Cradle of Civilization

A Blog about the Birth of Our Civilisation and Development

Assyria and Ashur

Posted by Fredsvenn on February 27, 2015

The children of Shem were Elam (Elamites), Asshur (Assyria), Arphaxad, Lud (Luvians), and Aram (Arameans), in addition to daughters.

Aššur (Akkadian) (English | Ashur/Assyria, Assyrian / Aššur; Assyrian Neo-Aramaic / Ātûr ; Hebrew: אַשּׁוּר‎ / Aššûr; Arabic: آشور‎ / ALA-LC: Āshūr; Kurdish: Asûr), is a remnant city of the last Ashurite Kingdom.

Middle English, from Latin Assyria, from Greek Assyria, short for Assyria ge “the Assyrian land,” from fem. of Assyrios “pertaining to Assyria,” from Akkadian Ashshur, name of the chief city of the kingdom and also of a god, probably from Assyrian sar “prince.”

Various theories have been advanced as to the etymological connections between the two terms Syria and Assyria. Some scholars suggest that the term Assyria included a definite article, similar to the function of the Arabic language “Al-“.

Theodor Nöldeke in 1881 gave philological support to the assumption that Syria and Assyria have the same etymology, a suggestion going back to John Selden (1617) rooted in his own Hebrew tradition about the descent of Assyrians from Jokshan.

Majority and mainstream current academic opinion strongly favours that Syria originates from Assyria. A Hieroglyphic Luwian and Phoenician bilingual monumental inscription found in Çineköy (the Çineköy inscription) belonging to Urikki, vassal king of Que (i.e. Cilicia), dating to the eighth century BC, reference is made to the relationship between his kingdom and his Assyrian overlords.

Various theories have been advanced as to the etymological connections between the two terms Syria and Assyria. Some scholars suggest that the term Assyria included a definite article, similar to the function of the Arabic language “Al-“.

Theodor Nöldeke in 1881 gave philological support to the assumption that Syria and Assyria have the same etymology, a suggestion going back to John Selden (1617) rooted in his own Hebrew tradition about the descent of Assyrians from Jokshan.

Majority and mainstream current academic opinion strongly favours that Syria originates from Assyria. A Hieroglyphic Luwian and Phoenician bilingual monumental inscription found in Çineköy, Turkey, (the Çineköy inscription) belonging to Urikki, vassal king of Que (i.e. Cilicia), dating to the eighth century BC, reference is made to the relationship between his kingdom and his Assyrian overlords.

The Sumerian mythological epic Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta lists the countries where the “languages are confused” as Subartu, Hamazi, Sumer, Uri-ki (Akkad), and the Martu land (the Amorites).

The Luwian inscription reads su-ra/i whereas the Phoenician translation reads ʾšr, i.e. ašur, which according to Robert Rollinger (2006) and Richard Nelson Frye “settles the problem once and for all”.

Various alternatives have been suggested, including derivation from Subartu (a term which most modern scholars in fact accept is itself an early name for Assyria, and which was located in northern Mesopotamia), the Hurrian toponym Śu-ri, or Ṣūr (the Phoenician name of Tyre).

Syria is known as Ḫrw (Ḫuru, referring to the Hurrian occupants prior to the Aramaean invasion) in the Amarna Period Egypt, and as אֲרָם, ʾĂrām in Biblical Hebrew.

A. Tvedtnes had suggested that the Greek Suria is loaned from Coptic, and due to a regular Coptic development of Ḫrw to *Šuri. In this case, the name would directly derive from that of the Hurrians. Tvedtnes’ explanation was rejected as highly unlikely by Frye in 1992.

The Sumerian mythological epic Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta lists the countries where the “languages are confused” as Subartu, Hamazi, Sumer, Uri-ki (Akkad), and the Martu land (the Amorites).

The land of Subartu (Akkadian Šubartum/Subartum/ina Šú-ba-ri, Assyrian mât Šubarri) or Subar (Sumerian Su-bir4/Subar/Šubur) is mentioned in Bronze Age literature. The name also appears as Subari in the Amarna letters, and, in the form Šbr, in Ugarit, and came to be known as the Hurrians or Subarians and their country was known as Subir, Subartu or Shubar.

Eannatum of Lagash was said to have smitten Subartu or Shubur, and it was listed as a province of the empire of Lugal-Anne-Mundu; in a later era Sargon of Akkad campaigned against Subar, and his grandson Naram-Sin listed Subar along with Armani (Armenians) among the lands under his control.

Shupria (Shubria) or Arme-Shupria (Akkadian: Armani-Subartu from the 3rd millennium BC) was a Hurrian-speaking kingdom, known from Assyrian sources beginning in the 13th century BC, located in what was later to become the Armenian Highland, to the southwest of Lake Van, bordering on Ararat proper. Scholars have linked the district in the area called Arme or Armani, to the name Armenia.

The Luwian inscription reads su-ra/i whereas the Phoenician translation reads ʾšr, i.e. ašur, which according to Robert Rollinger (2006) and Richard Nelson Frye “settles the problem once and for all”.

Various alternatives have been suggested, including derivation from Subartu (a term which most modern scholars in fact accept is itself an early name for Assyria, and which was located in northern Mesopotamia), the Hurrian toponym Śu-ri, or Ṣūr (the Phoenician name of Tyre).

Syria is known as Ḫrw (Ḫuru, referring to the Hurrian (Armenian) occupants prior to the Aramaean invasion) in the Amarna Period Egypt, and as אֲרָם, ʾĂrām in Biblical Hebrew.

J. A. Tvedtnes had suggested that the Greek Suria is loaned from Coptic, and due to a regular Coptic development of Ḫrw to *Šuri. In this case, the name would directly derive from that of the Hurrians. Tvedtnes’ explanation was rejected as highly unlikely by Frye in 1992.

Archaeology reveals the site of the city was occupied by the middle of the third millennium BC. This was still the Sumerian period, before the Assyrian kingdom emerged in the 23rd to 21st century BC.

The remains of the city are situated on the western bank of the river Tigris, north of the confluence with the tributary Little Zab river, in modern-day Iraq, more precisely in the Al-Shirqat District (a small panhandle of the Salah al-Din Governorate).

The oldest remains of the city were discovered in the foundations of the Ishtar temple, as well as at the Old Palace. In the following Old Akkadian period, the city was ruled by kings from Akkad.

During the “Sumerian Renaissance”, the city was ruled by a Sumerian governor. By the time the Neo-Sumerian Ur-III dynasty collapsed at the hands of the Elamites in ca. the 21st century BC.

An Assyrian king named Ushpia who reigned in ca. the 21st century BC is credited with dedicating the first temple of the god Assur (also, Assur, Aššur; written A-šur, also Aš-šùr) in his home city. The first fortifications began in this period.

It is highly likely that the city and indeed the Assyrian nation and people, were named in honour of this deity. Aššur is the name of the city, of the land ruled by the city, and of its tutelary deity.

Some scholars have claimed that Ashur was represented as the solar disc that appears frequently in Assyrian iconography. The symbols of Ashur include a winged disc with horns, enclosing four circles revolving round a middle circle; rippling rays fall down from either side of the disc; a circle or wheel, suspended from wings, and enclosing a warrior drawing his bow to discharge an arrow; the same circle; the warrior’s bow, however, is carried in his left hand, while the right hand is uplifted as if to bless his worshipers.

An Assyrian standard, which probably represented the world column, has the disc mounted on a bull’s head with horns. The upper part of the disc is occupied by a warrior, whose head, part of his bow, and the point of his arrow protrude from the circle. The rippling water rays are V-shaped, and two bulls, treading river-like rays, occupy the divisions thus formed.

There are also two heads—a lion’s and a man’s—with gaping mouths, which may symbolize tempests, the destroying power of the sun, or the sources of the Tigris and Euphrates.

Jastrow regards the winged disc as “the purer and more genuine symbol of Ashur as a solar deity”. He calls it “a sun disc with protruding rays”, and says: “To this symbol the warrior with the bow and arrow was added—a despiritualization that reflects the martial spirit of the Assyrian empire”.

Shivini or Artinis (the present form of the name is Artin, meaning “sun rising” or to “awake”, and it persists in Armenian names to this day) was a solar god in the mythology of the Urartu. He is a counterpart to the Assyrian god Assur.

Shivini is generally considered a good god, like that of the Egyptian solar god, Aten, and unlike the solar god of the Assyrians, Ashur to whom sometimes human sacrifices were made. He was depicted as a man on his knees, holding up a solar disc.

In the city of Assur, the first great temples to the city god Assur and the weather god Adad were erected. Ashur is an East Semitic god, and the head of the Assyrian pantheon in Mesopotamian religion, worshipped mainly in the northern half of Mesopotamia, and parts of north-east Syria and south east Asia Minor which constituted old Assyria. He may have had a solar iconography.

Ashur the son of Shem is sometimes compared with the figure of the deity Ashur, for whom a temple was dedicated in the early capital city of Aššur — traditionally by an early Assyrian king named Ushpia in ca. the 21st century BC.

Ushpia was an early Assyrian king who ruled circa 2030 BC, according to the Assyrian King List (AKL). Like most other of the “kings who lived in tents”, his name is not regarded as Semitic, but more likely Hurrian (Armenian).

Ushpia is also alleged to have founded the temple of Ashur at the city of Assur, according to the much later inscriptions of Shalmaneser I (13th century BC) and Esarhaddon (8th century BC). However, he has yet to be confirmed by contemporary artifacts and nothing else of him is known. He was succeeded on the AKL by Apiashal.

In around 2000 BC, Puzur-Ashur I founded a new dynasty, and his successors such as Ilushuma, Erishum I and Sargon I left inscriptions regarding the building of temples to Ashur, Adad and Ishtar in the city.

Assur developed rapidly into a centre for trade, and trade routes led from the city to Anatolia, where merchants from Assur established trading colonies. These Assyrian colonies in Asia Minor were called karum, and traded mostly with tin and wool (see Kültepe).

Ashur did not originally have a family, but as the cult came under southern Mesopotamian influence, he came to be regarded as the Assyrian equivalent of Enlil, the chief god of Nippur, which was the most important god of the southern pantheon from the early 3rd millennium BC until Hammurabi founded an empire based in Babylon in the mid-18th century BC, after which Marduk replaced Enlil as the chief god in the south.

In the north, Ashur absorbed Enlil’s wife Ninlil (as the Assyrian goddess Mullissu) and his sons Ninurta and Zababa – this process began around the 14th century BC and continued down to the 7th century.

During the various periods of Assyrian conquest, such as the Assyrian Empire of Shamshi-Adad I (1813-1750 BC), Middle Assyrian Empire (1391-1056 BC) and Neo-Assyrian Empire (911-605 BC), the Assyrians did not require conquered peoples to take up the worship of Ashur; instead, Assyrian imperial propaganda declared that the conquered peoples had been abandoned by their gods.

When Assyria conquered Babylon in the Sargonid period (8th-7th centuries BC), Assyrian scribes began to write the name of Ashur with the cuneiform signs AN.SHAR, literally “whole heaven” in Akkadian, the language of Assyria and Babylonia.

The intention seems to have been to put Ashur at the head of the Babylonian pantheon, where Anshar and his counterpart Kishar (“whole earth”) preceded even Enlil and Ninlil.

Thus in the Sargonid version of the Enuma Elish, the Babylonian national creation myth, Marduk, the chief god of Babylon, does not appear, and instead it is Ashur, as Anshar, who slays Tiamat the chaos-monster and creates the world of humankind.

At a late date it appears in Assyrian literature in the forms An-sar, An-sar (ki), which form was presumably read Assur. The name of the deity is written A-šur or Aš-sùr, and in Neo-assyrian often shortened to Aš.

In the Creation tablet, the heavens personified collectively were indicated by this term An-sar, “host of heaven,” in contradistinction to the earth, Ki-sar, “host of earth.”

In view of this fact, it seems highly probable that the late writing An-sar for Assur was a more or less conscious attempt on the part of the Assyrian scribes to identify the peculiarly Assyrian deity Asur with the Creation deity An-sar.

On the other hand, there is an epithet Asir or Ashir (“overseer”) applied to several gods and particularly to the deity Asur, a fact which introduced a third element of confusion into the discussion of the name Assur.

It is probable then that there is a triple popular etymology in the various forms of writing the name Assur; viz. A-usar, An-sar and the stem asdru.

Ashur, together with a number of other Mesopotamian gods, continued to be worshipped by Assyrians long after the fall of Assyria, with temples being erected in his honour in Assyria (Athura/Assuristan) until the 3rd and 4th centuries CE, but by this time most Assyrians had adopted East Syrian Rite Christianity.

The city of Ashur, named in honour of the deity, was inhabited until the 14th century CE, when a massacre of Assyrian Christians by Tamurlane left it finally emptied. Ashur is still a common given and family name amongst Assyrians to this day.

The site was put on UNESCO’s List of World Heritage in Danger in 2003, at which time the site was threatened by a looming large-scale dam project that would have submerged the ancient archaeological site. The dam project was put on hold shortly after the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: