Assyria vs Elam: The battle of Til Tuba

Assyria vs Elam: The battle of Til Tuba

Hello I’m exhibition curator Gareth
Brereton and this week we’ll be discussing this masterpiece of Assyrian art. This is a curved wall panel carved from limestone and this once decorated a room in the southwest palace at Niniveh Ashurbanipal’s first residence. And it is an important document of a war between the Assyrian army and the Elamites of Southwest Iran. So first I’m going to give you a little bit of a backstory about how this battle happened why war broke out between the two kingdoms. So the Kingdom of Elam was located in southwest Iran and that was at Assyria’s southern border. When the king of Elam died, his anti-Assyrian brother took the throne by force. The true heir to the throne fled to Assyria to get Ashurbanipal’s protection he was a political refugee at Ashurbanipal’s court in Nineveh. The anti-Assyrian king the usurper called Teumman wanted his return but Ashurbanipal denied him. It was obviously useful for Ashurbanipal to have a pro-Assyrian royal family in his care in Nineveh So Ashurbanipal sent his army to meet the Elamites on the bank of the river Ulai and this is the depiction of the battle taking place. So on the left-hand side the Assyrian army has broken through the Elamite battle lines. The Elamites are in panic they’re fleeing down a hill they’re tugging at their beards they’re throwing their weapons in the air it’s a real chaotic scene and the Assyrians who wear better armour; have better weapons are pushing the Elamites towards the river. And the river Ulai cuts across the scene and the Elamites gradually get pushed and pushed and pushed and they fall into the river and drown with their horses and their carts and their weapons. So this is a real chaotic depiction of a pitched battle between two armies at the time. But there’s also a really interesting subplot a story within the chaos that we can pick out about the capture and execution of the Elamite king. It starts here the Elamite king and his son Teumman and Tammaritu fall from their chariot – which has collapsed. Teumman loses his royal hat It cuts to the next scene: they both get up, Teumman’s got his hat back but he’s been wounded by an arrow
which has hit him in the back and so they try and flee toward a forest but to no avail they’re soon surrounded by Assyrian soldiers. So the wounded Teumman is kneeling down and he’s telling his son to pick up the bow and resist. The son gets hit over the head with a mace an Assyrian soldier cuts Teumman’s head off. The heads are carried back – so that’s King Teumman’s head being carried back by an Assyrian soldier – and they bring their heads back up to the Assyrian camp where they’re doing a headcount and there’s some pro-Assyrian Elamites in the tent inspecting the heads to identify the king and his son and they’re whisked off back to Assyria in
a cart to Ashurbanipal. As you may have noticed the scenes jump around and the figures are repeated in time and space. So how can we tell what’s going on? Well the Assyrians luckily for us left these sort of captions inscriptions – much like a cartoon strip explaining the story as it unfolds. So here we have an Elamite noble on the floor wounded with arrows. An Assyrian soldier stands over him and there’s an accompanying caption and he’s basically saying: “Come and make a good name for yourself. Cut off my head and bring it to your lord.” The battle scene is very much a propaganda statement as well. We don’t see any Assyrian soldiers wounded or dying. They are the victors. The Elamites on the other hand are wounded they’re sprawled across the battlefield some are beheaded vultures and carrion birds pick at their remains. Okay so what happened next? Luckily, we have these reliefs that tell us
the aftermath of the battle. Here we have a scene that takes place
in Elam and then a separate scene at the top takes place back in Assyria. So in the bottom scene victorious Assyrians lead the puppet ruler that sought sanctuary in Assyria to the Elamites to install him as king. An Assyrian eunuch, who’s shown without a beard holds the puppet king by the wrists and
leads him towards the Elamites who come out of the city and bow down before him. And if he notice the face the image of the puppet ruler has been hacked away and when Nineveh finally fell and was sacked the invading armies sought out images such as these and defaced them to remove their power. At the bottom of the scene we have the river Ulai which continues from the earlier relief with the dead Elamites soldiers floating downstream. Back in Assyria a triumph takes place. Ashurbanipal is shown in his chariot. Again his image has been chipped away when the city was sacked and he’s got two visiting ambassadors from the nearby kingdom of Urartu who come to greet him. Ashurbanipal parades two Elamites holding writing tablets and these contain rude messages from king Tuemman the Elamite usurper king to Ashurbanipal. So he’s showing them off to the Urartians as justification to why he attacked Elam. Here again we see the same two ambassadors and this time they’re witnessing the humiliation of two captives. These two figures supported the Elamite king. And Ashurbanipal’s army went and captured the ruler and his family and brought them back to Assyria in
chains. Here we see the Assyrians placing the heads of Tuemman and another
nobleman over their necks and they’re made to walk around the city where they’re humiliated slapped and spat upon. The Ambassadors from Urartu appear a
third time and this occasion they’re witnessing a grisly spectacle where two more captives are having their tongues removed before being staked to the floor and flayed alive. And that was the punishment for treason for opposing Ashurbanipal and the ambassadors would have witnessed this spectacle as a statement of power from Ashurbanipal to say “Look! This is what happens when you
mess with me.” If you want to find out more about Ashurbanipal do come along to the exhibition and if you click on the links you can find some more information all about Ashurbanipal

87 thoughts on “Assyria vs Elam: The battle of Til Tuba

  1. You'd think cuneiform would have a fancier font when it's carved into stone but it looks identical to the characters pressed into clay.

  2. First

  3. I enjoyed this! 😃

  4. Good stuff decoding all that. The Assyrian Empire didn't fuck around.

  5. damn that's some old stuff

  6. That was a great story/explanation.

  7. Gruesome story, great video.

  8. "WARNING: includes scenes of drowning, flaying and wearing your deceased leader's head as a necklace.

    DOUBLE WARNING: includes scenes of extreme royal hat misplacement."

    Really dig the humour in the description.

  9. Want to find out more about Ashurbanipal and the Assyrians? We've made you a master list of links all about Assyria's last great king :

    Intro to Ashurbanipal:

    Learn to write "I am Ashurbanipal" in cuneiform with Irving Finkel:

    For more gruesome scenes of Ashurbanipal hunting lions, Gareth has written a blogpost:

    For Ashurbanipal's less gruesome hobbies, see this blog post on Ashurbanipal's gardens (which included pet lions that were not being hunted):

    Exhibition details:

    The BP exhibition I am Ashurbanipal: king of the world, king of Assyria

    8 November 2018 – 24 February 2019

    Book now

    Supported by BP

    Logistics partner IAG Cargo

  10. Assyrians seem like lovely people to have over for cuppa tea….

  11. He told that story brilliantly, I'd love it if he did another one.

  12. There is something seriously wrong with us humans.

  13. 'having their tongues removed before being staked to the floor and flayed alive'

  14. Return it to Iran

  15. Awesome, really enjoyed this and I hope one day to vist and see this relic of history

  16. Enjoyed this immensely!!

  17. Is there eny evidence that these reliefs would have been painted in their original form?

  18. "Staked to the floor." Really? Of course this all took place indoors. The Elamites were routed from the dance floor… They were making some bad moves. Chased into the swimming pool and due to all there cool cloths, drowned, and flowed down the drain. Just too darned hot to do battle out fields of the battleground. J/K 😉

  19. Well , Elam was arch enemy of Assyria and Sumeria and Babolyan …. finaly Cyrus the great as ruler of what was remain of Elam put an end to ancient kingdom once for all

  20. I'm starting to think this Ashurbanipal fellow wasn't very nice at all.

  21. 2:30 he may have been hit by an arrow… but at least he has his hat back!
    2:50 oh… not much use of a hat without a head to put it on is there…

  22. Best not to get unfriended by the king of Assyria. I love the stretching of the definition of 'treason'. Why did the Medes and Babylonians and everyone gang up on them when they were so nice? Its just a mystery…

  23. Ah, uh, that treason treatment scene suggests to me that the Assyrians weren't exactly the nicest people in the neighbourhood.

  24. Amazing video, thank you so much.
    BTW : The British Museum 170K subs….the Logan brothers around 30 millions….makes sense I guess….mah.

  25. What will remain of us in 2600 years? Will our digital society stand the test of time?

  26. Hands up, who was expecting Uncle Irving? 🙋🏼‍♀️

  27. This was amazing! Thank you!

  28. The Assyrians were nice folk— perhaps a bit too delicate and permissive.

  29. Did they really hold their spears like that, overhand, gripping towards the dull end? It seems unwieldy.

  30. savagery like the skinning of a live human while gurgling blood is only in resents years , something that in the west at least has been stopped , through the rise of democracy the Germanic styled christian faith , fall of elitist ideologues & the rise of the working class
    ,I be more than pleased if any correction needed be pointed out

  31. Ah the good old days when warfare was direct. Now we impose sanctions and freeze assets.

  32. An Assyrian video without Dr. Finkel?

  33. Amazing isn't it, the lines between rulers with titles and just out and out gangsters are so open; it seems 4000? 6000? Years and mankind has learned nothing other than how to be a more proficient and barbarick murderer than before, justifying his carnage to himself as something lawful and right.

  34. This would make one hell of a survival horror video game.

  35. Now that is a head count

  36. When you can not change somebody’s mind, just cut his head off, that surely helps… – and make pictures of it… – thank god so much has changed in the last 5000 years. – Oh, wait…

  37. As far as I understood, the artists who made the lion hunting relief were present at the event with Ashurbanipal. Was this the case with the relief in the video? Did the artists witness the war themselves or they created the relief based on other accounts? Do you think that the same artists also made the lion hunting relief? I've noticed that the reliefs are stylistically similar, although the artists who produced the relief depicting the war seemed to be less skilled (at least in my opinion). Would be glad to hear the information from the curator.

  38. Great video, and even more impressive seeing it in person at the exhibition with the audio storytelling and visual highlighting of the figures from a projector.

  39. Did he say these carvings were curved? Does that mean that these might have either decorated a round room so as to immerse the spectator in a "glorious battle" (propaganda warning)? It'd be an interesting turn-up for the books if artistic panoramas go back so far in time.

  40. I respect the British Museum for the dedication to world history. But, I also know many countries would like their artifacts returned. And I also know we live in an unstable world where priceless art gets destroyed. This artifact seems like it could be copied or reproduced, I wonder if the Museum has considered this with contested pieces?

  41. I've heard of Elam and the Elamites, but I don't know much about them. I wish there was a documentary about them or a book on the subject that wasn't written exclusively for scholars.

  42. Would the relief have been painted when originally finished?

  43. Sad to see the BP sponsorship when there responsible to fueling confluence and repression in a number of places today not to mention helping to sabbitarge saving tomorrows climate.

  44. @ 4:50

    What they should have done is have him attached to strings, with the eunuch held up by those wooden frames puppeteers use…

  45. Made my arse tingle this video did.. brilliant 👌

  46. I wonder how the british museum got his hands on that 🤔🤔. Maybe kingdoms still behave in the same way after all these years

  47. An excellent exposition on these stones. I am continually amazed at historians' ability to extract so much information from such artefacts. Are there also written tablets documenting these events that may have helped interpret the stones?

  48. The black people in South West Iran is Elamites in the Elam province

  49. Great video! Hope to see more of these!

  50. Date?

  51. to those persons that didn't like the video, please I'm asking this with no ill intention or to enforce my opinion on you. But can you elaborate on why you didn´t like the video? it seemed amazing to me.

  52. Where were the ambassadors from, Urartu, and why is it called battle of Til Tuba?

  53. You talking all about our history but as an ASSYRIAN nation spreading around the world no one is even celebrating with us the ASSYRIAN new year March 21-April 1st is there any particular reason?

  54. Even when making propaganda the Assyrians portray the enemy ruler and his son in a heroic light. Son saves his wounded father, and the father encourages his son to keep fighting. Didn't work out all too well, but still, its inspiring.

  55. 以醫學觀點來看.握過兩千多萬人的手掌.是骯髒的細菌病毒溫床..

  56. More stuff you swiped

  57. please return all the artifacts u brits stole from other cultures.

    nice video

  58. I want more videos just like this. I want more ancient carvings discussed.

  59. Thanks very much ! From Brazil.

  60. Thank you British Museum for sharing the history of my ancestors.

  61. Those cuneiform signs have a unique elegance and simplicity. A whole alphabet made out of like 10(?) ways to imprint a wedge into clay. Pure genius.

  62. They are ELAMINATED!

  63. Ashirbanipal. Grand Irish name.

  64. you got you a new subscriber

  65. epic

  66. the reliefs are stunning and gruesome at the same time, the highlighting really brings it to life. Many thanks to Mr. Brereton and the production team! We want more of these 🙂

  67. Thank you so much for teaching me some about my ancestors. I would truly love it if you would possibly read off some more.

  68. The ancient Assyrian art is amazing!

  69. The ancient Assyrian art is amazing!

  70. Assurbanipal is owr King of modern Assyrians. We love him like we love Jesus.

  71. Well done I love ❤️

  72. Can you do some research about Elam? Elam is a pure Tamil word. Tamil is Dravidian language and the oldest in the world. I watched many videos about this somehow Dravidian (South Indian) have links with Mosapathomia and Sumeria.

  73. The discovery of a Nabatean rose more than 2,000 years old

  74. I can only imagine how stinky, putrid, and horribly behaved these brutes really were. I guess from seeing the cuneiform writing, it's 3,000 perhaps 4,000 years old. War is the main theme celebrating 5,000 years of human civilization manifesting the arts, languages, military, money, and Feudalism.

  75. he called asabanial a stinky stinky that caused the war

  76. Ashurbanipal was the last great king, he was the most educated king of all Assyrian kings before him, thus building library. The cruelty was standard and required back then to keep Assyria on top. The cinematography is amazing, one only can imagine how they depicted this battle, given that Assyrians were masters of their world I would imagine they would have experts in this line of work standing at some safe point near ground zero and sketching as the battle broke out, then taking that knowledge and caving them in the limestone.

    “Awake, son of Assyria. Awake and see the world how enlightened. The chance is fleeing from us and time is
    running out. Awake son of Assyria, awake! In vengeance you will take refuge. Rise up and band together to strengthen.
    ​And if one does not awake we have lost our chance. Without a purpose, misfortune will befall our land”

  77. How great.

  78. I'm high and watching this, and this is totally blowing my mind right now

  79. The British Museum deserves great honor for this marvelous work. Thank you so much for making these available through the internet, otherwise poor third world shits like me would never have the opportunity to gaze upon this spectacle!

  80. There is a part here that was too grizzly to be described, in one of the scenes you can see the family members baking with bones stuck out, they were being forced to bake the remains of their loved ones after being murdered and to eat them. Not even Hannibal was as psychopathic as assyrians.

  81. … Sounds a bit like the story of Exodus ~ but that never happened :0)

  82. Hmm.. I want this dude to read me bedtime stories!! 😍😋

  83. So 3,000 years really haven’t changed that part of the world much, it seems.

  84. middle east hasn't changed much.

  85. Nothing much as changed then?

  86. Intresting to see Cavalry and Chariots together. Also the Enemy leadears are shown fighting valiantly and dying with honour. Not nessacarily the sort of thing if you wanted to denegrate your enemy.

  87. in 2019 all we get is 'Actavists' throwing Hebbie Jebies because a 'Climate Murdering Oil Giant' like BP is sponsoring the spred of Knowledge. Shame on us watching! Don't we care about the World? Well yes or we wouldn't try to find out more about it.

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