Datable Letters

Due to their archival context and the specific historical events mentioned in them, the "Nimrud Letters" are datable to the reigns of Tiglath-pileser III (744-727) and Sargon II (721 -705), but it cannot be ruled out that some of the letters also originate from the short reign of Shalmaneser V (726-722). He is known in this corpus by his birth name Ululayu as the sender/author of four letters to his father Tiglath-pileser III. It may be stressed here that in the State Archives of Assyria series the overriding principle for the order in which the letters are presented in each volume is a personal dossier that relegates the day or year dates (that are not usually given in letters) to secondary status. In practice, it is almost as frustrating as it is exciting to date Neo-Assyrian letters, which are only exceptionally dated , and this is no exception with the Nimrud Letters.[[48]] As a rule, the main criteria for dating Neo-Assyrian letters are archival context, personal names - especially the appearance of the eponym officials who can be linked to the datable eponym chronicle - geographic details,[[49]] topics that may be connected to known historical events, or a combination of these factors.

Generally speaking, a sizable group of the Nimrud Letters originates from the latter part of Tiglath-pileser's reign and from the relatively early years or mid-reign of Sargon II. If it could be proven that some of the letters were sent to Shalmaneser V, this might naturally alter our view of these letters. In this corpus, there are some officials who seem to be attested during both Tiglath- pileser' s and Sargon' s reigns and who thus help us bridge over the period\ from the reign of Tiglath-pileser to that of Sargon.[[50]] The letters or dossiers that may be approximately dated are presented in descending order in TABLE II.

TABLE II. Datable Nimrud Letters

Sender, profession Letter(s)Proposed date Grounds or reference for dating
Aššur-le'iNo. 74c. 739 (?)Possibly connected with Tgl 's campaign to Ullu- ba; Inurta-ila'i
Nabû-eṭiranniNo. 65c. 739 (?)Ullubaean deportees in the service of Inurta-ila'i i
Inurta-ila'i, governor of Naṣibinano. 55738The conquest of Unqi
Nabû-nammir, vizierNo. 103c. 738Deportees from Mount Hasuatti
SulayaNo. 47c. 738-732Aššur-remanni (governor of Calneh) and governor of Arpad mentioned
Qurdi-Aššur-lamur, governor of ṢimirraNo. 28c. 737-734See Yamada , Festschrift Eph'al p. 303
NNNo . 76Probably 735Campaign to Urarṭu , see esp. Tadmor, Festschrift Eph'al p. 269-73
NNNo. 133c. 734Mukin-zeri; Nabû-naṣir, king[?] of Babylonia 748/747-734); treaty with Merodach-baladan
NNNo . 151c. 734-733New Year Festival to be celebrated in Babylon; the son of Nabonassar (Nabù-naṣir), obviously Nabû-nadin-zeri , mentioned as king (?) of Babylonia
Qurdi-Aššur-lamur, governor of ṢimirraNo. 22c. 734-731Tyre under Assyrian conernor of Simirra trol and Kašpuna fortified and occupied (cf. Yamada, Festschrift Eph'al p. 302)
Šarru-duri, governor of CalahNo. 12c. 733-732The Hindanean ruler has removed the Arabs to the other side of the river: possibly related to the Assyrian campaign against Samsi, queen of the Arabs
Inurta-belu-uṣur , governor of ArpadNo. 33c. 732Campaign to Tabal
NNNo. 40c. 732Captives from Til-Barsip
NNNo. 41c. 732Probably related to no. 40
NNNo. 44c. 732Damascus, Hamath
NNNo. 45c. 732Damascus
King (Tgl)No.6Possibly 732Captives to be provided in Calneh
King (Tgl) to Inurta-belu-uṣurNo.3732Campaigns against the Arabs and Tabaleans; deportees from Damascus
Nabû-nammirNo. 104c. 732-731Nabù-ušabši, ruler of Bit-Šilani , is still alive. See PNA 2/II, p. 901a s.v. Nabù-ušabši no. 1
Nadinu(?) of LarakNo. 130c. 732-730Nadinu(?) threatened by Bit-Amukani and Mukin-zeri
Aššur-šallimanni , governor of ArraphaNos. 86- 87c. 731-730Mukin-zeri rebellion
NNNo. 147c. 731-730Unrest in Dilbat: the Mukin-zeri rebellion
Qurdi-Aššur-lamur, governor of ṢimirraNos. 23 and 25c. 731-730Hiram (Hi-rumu) of Tyre commits a crime (cf. Yamada, Festschrift Eph al p. 301)
Governor of NippurNo. 139Probably 731 or 729 Tgl campaigning in BabyIonia: "The king is residing in the land" line 9
[Abi]-hari (of Gambulu)No. 141c. 731-729Abi-hari provides men for the royal mule express service , probably at the time of Mukin-zeri rebellion
Šamaš-ilai, governor of Halzi-atbarNo. 68739 (?) Perhaps a letter written after Tgl's successful campaign to Ulluba
Aššur-šallimanni, governor of ArraphaNo . 82731 (?)Elamite movements around Der
DummuquNo. 138731-730Mukin-zeri instigating Babylonians
NNNo. 127c.731-730The Elamites and the son of Mukin-zeri united
NN (Aššur-šallimanni?)No. 128c. 731-730Merodach-baladan and barley from Salamu's household: probably related to the Mukin-Zeri rebellion
Šamaš-bunaya, Assyrian prefect in northern BabyloniaNo. 102c. 731-729Babylonians arrested and sent to the king
Nabû-balassu-iqbi (= Balassu , ruler of Bit-Dakku-ri ?)Nos. 135-137c. 731-729Letters probably related to the Mukin-zeri rebellion no. 135: The clansmen of Dur-ša-Balihaya; no. 137: No news of Babylon
NNNos.115-118731-729 tentatively (all about the boat traffic in Babylonia: possibly related to the Mukin-zeri rebellion)No. 115: houses from Mazamua and Urzuhina visiting Sippar; no. 117: Kudurru: the governor of Nippur?; no.118: Balassu
AšipâNos. 108-112731-729Transporting barley during the Mukin-zeri rebellion
Aššur-šallimanni, governor of ArraphaNo. 83-84731-729No. 83: transporting barley by boats; no. 84: recruiting men from Babylonia and the mid-Euphrates
Salamu (leader of the Puqudu, Li'tamu or Ru'ua tribe? Cf. nos. 104 r.3 and 128[[53]])No. 131731-729The sons of Mukin-zeri in Puqudu
NNNo. 126731-729Mukin-Zeri rebellion
NNNo. 132c. 731-729Babylonians arrested during the Mukin-zeri rebellion
Mušezib-iluNos. 119-120c. 731-729No. 119: Gambuleans in Arrapha. Mušezib-ilu from Arrapha (not?) to Dur-Kurigalzu; no. 120: transporting barley with Abi-hari (of Gambulu): probably related to the Mukin-zeri rebellion
NNNo. 121c. 731-729 (?)A fragment mentioning Mušezib-ilu (and boats?)
Nabû-damiq (or Nabû-udammiq , cf. PNA 2/II, p.820 s.v. Nabù-de ' iq)No. 134c. 731-729Horses and troops to Borsippa and Dilbat: Probably related to the Mukin-zeri rebellion
NNNo. 146c. 731-729Reinforcements in Babbitqi probably during the Muki-zeri rebellion
NNNo. 150c. 731-729Possibly booty and deportees from Dur-ša-Bali-haya (of Bit-Sa'alli)
Merodach-baladan, king of the SealandNo. 122Probably 731-729Merodach-baladan bringing barley in his boats to the king
NNNo. 125731 or 729 "The k[ing has com]e out" (lines 1 f) ; Mukin-zeri rebellion
Šamaš-bunaya, Assyrian prefect in northern Babylonia (and Nabû-nammir in nos. 98)Nos. 98; 100- 101c. 730 No. 98: Mukin-zeri in(?) Babylon; Dilbat; no. 100: troop movements in BabyIonia; no. 101: recruiting men from and between Marad (of Bit-Dakkuri) and Parak-mari
King (Tgl)No.7c. 730 The recipient is Belu-lu-dari, probably governor of Tillê and eponym of the year 730
NNNo . 129c. 730 Obviously written during the Mukin-zeri rebellion: no citizens of Babylon have deserted to the Assyrian side
IqipiNo. 142c. 730 The oblates of Cutha and Babylon arriving in a fortress (lines 9-13); this may relate to the events of no. 125 r.17ff
King (Tgl)No. 1 r.l5729-II-26 or 720-II-26The letter may indicate the end of "Mukin-zeri rebellion"
Aššur-šallimanni, governor of ArraphaNos. 80-81729No. 80: Mukin-zeri killed; no. 81: 6,000 Babylonian deportees probably resulting from the Mukin-zeri rebellion
HamapiNo. 140729Mukin-zeri and his allies are defeated
[Šamaš-bunaya, Assyrian prefect in northern BabyIonia , with Nabù-nammir]No. 99c. 729Babylon in Assyrian hands
Nabû-nammir, vizierNo. 105c. 729Possibly related to the end of the Mukin-zeri rebellion
Inurta-ila'iNo. 56729-727Inurta-ila'i is bringing the men of Puqudu to the Palace
[Qurdi-Aššur-lamur], governor of Ṣimirra or the chief eunuchNo. 24c. 728Metenna (Matenni) paying tribute to Assyria, see PNA 2/II, p . 750a
Nergal-ibniNo. 179c. 720Houses to Huz irina
[Nabû-belu-ka''in], governor of Kar-ŠarrukenSAA 15 84 (ND 2655)c. 716Constructing Kar-śar-ruken (see Saggs, Iraq 20 [1 958] 210)
Marduk-remanni , governor of CalahSAA1110 (ND 2765)c. 716Emissaries from the west, see GPA p.ll n .29a
King (Sargon II)SAA 1 1 (ND 2759)c. 715See Lanfranchi, SAAB 2 (1988) 59-64
Sennacherib, crown prince , NinevehSAA I 32 (ND 2608)715Urarṭians defeated by the Cimmerians (Lanfranchi , OA 22 [1983] 128-35)
Šulmu-beli , deputy of the palace heraldNo. 185714 (?)Urarṭian fort commanders are under arrest in Arbela
King (Sargon II)No. 154c. 710Aššur-belu-taqqin,[[54]] Assyrian prefect in Babylonia, is reviving the land (northern Babylonia)
NNNo. 200c. 710 Two forts of Aššur-belu-taqqin are mentioned
Sîn-ašaredNo. 199:5-7c. 710A "late" reference to Merodach-baladan: "The forces of the son of Zerî [[55]]are 250 cavalry (mounts); here are no archers of his"

48 Topically, geographically and prosopographically many Nimrud Letters could go either way, i.e., they could berom the time of Tiglath-pileser III or of Sargon II, see, e.g., how many personal names which occur in these letters are treated in PNA with the note "reign of Tiglath-pileser III or Sargon II".

49 In foreign geographical names in this corpus, especially in the case of the cities/towns in the west, it is often relevant to know when a given locality was subjugated, i.e., paid tribute to the king of Assyria or was annexed to Assyria.

50 Consider, e.g., no. 165 from Aššur-nirka-da"in, eponym of the year 720, to Nabû-nammir; the latter was active during Tiglath-pileser's late reign (c f. esp. nos. 98 and 104); no. 37 by Šamaš-ahu-iddina is to be dated to Tiglath-pileser's reign but the same official also appears in SAA I 172 (ND 2495); Bel-aplu-iddina is attested in Tiglath-pileser's reign (nos. 39 [but see p. lvi above] and 89) but with the present understanding no. 166 r.ll and perhaps also no. 200 r.6 originate from Sargon' s reign. The short Chapter 12, " Letters from Babylonia" from Sargon's reign is slightly problematic since no letters between Assyria and Babylonia can be attributed with certainty to the years 721-711; see SAA 15, xxxvi (bottom), xxxix and SAA 17, xvi-xviii and passim, although a date in 713 has been suggested for SAA 17 139 (ibid., xxviii).

51 But 738-734 according to O. Tammuz, SAAB 18 (2009-2010) 191.

52 Governor of Calah between 734 BC and 728 BC, see Grayson, SAAB 7 (1993) 44.

53 In no. 128 Salamu appears in the same context with the Li'tamu tribe; for the Puqudu, cf. also RINAP 1 39: 12f, 40:4-7,47:13 (Tadmor Tigl. Summ. 1, 2 and 7).

54 For Aššur-belu-taqqin, see the section "On Some Influential Figures in the Nimrud Letters".

55 For the "son of Zerî," cf. n. 199 (below).

Mikko Luukko

Mikko Luukko, 'Datable Letters', 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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