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Nimrud (Calah), Iraq

Nimrud, lying on the east bank of the Tigris, 37 km to the south east of Mosul, is the 2nd capital of Assyria Empire founded in 883 BC, and had been a well-settled place for a thousand years before it was built as a center of the kingdom of Shalmaneser I (1273-1244 BC).

Entrance of King Ashurnasirpal II Palace

A famous king of Nimrud was Ashurnasirpal II (883-859 BC); who firstly designated it as the Assyrian capital in 879 BC housing perhaps as many as 100,000 inhabitants, making it part of a great complicated building assigned to the god Nabu (the god of Arts), and so was his son Shalmaneser III (858-824 BC) who constructed its ziggurat, the most important monument of the city, together with a temple next to it.

In antiquity, the town was known by the name Kalhu (Calah in the Old Testament). The Arabs called it Nimrud after Nimrod, the biblical mighty hunter, father of Ashur (Assur), the Assyrian hero whose name explains why Assyrians are called Assyrians.

Throne-Dais of King Shalmaneser III

In 612 BC, it was destroyed by the Medes of Northern Persia, at the same time as the fall of Nineveh.

The city has a four-side wall measuring 8 km, and several buildings raised on mud-brick platforms as much as 12 m high above river-level. Some of the buildings are: the temple of Ninurta, the north western palace (Assurnasirpal II's) and the south western palace (Esarhaddon's), Sargon's palace, and others, notably the ziggurat which looks rather like a conical hill with its remains rising to a height of 17 m. It originally had a square base, with most probably a spiral ramp like that of Samarra's spiral minaret (Al-Malweyya), leading to its upper levels.

Assurnasirpal II's palace, has an area of 200x130 m and consists of administration, royal reception, and residential parts. The visitor at present enters the palace through a couple of doorways, between impressive statuary showing two hawk-winged lions with human heads in the well-known Assyrian style. These huge sculptures were meant to be the guardians of the city.

One of the buildings is Esida chapel, the temple of Nabu, god of wisdom, arts, and sciences, son of the Babylonian god Marduk, built in 798 BC by the famous Queen Semiramis (Samuramat), mother of Adad-Nirari III (810-782 BC).

Relief in Palace of King Ashurnasirpal II

Some beautiful bas-relief slabs are still on the site, though most of them were taken abroad by excavators. Most striking is the throne room, measuring 45.5x10.5 m. It was here that a large number of exquisite ivory carvings were found, such as the so-called "Mona Lisa of Nirmud" and the piece showing a lioness mauling an Ethiopian, which is gilded and set with lapis lazuli and agate.

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