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Political Abroach to the Classical World 45
than any the world had hitherto seen. The national temper
was war-like, and the geographical situation of Assyria imparted
a tendency to expansion. An absence of natural frontiers necessi-
tated the subjection of an ever-widening circle of rapacious
neighbours. Lack of a seaboard from which to dispatch her
merchants and her distance from the metal mines of Cappa-
docia, made it imperative that she should secure access to the
source of those materials which were vital to her existence.
Finally, like all empire builders, she was tempted by greed of
gain; lists of tribute from the wealthy Aramaean and Phoenician
cities on the western trade-routes bear witness to the prize that
was to be won by campaigns in that quarter.
The acquisition of this empire was not a matter of years but
of centuries. Its frontiers ebbed and flowed, expanded under
an energetic warrior king, contracted under a weakling, or when
dynastic strife, that fatal weakness of oriental monarchies,
threatened to destroy from within the whole structure of
One of the most dangerous and persistent opponents of
Assyria was the kingdom of Urartu on her northern borders.
A war-like people of Asianic speech had settled around Lake
Van in the Armenian mountains, and by their skill in forging
iron weapons had established a powerful and aggressive State.
For centuries Assyria and Van disputed between them the hill-
lands to the west of Urartu. Van was repeatedly attacked by
the Assyrians, but the rocky fortress-capital proved impreg-
nable. When Assyria was weak, Van was at its strongest.
Sarduris III even held for a time the Aramaean cities of the
west, Carchemish and Aleppo. But Tiglath-pileser soon drove
the Urartians back into their mountains, and there they were
gradually hemmed in by other enemies, and ceased to trouble
These foes that encompassed Van were divided into two main
groups—the Scythians on the north-west, the Medes on the