(Tarʹtan) [possibly, commander-in-chief].
Assyrian eponym lists have been discovered where the title tartanu is mentioned. Concerning the order of the titles in these lists, James B. Pritchard, editor of Ancient Near Eastern Texts (2d ed., 1955), comments: “Later on, the position of the official within the hierarchy was decisive for the sequence, the highest official (tartanu) following the king immediately, while important palace officers and the governors of the foremost provinces took their turn in well-established order.”—See, however, CHRONOLOGY (Eponym [limmu] lists), pages 325, 326.
An inscription by Assyrian King Ashurbanipal, now in the British Museum, reads, in part: “I became very angry on account of these happenings, my soul was aflame. I called the turtan-official, the governors, and also their assistants and gave immediately the order.” These Assyrian writings indicate that the title Tartan applied to an officier of high rank, probably second only to the king.
King Sennacherib sent the Tartan along with other officials, including the Rabshakeh, the king’s chief cupbearer, who acted as spokesman, to deliver an ultimatum of capitulation to Jerusalem. The Tartan is listed first, possibly because his was the superior position. (2 Ki. 18:17, 28-35) A Tartan was sent by King Sargon II of Assyria to besiege the city of Ashdod, in the days of Isaiah the prophet.—Isa. 20:1.