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ASSUR

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Originally appearing in Volume V02, Page 790 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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ASSUR, AsuR, or ASHUR, the chief god of Assyria, was origin-ally the patron deity of the city of Assur on the Tigris, the ancient capital of Assyria from which as a centre the authority of the patesis (as the rulers were at first called) spread in various directions. The history of Assyria (q.v.) can now be traced back approximately to 2500 B.C., though it does not rise to political prominence until c. 2000 B.C. The name of the god is identical with that of the city, though an older form A-shir, signifying " leader," suggests that a differentiation between the god and the city was at one time attempted. Though the origin of the form Ashur (or Assur) is not certain, it is probable that the name of the god is older than that of the city (see discussion on the name above). The title Ashir was given to various gods in the south, as Marduk and Nebo, and there is every reason to believe that it represents a direct transfer with the intent to emphasize that Assur is the " leader " or head of the pantheon of the north. He is in fact to all intents and purposes of the north. Originally like Marduk a solar deity with the winged disk—the disk always typifying the sun6—as his symbol, he becomes as Assyria develops into a military power a god of war, indicated by the attachment of the figure of a man with a bow to the winged disk. While the cult of the other great gods and goddesses of Babylonia was transferred to Assyria, the worship of Assur so overshadowed that of the rest as to give the impression of a decided tendency towards the absorption of all divine powers by the one god. Indeed, the other gods, Sin, Shamash (Samas), Adad, Ninib and Nergal, and even Ea, take on the warlike traits of Assur in the epithets and descriptions given of them in the annals and votive inscriptions of Assyrian rulers to such an extent as to make them appear like little Assurs by the side of the great one. Marduk alone retains a large measure of his independence as a 6 See Prince, Journ. Bibl. Lit., xxii. 35. concession on the part of the Assyrians to the traditions of the south, for which they always manifested a profound respect. Even during the period that the Assyrian monarchs exercised complete sway over the south, they rested their claims to the control of Babylonia on the approval of Marduk, and they or their representatives never failed to perform the ceremony of " taking the hand " of Marduk, which was the formal method of assuming the throne in Babylonia. Apart from this concession, it is Assur who pre-eminently presides over the fortunes of Assyria.' In his name, and with his approval as indicated by favourable omens, the Assyrian armies march to battle. His symbol is carried into the thick of the fray, so that the god is actually present to grant assistance in the crisis, and the victory is with becoming humility invariably ascribed by the kings to the help of Assur." With the fall of Assyria the rule of Assur also comes to an end, whereas it is significant that the cult of the gods of Babylonia—more particularly of Marduksurvives for several centuries the loss of political independence through Cyrus' capture of Babylonia in 539 B.C. The name of Assur's temple at Assur, represented by the mounds of Kaleh Sherghat, was known as E-khar-sag-gal-kur-kurra, i.e. " House of the great mountain of the lands." Its exact site has been determined by excavations conducted at Kaleh Sherghat since 1903 by the German Oriental Society. The name indicates the existence of the same conception regarding sacred edifices in Assyria as in Babylonia, where we find such names as E-Kur (" mountain house ") for the temple of Bel (q.v.) at Nippur, and E-Saggila (" lofty house ") for Marduk's (q.v.) temple at Babylon and that of Ea (q.v.) at Eridu, and in view of the general dependence of Assyrian religious beliefs as of Assyrian culture in general, there is little reason to doubt that the name of Assur's temple represents a direct adaptation of such a name as E-Kur, further embellished by epithets intended to emphasize the supreme control of the god to whom the edifice was dedicated. The foundation of the edifice can be traced back to Uspia (Ushpia), c. 2000 B.C., and may turn out to be even older. Besides the chief temple, the capital contained temples and chapels to Ann, Adad, Ishtar, Marduk, Gula, Sin, Shamash, so that we are to assume the existence of a sacred precinct in Assur precisely as in the religious centres of the south. On the removal of the seat of residence of the Assyrian kings to Calah (c. 1300 B.C.), and then in the 8th century to Nineveh, the centre of the Assur cult was likewise transferred, though the sanctity of the old seat at Assur continued to be recognized. At Nineveh, which remained the capital till the fall of the Assyrian empire in 6o6 B.C., Assur had as his rival Ishtar, who was the real patron deity of the place, but a reconciliation was brought about by making Ishtar the consort of the chief god. The combination was, however, of an artificial character, and the consciousness that Ishtar was in reality an independent goddess never entirely died out. She too, like Assur, was viewed as a war deity, and to such an extent was this the case that at times it would appear that she, rather than Assur, presided over the fortunes of the Assyrian armies. (M. JA.) ASSUR-BANI-PAL (" Assur creates a son "), the grand nzonarque of Assyria, was the prototype of the Greek Sardanapalus, and appears probably in the corrupted form of Asnapper in Ezra iv. 10. He had been publicly nominated king of Assyria (on the 12th of Iyyar) by his father Esar-haddon, some time before the latter's death, Babylonia being assigned to his twin-brother Samas-sum-yukin, in the hope of gratifying the national feeling of the Babylonians. After Esar-haddon's death in 668 B.c. the first task of Assur-bani-pal was to finish the Egyptian campaign. Tirhakah, who had reoccupied Egypt, fled to Ethiopia, and the Assyrian army spent forty days in ascending the Nile from Memphis to Thebes. Shortly afterwards Necho, the satrap of Sais, and two others were detected intriguing with Tirhakah; Necho and one of his companions were sent in chains to Nineveh, but were there pardoned and restored to their ' As essentially a national god, he is almost identical in character with the early Yahweh of Israel. See Sayce, Hibbert Lectures, Religion of Ancient Babylonia, p. 129.789 principalities. Tirhakah died 667 he., and his successor Tandaman (Tanuat-Amon) entered Upper Egypt, where a general revolt against Assyria took place, headed by Thebes. Memphis was taken by assault and the Assyrian troops driven out bf the country. Tyre seems to have revolted at the same time. Assurbani-pal, however, lost no time in pouring fresh forces into the revolted province. Once more the Assyrian army made its way up the Nile, Thebes was plundered, and its temples destroyed, two obelisks being carried to Nineveh as trophies (see Nahum iii. 8). Meanwhile the siege of insular Tyre was closely pressed; its water-supply was cut off, and it was compelled to surrender. Assur-bani-pal was now at the height of his power. The land of the Manna (Minni), south-east of Ararat, had been wasted, its capital captured by the Assyrians, and its king reduced to vassal-age. A war with Teumman of Elam had resulted in the over-throw of the Elamite army; the head of Teumman was sent to Nineveh, and another king, Umman-igas, appointed by the Assyrians. The kings of Cilicia and the Tabal offered their daughters to the harem of Assur-bani-pal; embassies came from Ararat, and even Gyges of Lydia despatched envoys to the great king " in the hope of obtaining help against the Cimmerians. Suddenly the mighty empire began to totter. The Lydian king, finding that Nineveh was helpless to assist him, turned instead to Egypt and furnished the mercenaries with whose help Psammetichus drove the Assyrians out of the country and suppressed his brother satraps. Egypt was thus lost to Assyria for ever (66o B.C.). In Babylonia, moreover, discontent was arising, and finally Samas-sum-yukin put himself at the head of the national party and declared war upon his brother. Elamite aid was readily forthcoming, especially when stimulated by bribes, and the Arab tribes joined in the revolt. The resources of the Assyrian empire were strained to their utmost. But thanks in some measure to the intestine troubles in Elam, the Babylonian army and its allies were defeated and driven into Babylon, Sippara, Borsippa and Cutha. One by one the. cities fell, Babylon being finally starved into surrender (648 B.C.) after Samas-sum-yukin had burnt himself in his palace to avoid falling into the conqueror's hands. It was now the turn of the Arabs, some of whom had been in Babylon during the siege, while others had occupied themselves in plundering Edom, Moab and the Hauran. Northern Arabia was traversed by the Assyrian forces, the Nabataeans were almost exterminated, and the desert tribes terrorized into order. Elam was alone left to be dealt with, and the last resources of the empire were therefore expended in preventing it from ever being again a thorn in the Assyrian side. But the effort had exhausted Assyria. Drained of men and resources it was no longer able to make head against the Cimmerian and Scythian hordes who now poured over western Asia. The Cimmerian Dugdamme (Lygdamis in Strabo i. 3, 16), whom Assur-bani-pal calls " a limb of Satan," after sacking Sardis, had been slain in Cilicia, but other Scythian invaders came to take his place. When Assur-bani-pal died in 626 (?) B.C. his empire was already in decay, and within a few years the end came. He was luxurious and indolent, entrusting the command of his armies to others whose successes he appropriated, cruel and superstitious, but a magnificent patron of art and literature. The great library of Nineveh was to a considerable extent his creation, and scribes were kept constantly employed in it copying the older tablets of Babylonia, though unfortunately their patron's tastes inclined rather to omens and astrology than to subjects of more modern interest. The library was contained in the palace that he built on the northern side of the mound of Kuyunjik and lined with sculptured slabs which display Assyrian art at its best. Whether Kandalanu (Kineladanos), who became viceroy of Babylonia after the suppression of the revolt, was Assur-bani-pal under another name, or a different personage, is still doubtful (see SARDANAPALUS). AuTHOR1TIEs.-George Smith, History of Assurbanipal (1871); S. A. Smith, Die Keilschrifttexte Asurbanipals (1887—1889) ; P. Jensen in E. Schrader's Keilinschsiftliche Bibllothek, (t889); J. A. Knudtzon, Assyrische Gebete an den Sonnengott (1893) ; C. Lehmann, Schamashschumukin (1892). (A. H. S.)
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