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Tiglath-Pileser III: stela from the walls of his palace (British Museum, London).

Tiglath-Pileser III (from the Hebraic form[1] of Akkadian: Tukultī-apil-Ešarra, "my trust is in the son of Esharra") was a prominent king of Assyria in the 8th century BC (ruled 745–727 BC)[2][3] and is widely regarded as the founder of the Neo-Assyrian Empire.[4][5] He is considered to be one of the most successful military commanders in world history, conquering most of the world known to the ancient Assyrians before his death.



The name "Tiglath-Pileser" was a throne-name given to the king on his accession, rather than a name given at birth. In translation, it means "My Trust is the Heir of Ešarra". It is given in several different forms in historical records. The Bible records him either as Tiglath-Pileser (2 Kings 15:29; 16:7, 10) or as Tilgath-Pilneser (1 Chronicles 5:6, 26; 2 Chronicles 28:20), and also as Pul (1 Chronicles 5:26 and 2 Kings 15:19). The latter resembles the name Pulu that some chronological sources give him as king of Babylonia. However, none of these sources are contemporary with Tiglath-Pileser's time, thus it remains uncertain if the name "Pul" was ever used during the king's lifetime.[6]


Former governor of Kalhu[4] and a general, Pulu was a usurper who assumed his Assyrian throne name from two more legitimate predecessors. He calls himself a son of Adad-nirari III in his inscriptions, but it is uncertain if this is truthful. He seized the throne in the midst of civil war on 13 Ayaru, 745 BC.[7][8] As a result of Pulu seizing the throne in a bloody coup d'état, the royal family was slaughtered,[4] and Assyria was set on the path to empire in order to ensure the survival of the kingdom.[4]


Tiglath-Pileser III besieging a town

Assyrian power in the Near East greatly increased as the result of Tiglath-Pileser's military reforms (see "Reforms" below) and his campaigns of conquest. Upon ascending the throne, he claimed (in Annal 9, which dates to 745 BC, his first regnal year (accession year) to have annexed Babylonia, from "Dur-(Kuri)galzu, Sippar of Shamash, ... the cities [of Ba]bylonia up to the Uqnu river [by the shore of the Lo]wer [Sea]"[9] (which referred to the Persian Gulf), and subsequently placed his eunuch over them as governor. Also in his first year of reign he defeated Urartu (in modern Armenia), whose hegemony under the rulership of Sarduri II had extended to northern Mesopotamia and Syria; there he found unrivalled horses for his war-chariots.[10] He also defeated the Medes before making war on the Neo-Hittites, Syria and Phoenicia. He took Arpad in 740 BC after three years of siege, annexed it as a province (over which he placed one of his eunuchs as governors), and subjected Hamath to tribute. Assyrian inscriptions record in 740 BC, the fifth year of his reign, a victory over Azariah (Uzziah), king of Judah, whose achievements are described in 2 Chronicles 26. In 733 BC his armies conquered Philistia on the Mediterranean coast, destroyed Damascus (732) and occupied most of Israel (732), with its northern regions becoming Assyrian provinces. According to the royal inscriptions of Tiglath-Pileser many of the inhabitants were enslaved and deported to other parts of the Assyrian empire, as commonly done by his predecessors. At sieges captives were slaughtered and their bodies raised on stakes and displayed before the city (illustration, right).

In October 729 BC , Tiglath-Pileser assumed total control of Babylon, capturing the Babylonian king Nabu-mukin-zeri (ABC 1 Col.1:21) and having himself crowned as "King Pulu of Babylon".

Biblical records

Map showing Tiglath's conquests (green) and deportation of Israelites. Tiglath-Pileser III discouraged revolts against Assyrian rule, with the use of forced deportations of thousands of people all over the empire.[11]

Biblical records, corroborated by Assyrian ones, describe how Tiglath-Pileser III exacted 1000 talents of silver tribute from King Menahem of Israel (2 Kings 15:19) and defeated his successor Pekah (15:29). Pekah had allied with Rezin, king of the Arameans against Ahaz (known to the Assyrians as Yahu-khazi), king of Judah, who responded by appealing for the Assyrian monarch's help with the Temple gold and silver. Tiglath-Pileser complied by seizing Damascus, executing Rezin, and deporting the Aramaean inhabitants to Kir (16:9). He also seized the northern half of Israel, and deported the Reubenites, Gadites, and Manasseh to Halah, Habor, Hara, and the Gozan river (1 Chron. 5:26). Beyond this, the alliance was not beneficial to Ahaz. (2 Chron 28:20).


Upon ascending the throne, Tiglath-Pileser instituted several reforms to different sectors of the Assyrian state, which arguably revived Assyria's hegemony over the Near East.

The first of such reforms entailed thwarting the powers of the high Assyrian officials, which during the reigns of his predecessors had become excessive. Officials such as Šamši-ilu, who was turtanu and a prominent official since the time of Adad-Nirari III, often led their own campaigns and erected their own commemorative stelae, often without mentioning the king at all[12]. Since his earliest inscriptions (and thus from the beginning of his reign), he gave regular mention of appointing eunuchs as governors of (newly conquered) provinces; this removed the threat of provincial rule becoming a dynastic matter. He also sought to reduce the power of his officials by reducing the size of the provinces (in some cases the northern provinces were increased to include newly conquered territories), thus decreasing their resources, should they have desired to incite a revolt. Subsequently, there were more provinces, more governors (most of which were eunuchs), and less power per governor.

The second reform targeted the army. Instead of a largely native Assyrian army which normally campaigned only in the summer time, Tiglath-Pileser incorporated large numbers of conquered people into the army, thus adding a substantial foreign element. This force mainly comprised the infantry, whereas the native Assyrians comprised the cavalry and chariotry. As a result of Tiglath-Pileser's military reforms, the Assyrian Empire was armed with a greatly expanded army which could campaign throughout the year.


Tiglath-Pileser III's conquests and reforms led to the establishment of the Neo-Assyrian Kingdom as a true empire. He built a royal palace in Nimrud (the so-called "central palace"), later dismantled by Esarhaddon. He had his royal annals engraved across the bas-reliefs depicting his military achievements on the sculptured slabs decorating his palace.

On his death he was succeeded by his son Ululayu, who took the name Shalmaneser V and further campaigned in the Levant, and captured Samaria.

See also


  1. ^ Spelled as "Tiglath-Pileser" in the Book of Kings (2Kings 15:29) and as "Tilgath-Pilneser" in the Book of Chronicles (2Chronicles 28:20).
  2. ^ Assyrian Eponym List
  3. ^ Tadmor, H. (1994). The Inscriptions of Tiglath-Pileser III, King of Assyria.pp.29
  4. ^ a b c d Healy, pp. 17
  5. ^ history of Mesopotamia :: The Neo-Assyrian Empire (746-609) - Britannica Online Encyclopedia
  6. ^ G. Frame, Babylonia 689-627, p. 303-305
  7. ^ 11th edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica, 1911 [1]
  8. ^ [2]
  9. ^ Tadmor, H. pp. 43
  10. ^ D.D. Luckenbill, Ancient Records of Assyria and Babylonia, vol II:84, quoted in Robin Lane Fox, Travelling Heroes in the Epic Age of Homer 2008, pp26f.
  11. ^ Healy, pp. 21
  12. ^ Shafer, A.T. (1998). The Carving of an Empire: Neo-Assyrian Monuments on the Periphery, p.32-33


Preceded by
Ashur-nirari V
King of Assyria
745 – 727 BC
Succeeded by
Shalmaneser V
Preceded by
King of Babylon
729 – 727 BC

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Kings of Assyria
Ashur-rabi II.
Tiglath-pileser II.
Ashur-dan II.
Adad-nirari II.
Tukulti-Ninurta II.
Ashurnasirpal II.
Shalmaneser III.
Shamshi-Adad V.
Adad-nirari III.
Shalmaneser IV.
Ashur-dan III.
Ashur-nirari V.
Tiglath-pileser III.
Shalmaneser V.
Sargon II.
Ashur-urballit II.
or Tilgath-Pil-neser, the Assyrian throne-name of Pul. He appears in the Assyrian records as gaining, in the fifth year of his reign (about B.C. 741), a victory over Azariah (= Uzziah in 2Chr 26:1), king of Judah, whose achievements are described in 2Chr 26:6ff. He is first mentioned in Scripture, however, as gaining a victory over Pekah, king of Israel, and Rezin of Damascus, who were confederates. He put Rezin to death, and punished Pekah by taking a considerable portion of his kingdom, and carrying off (B.C. 734) a vast number of its inhabitants into captivity (2Kg 15:29; 2Kg 16:5ff; 1Chr 5:6, 1Chr 5:26), the Reubenites, the Gadites, and half the tribe of Manasseh whom he settled in Gozan. In the Assyrian annals it is further related that, before he returned from Syria, he held a court at Damascus, and received submission and tribute from the neighbouring kings, among whom were Pekah of Samaria and "Yahu-khazi [i.e., Ahaz], king of Judah" (comp. 2Kg 16:10ff).

He was the founder of what is called "the second Assyrian empire," an empire meant to embrace the whole world, the centre of which should be Nineveh. He died B.C. 728, and was succeeded by a general of his army, Ulula, who assumed the name Shalmaneser IV.

This article needs to be merged with TIGLATH-PILESER (Jewish Encyclopedia).
This entry includes text from Easton's Bible Dictionary, 1897.

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