627 BCE — King Ashurbanipal of Assyria dies

Legend says that he was the only king of Assyria who ever learned to read or write. Be that as it may, it is known that Ashurbanipal gathered one of the world’s greatest libraries of cuneiform tablets in his palace at Nineveh. However, although he was apparently unusually literate, Ashurbanipal was also an unusually cruel king (which is saying something, since Assyria was noted as an unusually cruel realm even in its barbarous day).

When Ashurbanipal died in 627 BCE, strife was already rising in Assyria, and outright civil war soon broke out – in less than two decades after his death, the Neo-Assyrian Empire over which he had ruled – and which had lasted three centuries by that time – was gone, never to returned, subsumed into the Persian Empire and its successor states.

Referenced in:

The Mesopotamians — They Might Be Giants

668 BCE — Ashurbanipal becomes King of Assyria

When Ashurbanipal inherited the throne of Assyria from his father, Esarhaddon, he also inherited the war between Assyria and the alliance of Egypt and Nubia. Ashurbanipal was a etter general and king than his father, and defeated the Egyptians handily in a series of battles. By 660 BCE, he ruled almost all of the Middle East with the exception of southern Arabia.

Ashurbanipal was renowned for his cruelty to his defeated enemies. It was not enough to take their lands and sell them into slavery (although he did that too), Ashurbanipal was notorious for the sadism and brutality of his tortures – and this in an age where torture was considered more or less normal. Perhaps because of this, he was the last strong ruler of Assyria.

Referenced in:

The Mesopotamians — They Might Be Giants