A couple of years ago I blogged about royal correspondence from Assyria. In the 1930s, the Assyriologist Leroy Waterman collected, translated, and annotated over 1,500 letters both to and from Assyrian kings—primarily from the archives of Sennacherib, Esarhaddon, and Ashurbanipal (all eighth–seventh century BCE)—in Royal Correspondence of the Assyrian Empire (4 vols.).

These letters provided interesting windows, not only on the Assyrian kings, but also some of their top advisors and family members. But in addition to that, they include letters from commoners who are either reporting to or petitioning the king.

Some of the recurring issues in these letters that are remarkable—especially in their relation to biblical topics—are:

  • the comparison of the king’s image to that of the god Markduk/Bel
  • incantation and exorcism rites—one including a pig, a bird, a thornbush, and a censer
  • the outrage by subjects over being mistreated because of bribes paid to elites
  • comments on lunar and solar eclipses as portents for the king
  • reports on damage due to earthquakes
  • the role of the king’s mother
  • royal land grants
  • tenant farmers
  • the king as a “shepherd”
  • the continuing functioning of tribes within the empire
  • the king as the court of last resort for those unhelped by officials
  • tribute paid in grain
  • palace coups and plots