I am Kilamuwa, the son of King Haya'. King Gabar reigned over Sam'al but achieved nothing. Then came Bamah, and he achieved nothing. My own father, Haya', did nothing with his reign. My brother, Sha'il, also did nothing.
It was I, Kilamuwa...who managed to do what none of my ancestors had.
My father's kingdom was beset by powerful, predatory kings, all holding out their hands, demanding to be fed.
But I raged amongst them like a fire, burning their beards and consuming their outstretched hands. Only the Danunian kings (nearby rulers in Cilicia) overmastered me; I had to call on the King of Assyria to assist me...
I, Kilamuwa, the son of Haya', ascended my father's throne.
Under their previous kings, the [people] had howled like dogs. But I was a father, a mother and a brother to them.
Extract from the Kilamuwa Stele, written in Phoenician in Aramaic script, by a king of Sam’al, a Neo-Hittite city that previously been a member of coalitions against Assyria. Kilamuwa records requesting Assyrian assistance against his powerful immediate neighbours and the benefits that his people received from it
As often happens in imperial struggles, resistance to an empire can be weakened as various weaker factions or kingdoms in an alliance of resistance try to make a deal with the enemy. Many smaller kings were quite happy to make deals with Assyria if it meant that Assyria would punish their local enemies nearby. After the battle of Qarqar some states do seem to have gone over to the Assyrians willingly. King Kilamuwa of Sam’al rather eloquently records that his ancestors had done nothing for his kingdom whereas he had restored it. Assyrian inscriptions (some quoted above) show that his father had fought against Shalmaneser but Kilamuwa records asking the Assyrians for help. Similar defections must have happened elsewhere and contributed to isolating the powerful kingdom of Damascus.
|Wall relief from Nimrud showing Assyrian soldiers|
Inscription of Shalmaneser III describing assistance rendered in crushing a revolt in Babylon
Shalmaneser III was distracted from further attacks across the Euphrates by developments to the south. His ally Marduk-zakir-shumi, king of Babylon was facing a rebellion around 852. The Assyrian troops marched south and after a fairly conclusive campaign, killed the usurper (Marduk-bel-usate). The usurpers had fled into the southern marches and sought shelter from Chaldean tribes. One of the tribes mentioned (the Bit-Yakin or the House of Yakin) were to eventually take control of Babylon in the following centuries. The cooperation between Assyria and Babylon led to a period of excellent relations for decades.
...I took from it the vessels of Jehovah, and offered them before Chemosh. And the king of Israel fortified Jahaz, and occupied it, when he made war against me, and Chemosh drove him out before me...
Excerpts from the Mesha Stele describing Mesha's successful rebellion against Israel
After the battle of Qarqar and the death of Ahab, Mesha, a king of Moab, revolted against Ahab’s successors. The revolt happened during the time of Ahaziah of Israel but Ahaziah died before being able to counterattack. When his brother Joram succeeded to the throne it seems that he tried to retake the land of Moab and summoned his vassal states Judah and Edom to assist. The war seems to have gone successfully for Israel at first but then an odd incident is recorded. Mesha loses a battle, tries to break through enemy lines to reach the king of Edom (who was part of the alliance against him), fails, sacrifices his own son on the walls of the city and the victorious Israelites inexplicably withdraw. The Biblical narrative in Chronicles subsequently records that Jehoshaphat is attacked by a coalition of Moab, Ammon and Edom. We are fortunate enough to have a stele of Mesha preserved, which is remarkable, as no other such steles of any kings of the immediate region have survived. In his inscription he speaks of his great devotion to the national god Chemosh, in ways that are reminiscent of some of the Psalms and that, when his god looked with favour, he was able to free his country from the Israelite yoke. The battles against the Israelites are not mentioned.
|Moabite warrior god|
2 Kings 3:26-27
If we accept the Biblical narrative we might reconstruct the sequence of events as follows. The Edomites were not happy with the Israelite rule and may have switched sides at the crucial juncture. This would explain why Mesha is described as trying to reach them and why they later are part of the coalition against Judah. The Israelite armies are described as being short of water and other supplies and the defection of Edom would have been problematic. Child sacrifice appears to have been part of the religion of the area (this is controversial among scholars) and it would have been seen as a powerful request to a god. Mesha carrying out this ritual in full view of the armies opposing him must have been a terrifying sight. Many in Israel and Judah would have believed that other gods existed, even if they worshipped the national god of Israel, and the sacrifice may have instilled fear into them of the consequences of the provoked anger of the god of Moab and forced Judah and Israel to withdraw. The authors of the book of Kings would be unlikely to record this detail, as Jehoshaphat was a king that they considered to have been very devout. The subsequent invasion of Judah would make sense if Mesha had survived the invasion, with Edom changing sides. Mesha would have wanted revenge and his new allies would have tipped the balance of power in Moab’s favour. However, the book of Chronicles records that the Moabites and Ammonites turned on the Edomites and slaughtered them before turning on each other. This detail would make sense if they thought the Edomites were about to switch sides once again. All in all, it is a really confusing part of history, with the primary sources and later sources vaguely giving a similar picture but interspersing it with unusual details. I thought the story was interesting enough that it should be included, even if it was only a minor squabble compared to other wars of this century. It is also one of the few conflicts of the era where we have sources of any type from both sides of the conflict.
The next few years saw a definite decline of the fortunes of Israel and Judah. Judah was heavily defeated in a later war with the Edomites. More seriously, Israel had been fighting a series of wars with the Arameans of Damascus and generally suffering defeats. Shalmaneser had returned to the region to fight further wars against Hamath and Damascus, who now fought on against Assyria without the help (and with the occasional active hindrance) of Israel. Hadadezer (or Ben-Hadad) was probably murdered by his son Hazael who proved to be a very able military commander. The king of Israel attempted to capitalise on the regime change and there was a battle between Joram of Israel and Hazael of Damascus at the border city of Ramoth-Gilead. Hazael appears to have conclusively defeated the Israelites and King Jehoram of Israel was wounded; retreating to Jezreel with Ahaziah the king of Judah. This battle was around the time of an impending Assyrian invasion against Damascus.
|Stylised depiction of Assyrian war camp|
2 Kings 9:6-7
The loss of Moab and the heavy defeat at Ramoth Gilead around 841 must have angered many in the Israelite army. To add to the discontent there was considerable religious tension in Israel. The Dynasty of Omri had alienated many of the followers of the national religion. One of the prophets (Elisha) was so angered at the dynasty that it is recorded that he not only crowned an alternative king of Israel, but he also had predicted that Hazael would become king of Damascus and inflict great suffering on Israel. This was effectively treason but those who claimed to speak for the gods were feared and revered so Elisha probably had leeway to say more than most. Jehu was a commander of the chariot corps, which seems to have been disproportionately powerful in Israel. Possibly at the instigation of Elisha, Jehu launched a rebellion and came after the two kings of Israel and Judah as they were recuperating in Jezreel. Jehu killed the two kings and all of the house of Omri that he could find before moving swiftly to Samaria and killing the Queen Mother, Jezebel. In the Israelite regal tradition the Queen Mother was a powerful figure and this murder must have broken the alliance with Phoenicia.
|Jehu presenting tribute and bowing low before Shalmaneser|
Inscription of Shalmaneser III describing the expedition against Damascus around 842/841
Israel was still at war with Hazael and Jehu decided to make peace and send tribute to Shalmaneser, hoping that the king of Assyria would break the power of Damascus. Shalmaneser had broken the power of Hamath and had pushed Hazael back to his capital but was unable to take Damascus. Hazael survived and would wreak a terrible vengeance on Israel. In one of Shalmaneser’s stele’s he shows the submission of Jehu, who is mistakenly referred to as being of the house of Omri. It is probably the only contemporary picture of an Israelite king and it is not very flattering.
After he left there, he came upon Jehonadab son of Recab, who was on his way to meet him. Jehu greeted him and said, "Are you in accord with me, as I am with you?" "I am," Jehonadab answered. "If so," said Jehu, "give me your hand." So he did, and Jehu helped him up into the chariot. Jehu said, "Come with me and see my zeal for the LORD."
2 Kings 10:15-16
An unusual element is revealed in the book of Kings describing the change of dynasty in Israel. A descendant of Recab is met by the king who brings him along in the royal chariot while overseeing the destruction of the remainder of the family of Ahab. The Recabites are only mentioned once elsewhere in the Bible, as a small aside in the book of Jeremiah. There we are told that the Recabites were a sect or a clan within Judaism that abstained from wine and lived in tents as a religious duty. It is interesting to note that they were involved in the coup and it is a reminder that even the Judaism of this period was not a simple unitary entity but involved a number of factions and sects.
When Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she proceeded to destroy the whole royal family. But Jehosheba, the daughter of King Jehoram and sister of Ahaziah, took Joash son of Ahaziah and stole him away from among the royal princes, who were about to be murdered. She put him and his nurse in a bedroom to hide him from Athaliah; so he was not killed.
2 Kings 11:1-2
While Jehu had destroyed the family of Omri in Israel, Athaliah, the Queen Mother of Judah, who was a daughter of Ahab and Jezebel, launched a coup in Judah, killing all the house of David that she could find before assuming power as queen for around six years (the only ruling Queen in the history of Judah or Israel and quite unusual for anywhere in the region). This effectively made Judah in revolt against Israel.
|Stele of Shamshi-Adad V|
When Assur-dan-apla, at the time of Shalmaneser, his father, acted treacherously by inciting insurrection, uprising, and criminal acts, caused the land to rebel and prepared for battle; at that time the people of Assyria, above and below, he won over to his side, and made them take binding oaths. He caused the cities to revolt and made ready to wage battle and war. The cities Nineveh, Adia, Sibaniba, Imgur-Enlil, Iššabri, BltŠašširia, (?), Šibhiniš, Tamnuna, Kipšuna, Kurbail, Tidu, Nabulu, Kahat, Aššur, Urakka, Sallat, Huzirina, Dür-baläti, Dariga, Zaban, Lubdu, Arrapha, and Arbail, together with the cities Amedu, Tll-abnl, and Hindanu, — altogether twenty-seven towns with their fortresses which had rebelled against Shalmaneser, king of the four quarters, my father, sided with Assur-dan-apla.
Inscription of Shamshi-Adad V, successor to Shalmaneser III, describing the revolt in 824
|Babylonian text from Sippar|
Shamshi-Adad shall not say any evil words about Marduk-rimanni [... to] the king, (viz.): "Kill, blind, or seize him", nor] shall king Marduk-zakir-shumi listen to him should he say such things.
Excerpt of a treaty between Shamshi-Adad V of Assyrian and Marduk-zakir-shumi of Babylon
I marched to the land of the Medes. They took fright in the face of the angry weapons of Assur and of my strong warfare, which have no rival, and abandoned their cities. They ascended a rugged mountain and I pursued them. I massacred 2,300 soldiers of Hanasiruka the Mede.
Excerpt of an inscription of Shamshi-Adad V describing an expedition to the east
|Babylonian kudurru with the name of Marduk-zakir-shumi|
All of the people of the land Akkad (Babylonia), who had taken fright at the flash of my violent weapons and my incontestable mighty warfare and together with the inhabitants of 447 cities had entered Dur-Papsukkal, a royal city which lay like a river meadow in the torrent of waters and was not easily accessible for my troops — that city I conquered on my march. I felled 13,000 of its soldiers with the sword, caused their blood to flow like river water in the square of their city, and piled up the corpses of their warriors in heaps.
Inscription of Shamshi-Adad V describing the Battle of Dur-Papsukkal and the invasion of Babylonia
Some have speculated that Shamshi-Adad felt that Babylon was given too much importance in the treaties between the two states, others have felt that perhaps he felt that, as the husband of a Babylonian princess, he should have inherited the throne. The origins of the war are unknown but around 814 full-scale war broke out. Shamshi-Adad led two campaigns against the Babylonian royal residence at Dur-Papsukkal and destroyed it, causing the Babylonian king to flee south and die fighting.
|Kudurru of Marduk-balassu-iqbi|
Inscription of Shamshi-Adad V describing the destruction of the Babylonian royal dynasty
His successor, Baba-ahha-iddina, did not even survive the year before being captured alive (and presumably executed) by the Assyrian forces, who pursued the Babylonians into the marshes of southern Babylon and intimidated the Chaldean tribes living there. The fact that his queen was (possibly) Babylonian did not dissuade Shamshi-Adad from destroying the dynasty from which she came. For the rest of this century Babylon was to have no king.
Aramu, in order to save his life, ascended a rugged mountain. I trampled his land with my vigorous virility like a wild bull and laid waste his cities. I razed, destroyed, and burned the city Arsasku together with the cities in its environs. I erected towers of heads before his gate; some heads of nobles I spread out within the piles, others I erected on stakes around the piles. Moving on from the city Arsasku I ascended Mount Eritia. I made a colossal royal statue of myself and wrote thereon the praises of Assur, my lord, and the victorious conquests which I had been achieving in the land of Urartu.
Inscription of Shalmaneser III describing his defeat of Aramu and the destruction of the capital of Urartu
In Assyria Shalmaneser III had fought a series of campaigns against King Arame (often called Aramu in Assyrian inscriptions) of Urartu and had won some major victories. The main capital Arzashkun had been captured and burned and many of the other cities in the region had been destroyed. Arame had united the Nairi tribes and appears to have founded the kingdom of Urartu as a united entity. He ruled from around 858 to 844, although these dates are not certain. Not much is known of him but he may have been the inspiration for later Armenian legends. He was succeeded by Lutipri who is quite silent in the records. Lutipri reigned from about 844 to 834 and during this period the kingdom of Urartu suffered greatly from the Assyrian attacks.
|Van citadel: The new capital of Sarduri I|
Inscription of King Sarduri I of Urartu, located in the masonry walls of a Urartian building at the foot of the citadel of Van.
Sarduri I succeeded Lutipri and had a short reign from 834 to 828 (again these dates are roughly right but not perfect compared to the Assyrian kings). Sarduri I moved the capital north to the citadel of Tushpa, later known as Van. This city had major fortifications constructed on a rocky hilltop that would have daunted most armies that could attempt to besiege it. The new capital and the outbreak of the rebellion against Shalmaneser III in Assyria gave the Urartians breathing space and they were able to expand their kingdom. A number of inscriptions are found at Van, written by Sarduri and other monarchs, where they claim to be the king of the universe in language reminiscent of the bombastic Assyrian claims to overlordship. Sarduri’s son, Ishpuini conquered the city of Musasir, which seems to have held great ritual significance for the Urartians (and thus later became a target for the Assyrians). The location of this city is not known but it is possible that it was actually quite close to the Assyrians (in present day Iraq). Menua was the son of Ishpuini, was adopted to the position of co-ruler during his father’s lifetime and ruled alone from 810 to 786. The Urartian kingdom became very strong during this time and the Assyrian monarchs were unable to crush them.
Some have suspected that Armenian legends such as the legend of Hayk and Ara the Beautiful are remembrances of this time (citing the superficial resemblance of Aramu to Ara). However, the details of the legends do not match the records and hardly any of the names are remembered. It is likely that all that was remembered was that there was a great struggle between the inhabitants of the highlands and Mesopotamians to the south. The details of that struggle were then filled in by medieval historians like Movses Khorenatsi using imagery from Genesis and Greek legends.
|A later painting of Semiramis|
Excerpt from a boundary stone of Adad-Nirari referencing Shammuramat accompanying the king on campaign. The name Uspilulume is the Neo-Hittite name Suppiluliuma as written by the Assyrians.
|A statue from the time of Adad-Nirari III|
Nearchus alone asserts that Alexander pursued this route, not from ignorance of the difficulty of the journey, but because he heard that no one had ever hitherto passed that way with an army and emerged in safety from the desert, except Semiramis, when she fled from India. The natives said that even she emerged with only twenty men of her army; and that Cyrus, son of Cambyses, escaped with only seven of his men.' For they say that Cyrus also marched into this region for the purpose of invading India; but that he did not effect his retreat before losing the greater part of his army, from the desert and the other difficulties of this route. When Alexander received this information he was seized with a desire of excelling Cyrus and Semiramis.
Excerpt from Arrian's Anabasis describing the myths of Semiramis that were apparently believed by Alexander and his soldiers
|A Gustave Doré woodcut of the death of Athaliah|
|A possible representation of Hazael|
An enigmatic text called the Tel Dan Stele has been discovered in the ancient city of Dan in Israel (on the north-eastern border of the old kingdom of Israel). It may or may not be genuine but if it is a forgery, it is a convincing forgery. It is the remains of a monumental victory inscription made by a powerful king of Damascus, probably between 850 and 750. These dates would suggest that it was likely written by Hazael. It has been translated in a number of different ways but one translation is given here and it is worth quoting in full.
|The Tel Dan Stele|
Tel Dan Stele
The stone is shattered and in fragments and the meaning differs from scholar to scholar. Hazael is generally held to be the king writing the inscription. The two kings that are slain are probably the two kings that the Bible mentions as dying in Jehu’s revolt. It is a work of propaganda and must be treated as such but one interpretation could see Jehu and Hazael (two commanders of armies facing each other in battle), making peace with one another, so that each commander could overthrow their kings and rule in their stead. The fact that the Bible records both of these as having dealings with the same holy man shortly before their respective revolutions could lend some credence to this.
|The walls of Tel Dan (a city conquered by Hazael in Israel)|
2 Kings 8:12-13
The Tel Dan stele refers to the king of Damascus slaying the kings of Israel and Judah. If there was an understanding or temporary alliance between Jehu and Hazael, the deaths of Ahaziah and Joram could be legitimately claimed by Hazael as his doing. Alternatively it might be overblown propaganda (“I fought and defeated them; shortly afterwards they died: ergo I killed them”). But a temporary alliance makes a lot of sense. The fact that Jehu and Hazael do not seem to have fought much at the beginning of their reigns would work with this theory, although the fact that Hazael was under attack from Assyria would also explain it. This is generally speculation, which is fun but should not be taken too seriously. If there ever was an alliance between Jehu and Hazael, it did not last and in the last decades of the 9th century Hazael had forged a mighty kingdom that dominated Syro-Palestine; the high water mark of the Aramean kingdom of Damascus, while Assyria had a few decades of temporary weakness. Under the reign of Hazael, Israel cried out for a saviour. The next decades of the century to come would see their deliverance from Damascus.
|Phoenician goddess figure|
2 Kings 13:15-17 (KJV Translation)
This completes the account of this century. It is far longer than other posts that I have written, mainly because it is a long time period with a number of sources. Some general themes can be seen. The weakness of Egypt, the growing but not invincible strength of Assyria, the rise of Urartu as a northern rival to Assyria and the decline of Babylon as a southern rival. The other main theme is the constant political shifts between the smaller but significant kingdoms of Syro-Palestine and the ever-changing alliances and betrayals between Phoenicia, Hamath, Damascus, Israel, Judah, Ammon, Moab and Edom. I have tried to give some idea of these power plays but the nature of the sources allow for multiple interpretations and ultimately we will probably never know exactly what was in the minds of Hazael, Mesha, Jehu or Shamshi-Adad and our knowledge of the lives of ordinary people at this time is very poor. As new facts come to light, our understanding may change radically.
Hopefully this was relatively enjoyable. For the first post in this series, please click here. I will be busy in work for some time so this will be my last post for a while but I hope to resume them in a few months. In the best tradition of 9th century annalistic writing I will leave you with some speculative and most likely incorrect chronologies for these times.
|Wall relief from Nimrud|
Adad-nirari II 911-891
Tukulti-Ninurta II 891-884
Ashurnasirpal II 883-859
Shalmaneser III 859–824 BC (853: Battle of Qarqar; 842-841: attack Damascus; 826: revolt;)
Shamshi-Adad V 824-811 BC
Adad-nirari III 811 - 783
Nabu-shuma-ukin I c. 900-888
Marduk-zâkir-šumi I c. 855 – 819 BC
Marduk-balassu-iqbi c. 819 – 813 BC
Baba-aha-iddina c. 812 BC
No king until c. 800
Egypt (22nd Dynasty ruling in Tanis)
Osorkon I 922-887
Shoshenq II c. 887-885
Takelot I c. 885-872
Osorkon II c. 872-837
Shoshenq III c.837-798
Arame of Urartu 858-844
Sarduri I 834-828 (moves the capital to Tushpa/Van)
Ben-Hadad I (?)
Hadadezer c. 880-842 (853 Battle of Qarqar)
Hazael 842–800 (possible usurper)
Deleastartus c. 900-889
Ithobaal I c.878-847 (or Ethbaal; usurper, New Dynasty: House of Ethbaal)
Baal-Eser II c. 846-841
Mattan I c.840-832
Pygmalion c.831-785 (or Pu’mayyaton)
Baasha (?) (New Dynasty: House of Baasha)
Zimri ? (New Dynasty: House of Zimri)
Omri ? (New Dynasty: House of Omri)
Jehu 841-814 (New Dynasty: House of Jehu)
Ahaziah c. 841
Athaliah 841-836 (usurper)