(1365-1330 BC )

ENLIL-NIRARI (1330-1319 BC)


ARIK-DEN-ILI (1319–1308 BC ).



The pages of this history have had little to tell about Assyria or Babylonia since the reigns of Shamshi-Adad I and of his son Ishme-Dagan in the former, and since the end of Hammurabi’s last successor in the latter. The intervening space of nearly three centuries was occupied by the invasions and retarding influences which affected the whole of Western Asia and Egypt as well, and had produced a similar dimness in the view of all that vast area. In Egypt the invaders were the Hyksos, in Syria, Mesopotamia, and eastward the Hurrians, in Babylonia the Kassites; all of them peoples of origins as obscure as their cultural levels were generally low, and all alike destined to lose their individuality, partly by conquest, but mostly by absorption, before they had attained a distinctive civilization or much history of their own. For this dark age modern research has therefore to depend partly upon survivals and intermittent gleams of the old. The point now reached in the story is that where the gloom is everywhere receding—it had been dispelled from Egypt with the ejection of the Hyksos and the counter-invasion of Syria by the kings of the Eighteenth Dynasty, but these had never approached near enough to the old seats of the Babylonian culture to exercise a direct influence there or to break (if such had been the effect) the deadening spell which still overpowered them. The greatest of Egyptian conquerors, Tuthmosis III, was indeed able, at the farthest point of his penetration into Syria, to include among the spoils of his campaign a tribute from Ashur, which his fame if not his armies had reached. Little affected by this distant intruder, and not at all by his successors, the Assyrian nation had far more to fear and to suffer from the nearer oppression of the Hurrians, represented by kings of the states called Mitanni and Khanigalbat, whose history up to the present point has been related in the foregoing chapters. The Kassites had begun to raid and settle in Babylonia under the son of Hammurabi, and had at length established themselves in the capital, filling the void left after the Hittite raid which ended the Amorite Dynasty there. Yet despite violent interferences the two lands had lost little of their respective identities. Throughout all these years the line of Assyrian kings was never broken, and the invaders of Babylonia had come, like so many of their forerunners, to be accepted as merely a new dynasty in a country seemingly gifted with an inexhaustible capacity of absorbing the most intractable elements and reshaping them in its own mould.

In Assyria the line of kings is preserved unbroken to us only by lists of their names and reigns. Of the thirty-six counted between Ishme-Dagan I and Ashur-uballit several occupied an uneasy throne for a moment only, and the rest have left no more than a few records of local building activity in the city of Ashur, coupled with a genealogical notice. Their inscriptions occupy not half-a-dozen pages in modern books, and where they have told nothing of themselves it is not surprising that the outside world has told, in general, no more. There is no doubt that most of these reigns were passed under the shadow of foreign domination, projected partly from Babylonia, where the equally obscure early Kassite kings seem to have claimed a certain sovereignty over the northern neighbour. But a much more menacing cloud impended from the west, from the various rulers of the Hurrian peoples, who, if they never supplanted the Assyrian kings in their own small domain, at least extended their power and occupied districts which more naturally belonged to the Assyrians, even on the side remote from the principal seats of the Hurrian kingdoms. It chances that we are very amply informed upon the population, the institutions, language, and life of a district centred upon Arrapkha (modern Kirkuk) with an important outlying subsidiary at Nuzi, only a few miles away. The towns were then inhabited by a mostly Hurrian population, which rather awkwardly affected to use the Akkadian language for its legal business and public records, but spoke its own uncouth vernacular and acknowledged the rule of Saustatar, king of Mitanni. The city of Ashur hardly appears at all in these voluminous documents, but Nineveh is prominent, especially in personal names, and may probably be considered a Mitannian possession, containing a strong blend of Hurrian inhabitants at this time. Arrapkha, lost to Babylonian rule since the days of Samsuiluna, passed into the domain of the Hurrians, not of the Assyrians, despite its comparative proximity to Ashur; the Nuzi tablets give sufficient indication that the kings of Assyria must, in these generations, have been no more than vassals of the Hurrian monarchs who controlled the country far and wide around the city on the Tigris. In these circumstances it is not surprising that what little is known about Assyria, even in the time which directly preceded her great recovery, is derived incidentally from the history of Mitanni, itself fragmentary and partly dependent upon still other records.





The restorer of the power of Assyria was, beyond doubt, Ashur-uballit who was destined to become a leading figure of his day, but he has told us nothing to the purpose about himself. Half-a-dozen short inscriptions concern the repair of two temples and some work upon a well in his city of Ashur, no more than the least distinguished of his predecessors. The Assyrian kings had not yet learned the art of appending to their building-inscriptions those notes of contemporary events which were soon to expand themselves into the detailed annals of later reigns. A first mention of the great king’s deeds is made, in his own family, by his great-grandson, looking back over the glories of his line and taking Ashur-uballit as the inaugurator of these. In the general documentation of his age he makes a better appearance, though sometimes anonymously. His own most interesting relics are two letters found in distant Egypt among the celebrated archive of Amarna. These two despatches clearly belong to different periods of his reign and power. The first is addressed “to the king of Egypt from Ashur-uballit, king of Assyria”, and its contents are suitable to this modest beginning—the writer sends his messenger to make contact with the potentate, “to see you and your land”, and to offer a suitable present, a fine chariot, two horses, and a jewel of lapis-lazuli, in lauding which he observes that his father had never sent such gifts, a remark which is amplified in the second letter. This is longer and more interesting; Ashur-uballit, writing later in his reign, has now become “the king of Assyria, the great king, your brother”, and addresses Amenophis by the corresponding titles, including “my brother”. The gifts are repeated, even increased, but it is made very clear that they are sent strictly upon the understanding do ut des, for the writer goes on to say he is informed that “gold in your land is dust, they pick it up”. So, as he has to sustain the expense of building a new palace, let his brother send all the gold it needs. This is reinforced by an interesting appeal to the past, “when Ashur-nadin-ahhe my father [second predecessor] sent to Egypt they returned him twenty talents of gold, and when the Khanigalbatian king sent to your father they sent him also twenty talents. Send me as much as to the Khanigalbatian”. In the same ungracious strain he churlishly dismisses the favour already accepted—“(what you have sent) does not even suffice for the expense of my messengers going and coming”. This is, of course, only one example of the greed for Egyptian gold which pervades the letters of the Asiatic princes, who evidently saw nothing unworthy in such bartering of presents. It has been observed that, for uncertain reasons, gold had at this period temporarily replaced silver as a medium of exchange, and that the mutual gifts, massive and carefully inventoried, passing between these courts, may be considered a form of state trading; as gold was the particular export of Egypt so were lapis-lazuli and horses the Asiatic valuables traded in return. In any case, princes had never been restrained in criticizing their correspondents gifts with unblushing candour. The letter of Ashur-uballit ends with some words about the difficulties of communication, “we are distant lands, and our messengers must travel thus”, subject to hindrances. There had been complaints on both sides about undue retention of messengers; some of the Egyptians had been kept prisoners by the Sutu, the desert nomads, and the Assyrian king writes that he had done everything possible to effect their release. But this misfortune, he adds, is no reason for the Assyrian messengers to be detained as a reprisal—why should they die in a far land? If this brought any advantage to the king, so be it, but since there is none, why not let them go?

There is nothing to show that the pharaoh took all this in particularly ill part—the style was too familiar. But there was another who thought it worth while to send him (or his successor) a sharp protest against these negotiations, the contemporary Kassite king Burnaburiash, the second of that name in the dynasty. This indignant letter recalls that Kurigalzu, his father, had been tempted by the Canaanites to make a league with them for a raid upon Egypt, and Kurigalzu had repulsed these overtures. “But now the Assyrians, subjects of mine, have I not written to you how their mind is? Why have they come to your country? If you love me, let them accomplish nought of their purpose, but send them away empty”. The ancestors of Burnaburiash may indeed have claimed and even exercised a certain supremacy over the shadow-kings of Ashur, pent in their small domain between the hordes of a nearer oppressor. But not only was there now a man of different temper upon the Assyrian throne; the oppressors had been repulsed and every circumstance changed. Protest from Babylon was in vain, for the pharaoh was too well advised to ignore reality. To be noticed, it would have had to come from another quarter, and there all was silence.

Burnaburiash was a regular correspondent with the Egyptian court, and had much more to write than complaints about the Assyrians. In a first letter to Amenophis IV he was garrulous about his health and his vexation that no condolences had been sent to him; he peevishly enquired whether it was a long way to Egypt and, hearing that it was, he condescended to forgive his ‘brother’ such neglect. Burnaburiash too wanted much gold, but advised his royal correspondent not to entrust the despatch of this to any knavish official, for the last time when it arrived the weight was short, and on another occasion there was less than a quarter of the due tale. More serious subjects (if there could be any more serious than the gold supply) figured also in these letters: caravans from Babylon to Egypt had been stopped by the lawless Canaanites, some merchants robbed and murdered, others mutilated and enslaved. “Canaan is your land ... and in your land have I been outraged. Arrest them, therefore, make good the money they plundered, slay those who slew my servants and avenge their blood!”. There were also marriage treatments between the two kings; Burnaburiash promised to send a daughter to Egypt, but was not at all disposed to let her go without due attention. He complained that the delegation from Egypt to fetch her had only five carriages, and imagined to himself the comments of his courtiers if a daughter of the great king travelled with such a paltry escort. However, the marriage came to pass in the end, for there are two interminable lists of costly presents which were probably the mutual compliments of the two monarchs upon that occasion.

Nothing of more than such minor interest occurs in the dealings between Babylonia and Egypt at this time. Parted by a distance so great that Burnaburiash had no idea of it, the two kings did not even co-operate in dealing with the menace which afflicted them both alike, the lawless condition of Syria, and they had no other object in common. The most urgent topic in the letters from Babylon was the protest against recognizing the Assyrians, a matter of some weight to Burnaburiash, who saw his nominal supremacy passing rapidly into the real dominance of his rival, Ashur-uballit. The moment of destiny for Assyria in its relation with the Hurrian kingdoms which had long oppressed her was undoubtedly the murder of Tushratta, king of Mitanni, by one of his sons. This wealthy monarch, who had corresponded at great length with Amenophis III, lived to continue the same relation with Amenophis IV, but disappeared soon after the latter’s accession. The events of this time are related in some detail by the preambles of two versions of a treaty made between Tushratta’s son Kurtiwaza and the great king of the Hittites, whose patronage he obtained and sealed by marriage with a daughter.

At Tushratta’s death the throne of Mitanni was occupied by Artatama, the king of the Khurri land, who had long been his opponent and had as such enjoyed support from the Hittite king. But he had other supporters as well, particularly the lands of Assyria and Alshe, and he was accused of dissipating in bribes to these allies the riches gathered in the palace of earlier kings. If such were offered no doubt they were readily enough accepted by the avaricious Assyrian, but he had reasons of defence and ambition which in themselves would have ensured his hostility to Tushratta. When Artatama became king of Mitanni he left his son Shuttarna (called elsewhere Shutatarra) as his successor in the Khurri land (these realms are, however, ill-defined), and the latter completed the surrender to Assyria which his father had begun—this according to the hostile account which alone survives. He destroyed the palace built by Tushratta, broke up the precious vessels stored therein, and gave away these rich materials to the Assyrian who had been his father’s servant, but had revolted and refused tribute. Above all, Shuttarna restored to Assyria a splendid door of silver and gold which had been carried off by a former king of Mitanni and used to adorn his own palace at his capital Washshuganni. He made the same lavish sacrifices of his paternal wealth to the land of Alshe, he destroyed the houses of his Hurrian subjects, and delivered certain obnoxious nobles to the same enemies, who promptly impaled these hapless captives.

There can be no doubt that the Assyrian king who plays so prominent a part in this account was Ashur-uballit, although he is never named. How humble was his position at the beginning of his reign is proved by the definite claim that he was the tributary servant of the Babylonian king, and hardly less clearly by his own reference to a “Khanigalbatian king” as, in a sense, his own predecessor. At a favourable moment he cast off allegiance to Mitanni, but instead of incurring punishment, received from his master’s successor not only the trophies of earlier conquest, but the wealth, the princes, and even the territory of his former sovereign. The reason for this strange behaviour on the part of Artatama and his son can only be supposed the necessity in which they found themselves to win allies against an external danger, and that danger could be only the Hittites. Nevertheless, this too is strange, for it is clear that upon the death of Tushratta, who had been his enemy, the Hittite king viewed with indulgence the succession of Artatama. Estrangement soon occurred, however, and the Mitannian kings knew they must face the hostility of the powerful Shuppiluliumash, who found ready to his hand an opposition headed by Kurtiwaza, son of the murdered Tushratta. This young man’s situation soon became dangerous; he was constrained to flee, first to Babylon, and thence to the Hittite, with whom he threw in his lot and married his daughter. The course of a campaign which Kurtiwaza was now enabled to conduct against the Mitannian, and subsequently the Assyrian, powers has been sketched from available evidence in the preceding chapter.

What happened to Kurtiwaza in the end is not known, but that he finally suffered defeat from the Assyrians may be gathered from the testimony, some fifty years afterwards, of the great-grandson of Ashur-uballit, that the latter “scattered the hosts of the widespread Subarians”. Yet even if he did so this was no more than a bare victory, for his descendants found a kingdom of Khanigalbat still in existence under the family of Shattuara and of his son Wasashatta, probably related to the old ruling house, and had to wage against these enemies repeated wars, which continued into the reign of Shalmaneser I; as the outcome of these the territory of Khanigalbat was annexed to the Assyrian Empire. In addition to victory over the Subarians in the west, the only other specific conquest attributed to Ashur-uballit is that he “subdued Musri”. If, as some think, Musri lay to the east of Assyria, beyond Arrapkha (Kirkuk), or even to the north-east of Nineveh, this claim would be an indication of success upon another front, but there is no certainty where this land was situated, for others would place it in the nearer or farther west of Assyria, and this is perhaps favoured by the discovery near Aleppo of an Aramaic treaty (eighth century BC) which proves the existence at that time of a Musri in the vicinity of the north Syrian city of Arpad; if this was meant, the conquest of Musri would have been no more than a part of Ashur-uballit’s campaign against the Subarians.





In the south, Ashur-uballit’s relations with Babylonia were intimate and dramatic, and are fairly well known. He achieved power in the reign of the Kassite king Burnaburiash II, whom we have seen above complaining bitterly to the Egyptian court of the notice accorded to his presumptuous vassal. No attention having been paid to this, Burnaburiash no doubt nursed his grievance for a time, perhaps for the remainder of his life. But a complete change of policy, spontaneous or forced, set in before long. Muballitat-Sherua, daughter of Ashur-uballit, married the king of Babylon, and with the backing of her formidable father and her own spirit, evidently became a leading figure in that country. Owing to discrepancies in the two authorities which have preserved the history of this time it is uncertain whether she married Burnaburiash himself or his son Karakhardash; the latter may be thought the more likely. The reign of Karakhardash was short in any case, and he was succeeded (according to the Babylonian version, which is followed here) by Kadashman-Kharbe, his son by his Assyrian queen. This young king undertook a campaign in the desert country of the middle Euphrates against the nomads called Sutu whom he used with great severity. After operating against them over a wide area “from east to west” he built a fort, dug a well and a cistern, and established there a permanent garrison to pacify the country. Not long afterwards his reign came to a violent end, for his Kassite subjects revolted, murdered him, and exalted to the throne one Nazibugash, otherwise called Shuzigash, a person of common birth. This revolt, the murder of his grandson, and the insult to his house called for the speedy revenge of Ashur-uballit; he marched forthwith into Babylonia, defeated and slew the usurper, and set upon the throne Kurigalzu “the young”, son of Kadashman-Kharbe (according, again, to the more probable Babylonian version), who would thus have been his great-grandson, and doubtless no more than a child. The jejune accounts of these two chronicles certainly refer to events of great moment at the time, the most dangerous of which was the invasion of the Sutu, or Aramaean tribes, continuing the age-old pressure from the north-west which, as ever, had behind it the remoter outflow of the deserts, and invariably ended in Babylonia. The letters both of Burnaburiash and of Ashur-uballit to the king of Egypt describe lawless molestation of their emissaries by the nomads and townsmen of the upper Euphrates and Syria, too remote from either power to be effectively controlled. The depredations of these robbers account sufficiently for the campaign of Kadashman-Kharbe who, like other Babylonian kings before him, had to take up the hopeless burden of holding an indefensible frontier on the Euphrates. But his operations were certainly instigated and supported by Ashur-uballit, who suffered no less from the Sutu, and a letter found at Dur-Kurigalzu seems to witness this close touch kept with the Assyrians. Whatever success was obtained (and it could have little lasting effect upon so evasive a foe) the effort was a severe strain for Babylon, for it coincided with other afflictions. The result was public detestation of the Assyrian alliance, concentrated upon its representative Muballitat-Sherua, whose prominence in the scanty records of the time leaves no doubt that she was a masterful and probably hated figure. Her son was struck down as the agent of servitude and disaster, but the rash impulse only brought on the heavier vengeance of the outraged Assyrian mother and grandfather.

In the dearth of historical records for this period, indirect illumination has been sought from two works of literature which seemed to have possible reference to the age of Ashur-uballit. These have the added interest of coming respectively from Assyrian and Babylonian sources, being thus parallel with the two prose-chronicles which have been drawn upon hitherto. The Assyrian poem is very inadequately preserved but its character is fairly clear. It is an epical description of a war between Assyria and Babylonia, written in a spirit of undisguised chauvinism; the Assyrians are acclaimed throughout as righteous victims of aggression and as heroes in battle, fighting with the aid of indignant gods against a faithless and cruel foe, who had set at nought the sanctity of treaties. Their respective leaders were the kings Tukulti-Ninurta of Assyria and Kashtiliash the Kassite. Thus the main part of this action would belong to a time more than a century later. But there is a passing reference to earlier reigns, and although a supposed mention of Ashur-uballit himself does not exist, some very fragmentary evidence survives that the war between Tukulti-Ninurta and Kashtiliash was only the last episode in a series of armed clashes between the powers, in the course of which both Adad-nirari I and his father Arik-den-ili had opposed Nazimaruttash and, still earlier, Enlil-nirari of Assyria had fought with Kurigalzu of Babylon.

A close predecessor of this Kurigalzu ‘the young’ had led an expedition against the Sutu, and from this a connexion has been inferred with some passages in a composition known to the Babylonians as “King of all Habitations” and to modern scholars as the “Epic of the Plague-god Erra”. The general purport of this poem, which is strongly marked by the elaborate and prolix style of the Kassite period, is the affliction brought upon the land at a certain time by the wrath of Erra and the hand of his divine minister Ishum. It is needless to resume here the contents, beyond its description of a raid by the Sutu upon Uruk, and the denunciation of vengeance upon these nomads; one day Akkad, now humbled, will overthrow the proud Sutu. Weakness and affliction, depicted in the poem as the present lot of the Babylonians, would not be inappropriate to the days when alien, short­lived, and feeble kings held Babylon under the sway of its northern neighbour, but it is now the general opinion1 that these attacks of the Sutu and the poem itself belong to a later age.





The Kurigalzu who was set upon the throne of Babylon by Ashur-uballit was destined to enjoy a long if not always fortunate reign of twenty-two years, not only outliving his benefactor but continuing into the tenure of the next Assyrian king as well. But their relations were soon embroiled, for the national feelings of the southern kingdom could not tolerate equality with a nation which they were accustomed to regard as subject. Before long it came to war between the two countries, in which Assyria under Enlil-nirari, the son of Ashur-uballit, was successful, whereby he won fame in the words of a successor as he who “slew the hosts of the Kassites”. Enlil-nirari reigned for ten years, and nothing more is known about him than this general description and a few details of the Babylonian wars given by the chronicles relating to this time. The two principal authorities, which have already differed concerning Kurigalzu’s parentage, continue to give divergent accounts of what were clearly the same affairs. The Assyrian document, called the “Synchronistic History”, places this war in the reign of Enlil-nirari of Assyria, whereas the Babylonian (‘Chronicle P’) postpones it until the reign of his second successor Adad-nirari I. The former (Assyrian) version is undoubtedly correct here, for Kurigalzu did not in fact survive into the reign of Adad-nirari, and other fragments of inscriptions and chronicles confirm that the opponents were indeed Enlil-nirari and Kurigalzu. It would appear, in fact, that wars between the Assyrians and Kassite kings lasted indecisively through all these reigns, and were brought to a stop only by the more complete victory of Tukulti-Ninurta I.

As to the course of these conflicts little is known. A recently published fragment reveals that in the time of Enlil-nirari and Kurigalzu there occurred a battle at a spot not far from Irbil, and thus close to the Assyrian centre, which indicates that fortunes were wavering. The two main authorities continue to diverge; the Assyrian claims a victory for its own side, whereas the other seems to ascribe it to Kurigalzu. There is some indication that two battles took place, the last at a place called Sugaga on the Tigris, and they were probably hard-fought without a very decisive issue. The succeeding settlement was in accord with this equilibrium of forces. The “Synchronistic History” has some obscure phrases which relate, in general significance, that an equal division was made of certain territory stretching from the land of Shubari to Karduniash (Babylonia), and a boundary traced between the shares of the two powers. The Babylonian chronicle precedes its brief mention of this war with a longer account of Kurigalzu’s quarrel with a rival, one Khurpatila, whom it calls “king of Elammat”. The final battle between them at Dur-Shulgi, in which Kurigalzu prevailed, followed a verbal challenge from Khurpatila which suggested the place of the encounter almost as if it had been a duel between the two kings, a picturesque incident exactly matched many centuries later (AD 224), when the last of the Arsacid kings replied to a challenge from the usurping Ardashir: “I will meet you in a plain which is called Hormizdaghan on the last day of the month of Mihr”; if the battlefields were known it might prove that they were less separated by distance than by time.

Enlil-nirari of Assyria was succeeded by his son Arik-den-ili, whose reign lasted for twelve years. War continued with the Kassites, now under their king Nazimaruttash, whose design, as in the preceding reign, was to mount flank-attacks with the alliance of the eastern hillmen, rather than direct assaults upon the Assyrian centre. Consequently the efforts of Arik-den-ili appear more as the usual offensive-defensive operations against the highlands than as moves in a conflict with Kassite Babylonia. In a summary of his father’s exploits the next king of Assyria divides his victories into two—the first group was achieved against the districts of Turukku and Nigimti and “all the chiefs of the mountains and highlands in the broad tracts of the Qutu (Gutians)”. This description makes it clear that the opponents dwelt in the Zagros; the general appellation of “Gutians” is familiar enough, and Turukku was an old enemy of Hammurabi, as also the neighbour of Assyria with whom, in former days, Ishme-Dagan had confirmed peace by a marriage-alliance. Some further details of this campaign were given by Arik-den-ili himself in a document of which very little now remains—it was rather a chronicle than the earliest example of Assyrian annals. According to this fragment the opponent of Arik-den-ili in Nigimti was Esinu, whose land the Assyrian invaded and burned his harvest. In revenge Esinu attacked a district belonging to Assyria and killed many of the inhabitants. In a second invasion Arik-den-ili laid siege to a town named Arnuna, where Esinu was confined among the defenders. Gate and walls were laid in ruins and Esinu surrendered on terms of allegiance to Assyria and of bearing a tribute. The inscription continues with mention of a great victory by the Assyrian king and enormous booty, but it is not clear whether Esinu was again the enemy. Among a number of places named in this campaign is apparently Tarbisu, a very short distance north-west of Nineveh itself, from which it appears that serious danger was at one moment threatened to the very centre of the Assyrian kingdom.

The other scene of Arik-den-ili’s wars, according to the summary of his son, was the land of Katmukh, a district lying on the western side of the upper Tigris, between the river and a line roughly drawn through the present towns of Jazlrah-ibn-Umar, Nisibis and Mardin. Here he encountered the local hillmen, who were in alliance with the Aramaean nomads called Akhlamu and Sutu, and another tribe the Yauru, probably cognate with these but otherwise unknown. The Assyrian was successful in this campaign, much as the Babylonian king Kadashman-Kharbe had been in his against the same elusive foes, but the Assyrian victory was more effectual, conquering “the picked warriors of the Akhlamu, the Sutu, the Yauru, and their lands”, since it apparently halted a direct incursion of the nomads into the lands north of Assyria, and directed their pressure southwards to the Babylonian district where they were to establish themselves gradually as the predominant element. With this episode, at whatever period of his reign, ends our knowledge of Arik-den-ili, a worthy maintainer of the great tradition established by his grandfather, though destined to be outshone by the military glory of his son. In the south the throne was occupied by Nazimaruttash, son of Kurigalzu, throughout the reign of his northern neighbour.