Myths of Babylonia and Assyria

Page: 229

Menuas was a great war-lord, and was able to measure his strength against Assyria on equal terms. He had nearly doubled by conquest the area controlled by his predecessors. Adad-nirari endeavoured to drive his rival northward, but all along the Assyrian frontier from the Euphrates to the Lower Zab, Menuas forced the outposts of Adad-nirari to retreat southward. The Assyrians, in short, were unable to hold their own.

Having extended his kingdom towards the south, Menuas invaded Hittite territory, subdued Malatia and compelled its king to pay tribute. He also conquered the Mannai and other tribes. Towards the north and north-west he added a considerable area to his kingdom, which became as large as Assyria.

Menuas's capital was the city of Turushpa or Dhuspas (Van), which was called Khaldinas[502] after the national god. For a century it was the seat of Urartian administration. The buildings erected there by Menuas and his successors became associated in after-time with the traditions of Semiramis, who, as Queen Sammu-rammat of Assyria, was a contemporary of the great Urartian conqueror. Similarly a sculptured representation of the Hittite god was referred to by Herodotus as a memorial of the Egyptian king Sesostris.

The strongest fortification at Dhuspas was the citadel, which was erected on a rocky promontory jutting into Lake Van. A small garrison could there resist a prolonged siege. The water supply of the city was assured by the construction of subterranean aqueducts. Menuas erected a magnificent palace, which rivalled that of the Assyrian monarch at Kalkhi, and furnished it with the rich booty brought back from victorious campaigns. He was a lover of trees and planted many, and he laid out gardens which bloomed with brilliant Asian flowers. The palace commanded a noble prospect of hill and valley scenery on the south-western shore of beautiful Lake Van.

Menuas was succeeded by his son Argistis, who ascended the throne during the lifetime of Adad-nirari of Assyria. During the early part of his reign he conducted military expeditions to the north beyond the river Araxes. He afterwards came into conflict with Assyria, and acquired more territory on its northern frontier. He also subdued the Mannai, who had risen in revolt.

For three years (781-778 B.C.) the general of Shalmaneser IV waged war constantly with Urartu, and again in 776 B.C. and 774 B.C. attempts were made to prevent the southern expansion of that Power. On more than one occasion the Assyrians were defeated and compelled to retreat.

Assyria suffered serious loss of prestige on account of its inability to hold in check its northern rival. Damascus rose in revolt and had to be subdued, and northern Syria was greatly disturbed. Hadrach was visited in the last year of the king's reign.

Ashur-dan III (771-763 B.C.) occupied the Assyrian throne during a period of great unrest. He was unable to attack Urartu. His army had to operate instead on his eastern and southern frontiers. A great plague broke out in 765 B.C., the year in which Hadrach had again to be dealt with. On June 15, 763 B.C., there was a total eclipse of the sun, and that dread event was followed by a revolt at Asshur which was no doubt of priestly origin. The king's son Adad-nirari was involved in it, but it is not certain whether or not he displaced his father for a time. In 758 B.C. Ashur-dan again showed signs of activity by endeavouring to suppress the revolts which during the period of civil war had broken out in Syria.

Adad-nirari V came to the throne in 763 B.C. He had to deal with revolts in Asshur in other cities. Indeed for the greater part of his reign he seems to have been kept fully engaged endeavouring to establish his authority within the Assyrian borders. The Syrian provinces regained their independence.

During the first four years of his successor Ashurnirari IV (753-746 B.C.) the army never left Assyria. Namri was visited in 749-748 B.C., but it is not certain whether he fought against the Urartians, or the Aramaeans who had become active during this period of Assyrian decline. In 746 B.C. a revolt broke out in the city of Kalkhi and the king had to leave it. Soon afterwards he died--perhaps he was assassinated--and none of his sons came to the throne. A year previously Nabu-natsir, known to the Greeks as Nabonassar, was crowned king of Babylonia.