At its height in 660 BCE, the kingdom of Assyria stretched from the Mediterranean Sea to the Persian Gulf. It was the first empire the world had ever seen. Assyria’s wide-ranging conquests have long been known from the Hebrew Bible and later Greek accounts (and its reputation for unspeakable cruelty, with images of Assyrians skinning its enemies alive carved into stone on an Assyrian royal palace
). But nearly two centuries of research now permit a rich picture of the Assyrians and their empire beyond the battlefield: their vast libraries and monumental sculptures, their elaborate trade and information networks, and the crucial role played by royal women. Today’s guest is Eckart Frahm, author of “Assyria: The Rise and Fall of the World’s First Empire.”
Using archaeological research, along with the study of tens of thousands of cuneiform texts, researchers have been able to construct a more accurate depiction of Assyrian life, revealing the empire’s enduring impact on global civilization. Frahm
shows how despite its war-prone image, Assyria proved innovative in the realms of architecture, arts, technology, and diplomacy. Readers will learn about the elaborate “Royal Road” that enabled trade and communication over vast distances, how Assyrian scholars created the first universal library, and about the impact of plagues and climate change on the empire’s fortunes.
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