Over the course of 22 years, BP has backed numerous special exhibitions – including the highly successful Scythians: warriors of ancient Siberia – which attracted over 132,000 visitors. This exhibition explored the rich and ancient culture of the Scythian people and their influence around the world – a culture that was buried in the Siberian permafrost for thousands of years.
Other major BP exhibitions have included Sunken cities: Egypt's lost worlds which looked at the remarkable tale of two lost cities submerged under the sea for a thousand years; Indigenous Australia: enduring civilisation which delved into the history of one of the world's oldest continuing cultures; Ming: 50 years that changed China which explored the golden age of the Ming dynasty; and Vikings: life and legend which considered the extraordinary people who created an international network across four continents.
In addition, BP has helped with special public events around Chinese New Year and the Mexican Days of the Dead festival during which 80,000 people participated. Together, these exhibitions and events have drawn over 4.2 million visitors to discover important stories.
Warrior, scholar, empire builder, king slayer, lion hunter and librarian, King Ashurbanipal of Assyria was the most powerful man on earth, ruling from 669 to circa 631 BC. He described himself on 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. It 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 leaders.
Despite a long and successful reign, Ashurbanipal's death is shrouded in mystery. Shortly after, 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 has allowed us to piece together a portrait of the powerful and complex ruler who was Ashurbanipal.
This major exhibition tells the story of Ashurbanipal through the British Museum's unparalleled collection of Assyrian treasures and rare loans. The 200 plus objects on display include palace sculptures, cuneiform writing, intricately carved ivories, metalwork, gold ornaments and decorated weaponry.
Step into Ashurbanipal's world through displays that evoke the splendour of his palace with its spectacular sculptures, sumptuous furnishings and exotic gardens. Marvel 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. Come face to face with one of history's greatest forgotten kings.
The BP exhibition – I am Ashurbanipal king of the world, king of Assyria – runs from 8 November 2018 to 24 February 2019.