AbstractsPolitical Science

Royal Image and Political Thinking in the Letters of Assurbanipal

by Sanae Ito

Institution: University of Helsinki
Department: Department of World Cultures
Year: 2015
Keywords: assyriology
Record ID: 1134304
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10138/153821


Assurbanipal, the last great king of the Assyrian Empire (934-609 BC), ruled from 668 BC until at least 630 BC. He had to spend four years suppressing a revolt by ama - umu-ukīn, his older brother and the king of Babylon (667-648 BC), but his reign was much longer than his predecessors and he controlled almost all the area of the Ancient Near East. One of the essential bodies of research material on his reign is his correspondence, which has never before been studied in detail because much of it has been published in cuneiform copies only. His extant correspondence consists of 359 letters: 72 letters from him (the so-called royal letters) and 287 letters to him. Royal letters are particularly rare in the Assyrian correspondence and Assurbanipal s royal letters outnumber those of his predecessors, hence this dissertation focuses on them. The letters deal with political, military, and diplomatic matters through the king s point of view and in his words. The aim of this research has been to find out what image of himself Assurbanipal tried to convey in his letters and how he utilized the image in order to further Assyrian policies. The dissertation uses philological method and also takes advantage of the electronic database of the Neo-Assyrian Text Corpus Project (Helsinki), which contains the majority of texts of the Neo-Assyrian period in transliteration. Most of Assurbanipal s royal letters were written during the revolt and its aftermath, and sent to Babylonia, Elam, and the Sealand, which were deeply involved in the revolt. Since the most common recipients of the missives were citizens, Assurbanipal clearly considered it particularly important to address the population at large when the revolt shook the foundation of the empire. As the royal letters originate in the state archives in the capital of Assyria, Nineveh, most of them are archival copies or drafts. Two languages and two scripts (Neo-Assyrian, Neo-Babylonian) were used in them, but the drafts would have first been drawn up in Neo-Assyrian, and later translated into Neo-Babylonian, perhaps first in Assyrian script and only later in Babylonian script. Assurbanipal had dialogue with both adversaries and adherents, emphasized the favours he had done, and described himself as a benevolent and merciful king who was capable of establishing justice, peace, and equality in the realm. He involved Nippur and Uruk in Assyrian military activities against rebels and settled a sibling rivalry between the governor of Ur and his predecessor. He continued a conciliatory policy towards Babylon even during the revolt in order to resolve the conflict peacefully. He tried to incorporate foreign countries into Assyrian control by treaties and sometimes exerted direct pressure on them with thinly veiled threats. Some countries came under Assyrian rule at their own initiative in order to acquire military and political gains from Assyria. Throughout the royal letters, he stressed his devotion to the gods and their support for his rule. Especially A ur, supreme god of…