Saturday 7 May 2016

Rulers of The Iron Age

By the 9th century BC, a great Assyrian Empire dominated the Middle East and stayed in power for two centuries. It is often seen as the first real "world empire", and much of it's success can be traced to a stable political system and skillful exploitation of new Iron Age warfare techniques.

The Assyrian empire's roots can be traced to the period 2000 - 18000 BC when Shamshi Adad I created a kingdom including the great trading city of Ashur ,once an independent city state. In 14th century BC, Assyrian lands expanded over all of modern North Iraq, and came into conflict with Babylonia and the Hittites. Like all other Bronze Age powers, Assyria declined but the state survived.

The period 800 - 700 BC is termed as the "neo-Assyrian" period. The military success in the Neo-Assyrian period was due to Assyrian's effective adaptation of Iron Age warfare techniques. Their highly disciplined army featured a mix of chariots, infantry and horseback riders. This was the first army to use cavalry units and use of Iron weapons gave them a great advantage over others.

Assyrian soldiers attacking the city of Lachish

SEMITIC - A language group that includes Hebrew and Arabic, and a description of people from the Middle East who trace their ancestry to the biblical Noah and his son Shem. The group includes both Jews and Arabs.

Royal bloodline played a key role in the kingdom so that no outsider could become king. A crown prince and heir apparent was selected as soon as a new king took the throne. There was always a successor and he played an important role in running the empire.

Assyria was organized into provinces and newly conquered kingdoms were incorporated as one. The governors in charge of the provinces were appointed by the king himself. The king relied on eunuchs to be governors as they could not have children and there was no danger they would start their own dynasty.

Regional Power

Assyrian governors often enjoyed great wealth. This mural detail is from a governor's residence at Til Barsip during the reign of Tiglath-pileser III(744 - 727 BC).    

Jehu, king of Israel, prostrates himself before the 9th century BC Assyrian king Shalmaneser III . The scene is one of several such reliefs on a public monument erected at Nimrud in 825 BC.

Tribute from Israel

Assyria conqured Egypt in the 7th century BC and ended the rule of the Nubian dynasty. They put native Egyptian Saite dynasty into power as puppet rulers but Egypt regained Independence under Egyptian pharaoh Psammetichus I(664 - 610 BC).

The Assyrian empire, so aggressively  built, could not withstand internal divisions. On king Assurbanipal's death in 627 BC, the empire endured a succession crises, and when the Babylonians and Medes attacked and captured the city of Ashur in 614 BC, the empire quickly disintegrated.

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