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Myths of Babylonia and Assyria

Page: 232

At this time the reputation of Tiglath-pileser hung in the balance. If he failed in his attack on Urartu, his prestige would vanish at home and abroad and Sharduris might, after establishing himself in northern Syria, invade Assyria and compel its allegiance.

Two courses lay before Tiglath-pileser. He could either cross the mountains and invade Urartu, or strike at his rival in north Syria, where the influence of Assyria had been completely extinguished. The latter appeared to him to be the most feasible and judicious procedure, for if he succeeded in expelling the invaders he would at the same time compel the allegiance of the rebellious Hittite states.

In the spring of 743 B.C. Tiglath-pileser led his army across the Euphrates and reached Arpad without meeting with any resistance. The city appears to have opened its gates to him although it was in the kingdom of Mati-ilu, who acknowledged Urartian sway. Its foreign garrison was slaughtered. Well might Sharduris exclaim, in the words of the prophet, "Where is the king of Arpad? where are the gods of Arpad?"[504]

Leaving Arpad, Tiglath-pileser advanced to meet Sharduris, who was apparently hastening southward to attack the Assyrians in the rear. Tiglath-pileser, however, crossed the Euphrates and, moving northward, delivered an unexpected attack on the Urartian army in Qummukh. A fierce battle ensued, and one of its dramatic incidents was a single combat between the rival kings. The tide of battle flowed in Assyria's favour, and when evening was falling the chariots and cavalry of Urartu were thrown into confusion. An attempt was made to capture King Sharduris, who leapt from his chariot and made hasty escape on horseback, hotly pursued in the gathering darkness by an Assyrian contingent of cavalry. Not until "the bridge of the Euphrates" was reached was the exciting night chase abandoned.

Tiglath-pileser had achieved an overwhelming victory against an army superior to his own in numbers. Over 70,000 of the enemy were slain or taken captive, while the Urartian camp with its stores and horses and followers fell into the hands of the triumphant Assyrians. Tiglath-pileser burned the royal tent and throne as an offering to Ashur, and carried Sharduris's bed to the temple of the goddess of Nineveh, whither he returned to prepare a new plan of campaign against his northern rival.

Despite the blow dealt against Urartu, Assyria did not immediately regain possession of north Syria. The shifty Mati-ilu either cherished the hope that Sharduris would recover strength and again invade north Syria, or that he might himself establish an empire in that region. Tiglath-pileser had therefore to march westward again. For three years he conducted vigorous campaigns in "the western land", where he met with vigorous resistance. In 740 B.C. Arpad was captured and Mati-ilu deposed and probably put to death. Two years later Kullani and Hamath fell, and the districts which they controlled were included in the Assyrian empire and governed by Crown officials.


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