A major portion of the "Cradle of Civilization", Assyria was an ancient civilization in northern Mesopotamia, which is an area now
encompassing Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and southeastern Turkey. Centered on the Tigris-Euphrates River System in Upper
Mesopotamia, the Assyrians rose to their greatest prominence and power in the ninth century BC,
and dominated the entire Middle East for more than 200 years.
The Assyrians mostly worshiped the national god of Mesopotamia,
Assur. following the same pagan religion as the majority of the Mesopotamian people groups.
However, they also worshiped other gods and goddesses such as
Ishtar, Adad, Sin, Ninurta, Nergal, and Ninlil.
The Assyrians were fierce and merciless warriors. They were unusually cruel, and showed little mercy to those they conquered (2 Kings 19:17).
By the seventh century BC,
Assyria occupied and controlled the eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea. The capital of Assyria in Biblical times was Nineveh, one of the greatest cities of
ancient times. Excavations in Mesopotamia have confirmed the Bibles description that it did indeed take a journey of three days to go around this city
Ancient Israel was no match for their overwhelming and
brutal force. In 733 BC under King Tilgath-pileser, Assyria took Israel's land and
carried the Israelites into exile (2 Kings 15:29). Later, beginning in 721 BC, the Assyrian king Shalmaneser besieged Samaria, Israels capital,
for three years, until it's ultimate downfall. (2 Kings 18:9-12).
The first known written inscriptions made by Assyrian kings appear c. 2450 BC.
The Assyrians kept excellent records of the kings of Assyria and the length of their reigns,
called Limmu lists. There are three cuneiform tablets and two fragments, all
dating back to the first mellennium BC. The oldest tablet ends with Tiglath-Pileser II (c. 967935 BC),
and the youngest with Shalmaneser V (727722 BC).
With minor differences, these lists basically conform to other historical sources,
such as the king lists of the Hittite, Babylonian and ancient Egyptian nations, as well as the archaeological records.
It is not at all surprising that records several thousand years old are not always precise.
There is some conflict about exact dates, as
different historians use various long, middle or short chronologies.
Not all kings are listed on the King's Lists, some are verified from other sources.
The Assyrian Dynasty is divided into four periods:
I. Early Assyrian period: 2450 - 1906 BC
II. Old Assyrian period: 1905 - 1381 BC
III. Middle Assyrian period: 1380 - 912 BC
IV. Neo-Assyrian period: 911 - 612 BC
I. Early Assyrian period: 2450-1906 BC
The people during the Early Assyrian period were nomads. The end of this early period found them settling into cities, marking
the end of the nomadic period of the Assyrian people.
Assur was the capital city of Old Assyrian Empire, of the Middle Assyrian Empire, and for a time, of the
Ashur is thought by historians to have been established by King Ushpia II. (c. 2050 BC c. 2030 BC)
He is also credited with building the temple of Ashur in that capital city.
The kings of this period are:
II. Old Assyrian period: 1905-1381 BC
These are identified as "kings who lived in tents"
- Tudiya c. 2450 BC c. 2400 BC
- Adamu c. 2400 BC c. 2375 BC
- Yangi c. 2375 BC c. 2350 BC
- Suhlamu c. 2350 BC c. 2325 BC
- Harharu c. 2325 BC c. 2300 BC
- Mandaru c. 2300 BC c. 2275 BC
- Imsu c. 2275 BC c. 2250 BC
- Harsu c. 2250 BC c. 2225 BC
- Didanu c. 2225 BC c. 2200 BC
- Hana c. 2200 BC c. 2175 BC
- Zuabu c. 2175 BC c. 2150 BC
- Nuabu c. 2150 BC c. 2125 BC
- Abazu c. 2125 BC c. 2100 BC
- Belu c. 2100 BC c. 2075 BC
- Azarah c. 2075 BC c. 2050 BC
- Ushpia c. 2050 BC c. 2030 BC; said to have been the founder of the temple of Ashur in Assur.
The following are identified as "kings who are ancestors/whose fathers are known"
- Apiashal c. 2030 BC c. 2027 BC; son of Ushpia
- Hale c. 2027 BC c. 2024 BC; son of Apiashal
- Samani c. 2024 BC c. 2021 BC; son of Hale
- Hayani c. 2021 BC c. 2018 BC; son of Samani
- Ilu-Mer c. 2018 BC c. 2015 BC; son of Hayani
- Yakmesi c. 2015 BC c. 2012 BC; son of Ilu-Mer
- Yakmeni c. 2012 BC c. 2009 BC; son of Yakmesi
- Yazkur-el c. 2009 BC c. 2006 BC; son of Yakmeni
- Ila-kabkabu c. 2006 BC c. 2003 BC son of Yazkur-el
- Aminu c. 2003 BC c. 2000 BC; son of Ila-kabkabu
The last names are listed as "kings whose eponyms are not known"
- Sulili c. 2000 BC; son of Aminu
- Kikkiya c. 2000 BC
- Akiya c. 2000 BC
- Puzur-Ashur I c. 2000 BC
- Shalim-ahum c. 1900 BC; son of Puzur-Ashur I
- Ilu-shuma c. 1945 BC c. 1906 BC
The capital city of Assur soon became a bustling trade center.
Merchants from Assur established trading
colonies in Asia Minor called karum, and traded mostly with tin and wool. In the city of Assur, the first great
temples to the city god Ashur and the weather god Adad were erected. Kings Puzur-Ashur I, Ilu-shuma, Erishum I and Sargon I all wrote of building
temples to the gods Ashur, Adad, and Ishtar in Assur. During the reign of King
Assurbanipal, Ishtar rose to become the major deity in Assyria, surpassing even the
national god Ashur.
Archeologists discovered the oldest remains in the city in the temple of Ishtar and the Old Palace.
Kings of the Old Assyrian period:
- Erishum I c. 1905 BC c. 1867 BC - son of Ilu-shuma
- Ikunum c. 1867 BC c. 1860 BC - son of Ilushuma
- Sargon I (date uncertain, text damaged) - son of Ikunum
- Puzur-Ashur II (date uncertain, text damaged) - son of Sargon
- Naram-Suen (Naram-Sin) (date uncertain, text damaged) - son of Puzur-Ashur (II)
- Erishum II (date uncertain, text damaged) - son of Naram-Suen
- Shamshi-Adad I c. 1700 BC - son of local ruler Ila-kabkabu
- Ishme-Dagan I - son of Shamshi-Adad
- Mut-Ashkur (unknown) son of Ishme-Dagan I, married to a Hurrian queen; not included in the standard King List, but attested elsewhere
- Rimush... (unknown) included in the alternative King List fragment, last part of name lost
- Asinum (unknown) grandson of Shamshi-Adad I, driven out by vice-regent Puzur-Sin because he was of Amorite extraction;
not included in the standard King List, but attested in Puzur-Sin's inscription
- Adasi - drove the Babylonians and Amorites from Assyria circa 1720 BC
- Bel-bani (10 years); son of Adasi
- Libaya (17 years); son of Bel-bani
- Sharma-Adad I (12 years); son of Libaya
- Iptar-Sin (12 years); son of Sharma-Adad I
- Bazaya (28 years); son of Iptar-Suen
- Lullaya (6 years); son of a nobody
- Shu-Ninua (14 years); son of Bazaya
- Sharma-Adad II (3 years); son of Shu-Ninua
- Shamshi-Adad II (6 years); son of Erishum III
- Ishme-Dagan II (16 years); son of Shamshi-Adad II
- Shamshi-Adad III (16 years); son of (another) Ishme-Dagan, brother of Sharma-Adad II, son of Shu-Ninua
- Ashur-nirari I (26 years); son of Ishme-Dagan
- Puzur-Ashur III (24 or 14 years); son of Ashur-nirari I
- Enlil-nasir I (13 years); son of Puzur-Ashur III
- Nur-ili (12 years); son of Enlil-nasir I
- Ashur-shaduni (1 month); son of Nur-ili
- Ashur-rabi I (damaged text); son of Enlil-nasir I, ousted Ashur-shaduni to seize the throne
- Ashur-nadin-ahhe I (damaged text); son of Ashur-rabi I
- Enlil-nasir II c. 14201415 BC; brother of Ashur-nadin-ahhe I; ousted him to take the throne.
- Ashur-nirari II c. 14141408 BC; son of Enlil-nasir II
- Ashur-bel-nisheshu c. 14071399 BC; son of Ashur-nirari II
- Ashur-rim-nisheshu c. 13981391 BC; son of Ashur-bel-nisheshu
- Ashur-nadin-ahhe II c. 13901381 BC; son of Ashur-rim-nisheshu
II. Middle Assyrian period: c. 1380-912 BC
The Middle Assyrian Empire is the era between the fall of the
Old Assyrian Empire in the 14th century BC and the establishment of the Neo-Assyrian Empire in the 10th century BC.
Several kings of this period stand out. Ashur-uballit I proved to be a fierce, ambitious and powerful ruler.
Shalmaneser I ascended to the throne in 1263 and proved to be a great warrior king.
Tiglath-Pileser I ascended to the throne upon his father's death, and became one of the
greatest of Assyrian conquerors during his 38-year reign.
Kings of the Middles Assyrian period:
Eriba-Adad I c. 13801353 BC; son of Ashur-bel-nisheshu
Ashur-uballit I c. 13531318 BC; son of Eriba-Adad I
Enlil-nirari c. 13171308 BC; son of Ashur-uballit
Arik-den-ili c. 13071296 BC; son of Enlil-nirari
Adad-nirari I c. 12951264 BC; son of Arik-den-ili
Shalmaneser I c. 12631234 BC; son of Adad-nirari I
Tukulti-Ninurta I c. 12331197 BC; son of Shalmaneser I
Ashur-nadin-apli c. 11961194 BC; son of Tukulti-ninurta I; he seized the throne while his father was still living.
Ashur-nirari III c. 11931188 BC; son of Ashur-nadin-apli
Enlil-kudurri-usur c. 11871183 BC; son of Tukulti-Ninurta I
Ninurta-apal-Ekur c. 11821180 BC; son of Ila-Hadda, a descendant of Eriba-Adad; He came up from Karduniash and seized the throne.
(Note: Beginning with Ashur-Dan I, dates are consistent and not subject to middle/short chronology distinctions.)
- Ashur-Dan I c. 11791133 BC; son of Ashur-nadin-apli
- Ninurta-tukulti-Ashur c. 1133 BC; son of Ashur-dan I
- Mutakkil-nusku c. 1133 BC; brother of Ninurta-tukulti-Ashur
- Ashur-resh-ishi I c. 11331115 BC; son of Mutakkil-Nusku
- Tiglath-Pileser I c. 11151076 BC; son of Ashur-resh-ishi I Although not mentioned in Scripture, he was one of the most famous of the
kings of the Assyrian empire. After his death, for two hundred years the empire fell into decay. The history of David and Solomon falls within this period.
After 45 years of civil turmoil, he was eventually succeeded by his son, Shalmaneser II.
- Asharid-apal-Ekur c. 10761074 BC; son of Tiglath-pileser I
- Ashur-bel-kala c. 10741056 BC; son of Tiglath-pileser I
- Eriba-Adad II c. 10561054 BC; son of Ashur-bel-kala
- Shamshi-Adad IV c. 10541050 BC; son of Tiglath-pileser I
- Ashur-nasir-pal I c. 10501031 BC; son of Shamshi-Adad IV
- Shalmaneser II c. 10311019 BC; son of Ashur-nasir-pal I
- Ashur-nirari IV c. 10191013 BC; son of Shalmaneser II
- Ashur-rabi II c. 1013972 BC; son of Ashur-nasir-pal I
- Ashur-resh-ishi II c. 972967 BC; son of Ashur-rabi II
- Tiglath-Pileser II c. 967935 BC; son of Ashur-resh-ishi II
- Ashur-Dan II c. 935912 BC; son of Tiglath-Pileser II
II. Neo-Assyrian period: 911-612 BC
The The Neo-Assyrian Empire existed between 911 and 612 BC, during the Iron Age.
During this period, Aramaic was made an official language of the empire, alongside the Akkadian language.
Located on the eastern bank of the Tigris River, Ninevah became the capital city of Assyria during the Neo-Assyrian period,
and was the largest city in the world for many years,
until it was beseiged and sacked in 612 BC by a coalition of it's former subjects.
By the reign of Shamshi-Adad I, Ninevah was known as a center of worship for the god Ishtar.
Assyria was always an enemy of the nation of Israel. In 733 BC, King Tilgath-pileser took Israels
land and carried the inhabitants into exile (2 Kings 15:29). Later, beginning in 721 BC, the Assyrian king Shalmaneser besieged
Israels capital, Samaria, until it fell three years later (2 Kings 18:9-12). It had been prophecied by Isaiah that God would use Assyria to
carry out His judgment against the idolatrous Israelites. (Isaiah 10:5-19)
Given the antagonism between Assyria and Israel, it is understandable that the prophet Jonah did not want to travel to Nineveh when
God told him to do so. (Jonah 1:1-3)
When he eventually arrived in the Assyrian capital, Jonah preached Gods impending judgment, which lead to
the king of Assyria and the entire city of Nineveh repenting. The grace of God was
extended even to the Assyrians, causing Him to turn His anger away from that city for a time. (Jonah 3:10)
In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiahs of reign in Judah, Sennacherib took 46 of Judahs fortified cities (Isaiah 36:1).
He then proceeded to lay siege to Jerusalem, the capital city of Judah.
However, the Assyria forces were unsuccessful, despite their great power and military strength. King Hezekiah prayed, and God promised him
that the Assyrians would never set foot inside the city (Isaiah 37:33). God himself fought for and protected Judah, by killing 185,000
Assyrian forces in one night. (Isaiah 37:36)
A defeated Sennacherib returned to
Nineveh where he was subsequently killed by his own sons. (Isaiah 37:38).
Kings of the Neo-Assyrian period:
- Adad-nirari II 912891 BC; son of Ashur-Dan II
- Tukulti-Ninurta II 891884 BC; son of Adad-nirari
- Ashur-nasir-pal II 884859 BC; son of Tukulti-Ninurta II
- Shalmaneser III 859824 BC; son of Ashur-nasir-pal II
- Shamshi-Adad V 824811 BC; son of Shalmaneser III
- Shammu-ramat, regent, 811808 BC
- Adad-nirari III 811783 BC; son of Shamshi-Adad V
- Shalmaneser IV 783773 BC; son of Adad-nirari III
- Ashur-Dan III 773755 BC; son of Shalmaneser IV
- Ashur-nirari V 755745 BC; son of Adad-nirari III
- Tiglath-Pileser III 745727 BC; son of Ashur-nirari V
- * Shalmaneser V 727722 BC; son of Tiglath-Pileser III
Shalmaneser V is the last king listed on the Assyrian King List; the following kings reigned after the list had been composed.
The dates of the last kings are not certain.The Assyrian limmu lists coincide with absolute dates known from Babylonian chronology, thus providing good absolute dates for the years
between 911 BC and 649 BC. The dates for the very end of the Assyrian period are uncertain due to the lack of lists after 649 BC.
Some sources list Ashurbanipal's death in 631 BC, rather than 627 BC; Ashur-etil-ilani then reigns from 631 to 627, and Sin-shar-ishkun
reigns until 612 BC, when he is known to have died during the attack on Nineveh.
- * Sargon II 722705 BC
- * Sennacherib 705681 BC
- * Esarhaddon 681669 BC
- Ashurbanipal 669between 631 and 627 BC
- Ashur-etil-ilani c.. 631627 BC
- Sin-shumu-lishir 626 BC
- Sin-shar-ishkun c. 627612 BC; historical records confirm the he died in the sacking of Nineveh.
- Ashur-uballit II 612 BCc. 608 BC
* denotes kings mention in the Holy Bible, KJV
Upon the death of Ashurbanipal in 627 BC, there were many civil wars within Assyria, and the empire began to disintegrate.
In 616 BC, Cyaxares, king of the Medes and Persians, made an alliance with
Nabopolassar, king of the Babylonians, to overthrow Assyria.
Assyria formed an alliance with Egypt, but in the end, The Babylonians and Medes were victorious. The Assyrian capital of
Ninevah fell in 612 BC. Thus, as the Babylonian Empire rose to power, the Assyrian empire faded away to the pages of history.