Sennacherib was the king of Assyria from 705 BCE to 681 BCE. He is mainly remembered for his military campaigns against Babylon and Judah, and for his building programs - most notably at the Akkadian capital of Nineveh.
Sennacherib (reigned 705-681 BCE) was the second king of the Sargonid Dynasty of Assyria. He is also known as the second Assyrian king to have sacked Babylon’s temples and been assassinated for his affront to the gods. Sennacherib abandoned his father’s new city of Dur-Sharrukinand moved the capital to Nineveh, which he handsomely restored. The famous Hanging Gardens, which traditionally have been attributed to Babylon, are now thought by some scholars to have actually been Sennacherib’s creation at Nineveh. His reign was marked largely by his campaigns against Babylon and the revolts against Assyrian rule led by a tribal chief named Merodach-Baladan. After sacking Babylon, he was assassinated by his sons.During the reign of Sargon II (722-705 BCE), Sennacherib had effectively maintained the administration of the empire while his father was away on military campaigns. According to inscriptions and letters from the time, Sargon II trusted his son to handle the daily affairs of state but did not seem to think highly of him as a man or future king. Sennacherib seems to have regarded his father with similar disdain; there is no mention of Sargon II in any of Sennacherib’s inscriptions and no record of any monuments or temples linking Sennacherib’s reign and accomplishments with his father’s. Sargon II’s new capital city of Dur-Sharrukin, which Sennacherib had been forced to oversee the construction of for ten years, was abandoned shortly after Sargon II’s death and the capital moved to Nineveh.
Since Sennacherib had been forced to play the role of government official under his father, it is understandable that the people, at his ascension to the throne, might have considered him weak; unlike other Assyrian kings of the past, he had never accompanied his father on campaign and so had never proved himself in battle. One of these campaigns, among the last Sargon II ever led, was against a tribal chief named Merodach-Baladan who had taken the crown of Babylon and control of the southern region of Mesopotamia. Sargon II had defeated Merodach-Baladan’s allies, the Elamites, and driven the chief from Babylon, afterwards taking the crown for himself. He made the mistake, however, of sparing Merodach-Baladan’s life, allowing him to remain in his hometown of Bit-Yakin by the Persian Gulf, and this decision would cause Sennacherib some of the most serious problems of his reign. Shortly after Sennacherib came to the throne, Merodach-Baladan returned to Babylon at the head of an army comprised of his tribesmen and Elamite warriors, assassinated the sitting ruler of the city, and again took the throne.
Sennacherib had not done anything to endear himself to the Babylonians. Sargon II had won Babylon in battle and been recognized as the legitimate king. It would have been expected that, after his coronation, Sennacherib would travel to Babylon to “take the hand of Marduk” and legitimize his own rule over the city and the southern reaches. “Taking the hand of Marduk” meant to ceremoniously acknowledge Marduk as the god of Babylon and show one’s respect for the city by holding the hand of the statue of the god during the ritual that legitimized one’s rule. Sennacherib dispensed with that custom and proclaimed himself king of Babylon without bothering to even visit the city, thus insulting Babylon and its chief god.