Shamshi Adad and the Assyrians


While Hammurabi was tinkering away at his laws in the south of Mesopotamia the north was roiling with the storm clouds of a coming war. Shamshi-Adad was set on building his own empire, conducting his own social experiment. Unlike Hammurabi, Shamshi-Adad had no time for justice or the rule of law. His only concern was raw power and unbridled political control. 

Shamshi Adad lived in Assur, a city-state established on the banks of the Tigris River. It was this that Shamshi Adad wanted to make the capital and center of the whole world. His first order of business was to build a massive temple monument to his pagan god. The temple was built from massive cedar logs and then overlaid with silver and gold. 

At the dedication of his temple, Shamshi Adad boldly proclaimed that his god had chosen him to be king of the world. It was, of course, a familiar tune. Every Mesopotamian king, who worshipped his own special god, boldly proclaimed that his god wanted him to be king of the world, or at the very least the rest of Mesopotamia. In essence, much of ancient Sumerian religious beliefs were used to further the greed and ambition of a slew of political dictators hungry for power. 

Hearing Shamshi Adad’s ambitious declaration, the loyal citizens of Assur dutifully cheered and acknowledged his claim. Using the affirmation of the gods as a catalyst Shamshi Adad gathered his army and launched a full-blown invasion of Mesopotamia.

Shamshi- Adad, and Asshur are a prime example of how religion and politics were intertwined in order to further an agenda of world domination. It began in Mesopotamia and was a theme carried forward by every successive world empire right down to its adoption by the Papacy thousands of years later. 

There is something about fighting a religiously-motivated war that seems more appealing to the human mind than fighting a war based purely on greed and ambition. It is as though we like to use it to absolve our conscience of guilt but the truth is the God of the Bible does not wage war for the sake of greed or ambition. He is a God who wages war for the sake of truth and justice. A God whose motives are so pure that He died on a Roman cross so that we could have a second chance at embracing truth and justice.

Shamshi Adad conducted himself like any good dictator worth his salt would. He ruled with brute force and fear. He demanded unquestioning loyalty from his subjects. He expected swift and unswerving obedience. Anyone who even carried a whiff of sedition upon their persons was immediately disposed of.

It was Shamshi Adad who began the long tradition of military brutality that Assyria became known for. When he conquered a city-state his first order of business was to pillage and burn. He then rounded up every leader, butchered them in the streets, and then placed their heads upon spikes around the city. 

Interestingly this practice of pinning the head of an opponent on a stake for gawking citizenry to see and beware of was adopted in England, especially during the wars of the Roses. 

The Assyrians garnered such a fearsome reputation that most cities that Shamshi Adad approached waved a white flag before an arrow was shot. They offered to pay him to be their king as long as he spared their lives and their livelihoods. 

Assyria spread over all the northern part of Mesopotamia and he styled himself King of the World, an exaggeration at best but he didn’t really care. Interestingly Shamshi- Adad never tried to conquer Babylon, mainly because he knew that Babylon would pulverize him and consume his empire for breakfast. 

After Shamshi Adad died his sons began to bicker over the empire and cracks began to appear within the empire. Then Hammurabi set his sights on capturing Assyria. When Hammurabi conquered Assyria, the old Babylonian Empire controlled most, if not all of Mesopotamia.

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