The Kingdom of Van and Assyria under King Ashurbanipal

Ashurbanipal entered history not only as a major military figure and politician, but also as a collector of ancient written monuments. Initially trained for priestly activity, Ashurbanipal was the only Assyrian king who knew cuneiform.

At his order, tens of thousands of historical, magical, and scientific texts were gathered in copies and originals in Nineveh. The Library of Ashurbanipal, which preserved more than 20 thousand clay tablets with texts, was found during the excavations of Nineveh in 1849-1859.

From the above, we see that the king(!) had information that only a priest could possess. Do you think this was acceptable to the priesthood, which “roofed” the world of that time?

After all, the king is the main among the plebs (lu- human-plebeian, gal- chief, Sumerian). And priestly knowledge should not go beyond the priestly estate. That’s why Ashurbanipal was so great, and that’s why his rule ended vaguely, and it is known that he was removed, but by whom?..

Ashurbanipal’s gaze turned towards the Kingdom of Van (Urartu) and other northern states, where he was attracted by iron and copper mines, an abundance of livestock, and trade routes that connected the north with the south and the west with the east.

The Kingdom of Van was flooded with Assyrian spies and diplomats, monitoring every move of the ruler of the Kingdom of Van and his allies. Thus, in one letter, Upahhir-Bel, an Assyrian watcher, informs the king about the actions of the rulers of Armenian cities:

“I have sent a special representative to gather all the news concerning the Kingdom of Van. He has already returned and reports the following. People hostile to us are currently gathered in the city of Harda.

They are closely watching everything that is happening. Armed detachments stand in all cities up to Turushpa itself… Let my lord allow to send an armed detachment and allow me to occupy the city of Shurubu during the harvest.”

Another Assyrian messenger reports from the Kingdom of Van about the arrival of ambassadors from the people of the land of Andin and Zakaria in the city of Uazi. They arrived for a very important matter – to inform the residents of these places that the Assyrian king is planning war in the Kingdom of Van.

For this reason, they offered them to enter into a military alliance. It is then stated that at a military council meeting, one of the military leaders even proposed to kill King Ashshur (Assyria).

The struggle between Assyria and the Kingdom of Van lasted several centuries, but did not lead to definite results. Despite a series of defeats inflicted on him by the Assyrians, and despite all the cunning of Assyrian diplomacy, the Kingdom of Van still managed to maintain its independence and even outlived its most formidable opponent.

In his inscriptions, Ashurbanipal portrays himself as a caring ruler, a valiant warrior, a fearless hunter, and a sage who has mastered all sciences, arts, and crafts.

However, contrary to the claims of his annals, he almost never took personal part in military campaigns. Ashurbanipal was distinguished by a superstition rare even for those times and lived in constant fear of the machinations of hostile spirits or the ruthlessness of the gods.

by I.A. Musskiy, “One Hundred Great Diplomats

Translated by Vigen Avetisyan

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