Front Page Titles (by Subject) V: SENNACHERIB'S LETTERS TO HIS FATHER, SARGON - Babylonian and Assyrian Laws, Contracts and Letters
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V: SENNACHERIB’S LETTERS TO HIS FATHER, SARGON - Rev. Claude Hermann Walter Johns, Babylonian and Assyrian Laws, Contracts and Letters 
Babylonian and Assyrian Laws, Contracts and Letters (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1904).
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SENNACHERIB’S LETTERS TO HIS FATHER, SARGON
The proof that the letters are Sennacherib’sAmong the Ninevite collections we can single out several periods where the history is supplemented by the letters. Thus Sennacherib’s letters to his father, Sargon, chiefly deal with events in Armenia, which must have transpired during Sargon’s last few years, when his annals and other historical inscriptions are silent. This view of them was first worked out by the present writer,1 and later with increased material by R. C. Thompson.2 Briefly put, the argument from them is this: a person called Sennacherib, who might be any officer from the times of Sargon onward, writes to the king, whom he does not address as his father, on the reports which have reached him from a number of officials, concerning events in Armenia. We have, however, two letters which refer to the same events, naming the same officials and certainly from the same Sennacherib. In one of them he is twice referred to as the king’s son. The officials named are all found in documents of the reign of Sargon, or the early part of Sennacherib’s reign. The King of Armenia is named Argista in one of these reports to the king, which belongs to the same group. The King of Assyria himself is said to be at Babylon at the time. One report quoted comes from Tabal, and is brought by the major-domo of the Princess Aat-abisha, probably the daughter of Sargon, who was married by him to the King of Tabal. We have independent copies of these reports, quoted by Sennacherib, which enlarge our knowledge of the events. Hence, there can be no doubt that we have here Sennacherib’s letters to his father, Sargon, while that king was absent in Babylonia. We are, therefore, able to reconstruct a chapter of Assyrian history, on which the historical monuments have nothing to say. The first letter reads thus:1
A letter concerning events in ArmeniaTo the king, my lord, thy servant Sennacherib. Peace be to the king, my lord. There is peace in Assyria, peace in the temples, peace in all the fortresses of the king. May the heart of the king, my lord, be abundantly cheered. The land of the Ukkai has sent to me, saying, when the King of Armenia came to the land of Gamir, his forces were utterly defeated; he, his commanders, and their forces were driven off; [then comes a broken space from which the few traces left refer to “two commanders,” someone who “came,” someone or something “was captured,” someone “came to me,” something “of his country,” something “he appointed.”] This was the news from the land of the Ukkai. Ashur-riṣûa has sent, saying, “News from Armenia. What I sent before, that is so. A great slaughter took place among them. Now his land is quiet. His nobles are dead. He has come into his own land. Ḳaḳḳadânu, his tartan, is taken, and the King of Armenia is in the land of Uazaun.” This is the news from Ashurriṣûa. Nabû-li’, the commander of alṣu, has sent to me, saying, “Concerning the garrisons of the fortresses which are on the border, I sent to them for news of the King of Armenia. They report that when he came to the land of Gamir, his forces were all slain, three of his nobles together with their forces were killed, he himself fled and entered into his own land; but that as yet his camp is not attacked.” This is the news from Nabû-li’. The King of Muṣaṣir, his brother, and his son, have gone to greet the King of Armenia. A messenger from upushkia has gone to greet him. The garrisons of the fortresses which are on the boundary all send news like this. The letter of Nabû-li’, the major-domo of Aat-abisha, brought from Tabal; to the king, my lord, I have sent it on.
The second letter2 began in exactly the same way, so far as one can judge from the traces of the first seven lines. As before,Another letter regarding the movements of the Armenian king Sennacherib quotes reports, which he has received, in the sender’s own words. From what is left of the first report we learn that the King of Armenia had ordered the forces at his command to capture the commanders of the King of Assyria and bring them alive to him. The city of Kumai is named as the place where these commanders were. As yet the sender “is cut off” and has not withdrawn from his post. But, as he has heard, so he has sent to the king’s son:
“Now let him quickly send forces. This is the news from Ariê: On the fourteenth of Elul, a letter came to me from Ashur-riṣûa, saying that the King of Armenia, when the Zikirtai brought things to him, at least obtained nothing, they returned empty-handed; that he went to the city Uesi with his forces and entered it, that his forces are in the city Uesi, that he and his forces are few, that they are with him with their possessions.”
This seems to be the end of Ashur-riṣûa’s news. A few traces refer to news from the Mannai concerning some “letter,” “as yet” something has “not” happened.
“As I have heard I have sent, that the commander in the district, in the midst of the city Uesi, he and his forces are assembled; that with his troops he has set out and driven him out of Uesi, that he has not seen the roads (to some place), that he has made good the bridges, that as he has heard, whatever takes place, whether he comes with his forces, or whether he goes off free, I will quickly send to the king’s son.”
These fragments of the report are difficult to disentangle, as the person referred to seems sometimes to be the King of Armenia, sometimes another person. But all may be news sent from the Mannai to Ashur-riṣûa.
This is the news from Ashur-riṣûa: The land of Arzabia sends word, saying, The land of the Ukkai has broken away from me (?), that now they are killing me; you care for yourselves. I have sent my body-guards to the Ukkai. The messengers of Arzabia said, . . .
Then follow a few traces from which we gather that a messenger came to the writer and brought a present; that the “Mannai said” something, someone “returned” and “I appointed him” something, that a messenger from the land of Sadudai came to Kala, that “I received and sealed” something, and “I appointed” something. Again we have a reference to the month of Elul, a letter, and the word “brought.”
These letters explained by a comparison with those of Ashur-riṣûaThis letter is very obscure from the many lacunæ. We naturally turn to the letters of Ashur-riṣûa. This man may well be the same as the witness, shaû, and scribe of the queen, at Kala in bc 709. We have nine letters of his referring to Armenian affairs. In one of them1 he announces that “at the commencement of Nisan the King of Armenia set out from Ṭurushpîa and went to Eliṣada, that Ḳaḳḳa-dânu, his tartan, went into the city Uesi, that all the forces of Armenia have gathered to Eliṣada.” The rest of the letter is obscure. At the end of another2 he says: “I have heard, saying, “the king has come into the midst of Uesi, as yet he has not left.” In the same letter he reports that “three thousand foot-soldiers, with their officers, belonging to Sêtini, his military commander, have set out to Muṣaṣir, crossed the river by night, that Sêtini has camels with him, and that Sunâ, who is in command among the Ukkai, has started with his troops for Muṣaṣir.” It is clear from these that the movements here refer to the beginning of the year after that in which, in Elul, the King of Armenia was in Uesi, and before the defeat of Armenia by the Gimirri.
A mere glance at the contents of his other letters will show their connection with these events. In one,3 he sends Naragê, a colonel, with twenty men who had plotted against the king and were caught. He mentions the capture of a second tartan, Urṣini, in Ṭurushpîa and the mission of Urṣini’s brother, Apli-uknu, to see him there. The King of Armenia had entered Ṭurushpîa with a number of restless men. In another,1 he reports the return to Assyria of a messenger from the Ukkai, who had gone up into Armenia; and mentions Muṣaṣir. In a third,2 he reports that “Gurânia, Nagiu, the fortresses of Armenia and Gimirri, are giving tribute to Armenia.” But that “when the Armenians went to Gimirri, they were badly defeated.” The rest is so injured as to give little sense. In another,3 he names Ariê and Ariṣâ, Dûr-Shamash, Barzanishtun, the city of Ishtar-dûri, and Shulmu-bêl-lashme; but the text is so defective that one cannot discern what he had to say about them. In another,4 he acknowledges the king’s order to send scouts into the neighborhood of Ṭurushpîa. In another,5 he writes that “the Mannai in the cities of Armenia on the coast of the sea rebelled, that Apli-uknu, the commander of Muṣaṣir, and Ṭunnaun, the commander of Kar-Sippar, went to the borders of the Mannai, to garrison Armenia and made a slaughter there, that all the commanders are present.” But these are not the only references to him. Ṭâb-shâr-Ashur6 writes to the king that he has received a letter from Ashur-riṣûa: “Thus it is written in it, saying, a messenger of the Ukkai went to Armenia, he has sent a letter to the palace, and these are the contents of the letter, on the morning of the sixth, this letter came to me; he sent, saying, the Ukkai have heard concerning Ariê that he went against him (the king of Armenia) and his city.” Then the letter becomes very defective, but we hear again of Kumai and Eliṣ (clearly the Eliṣada above). Ṭâb-shâr-Ashur again mentions Ashur-riṣûa,7 saying that a letter of his was brought, which referred to the King of Armenia entering some city. But too little is preserved to make out the message. In a report8 about beams of wood, collected by Ashur-riṣûa, he is associated with Ariê, and Uriṣâ, evidently the Ariṣâ above, and the city Kumai. Finally, on a letter by Gabbu-ana-Ashur he is mentioned in a most significant way. The writer says: “Concerning the news which the king gave me about the garrisons of Armenia, from the time that I entered the city Kurban, my messengers went to Nabû-li’, to Ashur-bêl-danân, to Ashur-riṣûa; they came to me.” After a break he goes on, “Like this I have heard; the Armenian (king) has not gone out of Ṭurushpîa.” After some more uncertain traces, he adds: “On the twenty-third of Tammuz I entered into Kurban, on the twentieth of Ab I sent a letter to the king, my lord.” It is evident that Nabû-li’, Ashur-bêl-danân, and Ashur-riṣûa were the commanders most concerned in these events. Nabû-li’, we have already seen, sent reports to Sennacherib; no letters of Ashur-bêl-danân, yet published, seem to refer to these events. But clearly the king was concerned to hear from other quarters than Kala, where Sennacherib evidently was. Ashur-riṣûa is also named elsewhere on fragments not yet published.
We may now pursue the clew given by the fact that Uesi was the city which seems to have been the bone of contention. Thus Urzana, whose name recalls that of the King of Muṣaṣir, who may have been reinstated as a vassal by Sargon, writes1 to the nâgiru of the palace:
“What thou didst send me, saying, Has the King of Armenia with his troops moved away? He has gone. Where is he dwelling? The commander of Uesi, the commander of the district of the Ukkai, came, they sacrificed in the temple, they say that the king has gone, he is dwelling in Uesi; the commanders returned and went away. In Muṣaṣir they sacrificed. What thou didst send, saying, Without the king’s orde let no one put his hand to the work, when the king of Assyria shall come, I will serve him, what I have [always] done I will keep doing, and this according to his hand (?).”
Evidently Urzana lived in Muṣaṣir and was anxious to be thought a faithful vassal. An unknown writer1 tells the king that
“five commanders of Armenia entered the city of Uesi, Sêteni [of whom we heard above] commander of . . . teni, Ḳaḳḳadânu of the writer’s district, or of Ukkai, Sakuatâ of Ḳaniun, Siblia of Alzi, Ṭutu of Armiraliu, these are their names. With three underlings, they entered Uesi. Now their forces are weak and weakening (?), the forces are (?), the king has set out from Ṭurushpîa, he has come into Kaniun. What the king, my lord, sent me, saying, ‘Send scouts,’ I have sent a second time. The spies (?) came, these are the words they say, and the spies as yet have not started.”
The whole tone of the letter and the fact that Ashur-riṣûa above acknowledges having received an order to send scouts make us think he is the unknown writer. But, of course, the king may have sent the order to other commanders as well. In an unpublished text we read that the commander of Uesi was slain.
The references to Ṭurushpîa are also significant. We know that this city was once the stronghold of Sardaurri, King of Armenia, and was doubtless still attached to its old rulers. We have a letter written by Upair-Bêl, doubtless the Eponym of bc 706, and governor of Amedi. He writes in the same style as Sennacherib and Ashur-riṣûa:2
Concerning news of Armenia I sent scouts, they have returned; thus they say: “The commander of that district, and the deputy-commander with him, in arda, the district of the sukallu, keep ward from city to city as far as Ṭurushpîa; weakness is written down, the messenger of Argista has come,”
and so on. The rest does not concern us here. But another letter,3 evidently from the same writer, gives news from Armenia and a message from Argista, which the writer says he has answered, as the king directed. It also states that the commander keeps ward in arda. Ṭurushpîa is also mentioned on fragments not yet published.
Other fragments occur which clearly belong to this group. Thus1 a letter from an unknown writer names Ashur-riṣûa in connection with Kumai, Babutai, Ukkai, and Uliai, and narrates something about ten commanders. The loss of nine commanders in Armenia, at one time, is the subject of a very fragmentary letter,2 but it is not clear that it refers to this period.
To the same period seems to belong another letter of Sennacherib, probably to his father Sargon.3 It begins with precisely the same formulæ of greeting in the first seven lines. Then it goes on:
The chieftains of the land of Kumuai (Commagene) have come and brought tribute. Seven mule mares apiece they brought and tribute with the mules. The chieftains are in the house appointed for the Kumuai. They are fed at their own expense, they would journey on to Babylon [where Sargon evidently is]. They have brought šaklâ (?), they have received them here. As we have told the king, my lord, let him send quickly. They brought cloth and fruit each of them. The factors say that we have received seven talents from them, that the Kumuai are not contented, saying, “Our produce is reduced, let them bring the king’s weavers and let them take charge.” Let the king, my lord, send word to whom they shall assign them.
“in the district of Kurban are excessively great floods, they go on.”
We know from another source that this was the case, in bc 708, when the floods came into the lower part of the city, and the tribute could not be levied in the district.1 Yet another fragment, opening in precisely the same manner, refers to a certain Nabû-eṭir-napshâte and the city of Kalu.2 Here also we have too little left to make out any connected sense.
[1 ] , 1895, p. 220 f.
[2 ] , xvi., pp. 160-67.
[1 ] K. 181; H. 197.
[2 ] H. 198.
[1 ] H. 492.
[2 ] H. 380.
[3 ] H. 144.
[1 ] H. 145.
[2 ] H. 146.
[3 ] H. 147.
[4 ] H. 148.
[5 ] H. 381.
[6 ] H. 101.
[7 ] H. 488.
[8 ] H. 490.
[1 ] H. 409.
[1 ] H. 444.
[2 ] H. 424.
[3 ] H. 548.
[1 ] H. 619.
[2 ] H. 646.
[3 ] H. 196.
[4 ] H. 199.
[5 ] H. 731.
[1 ] , 1141.
[2 ] H. 730.