National Geographic : 1951 Jan
To the Victorious Assyrians Belong the Spoils T HE EXPANSION of Ashur northward brought with it successive transfers of the capital of Assyria, from Ashur to Calah (Nimrud), and later to Nineveh, where it was to remain till the fall of the empire, save for a brief interlude at Dur Sharrukin (modern Khorsabad). These northward moves were already in evidence under Ashurnasirpal II (page 92). Yet throughout Assyrian his tory it was the city of Ashur that remained the religious capi tal of the state, the place where the rulers wished to be buried and where they sought the favor of the gods and protection from foes by building temples and fortifications. Shalmaneser III, son and successor of Ashurnasirpal, was no exception to this trend. The exhaustive German excava tions on the site have disclosed many phases of this king's care in keeping the whole city in good repair, and especially in strengthening its western portions, a section that until then had been particularly vulnerable to attack. Our scene takes place before the west gate of Ashur, now a strong link in the massive chain that ringed the city from all sides. The spacious but well-protected interior of the gateway was broken up into two large halls with room for three pairs of heavy doors. These halls afforded ample space for guards. In one of these stood a large basalt statue of the king seated upon a cube-shaped throne. No distraction must interfere with the brief intervals that were suitable for plowing. And the women might take a little time out from their daily chores and enjoy a quick bath-as they do in that district to this day-in a secluded spot where water had been left from the spring rains. An Assyrian general hasjust returned from asuccessful campaign in the west. He stands atthe foot ofthe ramp, ready to review his troopsand survey the spoils. Behind him stands an official dictating an account ofthe results to two scribes. One ofthese writes incuneiform with stylus on clay, and the other, inAramaic with pen on parchment. Both procedures have been recorded for us on the wall paintings uncovered by the French atTil Barsib. The column is led byahorseman followed by three tribute bearers, one carrying amonkey and two others burdened with bows. Next comes an armed soldier escorting a group of women, Anatolian girls inembroidered coats and a desert woman in a fringed dress and with ashawl over her head. Following these areabattering ram, adetach ment of the Assyrian infantry, and the first of along proces sion of war chariots. Shalmaneser III recorded his exploits and activities not only in the official annalsofhis reign and on reliefs of stone and bronze but also on the famous Black Obelisk of ala baster found at Calah. Fragments of another obelisk of the same ruler were recovered inAshur. Of the scenes depictedon this large monument, which stands well over six feet inheight, perhaps the best known is the one that deals withthe tribute of "Jehu, sonofOmri," king of Israel. The monument was arecord, inword and relief, of the king's military achievements down tothe thirty-first year of his reign. But his account was not precise by modern standards; Omri was not the father of Jehu, but an Israelite king of another dynasty.