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Ancient Civilizations: Assyrians

Updated on July 2, 2012

Assyrians are another ancient people that had tremendous influence on the world’s cultures, traditions, and history. They were mainly located in the northern reaches of Mesopotamia between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers. The Assyrians were a violent people that wanted to master the world with warfare, deceit, and revenge. They often exceed in their goals.

The Assyrian empire reigned from the late 25th century B.C to about 608 B.C. They were named after their capital city Assur. It ruled many of the lands that surround what is today modern day Iraq, Iran and Syria. Many people have been known to call the Assyrians Subartu. When the Assyrian Empire finally collapsed it was split into three separate territories Athura, Syria, and Assuristand.

The Assyrian culture had roots to the cradle of civilization from the Neanderthal roots to the Sumerian people that roamed the region before them. Some archeologist can date the Assyrian nation back to more than 7000 years. The Assyrian culture was heavily influenced by the neighboring tribes and cultures already present in the region. They continued with many of the traditions that were there before from the Sumerian religions, astronomy, mathematics, and other cultural adoptions. Early on in their history many wars were fought to establish their own empire. However, the largest empire of Babylon constantly subdued them back into place. Assyrian under the rule of Shamshi-Add were again called to fight for their empire when the Hittite Empire. The Hittite Empire had to give up control of the Assyrian lands finally allowing them to establish independence. This was because the Assyrians were at the very edge of the empire and maintaining control of them became too much.

The Assyrians, after hundreds of years, of being dominated, wanted more than their independence. They wanted to extend their rule as far as they could. They raised up a great army with skilled warriors. Along with their excellence in technology they began their long trek of domination from 1233 B.C to 824 B.C. Where they extended their empire to what today is turkey and Syria. They went south and took control of Palestine, Babylon and southern Mesopotamia. They even went as far south as the Nile delta and as far north as Anatolia.

One of the major influences that the Assyrians included in their empire was their Art. Archeologists have uncovered thousands of pieces of beautifully decorated artistic pieces from statues, monuments, and religious buildings. The detail in the artistic artwork depicts things from the struggles of the common man to the extraordinary life of the king and his followers. Many of the art pieces tell of stories of ancient battles of the gods along with modern battles of empire expansion. The Assyrians for a long time believed their king as a divine ruler chosen by the gods. So, many depict the kings that ruled enjoying the company among them.

Archeologists have continued to uncover many sculptures in the royal place at Nimrod and Khorsabad. The sculpting community of Assyria reached a high level of attunement and detail. Many royal gems have been found in the sacred tombs of ruling kings that have been adorned atop precious rings, which are inscribed, in vivid detail, the history of the Assyrian empire.

As the empire stretched its wings and dominated more territories it continued to develop and adopt technology from them. Archeologists have found ancient telescopes that watched the seasons of the moon and stars. The Assyrians were very accurate in astronomy and science. There is evidence of many military engineers building new and more powerful weapons. New siege weapons, heavy Calvary, and new sword designs all made the Assyrian army that much more effective in their conquest.

Among other things, the Assyrians had a unique language that changed very quickly. In the beginning, they spoke a form of Akkadian which had Sumerian roots in most of its pronunciation. Later they wanted to make sure their roots were not forgotten so they tried to come back to the ancient Sumerian language of their ancestors. They continued to inscribe and write in the Sumerian language.

Nearing the end of the Assyrian empire, there was much political turmoil. May of the conquered lands became to be conquered by a returning aggressor the Babylonians. In the end, the Babylonians along with a new ally the Medes of southern Mesopotamia, declared war on the Assyrian empire. The Assyrian empire was broken and defeated. The armies of Medes and Babylon burned the capital Nineveh to the ground in an attempt to erase from history the Assyrian empire.


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