Reacting to the series of setbacks that Urartu had suffered at Assyrian hands, Rusas I (c. 735–714), the son and successor of Sarduris II who had been defeated by Tiglath-pileser III, sought to restore Urartu’s fortunes. He banded together the small tribes of Medes scattered along his southern frontier into an anti-Assyrian alliance. The purpose of this alliance was twofold. Rusas needed allies not only against Assyria, but also, perhaps even more important, to assure the security of the trade route from the east that was critical to sustaining Urartu’s economy.
During this period, the primary east-west trade route from Iran and points farther east, possibly including China and India, passed between the west bank of Lake Urmia and the east bank of Lake Van to the vicinity of modern Erzerum, and from there to Trebizond on the Black Sea. It seems reasonable to assume that some of the trade passing along this route through Urartu most probably had previously taken the more southerly route through Assyrian-held territory to ports on the Mediterranean, from which Assyria drew lucrative revenues. It therefore would have been in Assyria’s interest to disrupt the Urartian route, forcing a diversion of the trade through territories under its full control. This would seem to be a plausible explanation for Sargon’s repeated forays into the region. Rusas evidently succeeded in mobilizing the Median tribes on his southeastern flank into a defensive alliance, no doubt because the Assyrians were generally perceived as a common danger.
One of the Median chieftains, Daiukku or Deioces (c. 727–675), recognized that the Medes might forever remain at the mercy of powers like Assyria because of their fragmentation under dozens of autonomous tribal leaders. The solution was obvious, and he soon emerged as the preeminent