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Ashurbanipal, King of Assyria (669- 627 BCE), and counted as the last great ruler of the country.

When his father Esarhaddon died, he left Ashurbanipal a kingdom that stretched from northern Egypt to Persia, but also made his brother king of Babylonia. Ashurbanipal ruled his country from Nineveh.

Ashurbanipal is remembered as one of the most cultured rulers in the Mesopotamian region: He was literate in both Sumerian and old Akkadian scripts — uncommon to rulers of the epoch — and he supported the establishment of the first systematically organized library in the Middle East. This library contained tens of thousands of works, in the shape of tablets. Most were pre-scientific works trying to explain events in the world, but some works were even of scientific nature. There were also many religious texts (like the Gilgamesh), but even folk tales were admitted into the library.

From monumental presentations of him, we see him in situations of hunting, archery and horseriding, but this could be propaganda for his qualities and abilities. From contemporary accounts — like his autobiographical works and correspondence — we hear of a ruler that was very active in ruling, often dealing with detail questions. He was always involved in the appointments of governors and prefects, and he functioned as the real administrator when building state houses and structures. His queen was Ashur-sharrat, and he had his sons Ashur-etel-ilani and Sin-shar-ishkun made coregents of Assyria and Babylonia.
After Ashurbanipal the Assyrian kingdom stated to fall apart, but this is not considered as being his fault. It was not weakness inside Assyria, but continuous attacks from hostile neighbours, that brought it down.

This fragment is from one of may panels found in the palace of Ashurbanipal at Nineveh depicting his hunting activities. Despite the very low relief, the vitality and grace of these carvings make them surpreme among the masterpieces of Assyrian art.


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