Myths of Babylonia and Assyria
Page: 245The monarch was strongly influenced by his mother, Naki'a, a Babylonian princess who appears to have been as distinguished a lady as the famous Sammu-rammat. Indeed, it is possible that traditions regarding her contributed to the Semiramis legends. But it was not only due to her that Esarhaddon espoused the cause of the pro-Babylonian party. He appears to be identical with the Axerdes of Berosus, who ruled over the southern kingdom for eight years. Apparently he had been appointed governor by Sennacherib after the destruction of Babylon, and it may be that during his term of office in Babylonia he was attracted by its ethical ideals, and developed those traits of character which distinguished him from his father and grandfather. He married a Babylonian princess, and one of his sons, Shamash-shum-ukin, was born in a Babylonian palace, probably at Sippar. He was a worshipper of the mother goddess Ishtar of Nineveh and Ishtar of Arbela, and of Shamash, as well as of the national god Ashur.
As soon as Esarhaddon came to the throne he undertook the restoration of Babylon, to which many of the inhabitants were drifting back. In three years the city resumed its pre-eminent position as a trading and industrial centre. Withal, he won the hearts of the natives by expelling Chaldaeans from the private estates which they had seized during the Merodach-Baladan regime, and restoring them to the rightful heirs.
A Chaldaean revolt was inevitable. Two of Merodach Baladan's sons gave trouble in the south, but were routed in battle. One fled to Elam, where he was assassinated; the other sued for peace, and was accepted by the diplomatic Esarhaddon as a vassal king.
Egypt was intriguing in the west. Its Ethiopian king, Taharka (the Biblical Tirhakah) had stirred up Hezekiah to revolt during Sennacherib's reign. An Assyrian ambassador who had visited Jerusalem "heard say concerning Tirhakah.... He sent messengers to Hezekiah saying.... Let not thy God, in whom thou trustest, deceive thee saying, Jerusalem shall not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria. Behold, thou hast heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all lands by destroying them utterly; and shalt thou be delivered? Have the gods of the nations delivered them which my fathers have destroyed, as Gozan, and Haran, and Rezeph, and the children of Eden which were in Telassar? Where is the king of Hamath, and the king of Arphad, and the king of the city of Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivah?" Sidon was a party to the pro-Egyptian league which had been formed in Palestine and Syria.
Early in his reign Esarhaddon conducted military operations in the west, and during his absence the queen-mother Naki'a held the reins of government. The Elamites regarded this innovation as a sign of weakness, and invaded Babylon. Sippar was plundered, and its gods carried away. The Assyrian governors, however, ultimately repulsed the Elamite king, who was deposed soon after he returned home. His son, who succeeded him, restored the stolen gods, and cultivated good relations with Esarhaddon. There was great unrest in Elam at this period: it suffered greatly from the inroads of Median and Persian pastoral fighting folk.