The fall of Assyria - World History

The fall of Assyria - World History
Posted on 28-12-2022

The fall of Assyria ( 650 ) The Chaldeans and the Medes destroy Assyria.

In the second half of the seventh century, the civilized world saw many changes. In India, the cities, extinct since the Aryan invasion, begin to reappear. Egypt seemed to have returned to the past. Under the government of Psamtik, it experienced an economic renovation and an artistic renaissance. The times of the builders of the pyramids were extolled, the religious rituals described in the ancient tombs were studied, the literary classics of the Middle Kingdom were recalled, and the damage caused in Thebes by the Assyrians was repaired. However, Egypt no longer had good soldiers, and they were needed now more than ever. Psameticus hired mercenary Greek hoplites and installed them in garrisons to the east of the Delta, to prevent a possible Assyrian attack. The continuous fights between the various Greek polis had made the hoplites very efficient warriors, perhaps the best soldiers of the time. That is why many of them found offering their services to other cities or nations as a way to earn a living.

Sparta, too, changed radically after its experience in the two long wars against Messenia. The entire city became a barracks. The children were tested at birth to see if they were robust enough. If they were not, they were left to die. At the age of seven they were separated from their mothers and raised in a kind of military academy, where they learned to endure cold and hunger, exhaustion and pain. They had to know how to fight, blindly follow orders, and die rather than retreat.

The adult Spartans ate at a common table, to which each one brought his share, and all contributed what their lands produced with the work of their helots. The food was austere (the Greeks from other cities said that it was emetic). Art, music and literature were eradicated from Sparta. Even oratory was frowned upon ever since. We still use the word laconic today to refer to the parsimony of words that was characteristic in Laconia from then on, in contrast to the taste for dialectic that the other Greeks always displayed. Sparta abandoned all interest in trade or colonization and focused on being the most powerful city in the Peloponnese and, eventually, in all of Greece. In later centuries, the Spartans said that the laws that shaped their way of life, the Spartan constitution, had been implanted by Lycurgus in the year 850 BC, but this is false: until 650Sparta had musicians and poets. It was the Messenian wars that made militarism triumph in the city. Lycurgus probably never existed.

In the kingdom of Lydia an innovation arose. The government began issuing gold nuggets with a stamp that guaranteed their value, so they could be easily used in commercial transactions. They were the first coins. Greek merchants took up the idea. Apparently, the first city that used this exchange system was Aegina, a small island located in the gulf formed between Attica and Argolis. The use of money made it rich, and other city-states were quick to follow suit.

Etruria lived its time of greatest splendor. Around this time, the Etruscan cities began to surround themselves with solid walls, built with carefully joined rocks without cement. It is not known if to protect themselves from external enemies or to protect each other. The Greeks considered them to be brave warriors. Their influence extended well beyond their borders by land and sea. At this time its presence in Campania, to the south of Lazio, was reinforced, which was thus surrounded by the Etruscans, to the north and south.

Assyria, on the other hand, was experiencing a delicate moment. Ashurbanipal's army had to face his brother's in Babylon. In 648 he was cornered and committed suicide. The Assyrian king understood that Elam was behind all the problems that Babylon was causing, so he launched a campaign against that kingdom.

In 643 Huan of Qi died, allowing other Chinese states to compete for hegemony. The state of Chu spread to the north.

In 642 King Manasseh of Judah died, and was succeeded by his son Amun, who continued his father's policy of total submission to Assyria.

In 641 Tullus Hostilius, the third king of Rome, died, and the Roman Senate elected as king the grandson of Numa Pompilius, whose government was always fondly remembered by the Romans. The fourth king was called Anco Marcio. According to tradition, Anco Marcio brought new settlers to Rome to contribute to the growth that the city was experiencing. He lodged them on the Aventine Hill, which happened to be the fifth hill of Rome. However, the newcomers did not arrive with equal rights. They were not allowed to send representatives to the Senate or hold public office. The senators were also called patricians, because they were like parents who ran the big family that was the city. By extension, the word was also applied to the families of senators, as opposed to newcomers, who were called commoners. The patricians were grouped into large families, called gentes, who venerated a common ancestor. Next to them lived the clients, poor or former slaves who sought the protection of the pater familias, or head of the family.

In 640, after only two years of reign, King Amon of Judah was assassinated, and was succeeded by Josiah, his eight-year-old son. We do not know exactly how it happened, but it is reasonable to surmise an intrigue by the Yahwist priests, since the later kings had adopted the Assyrian cult and an eight-year-old king would be easy to manipulate. In this way there were many possibilities of restoring the cult of Yahveh, as indeed it happened.

That same year the city of Megara followed the example of its neighbor Corinth and chose Theagenes as tyrant , who had a magnificent aqueduct built to supply fresh water to the city. Tyrants needed to win the support of the people with all kinds of reforms and improvements, so in general tyrannies were preferable to oligarchies of nobles, who did not feel obliged to justify their authority in any way.

The weakening of Assyria favored the prosperity of Phoenicia. Although the Greeks were taking over the eastern Mediterranean, the Phoenicians ventured west. They created bases in what is now Algeria, occupied the Balearic Islands, and extended their occupation of the Spanish coast. Furthermore, their ships entered the Atlantic Ocean and skirted the coast until they reached what they called "tin islands", which apparently were the Scilly Isles, located off the coast of Cornwall, southwest of England. From there, and perhaps from Cornwall itself, they carried tin to Tartessos, where it was used to make bronze.

Around this time the king of Egypt Psammetic had a daring idea. He urged the Greeks from Miletus to found a colony in the Nile Delta. The Greeks gladly agreed and built Naucratis, which in Greek means "ruler of the sea."Psametichus's idea was to use the Greeks to distribute Egyptian surpluses across the Mediterranean, and it worked well. This was the main contact between Greece and Egypt for many years. Most of the words with which we refer to many aspects of Egyptian culture are of Greek origin and date from this time (pyramid, hieroglyph, sphinx, obelisk, etc.), as well as many names of Egyptian cities and kings. For example, the Egyptians called No to the city that, for some reason, the Greeks decided to call Thebes, which was also the name of a polis west of Attica.

In 639 Ashurbanipal achieved the final victory against Elam. He took his capital, Susa, and destroyed it. The entire country was devastated and the kingdom that had existed since the time of the Sumerians finally disappeared from history. By this time the king must have been in his sixties and was probably tired. He no longer undertook more military campaigns and the peoples subjugated by Assyria began to notice that their chains were weakening.

In 637 Duke Hsiang of the state of Sung clashed with the state of Chu, but the latter annihilated his army and subdued Sung. Hsiang died in the battle.

In 632 an Athenian named Cylon, married to the daughter of the dictator Theagenes of Megara, tried to become tyrant of Athens. One festive day, while the Athenians were distracted with celebrations, he seized the Acropolis (the city's fortified hill) with the help of some nobles and Megarian soldiers. The Athenian oligarchy was not very popular and the Acropolis was virtually impregnable, so minimal support from the people would have given Cylon victory, but he got none because of the Megarian soldiers. No Athenian was willing to get rid of the oligarchy at the price of submitting to foreigners. They did not try to take the Acropolis, but waited for the raiders to surrender out of starvation. Cilon managed to escape, but the others had to surrender in exchange for the promise that their lives would be spared. The Archon of Athens that year wasMegacles, a member of one of the most powerful families in the city, the Alcmaeonids. Megacles thought it wiser to get rid of the traitors and had them killed, despite the promise he had made to save their lives. This filled the Athenians with concern: Megacles had broken a promise made solemnly before the gods. The archon and other members of his family were tried for sacrilege and expelled from the city. For his part, Theagenes declared war on Athens.

That same year, King Josiah of Judah, at sixteen years of age, was already a perfect Yahwist, and he suppressed the Assyrian cult. In China, Wen, Lord of Jin, scored a decisive victory that halted the Chu advance with the help of Qi and Qin. In this way, Wen took control of the hegemony of the Chinese confederation, a hegemony that was ratified by King Cheu himself.

In 630, the Greeks founded the city of Cyrene on the Libyan coast, outside Egyptian borders. This colony would be the nucleus of a prosperous Greek population in the area. They also discovered the existence of Tartesos and established commercial relations. As a result, they founded the colony of Mainake, near present-day Malaga. The Phoenicians thus lost the monopoly of trade with Tartessos.

In 628 the Chinese state of Qin began an expansion to the east that confronted the states of Jin and Chu.

In 627 the viceroy that Ashurbanipal had imposed in Babylon when he defeated his brother died, and various claimants to the succession vied for power for a brief time. Finally he defeated a Chaldean named Nabopolassar.   By this time, the Scythians had been fighting against the Medes, but before the decline of Assyria they decided to ally against it. Command was assumed by a Mede chief named Ciaxares.

In 625 Cypselus arranged for his son Periander to inherit the tyranny of Corinth. Under his rule, Corinth became the most cultured city in mainland Greece, as well as the most prosperous. He welcomed in his court the famous poet Arion (of whom it was said that he was thrown into the sea by some pirates, but with his singing he managed to attract some dolphins that took him to the coast). Around this time the Greeks began to build temples of stone and not of wood. Corinth developed the so-called Doric order, based on lines of columns adorned with grooves that supported the roofs.

When Ashurbanipal died in 622, Assyria found itself surrounded by enemies ready to descend on it. Ciaxares became king of Media, dominating a territory approximately equal to that of present-day Iran. Nabopolassar also declared the independence of Babylon. Naturally, this meant war with Assyria. For its part, the army of Judah rushed north and took possession of the territory formerly occupied by Israel. King Josiah ordered the renovation of the temple, which had fallen into disrepair since the time of the last Yahwist king. In a hole in the building, the high priest HelciasHe claimed to have found a first version of the Book of the Law, a book presumably written by Moses of which until then there was no news. We do not have this book, but it seems that it was an early version of Deuteronomy,the fifth book of the bible. In it the story of Moses was recalled, the Mosaic law was detailed in detail, as well as all the ritual of the cult, the Temple was established as the only admissible place for said cult and the people were exhorted to obey the prophets who spoke in the name of God. In short, the Book of the Law was the priests' way of telling Josiah exactly what he was to do. Josías believed that the book was authentic and he eliminated all non-Yahwist cults from the country. All local shrines, Yahwist or not, were closed, leaving the Jerusalem Temple as the only shrine.

Meanwhile, Athens was fending off precariously from Megara. The difficulties in the war increased the people's dissatisfaction with the ruling oligarchy. Voices were raised that the nobles were unfair in their administration of customary laws. This was difficult to sustain without a written code, and so the people demanded the drafting of a system of laws.

This code was drawn up in 621 by Dracón, a noble supporter of the oligarchy. His system of laws simply reflected current practice with all its injustices and arbitrariness. There was only one change, and it was the extreme harshness of the sentences. For example, stealing a cabbage carried the death penalty. When asked why, Dracon is said to have replied "Because I cannot conceive of a harsher punishment." A creditor could enslave debtors to him if he could not pay the debts. This item led many Athenian farmers into slavery.

That same year King Perdiccas I of Macedonia died and was succeeded by his son Argeus I. His descendants were known as Argeads, and they were to rule Macedonia for two centuries. The organization of the kingdom is reminiscent of archaic Greece: nothing like the city-states of the south. The "king of the Macedonians" was the head of the warriors and governed assisted by a council of "companions". The peasants were subject to the power of the king. Their language was a Greek dialect.

In 617 the Lydian throne was occupied by Alyates, the grandson of King Gyges, who extended the Lydian borders throughout Asia Minor while continuing the fight against the Cimmerians.

In 616 Nabopolassar agreed to an alliance with Ciaxares. Ashurbanipal's successor was no match for his father and Nabopolassar was slowly advancing towards Nineveh, but he wanted to make sure that his luck would not be changed by an unforeseen setback. The agreement was sealed with the marriage between the daughter of Ciaxares and the son of Nabopolassar. Cyaxares did not take long to take Assur, the old capital.

This same year Anco Marcio died, and Lucio Tarquinio Priscohe was elected fifth king of Rome. Here Tarquinio is the family name, which indicates the Etruscan origin of this king, since Tarquinia was an important Etruscan city. The third name, "Prisco", is an added differentiating appellation that some Romans received throughout their lives or sometimes even inherited (something similar to a nickname or an alias, but more institutionalized). In this case it means "the first" or "the eldest", probably to distinguish him from a namesake son. It is difficult to know if the Romans freely chose an Etruscan king (as their historians claimed) or if it was imposed on them from Etruria (quite likely). The truth is that Rome prospered under his rule, as it benefited from the advanced Etruscan culture. He built theCircus Maximus, an oval enclosure where chariot races were held. He also introduced athletic games, common among the Etruscans, he built a great temple to Jupiter on the Capitoline Hill. The temple was called Capitol, and was at the same time a fortress where the Romans could take refuge in the worst moments of their history. He also built the Cloaca Maxima, which drained the swampy areas of the valley between the Capitoline and Palatine. There was the foruma market, but now it became a public place where people gathered to trade and perform all kinds of public acts.

All these constructions were carried out under the direction of Etruscan engineers and artists, who had learned a large part of their trade from the Greeks, although they had also made many of their own contributions, such as the use of the arch, which allowed reducing the number of columns necessary to support a building Rome would soon have its own engineers and architects, who over time produced magnificent works of which the Romans were always very proud.

Tarquin won military victories over other Latin cities (which perhaps saw Rome as just another Etruscan city) and introduced the Etruscan custom of Triumph. When a general achieved a great victory he entered the city preceded by government officials and followed by his army and the prisoners and the loot he had taken, and advanced to the Capitol to the applause of the people. Religious services were held at the Capitol and the ceremony ended with a great party. It should be noted that Rome did not then have a professional army, but its soldiers were the farmers themselves,

In 615 King Argeus I of Macedonia died, and was succeeded by his son Philip I. During this period of its history, Macedonia remained oblivious to the progress that the southern Greek cities were experiencing. In fact, despite their language, the Greeks considered the Macedonians to be barbarians.

In 614 the Chinese state of Chu increased its influence under Chuang rule.

Returning to cornered Assyria, in desperation she was forced to appeal to Egypt for help. Psammetich agreed to help her, certainly not out of sympathy, but because Egypt was interested in a weak Assyria, but not a finished Assyria that would easily be replaced by another threatening power, such as Babylon or Media. But Egyptian help was little and late. in 612 Nabopolassar and Cyaxares jointly besieged and took Nineveh, to the delight of the entire Near East. Nineveh was literally razed to the ground and was never allowed to be rebuilt. Had it not been for the fact that his story appears in the Bible, his name would have been completely forgotten in subsequent centuries. However, some fragments of the Assyrian army survived the disaster and withdrew to the city of Harran, north of the Fertile Crescent, where they held out for a time under the leadership of a general named Ashur-Ubalit.

In 610 , one of the most famous tyrants, Thrasybulus, rose to power in Miletus, under whose rule Miletus was probably the most prosperous city in the Greek world. That same year Psamético died, whose reign was the longest since the times of Ramses II. He was succeeded by his son, Neco I,who decided to help the Assyrians who took refuge in Harran in the hope that they would keep the Medes and Chaldeans entertained and that they would not have the opportunity to pay attention to Egypt. On the way to Harran was Judah and, although Necho I would have preferred not to waste time with the Jews, the fact was that Josías was not willing to let the Egyptians pass through his territory. In 609 the Egyptian army faced the Jewish one at Megiddo, just where six centuries before the great Thutmosis III had defeated the Canaanites. Josiah died and was replaced by his youngest son Jehoahaz from him, but he only reigned for a month, as Neco I considered that he was not sufficiently faithful to Egyptian interests, so he took him prisoner to Egypt and put Josiah's eldest son, named Joaquim, on the throne. The new king swore allegiance to Egypt and promised to pay tribute.

Neco I's army continued to advance north, but it was too late. Nabopolassar had taken Harran and Ashur-Ubalit had to flee until he met the Egyptian army, with whose help he tried to recover Harran, but to no avail. As of 605 there is no news of Ashur-Ubalit and with him the last rest of Assyria disappeared definitively. At that time Nabopolassar felt ill and returned to Babylon, but left his son Nebuchadnezzar from him. (the one who had married the daughter of Cyaxares) with the mission of getting rid of the Egyptians. After a confrontation in Karchemish, Neco I had to retreat hastily to Egypt. Nebuchadnezzar could have followed him, but news of his father's death reached him and he had to go to Babylon to secure his succession. Indeed, there he became Nebuchadnezzar II, king of the Chaldeans.

Nebuchadnezzar II and Ciaxares shared the conquered territories amicably. While the former faced Egypt, the Median king destroyed the kingdom of Urartu, which from then on disappears from history, becoming a part of Media. Cyaxares kept Media proper (present-day Iran), what had been Urartu, and the eastern part of Asia Minor (the western part was held by the Lydian king Alyates). For his part, Nebuchadnezzar II kept the entire Fertile Crescent, a smaller but much richer territory, which now made up the Chaldean Empire or the New Babylonian Empire.

Around this time a prophet named Jeremiah arose in Judah .In his preaching he warned that Babylon was actually Assyria with another name and another king, but that it was still the same threat as before. Apparently, the Jews underestimated the power of Babylon, as history had led them to believe that the Temple made Jerusalem invincible. Like the other prophets, Jeremiah denounced the immoralities of the people who, nevertheless, believed that they were protected by God. He claimed that if the Jews did not immediately repent, God would punish them through the Chaldeans. He advised King Joaquim to abandon his policy of submission to Egypt and replace it with good relations with Babylon, but Joaquim did not listen to him.

In 601 Nebuchadnezzar II led his armies against Egypt, but Neco I was able to repulse him at the border. This was enough to confirm to King Joaquim the convenience of allying with Egypt and he refused to pay tribute to Nebuchadnezzar.

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