SENNACHERIB (705-681 B.C.) (Part 4); Assyrian

The Elamites, disconcerted by the rapidity of his action, allowed him to crush their allies unopposed; and as they had not openly intervened, the conqueror refrained from calling them to account for their intrigues. Babylon paid the penalty for all: its sovereign, Belibni, who had failed to make the sacred authority of the suzerain respected in the city, and who, perhaps, had taken some part in the conspiracy, was with his family deported to Nineveh, and his vacant throne was given to Assur-nadin-shumu, a younger son of Sargon (699 B.C.). [Berosus, misled by the deposition of Belibni, thought that the expedition was directed against Babylon itself; he has likewise confounded Assur-nadin-shumu with Esar-haddon, and he has given this latter, whom he calls Asordancs, as the immediate successor of Belibni. The date 699 B.C. for these events is indicated in “Pinches’ Babylonian Chronicle”, which places them in the third year of Belibni.]

Order was once more restored in Karduniash, but Sennacherib felt that its submission would be neither sincere nor permanent, so long as Merodach-baladan was hovering on its frontier possessed of an army, a fleet, and a supply of treasure, and prepared to enter the lists as soon as circumstances seemed favourable to his cause. Sennacherib resolved, therefore, to cross the head of the Persian Gulf and deal him such a blow as would once for all end the contest; but troubles which broke out on the Urartian frontier as soon as he returned forced, him to put off his project. The tribes of Tumurru, who had placed their strongholds like eyries among the peaks of Nipur, had been making frequent descents on the plains of the Tigris, which they had ravaged unchecked by any fear of Assyrian power. Sennacherib formed an entrenched camp at the foot of their mountain retreat, and there left the greater part of his army, while he set out on an adventurous expedition with a picked body of infantry and cavalry. Over ravines and torrents, up rough and difficult slopes, they made their way, the king himself being conveyed in a litter, as there were no roads practicable for his royal chariot; he even deigned to walk when the hillsides were too steep for his bearers to carry him; he climbed like a goat, slept on the bare rocks, drank putrid water from a leathern bottle, and after many hardships at length came up with the enemy. He burnt their villages, and carried off herds of cattle and troops of captives; but this exploit was more a satisfaction of his vanity than a distinct advantage gained, for the pillaging of the plains of the Tigris probably recommenced as soon as the king had quitted the country. The same year he pushed as far as Dayaini, here similar tactics were employed. Constructing a camp in the neighbourhood of Mount Anara and Mount Uppa, he forced his way to the capital, Ukki, traversing a complicated network of gorges and forests which had hitherto been considered impenetrable. The king, Maniya, fled; Ukki was taken by assault and pillaged, the spoil obtained from it slightly exceeding that from Tumurru (699 B.C.). Shortly afterwards the province of Tulgarimme revolted in concert with the Tabal: Sennacherib overcame the allied forces, and led his victorious regiments through the defiles of the Taurus.[The dates of and connection between these two wars are not determined with any certainty. Some authorities assign them both to the same year, somewhere between 699 and 696 B.C., while others assign them to two different years, the first to 699 or 696 B.C., the second to 698 or 695 B.C.]

Greek pirates or colonists having ventured from time to time to ravage the seaboard, he destroyed one of their fleets near the mouth of the Saros, and took advantage of his sojourn in this region to fortify the two cities of Tarsus and Ankhiale, to defend his Cilician frontier against the peoples of Asia Minor. [The encounter of the Assyrians with the Greeks is only known to us from a fragment of Berosus. The foundation of Tarsus is definitely attributed to Sennacherib in the same passage; that of Ankhialc is referred to the fabulous Sardanapalus, but most historians with much probability attribute the foundation to Sennacherib.]

This was a necessary precaution, for the whole of Asia Minor was just then stirred by the inrush of new nations which were devastating the country, and the effect of these convulsions was beginning to be felt in the country to the south of the central plain, at the foot of the Taurus, and on the frontiers of the Assyrian empire. Barbarian hordes, attracted by the fame of the ancient Hittite sanctuaries in the upper basin of the Euphrates and the Araxes, had descended now and again to measure their strength against the advanced posts of Assyria or Urartu, but had subsequently withdrawn and disappeared beyond the Halys. Their movements may at this time have been so aggressive as to arouse serious anxiety in the minds of the Ninevite rulers; it is certain that Sennacherib, though apparently hindered by no revolt, delayed the execution of the projects he had formed against Merodach-baladan for three years; and it is possible his inaction may be attributed to the fear of some complication arising on his north-western frontier. He did not carry out his scheme till 695 B.C., when all danger in that quarter had passed away. The enterprise was a difficult one, for Nagitu and the neighbouring districts were dependencies of Susa, and could not be reached by land without a violation of Blamite neutrality, which would almost inevitably lead to a conflict. Shutruk-nakhunta was no longer alive. In the very year in which his rival had set up Assur-nadin-shumu as King of Karduniash, a revolution had broken out in Elam, which was in all probability connected with the events then taking place in Babylon.

His subjects were angry with him for having failed to send timely succour to his allies the Kalda, and for having allowed Bit-Yakin to be destroyed: his own brother Khalludush sided with the malcontents, threw Shutruk-nakhunta into prison, and proclaimed himself king. This time the Ninevites, thinking that Elam was certain to intervene, sought how they might finally overpower Merodach-baladan before this interference could prove effectual. The feudal constitution of the Blamite monarchy rendered, as we know, the mobilisation of the army at the opening of a war a long and difficult task: weeks might easily elapse before the first and second grades of feudatory nobility could join the royal troops and form a combined army capable of striking an important blow. This was a cause of dangerous inferiority in a conflict with the Assyrians, the chief part of whose forces, bivouacking close to the capital during the winter months, could leave their quarters and set out on a campaign at little more than a day’s notice; the kings of Elam minimised the danger by keeping sufficient troops under arms on their northern and western frontiers to meet any emergency, but an attack by sea seemed to them so unlikely that they had not, for a long time past, thought of protecting their coast-line. The ancient Chaldaean cities, Uru, Bagash, Uruk, and Bridu had possessed fleets on the Persian Gulf; but the times were long past when they used to send to procure stone and wood from the countries of Magan and Melukhkha, and the seas which they had ruled were now traversed only by merchant vessels or fishing-boats.

Besides this, the condition of the estuary seemed to prohibit all attack from that side. The space between Bit-Yakin and the long line of dunes or mud-banks which blocked the entrance to it was not so much a gulf as a lagoon of uncertain and shifting extent; the water flowed only in the middle, being stagnant near the shores; the whole expanse was irregularly dotted over with mud-banks, and its service was constantly altered by the alluvial soil brought down by the Tigris, the Euphrates, the Ulai, and the Uknu. The navigation of this lagoon was dangerous, for the relative positions of the channels and shallows were constantly shifting, and vessels of deep draught often ran aground in passing from one end of it to the other.[The condition I describe here is very similar to what  Alexander’s admirals found 350 years later. Arrian has preserved for us the account of Nearchus’ navigation in these waters, and his description shows such a well-defined condition of the estuary that its main outline must have remained unchanged for a considerable time; the only subsequent alterations which had taken place must have been in the internal configuration, where the deposit of alluvium must have necessarily reduced the area of the lake since the time of Sennacherib. The little map on the next page has no pretension to scientific exactitude; its only object is to show roughly what the estuary of the Euphrates was like, and to illustrate approximately the course of the Assyrian expedition.]

SOURCE: History Of Egypt, Chaldaea, Syria, Babylonia, and Assyria, Volume 8 (of 12), by G. Maspero/Translated by M. L. McCLURE

Sennacherib (705-681 B.C.) (Part 5); Assyrian

SENNACHERIB (705-681 B.C.) (Part3); Assyrian


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