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Temple of Aššur at Assur

a Pleiades place resource

Creators: Jamie Novotny Copyright © The Contributors. Sharing and remixing permitted under terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License (cc-by).
Last modified Jun 04, 2022 09:50 AM History
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From the second half of the third millennium BC until 614 BC, there was a temple in Assur dedicated to the city’s tutelary deity Aššur. The temple was excavated by W. Andrae in 1903–05 and 1909–12. The earliest and latest textual records for construction work on Aššur’s temple date respectively to the time of Šalim-aḫum, an early old Assyrian king, and the reign of Ashurbanipal (668–631 BC), Assyria’s last great king. According to the Middle Assyrian king Shalmaneser I (1263–1234 BC) and the Neo-Assyrian ruler Esarhaddon (680–669 BC), Ušpia, a tribal ancestor of the Old Assyrian king Šamšī-Adad I (ca. 1808–1776 BC), was the building’s founder. In 614 BC, when the city was captured by the Medes, the temple was destroyed.

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According to the Götteradressbuch (George 1992: pp. 176–179 no. 20 lines 144–146 = BTTo GAB A lines 1–3), Ešarra was the name of the entire temple, Eḫursaggalkurkurra was the name of Aššur's cella, and Eḫursaggula was the name of the šuḫūru-house. Note that some Assyrian inscriptions, however, give the impression that Eḫursaggalkurkurra was the main temple and that Eḫursaggula was the cella.

There is textual evidence that the following Assyrian kings worked on the Aššur temple at Assur over the course of its long history: Šalim-aḫum, Erišum I, Šamšī-Adad I, Aššur-nārārī I, Erība-Adad I, Adad-nārārī I, Shalmaneser I, Tukultī-Ninurta I, Aššur-rēša-iši I, Ašur-dan II, Tukultī-Ninurta II, Ashurbanipal II, Shalmaneser III, Šamšī-Adad V, Adad-nārārī III, Ašur-dan III, Tiglath-pileser III, Sargon II, Sennacherib, Esarhaddon, and Ashurbanipal. The plan of the temple changed and expanded over time, most notably during the reigns of the Old Assyrian king Šamšī-Adad I and the Neo-Assyrian ruler Sennacherib. 

As part of religious reforms that took place after the sack and destruction of Babylon in late 689 BC, Sennacherib remodeled and rebuilt the central sanctuary of the Aššur temple in an attempt to replicate the Esagil complex at Babylon.  A new, multi-room complex, the so-called “Ostanbau,” was built onto the existing structure. That addition was modelled on Esagil’s square-shaped “Sublime Court,” which was, according to inscriptions of his son Esarhaddon (Leichty 2011 Esarhaddon 104 iii 50–51), a replica of the constellation known as the “Field” (ikû, the “Square of Pegasus”). Although Sennacherib himself does not record that the eight-gated complex that he had built onto Aššur’s temple was a replica of a key part of Marduk’s temple, it is clear from later texts that the “Ostanbau” was in fact modelled on Esagil’s “Sublime Court” and its celestial counterpart, the “Square of Pegasus,” and was intended to create a link between heaven and earth, principally since the one at Babylon had been severed in 689 BC. Despite the fact that Sennacherib’s changes to the Aššur temple were very unpopular, his son and immediate successor Esarhaddon refused to revert the plan of the temple back to its pre-689 design.

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Jamie Novotny, 'Temple of Aššur at Assur: a Pleiades place resource', Pleiades: A Gazetteer of Past Places, 2022 <> [accessed: 15 June 2024]

            {{cite web |url= |title=Places: 457530554 (Temple of Aššur at Assur) |author=Novotny, J. |accessdate=June 15, 2024 10:29 am |publisher=Pleiades}}