ashurnasirpal ii the merciless

Ashurnasirpal II

Ashur-nasir-pal II (transliteration: Aššur-nâṣir-apli, meaning "Ashur is guardian of the heir) was king of Assyria from 884 BC-859 BC.

Ashur-nasir-pal II succeeded his father, Tukulti-Ninurta II, in 884 BC. He conquered Mesopotamia and the territory of what is now the Lebanon, adding them to the growing Assyrian empire. He also viciously ended a rebellion in the city of Suru in Bit-Halupe. He was renowned for his brutality, using enslaved captives to build a new Assyrian capital at Kalhu (Nimrud) in Mesopotamia where he refounded the city and built many impressive monuments. He was also a shrewd administrator who realised that he could gain greater control over his empire by installing Assyrian governors rather than by depending on local client rulers paying tribute.

He was succeeded by his son Shalmaneser III.

Campaigns of Ashurnasirpal II, 883 - 859 BC

For more details on this topic, see Ashurnasirpal II's campaigns in Lebanon


Ashurnasirpal II's brutal treatment of rebels ensured that the absence of his army would not incite more revolts. Taking his army, which was typically composed of infantry (including auxiliaries and foreigners), heavy & light cavalry and chariots, Ashurnasirpal surprised the Neo-Hittites and Aramaen states of northern Syria. Resistance was almost certainly encountered but many of the smaller cities immediately surrendered, often by rushing in advance of their settlement's location and offering tribute. Such tribute would naturally come with acts of humiliation, as Ashurnasirpal II proudly documents:

The tribut of the sea coast - from the inhabitants of Tyre, Sidon, Byblos, Mahallata, Kaiza, Amurru and Arvad which is an Island in the sea, consisting of gold, silver, tin, copper, copper-containers, linen garments with multi-colored trimmings, large and small monkeys, ebony, boxwood, ivory from walrus tusk, a product of the sea - this their tribute I received and they embraced my feet

In the previous text Ashurnasirpal II mentions an Island, Cyprus demonstrating that Assyrian armies were not defeated by large bodies of water.


Ashurnasirpal II did not annex the Phoenician cities but instead only aimed to establish them as a source of raw materials for the Assyrian war machine. Iron was needed for weapons, Lebanese cedar for construction, gold and silver for the payment of troops; in the end however, Ashunasirpal's campaigns were only a short-term success.

Beauty of Assyria; Palace of Ashurnasirpal II

Ashur-nasir-pal II's palace was built and completed in 879 BC in Kalhu, which is in modern-day Iraq slightly north of Baghdad. The palace walls were lined with reliefs carved in alabaster. These reliefs bore elaborate carvings, many portraying the king surrounded by winged protective spirits, or engaged in hunting or on campaign. Each also had text inscribed in it. This text was the same or very similar on each relief and is therefore called the Standard Inscription. The Standard Inscription begins by tracing Ashur-nasir-pal II's lineage back three generations and recounts his military victories, defines the boundaries of his empire, tells how he founded Kalhu, and built the palace.

The British archaeologist, A.H. Layard excavated Kalhu in the 1840s, uncovering the North-West Palace of Ashurnasirpal II. Today, many of the reliefs from the excavations in Nimrud, adorn the galleries of the British Museum, London, with a few other reliefs on display in museums in Europe, Japan and the USA.


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