Naqia-Zakutu: Assyria’s Last Great Queen—Part 2

🧿 A royal inscriptions venerating perhaps the most influential woman in ancient Assyria reads:

Palaces of Nineveh along the eastern bank of the Tigris River
Nineveh, capital of Neo-Assyrian Empire

Naqia-Zakutu, wife of Sennacherib, king of the world, king of Assyria,

daughter-in-law of Sargon, king of the world, king of Assyria,

mother of Esarhaddon, king of the world, king of Assyria…*


When we left Assyria’s Last Great Queen in Part 1, her husband, King Sennacherib, had been murdered while at prayer in a temple in Nineveh, capital of the empire. Murdered by whom was a topic of speculation, but his son Esarhaddon by wife Zakutu would soon step up as king.

Naqia-Zakutu herself had enjoyed a stellar rise to power from lowly palace woman and now carried the title of “Queen.” Already she had guided transformation of Nineveh into a dazzling showcase city. Next, she would look to Babylon. But first her son had to secure his place on the throne.

Babylon's palaces and towering ziggurat set against a fiery gold sky
Babylon in its splendor

Not unexpectedly, there were jealous mumblings and open rebellion among Esarhaddon’s siblings—Sennacherib’s more highly born sons—and he was forced to win by the sword the throne he had legally inherited. But win he did! Then, with the help of wise Zakutu, Esarhaddon launched a grand project to atone for his father’s destruction of Babylon: a full restoration of the crushed city (680 – 669 BC).

Results exceeded expectations. Not only was the city rebuilt, but it was larger and more magnificent than before.

With this righteous act, the king won the friendship of his Babylonian subjects.  Throughout the rest of his reign, that southern region of the realm gave Esarhaddon little trouble.

Queen Zakutu was fated to outlive her son. In 669 BC, King Esarhaddon died while on his way to Egypt to secure his rule there. However, the path for a smooth transition of power had already been laid. For this, the clever queen mother most certainly could be thanked.

In 672 BC, three years before his death, with Naqia-Zakutu’s encouragement, Esarhaddon proclaimed his son Ashurbanipal (Zakutu’s grandson) heir to the throne. Another son, Shamash-shum-ukin, was appointed viceroy of Babylon. After Esarhaddon’s death, the queen quickly went to work, issuing the Loyalty Treaty of Naqia-Zakutu to secure Ashurbanipal’s succession as king. The very fact that she could do so highlights her exalted position in the king’s court.

The reign of Ashurbanipal lasted until 627 BC. He was the last king of the Neo-Assyrian Empire. During this period, his grandmother, the Queen, died. Like her birth date, the date of her death is unknown, though I suppose it was recorded somewhere and may yet be discovered. However, it seems a sad, inglorious end to the life of a dynamic, intelligent woman.

Artist impression of interior of great library of Nineveh in ancient Mesopotamia
The Great Library of Nineveh

Never acting on her own behalf, but in support of her husband, son, and grandson, Queen Naqia-Zukutu’s profound impact on the lives, rule, and kingdoms of these powerful men remains largely unsung.

To visually explore the roads and realms from Babylon to Nineveh and beyond, visit “Ancient Journeys” on Pinterest—inspirational boards for the novel Quest for Gryphon Gold.

Comments? Questions? Delighted to hear from you, and I promise to respond.



*Further information about royal inscription from this period may be found here: Leichty, Erle The Royal Inscriptions of Esarhaddon, King of Assyria (680-669 BC) Penn State Press, 2011 

Gold gryphon image for Quest for Gryphon Gold
Quest for Gryphon Gold

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  1. Pingback:Syrian Goddess Atargatis: The Earliest Known Mermaid - Patricia Peirson

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