Perhaps the best way to think about the Assyrian Empire is a balloon slowly being inflated and deflated from the center of the empire, Assur. Over time, it would grow, shrink, grow again, then shrink again, before it finally grew so big that the only thing left to do was pop. Yet while the structure of power was gone, Assyrian influence would continue to exist well after the fall of the empire. Considering the level of dominance the Assyrians attained in Mesopotamia over the course of 1,500 years, it’s rather surprising that they would fall so quickly.
In just 50 years after reaching their peak, Nineveh and Assur were sacked, and Assyria was no more. However, when we look at the history of this ancient empire, its disappearance does not seem so sudden. While it’s true the Assyrians had the most powerful empire in the middle of the 7 th century BCE, its grip on power was loose, and its resources were stretched thin. Their neighbors were growing in power and beginning to work together to undermine Assyrian control.
And when the Assyrians became too ambitious and began meddling in Babylonian affairs, the stage was set for their demise. Nonetheless, the history of the Assyrians is still a fascinating one. Throughout history, no other civilization in Mesopotamia would be able to lay claim to as much territory as the Assyrian kings could in the 7 th century.
Assyrian kings have gone down in history as some of the most capable military leaders ever, and the cultural developments to come out of this period contributed greatly to the development of human civilization. While it’s true that the Assyrians were cruel and ruthless to those who stood in their way, they existed at a time where this type of behavior was required for survival.
Had they not risen to the occasion and conquered the kingdoms near them, someone else would have conquered them, as the Babylonians finally did. It was a fierce world, one full of war and instability. But through superior military tactics and just plain old determination, the Assyrians were able to build an empire that will go down in history as one of the most impressive and expansive in the history of the ancient world.