King of the Neo-Assyrian Empire in 668 – 627 BC Ashurbanipal entered history not only as a successful politician and military commander but also as a collector of ancient writing monuments. Having been initially educated as a priest, Ashurbanipal was the only Assyrian king to know cuneiform.
By his order, tens of thousands of historical, magical, and scientific texts (copies or originals) have been delivered to Nineveh. The library of Ashurbanipal housing more than 20 thousand clay plates with inscriptions was discovered during the excavations of Nineveh in the 1840s-50s.
Therefore, a king possessed as much information as priests. What do you think, what was the priests’ attitude towards this fact? Kings have been at the highest level of the general public, and priestly knowledge was not to leave the circles of the priest community. And that’s why Ashurbanipal was such a great king, and that’s why his reign ended mysteriously. He was removed from the throne, but by whom?
In the years of Ashurbanipal’s reign, the Kingdom of Van along with several northern states attracted the king’s attention with their iron and copper mines, large livestock, and dense trade networks connecting the east with west and the north with south.
Before and during the reign of Ashurbanipal, the Kingdom of Van has been filled with Assyrian diplomats and scouts watching each step of the Van king and his allies. An Assyrian peeper Upakhir-Bel informed the king of Assyria about the movements and actions of the rulers of Armenian cities in one of his letters:
“I had sent a special representative to collect all the news relating to the Kingdom of Van. He has already returned and reports everything you can see below. Hostile groups at the moment are gathered in the city of Kharda. They watch everything with great attention. There are armed units in each of the cities. Let my master send an armed squad and allow me to seize the city of Shurubu during the harvest.”
Another Assyrian messenger reported on the visit of foreign ambassadors to the city of Uazi on behalf of the people of the Andin and Zakaria states. The ambassadors had arrived to inform the locals about the Assyrian king’s plans to wage war against the Kingdom of Van. The ambassadors thereby proposed to enter a military alliance. During one of the meetings, one military commander even suggested assassinating the king of Assyria.
The conflict between Assyria and the Kingdom of Van has continued for several centuries but didn’t bring any definite results. In spite of the numerous victories of the Assyrians and the tricky Assyrian diplomacy, the Kingdom of Van preserved its sovereignty and even outlived its most powerful opponent.
King Ashurbanipal has portrayed himself as a caring ruler, a valiant warrior, fearless hunter, and a wise man who had comprehended all the sciences, arts, and crafts. However, despite the statements of his annals, he has never participated in his military campaigns personally. He has even been known for his superstitious mindset: he lived with the constant fear of the intrigues of enemy spirits and of the disfavor of the gods.
An excerpt from the book “One Hundred Great Diplomats”, I.A. Moussky