The Assyrians And Their Histor Essay, Research Paper
In the plentiful land between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, known as Mesopotamia, now modern day Iraq there ruled a powerful civilization like no other in the area. This land had rolling hills and abundant rainfall, making it a very habitable place to live. With such crops as barley and sesame they were able to live a rich life in the area. Animals such as sheep, goats, and cattle also provided a rich life. The name of this great empire was the Assyrians, which struck fear in the hearts of their enemies. This great empire ruled from about 2000 BC to about 612 BC. During this time period the Assyrians went through three separate periods. First there was the Old Assyrian Period which lasted from 2000 BC to about 1363 BC. During this period they invaded Mesopotamia which resulted in the foundation of a number of Assyrian dynasties. This period also consisted of two separate components: independent city-state of Asshur and a group of trading colonies. It was also during this time that Assyria first became independent, this was a time of uncertainty in the Near East political development (Glubok 26). The next period was the Middle Assyrian Period, which lasted from 1363 BC to about 1000 BC. The military might of the empire was transformed at the end of this period. With new innovations like horse drawn chariots, iron smelting and improvement of weapons. The Neo-Assyrian Period lasted from about 1000 BC until about 612 BC. This time in Assyrian history brought about success in battles, the most significant of which being the fall of the Babylonians (Cortell 103). During this time they created the worlds first large empire. The Assyrian period was one of the greatest turning points in the history of Mesopotamia (Nardo 13). During this time in the history of the world many changes were occurring. Before the civilizations in Mesopotamia, there were no civilizations just small tribes and groups. This rich land allowed large groups to move in and sustain agriculture for many people. The Assyrians were just one group of many to call this land home, but they were advanced in many ways over some of the first civilizations such as the Sumerians and Babylonians. The Assyrians had many innovative ideas that have affected many aspects of the history of Mesopotamia and the culture of the world today. The Assyrian civilization included a fairly simple system of government, a rigorous daily life, unique religious ideas, and their powerful military status.
Assyrian government was very simple. Government for the most part was an absolute monarch. In which the king was the head of administration, as well as the army, religion and court (Cotterell 108). Subjects of the king, for the most part, spent their lives trying to favor the king. Using such things as slander, gossip and bribes subjects tried to get the kings attention so their voices could be heard (Cotterell 108). Although all power resided in the king, he alone could not run an empire with such a large population. He had to delegate authority to get all jobs done. Such positions were filled by the rich nobles who made up of the upper class. The positions included military officers, palace superintendent and palace herald. He also used these nobles to divide up his kingdom into smaller provinces. These were either district chiefs or mayors. Using these many nobles he could better run the kingdom (Nardo 64). The king was also surrounded with a large number of courtiers and a harem. The harem ruled by the king s mother until the first wife came along. A method of expansion for these governments was constant movement. Many kings moved their kingdom constantly to control more and more land, and since people feared the Assyrians no one could stop them. Although the king had much power most legal disputes were settled privately by the parties. If they could not settle, they went to an officer that mediated; and settled the disputes. These officers were called Eunuchs . These Eunuchs were praised as being trustworthy, and they were present at all the upper levels of the bureaucracy. The Assyrian government was one with a strong king who delegated power to others. This form of government is even seen in some countries today. This government seemed to work well for the strong Assyrian Empire.
Many factors attributed to the rigorous life of the people. People under this rule were in a very identifiable class system. This social hierarchy started with the king and worked its way to the bottom with the slaves. Women were not included in this hierarchy. They weren t even considered to be citizens. They were considered just to be servants of their father, brothers or husband. Their job was to please the man in their life. This social class system was conservative and the solid element in the Assyrian civilization. Assyrian s basic social unit was the family and after that the tribe. Most of the population lived in cities. A man s family decided his social rank (Nemet 109). The poorer classes in Assyria were the bulk of the population. They lived in humble dwellings and in small villages. Some landowners and workers owned their own land, with estates about 250 acres or more. A well to do landlord might own several estates, with nice houses with servants (Hunter 65). These are just some characteristics of a very harsh daily life of the Assyrian people.
Also these people cared much about their looks. Their king, for example, wore a long flowing garment to the ankles. These garments were embroidered and edged with fringe and tassels. This was used to signify that he was the wealthiest of men in his territory and that he was the ruler. Like most kings a large head garment or tiara was warn, signifying the chief of government. Even his subjects had a great appeal to wear luxury apparel. They wore long elegant robes that were considered traditions of beauty. They also cared for their hair. The most elegant form was plated. They plated their hair and beards. Usually their hair was very long so the plating could be extravagant. Unlike other people of the day they wore beautiful jewelry, which was considered ornaments of beauty (Glubok 106-108).
These colorful people also had an extensive economy, which is mostly based around their agriculture. This was pleased by the lush hills and meadows, which were great for growing crops. They also used animal hushandry and foreign trade to bring in money for the empire. Although growth in cities depended on food production from the provinces, exchange of goods was also an economic tool. This barter system was a strong influence on other Mesopotamian civilizations. Assyrian economy was a strong backbone for a developing empire.
Another strong backbone to any civilization or empire is religion. During this time in history many religious beliefs were present in Mesopotamia. Most of which feared the after life for they feared death. In Assyria belief was in many gods, but one king of all gods , named Ashur. There were many large temples built in the city for Ashur. They were enormous and complex structures, which are an important part in the daily life of all Assyrians. The Babylonians had a big influence on Assyrian religion, as was the trend in Mesopotamia. Many civilizations borrowed from others before them. Two main gods under Ashur were popular one of which were Marduk and the other Nabu. Temples were built for them as well. Although they believed in powerful gods, literature discovered supports that the popular religion took the form of magic and sorcery. This was not a usual belief for people in the area. In most Mesopotamian civilizations gods were found in ever day objects such as the sky, sun, and moon (Cotterell 107-108). Another important factor in religious daily life was the fear of devils and evil spirits. They also feared the chance of offending the gods, but this not as much as devils and evil spirits. Due to their magic beliefs it is common to fear the black magic or voodoo of evil spirits. The Assyrians were not as religious as other empires around them (Hooke 73). Religion, for the most part in Mesopotamia was used to explain life. This is a very unique way of thinking for a civilization during that time in history.
By far the most important factor in the civilization of the Assyrian Empire was its military. Known as a militaristic state, the Assyrians were the most successful imperial power the world had ever seen. Most of the army consisted of infantry and the footmen did most of the fighting. Battles were fought using planned military systems, because the Assyrians possessed disciplined and organized troops. One reason for their huge success was the technological advancement found in their weapons. Some of these weapons were used for the very first time by this great military power known as the Assyrian Empire. One of the more advanced of which was the bow. They also used slings, swords, dagger, and spears to fend off and attack enemies (Cotterell 106). Another great part of the strength of the armies, were the chariots and the horsemen. These chariots were very innovative for the time, and were very successful in battles. This was unbelievable technology for the time in history. Most civilizations in this time were merely concerned with surviving while the Assyrians were securing their homeland. Drawn by two horses they were the able to carry a soldier into battle virtually unharmed (Glubok 112). In this Empire there was one leader of the army, he of course was the mighty King (Cotterell 106). More than any other ancient nation, the Assyrians sustained itself through being aggressive in their military wars, and campaigns. They were ruthless and cruel in the way they treated those they conquered. This harsh policy led them to power, and glory. This power and glory is what the Assyrians were really known for, their military advancement is the key to this power. King Shamshi led his military into raids of nearby territory expanding his kingdom. He would install a son to be the leader of the conquered territory, so another military power could be started. Dynasties, or family rule, were common in Assyrian cities. This stern and brutal way of ruling of the Assyrians also led to their unavoidable doom. They were so cold blooded; they committed atrocious acts, which other civilizations felt had to be stopped. The Assyrians made so many enemies this way that they banded together against the Assyrians to try and bring the empire down. The mighty Assyrian Empire found itself caught in the middle of the ongoing struggles that fragmented the Near East into small empires. For centuries, power in Mesopotamia shifted. The Assyrians and the Babylonians fought for many years to call this land home. Sometimes a Babylonian leader would claim Mesopotamia to be his kingdom; while on the other hand, an Assyrian king would claim the land belonged to him. Mesopotamia was always in conquest for its rich farmland and its position to water (Wells 134). Military might was the most important part of the Assyrian Empire. Without this might, they would not be the power they were in Mesopotamian history.
Military might was not the only innovative idea of the Assyrians. They had many more ideas that proceeded their time in history. For one thing they were very skilled hunters. Although agriculture was a big part of their lives many men were hunters. One of the most important people in the kingdom was always found hunting when not in battle. This of course was the king. He like other Assyrians loved to hunt. After a century and a half, archaeologists have found, by their excavation and translations of the Mesopotamian texts, that the Assyrians were not merely ruthless destroyers and murderers. The Assyrians were also great builders as shown in the ruins of their cities. They were very industrious farmers, as well as, very skilled artists. One other trait of the Assyrian people was their great ability to trade. Assyrians were also known for their beliefs on astronomy. Although they did not find in spectacular new findings, they kept the Babylonian tradition in astronomy. Assyrian medicine also had innovations and new ideas. The Assyrian people thought that the gods brought about sickness, to punish human sins. They practiced magical rituals, with prayers, incantations and sacrifices to heal. It was not until later in the history of the Assyrians that they took a fresh approach to medicine. This new practice of medicine said that natural agents cause some sickness. This new approach represents the first stirrings of scientific inquiry based on evidence and cause and effect (Nardo 10-13 and 70-71). Other innovations such as legal records were kept. Records such as contracts, receipts and marriage documents have been found. Also found were some adoption documents. There were also laws in the government with very harsh penalties. These penalties, if you violated legal agreements, were sometimes very bizarre. An example of punishment might be to present ten white horses to the gods, or burn the eldest son. Even more bizarre was to swallow a bundle of wood. This punishment stemmed from a Babylonian code known as Hammurabi s code. Stating that an eye for an eye a tooth for a tooth, which means if you commit an illegal action, there is a consequence (Cotterell 108). Like the Babylonians influenced Assyrian life, the Assyrians influenced their followers. One such group was the Persians, who reaped the benefits of the Assyrians, but they ruled with a more lenient style. So it is easy to see how the Assyrians contributed to the world then and now. They have given the world many ideas and innovative beliefs that have shaped the lives of people throughout the world.
Throughout history, civilizations have come along that shape the world around them. The Assyrians had a large impact on Mesopotamian culture. As mentioned before, they gave the land many new ideas and many new strategies for survival. Their military prowess alone could be considered as the greatest of all time. Their ideas of government opened doors for many other cultures to survive. Assyrian economy was the most advanced of the time, which led other to follow in their economic ways. Technology also sets them apart with the civilizations around them. With such inventions and the horse drawn chariot, they began a whole new way to fight in battles. This impact in history has given their culture a lasting imprint in the history of the world.