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Assyria was a very ancient kingdom in the northern half of Mesopotamia. Formerly a tribal confederacy that came under the sway of Babylonia for a while, Assyria rose to become an independent state in the 14th century BCE. Beginning with the 12th century it declined, only to reemerge as a kingdom again in the 8th century BCE. Under a sequence of powerful Assyrian kings of Tiglath-pileser III, Shalmaneser V, Sargon II, Sennacherib and Esarhaddon, Assyria expanded by force and controlled most of the Middle East from Egypt to the Persian Gulf.
The Assyrians were known for their cruelty and military skills and for this reason soon declined quickly when a simultaneous revolt of Babylon and Media occurred in 625 BCE. They had no loyal allies when it looked like they could be overthrown. Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, was taken in 612 B.C. and razed to the ground. Fighting continued through 609 B.C. and for a few years the Assyrian general Ashur-uballit tried to save a remnant of the Empire with Harran as its capital, but that last gasp was destroyed in 605 B.C. The Babylonians quickly assumed prominence in the Middle East as the next great Empire as they began their own military campaigns.
The Middle Assyrian Empire
The Fall of Assur
"The decline and demise of the Assyrian empire was surprisingly rapid. Under Ashurbanipal Egypt regained its independence and his successors faced two enemies in the east: the Medes and the Babylonians. The fall of Assyria In 626 Babylon shook off the Assyrian yoke, defeating an Assyrian army.
"It was then that Egypt began to give active support to their former overlords, in order to keep Assyria as a much weakened buffer state between their regions of interest and the rising powers of the East - an interesting example of Realpolitik. Yet Egypt was too weak to be able to withstand the attacks of the Medes for long: Two years after a battle between the united Assyrian-Egyptian forces and the Babylonians only 300 km from Babylon itself in 616, the Medes under Cyaxares conquered Ashur. In the year 612 BCE, Niniveh fell to the combined forces of the Babylonians and Medes. Haran, Ashur-uballit's last stronghold, was taken in 610, ending the Assyrian empire."