Sennacherib (Neo-Assyrian cuneiform: Sin-ahhi-eriba or Sin-aḥḥe-eriba, meaning "Sin has replaced the brothers") was the king of the Neo-Assyrian Empire from the death of his father Sargon II in 705 BC to his own death in 681 BC. The second king of the Sargonid dynasty, Sennacherib is one of the most famous Assyrian kings for the role he plays in the Hebrew Bible, which describes his campaign in the Levant. Other events of his reign include his destruction of the city of Babylon in 689 BC and his renovation and expansion of the last great Assyrian capital, Nineveh.
Although Sennacherib was one of the most powerful and wide-ranging Assyrian kings, he faced considerable difficulty in controlling Babylonia, which formed the southern portion of his empire. Many of Sennacherib's Babylonian troubles stemmed from the Chaldean tribal chief Marduk-apla-iddina II, who had been Babylon's king until Sennacherib's father defeated him. Shortly after Sennacherib inherited the throne in 705 BC, Marduk-apla-iddina retook Babylon and allied with the Elamites. Though Sennacherib reclaimed the south in 700 BC, Marduk-apla-iddina continued to trouble him, probably instigating Assyrian vassals in the Levant to rebel, leading to the Levantine War of 701 BC, and himself warring against Bel-ibni, Sennacherib's vassal king in Babylonia. After the Babylonians and Elamites captured and executed Sennacherib's eldest son Ashur-nadin-shumi, whom Sennacherib had proclaimed as his new vassal king in Babylon, Sennacherib campaigned in both regions, subduing Elam. Because Babylon, well within his own territory, had been the target of most of his military campaigns and had caused the death of his son, Sennacherib destroyed the city in 689 BC.
In the Levantine War, the states in the southern Levant, especially the Kingdom of Judah under King Hezekiah, were not subdued as easily as those in the north. The Assyrians thus invaded Judah. Though the biblical narrative holds that divine intervention by an angel ended Sennacherib's attack on Jerusalem by destroying the Assyrian army, an outright Assyrian defeat is unlikely as Hezekiah submitted to Sennacherib at the end of the campaign. Contemporary records, even those written by Assyria's enemies, do not mention the Assyrians being defeated at Jerusalem.. Jerusalem however is the only city mentioned as being besieged on Sennacherib's Stele, of which the capture is not mentioned.
Sennacherib transferred the capital of Assyria to Nineveh, where he had spent most of his time as crown prince. To transform Nineveh into a capital worthy of his empire, he launched one of the most ambitious building projects in ancient history. He expanded the size of the city and constructed great city walls, numerous temples and a royal garden. His most famous work in the city is the Southwest Palace, which Sennacherib named his "Palace without Rival". After the death of his eldest son and crown prince, Ashur-nadin-shumi, Sennacherib originally designated his second son Arda-Mulissu heir. He later replaced him with a younger son, Esarhaddon, in 684 BC, for unknown reasons. Sennacherib ignored Arda-Mulissu's repeated appeals to be reinstated as heir, and in 681 BC, Arda-Mulissu and his brother Nabu-shar-usur murdered Sennacherib, hoping to seize power for themselves. Babylonia and the Levant welcomed his death as divine punishment, while the Assyrian heartland probably reacted with resentment and horror. Arda-Mulissu's coronation was postponed, and Esarhaddon raised an army and seized Nineveh, installing himself as king as intended by Sennacherib.
- 1 Background
- 2 Reign
Ancestry and early life
Alabaster baas-relief depicting Sargon II, Sennacherib's father and predecessor Sennacherib was the son and successor of the Neo-Assyrian king Sargon II, who had reigned as king of Assyria from 722 to 705 BC and as king of Babylon from 710 to 705 BC. The identity of Sennacherib's mother is uncertain. Historically, the most popular view has been that Sennacherib was the son of Sargon's wife Ataliya, although this is now considered unlikely. To be Sennacherib's mother, Ataliya would have had to have been born around the year 760 BC, at the latest, and lived to at least 692 BC, as a "queen mother" is attested in that year, but Ataliya's grave at Nimrud, which was discovered in the 1980s, indicates she was 35 years old at most when she died. The Assyriologist Josette Elayi considers it more plausible Sennacherib's mother was another of Sargon's wives, Ra'īmâ; a stele from Assrr (once the capital of Assyria), discovered in 1913, specifically refers to her as the "mother of Sennacherib". Ra'īmâ's existence is a recent discovery, based on a 2014 reading of the inscription on the stele. Sargon claimed he was himself the son of the earlier king Tiglath-Pileser III, but this is uncertain as Sargon usurped the throne from Tiglath-Pileser's other son Shalmaneser V.
Sennacherib was probably born c. 745 BC. If Sargon was the son of Tiglath-Pileser and not a non-dynastic usurper, Sennacherib would have grown up in the royal palace at Nimrud and spent most of his youth there. Sargon continued to live in Nimrud long after he had become king, leaving the city in 710 BC to reside at Babylon, and later at his new capital, Dur-Sharrukin, in 706 BC. By the time Sargon moved to Babylon, Sennacherib, who served as the crown prince and designated heir, had already left Nimrud, living in a residence at Nineveh. Nineveh had been the designated seat of the Assyrian crown prince since the reign of Tiglath-Pileser. As crown prince, Sennacherib also owned an estate at Tarbisu. The royal educator, Hunnî, would have educated Sennacherib and his siblings. They probably received a scribal education, learning arithmetic and how to read and write in Sumerian and Akkadian.
He had several brothers and at least one sister. In addition to the older brothers who died before his birth, Sennacherib had a number of younger brothers, some of whom are mentioned as being alive as late as 670 BC, then in the service of Sennacherib's son and successor Esarhaddon. Sennacherib's only known sister, Ahat-abisha, was married off to Ambaris, the king of Tabal, but probably returned to Assyria after Sargon's first successful campaign against Tabal.
Sennacherib's name, Sîn-aḥḥē-erība, means "Sîn (the moon-god) has replaced the brothers" in Akkadian. The name probably derives from Sennacherib not being Sargon's first son, but all his older brothers being dead by the time he was born. In Hebrew, his name was rendered as Snḥryb and in Aramaic it was Šnḥ’ryb. According to a 670 BC document, it was illegal to give the name Sennacherib (then the former king) to a commoner in Assyria, as it was considered sacrilege.
Sennacherib as crown prince
Sennacherib's father Sargon II (left) facing a high-ranking official, possibly his crown prince Sennacherib As crown prince, Sennacherib exercised royal power with his father, or alone as a substitute while Sargon was away campaigning. During Sargon's longer absences from the Assyrian heartland, Sennacherib's residence would have served as the center of government in the Neo-Assyrian Empire, with the crown prince taking on significant administrative and political responsibilities. The vast responsibilities entrusted to Sennacherib suggests a certain degree of trust between the king and the crown prince. In reliefs depicting both Sargon and Sennacherib, they are portrayed in discussion, appearing almost as equals. As regent, Sennacherib's primary duty was to maintain relations with Assyrian governors and generals and oversee the empire's vast military intelligence network. Sennacherib oversaw domestic affairs and often informed Sargon of the progress being made on building projects throughout the empire. Sargon also assigned him to the reception and distribution of audience gifts and tribute. After distributing such financial resources, Sennacherib sent letters to his father to inform him of his decisions.
A letter to his father indicates that Sennacherib respected him and that they were on friendly terms. He never disobeyed his father, and his letters indicate he knew Sargon well and wanted to please him. For unknown reasons, Sargon never took him on his military campaigns. Elayi believes that Sennacherib may have resented his father for this as he missed out on the glory attached to military victories. In any event, Sennacherib never took action against Sargon or attempted to usurp the throne despite being more than old enough to become king himself.
Assyria and Babylonia
Map of the Near East in 900 BC, on the eve of the Neo-Assyrian Empire's rise. The map shows the former core territories of Assyria (Aššur) and Babylonia (Babylon). By the time Sennacherib became king, the Neo-Assyrian Empire had been the dominant power in the Near East for over thirty years, chiefly due to its well-trained and large army superior to that of any other contemporary kingdom. Though Babylonia to the south had also once been a large kingdom, it was typically weaker than its northern neighbor during this period, due to internal divisions and the lack of a well-organized army. The population of Babylonia was divided into various ethnic groups with different priorities and ideals. Though old native Babylonians ruled most of the cities, such as Kish, Ur, Uruk, Borsippa, Nippur, and Babylon itself, Chaldean tribes led by chieftains who often squabbled with each other dominated most of the southernmost land. The Arameans lived on the fringes of settled land and were notorious for plundering surrounding territories. Because of the infighting of these three major groups, Babylonia often represented an appealing target for Assyrian campaigns. The two kingdoms had competed since the rise of the Middle Assyrian Empire in the 14th century BC, and in the 8th century BC, the Assyrians consistently gained the upper hand. Babylon's internal and external weakness led to its conquest by the Assyrian king Tiglath-Pileser III in 729 BC.
During the expansion of Assyria into a major empire, the Assyrians had conquered various neighboring kingdoms, either annexing them as Assyrian provinces or turning them into vassal states. Because the Assyrians venerated the long history and culture of Babylon, it was preserved as a full kingdom, either ruled by an appointed client king, or by the Assyrian king in a personal union. The relationship between Assyria and Babylonia was similar to the relationship between Greece and Rome in later centuries; much of Assyria's culture, texts and traditions had been imported from the south. Assyria and Babylonia also shared the same language (Akkadian). The relationship between Assyria and Babylon was emotional in a sense; Neo-Assyrian inscriptions implicitly gender the two countries, calling Assyria the metaphorical "husband" and Babylon its "wife". In the words of the Assyriologist Eckart Frahm, "the Assyrians were in love with Babylon, but also wished to dominate her". Though Babylon was respected as the well-spring of civilization, it was expected to remain passive in political matters, something that Assyria's "Babylonian bride" repeatedly refused to be.
Death of Sargon II and succession
Map of the Near East in 700 BC, showing the extent of the Neo-Assyrian Empire (Aššur) In 705 BC, Sargon, probably in his sixties, led the Assyrian army on a campaign against King Gurdî of Tabal in central Anatolia. The campaign was disastrous, resulting in the defeat of the Assyrian army and the death of Sargon, whose corpse the Anatolians carried off. Sargon's death made the defeat significantly worse because the Assyrians believed the gods had punished him for some major past misdeed. In Mesopotamian mythology, the afterlife suffered by those who died in battle and were not buried was terrible, being doomed to suffer like beggars for eternity. Sennacherib was about 35 years old when he ascended to the Assyrian throne in August of 705 BC. He had a great deal of experience with how to rule the empire because of his long tenure as crown prince. His reaction to his father's fate was to distance himself from Sargon. Frahm characterized Sennacherib's reaction as "one of almost complete denial", writing that Sennacherib "apparently felt unable to acknowledge and mentally deal with what had happened to Sargon". Sennacherib immediately abandoned Sargon's great new capital city, Dur-Sharrukin, and moved the capital to Nineveh instead. One of Sennacherib's first actions as king was to rebuild a temple dedicated to the god Nergal, associated with death, disaster and war, at the city of Tarbisu.
Even with this public denial in mind, Sennacherib was superstitious and spent a great deal of time asking his diviners what kind of sin Sargon could have committed to suffer the fate that he had, perhaps considering the possibility that he had offended Babylon's deities by taking control of the city. A text, though probably written after Sennacherib's death, says he proclaimed he was investigating the nature of a "sin" committed by his father. A minor 704 BC campaign (unmentioned in Sennacherib's later historical accounts), led by Sennacherib's magnates rather than the king himself, was sent against Gurdî in Tabal to avenge Sargon. Sennacherib spent much time and effort to rid the empire of Sargon's imagery. Raising the level of the courtyard made images that Sargon had created at the temple in Assur invisible. When Sargon's wife Ataliya died, she was buried hastily and in the same coffin as another woman, the queen of the previous king Tiglath-Pileser. Sargon is never mentioned in Sennacherib's inscriptions.
First Babylonian campaign
Depiction of Sennacherib's arch-enemy Marduk-apla-iddina II (left), king of Babylon 722–710 BC and 704/703–702 BC and the instigator of many of Sennacherib's later conflicts Sargon II's death in the battle and the disappearance of his body inspired rebellions across the Assyrian Empire. Sargon had ruled Babylonia since 710 BC, when he defeated the Chaldean tribal chief Marduk-apla-iddina II, who had taken control of the south in the aftermath of the death of Sargon's predecessor Shalmaneser V in 722 BC. Like his immediate predecessors, Sennacherib took the ruling titles of both Assyria and Babylonia when he became king, but his reign in Babylonia was less stable. Unlike Sargon and previous Babylonian rulers, who had proclaimed themselves as shakkanakku (viceroys) of Babylon, in reverence for the city's deity Marduk (who was considered Babylon's formal "king"), Sennacherib explicitly proclaimed himself as Babylon's king. Furthermore, he did not "take the hand" of the Statue of Marduk, the physical representation of the deity, and thus did not honor the god by undergoing the traditional Babylonian coronation ritual.
Angered by this disrespect, revolts a month apart in 704 or 703 BC overthrew Sennacherib's rule in the south. First, a Babylonian by the name of Marduk-zakir-shumi II took the throne, but Marduk-apla-iddina, the same Chaldean warlord who had seized control of the city once before and had warred against Sennacherib's father, deposed him after just two or four weeks. Marduk-apla-iddina rallied large portions of Babylonia's people to fight for him, both the urban Babylonians and the tribal Chaldeans, and he also enlisted troops from the neighboring civilization of Elam, in modern-day south-western Iran. Though assembling all these forces took time, Sennacherib reacted slowly to these developments, which allowed Marduk-apla-iddina to station large contingents at the cities of Kutha and Kish.
Portions of the Assyrian army were away in Tabal in 704 BC. Because Sennacherib might have considered a two-front war too risky, Marduk-apla-iddina was left unchallenged for several months. In 703 BC, after the Tabal expedition had been completed, Sennacherib gathered the Assyrian army at Assur, often used as a mustering spot for campaigns against the south. The Assyrian army, led by Sennacherib's chief commander, launched an unsuccessful attack on the coalition forces near the city of Kish, bolstering the legitimacy of the coalition. However, Sennacherib also realized that the anti-Assyrian forces were divided and led his entire army to engage and destroy the portion of the army encamped at Kutha. Thereafter, he moved to attack the contingent at Kish, winning this second battle as well. Fearing for his life, Marduk-apla-iddina had already fled the battlefield. Sennacherib's inscriptions state that among the captives taken after the victory was a stepson of Marduk-apla-iddina and brother of an Arab queen, Yatie, who had joined the coalition.
Sennacherib then marched on Babylon. As the Assyrians appeared on the horizon, Babylon opened its gates to him, surrendering without a fight. The city was reprimanded, suffering a minor sack, though its citizens were unharmed. After a brief period of rest in Babylon, Sennacherib and the Assyrian army then moved systematically through southern Babylonia, where there was still organized resistance, pacifying both the tribal areas and the major cities. Sennacherib's inscriptions state that over two hundred thousand prisoners were taken. Because his previous policy of reigning as king of both Assyria and Babylonia had evidently failed, Sennacherib attempted another method, appointing a native Babylonian who had grown up at the Assyrian court, Bel-ibni, as his vassal king of the south. Sennacherib described Bel-ibni as "a native of Babylon who grew up in my palace like a young puppy".
War in the Levant
Main article: Sennacherib's campaign in the Levant
Scenes from Sennacherib's Lachish reliefs
Assyrian siege engine attacking the city wall of Lachish
Assyrian soldier about to behead a prisoner from Lachish
Judean people being deported into exile after the fall of Lachish to the Assyrians
Sennacherib (enthroned at the far right) at Lachish, interacting with his officials and reviewing prisoners
After the Babylonian war, Sennacherib's second campaign was in the Zagros Mountains. There, he subdued the Yasubigallians, a people from east of the Tigris river, and the Kassites, a people who had ruled Babylonia centuries before. Sennacherib's third campaign, directed against the kingdoms and city-states in the Levant, is very well-documented compared to many other events in the ancient Near East and is the best-documented event in the history of Israel during the First Temple period. In 705 BC, Hezekiah, the king of Judah, had stopped paying his annual tribute to the Assyrians and began pursuing a markedly aggressive foreign policy, probably inspired by the recent wave of anti-Assyrian rebellions across the empire. After conspiring with Egypt (then under Kushite rule) and Sidqia, an anti-Assyrian king of the city of Ashkelon, to garner support, Hezekiah attacked Philistine cities loyal to Assyria and captured the Assyrian vassal Padi, king of Ekron, and imprisoned him in his capital, Jerusalem. In the northern Levant, former Assyrian vassal cities rallied around Luli, the king of Tyre and Sidon. Sennacherib's arch-enemy Marduk-apla-iddina encouraged the anti-Assyrian sentiment among some of the empire's western vassals. He corresponded with and sent gifts to western rulers like Hezekiah, probably hoping to assemble a vast anti-Assyrian alliance.
In 701 BC, Sennacherib first moved to attack the Syro-Hittite and Phoenician cities in the north. Like many rulers of these cities had done before and would do again, Luli fled rather than face the wrath of the Assyrians, escaping by boat until he was beyond Sennacherib's reach. In his stead, Sennacherib proclaimed a noble by the name Ethbaal as the new king of Sidon and his vassal and oversaw the submission of many of the surrounding cities to his rule. Faced with a massive Assyrian army nearby, many of the Levantine rulers, including Budu-ilu of Ammon, Kamusu-nadbi of Moab, Mitini of Ashdod and Malik-rammu of Edom, quickly submitted to Sennacherib to avoid retribution.
The resistance in the southern Levant was not as easily suppressed, forcing Sennacherib to invade the region. The Assyrians began by taking Ashkelon and defeating Sidqia. They then besieged and took numerous cities. As the Assyrians were preparing to retake Ekron, Hezekiah's ally, Egypt, intervened in the conflict. The Assyrians defeated the Egyptian expedition in a battle near the city of Eltekeh. They took the cities of Ekron and Timnah and Judah stood alone, with Sennacherib setting his sights on Jerusalem. While a portion of Sennacherib's troops prepared to blockade Jerusalem, Sennacherib himself marched on the important Judean city of Lachish. Both the blockade of Jerusalem and the siege of Lachish probably prevented further Egyptian aid from reaching Hezekiah, and intimidated the kings of other smaller states in the region. The siege of Lachish, which ended in the city's destruction, was so lengthy that the defenders eventually began using arrowheads made of bone rather than metal, which had run out. To take the city, the Assyrians constructed a great siege mound, a ramp made of earth and stone, to reach the top of Lachish's walls. After they had destroyed the city, the Assyrians deported the survivors to the Assyrian Empire, forcing some of them to work on Sennacherib's building projects, and others to serve in the king's personal guard.
Sennacherib at the gates of Jerusalem
Main article: Assyrian siege of Jerusalem 19th-century wood engraving by Gustave Doré depicting the Biblical narrative of an angel destroying Sennacherib's army outside Jerusalem Sennacherib's account of what happened at Jerusalem begins with "As for Hezekiah ... like a caged bird I shut up in Jerusalem his royal city. I barricaded him with outposts, and exit from the gate of his city I made taboo for him." As such, Jerusalem was blockaded in some capacity, though the lack of massive military activities and appropriate equipment meant that it was probably not a full siege. According to the Biblical narrative, a senior Assyrian official with the title Rabshakeh stood in front of the city's walls and demanded its surrender, threatening that the Judeans would 'eat feces and drink urine' during the siege. Although the Assyrian account of the operation may lead one to believe that Sennacherib was present in person, this is never explicitly stated and reliefs depicting the campaign show Sennacherib seated on a throne in Lachish instead of overseeing the preparations for an assault on Jerusalem. According to the biblical account, the Assyrian envoys to Hezekiah returned to Sennacherib to find him engaged in a struggle with the city of Libnah.
The account of the blockade erected around Jerusalem is different from the sieges described in Sennacherib's annals and the massive reliefs in Sennacherib's palace at Nineveh, which depict the successful siege of Lachish rather than events at Jerusalem. Though the blockade of Jerusalem was not a proper siege, it is clear from all available sources that a massive Assyrian army was encamped in the city's vicinity, probably on its northern side. Though it is clear that the blockade of Jerusalem ended without significant fighting, how it was resolved and what stopped Sennacherib's massive army from overwhelming the city is uncertain. The Biblical account of the end of Sennacherib's attack on Jerusalem holds that though Hezekiah's soldiers manned the walls of the city, ready to defend it against the Assyrians, an entity referred to as the destroying angel, sent by Yahweh, annihilated Sennacherib's army, killing 185,000 Assyrian soldiers in front of Jerusalem's gates. The ancient Greek historian Herodotus describes the operation as an Assyrian failure due to a "multitude of field-mice" descending upon the Assyrian camp, devouring crucial material such as quivers and bowstrings, leaving the Assyrians unarmed and causing them to flee. It is possible that the story of the mice infestation is an allusion to some kind of disease striking the Assyrian camp, possibly the septicemic plague. An alternate hypothesis, first advanced by journalist Henry T. Aubin in 2001, is that the blockade of Jerusalem might have been lifted through the intervention of a Kushite army from Egypt. The battle is considered unlikely to have been an outright Assyrian defeat, especially because contemporary Babylonian chronicles, otherwise eager to mention Assyrian failures, are silent on the matter.
Despite the seemingly inconclusive end to the blockade of Jerusalem, the Levantine campaign was largely an Assyrian victory. After the Assyrians had seized many of Judah's most important fortified cities and destroyed several towns and villages, Hezekiah realized that his anti-Assyrian activities had been disastrous military and political miscalculations and as such submitted to the Assyrians once more. He was forced to pay a heavier tribute than previously, probably along with a heavy penalty and the tribute that he had failed to send to Nineveh from 705 to 701 BC. He was also forced to release the imprisoned king of Ekron, Padi, and Sennacherib granted substantial portions of Judah's land to the neighboring kingdoms of Gaza, Ashdod and Ekron.
Resolving the Babylonian problem
Relief from Sennacherib's reign depicting Assyrian slingers hurling stones at an enemy city By 700 BC, the situation in Babylonia had once again deteriorated to such an extent that Sennacherib had to invade and reassert his control. Bel-ibni now faced the open revolts of two tribal leaders: Shuzubu (who later became Babylonian king under the name Mushezib-Marduk) and Marduk-apla-iddina, now an elderly man. One of Sennacherib's first measures was to remove Bel-ibni from the Babylonian throne, either because of incompetence or complicity, and he was brought back to Assyria, whereafter he is not heard of again in the sources. The Assyrians searched the northern marshes of Babylonia in an attempt to find and capture Shuzubu, but they failed. Sennacherib then hunted for Marduk-apla-iddina, a hunt so intense the Chaldean escaped on boats with his people across the Persian Gulf, taking refuge in the Elamite city of Nagitu. Victorious, Sennacherib attempted yet another method to govern Babylonia and appointed his son Ashur-nadin-shumi to reign as Babylonian vassal king.
Ashur-nadin-shumi was also titled māru rēštû, a title that could be interpreted either as the "pre-eminent son" or the "firstborn son". His appointment as king of Babylon and the new title suggests that Ashur-nadin-shumi was being groomed to succeed Sennacherib as the king of Assyria upon his death. If māru rēštû means "pre-eminent" such a title would befit only the crown prince, and if it means "firstborn", this also suggests that Ashur-nadin-shumi was the heir. In most cases the Assyrians followed the principle of primogeniture, wherein the oldest son inherits. More evidence in favor of Ashur-nadin-shumi being the crown prince is Sennacherib's construction of a palace for him at the city of Assur, something Sennacherib would also do for the later crown prince Esarhaddon. As an Assyrian king of Babylon, Ashur-nadin-shumi's position was politically important and highly delicate and would have granted him valuable experience as the intended heir to the entire Neo-Assyrian Empire.
In the years that followed, Babylonia stayed relatively quiet, with no chronicles recording any significant activity. In the meantime, Sennacherib campaigned elsewhere. His fifth campaign in 699 BC involved a series of raids against the villages around the foot of Mount Judi, located to the northeast of Nineveh. Sennacherib's generals led other small campaigns without the king present, including a 698 BC expedition against Kirua, an Assyrian governor revolting in Cilicia, and a 695 BC campaign against the city of Tegarama. In 694 BC, Sennacherib invaded Elam, with the explicit goal of the campaign being to root out Marduk-apla-iddina and the other Chaldean refugees.
The Elamite campaign and revenge
Reliefs from Sennacherib's time depicting an Assyrian warship (top) and a number of his soldiers along with their prisoners and war trophies (bottom)
In preparation for his attack on Elam, Sennacherib assembled two great fleets on the Euphrates and the Tigris. The latter fleet was then used to transport the Assyrian army to the city of Opis, where the ships were then pulled ashore and transported overland to a canal that linked to the Euphrates. The two fleets then combined into one and continued down to the Persian Gulf. At the head of the Persian Gulf, a storm flooded the Assyrian camp and the Assyrian soldiers had to take refuge on their ships. They then sailed across the Persian Gulf, a journey which Sennacherib's inscriptions indicate was difficult since repeated sacrifices were made to Ea, the god of the deep.
Successfully landing on the Elamite coast, the Assyrians then hunted and attacked the Chaldean refugees, something that both Babylonian and Assyrian sources hold went well for the Assyrians. Sennacherib's account of the campaign describe the affair as a "great victory" and list several cities taken and sacked by the Assyrian army. Although Sennacherib at last got his revenge on Marduk-apla-iddina, his arch-enemy had not lived to see it, having died of natural causes before the Assyrians landed in Elam. The war then took an unexpected turn as the king of Elam, Hallushu-Inshushinak, took advantage of the Assyrian army being so far away from home to invade Babylonia. With the aid of surviving Chaldean troops, Hallushu-Inshushinak took the city of Sippar, where he also managed to capture Ashur-nadin-shumi and take him back to Elam. Ashur-nadin-shumi was then never heard from again, probably having been executed. In Ashur-nadin-shumi's place, a native Babylonian, Nergal-ushezib, became Babylon's king. Babylonian records ascribe Nergal-ushezib's rise to power to being appointed by Hallushu-Inshushinak, whereas Assyrian records state that he was chosen by the Babylonians themselves.
The Assyrian army, by now surrounded by the Elamites in southern Babylonia, managed to kill the son of Hallushu-Inshushinak in a skirmish but remained trapped for at least nine months. Wishing to consolidate his position as king, Nergal-ushezib took advantage of the situation and captured and plundered the city of Nippur. Some months later, the Assyrians attacked and captured the southern city of Uruk. Nergal-ushezib was frightened by this development and called on the Elamites for aid. Just seven days after taking Uruk, the Assyrians and Babylonians met in battle at Nippur, where the Assyrians won a decisive victory; routing the Elamite-Babylonian army and capturing Nergal-ushezib, finally free from their entrapped position in the south. Through some unknown means, Sennacherib had managed to slip by the Babylonian and Elamite forces undetected some months prior and was not present at the final battle, instead probably being on his way from Assyria with additional troops. Once he rejoined his southern army, the war with Babylonia was already won.
Soon thereafter, a revolt broke out in Elam which saw the deposition of Hallushu-Inshushinak and the rise of Kutir-Nahhunte III to the throne. Determined to end the threat of Elam, Sennacherib retook the city of Der, occupied by Elam during the previous conflict, and advanced into northern Elam. Kutir-Nahhunte could not organize an efficient defense against the Assyrians and refused to fight them, instead fleeing to the mountain city of Haidalu. Shortly thereafter, the severe weather forced Sennacherib to retreat and return home.