Ashurbanipal (Ashur is creator of an heir; 685 BC – c. 627 BC), also spelled Assurbanipal or Ashshurbanipal) was an Assyrian king, the son of Esarhaddon and the last strong king of the Neo-Assyrian Empire (668 BC – c. 627 BC). He is famed for amassing a significant collection of cuneiform documents for his royal palace at Nineveh. This collection, known as the Library of Ashurbanipal, is now housed at the British Museum.
In the Bible he is called Asenappar. Roman historian Justinus identified him as Sardanapalus.
Ashurbanipal was born toward the end of a fifteen-hundred-year period of Assyrian ascendancy.
His father, Esarhaddon, youngest son of Sennacherib, had become heir when the crown prince, Ashur-nadin-shumi, was deposed by rebels from his position as vassal for Babylon. Esarhaddon was the son not of Sennacherib's queen, Tashmetum-sharrat, but of the West Semitic "palace woman" Zakutu, "the pure" (cf. "that which purifies"), known by her native name, Naqi'a. The only queen known for Esarhaddon was Ashur-hamat, who died in 672 BC.
Ashurbanipal grew up in the small palace called bit reduti (house of succession), built by his grandfather Sennacherib when he was crown prince in the northern quadrant of Nineveh. In 694 BC, Sennacherib had completed the "Palace Without Rival" at the southwest corner of the acropolis, obliterating most of the older structures. The "House of Succession" had become the palace of Esarhaddon, the crown prince. In this house, Ashurbanipal's grandfather was assassinated by uncles identified only from the biblical account as Adrammelek and Sharezer. From this conspiracy, Esarhaddon emerged as king in 680 BC He proceeded to rebuild as his residence the bit masharti (weapons house, or arsenal). The "House of Succession" was left to his mother and the younger children, including Ashurbanipal.
The names of five brothers and one sister are known. Sin-iddin-apli, the intended crown prince, died prior to 672 BC Not having been expected to become heir to the throne, Ashurbanipal was trained in scholarly pursuits as well as the usual horsemanship, hunting, chariotry, soldierliness, craftsmanship, and royal decorum. In a unique autobiographical statement, Ashurbanipal specified his youthful scholarly pursuits as having included oil divination, mathematics, and reading and writing. According to legend, Ashurbanipal was the only Assyrian king who learned how to read and write.