( Akkadian Šarru-kên
"legitimate king", reigned 722 – 705 BC) was an Assyria
king. Sargon II became co-regent
with Shalmaneser V
in 722 BC, and
became the sole ruler of the kingdom of Assyria in 722 BC after the
death of Shalmaneser V. It is not clear whether he was the son of
or a usurper
unrelated to the royal family. In his inscriptions, he styles himself as a
new man, rarely referring to his predecessors; however he took the
name Sharru-kinu ("true king"), after Sargon of Akkad — who had founded the first
Empire in the region some 16 centuries earlier.
is the Biblical form of the name.
Beset by difficulties at the beginning of his rule, Sargon II made
a pact with the Babylonian
king Marduk-apla-iddina II
. He was able to free
all temples, as well as the inhabitants of the towns of Assur and Harran from
taxes. While Sargon was thus trying to gain support
in Assyria, Marduk-apla-iddina II conquered
Babylon with the help of the new Elamite king
Ummanigash and was crowned king in 721
Palace of Khorsabad
In 720 BC Sargon moved against Elam, but the Assyrian army was
defeated near Der
. Later that year,
Sargon defeated an Aramean coalition at
Qarqar, thereby gaining control of Arpad, Simirra, and Damascus.
conquered Gaza in Philistia, destroyed Rafah, and won a
victory over Egyptian troops.
return, he had Samaria rebuilt as
the capital of the new province of Samerina
and settled it with Assyrians.
In 717 BC
he conquered parts of the Zagros mountains
and the Syro-Hittite city of Carchemish on the Upper Euphrates.
In 716 BC he moved against the
, where the ruler Aza
, son of Iranzu
, had been deposed by Ullusunu
with the help of the Urartuans
. Sargon took the capital Izirtu, and stationed troops in Parsuash (the original home of the Persian tribe, on
lake Urmia) and
new bases in Media
as well, the main one being
which he renamed Kar-Sharrukin
. In 715 BC, others were to
all named after Babylonian gods
resettled by Assyrian subjects.
campaign of Sargon against Urartu in 714 BC
is well known from a letter from Sargon to the god Ashur (found in the town of Assur, now in the
Louvre) and the bas-reliefs in the palace of Dur-Sharrukin.
The reliefs show the difficulties of the
terrain: the war-chariots had to be dismantled and carried by
soldiers (with the king still in the chariot); the letter describes
how paths had to be cut into the intractable forests. The campaign
was probably motivated by the fact that the Urartians had been
weakened by incursions of the Cimmerians
a nomadic steppe
tribe. One Urartian army had
been completely annihilated, and the general Qaqqadanu
reaching Lake Urmia he turned east and entered Zikirtu and Andia on the
Caspian slopes of the Caucasus.
When news reached him that king
Rusas I of Urartu
against him, he turned back to Lake Urmia in forced marches and
defeated an Urartian army in a steep valley of the Uaush
(probably the Sahend
, east of Lake Urmia, or
further to the south, in Mannaea
a steep mountain that reached the clouds and whose flanks were
covered by snow. The battle is described as the usual carnage, but
King Rusas managed to escape. The horses of his chariot had been
killed by Assyrian spears, forcing him to ride a mare in order to
get away, very unbecoming for a king.
Sargon plundered the fertile lands at the southern and western
shore of Lake Urmia, felling orchards and burning the harvest. In
the royal resort of Ulhu
, the wine-cellar of
the Urartian kings was plundered; wine was scooped up like water.
Assyrian army then plundered Sangibuti and
marched north to Van without
meeting resistance, the people having retreated to their castles or
fled into the mountains, having been warned by fire-signals.
Sargon claims to have destroyed 430 empty villages.
Van, Sargon left Urartu via Uaiaish.
he received the tribute of the
lands. While most of the army
returned to Assyria, Sargon went on to sack the Urartian temple of
the god Haldi
and his wife Bagbartu
(Ardini). The loot must have been impressive; its description takes
up fifty columns in the letter to Ashur. More than one ton of gold
and five tons of silver fell into the hands of the Assyrians;
334,000 objects in total. A relief from Dur-Sharrukin depicted the
sack of Musasir as well (which fell into the Tigris in 1846 when
the archaeologist Paul-Émile
Botta was transporting his artifacts to Paris).
Musasir was annexed. Sargon claims to have lost only one
charioteer, two horsemen and three couriers on this occasion. King
Rusa was said to be despondent when he heard of the loss of
Musasir, and fell ill. According to the imperial annals, he took
his own life with his own iron sword.
In 713 BC Sargon stayed at home; his troops took, among others,
. Some Mede
rulers offered tribute. In 711 BC, Gurgum
conquered. An uprising in the Philistine city of
by Judah, Moab,
Edom and Egypt, was
suppressed, and Ashdod became an Assyrian province.
rule, the Assyrians completed the defeat of the Kingdom of Israel, capturing Samaria after a siege of three years and exiling the
This became the basis of the legends of the
Lost Ten Tribes
. According to the
, other people were brought to Samaria,
, under his predecessor
(2 Kings 18). Sargon's
name actually appears in the Bible only once, at Isaiah 20:1, which
records the Assyrian capture of Ashdod in 711 BC.
Campaign against Babylonia
In 710 BC Sargon felt safe enough in his rule to move against his
arch-enemy Marduk-apla-iddina II
. One army moved
against Elam and its new
king Shutruk-Nahhunte II; the
other, under Sargon himself, against Babylon.
siege to Babylon, and Marduk-apla-iddina II fled. He was said to have
been captured in the swamps of the Shatt al-Arab (though, as he seems to have proven a thorn in the
side of Sennacherib later on, this might
not have been quite true).
Southern Babylonia, settled by
tribes, was conquered and
turned into the province of Gambulu
After the capture of Marduk-apla-iddina II, Babylon yielded to
Sargon and he was proclaimed king of Babylonia in 710, thus
restoring the dual monarchy of Babylonia and Assyria. He remained
in Babylon for three years; in 709 BC, he led the new-year
procession as king of Babylon. He had his son, crown-prince Sennacherib,
married to the Aramaic noblewoman Naqi'a, and
stayed in the south to pacify the Aramaic and Chaldean tribes of
the lower Euphrates as well as the
Some areas at the border to Elam
were occupied as well.
the seven kings of Ia' (Cyprus) had
accepted Assyrian sovereignty; in 709, Midas,
king of Phrygia, beset by the nomadic
Cimmerians, submitted to Assyrian rule
and in 708, Kummuhu (Commagene) became an
Human-headed winged bull, found during Botta's excavation.
Assyria was at the apogee of its power.
Urartu had almost succumbed to the Cimmerians, Elam was weakened,
Marduk-apla-iddina II was momentarily powerless, and the Egyptian
influence in the Levant was temporarily waning as well.
preferred Nineveh to the traditional capital at Assur.
In 713 BC
he ordered the construction of a new palace and town called
Dur-Sharrukin ("House of Sargon"), 20 km north of Nineveh at
the foot of the Gebel Musri.
was bought, and the debts of construction workers were nullified in
order to attract a sufficient labor force. The land in the environs
of the town was taken under cultivation, and olive
groves were planted to increase Assyria's
deficient oil production. The town was of rectangular layout and
measured 1760 by 1635 m. The length of the walls was 16,280
Assyrian units, corresponding to the numerical value of Sargon's
name. The town was partly settled by prisoners of war and deportees
under the control of Assyrian officials, who had to ensure they
were paying sufficient respect to the gods and the king. The court
moved to Dur-Sharrukin in 706 BC, although it was not completely
In 705 BC, Sargon fell in a campaign against the Cimmerians
, who were later to destroy the
kingdoms of Urartu
before moving even further west. Sargon was
succeeded by his son Sennacherib
, 705 – 681 BC).
- Another "Sargon", a predecessor of Shamshi-Adad of the 18th century BC.
- The Cimmerians were mentioned a number of times in letters by
the crown-prince Sennacherib, who ran his father's intelligence
service. They cannot be dated exactly, but are believed to have
been composed before 713 BC. The letters relate how Sargon crossed
the upper and lower Zab and
moved over the mountains of Kullar in the direction of Lake Urmia, crossing the
country of Zikirtu,
whose ruler Metatti had
fled to Uishdish, the
provinces of Surikash,
Allabria and parts of