Monday, August 10, 2009

Rare Assyrian Letter Pleads for Reinforcements

Depiction of the fall of he Assyrian Empire from the 15th century Nuremburg Bible.

In a remarkable archeological find, a letter scratched into a clay tablet by an ancient Assyrian leader in 630 B.C. begs for military reinforcements that never arrived. But more than 2,500 years later, the letter has been unearthed almost intact by archaeologists, offering an unprecedented glimpse into the downfall of the one of the most powerful empires of the ancient world.

Assyrian leader Mannu-ki-Libbali is believed to have written the letter shortly before the ancient city of Tushan was overrun by Babylonian invaders ~ its temples and palaces pillaged, then torn down or set aflame.

In the 30-line letter, the author despairs that he lacks the necessary equipment and manpower to stave off the enemy, suggesting that the issue of military resources may be as old as warfare itself.

According to the London Times:

The letter is written on a clay tablet in ancient Assyrian, using a script called cuneiform based purely on lines and triangles. It was written by jabbing a quill with a triangular-shaped nib into wet clay. Different letters were formed by superimposing identical triangles in different combinations.

John MacGinnis, an archaeologist from the University of Cambridge who led the excavation, said: “The letter is written during the process of downfall. The chances of finding something like this are unbelievably small.” Mannu-ki-Libbali laments that he has neither the equipment nor the troops needed for the onerous task ahead. He lists cohort commanders, craftsmen, coppersmiths, blacksmiths, bow makers and arrow makers as essential to building a resistance.

The letter, found during the excavation of an Assyrian acropolis in southeastern Turkey, gives a remarkable insight into the final collapse of the empire and suggests that the Assyrians may have been militarily unprepared and put up a feeble resistance.

Click here for the complete London Times article.
Lower photo shows the recovered letter.


Trée said...

Great find Greg. No pun intended. Fascinating stuff. Thanks for posting.

Gregory LeFever said...

Hey, Trée, it's good to have you visit! I'm glad you found this interesting ~ lots of human drama in that one little ancient letter.