King Asshurbanipal of Assyria (668-627BC)
the last great king of ancient Assyria. He is famous as one of the few kings who could himself read and write. Assyrian sculpture reached its apogee under his rule (Northern palace and south-western palace at Nineveh, battle of Ulai). The Greeks knew him as Sardanapal; Latin and other medieval texts refer to him as Sardanapalus. In the Bible he is called As(e)nappar or Osnapper (Ezra 4:10).
During his rule the Assyrian splendour was not only due to its military power but also to the culture and art. Ashurbanipal created a library at Nineveh in which he gathered all cuneiform literature available by that time. He assembled "the first systematically collected library" at Nineveh. A library, in Oppenheim's view, apparently, was distinct from an archive: earlier repositories of documents had accumulated passively, in the course of administrative routine. Tablets from the library of Nineveh preserve the most complete source for the Sumerian/Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh. Other sets of tablets offer what is essentially a Sumerian-Akkadian dictionary. There are arcane astronomical/astrological texts. By far the largest group of tablets (almost all of which are in the British Museum, London) however, are 'omen' texts that taught the scribes how to recognize the significance of portents.
Assurbanipal only became crown prince in 672, when Esarhaddon's oldest son Sin-iddina-apla died. Assurbanipal was very unpopular with the court and the priesthood. Contracts were made with leading Assyrians, members of the Royal family and foreign rulers to assure their loyalty to the crown prince. But it was only the energy of his mother Naqi'a-Zakutu that assured his ascent to the throne when Esarhaddon suddenly died during his Egyptian campaign.
The early part of Ashurbanipal's reign, like that of most Assyrian kings, was marked by incessant warfare. He made war on his brother Shamash-shum-ukin, who had been installed as king in Babylon, and who had rebelled against him. The Babylonian king was the leader of a large coalition of peoples from southern Mesopotamia (but including also Egypt). Eventually, Ashurbanipal conquered Babylon and the coalition disbanded. Ashurbanipal also crushed the rebellion in Egypt, and conquered Elam, destroying its capital city, Susa. He also conquered a great part of the Arab territories.
After defeating the Babylonian coalition, in his 22nd year, he appointed Kandalanu as puppet-king of Babylon. However, some evidence would suggest that Ashurbanipal and Kandalanu are the same person, and thus it would seem that he simply decided to use a fictious name for the kingship over Babylon.
During the final decade of his rule Assyria was quite peaceful but probably the country faced a serious decline. Documentation from the last years of reign of Ashurbanipal is very scarce, and even the date of his death is not known with certainty. There is however little doubt that he ruled 42 years, that is, till 627/626.
The death of Ashurbanipal opened the way to a catastrophic strife between his sons for the throne of Assyria. The contendants included Ashur-etil-ilani, Sin-shar-ishkun and Sin-shumu-lishir, and the eventual new king of Babylon, Nabopolassar. It has been suggested that even the last years of Assurbanipal witnessed a struggle between the aged king and two of his rebellious sons. Oppenheim's dates for (as given here) are drawn from references in the inscription from Harran of the mother of Nabonidus.
Asshurbanipal married Queen Ashursharrat of Assyria.