LONDON – The British Museum in London previewed on Monday a major exhibition that brings to life the vast and influential ancient empire of the Assyrian King Ashurbanipal.
As the name of the anticipated exhibition suggests: “I am Ashurbanipal, king of the world, king of Assyria,” Ashurbanipal (r. 669–c. 631 BC) was in his lifetime the most powerful leader in the world.
“This major exhibition tells the story of Ashurbanipal through the British Museum’s unparalleled collection of Assyrian treasures and rare loans,” The British Museum said in a statement.
“Come face to face with one of history’s greatest forgotten kings,” the statement added.
The Assyrian Empire started in the small Persian city of Ashur, in contemporary northern Iraq, in approximately 2500 BC.
By the 7th century BC the Assyrians, under Ashurbanipal’s rule from the new capital of Nineveh, had taken over much of the Middle East, including parts of modern Turkey, Iran, Egypt, Iraq and Greece.
Ashurbanipal was a ruthless ruler and warrior who was known to publicly exhibit his brutal force by slaying lions, but like many ancient leaders also developed a sophisticated cultural framework that supported Assyrian society.
The Assyrian king created a large library of books written with the ancient technique of cuneiform, clay tablets that recorded everything from calendars, prayers to books about medicine and sacrifices.
For many centuries the great Assyrian Empire and Ashurbanipal’s legacy remained forgotten but in the 19th century a British amateur archaeologist, Austen Henry Layard, discovered the emblematic and mammoth winged bulls that guarded the Assyrian palaces of Nimrud, 30 kilometers south of the city of Mosul, Iraq, the curator of the exhibition Gareth Brereton explained on the museum’s blog.
Since Layard’s discovery, many Assyrian treasures have been exhibited at London’s British Museum and a renewed interest in one of the first great civilizations has taken hold.
Ashurbanipal: king of the world, king of Assyria is set to show at the British Museum from Nov. 8-Feb. 24.