Ancient Egypt: The Assyrian conquest
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The Assyrians conquer an Egyptian town
(Relief on Assurbanipal's palace at Niniveh)

The Assyrian Conquest

The Assyrians conquer an Egyptian town; Relief on Assurbanipal's palace at Niniveh


    After crossing the Sinai desert, Asarhaddon met Taharka at Ishupri and reached Memphis after two weeks.
    From the town of Ishupri as far as Memphis, his royal residence, a distance of fifteen daysí march, I fought daily, without interruption, very bloody battles against Tirhakah, king of Egypt and Ethiopia, the one accursed by all the great gods. Five times I hit him with the point of my arrows, inflicting wounds from which he should not recover, and then I laid siege to Memphis, his royal residence, and conquered it in half a day by means of mines, breaches, and assault ladders; I destroyed it, tore down its walls, and burned it down.

The Sendjirli Stele
translated by Luckenbill
Records of Assyria, II. 580.

    Asarhaddon took many Ethiopians prisoner, among them Taharka's queen and children, and sent them and huge amounts of loot to Assyria.
    All Ethiopians I deported from Egypt, leaving not even one to do homage to me.
    Then he followed the retreating Taharka upriver for a month.
    From Egypt I departed, to Melukha (Ethiopia) I marched straightway.
    Lower Egypt became an Assyrian province.
    Everywhere in Egypt I appointed new kings, governors, officers.
    Asarhaddon reorganized the administration insofar as he used Assyrian officials to control the Egyptian provincial lords and assure the regular payment of the tribute. Among these officials there were some Egyptians who had been educated at the Assyrian court.
    I have appointed kings everywhere and governors, functionaries and scribes. Permanent sacrifices at Assur I have decreed and to the great gods, my lords. I have imposed a tribute and taxes for every year...
    I conquered Egypt, Upper Egypt, and Ethiopia (Musur, Patursi, and Kusi). Tirhakah, its king, five times I fought with him with my javelin, and I brought all of his land under my sway, I ruled it.
    According to Assurbanipal's lists the same kings and chiefs of the Meshwesh or their descendents remained in power who had been fighting each other in the time of Piye, such as Nekhau, son of Bakenrenef (Bocchoris), king of Sais and the prince of Thebes, possibly Mentuemhet.

    In order to consolidate their hold over Egypt, the Assyrians were moderate in the implementation of the occupation compared to their policies in other provinces, respecting local traditions as far as possible. They showed special interest for Egyptian experts, such as physicians, artisans and military specialists who were often deported to Assyria. The aquisition of horses was of major importance.

    After Asarhaddon's death and Assurbanipal's victory over his brother, Taharka tried to reconquer Lower Egypt and failed. Assurbanipal redistributed the Delta: Nekhau at Sais and Memphis, Sheshonq at Busiris and the Assyrian Sharruludari at Tanis. A plot by these kings and governors to ally themselves with Taharka and divide the country among themselves, was uncovered by the Assyrian army. The generals sacked Sais, Mendes and Tanis, captured Nekhau and Sharruludari and sent them in irons to Nineveh. Pakruru who had been one of the conspirators, escaped. At Thebes Mentuemhet, Governor of the South and Prince of Thebes, restored Thebes and continued to rule the Thebaid into the reign of Psammetic I.
[In] the protected Southland in its divine way, while the whole land was overturned, because of the greatness of ////// [///////] coming from the South. I satisfied my /// coming from ///////// in /// [in] going in and in going out by night and by day /////////// an excellent refuge for my city. [I] repelled the wretches from the southern nomes /// /// /// [time].
Inscription of Mentemhet
J.H. Breasted Ancient Records of Egypt, Part Four, § 907
Taharka retired to Napata, never to return to Egypt.


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Update: December 2003