Tag Archives: Sennacherib

Who murdered King Sennacherib?

King Sennacherib profile. (Source)

And we continue with the story of Sennacherib, the Assyrian king, who made Nineveh his capital and turned it into one of the greatest metropolises the ancient world has ever known. You can read about his other accomplishments in part one of our two-part intro to Sennacherib.

I mentioned that his reign ended abruptly, and it’s quite abrupt for anyone to meet their death while praying–that was when death came for Sennacherib.

He was standing there, praying in a temple, no doubt praying for more power and conquest, when either a colossal winged bull statue fell on him, or someone came out of nowhere and stabbed him, no one’s exactly sure.

An Assyrian winged bull, possibly like the one that might’ve fallen on King Sennacherib. (Source)

The British poet Lord Byron wrote a poem about the Assyrian king’s end in 1832, The Destruction of Sennacherib.

What everyone seems to agree on is the fact that King Sennacherib’s end was indeed a homicide, and that the mastermind behind it was his own flesh and blood.

And this is where a mystery unravels that has survived for thousands of years, and continues to mystify scholars today; which of Sennacherib’s sons murdered him?

Most of the sources I looked at state that the king was murdered by his son, Arda-Mulissi, who must’ve been upset after finding out that although he was the legitimate heir to the throne, he would not succeed his father.

It is believed that Sennacherib fathered at least eleven sons with his wives, not all of who were eligible as heirs to their father’s throne of Assyria. This makes it understood that his eldest son, Assur-nadin-sumi, already installed as king of Babylon by Sennacherib himself, would be his heir to the Assyrian throne. But when Assur-nadin-sumi was murdered by the Elamites in 694 BC, Sennacherib had to find someone else he trusted to succeed him, and Arda-Mulissi either did not fit the bill in Sennacherib’s mind, or a woman influenced him…

Arda-Mulissi is the second-eldest son of Sennacherib eligible for the Assyrian throne, but the controlling king did not think this natural succession was best, so he looked elsewhere, and his eye landed on his youngest son, Esarhaddon.

Esarhaddon was not eligible for the Assyrian throne, mainly because his mother, Zakutu-Naqia, was merely a palace woman and not a noble. What is known about Esarhaddon’s mother paints her as capable of perhaps swaying a powerful man like Sennacherib. Zakutu-Naqia is found to be associated with Sennacherib as far back as 713 BC, while he was still the crown prince of Assyria. Holding the title of queen alongside her son while he reigned as king further proves her abilities to manipulate any situation in her favor. You can read about her in more detail here.

So, Sennacherib chose Esarhaddon, his son with Zakutu-Naqia, as his successor. He a made that announcement in 683 BC. Naturally, such an announcement must not have washed well with Arda-Mulissi or his brothers.

Sennacherib must’ve known very well how vindictive his son could be, because he sent Esarhaddon away on campaigns following his announcement, and kept him away for the two years before Arda-Mulissi is believed to have put together a “Treaty of Rebellion” with his brothers that resulted in the murder of King Sennacherib.

The name of the murderer of King Sennacherib still remains a mystery, even though there are complete sources that name him, but they are not considered reliable considering who wrote them, or are simply too strategically damaged to incriminate any specific person.

You can read one scholar’s theory about the identity of The Murderer of Sennacherib here, which according to the author is not as elusive as everyone thinks.

And the mystery continues about who killed King Sennacherib.


Leave a comment

Posted by on November 22, 2011 in Assyrian


Tags: , , , , , , ,

One man’s green thumb and thirst for power

A relief showing King Sennacherib on a throne in camp during a conquest. (Source)

King Sennacherib (pronounced Sin-ahhe-criba) is one of the greatest Assyrian rulers, whose reign from 704 BC to 681 BC ended rather abruptly.

King Sennacherib was the son of Sargon II. Upon his father’s death, Sennacherib got right down to business without so much as a learning curve, thanks to his experience dealing with issues at home while his father was away on campaigns.

Much of Sennacherib’s rule consisted of him protecting what his father had acquired of land and power, but in the midst of all that maintenance, Sennacherib did manage a few substantial accomplishments of his own and established himself and his empire as a force to be reckoned with.

His greatest achievement is an achievement within an achievement.

Upon his father’s death, Sennacherib moved the Assyrian capital from Dur-Sharrukin (modern-day Khorsabad) to the city of Nineveh. Before its epic revamp, Nineveh had been the empire’s religious hub, waning in importance, despite its perfect location on the trade route between the Mediterranean and Persian Gulf. Enter the visionary ruler, and it became the capital of a most powerful empire, a pulsating metropolis twice the size of Sargon’s capital, and suddenly the envy of the ancient world. Nineveh is believed to have been the first planned city.

And it was in Nineveh that Sennacherib’s greatest achievement and crowning glory took place. The building of the Southwest Palace, which he also called “the Palace with no Rival.”

Before King Sennacherib went about building his palace, he gave thought to what no one ever had before; the yearly floods of the river. But Sennacherib did not let anything stand in his way, not even a force of nature like the Tigris River, so he just changed its course. And so a palace of over 80 rooms, a forecourt and two throne suites lined with bas-reliefs that mesmerized those who found them thousands of years later, was built.

But the palace on its own was not the only thing that made it one with no rival.

Sennacherib surrounded his colossus with foreign plants and animals. He also built irrigated gardens and parks around the palace.

Another achievement that made him a contributor to the modernization of cities was the first aqueduct system for the people. Sennacherib also introduced irrigation for crops. You can read more about Sennacherib’s farming and irrigation techniques here.

Sennacherib’s Prism. Found in the mid-19th century in the ruins of Nineveh. It is now housed at the British Museum. (Source)

Now, Sennacherib may have had a green thumb, but he also had a taste for conquest and the destruction of his rivals.

Most of what is known about Sennacherib’s conquests comes from a six-sided clay tablet called Sennacherib’s Prism. The Prism describes the Assyrian king’s wars with the Babylonians, and the kingdoms of Judah and Elam, among others. You can read the details of Sennacherib’s Prism, including a translation of its writing, here.

King Sennacherib is probably mostly known for the destruction of Babylon in 689 BC, and his siege on Jerusalem, which was under the rule of the Hebrew king, Hezekiah, in 701 BC.

King Sennacherib was both loved and hated throughout Mesopotamia in equal measure.

Only his abrupt death could end his rule, and depending on who you might’ve been speaking to at the time of its occurrence, you might’ve been met with celebration or great grief.

Either way, King Sennacherib’s death is one of murder, and a great basis for perhaps an Agatha Christie style of murder mystery.

Part of what makes history so exciting to me is the drama within its pages. Stories of love, betrayal, murder…all that stuff we find so entertaining today and splattered in big capital letters on the cover of a bestselling novel at an airport bookstore–all of it can be found in history if we dig far enough.

Well, Mesopotamian history is not short on that kind of drama, and lucky for us, someone has dug deep enough to find it, especially in the case of King Sennacherib.

Stay tuned for the more juicy parts of King Sennacherib’s story.


Leave a comment

Posted by on November 16, 2011 in Assyrian


Tags: , , , , , ,