There are two main reasons why the Neo-Assyrian Empire became so powerful between 934 – 610 B.C. First, through this era, the power of Assyria was largely dependant on the success of its army (Saggs, 1962). Winer (1961) states that the Assyrian military perfected the art of war. During this time period, some 180 punitive expeditions or campaigns were launched against foreign foes, rebellious vassals or other anti-Assyrian groups (Olmstead, 1923). Second, the Assyrians developed an efficient and effective administrative system with which to maintain, supply and expand their empire.

In Assyria, warfare was a way of life (Saggs, 1962) and its government was run as a military state (Winer, 1961). Early wars had been like raids; undertaken to obtain booty, settle disputes over land and water rights, or fought for military notoriety. During the second Assyrian Empire, war became a part of the state policy. The raid was replaced by a detailed and carefully planned scheme of conquest (Sayce, 1899).

The Assyrian Empire maintained a powerful standing army, not only to satisfy its imperialistic appetite, but also to safeguard the King against potential rebellious provincial governors. Sayce (1899) writes that nothing was spared to make the army as effective as possible. Army discipline was raised to the highest pitch of perfection, and its weapons and uniforms constantly underwent improvements (Sayce, 1899). Part of the army was composed of mercenaries, while another part was recruited by conscription (Sayce, 1899). Almost every male citizen had to bear arms. Only the essential services of bankers, carpenters, merchants and metal workers could, under special favour of the government expect to be occasionally made exempt from military service (Trueman, 1964).

The army was directly commanded by the King, or at times, his commander-in-chief, the Tartannu (Sayce, 1899). The main force of the army consisted of light and heavily armoured infantry. Both units were equipped with bows, pikes and swords. The army also contained a mobile contingent of cavalry that featured mounted archers and lancers. Slingers, archers on foot and chariots driven by three-man crews were further components of the main army. Also attached to the army were units of the King’s staff officers, intelligence personnel, interpreters and scribes. Engineers accompanied the army to build bridges, boats, rafts, roads, and to construct ramps for use during a siege. Breasted (1944) states Assyrian forces were the first large armies to be extensively equipped with iron weapons. Assyrians were especially skilled in besieging cities, using battering rams to break down enemy walls. Siege towers on wheels were further used to pummel enemy cities.

During its military campaigns, the Assyrians had an effective transport and supply system in place to provide for its army. The Assyrian commissariat carefully calculated everything from daily rations for its troops to the hay and straw needed to feed its horses. While captured enemy supplies were often used to feed the troops during military forays, the Assyrians also proved to be adept military planners to ensure that its army was well provisioned if such supplies were not available.

A powerful army allowed the Assyrians to control the trade routes that ran from Iran and beyond to the west. Trueman (1964) states that because of Assyria’s strategic position on the Fertile Crescent, only constant warfare or an empire prepared for war could maintain these east-west trade highways. Under the reign of Asasnirai II, a system of fortified posts was constructed to protect these trade routes. This practice was continued through the New-Assyrian era.

Much of the military and administration efficiency of the Assyrian army rested upon a strong communication and intelligence system. After a revolt was put down, a garrison of Assyrian troops was maintained in the area. These troops were not only expected to maintain the status quo, but also to report on the possibility of any further anti-Assyrian activity. Intelligence reports of any suspected activity were passed back to the capital for evaluation. If these reports indicated an impending attack of more significant numbers than these outposts could handle, then a larger more powerful Assyrian force would be sent to address the problem.

Once a revolt was put down, Assyrian justice would be quick, punitive and severe. Under Tiglath III, the Assyrian practice of deporting rebellious people to other parts of the Empire was begun. This continue