List of Assyrian kings

The list of Assyrian kings is compiled from the Assyrian King List, which begins approximately 2500 BCE and continues to the 8th century BCE. It begins listing Kings of the Sumero-Akkadian city-state of Assur, and later kings of the Assyrian Empires. Assyria is an ancient civilization in northern Mesopotamia (modern northern Iraq, northeastern Syria, and southeastern Turkey). The Assyrian King List includes regnal lengths that appear to have been based on now lost limmu lists (which list the names of eponymous officials for each year). These regnal lengths mostly accord well with Hittite, Babylonian and ancient Egyptian king lists and with the archaeological record, and are generally considered reliable for the age.[1] It is somewhat fictional however, as some known kings are not found on the list and other listed kings are not independently verified.[2]

Prior to the discovery of cuneiform tablets listing ancient Assyrian kings, scholars before the 19th century only had access to two complete Assyrian King Lists, one found in Eusebius of Caesarea's Chronicle (c. 325 AD), of which two editions exist[3] and secondly a list found in the Excerpta Latina Barbari.

An incomplete list of 16 Assyrian kings was also preserved in the literature of Sextus Julius Africanus. Other very fragmentary Assyrian king lists have come down to us written by the Greeks and Romans such as Ctesias of Cnidus (c. 400 BC) and the Roman authors Castor of Rhodes (1st century BC) and Cephalion (1st century AD).

Unlike the cuneiform tablets, the Greek-language list is only considered to contain minor historical truths. Some scholars argue further that they are either entire fabrications or fiction.

Cuneiform sources

There are three extant cuneiform tablet versions of the Assyrian King List, and two fragments.[4] They date to the early first millennium BC — the oldest, List A (8th century BC) stopping at Tiglath-Pileser II (ca. 967–935 BC) and the youngest, List C, at Shalmaneser V (727–722 BC). Assyriologists believe the list was originally compiled to link Shamshi-Adad I (fl. ca. 1700 BC (short)), an Amorite who had conquered Assur, to the native rulers of the land of Assur. Scribes then copied the List and added to it over time.[5] Before Erishum I the list gives no regnal lengths are given for kings.

The following kings are listed from the list of cuneiform tablets.

Early Assyrian Period

Old Assyrian Period

Damage to the tablets in all three extant King Lists before Enlil-nasir II (c. 1420–1415 BC (short)) prevents the calculation of approximate regnal dates from Erishum I to this point. Additionally, three kings attested elsewhere from this period are not included in the standard King List. The remainder of the King List then has an unbroken chain of regnal lengths from Enlil-nasir II on. Disparities between the different versions of the King List for the reigns of Ashur-nadin-apli (c. 1196–1194 BC (short)) and Ninurta-apal-Ekur (c. 1182–1180 BC (short)) contribute to the debate over the chronology of the ancient Near East.[5][14]

Middle Assyrian Period

The dates up to Ninurta-apal-Ekur (c. 1182–1180 BC) are subject to debate, as some of the regnal lengths vary over the different versions of the King List. The dates given below are based on Assyrian King Lists B and C, which give only three years to Ashur-nadin-apli, and the same to Ninurta-apal-Ekur. (Assyrian King List A gives four years to Ashur-nadin-apli and 13 years to Ninurta-apal-Ekur.[18]) This timeframe is also subject to the overall debate about the chronology of the ancient Near East; the short (or low) chronology is used here.

Dates from 1179 to 912 BC, although less secure than dates from 911 BC onwards, are not subject to the chronology debate.[8]

Adad-nirari III (811–783 BC)

Neo-Assyrian Period

Neo-Assyrian Empire (824 & 671 BC)
Tiglath-Pileser III (745–727 BC)
Ashurbanipal (669–631 BC)

Synchronisms between the limmu lists and absolute dates known from Babylonian chronology provide good absolute dates for the years between 911 BC and 649 BC.

The dates for the very end of the Assyrian period are uncertain due to the lack of limmu lists after 649 BC. Some sources list Ashurbanipal's death in 631 BC, rather than 627 BC; Ashur-etil-ilani then reigns from 631 to 627, and Sin-shar-ishkun reigns until 612 BC, when he is known to have died in the sack of Nineveh.[8]

Fragmentary Greek and Roman Lists


Ctesias, as court physician to Artaxerxes II, claimed to have access to the royal historical records. Ctesias' list of Assyrian kings was included in his Persica, a work covering the history of Persia, but the first 3 books were dedicated to pre-Persian Assyria entitled "The History of the Assyrians". How much of Ctesias' king list is factual history is still debated. While most scholars agree large parts are fiction, it is generally agreed that there is historical truth based on the probability his list was rooted in transmitted oral tradition.[25][26] Classical scholar Robert Drews, however, has argued that Ctesias' list contains information from Babylonian tablets.[27] Although Ctesias's entire work is lost, fragments of it are found preserved in Diodorus Siculus, Nicolaus of Damascus and Photius. From these fragments it is known Ctesias dated the founding of the Assyria to c. 2166 BC, by King Ninus, husband of Queen Semiramis, and 30 further Assyrian kings followed for 1300 years in succession to Sardanapalus (c. 866 BC).[28] Ctesias' list of 30 successors from Ninus (and Semiramis) to Sardanapalus is lost.

Castor of Rhodes and Cephalion

In the 1st century BC, Castor of Rhodes compiled an Assyrian king list, similar to that of Ctesias'. Fragments only remain in mutilated form, but it is known from these fragments that Castor's Assyrian king list started with Belus, and, like Ctesias', included Ninus, also said to be the husband of Semiramis. However, Ninus equates in Castor's list to the second king, not the first and is said to have ruled for 52 years. Castor further dated Belus to 2123 BC.[29] A fragment from Cephalion names Ninus' successor to be Ninyas, his son.

Julius Africanus

An incomplete list of 16 Assyrian kings is found in Sextus Julius Africanus' Chronographiai (early 3rd century AD):[30]

Of the Assyrian Kings the 1st was Belus who reigned 55 years.
Neenus .. .. 52 years.
Semiramis .. .. 42.
Ninaus (Ninyas?) who is called Zamis the son of Neenus and Semiramis; he reigned 38 years.
Arius .. .. 30 years.
Aralius .. .. .. 40.
Xerxes .. .. .. 30.
Armamithres .. 38.
Belochos .. .. 35.
Balaeus .. .. .. 52.
Sethos .. .. .. 50.
Mamuthos .. .. 30.
Aschalius .. .. 28.
Sphaerus .. .. 22.
Mamulus .. .. 30.
Spartheos .. .. 42.

Eusebius of Caesarea

Eusebius of Caesarea's Chronicle (c. 325 AD) contains a complete list of 36 Assyrian kings. Eusebius' King List

Excerpta Latina Barbari

A final list is found in the Excerpta Latina Barbari. The list can be found in Scaliger's Thesaurus temporum (1606). The list dates Belus, the first Assyrian king, to c. 2206 BC.[31]

List in Arabic

The Arab historian al-Ya'qūbī included in his Kitāb al-ta'rīkh written in 873 CE a list of kings of "Mosul and Nineveh" comprising three identifiable Assyrian kings and a queen: Palūs/Tiglath-pileser II (965-936), Ninūs/Tukulti-Ninurta II (890-884), Lāwasnasir/Assurnasirpal II (883-859) and Shamīram/Semiramis (810-806).[32]

According to Arab Scholars (Al Biruni) and reviewed by Sir Issac Newton in The Chronology of Nations [33]

See also


  1. Rowton, M.B. (1970). The Cambridge Ancient History. 1.1. Cambridge University Press. pp. 194–195. ISBN 0521070511.
  2. International Dictionary of Historic Places: Middle East and Africa, Volume 4
  3. One the standard, the other a later Armenian translation.
  4. For discussion of king lists, see Poebel, “Assyrian King List,” 71–90; IJ Gelb, “Two Assyrian King Lists,”Journal of Near Eastern Studies 13 (1954): 209–30.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Meissner, Bruno (1990). Reallexikon der Assyriologie. 6. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter. pp. 101–102. ISBN 3110100517.
  6. 1 2 Hildegard Levy, "Assyria c. 2600-1816 B.C.", Cambridge Ancient History. Volume 1, Part 2: Early History of the Middle East, 729-770, p. 745-746.)
  7. Hamilton, Victor (1995). The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1 - 17. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. ISBN 9780802825216.
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 Rowton, M.B. (1970). The Cambridge Ancient History. 1.1. Cambridge University Press. pp. 202–204. ISBN 0521070511.
  9. 1 2 3 Glassner, Jean-Jacques (2004). Mesopotamian Chronicles. Society of Biblical Literature. p. 137. ISBN 1589830903.
  10. Meissner, Bruno (1990). Reallexikon der Assyriologie. 6. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter. p. 103. ISBN 3110100517.
  11. Meissner, Bruno (1990). Reallexikon der Assyriologie. 6. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter. p. 104. ISBN 3110100517.
  12. J. A. Brinkman (2001). "Assyria". In Bruce Manning Metzger, Michael David Coogan. The Oxford companion to the Bible. Oxford University Press. p. 63.
  13. Meissner, Bruno (1990). Reallexikon der Assyriologie. 6. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter. p. 105. ISBN 3110100517.
  14. Rowton, M.B. (1970). The Cambridge Ancient History. 1.1. Cambridge University Press. p. 195. ISBN 0521070511.
  15. 1 2 3 4 Glassner, Jean-Jacques (2004). Mesopotamian Chronicles. Society of Biblical Literature. pp. 136–144. ISBN 1589830903.
  16. 1 2 3 4 Lendering, Jona (31 March 2006). "Assyrian King List". Retrieved 2008-08-13.
  17. 1 2 3 Glassner, Jean-Jacques (2004). Mesopotamian Chronicles. Society of Biblical Literature. p. 88. ISBN 1589830903.
  18. For variants, see footnotes 49–56 in Glassner, Jean-Jacques (2004). Mesopotamian Chronicles. Society of Biblical Literature. p. 155. ISBN 1589830903.
  19. Comments on the Nassouhi Kinglist and the Assyrian Kinglist Tradition, J.A. Brinkman, Orientalia N.S 42, 1973
  20. Assyrian Rulers of the Third and Second Millennia BC, A.K. Grayson, University of Toronto Press, 1987, ISBN 0-8020-2605-2
  21. The Chronology of Ancient Assyria Re-assessed, B. Newgrosh, JACF, vol. 08, pp. 78-106, 1999
  22. Landscape and Settlement in the Neo-Assyrian Empire, T. J. Wilkinson, E. B. Wilkinson, J. Ur, M. Altaweel, Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, November 2005
  23. "Assyrian Eponym List".
  24. Bedford, P. (2001). "Empires and Exploitation: The Neo-Assyrian Empire" (PDF). WA Perth.
  25. "Ctesias' Persian History: Introduction, text, and translation", Jan P. Stronk, Wellem Verlag, 2010, pp.30-36.
  26. Felix Jacoby cf. FGrH 688 T 11, T 13, T 19, shows ancient authorities that considered the king list to be sensational, semi-fictional or unrealistic at the time.
  27. Assyria in Classical Universal Histories, Robert Drews, Historia: Zeitschrift für Alte Geschichte, Bd. 14, H. 2 (Apr., 1965), pp. 129-142
  28. Drews, 1965, p. 30.
  29. "Ovid, Varro, and Castor of Rhodes: The Chronological Architecture of the 'Metamorphoses'", Thomas Cole, Harvard Studies in Classical Philology, Vol. 102, (2004), pp. 355-422.
  30. Preserved by George Syncellus, found in Cory's Ancient Fragments, 1826, p. 70.
  31. The Assyrian King list in the Excerpta Latina Barbari claims Belus ruled 1430 years before the first Olympiad (776 BC) thus dating him to 2206 BC.
  32. Dierk Lange, The founding of Kanem by Assyrian Refugees ca. 600 BCE: Documentary, Linguistic, and Archaeological Evidence, Boston, 2011, p. 29.
  33. Abū al-Rayhān Muhammad ibn Ahmad al-Bīrūnī الآثار الباقية عن القرون الخالية-vestiges of the past. pp. 194–195.


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