1902 Encyclopedia > Babylonia and Assyria

Babylonia and Assyria

BABYLONIA AND ASSYRIA. Geographically, as well as ethnologically and historically, the whole district enclosed between the two great rivers of Western Asia, the Tigris and Euphrates, forms but one country. The writers of antiquity clearly recognized this fact, speaking of the whole under the general name of Assyria, though Babylonia, as will be seen, would have been a more accurate designation. It naturally falls into two divisions, the northern being more or less mountainous, while the southern is flat and marshy; and the near approach of the two rivers to one another, at a spot where the undulating plateau of the north sinks suddenly into the Babylonian alluvium, tends still more completely to separate them. in the earliest times of which we have any record, the northern portion was comprehended under the vague title of Gutium (the Goyim of Gen. xiv 1), which stretched from the Euphrates on the west to the mountains of Media on the east; but it was definitely marked off as Assyria after the rise of that monarchy in the 16th century B.C. Aram-Naharaim, or Mesopotamia, however, though claimed by the Assyrian kings, and from time to time overrun by them, did not form an integral part of the kingdom until the 9th century B.C., while the region on the left bank of the Tigris, between that river and the Greater Zab, was not only included in Assyria, but contained the chief capitals of the empire. In this respect the monarchy of the Tigris resembled Chaldea, where some of the most important cities were situated on the Arabian side of the Euphrates. The reason of this preference for the eastern bank of the Tigris was due to its abundant supply of water, whereas the great Mesopotamian plain on the western side had to depend upon the streams which flowed into the Euphrates. This vast flat, the modern El-Jezireh, is about 250 miles in length, interrupted only by a single limestone range, rising abruptly out of the plain, and branching off from the Zagros mountains under the names of Sarazur, Hamrin, and Sinjar. The numerous remains of old habitations show how thickly this level tract must once have been peopled, though now for the most part a wilderness. North of the plateau rises a well-watered and undulating belt of country, into which run low ranges of limestone hills, sometimes arid, sometimes covered with dwarf-oak, and often shutting in, between their northern and north-eastern flank and the main mountain-line from whicfh they detach themselves, rich plains and fertile valleys. Behind them tower the massive ridges of the Niphates and Zagros ranges, where the Tigris and Euphrates take their rise, and which cut off Assyria from Armenia and Kurdistan. The name Assyria itself originally denoted the small territory immediately surrounding the primitive capital "the city of Asur" (al Asur, the Ellasar of Genesis), which was built, like the other chief cities of the country, by Turanian tribes, in whose language the word signified "water-meadow." It stood on the right basnk of the Tigris, midway between the Greater and the Lesser Zab, and is represented by the modern Kalah Sherghat. It remained the capital long after the Assyrians had become the dominant power in Western Asia, but was finally supplanted by Calah (Nimrud), Nineveh (Nebi Yunus and Kouyunjik), and Dur-Sargina (Khorsabad), some 60 miles further north. See NINEVEH.

In contrast with the arid plateau of Mesopotamia, stretched the rich alluvial plain of Chaldea, formed by the deposits of the two great rivers by which it was enclosed. The soil was extremely fertile, the teemed with an industrious population. Eastward rose the mountains of Elam, southward were the sea-marshes and the ancient kingdom of Nituk or Dilvun (the modern bender-Dilvun), while on the west the civilization of Babylonian encroached beyond the banks of the Euphrates, upon the territory of the Semitic nomads (or Suti). Here stood Ur (now Mugheir), the earliest capital of the country; and Babylon, with its suburb, Borsipa (Birs Nimrud), as well as the two Sipparas (the Sepharvaim of Scripture, now Mosaib), occupied both the Arabian and Chaldean side of the river. (see Babylon). The Araxes, or "River of Babylon," was conducted through a deep valley into the heart of Arabia, irrigating the land through which it passed; and to the south of it lay the great inland fresh-water sea of Nedjef, surrounded by red sandstone cliffs of considerable height, 40 miles in length and 35 in breadth in the widest part. Above and below this sea, from Borsippa to Kufa, extend the famous Chaldean marshes, where Alexander was nearly lost (Arrian, Exp. Al., vii. 22; Strab., xvi. 1, S 12); but these depend upon the state of the Hindiyah canal, disappearing altogether when it is closed. Between the sea of Nedjef and Ur, but on the left side of the Euphrates, was Erech (now Warka), which with Nipur or Calneh (now Niffer), Surippac (Senkereh?), and Babylon (now Hillah, formed the tetrapolis of Sumir or Shinar. This northwestern part of Chaldea was also called Gan-duniyas or Gun-duni after the accession of the Cassite dynasty. Southeastern Chaldea, on the other hand, was termed Accad, though the name came also to applied to the whole of Babylonia. The Caldai, or Chaldeans, are first met with in the 9th century B.C. as a small tribe on the Persian Gulf, whence they slowly moved northwards until under Merodach-Baladan they made themselves masters of Babylon, and henceforth formed to important an element in the population of the country, as in later days to give their name to the whole of it. In the inscriptions, however, Chaldea represents the marshes of the sea-coast, and Teredon was one of their ports. The whole territory was thickly studded with towns; but among all this "vast number of great cities," to use the words of Herodotus, Cuthah, or Tiggaba (now Ibrahim), Chilmad (Kalwadah), Is (Hit), and Dur-aba (Akkerkuf) alone need be mentioned. The cultivation of the country was regulated by canals, the three chief of which carried off the waters of the Euphrates towards the Tigris above Babylon, - the "Royal River," or Ar-Malcha, entering the Tigris a little below Baghdad, the Nahr-Malcha running across to the site of Seleucia, and the Nahr-Kutha passing through Ibrahim. The Pallacopas, on the other side of the Euphrates, supplied an immense lake ion the neighborhood of Borsippa. So great was the fertility of the soil that, according to Herodotus (i. 193), grain commonly returned two hundred-fold to the sower, and occasionally three hundredfold. Pliny, too (H.N., xviii. 17), says that wheat cut twice, and afterwards was good keep for sheep; and Berosus remarked that wheat, barley, sesame, ochrys, palms, apples, and many kinds of shelled fruit grew wild, as wheat still does in the neighborhood of Anah. A Persian poem celebrated the 360 uses of the palm (Strab., xvi. 1, 14), and Ammianus marcellinus (xxiv. 3) states that from the point reached by Julian’s army to the shores of the Persian Gulf was one continuous forest of verdure.

Such a country was well fitted to be one of the primeval seats of civilization. Where brick lay ready to hand, and climate and soil needed only settled life and moderate labor to produce all that man required, it was natural that the great civilizing power of Western Asia should take its rise. The history of the origin and development of this civilization, interesting and important as it is, has but recently been made known to us by the decipherment of the native monuments. The scanty notices and conflicting statements of classical writers have been replaced by the evidence of contemporaneous documents; and though the materials are still but a tithe of what we may hope hereafter too obtain, we can sketch the outlines of the history, the art, and the science of the powerful nations of the Tigris and Euphrates. Before doing so, however, it would be well to say a few words in regard to our classical sources of information, the only ones hitherto available. The principal of these is Berosus, the Manetho of Babylonia, who flourished at the time of Alexander’s conquests (though see Havet, Memoire sur la Date des Ecrits qui protent les noms de Berose et de Manethon). He was priest of Bel, and translated the records and astronomy of his nation into Greek. His works have unfortunately perished, but the second and third hand quotations from them, which we have in Eusebius and other writers, have been strikingly verified by inscriptions so far as regards their main facts. The story of the flood taken from Berosus, for instance, is almost identical with the one preserved on the cuneiform tablets. Numerical figures, however, as might be expected, are untrustworthy. According to Berosus, ten kings reigned before the Deluge for 120 saroi, or 432,000 years, beginning with Alorus of Babylon and ending with Otiartes (Opartes) of Larankha, and his son Sisuthrus, the hero of the flood. Then came eight dynasties, which are given as follows:

(1.) 86 Chaldaen kings………………34,080 years.
(2.) 8 Median kings…………………224 years.
(3.) 11 (Chaldean) kings…………….* years
(4.) 49 Chaldean kings………………458 years
(5.) 9 Arabian kings…………………245 kings years
(6.) 45 Assyrian kings………………527 years
(7.) * (Assyrian) kings………………* years
(8.) 6 Chaldean kings……………….87 years

Ptolemy’s canon (in the Almagest) gives the seventh dynasty in full –
(1.) Nabonassar (747 B.C.)………….14 years
(2.) Nadios…………………………..2 years
(3.) Khinziros and Poros (Pul)………5 years
(4.) Ilulaeos…………………………5 years
(5.) Mardokempados (Merodach-Baladan).12 years
(6.) Arkeanos (Sargon)………………….5 years
(7.) Interregnum……………………2 years
(8.) Hagisa…………………………1 month.
(9.) Belibos (702 B.C.)……………3 years.
(10.) Assaranadios (Assur-nadin-sum)…6 years
(11.) Regebelos………………………..1 years
(12.) Mesesimordakos………………….4 years
(13.) Interregnum………………………8 years
(14.) Asaridinos (Essar-haddon)……….13 years
(15.) Saosdukhinos (Savul-sum-yucin)….20 years
(16.) Sineladanos (Assur-bani-pal)……..22 years

Next to berosus, the authority of Herodotus ranks highest. His information, however, is scanty, and he had to trust to the doubtful statements of ciceroni. Herodotus was controverted by Ctesias of Cnidus, the physician of Artaxerxes Mnemon. But Ctesias mistook mythology for history, and the Ninus and Semiramis, the Ninyas and Sardanapalus, of Greek romance were in great measure his creations. We may yet construct an Assyrian epopee, like- the Shahnameh of Firdusi, out of his pages, but we must not look to them for history. Other historical notices of Assyria and Babylonia, of more or less questionable value, are to be gathered from Diodorus and one or two more writers, but beyond Berosus and, to a limited extent, Herodotus, our only ancient authority of much value upon this subject is the Old Testament.

Ethnology and History – The primitive population of babylonia, the builders of its cities, the originators of its culture, and the inventors of the cuneiform system of writing, or rather of the hieroglyphics out of which it gradually developed, belonged to the Turanian or Ur Altaic family. Their language was highly agglutinative, approaching the modern Mongolian idioms in the simplicity of its grammatical machinery, but otherwise more nearly related to the Ugro-Bulgaric division of the Finnic group and its speakers were mentally in no way inferior to the Hungarians and Turks of the present day. The count; was divided into two halves, the Sumir (Sungir, or Shinar) in the north-west, and the Accad in the south-east, corresponding most remarkably to the Suomi and Akkara-k, into which the Finnic race believed itself to have been separated in its first mountain home. Like Suomi, Sumir signified "(the people) of the rivers," and just as Finnic tradition makes Kemi a district of the Soumi, so Came was another name of the Babylonian Sumir. The Accadai, or Accad, were "the highlanders" who had descended from the mountainous region of Elam on the east, and it was to them that the Assyrians ascribed the origin of Chaldean civilization and writing. They were, at all events, the dominant people in babylonia at the time to which our earliest contemporaneous records reach back, although the Sumir, or ‘people of the home language," as they are sometimes termed, were named first in the royal titles out of respect to their prior settlement in the country. A survey of the syllabary has led to the conclusion that the first attempts at writing were made before the Accad had descended into the plains and exchanged papyrus as a writing material for clay; other considerations, however, go to show that although the system of writing may have been invented before they had entered Babylonia, it was not completed until after they had done so. In harmony with this, we find Berosus ascribing the culture of "the mixed population of Chaldea" to Oannes and other similar creatures from the Persian Gulf. So far as we can judge, the civilization of Elam is at least coeval with that of Babylonia, and the capture of Babylon by the Medes, with whom the historical dynasties of Berosus are commonly supposed to begin, must be explained by an Elamite conquest. Media was the Accadian Mada, "the land" par excellence; and Accadian tradition looked back upon the mountainous district top the south-west of the Caspian as the cradle of their race. among these "mountains of the east," and in the land of Nisir (the furthermost division of Gutium beyond the Lesser Zab), rose "the mountain of the world," the Turanian Olympus, on which the ark of the Chaldean Noah was believed to have rested. From this center Turanian tribes spread in all directions, meeting Alarodians on the north, and Semites on the south-west. The Aryans had not yet penetrated across the great Sagartian desert. The numerous tribes of Susiana, both civilized and uncivilized, spoke languages more closely Ugrian than even that of the Accadians; the oldest towns of Northern Syria, where the Semite afterwards reigned supreme, bore Accadian names, and, as in the case of Haran, were mythologically connected with Babylon; while the chief cities of Assyria were founded by Accadians, were denoted by Accadians, were denoted by Accadian symbols, and were ruled by Accadian princes, in strict accordance with the statement of Genesis that out of Babylonia "went forth asshur." An Elamite conqueror of Chaldea, like Chedorlaomer (Gen. xiv. 1), imposed his authority not only over Shinar, but over Assyria and Gutium as well. The earliest geographical lists know only of Nuvva, or Elam, on the east, the Khani on the west, Martu, the land of "the path of the setting sun," Subarti, or Syria, with its four races, and Gutium, which stretched across Mesopotamia from the Euphrates on the one side to the mountains of Media on the other. To these must be added Anzan, or southern Elam, with its capital Susa, Dilvun, or Nituk, on the Persian Gulf, and, at a considerably later date, the Hittites, with their chief city Carchemish.

The first monarchs whose monumental records we possess had their seat at Ur, on the right bank of the Euphrates. Ur, in Accadian, signified "the city" par excellence, and so bore testimony to the supremacy claimed by its rulers over the rest of Babylonia. The great temple of the Moon-god there was one of the oldest buildings in the country, and its erection was due to a prince who claimed sovereignty over the whole of babylonia, and adorned Erech, Nipur, Larsa, and other cities with temples of vast size, dedicated to the sun, to Istar, and to Bel. He seems to have been the first great Babylonian builder; and this would imply that it was under him that Ur rose to its prominent position, and united the numerous principalities of Chaldea under one head. The enormous brick structures were cemented with bitumen in the place of lime mortar; but the use of the buttress, of drains, and of external ornamentation shows that architectural knowledge was already advanced. The cuneiform system of writing had attained its full development, signet stones were carved with artistic skill, and the amount of human force at the disposal of the monarch may be estimated from the fact that the Bowariyeh mound at Warka, on the site of the temple of the Sun-god, is 200 feet square and 100 feet high, so that above 30,000,000 bricks must have been employed upon its construction. The vicinity of Ur to the Semitic tribes of Arabia implies that the Accadian sovereigns had been turning their attention in that direction, and we find nothing surprising therefore in the Scriptural account of Abraham’s migration from this place, or the Phoenician tradition of the original home of the Canaanitish race on the shores of the Persian Gulf (Strab., i. 2, 35, xvi. 3, 27; Justin, xviii. 3, 2; Pliny, N. H., iv. 36). Indeed, we have clear evidence that Semitic was spoken in Ur itself at this remote epoch. Although the ruling caste were Accadian, and generally wrote their inscriptions in that language, Dungi, one of their earliest monarchs, in spite of his Turanian name, has left us a short legend in Semitic; and it is more than probable that the imperial title of "Sumir and Accad" was soon to be assumed to mark a linguistic as well as a geographical distinction. The brick legends of the various viceroys who governed the cities of Chaldea under this dynasty are all, however, in Accadian.

The supremacy of Ur had been disputed by its more ancient rival Erech, but had finally to give way before the rise of Nisin or Karrak, a city whose site is uncertain, and Karrak in its turn was succeeded by Larsa. Elamite conquest seems to have had something to do with these transferences of the seat of power. In 2280 B.C. – the date is fixed by an inscription of Assur-bani-pal’s- Cudur-nankhundi, the Elamite, conquered Chaldea at a time when princes with Semitic names appear to have been already reigning there, and Cudur-mabug not only overran "the west," or Palestine, but established a line of monarchs in Babylonia. His son and successor took an Accadian name, and extended his sway over the whole country. Twice did the Elamite tribe of cassi or Kossaeans furnish Chaldea with a succession of kings. At a very early period we find one of these Kossaean dynasties claiming homage from Syria, Gutium, and Northern Arabia, and rededicating the images of native Babylonian gods, which had been carried away in war, with great splendour and expense. The other Cassite dynasty was founded by Khammuragas, who established his capital at Babylon, which henceforward continued to be the seat of empire in the south. The dynasty is probably to be identified with that called Arabian by Berosus, and it was during its domination that Semitic came gradually to supersede Accadian as the language of the country. Khammuragas himself assumed a Semitic name, and a Semitic inscription of his is now in the Louvre. A large number of canals were constructed during his reign, more especially the famous Nahr-Malcha, and an embankment built along the banks of the Tigris. The king’s attention seems to have been turned to the subject of irrigation by a flood which overwhelmed the important city of Mullias. His first conquests were in the north of Babylonia, and from this base of operations he succeeded in overthrowing Naram-Sin (or Rim-Acui?) in the south, and making himself master of the whole of Chaldea. Naram-Sin and a queen had been the last representatives of a dynasty which had attained a high degree of glory both in arms and in literature., Naram-Sin and his father Sargon had not only subdued the rival princes of babylonia, but had successfully invaded Syria, Palestine, and even, as it would seem, Egypt. At Agane, a suburb of Sippara, Sargon had founded a library, especially famous for its works on astrology and astronomy, copies of which were made in later times for the libraries of Assyria. Indeed, so prominent a place did Sargon take in the early history of Babylonia, that his person became surrounded with an atmosphere of myth. Not only was he regarded as a sort of eponymous hero of literature, a Babylonian Solomon, whose title was "the deviser of law and prosperity," popular legends told of his mysterious birth, how, like Romulus and Arthur, he knew no father, but was born in secrecy, and placed by his mother in an ark of reeds and bitumen, and left to the care of the river; how, moreover, this second Moses was carried by the stream to the dwelling of a ferryman, who reared him as his own son, until at last the time came that his rank should be discovered, and Sargon, "the constituted king, for such is the meaning of his name, took his seat upon the throne of his ancestors. It was while the Cassite sovereigns were reigning in the south, and probably in consequence of reverses that they suffered at the hands of the Egyptians, who under the monarchs of the 18th dynasty, were pushing eastward, that the kingdom of Assyria took its rise. Its princes soon began to treat with their southern neighbors on equal terms; the boundaries of the two kingdoms were settled, and inter-marriages between the royal families took place, which led more than once to an interference on the part of the Assyrians in the affairs of Babylonia. Finally, in the 14th century B.C., Tiglath-Adar of Assyria captured Babylon, and established a Semitic line of sovereigns there, which continued until the days of the later Assyrian empire. From this time down to the destruction of Nineveh, Assyria remained the leading power of Western Asia. Occasionally, it is true, a king of Babylon succeeded in defeating his aggressive rival and invading Assyria; but the contrary was more usually the case, and the Assyrian grew more and more powerful at the expense of the weaker state, until at last Babylonia was reduced to a mere appanage of Assyria.

We possess an almost continuous list of Assyrian kings; and, as from the beginning of the 9th century downwards there exists a native canon, in which each year is dated by the limmu or archon eponymos, whose name it bears, as well as a portion of a larger canon which records the chief events of each eponymy, it is evident that our chronology of the later period of Assyrian history is at once full and trustworthy. Similar chronological lists once existed for the earlier period also, since an inscription of a king of the 14th century B.C. is dated by one of these eponymies; and the precise dates given in the inscriptions for occurrences which took place in the reigns of older monarchs cannot otherwise be accounted for. How far back an accurate chronological record extended it is impossible to say; but astronomical observations were made in Babylonia from a remote period, and the era of Cudur-nankhundi was known, as we have seen, more than 1600 years afterward; while in Assyria not only can Sennacherib state at Bavian that Tiglath-Pileser I. was defeated by the Babylonians 418 years before his own invasion of that country, but the same Tiglath-Pileser can fix 701 years as the exact interval between his restoration of the temple of Anu and Rimmon at Kalah Sherghat and its foundation by the dependent viceroys of the city of Assur.

This Tiglath-Pileser, in spite of his subsequent defeat by the Babylonians, was one of the most eminent of the sovereigns of the first Assyrian empire. He carried his arms far and wide, subjugating the Moschians, Comagenians, Urumains, and othe rtribes of the north, the Syrians and Hittites in the west, and the Babylonians (including their capital) in the south. His empire, accordingly, stretched from the Mediterranean on the one side to the Caspian and the Persian Gulf on the other; but, founded as it was on conquest, and centralized in the person of a single individual, it fell to pieces at the least touch. With the death of Tiglath-Pileser, Assyria seems to have been reduced to comparative powerlessness, and when next its claims to empire are realized, it is under Assur-natsir-pal, whose reign lasted from 883 to 858 B.C. The boundaries of his empire exceeded those of his predecessor, and the splendid palaces, temples, and other buildings raised by him, with their elaborate sculptures and rich paintings, bear witness to a high development of wealth and art and luxury. Calab, which had been founded by Shalmaneser I. some four or five centuries previously, but had fallen into decay, became his favorite residence, and was raised to the rank of a capital. His son Shalmaneser had a long reign of 35 years, during which he largely extended the empire he had received from his father. Armenia and the Parthians paid him tribute; and under the pretext or restoring the legitimate monarch he entered Babylon, and reduced the country to a state of vassalage. It is at this time that we first hear of the Caldai or Chaldeans, - carefully to be distinguished from the Casdim or Semitic "conquerors" of Scripture- who formed small but independent principality on the sea-coast. In the west Shalmaneser succeeded in defeating in 854 B.C. a dangerous confederacy, headed by Rimmon-idri or Ben-hadad of Damascus, and including Ahab of Israel and several Phoenician kings. Later on in his reign he again annihilated the forces of Hazael, Benhadad’s successor, and extorted tribute from the princes of Palestine, among others from Jehu of Samaria, whose servants are depicted on the black obelisk. The last few years of his life, however, were troubled by the rebellion of his eldest son, which well-nigh proved fatal to the old king, Assur, Arbela, and other places joined the pretender, and the revolt was with difficulty put down by Shalmanerser’s second son, Samas-Rimmon, who shortly after succeeded him. Samas-Rimmon (824-811) and Rimmon-nirari (811-782) preserved the empire of Assyria undiminished; but their principal exploits were in Babylonia, which they wasted with fire and sword, and converted into an Assyrian province.

The first Assyrian empire came to an end in 744, when the old dynasty was overthrown by a usurper, Tiglath-Pileser, after a struggle of three or four years. Once settled on the throne, however, Tiglath-Pileser proceeded to restore and reorganize the empire. Babylonian was first attacked; the Assyrian monarch offered sacrifices and set up his court in its chief cities; and the multitudinous Arab tribes who encamped along the banks of the Euphrates were reduced to subjection. The Caldai in the south alone held out, and to them belonged the first four kings give in Ptolemy’s canon. Indeed, it may be said that from the invasion of Tiglath-Pileser to the revolt of Nabopelassir, Babylonia ceased to have any separate existence. It was governed by Assyrian kings or the viceroys they appointed and the only attempts to recover independence were made under the leadership of the "Caldean" chiefs. It becomes nothing more than an important province of Assyria.

The second Assyrian empire differed from the first in its greater consolidation. The conquered provinces were no longer loosely attached to the central power by the payment of tribute, and ready to refuse it as soon as the Assyrian armies were out of sight; they were changed into satrapies, each with its fixed taxes and military contingent. Assyrian viceroys were nominated wherever possible, and a turbulent population was deported to some distant locality. This will explain the condition in which Babylonia found itself, as well as the special attention which was paid to the countries on the Mediterranean coast. The possession of the barbarous and half-deserted districts on the east was of little profit; the inhabitants were hardy mountaineers, difficult to subdue, and without wealth; and although Tiglath-Pileser into Sagartia, Ariana, and Aracosia, and even to the confines of India, the expedition was little more than a display of power. The rich and civilized regions of the west, on the contrary, offered attractions which the politicians of Nineveh were keen to discover. Tiglath-Pileser overthrew the ancient kingdoms of Damascus and Hamath, with its nineteen districts, and after receiving tribute from Menahem (which a false reading in the Old Testament ascribes to a non-existent Pul) in 740, placed his vassal Hoshea on the throne of Samaria in 730 in the room of Pekah. Hamath had been aided by Uzziah of Judah; and, on the overthrow of the Syrian city, Judah had to become the tributary of Assyria. Tiglath-Pileser seems to have met with a usurper’s fate, and to have fallen in a struggle with another claimant of the throne, Shalmaneser. The chief event of Shalmaneser’s reign (727-722) was the campaign against Samaria. The capture of that city, however, was reserved for his successor, Sargon, in 720, who succeeded in founding a new dynasty. Sargon’s reign of seventeen years forms an era in later Assyrian history. At the very commencement of it he met and defeated the forces of Elam, and so prepared the way for the future conquest of that once predominant monarchy. He came into conflict, also, with the kingdoms of Ararat and Van in the north; and they policy of the countries beyond the Zagros was henceforth influenced by the wishes of the Assyrian court. But it was in the west that the power of Nineveh was chiefly felt. Syria and Palestine were reduced to a condition of vassalage, Hamath was depopulated, and Egypt, then governed by Ethiopian princes, first came into collision with Assyria. The battle of Raphia in 719, in which the Egyptians and their Philistine allies were defeated, was an omen of the future; and from this time onward the destinies of civilized Asia were fought out between the two great powers of the ancient world. As the one rose the other fell; and just as the climax of Assyrian glory is marked by the complete subjugation of Egypt, so the revolt of Egypt was the first signal of the decline of Assyria. The struggle between the representative states of the east led, as was natural, to the appearance of the Greek upon the stage of history. Sargon claims the conquest of Cyprus as well as Phoenicia, and his effigy, found at idalium, remains to this day a witness of the fact. Babylonian, however, was the point of weakness in the empire. It was too like, and yet too unlike, Assyria to be otherwise than a dangerous dependency; and its inhabitants could never forget that they had once been the dominant nation. New blood had been infused into them by the arrival of the Caldai, whose leader, Merodach-Baladan, the son of Yacin, called Mardokempados in ptolemy’s canon, had taken advantage of the troubles which closed the life of Tiglath-Pileser to possess himself of Babylonian; and for twelve years he continued master of the country, until in 710 Sargon drove him from the province, and crowned himself king of Babylon. Merodach-Baladan had foreseen the attack, and endeavoured to meet it by forming alliances with Egypt and the principalities of Palestine. The confederacy, however, was broken up in a single campaign by the Assyrian monarch; Judea was overrun, and Ashdod razed to the ground. Sargon, who now styled himself king of Assyria and Babylon, of Sumir and Accad, like Tiglath-Pileser before him, spent the latter part of his reign in internal reforms and extensive building. A new town, called after his name, was founded to the north of Nineveh 9at the modern Kouyunjik), and a magnificent palace was erected there. The library of Calah was restored and enlarged, in imitation of his semi-mythical namesake of Agane, whose astrological works were re-edited, while special attention was given to legislation. In the midst of these labors Sargon was murdered, and his son, Sennacherib, ascended the throne on the 12th of Ab 705 B.C. Sennacherib is a typical representative of the great warriors and builders of the second Assyrian empire, and is familiar to the readers of the Old Testament from his invasion of Judah, which the native monuments assign to the year 701. The check he received at Eltakeh, where he was met by the forces of Egypt and Ethiopia, saved the Jewish king, not, however, before his towns had been ravaged, a heavy tribute laid upon the capital, and his allies in Ascalon and Ekron severely punished. At the commencement of this campaign Sennacherib had reduced Tyre and Sidon, and the overthrow of these centres of commerce caused a transfer of trade of Carchemish. Babylonia had shaken off the yoke of Assyria at the death of Sargon under Merodach-Baladan, who had escaped from his captivity at Nineveh, but was soon reduced to obedience again, and placed under the government of the Assyrian viceroy Belibus. In 700, however, the year after the Judaean war, Babylon rebelled once more under the indomitable Merodach-Baladan, and Suzub, another Chaldean. Sennacherib was occupied with a naval war – the first ever engaged in by the Assyrians-against a body of Chaldeans who had taken refuge in Susiana, and the revolt in his rear was stirred up by the Susianian king. But the insurgents were totally defeated; Assur-nadin-sum, Senneacherib’s eldest son, was appointed viceroy of the southern kingdom; and the Assyrian monarch felt himself strong enough to carry the war into the heart of Elam, wasting the country with fire and sword. A last attempt, made by the Susianians and the Chaldeans of Babylonia, to oppose the power of Assyria was shattered in the hardly-contested battle of Khaluli. The interregnum, however, which marks the last eight years of Sennacherib’s rule in Ptolemy’s canon, shows that Chaldea still continued to give trouble and resist the Assyrian yoke.

Meanwhile Sennacherib had been constructing canals and aqueducts, embanking the Tigris, and building himself a palace at Nineveh on a grander scale than had ever been attempted before. his works were interrupted by his murder, in 681, by his two sons, who, however, soon found themselves confronted by the veteran army of Essar-haddon, their father’s younger and favorite son. Essar-haddon had been engaged in Armenia; but in January 680 he defeated them at Khanirabbat, and was proclaimed king. Soon afterwards he established his court at Babylon, where he governed in person during the whole of his reign. After settling the affairs of Chaldea his first campaign was directed against Syria, where Sidon was destroyed and its inhabitants removed to Assyria, an event which exercised a profound influence upon Asiatic trade. The most remarkable expedition of his reign was into the heart of Arabia, to the kingdoms of Huz and Buz, 980 miles distant from Nineveh, 280 miles of the march being through arid desert. The Assyrian accomplished a fear never since exceed. In the north, also, it penetrated equally far, subjugating the tribes of the Caucasus, receiving the submission of Teispes the Cimmerian, and taking possession of the copper-mines on the most remote frontiers of Media. All this part of the country was now in the hands of Aryan settlers, and each small town had its independent chief, like the states of Greece. In fact, on two sides, on both north and west, the Assyrian empire was in contact with an Aryan population, and among the twenty-two kings who sent materials for essar-haddon’s palace at Nineveh were Cyprian princes with Greek names. But the most important work of Essar-haddon’s reign was the conquest of Egypt, which left the ancient world under the rule of a single power for some twenty years, and by fusing the nations of Western Asia together, broke down their differences, spread and equalized civilization, and first struck out the idea of universal empire. In 672 B.C. the land of the Pharaohs was invaded, Tirhakah, the Ethiopian, driven beyond its borders, and the country divided into twenty governments. Vain efforts to shake off the Assyrian supremacy were from time to time; but just as Babylon had to look to the foreign Caldai for the championship of its independence, so Egypt found its leaders in Ethiopian princes. In 669 Essar-haddon fell ill, and on the 12th day of Uyyar in the following year he associated his son, Assur-bani-pal, with him in the kingdom. On his death at Babylon in 667, Assur-bani-pal was left sole king. One of his first acts was to appoint his brother Savul-sum-yucin (Sammughes) governor of Babylonia.

Assur-bani-pal, the Sardanapalus of the Greeks, was the "grand monarque" of ancient Assyria. The empire on his accession was at the height of its glory and magnitude; the treasures and products of the world flowed into Nineveh, and its name was feared from the frontiers of India to the shores of the Aegean. Constant wars asserted the superiority of the Assyrian troops, though they drained the empire of money and men; and the luxury, which had come in like a flood, was sapping the foundations of the national strength. Assur-bani-pal, in spite of his victories, his buildings, and his patronage of literature, left a diminished inheritance to his son; and the military expeditions, formerly conducted by the king in person, were now entrusted to his generals. His first work was to check the southward advance of the Cimmerians, who were thus driven upon Asia Minor, and to quell a revolt that had broken out in Egypt. Two campaigns were requisite to effect this, and meanwhile Gyges of Lydia had sent tribute to the formidable Assyrian monarch. War had also broken out with Elam, which ended, after a long and hard struggle, with the complete conquest of the country. It was divided into two states, each ruled by Assyrian vassals. But soon after this (in 652) the first blow was truck which eventually led to the downfall of the empire. A general insurrection suddenly took place, headed by Assur-bani-pal’s own brother, the viceroy of Babylonia. Elam, Arabia, Egypt, and Palestine made common cause against the oppressor, Egypt alone, however, under the guidance of Psammitichus, and with the help of Gyges, succeeded in recovering her independence; the wandering tribes of Northern Arabia, Kedar, Zobah, Nabathaea, &c., were chastised, and summary vengeance taken on Babulonia and Ekam. Babylon and Cuthah were reduced by famine (649), Sammughes was captured and burnt to death, and fire and sword were carried through Elam. After a protracted war, in which Assur-bani-pal was aided by internal dissensions, Shushan was plundered and razed, and the whole of Susiana reduced to a wilderness. This happened in 643.

Assur-bani-pal’s buildings were unrivalled for size and grandeur. Assyrian culture reached its culminating point in his reign, and his palaces glittered with the precious metals, and were adorned with the richest sculpture. The library which he formed at Nineveh far surpassed any that had ever existed before; literary works were collected from all sides; the study of the deal language of Accad was encouraged, grammars and dictionaries were compiled, and learned men of all nations were attracted to the court. Patron of the arts as he was, however, Assur-bani-pal’s character was stained by cruelty and sensuality. Under his second name of Sin-inadina-pal, he appears as king of Babylon in ptolemy’s list; and the complete amalgamatics of Assyriua and Babylonia in the later years of his rule is shown by the appearance of a prefect of Babylon among the Assyrian eponyms. He was succeeded in 625 by his son Assur-ebil-ili. His death was the signal for a general revolt. Nabopolassar, the viceroy of Babylonia, made himself independent; and Assyria, shorn of its empire, was left to struggle for bare existence, until, under Saracus its last monarch, Nineveh was taken and burnt by the Babylonians and Medes.

The seat of empire was now transferred to the southern kingdom. Nabopolassar was followed in 604 by his son Nebuchadnezzar, whose long reign of forty-three years made Babylon the mistress of the world. The whole East was overrun by the armies of Chaldea, Egypt was invaded, and the city of the Euphrates left without a rival. Until systematic explorations are carried on in Babylonia, however, our knowledge of the history of Nebuchadnezzar’s empire must be confined to the notices of ancient writers, although we possess numerous inscriptions which record the restoration or construction of temples, palaces, and other public buildings during its continuance. One of these bears out the boast of nebuchadnezzar, mentioned by Berosus, that he had built the wall of Babylon in fifteen days. Evil-Merodach succeeded his father in 561, but he was murdered two years after, and the crown seized by his brother-in-law, Nergal-sharezer, who calls himself son of bel-sumaiscun, "king of Babylon." Nergal-sharezer reigned four years, and was succeeded by his son, a mere boy, who was put to death after nine months of sovereignty (555 B.C.) The P Power now passed from the house of Nabopolassat, Nabu-nahid, who was raised to the throne, being of another family. Nebuchadnezzar’s empire already began to show signs of decay, and a new enemy threatened it in the person of Cyrus the Persian. The Lydian monarchy, which had extended its sway over Asia Minor and the Greek islands, had some time before come into hostile collision with the Babylonians, but the famous eclipse foretold by Thales had parted the combatants and brought about peace. Croesus of Lydia and nabu-nabid of babylonia now formed an alliance against the common foe, who had subjected Media to his rule, and preparations were made for checiking the Persian advance. The rashness of Croesus, however, it meeting Cyrus before his allies had joined him, brought about his overthrow; Sardis was taken, and the Persians leader occupied the next fourteen years in consolidating his power in the north. This respite was employed by nabu-nahid in fortifying Babylon, and in constructing those wonderful walls and hydraulic works which Herodotus ascribes to Queen Nitocris. At last, however, the attack was made; and after spending a winter in draining the Gyndes, Cyrus appeared in the neighborhood of Babylon belshazzar, Nabu-nahid’s edest son, as we learn from as inscription, was left in charge of the city, while his father took the field against the invader. But the Jews, who say in the Persians monotheists and delivers, formed a era siderable element of the population and army; and Nabu-nahid found himself defeated and compelled to take refuge in Borsippa. By diverting the channel of the Euphrates the Persians contrived to march along the dry river-bed, and enter the city through an unguarded gate. Babylon was taken, and Nabu-nahid shortly afterwards submitted to the conqueror, receiving in return pardon and a residence it Carmania. He probably died before the end of Cyrus’s reign; at all events, when Babylon tried to recover its independence during the troubles that followed the death of Cambyses, it was under impostors who claimed to be "Nebuchadnezzar, the son of Nabu-nahid."

Art, Science, and Literature.- Although in art, as in other things, Assyria was but the pupil and imitator of Babylonia, there was yet a marked difference between its development in the two countries, due partly to natural causes. While the Assyrians had stone in abundance, the Babylonians were obliged to import it from a distance. Brick-clay, on the contrary, lay ready at hand, and architecture among them, consequently, took the forms imposed upon by the use of bricks instead of stone. Where the Assyrians employed sculptured alabaster to ornament their buildings, the Babylonians contented themselves with enameled bricks and painted plaster. It is a curious proof of the servile dependence of the northern upon the southern kingdom in artistic matters, that the Assyrians continued to make large use of brick up to the downfall of the empire, in spite of the accessibility of stone and the rapid decay of their palaces caused by the employment of the more fragile material. Still, although Assyrian art clung thus unaccountably to the building materials of another country, it did not dispense with its native stone altogether; and speaking broadly, we may say that the architecture of Nineveh is characterized by the use of stone in contradistinction to the brickwork of Babylonia. Sculpture was naturally developed by the one, just as painting was by the other; and the ornamentation which could be lavished on the exterior in Assyria had to confined to the interior in Chaldea.
Another distinction between the art of the two monarchies arose from the character of their respective population. Babylonia was essentially a religious country, and its art, therefore, was primarily religious. Nearly all the great edifices, whose ruins still attract the traveler, were temples, and the inscriptions we possess of the Babylonian princes relate almost wholly to the worship of the gods. In Assyria, on the other hand, the temple was but an appendage of the palace, the king among "these Romans of Asia," as," as prof. Rawlinson calls them, being the central object of reverence. While the Chaldea temple, with its huge masses of brickwork, rose stage upon stage, each tier smaller than the lower, differently colored, and surmounted at the top by a chamber which served at once as a shrine and an observatory, the Assyrian palace was erected upon a mound or rubble, with open courts and imposing entrances, though neve4r more than one or two stories high.

Closely connected with this difference in the religious feelings of the two nations was the greater care and attention paid to burial in Babylonia. As yet not a single tomb has been found in Assyria, while sepulchral remains abound in Chaldea. The vast necropolis of Erech astonishes us by the number of its graves, and the potters of Babylonia were largely employed in making clay coffins. The character of Assyrian art being thus secular and that of Babylonia sacred and sepulchral, necessarily led to a different application and development of it in the two countries.

We must regard Assyrian art as parallel with later Babylonian, both having branched off from Accadian. In Assyrian we may trace two or even three periods of development; but our want of materials makes it impossible to do this in the case of later Babylonia. Among neither people, however, did art altogether escape from the swathing bands of its nursery, although it was never crystallized in ancient Egypt. The oldest monuments of Accad already display it in all its forms, rude and rudimentary though they may be. The terraced temples of Ur, Erech, and other places, mount back to the earliest times of Chaldean history, and we find them already adorned with enameled bricks, which were first colored, then glazed, and finally baked in the fire. Terra-cotta cones of various hues, imbeeded in plaster, were used for external ornamentation, and at Warka (Erech) colored half-columns are employed for the same purpose, - an ornamentation which recurs in Sargon’s palace at Khorsabad, and was the germ of the many kinds of pillars met with in Assyria. The internal walls of the shrine were bright with paint and bronze and gilding; but the brilliant coloring of the Chaldeans was not reproduced in the northern monarchy where more sombre tints were preferred. The huge structures themselves, of burnt and unburnt brick, were supported by buttresses, and the rain was carried off by elaborately-constructed drains, some of which afford us the earliest examples of the arch. A leaden pipe for the same object was found by Mr. Loftus at Mugheir (Ur).

Stone, on account of its scarcity, was highly prized, and used only for sculpture and carving. Fragments of the statue of an Accadian king have been brought from Hammam, and a portrait of Merodach-iddin-akhi, the successful opponent of Tuglath-Pileser I. (1120 B.C.), is cut in low relief on a stone now in the British Museum. Like all other Babylonian stone relics, they are of small size, and of hard black granite, and the royal portrait is interesting not only as being one of the few specimens we possess of Babylonian sculpture, but as showing the marked contrast of the Babylonian face to the typically Jewish features of the Assyrians. If larger stones were rare, however, the same cannot be said of smaller ones, which were used as signets and talismans. These were always incised, and though the figures are frequently rude, and still more often grotesque, they are always clearly cut and vigorous. Indeed, it is clear that emery must have been used for the purpose, while many of the carvings are so minute as to suggest the employment of a magnifying-glass. This, however, seems to be out of the question at so early a date as that to which many of the gems belong, although a crystal lens was discovered by Mr. Layard at Nimrud. The design on the signet-cylinder of the earliest king Ur of whom we have any knowledge is of a high order of merit.

Next to gem-cutting, pottery was carried to considerable perfection by the Accadians. Some of their vases and lamps exhibit great beauty of form, and bear evidence of the potter’s wheel; though the large majority are made by the hand, and extremely rude. Spirited bas-reliefs in terra-cotta, however, have been exhumed at Senkereh, and some small terra-cotta figures may also be assigned to this early periods. Metallurgy was more backward. Stone implements were still in use, although weapons and ornaments of bronze and copper are met with in abundance; and even iron was not unknown. Bronze bowls occur in almost every tomb, sometimes wrought with considerable skill. Metallurgic art however attained its highest point in the manufacture of gold objects like ear-rings and fillets. The latter may be compared with the gold head-dresses found by Dr Schliemann in the Troad. This backward state of metallurgy is somewhat remarkable when we consider the skill displayed in the making of textile fabrics. The oldest gems portray the most richly embroidered robes, and it is probable that the muslims and carpets for which Babylonia was afterwards so famous were already a branch of industry.

Art in Assyria developed chiefly, as has been said, on the side of architecture and sculpture. Its first period is best represtned by the reign of Assur-natsir-pal, in whose palaces we obtain excellent illustrations of its excellences and defects. The period is characterized by a simplicity and vigor which shows itself in the bas-reliefs, where the figures, more especially the animal forms, are spirited and natural beyond anything that we meet with at a later time. Nothing, for instance, can be bolder and more life like than the lion-hunt depicted on the slabs of Assur-natsir-pal. There is a freedom in the attitude of the animals which evidences a remarkable grandeur of conception. On the other hand, the execution is somewhat heavy, the perspective is worse even than in later works, and the outlines are reproduced with too servile an exactitude. A background, again, is entirely wanting, the attention of the artist being concentrated upon the principal group. In the second period, which extends from the beginning of the second empire to the reign of Essar-haddon, the freshness and boldness of the preceding stage have passed away. The care once exclusively bestowed upon the chief figures is now shared with an eleborate background, and a pre-Raffaellite minuteness prevails throughout the whole. This, added to a total want of perspective, causes too obtrusive a realism. Still, what is lost in vigor is gained in delicacy and finish, and the general effect of such rich and intricate grouping could not but have been effective. The reign of Assur-bani-pal marks the third and last period Assyrian art. Drawing has made a rapid advance, and the sculptures furnish several instances of successful foreshortening. The art of this period is distinguished by great softness and chasteness; vegetable forms are represented with admirable skill, and the overcrowding of the preceding stage is avoided by recurring to the plain backgrounds of the first period, or introducing merely the main outlines of a landscape. At the same time, it is clear that Assyrian art is beginning to decline; the freedom and boldness that once marked it tend to disappear, and it is pervaded by a spirit of effeminacy which is well exemplified by the subjects portrayed. For the first time scenes are taken from the harem; the king lies, with his wife seated beside him, banqueting under the shade of the vine; and the lions that Assur-natsir-pal hunted in the open field at the risk of life are now tame creatures, kept in cages, and let out for a royal battue, where they have to be whipped into activity.

The effect of this Assyrian bas-relief sculpture was heightened by judicious coloring. Red, blue, black, and white-none of them, however, of very great brilliancy –were laid upon certain parts of the picture, such as the eyes, hair, and fringes of the garments. This partial coloring was also adopted by the Greeks, and it is extremely probable that they borrowed it from Assyria. The beginning of Greek art coincides with the decadence of Assyria; and the objects found by M. Cesnola and others in Cyprus show us the transition of the one into the other. While the remains found by Dr Schliemann in the Troad do not exhibit any Assyrian influence, the oldest works of art in Greece itself are thoroughly Assyrian in character. Indeed, we can trace the lion-sculpture at Mycenae through the similar rock-carving at Kumbet, in Phrygia, back to the artists of Nineveh. The lions themselves are Assyrian in all their details, and the pillar against which they rest reappears in the monuments of Assur-bani-pal . columnar architecture, in fact, obtained a more extensive development in the empire of the Tigris than has ever been the case elsewhere. The half columns of ancient Chaldea germinated into a wonderful variety of elaborate forms. The most peculiar are those which rest with circular pedestals upon the backs of lions, dogs, and winged bulls. The chasteness of Hellenic taste preserved it from this Eastern fantasticness, but the Doric and Ionic pillars had their first home on the banks of the Tigris. There was something in the round firm column which was congenial to the mind of the Assyrian.

Indeed, it may be said that solidity and realism underlie all Assyrian art. Muscular strength and power of an intensely earthly and human nature is expressed in their bas-reliefs and the colossal bulls that guarded the palace from the entrance of evil spirits. Nowhere else in the world can we find such an embodiment of brute force and unimaginative energy. Not only is Assyrian art valuable as disclosing the genesis of Hellenic, but yet more so as filling up a vacant chapter in the history of aesthetics. The divine calm and mysterious immensity of Egyptian sculpture was not more foreign to the Greek than the stiff unspirituality and coarse vigor of the Assyrians, which found in the lion and appropriate symbol. But the Assyrian artists did not confine themselves to architecture and bas-reliefs. Gem-cutting was carried to high perfection, and even sitting statues of "the great king" were attempted. These, however, were not so successful as the terra-cotta models, some of which are of great beauty. Indeed, the potters’ work of Nineveh can quite vie with that of ancient Greece, and their lamps seem to be prototypes of those which we find in the tombs of Athens or Syracuse. Besides porcelain, glass was also manufactured, and though transparent glass does not appear to have been known before the reign of Sargon, colored glass, with all the tints that we admire in Venetian ware, had long been an article of trade. Metallurgy, again, was a branch of industry in which the Assyrians particularly excelled. Their gold ear-rings and bracelets are admirable both in design and workmanship; their bronze casts are free from the narrowness of their sculptures of their sculptures in stone; and so well were they acquainted with the art of inlaying one metal with another, that our modern artists have been content to learn from them the method of covering iron with bronze. Household furniture, too, gives us a high idea of Assyria skill. Like gem-cutting, it brought out the Chinese minuteness and accuracy of the people, and the profuse, though tasteful ornamentation of the seats is especially to be noticed

It is unfortunate that our knowledge of the development of art in the sister kingdom is still so imperfect. As has been said, however, it is characterized by painting rather than sculpture, and the use of brick instead of stone. The few bas-reliefs that exist are small and inferring in execution; but brilliant coloring and a lavish use of the metals made up for this want. The walls were covered with the most costly materials, and "images portrayed with vermillion" excited the admiration of the strange. The love of bright colors, in contrast with the sober house of the Assyrian palaces, led also to the cultivation of gardens, and the hanging gardens of Babylon, raised upon tiers of arches, were one of the wonders of the world. The Babylonian had, too, a strong sense of humor. In the engraved gems and metal-work of the southern empire we miss the finish and minute care of the sister-kingdom but they are replaced by a spirit of grotesqueness and serio-comedy. In pottery and the manufacture of textile fabrics the Babylonians particularly excelled; their carpets and variegated dresses were highly prized, while their fondness for music was much celebrated. The history of the latter art, however, both in Babylonia and in Assyria has yet to be traced.

The science of Assyria, like most things else, was derived from Accad. A large number of its technical terms were borrowed from the Turianian, and continued to the last it endruing monument of the debt owed by the Semite to be predecessor. At the same time, he did not remain a men imitator; science received a development in his hand which might have been looked for in vain from a Turianian race. first and foremost comes the astronomy, for which babylonia was so famous in the ancient world. Its beginning goes back to the time when the Accadia had not yet descended from their mountain fastnesses. The zenith as fixed above Elam, and not above Babylonia, and "the mountain of the East," the primitive home of the race, was supposed to support the firmament. The shrines on the topmost terraces of the temples were used also as observatories. Ur had its royal observatory, and so probably had the other cities of Chaldea; in Assyria they existed at Assur, Nineveh, and Arbela, and the astronomer-royal had to send in their reports to the king twice a month. At an early date the stars were numbered and named; but the most important astronomical work of the Accadians was the formation of a calendar. This came after the division of the heavens into degrees, since the twelve months (of 30 days each) were named after the zodiacal signs, and would seem to belong to about 2200 B.C. Somewhat strangely, the Accadian calendar appears to have passed to the Assyrians (and through them to the Jews) through the medium of the Aramaens. The year being roughly made to consist of 360 days, intercalary months had to be added, one of them being regularly inserted every six years, and two others counted in by the priests when necessary. The soss of 60 years, the ner of 600, and the sar of 3600, were merely cycles dependent upon the general mathematical system of the Babylonians, which made 60 the unit, and then multiplied it by the factors of itself. The week of 7 days was in use from an early period; indeed, the names which we still give to the days can be traced to ancient babylonia; and the seventh day was one of sulum or "rest." The night was divided into three watches; but this was afterwards superseded by the more accurate division of the day into 12casbu (of 2 hours each), corresponding to the divisions of the equator, each casbu being further subdivided into 60 minutes, and these again into 60 seconds. The sections of the equator contained 30 degrees each- a degree being 60 sosses or minutes; but since an astrolate, now in the Museum, divides each of the 12 sections in the outer circle into 20 degrees, and those in the inner circle into 10 degrees, it is plain that a different system was adopted for astrological purposes. Eclipses were carefully recorded from a very remote epoch, and since some of these are said to have happened "according to calculation," and others "contrary to calculation," their recurrence after a cycle of eighteen years must have been roughly determined. One of the Assyrian reports states that a watch was kept for an eclipse of the sun on the three last days of the month, but that, contrary to expectation, the eclipse did not take place, and we posses notices of eclipses which have been verified by modern astronomers, though antecedent to the era of Nabonassar, with whom, so far as Ptolemy knew, the first record of them began. The chief work on astronomy was one compiled for the library of sargon of Agane in seventy tablets or books, which went through many editions, one of the latest being now in the British Museum. It was called "the illumination of bel," and was translated into Greek by Berosus. The catalogue of its contents includes observations on comets, on the pole-star, the conjunction of the sun and moon, and the motions of Venus and Mars. The main purpose, however, of all these Babylonian astronomical observations was an astrological one; to cast a horoscope, or predict the weather, was the chief business of the Chaldean astronomer. Indeed, the patient minuteness of the meteological observations is most curious , and it was believed that the same weather recurred after a definite number of years. In the later Assyrian period the study became more scientific, and the observatory reports have something of the precision of modern times. But from a much earlier era we obtain interesting tables of lunar longitudes and numerical equivalents of the daily increase and decreased of the moon. As in implied by the attention given to astronomy mathematics was fairly advanced. The unit was 60, a very convenient number, especially when used as the denominator of a fraction. A tablet found at Senkereh gives a table of squares and cubes, correctly calculated, from 1 to 60; and a people who were acquainted with the sun-dial, the clepsydra, the lever, and the pulley, must have had no mean knowledge of mechanics. The lens, too, discovered at Nineveh, explains the minuteness of the cuneiform writing on so many of the tablets, and suggests the possibility of artificial aids to the observation of the heavens.

Assyria possessed but little native literature. It was essentially a land of soldiers, and the more peaceful pursuits had their home in Babylonia, where the universities of Erech and Borsippa were renowned down to classical times. It was not until the reign of Assur-bani-fal that any attempt was made to rival Babylon in learning; then for the first time original composition came from the pens of Assyria scholars, and works were even written in the dead language of Accad. Syllabaries, together with grammars, dictionaries, and reading-books of Assyrian and Accadian, were drawn up, besides lists of Semitic synonyms. In these grammars and vocabularies lay the germ of comparative philology, and they are otherwise valuable as affording us the earliest native analysis of Semitic speech. But before this closing period of the empire, the Assyrians had been chiefly content to translate the ancient Accadian literature, or re-edit the contents of Babylonian libraries; and the cramping influence of a dead language, in which all the precedents of law and the first principles of science were locked up, could not but make itself felt. Every great city of Chaldea had at least one library, and it was in imitation of this that the royal libraries at Calah, Nineveh Assur, and elsewhere, were founded. The larger part of the literature was in clay, stamped in minute characters upon baked bricks, laterculoe coctiles as Pliny calls them; but papyrus was also used, though none of this fragile material has been preserved to our day. in fact, the use of papyrus seems to have preceded that of clay, which was not employed until after the settlement of the Accadians in the plains. The clay tablets or books were arranged in order; and we learn from the catalogue of Sargon’s library at Agane (about 2000 B.C.) that each was numbered, so that the student had only to write down the number of the tablet he wanted and the librarian thereupon handed it to him. The subjects of Accadian literary composition were multifarious. Among the most interesting are the hymns to the gods, some of which strikingly resemble the Hebrew psalms in substance as well as in form. Indeed, the parallelism of Hebrew and Assyrian poetry seems to have been borrowed from the Accadians. But the similarity of expression and feeling is no less remarkable. Thus we read in one – (1.) "May god, creator: take mine hands. (2.) Guide thou the breath of my mouth: guide thou mine hands. (3.) O lord of light!" and in another – (1.) "In heaven who is high? Thou alone, thou art high. (2.) In earth who is high? Thou alone, thou art high. (3.) As for thee, thy word in heaven is declared: the gods bow their faces to the ground. (4.) As for thee, thy word in earth is declared: the spirits of earth kiss the ground;" or in a third – (1.) "O Lord, my transgressions are many: great are my sins. (2.) The Lord in the anger of His heart: has confounded me. (3.) God in the strength of His heart: set himself against me." A collection was afterwards made of these hymns, which was used for ritualistic purposes, and regarded as an inspired volume, and has been aptly compared by M. Lenormant with the Rig-Veda of the Hindus. Of an older date is the collection of magic formulae and charms, chiefly intended to counteract the effects of sorcery and demoniac possession, which go back to the Shamanistic period of accadian religion. Later than the hymns, but still prior to the second millennium B.C. and the formation of the calendar, are the mythological poems which grew out of the development of a solar worship and the personalification of the attributes of the gods. Two of these poems we possess intact, - on the Deluge and the descent of Istar into Hades, - and part of a third which describes the war of the seven evil spirits against the moon. The first two form the sixth and eleventh books of a very remarkable epic which centred round the adventures of a solar hero, older and originally independent lays being woven into it as episodes. The epic was divided into twelve books, each book dealing with a legend appropriate to the name of the corresponding zodiacal sign. This astronomical basis of the national epic shows how thoroughly the study had penetrated the mind of the people; and the clearness with which we can trace the growth and formation of the whole work throws great light on the history of epic literature generally, and adds one more confirmation to the theory of Wolf. The Assyrians also had their epic, in imitation of the Accadians, and M. Lenormant has pointed out that the Semiramis and nannarus of the Greeks and the other personages of Ctasias were really figures of this mythical epopee. The historical and chronological works that have been preserved are of purely Assyrian origin, though there is every reason to suppose that when the libraries of Accad come to be excavated similar compositions will be found in them. the legal literature of the Accadians was certainly very extensive, and a collection of fables, one a dialogue between the ox and the horse, and another between the eagle and the sun, has been met with.

Language, Law, and Trade. – As above stated, the language of the primitive Sumirian and Accadian population of Assyria and babylonia belonged to the Turanian or Ural-Altaic family of speech. The Semitic tribes, who first possessed themselves of the tetrapolis of Sumir or Shinar, and then gradually spread over the whole of Assyria and babylonia, borrowed many words from their more civilized predecessors, and lent them, a few others in return. The so-called Assyrian language is sub-divided into the two dialects of Assyria and Babylonia, the latter dialect being characterized by a preference for the softer sounds, and a fuller use of the vowels. Literature and the influence of a dead language stereotyped it to such an extent that it underwent comparatively little change during the 1500 years during which we can watch its career; at least this is the case with the literary dialect. The closes affinities are with Hebrew and Phoenician; it shares their peculiarities in phonology, grammar, and vocabulary; and some obscure points in Hebrew etymology have already been cleared up by its help. Next to Hebrew, it shows perhaps the greatest resemblance to Arabic; differing most widely, on the other hand, from Aramaic. Aramaic, however, from becoming the lingua franca of trade and diplomacy after the fall of Tyre and Sidon, ended in superseding its sister idioms; but in Babylonia this did not happen until after the Persian conquest. See SEMITIC LANGUAGES.

A large number of the legal precedents of an Assyrian judge, like the titles upon which he had to decide, went back to the Accadian epoch. A table of early Accadian laws shows us that the mother occupied the same prominent place as among modern Turanian tribes. The son is punished with a fine for denying his father, but with banishment for denying his mother. On the other hand, the husband can divorce the wife upon payment of a pecuniary compensation, while the wife who repudiates her husband is condemned to be drowned. The life and person of the slave are already under the protection of the state, the master who misuses him being subject to a fine, while the slave could purchase his freedom. The rights of property, however, were strictly guarded by the law; the maximum of interest seems also to have been defined; and houses, land, or slaves could be taken as security for a debt. The carefulness with which deeds were signed and attested, and adjudicated cases reported, the deeds and cases being afterwards enclosed in an envelope of clay on which the names and main points were inscribed, testifies to a widespread study of law. Witnesses and contracting parties generally affixed their seals; but where they were too poor to possess any, a nail-mark was considered sufficient. In the Accadian period a father could assign property to his son during his lifetime, though he could not put him in possession; and in later times a limited power of willing was in existence. The private will of Sennacerib, in which he bequeaths certain treasurers to his favorite son Essar-haddon, is one of the most curious documents of antiquity; unlike other persons, the monarch does not require any witnesses. Great activity of trade is evidence by this development of law. But here again we must note a distinction due to situation between the northern and southern kingdom. Of the Chaldean, it is emphatically said that "their cry was in their ships," and we have many indications of early commerce with the southern coast of Arabia. The trade of Assyria, on the other hand, was wholly overland; and its first fleet was the one built by Phoenician captives for Sennacherib, when pursuing the fugitive Chaldeans through the Persian Gulf. Like the Jews however, the Assyrian showed an aptitude for trade from the very first. The earliest Semitic settlements in Babylonian seem to have been mainly for commercial purposes, and their career there may be compared with that of the English in India. In the 12th century B.C. the trading spirit had so thoroughly pervaded them that not only were objects of utility and art a marketable commodity, but we find Tiglath-Pileser I. bringing trees from the countries he had overrun, and acclimatizing them in Assyria. The fullest development of business and commerce, however, does not show itself until the 8th and 7th centuries B.C., when Nineveh was a busy center of trade. Sidon and Tyre had been ruined by the Assyrian kings – indeed, it is very possible that the obstinate was with the Phoenician cities had their origin in commercial jealousy, and trade had accordingly transferred itself to Carchemish, which was conveniently situated on the Euphrates. The maneh of Carshemish became the standard of weight, and Araman the common language of trade. The interest upon money was usually at 4 per cent; but sometimes, more especially when objects like iron were borrowed, at 3 per cent . Payment might still be made in kind; but more ordinarily in bars of the three chief metals, which were weighted though mention of coined money also occurs. Houses could be let on lease, and the deeds which conveyed them give a careful inventory of the property and its appurtenances. Commercial relations extended from India on the one side, whence came ivory and the teak found of Mugheir, which Sennacherib probably means by "wood Sinda," to the tin islands of Cornwall on the other.

Religion and Mythology. – The earliest religion of Accad was a Shamanism resembling that of the Siberian of Samoyed tribes of to-day. every object had its spirit good or bad; and the power of controlling these spirits was in the hands of priests and sorcerers. The world swarmed with them, especially with the demons, and there was scarcely an action which did not risk demoniac possession. Diseases were regarded as caused in this way, and in cherubs, bulls, and other composite creatures which guard the entrance to a house, were believed to protect it free mischief. In course of time certain spirits (or rather deified powers of nature) were elevated above the sea into the position of gods: and at the head of all stood Triad of Na or Anna, "the sky," Ea, "the earth," and Mulge, "the lord of the underworld." The old Shamanism gradually became transformed into a religion with a host of subordinate semi-divine beings; but so strong a hold had it upon the mind, that the new gods were still addressed by their spirits. The religion now entered upon a new phase; the various epithets applied to the same deity were crystallized into fresh divinities, and the sun-god under a multitude of forms became the central object of worship. This inevitably led to a mythology, the numerous personified attributes passing into demi-gods and heroes. A large part of the Accadian mythology was solar, and the transparency of its proper names which, as in other agglutinative languages, never disguise their primitive meaning, makes it valuable in verifying the so-called "solar theory" of comparative mythology. At this stage of development, however, an important change passed over the old faith. The Semitic settlers in Sumir had adopted the Accadian pantheon and belief, and after a conflict between the discordant religious conceptions of the two races, a great sacerdotal "reform" took place analogous to that of Brahmanism, and the official religion fused them into one whole. The magicians were taken into the priestly body, and the hierarchy of divine beings was determined. The old triad of Na, Ea, and Mulge became the trinioty of Anu, Ea, and Bel the Demirge, all children of Zicu or Zicara, "the sky" (the Sige of Nicolaus Damascenus); Ea, "the god of life and knowledge," "the lord of the abyss," "the king of rivers and the garden," the husband of Bahu (the Bohu of Gen i. 2), whose spirit pervades the universe, being made the father of Bel-Merodach, thetutelaryidvinity of Babylon. In accordance with the genius of the sex-denoting Semitic idioms, each deity was furnished with a female principle, and "The god" in Babylonia, and the personalified city of Assur, with his wife Serua, in Assyria were placed at the head of the pantheon. Below these four supreme divinities came a second trinity of the Moon-god, Sun-god, and Air-god, and the seven together formed "the seven magnificent deities." After these were arranged "the fifty great gods," and then the 300 spirits of heaven, and the 600 spirtis of earth, among whom was found a place for the primeval divinities of Accad as well as for the many local deities of Chaldea. The most dreaded of "the spirits of earth" were "the seven spirits" who were born "without father and mother" in the encircling abyss of ocean, and carried plague and evil over the earth. An old myth told of their war against the moon, which was deputed to watch over the interests of mankind.
Along with the establishment of the Babylonia official religion, an astro-theology was created by the introduction of astronomy into the religious sphere. The "spirits" of the various stars were identified with the gods of the new creed, Merodach, for instance, properly one of the forms of the sun-god, being identified with the planet Jupiter, and the five planetary deities were added to the seven magnificent gods, making up altogether "the twelve chiefs of the gods." The elaboration of this astro-theology was also accompanied by the formation of a cosmogony. The details of the latter are to be found in the fragments of Berosus and Nicolans Damascenus, whose statements are confirmed by the inscriptions and they show a remarkable resemblance to the cosmogonies of Genesis and Phoenicia. It must be remembered that both Phoenicians and Hebrews process to have migrated from Chaldea.

The resemblance is still more striking when we examine the Babylonian mythology. The sacred tree of Babylonia with its guardian "cherubs" – a word, by the way, which seems of Accadian origin-as well as the flaming sword or thunderbot of fifty points and seven heads, recall Biblical analogies, while the Noachian deluge differs but slightly from the Chaldean one. Indeed, the Jehovistic version of the flood story in Genesis agrees not only in details, but even in phraseology with that which forms the eleventh lay of the great Babylonian epic. The hero of the latter is Tam-zi or Tammuz, "the sun of life," the son of Ubaratutu, "the glow of sunset," and denotes the revivifying luminary of day, who sails upon his "ark" behind the clouds of winters to reappear when the rainy season is past. He is called Sisusthrus by Berosus, that is, Susru "the founder," a synonym of Na "the sky." The mountain on which his ark rested was placed, as already noticed, in Nisir, south-west of Lake Urumiyeh. Its peak, whereon the first altar was built after the deluge, was the legendary model after which the ziggurats or towers of the Babylonian temples wee erected. Besides the account of the flood, fragments have been met with of stories resembling those of the tower of Babel or Babylon, of the creation, of the fall, and of the sacrifice of Isaac, - the latter, by the way, forming probably the first day of the great epic. The sixth lay we possess in full. It describes the descent of Istar into Hades in pursuit of her dead husband Du-zi, "the offspring," the Babylonian Adonis. Du-zi is but another form of Tam-zi, and denotes the sun when obscured by night and winter. At each of the seven gates of Hades the goddess left some portion of her apparel, until she at lat reached the abode of the dead, dark and joyless, where dust alone is the food of the unhappy Hades. In the midst rose the golden throne of the spirits of earth, beneath which welled "the waters of life," and here, too, was the seat of Bahu. Bahu, as queen of the underworld, smote Istar with many diseases, and confined her in Hades until her brother the Sun-god complained to the Moon-god and Ea, who sent a sphinx to pour the waters of life upon the imprisoned goddess and restore her to the light of day. this myth gives a good idea of the Chaldean conception of the next world. Certain favored individuals, however, might look forward to a happier state of existence. A psalm which invokes blessings upon the king wishes him everlasting life in "the land of the silver sky," where the gods feast and know no evil. It will be observed that the Babylonian Hades (like the Hebrew Sheol) is not very dissimilar to the Homeric one; and the possibility of borrowing on the part of the Greeks is suggested by the fact, that the seven-headed serpent of Hindu legend is of foreign origin, being taken from the seven-headed serpent of the Accadians, "which lashes the waves of the sea," while the story of Andromeda came through Phoenician hands from a Chaldean myth which forms the subject of one of the lays of the great epic. So, too, the Oceanus of Homer finds its prototype in the encircling abysmal waters of Accadian geography, and the fravashis and mithras of Mazdaism were introduced by the Magian (or Turanian) population found in Media by the Aryan invaders.

But the old Shamanistic ideas survived also in Assyria and babylonia, and so were handed on to the Jews. An elaborates system of augury flourished down to the last days of the empire, and omens were drawn from every event that could possibly happen. Magic formula for warding off the attacks of demons were extensively used, and the bronze bowls found by Mr. Layard, as well as the part played by charms and demons in the Talmud, show how strongly the belief had seized upon the Jewish mind. Through the Jews and the various Gnostic systems of early Christianity, the primitive doctrines of Accad found their way into the medieval church, and the features of the mediaeval devil may be traced in an Assyrian bas-relief, where a demon with horns, claws, tail, and wings, is being pursued by the god Adar. Even the phylacteries of the Jews go back to the same origin. Accadian magic ordered the sorcerer to bind the charm, twice knotted with seven knots, round the limbs of the sick man, and this, with the further application of holy water, would, it was believed, infallibly produce a cure, while the same result might be brought about by fixing "a sentence out of good book on the sufferer’s head a he lay in bed." Similar superstitions may yet be detected in the corners of our own land, and still more on the Continent, where the break with the traditions of the past has been less strongly felt. They form an important element in the history of the human intelligence, and the light thrown upon their origin and early fortunes by the revelations of cuneiform discovery has opened a new chapter in the science of religion,

For Babylon and Babylonia see Rich’s Babylon and Persepolis, and two memoirs on Babylon: Layard’s Nineveh and Babylon; Loftus’s Chaldoea and Susiana; Rawlinson’s Five Great Monarchies; Oppert’s Expedition Scientifique en Mesopotamie, and Fastes de Sargon; Menant’s Annales des Rois d’Assyrie; Lenormant’s Premieres Civilizations, and La Magie chez les Chaldeans, Schrader’s Keiinshriften und das Alte Testament; Records of the Past; and the Transactions of the Society of Biblical Archaeology. (A. H. S.)

The above article was written by Rev. Archibald Henry Sayce, M.A., LL.D., D.D., Fellow of Queen's College, Oxford; Professor of Assyriology, Oxford; one of the Old Testament Revisors, 1874-84; Deputy Professor of Comparative Philology, Oxford, 1876-90; Hibbert Lectures, 1887; Gifford Lectures, 1900-01; author of Assyrian Grammar for Comparative Purposes; Translations in Records of the Past, 1st series; Lectures on the Assyrian Language and Syllabary; The Lost Monuments of the Hittites; The Egypt of the Hebrews and Herodotus; etc.

Search the Encyclopedia:

About this EncyclopediaTop ContributorsAll ContributorsToday in History
Terms of UsePrivacyContact Us

© 2005-16 1902 Encyclopedia. All Rights Reserved.

This website is the free online Encyclopedia Britannica (9th Edition and 10th Edition) with added expert translations and commentaries