Front Page Titles (by Subject) VI: LETTERS FROM THE LAST YEAR OF SHAMASH-SHUM-UKÎN - Babylonian and Assyrian Laws, Contracts and Letters
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VI: LETTERS FROM THE LAST YEAR OF SHAMASH-SHUM-UKÎN - 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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LETTERS FROM THE LAST YEAR OF SHAMASH-SHUM-UKÎN
The period well knownAnother period on which the letters throw considerable light is the close of the reign of Shamash-shum-ukîn in Babylon. This was coeval with the suppression of a great combined rebellion against the rule of Assyria. From the historical texts of Ashurbânipal’s reign we know the names of many of the actors in that great struggle. They are frequently referred to in the letters. Already G. Smith, in his History of Assurbanipal, 1871, had used the information given by some of the letters. This was utilized by C. P. Tiele in his Babylonisch-assyrische Geschichte.
The case of Nabû-bêl-shumâteBut much more may be made out when the letters are fully available. Thus Nabû-bêl-shumâte, grandson of Merodach Baladan II., had been made King of the Sealands on the death of his uncle, Nâ’id-Marduk. When the revolt broke out, Ashurbânipal sent Assyrian troops to help Nabû-bêl-shumâte to repel Shamash-shum-ukîn. During the long process of suppressing the revolt, it is clear that Nabû-bêl-shumâte conceived the idea of reasserting the independence of the Sealands. He endeavored to gain the alliance of the Assyrian garrison, some he imprisoned, others may have joined him. On the fall of Babylon, in bc 648, he saw that Ashurbânipal’s vengeance must overtake him, so he fled to Elam. He took with him a certain number of Assyrians, evidently to hold as hostages. Ashurbânipal had a long score to settle with Elam. He began by demanding of Indabigash the surrender of Nabû-bêl-shu-mâte and the Assyrians with him. But before the ambassador could deliver the message, Indabigash had been succeeded by Ummanaldash. Nabû-bêl-shumâte was evidently a difficult person to lay hands upon. At any rate, Ummanaldash’s land was invaded and devastated. But when the Assyrian troops were gone, he again returned to his capital, Madaktu, and Nabû-bêl-shumâte joined him there. Again Ashurbânipal sent to demand his surrender. Rather than further embarrass his host, and quite hopeless of protection or pardon, Nabû-bêl-shumâte ordered his armor-bearer to slay him. Ummanaldash attempted to conciliate Ashurbânipal by sending the body of the dead man and the head of the armor-bearer to him. Such is the story as Ashurbânipal tells it in his great cylinder inscription.
Letters about himThe letters make no less than fifty distinct references to him. The officers write many bad things of Nabû-bêl-shumâte, and it is plain that he had been a very vicious enemy. We have a number of letters from a writer of his name, who may well be the King of the Sealands before he broke with Assyria. Thus we read:1
A letter reporting the dethronement of the King of ElamTo the king, my lord, thy servant Nabû-bêl-shumâte. Verily peace be to the king, my lord; may Ashur, Nabû, and Marduk be gracious to the king, my lord. Cheer of heart, health of body, and length of days may they grant the king, my lord. As I hear, the King of Elam is deposed and many cities have rebelled against him, saying, “We will not come into thy hands.” According to what I hear I have sent to the king, my lord. I have inhabited the Sealands from the time of Nâ’id-Marduk. The brigands and fugitives who came to the Gurunammu, five hundred of them, did Sin-balâṭsu-iḳbi, when he caught them, lay in fetters and hand over to Natânu, the King of the Uṭṭai, their ruler, whom the king had given them.
Then come a number of defective lines, from which not much can be made out. But there can be little doubt that this letter was written in the days when policy still kept him faithful to Assyria. There was another Nabû-bêl-shumâte, whose letters1 begin quite differently, and refer to horses and troops. There is even a third, a êpu of Birati, named by Tâb-ṣil-esharra,2 who was concerned in repelling a raid on Sippara, and is named in a contract of bc 686.3 It is just possible that the second and third are the same man. But while we must exercise care in assigning the references of the letters, we have a guide in the historical connection.
Bêl-ibni’s lettersBêl-ibnî was a very important officer who held the position of a manzâz pâni, having the right of access to the royal presence and a place near the king on all state occasions. He is probably to be distinguished from the Bêl-ibnî set on the throne of Babylon by Sennacherib in bc 702. He is a frequent writer to the king during this period. Ashurbânipal placed him over the Sealand after the flight of Nabû-bêl-shumâte. The king’s proclamation to the Sealanders4 reads thus:
Letter sppointing him governor of the SealandsOrder of the king to the Sealanders, elders and juniors, my servants: My peace be with you. May your hearts be cheered. See now how my full gaze is upon you. And before the sin of Nabû-bêl-shumâte, I appointed over you the courtesan of Menânu. Now I have sent Bêl-ibnî, my dubašu, to go before you. Whatever order is good in my opinion which is [written] in my letters [obey].
Then after some defaced lines, he threatens that if they do not obey,
“I will send my troops.”
This order is dated the fifth of Iyyar, bc 650. By that date Nabû-bêl-shumâte had fled. It is not easy to say whether Ashurbânipal had appointed a lady, once the arimtu, or courtesan, of Menânu, as ruler of the Sealand before Nabû-bêl-shumâte, or whether he means to call Nabû-bêl-shumâte by this opprobrious epithet. Who is meant by Menânu is hard to see, unless it be the Elamite King, Umman-minana, the contemporary of Sennacherib, who had protected the family of Merodach-Baladan II.
Letter of Ummanaldash offering to give up Nabû-bêl-shumâteWe have a fragmentary letter1 from the King of Elam, Ummanaldash, to Ashurbânipal, which says:
Letter of Ummanaldash, King of Elam, to Ashurbânipal, King of Assyria, peace be to my brother. From the beginning, the Martenai [Elamite name for the Sealanders, from Marratu, “the Salt Marshes”] have been sinners against thee. Nabû-bêl-shumâte came from there. The crossing of the land . . . over against Elam I broke down, [to keep him out]. Thou hast sent letters [or forces?] saying, “Send Nabû-bêl-shumâte.” I will seize Nabû-bêl-shumâte and will send him to thee. The Martenai whom from the beginning Nabû-bêl-shumâte brought us . . . they are people who came by water from . . . it entered into their minds and they came, they broke into Lairu and there they are. I will send to their border my servants against them and by their hands I will send those who have sinned against us. If they are in my land, I will send them by their hands; and, if they have crossed the river, do thou [take them].
The rest of the letter is hard to make out. It was dated on the twenty-sixth of Tammuz, in the Eponymy of Nabû-shar-aêshu, probably bc 645.
Letter of Bêl-ibnî accusing Nabû-bêl-shumâte of imprisoning his brotherBêl-ibnî had a great hatred for Nabû-bêl-shumâte. For the latter had years before laid hands upon Bêl-ibnî’s eldest brother, Bêlshunu, and put him in prison. This we learn from a letter to the king,2 which, although the name of the writer is lost, is clearly from Bêl-ibnî. The first few lines yield no connected sense, but name Umman-shimash and the nobles with him:
When they assembled they spoke evil words against their king. From those days they kept on plundering his land. Before the forces of the lord of kings, my lord, want, like a pestilence, entered the land. When the forces of the lord of kings, my lord, have arrived at Dûr-ili, they shall not take a holiday; that smitten of Bêl, accursed of the gods, Nabû-bêl-shumâte, and the sinners with him, they shall capture and give them to the lord of kings, my lord. And the Assyrians, as many as are with them, they shall release and send to the lord of kings, my lord. Bêlshunu, my eldest brother, a servant of the lord of kings, my lord, now four years ago, did that smitten of Bêl, that accursed of the gods, Nabû-bêl-shumâte, when he revolted, bind hand and foot with bronze and imprison him.
The rest is obscure, but names Ṣalmu-shar-iḳbi as sending news to the palace.
Bêlshunu’s identityThe Bêlshunu here named is probably the Eponym of bc 648, who was then governor of indana, who also dates a letter from the king to Umman-shimash, which names Bêl-ibnî. There are over fifty references in the letters to Bêl-ibnî, most of which directly connect him with these events. His duties in command of the Sealand brought him into relations with the many Elamites, who in the frequent revolutions in that land, fled for refuge to the Assyrians. Here is one of the best of his letters to the king:1
His letter about the fugitive ShumâTo the lord of kings, my lord, thy servant Bêl-ibnî. May Ashur, Shamash, and Marduk decree length of days, cheer of heart, and health of body to the lord of kings, my lord. Shumâ, son of Shumiddina, son of Gaal, sister’s son to Tammaritu, fled from Elam and came to the Daai. From the Daai, when I had taken him, I made him cross over. He is ill. As soon as he has completely recovered his health, I will send him to the king, my lord. A messenger is here from Natan and the Pukudu, who are in Til-umba, to say that they came before Nabû-bêl-shumâte at the city Targibâti. They took an oath, by God, one with another, saying, “According to agreement we will send thee all the news we hear.” And according to contract they furnished fifty oxen for money at his hands, and said to him, “Let our sheep come and among the Ubânât in the pasture let them graze among them. Thou mayest have confidence in us.” Now let a messenger of the king, my lord, come and make Natan learn in his mind, that “if thou dost send anything for sale to Elam, or one sheep be allotted to pasture in Elam, I will not suffer thee to live.” I have sent trustworthy reports to the king, my lord.
The incident here referred to, the reception of the fugitive Shumâ, who probably on account of his illness was unable to join his uncle Tammaritu, is very similar to that related of Tammaritu himself. This King of Elam succeeded his cousin Ummanigash, whom he dethroned, but after a short reign was himself dethroned by the usurper Indabigash. He and his brothers and family and eighty-five princes of Elam, his supporters, fled by sea from Elam to the marshes at the mouths of the Tigris and Euphrates. There he fell sick. But Ashurbânipal sent him a friendly message, and he came before the Assyrian governor, and kissed the ground in token of submission. We learn that Mardukshar-uṣur was the officer who received him, and a very mutilated letter seems to refer to it. He was probably the Rabshakeh to whom Bêl-ibnî wrote1 complaining of certain slanders about him. So even the faithful servant was not entirely free from court intrigues. In another letter Bêl-ibnî refers to his having received and sent on to the king, Tammaritu, his brothers, family, and nobles.2
Many letters of this periodLike Ummanigash and Indabigash, Tammaritu corresponded with Ashurbânipal. We have letters from him to the King of Assyria and from Ashurbânipal to him. Unfortunately these letters are very imperfect, or not yet published. He is mentioned continually in the letters. There were several of the name: (1) son of Urtaku, third brother of Teumman, (2) son of Teumman, slain with his father, (3) son of Ummanigash, King of Elam, succeeded his cousin Ummanigash, whom he dethroned, (4) son of Attamitu. To which of these a reference is made is often hard to decide.
[1 ] H. 839.
[1 ] H. 832, 833, 835, 836, 837.
[2 ] H. 88.
[3 ] , 9.
[4 ] H. 289.
[1 ] G. Smith, ii., pp. 51 ff.
[2 ] H. 460.
[1 ] H. 282.
[1 ] H. 283.
[2 ] H. 284.