Babylonia and the Muki-zeri Rebellion

Every region of the Assyrian empire had its own distinct characteristics; this is prominently the case with Babylonia. While the peoples to the east, north and west of Assyria were considered not only different but often also barbaric and inferior, and therefore ripe for conquest, [[70]] the religious traditions of the Babylonians were respected, and there were numerous cultural similarities .[[71]] For this reason, the Assyrian intervention in the region was different to, and more problematic than, the approach adopted in other regions of the empire.[[72]]

At the time Tiglath-pileser III ascended the throne , Babylonia was a region of a heterogeneous people as the area had been inhabited for centuries not only by the native Babylonians but also by the Kassites, Arameans and later also by the Chaldean tribes .[[73]] The Arameans were divided into more than forty tribes, the principal ones being those of the Gambulu [[74]] and the Puqudu ,[[75]]while the Chaldeans were divided into five, the most important being theBit-Amukani ,[[76]] Bit-Dakkuri[[77]] and Bit-Yakin,[[78]] whilst the Bit-Silani[[79]] and Bit-Ša'alli [[80]]were less powerful.[[81]] The presence of these tribes and semi-independent cities meant that Babylonia had been an unstable region for sometime, and the power of the king of Babylonia was therefore limited, with every tribe being more or less independent.

Nabonassar (Nabû-naṣir) was able to govern Babylonia for roughly four-teen years, from 748/747 BC until 734 BC, after which he was succeeded by his son Nabû-nadin-zeri. After less than two years of his reign, in 732 BC, a revolt brought a local governor by the name of Nabû-šumu-ukin II to the throne of Babylonia. The new sovereign reigned for merely one month before he was deposed by the Chaldean chieftain Nabû-mukin-zeri - whose name is usually abbreviated to Mukin-zeri - of the Bit-Amukani tribe .

While Mukin-zeri usurped the throne of Babylonia, Tiglath-pileser III was committed to the siege of Damascus. Confronted with a Chaldean chieftain on the throne of Babylonia, the Assyrian king reacted quickly, returning to Assyria to organize the necessary diplomatic and military manoeuvres that would continue over the next three years.There are many letters that can directly or indirectly be linked to the rebellion led by the Chaldean leader Mukin-zeri; [[82]] for the most part they relate to the period between 731 and 729 BC, the years of conflict with Tiglath-pileser III.

Mukin-zeri 's rebellion may be divided into four distinct phases. The first phase, which ran from 745 up to 732 BC, saw Tiglath-pileser III trying to create a favourable situation for an Assyrian intervention in Babylonia. By the reign of Tiglath-pileser III at the latest, the Assyrians had become aware of their military superiority and consequently recognized the real possibility of conquering the "four parts of the world," for which the Mesopotamian floodplain was of vital importance. Unlike Assyria or Uraṭu, Babylonia was not a compact state but was divided into several entities depending on the power relations of the Aramean and Chaldean tribes that inhabited the area.In the light of this situation, Tiglath-pileser III kept the various factions divided and established diplomatic relations separately with all of the various social and political groups that represented the heterogeneous Babylonian reality. In this way, at the decisive moment, the Assyrian war machine did not have to confront a united defensive front and could gain near complete control of the region.

No. 133 belongs to this early phase, but it is not written by Merodach-ba-ladan, the Chaldean leader of the Bit-Yakin tribe, as is sometimes maintained.[[83]] However, it concerns him as a treaty is to be imposed on him. Thetext also mentions Nabû-naṣir ,[[84]] possibly to be identified with the king of Babylonia between 747 and 734 BC, provided that events referred to by this letter go back, at least in part, to 734 or earlier.

The second phase, datable to around 731 BC, saw the start of military conflict; the Assyrian objective was to isolate Mukin-zeri in an attempt to weaken him. To this end, several centres along the frontier with Elam were annexed in order to impede direct involvement by those that might become powerful allies of the rebels - 21 years later the same tactic was employed by Sargon II. At the same time, the Chaldean tribes of Bit-Šilani and Bit-Ša'alli and several Aramaic tribes were attacked by the Assyrians. While Tiglath-pileser III isolated his rival from possible internal or external assistance in southern Mesopotamia, Mukin-zeri was busy trying to consolidate his own power within the city of BabyIon itself.

No. 82, in which Aššur-sallimanni informs Tiglath-pileser about the military movements of the Elamites near Der, is associated with this phase.[[85]] In no. 87, also from Aššur-sallimanni, Mukin-zeri attempts to forge an alliance with Balassu, leader of Bit-Dakkuri, through their kinship ties as the former was obviously a son of Balassu's sister. However, a letter by Zakir (on him, the section on "Treaties and Loyalty Oaths" below) to Merodach-baladan about this attempt of Mukin-zeri's is intercepted by the Assyrians, putting Balassu in a bad position. However, at that time both of these local rulers decided to side with the Assyrians.[[86]] In fact, in no. 111, the head of the Bit-Dakkuri actively supports Assyrian military activity and in no. 110 he or Nadinu, ruler of Larak, is to use the boats and water-skin rafts for transporting barley together with Asipa. In no. 101 Samas-bunaya, Assyrian prefect in northern Babylonia, writes that he has been to Marad, [[87]] the most important city under Balassu,[[88]] to check and receive the people who may have been recruited from tribes allied with the Assyrians. In no. 122, however, it is Merodach-baladan, leader of the Bit-Yak in , who confirms his loyalty to theAssyrian king, while in no. 128 he deals with the Aramaic tribes of Li'tamuand Hagaranu, and mentions problems relating to the rationing of grain. This phase, designed to isolate Mukin-zeri, led to the strengthening of the Assyrian Position along the Tigris, stretching probably as far as Larak.[[89]] The Assyrians recount how they were about to capture a man from Hindanu in the service of Mukin-zeri, on the middle-lower Euphrates according to no. 126. His origins perhaps reveal an attempt on the part of Mukin-zeri to extend his alliances into regions that were under long-standing Assyrian rule ,[[90]]a possible response to the Assyrian attempts to isolate the Chaldean leader. During the third phase, in around 730 BC,[[91]] the Assyrian offensive was directed towards the object of the struggle: the city of Babylon itself. Having succeeded in removing the important Mesopotamian city from the influence of Mukin-zeri, Tiglath-pileser III forced the Chaldean leader to take refuge in his own tribal capital, the fortified city of Sapia.

No. 98 concerns this particular phase, telling of the attempt by Šamaš-bunaya and Nabû-Nammir to talk to the Babylonians, and how Zasinnu (or Sasinnu), one of Mukin-zeri's men, was able (at least partially) to obstruct the two Assyrian officers in their task. The Assyrian diplomatic mission, aimed at bringing the inhabitants of Babylon over to Tiglath-pileser III, met with other failures (see no. 129), but at some point during the conflict it did reach its objective. According to no. 125, in fact, only a few temple oblates followed the Chaldean chief in a raid on the city of Dilbat, whilst the majority of the citizens of Babylon remained in their city.

The fourth and final phase, datable to 729 BC, saw the Assyrians clearly gain the upper hand against their Chaldean foe, who, having lost control of Babylon, found himself without allies. The definitive and final step was the siege of Sapia,[[92]] resulting in the death of Mukin-zeri .[[93]] In this way Tiglath-pileser III was able to end the rebellion in 729 BC.

Following the revolt of the Chaldean chieftain Mukin-zeri (731-729),[[94]]logistics and communication between Assyria and her new territories were of extreme importance, especially to a highly populated and important centre such as Babylonia, both for supplies and for military and intelligence purposes. Immediately after the war this activity was under the control of several officials who may not all have been "governors."[[95]] The powerful men that had an important role in the administration of Babylonia during, and probably also after, the Mukin-zeri revolt were Aššur-šallimanni, Ašipâ, Nabû-nammir and Šamaš-bunaya.

Aššur-šallimanni[[96]] was the governor of Arrapha and eponym of the year 735 BC. Notwithstanding the fact that his seat of office was situated in the northeastern region of the Assyrian empire, in the Nimrud Letters his activities take place far from Arrapha, especially in Babylonia but also on the middle Euphrates. Aššur-šallimanni sent at least 8 (or 9) letters[[97]] to the king in which he described the undertaking of diverse activities: he was probably in charge of the boats transporting barley[[98]] to the south and he organized the transport of reserves from the middle Euphrates to various destinations;[[99]] he was also policing the area to maintain the stability of the region. Aššur-šallimanni was mobilized from Arrapha to Babylonia in order to play an important role there when the region was conquered by Tiglath-pileser. At that time, Babylonia experienced severe problems including a shortage of barley: "Did I not write to the king, my lord , last year: "There is no barley" (no. 81:21-r.1).

It was probably Ašipâ[[100]] who took on the job of supplying the governor of Arrapha. The letters sent by him suggest that he was organizing the supplies necessary for the cities situated in the triangle formed in Babylonia by Sipparto the north, Babylon to the south and Kar-Nergal to the west. However, due to the limited amount of information at our disposal, it should not be discounted that his area of activity was in fact far greater, apparently reaching as far as the mid-Euphrates (no. 111). Another factor to emerge from Ašipâ's letters is that he used boats for the transportation of supplies, something that the geography of the region made simpler through the network of navigable rivers.

Šamaš-bunaya[[101]] played an important role during the Mukin-zeri revolt, and for this reason it is probable that he maintained an important post in the succeeding period, that of prefect with military powers. Military control of. the region, however, was not solely in Assyrian hands; to that end, Tiglath-pileser III employed the remaining local, (quasi) independent tribal leaders,as long as they were flanked by Assyrian soldiers. This may have been the case of Abi-hari (of Gambulu) [[102]] Amurru-šumu-iškun (the recipient of no. 4),Balassu and Nadinu. As to the origin of Šamaš-bunaya, it can be pointed out that his name is unique in the Neo-Assyrian sources.[[103]]

In all probability the situation in Babylonia did not change substantially with Shalmaneser V, designated successor to Tiglath-pileser III. It is likely that the new king employed the same officials as the previous monarch. [[104]] By contrast, the situation changed fundamentally with the passing of authority from Shalmaneser V to Sargon II. The new king was a usurper, and therefore his first efforts were directed internally, a situation immediately exploited by Merodach-baladan (Marduk-apla-iddina II). This Chaldean chieftain recaptured all the Babylonian territories occupied by Tiglath-pileser III and proclaimed himself king of Babylon.

Only in the year 710 BC did Sargon begin to wage war against Merodach-baladan to recapture the lost territories; he knew that the Elamites would lend military aid to Babylonia and he wished to be prepared for the long and difficult struggle that would ensue.[[105]] This conflict ended three years later, in 707 BC. During that period Sargon himself occasionally resided in Babylonia.

Comparing the letters sent to Tiglath-pileser III with those sent to Sargon II, in combination with their royal inscriptions, it is possible to detect a different approach on the part of the two sovereigns towards Babylonia. The and most obvious difference between the two lay in the fact that Tiglath-pileser III took the throne of Babylon (under the name of Pulu). In this way he kept the crowns of Assyria and Babylonia separate, creating the impression of an autonomous Babylonian region in the face of the otherwise vast and multicultural Assyrian empire.[[106]] This expedient of the double throne was also continued by Tiglath-pileser III's successor, Shalmaneser V, who used his birth name Ululayu on succeeding to the throne of Babylonia, in contrast to Sargon II who did not create two separate names to distinguish his roles as the king of Assyria and of Babylonia.

These different approaches to Babylonia from a titular point of view were also reflected in the administration of the region. In fact, as has been noted above, during the reign of Tiglath-pileser III there was no Assyrian governor in the city of Babylon or in the other important cities of southern Mesopotamia. In his summary inscriptions,[[107]] found in the secondary place from the North-West Palace of Nimrud , it is written that Tiglath-pileser III placed governors in the territories immediately to the north of Babylonia, where the Aramaic tribes had settled, whereas the Assyrian sovereign offered pure sacrifices to the most important local deities of the principal cities, Babylon, Cutha , Nippur, etc .[[108]] Considering that the titles that Tiglath-pileser III assumed included the title of king of Babylon ,[[109]] and that he boasted of appointing eunuchs as governors in the territories he had conquered,[[110]] it seems relatively clear that there was no Assyrian governor in Babylon; given the importance of the city, one might expect this to have been listed in his royal inscriptions. The presence of an Assyrian governor in Babylon would have contrasted with Tiglath-pileser's intention of giving the region that appearance of autonomy for which the expedient of the double throne had been created.

If there was no Assyrian governor in Babylon, who was it that protected the interests of Tiglath-pileser III when he was busy at Calah, or in other regions of the empire? We may find the answer to this question in no.99, presumably sent by Šamaš-bunaya, Nabû-nammir and the Babylonians. In the light of this letter and what is said in SAA 17 95,[[111]] Šamaš-bunaya must have been the Assyrian prefect of the region whose function was to assist in, and much more likely to control and direct, the activities of a council of Babylonians in charge of the administration of the region. If Šamaš-bunaya and Nabû-nammir really sent this letter, the former was probably in continuous office in Babylonia given that, contrary to the other letters[[112]] written during the military campaign that led to the conquest of the region , the text is in Neo-Babylonian and includes a salutation typical of southern Mesopotamia: ana dinān bēlini nillik "We would gladly die for our lordl " [[113]]

Another detail worth noting and related to administering Babylonia is that this corpus includes a letter addressed to the grand vizier, presumably to bedated to the reign of Tiglath-pileser. [[114]] This curious detail may underline the difference between the titles of high-ranking officials in Babylonia from Tiglath-pileser to Sargon: despite many references to the vizier in the letters from the reign of Sargon II, so far there is not a single attestation of sukkallu rabiu [[115]] zu among them.

Sargon II's policy towards Babylonia was different to that of Tiglath-pileser III. Given the intense anti-Assyrian activity on the part of Merodach-baladan, who had broken the treaty Tiglath-pileser had imposed on him, and of Elam, Sargon (unlike his predecessors) decided against the option of the double throne, with its implication of an independent state of Babylonia , and instead took the path of direct annexation. In this way, after a short war in710 BC, the Assyrians gained the upper hand over the Babylonians and, for the first time, an Assyrian governor, Šarru-emuranni, took the office of governor in the city of Babylon itself. [[116]]

70 Liverani, "The Neo-Assyrian Ideology" in M.T. Larsen (ed.),Power and PropagandaM (Copenhagen 1979) 304-314.

71 In terms of language, Neo-Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian are both derived from Akkadian and are consequently quite close to one another; in the case of religion, we find Babylonian deities, Nabû and Marduk, at the top of the Assyrian pantheon.

72 With respect to Babylon, one recalls, for example, the different approaches of Sennacherib and Esarhaddon; the former razed it to the ground while the second had it rebuilt.

73 See J. Brinkman, " Babylonia under the Assyrian Empire, 745-627 B.C." in M.T. Larsen (ed.), Power and Propaganda (Copenhagen 1979) 223-250, esp. p. 226.

74 See Helsinki Atlas, Map II B4.

75 Ibid. Map 16 2B.

76 Ibid. Map 16 A2.

77 Ibid. Map 10 D4.

78 Ibid. Map 16 C2.

79 Situated by Cole Nippur p. 31, near Bit-Amukani.

80 Situated, possibly, slightly to the northwest of Bit-Amukani (see ibid. p.31).

81 The Aramaic tribes, even though they had arrived in the region several centuries before the Chaldean tribes, were still not greatly integrated into the Babylonian sedentary and agricultural way of life. Since the Arameans were weakened by being divided into more than 40 tribes, they limited themselves to raiding the farmland around cities such as Babylon and Borsippa. By contrast, the Chaldean tribes actively involved themselves in Babylonian political life, to such a degree that by 730 BC each of the three principal tribes had placed at least one of their own leaders on the throne of Babylonia: Eriba-Marduk of the Bit-Yakin, Nabû-šumu iškun of the Bit-Dakkuri and Mukin-zeri of the Bit-Amukani (see Brinkman in n.73 above).

82 In CTN 5, p. 9, Saggs lists 40 texts connected with the Mukin-zeri rebellion. This group of letters has recently been discussed in Fales (TP III) who has reduced the number of letters relating to Mukin-zeri to 21. With respect to Fales (TP III p. 182 n. 89), e.g., no. 104 can be added to the group, due to the mention of Nabû-ušabši, chief of the Chaldean tribe of Bit-Šilani. Mukin-zeri is of course also known from contemporary Neo-Babylonian letters; cf. Cole Governor's Archive p. 434.

83 The author' s name (of no. 133) has not survived, however, contrary to the arguments expressed by both Saggs (see CTN 5 pp. 9, 16) and Fales TP III p. 175, it seems impossible to identify the Chaldean chieftain Merodachbaladan as the author/sender of the letter because its reverse mentions " the son of Yakin" (= Merodach-baladan), on whom a treaty is to be imposed, several times.

84 In CTN 5, p. 17, the author wonders whether Nabû-naṣir present in the text could be the king of Babylonia. Fales TP III p. 175, however, does not consider this hypothesis.

85 This episode may relate to the events recounted in Tiglath-pileser's annals (cf. RINAP 1 47: 13f, 51:17 = Tadmor Tigl. Summ. 7 and II).

86 From the outset, it seems that Merodach-baladan collaborated with the Assyrians. As regards Balassu, there are no clear indications as to whether he was loyal to the Assyrians from the beginning or not. He appears twice in Tiglath-pileser's summary inscriptions (see RINAP 1 47:26, 51:18 = Tadmor Tigl. Summ. 7 and 11) which group events together geographically, disregarding the chronological detaiIs of his reign.

87 See, e.g., Cole Governor's Archive p. 164 and id. Nippur p. 31.

88 But note that Dilbat and Nippur were "under heavy Dakkūrian influence" at the time (Cole Nippur p. 22 n. 92 and ibid. passim). Moreover, Babylon and Borsippa were not immune to this Dakkurian influence; cf., e.g., Cole Nippur p. 33 n. 77; SAA 17, nos . 21-22,59,62-85, 106, 118 and of course many Nimrud Letters sent from Babylonia (Chapter 6 and possibly also nos. 201-202) in this volume.

89 No. 100.

90 See Fales TP III p. 182 and idem Moving pp. 95 and 107 on Mukin-zeri' s contacts with the middle-Euphrates area.

91 In 730 BC, the annals (see TadmorTigl. p. 234f) tell that the king remained in Assyria, but this does not prevent his generals from continuing the Babylonian offensive without him.

92 See RINAP I 47:23ff, 51: 16 (Tadmor Tigl. Summ. 7 and ll) and no.140.

93 No. 80. With regard to the final destiny of Mukin-zeri, some doubts have been raised due to the verb used by Aššur-sallimanni, that is to say that duāku may also be interpreted as "defeated" (see Brinkman, Festschrift Oppenheim p. 10 n. 24) or as "captured" (see Fales TP III p. 184f).

94 See the section "Babylonia and the Mukin-zeri Rebellion".

95 Tiglath-pileser III's royal inscriptions do not record the Assyrian king placing a governor within the city of Babylon, but merely in the territories to the north of the city, where the previously conquered Aramaic tribes lived; see notes 106 and 116. The only governor cited is that of Nippur (šandabakku), the author of no. 139 who is also mentioned in another letter (no. 125). Note, however, šakin "governor" or " prefect" (Šamaš-bunaya?) in no. 133 r.9.

96 Aššur-šallimanni, being indirectly cited (his name is not mentioned), is present as governor of Arrapha in Tiglath-pileser's summary inscriptions (RINAP 1 47:14, 51:17= Tadmor Tigl. Summ. 7 and 11). It appears that he enjoyed the trust and respect of the Assyrian king, an honour not reserved for many of his governors in his inscriptions.

97 Nos. 80-87. In addition no.88 is tentatively attributed to him.

98 No. 83.

99 No. 84.

100 The sender/writer of nos. 108- 109. 11l-112 and perhaps 110. He is also the sender/writer of two more letters, 113 and 114 which may not relate to Babylonia.

101 Foremost , he is the sender of letters referring to the Mukin-zeri revolt, nos. 81 (a letter by Aššur-šallimanni), 98 l00-102 and probably 99. The same Šamaš-bunaya may appear in no. 177 r.2, but it is not entirely certain whether the name should be interpreted partly broken, as Šamaš-buna[ya] or e.g., Šamaš-ban[î], Šamaš-bani-[ahhe], Šamaš-bani-[apli], Šamaš-bani-[edi] or Šamaš-ban[û'a] or intact as Šamaš-ibni.

102 Nos. 120 and 141.

103 For the element bunaya in Neo-Assyrian personal names, see Aššur-buna'i and Aššur-buna'i-uṣur (PNA 1/I p. 176f) as well as Bel-buna'i (PN A l/II p. 289). Strikingly, most of these men with the said element in their name were high-ranking officials, functioning as eponyms earlier in the ninth century.

104 For this reason several letters sent from Babylonia, now attributed to Tiglath-pieser III, could 111 fact be dated to the reign of Shalmaneser V. Beyond any doubt are those letters pertinent to the Mukin-zeri revolt.

105 See SAA 15, xiii-xxiii.

106 The Assyrians completed the conquest of Babylonia in 729 BC, i.e., in the final part of the reign of Tiglath-pileser III. By that time the Assyrian motherland had already expanded to include the Aramaic tribes of the mid-Euphrates (745 BC), Parsua and Media in the Zagros (744 BC and 737 BC), Ulluba in the north (739 BC), the neo-Hittite states of Syria and of the north east (743-740 BC and 738 BC) and the Levant (734-732 BC).

107 Tadmor Tigl. p. 117ff.

108 See RINAP 1 47:11f, 51:9f (Tadmor Tigl. Summ. 7 and 11).

109 See RINAP 1 40:2, 47:1, 51:l (Tadmor Tigl. Summ. 2. 7 and 11).

110 See the section "Governors Appointed by Tiglath-pileser III" (above). Tadmor Tigl. pp. 62f [Ann . 191, 98f [Iran Stele 1 Bl. 124-27 [Summ. 1], 130-35 [Summ. 2 and 3], 138f [Summ. 4], 150-53 [Summ. 6], 160f [Summ. 7], 166f [Summ. 7], 186f [Summ. 9], 194f [Summ. 11]).

111 "At the time of Šamaš-buna[ya ... ] a certain Hair used to send ... [...](as) hostages. They were caught [ ... ], and [ ... ]. [In the days] of Assur-belu-taqqin, who [ ... ] ... " SAA 17 95:4-8.

112 Nos. 98. 100-102.

113 See the section "Different Introductory Formulae."In this case, note the omission of the word "king" which must have been deliberate.

114 No. 142 (date probably c. 730, see TABLE II above).

115 SAA 134, a letter from Sennacherib, mentions sukkallu dannu (r.12). These are the letters addressed to the Vizier from the reign of Sargon: SAA I 123, 191, 244(?); SAA 5 168; SAA 15 138, 169; SAA 17 20-21 , 64-66, 77-78, 95,132, 136,141-142, 170(?) and 177(?).

116 Babylonia became an Assyrian province in 710 BC, see Fuchs Sar. p. 426. In Sargon II's annals, the governor of Babylon was cited for the first time, see Fuchs Sar. p.335. For Šarru -emuranni as governor of Babylon, see SAA 15 p.256.

Mikko Luukko

Mikko Luukko, 'Babylonia and the Muki-zeri Rebellion ', The Correspondence of Tiglath-Pileser III and Sargon II from Calah/Nimrud, SAA 19. Original publication: Winona Laka, IN, Eisenbrauns, 2012; online contents: SAAo/SAA19 Project, a sub-project of MOCCI, 2021 []

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SAAo/SAA19, 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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