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State Archives of Assyria Bulletin

Volume XV (2006)

A RECONSTRUCTION OF THE ARMY OF SARGON II (721-705 BC)


BASED ON THE NIMRUD HORSE LISTS
Tams Dezs

There are three major groups of sources which can be used for the reconstruction of the
Assyrian army: the archaeological evidence (arms and armour), the pictorial evidence
(representations of soldiers on Assyrian palace reliefs), and the written evidence (cuneiform sources).
The cuneiform sources fall into two main categories: the royal inscriptions and the
administrative texts. Those few studies that have been written on the Assyrian army
were mainly based on royal inscriptions. From the annalistic royal inscriptions we can
reconstruct the chronology and the destination of the Assyrian campaigns, which countries they conquered and which towns they besieged. However, by virtue of their narrative character, these texts do not allow any insight into the structure of the Assyrian
army. As a consequence of their propagandistic nature they only list the successful Assyrian manoeuvres, and narrate the events in stereotyped formulas. Although from the
chronological and geographical point of view these texts are of great importance, the
technical details which we are interested in remain completely concealed. Disregarding a few exceptions even the conquering Assyrian army itself remains unknown.
The other group of cuneiform sources is the body of administrative texts. Thousands of administrative texts dealt with the everyday activities of the imperial administration of Assyria. The main problem in reconstructing the Assyrian army is the complete lack of descriptive sources similar to the Greek and Roman authors, who provided
a substantial amount of information on the structure of the Greek and Roman armies.
However, there is a specific group of administrative texts from which we can try to reconstruct the structure of the Assyrian army. This group of cuneiform texts is the socalled Nimrud Horse Lists.1
1. Dalley Postgate 1984.

94

TAMS DEZS

The scholars who published these texts accomplished an excellent philological and
prosopographical task, but the most important feature of these texts hidden in the numbers remained unexplored.
CTN III, 99; CTN III, 103; and ND 2386+2730
The first text (CTN III, no. 99)2 is a list of officers. Fig. 1 shows the structure of the
text, which can be divided into 4 sections:
I.
II.
III.
IV.

bodyguard cavalry (mu^arkisni ^a pt~al qurubte) (Obv. I, 1-18)


provincial units 1-7 (I, 19 - III, 6)
palace chariotry (mu^arkisni ^a GI&.GIGIR .GAL) (III, 7 - IV, 8)
stable officers (^aknte ^a ma"assi) (IV, 9-12)

The cavalry and chariotry officers can be ranked in three groups:


1. Unit commanders: provincial units and stable officers (Sections II and IV)
2. Chief officers (L.GAL.GAL.ME&, for example mu^arkisni) (Sections IIII)
3. Subordinate officers (rab urte) (Sections I-IV)
From these three levels all three (1-3) can be found in the section of provincial units
(Section II), the 2nd and the 3rd in the section of qurubtu cavalry (Section I) and in the
section of palace chariotry (Section III), while only the 2nd and the 3rd appear in the section of stable officers (Section IV):
I
qurubtu cavalry

II
provincial units

III
palace chariotry

IV
stable officers

unit commanders

by their names

by their names

chief officers

mu^arkisni

rabti

mu^arkisni

officers

rab urte

rab urte

rab urte

rab urte

Section 99/I3 is probably the section of the cavalry bodyguard (pt~al qurubte). The
names of 16 high ranking officers or military officials and 16 of their subordinate officers are listed in this section. However, the line summing up this section4 explicitely

2. Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 99, 168-179, pls. 25-26.


3. Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 99, A, Obv. i, 1-18, 168, 170-172, 176.
4. Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 99, i, 18.

95

RECONSTRUCTION OF THE ASSYRIAN ARMY OF SARGON II

CTN III, 99 (ND 10002, IM 64210)


unit / title

commanders

chief officers
rabti

officers
rab urte

O. I:1-18

recruitment officers of the cavalry bodyguard


(muarkisni a pt~al qurubte)
14

I:19-III:6
I:19-II:6
II:7-11
II:12-15
II:16-23
II:24-26
R. III:1-3
III:4-5
III:6

provincial units
provincial unit 1
West-Semitic?
Chaldeans
Samarians
provincial unit 5
provincial unit 6
provincial unit 7
[...]

10
10
7
13
4
4
2

10
?
?
?
?
?
?

III:7-IV:8

recruitment officers of the palace chariotry


muarkisni a GI.GIGIR .GAL
28

28

IV:9-26
IV:9-12
IV:13-16
IV:17-22
IV:23-26

stable officers
aknu a ma"assi
aknu a ma"assi
aknu a ma"assi
aknu a ma"assi

6
7
10
5

arru-muranni
Marduk-arru-u#ur
Kaldya
Nab-blu-ka""in
Taklak-ana-Bl
Adallal
Nergal-arrni

ama-taklak
arru-muranni
p-Aur
Aur-arru-u#ur

14

Fig. 1. The structure of CTN III, 99.

gives 14, which is a fact of great importance. The subordinate officers were team commanders (rab urte).5 Each of them served a single high ranking officer. The high
ranking officers are recruitment officers (mu^arkisni),6 probably the recruitment officers of the cavalry bodyguard (mu^arkisni ^a pt~al qurubte)7 who were, as far as
we know, in charge of the supply of horses and the recruitment of soldiers for this unit.
5. For rab urte see Dalley Postgate 1984, pp. 31-32.
6. For mu^arkisni see Dalley Postgate 1984, pp. 28-31 with a detailed list of all the mu^arkisni
known from the reign of Sargon II (721-705 BC).
7. The text (Obv. i, 1) explicitly classified them as L.GAL.GAL.ME& (rabti), but Dalley Postgate 1984,
p. 176 convincingly identified them with the mu^arkisni ^a pt~al qurubte. This identification is
based on the similarity of this list and the names listed with two other lists, ND 2386+2730 (Parker
1961, pp. 22-24, pl. XI) and CTN III, 108 (Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 108).

96

TAMS DEZS

They served in the so-called home provinces of the Assyrian Empire, since the Assyrian
army was organized on a territorial basis. Another important text (ND 2386+2730, see
Fig. 2)8 lists further names, and designates them as recruitment officers of the cavalry
bodyguard (L.mu-^ar-kis ^a pt-~al qur!-u[b!]).9 However, the similarity of these two
texts manifests itself not in the names but in the numbers. Both texts list 14 recruitment
officers (ND 2386+2730 lists 7 pairs). It means that there were probably 14 supply regions in 7 provinces/territories and probably 2 recruitment officers designated for each
province. Two of the officers listed in this section of ND 2386+2730 (Nanusu and
Ubru-Libbli) also appear in CTN III, 102 among recruitment officers known from
CTN III, 103.10
Another text of this text group, a Nimrud text (CTN III, 100)11 is a similar list of
high ranking officers and their subordinates. Three mu^arkisni of this cavalry bodyguard unit12 appear in this fragmentary text together with three mu^arkisni of the chariotry bodyguard unit13 (see Section III). All of them are listed with a single subordinate
rab urte officer and a few soldiers placed probably under their command. This list furthermore mentions high ranking officers of the provincial units (see Section II), with
their subordinate rab urte officers.
A further, very important text (CTN III, 108,14 for detailed study see below) lists
11+2? mu^arkisni of this unit. The names of six of them15 appear in the parallel section
of CTN III, 99. The other names are different.
It is known from the Letter to the god A^^ur of Sargon II (721-705 BC) that this
king was always escorted by the cavalry regiment (kitullu perru) of Sn-a~u-u#ur, the
brother of the king. This unit escorted the king under all circumstances, and did not
budge from his side, neither in enemy nor in friendly country.16 Sn-a~u-u#ur may have

8.
9.
10.
11.

12.
13.
14.
15.
16.

Parker 1961, pp. 22-24, pl. XI.


Parker 1961, ND 2386+2730, Obv. II, 1-16.
Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 102, iii, 30-30a: Nanusu; iii, 31-31a: Ubru-A^^ur.
Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 100, pp. 179-181, pl. 27. This text mentions the town Dur-Ladini, which
was captured by Sargon II in 710 BC. It is possible that this text can be connected to a review held in
this Babylonian town, subsequently after its capture, when the Assyrians used it as a military base.
Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 100, Rev. iii, 3-4: Nergal-^arru-u#ur, iii, 8-10: Sn-n"id; iii, 11-13:
Bl-dri.
Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 100, Rev. ii, 6-13: &ama^-ilya; ii, 14-17: Nab-^umu-u#ur; iii, 5-7:
Bbilya.
Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 108, pp. 205-213, pls. 31-32.
Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 108, Obv. ii, 27: Abi-l^ir; ii, 28: Sn-a~~; ii, 29: [Nergal]-^arru-u#ur; ii,
38: A~i-uqur; ii, 40: Bl-@arran-^adua; ii, 43: Bl-dri.
Thureau-Dangin 1912, lines 132-133.

RECONSTRUCTION OF THE ASSYRIAN ARMY OF SARGON II

ND 2386 + 2730
district
Obv. I

1-2
3
4
5- 6
7- 8
9-11
12-13
14-15
16-17
18-19
20-21
22-23
24-25
26-27

Obv. II 1-2
3-4
5-6
1- 2
3- 4
5- 6
7- 8
9-10
11-12
13-14
15-16
17-18
19-20
Rev. I. 1- 3
4- 5
6- 7

muarkisni

[...]
lim-mu dMA (Ninurta-)[]
Id
[...]ere ina (bt) L.[]
kur

Si"imm
Til-Barsip
kur
@alziatbar
uru
Kurbail
[@abr]ri
[...]rab q (province?)
[...]-na
[...]-na
[...]
[...]
[...]
kur

[...]
[...]
[...]
[nap~ar]
KUR.[...]
URU.[...]

kur

@alziatbar
Arzu~ina
uru
La~iri
uru
Arrap`a
uru
Kulnia
nap~ar
uru

kur

2
2
2
2
2
2
2
2
[2]
[2]
[2]
[2]
[2]
[2]
[28?]
2
2
2
2
2
2
2
14

[L.mu-ar-kis a GI.GIGIR .GAL?]

L.mu-ar-kis

a pt-~al-li-e

Bar~alzi
Ra#apa
kur
Zamua
kur
@abrri
nap~ar

1
1
1
1
4

L.ak-nu-te

8-13
14-15

[...]
nap~ar

L.mu-ar-kis.ME

16-17
18-19
20-21
22-23
24-25

uru

kur

Kurbail
Til-Barsipi
uru
Isana
uru
Kurbail

uru

a ma-"a-as-si

2
in place of ama-[...]
2
in place of Adad-iqbi
[...]

Fig. 2. The structure of ND 2386+2730.

a L.ag-lu-te

97

98

TAMS DEZS

been the commander of the cavalry bodyguard. The same inscription furthermore mentions that the king led an expeditionary force to capture the city of Mu#a#ir, consisting
of 1000 cavalry, archers and spearmen.17 Sargons annals also mention this cavalry
bodyguard as 1000 AN&E.BAD.@AL (pt~al) GR.2-ia (^pia).18 This cavalry unit of 1000
horsemen is obviously the regiment of Sn-a~u-u#ur mentioned above, the cavalry bodyguard (pt~al qurubte), or at least one of its regiments. A fragmentary Nimrud Letter
also refers to 1000 cavalry who arrived in the province of a governor (DN-bli-u#ur),
and wanted to collect the i^kru-tax due on the horses.19 1000 cavalrymen might have
been a standard unit size of the Assyrian royal cavalry bodyguard.20 The events of the
8th campaign of Sargon II were depicted on the sculptures of Room XIII of the Khorsabad palace. On the sculptures there are three interesting cavalrymen. One of them is escorting the chariot of the king, two others are trampling upon the defeated enemy. Their
equipment differs completely from the equipment of other horsemen.21 They are probably high officials of the royal entourage (who in other contexts were never represented
on horseback), or the distinguished members of the royal cavalry bodyguard, amongst
them Sn-a~u-u#ur(?), the brother of the king obviously not in battle dress.
This cavalry bodyguard (pt~al qurubte) unit and the chariotry bodyguard (GI&.GIGIR
qurubte) (see below, Section III) are also known from the reign of later kings. One of
the inscriptions of Esarhaddon (680-669 BC) mentions these two elite units,22 and several members of the cavalry bodyguard are known from the administrative documents.23
One of these texts is a long list detailing the distribution of booty amongst the palace

17.
18.
19.
20.

Thureau-Dangin 1912, lines 320-321.


Lie 1929, p. 26, 150; see also the Ashdod episode: p. 40, 256-257.
ND 2401, Saggs 2001, pp. 251-252.
An interesting story appears in Xenophons, Krou paidea IV, 6, 2: Gobryas, an old Assyrian official, who used to be the most devoted friend of the Assyrian king, and who used to put 1000 cavalrymen at the disposal of the Assyrian king, surrendered to Cyrus, and became his most valuable general, who conquered Babylon. It seems to the present author that this story (with further interesting
details!) is a topos originated from Assyria, and was transplanted into a Babylonian context. Gobryas
(an old Assyrian) might well have been the commander of the royal bodyguard (obviously the most
devoted friend of the Assyrian king), who commanded 1000 cavalrymen, which might have been a
standard unit size of the Assyrian royal cavalry bodyguard. For the role and background of Gobryas
see Parpola 2003, pp. 339-350, esp. 343-345. The tradition of a cavalry bodyguard of 1000 horsemen
is known even from the Persian times: Herodotus VII, 40.
21. Botta Flandin 1849, pls. 142-143.
22. Borger 1956, p. 106, 68, Gottesbrief, 16-17.
23. See for example Fales Postgate 1995, p. 110, 2: Nab-^arru-u#ur BAD.@AL qur-ub.

RECONSTRUCTION OF THE ASSYRIAN ARMY OF SARGON II

99

personnel.24 Here we find a cavalry officer (rab mugi ^a pt~alli), a cavalry bodyguard
(pt~alli ^a L.qurbte) and another type of cavalry bodyguard, the pt~alli ^a-^pi,
which has no other known reference. The date of these texts, however, is uncertain.
They could have been written at any time during the reigns of Sennacherib, Esarhaddon
or Assurbanipal.
Section 99/II25 is the section of the seven provincial units. It must be emphasized that
these units were not the units of provincial governors, but the province-based units of
the Assyrian home army, the ki#ir ^arrti. Soldiers of these units were probably recruited in the provinces. Most probably these are those soldiers who are mentioned in
the cuneiform sources as the kings men (#b ^arri).
Unit 1.26 The commander of Unit 1, &arru-muranni,27 is known from the Assyrian royal
correspondence. He was the governor of Mzamua and the eponym of year 712 BC,28
and later became the governor of Babylon (710-708 BC). It is known from the royal
correspondence of Sargon II that &arru-muranni wrote a series of letters to the king,
from Mzamua.29 From Mzamua, which was a military assembling and departure region of the Assyrian military campaigns on the eastern border of the empire, he launched
campaigns together with other Assyrian governors.30 Nab-a~u-u#ur (^a qurbte, royal
bodyguard) brought the order of the king to &arru-muranni, who was encamping with
the magnates (on a campaign) in Ir[^]umu: Not one of your horses and men may be
missing if they are to pass before the king!.31 This letter mentions &arru-muranni
probably in his unit commander capacity (Unit 1) which was evidently in connection
with the governorship of from the strategic point of view one of the most important Assyrian provinces, Mzamua. Later he wrote a series of letters from Babylonia
as well (710-708 BC).32 Several letters mention him in this capacity.33 A fragmentary
24.
25.
26.
27.

28.
29.
30.
31.
32.

Fales Postgate 1995, no. 36.


Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 99, B-H, Obv. i, 19 - iii, 5, pp. 168-169, 172-174, 177.
Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 99, Obv. i, 19 - ii, 6, pp. 172-173, 177.
Several officials of this name are known from the reign of Sargon II: 1. The governor of Mzamua,
later Babylon (probably our unit commander); 2. the stable officer (^aknu ^a ma"assi) of Section
IV (see below); 3. the governor of Bt-Zamni (Lanfranchi Parpola 1990, 47); 4. the city lord of
Qunbuna (Lanfranchi Parpola 1990, 243); 5. the deputy of (the governor) of Isana (NL74, Lanfranchi Parpola 1990, 132-134). It is possible however that these are the stages of the careers of two or
three officials by the same name.
Millard 1994, 47, 120: &arru-muranni: governor of KUR.za-mu-[]; ^-kn KUR.lul-lu-mi-e.
Lanfranchi Parpola 1990, 199-209.
Lanfranchi Parpola 1990, 199-200.
ABL 884, Lanfranchi Parpola 1990, 226, obv. 18 - rev. 4.
Fuchs Parpola 2001, 217-239.

100

TAMS DEZS

letter,34 written to Sargon II by an official whose name is missing, mentions &arru-muranni as an official/officer in charge of the mobilization of the conscripts of Dr-Ladini,
Dr-Bili~ai, Larak, and Bt-Awukani. These conscripts were kings men, ERIM.ME&
LUGAL (#b ^arri), summoned for an action in Babylonia. Unfortunately it is unknown
whether or not they were actually the soldiers of Unit 1 discussed here. However, it is
known from another letter35 that &arru-muranni (as the governor of Babylonia or the
commander of Unit 1?) was a superior of recruitment officers (mu^arkisni). A further
letter was probably written by &arru-muranni and another official to Sargon II under
campaign conditions, mentions the building and the equipping of a fort.36 A further administrative text (a list of officials at court) probably from the reign of Sennacherib
(704-681 BC) mentions a certain &arru-muranni who is third man of the crown
prince (L.3-^u DUMUMAN),37 and a certain Adallal, who is adjutant (L.DUMU
&U.2).38 This text is interesting because both names appear in CTN III, 99 as unit commanders of Provincial Unit 1 and 6. Is it possible that they later became members of the
elite unit of Sennacherib?
This part of the text follows the system of the previous section and lists 10 high
ranking officers or military officials (L.GAL.GAL.ME&, rabti) with their 10 subordinate
officers (rab urte). Further texts of the Nimrud Horse Lists mention this unit or list its
officers. CTN III, 10139 mentions four high ranking officers (L.GAL.GAL.ME&) of this
unit40 listed in CTN III, 99 plus a fifth name. Another text, CTN III, 10441 lists only the
rabti of this unit. Five of the eight surviving names are the same as in the list of CTN
III, 99,42 but three names are different.43 This text is not a list of officers, but a list of
horses. We know from the fragmentary list that 43 horses were assigned to Guya, 50 to
Abi-dikir(i), 40 to Nergal-blu-u#ur, and 35 to Knu-ab"a. The purpose of the list is
unknown, but if these horses were reserves, the units of these rabti must have been of a
squadrons size. CTN III, 10844 (see below) lists the same provincial units. &arru-mu-

33.
34.
35.
36.
37.
38.
39.
40.
41.
42.
43.
44.

Lanfranchi Parpola 1990, 63.


ABL 1292, Parpola 1987, 18.
ABL 315, Fuchs Parpola 2001, 223.
ABL 762, Fuchs Parpola 2001, 220.
ADD 840 + 858, Fales Postgate 1992, 6, II, 8.
ADD 840 + 858, Fales Postgate 1992, 6, I, 4.
Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 101, pp. 182-188, pl. 28.
Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 101, Obv. iv, 13-17: Guya, A^^ur-^umu-taqqin, &ama^-n"id, @uziri.
Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 104, 200, pl. 30.
Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 104, Face A, ii, 2-4, 8-9: Bl-dn, Guya, Abi-dikir, &ama^-n"id, Nani.
Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 104, Face A, ii, 5-7: Nergal-blu-u#ur, GIN-abua, IDIM-ilni.
Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 108, 205-213, pls. 31-32.

RECONSTRUCTION OF THE ASSYRIAN ARMY OF SARGON II

101

ranni here commands 7+[x] (probably 10) rabti. Their names are the same and follow
each other in the same order as in CTN III, 99. 35 of their 65 horses stayed at home, and
30 went on the campaign(?).45
Unit 2.46 The commander of Unit 2 is Marduk-^arru-u#ur. The names of his 10 officers
are mainly West Semitic, which might refer to the West Semitic origin of the unit.47 It is
known from the royal inscriptions of Sargon II that in his first regnal year, after the defeat of the king of Qarqar (Ilu-bi"di), Sargon enlisted 200 chariots and 600 cavalrymen
in the Assyrian army (ki#ir ^arrti),48 while in his 5th regnal year, after the defeat of the
king of Karkemi^, he enlisted 50 chariots and 200 cavalrymen.49 Accordingly, it is possible that the soldiers of our Unit 2 were recruited from these North Syrian subjects of
the Assyrian empire.
It is interesting that the text lists only 9 names, but the summary line states explicitly 10. In CTN III, 10850 (see below) Marduk-^arru-u#ur commands the same unit and
the same men. In CTN III, 108, however, there are 10 soldiers listed. There were 102
horses assigned to the unit. The text says that all the horses went to the campaign. It can
be assumed therefore that these horses were reserves, and not the effective force of the
unit.
Four officers of the unit appear in the so called Assur Protokoll.51 In the Assur Protokoll, however, these officers are charioteers (L.GI&.GIGIR), who are assigned to different (but unfortunately unidentified) towns or villages. Consequently it can be assumed
that these provincial units are chariot units, which were organized on a territorial basis.
It is possible that their officers were in charge of more than one village.
Unit 3.52 As its name (KUR.kal-da-a-a) shows, this unit was probably of Chaldean origin. Dalley and Postgate supposed that this unit was formed after the capture of Dr45.
46.
47.
48.
49.
50.
51.

Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 108, ii, 48 - iii, 13.


Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 99, Obv. ii, 7-11, 173, 177.
Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 99, C, p. 173.
Fuchs 1994, Display 35-6.
Fuchs 1994, Annals 75.
Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 108, iii, 14-24.
%DINGIR_ka-bar: Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 108, iii, 19 (rab urte); no. 102, ii, 10 (rab ki#ri);
Schroeder 1920 (KAV) 31, 17; 34, Obv. 1 (L.GI&.GIGIR); oka-pi-ru: Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 99,
Obv. ii, 9 (rab urte); no. 108, iii, 21 (rab urte); Schroeder 1920 (KAV) 31, 29; 132 Obv. 3 (L.GI&.
GIGIR); %oIM_im-me: Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 99, Obv. ii, 9 (rab urte); no. 108, iii, 15 (rab urte); Schroeder 1920 (KAV) 32 Rev. 3 (L.GI&.GIGIR); %a-tar_bi-`i-di: Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 99,
Obv. ii, 10 (rab urte); no. 108, iii, 23 (rab urte); Schroeder 1920 (KAV) 32 Rev. 6 (L.GI&.GIGIR).
52. Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 99, Obv. ii, 12-15, 168, 173, 177.

102

TAMS DEZS

Yakin in 709 BC; the royal inscriptions of Sargon II, however, do not mention that he
added a contingent of chariotry from the defeated Chaldeans to his army.53 Another
possibility is that members of this unit were recruited earlier from those Chaldean tribes
who were loyal to the Assyrian king. This is the only unit where the name of the commander is unknown. One of the officers of this unit appears in the Assur Protokoll54
together with two officers of the Unit 2 mentioned above. It seems that the Assur text
lists a unit of 10 soldiers/officers (L.GI&.GIGIR) under the command of Ammi-atar, a
commander-of-50 (L.GAL.50).55 The unit is 7 officers strong. The parallel section of
CTN III, 10856 lists the same seven names.
Unit 4.57 The commander of Unit 4 is Nab-blu-ka""in. This unit, as its name, Smerinya, makes it clear, was composed at least partly of Samarian Jews. It is known from
the royal inscriptions of Sargon II that in his first regnal year, after the fall of Samaria,
the capital of Israel, he enlisted 50 Samarian chariots into the royal contingents, the so
called ki#ir ^arrti of the Assyrian army.58 Unit 4 was probably composed of these
Samarian chariots or horsemen, and remained a regular unit of the home army.59 Its 13
officers show that this unit was the strongest on this review. As far as it can be reconstructed, CTN III, 108 lists the same names in its parallel section.60 The number of the
officers here is 9+x (2-3).
The commander of the unit, Nab-blu-ka""in, is known from the Assyrian royal
correspondence. He was a high ranking Assyrian official operating in the Diyala region,
and was the governor of Kr-&arrukn (@ar~ar),61 where he was replaced by Mannu-kiNinua.62 Later he became governor of Arrap~a.63 He wrote a series of letters to Sargon
53. Dalley Postgate 1984, 177.
54. %me-ni_DINGIR: Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 99, ii, 12; no. 108, iii, 26 (rab urte); Schroeder 1920
(KAV) 31, 11 (L.GI&.GIGIR).
55. Schroeder 1920 (KAV) 31.
56. Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 108, iii, 25-32.
57. Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 99, ii, 16-23.
58. Fuchs 1994, p. 87, Annals 15.
59. From the 13 names of the unit at least 3 are of Hebrew origin: Iu-g, Abdi-milku, and Ahi-Iu; and
two of them are Aramaic: Ahi-idri and his namesake, Ahi-idri.
60. Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 108, iii, 33-41.
61. Probably from 716 BC (Postgate Mattila 2004, pp. 251-252). For the best summary of his carreer
see Mattila 2001, pp. 815-817, and Postgate Mattila 2004, pp. 251-253.
62. Mannu-ki-Ninua, the governor of Kr-&arrukn, wrote a series of letters to Sargon II (Lanfranchi
Parpola 1990, nos. 90-107). He is probably the same person who appears in CTN III, 101, III, 4-9, as
a ^aknu ^a ma"assi (see below) and in CTN III, 107, I, 1-11 as the commander of a ^a ^p unit
consisting of 10+X officers.

RECONSTRUCTION OF THE ASSYRIAN ARMY OF SARGON II

103

II,64 and was mentioned in several other letters written by other officials from the region.65 It was suggested that he was the vizier (sukkallu),66 but it seems that this title
was held by the kings brother, Sn-a~u-u#ur.67
In one of his letters68 he mentions that he is keeping watch in Lubda and will not
release the kings men (L.ERIMMAN.ME&) until he has heard news of the expedition/caravans. So he had kings men at his disposal even before he became the governor of
Kr-&arrukn.
Unit 5.69 The commander of Unit 5 is Taklk-ana-Bl. He was the governor of Na#ibina
and the eponym of 715 BC.70 He wrote a series of letters to Sargon II.71
The unit consists of four officers (rab urte). Two officers of this unit appear in CTN
III, 100,72 in a unit of a similar strength commanded by a certain Nergal-[iddina?]. Unit
5 appears in the parallel section of CTN III, 108 as well.73 The strength of the unit here,
however, is 7+[2] officers. The number of their horses in the extant and legible five
lines is as follows: 10, 9, 8, 9, 15 (total 51+x). Their number hardly reaches the size of a
cavalry or chariotry squadron. It is possible that these horses are the reserve horses of
the unit.
There is an important letter74 which lists army units arriving to Kr-A^^ur and joining the assembling Assyrian army. It distinguishes between the following three troop
types: 1. the troops of the magnates (the turtnu, [], and the rab ^aq); 2. the troops of
two generals (Taklk-ana-bli and I^manni-A^^ur), who are identified by their names rather
than their administrative titles (provincial governor); and 3. the troops of four governors
(those of Si"imm, Till, Guzana, and Isana), who are on the other hand identified by
their govermental position (governor) and not by their names. It is plausible to assume
that Taklk-ana-Bl and I^manni-A^^ur are mentioned as the commanders of two pro63. Postgate Mattila 2004, p. 251, fn. 50.
64. From Lubda and the Hamrin area (Fuchs Parpola 2001, nos. 24-27, 30, 32, 35-36, 40-45) and from
Kr-&arrukn (Fuchs Parpola 2001, nos. 83-88).
65. Mattila 2001, pp. 816-817.
66. Parpola 1981, Chart 3; Mattila 2000, pp. 91, 98, 103-104; Postgate Mattila 2004, pp. 251-253.
67. SUKKAL GAL-u. Inscription of an unpublished mace head (AO 21368). I am very much indebted to
Zoltn Niederreiter for the information, and for allowing me to cite the text. See Niederreiter 2006.
68. ABL 810 (Fuchs Parpola 2001, 27).
69. Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 99, ii, 24-26.
70. Millard 1994, 47, 123: Taklk-ana-bli L.^-kn URU.na-si-bi-na.
71. Parpola 1987, pp. 235-236, 238-239, 244, 249.
72. Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 100, Rev. iv, 1-5; iv, 2: Eriba-ili; iv, 3: Ziz.
73. Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 108, Rev. iv, 1-7.
74. CT 53, 47+ABL 1290; Parpola 1979, p. 47; Lanfranchi Parpola 1990, no. 250; Fales 2000, pp. 48-49.

104

TAMS DEZS

vincial units of the royal troops, the Assyrian home army (ki#ir ^arrti), as in the Nimrud Horse Lists, and not simply as provincial governors (if Taklk-ana-Bl around 710
BC was still the governor of Na#ibina).
There is a palace relief from Room XIV of the Khorsabad palace of Sargon II,75
which may support this interpretation. It shows a walled military camp with an inscription inside it: u^-man-nu ^ %tk-[]. The inscription probably identifies the camp as
that of Taklk-ana-Bl.76 In the camp two priests offer sacrifice in front of two military
standards (which are known from chariots). Outside the camp two scribes and a high
ranking Assyrian official (probably Taklk-ana-Bl himself) receive the procession of
captives and booty. These military camps served as bases for the Assyrian military operations in foreign lands during the campaigns. It seems that Taklk-ana-Bl led an expeditionary force into Mannea and/or Media during the 716 or 715 BC campaigns (in
his own limmu?). This scene emphasizes the importance of Taklk-ana-Bl, since it occurred only a few times that Assyrian officials were named in the royal inscriptions or
palace reliefs of Sargon II. It is known from the royal inscriptions, for example, that in
708 BC (13th pal), the governor of Que (A^^ur-^arru-u#ur) defeated Mita of Mu^ku77
and, of course, that the brother of the king, Sn-a~u-u#ur, led the cavalry bodyguard of
the king in 714 BC (8th pal).78 The mention or representation of an Assyrian official in
the royal inscriptions or on palace reliefs was obviously a kind of reward for his military
success.
Unit 6.79 The commander of Unit 6 is Adallal. He is unknown from the royal correspondence. His unit consists of four officers (rab urte). In CTN III, 100,80 however, there
are 9 names listed in his unit. These names differ completely from the four names listed
in CTN III, 99. Unit 6 appear in the parallel section of CTN III, 108 as well.81 The
strength of this unit is 5 officers. The number of their horses is as follows: [x], 10, 10,
10, 6?, altogether 59. It looks like in the case of Unit 6 the ranks of horses of the platoons(?) were filled with 10 horses.

75. Botta Flandin 1849, pl. 146: Room XIV, slab 10.
76. The inscription was identified by the name of Taklk-ana-bli by Reade 1976, pp. 98-99; Albenda
1986, p. 111; Russel 1999, p. 116.
77. Fuchs 1994, p. 171, Annals, 385.
78. Thureau-Dangin 1912, lines 132-133.
79. Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 99, Rev. iii, 1-3.
80. Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 100, Rev. iv, 6-15.
81. Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 108, Rev. iv, 10-16.

RECONSTRUCTION OF THE ASSYRIAN ARMY OF SARGON II

105

Unit 7.82 The commander of Unit 7 is Nergal-^arrni. A certain Nergal-^arrni is known


from the royal correspondence of Sargon II. He wrote letters from the north-eastern
frontier of the empire together with A^^ur-lik-pni.83 His unit consists of two officers.
CTN III, 108 in its parallel section lists two officers with altogether 14 horses.84
The fragmentary tablets of the Nimrud Horse Lists list a few further unidentified units,
which could be similarly provincial. CTN III, 110 for example mentions a unit called
@amateans (L.~a-ma-ta-a-a),85 which was probably of Syrian (@amatean) origin. This
unit may also have originated from those 200 chariotry and 600 cavalry whom Sargon II
recruited in his 1st pal from the defeated coalition forces of Ilu-bi"di.86 It must have
been a large one because it counted 9+ officers, and more than a hundred horses.
A further very important element is the appearance of a deportee unit: in CTN III,
101 there are four officers (rab urte) under the command of Iddin-A^^ur, and specified
as [ of] deportees (^aglte), which might have similarly originated from the provinces.
CTN III, 102 lists three unidentified units.87 The number of their officer and horses
is as follows: 9 officers with 148 horses, 10 officers with 156 horses, and 7(?) officers
with 102+ horses. So the officerhorse ratio is 1:15. CTN III, 107 mentions three unidentified units of relatively great strength: these units listed 11+, 17+ and 6+ officers.
The 6 officers of the last unit had 14, 21, 23, 17, and 19 horses.88 In CTN III, 100, following the section of Adallal, Inurta-n#ir commands 4 officers (rab urte?).89
Summing up this section of the army it can be said that the commanders of these
units (&arru-muranni, Nab-blu-ka""in, Taklk-ana-Bl, etc.) were probably excellent
military leaders, trusted generals of Sargon II. That is why they were appointed to the
governorship of the strategically so important eastern and north-eastern provinces of the
empire. They had already proven their military talents in their provinces, and this could
be the reason why they could hold two offices simultaneously: they were governors and
the commanders of the provincial units of an expedition force of the ki#ir ^arrti. Their
units were not necessarily recruited in their own eastern provinces (see for example the
West Semitic Unit 2 of Marduk-^arru-u#ur, or the Samarian Unit 4 of Nab-blu-

82.
83.
84.
85.
86.
87.
88.
89.

Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 99, Rev. iii, 4-5.


Lanfranchi Parpola 1990, nos. 157-159.
Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 108, Rev. iv, 17-20.
Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 110, iii, 1-13.
Fuchs 1994, p. 201, Display, 35-36.
Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 102, iv, 1-25.
Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 107, i, 16 - ii, 24.
Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 100, iv, 18-22.

106

TAMS DEZS

ka""in). It is unfortunately not known whether these provincial units were permanently
garrisoned in the eastern provinces of these governors/generals, or whether they were
placed under their command for certain military expeditions, like these Babylonian
campaigns. These units were identified by the names of their commanders (Taklk-anaBl, I^manni-A^^ur), and not as the unit of a provincial governor (see the letter discussed at Unit 5).
Section 99/III is the section of the recruitment officers of the palace chariotry (mu^arkisni ^a GI&.GIGIR .GAL [mugerri ekalli]). The names of 28 high ranking officers or
military officials, and of their 28 subordinate officers (rab urte) are listed in this part.
Their number is exactly twice the number of recruitment officers of the cavalry bodyguard.
It is quite possible that the parallel, but unfortunately fragmentary text ND 2386+
2730 mentioned above (Fig. 2) also lists 28 recruitment officers of the palace chariotry.90 They were listed in pairs, which means that they arrived from 14 provinces. Unfortunately this part of the text is too fragmentary for reconstruction. The recruitment
officers of the palace chariotry were as far as we know in charge of the supply of horses,
and of the recruitment of soldiers for their unit, as well as of its logistics.91
CTN III, 100 lists three mu^arkisni,92 who are known from Section III of CTN III,
99. In CTN III, 101 there is a section which lists four mu^arkisni, three of whom93 also
appear in Section III of CTN III, 99, and also in the parallel sections of CTN III, 103
and 108 (see below).
CTN III, 103 and 108 two very important texts contain a long section of mu^arkisni. However, two types of recruitment officers appear in the parallel sections of
these texts. CTN III, 103 lists 22 recruitment officers of the palace chariotry,94 from
whom 18 are listed in CTN III, 99 as well, so the unit is virtually the same. The text tells
us explicitely that they are mu^arkisni ^a GI&.GIGIR .GAL. They got 373 horses, more
than 20 each. CTN III, 108 also has a long list of mu^arkisni ^a GI&.GIGIR .GAL.95 This
list contains approximately 25 names. These 25 mu^arkisni altogether have 200 horses.
The tablet is unfortunately very fragmentary, but the last 7 names (even their order) are
exactly identical to the last names of the parallal section of CTN III, 99, so these three
units are virtually the same.
90.
91.
92.
93.
94.
95.

Parker 1961, ND 2386+2730, Obv.


Dalley Postgate 1984, pp. 28-32.
Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 100, ii, 6-13: &ama^-ilya; ii, 14-17: Nab-^umu-u#ur; iii, 5-7: Bbilya.
Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 101, iv, 2: Salmu-a~~ti; 3: Ubru-@arrn; 4: A^^ur-n#ir.
Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 103, Rev. i-ii, 6.
Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 108, Rev. v, 12-37.

RECONSTRUCTION OF THE ASSYRIAN ARMY OF SARGON II

107

Another type of mu^arkisni are the recruitment officers of the chariotry bodyguard (mu^arkisni ^a GI&.GIGIR [mugerri] qurubte). This unit is attested from CTN III,
103 and 108 and is completely missing from CTN III, 99. Unfortunately the unit itself
cannot be reconstructed at all, because the obverse of tablet CTN III, 103 is completely
missing, and only a single, but very important line, partly written round on to the right
edge of the tablet, can be deciphered: L.mu-^ar-kis.ME& GI&.GIGIR qur-ub-te. The identification of this section of CTN III, 10896 with the mu^arkisni ^a GI&.GIGIR qurubte is
questionable. This section of this very fragmentary text, however, ends with the line [x]
qur-ub-t (from mu^arkisni ^a GI&.GIGIR qurubte?), and is followed by the section of
mu^arkisni ^a GI&.GIGIR .GAL. This section makes room for 23-25 names as the next
section of the same text did for the mu^arkisni ^a GI&.GIGIR .GAL mentioned above.
Furthermore not a single name remained intact on the list, so it is impossible to identify
similarities between the lists of the two types of mu^arkisni. It seems to the present
author that this unit differed in its composition totally from the other unit of mu^arkisni.
There is a further, very interesting text, ADD 855, which lists 19 mu^arkisni.97 Six
of these 19 recruitment officers (the 2nd-6th, and the 8th in the list98) appear in the mu^arkisni ^a GI&.GIGIR .GAL section of CTN III, 99 in a group (not in the same order, but
obviously together). Furthermore two other names (the 10th and the 11th names99 of the
ADD 855 list) appear in another administrative text, ND 2788,100 which lists horses
assigned to officers and/or collected by them as i^kru and nmurtu tax. It seems that
these recruitment officers served in certain (neighbouring?) territories and were summoned for service.101 These coincidences emphasize the territorial character of the logistics and reserves of the Assyrian army.
It seems to the present author that the mu^arkisni ^a GI&.GIGIR .GAL were the recruitment officers of the regular chariotry unit of the royal contingent (ki#ir ^arrti) of
the Assyrian army. It is not clear, however, whether they were the recruitment officers
of all the chariotry units of the ki#ir ^arrti (the provincial units of Section II and the so-

96. Dalley Postgate 1984, p. 213, no. 108, Rev. iv, 24 - v, 11


97. Dalley Postgate 1984, pp. 43-45, Obv. 11-Rev. 31; Fales Postgate 1995, p. 126.
98. Dalley Postgate 1984, p. 44, ADD 855, Obv. 12: Babilyu; 13: A^^ur-rmnn; 14: Bisuni; 15:
&almu-a~~ti; 16: Babilyu; Rev. 19: Bl-apkal-ilni.
99. Dalley Postgate 1984, p. 44, ADD 855, Obv. 21: @andasnu; 22: Marduk-eriba.
100. Parker 1961, ND 2788, 4, 13.
101. See for example the Aramaic tablets discussed by Dalley and Postgate (Dalley Postgate 1984, p.
46).

108

TAMS DEZS

called city units as well) or whether they were the recruitment officers of a third
chariotry unit of the ki#ir ^arrti, the palace chariotry. The mu^arkisni ^a GI&.GIGIR qurubte, however, were the recruitment officers of the chariotry bodyguard, which unit is
otherwise unknown from other sources.
ND 2386+2730 lists a third section of mu^arkisni, the recruitment officers of the
deportees (L.mu-^ar-kis.ME& ^a L.^ag-lu-te).102 It is interesting that this unit has 4 (or
5?) officers, similarly to the previous section of ND 2386+2730, the section of stable
officers (^aknte ^a ma"assi). A deportee unit is known from the Nimrud Horse Lists as
well. CTN III, 101 and 102 for example mention a rab ^aglte (officer of deportees),103
which means that at least one deportee unit was integrated into the royal army. There
were no officers, only a certain number of horses assigned to them. The section in
which they appear was a kind of headquarters staff (see below).
Section 99/IV. The fourth section of this text is the section of stable officers (^aknte
^a ma"assi). Much to our regret their exact task is unknown. Their title, stable officers, and their appearance in the horse lists mean that they may have been responsible
for the supply and provision of horses. It seems that their number is usually four, and
they are never attached to particular units. It seems that they served the royal army as a
whole.
CTN III, 99 lists four ^aknte ^a ma"assi with their subordinate officers, who were
probably team commanders (rab urte).
&ama^-taklk, the first of them, commanded 6 officers.104 It is known that he wrote
letters to Sargon II, one of which is very important for the understanding of his position
as a provincial governor and/or a ^aknu ^a ma"assi.105 Sargon II gave him orders to list
the number of horses (at his disposal). He probably replied that the horses were recorded by the recruitment officers of his country. The tablet is unfortunately broken, but we
can learn that some of the horses are at the disposal of the prefects of the recruitment
officers ([L].^ak-ni-^-nu ^a L.mu-^r-kis.ME&) and of the scribe. From the Nimrud
Horse Lists it became obvious that in the central horse management of the Assyrian
army, the recruitment officers (mu^arkisu), their prefect (^aknu ^a mu^arkisni) and the
stable officer (^aknu ^a ma"assi) played a key role. &ama^-taklk is known from the
stable officers section of CTN III, 103 as well,106 where he is in charge of 36 horses.

102.
103.
104.
105.
106.

Parker 1961, ND 2386+2730, Rev. 8-15.


Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 101, i, 6; no. 102, iii, 23.
Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 99, iv, 9-12.
Fuchs Parpola 2001, p. 294.
Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 103, ii, 7.

RECONSTRUCTION OF THE ASSYRIAN ARMY OF SARGON II

109

&arru-muranni, the second ^aknu ^a ma"assi, commanded 7 officers.107 This &arrumuranni is probably not the same man as the commander of provincial Unit 1. He appears in the stable officers section of CTN III 101 as well, where he commands 5 rab
urte.108
&p-A^^ur, the third ^aknu ^a ma"assi, commanded 10 officers.109 He is probably
the man who was governor of Dr-&arrukn, and later became the governor of Simirra.110 He appears in the parallel section of CTN III, 108A as well.111
A^^ur-^arru-u#ur, the fourth ^aknu ^a ma"assi, commanded 5 officers.112 There are
probably more Assyrian officials of that name known from the reign of Sargon II.113
The most important of them was the governor of Que, who fought against Midas (Mita
of Mu^ku).114 As has been shown, the most important Assyrian officials/generals were
called up for service in the ranks of the expeditionary army, officers of which are listed
in CTN III, 99. So there is a good chance that A^^ur-^arru-u#ur, the ^aknu ^a ma"assi,
was identical with the governor of Que. However, as Dalley and Postgate have noted,
A^^ur-^arru-u#ur was at the same time (710 BC, the reconstructed date of this list) active in Que.115 A^^ur-^arru-u#ur ^aknu ^a ma"assi appears in the Nimrud Horse Lists
several times,116 and one or two A^^ur-^arru-u#urs are mentioned in other capacities as
well.117
Those texts of the Nimrud Horse Lists which contain a ^aknte ^a ma"assi section
list further names holding this title.

107.
108.
109.
110.
111.
112.
113.
114.
115.
116.
117.

Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 99, iv, 13-16.


Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 101, iii, 1-3.
Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 99, iv, 17-22.
Parpola 1987, pp. 124, 126; Saggs 2001, ND 2648 (NL 74).
Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 108A, Rev. i, 2.
Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 99, iv, 23-26.
For the best summary see Frahm Radner 1998, which distinguishes at least 5 officials/officers of
that name from the reign of Sargon II.
Fuchs 1994, p. 171, Annals, 385. See Parpola 1987, pp. 1, 4, 251.
Dalley Postgate 1984, p. 176.
Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 102, i, 6; no. 103, ii, 10; no. 108A, i, 3-12.
As the commander of a number of rab urte: Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 100, Rev. iii, 1-2; as the
commander of 4 officers: Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 101, ii, 2-6. Here the name appears out of the
^aknte ^a ma"assi section. Furthermore, the same text mentions a further A^^ur-[x]-u#ur (i, 1),
who was the ^aknu official of the left [or 150] (for) horses (for) chariotry (and) cavalry (Dalley
Postgate 1984, p. 185). A fragmentary line of the same text (ii, 11) mentions a third A^^ur-^arru[x], who was a cavalryman.

110

TAMS DEZS

Mannu-k-Nnua is a ^aknu ^a ma"assi commanding 5 rab urte officers in CTN III,


Probably he is the same person who was governor of Kr-&arrukn after Nabblu-ka""in.119 With great probability he appears in two other Nimrud Horse Lists texts
as the commander of the ^a ^pi guard.120
Inurta-^arru-ibni commanded 4 rab urte officers in CTN III, 101,121 in the same
army as Mannu-k-Nnua.
Dai#u is another ^aknu ^a ma"assi from the previous group of CTN III, 103.122
Dalley and Postgate supposed that he is Daissnu, the Aramaean sheikh of La~iru,123
who submitted to Sargon II on his 12th campaign in 710 BC.124 Furthermore, they supposed that one of the Assyrian city units (Armya) was organized from the Aramaean
people loyal to the Assyrians and was based in La~iru. If so, and if Daissnu is identical
with Dai#u, the four ^aknte ^a ma"assi were responsible for four city units: A^^ur, Arrap~a, the Aramaeans, and Arbil.
Nergal-^arru-u#ur is one of the four ^aknte ^a ma"assi of CTN III, 103.125 He appears in ND 2386+2730 as a ^aknu ^a pt~al(?) ma"assi in/from the Bar~alzi province.126 It is possible that he is the same person who is known from three other texts of
the Nimrud Horse Lists as a recruitment officer of the cavalry bodyguard (mu^arkisu ^a
pt~al qurubte).127
Marduk-blu-u#ur is the second ^aknu ^a ma"assi of ND 2386+2730.128 He is responsible for Rasappa.129
o[x-x]_u#ur is the third ^aknu ^a ma"assi of ND 2386+2730.130 He is responsible
for Zamua.
101.118

118. Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 101, iii, 4-9. For further details see Baker 2001.
119. Fuchs Parpola 2001, pp. 90-107.
120. In Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 107, i, 1-15, he commanded 10+ officers and 104 horses, while in
Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 108A, i, 1-15, probably he commanded 9+ officers.
121. Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 101, iii, 10-14.
122. Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 103, Rev. ii, 9.
123. Dalley Postgate 1984, p. 36.
124. Fuchs 1994, p. 151, Annals, 298.
125. Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 103, Rev. ii, 8.
126. Parker 1961, ND 2386+2730, Obv. II, 17-18.
127. Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 99, i, 6; no. 108, ii, 29; no. 100, Rev. iii, 3-4, where he commanded
[x] soldiers.
128. Parker 1961, ND 2386+2730, Obv. II, 19-20.
129. The most famous Marduk-blu-u#ur was the eponym of 726 BC; there is no evidence, however,
which would confirm that these two persons were the same.
130. Parker 1961, ND 2386+2730, Rev. I, 1-3.

111

RECONSTRUCTION OF THE ASSYRIAN ARMY OF SARGON II

Bl-dri is the fourth ^aknu ^a ma"assi of ND 2386+2730. He is responsible for


@abrri.131 There are several persons of this name known from the reign of Sargon II.
The most famous is obviously the governor of Damascus who wrote several letters to
the king and was mentioned in several letters too.132 Another Bl-dri is known from
the Nimrud Horse Lists, where he is a mu^arkisu ^a pt~al qurubte commanding rab
urte.133 It is possible that he was the same person as our ^aknu ^a ma"assi.
A very important feature of the ^aknte ^a ma"assi section is that their number is always four, and the number of officers under their command is 14 or 28. This feature of
the Nimrud Horse Lists had been reinforced by a further administrative text, ND 2386+
2730 as well.134 This text gives not only the names of the ^aknte ^a ma"assi, but lists
four territories for which they were responsible, or where their horses were recruited
from: Bar~alzi, Ra#appa, Zamua, and @abrri.
The following chart shows the number of ^aknte ^a ma"assi and their subordinate
officers:
^aknte ^a ma"assi

officers
(rab urte)

CTN III, 99, Rev. iv, 9-26

28

CTN III, 101, iii, 1-14

14

CTN III, 103, Rev. ii, 7-13

CTN III, 108, v, 38

[x]

CTN III, 108A, Rev. i, 2-12

2+

7+

ND 2386+2730, Obv. ii, 17 - Rev. i, 1-7

CTN III, 102, 108, 111


Further information on the army of Sargon II can be obtained from three other texts of
the Nimrud Horse Lists. Texts CTN III, 102, 108, 111 (see Figs. 3-4) supply us with
additional data on other cavalry and chariotry units of the army. At least three new sections can be reconstructed from these texts. The first section is a kind of headquarters
staff; the second, more important one, is the section of the five Assyrian city units; the
third is another headquarters staff section headed by the chief eunuch.

131.
132.
133.
134.

Parker 1961, ND 2386+2730, Obv. I, 4-5.


Parpola 1987, nos. 171-172 were written by him; he is mentioned in Parpola 1987, nos. 3, 233, 240.
Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 99, i, 17; no.100, iii, 11-13; no. 108, ii, 42-43.
Parker 1961, ND 2386+2730, Obv. II, 17-20 - Rev. I, 1-7. Rev. I, 6-7: naphar 4 L.^ak-nu-te ^a
ma-"a-as-si

112

TAMS DEZS

CTN III, 108


(ND 9910 + 9911 (+) 9915, IM 75895 + IM 75900)
unit / title
Obv. I, 7
I, 8
I, 10
I, 11
I, 12
I, 13-18

commander

officers
rab ki#ri / rab urte

qurbte imitti (a qurbte right)


qurbte a umli (a qurbte left)
L.3.U5 dannu (chief third man)
L.3.U5 aniu (deputy third man)
GI.ta~lp (ta~lpu charioteers)
Unidentified unit

I, 19-45
[26 lines]
II, 1-8
II, 9-16
II, 17-24

city units
[Aurya]
Arrap~ya
Armya
Arbailya

II, 25
II, 26

L.EN GI.GIGIR.ME

II, 27-47

pt~al qurubtu (muarkisni a p. q.)

II, 48-IV, 23
II, 48-III, 13
III, 14-24
III, 25-32
III, 33-41
Rev. IV, 1-7
IV, 10-16
IV, 17-20

L.GAL.SAG

6+x
(rab ki#ri)
[x]
7(+ 2-3)
7
7

(chariot owners)
(rab a-r)

provincial units
provincial unit 1
West-Semitic?
Kaldaya
[URU.Samirni]
provincial unit 5
provincial unit 6
provincial unit 7

arru-muranni
Marduk-arru-u#ur

[Taklak-ana-Bl]
[Adallal]
Nergal-arrni

IV, 24-V, 11
V, 12-37

[muarkisni a GI.GIGIR] qurubte


[muarkisni a GI.GIGIR .GAL]

V, 38-[

[aknte a ma"assi

[1+x]

11+2?
(rabti)
7+(3)
10
7
9+(2-3)
7+(2)
5
2
23-25?
25?
6+x

Fig. 3. The structure of CTN III, 108.

Section 102-108-111/I. The section of the headquarters staff. This section precedes
the so-called city units and forms the first element of the Assyrian armies of Sargon II.
It is interesting that the officers of this section can clearly be arranged into the following
groups of service:

RECONSTRUCTION OF THE ASSYRIAN ARMY OF SARGON II

113

CTN III, 111


(ND 10079)
unit/title
[]
Obv. 1
2
3
5

officers

L.GAL.SAG

(chief eunuchs contingent?)


(chariot type?)
GR.2 (a p) (chariot type?)
L.EN GI.GIGIR.ME (chariot owners)

GAB.ME

6-Rev. 19
6-21
22-34
R. 1-9
10-18
19-

city units
Auraya
Arraphaya
[Armaya]
[Arzuhinaya?]
[Arbailaya?]

(rab ki#ri)
13
10
7
7
[x]

[]

Fig. 4. The structure of CTN III, 111.


Bodyguard element: ^a qurbte imitti (rigth wing bodyguard); ^a qurbte ^a ^umli
(left wing bodyguard); ^a ^pi guard. Unfortunately the discussion of such important
Assyrian bodyguard elements, like ^a qurbte and ^a ^pi goes far beyond the limits of
this article, and forms the subject of further study of the present author. It has to be emphasized, however, that CTN III, 108 lists both ^a qurbte (right and left wing)135 and
pt~al qurubte (mu^arkisni ^a pt~al qurubte),136 which makes a clear distinction between the two units. The pt~al qurubte was a regular cavalry bodyguard unit consisting
of probably 1000 cavalrymen. In contradiction to this, the ^a qurbte137 were high ranking officials of the royal entourage who were in some cases omnipotent commissaries/
representatives of the king. There are several types of ^a qurbte known from the cuneiform sources.138 As it can be deduced from this text, however, similarly to the
qurubtu, they could form army units, which formed two wings (a left and a right) on the
135. Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 108, Obv. i, 7-8.
136. Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 108, Obv. ii, 27-47.
137. Postgate 1974, pp. 194, 225-226; Malbran-Labat 1982, pp. 52-53, 141-145, 269; Dalley Postgate
1984, pp. 33-34 (where there was no clear distinction made between ^a qurbte and pt~al/GI&.
GIGIR qurubte).
138. There are more than 20 different types/contexts of ^a qurbte known from the cuneiform texts of
the Sargonid period.

114

TAMS DEZS

sides of the king in the battle order. It is known that there were ^a qurbte who served
as cavalry139 and there were who served as chariotry.140 It is possible that they were a
kind of tairoi cavalry and chariotry.
The ^a qurbte imitti (right wing bodyguard) and the qurbte ^a ^umli (left wing
bodyguard) appear only in CTN III, 108, in a broken context.141 Since these senior officers appear in the introductory section of the text, it seems, that in accordance with
the theory of their character discussed above they formed a kind of headquarters
staff, a royal entourage, and not regular units.
The question of the ^a ^pi guard is as difficult as the ^a qurbte. There are several
types of ^a ^pi known from the cuneiform sources.142 They were obviously not foot
soldiers, as the word would imply. And indeed, their appearance in Nimrud Horse Lists
proves the opposite. As can be deduced from other cuneiform texts, they could serve as
cavalry143 and chariotry144 as well, and there were even ^a qurbte officers who served
the ^a ^pi guard.145
Altogether five texts of the Nimrud Horse List corpus mention ^a ^pi. The beginning of CTN III, 101 lists 2 ^a ^pi officers in a headquarters staff section.146 Another
fragmentary context in CTN III, 102 also mentions [x] ^a ^pi officers,147 while in CTN
III, 111 the ^a ^pi have 26 horses.148 On this tablet the ^a ^pi is listed under the heading of the chief eunuchs (L.GAL.SAG) contingents together with other members of the

139. [BAD].HAL(pt~alli) ^a L.qur-bu-te (ADD 1036, R. I, 10, Fales Postgate 1995, no. 36).
140. L.GI&.GIGIR qur-bu-[ti] (ADD 455, R. 7, Kwasman Parpola 1991, no. 112); L.GI&.GIGIR qur-bu-te
URU.&i-^il-a-a (Iraq 32, 7, 9, Mattila 2002, p. 397); EN.GI&.GIGIR qur-bu-ti (Kinnier Wilson 1972, p.
19, 15). There are two other uncertain entries of chariotry which could belong to the qurubtu section as well: A.SIG ^a qur-rub (Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 119, 10); L.3-^ q[ur-bu] (ADD 860,
Rev. I, 10, Fales Postgate 1992, no. 9).
141. Dalley Postgate 1984, Obv. i, 7-8.
142. There are at least 14 different types/contexts of ^a ^p in the cuneiform texts of the Sargonid
period.
143. BAD.HAL(pt~alli) GR.2(^p) (ADD 1036, R. I, 5-6, Fales Postgate 1995, no. 36), where it
appears together with pt~alli ^a L.qur-bu-te.
144. L.GI&.GIGIR ^a ^p (GR.2) (ADD 612, Rev. 13, Kwasman Parpola 1991, no. 164); [L.GAL(rab)
50.ME&] ^a 3-^ ^a-^p (GR.2) (ADD 1083, Rev. II, 6, Fales Postgate 1992, no. 148); EN.GI&.
GIGIR (bl mugerri) ^a GR.2?(R.KUR), Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 136, Rev. 3-4.
145. Qurbtu (qur-ZAG) ^p (GR.2) GI&.GIGIR (of the chariotry): ADD 971, Rev. I, 4, Fales Postgate
1992, no. 152; qurbtu (qur-ZAG) ^p (GR.2) DU8.ME& (of the open chariotry): ADD 971, Rev. I, 5,
Fales Postgate 1992, no. 152). For the different types of chariotry see Postgate 1990.
146. Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 101, i, 7-8a: Birtya and Iba^^i-ili.
147. Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 102, i, 11.
148. Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 111, 3.

RECONSTRUCTION OF THE ASSYRIAN ARMY OF SARGON II

115

headquarters staff (pattte charioteers and chariot owners, see below). CTN III, 107,
however, probably lists a complete unit of 10+ ^a ^pi officers under the command of
Mannu-k-Nnua and A^^ur-^arrni.149 The former is perhaps identical to the ^aknu ^a
ma"assi of CTN III, 101 discussed above. His unit has 68 horses, but the summary section directly following his name states that 104 horses were assigned to the ^a ^pi
guard, which means that this unit was at least the size of a squadron. CTN III, 108A
listed 9+ ^a ^pi officers150 who were probably rab urte. Since three of them were
identical with three officers of CN III, 107, it can be assumed that this tablet listed the
officers of the same unit. It is possible that both of them were under the command of
Mannu-k-Nnua. It seems that the officers of the ^a ^pi guard ordered to join this expeditionary army formed a substantial unit during these campaigns.
Chariotry element: ta^l^u dannu (chief third man); ta^l^u ^aniu (deputy third
man); GI&.ta~lip (^a ta~lpi charioteers); DU8.ME& (^a pattte charioteers); and L.EN_
GI&.GIGIR (bl mugerri, chariot owner). Unfortunately the discussion of such important
elements of the Assyrian army as the chariot crew goes far beyond the limits of this
article and forms the subject of further study of the present author.
It is interesting that from the chariot crew only the third men (ta^l^u dannu,
chief third man and ta^l^u ^aniu, deputy third man]) appear in the Nimrud Horse
Lists. The two other members, the mukil appte (chariot driver)151 and the mar"u
damqu (chariot warrior)152 are missing. It is known from the cuneiform sources that
the ta^l^u,153 who was originally the shield-bearing third man on the chariot,154 was a
confident of his lord. He escorted envoys and important men,155 and brought news to
his lord.156 A more important detail, however, is that the texts count the members of the

149. Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 107, i, 1-15.


150. Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 108A, Obv. i:6, 7-15.
151. L.DIB KU&.PA.ME& or L.mu-kil KU&.PA.ME& (mukil appte): there are more than 20 different types of
mukil appte known from the cuneiform texts, since almost all the high officials had their own
chariot driver.
152. L.A/DUMU.SIG/SIG5 (mru damqu): there are at least 13 different types of mru damqu known from
the cuneiform texts. However, sometimes the L.EN_GI&.GIGIR (bl mugerri, chariot owner) and
L.GI&.GIGIR (horse trainer, groom, charioteer) expressions are translated as chariot fighter
as well.
153. L.3-^ or L.3.U5 (ta^l^u): at least 30 different types of ta^l^u are known from the cuneiform texts.
154. L.3-^ ^a GI&.a-rit (K.19520, Rev. 1, Fuchs Parpola 2001, no. 390).
155. Parpola 1987, no. 235; Lanfranchi Parpola 1990, no. 217.
156. Parpola 1987, no. 47.

116

TAMS DEZS

chariot crew separately, in separate units157 (see below). It seems that there were separate hierarchies within the troops of chariot crews: the ta^l^ni for example (only?) had
rab ~an^ (L.GAL_50) officers, who commanded 50 of them.158 It is possible that the
chief third man and the deputy third man were the third men of the royal chariot belonging to the king's entourage, and/or were the commanders of the third men hierarchy. CTN III, 108 and 110 mention them in the same order,159 preceding the ta~lpu
charioteer. They do not have subordinate officers, only an unknown number of horses.
Three terms designating chariot troops appear in this textgroup: GR.2 (^a ^pi),
GI&.ta~-lp (^a ta~lpi), and DU8.ME& (^a pattte). Earlier it was thought that these are
chariot types,160 but later it became clear that these terms designate chariot troops.161
Unfortunately, the chariot representations of the palace reliefs of Sargon II support
neither the idea of three different chariot types, nor the different troop types of the chariotry.
The chariot owners (L.EN_GI&.GIGIR, bl mugerri) are a category whose meaning is
unknown. The meaning of the word, lord of chariot, chariot owner does not allow
us to draw any further conclusions. The translations of the word ranged from the simple
chariot fighter through noble to chariot owner. The latter two could mean that
they were nobles who fought with their own chariots (chariot owners). In this case they
were not regular soldiers and did not form regular units. Several variants of the bl mugerri are known mainly from the 8th century.162 They could have been organized on a
territorial basis163 and were probably associated with the recruitment officers (mu^arkisni) as well.164 As CTN III, 108165 and 111166 show, the chariot owners were assigned
157. The famous NL 89 (Lanfranchi Parpola 1990, no. 215; Postgate 2000; Fales 2000, pp. 40-43; Saggs
2001, pp. 128-130), for example, sums up 11 chariot drivers, 12 third men, and 30/10 chariot fighters/nobles in Mazamua. A further administrative text lists not less than 1,669 cavalrymen, 577+
chariot drivers and 1,164? third men from various provinces (Parker 1961, ND 2619).
158. GAL.50.ME& ^a ta^li^u GR.2 (^a ^pi) (ADD 1083, Rev. II, 5, Fales Postgate 1992, no. 148);
KUR.A&(Assyrian) GAL.50.ME& ^a ta^li^u (ADD 1125, Rev. II, 8, Fales Postgate 1992, no. 149);
GAL.50.ME& 3-^.ME[& ] (ADD 838+ Rev. II, 6, Fales Postgate 1992, no. 157).
159. Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 108, i, 10-12; 110, i, 4-6.
160. Dalley Postgate 1984, pp. 34-35.
161. Postgate 1990.
162. EN.GI&.GIGIR.ME& L.R .GAL (Kinnier Wilson 1972, no. 3, I:25); EN.GI&.GIGIR.ME& R.KUR (Kinnier
Wilson 1972, no. 10, R. 3); EN.GI&.GIGIR ^a GR.2? R.KUR (Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 136, R. 3-4);
EN.GI&.GIGIR.ME& ^a zi-iq-ni (Kinnier Wilson 1972, no. 3, I, 27); EN.GI&.GIGIR.ME& qur-bu-ti (Kinnier
Wilson 1972, no. 6, 12).
163. L.EN_GI&.GIGIR.ME& KUR.qu--a-a (Parpola 1979, no. 40, 4-5).
164. [L.mu-^ar-k]i-su EN GI&.GIGIR (Kinnier Wilson 1972, no. 10, 13).
165. Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 108, Obv. ii, 25.

RECONSTRUCTION OF THE ASSYRIAN ARMY OF SARGON II

117

to the chief eunuchs (rab ^a r^i) contingent. In CTN III, 108 they do not have subordinate officers, only an unknown number of horses, while in CTN III, 111 they command
24 horses, 14 of which stayed at home while 10 went on the campaign(?).
Section 102-108-111/2. The second section consists of the so called five city units. The
five city units were named after major provincial centers of the Assyrian heartland
(A^^ur or the land of A^^ur, Arrap~a, Arzu~ina and Arbela), with a single exception, Armya, which hints to the possible Aramaic origin of this unit. It seems obvious too that
these units were based in these cities of the empire.
A^^urya. The first city unit is the A^^urya. As Fig. 5 shows, this unit was the
largest of the city units: it appears in two texts with 5+[10]167 and 13168 officers. Unfortunately the third text listing the city units (CTN III, 108) is fragmentary and this section
of the text is missing. The main problem of these units is that they are otherwise
unknown from other Assyrian sources. When NL 89 mentions A^^urya,169 it probably
means Assyrians and not the A^^urya unit of the ki#ir ^arrti. As CTN III, 111
shows, the strength of the unit can be expressed in terms of horses. In this text, the
A^^urya had altogether 162 horses, from which they took out 137. It means some 10+
horses per each officer, and a strength of more than a squadron for the unit.
Arrap~ya. The second city unit is the Arrap~ya. It appears in the Nimrud Horse
Lists with 10,170 7+[2-3],171 and 10172 officers. There are further fragmentary texts
listing the officers of this unit. CTN III, 101 lists three officers, from which two officers
would have been identical with the officers listed in the Arrap~ya unit of CTN III,
108.173 CTN III, 112 mentions a unit of 10 officers, from which two are identical with
the officers listed in the Arrap~ya unit of CTN III, 108.174 The reverse of CTN III, 113
lists 10(+1?) officers, from which one is identical with an officer of the Arrap~ya units
of CTN III, 102 and 108.175 The same officer appears in CTN III, 114, in a unit consist-

166.
167.
168.
169.
170.
171.
172.
173.
174.
175.

Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 111, Obv. 5.


Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 102, ii, 1-7.
Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 111, Obv. 6-21.
NL 89, 21 (Lanfranchi Parpola 1990, no. 215; Postgate 2000; Fales 2000, pp. 40-43; Saggs 2001,
pp. 128-130): 630 Assyrians in contrast with the 360 Gurreans and 440 Itu"eans.
Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 102, ii, 8-19.
Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 108, Obv. ii, 1-8.
Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 111, Obv. 22-34.
Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 101, iv, 7-10: A~ua-eriba and Tabni-[].
Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 112, Obv. 2 and 5: Adad-k^ir and Mannu-ki-[Adad].
Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 113, Rev. 5: Mannu-ki-Adad.

no. 99

no. 108 (+ 108A)

no. 102

no. 111

qurbte imitti (a qurbte right)


qurbte a umli (a qurbte left)
[DU8].ME (pattte chariot?)
GR.2 (a p)

rab bti officers? (aknu a ma"assi)

chief eunuchs contingent?

DU8.ME (pattte
GR.2 (a p)

GR.2

chariot?)

taliu dannu (chief third man)


taliu aniu (deputy third man)
GI.ta~lip
(ta~lpu charioteers)
city units
[Aurya]
Arrap~ya
Armya

x
7
7

Arbailya

bl mugerri (chariot owners)


rab a ri (chief eunuch)
muarkisni
pt~al qurubte

14?

[]

provincial units
arru-muranni
Marduk-arru-u#ur
Kaldya
Nab-blu-ka""in (Samarians)
Taklk-ana-Bl
Adallal
Nergal-arrni

10
10
7
13
4
4
2

provincial units
arru-muranni
Marduk-arru-u#ur
Kaldya
[URU.Samirni]
[Taklk-ana-Bl]
[Adallal]
Nergal-arrni

7+x
10
7
8+x
7
5
2

muarkisni
a GI.GIGIR qurubte
a GI.GIGIR .GAL

muarkisni
[a GI.GIGIR] qurubte
a GI.GIGIR .GAL
aknte a ma"assi
ama-taklk
arru-muranni
p-Aur
Aur-arru-u#ur

bl mugerri (chariot owners)

city units
Aurya
Arrap~ya
Armya
Arzu~inya
Arbailya

5+(10?)
10
7
10+x
7

city units
Aurya
Arrap~ya
[Armya]
[Arzu~inya?]
[Arbailya?]

muarkisni?
pt~al qurubte?

5+x

unidentified (provincial?) units


[]
9
[]
10
[]
7?
[]

muarkisni
25?
28

[a GI.GIGIR .GAL]

25

6
7
10
5

[aknte a ma"assi]
[]
[]
p-Aur
Aur-arru-u#ur

Fig. 5. The stucture of texts CTN III, 99, 102, 103, 108, 111 and the reconstruction of Assyrian army units.

13
10
7
7
[x]

TAMS DEZS

14

22

(a p)

rab bti (major domo) officers


rab aglte (officer of deportees)
rab a ri (chief eunuch)

muarkisni
pt~al qurubte

aknte a ma"assi
ama-taklk
Nergal-arru-u#ur
Daissu
Aur-arru-u#ur

118

no. 103

RECONSTRUCTION OF THE ASSYRIAN ARMY OF SARGON II

119

ing of 4+ officers.176 The units of CTN III, 112-114 are practically the same. These
three texts are small tablets, listing two units: presumably the Arrap~ya on the obverse
and the kallapni on the reverse. It seems that this type of tablet was a kind of auxiliary
tablet listing only separate units and not the whole army or larger divisions. These
tablets might have been local musters of one or two units. A further text mentions an
officer177 who is probably known from CTN III, 102.178 This officer, however, is not a
rab ki#ri, as usual in case of the city units, but a L.GI&.GIGIR ^a URU.til_-li-na (chariot
man/horse trainer of the town of Til-Ulina), which, with several other pieces of
evidence, proves the territorial basis of the Assyrian army. It seems that the relative
strength of the Arrap~ya unit was 10 officers, or this unit usually sent a contingent of
10 officers to the army.
The Arrap~ya unit has 53 (CTN III, 102, ii, 8-19), 19 (CTN III, 108, ii, 1-8), 62
(CTN III, 111, Rev. 22-34), and 53+ (CTN III, 113, Rev. 1-11) horses. It seems that
10 officers have 50-60 horses, less than a cavalry squadron or around 25-30 chariots. It
must be emphasized, however, that nothing proves that these numbers represented the
real power of these units.
Armya. The third unit, the Armya, was probably of Aramean origin. Dalley and
Postgate tentatively suggested that La~iru conquered by Tiglath-Pileser III (745-727
BC) might have been the basis of this unit. As has been mentioned, Dalley and Postgate supposed that Dai#u, the ^aknu ^a ma"assi of CTN III, 103 (see above), is identical
with Dai##nu, the Aramean sheikh of La~iru179 who submitted to Sargon II on his
twelfth campaign in 710 BC.180 Furthermore, they supposed that this Assyrian city unit,
the Armya, was organized from those Aramean people who were loyal to the Assyrians, and that this unit was based in La~iru. It seems that this unit had a standard size of
7 officers, since the Nimrud Horse Lists always feature 7 of its officers.181 For the remaining units of this section this size became the standard strength. CTN III, 101 lists
13 officers (rab urte) of the chief eunuch (L.GAL.SAG), three of whom are known as
rab ki#ri officers of the Armya unit,182 and a further three as rab ki#ri officers of the
Arbailya unit183 (see below).

176.
177.
178.
179.
180.
181.
182.
183.

Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 114, Obv. 1: [Mannu]-ki-A[dad].


Schroeder 1920, 31, Rev. 17-19: Ili-kabar.
Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 102, ii, 9: [Ili]-kabar.
Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 36.
Fuchs 1994, p. 151, Annals, 298.
Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 102, ii, 20-28; no. 108, ii, 9-16; no. 111, Rev. 1-9.
Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 101, ii, 13: Qurdi-ilni; ii, 17: Akkadya; ii, 19: Aplya.
Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 101, ii, 24: Ubru-a~~; ii, 25: Qurdi-Issar-lamur; ii, 26: [Nan]n.

120

TAMS DEZS

Arzu~inya. The fourth unit is the Arzu~inya, which appears two times in the
Nimrud Horse Lists. In CTN III, 102 it has 10+(1) officers,184 in CTN III, 111 it has
7.185 It is interesting that this unit is missing from the list of city units in CTN III,
108.186 In CTN III, 110 there is an unidentified unit which precedes the Arbailya in the
order, so it is possible that the 4+ officers listed here are the officers of the Arzu~inya
unit.187 These 4+ officers had 72 horses, while the 10+(1) officers of CTN III, 102 had
45 horses (half a squadron or 20 chariots) and the 7 officers of CTN III, 111 had 42+
horses.
Arbailya. The fifth unit is the Arbailya, which appears four times in the Nimrud
Horse Lists and always has 7 officers.188 It seems that 7 officers were a standard unit
size. As has been mentioned, CTN III, 101 lists 13 officers of the chief eunuch (L.GAL.
SAG), three of whom are known as officers of the Armya unit and a further three are
known as officers of the Arbailya unit. A high proportion of the names of the officers
of this unit is compounded with the name of Issr, the citys patron goddess (3 names
from the 7),189 which is not surprising in case of a unit which was based in Arbail, and
was formed probably from local people. Presumably Issr was the patron deity of this
unit as well as of the individual soldiers. A fragment from the front of an iron helmet
shows the goddess standing on the back of her lion.190 It is possible that this helmet
belonged to one of the soldiers of the Arbailya unit.
In addition to the bodyguard units, especially the cavalry bodyguard mentioned
above, the city units were probably the elite troops, the hard core of the Asssyrian army.
These city units were commanded by the chief eunuch (rab ^a-r^i), who may have
been the commander of the Assyrian home army. Their officers were cohort commanders (rab ki#ri). Their number changes from unit to unit. As can be seen, the strongest of
them was perhaps the A^^urya with 13 cohort commanders. The second largest was the
Arrap~ya with its 10 and 7 cohort commanders. The Armya, the Arzu~inya, and the
Arbailya provided 7 cohort commanders each, with a single exception of the Arzu~inya, which as text no. 102 shows once sent 10+ cohort commanders to the assembling army.

184.
185.
186.
187.
188.
189.
190.

Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 102, iii, 1-12.


Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 111, Rev. 10-18.
It is not listed between Armya and Arbailya, where it should have been placed.
Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 110, iii, 1-6.
Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 102, iii, 13-21; no. 108, ii, 17-24; no. 111, Rev. 19; no. 110, iii, 7-15.
Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 108, ii, 20: Qurdi-Issar-lmur; 22: Pni-Issar-l^ir; 23: Issar-tuklatua.
Dezs Curtis 1991, pp. 105-122, no. 1, figs. 1, 16, 18. Dezs 2001, pp. 47-49, Cat. no. 16, pls. 25,
39, 41.

RECONSTRUCTION OF THE ASSYRIAN ARMY OF SARGON II

121

Unfortunately we do not have a complete list of their officers, but it is possible that
the five city units deployed between 40 and 50 cohort commanders. This strength might
be similar to the 50 officers strong provincial units. So these two divisions the city
units and the provincial units were the two fighting divisions.
Section 102-108-111/3. The third section of this text lists the officers of a kind of headquarters staff. This section, the headquarters staff consists of two additional elements,
the major domo (rab bti) and the officer of deportees (rab ^aglte). The officers of this
section were as follows:
The rab bti officer191 is usually translated as major domo, although it would be
very difficult to reconstruct his exact role. He was normally the deputy of a high ranking
official, and would have served provincial governors and magnates as well. From his
several duties we are interested only in his military role. As known from the NeoAssyrian royal correspondence, rab bti officers led the troops of provincial governors
to musters and to royal campaigns. Dr-A^^ur (governor of Tu^han and eponym of 728
BC) wrote to the king: As to the message the king my lord sent me, saying Let your
major domo come, now then I have mustered my troops, as many as there are; they are
setting out and coming.192 The famous letter of Adad-issiya, listing the troops assembling in Mzamua for a campaign, mentions that [Perh]aps the [ki]ng, my lord, (now)
says: Where are the rest of the troops?. M[y] major-domo is delayed but will [la]ter
bring the rest of the troops.193 The major domo of a provincial governor could command royal troops (kings men, L.ERIM.ME& MAN), as well: The royal troops (L.ERIM.
ME& MAN), as many as there are, I selected (and) appointed to the Major Domo. On
the twentieth of Sivan they got under way and went off.194 Since his military capacities
are clear from the royal correspondence,195 it is not surprising that he appears in the
Nimrud Horse Lists. He might have been a liaison officer between the royal and provincial troops(?).
Rab ^aglte (officer of deportees).196 The appearance of this officer in the Nimrud
Horse Lists proves that there were deportee units serving in the ranks of the Assyrian
army (as fighting or not fighting units). This, however, has not been proven by other
191. Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 102, iii, 22.
192. NL 28 (ND 2799), 6-14; Saggs 2001, pp. 148-149.
193. NL 89 (ND 2631), Rev. 3; Lanfranchi Parpola 1990, no. 215; Postgate 2000; Fales 2000, pp. 4043; Saggs 2001, pp. 128-130.
194. NL 92 (ND 2642), 5-11; Saggs 2001, p. 281.
195. See furthermore NL 75 (Saggs 2001, pp. 115-116); ABL 579 (Lanfranchi Parpola 1990, no. 115);
ABL 243 (Lanfranchi Parpola 1990, no. 126).
196. Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 102, iii, 23.

122

TAMS DEZS

sources. Though foreign soldiers appear on the palace reliefs and in the written sources,
units definitely recruited from the ranks of the deportees are unknown. As has been
shown, those units, which were recruited from the ranks of the defeated enemy armies,
were enlisted in the Assyrian army as provincial units (see units 3 and 4 of Section 99/
II: Kaldya and Smerinya). On the Assyrian palace reliefs there are foreign soldiers
depicted in the ranks of the Assyrian army. Already on the Til-Barsip wall paintings we
can observe some soldiers in the royal entourage who are undoubtedly members of the
royal bodyguard units.197 The most interesting figures are those four who march in front
of the king in formation, and wear a characteristic Judaean garment, first of all headgear. The basis of their identification are the Lachish reliefs of Sennacherib, which
show Judaean captives from Lachish wearing exactly the same headgear as the bodyguards of the Til-Barsip wall paintings.198 The same headgear appears on other sculptures of Sennacherib probably showing the same Judaean captives, and there are royal
bodyguards wearing the same, equipped with spears and large rounded bronze shields
shown on a series of very interesting sculptures of Sennacherib (704-681 BC).199
Nothing proves, however, that these bodyguards were deportees.
Rab ^a r^i (chief eunuch). As has been mentioned, the chief eunuch was the commander of the royal army (ki#ir ^arrti). He appears in CTN III, 101, where he commands a unit of 13 rab ki#ri officers (see above). The chief eunuch was the only
Assyrian official who in addition to the king, the crown prince (mr ^arri) and the
queen mother (ummi ^arri) had rab ki#ri officers.200 Rab ki#ri officers (cohort commanders) of the chief eunuch are known from other cuneiform sources from the reign of
Sargon II till the reign of A^^ur-e\el-ilni.201 It is known from CTN III, 102202 that he
commanded the officers of the headquarters staff (Section 102-108-111/I and III) and
the city units. Altogether they had 238 horses, which were obviously not the whole
horse contingent of these units, but might have been compensation or reserves. It seems,
197.
198.
199.
200.

Thureau-Dangin Dunand 1936, pl. LII.


Layard 1853, pls. 20-24.
Barnett Falkner Bleibtreu Turner 1998, p. 133.
See for example ADD 857 (Fales Postgate 1992, no. 5) where all the four types of rab ki#ri
appear.
201. From the reign of Sargon II: ABL 173, Obv. 4-5 (Parpola 1987, no. 45); from the reign of
Sennacherib: Nuh^ya (685 BC), ADD 1170+(ABL 1235), Rev. 9 (Kwasman Parpola 1991, no.
174); from the reign of Sennacherib or Esarhaddon: ADD 857 (Fales Postgate 1992, no. 5), Obv.
I, 48 (Ubru-Nergal), II, 7 (&a-la-ma^), II, 10 (@anunu), II, 27 (Ubru-a~~), Rev. I, 1 ([]), II, 11
(Marduk-eriba); from the reign of A^^ur-e\el-ilni: ADD 650, Rev. 16 (Kataja Whiting 1995, no.
35): Tb-^r-Papa~i; ADD 692+807, Rev. 24 (Kataja Whiting 1995, no. 36); ADD 1250, Rev. 2
(Kataja Whiting 1995, no. 39).
202. Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 102, iii, 24.

RECONSTRUCTION OF THE ASSYRIAN ARMY OF SARGON II

123

furthermore, that the bodyguard cavalry (mu^arkisni ^a pt~al qurubte), the provincial
units, the palace chariotry (mu^arkisni ^a GI&.GIGIR .GAL), and the stable officers (^aknte ^a ma"assi) of the royal army were not under his direct control. The same structure
can be identified in CTN III, 108 as well. A summary line of the chief eunuch203 closes
the section of the headquarters staff and the city units with 71 horses. CTN III, 111
starts with a heading of the chief eunuchs horses (which went to the campaign or
stayed at home). Under this heading the text similarly lists the officers of the headquarters staff and the city units. This tablet mentioned only these two sections of the
army (there is no enough room for the other sections). As CTN III, 99 listed only the
second half of the army, the heading of CTN III, 111 makes it clear that the tablet
contained only the first half of the army, those units which were under the direct control
of the chief eunuch.

The composition of the army


The texts of the Nimrud Horse Lists are reviews, review lists of horses and military officers. As a corpus, it consists of two types of texts. The first type is the list of officers
(and sometimes their soldiers) (CTN III, 99, 100, 101). The other type is the list of officers who are in charge of certain number of horses (CTN III, 102, 103, 104, 107, 108,
108A, 110, 111, 112, 113, 114). A third type is simply a horse list (CTN III, 98, 115).
The first group, the list of officers, is a kind of theoretical plan of mobilization or an actual list of troops mobilized for a campaign (probably for a Babylonian campaign between 710-708 BC). The other group is probably a report on the situation of the stock of
horses of the different units, a real muster.
Summing up the information collected on Assyrian army units, Figs. 6-7 show a reconstruction of the whole army. As far as it can be reconstructed, the Assyrian army
consisted of a royal and a provincial army corps.
The provincial corps of the Assyrian army consisted of the contingents of the provincial governors, and the contingents of the magnates204 the highest ranking officials of the empire. It is known from the royal inscriptions of Sargon II that the king,

203. Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 108, ii, 26.


204. For the best summary of the military activity of the Assyrian magnates see Mattila 2000, pp. 149157. It is possible, furthermore, that as CTN III, 105 shows there were reviews of the units of
the magnates in this group as well; or this tablet was not a horse list at all and belonged to a different type/group of tablets (CTN III, 86).

124

TAMS DEZS

I. SECTION (administrative staff and the staff of the royal entourage including the chief eunuch)
qurbte a imitti (a qurbte right)
qurbte a umli (a qurbte left)
talu dannu (chief third man)
talu saniu (deputy third man)
GI.ta~lp (ta~lpu charioteer)
GAB.ME (pattte chariot)
GR.2 (a p)

rab bti (high officials of the kings entourage or household?)


rab aglte (officer of the deportees)
L.EN.GI.GIGIR.ME (chariot owners)
SAG.ME (a r) (eunuchs)
aknu 150 A[N]E? GI.GIGIR (horses and chariots
L.GAL.SAG (rab a r), (chief eunuch)

of the left?)

II. SECTION (city units of the standing, home army)


Aurya
Arrap~ya
Armya
Arzu~inya
Arbailya
III. SECTION (pt~al qurubte cavalry bodyguard of the standing, home army)
muarkisni a pt~al qurubte (recruitment officers of the cavalry bodyguard)
IV. SECTION (provincial units of the standing, home army)
Provincial unit 1 arru-muranni
Provincial unit 2 Marduk-arru-u#ur
Provincial unit 3 Kaldya
Provincial unit 4 Samirni Nab-blu-ka""in
Provincial unit 5 Taklak-ana-Bl
Provincial unit 6 Adallal
Provincial unit 7 Nergal-arrni
V. SECTION (muarkisni recruitment officers of the standing, home army)
muarkisni a GI.GIGIR qurubte (suppliers of the qurubtu chariotry)
muarkisni a GI.GIGIR .GAL (suppliers of the palace chariotry)
VI. SECTION (aknte a ma"assi stable officers of the standing, home army)
aknte a ma"assi (stable officers)

Fig. 6. The reconstruction of the army of Sargon II cavalry and chariotry.

RECONSTRUCTION OF THE ASSYRIAN ARMY OF SARGON II

Fig. 7. Reconstruction of the Assyrian army (Sargon II) based on cuneiform documents
(CTN III: 99-115, ND 2619, 2631, 2727, 2788, 2768, 2458, 2386+2370).
125

126

TAMS DEZS

when he established the office of the turtnu of the left,205 placed in his charge 150
chariots, 1,500 cavalry men, 20,000 bowmen and 10,000 shield-bearers and lancers,206
which was a substantial force. These army contingents which were not part of the ki#ir
^arrti are known from the above mentioned letter207 describing a muster of the army
units arriving to Kr-A^^ur to join the assembling Assyrian army. The letter makes a
distinction between the following three troop types: 1) the troops of the magnates (turtnu, rab ^q); 2) the troops of two generals, Taklk-ana-Bl and I^manni-A^^ur, who
were probably the commanders of two provincial units of the ki#ir ^arrti; and 3) the
troops of four governors (Si"imm, Till, Guzana, and Isana). They were waiting for the
whole royal entourage and for some of the magnates when the scribe wrote the letter.
There is a letter of A^^ur-lik-pni to Sargon II in which he promises the king that he
would arrive by the deadline to Arbela in the presence of the ruler with his kings men
(cavalry and chariotry) and his own troops.208 In one of his letters, Nab-dru-u#ur 209
offers his lord, the governor (of Dr), the cavalry and chariotry who had been in the

205. Mattila has argued that The division of the office of the turtnu into two in the reign of Sargon II
has in turn been taken as a sign of of the decline in the importance of his office (Mattila 2000, p.
153). With the growth of the Assyrian Empire, however, it became indispensable to adjust the territorially based military organization of the empire to the new needs: a single turtnu probably
could not lead all the provincial armies and could not organize the recruitment, supply, and logistics of the vast territory of the empire. It has to be admitted, however, as Mattila has mentioned,
that it is impossible to establish differences in the duties of the left and right turtnu. Mattila supposed that this was the reason for the obvious growing importance of the chief eunuch. However, in
a letter,which deals with the distribution of tribute and audience gifts between the members of the
royal family and high officials of the empire (ABL 568, Parpola 1987, no. 34), the king, the queen
and the crown prince (Sennacherib himself, the author of the letter) are followed by the sukkallu
dannu (Grand Vizier, probably Sn-a~u-u#ur, the brother of the king), the turtnu (Commander-inChief), the sartinnu, the sukkallu ^an (Second Vizier), and then the rab ^a r^ (chief eunuch).
The amount of the tribute distributed is interesting as well: the sukkallu dannu and the turtnu in
this case got larger amounts than the chief eunuch, even more than the crown prince himself. It is
possible that this letter was written before the division of the office of the turtnu into two.
206. Lie 1929, p. 72, 9-12.
207. CT 53, 47+ABL 1290; Parpola 1979, no. 47; Lanfranchi Parpola 1990, no. 250; Fales 2000, pp.
48-49.
208. ABL 784 (Lanfranchi Parpola 1990, no. 152), 21-Rev. 1: Now that the king, my lord, has written to me, I shall assign my kings men ([L].ERIM.ME&LUGAL-ia), chariotry (GI&.GIGIR.ME&) and
cavalry (BAD-@AL-lum) as the king wrote me, and I shall be in the [ki]ng my lords presence in
Arbela with my kings men and army by the [dea]dline set by the king, my lord.
209. Probably the mu^arkisu ^a GI&.GIGIR .GAL(?) of the province of rab ^aq, known from ND 2386+,
Obv. I, 16 (Parker 1961, pp. 22-24, pl. XI).

RECONSTRUCTION OF THE ASSYRIAN ARMY OF SARGON II

127

service of A^^ur-rmanni.210 He furthermore promises to buy a horse and equip it,


should anything be lacking from the cavalry.211 There are several other texts dealing
with the military operations of the provincial governors and the high officials (which
were primarily characterized by border manoeuvres and fort building activity212), but
the examination of this provincial part goes beyond the possibilities of this article,213
and forms the subject of further research of the present author.
The Nimrud Horse Lists discussed only the royal corps, the units of the Assyrian
home army (ki#ir ^arrti). As can be reconstructed from this text corpus, the royal corps
of the army consisted of two divisions (Fig. 7). The first division was formed from those
sections which were under the direct control of the chief eunuch, while the second division was probably not formed from those sections.
First division. Those sections of the ki#ir ^arrti which were under the direct control of the chief eunuch (headquarters staff section, with a chariotry element and a bodyguard element [^a ^pi and ^a qurbte], and the city units), are listed in CTN III, 107,
111, 112, 113, 114. Among these texts, CTN III 107 is a four-columned tablet, which
starts with the ^a ^pi bodyguard. It is followed by three unidentified units, which may
well have been the city units. Since the tablet was a four-columned one, there was not
enough room in the two columns of the missing reverse for the other sections of the
army. CTN III, 111 (Figs. 4-5) might have been a similar tablet, which listed on the onecolumned obverse the headquarters staff section and the first two city units. On the fragmentary reverse it was followed by the rest of the city units. CTN III, 112 is an interesting small tablet which listed on its obverse 11 rab ki#ri officers probably of the Arrap~ya unit, while the reverse was occupied by further two units of the L.PA.ME& (mace

210. At that time he was the cavalry commander of the deputy (governor) of Der(?). Assyrian officers of
this name however are known from the Nimrud Horse Lists: GAR-nu (^aknu) L.GI&.GIGIR ta~-lp
(CTN III, 101, I, 18-19); mu^arkisu ^a GI&.GIGIR .GAL (CTN III, 99, Rev. IV, 1); rab urte(?) (CTN
III, 101, III, 5). If he was the mu^arkisu ^a GI&.GIGIR .GAL of CTN III, 99, Rev. IV, 1, it is possible
that he was replaced in his position by Nab-dru-u#ur and he became the cavalry commander of
the deputy (of the governor of Der?).
211. CT 53, 110+ (Fuchs Parpola 2001, no. 129).
212. ABL 883 (Fuchs Parpola 2001, no. 166). In this letter, Il-yada" mentions that the magnates of the
king built two forts (in Minu" and at the Patti-Illil canal) which were equipped and manned by the
(Itu"ean and Gurrean) soldiers of Il-yada". See furthermore the famous letter of Dr-A^^ur (governor of Tu^~an) to Sargon II, in which he describes the building and the equipping a fort (NL 67,
ND 2666; Parker 1997; Saggs 2001, pp. 215-218).
213. See Manitius 1910; Saggs 1963; Postgate 1974; Malbran-Labat 1982.

128

TAMS DEZS

bearers) and the rab kallpni 214 with a total number of 210 horses. CTN III, 113 is a
similar smaller muster tablet, which after a summary section of horses lists two unidentified units on the obverse, and probably the Arrap~ya on the reverse. CTN III, 114
also is a short list which gives an account of probably the Arrap~ya on the obverse and
the kallpni on the reverse.
Second division. Those texts which list only the sections which were not under the
direct control of the chief eunuch are as follows: as has been discussed in detail, CTN
III, 99 (Fig. 1) lists only the recruitment officers of the cavalry bodyguard (mu^arkisni
^a pt~al qurubte), the provincial units, the recruitment officers of the palace chariotry
(mu^arkisni ^a GI&.GIGIR .GAL), and the stable officers (^aknte ^a ma"assi). It is not
clear whether the surviving face of CTN III, 100 is the obverse or the reverse of the tablet, which, considering the large blank spaces, was a rough compilation. The tablet
listed mu^arkisni of both types mentioned above, with a single rab urte officer attached to each of them and a few (1-5) soldiers of these rab urte officers. The fourth
column of the tablet mentioned 4 units, which might well have been the provincial units,
since one of their commanders, Adallal, is identical with the commander of provincial
unit 6 of CTN III, 99. CTN III, 103 (Fig. 5) is a tablet of the muster of Borsippa. The
obverse of the tablet is missing, the reverse lists the recruitment officers of the chariotry
bodyguard (mu^arkisni ^a GI&.GIGIR qurubte), the recruitment officers of the palace
chariotry (mu^arkisni ^a GI&.GIGIR .GAL), and the stable officers (^aknte ^a ma"assi).
The obverse, similarly to CTN III, 99, might have contained the missing units of this
part of the army: the recruitment officers of the cavalry bodyguard (mu^arkisni ^a
pt~al qurubte), and the provincial units. So this tablet was a muster not of the local
units or of the Assyrian garrison of the city,215 but of one of the two divisions of the
Assyrian royal army, i.e. the division which was probably not under the direct control of
the chief eunuch. In contrast with the 1st division of the chief eunuch, the 2nd division
was characterized by the appearance of famous Assyrian top generals (see the commanders of the provincial units), who might have been provincial governors as well.
CTN III, 104 is a small fragment from a tablet. The existing part lists the rabti of provincial unit I of CTN III, 99.

214. For the kallpu see Malbran-Labat 1982, pp. 53, 82-83; Dalley Postgate 1984, pp. 34, 229; Postgate 2000, pp. 89-108; Dezs 2006, pp. 17-18. The kallpu was traditionally identified with the
dispatch-rider, or on the contrary with the sapper, but Postgate proposed an identification with
the Assyrian infantryman. This identification seems plausible, since kallpni were listed in very
high numbers, which are simply unbelievable for dispatch-riders. However, CTN III, 112, lists
them undoubtedly in connection with teams of horses.
215. Dalley Postgate 1984, p. 198.

RECONSTRUCTION OF THE ASSYRIAN ARMY OF SARGON II

129

It seems that these two cavalry/chariotry divisions of the Assyrian army sometimes
operated independently or at least might have been mustered separately.
In the corpus, however, there are two texts, CTN III, 102 (Fig. 5) and 108 (Figs. 3
and 5), which give the full account of the chariot and cavalry army of Sargon II reviewed for a campaign. These texts are the only texts which give us a combined muster
of the two divisions. CTN III, 108 gives the full sequence of both army divisions with
all the sections which have been discussed above. These two texts were made for a combined muster of the two divisions of the ki#ir ^arrti.
There are two texts in the Nimrud Horse Lists corpus (CTN III, 101 and 110),
which do not fit into the system outlined above. Both texts are combined muster lists of
the two divisions. CTN III, 101 is a list of officers. As has rightly been recognized by
Dalley and Postgate, it is a rough list written at the time of a muster. Instead of the
standard order of the units there is a mixed order, which starts with a headquarters staff
section. It is followed by 4 unidentified units (provincial units?), and 13 rab urte officers, who are here rab ki#ri officers of the chief eunuch.216 A few of these officers are
known from the Armya and Arbailya units of CTN III 102 and 108. In column III
comes the section of three ^aknte ^a ma"assi. This section is again closed by the chief
eunuch.217 In the fourth column there are further unidentified units which are under the
command of A^^ur-^allim-ahh, the chief eunuch(?).218 The seventh and eighth columns
of the fragmentary reverse listed further unidentified units. It is possible that this list
was a battlefield list, where the chief eunuch commanded a combination of the units
of the two divisions. One of the three closing sections of the chief eunuchs units mentioned above states explicitly that the chief eunuch led the mustered unit in place of
someone else.219
CTN III, 110 is a horse list. Dalley and Postgate considered the possibility that
CTN III, 109 (which is dated to 716 BC) belonged to this tablet. CTN III, 110 in the
first column lists elements of the headquarters staff and an unidentified unit. Column II
lists the 9 officers of an otherwise unknown provincial unit, the @amatya, which
would have been formed after the conquest of the city and the defeat of the king of
Qarqar (Ilubi"di) in the first pal of Sargon II, when the king enlisted 200 chariots and
600 cavalrymen in the Assyrian army (ki#ir ^arrti).220 The rest of the column lists the
names of further six officers, units of whom are unidentified. The third and last column

216.
217.
218.
219.
220.

Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 101, ii, 13-28.


Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 101, iii, 24.
Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 101, iv, 11-12.
Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 101, iv, 11: L.GAL.SA[G(x)], 12: ku-um [x x (x x)].
Fuchs 1994, p. 201, Display, 35-36.

130

TAMS DEZS

of the obverse(?) might have listed the city units: traces of probably the Arzu~inya and
the Arbailya units can be identified.
It has to be emphasized that this reconstruction is valid only for the cavalry/chariotry army of Sargon II. The Assyrian army underwent several reforms during the reigns
of his successors, Sennacherib, Esarhaddon and Assurbanipal. Some of these reforms
are known from the Assyrian palace reliefs,221 others are known from the cuneiform
sources. There are two reforms, which have to be discussed briefly. Both of them can be
connected with a possible army reform of Sennacherib. The first problem is the socalled new corps of Sennacherib, the second is the division of certain army units between the leading members of the royal family.
The new corps of Sennacherib are mentioned in two administrative texts.222 The
texts can probably be dated to the reign of Assurbanipal,223 but an exact date cannot be
offered. Both texts list Assyrian officials in a given order. The first section lists a turtnu (commander-in-chief), Aplya the ngir ekalli (palace herald), []ya, the
rab ^a r^i (chief eunuch), &a-Nab-^, who has no title here but is known that he was
rab ^a r^i for a long time,224 A^^ur-gimillu-tre the masennu (treasurer),225 and two
governors of Nineveh: A~i-il"i and Nab-^arru-u#ur. Then comes an important line:
the new corps of Sennacherib. The question is whether this line closes the section preceding it, or is the heading of the following section, which consists of a long list of governors (Arbela, Ra#appa, Bar~alza, @indana, Tu^~an), a treasurer (masennu), and
other officials, like the chief of the equipment, the chief confectioner, and the chief
of the accounts. Then comes a break: the second column of the obverse and the first
column of the reverse are completely missing. This section is closed by another important line: In all, 49 higher-ranking magnates of the crown prince.226 The next section
consists of four officials who are all assigned to the household of the Lady of the House.
In the text, each line containing the name starts with the number 1. Since the first
lines of both tablets are missing, it is unfortunately unknown whether they have to
provide one something, or they get one something, or whether this number simply
means that there is one of them.
221. E.g. the missing of chariots from the palace reliefs of Sennacherib, and the appearance of the new
type of chariotry and infantry during the reign of Assurbanipal. See Dezs 2006.
222. ADD 853 (Fales Postgate 1992, no. 3) and ADD 854 (Fales Postgate 1992, no. 4).
223. Mattila 2000, p. 17.
224. Probably between 670 and 644 BC, and kept an important position even later as well, when Nab^arru-u#ur succeded him in the position of the chief eunuch. See Mattila 2000, pp. 62-63
225. He was the treasurer of Assurbanipal for a long time (during the Babylonian civil war and later).
See Mattila 2000, p. 17.
226. ADD 854, Rev. II, 6 (Fales Postgate 1992, no. 4).

RECONSTRUCTION OF THE ASSYRIAN ARMY OF SARGON II

131

It is clear from these texts that under the reign of Sennacherib the armies of the high
officials and those of the provincial governors were separated from each other, and were
organized under separate command. Since the first lines are missing, it is unknown
whether or not the high officials of the first section (with the rab ^a r^i, the head of the
ki#ir ^arrti, and the two governors of the capital, Nineveh) were organized into a single
army corps. It is probable, however, that this section remained under the control of the
king himself. The new corps of Sennacherib might have been the heading of the following section listing 49 high-ranking officials (mainly provincial governors) who were
all assigned to the crown prince. So the crown prince (of Sennacherib, and in this case
of Assurbanipal) led the substantial force of provincial governors, nearly the half of the
provincial corps of the Assyrian army (Fig. 7). It is unknown, however, whether it was a
real military reform, or simply an administrative one. If it had been an army reform, the
last section, the four officials assigned to the queen, might not have represented a substantial army force.
It is known from other cuneiform sources that certain units of the Assyrian army
were divided between the leading members of the royal family. ADD 857 is a list of officials and officers at court 227 (probably from the reign of Esarhaddon). The most important feature of the text is that it gives clear evidence for this division. As has been
discussed, the chief eunuch was the commander of at least one division of the ki#ir
^arrti. So 6 cohort commanders were assigned to him. The queen mother probably had
no real military power, so she had just one cohort commander, four ^a qurbte officers
(bodyguard), 2 chariot drivers (mukl appte), and 1 third man (ta^l^u). The cohort
commander and the bodyguard officers were probably members of the bodyguard unit
of the queen mother, yet the chariot drivers and the third man (shield bearer on the
chariot) belonged to her personal entourage.228 The crown prince, however, had a substantial army force: 8 cohort commanders, 5 ^a qurbte officers, 4 third men, and one
chariot horse-trainer (L.GI&.GIGIR DUMUMAN). His role as ADD 853 and 854 demonstrate had been increased in the military administration during the reign of Senna

227. Fales Postgate 1992, no. 5. There are further fragmentary texts of this type: Fales Postgate
1992, nos. 6-9.
228. There are several further references proving that the queen had her own military attendance, with
rab ki#ri officers: rab ki#ir ^a M..GAL (686 BC: Mannu-k-Issar-l", Banunu, ADD 612, Rev. 3, 5,
Kwasman Parpola 1991, no. 164); rab ki#ir ^a M.KUR (686 BC?: [], Nab-n"id, Banunu,
Mannu-k-Issar-l", ADD 594, Rev. 6, 7, 8, 9, Kwasman Parpola 1991, no. 165); rab ki#ir ^a bt
M..GAL (627-612 BC, &umu-ukin, Iraq 19, 135, s. 2, SAA 12, 96); rab ki#ir ^a L.A.SIG ^a M..GAL
(668-627 BC, Lit-il, ADD 494, Rev. 7-8, Mattila 2002, p. 7).

132

TAMS DEZS

cherib at the latest.229 It is clear, however, that the real military power henceforward still
belonged to the royal units.
A further army reform known from the cuneiform sources referred almost exclusively to the bodyguard units. As far as we know, the crown prince did not have ^a ^pi
guard during the reigns of Sennacherib and Esarhaddon. The first appearance of the ^a
^pi guard of the crown prince (^a ^pi ^a mr ^arri) is known from 663 BC.230 There
is a fragmentary text, however, which as Parpola reconstructed was written by
Sennacherib, the crown prince, to his father Sargon II. In this letter he mentions the
chariot grooms of the ^a ^pi guard [] under my command.231 However, this ^a ^pi
guard was probably the royal bodyguard unit, and not the ^a ^pi guard of the crown
prince himself.
During the reign of Assurbanipal the two types of bodyguard, the ^a ^pi and the ^a
qurbte, were merged or combined. Sennacheribs annals already refer to the ^a qurbti
^pya;232 if the term ^pya, however, was only an epithet, it might have designated
the ^a qurbte guard of his immediate entourage, and probably not the merger of the
two types(?) of bodyguard. The merger or combination of the two terms is attested from
the reign of Assurbanipal: ^a qurbte ^a ^pi,233 ^a qurbte ^a ^pi GI&.GIGIR (of the
chariotry)234 and ^a qurbte ^a ^pi ^a L.GIGIR.DU8.ME& (of the open chariotry).235
It seems that the division of certain army units between the leading members of the
royal family only concerned the bodyguard units. It has to be admitted, however, that at
the moment it is impossible to make a distinction between the function or service of the
different types of bodyguard units. It is even unknown whether the terms qurubtu, ^a
qurbte, and ^a ^pi designated army units (qurubtu?, ^a ^pi?), officers, services (^a
^pi?) or statuses (^a qurbte?). It is unknown what the difference between the pt~al/
mugerri qurubte pt~al/mugerri ^a ^pi pt~alli/mugerri ^a qurbte units was. Further research is needed to provide answers to these questions.

229. It has to be mentioned that as is known from the royal correpondence of Sargon II as the
crown prince Sennacherib himself had already played an important role in the royal court.
230. ADD 470, R. 20 (Kwasman Parpola 1991, no. 325): Nab-^arru-u#ur rab ki#ir ^a-^p(GR.2) ^a
mr ^arri.
231. CT 53, 307, 7 (Parpola 1987, no. 37).
232. Lie 1929, p. 36, III, 81, 74.
233. ADD 177, 6-7 (Mattila 2002, p. 100) from 644 BC: Kabar-ili L.qur-bu-u-ti ^a GR.2(^pe), but one
of the witnesses bears the title L.qur-bu-u-ti (Rev. 7).
234. ADD 971, Rev. I, 4 (SAA 7, 152)
235. ADD 834+(ADD 837, 849, 903), II, 4 (Fales Postgate 1992, no. 150); ADD 971, Rev. I, 5 (Fales Postgate 1992, no. 152); ADD 970+ (ADD 1138), R. II, 21 (Fales Postgate 1992, no. 154).

133

RECONSTRUCTION OF THE ASSYRIAN ARMY OF SARGON II

The strength of the army and its units


In spite of the large amount of written sources concerning the Assyrian army, virtually
nothing is known about the size of the armies and army units. As has been mentioned,
the cavalry bodyguard of Sargon II probably consisted of 1000 cavalry, and we can suppose that the rab ~an^ (commander-of-50) commanded a unit of 50 soldiers.
There is a text, CTN III, 99, which has not yet been analyzed from this perspective.
In addition to the prosopographical approach and the reconstruction of the different
army units, the most important feature of CTN III, 99, which lists the sections and units
of the 2nd division of the cavalry and chariotry army of Sargon II, is hidden in the
numbers.
It is easy to discover that the unit of the palace chariotry was twice as big as the unit
of the cavalry bodyguard, which has 14 chief officers (mu^arkisni ^a pt~al qurubte,
recruitment officers) and 14 subordinate officers (rab urte, team commanders), exactly
half the strength of the palace chariotry, which has 28 chief officers (mu^arkisni ^a
GI&.GIGIR .GAL, recruitment officers) and 28 subordinate officers (rab urte, team
commanders). What makes the problem more interesting is that the 4 stable officers
(^aknte ^a ma"assi) of the fourth section also have 28 subordinate officers (rab urte,
team commanders). The regularity of the numbers 14, 28, and 28 is striking and refers
to a conscious organizing principle. The other text, ND 2386+2730, with its 14
recruitment officers of the cavalry (mu^arkisni ^a pt~alli), 4 stable officers (^aknte
^a ma"assi) and 4 recruitment officers of the deportees (mu^arkisni ^a ^aglte), shows
that this organizing principle was not an ad hoc idea. It is possible that the recruitment
officers and stable officers of CTN III, 99 belonged to the 7 provincial units, and were
ordered to serve these 7 provincial chariotry or cavalry units, and supply them with
horses, etc. In this case every provincial unit had 2 cavalry, 4 chariotry, and 4
subordinate stable officers.

commanders
chief officers
(mu^arkisni)
officers
(rab urte)

I
qurubtu cavalry

sections
II
III
provincial units palace chariotry
7

IV
stable officers
4

14

28

14

50

28

28

134

TAMS DEZS

The most interesting thing is, however, that the number of rab urte officers of the 7
provincial units is exactly 50. It is obvious that the king ordered his generals or probably
the chief eunuch, commander of the royal corps personally, to select a division of 50 officers. It is obvious, too, that these 7 units were not represented in their full strength.
Units 1, 2, and 4 with their 10 and 13 officers would have arrived nearly in their complete strength. Unit 3 might have arrived at its half strength (7 officers), but units 5, 6,
and 7 sent only a few of their officers: 4, 4, and 2. The rest of their officers and their
troops probably remained at their home bases. In CTN III, 108 these numbers are
slightly different: provincial unit 1 brought 7+x of their officers, unit 2 brought
similarly 10, unit 3 brought similarly 7, unit 4 brought 8+x, unit 5 brought 7, unit 6
brought 5, and unit 7 brought similarly 2. Their total number was 46+x which
following the logic of CTN III, 99 was probably exactly 50.
Summing up the figures of the subordinate officers, we can obtain an interesting
result: the number of officers of the 1st, 3rd, and 4th sections (14 + 28 + 28) totals exactly
70. With the 50 commanders of the 7 provincial units the total number of subordinate
officers is 120. I am sure that these 120 rab urte officers formed an army division
chariotry and cavalry.
The weakest point of this reconstruction is that the strength of these units is unknown. We do not know whether the 50 officers of the seven provincial units of CTN
III, 99, commanded 500 chariots or 500 cavalrymen, or even 5,000 cavalrymen. The
subordinate officers were rab urte, which means commander of teams of horses, or
simply team commander. Therefore it is clear that they were officers in charge of
chariotry or cavalry units. The etymology is clear, but the function is unfortunately not.
However, some of these team commanders in the other texts of the Nimrud Horse Lists
and related texts also appear in another rank, as rab ki#ri, which means cohort commander. If these two ranks were similar in the strength of the units they commanded, it
can be supposed that subordinate officers of this text commanded units of the strength
of a cohort.
The largest known unit size is 13 officers. Units of this size appear several times in
the Nimrud Horse Lists: as has been discussed, Nab-blu-ka""in commanded 13 officers of the Samarian unit (unit II/4 of CTN III, 99); the A^^urya unit of CTN III, 111,
consisted of 13 officers, too, and the contingent of the chief eunuch mentioned above
also consisted of 13 rab urte, who are otherwise known as rab ki#ri officers of the city
units.
It seems that there were two other standard unit sizes: units consisting of 10 and 7
officers. 10 officers strong units appear seven times, while 7 officers strong units appear
eleven times in four discussed tablets (CTN III, 99, 102, 108, 111) of the Nimrud Horse
Lists.

RECONSTRUCTION OF THE ASSYRIAN ARMY OF SARGON II

135

st

The other division, the 1 division, was probably of similar size. Its main fighting
section, the city units, consisted of 5 units. It seems, that these units were mobilized in
standard sizes: 7, 10 and 13 officers of them are listed in CTN III, 102, 108, and 111. If
we suppose that these five units similarly to the seven provincial units of the 2nd
division had to concentrate 50 officers for the campaigns, the strength of their units
must have been as follows:
108
[A^^urya]
Arrap~ya
Armya

x
7
7

102

Arbailya

A^^urya
Arrap~ya
Armya
Arzu~inya
Arbailya

5+[10?]
10
7
10+[1?]
7

111
A^^urya
13
Arrap~ya
10
[Armya]
7
[Arzu~inya?]
7
[Arbailya?]
[13?]

CTN III, 108 counted 21+[x] officers with the Arzu~inya unit probably missing
from the list and the number of the officers of A^^urya unit likewise missing. CTN III,
102 lists 39 officers of the five units, from which the lists of the A^^urya and
Arzu~inya units are fragmentary. Reconstructing and counting the missing lines,
however, the number of officers will easily reach 50. In CTN III, 111, 37 officers of the
five units are listed. Unfortunately the section of the Arbailya is fragmentary, but if
this unit counted 13 officers, the total number of officers will also easily reach 50.
However it may be, it can be supposed that the strength of the 1st division could
approximate the strength of the 2nd division.
The number of horses could also be informative for the reconstruction of the strength
of the army units. There are two texts with intact summary sections. The first text, CTN
III, 98,236 summarizes 2,205 horses, and 177 mules (which totals 2,382), without listing
the officers. The other text is CTN III, 103, which is the end of a complete list, the
muster of Borsippa. This text probably listed, with some differences, the same division
as CTN III, 99, with its officers and horses. The obverse of the text is unfortunately
missing, and the surviving three columns of the reverse list the mu^arkisni ^a GI&.GIGIR
.GAL section (with 373 horses) and the ^aknte ^a ma"assi section (with 237 horses).
The obverse contained the mu^arkisni ^a GI&.GIGIR qurubte, and probably the provincial
units and the mu^arkisni ^a pt~al qurubte. Dalley and Postgate supposed that there
might be a few additional units,237 which we called headquarters staff. Because of these
similarities, the size of all those units listed on this tablet can be compared with the size

236. Dalley Postgate 1984, no. 98, Rev. 16-18.


237. Dalley Postgate 1984, p. 199.+

136

TAMS DEZS

of the division reconstructed from CTN III, 99. As has been reconstructed, CTN III, 99
is a list of 120 rab urte. CTN III, 103 totalized (?) 3,477 horses (from which 92 were
mules), and from which 639 horses and 4 mules were a kind of completion during the
muster of Borsippa in 709-708 BC. It seems that this division, which as deduced
from CTN III, 99 consisted of at least 120 rab urte, had around 3,400 horses. 3,400
horses, if all of them were war horses, meant an army of considerable size (for example
2,000 cavalry and 500-600 chariots with spare horses, or so). If our reconstruction is
correct, these 3,477 equids238 belonged only to one of the two divisions (the 2nd
division, Fig. 7) of the ki#ir ^arrti, reconstructed from CTN III, 99, and 103.
The horse lists list horses of different categories: of land (^a KUR), of campaign
(^a KASKAL), and completion (^alluntu).239 As the term ^alluntu of line 4, CTN III,
111 makes it clear, the horses represented not the actual strength of these units, but were
(only) complete repayment, the meaning of which is not clear.
In CTN III, 112, the obverse listed 11 rab ki#ri officers probably of the Arrap~aya
unit, while the reverse was occupied by two additional units of the L.PA.ME& (mace
bearers) and the L.GAL(rab) kallpni with a total number of 210 horses. The unit under the command of the rab kallpni had 32 teams of horses: 15 officers + 1 rab kallpni means that each of them had 2 teams (4 horses).
There are only a few texts from which the smaller units can be reconstructed. ABL
567 is a review of cavalry and chariot troops.240 It is obvious from the text that a
cavalry unit consisted of 200 cavalrymen (L.^a_BAD.@AL.ME&),241 from which 106 were
seen and 94 were missing under the command of a prefect. The text follows with the
review of the local chariot troops: 10 chariot owners, 21 of their kings men, in all 31
chariot owners seen, 69 [miss]ing, under the command of the [recru]itment officer
238. The supply of horses was a strategic question in Assyria. Large numbers of horses arrived from different sources (booty, audience gifts), but the most important sources were probably the merchants,
who imported a substantial amount of horses. ND 2458 (Parker 1961) lists 730 horses from this
source. Further sources of horse supply were the different types of taxes: ND 2727 (Parker 1961)
for example counts more than five hundred horses from i^kru and nmurtu taxes.
239. For the possible reconstruction of the meaning of the different categories see Dalley Postgate
1984, pp. 204, 222-223, 226-227. Since in the present authors view these lists (the lists of officers
unambiguously) were lists of a kind of theoretical plan of mobilization or actual lists of troops
mobilized for a campaign, these two categories referred to horses left at home or ordered to go on
the campaign. Furthermore, it seems possible that these horses did not represent the actual strength
of these units, but were the horses with which the ranks were filled. In this case the u^allam, ^alluntu, and u^essa words might refer to future obligation of paying back the horses. It has to be
admitted, however, that it needs further research to settle the problem.
240. ABL 567 + CT 53, 797 (Lanfranchi Parpola 1990, no. 251).
241. ABL 897, Rev. 6 (Dietrich 2003) also mentions 200 horses (cavalrymen) and 1000 soldiers.

RECONSTRUCTION OF THE ASSYRIAN ARMY OF SARGON II

137

Tut[].242 This means that this chariotry unit consisted of 100 chariot owners (L.EN.
GI&.GIGIR.ME&). More interesting is that the kings men (L.ERIM.MAN-^u-nu) were
counted as chariot owners, too. These chariot troops were under the command of a recruitment officer (mu^arkisu). During the review, the reviewing officer assigned 150
horses. It is unfortunately unknown where the remaining parts of the chariot crew were
if the chariot owners were the chariot warriors, the drivers and the third men
(shield bearers), are missing. An important characteristic of the Assyrian reviews and
accounts is that the members of the chariot crew were always counted and reviewed
separately: it seems, that they were organized into separate units. ND 2619, for example, lists 1,669 cavalrymen, 577+ chariot drivers and 1,164 third men from Bt-Adini,
Bt-Ukani, Dr-Ellata, Sab~anu, Bt-Dakkri, and Til-Barsip. NL 89 also lists chariot
troops separately: 11 chariot drivers, 12 third men, and 30 chariot fighters.243 The
third men (ta^l^ni), for example, had rab han^e (L.GAL.50) officers, who commanded 50 of them.244 Beside the commander-of-50 of the third men, the commander-of-50 of the L.GI&.GIGIR.ME& (chariot troops, horse trainers, or chariot grooms)
is known as well.245
***
Summing up the information collected from the Nimrud Horse Lists, it can be assumed
that the list of officers is a kind of theoretical plan of mobilization or an actual list of
troops mobilized for a campaign. The units were the units of the Assyrian royal army,
the ki#ir ^arrti. Two divisions can be reconstructed from the corpus: the 1st division
under the direct control of the chief eunuch, and the 2nd division, which was probably
not under the direct control of the chief eunuch. The 2nd division consisted of 120
officers, while the 1st division was probably the same size or a little smaller. The two
divisions may have been reviewed separately. These two divisions were the cavalry and
chariotry army of Sargon II. If the reconstruction of the Assyrian army of Sargon II
(outlined on Fig. 7) is valid, the other, provincial part of the Assyrian army consisted of

242. ABL 567, 13ff. (Lanfranchi Parpola 1990, no. 251).


243. Lanfranchi Parpola 1990, no. 251; Postgate 2000; Fales 2000, pp. 40-43; Saggs 2001, pp. 128-130.
244. GAL.50.ME&(rab ~an^e) ^a 3-^(ta^l^u) GR.2 (^a-^p) ([commanders-of-50] of the third men of
the ^a-^pi guard): ADD 1083, Rev. II, 6 (Fales Postgate 1992, no. 148); KUR.A& GAL.50.ME& ^a 3^.[ME&] (Assyrian commanders-of-50 of the third men): ADD 1125, Rev. II, 8 (Fales Postgate
1992, no. 149); GAL.50 3-^.ME& (commander-of-50 of the third men): ADD 834+, II, 19 (Fales
Postgate 1992, no. 149); GAL.50.ME& 3-^.ME[& ] (commanders-of-50 of the third men): ADD
838+, Rev. II, 6 (Fales Postgate 1992, no. 157).
245. GAL.50.ME& GI&.GIGIR.ME&: ADD 834+, II, 10 (Fales Postgate 1992, no. 150).

138

TAMS DEZS

the armies of the high officials and the provincial governors of the Assyrian empire. The
reconstruction of the infantry units, however, needs further research.

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