Sunday, November 8, 2009

Assurnasirpal II

Assurnasirpal II was the son of the Assyrian King Tukulti-Ninurta II and the father of Shalmaneser III. He is best known for his military campaigns and his building projects at his capital city of Numrud, where he built a palace and lined its walls with reliefs carved in alabaster.
Many of the palace reliefs are now in the British Museum, while others are in Munich, and Japan. These reliefs portrayed the King as a great warrior and hunter. In one scene Assyrian soldiers are using a siege tower to attack a city and in another, Assurnasirpal’s enemies are shown swimming across a river in an attempt to escape the Assyrian monarch’s army. In one of the hunting scenes some Assyrian soldiers(?) drive a lion toward the chariot of the King, who has already shot four arrows into the lion’s body.

Assurnasirpal’s reliefs often had an inscription (referred to as the “standard inscription”) on them, which traces the kings lineage back three generations, describes his military campaigns and details the boundaries of his empire. It also tells us some fascinating details about the building of the King's.

Assurnasirpal II also built a monumental gateway at Nimrud. The winged bulls, which flanked the gateway, are now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The head of one of these winged bulls is shown head on and in profile in the accompanying photos. Note the horned headdress and long earrings, as well as the feathers from the wings, which are carved in painstaking detail. In the face on view, notice the hair (shown as a wavy line on the bull’s forehead) right below the crown.

There is also a well known statue of Assurnasirpal in the British Museum . The statue shows the King standing rather stiffly with a scepter in one of his hands and a “cult object” in the other. His hair is elaborately curled, like the hair on the winged bull shown in the accompanying photographs.

Assurnasirpal’s military campaigns brought back a huge amount of “tribute” to the Assyrian capital. For example, the small district of Bit-Zamani yielded the following tribute:

40 chariots
460 horses
2 talents of silver
2 talents of gold
100 talents of lead
100 talents of copper
300 talents of iron
1,000 copper vessels and 2,000 copper pans
Bowls and cauldrons of copper
1,000 wool garments
2,000 head of cattle
5,000 sheep
The ruler’s sister
The daughters of the local noblemen, along with their dowries
15,000 subjects brought back to Assyria (Roux, p. 286)

Assurnasirpal frequently used terror tactics in his campaign. His inscriptions describe how he flayed his enemies alive, had them buried alive inside a wall or had them impaled on poles as a warning to others.
Photos copyright 2009 by John Freed. You can use these photos if you give credit to this website.

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