Šamšī-Adad V


BM 118892, particular. See text no. 1

In 824, Šamšī-Adad V (823-811 BC) ascended to the throne of a divided Assyria. According to the Assyrian eponym chronicle [/saao/saas2/Q007771.35/], the last three regnal years of Shalmaneser III [/riao/theassyrianempire883745bc/shalmaneseriii/index.html] and the first four regnal years of Šamšī-Adad V were marked with revolt. One of Šamšī-Adad V's royal inscriptions (text no. 1 [/riao/Q004738.40/]) states that Šamšī-Adad V's brother, Aššur-daʾʾin-apla, managed to gain the support of no less than twenty-seven Assyrian settlements, including cities in the Assyrian heartland, such as Ashur, Nineveh, Arbela, and Arrapḫa. From Šamšī-Adad V's point of view, Aššur-daʾʾin-apla led a revolt against their father, Shalmaneser III, during his final years, and Šamšī-Adad V was the faithful son who quelled the rebellion. The real events were undoubtedly not so straightforward, and it remains uncertain who was really intended to succeed Shalmaneser III. Regardless, it was apparently not until his fourth regnal year that Šamšī-Adad V was able to go on his first campaign, into the Zagros Mountains to the east of Kalḫu. The first campaign account concludes with a sweeping statement that the entire land of Assyria bowed down to Šamšī-Adad V (text no. 1 ii 7-16 [/riao/Q004738.2/]). This statement correlates with the note in the Assyrian eponym chroncle for Šamšī-Adad V's fourth regnal year that revolt was subdued, and we may infer that this first campaign was seen as the conclusion of the long rebellion which Šamšī-Adad V inherited from his father.

According to the Assyrian King List [/riao/kinglists/assyriankinglist/assyriankinglist/index.html#assurnasirpal2], Šamšī-Adad V ruled over Assyria for thirteen years, but it is difficult to present a chronological account of his campaigns. This is mainly because the campaigns in the preserved annals are simply numbered, rather than dated by eponym, a practice that was inherited from the annals of Shalmaneser III. Beginning with Šamšī-Adad V's fourth year, the Assyrian eponym chronicle gives us a series of destinations of nine campaigns until his final year. The annals [/riao/Q004738,Q004739/], on the other hand, recount only six campaigns: the first three were in the Zagros Mountains and the last three were to Babylonia in the south. In addition to this discrepancy in number of campaigns between our main historical sources, it is difficult to match the campaign destinations in the chronicle with those of the annals.

Nonetheless, on the basis of the preserved texts, it is possible to present the following general plot. Having put down the Assyrian revolt which had lasted for seven years, Šamšī-Adad V's campaigns of 820-818 were to the east of Assyria. Intriguingly, while the first and third campaigns were led by him, the second reported campaign was in fact led by his chief eunuch, Mutarriṣ-Aššur. We are told nothing of the campaigns of the years 817 and 816 (and possibly also 815), and the remaining campaigns were directed at Babylonia, being set especially in the region between the Tigris River and the Zagros Mountains. Šamšī-Adad V's main enemy to the south was the Babylonian ruler Marduk-balassu-iqbi, whom he defeated in his fifth campaign and brought back to Nineveh for execution. The sixth campaign brought Šamšī-Adad V into conflict with the Babylonian successor, Baba-aḫa-iddina, whom he also defeated and took back to Assyria. The Synchronistic History adds that Šamšī-Adad V went to Cutha, Babylon, and Borsippa, as well as to Chaldea, where he received tribute, and a boundary was fixed between Assyria and Babylonia. Until this point in the ninth century, the Babylonians and Assyrians had, more often than not, maintained amicable relations, as exemplified by a fragment of a stone tablet recording a treaty (SAA 2 1 [/saao/P240211/]) between Šamšī-Adad V and Marduk-zakir-šumi, Marduk-balassu-iqbi's predecessor. By the reign of Šamšī-Adad V, however, relations had apparently begun to break down, and the Assyrians brought the reigning Babylonian dynasty to an end.


Elaboration from K 04401a+ (cdli P395528 [https://cdli.ucla.edu/dl/photo/P395528.jpg]) and TCS 5, 22. © The Trustees of the British Museum.

The reign of Šamšī-Adad V seems to represent a decline of the figure of an all-powerful central monarch over Assyria, as compared with the reigns of Shalmaneser III and Ashurnasirpal II, and the power of the state appears to be progressively distributed through the agency of other figures. This change may have been hinted-at already during the reign of Shalmaneser III, who sent his field marshal to lead four of his last five campaigns, possibly because the king needed to remain at home to deal with political unrest, or was simply too frail. Similarly, Šamšī-Adad V's second reported campaign was led by his chief eunuch, Mutarriṣ-Aššur. Šamšī-Adad V's more famous wife, Sammu-ramat, likely the historical figure behind the legendary Semiramis, increases in political prominence in the available sources from the reign of their son, Adad-nirari III [/riao/theassyrianempire883745bc/adadnarariiii/index.html]. Finally, after the passing of Šamšī-Adad V, Assyrian high officials, most obviously the field marshal Šamši-ilu, wielded such power that they led their own campaigns and commemorated them in their own inscriptions.


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J. Caleb Howard

J. Caleb Howard, 'Šamšī-Adad V', The Royal Inscriptions of Assyria online (RIAo) Project, The RIAo Project, a sub-project of MOCCI, 2020 [http://oracc.museum.upenn.edu/riao/theassyrianempire883745bc/shamshiadadv/]

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