Biblical bottles: Jeroboam to Salmanazar

Salmanazar – nine litres/12 bottles
Used in: Champagne, Bordeaux and Burgundy

Assyrian siege warfare as depicted by Angus McBride for the Osprey military history series

In the litany of Assyrian kings that have had the name Salmanazar, the one the bottle may refer to is Salmanazar V – this would lend some historical continuity to the early bottles at least.

Salmanazar was king of Assyria from 727-722 BC. The Assyrians were a very ancient Semitic people whose civilization had emerged in the early Bronze Age, around 2,600 BC, based around the cities of Assur and Nineveh.

Having reached its apogee in the late Bronze Age when it was an empire that stood in comparison to the Baylonians, Hittites and Egyptians, Assyria suffered a slump during the Bronze Age collapse that began in 13th or 12th century BC and lasted some 150 years – a ‘systems collapse’ which saw the end of the Hittites and Mycenaean Greece among others.

In the late 900s BC however the Assyrian empire, frequently referred to now as the Neo-Assyrian Empire, began to expand once again and grew enormously over the course of the next 300 years. It subjugated Babylon and spread westwards until its territories encompassed the entire span of the fertile crescent from the mouth of the Tigris and Euphrates to the Negev desert and borders of Egypt.

Salmanazar’s reign was short but eventful. His father, Tiglath-Pileser III had received the tribute of both king Ahaz of Judah and king Menahem Israel (Samaria) and the Biblical account in 2 Kings is corroborated almost exactly in the Assyrian records.

Hoshea came to the throne of Israel in 732 BC, having overthrown king Pekah, and initially remained a loyal vassal of the Assyrians but when Salmanazar succeeded his father this loyalty began to waver.

It seems Hoshea began making overtures to Pharaoh Osorkon IV (‘King So’ in the Bible but the chronology suggests it should be Osorkon) and Salmanazar quickly discovered this treachery.

He turned his armies loose on Israel and campaigned there in 727, 726 and 725 BC according to the Assyrian Eponym Canon, while the Babylonian Chronicle apparently relates that he ravaged the city of “Sha-ma-ra-in” – likely Samaria/Sechem.

Hoshea was captured but the fate of this last King of Israel is entirely unknown. It is likely he was executed. The Assyrians and Babylonians were not renowned for their clemency towards defeated enemies.

Salmanazar and his successor, Sargon II, were then responsible for the first great deportation of Hebrews.

2 Kings relates: “In the ninth year if Hoshea the king of Assyria took Samaria, and carried Israel away into Assyria, and placed them in Halah and in Habor by the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes.”

It is highly unlikely that they took away everyone, however. As we shall see with the later Babylonian captivity, it is more likely they took just the ruling elite of Israelite society. Nonetheless, due to small population sizes of the time this could still have represented a substantial proportion of the people in Israel and helped give rise to the idea of the “10 lost tribes of Israel”. The Samaritans who came to live in that land and who exist as an ethno-religious group to this day, claim they are descended from those Hebrews left behind after the destruction of Israel by Salmanazar V.

5 Responses to “Biblical bottles: Jeroboam to Salmanazar”

  1. Kent Benson says:

    “In the Book of Samuel, Saul does indeed meet death and defeat at the hands of the Philistines at the Battle of Gilboa after proving himself unworthy in the eyes of God, although whether he fell on his own sword or was polished off by an Amalekite is unknown as both accounts are given in 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel respectively.”

    The II Sam. 1:1-16 account of Saul being killed by an Amalekite at the battle of Gilboa was a story told to David by the very Amalekite in question. It is thought that the Amalekite was an opportunist hoping to curry favor with the heir to the throne (David) by delivering the news of Saul’s death and taking credit for it. It didn’t work, David had him killed for slaying “God’s anointed.”

    The Amalekite’s story is probably not what actually happened. The history recorded by the chroniclers of I & II Samuel (I Sam. 31:1-6) has Samuel killing himself with his sword in order to avoid torture at the hands of the Philistines, after being incapacitated by a Philistine arrow – this, only after his armourbearer refused to do the job. An almost identical account is recorded in I Chron. 10:1-6.

  2. Kent Benson says:

    “Of course, these figures are nonsense, although people have tried to justify them literally through all manner of tenuous arguments.”

    It is your explanation of the Bible’s account of pre-flood longevity that is tenuous. Many things in the Bible seemed like nonsense until science advanced to enough to give them credence. Isaiah 40:22 refers to the “circle of the earth”, which was nonsense prior to Galileo. The physical world prior to a world-wide flood could have been dramatically different. According to the biblical record, it never rained, instead a mist went up from the earth to water the ground (Gen. 2:5-6). One speculation is that a filtering canopy surrounded the earth blocking virtually all harmful solar radiation. In addition, there could have been a much more oxygen-rich environment contributing to longevity. We’re not likely to ever know why humans may have lived much longer thousands of years ago, but treating the idea as nonsense is a closed minded approach to examining human history.

  3. There are several kings named Shalmaneser, see .
    Shalmaneser II was the king of Assyria 1030–1019 BC and ruled for 12 years according to the Assyrian Kinglist.
    So, I think, a big bottle containing 12 standard bottles, is named in honor of these 12 years 🙂

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