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Palestine under Assyrian rule a new look at the Assyrian imperial policy in the West.


The Assyrian conquest of the Levant was neither a linear nor an easy enterprise. The image of an unstoppable military power that systematically defeated all foreign countries and integrated them into the empire is only partially correct, particularly if the western expansion is looked at from an historical perspective (the longue duree). The number of the campaigns in the region (67) (1) and of military operations during these campaigns, as well as the fact that in some cases provinces were lost and in other cases certain areas remained inaccessible, show the complexity of the subject. To construct a world empire and to hold it is not easy even with absolute military superiority: world empires cannot be planned, but originate on the basis of certain objectives and are influenced by many internal and external, unpredictable factors.

Much more difficult than being a world empire is facing one as an independent state. The number and repetition of uprisings by relatively small political units is a noteworthy phenomenon. As a world empire which claimed to have the Levant under control, Assyria could not allow herself to remain passive in the event of rebellion. At most, there might be a temporal delay in reacting--a possibility with which the rebels might indeed have reckoned--but not to react at all was not possible without endangering Assyria's own position. In the long term Assyria's aims were attained: almost the entire region was brought under Assyrian rule, and raw materials, luxury goods, people, and animals poured in as tribute or were otherwise available for exploitation after annexation. Although a complete loss of sovereignty did not occur at any time, the rhythm of expansion was decisively influenced by local conditions.

In the Levant the Assyrian kings met with a complicated geo-political situation, and a look at the political map at the end of the process of conquest reveals that they dealt with it in various ways. (2) Although not every state lost its independence, twenty-one provinces were created in the Levant, (3) based on the principle of territorial contiguity, so that new provinces were established only when their territory bordered on already existing provinces. Three of these (Hilakku/Bit-Purutas, Til-garimmu, and Asdulu) were soon lost. Tabalu, a number of Phoenician cities (Arwada, Gubla, Samsimurruna, and Surru), Philistia (Asdudu, Isqaluna, Amqarruna, Hazzat), Judah (Jaudu) and the Transjordanian states (Bit-Amman. Ma'ab, and Udumu), as well as some princedoms in Cyprus (Jadnana) remained Assyrian vassals. (4)

I will present here some of the results of my study of the historical geography and of the Assyrian exercise of imperial power in the Levant. I will begin with some considerations about imperial power and practice, then deal with the assumed "Assyrianization" of Palestine, and finally consider the type of empire to which the Assyrian realm should be assigned and the role it played in the history of world empires.


In his book on empires (2005), political scientist Herfried Munkler examines the logic of world domination from ancient Rome up to the United States and suggests a typology of imperial rule based on different forms of expansion and their consolidation as well as on the instruments of empire formation. I present a brief summary of the features which allow us to define a world empire and to distinguish it from other political structures such as ephemeral empires. Empires do not originate according to a thought-out plan: in fact, chance and personal decisions play an essential role. In the case of world empires, it is also indispensable to consider the role of the periphery, which can be a weighty factor in their origin or expansion. Furthermore, the temporal sovereignty of an empire, that is, its ability to determine the rhythms of expansion and consolidation, can be influenced and even restricted not only by internal (center), but also by external (periphery) factors.

The two decisive parameters which allow the characterization of a world empire are 1) temporal duration and 2) spatial extension. According to Munkler, world empires are characterized by the fact that they have experienced at least one cycle of rise and decline and have begun a new one. Decisive for the longer existence of world empires is their susceptibility to reform and regeneration. In this regard, neither Alexander's empire nor that of Napoleon were world empires, because they did not survive their charismatic founders.

World empires dominate a substantial territory, which does not, however, necessarily have to do with the number of square kilometers, but rather with the meaning of "world" in the respective historical context. What a certain culture understands by "world" depends more on cultural and technological than on geographic factors. Therefore, world empires can co-exist, as long as their "worlds" do not touch, as in the case of the Roman and Chinese empires. Multiethnicity or multinationality is no defining feature for world empires, because it is present in all cases, and because very different combinations are attested. In contrast, empires are under "intervention constraint," which is an important factor for understanding imperial action as well as for the creation of world empires. An empire cannot simply remain neutral in conflicts within its territory or on its periphery; otherwise it risks its imperial authority, which may be questioned and no longer respected or feared. The compulsion to political and military intervention applies to the expansion phase as well as the consolidation phase of a world empire. Intervention constraint represents a serious threat, as temporal sovereignty can be seriously limited by external factors.

The British sociologist Michael Mann distinguishes among four kinds of power taken up by Munkler: (5) military, economic, political, and ideological power. During the expansion phase of an empire, military and economic power play a determining role. The two remaining types of power gain in importance following the expansion phase, namely during the consolidation phase. The passage from expansion to consolidation is a critical point in the history of an empire, and some polities have failed at this point. M. Doyle calls this sensitive point the "Augustan threshold," referring to the deep and momentous reforms that emperor Augustus undertook, paving the way from the Roman Republic to the Principate. (6) The empires which manage to bring these four sources of power into balance are better prepared to cross the Augustan threshold successfully and to enjoy a long consolidation phase. Examples of long-lasting world empires are the Chinese, the Roman, and the British.

Empires originate through violent conquest or economic penetration. Military surplus value absorption distinguishes itself by the fact that the costs of the necessary military apparatus are borne by tribute or booty, which also serves to finance extensive construction projects in the metropolis. The Assyrian empire is considered by Munkler as a pure form of military surplus value absorption and a paradigmatic case of this kind of empire. He judges that the Assyrians created their empire by a policy of systematic devastations, using their army as an instrument of threat and domination. Furthermore, according to Munkler's interpretation, empires based on a policy of military exploitation seem unable to cross the Augustan threshold. This simplistic and erroneous view of Assyrian imperial policy degrades the Assyrian empire to a footnote in the history of empires, while an analysis of the sources reveals a special and interesting case standing at the beginning of a long tradition.

World empires, like the Roman or Chinese, are characterized by a civilizing compulsion. They integrate newly conquered areas administratively and try to set up their own culture, taking various measures to generate a stabilizing sense of belonging. Peripheral regions can be persuaded of the advantages of the imperial affiliation by the exercise of ideological power and infrastructural investments. The stability and durability of such civilizing empires are substantially greater than those of the steppe empires, which are based only on exploitation, and disappear quickly and almost without trace. The crossing of the Augustan threshold signifies that an empire has decided on an alternative to the military form of exploitation. This does not necessarily mean a reduction of exploitation, but rather of the level of use of violence.

Munkler's criteria for world empires are very restrictive. Durability is one of the determining factors, closely bound up with the regenerative ability of an empire. Because world empires must go through at least two cycles of rise and decline, all short-lived empires are excluded. Durability is strongly connected with the passage from an expansion phase, during which primarily military or economic power is exercised, to a consolidation phase, in which the empire is stabilized through the integration of the periphery. Even if Munkler's interpretation of the Assyrian empire, based mainly on secondary literature, is wrong, his typology allows us to compare different kinds of empires. The Assyrian empire cannot be reduced to a mere forerunner of violent steppe empires like the Mongolian. But was the Assyrian empire a world empire? Did it cross the Augustan threshold?

Based on the historic-geographical study of the Assyrian conquest of the Levant and its imperial policy in this region, it is possible to explain the respective type of empire and the role it played within the historical development of imperial power structures. The Assyrian empire did not, of course, comprise only the Levant. That region is, however, particularly well suited for such an investigation, since it is well documented in both Assyrian and West Semitic sources. The western regions were the target of about one-third of the military campaigns of the Neo-Assyrian period. The historical geography of the Levant can be reconstructed relatively well, and extensive archaeological material complements the information of the written sources. Finally, on account of its later history, the Levant offers the possibility of drawing a comparison with the Roman conquest and administration. Especially suitable for this purpose is the case of Palestine, on which I will concentrate in the following.


Linguistic diversity, a characteristic feature of the ancient Near East, reflects the great number of different cultures that formed its 3000-year history. By peaceful coexistence, by commercial relations, or more often by expansion processes and war, various peoples came into contact. Furthermore, we must consider the great mobility attested in the ancient Near East. New population groups penetrated from neighboring areas and moved into the ancient Near East, and people were uprooted by deportations and settled in foreign regions. In addition, in every historical period nomadic peoples maintained relations with the sedentary population. For these reasons, cultural contacts in the ancient Near East display a high degree of complexity.

A model recently developed by the Austrian scholar Christoph Ulf and tested mainly with examples from Greek and Roman times tries to explain the complexity of cultural contacts, considering, among other factors, different types of contact zones and a scale of receptivity. (7) In this context I will discuss the Assyrian conquest of Palestine between the ninth and seventh centuries B.C.E. as an example of intercultural contact within the frame of the process of imperial expansion. In the secondary literature we often find the term "Assyrianization" applied to Israel and Judah and even to the whole Levant, interpreted in terms of an enforced adaptation to Assyrian culture within the scope of cultural assimilation. In Ulf's model, the Assyrian presence in Israel and Judah would therefore represent a clear case of unsuccessful resistance to receptivity within a zone of intense contact, with power as an important factor. (8) Even if empires represent a case of extreme use of power at different levels and therefore stand at one extreme of Ulf's typology, in the case of the Assyrian empire the equation of "empire" and "cultural assimilation" leads to an oversimplification and a misinterpretation of the archaeological and written sources. I now present an alternative interpretation of Assyrian imperial policy based on the Assyrian conquest of Palestine.

The Assyrian kings marched sixty-seven times to the Levant. In somewhat over two hundred years (9) most Levantine states lost their independence, as they were made tributary vassals or were integrated into the Assyrian empire as provinces. Within sixty-four years, more than twenty provinces were created in this region. (10) The conquest of Palestine began in 734 B.C.E. with Tiglath-pileser III and lasted to about 645. In the course of those ninety years, eleven military campaigns were carried out. Moreover, if one considers that in four other instances the region had to be traversed on the way to Egypt, (11) the Assyrian army was present in Palestine every six years. (12)

Israel is attested as an Assyrian vassal from 841 (Jehu's tribute). Its northern portion was annexed in 732 by Tiglath-pileser III and transformed into the province of Magidu (Megiddo). Twelve years later, Samaria, capital of the remaining independent territory of Israel, was conquered and annexed to the empire (720). The new province was called Samerina. In contrast, Judah, which had paid tribute since 734 (during the reign of Ahaz), was never annexed and could maintain a certain independence as a vassal state of Assyria. Because of the withholding of tribute and anti-Assyrian activities, several punitive actions were undertaken in Palestine by the Assyrian kings, the most famous being Sennacherib's campaign in 701.

The term "Assyrianization" implies that cultural transfer occurred only in one direction, namely the "becoming Assyrian" of the subdued people. Thus "Assyrianization" is understood as the systematic integration of the conquered regions, (13) a process by which every form of local political and cultural characteristics was stifled, (14) or as a deliberate leveling of the conquered cultures. (15) Hence, the concept is similar to that of "Romanization," which J. Wiesehofer defined as the "integration--partly desired by the provincial elites, but also enforced by Rome--of the subdued peoples into the world of political and social values determined by the Roman-view." (16)

In Assyriological as well as in Biblical studies, three premises are assumed concerning Assyrianization: 1) that the Assyrians desired it, 2) that they enforced it, and 3) that it was successful. According to S. Parpola, for instance, the Neo-Assyrian empire was a multiethnic state whose inhabitants identified with the Assyrian ways of life. (17) Assyrian values would have been spread by a systematic and goal-oriented politics of assimilation and integration, by means of which native identities were superseded by an Assyrian identity. Among other things, the imposition of taxation, a uniform calendar, a juridical system, imperial measures and standards, and a common language (Aramaic), as well as the spreading of royal ideology and the propagation of religious ideas would have served to form a "national" identity. The social and cultural homogenization of the empire would have been programmatic and successful.

Although Parpola admits that Assyrianization occurred faster in central Assyria, he also states that it must have proceeded rapidly in the new provinces as well. (18) Over the course of many decades, this long-term strategy would have led to the fact that at the end of the seventh century B.C.E. no inhabitant of the empire "could have regarded himself as anything but Assyrian." (19) In my opinion Parpola's thesis represents a plausible scenario for the Assyrian core land, probably also for what I call the "enlarged core land," which includes Assyria herself as well as the regions west of the Tigris up to the Euphrates (the Djazirah), but not for the provinces beyond, as I will demonstrate.

In the field of Biblical studies a strong Assyrian influence on Ancient Israel is commonly accepted, as is shown by a great number of monographs and articles. The Assyrian conquest of Israel and Judah, which is described as especially brutal, would have had traumatic consequences, the traces of which would be found in the Hebrew Bible and be ascribed primarily to the Assyrian imperialistic religious policy. In this context, special attention is paid to Sennacherib's campaign in the year 701, erroneously described as "against Judah," which is attested in Assyrian as well as in Hebrew written sources. In addition, the archaeological material would seem to confirm the thesis of Assyrianization. A detailed discussion of all these arguments would go beyond the scope of this paper; I will make only two remarks concerning misleading interpretation of the sources.

Regarding alleged brutality: In the historical as well as in the prophetic books of the Hebrew Bible one looks in vain for an explicit description of atrocities in connection with the Assyrian conquest of Palestine. The facts are described briefly and succinctly, (20) so that the armed conflict with Assyria seems to be no more brutal than, for example, that with Aram-Damascus. On the contrary, in the report of Nebuchadnezzar's second campaign against Judah in the year 586, which ended with the conquest of Jerusalem, the looting of the Temple, and a mass deportation, it is not concealed that the sons of the Judaean king Zedekiah were killed before their father, that his eyes were put out, and that he was led in chains to Babylon. (21) The description of brutal actions is not avoided in the Hebrew Bible, for example: "Everyone in it they put to the sword. They totally destroyed them, not sparing anything that breathed, and he burned up Hazor itself." (22) This is the description of the conquest of the city of Hazor by Joshua, who in a previous action against the town of Ai killed women (23) and impaled its king. (24) It is not my intention to justify the warfare of the Assyrians nor to present them as gentle, but merely to show that brutality was not an Assyrian monopoly, and that they are not described in the Hebrew Bible as especially brutal. (25)

As to Sennacherib's campaign "against Judah," the campaign in 701 was neither a military action directed exclusively against Judah nor as important as the extensive secondary literature seems to suggest. It concerned rather an episode within a campaign that targeted Phoenician, Philistine, and Judaean towns. The great interest aroused among researchers in Biblical studies can be explained by the fact that the Judah episode is treated three times in the Hebrew Bible and ends with the non-conquest of Jerusalem. (26) However, the historical reconstruction of the facts is based primarily on the cuneiform sources. (27) The Biblical passages mention in extenso the speech of the rab saqe with his call to capitulation, but they offer only scanty additional information concerning Hezekiah's preparatory measures in view of the upcoming siege of Jerusalem. With great skill the righteous Hezekiah is presented as one who, trusting in God, did not submit to the Assyrian king. Jerusalem was saved by Yahweh, as his angel destroyed the Assyrian army. What actually happened was exactly the opposite: Hezekiah capitulated and paid a high tribute. Sennacherib devastated Judah; before dealing with Jerusalem, he conquered Lachish, one of the most important--if not the most important--Judaean town, and handed over conquered Judaean territories to the Philistines. The campaign was successful, and Hezekiah would not have paid such a large tribute if the threat had not been serious. Jerusalem was not conquered because that was not necessary after Hezelciah's capitulation. (28) The city has, of course, great importance in the Hebrew Bible as the location of the Temple, but it was at the time but a small town of little political weight in the region and still less significance within the Assyrian empire.

In the course of their imperial expansion the Assyrian kings applied two strategies of rule: indirect rule by means of vassals who were tributary and enjoyed a certain independence in domestic matters, and direct rule through the creation of a province, which meant the end of political independence for the conquered region. (29) Israel and Judah present examples of both strategies: Both were turned into Assyrian vassals, but only Israel was annexed--in two phases, which led to the creation of the provinces of Magidu and Samerina.

If any Assyrianization took place, one would expect to find clear indications in those fields which in comparable cases--such as the Roman empire or the Soviet Union--were the principal targets of systematic measures aiming at adaptation to the imperial culture: language, religion, toponymy, urban architecture, infrastructure and town planning, weights and measures, and population policy.

Language and the writing system linked with it are one of the constituent elements of the identity of a people or state. Hence, in leveling a subjugated culture the suppression of local languages plays a determining role, as happened in the case of the Soviet Union, when Russian became the national language in its member states (e.g., in the Ukraine) and the first foreign language in the satellite states (e.g., in Poland). Even if people continued to speak their native language in private, the official language was present in all state and public matters. One of the first results after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 was the return to local languages at all levels. The administration of the Assyrian empire was conducted in two languages, Neo-Assyrian and Aramaic, the latter becoming in the first millennium a lingua franca. Over the intervening years more and more people spoke Aramaic, even within Assyria proper and the enlarged core land.

However, particular to Mesopotamian culture was the cuneiform script. The use of the Aramaic language and the alphabetic writing system is evidence of the pragmatism of the Assyrian rulers. There is no proof for the forced use of the Neo-Assyrian or Aramaic languages in Israel and Judah. The number of cuneiform texts found in Ancient Israel is very small: six fragments of inscribed stelae, seven administrative texts, one incantation, and three seal inscriptions. When the rab saqe spoke aloud in Jewish, i.e., the Hebrew dialect from Judah, Hezekiah's spokesmen Eliakim, Shebna, and Joah asked him to talk to them in Aramaic so that the inhabitants of Jerusalem, who were standing on the wall, could not understand him. (30) This shows that Aramaic was the language of diplomacy and that the population continued to speak Hebrew in Judah as well as in Israel.

Religion is a well-proven instrument for undermining the sense of belonging to a culture. However, the imposition of Assyrian religion and the prohibition of local cults are absolutely foreign to Assyrian expansionist policy. (31) The assumption that the Assyrians exercised a religious imperialism (32) or a policy of intolerance (33) in Ancient Israel, which still has its followers in the field of Biblical studies, (34) is based on an incorrect interpretation of Biblical and Assyrian sources, which are not analyzed in the context of Assyrian ruling practices. Israel and Judah are no exceptions in this regard. The abduction of divine statues was not an unusual measure, (35) and does not directly imply that local cults were forbidden. Notwithstanding the statement in 2 Kings 19: 17-18, the images were in most cases not destroyed, but brought to Assyria and often later returned. (36)

Assyrian kings like Tiglath-pileser III and Sargon II refer in their inscriptions to the erection of "Assur's weapon" in conquered territories. This action, which indeed is not attested for the southern Levant, was a "political-ideological" sign of integration into the empire, but it does not imply the imposition of the cult of Assur, as is often assumed. (37) Nowhere is it stated that statues of Assyrian gods were brought into Palestine or that Assur's weapon was erected in a temple. Nor does the fact that Assyrian kings campaigned in the name of the "national god" Assur mean that the Assyrians carried out religious wars.

According to the Hebrew Bible, King Ahaz of Judah, who appealed to Tiglath-pileser III for help against Rezin of Aram and Pekah of Israel, undertook building measures in the temple to please the Assyrian king. (38) These measures must not be understood as Assyrian interference in religious matters, but stand in connection with the heavy tribute that Ahaz had to pay. The bronze sea supported by twelve bronze bulls that had been erected by King Solomon was taken down and set on a stone pavement and probably brought to Assyria to enrich a treasure chamber. (39) The Assyrians neither interfered in religious matters nor imposed the Assyrian religion, as religious submission played no part in their imperial policy. (40)

Renaming conquered towns is an act of domination of which the Assyrians made only sporadic use.4I In contrast to Hellenistic and Roman times, when numerous towns received a new name--for example, Akko/Ptolemais, Rabbat Ammon/Philadelphia, Beth-Shean/Skythopolis (all under Ptolemaios II Philadelphos, 285-246 B.C.E.), Samaria/Sebaste (under Herod the Great, 37-34 B.C.E.), Jerusalem/Aelia Capitolina (under Hadrian, 117-138 C.E.), Beth-Guvrim/Eleutheropolis (under Septimius Severus, 193-211 C.E.) (42)--the Assyrians made no changes to the toponymy of Ancient Israel. Neither towns, rivers, nor mountains were renamed. The new provinces Magidu and Samerina were called as usual after the respective provincial center, whose name was not changed. Moreover, the political geography was not administratively simplified. In the Assyrian Levant, a state could be converted to a single province or divided into several provinces. No provinces comprised territories of several formerly independent states.

Urbanization of Palestine did not take place in the Neo-Assyrian period. Assyrian activities in the field of urban architecture are hardly comparable with the urbanization processes in Hellenistic and Roman times. The foundation of new settlements is not attested in Ancient Israel during the Assyrian rule. (43) Furthermore, there are no references to an expansion of settlements in the form of a lower city following a uniform plan. (44) The numerous towns that were founded or rebuilt in Palestine, for example, between the reigns of Pompey and Septimius Severus show quite different dimensions. (45) They resulted from a programmatic urbanization with the aim of Romanizing the region. While, in most cases, the Assyrians established only official administrative buildings or garrisons in important centers and strategic places, (46) to a Roman town there belonged temples, colonnades, triumphal arches, nymphaea, baths, hippodromes, and theatres that dominated the cityscape and testified to the introduction of the respective activities after the Roman pattern.

Since no urbanization took place, no Assyrian urban or regional infrastructure works are known, for instance in the areas of water supply or road construction, such as are well attested in Roman times. This inactivity in the area of road construction is remarkable. The Assyrians probably established some road stations for messengers and caravans, but they basically used the existing road system without improving it substantially. (47) Paved roads like those of the Romans were not built by the Assyrians. Roads did not get an Assyrian name--at least there are no such attestations--but were probably, as before, simply called after their destination.

No standardization of weights and measures according to Assyrian standards is attested in Palestine during the Assyrian period. (48)

Deportations were an instrument of domination intensively used by the Assyrian kings in the Levant to prevent future opposition and to acquire manpower and skilled specialists for the Assyrian capitals. Assyrian people were rather seldom resettled in the Levant or in Palestine. (49) The Assyrian population policy has been considered an instrument for a concerted Assyrianization. (50) In fact, inhabitants of Samaria were deported in several waves to Assyria as well as to the northern and eastern regions of the empire. On the other hand, people from Babylonia and Elam as well as Arabian tribes among others were settled in Israel between the reigns of Tiglath-pileser III and Ashurbanipal. (51) Due to this population exchange the region probably became less Israelite, but undoubtedly not Assyrian.

In accordance with the arguments presented, neither an enforced nor a planned adaptation to Assyrian culture can be ascertained. No Assyrianization took place in Israel and Judah, not to say, of course, that there was no Assyrian influence in Palestine. The Assyrian presence left its traces in architecture, (52) pottery, (53) glyptic, (54) inscribed remains, (55) and funerary customs, (56) among other areas, as shown in the appendix at the end of this paper. (57)

Nevertheless, the archaeological material is often overrated as evidence for the assumed Assyrianization, because, in comparison to the few archaeological finds from the Neo-Babylonian period, it appears more important than it actually is.58 Cultural contact indeed arose from the presence of Assyrian troops and administrative staff, but the influence resulting from this contact occurred primarily through emulation and not under compulsion. (59)

In the field of architecture [1] (60) there are public buildings built after a strictly Assyrian plan. These buildings, as found, for example, in Ayyelet ha-Shatiar (near Hazor), Megiddo (buildings 1051, 1369, 1853, 490), and Hazor (area B, building 3002), are probably to be ascribed to the Assyrians themselves; likewise the fortresses in Tell Jemmeh. Tel Sera', and Tell Abu Salima. On the contrary, other buildings show only some features of Assyrian architecture and could represent Assyrian influence on the local architecture--as in the cases of Gezer, Tell Kudadi, (61) Tell Beit Mirsim, or Buseirah and Tell Jawa in Jordan. particularly if they can be dated unambiguously in Post-Assyrian times, as in the case of the buildings excavated in Lachish (the Residence) and Tell Qasile (Persian period).

In most cases, "Assyrian-style" pottery [2] was locally produced, (62) as in the case of Tell el-Hesi, where local production of fine Assyrian vessels with very thin walls, the so-called Assyrian Palace Ware, was found. (63) Although it is certain that the pottery was produced on site in the surroundings of Tell el-Hesi, it is not clear whether it was produced by Assyrians for their own use or by the local population for local consumption.

Assyrian influence is also found in glyptic art [3]. Assyrian motifs, like the hero struggling with two monsters (64) or different types of protective spirits, (65) were first introduced into Palestine during the Assyrian period, and can be found later in inscribed and uninscribed local stamp seals dating mostly from the Neo-Babylonian and Persian periods.66

Another example of cultural transfer, burial customs [4], is represented by Assyrian-type clay coffins shaped like a modern bathtub, which have been found at numerous sites in Palestine--Hazor, Megiddo, and Dor among others--and were probably used by the Assyrians to bury their own people. Those clay coffins continued to be used after the period of Assyrian domination, as finds from Tell en-Nabeh and Jerusalem show. (67)

As mentioned above, only a few cuneiform texts [5] have been found in Palestine from the Neo-Assyrian period, and the number of artifacts made of metal [6], stone [7], and glass [8] is likewise small.

Regions affected by imperial expansion can rightly be regarded as zones of intense cultural contact where force was openly employed. In Christoph Ulf.'s model this kind of interaction is correlated with unsuccessful resistance against receptivity. In other words, the subjugated culture is compelled to give up at least part of its own identity and to accept the way of life of the conqueror. Because the imperial power can exercise unlimited force, the subdued recipients cannot hinder the acculturation process. Nevertheless, cultural contact in Ancient Israel under Assyrian rule shows that this scenario is not without exception. A slight decoupling of the different forms of contact zones and receptivity would give more flexibility to the model and allow the classification of special cases, as possibly in regard to Assyrian imperial expansion. An imperial conquest does not necessarily imply an unresisting acculturation. Neither a systematic nor an enforced adaptation to Assyrian values and customs took place in Palestine following the Assyrian conquest. This conclusion can be extended to the entire Levant68 and probably also to other peripheral regions beyond the "enlarged core" area.


According to H. Munkler, the Assyrian empire represents a pure form of military surplus value absorption which stands representative for this kind of empire. Munkler maintains that Assyria, like the steppe empires, exploited her periphery through the use of force and, hence, did not reach the rank of a world empire, because such empires are not able to cross the Augustan threshold. However, the geographic-historical study of the Assyrian conquest of the Levant based on the sources allows us to propose an alternative interpretation: Assyria was indeed a world empire, even by Munkler's definition, and crossed the Augustan threshold successfully, at least in the Levant.

To reiterate, world empires are characterized by their durability and by spatial extension. They must have experienced at least two cycles of rise and decline, as durability and regenerative ability are interconnected. If one looks at the Middle- and Neo-Assyrian periods as parts of one and the same process, the Assyrian empire easily fulfils this condition. During a first expansion phase (approx. 1450-1208 B.C.E.), which ends with the reigns of Shalmaneser I and Tukulti-Ninurta I, the city state Assur becomes a territorial state. At the end of the second phase (approx. 1207-935 B.C.E.), which reaches a new climax during the reign of Tiglath-pileser I (1115-1077 B.C.E.), the empire shrivels once more to the core land around the city of Assur. The reconquest of the area once controlled by Tukulti-Ninurta begins in the first millennium with the Neo-Assyrian rulers (934-745 B.C.E.). Ashurnasirpal II and Shalmaneser III succeed in recapturing the whole Jazirah and in stabilizing the enlarged core land. Shalmaneser III is the first Neo-Assyrian king who carries out campaigns beyond the enlarged core land. The last phase (745-645 B.C.E.), which begins with Tiglath-pileser III and ends in the first half of the reign of Ashurbanipal, experiences an expansion of hitherto unknown magnitude.

The Assyrian empire existed for more than 600 years, from the thirteenth to the beginning of the seventh century B.C.E. (1243-612). (69) Even if this substantial time span was definitely shorter than the two millennia of the Chinese empire (2133 years (70)) or the one and a half millennia of the Roman empire (1480 years (71)), it surpassed by almost 200 years the duration of the British empire (450 years (72)).

In addition, world empires must rule a relatively vast area proportionate to the known world. The Assyrian kings boasted in their inscriptions of controling the whole world. Indeed, though they could not overcome the natural borders, i.e., the Taurus and the Zagros mountains to the northwest and southeast, nor the Arabian Desert in the south or the Mediterranean Sea in the west, the Assyrian empire at the point of its maximum expansion included nearly the whole world as it was known to its rulers at the time. (73)

Did the Assyrian empire successfully pass the critical transition from the expansion into the consolidation phase? Was the Augustan threshold crossed and the empire stabilized through the integration of its periphery? According to an analysis of the Assyrian western expansion, these questions are to be answered in the positive. The Augustan threshold was crossed during the reign of Tiglath-pileser III, when the first provinces were created. At the end of his rule, these provinces had been stabilized and they served in the future as bases for further expansion to the north and south. Moreover, at the end of the reign of Shalmaneser III the enlarged core land had been consolidated. According to Munkler's view, empires which rest primarily on military exploitation cannot cross the Augustan threshold. (74) In some conquered areas, the Assyrians indeed opted for an alternative to military exploitation. Although annexation itself was an act of violence, the use of force decreased to the same degree as the conquered areas were integrated into the empire, so that there was a margin for the exercise of other kinds of power (economic, political, and ideological).

What kind of world empire was the Assyrian empire? According to Munkler's typology, in regard to continental empires there are, on the one hand, steppe empires, which have an exploitative character, and, on the other hand, civilizing empires, which integrate conquered regions. While steppe empires are not able to cross the Augustan threshold, some civilizing empires succeed in mastering this critical turning point. The Assyrian empire is not comparable with steppe empires for several reasons: Even if military surplus value absorption predominates in both cases, steppe empires concentrate upon their military superiority without undertaking infrastructural investments. Conquered areas are plundered, but not integrated either administratively or culturally. Assyrian annexation policy in the Levant shows that the Assyrians made use of the alternative. They are therefore not comparable with the Mongolian riders, whose quickness, wide range of action, and efficiency could give rise to a great but short-lived empire in the shortest time. (75)

On the contrary, civilizing empires are characterized by the fact that following the expansion phase a decision is made to invest infrastructurally and culturally in the conquered areas in order to integrate them into the empire. Economic prosperity is promoted by infrastructure works which secure the commercial space and create new commercial networks. The culture of the empire is reproduced on the periphery. Most world empires with a longer existence have, in the words of H. Munler, a world-historical task, a mission which legitimatizes their actions and at the same time aims at persuading the subjugated population of the advantages of integration into the empire. Following Munkler, world empires cannot exist without this civilizing mission, which in some cases has a religious character. (76) The Assyrian empire had no civilizing pretensions: as already shown, no Assyrianization took place in Palestine. We find neither infrastructure investments nor a programmatic acculturation program. However, the establishment of distant provinces and their administrative integration are a central aspect that the Assyrian empire and world empires with a mission have in common.

Assyrian policy in the Levant shows that the Assyrian empire was neither an organized band of robbers nor a world empire with civilizing purposes. Hence, the Assyrian empire does not seem to fit within Munkler's typology of empires, because it belongs to neither the steppe empires nor the civilizing empires. Furthermore, the Assyrian empire cannot be considered a case of a failed world empire that might serve as a paradigm of extreme military surplus value exploitation. As I have shown, Assyria was a world empire including the greatest part of the world as it was known at the time and existed for several centuries during which two cycles of rise and decline took place. After the stabilization of the borders of the enlarged core land an expansion took place, followed--at least in the west--by a consolidation phase. The Augustan threshold was crossed successfully, while parts of the conquered areas were integrated into the empire, namely on the basis of a well-functioning administrative system which had already been developed in the Middle Assyrian period. In the history of empires the Assyrian world empire represents not merely a preliminary stage, but a type by itself: a world empire without a mission.

The logic of Assyrian world domination was based on the principle of maximum profit with minimum infrastructural investments. (77) The principal goal was to draw raw materials, livestock, luxury objects, and manpower from all regions of the empire into Assyria. For this purpose two main strategies were developed, vassal relationship and annexation. This pragmatism explains why vassal status did not necessarily lead to annexation, why satellite states and provinces existed side by side, and why vassal status was not uniform. Admittedly, those two strategies were both based on military power. Intimidation was one of the important instruments of Assyrian rule. As long as vassals submitted without opposition, or as long as opposition did not persist or spread, the vassal system was very effective. However, repeated rebellions and alliances required a larger military effort which could not continue indefinitely. In this case, imperial power had to make a decision between withdrawal from the territory and annexation.

The decision for annexation and integration into a developed administrative system distinguishes Assyrian imperial policy clearly from that of the steppe empires. The fact that it did not strive for acculturation of the conquered areas distinguishes Assyrian practice from that of later world empires. The absence of a mission does not mean that there was no imperial ideology. On the contrary, the Assyrian royal ideology, which was closely connected with the national god Assur, is a well-attested and thoroughly studied subject. (78) However, this ideology served internal purposes, namely the self-legitimatization and self-indoctrination of the elite and also the creation of a sense of belonging among the population who bore the real costs of the expansion.

Assyrian imperial policy in the Levant was partly determined by the geopolitical conditions existing there. Furthermore, its superiority was military, not cultural. Therefore, the same methods are not always to be expected for other regions of the empire. The mountainous regions in the north and the east have up to now not been well examined archaeologically, a fact that complicates historical-geographic investigations. However, recent work has shown how important and productive this kind of study can be. (79) In the south the complicated relationship with Babylonia developed differently due to political fragmentation and the inaccessibility of the southern marsh region. (80) The mobility of the Arabs at the northern edge of the Arabian peninsula, their protection by the desert against external assaults, as well as their tribal organization, called for other solutions for profitable coexistence or successful military confrontation. (81)

The study of other regions of the Assyrian empire might highlight other aspects of Assyrian imperial policy, confirming the thesis of Assyrian pragmatism. The Assyrian empire is the first world empire in the history of mankind (82) that fulfils Munkler's definition, successfully crossing the Augustan threshold more than 700 years before Augustus. As a world empire without a mission, it represents a special type of empire which deserves a prominent place in the history of this type of social formation.


Site             Architecture  Pottery  Seals  "Bathtub"  Cuneif.

                 (1)           (2)      (3)    (4)        (5)

Abu Hawam,                                     x

Abu Salima,      x             x

Acco, Tel                      x

'Amal, Tel                     x

Amman (Jordan)   x             x        x      x

'Arad, Tel                     x        x

Aroer (in                      x

Ashdod, Tel      x             x        x                 x

Ashkelon                       x

Ayyelet          x

Balatah, Tell                  x        x      x

Balu' (Jordan)   x

Batash, Tel                    x

Beersheba (Tel                 x        x                 x

Beit Mirsim.     x

Ben-Shemen                                                x

Ben-Shean                               x

Buseirah         x             x        x

Caesarea                                x

Chinnereth.      x             x

Dan, Tel                       x

Deir 'Alla.                    x
Tell (Jordan)

Dibon, Tel                     x

Dor, Tel         x             x        x      x

Dothan, Tel      x             x        x      x

En-Gedi                        x

'En Gev                        x

'En-Haseva                              x

Far'ah (N), Tell               x               x

Gaza (Blakhi     x

Gezer            x             x        x                 x

Gibeon                         x

Hadid, Tel       x                                        x

Halif, Tel                     x               x

Haror, Tel       x             x

Hazor                          x               x

Hesban, Tell                   x

Hesi, Tell el-   x             x

Huga, Horvat     x             x

'Ira, Tel                      x        x

Jaffa                          x

Jawa, Tell       x             x

Jemmeh, Tell     x             x        x

Jerusalem                      x        x      (x)

Keisan, Tell     x             x        x                 x

Kheleifeh, Tell                x
el- (Jordan)

Kudadi, Tell     x

Kusiya,                                                   x

Lachish, Tel     x             x        x

Malhata. Tel                   x

Marjameh,                      x

Masos, Tel                     x

Mazar, Tell      x             x               x

Megiddo, Tel     x             x        x      x

Miqne, Tel       (x)           x

Mount Nebo                     x               x

Nahal Guvrin                                              x

Nahal Shiqmah    x

Nasbeh,                        x               (x)

Netanya                                 x                 x

Qaqun                                                     x

Qasile, Tell                   x

Qiri, Tel                      x
Qitaf, Tell                    x               x

Qitmit, Horvat                 x

Qom, Khirbet                                   (x)

Ramat Rahel      x             x

Rehov, Tel                     x               x

Rekhesh, Tel                   x

Rishon Tel       x             x

Rosh Zayit,      x

Ruqeish          x             x

Samaria          (x)           x        x                 x

Sera', Tel       x             x

Shiqmona, Tel                  x        x

Tawilan                        x        x

Umeiri, Tell                   x
el- (Jordan)

Umm el-Biyara                  x


'Uza, Horvat                   x

Yizre'el, Tel                                  x

Yokne'am, Tel                  x

Zafit, Tel

Site             Metal    Stone    Glass    Clay
                 objects  objects  objects  figurines

                 (6)      (7)      (8)      (9)

Abu Hawam,

Abu Salima,

Acco, Tel

'Amal, Tel

Amman (Jordan)   x

'Arad, Tel       x                 x

Aroer (in

Ashdod, Tel



Balatah, Tell

Balu' (Jordan)

Batash, Tel      x

Beersheha (Tel

Beit Mirsim,


Ben-Shean        x



Chinnereth.                        x

Dan, Tel                                    x

Deir 'Alla.
Tell (Jordan)

Dibon, Tel

Dor, Tel

Dothan, Tel


'En Gev


Far'ah(N), Tell

Gaza (Blakhi

Gezer            x        x        x


Hadid, Tel

Halif, Tel

Haror, Tel


Hesban. Tell

Hesi, Tell el-

Huga, Horvat

'Ira, Tel


Jawa. Tell

Jemmeh. Tell


Keisan. Tell                                x

Kheleifeh, Tell
el- (Jordan)

Kudadi, Tell


Lachish, Tel     x

Malhata. Tel


Masos. Tel

Mazar, Tell      x

Miqne, Tel       x                 x

Miqne, Tel       x

Mount Nebo

Nahal Guvrin

Nahal Shiqmah

Nasbeh,          x



Qasile. Tell

Qiri, Tel

Qitaf, Tell               x


Qitmit, Horvat   x

Qom, Khirbet

Ramat Rahel

Rehov, Tel       x

Rekhesh, Tel

Rishon Tel

Rosh Zayit,


Samaria          x

Sera', Tel       x

Shiqmona, Tel

Umeiri, Tell
el- (Jordan)

Umm el-Biyara             x

Umm-Uthainah     x


'Uza, Horvat

Yizre'el, Tel

Yokne'am, Tel

Zafit, Tel                x

(a) Lion made at Egyptian

(b) Burials.

Key: (x) assumed


Abu Hawam, Tell: Zorn 1993: 218 ("bathtub" coffin). Abu Salima, Tell: Reich 1992: 221-22 (Assyrian fortress); Stern 2001: 38 ("Assyrian-style" pottery). Acco, Tel: Stern 2001: 37 ("Assyrian-style" pottery); Keel 1997: 536, no. 17, and 588, no. 167 (scaraboid seals with Neo-Assyrian motifs). 'Amal, Tel: Stern 2001: 37 ("Assyrian-style" pottery). Amman: NEAEHL 4: 1248 (Ammonite Iron Age palace shows features of Neo-Assyrian palaces); Bennett 1982: 183 (plaster floors found in the Citadel are similar to those found in the Neo-Assyrian levels at Buseirah); Routledge 1997: 34 (assumed Assyrian influenced carrot bottles found in the tomb on Jebel Joffah and Amman Tomb C), but see Na'aman and Thareani-Sussely 2006: 63; Bennett 1982: 187 (tomb of Adoni-Nur, "conical carnelian seal showing a deity standing in a crescent, wearing a long garment and with typical Assyrian heavy beard" among other seals); Bennett 1982: 183 (tomb of Muciabalain, chalcedony and cylinder seals with assumed Assyrian influence; three clay coffins, possible Assyrian influence); Zorn 1993: 218 ("bathtub" coffins); Routledge 1997: 35-36 (shallow and sharply carinated bronze bowls from the tomb in Jebel Joffe, Adoni-Nur, Mugabalain, and Khilda 2 showing affinities with Neo-Assyrian forms, but probably slightly later). 'Arad, Tel: Stern 2001: 31 ("Assyrian-style" pottery); Singer-Avitz 2007: 184-85 (carinated bowls, Assyrian influence), but Na'aman and Thareani-Sussely 2006: 64 (globular and carinated bowls, not Assyrian but Transjordanian influence!): Aharoni 1996 (cylinder seal); Na'aman and Thareani-Sussely 2006: 68 (bronze lion weight, imitation of Assyrian weight); Stern 2001: 40 (glass cup). Aroer (Judah): Na'aman and Thareani-Sussely 2006: 69-71 (Assyrian influence can be attributed to only two vessel types: the bowl with petals and the decorated bottle). Ashdod, Tel: Kogan-Zehavi 2006 (Assyrian building); Stem 2001: 38 ("Assyrian-style" pottery); Singer-Avitz 2007: 184-85 (carinated bowls, Assyrian influence), but Na'aman and Thareani-Sussely 2006: 64; Horowitz and Oshima 2006: 40-41 (fragments of two inscribed stelae); Keel 1997: 672, no. 29 (scaraboid with depiction of Ishtar). Ashkelon: Singer-Avitz 2007: 184-85 (carinated bowls). Ayyelet ha-Shahar: Lipschits 1990: Reich 1992: 215 (Assyrian building).

Balatah, Tell: Stern 2001: 37 ("Assyrian-style" pottery); Singer-Avitz 2007: 184-85 (carinated bowls, Assyrian influence), but Na'aman and Thareani-Sussely 2006: 64; Stern 2001: 17 (seal); Zorn 1993: 218 ("bathtub" coffin, but sixth-fifth centuries). Bahr: NEAEHL 5: 1843 (courtyard building that "may have been associated with the Assyrian or Babylonian presence"); Zorn 1993: 218 ("bathtub" coffin). Batash, Tel: Singer-Avitz 2007: 184-85 (carinated bowls, Assyrian influence), but Na'aman and Thareani-Sussely 2006: 64; Dubowski 2006: 279 (bronze bell). Beersheba (Tel Sheba): Singer-Avitz 2007: 184-85 (carinated bowls, Assyrian influence), but Na'aman and Thareani-Sussely 2006: 64; Horowitz and Oshima 2006: 44 (seal with inscription). Beit Mirsim, Tell: Amiran 1958: 29-32 (fortress-like building, Assyrian influence). Ben Shemen: Horowitz and Oshima 2006: 47 (inscribed stela fragment). Beth-Shean: Stern 2001: 37 ("Assyrian-style" pottery); Stern 2001: 17 (seal); Oman 2006: 517-19 (bronze pendant in the shape of the head of the demon Pazuzu); Bweirah: Reich 1992: 219-20 (many buildings with Assyrian influence); Bennett 1982: 187 (Assyrian-style pottery; seals impressions with Assyrian motifs).

Caesarea: Stern 2001: 17 (cylinder seal). Chinnereth, Tel: Stern 2001: 31 and 47 (administrative building with assumed Assyrian influence); Stern 2001: 37 ("Assyrian-style" pottery), but Na'aman and Thareani-Sussely 2006: 64; Fritz 1987 (lion-bowl made of Egyptian blue). Dan, Tel: Stern 2001: 38 ("Assyrian-style" pottery); Stern 2001: 34 (head of a clay figurine). Deir 'Alla, Tell: NEAEHL 1: 341-42 ("international Assyrian-babylonian pottery," meant are carrot-shaped bottles). Dibon: Stern 2001: 39 ("Assyrian-style" pottery; after A. D. Tushingham in NEAEHL 1: 352, "Assyrian influence in Dibon was much weaker than in the Ammonite kingdom to the north and east"). Dor, Tel: Stern 2001: 19 (fortifications attributed to the Assyrians); Gilboa et al. 2006 ("a few Assyrian-style vessels" in area D2) and Gilboa et al. 2009 ("curved bowls with a folded rim, some in Assyrian style" from pit 05D2-802); NEAEHL 1: 360 ("numerous bowls of Assyrian type" from area B; Assyrian cylinder seal, Assyrian stamp seal, both from area B); Singer-Avitz 2007: 184-85 (carinated bowls, Assyrian influence). but Na'aman and Thareani-Sussely 2006: 64; Stern 2001: 33 ("bathtub" coffins). Dothan, Tel: NEAEHL 1: 373 (reconstruction of the city attributed to the Assyrians); Stern 2001: 31 ("hybrid Assyrian-local type" building); NEAEHL 1: 373 ("carinated bowls of Assyrian origin"); Singer-Avitz 2007: 184-85 (carinated bowls, Assyrian influence), but Na'aman and Thareani-Sussely 2006: 64; Keel and Uehlinger 1998: fig. 281 (seal); Zorn 1993: 218 ("bathtub" coffin).

En-Gedi: Stern 2001: 37 ("Assyrian-style" pottery). 'En-Gev: Stem 2001: 37 ("Assyrian-style" pottery). 'En-Haeva: Stern 2001: 32 (seal impression). Far'ah (north), Tell el-: NEAEHL 2: 440 (carinated Assyrian bowls); Singer-Avitz 2007: 184-85 (carinated bowls, Assyrian influence), but Na'aman and Thareani-Sussely 2006: 64; Zorn 1993: 218; Stem 2001: 33 ("bathtub" coffins). Gaza (Blakhiyah): Humbert 2000: 106-11; Humbert 2007: 42; Sadeq 2007: 226-27; Burdajewicz 2000: 35-36 (building attributed to the Assyrians). Gezer: Dever 1985; Reich 1992: 219 (administrative building); Stern 2001: 37 ("Assyrian-style" pottery); Singer-Avitz 2007: 184-85 (carinated bowls, Assyrian influence), but Na'aman and Thareani-Sussely 2006: 64; Reich and Brandi 1985: 48 (Assyrian bowl); Reich and Brandl 1985: 49 and 52 fig. 13 (incense burner, possible Assyrian origin); Reich and Brandi 1985: 45 (4 seals, 2 stamp seal impressions, 2 stamp seals); Horowitz and Oshima 2006: 55-59 (two legal texts); Stern 2001: 6 (arrowheads); Reich and Brandi 1985: 48 (part of a scale armor); Reich and Brandl 1985: 49 and 52 fig. 11 (stone altar); Reich and Brandi 1985,49 and 52 fig. 12 (slingstone); Reich and Brandl 1985: 49 and 53 fig. 14 (triangular glass bead. probably of Assyrian origin; see also Stern 2001: 40, glass pendant, Assyrian import?); Reich and Brandl 1985: 48-49 and 50-51 fig. 10 (shell (?) ornaments of horse-trappings probably originating from Assyria). Gibeon: Stem 2001: 37 ("Assyrian-style" pottery).

Hadid, Tel: Stem 2001: 31 (administrative building attributed with Assyrian influence); Horowitz and Oshima 2006: 61-64 (two administrative texts). Halif, Tel: Stern 2001: 37 ("Assyrian-style" pottery); Zorn 1993: 218 ("bathtub" coffin). Haror, Tel: Oren 1984: 104 (fortress displaying typical Neo-Assyrian construction techniques); Stern 2001: 38 ("Assyrian-style" pottery). Hazor: Reich 1992: 215; Amiran 1958: 27-28 (fortress in area B); Stern 2001: 37 ("Assyrian-style" pottery); Singer-Avitz 2007: 184-85 (carinated bowls, Assyrian influence), but Na'aman and Thareani-Sussely 2006: 64; Zorn 1997: 217; Stern 2001: 33 ("bathtub" coffin, but dating unclear). Hesban., Tell: Stern 2001: 39 ("Assyrian-style" pottery). Hesi, Tell el-: Stern 2001: 21 (fortress); Engstrom 2004 (imitation of Assyrian Palace ware, local production); Singer-Avitz 2007: 184-85 (carinated bowls, Assyrian-influence), but Na'aman and Thareani-Sussely 2006: 64. Hugs, Horvat: Stern 2001: 21 (fortress); Dubowsky 2006: 277 (Assyrian Palace ware). Ira, Tel: Stern 2001: 37 ("Assyrian-style" pottery), but Na'aman and Thareani-Sussely 2006: 64; Stern 2001: 32 (stamp impression). Jaffa: Rauchberger 2010 (red-slipped carinated bowl, imitation of Assyrian ware). Jawa, Tell: Daviau 1997: 23-26; Daviau 2001: 218-22 (Assyrian-influenced open-court buildings); Daviau 1997: 26-29; Daviau 2001: 222-37 (carinated bowls, e.g., carrot-shaped bottle from Building 900; assumed Assyrian influence, not only in the ceramic wares but also--which is even more dubious--in pottery techniques as the use of fast wheel and higher firing temperatures; see Singer-Avitz 2007: 189), but Na'aman and Thareani-Sussely 2006: 64. Jemmeh, Tell: Reich 1992: 220-21; Amiran 1958: 29-32 (open-court building); Singer-Avitz 2007: 184-85 (carinated bowls, Assyrian influence), but Na'aman and Thareani-Sussely 2006: 64; Keel and Uehlinger 1998: fig. 295b (seal). Jerusalem: Stern 2001: 37 ("Assyrian-style" pottery), but Na'aman and Thareani-Sussely 2006: 64; Zelinger 2006 (glass cylinder seal in the Neo-Assyrian local style); Weksler-Bdolah et al. 2009 (Hebrew seal depicting an Assyrian-like archer); Stern 2001: 341 (Assyrian-type clay coffins from Ketef Hinnom, but probably dating from the Neo-Babylonian period).

Kabri, Tel: Lehmann 2002 (pottery). Keisan, Tell: Stern 2001: 37 (reconstruction of the city attributted to the Assyrians); NEAEHL 3: 866 (Assyrian goblets and "palace ware"); Singer-Avitz 2007: 184-85 (carinated bowls, Assyrian influence), but Na'aman and Thare-ani-Sussely 2006: 64; Stern 2001: 32 (seal impressions); Horowitz and Oshima 2006: 98-99 (fragment of an administrative text); Stern 2001: 34 (clay figurine head). Kheleffeh, Tell el-: Hestrin and Stern 1973: 153 (pottery bowl, imitation of an Assyrian bronze bowl in clay, several parallels to those found in Tel Rekhesh and Mound Nebo). Kudadi, Tell: Amiran 1958: 28 (open-court building with Assyrian influence), but see Fantalkin and Tal 2009 and Fantalkin and Tal 2008: 229-47 (rather fortress built by an Assyrian vassal on behalf of Assyrian interests). Kusiya, Khirbet: Horowitz and Oshima 2006: 100-101 (fragment of an administrative text). Lachish, Tel: NEAEHL 3: 908 (Assyrian siege ramp); Stern 2001: 37 ("Assyrian-style" pottery), but Na'aman and Thareani-Sussely 2006: 64; Tufnell 1953: pl. 44A, 154 and 45,154 (cylinder seal, after Dubowski 2006: 277); NEAEHL 3: 608 (remains of weapons, ammunition, and equipment, including a bronze crescent, scales of armor, iron arrow heads, the fragment of an iron chain). Malhata, Tel: NEAEHL 5: 1918 ("so-called 'imitation of Assyrian Palace ware'"), but Na'aman and Thareani-Sussely 2006: 64. Mar-jameh, Khirbet: Singer-Avitz 2007: 184-85 (carinated bowls). Masos, Tel: Stern 2001: 37 ('"Assyrian-style" pottery). Mazar, Tell: Stern 2001: 246 (building with assumed Assyrian influence); Stern 2001: 39 ("Assyrian-style" pottery); Routledge 1997: 34-35 (handless jars, round in the sixth- and fifth-century cemetery), but Bennett 1982: 183 ("the pottery from Tell Mazar . has some affinities with attested 8th/7th century B.C. pottery, but generally looks much later, perhaps Neo-Babylonian or even Persian"); Zorn 1993: 218; Routledge 1997: 36-37 ("bathtub" coffin in tomb 23); Routledge 1997: 35-36 (bronze bowl, its form [shallow and sharply carinated] shows affinities with Neo-Assyrian forms, but is probably slightly later). Megiddo, Tel: Reich 1992: 216-19; Amiran 1958: 27-32 (strong Assyrian influence, public buildings 1052,1369,1853); Stern 2001: 37 ("Assyrian-style" pottery), but Na'aman and Thareani-Sussely 2006: 64; Stern 2001: 17 (seal); Zorn 1993: 218; Zorn 1997: 217-18; Stern 2001: 33 ("bathtub" coffins); HeeBel 2002: no. 48 (Pazuzu bronze head attached to a fibula); Stern 2001: 40 (glass vessel). Migne, Tel: Stern 2001: 29-30 (temple complex 650 interpreted as "Assyrian temple-palace"), but see Kamlah 2003 (local development); Stern 2001: 37 ("Assyrian-style" pottery); Singer-Avitz 2007: 184-85 (carinated bowls, Assyrian influence), but Na'aman and Thareani-Sussely 2006: 64; Golani and Sass 1998: 70-72 (silver pendant with depiction of Ishtar, local production). Mount Nebo: Hestrin and Stern 1973: 153 (imitation of an Assyrian bronze bowl in clay); Routledge 1997: 36-37 ("bathtub" coffin from tomb 84).

Nabal Guvrin: Horowitz and Oshima 2006: 126 (fragment of a stone Lamastu plaque). Nahal Shiqmah: Stern 2001: 21 (assumed Assyrian fort at the mouth of the Shiqmah river; no publication, now totally eroded, personal communication P. Nahshoni, August 2010). Nasbeh, Tell en-: Stern 2001: 37 ("Assyrian-style" pottery); Singer-Avitz 2007: 184-85 (carinated bowls, Assyrian influence), but Na'aman and Thareani-Sussely 2006: 64; Zorn 1993 ("bathtub" coffin, probably sixth century); Zorn 1996 (bronze bowl). Netanya: Horowitz and Oshima 2006: 153; Tadmor and Tadmor 1995 (inscribed cylinder seal found near Wingate Institute). Qaqun: Horowitz 2006: 111 (unpublished fragment of Esarhaddon stela). Qasile, Tell: Mazar 1980: fig. 55, 28 (Assyrian-style bowl after Dubowsky 2006: 279); Singer-Avitz 2007: 18485 (carinated bowls, Assyrian influence), but Na'aman and Thareani-Sussely 2006: 64; Qiri, Tel: NEAEHL 4: 1228 (Assyrian-style bottle); Singer-Avitz 2007: 184-85 (carinated bowls, Assyrian influence), but Na'aman and Thareani-Sussely 2006: 64. Qitaf, Tell el-: Stern 2001: 37 ("Assyrian-style" pottery); Zorn 1993: 218; Stern 2001: 37 ("bathtub" coffin); Stem 2001: 40; Amiran 1958 (two Assyrian stone bowls). Qitmit, Horvat: Singer-Avitz 2007: 184-85 (carinated bowls, Assyrian influence), but Na'aman and Thareani-Sussely 2006: 64; Beith-Arieh 1995: 264-67 and 270-71 (bronze Pazuzu head). Qom, Khibet el-: Routledge 1997: 36 ("bathtub" coffin, but not necessary Assyrian).

Ramat Rahel: Na'aman 2001; Reich 2003 (assumed Assyrian administrative building), but after Lipschits et al. 2011 and Oeming and Lipschits 2010 this building phase (II) dates from the second half of the seventh to the end of the fourth century. The official building with the garden, canals, and ponds dates approx. from 630-600 B.C.E. After Lipschits (personal communication August 2010), the site was built by the Judaean kings as administrative center to comply with the exigencies of Assyrian tribute. The window balustrades, the crenulated stones (both found below building phase II!), and the "Proto-lonic" capitals, as well as the gardens would show Assyrian influence. However, "Proto-Ionie capitals are not typically Assyrian, but were used to reproduce a Syrian landscape. They are attested in Megiddo (ninth-eighth centuries B.C.E.; Franklin 2011) and should rather be considered an Israelite influence in Judah after the destruction of the northern capital; Stern 2001: 35 (painted sherd showing an Assyrian-style seated governor); Cogan and Tadmor 1988: fig. 13 (Assyrian pottery bottle). Rehov, Tel: Mazar and Ahituv 2011: 270-71, figs. 3-4 (four Assyrian-shaped bottles); Mazar 2011: 274 ("the presence of Assyrian-shaped vessels in four of these five burials probably indicates that they were soldiers or officials in the Assyrian administration and their family members"); Mazar and Ahituv 2011: 276 (burial 8200 seems to be the grave of a soldier perhaps recruited by the Assyrian army, weapons, bronze bowl, ornaments); Mazar and Abituv 2011: 274, fig. 8.6 (Assyrian-type bronze bowl). Rekhesh, Tel: Hestrin and Stern 1973 (imitation of an Assyrian bronze bowl in clay); Singer-Avitz 2007: 184-85 (carinated bowls, Assyrian influence), but Na'aman and Thareani-Sussely 2006: 64. Rishon le-Ziyyon: Stern 2001: 26-27 (Assyrian-type fort), but see NEAEHL 5: 2011 (plan corresponds with buildings of the Assyrian period, but was constructed "with no specific Assyrian techniques"); NEAEHL 5: 2022 (carinated "Assyrian" bowls), but Na'aman and Thareani-Sussely 2006: 64. Rosh Zayit, Horvat: NEAEHL 4: 1289-90 (fortress shows similarities with Assyrian "courtyard building"). Ruqeish: NEAEHL 4: 1293-94 (fortress built by Assyrians; construction technique is undoubtedly Assyrian, personal communication from E. Oren, August 2010); Oren 1993: 104 (suggested construction of the city by Assyrians); Stern 2001: 38 ("Assyrian-style" pottery, but not mentioned in NEAEHL 4: s.v.!).

Samaria: Stern 2001: 19-20 (assumption that fortifications were reconstructed by Assyrians): NEAEHL 4: 1306 (pottery with Assyrian influence); Singer-Avitz 2007: 184-85 (carinated bowls, Assyrian influence), but Na'aman and Thareani-Sussely 2006: 64; Horowitz and Oshima 2006: 112-15 (inscribed bulla with royal Assyrian seal impression, judicial document, votive cylinder in form of cylinder seal, fragment of stela); Hestrin and Stern 1973 (bronze bowl, probably produced in Syro-Phoenician center where Assyrian designs were imitated). Sera', Tel: Reich 1992: 221 (massive building remains with defensive function); Oren 1993: 104 ("in the citadel building of Tel Sera', Assyrian construction methods have been observed"); Stern 2001: 37 ("Assyrian-style" pottery), but Na'aman and Thareani-Sussely 2006: 64; NEAEHL 4: 1333 (crescent-shaped bronze standard and bronze bell); metal chain with fork-shaped tool at end found in a smithy (unpublished, displayed at Israel Museum, Jerusalem; see photo in Stern 2001: 9). Shiqmona, Tel: Stern 2001: 37 ("Assyrian-style" pottery); Spycket 1974 (two scaraboids with representations of the Sin standard). Tawilan: Bennett 1982: 187 ("the pottery, however, and the small finds from both Umm el-Biyara and Tawilan reflect the finds from the Tomb of Adoni-Nur; and, in certain cases, perhaps a very strong Neo-Assyrian influence"); Stern 2001: 32 (stamp impressions); Bennett 1982, 184; Spycket 1973: 384, plate 7:2 (scaraboid).

'Umeiri, Tell el-: Stern 2001: 39 ("Assyrian-style" pottery). Umm el-Biyara: Bennett 1982: 187 ("the pottery, however, and the small finds from both Umm el-Biyara and Tawilan reflect the finds from the Tomb of Adoni-Nur; and, in certain cases, perhaps a very strong Neo-Assyrian influence"); Bennett 1967; Bennett 1982: 184 with fig. 3b on p. 184 (cosmetic palette, assumed Assyrian origin; for this kind of anthropoid stone palette found also in Amman, Tawilan, Kerak, and Ghrareh, see Routledge 1997: 38). Umm-Uthainah: Stern 2001: 254 (bronze caryatid censer executed "in pure Assyrian style"); Routledge 1997: 35 (shallow and sharply carinated bronze objects). 'Uza, Horvat: Na'aman and Thareani-Sussely 2006: 64 (globular and carinated bowls, commonly held to be imitations of Assyrian ware; rather Transjordan than Assyrian influence!). Yzre'el, Tel: Zorn 1997: 219; Stern 2001: 33 ("bathtub" coffins). Yokne'am, Tel: Stern 2001: 37 ("Assyrian-style" pottery); Singer-Avitz 2007: 184-85 (carinated bowls, Assyrian influence), but Na'aman and 'Thare-ani-Sussely 2006: 64. Zafit, Tel: NEAHL 4: 1523 (fragment of Assyrian limestone stela).


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(1.) Bagg 2011: 418-29.

(2.) Bagg 2011: map 4.34.

(3.) Bagg 2011: 430-31.

(4.) Neo-Assyrian toponyms in the Levant are cited after Bagg 2007, archaeological sites in Palestine after The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land (NEAEHL).

(5.) Mann 1994: 46-56.

(6.) Doyle 1996: 93-97.

(7.) Ulf 2009.

(8.) Ulf 2009: 39-43, esp. 42.

(9.) The first campaign in the region took place during the reign of Ashumasirpal II (between 876 and 869) and the last one was undertaken by Ashurbanipal in the year 645.

(10.) From 740 (Arpadda) to 677 (Kar-Assur-ahu-iddina).

(11.) Esarhaddon's first (674) and third (669) as well as Ashurbanipal's first (667) and second (664) campaigns to Egypt.

(12.) The northern part of Israel was already reached during Shalmaneser III's campaign in the year 841, when the Assyrian army moved from Hauranu to Ba'ali-ra'si; see Astour 1971.

(13.) Parpola 2003.

(14.) Hogemann 1992: 142.

(15.) Liverani 1979: 300; Zehnder 2005: 548.

(16.) Wiesehofer 1993: 92 (author's translation).

(17.) Parpola 2004: 6.

(18.) Parpola 2004: 10.

(19.) Parpola 2004: 14.

(20.) E.g., 2 Kings 18: 13.

(21.) 2 Kings 25: 7.

(22.) Josh. 11: 11 (quoted after HIV); cf. Deut. 20: 16-18.

(23.) Josh. 8: 25.

(24.) Josh. 8: 29.

(25.) In Isa. 10: 5-6 Assyria appears as God's instrument against Israel and Judah. He who uses such a terrible weapon (Assyria) against his own people (Yahweh) does not seem to be less brutal than the weapon itself. The punishment of Israel by Assyria is also mentioned in 2 Kings 17: 23 in connection with the conquest of Samaria.

(26.) 2 Kings 18: 13-19, 37; 2 Chron. 32: 1-22; and Isa. 36-37: 37; see also Mic. 1: 8-16.

(27.) Chicago Prism ii 37-iii 49 (Luckenbill 1924: 29-34), CT 26, 1-37 ii 58-iii 81 (BM 103000; King 1909: plts. 7-11), Rassam Cylinder 11. 32-58 (Frahm 1997: 53-55).

(28.) Bagg 2011: 244-52; see also Ussishkin 2006: 353.

(29.) Bagg 2011: 295-301.

(30.) 2 Kings 18: 26; Isa. 36: 11; see also 2 Chron. 32: 18.

(31.) Bagg 2011: 281-95; Berlejung 1998: 343-46, 2002; Cogan 1974.

(32.) Holloway 2002, esp. 80-216.

(33.) Pola 2005, esp. 139-42.

(34.) Holloway 2002; Pola 2005.

(35.) In the southern Levant this measure is attested in the cases of Tyre (UO), Ashdod (Asdudu), Ashkelon (Isqaluna), and Gaza Hazzat). In connection with the conquest of Samaria, a prism inscription from Nimrud mentions that Sargon took as booty "27,280 people with their chariots and the gods in which they trusted" (Gadd 1954: 179-80, iv 31-32.). However, in Sargon's Prunkinschrift no divine statues are mentioned (Fuchs 1994: 344 II. 23-25). Whether the abduction of statues from Samaria corresponded with reality or was rather a text module used incorrectly remains uncertain; see discussion in Timm 2002: 129-30.

(36.) Cogan 1988: 236.

(37.) Ibid.

(38.) 2 Kings 16: 17-18.

(39.) Cogan and Tadmor 1988: 190 and 193.

(40.) Contra Spieckermann 1982: 322-72. If any king of Israel or Judah had worshiped Assyrian gods, the authors of the Hebrew Bible would not have neglected to mention it. The books of Kings and Chronicles deal precisely with the differentiation between the righteous kings who did not stray away from Yahweh and the sinners who lost their trust in Yahweh, practiced idolatry, and were therefore punished.

(41.) Bagg 2011: 282-83; Pongratz-Leisten 1997.

(42.) Keel et at., 1984: 301-16.

(43.) Sargon 11 boasts of having opened "the sealed harbor of Egypt" (Fuchs 1994: 31411. 17-18; Gadd 1954: 180 iv 16). Whether this is to be understood as the founding of a new harbor (Stern 2001: 21) is doubtful. Possible candidates for the "harbor of Egypt" are Tell Abu Salima (Reich 1984) and Ruqeish (Oren 1993: 103; NEAEHL 4, 1392).

(44.) After the destruction of Hazor by Tiglath-pileser HI an Assyrian residence was built northeast of the ruins, today the location of the kibbutz Ayyelet ea-Shahar; Reich 1992: 215.

(45.) TAVO Map B V 18; also Kuhnen 1987: 14.

(46.) The only example of important urban building activities is at Megiddo, where at least four official buildings were built in the so-called Nordburg. No Assyrian influence is recognizable in the residential area (Peersman 2000). To speak of "tremendous building activities that followed their decision to rebuild the destroyed towns" (Stern 2001: 18) is an exaggeration based on suppositions which are not substantiated by the archaeological remains.

(47.) The Assyrians used the existing roads which crossed the Levant primarily in a north-south direction (Dorsey 1991). The Assyrian empire had an efficient road system by means of which all areas of the empire were accessible within a few days (Parpola 1987: xiii--xiv). K. Kessler has analyzed the problems of the Assyrian road system and qualified Parpola's optimistic conception, while he points to the thin evidence for other "king's roads" in the empire and separates the kalliu-system from the road stations located at regular intervals (Kessler 1997; for the Assyrian King's Road crossing the Jazirah in an east-west direction, see Kessler 1980: 183-236). Construction measures in connection with major roads are not attested for the Assyrian empire (Kessler 1980: 184).

(48.) Bagg 2011: 291 n. 79 against Parpola 2003: 100.

(49.) Oded 1979.

(50.) Cogan and Tadmor 1988: 177.

(51.) Bagg 2011: 154-57 with table 3.1 and map 3.6.

(52.) Amiran 1958; Fritz 1979; Reich 1992.

(53.) Stern 2001: 36-39. The interpretation of some types of Palestinian pottery as "Assyrian-style" or "Assyrian-influenced" is controversial; see Na'aman and Thareani-Sussely 2006 (contra Singer-Avitz 1999) and Singer-Avitz 2007 (contra Na'aman and Thareani-Sussely 2006).

(54.) Bordreuil 1993: 78-83; Oman 1993; Stern 1994; Stem 2001: 34-36.

(55.) Horowitz and Oshima 2006: 19-22.

(56.) Zorn 1993 and 1997.

(57.) Although there exist preliminary works (Bloom 1988; Dubowsky 2006: 200-18 and 275-79; Stern 2001: 14-57 and 236-58), a comprehensive study of Assyrian influence in Palestinian remains to be done.

(58.) For instance, Bloom (1988: 296). Stern (2001: 14), and Daviau (2001, in the case of Jordan) consider that the Assyrian presence and influence were very strong. On the contrary, Bennett (1982: 187) and Routledge (1997: 39) are more cautious. In the case of the often assumed Assyrian influence on the local pottery. Na'aman and Thareani-Sussely (2006) restrict the influence to a selected number of types, and even L. Singer-Avitz, who extends the influence to other types like globular and carinated bowls, says that "the adoption or integration of certain pottery forms into the ceramic assemblage does not attest to any change in a society's values" (Singer-Avitz 2007: 192).

(59.) Hence, the cultural contact cannot be labelled as brutal. The war--like every war--and its consequences were brutal, but not the cultural influence.

(60.) Numbers in brackets refer to the corresponding column in the chart included in the appendix.

(61.) A very interesting proposal was made by Fantalkin and Tal (2009), namely that the fortress in Tell Kudadi may have been built by an Assyrian vassal on behalf of Assyrian interests (under Sargon II?).

(62.) Singer-Avitz 2007: 191.

(63.) Engstrom 2004.

(64.) This motif appears on a cylinder seal discovered at Tel Dor in Neo-Assyrian context (Tadmor and Tadmor 1995; Stern 1994: 52).

(65.) For instance, one of the Neo-Assyrian seals discovered at Gezer shows two antithetical human-headed winged birds (Reich and Brandi 1985: 47, no. 3 and fig. 6.3; Stern 1994: 56).

(66.) Stern 1994; Oman 1993.

(67.) Stern 2001: 33 (Neo-Assyrian period) and 340-41 (Neo-Babylonian and Persian periods); cf. Zorn 1993 and 1997.

(68.) Bagg 2011: 301-8.

(69.) That is, from the beginning of the reign of Tukulti-Ninurta I up to the conquest of Nineveh by the Medes and Babylonians.

(70.) 221 B.C.E. (Qin Dynasty)-1911 CE.

(71.) 27 B.CE. (Augustus)-1453 CE.

(72.) Sixteenth century (Henry VIII)-middle of the twentieth century.

(73.) Approx. 822,700 [km.sup.2] (based on TAVO Map B IV 10); cf. the British Empire. approx. 38.000,000 km2 in 1921.

(74.) Munkler 2005: 88-89.

(75.) Approx. 25,000,000 [km.sup.2] in 40 years.

(76.) Munkler 2005: 132.

(77.) A very modern principle considering the world financial crisis of 2008.

(78.) Cancik-Kirschbaum 1995; Liverani 1979; Reade 1979.

(79.) Parker 2001; Radner and Schachner 2001.

(80.) Brinkman 1968, 1979, 1984; Dietrich 1970; Frame 1992; Machinist 1985.

(81.) Bagg 2010; Elat 1998; Eph'al 1984; Fales 1989; Gaiter 1993; Lanfranchi 2004; Potts 1991.

(82.) The empires of Aldcad (2334-2154 B.C.E.) and the Third Dynasty of Ur (2112-2004 B.C.E.) do not fulfill the conditions of durability and regenerative capacity. However, they are important landmarks in the history of the world empires; see Liverani 1993 (Akkad); Sallaberger and Westenholz 1999: 131-99 (Ur III).


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Author:Bagg, Ariel M.
Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Date:Jan 1, 2013
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