Assyrians

Created by Patrick Azar and Ryan Ziolkowski

The Assyrians are known as one of the first civilizations to exist in the Middle East, but they are also recognized by the geography and convenient location of Assyria, their strong military, and the complex culture of their community.

Geography

The geography of Assyria was easily adapted to and it is located well.

Climate
The climate in the Assyrian Empire was hot and dry in the summer.
Although it was hot and dry in the summers, Assyria had more rainfall and was a lot more cooler than the south or west of its empire. (Landau 16) Most of the weather in Assyria consisted of snow, rain, and burning heat. (20)


Location
The former land of Assyria lay approximately forty-three degrees east and thirty-six degrees north.
It is in between the Caspian Sea, the Black Sea, the Red Sea, the Mediterranean Sea, and the Persian Gulf. It is northeast of Egypt and east of the Euphrates River. It lay in northern Mesopotamia, diagonal from Babylon. (Greenblatt 62) There were 2 main times of the Assyrian Empire. During the first time in 1300 B.C. they were north of Babylon, Ur and Euphrates river, south of Asia Minor, west of Mediterranean sea, and south of Black Sea. During the second part in 612 B.C., the only big expansion was going south east into the Zargos Mountains.(Landau 11)


Interaction
Assyria often fought with other civilizations in the Middle East.
Dying_Lioness.jpg
Dying Lioness (Flickr)

Every victorious battle for the Assyrians resulted in a new area of land included in the Assyrian Empire. The Assyrian Empire rose around 612 B.C. (Landau 11-13) The Assyrians hunted elephants, wild bulls, and lions. The kings lead most of the hunting trips, although the kings were expert hunters, they were always backed up by expert spearmen. Built parks andparadises. Parks and paradises were places were kings would often fight animals that were kept there. The animals that they kept in parks/paradises consisted of tigers, wild boars, antelopes, and lions. The kings would fight to show their courage, physical coordination, and hunting provinces. (24)


Place
There were many animals in the land of Assyria. Sheep, goats, cattle, lions, and elephants were often found while hunting in Assyria.
Barley, sesame, corn, wheat, and other crops were grown in the farms and fields. Irrigation canals were dug up near the River Valley so that the water from the river could be transported to the town and the crops. Barriers were set up so that the river would not flood during the process. Farmers raised sheep, goats, and cattle to produce dairy products. Even though the Tigris River fertilized the land, the Assyrians dug canals to further fertilize the fields.(Landau 18,20)


Movement
The Assyrian Empire expanded throughout the Middle East in 612 B.C.
The Assyrian army moved from Ur to Tyre, then Tyre to Memphis, and Memphis to Thebes. Expanded north and north west into Asia minor. Also expanded south west through Syria, Judea, and northern Egypt. Expanded as far south east as the coast of the Persian Gulf. Covered almost all of the eastern side of the Medditerranean sea coast. (Landau, 11) Expanded as far north and north east as Cilicia, Lydia, and Uratu. Went as far south east as Media, Elam, and The Persian Gulf coast. Went as far south west as Egypt. (Nardo 58)


Region
Assyria used to be in an area that currently lies near the Zagros Mountains.
This region is now called the Middle East. The Middle East is usually considered to be a desert region. Present-day Iraq and Syria are in the Middle East. (Landau, 11)


Impact on Culture
Even after the Assyrians lost control of their land, the culture and traditions of those areas have been kept the same for a long time.
For example, when the Assyrians ruled Palastine, they established provinces. These provinces of Palastine still exist to this day. (Stern, 14-41)


Military
Assyrian_Military.jpg
Assyrian Military (flickr)

The military of Assyria was ruthless and brutal.

Armies
High ranking officers would wear long coats of armor.
Their heads were protected by round, metal helmets. The king was surrounded by fully equipped soldiers that acted as bodyguards for his majesty. The king himself would hold his shield at all times. Bowmen had shield-bearers to hold a shield in front of the bowman so that he could use the strength of both of his arms to aim and shoot the arrows. When wealthy men were called upon to serve in the army, either they would send an equivalent amount of slaves to act as a replacement, or they would have to pay a massive fine to the government. Well-constructed strategies were formed by engineers that played important roles in the army's success. Their job was to construct an effective battle strategy so that the other army could be defeated more easily. One problem that the engineers confronted was the question of how an entire army could cross a river that was blocking their path. The engineers decided that the most effective solution was for engineers to accompany the army and build a temporary bridge over the river. Archers on horses were accompanied by another horseman to help guide the busy archer's horse. When the Assyrian army was victorious, they would penetrate the city walls and would loot the village of it's treasured belongings. (Landau 14, 16, 42, 43, 46, 48) Although you might think armies only have warriors, the Assyrian armies also had chefs, priests, horse groomers, black smiths to fix or make weapons or armor, divination experts that would try to find the will from the gods,
and the kings would also be in armies to. (Podany and McGee 133-134) The Assyrian army was powerful, aggressive, and cunning. When fighting the Assyrians showed no mercy and killed all they saw. They planned many sieges. In their army they had cavalry, infantry, cavalry, archers, and charioteers. (Somervill 116-117) The chariots carried three people in them. The first guy carried a bow to attack. The second guy carried the reins to control the horses carrying the chariot. The third guy carried a shield to protect the archer and the steersmen. (Nardo 11)


Significant Battles
Assyria won almost all of their battles.
They invaded Babylon in 694 B.C.E., Syria in 671 B.C.E., Lebanon in 671 B.C.E., and Egypt in 671 B.C.E. The most significant battle lost by the Assyrians was the 612 B.C.E. Battle of Nineveh, in which the Chaldeans/Babylonians and Medes attacked the capital of Assyria. (Landau 11)


Weapons
Body armor, shields, iron or bronze helmets, and leather boots were all used as an advantage on the battlefield.
Common weapons included slingshots, arrows, axes, and stakes. In order to lower the other army's morale and confidence, the Assyrians made it widely known that they were strong and brutal. (Steele 42, 43) The Assyrians had a device that looked like the modern day tank. They also used swords, daggers, bows, medium circle shields made of animal skins or metals, battering rams, catapults and ladders. They traded their small shields for bigger shields. (Landau 44-49) They also used horses, spears, chariots, boats, and bronze greaves. (McCarthy 94) Although the Assyrians used battering rams to go though walls and ladders to go over walls they also tunneled under walls. (Greenblatt 118)


Decline
In 612 B.C.E., the Chaldeans and Medes invaded Assyria.
They attacked Nineveh and the surrounding cities. All of Assyrian civilization was destroyed. One reason that led to the downfall of Assyrian military and civilization was the fact that whenever the Assyrians conquered new land, they captured the surviving warriors from the other army and added them to the collection of Assyrian soldiers. When the formerly opposing captives saw a chance to allow their civilization to attack Assyria, they took it. Weaknesses in Assyrian defense were discovered by the hostages and they reported the information to their civilization. (Roberts 83) The Assyrians got over confident and over extended. All of the neighboring cities and empires that the Assyrians thought to be allies were actually enemies. They also didnt pay any attention to the Medes. (Nardo 72) The decline of Assyria was under the rule of king Ashurbanipal. Unlike most other defeats the Assyrian empire could not recover from this attack. (McCarthy 95) As the empire expanded it grew weaker. The Medes joined forces with the Chaldeans and attacked Assyria. In later centuries the Greeks, the Arabs, and the Turks ruled the land that use to be the great Assyrian empire.



Culture

Assyrian culture was rich in creativity.

Religion

Most of Assyrian religion was copied off of the Aztec and Babylonian religion.
The Assyrians also had a cruel way of worshiping gods. The main god, Ashur, encouraged Assyrian Empire growth through acts of merciful violence. The king of Assyria was believed to be a servant of Ashur and was sent to entertain him by going to prisoner executions and rituals. The 7th, 14th, 19th, 21st, and 28th days of each month were called Taboo days. On Taboo days, the king was forbidden to eat cooked food, change his clothing, or ride in chariots. Priests couldn't make prophecies and doctors could not treat patients on Taboo days also.
Demons were believed to besiege humans every waking moment of the every day. They would hide out in dark and eerie places. They could also float in mid-air. The king of demons was Pazuzu. Lamashtu, the demon queen, occasionally
Pazuzu.jpg
Pazuzu (Wikipedia)
ordered her minions to eat newborn babies. Demons were shape-shifters that could change their body at will. If a civilian was infected, or possessed by a demon, they had to have an exorcism performed on them. A mushmushu, or high priest, was the only person that could properly perform an exorcism. During the exorcism, a mini figure of the victim was crafted by hand and the mushmushu attempted to lure the demon into the figure. If simple attempts did not work, the victim would be fed a mixture of feces, mud, and other foul things. If this didn't work either, then the victim would be deemed incurable. In ancient Assyrian times, being urinated on by a dog was considered the height of bad luck. In order to lift this curse, the mushmushu would create the figure in the shape of a dog.
Ghosts would spawn when someone was improperly buried or was the victim of a horrible death, such as hanging.
Divination was the most popular form of fortune telling in ancient Assyrian times. Premonitions could be made when a sheep's liver was observed. Another method of fortune telling was astronomy. Six out of the seven planets represented gods. The sun and the moon were considered planets. Venus represented Sibiti, the love goddess. Mercury represented Nabu, the god of learning. Mars represented Nergal, the war god. Jupiter represented Ashur and the king. The moon represented Luna Sin, the moon goddess. Saturn was simply the star of justice. When one of the planets shifted position, it was interpreted as a sign from the gods. For example, if Mars moved, a great battle win or loss was predicted, since Nergal was the war god. (Roberts 79-83)
The king was a superstitious being. His decisions were influenced only by high priests and certain astrologers. If bad luck was predicted, the priests of astronomers would advise the king to take immediate action. (Landau 34-36) Magic, rituals, and fortune-telling was important in the Assyrian culture. Thousands of gods decided on one's fate. The gods could destroy an entire empire with natural disasters. The common person was only concerned with only a few of the gods. People believed in harmful spirits, these spirits liked grave yards, deserts, and place ruins. Bad sicknesses thought to be caused by these spirits. The good spirits were represented by lions or bull statues that were placed by almost every door way. If a spirit was haunting a citizen they would hire a priest if they had the money. These priests could trap spirits in pottery or force it to haunt an animal. (36-37) In hard times people would pray and make sacrifices to one god. (Somervill 122-123) The average Assyrian could not enter a sacred room only high priests, kings, and priestesses could enter them. The bigger the room the more power the god had and the smaller the less power the god had. The bigger rooms were decorated nicely with gold, silver, gems and valuable woods. The statues of the gods and goddesses were paraded though the cities on special holidays. (123)


Arts
The Assyrians made shields, horse harnesses, fine bowls, skins for holding liquids, jugs, pitchers, and stone, wood and ivory sculptures. (Landau 23) The Assyrians didn't make many statues but the ones they made were mostly of stone statues of human-headed winged bulls, and lions. They also carved stone bas-reliefs. Assyrian artists would paint scenes on brightly colored glazed bricks or plaster. The Assyrians decorated many objects with ivory such as beds, chairs, doors, bowls, jewelry, boxes, vases, pins, spoons, and combs. Many of these ivory decorated objects had precious stones on them. In paintings even when in the scene something bad was happening the artist would make the scene look good. (Nardo 69-70)



Education
The wealthy Assyrian boys would be tutored before the age of ten. The normal teaching was the basics of cuneiform. They would not try to become expert scribe just know how to write. In Assyria knowledge meant little if you were not a good fighter. Although scribes may seem not that important they greatly influenced the king and had an important position. (Landau 26-28)


Architecture
The Assyrian architecture for small houses were not fancy at all. They were small brick huts with branches from riverbanks for roofs. The bricks were made from moist soil and straw that were shaped into squares and dried in the sun. The palaces were on 40 foot brick platforms. The roofs were held together with mud plaster. The walls of the palaces were made of thick layers of sun dried brick. The walls of the palaces were covered with big plaster slabs painted with scenes of Assyria's past. (Landau 20) The houses were only one story with open air courtyards that had plants on the edge. The Assyrians made locks to put on the outside doors of their houses. (McCarthy 95) The Assyrians built huge temples for multi-purpose. These temples had many rooms. In many rooms were altars and statues of gods. The temples had many open courtyards with fountains. (Somervill 123) Cheep houses were made out of intertwined branches smothered with dried mud. The doors hung on to pivots. Better homes were made of clay bricks that were sun dried or backed in a kiln. The bricks baked in kilns were more expensive and were for bigger homes. The largest homes were in the cities. Assyria was mostly urban. (Nardo 68)


Science
The Assyrians thought that sickness was caused by punishment from the gods from sins. Doctors could tell if one sickness was from one god or the other. The gods could directly punish person by making them sick, sending demons to take control of a body or casting a spell on that person. An ashiputu had magical rites, indications, sacrifices, and prayers for remedies. A more practical medicine type was called Astutu. During the Assyrian empire they didn't know anything about germs. They could only recognize sickness from stuff such as dust, spoiled food or drink, or infections. Assyrians tried to treat some sickness with various drugs, herbs, ointments, or simple surgery. (Nardo 71) Doctors that studied the magic branch of health were called ashipu. The doctors that studied the physical branch of health were called asu. Stomachaches, headaches were thought to be caused by demons could be treated by ashipu. If a person went to an ashipu they might suggest asu if they cant treat it. An asu could mend a broken arm, tend a serious wound, or give a herbal prescription. The drugs they made were plant extracts, spices or sesame oil mixed with herbs. If asu gave surgery to an important person they were taking a big risk, if done correctly they would get a huge pay if they killed the person they could get their hand cut off. The first prescription for healing an infection was written on a clay tablet. The prescription for the infection consisted of turtle shells, salt, and mustard seeds. The wound was to be washed with beer and hot water then rubbed with the prescription. Then add oil and wrap made of pounded pine bark and the infection was treated. (Somervill 120)


Impact on Daily Life
Boys had to take time out of their day to learn in school. Girls had more time to work around the house, since they didn't go to school. Architectural environment made living and working in Assyria comfortable. Scientific reasoning helped further the knowledge of mankind. The arts made Assyria a creative and colorful place. Religion forced citizens to follow certain rules.

Conclusion

Assyria was an expanding empire until 663 B.C., when the civilization came to it's end. Although Assyria is gone, ancient artifacts and historical knowledge have helped us learn from these remarkable people.


Bibliography


"Assyrians." Ancient and Medieval World. Marshall Cavendish Digital, 2010. Web. 04 May 2010.
.<http://www.marshallcavendishdigital.com/articledisplay/52/10714/110639>.

Greenblatt, Miriam and Peter S. Lemmo. Human Heritage: A World History. Mcgraw Hill: Ohio, 2004. Print.

Hunter, Erica. Ancient Mesopotamia. Chelsea House: New York, 2007. Print.

Landau, Elaine. The Assyrians. The Millbrook Press: Connecticut, 1997. Print.


McCarthy, Thomas, Exploring Ancient Civilizations. Marshall Cavendish, 2004. Print.

Nardo, Don, The Assyrian Empire. San Diego: Lucent Books, 1998. Print.

Podany, H. Amanda, and Marni McGee. The Ancient Near Eastern World. New York, New York: Oxford University Press, 2005. Print.


Roaf, Michael. Culture Atlas of Mesopotamia. Fast on File: New York, 2004. Print.

Roberts, Timothy R. Ancient Civilizations. Smithmark: New York, 1997. Print.
Somervill A., Barbara, Empires of Ancient Mesopotamia. Chelsea house, 2010. Print.

Steele, Philip. Eyewitness Books: Mesopotamia. DK Publishing: New York, 2007. Print.

Stern, Ephraim. Archaeology of the land of the Bible: Volume II: The Assyrian, Babylonian, & Persian Periods, 732-332 B.C.E. Doubleday: New York, 2001. Print.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:PazuzuDemonAssyria1stMilleniumBCE.jpg - Pazuzu Pic

http://www.flickr.com/photos/cool-art/4454553354/ - Military Pic

http://www.flickr.com/photos/ruthbruin2002/463964226/ - Dying Lioness