For a long time the word was interpreted as a proper name, but the Assyrian inscriptions have shown it to be the title of a high official. From the eponym lists it would seem that it was the title of the highest official next to the king, which in a military empire like Assyria would be the "commander-in-chief." The Assyrian form of the name is tartanu or turtanu. In both Old Testament passages the reference is to a military officer. In Isaiah 20:1 it is used of the officer sent by Sargon, king of Assyria, against Ashdod; according to 2 Kings 18:17, Sennacherib sent Tartan and RAB-SARIS (which see) and RABSHAKEH (which see) with a great host against Jerusalem. The names of the-two officials are not known.
F. C. Eiselen
These files are public domain.