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Assyria - Room 6

Kurkh Stela of Shalmaneser III (853 BC) (118884) - on left - (3 of 9)

Shalmaneser III, son of Ashurnasirpal II, continued in his father's style of tyranny and conquest with yet more territory to be taken for their god, Ashur. It took a few years to stabilise his government and plan a campaign and find the strategy for the troops. He is to become the first Assyrian king to come against the northern kingdom Israel. He was also the first to pass through to northern Syria to the Great Sea where "I washed my sword."

This stela was found in 1861 at Kurkh on the river Tigris in South-east Turkey. It shows a relief carving of Shalmaneser III saluting the symbols of five gods, (left to right)
1. Moon Sin, god of the moon
2. Lightning Adad, the weather god
3. Horned cap Anu, the god of sky
4. Star Ishtar, goddess of morning and evening star
5. Winged disc Ashur, chief Assyrian god

The front and back contains 102 lines of cuneiform, describing the principle events of his first six military campaigns. The campaign in his sixth year (853 BC) is described on the back of the stela, against a coalition of twelve kings, with 50,000 men, 3,900 chariots, 14,000 cavalry and 1000 camels. The coalition included: Aleppo, Hamath, Aram (Hadadezer) and Ammon at Qarqar on the river Orontes. Ahab contributed 2000 chariots, and 10,000 foot soldiers.

The 11th and 12th lines on the back read as follows
I departed to Qarqar, I drew near. Qarqar, his royal city I destroyed, I devoured, I burned with fire....(and then a list of several kings and peoples including Hadadezer of Syria) ... and 2000 chariots and 10,000 men of Ahab king of Israel..... Like Adad (Baal) I rained destruction upon them, I scattered their corpses far and wide and covered the face of the desolate plain with their widespread armies. I made their blood to flow down the valleys, the plain was too small to let their bodies fall. The wide countryside was used to bury them. Their bodies I used to span the River Orontes as with a bridge."

Shalmaneser claimed a victory, really it was a draw, with staggering losses on both sides of more than 14,000 men. The coalition had meant only to stop the Assyrians. They did. The Assyrians were severely weakened, it was four years before the Assyrians came again in force. Ahab fell out with this confederacy, and turned against the Syrians - Aramaeans of Damascus and fought them three times. the third time Ahab is killed in one of his chariots (1 Kg 22:29-36). Jehu submitted to Assyria, breaking the alliance with Phoenicia and Judah.