The Assyrian Empire arose from the small country Asshur, about 25 square miles in extent, lying east of the Tigris and north of the lower Zab. Its capital was the city Asshur, now called Kileh Sherghat, 60 miles south of Nineveh.
The city rose to power in the 14th century B.C. Under Tukulti-ninib, Babylon was captured and the Babylonian empire became the Assyrian. Afterward Nimrud, 20 miles south of Nineveh, became the capital. In 702 Sennacherib made NINEVEH the royal residence.
It soon surpassed the earlier capitals in size and magnificence, and became one of the largest cities of the East. It then included four cities, surrounded by one wall, and forming a parallelogram.
The greatest kings of the Assyrian Empire were:
- Shalmaneser, who made war on Samaria, and erected the “Black Obelisk,” which now stands in the British Museum. And by its inscriptions furnishes the best record of the kingdom down to its own age;
- Sargon, who completed the conquest of Samaria, and otherwise added to the empire; Sennacherib, who enlarged and beautified Nineveh, warred from Babylon to Egypt, and extorted tribute from Hezekiah, king of Judah; and
- Esarhaddon (son of the preceding) saw the empire at its height. Embracing besides Assyria, Armenia, Media, Babylonia, Elam, Mesopotamia, Syria, Israel, Judah, and the
northern portion of Egypt. These lands for the most part retained their own rulers, customs and government, but recognized themselves as vassals to the “Great King,” as he is styled in the inscriptions.
Esar-haddon took Manasseh, king of Judah, captive to Babylon, and repopulated Samaria with colonists from other lands. So his son, Asshur-bani-pal, witnessed his kingdom declining. And he was the last of the great kings though he built a vast palace at Nineveh. There was no coherence or unity in the empire, whose provinces were held together only by the strong arm of the king. And so on the death of Asshur-bani-pal, a general revolt took place among the subject nations. His son perished, and Nineveh was utterly destroyed, never again to appear in history.
The boundaries of the Assyrian empire on the map are according to the best authorities. On the north they were the Armenian Mountains, the river Cyrus (now called the Kur), north of the Araxes, and the northern range of Mount Taurus; to the east, the Caspian Sea and the great salt desert; on the south, the Persian Gulf, the Arabian desert and Upper Egypt; going west, the Mediterranean and the river Halys.
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