Tag Archives: Neo-Assyria Army

Booty, Blood and Borders: Neo-Assyrian Expansion to the West

The site where the modern village of Tell Ahmar until recently stood, was clearly occupied for a very long period of time, however the period that I am interested in, the period in which the figurines were made, is between 650 and 600 BC. During that time, the settlement and surrounding regions were under the control of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, centred on the city of Assur to the east of the Euphrates. The name Assyria comes from Assur.

The heart of the Assyrian Empire, the state of Assur itself, was a small region with good agricultural land but few natural resources situated around the triangle formed by the rivers Tigris and Habur. Assur obtained the resources it needed by demanding that the regions it conquered provided what it needed. Dependent on agriculture and animal husbandry, the internal provinces provided the major cities with foodstuffs through a rotated tax system. Best attested under Tiglath-Pileser I, this system is still apparent in the 7th century when Til Barsib fell to Shalamaneser III. Although stone was available in the north of Assyria, timber, metal and a ready supply of horses, important for military capabilities, had to be assured through tribute, booty or trade.

The enforced movement of occupied people between their homes in the provinces to the capital Assur was a standard Neo-Assyrian practice from the reign of Tiglath-Pileser III through that of Assurbanipal, although it seems less important under Esarhaddon and Assurbanipal.

Tribute was taken on threat of further military incursion in the region, and so to ensure the city of Assur received what it needed to survive, its imperial policies relied heavily on the abilities of the army to fulfil these threats. Also, the strength of the army was the crucial factor in the stability of the empire. But without the continuous supply of metals, horses and manpower, the military machine could not be maintained. Forts were situated within vassal states. These military centres acted as bases from which intelligence could be gathered and campaigns launched. The colonies and forts formed the basis of the network of the Assyrian Empire.

For short periods, the Assyrians were defeated by other kingdoms, such as the Mitannians. However, having thrown off Mitannian vassaldom in the 14th century, and advancing towards the Euphrates from the heartland around the Habur, the Assyrian kings quickly came into conflict with the “Land of Hatti”, centred around North Syria and Southern Anatolia. By the 12th century the Hittite city-states had fallen victim to the general disruptions marking the end of the Bronze Age. But then, probably as a result of the recent incursions of Aramaean tribes from the southern deserts, the embryonic Neo-Assyrian Empire fell into a period of slow collapse, which resulted in the contraction of territory almost to the city of Assur itself.

 

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Filed under Context, Neo-Assyrian Army, Neo-Assyrian Empire, Shalmaneser III, Tell Ahmar, Til Barsib