Royal Correspondence of the Assyrian Empire
Letter 128


Two Assyrian Soldiers

Copyright ©1997, K. C. Hanson
Pergamon Museen, Berlin
Language: Akkadian
Medium: clay tablet
Length: 13 lines of writing:
Obverse: 10 lines
Reverse: 3 lines
Genre: Letter
Sender: Nergal-ballit
Recipient: unknown Assyrian king
Approx. Date of Letter: 7th century BCE
Place of Discovery: Kouyunjik, Iraq
(ancient Nineveh)
Date of Discovery: c. 1893
Current Location: British Museum
Inventory Number: Harper K. 1199
Tablet Number: RCAE 716
Harper II. 218 (1893)

(from Waterman 1930:148)
(adapted from Waterman 1930:149)
a-na šarri bê-li-iá 1 To the king, my lord,
ar-du-ka Nergal-bal-lit 2 (from) your servant, Nergal-ballit.
lu-u šulmu a-na šarri bêli-iá 3 May it be well with the king, my lord.
Pi-liš-ta-a-a 4 The Philistines,
ša šarru be-lí 5 from whom the king, my lord,
ki-is-ru ik-sur-u-ni 6 has organized a contingent of troops
i-di-na-an-ni 7 (and) given them to me,
ú-ma ina pân-ia 8 they are now before me.
[iz]-za-zu ina Lu-ka-še . . . 9 [The are stationed] in Lachish
. . . Arba-ilu . . . . 10 . . . Arbela . . .
. . . kam-mu-[su] . . . . 1 . . . are situated . . .
ú-ma-a . . . . 2 now . . . .
i-da-te 3 the forces . . . . .
King. The king to whom this letter was sent is not named; but that is not unusual in the Assyrian royal correspondence.
Nergal-ballit. The sender is not known from other ancient records or letters. He is clearly an Assyrian military officer put in charge of the Philistine troops in Lachish. His name means "Nergal keeps alive."

Philistines. This group lived on the Mediterranean coast, east and southeast of the kingdom of Judah, centered in five towns: Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gaza, Ekron, and Gath. They may have been part of the "Sea Peoples" from Europe who invaded and settled in different parts of western Asia and north Africa in the late second millennium BCE. King David worked as mercenary for Achish of Gath (1 Samuel 27; 29). Later he hired "Pelethites" as his bodyguard, a word which probably refers to Philistines.
Lachish. This town was located on the Philistine plain, and is the modern location Tell el-Hesi. Lachish is also known from the Amarna letters (##287, 288, 328, 329, 335). It is mentioned numerous times in the Old Testament (e.g., Joshua 10; 12:11; 15:39; 2 Kings 14:19; 18:14; 19:8; 2 Chronicles 32:9; Nehemiah 11:30 Isaiah 36:2; 37:8; Jeremiah 34:7; Micah 1:13).
Arbela. Located at the modern city of Arbil in the northeast of modern Iraq, it is the current capital of the Kurdistan Autonomous Region. Arbela was the cult-center for the goddess Ishtar.



Albright, W. F. "Akkadian Letters." In Ancient Near Eastern Text Relating to the Old Testament, 482-90. 3rd ed. Ed. J. A. Pritchard. Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1969.
Oppenheim, A. Leo. Letters from Mesopotamia. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1967.
Waterman, Leroy. Royal Correspondence of the Assyrian Empire: Translated into English, with a Transliteration of the Text and Commentary. Vol. 1. University of Michigan Studies. Humanistic Series 17. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 1930.

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Last Modified: 14 April 2009