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Ancient Mesopotamia  <<  Assyrian Empire  >>  Babylonian Empire (605-539 BC)

Age of the Assyrian Empire (2000 - 605 BC)
The Rise and Fall of the Assyrian Empire in Mesopotamia

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Early Assyrian EmpireBeginning of Assyria (~ 2000 BC): The ancient Sumerian city of Assur came under Assyrian control by about 2000 BC, serving as the capital of the Assyrian Kingdom.

Amorites Conquer Southern Mesopotamia (~ 2000 BC): Amorites (a Semitic tribe) gain control over Southern Mesopotamia (blue), ending independent Sumerian rule in the region.

(Timeline Continued Below)

Assyria Conquered by Amorites (~ 1800 BC): Conquered by Amorites, another Semitic people. The Amorites constituted the ruling class, while the Assyrians comprised the general population, retaining their distinct identity.

Amorite DynastyBabylon Captured by Hammurabi of Amorites (1728 BC): The famed Babylonian king was an Amorite, who gained control of Babylon, initiating the First Babylonian Dynasty. Hammurabi would create the world's first written civil law.

Central Mesopotamia Conquered by Hammurabi/Amorites (by 1715 BC): Hammurabi conquers the surrounding city-states (gray shading), extending his rule beyond Babylon.

Elam Conquered by Hammurabi/Amorites (1702 BC): The Iranian kingdom of Elam invaded Babylon in an attempt to expand its kingdom. The Babylonians defeated the invasion, and in turn invaded and conquered Elam (red).

Babylonian Rule of Assyria (~ 1700 BC): The Semitic-ruled Babylonian Empire (a competing Amorite dynasty) conquered the Amorite-ruled Assyrian territory after conquering Southern Mesopotamia in 1700 BC.

Southern Mesopotamia Conquered by Hammurabi/Amorites(1699 BC): Hammurabi proceeds to conquer Larsa as well, upset that the Amorite-ruled kingdom (blue) failed to live up to their promise in joining Babylon against the Elamites.

Northern Mesopotamia Conquered by Hammurabi/Amorites (by 1690 BC): Riding the momentum gained in its conquests to the south, Hammurabi directs his armies to the north, quickly submitting Assyrian territories to his rule. The further north traveled from Babylon, the less secure its rule, but Hammurabi extracted tribute from settlements as far north as central Anatolia (Turkey).

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Mitanni EmpireMitanni Origins (Pre-1600 BC): Mitanni originate in Iran, migrating into Northern Mesopotamia during Amorite Babylonian Dynasty.

Mitanni Establish Capital in Mesopotamia (1600 - 1531 BC): Mitanni establish an independent city-state in the Northern Mesopotamian river basin during the Babylonian Dynasty, controlling trade at this strategic distribution point.

Hittite Invasions of Babylonian Empire (1531 BC): Hittites from Anatolia invaded the Babylonian Empire, leading to its collapse. They were not able to hold the territory, ceding rule of Babylon and Southern Mesopotamia to the Kassites, and enabling Assyrians to begin establishing their own independence due to the power vacuum in the north.

Kassite EmpireKassite Conquest of Babylon (1531 BC): As allies of the Hittites, this Iranian tribe joined the invasion of Babylon, beginning its long-standing rule over the city. Kassites remained the ruling class, while most Kassites intermixed into the far more numerous Mesopotamian population.

Fall of Amorite Babylon to the Kassites (1531 - 1475 BC): The Amorite Babylonian Dynasty enjoyed more than two centuries of dominance and prosperity, but without natural geographical boundaries/barriers, it succumbed to invasions of bordering tribes/kingdoms. After taking control of Babylon in 1531 BC, the Kassites systematically captured territory in the region until all of Southern Mesopotamia was under its rule.

Kassite Rule of Babylonia (1531 - 1155 BC): The Kassites were not nearly as literate as their new subjects. As a result, the Kassite Empire represented a Dark Age period in Mesopotamia. Kassite rule was stable, as the four centuries of the Kassite Empire were largely peaceful. Diplomatic relations were maintained with surrounding nations such as Egypt and Assyria.

Mitanni Expansion (1531 - 1450 BC): The Hittites and Kassites dismantled the Babylonian Dynasty in Northern Mesopotamia in 1531. However, neither assumed strong control of the region, leaving a power vacuum. The Mitanni took advantage, expanding their city-state into an empire.

Mitanni Rule of Assyria (~ 1500 BC): Originally from Iran, they conquer Assyrian territories from Babylonians sometime in the 1400s (BC). Assyrians not under direct rule are forced to pay tribute to the Mitanni.

Collapse of Mitanni Empire (1450 - 1400 BC): Surrounding nations ultimately proved to be too powerful for the opportunistic Mitanni, chipping away at Mitanni territory until completely swallowing it in the 15th century. Being outnumbered, and without natural geographic boundaries/barriers, a continual theme of Mesopotamia repeats itself in the case of the Mitanni as well. Most of Mitanni fell under Assyrian rule, becoming an Assyrian province. The Mitanni would eventually disappear, likely blending in to encroaching nations (such as Aramaeans), as their territory was overtaken by other groups of people.

Assyrian Independence (1400 - 1365 BC): After the collapse of the Mitanni, due to battles with the Hittites from the north, and rebelling Assyrians, Assyria was once again independent after more than 400 years under foreign rule.

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Middle Assyrian EmpireAssyrian Expansion (1365 - 1300 BC): After gaining independence from the Mitanni, the Assyrians finally escaped foreign rule for the first time in more than 400 years. They proceeded to accumulate Hittite and Babylonian territories during a period in time where both were weakened.

Elamite Conquest of Kassite Empire (1155 BC): Elam would maintain possession of Mesopotamia for only a brief time, before the Babylonians achieved independence in 1125 BC. The Kassites would remain scattered throughout the region, forming into small tribes or clans, before ultimately being absorbed by local populations by the 3rd century BC.

"Native-Ruled" Babylonian Empire (1125 - 732 BC): Nebuchadrezzar I (not to be confused with Nebuchadnezzar of Biblical notoriety) re-established Babylonia, driving out the Elamites, and reasserting native Mesopotamian rule for the first time in centuries. The city of Babylon became prominent once again, but it did not project influence much beyond city borders. Many other previously great Mesopotamian/Sumerian city-states regressed, resembling villages more than city-states. Babylon managed to defend itself against the much more powerful Assyrian Kingdom to the north.

Failed Assyrian Invasion of Babylonia (1120 BC): Assyria also attempted to capitalize upon the collapse of the Kassite Empire in Southern Mesopotamia, but failed to unseat the conquering Elamites from SW Iran.

Assyrian Expansion to Mediterranean Sea (1120 - 1100 BC): Assyria draws nearer to matching its ancient glory, by establishing control over the all important Phoenician coastal area, and its valuable ports.

Peak of Assyrian EmpireReassertion of Assyrian Control (911 - 745 BC): After a long period of weakness from about 1100 - 911 BC, Assyria began to assert its dominance once again. Before 911 BC, nomadic tribes had undermined its ability to maintain control over its empire, reducing it to a collection of affiliated and often independent cities and settlements. From 911 BC to 745 BC, Assyrian kings successfully waged campaigns to return these territories to its rule.

Babylonia Captured by Assyria (732 BC): Assyria conquers Babylon and all of Babylonia. Rule in Babylonia would prove tumultuous though, as the Assyrians would face multiple revolts there until it became independent in 627 BC.

Syria Captured by Assyria (732 BC).

Northern Israel Captured by Assyria (722 BC).

Jerusalem/Judah Forced to Pay Tribute to Assyria (701 BC).

Egypt Captured by Assyria (671 BC): Egypt, which had supported Israel & Judah against Assyria, is captured by Assyria.

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Note: Assyrian Deportations. To suppress uprisings, the Assyrians would deport portions of conquered nations to the northern regions of their empire, where they intermixed with Northern Mesopotamian peoples. Tens of thousands of Syrians and Israelites were deported in this manner.

Fall of Assyrian EmpireNomadic Raids in Assyria (627 BC): Nomadic tribes such as the Scynthians from the north, and the Iranian Medes from the east, began to infiltrate Assyrian borders at will, penetrating as far as Egypt. This is likely due to Assyria being overextended from its overly ambitious expansionism. The Assyrian Empire proceeded to quickly crumble as a result.

Babylon Independence (627 BC): As a result of the crumbling condition of the Assyrian Empire, Babylon was able to assert its independence, taking control over the city and surrounding Mesopotamian regions. Babylonians continued to battle the remnants of the Assyrian army in expanding their sphere of control to the north.

Fall of Assyrian Capital of Nineveh (612 BC): The capital, and heart of the Assyrian Empire, was destroyed by Babylonian and Median armies, effectively ending the Assyrian Empire. A remnant of the Assyrian army survived, continuing the fight to revive the empire.

Battle of Megiddo (605 BC): Egypt sent forces to the north, defeating Judah along the way, in order to join the remaining Assyrian troops. They met at Megiddo, where they encountered the advancing Babylonian army. The Assyrian-Egyptian army was defeated by the Babylonians, extinguishing the final hope for the Assyrian Empire.

End of Assyrian Empire (605 BC): After being completely defeated, the Assyrians remained a distinct "nation" of people in Northern Mesopotamia, but would forever exist under the rule of foreign masters.

(Timeline Continued Below)

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Further Understanding of the Assyrian Era

Who Were the Assyrians?

1. Semitic Migrations: Sometime before 2300 BC, Semitic people from the Arabian peninsula migrated north among the Mesopotamians.

2. Akkadian Empire: Semitic people founded the city of Akkad, forming the vast Akkadian Empire, which existed from 2270-2083 BC. The Akkadians were the predecessors to the Assyrians.

3. Assyrian Empire: The Assyrians became a distinct nation around 2000 BC, dominating Mesopotamia. From 1800-1400 BC, they would exist under foreign rule, before becoming sovereign again from about 1400-600 BC, building a massive empire, covering most of the Near East.

4. Aramaic Language: Around 800 BC, the Assyrians adopted the language of the Aramaean people ("Aramaic") to the north, who lived under Assyrian rule. The Aramaic language would spread throughout the Assyrian Empire, remaining dominant in the Near East until about 700 AD.

5. Fall of Assyrian Empire: The Assyrians remained a distinct nation centered in Northern Mesopotamia, but would forever toil under the rule of foreign powers. They would fall under the rule of Roman Syria, becoming Christianized. During the Islamic Conquests, they were one of the few groups that resisted conversion to Islam, resulting in persecutions throughout much of their history since. In modern times, Assyrian numbers have dwindled, but can still be found throughout the Middle East and Europe.


Development and Expansion of the Aramaic Language

1. Ancient Aramaic: Aramaeans branch off from Semitic people who migrated north from original homeland in the Arabian Peninsula. Their language is the predecessor to the Aramaic language.

2. Subjects of the Assyrian Empire (Dashed Line): By the 10th century BC, the Aramaeans fall under the rule of the Assyrians. The Aramaic language begins to spread within the empire.

3. Lingua Franca of Assyrian Empire: By 800 BC, Aramaic had become widespread to the point where it served as the lingua franca. In other words, it is the common language shared by peoples with different primary tongues.

4. Lingua Franca After Assyrian Empire: Aramaic continued to be the Lingua Franca throughout the Near East after the fall of the Assyrian Empire, as the Babylonian and Persian Empires needed a shared language to coordinate the nations within their respective regimes, which covered much of the same people who already spoke Aramaic.

5. Replaced by Arabic: In the 7th century, with the rapid spread of the Arabic Islam movement throughout the Middle/Near East, Arabic displaces Aramaic as the Lingua Franca.

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Next: Babylonian Empire (605 - 539 BC)

Previous: Ancient Mesopotamia (Before 2000 BC)

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