Settlements > Ashur

Ashur

Background

Assur, also known as Ashur, was an ancient city located in the heartland of Assyria, situated on the west bank of the Tigris River in present-day Iraq. It was one of the most important cities in the ancient Near East and served as the religious and political center of the Assyrian Empire for much of its history. Assur was originally founded as a settlement in the early third millennium BCE, during the Early Bronze Age. It gradually grew in importance and became a prominent urban center by the mid-second millennium BCE. The city's name, Assur, is derived from the patron deity of the Assyrian people, the god Ashur, who was worshiped as the city's chief deity and the national god of Assyria.

Religious Significance:

Assur was the center of the cult of the god Ashur, who was considered the supreme deity of the Assyrian pantheon. The city's temples, particularly the Ashur Temple, served as important religious institutions where elaborate rituals and ceremonies were conducted to honor the god. The Assyrian kings, as well as members of the royal family and nobility, made regular pilgrimages to Assur to pay homage to the god and seek his favor and protection.

Political Center:

Assur served as the political capital of the Assyrian Empire during various periods of its history. It was the seat of the Assyrian kings and the administrative center of the empire, where royal decrees were issued, tribute was collected, and provincial governors were appointed. The city's strategic location on the Tigris River allowed it to control key trade routes and serve as a hub for commerce and diplomacy in the region.

Urban Development:

Assur was a well-planned city with a grid-like street layout and fortified walls for defense. It was surrounded by a massive wall with gates that provided access to the city's interior. The city was home to palaces, administrative buildings, markets, workshops, and residential areas. The royal palaces, such as the Northwest Palace, were grand structures adorned with elaborate reliefs depicting scenes of royal life, warfare, and religious ceremonies.

Decline and Abandonment:

Assur reached its zenith during the first millennium BCE when the Assyrian Empire became one of the dominant powers in the ancient Near East. However, the city declined following the fall of the Assyrian Empire in the late seventh century BCE. After the conquest of Assyria by the Neo-Babylonian Empire and subsequent invasions by the Achaemenid Persians, the city gradually lost its significance and was eventually abandoned. Today, the ruins of Assur are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, preserving the legacy of one of the ancient world's great civilizations.

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