The Assyrian state is believed to be the first empire in the history of mankind.
The country, existed until 605 BC when it was destroyed by the combined forces of Babylon and Medea.
The Birth of Assur
In the 2nd millennia BC, climate in the Arabian Peninsula got worse. This made the aborigines leave their native territory and search for “a better life”. Assyrians were among them as well.
For their new home they chose the valley of the Tigris River and founded the city of Assur on the coastline. Even though the place was abundant in resources, the existence of more powerful neighbors (Sumerians, Akkadians and others) affected the lives of the Assyrians. They had to be good at everything in order to survive. Merchants had a key role in the young country.
But political independence came later. In the beginning, Assur was under Akkadian rule, then – under Sumerian rule, and after that, the Babylonian King Hammurabi took over, and after him, the city was under the rule of the Mitanni Kingdom. Assur was under Mitanni’s rule for 100 years. But the country of Assyria stabilized under the rule of King Shalmaneser I. And, as a result, Mitanni was destroyed and its territory was annexed by Assyria.
Tiglath-Pileser I (1115-1076 BC) managed to lead the country to a whole new level. All of the neighbors began to comply with Assyria. It seemed like “the golden hour” was near. But in 1076 BC, the king passed away, and unfortunately, no worthy replacement was found among the candidates for the throne.
Arameans took advantage of the situation and made several devastating blows to the Assyrian army and its territory drastically decreased in size. In the end, Assyria was left only with the primordial land and found itself in deep crisis.
It took more than 200 years for Assyrians to recover from the disaster. Assyria began recovering only under the rule of Tiglath-Pileser III, who ruled from 745 until 727 BC. The king first took care of the Urartu Kingdom, and he was able to conquer a lot of the cities and forts of this enemy.
Then, there were successful conquests in Phoenicia, Syria, and Palestine. The conquest of the Babylonian Throne was the highlight of King Tiglath-Pileser III’s career as a king.
His military success is closely related to the reforms that he made during his reign. He reorganized the army which was once made up of landowners. After the reorganization, solders who owned their own land were recruited, and all the expenses were taken care of by the empire.
Actually, Tiglath-Pileser III became the first king to have a regular army. The next ruler, Sargon II (721-705 BC), was predestined to be a great conqueror. He spent almost his entire reign in conquests, adding new lands to Assyria and putting definitive stops to uprisings.
The Doom of the Empire
The Assyrian empire was growing, but there were never-ending uprisings due to the politics of its rulers towards other cultures. Destruction of cities, murdering of innocent people, and cruel executions of the rulers of conquered nations – all of those factors led to hatred towards the Assyrians.
For example, Sennacherib (705-681 BC), the son of Sargon, executed part of the nation, and deported the others after his victory over Babylon. The city itself was destroyed and flooded by the Euphrates River. This was an unjustifiably cruel deed, since the Babylonians and Assyrians were related. And the first always thought of the latter nation as younger brothers. This unmistakably played a huge role. Sennacherib wanted to get rid of the overbearing “relatives”.
Esarhaddon ruled after Sennacherib, and he restored Babylon, but the situation was getting more complicated with every passing year. And even the new ruler, Ashurbanipal (668-631 BC), wasn’t able to save Assyria from its inevitable fall. After his death, Assyria fell into an endless strife. Babylon, Medea, Scythia, and even some Arabian princes took advantage of the situation.
In 614 BC, the nation of Medea completely destroyed the ancient city of Assur which was the heart of Assyria. Babylonians were not part of this conquest – they were late, according to official information.
Two years later, Nineveh (the capital) also fell. And in 605 BC, at the Battle of Carchemish (which later became popular for its hanging gardens), Nabuchadnezzar II completely took over the Assyrian Empire.