ASSUR-BANI-PAL (“Assur creates a son”), the grand monarque of Assyria, was the prototype of the Greek Sardanapalus, and appears probably in the corrupted form of Asnapper in Ezra iv. 10. He had been publicly nominated king of Assyria (on the 12th of Iyyar) by his father Esar-haddon, some time before the latter’s death, Babylonia being assigned to his twin-brother Samas-sum-yukin, in the hope of gratifying the national feeling of the Babylonians. After Esar-haddon’s death in 668 B.C. the first task of Assur-bani-pal was to finish the Egyptian campaign. Tirhakah, who had reoccupied Egypt, fled to Ethiopia, and the Assyrian army spent forty days in ascending the Nile from Memphis to Thebes. Shortly afterwards Necho, the satrap of Sais, and two others were detected intriguing with Tirhakah; Necho and one of his companions were sent in chains to Nineveh, but were there pardoned and restored to their principalities. Tirhakah died 667 B.C., and his successor Tandaman (Tanuat-Amon) entered Upper Egypt, where a general revolt against Assyria took place, headed by Thebes. Memphis was taken by assault and the Assyrian troops driven out of the country. Tyre seems to have revolted at the same time. Assur-bani-pal, however, lost no time in pouring fresh forces into the revolted province. Once more the Assyrian army made its way up the Nile, Thebes was plundered, and its temples destroyed, two obelisks being carried to Nineveh as trophies (see Nahum iii. 8). Meanwhile the siege of insular Tyre was closely pressed; its water-supply was cut off, and it was compelled to surrender. Assur-bani-pal was now at the height of his power. The land of the Mannā (Minni), south-east of Ararat, had been wasted, its capital captured by the Assyrians, and its king reduced to vassalage. A war with Teumman of Elam had resulted in the overthrow of the Elamite army; the head of Teumman was sent to Nineveh, and another king, Umman-igas, appointed by the Assyrians. The kings of Cilicia and the Tabal offered their daughters to the harem of Assur-bani-pal; embassies came from Ararat, and even Gyges of Lydia despatched envoys to “the great king” in the hope of obtaining help against the Cimmerians. Suddenly the mighty empire began to totter. The Lydian king, finding that Nineveh was helpless to assist him, turned instead to Egypt and furnished the mercenaries with whose help Psammetichus drove the Assyrians out of the country and suppressed his brother satraps. Egypt was thus lost to Assyria for ever (660 B.C.). In Babylonia, moreover, discontent was arising, and finally Samas-sum-yukin put himself at the head of the national party and declared war upon his brother. Elamite aid was readily forthcoming, especially when stimulated by bribes, and the Arab tribes joined in the revolt. The resources of the Assyrian empire were strained to their utmost. But thanks in some measure to the intestine troubles in Elam, the Babylonian army and its allies were defeated and driven into Babylon, Sippara, Borsippa and Cutha. One by one the cities fell, Babylon being finally starved into surrender (648 B.C.) after Samas-sum-yukin had burnt himself in his palace to avoid falling into the conqueror’s hands. It was now the turn of the Arabs, some of whom had been in Babylon during the siege, while others had occupied themselves in plundering Edom, Moab and the Hauran. Northern Arabia was traversed by the Assyrian forces, the Nabataeans were almost exterminated, and the desert tribes terrorized into order. Elam was alone left to be dealt with, and the last resources of the empire were therefore expended in preventing it from ever being again a thorn in the Assyrian side.
But the effort had exhausted Assyria. Drained of men and resources it was no longer able to make head against the Cimmerian and Scythian hordes who now poured over western Asia. The Cimmerian Dugdammē (Lygdamis in Strabo i. 3, 16), whom Assur-bani-pal calls “a limb of Satan,” after sacking Sardis, had been slain in Cilicia, but other Scythian invaders came to take his place. When Assur-bani-pal died in 626 (?) B.C. his empire was already in decay, and within a few years the end came. He was luxurious and indolent, entrusting the command of his armies to others whose successes he appropriated, cruel and superstitious, but a magnificent patron of art and literature. The great library of Nineveh was to a considerable extent his creation, and scribes were kept constantly employed in it copying the older tablets of Babylonia, though unfortunately their patron’s tastes inclined rather to omens and astrology than to subjects of more modern interest. The library was contained in the palace that he built on the northern side of the mound of Kuyunjik and lined with sculptured slabs which display Assyrian art at its best. Whether Kandalanu (Kinēla-danos), who became viceroy of Babylonia after the suppression of the revolt, was Assur-bani-pal under another name, or a different personage, is still doubtful (see Sardanapalus).
Authorities.—George Smith, History of Assurbanipal (1871); S. A. Smith, Die Keilschrifttexte Asurbanipals (1887–1889); P. Jensen in E. Schrader’s Keilinschriftliche Bibliothek, ii. (1889); J. A. Knudtzon, Assyrische Gebete an den Sonnengott (1893); C. Lehmann, Schamashschumukin (1892). (A. H. S.)