Sargonid dynasty

The Sargonid dynasty is an academic name for the final ruling family of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, beginning with Sargon II's ascent to the throne in 722 BC until the death of Sîn-šarru-iškun and the fall of the kingdom in 612 BC at the hands of a coalition of invaders. The dynasty was the last of the great Assyrian kings and came at the end of a 1500-year period of Assyrian ascendancy.[1]

Although the bloodline can be traced back two centuries to Tukulti-Ninurta II (891-884 BC) and Tiglath-Pileser III being the establisher of Assyria's military reforms, the dynasty is named after Sargon as it was his efforts that elevated the kingdom to its peak level and magnified the status of the šarru (king). Although the dynasty only encompassed the reign of four kings, it witnessed the subjugation of the entire civilized territory of the western hemisphere, as Assyria's rivals were either completely conquered or made vassals. The borders of the empire encompassed the Ancient Near East, East Mediterranean, Asia Minor, Caucasus, and parts of the Arabian peninsula and North Africa, eclipsing and conquering rivals such as Babylonia, Elam, Persia, Urartu, Lydia, the Medes, Phrygians, Cimmerians, Israel, Judah, Phoenicia, Chaldea, Canaan, the Kushite Empire, the Arabs, and Egypt.[2]

With the death of the warrior king Ashurbanipal, various civil wars broke out with a number of figures laying claim to the throne. Although Assyria had faced civil wars before, this occasion saw them being coupled with a coalition of invaders, most notably long time rivals Babylonia and Media. With the coalition growing to include the Scythians and Cimmerians, the Assyrians continued to suffer defeat despite whatever help their Egyptian allies could offer. Assur, Nineveh and Kalhu were destroyed by 612 BC with the key city of Harran being the location of the final stand led by Aššur-uballiṭ II and his Egyptian allies. The Egyptians withdrew after a defeat in 610 BC with Harran falling in 609 BC. Assyria was never to resurrect as a political entity again.[3]


The dynasty takes its name from Sargon II who spearheaded the expansion of the kingdom from one based primarily on the Mesopotamian heartland to a truly multinational and multi-ethnic empire.[1]

The Sargonid dynasty

Šarru-ukin II (722-705 BC)

Sargon II (Akkadian Šarru-ukin the true king; Syriac: ܣܪܓܘܢ Sargon) was an Assyrian king. Sargon seized the throne of the Assyrian Empire in 722 BC after the death of Shalmaneser V in an apparently violent coup.[4] In his inscriptions, he styles himself as a new man, rarely referring to his predecessors; however he took the name Šarru-ukin, after Sargon of Akkad — who had founded the first Semitic Empire in the region some 16 centuries earlier. Sargon was also an impressive builder, establishing the new city Dur-Šarru-ukin in his name and adorning it with a lavish palace and temple citadel and lamassu statues at every gateaway.[5]

Sargon was the last king to be actively involved in front-line battles while his successors mainly oversaw the battles and occasionally engaged in personal combat with their rivals. Sargon also gave some responsibilities to his crown prince Sīn-aḥḥī-erība and appointed his brother Sīn-aḥu-uṣur as grand-vizier.[6]

Sargon scored a number of victories against the Babylonians, Urartians, Medians, Israelites, Phillistines and the kingdom of Carchemish. The empire now had heaby tributes flowing from every corner along with a treasury supplemented with loot from the temples of the defeat Urartians.[5][6][7]

Sargon was martyred in battle following a routine expedition to repel Cimmerian marauders from the Persian and Median vassals. His newly-built capital was abandoned and moved to Nineveh.[5]

Sīn-aḥḥī-erība (705-681 BC)

Sennacherib (Akkadian Sīn-aḥḥī-erība "Sîn has replaced the brothers"; Syriac: ܣܝܢܚܪܝܒ Sīnḥārīḇ);[8] ascended to the throne following his father's martyrdom in battle, engaging in a series of campaigns and building projects. Sennacherib is most notably remembered for his campaigns against Babylonia and Judah, while scholars also now believe that the Hanging Gardens of Babylon may have been in Nineveh as part of his magnification works on the city as the new royal capital.[9]

Sennacherib's military campaigning began in 703 BC against Marduk-apla-iddina II and defeated him. Marduk-apla-iddina fled, and Babylon was taken and the palace plundered, although the citizens were not harmed. A puppet king named Bel-ibni was placed on the throne and for the next two years Babylon was left in peace.[10] In 701 BC, Sennacherib turned from Babylonia to the western part of the empire, where Hezekiah of Judah had renounced Assyrian allegiance through incitement by Egypt and Marduk-apla-iddina. Various small states in the area which had participated in the rebellion, Sidon and Ashkelon, were taken by force and a string of other cities and states, including Byblos, Ashdod, Ammon, Moab and Edom then paid tribute without resistance. Ekron called on Egypt for help but the Egyptians were defeated. Sennacherib then besieged Hezekiah's capital, Jerusalem, and gave its surrounding towns to Assyrian vassal rulers in Ekron, Gaza and Ashdod. There is no description of how the siege ended, but the annals record a submission by Hezekiah and a list of booty sent from Jerusalem to Nineveh.[11] Hezekiah remained on his throne as a vassal ruler.[10]

Sennacherib placed his eldest son Aššur-nādin-šumi on the throne of Babylon in 699 BC, rather than allowing a vassal monarchy rule as his father Sargon and ancestor Shalmaneser had done.[12] Marduk-apla-iddina continued his rebellion with the help of Elam, and in 694 Sennacherib took a fleet of Phoenician ships down the Tigris River to destroy the Elamite base on the shore of the Persian Gulf, but while he was doing this the Elamites captured Ashur-nadin-shumi and put Nergal-ushezib, the son of Marduk-apla-iddina, on the throne of Babylon.[13] Nergal-ushezib was captured in 693 BCE and taken to Nineveh, and Sennacherib attacked Elam again. The Elamite king fled to the mountains and Sennacherib plundered his kingdom, but when he withdrew the Elamites returned to Babylon and put another rebel leader, Mushezib-Marduk, on the Babylonian throne. Babylon eventually fell to the Assyrians in 689 BCE after a lengthy siege, and Sennacherib put an end to the "Babylonian problem" by utterly destroying the city and even the mound on which it stood by diverting the water of the surrounding canals over the site.[14]

The Death of Sennacherib - Google Art Project

With Ashur-nadin-shumi presumed dead following his abduction by the Elamites, Sennacherib chose to designate his youngest son, Esarhaddon, as the crown prince rather than Arda-Mulissu who was next in line. Aside from being the younger son, Esarhaddon was not the son of Tašmētu-šarrat but from a different mother, Zakutu.[15] Despite this, Arda-Mulissi remained a popular and increasingly-powerful figure in the royal court and attracted support from the aristocrats and scribes. Troubled by the scenario, Sennacherib sent crown prince Esarhaddon to the safety of the western provinces. Arda-Mulissi, feeling that a decisive act would grant him the kingship, made "a treaty of rebellion" with co-conspirators and moved to kill his father. Sennacherib was then murdered, either stabbed directly by his son or killed while he was praying by being crushed underneath a statue of a winged bull colossus that guarded the temple, although the former is more likely than the latter.[16]

Aššur-aḥa-iddina (681-669 BC)

Esarhaddon (Akkadian Aššur-aḥa-iddina "Ashur has given a brother"; Syriac: ܣܪܚܕܘܡ, translit. Sarḥaddom)

Aššur-bāni-apli (668 - ca. 627 BC)

Ashurbanipal (Akkadian Aššur-bāni-apli; Syriac: "ܐܫܘܪ ܒܢܐ ܐܦܠܐ"; "Ashur is the creator of an heir")[17]


Although the term Sargonid encompasses the reigns of four kings, the dynastic bloodline stretches unbroken over almost 600 years of rule from the first usurper to the fall of Assyria as a political state. With the subjugation and defeat of Mitanni, Hurrians, Hittites and Kassite Babylonia by the likes of Aššur-uballiṭ I, Šulmānu-ašarēdu and Tukulti-Ninurta I, Assyria was now the dominant power in the Middle East. However, Tukulti-Ninurta's soon soon rebelled against him, besieging his capital Kar-Tukulti-Ninurta. With a period of ineffective rule by his sons and grandsons, Assyria's vassal Babylon retook its independence as strife continued. This came to an end in 1192 when Ninurta-apal-Ekur took the throne and established a line of kings who would transform the kingdom into the greatest empire the world had seen.

Ninurta-apal-Ekur (1192-1180 BC)

Ninurta is the heir of the Ekur,”[18] was the son of Ilī-padâ,[19] who had followed his father, Aššur-iddin, and grandfather, Qibi-Aššur, as grand vizier, or sukkallu rabi’u, of Assyria and king of the dependant state of Ḫanigalbat.[20] Ninurta-apal-Ekur took the Assyrian throne following a series of ineffective kings which had followed a period of Assyrian expansion against rival kingdoms. He styled himself as king of the universe and priest of the gods Enlil and Ninurta.[21] His bloodline was destined to rule the kingdom of Assyria for almost 600 years, right up until the end of the kingdom.


  1. 1 2 "Sargonid dynasty". Joshua J. Mark.
  2. "Assyrian Eponym List". Retrieved 23 November 2014.
  3. Grant, R, G (2005). "Battle a Visual Journey Through 5000 Years of Combat". p. 19.
  4. "Sargon II, King of Assyria (721-705 BC)", The British Museum
  5. 1 2 3 "Sargon II". Joshua J. Mark.
  6. 1 2 Radner, Karen "Sargon II, king of Assyria (721-705 BC)", Assyrian empire builders, University College London, 2012
  7. Isaiah 20:1
  8. Kalimi & Richardson (2014). Sennacherib at the Gates of Jerusalem: Story, History and Historiography. p. 195.
  9. Foster (2009). Civilizations of Ancient Iraq. pp. 121–123.
  10. 1 2 Grayson 1991, p. 106.
  11. Grayson 1991, p. 110.
  12. Grayson 1991, p. 107-108.
  13. Leick 2009, p. 156.
  14. Grayson 1991, p. 109.
  15. Kalimi & Richardson (2014). Sennacherib at the Gates of Jerusalem: Story, History and Historiography. p. 174.
  16. Simo Parpola (1980). "The Murderer of Sennacherib".
  17. "Ashurbanipal". Joshua J. Mark.
  18. A. K. Grayson (2001). Erich Ebeling; Bruno Meissner; Dietz Otto Edzard, eds. .Reallexikon der Assyriologie und Vorderasiatischen Archäologie: Nab – Nuzi. Walter De Gruyter Inc. p. 524.
  19. Assyrian King List, “Ninurta-apil-Ekur, son of Ila-Hadda, a descendant of Eriba-Adad, went to Karduniaš. He came up from Karduniaš, seized the throne and ruled for A13/B+C3 years.”
  20. Itamar Singer (2006). "KBo 28.61-64, and the struggle over the throne of Babylon". Ḫattuša-Boğazköy. Gernot Wilhelm. pp. 224, 237.
  21. A. K. Grayson (1972). Assyrian Royal Inscriptions, Volume I. Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz. pp. 139–141.
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