World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Battle of Nineveh (612 BC)


Battle of Nineveh (612 BC)

Battle of Nineveh
Date 612 BC
Location Nineveh
Result allied victory
Destruction of Assyria's capital
Founding of Neo-Babylonian Empire

Medes (including Persians)





Commanders and leaders
King Sin-shar-ishkun of Assyria   Cyaxares (Mede)
Nabopolassar (Babylonian)
Casualties and losses

The Battle of Nineveh is conventionally dated between 613 to 611 BC, with 612 BC being the most supported date. An allied army composed of Medes and Persians, rebelling Chaldeans and Babylonians, together with Scythians and Cimmerians besieged it and sacked it, leading to the destruction of the Neo-Assyrian Empire over the next three years[1] as the dominant state in the Ancient Near East, as well as the destruction of what was at that time the greatest city in the world, covering 750 hectares. After this battle the archeological record shows that the capital of the once mighty Assyrian Empire was extensively de-urbanized and depopulated.

Babylon became the imperial center of Mesopotamia for the first time in over a thousand years leading to the Neo-Babylonian empire, claiming imperial continuity as a new dynasty.


  • Background 1
  • Sources of the Fall and Battle 2
  • Account of the Battle 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5


The Neo-Assyrian Empire which arose in the 10th century BC, succeeding the Middle Assyrian Empire (1366-1074 BC), is generally regarded to have reached its peak in the 8th and 7th centuries BC, and was the largest empire the world had yet seen.

By the reign of Azerbaijan) in the north to Egypt, Arabia and Nubia in the south, and central Iran/Persia in the east to Cyprus and the Hellenic and Phoenician Mediterranean coasts of Anatolia and the Levant in the west.

However, after the death of Ashurbanipal in 627 BC the once mighty empire of Assyria was becoming increasingly volatile, with Assyria proper erupting into a series of internal civil wars. This led many of the subject states, many of which had their own political dynasties, to become restive, where as neighbouring states and groups, such as the Medes, Persians, Babylonians, Chaldeans, Scythians, Cimmerians became increasingly hostile under the Assyrian hegemony.

Assyrian had, by the accounts of its own records, been brutal even by the standards of the time, and thus had accumulated many hitherto impotent enemies. It had been weakened by a three front struggle to maintain power in Egypt, a costly but victorious war against the Elamites, and put down rebellions amongst their southern Mesopotamian Babylonian kinsmen, even though the core of the empire had been largely at peace. The Assyrian monarchs wrote constantly of internal danger, and fear of palace intrigue, and feared a rebellion.

Upon the death of Ashurbanipal, a series of bitter and bloody wars of succession occurred, weakening the empire – the Neo-Assyrian domination over the Middle East, Asia Minor, Caucasus and East Mediterranean gradually began to fade from 625 BC onwards.

An alliance grew up of external states, such as the Chaldeans who took advantage of the upheavals in Assyria to take control of much of Babylonia with the aid of the Babylonians themselves. They were building Babylonia into a power that is termed Neo-Babylonian. The goal was the overthrow of the Assyrian dynasty,the taking of the capital, Nineveh and the transferral of the seat of Mesopotamian power to Babylon. Nineveh was not only a political capital, but home to one of the great libraries of Akkadian tablets and a recipient of tribute from across the near east. (See Library of Ashurbanipal).

Sources of the Fall and Battle

The Assyrian chronicles break off in 639 BC after the destruction of Susa, the capital of Elam, and the subjugation of a rebellious Babylon ruled by Ashurbanipal's own brother Shamash-shum-ukin. Business records are missing after 631 BC. The primary sources are written afterwards by a victorious Neo-Babylonian from the reign of Nabopolassar. The primary chronicle is numbered 21901 translated by CJ Gadd in 1923 and found in the British Museum. By the Babylonian tradition set down by Herodotus much later, a Hebrew tradition attributed to Nahum, and by reference in Egyptian chronicles, all were hostile to Assyria. There are also legends that have grown up the centuries afterwards, among peoples who descend from one of the involved nationalities, including the still Mesopotamian Eastern Aramaic speaking and Christian Assyrians of northern Iraq, southeast Turkey, northwest Iran and northeast Syria.

The Mede's tradition focuses on the war between the Medean Kingdom, and the reign of Cyaxares, who was initially defeated by the Assyrians, but rebuilt his army and attacked Nineveh in conjunction with other peoples. According to the stele of Nabû-naʾid (Nabonidus) the last king of Babylon, who was himself ironically from Assyria, the siege of Nineveh was not led by the Babylonians, but by another people, who could have been either Scythians or Medes.

The best recounting of the actual battle is taken from the excerpts of Persica written by Ctesias, preserved in Diodorus Siculus and Photius, whose account may have been embroidered with accounts of other battles.

Account of the Battle

According to the Babylonian Chronicles, by which we date the battle, there was a bitter 12-year struggle between Babylon and Assyria, as well as civil wars in Assyria itself. They describe that in the tenth year of Nabopolassar (616 BC ) the Babylonians defeated the Assyrian army and marched up the river sacking Mane, Sahiri and Bali-hu.

The conflict renewed the next year, with the Assyrians mustering their army and throwing the Babylonians back to Takritain. Nabopolassar stationed his army in the fortress of Takritain, and the two armies did battle there the next year. The Assyrians were beaten and retreated to Assyria.

The Babylonians then allied with the Medes, Persians, Cimmerians and Scythians. The Median army took Tarbisu, near Nineveh and encamped nearby, and then attacked the city of Nineveh, with the Babylonian text recounting how in 612 BC their allies destroyed Nineveh's temples and sacked the city, and their army did not reach the city until after the plundering had been done.

The Assyrian King Sin-shar-ishkun was killed in the siege. In 612 the Bablyonians mustered the army again and joined with Cyaxares encamping against Nineveh again. They laid siege to the city for three months and in August, finally broke the defenses, and plundered the city, burning it behind, declaring that the king in Nineveh bowed down in vassalage. Ashur-uballit II had been made King of Assyria. He refused to submit, however, and successfully fought his way out of Nineveh, founding a final capital at Harran.

According to the tradition laid out in Didorus, the Tigris river was flooded, entering into the city, while his account is often suspect, this aspect has been given attention. The allied armies entered the area of the outer wall and there fought to enter the palace. Temples were sacked and finally the palace was burned, though this did not destroy the city, and may have aided the preservation of clay texts. According to the account in Nahum, one of the Old Testament prophets, the battle went on for months, and fighting was in each house and street. Evidence points to a date of 660-630 BC for Nahum's text, making his predictions in chapter 2 especially prescient for what happened in 613-605. Nahum also predicts that the city will not be rebuilt; archaeological work shows that it was left a place of desolation and ruin for centuries.

There would be several more campaigns against Assyria by the Neo-Bablyonians and their allies, including one against an allied Egyptian-Assyrian army. Thus while the Battle of Nineveh was a turning point in the war, Ashur-uballit II would fight on for several more years. His ultimate fate is not known or recorded - he may have been killed at the fall of Harran in 608 BC, in a failed attempt to recapture it the following year, or at Carchemish in 605 BC (where the last major Assyrian resistance appears to have ended); or simply disappeared into obscurity.


  1. ^ Georges Roux - Ancient Iraq p 376

External links

  • Fall of Nineveh Chronicle
  • The fall of Nineveh

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.