An Ancient Empire – Its Propaganda and Modern Parallels

Some 2700 years ago, a young king began his reign in Assyria. At the time, it was the world's greatest empire and the Assyrians had reached that peak through sheer brutality.

Some 2700 years ago, a young king began his reign in Assyria.  At the time, it was the world’s greatest empire and the Assyrians had reached that peak through sheer brutality … although that appeared to be not unusual for those days. 

The Assyrians lived in that part of what is now northern Iraq as among the earliest peoples of the region.  As loose-knit tribes, they were not yet a political force although that was to change.  It took a forceful ruler to coalesce them into a power capable of challenging their traditional rivals and antagonists, the Babylonians.  That ruler was Sargon II who ruled from 721 – 705 B.C.  He built a walled city with massive defensive walls (100 feet high and 100 feet wide), and a 20 ton winged bull with a human head stood as guardian at one of the gates.

It was the Assyrian deity — worshiped and revered — and the city it guarded was Dur-Sharrukin.  Intended by its builder to be the greatest city the world had ever known, the effort did not last — for Sargon II was shortly to die in battle, and his son Sennacherib who succeeded him abandoned the project. 

Susceptible to the building genes inherited from his father, the son soon undertook an even vaster enterprise.  His city, Nineveh, described in the Old Testament as a place of indulgence and avarice, was (according to Greek and Roman sources) of unparalleled size and riches.  The Assyrians had prospered, and in 701 B.C. when they campaigned against the Biblical Kingdom of Judah, it became an event to be related in the Bible.

They are described as being brutal:  a rebellion against them would usually lead to severe reprisals — the execution of military leaders might be understandable but they would burn down the rebellious city and transfer out the whole population — an action reminiscent of Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Union.  Does the history of the world have a way of repeating itself?   

Assyrian engineering feats remain a marvel for they brought water down from the river to the city through deep covered channels, so it remained cool, for the inhabitants.  Nineveh was packed with people archeologists have ascertained, and in the kind of heat Iraq experiences water was vital. 

Sennacherib’s son Ashurbanipal ruled for 38 years, extending the empire in all directions and keeping the Babylonians at bay.  Reliefs of him show the practice of manly arts like fighting a lion so the public could remain in awe.  The propaganda arts it turns out  — are not new or confined to Hitler or Stalin and other modern leaders. 

Even Biden’s team is busy whitewashing his shockingly wooden debate performance ascribing it to jet lag, or the onset of flu, etc.  And the other candidate, Donald Trump, appears to follow in Goebel’s footsteps in repeating his slogans often enough …. that they begin to be the ‘truth’. 

One almost wishes Biden would wrestle a lion (like an Assyrian king in one relief) or Trump an alligator to bring life to a dead election.  Perhaps that is not fair as the party conventions have yet to be held. But then the candidates are already picked …. yawn! 

Dr. Arshad M. Khan
Dr. Arshad M. Khan
Dr. Arshad M. Khan is a former Professor based in the US. Educated at King's College London, OSU and The University of Chicago, he has a multidisciplinary background that has frequently informed his research. Thus he headed the analysis of an innovation survey of Norway, and his work on SMEs published in major journals has been widely cited. He has for several decades also written for the press: These articles and occasional comments have appeared in print media such as The Dallas Morning News, Dawn (Pakistan), The Fort Worth Star Telegram, The Monitor, The Wall Street Journal and others. On the internet, he has written for, Asia Times, Common Dreams, Counterpunch, Countercurrents, Dissident Voice, Eurasia Review and Modern Diplomacy among many. His work has been quoted in the U.S. Congress and published in its Congressional Record.