Excerpts from the Annals of Ashurnasirpal II (9th c. BC)

Ashurnasirpal II (r. 884-859 BCE) was a king of the Neo-Assyrian Empire who campaigned ruthlessly throughout his reign to suppress rebellions against Assyrian rule in the fertile crescent. He viewed himself as the representative of Assur, the primary god of the Assyrian pantheon, who had given him a mission to establish order throughout the world. Thanks to extensive archeological excavations at the city of Nimrud which he founded (in present day Iraq), scholars have vivid and detailed depictions of his use of terror to enforce Assyrian imperialism in the name of Assur.

When Assur, the lord, who called me by my name and has made great my kingdom, entrusted his merciless weapon unto my lordly hand, (I) Assur-nâsir-pal, the exalted prince, who fears the great gods, the powerful despot, conqueror of cities and mountains to their farthest borders, the king of rulers, who consumes the wicked, who is crowned with glory, who fears not opposition, the strong, the exalted, the unsparing, who destroys opposition, the king of all princes, the lord of lords, the shepherd, the king of kings, the exalted priest, the chosen of the hero Urta, the worshiper of great gods. . . who has battled with all the enemies of Assur north and south, and has laid tribute and tax on them, conqueror of the foes of Assur. . . . And now at the command of the great gods my sovereignty, my dominion, and my power are manifesting themselves; I am regal, I am lordly, I am exalted, I am mighty, I am honored, I am glorified, I am preeminent, I am powerful, I am lion-brave, and I am heroic! . . . I am the merciless weapon that strikes down the land of his enemies; I am a king, mighty in battle, destroying cities and highlands, first in war, king of the four quarters (of the world), who has conquered his foes, destroyed all his enemies, king of all the regions (of earth), or all princes, every one of them, the king who has trampled down all who were submissive to him, and who has brought under his sway the totality of all peoples. The decrees of destiny came forth at the word of the great gods, and for my destiny they duly ordained them. . . .

To the city of Sûru of Bît-Halupê I drew near, and the terror of the splendor of Assur, my lord, overwhelmed them. The chief men and the elders of the city, to save their lives, came forth into my presence and embraced my feet, saying: “If it is thy pleasure, slay! If it is thy pleasure, let live! That which they heart desireth, do!” Ahiababa, the son of nobody, whom they had brought from Bît-Adini, I took captive. In the valor of my heart and with the fury of my weapons I stormed the city. All the rebels they seized and delivered them up. My officers I caused to enter into his palace and his temples. His silver, his gold, his goods, and his possessions, copper, iron, lead, vessels of copper, cups of copper, dishes of copper, a great hoard of copper, alabaster, tables with inlay, the women of his palaces, his daughters, the captive rebels together with their possessions, precious stone from the mountains, his chariot with equipment, his horses, broken to the yoke, trappings of men and trappings of horses, garments of brightly colored wool and garments of linen, goodly oil, cedar, and fine sweet-scented herbs, panels of cedar, purple and crimson wool, his wagons, his cattle, his sheep, his heavy spoil, which like the stars of heaven could not be counted, I carried off. Azi-ilu I set over them as my own governor. I built a pillar over against his city gate, and I flayed all the chief men who had revolted, and I covered the pillar with their skins; some I walled up within the pillar, some I impaled upon the pillar on stakes, and others I bound to stakes round about the pillar; many within the border of my own land I flayed, and I spread their skins upon the walls; and I cut off the limbs of the officers, of the royal officers who had rebelled. Ahiababa I took to Nineveh, I flayed him, I spread his skin upon the wall of Nineveh.

In the same [year], while I was staying in Nineveh, they brought word that the Assyrians and Hulai, their governor, whom Shalmaneser, king of Assyria, a prince who preceded me, had settled in the city of Halzi-luha, had revolted and marched against Damdamusa, my royal city, to take it. At the word of Assur, Ishtar, and Adad, the gods, my helpers, I mustered my chariots and armies. . . .

. . . .To the mountain of Kashiari I crossed, to Kinabu, the fortified city of Hulai, I drew near. With the masses of my troops and by my furious battle onset I stormed, I captured the city; 600 of their warriors I put to the sword; 3000 captives I burned with fire; I did not leave a single one among them alive to serve as a hostage. Hulai, their governor, I captured alive. Their corpses I formed into pillars; their young men and maidens I burned in the fire. Hulai, their governor, I flayed, his skin I spread upon the wall of the city of Damdamusa; the city I destroyed, I devastated, I burned with fire. . . .

From Kinabu, I departed, to the city of Têla I drew near. The city was exceeding strong and was surrounded by three walls. The men trusted in their mighty walls and in their hosts, and did not come down, and did not embrace my feet. With battle and slaughter I stormed the city and captured it. 3000 of their warriors I put to the sword; their spoil and their possessions, their cattle and their sheep I carried off. Many captives from among them I burned with fire, and many I took as living captives. From some I cut off their noses, their ears, and their fingers, of many I put out the eyes. I made one pillar of the living, and another of heads, and I bound their heads to posts round about the city. Their young men and maidens I burned in the fire, the city I destroyed, I devastated, I burned it with fire and consumed it.

Source: Ancient Records of Assyria and Babylonia, Volume I, edited by Danial David Luckenbill Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1926, pp. 139-141, 144-147.