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Clay Prism of Senanacherib - Oriental Institute

On the six inscribed sides of this clay prism, King Sennacherib recorded eight military campaigns undertaken against various peoples who refused to submit to Assyrian domination. In all instances, he claims to have been victorious. As part of the third campaign, he beseiged Jerusalem and imposed heavy tribute on Hezekiah, King of Judah-a story also related in the Bible, where Sennacherib is said to have been defeated by "the angel of the Lord," who slew 185,000 Assyrian soldiers (II Kings 18-19).


In the last quarter of the eighth century BCE, the Assyrian kings Šalmaneser V (r.726-722) and Sargon II (r.721-705) had expanded their empire to Israel. Samaria fell in 724 or 722. Although Menander of Ephesus mentions a (probably unsuccessful) siege of Tyre, its King Lulli managed to retain his independence, staying outside further conflicts, and expanding his rule (or continuing his rule) in Kition and in Sidon. In 701, however, the Assyrian king Sennacherib (r.705-681) decided to terminate Lulli's rule.


He describes his campaign in his Annals, which are known to us from the Sennacherib Prism, now in the Chicago Oriental Institute. Note in the fragment below that only Old Tyre is captured. Tyre itself, situated on an island, was not taken and Lulli continued to rule over there. Another remarkable point is that Tuba'lu paid an annual tribute - in other words, a normal system of taxation was introduced.


This Sennacherib Prism has become famous because it also describes the unsuccessful siege of Jerusalem. The translation below was made by Mordechai Cogan.

The Sennacherib Prism

[ii.37-49] In my third campaign, I marched against Hatti. The awesome splendor of my lordship overwhelmed Lulli. king of Sidon, and he fled overseas far-off. The terrifying nature of the weapon of Aššur, my lord, overwhelmed his strong cities, Greater Sidon, Lower Sidon, Bit-Zitti, Sarepta, Mahaliba, Old Tyre, Akzib, Acre, walled cities, provided with food and water for his garrisons, and they bowed in submission to my feet.

I installed Tuba'lu on the royal throne and imposed upon him tribute and dues for my lordship, payable annually without interruption.

[The text continues with a description of the siege of Lachish and Jerusalem; cf. 2 Kings 18-19.]



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