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The savagery of Ashurnasirpal II against our Aramean people of Kashiari

(Tur Abdin)

Ashurnasirpal II (883-859 BC) penetrated right into Kashiari (Tur Abdin) and boasts of having spent six days campaigning there, despite  its being “rugged terrain which was unsuitable for chariotry and troops”. At Matiatu (modern Midyat in Tur ‘Abdin) he claims to have slain 2800 men and carried off many captive, at the same time he says he erected a statue of himself there, with an inscription detailing his victories. This has not been found, but one with a brief account of his campaign in Kashiari was discovered last century at Kurkh, near Diyarbakir, to the northwest of Tur ‘Abdin, while fragments of another inscribed statue of the king (today in the museum at Adana) were found at Babil, described in Akkadian sources as “the source of the river Subnat”, some 25 kilometres southwest of Cizre. Among the various towns in Kashiari that Ashurnasirpal II mentions is Zazabuha (which may be modern Zaz), Kibaku (perhaps modern Kiwah), and Suru (probably modern Sawur).

Rather more detail is given to Ashurnasirpal about his exploits in Bit Zamani, further to the northwest. Bit Zamani had Amedi (Amid, modern Diyarbakir) as its main city, and was evidently ruled by an Aramean dynasty. A palace revolution, when nobles under a certain Bur-Ramanu killed their ruler Amme-ba’l, provided Ashurnasirpal with an excuse to intervene. He flays Bur-Ramanu alive and appoints his brother, Ilanu, as ruler instead, paying a heavy tribute. What is particularly interesting , since it gives an idea of the material culture and wealth of Bit Zamani at the time, is a list of booty that the Assyrian king takes back with him, for he states:

I received 460 harnessed chariots, equipment for troops and horses, 460 harness-trained horses, 2 talents of silver, 2 talents of gold, 100 talents of tin, 200 talents bronze, 300 talents of iron, 1000 bronze casseroles, 2000 bronze receptacles, bowls, bronze containers, 1000 embroidered linen garments, dishes, chests, couches of ivory decorated with gold…..”

-all this being described as the treasure of Bur Ramanu’s palace.

The brutality with which the Assyrians treated their Aramean and other enemies was sometimes horrific: thus the same Ashurnasirpal boeast “I captured many troops alive; from some I cutoff their arms and hands, from others I cut of their noses and ears., I gouged out the eyes of many troops. I made one pile of the  living, and another of heads; I hung their heads on trees around the city. I burnt their young boys and girls”.

With the resurgence of Assyrian power in the ninth and eighth centuries BC, the Aramean states were victims of repeated onslaughts from Assyria, and over the period of nearly two centuries they each in turn fell permanently into Assyrian hands, to beco9me provinces of the Assyrian empire. Quite a number of the earliest surviving Aramaic inscriptions in fact date from a time after this change of status had already taken place.

Sources:

-          The Hidden Pearl Volume I: The Ancient Aramaic Heritage by Sebastian P Brock and David G.K. Taylor page 63   

-          John A Fitzmeyer and Stephen A Kaufman , An Aramaic Bibliography, Part I, Old, Official, and Bibloical Aramaic (Baltimore, 1992) . A selection of the earlier Aramaic inscriptions (texts, translations, commentary) is provided J.C.L. Gibson, Textbook of Syrian Semitic Inscriptions, 2, Aramaic Inscriptions (Oxford, 1975)

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