Sources for Assyrian Society


From Ashurbanipal’s “Coronation Hymn”

May Shamash, king of heaven and earth, elevate you to shepherdship over the four [region]s!

May Ashur, who ga[ve y]ou [the scepter], lengthen your days and years!  Spread your land wide at your feet!

May Sherua extol [your name] to your god!

Just as grain and silver, oil [the catt]le of Shakkan and the salt of Bariku are good, so may Ashurbanipal, king of Assyria, be agreeable to the gods [of his] land!

May eloquence, understanding, truth and justice be given to him as a gift!

May [the people] of Ashur buy 30 kor of grain for one shekel of silver!

May [the peopl]e of Ashur buy 3 seah of oil for one shekel of silver!

May [the peop]le of  Ashur buy 30 minas of wool for one shekel of silver!

May the lesser speak, and the [greater] listen!  May the greater speak and the [lesser] listen!  May concord and peace be established [in Assyri]a!

Ashur is king – indeed Ashur is king!  Ashurbanipal is the [representative] of Ashur, the creation of his hands.

May the great gods make firm his reign, may they protect the life [of Ashurba]nipal, king of Assyria!

May they give him a straight sceptre to extedn the land and his peoples!

May his reign be renewed, and may they consolidate his royal throne forever!

May they bless him (by) day, month, and year, and guard his reign!

In his years may there cons[tantly] be rain from the heavens and flood from the (underground) source!

Give our lord Ashurbanipal long [days], copious years, strong [we]apons, a long reign, y[ea]rs of abundance, a good name, [fame], happiness and joy, auspicious oracles, and leadership over (all other) kings!

After he has pronounced the blessing he turns and pronounces the following blessing at the opening of the censer before Shamash:

Anu have his crown, Illal gave his throne; Ninurta gave his weapon; Nergal gave his luminous splendor.  Nusku sent and placed advisers before him.

He who speaks with the king disloyally or treasonably – if he is notable, he will die a violent death; if he is a rich man, he will become poor.  He who in his heart plots evil against the king – Erra will call him to account in a bout of plague.

He who in his heart utters improprieties against the king – his foundation is (but) wind, the hem of his garment is (but) litter.  Gather, all the gods of heaven and earth, bless king Ashurbanipal, the circumspect man!

Place in his hand the weapon of war and battle, give him the blackheaded people, that he may rule as their shepherd!



Oracle Text

[Should Ashurbanipal, the crown prince of the] Succession Palace, [drink this drug which] is placed [before] your great [div]inity, [and in drinking this drug will he] be rescued and spared?

[Will he live and get well?  Will he . . ., be s]aved and escape?  [Will the illness of] his [body] be released?  Will it leave (him)?  Does your great divinity know it?

[Is the res]cue, survival [of Ashurbanipal, crown prince of the Suc]ces[sion Palace], by drinkning this drug, [decreed and confirmed in a favorable case, by the command of your great divinity], Shamash, great lord?  [Will he who can see, see it?  Will he who can hear], hear it? 

(A section follows of standard formulae intended to protect the procedure against possible human error and pollution:)

[Disregard that . . . an oa]th by the god (may be) upon [him]

[Disregard the (formulation) of today’s case, be it good, be it] faulty.

[Disregard that a clean or an unclead person has touched the sacrificial sheep, or] blocked the way of the sacrificial sheep.

[Disregard that an unclean may or woman has come near the place of the extispicy and] made it unclean.

[Disregard that an unlean person] has performed extispicy [in this place].

[Disreagard that the ram (offered) to your great divinity for the performance of the extispicy] is deficient or faulty.

[Disregard that he who touches the forehead of the sheep] is dressed [in his ordinary soiled garments], (or) has eaten anything unclean.

[Disregard that I, the haruspex your servant], have jumbled [the oracle query in] my [mouth, or changed or altered the proceedings.

Let them be] taken out and put aside!

[I ask you, Shamash, great lord, whether this drug] which [is] now [placed before your great divinity, and which Ashurbanip]al, crown prince of the Succession House (is to) drink –

[(whether) by drinking this drug he will . . . ] be saved, [and escape].  Be present [in this ram, place (in it) a firm positive answer . . .]



Esarhaddon’s “letter to the god”

. . . who did not pay attention to the word of Ashur, king of the gods, did not respect my lordship . . . robbers, thieves or whoever had committed a crime and shed blood . . . officers, governors, inspectors, leaders, commanders had fled to Shupria.  . . . I wrote to him (the ruler of Shupria) thus:

‘Have a herald call out these people in your land . . . gather them, let not a single one escape . . have them go to the temple before the great lady Pirrigal . . . a pardon for them . . . tother with my messenger they shall take the road to Assyria . . .’

The good . . . concerning saving his life he forgot. . . . [The messenger] reported to me everything he had replied.  [Then my heart grew angry and] I became enraged . . .

(The ruler of Shupria surrenders and asks for mercy but Esarhaddon responds:)

‘Have you ever heard the word of a mighty king twice?  And I, an outstandingly powerful king, even wrote to you three times, but you did not obey the word of my lips, . . . you were not afraid to defame me and did not pay attention to my letter.  You began fighting and battle against me and distrubed the grim weapons of Ashur from their resting place.’  I did not listen to his pleas, I did not accept his imploring, I did not allow his pleading.  I did not turn my averted face towards him, my enraged senses were not calmed against him.  My turbulent heart did not find rest, I felt no pity for him and did not speak ‘Mercy!’ to him.



“Vassal-treaties” of Esarhaddon

“May Ninurta, leader of the gods, fell you with his fierce arrow, and fill the plain with your corpses, give your flesh to eagles and vultures to feed upon.

Just as this ewe is cut open and the flesh of its young placed in its mouth, so may he (Shamash?) make you eat in your hunger the flesh of your brothers, your sons, and your daughters

Just as (these) yearlings and spring lambs, male and female, are cut open and their entrails are rolled around their feet, so may the entrails of your sons and daughters be rolled around your feet

Just as a snake and a mongoose do not enter the same hole and do not live there, but plot of cutting each other’s throat, so may you and your women not enter the same house, (not lie down in the same bed) but plot of cutting each other’s throat.

Just as a honeycomb is pierced through and through with holes, so may holes be pierced through and through in your flesh, the flesh of your women, your brothers, your sons and daughters while you are alive.

Just as this bedbug stinks, so may your breath stink before god, king, and men.



Selection of the crown prince by divine decree

“Shamash, great lord, give me a firm positive answer to what I am asking you!

Should Esarhaddon, king of Assyria, strive and plan?  Should he enter his son, Sin-nadin-apli, whose name is written in this papyrus and placed before your great divinity, into the Succession Palace?  Is it pleasing to your great divinity?  Is it acceptable to your great divinity?  Does your great divinity know it?

Is the entering of Sin-nadin-apli, son of Esarhaddon, king of Assyira, whose name is written in this papyrus, into the Succession Palace, decreed and confirmed in a favourable case, by the command of your great divinity, Shamash, great lord?  Will he who can see, see it?  Will he who can hear, hear it?”



Enquiry to Shamash

[Will any of the] ‘eunuchs’ (and) the bearded (officials), the king’s entourage, or (any) of his brothers or uncles,

[his kin], his fa[ther’s line], or junior members of the royal line, or the ‘third men’, chariot drivers (and) chariot fighters,

[or the recruitment officers, or] the prefects of the exempt military, or the prefects of the cavalry, or the royal bodyguard, or his personal guard,

[or the keepers] of the inner gates, or the keepers of the outer gate, or the . . . ‘eunuchs’,

 . . . or the palace superintendents, the staff-bearers (and) the wa[tch]men, or the mounted(?) scouts (and) the trackers,

[or the lackeys, tailors] cup-bearers, cooks, confectioners, the entire body of craftsmen, or the Itu’eans and the Elamites, the mounted bowmen(?), the Hittites, [or] the Gurreans, or the Arameans, [or the Cimmerians, o]r the Philistines, or the Nubians (and) the Egyptians or the Shabuqeans, [or the ‘eunuchs’ who b]ear arms, or the bearded (officials) who bear arms and stand guard for the king . . . .

will any human being make an uprising and rebellion against Ashurbanipal. . . ?