A brief history of the Fertile Crescent 3000BCE – 570BCE (7)

Posted: March 8, 2016 in Ancient Near Eastern History, History

In 853 BCE Shalmaneser III was defeated by a Levantine Alliance, led by Aram and Israel. However, the campaigns of Tiglath-Pilessar III from 745 expanded the Assyrian empire further west with the inclusion of the Phoenician port cities as client kingdoms. This gave the Empire access to the trade routes of the Mediterranean. Sargon the second (721 to 705) continued the expansion taking into the Empire parts of the old Hittite kingdom; This brought under Assyrian control parts of the Hittite kingdom; Phoenicia and Israel and established client kingdoms in Judah, Philistia and Babylonia. The reign of Sennacherib is one of mixed fortunes for the Empire. Perhaps best remembered for his campaign in Judah, notably the siege and sack of Lachish and the siege of Jerusalem.

Battle scene from Lachish reliefs Nineveh. Now in British Museum

Battle scene from Lachish reliefs Nineveh. Now in British Museum


He also faced major rebellions in Babylonia and in 689, Babylon was sacked and razed to the ground and the province of Babylonia was annexed into the Assyrian Empire. In the North of the Empire, a great deal of effort was needed to contain the raids of peoples from the Caucuses down the land corridor between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. In the North West the Assyrians encountered, with less than successful results, the Phrygian Kingdom, who had by this time annexed the western part of the old Hittite Empire.

Sennacherib "Sanherib-tr-4271" by Timo Roller - Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sanherib-tr-4271.jpg#/media/File:Sanherib-tr-4271.jpg

“Sanherib-tr-4271” by Timo Roller – Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons –

If you ever thought spin was a modern invention then here are two accounts of Sennacherib’s campaign in Judea. The Hebrew account says little if anything about the campaign leading up to the siege of Jerusalem but focuses on the outcome and the successful breaking of the siege ‘Then it happened that night that the angel of the Lord went out, and struck 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians; and when men rose early in the morning, behold, all of them were dead. So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and returned home, and lived at Nineveh.’

However if we look at Sennacherib’s version as seen on the Taylor Prism it reads very differently “As for Hezekiah, the Jew, who did not submit to my yoke, 46 of his strong walled cities, as well as the small cities in their neighborhood, which were without number, by escalade and bringing up siege engines (did I destroy)…  Himself, like a caged bird, I shut up in Jerusalem, his royal city. ‘ He then goes on to tell that he extracted a huge tribute from him which when paid he took back to Nineveh, which was why he lifted the siege. What we do know is that Sennacherib made far more of his campaign against Lachish than he did of the siege of Jerusalem as witness the wall murals from his palace at Nineveh, which are in the British Museum.

The King recieves tribute  from Lachish reliefs Nineveh. Now in British Museum

The King receives tribute from Lachish reliefs Nineveh. Now in British Museum

Sennacherib died in 681. What is clear is that he was assassinated. What is less clear is the why and the how. There is a story that this happened whilst he was praying in the temple. Some sources in the later Babylonian Chronicles name his son as the guilty party although other sources give different identities to the killer.

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