About the project

In the second half of the eighth century BC, Assyria was the most powerful state in the Middle East: regions far beyond the Assyrian heartland in the north of modern-day Iraq, demarcated by the triangle formed by the ancient cities of Assur, Nineveh and Arbail, were annexed as provinces to form an empire that stretched from the Mediterranean Sea to the Persian Gulf, from the fringes of the Arabian desert to western Iran and central Anatolia.

About 1,200 letters and letter fragments survive of the correspondence of king Sargon II (721-705 BC) with his governors and magnates. They were retrieved in the shape of the original clay tablets during excavations in the royal cities of Kalhu (modern Nimrud) and Nineveh (modern Mossul). This corpus of letters between a king and his high officials, the largest known from antiquity, gives first-hand insight into the mechanisms of communication between the top levels of authority in an ancient empire.

The four crucial edited volumes of this correspondence in the Assyrian and Babylonian dialects are:

With the kind permission of the authors and the Neo-Assyrian Text Corpus Project [http://www.helsinki.fi/science/saa/], this project brings together translations and transliterations of all 1,200 of these texts, adding explanatory and supplementary materials in order to provide the historical context.

Sponsors, timing and feedback

This website is part of the research project "Mechanisms of communication in an ancient empire: the correspondence between the king of Assyria and his magnates in the 8th century BC", funded by the UK's Arts and Humanities Research Council [http://www.ahrc.ac.uk] and housed at the History Department of University College London [http://www.ucl.ac.uk/history]. The project began in October 2008 and ended in September 2012. This website went online in October 2009. We welcome suggestions and comments, to the email address Jamie.Novotny@lmu.de.

Software development

The website is based on a design by George MacKerron for the Whipple Museum [http://www.hps.cam.ac.uk/whipple/], and was created using his Electrostatic software. The transliteration and translation files were originally coded by Bob Whiting for the Neo-Assyrian Text Corpus Project [http://www.helsinki.fi/science/saa/]. They were converted to ATF [http://oracc.museum.upenn.edu/doc/builder/index.html], Oracc [http://oracc.museum.upenn.edu/]'s standard encoding, by Steve Tinney who also wrote the pager which displays them.

Project team (2008–12)

Consultants and contributors of transliterations, translations and photographs

Finally, we are indebted to all authors, editors and publishers who generously permitted us to make available online materials originally published in printed form in the bibliography section.

Content last modified: 22 Jul 2021.

Back to top ^^
© Mechanisms of communication in the Assyrian empire. History Department, University College London, 2009