Phoenicia under Assyrian rule

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During the rise of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, what is today known as Lebanon, came under nominal Assyrian rule on several occasions.[1] The approach of the devastating Assyrian armies would more often than not result in the vassalage of these states. Similarly, any long absence would result in rebellion, often sponsored by another of Assyria's numerous opponents. The result is that numerous Kings of Assyria launched campaigns to bring these economically important regions under Assyrian rule, many of them meeting short-term success. The rebellion after one King's offensive would result in his successor's next vengeful assault. When Tyre ceased to pay tribute to the Assyrian kings, rebellion broke out.[2]


Prior to the rise of the Neo-Assyrian Empire in the late 10th century BC, much of the land known today as Syria and Lebanon was ruled by various independent cities. Trade established between these cities and those of the Mediterranean gave some of these cities great wealth.

Following two centuries of weakness in which Assyria was governed by Kings incapable of improving her weak military situation,[3] King Adad-nirari II (911 - 891 BC) ascended to the throne and immediately began consolidating the domains of Assyria and punishing rebellious vassals.[4] After the death of Adad-nirari II, Tukulti-Ninurta II (890 - 884 BC) began expanding against Assyria's enemies to the north.[4] The expansion into the north meant that the next Assyrian King, Ashurnasirpal II (883 - 859 BC) was in a position to greatly expand Assyria's political and military influence out of Mesopotamia. After crushing the revolt of the city of Suru, defeating the Aramaean King Bit Adini and mercilessly mutilating other rebels along the Upper Tigris river,[5] Ashurnasirpal II turned his attention to the West, to the land of the Phoenicians.

Campaigns of Ashurnasirpal II, 883 - 859 B.C[edit]


Ashurnasirpal II's brutal treatment of rebels ensured that the absence of his army would not incite more revolts. Taking his army, which was typically composed of infantry (including auxiliaries and foreigners), heavy & light cavalry and chariots, Ashurnasirpal surprised the Neo-Hittites and Aramaean states of northern Syria.[6] Resistance was almost certainly encountered but many of the smaller cities immediately surrendered, often by rushing in advance of their settlement's location and offering tribute. Such tribute would naturally come with acts of humiliation, as Ashurnasirpal II proudly documents:

The tribute of the sea coast - from the inhabitants of Tyre, Sidon, Byblos, Mahallata, Kaiza, Amurru and Arvad which is an Island in the sea, consisting of gold, silver, tin, copper, copper-containers, linen garments with multi-colored trimmings, large and small monkeys, ebony, boxwood, ivory from walrus tusk, a product of the sea - this their tribute I received and they embraced my feet.[6]

In the previous text Ashurnasirpal II mentions an Island, Cyprus[6] demonstrating that Assyrian armies were not defeated by large bodies of water.


Ashurnasirpal II did not annex the Phoenician cities but instead only aimed to establish them as a source of raw materials for the Assyrian war machine. Iron was needed for weapons, Lebanese cedar for construction, gold and silver for the payment of troops; in the end however, Ashunasirpal's campaigns were only a short term success.

Campaigns of Shalmaneser III, 858 - 824 BC[edit]

Shalmaneser was the son of Ashurnasirpal II and like his father, expended much of his energies into fighting and expanding in the name of Ashur. However, while he did campaign for 31 years of his 35 years on the throne,[6] his death was met with unrealized dreams and ultimately civil conflict and another period of weakness. The cities of Syria and Palestine once more began to rebel and in 853 BC. Shalmaneser III led an army to cross the Euphrates and into northern Syria. After taking Aleppo,[7] he encountered on the plains of central Syria a coalition of Syrian and Palestinian states, including forces sent by King Ahab of Israel. The outcome of the battle was most likely a strategic defeat for Shalmaneser III[7] - although a few were brought back into line, he campaigned for three more occasions against his opponents in 849, 845 and 838 BC. Unsuccessful drives into Syria coupled with his repeated inability to take Damascus[7] resulted in the Phoenician cities receiving a century of respite from Assyrian attacks. For the next 80 years after Shalmaneser III's death, Lebanon would not be in any danger from Assyrian armies.

Shalmaneser III was one of the more unsuccessful Kings of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, although tougher times for Assyria would come. Shalmaneser III certainly had the resources to implement such conquests; he boasts that his Syrian campaigns involved as many as 120,000 men under his control. His failure meant that the conquests of Lebanon and Syria would fall to Tiglath Pileser III

Campaigns of Tiglath Pileser III, 745 - 727 BC[edit]

Tiglath Pileser III brought Assyria out of the period of weakness, much to the fear of Assyria's enemies. His reforms in administration and in the military included the introduction of a standing army (allowing for extensive campaigning and siege warfare), greater lines of communication and supply of horses, metal, arrows and other necessities of war.[8] Upon conquering a new territory, an Assyrian official would be put in charge to supervise and ensure Assyrian interests and tribute were maintained.

With these and with his energetic campaigning, Syria and many of the Phoenician cities were doomed to lose their independence once again to the brutal yet effective Assyrian armies.

After taking care of the troublesome Chaldeans to the south and re-affirming Babylon's vasslage to Assyria,[9] Tiglath led a campaign against the northern opponents of Urartu[10] - Urartu had been extending their influence into the eastern Mediterranean by carving out a number of vassal state along the fertile crescent and into Palestine. Consequently, Tiglath's moves against Syria and Palestine served to aid him in his war against Urartu.

Upon hearing of the advancing armies of Assyria, the vassal states in northern Syria called for the forces of Urartu to protect them.[10] In a crushing defeat in the Upper Euphrates Tiglath ensured that no troops would come to their aid; an unsuccessful siege of the capital of Urartu, Turushpa meant that Tiglath concentrated his efforts in the West. The Syrian city of Arpad was placed under siege in 747 BC. While most armies of the time would not be able to lay siege for more than half a year (the seasonal change demanded the soldiers return to their farms and tend to their fields and livestock) the reforms of Tilgath mean that his standing army would take the city in the third year of the siege.[10]

In 738 BC, Tiglath mirrored the moves of his predecessor, Ashurnasirpal II by accepting the tribute of many of cities in Palestine and Syria. The fruits of the conquests ensured once again a good supply of raw materials to feed the Assyrian war machine. When Tiglath placed a trade embargo on exporting Lebanese cedar to Egypt, coptic-backed rebellions broke out throughout the region,[11] all crushed and all made to recognize the suzerainty of nation of Assur.

Shalmaneser V, 726 - 722 BC and Sargon II, 721 - 705 BC[edit]

Sargonid dynasty[edit]

Sargon II (right), king of Assyria (r. 722 - 705 BC), with the crowned prince, Sennacherib (left)

The succession of Sargon II to Tiglath is surrounded by mystery - his campaigns against Babylon mention a previous conquest of Jerusalem, the capital of the Israelites and the mass deportation of some 27,000+ inhabitants to the lands of Media.[12] The most likely result is that another King before Sargon II, Shalmaneser V may have launched campaigns in the provinces of Syria and Palestine before being overthrown by Sargon II - whose rebellion would have encouraged others throughout the Empire, including the secession of Babylon from Assyria vassalage. Sargon II therefore claims the glory of his usurped predecessor's conquest of Israel.

In any case, the Assyrians under Sargon II were once more forced to campaign in the immediate vicinity of Assyria, resulting in an outbreak of rebellion in Syria (no doubt in order to take advantage of the pre-occupied status of the Assyrian army). After defeating her opponents, Sargon II decided to head west rather than completely defeat Elam, being content with reducing her ability to campaign for some time.

The Syrian rebellion was backed by the Egyptians[13] (Hanuna of Gaza was encouraged by them and so rebelled) and led by the ruler of Hamath. The cities of Damascus, Samaria and a few other Phoenician cities also broke away and allied once again to face the threat of Assyria. The rebellion was ultimately doomed; the coalition lacked the military ability to stop Sargon's rapid advance south. After taking Arpad, Sargon II smashed the coalition army at Qarqar,[13] thereby avenging the failures of Shalmaneser III. Hamath, followed by Damascus and then Samaria fell. Sargon then went on to take Gaza where he brushed aside an Egyptian expeditionary force. Hanuna was captured and flayed[13]

Another attempt by the Egyptians in 712 BC to foment a rebellion failed when Ashdod, the prime mover of this rebellion was defeated by Sargon's pre-emptive action.[13] Thereafter Palestine and much of the Phoenician cities were secure.

Sargon's military expeditions against Urartu and Phrygia allowed him to exert greater influence in norther Syria and Lebanon.

Sennacherib, 704 - 681 BC[edit]

It is unknown how rebellious the cities of Tyre and other Phoenician cities were under the reign of Sennacherib. It is however known that in 701 BC, Sennacherib marched south down the Mediterranean coast to suppress the rebellions by their vassals, the Philistine,[14] backed by the kingdom of Judah. After defeating yet another Egyptian expeditionary force,[14] the Philistine cities surrendered and tribute once again offered, with records speaking of bringing many hostile "cities" (some of which were much more like villages) "to embrace his [Sennacherib] feet".[14] This may well have included a number of Phoenician cities in Lebanon. Nonetheless, the vassals in the region would not stop rebelling while Babylon, Elam or Urartu attacked Assyria, and not while Egypt continued to provide aid to the rebels.

Esarhaddon 680 - 669 BC[edit]

Esarhaddon's reconstruction of Babylon[15] ensured her quiet in his reign, allowing him to turn his attention to the rebellious city of Tyre (which had rebelled with Egyptian aid). Esarhaddon's attempts at taking Egypt were not all successful, particularly his first[16] and in any case his main aim was to take advantage of the political chaos resulting from the Ethiopian Pharaohs installed there and give them something to be busy about so that they would not have the ability to incite rebellion in the region. However, his efforts against Tyre appear to be a success, since Tyre once again revolted later on, suggesting that they had no success against Esarhaddon.

Ashurbanipal 668 - 627 BC[edit]

Ashurbanipal, a palace relief from Nineveh.

Ashurbanipal would be the last Assyrian King to have the ability to campaign in Lebanon and much of Syria. Marching his army into Egypt (in order to safeguard Syria) he defeated the rebellious opponents there and installed puppet princes on the throne.[17] Egyptian attempts at taking Memphis ended miserably with Ashurbanipal marching south into Upper Egypt and taking Thebes "like a floodstorm".[17] His campaigning against Egypt coincided with another attempt to stop Tyre and Arvad from rebelling without being punished for it afterwards. With the death of Ashurbanipal, Syria fell from Assyrian rule. Ironically, it would be the Egyptians who would attempt to aid the Assyrians as they moved the capital of their collapsing kingdom to Harran and hence closer to Syria.

The destruction of the Assyrian Empire meant that Babylon and then Persia would rule Lebanon, Palestine and Syria until Alexander the Great of Macedon would initiate the Hellenistic Age.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Healy, Mark (1991). The Ancient Assyrians. New York: Osprey. pp. 8–53. 
  2. ^ Syria & Lebanon - Terry Carter, Lara Dunston, Andrew Humphreys - Google Boeken. Retrieved 2012-08-17. 
  3. ^ Healy, Mark (1991). The Ancient Assyrians. New York: Osprey. p. 5. 
  4. ^ a b Healy, Mark (1991). The Ancient Assyrians. New York: Osprey. p. 6. 
  5. ^ Healy, Mark (1991). The Ancient Assyrians. New York: Osprey. pp. 6–10. 
  6. ^ a b c d Healy, Mark (1991). The Ancient Assyrians. New York: Osprey. p. 10. 
  7. ^ a b c Healy, Mark (1991). The Ancient Assyrians. New York: Osprey. p. 11. 
  8. ^ Healy, Mark (1991). The Ancient Assyrians. New York: Osprey. pp. 17–24. 
  9. ^ Healy, Mark (1991). The Ancient Assyrians. New York: Osprey. p. 24. 
  10. ^ a b c Healy, Mark (1991). The Ancient Assyrians. New York: Osprey. p. 25. 
  11. ^ Healy, Mark (1991). The Ancient Assyrians. New York: Osprey. p. 26. 
  12. ^ Healy, Mark (1991). The Ancient Assyrians. New York: Osprey. p. 28. 
  13. ^ a b c d Healy, Mark (1991). The Ancient Assyrians. New York: Osprey. p. 30. 
  14. ^ a b c Healy, Mark (1991). The Ancient Assyrians. New York: Osprey. p. 45. 
  15. ^ Healy, Mark (1991). The Ancient Assyrians. New York: Osprey. p. 48. 
  16. ^ Healy, Mark (1991). The Ancient Assyrians. New York: Osprey. p. 50. 
  17. ^ a b Healy, Mark (1991). The Ancient Assyrians. New York: Osprey. pp. 50–51. 


  • Healy, Mark (1991). The Ancient Assyrians. New York: Osprey. 

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