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Mikhail Motchalov_ANCIENT ASSYRIANS` OPEN FIELD BATTLES: TOTAL AMOUNT, WINS AND DEFEATS

We`ll   start our count  from the Middle Assyrian epoch,  at the moment when  the relations between a  mitannian  vassal  Arrapkha  and  near-by  Ashur  evolve into an   overt armed conflict.  The troops of assyrian king Assur-uballit I raid into the lands of his eastern neighbor.  The weapons from the arsenals of arrapkhan city Nuzi are distributed among the arrapkhan corpse, and the mitannian chariotry is dispatched here to aid [15: 34—35].  An open field battle between the Assyrians and the Mittanian-arrapkhan troops took place, probably, soon after these very preparations.  The report on the chariotry which took part in this battle (58 chariots of the left wing, 26 chariots of the right wing) is found among the Nuzi archives.  Neither date nor   the place of the battle is known.  However, the same documentation contains the tablets telling about the defendless lands and settlements of Tursha town, ravaged by assyrian contingents [15: 39 — 48].  To all appearance, these calamities were the result of the Assyrian victory in the above mentioned battle, which took place nearby.  Thus, following Maidman, let`s name this clash «the battle of Tursha».  The nuzian archives  give obscure evidence of one more  field battle of that time  –  more than hundred soldiers  «did not return» from Zizza town  [15: 52—60].  The Mitannians lost both the infantry and members of the chariot crews.  Another Nuzi document tells about two clashes, with the involvement of chariotry, which took place at Silliya and Lubti — the towns in the eastern part of Arrapkha [15: 73].

The first middle Assyrian open field battle to have been sufficiently recorded is the battle of Sugagu, on Tigris river (between 1317—1308).  In the babylonian «Chronicle P» it is said about a clash of   Babylonian king Kurigalzu II and his assyrian rival Аdad-nerari:  «He went to conquer Adad-nirari, king of Assyria.  He did battle against him at Sugaga, which is on the Tigris, and brought about his defeat».  The Assyrian version of the event (which is in the Standard Inscription of Adad-nirari) tells of quite another outcome:  « Adad-nirari, …  Grandson of Enlil-nirari, also vice-regent of the god Assur, who defeated the army of the Kassites …».  As we see, the kassito–babylonian troops of Kurigalzu were defeated by Assyrian king Ellil-nerari.  It appears, that it`s better to say about an Assyrian victory.  The Assyrians were headed by Ellil-nerari.  Thus, in the Babylonian chronicle Adad-nirari is mistakenly mentioned as a participant of battle at Sugaga instead of his grandfather Ellil-nerari.  Anyway, the victory of Assyria in this battle is disputable. 

The information in the Middle Assyrian inscriptions concerning the open field battles is very scarce. There is, for instance, an obscure hint at one more field battle of Ellil-nerari`s reign — the battle of Kilizi.  However, its chronological correlation with the battle of Sugaga is not clear.  Besides, it is not still clear if the battle happened to be or did not.  The only clear point — the confrontation at Kilizi occurred during Ellil-nerari`s reign.

1308—1296.  Arik-den-ili I, son of Ellil-nerari,   was also experienced with conducting open field battles.  In the so called «Chronicle of Arik-den-ili» it is said about the Assyrian king`s victory over an enemy unknown for us:  «… At this time, with ninety of his chariots, he crossed the lower [...]. He killed six hundred men of Hi[…]».  Further   we learn about one more campaign and a victorious battle:  «… of Halahhu, forever [...] he plundered. He killed 254,000 men. He inflicted a defeat on them. …».

1295—1282 — Adad-nerari I defeated Nazi-Maruttash, a king of Babylonia, at Ugarsallu.

1263—1234 — Shalmaneser I defeated the Hittites at Nihriya [14: 36; 10: 317].

1222—1215 — Tukulti-Ninurta I fights against Babylonian king Kaštiliašu IV. The winner is unknown [20: Сol.2, C 1*-2*; 14: 36].

1186—1182 — Ellil-kuduri-usur defeated by the Babylonians.

1133—1125 — Ashur-resh-ishi, if to believe the chronicle named after him, inflicted defeats upon his enemies.  Sometimes, as in the case with Babylonian king Ninurta-nadin-shumi, at Arbela, it didn`t come to full-scale battle at all — this king simply fled from Assyrian army:  «That year, Aššur-reš-iši, king of Assyria, took his soldiers and his chariots and marched on Arbela. Ninurta-nadin-šumi, the king of Karduniaš, heard of the march of Aššur-reš-iši, king of Assyria. He [recalled?] his troops. The forces and the king of Karduniaš fled [...] with hum [...] he sent [...] against [...] ».  Probably, the babylonian retreat was the result of an Assyrian sudden onslaught.  Later on assyrian king Ashur-resh-ishi defeated and dispersed a coalition of aramaean troops.  Lastly, near the fortress of Idi he stopped the army of Nebuchadnezzer I.  40 chariots and a Babylonian general were captured.

About 1114 — In the beginning of his reign, in the land of Kummuhu Tiglath-pileser I defeated a united force of the Mushki.  Later on, the army of Babylonian king Marduk-nadin-ahhe was defeated at Gurmarritu, on the Lower Zab.   The Assyrians won the battle on the second try.

911—891 — Adad-nerari II defeated the Babylonians at Yalman Mountain [2:  346].  Later he defeated their army once again [20:  3.  A 10—11].

882 — At Kinabu city Assurnasirpal  II  defeated the troops of  land  Nirbu  [5: 253]. 881 — in the battle of fortress Вabite the Assyrians defeated the troops of a ruler of   zamuan district Dagara. 1460 enemy warriors were eliminated.  879 — At Mattiatu (modern Midyat) the Assyrian king engaged the Nairi troops.  Of all the Assurnasirpal`s battles in the land of Nairi it was one of the bloodiest — 2800 enemy troops killed.  878  —  Assurnasirpal  II   besieged Suru (Zuru), a fortified city in the land of Suhi, on the  Middle Euphrates,  Its defenders led by king  Sadudu  and supported by an allied Babylonian contingent  decided to  fight the Assyrians —  a fierce two-days battle followed.  Finally,  the army of Assurnasirpal  II   managed to  nail  the enemy  to  the Euphrates,  and  Sadudu  with the rest of his warriors  jumped into the river to save their lives.  The city was captured.  878 B.C. again.  — The lords of  Suhi  rebelled,  united their forces  and  could muster  quite a large army  — 6-6,5  thousand  warriors,  including chariotry.  In the land of Lakai near Haridu town, they fought the Assyrians in a gory battle.  The Assyrians managed to overcome their foe, which, according to the annals, resulted in 6500 enemy warriors killed.  In the same 878 B.C.  the Assyrians defeated  the troops of aramaean king Aziel  at the town of Kipina  and  killed  1000  of his warriors.  Aziel himself fled to «a rugged hill of Bizuru».

856 — Shalmaneser III, son and successor of Assurnasirpal II, defeated urartian king Aramu.

853  —  A decisive clash,  a «Battle of  the Nations» of that epoch,  took place in  853  (855)  B.C. at Qarqar city,  on the Orontes.  The precise details of this epic battle aren`t known.  On the one hand Shalmaneser III proclaimed of his victory and eliminating of 20,5  thousand enemy warriors [9:  D.  64 — 66] but he had to halt his western campaign.  In 841 B.C., having mustered a huge army he attacks Damascus.  The damascan troops were defeated, but the city itself survived. 832 — Daian-Ashur, an Assyrian turtanu (commander), moves to the north.  The Assyrians faced the Urartians in the battle which wasn`t victorious for any of the sides [9:  D.  141—146].

823—811 — Shamshi-Adad V defeated the Babylonians led by king Marduk-balassu-iqbi [20:  3.  7—9].

780 — Shalmaneser IV sends an army led by turtanu Shamshi-ilu against urartian king Argishti I.  The rivals met on the assyrian northern border, in the vicinity of modern Dehock, near ancient Andarutta mountain pass.  The battle, if to believe Shamshi-ilu, ended in Assyrians` victory.  However, it didn`t bring them any considerable success.  The Assyrian turtan doesn`t tell about any urartians killed or captured — they could retreat. Shamshi-ilu didn`t try to stop them.  And what about the version of events from urartian side?  Argishti`s Khorkhoran inscription is silent about this unhappy for him battle.  But according to the annals he managed to «repell Assyria» in the next year.

754 — Urartian king Sarduri managed to defeat the Assyrian army under king Ashur-nerari V.

743  —  The troops of  Tiglath-pileser III  at a battle in  Kummuhu/Commagene  (between the districts of Kishtan and Halpi)  reached a decisive victory over  the coalition forces led by  Mati`il of Arpad, «Sarduri of the land Urartu, Sulumal of the land Melid, and Tarqularu of the land Gurgum…».  The Assyrians captured the enemy`s camp.  735 - The troops of Tiglath-pileser   defeated Sarduri at the battle (?) of Urartu`s capital Turushpa: «I confined Sarduri … to the city of Turuspa, his sity, and inflicted a great defeat upon him before his city gates»   [17:  41].  733 — Tiglath-pileser III   defeated the army of king Rezin (ass.  Rahianu) at Damascus   [17:  20].  In the same 733 B.C.   the troops of Tiglath-pileser III   defeated the troops (9400 men) of Arabian queen Samsi at Saqurri mountain; queen`s camp was seized [17:  42, 44].

721  —  The army of Sargon II  came to shield the city of Der  from  an Elamite-Chaldean  attack but was defeated by the Elamites  of  Humban-Nikash .  However in 720 B.C., at the battle of Rapihu, Sargon won victory over Hanunu, king of Gaza, and an allied Egyptian contingent.  Hanunu and the egyptian   general were captured.  714 — The widely known Sargon`s victory over king Rusa of Urartu and Metatti the Zikertian at the battle of Uaush mountain.  710 — Marduk-apla-iddin defeated by the Assyrians in the Southern Babylonia.

702 — Sennacherib`s victory over an Elamite-Chaldean troops at the battle of Kish.  701 — The battle of Altaqu (Eltekeh) [22].  Sennacherib crushed Ekronite-Egyptian troops.  As he claims, «… Trusting in Ashur, my lord, I fought with them and inflicted a defeat in battle upon them. The charioteers and sons of the Egyptian kings, together with the charioteers of the king of Meluhha, I personally took alive in the midst of the battle».

693 — The allied troops of Nergal-ushezib and the Elamites were defeated   at Nippur. 691  —  At Halule  town,  on the bank of Tigris river,  the Elamites of Humban-Immena  and the Babylonians of Mushezib-Marduk  began their attack  but were  countercharged,  they halted and were surrounded.  The Babylonian Chronicle, on the contrary, insists that the Assyrians withdrew from the field.  Whatever the case,  one thing is clear  —  it was a fierce battle;  the rebels may had been  defeated,  but  Sennacherib suffered such heavy losses,  that couldn`t take an advantage of  his victory —  only in  689  B.C.,  after the death of  the king of Elam,  he managed to   crush  Mushezib-Marduk`s resistance.

679 — The troops of Esarhaddon defeated the Cimmerians at the Cilician Gates.  671 — Pharaoh Taharqa lost a battle (probably, several battles) and was hurled back from Memphis.

667 — During their first Egyptian campaign the Assyrians of Ashurbanipal defeated the Egyptian-Ethiopian forces of Taharqa in Karbaniti.  Taharqa himself stayed in Memphis, the troops were led by one of his generals [16:  BI 63. 70—79].  Later in 667:   pharaoh Tanwetamani defeated the Assyrian garrison in front of Memphis walls and captured the city.

660—659 — An expeditionary force led by rab sha-reshi (chief eunuch) Nabu-sharru-usur  crossed the  Zagros  mountains and set a military camp,  but in the middle of the night was suddenly attacked by the troops of the mannaean king Ahsheri.  However, the Assyrian soldiers  pulled themselves up and defeated the enemy  [16:  BIII30].  Having annihilated the field army  of the enemy,  Nabu-sharru-usur  marched  without any problems  all Mannea round.  655 — the widely known victory of Ashurbanipal over the Elamites and their allies at Tulliz town, on the bank of Ulai river.  652  —  At Babylon,  The army  of Ashurbanipal  managed to overcome  the warriors of  his insurgent  brother  Shamash-shum-ukin.  The defeated enemy troops sheltered behind the city walls.  Later in 652, at Der, the babylonian troops suffered one more defeat. 

626, 12-th day of Tashritu — the Assyrians were defeated by the Babylonians (and the Chaldeans), who defended Babylon. 

625 — The Medes led by king Phraortes were defeated on their way to the centre of Assyria.

624, August 9 — Sin-shar-ishkun at Banitu canal couldn`t defeat the Babylonian troops of Nabopolassar.  616 B.C., 12-th day of Abu (July 24) — The Assyrians and the allied Manneans were defeated at Gablinu town.  In the same 616, month of Ululu – during the second battle of Gablinu  Assyro-Egyptian  force tried to defeat   Nabopolassar  but couldn`t do it  and returned to Assyria.  At the end of the year 616, in Addaru, the Assyrians were defeated by the Babylonians at Madanu and were repelled to the Lower Zab.

To sum up:  the total list of open field battles given by the Assyrians  is the following:  40 out of 60 cases we know are the Assyrian victories, 12 are «stalemates»  and the events of obscure character, 8  –  Assyrian defeats. These facts don`t let us recognize Assyrian army as an invincible one.  The Assyrians lost open field battles, and not once.  Numerous Assyrian foes were aware of it.  The local political elites believed that providing that they were united and well prepared, the aggression of Аshur`s warriors could be repelled.  Perhaps,  this understanding was one of the  impulses  that  provoked and inspired  systematical  anti-assyrian  revolts  which raged in the volatile periphery  of the Empire  —  from the Mediterranean shores  to the Iranian Mountains.

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