Tukulti-Ninurta I

views updated

Tukulti-Ninurta I

Circa 1243 - circa 1207 b.c.e.

King of assyria


The Middle Assyrian Kingdom. In the century after Ashuruballit I (circa 1363 - circa 1328 b.c.e.) established the Middle Assyrian kingdom as a major international power on a par with the Egyptians, Hittites, Mittanians, and Babylonians, the Assyrians’ need for imported raw materials grew dramatically. To secure access to supplies of copper, tin, lapis lazuli, and horses, the great warrior-king Tukulti-Ninurta I campaigned extensively in the mountains to the north and east, establishing control of access points to significant trade routes throughout the region.

Conflict with Babylon. Tukulti-Ninurta’s success increased tensions between the Assyrians and their Kassite Babylonian neighbors to the south. The Babylonians, who needed access to the same raw materials, had once viewed Assyria as a breakaway vassal state. Thus, while Tukulti-Ninurta I was campaigning to his north, the Babylonian king Kashtiliash IV (circa 1232 - circa 1225 b.c.e.) advanced his troops north into Assyrian-controlled territory. From the Assyrian perspective, the Babylonian action violated a treaty that had been in effect for a half century. The Epic of Tukulti-Ninurta, several fragments of which were found on cuneiform tablets discovered in Ashur and in Nineveh, recounts how Tukulti-Ninurta, after exhausting all available procedures based on the abrogated treaty and with the approval of the gods—both Assyrian and Babylonian—achieved military victory over Kashtiliash. Kashtiliash was captured and brought to Ashur in chains; Babylon’s wall was torn down, its temples looted, and the country annexed. A group of lapis-lazuli cylinder seals bearing dedicatory inscriptions to Marduk (the Babylonian national god), found in the ruins of a Mycenaean building in Thebes in Greece, may have been among those looted from Babylon by the Assyrians. Tukulti-Ninurta may have then sent them as a royal gift to a Greek prince in an effort to obtain an ally against their common enemy, the Hittites of Anatolia.

A New Capital. When Tukulti-Ninurta assumed kingship over Assyria and Babylonia, as befit his new status, he founded a new capital city, Kar-Tukulti-Ninurta, just three kilometers (two miles) north of the old capital, Ashur, on the opposite, east, bank of the Tigris River. Babylonian influences are found in the architecture of Kar-Tukulti-Ninurta, in the deities worshiped there, and in the Akkadian and Sumerian literary compositions produced in Assyria during this period. He also adopted several somewhat outlandish titles including king of Babylonia, king of the land of the Sumerians and Akkadians, king of the upper and lower seas, and king of Dilmun and Meluhha. A Babylonian chronicle recounts how seven years after Tukulti-Ninurta assumed control of Babylon.

Ashur-nasir-apli, son of Tukulti-Ninurta—who had carried out criminal designs on Babylon—and the officers of Assyria rebelled against him (Tukulti-Ninurta), removed him [from] his throne, shut him up in a room in Kar-Tukulti-Ninurta and killed him. (Grayson)

Almost a century passed before the Middle Assyrian kingdom had another strong king—Tiglath-pileser I (circa 1114 - circa 1076 b.c.e.), who was also its last.


A. J. Brinkman, Materials and Studies for Kassite History; Volume I: A Catalogue of Cuneiform Sources Pertaining to Specific Monarchs of the Kassite Dynasty (Chicago: Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, 1976).

Reinhard Dittmann, “Kar-Tukulti-Ninurta,” in The Oxford Encyclopedia of Archaeology in the Near East, 5 volumes, edited by Eric M. Meyers (New York & Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), III: 269-271.

Albert Kirk Grayson, Assyrian and Babylonian Chronicles, Texts from Cuneiform Sources, 5 (Locust Valley, N.Y.: J. J. Augustin, 1975).

Amélie Kuhrt, The Ancient Near East c. 3000-330 B.C., 2 volumes (London & New York: Routledge, 1995).

Edith Porada, “The Cylinder Seals Found at Thebes in Boeotia,” Archiv fur Orientforschung, 28 (1981): 1-78.