A city founded by Nimrod in Assyria and originally part of “the great city” composed of Nineveh, Calah, Resen, and Rehoboth-Ir, the latter three places apparently being suburbs of Nineveh. (Ge 10:9-12) Calah appears as Kalhu on Assyrian cuneiform texts, and during the period of the Assyrian Empire, it became one of the three principal cities of the realm, along with Nineveh and Asshur. Calah was situated at the NE angle of the junction of the Great Zab River with the Tigris, about 35 km (22 mi) SSE of Nineveh. The modern name of the site is Nimrud, thereby preserving the name of the ancient founder of the city.
In the ninth century B.C.E., Ashurnasirpal II claims to have restored the city from a decayed condition and made it his capital, building massive walls that were fortified with scores of towers, a royal palace, and temples; these included a ziggurat tower some 38 m (125 ft) high. Research indicates that the city covered an area of 358 ha (885 acres) and contained not only palaces, temples, and houses but also gardens and orchards, watered by a canal dug from the Zab River. The banquet provided by Ashurnasirpal at the completion of his new capital is stated to have included all the city’s residents plus visiting dignitaries, to a total of 69,574 persons.
When excavated, the ruins of Calah produced some of the finest examples of Assyrian art, including colossal winged, man-headed lions and winged bulls, many huge bas-reliefs that lined the palace walls, and also a rich find of beautifully carved ivory objects. An excellently preserved statue of Ashurnasirpal was uncovered, as well as the stone referred to as the Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III, which names King Jehu of Israel as paying tribute to Assyria.—See SHALMANESER No. 1.
Finally, Calah suffered desolation along with the other royal cities of the realm with the downfall of the Assyrian Empire.