Le sette folgori di Assur (War Gods of Babylon) (1962)

 

 

 

Director:     Silvio Amadio. 

Starring:     Howard Duff (Sardanapolo),  Jocelyn Lane (Mirra),  Luciano Marin (Sammash),  Giancarlo Sbragia (Arbace),  Arnoldo Foŕ (Zoroastro),  Stelio Candelli (Ammurabi),  José Greci (Crisia),  Luigi Borghese,  Nico Pepe (Namtar),  Calisto Calisti,  Omar Zolficar.

in the later years of the Assyrian Empire, there is conflict between King Ashurbanipal (reign 668 – c. 627 BC) and his brother Sammash-shum-ukin (English language)

 

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film.

A village is being attacked and the people slaughtered.  A red-headed woman named Mirra sees the smoke arising from the village and she starts running toward the village.  She is shocked at the utter devastation that she sees. 

A white-haired and bearded walker comes to the village.  He hears Mirra talking to her dead father as if he were alive.  The man asks that Mirra be freed from the demons of madness.  Now Mirra realizes that her father and the others are dead.  The old man tells Mirra to come with him away from all this destruction. 

Nineveh, capital of the Assyrian Empire.  [Neneveh was an ancient Assyrian city on the eastern bank of the Tigris River, and capital of the Neo-Assyrian Empire (934 to 609 BC). It was the largest city in the world for some fifty years until it was sacked and completely depopulated by an unusual coalition of Medes, Persians, Babylonians, Scythians and Cimmerians in 612 BC. Its ruins are across the river from the modern-day major city of Mosul, Iraq.]

We see the old bearded man, named Zorastro, speaking to the people of Nineveh.  He says there is too much greed in the hearts of the Assyrians and the true spirit condemns their false gods to destruction.  With him is the red-head Mirra.  The high priest gives the order to call the palace guard and arrest this Zorastro who is trying to incite the people to rebellion against the King.  Zorastro says both Nineveh and Babylon will be condemned to ashes.  The Assyrians captured Babylon and made the place miserable.  And now even heavier taxes are being levied on the people of Babylon.  The Palace Guard arrests the prophet Zorastro and Mirra. 

A young man comes outside and people say of him that he will be the future King of Babylon.  An Governor of Babylon, Arbaces, comes up to him and says hail to Prince Sammash, brother of the King of Nineveh.  Sammash welcomes the Governor and Ammurabi. 

Mirra keeps staring at prince Sammash and now goes up to him to ask him for justice.  Zorastro tells Mirra that justice will not be found here with the Prince.  Zorastro is spirited away by the guards, but the Prince likes the look of Mirra and tells Ammurabi to take her to a handler of the female staff of the palace.  Ammurabi takes Mirra to meet Lucrezia.  Lucrezia says she is afraid her dear friend has been unfaithful to her with this new woman next to him.  Ammurabi assures her that the woman is for the Prince. 

Later the Prince comes in to see Mirra.  He thinks that Zorastro is her father, but she assures him he is not.  Rather Zorastro is a holy man.  The Prince tells Mirra that she is a gift of the gods.  He desperately wants her to go willingly with him to Babylon.  He asks her if he gives Zorastro his freedom, will she then come willingly with him?   Yes. 

The Prince goes to speak with his brother the King of Assyria.  He asks for mercy for Zorastro.  The King wants to please his brother and says he will be lenient, but he laughs at his younger brother for comparing his Mirra to the Goddess of Ishtar. 

Mirra is happy at the good news for Zorastro and she tells the Prince that she will be grateful to him.  The Prince tells her that she will always be at his side.  But they will be separated for about seven days during the coronation ceremony to make him King of Babylon.  He then tells Mirra that he loves her.  They hug and kiss. 

The Kings walks around in the castle and sees the beautiful Mirra sleeping on a reclining couch.  He is captivated by her beauty. 

The ceremony starts.  The priests complain about the Prince's choice of the lowly Mirra to be his representative in the ceremony.  They tell the King that she and her Zorastro should both have been executed already.  The two people mentioned are brought before the King.  The King says the the high priests are saying that Zorastro speaks words of treason.  Zorastro says the voice of the god Assur told him to come to see the King and speak these words to him.  He speaks of his prophecy of the destruction of Assyria, if they continue their present course of the abuse of the poor and the weak. 

The high priest, however, says that Zorastro's words are blasphemy.  The King says he will let Zorastro go free, but he must return to the hills of Medea and not stay in Nineveh and Babylon.  Furthermore, Zorastro is to never leave those mountains again.  Zoraster says goodbye to Mirra. 

A huge storm blows through Nineveh.  Upon returning from the temple, Mirra bumps into the King.  He asks her what if he wanted Mirra for himself?  But then he says that she rightfully belongs to Sammash.  He lets the beautiful woman continue on her own way. 

Ammurabi is very worried about Sammash.  He says the Prince is too young to see that the Governor of Babylon is plotting against Assyria.  He is torn in his loyalties between his loyalty to the Prince and his loyalty to Babylon. 

The Prince with the high priest comes into see the King.  He will have the test of walking across a bed of coals without burning himself.  The Prince successfully performs the task.  He is now crowned the King of Babylon.  And now there will be three days of feasting in celebration of the occasion.

There is also begun a huge lion hunt.  Men beat their drums and blow their horns to push the lions toward the hunters.  Both the prince and the King participate in the lion hunt.  The hunters throw spears at the oncoming lions.  Sammash pursues a lion over a long distance, but is then thrown out of his chariot when a wheel hits a big bump. Mirra sees what has happened and is afraid for Sammash.  The lion jumps on Sammash, who keeps stabbing the beat.  The King of Assyria jumps off his chariot and rams his spear in the lion attacking his brother. 

Sammash is pretty clawed up, but he will survive.  The King sees Mirra bringing Sammash his water.  He stops her to ask to drink some of her water.  Mirra says she wants to thank the King for saving his brother.  He tries to kiss Mirra but she says no, they mustn't do this.  The King lets her go on her way.  One of the Babylonians sees this event. 

The King of Babylon notices how sad Mirra looks.  She says she is bothered by memories of the terrible things that happened to her parents and her friends.  The King says that soon they will have their wedding feast in Babylon and he doesn't want to see her with that sad expression on her face again.  The Governor of Babylon comes in with the skin of the lion killed by the former Prince.  The new King says that his brother helped him kill the lion.  The Governor doesn't want the new King giving any credit to his brother the Assyrian King.  This only puts the King of Babylon in the shadow of the King of Assyria and they can't have that.  Babylon must get free of its bondage to Assyria.  The Babylonian King is not sure just how to take these words of the Governor's.

Mirra comes to the Assyrian King to say goodbye to him.  The King can't stand the idea of her leaving him so soon.  She tells him that he must forget her, but he says he never will forget her.  She says that she can feel that the Assyrian King loves her as does Sammash.  She adds:  "And it's as if I have always loved you, for years, for centuries."  She hugs the King and says it will be so cold without his warmth. 

They are interrupted by the arrival of Sammash.  The two men start sword fighting.  The Assyrian King wins, but he refuses to kill his brother.  He tells him to get out of the palace.  Sammash leaves, but takes Mirra with him. 

The soldiers come out to welcome the new King of Babylon to Babylon.  And now the Governor can introduce the new King to the allies of Babylon:  the Nubians, the Persians, the leader of 2,000 desert horsemen, the Meads and the leader of the army of the Arpius (?).  The King gladly welcomes his allies to Babylon. 

The King goes to ask Mirra is she was dreaming of being held in the arms of his brother?  She acts offended and says he is her only master and she must love him only.  Yes, says the King, but in fact she does not actually love him.  She protests again but he says to her that he wants more of her than just her body.  Furthermore, he says the man that he will no longer call brother will pay for what he has done to Mirra. 

There are arguments among the allies as to how effective a leader the new King of Babylon will be.  Some say he is still under the thumb of his brother.  A fight almost breaks out but the Governor arrives and squelches the disputes.  He says it is still too early to move against Assyria. 

The King holds a conference with his allies  He says he will be an independent ruler of Babylon and will refuse to pay tribute to Assyria.  Some of the allies say this means immediate war.  The King says then let war come.  Mirra comes into the tent to protest against the idea of Babylon going up against the mighty Assyrians.  The King yells at Mirra to get out and she leaves. 

The Babylon King will go to Nineveh to state their conditions.  In his absence, the Governor and Ammurabi will be in charge. 

Mirra speaks with the Governor.  She doesn't want war with Nineveh, but it seems that the Governor does want war.  Mirra tells him she's afraid of his wild ambition that will end up destroying "us".  It also seems that the Governor has plans of his own for the King of Babylon. 

The Babylon King with a large escort leaves for Nineveh.  On the journey an archer shoots an arrow into the back of the King.  He is then knocked off his horse.  He loses consciousness while laying in the dirt of the road.  The escort now rides to Nineveh and sticks a lance topped with the head of the King of Babylon into the ground as a message for the Assyrian King.   Of course, this upsets the King and soon the Assyrian army is on the march to Babylon. 

The Governor has told everyone that it was the Assyrian King that killed his own brother and now is coming "for our heads".  The feeling of the Allies is that they should avenge the death of the King.  The Governor tells the other leaders to get their armies together for a march out to fight the Assyrians.   And now Mirra is shown the headless body of Sammash.  She starts crying and blames herself.  She also looks for vengeance. 

The Assyrian King speaks to his troops about putting down the Babylonian revolt.  The high priest says that the gods foretell that victory awaits the Assyrians.  The only way the King can lose is if the Tigris River floods over its river banks. 

Mirra walks to the camp of the Assyrians and tries to assassinate the King.  The King is shocked that Mirra has tried to kill him with a knife.  She calls him a "murdering King".   Now the King realizes that Mirra thinks he killed his brother.  He asks her how could she believe that he could kill his own brother? It was the Governor who killed Sammash.   When Mirra realizes this she warns the Assyrian King that Babylon has allies with forces twice as large as that of the Assyrians.  The King says that only the forces of nature can defeat him. She hugs the King and they hug and kiss each other.

The next day the battle begins.  The two forces charge each other.  In the battle the Allies win over Assyria.  The Assyrians head back to Nineveh.  The Governor says that now they will lay siege to Nineveh. 

When the King returns to Nineveh, he has the statue of the god Ashur torn down.  He shouts:  "Ashur!  Your priests will rot in my dungeons.  Rise!  Defy me if you can!  But you can't.  You're nothing but a hollow idol." 

The tents of Babylon and it's allies completely surround the walled Nineveh.  The walls of Nineveh has never seen an army of such great numbers.  The King now has his cavalry prepare for a surprise attack at dawn. 

Early the next morning the cavalry heads out to do battle with the Allies.   Meanwhile, the Governor gives a pep talk to his fellow leaders.  The talk, however, is interrupted when an arrow hits one of the leaders in the back.  The Assyrian King gives the command to attack.

The forces of Babylon have to retreat into the forest.  The King gives the command to destroy everything and then return to the palace.  At the palace the King has a victory dinner to honor the Assyrian victory.  During the night heavy rains fall from the skies and the banks of the Tigris start overflowing.  People start running from the rising flood waters.  Many become victims of the raging waters.  The flood waters become so strong that the walls of the city are undermined and start falling. 

bhe King can't believes his eyes.  The flood waters break down the gates and then the walls.  And now the waters start destroying the entire city of Nineveh killings hundreds of people.  The King admits that this is the end for him and Assyria.  He tells Mirra that she will be taken up to the mountain to reunite with Zorastro.  She says she won't leave him, but he insists that she live on for her King. 

Mirra talks to Lucrezia and tells her that she will live for she will go with her up into the mountains.  Lucrezia is reconnected with Ammurabi and she tells him the true story of what happened to Sammash.  When the Governor appears, Ammurabi and he fight to the death.  The Governor falls to his death. 

The King sets what's left of his palace aflame.  Mirra appears ready to die by the side of her King. 

Nineveh is destroyed along with most of its inhabitants. 

 

 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D. 


Historical Background:

Ashurbanipal was an Assyrian king, the son of Esarhaddon.  He was the last strong king of the Neo-Assyrian Empire (668 BC – c. 627 BC).  In the Bible he is called Asenappar (Ezra 4:10).

685 - 627 BC  --  life span of Ashurbanipal. 

680  --  Esarhaddon emerges as king. 

669  --  sudden death of Esarhaddon, while traveling to reinvade Egypt.

668  --  Ashurbanipal is coronated.  He installs his brother as King of Babylon.  The Assyrian King becomes infamous for his exceedingly cruel actions towards his enemies.

667   --  defeats the Nubian king of Egypt Taharqa, near Memphis.  Assyria now controlled Media, Persia, Aramea, Phoenicia, Israel, Judah, Asia Minor, northern Arabia, the neo Hittites and Cyprus with few problems during Ashurbanipal's reign.

c. 664  --  Urtaku, the Elamite king, attacks Babylonia by surprise.

664  --  the treasonous province of Gambulu rebels against the Assyrians. Assyrian forces invade Elam and defeat their enemy at a battle at the Ulaya river.  Then the Assyrians punish Gumbulu and seize its capital.

652  --  Babylon rebels.  Brother Sammash-shum-ukin formally declares war on Ashurbanipal.

648  --  Borsippa and Babylon are besieged.

646  --  after two years of siege, Sammash-shum-ukin met his end in his burning palace just before the city surrendered.

627  --   Ashurbanipal dies and is succeeded by Ashur-etil-ilani.  A time of strife and civil war in Assyria begins. 

by 609 BC  -- the internal strife weakened Assyria so much that the empire fell in 609 BC.

 

 

 

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