Quotes & Sayings

We, and creation itself, actualize the possibilities of the God who sustains the world, towards becoming in the world in a fuller, more deeper way. - R.E. Slater

There is urgency in coming to see the world as a web of interrelated processes of which we are integral parts, so that all of our choices and actions have [consequential effects upon] the world around us. - Process Metaphysician Alfred North Whitehead

Kurt Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem says (i) all closed systems are unprovable within themselves and, that (ii) all open systems are rightly understood as incomplete. - R.E. Slater

The most true thing about you is what God has said to you in Christ, "You are My Beloved." - Tripp Fuller

The God among us is the God who refuses to be God without us, so great is God's Love. - Tripp Fuller

According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater

Our eschatological ethos is to love. To stand with those who are oppressed. To stand against those who are oppressing. It is that simple. Love is our only calling and Christian Hope. - R.E. Slater

Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger

Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton

I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – Anon

Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII

Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut

Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest

We become who we are by what we believe and can justify. - R.E. Slater

People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – Anon

Certainly, God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater

An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater

Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann

Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner

“Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh” means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14) or, conversely, “I AM who I AM Becoming.”

Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton

The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens, we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – Anon

The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul

The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah

If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – Anon

Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord

Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another, so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

To promote societal transition to sustainable ways of living and a global society founded on a shared ethical framework which includes respect and care for the community of life, ecological integrity, universal human rights, respect for diversity, economic justice, democracy, and a culture of peace. - The Earth Charter Mission Statement

Christian humanism is the belief that human freedom, individual conscience, and unencumbered rational inquiry are compatible with the practice of Christianity or even intrinsic in its doctrine. It represents a philosophical union of Christian faith and classical humanist principles. - Scott Postma

It is never wise to have a self-appointed religious institution determine a nation's moral code. The opportunities for moral compromise and failure are high; the moral codes and creeds assuredly racist, discriminatory, or subjectively and religiously defined; and the pronouncement of inhumanitarian political objectives quite predictable. - R.E. Slater

God's love must both center and define the Christian faith and all religious or human faiths seeking human and ecological balance in worlds of subtraction, harm, tragedy, and evil. - R.E. Slater

In Whitehead’s process ontology, we can think of the experiential ground of reality as an eternal pulse whereby what is objectively public in one moment becomes subjectively prehended in the next, and whereby the subject that emerges from its feelings then perishes into public expression as an object (or “superject”) aiming for novelty. There is a rhythm of Being between object and subject, not an ontological division. This rhythm powers the creative growth of the universe from one occasion of experience to the next. This is the Whiteheadian mantra: “The many become one and are increased by one.” - Matthew Segall

Without Love there is no Truth. And True Truth is always Loving. There is no dichotomy between these terms but only seamless integration. This is the premier centering focus of a Processual Theology of Love. - R.E. Slater


Note: Generally I do not respond to commentary. I may read the comments but wish to reserve my time to write (or write from the comments I read). Instead, I'd like to see our community help one another and in the helping encourage and exhort each of us towards Christian love in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. - re slater

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Ancient Assyria's History, Maps, & Timelines

Maps & Timelines are listed after the article below


January 3, 2015
(last modified in 2004)

Assyria (mât Aššur): ancient name for the northeastern part of modern Iraq, situated on the east bank of the Tigris. It is also the name of one of the greatest empires of Antiquity. Assyria was overthrown in 612 BCE by the Babylonians.


The word Assyria is derived from mât Aššur, which means "the country of the god Aššur". The first capital of Assyria, which was more or less situated between the rivers Tigris and Little Zab, was also called after this god: Aššur. The western part of Assyria consists of an alluvial plain, where irrigation enables agriculture; in the eastern part, the foothills of the Zagros, there is sufficient rainfall.

Old Assyrian Period

The city of Aššur is known to have existed in the second half of the third millennium. Not unlike Susa in Elam, it was an independent city state that had close ties with the powerful Sumerian and Akkadian states in the south, like those of king Sargon of Agade and the rulers of the Third Dynasty of Ur. This is all we can conjecture. Things become more clear after the invasions of the Amorites.

At the beginning of the second millennium, Aššur was an important trade center. The activities of Assyrian merchants in Anatolia are known from thousands of tablets from Kaneš, which often mention the trade in copper, but also document many aspects of everyday life.

Šamši-Adad I (1813-1781?) was king of a small empire that included the western Zagros, a part of the area between Euphrates and Tigris. He was powerful enough to call himself "king of the universe", but his son Išme-Dagan lost his independence and became a vassal of king Hammurabi of the Old-Babylonian empire. Meanwhile, the trade activity continued.

Text of divorce contract: a local woman, Sakriuswa, leaves an Assyrian merchant names
Aššur-taklaku. Both parties have equal rights and will be free of indemnities. ca. 1800 BCE

For the mid-second millennium, we know less about the history of Assyria, although we know that it became a vassal of the powerful empire of Mitanni, and know (from the Assyrian King List) that there were thirty-five rulers until Aššur-Uballit I (1364-1328). During his reign, Assyria becomes "visible" again. He and the Hittite king Suppiluliumas attacked Mitanni, and Assyria regained its independence. This is the beginning of the Middle Assyrian period.

Middle Assyrian Period

The successors of Aššur-Uballit, especially Adad-Nirari I (1305-1274), Shalmaneser I (1273-1244) and Tikulti-Ninurta (1243-1207), continued the Assyrian expansion. In the west, the empire shared a border with the empire of the Hittites, and in the south, Babylon was attacked. Warfare was merciless: the first evidence for mass deportations dates back to this period. It was to become a useful instrument for rulers of empires, also applied by the kings of Babylonia and Persia, and Alexander the Great.

The twelfth century started comparatively quietly for the Assyrians. The ancient Near East had become unstable by the invasions of the Sea People, and there were other nations that had left their homelands in search for more fertile land, like the Aramaeans. The Hittites were overthrown. It seems that the Assyrians succeeded in consolidating their conquests, although in the west, forts were evacuated.

Assyrian soldiers. Nineveh, palace of Senacherib. 705-681 BCE

At the end of the century, the Assyrian ruler Tiglath-Pileser I (1114-1076) resumed the aggressive policy. For the honor of the god Aššur, his charioteers waged war in the west, where, since the fall of the Hittite empire, no serious enemy could obstruct the Assyrians, who could wash their weapons in the Mediterranean Sea. In the north, the tribes near Lake Van, and in the south, the Babylonians suffered from Assyrian aggression. But after the death of Tiglath-Pileser, his kingdom got its share of the problems that were encountered by the entire Near East. The Aramaeans settled in Assyrian towns in the west, and later become independent. For a century and a half, Assyria was in decline.

The Neo-Assyrian Empire

Aššurnasirpal II. 883-859 BCE
By the end of tenth century, Assyria's fortunes were restored, and under king Aššurnasirpal II (883-859), the soldiers of Aššur, now often fighting on horseback, marched to the Zagros mountains, reached Lake Urmia, and waged war against the kingdom of Urartu in the north. Other campaigns were directed against the Aramaeans in Syria and the towns on the plains of eastern Cilicia.

The empire had now reached the same size as it had had during the reign of Tiglath-Pileser I. The expansion continued under Aššurnasirpal's son Šalmaneser III (858-824), who consolidated the Assyrian power in the west, broke the power of Damascus, and whose designs even encompassed Israel. (Its king Ahab was part of an anti-Assyrian coalition that for some time managed to repel the invaders, but in the end, Šalmaneser was victorious and received tribute from king Jehu.) A new Assyrian capital was founded at Nineveh. Yet, after Šalmaneser's reign, we hear less about military successes. From the east, nomadic Medes started to raid the Assyrian Empire, while in the west, Damascus retained some of its independence. Nevertheless, it survived, was consolidated, and still exercised great political influence (example). Adad-Nirari III finally captured Damascus (source).

King Jehu of Israel pays tribute to the Assyrian king Šalmaneser III. 705 BCE–681 BCE

Slowly but securely, all tribute paying vassal kings were replaced by provincial governors. Regions as far away as Cilicia were directly ruled by Assyrian officials and visited by royal inspectors. There were garrisons on several places, and a Royal road connected Nineveh with Susa in Elam and Gordium in Anatolia. King Tiglath-pileser III (744-727) finished the conversion of the empire. This system of provinces, governors and inspectors, roads and garrisons was to survive the Assyrian empire. Later, the Babylonians, Persians, and Seleucids used the same instruments to rule the ancient Near East.

Drawing of the Lachish relief from Nineveh. 701 BCE

Now, the expansion started again. Tiglath-pileser III conquered Damascus and Gaza. One of the great challenges was the organization of Babylonia in the south, which was Assyria's twin-culture and was too highly esteemed to be reduced to the status of province. Tiglath-pileser III sought a solution in a "double monarchy": he united the two countries in a personal union. His son Shalmaneser V (726-722) continued this policy. In the west, he tried to add Israel to the Assyrian empire, but was murdered during the siege of Samaria.

Reconstructed walls of Nineveh

The Assyrian Empire. 668 BCE
His successor was Sargon II (721-705), who did not belong to the royal dynasty. He was a capable general, however, and conquered Israel, defeated the Egyptians near Gaza, captured Karkemiš in the west, fought against the Medes, supported king king Mit-ta-a of Muški (= Midas of Phrygia?) against the invasion of the Cimmerians, and overcame king Rusa of Urartu. His son Sennacherib (704-681) captured Lachish, the most important city of Judah, and received tribute from Jerusalem. Babylon, which had revolted under Marduk-apla-iddin, was sacked in 703, and its entire population was deported - a harsh measure, even for oriental standards. The Babylonians were forced to work in Nineveh, which was surrounded by a double wall of perhaps 25 meters high, and received its water from a canal with a length of 50 kilometers.

During the reign of Sennacherib's son and successor Esarhaddon (680-669), the Assyrian armies defeated the Cimmerians, who had threatened Anatolia, and advanced to Egypt, which was evacuated by the last pharaoh of the Kushite dynasty, Taharqo. It is during this period that our sources start to mention internal strife. This may be an optical illusion -we have more sources- but it is more likely that the spoils of the successful conquests were unequally divided. At the same time, it seems that the empire suffered from overstretch, because Egypt was too heavy a burden. Although Esarhaddon's successor Aššurbanipal (668-631) sacked Thebes, he eventually gave up the country along the Nile. One of the Assyrian vassals, Psammetichus, hired Greek and Carian mercenaries, reunited Egypt, and founded a new dynasty.

The Flood Tablet

The end of the Assyrian occupation of Egypt was probably partly due to the fact that the viceroy of Babylonia, Aššurbanipal's older brother Šamaš-šuma-ukin, had revolted (ABC 15). When the Assyrians had overcome this insurrection, they attacked the Babylonian ally Elam and destroyed its capital Susa. The Arabs also suffered. Again, many people were deported to Nineveh.

Of the more peaceful activities of king Aššurbanipal, the creation of a great library must be mentioned. The 22,000 cuneiform tablets are among the most important sources for our understanding of ancient Assyrian culture. Among the most famous texts is the Epic of Gilgameš, which also contains an account of the Great Flood.

Decline and fall of Assyria

Although the Assyrians had evacuated Egypt, their armed forces were still superior. One of the few serious problems was the status of Babylon. Several solutions had been attempted: a personal union, destruction, and appointment of a viceroy. None of these solutions had been really successful, but the Assyrians had always been able to impose their ideas. Another enemy was the coalition of Medes in the east, but they were usually defeated. Why things went wrong, is a still unsolved puzzle, not in the least because we have few sources for the final regnal years of Aššurbanipal.

Assurbanipal. ca. 668 BCE–ca. 631 BCE
Two Assyrian courtiers from Til Barsib. 750 BCE
After his death in 631, the situation was confused, and the Babylonians revolted against their two Assyrian governors, Sin-šumlišir and Sin-šar-iškun. The people of Babylon defeated an Assyrian army, and according to the Babylonian chronicle known as ABC 2, the Babylonian general Nabopolassar was recognized as king on 23 November 626. This seems to have been the beginning of a series of insurrections against the Assyrians, in which the Medes also played a role. The only ally of the Assyrian king was pharaoh Psammetichus, who understood that if the Babylonians would overthrow Assyria, the new superpower would attack Egypt.

In the Fall of Nineveh Chronicle, we can read about the events in these years. We find Nabopolassar defeating the Assyrians near Harran in 616 BCE, which betrays a daring strategy: the Babylonians tried to block the main road between Assyria and the west. This time, however, the Egyptians arrived in time to prevent disaster. Next year, Nabopolassar started to besiege Aššur, still the religious capital of Assyria. Again, the Assyrians averted a catastrophe, but now, the Medes appeared on the scene. In 614, they took the city. This was the beginning of the end.

Battlefield scene from the Palace of Assurnasirpal II in Nimrod. 865 BCE

The Median leader Cyaxares now concluded an alliance with the Babylonians, which was cemented, according to the Babylonian historian Berossus (third century BCE), by a royal wedding: the Babylonian crown prince Nebuchadnezzar married a Median princess named Amytis, who may or may not have been a daughter of the Median crown prince Astyages.

Victims of the fall of Nineveh. 612 BCE
After a year of inconclusive campaigning, the united Medes and Babylonians laid siege to Nineveh in May 612, and in July, the city fell. (Archaeologists have discovered the remains of forty of the defenders.) King Sin-šar-iškun, who had once been in charge of Babylon, seems to have committed suicide.

He was succeeded by a man with the ironical name Aššur-Uballit, after the founder of the Middle-Assyrian empire. He briefly reorganized his forces in Harran, but was expelled, and when pharaoh Necho II appeared on the scene, he was defeated. The Babylonians and Egyptians would continue their struggle in Syria and Palestine.

This was the end of the Assyrian empire, but the word "Assyria" remained in use and referred to the non-Babylonian parts of the Babylonian empire. In the Achaemenid royal inscriptions, Athurâ can both indicate "real" Assyria, and the former Assyrian possessions on the far side of the Euphrates, which we call Syria.

A Pegasus from Aššur. 200 BCE
After the conquest of the Achaemenid Empire by Alexander the Great, Asyria proper, with its capital Arbela, was variously known as Hdayab (Syriac), Adiabene (Greek and Latin), Nôd-Šîragân (Parthian) and Ardaxširagân (Sasanian Persian). Yet, the original word was never forgotten. When the Roman emperor Trajan conquered Armenia and Mesopotamia, the province on the other side of the Tigris was called Assyria, and even today, the Christian church of Adiabene, which is very ancient, still calls itself Assyrian.


* * * * * * * * * * * *

Did overpopulation and drought contribute to its collapse?


November 13, 2014

Assyrian King Sargon II (721–705 B.C.E.), holding the staff of kingship and wearing the royal conical crown, meets with a court official.The mighty Neo-Assyrian Empire, which came to control the lands between the Mediterranean Sea and the Zagros Mountains as well as Egypt and part of Anatolia, collapsed at the end of the seventh century B.C.E. It is traditionally believed that the empire began to disintegrate due to a series of military conflicts as well as civil unrest.

The destruction of the Assyrian capital Nineveh by a coalition of Babylonian and Median invaders in 612 B.C.E. marked the fall of the empire. A new study published in the scientific journal Climatic Change argues that a population boom and drought—two factors that have thus far been underexplored—may have contributed to the rapid demise of what some scholars consider the world’s first true empire.

The study, led by Adam W. Schneider of the University of California, San Diego, and Selim F. Adalı of Koç University, uses recently published paleo-climate data from various parts of the Near East as well as textual and archaeological evidence to suggest that the region experienced an episode of severe drought in the second half of the seventh century B.C.E. The Assyrian heartland had undergone a population explosion during the late eighth and early seventh centuries, largely due to the forced resettlement of conquered peoples into the empire. The researchers suggest that the major population growth may have greatly hindered the state’s ability to withstand the drought that plagued the region in the latter part of the seventh century.

“We strongly suspect that any economic damage inflicted upon the Assyrian Empire by drought would have served as a key stimulus for the increasing unrest which was to characterize its final decades,” Schneider and Adalı wrote in their paper.

“At a more global level,” the researchers caution, “the fate of the Assyrian Empire also teaches modern societies about the consequences of prioritizing policies intended to maximize short-term economic and political benefit over those which favor long-term economic security and risk mitigation.”


From Babylon to Baghdad: Ancient Iraq and the Modern West examines the relationship between ancient Iraq and the origins of modern Western society. This free eBook, a collection of articles written by authoritative scholars, details some of the ways in which ancient Near Eastern civilizations have impressed themselves on Western culture. It examines the evolving relationship that modern scholarship has with this part of the world, and chronicles the present-day fight to preserve Iraq’s cultural heritage.

Related reading in Bible History Daily:

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