International Relations in the Ancient Near East, 1600-1100 B.C.

By Mario Liverani | Go to book overview
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11
The One against Many

In the centralized worldview the inner country is surrounded by inferior peoples and empty lands, objects of easy conquest and economic exploitation. At the same time, however, they are a serious source of anxiety. This is not just because of their barbarism but because of their immense numbers, great variety and ability to unite. With these strengths, they seem capable of challenging or even overwhelming the cosmic core, despite its qualitative superiority.

The characteristic Assyrian feeling of being surrounded by pressing hostile forces is best expressed in a prayer of Tukulti-Ninurta I:

‘The (foreign) lands of one accord have surrounded your city Ashur with a noose of evil, all of them have assembled to hate the shepherd whom you named, who administers your peoples. All regions of the earth, for which you had produced benevolent assistance, held you in contempt, and though you extended your protection to them, they rebuffed your land. The king for whom you held goodwill made sure to disobey you, and even those whom you treated well unsheathed their weapons (against you). The battlefield's task is ever in full readiness against your city Ashur, all the onrushings of a flood are mustered against it. Your enemies and foes are glowering at your standing place, they have concerted to plunder your country, Assyria, by treachery. The (foreign) lands crave night and day for the destruction of your wondrous sights, everywhere they seek to overthrow your cities. 1

This siege complex is a justification for the military activity of Tukulti-Ninurta in all surrounding countries where Assyrian ‘protection’ is refused, 2 though it is obviously based on a false picture. In fact, the

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