War Became an End in Itself: Assyria
Assyria paid a heavy and increasing price for its warlike ways. Although military expeditions were still undertaken for strategic reasons, after 800 [B.C.E.] they began to resemble gangsters collecting protection money. At times, through lax management, they even seemed to encourage revolt, enabling them to squeeze the perpetrators all the harder—Metenna of Tyre was forced to pay Tiglath-Pileser III 150 talents of gold, while Sargon II relieved the city of Musasir of in excess of five tons of silver and more than a ton of gold. Unquestionably Assyria’s lords of extortion profited handsomely; but the evidence also indicates that most of the take was consumed by the army and relentless combat—180 of the 250 years between 890 and 640 [B.C.E.] were devoted to war. Combined arms proved prodigally expensive—plainly exceeding the resources of an economy ultimately based on near-subsistence farming. So the army had to keep on fighting and sacking, and in the process war became an end in itself.