King List, Istanbul A. 116 (Assur 8836), iii 11–12.
  11. Khorsabad King List, IM 60017 (excavation nos.: DS 828, DS 32-54), iii 5–6.
  12. SDAS King List, tablet IM 60484, ii 38.
  13. Synchronistic Chronicle (ABC 21), tablet K4401a, i 1–4.


  1. Sumero-Akkadian: 𒆳𒀭𒊹𒆠 KUR AN-ŠAR2KI; the same in Assyrian cuneiform in Ashubanipal's Rassam cylinder: Inscription mat Assur-ki for Assyria in the Rassam cylinder, 1st column, line 5.jpg KUR AN-ŠAR2KI,[1][2] pronounced in Assyrian mat Aushar ki, then mat Ashshur ki mat Aššur ki, meaning "The country of the city of god Aššur";[3][4][5][6] also phonetically in another inscrption of Ashurbanipal Mat Assur (phonetical signs for Assyria).jpg mat aš-šur (Sumerian: 𒆳𒀸𒋩)[7] or Ashur-ki for Assyria aš-šur ki (Sumerian 𒀸𒋩𒆠)[8] Also Mat d A-shur for Assyria in Amarna letter AE 15 circa 1340 BCE.jpg mat da-šur in Amarna letter EA 15 dating to circa 1340 BCE

External links

Template:Assyrian topics

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