Ishme-Dagan I

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Ishme-Dagan I was the son of Shamshi-Adad I, an Amorite king of the Upper Mesopotamian Empire. Shamshi-Adad I ruled from his capital of Shubat-Enlil, and installed his elder son, Ishme-Dagan, in Ekallatum, and made the younger, Yasmah-Adad, king of Mari.[1] Ishme-Dagan ruled the area of the upper Tigris, including the city-state of Assur, until being ousted by Hammurabi of Babylon. The Assyrian king list credits Ishme-Dagan with a rule of 40 years.

Family Correspondence[edit]

A number of letters relating the familial relationships between Shamshi-Adad and his two sons have been excavated, and these letters provide a glimpse into the tensions of this family of rulers. Shamshi-Adad often praised his oldest, while chiding his youngest. Ishme-Dagan appears to have been “a forceful soldier not afraid to risk his own skin,” a quality which allowed Shamshi-Adad to rely on him unhesitatingly.[2] Shamshi-Adad’s correspondence to his younger son is not as generous (see Yasmah-Adad for examples), and Ishme-Dagan appears to have picked up his father’s censure of his younger brother and contributed to it, as other letters attest; in one, Ishme-Dagan asks his brother, “Why are you setting up a wail about this thing? That is not great conduct”.[3]

Other letters may reinforce the idea that Ishme-Dagan shared his father’s distaste for Yasmah-Adad’s conduct; in one letter, Ishme-Dagan bluntly commands Yasmah-Adad to “show some sense”.[4] In another, Ishme-Dagan tells his brother to stop writing their father directly, and use him as an intermediary. The reasons behind this move could be political, as a way for Ishme-Dagan to gain more political standing with their father, or perhaps Ishme-Dagan was sincere in his desire to help his brother appear more competent in their father’s eyes.

In addition to letters whose authorship can be verified to Ishme-Dagan, Shamshi-Adad and Yasmah-Adad, there have been letters attributed to this family that were not written by them. One such letter caused issues in Bronze Age chronology, as it allowed historians to place dates on Hammurabi. The letter was purportedly from Ishme-Dagan, writing to his brother after their father had died, and states, “I acceded to my father’s throne, but having been very busy, I haven’t sent you my news. Now you are my brother, and aside from you I have no brother. I will make peace with any city or king that you take as a vassal. Don’t ever worry. Your throne is yours to keep”.[5] This letter led historians to believe that Yasmah-Adad held the throne of Mari for a while after his father died, but this letter was proven to actually be from Ishme-Addu of Ashnakku, written to Ibal-Addu of Ashlakka, thus disproving many chronologies that had been based on the letter.[6]

Territorial Holdings[edit]

Ishme-Dagan ruled the southeastern region of Upper Mesopotamia, with the capital of his realm of influence in Ekallatum. Ishme-Dagan’s main challenge was in keeping his enemies in check; to his east were the foothills of the Zagros Mountains, inhabited by warlike pastoral peoples, and to the south was the Mesopotamian kingdom of Eshnunna. Ishme-Dagan was involved in conflicts with both enemies.

Although his father counted Ishme-Dagan as politically astute and a capable soldier, commending him as he berated Yasmah-Adad in their letters, Ishme-Dagan was not able to hold his father’s empire for long after his father died. Ishme-Dagan eventually lost most of his domain, and was reduced to holding Assur and Ekallatum, despite waging several counter offensives to try to regain the upper Khabur area.[7] Some evidence indicates that after his reduction in power, Ishme-Dagan appeared to hold tolerable relations with Babylon, Eshnunna, and Mari (despite his brother’s expulsion). Hammurabi of Babylon requested reinforcements from Ishme-Dagan at least once, and Ishme-Dagan responded, though it seems his response was grudging, and Hammurabi was not entirely pleased with the poor support. Later, it is likely that Ishme-Dagan was the king of Assur when Hammurabi vanquished her king and occupied Assyrian lands.[8]

Warfare[edit]

Although it is difficult to reconstruct much of Ishme-Dagan’s rule, there are records of a few military campaigns he was part of, both against nomadic peoples and against the southern kingdom of Eshnunna. Eshnunna was to be his chief enemy, and although records are sparse, there are some accounts of some political conflicts involving Eshnunna, and these occurred both while his father was alive, and after he died. An instance of defeat occurs in a year-name coined by Dadusha, a king of Eshnunna (ruled ca. 1780 C.E.), which commemorates a victory over an army led by Ishme-Dagan.[9] However, the year-name of the 5th year of Ibalpiel II’s reign (Dadusha’s son), indicating some reverence to Shamshi-Adad I at his passing, suggests that Eshnunna had been become subservient to the Upper Mesopotamian Empire. This idea is confirmed by a letter written by Ishme-Dagan to his brother, after Ishme-Dagan assumes their father’s throne and the rule of all of Upper Mesopotamia, in which he tells Yasmah-Adad that he “has the Elamites on a leash as well as their ally, the king of Eshnunna”.[10] His confidence was overstated, however, as year-names of the 8th and 9th years of King Ibalpiel’s reign indicate Eshnunna attacked and destroyed the armies of Assur and Mari, and Ishme-Dagan’s control over his father’s entire realm slipped, as his hold was reduced to the region of Assur and Ekallatum.

Another campaign for which records exist is a campaign that Ishme-Dagan appears to have engaged in with his father when he was still alive, against the nomadic tribe called the Ya’ilanum. In 1781 C. E., Shamshi-Adad, along with his son Ishme-Dagan, embarked on a new campaign against a few other kingdoms in the area (Qabra and Nurugum) and the Ya’ilanum tribe. These expeditions betray the different attitudes of the urban peoples toward the tribal peoples, as the people of the kingdoms were treated differently than the tribal people. During the course of the campaign on Nurugum, Ishme-Dagan and his armies besieged Nineveh, and once Nineveh was conquered—according to letters excavated from the period—Ishme-Dagan allowed some prisoners to enter his army, and gave special treatment to skilled prisoners (physicians and the like). Only one letter to Yasmah-Adad indicates the use of violence against prisoners.[11]

However, the respect accorded to people of the cities was not evident in the treatment of people from pastoral tribes, who were often viewed as dangerous to society. While Shamshi-Adad ordered his younger son, Yasmah-Adad, to execute all the members of this tribe under his authority, it was the troops of Ishme-Dagan who later exterminated the entire tribe. There are two accounts of this annihilation, one from Shamshi-Adad, and one from Ishme-Dagan. Shamshi-Adad seems to have slightly reneged on his earlier bloodthirstiness toward the tribes, as his account appears to limit the killing to the leaders and the combatants of the army,[12] but in a letter from Ishme-Dagan to Yasmah-Adad, it seems the whole population was eradicated, as he states, “Mar-Addu and all the sons (of the tribe) of Ya’ilanum were killed, and all its servants and soldiers were killed, and not one enemy escaped”.[13]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Van De Mieroop, Mark. A History of the Ancient Near East (Second ed.). Victoria, Australia: Blackwell Publishing. pp. 108–109. ISBN 9781405149112. 
  2. ^ The Cambridge Ancient History, Volume II, Part I (Third ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 3. ISBN 0521082307. 
  3. ^ The Cambridge Ancient History, Volume II, Part I (Third ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 3. ISBN 0521082307. 
  4. ^ The Cambridge Ancient History, Volume II, Part I (Third ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 3. ISBN 0521082307. 
  5. ^ Sasson, Jack M. (1993). "Albright as an Orientalist". The Biblical Archaeologist 56 (1): 3. doi:10.2307/3210355. 
  6. ^ Sasson, Jack M. (1993). "Albright as an Orientalist". The Biblical Archaeologist 56 (1): 3. doi:10.2307/3210355. 
  7. ^ The Cambridge Ancient History, Volume II, Part I (Third ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 8. ISBN 0521082307. 
  8. ^ The Cambridge Ancient History, Volume II, Part I (Third ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 178. ISBN 0521082307. 
  9. ^ The Cambridge Ancient History, Volume II, Part I (Third ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 7. ISBN 0521082307. 
  10. ^ The Cambridge Ancient History, Volume II, Part I (Third ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 7. ISBN 0521082307. 
  11. ^ Vidal, Jordi (2013). ""Kill Them All!" Some Remarks on the Annihilation of the Ya'ilanum Tribe". Journal of the American Oriental Society 133 (4): 684. doi:10.7817/jameroriesoci.133.4.0683. 
  12. ^ Vidal, Jordi (2013). ""Kill Them All!" Some Remarks on the Annihilation of the Ya'ilanum Tribe". Journal of the American Oriental Society 133 (4): 684. doi:10.7817/jameroriesoci.133.4.0683. 
  13. ^ Vidal, Jordi (2013). ""Kill Them All!" Some Remarks on the Annihilation of the Ya'ilanum Tribe". Journal of the American Oriental Society 133 (4): 685. doi:10.7817/jameroriesoci.133.4.0683. 
  • Jean-Marie Durand, Documents Epistolaires du Palais de Mari, Collection « Littérature Ancienne du Proche-Orient » N° 16. (1997); (2002) ISBN 2-204-05685-5


Preceded by
Shamshi-Adad I
King of Assyria Succeeded by
Mut-Ashkur