Assyria. Kingdom of northern Mesopotamia that became the centre of one of the great empires of the ancient Middle East. It was located in what is now northern Iraq and southeastern Turkey. Its name came from the god Assour.
Assyria was a dependency of Babylonia and later of the Mitanni kingdom during most of the 2nd millennium BC. It emerged as an independent state in the 14th century BC, and in the subsequent period it became a major power in Mesopotamia, Armenia, and sometimes in northern Syria.
Assyrian power declined after the death of Tukulti-Ninurta I (1244-1208 B.C.). It was restored briefly in the 11th century BC by Tiglath-Pileser I (1115-1077 B.C.), Tiglath-Pileser was invincible. He defeated Hittites, Foinikes and Aramaeans and expanded the borders of his kingdom north to lake Van. His successors were preoccupied with the incursions of the seminomadic Aramaeans.
During the period 934-827, Assyria was the only super-power of the then known world. Assour-Dan II (934-912) organized his empire which became the strongest economical power. The Assyrian kings began a new period of expansion in the 9th century BC, and from the mid-8th to the late 7th century BC, a series of strong Assyrian kings--among them Tiglath-pileser III, Sargon II, Sennacherib, and Esarhaddon--united most of the Middle East, from Egypt to the Persian Gulf, under Assyrian rule.
The last great Assyrian ruler was Ashurbanipal (669-626). He conquered Egypt, the eastern Minor Asia and most part of the Arabic peninsula. A combined force of Medes, Scythians, and Babylonian sieged Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, and the city fell within three months. The fall of Nineveh in 612, marked the end of the famous Assyrian Empire. Famous for their cruelty and fighting prowess, the Assyrians were also monumental builders, as shown by archaeological sites at Nineveh, Ashur, and Nimrud.