In 668 BCE Ashurbanipal inherited the largest empire in the world, which stretched from the shores of the eastern Mediterranean to the mountains of western Iran. He ruled from his massive capital at Nineveh, in present-day Iraq, where temples and palaces adorned with brilliantly carved sculptures dominated the citadel mound, and an elaborate system of canals brought water to his pleasure gardens and game parks. Ashurbanipal assembled the greatest library in existence during his reign, and, guided by this knowledge, defined the course of the empire, asserting his claim to be “King of the World.”
Beautifully illustrated, this book features images of objects excavated from all corners of the empire and highlights the British Museum’s unrivaled collection of Assyrian reliefs, which bring to life the tumultuous story of Ashurbanipal’s reign: his conquest of Egypt, the crushing defeat of his rebellious brother, and his ruthless campaign against the Elamite rulers of southwest Iran.
Originally published to accompany a once-in-a-generation exhibition at the British Museum, this edition gives an intriguing account of the Assyrian Empire told through the story of its last great ruler, and shows the importance of preserving Iraq’s rich cultural heritage for future generations.
Gareth Brereton is an archeologist and the curator responsible for the British Museum’s Ancient Mesopotamia collection. Brereton is also a Council Member and Trustee for the British Institute for the Study of Iraq (BISI).