Ashur, on the west bank of the Tigris River, was the religious capital of ancient Assyria. Ashur was also the name of the the country and the main deity. The city was founded around 2500 BCE (during Fourth Dynasty) by settlers from Syria or from the south. Although it was strategically weaker than Nimrud (modern Kalakh) and Nineveh, its importance as a religious center led to its being maintained until it was finally destroyed in 614 BCE by the Babylonians.
The inner city was encircled by walls with a total length of 4 kilometers. On the eastern side of the city, massive quays were built on the Tigris by king Adad-nirari I (ruled ca.1295-ca.1264 BCE; contemporary with Horemheb through Rameses II). On the northern side of the city a high escarpment looked down on an arm of the river, providing a natural defense. This was augmented with buttressed walls and a a sally port called the mushlalu, a semicircular rusticated stone masonry tower built by Sennacherib (ruled 704-681 BCE), probably the first of its kind. The weaker southern and western sides were protected by fortifications.
A catalog of the city's buildings at the time of Sennacherib included 34 temples, to such deities as Ashur-Enlil, Anu-Adad, Sin-Shamash, Ishtar, and Nabu. There have also been three palaces discovered at Ashur; the oldest, belonging to Shamsi-Adad (ruled ca.1813-ca.1781 BCE; Egyptian Twelfth Dynasty), was later used as a burial-ground. Many of the sprawling private homes in the northwestern section of the city featured family burial vaults beneath the floors. The irregular layout of the city shows the respect given to property rights and land tenure. A series of tablets dating from between 1450 and 1250 BCE (mid-Eighteenth to mid-Nineteenth Dynasties) reveal other aspects of Assyrian law, especially relating to women.
Although the city was nearly completely destroyed by the Babylonians in 614 BCE, part of it was reoccupied for a time around the Parthian conquest of Mesopotamia, in the middle of the 2nd century BCE.
Aurelien Joly is a Tunahead.