Shalmaneser III and Egypt

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Shalmaneser III and Egypt

Immanuel Velikovsky argued that roughly five and a half centuries needed to be subtracted from New Kingdom Egyptian history to bring it into line with that of Israel; and indeed in Ages in Chaos (1952) he demonstrated many striking synchronisms between the two histories once these extra years were removed. In line with that system he suggested that Ahab of Israel and Jehoshaphat of Judah were two of the correspondents of the Amarna documents who exchanged letters with Amenhotep III and Akhnaton. He also argued that Shalmaneser III of Assyria, a contemporary of Ahab, was the “King of Hatti” who threatened northern Syria in the time of Akhnaton. This part of his reconstruction however was not well received, and always remained problematic. We know, for example, that the King of Hatti named in the Amarna Letters was Suppiluliumas I, whilst the King of Assyria at the time was called Ashuruballit, a man who was very definitely not the same person as Shalmaneser III.

For all that, a host of other evidences suggest that Velikovsky was broadly correct in his demand for a five and a half century reduction in Egyptian dates, and that the errors he made in his reconstruction of the Amarna period were errors of detail. What was needed was fine tuning, not complete rejection.

All attempts at historical reconstruction must be based firmly upon the evidence of stratigraphy; and it so happens that the stratigraphy of Assyria fully supports Velikovsky. A whole series of sites in northern Mesopotamia show the following:

Neo-Assyrians and Neo-Babylonians (860-550 BC)

Mitannians (1550-1350 BC)

Akkadians (2350-2250 BC)

We see that, without exception, the Mitannian levels are followed immediately, and without any gap, by the Neo-Assyrian ones; and the Neo-Assyrian material is that of the early Neo-Assyrians, Ashurnasirpal II and his son Shalmaneser III. Now, since the last Mitannian king, Tushratta, was a contemporary of Akhenaton, this would suggest that Ashuruballit, who wrote several letters to Akhenaton, was the same person as Ashurnasirpal II, father of Shalmaneser III.

The end of the Mitannian kingdom is documented in a series of texts from the Hittite capital. We are told that Tushratta was murdered by one of his sons, a man named Kurtiwaza. The latter then feld, half naked, to the court of the Hittite King, Suppiluliumas, who put an army at his disposal; with which the parricide conquered the Mitannian lands. The capital city, Washukanni, was taken, and Kurtiwaza was presumably rewarded for his treachery.

The region of Assyrian was a mainstay of the Mitannian kingdom. A few years earlier Tushratta had sent the cult statue of Ishtar of Nineveh to Egypt. So, if Kurtiwaza was established as a puppet king by Suppiluliumas, it is likely that his kingdom would have included Assyria. We know that immediately after the overthrow of the Mitanni lands we find a supposedly resurgent Assyria reasserting itself under King Ashuruballit. The latter’s domain included the Mitanni heartland, for we find him plundering the Mitanni capital of Washukanni and taking from there various treasures with which to adorn his own monuments in Nineveh and Ashur. Indeed, Ashuruballit seems to have been a great builder, and we hear of many new monuments raised by him and many old ones renovated. Strangely, however, none of these structures have been found by excavators. What they have found, right on top of the monuments built by the last of the Mitannians, are the monuments of Ashurnasirpal II, supposedly five and a half centuries after the destruction of Mitannian power.

Strange as it may seem, Ashurnasirpal II was also a great builder. He too raised monuments throughout Assyria. These included a new capital named Calah. In Calah archaeologists found numerous artifatcs of Egyptian manufacture. There were, for example, many scarabs of the latter Eighteenth Dynasty, especially from the time of Amenhotap III. (See Austen Layard, Discoveries in the Ruins of Nineveh and Babylon (London, 1853) p. 282)

So, just in the place where we would expect to find the monuments of Ashuruballit, who was a contemporary of the latter Eighteenth Dynasty, we find the monuments of Ashurnasirpal II, whose buildings are full of artifacts of the latter Eighteenth Dynasty. This would strongly suggest, even demand, that Ashuruballit and Ashurnasirpal II are one and the same person. Furthermore, since Ashuruballit, the new king of Assyria after the death of Tushratta, seems to be an Assyrian alter-ego of Tushratta’s parricide son Kurtiwaza, this would imply that Ashurnasirpal was yet another alter-ego of Kurtiwaza, and was himself the murderer of Tushratta.

Is there then any evidence to suggest that Ashurnasirpal II was a parricide?

The Babylonian Chronicle tells us that a “Middle Assyrian” king named Tukulti-Ninurta was murdered by his own son. The name of the murderer is give: it is Ashurnasirpal.

The “Middle Assyrians” were a mysterious line of kings who ruled Assyria before the time of the Neo-Assyrians and supposedly after the time of the Mitannians. Yet we know of no Assyrian stratigraphy which can give a clear line from Mitannian to Middle Assyrian to Neo-Assyrian. On the contrary, as we saw, the Mitannians are followed immediately by the Neo-Assyrians of Ashurnasirpal II and Shalmaneser III. This can only mean that the Middle Assyrians must have been contemporaries of the Mitannians, and were most likely Mitannian kings using Assyrian names. We know that ancient rulers often bore several titles in accordance with the various nations and ethnic groups over which they reigned. Since the Mitannian royal names are Indo-Iranian, and therefore meaningless and probably unpronounceable to the Semitic speakers of Assyria, it is almost certain that they would also have used Assyrian-sounding titles.

That the Middle Assyrians were in fact contemporary with the Mitannians is shown in numberless details of artwork, pottery, epigraphy, etc. (See for example P. Pfalzner, Mittanische und Mittelassyrische Keramik (Berlin, 1995)

Thus it would appear that Tukulti Ninurta, who was murdered by his son Ashurnasirpal, was one and the same as Tushratta, who was murdered by his son Kurtiwaza. This latter, upon being appointed king of Assyria by Suppiluliumas, first used the Assyrian name Ashuruballit, but later changed it to Ashurnasirpal. Such adopting of new titles to mark different stages in one’s life and career was by no means uncommon in ancient times.

The kings who followed on the throne of Assyria, from Shalmaneser III onwards, all bore typically “Middle Assyrian” names, and these are the rulers who were contemporaries of the Egyptian Nineteenth Dynasty. It was thus Adad-Nirari III (Shalmaneser III’s grandson), and not Adad-Nirari I, who exchanged letters with the Hitttite Hattusilis III during the time of Ramses II.

All of this helps us to place the reign of Shalmaneser III fairly precisely within the context of Egyptian history. We know that the parricide Ashurnasirpal (Ashuruballit) became gravely ill and incapacitated in some way (a plaintive prayer to the gods of his exists) in the ninth year of his reign, and that after this time he associated his son with him on the throne, who then became sole ruler in all but name. Since Ashuruballit wrote his first letters to Akhenaton about midway through the latter’s reign, this would suggest that Ashuruballit became ill near the end of Akhenaton’s life, and consequently that Shalmaneser III must have assumed power in Assyria within a year or two of the accession of Tutankhamun in Egypt. Since Shalmaneser III reigned thirty-five years, he would then have reigned contemporary also with Ay, Horemheb and Seti I. The following synchronisms and identifications are suggested:

Parattarna/Shamshi-Adad I Ahmose and Amenhotep I
Shaushtatar/Ishme-Dagan Hatshepsut and Thutmose III
Artatama/Adad-Nirari I Amenhotep II anf Thutmose IV
Shuttarna/Shalmaneser I Amenhotep III
Tushratta/Tukulti-Ninurta I Amenhotep III and Akhenaton Kurtiwaza/Ashuruballit/Ashurnasirpal Akhenaton and Tutankhamun
Shalmaneser III Tutankhamun, Ay, Horemheb, and Seti I
Shamshi-Adad IV Ramses II
Adad-Nirari III Ramses II
Tukulti-Ninurta II/Tiglath-Pileser III Merneptah

From the above we note that after the time of Adad-Nirari III another king of Assyria took the name Tukulti-Ninurta. This latter monarch was a great conqueror, and not to be confused with the earlier king who was murdered by his son. The second Tukulti-Ninurta was not of the same bloodline as his immediate predecessors and was not a descendant of the murderous Ashuruballit/Ashurnasirpal. He may have taken the name Tukulti-Ninurta because he regarded the earlier king of this name as the last legitimate ruler of the Mitanni Empire. With this second Tukulti-Ninurta a new age of power and expansion commenced for Assyria. We are told that he conquered Shepadri (apparently Sparda, or Lydia) and Babylon; and the taking of the latter city was commemorated by a great epic poem, which has survived. The king of Babylon, Kashtiliash, was carried off in chains to Ashur.

As I have shown in great detail in my Empire of Thebes (2006) and Ramessides, Medes and Persians (2008), the second Tukulti-Ninurta later changed his name to Tukulti-apil-esharra (Tiglath-Pileser), perhaps owing to a superstitious fear of holding the same name as a ruler murdered by his own son. The confusion over this man, which has, perhaps more than any other single factor in Mesopotamian historiography, produced false chronologies, is compounded by the fact that the first Tukulti-Ninurta, the father of Ashurnasirpal, is always regarded as the second; whilst the second king of that name, the conqueror of Babylon, is invariably regarded as the first.

The real second Tukulti-Ninurta was also known, in his own Indo-Iranian language, as Cyrus, the Persian conqueror of the Medes, the Lydians, and the Babylonians. The ruler of the latter city, Nabonidus, or Nabonasser, was carried off in chains to Anshan. And, as anyone who has read any of my work, either on the website or elsewhere will know, I regard both the Mitannian kings and the early Neo-Assyrians who follow them as Medes. Thus Parsatatar (Shamshi-Adad I), who founds the Mitanni kingdom, was one and the same as Phraortes, and his successor Shaushtatar was none other than Cyaxares, the conqueror of Assyria. These kings are to be placed in the late eighth and early seventh centuries BC. Shalmaneser III was also known as Khwakhshatra (Cyaxares II), and he was the king who faced the rebellion of Sardanapalus, the Assyrian satrap who sought to re-establish Nineveh's independence around 580 BC. Shalmaneser III’s son Shamshi-Adad was also called Arbaces, the conqueror of Sardanapalus and husband of Semiramis (Samurammat). The war with Sardanapalus, which began in the last years of Shalmaneser III, drew in all the nations of the region, including the Egyptians. These entered as allies of the Medes, and we find first Seti I and then Ramses II leading armies towards the Euphrates inn support of Shalmaneser III and his son.