Sunday, 27 September 2015

The 9th Century BC in the Near East: Part II


Kilamuwa Stele
This is the second part of a post dealing with the 9th century BC in the Near East. For the first post in the series, please click here. The previous post dealt with the events leading up to the Battle of Qarqar so I will pick up from there.

I am Kilamuwa, the son of King Haya'. King Gabar reigned over Sam'al but achieved nothing. Then came Bamah, and he achieved nothing. My own father, Haya', did nothing with his reign. My brother, Sha'il, also did nothing.
It was I, Kilamuwa...who managed to do what none of my ancestors had.
My father's kingdom was beset by powerful, predatory kings, all holding out their hands, demanding to be fed.
But I raged amongst them like a fire, burning their beards and consuming their outstretched hands. Only the Danunian kings (nearby rulers in Cilicia) overmastered me; I had to call on the King of Assyria to assist me...
I, Kilamuwa, the son of Haya', ascended my father's throne.
Under their previous kings, the [people] had howled like dogs. But I was a father, a mother and a brother to them.
Extract from the Kilamuwa Stele, written in Phoenician in Aramaic script, by a king of Sam’al, a Neo-Hittite city that previously been a member of coalitions against Assyria. Kilamuwa records requesting Assyrian assistance against his powerful immediate neighbours and the benefits that his people received from it

As often happens in imperial struggles, resistance to an empire can be weakened as various weaker factions or kingdoms in an alliance of resistance try to make a deal with the enemy. Many smaller kings were quite happy to make deals with Assyria if it meant that Assyria would punish their local enemies nearby. After the battle of Qarqar some states do seem to have gone over to the Assyrians willingly. King Kilamuwa of Sam’al rather eloquently records that his ancestors had done nothing for his kingdom whereas he had restored it. Assyrian inscriptions (some quoted above) show that his father had fought against Shalmaneser but Kilamuwa records asking the Assyrians for help. Similar defections must have happened elsewhere and contributed to isolating the powerful kingdom of Damascus.

Wall relief from Nimrud showing Assyrian soldiers
In my eighth regnal year, at the time of Marduk-zäkir-sumi (I), king of Kardunias, Marduk-bel-usate, his brother, rebelled against him. I marched out for vengeance and captured the cities Mê-turnat and Lahiru. In my ninth regnal year, in my second campaign to Babylonia, I captured the city Gannanate. To save his life Marduk-bel-usate went up to the city Halman. I pursued him and put to the sword Marduk-bel-usate together with the treacherous soldiers who were with him.
Inscription of Shalmaneser III describing assistance rendered in crushing a revolt in Babylon

Shalmaneser III was distracted from further attacks across the Euphrates by developments to the south. His ally Marduk-zakir-shumi, king of Babylon was facing a rebellion around 852. The Assyrian troops marched south and after a fairly conclusive campaign, killed the usurper (Marduk-bel-usate). The usurpers had fled into the southern marches and sought shelter from Chaldean tribes. One of the tribes mentioned (the Bit-Yakin or the House of Yakin) were to eventually take control of Babylon in the following centuries. The cooperation between Assyria and Babylon led to a period of excellent relations for decades.

Mesha Stele
I have built this sanctuary for Chemosh (national god of Moab) in Karchah, a sanctuary of salvation, for he saved me from all aggressors, and made me look upon all mine enemies with contempt. Omri was king of Israel, and oppressed Moab during many days, and Chemosh was angry with his aggressions. His son succeeded him, and he also said, I will oppress Moab. In my days he said, Let us go, and I will see my desire upon him and his house, and Israel said, I shall destroy it for ever. Now Omri took the land of Madeba, and occupied it in his day, and in the days of his son, forty years. And Chemosh had mercy on it in my time. ...
...I took from it the vessels of Jehovah, and offered them before Chemosh. And the king of Israel fortified Jahaz, and occupied it, when he made war against me, and Chemosh drove him out before me...
Excerpts from the Mesha Stele describing Mesha's successful rebellion against Israel

After the battle of Qarqar and the death of Ahab, Mesha, a king of Moab, revolted against Ahab’s successors. The revolt happened during the time of Ahaziah of Israel but Ahaziah died before being able to counterattack. When his brother Joram succeeded to the throne it seems that he tried to retake the land of Moab and summoned his vassal states Judah and Edom to assist. The war seems to have gone successfully for Israel at first but then an odd incident is recorded. Mesha loses a battle, tries to break through enemy lines to reach the king of Edom (who was part of the alliance against him), fails, sacrifices his own son on the walls of the city and the victorious Israelites inexplicably withdraw. The Biblical narrative in Chronicles subsequently records that Jehoshaphat is attacked by a coalition of Moab, Ammon and Edom. We are fortunate enough to have a stele of Mesha preserved, which is remarkable, as no other such steles of any kings of the immediate region have survived. In his inscription he speaks of his great devotion to the national god Chemosh, in ways that are reminiscent of some of the Psalms and that, when his god looked with favour, he was able to free his country from the Israelite yoke. The battles against the Israelites are not mentioned.

Moabite warrior god
When the king of Moab saw that the battle had gone against him, he took with him seven hundred swordsmen to break through to the king of Edom, but they failed. Then he took his firstborn son, who was to succeed him as king, and offered him as a sacrifice on the city wall. The fury against Israel was great; they withdrew and returned to their own land.
2 Kings 3:26-27

If we accept the Biblical narrative we might reconstruct the sequence of events as follows. The Edomites were not happy with the Israelite rule and may have switched sides at the crucial juncture. This would explain why Mesha is described as trying to reach them and why they later are part of the coalition against Judah. The Israelite armies are described as being short of water and other supplies and the defection of Edom would have been problematic. Child sacrifice appears to have been part of the religion of the area (this is controversial among scholars) and it would have been seen as a powerful request to a god. Mesha carrying out this ritual in full view of the armies opposing him must have been a terrifying sight. Many in Israel and Judah would have believed that other gods existed, even if they worshipped the national god of Israel, and the sacrifice may have instilled fear into them of the consequences of the provoked anger of the god of Moab and forced Judah and Israel to withdraw. The authors of the book of Kings would be unlikely to record this detail, as Jehoshaphat was a king that they considered to have been very devout. The subsequent invasion of Judah would make sense if Mesha had survived the invasion, with Edom changing sides. Mesha would have wanted revenge and his new allies would have tipped the balance of power in Moab’s favour. However, the book of Chronicles records that the Moabites and Ammonites turned on the Edomites and slaughtered them before turning on each other. This detail would make sense if they thought the Edomites were about to switch sides once again. All in all, it is a really confusing part of history, with the primary sources and later sources vaguely giving a similar picture but interspersing it with unusual details. I thought the story was interesting enough that it should be included, even if it was only a minor squabble compared to other wars of this century. It is also one of the few conflicts of the era where we have sources of any type from both sides of the conflict.

The next few years saw a definite decline of the fortunes of Israel and Judah. Judah was heavily defeated in a later war with the Edomites. More seriously, Israel had been fighting a series of wars with the Arameans of Damascus and generally suffering defeats. Shalmaneser had returned to the region to fight further wars against Hamath and Damascus, who now fought on against Assyria without the help (and with the occasional active hindrance) of Israel. Hadadezer (or Ben-Hadad) was probably murdered by his son Hazael who proved to be a very able military commander. The king of Israel attempted to capitalise on the regime change and there was a battle between Joram of Israel and Hazael of Damascus at the border city of Ramoth-Gilead. Hazael appears to have conclusively defeated the Israelites and King Jehoram of Israel was wounded; retreating to Jezreel with Ahaziah the king of Judah. This battle was around the time of an impending Assyrian invasion against Damascus.

Stylised depiction of Assyrian war camp
Then the prophet (Elisha) poured the (anointing) oil on Jehu's head and declared, "This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: 'I anoint you king over the LORD's people Israel. You are to destroy the house of Ahab your master, and I will avenge the blood of my servants the prophets and the blood of all the LORD's servants shed by Jezebel...."
2 Kings 9:6-7

The loss of Moab and the heavy defeat at Ramoth Gilead around 841 must have angered many in the Israelite army. To add to the discontent there was considerable religious tension in Israel. The Dynasty of Omri had alienated many of the followers of the national religion. One of the prophets (Elisha) was so angered at the dynasty that it is recorded that he not only crowned an alternative king of Israel, but he also had predicted that Hazael would become king of Damascus and inflict great suffering on Israel. This was effectively treason but those who claimed to speak for the gods were feared and revered so Elisha probably had leeway to say more than most. Jehu was a commander of the chariot corps, which seems to have been disproportionately powerful in Israel. Possibly at the instigation of Elisha, Jehu launched a rebellion and came after the two kings of Israel and Judah as they were recuperating in Jezreel. Jehu killed the two kings and all of the house of Omri that he could find before moving swiftly to Samaria and killing the Queen Mother, Jezebel. In the Israelite regal tradition the Queen Mother was a powerful figure and this murder must have broken the alliance with Phoenicia.

Jehu presenting tribute and bowing low before Shalmaneser
In my eighteenth regnal year I crossed the Euphrates for the sixteenth time. Hazael of Damascus, trusting in the might of his soldiers, carried out an extensive muster of his troops. He fortified Mount Saniru, the mountain peak, which is before Mount Lebanon. I fought with him and defeated him. I put to the sword 16,000 of his fighting men and took away from him 1,121 of his chariots and 470 of his cavalry with his military camp. To save his life he ran away but I pursued him. I imprisoned him in Damascus, his royal city, and cut down his gardens. I marched to Mount Hauranu and razed, destroyed, and burned cities without number. I carried off more booty than could be counted. I marched to Mount Ba'alira'asi, which is a cape jutting out into the sea, and erected my royal statue there. At that time I received tribute from the people of Tyre and Sidon and from Jehu of the house of Omri
Inscription of Shalmaneser III describing the expedition against Damascus around 842/841

Israel was still at war with Hazael and Jehu decided to make peace and send tribute to Shalmaneser, hoping that the king of Assyria would break the power of Damascus. Shalmaneser had broken the power of Hamath and had pushed Hazael back to his capital but was unable to take Damascus. Hazael survived and would wreak a terrible vengeance on Israel. In one of Shalmaneser’s stele’s he shows the submission of Jehu, who is mistakenly referred to as being of the house of Omri. It is probably the only contemporary picture of an Israelite king and it is not very flattering.

After he left there, he came upon Jehonadab son of Recab, who was on his way to meet him. Jehu greeted him and said, "Are you in accord with me, as I am with you?" "I am," Jehonadab answered. "If so," said Jehu, "give me your hand." So he did, and Jehu helped him up into the chariot. Jehu said, "Come with me and see my zeal for the LORD."
2 Kings 10:15-16

An unusual element is revealed in the book of Kings describing the change of dynasty in Israel. A descendant of Recab is met by the king who brings him along in the royal chariot while overseeing the destruction of the remainder of the family of Ahab. The Recabites are only mentioned once elsewhere in the Bible, as a small aside in the book of Jeremiah. There we are told that the Recabites were a sect or a clan within Judaism that abstained from wine and lived in tents as a religious duty. It is interesting to note that they were involved in the coup and it is a reminder that even the Judaism of this period was not a simple unitary entity but involved a number of factions and sects.

When Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she proceeded to destroy the whole royal family. But Jehosheba, the daughter of King Jehoram and sister of Ahaziah, took Joash son of Ahaziah and stole him away from among the royal princes, who were about to be murdered. She put him and his nurse in a bedroom to hide him from Athaliah; so he was not killed.
2 Kings 11:1-2

While Jehu had destroyed the family of Omri in Israel, Athaliah, the Queen Mother of Judah, who was a daughter of Ahab and Jezebel, launched a coup in Judah, killing all the house of David that she could find before assuming power as queen for around six years (the only ruling Queen in the history of Judah or Israel and quite unusual for anywhere in the region). This effectively made Judah in revolt against Israel.

Stele of Shamshi-Adad V
In 842-841 the position of the Aramean kingdom of Damascus looked very dangerous. Their allied states against Assyria had been destroyed, defected to the Assyrians or attacked the Arameans. But Hazael, king of Damascus, had withstood the storm. For some years Shalmaneser was engaged in campaigns further north against the Urartians, burning their capital Arzashkun. Assyrian power in modern Syria was extended by Shalmaneser’s creation of a fortress city on the eastern bank of the Euphrates facing Carchemish, Kar-Shalmaneser, to control the river crossings and ensure an easy passage towards the Mediterranean. The final Assyrian assault against Damascus did not happen however. Shalmaneser was old and no longer able to lead the army on campaigns.

When Assur-dan-apla, at the time of Shalmaneser, his father, acted treacherously by inciting insurrection, uprising, and criminal acts, caused the land to rebel and prepared for battle; at that time the people of Assyria, above and below, he won over to his side, and made them take binding oaths. He caused the cities to revolt and made ready to wage battle and war. The cities Nineveh, Adia, Sibaniba, Imgur-Enlil, Iššabri, BltŠašširia, (?), Šibhiniš, Tamnuna, Kipšuna, Kurbail, Tidu, Nabulu, Kahat, Aššur, Urakka, Sallat, Huzirina, Dür-baläti, Dariga, Zaban, Lubdu, Arrapha, and Arbail, together with the cities Amedu, Tll-abnl, and Hindanu, — altogether twenty-seven towns with their fortresses which had rebelled against Shalmaneser, king of the four quarters, my father, sided with Assur-dan-apla.
Inscription of Shamshi-Adad V, successor to Shalmaneser III, describing the revolt in 824

Babylonian text from Sippar
Perhaps Shalmaneser had planned to finish the wars in Urartu before destroying Damascus but in 826 a great revolt broke out in Assyria. A son of Shalmaneser had rebelled and mobilised nearly all of the large Assyrian cities against the king and the crown prince. A bloody four year war ensued. Shalmaneser died during the course of the war but the crown prince, Shamshi-Adad V, managed to eventually quell the rebellion, coming to the throne in 824. The Babylonian king may have been called in to assist Shamshi-Adad in quelling the rebellion, as the two kingdoms were allied at the time. Shamshi-Adad’s queen was herself probably a Babylonian princess (Shammuramat). Some scholars speak as if this rebellion caused long-term damage to the Assyrian army but it was still very formidable in the years immediately after the rebellion so this is a questionable theory.

Shamshi-Adad shall not say any evil words about Marduk-rimanni [... to] the king, (viz.): "Kill, blind, or seize him", nor] shall king Marduk-zakir-shumi listen to him should he say such things.
Excerpt of a treaty between Shamshi-Adad V of Assyrian and Marduk-zakir-shumi of Babylon

I marched to the land of the Medes. They took fright in the face of the angry weapons of Assur and of my strong warfare, which have no rival, and abandoned their cities. They ascended a rugged mountain and I pursued them. I massacred 2,300 soldiers of Hanasiruka the Mede.
Excerpt of an inscription of Shamshi-Adad V describing an expedition to the east

Babylonian kudurru with the name of Marduk-zakir-shumi
Shamshi-Adad immediately tried to emulate his father and grandfather in a series of uninterrupted conquests. He attacked Urartu again and extracted tribute. He also attacked the Medes to the east in the Iranian plateau, winning some victories against them. There was a treaty between the Babylonian king, Marduk-zakir-shumi, and Shamshi-Adad but when Marduk-zakir-shumi died the decades-long alliance broke down. Marduk-balassu-iqbi came to the throne and ruled from a city called Dur-Papsukkal (a number of Babylonian dynasties had palaces away from Babylon itself).

All of the people of the land Akkad (Babylonia), who had taken fright at the flash of my violent weapons and my incontestable mighty warfare and together with the inhabitants of 447 cities had entered Dur-Papsukkal, a royal city which lay like a river meadow in the torrent of waters and was not easily accessible for my troops — that city I conquered on my march. I felled 13,000 of its soldiers with the sword, caused their blood to flow like river water in the square of their city, and piled up the corpses of their warriors in heaps.
Inscription of Shamshi-Adad V describing the Battle of Dur-Papsukkal and the invasion of Babylonia

Some have speculated that Shamshi-Adad felt that Babylon was given too much importance in the treaties between the two states, others have felt that perhaps he felt that, as the husband of a Babylonian princess, he should have inherited the throne. The origins of the war are unknown but around 814 full-scale war broke out. Shamshi-Adad led two campaigns against the Babylonian royal residence at Dur-Papsukkal and destroyed it, causing the Babylonian king to flee south and die fighting.

Kudurru of Marduk-balassu-iqbi
I confined in the city Nibu... I captured that city by tunnels, battering rams, and ladders. I captured alive Baba-aha-iddina, together with the divine standard which goes before him, his sons, his daughters,...
Inscription of Shamshi-Adad V describing the destruction of the Babylonian royal dynasty

His successor, Baba-ahha-iddina, did not even survive the year before being captured alive (and presumably executed) by the Assyrian forces, who pursued the Babylonians into the marshes of southern Babylon and intimidated the Chaldean tribes living there. The fact that his queen was (possibly) Babylonian did not dissuade Shamshi-Adad from destroying the dynasty from which she came. For the rest of this century Babylon was to have no king.

Aramu, in order to save his life, ascended a rugged mountain. I trampled his land with my vigorous virility like a wild bull and laid waste his cities. I razed, destroyed, and burned the city Arsasku together with the cities in its environs. I erected towers of heads before his gate; some heads of nobles I spread out within the piles, others I erected on stakes around the piles. Moving on from the city Arsasku I ascended Mount Eritia. I made a colossal royal statue of myself and wrote thereon the praises of Assur, my lord, and the victorious conquests which I had been achieving in the land of Urartu.
Inscription of Shalmaneser III describing his defeat of Aramu and the destruction of the capital of Urartu

In Assyria Shalmaneser III had fought a series of campaigns against King Arame (often called Aramu in Assyrian inscriptions) of Urartu and had won some major victories. The main capital Arzashkun had been captured and burned and many of the other cities in the region had been destroyed. Arame had united the Nairi tribes and appears to have founded the kingdom of Urartu as a united entity. He ruled from around 858 to 844, although these dates are not certain. Not much is known of him but he may have been the inspiration for later Armenian legends. He was succeeded by Lutipri who is quite silent in the records. Lutipri reigned from about 844 to 834 and during this period the kingdom of Urartu suffered greatly from the Assyrian attacks.

Van citadel: The new capital of Sarduri I
Sarduri son of Lutipri, great king, mighty king, king of the universe, the king of the country of Nairi, king, who has no equal...
Inscription of King Sarduri I of Urartu, located in the masonry walls of a Urartian building at the foot of the citadel of Van.

Sarduri I succeeded Lutipri and had a short reign from 834 to 828 (again these dates are roughly right but not perfect compared to the Assyrian kings). Sarduri I moved the capital north to the citadel of Tushpa, later known as Van. This city had major fortifications constructed on a rocky hilltop that would have daunted most armies that could attempt to besiege it. The new capital and the outbreak of the rebellion against Shalmaneser III in Assyria gave the Urartians breathing space and they were able to expand their kingdom. A number of inscriptions are found at Van, written by Sarduri and other monarchs, where they claim to be the king of the universe in language reminiscent of the bombastic Assyrian claims to overlordship. Sarduri’s son, Ishpuini conquered the city of Musasir, which seems to have held great ritual significance for the Urartians (and thus later became a target for the Assyrians). The location of this city is not known but it is possible that it was actually quite close to the Assyrians (in present day Iraq). Menua was the son of Ishpuini, was adopted to the position of co-ruler during his father’s lifetime and ruled alone from 810 to 786. The Urartian kingdom became very strong during this time and the Assyrian monarchs were unable to crush them.

Some have suspected that Armenian legends such as the legend of Hayk and Ara the Beautiful are remembrances of this time (citing the superficial resemblance of Aramu to Ara). However, the details of the legends do not match the records and hardly any of the names are remembered. It is likely that all that was remembered was that there was a great struggle between the inhabitants of the highlands and Mesopotamians to the south. The details of that struggle were then filled in by medieval historians like Movses Khorenatsi using imagery from Genesis and Greek legends.

A later painting of Semiramis
Boundary stone of Adad-narari, king of Assyria, son of Shamshi-Adad (V), king of Assyria, and of Shammuramat, the palace-woman of Shamshi-Adad, king of Assyria, mother of Adad-nararî, strong king, king of Assyria, daughter-in-law of Shalmaneser (III), king of the four quarters. When Uspilulume, king of the Kummuhites, caused Adad-narari, king of Assyria, and Shammuramat, the palace woman, to cross the Euphrates; ...
Excerpt from a boundary stone of Adad-Nirari referencing Shammuramat accompanying the king on campaign. The name Uspilulume is the Neo-Hittite name Suppiluliuma as written by the Assyrians.

A statue from the time of Adad-Nirari III
When Shamshi-Adad V died in 811 his son, Adad-Nirari III was very young. While he was growing up a number of officials, most notably his mother Shammuramat and an official called Samsi-ilu. Samsi-ilu was an official who ruled over the old land of the Mitanni near the Khabur River and he was sufficiently powerful that he erected stelae with his name (previously these had only been created by the Assyrian kings). Shammuramat also had her name on stelae and generally the Assyrian kingdom appears to have been weakened as provincial officials took more and more power to themselves. Shammuramat may at one point have been the effective ruler of the kingdom and accompanied her son on at least one major campaign. The idea of a woman ruling the most powerful kingdom in the world resonated long after the circumstances of her time of influence were forgotten. The Greeks remembered her as Semiramis, a lustful monarch who conquered nearly all of Asia before ultimately failing to capture India. The Armenians remembered her as a sorceress with a multitude of lovers who slew the warrior Ara the Beautiful. The stories told of Semiramis by the Greeks and Armenians are quite mythical and should not be taken seriously as history.

Nearchus alone asserts that Alexander pursued this route, not from ignorance of the difficulty of the journey, but because he heard that no one had ever hitherto passed that way with an army and emerged in safety from the desert, except Semiramis, when she fled from India. The natives said that even she emerged with only twenty men of her army; and that Cyrus, son of Cambyses, escaped with only seven of his men.' For they say that Cyrus also marched into this region for the purpose of invading India; but that he did not effect his retreat before losing the greater part of his army, from the desert and the other difficulties of this route. When Alexander received this information he was seized with a desire of excelling Cyrus and Semiramis.
Excerpt from Arrian's Anabasis describing the myths of Semiramis that were apparently believed by Alexander and his soldiers

A Gustave Doré woodcut of the death of Athaliah
After Jehu’s killing of the kings of Israel and Judah at Jezreel, Athaliah (the wife of the murdered King Joram) took power in Judah and cemented her reign by apparently slaying all the members of the ruling House of David. This is unusual, as she must have seen herself as starting a new dynasty but it is not clear who she hoped to have succeed her. Athaliah is only known from Biblical sources and appears to have fostered the Phoenician religion of the god Baal in Judah. After seven years, the High Priest of the temple of the god of Israel put forward a prince who had apparently survived the slaughter of the House of David and launched a revolution, killing Athaliah and the priest of Baal and destroying the temple of Baal. The young prince, Joash, was placed on the throne of Judah at the age of seven and the High Priest seems to have been regent. It is an unusual episode as it highlights the religious tensions that existed in Judah as well as Israel and is the only instance of a ruling Queen recorded for either Israel or Judah. Interestingly, Athaliah would have been a contemporary with Semiramis, (and possibly the mythical Dido who fled to found Carthage) making it a period where there were multiple states in the Near East with powerful women as rulers or influencers.

A possible representation of Hazael
Meanwhile, in Damascus, Hazael had not been idle. The Assyrian threat to Damascus had receded, as Shalmaneser III struggled with Urartu and rebellions and Shamshi-Adad V dealt with Babylon. When Adad-Nirari III came to the throne of Assyria he was a young child and his mother and his generals acted as regents. During this period of Assyrian weakness Hazael rebuilt the power of Damascus and launched a devastating series of campaigns against Israel. After inflicting heavy defeats upon Israel and leaving their armies broken, Hazael moved against Judah and the Philistine cities. The city of Gath was conquered by Hazael (with some archaeological evidence for a destruction layer in Gath dated to this time). Joash of Judah bought off Hazael by giving a large tribute so Jerusalem was spared. Jehoahaz, son of Jehu, had succeeded to the throne of Israel but Israel was effectively reduced to a tributary state of Damascus at this time.

An enigmatic text called the Tel Dan Stele has been discovered in the ancient city of Dan in Israel (on the north-eastern border of the old kingdom of Israel). It may or may not be genuine but if it is a forgery, it is a convincing forgery. It is the remains of a monumental victory inscription made by a powerful king of Damascus, probably between 850 and 750. These dates would suggest that it was likely written by Hazael. It has been translated in a number of different ways but one translation is given here and it is worth quoting in full.

The Tel Dan Stele
…and cut/made (a treaty)?[…] …-el my father went up against him when he was fighting at A[bel?] and my father lay down; he went to [his ancestors.] Now the king of Israel entered formerly in the land, in my father’s lan; [but] Hadad (the god of Damascus) made me myself king, and Hadad went in front of me; [and] I departed from [the] seven […] of my kingdom; and I slew seve[nty ki]ngs who harnessed thou[sands of cha]/riots and thousands of horsemen [And I killed Jo]ram son of A[hab], king of Israel, and [I] killed [[Ahazi]yahu, son of [Joram, kin]g of the House of David; and I set [their towns into ruins ? …the ci]ties of their land into de[solation?...]…other and to over[turn all their cities?... and Jehu] led over Is[rael…]siege upon[…]
Tel Dan Stele


The stone is shattered and in fragments and the meaning differs from scholar to scholar. Hazael is generally held to be the king writing the inscription. The two kings that are slain are probably the two kings that the Bible mentions as dying in Jehu’s revolt. It is a work of propaganda and must be treated as such but one interpretation could see Jehu and Hazael (two commanders of armies facing each other in battle), making peace with one another, so that each commander could overthrow their kings and rule in their stead. The fact that the Bible records both of these as having dealings with the same holy man shortly before their respective revolutions could lend some credence to this.

The walls of Tel Dan (a city conquered by Hazael in Israel)
And Hazael said, Why weepeth my lord? And he (Elisha) answered, Because I know the evil that thou wilt do unto the children of Israel: their strong holds wilt thou set on fire, and their young men wilt thou slay with the sword, and wilt dash their children, and rip up their women with child. And Hazael said, But what, is thy servant a dog, that he should do this great thing? And Elisha answered, The Lord hath shewed me that thou shalt be king over Syria.
2 Kings 8:12-13

The Tel Dan stele refers to the king of Damascus slaying the kings of Israel and Judah. If there was an understanding or temporary alliance between Jehu and Hazael, the deaths of Ahaziah and Joram could be legitimately claimed by Hazael as his doing. Alternatively it might be overblown propaganda (“I fought and defeated them; shortly afterwards they died: ergo I killed them”). But a temporary alliance makes a lot of sense. The fact that Jehu and Hazael do not seem to have fought much at the beginning of their reigns would work with this theory, although the fact that Hazael was under attack from Assyria would also explain it. This is generally speculation, which is fun but should not be taken too seriously. If there ever was an alliance between Jehu and Hazael, it did not last and in the last decades of the 9th century Hazael had forged a mighty kingdom that dominated Syro-Palestine; the high water mark of the Aramean kingdom of Damascus, while Assyria had a few decades of temporary weakness. Under the reign of Hazael, Israel cried out for a saviour. The next decades of the century to come would see their deliverance from Damascus.

Phoenician goddess figure
And Elisha said unto him, Take bow and arrows. And he took unto him bow and arrows. And he said to the king of Israel, Put thine hand upon the bow. And he put his hand upon it: and Elisha put his hands upon the king's hands. And he said, Open the window eastward. And he opened it. Then Elisha said, Shoot. And he shot. And he said, “The arrow of the Lord's deliverance, and the arrow of deliverance from Syria: for thou shalt smite the Syrians in Aphek, till thou have consumed them”.
2 Kings 13:15-17 (KJV Translation)

This completes the account of this century. It is far longer than other posts that I have written, mainly because it is a long time period with a number of sources. Some general themes can be seen. The weakness of Egypt, the growing but not invincible strength of Assyria, the rise of Urartu as a northern rival to Assyria and the decline of Babylon as a southern rival. The other main theme is the constant political shifts between the smaller but significant kingdoms of Syro-Palestine and the ever-changing alliances and betrayals between Phoenicia, Hamath, Damascus, Israel, Judah, Ammon, Moab and Edom. I have tried to give some idea of these power plays but the nature of the sources allow for multiple interpretations and ultimately we will probably never know exactly what was in the minds of Hazael, Mesha, Jehu or Shamshi-Adad and our knowledge of the lives of ordinary people at this time is very poor. As new facts come to light, our understanding may change radically.

Hopefully this was relatively enjoyable. For the first post in this series, please click here. I will be busy in work for some time so this will be my last post for a while but I hope to resume them in a few months. In the best tradition of 9th century annalistic writing I will leave you with some speculative and most likely incorrect chronologies for these times.

Wall relief from Nimrud
Assyria
Adad-nirari II 911-891
Tukulti-Ninurta II 891-884
Ashurnasirpal II 883-859
Shalmaneser III 859–824 BC (853: Battle of Qarqar; 842-841: attack Damascus; 826: revolt;)
Shamshi-Adad V 824-811 BC
Adad-nirari III 811 - 783

Babylon
Nabu-shuma-ukin I c. 900-888
Nabu-apla-iddina c.888-855
Marduk-zâkir-šumi I c. 855 – 819 BC
Marduk-balassu-iqbi c. 819 – 813 BC
Baba-aha-iddina c. 812 BC
No king until c. 800

Egypt (22nd Dynasty ruling in Tanis)
Osorkon I 922-887
Shoshenq II c. 887-885
Takelot I c. 885-872
Osorkon II c. 872-837
Shoshenq III c.837-798

Urartu
Arame of Urartu 858-844
Lutipri 844-834
Sarduri I 834-828 (moves the capital to Tushpa/Van)
Ishpuini 828-810
Menua (810-786)

Aram (Damascus)
Tabrimmon (?)
Ben-Hadad I (?)
Hadadezer c. 880-842 (853 Battle of Qarqar)
Hazael 842–800 (possible usurper)

Tyre
Deleastartus c. 900-889
Aserymus c.888-880
Phelles c.879
Ithobaal I c.878-847 (or Ethbaal; usurper, New Dynasty: House of Ethbaal)
Baal-Eser II c. 846-841
Mattan I c.840-832
Pygmalion c.831-785 (or Pu’mayyaton)

Israel
Baasha (?) (New Dynasty: House of Baasha)
Elah (?)
Zimri ? (New Dynasty: House of Zimri)
Omri ? (New Dynasty: House of Omri)
Ahab ?-851?
Ahaziah 851?-850?
Joram ?850-842?
Jehu 841-814 (New Dynasty: House of Jehu)
Jehoahaz 814-798

Judah
Asa c.911-870
Jehoshaphat c.871-849
Jehoram c.849-842
Ahaziah c. 841
Athaliah 841-836 (usurper)
Jehoash/Joash 836-797

Moab
Mesha c.850-?