Sunday, January 25, 2015

Assyrian Empire: The Old and Middle Empire

Assyrian during 1400 BCE
The region of Mesopotamia catered numerous civilization. Among this civilization was the Assyrian. They played a long part in the geopolitics of the region. They rose thrice. They fell but resurfaced, seeing their apex during their third resurgence.

The Assyrian Empire saw its beginning at the fertile lands of Mesopotamia. For centuries, the area had been the location of the first civilizations of mankind. The Sumerian, Akkadian, and Early Babylonians were just some that thrived in the region. The Assyrians were a Semitic-speaking people that lived in the northern parts of the Tigris River. Thanks to the rich soil of the Tigris, the Assyrians were able to cultivate barley and grow their livestock. Their bountiful harvests allowed them to develop into a number of city-states that compete for power and survival in Mesopotamia.

The history of the Assyrian Empire was classified into three distinct periods. The first period was the Old Assyria that existed from 2000 to 1450 BCE. Following the Old Assyria was the rise of Middle Assyria from 1363 to 1000 BCE. Lastly, considered as the apex of the Assyrian Civilization was the New Assyria or Neo-Assyrian Empire that existed from 1000 to 612 BCE. After the Neo-Assyrian Empire that the Assyrians succumbed to the might of neighboring civilizations.

The Old Assyrian Empire rose to prominence from the time between the 2000 to 1450 BCE. The Assyrians founded their own city-states just like the other people in Mesopotamia. In 18th century BCE, the Assyrians began to rise in prominence in the region under an Amorite king - Shamshi-Adad. He ruled the Assyrians from 1813 to 1781 BCE. In 1814 BCE, he captured one of the major Assyrian city of Ashur. He continued his expansion until he captured the city-state of Mari on the Euphrates River. It was also during this time that the Assyrians flourished as great merchants. They developed a good trading relations with the people of Anatolia and develop trading colonies like Cappadocia. One of the main trading item was copper, one of the most highly valued commodities in Mesopotamia. The trade also allowed the Assyrians to be informed about another resources that the Anatolians had – iron. Iron later used by the Assyrians for their advantage in warfare. The Old Assyrians maintained dominance of the region until the 17th century. A new powerful force rose and replaced the Assyrians as the most prominent civilization in Mesopotamia. The Early Babylonian Empire under the rule of its judge-king Hammurabi. Hammurabi succeeded defeated the Assyrian King Ishme-Dagan and weakened the empire tremendously. It never recovered and in 1450 BCE, the Assyrians fell in the hands of the Mitannians.

The subservience of the Assyrians, however, did not last long. Within less than a century, the Assyrians again regained its power. In 1363 BCE, King Ashur-Uballit I restored the independence of the Assyrians. He ruled the Assyrians until he passed away in 1317 BCE. He fought the Mitannians for the freedom of the Assyrians. He succeeded in doing so after seeking the help of the Egyptians. Ashur-Ubalit created the Middle Assyrian Empire by creating an empire centered in Ashur and extending its borders to the Euphrates River until it reached a border with the Hittites in the west. He glorified his reign by taking the title of “King of All”. After King Ashur-Ubalit I, the next great leader of the Assyrian Empire was King Shalmaneser I who ruled from 1263 to 1233 BCE. He continued the expansion of the Assyrian Empire. It began to acquire lands in Asia Minor. Under his rule, the capital of the Assyrian Empire moved from Ashur to Nimrud, which lay between Ashur and Nineveh. He also began the cruel policy of deportation of defeated people to new areas to avoid rebellion. In 1233 BCE, Shalmaneser was succeeded by Tukulti-Ninurta I. He was a good warrior king as his predecessors. He defeated the Kassites of the Zagros Mountains, captured Babylon, and also began to subdue the Elamites. However, the glory days of the Middle Assyrian Empire began to waver during the 11th century BCE. A people known as the Sea Peoples began to encroach to the Assyrian territories. Attacks from Babylonians and Hittites exacerbated the weakening of the Middle Assyrian Empire. But the attacks on the Middle Assyria saw a break during the reign of King Tiglath-Pileser I. He ruled between 1115 up to 1077 BCE. His rule saw the expansion of the Assyrians up to the Mediterranean Sea. Babylon, which rebelled and grew in strength previously fell once again to the Assyrians. The Hittites were also pushed back under his command. However, after his last breathe in 1077 BCE, the Assyrians battled to defend its borders and fell once more in obscurity.

But the Assyrian Empire was only warming up during the time of the Old and Middle Assyrian periods. The Assyrians saw their apex at the time of brutal rulers of the New Assyria or Neo-Assyrian Empire.

See also:

Bibliography:
Duiker, W. & J. Spielvogel. World History v. 1. Massachusetts: Wadsworth, 2010.

Grimbly, S. (ed.). Encyclopedia of the Ancient World. London: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, 2000.

Leick, G. Historical Dictionary of Mesopotamia. Maryland: Scarecrow Press, Inc., 2010.

Starr, C. A History of the Ancient World. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991.

Stokes, J. (ed.). Encyclopedia of the People of Africa and the Middle East. New York: Facts On File, Inc, 2009.

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