What Was the Method of Governing in the Assyrian Empire?

Throughout most of its 19 centuries of dominance in the ancient Near East from 2500 BC to 605 BC, the method of governance in the Assyrian Empire was a strong monarchy. The king's authority was bolstered by a powerful army and, at the height of the Assyrian Empire, by a well-organized central bureaucracy whose leadership collected tribute and military draftees.

The historical extent of the Assyrian Empire is broken into three periods designated as Old Assyrian, Middle Assyrian and Neo-Assyrian. The Neo-Assyrian Empire became the most powerful empire in the world up to that time. The king often controlled entire populations of conquered peoples by exiling them far from their original homelands. Of others, he exacted tribute through the administrators set up in each province. His main strength, however, was his standing army, a disciplined and well-equipped fighting force continually strengthened by conscription.

Another factor that strengthened the king's control over his empire was religion. He was not only head of the secular political administration, but also the high priest of Ashur, the official god. As such, he provided the temples and priests with financial support and sustenance, and the priests emerged as powerful figures in society. The king's position as all-powerful monarch did not prevent internal discord. The history of the Assyrian Empire is fraught with assassinations of the rulers, often by close relatives. However, the ubiquitous strong army and harsh laws with severe punishments for infractions kept the empire in order.