Assurbanipal

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Assurbanipal

Assurbanipal (ä´sŏŏrbä´nēpäl) or Ashurbanipal (ä´shŏŏr–), d. 626? BC, king of ancient Assyria (669–633 BC), son and successor of Esar-Haddon. The last of the great kings of Assyria, he drove Taharka out of Egypt and firmly established Necho in power there only to have Necho's son Psamtik revolt in 660 BC and wrest Egypt permanently from Assyria. The uprising took place during a campaign by Assurbanipal against the Elamites and Chaldaeans. His brother, in command at Babylon, also headed a serious revolt by the enemies of the king. This insurgence was suppressed, though not without difficulty, and in retaliation, Assurbanipal took Babylon and slaughtered (648 BC) many of the inhabitants. He then defeated Elam and sacked Susa; Elamite power disappeared. Under Assurbanipal, Assyria reached the height of sumptuous living. The famous lion-hunt reliefs in the royal palace at Nineveh date from his reign and are among the finest examples of ancient sculpture. Assurbanipal was interested in learning; excavations at Nineveh have uncovered 22,000 clay tablets from his library—the chief sources of knowledge of ancient Mesopotamia. Among the tablets were found copies of the Babylonian flood and creation stories as well as historical and scientific literature. His reign ended the greatness of the empire (although two of his sons ruled briefly after his death), and Assyria succumbed to the Medes and the Persians only a few years later. His great expenditures in wars to preserve the state contributed somewhat to its collapse. Assurbanipal is probably the Asnappar or Osnapper of Ezra 4.10. He is identified with, but only faintly resembles, the Sardanapalus of the Greeks.

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