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Ashurnasirpal

From the last quarter of the third millennium BC to the last decade of the middle seventh century BC, Assyria (lit. 'the land of [the god] Aššur') rose from a small, yet important trading center to be the largest, most powerful empire in the Middle East in antiquity. Assyria reached its apex under king Ashurbanipal (668-ca. 631 BC), the grandson of Sennacherib (704-681 BC). However, about twenty years after his death, this once-great empire ceased to exist as a political entity; its most important cities, including the administrative capital Nineveh and the religious center Ashur, lay abandoned and desolate, destroyed by the Babylonians and Medes. During the course of its long history, over 110 men ruled over Assyria, whose heartland roughly comprises modern-day northern Iraq.

Most, of not all, of Assyria's rulers, the earliest of whom called themselves 'vice-regent of (the god) Aššur' -- like their southern Akkadian, Sumerian, and Babylonian counterparts -- had (numerous) inscriptions officially commissioned in their names. These royal texts ("Assyrian Royal Inscriptions") were generally written in the first person and frequently boasted about one or more of achievements of their royal patrons, primarily for the purpose of divine recognition and for posterity. In addition to describing military campaigns and hunting expeditions (lions or elephants), many Assyrian inscriptions describe the construction or renovation of monumental buildings (temples, palaces, walls, etc.) and include frequent allusions to religious matters (e.g., the New Year's festival). Sometimes, these inscriptions were written to simply indicate that an object belonged to them.

Over 1,800 Akkadian and/or Sumerian royal inscriptions written in the names of Assyria's rulers, prominent members of their families, and their officials survive today. Those texts are preserved on several thousand clay, metal, and stone objects. The majority of these are assumed to have been unearthed in the ruins of one of the three main cities of Assyria: Ashur, Calah, and Nineveh. Many of the bricks, clay cylinders, clay prisms, clay tablets, paving stones, foundation blocks, beads, etc. discovered through (scientific) archaeological excavations or illicit digs have made their way into numerous museum and private collections around the world; some objects, especially those that were too heavy to haul back to Europe or North America, were left and buried in the field by their excavators after their contents were recorded, copied, and/or photographed.

Following in the footsteps of the now-defunct Royal Inscriptions of the Mesopotamia (RIM) Project (directed by A. Kirk Grayson; University of Toronto) and in cooperation with NEH-funded Royal Inscriptions of the Neo-Assyrian Period (RINAP) Project [http://oracc.museum.upenn.edu/rinap/] (directed by Grant Frame, University of Pennsylvania), the aim of RIAo, a sub-project of the Official Inscriptions of the Middle East in Antiquity (OIMEA) Project, is to publish in a single place easily accessible and annotated (lemmatized) editions of all of the known Akkadian (and Sumerian) royal inscriptions from Assyria (and Babylonia when it was under Assyrian domination) that were composed from the end of the third millennium BC to 612 BC. For details, see the "About the Project" page. The corpus of edited texts on this RIAo presently includes:

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© RIAo, 2015-2016. RIAo is based at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Historisches Seminar - Alte Geschichte and is funded by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation through the establishment of the Alexander von Humboldt Professorship for Ancient History of the Near and Middle East. Content released under a CC BY-SA 3.0 [http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/] license, 2007-14.
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