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Modeling Strategic Decisions in the Formation of the Early Neo-Assyrian Empire


Understanding patterns of conflict and pathways in which political history became established is critical to understanding how large states and empires ultimately develop and come to rule given regions and influence subsequent events. We employ a spatiotemporal Cox regression model to investigate possible causes as to why regions were attacked by the Neo-Assyrian (912-608 BCE) state. The model helps to explain how strategic benefits and costs lead to likely pathways of conflict and imperialism based on elite strategic decision-making. We apply this model to the early 9th century BCE, a time when historical texts allow us to trace yearly campaigns in specific regions, to understand how the Neo-Assyrian state began to re-emerge as a major political player, eventually going on to dominate much of the Near East and starting a process of imperialism that shaped the wider region for many centuries even after the fall of this state. The model demonstrates why specific locations become regions of conflict in given campaigns, emphasizing a degree of consistency with which choices were made by invading forces with respect to a number of factors. We find that elevation and population density deter Assyrian invasions. Moreover, costs were found to be more of a clear motivator for Assyrian invasions, with distance constraints being a significant driver in determining where to campaign. These outputs suggest that Assyria was mainly interested in attacking its weakest, based on population and/or organization, and nearest rivals as it began to expand. Results not only help to address the emergence of this empire, but enable a generalized understanding of how benefits and costs to conflict can lead to imperialism and pathways to political outcomes that can have major social relevance.

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