Mesopotamian King List  2800 - 500 B.C.

Etana, king of Kish (flourished about 2800 BC)

Etana (early third millennium)-The first recorded deeds of a King, although not from his reign, were those of Etana. He supposedly ruled all of Sumer as well as some surrounding lands. He was called "He who stabilized all the Lands". Was he the first Empire builder? Was he Nimrod of the Bible? According to legend, he was a pious, god-fearing man. The Kings List calls him "the shepard" and says that he reigned 1560 years.

Kish was the first city to gain control "after the deluge" gaining overlordship over all of Sumer. Sumer was unified in name, with all the city-states recognizing Kish as their overlord, in words if not in deeds. In fact, each city was independent and usually merely paid Kish lip service and the occasional tribute. Later kings used the title "King of Kish" to legitimize their rule. King of Kish came to mean imperial control or overlordship. Sort of like the later German Emperors or Saxon Bretwaldas. The King of Kish seems to have been given the control of Nippur by default. Nippur was the religious capital of Sumer, being the home of the supreme god Enlil. Some of the believers in an archaic democracy think that Nippur was a sort of "federal capital" with delegates from every city going there to elect a king in times of war. The first dynasty has some kings with Semitic names, and since Kish is in territory with a large (if not majority) Semitic population, this is not surprising. The tutelary deity of Kish was Zababa, the warrior god, perhaps another name for Ninurta.

Balih-Son of Etana.
Melam-Kish-Son of Enmenunna.
Barsainunna-Son of Enmenunna.
Meszamug-Son of Barsainunna.
Tizkar-Son of Meszamug.

Meskiaggasher(c.2800?) founded a rival dynasty at Erech (Uruk), far to the south of Kish. Meskiaggasher, who won control of the region extending from the Mediterranean Sea to the Zagros Mountains, was succeeded by his son Enmerkar. He founded the 1st Dynasty of Uruk not long after the time of Etana. In the Kings List he is called the "Son of Utu". He and his immediate successors went by the title En, which means Lord, but implies both secular and religious functions. The Kings List says that he "entered the seas and ascended the mountains". This may mean that he tried to conquer foreign lands or led expeditions to secure trade routes. It may even mean that he ascended to heaven and was deified.

Enmerkar, (2750 BC). is the priest-king (en) of Uruk, and as such, the ritual husband of the Great Goddess Inanna, upon whose favour the city«s prosperity depends. Son of Meskiaggasher. He is also called the "Son of Utu". Enmerkar is called the builder of Uruk (see above). According to legend, he subjugated the land of Aratta, which may have been near the Caspian Sea.Enmerkar has as epithet 'he who build Uruk' and is known from two epics, Enmerkar and the Lord of Arratta and Enmerkar and En-suhgir-ana There is no known inscription or plaque that bears his name, so there is no archeological proof of his existence. The texts refer to commercial  and military contacts with a city called Aratta (not yet localized, probably in Iran), where the Sumerian goddess Inanna (later Akkadian Ishtar) and Dumuzi were also worshiped. These epics are seen as a proof of trade contacts, e.g. the trade in precious stones, like lapis lazuli. Enmerkar was the first, according to legend, to write on clay tablets. According to David Robl:

It is my belief that the original story of the Tower of Babel describes the building of the last great phase of the temple of Enki at Eridu. This was begun in the Uruk Period - the archaeological era which I have argued  immediately followed the Flood. One of the most powerful rulers of Uruk at this time was Enmerkar, a mighty king of the heroic age and second only to Gilgamesh  in the epic literature. The Sumerian King List makes Enmerkar the second king of Uruk after the Flood which would place his reign at the time when the building of Enki's temple at Eridu reached its apogee.

It was in this era that a massive platform was built over the original shrine and the erection of a new temple begun on the artificial mountain. This was the first platform-temple to be built in Mesopotamia and the prototype of the later stepped platform-temples which we know as the ziggurats. It towered above the surrounding countryside and was certainly a major architectural innovation

Robl believes that the biblical king Nimrod, son of Cush was in fact,Enmerkar. He continues:

Cush (son of Ham and grandson of Noah) fathered Nimrod who was the first potentate on earth. He was a mighty hunter in the eyes of Yahweh, hence the saying, 'Like Nimrod, a mighty hunter in the eyes of Yahweh'. The mainstays of his empire were Babel, Erech and Akkad, all of them in the land of Shinar.

Shinar is ancient Sumer, Akkad became the capital of the later Akkadian empire (the city is still to be located), biblical Erech  is Uruk, and Babel,  as we have seen, originally referred to Eridu. But Nimrod himself has always eluded identification - until now.

The trick was to realise that the element 'kar' in Enmerkar was the Sumerian word for 'hunter'. Thus the king of Uruk's name consists of a nomen  plus epithet - Enmer 'the hunter'. This was precisely the epithet Genesis uses to describe Nimrod. The next step was straightforward. Ancient Hebrew was originally written without vowels (as in the Dead Sea Scrolls). Vowel indications were only added into the Masoretic manuscripts from the 5th century AD onwards. So, in early copies of Genesis the name Nimrod would simply have been written 'nmrd'. The name Enmer would also have been transcribed into Hebrew as 'nmr' - identical to Nimrod but for the last 'd'. The Bible is well known for its plays on words. The Israelite writers often translated foreign names into familiar Hebrew words which they felt had appropriate meaning. In this case they changed Sumerian 'nmr' to Hebrew 'nmrd' because the latter had the meaning 'rebel' - a perfect description for the king who defied God by building a tower up to heaven.

Lugalbanda (lugal 'king', banda 'small', so 'junior king') was the third king in the first dynasty of Uruk, and also featuring in heroic-epic Sumerian poems, the so-called Lugal banda-epic (two parts, together 900 lines-

Lugalbanda in the Mountain Cave and Lugalbanda and the Anzu bird). Sumerian literary tradition states that Lugalbanda in his own right was a god-king of the city of Uruk. He is generally held to be Gilgamesh's father, and according to the Sumerian Kings List ruled the city for no fewer than 1200 years. Companion in arms of Enmerkar. The Kings List calls him "the shepard". He was deified by c.2400.

Enmebaragesi (2700 BC), a king of the Etana dynasty at Kish, became the leading ruler of Sumer. His outstanding achievements included a victory over the country of Elam and the construction at Nippur of the Temple of Enlil, the leading deity of the Sumerian pantheon. Nippur gradually became the spiritual and cultural center of Sumer. Two inscriptions with his name have been found. He is the oldest king to be proven historical. Since he has been proven historical and is said to have fought Gilgamesh of Uruk, Gilgamesh is also considered to be proven historical. He built (or rebuilt) the house of Enlil in Nippur. The Kings List calls him "he who smote the weapons of the land of Elam", so he must have defeated Elam in battle.

Agga (c.2680)-Son of Enmebareggesi. Laid siege to Gilgamesh's Uruk but was forced to lift it. He was in turn defeated by Uruk and the Kish overlordship ended. the last ruler of the Etana dynasty(probably died before 2650 BC), was defeated by Mesanepada, king of Ur

Mesanepada, king of Ur (2670 BC), founded the so-called 1st Dynasty of Ur and made Ur the capital of Sumer. Soon after the death of Mesanepada, the city of Erech achieved a position of political prominence under the leadership of Gilgamesh (flourished about 2700-2650 BC), whose deeds are celebrated in stories and legends.

Gilgamesh is grandson of Enmerkar. His fame spread over a large region through the Gilgamesh-epic. An Assyrian version is found in the library of As’s’urbanipal (around 650 BCE) and probably dates back to 1700 BCE. Smaller Sumerian fragments with only a few hundred lines are dated around 2000 BCE. The spread in time and location indicates that the epic was known for more than 15 centuries in a large region up to Anatolia. It is nowadays (as one of the few Mesopotamian epics) still played on stage.

The Gilgamesh epic is further explained elsewhere on the Web.  

Gilgamesh was responsible for the construction of the city walls of Uruk. Indeed, it appears from archeological records that these walls were expanded around 2700 BCE with its typical plano-convex type of bricks. Archeologists take the use of this material as a characteristic for the start of Early Dynamic-II. There is no archeological evidence for the existence of Gilgamesh. Although the oral tale of Gilgamesh could have been attributed to various rulers over millennia, the story we know is probably attached to a real king.   The "... Sumerian king list established a Gilgamesh as fifth in line of the First Dynasty of kingship of Uruk following the great flood recorded in the epic, placing him approximately in the latter half of the third millennium. He was supposed to have reigned a hundred and twenty-six years. He was known as the builder of the wall of Uruk, and his mother was said to be the goddess Ninsun, wife of a god named Lugalbanda, who however was not his father. His real father was, according to the king list, a high priest of Kullab, a district of Uruk, from whom he derived his mortality."(Mason, 99)

Lugalanemundu of Adab (2525-2500 BC), extended the Sumerian empire from the Zagros to the Taurus mountains and from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean Sea.

Mesilim (2500 BC), king of Kish. By the end of his reign, Sumer had begun to decline.

Eannatum, (E-ana-tum) (2455-2425) Son of Akurgal "he who overrules the countries" He boasts that his territory extends from Kish in the north, to Mari in the west, Uruk in the south and Elam in the east, although it is not clear what the 'ruling' over these cities actually means. He has had a long reign, but after his reign his territory was reduced again to its original size. He defeated Enakalle of Umma, who he made a tributary. He commemorated the victory by having the Stele of the Vultures made, which is the oldest historical document ever found.

After this, he swept through Sumer, which had been liberated from the Elamites by Uruk, subduing Uruk, Ur and the other cities, as well as conquering part of Elam. Next he moved north to conquer Kish, Nippur and Akshak. Kish was still weak from a defeat at the hands of En-Shakush-Anna of Uruk. Zuzu, King of Akshak, led the northern coalition against Lagash. They marched into Lagashite territory, but were defeated, routed and pursued to the gates of Akshak. Eannatum was now recognized as supreme King and took the title of King of Kish. His tributary domains extended to Mari. There was a brief period of peace, then an attack from Elam which was barely repulsed. Next Kish and Akshak rebelled and were put down. A short time later the Elamites invaded again, while at the same time, a northern rebel coalition of Kish, Akshak, and Mari attacked. Eannatum was able to defeat both armies. Even though he was almost continually at war, he took the title of "Prostrater of the lands for Ningirsu". He may have died in a disastrous battle, because he was succeeded  by his brother, and Lagash was never again a great power.

Enannatum I (2425-2405)-Brother  of Eannatum. Ur-Lumma, Ensi of Umma attacked with the aid "of the foreigners"  from the north of Sumer. He was able to crush the Ummaite army, but this also exhausted his forces. Into the power vacuum stepped Il, En of Hallab. He attacked and overran the remnants of Umma, proclaiming himself Ensi. Il then invaded Lagash but was pushed back. Lagash did however lose the northern portions of the state to Il.

Entemena (2405-2375)-Son of  Enannatum. Finally  overcame Il of Umma, but only with the help of Lugal-Kinishe-Dudu, King of Uruk and Ur. He fought the influence of the priests. Entemena was the last great Ensi of Lagash and his reign ended in peace and prosperity.

Enannatum II (2375-2365)- Son of Entemena.

Enetarzi (2365-2359)-An  usurper. He was either installed  by the priests or he was a priest himself. He fought the Elamites.

Lugalanda (2359-2352)-He was helped to the throne by the priesthood.

Urukagina is the last and pious king of the dynasty in Lagash, also called uru-inimgina. The name is written with the sign ka 'mouth', which also stands for inim 'word'. Proper names often do not give enough context to know the correct reading of the sign. He was the last king of the first dynasty of Lagash, and introduced many reforms ('social reforms of Uru-inimgina') and enacted edicts related to the problem of enslavements which were caused by running up debts. High extortionate rates of the interest on capital (often 33.3 percent) had to be paid by enslaving one's children until the debts were paid off. Uru-inimgina remits the debts by decree.

Some translations spell his name Uruinimgina.

As we study the recovered fragments that record Urukagina's very words, we catch from them some insight into the daily life of the world around him. We learn of simpler, more homely things than temples, palaces, and savage wars.

Urukagina stands out to us as earth's first reformer. He was not the son of a preceding king, the heir of the royal house, but seems to have sprung into power in Lagash as the leader of a peasants' revolution. Think of it! A legalized aristocracy entrenched in power and oppressing the lower classes until the latter are driven to rise in successful rebellion! And this happened, not a century ago, nor two or three centuries ago, but four thousand years before the birth of Christ! Tyranny is not a modern growth.

Urukagina, once firmly in command, reorganized the entire government of the land. The system of laws, of which we catch a glimpse from this account of his reforms, is the earliest in the world concerning which we have any knowledge. These laws show that society had already become a most complex organism. Money with its accompaniment of taxes was already among the inevitable facts of life. There were hosts of regular tax-collectors, with a host of inspectors over these. There were slavery, and forced labor, and grinding oppression of the laborer. There were secret theft and open robbery, theft of sheep, of asses, of fish from private fish-ponds, and of water from artificial wells. There were rules for divorce, the principal of which was that those who sought to escape the marriage pledge must pay a substantial fee to the temple of the city's god. There was a priesthood of various ranks, among them being "diviners" who were in much request as foretellers of the future, and were heard with far greater faith than their successors of today. There were also long and carefully built canals, and it was already a kingly duty to keep these in repair.

Unhappily for Urukagina, he met the fate of most reformers. In seeking to rescue his people from suffering he plunged them into disaster. He must have alienated, possibly he exterminated, the host of aristocrats who had lived upon the taxation of the people. The loss of this upper class left the state weak; presumably they had been its chief fighting force, a sort of unorganized army supported by the peasantry. At any rate, under the reforming king, Lagash failed to uphold her previous military supremacy. Her dependent cities broke away from her. A rival monarch defeated her weakened forces in the field, stormed the city, and laid it waste with fire and sword. As we hear no more of Urukagina, he doubtless perished amid the flames of his ruined capital. Yet, as a priest of desolated Lagash wrote in puzzled lamentation: "Of sin on the part of Urukagina, none was." Evidently men had already begun to dream of good deeds as deserving repayment in worldly success; and now they heard Life's grim answer to the dream--that the gods shield not their own, that earth moves not by any practical law of poetic justice. Worlds_Famous_Events_Vol_1/kinguruk_he.html

He was an usurper. The previous rulers of Lagash, especially the two usurpers installed by the priesthood, had terribly oppressed the people, both economically and militarily. There were excessive taxes on such occasions as weddings and funerals and land was "bought" by officials at far below market value. He claimed to have been chosen by the god Ningirsu to end the oppression of the poor. He destroyed much of the old bureaucracy. To the priests, he cut their income and ended their influence. He created a near idyllic state, but in so doing, weakened Lagash to the point that it could (or would) no longer defend itself from its mortal enemies, the Ummaites. Lugalzaggessi of Umma sacked Lagash and burned all of its holy temples. The priests of Lagash may have aided him. Urukagina fled to the town of Girsu, a possession of Lagash that did not seem to have fallen to Umma. Here he disappears from history. His documents proclaiming his reforms are the oldest in history to speak of freedom.


Lugalzaggesi. King Lugalzaggesi, the ensi of Umma, offered a prayer after his soldiers had made him Sumer's master. He ruled for twenty-four years until overthrown by Sargon I.

May the lands lie peacefully in the meadows. May all mankind thrive like plants and herbs; may the sheepfolds of An increase; may the people of the Land look upon a fair earth; the good fortune which the gods have decreed for me, may they never alter; and unto eternity may I be the foremost shepherd.

By  Lugalzaggesi's time the nearest Semites were serving as mercenaries in the Sumerian armies. These people called their central Mesopotamian home Akkad, so they are known to us as Akkadians. One of them, Sargon I, would rise from humble beginnings to become the first emperor the world had seen since Nimrod.

Sargon of Akkad (2371-2315BC)

Around 2350 BCE an important change took place: the conversion from local competing city states to the first regional state, an empire in Mesopotamia. It was a change of political power, with more emphasis on the northern parts in the plains of Mesopotamia. Trade contacts are purposely centralized with the newly found city Akkad as its center. In art people are now depicted more naturalistic as well proportioned man with anatomic details.

Sargon, in Akkadian arru k‘nu, the 'true/lawful king' is a Semitic king and founder of a dynasty of Akkad (Sumerian Agade). The exact location of this city is unknown, but probably not far from Kish. It is newly founded around 2350 BCE. Sargon establishes an empire consisting of the entire region of southern Mesopotamia and the region along the Euphrates in northern Mesopotamia, possibly extending to Lebanon. It is the first real empire in Mesopotamia.

SARGON OF AKKAD was an ancient Mesopotamian ruler who  reigned approximately 2334-2279 BC, and was one of the earliest of the world's great empire builders, conquering all of southern Mesopotamia as well as parts of Syria, Anatolia, and Elam (western Iran). He established the region's first Semitic dynasty and was considered the founder of the Mesopotamian military tradition.

Sargon is known almost entirely from the legends and tales that followed his reputation through 2,000 years of cuneiform Mesopotamian history, and not from documents that were written during his lifetime. The lack of contemporary record is explained by the fact that the capital city of Agade, which he built, has never been located and excavated. It was destroyed at the end of the dynasty that Sargon founded and was never again inhabited, at least under the name of Agade.

According to a folktale, Sargon was a self-made man of humble origins; a gardener, having found him as a baby floating in a basket on the river, brought him up in his own calling. His father is unknown; his own name during his childhood is also unknown; his mother is said to have been a priestess in a town on the middle Euphrates. Rising, therefore, without the help of influential relations, he attained the post of cupbearer to the ruler of the city of Kish, in the north of the ancient land of Sumer. The event that brought him to supremacy was the defeat of Lugalzaggisi of Uruk (biblical Erech, in central Sumer). Lugalzaggisi had already united the city-states of Sumer by defeating each in turn and claimed to rule the lands not only of the Sumerian city-states but also those as far west as the Mediterranean. Thus, Sargon became king over all of southern Mesopotamia, the first great ruler for whom, rather than Sumerian, the Semitic tongue known as Akkadian was natural from birth, although some earlier kings with Semitic names are recorded in the Sumerian king list. Victory was ensured, however, only by numerous battles, since each city hoped to regain its independence from Lugalzaggisi without submitting to the new overlord. It may have been before these exploits, when he was gathering followers and an army, that Sargon named himself Sharru-kin ("Rightful King") in support of an accession not achieved in an old-established city through hereditary succession. Historical records are still so meager, however, that there is a complete gap in information relating to this period.

Not content with dominating this area, his wish to secure favorable trade with Agade throughout the known world, together with an energetic temperament, led Sargon to defeat cities along the middle Euphrates to northern Syria and the silver-rich mountains of southern Anatolia. He also dominated Susa, capital city of the Elamites, in the Zagros Mountains of western Iran, where the only truly contemporary record of his reign has been uncovered. Such was his fame that some merchants in an Anatolian city, probably in central Turkey, begged him to intervene in a local quarrel, and, according to the legend, Sargon, with a band of warriors, made a fabulous journey to the still-unlocated city of Burushanda (Purshahanda), at the end of which little more than his appearance was needed to settle the dispute.

As the result of Sargon's military prowess and ability to organize, as well as of the legacy of the Sumerian city-states that he had inherited by conquest and of previously existing trade of the old Sumerian city-states with other countries, commercial connections flourished with the Indus Valley, the coast of Oman, the islands and shores of the Persian Gulf, the lapis lazuli mines of Badakhshan, the cedars of Lebanon, the silver-rich Taurus Mountains, Cappadocia, Crete, and perhaps even Greece.

During Sargon's rule Akkadian became adapted to the script that previously had been used in the Sumerian language, and the new spirit of calligraphy that is visible upon the clay tablets of this dynasty is also clearly seen on contemporary cylinder seals, with their beautifully arranged and executed scenes of mythology and festive life. Even if this new artistic feeling is not necessarily to be attributed directly to the personal influence of Sargon, it shows that, in his new capital, military and economic values were not alone important.

Because contemporary record is lacking, no sequence can be given for the events of his reign. Neither the number of years during which he lived nor the point in time at which he ruled can be fixed exactly; 2334 BC is now given as a date on which to hang the beginning of the dynasty of Agade, and, according to the Sumerian king list, he was king for 56 years.

2334 BC is now given as a date on which to hang the beginning of the dynasty of Agade, and, according to the Sumerian king list, he was king for 56 years.  

The latter part of his reign was troubled with rebellions, which later literature ascribes, predictably enough, to sacrilegious acts that he is supposed to have committed; but this can be discounted as the standard cause assigned to all disasters by Sumerians and Akkadians alike. The troubles, in fact, were probably caused by the inability of one man, however energetic, to control so vast an empire without a developed and well-tried administration. There is no evidence to suggest that he was particularly harsh, nor that the Sumerians disliked him for being a Semite. The empire did not collapse totally, for Sargon's successors were able to control their legacy, and later generations thought of him as being perhaps the greatest name in their history.  

Attributing his success to the patronage of the goddess Ishtar, in whose honor Agade was erected, Sargon of Akkad became the first great empire builder. Two later Assyrian kings were named in his honor. Although the briefly recorded information of his predecessor Lugalzaggisi shows that expansion beyond the Sumerian homeland had already begun, later Mesopotamians looked to Sargon as the founder of the military tradition that runs through the history of their people.

The dynasty of Akkad lasts until 2200 BCE and consists of five rulers. Sargon was the first. The actual spelling of Sargon's name was Sharru-Kin. Originally he was royal cup-bearer to Ur-Zababa, King of Kish. Ur- Zababa was defeated in battle by Lugalzaggessi and Kish was occupied. Sargon moved to Agade to build his power base. He either built Agade, or more probably, rebuilt or fortified it. After consolidating his power he attacked Uruk and razed its walls. He next defeated a coalition of 50 Ensis, probably all of Sumer, along with the remaining Urukite army. It is at this point that Lugalzaggessi returned with his army, as he had been away campaigning. Sargon defeated him and brought Lugalzaggessi in chains to Nippur. He then quickly conquered Ur and the rest of Sumer. When he reached the Persian Gulf, he ritually washed his weapons in it. He called himself the "Great Ensi of Enlil" to show that he respected Sumerian traditions. Next he marched on Assyria, Mari, Iarmuti, and Ebla, conquering them all. His western conquests brought him "to the cedar Forests and the silver mountains", that is Lebanon and the Taurus mountains. Finally, he subjected Elam, Barakhshi, and western Iran. The war with the Elamites was tough. Eventually they were defeated and Susa made the capital of the Akkadian viceroy and Akkadian was imposed as the new language of Elam. Sargon called himself "King of the Lands" and "King of the Four Quarters". He was not only a great military leader, but also an ingenious administrator. He appointed Semites to high administrative offices and posted all-Akkadian garrisons in the major cities. He appointed his daughter Enheduanna as chief priestess of Nanna of Ur and as a ritual representative of Inanna of Uruk. According to legend he also sent expeditions to Anatolia, Egypt, Ethiopia, and India, but this is not proven, and in the case of Ethiopia and India, highly doubtful. Although in the case of India, the Indus (or Harrapan) civilization did trade with Agade and sent ships to dock there. A later Babylonian legend says that "all the Land" revolted against him late in his reign and besieged him in Agade, but he was victorious. His reign was the first time that texts were written entirely in Akkadian. From his reign, a new kind of political ideal began to evolve, one that was different from the city-state concept.

Legend about Sargon. Sargon --the first in this dynasty-- came from Kish and had a high position in service of the court of Kish. He was an usurper (someone who unlawfully seizes the throne, often a general). After Sargon seized power in Kish he chose not to stay in the capital Kish, but to build a new capital Akkad.

In epics written many centuries later (7th cent. BCE) it is told he was humble born. His father was unknown and his mother was a priestess. As newly born baby he was sent down stream the river in a basket of rushes (like Mozes so much later) and raised by a gardener under protection of the goddess Ishtar and eventually became cup-bearer at the court of Kish. After a military failure of the current ruler and some confusion about his succession, Sargon seized power.

At the beginning of his reign most of the south of Mesopotamia (Sumer) was under control by Lugalzaggesi.  A victory over him meant a significant expansion of Sargon's territory. Subsequently he directed his attention to the north of Mesopotamia.

An important part of Sargon's policy and reason for his success, was to appoint members of his family to important posts.. His daughter Enheduanna became priestess in the city Ur for the city deities Inanna  (Akkadian Ishtar) and An (Akkadian Anum). It was one of the most important positions in the south of Mesopotamia. Enheduanna is one of the few scribes in those times known by name (she wrote the 'exaltation of Inanna'). She was eventually dislodged by the local priests, showing this appointment to be against the will of the locals.

Another factor in Sargon's success of a central government are the written orders and in general his changes on an administrative level. He decreed a standing army of 5400 man, according to the texts. It was the first professional army. Trading was centralized in Akkad. Coastal ships from the Persian Gulf were obliged to call at the port and quaysides of Akkad.

Rimush (2315-2306BC)-Son of Sargon. Upon ascension he put down rebellions in Ur, Umma, Adab, Der, Lagash, and Kazallu in Sumer, and Elam and Barakhshi in Iran but he probably lost Syria. Palace intrigue led to his assassination, possibly by supporters of his brother. He was assassinated by having his head bashed in by a clay tablet.

Manishtusu  (2306-2291BC) Either Rimush's older brother or his twin. The power of the Empire continued to wane. He had to put down a coalition of 32 rebel kings. However, he did retain control of Assyria and Sumer and he invaded the Oman region and defeated the local kings. Court documents record him buying land from private citizens, so the Kings were not absolute and they did not control all the land. An inscription was found during the reign of the Assyrian king Shamshi-Adad I that stated that Manishtushu founded the famous temple of Ishtar in Nineveh. He died in a palace revolt.

Naram-Sin (2291 2254 BC), Son of Manishtushu. H defeated a rebel coalition in Sumer and re- established Akkadian power. Naram-Sin pushed the boundaries of the Empire to the Zagros mountains. He re-conquered Syria, Lebanon, and the Taurus mountains, destroying Aleppo and Mari in the process. The Oman area revolted and Naram-Sin had to invade and defeat their King , Mandannu. He also invaded Armenia as far as Dierbakir. He called himself the "King of the Four Quarters" and the "God of Agade". He is the proto-typical Oriental Monarch, and the first Mesopotamian king to declare himself divine. He appointed daughters as priestess' and sons as governors. Even with all this military expansion and glory, he did have to continually put down rebellions. In fact, the Lullubi, a people of the Zagros mountains, successfully pushed out the Akkadians under their king Annubanin a short time after Naram-Sin had subjugated them. Gutians invaded at the end of his reign and caused destruction and the break down of communications. The invasion was said by the Sumerians to be divine judgement for Naram-Sin's destruction of Enlil's temple at Nippur. The only account of this desecration is from hundreds of years after the fact. Did his reign end in disaster? A text called the "Cuthean Legend of Naram-Sin" shows the king "bewildered, confused, sunk in gloom, sorrowful, exhausted" from an overwhelming invasion. The legend is from a later period, so it is suspect. However, he was the last great Akkadian King and the Gutians were beginning to invade the land.

Shar-Kali-Sharri (2254-2230 BC) Son of Naram-Sin. He tried to shore up the Empire and undo the damage caused by his father. Shar-Kali-Sharri fought well to preserve the realm and he won numerous battles, including one against the Amorites in Syria. Texts from his reign are the first to mention Babylon and the Amorites. He is called "the builder of the Ekur, the house of Enlil", a confirmation of Naram-Sin's destruction? The governor of Elam declared independence, threw off the Akkadian language and declared himself the "King of the Universe". He continually had to fight the Lullubi, Amorites, and Gutians. The Hurrians also contested with him for Assyria and northern Syria. Sumer exploded in revolt. The Empire disintegrated under rebellion and invasion. He ended up ruling only the city of Agade and its environs. He is called the King of Agade, instead of earlier grandiose claims and he was killed in a palace revolt. His reign signaled the end of the Empire.

Gutians The Gutians were a tribe from the Zagros region of Iran. Most of the kings seem to have only reigned for one to three years, with the longest being seven years. They were never numerous and they seem to have only occupied a few strategic locations like Nippur. Imta, Inkishush, Sarlagab, Shulme, Elulumesh, Inimbakesh, Igeshaush, Iarlagab, Ibate Unnamed(tablet damaged), Kurum, Unnamed (tablet damaged),Unnamed (tablet damaged),Irarum, Ibranum, Hablum, Puzur-Sin, Iarlaganda, Unnamed (tablet damaged), Tiragan-Overthrown by Utuhengal of Uruk. He was brought before Utehengal so that he could have his foot put upon his neck.

Ur-Bau (Ur-Baba) (2155-2142)-Some  translations  spell  his name Ur-Baba. He founded the "pro- Gutian" dynasty and he also controlled Ur. He was followed  by three sons-in-laws.

Gudea (circa 2142-2122 BC), Son-in-law of Ur-Bau. an extraordinarily pious and capable governor. Gudea attempted to restore classical Sumerian civilization in spite of Gutian domination. He had trade relations with the whole known world and had Elamite craftsmen to help build his temples. He defeated Anshan, Elam's neighbor to the south, possibly at the behest of Gutium. He also controlled Ur. Because numerous statues of Gudea have been recovered, he has become the Sumerian best known to the modern world.

Ur-Ningirsu (2122-2118)-Son  of Gudea. Last vassal of Gutium.

Ugme (Pirig-Me) (2117-2115)-Some  translations  spell his name Pirig-Me. Brother of Ur- Ningirsu. Vassal of Uruk

Utuhegal, king of Erech (reigned about 2120-2112 BC), won a decisive victory later celebrated in Sumerian literature. He rebelled against and defeated the Gutians, and had the last of their kings, Tiragan, brought before him so that he could put his foot upon his neck. He managed to bring much of Sumer under his control and establish a semblance of stability. He may have died accidentally  as a text states that "his body was carried off by the river". Some texts do allude to him being assassinated though.

Ur-Nammu (r. 2113-2095 BC), founded the 3rd Dynasty of Ur. In addition to being a successful military leader, he was also a social reformer. He was appointed military governor of Ur by Utuhengal. Upon the death of the king  of Uruk, Ur-Nammu declared himself King of Ur, seized Uruk, and attacked and killed Namhani, the traitor of Lagash. He ruled all of Sumer and much of Assyria and Elam. Syria, including Ebla, paid tribute and may well have been part of the Empire. Even Phoenician Byblos was forced to pay. Thus we can divide the empire into two sections. The first was the Empire proper: he ruled Mesopotamia outright and imposed the State's will over all the cities. The second section could be called the dependencies or tributaries: The foreign lands who were forced, either by military conquest or threat to send tribute to the Ur III State. He called himself the "King of Ur, King of Sumer and Akkad". He initiated many building programs and promoted the Sumerian "way of life". Ur-Nammu "freed the land from thieves, robbers, and rebels", restoring order and peace. He re-fortified the towns of Sumer against any future unrest. It was long thought that he wrote the oldest known law code, but many scholars now think that his son Shulgi actually did. He died fighting the Gutians, who continued to remain a problem.

Shulgi (r. 2095-2047 BC), son of Ur-Nammu was a successful soldier, a skillful diplomat, and a patron of literature. During his reign the schools and academies of the kingdom flourished. Shulgi ushered in a period of prosperity. Scholars now think that it was him, and not his father, who published the oldest known law code. He completed Ur-Nammu's building projects and re-organized the administration of the kingdom. The Empire remained largely intact, with the Ensi's becoming provincial governors but with no military power. The local garrison's were put under the control of royally appointed military commanders so as to lessen the chances of revolt. He had considerable trouble pacifying the Assyrian territories, which called for yearly campaigns beginning in the 24th year of his reign. He finally succeeded in turning the northern area, with its Hurrian, Subartian, and Assyrian populations into a province in 2051 after twenty years of war. He also led punitive campaigns against the Amorites. The Gutians overran Elam, causing a greater state of anarchy there than had previously existed in Sumer. He wed his daughters to the rulers of Warshe and Anshan and then invaded, occupied Susa, and installed a Sumerian governor. He later had to put down a revolt in Anshan. Elamites were recruited into a "Foreign Legion"-type army. In c.2055, he lead an army into Palestine to punish the locals for not sending tribute. He may have tried to emulate Naram-Sin, for he took the title of "King of the Four Quarters" and had himself deified. He was a great patron of everything Sumerian, even though he married a Semite, Abisimti. She was to remain as dowager under her sons. Shulgi had more than 50 children.

Amar-Sin (2047-2038)-Son of Shulgi. He waged numerous campaigns against the Amorites. His time was divided between building projects and wars in Assyria against the Hurrians. He may have lost the Syrian and Elamite tributaries. He had himself deified and called the "God who gives life to the Country" and the "Sun-God [i.e. judge] of the Land". He died of an infection, which is ironic, since illness was seen as a sign of the displeasure of the gods.

Shu-Sin (2038-2029)-Brother of Amar-Sin. He also had himself deified. More wars were fought with the Amorites. He lost Assyria and erected a huge wall between the Tigris and the Euphrates a little north of Babylon in order to help contain the Amorites. The wall was 270 km long and breached the banks of both rivers. He also campaigned in the Zagros and defeated a coalition of Iranian tribes. He had extensive trade relations with the Indus Valley civilization.

Ibbi-Sin (2029-2004 BC). Son of Shu-Sin. The last king of Ur. New attacks by Elamites and Amorites forced the erection of new walls around Ur and Nippur. His situation was insecure and even pathetic throughout much of his reign. The realm began to disintegrate almost immediately. Much of the time he was confined to Ur itself. Eshnunna broke away in 2028 and Elam the next year. The Ensis of most of his cities deserted him and fended for themselves against the Amorites who were ravaging Sumer. He put a servant, Ishbi-Erra, in charge of Nippur and Isin. Ishbi-Erra in turn extended his sway along the rivers from Hamazi to the Persian Gulf. He took prisoner Ibbi- Sin's Ensis and installed his own. He did all of this while Ibbi-Sin was still on the throne. Severe famine and economic collapse ensued. Finally the Elamites sacked Ur, taking him prisoner, and ending the Empire. He died in Elam.

Isin and Larsa

During the collapse of Ur III, Ishbi-Erra established himself in Isin and founded a dynasty there that lasted from 2017 to 1794. His example was followed elsewhere by local rulers, as in Der, Eshnunna, Sippar, Kish, and Larsa. In many localities an urge was felt to imitate the model of Ur; Isin probably took over unchanged the administrative system of that state. Ishbi-Erra and his successors had themselves deified, as did one of the rulers of Der, on the Iranian border. For almost a century Isin predominated within the mosaic of states that were slowly reemerging. Overseas trade revived after Ishbi-Erra had driven out the Elamite garrison from Ur, and under his successor, Shu-ilishu, a statue of the moon god Nanna, the city god of Ur, was recovered from the Elamites, who had carried it off. Up to the reign of Lipit-Ishtar (c. 1934-c. 1924), the rulers of Isin so resembled those of Ur, as far as the king's assessment of himself in the hymns is concerned, that it seems almost arbitrary to postulate a break between Ibbi-Sin and Ishbi-Erra. As a further example of continuity it might be added that the Code of Lipit-Ishtar stands exactly midway chronologically between the Code of Ur-Nammu and the Code of Hammurabi. Yet it is much closer to the former in language and especially in legal philosophy than to Hammurabi's compilation of judgments. For example, the Code of Lipit-Ishtar does not know the lex talionis ("an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth"), the guiding principle of Hammurabi's penal law.

Sumuabum (1894-1880 BC) An Amorite Sheikh who seized the town and declared its independence. He began his reign with the construction of a great city wall, which was still unfinished upon his death.

Sumulael (1880-1844BC) Sumu-La-El the oldest mention of Marduk in a royal inscription is from the 21styear of his reign. He sacked Kish.

Sabium (1844-1830BC) He defeated and killed Silli-Adad of Larsa in battle.

Apil Sin  (1830-1812BC)

Sin-Muballit (1812-1792BC) Rim-Sin of Larsa defeated him in battle. He was the last king of the dynasty to have an Akkadian name.

Hammurabi (1792-1749 BC) Upon ascension he controlled only a small area-Babylon, Sippar and the region around them. He spent most of the first 29 years of his reign establishing internal stability and prosperity. In 1787 he did invade the south and capture Isin, although he failed to take Uruk. He formed a coalition with Larsa and Mari from c.1779-1764 to wage war against Ashur, Elam and the mountain peoples. In the mid-1770's he, along with troops from Mari and Elam, sacked Eshnunna. In 1764 he crushed an invading army comprised of Elamites, Assyrians, Gutians and Eshnunnians. The next year he attacked Larsa after being encouraged by an oracle to do so. He captured Larsa and swept through all of Sumer. He defeated another coalition of Elam, Eshnunna, Assyria and Gutium, captured Eshnunna and reached the Assyrian frontier. At this time he turned on his good friend Zimri-Lim and made Mari a vassal. Two years later Mari revolted and he returned and utterly destroyed the city. Between C.1760-1755 he waged war against Assyria and made them a vassal. The city state of Yamhad and its allies repulsed any and all Babylonian advances into Syria. He took the title "King of Sumer and Akkad, King of the four Quarters of the World". He promulgated his famous law code later in his reign.

Samsuiluna (1749-1711BC) -Son of Hammurapi. He took control before the death of his father, who was ill. An outburst of revolts followed the death of Hammurapi, which led to the disintegration of the empire. Although he fought vigorously, he lost all but Babylonia proper. Revolution was popular because of the ancient tradition of local independence, the heavy-handed policies of Babylon, and the economic drain to the capital. He fought an adventurer who called himself Rim-Sin II of Larsa for five years. Most of the fighting took place on the Elam/Sumer border before he was captured and executed. Eshnunna sided with him and it's ruler Anni was also captured and strangled in Babylon. During the war, he pulled down the walls of Ur, set fire to the temples and partially destroyed the city. He did the same to Uruk. Elam then invaded and sacked them, taking away a statue of Inanna from Uruk. A few years later (c.1732) Iluma-Ilu, pretending to be a descendent of Damiq-Ilishu, the last King of Isin, raised the flag of independence over Sumer. He ultimately gained the freedom of Sumer south of Nippur and founded the Dynasty of the Sealand (the Babylonian name for the southern Sumer region). At about the same time Assyria rebelled and gained their independence. In c.1715 he crushed an invading Kassite army.

To make up for the lost revenue from the lost provinces, merchants became bankers and loaned to the small shopkeepers and farmers. They in turn could not repay the loans, so they overworked their lands in order to try. In the process they ignored the rule of fallow and the land became increasingly salinized. Thus by c.1600, Babylon went from political dissent to economic disruption to ecological disaster.

Abieshu (1711-1683 BC) Son of Samsu-Iluna. He defeated a Kassite attack, but allowed the peaceful settling of Kassites in Babylonia as agricultural workers. He damned the Tigris in an unsuccessful attempt to capture Iluma-Ilu, who had fled to the swamps.

Ammiditana (1683-1646BC)  He was able to regain Uruk, Isin and Larsa in the south, which Babylon held until the fall of the Dynasty.

Ammisaduqa.(1646-1625BC) He was famous for his "Edict of Justice" which instituted reforms, including suspending some taxes for a few years and the abolition of imprisonment for debt. He tried to halt the economic slide but was unable to.

Samsuditana (1625-1595 BC) There are no documents from his reign except for a list of year names. He was overthrown when the Hittites under Mursilis I sacked Babylon.

Hittites were the earliest known inhabitants of what is now Turkey. They began to control the area about 1900 B.C. During the next several hundred years, they conquered parts of Mesopotamia and Syria. By 1500 B.C., the Hittites had become a leading power in the Middle East. Hittite culture and language were Indo-European, but scholars do not know whether the Hittites came from Europe or from central Asia.

Way of life. Many elements of Hittite architecture, art, literature, and religion were influenced by neighboring peoples. The Hittites' system of government was more advanced than that of many of their neighbors. Their legal system was fair and humane, and their law code emphasized compensation for a wrong, rather than revengeful punishment. The Hittites established peaceful and profitable relations with the peoples they conquered. Their military superiority resulted from several innovations. The Hittites were among the first to smelt iron. They also built the lightest and fastest chariots of their time.

The Hittites used the Akkadian language written in cuneiform for their international correspondence. For their own royal and religious writings, they used the Hittite language recorded either in Hittite hieroglyphic writing or in cuneiform script borrowed from the Mesopotamians. Scholars deciphered the cuneiform in the early 1900's. But the scholars could not definitely decipher the hieroglyphs until 1947, when they found lengthy statements in both the Phoenician language and Hittite hieroglyphs. These bilingual documents provided scholars with the key for translating Hittite hieroglyphs.

History. The Hittites penetrated what is now central Turkey shortly after 2000 B.C. They conquered the local people and set up a number of city-states. The most important of these was Hattusas, located just east of the present Turkish capital, Ankara. When the city-states formed the Hittite empire, about 1650 B.C., Hattusas became the capital.

The Hittites conquered Babylon about 1595 B.C. They also gained control of northern Syria. The widow of an Egyptian pharaoh, probably Tutankhamen,  asked the Hittite emperor to send one of his sons to be her husband and pharaoh of Egypt. But a group of Egyptians who did not like this arrangement murdered the son before the marriage.

One of the greatest battles of ancient times took place about 1285 B.C. at Kadesh on the Orontes River, north of Palestine. Mutwatallis, the Hittite leader, fought an indecisive battle against Egyptian forces under Ramses II, who barely escaped alive. The Hittites did not conquer Egyptian territory. They concluded a peace that was sealed by the marriage of a Hittite princess to Ramses. See Ramses II.

Shortly after this, allies of the Hittites in both east and west revolted. Tribes migrated from their homes around the Aegean Sea into the western part of the Hittite empire to escape the growing power of the Greeks. They burned Hattusas in about 1200 B.C. Hittite city-states continued to exist for another 500 years, but they were not very powerful. Carchemish came to be considered the eastern capital of the Hittites. But Sargon II of Assyria captured it in 717 B.C. This marked the end of a distinct Hittite government.

The Hittites are mentioned several times in the Old Testament. Abraham bought the field and cave of Machpelah from Ephron the Hittite as a burial place for his wife Sarah. Abraham's grandson, Esau, married two Hittite wives. As late as the time of David, certain people of Israel were called Hittites. David had Uriah the Hittite killed in battle so that he could marry Uriah's wife, Bathsheba.

The following are Hittite Kings who ruled Babylon from 1620-1200 B.C.) Not much is known about them.

King Mursilis  I (1620-1590 B.C.), Labarnas' grandson by adoption, brought down the Old Kingdom of Babylon - Hamurabi's dynasty. This expanded realm, also stretching to Anatolia's west coast, proved to susceptible to internal power struggles.

Hantili  (1590-1560 B.C.)assassin and brother-in-law of Mursili I  

The Kassites, the Mitanni, and the rise of Assyria

About 150 years after the death of Hammurabi, his dynasty was destroyed by an invasion of new peoples. Because there are very few written records from this era, the time from about 1560 BC to about 1440 BC (in some areas until 1400 BC) is called the dark ages. The remaining Semitic states, such as the state of Ashur, became minor states within the sphere of influence of the new states of the Kassites and the Hurrians/Mitanni. The languages of the older cultures, Akkadian and Sumerian, continued or were soon reestablished, however. The cuneiform script persisted as the only type of writing in the entire area. Cultural continuity was not broken off, either, particularly in Babylonia. A matter of importance was the emergence of new Semitic leading classes from the ranks of the priesthood and the scribes. These gained increasing power.

The Kassites in Babylonia

The Kassites had settled by 1800 BC in what is now western Iran in the region of Hamadan-Kermanshah. The first to feel their forward thrust was Samsuiluna, who had to repel groups of Kassite invaders. Increasing numbers of Kassites gradually reached Babylonia and other parts of Mesopotamia. There they founded principalities, of which little is known. No inscription or document in the Kassite language has been preserved. Some 300 Kassite words have been found in Babylonian documents. Nor is much known about the social structure of the Kassites or their culture. There seems to have been no hereditary kingdom. Their religion was polytheistic; the names of some 30 gods are known.

The beginning of Kassite rule in Babylonia cannot be dated exactly. A king called Agum II ruled over a state that stretched from western Iran to the middlepart of the Euphrates valley; 24 years after the Hittites had carried off the statue of the Babylonian god Marduk, he regained possession of the statue, brought it back to Babylon, and renewed the cult, making the god Marduk the equal of the corresponding Kassite god, Shuqamuna. Meanwhile, native princes continued to reign in southern Babylonia. It may have been Ulamburiash who finally annexed this area around 1450 and began negotiations with Egypt in Syria. Karaindash built a temple with bas-relief tile ornaments in Uruk (Erech) around 1420. A new capital west of Baghdad, Dur Kurigalzu, competing with Babylon, was founded and named after Kurigalzu I (c. 1400-c. 1375). His successors Kadashman-Enlil I (c. 1375-c. 1360) and Burnaburiash II (c. 1360-c. 1333) were in correspondence with the Egyptian rulers Amenhotep III and Akhenaton (Amenhotep IV). They were interested in trading their lapis lazuli and other items for gold as well as in planning political marriages. Kurigalzu II (c. 1332-c. 1308) fought against the Assyrians but was defeated by them. His successors sought to ally themselves with the Hittites in order to stop the expansion of the Assyrians. During the reign of Kashtiliash IV (c. 1232-c. 1225), Babylonia waged war on two fronts at the same time--against Elam and Assyria--ending in the catastrophic invasion and destruction of Babylon by Tukulti-Ninurta I. Not until the time of the kings Adad-shum-usur (c. 1216-c. 1187) and Melishipak (c. 1186-c. 1172) was Babylon able to experience a period of prosperity and peace. Their successors were again forced to fight, facing the conqueror King Shutruk-Nahhunte of Elam (c. 1185-c. 1155). Cruel and fierce, the Elamites finally destroyed the dynasty of the Kassites during these wars (about 1155). Some poetical works lament this catastrophe.

Letters and documents of the time after 1380 show that many things had changed after the Kassites took power. The Kassite upper class, always a small minority, had been largely "Babylonianized." Babylonian names were to be found even among the royalty, and they predominated among the civil servants and the officers. The new feudal character of the social structure showed the influence of the Kassites. Babylonian town life had revived on the basis of commerce and handicrafts. The Kassitic nobility, however, maintained the upper hand in the rural areas, their wealthiest representatives holding very large landed estates. Many of these holdings came from donations of the king to deserving officers and civil servants, considerable privileges being connected with such grants. From the time of Kurigalzu II these were registered on stone tablets or, more frequently, on boundary stones called kudurru s. After 1200 the number of these increased substantially, because the kings needed a steadily growing retinue of loyal followers. The boundary stones had pictures in bas-relief, very often a multitude of religious symbols, and frequently contained detailed inscriptions giving the borders of the particular estate; sometimes the deserts of the recipient were listed and his privileges recorded; finally, trespassers were threatened with the most terrifying curses. Agriculture and cattle husbandry were the main pursuits on these estates, and horses were raised for the light war chariots of the cavalry. There was an export trade in horses and vehicles in exchange for raw material. As for the king, the idea of the social-minded ruler continued to be valid.

The decline of Babylonian culture at the end of the Old Babylonian period continued for some time under the Kassites. Not until approximately 1420 did the Kassites develop a distinctive style in architecture and sculpture. Kurigalzu I played an important part, especially in Ur, as a patron of the building arts. Poetry and scientific literature developed only gradually after 1400. The existence of earlier work is clear from poetry, philological lists, and collections of omens and signs that were in existence by the 14th century or before and that have been discovered in the Hittite capital of Hattusa, in the Syrian capital of Ugarit, and even as far away as Palestine. Somewhat later, new writings appear: medical diagnoses and recipes, more Sumero-Akkadian word lists, and collections of astrological and other omens and signs with their interpretations. Most of these works are known today only from copies of more recent date. The most important is the Babylonian epic of the creation of the world, Enuma elish . Composed by an unknown poet, probably in the 14th century, it tells the story of the god Marduk. He began as the god of Babylon and was elevated to be king over all other gods after having successfully accomplished the destruction of the powers of chaos. For almost 1,000 years this epic was recited during the New Year's festival in the spring as part of the Marduk cult in Babylon. The literature of this time contains very few Kassitic words. Many scholars believe that the essential groundwork for the development of the subsequent Babylonian culture was laid during the later epoch of the Kassite era.

"Mesopotamia, history of" Encyclop¾dia Britannica

[Accessed July 1, 2002].

Zidanta I    (1560-1550 B.C,) son-in-law of Hantili                     

Ammuna  (1550-1530 B.C.) son of Hantili                            

Huzziya I  (1525-1500 B.C.) son of Ammuna?

Telipinu (1525-1500 B.C.) son of Zidanta I?/brother-in-law of Ammuna


Alluwamna  son-in-law of Huzziya I

Hantili II  (1500-1450 B.C) son of Alluwamna                          

Zidanta II?

Huzziya II ?

Muwatalli I?

Tudhaliya II son of Huzziya II? (1450-1420 B.C.)

Arnuwanda I (1420-1400 B.C.) son-in-law of Tudhaliya II

Tudhaliya III  (1400-1380 B.C.) son of Arnuwanda I

Tudhaliya  (1380?) son of Tudhaliya III 

Hattusili II?

Suppiluliuma I  (1380-1340 B.C.) son of Tudhaliya III or Hattusili II 

Arnuwanda II  (1340-1339) son of Suppiluliuma I                     

Mursili II   (1339-1306 B.C.) son of Suppiluliuma I                     

Adad-narari (1307 B.C.)  establishes the first Assyrian empire, which lasted until approximately 1235 B.C.

Tukulti-Ninurta (1235-1198 BC), Assyria began its first conquests, in this case the conquest of Babylon. During the reign of Tukulti-Ninurta I, Assyria captured the greatest prize in all of Mesopotamia, Babylon. As a trophy of war, Tukulti-Ninurta return to Assyria with the Babylonian king and the statue of the Babylonian chief god, Marduk. Marduk soon became a significant part of the Assyrian worship system, a fact that eventually lead to Tukulti-Ninurta's downfall when forces sympathetic to Marduk assassinate him, causing an instability in Assyria that stunted the growth of their empire.

Tiglath-Pileser, (1116-1090 became king of Assyria and set about rebuilding Assyria's agricultural economy, resulting in a strong, more unified Assyria. During his reign he fought and defeated the Mushki from Anotalia and Naira tribes from the Zagros mountains, as well as fighting through the aggressive Aramaeans to the south-west to establish trade links with the Phoenician city-states on the shores of the Mediterranean. Tiglath-Pileser wrote that he "crossed the Euphrates twenty eight pursuit of the Aramaeans," though after his death the Aramaeans quickly retook his hard won gains.  He extended Assyrian dominance to Syria and Armenia and  greatly expanded Assyrian territory.  Tiglath-Pileser was not only a military man, but also a sportsman. Upon reaching the Mediterranean, he took the time, he tells us, to go dolphin hunting. He also established several zoos in Assyria, as he had a fascination with foreign animals.

Ashur-bel-kala 1074-1057), who tells us that the Arameans were penetrating deep into Assyrian territory, including Tur Abdin, Harran and Khabur.. For the next century Assyria declined, the Aramean disruptions being the principal cause. It was not until 934 BC, by which time the Aramaeans had settled into a more stable kingdom in Syria, that Assyria began to re-emerge.

Ashur-dan II would concentrate on rebuilding Assyria within its natural borders, from Tur Abdin to the foothills beyond Arbel. He built government offices in all provinces, and as an economic boost, provided ploughs throughout the land, which yielded record grain production.

Ashur-dan II establishes the Neo-Assyrian empire. The Empire unifies the Middle East, from Egypt to the Caspian Sea, under one rule and by so doing lays the foundation for the subsequent rise of the Persians, Hellenism, Christianity, and Islam. Great advances in science, technology, philosophy, medicine, and government are made. The Assyrian conquests spread civilization to formerly savage lands. This aspect of the Neo- Assyrian empire is often overshadowed by scholars' baffling preoccupation with the Assyrian military machine and its so-called "barbaric behavior". The Assyrians never conquered and destroyed, they conquered and civilized, teaching their subjects the art of the highest civilization then in existence. The cultural unification of the middle east is a subtle point to grasp, yet it must be understood that this was the greatest achievement of the Assyrians. Other achievements in that period are to numerous to list fully. Some examples are: paved roads, postal system, magnifying glass, electric battery, plumbing (with flush toilet), the first use of iron, the first chariots, the first aqueduct (which was in use until 1996 A.D.), the first library, the first system of musical notation.

Adad-nerari II (911-891 B.C) left detailed accounts of his wars and his efforts to improve agriculture. He led six campaigns against Aramaean intruders from northern Arabia. In two campaigns against Babylonia he forced Shamash-mudammiq (c. 930-904) to surrender extensive territories. Shamash-mudammiq was murdered, and a treaty with his successor, Nabu-shum-ukin (c. 904-888), secured peace for many years. He provided the final solution to the Aramean problem. He defeated the paramount Aramean chief at Nisibin and, marching up and down the Khabur, he obtained formal submissions from a series of Aramean controlled cities.

Tukulti-Ninurta II, (890-884  B.C) the son of Adad-nirari II, preferred Nineveh to Ashur. He fought campaigns in southern Armenia. He was portrayed on stelae in blue and yellow enamel in the late Hittite style, showing him under a winged sun--a theme adopted from Egyptian art.

Ashur-nasir-pal II, (883-859 BC) brings under Assyrian control the area from south Lebanon to the Zagros mountains, with loose control over the Taurus region. Diyarbekr was under direct Assyrian control. His major accomplishment was the consolidation of the conquests of his father, Tukulti-Ninurta II, leading to the establishment of the New Assyrian Empire. Although, by his own testimony, he was a brilliant general and administrator, he is perhaps best known for the brutal frankness with which he described the atrocities committed on his captives. The details of his reign are known almost entirely from his own inscriptions and the splendid reliefs in the ruins of his palace at Calah (now Nimrud, Iraq).

The annals of Ashurnasirpal II give a detailed account of the campaigns of his first six years as king and show him moving from one corner of his empire to another, putting down rebellions, reorganizing provinces, exacting tribute, and meeting opposition with calculated ruthlessness. In the east, Ashurnasirpal early in his reign publicly flayed the rebel governor of Nishtun at Arbela (modern Irbil, Iraq), and, after brief expeditions in 881-880 BC, he had no further trouble there.

In the north, he thwarted Aramaean pressure on the Assyrian city of Damdamusa by storming the rebel stronghold of Kinabu and ravaging the land of Nairi (Armenia). He organized a new Assyrian province of Tushhan to control the border, and there he received tribute from his father's former opponent Amme-ba'ali. In 879 BC, however, the tribes in the Kashiari hills revolted and murdered Amme-ba'ali. The Assyrian revenge was swift and ruthless. In the west, he subdued the Aramaeans, extracting submission from the powerful state of Bit-Adini, and subsequently marched unopposed to the Mediterranean Sea by way of Carchemish and the Orontes River, receiving tribute along the way and from the cities of Phoenicia.

Ashurnasirpal used the captives from his campaigns to rebuild the city of Calah, which had been founded by Shalmaneser I (reigned c. 1263-c. 1234 BC) but was then only a ruin. By 879 BC the main palace in the citadel, the temples of Ninurta and Enlil, shrines for other deities, and the city wall had been completed. Botanic gardens and a zoologic garden had been laid out, and water supplies were assured by a canal from the Great Zab River. The inscriptions and reliefs from this city, to which the king moved from Nineveh, are the principal historical source for the reign. In 1951 a stela was discovered at the site commemorating a feast lasting 10 days for 69,574 persons to celebrate the city's official opening when the king moved there from Nineveh in 879 BC.

Shalmaneser III. (858-824 BC) conquered all of Syria and Palestine, all of Armenia, and, the prize of prizes, Babylon and southern Mesopotamia. The Assyrian conquerors invented a new policy towards the conquered: in order to prevent nationalist revolts by the conquered people, the Assyrians would force the people they conquered to migrate in large numbers to other areas of the empire. Besides guaranteeing the security of an empire built off of conquered people of different cultures and languages, these mass deportations of the populations in the Middle East, Mesopotamia, and Armenia, turned the region into a melting pot of diverse cultures, religions, and languages. Whereas there would be little cultural contact between the conquered and the conquerors in early Mesopotamian history, under the Assyrians the entire area became a vast experiment in cultural mixing

Tiglath-Pileser III (745-727); king of Assyria who inaugurated the last and greatest phase of Assyrian expansion. He subjected Syria and Palestine to his rule, and later (729 or 728) he merged the kingdoms of Assyria and Babylonia.

Sargon II, (721-705 BC) one of Assyria's great kings during the last century of its history. He extended and consolidated the conquests of his presumed father, Tiglath-pileser III. Sargon is the Hebrew rendering (Isaiah 20:1) of Assyrian Sharru-kin, a throne name meaning "the king is legitimate." The name was undoubtedly chosen in reminiscence of two former kings of Assyria, particularly in commemoration of Sargon of Akkad (flourished 2300 BC).

Although Sargon's ancestry is partly veiled in mystery, he was probably a younger son of Tiglath-pileser III and consequently a brother of his predecessor Shalmaneser V, who may have died ignominiously or may have been deposed. It was for Sargon to resume the conquests and to improve the administration of the empire his father had begun to assemble.

Upon his accession to the throne, he was faced immediately with three major problems: dealing with the Chaldean and Aramaean chieftainships in the southern parts of Babylonia, with the kingdom of Urartu and the peoples to the north in the Armenian highlands, and with Syria and Palestine. By and large, these were the conquests made by Tiglath-pileser III. Sargon's problem was not only to maintain the status quo but to make further conquests to prove the might of the god Ashur, the national god of the Assyrian empire.

When Sargon succeeded to the Assyrian throne, Marduk-apal-iddina II (Merodach-Baladan of the Old Testament), a dissident chieftain of the Chaldean tribes in the marshes of southern Babylonia, committed the description of his victory over the invading Assyrian armies (720 BC) to writing on a clay cylinder, which he deposited in the city of Uruk (biblical Erech; modern Tall al-Warka'). The presence of this record obviously did not suit Sargon. After having discharged other commitments, he uncovered Marduk-apal-iddina's record and removed it to his own residence, then at Kalakh (modern Nimrud), substituting what has been described as an "improved" version that was more to his liking.

The extant texts reveal little about Sargon himself. With few exceptions, ancient Mesopotamian rulers have left no documents from which to write an actual biography. No personal documents have survived from Sargon's reign; but it seems fair to assume that phraseologies uncommon in the inscriptions of other Assyrian kings, found in his texts, must have met with his approval, even though it is uncertain whether such phrases--sometimes turning into what is obviously poetry--were in fact conceived by Sargon himself or ascribed to him by his historiographers. The discovery, at Nimrud, of a series of omens, the texts of which are written in cuneiform on beeswax encased in ivory and walnut boards and marked as being the property of the palace of Sargon, perhaps also throws some light on Sargon the man. Although he may not have introduced the method of recording cuneiform texts on wax, this novel method of committing texts to writing apparently took his fancy. This assumption tallies well with the interest he took in the engineering projects undertaken in cities he conquered. Sargon's palace at Khorsabad was dedicated in 706 BC, less than a year before he died.

An unparalleled record of Sargon's eighth campaign (714 BC)--in the form of a letter to the god Ashur--has been recovered. According to this letter, Sargon, in 714, led the Assyrian armies from Kalakh, which at the time was still his residence, into the areas around modern As-Sulaimaniyah in Iraqi Kurdistan and into the highlands of the Zagros range beyond. His purpose was to come to the aid of allies of the Assyrian realm who were threatened by Rusa I, a king of Urartu and a bitter enemy of Assyria. During the progress of this campaign, the author of the account visualized, or anticipated, the reactions of his adversary as, from a mountain, he watched the approach of the Assyrian armies. The passage, like many others in this unique text, constitutes an ingenious stylistic device unparalleled in Assyrian historical literature. The phraseology employed by the author is original by Mesopotamian standards as they are known today: inventive, resourceful, testifying to a fertile mind, and clearly deviating from the commonplace platitudes that mostly characterize the standard accounts of Assyrian kings. Whether or not Sargon himself is responsible for the wording of this narrative, it is to his credit that an account of this nature emerged from his chancery, with his approval and endorsement. Sargon is assumed to have died in battle in 705.

Sennacherib, (705-681 BC) was the son and successor of Sargon II, from whom he inherited an empire that extended from Babylonia to southern Palestine and into Asia Minor. Before his accession he served, with ability demonstrated by his extant reports, as a senior administrator and diplomat in the north and northwest of the empire. The main problem of his reign was in Babylonia, where the growth of the power of the Chaldean and Aramaean tribes seriously disturbed the old urban centres, whose interests in commerce and need for safe trade routes made them usually pro-Assyrian. Political instability was worsened by the interference of Elam (southwestern Iran), so that between 703 and 689 Sennacherib had to undertake six campaigns in that area; his attitude toward the capital city, Babylon, changed from acceptance of native rule to hostility.

The peace was broken in 703 by a tribal insurrection under the Chaldean Merodach-Baladan (Marduk-apal-iddina), with Elamite military assistance. By skillful generalship Sennacherib recovered northern Babylonia and appointed a native Babylonian, Bel-ibni, as subking. His army devastated the tribal areas in southern Babylonia, though he spared major Babylonian cities, except for a few that had gone over to the tribesmen. Elamite interference in Babylonia probably dictated a campaign in 702 against the petty kingdoms of the Zagros Mountains, vassals of Elam, to forestall a possible Elamite thrust by that route toward eastern Assyria.

In 701 a rebellion, backed by Egypt, though probably instigated by Merodach-Baladan (2 Kings 20:12-18; Isaiah 39:1-7), broke out in Palestine. Sennacherib reacted firmly, supporting loyal vassals and taking the rebel cities, except for Jerusalem, which, though besieged, was spared on payment of a heavy indemnity (2 Kings 18:13-19:36; Isa. 36:1-37:37). The biblical narrative has been interpreted as implying two campaigns against Jerusalem, but this receives no support from Assyrian sources.

Further intrigues by Merodach-Baladan necessitated another Assyrian campaign into the Chaldean area in 700. Merodach-Baladan thereupon took refuge in Elam, where he soon died. Sennacherib's hardening attitude toward Babylon was marked by the introduction of direct Assyrian rule through the replacement of Bel-ibni by Sennacherib's son Ashur-nadin-shum. This gave Babylonia a brief period of stability, during which Sennacherib undertook campaigns in Cilicia and the north. But continuing Elamite support for disaffected Chaldean tribesmen led in 694 to a further attack on southern Babylonia, coupled with a seaborne invasion of Elam across the Persian Gulf. Elam reacted by raiding northern Babylonia, capturing Ashur-nadin-shum, and installing a nominee who reigned for 18 months until removed during a fresh Assyrian attack.

Another Chaldean leader, Mushezib-Marduk, now seized Babylon and, by opening the temple treasuries, bought massive military support from Elam. In 691 the Assyrian and Elamite armies met at Halule on the Diyala, where Sennacherib, though claiming a victory, suffered losses that left him temporarily impotent. In 689 he returned to besiege Babylon, capturing it after nine months. Abandoning attempts to conciliate this great cult centre, Sennacherib systematically sacked Babylon; a text exists that probably represents a theological justification for this impiety.

Sennacherib's most enduring work was the rebuilding of Nineveh, his official residence as crown prince. On his accession he made it his capital, building a splendid new palace, Shanina-la-ishu ("Nonesuch"). Using prisoners of war for labour, he extended and beautified the city, laying out streets, restoring and extending public buildings, and erecting a great inner wall, nearly 8 miles (13 km) long, which encircled the city, and an outer wall; both walls still stand.

Around his capital he established plantations of fruit trees and parks of exotic trees and plants; among his introductions was the cotton plant, described as "the wool-bearing tree." To irrigate the plantations, for which at times the Tigris and Khosr rivers fell too low, Sennacherib sought springs and streams in the hills north of Nineveh and led them by 6 miles (10 km) of canal and a massive stone aqueduct to feed the Khosr. He also undertook building activities in other cities, particularly Ashur.

Sennacherib claimed to be "of clever understanding," a boast supported by his initiatives in technology. He had surveys undertaken for new sources of alabaster and building stone, and he discovered new stands of giant timber in mountain forests. He devised a new and less laborious method of bronze casting and introduced more convenient equipment for raising water from wells. He showed considerable logistic ability in his seaborne attack on Elam, in which ships built in Nineveh were taken by Phoenician sailors down the Tigris, overland to a canal of the Euphrates, and thence to the Persian Gulf.

Sennacherib died in January 681 by parricide, probably at Nineveh. He was survived by his principal wife Naqia, mother of his heir Esarhaddon; her non-Assyrian name suggests that she was of either Jewish or Aramaean origin.

Because of his attack on Jerusalem, Sennacherib receives prominence in the Bible. Isaiah regarded Sennacherib as God's instrument (2 Kings 19:23-28; Isa. 37:24-29); the prophet did not condemn the king's military activities as such, though punishment was decreed for his arrogance in not acknowledging the divine source of his power.

In The Story of Ahikar (a pre-Christian Oriental work), Sennacherib is portrayed as a king of apparently good repute, under whom the sage Ahikar served; where this same story is alluded to in the Old Testament apocryphal book of Tobit, however, the king is cast in an evil role. A similar ambivalence is shown in Jewish Talmudic tradition, where Sennacherib, though called an evil man, is regarded as the ancestor of the teachers of the celebrated Rabbi Hillel.

Classical tradition retained a memory of Sennacherib's activities not only in Babylonia but also in Cilicia, where the building of Tarsus, on the plan of Babylon, was attributed to him. He was also credited with building a temple at Athens. Herodotus' story of an attempted invasion of Egypt frustrated by mice eating the Assyrian bowstrings and quivers may reflect a plague epidemic during Sennacherib's Palestinian campaign; this possibly underlay the story (in 2 Kings 19:35; Isa. 37:36) of the decimation of the Assyrian army by God's destroying angel, which inspired Lord Byron's poem "The Destruction of Sennacherib."

Esarhaddon, (681-668 BC) conquered Egypt. Although he was a younger son, Esarhaddon had already been proclaimed successor to the throne by his father, Sennacherib, who had appointed him governor of Babylon some time after Sennacherib sacked that city in 689. Sennacherib was murdered (681) by one or more of Esarhaddon's brothers, apparently in an attempt to seize the throne. Marching quickly from the west, Esarhaddon encountered the rebel forces in Hanigalbat (western Assyria), where most of them deserted to him, and their leaders fled. Esarhaddon continued on to Nineveh, where he claimed the throne without opposition.

In southern Babylonia, meanwhile, the leader of a Chaldean tribe took advantage of the revolt and attacked the Assyrian governor at Ur. When Esarhaddon sent troops against the chieftain, he fled northeastward, expecting to find asylum in Elam. Instead the new Elamite king summarily executed him. The rebel's brother, however, escaped to Assyria and submitted to Esarhaddon, who appointed him a local ruler in his dead brother's place. This rare instance of Assyrian mercy bore rich dividends, for he remained loyal throughout Esarhaddon's reign.

The cities of northern Babylonia, which had suffered severely under Sennacherib, were shown particular favour under Esarhaddon. He restored land to displaced citizens who could make good their claims, and in 678 he took military action against a Chaldean tribe that had encroached on the lands of Borsippa and Babylon.

Farther north the pressure of Cimmerians and Scythians was being increasingly felt. Esarhaddon is said to have made a marriage alliance with the Scythians to strengthen his position there. The pressure of the Cimmerians continued, however, and Esarhaddon finally lost control of much of the northwestern provinces of Cilicia and Tabal.

When Egypt inspired a revolt of the Phoenician city of Tyre, Esarhaddon attacked Egypt (675); he had little success until 671, when he seized Memphis and defeated the Egyptian king Taharqa, who fled south, leaving the entire country to Esarhaddon. For the first time a Mesopotamian ruler included "king of Egypt" among his royal titles. After the withdrawal of the Assyrian army, Taharqa emerged and attracted a considerable following. Esarhaddon was marching to put down the rebellion in 669 when he died. In 672 Esarhaddon had proclaimed detailed instructions for the succession of two of his sons to the thrones of Assyria and Babylonia, and at his death the successions were carried out smoothly.

Ashurbanipal (668-626 BC), the last of the great Assyrian kings, subdued Elam, east of Mesopotamia, and extended the empire to its greatest size. He ruled from then on in relative peace until his death in 626 BC where the Assyrian empire started to fracture..Roads were built to enable the Assyrian armies to subdue rebels quickly. A highly organized mail service carried messages from the court to faraway governors.

Ashurbanipal's first concern was to quell a revolution in Egypt, where Taharqa (Tarku; biblical Tirhaka), an Egyptian king, had invaded the Nile Delta and won support. Swift Assyrian military action forced Taharqa's withdrawal, and Ashurbanipal appointed local princes supported by Assyrian garrisons. Some of the princes intrigued with Taharqa, and the Assyrians deported them to Nineveh. Keeping to his plan to have native administrators, Ashurbanipal chose Necho I as supreme ruler of the delta and made a treaty with him. Further pressure from Taharqa's successor, Tanutamon (Tandamane), led to another Assyrian intervention in 664-663, when the Assyrians seized control of Memphis and sacked Thebes. When Necho died in 663, Ashurbanipal held to his policy and accepted the succession of another local ruler, Psamtik (Psammetichus I); he was rewarded by a peace that enabled him to campaign elsewhere. In 654 BC the Assyrian garrisons were expelled from Egypt, but trade continued so that this loss resulted in little weakening of his position.

He next turned to the Phoenician city of Tyre, which had supported both Egyptian and Lydian bids for independence. A successful siege of Tyre led to the resubmission of the rulers of Syria and Cilicia and to a request for Assyrian help from Gyges of Lydia against Cimmerian intruders. Because Lydian mercenaries had assisted Egypt, this help was refused. A swift display of military might against the Mannaeans and an alliance with Madyes, the Scythian chief, repulsed Cimmerian advances and left Ashurbanipal free to attend to Babylonia, his southern neighbour.

Ashurbanipal had confirmed his half-brother Shamash-shum-ukin as local ruler of Babylonia, but with restricted powers. Assyrian garrisons and officials there continued to report to the Assyrian king, and he continued to appoint governors both in the Sealand (Persian Gulf) and in Ur. Babylonians petitioned him directly and received land grants. For 16 years, relations with his brother were peaceful. When Tept-Humban, a usurper in Elam, entered Assyrian territory and was killed, the Assyrian action was primarily in support of the Elamite princes Humbanigash and Tammaritu, who were given specific regions in Elam with no attempt at direct Assyrian rule. Ashurbanipal's actions probably aimed also to assist his own brother, whom he still trusted. Ashurbanipal received a deputation of Babylonians about this time, and he punished the Gambulu tribe for complicity in the Elamite affair.

Shamash-shum-ukin's long stay in Babylon had imbued him with the traditional local spirit of nationalism and resistance. He may have interpreted his brother's policy of appeasement as weakness and as an opportunity for him to increase his own status. In any event, he contrived a coalition with other outlying peoples of the Assyrian Empire--Phoenicia, Judah, Elam, Egypt, Lydia, and the Arab and Chaldean tribesmen--and had these groups risen simultaneously Assyria would have fallen. When Ashurbanipal discovered the plots, he appealed directly to the Babylonians and perhaps tested their loyalty by imposing a special tax; only upon their refusal did he take military action. He seemed to move in ways that avoided direct danger to his brother, and he worked more through siege warfare than through direct action; the Babylonian Chronicle records that for three years "the war went on and there were perpetual clashes." Elam, suffering from internal dissension, was unable to help the rebels; and gradually, through starvation, the Arabs who had retreated into Babylon deserted as the famine became intense. Shamash-shum-ukin committed suicide in his burning palace in 648 BC. Ashurbanipal's own feelings toward the city are shown by his work of restoration and by his appointment of a Chaldean noble, Kandalanu, as his viceroy there.

Ashurbanipal had to take further action to quell the rebellion. Raiding the Arab tribes, he defeated the Nabataean Uate and his allies and isolated the Qadar tribe. The struggle with Elam was harder; war there dragged on until 639 BC, when the Assyrians sacked Susa. That year Ashurbanipal celebrated his triumph; he had "the whole world" under his sway, and four captive kings drew his chariot in the procession.

The military action required to maintain order must not overshadow Ashurbanipal's ability as an administrator. The empire prospered economically despite the threatened closure of the northern and eastern trade routes due to Lydian and Median expansions. Unfortunately, the sources are too scanty to follow his reign after 631 BC. Ashurbanipal's death is nowhere recorded, but it seems that he followed his father's precedent in bringing his sons Ashur-etel-ilani and Sin-shar-ishkun into co-regency, each with a separately defined authority. It is no indictment of his rule that his empire fell within two decades after his death; this was due to external pressures rather than to internal strife.

Ashur-etel-ilani  and Sin-shar-ishkun (635 -626 B.C.): Ashurbanipal had twin sons. Ashur-etel-ilani was appointed successor to the throne, but his twin brother Sin-shar-ishkun did not recognize him. The fight between them and their supporters forced the old king to withdraw to Harran, in 632 at the latest, perhaps ruling from there over the western part of the empire until his death in 627. Ashur-etel-ilani governed in Assyria from about 633, but a general, Sin-shum-lisher, soon rebelled against him and proclaimed himself counter-king. Some years later (629?) Sin-shar-ishkun finally succeeded in obtaining the kingship. In Babylonian documents dates can be found for all three kings. To add to the confusion, until 626 there are also dates of Ashurbanipal and a king named Kandalanu. In 626 the Chaldean Nabopolassar (Nabu-apal-usur) revolted from Uruk and occupied Babylon. There were several changes in government. King Ashur-etel-ilani was forced to withdraw to the west, where he died sometime after 625. Sin-shar-ishkun, king of Assyria, found death in his burning palace

Nabopolassar  (630-605 B.C.) became king of the Chaldeans. In 626 he forced the Assyrians out of Uruk and crowned himself king of Babylonia. He took part in the wars aimed at the destruction of Assyria. At the same time, he began to restore the dilapidated network of canals in the cities of Babylonia, particularly those in Babylon itself. He fought against the Assyrian Ashur-uballit II and then against Egypt, his successes alternating with misfortunes. In 605 Nabopolassar died in Babylon.

Ashur-uballit II (611-609 the commander of the Assyrian army in the west crowned himself king in the city of Harran, assuming the name of the founder of the empire, BC). Ashur-uballit had to face both the Babylonians and the Medes. They conquered Harran in 610, without, however, destroying the city completely. In 609 the remaining Assyrian troops had to capitulate. With this event Assyria disappeared from history. The great empires that succeeded it learned a great deal from the hated Assyrians, both in the arts and in the organization of their states.

Mebuchadrezzar II Nabopolassar had named his oldest son, Nabu-kudurri-usur, after the famous king of the second dynasty of Isin, trained him carefully for his prospective kingship, and shared responsibility with him. When the father died in 605, Nebuchadrezzar was with his army in Syria; he had just crushed the Egyptians near Carchemish in a cruel, bloody battle and pursued them into the south. On receiving the news of his father's death, Nebuchadrezzar returned immediately to Babylon. In his numerous building inscriptions he tells but rarely of his many wars; most of them end with prayers. The Babylonian chronicle is extant only for the years 605-594, and not much is known from other sources about the later years of this famous king. He went very often to Syria and Palestine, at first to drive out the Egyptians. In 604 he took the Philistine city of Ashkelon. In 601 he tried to push forward into Egypt but was forced to pull back after a bloody, undecided battle and to regroup his army in Babylonia. After smaller incursions against the Arabs of Syria, he attacked Palestine at the end of 598. King Jehoiakim of Judah had rebelled, counting on help from Egypt. According to the chronicle, Jerusalem was taken on March 16, 597. Jehoiakim had died during the siege, and his son, King Johoiachin, together with at least 3,000 Jews, was led into exile in Babylonia. They were treated well there, according to the documents. Zedekiah was appointed the new king. In 596, when danger threatened from the east, Nebuchadrezzar marched to the Tigris River and induced the enemy to withdraw. After a revolt in Babylonia had been crushed with much bloodshed, there were other campaigns in the west.

According to the Old Testament, Judah rebelled again in 589, and Jerusalem was placed under siege. The city fell in 587/586 and was completely destroyed. Many thousands of Jews were forced into "Babylonian exile," and their country was reduced to a province of the Babylonian empire. The revolt had been caused by an Egyptian invasion that pushed as far as Sidon. Nebuchadrezzar laid siege to Tyre for 13 years without taking the city, because there was no fleet at his disposal. In 568/567 he attacked Egypt, again without much success, but from that time on the Egyptians refrained from further attacks on Palestine. Nebuchadrezzar lived at peace with Media throughout his reign and acted as a mediator after the Median-Lydian war of 590-585.

The Babylonian empire under Nebuchadrezzar extended to the Egyptian border. It had a well-functioning administrative system. Though he had to collect extremely high taxes and tributes in order to maintain his armies and carry out his building projects, Nebuchadrezzar made Babylonia one of the richest lands in western Asia--the more astonishing because it had been rather poor when it was ruled by the Assyrians. Babylon was the largest city of the "civilized world." Nebuchadrezzar maintained the existing canal systems and built many supplementary canals, making the land even more fertile. Trade and commerce flourished during his reign.

Nebuchadrezzar's building activities surpassed those of most of the Assyrian kings. He fortified the old double walls of Babylon, adding another triple wall outside the old wall. In addition, he erected another wall, the Median Wall, north of the city between the Euphrates and the Tigris rivers. According to Greek estimates, the Median Wall may have been about 100 feet high. He enlarged the old palace and added many wings, so that hundreds of rooms with large inner courts were now at the disposal of the central offices of the empire.Colourful glazed-tile bas-reliefs decorated the walls. Terrace gardens, called the Hanging Gardens in later accounts, were added. Hundreds of thousands of workers must have been required for these projects. The temples were objects of special concern. He devoted himself first and foremost to the completion of Etemenanki, the "Tower of Babel." Construction of this building began in the time of Nebuchadrezzar I, about 1110. It stood as a "building ruin" until the reign of Esarhaddon of Assyria, who resumed building about 680 but did not finish. Nebuchadrezzar II was able to complete the whole building. The mean dimensions of Etemenanki are to be found in the Esagila Tablet, which has been known since the late 19th century. Its base measured about 300 feet on each side, and it was 300 feet in height. There were five terracelike gradations surmounted by a temple, the whole tower being about twice the height of those of other temples. The wide street used for processions led along the eastern side by the inner city walls and crossed at the enormous Ishtar Gate with its world-renowned bas-relief tiles. Nebuchadrezzar also built many smaller temples throughout the country.

Awil-Marduk (called Evil-Merodach in the Old Testament; 561-560), the son of Nebuchadrezzar, was unable to win the support of the priests of Marduk. His reign did not last long, and he was soon eliminated.

Nergal-shar-usur (called Neriglissar in classical sources; 559-556), was a general who undertook a campaign in 557 into the "rough" Cilician land, which may have been under the control of the Medes. His land forces were assisted by a fleet. His still-minor son Labashi-Marduk was murdered not long after that, allegedly because he was not suitable for his job.

Nabonidus (Nabu-naŌi h c 556-539) from Harran, one of the most interesting and enigmatic figures of ancient times. His mother, Addagoppe, was a priestess of the god Sin in Harran; she came to Babylon and managed to secure responsible offices for her son at court. The god of the moon rewarded her piety with a long life--she lived to be 103--and she was buried in Harran with all the honours of a queen in 547. It is not clear which powerful faction in Babylon supported the kingship of Nabonidus; it may have been one opposing the priests of Marduk, who had become extremely powerful. Nabonidus raided Cilicia in 555 and secured the surrender of Harran, which had been ruled by the Medes. He concluded a treaty of defense with Astyages of Media against the Persians, who had become a growing threat since 559 under their king Cyrus II. He also devoted himself to the renovation of many temples, taking an especially keen interest in old inscriptions. He gave preference to his god Sin and had powerful enemies in the priesthood of the Marduk temple. Modern excavators have found fragments of propaganda poems written against Nabonidus and also in support of him. Both traditions continued in Judaism.

Internal difficulties and the recognition that the narrow strip of land from the Persian Gulf to Syria could not be defended against a major attack from the east induced Nabonidus to leave Babylonia around 552 and to reside in Taima (Tayma') in northern Arabia. There he organized an Arabian province with the assistance of Jewish mercenaries. His viceroy in Babylonia was his son Bel-shar-usur, the Belshazzar of the Book of Daniel in the Bible. Cyrus turned this to his own advantage by annexing Media in 550. Nabonidus, in turn, allied himself with Croesus of Lydia in order to fight Cyrus. Yet, when Cyrus attacked Lydia and annexed it in 546, Nabonidus was not able to help Croesus. Cyrus bode his time. In 542 Nabonidus returned to Babylonia, where his son had been able to maintain good order in external matters but had not overcome a growing internal opposition to his father. Consequently, Nabonidus' career after his return was short-lived, though he tried hard to regain the support of the Babylonians. He appointed his daughter to be high priestess of the god Sin in Ur, thus returning to the Sumerian-Old Babylonian religious tradition. The priests of Marduk looked to Cyrus, hoping to have better relations with him than with Nabonidus; they promised Cyrus the surrender of Babylon without a fight if he would grant them their privileges in return. In 539 Cyrus attacked northern Babylonia with a large army, defeating Nabonidus, and entered the city of Babylon without a battle. The other cities did not offer any resistance either. Nabonidus surrendered, receiving a small territory in eastern Iran. Tradition has confused him with his great predecessor Nebuchadrezzar II. The Bible refers to him as Nebuchadrezzar in the Book of Daniel.

Cyrus II, the founder of the Achaemenian Empire, united Babylonia with his country in a personal union, assuming the title of "King of Babylonia, King of the Lands."

Cyrus was born between 590 and 580 BC, either in Media or, more probably, in Persis, the modern Fars province of Iran. The meaning of his name is in dispute, for it is not known whether it was a personal name or a throne name given to him when he became a ruler. It is noteworthy that after the Achaemenian empire the name does not appear again in sources relating to Iran, which may indicate some special sense of the name.

Most scholars agree, however, that Cyrus the Great was at least the second of the name to rule in Persia. One cuneiform text in Akkadian--the language of Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq) in the pre-Christian era--asserts he was the son of Cambyses, great king, king of Anshan, grandson of Cyrus, great king, king of Anshan, descendant of Teispes, great king, king of Anshan, of a family [which] always [exercised] kingship.

In any case, it is clear that Cyrus came from a long line of ruling chiefs.

The most important source for his life is the Greek historian Herodotus. The idealized biography by Xenophon is a work for the edification of the Greeks concerning the ideal ruler, rather than a historical treatise. It does, however, indicate the high esteem in which Cyrus was held, not only by his own people, the Persians, but by the Greeks and others. Herodotus says that the Persians called Cyrus their father, while later Achaemenian rulers were not so well regarded. The story of the childhood of Cyrus, as told by Herodotus with echoes in Xenophon, may be called a Cyrus legend since it obviously follows a pattern of folk beliefs about the almost superhuman qualities of the founder of a dynasty. Similar beliefs also exist about the founders of later dynasties throughout the history of Iran. According to the legend, Astyages, the king of the Medes and overlord of the Persians, gave his daughter in marriage to his vassal in Persis, a prince called Cambyses. From this marriage Cyrus was born. Astyages, having had a dream that the baby would grow up to overthrow him, ordered Cyrus slain. His chief adviser, however, instead gave the baby to a shepherd to raise. When he was 10 years old, Cyrus, because of his outstanding qualities, was discovered by Astyages, who, in spite of the dream, was persuaded to allow the boy to live. Cyrus, when he reached manhood in Persis, revolted against his maternal grandfather and overlord. Astyages marched against the rebel, but his army deserted him and surrendered to Cyrus in 550 BC.

After inheriting the empire of the Medes, Cyrus first had to consolidate his power over Iranian tribes on the Iranian plateau before expanding to the west. Croesus, king of Lydia in Asia Minor (Anatolia), had enlarged his domains at the expense of the Medes when he heard of the fall of Astyages, and Cyrus, as successor of the Median king, marched against Lydia. Sardis, the Lydian capital, was captured in 547 or 546, and Croesus was either killed or burned himself to death, though according to other sources he was taken prisoner by Cyrus and well treated. The Ionian Greek cities on the Aegean Sea coast, as vassals of the Lydian king, now became subject to Cyrus, and most of them submitted peacefully. Several revolts of the Greek cities were later suppressed with severity. Next Cyrus turned to Babylonia, where the dissatisfaction of the people with the ruler Nabonidus gave him a pretext for invading the lowlands. The conquest was quick, for even the priests of Marduk, the national deity of the great metropolis of Babylon, had become estranged from Nabonidus. In October 539 BC, the greatest city of the ancient world fell to the Persians.

In the Bible (e.g., Ezra 1:1-4), Cyrus is famous for freeing the Jewish captives in Babylonia and allowing them to return to their homeland. Cyrus was also tolerant toward the Babylonians and others. He conciliated local populations by supporting local customs and even sacrificing to local deities. The capture of Babylon delivered not only Mesopotamia into the hands of Cyrus but also Syria and Palestine, which had been conquered previously by the Babylonians. The ruler of Cilicia in Asia Minor had become an ally of Cyrus when the latter marched against Croesus, and Cilicia retained a special status in Cyrus' empire. Thus it was by diplomacy as well as force of arms that he established the largest empire known until his time.

Cyrus seems to have had several capitals. One was the city of Ecbatana, modern Hamadan, former capital of the Medes, and another was a new capital of the empire, Pasargadae, in Persis, said to be on the site where Cyrus had won the battle against Astyages. The ruins today, though few, arouse admiration in the visitor. Cyrus also kept Babylon as a winter capital.

No Persian chauvinist, Cyrus was quick to learn from the conquered peoples. He not only conciliated the Medes but united them with the Persians in a kind of dual monarchy of the Medes and Persians. Cyrus had to borrow the traditions of kingship from the Medes, who had ruled an empire when the Persians were merely their vassals. A Mede was probably made an adviser to theAchaemenian king, as a sort of chief minister; on later reliefs at Persepolis, a capital of the Achaemenian kings from the time of Darius, a Mede is frequently depicted together with the great king. The Elamites, indigenous inhabitants of Persis, were also the teachers of the Persians in many ways, as can be seen, for example, in the Elamite dress worn by Persians and by Elamite objects carried by them on the stone reliefs at Persepolis. There also seems to have been little innovation in government and rule, but rather a willingness to borrow, combined with an ability to adapt what was borrowed to the new empire. Cyrus was undoubtedly the guiding genius in the creation not only of a great empire but in the formation of Achaemenian culture and civilization.

Little is known of the family life of Cyrus. He had two sons, one of whom, Cambyses, succeeded him; the other, Bardiya (Smerdis of the Greeks), was probably secretly put to death by Cambyses after he became ruler. Cyrus had at least one daughter, Atossa (who married her brother Cambyses), and possibly two others, but they played no role in history.

When Cyrus defeated Astyages he also inherited Median possessions in eastern Iran, but he had to engage in much warfare to consolidate his rule in this region. After his conquest of Babylonia, he again turned to the east, and Herodotus tells of his campaign against nomads living east of the Caspian Sea. According to the Greek historian, Cyrus was at first successful in defeating the ruler of the nomads--called the Massagetai--who was a woman, and captured her son. On the son's committing suicide in captivity, his mother swore revenge and defeated and killed Cyrus. Herodotus' story may be apocryphal, but Cyrus' conquests in Central Asia were probably genuine, since a city in farthest Sogdiana was called Cyreschata, or Cyropolis, by the Greeks, which seems to prove the extent of his Eastern conquests.

"Cyrus II" Encyclopedia Britannica

[Accessed July 1, 2002].

Darius I was the son of Hystaspes, the satrap (provincial governor) of Parthia. The principal contemporary sources for his history are his own inscriptions, especially the great trilingual inscription on the Bisitun (Behistun) rock at the village of the same name, in which he tells how he gained the throne. The accounts of his accession given by the Greek historians Herodotus and Ctesias are in many points obviously derived from this official version but are interwoven with legends.

According to Herodotus, Darius, when a youth, was suspected by Cyrus II the Great (who ruled from 559 to 529 BC) of plotting against the throne. Later Darius was in Egypt with Cambyses II, the son of Cyrus and heir to his kingdom, as a member of the royal bodyguard. After the death of Cambyses in the summer of 522 BC, Darius hastened to Media, where, in September, with the help of six Persian nobles, he killed Bardiya (Smerdis), another son of Cyrus, who had usurped the throne the previous March. In the Bisitun inscription Darius defended this deed and his own assumption of kingship on the grounds that the usurper was actually Gaumata, a Magian, who had impersonated Bardiya after Bardiya had been murdered secretly by Cambyses. Darius therefore claimed that he was restoring the kingship to the rightful Achaemenid house. He himself, however, belonged to a collateral branch of the royal family, and, as his father and grandfather were alive at his accession, it is unlikely that he was next in line to the throne. Some modern scholars consider that he invented the story of Gaumata in order to justify his actions and that the murdered king was indeed the son of Cyrus.

Darius did not at first gain general recognition but had to impose his rule by force. His assassination of Bardiya was followed, particularly in the eastern provinces, by widespread revolts, which threatened to disrupt the empire. In Susiana, Babylonia, Media, Sagartia, and Margiana, independent governments were set up, most of them by men who claimed to belong to the former ruling families. Babylonia rebelled twice and Susiana three times. In Persia itself a certain Vahyazdata, who pretended to be Bardiya, gained considerable support. These risings, however, were spontaneous and uncoordinated, and, notwithstanding the small size of his army, Darius and his generals were able to suppress them one by one. In the Bisitun inscription he records that in 19 battles he defeated nine rebel leaders, who appear as his captives on the accompanying relief. By 519 BC, when the third rising in Susiana was put down, he had established his authority in the east. In 518 Darius visited Egypt, which he lists as a rebel country, perhaps because of the insubordination of its satrap, Aryandes, whom he put to death.

Having restored internal order in the empire, Darius undertook a number of campaigns for the purpose of strengthening his frontiers and checking the incursions of nomadic tribes. In 519 BC he attacked the Scythians east of the Caspian Sea and a few years later conquered the Indus Valley. In 513, after subduing eastern Thrace and the Getae, he crossed the Danube River into European Scythia, but the Scythian nomads devastated the country as they retreated from him, and he was forced, for lack of supplies, to abandon the campaign. The satraps of Asia Minor completed the subjugation of Thrace, secured the submission of Macedonia, and captured the Aegean islands of Lemnos and Imbros. Thus, the approaches to Greece were in Persian hands, as was control of the Black Sea grain trade through the straits, the latter being of major importance to the Greek economy. The conquest of Greece was a logical step to protect Persian rule over the Greeks of Asia Minor from interference by their European kinsmen. According to Herodotus, Darius, before the Scythian campaign, had sent ships to explore the Greek coasts, but he took no military action until 499 BC, when Athens and Eretria supported an Ionian revolt against Persian rule. After the suppression of this rebellion, Mardonius, Darius' son-in-law, was given charge of an expedition against Athens and Eretria, but the loss of his fleet in a storm off Mount Athos (492 BC) forced him to abandon the operation. In 490 BC another force under Datis, a Mede, destroyed Eretria and enslaved its inhabitants but was defeated by the Athenians at Marathon. Preparations for a third expedition were delayed by an insurrection in Egypt, and Darius died in 486 BC before they were completed.