“I counted as spoil 27,280 people, together with their chariots, and gods, in whom they trusted. I formed a unit with 200 of [their] chariots for my royal force. I settled the rest of them in the midst of Assyria. I repopulated Samaria more than before. I brought into it people from countries conquered by my hands. I appointed my commissioner as governor over them, and I counted them as Assyrians.” – Sargon II, Assyrian king
In the eighth century BCE, one of the most important provinces within the Assyrian Empire was Samaria. Also known as Israel, Samaria repeatedly rebelled against their Assyrian overlords, but in 722, the Assyrians overran Samaria once and for all, killing countless numbers and sending most of the rest of its inhabitants into forced exile. The events of Samaria’s fall were chronicled in the Assyrian annals from the reign of Sargon II and the Old Testament, and although the two sources present the event from different perspectives, they corroborate each other for the most part and together present a reliable account of the situation. The end result was that 30,000 Israelites were forcibly deported from the region, a tactic the Assyrians found so effective that they would continue to use it against other conquered enemies until the fall of their own empire.
The Assyrians’ forced exile of the Israelites was not the only time such a fate had befallen them, as made clear by Babylonian accounts and the Biblical account of the Exodus out of Egypt, but it was that exile that permanently scattered most of the legendary 12 tribes of Israel, and the fate of the 10 lost tribes has interested people ever since.