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Esarhaddon (reigned 681 - 669 BC), in Akkadian Aaaur-aha-iddina "Ashur has given a brother to me", was a king of Assyria, the son of Sennacherib and the Aramaic queen Naqi'a /Zakitu, Sennacherib's second wife. When his father named him as successor although he was the youngest son, his brothers tried to get him into miscredit. Oracles named Esarhaddon as the person to free the exiles and to rebuild Babylon, the destruction of which by Sennacherib was felt to be sacrilegious. Esarhaddon was forced into exile at an unknown place beyond Hanilgalbat, that is beyond the Euphrates, most likely somewhere in southeastern Turkey, but remained crown prince.

Sennacherib was murdered in 681, some claim at the instigation of Esarhaddon. This is not very likely, as he was not in the situation to exploit the unrest arising from the death of his father. He returned to the capital of Nineveh in forced marches and defeated his rival brothers in six weeks of civil war. He was formally declared king in spring 681. His brothers fled the land; their followers and their families were put to death. In the same year, he began the rebuilding of Babylon, including the well-known Esagila (Tower of Babel). The statues of the Babylonian gods were restored and returned to the City. In order not to appear too pro-Babylonian, he ordered the reconstruction of the Assyrian sanctuary of Esharra in Ashur as well. Foreigners were forbidden to enter this temple. Both buildings were dedicated almost at the same date in year two of his reign.

The first campaigns of Esarhaddon were directed against the nomadic tribes of southern Mesopotamia, the Dakkuri and Gambulu, who had been harassing the peasants. The Sidonian King Abdi-Milkutti who had risen up against the king was defeated in 677 and beheaded. The town of Sidon was destroyed and rebuilt as Kar-Ashur-aha-iddina, the Harbor of Esarhaddon. The population was deported to Assyria. A share of the loot went to the loyal king of rival Tyre. The partly conserved text of a treaty with Tyre mentions the kings of Judah, Edom, Moab, Gaza, Ashkelon, Ekron, Byblos, Arvad, Samsi-muruna, Ammon, Ashdod, ten kings from the coast of the sea and ten kings from the middle of the sea (usually identified with Cyprus) as Assyrian allies. In 675, Humban-Haltash II of Elam began a campaign against Sippar, but was defeated by the Babylonians and died soon afterwards. His brother and successor Urtaki restored peace with Assur. A campaign against Egypt Esarhaddon began the next year seems to have failed.

In 679, the Cimmerians, who had already killed his grandfather Sargon II of Assyria, reappeared in Cilicia and Tabal under their new ruler Teushpa . Esarhaddon defeated them near Hubushna and defeated the rebellious inhabitants of Hilakku as well. The Cimmerians withdrew to the West, where they were to destroy the kingdom of Phrygia in 676, together with the Scythians and with Urartian help. In 676 Esarhaddon took the towns of Sissu and Kundu in the Taurus mountains. The Maneans , the Scythians under their king Ishpakaia and the Guti of the Zagros proved to be a nuisance as well, as is attested by numerous oracle-texts. The Maneans were not restricted to the area around Lake Urmia any more, but had spread into Zamua , where they interrupted the horse trade between Parsuash and Assyria and refused to pay tribute any more. After the fall of Phrygia, a daughter of Esarhaddon was wedded to the Scythian Prince Partatua of Sakasene in order to improve relations with the Nomads. The Medes under Khshathrita had been the target of a campaign as well, the date of which is unclear (before 676). Later on, Assyrian hosts reached the border of the 'salt-desert' near the mountain Bikni, that is, near Teheran. A number of fortresses secured the Zagros: Bit-Parnakki, Bit-kari and Harhar (Kar-Sharrukin).

A certain Mugallu had taken possession of parts of Meliddu (Melitene) and associated himself with the king of Tabal. Meliddu was besieged in 675, but without success. After the death of Humba-Haldash that same year, there was peace with Elam, as the new King Urtaki was an ally of Assyria. Meanwhile, Esarhaddon was waging war in the land of Bazu, situated opposite of the Island of Dilmun (Bahrain), probably Qatar, 'where snakes and scorpions cover the ground like ants', a land of salt deserts and thirst. In 673, Esarhaddon waged war against Urartu under king Rusas II that had strengthened again after the ravages of Sargon and the Cimmerians.

In 672, crown prince Sin-iddina-apla died. He had been the oldest son and designated as king of Assyria, while the second son Shamash-shum-ukin was to become the ruler of Babylon. Now the younger Assurbanipal became crown-prince, but he was very unpopular with the court and the priesthood. Contracts were made with leading Assyrians, members of the Royal family and foreign rulers to assure their loyalty to the crown prince.

In 671 Esarhaddon went to war against pharaoh Taharqa of Egypt. Part of his army stayed behind to deal with rebellions in Tyre and maybe Ashkelon. The army went south to Rapihu, then crossed the Sinai, a desert inhabited by dreadful and dangerous animals, and entered Egypt. In the summer he took Memphis, Taharqa fled to Upper Egypt. Esarhaddon now called himself king of Musur, Patros and Kush and returned with rich booty from the cities of the delta. Almost as soon as the king had left, Egypt rebelled against Assyrian rule. Esarhaddon had to fight with court-intrigues at Niniveh that led to the execution of several nobles and sent his general Sha-Nabu-shu to restore order in the Nile valley. In 669 he went to Egypt in person, but died suddenly in autumn of the same year in Harran. He was succeeded by Assurbanipal as king of Assyria and Shamash-shum-ukin as king of Babylonia.

In fiction

Esarhaddon is a major character in the novel The Assyrian , which is written as a narrative of a fictional half-brother to Esarhaddon, Tiglath.

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Last updated: 10-29-2005 02:13:46