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The Antakya stela

The Antakya Stela. Archaeological Museum of Antakya (Turkey). Photo Marco Prins.
The Antakya Stela. Archaeological Museum of  Antakya (Turkey)
In the Archaeological Museum of Antakya (Turkey), one can see a stone stela that was discovered in what is now a suburb of the city. It was erected by the Assyrian king Adad-Nirari III (810-783) as a boundary marker between two of his vassal kings, Ataršumki of Arpad and Zakkur of Hamath. It seems that the latter had to give up a piece of land surrounding a village named Nahlasi and a stretch of land in the fertile valley of the Orontes. It is remarkable that the Assyrian king and his general dictate the terms of the treaty and invoke Assyrian gods in what was a local dispute.

The stela consists of two parts. The upper half shows king Adad-Nirari, his general Šamši-ilu, and a column. This may be an asherah, a pole that signified the presence of a deity. The lower half contains a beautifully carved inscription, which consists of four sections:

  1. The king's titles: the normal beginning of an inscription in the ancient Near East;
  2. The terms of the treaty: the village Nahlasi will be part of kingdom of Ataršumki of Arpad;
  3. A statement of fact: the king has released the village from its obligation;
  4. A statement that anyone who alters the terms, is cursed. This is, again, a common part in a Near Eastern text from Antiquity.
The date is not known. Adad-Nirari visited the region in 796, but the fact that his commander-in-chief Šamši-ilu is mentioned prominently, suggests that he was in fact responsible for dictating the terms. This makes any date between 810 and 783 possible.

The text was translated by K. Lawson Younger, Jr.

Adad-Nirari [III], great king, might king, king of the universe, king of Assyria, son of Šamši-Adad [V], might king, king of the universe, king of Assyria, son of Shalmaneser [III], king of the four quarters.

The boundary which which Adad-Nirari, king of Assyria, and Šamši-ilu, the commander-in-chief, established between Zakkur, the Hamathite, and Ataršumki, son of Adrame: the city of Nahlasi together with all its fields, its orchards and its settlements is Ataršumki's property. They divided the Orontes river between them. This is the border.

Adad-Nirari, king of Assyria, and Šamši-ilu, the commander-in-chief, have released it from obligations free and clear to Ataršumki, son of Adrame, to his sons, and his subsequent grandsons. He established his city and its territories [...] to the border of his land.

By the name of Aššur, Adad, and Ber, the Assyrian Enlil, the Assyrian Ninlil, and the name Sin, who dwells in Harran, the great gods of Assyria: whoever afterwards speaks ill of the terms of this stela, and takes away by force this border from the possession of Ataršumki, his sons, or his grandsons, and destroys the written name and writes another name: may Aššur, Adad, and Ber, Sin who dwells in Harran, the great gods of Assyria whose names are recorded on this stela, not listen to his prayers.

Online 2006
Latest revision: 1 April 2006
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