Tiglath-Pilasser III

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Tiglath-Pileser III — stela from the walls of his palace (British Museum, London)

Tiglath-Pileser III (Akkadian: Tukultī-Apil-Ešarra) was a prominent king of Assyria in the 8th century BC (ruled 745-727 BC) and is widely regarded as the founder of the Neo-Assyrian Empire. He is considered one of the most successful military commanders in world history, conquering most of the world known to the ancient Assyrians before his death.


The name Tiglath-Pileser was a throne-name; that is, one given to the king on his accession to the throne, rather than a name given at birth. In translation, it means "My Trust is the Heir of Ešarra". It is given in several different forms in historical records. The Bible records him as Tillegath-pilneser (2 Chronicles 28:20) and the much-abbreviated Pul (1 Chronicles 5:26 and 2 Kings 15:19,20). This latter resembles the name he took for his coronation as King of Babylon, Pulu.


The king's origins are unknown, but it is believed he may have been a usurper who assumed the name of a more legitimate predecessor. The Assyrian kingdom had seriously weakened after the death of Shalmaneser III (859 - 824 BC). He may, however, have been a younger son of Adad-nirari III, whose son he calls himself in his inscriptions or related in some other way to his predecessors - perhaps even a son of his predecessor Ashur-nirari V.


Under the rule of Tiglath-Pileser, Assyrian power in the Near East greatly increased as the result of his campaigns of conquest. Soon after becoming king, he defeated Urartu (in modern Armenia), who had extended to northern Mesopotamia and Syria. He then took Arpad after three years of siege, and led several campaigns to the west. Assyrian inscriptions record, in the fifth year of his reign (739 BC), a victory over Azariah (Uzziah), king of Kingdom of Judah, whose achievements are described in 2 Chronicles 26:6-15. In 733 BC his armies conquered Philistia on the Mediterranean coast, destroyed Damascus and occupied most of the Kingdom of Israel, with its northern regions becoming Assyrian provinces. Many of the inhabitants were impaled or deported to other parts of the Assyrian empire.


These events were recorded in the Bible, which describes how Tiglath-Pileser III defeated Pekah, king of Kingdom of Israel, and Rezin, king of the Arameans, who had allied against him. He executed Rezin, and Pekah was murdered by Hoshea, who took control of the rump Israelite kingdom as a vassal paying tribute to the Assyrians. (2 Kings 15:29; 16:5-9; 1 Chronicles 5:6, 26) Ahaz (known to the Assyrians as Yahu-khazi), the king of Judah, was also forced to pay tribute to the Assyrian conqueror (2 Kings 16:10-16).

In October 729 BCE, the Assyrian king Tiglath took Babylon and established the Assyrian rulership over Babylonia, becoming king of Babylon, under the name of Pulu.


Tiglath-Pileser III's conquests paved the way for the establishment of the Second Assyrian Empire. He built a royal palace in Nimrud (the so-called "central palace") which would later be dismantled by Esarhaddon. On the sculptured slabs decorating his palace, across the bas-reliefs depicting his military achievements, he had engraved his royal annals.

On his death, he was succeeded by his son Ululayu, who took the name Shalmaneser V.