The nucleus of a Semitic state was forming by the beginning of the 3d millennium B.C., but it was overshadowed by the greatness of Sumer and Akkad. Ashur was Assyria's chief god, but the gods of the Babylonians and Hittites were also honored. In the 17th cent. B.C., Assyria expanded briefly, but it soon relapsed into weakness. The 13th cent. B.C. saw Assyria threatening the surrounding states, and under Tiglathpileser I Assyrian soldiers entered the kingdom centered about Urartu (Ararat; see Armenia), took Babylonia, and crossed N Syria to reach the Mediterranean. This empire was, however, only ephemeral.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.