Assyrian kings

The Second Assyrian Empire had its origin in the year 763 B.C., when an eclipse of the sun started a religious rebellion in Nineveh. This eclipse seems to have been accepted as evidence that the god Asshur had turned his back upon the ancient race of kings, who traced their origin into the forgotten beginnings of Assyria. So there were nearly twenty years of tumult and civil war, at the end of which a new man, Pul, the son of a common gardener, had forced his way to the front as a successful general, and become king. Pul took the title of the great conqueror of the past and called himself Tiglathpileser, being the third monarch of that name.

Pul, or Tiglathpileser III., was a king of much more modern type than the earlier Assyrians. His victories over surrounding countries were not mere raids for the purpose of plundering or exacting tribute. The territory of each conquered land was annexed permanently to his own. The method by which this was accomplished was crude but effective. Such of the defeated natives as were not slain were marched away in masses to some other portion of the Assyrian domain and there colonized, while the loyal subjects and soldiers of Assyria were rewarded with the vacant lands of the conquered district. It was these wholesale deportations by Pul and his successors that swept the people of Samaria, the "lost tribes" of Israel, out of Palestine.

Moreover, the Assyrian kings began to see that there were other means than war of making a kingdom great. They sought to control the trade of Asia by taking possession of the cities along the chief trade-routes, and garrisoning them with Assyrian troops. Thus Assyria became the real master of the Euphrates valley as no nation had ever been before. She united her influence to that of the still powerful trading metropolis, Babylon, and appeared for a time in the role of benefactor, since any policeman, however savage in himself, is a benefactor to those whom he protects from a swarm of other plunderers.

On Pul's death, a second and then a third Assyrian general seized the throne. The last of these called himself Sargon II., after the famous King of Akkad. He was a rough but shrewd old warrior, who established himself and his empire so firmly that his family retained the throne for the one last and most gorgeous century that remained to Assyria before its final downfall.

Sargon II. was murdered suddenly, we do not know why, by a foreign soldier; and his son Sennacherib succeeded him. Let us remember this series of the five tremendously powerful kings who ruled Assyria in the time of her widest dominion. They were Pul, Sargon II., Sennacherib, and after these, Esarhaddon and Assurbanipal. We have seen many previous chieftains making raids into far lands and compelling a temporary submission to their arms, but these mighty Assyrian sovereigns were the first whose word was permanently accepted as law throughout an empire almost as large as our own United States.

Of Sennacherib you have heard in the Bible. He seems to have been weak and cruel, false and boastful. His father's splendid army enabled him to defeat the Egyptians and to overrun Judea. Two hundred thousand Jews were sent captive to Assyria. But the Jewish king, Hezekiah, shut up in Jerusalem, defied the tyrant; and then occurred that strange destruction of the foe of which the Bible tells us. Sudden death, perhaps in the form of a pestilence, swept through the camp, and Sennacherib fled. Contrary to all Assyrian precedent, he failed to return to the attack. Hezekiah remained independent and defiant.

Meanwhile, Babylon had been in constant turmoil with Assyria, yielding, rebelling, intriguing, struggling, surrendering. Pul, Sargon, and Sennacherib had each in succession seized the city by force. But her bitterest opposition seems to have been reserved for Sennacherib; for he strove to destroy the religious and commercial supremacy which meant to Babylon far more than military dominion. Of all her conquerors, Sennacherib is the only one whom the priests persistently refused to acknowledge as their king; and now under priestly lead the Babylonians expelled his troops from their city.

In 689 B.C., Sennacherib captured by storm the famous old metropolis of the world and wreaked brutal vengeance on it. For days his soldiers were turned loose in its streets with orders to kill every one they found. The walls and buildings were torn down; the canals were choked with ruins; and for eight years the stubborn priests, refusing even then to acknowledge the conqueror, record the desolation in the tragic phrase "there were no kings."

We cannot but be impressed and awed by the tremendous power which we now find centred in one man. Sennacherib, by a word, made a desolation of the largest city in the world; but a greater than he did a greater thing. Within another eight years the next king rebuilt Babylon on a scale grander even than before.

This king was Esarhaddon, whom the Greeks called Sarchedon, the last celebrated warrior king of Assyria. Sennacherib had been murdered by two of his sons; but Esarhaddon, who was another favorite son, defeated and punished both of the murderers, and succeeded to the kingdom. He is the one Assyrian king to whom we can turn with any real liking; the others seem to us ruthless, snarling tigers, bent only on devouring the nations.

Esarhaddon's policy throughout his empire was one of kindness and conciliation. He set about the rebuilding of Babylon, the holy city, with real religious fervor; and the priests gladly hailed him as their rightful ruler. He brought Manasseh, King of Jerusalem, in chains to his feet, and then forgave him. Before the end of his reign he did the same with the great King of Egypt. He repelled from his borders the Kimmerians, the first of those successive waves of ferocious barbarians who, throughout the ages, have burst upon the world from the wilds of Central Asia. He penetrated the very heart of the Arabian desert, venturing with his troops across the burning sands where no army had ever marched before. Even the wandering Arab tribes acknowledged his supremacy. As the last and proudest triumph of the Assyrian power, Esarhaddon conquered Egypt. He divided the land of the Pharaohs into twenty dependent provinces. They rose in revolt; and it was while quelling this uprising that he died.

To Esarhaddon, the last warrior king, succeeded his son Assurbanipal. The new monarch was a man of peace, who sent his generals to the field, while he himself remained in ease and comfort in his palace. He was a patron of literature, and before his death gathered at Nineveh the great library from which we have learned so much of his country. At first his generals were successful. The Egyptian revolt was crushed and the old Egyptian capital, Thebes, was destroyed.

Support this site and add value to yours by linking to this page. Just copy the text or HTML below and paste into your web site. Thank you!

Read about Assyrian kings in the The Story of the Greatest Nations and the Worlds Famous Events Vol 1

Help us improve and/or update this article. Please send suggested text to For submission Terms and Conditions, click here.