ASSARHADDON (Aššur-aḫa-iddin, English usually Esarhaddon), king of Assyria 680-69 B.C., son of Sennacherib and the Arameo-Babylonian princess Zakūtu (or Naqīʾa) and the father of Aššurbanipal. He became king after two of his brothers had killed Sennacherib at Nineveh, which plunged the empire into civil war and anarchy.   . (See Assyria, i.)

The Cimmerians (Gimiru) with an admixture of Scythians (Aškuzai) came down from the Caucasus about 700 B.C. and began to press on the eastern borders of Assyria. They arrived along the western coast of the Caspian, turned towards Lake Urmia (land of Sangibuti and Bari), and from there proceeded towards Uišdiš (Tabrīz-Marāḡa), Zikirtu, and Gizilbundi. The threat to Assyria posed by the invaders may have been the reason why the land of Šupria (situated between Assyria and Urartu) dared—in the event unsuccessfully—oppose Assarhaddon at the beginning of his reign. The Barbarians reached Manna, situated directly south of Lake Urmia, whose local population, being rather anti-Assyrian, helped them take the fortress of Dūr-Enlil and, almost, the fortress of Šarruiqbi. Assarhaddon blamed the lack of military success on King Aḫšeri of Manna; records of demands for oracles from Šamaš show the gravity of the situation. Eventually, the Cimmerians of King Teuspa were beaten near Ḫubušna (Eregli, Mounts Bolkar) and moved along towards Ḫilakku (Cilicia) and Duʾa (Tabal, beyond Kaṛłemiš), which proves that they were already infiltrating the northern possessions of Assyria. About 675 the Scythian chief Išpakaia (cf. Greek Aspakos) was defeated and killed and his followers confined to the land south of Lake Van.

The Median invasion no doubt was a corollary of the movements of the Cimmerians and the Scythians, who, on reaching Sangibuti (north of Lake Urmia, region of Ḵoy-Marand) and Uišdiš probably came upon groups of Medes whom they chased, thereby setting in motion all the Median tribes, whether under Assyrian rule or not. We are told that the land of Kišesim (also Kišesi, Kišasa, Kišusimai, probably the region northwest of Hamadān) was surrounded by the Medians and that its capital, Kišasa (probably Ecbatana/Hamadān) was on the point of being, or was actually, taken. The land of Ḫaṛḫa (west of Hamadān, region of Sonqor-ʿAlīābād) was also occupied. The town of Ṣiṣṣirtu, which Sennacherib had attached to Bīt-Barrua (i.e., the region of Kermānšāh-Kangāvar) in Ḫaṛḫa, was taken by the Median chief Kaštariti with the help of the Cimmerians. Also Ellipi (approximately the region of Kermānšāh-Borūǰerd-Ḵorramābād) was attacked, which meant that the Assyrian province of Bīt-Ḫumban (east of Dīāla, Mandalī, Qaṣr-e Šīrīn, Sar-e Pol-e Zohāb, Šāhābād) was in a critical position. Kaštariti, ruler of the Cassites (Bīt-Kašši, a mountainous region in the Kabīr-Kūh, towards Īlām-Dezfūl-Kūhdašt) attacked the cities of Karibti and Ušiši. He laid plans with Mamitiaršu, another Median chief, and Dušanni of Šaparda (farther north, Bīǰār-Šarīfābād-Zanǰān area) to plunder the towns of Kilman and Sandu. Finally, some Scythians were laying siege to Bīt-Kāri, southeast of Hamadān. All these events probably took place in 675.

We observe how the rebellion spread from the northeast to the southwest and it is quite possible that Kaštariti, who was an important “master of the city” (bēl āli, calque on OIr. visapati ?) coordinated the various enemy forces in this anti-Assyrian uprising.

In the light of these events the goal of Assarhaddon’s big expedition to Patušarra is quite clear: Although it is of course possible that Assyria was seeking to keep an area for animal breeding in order to compensate the loss of animals due to the recent secession of Manna, the main reason for the expedition was strategical, forcing a wedge from west to east between the rebels of Manna, Gizilbundi, and others, in the north and Šaparda, Ḫaṛḫa, Elippi, and others, in the south. The plan seems to have succeeded since Assarhaddon boasts that the chiefs Uppiš of Partakka, Zanasana of Partukka, and Ramataia of Uraka-Zabarana, who had been dethroned by their subjects who sided with the Medes and Cimmerians against Assyria, came to him offering gifts and begging him to reinstate them.

In 673, Patušarra, “district on the border of the salt desert, in the land of the far Medes, limited by Bikni, mountain of lapis-lazuli, on whose soil none of my ancestors have trodden,” saw the deportation to Assyria of population groups led by “the mighty ḫazanu (chiefs)” Sidirparna (OIr. Ciθrafarnah) and Eparna (OIr. Vahufarnah?) with their horses, camels, and small cattle. The names quoted in this account show the new—though provisional—diplomatic and strategic formation of the area: Bikni is Damāvand; the salt desert the Dašt-e Kavīr; Patušarra is Old Persian Pātišuvari (Elamite Pattišmarriš, Mid. Pers. Padišxwārgar, Greek Choarene), east of Māzandarān; Partakka (Greek Paraitakene, Latin Paraetacene in Pliny) is the modern Isfahan; Uraka-Zabarna may be connected with OIr. Vṛkāna (Hyrcania, modern Gorgān), and Partukka ought to be in this region, too. The kingdom of Bartatua, a Scythian who asked for a royal daughter in marriage and alliance with Assyria, has not been localized, but may have lain towards Cassi or Elam.

Assarhaddon, then, advanced at least as far as Salmanasar III before him, and probably even farther than Tiglathpileser III, but not as far as Damāvand, which his troops saw only from a distance. We can hardly speak of an Assyrian occupation of these territories; it was more a question of an overlordship expressed by levies of tribute and raids of reprisal against disobedient groups. In 672, a treaty was concluded with six Median chiefs, of which the one with Ramataia is extant. It is a long document of 675 lines, accompanied by solemn oaths and the performance of sympathetic magical rites. It contains some strange clauses implying that the Median, an obscure chief of an equally obscure canton, hundreds of miles away from Nineveh and Babylonia, was to act as guarantor of the Assyro-Babylonian legitimacy. However, this, as well as other stipulations, should be viewed only as the expression of the Assyrian legalistic, bureaucratic style, pushed to its extreme and absurd limits. Nevertheless, the fact that an official document could contain stipulations for strangers and barbarians to act as tutors and protectors of Assyrian princes threatened by their own family, their courtesans, or their high officials, reveals an atmosphere of uncertainty and a profound lack of trust in the head of state.

See also Aššurbanipal.



For the general literature see the Assyrian kingdom. On Assarhaddon see F. H. Weissbach in Reallexikon der Assyriologie I, pp. 198-202.

H. Winckler, Geschichte Babylonien und Assyrien, Leipzig, 1892 tr. J. A. Craig, New York, 1907.

S. Smith in CAH3 III/4, The Assyrian Empire, pp. 79-88.

E. A. Wallis Budge, History of Esarhaddon, London, 1880, repr, 1979 (outdated, source studies; Figure 1).

The sources are found in R. Borger, Die Inschriften Asarhaddons Königs von Assyrien, Graz, 1956, repr. 1967 (Beiheft zum Archiv für Orientforschung 9).

On the Cimmerians and Scythians: H. Winckler, “Kimmerier, Ašguzaer, Skythen,” Altorientalische Forschungen I/6, 1897, pp. 484ff.

E. H. Minns in CAH3 III/4, chap. IX. On the Medians: J. V. Prášek, Geschichte der Meder und Perser bis zur makedonischen Eroberung I, Gotha, 1906, repr. 1968 (Handbuch der alten Geschichte I/V).

F. W. König, Älteste Geschichte der Meder und Perser, Der Alte Orient 23/3-4, Leipzig, 1934.

R. Labat, “Kaštariti, Phraorte et les débuts de l’histoire mède,” JA, 1967, pp. 11-34.

On the demand for oracles concerning the Barbarians see A. Delattre, “The Oracles of Esarhaddon,” Babylonian and Oriental Records, 1889.

S. Strong, “On some Oracles of Esarhaddon and Assurbanipal,” SBAW 2, Leipzig, 1983.

E. J. Banks, “Eight Oracular Responses to Esarhaddon,” AJSLL 14, 1897-98, pp. 267ff.

On topography: A. Billerbeck, Das Sandschak Suleimania und dessen persische Nachbarlandschaften zur babylonischen und assyrischen Zeit, Leipzig, 1898.

M. Streck, “Das Gebiet der heutigen Landschaften Armeniens, Kurdistan und Westpersiens nach den babylonisch-assyrischen Keilinschriften,” ZA 13, 1898, pp. 57-110; 14, 1899, pp. 103-72; 15, 1900, pp. 257-382.

Criticism of earlier identifications by L. D. Levine, Two Neo-Assyrian Stelae from Iran, Royal Ontario Museum, Occasional Papers 23, 1972; and idem, Contributions to the Historical Geography of the Zagros in the Neo-Assyrian Period, University of Pennsylvania, 1969, xerox.

The book of S. Parpola, Neo-Assyrian Toponyms, Neukirchen, 1970, permits one to locate the sources where the various toponyms are cited.

Less complete is R. P. Boudou, Liste des noms géographiques, Orientalia 36-38, Rome, 1929.

On the treaty with Ramataia, see D. J. Wiseman, “The Vassal-treaties of Esarhaddon”, Iraq 20/1, London, 1958, and idem, Ancient Near Eastern Texts3, Princeton, 1969, pp. 534ff.

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 اسرهدون asarhadoon asarhadon asarhaddoun


(J. A. Delaunay)

Originally Published: December 15, 1987

Last Updated: August 17, 2011

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