Sennacherib's Annals

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Sennacherib's Annals
Taylor Prism-1.jpg
Final editions of Sennacherib's Annals – the Taylor Prism (above) and Jerusalem Prism (below)
Sennacherib's Prism in the Israel Museum (2).JPG
Material Clay
Size Varies
Writing Akkadian cuneiform
Created c. 690 BCE
Discovered From 1830
Present location Final editions in the British Museum,[1] Oriental Institute of Chicago, and the Israel Museum

Sennacherib's Annals are the annals of the Assyrian king Sennacherib. They are found inscribed on a number of artifacts, and the final versions were found in three clay prisms inscribed with the same text: the Taylor Prism is in the British Museum, the Oriental Institute Prism in the Oriental Institute of Chicago, and the Jerusalem Prism is in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

The Taylor Prism is one of the earliest cuneiform artifacts analysed in modern Assyriology, having been found a few years prior to the modern deciphering of cuneiform.

The annals themselves are notable for describing his siege of Jerusalem during the reign of king Hezekiah. This event is recorded in several books contained in the Bible including Isaiah chapters 33 and 36; 2 Kings 18:17; 2 Chronicles 32:9. The invasion is mentioned by Herodotus, who does not refer to Judea and says the invasion ended at Pelusium on the edge of the Nile delta.[2]

Description and discovery

The prisms contain six paragraphs of cuneiform written Akkadian. They are hexagonal in shape, made of red baked clay, and stand 38.0 cm high by 14.0 cm wide, and were created during the reign of Sennacherib in 689 BC (Chicago) or 691 BC (London, Jerusalem).

The Taylor prism is thought to have been found by Colonel Robert Taylor (1790–1852) in 1830 Nineveh, which was the ancient capital of the Assyrian Empire under Sennacherib, prior to its initial excavation by Botta and Layard more than a decade later. Although the prism remained in Iraq until 1846, in 1835 a paper squeeze was made by the 25-year-old Henry Rawlinson, and a plaster cast was taken by Pierre-Victorien Lottin in c.1845.[3] The original was later thought to have been lost, until it was purchased from Colonel Taylor's widow in 1855 by the British Museum.[4] (Colonel Taylor may have been the father of John George Taylor, who, himself, became a noted Assyrian explorer and archaeologist.)[5]

Another version of this text is found on what is known as the Sennacherib Prism, now in the Oriental Institute. It was purchased by James Henry Breasted from a Baghdad antiques dealer in 1919 for the Oriental Institute.[6] The Jerusalem prism was acquired by the Israel Museum at a Sotheby's auction in 1970.[7] It was only published in 1990.[8]

The three known complete examples of this inscription are nearly identical, with only minor variants, although the dates on the prisms show that they were written sixteen months apart (the Taylor and Jerusalem Prisms in 691 BC and the Oriental Institute prism in 689 BC). There are also at least eight other fragmentary prisms preserving parts of this text, all in the British Museum, and most of them containing just a few lines.

The Chicago text was translated by Daniel David Luckenbill and the Akkadian text, along with a translation into English, is available in his book The Annals of Sennacherib (University of Chicago Press, 1924).[9]


Jerusalem as inscribed on the prism
Hezekiah of Judah as inscribed on the prism

It is one of three accounts discovered so far which have been left by Sennacherib of his campaign against the Kingdom of Israel and Kingdom of Judah, giving a different perspective on these events from that of the Book of Kings in the Bible.

Some passages in the Hebrew Bible agree with at least a few of the claims made on the prism. The Bible recounts a successful Assyrian attack on Samaria, as a result of which the population was deported, and later recounts that an attack on Lachish was ended by Hezekiah suing for peace, with Sennacherib demanding 300 talents of silver and 30 talents of gold, and Hezekiah giving him all the silver from his palace and from the Temple in Jerusalem, and the gold from doors and doorposts of the temple.[10] Compared to this, the Taylor Prism proclaims that 46 walled cities and innumerable smaller settlements were conquered by the Assyrians, with 200,150 people, and livestock, being deported, and the conquered territory being dispersed among the three kings of the Philistines instead of being given back. Additionally, the Prism says that Sennacherib’s siege resulted in Hezekiah being shut up in Jerusalem "like a caged bird", Hezekiah's mercenaries and 'Arabs' deserting him, and Hezekiah eventually buying off Sennacherib, having to give him antimony, jewels, ivory-inlaid furniture, his own daughters, harem, and musicians. It states that Hezekiah became a tributary ruler.

On Sennacherib's prism, he says this of Hezekiah: "As for the king of Judah, Hezekiah, who had not submitted to my authority, I besieged and captured forty-six of his fortified cities, along with many smaller towns, taken in battle with my battering rams. ... I took as plunder 200,150 people, both small and great, male and female, along with a great number of animals including horses, mules, donkeys, camels, oxen, and sheep. As for Hezekiah, I shut him up like a caged bird in his royal city of Jerusalem. I then constructed a series of fortresses around him, and I did not allow anyone to come out of the city gates. His towns which I captured I gave to the kings of Ashod, Ekron, and Gaza."

The tribute given by Hezekiah is then mentioned but in this account, nothing is said of Sennacherib capturing the city of Jerusalem.


  1. ^ British Museum Collection
  2. ^ chapter 141
  3. ^ Outline of the history of Assyria : as collected from the inscriptions discovered by Austin Henry Layard, Esq. in the ruins of Nineveh (1852), page 18
  4. ^ (British Museum)
  5. ^ Mr. Taylor in Chaldaea, E. Sollberger, Anatolian Studies, Vol. 22, Special Number in Honour of the Seventieth Birthday of Professor Seton Lloyd (1972), pp. 129–139
  6. ^ Chicago
  7. ^ [1] Center for Online Judaic Studies (COJS)
  8. ^ Ling-Israel, P., "The Sennacherib Prism in the Israel Museum—Jerusalem," pp. 213–47 in Bar-Ilan: Studies in Assyriology Dedicated to Pinḥas Artzi (ed. J. Klein and A. Skaist; Ramat-Gan: Bar-Ilan University Press, 1990).
  9. ^ [2] Daniel David Luckenbill, The Annals of Sennacherib, Oriental Institute Publications 2, University of Chicago Press, 1924
  10. ^ 2 Kings 19:1–36

External links

  • Sennacherib Prism – Luckenbill's translation as adapted by K.C. Hanson
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