Sarduri II, son of Argišti I


Sarduri II is the son of king Argišti I. His reign began between 757 and 754 BC and he is a contemporary of the Assyrian kings Aššur-nērārī V and Tiglath-pilesar III. It is known from Assyrian and Urartian sources that Sarduri II fought against both Assyrian kings. His reign lasted until the year 735 BC.

Map 09

Map showing the distribution of the stone inscriptions of Sarduri II, in: Mirjo Salvini, CTU I: 412.

As was the case with his predecessor Argišti I, Sarduri authored extensive annals. They are inscribed in the rock face of the open-air sanctuary Hazıne Kapısı situated on the northern slope of rock Van as well as in a stela and its pedestal located in the sanctuary (A 9-3).

Sarduri_II_Hazine Kapisi_stele_CTU III_257.jpg

Stele with Annals of Sarduri II from Hazine Kapısı, in: Mirjo Salvini, CTU III: 257 (photo: Nikolai Marr and Joseph Orbeli (1922): plate X.

Another stela (A 9-1) was in all likelihood once part of the sanctuary, too. In contrast to the other stela, it was not found in the sanctuary Hazıne Kapısı, but rather in the Armenian church Surp Poģos in Van, where it was partly reused as building material. Originally, however, it was presumably placed in the left niche of Hazıne Kapısı. Different proposals have been made for the sequence of the individual parts of the text. The most conclusive is the reconstruction suggested by Salvini (see Salvini 1995: 63-68 and A 9-3).

Sardudri_II_Surb Pogos_stele_CTU III_251.jpg

Stele from Surb Poģos with Annals of Sarduri (A 9-1), in: Mirjo Salvini, CTU III: 251.

Besides his annals, Sarduri II also authored several other stone inscriptions. Most of them are building inscriptions informing us about the construction of fortresses, temples, official buildings and agricultural infrastructure. For the main part, they are located in the area of Lake Van or in the north-east of it, but there are also a few located in the west of Lake Urmia and in the west of Lake Van.

Royal Titles

Through the greatness of the god Ḫaldi (I am) Sarduri, son of Argišti, mighty king, great king, king of the regions, king of the land Bia, lord of the city Ṭušpa. (CTU 9-1, ll. 4-8).

Military campaigns

Expansionism to the region of the Euphrates River and the defeat of Malatya

One of his most important campaigns in the first years of his reign led Sarduri II to the Euphrates in the west, continuing his father's expansionism in this region. The rock inscription A 9-4, from Habıbuşağı, reports an operation against Malatya and its ruler, Hilaruada. Here we also find the only mention of the river Euphrates. Sarduri states that he defeated and destroyed a great number of fortresses and settlements. He further notes that after the siege of Malatya its ruler Hilaruada surrendered and became tributary. Urartu henceforth had supremacy over the Neo-Hittite state. The name Hilaruada does not appear in any Hieroglyphic-Luwian inscription from the Neo-Hittite states. Scholars have therefore suggested that he might appear under a different name in the Hieroglyphic-Luwian sources such as Sa(?)tiruntiya? (for the discussion see Bryce 2012: 107f. with further literature, see also Salvini 1995: 69 who suggests an equation with Kalpurunda).

Campaigns to the south, north and west

In one section of his annals, inscribed in the rock face of the open-air sanctuary Hazıne Kapısı, Sarduri reports three campaigns which all occurred within one year and led him in different directions. The first led him to the region beyond the Zagros Mountains and south of the land of the Mannians to Babilu and Baruata. The second one led him to the Transcaucasian settlements of the Etiuni and Erikuahi in the north, while a third one led him to the land Urme to the west of the Neo-Assyrian Šubria.

For another year, Sarduri II reports a campaign against the land Qulha, which corresponds to the Kolchis in classical sources, and, according to Argišti's annals, lay in the region of the modern district Kars in Eastern Anatolia where the settlements of the Diauehi were located.

In Northern Syria, Sarduri managed to gain control over the kingdom of Qumaha (Kommagene), were he received abundant tribute and installed Kuštašpis as ruler.

Military conflicts with Assyria

In military confrontations against the Assyrians, it was apparently sometimes the Assyrians and sometimes the Urartians that were successful. Unfortunately, the sources of both parties only report their own successes, meaning that we only have one-sided views of the events.

In the inscription on the stele of Surb Poģos (A 9-1), Sarduri reports a victory over Aššur-nērārī V (754-746 BC) for one of the first years of his reign.

As Assyria and Urartu shared territorial spheres of interest, namely in Northern Syria, Anatolia and the Zagros Region, it came to further military conflict between Sarduri II and Assyria in the struggle for supremacy over these regions. In 743 and 735 BC Sarduri did battle with Tiglath-pilesar III:

According to his annals, Tiglath-pilesar defeated Sarduri and his North-Syrian allies Mati'-ilu of Arpad, Sulumal of Milidu and Tarhulara of Gurgum in his third year of reign (743 BC). The battle took place somewhere "between Kištan and Halpi", which were part of the land of Kummuh (Kommagene). Tiglath-Pilesar made rich booty and caused the escape of Sarduri and his allies. His annals describe the event as follows:

"They fled to save [their] lives and Sarduri of the land of Urartu rode off alo[ne on a] mare [and] escaped during the night." (RINAP 1, Tigl. III 35 i ll. 32'-34', s. also RINAP 1, Tigl. III 49, ll. 1'-5').

Tiglath-pilesar further claims to have confined Sarduri II in the city of Ṭurušpa (Ṭušpa) and to have fought the Urartians "before his city gates". He erected "a royal image in front of the city of Ṭurušpa" and roamed the "extensive lands of Urartu from above to below." (RINAP 1, Tigl. III 39 ll. 20b-25a, RINAP 1, Tigl. III 41, ll. 15'b-19'a, RINAP 1, Tigl. III 47, ll. 45-50). After the defeat Kuštapi of Kummuh as well as Hiram of Tyros, Urikki of Que (Cilicia), Pisiris of Karkemiš, Tarhulara of Gurgum (the region of Maraş) became tributary to the Assyrian vassal king of Arpad.

Building activities

Sarduri II put considerable effort into creating agricultural infrastructure by digging canals (A 9-9 in Aznavurtepe near Patnos), building vineyards (A 9-11 in Karataş; A 9-16 in Dafti-Blur/Argištihinili), orchards (A 9-12 in Armarvir/Erebuni; 16) and grain fields (A 9-16) as well as other buildings (A 9-15 in Argištihinili/Armarvir; A 9-14 in Džanfida near Argištihinili/Armavir).

The inscription A 9-17, inscribed on a stone block, reports the foundation of a fortress and city named Sardurihinili in the first year of Sarduri's reign. From the fact that the stone block was found at Çavuştepe and that the inscription refers to a nearby settlement, it is obvious that Sardurihinili is to be identified with the excavation site Çavuştepe. It is located on a high, elongated hill in the valley of the river Hoşap Su, some twenty miles as the crow flies southeast of the capital Ṭušpa.

Sarduri II_Cavustepe_temple inscription_CTU III_278a.jpg

Temple inscription from Çavuştepe (A 9-17), in: Mirjo Salvini, CTU III: 278.

Sarduri II reports that he cultivated the previously barren land by digging a canal and by building vineyards, orchards and grain fields. He further mentions the building of a tower temple for the local god Irmušini and a temple for the god Haldi.

A 9-18, inscribed on a stone slab from Bahçecik, reports the foundation of a fortress which Sarduri also named Sardurihinili. The Urartian king further states that he built a tower temple for the god Haldi and installed a governor there in order to administrate(?) the region up to the cities Miliṭia (Malatia), Qu[maḫa], and Niḫiria, and up to the lands Ar[me?] and Hašime [. . .]. This information indicates that the fortress mentioned in the text is not to be identified with Çavustepe. Instead, it was located in the region of the modern village Bahçecik in the modern destrict of Karakoçan in the province Elazığ.

A 9-13 refers to the fortress Argištihinili (modern Armarvir), which is already known from inscriptions of Sarduri's father Argišti, who had it built (see the building inscription A 8-16 from Sardarabad near Armavir, and the obscure inscription A 8-14 from Armavir). Interestingly, A 9-13 mentions Sarduri along with his father and expresses the wish that their names be preserved.

Furthermore, in his inscriptions, Sarduri II reports on the building of ašiuši- and barzidib(i)duni-buildings and the filling of silos attached to them (A 9-19; 20; 21). The ašihuši-building was presumably a banquet hall whereas the barzidibduni seems to have had a cultic function. The filling of silos is further mentioned in A 9-21; 9-22; 9-23; 9-24; 9-25; 9-26; 9-27; 9-28; 9-29; 9-30; 9-31; 9-32; 9-33; 9-34 and 9-35.

Religious activities

In the stele inscription found in the church Surb Poģos (A 9-1), which in all likelihood was originally part of the open-air sanctuary of Hazine Kapısı, Sarduri reports the establishment of a ritual for the prosperity of the country (CTU 9-1 lines 9-13). CTU A 9-38 mentions the god Quera in an unclear context, whereas in CTU A 9-39 not even the deity's name is preserved. Several inscriptions mention the building of tower temples for the god Haldi (A 9-16, 9-17, 9-18 and 9-37) and for the local god Irmušini (A 9-17), as well as the construction of other temples (A 9-17) and gates for the god Haldi (A 9-15, A 9-16).

Inscriptions on metal objects

Bronze objects were found in Karmir Blur/Teišebani (B 9-1 to 31) and Tul-Gilan (A 9-32). The origins of B 9-3a and 33 are unknown. Some inscriptions refer to the ownership of Sarduri II B 9-4 to 7A-F (shield bosses), B 9-14 to 22A (cups), B 9-23 (ornament of a chariot), B 9-24 (bronze handle with lion head), B 9-25 to 29 and 33 (parts of horse harnesses), B 9-30 to 31 (parts of door locks) and B 9-32 (blade), while the other inscriptions refer to votive offerings to Haldi B 9-1 to 3a (shields), B 9-5A-B (helmets), B 9-10 to 12 (quivers) and B 9-13A-C (arrow heads).

Sarduri II_Karmir-blur_helmet_CTU IV_48.jpg

Helmet of Sarduri II from Karmir-blur with votive inscription for the god Ḫaldi (B 9-9), kept in the Museum of Erevan, in: Mirjo Salvini, CTU IV: 48.

Sarduri II_Karmir-blur_quiver_CTU IV_49a.jpg

Quiver of Sarduri II from Karmir-blur with a votive inscription for the god Ḫaldi (B 9-11), kept in the Armenian History Museum in Erevan, in: Mirjo Salvini CTU IV: 49.

Sarduri II_Karmir-blur_quiver_CTU IV_49b.jpg

Quiver of Sarduri II from Karmir-blur with a votive inscription for the god Ḫaldi (B 9-11), kept in the Armenian History Museum in Erevan, in: Mirjo Salvini CTU IV: 49.

Sarduri II_Karmir-blur_quiver_CTU IV_50.jpg

Quiver of Sarduri II from Karmir-blur with votive inscription for the god Ḫaldi (B 9-11), kept in the Eremitage in Saint Petersburg, in: Mirjo Salvini, CTU IV: 50.

Further reading

Bryce, Trevor (2012): The World of the Neo-Hittite Kingdoms. A Political and Military History, Oxford.
Çifçi, Ali (2017): The Socio-Economic Organisation of the Urartian Kingdom, Leiden.
Fuchs, Andreas (2012): Urartu in der Zeit. In: Kroll, Stephan, Claudia Gruber, Ursula Hellwag, Michael Roaf and Paul Zimansky (eds.): Biainili-Urartu: The Proceedings of the Symposium held in Munich 12–14 October 2007 (Acta Iranica 51), Leuven, 135-161.
Kroll, Stephan et al. (2012): Introduction. In: Kroll, Stephan, Claudia Gruber, Ursula Hellwag, Michael Roaf and Paul Zimansky (eds.): Biainili-Urartu: The Proceedings of the Symposium held in Munich 12–14 October 2007 Tagungsbericht des Münchner Symposiums 12.–14. Oktober 2007 (Acta Iranica 51), Leuven, 9-20.
Salvini, Mirjo (1995): Geschichte und Kultur der Urartäer, Darmstadt.
Zimansky, Paul (1995): The Kingdom of Urartu in Eastern Anatolia, in: Jack M. Sasson (ed.), Civilisations of the Ancient Near East, Vol. 2, New York, 1135–1146.

Birgit Christiansen

Birgit Christiansen, 'Sarduri II, son of Argišti I', Electronic Corpus of Urartian Texts (eCUT) Project, The eCUT Project, 2019 []

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