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Dr. Fei Chen


A Chronology on the Late Assyrian Empire

The Late Assyrian Empire, i.e. the “Post-Ashurbanipal” Assyria (from 627 BC to the fall of Nineveh), is one of the most confused periods in the Assyrian history. The historical sources from this period are rather scarce. Even worse is the fact that the sparse sources available are ambiguous and contradictory. Although scholars have long endeavored to construct various chronological schemes, none of them could be generally accepted without any doubt.

The deficiency of Assyrian domestic sources (e.g. the royal inscriptions, the annals, the king lists, the eponym lists and the eponym chronicles) during this period will force the reconstruction of the late Assyrian chronology to fall back on the sources outside Assyria, especially in Babylonia, where more information could be obtained. Moreover, in view that the Neo-Babylonian Dynasty did not take over the whole Babylonia until the last years of Nabopolassar (626-605 BC), the early Neo-Babylonian chronology could be complementary to the late Assyrian chronology. Therefore, the relevant Babylonian sources (e.g. the economic and legal documents, the Babylonian king lists, the Harran Inscription and the Nabopolassar Chronicle) could lay a solid foundation for restoring the late Assyrian chronology.

Since inconsistencies still exist among various sources, the core of the problem is how to place the events recorded by those sources into a reasonable chronological scheme with those sources being consistent with each other. There are two tendencies among the methods employed by scholars to provide the solutions: one is to disregard certain sources without considering them in the suggested schemes , while the other is to predicate the “errors” delivered by some sources and “correct” them to avert the inconsistencies. However, the present research attempts to provide a new solution.

The principle upheld by this research is: adjust the judgment to the document, but not the document to the judgment. Specifically, when confusions arise from the contradictions of different sources, the better way is to improve our own understandings on the sources, but not to modify or even discard those sources. This research will be carried out in the following steps. First of all, all the relevant sources will be adopted into the demonstration. The next is to summarize and analyze the inconsistencies contained in those sources. Then, the interpretations of scholars on those sources will be revaluated and the validity of the sources will be inspected. Simultaneously, some significant issues blurred at one time – which could perform as effective fulcrums for resolving those inconsistencies of various sources and fixing the chronological threads of relevant historical events – will be clarified. With those inconsistencies being resolved, the chronological threads constructed will conduce to a clearer picture of the chronology on the late Assyrian empire.