From BiblePortal Wikipedia

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [1]

The land of Assyria was centred on the Tigris River in north-western Mesopotamia. Originally the land was known as Asshur, after the descendants of Asshur (son of Shem, son of Noah), who were among the early settlers in the region. Over many centuries they were joined by migrants from other regions in the neighbourhood, with the result that the race that developed was a mixture. The people were known by the name of the land, Asshur, and this name developed into Assyria. Among Assyria’s chief cities was Nineveh, which later became the capital ( Genesis 10:11-12;  Genesis 10:22).

Assyria was one of the great nations of the ancient world, but it did not extend its power into Palestine till after the rise of a new dynasty about 900 BC. Assyria then set out to become the dominant power in the region, and after a series of conquests of other nations it turned its attention to Syria and Israel. On one occasion God sent his prophet Jonah to preach to the Assyrians so that they might repent and be saved from a threatened invasion (Jonah 3). God was preserving Assyria to be his means of punishing Israel ( Isaiah 10:5).

The history of Assyria as it concerns the Bible story may be summarized according to its kings, many of whom are mentioned in the Bible. In the following summary, ‘Israel’ refers to the northern part of the divided Israelite kingdom, ‘Judah’ to the southern part.

Kings of Assyria

Tiglath-pileser III, also known as Pul (who reigned 745-727 BC), was the first Assyrian king to launch a major attack on Israel, but he withdrew after taking a bribe from the Israelite king, Menahem. Menahem’s action was really a form of submission to Assyria, and it placed Israel under Assyrian influence ( 2 Kings 15:17-20). The prophets predicted that Assyria would soon conquer Israel completely ( Hosea 10:5-8;  Amos 7:17). The next king of Israel, Pekah, then combined with the king of Syria, Rezin, to attack Judah. Their aim was to take control of Judah and force it into a three-part alliance that might be able to withstand Assyria. But Judah’s king, Ahaz, appealed to Assyria for help, and Assyria responded by conquering Syria and much of Israel (in 732 BC;  2 Kings 15:29;  2 Kings 15:37;  2 Kings 16:1-9;  Isaiah 7:1-9;  Isaiah 8:4;  Isaiah 17:1-3).

Shalmaneser V (727-722 BC), in response to a rebellion by another Israelite king, Hoshea, overran Israel and attacked the Israelite capital, Samaria. The siege had been in progress three years when Shalmaneser died ( 2 Kings 17:1-5).

Sargon II (722-705 BC), the new king of Assyria, wasted no time in bringing the siege to a triumphant conclusion. He crushed Samaria and took the people into captivity. This marked the end of the northern kingdom, Israel (in 722 BC;  2 Kings 17:6). In the meantime the southern kingdom, Judah, because of the disastrous policies of Ahaz, had fallen under the domination of Assyria and was forced to pay it heavy taxes ( Isaiah 7:17;  Isaiah 8:5-8; Isaiah 20).

Sennacherib (705-681 BC) met opposition from Judah when the new Judean king, Hezekiah, refused to pay further taxes (in 701 BC;  2 Kings 18:7). When Sennacherib besieged Jerusalem, Hezekiah repented of his rebellion and offered to pay whatever the Assyrians demanded. Sennacherib took a large sum of money, but he deceived Hezekiah by refusing to lift the siege. Hezekiah appealed desperately to God for help, and God replied by miraculously destroying a large part of the Assyrian army. Sennacherib escaped home to Nineveh, but some time later he was assassinated ( 2 Kings 18:13-37;  2 Kings 19:1-35).

Esarhaddon (681-669 BC), son of Sennacherib, succeeded his father as king ( 2 Kings 19:36-37). He was one the greatest kings to rule over Assyria. Soon after coming to the throne, he asserted his power over the weakened Judah (now ruled by the evil Manasseh) and over the more powerful Babylon ( 2 Chronicles 33:11).

Ashurbanipal (669-627 BC) continued the work that his father had begun in expanding Assyrian power. Under him the Assyrian Empire spread to an extent it had never known before.

After Ashurbanipal’s death, Assyria’s Empire began to crumble. Babylon was rising to power, and with the establishment of a new Babylonian dynasty in 626 BC, the Assyrians were soon driven out of Babylon. The Babylonians went from conquest to conquest, till in 612 BC they destroyed the Assyrian capital, Nineveh, as foretold by God’s prophets. Nahum, in particular, rejoiced to see a fitting divine judgment fall on such a cruel and ruthless oppressor ( Nahum 1:1;  Nahum 3:1-7; cf.  Isaiah 10:12;  Zephaniah 2:13; see also Nineveh ). Some in Assyria made an attempt at resistance but it did not last, and within three years Assyria ceased to be a nation.

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [2]

a kingdom of Asia, of the extent, origin, and duration of which very different accounts have been given by ancient writers. Ctesias and Diodorus Siculus affirm, that the Assyrian monarchy, under Ninus and Semiramis, comprehended the greater part of the known world: but, if this had been the case, it is not likely that Homer and Herodotus would have omitted a fact so remarkable. The sacred records intimate that none of the ancient states or kingdoms were of considerable extent; for neither Chederlaomer, nor any of the neighbouring princes, were tributary or subject to Assyria; and "we find nothing," says Playfair, "of the greatness or power of this kingdom in the history of the judges and succeeding kings of Israel, though the latter kingdom was oppressed and enslaved by many different powers in that period." It is therefore highly probable that Assyria was originally of small extent. According to Ptolemy, this country was bounded on the north by part of Armenia and Mount Niphates; on the west by the Tigris; on the south by Susiana; and on the east by part of Media and the mountains Choatra and Zagros. Of the origin, revolutions, and termination of Assyria, properly so called, and distinguished from the grand monarchy which afterward bore this appellation, the following account is given by Mr. Playfair, as the most probable:—"The founder of it was Ashur, the second son of Shem, who departed from Shinar, upon the usurpation of Nimrod, at the head of a large body of adventurers, and laid the foundations of Nineveh, where he resided, and erected a new kingdom, called Assyria, after his name,  Genesis 10:11 . These events happened not long after Nimrod had established the Chaldean monarchy, and fixed his residence at Babylon; but it does not appear that Nimrod reigned in Assyria. The kingdoms of Assyria and Babylon were originally distinct and separate,  Micah 5:6; and in this state they remained until Ninus conquered Babylon, and made it tributary to the Assyrian empire. Ninus, the successor of Ashur,  Genesis 10:11 , seized on Chaldea after the death of Nimrod, and united the kingdoms of Assyria and Babylon. This great prince is said to have subdued Asia, Persia, Media, Egypt, &c. If he did so, the effects of his conquests were of no long duration; for, in the days of Abraham, we do not find that any of the neighbouring kingdoms were subject to Assyria." Ninus was succeeded by Semiramis, a princess bold, enterprising, and fortunate; of whose adventures and exploits many fabulous relations have been recorded. Playfair is of opinion that there were two princesses of this name, who flourished at different periods; one, the consort of Ninus; and another, who lived five generations before Nitocris, queen of Nebuchadnezzar. Of the successors of Ninus and Semiramis nothing certain is recorded. The last of the ancient Assyrian kings was Sardanapalus, who was besieged in his capital by Arbaces, governor of Media, in concurrence with the Babylonians. These united forces defeated the Assyrian army, demolished the capital, and became masters of the empire, B.C. 821.

"After the death of Sardanapalus," says Mr. Playfair, "the Assyrian empire was divided into three kingdoms; namely, the Median, Assyrian, and Babylonian. Arbaces retained the supreme authority, and nominated governors in Assyria and Babylon, who were honoured with the title of kings, while they remained subject and tributary to the Persian monarchs. Belesis," he says, "a Chaldean priest, who assisted Arbaces in the conquest of Sardanapalus, received the government of Babylon as the reward of his services; and Phul was intrusted with that of Assyria. The Assyrian governor gradually enlarged the boundaries of his kingdom, and was succeeded by Tiglath-pileser, Salmanasar, and Sennacherib, who asserted and maintained their independence. After the death of Assar-haddon, the brother and successor of Sennacherib. the kingdom of Assyria was split, and annexed to the kingdoms of Media and Babylon. Several tributary princes afterward reigned in Nineveh; but we hear no more of the kings of Assyria, but of those of Babylon. Cyaxares, king of Media, assisted Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, in the siege of Nineveh, which they took and destroyed, B.C. 606."

The history of Assyria, deduced from Scripture, and acknowledged as the only authentic one by Sir Isaac Newton and many others, ascribes the foundation of the monarchy to Pul, or Phul, about the second year of Menahem, king of Israel, twenty-four years before the aera of Nabonassar, 1579 years after the flood, and, according to Blair, 769, or, according to Newton, 790, years before Christ. Menahem, having taken forcible possession of the throne of Israel by the murder of Shallum,  2 Kings 15:10 , was attacked by Pul, but prevented the hostilities meditated against him by presenting the invader with a thousand talents of silver. Pul, thus gratified, took the kingdom of Israel under his protection, returned to his own country, after having received voluntary homage from several nations in his march, as he had done from Israel, and became the founder of a great empire. As it was in the days of Pul that the Assyrians began to afflict the inhabitants of Palestine,  2 Kings 11:9;  1 Chronicles 5:26 , this was the time, according to Sir Isaac Newton, when the Assyrian empire arose. Thus he interprets the words, "since the time of the kings of Assyria,"

 Nehemiah 9:32; that is, since the time of the kingdom of Assyria, or since the rise of that empire. But though this was the period in which the Assyrians afflicted Israel, it is not so evident that the time of the kings of Assyria must necessarily be understood of the rise of the Assyrian empire. However, Newton thus reasons; and observes, that "Pul and his successors afflicted Israel, and conquered the nations round about them; and upon the ruin of many small and ancient kingdoms erected their empire; conquering the Medes, as well as other nations." It is farther argued, that God, by the Prophet Amos, in the reign of Jeroboam, about ten or twenty years before the reign of Pul, (see  Amos 6:13-14 ,) threatened to raise up a nation against Israel; and that, as Pul reigned presently after the prophecy of Amos, and was the first upon record who began to fulfil it, he may be justly reckoned the first conqueror and founder of this empire. See  1 Chronicles 5:26 . Pul was succeeded on the throne of Assyria by his elder son Tiglath-pileser; and at the same time he left Babylon to his younger son Nabonassar, B.C. 747. Of the conquests of this second king of Assyria against the kings of Israel and Syria, when he took Damascus, and subdued the Syrians, we have an account in  2 Kings 15:29;  2 Kings 15:37;  2 Kings 16:5;  2 Kings 16:9;  1 Chronicles 5:26; by which the prophecy of Amos was fulfilled, and from which it appears that the empire of the Assyrians was now become great and powerful. The next king of Assyria was Shalmaneser, or Salmanassar, who succeeded Tiglath-pileser, B.C. 729, and invaded Phoenicia, took the city of Samaria, and, B.C. 721, carried the ten tribes into captivity, placing them in Chalach and Chabor, by the river Gazon, and in the cities of the Medes,

 2 Kings 17:6 . Shalmaneser was succeeded by Sennacherib, B.C. 719; and in the year B.C. 714, he was put to flight with great slaughter by the Ethiopians and Egyptians. In the year B.C. 711 the Medes revolted from the Assyrians; Sennacherib was slain, and he was succeeded by his son Esar-Haddon, Asser-haddon, Asordan, Assaradin, or Sarchedon, by which names he is called by different writers. He began his reign at Nineveh, in the year of Nabonassar 42; and in the year 68 extended it over Babylon. He then carried the remainder of the Samaritans into captivity, and peopled Samaria with captives brought from several parts of his kingdom; and in the year of Nabonassar 77 or 78 he seems to have put an end to the reign of the Ethiopians over Egypt. "In the reign of Sennacherib and Asser-Hadon," says Sir I. Newton, "the Assyrian empire seems arrived at its greatness; being united under one monarch, and containing Assyria, Media, Apolloniatis, Susiana, Chaldea, Mesopotamia, Cilicia, Syria, Phoenicia, Egypt, Ethiopia, and part of Arabia; and reaching eastward into Elymais, and Paraetaecene, a province of the Medes, and if Chalach and Chabor be Colchis and Iberia, as some think, and as may seem probable from the circumcision used by those nations till the days of Herodotus, we are also to add these two provinces, with the two Armenias, Pontus, and Cappadocia, as far as to the river Halys: for Herodotus tells us that the people of Cappadocia, as far as to that river, were called Syrians by the Greeks, both before and after the days of Cyrus; and that the Assyrians were also called Syrians by the Greeks." Asser-Hadon was succeeded in the year B.C. 668 by Saosduchinus. At this time Manasseh was allowed to return home, and fortify Jerusalem; and the Egyptians also, after the Assyrians had harassed Egypt and Ethiopia three years,  Isaiah 20:3-4 , were set at liberty. Saosduchinus, after a reign of twenty years, was succeeded at Babylon, and probably at Nineveh also, by Chyniladon, in the year B.C. 647. This Chyniladon is supposed by Newton to be the Nebuchadonosor mentioned in the book of Judith,  Judges 1:1-15 , who made war upon Arphaxad, king of the Medes; and, though deserted by his auxiliaries of Cilicia, Damascus, Syria, Phoenicia, Moab, Ammon, and Egypt, routed the army of the Medes, and slew Arphaxad. This Arphaxad is supposed to be either Dejoces or his son Phraortes, mentioned by Herodotus. Soon after the death of Phraortes, in the year B.C. 635, the Scythians invaded the Medes and Persians; and in 625, Nabopolassar, the commander of the forces of Chyniladon in Chaldea, revolted from him, and became king of Babylon. Chyniladon was either then or soon after succeeded at Nineveh by the last king of Assyria, called Sarac by Polyhistor. The authors of the Universal History suppose Saosduchinus to have been the Nebuchadonosor of Scripture, and Chyniladon or Chynaladan to have been the Sarac of Polyhistor. At length Nebuchadnezzar, the son of Nabopolassar, married Amyit, the daughter of Astyages, king of the Medes, and sister of Cyaxares and by this marriage, the two families having contracted affinity, they conspired against the Assyrians. Nabopolassar being old, and Astyages dead, their sons Nebuchadnezzar and Cyaxares led the armies of the two nations against Nineveh, slew Sarac, destroyed the city, and shared the kingdom of the Assyrians. This victory the Jews refer to the Chaldeans; the Greeks, to the Medes; Tobit, Tob_14:15 , Polyhistor, and Ctesias, to both. With this victory commenced the great successes of Nebuchadnezzar and Cyaxares, and it laid the foundation of the two collateral empires of the Babylonians and Medes, which were branches of the Assyrian empire; and hence the time of the fall of the Assyrian empire is determined, the conquerors being then in their youth. In the reign of Josiah, when Zephaniah prophesied, Nineveh and the kingdom of Assyria were standing; and their fall was predicted by that Prophet,  Zephaniah 1:3;  Zephaniah 2:13 . And in the end of his reign, Pharaoh-Necho, king of Egypt, the successor of Psammitichus, went up against the king of Assyria to the river Euphrates, to fight against Carchemish, or Circutium; and in his way thither slew Josiah,  2 Kings 23:29;  2 Chronicles 35:20; and therefore the last king of Assyria was not yet slain. But in the third and fourth years of Jehoiakim, the successor of Josiah, the two conquerors having taken Nineveh, and finished their war in Assyria, prosecuted their conquests westward; and, leading their forces against the king of Egypt, as an invader of their right of conquest, they beat him at Carchemish, and took from him whatever he had recently taken from the Assyrians,  2 Kings 24:7;  Jeremiah 46:2; "and therefore we cannot err," says Sir Isaac Newton, "above a year or two, if we refer the destruction of Nineveh, and fall of the Assyrian empire, to the third year of Jehoiakim," or the hundred and fortieth, or according to Blair, the hundred and forty-first year of Nabonassar; that is, the year B.C. 607.

Of the government, laws, religion, learning, customs, &c, of the ancient Assyrians, nothing absolutely certain is recorded. Their kingdom was at first small, and subsisted for several ages under hereditary chiefs; and their government was simple. Afterward, when they rose to the sublimity of empire, their government seems to have been despotic, and the empire hereditary. Their laws were probably few, and depended upon the mere will of the prince. To Ninus we may ascribe the division of the Assyrian empire into provinces and governments; for we find that this institution was fully established in the reigns of Semiramis and her successors. The people were distributed into a certain number of tribes; and their occupations or professions were hereditary. The Assyrians had several distinct councils, and several tribunals for the regulation of public affairs. Of councils there were three, which were created by the body of the people, and who governed the state in conjunction with the sovereign. The first consisted of officers who had retired from military employments; the second, of the nobility; and the third, of the old men. The sovereigns also had three tribunals, whose province it was to watch over the conduct of the people. The Assyrians have been competitors with the Egyptians for the honour of having invented alphabetic writing. It appears, from the few remains now extant of the writing of these ancient nations, that their letters had a great affinity with each other. They much resembled one another in shape; and they ranged them in the same manner, from right to left.

People's Dictionary of the Bible [3]

Assyria ( As-Syr'I-Ah ). A great empire of western Asia, founded at a very early date probably the oldest on the Euphrates, and is traced to Asshur,  Genesis 10:10-11, who built Nineveh, Rehoboth (?), Calah, and Resen. Assyria proper, the northern (Babylonia the southern portion), had about the same territory as Kurdistan. The empire at times covered a far larger extent of territory, and in its prosperity nearly all of western Asia and portions of Africa were subject to its power. According to Prof. F. Brown, "the Babylonio-Assyrian territory was about 600 miles from northwest to southeast, and in the widest part 300 miles from east to west, including Mesopotamia." The Persian Gulf formerly extended about 130 miles further to the northwest than it does now, the gulf having been filled up by mud borne down by the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. There are immense level tracts of the country, now almost a wilderness, which bear marks of having been cultivated and thickly populated in early times. Among its products, besides the common cereals, were dates, olives, cotton, mulberries, gum-arabic, madder, and castor-oil. Of animals, the bear, deer, wolf, lynx, hyena, antelope, lion, tiger, beaver, and camel were common. The fertility of the country is frequently noted by ancient writers.

History. Of the early history of Assyria little can be said. Profane historians differ; and scripture gives but scanty information. The deciphered inscriptions are revealing more, but are not yet folly examined; new ones are coming to light every year. Babylon is older than Nineveh; it was the beginning of Nimrod's empire, but not content with the settlements he had acquired, he invaded the country called Asshur from the son of Shem, and there founded cities afterwards most famous.  Genesis 10:8-12. So far the sacred record would seem to teach us. But that it mentions an early Assyrian kingdom is not certain. Certain eastern monarchs are named,  Genesis 14:1;  Genesis 14:9, as pushing their conquests westwards, but there is a record of a Chaldean but not of an Assyrian king among them. Says Prof. Brown: "We find mention in the inscriptions of Persia (Parsua), Elam (Elamtu), with Susa (Shushan, cf.  Nehemiah 1:1, etc.), its capital, and Media (Mada), with Ecbatana (Agamtanu = Achmetha,  Ezra 6:2), its capital, and Armenia (Urartu = Ararat,  2 Kings 19:37), and the land of the Hittites (Chatti), who, we thus learn, as well as from the Egyptian inscriptions, had their chief seat far to the north of Damascus—Carchemish (Gargamish), their capital, being on the Euphrates, not far from the latitude of Nineveh (modern Jerabis). The river Habor (Chabur), of  2 Kings 17:6, is a river often named that flows into the middle Euphrates from the northeast, and Gozan (Guzanu) ( Ib.) is a city and district in the immediate vicinity. These are but a few of the important identifications." At first the Assyrian empire was confined within narrow limits; it became at length, by the addition of neighboring districts, a formidable state. Left partially under the sway of their own chiefs, who were reduced to vassalage, they continually had or took occasion for revolt. This led to the deportations of captives, to break the independent spirit of feudatory states, and render rebellion more difficult and hopeless. The Assyrian empire, at its widest extent, seems to have reached from the Mediterranean Sea and the river Halys in the west, to the Caspian and the Great Desert in the east, and from the northern frontier of Armenia south to the Persian Gulf. Abraham came from Ur Kasdim (Ur of the Chaldees), according to  Genesis 11:28;  Genesis 11:31;  Genesis 15:7;  Nehemiah 9:7. "The only known Ur situated in the territory of the Chaldeans is the city of Uru, lying on the right bank of the Euphrates, far below Babylon, whose site now bears the name Muqayyar ( Mugheir ). The identification of this with the biblical Ur Kasdim has been disputed, but the arguments against it are not conclusive, and no other satisfactory identification has been proposed. We are therefore entitled to hold that the Hebrews were, from the beginning of their history, under the influence not only of the common stock of Shemitic endowments, customs, and beliefs, but also of those that were specifically Babylonian." After Abraham, for nearly 1200 years, we have no record of the contact of Hebrews with Assyrian or Babylonian peoples. In the ninth century, b.c., Nineveh and Assyria push into Hebrew territory. Shalmanezer II. encounters Benhadad of Damascus, and probably Ahab of Israel. The dark cloud threatening Israel and Judah from Assyria for their unfaithfulness to God is described in strains of solemn warning. Sometimes "the nations from far" are spoken of; and their terrific might and mode of warfare are detailed without naming them.  Isaiah 5:26-30. Sometimes in express words the king of Assyria is said to be summoned as the Lord's executioner, and the desolation he should cause is vividly depicted.  Isaiah 8:17-22. Samaria would fall; and her fall might well admonish Judah. Judah should deeply suffer. The invader should march through her territory; but the Lord would effectually defend Jerusalem.  Isaiah 10:5-34. The Assyrian king, in the might of his power, subjected the ten tribes, and carried multitudes of them into the far east; he passed also like a flood over the country of Judah, taking many of the cities throughout her territory; and in his presumptuous boldness he conceived that no earthly power could resist him, and even defied Jehovah, the God of Jacob. But the firm purpose of the Lord was to defend that city to save it. The catastrophe is related with awful brevity: "Then the angel of the Lord went forth, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians an hundred and four score and five thousand; and, when they arose early in the morning, behold they were all dead corpses."  Isaiah 37:1-38. The Assyrian empire attained afterwards probably its greatest power and widest extent. But it was doomed.

In later Persian times "the Ahashwerosh (Ahasuerus) of  Ezra 4:6 and the book of Esther is Xerxes, the son of Darius, b.c. 486-464; and the Artachshashta (Artaxerxes) of  Ezra 4:7-8;  Ezra 4:11;  Ezra 4:23, etc.,  Nehemiah 2:1;  Nehemiah 5:14, etc., is the son of Xerxes, Artaxerxes Longimanus, b.c. 464-420.  Ezra 4:7-8, etc., is thought by many to refer to the false Smerdis, the pretended brother of Cambyses, who in b.c. 522 reigned eight months; but the difficulty in supposing both that he had the name Artaxerxes ana that Artaxerxes in the different passages does not refer to the same persons is too great." Finally, in "Darius the Persian,"  Nehemiah 12:22, we have a reference to Darius Codomannus, b.c. 836-330. He who rules justly in the world would destroy Assyria (which had been long before warned by Jonah), as Assyria had destroyed other kingdoms. Accordingly, in the prophecies of Nahum and Zephaniah, we find denunciations predicting the entire downfall of this haughty power. The language is fearfully precise.  Nahum 1:1-15;  Nahum 2:1-13;  Nahum 3:1-19;  Zephaniah 2:13-15. The work of destruction seems to have been effected by the Medes and Babylonians. Assyria fell, and was never again reckoned among the nations; the very places being for long centuries unknown where her proudest cities had stood. The People.— The excavations which have been so successfully prosecuted have supplied a fund of information as to the manners and habits of the Assyrians. The sovereign was the despotic ruler and the pontiff, and the palaces contained also the temples. With no limitation of the monarch's power, the people were kept in a servile condition and in moral degradation. The conquered provinces being placed under the authority of dependent princes, insurrections were frequent; and the sovereign was almost always engaged in putting down some struggle for independence. War was waged with ruthless ferocity. Cities were attacked by raising artificial mounds; the besieging armies sheltered themselves behind shields of wicker-work, and battered the defences with rams. In the field they had formidable war chariots. And the sculptures exhibit the modes of cruelty practiced upon those that were subdued. They were flayed, they were impaled; their eyes and tongues were cut out; rings were placed in their lips; and their brains were beaten out with maces. Comp.  Ezekiel 26:7-12. The Assyrians worshipped a multitude of gods. Asshur (probably the Nisroch of the Scriptures, and the eagle-headed deity of the sculptures), was the chief. But there were 4000 others, presiding over the phenomena of nature and the events of life. The architecture of the Assyrians was of a vast and imposing character. In the fine arts they made considerable proficiency. Their sculptures are diversified, spirited, and faithful. They had, however, little knowledge of perspective, and did not properly distinguish between the front and the side views of an object. Animals, therefore, were represented with five legs; and sometimes two horses had but two forelegs. The later sculptures are found to be better than the earlier. The Assyrians were skilled in engraving even the hardest substances. They were familiar with metallurgy, and manufactured glass and enamels; they carved ivory, and varnished and painted pottery. They indulged in the luxuries of life. Men wore bracelets, chains, and earrings, flowing robes ornamented with emblematic devices wrought in gold and silver; they had long-fringed scarfs and embroidered girdles. The vestments of officials were generally symbolical; the head-dress was characteristic; and the king alone wore the pointed tiara. The beard and hair were carefully arranged in artificial curls; and the eyebrows and eyelashes were stained black. Of the women there are few representations. The weapons of war were richly ornamented, especially the swords, shields and quivers. The helmets were of brass, inlaid with copper. The chariots were embellished, and the horses sumptuously caparisoned. Their literature was extensive—grammars, dictionaries, geographies, sciences, annals, panegyrics on conquerors, and invocations of the gods. Little, however, can be expected from a series of inscriptions, dictated by the ruling powers, who did not hesitate sometimes to falsify the records of their predecessors. The wealth of Assyria was derived from conquest, from agriculture, for which their country was favorably circumstanced, and from commerce, for which they had peculiar facilities. The recent explorations have brought to light immense libraries illustrating the habits and life of a cultured people, recording their history on clay tablets, 2000 years before Abraham. The ruins are a splendid monument in testimony of the truth of prophecy and of Scripture.

Morrish Bible Dictionary [4]

The great kingdom of Assyria was situated near the river Tigris,having Armenia on the North, Mount Zagros and Media on the east, Babylonia on the south, Syria and the Syrian desert on the west; but its boundaries were doubtless not always the same. Nineveh became its capital. The first allusion to Assyria is found in  Genesis 2:14 , where we read that one of the rivers of Paradise went "toward the east of Assyria," or "went eastward to Assyria," margin.

The name of Assyria appears to have arisen from its first capital, Asshur (now called Kalah Sherghat ) on the Tigris. Apparently a monarchy was established there by some from Babylonia, and there were several kings before SHALMANESERI. (about B.C. 1300), whose family kept the throne for six generations until Tiglath- Pileseri (about B.C. 1130), who may be said to be the founder of the first Assyrian Empire. He beautified Nineveh and carried his arms in various directions. After him the kingdom became feeble until Rimmon-Nirari Ii., BC 911, but his victorious career was excelled by his grandson, the great Assur-Natsir-Pal, BC883 who made conquests over the Phoenicians and the 'Kaldu' (Chaldeans).

SHALMANESERII succeeded, B.C. 858. He carried his arms still farther. We have his conquests told by himself on three monuments in the British Museum, one of which is known as the Black Obelisk. If the names are correctly interpreted he mentions as allied against him Benhadad king of Syria and Ahab king of Israel. These were defeated at the battle of Karkar, B.C. 853. Hazael of Damascus was also defeated; and from Yahua, the son of Khumri, that is, Jehu, whom he incorrectly calls son of Omri, king of Israel, he received tribute; but of this scripture says nothing.

The next king who invaded Syria was Rimmon-Nirari Iii BC 810. He extended his victories to what he calls, 'the shore of the sea of the setting sun,' which is doubtless the Mediterranean, and imposed tribute on the Phoenicians, Israelites, Edomites, Philistines, and the king of Damascus. After this king the power of Assyria waned for a time.

The next king of note was Tiglath -Pileser Ii or Iii. BC 745, who is considered to have founded the second Assyrian kingdom. He consolidated the various dependencies, turbulent populations were removed, and the empire was divided into provinces, each of which paid a fixed annual tribute. In his inscriptions occur the names of Jehoahaz (Ahaz) of Judah; Pekah, and Hoshea of Israel; Reson (Resin) of Damascus; and Hiram of Tyre. The name of Merodach-baladan is also found. Hamath was taken and then all Palestine was at his feet. He attacked those on the east of the Jordan, and carried away the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh.  1 Chronicles 5:26 . Ahaz sought his alliance against Rezin the king of Damascus. Rezin was slain and the city taken; and there Ahaz met the king of Assyria.  2 Kings 16:1-10;  2 Chronicles 28:16-21 . He also made himself master of Babylonia; but this afterwards gained its independence under Merodach-baladan. Some Assyrian scholars take Tiglath-pileser (whose name appears to have been Pulu) to be the same person as the Pul mentioned in the Bible; but this does not at all agree with the dates of scripture, and in  1 Chronicles 5:26 the names of Pul and Tiglath-pileser are mentioned as of two persons. See PUL.

In B.C. 727 Shalmaneser Iv succeeded to the throne. Hoshea king of Israel was subject to him; but on being found in treaty with the king of Egypt, Samaria was besieged.  2 Kings 17:3-5 .

In B.C. 722 SARGON succeeded, and apparently it was he who captured Samaria. An inscription of his at Khorsabad reads, "I besieged the city of Samaria and carried away 27,280 men who dwelt there into captivity, and took fifty chariots from among them, and ordered the rest to be taken. I set my judges over them, and imposed upon them the tribute of the former kings." He also placed colonists in Samaria, but it is supposed by the names of the places mentioned from which these were sent, that this was not done immediately. Sargon captured Carchemish, punished the king of Syria, flayed alive the king of Hamath, and then successfully overcame So or Sabako. Sargon is mentioned in  Isaiah 20:1 as sending his general to Ashdod, who took it. An inscription also mentions the fall of the city. Sargon defeated Merodach-baladan in Babylonia, but was assassinated in B.C. 705. He was called SHARRU-KENU, that is, 'faithful king.'

SENNACHERIB succeeded Sargon his father, B.C. 705. Hezekiah had been tributary; but on his revolting Sennacherib took the fenced cities of Judah, and then Hezekiah sent him the treasures of his own house and the house of the Lord. Still Jerusalem was attacked, and profane speeches made against the God of Israel. Hezekiah humbled himself before God, and the angel of the Lord smote of the Assyrians 185,000. Sennacherib returned to his land and was eventually murdered by two of his sons.  2 Kings 18:13 - 19:37. In Sennacherib's own account he says, "Hezekiah himself I shut up like a bird in a cage in Jerusalem, his royal city . . . . in addition to his former tribute and yearly gifts I added other tribute and the homage due to my majesty, and I laid it upon them." The above date would clash with the date of Hezekiah, but it is probable that Sennacherib was co-regent with his father some nine years before he reigned alone.

A tablet shows Sennacherib sitting on a throne to receive the spoils of the city of Lachish. It is supposed he lived 20 years after he left Palestine before he was assassinated. He says nothing of the loss of his army, and perhaps never recovered the shock.

Esar-Haddon succeeded, B.C. 681. He is said to have reigned from the Euphrates to the Nile. He also conquered Egypt, and divided it into 20 provinces, governed by Assyrians. According to an inscription he claimed the sovereignty of Babylon, and held his court there. This accounts for him, as king of Assyria , carrying Manasseh captive to Babylon.  2 Chronicles 33:11 . He is mentioned also in  Ezra 4:2 as having sent the colonists into Judaea. After reigning about 10 years he associated with him his son the noted ASSUR-BANI-PAL. Egypt was again conquered. He gathered a famous library at Kouyunjik, the terra cotta tablets of which have been preserved. Assur-bani-pal died about B.C. 626. The glory of the Assyrian kingdom was permanently departing, and about B.C. 606 Nineveh was taken and destroyed.  Nahum 1 - 3.

There are many monuments and inscriptions on tablets which the learned are deciphering; but the difficulties of distinguishing the proper names on the Assyrian monuments are shown by M. Joachim Menant, who gives as an instance one sign which may be read kal , rip , dan, or lip , being one of the signs called 'polyphones.'

The following list of kings is from Rawlinson, Sayce, and other Assyrian scholars. The early dates are uncertain and several of the later dates do not agree with the usual chronology of scripture.

Assyrian Kings. BC

Shalmaneser I. 1300

Tiglath-Adar I., his son 1280

Bel-kudur-utsur (Belchadrezzar) his son 1260

Assur-narara and Nebo-dan 1240

Adar-pal-esar (Adar-pileser) 1220

Assur-dan I., his son 1200

Mutaggil-Nebo, his son 1180

Assur-ris-ilim, his son 1160

Tiglath-pileser I., his son 1140

Assur-bel-kala, his son 1110

Samas-Rimmon I., his brother 1090

Assur-rab-buri ?

Assur-zalmati ?

Assur-dan II 930

Rimmon-nirari II., his son 911

Tiglath-Adar II., his son 889

Assur-natsir-pal, his son 883

Shalmaneser II., his son 858

Samas-Rimmon II., his son 823

Rimmon-nirari III., his son 810

Shalmaneser III . 781

Assur-dan III. 771

Assur-nirari 753

Pulu, usurper, Tiglath-pileser II. or III 745

Ulula (Elulaeos) of Tinu, usurper, Shalmaneser IV. 727

Sargon, usurper 722

Sennacherib of Khabigal, his son 705

Esar-haddon, his son 681

Assur-bani-pal (Sardanapalus) his son 668

Assur-etil-ili-yukinni, his son ? 626

Esar-haddon II. (Sarakos) ?

Fall of Nineveh ? 606

The Assyrians were idolaters: from the inscriptions the names of hundreds of gods can be gathered.

The Assyrian language was a branch of the Semitic, and came from the Accadian. It was written in Cuneiform or wedge-shaped characters.

Assyria was used by God as His rod to punish His guilty people Israel, and then, as in other instances, the rod itself, for its pride and wickedness, had to bear God's judgement. See  Isaiah 10:5-19;  Isaiah 14:25;  Ezekiel 31:3-17;  Nahum 3:18,19;  Zephaniah 2:13 . Some of the passages that speak of the kings of Assyria are prophetic, and refer to the still future, when as 'kings of the north' they will again have to do with Israel and will be judged of God. The indignation against Israel ceases in the destruction of the Assyrian: see  Isaiah 10:12;  Isaiah 14:25;  Isaiah 30:27-33 . One remarkable passage speaks of Assyria with Egypt and Israel as being brought into blessing,  Isaiah 19:23-25 , "Whom the Lord of hosts shall bless, saying, Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel mine inheritance." We thus see that the Assyrians have a large place in scripture both in the past and in the future, doubtless because they have had, and will yet have, to do with Jehovah's earthly people, "the Israel of God." The Assyrian is the over-flowing scourge of God's anger because of Israel's connection with idolatry.

Smith's Bible Dictionary [5]

Assyr'ia. Assyria was a great and powerful country lying on the Tigris,  Genesis 2:14, the capital of which was Nineveh.  Genesis 10:11, etc. It derived its name apparently from Asshur, the son of Shem,  Genesis 10:22, who in later times was worshipped by the Assyrians as their chief god.

Extent. - The boundaries of Assyria differed greatly at different periods, Probably, in the earliest times, it was confined to a small tract of low country lying chiefly on the left bank of the Tigris. Gradually its limits were extended, until it came to be regarded as comprising the whole region between the Armenian mountains (lat. 37 30') upon the north, and upon the south the country about Baghdad (lat. 33 30'). Eastward its boundary was the high range of Zagros, or mountains of Kurdistan; westward it was, according to the views of some, bounded by the Mesopotamian desert, while according to others it reached the Euphrates.

General character of the country. - On the north and east, the high mountain-chains of Armenia and Kurdistan are succeeded by low ranges of limestone hills of a somewhat arid aspect. To these ridges, there succeeds at first an undulating zone of country, well watered and fairly productive, which extends in length for 250 miles, and is interrupted only by a single limestone range. Above and below this barrier is an immense level tract, now for the most part a wilderness, which bears marks of having been in early times well cultivated and thickly peopled throughout.

Original peopling. - Scripture informs us that Assyria was peopled from Babylon,  Genesis 10:11, and both classical tradition and the monuments of the country agree in this representation.

Date of the foundation of the kingdom. - As a country, Assyria was evidently known to Moses.  Genesis 2:14;  Genesis 25:18;  Numbers 24:22;  Numbers 24:24. The foundation of the Assyrian empire was probably not very greatly anterior to B.C. 1228.

History. - The Mesopotamian researches have rendered it apparent that the original seat of government was not at Nineveh, but at Kileh-Sherghat, on the right bank of the Tigris. The most remarkable monarch of the earlier kings was called Tiglath-pileser. He appears to have been king towards the close of the twelfth century, and thus to have been contemporary with Samuel.

Afterwards, followed Pul, who invaded Israel in the reign of Menahem,  2 Kings 15:29, about B.C. 770, and Shalmaneser who besieged Samaria three years, and destroyed the kingdom of Israel B.C. 721, himself or by his successor Sargon, who usurped the throne at that time. Under Sargon, the empire was as great as at any former era, and Nineveh became a most beautiful city. Sargon's son Sennacherib became the most famous of the Assyrian kings. He began to reign 704 B.C. He invaded the kingdom of Judea in the reign of Hezekiah.

He was followed by Esarhaddon, and he by a noted warrior and builder, Sardanapalus. In Scripture, it is remarkable that we hear nothing of Assyria after the reign of Esarhaddon, and profane history is equally silent until the attacks began which brought about her downfall.

The fall of Assyria, long previously prophesied by Isaiah,  Isaiah 10:5-19, was effected by the growing strength and boldness of the Medes, about 625 B.C. The prophecies of Nahum and Zephaniah  Zephaniah 2:13-15 against Assyria were probably delivered shortly before the catastrophe.

General character of the empire. - The Assyrian monarchs bore sway over a number of petty kings through the entire extent of their dominions. These native princes were feudatories of the great monarch, of whom they held their crown by the double tenure of homage and tribute. It is not quite certain how far Assyria required a religious conformity from the subject people. Her religion was a gross and complex polytheism, comprising the worship of thirteen principal and numerous minor divinities, at the head of all of whom stood the chief god, Asshur, who seems to be the deified patriarch of the nation.  Genesis 10:22.

Civilization of the Assyrians. - The civilization of the Assyrians was derived originally from the Babylonians. They were a Shemitic race originally resident in Babylonia (which at that time was Cushite) and thus acquainted with the Babylonian inventions and discoveries, who ascended the valley of the Tigris and established in the tract immediately below the Armenian mountains a separate and distinct nationality. Still, as their civilization developed it became in many respects peculiar. Their art is of home growth. But they were still in the most important points barbarians. Their government was rude and inartificial, their religion coarse and sensual, and their conduct of war cruel.

Modern discoveries in Assyria. - (Much interest has been excited in reference to Assyria by the discoveries lately made there, which confirm and illustrate the Bible. The most important of them is the finding of the stone tablets or books which formed the great library at Nineveh, founded by Shalmaneser B.C. 860, but embodying tablets written 2000 years B.C. This library was more than doubled by Sardanapalus. These tablets were broken into fragments, but many of them have been put together and deciphered by the late Mr. George Smith, of the British Museum. All these discoveries of things hidden for ages, but now come to light, confirm the Bible. - Editor).

Easton's Bible Dictionary [6]

 Genesis 10:22

Of the early history of the kingdom of Assyria little is positively known. In B.C. 1120 Tiglath-pileser I., the greatest of the Assyrian kings, "crossed the Euphrates, defeated the kings of the Hittites, captured the city of Carchemish, and advanced as far as the shores of the Mediterranean." He may be regarded as the founder of the first Assyrian empire. After this the Assyrians gradually extended their power, subjugating the states of Northern Syria. In the reign of Ahab, king of Israel, Shalmaneser II. marched an army against the Syrian states, whose allied army he encountered and vanquished at Karkar. This led to Ahab's casting off the yoke of Damascus and allying himself with Judah. Some years after this the Assyrian king marched an army against Hazael, king of Damascus. He besieged and took that city. He also brought under tribute Jehu, and the cities of Tyre and Sidon.

About a hundred years after this (B.C. 745) the crown was seized by a military adventurer called Pul, who assumed the name of Tiglath-pileser III. He directed his armies into Syria, which had by this time regained its independence, and took (B.C. 740) Arpad, near Aleppo, after a siege of three years, and reduced Hamath. Azariah (Uzziah) was an ally of the king of Hamath, and thus was compelled by Tiglath-pileser to do him homage and pay a yearly tribute.

In B.C. 738, in the reign of Menahem, king of Israel, Pul invaded Israel, and imposed on it a heavy tribute ( 2 Kings 15:19 ). Ahaz, the king of Judah, when engaged in a war against Israel and Syria, appealed for help to this Assyrian king by means of a present of gold and silver ( 2 Kings 16:8 ); who accordingly "marched against Damascus, defeated and put Rezin to death, and besieged the city itself." Leaving a portion of his army to continue the siege, "he advanced through the province east of Jordan, spreading fire and sword," and became master of Philistia, and took Samaria and Damascus. He died B.C. 727, and was succeeded by Shalmanezer IV., who ruled till B.C. 722. He also invaded Syria ( 2 Kings 17:5 ), but was deposed in favour of Sargon (q.v.) the Tartan, or commander-in-chief of the army, who took Samaria (q.v.) after a siege of three years, and so put an end to the kingdom of Israel, carrying the people away into captivity, B.C. 722 ( 2 Kings 17:1-6,24;  18:7,9 ). He also overran the land of Judah, and took the city of Jerusalem ( Isaiah 10:6,12,22,24,34 ). Mention is next made of Sennacherib (B.C. 705), the son and successor of Sargon ( 2 Kings 18:13;  19:37;  Isaiah 7:17,18 ); and then of Esar-haddon, his son and successor, who took Manasseh, king of Judah, captive, and kept him for some time a prisoner at Babylon, which he alone of all the Assyrian kings made the seat of his government ( 2 Kings 19:37;  Isaiah 37:38 ).

Assur-bani-pal, the son of Esarhaddon, became king, and in  Ezra 4:10 is referred to as Asnapper. From an early period Assyria had entered on a conquering career, and having absorbed Babylon, the kingdoms of Hamath, Damascus, and Samaria, it conquered Phoenicia, and made Judea feudatory, and subjected Philistia and Idumea. At length, however, its power declined. In B.C. 727 the Babylonians threw off the rule of the Assyrians, under the leadership of the powerful Chaldean prince Merodach-baladan (  2 Kings 20:12 ), who, after twelve years, was subdued by Sargon, who now reunited the kingdom, and ruled over a vast empire. But on his death the smouldering flames of rebellion again burst forth, and the Babylonians and Medes successfully asserted their independence (B.C. 625), and Assyria fell according to the prophecies of ( Isaiah 10:5-19 ), ( Nahum 3:19 ), and ( Zephaniah 3:13 ), and the many separate kingdoms of which it was composed ceased to recognize the "great king" ( 2 Kings 18:19;  Isaiah 36:4 ). Ezekiel (31) attests (about B.C. 586) how completely Assyria was overthrown. It ceases to be a nation. (See Nineveh; Babylon .)

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [7]

A celebrated country and empire, had its name from Ahur, or Assur, the second son of Shem, who settled in that region,  Genesis 10:22 . In the Bible the name Assyria is employed in three different significations: namely, 1. Assyria ancient and proper lay east of the Tigris, between Armenia, Susiana, and Media, and appears to have comprehended the six provinces attributed to it by Ptolemy, namely, Arrapachis, Adiabene, Arbelis, (now Erbil,) Calachene, (Heb. Halah?  2 Kings 17:6 ,) Apollonias, and Sittacne. It is the region which mostly comprises the modern Kurdistan and the pashalik of Mosul. Of these provinces, Adiabene was the most fertile and important; in it was situated Nineveh the capital; and the term Assyria, in its most narrow sense, seems sometimes to have meant only this province. 2. Most generally, Assyria means the Kingdom of Assyria, including Babylonia and Mesopotamia, and extending to the Euphrates, which is therefore used by Isaiah as an image of this empire,  Isaiah 7:20;  8:7 . In one instance, the idea of the empire predominates so as to exclude that of Assyria proper, namely,  Genesis 2:14 , where the Hiddekel or Tigris is said to flow eastward of Assyria. 3. After the overthrow of the Assyrian state, the name continued to be applied to those countries which had been formerly under its dominion, namely, (a) To Babylonia,  2 Kings 23:29;  Jeremiah 2:18 . (b) To Persia,  Ezra 6:22 , where Darius is also called king of Assyria.

The early history of Assyria is involved in obscurity. We know from the sacred narrative that it was a powerful nation. Israel was subjugated by one of its monarchs in the period of the Judges, and during the reign of the kings the Assyrian power was an object of perpetual dread. Pul, king of Assyria, invaded Israel in the reign of Menahem. Tiglath-pileser assisted Ahaz against a confederate army formed of the Syrian forces in league with those of the ten tribes. Shalmanezer invaded Israel, conquered Hoshea, and made him a vassal, bound to pay a yearly tribute. Hoshea wishing however to throw off the yoke, attempted to form a league with Egypt, and refused the tribute. On ascertaining this secret design of the Israelitish prince, Shalmanezer again invaded Israel, reduced Samaria, loaded its king with fetters, and transported the people of the land into Media, and put an end to the separate kingdom of the ten tribes. The three tribes located east of Jordan had already been deported into Media by Tiglath-pileser, when he ravaged Israel to save Ahaz, and the kingdom of Judah. Sennacherib of Assyria come into Judah with a powerful army in the reign of Hezekiah, but was miraculously defeated. Esarhaddon, his son and successor, ravaged Judah in the days of Manasseh, and carried the conquered sovereign in chains to Babylon. After this period the empire of Assyria suddenly waned, and its last monarch was the effeminate Sardanapalus,  Numbers 24:22 . Its capital was one of the most renowned of the eastern world. See Nineveh . But the kingdom fell at length into the hands of the Medes, the monarchy was divided between them and the Babylonians, and the very name of Assyria was thenceforth forgotten.

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [8]

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [9]

a - sir´i - a  :

I. Geography

II. Early History

III. Climate and Productions

IV. Population

V. Trade and Law

VI. Art

VII. Mechanics

VIII. Furniture, Pottery and Embroidery

IX. Language, Literature and Science

X. Government and Army

XI. Religion

XII. Excavations

XIII. Chronology

XIV. History

1. Early Period

2. The Older Empire

3. The Second Empire

4. Last Period and Fall of Empire


Assyria, a Greek name formed from Asshur (אשׁוּר , 'ashshūr  ; Ἀσσούρ , Assoúr  ; Assyrian Assur ): The primitive capital of the country.

I. Geography

The origin of the city (now Kala'at Shergat ), which was built on the western bank of the Tigris between the Upper and Lower Zab, went back to pre-Sem times, and the meaning of the name was forgotten (see  Genesis 2:14 , where the Hiddekel or Tigris is said to flow on the eastern side of Asshur). To the North of the junction of the Tigris and Upper Zab, and opposite the modern Mossul , was a shrine of the goddess Ishtar, around which grew up the town of Nina, Ninua or Nineveh (now Kouyunjik and Nebi Yunus ). Another early sanctuary of Ishtar was at Urbillu, Arbailu or Arbela, East of the Upper Zab. North of Nineveh was Dur-Sargina (now Khorsabad ) where Sargon built his palace (720 bc). All this district was embraced in the kingdom of Assyria which extended from Babylonia northward to the Kurdish mountains and at times included the country westward to the Euphrates and the Khabur.

II. Early History

The whole region was known to the early Babylonians as Subartu. Its possession was disputed between Semitic Amurrû or Amorites (which see) and a non-Semitic people from the North called Mitannians. The earlier high priests of Assur known to us bear Mitannian names. About 2500 bc the country was occupied by Babylonian Semites, who brought with them the religion, law, customs, script and Semitic language of Babylonia ( Genesis 10:11 ,  Genesis 10:12 , where we should read "He went forth to Asshur"; see  Micah 5:6 ). The foundation of Nineveh, Rehoboth-'Ir (Assyrian Rebı̂t - Ali , "the suburbs of the city"), Calah and Resen (Assyrian Res - eni , "head of the spring") is ascribed to them. The triangle formed by the Tigris and Zab, which enclosed these cities, was in later times included within the fortifications of the "great city" ( Genesis 10:12;  Jonah 3:3 ). Assyria is always distinguished from Babylonia in the Old Testament, and not confounded with it as by Herodotus and other classical writers.

III. Climate and Productions

Assyria, speaking generally, was a limestone plateau with a temperate climate, cold and wet in winter, but warm during the summer months. On the banks of the rivers there was abundant cultivation, besides pasture-land. The apple of the North grew by the side of the palm-tree of the South. Figs, olives, pomegranates, almonds, mulberries and vines were also cultivated as well as all kinds of grain. Cotton is mentioned by Sennacherib (King, PSBA , December, 1909). The forests were tenanted by lions, and the plains by wild bulls ( rimi , Hebrew re'ēmı̄m ), wild asses, wild goats and gazelles. Horses were imported from Cappadocia; ducks were kept, and mastiffs were employed in hunting.

IV. Population

The dominant type was Semitic, with full lips, somewhat hooked nose, high forehead, black hair and eyes, fresh complexion and abundance of beard. In character the Assyrians were cruel and ferocious in war, keen traders, stern disciplinarians, and where religion was concerned, intense and intolerant. Like the Ottoman Turks they formed a military state, at the head of which was the king, who was both leader in war and chief priest, and which offered a striking contrast to theocratic state of theBabylonians. It seems probable that every male was liable to conscription, and under the Second Empire, if not earlier, there was a large standing army, part of which consisted of mercenaries and recruits from the subject races. One result of this was the necessity for constant war in order to occupy the soldiery and satisfy their demands with captured booty; and the result, as in the Northern Kingdom of Israel, was military revolution, with the seizure of the throne by the successful general. As might be expected, education was confined to the upper classes, more especially to the priests and scribes.

V. Trade and Law

As far back as the age of Abraham, when Assyria was still a dependency of Babylonia, trade was carried on with Cappadocia and an Assyrian colony of merchants settled at Kara Eyuk near Kaisariyeh. Down the Euphrates came the silver, copper and bronze of Asia Minor, together with horses. Cedar wood was brought from Mount Amanus, and there was already trade, through Syria, with the Mediterranean. Nineveh itself was probably founded in the interests of the trade with the North. In later days commercial reasons had much to do with the efforts of the Assyrian kings to conquer eastern Asia Minor and the Mediterranean coast of Syria and Pal: under the Second Empire no pains were spared to obtain possession of the Phoenician cities and divert their commerce into Assyrian hands. Hence the importance of the capture of the Hittite stronghold, Carchemish, by Sargon in 717 bc, as it commanded the road to Syria and the passage across the Euphrates. Nineveh had at that time already become a great resort of merchants, among whom the Semitic Arameans were the most numerous. Aramaic, accordingly, became the language of trade, and then of diplomacy (compare  2 Kings 18:26 ), and commercial documents written in cuneiform were provided with Aramaic dockets. As in Babylonia, land and houses were leased knd sold, money was lent at interest, and the leading firms employed numerous damgari or commercial agents.

Assyrian law was, in general, derived from Babylonia and much of it was connected with trade. The code of Khammu-rabi ( Code of H̬ammurabi ) or Amraphel (which see) underlay it, and the same system of judicial procedure, with pleading before judges, the hearing of witnesses, and an appeal to the king, prevailed in both countries.

VI. Art

Unlike Babylonia, Assyria abounded in stone; the brick buildings of Babylonia, accordingly, were replaced by stone, and the painted or tiled walls by sculptured slabs. In the bas-reliefs discovered at Nineveh three periods of artistic progress may be traced. Under Assur-nazir-pal the sculpture is bold and vigorous, but the work is immature and the perspective faulty. From the beginning of the Second Empire to the reign of Esar-haddon the bas-reliefs often remind us of embroidery in stone. Attempts are made to imitate the rich detail and delicate finish of the ivory carvings; the background is filled in with a profusion of subjects, and there is a marked realism in the delineation of them. The third period is that of Assur-bani-pal, when the overcrowding is avoided by once more leaving the background bare, while the animal and vegetable forms are distinguished by a certain softness, if not effeminacy of tone. Sculpture in the round, however, lagged far behind that in relief, and the statuary of Assyria is very inferior to that of Babylonia. It is only the human-headed bulls and winged lions that can be called successful: they were set on either side of a gate to prevent the entrance of evil spirits, and their majestic proportions were calculated to strike the observer with awe (compare the description of the four cherubim in Ezek 1).

In bronze work the Assyrians excelled, much of the work being cast. But in general it was hammered, and the scenes hammered in relief on the bronze gates discovered by Mr. Rassam at Balawât near Nineveh are among the best examples of ancient oriental metallurgy at present known. Gold and silver were also worked into artistic forms; iron was reserved for more utilitarian purposes. The beautiful ivory carvings found at Nineveh were probably the work of foreign artificers, but gems and seal cylinders were engraved by native artists in imitation of those of Babylonia, and the Babylonian art of painting and glazing tiles was also practiced. The terra-cotta figures which can be assigned to the Assyrian period are poor. Glass was also manufactured.

VII. Mechanics

The Assyrians were skilled in the transport of large blocks of stone, whether sculptured or otherwise. They understood the use of the lever, the pulley and the roller, and they had invented various engines of war for demolishing or undermining the walls of a city or for protecting the assailants. A crystal lens, turned on the lathe, has been found at Kouyunjik: it must have been useful to the scribes, the cuneiform characters inscribed on the tablets being frequently very minute. Water was raised from the river by means of a shaduf.

VIII. Furniture, Pottery and Embroidery

The furniture even of the palace was scanty, consisting mainly of couches, chairs, stools, tables, rugs and curtains. The chairs and couches were frequently of an artistic shape, and were provided with feet in the form of the legs of an ox. All kinds of vases, bowls and dishes were made of earthenware, but they were rarely decorated. Clothes, curtains and rugs, on the other hand, were richly dyed and embroidered, and were manufactured from wool and flax, and (in the age of the Second Empire) from cotton. The rug, of which the Persian rug is the modern representative, was a Babylonian invention.

IX. Language, Literature and Science

The Assyrian language was Semitic, and differed only dialectically from Semitic Babylonian. In course of time, however, differences grew up between the spoken language and the language of literature, which had incorporated many Summerian words, and retained grammatical terminations that the vernacular had lost, though these differences were never very great. Assyrian literature, moreover, was mainly derived from Babylonia. Assur-bani-pal employed agents to ransack the libraries of Babylonia and send their contents to Nineveh, where his library was filled with scribes who busied themselves in copying and editing ancient texts. Commentaries were often written upon these, and grammars, vocabularies and interlinear translations were compiled to enable the student to understand the extinct Sumerian, which had long been the Latin of Semitic Babylonia. The writing material was clay, upon which the cuneiform characters were impressed with a stylus while it was still moist: the tablet was afterward baked in the sun or (in Assyria) in a kiln. The contents of the library of Nineveh were very various; religion, mythology, law, history, geography, zoology, philology, mathematics, astronomy, astrology and the pseudo-science of omens were all represented in it, as well as poetry and legendary romance. See Nineveh , Library Of .

X. Government and Army

Assyria was a military kingdom which, like the Northern Kingdom of Israel, had established itself by a successful revolt from Babylonia. In contradistinction to Babylonia, which was a theocratic state, the king being subordinate to the priest, the Assyrian king was supreme. Whereas in Babylonia the temple was the chief public building, in Assyria the royal palace dominated everything, the temple being merely a royal chapel attached to the palace. The king, in fact, was the commander of an army, and this army was the Assyrian people. How far the whole male population was liable to conscription is still uncertain; but the fact that the wars of Assur-bani-pal so exhausted the fighting strength of the nation as to render it unable to resist the invaders from the North shows that the majority of the males must have been soldiers. Hence the constant wars partly to occupy the army and prevent revolts, partly for the sake of booty with which to pay it. Hence too, the military revolutions, which, as in the kingdom of Israel, resulted in changes of dynasty and the seizure of the throne by successful generals. The turtannu or commander-in-chief, who took the place of the king when the latter was unable or unwilling to lead his forces, ranked next to the sovereign. From the reign of Tiglath-pileser Iv onward, however, the autocracy was tempered by a centralized bureaucracy, and in the provinces a civil governor was appointed by the side of the military commander. Among the high officials at court were the rab - saki or "vizier," and the rab - sa - risi or "controller," the rabhṣārı̄ṣ (RAB-SARIS (which see)) of the Old Testament.

The army consisted of cavalry, infantry, bowmen and slingers, as well as of a corps of charioteers. After the rise of the Second Empire the cavalry were increased at the expense of the chariotry, and were provided with saddles and boots, while the unarmed groom who had run by the side of the horse became a mounted archer. Sennacherib further clothed the horseman in a coat of mail. The infantry were about ten times as numerous as the calvary, and under Sargon were divided into bowmen and spearmen, the bowmen again being subdivided into heavy-armed and light-armed, the latter being apparently of foreign origin. Sennacherib introduced a corps of slingers, clad in helmet and cuirass, leather drawers and boots. He also deprived the heavy-armed bowmen of the long robes they used to wear, and established a body of pioneers with double-headed axes, helmets and buskins. Shields were also worn by all classes of soldiers, and the army carried with it standards, tents, battering-rams and baggage-carts. The royal sleeping-tent was accompanied by tents for cooking and dining. No pains, in fact, were spared to make the army both in equipment and discipline an irresistible engine of war. The terror it excited in western Asia is therefore easily intelligible ( Isaiah 10:5-14;  Nahum 2:11-13;  Nahum 3:1-4 ).

XI. Religion

The state religion of Assyria was derived from Babylonia (which see) and in its main outlines is Babylonian. But it differed from the religion of Babylonia in two important respects: (1) The king, and not the high priest, was supreme, and (2) at the head of it was the national god Asur or Assur, whose high priest and representative was the king. Asur was originally Asir, "the leader" in war, who is accordingly depicted as a warrior-god armed with a bow and who in the age when solar worship became general in Babylonia was identified with the sun-god. But the similarity of the name caused him to be also identified with the city of Asur, where he was worshipped, at a time when the cities of northern Babylonia came to be deified, probably under Hittite influence. Later still, the scribes explained his name as a corruption of that of the primeval cosmogonic deity An - sar , the upper firmament, which in the neo-Babylonian age was pronounced Assōr . The combination of the attributes of the warrior-god, who was the peculiar god of the commander of the army, with the deified city to which the army belonged, caused Assur to become the national deity of a military nation in a way of which no Babylonian divinity was capable. The army were "the troops of Assur," the enemies were "the enemies of Assur" who required that they should acknowledge his supremacy or be destroyed. Assur was not only supreme over the other gods, he was also, in fact, unlike them, without father or wife. Originally, it is true, his feminine counterpart, Asirtu, the Asherah (which see) of the Old Testament, had stood at his side, and later literary pedants endeavored to find a wife for him in Belit, "the Lady," or Ishtar, or some other Babylonian goddess, but the attempts remained purely literary. When Nineveh took the place of Assur as the capital of the kingdom, Ishtar, around whose sanctuary Nineveh had grown up, began to share with him some of the honor of worship, though her position continued to be secondary to the end. This was also the case with the war-god Nin-ip, called Mas in Assyria, whose cult was specially patronized by the Assyrian kings. See Babylonia And Assyria , Religion Of .

XII. Excavations

Rich, who had first visited Mossul in 1811, examined the mounds opposite in 1820 and concluded that they represented the site of Nineveh. The few antiquities he discovered were contained in a single case in the British Museum, but the results of his researches were not published until 1836. In 1843-45 the Frenchman Botta disinterred the palace of Sargon at Khorsabad, 15 miles North of Nineveh, while at Nimrud ( Calah ) and Kouyunjik ( Nineveh ) Layard (1845-51) brought to light the ruins of the great Assyrian palaces and the library of Assur-bani-pal. His work was continued by Rassam (1851-54). Nothing more was done until 1873-75 when George Smith resumed excavations on the site of Assur-bani-pal's library; this was followed in 1877-79 by the excavations of Rassam, who discovered among other things the bronze gates of Balawât. At present a German expedition under Andrae is working at Kala'at Shergat (Assur) where the English excavators had already found the cylinder-inscription of Tiglath-pileser I (see Sherghat ).

XIII. Chronology

The Assyrians reckoned time by means of limmi , certain officials appointed every New Year's day, after whom their year of office was named. The lists of limmi or "Eponyms" which have come down to us form the basis of Assyrian chronology. Portions of a "synchronous" history of Assyria and Babylonia have also been discovered, as well as fragments of two "Babylonian Chronicles" written from a Babylonian point of view. The "Eponym" lists carry back an exact dating of time to the beginning of the 10th century bc. Before that period Sennacherib states that Tiglath-pileser I reigned 418 years before himself. Tiglath-pileser, moreover, tells us that Šamaš -Ramman son of Isme-Dagon had built a temple at Assur 641 years earlier, while Shalmaneser I places Šamaš -Ramman 580 years before his own reign and Erisu 159 years before Šamaš -Ramman, though Esar-haddon gives the dates differently. Apart from the native documents, the only trustworthy sources for the chronology (as for the history) of Assyria are the Old Testament records. In return the "Eponym" lists have enabled us to correct the chronology of the Books Of Kings (which see).

XIV. History

1. Early Period

Assyrian history begins with the high priests ( patesis ) of Assur. The earliest known to us are Auspia and Kikia, who bear Mitannian names. The early Semitic rulers, however, were subject to Babylonia, and under K H̬ammurabi (AMRAPHEL) Assyria was still a Babylonian province. According to Esar-haddon the kingdom was founded by Bel-bani son of Adasi, who first made himself independent; Hadad-nirari, however, ascribes its foundation to Zulili. Assyrian merchants and soldiers had already made their way as far as Cappadocia, from whence copper and silver were brought to Assyria, and an Assyrian colony was established at Kara Eyuk near Kaisariyeh, where the Assyrian mode of reckoning time by means of limmi was in use. In the age of Tell el-Amarna Letters (1400 bc) Assur-uballid was king of Assyria. He corresponded with the Egyptian Pharaoh and married his daughter to the Bah king, thereby providing for himself a pretext for interfering in the affairs of Babylonia. The result was that his son-in-law was murdered, and Assur-uballid sent troops to Babylonia who put the murderers to death and placed the grandson of the Assyrian king on the Babylonian throne. Babylonia had fallen into decay and been forced to protect herself from the rising power of Assyria by forming an alliance with Mitanni (Mesopotamia) and Egypt, and subsequently, when Mitanni had been absorbed by the Hittites, by practically becoming dependent on the Hittite king. Shalmaneser I (1300 bc), accordingly, devoted himself to crippling the Hittite power and cutting it off from communication with Babylonia. Campaign after campaign was undertaken against the Syrian and more eastern provinces of the Hittite empire, Malatiyeh was destroyed, and Carehemish threatened. Shalmaneser's son and successor Tukulti-Mas entered into the fruits of his father's labors. The Hittites had been rendered powerless by an invasion of the northern barbarians, and the Assyrian king was thus left free to crush Babylonia. Babylon was taken by storm, and for seven years Tukulti-Mas was master of all the lands watered by the Tigris and Euphrates. The image of Merodach was carried to Assur as a sign that the scepter had passed from Babylon to the parvenu Assyria. A successful revolt, however, finally drove the Assyrian conqueror back to his own country, and when he was murdered soon afterward by his own son, the Babylonians saw in the deed a punishment inflicted by the god of Babylon.

2. The Older Empire

A few years later the Assyrian king Bel-kudur-uzur lost his life in battle against the Babylonians, and a new dynasty appears to have mounted the Assyrian throne. About 1120 bc the Assyrian king was Tiglath-pileser I, whose successful wars extended the Assyrian empire as far westward as Cappadocia. In one of his campaigns he made his way to the Mediterranean, and received presents from the king of Egypt, which included a crocodile. At Assur he planted a botanical garden stocked with trees from the conquered provinces. After his death the Assyrian power declined; Pitru (Pethor,  Numbers 22:5 ) fell into the hands of the Arameans and the road to the Mediterranean was blocked. A revival came under Assur-nazir-pal Iii (884-860 bc) who rebuilt Calah (which see) and established the seat of the government at Nineveh, where he erected a palace. Various campaigns were carried on in the direction of Armenia and Comagene, the brutalities executed upon the enemy being described in detail by their conqueror. He then turned westward, and after receiving homage from the Hittite king of Carchemish, laid the Phoenicians under tribute. The road to the West was thus again secured for the merchants of Assyria. Assur-nazir-pal was succeeded by his son Shalmaneser Ii (859-825 bc), who, instead of contenting himself, like his father, with mere raids for the sake of booty, endeavored to organize and administer the countries which his armies had subdued. The famous bronze gates of Balawât were erected by him in commemoration of his victories. In his reign the Israelites and Syrians of Damascus first came into direct relation with the Assyrians. In 854 bc he attacked Hamath and at Qarqar defeated an army which included 1,200 chariots, 1,200 cavalry and 20,000 infantry from Ben-hadad of Damascus, 2,000 chariots, and 10,000 infantry from. "Ahab of Israel," besides considerable contingents from Ammon, Arvad, Arabia and elsewhere. In 842 bc Shalmaneser penetrated to Damascus where Hazael, the successor of Ben-hadad, who had already been defeated in the open field, was closely besieged. The surrounding country was ravaged, and "Jehu son of Omri" hastened to offer tribute to the conqueror. The scene is represented on the Black Obelisk found at Nimrud and now in the British Museum. Shalmaneser's campaigns were not confined to the West. He overran Armenia, where the kingdom of Van had just been established, made his way to Tarsus in Cilicia, took possession of the mines of silver, salt and alabaster in the Taurus mountains among the Tabal or Tubal, and obliged the Babylonian king to acknowledge his supremacy. In his later days, when too old to take the field himself, his armies were led by the turtannu or commander-in-chief, and a rebellion, headed by his son Assur-danin-pal (Sardanapalus) broke out at home, where Nineveh and Assur were jealous of the preference shown for Calah. Nineveh, however, was captured and the revolt suppressed after two years' duration by another son, Šamaš -Ramman IV, who shortly afterward, on his father's death, succeeded to the throne (824-812 bc). His chief campaigns were directed against Media. His son Hadad-nirari Iii (811-783 bc) was the next king, whose mother was Sammu-ramat (Semiramis). He claims to have reduced to subjection the whole of Syria, including Phoenicia, Edom and Philistia, and to have taken Mari'a, king of Damascus, prisoner in his capital city. After this, however, Assyria once more fell into a state of decay, from which it was delivered by the successful revolt of a military officer Pulu (Pul), who put an end to the old line of kings and took the name of Tiglath-pileser Iv (745-727 bc).

3. The Second Empire

Tiglath-pileser founded the second Assyrian empire, and made Assyria the dominant power in western Asia. The army was reorganized and made irresistible, and a new administrative system was introduced, the empire being centralized at Nineveh and governed by a bureaucracy at the head of which was the king. Tiglath-pileser's policy was twofold: to weld western Asia into a single empire, held together by military force and fiscal laws, and to secure the trade of the world for the merchants of Nineveh. These objects were steadily kept in view throughout the reigns of Tiglath-pileser and his successors. For the history of his reign, see Tiglath-Pileser . In 738 bc Tiglath-pileser put an end to the independent existence of the kingdom of Hamath, Menahem of Samaria becoming his tributary, and in 733 bc he commenced a campaign against Rezin of Damascus which ended in the fall of Damascus, the city being placed under an Assyrian governor. At the same time the land of Naphtali was annexed to Assyria, and Yahu-khazi (Ahaz) of Judah became an Assyrian vassal, while in 731 bc, after the murder of Pekah, Hoshea was appointed king of Israel (compare 2 Ki 15 through 17). In 728 bc Tiglath-pileser was solemnly crowned at Babylon and the following year he died. His successor was another military adventurer, Shalmaneser Iv (727-722 bc), whose original name was Ululā . While engaged in the siege of Samaria Shalmaneser died or was murdered, and the throne was seized by another general who took the name of Sargon (722-705 bc). Sargon, for whose history see Sargon , captured Samaria in 722 bc, carrying 27,290 of its inhabitants into captivity. A large part of his reign was spent in combating a great confederation of the northern nations (Armenia, Mannâ, etc.) against Assyria. Carchemish, the Hittite capital, was captured in 717 bc, a revolt of the states in southern Palestine was suppressed in 711 bc and Merodach-Baladan, the Chaldean, who had possessed himself of Babylonia in 722 bc, was driven back to the marshlands at the head of the Persian Gulf. In 705 bc Sargon was murdered, and succeeded by his son Sennacherib (which see). Sennacherib (705-681 bc) had neither the military skill nor the administrative abilities of his father. His campaign against Hezekiah of Judah in 701 bc was a failure; so, also, was his policy in Babylonia which was in a constant state of revolt against his rule, and which ended in his razing the sacred city of Babylon to the ground in 689 bc. Nine years previously his troops had been called upon to suppress a revolt in Cilicia, where a battle was fought with the Greeks.

4. Last Period and Fall of the Empire

His son Esar-haddon, who succeeded him (681-669 bc) after his murder by two other sons on the 20th Tebet (compare  2 Kings 19:37 ), was as distinguished a general and administrator as his father had been the reverse. For his history see Esarhaddon . Under him the Second Empire reached the acme of its power and prosperity. Babylon was rebuilt and made the second capital of the empire, Palestine became an obedient province, and Egypt was conquered (674 and 671 bc), while an invasion of the Cimmerians (Gomer) was repelled, and campaigns were made into the heart of both Media and Arabia. Esar-haddon died while on his way to repress a revolt in Egypt, and his son Assur-bani-pal succeeded him in the empire (669-626 bc), while another son Šamaš - šum - ukı̂n was appointed viceroy of Babylonia. Assur-bani-pal was a munificent patron of learning, and the library of Nineveh owed most of its treasures to him, but extravagant luxury had now invaded the court, and the king conducted his wars through his' generals, while he himself remained at home. The great palace at Kouyunjik (Nineveh) was built by him. Egypt demanded his first attention. Tirhakah the Ethiopian who had headed its revolt was driven back to his own country, and for a time there was peace. Then under Tandamane, Tirhakah's successor, Egypt revolted again. This time the Assyrian punishment was merciless. Thebes - "No-amon" ( Nahum 3:8 ) - was destroyed, its booty carried away and two obelisks transported to Nineveh as trophies of victory. Meanwhile Tyre, which had rebelled, was forced to sue for peace, and ambassadors arrived from Gyges of Lydia asking for help against the Cimmerians. Elam still remained independent and endeavored to stir up disaffection in Babylonia. Against his will, therefore, Assur-bani-pal was obliged to interfere in the internal affairs of that country, with the result that the Elamites were finally overthrown in a battle on the Eulaeus beneath the walls of Susa, and the conquered land divided between two vassal kings. Then suddenly a revolt broke out throughout the greater part of the Assyrian empire, headed by Assur-bani-pal's brother, the viceroy of Babylonia. For a time the issue was doubtful. Egypt recovered its independence under Psammetichus, the founder of the 26th Dynasty (660 bc) who had received help from Lydia, but Babylonia was reconquered and Babylon after a long siege was starved out, Šamaš - šum - ukı̂n burning himself in the ruins of his palace. Elam remained to be dealt with, and an Assyrian army made its way to Susa, which was leveled to the ground, the shrines of its gods profaned and the bones of its ancient kings torn from their graves. Then came the turn of northern Arabia, where the rebel sheikhs were compelled to submit. But the struggle had exhausted Assyria; its exchequer was empty, and its fighting population killed. When the Cimmerians descended upon the empire shortly afterward, it was no longer in a condition to resist them. Under Assur - etil - ilāni , the son and successor of Assur-bani-pal, Calah was taken and sacked, and two reigns later, Sin-sar-iskun, the last king of Assyria, fell fighting against the Scythians (606 bc). Nineveh was utterly destroyed, never again to be inhabited, and northern Babylonia passed into the hands of Nabopolassar, the viceroy of Babylon, who had joined the northern invaders. Assur, the old capital of the country, was still standing in the age of Cyrus, but it had become a small provincial town; as for Nineveh and Calah, their very sites were forgotten.


See G. Rawlinson, Five Great Monarchies of the Eastern World , 1862-67; Perrot and Chipiez, Histoire de l'art dans l'antiquité , II, 1884; Maspero, Struggle of the Nations , and Passing of the Empires , 3 volumes, 1894-1900; Rogers, A History of Babylonia and Assyria , 1900; Johns, Assyrian Deeds and Documents , 1898; Schrader, KAT , English translation by Whitehouse, 1885; Pinches, The Old Testament in the Light of the Historical Records of Assyria and Babylonia , 1902.

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [10]

Assyr´ia. We must here distinguish between the country of Assyria, and the Assyrian empire. They are both designated in Hebrew by Asshur. The Asshurim of  Genesis 25:3, were, however, an Arab tribe; and in  Ezekiel 27:6, the word ashurim (in our version 'Ashurites') is only an abbreviated form of teashur, box-wood.

Assyria Proper

Assyria Proper was a region east of the Tigris, the capital of which was Nineveh. It derived its name from the progenitor of the aboriginal inhabitants—Asshur, the second son of Shem ( Genesis 10:22;  1 Chronicles 1:17). Its limits in early times are unknown; but when its monarchs enlarged their dominions by conquest, the name of this metropolitan province was expended to the whole empire.

According to Ptolemy, Assyria was in his day bounded on the north by Armenia, the Gordiæan or Carduchian mountains, especially by Mount Niphates; on the west by the river Tigris and Mesopotamia; on the south by Susiana, or Chuzistan, in Persia, and by Babylonia; and on the east by a part of Media, and mounts Choathras and Zagros. It corresponded to the modern Kurdistan, or country of the Kurds (at least to its larger and western portion), with a part of the pashalik of Mosul. 'Assyria,' says Mr. Ainsworth (Researches in Assyria, Babylonia, and Chaldæa, Lond. 1838), 'including Taurus, is distinguished into three districts: by its structure, into a district of plutonic and metamorphic rocks, a district of sedentary formations, and a district of alluvial deposits; by configuration, into a district of mountains, a district of stony or sandy plains, and a district of low watery plains: by natural productions, into a country of forests and fruit-trees, of olives, wine, corn, and pasturage, or of barren rocks; a country of mulberry, cotton, maize, tobacco, or of barren clay, sand, pebbly or rocky plains; and into a country of date-trees, rice, and pasturage, or a land of saline plants.' The northern part is little else then a mass of mountains, which, near Julamerk, rise to a very great height, Mount Jewar being supposed to have an elevation of 15,000 feet; in the south it is more level, but the plains are often burnt up with scorching heat, while the traveler, looking northward, sees a snowy alpine ridge hanging like a cloud in mid air. On the west this country is skirted by the great river Tigris, the Hiddekel of the Hebrews ( Genesis 2:14;  Daniel 10:4), noted for the impetuosity of its current [TIGRIS].

The most remarkable feature, says Ainsworth, in the vegetation of Taurus, is the abundance of trees, shrubs, and plants in the northern, and their comparative absence in the southern district. Besides the productions above enumerated, Kurdistan yields gall-nuts, gum-arabic, mastich, manna (used as sugar), madder, castor-oil, and various kinds of grain, pulse, and fruit. Rich informs us that a great quantity of honey, of the finest quality, is produced; the bees (comp.  Isaiah 7:18, 'the bee in the land of Assyria') are kept in hives of mud. The naphtha springs, on the east of the Tigris, are less productive than those in Mesopotamia, but they are much more numerous. The zoology of the mountain district includes bears (black and brown), panthers, lynxes, wolves, foxes, marmots, dormice, fallow and red deer, roebucks, antelopes, etc. and likewise goats, but not (as was once supposed) of the Angora breed. In the plains are found lions, tigers, hyenas, beavers, jerboas, wild boars, camels, etc.

Ptolemy divides Assyria into six provinces. Farthest north lay Arrapachitis, south of it was Calakine, perhaps the Chalach of  2 Kings 17:6;  2 Kings 18:11. Next came Adiabene, so called from the above-mentioned rivers Dhab or Diab; it was so important a district of Assyria, as sometimes to give name to the whole country [ADIABENE]. North-east of it lay Arbelitis, in which was Arbela, famous for the battle in which Alexander triumphed over Darius. South of this lay the two provinces of Apolloniatis and Sittakene. The capital of the whole country was Nineveh, the Ninos of the Greeks, the Hebrew name being supposed to denote 'the abode of Ninos,' the founder of the empire. Its site is believed to have been on the east bank of the Tigris, opposite the modern town of Mosul, where there is now a small town called Nebbi Yunus (i.e. the prophet Jonah) [NINEVEH]. At the town of Al Kosh, N. of Mosul, tradition places the birth and burial of the prophet Nahum, and the Jews resort thither in pilgrimage to his tomb.

The greater part of the country which formed Assyria Proper is under the nominal sway of the Turks, who compose a considerable proportion of the population of the towns and larger villages, filling nearly all public offices, and differing in nothing from other Osmanlis. But the aboriginal inhabitants of the country, and of the whole mountain-tract that here divides Turkey from Persia, are the Kurds, from whom the country is now designated Kurdistan. They are still, as of old, a barbarous and warlike race, occasionally yielding a formal allegiance, on the west, to the Turks, and, on the east, to the Persians, but never wholly subdued; indeed, some of the more powerful tribes, such as the Hakkary, have maintained an entire independence. Some of them are stationary in villages, while others roam far and wide, beyond the limits of their own country, as nomadic shepherds; but they are all, more or less, addicted to predatory habits, and are regarded with great dread by their more peaceful neighbors. They profess the faith of Islam, and are of the Sunni sect. All travelers have remarked many points of resemblance between them and the ancient Highlanders of Scotland.

The Christian population is scattered over the whole region, but is found chiefly in the north. It includes Chaldeans, who form that branch of the Nestorians that adheres to the Church of Rome, a few Jacobites, or monophysite Syrians, Armenians, etc. But the most interesting portion is the ancient church of the primitive Nestorians, a lively interest in which has lately been excited in the religious world by the publications of the American missionaries, especially by a work entitled The Nestorians, by Asahel Grant, M.D. Lond. 1841. Besides the settlements of this people in the plain of Ooroomiah to the east, and in various parts of Kurdistan, where they are in a state of vassalage, there has been for ages an independent community of Nestorians in the wildest and most inaccessible part of the country. It lies at nearly equal distances from the lakes of Van and Ooroomiah, and the Tigris, and is hemmed in on every side by tribes of ferocious Kurds; but, entrenched in their fastnesses, the Nestorians have defied the storms of revolution and desolation that have so often swept over the adjacent regions; and in their character of bold and intrepid, though rude and fierce mountaineers, have so entirely maintained their independence unto the present day, as to bear among the neighbors the proud title of Ashiret, 'the tributeless.' The attempts lately made by Dr. Grant and others to prove that this interesting people are the descendants of the ten 'lost' tribes of Israel, cannot be regarded as successful, and will not bear the test of rigid examination. Another peculiar race that is met with in this and the neighboring countries is that of the Yezidees, whom Grant and Ainsworth would likewise connect with the ten tribes; but it seems much more probable that they are an offshoot from the ancient Manichees, their alleged worship of the Evil Principle amounting to no more than a reverence which keeps them from speaking of him with disrespect. Besides the dwellers in towns, and the agricultural population, there are a vast number of wandering tribes, not only of Kurds, but of Arabs, Turkomans, and other classes of robbers, who, by keeping the settled inhabitants in constant dread of property and life, check every effort at improvement; and, in consequence of this, and the influence of bad government, many of the finest portions of the country are little better than unproductive wastes.

The Assyrian Empire

No portion of ancient history is involved in greater obscurity than that of the empire of Assyria. In attempting to arrange even the facts deducible from Scripture, a difficulty presents itself at the outset, arising from the ambiguity of the account given of the origin of the earliest Assyrian state in  Genesis 10:11. After describing Nimrod, son of Cush, 'as a mighty one in the earth' the historian adds ( Genesis 10:10), 'And the beginning of his kingdom (or rather, the first theatre of his dominion) was Babel, and Erech, and Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar,' i.e. Babylonia. Then follow the words:—'Out of that land went forth Asshur and builded Nineveh,' or (as it is in the margin) 'out of that land he (i.e. Nimrod) went out into Assyria and builded Nineveh.' Looking at the entire context, and following the natural current of the writer's thoughts, we shall find that the second translation yields the most congruous sense. It likewise agrees with the native tradition, that the founder of the Assyrian monarchy and the builder of Nineveh was one and the same person, viz. Ninus, from whom it derived its name, and in that case the designation of Nimrod (the Rebel) was not his proper name, but an opprobrious appellation imposed on him by his enemies. Modern local tradition likewise connects Nimrod with Assyria.

But though Nimrod's 'kingdom' embraced the lands both of Shinar and Asshur, we are left in the dark as to whether Babylon or Nineveh became the permanent seat of government, and consequently, whether his empire should be designated that of Babylonia or that of Assyria. No certain traces of it, indeed, are to be found in Scripture for ages after its erection. In the days of Abraham, we hear of a king of Elam (i.e. Elymais, in the south of Persia) named Chedorlaomer, who had held in subjection for twelve years five petty princes of Palestine ( Genesis 14:4), and who, in consequence of their rebellion, invaded that country along with three other kings, one of whom was 'Amraphel, king of Shinar.' It is possible that Chedorlaomer was an Assyrian viceroy, and the others his deputies; for at a later period the Assyrian boasted, 'Are not my princes altogether kings?' ( Isaiah 10:8). Yet some have rather concluded from the narrative, that by this time the monarchy of Nimrod had been broken up, or that at least the seat of government had been transferred to Elam. Be this as it may, the name of Assyria as an independent state does not again appear in Scripture till the closing period of the age of Moses. Balaam, a seer from the northern part of Mesopotamia, in the neighborhood of Assyria, addressing the Kenites, a mountain tribe on the east side of the Jordan, 'took up his parable,' i.e. raised his oracular, prophetic chant, and said, 'Durable is thy dwelling-place! Yea in a rock puttest thou thy nest: nevertheless, wasted shall be the Kenite, until Asshur shall lead them captive,'  Numbers 24:21-22. The prediction found its fulfillment in the Kenites being gradually reduced in strength (comp.  1 Samuel 15:6), till they finally shared the fate of the trans-Jordanite tribes, and were swept away into captivity by the Assyrians ( 1 Chronicles 5:26;  2 Kings 16:9;  2 Kings 19:12-13;  1 Chronicles 2:55). But as a counterpart to this, Balaam next sees a vision of retaliatory vengeance on their oppressors, and the awful prospect of the threatened devastations, though beheld in far distant times, extorts from him the exclamation, 'Ah! who shall live when God doeth this? For ships shall come from the coast of Chittim, and shall afflict Asshur, and shall afflict Eber, but he also [the invader] shall perish forever,'  Numbers 24:23-24. This is not without obscurity; but it has commonly been supposed to point to the conquest of the regions that once formed the Assyrian empire, first by the Macedonians from Greece, and then by the Romans, both of whose empires were in their turn overthrown.

In the time of the Judges, the people of Israel became subject to a king of Mesopotamia, Chushanrishathaim ( Judges 3:8), who is by Josephus styled King of the Assyrians; but we are left in the same ignorance as in the case of Chedorlaomer, as to whether he was an independent sovereign or only a vicegerent for another. The first king of Assyria alluded to in the Bible, is he who reigned at Nineveh when the prophet Jonah was sent thither ( Jonah 3:6). Hales supposes him to have been the father of Pul, the first Assyrian monarch named in Scripture, and dates the commencement of his reign B.C. 821. By that time the metropolis of the empire had become 'an exceeding great' and populous city, but one pre-eminent in wickedness ( Jonah 1:2;  Jonah 3:3;  Jonah 4:11).

The first expressly recorded appearance of the Assyrian power in the countries west of the Euphrates is in the reign of Menahem, king of Israel, against whom 'the God of Israel stirred up the spirit of Pul (or Phul), king of Assyria' ( 1 Chronicles 5:26), who invaded the country, and exacted a tribute of a thousand talents of silver 'that his hand' i.e. his favor, might be with him to confirm the kingdom in his hand' ( 2 Kings 15:19-20). Newton places this event in the year B.C. 770, in the twentieth year of Pul's reign, the commencement of which he fixes in the year B.C. 790. About this period we find the prophet Hosea making frequent allusions to the practice both of Israel and Judea, to throw themselves for support on the kings of Assyria. The supposition of Newton is adopted by Hales, that at Pul's death his dominions were divided between his two sons, Tiglathpileser and Nabonassar, the latter being made ruler at Babylon, from the date of whose government or reign the celebrated era of Nabonassar took its rise, corresponding to B.C. 747. When Ahaz, king of Judah, was hard pressed by the combined forces of Pekah, king of Israel, and Rezin, king of Damascene-Syria, he purchased Tiglathpileser's assistance with a large sum, taken out of his own and the Temple treasury. The Assyrian king accordingly invaded the territories of both the confederated kings, and annexed a portion of them to his own dominions, carrying captive a number of their subjects ( 2 Kings 15:29;  2 Kings 16:5-10;  1 Chronicles 5:26;  2 Chronicles 28:16;  Isaiah 7:1-11; comp.  Amos 1:5;  Amos 9:7). His successor was Shalman ( Hosea 10:4), Shalmaneser or Salmanasser, the Enemessar of the apocryphal book Tobit ( Tobit 1:2). He made Hoshea, king of Israel, his tributary vassal ( 2 Kings 17:3); but finding him secretly negotiating with So or Sobaco (the Sabakoph of the monuments), king of Egypt, he laid siege to the Israelitish capital, Samaria, took it after an investment of three years (B.C. 719), and then reduced the country of the ten tribes to a province of his empire, carrying into captivity the king and his people, and settling Cuthaeans from Babylonia in their room ( 2 Kings 17:3-6;  2 Kings 18:9-11). Hezekiah, king of Judah, seems to have been for a time his vassal ( 2 Kings 18:7). The empire of Assyria seems now to have reached its greatest extent, having had the Mediterranean for its boundary on the west, and including within its limits Media and Kir on the north, as well as Elam on the south ( 2 Kings 16:9;  2 Kings 17:6;  Isaiah 20:6). In the twentieth chapter of Isaiah ( Isaiah 20:1), there is mention of a king of Assyria, Sargon, in whose reign Tartan besieged and took Ashdod in Philistia. He is supposed to have been the successor of Shalmaneser, and to have had a short reign of two or three years. His attack on Egypt may have arisen from the jealousy which the Assyrians entertained of that nation's influence over Palestine ever since the negotiation between its King So, and Hoshea, king of Israel. From many incidental expressions in the book of Isaiah we can infer that there was at this time a strong Egyptian party among the Jews, for that people are often warned against relying for help on Egypt, instead of simply confiding in Jehovah ( Isaiah 30:2;  Isaiah 31:1; comp.  Isaiah 20:5-6). The result of Tartan's expedition against Egypt and Ethiopia was predicted by Isaiah while that general was yet on the Egyptian frontier at Ashdod ( Isaiah 20:1-4); and it is not improbable that it is to this Assyrian invasion that the prophet Nahum refers when he speaks ( Nahum 3:8-10) of the subjugation of No, i.e. No-Ammun, or Thebes, the capital of Upper Egypt, and the captivity of its inhabitants. The occupation of the country by the Assyrians, however, must have been very transient, for in the reign of Sargon's successor, Sennacherib, or Sancherib, we find Hezekiah, king of Judah, throwing off the Assyrian yoke, and allying himself with Egypt ( 2 Kings 18:7;  2 Kings 18:21). This brought against him Sennacherib with a mighty host, which, without difficulty, subdued the fenced cities of Judah, and compelled him to purchase peace by the payment of a large tribute. But 'the treacherous dealer dealt very treacherously' ( Isaiah 33:1); and, notwithstanding the agreement, proceeded to invest Jerusalem. In answer, however, to the prayers of the 'good king' of Judah, the Assyrian was diverted from his purpose, partly by the 'rumour' ( Isaiah 37:6) of the approach of Tirhakah, king of Ethiopia, and partly by the sudden and miraculous destruction of a great part of his army ( 2 Kings 18:13-37; 2 Kings 19; Isaiah 36, 37). He himself fled to Nineveh, where, in course of time, when worshipping in the temple of his god Nisroch, he was slain by his sons Adrammelech and Sharezer, the parricides escaping into the land of Armenia—a fact which is preserved in that country's traditionary history [ARARAT].

Sennacherib was succeeded by his son Esarhaddon, or Assarhaddon, who had been his father's viceroy at Babylon ( 2 Kings 19:37;  Isaiah 37:38). Hales regards him as the first Sardanapalus. The only notice taken of him in Scripture is that he settled some colonists in Samaria ( Ezra 4:2), and as (at  Ezra 4:10) that colonization is ascribed to the 'great and noble Asnaapper,' it is supposed that that was another name for Esarhaddon, but it may have been one of the great officers of his empire. It seems to have been in his reign that the captains of the Assyrian host invaded and ravaged Judah, carrying Manasseh, the king, captive to Babylon. The subsequent history of the empire is involved in almost as much obscurity as that of its origin and rise. The Medes had already shaken off the yoke, and the Chaldeans soon appear on the scene as the dominant nation of Western Asia; yet Assyria, though much reduced in extent, existed as an independent state for a considerable period after Esarhaddon. The last monarch was Sarac, or Sardanapalus II (B.C. 636), in whose reign Cyaxares, king of Media, and Nabopolassar, viceroy of Babylon, combined against Assyria, took Nineveh, and, dividing what remained of the empire between them, reduced Assyria Proper to a province of Media (B.C. 606).

In this brief sketch of the history of the Assyrian empire, we have mainly followed the writers of the Old Testament, from whom alone any consistent account can be derived.

The political constitution of the Assyrian empire was no doubt similar to that of other ancient states of the East, such as Chaldea and Persia. The monarch, called 'the great king' ( 2 Kings 18:19;  Isaiah 36:4), ruled as a despot, surrounded with his guards, and only accessible to those who were near his person. Under him there were provincial satraps, called in  Isaiah 10:8, 'princes' of the rank and power of ordinary kings. The great officers of the household were commonly eunuchs. The religion of the Assyrians was, in its leading features, the same as that of the Chaldeans, viz. the symbolical worship of the heavenly bodies, especially the planets. In Scripture there is mention of Nisroch, Adrammelech, Anammelech, Nebchaz, Tartak, etc. as the names of idols worshipped by the natives either of Assyria Proper or of the adjacent countries which they had subdued.