One of the most magnificent feasts in history celebrated the completion of the Assyrian palace in Kalhu (also called Nimrud, a city that once lay north of Baghdad) in 879 B.C.E. (before the Christian era).

King Ashurnasirpal II wasted no time upon becoming king of Assyria (part of modern-day  Iraq) in roughly 883 B.C.E. Thirsting for war and riches, he immediately invaded north, east, and west, conquering the people there. The Syrians soon rebelled against his savage rule. His response: Burn the small children to death, and mutilate the grown men. Some had their hands and feet cut off; others lost their ears, noses, and lips.

Content that no one would revolt again, Ashurnasirpal II took his plunder home to Assyria and celebrated by forcing thousands of slaves to build him a luxurious new capital city at Kalhu. When the palace—built from imported luxury woods, limestone, and alabaster—was completed in 879 B.C.E., he held a feast for nearly 70,000 people from several countries that lasted 10 days.

According to Ashurnasirpal's own words,  the supplies he ordered for the banquet included:

  • 1,000 fattened head of cattle
  • 1,000 calves
  • 10,000 stable sheep
  • 15,000 lambs
  • 200 head of cattle (for offerings to the goddess Ishtar) 
  • 1,000 sihhu-sheep (for offerings to Ishtar)
  • 1,000 spring lambs
  • 500 gazelles
  • 1,000 ducks
  • 500 geese
  • 500 kurku-geese (possibly cranes)
  • 1,000 mesuku-birds (a bird of prey)
  • 1,000 qaribu-birds (possibly crows)
  • 10,000 doves
  • 10,000 sukanunu-doves (possibly turtle doves)
  • 10,000 other assorted small birds
  • 10,000 assorted fish
  • 10,000 jerboa
  • 10,000 eggs
  • 10,000 jars of beer
  • 100 containers of fine mixed beer
  • 10,000 imported skins of wine
  • 1,000 wood crates of vegetables
  • 300 containers of oil
  • 100 pistachio cones

Unfortunately, Ashurnasirpal II failed to succumb to his high-fat, high-cholesterol, low-nutrient diet, either at his feast or later. He lived to crush his neighbors and create wall reliefs depicting these conquests for another 20 years.

Ashurnasirpal II is remembered today for two reasons: his great feast and his great brutality.



Originally posted 2 June 2012 at http://shaunaroberts.blogspot.fr/2013/06/a-cruel-conquerers-grand-assyrian-feast.html.

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    Eric T. Reynolds
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