Following their military conquests, the Assyrians usually deported part of the population that had inhabited the conquered territory. They had two main objectives in doing this. The first was to provide servile labour for the cultivation of the largest possible area of land, especially in the Assyrian motherland;[[145]] a smaller proportion of the deportees, however, were destined to serve in the principal temples and households of the empire. The second objective was to disperse and disunite the ruling classes of individual peoples with the intention of denying their sense of identity, their language and customs and, in some cases, possibly also their religion. This second objective is formulated in the royal inscriptions as "I made them as Assyrians" or "I counted them people of Assyria."[[146]]

The deportation of large numbers of people to the centre, aimed at repopulating central Assyria which was demographically impoverished by continuing military campaigns,[[147]] served only to create the same problem at the periphery. For this reason the Assyrians adopted a system known as "two- way" deportation.[[148]] In this way, areas that had been emptied of useful labour were repopulated with people from other areas. The consequences of deportations were naturally far-reaching as the system effectively broke the indi-vidual's cultural and territorial ties, though it could not thwart his plans to revolt against his new overlords.

There are altogether at least 22 Nimrud Letters that deal with this subject matter either explicitly or implicitly.[[149]] TABLE III briefly presents the rough data of these letters.

TABLE III Deportations and Deportees according to the Nimrud Letters
Letter Deportees Journey (not necessarily to the place of destination) Date of the letter
No.3 s.lff Deportees coming from Damacus From Damascus to Arpad(?) c. 732
No. 6 Captives from the king Captives given by the king " to the [other] side (of the river)" . Presumably referring to the Orontes - (c. 732?)
No. 22 r.16ff[[150]] 10 Yasubean households From Yasubu (in Babylonia) via Immiu to Kašpuna in the west (cf. no.23 r.6ff) c. 734- 731
No. 23 Hiram, king of Tyre Not specified c. 731- 730
No. 27 Possibly captives from Tabal and Que Broken away - (c . 732?)
No. 40 Captives from Til-Barsip Broken away c. 732
No. 46 Captives from Que (?) Broken away - (c. 732?)
No. 55[[151]] Tutammû, ruler of Unqi, and his notables (lit. "his eunuchs") From Unqi possiblty to Calah 738
No. 56 29 persons of the Puqudu tribe From Naṣibini (?) (and Barhalza) to Calah 729-727
No. 65[[152]] Ullubaean deportees From Ulluba to Naṣibina, apparently taking part in a campaign going via Kilizi 739
No. 81[[153]] 6000 Arameans of the tribes from the lower Tigris[[154]] From southern (?) Babylonia to northern Babylonia (i.e., to Šamaš-bunaya) and to his walled towns in Arrapha c. 729
No. 87:10ff Balassu, the leader of the Bit-Dakkuri, offers himself to be deported Not certain whether he was deported or not but cf. SAA 1 1 r.57ff. (ND 2759) and below c. 731-730
No. 93 Broken away Possibly from Babylonia to the east -
No. 101 People (temporarily?) in Larak and Nippur (-recruiting) People from Larak and Nippur to an unspecified destination c. 729
No. 102 373 Babylonians and/or Arameans From Šamaš-bunaya (Babylonia) to the king c . 73 1- 729
No. 103 Deportees from Mount Hasuatti From Mount Hasuatti to or via Babylonia (possibly further form the east) c . 738
No. 127 Arameans living in Borsippa deported by the Elamites and the son of Muki-zeri From Borsippa to Elam 731 - 730
No. 141 Deportees or Abi-hari's men (recruiting) Abi-hari provide 100 men for the royal mule express service) c . 731-729
SAA 1 1 (ND 2759) Balassu (r. 19ff.) and Aplayu (= Merodach-baladan?, r. 28ff, cg. No. 84:10) Balassu and his people: the choice between living in Que or Calah/Assyria; Alpaya and his people from Que to Calah c. 715
No. 175[[155]] Rougly 400 men of the Suhean[[156]] (recruiting) Not specified Reign of Sargon II
No. 177 198 men from the mid- Euphrates (recruiting) From the mid-Euphrates to Calah -
No. 225 Food given possibly to the deportees Broken away -

Many of these letters were written during the reign of Tiglath-pileser III and in some cases the narrated details can be traced to his royal inscriptions. The earliest episode recounted here is the conquest of Unqi/Pattina in 738 BC ,[[157]] but no mention of deportations of peoples of this state is known in the extant sources. However, they document the " two-way" deportation in which prisoners from Der and the Damunu tribe were deported to the cities of Unaqi.[[158]]

Captives from Til-Barsip (no. 40, cf. no. 41) were probably to be resettled elsewhere. No. 103 mentions two groups of deportees, defined as " the for- mer" and "the later" people from(?) Hasuatti, who are listed on writing- boards at the disposal of the chief judge, perhaps hinting at a change in the population resulting from deportations .[[159]] As regards no. 17 , it is more likely that the letter is about providing (professional) Aramean troops than depor- tees,[[160]] although if no. 18 is directly connected to the previous letter, then it seems that these troops were to be relocated permanently (the two letters are not listed in TABLE III) .[[161]]

Nos. 81, 101 and 102 are of particular interest as they belong to a homo- geneous group that concerns the deportations that followed Tiglath-pileser III's campaign against the Chaldean leader Nabû-mukin-zeri.[[162]] From an analysis of these letters it is possible to recognize the two principal objectives of the deportations ordered by the Assyrians, e.g., the movement of 6,000 people in no. 81 is probably designed to provide a workforce for the regions of the empire emptied of able-bodied men.

Taking it as a whole, this group of letters demonstrates the Assyrians' continuous effort in organizing deportations. Such an effort required an enormous organisational ability on many levels; firstly, the deportees had to be selected ,[[163]] followed by a valuation of the available supplies,[[164]] and the choice of an appropriate route to be undertaken by the deportees. These people would have been transported on foot unless they already possessed their own mode of transport, such as carts, chariots or wagons .[[165]] In the light of these considerations it should not be a surprise that, as testified by no. 81, the organisation of the movement of 6,000 deportees might actually take up a very long time.

Generally speaking, the information provided by these letters is often scant and somewhat scattered; seldom do they tell us anything about the back- ground leading up to the events. In some cases the reader struggles to make a distinction between an actual deportation, a forced recruitment or mercenaries selling their services, as there is little distinction in how the letters depict very different situations. For instance, no. 175 may demonstrate a selection of a specialized workforce or military personnel to be absorbed into the Assyrian army. Given the mention of pairs of teams of horses and mules, and of baggage trains at their disposal, the men , chariots and animals were probably all destined to form a new unit of Aramaic soldiers within the Assyrian army[[166]].

Suffice it to say, therefore, that without external sources it is at times difficult if not impossible to determine whether a given letter - that may also be too broken to provide reliable information - concerns a deportation.[[167]] Occasionally, recruitment to a campaign may also have been the result of fulfilling a treaty obligation (possibly so in no. 84 and in the above-mentioned 175);[[168]] this is an important issue that leads us to the next section.

145 See Oded Deportations p. 28, according to whom the deportations were directed towards the centre of the empire in 85% of the cases that could be reliably studied. The farmers of Aššur-nirka-uṣur (no. 15) cultivating in Kilizi and appealing to the king may have been deportees (cf. Oded Deportations pp. 49 , 60 [n. 136], 98).

146 See e.g. Oded Deportations pp. 81-91 and Machinist, "Assyrians on Assyria in the First Millennium B.C.," in K. Raaflaub (ed.), Anfänge politischen Denkens in der Antike (Munich 1993) 77-104, esp. p. 86ff.

147 During the reigns of Tiglath-pileser III and Sargon II, as detailed in their annals, it was usual to run one major military campaign every year. As most of the soldiers of the Assyrian army were recruited from the agrarian population, it is obvious that the ensuing numerous battles would diminish the agricultural workforce.

148 See Oded Deportations p. 29f.

149 Nos. 49 and 74 may not concern deportees, although cf. Oded Deportations p. 38. On the other hand, the booty transferred from Damascus to Assyria (SAA l 175 =NO 2381) presumably included deportees (Oded Deportations pp. 8, 37,64 ln. 170]). No. 12 concerns the Arabs who seem to have been "resettled" or "deported" by an Assyrian provincial governor of Hindanu or a vassal ruler of Hindanu. The wording "Hindanean" may support the latter option (cf. no. 84: 12), but cf., e.g., Raṣappayu in SAA 5 254: Sf. The status of Hindanu is not clear in Tiglath-pilesers's reign as it is not mentioned in his royal inscriptions. However, Yadi-il 's and Mukin-zeri 's activities (see no. 126) may have given Tiglath-pi Ieser a reason, or at least a good excuse, for putting an end to Hindanu 's autonomy, however illusory it may have been. No. 115 r.6ff may or may not concern a deportation, "[x] houses from Mazamua and three from Urzuhina have c[ome] to Sippar. They are picking up all of their barley [which] they left there." This may be explained in at least two different ways: either the Assyrian soldiers are revisiting Sippar after a campaign or the former citizens of Sippar, who were deported to Mazamua and Urzuhina, are given an unexpected opportunity to collect their barley from their hometown. In no. 179, titled "Houses to Huzirina," we may witness a deviating glimpse of the Assyrian settlement policy when apparently Assyrian families are to be relocated to Huzirina, probably the same town which is better known as Sultantepe because of its cuneiform tablet hoard.

150 Oded Deportations pp. 24 and 48. The same letter also mentions 30 Ši'aneans placed in Kaspuna who may have been mercenaries.

151 Ibid. p. 8.

152 Cf. ibid. p. 9.

153 See Fales, Festschrift Balestrazzi p. 5lff.

154 See RINAP 1 39: 12f (Tadmor Tig l. Summ. 1) that lists Puqudu, Ru'ua and Li'tau. The same tribes were also deported by Sennacherib who had them moved to Assur (see Oded Deportations pp. 128, 130f).

155 Cf. Oded Deportations p. 37.

156 The word "opposite" in "I have not counted the men but there are some 400 men opposite me" may make it more difficult to fully understand the role of these 400 men in the letter (no. 175 r.6-9).

157 For the conquest of Unqi, see RINAP 1 12 (Tadmor Tigl. Ann. 25).

158 Ibid. p. 66f.

159 See the critical apparatus on no. 103 r.l 1f. It may not be impossible, though it is perhaps unlikely, to translate instead "the f[or]mer (people from) Mount Hasuatti and the later (people to) Mount Hasuatti."

160 But for the "deportees" interpretation, cf. Oded Deportations pp. 39, 98.

161 In any vcase, note a potentially meaningful difference between armāya "Arameans" (no. 18:4) and LÚ.ERIM.MEŠ armāya "Aramean troops/men" (no.17:5f).

162 RINAP 1, nos. 41, 47 and 51 (Tadmor Tigl. Summ. 3, 7, 11). No. 81, in particular, could relate to a specific episode mentioned in the royal inscriptions, see RINAP 1 39:12f (Tadmor Tigl. Summ. 1, in which the Assyrian king boasts of having beaten the Aramaic tribes of Puqudu, Ru'ua and Li'tau and of having them deported. No. 56, on 29 Puqudu deportees or professional troops, is thus a letter which may (in)directly relate to the Mukin-zeri rebellion.

163 Obviously not the entire population of a city or a tribe would be deported, and consequently there must have been determining criteria by which the eventual deportees would be chosen. Unfortunately nowhere are such criteria explicitly stated; however, the leaders and the majority of the working age male population were the most likely to be deported.

164 The deportees were usually supplied by an institutional authority (king(s), governor(s) or other administrators),

see e.g. nos. 56 and 81.

165 See e.g. no. 175.

166 Episodes of this type are not unusual, see S . Dalley, "Foreign Chariotry and Cavalry in the Armies of Talath-pileser III 1 and Sargon II," Iraq 47 ( 1985) 31-48.

167 For the benefits and difficulties of us in g Neo-Assyrian letters for information about deportations, see Oded Deportations pp. 8-11. .

168 The following treaties published in SAA 2 discuss (in no unclear terms) the obligation of a treaty partner to provide men for an Assyrian campaign (nos.2 r. iv 1-3 and 9:23-25) or to protect the Assyrian crown prince apparent (nos. 6:49-5 1, 99f, 1 67-72 and.9:10f). In certain cases, such protection might also be applied as a pretext. .

Mikko Luukko

Mikko Luukko, 'Deportations', 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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