King Hezekiah and the strong Fort of Lachish
Part Two: Akhi-miti’s short tenure
Damien F. Mackey
“Azuri king of Ashdod, not to bring tribute his heart was set, and to the kings in his neighbourhood proposals of rebellion against Assyria he sent. Because of the evil he did, over the men of his land I changed his lordship. Akhimiti his own brother, to sovereignty over them I appointed”.
King Sargon of Assyria
In the course of this series I shall be presuming that Sargon II was the same Assyrian ruler as Sennacherib:
Assyrian King Sargon II, Otherwise Known As Sennacherib
A failure to recognise this fact will lead to what I described in my university thesis:
A Revised History of the Era of King Hezekiah of Judah
and its Background
as “Worrying Duplications and Anomalies”. These affect not only Sargon II/Sennacherib himself, but, naturally, his contemporaries, such as our proposed high-priests, Azuri and Akhi-miti (var. Mitinti). As I pointed out on pp. 142, 144:
- Worrying Duplications and Anomalies.
- The ubiquitous king of Babylon, Merodach-baladan II, was:
– already a political factor in the days of Tiglath-pileser III (c. 744-727 BC).
– He then, supposedly two reigns later, becomes a complete thorn in Sargon II’s side for the latter’s first, approximately, 12 years of reign (c. 721-710).
– He then resurfaces at the time of Sennacherib, who defeats him in his first
campaign and then, finally, in his fourth campaign (c. 704-700).
Kings can reign over long periods of time, but this Merodach-baladan seems perhaps to have overstayed his welcome.
Mitinti of ‘Ashdod’ ranges through the same approximate, long neo-Assyrian period.
- Sennacherib is thought, already by 713 BC, to have been the recipient, as crown prince, of the heavy tribute from Azuri of ‘Ashdod’, who was in fact Sargon’s foe.336
In the course of this series I shall also be presuming that “Ashdod” as referred to by Sargon II, and by Isaiah (20:1), was the great Judaean city of Lachish:
Sargon II’s “Ashdod” – the Strong Fort of Lachish
Continuing on with my thesis, I also wrote about the problematical Ashdod:
- Disturbing, too, is the following unprecedented situation at ‘Ashdod’ as viewed by
Tadmor from the conventional angle:337
Ashdod was then organized [by Sargon] as an Assyrian province. Sennacherib
however restored it to its former state as a tributary kingdom. …. Mitinti, the king
of Ashdod, is mentioned in the Annals of Sennacherib …. There is no doubt, therefore, that at the time of the campaign of Judah (701) Ashdod had an autonomous king and not an Assyrian governor. The reorganization of Ashdod – from a province back to a vassaldom – has no precedent. …. in the time of Esarhaddon Ashdod was again turned into a province.
All this topsy turvy supposedly in the space of a few decades!
Historians, such as D. Redford, have chosen to date Akhi-miti’s appointment to the fort of Ashdod by the Assyrians to 713 BC. Thus I wrote on p. 27:
Redford has actually called this campaign, that he dates to 712 BC, “an anchor date”.
Here is his account (my dating of these events will be slightly different from his):83
Thanks to a variety of studies over the last 25 years, the year 712 B.C. has emerged as an anchor date in the history of the Late Period in Egypt. The general course of events leading up to and culminating in the Assyrian campaign against Ashdod in that year is now fairly sure, and may be sketched as follows. Sometime early in 713 B.C. the Assyrians deposed Aziri [Azuri], king of Ashdod on suspicion of lese-majeste, and appointed one Ahimetti [Akhi-miti] to replace him.
Then I proceeded to enlarge on all of this, and on Ashdod, on pp. 154-158:
Now, when Sargon refers to ‘Ashdod, we need to be clear as to which exact location he had in mind, for he also refers in the same account to an ‘Ashdod-by-the-Sea’. Thus we read: “Ashdod, Gimtu [Gath?], Ashdudimmu [Ashdod-by-the-Sea], I besieged and captured”. It is the maritime Ashdod357 that I am going to propose – contrary to the usual view – is the well known Ashdod of the Philistine plain; whilst the ‘Ashdod’ mentioned first here by Sargon I shall identify as the mighty inland stronghold of Lachish (approx. 50 km south west of Jerusalem), the most important Judaean fort after Jerusalem itself. These three cities of Lachish, Gath and Ashdod, taken together, formed something of a line of formidable forts in Judaea358. Assyria had to take them as they were a dangerous base for hostile Egypt.
That Sargon would have had to confront Lachish would seem to be inevitable, militarily, due to the fact that he did indeed capture its neighbouring fort of Azekah.359 (For more on this, see pp. 158-159 below). Did not Sargon II boast anyway of his having been the “subduer of the land of Iaudu (Judah), which lies far away …”?360
Now, the fortress of Lachish was the high point of Sennacherib’s western campaign. To no Judaean city apart from Jerusalem itself would the description ‘Ashdod’ … that is, ‘a very strong place’, apply more aptly than to Lachish. The name ‘Ashdod’, from the root shádad …, ‘to be strong’, signifies ‘a stronghold’. “What a surprise, then”, writes Russell,361 regarding the surrender of Lachish, “to turn to the annalistic account of that same campaign – inscribed on the bulls at the throne-room entrance – and discover that Lachish is not mentioned at all”.
Was it that Sargon II – hence, that Sennacherib – had instead referred to Lachish by the descriptive title of ‘Ashdod’, whose capture Sargon covers in detail?
Let us now follow [Charles] Boutflower in his reconstruction of this somewhat complex campaign, referring to the fragment Sm. 2022 of Sargon’s Annals, which he calls “one particularly precious morsel”:362
The longer face [of this fragment] … has a dividing line drawn across it near the bottom. Immediately below this line, and somewhat to the left, there can be seen with the help of a magnifying-glass a group of nine cuneiform indentations
arranged in three parallel horizontal rows. Even the uninitiated will easily understand that we have here a representation of the number “9”. It is this figure, then, which gives to the fragment its special interest, for it tells us, as I am about to show, “the year that the Tartan came unto Ashdod”.
Boutflower now moves on to the focal point of Assyria’s concerns: mighty ‘Ashdod’:363
The second difficulty in Sm. 2022 is connected with the mention of Ashdod in the part below the dividing line. According to the reckoning of time adopted on this fragment something must have happened at Ashdod at the beginning of Sargon’s ninth year, i.e. at the beginning of the tenth year, the year 712 BC, according to the better-known reckoning of the Annals. Now, when we turn to the Annals and examine the record of this tenth year, we find no mention whatever of Ashdod. Not till we come to the second and closing portion of the record for the eleventh year do we meet with the account of the famous campaign against that city.
What, then, is the solution to this second difficulty Boutflower asks? And he answers this as follows:364
Simply this: that the mention of Ashdod on the fragment Sm. 2022 does not refer to the siege of that town, which, as just stated, forms the second and closing event in the record of the following year, but in all probability does refer to the first of those political events which led up to the siege, viz. the coming of the Tartan to Ashdod. To make this plain, I will now give the different accounts of the Ashdod imbroglio found in the inscriptions of Sargon, beginning with the one in the Annals (lines 215-228) already referred to, which runs thus:
“Azuri king of Ashdod, not to bring tribute his heart was set, and to the kings in his neighbourhood proposals of rebellion against Assyria he sent. Because of the evil he did, over the men of his land I changed his lordship. Akhimiti his own brother, to sovereignty over them I appointed. The Khatte [Hittites], plotting rebellion, hated his lordship; and Yatna, who had no title to the throne, who, like themselves, the reverence due to my lordship did not acknowledge, they set up over them. In the wrath of my heart, riding in my war-chariot, with my cavalry, who do not retreat from the place whither I turn my hands, to Ashdod, his royal city, I marched in haste. Ashdod, Gimtu [Gath?], Ashdudimmu … I besieged and captured. …”.
Typical Assyrian war records! Boutflower shows how they connect right through to
Sargon’s Year 11, which both he and Tadmor365 date to 711 BC:366
The above extract forms … the second and closing portion of the record given in the Annals under Sargon’s 11th year, 711 BC., the earlier portion of the record for that year being occupied with the account of the expedition against Mutallu of Gurgum. In the Grand Inscription of Khorsabad we meet with a very similar account, containing a few fresh particulars. The usurper Yatna, i.e. “the Cypriot”, is there styled Yamani, “the Ionian”, thus showing that he was a Greek. We are also told that he fled away to Melukhkha on the border of Egypt, but was thrown into chains by the Ethiopian king and despatched to Assyria.
…. In order to effect the deposition of the rebellious Azuri, and set his brother Akhimiti on the throne, Sargon sent forth an armed force to Ashdod. It is in all probablity the despatch of such a force, and the successful achievement of the end in view, which were recorded in the fragment Sm. 2022 below the dividing line. As Isa xx.1 informs us – and the statement, as we shall presently see, can be verified from contemporary sources – this first expedition was led by the Tartan. Possibly this may be the reason why it was not thought worthy to be recorded in the Annals under Sargon’s tenth year, 712 BC. But when we come to the eleventh year, 711 BC, and the annalist very properly and suitably records the whole series of events leading up to the siege, two things at once strike us: first, that all these events could not possibly have happened in the single year 711 BC; and secondly, as stated above, that a force must have previously been despatched at the beginning of the troubles to accomplish the deposition of Azuri and the placing of Akhimiti on the throne. On the retirement of this force sedition must again have broken out in Ashdod, for it appears that the anti-Assyrian party were able, after a longer or shorter interval, once more to get the upper hand, to expel Akhimiti, and to set up in his stead a Greek adventurer, Yatna-Yamani. The town was then strongly fortified, and surrounded by a moat.
We have by no means seen the end of the important Akhi-miti, or Mitinti, who will re-emerge again shortly, during King Sennacherib’s major campaign to Judah, as King Hezekiah’s chief official, Eliakim son of Hilkiah (Isaiah 36:3).
And then he will further emerge as the high priest, Joakim (Joiakim) of the Book of Judith, during Sennacherib’s ill-fated campaign occurring about a decade later.
* * *
Did the Greeks appropriate the C8th BC official, Akhi-miti, and re-cast him as Archimedes, about whom “… very little is known about the early life of Archimedes or his family”? http://archimedespalimpsest.org/about/history/archimedes.php – and, about whom there are “… many fantastic tales surrounding the life of Archimedes”.
Given that Stephanie Dalley has now proved that the water screw, thought to have been invented by Archimedes, was in use as early as the time of King Sennacherib of Assyria (“Sennacherib, Archimedes, and the Water Screw”: https://muse.jhu.edu/article/40151), we have to be very doubtful, I think, of the historical reality of this Archimedes.
Famed for his supposedly having held off the besieging Romans, this may be just another of the many legends that have arisen from the historical dramas at the time of King Hezekiah of Judah, at both of which Eliakim (= Akhi-miti?) was present: namely Sennacherib’s aborted siege of Jerusalem, and the later siege by the Assyrian army as recorded in the Book of Judith.