Bookmark and Share

Open the online Arabic language course

669-631 BCE

Mesopotamia / Kings /
Assyria / Kings /

Ashurbanipal (from British Musuem).
ZOOM - Open a large version of this image

Ashurbanipal (from British Musuem).

Assyria of Ashurbanipal

King of Assyria (669-631 BCE), and counted as the last great ruler of the country.
When his father Esarhaddon died, he left Ashurbanipal a kingdom that stretched from northern Egypt to Persia, but he also made his brother king of Babylonia. Ashurbanipal ruled his country from Nineveh.
Ashurbanipal is remembered as one of the most cultured rulers in the Mesopotamian region: He was literate in both Sumerian and old Akkadian scripts — uncommon for rulers of the epoch — and he supported the establishment of the first systematically organized library in the Middle East. This library contained tens of thousands of works, in the shape of tablets. Most were pre-scientific works trying to explain events in the world, but some works were even of scientific nature. There were also many religious texts (like the Gilgamesh), but even folk tales were admitted into the library.
From monumental presentations of Ashurbanipal, we see him in situations of hunting, archery and horseriding, but this could be propaganda for his qualities and abilities.
From contemporary accounts — like his autobiographical works and correspondence — we hear of a king who was very active in ruling, often dealing with detailed questions. He was personally involved in the appointments of governors and prefects, and he functioned as the real general contractor when building state houses and structures.
His queen was Ashur-sharrat, and he had his sons Ashur-etel-ilani and Sin-shar-ishkun made coregents of Assyria and Babylonia.
After Ashurbanipal the Assyrian kingdom started to fall apart, but this is not considered to be his fault. It was not weakness inside Assyria, but continuous attacks from hostile neighbours, that brought it down.
Ashurbanipal is most likely a central part of the legendary construction of alleged king Sardanapalus.

690s BCE ?: Born. There are no accounts about his birth, so this date must be estimated from his apparent age when he took power.
672: Is appointed crown-prince of Assyria by his father Esarhaddon. His half-brother Shamash-shum-ukin is appointed crown-prince of Babylonia, but is supposed to act under Ashurbanipal.
669: With the death of Esarhaddon, he becomes king over Assyria.
668: He is forced to defeat the Egyptian King Taharqa, who had gained control over the Nile Delta. Ashurbanipal's troops soon reclaim control.
664-663: The Assyrians have to invade Egypt again, to suppress the successor of Taharqa, Tanutanami. This results in Assyrian control over Memphis and pillage of Thebes.
654: The Assyrians are driven out of Egypt, but trade continues between the two countries.
652: Shamash-shum-ukin revolts against Ashurbunipal, and Shamash-shum-ukin gets help from the Babylonians, Arameans, Elamites and Arabs.
648: As Ashurbanipal gets control over Babylonia, Shamash-shum-ukin commits suicide.
645: The rebels are finally beaten, but Assyria is strongly weakened.
640: The Assyrians sack the Elamite capital, Susa.
639: Elam is finally conquered, and Ashurbanipal makes 4 kings of conquered countries pull his chariot in the victory procession.
627: Dies. There are, however, no accounts of this, and its cause.

Confused? Try to find a good place to start learning about Mesopotamia in
Where to begin?Detailed article

By Tore Kjeilen