Rise of Assyria

Assyria came on the center stage of the world history again in the middle of the 14th century BCE with the ascension of Ashur-Uballit I to the Assyrian throne (1365-1330 BCE). Akehnaten, the Egyptian Pharaoh, may have been his contemporary, as was Suppiluliuma I, a Hittite king. Suppililiuma I is known for being a great warrior who successfully challenged the Egyptian supremacy in Canaan and Syria and also known for his role in what I call the “Affair of the murdered Pharaoh and the dead prince”, more on it later.  Ashur-Uballit I  was able to throw of the yoke of Mitanni rule over Assyria. He was able to defeat the Mitannis, the Babylonians, the Hurrians and the Hittites. The successors of Ashur-Uballit I continued expansion of the Assyrian kingdom.

A year after the famed Battle of Kadesh (Ramesses the Great and the battle deserves a separate post), Shalmaneser I became the ruler of Assyria in 1274 BCE. Shalmaneser won many battles and apparently blinded 14000+ prisoners of war in one eye. Talk about War Crimes! Tukulti-Ninurtha I was the son of Shalmaneser and the last of the great Assyrian kings for almost a century. Tukulti-Ninurtha I  was again a great warrior and conquered Babylon and in the process defeated the Kassites and the Elamites. He plundered the temples in Babylon and is identified with the biblical Nimrod by some historians. Nimrod was the king in the bible, who is named as “Great Hunter In the Face of God” implying standing against God. He is also associated with the Tower of Babel. I believe the rise to infamy for Tukulti-Ninurtha I  was the disrespect that he showed in sacking the temples and the outrage that must have produced in the then existing religion. He also built a new capital city which would have led to the legend of Tower of Babel.

The biblical, Talmudic tradition also gives Nimrod the first crown ever worn by kings which seems incorrect as the Pharaohs were wearing the Pschent since before Tukulti-Ninurtha I.


14th Century Mesopotamia
14th Century Mesopotamia

Tukulti-Ninurtha I  proclaimed himself the king of Sumer, Akkad and also surprisingly Meluhha. Sadly history is written by the victors or in the case of ancient history, those who can write. Hence I don’t think we will ever be able to decipher the mystery of how could Tukulti-Ninurtha I I the king of Assyria could also be the king Meluhha which by most accounts was the Harappan civilization. The distance itself would have been insurmountable consisting of modern day Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The fact that they knew about Meluhha in those times is itself astonishing let alone conquer it. The most likely explanation is that Tukulti-Ninurtha I  was just boasting a little bit. Or that Meluhha in later periods referred to some distant place in general and not necessarily the Meluhha of Harappans. Or that our identification of Meluhha with Harappa is incorrect.

Anyways, Tukulti-Ninurtha was killed by his sons, which started the period of stagnation of the Assyrian empire which was ended by Tiglath Pileser I more than a century later.