THE REIGN OF SENNACHERIB
IN the same month in which Sargon died, and on the twelfth day of the month, Sennacherib (704-682) ascended the throne. He was the son of Sargon, who had so well governed his land and so thoroughly settled his power and control over it that no attempt was made to disturb the order of succession from father to son. But, though he succeeded to the inheritance of the great empire without trouble, there were tremendous difficulties to be settled at once.
The priesthood of Babylonia and in general the Babylonian people were waiting to see what position he would take up with reference to the proud and ancient people who felt themselves to be the better, even though they were the weaker, portion of the empire. Had Sennacherib gone at once to Babylonia and taken the hands of the god, he might have been proclaimed shakkanak of Babylon, as Sargon had been, and it is altogether probable that he would have had no important difficulties with Babylonia. He saw clearly, however, the dangers of a dual capital and the impossibility of mutually pleasing two great peoples so diverse in all their ideas and aims. So long as Babylonia remained a great city, and its citizens nourished their national life and kept burning their national pride, there would always be arising opportunities for vexation against Assyria, and therefore possibilities for some shrewd Babylonian or Chaldean to gain leadership over the popular clamor and seize the throne.
The maintenance of a dual kingdom was essentially an anomaly. If colonization and deportation accomplished so much in the north and the west for continuity and peace, why should just the opposite plan be continued in Babylonia. Tiglath Pileser, Shalmaneser, and Sargon had done nothing to diminish the national feeling in Babylonia, but rather had contributed fuel to the flame. Tiglath Pileser's visits to Babylon in order that he might be proclaimed king had fostered Babylonian pride, in that they made the Assyrian king a suitor for honors at the hands of the priesthood, though he had in reality won his triumph by force of arms. Shalmaneser had done exactly the same thing. Sargon had done even worse, for he had accepted the lesser title of shakkanak in order that he might be delivered from the onerous annual visit to Babylon and be free to come and go as he pleased. Sennacherib would do none of these things. He was a loyal Assyrian and no Babylonian, and was determined to break with all this past history, in which his own country had the power, but gave up its semblance and its show. He would possess that also, and show the world that Assyria was not merely the head of the empire, but its absolute master. He would, in other words, treat Babylonia as a subject state and pay no attention to its royal ideas, its kingly titles, and its priestly authorities. It is possible that in this decision jealousy was mixed up with ambition. Sennacherib could not have looked the empire over without learning that Assyria was still a raw and uncouth country, leaning upon Babylonia for every sign of culture. Perhaps he felt that this position of Babylon itself might make it someday the capital of the entire empire, while Assyria lost its leadership altogether. His policy must prevent any such possibility as that.
Sennacherib must have formed his plans and matured his policy even before his father was dead, for it seems to come into play at once. The first sign of it was purely negative, but it was carefully noted in Babylonia, and the record of the divergent views has come down to us. Sennacherib did not go to Babylon to be crowned or proclaimed king or skakkanak. As we now see the case from the vantage point of later history this was a fatal blunder. The empire divided in opinion at once. The so-called Babylonian Chronicle, resting on official sources, sets down for 704 and 703 Sennacherib as king of Babylon. That is to say, Sennacherib, without the carrying out of the usual rites, without the ordinary concessions to the time-honored regulations of the priesthood, without any salve for Babylonian pride, called himself king of Babylon, and the state record, compiled by authority, sets him down as king. But the Ptolemaic Canon, which clearly goes back to Babylonian sources, marks the years 704 and 703 as "kingless". This was the real Babylonian opinion. This man Sennacherib might collect his taxes and tributes because he had the armed forces wherewith to enforce his demands, but he could not force the hearts of the people to acknowledge him as the genuine, the legitimate, king. In this, the first stroke of a new and revolutionary policy, Sennacherib had made provision for a disturbance which should vex his life, if, indeed, it did not disrupt his kingdom—such force have ancient custom and solemn religious rites.
This state of affairs could not continue long—an Assyrian king claiming to be king in Babylon while the Babylonians denied that he was king at all. A rebellion broke out in Babylonia, and a man of humble origin, called in the King List' son of a slave, by name Marduk Zakir Shumu, was proclaimed king. Here was again a disturbance brought on by folly, and likely to grow worse before it was better. In this condition of affairs the ever-watchful and certainly able Merodach Baladan saw his opportunity. Marduk Zakir Shumu had reigned one month when the Chaldean appeared, and was able to have himself again set up as king (702). He now set out to bring about a condition of affairs which would compel Sennacherib to leave him alone in the enjoyment of the old honor and position. It was Sargon who had so long left him in peace, while he was occupied in pacifying the west. If he could now disturb the west again and divert from himself Sennacherib and his armies, he might again be permitted to rule long enough to fix himself firmly in his position. This time he might hope to have less difficulty in satisfying his Elamite and Chaldean followers. The plan was adroit, and promised well. The Book of Kings' narrates that Merodach Baladan sent an embassy to Hezekiah to congratulate him on his recovery from a severe illness. Hezekiah showed his visitors the royal treasures and arsenals, doubtless greatly impressing them with the wealth and strength of Judah. There is no hint of any ulterior purpose in the mind of Merodach Baladan, but the result shows pretty clearly that this embassy was really intended to sow seeds of rebellion. It is most probable that he also sought to draw Egypt into some rebellious compact, for Sennacherib later had also to fight that country. The plan to divert Sennacherib to the west failed because the state of affairs in the kingdom was very different from that which had obtained in the days of Sargon. Sargon was a usurper, and had to make sure of his borders and establish himself upon the throne. On the other hand, Sennacherib inherited a kingdom which accepted his rule without a murmur, and was therefore better able to look after Merodach Baladan at once. He made no false step in the quelling of this rebellion, though his own folly had been the real cause of it. He determined to leave the Palestinian states to their own pleasure and strike at the root of the disaffection in Babylonia.
Sennacherib crossed the Tigris and marched in the direction of Babylon, meeting with little opposition until he reached Kish, about nine miles east of Babylon, where Merodach Baladan had deployed his forces. Here was fought the first battle, and Merodach Baladan was completely routed and forced to seek safety in flight. The city of Babylon was not prepared for a siege, and Sennacherib entered it without difficulty. The palace of Merodach Baladan was plundered of everything valuable, but apparently Sennacherib did not disturb the possessions of the native Babylonians. He then marched into Chaldea, ransacking the whole country. In one of his records of this campaign Sennacherib declares that he destroyed eighty-nine cities and eight hundred and twenty villages; in another he gives seventy-six cities and four hundred and twenty villages. Whatever the correct figures may be there can be no doubt that the land was fearfully punished. Merodach Baladan, who had hidden himself in Guzuman, was not captured. When this was done Sennacherib set about the governmental reorganization of the country. He had with him a young man named Bel Ibni, a Babylonian by birth, but reared in the royal palace of Assyria. Him Sennacherib made king in this year (702), after Merodach Baladan had reigned but nine months. When Sennacherib was ready to return to Assyria he carried back immense booty with him, and besides the horses and asses and camels and sheep he took away two hundred and eight thousand people. This extensive deportation must have been made, according to the policy of Tiglath Pileser, to achieve peace and prevent further rebellion. How well even this heroic treatment succeeded with a high-strung people like the Babylonians only later history can show.
After the end of the Babylonian campaign Sennacherib marched into the territory of the Kasshu and Yasubigallu, who lived in the Median mountains east of Babylonia. They were a semi-barbaric people, and the campaign must have been undertaken merely to make the Assyrian border country safe from their plundering raids. The invasion was successful in reducing the country, and captives of war were settled in it, while the nomadic inhabitants were forced to settle down in the cities. In this country some of the Babylonians whom Sennacherib had carried off may have found their home. Thence into Ellipi Sennacherib continued his march. Ishpabara, whom Sargon had made king, had not paid his tribute regularly, and must now be punished. Fearing the consequences of his faithlessness, Ishpabara fled, and Sennacherib easily captured the capital, Marubishti, with the villages in its environs. A part of the country was colonized and then annexed to the province of Kharkhar, as Ellipi had been to that of Arrapkha. After the withdrawal of the Assyrians, Ishpabara appears to have regained some of his lost territory.
In 701 Sennacherib was forced to invade the west. He gives us no new reasons for this invasion, but the occasion for it is easily read between the lines of his records, and deduced from the biblical narrative. When rebellions were afoot in Babylonia, and for a time at least were successful, when Egypt was eager to regain lost prestige in a land where she had once been all-powerful, when an embassy from the indefatigable Merodach Baladan had come all the way from Babylonia to win sympathy and the help of a diversion in the west, it was hardly possible that these small states should remain quiet and pay their annual tribute without a murmur. We do not know how much inclined Hezekiah of Judah may have been to join in an open rebellion at this time. He had, however, taken up a position which would make it easy for him to do so; and the war party with its national enthusiasm and unthinking patriotism was strong at his court. This policy was bitterly opposed by Isaiah, the leader of the cautious-minded men, who saw only disaster in any breach with Assyria at this time. Isaiah was no lover of Assyria, but he saw clearly how weak and poor was the help which the land might hope for from the outside. The Syrian states had suffered much from their former reliance on Egypt, and there was certainly no reason to hope that matters would be any better now. The wisest counsel was undoubtedly that of Isaiah. But, even though Hezekiah was willing to take it, which he certainly was not, it would have been almost impossible for him to do so. The whole land was aflame with patriotism, and woe betide the man, even a king, who dared to oppose it.
Indeed the king had himself done much to foster not only this very spirit, now become dangerous, but also to quicken a consciousness of security which could not fail to collapse in the presence of such armies as Assyria was able to put into the field. Hezekiah had been victorious over the Philistines, and that probably very early in his reign; why should he not also conquer the Assyrians? would be the simple reasoning of those who had not directly experienced the Assyrian advance in war. He had built an aqueduct by which an abundant supply of flowing water was brought within the city walls. What that meant for the city is almost incalculable by occidentals. Jerusalem had never had flowing water before within its walls. It could therefore easily be taken by a siege in the dry season. Hezekiah had supplied this primary need, and by so doing had immeasurably added to the defensibility of the city. There is no doubt that this was a war measure, and that it would be so understood and interpreted by the people is even more clear. How easy was the task of the anti-Assyrian party with such arguments as these—victory over the Philistines, and a new aqueduct—to break down the opposition led by Isaiah and supported by his unpopular associates. All that Isaiah actually accomplished was the postponement of the breach with Assyria; without him it would inevitably have come sooner.
As in Judah, so also in Egypt was the way preparing for an uprising in Syria. An Ethiopian dynasty was now ruling, nominally at least, over the whole land of Egypt. But there is evidence enough to show that the Ethiopian king could hardly claim to be absolute master of the destinies of the Nile valley. Sennacherib in his narrative of the later campaign refers not to the king of Egypt, but to the kings of Egypt, and his successors upon the Assyrian throne supply us with lists of the names of kings over districts of Egypt. All these district kings were striving for more power, and the Ethiopian overlord must gain ascendency over them all before he could dispose, as he would, of Egypt's greatness. He could readily see that a movement outside of Egypt, against external foes, would be certain, if successful, to increase his prestige at home. The same hopes would be in the minds of the district kings. A policy like this pursued by a district king, such, for example, as Sibe, might make him, instead of the Ethiopian overlord, the real king of Egypt. If one of these kings was seeking a place in which to gain advantage by interference, there was none more promising than Syria. Even a slight hope of regaining it would readily unite all parties in Egypt, and he would be sure of his throne. He would thus be glad to encourage any patriotic party in Syria to appeal to him for help, hoping, when the accounts were reckoned up, to be able to turn to his own advantage whatever help he might give to the rebels against Assyria. Gladly would he listen to an appeal for help from Judah. And in spite of Isaiah the appeal was sent. An embassy from Hezekiah, naturally laden with presents, went to Egypt and the Egyptians promised assistance. More and more the patriotic party in Judah gained the ascendency. The country was ready for a daring stroke against Assyria. Hezekiah became the moving spirit of a rebellion which swept over all the Syrian states.
The rebellion broke first in Ekron. Here the Assyrian had set up a governor who remained faithful to his masters beyond the Euphrates, to the bitter end. The uprising in his city was general if not universal. "The governors, chiefs, and people of Ekron", as Sennacherib says, cast Padi into iron chains and then delivered him up to Hezekiah to be shut up in prison. This act in itself—and our knowledge of it comes at firsthand from Sennacherib's own historiographers, and not from the Hebrews—shows that Hezekiah was regarded as the real head of the insurrection. Sennacherib could not brook such an insult as this to a prince whom the Assyrians had set up, for nothing of Assyrian prestige could be saved if this were allowed to go unpunished. He resolved to proceed at once in person at the head of his armies and strike suddenly before the forces of all Syria could unite. His first point of attack was the Phoenician cities. Sennacherib says nothing about a siege of Tyre at this time, for he was certainly not prepared to attack a city which could only be reached successfully by the sea. He was, however, able to ravage its tributary cities on the mainland, and so affect it indirectly. Having thus injured the city's commerce and frightened its defenders, Sennacherib turned against Sidon. Elulmus (Luli), who was now king, dared not await the conqueror's approach, and fled. The city surrendered at once, and Sennacherib made it the capital of a new province. Tyre had been engaged in setting up a new confederation of which it should be the head. Sennacherib could now forestall this by setting up Ethobal as king in Sidon and giving him Sidon, Bit Zitti, Sarepta (Sariptu), Machalliba, Ushu, Ekdippa (Akzibu), and Akko (now Acre) as his kingdom.
The very presence of the Assyrian monarch, engaged in his work of making and unmaking kingdoms, filled all Syria with terror. States which had been ready enough to rebel against Assyrian tribute were now ready to surrender without the faintest attempt at a fight. Among these who had more discretion than valor were Menahem (Minchimmu) of Samsimuruna, the location of which is unknown; Abdiliti of Arvad, Urumilki of Byblos; Mitinti of Ashdod, Budu Ilu of Beth Ammon, Kammusu Nadab of Moab, and Malik Rammu of Edom. All these brought heavy and costly presents, and so assured Sennacherib of their desire to live peaceably and pay well their tribute. This formidable defection from the ranks of the rebels greatly reduced their chances for success, for it left large spaces of territory from which neither supplies nor men could be drawn. Sennacherib, however, had not yet terrorized all Syria, and there were some who boldly held on their course and prepared for defense. Of these states Ashkelon first demanded severe treatment from Sennacherib. Tiglath Pileser had set up Rukipti as king over the people of Ashkelon, but his son, Sharru Ludari, had been driven out and a usurper named Zidqa was now ruling in the city. His only hope of a continuance in power was in successful resistance to Sennacherib. The city was, however, soon taken, and Zidqa with all his family was carried off to Assyria, and Sharru Ludari set up as king. It is somewhat surprising that this conquest did not bring about more desertions from the rebels, but the remainder held fast and had to be reduced piecemeal. Even the other cities which formed part of the little kingdom of Ashkelon had to be taken one at a time; so fell Beth Dagon, Joppa, Benebarqa, and Azuru.
The campaign was now swiftly approaching Ekron, and Sennacherib is probably reporting only the actual fact when he says that the people of Ekron feared in their hearts. Before he had his reckoning with them he must first meet a formidable foe. Unlike former kings of Egypt, or of its separate districts, the present rulers were determined to send some help to the newly gained allies in Palestine, or Syria. They might well do so, for it was not merely the possession of Syria which was now in the balance, but even the autonomy of Egypt itself. No man could possibly tell when the Assyrians would invade the land of the Pharaohs if Syria were wholly theirs, and hence a safe base of operations and supplies. As we have said before, there is every good reason for believing that this had long ago been contemplated in Assyria. The forces of the Egyptians, advancing northward, united with a contingent from Melukhkha, probably not very large, and then proceeded onward, intending doubtless a junction with the troops of Hezekiah. Before this could be effected Sennacherib halted the advance at Altaku and offered battle. It was a battle of giants, and, though Sennacherib boasts of the usual victory, it must have been achieved with great loss. That the victory in a measure was his there can be no doubt. He captured the son of an Egyptian king and the son of a general of Melukhkha. The cities of Eltekeh and Timnath were then taken, and the road was opened to Ekron. Ekron could offer no effectual resistance, and the city was terribly punished. The chief men who had driven Padi from the throne were impaled on stakes about the city, while their unhappy followers were deported. The Assyrian party in the city was, on the other hand, peacefully treated. It was a horrible object lesson to those who looked on. Padi, who was still in the hands of Hezekiah, was later restored to the command of the city.
At first thought it seems remarkable that Sennacherib did not follow up this victory over the Egyptians. Their allies in Palestine were defeated; their detachments from Arabia were routed; they themselves were in full flight. Much indeed might have been gained by a decisive castigation of troublesome Egypt. But Sennacherib's chief enemy in all this campaign was Hezekiah, and Jerusalem his real goal. Until the Judean king was ruined and Jerusalem devastated, as Ekron had been, the object of the campaign would not be fulfilled.
Into Jerusalem came the news of the Egyptian defeat at Eltekeh and of the overwhelming of Ekron, and still Hezekiah did not offer to surrender. Up from the plains of Philistia came the victorious Assyrian army, and one by one the fortified cities of Judah fell before it until forty-six had been taken. Their inhabitants were now reckoned as Assyrian subjects, and according to the historians of Sennacherib they numbered two hundred thousand one hundred and fifty. These cities were then divided between Mitinti, king of Ashdod, Padi, king of Ekron, and Zil Bal, king of Gaza—a serious loss of territory to Hezekiah. Thoroughly convinced now that further resistance would mean utter destruction, Hezekiah determined to submit and secure such terms as he could. He sent an embassy to Sennacherib, whose headquarters were established at Lachish in the Shephela. Sennacherib demanded a tribute of thirty talents of gold and eight hundred of silver, as the Assyrian accounts represent, or three hundred talents of silver, as the Hebrew narrative recounts. The securing of such a sum was a grievous task, and it was only accomplished by stripping the temple of ornaments and furnishing. The humiliation of Hezekiah was as complete as his impoverishment. It was also probably at this time that Padi, king of Ekron, was delivered up by Hezekiah, and thereupon resettled in the rule over his city. When Sennacherib had secured the gifts he did not rest satisfied, but, feeling sure that he could not be resisted, demanded the surrender of Jerusalem. A part of his army, under the command of a Rabshakeh, a general officer of some kind, is sent, with a detachment of troops as escort, to express his determination. This brought about a panic in the populace, and the king himself was in a frenzy of fear. Years later Sennacherib might well say of Hezekiah: "I shut him up like a caged bird in Jerusalem, his royal city". The city was not besieged, but was blockaded, so that all hope of succor from outside was cut off. Within the walls, amid all the confusion and fear, preparations for a last defense went on vigorously. Without them, at the "conduit of the upper pool, which is in the highway of the fuller's field", negotiations were carried on between the Rabshakeh on the one side, and on the other Eliakim, palace governor; Shebna, state recorder; and Joah, chancellor.
Though both threatened and cajoled, Hezekiah refused to give up the city, and the Rabshakeh withdrew his force and joined the main body at Libnah, whither Sennacherib had withdrawn from Lachish, which had succumbed to superior force. It was conceived to be a place of such importance that its conquest is celebrated by Sennacherib in a magnificent wall inscription with pictures in relief.
Sennacherib had now to decide upon the course to be pursued in view of Hezekiah's determined persistence. It was clear that Jerusalem could only be taken after a siege, and this was apparently resolved upon, when news reached Libnah that Tirhaqa, king of Ethiopia, was advancing out of Egypt to give aid to Hezekiah. A letter was dispatched at once to Jerusalem demanding the capitulation of the city, and at the same time Sennacherib moved southward to meet Tirhaqa. He probably reached Pelusium, on the very confines of Egypt, a place famous both before and since that day as a center for the dissemination of the plague, and there pestilence suddenly fastened upon the Assyrian army. All hopes of invading Egypt must be abandoned, and Sennacherib led homeward only a miserable fragment of an army which had hitherto proved almost invincible. The joy of that hour to all the west may scarcely even be imagined. To the Hebrews it meant nothing less than God's intervention to save the remnant of a kingdom once so glorious. To Tirhaqa it gave some claim to have conquered the Assyrians, and as a victor over Khatte, Arados, and Asshur he is celebrated in one of his own inscriptions. The tradition of that wonderful deliverance lived on in Egypt, and was told to Herodotus by his cicerone in the temple of Ptah, at Memphis. As he reproduces the story, field mice gnawed the thongs of the bows and devoured the quivers of the army of Sennacherib, "king of the Arabians and Assyrians", so that "a priest of Vulcan, called Sethos", readily had a victory over them. As thus narrated the story contains much unhistorical material, though told with fire and force, bat it surely has a basis in historic fact, and refers doubtless to the same event as the Hebrew writer has described.
Though successful in all the great campaigns down the seacoast from Sidon to Ashkelon and up the slopes of the hill country to within fifteen miles of Jerusalem, Sennacherib had, nevertheless, failed in the main object of his expedition. Jerusalem still stood, and but for pestilence it would have been a smoking ruin, as Ekron. Hezekiah still reigned, and that with increased prestige, and but for pestilence he would be a captive in Nineveh, as was Zidka, king of Ashkelon. Ethiopia was left free to continue its peaceful assimilation of Egypt, and but for the pestilence Assyrian governors would be ruling its fertile valleys as even now they held sway in Ashdod. Sennacherib's failure in the west justified in every particular the foresight and statesmanship of Isaiah, and the echo of the prophet's words would resound when the empty boasts of the defeated king were known only to quiet students. For twenty years longer did Sennacherib possess the power of Assyria, but he never invaded Palestine again.
Sennacherib had left Babylonia in the full enjoyment of peace, but he had also sown thoroughly the seeds of unrest. Bel-ibni, one of his own creatures, was on the throne, but however well disposed he was, there was no hope that he might successfully resist the distemper of the people. Their patriotic love for Babylon, their belief that once a world city meant always a world city, had been grossly trodden under foot by the Assyrian king; their inborn religious feeling had been outraged beyond endurance by a king who paid not the least attention to their solemn rites of coronation. Sennacherib was now deeply embroiled in the western troubles, and the Babylonians thoroughly understood them, for news traveled far and fast in the ancient Orient. The time was, to their mind, auspicious for the reassertion of national ideals. No matter what Bel Ibni may have desired, he was forced by resistless public sentiment into a position hostile to Assyria. Ever ready for any chance at his old enemy, Merodach Baladan of the Sea Lands joined in the rebellion, and the Chaldeans, under a native prince named Marduk Ushezib, also engaged in it. This looked like a promising rebellion, though that the confederates could divide the land between them if there was success might well be doubted.
The new organization of affairs in Babylonia went well for a short period, until the appearance in 700 of Sennacherib. At once the whole compact fell to pieces. Bel Ibni was captured and sent ignominiously to Assyria, whose training he had dishonored, along with his foolish counselors. Marduk Ushezib fled toward the south, and went into hiding in the marshes at the mouths of the rivers. Merodach Baladan embarked his gods and his people upon ships, and sailing down the Persian Gulf, settled along the eastern shores in the land of Elam, whither Sennacherib did not dare to follow him. There he soon after died. No man like him as an opponent of Assyria had arisen since the days of Ben Hadad II of Damascus. Adroit enough to surrender always at the right time, ever full of resources when there was the least hope of success, implacable in his hostility, his removal from action was a great boon to Assyria. His name did not die with him, but his descendants, of the same stuff in their persistency, remained to plague a later day in Assyrian history. The land of Bit-Yakin was next ravaged by Sennacherib in the vain attempt to root out the elements of discord and disaffection. On his return northward Sennacherib had his own son, Asshur Nadin Shum, proclaimed in Babylon as king. And so began another attempt at governing this difficult part of the empire.
In the next year (699) military operations were necessary in Cilicia and Cappadocia. The mountainous country of Khilakku, amid the crags of the Taurus, was penetrated and reduced to subjection. Rebellion in the lower parts of Cilicia, in the province created by Sargon, was stamped out by the destruction of the capital. This campaign seems to have made a great impression at the time. Sennacherib boasts of the overcoming of extraordinary obstacles in mountain climbing; and Berossos ascribes to him the erection of the city of Tarsus. By this he can only mean rebuilding or restoration, for the city is known to have been in existence at least as early as Shalmaneser II. Another campaign, probably little more than a raid, was directed about the same time against Tumur, in the north.
Again were troubles brewing in Babylonia, even while the king's own son maintained his precarious rule. The Chaldeans were not so well led as they had been, but even in exile they ceased not to plot against the nation which had humiliated them. A large number of Chaldeans had left the southlands of Babylonia and settled on the coasts of Elam. Here they were an ever-present menace to the peace of Babylonia. In 604 Sennacherib undertook a campaign for their destruction. It was a campaign extraordinary in conception and execution. He built boats on the Tigris and manned them with Phoenicians and Cyprians, who were better used to ships than the land-loving Assyrians. The boats were then floated down the Tigris to Upi (Opis), and thence conveyed overland to the Euphrates by camels, where they were again launched and went down to the Persian Gulf. A short sail brought the forces to the colonies which Merodach Baladan had founded, where the cities were destroyed and their inhabitants slain or carried into captivity. Never before had Sennacherib made a direct attack on Elam, and this was not to go by without an effort after revenge. Khallus, the Elamite king, invaded Babylonia and plundered Sippar. Asshur Nadin Shum, who had enough courage to oppose him, was taken captive to Elam, whence he apparently never returned. The Elamites then crowned in Babylonia a native by the name of Nergal Ushezib. This act again divided the land. The new king held only northern Babylonia, while all the south was in Assyrian hands. Nergal Ushezib attempted to gain control also over the south, and marched to Nippur, which he took in 693. Shortly after he met an Assyrian army, and a battle was fought in which he was taken prisoner and carried to Assyria. In Elam an uprising took place in which Khallus was killed, and the throne came to Kudur Nakhundi. These reversals of fortune seemed to hand over the land of Babylon again to the Assyrians, but the matter was by no means settled. The Assyrians could not hope to hold Babylonia in safety if the Elamites were not so punished for the late invasion that they would never dare the like again. The change in kings gave a favorable opportunity, and Sennacherib invaded the land. He claims to have sacked and burned thirty-four cities and to have seized much treasure. The king was not taken nor his capital city besieged—and this failure Sennacherib ascribes to weather of unusual severity and to great cold. Kudur Nakhundi lived only three months more, and was succeeded by his younger brother, Umman Minanu, whom Sennacherib considered a man without judgment and intelligence.
While these events were happening in Elam, and Sennacherib was tied down to his efforts there, another Chaldean seized the reins of power in Babylonia. Mushezib Marduk was made king in Babylon in 692. It is one of the curious changes in history that he was supported by the native Babylonians. It was but a short time since the Babylonian hatred of Chaldeans was so strong that an Assyrian king who was able to drive them from the country was hailed as a deliverer. Now the Babylonians were filled with hatred and dread of the Assyrians, and made common cause with the Chaldeans against them. The Babylonians and Chaldeans then gained as another ally the Elamites, by giving to Umman Minanu the treasures of the ancient temple of E-sagila as a bribe. Political necessities had surely made strange bedfellows when the Elamites, who so recently had been invaders and plunderers in Babylonia, were now chosen friends to strengthen a Chaldean upon a Babylonian throne. With the Elamites were found as allies peoples of many places which had been organized as Assyrian provinces but a short time before. Among these were Parsua, Ellipi, and the Puqudu, the Gambuli, and, most interesting of all, Samunu, the son of Merodach-Baladan, who had revenge in his heart beyond a doubt, and was glad of an opportunity to meet his father's enemy. The allies came down into Babylonia, and Sennacherib's historiographer waxed eloquent as he thought of that great array. They were "like a great swarm of locusts". "The dust of their feet was like a storm by which the wide heavens are covered with thick clouds". In 691 Sennacherib met the combined armies at Khalule. The description of the battle as the Annals have preserved it is one of the most thrilling in all Assyrian literature. Words of blood and fire are heaped one upon the other to set forth the overwhelming might of the great king's opponents and the awful butchery which they suffered. But the very protestations of such complete victory awaken skepticism, which becomes conviction when we survey the conclusion of the whole conflict. Immediately after the battle Sennacherib withdrew to Assyria. He made no attempt to pursue the forces which he is said to have routed, neither did he turn to Babylon to drive the usurper from the throne. If he really did gain the victory, it must have been with tremendous losses which could not be promptly repaired.
In 689 Sennacherib again invaded Babylonia and came up to the city itself. The Babylonians had now no Elamite allies, and the city was soon taken. Thereupon ensued one of the wildest scenes of human folly in all history. The city was treated exactly as the Assyrian kings had been accustomed to treat insignificant villages which had joined in rebellion. It was plundered, its inhabitants driven from their homes or deported, its walls broken down. The torch was then applied, and over the plain rolled the smoke of consuming temples and palaces, the fruit of centuries of high civilization. All that the art of man had up to that time devised of beauty and of glory, of majesty and of massiveness, lay in one great smoldering ruin. Over this the waters of the Euphrates were diverted that the site of antiquity's greatest city might be turned into a pestilential swamp.
Marduk, the great god of the city, was carried away and set up in the city of Asshur, that no future settlers might be able to secure the protection of the deity who had raised the city to eminence. Marduk Ushezib was carried a prisoner to Assyria.
It was undoubtedly the hope and belief of Sennacherib that he had finally settled the Babylonian question, which had so long burdened him and former kings of Assyria. There would now, in his opinion, be no further trouble about the crowning of kings in Babylon and the taking of the hands of Marduk, for the city was a swamp and Marduk an exile. There would be no more glorification of the city at the expense of Nineveh, which was now, by a process of elimination, assuredly the chief city of western Asia. But in all this Sennacherib reasoned not as a wise man. He had indeed blotted out the city, but the site hallowed by custom and venerated for centuries remained. He had slain or driven into exile its citizens, but in the hearts of the survivors there burned still the old patriotism, the old pride of citizenship in a world city. He had humbled the Babylonians indeed, but what of the Chaldeans who had already produced a Merodach Baladan and might produce another like him, who would seek revenge for the punishment of his race and its allies in Babylonia? From a purely commercial point of view the destruction had been great folly. The plundering of the great city before its burning had undoubtedly produced immense treasure to carry away into Assyria, but there would have been a great annual income of tribute, which was now cut off; and a vast loss by the fire, which blotted out warehouses and extensive stores as well as temples and palaces. This historic crime would later be avenged in full measure. In any estimation of the character of the Assyrian people the destruction of Babylon must be set down by the side of the raids and the murders of Asshurnazirpal. It is a sad episode in human history which gave over to savages in thought and in action the leadership of the Semitic race, and took it away from the Hebrews and Aramaeans and the culture-loving Babylonians.
For eight long and weary years the only record of the Babylonian Chronicle and the Ptolemaic Canon is, "There was no king in Babylon". The babble of many tongues of diverse peoples who had garnered knowledge, carved beautiful statues, experimented in divers forms of government, sang hymns of praise, and uttered plaints of penitence was hushed, and in its place was the great silence of the desert, which a ruthless destroyer had made.
At some time between 688 and 682 Sennacherib again went westward into Arabia. Sargon had there met with extraordinary success. But the results had been very short-lived. The Bedouin inhabitants were able to pay tribute, and would do so for a time if there was fear of punishment, but they were so continually moving about from place to place with their flocks and herds that it was difficult to follow them and keep them in dread. It was one thing to punish a people who had houses and cities, it was another thing to discipline a people whose black tents of camel's hair were quickly folded and their possessors swept silently away over pathless deserts beneath a blazing and relentless sun. Sennacherib's long absence had blotted out the memory of the past among the Arabians, and they were now rather under Egyptian than Assyrian influence. To restore the Assyrian position was the object of an expedition known to us only by a reference in the inscriptions of Sennacherib's son and successor. Adumu, a sort of settlement, probably the Dumatha of Ptolemy, was taken and the gods carried away to Assyria. More than this could hardly have been accomplished among a population such as this. Though we have no mention of it, it is probable that some booty was secured, and the Assyrian prestige would be increased by the taking away of the gods.
It was the last act of Sennacherib in war. Shortly after his return home, on the twentieth day of the month Tebet, in the year 681, he was murdered in a temple by the hands of his own sons, Nergal Sharezer and Adarmalik. Like many another assassination, west and east, the crime was due to jealousy of another son and desire to secure the succession to the throne. So ended a reign little worthy of the one which had preceded it. Sennacherib's inscriptions indeed boast loudly of great victories, but there seems but little foundation for most of them. He added nothing to what his father had won and held. His hand was a hand of iron and blood, and not of real creative power. No great policy of administration was devised or begun by him. That he was Sargon's son had won him position, that he had brute force in certain measure had held it for him. The empire had been maintained in its integrity, though the fairest portion of it had been changed into ruin and waste in the doing of it.
The only act of peace which may safely be predicated of his reign was the transfer of the capital from Dur Sharrukin to Nineveh, where a palace was re-erected on old foundations, in which the king dwelt. He began to make Nineveh the world's chief city by the erection of this palace, and by the destruction of the greater Babylon the self-imposed task was completed.