At http://phys.org/print334402312.html … an article in the journal Climate Change claims drought was responsible for the decline of the Assyrian Empire in the second half of the 7th century – beginning in around 657BC. Within 5 years of that date the political and economic stability of the empire had eroded resulting in rebelllions and civil wars. However, the region was used to bouts of drought and these are recorded from all the previous centuries as Assyria grew in importance. As climate scientists, or climate researchers, they have a particular agenda. In this instance the idea is to link the current troubles in Iraq with the troubles experienced by Assyria, focussing on a narrow prognosis, that of climate. Okay, we know there was a drought – but is that all? What about earthquakes – or an epidemic of some kind. The latter appears to be the most likely explanation as the Assyrians appear to have experienced a drastic fall in population numbers – as they seem to have been hampered by a lack of manpower to keep their army at full throttle.
Vassal states were bound by oaths of fealty and it is interesting to note that Judah rebelled after the death of Manasseh, a loyal client of Ashurbanipal. His successor was quickly deposed and a younger son, Josiah, was placed on the throne by a faction opposed to Assyria – without having to obey the terms of fealty. In Egypt, this occurred somewhat later as there is no evidence that Psammetich was in rebellion against Assyria. When Necho II took the throne it changed. The Assyrians were unable to impose an oath of fealty (and by then Ashurbanipal was dead or not directly involved in state affairs). Necho II was able to take advantage of the vacuum as a result of Assyria's decline and invaded the Levant with the intention of restoring the Egyptian empire in the region. He expected Josiah to submit to him – and presumably he did not and was killed. The climate scientists do not go into any of this history of the period, being transfixed by the drought. For the Assyrians to have become so weak for Josiah to openly rebel, followed several years later by the Egyptians, smacks of something extraordinary. What was Ashurbanipal doing? He appears to have withdrawn from public life and as such the state mechanism was crippled. This means he was still alive – but inactive. The Bible records a story of Nebuchadnezzar wearing sackcloth because he had contracted some kind of affliction. There is no evidence that Nebuchadnezzar was ever inactive – but there is plenty of evidence that Ashurbanipal's late reign was a disaster in which the king never ventured out of his palace. This is reminiscent of the story of Nebuchadnezzar and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. These never existed in Babylon – but archaeologists have found them in Nineveh. It seems that because Babylon went on to inherit the empire from the Assyrians certain events associated with the latter were transferred to the former – the latter virtually forgotten in the process of time. The drawback on this interpretation of events is that plague or affliction is not recorded elsewhere in the region – or has not been documented. On the other hand, imperial records could well have been lost in the violent events that brought Assyria to an end – a decade or so after the death of Ashurbanipal.