The Assyrian Itineraries in the Zagros during the reign of Sargon II (6th and 8th campaigns) and the question about the correlation between Toponymy and Geography

Document Type : Research Paper


Université catholique de Louvain – Centre d’Etudes Orientales (CIOL)


Among the many Assyrian written sources and inscriptions some texts report the military expeditions of the kings of Assyria. These accounts, the so-called Itineraries texts, describe in details the different stops of the armies through territories outside the Assyrian heartland.
With regard to the Zagros area, the reports mention different long and ruthless campaigns undertaken by some Assyrian Kings before the reign of Sargon II (720-705).
However the texts of the campaigns of Sargon II differ considerably from the other written sources like the Annals because the expeditions undertaken by him are related through a chronological succession of events. It means that the different place names (towns, villages, mountains, plains and watercourses) are mentioned according to their order of appearance during the marches of the Assyrian armies.  That’s the reason we call them Itineraries.
To reconstruct the different routes taken by the armies and to fix the different stops of these military expeditions on the geographical maps, we have used a methodology based mainly on the possibilities offered by the local geography.. The logic is that the establishment of diagrammatic charts must correspond to the most passable tracks and ways at least to explain the choices of all the army movements through mountainous areas of the Zagros
However despite some deficiencies, we have to recognize that the Itineraries of Sargon are exceptionally interesting. Indeed the reports of the 6th and 8th campaigns undertaken in 716 BC and 714 BC contain a great number of precious topographical and geographical information about the Iranian populations of the Zagros. In this study we tried to reconstruct the most complete and precise map showing the real political geography of the Zagros as the Assyrians knew it during the 8th century B.C.