"Art and Empire: Treasures from Assyria in the British Museum" by John Curtis. NOTE : We have 75,000 books in our library, almost 10,000 different titles. Odds are we have other copies of this same title in varying conditions, some less expensive, some better condition. We might also have different editions as well (some paperback, some hardcover, oftentimes international editions). Were happy to send you a summary of the differing conditions and prices we may have for the same title.
Publisher : New York Metropolitan Museum of Art/Abrams (1995). Size : 11½ x 9½ x 1 inch; 2¾ pounds. Summary : The British Museum has one of the finest collections of Assyrian artifacts in the world, centered around the famous sculpted reliefs from the palaces of the Assyrian kings at Nimrud and Nineveh. Dating from the 9th to the 7th centuries, these sculptures show the kings' exploits in battle and in hunting, and ceremonies at the Assyrian court.This catalogue describes their excavation in the mid-19th century and the excitement aroused in Western Europe by the discovery of reliefs depicting peoples mentioned in the Bible. A broader picture of life in Assyria is created by numerous smaller objects, such as delicate ivories, embossed bronze bowls, pottery and glass vessels, jewelry, and cylinder seals, carved in miniature.
Particularly important are the clay tablets from the royal library of King Ashurbanipal, written in the cuneiform script and dealing with a wide range of subjects, from the administration of the empire to magic, religion and divination, astronomy, mathematics, medicine, history and literature. Over 250 items are described and illustrated, providing a record of one of the great civilizations of antiquity.
Harry N Abrams (1995) 224 pages. Unblemished and pristine in every respect. Pages are clean, crisp, unmarked, unmutilated, tightly bound, unambiguously unread. PLEASE SEE DESCRIPTIONS AND IMAGES BELOW FOR DETAILED REVIEWS AND FOR PAGES OF PICTURES FROM INSIDE OF BOOK. PLEASE SEE PUBLISHER, PROFESSIONAL, AND READER REVIEWS BELOW.
REVIEW : From the ninth to the seventh centuries BC, the Assyrians were the dominant power in the ancient Near East, controlling all of present-day Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, as well as large parts of Israel, Egypt, Turkey, and Iran. In their homeland in northern Iraq, at Nimrud and Nineveh, the kings built splendid palaces, their rooms filled with treasure, their walls decorated with stone slabs carved with detailed scenes memorializing the kings' exploits in warfare and hunting. After the fall of Assyria in 610 BC, the palaces were deserted and covered with earth for a millenium.In the 1840s and 1850s, European explorers dug up the mounds, revealing to an astonished public the relics of ancient cities mentioned in the Bible. British archaeologist Austen Henry Layard excavated literally miles of stone reliefs that lined the palace walls, sending the best preserved examples to the British Museum, where today they form the core of the largest collection of Assyrian art outside of Iraq itself. "Art and Empire: Treasures from Assyria in the British Museum" includes the most dramatic of these reliefs, as well as sumptuous carved ivories, furniture fittings, and metal vessels. Cuneiform tablets from the royal library, where the king sought to gather together all the world's learning, enshrine the wisdom of ancient Mesopotamia, the cradle of western civilization. REVIEW : The Assyrian empire dominated much of the region we now know as the Middle East from the ninth to seventh century BC. The majority of Assyrian material in the British Museum was excavated in northern Iraq, chiefly in the Assyrian capital cities, Nimrud and Nineveh.
As well as magnificent carved reliefs and sculptures, the exhibition displays smaller objects which convey both domestic and ritual life in ancient Assyria. Numerous clay tablets used for keeping administrative records, documenting scientific knowledge, and literature also feature. REVIEW : The Assyrian collection of the British Museum is one of the best in the world. This guide to the collection, and to the Assyrian world in general, was first published in 1995. The famous carved stone reliefs from the Assyrian palaces at Nimrud and Nineveh, along with cuneiform clay tablets and an array of small finds, provide the basis for this thematic discussion.REVIEW : Catalog of an exhibition held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, from May 2 through August 13, 1995, and at the Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas, from October 1995 through February 1996. John Curtis is a leading scholar and a pioneering archaeologist specialising on the history of the Middle East and particularly ancient Iran with more than 100 published articles and 20 books. He was appointed a Research Assistant in the Department of Western Asiatic Antiquities (now Middle East) in 1971, becoming Assistant Keeper in 1974 and Keeper in 1989; he joined Iran Heritage Foundation as its Chief Executive Officer (CEO) in 2014. Dr Curtis is mainly interested in the archaeology and history of Iraq and Iran circa 1000-330 BC.
Between 1983 and 1989 he directed excavations on behalf of the British Museum at eight different sites in Iraq, including Nimrud and Balawat. Since becoming Keeper he has overseen the installation of six new permanent galleries at the British Museum.
He has also curated the traveling exhibition Art and Empire: Treasures from Assyria in the British Museum that has been sent to nine venues worldwide, and the special exhibition Forgotten Empire: the World of Ancient Persia at the British Museum September 2005-June 2006, that attracted 155,000 visitors. He was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 2003 and awarded an Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 2006. John Curtis was "Keeper of the Middle East Department at the British Museum" from 1989 through 2011.He is presently Chief Executive Officer of the Iran Heritage Foundation, President of the British Institute for the Study of Iraq, and a Trustee of the Honor Frost Foundation. He specializes in the archaeology and history of Iraq and Iran circa 1000-330 B. And has written or edited 23 books and more than 100 articles. He directed excavations at eight different sites in Iraq on behalf of the British Museum between 1982 and 1989, including the important Assyrian sites of Khirbet Qasrij, Khirbet Khatuniyeh, Nimrud and Balawat. Curtis has also curated a number of significant exhibitions including "Art and Empire: Treasures from Assyria in the British Museum" that was shown at nine different venues worldwide, "Forgotten Empire: The world of Ancient Persia" at the British Museum 2005-6, "The Cyrus Cylinder" at the National Museum, Tehran, 2010-11, and "The Cyrus Cylinder and Ancient Persia" that was shown at five different US museums in 2013.
He was the first Western archaeologist to enter the Iraq Museum after the looting in 2003, and since then has played an active role in attempts to protect the cultural heritage of Iraq. Curtis's principal publications include: "Forgotten Empire: the World of Ancient Persia"; "Excavations at Qasrij Cliff and Khirbet Qasrij"; "Art and Empire: Treasures from Assyria in the British Museum; "Excavations at Khirbet Khatuniyeh"; "The Balawat Gates of Ashurnasirpal II"; and "An Examination of Late Assyrian Metalwork with Special Reference to Nimrud. REVIEW : What do you get when you combine the efforts of the British Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Abrams publishers, and the Assyrian Empire?An answer can be found in this wonderful new exhibit catalog filled with excellent color reproductions and a text that is both scholarly and readable. A chronology and list of kings help to keep track of people and events. Three chapters set up the history, civilization, and exploration of the Assyrian Empire; following chapters discuss and illustrate the art, dress, literature, government, religion, and war of that great civilization. Excellent photographs reproduce alabaster reliefs, ivory plaques, cylinder seals, and furniture with remarkable clarity. But this is more than a catalog of an art exhibit; it distills the Assyrian way of life for easy consumption. If you cannot get to New York, Ft. Worth, or London to see the traveling show, take a long look at this book; highly recommended.
REVIEW : Authoritative book, describes over 250 items, providing a magnificent record of one of the great civilizations of antiquity. REVIEW : A catalog, from two exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, that describes and illustrates the British Museum's extraordinary collection of Assyrian carved reliefs from the palaces of the Assyrian kings at Nimrud and Nineveh in northern Mesopotamia, which date from the ninth to the seventh centuries B. Numerous small objects provide a broader picture of life in Assyria.Includes 224 illustrations, 200 in color. REVIEW : A review I wrote of Art and Empire: Treasures from Assyria in the British Museum has been published in the latest issue of Near Eastern Archaeology. Its too late to see the show at Bostons Museum of Fine Arts and the review is not online, but it was a fun assignment because it was the second time I saw the show. The first was over a decade ago at the Met. The Met version was a lot more intellectual and had more scholarly information.
The MFA version was incredibly beautiful and aestheticized. What surprised me, as a scholar of Assyrian art, is that I may prefer the MFA version.The reasons I preferred the new iteration: exhibitions like this are not for experts; they are to encourage the general public to learn more about specific areas of art; more information can always be found in the catalogs of shows, and; it was just plain gorgeous and made me appreciate the art I have studied for years in a new way. Though it may be too late to see the exhibition, the catalog is available and is exquisite. REVIEW : "Art and Empire: Treasures From Assyria In The British Museum" consists of 250 Neo-Assyrian objects including wall reliefs, sculpture, cylinder seals, military equipment, decorative ivories and metal vessels. These items came from excavated palaces and temples located in Nimrud and Nineveh in northern Iraq, and date from the reigns of Ashurnasirpal II 883859 B. The exhibition was organized by the British Museum, world-renowned for its Assyrian art collection, in collaboration with the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. REVIEW : Art of ancient Assyria, which at its height the ninth to the seventh centuries B. Encompassed what is now Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and large parts of Israel, Egypt, Turkey and Iran, is on display in the exhibition catalog "Art and Empire: Treasures from Assyria in the British Museum", which features over 250 pieces, including several wall reliefs depicting lion hunts and other activities of the day; bronzes, like the "Bronze Head of Pazuzu", jewelry, and clay cuneiform-inscribed talents that once adorned the palaces of rulers like Ashurnasirpal II (883-859 BC) of Nimrud. REVIEW : The book is written by a team of experts, mainly from the British Museum, and more than 250 items are described and illustrated in color, providing a magnificent record of one of the great civilizations of antiquity.
REVIEW : Thirty-three monumental carved stone reliefs that once lined the walls of ancient Assyrian palaces and temples are included in "Art and Empire: Treasures From Assyria in the British Museum". The exhibition catalog also includes a selection of palace furnishings from the first millennium B. The objects make up the largest loan ever sent abroad by the British Museum. In all the exhibition catalog features 250 artworks created for the kings of the walled cities of Nimrud, Nineveh and Khorsabad during the ninth to seventh centuries B. When the Assyrian empire was the primary power in the Near East.Assyria lay at the heart of the Fertile Crescent, stretching from Iraq to the Mediterranean, where some of the world's earliest civilizations developed and flourished. Nineveh and Nimrud were first excavated in the 1840's by Sir Austen Henry Layard, an archeologist on commission from the British Museum. The exhibition centers on the enormous, extraordinarily detailed stone reliefs, some of which are over seven feet high.
The reliefs depict ceremonies, battles and episodes of court life, notably the hunting of wild animals gathered in the royal game parks. The earliest sculptures come from the palace of Ashurnasirpal II 883-859 B.
At Nimrud and contain narrative scenes of the king's achievements in battle and in the hunt. REVIEW : From the ninth to the seventh centuries B. The Assyrians emerged as the dominant power in the Near East, controlling all of present-day Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Israel, and Egypt, as well as large parts of Turkey and Iran. It was the largest empire known until that time. In their homeland in northern Iraq, in the area of Mosul, the kings built splendid palaces, their gates flanked by colossal human-headed bulls and lions, their walls lined with great stone slabs intricately carved in relief with scenes memorializing in fascinating and sometimes grisly detail the kings exploits in warfare and in hunting, palace life, and court rituals.
After the fall of Assyria, the kings palaces were deserted and covered with sand, their names and those of the kings who built them remembered only in the Bible and by Greek historians. In the 1840s and 1850s, French and British explorers dug up the mounds covering these palaces, revealing the glory of ancient Assyria and the fabled cities of Nimrud and Nineveh. British archaeologist Austen Henry Layard excavated literally miles of reliefs and sent the most interesting to the British Museum. After the Second World War, excavations were carried out under Sir Max Mallowan (the husband of mystery writer Agatha Christie).
The finds were divided between England and Iraq and, as a result, the British Museum today holds the largest collection of Assyrian art outside of Iraq itself. Art and Empire: Treasures from Assyria in the British Museum includes the most powerful and moving of these reliefs. Military dress and equipment and horse trappings and harnesses illustrate life in the army. Carved ivories, furniture fittings, and metal vessels showcase the luxurious, cosmopolitan lifestyle enjoyed by the king and his court. An array of three-dimensional objectsfigures of deities, clay tablets, clay seals and sealingsaddress the administration of the empire, trade, legal and social issues, and interrelationships between religion, magic, and medicine.
Exorcisms, omen texts, mathematical texts, and literary compositions from the royal library (where the king sought to gather together all the worlds learning in one place) enshrine the wisdom of ancient Mesopotamia, the cradle of western civilization. [Boston Museum of Fine Arts]. REVIEW : Superpowers are a fact of history. Before the Soviet Union and The United States, the British Empire was the world superpower.
The Brits assumed the white mans burden and carried back to England treasures to fill its museums with booty from many lands, most famously Greece, Egypt, and the Mideast. Skimming the cultures of less powerful people is not looked upon kindly as recent headlines illustrate. Yet, objects in British museums often fare far better than those left in their native country, especially in war torn areas of the globe.The National Museum of Iraq in Baghdad was one of the first casualties of the war. "Art and Empire: Treasures from Assyria in the British Museum", an exhibition (and catalogue) at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, presents the gore and grandeur of one of the worlds earliest superpowers. At its height, around the 8th century B.
Ashurnasipal II proclaimed himself great king, mighty king, king of the universe. His Neo-Assyrian empire, the largest the world had seen until then, included most of todays Middle East, stretching from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean Sea, and encompassed all of present day Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, as well as large part of Israel, Egypt, Turkey, and Iran. Still, not much was known about ancient Assyria until about two centuries ago when archaeologists rediscovered it. In the mid-19th century, French and British explorers built on the earlier work.
Among them, the British archaeologist Austen Henry Layard made notable discoveries. His interest was piqued by a large mount near Mosul. He thought it marked the site of ancient Nineveh.Instead, it was Nimrud, the ancient Assyrian city of Kalhu, called Calhu in the Bible. Later excavations included the work of such eminent archaeologists as Sir Max Mallowan, husband of mystery writer Agatha Christie. She set her Hercules Poirot novel Murder in Mesopotamia at an Assyrian dig. The 250 objects in Art and Empire comprise several monumental wall reliefs that document important battles and victories.
The King on Campaign (about 875-860 BC) shows a regal Ashurnashirpal II going into battle in Kurdistan. Escape across a river dramatizes an incident in 878 B. When Ashurnashirpal II and his soldiers encountered enemies near the Euphrates River. The relief records Assyrian archers along the river bank shooting at the kings men who are swimming to safety with the aid of inflated animal skins.Wall reliefs such as these adorned the magnificent interiors of the palaces. Carved on gypsum slabs with iron and copper tools, they paneled the bottom half of painted, mud-brick wall. The objects on display also include decorative ivory pieces, furniture fittings, sculptures, metal vessels, jewelry, and cuneiform clay tablets. These are rare pieces unearthed in palaces and temples dating from 9-7th centuries BC along the Tigris River in northern Iraq. They highlight the luxurious cosmopolitan lifestyle enjoyed by royalty. The British Museum possesses the finest collection of Assyrian art outside of Iraq. REVIEW : YOU don't know where to look first, at the scattered masses of dead and dying soldiers, or at the river choked with corpses. But the gruesome scene causes you to feel neither pity nor terror, exactly. What you feel is more like fascination. That is, if you find yourself as engrossed as I was by the exhibition of ancient Assyrian sculptures that has just opened at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (and as illustrated in the accompanying catalog). The exhibition consists of more than 250 works from the collection of the British Museum, and these are anything but dusty relics. Midway through is the great relief of the battle of Til-Tuba, with its wild scene of Assyrians slaughtering Elamites.
Assyrians were supposed to look at the relief and relish their own prowess; enemies were meant to be cowed. Today, when most of us aren't even sure who Elamites were, the impact is closer to amazement at the delicacy, even playfulness, of a composition extolling ruthless conquest. Biblical allusions to their ferocity aside, Assyrians were probably no more vicious than other regimes of their time, scholars say.But even so, their reliefs represent the great artistic expressions of a totalitarian state: immense and overpowering, and at the same time ingenious, surprising, sometimes doleful and supremely sophisticated. You may be scrambling to recall precisely who the Assyrians were. So, in a nutshell: the works from the British Museum date from the apex of Assyrian civilization, from the ninth through the seventh century B. When the Assyrian empire grew to encompass a territory stretching east from the Mediterranean to Iran and north from Thebes in Egypt to the Taurus mountains in Turkey. At the center of it, on the banks of the Tigris river in what is now northern Iraq, were the cities of Nineveh, Nimrud, Khorsabad and Ashur. Ashur had its roots in the third millenium and by the second had become the capital of Assyria. Assyria's kings were flexing their muscles throughout the region, but incursions by Aramaean tribesmen gradually reversed their gains, and at the end of the 10th century, Assyria had temporarily shrunk back to the Tigris and a few outposts. The centuries between Ashur's founding and the close of the second millenium, before the resurgence of Assyria to its greatest political and cultural authority, include the so-called Old and Middle periods of Assyrian history. German archeologists excavating Ashur before World War I unearthed remnants of those early periods. The objects they discovered ended up in the Vorderasiatisches Museum in Berlin, and about 90 works from there are now also on exhibit at the Metropolitan. The Berlin show presents tiny bronze figurines, beautiful ivories, unusual jewelry and larger stone sculptures that have an engagingly, even endearingly, unpolished quality, although the show is of interest primarily because it sets the stage for the British Museum's works from the Late or Neo-Assyrian period of the ninth through seventh centuries B. When the empire reasserted its powers across the Near East. These works include ceramic vases and metal bowls, decorative objects like the well-known ivory plaque of a lioness mauling an African, and figurines of supernatural creatures. There are inscribed tablets from King Ashurbanipal's great library, without which much of the "Gilgamesh" epic wouldn't be known, and the small yet extraordinarily imposing sculpture of a slightly potbellied King Ashurnasirpal II. But the main focus of the show is on the stone reliefs that originally lined the walls, both inside and out, of the huge mud-brick palaces at the capitals of Nineveh and Nimrud.
You probably can summon to mind a general impression of these reliefs. They're monumental, formal, heraldic. Assyrian power was symbolized in them by the depiction of giant figures, often kings, driving chariots, slaying lions and vanquishing armies.What's remarkable, though, is an almost opposite trait, their exceptional refinement. Reliefs like one of a royal lion hunt from the palace at Nimrud, or another of a winged protective spirit in tasseled kilt, also from there, include complex patterns of design: every strand of tassel, every feather, every hair and muscle on man and beast is neatly carved.
There's a visual rhythm, too, in the syncopated arrangement of arms and arrows, for instance, belonging to the two lion hunters in their chariot. You can't call these reliefs charming, to be sure, but they can be amusing. There's one of enemy soldiers fleeing across the Euphrates by floating on animal skins, like ancient life preservers.
There's another, of an attack on an enemy town in which Assyrian soldiers use a ladder to scale a wall. In these reliefs, it's not perspective they were after, and somehow failed to achieve, but a certain narrative clarity: a vocabulary of visual forms that would be unmistakable and evocative, which these quirky works certainly are.Assyrian sculptors took pains to render cypresses and date palms, lilies and grapes, and to identify specific places and objects. The best of them were immensely gifted at portraying animals, not just what the animals looked like but their characters and movements as well. One of the most beautiful of all Assyrian reliefs depicts a lion and lioness in a garden, and the way the artist carves them you can almost feel the softness of their pelts. The peak of this understanding of natural forms is reached in the sculpture of a dying lion from the north palace at Nineveh. The lion, an arrow buried in its back, blood pouring from its mouth as it strains to stay upright, is one of the most sublime and moving images in all of ancient art, so full of pathos, in fact, that you may wonder whether the Assyrians, who made a sport of killing lions, actually sympathized with their victims. But clearly Assyrian art was of a complexity that belied the empire's bloodthirsty reputation. At least the sculptures, beyond their overwhelming monumentality and brutal overtones, have a liveliness, not to say opulence and finesse, that you don't expect to find accompanying carved inscriptions like: So I came upon them and destroyed them utterly and turned their cities into forgotten mounds. Is the art relevant today? It is, for one thing, as a form of expressly political public sculpture. Despite the occasionally repellent bellicose message, Assyrian reliefs are so visually inventive, engrossing, even heartbreaking, that more than 2,600 years later you find yourself transfixed by them.
You probably can't even remember, by contrast, most of what passes for contemporary political art 26 minutes after you've seen it, much less feel transfixed by it. That's because artists now tend to have it backward: Assyrian sculptures prove that what counts in the long run with political art is the art more than the politics, not the other way around.REVIEW : Ashurnasirpal II, Assyria's self-proclaimed "great king, mighty king, king of the universe, " invited 70,000 guests to a 10-day housewarming party in 860 B. To show off his impressive new home at Kalhu. Constructed on 900 acres in northern Assyria--now modern-day Iraq--it was the most magnificent palace the ancient Near East had ever seen. Viewers at the Bostom Museum of Fine Arts will also marvel at the wondrous decorations that West Palace when the exhibition, "Art and Empire: Treasures from Assyria in the British Museum", goes on view in the Gund Gallery at the MFA from September 21, 2008--January 4, 2009. This exhibition (and the accompanying catalog) showcases 250 objects from the British Museum, which has the finest collection of Assyrian art outside of Iraq, found in palaces and temples dating from the 9--7th centuries B. Located at Kalhu (present-day Nimrud) and Nineveh along the Tigris River in northern Iraq. Art and Empire is collaboration between the British Museum and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. The Neo-Assyrian empire -- which emcompassed much of today's Middle East -- represents a fascinating period, and this exhibition highlights the grand palaces, monumental wall reliefs, and rare artifacts of its kings, said Malcolm Rogers, Ann and Graham Gund Director of the MFA.
This spectacular collection also gives visitors the opportunity to explore the power, majesty, and sophistication of an ancient civilization that was little understood until it was rediscovered by archeologists less than two centuries ago. Art and Empire chronicles Assyria's rise from a small landlocked kingdom in northern Mesopotamia to a magnificent empire stretching from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean Sea. Its territories encompassed all of present-day Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, as well as large parts of Israel, Egypt, Turkey, and Iran--the greatest dominion known until that time. The exhibition features artistry created for several great Neo-Assyrian kings, from the first, Ashurnasirpal II 883--859 B.Of Nimrud, to the last, Ashurbanipal 668--631 B. "Art and Empire" brings the grandeur of this ancient Near Eastern realm to life through the display of 30 monumental wall reliefs, as well as numerous cuneiform clay tablets, sculpture--both statues and stelae--and cylinder seals. Works on view range from The king on campaign about 875--860 B. , a regal wall relief of Ashurnasirpal II going to battle in Kurdistan, to Dying Lion around 645 B. , the moving image of the noble beast in the throes of a painful death from an arrow lodged in his back, created during the reign of Ashurbanipal. Among the finest wall relief carvings from this period are those of the lion hunts created for Ashurbanipal's North Palace at Nineveh. These are among the many objects that shed light on the administration of the empire, culture, trade, personal beliefs, and interrelationships between religion, magic, and medicine. Military dress, equipment, and horse trappings illustrating army life, as well as decorative ivory pieces, furniture fittings, and metal vessels showcasing the luxurious cosmopolitan lifestyle enjoyed by royalty, are among the highlights of the exhibition. "The reliefs from Nineveh and Nimrud are a visual encyclopedia of ancient Mesopotamia, one of the cradles of civilization, " said exhibition curator Lawrence Berman (the MFA's Norma Jean Calderwood Senior Curator of Ancient Egyptian, Nubian, and Near Eastern Art). Today we are particularly aware how vulnerable these archaeological sites are in Iraq, and we can appreciate better than ever the efforts of archaeologists and museums past and present to preserve this part of the world's heritage. In the mid 19th century, the full scope of ancient Assyria's grandeur and supremacy was revealed through the efforts of French and British explorers.
Preeminent among them was Austen Henry Layard, a British archeologist, whose interest was piqued by a large mound near Mosul, which he thought was ancient Nineveh. It proved to be Nimrud, the site of the ancient Assyrian city of Kalhu (known as Calhu in the Bible), and his discoveries there and at Nineveh in the 1840s and'50s form the core of Art and Empire.
Later excavations in the region by such notables as Hormuzd Rassam, George Smith, and Sir Max Mallowan, including finds made at Ashur and Khorsabad, complete the picture of Assyrians as mighty warriors and cultured sophisticates whose deeds were recorded in stone. The richness of Assyrian culture is the focus of Art and Empire, which is organized to highlight such subjects as the king and his world of opulence; the palaces and temples of the kingdom; the importance of warfare; royal lion and bull hunts; the significance of magic and religion; the royal fascination with literature and science, and administration and society. The interiors of Ashurnasirpal II's palace at Nimrud, as well as Sennacherib's palace at Nineveh, were magnificently adorned using wall reliefs as paneling along the bottom half of painted, mud-brick walls.Figuring prominently in the exhibition, these gypsum slabs are artfully carved with iron and copper tools. They average in size from about three-feet square, such as Three Protective Spirits about 645--640 B. , to the immense and panoramic, such as The Battle of Til-Tuba about 650 B. -consisting of three panels, each roughly 6 feet square.
All are technically fragments, having been cut down from larger compositions and even entire walls. They shed light not only on techniques of warfare, but also on daily activities, religion, and the luxurious lifestyle enjoyed by Assyrian kings. Brightly colored (faint traces of the original paint are sometimes evident) so that they could be seen in the palace's dimly lit staterooms and living quarters, the wall reliefs feature the kings as fierce warriors, hunters, and worshipers of Assyrian gods.
Cuneiform inscriptions herald their conquests and achievements. Fantastic mythical creatures as well as protective winged genii ward away evil spirits. Such expansive wall reliefs were part of an elaborate decorative plan that glorified the king; they also served as propaganda--proclaiming his awesome majesty while warning of the gruesome death and destruction that would befall his enemies. In addition to mandating a new look for Assyrian palaces, Ashurnasirpal II was responsible for the creation of Assyrian sculpture as we now know it.
Carved in magnesite, an extremely hard stone, the Statue of Ashurnashirpal II 883--859 B. , stands approximately 6 feet tall with its original pedestal, and is the largest and best preserved Assyrian royal sculpture in the round. The ruler appears without a crown, but with long hair and an ornately curled beard. He wears a tunic and fringed shawl, and carries a ceremonial sickle to fight monsters, as well as a mace symbolizing his god-given authority.
Inscribed on his chest is a list of his titles and ancestors. The statue was found in the Temple of Ishtar, where it was placed as a devotional piece.Sculpture, in the form of monumental bas-reliefs, chronicled a king's achievements, particularly on the battlefield, where wars were conducted in the name of the state god, Ashur, from whom the name "Assyria" is derived. Escape across a river about 875--860 B. Dramatizes an incident during the reign of Ashurnasirpal II when, in 878 B.
The king and his soldiers encountered enemies near the Euphrates river. Assyrian archers along the river bank are seen in the relief shooting at the men, who are swimming away to safety with the aid of inflated animal skins. Another work, The Battle of Til-Tuba, dates to the reign of Ashurbanipal. Its depiction of bloody warfare reinforces the Assyrians' reputation for ruthlessness. The Battle of Til-Tuba, a monumental work considered the finest large-scale composition in Assyrian art, shows the Assyrians defeating the Elamites of southern Iran.
Scenes highlight the Elamite king's chariot crashing down, the king's flight from the wreckage, and his capture and beheading, with the severed head being carried back as a trophy to Assyria. The story unfolds amid a backdrop of horrible carnage and the confusion of battle. Overseeing human interactions are the protective spirits and demons associated with Assyrian magic and religion, who guarded the palace against harmful influences. Set of protective spirits about 645--640 B. , from Ashurbanipal's North Palace in Nineveh, features three magical figures who protected the king as a set: a lahmu, or Mesopotamian diety; an ugallu or "Great Lion;" and what appears to be a House God.
Their features conform to precise rules of design and they are shown as though viewed from the front, while their heads are in profile--a standard Assyrian convention for representations of the human body. Clay tablets and amulets inscribed with incantations also were used to deter demonic spirits. Included in Art and Empire are several of these tablets, which also feature magical spells. Amulets, inscribed with incantations, were worn as protective devices. Stone head of Pazuzu and Bronze head of Pazuzu, both from the 8th--7th century, show the mythical evil creature, known as the "scary demon, " whose image could be used for good, especially in the instance of protecting expectant mothers and newborns.
Large wall reliefs also were used to document the kings' preoccupation with hunting. Lion hunts provided an outlet for non-wartime combat, as Assyrians saw lions as savage enemies representing untamed nature. Royal lion hunt about 875--860 B.
Shows the king with bow drawn, ready to shoot once more at a fallen lion about to be trampled upon by the king's horses. At one point in Assyrian history, it was decreed that only royalty could kill lions. The king asserted that he could read the wedge-shaped cuneiform script, and his desire to preserve in one place all of the world's important works of literature and science has been called visionary.
Some of the works collected by Ashurbanipal were 1,000 years old at the time. Included in the king's library were fragments from a copy of the Epic of Creation 7th century B. As well as from The Epic of Gilgamesh 7th century B.
, considered the most important work of Mesopotamian literature. In the 19th and 20th century, more than 20,000 cuneiform tablets were discovered by the British Museum. While stone wall reliefs served as the primary aesthetic enhancement in Assyrian palaces and temples of the 9th --7th century, other objects in Art and Empire highlight the refinement of their decorative arts. Intricately carved ivory pieces often were used to embellish royal furnishings, sometimes accented with semi-precious stones and gold leaf, such as in The Lioness and the African 9th--8th century B.
The panel, which depicts a lion mauling a man in front of a beautifully carved floral background, is most likely Phoenician, acquired through trade or as war bootyThe only other plaque of this kind, one of the treasures of the Iraq Museum in Baghdad, has been missing since 2003. Another ivory panel is Woman at the window 9th --8th century B., which captures the contemplative expression of a woman in Egyptian headdress staring out the window. Intricate carvings also can be found on cylinder seals used by the royal household; when rolled out over clay, the impressions they made served as official seals.
Often crafted from semi-precious stone, the cylinders featured scenes of kings, warriors, gods, as well as animals in combat. Such cylinders were used to form a parure, or jewelry set, commissioned by Layard as a wedding gift for his wife, Enid. After wearing her grand necklace of Assyrian, Akkadian, Babylonian and Achaemenidian cylinders and seals, Lady Layard later wrote in her diary that it was "much admired" by Queen Victoria when the Layards dined with her in 1873.Other decorative items found during excavations by Layard include intricately incised bronze bowls and plates. In 1849, he discovered at the Nimrud site the so-called "Room of the Bronzes" containing hundreds of objects, about 150 of which were sent to the British Museum. Called the Nimrud Bowls, they were most likely acquired as war booty or royal tribute. Bronze also was used to decorate wooden doors erected by Shalmaneser III 858--824 B. At his palace at Balawat. Sixteen embossed and chased bands from the Balawat Gates, approximately 10 inches tall by 70 inches wide, were discovered, documenting in exacting detail various incidents from the king's campaign in 859 B. Two bands are included in the exhibition as are such objects as portraits of Lord Austen and Lady Enid Layard, a copy of Layard's 1854 book, The Monuments of Nineveh, and photographs and descriptions of Assyrian excavations. REVIEW : Im drooling, but not for barbecue or even Thanksgiving dinner.
A feast for the eyes has arrived in Boston, and my own eyes are itching for the view when I visit that fair city in a couple of weeks. Im posting this notice in hopes that other travelers wont make the mistake of visiting Boston without including the Museum of Fine Arts on their itinerary. My official Boston business will be to attend the Society of Biblical Literatures annual meeting, where scores of resume-building presentations designed to be impressively impenetrable will be the order of the day.
I dont want to discount the prospect of choosing from a cornucopia of arcane topics from the academic side of biblical studies but I confess to being more juiced by the anticipation of laying eyes on a a six foot magnesite statue of the Assurnasirpal II, an ambitious leader who transformed the small country of Assyria (in the neighborhood of present-day Mosul, in northern Iraq) into a world power during his reign 883-859 B. Assurnasirpal II, a contemporary of the Israelite kings Omri and Ahab and of Judahs king Jehoshaphat, is not mentioned in the Bible, but his military expeditions took him as far as the Mediterranean Sea, where he claims to have cleansed his weapons.He demanded tribute from Tyre and Sidon, Israels northern neighbors, setting the stage for later kings like Tiglath-Pileser III, Shalmaneser V, and Sargon II to dominate the Levant, enter the biblical picture at many points, and ultimately lay waste the kingdom of Israel. Contemplating actual artifacts and artwork from the impressive palaces built by these ancient kings is more than an artistic exercise: it brings history home. A wall panel called Attack on an Enemy Town commemorates a victory by Tiglath-Pileser III and details the same sort of military strategies that his successors Shalmaneser V and Sargon II used to overthrow Samaria, the capital of Israel, in 722 B. Thousands of laborers were employed in constructing massive new cities and palaces such as Ashurbanipals royal residence in Khorsabad.
Were former Hebrews among those who carried the mud bricks and cut the stone and carved the massive wall panels like Lions in a Garden (below) to decorate Ashurbanipals palace? Ive seen images of these and many more artifacts in textbooks and archaeology magazines, but the thought of standing beside the real deal sets my heart as well as my mind to racing. Most Assyrian artifacts outside of Iraq are in the possession of the British Museum, which is making available 250 incredible objects from its collection for the special exhibit. If you plan to attend the SBL meeting, have other business in Boston, or are looking for a worthy weekend destination, dont miss Art and Empire: Treasures from Assyria in the British Museum - or check out the exhibition catalog.
REVIEW : A visit to the British Museum in London reveals massive installations of the greatest treasures and masterpieces of the Ancient World. It is a by product of 19th century Imperialism when the European powers competed to loot and pillage the vulnerable heritage of once proud but then politically and militarily weak nations. Most notably, during the era of Napoleonic wars, Thomas Bruce, the 7th Earl of Elgin, while ambassador to the Ottoman Court, managed to bribe the Turks who occupied Greece at the time. Today, they are the greatest prize of the British Museum where they are known in infamy as the Elgin Marbles. No less spectacular are vast galleries in the British Museum of stone reliefs particularly the magnificent Royal Lion Hunts of the reign of Ashurbanipal, 645-640 B.
There are also enormous wall reliefs that depict aspects of the brutal art of war. They convey the agit- prop notion of a powerful and ruthless King. These horrific, but poignant, and beautiful images covered the walls of the reception areas of the palaces and were intended to impress and intimidate visiting subjects and ambassadors of distant powers. This was an Imperial art with a specific agenda. The art and design has helped to perpetuate the reputation of the Ancient Assyrians as brutal, ruthless, and militaristic.
While this may have been an accurate assessment they were no worse, one may imagine, than their enemies. There was no Geneva Convention in the ancient world to mandate the proper treatment of prisoners. The term Assyria is derived from the name of the leading deity Ashur.
Originally, a small and landlocked kingdom, located within the confines of the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in modern day Iraq, it expanded to become the largest kingdom of the time. At its peak the territory of Ancient Assyria included all of present day Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon as well as large parts of Israel, Egypt, Turkey and Iran. This came to an end with defeat by the Babylonians in 609 BC. Its great cities were destroyed and abandoned but preserved in Biblical references.The Assyrian Empire became a prototype for the later Babylonian and Persian Empires. These were later conquered and absorbed in the Hellenistic Empire of Alexander the Great which was later taken over by the Roman Empire. In this sense the Ancient Assyrians played an important role in the development of Imperial power, political theory, and administration. The first European traveler to note the location of ancient Nineveh was Rabbi Benjamin of Tudela in the 12th century. For centuries later travelers commented on the ruins across the River Tigris from Mosul.
In 1820-21, Claudius James Rich completed a survey of the ruins. Excavations were begun by Austen Henry Layard who worked in varying locations and campaigns from 1842 to 1851.
He made spectacular finds but ran out of funds and made a personal decision to abandon archaeology. In 1851, he was just 34 when he left the field for a mediocre career in politics. Others would follow resulting in vast acquisitions in the British Museum second only to what remains in situ in Iraq or was looted from the Baghdad Museum during the early stages of Shock and Awe. It is fair to say that, during the era of Imperialism, what did not end up in the British Museum would be looted for the Louvre or by the great German museums.
The Pergamum Museum in East Berlin, for example, displays the Ishtar Gate of Babylon. While the greatest depth of Assyrian art is owned by the British Museum, examples of relief sculptures are fairly common in the Louvre, and American museums including the MFA and Met as well as the "study collections" of the Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College and the Williams College Museum of Art. Given the circumstances of the current Iraq War it is particularly poignant and timely to view artifacts of its ancient culture.
Such exhibitions are infrequent, expensive, and difficult to negotiate. The current exhibition "Art and Empire: Treasures from Assyria in the British Museum" is the first focused on the art of the Ancient Near East at the MFA since 1965.On every level it is truly spectacular. Short of a visit to the British Museum it is the best possible exposure to this beautiful and often brutal aesthetic. While detailed depictions of Royal lion hunts are intended to highlight the bravery and skill of the ruler a modern observer will not fail to note that the lion doesn't have much of a chance. It is rather like shooting fish in a barrel. There are also depictions of the king hunting wild bulls with similar results.
Some of the most enduring and iconic of these images entail the death throes of wounded lions. In the single greatest masterpiece of this exhibition, a small carving, "The Lioness and the African, " Phoenician , 899-700 B. The lion has its fangs in the throat of its victim. Perhaps it is significant that the Lion has prevailed over a foreigner, an African.It is interesting to note the use of dogs, perhaps the ancestors of mastiffs, in the lion hunts. They were used to drive the lions into ever narrowing nets and eventually into pens and cages. There to await being dispatched in a sport of Kings. In the Minoan culture of Ancient Crete a more benign sport, appropriate to that matriarchal culture, was Bull Vaulting.
Both men and women participated and the bull survived. This focus on warfare and death defying blood sports is a signifier of the harsh realities of ancient Mesopotamia.
As the catalogue essays point out there were daunting, social, political and even environmental issues. Climate changes and adversity could prevail for centuries. A failure of crops, and loss of game, and shrinking herds of domestic animals caused constant migration, invasion and conquest. The Assyrians practiced systematic Diaspora in which conquered and hostile peoples were relocated to arid and underdeveloped territories. This had an unanticipated impact of interrupting the dominance of Assyrian culture and language (Akkadian) and spreading other traditions, deities and languages such as Aramaic.
This resulted in an increasingly heterogeneous Empire with many hostile ethnicities that laid the seeds for eventual collapse and conquest. Of course, we see exactly that today as the Bush administration tragically approached the conquest and reunification of Iraq as a single national entity.
While lopping off the head, literally, of one ruler, Saddam Hussein, it was confounded when dozens of other tribal war lords, terrorists, ethic groups, and religious sects struggled for dominance. It is the very chaos that has prevailed in the region for thousands of years. So more than an exhibition of stunning and exquisite works this is a history lesson. Assyrian culture prevailed and flourished precisely because of it its brutal repression of enemies. It was expected that the king mount annual campaigns to raid Babylon for its horses or to hold back invasions of nomads looking for better land to feed their people.
It was a fragile and complex dynamic which, for a time, created enormous wealth, prosperity and power resulting in superb art and architecture. It took the labor of some 45,000 workers to create the ancient city of Kalhu constructed on 900 acres in Northern Assyria.
When it was completed in 860 BC, Ashurnarsirpal II, the self proclaimed "great king, might king, king of the universe" during a ten day house warming entertained 70,000 guests. Today the ancient city is known as Nimrud. Nobody throws parties like that anymore.
REVIEW : Ashurnasirpal II, Assyrias selfproclaimed great king, mighty king, king of the universe, invited 70,000 guests to a 10-day housewarming party in 860 B. Constructed on 900 acres in northern Assyria, now modern-day Iraq, it was the most magnificent palace the ancient Near East had ever seen. Almost three thousand years later, visitors to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), will also marvel at the wondrous decorations that adorned Ashurnasirpal IIs North-West Palace when the exhibition, Art and Empire: Treasures from Assyria in the British Museum, goes on view in the Gund Gallery at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. This exhibition showcases 250 objects from the British Museum, which has the finest collection of Assyrian art outside of Iraq, found in palaces and temples dating from the 97th centuries B.Art and Empire is a collaboration between the British Museum and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. The Neo-Assyrian empirewhich encompassed much of todays Middle East represents a fascinating period, and this exhibition highlights the grand palaces, monumental wall reliefs, and rare artifacts of its kings, said Malcolm Rogers, Ann and Graham Gund Director of the MFA. "Art and Empire" chronicles Assyrias rise from a small landlocked kingdom in northern Mesopotamia to a magnificent empire stretching from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean Sea. Its territories encompassed all of present-day Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, as well as large parts of Israel, Egypt, Turkey, and Iranthe greatest dominion known until that time. The exhibition features artistry created for several great Neo-Assyrian kings, from the first, Ashurnasirpal II 883859 B. Of Nimrud, to the last, Ashurbanipal 668631 B.
"Art and Empire" brings the grandeur of this ancient Near Eastern realm to life through the display of 30 monumental wall reliefs, as well as numerous cuneiform clay tablets, sculptureboth in the round and in reliefand cylinder seals. Works on view range from The king on campaign about 875860 B. , the moving image of a noble beast shot by an arrow, in the throes of a painful death, created during the reign of Ashurbanipal. Among the finest wall relief carvings from this period are those of the lion hunts created for Ashurbanipals North Palace at Nineveh.These are some of the many objects that shed light on the administration of the empire, culture, trade, personal beliefs, and interrelationships among religion, magic, and medicine. The reliefs from Nineveh and Nimrud are a visual encyclopedia of ancient Mesopotamia, one of the cradles of civilization, said exhibition curator Lawrence Berman (the MFAs Norma Jean Calderwood Senior Curator of Ancient Egyptian, Nubian, and Near Eastern Art). Today we are particularly aware how vulnerable these archaeological sites are in Iraq, and we can appreciate better than ever the efforts of archaeologists and museums past and present to preserve this part of the worlds heritage. In the mid 19th century, the full scope of ancient Assyrias grandeur and supremacy was revealed through the efforts of French and British explorers. It proved to be Nimrud, the site of the ancient Assyrian city of Kalhu (known as Calhu in Bible references to Assyria), and his discoveries there and at Nineveh in the 1840s and 50s form the core of Art and Empire. The richness of Assyrian culture is the subject of "Art and Empire", which is organized to highlight such themes as King and His Court, Palaces and Temples, Assyria at War, Assyria Revealed, Administration and Culture, Magic and Religion, and the King in Recreation. The focal point of the Gund Gallerys first room is the king himself, represented by a statue of King Ashurnasirpal II, surrounded by images of his courtiers and bodyguardboth human soldiers and divine protective spiritsevoking the drama and majesty of the kings throne room. A look at palace life follows, featuring decorative objects, furniture fittings, and an intricately patterned stone carpet. The battle room includes large wall reliefs that highlight the kings dominance in warfare, and adjacent to it is a presentation of archival materials documenting the excavation of ancient Assyria. Administration of the empire and Assyrian culture are examined in displays of cuneiform writing on clay tablets featuring public documents, scientific tracts, and works of literature, as well as royal seals.
The importance of magic and religion in Assyrian society is addressed in an adjacent room. A special display case contains the exhibitions most famous piece, the carved ivory furniture fitting, The Lioness and the African 9th8th century B. It provides entrée to the exhibitions final room, where dramatic wall reliefs showcase royal recreation as seen in the lion and bull hunts that occupied the king during respites from war.
Wall reliefs such as these adorned the magnificent interiors of Ashurnasirpal IIs palace at Nimrud, as well as Sennacheribs palace at Nineveh, where they were used as paneling along the bottom half of painted, mud-brick walls. Figuring prominently in the exhibition, these gypsum slabs were artfully carved with iron and copper tools. They average in size from about three-feet square, such as Three Protective Spirits about 645640 B. , to the immense and panoramic The Battle of Til-Tuba about 650 B.
Composed of three panels, each roughly 6 feet square. Brightly colored (faint traces of the original paint are sometimes evident) so that they could be seen in the palaces dimly lit staterooms and living quarters, the wall reliefs feature the kings as fierce warriors, hunters, and worshipers of Assyrian gods. Such expansive wall reliefs were part of an elaborate decorative plan that glorified the king; they also served as propagandaproclaiming his awesome majesty while warning of the gruesome death and destruction that would befall his enemies.
Carved in magnesite, an extremely hard stone, the Statue of Ashurnashirpal II 883859 B. Sculpture, in the form of monumental bas-reliefs, chronicled a kings achievements, particularly on the battlefield, where wars were conducted in the name of the state god, Ashur, from whom the name Assyria is derived. Escape across a river about 875860 B. Another work, The Battle of Til-Tuba, dates to the reign of Ashurbanipal and its depiction of bloody warfare reinforces the Assyrians reputation for ruthlessness.
Considered the finest large-scale composition in Assyrian art, the monumental relief shows the Assyrians defeating the Elamites of southern Iran. Scenes highlight the Elamite kings chariot crashing down, the kings flight from the wreckage, and his capture and beheading, with the severed head being carried back as a trophy to Assyria. Set of protective spirits about 645640 B. , from Ashurbanipals North Palace in Nineveh, is a wall relief of three magical figures who protected the king as a set: a lahmu, or Mesopotamian deity; an ugallu or Great Lion; and what appears to be a House God.Their features conform to precise rules of design and they are carved as though viewed from the front, while their heads are in profilea standard Assyrian convention for representations of the human body. Clay tablets and amulets inscribed with magical spells to deter demonic spirits are included in Art and Empire, as are amulets inscribed with incantations worn as protective devices. Stone head of Pazuzu and Bronze head of Pazuzu, both from the 8th7th century, show the mythical evil creature, known as the scary demon, whose image could be used for good, especially in the instance of protecting expectant mothers and newborns. Large wall reliefs also were used to document the kings preoccupation with bull and lion hunting.
Royal lion hunt about 875860 B. Shows the king with bow drawn, ready to shoot once more at a fallen lion about to be trampled by the kings horses. In the 19th and 20th century, more than 20,000 cuneiform tablets were excavated by the British Museum.Ashurbanipal asserted that he could read the wedge-shaped cuneiform script, and his desire to preserve in one place all of the worlds important works of literature and science has been called visionary. Some of those collected by Ashurbanipal were 1,000 years old at the time. Included in the kings library were numerous copies of The Epic of Gilgamesh 7th century B.
One tablet of Gilgamesh is featured in the Administration and Culture section of Art and Empire, as are intricately carved cylinder seals used by the royal household; when rolled out over clay, the impressions they made served as official seals. Often crafted from semi-precious stone, the cylinders featured scenes of kings, warriors, gods, as well as animals. After wearing her grand necklace of Assyrian, Akkadian, Babylonian, and Achaemenian seals, Lady Layard later wrote in her diary that it was much admired by Queen Victoria when the Layards dined with her in 1873.While stone wall reliefs served as the primary aesthetic enhancement in Assyrian palaces and temples of the 9th 7th century, other objects in Art and Empire highlight the refinement of their decorative arts. Intricately carved ivory pieces often were used to embellish royal furnishings, sometimes accented with semi-precious stones and gold leaf, such as in The Lioness and the African. The panel, which depicts a lion mauling a man in front of a beautifully carved floral background, is most likely Phoenician, acquired through trade or as war booty. The only other plaque of this kind, one of the treasures of the Iraq Museum in Baghdad, has been missing since 2003.
Another ivory panel is Woman at the window 9th 8th century B. In 1849, he discovered at the Nimrud site the so-called Room of the Bronzes containing hundreds of objects, about 150 of which were sent to the British Museum. Bronze also was used to decorate wooden doors erected by Shalmaneser III 858824 B. Sixteen embossed and chased bands from the Balawat Gates, approximately 10 inches tall by 70 inches wide, were discovered, documenting in exacting detail various incidents from the kings campaign in 859 B. Two of the Balawat Gate bands are included in the exhibition.
Also on display in Art and Empire are archival materials that offer a fascinating look at the excavations of Assyrian palaces, temples, and treasures by British archeologists, in particular, Austen Henry Layard. Featured are portraits of Lord and Lady Layard, a copy of Layards 1854 book, The Monuments of Nineveh, and photographs and descriptions of Assyrian excavations. Discoveries made in this ancient land created a sensation back at home in England, where the public clamored for all things evocative of this culture.The exhibition includes an Assyrian style revivalist bangle bracelet from a private collection made of 18k gold and enamel. It incorporates in its design a colossal gateway figure with a human head and winged-lions body flanked by protective genii, which found expression in all forms of the decorative arts in the late 19th century. REVIEW : Assyria's brutal past is unearthed in a powerful exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts. For the rest of this year the Museum of Fine Arts will be the custodian of one of the most exquisite and evocative objects in all of art history.
It is a small ivory carving of a lioness mauling a young man. If it sounds gruesome, believe me, it's not - at least, not compared to some of the other works on display in the stunning exhibition Art and Empire: Treasures From Assyria in the British Museum. Not far from our little ivory, for instance, you will see a speared lion vomiting blood, humans impaled on long poles, and no end of severed heads.
But the lioness mauling the young man has a very different feeling. It has an eerie quality of calm about it that put me in mind of Dr. Livingstone's description of being savaged by a lion in Africa: "It causes, " he wrote, a kind of dreaminess, in which there was no sense of pain nor feeling of terror. It was like what patients under chloroform describe who see all the operation but feel not the knife. Stranger still is that this ivory plaque is not just serene: It is also erotic.Look at the way the lioness's left arm wraps itself around the man's shoulder; at the way her breast cleaves to his; and at the young man's pose, which could easily be interpreted as ecstatic surrender. The carving's erotic effect is reinforced by the sumptuousness of its materials and the delicacy of its setting.
The man, an African, is wearing a kilt covered in gold leaf, and the tight curls of his hair have gilt high lights. In the background is a delicate configuration of Egyptian lotus and papyrus flowers covered in gold leaf and inlaid with lapis lazuli and carnelian. The forehead of the lioness also supports a small disc of lapis lazuli.Almost everything else in this show is about subordination and control. But this ivory plaque is more subtle and ambivalent. It has something frighteningly intimate about it, suggesting a sensuous unity of man and beast even as the one is in the process of being devoured by the other. We may feel a similar, no less haunting and ambivalent sense of intimacy with the art and culture of ancient Assyria, to which this show provides a splendid introduction. I remember visiting the British Museum during the first days of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, disbelieving my eyes as they gazed upon carved reliefs showing prisoners being taken captive outside what is now Basra and enemy combatants hiding in reeds: Exactly the same scenes were being played out on the TV news at night. Between the ninth and seventh centuries B. The Assyrians created a vast empire stretching out from fabled cities like Nimrud, Nineveh, and Ashur on the Tigris, in present-day Iraq. Their civilization derived from Babylon and, in its imperial scope, it became the template for the mighty Persians and, later, the Romans and the British. Despite mentions in the Bible and "The Histories" of Herodotus, virtually nothing was known about the Assyrians until the middle of the 19th century, when the great British archeologist Austen Henry Layard uncovered spectacular ruins from ancient palaces at Khorsabad (near present-day Mosul) and, most importantly, Nimrud in the 1840s and 1850s. Layard's discoveries, which included miles and miles of bas reliefs, carved from gypsum and made to adorn the mud brick walls of Assyrian palaces, generated great excitement back in Victorian Britain.
This show, from the holdings of the British Museum, comes to Boston after a world tour that has lasted (with brief interruptions) more than a decade. Much has happened in the intervening years, including the invasion of Iraq, which triggered large-scale looting of archeological sites in Iraq and the ransacking of the Iraq Museum in Baghdad. The only other known version of the "The Lioness and the African, " for instance, belonged to the Iraq Museum until it was stolen. These objects may be well traveled, but they have been freshly and dramatically installed by the MFA's curator, Lawrence M.The first room is set up to evoke a formal welcome to an Assyrian palace (although the objects are from different cities and different periods). A rare in-the-round statue of King Ashurnasirpal II is flanked by relief carvings of courtiers and then, farther back, soldiers and protective spirits.
Immediately, one marvels at the Assyrians' flair for linear stylization. The long hair favored by Assyrian men, the tight, repeating patterns of fabric, and the musculature of both animal and human figures are rendered crisply and with mesmerizing exactitude. The second room, painted a pale, Prada-showroom green, uses two-sided glass display cases to show bowls, furniture fittings, and other fragments in ivory, bronze, stone, and glazed terracotta. Not only are we given glimpses into the sumptuousness of palace life, we note the internationalism of the Assyrian period. The bowls with Egyptian-style motifs or Phoenician designs seem as cosmopolitan as the carving of the lion and the young man, which was made for an Assyrian patron by a Phoenician craftsman, using materials from Central Asia and (probably) India.It's not until the third room that we are treated to the brutal scenes of warfare and subjugation on massive stone panels that are so closely associated with Assyrian art, and that gave the Assyrians a reputation for remorseless brutality. Whether or not one has a taste for depictions of violence (and I must admit, the schoolboy in me thrills to these carvings), there's no denying the originality of these works. In fact, they constitute the first true narrative art, for here, the Assyrians devised ways of showing how one incident led to the next.
Effectively, they were the first cartoon strips. A great example comes in the show's final room, where a large panel divided into three horizontal strips shows, from right to left along the top strip, a crouching male lion emerging from a cage, a lion being struck by an arrow as it prepares to leap, and a lion being struck by a shield in midair, its body fully extended. It's obvious that we are supposed to read the three lions as one, at different moments in the sequence. One idea about what prompted the Assyrians' invention of narrative art is that continuous warfare with neighbors quickened and clarified their awareness of time and space.
Sure enough, among the carved panels are some tremendous battle sequences. The most dazzling, and at first bewildering, is known as the Battle of Til-Tuba. It shows a scene of absolute pandemonium: bodies, weapons, and severed heads everywhere. The scenes do not proceed by linear sequence, nor are they divided into boxes like modern cartoons.But with the help of a nearby diagram we can unravel an entire story revolving around the capture and beheading of an Elamite king and his son. Other sections of the show demonstrate the extensive learning and literature preserved by Assyria's kings (as well as their obsessive record-keeping), and the role of the gods and magic. A fascinating side room illustrates aspects of the rediscovery of Assyrian art and culture in the 19th century.
But it's lions, once again, that capture the imagination toward the end of the show. Mesopotamian lions, which are now extinct, were smaller than African lions, but they remained formidable. To Assyrians they represented the chaos of nature. It was the king's responsibility to protect his people from them - hence the symbolic importance of the lion hunt (not really a hunt at all; more like a carefully stage-managed slaughter).In the relief called "Royal Lion Hunt, " made between 875 and 860 B. You notice the rhythmic linear outlines of the horses and charioteers, and the stylized rendering of the wounded lion. Its clenched sinews and snarling jowls have been transformed into something resembling a diagram. If you compare it to the famous panel made more than 200 years later called "The Dying Lion, " you notice a much more naturalistic style of rendering. The lion, vomiting blood, strains all of its muscles in an attempt to stay upright, and its claws grip the ground. It's a truly terrible image. The Assyrian empire collapsed before its artists took this kind of naturalism any further. Somehow, knowing this makes the image of this dying, agonized lion seem all the more poignant. The exhibition consists of some 250 objects, ranging from monumental wall reliefs to cuneiform tablets, cylinder seals, and decorative ivory pieces, all from the Assyrian Empire 9th through 7th century B. By way of the British Museum, which boasts the largest collection of Assyrian art outside of Iraq. When the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, the National Museum in Baghdad was looted and the sacking of thousands of archeological sites in modern day Iraq (ancient Assyria) reportedly continues to this day, so I guess posterity should be grateful that British archeologists looted Iraqs cultural patrimony back in the 19th century, dispersing whole palaces to collections in Europe and the United States. Whenever I want an aesthetic touchstone to the war in Iraq, for instance, I just drive by the Bowdoin College Museum of Art in Brunswick, Maine, where the Assyrian reliefs that are the most valuable works of art in Maine are on constant lighted display in the museums windows. The Assyrian wall reliefs at Bowdoin come from the palace of King Ashurnasirpal II 883-859 B. As do many of objects in Art and Empire.
Today, we think of Mosul as a battleground in the war against terror, but back in the 19th century archeologists discovered a treasure trove of artifacts there from the ancient Assyrian city of Kalhu. As difficult as it may be for us to imagine, the region of the Middle East that now threatens the peace and stability of the world was, in fact, Mesopotamia, the cradle of urban civilization. The Assyrian empire that once encompassed all of modern Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon as well as large parts of Israel, Egypt, Turkey, and Iran was a rich culture of palaces and temples, royalty and military might, nascent science and religion, all now expressed mutely in stone carvings and clay tablets with inscrutable (to the uninitiated) markings. The Assyrians fell to the Babylonians in 609 B.And the history of the region has been one of violent upheavals just about ever since. That a once proud civilization could have so totally devolved into the tribal and factional chaos that plagues the region today is a cautionary tale for all world powers something worth bearing in mind as you wander thoughtfully through the hallowed halls of the Museum of Fine Arts gazing upon the scattered ruins of empire. On a human level, "Art and Empire" is a stretch for those of us who know so little of the ancient past. The noble, stony statue of King Ashurnasirpal II, for example, was carved by artisans now dust.
They labored in the eternal desert heat, beneath our same sun, to create a likeness of their lordship. I think of their thirst, of the calluses on their hands, of who they thought they were. The sculptors of Ashurnasirpal II could not have imagined their work displayed 3,000 years later in a climate-controlled gallery in a world they didnt even know existed any more than we can imagine the MFA collection dispersed 3,000 years from now to a museum on Mars.
REVIEW : Kings, Genies, and Winged-Bulls. "Art and Empire" is a good-looking catalog of Assyrian artifacts in the British Museum. The book begins with chapters on the discovery, history and civilization of Assyria and then come eleven chapters on the museum collections, some of which are: Reliefs and Sculptures; Palaces and Temples; Magic and Religion and Literature and Science.Each begins with a nice introduction including the history of the finds. The strength of the catalog is of course the photos of the discoveries, drawings and paintings. A very informative and attractive production. REVIEW : Wonderful Book on Assyrian Art. We enjoyed reading it and looking at the pictures of Assyrian artifacts. REVIEW : Excellent book, with plenty of Archeological photos.
REVIEW : Most of the works in this exhibition were excavated in the middle of the nineteenth century, but Austen Henry Layard was only the first of many archaeologists to dig in Assyria. In the 1950s Max Mallowan (husband of the mystery writer Agatha Christie) led archaeologists from the British School in Iraq on a dig that revisited many of the sites at Nineveh first explored by Layard. The expedition yielded a better understanding of Nineveh's layout and its historical development, but Mallowan found extraordinary objects, too. Many artifacts were transported to Europe and North America in the first half of the twentieth century, but after the 1950s nearly all newly excavated archaeological material remained in Iraq, primarily at the Iraq Museum in Baghdad.Exploration continued, sometimes with spectacular results, such as the discovery of royal tombs at Nimrud in 1988 through 1990. Unfortunately the last two decades have been troubled for the preservation of Iraq's past. The Gulf War of 1991 and the subsequent decade and a half of sanctions disrupted archaeological work tremendously. Invasion, the state archaeological service was in disarray and the Iraq Museum mostly closed. The new war brought catastrophe.
In the chaos following the overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime, the Iraq Museum was looted (roughly eight thousand objects are still missing), and sites were ravaged by uncontrolled digging. The extent of looting varies: some sites have barely been touched; others nearly destroyed. The situation may now be stabilizing as the illicit market for artifacts reaches saturation, but the damage has been done and is so extensive that in 2006 the World Monuments Fund placed the entire nation of Iraq on its list of most endangered sites. REVIEW : Assyria was the region in the Near East which, under the Neo-Assyrian Empire, reached from Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq) through Asia Minor (modern Turkey) and down through Egypt. The empire began modestly at the city of Ashur (known as Subartu to the Sumerians), located in Mesopotamia north-east of Babylon, where merchants who traded in Anatolia became increasingly wealthy, and that affluence allowed for the growth and prosperity of the city.
According to one interpretation of passages in the biblical Book of Genesis, Ashur was founded by a man named Ashur son of Shem, son of Noah, after the Great Flood, who then went on to found the other important Assyrian cities. A more likely account is that the city was named Ashur after the deity of that name sometime in the 3rd millennium B. The same god's name is the origin for "Assyria". The biblical version of the origin of Ashur appears later in the historical record after the Assyrians had accepted Christianity, and so it is thought to be a re-interpretation of their early history which was more in keeping with their belief system.The Assyrians were a Semitic people who originally spoke and wrote Akkadian before the easier to use Aramaic language became more popular. Historians have divided the rise and fall of the Assyrian Empire into three periods: The Old Kingdom, The Middle Empire, and The Late Empire (also known as the Neo-Assyrian Empire), although it should be noted that Assyrian history continued on past that point, and there are still Assyrians living in the regions of Iran and Iraq, and elsewhere, in the present day. The Assyrian Empire is considered the greatest of the Mesopotamian empires due to its expanse and the development of the bureaucracy and military strategies which allowed it to grow and flourish. Although the city of Ashur existed from the 3rd millennium B.
The extant ruins of that city date to 1900 B. Which is now considered the date the city was founded.
According to early inscriptions, the first king was Tudiya, and those who followed him were known as kings who lived in tents suggesting a pastoral, rather than urban, community. Ashur was certainly an important centre of commerce even at this time, however, even though its precise form and structure is unclear. The destruction of the great Assyrian cities was so complete that, within two generations of the empires fall, no one knew where the cities had been. Erishum I built the temple of Ashur on the site in circa 1900/1905 B.
And this has come to be the accepted date for the founding of an actual city on the site although, obviously, some form of city must have existed there prior to that date. The historian Wolfram von Soden writes, Because of a dearth of sources, very little is known of Assyria in the third millenniumAssyria did belong to the Empire of Akkad at times, as well as to the Third Dynasty of Ur. Our main sources for this period are the many thousand Assyrian letters and documents from the trade colonies in Cappadocia, foremost of which was Kanesh (modern Kultepe).
The trade colony of Karum Kanesh (the Port of Kanesh) was among the most lucrative centres for trade in the ancient Near East and definitely the most important for the city of Ashur. The historian Paul Kriwaczek notes: For several generations the trading houses of Karum Kanesh flourished, and some became extremely wealthy ancient millionaires. However not all business was kept within the family. Ashur had a sophisticated banking system and some of the capital that financed the Anatolian trade came from long-term investments made by independent speculators in return for a contractually specified proportion of the profits.
There is not much about todays commodity markets that an old Assyrian would not quickly recognize. The wealth generated from trade in Karum Kanesh provided the people of Ashur with the stability and security necessary for the expansion of the city and so laid the foundation for the rise of the empire. Trade with Anatolia was equally important in providing the Assyrians with raw materials from which they were able to perfect the craft of iron working. The iron weapons of the Assyrian military would prove a decisive advantage in the campaigns which would conquer the entire region of the Near East.
Before that could happen, however, the political landscape needed to change. The people known as the Hurrians and the Hatti held dominance in the region of Anatolia, and Ashur, to the north in Mesopotamia, remained in the shadow of these more powerful civilizations. In addition to the Hatti, there were the people known as the Amorites who were steadily settling in the area and acquiring more land and resources.
Drove the Amorites out and secured the borders of Assyria, claiming Ashur as the capital of his kingdom. The Hatti continued to remain dominant in the region until they were invaded and assimilated by the Hittites in circa 1700. Long before that time, however, they ceased to prove as major a concern as the city to the southwest which was slowly gaining power: Babylon. The Amorites were a growing power in Babylon for at least 100 years when the Amorite king named Sin Muballit took the throne, and, in circa 1792 B. His son King Hammurabi ascended to rule and subjugated the lands of the Assyrians.
It is around this same time that trade between Ashur and Karum Kanesh ended, as Babylon now rose to prominence in the region and took control of trade with Assyria. Soon after Hammurabis death in 1750 B. The Babylonian Empire fell apart.Assyria again attempted to assert control over the region surrounding Ashur, but it seems as though the kings of this period were not up to the task. Adasi was able to secure the region and his successors continued his policies but were unable or unwilling to engage in expansion of the kingdom. The vast Kingdom of Mitanni rose from the area of eastern Anatolia and now held power in the region of Mesopotamia; Assyria fell under their control. Invasions by the Hittites under King Suppiluliuma I broke Mitanni power and replaced the kings of Mitanni with Hittite rulers at the same time that the Assyrian king Eriba Adad I was able to gain influence at the Mitanni (now mainly Hittite) court. The Assyrians now saw an opportunity to assert their own autonomy and began to expand their kingdom outward from Ashur to the regions previously held by the Mitanni. Defeated the remaining Mitanni forces under the Hittite commanders and took significant portions of the region. Who expanded the Assyrian Empire to the north and south, driving out the Hittites and conquering their major strongholds.
Adad Nirari I is the first Assyrian king about whom anything is known with certainty, because he left inscriptions of his achievements which have survived mostly intact. Further, letters between the Assyrian king and the Hittite rulers have also survived and make it clear that, initially, the Assyrian rulers were not taken seriously by those of other nations in the region until they proved themselves too powerful to resist. The historian Will Durant comments on the rise of the Assyrian Empire writing: If we should admit the imperial principle that it is good, for the sake of spreading law, security, commerce and peace, that many states should be brought, by persuasion or force, under the authority of one government then we should have to concede to Assyria the distinction of having established in western Asia a larger measure and area of order and prosperity than that region of the earth had ever, to our knowledge, enjoyed before.Adad Nirari I completely conquered the Mitanni and began what would become standard policy under the Assyrian Empire: the deportation of large segments of the population. With Mitanni under Assyrian control, Adad Nirari I decided the best way to prevent any future uprising was to remove the former occupants of the land and replace them with Assyrians. This should not be understood, however, as a cruel treatment of captives.
Writing on this, the historian Karen Radner states, The deportees, their labour and their abilities were extremely valuable to the Assyrian state, and their relocation was carefully planned and organised. We must not imagine treks of destitute fugitives who were easy prey for famine and disease: the deportees were meant to travel as comfortably and safely as possible in order to reach their destination in good physical shape. Whenever deportations are depicted in Assyrian imperial art, men, women and children are shown travelling in groups, often riding on vehicles or animals and never in bonds. There is no reason to doubt these depictions as Assyrian narrative art does not otherwise shy away from the graphic display of extreme violence. Deportees were carefully chosen for their abilities and sent to regions which could make the most of their talents.Not everyone in the conquered populace was chosen for deportation and families were never separated. The historian Gwendolyn Leick writes of Adad Nirari I that, the prosperity and stability of his reign allowed him to engage in ambitious building projects, building city walls and canals and restoring temples. He also provided a foundation for empire upon which his successors would build. His son and successor Shalmaneser I completed the destruction of the Mitanni and absorbed their culture. According to Leick, Tukulti-Ninurta I was one of the most famous Assyrian soldier kings who campaigned incessantly to maintain Assyrian possessions and influence.
He reacted with spectacular cruelty to any sign of revolt. He was also very interested in acquiring and preserving the knowledge and cultures of the peoples he conquered and developed a more sophisticated method of choosing which sort of individual, or community, would be relocated and to which specific location.
Scribes and scholars, for example, were chosen carefully and sent to urban centers where they could help catalogue written works and help with the bureaucracy of the empire. A literate man, he composed the epic poem chronicling his victory over the Kassite king of Babylon and subjugation of that city and the areas under its influence and wrote another on his victory over the Elamites. He defeated the Hittites at the Battle of Nihriya in circa 1245 B. Which effectively ended Hittite power in the region and began the decline of their civilization. When Babylon made incursions into Assyrian territory, Tukulti-Ninurta I punished the city severely by sacking it, plundering the sacred temples, and carrying the king and a portion of the populace back to Assur as slaves.
With his plundered wealth, he renovated his grand palace in the city he had built across from Assur, which he named Kar-Tukulti-Ninurta, to which he seems to have retreated once the tide of popular opinion turned against him. His desecration of the temples of Babylon was seen as an offense against the gods (as the Assyrians and Babylonians shared many of the same deities) and his sons and court officials rebelled against him for putting his hand on the goods of the gods. He was assassinated in his palace, probably by one of his sons, Ashur-Nadin-Apli, who then took the throne.Following the death of Tukulti-Ninurta I, the Assyrian Empire fell into a period of stasis in which it neither expanded nor declined. While the whole of the Near East fell into a'dark age' following the so-called Bronze Age Collapse of circa 1200 B. Ashur and its empire remained relatively intact. Unlike other civilizations in the region which suffered a complete collapse, the Assyrians seem to have experienced something closer to simply a loss of forward momentum. The empire certainly cannot be said to have'stagnated', because the culture, including the emphasis on military campaign and the value of conquest, continued; however, there was no significant expansion of the empire and civilization as it was under Tukulti-Ninurta I. According to Leick: He was one of the most important Assyrian kings of this period, largely because of his wide-ranging military campaigns, his enthusiasm for building projects, and his interest in cuneiform tablet collections. He campaigned widely in Anatolia, where he subjugated numerous peoples, and ventured as far as the Mediterranean Sea. In the capital city, Assur, he built a new palace and established a library, which held numerous tablets on all kinds of scholarly subjects. He also issued a legal decree, the so-called Middle Assyrian Laws, and wrote the first royal annals. He was also one of the first Assyrian kings to commission parks and gardens stocked with foreign and native trees and plants.
Tiglath Pileser I revitalized the economy and the military through his campaigns, adding more resources and skilled populations to the Assyrian Empire. Literacy and the arts flourished, and the preservation initiative the king took regarding cuneiform tablets would serve as the model for the later ruler, Ashurbanipals, famous library at Nineveh. Upon Tiglath Pileser Is death, his son, Asharid-apal-ekur, took the throne and reigned for two years during which time he continued his fathers policies without alteration.
He was succeeded by his brother Ashur-bel-Kala who initially reigned successfully until challenged by a usurper who threw the empire into civil war. Although the rebellion was crushed and the participants executed, the turmoil allowed certain regions that had been tightly held by Assyria to break free and among these was the area known as Eber Nari (modern day Syria, Lebanon, and Israel), which had been particularly important to the empire because of the well-established sea ports along the coast. The Aramaeans now held Eber Nari and began making incursions from there into the rest of the empire. At this same time, the Amorites of Babylon and the city of Mari asserted themselves and tried to break the hold of the empire.The kings who followed Ashur-bel-Kala (among them, Shalmaneser II and Tiglath Pileser II) managed to maintain the core of the empire around Ashur but were unsuccessful in re-taking Eber Nari or driving the Aramaeans and Amorites completely from the borders. The empire steadily shrank through repeated attacks from outside and rebellions from within and, with no king strong enough to revitalize the military, Assyria again entered a period of stasis in which they held what they could of the empire together but could do nothing else. The Late Empire (also known as the Neo-Assyrian Empire) is the one most familiar to students of ancient history as it is the period of the largest expansion of the empire. It is also the era which most decisively gives the Assyrian Empire the reputation it has for ruthlessness and cruelty.
The historian Kriwaczek writes: Assyria must surely have among the worst press notices of any state in history. Babylon may be a byname for corruption, decadence and sin but the Assyrians and their famous rulers, with terrifying names like Shalmaneser, Tiglath-Pileser, Sennacherib, Esarhaddon and Ashurbanipal, rate in the popular imagination just below Adolf Hitler and Genghis Khan for cruelty, violence, and sheer murderous savagery. This reputation is further noted by the historian Simon Anglim and others. Anglim writes: While historians tend to shy away from analogies, it is tempting to see the Assyrian Empire, which dominated the Middle East from 900-612 BC, as a historical forebear of Nazi Germany: an aggressive, murderously vindictive regime supported by a magnificent and successful war machine. As with the German army of World War II, the Assyrian army was the most technologically and doctrinally advanced of its day and was a model for others for generations afterwards.The Assyrians were the first to make extensive use of iron weaponry [and] not only were iron weapons superior to bronze, but could be mass-produced, allowing the equipping of very large armies indeed. While the reputation for decisive, ruthless, military tactics is understandable, the comparison with the Nazi regime is less so.
Unlike the Nazis, the Assyrians treated the conquered people they relocated well (as already addressed above) and considered them Assyrians once they had submitted to central authority. There was no concept of a'master race' in Assyrian policies; everyone was considered an asset to the empire whether they were born Assyrian or were assimilated into the culture. Kriwaczek notes, In truth, Assyrian warfare was no more savage than that of other contemporary states.Nor, indeed, were the Assyrians notably crueler than the Romans, who made a point of lining their roads with thousands of victims of crucifixion dying in agony (209). The only fair comparison between Germany in WWII and the Assyrians, then, is the efficiency of the military and the size of the army, and this same comparison could be made with ancient Rome.
These massive armies still lay in the future, however, when the first king of the Neo-Assyrian Empire came to power. The rise of the king Adad Nirari II circa 912-891 B. Brought the kind of revival Assyria needed. Adad Nirari II re-conquered the lands which had been lost, including Eber Nari, and secured the borders. The defeated Aramaeans were executed or deported to regions within the heartland of Assyria.
He also conquered Babylon but, learning from the mistakes of the past, refused to plunder the city and, instead, entered into a peace agreement with the king in which they married each others daughters and pledged mutual loyalty. Their treaty would secure Babylon as a powerful ally, instead of a perennial problem, for the next 80 years. The kings who followed Adad Nirari II continued the same policies and military expansion.
Tukulti Ninurta II 891-884 B. Expanded the empire to the north and gained further territory toward the south in Anatolia, while Ashurnasirpal II 884-859 B. Consolidated rule in the Levant and extended Assyrian rule through Canaan.
Their most common method of conquest was through siege warfare which would begin with a brutal assault on the city. Anglim writes: More than anything else, the Assyrian army excelled at siege warfare, and was probably the first force to carry a separate corps of engineersAssault was their principal tactic against the heavily fortified cities of the Near East. They developed a great variety of methods for breaching enemy walls: sappers were employed to undermine walls or to light fires underneath wooden gates, and ramps were thrown up to allow men to go over the ramparts or to attempt a breach on the upper section of wall where it was the least thick.Mobile ladders allowed attackers to cross moats and quickly assault any point in defences. These operations were covered by masses of archers, who were the core of the infantry. But the pride of the Assyrian siege train were their engines. These were multistoried wooden towers with four wheels and a turret on top and one, or at times two, battering rams at the base. Advancements in military technology were not the only, or even the primary, contribution of the Assyrians as, during this same time, they made significant progress in medicine, building on the foundation of the Sumerians and drawing on the knowledge and talents of those who had been conquered and assimilated.
Ashurnasirpal II made the first systematic lists of plants and animals in the empire and brought scribes with him on campaign to record new finds. Schools were established throughout the empire but were only for the sons of the wealthy and nobility. Women were not allowed to attend school or hold positions of authority even though, earlier in Mesopotamia, women had enjoyed almost equal rights.The decline in womens rights correlates to the rise of Assyrian monotheism. As the Assyrian armies campaigned throughout the land, their god Ashur went with them but, as Ashur was previously linked with the temple of that city and had only been worshipped there, a new way of imagining the god became necessary in order to continue that worship in other locales. Kriwaczek writes: One might pray to Ashur not only in his own temple in his own city, but anywhere.
As the Assyrian empire expanded its borders, Ashur was encountered in even the most distant places. From faith in an omnipresent god to belief in a single god is not a long step. Since He was everywhere, people came to understand that, in some sense, local divinities were just different manifestations of the same Ashur.This unity of vision of a supreme deity helped to further unify the regions of the empire. The different gods of the conquered peoples, and their various religious practices, became absorbed into the worship of Ashur, who was recognized as the one true god who had been called different names by different people in the past but who now was clearly known and could be properly worshipped as the universal deity. Regarding this, Kriwaczek writes: Belief in the transcendence rather than immanence of the divine had important consequences. Nature came to be desacralized, deconsecrated. Since the gods were outside and above nature, humanity according to Mesopotamian belief created in the likeness of the gods and as servant to the gods must be outside and above nature too.
Rather than an integral part of the natural earth, the human race was now her superior and her ruler. The new attitude was later summed up in Genesis 1:26: `And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let him have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth That is all very well for men, explicitly singled out in that passage. But for women it poses an insurmountable difficulty.While males can delude themselves and each other that they are outside, above, and superior to nature, women cannot so distance themselves, for their physiology makes them clearly and obviously part of the natural worldIt is no accident that even today those religions that put most emphasis on Gods utter transcendence and the impossibility even to imagine His reality should relegate women to a lower rung of existence, their participation in public religious worship only grudgingly permitted, if at all. The Assyrian culture became increasingly cohesive with the expansion of the empire, the new understanding of the deity, and the assimilation of the people from the conquered regions. Expanded the empire up through the coast of the Mediterranean and received tribute from the wealthy Phoenician cities of Tyre and Sidon. He also defeated the Armenian kingdom of Urartu which had long proved a significant nuisance to the Assyrians. Following his reign, however, the empire erupted in civil war as the king Shamshi Adad V 824-811 B. Fought with his brother for control. Although the rebellion was put down, expansion of the empire halted after Shalmaneser III. The regent Shammuramat (also famously known as Semiramis who became the mythical goddess-queen of the Assyrians in later tradition) held the throne for her young son Adad Nirari III from circa 811-806 B. And, in that time, secured the borders of the empire and organized successful campaigns to put down the Medes and other troublesome populaces in the north.
When her son came of age, she was able to hand him a stable and sizeable empire which Adad Nirari III then expanded further. Following his reign, however, his successors preferred to rest on the accomplishments of others and the empire entered another period of stagnation. This was especially detrimental to the military which languished under kings like Ashur Dan III and Ashur Nirari V.
The empire was revitalized by Tiglath Pileser III 745-727 B. Who reorganized the military and restructured the bureaucracy of the government.
According to Anglim, Tiglath Pileser III carried out extensive reforms of the army, reasserted central control over the empire, reconquered the Mediterranean seaboard, and even subjugated Babylon. He replaced conscription [in the military] with a manpower levy imposed on each province and also demanded contingents from vassal states (14). He defeated the kingdom of Uratu, which had long troubled Assyrian rulers, and subjugated the region of Syria.
Under Tiglath Pileser IIIs reign, the Assyrian army became the most effective military force in history up until that time and would provide a model for future armies in organization, tactics, training, and efficiency. Tiglath Pileser III was followed by Shalmaneser V 727-722 B. Who continued the kings policies, and his successor, Sargon II 722-705 B.
Improved upon them and expanded the empire further. Even though Sargon II's rule was contested by nobles, who claimed he had seized the throne illegally, he maintained the cohesion of the empire.
Following Tiglath Pileser IIIs lead, Sargon II was able to bring the empire to its greatest height. He was followed by Sennacherib 705-681 B. Who campaigned widely and ruthlessly, conquering Israel, Judah, and the Greek provinces in Anatolia. His sack of Jerusalem is detailed on the'Taylor Prism', a cuneiform block describing Sennacheribs military exploits which was discovered in 1830 A. By Britains Colonel Taylor, in which he claims to have captured 46 cities and trapped the people of Jerusalem inside the city until he overwhelmed them.
His account is contested, however, by the version of events described in the biblical book of II Kings, chapters 18-19, where it is claimed that Jerusalem was saved by divine intervention and Sennacheribs army was driven from the field. The biblical account does relate the Assyrian conquest of the region, however. Sennacheribs military victories increased the wealth of the empire. He moved the capital to Nineveh and built what was known as the Palace without a Rival.
He beautified and improved upon the citys original structure, planting orchards and gardens. The historian Christopher Scarre writes, Sennacheribs palace had all the usual accoutrements of a major Assyrian residence: colossal guardian figures and impressively carved stone reliefs (over 2,000 sculptured slabs in 71 rooms).Its gardens, too, were exceptional. Recent research by British Assyriologist Stephanie Dalley has suggested that these were the famous Hanging Gardens, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Later writers placed the Hanging Gardens at Babylon, but extensive research has failed to find any trace of them. Sennacheribs proud account of the palace gardens he created at Nineveh fits that of the Hanging Gardens in several significant details. Ignoring the lessons of the past, however, and not content with his great wealth and the luxury of the city, Sennacherib drove his army against Babylon, sacked it, and looted the temples. As earlier in history, the looting and destruction of the temples of Babylon was seen as the height of sacrilege by the people of the region and also by Sennacheribs sons who assassinated him in his palace at Nineveh in order to placate the wrath of the gods. Although they certainly would have been motivated to murder their father for the throne after he chose his youngest son, Esarhaddon, as heir in 683 B. Snubbing them they would have needed a legitimate reason to do so; and the destruction of Babylon provided them with one. His son Esarhaddon 681-669 B. Took the throne, and one of his first projects was to rebuild Babylon. He issued an official proclamation which claimed that Babylon had been destroyed by the will of the gods owing to the citys wickedness and lack of respect for the divine. Nowhere in his proclamation does it mention Sennacherib or his role in the destruction of the city but makes clear that the gods chose Esarhaddon as the divine means for restoration: Once during a previous rulers reign there were bad omens. The city insulted its gods and was destroyed at their command. They chose me, Esarhaddon, to restore everything to its rightful place, to calm their anger, and soothe their rage. The empire flourished under his reign. He successfully conquered Egypt (which Sennacherib had tried and failed to do) and established the empires borders as far north as the Zagros Mountains (modern day Iran) and as far south as Nubia (modern Sudan) with a span from west to east of the Levant (modern day Lebanon to Israel) through Anatolia (Turkey). His successful campaigns, and careful maintenance of the government, provided the stability for advances in medicine, literacy, mathematics, astronomy, architecture, and the arts.
Durant writes: In the field of art, Assyria equaled her preceptor Babylonia and in bas-relief surpassed her. Stimulated by the influx of wealth into Ashur, Kalakh, and Nineveh, artists and artisans began to produce for nobles and their ladies, for kings and palaces, for priests and temples jewels of every description, cast metal as skilfully designed and finely wrought as on the great gates at Balawat, and luxurious furniture of richly carved and costly woods strengthened with metal and inlaid with gold, silver, bronze, or precious stones.In order to secure the peace, Esarhaddon's mother, Zakutu (also known as Naqia-Zakutu) entered into vassal treaties with the Persians and the Medes requiring them to submit in advance to his successor. This treaty, known as the Loyalty Treaty of Naqia-Zakutu, ensured the easy transition of power when Esarhaddon died preparing to campaign against the Nubians and rule passed to the last great Assyrian king, Ashurbanipal 668-627 B. Ashurbanipal was the most literate of the Assyrian rulers and is probably best known in the modern day for the vast library he collected at his palace at Nineveh.
Though a great patron of the arts and culture, Ashurbanipal could be just as ruthless as his predecessors in securing the empire and intimidating his enemies. Kriwaczek writes, Which other imperialist would, like Ashurbanipal, have commissioned a sculpture for his palace with decoration showing him and his wife banqueting in their garden, with the struck-off head and severed hand of the King of Elam dangling from trees on either side, like ghastly Christmas baubles or strange fruit?
He decisively defeated the Elamites and expanded the empire further to the east and north. Recognizing the importance of preserving the past, he then sent envoys to every point in the lands under his control and had them retrieve or copy the books of that city or town, bringing all back to Nineveh for the royal library. Ashurbanipal ruled over the empire for 42 years and, in that time, campaigned successfully and ruled efficiently. The empire had grown too large, however, and the regions were overtaxed.Further, the vastness of the Assyrian domain made it difficult to defend the borders. As great in number as the army remained, there were not enough men to keep garrisoned at every significant fort or outpost.
When Ashurbanipal died in 627 B. The empire began to fall apart. His successors Ashur-etli-Ilani and Sin-Shar-Ishkun were unable to hold the territories together and regions began to break away.
The rule of the Assyrian Empire was seen as overly harsh by its subjects, in spite of whatever advancements and luxuries being an Assyrian citizen may have provided, and former vassal states rose in revolt. Nineveh was sacked and burned by a coalition of Babylonians, Persians, Medes, and Scythians, among others. The destruction of the palace brought the flaming walls down on the library of Ashurbanipal and, although it was far from the intention, preserved the great library, and the history of the Assyrians, by baking hard and burying the clay tablet books. Kriwaczek writes, Thus did Assyrias enemies ultimately fail to achieve their aim when they razed Ashur and Nineveh in 612 B.
Only fifteen years after Ashurbanipals death: the wiping out of Assyrias place in history. Still, the destruction of the great Assyrian cities was so complete that, within two generations of the empires fall, no one knew where the cities had been.
The ruins of Nineveh were covered by the sands and lay buried for the next 2,000 years. Thanks to the Greek historian Herodotus, who considered the whole of Mesopotamia "Assyria", scholars have long known the culture existed as compared to the Sumerians who were unknown to scholarship until the 19th century A. Mesopotamian scholarship was traditionally known as Assyriology until relatively recently (though that term is certainly still in use), because the Assyrians were so well known through the primary sources of the Greek and Roman writers.Through the expanse of their empire, the Assyrians spread Mesopotamian culture to the other regions of the world, which have, in turn, impacted cultures world-wide up to the present day. Durant writes: Through Assyrias conquest of Babylon, her appropriation of the ancient citys culture, and her dissemination of that culture throughout her wide empire; through the long Captivity of the Jews, and the great influence upon them of Babylonian life and thought; through the Persian and Greek conquests which then opened with unprecedented fullness and freedom all the roads of communication and trade between Babylon and the rising cities of Ionia, Asia Minor, and Greece through these and many other ways the civilization of the Land between the Rivers passed down into the cultural endowment of our race. In the end nothing is lost; for good or evil, every event has effects forever. Tiglath Pileser III had introduced Aramaic to replace Akkadian as the lingua franca of the empire and, as Aramaic survived as a written language, this allowed later scholars to decipher Akkadian writings and then Sumerian. The Assyrian conquest of Mesopotamia, and the expansion of the empire throughout the Near East, brought Aramaic to regions as near as Israel and as far as Greece and, in this way, Mesopotamian thought became infused with those cultures and a part of their literary and cultural heritage. Following the decline and rupture of the Assyrian empire, Babylon assumed supremacy in the region from 605-549 B. Babylon then fell to the Persians under Cyrus the Great who founded the Achaemenid Empire 549-330 B. Which fell to Alexander the Great and, after his death, was part of the Seleucid Empire. The region of Mesopotamia corresponding to modern-day Iraq, Syria, and part of Turkey was the area at this time known as Assyria and, when the Seleucids were driven out by the Parthians, the western section of the region, formerly known as Eber Nari and then Aramea, retained the name Syria. The Parthians gained control of the region and held it until the coming of Rome in 115 CE, and then the Sassanid Empire held supremacy in the area from 226-650 A. Until, with the rise of Islam and the Arabian conquests of the 7th century CE, Assyria ceased to exist as a national entity. Among the greatest of their achievements, however, was the Aramaic alphabet, imported into the Assyrian government by Tiglath Pileser III from the conquered region of Syria. Aramaean was easier to write than Akkadian and so older documents collected by kings such as Ashurbanipal were translated from Akkadian into Aramaic, while newer ones were written in Aramaic and ignored the Akkadian. The result was that thousands of years of history and culture were preserved for future generations, and this is the greatest of Assyrias legacies. REVIEW : The foundation of the Assyrian dynasty can be traced to Zulilu, who is said to have lived after Bel-kap-kapu c. , the ancestor of Shalmaneser I.
The city-state of Ashur rose to prominence in northern Mesopotamia, founding trade colonies in Cappadocia. Expanded the domains of Ashur by defeating the kingdom of Mari, thus creating the first Assyrian kingdom. With the rise of Hammurabi of Babylonia c. And his alliance with Mari, Assyria was conquered and reduced to a vassal state of Babylon.
In the 15th century B. Hurrians from Mitanni sacked Ashur and made Assyria a vassal.
He married his daughter to the Kassite ruler of Babylon with disastrous results: The Kassite faction in Babylon murdered the king and placed a pretender on the throne. Ashur-uballit promptly marched into Babylonia and avenged his son-in-law. Declared that Assyria was no longer a vassal of Babylon and claimed supremacy over western Asia.
He fought the Hittites in Anatolia, conquered Carchemish, and established more colonies in Cappadocia. His son Tukulti-Ninurta I reigned 12431207 B. Conquered Babylon, putting its King Bitilyasu to death, and thereby made Assyria the dominant power in Mesopotamia. He ruled at Babylon for seven years and assumed the old imperial title "king of Sumer and Akkad".
During a Babylonian revolt, he was murdered by his son, Ashur-nadin-apli. Babylon was once more independent from Assyria. , one of the great conquerors of Assyria, extended the remaining empire to Armenia in the north and Cappadocia in the west.
He hunted wild bulls in Lebanon and was presented with a crocodile by the Egyptian pharaoh. Little is known of Tiglath-pileser's direct successors, and it is with Ashurnasirpal II 883-858 B. That our knowledge of Assyrian history continues.
The empire of Assyria was again extended in all directions, and the palaces, temples, and other buildings raised by Ashurnasirpal II bear witness to a considerable development of wealth and art. Nimrud (also known as the Biblical city of Calah or Kalakh) became the favorite residence of the monarch, who was distinguished even among Assyrian conquerors for his revolting cruelties. Continued the expansion of Assyria and even further militarized the country. During the Middle Assyrian Period, the cities of Ashur, Nimrud, & Nineveh rose to prominence in the Tigris River valley. When Nabu-nazir ascended the throne of Babylon in 747 B.Assyria was in the throes of a revolution. Calah joined the rebels, and the rebel leader Pulu took the name of Tiglath-pileser III, seized the crown, and inaugurated a new and vigorous policy. During the Middle Assyrian Period, the cities of Ashur, Nimrud, and Nineveh rose to prominence in the Tigris River valley. Babylon remained the most important and probably the largest city of the period.
Under Tiglath-pileser III ruled 745-727 B. The Neo-Assyrian Empire arose, which differed from the first in its greater consolidation.
For the first time in history the idea of centralization was introduced into politics; the conquered provinces were organized under an elaborate bureaucracy, with each district paying a fixed tribute and providing a military contingent. The Assyrian forces became a standing army creating an irresistible fighting machine. Assyrian policy became geared towards conquering the known world. With this goal in mind, Tiglath-pileser III secured the high-roads of commerce to the Mediterranean together with the Phoenician seaports and then made himself master of Babylonia.
The summit of his ambition was attained, and he was invested with the sovereignty of Asia in the holy city of Babylon. With his conquest of Israel 745-727 B. , the first wave of Israelite deportations had begun.
Tiglath-pileser was succeded by his son Shalmaneser V reigned 727-722 B. The throne was seized by the general Sargon II ruled 722-705 B. , who conquered the Hittie stronghold of Carchemish and annexed Ecbatana.
He was seen as the successor of Sargon of Akkad. His son Sennacherib ruled 704-681 B. Was a less skilled king who was never crowned in Babylon and eventually destroyed the holy city.Under his reign, Nineveh was built to become a new center of Assyrian power, famed for its library of cuneiform tablets. His reign, though, was one of terror, and upon his assassination both his subjects and enemies were relieved. Succeesed Sennacherib and restored Babylon to its former glory, making it the second capital of the Assyrian empire. He sent the Assyrian armies to invade Egypt which was subsequently conquered.
Two years later the Egyptians revolted and in his march to deal with the revolt, he fell ill and died. Succeeded him as king of the Assyrian Empire, and his brother Samas-sum-yukin was made viceroy in Babylonia.The arrangement failed, as Samas-sum-yukin did not prove to be popular with the Babylonians who revolted. After several years of war, during which Egypt regained its independence with the help of mercenaries sent by Gyges of Lydia, the Babylonian rebellion was put down. Shortly after, Elam rebelled, its capital Susa was razed, and the Empire was finally drained of all its resources. The Scythians and Cimmerians invaded Assyria from the east and from the north, and when Ashurbanipal died, his Empire was close to collapse under external pressure. The Babylonian king Nabopolassar ruled 625-605 B.
, along with Cyaxares of the Medes ruled 625-585 B. Finally destroyed Nineveh in 612 B.Marking the end of the Assyrian Empire. REVIEW : Ashur (also known as Assur) was an Assyrian city located on a plateau above the Tigris River in Mesopotamia (today known as Qalat Sherqat, northern Iraq). The city was an important center of trade, as it lay squarely on a caravan trade route that ran through Mesopotamia to Anatolia and down through the Levant.
It was founded circa 1900 B. The biblical version of the origin of Ashur appears later in the historical record after the Assyrians had accepted Christianity and so it is thought to be a re-interpretation of their early history which was more in keeping with their new belief system. Because of the lucrative trade Ashur enjoyed with the city of Karum Kanesh in Anatolia, it flourished and became the capital of the Assyrian Empire. Even after the capital was moved to the cities of Kalhu (Nimrud), then Dur-Sharrukin, and finally Nineveh, Ashur continued to be an important spiritual center for the Assyrians.
All of the great kings (except for Sargon II, whose body was lost in battle) were buried at Ashur, from the earliest days of the Assyrian Empire down to the last, no matter where the capital city was located. All the great Assyrian kings but one were buried at Ashur, no matter where the capital city was located. Archaeological excavations show that a city of some sort existed at the site as early as the 3rd millennium B. What precise form this city took is not known nor is its size.
The oldest foundations discovered thus far are those beneath the first Ishtar Temple, which probably formed the base for an earlier temple (as the Mesopotamians generally built the same sort of structure on the ruins of an earlier one). From pottery and other artifacts found in situ, it is known that Ashur was an important center of trade early in the Akkadian Empire and had been an outpost of the city of Akkad. Merchants would send their wares via caravan into Anatolia and trade primarily at Karum Kanesh. The historian Paul Kriwaczek writes: For several generations the trading houses of Karum Kanesh flourished, and some became extremely wealthy ancient millionaires.
These profits were spent largely in the city on renovations and modifications to private homes and public buildings. Through trade, Ashur prospered and expanded, becoming the capital of Assyria by the second millennium B. Walls were built around the city to enhance its natural defenses, even though these defenses were quite advantageous on their own. Regarding this, the historian Gwendolyn Leick writes: The city of Ashur was built on a rocky limestone cliff that forced the fast-flowing Tigris into a sharp curve.
The main stream was also joined by a side-arm in antiquity, so that an oval-shaped island was created with a shoreline of 1.80 kilometres (1.1 miles). Rocky outcrops rose some 25 metres (82 feet) above the valley floor, with steep sides. This naturally sheltered position had strategic importance as it made the site comparatively easy to defend, besides forming a landmark with a wide view over the valley. As the city flourished, the Assyrians expanded their territory outwards. Drove out the invading Amorite tribes and secured the borders of Ashur and Assyrian land against further incursions.
Hammurabi treated Ashur well and respected the gods and the temples but no longer permitted the city to trade with Anatolia. Babylon took over the trade route that had made Ashur wealthy, and the Assyrian city was forced to trade only with Babylon; this caused a decline in the prosperity of Ashur and it languished as a vassal state.
When Hammurabi died in 1750 B. The region erupted in turmoil and civil war as city-states competed with each other for control. But, by that time, the kingdom of Mitanni had grown up in western Anatolia and slowly spread through Mesopotamia, now holding Ashur as part of its territory. Who defeated the Mitanni and took large portions of their territory. Conquered them and replaced Mitanni rulers with Hittite officials.Ashur-Ubalit I defeated these Hittite rulers in combat but could not dislodge their hold on the region completely. Conquered the Hittites and took the lands of the Mitanni to create the first semblance of an Assyrian empire. Ruling from Ashur, he led his victorious army throughout the region and sent the loot from his conquests back to the city. Ashur was again prosperous and began again to develop and expand. Adad Nirari I commissioned many building projects in the city and improved the walls. It is from this point on that Ashur becomes the city of note made famous as the capital of the Assyrian Empire. , continued improvements on the city and was so prosperous that he was also able to build the city of Kalhu (also known as Nimrud, which would later become the capital). , took renovations and building projects even further. Tukulti-Ninurta I built his own city, called Kar-Tukulti-Ninurta (Harbor of Tukulti-Ninurta) across the river from Ashur. For some time now, historians have claimed that this city was built after Tukulti-Ninurta Is sack of Babylon in circa 1225 B.
Because of inscriptions found at the site which seemed to support this version of history. It is now thought, based on other inscriptions and records and archeological evidence at the site, that the king began building his city early in his reign.His reasons for doing so could have been that there was little left to improve on in the city of Ashur and he wanted some impressive building project that would separate his name from that of his predecessors. He had already renovated the Temple of Ishtar in Ashur and commissioned other projects but these were simply improving upon what the earlier kings had accomplished. As Tukulti-Ninurta I was an ambitious man with a grand vision of himself, only the construction of a completely new city bearing his name seemed to suit his purposes. Although Kar-Tukulti-Ninurta was earlier thought to have been built as the new capital to replace Ashur, this theory is no longer accepted by many historians. Records indicate that the same officials who worked in the palace at Ashur also worked across the river in Kar-Tukulti-Ninurta at the same time, suggesting that business continued as usual in the capital city.
Tukulti-Ninurta I clearly favored his new city, however, since he seems to have lavished the wealth he plundered from the temples of Babylon on his new palace and other projects in Kar-Tukulti-Ninurta. The king was assassinated in his palace by his son because of his treatment of Babylon and, especially, the sack of the temples; after his death, his city was abandoned in favor of Ashur and eventually decayed and collapsed.
Who issued his famous law code from the city and lavished his wealth on improvements to the palace and walls. Like his predecessors, he campaigned with his troops throughout the region and expanded Assyrian territory significantly but, after his death, the kingdom he had built fell apart. Ashur during this time remained stable, if not especially prosperous, and the kings who followed Tiglath Pileser I were able to retain the lands surrounding the city, even though they lost regions further away.With the rise of Adad-Nirari II 912-891 B. , the city again enjoyed its former prosperity and the Assyrian Empire began to rise. Adad-Nirari II re-conquered the regions that had slipped from Assyrian control and expanded the empire further in every direction.
Ashur was now the hub of the giant wheel of empire, and wealth regularly flowed into the capital from the military campaigns of the kings. The Assyrian policy of deporting and re-locating large segments of the population of conquered regions also impacted Ashur in that scribes and scholars were regularly sent there to work in the library, palace, or in the schools. This helped to make Ashur a center of learning and culture. When Tukulti-Ninurta I sacked Babylon, part of the loot he brought back to Ashur was books. The clay tablets upon which the stories and myths and legends of Babylon were written now filled the shelves of Ashurs library and, as they were copied by the scribes, influenced Assyrian writers and were also preserved for the future.
The king Ashurnasirpal II 884-859 B. Moved the capital from Ashur to Kalhu, but this had no effect on the prosperity or importance of Ashur. Kalhu was renovated following Ashurnasirpal IIs successful campaigns, and he most likely made it his capital for the same reason Tukulti-Ninurta I built his city: to elevate his name above his predecessors. The historian Marc Van De Mieroop writes, The kings must have had a motivation for the building of these vast cities, but when we look at their records no reason for the work is declared.Ashurnasirpals justification for the work on Kalhu is merely a statement that the city built by his predecessor Shalmaneser had become dilapidated (55). There is also no reason stated for making Kalhu the new capital, and this move seems particularly strange when one considers the natural defenses of Ashur and the strength of its walls. One suggested theory is that Ashurnasirpal II wanted a virgin city whose populace had no cohesive identity. Ashur, by this time, was a very prestigious city and its citizens prided themselves on their city and being Ashurians.
It has therefore been proposed that Ashurnasirpal II moved the capital in order to create a royal power base with a less proud, and therefore more easily managed, population. A stele found in the ruins of Kalhu describes the inauguration festival of the new capital at which Ashurnasirpal II fed 69,574 men and women from his kingdom for ten days. Other inscriptions in the city tell of how Ashurnasirpal II referred to Kalhu as my royal dwelling and for my lordly pleasure for all time and how he planted saplings of 41 types of trees around the new city and dug massive canals and irrigation ditches (Van De Mieroop, 68). All of this was done to elevate the new capital city above Ashur, and yet there is no evidence of any decline in Ashurs status throughout the next 150 years in which Kalhu was the capital. Ashur was successfully defended during the civil wars which marked the reign of Shamshi Adad 824-811 B.
And was renovated under the kings who followed him. Tiglath Pileser III 745-727 B.
Further enriched the city and strengthened the walls and his successors would do likewise. Brought the spoils of his sack of Babylon back to Ashur even though, by that time, Nineveh was the capital city and the site of his palace without rival. He clearly poured this wealth into the gardens, parks, and the palace at Nineveh but continued to honor the ancient city of his ancestors.
The kings who followed him, Esarhaddon 681-669 B. , also honored the city with gifts and building projects.
When Ashurbanipal died, the regions of the Assyrian Empire rose in revolt and the empire began to break apart. Ashurbanipals successors could do nothing to stop the rapid decline and the empire fell. The city of Ashur was destroyed in 612 B.
By the combined forces of the Babylonians, Medes, and Persians, along with the other great Assyrian cities such as Nineveh. The city lay in ruin but was re-populated and partially re-built at some point.
Ashur continued as a settlement up through the 14th century CE but would never again be as prosperous as it had been during its golden age. REVIEW : Assur (also Ashur, Anshar) is the god of the Assyrians who was elevated from a local deity of the city of Ashur to the supreme god of the Assyrian pantheon.
The Assyrian Empire, like the later empire of the Romans, had a great talent for borrowing from other cultures. This penchant is illustrated clearly in the figure of Assur whose character and attributes draw on the Sumerian and Babylonian gods. Assur's family and history are modeled on the Sumerian Anu and Enlil and the Babylonian Marduk; his power and attributes mirror Anu's, Enlil's, and Marduk's as do details of his family: Assur's wife is Ninlil (Enlil's wife) and his son is Nabu (Marduk's son). Assur had no actual history of his own, such as those created for Sumerian and Babylonian gods but borrowed from these other myths to create a supreme deity whose worship, at its height, was almost monotheistic. Scholar Jeremy Black notes: In spite of (or possibly because of) the tendencies to transfer to him the attributes and mythology of other gods, Assur remains an indistinct deity with no clear character or tradition (or iconography) of his own.
Assur had no actual history of his own but borrowed from other myths to create a supreme deity whose worship, at its height, was almost monotheistic. Assur had power over the kingship of Assyria but, in this, was no different from Marduk of Babylon. The king of Assyria was his chief priest and all those who tended his temple in the city of Ashur and elsewhere lesser priests. Assyrian kings frequently chose his name as an element in their own to honor him (Ashurbanipal, Ashurnasirpal I, Ashurnasirpal II, etc).Although people may have engaged in private rituals honoring the god or asking for assistance, there were no temple services as one would recognize them in the modern day. The iconography of Assur is often taken from the Sumerian Anu, a crown or a crown on a throne, but he is as frequently represented as a warrior-god wearing a horned helmet and carrying a bow and quiver of arrows. He wears a short skirt of feathers and is sometimes depicted within a winged disk (although the association of Assur with the solar disk is contested by a number of modern scholars, among them Jeremy Black). Assur is also sometimes represented standing on a snake-dragon, an image borrowed from the Babylonian Marduk, among other gods. He is identified as the patron god of the city of Ashur circa 1900 B. At its founding and also gives his name to the Assyrians. From a local, and probably agricultural, god who personified the city, Assur steadily acquired greater and greater attributes. Wallis Budge describes the general progression gods made from spirits to local deities to supreme gods.
The oldest of such spirits was the'house spirit' or household-god. When men formed themselves into village communities the idea of the'spirit of the village' was evolved and later came the "god of the town or city" and the'god of the country'. Each of the elements, earth, air, fire, and water had its spirit or'god', the earthquake, lightning, thunder, rain, storm, desert whirlwind, each likewise its spirit or'god', and of course each plant, tree, and animal. As time went on, men began to think that certain spirits were more powerful than others and these they selected for special reverence or worship. Such was the case with Assur in that he is originally referenced as the god of only the locale surrounding the city but came to personify and represent the entire nation of Assyria.Who then controlled the region. Worship of Assur at this time was restricted to the city and the Assyrian lands surrounding it, while Marduk of Babylon was worshiped as the supreme god and the Babylonian work Enuma Elish was considered the authoritative piece on creation and the birth of the gods and humanity. In the tumult following Hammurabi's death, different powers controlled the region and their gods were considered supreme. , who united the lands under the first semblance of an Assyrian empire. Assur is credited by the king as the god who granted him the victory, but no history of the god existed to glorify.
Scholar Jeremy Black comments on this. Eventually, with the growth of Assyria and the increase in cultural contacts with southern Mesopotamia, there was a tendency to assimilate Assur to certain of the major deities of the Sumerian and Babylonian pantheons. We can trace some attempts to identify him with Sumerian Enlil.
This probably represents an effort to cast him as the chief of the gods... Then, under Sargon II of Assyria reigned 722-705 B. , Assur tended to be identified with Anshar, the father of Anu (An) in the Babylonian Epic of Creation.The process thus represented Assur as a god of long-standing, present from the creation of the universe. From the time of Adad Nirari I to the time of the Neo-Assyrian Empire of Sargon II, Assur continued to rise in prominence. In the Enuma Elish, Assur (under the name Anshar) replaced Marduk as the hero.
Regularly invokes Assur as the god of the empire who empowers the army and leads them to victory and even credits Assur with the laws of the empire. Adad Nirari II 912-891 B. Expanded the empire in every direction with Assur as his personal patron. Everywhere the Assyrian army traveled, Assur traveled with them, and thus his worship spread across Mesopotamia.
Wallis Budge writes, "As the power of Marduk became predominant when Babylon grew into a great city, so the power of Assur waxed great when the Assyrians became a strong and warlike nation" (88). To the men who marched in the Assyrian forces, as well as to those they conquered, Assur was obviously a powerful god worthy of worship and devotion and, in time, he became so powerful as to eclipse the earlier gods of the region.
When Ashurnasirpal II 884-859 B. Came to power, he moved the capital of the empire from Ashur to the city of Kalhu, but this is no indication of waning power on Assur's part; Ashurnasirpal II had Assur's name as part of his own (his name means'Assur is Guardian of the Heir'). The reason for the capital's move is unclear, but most likely it was only because Ashur had grown so great and the populace fiercely proud and Ashurnasirpal II wanted to surround himself with humbler and more easily manageable people. Elevated Assur's name even higher through the stunning victories which marked his reign. Tiglath Pileser III created the first professional army in the history of the world, who, armed with iron weapons, were invincible.Along with the new kind of army, new technology was created such as siege engines which allowed the army to take whole cities with fewer losses. As the Assyrian armies campaigned throughout the land, Assur led them to greater and greater victories.
Previously, however, Assur had been linked with the temple of the city of Ashur and had only been worshiped there. As the Assyrians made wider and wider gains in territory, a new way of imagining the god became necessary in order to continue that worship in other locales.Scholar Paul Kriwaczek explains how, in order to maintain worship of Assur, the nature of a god - and how that god should be understood and worshiped - had to change: One might pray to Assur not only in his own temple in his own city, but anywhere. As the Assyrian empire expanded its borders, Assur was encountered in even the most distant places.
Since He was everywhere, people came to understand that, in some sense, local divinities were just different manifestations of the same Assur. This unity of vision of a supreme deity helped to further unify the regions of the empire. The different gods of the conquered peoples and their various religious practices became absorbed into the worship of Assur, who was recognized as the one true god who had been called different names by different people in the past but who now was clearly known and could be properly worshiped as the universal deity.Belief in the transcendence rather than immanence of the divine had important consequences. The new attitude was later summed up in Genesis 1:26:'And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let him have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth'. That is all very well for men, explicitly singled out in that passage. Women in Mesopotamia had enjoyed almost equal rights with men until the rise of Hammurabi and his god Marduk. Under Hammurabi's reign, female deities began to lose prestige as male gods became increasingly elevated.
Under Assyrian rule, with Assur as supreme god, women's rights suffered further. Expanded the empire up through the coast of the Mediterranean and received regular tribute from wealthy Phoenician cities such as Tyre and Sidon. Assur was now the supreme god not only of the Assyrians but of all those people who were brought under their rule. To the Assyrians, of course, this was an ideal situation, but this opinion was not shared by every nationality they had conquered, and when the opportunity presented itself, they would vent their frustrations dramatically.The Neo-Assyrian Empire 912-612 B. Is the last expression of Assyrian political power in Mesopotamia and is the one most familiar to students of ancient history. The kings of this period are the ones most often mentioned in the Bible and best known by people in the present day. Kriwaczek comments on this, writing: Assyria must surely have among the worst press notices of any state in history.
Although there is no denying the Assyrians could be ruthless and were quite clearly not to be trifled with, they were really no more savage or barbaric than any other ancient civilization. In order to form and maintain an empire, they destroyed cities and murdered people, but in this, they were no different from those who preceded and followed them, save in that they were easily more efficient than most. To the conquered people, however, the Assyrians were seen as hated overlords. The last great king of the empire was Ashurbanipal 668-627 B.
And, after him, the empire began to break apart. There were many reasons for this but, mainly, it had simply grown too large to manage. As the power of the central government became less and less able to cope, more territories broke away from the empire. A coalition of Babylonians, Medes, Persians, and others rose against the Assyrian cities and destroyed them.Included in this onslaught was the city of Ashur and the temple of the god as well as other statues of Assur elsewhere. Assur had come to personify the Assyrians, their military victories, and their political power, and so the destruction of this symbol was of special importance to Assyria's enemies.
Worship of Assur continued in Assyrian communities after the fall of the empire but was no longer widespread and no temples, shrines, or statuaries were left standing in the cities and regions which had revolted. In the early Christian era, the understanding of Assur as an omnipotent deity worked well for the early Christian missionaries to the region, who found the Assyrians receptive to their message of a single god and the concept of this god's son coming to earth for the benefit of humanity. Although Assur's son Nabu never became incarnated or sacrificed himself for others, he was thought to have given human beings the gift of the written word.Nabu continued to be venerated after the fall of the empire, and although Assur declined in stature, he was remembered and is still present (often as Ashur) as a personal and family name in the present day. REVIEW : A vaulted brick tomb dating to between the ninth and seventh centuries B. Was discovered by construction workers in the foothills of the Zagros Mountains, according to a report in Live Science. The tomb was situated near the ancient city of Arbela (Erbil), where an important temple of Ishtar, the Assyrian goddess of war, was located. Amin of the Directorate of Antiquities in Erbil, the modern name for Arbela, said that two skeletons were found in three ceramic sarcophagi within the tomb, while an additional eight skeletons were found on the ground.
More than 40 intact jars of different shapes and sizes were also recovered. Similar tombs, built for elites, have been found in other Assyrian cities such as Nimrud. Sometimes the tombs have been opened several times, when they wanted to bury new dead members of the family, added Dishad Marf Zamua of Salahaddin University. REVIEW : A crescent-shaped, mudbrick wall that was more than 12 feet wide and 15 feet tall and covered with layers of mud and sand has been unearthed at Ashdod-Yam, an area under Assyrian rule in the eighth century B.This massive, Iron-Age fortification may have protected a large artificial harbor. If so, this would be a discovery of international significance, the first known harbor of this kind in our corner of the Levant, said Alexander Fantalkin of Tel Aviv University. The structure may have been built in connection with a rebellion led by the Philistine king of nearby Ashdod. REVIEW : Archaeologists working in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq have located the ancient city of Idu. The international team unearthed the settlement while excavating a tell along the Lower Zab River. Although Idus existence was known from Assyrian texts, its location was previously unidentified. Beginning in the thirteenth century B.
Idu flourished as a provincial capital of the Assyrian Empire. During this period, and also during the interval when Idu gained its independence, the settlement featured lavish royal palaces. This prosperity is attested to by ornate bricks, cylinder seals, and artworks that depict mythological scenes.
Researchers ascertained the citys identity through a series of cuneiform inscriptions. The discovery of Idu fills a gap in what scholars had previously thought was a dark age in the history of the ancient Near East, and it helped us to redraw the political and historical map of Assyria in its early stage, says Cinzia Pappi, an archaeologist from the University of Leipzig. REVIEW : Adam Schneider of the University of California-San Diego and Selim Adali of the Research Center for Anatolian Civilizations in Turkey argue in the journal Climatic Change that drought and population expansion contributed to the decline of the Assyrian Empire. Located in northern Iraq, the Assyrian Empire reached its height in the early seventh century B.
But then experienced a quick decline, including civil wars, political unrest, and the destruction of Nineveh, the capital, by the end of the century. Paleoclimate data show that the region became more arid during the latter half of the seventh century B. At the same time that peoples conquered by the Assyrians were resettled there. Said Schneider, What we are proposing is that these demographic and climatic factors played an indirect but significant role in the demise of the Assyrian Empire.
There's more to the decline of the once mighty ancient Assyrian Empire than just civil wars and political unrest. Archaeological, historical, and paleoclimatic evidence suggests that climatic factors and population growth might also have come into play. In the 9th century B.
The Assyrian Empire of northern Iraq relentlessly started to expand into most of the ancient Near East. It reached its height in the early 7th century B. Becoming the largest of its kind in the Near East up to that time.
The Assyrian Empire's subsequent quick decline by the end of the 7th century has puzzled scholars ever since. Most ascribe it to civil wars, political unrest, and the destruction of the Assyrian capital, Nineveh, by a coalition of Babylonian and Median forces in 612 B. Nevertheless, it has remained a mystery why the Assyrian state, the military superpower of the age, succumbed so suddenly and so quickly. Schneider and Adal argue that factors such as population growth and droughts also contributed to the Assyrian downfall.Recently published paleoclimate data show that conditions in the Near East became more arid during the latter half of the 7th century B. During this time, the region also experienced significant population growth when people from conquered lands were forcibly resettled there. The authors contend that this substantially reduced the state's ability to withstand a severe drought such as the one that hit the Near East in 657 B. They also note that within five years of this drought, the political and economic stability of the Assyrian state had eroded, resulting in a series of civil wars that fatally weakened it.
Schneider and Adal further draw parallels between the collapse of the Assyrian Empire and some of the potential economic and political consequences of climate change in the same area today. They point out, for instance, that the onset of severe drought which, followed by violent unrest in Syria and Iraq during the late 7th century B. Bears a striking resemblance to the severe drought and subsequent contemporary political conflict in Syria and northern Iraq today. On a more global scale, they conclude, modern societies can take note of what happened when short-term economic and political policies were prioritized rather than ones that support long-term economic security and risk mitigation.
"The Assyrians can be'excused' to some extent for focusing on short-term economic or political goals which increased their risk of being negatively impacted by climate change, given their technological capacity and their level of scientific understanding about how the natural world worked, " adds Selim Adal. We, however, have no such excuses, and we also possess the additional benefit of hindsight.
This allows us to piece together from the past what can go wrong if we choose not to enact policies that promote longer-term sustainability. [Archaeological Institute of America and Phys.
However this book is quite heavy, and it is too large to fit into a flat rate mailer. We package as well as anyone in the business, with lots of protective padding and containers. Please ask for a rate quotation. ABOUT US : Prior to our retirement we used to travel to Europe and Central Asia several times a year.
Most of the items we offer came from acquisitions we made in Eastern Europe, India, and from the Levant (Eastern Mediterranean/Near East) during these years from various institutions and dealers. Petersburg, as well as some other worthy institutions in Europe and Asia connected with Anthropology and Archaeology. Though we have a collection of ancient coins numbering in the tens of thousands, our primary interests are ancient jewelry and gemstones. Prior to our retirement we traveled to Russia every year seeking antique gemstones and jewelry from one of the globes most prolific gemstone producing and cutting centers, the area between Chelyabinsk and Yekaterinburg, Russia. From all corners of Siberia, as well as from India, Ceylon, Burma and Siam, gemstones have for centuries gone to Yekaterinburg where they have been cut and incorporated into the fabulous jewelry for which the Czars and the royal families of Europe were famous for.My wife grew up and received a university education in the Southern Urals of Russia, just a few hours away from the mountains of Siberia, where alexandrite, diamond, emerald, sapphire, chrysoberyl, topaz, demantoid garnet, and many other rare and precious gemstones are produced. Though perhaps difficult to find in the USA, antique gemstones are commonly unmounted from old, broken settings the gold reused the gemstones recut and reset. Before these gorgeous antique gemstones are recut, we try to acquire the best of them in their original, antique, hand-finished state most of them centuries old. We believe that the work created by these long-gone master artisans is worth protecting and preserving rather than destroying this heritage of antique gemstones by recutting the original work out of existence. That by preserving their work, in a sense, we are preserving their lives and the legacy they left for modern times. Far better to appreciate their craft than to destroy it with modern cutting. Not everyone agrees fully 95% or more of the antique gemstones which come into these marketplaces are recut, and the heritage of the past lost. The item "Ancient Assyria Nimrud Nineveh Art History Palace Temple God War Clothes Jewelry" is in sale since Thursday, March 19, 2020. This item is in the category "Antiques\Antiquities\Price Guides & Publications". The seller is "ancientgifts" and is located in Lummi Island, Washington.
This item can be shipped worldwide.