(ASHUR-BAN-APLI in assyrian; reigned 668–627? B.C.)
   King of Assyria, son and successor of Esarhaddon. Despite rich and diverse historical sources, it is impossible to establish a generally acceptable chronology of Ashurbanipal’s reign. In particular, the events of his last years and the date and circumstances of his death remain unclear.
   Ashurbanipal succeeded to the throne when his father, Esarhaddon, died on campaign in Egypt. Moves by the pharaoh Taharka to regain independence had to be repelled by several campaigns, which culminated in the fall of Thebes. After this victory over the Kushite rulers, Ashurbanipal consolidated the Assyrian hold over the vassal states in Syro-Palestine. In the northeast, he repelled incursions by Mannaeans but maintained friendly relations with a number of buffer states in Anatolia.
   Relations with Elamand Babyloniaproved to be more difficult to resolve. While the Assyrian army was occupied with the Egyptian campaign, Elam staged an invasion of Babylonia that was repressed by quickly dispatched troops. When in the following years Elam experienced a dynastic struggle, a rival faction found asylum at the court of Ashurbanipal. Hostilities between Assyria and Elam resumed when the new king Teumman invaded the east Tigris region. The Elamites were decisively beaten at the banks of the river Ulai, and the decapitated head of their king was sent to Nineveh. The most serious and traumatic confrontation of Ashurbanipal’s reign was the rebellion of his brother Shamash-shumu-ukin, who had been chosen by Esarhaddon to be king of Babylon. The antiAssyrian faction headed by Shamash-shumu-ukin initiated a bid for independence, supported by Elamites and Arabsas well as troops led by the ruler of the Sealand, which led to a four-year war that was eventually won by the Assyrians.
   Relations with Elam continued to be problematic. There were several pretenders to the Elamite throne, and Ashurbanipal unsuccessfully backed an Elamite prince who had fled to Nineveh. In retaliation to a coup by Humban-Haltash, the Assyrian king began a war that was meant to deal with this long-standing enemy once and for all. As depicted on the reliefs from Ashurbanipal’s Ninevite palace, his army stormed one city after the other, finally sacking and despoiling the capital, Susa. Ashurbanipal was also victorious in his other campaigns, especially in battles against the Arabs, who had helped Shamash-shuma-ukin.
   The final years of Ashurbanipal’s reign are still obscure due to a lack of sources from this period. He may have abdicated in 631 and retired to Harran, or he may have continued to rule Assyria until his death, possibly in 627. He was succeeded by his son Ashur-etil-ilani.
   Despite his shadowy end amid growing internal and external threats to the Assyrian empire, Ashurbanipal was the last great Assyrian soldier-king and also left a considerable cultural legacy, most famously his library at Nineveh. The visual artsunder Ashurbanipal reached a high level of refinement, as the numerous sculpted reliefs recovered from the palace at Nineveh testify. They show the king as chief of the victorious armed forces and the hunter of ferocious beasts, as in the famous lion hunt scene.
   See also WARFARE.

Historical Dictionary of Mesopotamia. . 2012.

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