A celebrated country and empire, had its name from Ahur, or Assur, the second son of Shem, who settled in that region, Ge 10:22. In the Bible the name Assyria is employed in three different significations: namely, 1. Assyria ancient and proper lay east of the Tigris, between Armenia, Susiana, and Media, and appears to have comprehended the six provinces attributed to it by Ptolemy, namely, Arrapachis, Adiabene, Arbelis, (now Erbil,) Calachene, (Heb. Halah? 2Ki 17:6,) Apollonias, and Sittacne. It is the region which mostly comprises the modern Kurdistan and the pashalik of Mosul. Of these provinces, Adiabene was the most fertile and important; in it was situated Nineveh the capital; and the term Assyria, in its most narrow sense, seems sometimes to have meant only this province. 2. Most generally, Assyria means the Kingdom of Assyria, including Babylonia and Mesopotamia, and extending to the Euphrates, which is therefore used by Isaiah as an image of this empire, Isa 7:20; 8:7. In one instance, the idea of the empire predominates so as to exclude that of Assyria proper, namely, Ge 2:14, where the Hiddekel or Tigris is said to flow eastward of Assyria. 3. After the overthrow of the Assyrian state, the name continued to be applied to those countries which had been formerly under its dominion, namely, (a) To Babylonia, 2Ki 23:29; Jer 2:18. (b) To Persia, Ezr 6:22, where Darius is also called king of Assyria.
The early history of Assyria is involved in obscurity. We know from the sacred narrative that it was a powerful nation. Israel was subjugated by one of its monarchs in the period of the Judges, and during the reign of the kings the Assyrian power was an object of perpetual dread. Pul, king of Assyria, invaded Israel in the reign of Menahem. Tiglath-pileser assisted Ahaz against a confederate army formed of the Syrian forces in league with those of the ten tribes. Shalmanezer invaded Israel, conquered Hoshea, and made him a vassal, bound to pay a yearly tribute. Hoshea wishing however to throw off the yoke, attempted to form a league with Egypt, and refused the tribute. On ascertaining this secret design of the Israelitish prince, Shalmanezer again invaded Israel, reduced Samaria, loaded its king with fetters, and transported the people of the land into Media, and put an end to the separate kingdom of the ten tribes. The three tribes located east of Jordan had already been deported into Media by Tiglath-pileser, when he ravaged Israel to save Ahaz, and the kingdom of Judah. Sennacherib of Assyria come into Judah with a powerful army in the reign of Hezekiah, but was miraculously defeated. Esarhaddon, his son and successor, ravaged Judah in the days of Manasseh, and carried the conquered sovereign in chains to Babylon. After this period the empire of Assyria suddenly waned, and its last monarch was the effeminate Sardanapalus, Nu 24:22. Its capital was one of the most renowned of the eastern world. See NINEVEH. But the kingdom fell at length into the hands of the Medes, the monarchy was divided between them and the Babylonians, and the very name of Assyria was thenceforth forgotten.
the name derived from the city Asshur on the Tigris, the original capital of the country, was originally a colony from Babylonia, and was ruled by viceroys from that kingdom. It was a mountainous region lying to the north of Babylonia, extending along the Tigris as far as to the high mountain range of Armenia, the Gordiaean or Carduchian mountains. It was founded in B.C. 1700 under Bel-kap-kapu, and became an independent and a conquering power, and shook off the yoke of its Babylonian masters. It subdued the whole of Northern Asia. The Assyrians were Semites (Ge 10:22), but in process of time non-Semite tribes mingled with the inhabitants. They were a military people, the "Romans of the East."
Of the early history of the kingdom of Assyria little is positively known. In B.C. 1120 Tiglath-pileser I., the greatest of the Assyrian kings, "crossed the Euphrates, defeated the kings of the Hittites, captured the city of Carchemish, and advanced as far as the shores of the Mediterranean." He may be regarded as the founder of the first Assyrian empire. After this the Assyrians gradually extended their power, subjugating the states of Northern Syria. In the reign of Ahab, king of Israel, Shalmaneser II. marched an army against the Syrian states, whose allied army he encountered and vanquished at Karkar. This led to Ahab's casting off the yoke of Damascus and allying himself with Judah. Some years after this the Assyrian king marched an army against Hazael, king of Damascus. He besieged and took that city. He also brought under tribute Jehu, and the cities of Tyre and Sidon.
About a hundred years after this (B.C. 745) the crown was seized by a military adventurer called Pul, who assumed the name of Tiglath-pileser III. He directed his armies into Syria, which had by this time regained its independence, and took (B.C. 740) Arpad, near Aleppo, after a siege of three years, and reduced Hamath. Azariah (Uzziah) was an ally of the king of Hamath, and thus was compelled by Tiglath-pileser to do him homage and pay a yearly tribute.
In B.C. 738, in the reign of Menahem, king of Israel, Pul invaded Israel, and imposed on it a heavy tribute (2Ki 15:19). Ahaz, the king of Judah, when engaged in a war against Israel and Syria, appealed for help to this Assyrian king by means of a present of gold and silver (2Ki 16:8); who accordingly "marched against Damascus, defeated and put Rezin to death, and besieged the city itself." Leaving a portion of his army to continue the siege, "he advanced through the province east of Jordan, spreading fire and sword," and became master of Philistia, and took Samaria and Damascus. He died B.C. 727, and was succeeded by Shalmanezer IV., who ruled till B.C. 722. He also invaded Syria (2Ki 17:5), but was deposed in favour of Sargon (q.v.) the Tartan, or commander-in-chief of the army, who took Samaria (q.v.) after a siege of three years, and so put an end to the kingdom of Israel, carrying the people away into captivity, B.C. 722 (2Ki 17:1-6,24; 18:7,9). He also overran the land of Judah, and took the city of Jerusalem (Isa 10:6,12,22,24,34). Mention is next made of Sennacherib (B.C. 705), the son and successor of Sargon (2Ki 18:13; 19:37; Isa 7:17-18); and then of Esar-haddon, his son and successor, who took Manasseh, king of Judah, captive, and kept him for some time a prisoner at Babylon, which he alone of all the Assyrian kings made the seat of his government (2Ki 19:37; Isa 37:38).
Assur-bani-pal, the son of Esarhaddon, became king, and in Ezra 4:10 is referred to as Asnapper. From an early period Assyria had entered on a conquering career, and having absorbed Babylon, the kingdoms of Hamath, Damascus, and Samaria, it conquered Phoenicia, and made Judea feudatory, and subjected Philistia and Idumea. At length, however, its power declined. In B.C. 727 the Babylonians threw off the rule of the Assyrians, under the leadership of the powerful Chaldean prince Merodach-baladan (2Ki 20:12), who, after twelve years, was subdued by Sargon, who now reunited the kingdom, and ruled over a vast empire. But on his death the smouldering flames of rebellion again burst forth, and the Babylonians and Medes successfully asserted their independence (B.C. 625), and Assyria fell according to the prophecies of Isaiah (Isa 10:5-19), Nahum (Na 3:19), and Zephaniah (Zep 3:13), and the many separate kingdoms of which it was composed ceased to recognize the "great king" (2Ki 18:19; Isa 36:4). Ezekiel (Eze 31) attests (about B.C. 586) how completely Assyria was overthrown. It ceases to be a nation. (See Nineveh; Babylon.)
Illustration: Lion Hunts by Assur-Bani-Pal
The great kingdom of Assyria was situated near the river Tigris, having Armenia on the North, Mount Zagros and Media on the east, Babylonia on the south, Syria and the Syrian desert on the west; but its boundaries were doubtless not always the same. Nineveh became its capital. The first allusion to Assyria is found in Ge 2:14, where we read that one of the rivers of Paradise went "toward the east of Assyria," or "went eastward to Assyria," margin.
The name of Assyria appears to have arisen from its first capital, Asshur (now called Kalah Sherghat) on the Tigris. Apparently a monarchy was established there by some from Babylonia, and there were several kings before SHALMANESER I. (about B.C. 1300), whose family kept the throne for six generations until TIGLATH-PILESER I. (about B.C. 1130), who may be said to be the founder of the first Assyrian Empire. He beautified Nineveh and carried his arms in various directions. After him the kingdom became feeble until RIMMON-NIRARI II., B.C. 911, but his victorious career was excelled by his grandson, the great ASSUR-NATSIR-PAL, B.C. 883, who made conquests over the Phoenicians and the 'Kaldu' (Chaldeans).
SHALMANESER II succeeded, B.C. 858. He carried his arms still farther. We have his conquests told by himself on three monuments in the British Museum, one of which is known as the Black Obelisk. If the names are correctly interpreted he mentions as allied against him Benhadad king of Syria and Ahab king of Israel. These were defeated at the battle of Karkar, B.C. 853. Hazael of Damascus was also defeated; and from Yahua, the son of Khumri, that is, Jehu, whom he incorrectly calls son of Omri, king of Israel, he received tribute; but of this scripture says nothing.
The next king who invaded Syria was RIMMON-NIRARI III B.C. 810. He extended his victories to what he calls, 'the shore of the sea of the setting sun,' which is doubtless the Mediterranean, and imposed tribute on the Phoenicians, Israelites, Edomites, Philistines, and the king of Damascus. After this king the power of Assyria waned for a time.
The next king of note was TIGLATH -PILESER II. or III. B.C. 745, who is considered to have founded the second Assyrian kingdom. He consolidated the various dependencies, turbulent populations were removed, and the empire was divided into provinces, each of which paid a fixed annual tribute. In his inscriptions occur the names of Jehoahaz (Ahaz) of Judah; Pekah, and Hoshea of Israel; Reson (Resin) of Damascus; and Hiram of Tyre. The name of Merodach-baladan is also found. Hamath was taken and then all Palestine was at his feet. He attacked those on the east of the Jordan, and carried away the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh. 1Ch 5:26. Ahaz sought his alliance against Rezin the king of Damascus. Rezin was slain and the city taken; and there Ahaz met the king of Assyria. 2Ki 16:1-10; 2Ch 28:16-21. He also made himself master of Babylonia; but this afterwards gained its independence under Merodach-baladan. Some Assyrian scholars take Tiglath-pileser (whose name appears to have been Pulu) to be the same person as the Pul mentioned in the Bible; but this does not at all agree with the dates of scripture, and in 1Ch 5:26 the names of Pul and Tiglath-pileser are mentioned as of two persons. See PUL.
In B.C. 727 SHALMANESER IV. succeeded to the throne. Hoshea king of Israel was subject to him; but on being found in treaty with the king of Egypt, Samaria was besieged. 2Ki 17:3-5.
In B.C. 722 SARGON succeeded, and apparently it was he who captured Samaria. An inscription of his at Khorsabad reads, "I besieged the city of Samaria and carried away 27,280 men who dwelt there into captivity, and took fifty chariots from among them, and ordered the rest to be taken. I set my judges over them, and imposed upon them the tribute of the former kings." He also placed colonists in Samaria, but it is supposed by the names of the places mentioned from which these were sent, that this was not done immediately. Sargon captured Carchemish, punished the king of Syria, flayed alive the king of Hamath, and then successfully overcame So or Sabako. Sargon is mentioned in Isa 20:1 as sending his general to Ashdod, who took it. An inscription also mentions the fall of the city. Sargon defeated Merodach-baladan in Babylonia, but was assassinated in B.C. 705. He was called SHARRU-KENU, that is, 'faithful king.'
SENNACHERIB succeeded Sargon his father, B.C. 705. Hezekiah had been tributary; but on his revolting Sennacherib took the fenced cities of Judah, and then Hezekiah sent him the treasures of his own house and the house of the Lord. Still Jerusalem was attacked, and profane speeches made against the God of Israel. Hezekiah humbled himself before God, and the angel of the Lord smote of the Assyrians 185,000. Sennacherib returned to his land and was eventually murdered by two of his sons. 2Ki 18:13 - 2Ki 19:37. In Sennacherib's own account he says, "Hezekiah himself I shut up like a bird in a cage in Jerusalem, his royal city . . . . in addition to his former tribute and yearly gifts I added other tribute and the homage due to my majesty, and I laid it upon them." The above date would clash with the date of Hezekiah, but it is probable that Sennacherib was co-regent with his father some nine years before he reigned alone.
A tablet shows Sennacherib sitting on a throne to receive the spoils of the city of Lachish. It is supposed he lived 20 years after he left Palestine before he was assassinated. He says nothing of the loss of his army, and perhaps never recovered the shock.
ESAR-HADDON succeeded, B.C. 681. He is said to have reigned from the Euphrates to the Nile. He also conquered Egypt, and divided it into 20 provinces, governed by Assyrians. According to an inscription he claimed the sovereignty of Babylon, and held his court there. This accounts for him, as king of Assyria, carrying Manasseh captive to Babylon. 2Ch 33:11. He is mentioned also in Ezr 4:2 as having sent the colonists into Judaea. After reigning about 10 years he associated with him his son the noted ASSUR-BANI-PAL. Egypt was again conquered. He gathered a famous library at Kouyunjik, the terra cotta tablets of which have been preserved. Assur-bani-pal died about B.C. 626. The glory of the Assyrian kingdom was permanently departing, and about B.C. 606 Nineveh was taken and destroyed. Nahum 1 - 3.
There are many monuments and inscriptions on tablets which the learned are deciphering; but the difficulties of distinguishing the proper names on the Assyrian monuments are shown by M. Joachim Menant, who gives as an instance one sign which may be read kal, rip, dan, or lip, being one of the signs called 'polyphones.'
The following list of kings is from Rawlinson, Sayce, and other Assyrian scholars. The early dates are uncertain and several of the later dates do not agree with the usual chronology of scripture.
ASSYRIAN KINGS. B.C.
Shalmaneser I. 1300
Tiglath-Adar I., his son 1280
Bel-kudur-utsur (Belchadrezzar) his son 1260
Assur-narara and Nebo-dan 1240
Adar-pal-esar (Adar-pileser) 1220
Assur-dan I., his son 1200
Mutaggil-Nebo, his son 1180
Assur-ris-ilim, his son 1160
Tiglath-pileser I., his son 1140
Assur-bel-kala, his son 1110
Samas-Rimmon I., his brother 1090
Assur-dan II 930
Rimmon-nirari II., his son 911
Tiglath-Adar II., his son 889
Assur-natsir-pal, his son 883
Shalmaneser II., his son 858
Samas-Rimmon II., his son 823
Rimmon-nirari III., his son 810
Shalmaneser III. 781
Assur-dan III. 771
Pulu, usurper, Tiglath-pileser II. or III 745
Ulula (Elulaeos) of Tinu, usurper, Shalmaneser IV. 727
Sargon, usurper 722
Sennacherib of Khabigal, his son 705
Esar-haddon, his son 681
Assur-bani-pal (Sardanapalus) his son 668
Assur-etil-ili-yukinni, his son ? 626
Esar-haddon II. (Sarakos) ?
Fall of Nineveh ? 606
The Assyrians were idolaters: from the inscriptions the names of hundreds of gods can be gathered.
The Assyrian language was a branch of the Semitic, and came from the Accadian. It was written in Cuneiform or wedge-shaped characters.
Assyria was used by God as His r
ASSYRIA, a kingdom of Asia, of the extent, origin, and duration of which very different accounts have been given by ancient writers. Ctesias and Diodorus Siculus affirm, that the Assyrian monarchy, under Ninus and Semiramis, comprehended the greater part of the known world: but, if this had been the case, it is not likely that Homer and Herodotus would have omitted a fact so remarkable. The sacred records intimate that none of the ancient states or kingdoms were of considerable extent; for neither Chederlaomer, nor any of the neighbouring princes, were tributary or subject to Assyria; and "we find nothing," says Playfair, "of the greatness or power of this kingdom in the history of the judges and succeeding kings of Israel, though the latter kingdom was oppressed and enslaved by many different powers in that period." It is therefore highly probable that Assyria was originally of small extent. According to Ptolemy, this country was bounded on the north by part of Armenia and Mount Niphates; on the west by the Tigris; on the south by Susiana; and on the east by part of Media and the mountains Choatra and Zagros. Of the origin, revolutions, and termination of Assyria, properly so called, and distinguished from the grand monarchy which afterward bore this appellation, the following account is given by Mr. Playfair, as the most probable: