Myths of Babylonia and Assyria

Page: 247

Egypt continued to intrigue against Assyria, and Esarhaddon resolved to deal effectively with Taharka, the last Ethiopian Pharaoh. In 674 B.C. he invaded Egypt, but suffered a reverse and had to retreat. Tyre revolted soon afterwards (673 B.C).

Esarhaddon, however, made elaborate preparations for his next campaign. In 671 B.C. he went westward with a much more powerful army. A detachment advanced to Tyre and invested it. The main force meanwhile pushed on, crossed the Delta frontier, and swept victoriously as far south as Memphis, where Taharka suffered a crushing defeat. That great Egyptian metropolis was then occupied and plundered by the soldiers of Esarhaddon. Lower Egypt became an Assyrian province; the various petty kings, including Necho of Sais, had set over them Assyrian governors. Tyre was also captured.

When he returned home Esarhaddon erected at the Syro-Cappadocian city of Singirli[543] a statue of victory, which is now in the Berlin museum. On this memorial the Assyrian "King of the kings of Egypt" is depicted as a giant. With one hand he pours out an oblation to a god; in the other he grasps his sceptre and two cords attached to rings, which pierce the lips of dwarfish figures representing the Pharaoh Taharka of Egypt and the unfaithful King of Tyre.

In 668 B.C. Taharka, who had fled to Napata in Ethiopia, returned to Upper Egypt, and began to stir up revolts. Esarhaddon planned out another expedition, so that he might shatter the last vestige of power possessed by his rival. But before he left home he found it necessary to set his kingdom in order.

During his absence from home the old Assyrian party, who disliked the emperor because of Babylonian sympathies, had been intriguing regarding the succession to the throne. According to the Babylonian Chronicle, "the king remained in Assyria" during 669 B.C., "and he slew with the sword many noble men". Ashur-bani-pal was evidently concerned in the conspiracy, and it is significant to find that he pleaded on behalf of certain of the conspirators. The crown prince Sinidinabal was dead: perhaps he had been assassinated.

At the feast of the goddess Gula (identical with Bau, consort of Ninip), towards the end of April in 668 B.C., Esarhaddon divided his empire between two of his sons. Ashur-bani-pal was selected to be King of Assyria, and Shamash-shum-ukin to be King of Babylon and the vassal of Ashur-banipal. Other sons received important priestly appointments.

Soon after these arrangements were completed Esarhaddon, who was suffering from bad health, set out for Egypt. He died towards the end of October, and the early incidents of his campaign were included in the records of Ashur-bani-pal's reign. Taharka was defeated at Memphis, and retreated southward to Thebes.

So passed away the man who has been eulogized as "the noblest and most sympathetic figure among the Assyrian kings". There was certainly much which was attractive in his character. He inaugurated many social reforms, and appears to have held in check his overbearing nobles. Trade flourished during his reign. He did not undertake the erection of a new city, like his father, but won the gratitude of the priesthood by his activities as a builder and restorer of temples. He founded a new "house of Ashur" at Nineveh, and reconstructed several temples in Babylonia. His son Ashur-bani-pal was the last great Assyrian ruler.