Old Assyrian Empire
|Old Assyrian Empire|
|Religion||Ancient Mesopotamian religion|
|•||circa 2025 BCE||Erishum I (first)|
|•||circa 1393 BCE||Ashur-nadin-ahhe II (last)|
|Historical era||Bronze Age|
|•||Established||circa 2025 BCE|
|•||Disestablished||circa 1393 BCE|
|Today part of||Iraq|
The first written inscriptions by 'urbanised' Assyrian kings appear in the mid-21st century BC, after they had shrugged off Sumerian domination. The land of Assyria as a whole then consisted of a number of city states and small Semitic kingdoms, some of which were initially independent of Assyria. The foundation of the first major temple in the city of Ashur was traditionally ascribed to king Ushpia who reigned c. 2050 BC, possibly a contemporary of Ishbi-Erra of Isin and Naplanum of Larsa. He was reputedly succeeded by kings named Apiashal, Sulili, Kikkiya and Akiya (died c. 2026 BC), of whom little is known, apart from much later mentions of Kikkiya conducting fortifications on the city walls, and building work on temples in Ashur.
The main rivals, neighbours or trading partners to early Assyrian kings during the 22nd, 21st and 20th centuries BC would have been the Hattians and Hurrians to the north in Asia Minor, the Gutians, Lullubi and Turukku to the east in the Zagros Mountains of northwest Ancient Iran, the Elamites to the southeast in what is now south central Iran, the Amorites to the west in what is today Syria, and their fellow Sumero-Akkadian city-states of southern Mesopotamia such as Isin, Kish, Ur, Eshnunna and Larsa.
Like many city-states in early Mesopotamian history, Ashur was, to a great extent, originally an oligarchy rather than a monarchy. Authority was considered to lie with "the City", and the polity had three main centres of power—an assembly of elders, a hereditary ruler, and an eponym. The ruler presided over the assembly and carried out its decisions. He was not referred to with the usual Akkadian term for "king", šarrum/Sharru; that was instead reserved for the city's patron deity Assur, of whom the ruler was the high priest. The ruler himself was only designated as "the steward of Assur" (iššiak Assur), where the term for steward is a borrowing from Sumerian ensi(k). The third centre of power was the eponym (limmum), who gave the year his name, similarly to the later archons and consuls of Classical Antiquity. He was annually elected by lot and was responsible for the economic administration of the city, which included the power to detain people and confiscate property. The institution of the eponym as well as the formula iššiak Assur lingered on as ceremonial vestiges of this early system throughout the history of the Assyrian monarchy.
- 1 History
- 2 See also
- 3 Inscriptions
- 4 Notes
- 5 References
- 6 External links
Reign of Erishum I
Erišu(m) I (inscribed me-ri-šu, or mAPIN-ìš in later texts but always with an initial i in his own seal, inscriptions, and those of his immediate successors,:40 “he has desired,”) son of Ilu-šuma, was the ruler of Assyria ca. 1905-1867 BC (short chronology) or 1974–1935 BC (middle chronology),[nb 1] the 33rd to appear on the Assyrian kinglist and reigned for 40 years.[i 1] He titled himself: "Aššur is king, Erišum is vice-regent"[nb 2] and Išši’ak Aššurki, “governor of Assyria,” at a time when the small city state seems to have been controlled by an oligarchy of the patriarchs of the prominent families and subject to the “judgment of the city,” or dīn alim. The most significant event of his reign was the establishment of distant trading posts, kārum, in central Anatolia, the best known being that located at Kültepe, ancient Kaneš, as the city’s merchant family firms vigorously pursued commercial expansion.
One of two copies of the Assyrian Kinglist[i 2] which include him gives his reign length as only 30 years, but this contrasts with a complete list of his eponyms, some 40, which are extant from tablets[i 3] recovered at Kültepe.:3–5 These were discovered in 1948 with three other similar though fragmentary lists and two copies of an inscription of Erišum detailing the regulations concerning the administration of justice in Aššur, including the possibility of bona fide plaintiffs to obtain an attorney (rābiṣum) to represent them:
The one who talks too much in the Step Gate, the demon of ruins will seize his mouth and his hindquarters; he will smash his head like a shattered pot; he will fall like a broken reed and water will flow from his mouth. The one who talks too much in the Step Gate, his house will become a house of ruin. He who rises to give false testimony, may the [Seven] Judges who decide legal cases in [the Step Gate, give a false] decision [against him]; [may Aššur], Adad, and Bel, [my god, pluck his seed]; a place […] may they not give to him.
[The one who…] … obeys me, [when he goes] to the Step Gate, [may] the palace deputy [assist him]; [may he send] the witnesses and plaintiff (to the court); [may] the judges [take the bench] and give a proper decision [in Ašš]ur.:13— Inscription of Êrišum I[i 4]
According to Veenhof, Erišum’s reign marks the period when the institution of the annually appointed limmum, or eponym, was introduced. The Assyrian Kinglist observes of his immediate predecessors, “in all six kings [known from] bricks, whose eponyms have not been marked/found.” Following the example set by his father, he proclaimed tax exemptions, or as Michael Hudson has interpreted: "I proclaimed a remission of debts payable in silver, gold, copper, tin, barley, wool, down to chaff." This appears in an inscription on one side of a large broken block of alabaster,[i 5] apparently described as a ṭuppu. The shallow depression on its top has led some to identify it as a door socket.
It was during his reign that kārums were established along trade routes into Anatolia in the lower city of Kaneš (Kültepe), and others were to follow in Amkuwa (Alisar Höyük), Ḫattuša (Boğazköy) and eighteen other locations yet to be identified, some designated warbatums, satellites of and subordinate to the kārums. Around 23,000 tablets have been found at Kaneš spanning a period of 129 years from the 30th year of Erišum’s reign through to that of Puzur-Aššur II or possibly Narām-Sîn with the earliest from level II including copies of his inscriptions. The markets traded tin (inscribed AN.NA, Akkadian: annukum), textiles, lapis lazuli, iron, antimony, copper, bronze, wool, and grain for gold and silver.
His numerous contemporary inscriptions commemorate his building of the temple for Aššur, called “Wild Bull,” with its courtyard (cattle pen?) and two beer vats and the accompanying curses to those who would use them for their intended purposes. His efforts were recalled by the later kings Šamši-Adad I, in his rebuilding dedication,:20 and Šulmanu-ašared I, who noted that 159 years had passed between Erišum’s work and that of Šamši-Adad, and a further 580 years until his own when a fire had gutted it.:84–85 He had exercised eminent domain to clear an area from the Sheep Gate to the People’s Gate to make way for an enlargement of the city wall, so that he could boast that “I made a wall higher than the wall my father had constructed.”:11 Erišum’s other civic constructions included the temple of Ištar and that of Adad.
Limmu officials by year
The annual eponym officials from the first full year of his reign until the year of his death are given with the middle chronology year.:6–10
1974 Šu-Ištar, son of Abila
1973 Šukutum, son of Išuhum
1972 Iddin-ilum, son of Kurub-Ištar
1971 Šu-Anim, son of Isalia
1970 Anah-ili, son of Kiki
1969 Suitaya, son of Ir'ibum
1968 Daya, son of Išuhum
1964 Idnaya, son of Šudaya
1963 Quqadum, son of Buzu
1962 Puzur-Ištar, son of Bedaki
1961 Laqip, son of Bab-idi
1960 Šu-Laban, son of Kurub-Ištar
1959 Šu-Belum, son of Išuhum
1958 Nab-Suen, son of Šu-Ištar
1957 Hadaya, son of Elali
1956 Ennum-Aššur, son of Begaya
1955 Ikunum, son of Šudaya
1954 Is.mid-ili, son of Idida
1953 Buzutaya, son of Išuhum
1952 Šu-Ištar, son of Amaya
1951 Iddin-Aššur, son of the priest
1950 Puzur-Aššur, the ghee maker
1949 Quqadum, son of Buzu
1948 Ibni-Adad, son of Susaya
1947 Irišum, son of Adad-rabi
1946 Minanum, son of Begaya
1945 Iddin-Suen, son of Šalim-ahum
1944 Puzur-Aššur, son of Idnaya
1943 Šuli, son of Uphakum
1942 Laqip, son of Zukua
1941 Puzur-Ištar, son of Erisua
1940 Aguwa, son of Adad-rabi
1939 Šu-Suen, son of S.illia
1938 Ennum-Aššur, son of Begaya
1937 Enna-Suen, son of Pussanum
1936 Ennanum, son of Uphakum
1935 Buzi, son of Adad-rabi
Dynasty of Puzur-Ashur I, 2025–1809 BC
In approximately 2025 BC (long chronology), Puzur-Ashur I (perhaps a contemporary of Shu-ilishu of Larsa and Samium of Isin) is speculated to have overthrown Kikkiya and founded a new dynasty which was to survive for 216 years. His descendants left inscriptions mentioning him regarding the building of temples to gods such as Ashur, Adad and Ishtar in Assyria. The length of his reign is unknown.
Shalim-ahum (died c. 2009 BC) succeeded the throne at a currently unknown date. He left inscriptions in archaic Old Assyrian regarding the construction of a temple dedicated to the god Ashur, and the placement of beer vats within it.
Ilushuma (c. 2008–1975 BC) took the throne in c. 2008 BC, and is known from his inscription (extant in several copies) where he claims to have "washed the copper" and "established liberty" for the Akkadians in Sumerian city-states as far as the Persian Gulf. This has been taken by some scholars to imply that he made military campaigns into Southern Mesopotamia to relieve his fellow Mesopotamians from Amorite and Elamite invasions, however some recent scholars have taken the view that the inscription means he supplied these areas with copper from Hatti, and that the word used for "liberty" (adduraru) is usually in the context of his exempting the southern Mesopotamian kings from tariffs.
- "The freedom[nb 3] of the Akkadians and their children I established. I purified their copper. I established their freedom from the border of the marshes and Ur and Nippur, Awal, and Kish, Der of the goddess Ishtar, as far as the City of (Ashur).":7–8
Assyria had long held extensive contact with Hattian, Hittite and Hurrian cities on the Anatolian plateau in Asia Minor. The Assyrians who had for centuries traded in the region, and possibly ruled small areas bordering Assyria, now established significant colonies in Cappadocia (e.g., at Kanesh (modern Kültepe) from 2008 BC to 1740 BC). These colonies, called karum, from the Akkadian word for 'port', were attached to Hattian cities in Anatolia, but physically separate, and had special tax status. They must have arisen from a long tradition of trade between Assyria and the Anatolian cities, but no archaeological or written records show this. The trade consisted of metals (copper or tin and perhaps iron; the terminology is not entirely clear) being traded for textiles from Assyria.
Erishum I (c. 1974–1935 BC) vigorously expanded Assyrian colonies in Asia Minor during his long reign, the major ones appearing to be at Kanesh, Ḫattuša (Boğazköy) (the future capital of the Hittite Empire) and Amkuwa (Alisar Höyük), together with a further eighteen smaller colonies. He created some of the earliest examples of Written Law, conducted extensive building work in the form of fortifying the walls of major Assyrian cities and the erection of temples dedicated to Ashur and Ishtar. It is from his reign that the continuous limmum lists are known, however there are references to the eponym-books for his predecessors having been destroyed at some point.
Sargon I (c. 1920–1881 BC) succeeded him in c. 1920 BC, and had an unusually long reign of 39 years. It is likely he was named after his illustrious predecessor Sargon of Akkad. He is known to have refortified the defences of major Assyrian cities, and maintained Assyrian colonies in Asia Minor during his reign. Apart from this, little has yet been unearthed about him. At some point he appears to have withdrawn Assyrian aid to southern Mesopotamia. It was during his reign in Assyria that the initially minor city-state of Babylon was founded in 1894 BC by an Amorite Malka (prince) named Sumuabum.
Puzur-Ashur II (c. 1881–1873 BC) came to the throne as an already older man due to his fathers long reign. Little is known about his rule, but it appears to have been uneventful.
Naram-Suen (c. 1872–1818 BC) ascended to the throne in 1872 BC, and is likely named after his predecessor Naram-Sin of the Akkadian Empire. Assyria continued to be wealthy during his 54-year-long reign (one of the longest in the ancient Near East), and he defeated the future usurper king Shamshi-Adad I who attempted to take his throne.
Erishum II (c. 1818–1809 BC) was to be the last king of the dynasty of Puzur-Ashur I, founded c. 2025 BC. After only eight or nine years in power he was overthrown by Shamshi-Adad I, the Amorite usurper who had previously been defeated in an attempt to unseat Naram-Suen, and who claimed legitimacy by asserting descent from the mid 21st century BC Assyrian king, Ushpia.
Amorite Period in Assyria, 1809–1750 BC
The Amorites were successfully repelled by the Assyrian kings of the 20th and 19th centuries BC. However, in 1809 BC the native Mesopotamian king of Assyria Erishum II was deposed, and the throne of Assyria was usurped by Shamshi-Adad I (c. 1809 – 1776 BC) in the expansion of Semitic Amorite tribes from the Khabur River delta in the north eastern Levant.
Although regarded as an Amorite by later Assyrian tradition, Shamshi-Adad's descent is suggested to be from the same line as the native Mesopotamian ruler Ushpia in the Assyrian King List. He put his son Ishme-Dagan on the throne of a nearby Assyrian city, Ekallatum, and maintained Assyria's Anatolian colonies. Shamshi-Adad I then went on to conquer the kingdom of Mari (in modern Syria) on the Euphrates putting another of his sons, Yasmah-Adad on the throne there. Shamshi-Adad's Assyria now encompassed the whole of northern Mesopotamia and included territory in central Mesopotamia, Asia Minor and northern Syria. Shamshi-Adad I mentions conducting raids on the Canaanite coasts of the far off Mediterranean, where he erected stelae to commemorate his victories. He himself resided in a new capital city founded in the Khabur valley in northern Mesopotamia, called Shubat-Enlil.
Ishme-Dagan I (1774–1763 BC) inherited Assyria, but Yasmah-Adad was overthrown by a new king called Zimrilim in Mari. The new king of Mari allied himself with the Amorite king Hammurabi of Babylon, who had made the recently created, and originally minor state of Babylon into a major power. It was from the reign of Hammurabi onwards that southern Mesopotamia came to be known as Babylonia.
Assyria now faced the rising power of Babylon in the south. Ishme-Dagan responded by making an alliance with the enemies of Babylon, and the power struggle continued without resolution for decades. Ishme-Dagan, like his father was a great warrior, and in addition to repelling Babylonian attacks, campaigned successfully against the Turukku and Lullubi of the Zagros Mountains (in modern Iran) who had attacked the Assyrian city of Ekallatum, and against Dadusha, king of Eshnunna, and the state of Iamhad (modern Aleppo).
Assyria under Babylonian domination, 1750–1732 BC
Hammurabi, after first conquering Mari, Larsa, and Eshnunna, eventually prevailed over Ishme-Dagan's replacement Mut-Ashkur (1750–1740 BC), and subjected him to Babylon c. 1750 BC. With Hammurabi, the various karum colonies in Anatolia ceased trade activity—probably because the goods of Assyria were now being traded with the Babylonians. The Assyrian monarchy survived, however the three Amorite kings succeeding Ishme-Dagan, Mut-Ashkur (who was the son of Ishme-Dagan and married to a Hurrian queen), Rimush (1739–1733 BC) and Asinum (1732 BC), were vassals, dependent on the Babylonians during the reign of Hammurabi, and for a short time, of his successor Samsu-iluna.
Assyrian Adaside dynasty, 1732–1451 BC
The short lived Babylonian Empire quickly began to unravel upon the death of Hammurabi, and Babylonia lost control over Assyria during the reign of Hammurabi's successor Samsu-iluna (1750–1712 BC). A period of civil war ensued after Asinum (a grandson of Shamshi-Adad I and the last Amorite ruler of Assyria) was deposed in approximately 1732 BC by a powerful native Assyrian vice regent named Puzur-Sin, who regarded Asinum as both a foreigner and a former lackey of Babylon.
A native king named Ashur-dugul seized the throne in 1732 BC, probably with the help of Puzur-Sin. However, he was unable to retain control for long, and was soon deposed by a rival claimant, Ashur-apla-idi. Internal instability ensued with four further kings (Nasir-Sin, Sin-namir, Ipqi-Ishtar and Adad-salulu) all reigning in quick succession over a period of approximately six years between 1732 and 1727 BC. Babylonia seems to have been too powerless to intervene or take advantage of this situation.
Finally, a king named Adasi (1726–1701 BC) came to the fore c. 1726 BC and managed to quell the civil unrest and stabilise the situation in Assyria. Adasi completely drove the Babylonians and Amorites from the Assyrian sphere of influence during his reign, and Babylonian power began to quickly wane in Mesopotamia as a whole, also losing the far south of Mesopotamia (an area roughly corresponding to ancient Sumer) to the native Akkadian-speaking Sealand Dynasty, although the Amorites would retain control over a much reduced and weak Babylonia itself until 1595 BC, when they were overthrown by the Kassites, a people from the Zagros Mountains who spoke a language isolate and were neither Semites nor Indo-Europeans.
Adasi was succeeded by Bel-bani (1700–1691 BC) who is credited in Assyrian annals with inflicting further defeats on the Babylonians and Amorites, and further strengthening and stabilising the kingdom.
Little is currently known of many of the kings that followed such as; Libaya (1690–1674 BC), Sharma-Adad I (1673–1662 BC), Iptar-Sin (1661–1650 BC), Bazaya (1649–1622 BC) (a contemporary of Peshgaldaramesh of the Sealand Dynasty), Lullaya (1621–1618 BC) (who usurperped the throne from Bazaya), Shu-Ninua (1615–1602 BC) and Sharma-Adad II (1601–1599 BC). However, Assyria seems to have been a relatively strong and stable nation, existing undisturbed by its neighbours such as the Hattians, Hittites, Hurrians, Amorites, Babylonians, Elamites or Mitannians during this period.
Assyria remained strong and secure; when Babylon was sacked and its Amorite rulers deposed by the Hittite Empire, and subsequently fell to the Kassites in 1595 BC, both powers were unable to make any inroads into Assyria, and there seems to have been no trouble between the first Kassite ruler of Babylon, Agum II, and Erishum III (1598–1586 BC) of Assyria, and a mutually beneficial treaty was signed between the two rulers.
Shamshi-Adad II (1585–1580 BC), Ishme-Dagan II (1579–1562 BC) and Shamshi-Adad III (1562–1548 BC) seem also to have had peaceful tenures, although few records have thus far been discovered about their reigns. Similarly, Ashur-nirari I (1547–1522 BC) seems not to have been troubled by the newly founded Mitanni Empire in Asia Minor, the Hittite empire, or Babylon during his 25-year reign. He is known to have been an active king, improving the infrastructure, dedicating temples and conducting various building projects throughout the kingdom.
Puzur-Ashur III (1521–1498 BC) proved to be a strong and energetic ruler. He undertook much rebuilding work in Assur, the city was refortified and the southern quarters incorporated into the main city defences. Temples to the moon god Sin (Nanna) and the sun god Shamash were erected during his reign. He signed a treaty with Burna-Buriash I the Kassite king of Babylon, defining the borders of the two nations in the late 16th century BC. He was succeeded by Enlil-nasir I (1497–1483 BC) who appears to have had a peaceful and uneventful reign, as does his successor Nur-ili (1482–1471 BC).
The son of Nur-ili, Ashur-shaduni (1470 BC) was deposed by his uncle Ashur-rabi I (1470–1451 BC) in his first year of rule. Little is known about his nineteen-year reign, but it appears to have been largely uneventful.
Assyria in decline, 1450–1393 BC
The emergence of the Mitanni Empire in the 16th century BC did eventually lead to a short period of sporadic Mitannian-Hurrian domination in the latter half of the 15th century. The Indo-European-speaking Mitannians are thought to have conquered and formed the ruling class over the indigenous Hurrians of eastern Anatolia. The Hurrians spoke a language isolate, i.e. neither Semitic nor Indo-European.
Ashur-nadin-ahhe I (1450–1431 BC) was courted by the Egyptians, who were rivals of Mitanni, and attempting to gain a foothold in the Near East. Amenhotep II sent the Assyrian king a tribute of gold to seal an alliance against the Hurri-Mitannian empire. It is likely that this alliance prompted Saushtatar, the emperor of Mitanni, to invade Assyria, and sack the city of Ashur, after which Assyria became a sometime vassal state, with Ashur-nadin-ahhe I being forced to pay tribute to Saushtatar. He was deposed by his own brother Enlil-nasir II (1430–1425 BC) in 1430 BC, possibly with the aid of Mitanni, who received tribute from the new king. Ashur-nirari II (1424–1418 BC) had an uneventful reign, and appears to have also paid tribute to the Mitanni Empire.
The Assyrian monarchy survived, and the Mitannian influence appears to have been sporadic. They appear not to have been always willing or indeed able to interfere in Assyrian internal and international affairs.
Ashur-bel-nisheshu (1417–1409 BC) seems to have been independent of Mitannian influence, as evidenced by his signing a mutually beneficial treaty with Karaindash, the Kassite king of Babylonia in the late 15th century. He also undertook extensive rebuilding work in Ashur itself, and Assyria appears to have redeveloped its former highly sophisticated financial and economic systems during his reign.
Ashur-rim-nisheshu (1408–1401 BC) also undertook building work, strengthening the city walls of the capital.
Ashur-nadin-ahhe II (1400–1393 BC) also received a tribute of gold and diplomatic overtures from Egypt, probably in an attempt to gain Assyrian military support against Egypt's Mitannian and Hittite rivals in the region. However, the Assyrian king appears not to have been in a strong enough position to challenge Mitanni or the Hittites.
Eriba-Adad I (1392–1366 BC), a son of Ashur-bel-nisheshu, ascended the throne in 1392 BC and finally broke the ties to the Mitanni Empire.
There are dozens of Mesopotamian cuneiform texts from this period, with precise observations of solar and lunar eclipses, that have been used as 'anchors' in the various attempts to define the chronology of Babylonia and Assyria for the early 2nd millennium BC (i.e., the "high", "middle", and "low" chronologies.)
- Khorsabad kinglist.
- SDAS Kinglist: [mE-ri-š] u DUMU mDINGIR-šum-ma, [šá li-ma-ni? -šu-ni 10] + 30 MU.MEŠ LUGAL-ta DÙ-uš.
- KEL A (kt 92/k 193), at CDLI.
- Tablet copies: An 201139 and An 20114.
- BM 115689, Ass. 16850.
- Some historians quote ca. 1939–1900 BC (after Amélie Kuhrt, The Ancient Near East, C. 3000-330 BC, Volume 1, Routledge, 1996, p. 82).
- da-šùr LUGAL i-ri-šu-um PA.
- Freedom: addurāru.
- According to the Assyrian King List and Georges Roux (1964), Ancient Iraq, p. 187.
- Georges Roux (1964), Ancient Iraq[page needed]
- Larsen, Mogens Trolle (2000): "The old Assyrian city-state". In Hansen, Mogens Herman, A comparative study of thirty city-state cultures: an investigation / conducted by the Copenhagen Polis Centre, p. 77–89.
- K. R. Veenhof (2003). The Old Assyrian List of Year Eponyms from Karum Kanish and its Chronological Implications. Turkish Historical Society. pp. 40, 3–10.
- E. Frahm (1998). K. Radner, ed. The Prosopography of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, Volume 1, Part II: A. The Neo-Assyrian Text Corpus Project. p. 404.
- I. J. Gelb (1954). "Two Assyrian King Lists". Journal of Near East Studies VIII (4): 213.
- A. K. Grayson (1972). Assyrian Royal Inscriptions, Volume 1. Otto Harrassowitz. pp. 8–15, 20, 84–85.
- Klaas R. Veenhof, Jesper Eidem (2008). Mesopotamia: the Old Assyrian period. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. p. 29.
- J. E. Reade (2001). "A monument of Erišum I from Aššur". Revue d'assyriologie et d'archéologie orientale 94 (2): 177–178. doi:10.3917/assy.094.0177.
- Lines 27 to 28: [IE-r]i-šu dumu Iilu-šum-ma [šá li-ma-ni]-šu-ni 40 mumeš lugalta dùuš.
- Tablet copies: An 201139 and An 20114
- Cahit Günbattı, An Eponym List (KEL G) from Kültepe Altoriental. Forsch. 35 (2008) 1, 103–132.
- Klaas R. Veenhof, The old Assyrian list of year eponyms from Karum Kanish and its chronological implications (Ankara, Turkish Historical Society, 2003
|Look up Assyria in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
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- Morris Jastrow, Jr., The Civilization of Babylonia and Assyria: its remains, language, history, religion, commerce, law, art, and literature, London: Lippincott (1915)—a searchable facsimile at the University of Georgia Libraries; also available in layered PDF format