Relief of Ashurbanipal hunting on horseback

Past exhibition

8 November 2018 – 24 February 2019

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For the catalogue, homewares and gifts from the exhibition, visit the British Museum Shop.

Warrior. Scholar. Empire builder. King slayer. Lion hunter. Librarian.

King Ashurbanipal of Assyria (r. 669–c. 631 BC) was the most powerful man on earth. He described himself in inscriptions as 'king of the world', and his reign from the city of Nineveh (now in northern Iraq) marked the high point of the Assyrian empire, which stretched from the shores of the eastern Mediterranean to the mountains of western Iran.

Ashurbanipal proved himself worthy of protecting his people through displays of strength, such as hunting lions. Like many rulers of the ancient world, he liked to boast about his victories in battle and brutally crushed his enemies. However, this vast and diverse empire was controlled through more than just brute force. Ashurbanipal used his skills as a scholar, diplomat and strategist to become one of Assyria's greatest rulers.

Despite his long and successful reign, Ashurbanipal's death is shrouded in mystery. Shortly afterwards, the Assyrian empire fell and the great city of Nineveh was destroyed in 612 BC, its ruins lost to history until the 1840s. Their rediscovery allowed us to piece together a portrait of the powerful and complex ruler that was Ashurbanipal.

This major exhibition told the story of Ashurbanipal through the British Museum's unparalleled collection of Assyrian treasures and rare loans. It stepped into Ashurbanipal's world through displays that evoked the splendour of his palace, with its spectacular sculptures, sumptuous furnishings and exotic gardens. It marvelled at the workings of Ashurbanipal's great library, the first in the world to be created with the ambition of housing all knowledge under one roof. This exhibition came face to face with one of history's greatest forgotten kings.


Exhibition supporters

bp logo

BP was proud to support the British Museum exhibition I am Ashurbanipal: king of the world, king of Assyria, an exciting exhibition that told the story of the Assyrian Empire under its last, great ruler.

BP's support for UK Arts and Culture spans a period of over 50 years. The company's partnership with the British Museum began in 1996, enabling a diverse range of initiatives including the development of the BP Lecture Theatre. Today support for the Museum is focused on its special exhibitions programme.

BP's long-term partnerships with the British Museum, National Portrait Gallery, Royal Shakespeare Company and Royal Opera House represent one of the most significant corporate investments in UK arts and culture.

BP has a history in Iraq, stretching back to the 1920s when the company helped Iraq locate, produce and export oil from Baba Gurgur in Kirkuk, Northern Iraq. This was the largest oilfield in the world at that time. In 2009, BP became the first international oil company to return to Iraq after a period of 35 years. Today, BP, PetroChina and BOC are working in partnership to develop Rumaila, the third-largest producing field in the world.

In support of our operations at Rumaila, we deliver a sustainable social investment programme for the benefit of our communities in and around Basra, southern Iraq. Our programme is focused on improving health, access to potable water, community infrastructure and vocational training.

Aligned with BP's support of arts and culture, in 2010 through the BP Foundation we also provided a significant grant to the Basra Museum which helped to establish the new museum that celebrates the rich cultural history of Iraq.

IAG edited cargo logo

IAG Cargo is the single business created following the merger of British Airways World Cargo and Iberia Cargo in April 2011. Following the integration of Aer Lingus, bmi, Vueling and Level, the business now covers a network of over 350 destinations.

IAG Cargo has a significant presence in Europe, offering more than 4,500 cargo flights per week on short haul networks and a specialist team dedicated to the handling of important cargo. With this, IAG Cargo was a proud logistics partner of the BP exhibition I am Ashurbanipal: king of the world, king of Assyria.

For further information, please visit, the IAG Cargo YouTube channel, social sites and

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