Assyria: The Rise and Fall of the World’s First Empire


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. In Assyria, Eckart Frahm tells the epic story of this empire and its enduring influence in global history. Assyria originated as a minor city-state in present-day Iraq. Much of its growth was fueled by greed and an insatiable hunger for war, epitomized in the words of one of its kings, “Before me, cities; behind me, ruins.” Yet violence was not all that defined Assyria. New research has shed light on other aspects of this ancient civilization: Assyria’s vast libraries and monumental sculptures, its elaborate trade and information networks, the crucial role played by Assyrian royal women, and the impact of plagues and climate change on the empire’s fortunes. Although crushed by rising powers in the late seventh century BCE, the Assyrian Empire launched a long tradition of multiethnic conqueror-states, and its legacy endured from the Babylonian and Persian Empires to Rome and beyond.