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Assyria

Assyria's Decline

Despite the magnificence of Assurbanipal's court, Assyria began a rapid decline during his reign. The military aspect of the empire was its most prominent feature, for Assyria was prepared for conflict from beginning to end. Because of the ever-present need for men to fight the incessant battles, agriculture suffered, and ultimately the Assyrians had to import food. The division of society into a fairly rigid three-class system was not unlike that of other early western Asian peoples (e.g., Babylonia), but it did not supply a solid base for the overgrown Assyrian state.

The lavish expenditures of Assurbanipal on warfare and building drained the resources of the empire and contributed to its weakness. The king of the Medes, Cyaxares, and the Babylonian ruler Nabopolassar, joined forces and took Nineveh in 612 B.C. Under the son of Nabopolassar, Nebuchadnezzar, Babylonia was renewed in power, and the great-grandson of Cyaxares, Cyrus the Great, was to establish the Persian Empire, which owed much to the earlier Assyrian state.

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The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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