The Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser

"Shalmaneser, the great king, strong king, king of the world, king of Assyria, son of Ashurnasirpal, the great king, strong king, king of the world, king of Assyria, son of Tukulti-Ninurta, king of the world, king of Assyria, construction of the ziggurat of Kalhu," -Shalmaneser III Inscription

Shalmaneser III and Assyria

Shalmaneser III Stela Battle of Qarqar
Shalmaneser III Stele which records the Qarqar battle. 

Shalmaneser III came to the throne of Assyria in 859 BC and reigned until 824 BC. He was the son of the mighty conqueror Ashurnasirpal II and the first Assyrian king to go to war with Israel.

In fact his nearly 35 year reign was filled with almost continual warfare in the north and to the west (Syria-Israel), as recorded on stele’s, statues, and cuneiform tablets of clay and stone…which record 34 war campaigns.

In 853 BC he attacked Syria and Israel at Qarqar, and it was at this time that king Ahab of Israel allied with the Syrians, Arabs, Egyptians and Phoenicians to oppose Shalmaneser at the banks of the Tigris River.

The alliance of 11 kings was led by king Hadad-ezer of Damascus and Irhuleni of Hamath. Shalmaneser claimed victory in his Monolith Inscription having put “25,000 men to the sword.”

He also claimed that the opposing army was 63,000 men strong and mentions the very name of Ahab of Israel who provided 10,000 foot soldiers and 2,000 chariots. Shalmaneser left the area and did not return for another 8 years, in 845 BC he came with a massive army of 115,000 men and defeated the king of Damascus at Mount Hermon.

Balawat Gate
Shalmaneser's massive wooden Gates of Balawat (858-824 BC) held together by their detailed bronze bands inform us of his methods of waging war and the bloodshed involved in his campaigns. The bands contain 16 registers total (with two continuous battle narratives on each band), scenes of Shalmaneser's campaigns were carved into 10.6 inch bronze strips which were then nailed to the wooden palace gates.

Shalmaneser III Statue
In the above statue of Shalmaneser III he is holding a mace which is a symbol of kingship. He also holds a curved club, with two daggers under his belt. In an archaic sort of way his robe is similar to that of Ashurnasirpal II. Notice the symbols of his most important Assyrian deities (Adad, Shamash, Ishtar and Sin) which are placed around his neck. The lower half of the statue is covered with inscriptions which mention his mighty deeds, and also record the building of the town wall of Ashur.

In 841 BC many kings brought great tribute to Shalmaneser to show their submissiveness, including the kings of Tyre, Sidon, and Jehu, the king of Israel. In fact the first to pay tribute were the kings of Israel and Judah. The Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser shows king Jehu groveling in the dust before king Shalmaneser.

Shalmaneser III on Throne
This stela depicts Shalmaneser III holding a mace and pointing a finger (in a gesture of respect or reverence) towards the symbols of his principal deities.

From 839-828 BC Shalmaneser wreaked havoc in northwest Syria and in 835 BC he carved his name and image into a giant cliff beside a river called the Dog River, north of Beirut, Lebanon. He also records some of his mighty exploits during this time on the Balawat Gates.

Shalmaneser III on Chariot
Shalmaneser in his war chariot crossing the mountains

No king of Assyria left more royal inscriptions and annals than Shalmaneser III. The Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser shows king Jehu of Israel offering tribute to Shalmaneser III in 841 BC. Shalmaneser made campaigns to the west, north and south, even plundering Babylon.

Shalmaneser’s capital was Nimrud (ancient Kalhu). His buildings were numerous, he built a huge walls, gates including Balawat, a great Ziggurat, temples and a huge fortress named Fort Shalmaneser by the excavators.

Shalmaneser III also mentions Jehu on another fragment from his annals:

"In the 18th year of my reign I crossed the Euphrates for the sixteenth time. Hazael of Damascus trusted in the power of his forces, marshalled his troops in full strength. He made Senir (Mt. Hermon), the summit of the mountain opposite Lebanon, his stronghold. With him I fought, and defeated him. Six thousand of his soldiers I brought down with weapons; 1121 of his chariots, 470 of his horses, together with his camp, I took from him. To save his life he fled; I pursued him; in Damascus, his royal city, I shut him up. His plantations I destroyed. As far as the mountains of Hauran I marched. Towns without number I laid waste, razed, and burnt with fire. There innumerable spoil I carried away. As far as to the mountains of Baal-rasi situated close to the sea (the head land at Dog River), I marched. My royal image I set up in that place. At that time I received the tribute of the Tyrians and Sidonians, and of Jehu the son of Omri." - Shalmaneser III

Read Full Text on the Black Obelisk

Also see: Assyrian History

 

The Black Obelisk

 


Biblical Archaeology
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