The Palaces at Nimrud Restored

The Palaces at Nimrud Restored

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Photos: Ancient Inscriptions Tell of Assyrian King Ashurnasirpal II

A number of artifacts with inscriptions have survived the destruction of the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud. Live Science showed photographs of some of the inscriptions to scholars who were able to identify what they say. In this high res image a statue, with carved remains of legs, can be seen sticking out of a pile of destroyed artifacts.

The inscription beside the legs tells the story of how the Assyrian King Ashurnasirpal II (reign 883&ndash859 B.C.) founded a monkey colony at Nimrud. The king received female monkeys as tribute from lands near the Mediterranean coast and bred them with male monkeys that he also obtained (or already had) to found the colony. The inscription says that "herds of them in great numbers" lived at Nimrud.

The king on campaign

Image 1 : This rare example of an Assyrian statue depicts king Assurnasirpal II (r. 883-859 BC) and originally stood in the temple of Ištar Šarrat-niphi in Kalhu. BM 118871. View information and larger image on British Museum website. © The Trustees of the British Museum

Assurnasirpal's inscriptions record a total of 14 military campaigns led by the king over the course of his 24 years on the throne. The early years of his reign in particular saw him conduct regular expeditions for both plunder and political control. The Assyrian war machine was made even more efficient at this time by advances in military technology. These included more effective siege machines and a greater emphasis on the use of cavalry rather than chariotry. This was particularly important in the mountainous regions to Assyria's north and northwest, where the use of chariots - which need flat terrain - was not practical.

Assurnasirpal was the first Assyrian king since Tiglath-pileser I  PGP  (r. 1114-1076 BC) to reach the Mediterranean Sea - an impressive feat which he celebrated by ceremonially washing his weapons in its waters and making sacrifices to the gods. He also paid a visit to the famous cedar  TT  forests of Lebanon  PGP  , whose exceptionally tall and straight trees had provided highly prized building materials for many generations of Mesopotamian kings. To mark the occasion and establish a symbolic Assyrian presence in the region, Assurnasirpal erected a commemorative stela  TT  on Mount Amanus  PGP  .

An important achievement of Assurnasirpal's reign was his contribution to the developing system of provincial  TT  administration. Annexed regions had to send regular tribute  TT  and were put under the control of Assyrian governors  TT  who reported directly to the king. To prevent uprisings, local people were deported en masse and resettled in other areas of the empire. Some of these deported people, gathered from various parts of the empire, were used to build and populate the city of Kalhu (1) . Assurnasirpal also strengthened Assyria's control over its provinces by setting up fortified garrisons (some of which had previously functioned as depots for local harvests) from which further campaigns could be mounted easily and with minimal delay.

UN Official: ISIS Destruction of Ancient City of Nimrud, Artifacts a ‘War Crime’

Terror group has been looting, destroying culture in cradle of civilization.

ISIS Bulldozes Ancient City of Nimrud in Iraq

— -- The head of the United Nation’s cultural organization said today that the continued looting and destruction of ancient artifacts – most recently ISIS's “bulldozing” of one of Mesopotamia’s greatest cities – constitutes nothing less than a “war crime.”

“I condemn in the strongest possible manner the destruction of the archaeological site of Nimrud site in Iraq. This is yet another attack against the Iraqi people, reminding us that nothing is safe from the cultural cleansing underway in the country: It targets human lives, minorities, and is marked by the systematic destruction of humanity’s ancient heritage,” Irina Bokova, Director of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization said today. “We cannot remain silent. The deliberate destruction of cultural heritage constitutes a war crime. I call on all political and religious leaders in the region to stand up and remind everyone that there is absolutely no political or religious justification for the destruction of humanity’s cultural heritage.”

Bokova’s statement came a day after Iraqi television reported that ISIS militants had “bulldozed” Nimrud, the second capital of the Assyrian Empire founded during the 13th century B.C., which lies approximately 20 miles south of Mosul, according to the UN. The Associated Press reported that the discovery of treasures in Nimrud’s royal tombs in the 1980s was “one of the 20th century’s most significant archaeological finds.”

“[Nimrud’s] frescos and works are celebrated around the world and revered in literature and sacred texts,” Bokova said.

Beyond the human toll of countless of ISIS’s alleged war crimes – including the systematic murder of unarmed civilians and prisoners, persecution of minorities and the use of young women as sex slaves – academics and officials have said ISIS has targeted for destruction anything that doesn’t conform to their twisted interpretation of Islam, no matter the cultural value.

Last week video emerged that appeared to show ISIS militants taking sledgehammers to artifacts in a museum in Mosul, pushing over statues and drilling into other ancient treasures. Some of the statues appear to have metal rods inside them, suggesting they’re replicas, but others just crumble when they hit the floor.

“These antiquities and idols behind me were from people in past centuries and were worshiped instead of God,” an unidentified man says in the video. “When God Almighty orders us to destroy these statues, idols and antiquities, we must do it, even if they’re worth billions of dollars.”

But ISIS is hardly above stealing ancient treasures for financial gain. David Cohen, Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence at the U.S. Treasury Department, named looting as one financial supply line for ISIS and said the group “lay[s] waste to thousands of years of civilization in Iraq and Syria by looting and selling antiquities.”

In January ISIS purportedly stole around 2,000 books from the Central Library of Mosul, loading up the texts including children’s stories and poetry, and trucking them away, according to The New York Times. They left only the Islamic texts.

“These books promote infidelity and call for disobeying Allah,” a bearded militant reportedly told locals. “So they will be burned.”

Looting has been a major problem for cultural heritage since the outset of the Syrian civil war. As noted by the website, satellite images show the destruction at one site, the ancient Syrian city of Apamea, that took place just between 2011 and 2012. An image from the latter period shows the ground covered in pockmarks, presumably thousands of holes dug by looters.

In 2013, the International Council on Museums issued an “emergency red list” identifying categories of Syrian artifacts that are in danger of being looted so that museums, private collectors, auction houses and art dealers would know not to buy them.

“Objects from these sites are highly coveted in the international art and antiquities markets and therefore subject to theft, looting and illicit trafficking,” the notice says.

“What started as opportunistic theft by some has turned into an organized transnational business that is helping fund terror,” Michael Danti, an archaeologist at Boston University, told The Wall Street Journal last month. “It’s the gravest cultural emergency I’ve seen.”

Bokova said ISIS’s latest acts in Iraq must not be tolerated by the world.

“I call on all of those who can, especially youth, in Iraq and elsewhere, to do everything possible to protect this heritage, to claim it as their own, and as heritage of the whole of humanity,” she said. “I appeal also to all cultural institutions, museums, journalists, professors, and scientists to share and explain the importance of this heritage and the Mesopotamian civilization. We must respond to this criminal chaos that destroys culture with more culture.”

Iraqi forces discover devastating scale of destruction by IS in Nimrud

Treasures that were one of the 20th century's most significant archaeological finds have been destroyed.

Wednesday 16 November 2016 16:14, UK

The massive scale of destruction to the historic city of Nimrud by Islamic State has been discovered by Iraqi forces.

The troops entered the area on Sunday in what was the most significant gain in their push further into Mosul in the last several days.

On Wednesday they came under heavy attack by rockets and suicide bombers from Islamic State fighters.

But they have established a foothold in the east of the city and progressed to the Tahrir area where families fled from their houses to escape the fighting.

Mortars from IS-held territory wounded at least five children trying to flee after they were evacuated by troops.

Away from the fighting, Iraqi forces assessed the damage to Nimrud, about 19 miles southeast of Mosul.

Major General Dhiaa al-Saadi, the deputy commander of Iraqi ground forces who oversaw the operation, said IS had almost completely destroyed the town's ancient Assyrian archaeological site.

He said: "We have information that all of the archaeological sites inside Mosul have already been destroyed."

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The discovery in the late 1980s of treasures in Nimrud's royal tombs was one of the 20th century's most significant archaeological finds.

The government said the IS militants, who captured the site in June 2014, destroyed it the following year, using heavy military vehicles.

In a field outside an ancient palace, shattered remains of intricate carvings lie broken in the dust.

Remnants of elaborate wall panels and colossal statues of winged bulls, they stood at the site for nearly three millennia, reminders of a mighty empire which stretched across the Middle East.

At the northern edge of the old city, a ziggurat - or terraced pyramid - towered over the palace and nearby temples.

When IS militants swept through northern Iraq two years ago they ransacked ancient cities, religious sites and palaces which the ultra-hardline Sunni Muslim zealots idolised.

The ziggurat has been reduced to a pile of dirt and covered in tyre tracks, apparently flattened by bulldozers in the last two months before Islamic State fighters were driven out.

Palace walls have been stripped of the carved facades which adorned them and just a few pieces remain in place.

Fragments of the winged bulls - or lamassus - which stood at one of the palace entrances are strewn in a field.

Deputy culture minister Qais Hussain Rasheed said: "Despite the massive destruction to the ancient city, and the loss of the architectural intricacies of the palaces and temples and the ziggurat, we trust that we can restore and renovate what was destroyed and bring back to life this outstanding archaeological site." 

Fateh Prakash Palace, Udaipur: Views of Lake Pichola

Even today, the grand space has been left untouched by the passage of time and glows in the light of ornate pendulous crystal chandeliers. The centrepiece is an exquisite one that weighs a thousand kilograms and is flanked by two that weigh 800 kgs while four smaller chandeliers (200 kg each) glow in the four corners of the hall. The walls are adorned with vintage weapons of the Mewar dynasty and portraits of former maharanas who stare down haughtily from their gilded frames. The galleries that project beyond the Durbar Hall yank in views of the palace-studded dreamy Lake Pichola while the arched gallery above the hall once served as a viewing gallery for the ladies of the court who could watch royal functions unfolding below, unseen and unheard.

Photo caption: A view of the restored wing archways at the entrance of Fateh Prakash Palace hotel in Udaipur

After a 4 million dollar makeover the Historic Lockport Palace Theatre is set to open Saturday

LOCKPORT, NY (WKBW-TV) — The ninety-six year old Historic Lockport Palace Theatre has never looked better after it's four million dollar makeover. Ellen Schratz and her husband Jeff began the non-profit organization that took on the once dilapidated theatre a couple decades ago.

Ellen Schratz says "Over the years we just crept along, we got a digital projector, we fixed the roof, we fixed the dressing rooms."

With the COVID shutdowns, the work just continued and according to Executive Director Chris Parada it was all worth it. He says "We took the opportunity during COVID to get these renovations done so we wouldn't have to close again."

The Palace now features newly restored paint including the murals on the ceiling. There are new seats and carpeting as well as state of the art rigging backstage and a newly expanded orchestra pit. The lobby and snack bar have been updated.

The theatre opens to public on Saturday May 1st with a special gala called "Dazzling Through The Decades". There are tickets still available. Information about the event can be found at the Lockport Palace Website.

According to Ellen Schratz people need to see it for themselves, adding "It way surpasses my vision-It's just spectacular-I don't really have the words to explain how wonderful it is."

Ancient History

This is the first post in the series. For the second post, please click here. I took a brief break from my posts on the Near Eastern/Middle Eastern history to discuss Mesoamerican history, but I will now return to the region and discuss the 9th Century BC (or the 800’s BC if you prefer basically anything between 900-800BC). I will take a slightly different approach from my last blog-post on the Middle East in the order in which I discuss the civilisations, as the expansion of the Assyrian Empire means that the history of some of the separate regions begins to intersect, particularly in the Assyrian expansion into what is today western Syria. We are fortunate however that there are many more sources for this period, at least from the Assyrian perspective. From about 850 onwards the Biblical narrative is broadly corroborated by Assyrian and other sources and so this can be used as a historical source with much more confidence for this period. As always we need to be careful with our sources. The Biblical accounts are written later and from the perspective of a particular religious group, while the Assyrian sources are propaganda. But at least we have more sources to be cautious about, so this is good.

Geometric 9th Century
Greek Pottery
In Greece, the Greek Dark Ages continued. However, there were settlements, such as Sparta, Athens and Lefkandi that showed signs of relative sophistication. There were ritual burial grounds and it is clear that they were trading with the wider Mediterranean world. Their pottery was influenced by Near Eastern styles and to an extent the Greek settlements can be viewed as a minor periphery to the Near Eastern cultures at this point. Traditions speak of kings and lawmakers from this period but the traditions are generally confused and semi-mythical, although they doubtless contain much important information. The Spartan lawmaker Lycurgus is supposed to have lived during this period, but Sparta at this time had a culture that enjoyed imported wealth. It is likely that the Spartan reforms, which Lycurgus is supposed to have introduced, actually happened in the next century.

Concerning Lycurgus the lawgiver, in general, nothing can be said which is not disputed, since indeed there are different accounts of his birth, his travels, his death, and above all, of his work as lawmaker and statesman and there is least agreement among historians as to the times in which the man lived. Some say that he flourished at the same time with Iphitus, and in concert with him established the Olympic truce. Among these is Aristotle the philosopher, and he alleges as proof the discus at Olympia on which an inscription preserves the name of Lycurgus. But those who compute the time by the successions of kings at Sparta, like Eratosthenes and Apollodorus, prove that Lycurgus was many years earlier than the first Olympiad.
Plutarch: The Life of Lycurgus

9th Century Greek Grave goods
In Athens, the town was a small settlement surrounding the hill of the Acropolis, which did not even fully control its own hinterland. At this point the Athenians appear to have been ruled by kings, who were drawn from an aristocracy. The function of the kings gradually declined, but it survived in ceremonial form as the Archon Basileus (the “king” magistrate”) but in later times this was changed to a position that was changed every year by either election or lottery and the function was purely ceremonial. The aristocracy from which the kings derived remained throughout the classical history of the city, with the Alcmaeonids almost certainly being a scion of these families. All of what I have said about Greece at this period is conjecture, drawn from either archaeology or later tradition. In this era the Greeks had forgotten the writing system of the Mycenaeans, but had not yet borrowed the alphabet from the Phoenicians, so no writing from the time survives.

Now the ancient constitution, as it existed before the time of Draco, was organized as follows. The magistrates were elected according to qualifications of birth and wealth. At first they governed for life, but subsequently for terms of ten years. The first magistrates, both in date and in importance, were the King, the Polemarch, and the Archon. The earliest of these offices was that of the King, which existed from ancestral antiquity. To this was added, secondly, the office of Polemarch, on account of some of the kings proving feeble in war…
Aristotle: The Athenian Constitution

The ruins of the Phryian capital Gordion
In Anatolia the record for this period is scanty. The Phrygian kingdom was powerful at this point, however they have left no records. Apart from the fact that their capital, Gordium, may have been burned around 800BC it is hard to say much about Anatolia during this period. Like Greece, Anatolian history at this period may have suffered due to falling in between two very interesting period and is perhaps not heavily studied compared to the Hittites or later Lydian Empire. Further to the east, in the Armenian Highlands, the kingdom of Urartu grew in strength, but more on that later.

Osorkon I
In Egypt Osorkon I ruled uneventfully in Tanis for the first decade of the century before being succeeded by his son Shoshenq II who reigned for a few years. Takelot I, a son of Osorkon I, succeeded to the throne, but was unable to control Thebes, where a ruler called Harsiese (often referred to as Harsiese A, as there were a number of individuals bearing the name) challenged the Pharaoh and ruled on his own. Inscriptions from this period sometimes omit the name of the Pharaoh as it was unclear who the true ruler of Egypt was. Harsiese founded the 23rd Dynasty of Egypt in Thebes, which ruled in parallel with the Libyan 22nd Dynasty based in Tanis in Lower Egypt.

Osorkon II was a son of Takelot I and had a long reign during the middle of the century. While Thebes was still not fully under control, there does not appear to have been open warfare between Upper and Lower Egypt. According to some sources he may have sent forces north to Syria to assist in warding off the Assyrian threat at the great battle of Qarqar, but I think that these sources may have been misinterpreted. If Osorkon II did indeed send forces, they were paltry ones compared to the other armies assembled for that battle.

Item inscribed with the name of Osorkon II
Osorkon II was succeeded by Shoshenq III around 837BC. During this period Pedubast I is considered to have been a ruler of the 23rd Dynasty in Thebes, however there does not appear to have been war between Pedubast and Osorkon. Instead Pedubast was involved in a series of civil wars in Upper Egypt with other members of the poorly named 23rd Dynasty (the 23rd Dynasty resembled a prolonged faction fight rather than a dynasty). Shoshenq III ruled in Tanis until the end of the century, while a confused and persistent conflict was carried on by various rulers in the south of Egypt around Thebes. Even Egyptologists are not entirely sure of the exact dates and rulers in the south, so I will not try to go into detail on this. It is sufficient to note that at this period Egypt was caught in a certain degree of internecine strife and was unable to project power northwards beyond its borders into Palestine and Syria.

9th century Iranian gold object
In present-day Iran, far to the west, the Iranian tribes were beginning to migrate to the region, but formed no coherent state entities. Elam was a power in the region, but the other civilisations do not interact with them much and Elamite sources from this time are very poor allowing us to know almost nothing of their civilisation at this time. Even the names of the kings are uncertain for much of this century. This does not mean that they were not a force to be reckoned with, but it does make it very difficult to say anything with certainty about them for this period except that they were there.

For Syro-Palestine, present day Iraq and present-day Armenia, I will discuss in a vaguely chronological fashion, as each of these regions leaves behind significant records for the time and each region interacts substantially with the other. To discuss them in a purely disjointed fashion would hide the interplay of the politics and war that began to link the greater Near East in a way that it had not since the late Bronze Age.

Assyrian wall relief from Nimrud with cuneiform writing overlay
Strong king,
King of [Assyria],
King of the four quarters,
The one who defeats his enemies,
The king capable in battle,
Destroyer of cities, …
I scorch like the fire god,
I overwhelm like the deluge, …
I have no foe to equal me

Opening lines of an inscription of Adad-Nirari II, probably written around 893.

Adad-Nirari II ruled in Assyria from 911 to 891. Assyrian records begin to become very detailed shortly after his reign and these dates are securely attested. The Assyrians would name years after high officials (called Eponym's or limmu's) and lists of these Eponyms and the main events of their years survive. Adad-Nirari expanded Assyrian power and was a formidable foe to the Arameans and Babylonians. The Assyrian kingdom is sometimes referred to as the Neo-Assyrian kingdom from this point onward, but this is a modern term and the Assyrians would not have seen any break in continuity.

Assyrian wall relief from Nimrud
The Assyrians had survived the Bronze Age Collapse and had always been a force to be reckoned with, but from Adad-Nirari’s reign onward, the Assyrian army began to become substantially stronger than any of their rivals. Assyria was becoming the largest kingdom in the world. Their militaristic expansion and perpetual cultivation of their military meant that they were creating not only the largest kingdom that had ever existed up till that time, but also the largest and most powerful army the world had ever seen (at this point the Zhou Dynasty of China, never particularly united, was entering its long decline). For the next centuries Assyria would dominate the Near East. Their empire was impressive for its longevity as well. Mesopotamian empires, such as Sargon’s Akkadian Empire or Hammurabi’s Babylonian Empire lost most of their influence after a few generations, but the Assyrian Empire fended off threats for centuries. This period sees their dominance in the region become very noticeable.

In the month Tishri, seventeenth day, I moved out from the Inner City (Aššur) (and) entered the passes of Mount Kirriuru. Moving on from the passes I entered into Mounts Urrubnu (and) Išrun, mighty mountains within which no one among the kings my forefathers had done battle … I marched over difficult terrain and through rough territory where no [one] among the kings my forefathers had passed, I glided (and) penetrated therein. I approached the cities of the land Ladänu which the Aramaeans and the Lullu held. I conquered 30 of their cities between the mountains.
Excerpt from the annals of Tukulti-Ninurta II c. 885 describing some of the campaigns of the king

In 891 Tukulti-Ninurta II succeeded Adad-Nirari as king of Assyria. He reigned for seven years and followed the pattern of strong Assyrian kings by attacking the surrounding countries in all directions. Every year the army would push against a particular target before returning to the heartlands and wintering near Asshur. The army would comprise tens of thousands of men and had a strong archer component. They were able to cover difficult terrain and great distances at speed and the kings were proud of their ability to cross rivers and mountains. Many Assyrian rulers boasted of attacking a territory that none of their ancestors had been able to reach. The infantry were able to cross rivers using inflated animal skins that acted as flotation devices and makeshift rafts and the cavalry were able to swim. Chariots were still used, but mainly as vehicles for the commanders rather than as battle units as in the Bronze Age.

Tukulti-Ninurta II fought a great deal against the Arameans and the Nairi tribes in the mountains to the north of Assyria, but seems to have made a peace treaty with the Babylonians that was to influence his successors. Upon his death he was succeeded by Ashurnasirpal II.

They gave their daughters to one another in marriage. Together they made a treaty of peace. The peoples of Assyria and Akkad were joined together.
They established a boundary to Til-ša-Abtani and Til-ša-Zabdani from Til-Bit-Bari, which is upstream on the Zab.

Detail from the Synchronistic Chronicle (a chronicle of Assyria and Babylon that is heavily biased towards Assyria) describing the marriage alliance between Tukulti-Ninurta II and Nabu-shuma-ukin I of Babylon.

Stele of Nabu-shuma-ukin of Babylon
In Babylon Nabu-Shuma-ukin I had fought with Adad-Nirari II, but had made peace with his son. The details of his reign are not well documented and his dynasty is simply referred to as the Dynasty of E. The Assyrians may have wanted to concentrate their military expeditions to their neighbours to the west and north and a peace treaty with Babylon, on good terms for both, must have been advantageous to them. The peace was to continue for some time even after the deaths of the rulers who had negotiated it. In the ancient world treaties were often between kings rather than nations. If a king died or a dynasty changed it was generally expected that a new treaty would be negotiated and emissaries would be sent to remind the other parties of the friendship that had existed between their forebears.

Since the mountain was exceptionally rugged I did not pursue them. The mountain was as jagged as the point of a dagger and therein no winged bird of the sky flew. They had placed their fortress like the nest of the udinu bird within the mountain, which none of the kings my fathers had ever approached. For three days the hero explored the mountain. His bold heart yearned for battle. He ascended on foot and overwhelmed the mountain. He smashed their nest and scattered their flock. I felled 200 of their fighting-men with the sword and carried off a multitude of captives like a flock of sheep. With their blood I dyed the mountain red like red wool, and the rest of them the ravines and torrents of the mountain swallowed. I razed, destroyed, and burned their cities.
Excerpt from one of the inscriptions of Ashurnasirpal II describing a campaign against a mountainous region

In 883 Ashurnasirpal II became king of Assyria. He has one of the best documented reigns of the ancient world, with much of the artwork and chronicles of his reign surviving in museums around the world. He has the modern reputation of being extraordinarily cruel, which he was but most other Assyrian kings appear to have been just as violent and bloodthirsty (it is just that not all of them are as well documented). While the Assyrians were great builders and artists, their state was ultimately founded on persistent war and the atrocities that this involved.

Nimrud since destroyed by Daesh (IS)
I flayed as many nobles as had rebelled against me and draped their skins over the pile some I spread out within the pile, some I erected on stakes upon the pile, and some I placed on stakes around about the pile. I flayed many right through my land and draped their skins over the walls. I slashed the flesh of the eunuchs and of the royal eunuchs who were guilty. I brought Ahi-iababa to Nineveh, flayed him, and draped his skin over the wall of Nineveh. Thus I have constantly established my victory and strength. …
Excerpt of an inscription of Ashurnasirpal describing the fate of a city and its ruler (Ahi-iababa) that had rebelled. There are many such descriptions in the annals of the Assyrian kings.

Ashurnasirpal maintained a general peace with Babylon and was able to very firmly crush a number of rebellions early in his reign. He then campaigned far to the west, crossing the Euphrates and extracting tribute from the Neo-Hittite state of Carchemish. He pushed as far west as the Mediterranean before marching south along the coast into present day Lebanon. This campaign has more of the nature of a raid about it rather than a conquest. By following the route that Ashurnasirpal took it is clear that he had not clashed with the Aramean kingdom of Damascus, which was the strongest state in what is now the country of Syria. He failed to conquer any of the cities on the coasts (although a number of cities on his route were destroyed and deported) and apparently contented himself with tribute. Assyrian kings very seldom recorded any setbacks in their annals so there may have been a defeat in Phoenicia to cause Ashurnasirpal to retreat. The Phoenician and Aramean kingdoms had survived the attack of Ashurnasirpal, but it was a troubling sign of things to come.

Relief from Nimrud showing Assyrian soldiers using
inflatable devices to cross a river
I crossed the Euphrates, which was in flood, in rafts made of inflated goatskins and approached the land of Carchemish.
I took with me the chariots, cavalry, and infantry of the city Carchemish. All the kings of the lands came down and submitted to me. I took from them hostages and they were kept in my presence on the march to Mount Lebanon.
At that time I made my way to the slopes of Mount Lebanon and went up to the Great Sea of the land Amurru. I cleansed my weapons in the Great Sea and made sacrifices to the gods. I received tribute from the kings of the sea coast, from the lands of the people of Tyre, Sidon, Byblos, Mahallatu, Maizu, Kaizu, Amurru, and the city of Arvad which is on an island in the sea.

Excerpts from the inscriptions of Ashurnasirpal describing the western expeditions

While Ashurnasirpal must have seemed like a demonic curse to any of his neighbours who had to face his armies and his cruelty, he may nevertheless have been well liked in Assyria. The plunder of successful campaigns enriched the cities of Assyria and traders were able to flourish within the boundaries of the ever expanding empire. The king decided to create a new city at Calah/Nimrud that had a series of gardens and beautiful palaces and temples adorned with some of the finest and most impressive artwork of the ancient world. Upon the inauguration of great palace the king decided to throw a party for nearly seventy thousand people in what may have been the greatest feast the world had ever seen. While Assyrian kings certainly liked to exaggerate their achievements the logistics that had been developed for the army meant that this feast was certainly within the capacity of the Assyrian state. The description makes it sound like an interesting party.

A lamassu gate guardian of Nimrud
When Ashurnasirpal, king of Assyria, inaugurated the palace of Calah, a palace of joy and [erected with] great ingenuity, he invited into it Ashur, the great lord and the gods of his entire country, [he prepared a banquet of] 1000 fattened head of cattle, 1000 calves, 10000 stable sheep, 15000 lambs -- for my lady Ishtar [alone] 200 head of cattle [and] 1000 sihhu-sheep -- 1000 spring lambs, 500 stages, 500 gazelles, 1000 ducks, 500 geese, 500 kurku-geese, 1000 mesuku-birds, 1000 qaribu-birds, 10000 doves, 10000 sukanunu-doves, 10000 other [assorted] small birds, 10000 [assorted] fish, 10000 jerboa, 10000 [assorted] eggs. 10000 [jars of] beer, 10000 skins with wine, . 1000 wood crates with vegetables, 300 [containers with] oil, . 100 [containers with] fine mixed beer, . 100 pistachio cones, .
When I inaugurated the palace at Calah I treated for ten days with food and drink 47074 persons, men and women, who were bid to come from across my entire country, [also] 5000 important persons, delegates from the country Suhu, from Hindana, Hattina, Hatti, Tyre, Sidon, Gurguma, Malida, Hubushka, Gilzana, Kuma [and] Musasir, [also] 16000 inhabitants of Calah from all ways of life, 1500 officials of all my palaces, altogether 69574 invited guests from all the [mentioned] countries including the people of Calah I [furthermore] provided them with the means to clean and anoint themselves. I did them due honour and sent them back, healthy and happy, to their own countries.

Description of the great feast of Calah

While Ashurnasirpal II reigned in Assyria Nabu-apla-iddina was king of Babylon. There was some low-level warfare between the two kings, but the Assyrian focus was generally away from Babylon and the period of peace was put to good use by Nabu-apla-iddina. The scribes were diligent in copying old texts and creating new ones and temples such as the shrine of the sun god Shamash at Sippar were restored from their previously devastated state. After the death of Ashurnasirpal II, the Babylonian king was able to make a peace treaty with his son, Shalmaneser III, who was eager to push to the north and west.

In 859, in his first year as king of Assyria, Shalmaneser III, who was probably a seasoned veteran from accompanying his father on campaigns, attacked the newly founded kingdom of Urartu forcing the king Arame of Urartu to abandon his city. The state of Urartu (a newly formed kingdom of the Nairi tribes near what is present day Armenia) was later to become a threat to the Assyrians.

Assyrian troops using siege equipment against a city
Moving on from the city Hubuskia I approached the city Sugunia, the fortified city of Aramu the Urartian. I besieged the city, captured it, massacred many of its people, and carried off booty from them. I erected two towers of heads in front of his city. I burned fourteen cities in its environs.
Moving on from the city Sugunia, I went down to the sea of the land Nairi . I washed my weapons in the sea and made sacrifices to my gods. At that time I made an image of myself and wrote thereon the praises of Assur, the great lord, and the prowess of my power.

Inscription of Shalmaneser III describing his attack on Urartu in his first year as king

After temporarily breaking the power of the newly founded Urartian kingdom to the north, Shalmaneser pushed west in the same year towards Que (Cilicia) in present day Turkey. There the states that had submitted to the swift advance of his father took the opportunity to resist and formed an alliance, including the Neo-Hittite states of Que and Carchemish as well as a host of other small cities in what is now northern Syria and southern Turkey. This alliance was unsuccessful, as even the combined strength of the neo-Hittite cities was insufficient to resist the Assyrian armies.

Shalmaneser III
Moving on from the city Gurgum I approached the city Lutibu, the fortified city of Haiianu, the Sam'alite. Haiianu, the Sam'alite, Sapalulme, the Patinean, Ahunu, the man of Bit-Adini, and Sangara, the Carchemishite, put their trust in each other and prepared for war.
Inscription of Shalmaneser III from the Kurkh Monolith describing the first alliance against him in Syria

The next years saw Shalmaneser push towards the Mediterranean and launch further punitive expeditions against Urartu, which had been bloodied, but not destroyed. However, the inveterate enemy of Assyria, the powerful Aramean kingdom of Damascus still stood strong and in the year 853 the Aramean rulers of Damascus formed a great coalition of the powers of the region against Assyria. When Shalmaneser approached the city of Qarqar the allies were waiting. I will pause the description of the battle to describe the state of Syro-Palestine during this time and to give a clear picture of the combatants.

While we have a good few sources to describe what happened in Syro-Palestine, we seldom have a clear idea of why these things happened. I will describe the places and events and try to provide a narrative for these. However bear in mind that much of this narrative is my own conjecture. I will try to call this out explicitly in my description. Around 850, in Damascus, Hadadezer (referred to as Ben-Hadad in the Old Testament) was king of the Aramean kingdom. Unfortunately all of the descriptions of this time are from the enemies of the Arameans, but it is clear that he reigned over the strongest state between Assyria and Egypt.

Israel was ruled by the house of Jeroboam for two generations before Baasha murdered the king and usurped the throne, killing all of the royal family. Baasha fought against the southern, weaker, kingdom of Judah and had an alliance with Damascus before the Arameans switched sides and attacked Israel instead. Baasha’s dynasty was short-lived, with his son Elah succeeding to the throne before being murdered by Zimri, a commander of the chariot corps. Zimri did not last long as king (the accounts give him a monumental rule of around seven days, during which he slew all of the family of Baasha) before another commander of the army called Omri attacked the capital and killed Zimri, before fighting a civil war against another usurper. Despite being stronger than Judah, Israel certainly seems to have suffered dynastic strife in this period.

Zimri, one of his officials, who had command of half his chariots, plotted against him. Elah was in Tirzah at the time, getting drunk in the home of Arza, the man in charge of the palace at Tirzah. Zimri came in, struck him down and killed him in the twenty-seventh year of Asa king of Judah. Then he succeeded him as king. As soon as he began to reign and was seated on the throne, he killed off Baasha's whole family. He did not spare a single male, whether relative or friend.
1 Kings 16:9-11 NIV translation
When the Israelites in the camp heard that Zimri had plotted against the king and murdered him, they proclaimed Omri, the commander of the army, king over Israel that very day there in the camp. Then Omri and all the Israelites with him withdrew from Gibbethon and laid siege to Tirzah. When Zimri saw that the city was taken, he went into the citadel of the royal palace and set the palace on fire around him. So he died,
1 Kings 16:16-19 NIV translation

Omri was a very strong king however. In proportion to other powers in the region, the reign of Omri was probably the strongest that the northern kingdom ever was. The capital of Israel, Tirzah, had been damaged during the civil war, with 1 Kings recording that Zimri burned the palace down around him, so Omri built a new and more defensible capital at Samaria, which would be the capital until the destruction of the northern kingdom. Omri then pacified the other kingdoms in the region, making peace with Damascus and allowing Judah to act as a junior partner in an alliance. The lesser kingdoms of Moab, Ammon and Edom were forced to pay tribute to Israel. Omri fostered good relations with the Phoenician cities to the north-west and his son Ahab was married to Ethbaal’s daughter Jezebel, which strengthened Israel’s position in the region. This seems to have caused some religious turmoil later in Israel and Judah as Jezebel promoted her gods in the new city of Samaria. The Biblical writers do not speak of Omri much, as he was not a follower of their god, but the Assyrians refer to all subsequent kings of Israel as being from “the house of Omri” suggesting that his legacy was remembered in the region.

In the thirty-first year of Asa king of Judah, Omri became king of Israel, and he reigned twelve years, six of them in Tirzah. He bought the hill of Samaria from Shemer for two talents of silver and built a city on the hill, calling it Samaria, after Shemer, the name of the former owner of the hill. But Omri did evil in the eyes of the LORD and sinned more than all those before him.
1 Kings 16:23-25

Baasha had fought a constant war against the kingdom of Judah and its king, Asa, but the war seems to have ceased after Omri’s accession and the sons of Asa and Omri, (Ahab and Jehoshaphat respectively) became allies. Ahab was a weaker king than Omri and Ben-Hadad of Damascus attacked Israel repeatedly with varying success. The religious policy of the dynasty, known sometimes as the Omrides, led to tension within the kingdom. It was at this point that belief in the national god appears to have been at its lowest ebb and the writers of the book of Kings spend a lot of time detailing the religious struggle between the prophets Elijah and Elisha, and the foreign queen Jezebel. Around this time Ashurnasirpal’s invasion of northern Syria and attacks on Phoenicia occurred and must have changed the political landscape.

…But he (Ahab) also married Jezebel daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and began to serve Baal and worship him.

1 Kings 16:31

Phoenician ivory work discovered at Nimrud
The Phoenician cities were prosperous at this time. The Phoenicians were traders and even their name may possibly refer to a particularly expensive dye that was traded by the city of Tyre. Their alphabet had been adopted by the western Semitic speakers in the kingdoms surrounding them and now the Phoenicians were expanding across the sea by founding colonies. These were small groups of around a thousand citizens that would strike out and found a city at a strategic location along a maritime trade route. The cities would normally be founded on peninsulas that could be easily walled off and where docks could be built on the sheltered shore. These acted as bases for resupply of their ships and sometimes grew to the extent that they were able to found colonies of their own. The first colonies were probably on Cyprus but by around 850 they had already founded colonies in Tunisia before sending colonisers further on to southern Spain and Sardinia. The Phoenician ships were already beginning to venture out into the Atlantic.

. At Tarshish and he drove them out. Among the Sardinians he is [now] at peace, (and) his army is at peace: Milkaton son of Shubna (Shebna), general of (king) Pummay (Pygmalion?).
The Nora Stone, a Sardinian inscription in Phoenician possibly describing the foundation of a Phoenician colony. This is only one particular interpretation and some scholars translate this text very differently.

At this period Byblos was being eclipsed by Tyre and King Ittobaal I (or Ethbaal) of Tyre united most of Phoenicia, including Sidon, in the first half of the 9th century. It was his daughter who was married to Ahab of Israel. He was succeeded by Baal-Eser II in the 840’s, Mattan I in the 830’s and Pu’mayyaton (or Pygmalion in Greek) for the remainder of the century. The reign of Pu’mayyaton seems to be connected with the Nora Stone and is connected in myth to Dido, the Queen of Carthage in myth. Carthage was founded in Tunisia at the end of the 9th century. The name is Phoenician for Qart-Hadast, meaning “New Town”, in contradistinction to the older colony of Utica (which probably meant “Old Town”). The legends of Aeneas and Dido are from a much later date, but oddly there are classical sources that speak of this time. Menander of Ephesus wrote a history of the kings of Phoenicia describing this period. It does not survive, but is quoted to some extent by the Jewish historian Josephus. The other main Phoenician writer of the classical era (Sanchuniathon) does not survive, but is quoted by the church historian Eusebius. The lists given in Josephus can be used with caution, as they are backed up by some other sources (Ittobaal is mentioned in Assyrian texts) but great caution is still advised.

Pheles, who took the kingdom and reigned but eight months, though he lived fifty years: he was slain by Ithobalus, the priest of Astarte, who reigned thirty-two years, and lived sixty-eight years: he was succeeded by his son Badezorus, who lived forty-five years, and reigned six years: he was succeeded by Matgenus his son he lived thirty-two years, and reigned nine years: Pygmalion succeeded him he lived fifty-six years, and reigned forty-seven years. Now in the seventh year of his reign, his sister fled away from him, and built the city Carthage in Libya.
Excerpt from Josephus' book Against Apion, where he quotes Menander of Ephesus' history of the Phoenician kings

It was into this land that Shalmaneser marched into, attempting to crush all the kingdoms of the land between the Euphrates, the Sea and the mountains of Lebanon. However, a coalition had been formed, not only of the small cities that were in the immediate path of the Assyrians, but of the larger kingdoms to the south. The kings of Damascus and Samaria had put aside their traditional enmity and formed an alliance with Hamath. It is even possible that Egypt became afraid of the Assyrian threat and sent a small contingent of troops, but I think that it is more likely that the word used in the description of the battle is referring to another small city in the region of Cilicia. Not all of the kingdoms of Syro-Palestine were there. Judah, Moab and Tyre were absent (perhaps the armies of Judah were counted among those of Israel), but the combined armies of Damascus, Samaria and Hamath were able to put at least forty thousand troops in the field. Perhaps the chariot corps in Israel was politically important and it is interesting that the Israelites apparently fielded more chariots than all the other states put together, but no cavalry, at a time when cavalry was replacing chariotry on the battlefield. The alliance met the forces of Shalmaneser on the Orontes River near the city of Qarqar. Only Assyrian records of the battle survive so I shall let Shalmaneser describe it in his own words…

The Kurkh Stele of Shalmaneser III
describing the Battle of Qarqar
Moving on from Aleppo I approached cities of Irhulëni, the Hamathite. I captured the cities Adennu, Pargâ, (and) Arganâ, his royal cities. I brought forth his captives, property, and palace possessions, and burned his palaces. Moving on from the city Arganâ I approached the city Qarqar. I razed, destroyed, and burned the city Qarqar, his royal city. An alliance had been formed of these twelve kings:
1,200 chariots, 1,200 cavalry, and 20,000 troops of Hadad-ezer (Adadidri), the Damascene
700 chariots, 700 cavalry, and 10,000 troops of Irhulëni, the Hamathite
2,000 chariots and 10,000 troops of Ahab (Ahabbu) the Israelite
500 troops of Byblos
1,000 troops of Egypt? (Musri)
10 chariots (and) 10,000 troops of the land Irqanatu
200 troops of Matinu-baal of the city Arvad
200 troops of the land Usanätu
30 chariots (and) [?],000 troops of Adunu-ba'al of the land Sianu
1,000 camels of Gindibu of the Arabs
[?] hundred troops of Baasa, the man of Bit-Ruhubi, the Ammonite.
They attacked to [wage] war and battle against me. With the supreme forces which Aššur, my lord, had given to me (and) with the mighty weapons which the divine standard, which goes before me, had granted me I fought with them. I defeated them from the city Qarqar as far as the city Gilzau. I felled with the sword 14,000 troops, their fighting men, (and) rained down upon them destruction as the flood god Adad would. I filled the plain with their spread out corpses and felled their extensive troops with the sword. I made their blood flow in the wadis. The plain was too small to lay their bodies out the extensive area was not sufficient to accommodate burying all of them. I dammed up the Orontes River with their bodies like a bridge. In the midst of this battle I took away from them chariots, cavalry, and teams of horses.

An inscription from the Kurkh Monolith, describing the Assyrian perspective on the Battle of Qarqar in 853

Shalmaneser III
The Assyrian records, which are the only records of the battle, describe a great battle and a great victory. The Assyrian army probably numbered at least fifty thousand so assuming that the figures given for the opposing army are correct, around one hundred thousand troops were engaged at Qarqar. Some scholars believe it was the largest battle fought up to that date. The colossal victory described by Shalmaneser may not have been as spectacular as he reports and as far as I can tell there were three results from the battle a tactical Assyrian victory, a short term strategic Assyrian defeat and a long term Assyrian victory. The battle was probably a tactical victory in that the Assyrians probably held the field of battle after the fighting.

However, it was probably a slender victory. None of the enemy kings are reported as dead and the casualty figures suggest that they were able to withdraw with at least sixty percent of their forces intact, a very bloody battle but far from a complete rout. The Assyrians have dead soldiers on their hands, but not large amounts of captives so there was no mass surrender after the battle. Ahab and Hadadezer (Ben-Hadad) escape to fight another day and the flayed bodies of these kings do not adorn the walls of Asshur. Also, there seems to have been no further campaigning that year. Shalmaneser seems to have withdrawn to Assyria to regroup his army (which may have taken very heavy casualties as well). The monument to the victory is written in a great hurry and with a number of spelling and other errors (for example, twelve kings are supposed to have fought against Shalmaneser but only eleven are listed, although this is probably just a formula in that “twelve kings” may have been literary shorthand for “a great alliance”) that usually do not occur. In the words of one scholar, “It had to be made clear to anyone who might have thought otherwise, that the king had achieved a splendid victory.” Despite the colossal victory described, the area sees repeated campaigning by Shalmaneser in the years to come.

For three years there was no war between Aram (Damascus) and Israel. But in the third year Jehoshaphat king of Judah went down to see the king of Israel. The king of Israel had said to his officials, "Don't you know that Ramoth Gilead belongs to us and yet we are doing nothing to retake it from the king of Aram?" So he asked Jehoshaphat, "Will you go with me to fight against Ramoth Gilead?" Jehoshaphat replied to the king of Israel, "I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses."
1 Kings 22:1-5
So they turned to attack him, but when Jehoshaphat cried out, the chariot commanders (of the Arameans of Damascus) saw that he was not the king of Israel and stopped pursuing him. But someone drew his bow at random and hit the king of Israel between the sections of his armour. The king told his chariot driver, "Wheel around and get me out of the fighting. I've been wounded." All day long the battle raged, and the king was propped up in his chariot facing the Arameans. The blood from his wound ran onto the floor of the chariot, and that evening he died.
1 Kings 22:32-35

Wall relief from Nimrud showing the god Asshur
However, in the longer term the battle probably was a success for the Assyrians. The battle must have been bloody enough that the kings of the region were not interested in forming another coalition. Israel and the kingdom of Damascus seem to have gone to war with each other a few years after the battle of Qarqar, probably because Ahab thought that the kingdom of Damascus was weakened (my interpretation of events). When Shalmaneser returned to the region the smaller kingdoms that had united against him slowly fell, one by one. Ahab was killed in battle a few years later, fighting alongside his ally Jehoshaphat of Judah against his former ally the kingdom of Damascus (again the passage refers to the importance of the chariot corps of Israel). Ahab was succeeded by his sons Ahaziah and then Joram after the death of Ahaziah.

I will end the post here, as it is already extremely long. The link for the second part of this post is here.

Hotel opens in Palace of Versailles grounds for first time – with rooms at £1,500 a night

A hotel has opened in the grounds of the Palace of Versailles in France – for the first time ever.

The luxurious hotel, called Le Grand Contrôle, takes all-inclusive to the next level with a five-course formal dinner and complimentary experiences, such as tours of the retreats built for King Louis XIV and Marie Antoinette, as well as the palace itself.

Guests can also enjoy access to the Valmont spa, which is home to a 15-metre pool.

Since being restored by architect and interior designer Christophe Tollemer, the property now boasts 14 lavish rooms including a 120-square metre signature suite.

Each one has been named after a prominent individual associated with the chateau’s history. There’s also 18th-century style decoration throughout with authentic colours, fabrics, chandeliers, artwork and artefacts.

But this taste of royalty doesn’t come cheap – with rates costing an eye-watering £1,470 a night (€1,700).

Not only are the rooms dripping in elegance but the restaurant is headed up by world-famous chef Alain Ducasse – who has 20 Michelin stars to his name.

Each dinner is a theatrical affair – designed to transport guests back to royal banquets. The restaurant team even wear period costume and serve an array of gold, silver or vermeil dome-covered dishes.

The Airelles group – which runs the hotel – said: ‘A bell rings at 8:30pm to signal the beginning of dinner, where guests experience a five-course gourmet feast commencing with a selection of soups and starters followed by roasts and salads, then dessert and finally, fruit.’

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For a bit of historical context, from Louis XV to Louis XVI’s reign, the building functioned as the equivalent of today’s Ministry of Finance – hosting Europe’s cultural elite.

The hotel is housed in a building created in 1681 by Louis XIV’s favourite architect, Jules-Hardouin Mansart.

Cradle of civilisation

The recovery and rediscovery of these ancient sites will hopefully feed into a better future for Iraq - a country with an incredibly rich heritage.

It is the cradle of civilisation, with a huge number of remains from deep prehistory to the present day.

As parts of Iraq become safer, archaeological expeditions are once again exploring this unique heritage.

This research will generate new insights into the rise and fall of the many civilisations that have flourished here - and bring hope for the future.

This analysis piece was commissioned by the BBC from experts working for an outside organisation.

Dr Sebastien Rey and Dr John MacGinnis are lead archaeologists on the British Museum's Iraq Emergency Heritage Management Project.

The Iraq scheme is a programme funded by the UK government, through the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, and delivered through the British Museum.

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