May 2, 2008
The problems of the Assyrian kings were really insuperable. They had not only to contend with a writhing mass of subject peoples, ready to revolt at the slightest provocation and always under pressure from states outside the Assyrian empire to defect, but also the kings had to cope with their own bureaucracy where confusion reigned supreme. Every little bureaucrat had his own axe to grind, to curry favor with the king, to put down his rivals, and to do in a half-hearted way the job that his office demanded. In Assyria it was not like the situation in Egypt where centuries of organization had provided a complete job description for each office, and where the kings were dealing with a much more uniform population, well disciplined in its duties.But all this, as we shall see, was not the sum total of the difficulties. The king must somehow cope with unseen forces, control demons that were ever present, fend off evil portents, and try to keep things on an even keel. It was really too much, and the miracle of it all was that the empire lasted as long as it did.