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Panamu II, Assyrian Vassal

In the first half of the first millenium B.C.E. the Aramean city states of eastern Anatolia and northern Syria posed a formidable challenge to Neo-Assyrian expansionism. Yet, their various tribes never united. On the contrary their rivalries among themselves and with the Neo-Hittite city states could be exploited to Assyrian advantage. This appears to have been the case with Panamu II, the 10th known king of the city state of Sam'al. Panamu II was the grandson of Panamu I, son of Qarli who succeeded Kilamuwa. About a century after the reign of his ancestor Kilamuwa, the dynasty had fallen to violent intrigues from within. Panamu II’s father Bar Sur was assassinated in a coup following the long prosperous reign of Panamu I. In dealing with the dynastic crisis Panamu II adopted a strategy similar to that of Kilamuwa before him, taking refuge in Assyrian intervention. But this is a quite a different Assyria than that of Shalmaneser III whom Kilamuwa “hired” a century before. The change becomes particularly evident in Assyria’s Syrian and Anatolia ambitions under Tiglath Pileser III. This is the socio-political situation to which the Panamu II inscription bears witness.
Kilamuwa Inscription
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The inscription, now housed in the Staatliche Museen in Berlin, was discovered during the German excavation at Zinjirli in 1888. It was not Panamu II himself, who died an untimely death in battle, that commissioned the inscription, but his son Bar Rakkib. The inscription is both a memorial and dedication. Like the Hadad inscription of Panamu I it is written in the Sam'alian dialect. Like the Hadad inscription, Panamu II was inscribed around the base of a pillar-shaped statue, perhaps of a god or king. The fringe of the figure’s robe runs diagonally from right to left down the middle of the inscription’s 23 lines of text. All of the lines are well preserved at the beginning but fade out gradually. Many of the lines become untranslatable at the far left and have been variously reconstructed. The details of the dynastic intrigue it reveals confirms that the violence and upheaval Panamu I feared came true. In fact, Bar Rakkib seems to insert details, in a badly preserved section, referring to a prophecy of Panamu I, predicting bad times during the reign of a usurper. This tradition about his grandfather’s prophetic faculties would be consistent with Panamu I’s claim of being in a covenant with the gods. Indeed, Panamu I’s successor, Bar Sur, was murdered by a usurper. Whether this was an internal enemy from within the royal house or some external pretender we do not know for certain. The usurper is not named but suggestively referred as the “Stone of Destruction.”


Kilamuwa Inscription
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Whether it was the usurper or Bar Sur’s son Panamu II that would have been the successor justified by Sam'alian tradition we do not know. But it was Panamu II that took action to assure he would be the one to live to tell about it. The assassination of his father Bar Sur prompted Panamu II to flee to Assyria on chariot and to “bring a gift” to their emperor.

Compared to the Hadad inscription, there is a noticable absence of Panamu I’s concern for the gods. Where the king usually links his claim to the throne to his relation to the gods, Panamu II credits the Assyrian king with killing the usurper and restoring the dynasty. All the usual divine praise for legitimacy and then abundance is now attributed to the Panamu II’s loyalty to Assyria. Tiglath Pileser III expanded his kingdom northwards into Gurgum and possibly Quwe (both in what is now south central Turkey). Whereas Panamu I had boasted of favor from the gods, Panamu II is honored by “mighty kings,” or so his son boasts. Panamu II does carry out some of the usual reforms, frees captives, empties prisons, comforts women, and his subjects prosper. The usual building projects for which a king is remembered are different for Panamu II. As he bought legitimacy at cost of being a vassal, the cost of tribute probably would have left little budget for fortifications or bureaucratic hubs such as expanded temple and palace complexes. What he does mention where one would expect the mention of building projects is that he appointed some sort of proto-bureacratic officials, “lords of villages and lords of chariots.” These were probably necessary to meet his part of the deal with Assyria which would have involved taxes and military support.

Kilamuwa Inscription
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The rest of the commemoration praises Panamu II’s loyalty as vassal to Tiglath Pileser III, even to personally serving Tiglath Pileser III in battle and being killed in action on campaign in 732. This was probably the same campaign that brought about the end of the northern kingdom of Israel which also fell in 732. Tiglath Pileser III and all the kings and camp wept for Panamu II. They brought his body back to Assyria and he was buried there. Finally, the Assyrian king established his son Bar Rakkib, the author of this inscription, on the throne of his father. Bar Rakkib concludes by invoking the usual gods, Hadad and all the gods of Yaudy, that is Sam'al.

Sam'al briefly prospers by the Assyrian vassaldom. Panamu II not only restored the dynasty of his ancestors but, also with the aid of Tiglath Pileser III, greatly expanded the kingdom of Sam'al northward into the area wrested from Gurgum. Yet the strategy Kilamuwa called “hiring” the Assyrian king this time proved far more costly to Sam'al’s relative political autonomy and lingering Anatolian cultural traditions. Many of the Neo-Hittite and Aramean citystates permanently lost their independence under Tiglath Pileser III. It was Panamu II’s successor, Bar Rakkib, a distinctly Aramaic name, who comissioned this inscription for the memory of his father in the Sam'alian dialect. The language of Bar Rakkib’s own inscriptions however, is not Sam'alian. In the Sam'alian inscriptions up to Panamu II, the kingdom is called by its older name, Yaudy. Yet in Bar Rakkib’s own inscriptions he calls the kingdom Sam'al. This is the name by which it is known in the Assyrian and Aramaic sources such as those of Tiglath Pileser III and Zakkur. The epigraphic data of the region then suggests that after Panamu II an early form of imperial Aramaic finally supplants the Sam'alian dialect and along with it the unique hybrid Anatolian/Syrian culture of this kingdom.

Commentary by Jeffrey Rose

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