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King of the Neo-Assyrian Empire
Reign631–627 BC[1]
Died627 BC[2]
DynastySargonid dynasty

Ashur-etil-ilani, also spelled Ashur-etel-ilani[3] and Ashuretillilani[4] (Neo-Assyrian cuneiform: Ashur-etil-ilani in Akkadian.png Aššur-etil-ilāni,[5][6] meaning "Ashur is the lord of the gods"),[7] was the king of the Neo-Assyrian Empire from the death of his father Ashurbanipal in 631 BC to his own death in 627 BC.[n 1] Ashur-etil-ilani is an obscure figure with a brief reign from which few inscriptions survive. Because of this lack of sources, very little concrete information about the king and his reign can be deduced.

It is possible that Ashur-etil-ilani was a weak ruler as there are no records of the king ever undertaking a military campaign or going on a hunt, activities previous Assyrian kings would famously do very often; this, in turn, may have helped to entice some of Assyria's vassals, such as the Kingdom of Judah, to break free from Assyrian control and begin to act independently. Ashur-etil-ilani was succeeded by his brother Sinsharishkun under uncertain, though not necessarily violent, circumstances.

Background and chronology[edit]

There is a distinct lack of available sources in regards to the last few years of Ashurbanipal's reign and the reign of Ashur-etil-ilani. The annals of Ashurbanipal, the primary sources for his reign, go no further than 636 BC.[8] Although Ashurbanipal's final year is often repeated as 627 BC,[9][10] this follows an inscription at Harran made by the mother of the Neo-Babylonian king Nabonidus nearly a century later. The final contemporary evidence for Ashurbanipal being alive and reigning as king is a contract from the city of Nippur made in 631 BC.[4] To get the attested lengths of the reigns of his successors to match, most scholars agree that Ashurbanipal either died, abdicated or was deposed in 631 BC.[11] Of the three options, a death in 631 BC is the most accepted.[12] If Ashurbanipal's reign would have ended in 627 BC, the inscriptions of his successors Ashur-etil-ilani and Sinsharishkun in Babylon, covering several years, would have been impossible since the city was seized by the Neo-Babylonian king Nabopolassar in 626 BC to never again fall into Assyrian hands.[13]

Ashurbanipal had named his successor as early as 660 BC, when documents referencing a crown prince were written. He had been the father of at least one son, and probably two, early on in his reign. These early sons were likely Ashur-etil-ilani and Sinsharishkun. The common assumption that Ashur-etil-ilani came to the throne at a young age is based on the phrase "my father did not rear me" ("rear" meaning to care for someone until they're fully grown), found in one of his inscriptions. However, the same phrase appears in a prayer by Ashurbanipal and Ashur-etil-ilani is unlikely to have been very young as he is attested to have had male children during his reign.[14]


Ashur-etil-ilani ascended the throne after the death of his father Ashurbanipal in 631 BC.[15] A land grant from Ashur-etil-ilani to his rab shaqi (a general serving him since he was a young boy) Sin-shumu-lishir suggests that Ashurbanipal died a natural death.[8] As in many other successions in Assyrian history, Ashur-etil-ilani's rise to the Assyrian throne was initially met with opposition and unrest.[15] The same land grant to Sin-shumu-lishir references the actions of an Assyrian official called Nabu-rihtu-usur who with the help of another official, Sin-shar-ibni, attempted to usurp the Assyrian throne. Sin-shum-lishir probably assisted the king with stopping Nabu-rihtu-usur and Sin-shar-ibni.[8] As no sources indicate the opposite, the conspiracy appears to have been crushed relatively quickly.[15] Excavations at Nineveh from the time around Ashurbanipal's death show fire damage, indicating that the plot perhaps resulted in some violence and unrest within the capital itself.[16]

The spread of inscriptions by Ashur-etil-ilani in Babylonia suggest that he exercised the same amount of control in the southern provinces as his father Ashurbanipal had, having a vassal king (Kandalanu) but exercising actual political and military power there himself. His inscriptions are known from all the major cities, including Babylon, Dilbat, Sippar and Nippur.[15] Too few inscriptions of Ashur-etil-ilani survive to make any certain assumptions about his character. Excavations of his palace at Kalhu, one of the more important cities in the empire and a former capital, may indicate that he was less boastful than his father as it had no reliefs or statues similar to those that his predecessors had used to illustrate their strength and success.[17] The lack of such depictions may partly be because there are no records of Ashur-etil-ilani ever conducting a military campaign or going on a hunt. His Kalhu palace was quite small with unusually small rooms by Assyrian royal standards.[18] It is possible that some of Assyria's vassals used the reign of what they perceived to be a weak ruler to break free of Assyrian control and even attack Assyrian outposts. In c. 628 BC, Josiah, ostensibly an Assyrian vassal and the king of Judah in the Levant, extended his land so that it reached the coast, capturing the city of Ashdod and settling some of his own people there.[18]

It is frequently assumed, without any supporting evidence, that Ashur-etil-ilani's brother Sinsharishkun fought with him for the throne.[19] Although the exact circumstances of Ashur-etil-ilani's death and the rise of his brother Sinsharishkun to the throne are unknown, there is no evidence to suggest that Ashur-etil-ilani was deposed and/or killed in a coup.[15]


Very few inscriptions survive from Ashur-etil-ilani's brief reign. Preserved on bricks of the temple of Nabu at Kalhu,[20] the following titles can be read:

I am Ashur-etil-ilani, King of the Universe, King of Assyria, son of Ashurbanipal, King of the Universe, King of Assyria, grandson of Esarhaddon, King of the Universe, King of Assyria.[20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ His reign is often given erroneously as 627–623 BC, under the assumption that Ashurbanipal died in 627 BC and not in 631 BC.[3]


  1. ^ Na’aman 1991, p. 243.
  2. ^ Lipschits 2005, p. 13.
  3. ^ a b Leick 2002, p. 28.
  4. ^ a b Reade 1970, p. 1.
  5. ^ Bertin 1891, p. 50.
  6. ^ Na’aman 1991, p. 248.
  7. ^ Tallqvist 1914, p. 39.
  8. ^ a b c Ahmed 2018, p. 121.
  9. ^ Encyclopaedia Britannica.
  10. ^ Mark 2009.
  11. ^ Reade 1998, p. 263.
  12. ^ Ahmed 2018, p. 8.
  13. ^ Na’aman 1991, p. 246.
  14. ^ Ahmed 2018, pp. 122–123.
  15. ^ a b c d e Na’aman 1991, p. 255.
  16. ^ Ahmed 2018, p. 122.
  17. ^ Ahmed 2018, p. 128.
  18. ^ a b Ahmed 2018, p. 129.
  19. ^ Ahmed 2018, p. 126.
  20. ^ a b Luckenbill 1927, p. 408.

Cited bibliography[edit]

  • Ahmed, Sami Said (2018). Southern Mesopotamia in the time of Ashurbanipal. Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co KG. ISBN 978-3111033587.CS1 maint: ref duplicates default (link)
  • Bertin, G. (1891). "Babylonian Chronology and History". Transactions of the Royal Historical Society. 5: 1–52. doi:10.2307/3678045. JSTOR 3678045.CS1 maint: ref duplicates default (link)
  • Lipschits, Oled (2005). The Fall and Rise of Jerusalem: Judah under Babylonian Rule. Eisenbrauns. ISBN 978-1575060958.CS1 maint: ref duplicates default (link)
  • Leick, Gwendolyn (2002). Who's Who in the Ancient Near East. Routledge. ISBN 978-0415132312.CS1 maint: ref duplicates default (link)
  • Luckenbill, Daniel David (1927). Ancient Records of Assyria and Babylonia Volume 2: Historical Records of Assyria From Sargon to the End. University of Chicago Press.CS1 maint: ref duplicates default (link)
  • Na’aman, Nadav (1991). "Chronology and History in the Late Assyrian Empire (631—619 B.C.)". Zeitschrift für Assyriologie. 81 (1–2): 243–267. doi:10.1515/zava.1991.81.1-2.243. S2CID 159785150.CS1 maint: ref duplicates default (link)
  • Reade, J. E. (1970). "The Accession of Sinsharishkun". Journal of Cuneiform Studies. 23 (1): 1–9. doi:10.2307/1359277. JSTOR 1359277. S2CID 159764447.CS1 maint: ref duplicates default (link)
  • Reade, J. E. (1998). "Assyrian eponyms, kings and pretenders, 648-605 BC". Orientalia (NOVA Series). 67 (2): 255–265. JSTOR 43076393.CS1 maint: ref duplicates default (link)
  • Tallqvist, Knut Leonard (1914). Assyrian Personal Names (PDF). Leipzig: August Pries.CS1 maint: ref duplicates default (link)

Cited web sources[edit]

  • "Ashurbanipal". Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved 28 November 2019.
  • Mark, Joshua J. (2009). "Ashurbanipal". Ancient History Encyclopedia. Retrieved 28 November 2019.CS1 maint: ref duplicates default (link)

External links[edit]

 Died: 627 BC
Preceded by
King of Assyria
631 – 627 BC
Succeeded by