Battle of Ulai

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Battle of Ulai
Part of the Assyrian conquest of Elam
Datec. 653 BC
Result Decisive Assyrian victory
Neo-Assyrian Empire Elam
Commanders and leaders
Ashurbanipal Teumman  Executed

The Battle of the Ulai River (called in modern times the Kerkha[1] or Karkheh River), also known as the Battle of Til-Tuba, in c. 653 BCE, was a battle between the invading Assyrians, under their king Ashurbanipal, and the kingdom of Elam, which was a Babylonian ally. The result was a decisive Assyrian victory. Teumman,[2] the king of Elam, and his son Tammaritu were killed in the battle.


Under the reign of Tiglath-Pileser III (744-27 BCE) through Ashur-uballit II (611 BCE) Assyria led several campaigns across the known world. However Assyria struggled to maintain control over their closest neighbor Babylonia. In a rebellion against one of Sennacherib's (704-681) rule in Babylon, Chaldean Mushezib-Marduk seized the throne and formed a coalition including the Chaldeans, Aramaens, Elamites, and Babylonians and went to battle in 691 near the city of Halule.[3] The coalition was defeated and Sennacherib began a 15-month campaign against Babylonia, sacking palaces and burning temples. Sennacherib's son, Esarhaddon (680-69) attempted to rebuild Babylonia and establish himself as king. His successors Ashurbanipal (668-27) took the throne in Ninevah while Shamash-Shuma-Ukin claimed kingship in Babylon and continued to rebuild it. While Babylonia was technically independent of Assyria, the correspondence between the two brothers suggests that Ashurbanipal saw Babylonia as a vassal state and exercised control over it. Shamash-Shuma-Ukin began looking for a chance to rebel. A few years before, Teumman (or Te'uman, 664-653 BCE), a known enemy of Assyria, had usurped the Elamite throne, forcing the sons of Urtaki to flee to Nineveh, the Assyrian capital. Teumman demanded they be extradited,[4] but Ashurbanipal refused. Teumman began a campaign against Na'id Marduk, Assyria's puppet ruler in the Sealand, around 675 BCE. After pushing out the Assyrian influences, Teumman placed Nabo-usalim on the throne in Ur.[5]

Battle and aftermath[edit]

Teumman, Nabo-Usallim and Shamash-Shuma-Ukin all formed a coalition and marched against Assurbanipal and met his forces on the banks of the Ulai River (hence the name "Battle of the Ulai River") where they were defeated. Teumman was killed in battle and his head was carried to Ninevah and placed on display in Ashurbanipal's court. Ashurbanipal began a 4-year campaign against Babylonia and placed Kandalanu on the throne to replace his brother. Susa, the capital of Elam was sacked in 647 BCE and Elam never regained its power until the Persians conquered it a century later.[6]

Relief carvings[edit]

The Battle of Ulai is well known because of the relief carvings found in Ashurbanipal's palace in Ninevah. These chaotic images portray the torture and death of countless enemy soldiers. The severed head of Teumman can be found in nearly every panel including the panel depicting the king's victory banquet. This is consistent with the Assyrian propaganda "which urges viewers to be both fearful and in awe of Assyrian might".[7]


  1. ^ Roux, p. 333
  2. ^ Roux, p. 332
  3. ^ Van De Mieroop, Marc (2007). A History of the Ancient Near East (2 ed.). Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing. p. 229. ISBN 978-1-4051-4911-2.
  4. ^ Roux, p.332
  5. ^ Waters, Matthew (1999). "Te'umman in the Neo-Assyrian Correspondence". Journal of the American Oriental Society. University of Delaware. 119.3.
  6. ^ Van De Mieroop, Marc (2007). A History of the Ancient Near East (2 ed.). Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing. p. 229. ISBN 978-1-4051-4911-2.
  7. ^ Bahrani, Zainab. "Battle of Til-Tuba (Battle of the River Ulai)".


Georges Roux, Ancient Iraq

External links[edit]