Military Administration and Population Management

Military Personnel

The recent publication of the texts from Fort Shalmaneser and the attached study by Dalley and Postgate on the composition of Sargon' s army (TFS, pp. 27ff) have radically modified the perspective on the documents of this group, drawing some of their information out from previous obscurity. It is now established, first of all, that there are numerous prosopographical connections between the Nineveh military records and the parallel material from Calah pertaining to the reign of Sargon, as will be shown below. Secondly, and more broadly, the data from Fort Shalmaneser allow us to lift many a veil from the overall curtain surrounding the composition of the standing army of Assyria, the kiṣir šarri stationed in the Assyrian homeland, particularly as regards the equestrian charges. The texts of this group may thus, despite their fragmentary and formally disorganized state, be tackled with the hope of tracing at least the initial guidelines for a division between 8th and 7th-century materials.

No. 123 is a two-columned list of equestrian officers in sections, mainly with the title of susānu, also (8', 10') abbreviated as su ; given in close connection with it is a further title, zu - un, again an abbreviation for the as yet unexplained zunzurahu. One of the few other significant contexts in which zunzurahu is attested (the letter SAA 5 207) shows this title after that of LÚ.GIŠ.GIGIR ; thus our text may be used to reinforce the notion that susānu was the Assyrian reading of LÚ.GIŠ. GIGIR, even aside from the outright equation of the two terms provided by reciprocal variants in a "literary" text of the State Archives (SAA 3 38:15). In general, no. 123 is one of the tablets that has yielded precise prosopographical parallels with the lists of military and horses from the archives of Fort Shalmaneser (cf. TFS, p. 45) : in particular, the names Ubur-Issar (i.6'), Babilayu (ii.8'), Šep-Issar-aṣbat (ii. 15'), and Lu-balat (r.ii.1) appear to find counterparts both in the names and in the titles in the large register TFS 99. In view of this link, our text is to be ascribed with certainty to the age of Sargon.

A further text of the age of Sargon is no. 126, a tablet divided into 4 parallel "columns" by vertical rulings, and also presenting horizontal divisions. Numbers occupy the three narrow columns to the left - the sum of the first two being consistently given in the third- while names are written in the wider right-hand column. The end of a section through a horizontal ruling is heralded each time by a partial total; such totals are consistently associated with professional titles in the military sphere (9', 10', r. 13). In a recent study of the text (TFS, p. 43ff.), it was noticed that the numbers were too large to be associated with horses, and - on the basis of the išahhaṭ in 1. 17' and the fact that the numbers were all given in even hundreds - it was suggested that quantities of bricks moulded by single military units headed by the named people could have been the object of this document, possibly in connection with the building activities in Dur-Šarruken, although this interpretation allowed "no easy explanation" for the presence of a three-column tabulation of the figures.

Now, from the texts in section 2 (see above) it is clear that the tally of bricks for Sargon' s capital involved entirely different quantities and characteristics of tabulation. And, on the other hand, it is just possible that the key to our list lies in one of the very few lines that do not bear numbers, viz., 1.6', where a name, followed by the expression "not present" may be understood. Rather than bricks, perhaps the object of this multi-column tally were men, i.e. soldiers; and the difference between the first and the second column could have been one of "presence" vs. "absence" or the like. This double classification ("inspected"/"missing") seems to have been a standard one when the king ordered reviews of the troops, as shown e.g. in SAA 5 251.

Among the 17 legible names of individuals associated with the columns of numbers, at least eight (Aššur-ahu-iddina, Aššur-remanni, two individuals called Babilayu, Bessunu, Ṣalam-ahhe, Ululayu, Mar-larim) were identified in the above-quoted study (cf. also TFS, pp. 29ff.) with those of mušarkisāni of the chariotry on the basis of the Fort Shalmaneser lists and other material from Calah. Combining all these data, a chronological framework around 710-708 BC has been suggested for this text. Specifically, these names appear in the section of our text dedicated to the GIŠ.GI [GIR.MEŠ qurbūte] (11'-r.13), and they also all reappear in a specific section of TFS 99 (iii.7-iv.8), as higher-ranking officers to whose units other members of the military are said to be attached. Was no. 126 a schedule of the number of kiṣrus, "cohorts", in their charge? It is quite possible, and the otherwise awkward round numbers by hundreds would find a full justification in this light, since the already quoted letter SAA 5 25 1 shows that mušarkisus were in charge of chariotry cohorts comprising exactly 100 men each. Thus, our text could have been a schedule of the number of 100-man cohorts under the charge of each of the named individuals: from the 22 kiṣrus assigned to Ululayu, to the 6 units led by Aššur-remanni - for a grand total of more than 25,000 soldiers, both available and unavailable.

Other documents of this group are less clear in their date, general purpose, or both. Among the less fragmentary items, no. 124 combines charioteers of various ranks on the obverse, with "scholars of the (astrological) watch" on the other face, and might perhaps be assigned to Esarhaddon' s reign on the basis of this last notation (for a similar combination, see also no. 136). No. 133 is a three-columned list of men, summed up in small groups by city of origin, and the relevant province; no professional title is given. Whether they were officials or not, therefore, might be decided by the ambiguous notation BI.GUD, which occurs twice (i.32, ii.18') in the proximity of toponyms. As for the date, a mention of Dur-Šarruken (ii.18') might point preferably to the 8th century - although the town is known to have continued to be in existence after Sargon's death, as can be seen e.g. from ABL 440, where a pirru of horses is said to take place there regularly. Two very similar texts, nos. 134 and 135, bear a short list of some names of provinces, preceded by the figure "l," possibly referring to personnel assigned to them. They both bear dates from the reign of Assurbanipal, resp. 650 BC and 657 BC. No. 143 is a sealed docket dated 683 BC, bearing two impressions of a mušhuššu carrying the symbol of Marduk on its back (Herbordt, SAAS 1, p. 252 [Ninive 204] and Taf. 15,25): the message places a certain individual, with an Aramaic personal name, under the charge of an official. Finally, no. 144 is an unusual fragment, in which lists of punished persons seem to be given, headed by a passage describing some particularly dire bodily measures, which could only lead to the subject's demise. Since the topic of corporal punishment, torture, etc., in NA times, still seems to rest on limited evidence (obviously excluding the gruesome details liberally offered by the royal inscriptions) this text is of particular importance.

F.M. Fales & J.N. Postgate

F.M. Fales & J.N. Postgate, 'Military Administration and Population Management', Imperial Administrative Records, Part II: Provincial and Military Administration, SAA 11. Original publication: Helsinki, Helsinki University Press, 1995; online contents: SAAo/SAA11 Project, a sub-project of MOCCI, 2021 []

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SAAo/SAA11, 2014-. Since 2015, SAAo is based at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Historisches Seminar (LMU Munich, History Department) - Alexander von Humboldt Chair for Ancient History of the Near and Middle East. Content released under a CC BY-SA 3.0 [] license, 2007-20.
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