Simo Parpola, Helsinki

Introduction The Neo-Assyrian Empire was a multi-ethnic state composed of many peoples and tribes of different origins (cf. Postgate 1989). Its ethnic diversity notwithstanding, it was a uniformly structured political entity with well-defined and well-guarded borders,2 and the Assyrian kings certainly regarded it as a unified whole, "the land of Aššur", whose territory they constantly strove to expand (Tadmor 1999; see also below). To the outside world, it likewise was a unified, monolithic whole, whose inhabitants were unhesitatingly identified as Assyrians regardless of their ethnic backgrounds.3 However, just how far did the masses of the Empire's population actually share the Assyrian identity? Did they consider themselves as members of the Assyrian nation, identifying with the ideals and ways of life of the Assyrian ruling class, or did they rather identify themselves in terms of their diverse ethnic origins, loathing and resenting the Assyrian rule and way of life? I shall try to answer these questions by first considering the matter briefly from a theoretical perspective and then reviewing the available evidence, both Assyrian and post-Assyrian, in detail. 1. The Role of Ethnicity in Multi-ethnic States Contrary to what one might be prone to think, national and ethnic identities4 are not mutually exclusive, nor does the former depend on the latter. Most citizens of multi-ethnic


For the bibliographical abbreviations see H. D. Baker (ed.), The Prosopography of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, Vol. 2/II, Helsinki, 2001, B28-32. 2. The "border" or "territory" (mişru, tahūmu) of Assyria is referred to over 300 times in Neo-Assyrian

sources; "crossing" or "violating" it is referred to 15 times. The frontiers of the Empire were heavily garrisoned (Parker 1997) and their crossing points well guarded (see, e.g., SAA 1 186-187 and NL 40; SAA 16 148). Extradition of fugitives and political refugees from Assyria was a standard clause in Neo-Assyrian treaties and a recurrent topic in Neo-Assyrian administrative correspondence. The relevant contexts make it clear that the term "territory of Assyria" denoted areas permanently incorporated into the provincial system of Assyria, as opposed to non-annexed vassal or allied states, which had borders of their own. 3. Cf., e.g., Isaiah 7:18-20 and 8:7. In ABL 1430, a letter from Babylonia from the time of Assurbanipal, eight Assyrians ( are referred to by name; four of them have non-Akkadian, mostly Aramaic names (Idriya, Sabini, Sames-idri, Ubarsayasu). 4. By "national identity" I understand "national collective identity" in the sense of Hall 1999, but differently from Hall, I believe that such identities already existed in ancient societies, long before the rise of nineteenth-century nationalism (see below). By "ethnic identity" I understand, with Alba 1990, 25, an individual's subjective orientation toward his or her ethnic origins.



states have, in addition to their national identity, one or more secondary ethnic identities (Vassady 1989, 47-48; Alba 1990, 41; 50).5 To take an obvious example, first-generation American immigrants generally maintain a strong attachment to their home countries but, after many years in the country, may start developing a secondary American identity (Kivisto and Blanck 1990, 115, contra Hansen 1937b [1990], 205-207). Their children, who were born in the country, are Americans by birth; but they still (often subconsciously) maintain a strong ethnic identity, having been exposed as children to their parents' native language and cultural heritage (Alba 1990, 22; 25).6 In the third generation and later, ethnic consciousness recedes to the background, without necessarily disappearing altogether (Kivisto and Blanck 1990; Alba 1990, passim, especially the on pp. 64 and 68).7 The development of national identity thus goes hand in hand with language acquisition and social integration. The moment an individual fully masters the language of the country he (or she) lives in, and has internalised its customs, traditions, values and religious beliefs, he (or she) becomes a fully integrated member of the society and, consciously or not, shares its collective identity (Hall 1999, 34-36). The whole process takes a maximum of three generations to complete and is by no means limited to the United States only but is universal (e.g., Deniz 1999). The presence of ethnic communities in the host country may help maintain the ethnic identities of immigrants and their descendants, but it cannot halt, slow down or reverse the assimilation process (Kivisto 1989; Odisho 1999). Any ethnic shift usually begins with acculturation and ends up with assimilation.8 Ethnic consciousness is, however, related to education so that educated people may cultivate an inherited or adopted ethnic identity long after the critical three-generation limit (Alba 1990, 29). It is also related to social discrimination and persecution, so that oppressed and persecuted ethnic minorities may develop stronger identities than undisturbed ones (cf. Alba 1990, 27; Hall 1999, 34).

5. Ethnic identity naturally constitutes only one of the several secondary identities an individual may have. "An individual can be simultaneously a male, a Polish American, a father, and a plumber" (Alba 1990, 23)-one could add, a Catholic, and many other things. Many people are strongly attached to a particular family, city or city quarter. 6. Hansen (1937a) argued that the second generation, keenly aware of the contempt in which the foreign accents and customs of their parents were held, did their utmost to forget their ethnic heritage. In his words, "Nothing is more Yankee than a Yankeeized person of foreign descent" (1937a [1990], 194), However, this view needs tempering as too extreme. 7. Hansen postulated a general resurgence of ethnic consciousness in the third generation. His famous thesis of a third-generation return to ethnicity ("What the son wishes to forget, the grandson wishes to remember", Hansen 1937a [1990], 195) is, however, not borne out by facts, see Kivisto and Blanck 1990. 8. I owe this observation to Edward Y. Odisho.


and the Sealand) were. 73). it is an undeniable fact that from the latter part of the second millennium BC on. It is questionable. however. no. however. 217-238 and the discussion ibid. Muşurāyu "Egyptian". then the reintroduction of an Assyrian pāhutu in 656 may well have triggered the Šamaš-šumu-ukin rebellion (652-648 BC). 3 . some nomad tribes and a few ethnic pockets in inaccessible areas within the borders of Assyria may have never been fully brought under Assyrian rule. affluent individuals in high positions. Babylonia (actually. following a pattern already set by Shalmaneser III (858-824) and Adad-nerari III (810-783). Mādāyu "Mede". Ur. An Assyrian governor of Babylon exercising control over the entire "land of Akkad" is already attested in 710 and probably stayed in office until the last year of Sennacherib (681). see SAA 15 nos. The Shaping of Assyrian Identity in the First Millennium BC To return now to Assyria. and the whole country was incorporated into the provincial system in 656 at the latest (see Frame 1992. and many of its ethnic minorities seem to have retained their identities (at least to some extent) till the very end of the Empire. Parts of it (DurŠarrukku. and Dur-Katlimmu on the Habur dating from the last decades of the Empire mention numerous Assyrian citizens identified or identifiable as Egyptians. within 9. the population within the Empire's provincial system-that is. there cannot be any question that it was and remained a multi-ethnic society. the governor of Babylon bore the traditional Babylonian title šākin ţēmi (Frame 1992. 38). Gitin 1995). all of them entitled "governor (pāhutu) of Babylon"). which functioned as buffer states against Egypt and Phrygia respectively and continued enjoying nominal independence despite recurrent revolts and despite the fact that they had de facto been incorporated in to the Assyrian provincial system (Otzen 1979. annexed to Assyria as provinces already in the eighth century. Thus it would be absurd to claim that every individual or group of people in Assyria shared the Assyrian identity. Lawson Younger 2003. Lahiru. Nineveh. Anatolians and Iranians on the basis of their names or the ethnic labels attached to them. invaded the country at the invitation of the clergy of Marduk and assumed the kingship of Babylon.ASSYRIAN IDENTITY IN ANCIENT TIMES AND TODAY 2. cf. On the other hand. For example. The sons of all the three men with Israelite names mentioned in texts from Dur-Katlimmu had Aramaic or Akkadian names (Radner 2002. legal documents from Assur. Ethnonyms like Arbāyu "Arab". but probably much earlier. were for political and ideological reasons allowed to keep their traditional institutions and administrative infrastructures. Certain parts of the Empire. 66). "the land of Akkad") de facto became part of Assyria in 731 BC. Despite several revolts.. Under Esarhaddon. Arabs. such as Babylonia. for the eponym officials of the years 656. how far these ethnic names and labels actually reflect ethnic consciousness and ethnicity (Zadok 1997). 645 (643). 255-256. Other annexed areas comparable to Babylonia were the Philistine city states and the kingdom of Hilakku (Cilicia). and 633.9 In addition. 271. 37. If this was part of Esarhaddon's reconciliatory Babylonian policy (Porter 1993. xx-xxiii and xxxviii. when TiglathPileser III. which naturally helped preserve their ethnic identities. and Urarţāyu "Urartian" are from the late eighth century on frequently borne by fully Assyrianized. the country was allowed to remain nominally independent till the end of the Empire. Der. Israelites.

social and cultural consequences. Between 830 and 640 BC.2 The Assyrianization of the Empire's Population Secondly. utterly changed the political. 4 . 118-119). 2. Concomitantly with this.5 million people from all parts of the Empire were removed from their homes and settled elsewhere. Eph'al 1999. the Aramaic alphabet effectively replaced cuneiform as the Empire's everyday writing system (Parpola 10. 11. 2. Especially the policy of mass deportations introduced by Ashurnasirpal II and continued on a vastly increased scale by Shalmaneser III. Postgate 1992. 1991). 11 By about 700 BC. This included. demographic and linguistic map of the Near East.ASSYRIAN IDENTITY IN ANCIENT TIMES AND TODAY Assyria proper 10 -was for centuries subject to a continuous and systematic process of assimilation and integration. subjected huge numbers of new people to a direct and ever-increasing Assyrian cultural influence.1 The Aramaization of Assyria In the first place. thus turning the previously largely monolingual society of Assyria into a multilingual one. Within a relatively short period of time-already by the middle of the eighth century-Aramaic became established as a common language (lingua franca) throughout the Empire (Garelli 1982. among other things. an estimated 4. These deportations may originally have had purely political and economic goals. a uniform calendar. mostly in the Assyrian heartland and the big urban centers there (Oded 1979). they brought hundreds of thousands of foreign. xvi). Tadmor 1975. the massive deportations of foreign people into Assyria. and Aramean scribes working with Assyrian ones are mentioned in administrative documents already half a century earlier. 252 See Appendix 1. mostly Aramaicspeaking people into the Assyrian heartland and the eastern provinces of the Empire. and the concomitant reorganization of the conquered areas as Assyrian provinces. the Assyrian administration started using the Aramaic alphabet alongside the cuneiform script. the imposition of taxation and military service. Aramean scribes writing on papyrus or parchment scrolls beside Assyrian scribes writing on clay tablets or waxed writing-boards are depicted on royal reliefs from the mideighth century on (Tadmor 1982. but in the long run they ended up having far more extensive linguistic. TiglathPileser III and the Sargonid dynasty. Cf. 1985. 1997b.

Parpola 2003b. building projects and business ventures. Winter 1997. Gitin 1995. 61-62. 85-95) were deportees from the Iranian city of Hundur. in addition to deportees from other parts of the Empire. 63-72. Postgate 1992. The same is true of the other archive discussed by Pesénder (1986. Nabû. and establishment of Assyrian cult centres in the rebuilt capital and elsewhere (Cogan 1974. as they were no longer the countries they used to be. including their names. Frame 1997. measures. religious festivals. the annexation of a rebel country usually involved destruction of its main cult centre. Their intelligentsia had been deported to Assyria and replaced with Assyrian administrators. and conscription system. Ištar. as well as imperial weights. participation in common military expeditions. Assyrian royal ideology. pillage of its sacred objects and gods. for details see Postgate 1974 and 1976. settled in Assur in 714. and the cults of Aššur. also considerable numbers of Assyrian immigrants and colonists. emperor cult. The two Hundurāya families in Assur discussed by Pedersén (1986.13 This development finds a perfect parallel in the social and cultural homogenization 12. Parpola 2000a. Radner 1999. or were recreated in the temple workshops of Assur in Assyrian fashion and returned to the annexed country along with a new theology (Nissinen and Parpola 2004). at the same time as Aramaic developed into the lingua franca of the Empire and the use of the Aramaic alphabet in its administration steadily increased. Sîn and other Assyrian gods (Porter 2000a and 2000b. Lipiński 2000. 100-101). show that in less than one generation. Levine 2003. its originally heterogeneous population became progressively homogeneous socially and culturally (Garelli 1982. that of the Egyptian colony at Assur. they had become entirely Assyrianized in every respect. Their sizable archives. and other standards (Parpola 2003b. 548). While the process of Assyrianization thus put under way undoubtedly worked fastest in the big cities of central Assyria. Pedersen 1986). whose leaders had names such as 5 . Parpola in press). 2. and continuous interaction between all segments of population in all aspects of daily life. Holloway 2001. 81-91). In addition. As a result. their capitals had been razed and rebuilt in Assyrian fashion. it must have proceeded rapidly in the new provinces as well.ASSYRIAN IDENTITY IN ANCIENT TIMES AND TODAY judiciary. 12 The peoples of the newly established provinces routinely became Assyrian citizens (Oded 1979. It was boosted by intermarriages.3 The Social and Cultural Homogenization of the Empire The intense acculturation process thus started continued for a period of more than two hundred years. 2001. and their populations now included. Though people deported to Assyria were not prevented from practicing their religion in their new homeland. Watanabe 2002. which cover the years 681-618 BC. Pongratz-Leisten 1997. religious ideas and mythology were incessantly propagated to all segments of the population through imperial art. The images of the deported gods either received a permanent new home in Assyria and were incorporated in the pantheon of the Empire. Eph'al and Naveh 1993. Kaufman 1972. 125-129). 13.

they are frequently encountered on all levels of administration in the late eighth and seventh centuries BC (Tadmor 1975 and 1982. Melville 1999. 2. as evidenced by the Neo-Assyrian onomastics. Parpola in press). Their primary language of communication. Iaba and Naqī' a)." Kişir-Aššur "Host of Aššur. All Neo-Assyrian kings from TiglathPileser III to Esarhaddon had Aramaicspeaking wives or mothers (Kamil 1999. largely social. multilingual and multicultural society into a uniform one through the adoption of a common lingua franca (American English). however. 105-109. Ataliā. These newcomers to the ruling class were carefully educated in Mesopotamian literature and culture. O Aššur!" 6 .ASSYRIAN IDENTITY IN ANCIENT TIMES AND TODAY of the United States. which also involved the transformation of an initially multi-ethnic. like the rest of the Empire's. was certainly Aramaic. In the end. must have been fully bilingual by the beginning of the seventh century at the very latest. 441. as well as a fair number of Aramaic names given to their children by parents with Akkadian names (Garelli 1982. 6). Zadok 1997. cf. which includes hundreds of Akkadian names adopted or given to their children by individuals bearing non-Akkadian names. the ethnic origins of the people became largely irrelevant. and there are indications that at least some of them spoke Aramaic as their first language. As in the United States. Seventh-century BC Assyria was thus divided into two major language groups: speakers of Aramaic-in practice. they dressed and behaved in the Assyrian way.w. not cultural. this process gradually obliterated all tensions that may have originally existed between various ethnic groups. and they spoke Akkadian and used the cuneiform script as distinctive markers of their social class." and La-turammanni-Aššur "Do not forsake me. and the entire ruling class. however. PNA s.4 The Internationalization and Bilingualism of the Assyrian Ruling Class These developments cannot be dissociated from the progressive internationalization of the Neo-Assyrian ruling class (Parpola in press). This dichotomy was. and it came to an end with the fall of the Empire and the subsequent massacre of the Assyrian Urdu-Aššur "Servant of Aššur. Alba 1990. including the largely bilingual inhabitants of the Assyrian heartland and the fully bilingual ruling class. the entire population of the country-and speakers of Akkadian. Garelli 1982. Oded 1979. While men with non-Akkadian names only sporadically appear in high state offices in the ninth century. including the royal family.

it would be absurd to claim that the average Roman citizen did not consider himself Roman or did not share the national collective identity of Rome. however. 2. the concept of Assyrian citizenship was central to its expansion. connoted a kingdom of God set apart from the rest of the world. which he correctly sees as the necessary precondition for the development of national identity. The very name of the country. As regards Assyria specifically. The formulaic phrase used in the royal inscriptions was itti nišē māt Aššūr amnušunūti "I counted them as citizens of Assyria. and their peoples became regular Assyrian citizens (mārē or nišē māt Aššūr. which rely on the "imagined community" of the nation as a legitimising principle rather than on dynastic legitimising principles (Hall 1999. That is why some social historians like Rodney Hall argue that national identities are the product of modern times and did not exist in "territorial-sovereign" states. but it grew with the addition of new provinces. and we can be sure that the Assyrian kings systematically and resolutely strove to unify the multitudes of people ruled by them into a single nation. for example (Crawford 1996). In view of the considerable benefits that came with the citizenship of Rome. and eventually in the latter as well. Schaudig 2001. It should be noted. not only in ancient Athens (cf. however. that nationalism and the concepts of nation and citizenship are by no means new phenomena but already played an important role in the ancient world." This phrase is already attested in the inscriptions of the Midde-Assyrian king Tiglath-Pileser I 7 . Hall believes that the abstract notion of citizenship. or simply Aššūrāyē) with full civil rights and obligations. he sees "nation building" as a central characteristic of the modern nation-states only.14 As Assyrians they had to pay 14. Every new province was turned into an integral part of the original "land of Aššur ". Aramaic now fast became the only language spoken in Assyria outside the Assyrian heartland. came about only with eighteenth-century nationalism. 4-5).ASSYRIAN IDENTITY IN ANCIENT TIMES AND TODAY aristocracy. Although Neo-Assyrian certainly continued to be spoken and written in Harran at least until the end of the reign of Nabonidus (539 BC. especially those of multi-ethnic states. National identities. are consciously and systematically created. which dominated the international order prior to the nineteenth century. 73).5 The Creation of Assyrian National Identity Ethnic identities develop spontaneously. "land of Aššur". consequently. Coleman 1997) and Rome but also in ancient Mesopotamia. It originally was only a province around the city of Aššur.

and Šamši-Adad V (823-811). 15. Annus 2002). Keeping in mind that ethnic identities in multiethnic societies universally start declining already in the second generation. this goal was achieved through a systematically implemented assimilation and integration policy geared to delete the ethnic identities of the conquered peoples and to replace them with an Assyrian one. peace and prosperity. the sun of his people. A few centuries later. the good shepherd that loved and protected his sheep and guided them to the right path (Parpola 2001. The efficacy of this policy is strikingly demonstrated by the fate of the tens of thousands of Hurrians who were deported from their homeland and resettled in Assyria in the middle Assyrian period. who ruled as a chosen Son of God (Parpola 1997). but a nation united by a semi-divine king perceived as the source of safety. it is absolutely unthinkable that the average Assyrian citizen living in the late seventh century could have regarded himself (or herself) as anything but Assyrian. and could appeal directly to the Great King in case of dire need (Postgate 1975). The long-term strategic goal of Assyria thus was not the creation of an empire upheld by arms. Assyria was the only world he knew. most of them for hundreds of years (see Table I). They now were in every respect ethnic Assyrians. indistinguishable from their fellow citizens. Shalmaneser III (858-824). but his name and several Babylonianisms in his language show that he was originally a Babylonian.ASSYRIAN IDENTITY IN ANCIENT TIMES AND TODAY regular taxes and do the required military and labour service. except for a few garbled personal names. were equal before the law. the great healer. Itti-Šamaš-balāţu. all provinces and dependencies of Assyria including the Levant had been Assyrian territory for more than a hundred years. By the end of the seventh century BC. A telling example is the author of SAA 16 126-129. the descendants of these people had been so completely absorbed into the Assyrian society that no trace of their Hurrian ancestry. and later recurs in the inscriptions of Aššur-dan II (934-912). they got safety and prosperity. but until the reign of Tiglath-Pileser III (744-727) it only referred to people deported to Assyria. but in return. The king. He is almost certainly identical with the author of the Babylonian letter SAA 18 80 8 . a loyal Assyrian official in Phoenicia under Assurbanipal. As we have seen. He writes in fluent Neo-Assyrian. 15 His cultural milieu was pluralistic and often cosmopolitan but nonetheless thoroughly uniform and Assyrian wherever he went. was the bond that united the nation by virtue of his role as helper in distress. He was the rescuer of the weak and the destitute. any memory of the ethnic roots of his ancestors had long since faded out or become irrelevant as a result of mixed interethnic marriages in (1114-1076). remains in the NeoAssyrian sources (Rollig 1996). not to the inhabitants of newly established provinced collectively).

9 . This was not the language spoken by ethnic Arameans but a creation of the Empire. Lāqê* 37.7 195 6. a lingua franca born from the interaction of numerous ethnic groups and therefore serving as a unifying rather than separating factor. Halzu 35.5 285 9. and venerated different local gods. Māzamua/Lullumû 33. Naşībina (Nisibin) 19. Gūzāna / Hanigalbat 20.7 200 6. Sūhu* 38. 2300 c. Apku 7.2 240 8 230 7. Katmuhi/Šahuppa 17. Lahīru 15. Šibanība 9. Isāna 30. Hindānu 36.5 195 6.1310 c. 2-3 of this letter with SAA 16 126:19-20 and 127 r. 1310 c. Raşappa 26. 930 (already MA) c.5 285 9. dressed differently. and spoke the same national language. Dēru 14.5 220 7. Meturna 25. Kilīzi 4. 900 (already MA) c. 1310 c. Šīmu 10. Imperial Aramaic. Aššur 2. 810 c. and had thus started his career as "prelate" (šatammu) of Uruk under Esarhaddon. Balāţa 34. 5-7 and rev.5 285 9. Halahhu 6.5 285 9. Lubda 16.5 Name of province or equivalent* 1. Tušhan/Nairi 21.5 225 7.15-16). Til-Barsib/Tarbusībi 24. Dūr-Issār (cf.1330 c. TABLE I. Kalhu 5.5 195 6. Nīnuwa (Nineveh) 3.7 200 6.5 290 9. Harrān 31.5 245 8. but all of them pledged allegiance to the same king. Arrapha (Kerkuk) 13. Talmūsa 11. True. Provinces of the Neo-Assyrian Empire Location in conventional terms Assyria Assyria Assyria Assyria Assyria Assyria Assyria Assyria Assyria Assyria Assyria Assyria Assyria Assyria Assyria Assyria Syria Assyria Syria Assyria Assyria Assyria Syria Assyria Syria Syria Assyria Assyria Syria Syria Syria Assyria Assyria Assyria Syria Syria Syria Syria Province since at least (BC) c.5 205 7 200 6. Kipšūna 29. Raqmatu 18. Arbail (Arbela) 8. Arzūhina 28. people in different parts of the country practiced different customs. 900 (already MA) c. Bīrāti 23. Habrūri 12. worshipped the same national gods. Hāurīna 32. 1360 c. Sinābu 22. 900 (already MA) c.1310 c. 900 (already MA) c.7 200 6.5 290 9.5 285 9.1310 c.ASSYRIAN IDENTITY IN ANCIENT TIMES AND TODAY several generations.1310 c.5 195 6.5 225 7.5 285 9. 1310 c.5 270 9 270 9 270 9 250 8.900 899 896 894 879 (already MA) 879 879? 856 851 849 842 839 (already MA) 833 830 814 810? 810 c. Nēmed-Issār 27. 810 803 803 (already MA) 803 803? Time under Assyrian rule in years in generations 1500 50 750 25 720 24 700 23 700 23 700 23 700 23 700 23 700 23 700 23 315 10. obv. spoke different local languages.

790? 785 784 744 743 739 738 738 738 738 738 738 734 733 733 732 732 732 732 732 722 720 717 716 716? 716 716 716 713 711 711 711 710 710 710 710 c. Hatalla (Hatra?) 80.2 65 2. culture. Quwê (Coa) 72. Aššūr-iqīša/Ulluba 49.5 105 3. Magidû (Megiddo) 58. Kurbail 46. Kār-Sīn-ahhē-rība/Elenzas 83.ASSYRIAN IDENTITY IN ANCIENT TIMES AND TODAY Name of province or equivalent* 39. Marqāsa (Mar'āš) 73.2 60 2 15? 0. Nikkur/Parsua 47.5 100 3. Tamnūna 45. Manşuāti (Masyat) 60. world-view and value system.2 65 2. Şimirra 54.5 105 3.5 100 3.5 105 3.5 130 4. Şīdūnu (Sidon) 87. Şūpat (Zobah) 61. Šamaš-nāşir 78.700? 680 680 676 674 674 671 645 Time under Assyrian rule in years in generations 190 6. Harhār/Kār-Šarrukin 70. Sam'alla 75.5 130 4.5 100 3.7 110 3.5 100 3.5 135 4. Kummuhi 81. Āmidu/Bīt-Zamāni 40. Haurāni 62. Bābili /Akkad (Babylon) 79. Barhalza 43. Elam Location in conventional Terms Assyria Syria Syria Assyria Assyria Assyria Assyria Syromedia Syria Assyria Syria Syria Syria Syria Syria Syria Palestine Palestine Palestine Syria Syria Syria Syria Palestine Palestine Syria Syria Syromedia Media Media Syromedia Syromedia Anatolia Anatolia Anatolia Anatolia Babylonia Babylonia Babylonia Babylonia Assyria Anatolia Assyria Media ? Babylonia Babylonia Phoenicia Armenia Armenia Phoenicia Persia Province since at least (BC) 799 792 791 c.710 708 706 702 c. Uppūmu (Fūm) 89. Kulimmeri 88. Dū'ru (Dor) 56. Bīt-Hamban 67.5 125 4 125 4 125 4 125 4 125 4 125 4 125 4 125 4 110 3. Dūr-Sīn-ahhē-rība/Alihu 84.7 110 3. Gal'ad (Gilead) 57.5 130 4. Hamāt (Hamah) 65. Dūr-Abīhāra/Gambūlu 76. Kullanīa 52. Qarnīna (Qarnaim) 63. Kišēsim/Kār-Nergal 71.5 105 3. Halzi-atbāri 44.790? c. Nuqudina 53. Gargamīs (Carchemis) 66. Tū'immu 55. the common unifying language (Aramaic) effectively set Assyria apart from the rest of the 10 . Bīt-Singibuti 69. Hatarikka 50.5 180 6 180 6 180 6 180 6 175 6 175 6 130 4. Si'immê/Šibhiniš 42. and above all. Sāmerīna (Samaria) 64. Arpadda 48. Ūru (Ur) 86. Tillê 41.5 130 4. Melīdi (Melitēnē) 74. Kār-Adad 51. Dimašqa (Damascus) 59.5 The common religion.5 130 4.5 130 4.2 750 25 85 3 85 3 55 2 55 2 65 2.5 90 3 100 3. Bīt-Kāri 68. Dūr-Šarrukīn 82. Māt Tāmti 85.7 100 3. Şurru (Tyre) 90.5 130 4.5 85 3 85 3 85 3 105 3. Dūr-Šarrukku 77.

Rūmī still means both "Roman" and "Byzantine". 18. his own bishop and the holy men of his neighbourhood" (Mango 1980. The Continuity ofAssyrian Identity in Post-Empire Times In this context it is important to draw attention to the fact that the Aramaic-speaking peoples of the Near East have since ancient times identified themselves as Assyrians and still continue to do so. Syrians call themselves. as can be 16.ASSYRIAN IDENTITY IN ANCIENT TIMES AND TODAY world and created a feeling of unity and solidarity within the country (cf.18 are both derived from the ancient Assyrian word for "Assyrian". which granted full Roman citizenship to the entire Roman Empire. however.v. "A Syrian. that the average Syrian Monophysite was not so much moved by imperial doctrines and identity as by "his loyalty to own Church. 371 s. Rhūmōyō continued to mean "Roman" or "Latin". 3. The shaping of Assyria and its national identity has an obvious parallel in ancient Rome. The analogy of Rome is instructive also in showing how deeply the national identity of the Empire could become rooted even in areas far removed from its original core. 531b). the Byzantines still identified themselves as Rhōmaioi and were known as Romans to all nations of the Near East (Kazhdan 1991. Alba 1990. The inherent notion of "us" against "all the others" that came with this dichotomy-Aramaic was effectively not spoken outside the Empire-agreed well with the dualistic ideology of the Empire. with a l7 and Sūrāyā. Centuries after the collapse of the West Roman Empire. In classical Syriac. 17-18). Note that in classical Syriac. the toponym Sūrīya also covered Mesopotamia and Assyria (= Sūrīya barōytō. 17. and sometimes beyond it" (Honore 1996). 223). Aššūrāyu. The self-designations of modern Syriacs and Assyrians. a citizen of the Eastern Roman Empire" (Payne Smith 1903.e. Sūryōyō easily established from a closer look at the relevant words. The Antonine constitution of AD 212. though they also apply it to the W. Syrians or Jacobites" (Maclean 1901. is generally recognised to have "promoted in both east and west a consciousness of being Roman that lasted until the fall of the Empire. 30). The name was originally pronounced [Aššūr]. which saw Assyria as the kingdom of God commissioned to spread the light of civilization to the world surrounding it (Oded 1992). ibid."Farther Syria". 1793 and 1809-1810).). i.1 The Neo Assyrian Origin of Syriac and Modern Assyrian Sūryōyō/ Sūrāyā The word Aššūrāyu is an adjective derived from the geographical and divine name Aššur with the gentilic suffix -āyu.16 3. In modern literary Arabic. Palestinian" (Payne Smith 1903. 370). and only rarely "a Greek. "This is the ordinary name by which the E. by contrast. It should be noted. which likewise expanded from a -city to a world empire. 11 .

480-420 496-406 BC 5th c. turning the pronunciation of the name into [Assūr] (Parpola 1974. Sūr. 4. AECT 58:4 (taking srsrd for a spelling of *Šarru-(a)šarēd is not possible. ĀӨūr. Súrioi (Asszirioi) Súros Assuría Assuría 21 Meaning "Syria(ns)" 22 Mesopotamia 19. The dropping of the initial vowel in [Assūr] → [Sūr] has a perfect parallel in the Neo-Assyrian variants of the divine name Ištar ([Iššār] → [Šār].20 The word Assūrāyu. since omission of initial vowels is not a feature of classical Greek phonology.v. when the Aramean tribes first came into contact with the Assyrians. Súrios Suríē. where /ө/ (< */š/) is rendered with graphemes normally used for writing the alveolar stop /t/ (and its fricative variant [ө]). 22. TABLE II. Terms for "Assyria" and "Syria" in Greek and Roman literature (based on Noldeke 1871) Author Aeschylus Pindar Xanthus Herodotus Sophocles Scylax Panyassis Date 525-456 BC 518-438 BC fl. BC Assyria(ns) Suría. 37). Towards the end of the second millennium. Y-41 236 r. § 40a). SI. Hecker 1968. 61-66). Corresponding to the Roman province of Syria. 20. or MA ti-ru (=[Өīru]) for * šīru "flesh" and ut-ra-a-aq for *ušrâq "he will thresh" (Mayer 1971. Súrios Súrios Suría. its pronunciation was turned to [AӨӨūr] in the early second millennium BC. KAI 234:2. the short form [Šār] is already attested in the inscriptions of Tiglath-Pileser III. "Assyrian". see Zadok 1984. The shift [š] . Including Babylonia and Cappadocia. see PNA 2/1569 s. this name form later also had a shorter variant. ŠU) for both /š/ and /ө/ in Old Assyrian (Hecker 1968. but owing to a sound shift. would not have borrowed the word without the initial A-. BC 5th c. Fales 1986. That the merger resulted in /ө/ not /š/ is proved by variant spellings like OA I-ri-tim (= [Iriөim]) for normal I-ri-SI-im (genitive of Irišum. had the Assyrians themselves not omitted it. thus also had a variant Sūrāyu in late Assyrian times. 21. attested in alphabetic writings of personal names containing the element Aššur in late seventh century BC Aramaic documents from Assyria . 12 .ASSYRIAN IDENTITY IN ANCIENT TIMES AND TODAY palato-alveolar fricative. srsrd = Aššūr-(a) šarēd.(Assúrios/Assuría) and ones without it (Súrios/Súros/Suría. since the name in question is not attested in NeoAssyrian). srgrnr = Aššūr-gārû'anēre. § 40i). another sound shift took place in Assyrian. Issār-dūrī 4). This variant is hidden behind standard orthography in Assyrian cuneiform texts. as evidenced by the use of a single set of cuneiform graphemes (ŠA. but its existence is confirmed by the classical Greek words for Assyrians and Assyria.[ө] was an internal Assyrian phonetic development leading to the merger of /š/ and /ө/. 4. see Table II). The Greeks. Since unstressed vowels were often dropped in Neo-Assyrian at the beginning of words (Hameen-Anttila 2000.I9 The common Aramaic word for Assyria. reflects this pronunciation and in all probability dates back to the twelfth century BC. 450 BC c. srslmh = Aššūr-šallim-ahi. § 17). which display a corresponding variation between forms with initial A. who were in frequent contact with Assyria in the eighth and seventh centuries BC (Rollinger 2001).

AD 430 fl. 146-170 fl. AD 150 fl.360-290 c.430-354 c. Assyria Assyria Súroi Assúrioi Assuría. AD 3rd c. AD 50 AD 23-79 AD 39-65 AD 37-94 lst c. AD 3rd. BC 200-118 BC fl. AD 125-170 fl. AD 150-215 AD 164-229+ c. AD AD 330-395 fl. Súros Assyria/Syria Súros Assyria Assyrius Assyria Assuría/Aturía (Suria) Assyria Assyria Syria Syria. Syriac /ō/ goes back to Old Aramaic /ā/. since in classical Syriac the word also occurs in the form Sūrōyō. 370 BC 384-322 BC c.455-400 c. 310 BC c.170-236 2nd c. Modern Assyrian Sūrāyā perfectly agrees with Neo-Assyrian Sūrāyu. 450-470 Meaning Assyria(ns)21 Assuría. 280-245 3rd c. AD 172 c. while Syriac Sūryōyō displays an intrusive yod. 90-30 BC c. AD 2nd c. in perfect agreement with the Modern Assyrian Sūrāyā. AD AD 86-160 c. Súros Syri (< Assyrii) Assúrioi Assyria Assyrii Assúrios (Súiros) "Syria(ns)" 22 Mesopotamia Suría Suría Suría Asyria/Syria Assyria Suría Syria Súroi. but this is avoided in 23. AD 100 c. c. 13 . Syria Assuría Assuría Súros Assúrioi Súros Aturía Assyrii Syria Assúrios. Assúrioi Assuría Suría Assuría.ASSYRIAN IDENTITY IN ANCIENT TIMES AND TODAY Author Ctesias Thucydides Xenophon Aristoxenus Aristotle Hecataeus Cleitarchus Callimachus Apollonius Rhodius Polybius Meleager Cicero Diodorus Catullus Virgil Horace Strabo Livy Ovid Seneca Pomponius Mela Pliny the Elder Lucanus Josephus Cornutus Arrian Curtius Lucian Apuleius Ptolemy Achilles Tatius Pausanias Tatian Clement Dio Cassius Hippolytus Hyginus Oppian Justinus Philostratus Ammianus Macrobius Nonnus Date 5th c.23 It is worth noting that Sūrāyā is reported to have a variant with initial A-. 100 BC 106-43 BC c. BC c. AD 1-65 fl. This intrusive yod surely is due to Greek influence. Suría Suría Assuría Súroi Suría Suría Suría Assuría. AD 150 fl. which it shares with Greek Súrios and Suría. Assúrioi Syria Assúrios Assyria. Assúrioi Suría koílē Suría Assyria Phonologically. AD 120-180 c. 85-54 BC 70-19 BC 65-8 BC 64 BC-AD 21 59 BC-AD 12 43 BC-AD 17 c.

2 The Continuity of Assyrian Culture under the Achaemenid Empire With the fall of Nineveh. the Empire was split in two. the eastern one as the satrapy of Media (Māda) (Parpola 2000b. The phonology of Sūrāyā (Sūrōyō) thus implies that this term.ASSYRIAN IDENTITY IN ANCIENT TIMES AND TODAY careful speech. the eastern one in the hands of Median kings. writings of Sūryōyō and Sūrāyā are occasionally preceded by the vowel sign alap with a linea occultans above indicating that this alap is not to be pronounced 14 .24 Since omission of initial vowels is not a feature of Aramaic phonology. The Achaemenids preferred not to interfere in the internal affairs of their satrapies as long as the flow of tribute and taxes continued undisturbed (Dandamayev and Lukonin 1989.). it cannot be regarded as a loanword but as an indigenous selfdesignation. the Aramaic script-now called the Assyrian script (Steiner 1993)-was the everyday writing system. Imperial Aramaic continued as the lingua franca of the Empire. The Achaemenids. Parpola n. when the Arameans already were a fully integrated part of the Assyrian nation. praised fear of God and King as the highest moral virtue.d. local religion 24. Acording to Yildiz. but its people. 87). whose population continued to venerate the Great King as the source of peace and security. This was no problem in Assyria. who themselves were significantly Assyrianized (Dandamayev Sūrāyā/Sūr(y) ōyō cannot be due to internal Aramaic development but must go back directly to Neo-Assyrian. both became incorporated in the Achaemenid Empire. a popular collection of wisdom composed in the Neo-Assyrian period. the western one as the megasatrapy of Assyria (AӨūra). felt no need to change the existing realities (Eph'al 1978. Frye 1997). which is crucial to the identity of the present-day Aramaic-speaking peoples. 24. The political power of Assyria was gone. In 539 BC. culture and religion lived on. In contrast to the word ĀӨūr. 3. entered the Aramaic language in the seventh century BC. The Aramaic Sayings of Ahiqar. which was borrowed into Aramaic when Assyria still was an alien society. they continued to boost the Assyrian identity of the population (Dalley 2001. at the same time. being set at the Assyrian royal court. 4-5). the lack of the initial A. Thus everything went on just as before. 104). since it instinctively sounds incorrect in view of the classical Syriac Sūryōyō (Yildiz 1999. which the Aramaic-speaking Assyrians shared with their Akkadian-speaking fellow citizens. the western half falling in the hands of a Chaldean dynasty. Parpola 2002).

3 Assyrian Identity in Hellenistic and Roman Times Under the successors of Alexander the Great. Hatra. "The armies of Antiochus III [the Great. and the judicial system. 1. Paradoxically. Xenophon. their kingdom was a continuation of the Assyrian Empire. Cf. and passim (see Parpola 2003a. the satrapy of AӨūra kept Assyria on the map as a political entity and its inhabitants as Assyrians in the eyes of the contemporary world. they adopted the administrative methods of the Achaemenids and on the whole respected the local traditions. and which was felt as intrinsically Assyrian because of the Aramaic affinity of Jesus and the disciples. whose central ideas were in line with the central tenets of Assyrian religion and ideology. 25. and "the kingdom of the Assyrians" (Assuríōn basileía) in the Antiquities of Josephus. 222-187 BC] were all Syrians". The last king of Babylon. 15 . 26. Grelot 1972). Adiabene. in due course. they inevitably began to assimilate to the local population. its western remnants were annexed to Rome. 1 QM 1:2 and 6 (The War Scroll). cf. Although the times of Assyrian hegemony were over. reverted to Assyrian royal titulature and style in his inscriptions and openly promoted Assyrian religion and culture. No wonder the Greek historians Herodotus and Xenophon remembered him as an Assyrian king. Cyr. Table III) but were also receptive to Christianity. who was of Assyrian extraction. 1983.2.26 which at its largest covered much the same area as the Assyrian Empire previously. The 210 years of Achaemenid rule thus helped preserve the Assyrian identity of the Aramaic-speaking peoples.1. Assyria became the power base of the Seleucid Empire. Livy XXXV 49. W. 343-344).188. evidently as a chauvinistic reaction against the Chaldean dynasty from which he had usurped power (Mayer 1998). the period of massacres and persecutions following the fall of Nineveh seems to have strengthened their national and ethnic identity. Herodotus 1.8 (citing Titus Flaminius).25 3. 147-161. To the contemporaries. Even though the Seleucid kings pursued an active policy of Hellenization and laid great stress on their Macedonian origins. Assur) popped up in the east under Parthian overlordship.5. 27.28 When the Seleucid Empire disintegrated at the end of the second century BC. Nabonidus. These kingdoms preserved Assyrian cultural and religious traditions (Al-Salihi. It is called "Assyria" (Ašūr) in the Dead Sea Scrol1s27 and in the Babylonian Talmud (Steiner 1993). calendar and imperial standards imposed by the Assyrians remained in force everywhere (Eph'al 1988.ASSYRIAN IDENTITY IN ANCIENT TIMES AND TODAY and cults were tolerated. while several semi-independent kingdoms of decidedly Assyrian identity (Osrhoene.

Aššūr Aššūr -işşur Aššūr-iddin Cf.6. 16 . Hatra and Ţūr `Abdīn Meaning Addu is my light Servant of Allaya Allat decided Client of Allat Slave of Allat Aššur is my brother Aššur gave a brother Aššur commanded Aššur is (my) judge Aššur was merciful to me Aššur is (my) strength Aššur heard Aššur protected Aššur gave Aššur is right Protégé of Aššur My eye is upon Aššur Grace of Aššur Aššur-Bel is (my) judge Bel is my father Bel blessed Bel protected Bel filled Bel covered Save (me). Hatra Hatra Year NA equivalent Addu-nūrī Urdu-Allāya Ubru-Allāti Urdu-Allāti Ahī-Aššūr Aššūr-ahu-iddin Aššūr-iqbi Aššūr-da'an Cf. Sē-aqaba Cf. Ţūr `A. Hana-Sē Samsi-ilā'ī 28. Hatra Hatra Hatra Hatra Assur Ţūr `Abdīn Hatra. 13. Mār-Aššūr/Issār Nabû-ibni Nabû-dayyān Nabû-iddin Nabû-dān Nabû-işşur Urdu-Nabû Ban-Nanāya Beyer1998) Deity Addu Allāya Allāt Parthian period name Addu-nūr `Abd-Allāya Garam-Allāt `Awīd-Allāt Tēm-Allāt Ahī-Assur Aššūr Assur-ah-iddin Assur-amar Assur-dayyān Assur-hananī Assur-hēl Assur-šama` Assur-`a ab Assur-natan Assur-tariş `Aqīb-Assur ‘Ēnī-`al-Assur Re'ūt-Assur Aššūr-Bēl Assur-Bēl-dayyān Bēl-abī Bēl Bēl-barak Bēl-`aqab Malā-Bēl Sattar-Bēl Šōzib-Bēl `Abed-Iššār Issār Natun-Iššār `Awīd-Iššār Ba-Nabû-ehdet Nabû Bar-Nabû Nabû-banā Nabû-dayyān Nabû-yāb Nabû-gabbār Nabû-kātōb Nabû-`aqab `Abed-Nabû Bar-Nanāya Nanāia Bar-Nērgol Nērgal Nērgol-dammar `Abed-Nērgol Salmānu `Abed-Šalmā(n) `Aqab-Šameš Šamaš Han-Šameš Ilāh-Šameš AD 235 AD 221 AD 200 AD 184 AD 221 AD 184 AD 200 AD 220 AD 112 AD 222 AD 192 AD 97 AD 221 AD 195 AD 141 AD 112 AD 188 AD 235 AD 195 AD 195 AD 108 AD 195 AD 235 AD 217 Urdu-Nērgal Cf.Aššūr Išme. and Assyrian religion persisted alongside Christianity in all its major cities until late Antiquity. "170 years of the kingdom of the Assyrians. Ţūr `A.Aššūr Ēnī. Takrit Assur Assur Hatra Hatra Assur Ţūr `Abdīn Hatra Hatra Hatra Ğaddala Assur Hatra Hatra Assur. TABLE III.Aššūr Aššūr-Bēl-da'an Bēl-abīa/abū'a Bēl-barakki Bēl-işşur Cf.6.ASSYRIAN IDENTITY IN ANCIENT TIMES AND TODAY The Roman West likewise preserved Assyrian traditions. Bel! Servant of Ištar Gift of Ištar Client of Ištar I adhere to Nabû Son of Nabû Nabû created Nabû is (my) judge Nabû gave Nabû is strong Nabû is scribe Nabû protected Servant of Nabû Son of Nanaya Son of Nergal Nergal amazed Servant of Nergal Servant of Salman Šameš protected Šameš was merciful (My) god is Šameš Site Hatra Hatra Hatra Hatra Hatra Assur Assur Assur Assur Assur Assur Assur Assur Assur Assur Assur Assur Assur. which was after Seleucus. got the dominion over Syria". Assyrian theophoric personal names from Parthian Assur. Ant. Šūzib-il Urdu-Issār Taddin-Issār Ubru-Issār Ana-Nabû-taklāk Cf. Aššūr-rēmanni Emūqī. who was called Nicator.Aššūr Rēmūt. Nabû-tariş Kidin. Hatra Ţūr `Abdīn Hatra Hatra Hatra.

No "Syria" in the modern sense existed in antiquity. when they feel that collective identity to be endangered" (my emphasis). Ţūr `A. It is worth emphasizing that while Assúrios in Roman times could refer to an inhabitant of the Roman province of Syria. 17 .. the Assyrians embraced Christianity in increasing numbers. This self-identification is commonly misinterpreted to imply nothing more than that these writers were ethnic Syrians (in the modern sense) speaking Aramaic as their mother tongue (Millar 1993. it basically meant "Assyrian".. Lucian and Tatian. Ţūr `A. then in the hands of the Sasanian Persians. first in the hands of the Romans. Assur Assur Year AD 195 AD 205 AD 237 AD 162 AD 128 AD 217 NA equivalent Mušallim. in Mardin even until the 18th century AD (Chwolsohn 1856. see Frye 1992. The Assyrian Identity Today From the third century AD on. 151-156). Note Hall 1999. even though the Assyrian religion persisted in places like Harran at least until the tenth.Šamaš Cf. These persecutions and massacres have reduced the total number of Assyrians from an estimated 20 million or more in antiquity to well under two million today. that they were specifically referring to their native identity and cultural heritage. ostentatiously identify themselves as Assyrians (Assúrios). 'Išr. 460). The singleminded adherence to the Christian faith from late antiquity until the present time has made Christianity an indelible part of Assyrian identity.29 That heritage was Assyrian. Parthian and Egyptian sources of the Roman period. nothing else. 'swry'. 29. Sē-rapā Šamšāya Cf. Hatra. which they proudly and defiantly contrasted with the Greek culture. Sē-aqaba Cf.ASSYRIAN IDENTITY IN ANCIENT TIMES AND TODAY Deity Parthian period name Meqīm-Šameš Natūn-Šameš Rapā-Šameš Šamšāy Šameš-`aqab Šameš-barak Šameš-yāb Šameš-zabad Ba-Serū Serū-mallī Meaning Šameš is establisher Gift of Šameš Šameš healed Belonging to Šameš Šameš protected Šameš blessed Šameš gave Šameš bestowed (I adhere) to Šerua Šerua fulfilled Site Hatra Ţūr `Abdīn Hatra Hatra Hatra Hatra Hatra. but it has also subjected the Assyrians to endless persecutions and massacres. It is perfectly clear from the contexts. Steiner 1993). Sē-barakka Samsi-yābi Serua In the second century AD. Roman Syria is consistently and unmistakably referred to as "Assyria" (Asorik'. Kurds and Turks. In Armenian. ensure that individuals will come fully to the defense of the collective identity that they see as fundamentally constitutive of their selves. 4. however. two prominent writers from Roman Syria. and last in the hands of Arabs. 38: "The fundamental (even primordial) motive of self-preservation will .

many nobles tracing their ancestry to the Assyrian royal house (Crone and Cook 1977. 2002. including Nineveh in the eparchy of Atur. Bibliography Alba. dispersed in exile. 140-145. and their identities have changed accordingly. SAAS 14. as members of the Chaldean Catholic Church (established in 1553 but effectively only in 1830). a term associated with the Syriac language in the 16th century but ultimately derived from the name of the dynasty that destroyed Nineveh and the Assyrian Empire! Disunited. R. Today. It is the only identity that can help them to transcend the differences between them. while the Assyrians in the east have since ancient times been under Iranian cultural influence. The Nestorian church of the seventh century AD. but they have also helped it survive through the millennia. 55-56 and 189-193. 1990. The God Ninurta in the Mythology and Royal Ideology of Ancient Mesopotamia. W. While innumerable Assyrians have been forced to change identity in order to survive. AlSalihi. which had cloisters and bishoprics all over the ancient homeland. many modern Assyrians originating from central Assyria now identify with "Chaldeans". 333. Ethnic Identity: The Transformation of White America. Annus. Gewargis 2002. they must now unite under the Assyrian identity of their ancestors. D. 8185). A. New Haven. split into rivaling churches and political factions. the Assyrians of today are in grave danger of total assimilation and extinction (Aprim 2003). and regain their place among the nations. 1983. 94-101. The Syriacs in the west have absorbed many influences from the Greeks. Iraq 45. "The Shrine of Nebo at Hatra". chauvinistically asserted its Assyrian identity (Vööbus 1970. In order to survive as a nation. others have rather chosen martyrdom than denied their Assyrian identity and faith. speak with one voice again. Helsinki. Novak and Younansardaroud 2002). Ironically. and as dwindling minorities without full civil rights in their homelands.ASSYRIAN IDENTITY IN ANCIENT TIMES AND TODAY They have decimated the Assyrian nation. catch the attention of the world. Hagiographic sources such as the Syriac Acta Martyrum show that the Assyrians of the Parthian period took pride in their glorious past. 18 . The fortunes of the people that constitute it have gone different ways over the millennia. the Assyrian nation largely lives in diaspora.

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