Esarhaddon (681 - 669 BC) was a king of Assyria, the son and successor of Sennacherib. When his father named him as successor although he was the youngest son, his brothers tried to get him into miscredit. Oracles named Esarhaddon as the person to free the exiles and to rebuild Babylon, the destruction of which by Sennacherib was felt to be sacrilegious. Essarhaddon was forced into exile at an unknown place beyond Hanigalbat, probably somewhere in eastern Turkey, but remained crown prince.
Sennacherib was murdered in 681, some claim at the instigation of Esarhaddon. This is not very probable, as he was not in the situation to exploit the unrest created by the death of his father. He returned to the capital of Niniveh in forced marches and defeated his rival brothers in six weeks of civil war. He was formally declared king in spring 681. In the same year, he started the rebuilding of Babylon, including the famous Esagila (Tower of Babel). The statues of the Babylonian gods were restored and returned to the City. In order not to appear too pro-Babylonian, he ordered the reconstruction of the Assyrian sanctuary of Esharra in Ashur as well. Foreigners were forbidden to enter this temple. Both buildings were dedicated almost at the same date in the second year of his reign.
The first campaigns of Esarhaddon were directed against the nomadic tribes of southern Mesopotamia, the Dakkuri and Gambulu, who had been harassing the peasants. The Sidonian King Abdi-Milkutti who had rebelled against the king was defeated in 677 and decapitated. The town of Sidon was destroyed and rebuilt as Kar-Ashur-aha-iddina, the Harbor of Esarhaddon. Part of the loot went to the loyal king of rival Tyre. The partly conserved text of a treaty with Tyre mentions the kings of Judah, Edom, Moab, Gaza, Ashkelon, Ekron, Byblos, Arvad, Samsi-muruna, Ammon, Ashdod, ten kings from the coast of the sea and ten kings from the middle of the sea (=Cyprus) as Assyrian allies. In 675, Humban-Haltash II of Elam started a campaign against Sippar, but he died soon afterwards and his brother and successor Urtaki restored peace with Assur. A campaign against Egypt he initiated in 674 seems to have failed.
In 679, the Cimmerians, who had already killed his grandfather Sargon II of Assyria, reappeared in Cilicia. Esarhaddon defeated them near Hubushna and defeated the rebellious inhabitants of Hilakku as well. In 676 he took the towns of Sissu and Kundu in the Taurus-mountains. The Maneans, the Scythians under their king Ishpakaia and the Guti of the Zagros proved a nuisance as well, as is attested by numerous oracle-texts. The Maneans were not restricted to the area around Lake Urmia any more, but they had expanded into Zamua, where they interrupted the horse trade between Parsuash and Assyria. A daughter of Esarhaddon was married the Scythian Prince Partatua of Sakasene in order to improve relations with the Nomads. The Medes had been the target of a campaign as well, the date of which is unclear (before 676). Later on, Assyrian hosts reached the border of the 'salt-desert' near the mountain Bikni, that is, near Teheran. A number of fortresses secured the Zagros: Bit-Parnakki, Bit-kari and Harhar (Kar-Sharrukin). A certain Mugallu had taken possession of parts of Meliddu (Melitene) and associated himself with the king of Tabal. Meliddu was besieged in 675, but without success. Meanwhile, Esarhaddon was waging war in the land of Bazu, situated opposite of the Island of Dilmun (Bahrain, probably Katar, 'where snakes and scorpions cover the ground like ants', a land of salt deserts and thirst. In 673, Esarhaddon waged war against Urartu under king Rusas II that had strengthened again after the ravages of Sargon and the Cimmerians.
In 672, the crown prince Sin-iddina-apla died. He had been the oldest son and designated as king of Assyria, while the second son Shamash-shum-ukin was to become the ruler of Babylon. Assurbanipal became the new crown-prince, but he was very unpopular with the court and the priesthood. Contracts were made with leading Assyrians, members of the Royal family and foreign rulers to assure their loyalty to the crown prince.
In 671 Esarhaddon went to war against pharaoh Taharqa of Egypt. Part of his army stayed behind to besiege rebellious Tyre and maybe Ashkelon. In the summer he took Memphis, Taharka fled to Upper Egypt. Esarhaddon now called himself king of Musur, Patros and Kush and returned with rich booty from the cities of the delta. Almost as soon as the king had left, Egypt rebelled against Assyrian rule. Esarhaddon had to fight with court-intrigues at Niniveh that led to the execution of several nobles and sent his general Sha-Nabu-shu to restore order in the Nile valley. In 669 he went to Egypt in person, but died suddenly in autumn of the same year. He was succeded by Assurbanipal as king of Assyria and Shamash-shum-ukin as king of Babylonia.