Der and the Elamite Frontier

Within Ellipi, both Elam and Assyria could cause each other great trouble though far away from each other. But east of Der Elam bordered on Assyria directly. As early as 720, in his second year of reign, Sargon defended Der against an Elamite attack. His annalists celebrated the outcome of the pitched battle as the first great victory of their new king.[[91]] However, the Babylonian Chronicle describes the result as a major defeat for Assyria, effected solely by the Elamite forces because the army of Merodach-Baladan arrived too late to participate.[[92]] The battle most probably resulted in a draw[[93]] and the situation along the border remained more or less unchanged. Der, the cornerstone of the Assyrian position, was held but Sargon waited ten years before he attacked his enemies in Elam and Babylon.

In 710 he subjugated the Aramaean tribes allied with Merodach-Baladan and Elam,[[94]] devastated the Elamite borderlands and captured Elamite garrisons.[[95]] But in spite of all that his enemy, king Sutur-Nahundi, didn't react to the attack and was castigated by Sargon's annalists as a contemptible coward.[[96]]

Of course, the Assyrian army which attacked in 710 was quite different from the one encountered at Der in 720: After a decade of successful warfare Sargon's troops were used to their commander, they were well trained and confident, well equipped and rich from booty and plunder. Moreover whole armies of defeated states had been incorporated into them. No wonder that Šutur-Nahundi, the Elamite king so mocked at, refused to waste his forces in a hopeless battle. In fact he was just not the fool the Assyrians so much wished him to be. And his purely defensive strategy was met by success. It was nothing to make a show of, especially because Babylonia was left to its own devices, but at least neither Susa nor any other of Elam's royal cities were attacked. Lack of time even forced the frustrated Assyrians to pass through the evacuated borderland of Raši without laying siege to the well-fortified Bit-Imbî.[[97]]

As in the case of Babylonia, again there is no letter which could be dated with any certainty to the period before 710. On the other hand some of the letters refering to Elamite activities can be connected with Merodach-Baladan's flight from Babylonia (710) and with the war of succession in Ellipi (707). At least some of the letters had to do with Merodach-Baladan's attempt to get help at the last minute (nos. 32, 149, 200, 201 and 209). Unfortunately are without exception extremely badly preserved and they do not allow the events to be followed up. From Sargon's annals we kniw that these attempts failed: Šutur-Nahundi is said to have accepted treasures from Merodach-Baladan but nevertheless refused to help him.[[98]] The Elamite thus seems to habe cheated his ally and the topos of the "evil Elamite" is used once more, but later on when he had to retreat after the siege of Dur-Yakin, Merodach-Baladan nevertheless sought and found refuge in Elam.

From Sargon's inscriptions the concern of the Elamite king to preserve his military potential can be inferred. However letters sent by Šamaš-belu-uṣur, the governor of Der, and his deputy Nabû-duru-uṣur show how he made use of it. Three different Elamite attacks of varying size can be distinguished. Unfortunately only for one of them can a firm date be given. Therefore the sequence chosen here is arbitrary: [[99]]

Elamite campaign 1. The campaign described in most detail took place in 707 when Daltâ, the king, the king of Ellipi, was already dead but before the affair of his succession had been settled. The mention of the "house of Daltâ" (113:14) as well as a "son of Daltâ" (nos. 129:12 and 130:26, r.1) both suggest this period. The reason for the Elamite campaign was the mutiny of Burati, an Elamite fort not far from Bit-Bunakki belonging to the region called (A)raši. Burati was situated just "outside the house of Daltâ," at the border between Elam and Ellipi (113:12-22). Thus its mutiny blocked at least one of the roads which allowed the Elamite king to intervene in Ellipi. When the Assyrian officials in Der established relations with the rebels, the Elamite king had one reason to act swiftly (1 29:4-6). The Assyrian observers in Der focused on the Elamite king. They reported on his current position, on their own assumptions about his plans and the progress he had actually made. This allows us to determine the sequence of the letters as well as to reconstruct the campaign.

a) Letter 130 most probably is the first of the sample. It is not well preserved but it becomes clear that the Elamite king tried to recruit troops from the reluctant sheikhs of [Hupapa]ni and Pillat (130: 15-23).[[100]] It seems that information on the true intentions of the Elamites was not available yet. The letter was sent by the deputy to the governor who was not present in Der (130 r.10-17).

b) The governor was still far from Der in the next letter (129:32 and r5ff). Now the situation becomes clearer because the rebellious inhabitants of Burati provided first hand information on what was going on (129:3-6): The fact that Elamite officials raised provisions in Bit-Bunakki was a clear indication of an imminent campaign. In addition, the officials had announced to "the son of Daltâ" that their king was already on his way to Bit-Bunakki (129:9-15).[[101]] He was still about to get additional troops. Now he negotiated with the ruler of Parsumaš (129:7-9). This is the first mention of a ruler of what later became the heartland of Persia.[[102]] Unfortunately not much of the ruler's name is preserved. Note that the Elamite king had to negotiate to get the troops he needed, so the ruler of Parsumaš was only loosely (if at all) connected with the Elamite kingdom.

c) Now the king of Elam had arrived in Bit-Bunakki (112:13-14). At the same time Šamaš-belu-uṣur, the governor of Der, was back in his city. The Elamite road described by him (112:8-12) appears once more in another letter, but in more detail and extended up to Bit-Bunakki, the very place where the Elamite king assembled his troops (111:5-r.3). The last section of the roads consists of three parts "from Bit-Bunakki to me" (111 r.1-3) which means that the sender of the letter (Šamaš-belu-uṣur?) probably also wrote from Der. Most of the toponyms mentioned in 111:5-r.3, 112:8-12 and 129:7-10 reappear in the accounts of the two most extensive Elamite campaigns of Assurbanipal, the only Assyrian king who campaigned beyond the Ulaya river (modern Karkheh). The connection between Parsumaš and Hidalu is provided by ABL 1311, a letter from Assurbanipal's reign,[[103]] while Hunnuru is the "Hunnir (or Hunnar) at the border of Hidalu."[[104]] All the evidence taken together (Table IV), the route described leads from Elam's eastern to its western border.

TABLE IV. From Parsumas to Bit-Bunakki

TABLE IV. From Parsumas to Bit-Bunakki

Sargon II Assurbanipal
No. 129 No. 112 No. 111 ABL 1311 Prism F (a) Prism F (b)
Parsumaš 7 - - 23 - -
Hidalu - 8 - 25 - IV 58
Hunnuru - - 5', 7' - - IV 57
Bubilu - 12 7'f - IV 9 IV 39
Madaktu - - 9'f - IV 5 IV 34
[...-k]a - - 11', 13' - * -
Bit-Bunakki 10 13 r.1, r.2 - IV 10 -
ABL 1311: de Vaan, "lch bin eine Schwertklinge des Königs" (AOAT 242) p. 311ff I. 22ff Prism F: Borger, B]WA p.48ff a) "5th" campaign, b) "6th" campaign * Perhaps [Urdulik]a/[Urdal]ak (FIV6)?

Without committing oneself to proposing any definite localization the segment between Hidalu and Madaktu should correspond roughly to one of the roads nowadays connecting Behbehan with Dezful. The neighbourhood between Hidalu and Parsumaš suggests that this was the road probably used by the auxiliaries from Parsumaš to join forces with the Elamite king.

d) The Elamite king had arrived in Bit-Bunakki on the 11th of Tammuz (Jun.-Jul.) 707 and left on the 13th (113:7-11), with or without additional troops from Parsumaš. He was now on his way through the mountains determined fust to subdue the rebellious fortress of Burati and then to march to Ellipi(113:10-21). Meanwhile the governor of Der was busy strengthening his fortifications. A large Elamite force operating close by made him nervous, especially because parts of the walls were yet under reconstruction (113 s.1-4).

e) The_ last letter of this series informed Sargon that the king of Elam was in Burati (114:6-11) which means that he must have captured it in the meantime. Perhaps one more letter reports on the same campaign but the statement that the king of Elam "is in the mountain" (115:8) is too vague to be of use. Did the king of Elam march to Ellipi as announced in 113:19-20? In Sargon's annals there is no mention at all of an Elamite royal army intervening in the last phase of the Ellipaean war of succession. Possibly the conflict had been already resolved and Ašpa-bara sat firmly on his throne when the Elamite king at last managed to recover Birati.

Elamite campaign 2. In Kislev (Nov.-Dec.) of an unknown year the Elamites attacked the Assyrian border directly (118:9). The town of Malaku[[105]] was under siege (118:2-9) and after its fall an attack on the nearby city of Der was possible (118 r.5-14). Elamite king staying in Bit-Imbî, at that time the most important city of the Elamite province of (A)raši, supervised the siege (118 r.1-4). The (Elamite) herald (118:13) could be Umman-minâ known from the first campaign (129:9-10).[[106]] No. 119 possibly reports on the same campaign. It seems to mention Malaku (r.21: Malak) and the fear of the inhabitants of Der to go out of the city or to cultivate their fields (s.1-2) might be due to the Elamite troops plundering the countryside (118:3-9).

Elamite campaign 3. A successful Elamite attack can be inferred indirectly. If the city of "Bit-Ha'ir belongs to the king" (131:22) but has to be retaken (r.12-16), the Assyrians must have lost the city. Some of its inhabitants offered to hand the city over if the Assyrians attacked (131:6-19),[[107]] but if there was any such attempt it must have failed. Sennacherib recaptured it only in 693, together with another city named Razâ. According to his inscriptions both were "cities belonging to the territory of Assyria which the Elamite had seized by force during the time of my father."[[108]] The recapture was difficult, even impossible, for the local governors. In an unknown year an Assyrian force conquered land "as far as Bit-Ha'iri," but returned without taking the city itself.[[109]]

Moreover, most if not all of the Elamite territories overrun by Sargon in 710 were soon under Elamite control again. At the coast of the gulf the sheikhs of Pillat and [Hupapa]ni were vassals or allies of the Elamite king, at least in 707 (130:17).[[110]] Further north, there had been no real conquests in the border region of (A)raši. Therefore the territory ruled by the royal delegate (qepu) of (A)raši (35:8) must have been rather small. Perhaps he was in charge of the border fortress which Sargon had constructed in the town of Sagbat.[[111]] The only conquest that was perhaps of some duration might have been the city of Lahiru in Yadburu. There were two cities of this name and it is difficult to decide which of them is meant in nos. 40, 136 and 140.[[112]]

It has to be concluded that even in 710 the Elamite king Šutur-Nahundi was back on the scene as soon as Sargon had withdrawn to undertake the conquest of Babylon. Even if his army was no match for the Assyrian main force, Šutur-Nahundi was well able to cope with anything the neighbouring Assyrian governor of Der could put into field. Step by step he recovered his territorial losses and before Sargon's death there were even modest territorial gains at Assyria's expense.

As for Der, its unpleasant status as a fortress beleaguered from almost all sides did not change; see for instance the descriptions in 119 s.1-2. The city was heavily fortified (113 s.1-4) and the 2000 men demanded by the qēpu of Der (no 142) could have been reinforcements needed for defence. Moreover the lines of communication between Der and Meturna were insecure (no. 37). Sargon's campaign in 710 had eliminated the threat caused by Merodach-Baladan and his Aramaean tribes. But this brought partial and temporary relief only because two more adversaries remained. In addition to the lasting Elamite menace, the surroundings of the city were raided by the mountain Dwellers of Qirbit (no. 271). Both these enemies were not defeated before the reign of Assurbanipal.[[113]]

91 The battle Is mentioned in the so called "Aššur-Charter", composed probably withinn the same year (Saggs, Iraq 37 14:16-17). Der as the battlefield appears first in the Nimrud "Inscriptions" of 716 (Winckler, Sargon pl. 48.7).

92 Grayson Chronicles p. 73f:33-37.

93 See also Potts, The Archaeology of Elam, p. 264.

94 Ann. 288-289.

95 Ann. 295-301.

96 Ann. 303-304.

97 Ann. 302-303.

98 Ann. 308-310. It is tempting to interprete the gold and silver mentioned together with the king of Elam (no. 149) as the treasures delivered by Merodach-Baladan. If only there were more of this letter preserved!

99 And, of course, many other interpretations of the sequence. of these letters as well as for the context to which they are connected, are possible. See for instance the different view given by Parpola m Festschrift Dietrich.

100 Pillat was a settlement at the gulf coast bordering on the area inhabited by the Aramaean tribes east of the Tigris. It belonged to the Elamite kingdom and was repeatedly attacked by Tiglath-Pileser III (Tadmor Tigl., p. 160 Summ. 7:13f., p. 196 Summ. 11:17 .), Sargon (Ann. 300-301) and Sennacherib (Luckenbill Senn. p. 75:95-96 mentions Pillatu together with Hupapanu, cf. Frahm Sanherib p. 14f and Ashurbanipal (de Vaan, AOAT 242 265ff [ABL 520] and p. 292ff [ABL 1000]). In the reign of Assurbanipal again an Elamite king is reported to have recruited troops in Pillatu (Borner, BIWA p. 109 B Vll 15.).

101The identity of this "son of Daltâ" is unclear. Nibê who is said to have been Elam's candidate for Ellipi's throne, was not a son but a n nephew of Daltâ. (Prunk 118). For details see the section on the war of succession in Ellipi.

102 This Par su(m)a(š) cannot be identical with the Assyrian province of the same name. It would have been impossible for the Elamite king to recruit troops there. Instead this is the first mention of the eastern Parsu(m)a(š) (part of modern Fars), which later provided auxiliaries for Elam again. Sennacherib encountered them at Halulê in 691 (for example see Lucken bill Senn. p. 43:43 and Frahm Sanhenb T 62:40 ). In Sennacherib's list of his enemies the entry next to Parsu(m)a(š) is Ammn, identified with Tal-i Malyan (Potts, The Archaeology of Elam, p. 8).

103 de Vaan, AOAT 242 p. 311 ff. The letter is not well preserved but it seems that Tammaritu (I), appointed by Assurbanipal as king of Hidalu (Borger, BIWA p. 104 B VI 8-9), had trouble with Parsumaš. For Parsumaš see also prism 2H II':7'-13' (Borger, BIWA p. 191f and IIT: 115-118 (Fuch s, BIWA p. 280f).

104 Borger, BIWA p. 51 F IV 57-58 and p. 167 T IV 47-48. Neo-Assyrian Hunnuru/Hunnir is certainly identical with the Huhnur of the third millennium, see T. Potts, Mesopotamia and the East (Oxford 1994), p. 16f. witth n. 51.

105 Malaku i s mentioned in the Synchronistic History (Grayson Chronicles p. 168 IV:9 and p. 260) and in a text of Assurbanipal (Streck Asb p. 186f:18 with n. 10) as the seat of the god Mar-Biti. See also Brinkman PKB p. 212 n. 1320.

106 Umman-minâ is perhaps identical with the later Elamite king Umman-menanu, who reigned from 692-689, cf. Parpola, Festschrift Dietrich.

107 For a similar offer by Marpadaeans see 136:18ff.

108 Luckenbill Senn . p. 39, and Borger, BAL I, p. 81:55-57 (Frahm Sanherib 116). For the date of Sennacherib's 7th campaign see Frahm Sanherib p. 14-16.

109 EPHE 342+ r. 13-15. The letter will be edited in Festschrift Dietrich by Parpola, who will provide a different Interpretation.

110 See above on Elamite Campaign l sub a.

111 Prunk 139.

112 Lahiru in Yadburu, captured in 710 (Ann. 300) or the Lahiru near the Diyala, see Fuchs Sar. p. 444 sub Lahiru.

113 In 668 an army of Ashurbanipal! attacked Qirbit (Grayson Chronicles pp. 86:34-37 and 127:35-38; Borger, BlWA p. 180 Stück 12 and p. 219f. Elam suffered a decisive defeat as late as 653 and was ruined in the years following (Frame Babylonia 689-627 B.C. p. 122 n. 112, and Potts, The Archaeology of Elam, p. 276-285).

Andreas Fuchs

Andreas Fuchs, 'Der and the Elamite Frontier', The Correspondence of Sargon II, Part III: Letters from Babylonia and the Eastern Provinces, SAA 15. Original publication: Helsinki, Helsinki University Press, 2001; online contents: SAAo/SAA15 Project, a sub-project of MOCCI, 2021 []

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