• Sat. Sep 24th, 2022

Why this former “king of the world” was so proud of his library

ByMary M. Ward

Aug 31, 2022

When trying to discuss Ashurbanipal’s greatness as a world leader, it is essential to understand what his contemporaries, the Assyrians, meant by “world”. Their world was Mesopotamia, but Assyria’s possessions stretched farther than that – from the Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf and from Egypt to the mountains of southeastern Turkey. The Assyrians were certainly aware that beyond were other lands, peoples, tribes and cities, but they referred to what was outside their kingdoms as “empty lands”: uninteresting territories, occupied by people not civilized people with nothing of value to offer.

The times of the end of the Assyrian Empire were tumultuous, violent and even brutal. Ashurbanipal had to exert all his talents, military and diplomatic, to keep this empire united, safe from these unknown hordes of the so-called empty lands.

Ashurbanipal was born around 685 BC, to King Esarhaddon and one of his three wives. When Ashurbanipal was 12 or 13 years old, Esarhaddon began to prepare his succession. The eldest son died before reaching maturity. To avoid quarrels and palace intrigues, the king appointed both Ashurbanipal and his older half-brother, Shamash-shum-ukin, as crown princes. He appointed Shamash-shum-ukin to govern the city of Babylon, which was under Assyrian control. Ashurbanipal remained in the capital.