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Myths of Babylonia and Assyria

Page: 244

"So thorough was Sennacherib's destruction of the city in 689 B.C.," writes Mr. King, "that after several years of work, Dr. Koldewey concluded that all traces of earlier buildings had been destroyed on that occasion. More recently some remains of earlier strata have been recognized, and contract-tablets have been found which date from the period of the First Dynasty. Moreover, a number of earlier pot-burials have been unearthed, but a careful examination of the greater part of the ruins has added little to our knowledge of this most famous city before the Neo-Babylonian period."[537]

It is possible that Sennacherib desired to supplant Babylon as a commercial metropolis by Nineveh. He extended and fortified that city, surrounding it with two walls protected by moats. According to Diodorus, the walls were a hundred feet high and about fifty feet wide. Excavators have found that at the gates they were about a hundred feet in breadth. The water supply of the city was ensured by the construction of dams and canals, and strong quays were erected to prevent flooding. Sennacherib repaired a lofty platform which was isolated by a canal, and erected upon it his great palace. On another platform he had an arsenal built.

Sennacherib's palace was the most magnificent building of its kind ever erected by an Assyrian emperor. It was lavishly decorated, and its bas-reliefs display native art at its highest pitch of excellence. The literary remains of the time also give indication of the growth of culture: the inscriptions are distinguished by their prose style. It is evident that men of culture and refinement were numerous in Assyria. The royal library of Kalkhi received many additions during the reign of the destroyer of Babylon.

Like his father, Sennacherib died a violent death. According to the Babylonian Chronicle he was slain in a revolt by his son "on the twentieth day of Tebet" (680 B.C). The revolt continued from the "20th of Tebet" (early in January) until the 2nd day of Adar (the middle of February). On the 18th of Adar, Esarhaddon, son of Sennacherib, was proclaimed king.

Berosus states that Sennacherib was murdered by two of his sons, but Esarhaddon was not one of the conspirators. The Biblical reference is as follows: "Sennacherib ... dwelt at Nineveh. And it came to pass, as he was worshipping in the house of Nisroch (?Ashur) his god, that Adrammelech and Sharezer (Ashur-shar-etir) his sons smote him with the sword: and they escaped into the land of Armenia (Urartu). And Esarhaddon his son reigned in his stead." Ashur-shar-etir appears to have been the claimant to the throne.

Esarhaddon (680-668 B.C.) was a man of different type from his father. He adopted towards vassal states a policy of conciliation, and did much to secure peace within the empire by his magnanimous treatment of rebel kings who had been intimidated by their neighbours and forced to entwine themselves in the meshes of intrigue. His wars were directed mainly to secure the protection of outlying provinces against aggressive raiders.


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