King Ashurbanipal of Assyria (r. 668–c. 631 BC) was the most powerful ruler on earth, describing himself, appropriately, in inscriptions as ‘King of the World’. His rulership was centred in the great city of Nineveh (now in northern Iraq) and his empire stretched from the shores of the eastern Mediterranean to the Zagros mountains of Iran. His reign marked the high point of the Neo-Assyrian empire in terms of military matters, building works, as well as literature and the arts. Conquest and culture found a perfect synergy in the person of this amazing king.
Ashurbanipal was an astute self-publicist and proved the vigour of his rulership in sculpted scenes showing him hunting and killing fierce lions and in the killing of enemy soldiers. He boasted of his successes on the hunting field and the battlefield as he crushed his enemies with brute force. And yet Ashurbanipal used his victories to bring to Nineveh the wealth of foreign tribute which made the city the centre of the world and to beautify its palaces with gardens and libraries. The king’s renown as a scholar and a diplomat rivalled his image as a warrior.
In 612 BC, shortly after Ashurbanipal’s sudden death, Nineveh was destroyed by the combined forces of the Medes and the Babylonians and its ruins were lost to history. In the 1840s their rediscovery opened up again the lost world of Ashurbanipal.
The day is spent at the British Museum viewing its unrivalled collection of Assyrian antiquities and culminates with a visit to the Ashurbanipal exhibition. The lecturer is Professor Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones, expert on the history and cultures of the ancient Near East.
10.15am, British Museum.
£215. This includes lunch and morning and mid-afternoon refreshments and entrance to the exhibition.
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Maximum 14 participants.
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London Days combinations
Arts of India, Tuesday 20 November 2018 or The Golden Age of British Painting, Thursday 7 February 2019.