Geographical sites:

  • Nimrud (click here to focus in map) (see also Pleiades #894019)
    Pleiades_icon Kalhu/Calah/‘Larisa’? settlement Description: An ancient Assyrian city located 20 miles south of the city of Mosul, Iraq, and now known as Nimrud. The city occupies a strategic position six miles north of the point where the Tigris river meets its tributary the Great Zab.


Text #4036

Ambraseys. Earthquakes in the Mediterranean and Middle East
[pp. 78--79]

c. 680–669 BC Nimrud

An earthquake was felt, probably in Nimrud, the first for three generations. It is possible that this was not an earthquake at all.

This earthquake occurred during the reign of King Esarhaddon (680–669 BC). According to Balasi, perhaps a priest of Nimrud, ‘in the times of the fathers and ancestors of the king no earthquake took place’. Furthermore, although Balasi prescribes the performance of certain rituals in the aftermath of the tremor, he claims that he, because he was ‘without understanding, did not perceive the earthquake’. This probably means that it was a very slight tremor, so that he might not have felt it. Alternatively it was not an earthquake at all, but just the collapse of a rickety building which was blamed by a superstitious king on an earthquake – in which case Balasi is probably being diplomatic.

Since no location is given, it is likely that this earthquake happened (or was imagined) at Nimrud, which in Esarhaddon’s time was still the political centre of the Assyrian empire. The same argument may be applied to the next entry.

‘The significance, that is, of the earthquake, is this: since it has taken place, let them perform whatever the rites are for an earthquake. Your gods will give prosperity. Did Ea do it, Ea will surely release (from it). Whoever caused the earthquake, that (god) also has provided a releasing incantation. In the times of the fathers and ancestors of the king no earthquake took place (and) I, myself, because I am without understanding, did not perceive the earthquake.’ (Waterman L., Royal Correspondence of the Assyrian Empire, 1930, no. 355).

c. 680–669 BC Nimrud

An earthquake, probably in Nimrud, lasted for an entire day. A letter to King Esarhaddon from Ishtarhumeresh mentions that the Earth shook for an entire day (Waterman L Royal Correspondence of the Assyrian Empire, 1930, no. 34). Given the apparent scarcity of earthquakes in the two generations preceding Esarhaddon, it is tempting to suggest that Balasi (see previous entry) and Ishtarhumeresh are referring to the same event. However, the events in question seem to have been very different. First, Balasi is responding to an enquiry from the king regarding an earthquake, while Ishtarhumeresh is informing him that one happened; second, Balasi seems not to have felt the earthquake which he is writing about, while the event in the letter of Ishtarhumeresh lasted a whole day, so it must have been felt by everyone in the vicinity. Mallowan notes a brick pavement in court S31–45 of Fort Shalmaneser, which was certainly built by Esarhaddon, because his name is inscribed on a brick at the south end. S31, 32 and 35 all manifest gradual disintegration, which Mallowan believes, ‘may possibly have been accelerated by an earthquake’. (Mallowan, M. E. L., Nimrud and Its Remains, 1966, vol. ii, p. 389).

‘Now for a whole day there was an earthquake. When the earthquakes for a whole day, the prince of the land will be taken away.’ (Waterman L., Royal Correspondence of the Assyrian Empire, 1930, no. 344).

Text #4037

Editorial comment by Zadig

A letter to the king of Assyria Esarhaddon (681 - 669 BC) – the youngest son of Sennacherib and the West Semitic queen Naqi’a (Zakitu), Sennacherib’s second wife – from the scribe Isharhumeresh mentions an earthquake in Nimrud during his reign.

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