Climatic Change and the Eleventh-Tenth-Century Eclipse of Assyria and Babylonia
By J. Neumann and S. Parpol
Journal of Near Eastern Studies, Vol. 46, No. 3 (1987)
Introduction: After some three centuries of military strength and territorial expansion, in the eleventh century B.C. the Assyrian empire plunged into a state of weakness from which it was not to recover until a century and a half later. At the same time, Babylonia, Assyria’s neighbor to the south, was also having difficulties. Textual evidence from the period is relatively scarce, but it is strongly colored by allusions to crop failure, famine, outbreaks of plague, and repeated nomad incursions into settled areas in both countries.
The principal events of this troubled period in Mesopotamian history have been ably described and discussed by J. A. Brinkman in his study of the political history of post-Kassite Babylonia.’ In considering the reasons for the disastrous nomad inva- sions, he suggests that they were primarily due to famines simultaneously affecting both the settled regions and the outlying nomad habitats. “The semi-nomads, whether their livelihood was derived at various times from the raising of cattle or from trade, needed to obtain at least some food supplies from the more settled areas …. These raiders were most likely to attack the settled areas of [Assyria and] Babylonia in times of famine, when they were unable to procure food by peaceful means and when the inhabitants of [Assyria and] Babylonia were apt to be weaker than usual.”