The Assyrian Empire was one of the greatest empires the world has ever known. From 2100 to 1400 BC, it was a thriving Mesopotamian city-state. By the mid-1300 BC, it had emerged as a mighty empire, ruling large areas of the region in the Middle East called "The Fertile Crescent", which cuts through modern-day Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt.
Two other significant empires came before the Assyrians, namely the Akkadians, Sumerians and the Babylonians. However, the Assyrian empire was different, and today, it is considered by many historians to be the first true military superpower, setting the standard of "Empire" for everyone else that followed.
The Assyrians began their rise to power towards the end of the Bronze age. They built the city of Ashur, strategically located on the banks of the Tigris River in what is now northern Iraq. It was a central trading hub, dealing with textiles, tin, spices and more. Ashur was named after a deity they worshipped as the god of their empire. Religion was a driving force in Assyrian culture. Their first king was a high priest of Ashur, calling himself Ashur-uballit.
Power was also an important tradition that began when King Ashur-uballit launched a series of military campaigns to invade neighboring states. He successfully transformed Assyria into a colonizing and territorial power, ruling many different people and cultures spread over the Tigris-Euphrates valley. For the next century, Assyria steadily extended its empire. By 1250 BC, they were a major military power, the masters of what was then considered modern weaponry, mainly using chariots and iron weapons.
However, this was cut short when in 1200 BC, a still unknown catastrophe hit the entire planet, bringing about widespread famine, geographical calamities and the ultimate collapse of the Bronze Age. The Assyrians lost their territories and retreated to Ashur.
After a few hundred years, they came back with a vengeance, conquering once again, ushering in the Iron Age - and their golden age - under the rule of King Tiglath-Piliser. They used modern military tactics and were cruel to anyone who opposed them. They would break apart local populations by bringing them all over the empire into the many new cities like Nineveh and palaces under construction.
For the next 600 years, the empire stayed strong, led by a succession of great kings such as Tiglath-Pilser III, Sargon, Sennacherib and their last major ruler, Ashurbanipal. Assyria became major socio-cultural influencers in the region, building libraries, fabulous hanging gardens, zoos and parks, encouraging scholars of medicine and more.
However, all things must come to an end, and by the year 615 BC, the Assyrians were crushed by the Babylonian empire and the Medes. The empire had grown so extensive and far-reaching that it became almost impossible to maintain. However, its military strategies and the many other innovations they came up with still live on, having been adopted by later empires and civilizations.
Directed by: Paul Cooper