The Assyrian Empire
History >> Ancient Mesopotamia
The Assyrians were one of the major peoples to live in Mesopotamia during ancient times. They lived in northern Mesopotamia near the start of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. The Assyrian Empire rose and fell several times throughout history.
The First Rise
The Assyrians first rose to power when the Akkadian Empire fell. The Babylonians had control of southern Mesopotamia and the Assyrians had the north. One of their strongest leaders during this time was King Shamshi-Adad. Under Shamshi-Adad the empire expanded to control much of the north and the Assyrians grew wealthy. However, after Shamshi-Adad's death in 1781 BC, the Assyrians grew weak and soon fell under control of the Babylonian Empire.
The Assyrians once again rose to power from 1360 BC to 1074 BC. This time they conquered all of Mesopotamia and expanded the empire to include much of the Middle East including Egypt, Babylonia, Israel, and Cypress. They reached their peak under the rule of King Tiglath-Pileser I.
The neo-Assyrian Empire
The final, and perhaps strongest, of the Assyrian Empires ruled from 744 BC to 612 BC. During this time Assyria had a string of powerful and capable rulers such as Tiglath-Pileser III, Sargon II, Sennacherib, and Ashurbanipal. These leaders built the empire into one of the most powerful empires in the world. They conquered much of the Middle East and Egypt. Once again, it was the Babylonians who brought down the Assyrian Empire in 612 BC.
The Assyrians were perhaps most famous for their fearsome army. They were a warrior society where fighting was a part of life. It was how they survived. They were known throughout the land as cruel and ruthless warriors.
Two things that made the Assyrians great warriors were their deadly chariots and their iron weapons. They made iron weapons that were stronger than the copper or tin weapons of some of their enemies. They were also skilled with their chariots which could strike fear in the hearts of their enemies.
The Library at Nineveh
The last great Assyrian king, Ashurbanipal, constructed a great library at the city of Nineveh. He collected clay tablets from all over Mesopotamia. These included the stories of Gilgamesh, the Code of Hammurabi, and more. Much of our knowledge of the Ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia comes from the remains of this library. According to the British Museum in London, just over 30,000 tablets have been recovered. These tablets make up around 10,000 different texts.
Interesting Facts About the Assyrians
- The great cities of the Assyrian Empire included Ashur, Nimrud, and Nineveh. Ashur was the capital of the original empire and also their main god.
- Tiglath-Pileser III built roads throughout the empire to enable his armies and messengers to travel quickly.
- The Assyrians were experts at siege warfare. They used battering rams, siege towers, and other tactics such as diverting water supplies in order to take a city.
- Their cities were strong and impressive. They had huge walls built to withstand a siege, many canals and aqueducts for water, and extravagant palaces for their kings.
- Take a ten question quiz about this page.
- Listen to a recorded reading of this page:
Learn More about Ancient Mesopotamia:
History >> Ancient Mesopotamia