My Brother's Keeper

Assurbanipal versus Samas-suma-ukin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

Abstract

When Esarhaddon named his successors, he split the empire between two of his sons, with Assurbanipal as king of Assyria and Šamaš-šuma-ukīn as king of Babylonia. This arrangement functioned until 652 BCE, at which point a civil war began between the brothers. The war ended with Assurbanipal’s victory and Šamaš-šuma-ukīn’s death in 648 BCE. While Šamaš-šuma-ukīn’s death is mentioned in several of Assurbanipal’s inscriptions, it is still unclear how the king of Babylon met his end, and scholars have suggested theories ranging from suicide, assassination, execution, and accidental death. By offering a reexamination of the evidence for royal death in general and Šamaš-šuma-ukīn’s demise in particular, this article explores how possibly taboo topics such as fratricide, regicide, and suicide were depicted in Neo-Assyrian state texts and how Assurbanipal appears to have coped with his brother’s rebellion and death, especially as compared to Assyrian treatments of belligerent and rebellious foreign kings. This article argues that the relative silence around Šamaššuma- ukīn’s death is due to the fact that, while he was an enemy combatant, he was nonetheless a member of the Assyrian royal family and a legitimately-installed king. Overall, this article concludes that Assurbanipal uses several rhetorical strategies to distance himself from Šamaš-šuma-ukīn, especially invoking deus ex machina as a way to avoid even the potential accusation of fratricide and ultimately erasing his brother from the written record and Assyrian history.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of ancient Near Eastern History
Volume6
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)19-52
Number of pages34
ISSN2328-9554
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 26 May 2019
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Fields of Science

  • 615 History and Archaeology

Cite this

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title = "My Brother's Keeper: Assurbanipal versus Samas-suma-ukin",
abstract = "When Esarhaddon named his successors, he split the empire between two of his sons, with Assurbanipal as king of Assyria and Šamaš-šuma-ukīn as king of Babylonia. This arrangement functioned until 652 BCE, at which point a civil war began between the brothers. The war ended with Assurbanipal’s victory and Šamaš-šuma-ukīn’s death in 648 BCE. While Šamaš-šuma-ukīn’s death is mentioned in several of Assurbanipal’s inscriptions, it is still unclear how the king of Babylon met his end, and scholars have suggested theories ranging from suicide, assassination, execution, and accidental death. By offering a reexamination of the evidence for royal death in general and Šamaš-šuma-ukīn’s demise in particular, this article explores how possibly taboo topics such as fratricide, regicide, and suicide were depicted in Neo-Assyrian state texts and how Assurbanipal appears to have coped with his brother’s rebellion and death, especially as compared to Assyrian treatments of belligerent and rebellious foreign kings. This article argues that the relative silence around Šamaššuma- ukīn’s death is due to the fact that, while he was an enemy combatant, he was nonetheless a member of the Assyrian royal family and a legitimately-installed king. Overall, this article concludes that Assurbanipal uses several rhetorical strategies to distance himself from Šamaš-šuma-ukīn, especially invoking deus ex machina as a way to avoid even the potential accusation of fratricide and ultimately erasing his brother from the written record and Assyrian history.",
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language = "English",
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My Brother's Keeper : Assurbanipal versus Samas-suma-ukin. / Zaia, Shana.

In: Journal of ancient Near Eastern History, Vol. 6, No. 1, 26.05.2019, p. 19-52.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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