THE REIGN OF SARGON II
SHALMANESER IV died in the month of Tebet, and in the very same month Sargon II (721-705 BC) became king of Assyria. Like Tiglath Pileser III, he was not of royal blood. In no single passage does he ever claim descent from any of the previous kings, nor in any way allude to his parentage. His son, Sennacherib, who succeeded him, is also silent concerning the origin of Sargon, but his grandson, Esarhaddon, provides him with an artificial genealogy which carries back his line to Bel Bani, an ancient king of Asshur. It is a striking fact that he was able to put himself so quickly and so securely on the throne, and it makes one think that there may have been some understanding before the death of Shalmaneser by which Sargon was made the legal heir. On the other hand, he may have been a successful general, as we have already supposed that Tiglath Pileser III was, and so had in his hand a weapon ready to enforce his ambitious claims to the throne. Like Tiglath Pileser, also, he must have been well known as a man of force, for there was no uprising against him, and he was at once recognized as the lawful king.
He inherited a kingdom full of great problems and difficulties. Samaria was not yet taken, and if it should succeed in effectual resistance, all Syria would take new heart, and the whole fabric which Tiglath Pileser III had laboriously built up, but had not had time fully to cement together, would be in fragments. This was a not improbable outcome, for Egypt was eager to foment disturbance in the southern part of the land, hoping thereby to gain back some of the territory which had been lost. On the north there was also a disturbing center. Tiglath Pileser had not been able to finish the partition of Urartu, and that state would be very willing to incite the northern Syro-Phoenician states to rebel when rulers were changed in Assyria, in the hope of building up again the kingdom which Tiglath Pileser had broken in pieces. In Babylonia also the death of Shalmaneser had given opportunity for a sudden outbreak of new efforts among the Chaldeans. It was indeed a troublesome age on which Sargon had lighted. A man of great energy and ability would alone be able to meet the dangers and solve them. Such a man was Sargon. Like Tiglath Pileser III, he was a usurper. It is an eloquent witness to the resources of Assyria that two such men were produced so close to each other, and not of a royal house, with inherited strength and ability.
We are well supplied with inscriptions setting forth the chief events of Sargon's reign, and have only to follow the plain indications of the Annals in order to see them all in proper sequence.
In the year of the accession of Sargon (722 BC) Samaria fell, but it is improbable that he had anything to do with it in person. He could scarcely have been present so quickly, leaving behind him all the possible dangers to the throne which he had just ascended. It was a most fortunate result for his reign that Samaria was taken without a longer siege. Very probably the same army which had invested the city secured also its surrender. Neither the army nor the inhabitants of Samaria are likely to have known anything of the change of rulers in Assyria. The biblical account does not mention the name of the king of Assyria into whose hands the city fell, but the form of statement seems to imply that Shalmaneser was still considered king. Sargon was not yet known in the west as he would later come to be. As soon as Samaria was taken he gave orders that the colonizing plans which Tiglath Pileser III had devised and perfected should be carried out on a large scale. From the city there were taken away twenty-seven thousand two hundred and ninety men, who were settled in the Median mountains and in the province of Gozan (Guzanu) along the rivers Balikh and Khabur. To supply their places colonists were brought from Kutha, in Babylonia, and recently conquered territories. The people carried away from Samaria were probably of the very best blood in the land—the men who had fought for three weary years against the most powerful military state of western Asia. They were probably officials, skilled laborers, and trades people. The loss to the land was irreparable, and the kingdom of Israel never regained the strength it had lost. There was another little spasm of rebellion in a short time, as we shall see, but the land had not left in it the national life to sustain another such struggle. So did the Assyrians in the reign of Sargon finish the task which they began in the reign of Shalmaneser II. Over the land of Samaria Sargon set Assyrian governors, and the once glorious and powerful kingdom of Israel became an insignificant Assyrian province.
There were greater problems in Babylonia for Sargon than the west had yet offered. We have seen how in 729 Merodach Baladan, of the tribe of Bit-Yakin, king of the Sea Lands, had paid homage to Tiglath Pileser III and made costly gifts in token of his subjection. That was well enough when Tiglath Pileser III was threatening to destroy the entire land, but Merodach Baladan intended only to maintain his allegiance to Assyria so long as the Assyrians were able to compel it. During the short reign of Shalmaneser no effort seems to have been made by the Chaldeans, but it is quite probable that all the while the preparations were going. on. When Shalmaneser died, and Sargon was busy in Assyria and unable to proceed to Babylon to take the hands of Marduk, Merodach Baladan judged that the hour had come. Without great difficulty he took southern Babylonia, the ancient kingdom of Sumer and Accad, and then the city of Babylon itself. On New Year's Day, 721, he was proclaimed king of Babylon. Here was opened again the same old question as to the ruler in Babylon. Sargon never could lose the great southern kingdom without a bitter war. Merodach Baladan had thrown down the gage, and there was no alternative but to take it up. Sargon entered Babylonia and was met at Dur Ilu by an army under the command of Merodach Baladan, with Khumbanigash of Elam as an ally. According to the usual custom, Sargon claimed a victory. It is, however, perfectly clear from the issue that Sargon had not been successful. He left Merodach Baladan in absolute possession of Babylon, not attempting at all to enter the country farther, but contenting himself with the possession of the extreme northern portion, which joined with the land of Assyria. On the other band, Merodach Baladan did not attempt to drive the Assyrians out of this northern part, but was quite satisfied to be left in possession of the city of Babylon, in which there were wealth and power enough to satisfy his ambitions, and difficulties enough with the priesthood to engage his best powers. The failure to retake Babylon was a bad beginning for the reign of Sargon. The Assyrians would have less confidence in his prowess; the Chaldeans would have time and opportunity to strengthen themselves in their hold on Babylon; the men of Urartu and of Syria would learn of it, and would judge that the king of Assyria was not equal to his predecessors. Rebellious all over the empire lie latent in this failure of Sargon.
The first rebellion that confronted Sargon was in the west, where one might have thought that the punishment of Samaria would have deterred others from a new attempt. But the Syrian states had not all been so thoroughly blotted out as Samaria, and there was a nucleus in Hamath around which a conspiracy might crystallize. Hamath, one of the oldest cities in Syria, had never been destroyed or even engrafted into the Assyrian empire. This was due to the constant exercise of a crafty policy. Hamath had joined in rebellions, but always withdrew at the right moment, paid tribute, and played the part of a faithful ally of Assyria. It owed its deliverance in the reign of Tiglath Pileser III only to this policy pursued by its king, Eni El. But this craftiness, while it saved the state for a time, was unpopular, and Eni El fell a victim to his own prudence, and was removed from the throne by a national party. A usurper named Il Ubidi, or Ya Ubidi, succeeded him and at once began a new policy. In this he was aided by Hanno (Khanunu) of Gaza, whom we have learned to know before in the reign of Tiglath Pileser III. The Egyptians did not give him aid at the time when Gaza might have been saved from the Assyrians, but he was now in better favor in Egypt, and was an ally of Sibe. It is most likely that he was trying in the interests of Egypt to gain a hold over Hamath, and that he did get some direct influence is shown by his title of king of Hamath in one of Sargon's texts—to the Assyrians he evidently appeared as the real ruler of the state. Il Ubidi and Hanno at once formed a new confederation, in which Arpad, Simirra, Damascus, and, most surprising of all, Samaria joined.
It would appear from this that even the loss of so many of her best men and the watchful eye of an Assyrian governor were not able to crush every aspiration for liberty. Judah remained faithful to Assyria, and did not join with the confederates. Il ubidi made Qarqar his fortress, and placed a large army in the field. This was now no mean opposition which confronted Sargon, and after his practical defeat in Babylonia it was likely to have hopes of successfully opposing him. At the outset he displayed one quality of great importance; he set out promptly for Syria as soon as news of the rebellion reached him, determined to strike the first member of the alliance before the others could unite and come to his support. This Assyrian promptness had often before cost the Syrian states great losses. It fell out in this case exactly as he had planned. At Qarqar he met Ya Ubidi and his army without any of the allies and gained a complete victory. When this was done he made haste to meet Hanno and Sibe, who were the real leaders of the rebellion. At Rapikhu (Raphia) the Assyrians met the confederates and completely defeated them. Sibe managed to get off with his life and escaped into Egypt; Hanno was taken prisoner and carried off to Assyria. This made peace in Syria for a time; Sibe was not able to undertake any more disturbances, and the remaining confederates needed time for recuperation. The result of this campaign as affecting Assyria was very important. The prestige of Sargon personally was restored, and he was left free, following the example of Tiglath Pileser III, to set right the affairs of his empire in other border countries.
Of all these Urartu was the most dangerous and threatening. Sargon had planned to reach its destruction by slow and steady approaches. He would first restore to Assyria, as tribute-paying states, the communities which surrounded Urartu on the west, south, and east, and then finally strike the all-important blow. His fast movement was from the east against the two cities of Shuanda Khul and Durdukka, situated in the territory belonging to Iranzu of Man, by Lake Urumiyeh. These renounced their allegiance, and received help from Mitatti of Zigirtu, whose territory probably immediately joined. Sargon quickly defeated them and destroyed the cities (719 BC), but did not attempt any punishment of Mitatti at this time. In the same year the three cities, Sukia, Bala, and Abitikna, whose exact location is unknown, though they also adjoined Urartu, were destroyed and their inhabitants transplanted to Syria. A similar campaign occupied the year 718, directed against the western rather than the eastern approaches to Urartu. Kiakki of Shinukhtu, a district of Tabal (Cappadocia), had not paid his tribute. He with many of his followers was transplanted into Assyria, and his land delivered over to Matti of Atun (called Tun by Tiglath Pileser III), who was required to pay a higher annual tribute.
The year 717 was not, perhaps, of so great importance as many another which preceded and which followed it in Assyrian history, but it was a year of great interest in one way at least, as it ended the career of Carchemish. Alone of all the smaller states into which the great Hittite empire had broken up it had maintained a sort of independence, paying only an annual tribute. The king of Carchemish at this time was Pisiris, who is even called king of the land of the Hittites, as though retaining in his person something of the glory of the old empire. If he had continued to pay his annual tribute, he would probably have been permitted to remain in undisturbed possession of his high-sounding title and in the free exercise of his authority over the internal affairs of his kingdom. In an evil hour he incited Mita of Mushke to join him in a rebellion against the payment of tribute. He was speedily overcome, and at once, with his family and his followers, transported into Assyria. With them Sargon carried away as booty eleven talents of gold, twenty-one hundred talents of silver, and fifty chariots of war. Carchemish was repeopled with Assyrian colonists and became an Assyrian province. In such an easy manner ended the very last remnant of a once powerful empire, which had defied even Egypt at the zenith of its power.
In the same year the cities Papa and Lallukna, probably located near Urartu, joined in a rebellion, but were overcome and their inhabitants transplanted to Damascus. Year after year did Sargon, as we have already seen, continue these colonizations in Syria. He was determined to disturb so thoroughly the national life that there might be no opportunity for any further uprisings. After all this intermixture it becomes less surprising that the Jews who returned from Babylon would not recognize the people of Samaria as their fellows, but looked on them as a strange race, and called them Samaritans, and not Hebrews.
At last, in 716, Sargon felt himself strong enough and the way well enough prepared to make a sharper attack on Urartu, and not merely on the states which surrounded it. He was moved to a more active policy by the threatening doings of the king of Urartu. Sarduris, who had opposed Tiglath Pileser III so successfully as regards the actual laud of Urartu, was now dead, and in his place ruled Ursa, as the Assyrian inscriptions usually name him, or Rusas, as he is known to native historiographers. As early as 719 Urartu was intriguing against the small kingdom of Man, of which Iranzu was king, and Sargon had to save to Man two cities which Mitatti of Zigirtu, a tool of Urartu, had seized. That was a warning to Urartu for a time. But now Iranzu was dead and the usual troubles over the succession in small states of the Orient offered an opportunity to Urartu. The lawful heir to the throne of Man was Aza, son of the last king, and he finally did get himself seated. But Rusas then stirred up against him the old enemy of his father, Mitatti of Zigirtu, and also the lands of Misianda and Umildish, the latter of which was ruled by a prince, Bagdatti. To these three allies were added some governors out of Rusas's own territory, and all things were ready for a successful attack on the little kingdom. Aza had given pledges of faithfulness to Assyria, and so deserved support. He was soon overcome and slain, and his land would have been speedily divided among the conspirators, with the lion's share for Rusas, had not Sargon suddenly appeared. Bagdatti of Umildish was captured and slain, as a warning, on the same spot where Aza had been killed. Ullusunu, brother of Aza, was put on the throne and confirmed in possession. In this Sargon had defeated the immediate plans of Rusas, but he was very far from having destroyed his influence. Scarcely was Sargon's back turned when Ullusunu broke his Assyrian vows and transferred his allegiance to Urartu, actually giving up to Rusas twenty-two villages of his domain. We do not know what led to this reversal on the part of Ullusunu, but it is probable that he was forced into the act. Besides this Ullusunu induced Asshur Li of Karalla and Itti of Allabra, two small territories of western Media, to renounce the suzerainty of Assyria and accept that of Urartu.
Here was an upturning indeed which might be imitated by other states. Sargon increased his army and returned in haste. Upon his approach Ullusunu fled to the mountains, leaving his capital, Izirtu, to the tender mercies of the enraged Sargon. The capital was soon taken, as well as Zibia and Armaid, two fortified cities. Izirtu was burned and the others suffered to remain. Ullusunu, probably seeing no way of escape even in mountain fastnesses, returned and sued for pardon. Astonishing as it may seem, this was actually granted, and he was once more installed in his kingdom—which confirms us in the belief that Sargon had come to think that he had not been a free agent in his rebellion, but had been compelled to it by Rusas. On the other hand, the two rebels who had joined with him suffered severely for their faithlessness. Asshur Li of Karalla was slain, his people deported to Hamath, and his land turned into an Assyrian province. Itti of Allabra and his family were also deported into Hamath, and a new vassal king was set up in his place. At the same time the district of Nikshamma and the city of Shurgadia, whose governor, Shepa Sharru, had rebelled, were reduced and added to the Assyrian province of Parshua. In this year Sargon also invaded western Media and conquered the governor of Kishesim, whose Assyrian name, Bel Shar Usur, probably points backward to the influence of Tiglath Pileser III in this same region. Kishesim was thoroughly changed in every particular. Assyrian worship was introduced, the name of the city changed to Kar Nabu, and a statue of Sargon set up. A new province was then formed of the districts of Bit Sagbat, Bit Khirmani, Bit Umargi, and of several other cities, and Kar Nabu was made its capital. Another city, by the name of Kharkhar, whose governor had been driven out by its populace, was similarly treated. Its name was changed to Kar Sharrukin (Sargon's burg), and it was colonized with captives and also made the capital of a newly formed province. This sort of campaigning had its influence on the surrounding country. From city to city spread the news of the mighty conqueror and of his sweeping changes, and from different parts of Media no less than twenty-eight native princes came to Kar Sharrukin with presents to Sargon, hoping to purchase deliverance from like treatment.
This year had been full of various undertakings, but nearly all of them may be said to deal directly or indirectly with Rusas of Urartu, who, even while these easterly undertakings were in progress, was not idle. Defeated in his plan of securing peacefully from Ullusunu the twenty-two villages which had been granted him, as we have seen, but afterward recovered by Sargon, he took them by force. This brought Sargon back in 715 with an army which quickly recaptured the lost territory, which was then supplied with special Assyrian governors. Daiukku, a subordinate governor of Ullusunu, who had yielded to the solicitations of Rusas, was carried off to Hamath. The suddenness and completeness of this victory induced Yanzu of Nairi to bring his homage to Sargon. Meanwhile the province of Kharkhar, which was formed but a year before, had rebelled and must be again conquered. It was now increased in size by the addition of territory which had been thoroughly Assyrianized, and the city of Dur Sharrukin was heavily fortified as an outpost against the land of Media. In this year twenty-two Median princes offered presents to Sargon and promised an annual tribute of horses. All these campaigns weakened the influence of Rusas over his allies, and so the way was gradually preparing for his overthrow; but the time had not come this year, for Sargon had disturbances to settle in the west.
Mita of Muslike had interfered with Que (Cilicia), and had taken from it several cities to add to his own dominion, which were readily restored.
An expedition into Arabia was also rendered necessary for the collection of tribute. The tribe of Khaiapa, which had paid tribute since the reign of Tiglath Pileser III, now refused to do so, and was supported by the tribes of Tamud, Ibadidi, and Marsiani. Of these Khaiapa was probably the most northerly, being settled about Medina, while the others stretched southward below Mecca. These were all conquered easily and restored to subjection. Itamar of Saba, Piru (Pharaoh) of Egypt, who may have been Bokkhoris, and Samsi, the queen of Arabia, whose dominions were in the extreme northern part of the country, all sent gifts. This latter part of the year probably was of great value to the king in the revenue which it yielded.
In the next year (714) the campaign against Rusas of Urartu was taken up in earnest. The invasion began from the east, Sargon first appearing in Man, where Ullusunu paid him tribute, while Dalta of Ellipi sent presents all the way from the southeastern borders of Media. From Man Sargon advanced slowly and steadily into the territories of Zigirtu, where Mitatti was still holding sway. One by one the cities and fortified camps were taken until Parda, the capital, fell into Assyrian hands. When this had happened Mitatti and his entire people moved swiftly in one great emigration out of the country and were seen no more. They had probably come out of the steppes of Russia into this favored district, and now returned to their old home. The army was now ready to attack Rusas, who came on to meet it. In the first engagement he was defeated and fled. Sargon did not pursue at once, but waited to make sure of the land which was now deserted by the people of Urartu. The land of Man was entirely covered in marches, that every sign of disloyalty might be rooted out, and was then given over to Ullusunu. One more land must be ravaged before Rusas could be reached and overcome. This was Muzazir, which Shalmaneser IV had attacked in 829 BC, whose prince, Urzana, had acknowledged the overlordship of Rusas. It was a hard mountain march to reach it, but the city, forsaken by Urzana, was soon taken when once it was gained. The southern portion of Urartu was then invaded. Cities were burned and dug up and the entire land turned into a howling wilderness, and robbed of every hope of any further autonomy. Rusas looked on, perhaps, from some mountain eyrie and saw the utter collapse of his fortunes. The kingdom which his fathers had founded, of whom he was no unworthy follower, was being divided among Assyrian states or added directly to the provinces of the empire. For him there was no further hope, and he sought peace in a self-inflicted death.
Rusas left a son who succeeded his father as king of Urartu, or Chaldea, as the country was called by its own people, with the title of Argistis II. He found only a small kingdom left for him to rule, about Lake Van and the upper waters of the Euphrates. Long and sturdily had Urartu withstood the progress of Assyria in war, while it, nevertheless, accepted Assyrian civilization and even adopted the cumbersome Assyrian method of cuneiform writing. The Chaldeans had even formed an empire and contested the supremacy of western Asia with the Assyrians. In the days of Assyrian weakness they had grown stronger, until the menace to Sargon was so great that he had to plan cautiously and act decisively during a long series of years for its removal. He had now stripped them of all their southern and western possessions and shut up the king amid his mountain fastnesses, from which he would soon venture out to plunder and raid, but without hope of ever again mastering so large a portion of western Asia. Sargon's slowly maturing plans had effectually removed the greatest barrier to his country's career of conquest, extension, and aggrandizement.
For the next three years Sargon was unable to carry out any great schemes of conquest, because he was absorbed in smaller undertakings intended to complete the pacification of the north and west. The first of these was in western Media, where the province which had taken the place of the old kingdom of Karalla rose in rebellion, and, having driven out the Assyrian governor, set up as king Amitasshi, a brother of the old king, Asshur Li. The new arrangement lasted but a short time, for Sargon soon ended the rebellion. The vassal kings, Ullusunu of Man, Dalta of Ellipi, and Ninib Aplu Iddin of Allabra, all sent their tribute to the triumphant Sargon.
In the northwest, also, Sargon had a very disagreeable task. The land of Tabal had been conquered by Tiglath Pileser III and the king deposed. In his place Tiglath Pileser set up a man of humble origin, named Khulle. Bound by ties of gratitude or of necessity, Khulle paid his annual tribute until his death and remained faithful to the Assyrians, who had made him what he was. Sargon trusted him as fully as Tiglath Pileser, and even added to his dominion the territory of Bit Burutash. When he died his son, Ambaridi, or Ambaris, was confirmed by Sargon as king in his stead. So completely was be trusted that Khilakki (Cilicia) was further added to his territory and Sargon's own daughter was given him to wife. In spite of all this he was secretly, and later publicly, faithless to Assyria, and joined the coalition of Rusas and Mita, to whom he gave aid in their various undertakings against Assyria. His day of punishment had now arrived. His land was devastated, colonized, and then made into a new province of the empire, and he, with his followers, was carried off to Assyria. In the following year (712) a very similar case occurred in the district of Meliddu. While Sargon was busily engaged in war Tarkhunazi of Meliddu conquered Gunzinanu of Kammanu (Comana), one of Sargon's tributaries, and seized his territory. This had been done in reliance upon the help of Urartu. Sargon now overran the land and destroyed the capital, Melid. Tarkhunazi for a time defended himself in a fortress, Tulgarimme, but was taken, and, together with his troops, deported to Assyria. His territory was then divided. Melid was annexed to Kummukh, while the rest of the country was repopulated and formed into a new province. One more year was required before this northern territory was fully reduced to subjection. In 711 there was an uprising in Gurgum, a small Hittite state. The king, Tarkhulara, was killed by his own son, Muttallu, who thus made himself ruler. Sargon soon appeared with a small body of troops, and carried off Muttallu with his followers to Assyria. His land was likewise made into a province.
While Sargon was engaged in these petty but annoying wars with small states Egypt was again plotting to gain some kind of foothold in Palestine. Ashdod was now chosen as the starting point for another effort. In this city Sargon had removed the king, Azuri, for failure to pay tribute, and had set up his brother, Akhimiti, in his stead. Under the leadership of a man named Yaman, or Yatnani, who was plainly inspired from Egypt, a rebellion began in which Akhimiti lost his life. By some means Philistia, Moab, Edom, and, most surprising of all, Judah were drawn into this new opposition to Assyria. Hezekiah was now king of Judah, and in this fresh union with Egypt he was flying in the teeth of the advice and warnings of Isaiah, his ablest counselor. Sargon felt the importance of this new uprising, and at once hastened either himself or by deputy, in the person of his Tartan, to end the rebellion. Ashdod, Gath, and Ashdudimmu were easily occupied by the Assyrians. The other states of Palestine seem to have feared to join in the war when it was on, and Egypt sent no help. The inhabitants of these cities were carried away and other captives settled in their places. This campaign so thoroughly stamped out all opposition in the west that it might for a time safely be left to itself.
If now we look back over Sargon's reign up to this point, we shall see that his only direct gains to Assyrian territory had been in the land of Urartu. To Shalmaneser rather than to him belongs the credit of securing Samaria. Indirectly, however, his gains had been great. He had greatly strengthened the Assyrian control from east to west over a wide circle of country, and had so established the outposts of the empire that he might feel safe from invasion. It must be remembered, however, that he was even yet governing a territory much smaller than that which Tiglath Pileser III and Shalmaneser IV had controlled. Babylonia was still in the possession of the Chaldeans, and Sargon was bereft of the rarest and most honored title—king of Babylon. But he was not satisfied with this state of affairs, and had probably planned long and carefully in order to its complete overthrow. Now that his borders were safe on the north and west, and the annual tribute over the great empire was fairly well assured, the time seemed to have arrived for his greatest work.
When Sargon, in 721, after the battle of Dur Ilu, left Merodach Baladan to rule undisturbed in Babylon he took upon himself a great risk. There was a grave possibility that the adroit Chaldean might so establish himself in the kingdom that the Assyrians could never hope to dislodge him again. But Sargon build very wisely in this, for there were more causes for discontent in Babylonia than of satisfaction, and Merodach Baladan was much more likely to ruin his prospects of a peaceable reign than to improve them. His status was peculiar and dangerous. He never could have conquered Babylon in the sole reliance upon his own Chaldean forces, but was compelled to utilize not only Elamite but also Aramaean allies, the latter being the same half-nomad tribes which had been a disturbing factor in former times. So long as he was threatened by Assyrian armies Merodach Baladan was able to hold together these ill-assorted followers; self-preservation against a common enemy who might blot them out one at a time made them cautious. But as soon as all danger from Assyria was withdrawn by Sargon's occupation in other quarters these Elamites and Aramaeans began to clamor for a share in the spoil of Babylonia. They had not ventured all in the service of Merodach Baladan without a well-founded hope of participation in the wealth which the centuries had heaped up. Merodach Baladan was not to be suffered to wear the title of king of Babylon while his followers, who had suffered that he might win it, lay in poverty. It would be impossible to satisfy these men with anything short of a license for free plunder, and this could not be given without the ruining of the land over which he hoped to rule. Beside this Merodach Baladan could not give ever so little to his Chaldeans and Elamites without raising bitter opposition to his rule among the native Babylonians, and especially among the priesthood—perhaps the wealthiest class in the country.
In these opposing wishes there was abundant material for a flame of civil war which would destroy the ambitions of the new king of Babylon, and for this Sargon had left the land free. Merodach Baladan probably desired earnestly to strengthen his position in Babylonia with the natives by a reign of order and peace, leaving them in undisturbed possession of their estates. This was, however, impossible, and he ventured on a career of plunder. Property holders were removed from Sippar, Nippur, Babylon, and Borsippa into Chaldea, where they were held in some kind of bondage, while their lands and other wealth were handed over to colonists out of the number of Merodach-Baladan's rapacious and unthinking allies. This policy satisfied neither party to the compact, and Merodach Baladan found himself surrounded on every side by enemies when he sadly needed friends. The Babylonians were always a fickle folk at best, and apparently delighted in changes of dynasty. A restless spirit was ascribed to them, centuries after, in the Mohammedan period, and their history as we have followed it to this point seems clearly to show that they were of this temper now. Nevertheless, they valued highly their ancient institutions and held in high esteem the honor of their royal titles. The priesthood must always be a conservative force in any community, and the Babylonian priesthood in charge of the worship of Marduk, and so invested with the power of making kings, who must take hold of the hands of the god, maintained with enthusiasm the ancient customs. At this time they found less of sympathy among the Chaldeans, Aramaeans and Elamites than among the Assyrians. Tiglath Pileser III had so greatly valued the priests and the honors which they had to bestow that he twice visited Babylon in order to take the hands of the god and be proclaimed king, and Shalmaneser IV had even more than followed his example. Sargon might well be expected to have similar ideas and hopes. To him, therefore, the Babylonian priesthood and all the other wealthy classes which had lost home or possessions looked as a possible deliverer from the barbarous Chaldeans and Elamites.
Sargon was therefore doubly prepared for an attack on Merodach-Baladan. He had made his own empire so strong and safe that he might leave it without fear, and he was certain of a friendly reception from the Babylonians. His plan was first to conquer the allies of Merodach-baladan and then to strike the defenseless Chaldean himself. An army was sent southward to overcome the Aramaeans living along the Elamite and Babylonian borders. These were speedily conquered. The Gambuli and the Aramaean tribes of Rua, Khindaru, Yatburu, and Puqudu were organized into a new Assyrian province, with Dur Nabu, formerly known as Dur Atkhara, one of MerodachBaladan's fortresses, as capital. This successful movement cut off Merodach-Baladan from his former allies in Elam.
When the Assyrians crossed the Euphrates and captured the small Babylonian state of Bit Dakkuri, Merodach Baladan did not venture upon a fight, but fled into Yatburu, whence he could communicate with the king of Elam. But Shutur Nakhundi, who now ruled in Elam in the room of Khumbanigash, was not eager to help Merodach-Baladan, and, though he prudently accepted the gifts which had been sent to him, offered no help of any kind. The Aramaeans could not help him while an Assyrian army held them in helpless subjection, and the Elamites would not. Merodach-Baladan was powerless with his small army to meet Sargon's seasoned veterans. He therefore fled southward into his old homeland and fortified himself in Iqbi Bel, where he spent the winter, which had now begun. The Babylonians, relieved of their oppressor, hailed Sargon as a deliverer. They organized a religious and civil procession which went to Dur Ladinna to escort the savior of the country to Babylon. Sargon entered the ancient city, and in all things conducted himself as a legitimate king of Babylon. He offered the required sacrifices; he restored the canal of Borsippa, which had fallen down; and by these two acts satisfied the priesthood and helped the country's commerce.
Sargon was now able to have himself proclaimed king of Babylon, and might take the god's hands and fulfill the required ceremonies on New Year's Day of the year 709. If he did this, however, he would have to repeat it year by year, and that might be in the highest degree inconvenient, if not impossible. He could not hold the priesthood faithful to himself if he did not perform the annual ceremonies, and though he could doubtless compel their obedience without winning their hearts it would be dangerous and inexpedient. He was too wise to transfer the capital of his reunited empire to Babylon, and he therefore adopted an expedient which satisfied both parties—the Assyrians and the Babylonians. He adopted the title of "shakkanak"—that is, governor, or viceroy—instead of king of Babylon, and for this he would not be compelled to renew the ceremony year by year. In the month of Nisan, at the great feast of Bel, he took the hands of Bel and Nabu and was proclaimed shakkanak of Babylon. In all respects he had as much power and influence as though he were called king.
In the next month Sargon began his campaign against Merodach Baladan. The unfortunate Chaldean had withdrawn in the early spring or late winter from Iqbi Bel to his old city of Bit-Yakin, where he employed his time in the preparation of extensive fortifications against Sargon, whose invasion he must have been continually expecting. He opened a canal from the Euphrates and filled the country about the city with water, breaking down all the bridges, so that no approach to the city was possible. Sargon found a way to overcome this difficulty, though he does not enlighten us as to his method. The city, once attacked, soon fell, and Merodach Baladan, who had been wounded in the first assault, made good his escape to Elam. An army from the Puqudu and the Sute, who were coming to help Merodach Baladan, was then overcome and the city of Bit-Yakin first plundered and then destroyed. In the city Sargon found the rich men of Babylonia who had been deprived of their property in order that Merodach Baladan might reward the men who had made him king. They were sent back to their homes and their property restored. Furthermore, the priesthood received a rich reward for their share in Sargon's triumphs by the return of gods whom Merodach Baladan had taken away and the restoration of the elaborate temple worship in Ur, Uruk, Eridu, Larsa, and other places of less moment, while the tithes to the temples were newly revised and imposed upon the people. The land of Bit-Yakin was placed beyond any opportunities, it would seem, for further rebellion, by the deportation of a portion of its inhabitants to Kummukh, from which came captives to take their place. The land was then turned into an Assyrian province to be governed from Babylon and Gambuli. Awed by such proceedings, King Uperi, of the island of Dilmun, in the Persian Gulf, sent gifts.
By this campaign, as much by the peaceful operations which attended it as by the success of arms, Babylonia was completely pacified, and was now ruled easily by the Assyrians for several years. Sargon had completely restored the old order of things against great odds, and with extreme difficulty.
While Sargon was engaged thus in Babylonia his representatives were hardly less successful elsewhere. In the far west the governor of the Assyrian province of Que, imitating his royal master, Sargon, invaded the kingdom of Mushke. The people of Mushke were among the traditional enemies of Assyria. They had been opposed to Tiglath Pileser I, and they had a large share in stirring up opposition in Syria to later Assyrian kings. For a long time the Assyrians had not suffered any interference at their hands. Their dominions were bounded now on the south and east by the Taurus and Anti-Taurus, and their ruler was Mita. The Assyrian governor met with such success in conquest and plunder that Mita was forced to send an embassy to Sargon, who was then on the borders of Elam, to sue for peace. At the same time Sargon received gifts from seven kings of Cyprus, though what they may have feared does not appear. Years after (708 BC) Sargon acknowledged their gifts with a present of a black marble stele engraved with his portrait.
At this same period also there was a new spasm of vigor in the almost defunct empire of Urartu. Argistis was now king over what remained of the once powerful empire, and determined to make an effort to regain some of the lost possessions. He induced Muttallu, prince of Kummukh, to join in a confederation. Before anything could be accomplished the news was brought that Bit Yakin had fallen and an Assyrian army was already on its way to the north. Muttallu was so discomfited by this news that he sought safety in flight. His family and all his treasures fell into the hands of the Assyrians, and his land was henceforth organized and administered as a province. This fall of Kummukh happened at just the right time to enable the interchange of inhabitants with Bit-Yakin, which was mentioned above.
In 708 we reach the last campaign of which Sargon has left his own account. Dalta, prince of Ellipi, who had acknowledged the supremacy of Assyria, was dead, and there was a strife about the succession between his sons, Nibe and Ispabara. The former appealed to Elam for help, which he received, and by which he was able to drive out Ishpabara. The latter then, on his part, appealed to Sargon, who was the lawful overlord of the country. Sargon at once responded by sending an army which conquered Nibe and his Elamite allies, captured his capital city, Marubishti, and took him prisoner to Assyria. The land was then set once more in order, with Ishpabara as king.
After this year all knowledge of Sargon's reign is lost to us. It is altogether improbable that he undertook any more great campaigns, but rather devoted himself afterward to such efforts to quell incipient rebellion as filled the last year which we have just described. He had indeed reached to the full the warlike ambitions of his life. He had reunited Babylonia to the empire and brought it into complete subjection, so that it was as easily ruled as Assyria itself. He had ended the Hittite empire, a great plague spot in his predecessor's maps. He had crushed the empire of Urartu, or Chaldea, and so rendered safe his own northern border. He had brought into safe subjection all the troublesome Syrian states. There were indeed no other undertakings which he might reasonably hope to accomplish which it would be wise to begin.
The works of peace in Sargon's reign were as brilliant as his campaigns had been. He was not content merely with the repairing of palaces and temples, or even with their rebuilding, as were most of the Assyrian kings who were before him. He undertook the colossal task of founding a new city which should bear his own name, Dur Sharrukin (Sargon's burg). Here he erected a vast palace, which must have occupied years in the building. Its walls were covered on the inside with magnificent inscriptions recounting the great deeds of his reign. These were so admirable in their execution as to give us a strong impression of the artistic skill of the age which Sargon had made a conquering age. In 707 the palace was finished and the city ready for the entrance of the gods who were to transform it from a vast and beautiful pile of bricks into a real place of residence. Up to this time the king had resided in Calah. In 706 he entered his new city, but his enjoyment of its magnificence was very brief. A broken fragment of an Eponym List gives us some hints of events in the days immediately preceding his death, but they are too badly preserved to allow us to be in any way clear as to their meaning. Sargon died in the year 705, but whether by the hand of an assassin or by natural death remains uncertain.
In the magnificence of his building operations he probably excelled all the kings who preceded him. Certainly no ruins of a former age yet found approach the magnificence of the great palaces which he built in the city which bore his name. In all other works he is naturally brought into comparison and contrast with Tiglath Pileser III. Like him, he was great in the planning and organization of great campaigns, and probably excelled in the patience and slow moving on the outworks and allies of an enemy's country before making the final attack. He was also greater in the successful carrying out of great battles and sieges. For there is nothing in the campaigns of Tiglath Pileser which equals the taking of Bit Yakin. As an administrator over the destinies of diverse peoples he is in every way worthy of his predecessor. In the carrying out of the plan of colonization and deportation he far exceeded the limits which marked the labors of Tiglath Pileser. But it must be said that in originality of idea and of plan he was far behind Tiglath Pileser. It was he and not Sargon who invented this method of dealing with turbulent populations. Sargon was only building on the foundations laid by another, and it is easy to show in many cases that be is the imitator and not the originator. Nevertheless, there should be no minishing of his fame as a conqueror and king. If Tiglath Pileser had planned the empire, now become the greatest power in the world, it was Sargon who had built much of it and rebuilt nearly all the rest. Again had a usurper surpassed the greatest deeds of a legitimate king, and made his name immortal in his country's annals.