Semiramis (/səˈmɪrəmɪs, sɪ-, sɛ-/;[1] Syriac: ܫܲܡܝܼܪܵܡ Šammīrām, Greek: Σεμίραμις, Arabic: سميراميس Samīrāmīs, Armenian: Շամիրամ Šamiram) was the mythological[2][3] Lydian-Babylonian[4][5] wife of Onnes and Ninus, who succeeded the latter to the throne of Assyria,[6] as in the fables of Movses Khorenatsi.[7] Legends narrated by Diodorus Siculus, who drew primarily from the works of Ctesias of Cnidus,[8][9] describe her and her relationships to Onnes and King Ninus, a mythical king of Assyria not attested in the far older and more comprehensive Assyrian King List.[10]

Semiramis (a legendary figure based on the life of Shammuramat) depicted as an armed Amazon in an eighteenth-century Italian illustration

Armenians and the Assyrians of Iraq, northeast Syria, southeast Turkey, and northwest Iran still use Shamiram as a given name for girls.[11]

The real and historical Shammuramat (the original Akkadian form of the name) was the Assyrian wife of Shamshi-Adad V (ruled 824 BC–811 BC). She was the ruler of the Neo-Assyrian Empire as its regent for five years before her son Adad-nirari III came of age and took the reins of power.[12] She ruled at a time of political uncertainty, which is one of the possible explanations for why Assyrians may have accepted the rule of a woman when it was not allowed by the cultural tradition. She conquered much of the Middle East and the Levant and stabilized and strengthened the empire after a destructive civil war. It has been speculated that being a woman who ruled successfully may have made the Assyrians regard her with particular reverence and that her achievements may have been retold over the generations until she was turned into that legendary figure.[13]

The name of Semiramis came to be applied to various monuments in Western Asia and Anatolia whose origins had been forgotten or unknown.[14] Various places in Upper Mesopotamia and throughout Mesopotamia as a whole, Media, Persia, the Levant, Anatolia, the Arabian Peninsula, and the Caucasus bore the name of Semiramis, or as slightly changed. It appears during the Middle Ages and Shamiramagerd (meaning created by Semiramis in Armenian) is the old name of the Armenian city of Van. Ultimately, nearly every stupendous work of antiquity near the Euphrates or in Iran seems to have been ascribed to her, even the Behistun Inscription of Darius.[15][16] Herodotus ascribes to her the artificial banks that confined the Euphrates[17] and he knew her name because it was inscribed on a gate of Babylon.[18]

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