Black Stone
of Esarhaddon

Language: Akkadian
Medium: black basalt
Size: meters high
meters wide
Genre: Dedication Inscription
Dedicator: Esarhaddon
King of Assyria
(reigned 681—669 BCE)
Date of Dedication: BCE
Place of Discovery:
Date of Excavation:
Excavation Directors:
Current Location: British Museum
(London, England)
Inventory Number

(Adapted from Luckenbill 2:242–44)
(Column 1) Esarhaddon, king of the universe,
king of Assyria, viceroy of Babylon, king of Sumer and Akkad,
the exalted prince, worshiper of Nabu and Marduk.

Before my time, in the reign of an earlier king, there befell evil omens in Sumer and Akkad.
The people who lived in Shuanna divided into factions, plotting rebellion all the while.
They stretched their hands into Esagila, the temple of the gods,
and squandered its god, silver, and precious stones in Elam in payments.
Anger seized the lord of the gods, Marduk. For the overthrow of the land and the destruction of its people he devided disastrous plans.
The Arhtu Canal, (Column 2) a river of abundance, whose floods were high, like the deluge,
was brought up and it poured into the city of his abode and his sanctuary, and made it like a heap of ruins.
The gods and goddesses who lived there went up to heaven.
The people living in its midst, having been apportioned to the yoke and the fetter went into slavery.

Seventy years as the measure of its desolation he wrote (in the Book of Fate).
But the merciful —his anger lasted but a moment—
turned (the Book of Fate) upside down and ordered its restoration in the eleventh year.

You most assuredly called me, Esarhaddon, from among my older brothers so that things might be returned to their places
(Column 3) and spread your kindly [protective shadow] over me.
All who hate me you cast down, like a deluge;
all of my enemies you slayed.
You caused me to attain my desire.

To set at rest the heart of your great godhead, to bring peace to your soul,
you entrusted the rule of Assyria (to me).
At the beginning of my rule, in the first year of my reign, when I took my seat upon the royal throne in power,
favorable signs in the heavens and on earth appeared. His portent was interpreted.
I was fearful and hesitant about carrying out that commission.
Before Shamash, [Adad], and Marduk, the great judges, the gods, my lords, I prostrated myself.
Through the soothsayers' rites encouraging oracles were disclosed,
and for the rebuilding of Babylon and the restoration of Esagila, they caused (the command) to be written down.

(Column 4) In their positive command I put my trust.
I summoned all of my artisans and the people of Karduniash in their totality.
I made them
carry the basket and laid the headpad upon them.
In choice oil, honey, butter, wine, wine of the shining mountains, I laid its foundation walls.
I raised the headpad to my own head and carried it.
In a brick mold of ivory, maple, boxwood, and mulberry, with writing fixed against the wood, I molded a brick.
Esagila, the temple of the gods, together with its shrines, Babylon the city under protection,
Imgur-Bel, its wall, Nimitti-Bel, its outer wall, from their foundation to their turrets,
I built anew, I enlarged, I raised aloft, I made magnificent.
The images of the great gods I restored and had them replaced in their shrines to adorn them forever.
Their offering, which had ceased, I re-established.
The sons of Babylon who had been brought to servitude, who had been apportioned to the yoke and the fetter,
I gathered together and accounted them for Babylonians. Their clientship I established anew.
Esarhaddon was king of the Assyrian empire (680–669 BCE). His name in Akkadian is Aššur-ahu-iddina ("Aššur has provided a brother").
Karduniash is an ancient Kassite term referring to kingdom of Babylon (a province during Esarhaddon's reign).
Memphis was the capital of the Egyptian kingdom during the 25th Dynasty. The name in Egyptian is Men-nefer ("enduring and beautiful"). It is located 12 miles south of modern Cairo.

5. What is the purpose of Esarhaddon's self-acclamation of his greatness? Of what importance is honor in the ancient Near Eastern world?
7. Choose one of the Mesopotamian gods mentioned in this text and report on what you find out in terms of temples, other names, consort/s, range of dominion (e.g., storms, fertility, war), iconography.

Grayson, A. Kirk. "Esarhaddon." In Anchor Bible Dictionary, edited by David Noel Freedman, 2:??. New York: Doubleday, 1992.

Hallo, William W., and William Kelly Simpson. The Ancient Near East: A History. 2nd ed. Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace College Publishers, 1998.

Leichty, Erle, editor. The Royal Inscriptions of Esarhaddon, King of Assyria (680–669 BC). Royal Inscriptions of the Neo-Assyrian Empire 4. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2011.

Luckenbill, Daniel David. Ancient Records of Assyria and Babylonia. Vol. 2: From Sargon to the End. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1927.

Saggs, H. W. F. "The Assyrians." In Peoples of Old Testament Times, 156–78. Oxford: Clarendon, 1973.

Saggs, H. W. F. The Greatness That Was Babylon: A Survey of the Ancient Civilization of the Tigris-Euphrates Valley. Rev. ed. London: Sidgwick & Jackson, 1988.

Saggs, H. W. F. The Might That Was Assyria. London: Sidgwick & Jackson, 1984.

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Last Modified: 14 February 2012