A. T. (Albert Ten Eyck) Olmstead.

Western Asia in the days of Sargon of Assyria online

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University of California.













722-705 B. C.











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Copyright, 1908
By Cornell University


The present work is a thesis presented to the President
White School of History and Political Science at Cornell
University, and is published as one of its studies. It is an
attempt to investigate methodically a brief period of Ori-
ental history, interesting alike to the Assyriologist, the
Biblical scholar, and the student of classical antiquity.

I began the study of theSargon inscriptions with Pro-
fessor Schmidt in 1901. A year later this subject was
chosen for my thesis for the degree of Master of Arts from
Cornell University. The year 1 903-1 904 was spent in prep-
aration for a trip to Syria lasting from May, 1904, to August,
1905, while I was Fellow of the American School for Ori-
ental Studies at Jerusalem. In preparation for this trip a
collection of the published Assyrian data relating to Syria
had been made, and these were again studied in Syria.
The towns of Hamath, Cimirra, Damascus, Tyre, Samaria,
Ashdod, Gaza, and Raphia, actually mentioned by the
scribes of Sargon, were visited. The Mugri question, so
important for our whole conception of Sargon's Syrian
policy, was studied in the Negeb itself. Possibly most valu-
able of all was the constant and very close contact with the
natives of all conditions, nations, and religions.

Among points to which special attention may perhaps be
invited in this work are the chronological clue to the eponym
canon fragment, the utilization and placing together of the
fragments of Prism B, the use of which has materially
modified the chronology of the reign, the discussion of the
Negeb and Mugri question from a personal knowledge of the



field, the relegation of the Dur Sharrukin group to its proper
place, and the reconstruction of the history on the basis ot
the topography, resulting in a number of new identifications,
especially in Asia Minor.

Credit should be given to those who have generously af-
forded me help. I desire to express my thanks to my friends,
Mr. B. B. Charles, assistant in Semitics at Cornell, and Mr.
J. E. Wrench, fellow in history at Wisconsin, both of
whom were with me in Syria, for many suggestions. Pro-
fessor J. R. S. Sterrett, who has an intimate personal
knowledge of Asia Minor, has often rendered important
assistance. From Professor G. L. Burr I have received
valuable aid in applying a strict historical method, and
Professor H. A. Sill has helped on the side of classical
history. Above all, I owe a heavy debt of gratitude to Pro-
fessor N. Schmidt. For eight years it has been my good
fortune to be closely associated with him, first as student,
and then as assistant, both at Cornell University and later
in Syria. To him I owe my knowledge of Semitic lan-
guages and Oriental history. In a very real sense this work
owes to his inspiration both its origin and its completion.

A. T. Olmstead.

The President White Library,
Cornell University,
June 8, 1906.


Introduction v

The Sources i

Accession 25

Babylonia and Syria 43

The Northwest Frontier 81

The Armenian Wars 1 03

The Median Wars 117

The Elamitish Wars and The Conquest of Babylon i 29

The Last Years 1 48

The Culture Life 1 60




OF ASSYRIA, 722-70^ B. C.



The resurrection of the Assyrian world and the discovery
of Sargon are synchronous. Prior to 1843, when Botta
made his first excavations, it was no exaggeration to say
that " a case scarcely three feet square enclosed all that
remained, not only of the great city, Nineveh, but of Baby-
lon itself." ^ When that scholar left his consulate at Bagh-
dad to excavate in the huge shapeless mound of Khorsabad,
a new world came into being. A new people and a new
language, new customs and a new art, surprised the world;
and Sargon, thus far known only by a single reference in
the Bible,^ suddenly took his place by the side of Cyrus or
Croesus as one of the great monarchs of the ancient Orient.

The first efforts of Botta were confined almost entirely to
the securing of bas-reliefs and inscriptions.^ A later expe-
dition, led by Place in 1851, yielded a less rich booty of such
finds, but, by the careful uncovering of the whole palace
mound, gave us what is still the best plan of an Assyrian

*A. H. Layard, Nineveh and its Remains, 1849, xxv.

* Isaiah 20^.

' The first results were published in Journal Asiatique, IV Series,
vols. II-IV, and later as a separate work by Botta, Lettres sur les
decoiivertes de Khorsabad, 1845, the definitive edition of the results in
Botta and Flandin, Monuments de Ninive, 1849-50.


palace.* Another expedition, though adding nothing to our
Assyrian material, gave Oppert an opportunity of studying
the inscriptions and remains in situ.^

Thus for a considerable period, Sargon and his works
were the most important matters Assyriologists had for
discussion. But as new sites were excavated and new docu-
ments were found, the interest gradually shifted to other
fields where more hope of startling discoveries was to be
had. And, indeed, there is little reason to look for many
new historical documents of Sargon's reign being found;
for the palace he built has been thoroughly excavated and
most of the other places he occupied have been more or less
fully explored. From the philological side there is no
likelihood of great change, and the standard edition by
Winckler^ is nearly final.

But though there is little call for a re-editing of the texts,
two causes make a re-writing of the history very necessary.
On the one hand, a large amount of new material has be-
come available. This is not, of course, to any great extent
of a historical nature. But in the wealth of letters, charters,
business documents, and other material of this sort, we are
not so very diffierently situated from the historian of Medi-
aeval Europe who uses the same kind of documents to check
and amplify his chronicles.

But even more important is the change in our attitude
toward these sources. We no longer are content with a
collection, however exhaustive, of the material. We must
first criticize our sources and then interpret them, not only
in sympathy with the past, but with special reference to the
historical demands of our own day. Let us see how all
this affects our estimates of these inscriptions.

*V. Place, Ninive et I'Assyrie, 1867-70.

''J. Oppert, Expedition Scientiiique en Mesopotamie, 1859-63.

^ H. Winckler, Die Keilschrifttexte Sargons, 1889.


At first sight, nothing could be more certain than the ac-
curacy of these sources. We have here no manuscripts
corrupted by frequent copying. Our documents are origi-
nals, and, what is more, are the productions of contempo-
raries whose results are given us stamped with the stamp of
official approval. Other reasons, no less potent though less
recognized and less legitimate, were the natural prejudice
in favor of the newest discoveries, especially when dis-
covered in so wonderful a way, and the even more natural
feeling of favor with which Christian men and women
viewed the documents, risen from the earth, which so often
refuted the over-zealous " higher critic." ^

Our report must be much less favorable. These records
are official. In that fact lies their strength and their weak-
ness. The opportunities for securing the truth were ample.
Royal scribes accompanied the various expeditions^ and the
archive chambers were full of detailed reports from com-
manders in the field. But, like all official records, ancient
or modern, these documents have been edited to a degree of
which it is difficult to conceive. A few examples may not be
out of place to show how far from trustworthy they are.
Sometimes a foreign source may afford the needed correc-
tion, as when Rusash of Haldia turns up safe, sound, and
victorious enough to erect the Topsana stele some time after
the suicide the Assyrian scribes so pathetically describe, or
as when the Hebrew account declares that the leader of the
Ashdod expedition was the Tartan and not the king^^ hifti-

^ S. Karppe, Les Documents historiques de la Chaldee et de I'Assyrie
et la Verite, Revue Semitique, 1894, 347 if., is rather trite but marks a
step in the right direction.

'For the gittai officials who went as scribes to the field of battle,
compare Johns, Deeds, II. 168.

" Isaiah, /. c.

" As claimed by Sargon, Prism B.


self, or as when from the Babylonian chronicle we learn
that the victory Sargon claims to have won at Dur ilu was
really a defeat.^^ In each of these cases there was every
inducement for Sargon's scribes not to tell the truth, while
the foreign writers were under much less temptation.

But sometimes we do not need to go beyond Sargon him-
self. Out of his own mouth we may convict him of un-
truth. Note, for example, the three accounts of the fate of
Merodach Baladan. In one he is captured.^^ In the second
he begs for peace.^^ In the third, he runs away and es-
capes.^* Naturally, we are inclined to accept the last, and
this is confirmed by the later course of events.^^ But such
an occurrence raises a doubt in our mind as to the accuracy
of other cases where the official accounts do not agree among
themselves. When, for instance, we have one account of
the Ashdod expedition in which we are told that lamani
was captured^^ and another where we learn that he fled
to Meluhha whence he was brought back,^^ we are inclined
to wonder if he did not really escape.^^

Another question and one which must aflfect our esti-
mate of Sargon's character, is how far the use of the first
person actually means personal command in the field. In
one or two cases,^ where the absurdity of this would have
been self-evident, due credit is given to the local commander.
The use of the first person means no more than does the
triumph of a Roman emperor mean that he was in the field

" Cf. the study of the battle of Dur ilu in chapter III.
"D. 133.

"Annals V; cf. F. Peiser, Zeitschrift fiir Assyriologte, 1889, 412 ff.
"A. 349.

"See further in chapter VII. n. 57.
"A. 225.
"D. 112.

" Cf. chapter III. n. 68.
"A. 307, 393, 408.


himself. In many cases it would clearly have been impos-
sible for Sargon to have been in widely separated parts of
the empire at practically the same time. Many campaigns
are too petty for the great king to have troubled himself
about. Only once does the Hebrew allow us to check and
then, in the important Ashdod revolt, it is the Tartan and
not the king who is in command.^^ Indeed, from the letters
and the prayers to Shamash,^^ we find that it was the ex-
ception rather than the rule for the king to war at the
head of his army. In several cases it has already been
recognized that we must see separate movements under
separate commanders to the consequent clearing up of the
history.22 Much must still be done along this line.

A mere reference may be made here to the exaggerated
and discordant figures given in the various documents. The
plea of Oriental disregard for numbers may be made, but can
hardly stand in the face of the small and exact numbers of
the epistolary literature. Nor should we forget the stereo-
typed formulae which have no more real meaning than have
the accounts of battles in Diodorus. Enough has been
shown, it would seem, to indicate the care with which we
must study these sources, even when their statements are
not directly challenged by other evidence. Even within the
official inscriptions themselves there are groups of varying
degrees of trustworthiness. Unfortunately, the one least
valuable is the fullest, and has, until the present, been too
fully trusted. Unfortunately, too, our other evidence is of a
fragmentary character and so often we must accept the
version of the official inscriptions of this group or trust to

=~Cf. n. i8.

"J. A. Knudtzon, Assyrische Gehete, 1893.

"A. Billerbeck, Susa, 1893, has done this for the Susa campaigns.
In his Suleimania, 1898, he has done the same for the Median wars.


mere conjecture. This group is that comprising the various
documents dating from about the year 707 and coming down
to us inscribed on the walls of Sargon's new capital of Dur
Sharrukin. It includes the Annals,^^ the Annals of Hall
XIV,^* the Display Inscription,^^ which form a sub-group
of larger inscriptions, and a group of smaller ones including
the Cylinders^^ from the foundations, the inscriptions on
the Bulls,^^ the tablets found in the foundation stone,^ those

'^ The Annals ; abbreviated as A., was first published by Botta, op. cit.,
pis, 70 if., 104 fF., 158 ff. The latest and best edition by Winckler,
Sargon, II. pi. I ,fF. Translated by Oppert in Place, Ninive, II. 309 ff. ;
in Les inscriptions de Dour Sarkayan, 1870 29 ff.; in Records of the
Past, I Series, 1873 ^v VII. 21 ^. ; by J. Menant, Annates des Rois
d'Assyrie, 1874, 158 ^. ; by Winckler, De Inscriptione quae vocatur
Annalium, 1886; in Sargon, I. 3 ff.

** The various parts of this inscription are published in their place
with the other versions of the Annals by Winckler, but in his translation
he has collected them separately, placing them after the Annals proper.

2' The Display Inscription is the Pastes of the French and the
Prunkinschrift of the Germans. Text in Botta, op. cit., pi. 93 ff. ;
Winckler, Sargon, II. pi. 30 if. ; translated by Oppert and Menant, Les
Pastes de Sargon, 1863=: Journal Asiatique, 1863-65; Menant, Annales,
180 ff.; Oppert, Records of the Past^ IX. i ff.; Winckler, Sargon, I. 97
ff. ; F. E. Peiser, Keilinschriftliche Bibliothek, 1889 ff., II. 52 ff. There
are four versions on the walls of rooms IV, VII, VIII, X. Of these, X
is nearly complete while the others make only verbal changes. The date
is the same as that of A. since D. 155-157 = A. 416-118. A further
limitation is found in D. 23 where Sargon refers to his fifteenth year
(707). Quoted as D.

^Published by Place, Ninive, II. 291 ff.; Oppert, Dour Sarkayan, 11
ff.; I. R. 36; D. G. Lyon, Keilschrifttexte Sargons, 1883, i ff.; Winckler,
op. cit., II. pi. 43. Translated by Oppert in Place, /. c. ; by Oppert,
/. c; Menant, Annales, 199 ff-\ Lyon, op. cit., 30 ff.; Peiser, Keilinschr.
Bibl., II. 39 ff.; A. Barta in R. F. Harper, Assyrian and Babylonian
Literature, 1901, 59 if. The variants are of small importance. A
fragment of a somewhat similar text found at Jerusalem is published
by Menant, Recueil de Travaux, 1890 (XIII), 194.

^ Published by Botta, op. cit., pi. 22 ff. ; Oppert in Place, op. cit., 283
ff.; Dour Sarkayan, 3 ff.; Lyon, op. cit., 13 if-; Winckler, op. cit., XL
pi. 41 f. Translated by Oppert, /. c, and Records of the Past^ XL 17 ^.;


on the gate pavements,^^ and those on the backs of the sculp-
tured slabs.^^

Of the two sub-groups, the first is not only fuller, but
generally more accurate, though there are cases where the
second seems to point to a more probable situation.^^ Of the
first, again, the Annals is the most trustworthy as well as
the backbone of our chronology. As compared with the
other documents of the Dur Sharrukin group, details are
given most fully, numbers are still fairly reasonable, and the
facts seem least distorted. Yet often the four versions of the
Annals differ among themselves in a most remarkable man-
ner^^ and in some cases two slightly differing accounts have

Menant, op. cit., 192 if.; Lyons, op. cit., 40 i^. The inscriptions are on
slabs under the colossi. A fragment in the Egyptian Museum of the
Vatican is noted by C. Bezold, Zeitschr. f. Assyr., 1886, 229, cf. K.
Badeker, Central Italy, 1904, 361. There is a close agreement, often
verbal, between the Bull and the Cylinder Inscriptions. Quoted as C.

-* Seven inscriptions on slabs of gold, silver, copper, lead, alabaster,
limestone (or tin(?)) and on the chest itself. For a discussion of the
materials, cf. F. Delitzsch, Assyrisches Worterhuch, 1887, 50. The
chest and two slabs were lost in the Tigris accident. The others pub-
lished by Oppert in Place, op. cit., 303 ff. ; and in Dour Sarkayan, 23 if. ;
Lyon, op. cit., 20 ff. ; Winckler, op. cit., IL pi. 37 ff. Translated by
Oppert, /. c, and in Records of the Past^ XL 31 if.; Lyon, op. cit., 48 if.
In general, it belongs to the group of minor inscriptions.

^ Published by Botta, op. cit., pi. i if. ; Winckler, op. cit., II. pi. 37 if.
Translated by Menant, op. cit., 195 if.; Winckler, op. cit., 136 if. It is
found on the pavements of nineteen gateways. There are five recensions
of which IV found in nine gates is the longest and most important.
Quoted as P.

*> Published by Botta, op. cit., pi. 164 if.; Winckler, op. cit., II. pi. 40.
Translated by Menant, op. cit., 196 if.; Winckler, op. cit., 164 if. It
is the short display inscription placed on the backs of the slabs so that,
even if they fell away from the walls, the name and titles of Sargon
could still be seen.

" Cf. chap. IV. n. 43.

"^ Cf . n. 13 with n. 12. There are over a dozen such instances ac-
cording to Winckler, Ins. Sarg., 11.


been incorporated one after the other.^^ The greatest value
of the Annals lies in its chronology, for indeed without it
we would have no solid basis for the dating of many events
of the reign and no general chronology at all. Yet a care-
ful examination of its chronological data gives an unsatis-
factory impression. Under the year 710, for example, we
have a brief account of the events from the accession of
Merodach Baladan,^* while at the end of the same year we
have the account of the " seizing the hands of Bel," which
logically closes the Babylonian campaign, but really belongs
to the following year.^** The section dealing with 716, as
already seen, clearly contains the records of more than one
year.^ The frontier wars were evidently chronic, yet they
are forced into the chronological scheme. Nor does the
scheme agree with what we find elsewhere. It is difficult
to acknowledge that the scribes of Sargon, near the close
of his reign, did not know or did not care to know the real
succession of affairs. The putting together of the Prism
fragments has perhaps given a new point of view. In the
earlier years, the date is one year earlier than that of the
Annals, in the later, two years. It is simply inconceivable
that in 707 the scribes did not know whether the Ashdod
revolt took place four or six years before. There are two
distinct systems here, one in the Annals and one in the
Prism B, both probably artificial to a considerable extent.
Which is more probable and to how great a degree either
is true is a difficult question, but a study of the whole
chronology seems to indicate that that of Prism B should

^A. 93-94 = 99-100; 264-271=271-277; 278-281=281-284; cf.
Winckler, Sargon, XXXIV.
^*A. 228 ff.
^A. 309 ff.
^ A, 52 ff. Cf. discussion, chap. V.


be more trusted, and this seems to be borne out by a com-
parison of the two. It is difficult to explain the system of
the Annals from that of the Prism, but the reverse is easy.
It looks a little as if there had been a break in the series
of campaigns, the Assyrian Chronicle has for one year
"in the land," that is, no expedition, and that later the
scribes had padded out these gaps with the events of other
more crowded years.^^ A most glaring example of the
inaccuracy of the Annals is in its dating the battle of Dur
ilu in 721, whereas not only the Babylonian Chronicle, but
also an official inscription of Sargon of very early date
assign it to 720. Again we ask: Why was this transfer
and what really happened in 721 ? Was that year taken
up with putting down revolts ?^^ The chronology of the
Assyrian Chronicle belongs to a group of its own, but so
far as its data can be brought into relation to the others, it
rather supports that of the Prism.^^ But, however we may
distrust the artificial scheme of the Annals, we must ac-
knowledge that the others may also have an artificial char-
acter while, as the only full and complete system, it must
still be retained for at least relative chronology in so far as
an artificial system cannot be detected. A very inferior
version of the Annals is that of Hall XIV, which omits
much and abandons the chronological order.

If the Annals had been completely preserved, there would
be little use for the Display Inscription, but the former is
so badly mutilated that the frequently literal quotation by
the latter is often our only source. But the accounts are
much abbreviated and are arranged in geographical rather
than in chronological order, although chronology does play
some part within these sections. Failure to understand this

" See n. 42.

"" Cf. chap. III. n. 8.

" Cf. n. 45.


arrangement has led to sad mistakes, an example of which
is the time-honored error which places an Arabian tribute
, immediately after the battle of Rapihu, merely because the
two are closely connected in this inscription."*^

The minor inscriptions of this group give but little that
is new. There is no chronological arrangement and their
variant readings, though interesting to the philologist and
topographer, have but little for the historian. The Cylinders
seem to be the earliest as they are the most important. In
fact, so close is the agreement in places with the deed of gift
document of 714 that we may postulate an earlier date for
this, perhaps soon after the conquest of Babylon. For the
building of Dur Sharrukin, it is our best authority and
may perhaps be a source for the accounts of the others,
while it is often of value for other phases of the culture
life. The Larnaka stele is of interest, because it is the
identical stone Sargon sent to Cyprus, as we are informed
in the other inscriptions. Its text is comparatively short,
but in type it agrees rather with the large than the small
ones. Sometimes it gives a more likely account, as when
we have the version of the subjection of Cyprus intended
for the Cypriotes themselves, or the fuller account of
Hamath. Its date is about the same as that of the Dur
Sharrukin group, to which it belongs in spite of its distant

*" In D. z-j the tribute of Piru follows D. 2() where Hanunu of Gaza
appears. These events have been placed together by E. Schrader, Die
Keilinschriften und das Alte Testament,^ 1872, 285; ib.,^ 1883, 297;
L. B. Paton, Early History of Syria and Palestine, 1901, 247; G. S.
Goodspeed, History of the Babylonians and Assyrians, 1902, 249. But
this a clear case" of error, for D. 27 is identical with A. 97 which is, of
course, under 715.

"The Cyprus stele was first noted in 1845 by L, Ross, Reisen nach
Kos, 1852, 87 n. 6. It had been discovered while digging a cellar in an
otherwise unexcavated region on the west outskirts of the Mariana, or


A second group would contain the inscriptions of the two
Prisms. Prism A has been fairly well studied. It gives
us the well-known Ashdod revolt, the list of Median princes,
and a Dalta episode. Prism B has remained largely un-
noticed. The fragments have now been arranged, and large
parts of four out of eight columns recovered. The results
are in general disappointingly meager in all but one direc-
tion. This is the chronology which, however artificial,
seems, as already noted, to be more nearly correct than that
of the Annals. The two prisms, though not identical, are
quite similar. They are of Annal type, though entirely
unrelated to the Annals. They seem earlier than the Dur
Sharrukin group, though they cannot be much older. They
appear to come from Nineveh, where Sargon would seem to
have resided prior to his occupation of his new capital.*^

port of Larnaka. For location, cf. the map by Dozon in Corpus In-
scriptionum Semitic arum, 1881 {f., I. i. 35. The stele, a large block
of basaltic stone, bearing a life-size relief of the king, was secured for

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