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Rebellion, Sargon II’s “Punishment” and the Death of Aššur-nādin-šumi in the Inscriptions of Sennacherib

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Abstract

Despite the frequency of rebellions against the Neo-Assyrian king Sennacherib, very few events in his annals are described as such. Instead rebels are often described as having never submitted to Sennacherib before. This reluctance to write about rebellion is unusual in Assyrian inscriptions, but has not been commented upon in the previous scholarship. This study investigates the reasons for this peculiarity of Sennacherib’s inscriptions. It is argued that the description of rebels in this fashion was intended to draw attention away from the connection between these events and the death of Sennacherib’s father, Sargon II. A second instance of a death in Sennacherib’s family affecting the content of his inscriptions is also identified. His son Aššur-nādin-šumi’s death followed a pair of campaigns to the borders of Tabal, the location of Sargon’s death. Because of this it was viewed as a “punishment” for undertaking these campaigns to regions tainted by association with Sargon. After his death, Aššur-nādin-šumi is never mentioned in the same inscription as these campaigns. Although Sennacherib generally avoids mentioning rebellion, overcoming such events was an important facet of Assyrian royal ideology. Because of this, events in some ideologically or historically significant regions are explicitly stated to be rebellions in the annals. Sennacherib’s inscriptions therefore demonstrate, perhaps better than those of any other Assyrian king, the two sides of rebellion’s ideological importance as both an obstacle overcome by a heroic king, and as a punishment for a poor one. His attempts to obscure some occurrences of rebellion demonstrate a fear of the more negative ideological aspect of rebellion which is not usually present in the inscriptions of other kings. This provides new insight into the factors which influenced the composition of Sennacherib’s inscriptions.

Abbreviations

BIWA

Borger, Rykle. 1996. Beiträge zum Inschriftenwerk Assurbanipals: Die Prismenklassen A, B, C = K, D, E, F, G, H, J und T. Wiesbaden: Harrasowitz.

BWL

Lambert, Wilfried G. 1960. Babylonian Wisdom Literature. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

RIMA 1

Grayson, A. Kirk. 1987. Assyrian Rulers of the Third and Second Millennia BC (to 1115 BC). Toronto, Buffalo, and London: University of Toronto Press.

RIMA 2

Grayson, A. Kirk. 1991. Assyrian Rulers of the Early First Millennium BC, I (1114-859 BC). Toronto, Buffalo, and London: University of Toronto Press.

RIMA 3

Grayson, A. Kirk. 1996. Assyrian Rulers of the Early First Millennium BC, II (858-745 BC). Toronto, Buffalo, and London: University of Toronto Press.

RINAP 1

Tadmor, Hayim, and Shigeo Yamada. 2011. The Royal Inscriptions of Tiglath-pileser III (744-727 BC), and Shalmaneser V (726-722 BC), Kings of Assyria. Winona Lake: Eisenbraums.

RINAP 3/1

Grayson, A. Kirk, and Jamie Novotny. 2012. The Royal Inscriptions of Sennacherib, King of Assyria (704-681 BC), Part 1. Winona Lake: Eisenbraums.

RINAP 3/2

Grayson, A. Kirk, and Jamie Novotny. 2014. The Royal Inscriptions of Sennacherib, King of Assyria (704-681 BC), Part 2. Winona Lake: Eisenbraums.

RINAP 4

Leichty, Erle. 2011. The Royal Inscriptions of Esarhaddon, King of Assyria (680-669 BC). Winona Lake: Eisenbraums.

SAA 3

Livingstone, Alasdair. 1989. Court Poetry and Literary Miscellanea. Helsinki: The Neo-Assyrian Text Corpus Project.

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Published Online: 2017-4-13
Published in Print: 2017-6-27

© 2017 Walter de Gruyter Inc., Boston/Berlin

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