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Esarhaddon (Akkadian: 𒀭𒊹𒋀𒋧𒈾 Aššur-aḫa-iddina "Ashur has given a brother"; Hebrew: אֵסַרְחַדֹּן, Modern: ’ēsárḥadón, Tiberian: ’esārḥādon;[1] Ancient Greek: Ασαρχαδδων;[2] Latin: Asor Haddan[2]) was a king of the Neo-Assyrian Empire who reigned 681 – 669 BC. He was the youngest son of Sennacherib and the West Semitic queen Naqi'a (Zakitu), Sennacherib's second wife.

Esarhaddon, closeup from his victory stele
King of the Neo-Assyrian Empire
Reign681 – 669 BC
Died669 BC
GreekΑσαραδδων (Asaraddon)

Rise to powerEdit

Victory stele. Pergamonmuseum, Berlin.

When, despite being the youngest son, Esarhaddon was named successor by his father, his elder brothers tried to discredit him. Oracles had named him as the person to free the exiles and rebuild Babylon, the destruction of which by Sennacherib was felt to have been sacrilegious. Esarhaddon remained crown prince, but was forced into exile at an unknown place beyond Hanilgalbat (Mitanni), that is, beyond the Euphrates, most likely somewhere in what is now southeastern Turkey. Esarhaddon described his exile in the following words:

Malicious gossip, slander and falsehood they [i.e. Esarhaddon's brothers] wove around me in a godless way, lies and insincerity. They plotted evil behind my back. Against the will of the gods they alienated my father's well-disposed heart from me, though in secret his heart was affected with compassion, and he still intended me to exercise kingship.[3]

Sennacherib was murdered in 681 BC. The biblical account is that Esarhaddon's brothers killed their father after the failed Assyrian siege of Jerusalem (701 BC) (2 Kings 19:37; Tobit 1:21; Isaiah 37:38). Esarhaddon returned to the capital of Nineveh in forced marches and defeated his rival brothers in six weeks of civil war. He was formally declared king in the spring of 681 BC. His brothers fled to the land of Ararat and their followers and families were put to death. In the same year Esarhaddon began the rebuilding of Babylon, including the well-known Esagila and the Ekur at Nippur (structures sometimes identified with the Tower of Babel).[4] The statues of the Babylonian gods were restored and returned to the city. He also ordered the reconstruction of the Assyrian sanctuary of Esharra in Ashur as well. Foreigners were forbidden to enter the temple. Both buildings were dedicated almost on the same date, the second year of his reign.

Military campaignsEdit

Easarhaddon cylinder from fort Shalmaneser at Nimrud. It was found in the city of Nimrud and was housed in the Iraqi Museum, Baghdad. Erbil Civilization Museum, Iraqi Kurdistan.

The first military campaigns of Esarhaddon were directed against nomadic Aramean migrant tribes of southern Mesopotamia, the Dakkuri and Gambulu, who had been harassing the peasants. In 679 BC, the Cimmerians from the shores of the Black Sea, who had already killed his grandfather Sargon II during his successful ejection of their invasion of Assyrian ruled Persia and Media, reappeared in Assyrian subject territories of Cilicia and Commagene in Asia Minor, where, with Scythian and Urartuan help, they were to destroy the kingdom of Phrygia in 676 BC.

Black basalt monument of king Esarhaddon. It narrates Esarhaddon's restoration of Babylon. Circa 670 BC. From Babylon, Mesopotamia, Iraq. The British Museum, London.
The Recognition of Esarhaddon as King in Nineveh.

Abdi-Milkutti the king of the Phoenician state of Sidon, who had risen up against the Assyrian king, was defeated in 677 BC and beheaded. The city of Sidon was destroyed and rebuilt as Kar-Ashur-aha-iddina, the "Harbor of Esarhaddon". The population was deported to Assyria and other regions of the empire. A share of the plunder went to the loyal king of the rival Phoenician state of Tyre, Baal I, himself an Assyrian puppet. The partly conserved text of a treaty with Tyre mentions the kings of Judah, Edom, Moab, Gaza, Ashkelon, Ekron, Byblos, Arvad, Samsi-muruna, Ammon, Ashdod, ten kings from the coast of the sea, and ten kings from the middle of the sea (identified with Greek Cyprus), as loyal Assyrian subjects and allies.

In 676 BC, Esarhaddon took the towns of Sissu and Kundu in the Taurus Mountains. The Mannaeans, the Scythians under their king Ishpakaia, and the "Gutians" of the Zagros proved to be a nuisance as well, as is attested by numerous oracle-texts, and the Assyrian king was forced to undertake military campaigns to bring them to heel. The Mannaeans, vassals of the Assyrians, were no longer restricted to the area around Lake Urmia, but had spread into Zamua, where they interrupted the horse trade between Assyria and its subject land of Persia, and refused to pay further tribute. After the fall of Phrygia, a daughter of Esarhaddon was wedded to the Scythian prince Partatua of Sakasene in order to improve relations with the nomads and secure their loyalty. The Medes under Khshathrita (Kashtariti) had been the target of a successful campaign as well, the date of which is unclear (possibly before 676 BC). Later, Assyrian forces reached the border of the "salt-desert" near the mountain Bikni, that is, near Teheran. A number of fortresses secured the Zagros: Bit-Parnakki, Bit-kari and Harhar (Kar-Sharrukin).

A certain Mugallu had taken possession of parts of the Syro-Hittite state of Melid, and associated himself with the king of Tabal. The city of Melid was besieged in 675 BC, but without success. That same year, Humban-Haltash II of Elam began a campaign against Sippar in Assyrian ruled Babylonia, but was defeated by Esarhaddon, and died soon afterwards. His brother and successor Urtaki was forced to sue for peace with Assyria.

Terracotta record of king Esarhaddon's restoration of Babylon. Circa 670 BC. From Babylon, Mesopotamia, Iraq. The British Museum, London.

A preliminary campaign against Egypt begun by Esarhaddon the next year seems to have come to a halt, after Assyrian forces had driven out Egyptian forces attempting to ferment rebellion against Assyrian rule in Israel, Judah and Edom.. Meanwhile, Esarhaddon was waging war in conquering the land of Bazu (probably modern Qatar), situated opposite of the island of "Dilmun" (modern Bahrain), "where snakes and scorpions cover the ground like ants" - a dry land of salt deserts. In 673 BC, Esarhaddon waged a war of subjugation against Urartu under king Rusas II, which had strengthened again after the ravages of Sargon II of Assyria, and the Cimmerians.

In 672 BC, crown prince Sin-iddina-apla died. He had been the oldest son and designated as king of Assyria, while the second son Shamash-shum-ukin was to become the ruler of Babylon. Now, the younger Ashurbanipal became crown prince, but he was very unpopular with the court and the priesthood. Contracts were made with leading Assyrians, members of the royal family and foreign vassal rulers, to assure their loyalty to the crown prince, an example of these are the vassal treaties forced upon the Medes, Persians, Scythians and Parthians.

In 671 BC, Esarhaddon went to war against Pharaoh Taharqa of Egypt. Taharqa himself was from a Nubian dynasty, who had conquered Egypt into the Kushite Empire some half a century earlier. Part of his army stayed behind to deal with rebellions in Phoenician Tyre, and perhaps Ashkelon in Israel. The remainder went south to Rapihu (Rafah, near Gaza), then crossed the Sinai and entered Egypt proper. Esarhaddon conquered this vast land with remarkable ease and speed; in the summer, he took Memphis, and Taharqa fled back to his homeland in Nubia, effectively bringing an end to the short lived Kushite Empire. Esarhaddon now called himself "king of Egypt, Patros (Libya), and Kush" (Sudan), and returned with rich booty from the cities of the delta; he erected a victory stele at this time, showing the son of Taharqa in bondage, Prince Ushankhuru. Almost as soon as the king left, southern Egypt rebelled against Assyrian rule, and Esarhaddon was forced to send further forces to quell the rebellion.


Esarhaddon had to contend with court intrigues at Nineveh that led to the execution of several disloyal Assyrian nobles, and sent his general, Sha-Nabu-shu, to restore order in the Nile Valley and drive out the Nubians who were once more attempting to encroach into its southern regions. In 669 BC, he went to Egypt in person, but suddenly died during the autumn of the same year, in the northern Assyrian city of Harran. There are many scholars who found insights into the king's life prior to his death in his own writings. For instance, there is the case of Esarhaddon's apology, which formed the introductory part to the Prism Nin.[5] In this text, scholars identified instances that indicate an infirmity or a feeble constitution during his old age.[6] There are others who specifically cited a debilitating illness in his old age that left him incapable of governing so that he abdicated some time in 668 BC in favor of his son Ashurbanipal.[7] He died a year later.

Esarhaddon was succeeded by his sons Ashurbanipal as king of Assyria, and Shamash-shum-ukin as king of Babylonia subject to his brother Ashurbanipal.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Ezra 4 / Hebrew - English Bible / Mechon-Mamre". Retrieved 17 August 2012.
  2. ^ a b "NEW ADVENT BIBLE: Ezra 4". Retrieved 17 August 2012.
  3. ^ Jong, Matthijs (2007). Isaiah among the Ancient Near Eastern Prophets: A Comparative Study of the Earliest Stages of the Isaiah Tradition and the Neo-Assyrian Prophecies. 2007: BRILL. p. 251. ISBN 9789004161610.
  4. ^ Barbara N. Porter (1993). Images, power, and politics: figurative aspects of Esarhaddon's Babylonian policy. American Philosophical Society. pp. 62–. ISBN 978-0-87169-208-5. Retrieved 8 June 2011.
  5. ^ Ishida, Tomoo (1999). History and Historical Writing in Ancient Israel: Studies in Biblical Historiography. Leiden: BRILL. p. 175. ISBN 9004114440.
  6. ^ Knapp, Andrew (2015). Royal Apologetic in the Ancient Near East. Atlanta: SBL Press. p. 324. ISBN 9780884140740.
  7. ^ Lenormant, Francis; Chevalier, Elizabeth (1871). A Manual of the Ancient History of the East to the Commencement of the Median Wars, Volume 1. Philadelphia: Lippincott & Company. p. 407.


  • Amitai Baruchi-Unna, "Crossing the Boundaries: Literary Allusions to the Epic of Gilgamesh in the Account of Esarhaddon's Egyptian Campaign," in Mordechai Cogan and Dan'el Kahn (eds), Treasures on Camels' Humps: Historical and Literary Studies from the Ancient Near East Presented to Israel Eph`al (Jerusalem, Magnes Press, 2008),
  • Erle Leichty, "Esarhaddon's Eastern Campaign," in Mordechai Cogan and Dan'el Kahn (eds), Treasures on Camels' Humps: Historical and Literary Studies from the Ancient Near East Presented to Israel Eph'al (Jerusalem, Magnes Press, 2008),
  • David Damrosch, The buried book: The Loss and Rediscovery of the Great Epic of Gilgamesh (Henry Holt and Co., 2007),

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