Myths of Babylonia and Assyria

Page: 241

Sargon found time during his strenuous career as a conqueror to lay out and build a new city, called Dur-Sharrukin, "the burgh of Sargon", to the north of Nineveh. It was completed before he undertook the Babylonian campaign. The new palace was occupied in 708 B.C. Previous to that period he had resided principally at Kalkhi, in the restored palace of Ashur-natsir-pal III.

He was a worshipper of many gods. Although he claimed to have restored the supremacy of Asshur "which had come to an end", he not only adored Ashur but also revived the ancient triad of Anu, Bel, and Ea, and fostered the growth of the immemorial "mother-cult" of Ishtar. Before he died he appointed one of his sons, Sennacherib, viceroy of the northern portion of the empire. He was either assassinated at a military review or in some frontier war. As much is suggested by the following entry in an eponym list.

Eponymy of Upahhir-belu, prefect of the city of Amedu ... According to the oracle of the Kulummite(s).... A soldier (entered) the camp of the king of Assyria (and killed him?), month Ab, day 12th, Sennacherib (sat on the throne).[530]

The fact that Sennacherib lamented his father's sins suggests that the old king had in some manner offended the priesthood. Perhaps, like some of the Middle Empire monarchs, he succumbed to the influence of Babylon during the closing years of his life. It is stated that "he was not buried in his house", which suggests that the customary religious rites were denied him, and that his lost soul was supposed to be a wanderer which had to eat offal and drink impure water like the ghost of a pauper or a criminal.

The task which lay before Sennacherib (705-680 B.C.) was to maintain the unity of the great empire of his distinguished father. He waged minor wars against the Kassite and Illipi tribes on the Elamite border, and the Muski and Hittite tribes in Cappadocia and Cilicia. The Kassites, however, were no longer of any importance, and the Hittite power had been extinguished, for ere the states could recover from the blows dealt by the Assyrians the Cimmerian hordes ravaged their territory. Urartu was also overrun by the fierce barbarians from the north. It was one of these last visits of the Assyrians to Tabal of the Hittites and the land of the Muski (Meshech) which the Hebrew prophet referred to in after-time when he exclaimed:

Asshur is there and all her company: his graves are about him: all of them slain, fallen by the sword.... There is Meshech, Tubal, and all her multitude: her graves are round about him: all of them uncircumcised, slain by the sword, though they caused their terror in the land of the living.... (Ezekiel, xxxii.)

Sennacherib found that Ionians had settled in Cilicia, and he deported large numbers of them to Nineveh. The metal and ivory work at Nineveh show traces of Greek influence after this period.

A great conspiracy was fomented in several states against Sennacherib when the intelligence of Sargon's death was bruited abroad. Egypt was concerned in it. Taharka (the Biblical Tirhakah[531]), the last Pharaoh of the Ethiopian Dynasty, had dreams of re-establishing Egyptian supremacy in Palestine and Syria, and leagued himself with Luli, king of Tyre, Hezekiah, king of Judah, and others.