Tiglath-Pileser III

Last updated


Tiglath-pileser III, an alabaster bas-relief from the king's central palace at Nimrud, Mesopotamia. Tiglath-pileser III, an alabaster bas-relief from the king's central palace at Nimrud, Mesopotamia..JPG
Tiglath-pileser III, an alabaster bas-relief from the king's central palace at Nimrud, Mesopotamia.

In the inscriptions ascribed to Tiglath-Pileser III, he described himself as a son of Adad-nirari III, but the accuracy of this claim remains as uncertain as the ascription itself. It is supposed that he seized the throne in the midst of civil war on 13 Ayaru, 745 BCE. [1] [7]

Tiglath-pileser III stands over an enemy, bas-relief from the Central Palace at Nimrud. Tiglath-pileser III stands over an enemy, bas-relief from the Central Palace at Nimrud..JPG
Tiglath-pileser III stands over an enemy, bas-relief from the Central Palace at Nimrud.

A mutilated brick inscription states that he is the son of Adad-nirari (III); however, the Assyrian King List makes Tiglath-pileser (III) the son of Ahur-nirari (V), son of Adad-nirari (III). This is quite a discrepancy for the King list places Adad-nirari III four monarchs before Tiglath-pileser's reign and depicts Ashur-nirari (V) as both his father and immediate predecessor upon the throne. The list goes on to relate that Shalmaneser III (IV), and Ashur-dan III (III) were brothers, being the sons of Adad-nirari (III). Ashur-nirari (V) is also said to be a son of Adad-nirari (III), implying brotherhood with Shalmaneser III (IV), and Ashur-dan III (III). The Assyrian records contain very little information concerning Adad-nirari (III) and nothing about Shalmaneser III (IV) or Ashur-dan III (III). Significantly, an alabaster stele was discovered in 1894 at Tell Abta displaying the name Tiglath-pileser imprinted over that of Shalmaneser (IV), a successor of Adad-Nirari (III) and the third sovereign prior to Tiglath-pileser (III). This find coupled with the aforementioned absence of information relative to Shalmaneser III (IV) and Ashur-dan III (III) strongly implies that Tiglath-pileser was a usurper to the throne and that he destroyed the records of his three immediate predecessors—Ashur-nirari (V), Shalmaneser III (IV), and Ashur-dan III (III).

No less Assyrian authority than Daniel David Luckenbill, commenting on the brick inscription, was led to pen “...whether we err in ascribing these texts to Tiglath-Pileser III is still to be determined.” [8]

It was in Babylon that he was referred to as Pulu and his son as Ululayu. [9] The identification of Pul (2 Kings 15:19) with Tiglath-Pileser III is also referenced in the Phoenician inscription from Incirli, line 5 of which reads: פאל מל[ך] אשר רב "Pu'lu, the great king of Assyria". [10] Professor of Biblical studies Mary Katherine Y.H. Hom states,

The occurrences of Pulu for Tiglath-Pileser III are both rare and late. At the same time, ‘contemporary and nearly contemporary documents in both Babylonia and Assyria—the king’s own royal inscriptions, the Assyrian kinglists and eponym lists, economic texts coming from Babylon during his reign, and the Babylonian Chronicle—uniformly refer to him as Tiglath-Pileser.’41 Furthermore, Pulu is a well attested Assyrian name, 42 the fact of which heightens the possibility that Pulu is a non-exceptional name for Tiglath-Pileser III. Exactly how and when Pulu came to be associated with Tiglath-Pileser III cannot be conclusively deduced. One may cautiously forward that it appears that the association arose relatively late—terminus a quo the date of Babylonian King List A (which Brinkmanship dates to ca. 6th or early 5th c. BCE).43 As for the association itself, it remains an attractive hypothesis that Pulu is a quasi-hypocoristic derived from the second element of Tiglath-Pileser.44 Given that the name’s particular use for Tiglath-Pileser III is late, it seems more likely than not that Pulu was only a late designation for the Assyrian monarch, and that the use of Pul in 2 Kgs 15:19 is anachronistic.45 [11]


Tiglath-Pileser III besieging a town named U[pa?], possibly in Turkey. Assyrian Relief Attack on Enemy Town from Kalhu (Nimrud) Central Palace reign of Tiglath-pileser III British Museum - 2.jpg
Tiglath-Pileser III besieging a town named U[pa?], possibly in Turkey.

Assyrian power in the Near East greatly increased as the result of Tiglath-Pileser's military reforms (see "Reforms" below) and of his campaigns of conquest. Upon ascending the throne, he claimed (in Annal 9, which dates to 745 BCE, his first regnal year) to have annexed Babylonia, from "Dur-(Kuri)galzu, Sippar of Shamash, ... the cities [of Ba]bylonia up to the Uqnu river [by the shore of the Lo]wer [Sea]" [13] (which referred to the Persian Gulf), and subsequently placed his eunuch over them as governor. Also in his first year of reign he defeated the powerful kingdom of Urartu (in Anatolia), whose hegemony under the rulership of Sarduri II had extended to Asia Minor, western Iran and Syria; there he found unrivalled horses for his war-chariots. [14] He also defeated the Medes before making war on and conquering the Neo-Hittites, Arameans of Syria and Phoenicia. He took Arpad in 740 BCE after three years of siege, annexed it as a province (over which he placed one of his eunuchs as governors), and subjected Hamath to tribute. Assyrian inscriptions record in 740 BCE, the fifth year of his reign, a victory over Azariah (Uzziah), king of Judah, whose achievements appear in 2 Chronicles 26. He also subjugated Aramean Damascus, the Arabs under Queen Zabibe, Menahem of Israel and Sam'al's king Azriyau, who all paid him tribute. [15] In 737 and 736 BCE he turned his attention again to Iran, conquering the Medes, Parthians and Persians and occupying a large part of western Iran. [15] According to the royal inscriptions of Tiglath-Pileser many of the inhabitants were enslaved and deported to other parts of the Assyrian empire, as was commonly done by his predecessors. At sieges, captive soldiers and leaders were executed, and their bodies raised on stakes and displayed before the city (illustration, right).

In October 729 BCE, Tiglath-Pileser assumed total control of Babylon, capturing the Babylonian king Nabu-mukin-zeri (ABC 1 Col.1:21) and having himself crowned as "King Pulu of Babylon."

Biblical account

The core territory of Assyria in the 8th century BC. After the death of Adad-nirari III in 783 BC, Assyria had entered a period of instability and decline, and lost its suzerainty over its former vassal and tributary states. Medio-assyrien.png
The core territory of Assyria in the 8th century BC. After the death of Adad-nirari III in 783 BC, Assyria had entered a period of instability and decline, and lost its suzerainty over its former vassal and tributary states.
Map showing Tiglath-Pileser's conquests and deportation of Israelites. Tiglath-Pileser III discouraged revolts against Assyrian rule with the use of forced deportations of thousands of people all over the empire. Deportation of Jews by Assyrians.svg
Map showing Tiglath-Pileser's conquests and deportation of Israelites. Tiglath-Pileser III discouraged revolts against Assyrian rule with the use of forced deportations of thousands of people all over the empire.

Biblical records describe how Tiglath-Pileser III (in the Bible called "Pul") exacted 1,000 talents of silver as tribute from King Menahem of the Kingdom of Israel (2 Kings 15:19) and later defeated his successor Pekah (2 Kings 15:29).

Pekah had allied with Rezin, king of the Arameans against Ahaz (known to the Assyrians as Yahu-khazi), of the Kingdom of Judah, who responded by appealing for the Assyrian monarch's help with the Temple gold and silver. Tiglath-Pileser answered swiftly. He first marched his army down the eastern Mediterranean coast, taking coastal cities all the way to Egypt. This cut off his enemies' access to the sea. Once this was achieved, he returned to the Northern Kingdom of Israel, destroyed their army, and deported the Reubenites, Gadites, and the people of Manasseh to Halah, Habor, Hara, and the Gozan river (1 Chron 5:26). He then installed an Israelite puppet king, Hoshea, (732–723 BCE) in the place of Pekah. He concluded this extensive campaign by marching north and west, ravaging Aramaea, seizing Damascus, executing Rezin, and deporting the survivors to Kir (2 Kings 16:9).

Beyond this, the Assyrian alliance was not beneficial to Ahaz (2 Chron 28:20).


Upon ascending the throne, Tiglath-Pileser instituted several reforms to different sectors of the Assyrian state, which arguably revived Assyria's hegemony over the Near East.

The first of such reforms entailed thwarting the powers of the high Assyrian officials, which during the reigns of his predecessors had become excessive. Officials such as Shamshi-ilu, who was turtanu (General) and a prominent official since the time of Adad-nirari III, often led their own campaigns and erected their own commemorative stelae, often without mentioning the king at all. [17] Since his earliest inscriptions (and thus from the beginning of his reign), he gave regular mention of appointing eunuchs as governors of (newly conquered) provinces; this removed the threat of provincial rule becoming a dynastic matter. He also sought to reduce the power of his officials by reducing the size of the provinces (in some cases the northern provinces were increased to include newly conquered territories), thus decreasing their resources, should they desire to incite a revolt. Subsequently, there were more provinces, more governors (most of whom were eunuchs), and less power per governor.

The second reform targeted the army. Instead of a largely native Assyrian army which normally campaigned only in the summer time, Tiglath-Pileser incorporated large numbers of conquered people into the army, thus adding a substantial foreign element. This force mainly comprised the light infantry, whereas the native Assyrians comprised the cavalry, heavy infantry, and charioteers. As a result of Tiglath-Pileser's military reforms, the Assyrian Empire was armed with a greatly expanded army which could campaign throughout the year. The addition of the cavalry and the chariot contingents was to counter the steppe cultures lurking nearby to the north, who sometimes invaded the northern colonies with cavalry and primitive chariots.


Assyrian relief depicting battle with camel riders, from Kalhu (Nimrud) Central Palace, Tiglath Pileser III, 728 BCE, British Museum Assyrian Relief depicting Battle with Camel Rider from Kalhu (Nimrud) Central Palace Tiglath pileser III 728 BCE British Museum AG.jpg
Assyrian relief depicting battle with camel riders, from Kalhu (Nimrud) Central Palace, Tiglath Pileser III, 728 BCE, British Museum

Tiglath-Pileser III's conquests and reforms led to the establishment of the Neo-Assyrian Empire as a stable empire which was to be a blueprint for future empires. He built a royal palace in Kalhu (the biblical Calah/Nimrud, the so-called "central palace"), later dismantled by Esarhaddon. He had his royal annals engraved across the bas-reliefs depicting his military achievements on the sculptured slabs decorating his palace.

On his death he was succeeded by his son Ululayu, who took the name Shalmaneser V, who further campaigned in the Levant, defeated Egypt, and captured Samaria.

See also


  1. 1 2 Lendering, Jona (2006). "Assyrian Eponym List (2/3)". Livius.org.
  2. Tadmor 1994, p. 29.
  3. Healy 1991 , p. 17
  4. Frye, Wolfram & Dietz 2016.
  5. Howard 2002, p. 36.
  6. Schwartzwald 2014, p. 24.
  7. Chisholm 1911, p. 968.
  8. Jones 2005, p. 150.
  9. Nemet-Nejat 1998, p. 38.
  10. Kaufman 2007 , pp. 7–26
  11. Katherine, Mary. The Characterization of an Empire : The Portrayal of the Assyrians in Kings and Chronicles. Eugene, Oregon, Pickwick Publications, 2018, p. 20.
  12. "Wall panel; relief British Museum". The British Museum.
  13. Tadmor 1994, p. 43.
  14. Luckenbill 1927 , p. 84.
  15. 1 2 Roux, Georges. Ancient Iraq[ full citation needed ]
  16. Healy 1991, p. 21.
  17. Shafer 1998, pp. 32–33.

Related Research Articles

Chaldea Small Semitic nation

Chaldea was a country that existed between the late 10th or early 9th and mid-6th centuries BCE, after which the country and its people were absorbed and assimilated into Babylonia. Semitic-speaking, it was located in the marshy land of the far southeastern corner of Mesopotamia and briefly came to rule Babylon. The Hebrew Bible uses the term כשדים (Kaśdim) and this is translated as Chaldaeans in the Greek Old Testament, although there is some dispute as to whether Kasdim in fact means Chaldean or refers to the south Mesopotamian Kaldu.

The 8th century BC started the first day of 800 BC and ended the last day of 701 BC. The 8th century BC is a period of great change for several historically significant civilizations. In Egypt, the 23rd and 24th dynasties lead to rule from Nubia in the 25th Dynasty. The Neo-Assyrian Empire reaches the peak of its power, conquering the Kingdom of Israel as well as nearby countries.

Sargon II King of the Neo-Assyrian Empire

Sargon II was the king of the Neo-Assyrian Empire from the downfall of his predecessor Shalmaneser V in 722 BC to his death in battle in 705 BC. Though Sargon claimed to be the son of the previous king Tiglath-Pileser III, this is uncertain and he probably gained the throne through usurping it from Shalmaneser V. Sargon is recognized as one of the most important Neo-Assyrian kings due to his role in founding the Sargonid dynasty, which would rule the Neo-Assyrian Empire until its fall less than a century after Sargon's death.

Shalmaneser V

Shalmaneser V was the king of the Neo-Assyrian Empire from the death of his father Tiglath-Pileser III in 727 BC to his deposition and death in 722 BC. Though Shalmaneser V's brief reign is poorly known from contemporary sources, he remains known for the conquest of Samaria and the fall of the Kingdom of Israel, though the conclusion of that campaign is sometimes attributed to his successor, Sargon II, instead.


Hoshea was the nineteenth and last king of the Israelite Kingdom of Israel and son of Elah. William F. Albright dated his reign to 732–721 BCE, while E. R. Thiele offered the dates 732–723 BCE.

Adad-nirari III King of Assyria

Adad-nirari III was a King of Assyria from 811 to 783 BC.

Shamshi-Adad V

Shamshi-Adad V was the King of Assyria from 824 to 811 BC. He was named after the god Adad, who is also known as Hadad.

Adad-nirari II is generally considered to be the first King of Assyria in the Neo-Assyrian period.

Ashur-Dan II (Aššur-dān), son of Tiglath Pileser II, was the earliest king of the Neo-Assyrian Empire. He was best known for recapturing previously held Assyrian territory and restoring Assyria to its natural borders, from Tur Abdin to the foothills beyond Arbel (Iraq). The reclaimed territory through his conquest was fortified with horses, ploughs, and grain stores. His military and economic expansions benefited four subsequent generations of kings that replicated his model.

During the Middle Assyrian Empire and the Neo-Assyrian Empire, Phoenicia, what is today known as Lebanon and coastal Syria, came under Assyrian rule on several occasions.

Neo-Assyrian Empire Historical state in Mesopotamia

The Neo-Assyrian Empire was an Iron Age Mesopotamian empire, in existence between 911 and 609 BC, and became the largest empire of the world up until that time. The Assyrians perfected early techniques of imperial rule, many of which became standard in later empires. The Assyrians were the first to be armed with iron weapons, and their troops employed advanced, effective military tactics.

Middle Assyrian Empire

The Middle Assyrian Empire is the period in the history of Assyria between the fall of the Old Assyrian Empire in the 14th century BC and the establishment of the Neo-Assyrian Empire in the 10th century BC.

Shamshi-ilu (Šamši-ilu) was an influential court dignitary and commander in chief (turtanu) of the Assyrian army who rose in high prominence.

The Assyrian conquest of Aram concerns the series of conquests of largely Aramean, Phoenician, Sutean and Neo-Hittite states in the Levant by the Neo-Assyrian Empire. This region was known as Eber-Nari and Aramea during the Middle Assyrian Empire and the Neo-Assyrian Empire.


Kummuh was an Iron Age Neo-Hittite kingdom located on the west bank of the Upper Euphrates within the eastern loop of the river between Melid and Carchemish. Assyrian sources refer to both the land and its capital city by the same name. The city is identified with the classical-period Samosata, which has now been flooded under the waters of a newly built dam. Urartian sources refer to it as Kummaha. The name is also attested in at least one local royal inscription dating to the 8th century BCE. Other places that are mentioned in historical sources as lying within Kummuh are lands of Kištan and Halpi, and cities of Wita, Halpa, Parala, Sukiti and Sarita(?). Kummuh bordered the kingdoms of Melid to the north, Gurgum to the west and Carchemish to the south, while to the east it faced Assyria and later Urartu.

Timeline of the Assyrian Empire

The timeline of the Assyrian Empire can be broken down into three eras: Old Assyrian Empire, Middle Assyrian Empire, and Neo-Assyrian Empire.

Sargonid dynasty Final ruling dynasty of Assyria, founded 722 BC

The Sargonid dynasty was the final ruling dynasty of Assyria, ruling as kings of Assyria during the Neo-Assyrian Empire for just over a century from the ascent of Sargon II in 722 BC to the fall of Assyria in 609 BC. Although Assyria would ultimately fall during their rule, the Sargonid dynasty ruled the country during the apex of its power and Sargon II's three immediate successors Sennacherib, Esarhaddon and Ashurbanipal are generally regarded as three of the greatest Assyrian monarchs. Though the dynasty encompasses seven Assyrian kings, two vassal kings in Babylonia and numerous princes and princesses, the term Sargonids is sometimes used solely for Sennacherib, Esarhaddon and Ashurbanipal.

Early Period (Assyria)

The Early Period refers to the history of Assyrian civilization of Mesopotamia between 2500 BCE and 2025 BCE. It is the first of the four periods into which the history of the Assyrian civilisation is traditionally divided. The other periods are the Old Assyrian Empire, the Middle Assyrian Empire and the Neo-Assyrian Empire.

2 Kings 16

2 Kings 16 is the sixteenth chapter of the second part of the Books of Kings in the Hebrew Bible or the Second Book of Kings in the Old Testament of the Christian Bible. The book is a compilation of various annals recording the acts of the kings of Israel and Judah by a Deuteronomic compiler in the seventh century BCE, with a supplement added in the sixth century BCE. This chapter records the events during the reign of Ahaz, the king of Judah.


Further reading

Preceded by
Ashur-nirari V
King of Assyria
745–727 BCE
Succeeded by
Shalmaneser V
Preceded by
King of Babylon
729–727 BCE