The Eponym dating system was a calendar system for Assyria, for a period of over one thousand years. Every year was associated with the name, an eponym, of the Limmu, the individual holding office.
The dating system is thought to have originated in the ancient city of Assur, and remained the official dating system in Assyria until the end of the Assyrian Empire in the seventh century BCE. The names of the Limmu who became eponyms were originally chosen by lot sortition, until the first millennium it became a fixed rotation of officers headed by the king who constituted the limmu. The earliest known attestations of a year eponyms are at Karum-Kanesh, and became used in other Assyrian colonies in Anatolia. Its spread was due to Shamshi-Adad I's unification of northern Mesopotamia.
Parts of this article (those related to a much wider range of dates than suggested below is now available, some discovered only in quite recent years) are outdated. Please update this article to reflect recent events or newly available information.(November 2012)
With the establishment of eponym lists, succinct statements about events were sometimes added in order to keep track of the sequence. The limmu lists themselves run from 911 through to 631 BC, and are dated with the aid of the Canon of Ptolemaeus, which coincides with dates from the Canon between 747 and 631 BC. According to one limmu list, a solar eclipse occurred in the tenth reigning year of the Assyrian king Aššur-dan II, in the month of Sivan (May–June on the Gregorian calendar), by Bur-Sagale. Using the Canon of Kings the tenth year can be dated to 763 BC, and modern astronomy dating has backed the Assyrian eclipse up as June 15, 763 BC. Other events can be dated from this establishment of fact, such as the taking of the Egyptian city of Thebes by the Assyrians in 664 BC, and to be able to determine the date of the minting of ancient coins.
Out of 19 surviving clay tablets with limmus, they between them show ten manuscripts that contain lists of years identified by the eponym with a summary note about what happened that year, most often military campaigns. Thus, such lists provide historians a way of dating long stretches of the Neo-Assyrian history, and give us in details military exploits and which were considered the most important. Such a translation can be found below (With BC added).
Sargon, King [of Assyria]
Zer-ibni, governor of Ra[sappa]
[Dur-Sharru]kin was founded.
Tab-sil-Eshara, governor of the citadel
Taklal-ana-beli, governor of Nasibina
[ ] governors appointed
Ishtar-duri, governor of Arrapha
[to Ur]artu, Musasir, Haldia
Assur-bani, governor of Kalhu
[the] nobles in Ellipi, he entered the new house, to Musasir in the land
Sharru-emuranni, governor of Zamua
in the land
Ninurta-alik-pani, governor of Si'mme
Shamash-belu-usur, governor of Arzuhina
to Bit-zeri, the king stayed at Kish
Mannu-ki-Assur-le'i, governor of Tille
Sargon took the hands of Bel
Shamash-upahhir, governor of Habruri
Kummuhi conquered and a governor was appointed
Sha-Assur-dubbu, governor of Tushan
the king returned from Babylon, the vizier and nobles, the booty of Dur-Jakin was destroyed, on the 22nd of Teshrit, the gods of Dur-Sharrukin entered the temples
Mutakkil-Assur, governor of Guzana
the king stayed in the land, the nobles [ ]. on the 6th of Ayar, Dur-Sharrukin was completed
Nashur-Bel, governor of Amidu
the king [ ] against Qurdi the Kullumean, the king was killed, the camp of the king of Assyria [ ]. on the 12th of Ab, Sennacherb [became] king