Annals of Shalmaneser III

Introductions: Brief introductions to the individual tablets by

Daniel David Luckenbill

Unless otherwise indicated (by [AH] appended to the end) these descriptions come from Luckenbill, Daniel D. Ancient Records of Assyria and Babylonia (Chicago, 1926).

The monolith inscription (Kurkh Stele)

Our earliest annals text of Shalmaneser is the so-called “Monolith Inscription,” engraved, along with the figure of the king in relief, on a stele which came to the British Museum from Kurkh. The record of the military activities of the king, up to the battle of Karkar (sixth year), is given in detail. The stele was probably set up at the end of, or soon after, the sixth year. The text is published in IIIR, Plates 7 & 8.

Bronze Gates of Balâwât

The “Bronze Gates of Balâwât,” as they are popularly known from the alleged site of their discovery (in 1876), are one of the choicest treasures of the British Museum. From the earliest to the latest days of Assyrian history we hear of gates and doors of cedar, and other woods, “whose odor is pleasant,” covered with bands of bronze, sometimes even silver and gold, and set up in the entrances to palace or temple. In the Bronze Reliefs from the Gates of Shalmaneser, edited by King, will be found collotype reproductions of the thirteen bronze bands which formed part of the decoration of the “Balâwât Gates,” and which have generally been conceded to “represent the finest example of work in bronze repoussé which has survived from so early a period,” The recent remarkable discoveries of Hall and Woolley at Tel Obeid, near the site of the ancient Ur, will hardly compel us to modify our estimate of the Shalmaneser bronzes, but they do raise the question as to whether King’s doubts as to their source, based upon the smallness of the mound of Balâwât, are justified. The reader is referred to King’s work for a detailed description of the bronzes, as well as for a bibliography of the more important works dealing with them. Below is given a translation of the short descriptions engraved in the field above the figures by the Assyrian artists.

In addition to the bronze bands which were nailed across the doors and around the massive doorposts, there was a sheathing of bronze running from the top to the bottom of the free edge of each of the doors. On these edgings was engraved the so-called “Gate Inscription,” in duplicate. Only a selected few events from the first four years are recorded and the inscription closes with a detailed account of the campaigns against Babylonia, years 8 and 9. But in view of the fact that the scenes and inscriptions on the bands include the campaigns against Arnê and Ashtamaku, it is probable that the gates were not set up until after the eleventh year.

The text was published in TSBA, VII, 89 f., and again by Pinches, The bronze ornaments of the palace gates of Balawat. See also Billerbeck and Deliltsch in BA, VI (Part I), and Unger, Zum Bronzetor von Balawat.

Fragments of the royal annals


From Kalat Sherkat we have three fragments of the annals as they were edited sometime after the sixteenth year. It is possible that the first of these, which contained a full account of the events of the year of accession, belongs to a much earlier period. The texts are published in KAH, II, Nos. 112-114.


On two large bull-colossi, from the center of the mound at Nimrûd, we have slightly varying copies of a version of Shalmaneser’s annals which ended with the eighteenth year (text published in Layard, Inscriptions, Plates 12 f. and 46 f.), See also Delitzsch, BA, VI, 144 f., whose numbering of the lines is here followed.


Three more fragments of Shalmaneser’s annals, found at Assur (Kalat Sherkat), are here given. The first (KAH, II, No. 109) is a duplicate, with slight variants, of the Monolith Inscription (Col. I, lines 1-7); the second (KAH, II, No. 110) is a duplicate, with additions, of parts of the Obelisk Inscription; the third (ibid., No. 115) has the end (If the third year’s campaign as given in the Monolith, and the beginning of the fourth as given in the Obelisk.


A fragment of the annals is published in KAH, Plate 5, No.6. It gives the events of the eighteenth year in greater detail than our other texts.

Throne inscription

On the throne of the black-basalt seated figure of Shalmaneser, found at Kalal Sherkat, and now in the British Museum, stands the following commemoratory inscription (text, Layard, Inscriptions, Plates 76 f.) [DL].

Dating this is a little trickier. The second paragraph describes Shalmaneser’s campaign to stabilize the dynasty in Babylon, which he elsewhere puts in the years 852-851. Then the repairs to the wall are said to take place, “At that time.” But the statue inscription uses the same language for wall repair during the end of Hadad’s reign and the beginning of Hazael’s in Damascus (843-842). It is unlikely that the walls were a one year project, so this need not be viewed as a problem, although it also means that it could have already been under way before 852, and still continuing after 843. In any case I have put the two descriptions with their respective datable entries. Non-datable ones (Miscellaneous Building Inscriptions) I have put with the throne inscription, since it is the longer of the two [AH].

On the throne of the black-basalt seated figure of Shalmaneser, found at Kalal Sherkat, and now in the British Museum, stands the following commemoratory inscription (text, Layard, Inscriptions, Plates 76 f.):

The statue inscription

The Berlin statue of Shalmaneser also came from Assur (Kalat-Sherkat) (text published in KAH, I, No. 30). [DL]

The paragraph on Syria (Hadad and Hazael of Damascus) describes events in the time frame of 843-842, BC. The attack on Namri which follows that probably comes from the year before that (844), even though he calls it his “second time.” The other annals have 844 (year 16) as his first attack on Namri, the second coming in year 24 (836) which is enough distant from the Syrian war to give us pause before assigning this tablet that late .

As I noted in my discussion of the Throne Inscription, construction on the walls seems still to be under way [AH].

Inscriptions at the source of the Tigris

Shalmaneser’s inscriptions at the source of the Tigris have been edited by Lehman-Haupt (Materialien, Nos. 20f. [pp. 31f.]).[DL]

1. (KAH, II, # I07) This inscription mentions the Syrian wars against Hadad, but does not mention Hazael. He says it is the fourth time they have fought, which is already more than we know about with Hadad. Presumably that would date this inscription around year 17 (843, BC) [AH].

2. This inscription mentions attacking Nairî and going to the source of the Tigris, which he did in his 15th year (845). Of course, he may have done this on other occasions as well [AH].

3. If it is Hadad who is leader of the coalition (rather than Hazael) then this probably dates to before the 17th year (843), as in #1, above. If not, well, it could be any time[AH].

4. There are a number of parallels to #2, above, especially his claiming that this the third time he has attacked Nairî . If that was year 15 (845) probably this is too [AH].

Miscellaneous Building Inscriptions


Before the removal to Calah, Shalmaneser was very active in the rebuilding of palace walls and temples at Assur.

font color=darkred>1–3 Bricks from the palace, with inscriptions of varying length, published in Layard, op. cit., Plate 77B.: Lehman-Haupt, op. cit., No. I8; British Museum, bricks nos. 90,211–223; KAH, Nos. 104. 105, 107; and a bowl fragment in the British Museum (No. 56-9-9, 142), give only the genealogy of the king.

4–5 Inscriptions recording the restoration of the city wall (KAH, I, No. 29 [ibid., II, No. 96, abbreviated form; bricks]):

6–7 (cf. Andrae, Fest., p. 173.) Zigatu-inscriptions.

8. , alabaster slab (KAH, II, No. 100):

706 9. Unpublished inscription on a gold tablet in the collections of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago: 10. Brick inscription recording the restoration of the temple of Bêlit-nipha (text in KAH, II, No. 98).

11. Brickinscription recording the making of a golden image of the god Armada (text in KAH, II, No. 103).

12. Brick inscription recording repairs on the wall of the AnuAdad temple (text in KAH, II, No. 106).


The completion of the zigurrat at Calah (Nimrûd) was one of Shalmaneser’s building achievements. Bricks from the structure have found their way into more than one European museum. The texts vary in length, according to the fullness of the genealogy. See Layard, Inscriptions, Plate 78B; Lehman-Haupt, Materialien, Nos. 13–17; British Museum, Nos, 90, 224–227;98,068

The Black Obelisk inscription

In the inscription on the famous “Black Obelisk” of the British Museum we are in possession of what was in all probability the final edition of the annals of Shalmaneser III (858–824 B.C.), This black alabaster monolith came from the central building at Calah (Calah), and is inscribed on its four sides with the record of the king’s military achievements from the year of accession to the thirty-first year. In addition to this inscription there are twenty small reliefs, with annotations, depicting the payment of the tribute of five conquered regions.

The text of the obelisk was published in Layard’s Inscriptions, Plates 87 f., and has been translated many times! The inscription on the fragment of a stone slab found at Kalat Sherkat seems to have been a duplicate of the obelisk inscription. This text, which breaks off at the end of the account of the campaign of the second year, was published in KAH, 1, No. 77 [DH].

The Black Obelisk has 20 bas relief images in it, five on each sice. Each level, in sequence, represents tribute received from a particular king. So, for example, the first image on the top row (with Sûa prostrating before Shalmaneser) is followed by the top row image next to it (rotating clockwise), and so on around giving four images for each tribute. The second row is the most famous, because it depicts the tribute from Jehu, “son of Omri.” Each row has a caption written above it, which is how I have presented them below (contrary to the usual modern practice of captions below) [AH].