Ashurnasirpal II

Ashurnasirpal II

Ashurnasirpal II (r. 884-859 BCE) was the third king of the Neo-Assyrian Empire. His father was Tukulti-Ninurta II (r. 891-884 BCE) whose military campaigns throughout the region provided his son with a sizeable empire and the resources to equip a formidable army. Ashurnasirpal II is known for his ruthless military conquests and the consolidation of the Assyrian Empire, but he is probably most famous for his grand palace at Kalhu (also known as Caleh and Nimrud in modern-day Iraq), whose wall reliefs depicting his military successes (and many victims) are on display in museums around the world in the modern day. In addition to the palace itself, he is also known for throwing one of the most impressive parties in history to inaugurate his new city of Kalhu: he hosted over 69,000 people during a ten-day festival. The menu for this party still survives in the present day. He reigned for 25 years and was succeeded by his son, Shalmaneser III (r. 859-824 BCE).

Early Reign & Military Campaigns

Ashurnasirpal II's grandfather was Adad-Nirari II (r. 912-891 BCE), generally considered the first king of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, who initiated the revitalization of the government and the military. His diplomatic skills, especially his treaty with Babylon, ensured stability in the empire, while his military conquests enriched the treasury and expanded the empire's borders. His son continued his policies so that, by the time Ashurnasirpal II came to the throne, he had at his disposal a well-equipped fighting force and considerable resources. He put both of these to use almost at once. He was not so much interested in expansion of the empire as in securing it against invasion from without or rebellion from within. He also was required, as an Assyrian king, to combat the forces of chaos and maintain order. The historian Marc Van De Mieroop writes:

The king, as representative of the god Assur, represented order. Wherever he was in control, there was peace, tranquility, and justice, and where he did not rule there was chaos. The king's duty to bring order to the entire world was the justification for military expansion. (260)

While Ashurnasirpal may not have considered expansion a priority, he certainly took order in his realm very seriously and would not tolerate insubordination or revolt.

His first campaign was in 883 BCE to the city of Suru to put down a rebellion there. He then marched to the north where he put down other rebellions that had broken out when he took the throne. He was not interested in having to expend more time and resources on future rebellions and so made an example of the rebels in the city of Tela. In his inscriptions he writes:

I built a pillar over against the city gate and I flayed all the chiefs who had revolted and I covered the pillar with their skins. Some I impaled upon the pillar on stakes and others I bound to stakes round the pillar. I cut the limbs off the officers who had rebelled. Many captives I burned with fire and many I took as living captives. From some I cut off their noses, their ears, and their fingers, of many I put out their eyes. I made one pillar of the living and another of heads and I bound their heads to tree trunks round about the city. Their young men and maidens I consumed with fire. The rest of their warriors I consumed with thirst in the desert of the Euphrates.

This treatment of defeated cities would become Ashurnasirpal II's trademark and would include skinning insubordinate officials alive and nailing their flesh to the gates of the city and “dishonoring the maidens and boys” of the conquered cities before setting them on fire. With Tela destroyed, he moved swiftly on to other campaigns. He marched west, fighting his way through other rebel outbreaks and subjugating the cities which opposed him.

The surviving populace of the territories he conquered were relocated to other regions in the empire in order to distribute skills & talent.

The historian John Boardman notes that “a major factor behind the increasing resistance was probably the heavy tribute exacted by Ashurnasirpal…one has the impression that a particularly large amount of booty was claimed by this king and that corvee [forced labor] was imposed universally” (259). Ashurnasirpal II led his army on successful campaigns across the Euphrates River and all the way to the Mediterranean Sea, where he washed his weapons as a symbol of his conquests (an act made famous by the inscriptions of Sargon the Great of the earlier Akkadian Empire after he had established his rule).

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Although some sources claim he then conquered Phoenicia, it seems clear he entered into diplomatic relations with the region, as he did also with the kingdom of Israel. The surviving populace of the cities and territories he conquered were, as per Assyrian policy, relocated to other regions in the empire in order to distribute skills and talent. Having accomplished what he set out to do on campaign, he turned around and headed back to his capital city of Ashur. If there were any further revolts to be put down on his march back, they are not recorded. It is unlikely that there were more revolts, however, as Ashurnasirpal II had established a reputation for cruelty and ruthlessness which would have been daunting to even the most ardent rebel. The historian Stephen Bertman comments on this:

Ashurnasirpal II set a standard for the future warrior-kings of Assyria. In the words of Georges Roux, he "possessed to the extreme all the qualities and defects of his successors, the ruthless, indefatigable empire-builders: ambition, energy, courage, vanity, cruelty, magnificence" (Roux 1992:288). His annals were the most extensive of any Assyrian ruler up to his time, detailing the multiple military campaigns he led to secure or enlarge his nation's territorial dominion. From one raid alone he filled his kingdom's coffers with 660 pounds of gold an equal measure of silver, and added 460 horses to his stables. The sadistic cruelty he inflicted upon rebel leaders was legendary, skinning them alive and displaying their skin, and cutting off the noses and the ears of their followers or mounting their severed heads on pillars to serve as a warning to others. (79-80)

Having secured his empire, Ashurnasirpal II turned his attention to his capital at Ashur, which he renovated (as he also did with Nineveh and many other cities during his reign). Ashur was among the most prosperous of the Assyrian cities and had been the capital of the Assyrian Empire since the reign of Adad Nirari I (1307-1275 BCE). Once he had added his own adornments and improvements to the great city, Ashurnasirpal II now felt it was time for a change in its status. The residents of Ashur were proud of their city and of their prestige as citizens of the capital. It has been proposed by a number of scholars that Ashurnasirpal II wanted a completely new city, with a new population, that he could call his own in order to elevate his name above his predecessors and rule over a populace devoted to him, rather than to their city. This is only one theory, however, as it is not clear what exactly motivated him to move the capital from Ashur. No matter the reason, he chose the city of Kalhu and initiated his building project there.

Kalhu & the Grand Palace

Kalhu had been an important trading center since the 1st millennium BCE. It was located directly on a prosperous route between Ashur and Nineveh. The city had been built on the location of an earlier business community under the reign of Shalmaneser I (1274-1245 BCE) but had become dilapidated over the centuries. Ashurnasirpal II ordered the debris removed from the crumbling towers and walls and decreed a completely new city should be built, which would include a royal residence greater than that of any previous king. Ashurnasirpal II's inscriptions regarding Kalhu read:

The former city of Caleh, which Shalmaneser, king of Assyria, a prince who preceded me, had built, that city had fallen into decay and lay in ruins, it was turned into a mound and ruin heap. That city I built anew. I laid out orchards round about it, fruit and wine I offered unto Assur, my lord, I dug down to the water level. I built the wall thereof; from its foundation unto its top I built and completed it.

The new city of Kalhu covered 360 hectares (890 acres) with a surrounding wall of 4.6 miles (7.5 kilometers). When it was completed, Ashurnasirpal II relocated an entirely new population (16,000 people) within the city's walls and took up residence in his new palace. According to the historian Karen Radner:

Kalhu's most impressive building at the time of Ashurnasirpal was certainly his new royal palace. At 200 metres long (656 feet) and 130 metres wide (426 feet), it dominated its surroundings and its position on the citadel mound led to its modern name, the Northwest Palace. It was organised around three courtyards, accommodating the state apartments, the administrative wing and the private quarters which also housed the royal women. Here, several underground tombs were uncovered in 1989, including the last resting place of Ashurnasirpal's queen Mullissu-mukannišat-Ninua, the daughter of the king's cupbearer, one of the foremost officials at court. Her rich burial goods give a vivid impression of the luxury in which the king and his entourage lived. (1)

In 879 BCE, when the palace was completed and fully decorated with the reliefs lining the walls of its corridors, Ashurnasirpal II invited the surrounding population and dignitaries from other lands to celebrate. The festival lasted ten days, and his Banquet Stele records that 69,574 people attended. The menu from this celebration included but was not limited to 1,000 oxen, 1,000 domestic cattle and sheep, 14,000 imported and fattened sheep, 1,000 lambs, 500 game birds, 500 gazelles, 10,000 fish, 10,000 eggs, 10,000 loaves of bread, 10,000 measures of beer, and 10,000 containers of wine. When the celebration was done, he sent his guests home “in peace and joy” after allowing the dignitaries to view the reliefs in his new palace.

His famous Standard Inscription told again and again of his triumphs in conquest and vividly depicted the horrible fate of those who rose against him. The inscription also let the dignitaries from his own realm, and others, know precisely who they were dealing with. He claimed the titles “great king, king of the world, the valiant hero who goes forth with the help of Assur; he who has no rival in all four quarters of the world, the exalted shepherd, the powerful torrent that none can withstand, he who has overcome all mankind, whose hand has conquered all lands and taken all the mountain ranges” (Bauer, 337). His empire stretched across the territory which today comprises western Iran, Iraq, Syria, Jordan, and part of Turkey. Through his diplomatic relationships with Babylonia and the Levant, he also had access to the resources of southern Mesopotamia and the seaports of Phoenicia. In the understanding of the people of the Near East at that time, he really was “king of the world”.

Death & Succession

After a reign of 25 years, during which he completed a number of significant building projects throughout the empire, succeeded in 14 military campaigns, and established depots of food and water reserves for the people, Ashurnasirpal II died. He was succeeded by his son Shalmaneser III who reigned from 859 to 824 BCE. Shalmaneser III continued and improved upon his father's policies and expanded the empire through the kinds of military campaigns the Assyrian kings had now become famous for. He was enabled in this by the strength of the empire his father had provided. The historian Wolfram von Soden writes:

The reign of Ashurnasirpal II, marked by brutal but systematic military advances, represented the high point of the first great period of Assyrian expansion. During this king's tenure, he resettled great portions of those ethnic groups still intent on remaining autonomous, in an intensifying application of the policy the Assyrian kings had employed against rebellious subjects since the thirteenth century. (56)

Shalmaneser III inherited a stronger and more capable empire than his father even had and built upon his predecessor's successes. While Ashurnasirpal II's policies may have been brutal, they were also effective in maintaining control of the population. Through his ruthless campaigns, the resettlement of populations, and his careful administration, Ashurnasirpal II consolidated the political entity that would become the greatest empire in the ancient Near East and established his name among the most memorable Assyrian kings.


“Their men young and old I took prisoners. Of some I cut off their feet and hands of others I cut off the ears noses and lips of the young men's ears I made a heap of the old men's heads I made a minaret. I exposed their heads as a trophy in front of their city. The male children and the female children I burned in flames the city I destroyed, and consumed with fire.”

Ashurnasirpal II is the epitome of everything you would ever want out of a psychotically deranged vengeance-sucking ancient conquest-mongering megalomaniac who drove his jet-fuel-powered chariot across a road paved with corpses so he could kill a lion with his fists. A man who responded to the slightest protest against his power by epically crushing his enemy into bonemeal, ferociously grinding their powdery remains into glass with his massive iron fists, and then using that skullforged-glass to make a stylish designer necklace for whichever Goddess he was currently boning. An unflinching, white-knuckled hardass who lived in an opulent gem-encrusted palace and literally used the broken bodies of his enemies to build towering monuments to his eternal might, this old-school Biblical-style murder-lord was one of the first true continent-spanning conquerors in human history and seriously not the kind of guy you wanted to see standing across from you on a dusty Mesopotamian battlefield.

He’s also one of the first military commanders in history to use cavalry on the battlefield, a tactic he utilized personally when he hunted lions in his spare time.

Although Ashurnasirpal II probably didn’t kill them by walking right up to them without flinching, grabbing them mid-pounce with his bare hands, and then choking them the fuck out one-handed while planting a sword in their hearts and making unblinking steady eye contact so that the last thing that passed through the once-mighty predator’s mind was the iron-clad reminder that he was no longer the Apex Predator of the bare-knuckle food chain.

Of course, that didn’t stop the King of Assyria from having badass ancient comic book artists draw pictures of him doing that very thing.

This is actually his bathing suit

Or then going home after manually asphyxiating 600-pound multi-clawed beasts with teeth the size of steak knives and getting a nice relaxing back rub from a weird eagle-headed god who apparently had nothing better to do with his time.

In fact, there wasn’t a whole lot Ashurnasirpal II didn’t have himself illustrated doing.

Ascending to the throne of Assyria in 883 BC, Ashurnashirpal II inherited a once-mighty Mesopotamian Empire that was in a sad state of decline. Located between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in present-day Iraq, the Assyrians were a tough group of motherfuckers, but even though its name kind of sounds like a trendy hipster bakery life in the Fertile Crescent wasn’t exactly a relaxing afternoon sipping sextuple raspberry frappalattes back in the 8th century BC, a time when basically every asshole king with a decent collection of sharp sticks had delusions of grandeur about being the son of some god nobody’s ever heard of before.

Ashurnasirpal’s dad had done a good job of building up the Assyrian War Machine into a powerhouse capable of brutal world domination, but he died before he could do much with it and it was up to Ash to step in and make sure everyone in Mesopotamia was shouting hail to the king, baby. He consolidated his holdings, assembled his troops, and then launched his armies on 14 epic military campaigns in 24 years, crushing all before him with a sea of infantry, cavalry, and chariots and turning his Kingdom into one of the ancient world’s first true Empires.

Assyria city walls and Illraiseyoua FOOT UP THE ASS

Utilizing massed heavy cavalry to shatter enemy formations like a ninja with a huge fucking beard spin-kicking a wooden board at a mall food court karate demonstration and traveling with heavy, surprisingly-mobile iron-headed battering rams capable of demolishing their way through city walls and gates (this was a pretty forward-thinking concept at this time), Ashurnasirpal swept his foes before him in a sea of splinters and iron-plated scrotal annihilation. Towns that opposed him – or those that rebelled against him – were shown the sort of extreme over-the-top brutality that makes even hardcore 1970s exploitation escape from women’s prison movies look like the Hallmark Channel TV edit of a 1990s Cinemax Shannon Tweed movie.

The concept was simple – ensure compliance through extreme brutality. Be warm, kind, and accepting to cities that surrender to you, and make an example out of one town that resists – and make that example so fucked-up that nobody would ever dare think about opposing your godlike might again. It’s a concept that Ashurnasirpal helped institute, and guys like Genghis Khan and Tamerlane would utilize to force entire civilizations into capitulation.

Ashurnasirpal determining what to do with a captured enemy town.

After capturing one city, Ashurnasirpal built a huge pillar describing how he fucking just owned the assholes that lived there. Then he publicly flayed the bodies of the town leaders, covered the pillar with their dried skin, and placed impaled bodies around the walls in decorative patterns just to drive the point home (wow, I didn’t intend for that to be a pun when I wrote it) in case anybody was curious whether or not it might have been a good idea to fucking start shit with Ashurnasirpal II of Assyria. In another town he cut off his prisoners’ noses, arms, ears, and/or eyes, put everything in a pile, and then set them on fire. One time he had a governor dragged out in the street and tortured to death for disobeying him, then had that guy’s body hung outside the front door of the city as a warning to the populace. In yet another conquered town, Ashurnasirpal built a minaret out of human heads, another pile out of severed ears, and then set the entire town on fire with everyone still in it.

Like I said, the Fertile Crescent wasn’t really the best place to sit quietly with a pretty girl, a cup of coffee, and a ham-and-cheese croissant and quietly discuss iPhone apps and shitty obscure bands nobody likes.

As you can probably imagine, most of the Mesopotamian tribes really really weren’t interested in having their skinless corpses turned into art by macabre interior decorators, and one by one the cities and towns of the Fertile Crescent fell before the might of the revitalized Assyrian Empire. Ashurnasirpal face-speared his father’s hated rivals in the North, massacred rebels in the West, and drove his chariots east, through Phoenicia, impaling and burninating his way from roughly present-day Baghdad until his warriors ceremoniously washed the blood from their spears by dipping them in the Mediterranean Sea. Kings from across the lands brought him tribute – ebony, silver, gold, tin, copper, linen, cedar, and monkeys (both large and small… Ashurnasirpal makes a point of noting this in his autobiography, which, as you saw, is fucking chiseled into rocks the size of refrigerators).

To his credit, Ashurnasirpal used this treasure to dramatically improve the living conditions in the Assyrian Empire. He built roads, temples, and shrines across the land, enlarged already-impressive buildings and structures, built walls around undefended cities, and encouraged noble things like art, trade, and culture. He unified the tribes under his rule by bringing in administrators from across the Empire, taking great care to build political and governmental infrastructure in the kingdoms he’d just finished torching into ash and cinders and making sure that everyone in his empire had food, water, and protection under his rule. Which is something.

The Assyrian city of Kalakh.

The crowning achievement of Ashurnasirpal’s non-massacratory rule was when he rebuilt the ancient Assyrian capital at Kalakh, which had been burned down by enemies in 1260 BC. Ashurnasirpal, flush with riches from his epic conquests, built himself a palace worthy of a guy that shanks lions to death, creating a sprawling city with towering temples, a botanical garden, a zoo of exotic animals, and a supply of fresh water thanks to a canal he had slaves dig from the Zab River into the middle of town. When he finally opened the city, he threw a fucking insane 10-day-long rager keg party that, according to him, was attended by almost 70,000 people. Basically it was Assyrian Ozzfest, right down to the creepy bearded guys with spikes and judicious over-placement of human skulls.

At the center of Kalakh was Ashurnasirpal’s palas – a 269,000 square foot sprawling mansion fit for the sort of king who goes around having peoples’ skin cut off and then set on fire. Situated on six acres of land, he decorated his insane palace with gold doors, white limestone sculptures of ferocious wild beasts, and hundreds of file-cabinet-sized limestone slabs carved with pictures of himself either banging fertility goddesses or killing people with his bare hands.

There was so much shit in his palace like this that when archaeologists unearthed it in 1845 they needed an entire wing of the British Museum to house it, and all of the hand-chisled evidence pointed to one thing: Don’t fuck with Ashurnasirpal.

Ashurnasirpal II

Figure 1 - Winged Genie with a Pine Cone
Oddly enough, the Egyptian Museum in Munich also has a VERY small collection of Mesopotamian objects, including a glazed brick, striding lion from Babylon and several winged Genies from the palace of Ashunasirpal II at Nimrud.

Ashurnasirpal, who reigned from 883 to 859 B. C., was the successor of Tumulti-Ninurta II and was in turn succeeded by Shalmaneser III.

Ashurnasirpal was one of the great conquerors of Assyrian history. He commemorated many of his victories with gory descriptions of mutilating the dead in any city that opposed him. He also boasted about burning the children in at least one of the cities he conquered.

Figure 2 - Another Winged Genie with a Pine Cone
During his reign, the King moved the capital of Assyria to Nimrod and built a new palace there. The reliefs shown here are from that palace and show the winged Genies that are so often shown in Assyrian art. In figures 1 and 2 a winged genie carries a pine cone in one hand and a bucket(?) in the other. Possibly he is using the pine cone to get water from the bucket and sprinkle it as part of a purification ceremony.

Figure 3 - A Third Winged Genie from Ashurnasirpal's Palace
In figure 3 we see a winged genie who has his right arm upraised (as a salute to the King??) and carries what might be some sort of multi-stemmed plant in his left hand. I have not been able to figure out the exact significance of this particular relief.

In all three reliefs there are many similarities in the iconography of the figures. All three wear a helmet decorated with bull's horns. All three also have long, elaborately curled hair and the Assyrian "wrist watches" (actually some sort of bracelet) that occur so commonly on these figures. The arm and leg muscles are clearly indicated in the carvings and the feather of the wings are elaborately detailed by the sculptor(s).

Ashurnasirpal II

As Sutton shows in his book, the important shift took place gradually, from the end of the Civil War until World War II.

My father was in an intelligence unit for the U.S. Navy, as he had been in World War II.

The Chief who went through World War I and then managed to get back into World War II.

World War II is still a long way off, but the seeds of conflict are already being sown on the continent.

In particular, it applies to immigrants who lost their U.S. citizenship after their involvement in World War II was discovered.

Its culture however was looked upon with the same disapproval by Charles II.

We now proceed to learn the eighteen kings intermediate between William II.

Buckles were first worn as shoe fastenings in the reign of Charles II.

Leo II, pope, died an able and resolute pontiff established the kiss of peace at the mass, and the use of holy water.

Tchaikovsky was always deeply interested in his countrys past, especially in the period of Catherine II.

Living in a Material World

While it rightly condemns ISIS’ brutal destruction of the Middle East’s rich architectural heritage, is the West neglecting its own, more subtle cultural vandalism?

In 1538, when Henry VIII built Nonsuch Palace, near Cuddington in Surrey, it was to be, as its name suggests, a house without equal. The lavish Renaissance palace was covered with painted and trompe l’œil stucco panels, framed by plaques of carved and gilded slate. Few paintings of Nonsuch survive, but it has been recreated as an amazing model in recent years (built by Ben Taggart, and costing twice what the original palace cost to build, it can be seen in the service wing of the Mansion House in Nonsuch Park) and it is clear that this most remarkable of Tudor buildings was a dazzlingly ornamented folly on a grand scale.

It now lives up to its name. There is no such palace because, in the 17th century, after poor treatment at the hands of the parliamentarians, it was in a bad state of repair and Charles II gave it to his mistress, Barbara Villiers, Countess of Castlemaine and Duchess of Cleveland. Without ever living at the palace or even visiting it, she sold it off as building materials and the palace was demolished piecemeal between 1682 and 1687. The palace became a forgotten legend until Martin Biddle and John Dent, in the summer of 1959, excavated it in Nonsuch Park and rediscovered its lost glory.

Although the first Ancient Monuments Act was passed in 1913 (creating the institution that would later become English Heritage), the tearing down of historic treasures is not itself only an historical phenomenon. A more recent casualty is another Tudor building, King’s Place (later known as Brooke House) in Clapton, Hackney, which was once owned by Henry VIII, Thomas Cromwell and later Fulke Greville, the great friend and biographer of the Elizabethan poet, Sir Philip Sidney. It was demolished in the 1950s by the local authority to make way for a secondary school (attended, among others, by Alan Sugar) and, indeed, even more recently, Nonsuch suffered a second attempted assault: plans to convert Nonsuch Park into a golf course – obliterating the footprint of the palace and preventing public access to the site – were successfully opposed by a newly formed group, the Friends of Nonsuch, in the early 1990s.

These stories are not rare. On one encounters a sobering list of, currently, 1,933 lost English country houses. Many stately homes were deliberately demolished in the 1950s by impoverished landowners to avoid paying the stratospheric death duties. Others have been too expensive to maintain. Nevertheless, the story of Nonsuch’s destruction, the plans to eliminate its footprint and the demolition of Brooke House all tell the same tale: preferring modernity, progress and financial benefit over the nebulous virtue of historical preservation.

It is for very different reasons that the Islamic State (ISIS) has bulldozed the ancient Assyrian site of Nimrud in Iraq, which dated from the 13th century BC and was first excavated in the 1840s. Yet the outcome is the same. We have been doing similar things until very recently ourselves. Irina Bokova, the head of UNESCO, is on record as stating about Nimrud that ‘the deliberate destruction of cultural heritage constitutes a war crime’. This should give us serious pause for thought. How many of our acts of deliberate destruction closer to home should be considered criminal? And is this actually fair? We recoil at the wanton horror of the razing of Nimrud – the calculated obliteration of a former civilisation in an attempt to eradicate the history of different forms of belief (polytheism, other faiths and even forms of Islam that do not conform to Sunni interpretations) is it perhaps the underlying ideology that makes this vandalism feel so awful? What if a site or house were destroyed for lack of wealth to maintain it or because it was too derelict to repair, or to replace it with something modern and comfortable for the owners, or to build a hospital, housing estate or school? History surely can not always trump modernity.

And yet I suspect there is something more in us that cries out against the ruination and loss of heritage. It is not just an aesthetic crime. These material remains of the past carry, in some ghostly and ethereal way, the story of human lives: the creativity, hopes, fears and loves of those who embodied the spaces. We cry against the destruction because it feels something of a wilful destruction of the human spirit.

Suzannah Lipscomb is Senior Lecturer in Early Modern History and Head of the Faculty of History at the New College of the Humanities, London.

Ante and post-diluvian presence

These seven were each advisers for seven different kings and therefore result in two different lists, one of kings and one of Apkallu. Neither the sages nor the kings in these lists were genealogically related however. Apkallu and human beings were presumably capable of conjugal relationships since after the flood, the myth states that four Apkallu appeared. These were part human and part Apkallu, and included Nungalpirriggaldim, Pirriggalnungal, Pirriggalabsu, and Lu-nana who was only two-thirds Apkallu. These Apkallus are said to have committed various transgressions which angered the gods. These seeming negative deeds of the later Apkallu and their roles as wise councillors has led some scholars to equate them with the nephilim of Genesis 6:4. After these four post-diluvian Apkallus came the first completely human advisers, who were called ummanu. Gilgamesh, the mythical king of Uruk, is said to be the first king to have had an entirely human adviser. In recent times, scholars have also suggested the Apkallu are the model for Enoch, the ancestor of Noah.

Ashurnasirpal II - History

Proposed layout of the facsimile of the Eastern end of the Throne room of Ashurnasirpal II

Factum Arte started this project in 2004 as a collaboration with the Danish exhibition company United Exhibits Group. This exhibition company was working with the Council of Ministers and the Ministry of Culture of Iraq to curate an exhibition &lsquoThe Gold of Nimrud&rsquo that was planned as a touring exhibition to raise urgently needed funds for the preservation of Heritage in Iraq. In 2006, with UEG in serious financial difficulties, work on the exhibition stopped. At that time Factum Arte, working with Julian Reade (formerly assistant keeper of Near Eastern Archaeology the British Museum) and Mogens Trolle Larsen (professor of Assyriology at University of Copenhagen) had completed most of the work required to make a facsimile of the eastern end of the Throne-room of Ashurnasirpal II.

Turning discrete objects back into complex subjects

Increasingly a number of facsimiles are being used in cases of repatriation. The work carried out by Factum Arte on Veronese's Wedding at Cana is a good example of this. However in the case of the facsimiles of the relief panels from Ashurnasipal II's throne-room there is another interesting aspect - that of re-uniting different parts from the same site that are now displayed as discrete objects in different museums around the world. The friezes from Nimrud were once part of a complex narrative that mixed polychrome relief carving and text. The impact of this has been lost. It is hoped that the work to reunite all the known parts of the Eastern end of the throne-room will lead to new insights and understandings about both Assyrian art and life. Revealing the biography (or career) of each of the fragments is an important part of the work - one that shows how attitudes to the preservation of culture are both constantly changing and geographically conditioned.

The Northwest Palace was discovered in 1849-50 by Austin Henry Layard. He wrote:
"We may wander through these galleries for an hour or two, examining the marvelous sculptures, or the numerous inscriptions that surround us. Here we meet long rows of kings, attended by their eunuchs and priests,- there lines of winged figures, carrying fir cones and religious emblems. Some, who may hereafter tread on the spot when the grass again grows over the ruins of the Assyrian palaces, may suspect that I have been relating a vision."

With extraordinary skill Layard removed the carved polychrome friezes and sculptures with the majority being sent to the British Museum in London. In the nineteenth century there was as much interest in the Assyrian Culture as there was in Egypt and these works were of great importance to the British Museum as it built its collection. The panels have a complex biography after they arrived in London some were cast, some were shown at the Great Exhibition (from where they were sold to the Pergamon), others were allowed to go elsewhere and Layard also gave some away. As a result a once coherent narrative cycle ended up in museums around the world. Parts of the palace not removed by Layard remain in Nimrud and are in urgent need of documentation and preservation.

The Throne-room was originally painted but since its removal in the nineteenth century all the paint (except for small traces, mostly visible on the feet of the Dresden panel) has been removed. This either happened during the process of plaster casting at the British Museum or during subsequent cleaning.

High resolution recording techniques and making exact copies

Some of the recording systems were designed especially for the work and have major implications for the study of relief surfaces &ndash particularly the merging of 3D information with high resolution photography. Factum Arte's obsession with high-resolution recording in colour and 3 dimensions can be seen in all the conservation projects they have realised. New scanners are constantly being designed and built for increasingly specific tasks.

The ability to render the 3D data with different light sources also has major implications for the study and dissemination of cuneiform tablets. Many of the cuneiform tablets that exist have never been read or studied. A systematic programme of scanning and reading with optical character recognition software could lead to some exciting new discoveries.

Factum Arte's Facsimile of the Eastern End
of the throneroom of Ashurnasirpal II

High resolution scanning and photography was carried out in the British Museum London, the Pergamon Berlin, the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, The Sackler Collection at Harvard University and The Art Museum at Princeton University. A trip to record the fragments left on site in Nimrud and other known fragments in Mosul and Baghdad was postponed following a visit of the Minister of Culture of Iraq to Madrid on June 10th 2005.

In the British Museum Factum Arte recorded: two colossal human headed winged lions (3.5 (high) x 5.8 (long) x 1.5 (wide) meters), the throne back, 8 panels from the south east wall of the throne-room, a winged figure from the east wall,an urn found in the throne-room and a &lsquocarpet piece' from Nineveh.

In British Museum Factum Arte recorded the colossal statue of a winged lion from the North-West Palace of Ashurnasirpal II (Room B)

In the Pergamon Museum, Berlin Factum Arte recorded: one of the slaves serving food from the ante-chamber to the throne-room, the head of a winged spirit and a standard inscription. In the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen in Dresden Factum Arte recorded: a large winged figure from the south wall of the throne-room.

In the Sackler Collection at Harvard University Factum Arte recorded: the head of a winged figure from a badly damaged panel that once stood to the right of the throne-back.

In the Art Museum at Princeton University Factum Arte recorded the upper half of a winged figure from a panel that once stood to the left of to the throne-back.

All of these high-resolution 3D scans were routed by Delcam, Birminigham at a resolution of 300 microns. This was the largest conservation project of its kind at the time and has not been matched in terms of scale and accuracy since.

The only thing that remains is to cast all the sections in a simulated Mosul marble so that each panel exactly matches the original in terms of colour and transparency.

After a delay of several years Factum Arte are now proposing to complete the work and ensure that it is returned to Iraq where it can play an important role in informing both a local and international public about the complex history of each of the fragments that once formed one of the most important cycles of sculpted, polychrome narrative images.

See Ashurnasirpal's standard inscription here.

The standard inscription made from a recording of a plaster-cast from the British Museum that was found in the basement of The Pergamon, Berlin

A finished panel made in scagliola matching the character of the Mosul marble of the original in The British Museum. All of the panels from the eastern end of the throneroom and two human headed lions from the centre of the throneroom are being cast in scagliola.

In addition to making the panels in scagliola they are also cast in plaster. These plaster-casts are used to ensure that the detail on the surface of the scagliola is as perfect as possible.

Why they feasted

We feast today to celebrate all things happy, from weddings to religious holidays. Mesopotamians were no different.

The famous Standard of Ur (pictured above) contains a rather detailed Sumerian banquet scene in which servants bring food and drink to seated figures, one of them higher and larger than the rest, with musicians performing. There are also cattle being led in to be prepared for the feast, which we know is a celebration of a war victory, thanks to an accompanying war scene. (Source)

The amount of detail in the Standard of Ur and other art depicting a feast or a banquet tells us of the significance of these rituals that continued to be important through the centuries.

Another depiction of a feast is found on Assyrian relief from King Ashurbanipal’s palace that dates back to the 6th Century BC. The detail of the “Garden Party” relief is incredibly intricate. It shows King Ashurbanipal (668 – 627 BC) reclining on a chaise-longue with his wife seated next to him as servants bring food and drink and play music, all in celebration of his victory against the Elamite kingdom.

The relief known as “Garden Party,” found at Ashurbanipal’s North Palace at Khorsabad. (Source)

What makes this feast depiction so special is not only its intricate detailing, but that it also serves as a medium for gloating. Ashurbanipal’s ruthlessness is something that is echoed in most all of his depictions, and in this relief it is manifested in hanging of the defeated Elamite king Teumman’s head hanging from a nearby tree (far left tree, right in Ashurbanipal’s line of sight).

There were other occasions for celebratory feasting by kings in Ancient Mesopotamia, besides war victories and gloating. The Assyrian king Ashurnasirpal II (883 – 859 BC) held a huge banquet to celebrate the inauguration of his new palace in 879 BC.

But kings weren’t the only ones who feasted. So did ordinary people. For example, Assyrians, presumably the concerned merchants, celebrated the arrival of new trade goods by having feasts in their homes. (Source).


Ashur, on the Tigris, was the capital of the Assyrian state in northern Mesopotamia from about 2,500 BC. Under Ashurnasirpal II (883-859 BC) the capital was moved upstream to Kalah (now Nimrud). Here successive kings built a city, palaces and temples, which the British excavated in the 1840s and 1850s, and again in the 1950s.

Around 1990, Iraqi archaeologists found three very rich tombs, dating to about 750-700 BC, under the floors of rooms in Ashurnasirpal's harem. One contained this extraordinary gold crown: it has a trellis vine on top, with bunches of lapis-lazuli grapes hanging below it, supported by four-winged robed figures, standing on rows of pomegranates and rosettes.

When the Assyrian empire fell, in 612 BC, its great cities were comprehensively looted. This crown provides some evidence for the exquisite workmanship and vanished riches of the empire.


The kingdom of Israel was established according to two theories the biblical and the archaeological. The biblical theory is that, after decades being ruled by judges, the tribes of Israel asked the prophet Samuel a king to rule. After consultation with the Lord, Samuel anointed Saul, of the tribe of Benjamin the anointing of Saul occurred in 1046 BC, according to the biblical specifications. Meanwhile, the archeological findings establish the formation of the Israelite kingdom in the second half of the 11th century BC.

Saul ruled from 1046 BC to 1011 BC, in a period of recurring conflicts with the Philistines. He led the Israelites armies during 30 years, but after his death the Philistine threat persisted. There is no certainty of when began the the decline of his reign, although, according to the Bible, began when he disobeyed the Lord in the battle of Michmash. The Biblical writings relate as the prophet Samuel, guided by God's commands, going to the country of Judah, to the house of Jesse, where David is anointed as the future king of all Israel. Spent the time, Saul dieds, and David became king of Judah in the year 1011 BC and of Israel in 1004 BC.

During his forty-year reign, David continued the war against the Philistines, which was eventually won by the armies of Israel. Also, was during his reign that Israel began to trade with the Phoenician kingdom, led at the time by Hiram I. However, as the Bible, David likewise made ​​several errors, which would have future implications. In 971 BC, during his deathbed, David will inherit the kingdom to his son Solomon, as he had promised Bathsheba. Died King David, Solomon was crowned king of Israel. 

After a while, according to the Tanakh (Bible), Solomon asked for wisdom to Yahweh, which He promised, according to the writings of the religious book, that him would have great wisdom to know how to govern his people. Solomon ordered the construction of the Temple of Jerusalem, where the Ark of the Covenant would be located, and his Royal Palace. Also, had a big number of concubines, many of which were pagan even so, Solomon was not swayed - as written in the Bible - so the almighty God promised him that his descendants would enjoy a splendid kingdom. In 931 BC Solomon died, after 40 years of being ruled over Israel.


Upon reaching the throne, Rehoboam militarized the country about the possibility of invasion of Israelite kingdom in 926 B.C. Egypt invaded Israel, thus begin a long process of expansionism which would lead to imposition of Israel hegemonic. After the war with Egypt, and gaining victory, the kingdom annexed the Sinai Peninsula (919 BC) after the conflict, Rehoboam was responsible of the country improvement after a 7-year war. Also, conquered the countries of Edom and Damascus. At death Rehoboam, Abijah became king, that had to be remedied with the Phoenician-Israeli war, victorious for armies of Israel however, Abijah died a year after the victory over the Phoenicians.

After the death of Abijah (910 BC) Asa was crowned as King of Israel and King of Judah. Like his grandfather, Rehoboam, Asa had to remedy with a new invasion from Egypt, although this time the Israeli army was better prepared. After seven years of continuous war, Pharaoh Osorkon I die in battle (893 BC), thus easily Israel annexes the ancient Egyptians domains was during this era that popularized the phrase, The ruler will be dominated. After the Egyptian-Israeli, Asa began infrastructure work, as road construction, reconstruction of cities and maintenance of the ancient trade routes of the Phoenicians, dominating Israel the old space was occupied by Phoenicia. Asa died in 870 BC, after 40 years have ruled the kingdom of Israel his successor would be his son Jehoshaphat.

After the death of his father, Jehoshaphat inherited a vast kingdom, economically and politically stable, with one of the mightiest armies on earth. However, Israel still had an important rival Assyria. The Assyrian king Ashurnasirpal II planned to conquer Israel to take the power of the trade routes the Israelites had obtained after its war with Phoenicia. In 860 B.C. Ashurnasirpal II invaded the land of Israel, temporarily conquering Phoenicia. However, Jehoshaphat addressed quickly to the ancient land of the Phoenicians, where he defeated the Assyrians after a long series of victories, was defeated in the Battle of Naşibīna (855 BC). However, two years later defeated Ashurnasirpal's succesor (who had died in 858 BC), Shalmaneser II, that was forced to hand the Assyrian territory. After this 7-year war, spread the phrase Israel's wars last seven years. Jehoshaphat died in 845, occupying the throne for five years his son Joram, which began a peace process in all the kingdom, because they wanted to avoid uprisings in the new territories of the kingdom. The son of Joram, Ahaziah, maintain his peace process, and reconciliation with other foreign states. Ahaziah was the first king in send make a great expulsion of idolaters, between 825 BC and 822 BC.

The kings Jehoash and Amaziah conquer to Israel the lands of Asia Minor. After the death of Ahaziah (in 820 BC) occupies the throne Jehoash, his son, that invades and conquers the kingdom of Urartu (808 BC) after seven years of war. By conquering Urartu, Jehoash ordered the execution of the main leaders of that heathen nation, although some were imprisoned and other exiles these actions were repudiated by Yahweh, according to the Bible, which Jehoash deeply regretted. After the conquest of Urartu, Jehoash ordered to build a new set of paths, and several government buildings. In 790 BC Jehoash dies, being his successor his son Amaziah. Amaziah, more passive character than his father, invaded, with the approval of the God of Israel (according with Tanakh), the kingdom of Lydia in 775 BC, the Lydian army was defeated, and king Ardys I was forced to abdicate and flee exiled westward, to the land of the Greeks. After the victory against Lydia, Amaziah helped strengthen of the Israeli infrastructure, supporting the construction of ingenious engineering works such as the channel of the Jordan. Amaziah died in 769 BC, after 21 years have ruled Israel.

The era of peace or Peacekeepers Time was a stage of history comprised between 769 BC and 700 BC, occupying the Israeli throne 3 people during this time Uzziah, Jotham and Ahaz. Uzziah (769 BC - 741 BC) tried to maintain a prosperous kingdom for his son and successor, Jotham, although he had to avoid conflicts with Carthaginians, Medes, Persians and Greeks. When Uzziah died, Jotham occupies the throne of Israel between 741 BC and 718 BC by royal decree, in the year 735 BC the kingdom was divided into governments, administered by governors elected directly by the king of Israel. Uzziah's grandson and son of Jotham, Ahaz, reigned over Israel between 718 BC and 700 BC conducted third expulsion of the idolaters of the Israelite kingdom. After the death of Ahaz, governs Israel his son Hezekiah (700 BC - 687 BC) which conquer the nation of the Cyrenians his successor, Manasseh (687 BC -640 BC), conquer the African coast of the Red Sea, as well as the Neo-Babylonian Empire. The grandson of Manasseh, Josiah, not follow the expansionist policy of his grandfather, but takes his reign to reform Judaism.

Josiah's reign ended in 596 BC, and ascended the throne his son Eliakim Eliakim imposed Israeli dominion over the Greek city-states, making them vassals of Israel. The son of Eliakim, Jeconiah, ascended the throne after his death (576 BC) and ruled until 552 BC adhered to the kingdom's territory southeast of the city of Petra. The successor of Jeconiah, Shealtiel, had to face a great war against the Achaemenid Empire and ruled Israel between 552 BC and 533 BC. During the reign of Zerubbabel (533 BC - 498 BC), Shealtiel's son, Israel was victorious over the armies of Persia, and the king himself convinced the Carthaginians to accept Israelite worship God. Zerubbabel dies in 498 BC, 35 years after having ruled Israel.


After four centuries of splendor, the kingdom of Israel fell into decline the last three kings of Israel were mentioned as people who disobeyed the commandments of the Lord. Abihud, Zerubbabel successor, ruled from the year 498 BC and 488 BC allowed entry into the kingdom of idolaters, which, according to the Bible, was punished by God by giving a fatal disease. Eliakim II (488 BC - 448 BC) destroyed the pagan altars and commanded expel the idolaters of the country broke with Carthage and overpowered the nation after having taken this action, the kingdom was slowly crumbling. Azor ruled 18 years over Israel allowed paganism, performing pagan worship in the Temple of Jerusalem. Seeing the atrocities of King, civil war broke out, and Azor was deposed in 430 BC won a national confederation, which would be called Israeli Union.

Watch the video: Ashurnasirpal II - Ancient and Ruthless Ruler of Assyria (November 2021).

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