Treaties and Loyalty Oaths

In the early first millennium BC, by concluding treaties with foreign rulers and tribal leaders, the Assyrians had created a sly method of meddling in other powerful Near Eastern states. Using treaties, the Assyrians were able to establish peaceful relations with many of their neighbours and they could often dictate terms that were extremely beneficial to them; ideologically, this certainly supported their intelligence operations which, it may be maintained, were meant for nothing less than protecting and monitoring the established world order. It is probably correct to say, without exaggeration, that in many ways the treaties provide the key for understanding the relations (and their development) between the Assyrians and other states or powerful tribes, whose most influential or charismatic leaders must have acted as treaty partners.

Now, for the first time, this volume provides evidence that during Tiglath-pileser's reign such a treaty was imposed on Merodach-baladan of the Bit-Yakin (no. 133) and possibly also on the king of Ashdod[[169]] (no. 28). More- over, we should not dismiss the possibility that Tiglath-pileser' s conquest of Babylonia may have required less fighting than is generally assumed. This may have happened by "ensnaring"[[170]] Babylonian chieftains and sheikhs by means of treaties and loyalty oaths which may have created animosity bet- ween these tribal leaders.[[171]] For instance, a treaty similar to that imposed on Merodach-baladan is also very likely to have been sworn by Balassu of the Bit-Dakkuri and Nadinu of Larak. The assumption that they were bound by a treaty would help us understand their behaviour and obligations in certain circumstances which are recorded in the Nimrud Letters and other contemporary documents. In addition to the leaders of the most powerful Chaldean tribes in Babylonia, Merodach-baladan, Balassu and Mukin-zeri (of the Bit- Amukani) belong to this category;[[172]] some of the less influential tribal leaders were also under strict obligations arising from unbalanced loyalty oaths they concluded with the king of Assyria. For example, as is known from Tiglath-pileser's royal inscriptions, Zakir, leader of the Chaldean tribe of Bit-Ša'alli, broke his treaty and was captured by the Assyrians,[[173]] and it may be that the events discussed in no. 87 sealed his destiny. According to the same inscriptions, Nabû-ušabši, leader of the Bit-Šilani (also a Chaldean tribe), was apparently Zakir's partner in crime and suffered the fate of being impaled at the hands of the Assyrians.[[174]] He may have received a mention in no. 104 r.2 and/or r.S, a letter from Nabû-nammir. In a Babylonian context, the importance of adhering to the Assyrian treaties is carefully emphasized at the end of no. 140, a letter from Hamapi (possibly likewise a tribal leader): "By that very command, whoever transgresses your word (or) alters your treaty, will be consigned into your hands" (lines r.Sff).

169 The geographical name is partly broken. Yamada, Festschrift Eph'al pp. 302f, 309, restores "[The Arwa]dite' which is a good alternative, for Arwad being almost immediately to the north of Ṣimirra .

170 It can of course be that the sentence, Kaldu ana sihirtīšu hulāiriš ashup "I ensnared Chaldea in its entirety as with a bird-snare." RINAP I 47:15 (Tadmor Tigl. Summ. 7), and especially its simile huhāriš or kīma huhāri, with a derisive tone, is merely a literary device (for the use of this sayin, see CAD H 224f, CAD S 3.1 and Tadmor Tigl. p. 161 n. to line 15) Without any reference to the actual means of achieving the goal, i.e., conquering Babylonia or parts of it.

171 On formal treaties between different Babylonian power blocs in the eighth century, based on the attestations in Cole Governor's Archive, see S. Ponchia's·Notes on the Legal Conventions and on the Practice of the adê in the Early Neo-Babylonian Letters from Nippur,'" SAAB 14, 2002-2005 (2006) 133-167. On earlier Assyro-Babylonian treaties, cf. SAA 2, xviii.

172 For example, the importance of the three most influential Chaldean tribes, Bit-Yakin, Bit-Amukani and Bit-Dakkuri, to Babylonian kingship is, interestingly, subsequently presented by a well -known seventh-century Babylonian scholar, Bel-ušezib , in his SAA 10 112 r. 27-29.

173 RINAP I 47:19-22, 25, 51:12-15 (Tadmor Tigl. Summ. 7 and 9).

174 RINAP I 47 :15-17 (Tadmor Tigl. Summ. 7) records his defeat and death by impalement before the gate of his city Sarrabanu. but RINAP I 51:1 2-15 (Tadmor Tig l. Summ. 9) presents a shorter version, stating only that Nabû-ušabši was captured.

Mikko Luukko

Mikko Luukko, 'Treaties and Loyalty Oaths', 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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