In the Persica of Ctesias, Sardanapalus was an Assyrian monarch who lived in great luxury. . The identity of Sardanapalus is a complete mystery, often mistakenly held to be Ashurbanipal, the last great king of Assyria. The legendary last king of Assyria was supposed to have burned himself in his palace, when besieged in Nineveh by the Medes for two years, at the end of which time he set fire to his palace and burned himself and his court to death.

Lord Byron wrote a tragedy on the theme and Eugéne Delacroix's painting The Death of Sardanapalus, (1826) is the literature-inspired staging of this exciting and disturbing human event.

The facts given in the legend certainly do not fit those of the life of Assurbanipal with whom some have tried to identify him. Some say he would probably be more accurately identified with Ashurbanipal's rebellious brother, King Shamash-shum-ukin of Babylonia (r. 668-648 BC), who died in a similar fashion.


Sardanapalus. The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001: