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i>!> iJattj* of Biblt 











Position and extent of Assyria. Rise and fall of the 
Assyrian Kingdom. Discovery of the sites of some 
famous Assyrian towns n 


Assur-nazir-pal, Shalmaneser II., Tiglath-Pileser II., 
Shalmaneser IV., Sargon, Sennacherib, Esarhaddon, 
Assur-bani-pal ... ... ... ... ... 14 



The four different forms : Hieroglyphic, Archaic, Baby 
lonian, Ninevite. Hieroglyphics... ... ... ... 36 



The great library of Assur-bani-pal at Nineveh. 
Mythological documents. Religious records. Poetical 
compositions. Historical and other works ... ... 50 



Assur, the supreme Assyrian god. Pantheon. Genii. 
Burnt-offerings. Religious services. Immortality of 
-the soul. Heaven. Hell ... ... ... ... 67 

A 2 



The Khorsabad Palace. Temples. Fortifications 
of towns. Transport of colossal animals. Statues. 
Bas-reliefs. Metal-castings. Carvings. Enamellings. 
Intaglios 78 


Annual campaigns. Battles. Sieges. The chase. 
Royal hunting grounds. Dress of the king. Court 
ceremonial ... ... ... ... ... ... ... 92 


Dress and food of the common people. Exports and 
imports. General appearance and character of the 
Assyrians ... ... ... ... ... ... 99 


Their origin, office, and remote antiquity. The testi 
mony which they bear to the renown and power of 
ancient Assyria ... ... ... ... ... ... 105 


Assurbani-pal and his Queen Frontispiece. 
Monolith of Shalmaneser II. 

Fragment now in the British Museum showing Primitive 

Hieroglyphics and Cuneiform Characters side by side... 42 

Part of an Assyrian Cylinder containing Hezekiah s Name 45 

An Assyrian Book... ... ... ... 64 

The Feroher ... ... ... ... 68 

Nergal ... 73 

Assyrian Bas-Relief... ... 86 

Siege of a City ... ... ... ... ... ... 95 


THE results of research in the Assyrian documents may 
be described as a new commentary on the Old Testament. 
To use this valuable aid to Biblical study aright, we must 
understand its language and style, and still more the 
thought that underlies the expression. In other words, 
we must not take out fragments here and there, and use 
them as notes in our Bibles, but we must examine the 
whole body of documents, and acquaint ourselves with 
their writers. We must learn something definite as to 
the Assyrian race, with its language, religion, art, and 
manners, and read its connected history. Thus, and 
thus only, can we use its writings with advantage. 

To give this necessary information not as yet at 
tempted in English in a complete form is the purpose of 
the present volume, which is the more intelligible, as being 
directly connected with the greatest Assyrian collection 
in the world, that of the British Museum. It is therefore 
at once a summary of Assyriology, and a description of 
the Assyrian galleries of the National Collection. 


In a study constantly advancing, it is necessary to 
cite only the latest authorities, or to correct by them 
any earlier statements. This has been carefully done, 
and the general accuracy of the work may be trusted. 
It must, however, be understood that the best writers 
differ on many minor points, such as the spelling of 
Assyrian names, which must not mislead the student 
with the idea that they disagree on essentials. The 
advance of knowledge will render some modification and 
much addition necessary in later editions, each one of 
which will be brought down to date. 

The usefulness of the work will be due not merely to 
its accuracy and clearness, but also to certain peculiar 
features, which it will be well here to state. It excludes 
all side views and inferences, which render the most 
popular works on sections of the subject unintelligible 
to the ordinary reader for whom they are intended. He 
should not be supposed to be a master of comparative 
philology, and the complex history of the ancient East. 
Farther, it treats the subject independently of the Bible, 
with that completeness which enables the student to 
find for himself the value of the Assyrian texts, and to 
make his own use of their manifold contents. 

To put the two records, the Biblical and Assyrian, side 
by side, is a labour not here attempted, as it could not 


be worthily done within the limits of the work. The 
student should, however, carefully note the historical 
references to Assyria in the Bible, from the tenth 
chapter of Genesis downwards, and he will find the 
sacred story will gain a more vivid reality, while many 
of its difficult parts will be illustrated. Thus, the wars 
of Shalmaneser III. with Syria show the hidden springs 
of the policy of Ahab, Jehoshaphat, and Benhadad. He 
will do well to study, with such excellent aid as the 
Queen s Printers Variorum Bible affords, the various 
references to Assyria in the Prophets ; Isaiah s predic 
tion of her fall at the time of her greatest strength : the 

o o 

special prophecy of Nahum against Nineveh ; Ezekiel s 
noble retrospect, where he warns Pharaoh by the fate 
of his rival, as Nahum warns Nineveh by the overthrow 
of Thebes (No Amon). Of all these places, the most 
striking is where Isaiah describes the triumphant march 
of Sennacherib against Jerusalem, and the dismay of 
the fleeing population, as town after town, village after 
village, is swept away by the torrent of war, and at this 
moment predicts the catastrophe of the invader s army 
(Isaiah x. 24-34). 

The prophecies were uttered in the days of the power 
of Assyria. No one can compare Nahum and Ezekiel 
without feeling what a political gulf lies between their 



times. So swift and sudden was the fall of Assyria, that 
she passed at once into history in a generation, and 
could be written of as we write of the kingdoms whose 
disappearance we have witnessed. This disappearance 
is the essence of the predictions, which have no qualifica 
tion but in one passage of future hope (Is. xix. 23-25), a 
hope for spiritual, not political, life ; and thus while 
other nations and cities of the days of the Bible yet 
remain, Assyria and Nineveh have vanished, though 
the race of the old lords of the East yet lingers in the 
poverty-stricken and oppressed peasantry of the north 
of Mesopotamia. 






THE origin of the Assyrians has not yet been discovered^ 
but their religion, literature, method of writing, and 
science, being all of Babylonian nature, we are led to 
believe that the first home of the Assyrian nation was 
in Chaldea. This supposition is confirmed by the state 
ment made in the tenth chapter of Genesis, namely, that 
the Assyrians were of Shemitic stock, and that they went 
out of Chaldea to found a kingdom, of which the chief 
cities were Nineveh, Calah, and others. 1 (Genesis, x. 

II, 12.) 

The original Assyria, so far as we know, was a small 
and compact territory occupying the middle part of the 
basin of the Tigris, between latitudes 35 and 39, a 
space about one hundred miles from north to south, and 
seventy miles from east to west 

1 The reading of the margin, which assigns the foundation of the Assyrian 
cities to Nimrod, the Cushite, is probably preferable ; it would equally 
assign the source of Assyrian civilization to Chaldea. 


As time went on, the extent of the country increased ; 
and in 650 B.C. Assyria Proper reached its greatest limit, 
and stretched from latitude 35 to 38, and longitude 
40 to 45. At this period of its supreme power, 
Assyria ruled over a large extent of Central Asia ; and 
the districts subject to its dominion included Syria, 
Cyprus, Egypt, and Asia Minor as far as Lydia, on 
the west ; Elam, and part of Media, on the east ; and 
Babylonia, and part of Arabia, on the south. 

Between the period when Assyria was first founded by 
a colony from Chaldca, and the period when it reached 
its greatest fame, the extent of territory acknowledging 
its rule varied considerably. Sometimes a warlike monarch 
ascended the throne, and then conquests were made in 
every direction. Sometimes a series of weak kings 
occupied the seat of government, and then the van 
quished nations asserted their independence and threw 
off the yoke of Assyria. Owing to these constant 
changes, it is impossible to define the limits of the 
Assyrian empire at every point of its history, and we 
arc forced to content ourselves with indicating the 
minimum and maximum of Assyrian dominion. 

In the seventh century before Christ, Assyria sank 
into decay, and remained unknown to history until 
about forty years ago. Then the sites of some of its 
most famous cities were discovered ; namely, Kalah- 
Shergat, supposed to represent Assur, Nimroud, the 
Calah of Scripture, and Kouyunjik, still indicated by 
local tradition as the site of Nineveh. 


Great mounds, formed by the natural accumulation 
of the soil over the debris of ruined edifices, indicated 
the existence of these buried cities, and led to the ex 
cavations which have furnished us with so much valuable 
information concerning ancient Assyria. There, hidden 
from view under masses of crumbled ruins, were found 
monuments engraven with annals of Assyrian fame and 
power, and sculptures which portray the gods whom the 
Assyrians worshipped, and the conquests which their 
kings achieved. 

The language in which this stone and brick literature 
is written is difficult to decipher for two reasons : the 
intricacy of the characters, and the fact that a knowledge 
of cognate languages is indispensable for the true trans 
lation of the words. Great scholars have, however, been 
found willing to undertake the task of decipherment, 
and by patient perseverance they have accomplished the 
work. The result of their labours is given briefly in this 
book, the pages of which are intended to form a popular 
guide to Assyrian history, and an introduction to the 
study of Assyriology. 



ASSYRIAN records give the names of kings who reigned 
as far back as 1820 B.C., but the earliest sovereign of 
whom any large monuments have been discovered is 
Assur-nazir-pal. This monarch began to reign over 
Assyria about 885 B.C., and died 860 B.C. His name, 
Assur-nazir-pal, signifies " Assur preserves the son ;" and 
in truth he regarded himself as the child of the great 
god, and lost no opportunity of acknowledging his 
celestial father, and of vaunting Assur s glory and 
power. He was very proud also of his own birth and 
position, as we learn from an inscription discovered 
among the ruins of a temple at Nimroud. In this he 
describes himself as " the mighty king, the king of 
multitudes, a prince unequalled, powerful over hosts of 
men, a prince reducing to order his disobedient ones, a 
strong worker, a chief unwavering." " I am a king," he 
says ; " I am lord, I am exalted, I am great, I am honour 
able, I am glorious Assur-nazir-pal, the mighty King of 

We possess very full historical records of this king, 
and among these the inscription already mentioned is 
the most important. In it Assur-nazir-pal tells us that 


he reigned over a territory extending from "the Tigris 
to Mount Lebanon ; " that he brought " the Great Sea 
and all countries from the sun-rise to the sun-set " under 
his sway ; that his campaigns took place in the mountains 
of Armenia, in Commagene, in the country towards 
Pontus,-and in Western Persia ; that in one expedition 
he vanquished the King of Babylon ; in another he 
reduced to subjection the southern part of Syria ; and 
in another he advanced to the mountain chains of the 
Amanus and Lebanon. Thus we sec that his campaigns 
were directed against the mountain tribes on the north 
west, the inhabitants of the countries on the north-east, 
and the Babylonians on the south ; and that he laboured 
to subjugate Northern Syria, and to force into submission 
the inhabitants of the great marts of Phoenicia. 

Finally, the inscription gives a very interesting account 
of his restoration of the city of Calah. " That city," he 
says, " was decayed and reduced to a heap of ruins ; that 
city I built anew ; the people captured by my hand, of 
the countries which I had subdued, Zukhi and Lakie 
throughout their entirety, the town of Sirku, on the 
other side of the Euphrates, the subjects of Liburna, I 
collected within, I made them occupy. A water-course 
from the Upper Zab I dug ; timber upon its shores I 
erected ; a choice of animals to Assur my lord, and for 
the chiefs of my realm, I sacrificed ; the ancient mound 
I threw down : to the level of the water I brought it ; 
one hundred and twenty courses on the low level I 
caused it to go ; its walls I built ; and I completed it." 


Assur-nazir-pal was succeeded on the throne by his 
son Shalmaneser II., a man of war, whose long and 
prosperous reign lasted from 860 B.C. to 825 B.C. An 
account of the last nine years of Shalmaneser s rule, and 
the annals of his earliest campaigns, are given in an 
inscription on the Balawat Gates in the British Museum. 
These gates were discovered in 1878, at Balawat, a place 
nine miles distant from Nimroud. They formed, originally, 
the entrance to the court-yard of a palace or temple, 
being two enormous rectangular folding doors, twenty- 
two feet high, and twenty-six feet broad. Only the 
decorations of these doors have been brought to England, 
namely, the bronze plates which were anciently fastened 
across their frames by nails of the same metal. Each 
plate is about eight feet in length, and contains two 
bands of embossed reliefs, showing the battles, triumphs, 
cruelties, and devotions of Shalmaneser from 857 B.C. to 
849 B.C. The representations of men and animals upon 
the plates are for the most part remarkably well done, 
and stand in natural attitudes ; and the draped figures 
are fairly graceful. All the figures appear in profile, as is 
usual in Assyrian art, full-faced forms being too difficult 
to execute. The pictures were made by the process of 
beating out, technically called embossed or repousse 
work ; the outline and detail were chased afterwards 
with a graver or other cutting tool. Most of the scenes 
are accompanied by short inscriptions, which explain the 
events depicted ; but the words are evidently intended 
for ornament rather than service, and are so carelessly 


cut that they are difficult to decipher. All the same, 
the inscriptions are valuable, and throw light upon the 
geography and identification of ancient cities, and mani 
fest the feelings of the Assyrians towards Babylonia, 
that country from whence their ancestors came forth 
a small and insignificant people ; and which had a 
romance in their eyes, owing to the fact that it con 
tained the sites of the exploits of those gods and 
heroes who Assyrians and Babylonians alike worshipped. 
The inscriptions describe the mighty conquests which 
Shalmaneser accomplished from the highlands of the 
Tigris and the Euphrates to Phoenicia ; and note especi 
ally the subjection of the Hittites, and the tribute levied 
from divers vassal princes. 1 

The expedition to Chaldea, and the defeat of the 
Babylonian army, led by a rebel brother of the native 
king, thus forced to call in the Assyrians, are dwelt upon 
with great exultation ; and the triumphant entry into 
Babylon a city described as " the foundation of heaven 
and earth, and the seat of life " is spoken of as a solemn 
occasion upon which sacrifices were made to all the 
deities whom the king worshipped. 

We learn more of the history of Shalmaneser from a 
monolith discovered at Kurkh, a place lying on the right 
bank of the Tigris, about twenty miles distant from 

1 It appears, however, from the reliefs that the Hittite King of 
Carchemish and the Assyrian monarch exchanged presents ; thus the 
transactions would seem to have been a treaty, not the submission vaunted 
in the inscription. 



Diabekr. This tablet, which now stands in the NimroucT 
central saloon of the British Museum, near the Balawat 
Gates, contains mention of Ahab, King of Israel, and 
Benhadad II. (or Benhader II.), King of Syria, and tells of 
a great battle fought by these kings against the Assyrians. 
We learn from it that the nations of Syria and Palestine 
were alarmed by the progress of Shalmaneser, and they 
determined to combine together to throw him back 
upon the Euphrates. They perceived that isolated action 
against such a mighty warrior must result in their 
complete overthrow, therefore Benhadad II. joined with 
Ahab, and ten other kings, to give battle to the enemy. 
The confederate armies met those of Shalmaneser at 
Karkar, a city whose site is unknown, but which without 
doubt stood in Northern Syria. The forces on either 
side were equal in number, both mustering some 
45,000 men ; but Shalmaneser s army was superior in 
organisation to the motley host of the enemy, which 
comprised within its ranks Hamathites, Phoenicians,. 
Arabs and Egyptians, as well as Syrians and Israelites. 
A battle was fought, and, according to the monolith 
inscription, the victory rested with Shalmaneser, who- 
boasts, " from the city of Gilza u a destruction of them 
I made ; 14,000 men of their troops with weapons I 
slew. Like the air-god over them a deluge I poured,, 
and with their flight the surface of the waters I filled. 
All their hosts with weapons I laid low, and with their 
corpses the area of the district I filled." 

It is probable, however, that the battle was a drawn 



one, for we read that when it was over, Shalmaneser 
withdrew his army from the country, and made no 
further attempt to cross the Euphrates for the space of 
five years. Moreover, we know that it was the habit of 
the Assyrian monarchs to claim victories for themselves 
on all occasions, unless they were totally overthrown ; 
and defeats remain unrecorded, and can only be guessed 
at by the number of gaps left in the annals of victories 
and successful campaigns. 

During his long reign of thirty-five years, Shalmaneser 
came in contact with several kings mentioned in the 
Scriptures, and of these we find records on the table 1 
of victory which he set up at Calah, namely, " the Black- 
Obelisk." This monument was discovered under the 
debris of Shalmaneser s palace at Nimroud. It is about 
seven feet high, and two feet broad at the base, tapering 
gently towards the summit, which is crowned with three 
low steps or gradines. The four sides are sculptured, 
in part with bas-reliefs, and in part with cuneiform 
writing, and the whole is of black marble. The bas- 
reliefs represent King Shalmaneser, accompanied by his 
tartan and other great officers, receiving the tribute of 
five nations whose envoys are shown into the royal 
presence by court officials. The messengers prostrate 
themselves at the great king s feet ere they present their 
offerings ; and among them we see the tribute-bearers 
of Jehu, King of Israel, and possibly the representation 
of Jehu himself. The Israelitish ambassadors carry in 
their hands, or on their shoulders, gifts of gold and 

B 2 


silver in bullion, and manufactured articles ; the other 
envoys present various wild animals, and precious things, 
among which bars of metal, elephants tusks, and shawls 
or tissues are conspicuous. 

The order in which the envoys are represented is as 
follows : First, those of Guzan, a Median country ; 
second, the Israelites ; third, the Muzri from Muzr, a 
country towards Armenia ; fourth, the Sukians, from 
the Southern Euphrates ; fifth, the Patinians from the 
Hittite country on the Orontes. Above the bas-reliefs, 
and in a long series below, are two hundred and forty 
lines of inscription. Some of these are explanatory of 
the pictures, while the long inscription gives an account of 
various victories gained by Shalmaneser, and of the tribute 
brought to him by princes who acknowledged his rule. 
The record extends over thirty-one years, beginning 
about the reign of Ahab, and ending during that of Jehu. 

The date when Jehu paid tribute as a vassal prince is 
not given on the obelisk ; but knowing as we do that the 
monument was set up towards the close of Shalmaneser s 
long life, and about the middle of Jehu s reign, we may 
safely place the period of the embassy between the wars 
of Hazael, King of Syria, in Israel and in Judah. We 
find no mention of a contest with Jehu among the battles 
which occupy the inscribed portion of the monument, 
and thus it would appear that the King of Israel became 
a tributary of his own free-will, and in order to strengthen 
himself against his enemy King Hazael by the powerful 
support of the Assyrian monarch. 


Hazael is also spoken of in the inscription. We are 
told that Shalmaneser in the eighteenth year of his 
reign crossed the Euphrates, and gave war to the 
Syrians. " Hazael, King of Damascus," he tells us, 
"to battle came: 1,221 of his chariots and 470 of his 
war-carriages with his camp I took from him." Thus 
are the glories of the Assyrian arms vaunted in proud 
words which fall on our ears with a ring unlike the 
language of the present period ; and the overthrow of 
hill tribes and small kingdoms are spoken of as great 
victories and mighty conquests, for the sense of propor 
tion was totally lacking to the ancient Assyrians. 

The battle of Karkar, which is noticed in the monolith 
inscription, is also mentioned in this record, but with a 
difference, the number of the enemy slain being stated 
at 20,500 instead of 14,000. We must not be surprised, 
however, to find this contradiction, for although the 
Assyrian documents are as a rule trustworthy, they 
contain many such inaccuracies, and cannot be judged 
by the modern standard of historical truth. 

The immediate successors of Shalmaneser trod in his 
footsteps, and the annals of their reigns contain little but 
records of their battles and conquests. We meet with no 
king of importance until we come to the year 745 B.C., in 
which Tiglath-Pileser II. ascended the throne, a man who 
possessed all the martial tastes of his earlier predecessors, 
and an insatiable love of conquest. 

Not content with the submission of the King of 
Babylon, he determined to march westward, and extend 


his empire to the Egyptian border. To accomplish this 
object he was forced to subjugate all the States which 
opposed his progress, and to conquer the nations of Syria 
and Palestine. Fragments of history concerning this 
enterprise have come down to us on a tablet executed at 
that time, namely, the slab of Tiglath-Pileser II. The 
bas-reliefs on this tablet represent the Assyrian monarch 
in his chariot ; and above, and to the left, are parts of 
battle scenes. The inscription which accompanies the 
reliefs is sadly mutilated, but nevertheless sufficient 
remains to tell us that the warlike Azariah (or Uzziah), 
King of Judah, formed a confederacy with the King of 
Hamath to arrest the progress of Assyria. The allies 
were defeated ; and the country of Hamath was put 
under Assyrian administration. The inhabitants were 
carried away captives, men of one vanquished nation, 
and women of another, being transported to their vacant 
cities, in order to check all spirit of nationality. The 
Syrian king and eighteen of the neighbouring kings 
submitted ; and Rczin of Syria, Menahem of Samaria, 
and Hiram of Tyre, are mentioned as paying tribute. 

The Bible tells us that not long after this, Ahaz, King 
of Judah, who was harassed by the allied armies of the 
kings of Israel and Syria, sent the following message to 
Tiglath-Pileser : " I am thy servant and thy son : come 
up and save me out of the hand of the King of Syria, 
and out of the hand of the King of Israel, which rise up 
against me." (2 Kings xvi. 7.) So Tiglath-Pileser went 
to help Ahaz against Pekah, King of Israel and Rezin 


King of Syria ; and the result was the destruction of 
Damascus, and the deportation of the northern tribes of 
Israel, and of those beyond Jordan. 

Tiglath-Pileser was succeeded by Shalmaneser IV., 
probably his son. This king led an expedition into 
Syria, and besieged Samaria. Making war upon the 
Phoenicians, who tried to shake off his yoke, he overran 
their whole country, forcing all their cities to resume a 
position of dependence. The island-city of Tyre, how 
ever, rebelled shortly after, and defeated the Assyrian 
arms ; and the resistance of the Syrians did not terminate 
until the reign of Sargon, a monarch who ascended the 
throne in the year 722 B.C. 

Sargon was an usurper, who boldly proclaimed himself 
king on the death of the childless sovereign. He was 
one of the great state officers, and seems to have had no 
claim to the throne whatsoever, except his valour and 
the military services which he had previously rendered 
to the empire. He continued the Syrian war, and the city 
of Samaria was stormed after a siege of three years, and 
the whole country of Israel was subdued. The Israelites 
were carried into captivity, 27,200 of the people being 
transported from the city of Samaria alone. The kingdom 
of Israel was put an end to, and the Israelites were placed 
under a vassal king. (2 Kings xvii. 6; and xviii. n.) 
This was the great Captivity of the Ten Tribes of Israel, 
by which all the leading men of the population were 
carried away. 

Sargon made war on the kings of Chaldea and Elam, 


and took Babylonian captives to Palestine. He annexed 
Karchemish, the chief city of Pisiri, a great centre of 
trade, and remarkable for its riches ; and attacked and 
stormed Muzazir, the capital of Ararat, and bore away 
Haldi, the god of the land. Besides these exploits, he 
fought many battles against the surrounding nations, 
and made constant expeditions into Palestine. He died 
in 705 B.C., and was succeeded by his son Sennacherib. 

The name Sennacherib consists of three elements, 
and means " Sin (i.e., the moon-god) has increased or 
multiplied brothers ; " and this leads us to suppose that 
previous to his birth his father Sargon had only possessed 
daughters, and no heir to his dominions. Sennacherib 
reigned from 704 B.C. to 68 1 B.C. ; and during this period 
he made his name famous by the battles he fought, and 
by his great victories. 

His first war was against Merodach Baladan, King 
of Babylon, whom he attacked at a place about ten 
miles distant from Babylon, and defeated. " Merodach 
Baladan," he tells us, " entered into the swamps, and his 
life saved." After which, he says, " into Merodach 
Baladan s palace which is in Babylon I joyfully entered, 
and his treasure-house I opened, and great treasure as 
spoil I counted. My soldiers to the midst of the lakes 
and swamps I sent, and five days they searched, but the 
place of Merodach Baladan was not seen ; so Bel-epus, 
who as a little child had grown up within my palace, I 
raised to the throne." It appears, however, that the rule 
of Bel-epus was not successful ; for a few years later 


Sennacherib made another expedition into Babylon, and 
appointed his own son to the government of the country. 
The third great expedition of his reign was into Palestine, 
where his operations were first directed against Luliya, 
King of Zidon (the Elulaeus of Josephus). Sennacherib 
tells us that Luliya fled from Tyre to Cyprus ; and he 
speaks also of the submission of various Phoenician 
cities, and of an audience in which he received tribute 
from most of the kings of Palestine. Marching through 
Phoenicia, he arrived at Askelon, and then passed on to 
Ekron, and gave battle to the allied armies of the 
Ethiopians and Egyptians at Eltekeh, a place about 
six miles from Lachish. The allies were defeated, and 
Ekron submitted. After which Sennacherib says, " The 
priests and princes who the rebellion had made, with 
the sword I slew, and in heaps over the whole city I 
threw down their corpses. The sons of the city 
doing this into slavery I gave ; the rest who had 
not rebelled, and who of their sections were not, their 
innocence I proclaimed." 

Sennacherib now marched towards Judah, and on his 
way he captured forty-six fortified cities, also fortresses 
and small cities with, as he says, "the marching of a 
host, and surrounding of a multitude ; by attack of 
ranks, force of battering rams, and missiles. Thus 
200,150 people, small and great, male and female, 
horses, mules, asses, camels, oxen, and sheep, as spoil 
I counted." He besieged and took Lachish, and then 
prepared to advance upon Jerusalem. 


Hezekiah, who, according to the words of Sennacherib, 
" was now like a caged bird within his city," sent in his 
submission to the Assyrian king at Lachish, and said, " I 
have offended ; return from me : that which thou puttest 
on me will I bear." (2 Kings xviii. 14.) So Sennacherib 
ordered him to pay three hundred talents of silver and 
thirty talents of gold ; and as the royal treasury did 
not suffice for all this tribute, the gold had to be cut off 
from the doors and the pillars "of the temple of the 
Lord." (2 Kings xviii. 16.) The Assyrian inscriptions 
arc silent concerning the less propitious part of this 
expedition ; but the Bible tells us that while Hezekiah 
submitted, and paid tribute, his allies in Egypt, led by 
Tirhakah, King of Ethiopia, recovered strength, and pre 
pared to come to his assistance. Sennacherib, hearing 
of the advance of the allies, thought that Hezekiah was 
merely treating with him in order to gain time. Conse 
quently he sent three of his principal officers with a threat 
to Jerusalem, and they arrived at the gate of the city, and 
called loudly for the king. Some of the inhabitants of the 
town came out on the wall, and then the Rabshakeh, 
the head of the embassy, said, " Thus saith the great King, 
the King of Assyria, What confidence is this wherein thou 
trustest ? Now, behold, thou trustest upon the staff of this 
bruised reed, even upon Egypt, on which if a man lean, 
it will go into his hand, and pierce it : so is Pharaoh 
King of Egypt unto all that trust on him." And raising 
his voice, the Rabshakeh cried aloud, so that all the 
people on the wall might hear : " Hear the word of 


the great King of Assyria : Thus saith the king, Let 
not Hezekiah deceive you : for he shall not be able to 
deliver you out of his hand : neither let Hezekiah make 
you trust in the Lord, saying, The Lord will surely 
deliver us, and this city shall not be delivered into the 
hand of the King of Assyria. Hath any of the gods 
of the nations delivered at all his land out of the hand 
of the King of Assyria? Where are the gods of Hamath, 
-and of Arpad ? where are the gods of Sepharvaim, 
Hena, and Ivah? have they delivered Samaria out of 
mine hand ? Who are they among all the gods of the 
countries, that have delivered their country out of mine 
hand, that the Lord should deliver Jerusalem out of 
mine hand ? Hearken not to Hezekiah : for thus saith 
the King of Assyria, Make an agreement with me by 
a present, and come out to me, and then eat ye every 
man of his own vine, and every one of his fig tree, 
and drink ye every one the waters of his cistern : 
until I come and take you away to a land like your 
own land, a land of corn and wine, a land of bread and 
vineyards, a land of oil olive and of honey, that ye may 
live, and not die : and hearken not unto Hezekiah, when 
he persuadeth you, saying, The Lord will deliver us." 
(2 Kings xviii.) 

When Hezekiah heard the words of the Rabshakeh, he 
was troubled, and sent to ask counsel of the prophet 
Isaiah. The prophet advised him to offer resistance, and 
promised deliverance on the part of Israel s God. 
Encouraged by this, Hezekiah gave no answer to the 


embassy ; and the Rabshakeh, unable to elicit a promise 
of submission, returned to his master s camp. He found 
Sennacherib warring against Libnah ; and when he related 
the failure of his errand, an angry message was again 
sent to Jerusalem. The threats of the Assyrian monarch, 
however, were never fulfilled, for " it came to pass that 
night, that the angel of the Lord went out and smote in 
the camp of the Assyrians an hundred fourscore and five 
thousand : and when they arose early in the morning, 
behold, they were all dead corpses. So Sennacherib 
King of Assyria departed, and went and returned, and 
dwelt at Nineveh." (2 Kings xix, 35, 36.) 

The Egyptians preserved the tradition of this Divine 
deliverance, though in a corrupt form. Herodotus relates 
of the Egyptians that " the warrior caste in Egypt refused 
to fight for King Sethon, priest of Ptah, because he had 
deprived them of certain privileges : the priest, over 
whelmed with trouble, entered into the temple of the 
god, and lamented there all the difficulties and dangers 
he was about to encounter. While he was praying, sleep 
overpowered him, and in a dream he saw the god 
standing by his side, and received a promise that he 
should not be overcome by the Assyrians. Filled with 
confidence by this vision, he assembled under his banner all 
the Egyptians willing to accompany him, and set out the 
next morning with an army composed of tradesmen and 
artisans. His forces arrived before those of the enemy, 
and lay down to sleep in sight of the Assyrian host. 
During the night a multitude of field-mice came upon 


the adversary, and gnawed the strings of their bows and 
their leather armour to such an extent that when the 
Assyrian soldiers awoke in the morning they found all 
their armour destroyed. They were forced to flee away 
unprotected, and consequently great numbers of them 
were slain. To commemorate this event a statue of the 
Egyptian king was erected in the temple of Ptah, 
holding a mouse in his hand, and with this inscription, 
" May he who regards me become pious." 1 

The reign of Sennacherib terminated in a tragedy : 
for one day, while he \vas worshipping in the house of 
Nisroch his god, he was slain by his two sons, and 
Esarhaddon his son reigned in his stead. (2 Kings 
xix. 37.) 

Esarhaddon ruled over the empire from 68 1 B.C. to 
668 B.C. He was a milder king than his father, and 
though he made war he exhibited a much gentler nature. 
His name signifies " Assur gave a brother ;" and he 
appears to have been a younger brother of Adrammelech 
and Sharezer, the men who murdered their sire in the 
temple of Nisroch. Esarhaddon s first war was directed 
against his unnatural brothers, whom he entirely defeated 
upon the banks of the Upper Euphrates ; the one was 
killed, and the other was forced to take refuge in Armenia. 

1 Such is the legend told by Herodotus. It is curious that he names 
a tributary Egyptian king instead of Tirhakah, King of Ethiopia. 
Canon Rawlinson explains the legend as having originated from a statue 
of the king holding a mouse in his hand, the mouse being in Egyptian 
hieroglyphics a symbol of destruction. 


A revolt took place in Syria soon after his accession, but 
it was successfully subdued. Arabia and Egypt were 
conquered, and numerous other victories were achieved. 
Esarhaddon in all these undertakings was comparatively 
merciful, and the phrase " I showed mercy to him," 
occurs frequently in the inscriptions ; he also restored to 
his enemies their gods whom he had captured ; and gave 
a further proof of generosity by releasing Manasseh, 
King of Judah, whom he had carried captive to Babylon. 

He was succeeded on the throne by his son, Assur- 
bani-pal, a king who reigned from 668 B.C. to 626 B.C. 
Assur-bani-pal was the literary king of Assyria, and he 
records of himself, " Nebo and Tasmit gave me broad 
ears, and my seeing eyes regarded the engraved characters 
of the tablets. The secrets of Nebo, the literature of 
the library, as much as is suitable, on tablets I wrote, 
I engraved, I explained, and for the instruction of my 
subjects in the midst of my palace I placed." He built 
a library at Kouyunjik, and stored in it thousands of 
inscribed tablets. He also restored the walls and 
ramparts of Nineveh, which had decayed since the time 
of Sennacherib, and rebuilt with great splendour the 
temple in Assur. At Babylon he adorned the temple of 
Bel, and presented a splendid couch and chariot to the 
deity ; and being devoted to the worship of Ishtar, he 
beautified her temples both at Nineveh and Arbela. 

He was one of the kings known to the Greeks under 
the name of Sardanapalus, and they represented him as 
an effeminate monarch who adopted an extravagant 


style of dress, and indulged freely in the luxuries of the 
table. A relief of his period, which has been excavated 
and brought to England, favours this idea of his 
character, for in it we see him reclining on a couch in 
the royal garden, and surrounded by musicians and fan- 
bearers. His queen is seated near him, and both partake 
of a banquet spread under the trees. Nevertheless he 
was a great hunter, and he had a park on the eastern 
side of Nineveh filled with various wild animals, in which 
he enjoyed the chase whenever he pleased. As a soldier 
he did little to distinguish himself, for he left the 
administration of military affairs in the hands of skilful 
generals, and if he accompanied the army, he went rather 
as a spectator than a commander. All the same he took 
the glory of every triumph to himself, and described as 
due to his bravery the conquest of Elam, the conquest 
of Babylon, and the retention under his rule of all his 
father s possessions, except Egypt, which he lost after a 
great struggle ; and he governed the empire with great 
pomp, and gratified the pride of his subjects by constant 
pageants and shows. His principal wars were against 
Egypt, Minni, Elam, and Arabia ; also against Tyre, 
Lydia, and Karbit. Sculptures in the British Museum 
represent his forces fighting against those of Teumman, 
King of Elam. These reliefs show the successive scenes 
of the battle : the rout of the Elamites ; the overturning 
of Teumman s chariot; Teumman trying to escape by the 
aid of his son Parritu ; Parritu drawing a bow to defend 
his father ; and, finally, the Assyrians cutting off the 


head of Teumman, and carrying it in a chariot to Assyria, 
in order to hang it triumphantly in the garden of their 

A mystery hangs over the death of Assur-bani-pal, 
and the inscriptions are silent concerning his end. 

From this period, also, the history of Assyria itself is 
vague and uncertain, so far as the monuments which we 
now possess are concerned. 

We learn from Greek and other sources that the 
energy of the king and the military power of the nation 
were alike broken by the dogged resistance of the 
Elamitcs, and the alliance of the Egyptians and Lydians. 
The fall of Nineveh was averted for a time by the 
Scythian invasion, when a barbarous race swept over 
Asia as far as the confines of Egypt. But at length 
Cyaxares, King of the Mcdes, overthrew the Scythians, 
and in alliance with Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon 
besieged and took Nineveh ; and the last King of 
Assyria (who appears to have been the Assur-bel-ili of 
the inscriptions, called by the Greeks Sardanapalus, like 
Assur-bani-pal) set fire to his palace in a fit of despair, 
and perished in the flames. 

So obscure is this period, owing to the want of native 
information, that we do not know whether the final 
catastrophe took place in 626 B.C. or 607 B.C. ; but the 
latter date is more probable, because not long before 
that period, Josiah, King of Judah, fell at the battle of 
Megiddo, in an attempt to repel the Egyptian king, who 
was advancing against the King of Assyria. 


The fall of the kingdom was so abrupt, and its cause 
is so little known, that we cannot help hoping that our 
ignorance on the subject may one day be enlightened 
by the discovery of inscriptions bearing on the period ; 
but at present we only know that about the year 
600 B.C. the kingdom of Assyria fell, and fell never to 



THE Assyrian language was a dialect of Babylonia, and 
consequently a Semitic tongue allied to the group of 
Hebrew, Arabic, and Syriac, but nearest to Hebrew and 
Syriac. It was spoken by the Assyrians when they 
went out of Chaldea to found for themselves an inde 
pendent kingdom on the banks of the Tigris, and it 
always retained the general construction and features of 
the mother speech, although, as the country advanced in 
civilization, its vocabulary became both enlarged and 


The writing of the Assyrians was also of Babylonian 

origin, and can be traced back to its primitive source, 
in spite of all the changes which further development 
and simplification wrought in the appearance of the 
characters used by the scribes. 

Assyrian writing presents itself to students in four 
different forms, the Hieroglyphic, the Archaic, the 
Babylonian, and the Ninevite. The last form is found 
on the greater mass of Assyrian monuments from the 
eighteenth century B.C. to the fall of the monarchy in 
the seventh century B.C. ; and it is this kind of cuneiform 


which has been taken as the type and pattern of all the 
rest, and published in printed books. By far the largest 
part of the inscriptions which we possess are written in 
it, and when we speak of Assyrian writing, we mean this 
form, because it was specially and generally used in 
Assyria itself. It is simpler than any of the other forms, 
being a simplification of the Babylonian, as the Baby 
lonian was of the Archaic, and as the Archaic was of 
the Hieroglyphic. It is nevertheless very difficult, for 
the characters in which it is written are cumbrous and 
intricate, and represent a syllabary composed of some 
four or five hundred distinct forms. The whole of this 
syllabary must be committed to memory before the 
student can decipher the inscriptions ; also some know 
ledge of Babylonian, Archaic, and Hieroglyphic forms 
must be acquired in order to arrive at the interpretation 
of the words ; for, as previously stated, one form of 
writing was developed from another, and consequently 
all the forms were mixed one with another, and woven 
together in a seemingly inextricable way. 

The Babylonian form, which was used in Chaldea at 
the time when the Assyrians left their first home, was 
a modification of the Archaic and Hieroglyphic forms. 
The two latter forms were almost the same, and can both 
be traced back to the Accadians, although probably the 
Accadians did not originate them. These Accadians are 
believed by some scholars to have been a Turanian people, 
who inhabited the plain of Babylonia and the neigh 
bouring highlands before the advent of the Shemites. 

C 2 


The Accadians, when the Semitic invaders came among 
them, already possessed a method for giving permanent 
expression to their ideas. This is known from the 
inscriptions, and the same source teaches us that the 
new-comers were far behind the Accadians in civilization, 
and had but a spoken language, and no kind of writing 
at all. For some time the two races lived side by side, 
and gradually the Shemites learnt the importance of 
orthography, and began to adapt the Accadian charac 
ters to the expression of their own tongue, by using 
each Accadian sign representing a word to express a 
syllable in the Semitic language, though still retaining 
its meaning as an ideograph. 

The difficulties and complications which this process 
brought about may be thus illustrated. Imagine the 
Normans at the time of the Conquest the possessors of 
a spoken language, but no form of written speech, and 
the English nation already possessed of both language 
and orthography. The Normans would soon perceive 
the value of a mode by which ideas could be transmitted 
and preserved, and would be anxious to acquire the 
power to write. Unable to originate a system of writing 
for themselves, they would seize the English written 
words and force them to represent the sounds of the 
Norman tongue ; ignoring the fact that a language has a 
special word-formation of its own, and can by its words 
but imperfectly represent foreign sounds ; and ignoring 
also that if the same system of writing is used to 
represent two distinct languages, while the older sounds 


are retained for spelling purposes, 1 although the written 
words mean the same in both languages, the sounds 
are different ; and therefore the confusion as to the 
right rendering of the words must be almost absolute. 

Thus it was with the Babylonian form of writing, and 
in this manner came about the large and intricate system 
of writing which the Assyrians used. 

The Archaic and Hieroglyphic forms, out of which all 
the others were developed, the Accadians originated in 
the following way. They commenced by expressing 
objects by hieroglyphics, namely, by representing the 
objects themselves, such as a fish by a picture of a fish. 
Afterwards they learnt to use ideographs, or symbols of 
ideas, such as a star for the idea of God. Finally they 
achieved the expression of complex ideas by a further 
development of ideographs, namely, by combining several 
ideographs together in order to represent one single thing. 

This picture-writing, although intelligible enough to the 
Accadians, appears to us but an incomplete and clumsy 
method of transmitting and perpetuating thought, for 
every picture and symbol could have a variety of signi 
fications, and represent a number of different but kindred 
things, while there was no means of showing the exact 
sense in which the hieroglyphics and ideographs were 
used. Thus in Egyptian we find two legs might simply 
represent the legs of a man, but also they might denote 
"walking," "going," "running," "standing," "support," 

1 In this way the Normans could read the symbol x dix, but retain the 
Saxon ten, and use it to spell words as tent, xt. 


and even " growth ; " and their signification had to be 
divined by the reader without further explanation or 

Picture-writing, moreover, could only place images 
and symbols side by side, and leave the connection 
between them to be guessed at or imagined ; it could 
neither show the distinction between the different parts 
of speech, nor note the flexions and tenses of the verbs 
and the number and case of the nouns, nor fill up the 
gaps of thought with adverbs, conjunctions, pronouns, etc. 

The first of these difficulties was never overcome, and 
polyphony (i.e., the use of one symbol for several 
sounds) 1 remained always one of the greatest complica 
tions of the language. 

The second difficulty disappeared as time went on, 
for the hieroglyphics and ideographs lost their purely 
representative value, and were thought of as sounds as 
well as objects and ideas ; and thus the scribes learnt to 
express sounds independently of pictures, and to create 
words, and thus the writing was rendered agglutinative. 

A further improvement of the Archaic form was the 
cuneiform (wedge-shaped or arrow-headed) mode of 
transcription. It is supposed that originally the Turanian 
scribes used some material like leather for writing pur 
poses. While this was the case the scribes had unlimited 
space for their pictures. But after a time burnt bricks 

1 A very good example of polyphony is Archbishop Whately s letter to 
his wife : 

" i o no o but i o thee. 
o o no o but o o me." 



took the place of the leather, and then picture-wri f ing 
on any extended scale ceased to be possible. The 
impress of the style upon the wet clay caused angles to 
supersede curves, and circles to make way for straight 
lines, and each line to assume a wedge-like form, with its 
broad triangular end terminating in a point. Thus, one 
sign horizontal > , vertical f, and bent in the form of a 
hook ^, began to be used to form groups in the place of 
hieroglyphics and ideographs ; and, owing to the superior 
quickness and ease with which the new characters could 
be written, picture-writing sank into a secondary place, 
and was only used for special purposes, while degenerated 
hieroglyphics and ideographs became the cursive hand 
of the scribes. 

How long hieroglyphics and ideographs took in 
passing into cuneiform writing it is impossible to say. 
A fragment of a tablet in the British Museum gives 
some of the primitive hieroglyphics side by side with 
the cuneiform characters corrupted from them. In this 
are seen hieroglyphics which have ceased to be pictures, 
but in which the characteristic wedge has not yet 
appeared, and in which the lines are drawn of the same 
breadth throughout, are joined together, and are circular. 
The following primitive hieroglyphic, side by side with 
the cuneiform group of characters conventionalized from 
it, will give some idea of the way in which the change 
came about. A comb, which was originally represented 
CS r *:! *T jy, became in cuneiform *^f ^<y 






< z 






>1 M 

i! fl 5 

MI 3 ^r 

f * 



/I fc 


c 2 

-5 t/D 
v-i O 
C - 

O ^! 

x a, 


1 1 

O tf) 


n ~ AM 




AAA ^^ 

W wJ I 


t ~f f U 

Ti V ^T * 

^ V M i*i 

T > V/ 

1 Ai & j S 



4- M fr ? A 

II ^ 

u n^ 


AAA >v^ > p 

i r 


^ A A 



1 M 

>H- ^^ 

AAAj "JJ- 


V i 

IT ^ 





AAA A* g: 
V" AA 

"H ft st 

>ii iJU U i 

ij ? U. m 


V-A J^C Ay 

V M H 




O *-" CJ ro 
co ro ro to 

vo VO 
rO ro 

ro ro 

O >- 

Part of an Assyrian Cylinder containing Hezekiah s Name. 




So fa 



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THE Accadians, when the Shemites came among them, 
already possessed written books in the form of inscribed 
tablets. The invaders learnt to read this literature, and 
soon they desired to write similar books for themselves. 
Therefore, after adapting the Accadian written words to 
the expression of their own tongue, they attempted the 
composition of original works. In this they failed, how 
ever, almost entirely, for their powers of imagination, 
feeling, and expression, could not compare with those of 
the Accadians, and at the best their literature was but a 
feeble copy of that of Accad. So all they could do was 
to stock their libraries with Accadian books, to which 
they attached Babylonian translations ; and the rest of 
their literature was derived from Accadian originals, or 
based upon Accadian texts. Gradually the Babylonians 
gained possession of the whole land, and the Accadians 
died out, or became incorporated in the Babylonian race, 
and the language of Accad ceased to be a vulgar tongue, 
and became a learned language, only known to the 
scribes. But the books of this marvellous people yet 
remain to point out that they were the earliest civilisers 
of Western Asia ; that to them the arts and sciences, 
the philosophy, and many of the religious traditions, not 


only of the Babylonians and Assyrians, but also of the 
Phoenicians and Syrians, have to be traced ; that from 
them too the germs of Greek art, and a great part of 
the Greek pantheon and mythology, originally came ; 
that both Jerusalem and Athens were profoundly in 
fluenced by their ideas ; and that much of our present 
culture had its first starting-point in primaeval Accad. 

The Assyrians took with them out of Babylonia a 
knowledge of Accadian literature, and probably a few 
Accadian books with Babylonian translations. They 
were soldiers and legislators, not thinkers or scribes. 
They possessed even less originality than the inhabitants 
of their old home, and thus, not only did they borrow 
their religion, science, and art from Chaldea, but thence 
also they took their literature. 

The first Assyrian library was that at Calah, which 
was established about 1300 B.C. Of this our knowledge 
is small. 

The great library of Assyria was the one erected by 
Assur-bani-pal at Nineveh ; this was built about the 
year 670 B.C., and contained some 30,000 tablets. Hither 
the decaying literature of Babylonia was brought by 
Assur-bani-pal, the conqueror of Babylon ; and the 
shelves were filled with Accadian books. The study of 
the Accadian tongue was revived, and the language of 
Accad was written not only with Babylonian translations, 
but also with Assyrian equivalents. 

This library of Assur-bani-pal was discovered in 1850, 
and many of the clay and brick books were brought to 


England, and now have a place in the Kouyunjik gallery 
of the British Museum. Fragments of the library 
catalogue have also been found, and these show that 
the tablets were arranged methodically, and numbered ; 
and that the library contained historical and mythological 
documents, religious records, legal, geographical, astro 
nomical, and astrological treatises ; poetical compositions ; 
lists of stones, birds, and beasts ; commercial transactions, 
royal proclamations, and petitions to the king. 

The literature treats of Chaldean history from its 
earliest beginning, which is lost in fabulous antiquity, 
and has a far-reaching background of myth. In the 
antediluvian period, strange composite creatures, half- 
men, half-fish, were supposed to have existed, and to 
have ascended from the ocean to teach the inhabitants 
of Babylonia the rudiments of civilization ; and a quota 
tion from an Accadian text, embodied in an Assyrian 
reading-book of the Accadian language, states how 
" their god to the waters they restored, to the house of 
his gifts he descended." 

The Assyrian librarians, however, cared more about 
the history of Babylonia after the Deluge than before, 
because it dealt with human heroes, and men of fame 
and power. Xisuthrus, Etanna, Tammuz, and Gisdhubar 
were the four characters whose deeds the poets and 
scribes loved to dwell upon. Gisdhubar was the subject 
of numberless legends and lays, and his adventures form 
the connecting thread in the great Babylonian epic 
which incorporates the story of the Flood, and the ark 


wherein Xisuthrus was saved. This epic is in twelve 
books, arranged upon an astronomical principle, each 
book answering to an appropriate sign of the Zodiac, and 
the month of the Accadian year. Thus the story of the 
Deluge is an episode of the eleventh book, which corre 
sponds with the sign Aquarius, and the "rainy month" 
of the Accadian calendar. The text of the poem which 
we possess is a Semitic translation from an Accadian 
original, and is about 4,000 years old, being written 
more than 2,000 years before Christ. Like most epics, 
it was probably of slow growth, and in its final form was 
pieced together out of earlier materials, and for the 
first origin of the lays we must go back to a past 
already half-forgotten in the days of Abraham. 

Gisdhubar is a solar hero, and thus his twelve ad 
ventures (like the twelve labours of Herakles) mark the 
passage of the sun through the twelve months of the 
year. Like the sickening sun of winter, Gisdhubar 
sickens in the autumnal month of October, and does 
not recover strength until bathed in the waters of the 
eastern sea. Then he wanders to the boundaries of the 
world, where scorpion-men guard the gate of the sun, 
"their crown at the lattice of heaven, under hell their 
feet," and on through the sandy desert, " the pathway of 
the sun," until he reaches the borders of the sea, and the 
ocean gates, and on, and on, " to the land of the silver 

Xisuthrus is the hero of the Deluge, who is warned by 
Ea, the god of the deep, of the flood of waters by 


which the wickedness of man is about to be punished ; 
and who is told to build a ship six hundred cubits long, 
and sixty cubits broad and high, wherein to save himself 
and his family. The pious Xisuthrus obeys the divine 
command, and after pitching the vessel within and 
without, and offering a sacrifice to the gods, he enters 
into the ship with his people and treasures, and the 
beasts of the field, and commits himself to the care of 
the supernatural powers. For seven days the storm 
asts, rain-clouds cover the mountains, and the pilot 
steers the ark over the waters of the Deluge. Destruc 
tion and ruin prevail, and " the gods in terror flee to the 
highest heaven of Anu." At length the flood ceases. 
Xisuthrus opens the window of his ark, and looks forth. 
On all sides he sees desolation, corpses floating upon the 
waters, and no sign of dry land. Finally the ark rests 
on the mountain of Nizir, " the mountain of the world," 
which the Accadians believed to be the cradle of their 
race, and, like another Olympus, the habitation of the 
gods. Then the Chaldean Noah sends forth first a dove, 
and after that a swallow, but the birds find no resting- 
place for their feet, and both return to the ark. A raven 
is despatched, and this feeds on the bodies of the dead, 
and " wanders away and does not return." So Xisuthrus 
knows that the land is dry ; and he leaves the ark and 
disperses the animals " to the four winds." He builds an 
altar on the mountain, and pours forth bowls of wine by 
sevens (seven being a sacred number with the Accadians 
as with the Hebrews); The gods " gather like flies over 


the sacrifice," descending to the earth by the golden 
bridge of the rainbow. Bel makes a covenant with 
Xisuthrus, and swears not to destroy mankind by the 
waters of a flood any more. Then Xisuthrus is trans 
lated, and his followers travel westward, and find a home 
in the plains of Babylonia. 

After the settlement in Chaldea, Etanna, and seven 
spirits subject to him, build a city of brick. This may 
possibly have been the place where the tower of Babel 
(or Babylon) stood, the edifice whose head was made in 
order to reach up to heaven. Sar-tuli-elli, " the king of 
the holy mound," raised the building with the impious 
purpose of storming the skies ; but the work, which 
was carried on with much labour during the day, was 
blown down by the winds at night ; the builders were 
"confounded and scattered abroad," and their counsel 
and speech were "made strange." The ruined tower 
was finished by Nebuchadnezzar, and its remains, as 
Birs-Nimrud, with seven stages dedicated to the sun, the 
moon, and the five planets known to the ancients, have 
long excited the wonder of travellers. 

The Chaldean legend of the creation which has reached 
us dates from the time of Assur-bani-pal. Older editions 
of it will doubtless one day be discovered, for it can 
scarcely have been originated then ; but at present we 
only possess a few fragments of inscribed tablets written 
at that period. These fragments, although much muti 
lated by fire and time, have been pieced together, and 
read. Their contents give us the following particulars : 



I. An account of the chaos, and the generation of the 
gods. 2. An account of the foundation of the deep. 
3. An account of the creation of land. 4. An account 
of the creation of the heavenly bodies. 5. An account 
of the creation of land animals. 

Many tales were told in Accad of the Titanic races of 
the ancient world, and of the wars of the gods and 
giants. One war in heaven was from time immemorial 
a subject of Accadian poetry, namely, that of the seven 
evil spirits, or storm-clouds, against the moon. 

Ishtar, the moon-goddess (who subsequently became 
identical with the planet Venus), was a favourite heroine 
in Accadian tales. She loved Tammuz, the beautiful 
sun-god, who was slain " by the tusk of winter ; " and 
after his death she descended into Hades in order to 
seek and find him. At the gate of the Under-world 
she demanded entrance of the porter, threatening to 
" raise the dead to be devourers of the living " if the 
doors were not opened. The porter went to Nin-ki-gal, 
the Queen of Hades, and obtained an order for her 
admittance, but he was also instructed to strip off her 
clothing like the other shades, "according to ancient 
custom." So Ishtar entered the land of death, and 
passed through its seven gates, leaving with the warder 
of each portal one of her adornments : her crown, her 
earrings, her necklace, her mantle, her girdle, her bracelet, 
and her tunic. At last she stood bare before Nin-ki-gal, 
who first derided her, and then ordered the plague-demon 
to smite her with diseases in all her limbs. Thus the 


goddess remained in darkness and misery until the 
affairs of the upper-world became disturbed. Then 
Ea created a being called " the renewing light," and 
sent it to Hades with a message ordering her release. 
Nin-ki-gal, on receiving the command, "strikes her 
forehead, and bites her finger," and threatens to punish 
the envoy with grievous pains ; but, not daring to thwart 
Ea, she bids her satellite unveil the tablets of destiny, 
seat the spirits of earth on their thrones, give Ishtar the 
waters of life to drink, and lead her out of Hades. So 
the moon-goddess passes once more through the seven 
gates, and at each gate she receives back one of the 
ornaments of which she has been deprived, even as the 
waxing moon recovers once more the ornaments of light 
of which she has been stripped through her waning 

Many other such mythological poems were conceived 
by the Accadians, all of interest, but too numerous to be 
mentioned. They were handed on to the Phoenicians in 
one direction, the Greeks in another ; and so in various 
ways they have become the heritage of all the civilized 
world ; and now they are read in their original form, 
and in the language of the people whose ideas they first 

The religious poems of the Accadians were mostly 
composed after the advent of the Shemites. Previous 
to this they appear to have been Shamanistic in their 
religion, seeing a spirit in every object or force of nature, 
and believing that their priests (or rather sorcerers) 

D 2 


could work good or evil by the use of magical charms. 
Under the influence of the more practical Shemites they 
arranged their higher gods in hierarchic triads, and 
merged together the multitudinous spirits among the 
six hundred spirits of earth and the three hundred 
spirits of heaven. A compromise appears to have taken 
place between Accadian and Semitic religious concep 
tions, and the sorcerer gave way to the priest, and the 
adoration of things to the worship of abstractions, and 
the people began to adore special deities, such as the 
sun-god, the moon-god, and the sky. 

It was during this movement of religious reform that 
most of the Chaldean hymns were composed. The 
following is one addressed to the sun-god : 

" O lord, the illuminator of darkness, thou that 
openest the face of sorrow, merciful god that liftest up 
the fallen ; thou that supportest the weak, unto thy light 
look the great gods. The spirits of earth all of them 
bow before thy face ; the language of praise as one word 
thou directest ; the host of their heads bow before the 
light of the mid-day sun. 

"Yea, thou art their light in the vault of the far-off 

"Of the broad earth the banner art thou. Men far 
and wide bow before thee, and rejoice." 

Doubtless this change of belief came about with much 
mental pain, and the loss of their cradle faith was a trial 
to the ancient Accadians, although it gave way to a 


wider creed. Yet this does not account for the mournful 
tone which gradually crept over Accadian poetry after 
the people came in contact with the Shemites ; neither 
does the fact of their subjection by a stronger race, nor 
their slow extinction, explain the conviction of sin which 
they began to experience, the need they felt of a 
redeemer to intercede with the offended deities, and their 
use of sacrifices. It is believed that the Shemites must 
have introduced these ideas, for after their arrival in 
Chaldea the poems of the people became melancholy 
dirges and penitential psalms. Thus a poet, writing at 
this period, cries, in the anguish of a self-convicted 
conscience : 

" O my lord, my transgression is great ; many are 
my sins. 

" O my god, thou knowest that I knew not that my 
sin is great, my transgressions many. 

" The transgressions that I committed I knew not. 

" The sin that I sinned I knew not. 

" The forbidden thing did I eat. 

" The forbidden thing did I trample upon. 

" My lord in the wrath of his heart did trouble me. 

" God in the strength of his heart did punish me. 

" God in the strength of his heart has overwhelmed me. 

" God, who knew I knew not, has caused darkness. 

" I lay on the ground, and no one seized me by the 

" I wept, and my palms no one took. 

" I cried aloud ; there was no one that would hear me. 


" I was in darkness and trouble ; I lifted not myself up. 

"To my god my distress I referred, my prayer I 

" How long, O my god, shall I suffer ? 

" The sin that I have sinned to blessedness turn. 

"The transgression I have committed let the wind 
carry away. 

" My manifold affliction like a garment destroy. 

" O my god, seven times seven are my transgressions ; 
my transgressions are before me." 

The line, "the forbidden thing did I eat," recalls to 
our mind the story of the Garden of Eden ; and the 
repeated assertion of innocence, and the words, " God, 
who knew that I knew not, hath caused darkness," lead 
us to think that the Accadians must have heard of the 
Divine fiat ordaining that all must suffer for the dis 
obedience of Adam and Eve. Curiously enough, about 
the period when this poem was written we read of a 
belief arising in the primal purity and innocence of the 
human race ruined by the successful temptation of the 
dragon Tiamat ; and of the institution of sacrifices, in 
which men offered their nearest and dearest for the sins 
of their souls: and the sinner gave "the head of his 
child for his own head, and the brow of his child for his 
own brow, and the breast of his child for his own 
breast ;" and of Merodach, a form of the Sun-god, being 
considered a mediator and redeemer able to intercede 
with the offended deities on behalf of man. 


After a time these religious poems were collected 
together and formed into a prayer-book, to be used in 
religious services ; and when the civilization of Accad 
became the property of the Semitic conquerors, this 
collection of sacred poetry continued to be the authori 
tative text-book of the priesthood throughout Babylonia 
and Assyria. As elsewhere, a superstitious reverence 
seems to have been attached to the mere letter of the 
sacred text ; and though later on Semitic and Assyrian 
translations were placed by the side of the Accadian 
words, the priests were always made to recite the hymns 
in the extinct language of ancient Accad. 

A belief in sorcery and charms lived on side by side 
with the new religion, and the formulae of numberless 
spells and invocations have come down to us on the 
tablets. Thus we read : " He who makes an image to 
injure a man, the evil face, the evil eye, the evil mouth, 
the evil philtre, avert, O spirit of heaven, avert, O spirit 
of earth." Again : " Let the sorcerer sit on the right, 
and work a charm on the left. Knot the knots twice 
seven times, and wind them about the head of the sick 
and about his limbs like fetters. On his bed let her sit, 
and the waters of magic sprinkle upon him." 

Science cannot be said to have flourished in Chaldea. 
The inductive method, by which alone it can be pursued, 
was never practised ; and although the ideas of the 
Accadians contained germs of truth and great dis 
coveries, the inquirers were led away by their own 
fancies and imaginations, and thus they effected no good 


results. Astronomy and astrology absorbed the attention 
of the scientific men. Observatories were erected in 
every city, and fortnightly reports were sent to the king 
by the astronomers royal. A great astronomical work, 
in seventy-two books, called " The Observations of Bel," 
was written for the library of Sargon. This work had 
an immense reputation among the Babylonians and 
Assyrians. The British Museum possesses portions of 
several editions of it, made for the library at Nineveh. 
Astrology was also carefully cultivated, and future events 
were foretold from present occurrences by professional 
diviners. Many of the omens from dreams and such 
sources were extremely trivial, but they sufficed to terrify 
the superstitious Babylonians, and to influence their 

The library at Nineveh was rich in legislative docu 
ments. The oldest code of laws in the world, so far as 
we know, is an Accadian one, of which the British 
Museum possesses the concluding part. From this we 
learn that an oath was required every day of the 
Accadian judges to the effect that they would act 
according to justice and precedent. That four thousand 
years ago, all that a married woman possessed was 
her own property. That a son who denied his father 
had to give a pledge and a sum of silver ; but he 
who denied his mother had his hair cut off, and was 
imprisoned in a house of correction. Other documents 
dealing with the legislative affairs of the Babylonians, 
tell us that the high-roads of Chaldea were placed 



under the care of commissioners ; that the country was 
divided into districts for the purpose of taxation ; that 
houses and other property were sold or leased much 
as at the present period ; and that in the eighth and 
seventh centuries before Christ, Nineveh was a bustling 
centre of trade, in which business transactions were 
carried on briskly by a mercantile class composed of 
men of various nations. The collection of tablets con 
tains also cheques from a large banking firm which 
is held to have flourished in Babylon during the reign 
of Nebuchadnezzar s father. These were found en 
closed in earthenware jars, serving the purpose of our 
modern safes. The founder of the firm was a man 
named Egibi, whose descendants carried on business 
through five generations, the son being taken by the 
father into partnership so soon as he arrived at years of 
discretion. Among the deeds is the banking calendar, 
in which the days are noted as lucky days and unlucky 

The Assyrian tablets which have been found are 
chiefly historical ones ; the most important being chrono 
logical records, which place our knowledge of the history 
of the country on a solid foundation, and enable us to 
fix the exact dates of the kings ; also copies of royal 
letters, despatches, and treaties, which give particulars 
concerning the conquests and triumphs represented by 
the reliefs. Lacking originality, the Assyrians com 
posed very few books themselves, but were content 
to perpetuate the wisdom of their predecessors, those 



wonderful Accadians from whom so many of our present 
customs and ideas have been derived, and who four 
thousand years ago possessed a civilization which in 
many of its details resembled that of our own country 
and time. 

6 7 



THE religion of the Assyrians was polytheistic, and 
they worshipped a pantheon of gods, over which Assur 
reigned as the supreme deity. Assur was called "the 
god who created himself," and thus his nature remained 
a mystery ; but the other gods were deifications of 
creative and celestial powers, also local spirits or genii. 

Assur had many titles of honour. He was called " the 
king of all the gods," " the father of the gods," " he who 
rules supreme over the gods," " the great lord ; " and 
" Assur, my lord," was the usual manner in which he was 
addressed by worshippers and supplicants. From the 
beginning of the Assyrian kingdom his name was 
identical with that of the country ; the religion was 
called " the worship of Assur," and the people were 
described as " the servants of Assur," and their enemies 
as "the enemies of Assur." To the very end of the 
empire he remained the supreme native deity, and was 
never superseded, but was regarded by the Assyrians as 
the first and highest of the divine agents who rule over 
earth and heaven. 

Throughout all the inscriptions Assur is spoken of as 
the special tutelary deity of the Assyrian kings. He it 


was who placed monarchs upon their thrones, made their 
reigns glorious, lengthened the years of their dominion, 
preserved their power, and rendered their names famous. 
To him they looked to grant them all the wishes of their 
hearts, to give them victory over their enemies, and to 
allow them to be succeeded on their thrones by their 
sons, and their sons sons, to a remote posterity. In war 
they represented themselves as carrying on his service 
in order to spread his worship, and after ravaging and 
destroying a country, they set up the images or emblems 
of Assur, and forced the vanquished nation to pay homage 
to his name. 

The favourite emblem under which they appear to have 
represented Assur in their sculptures was the Feroher, 
namely, a winged circle or globe, from which a figure in 
a horned cap is frequently seen to 
issue, sometimes simply holding a 
bow, sometimes shooting his arrows 
against the king s enemies. This em 
blem has been explained in a variety 
of ways, but the most probable conjecture would seem to 
be that the circle typifies eternity, while the wings express 
omnipresence, and the human figure symbolises wisdom 
or intelligence. The representations of the Feroher are 
numerous, and differ one from another ; sometimes the 
figure which issues from the globe has no bow, but 
merely extends the right hand ; occasionally both hands 
are stretched out, and the left holds a ring or chaplet ; 
and in one instance the figure is omitted, and merely a 


pair of hands are shown coming from behind the disk, 
the right open and exhibiting the palm, the left closed 
and holding a bow. Frequently all signs of a person 
are dispensed with, and the winged circle appears alone, 
with the disk either plain or ornamented. 

In several representations three heads are given in 
stead of one, the central figure having on either side of 
it a head resting upon the feathers of the wings. This 
has led to the supposition that the supreme god of the 
Assyrians was a triune deity ; but as nothing in the 
inscriptions, so far as yet known, confirms this idea, 
it can hardly be accepted as an explanation of the 
phenomenon. Probably the heads are those of two 
other gods who accompany Assur, and therefore are 
placed by his side. The Feroher is generally found in the 
sculptures in immediate connection with the king. The 
monarch wears it embroidered upon his robes, carries it 
engraven upon his cylinder, represents it above his head, 
stands or kneels in adoration before it, fights under its 
shadow, returns under its protection victorious from 
battle, and places it conspicuously in scenes where he is 
himself represented. In all these circumstances the 
emblem conforms to the actions of the king. If the 
monarch is fighting, Assur too has his arrow on the 
string, and pointed against the king s enemies ; if the 
king returns from a victory, Assur holds the disused 
bow in his left hand, and his right hand is outstretched 
and elevated ; if the scene is peaceful, Assur s bow dis 
appears altogether ; if a secular act is represented, the 


circle alone is seen and no human figure at all ; if the 
king worships, then Assur holds out his hand as a sign 
of approval, encouragement, and assistance. 

In close connection with the symbol of Assur we 
frequently find " the sacred tree." This was an emblem 
of life, and in some mysterious way attached to the 
worship of the great god, for figures are represented 
kneeling in adoration before it, and bearing mystic 
offerings to hang upon its boughs. The simplest form 
of the sacred tree consists of a single pair of rams 
horns, surmounted by a capital composed of two pairs 
of rams horns separated by several horizontal bands, 
above which there is first a scroll resembling that which 
usually surmounts the winged circle, and then a flower 
very much like the honeysuckle ornament of the Greeks. 
More advanced specimens show the pillar elongated, 
with a capital in the middle in addition to the capital at 
the top, while the blossom above the upper capital, and 
generally the stem also, throws out a number of similar 
smaller blossoms, which are sometimes replaced by 
fir-cones and pomegranates. In the most elaborately 
portrayed trees there is, besides the stem and the 
blossoms, a network of branches, which forms a sort 
of arch, and surrounds the tree as it were with a frame. 

The gods worshipped in the next degree to Assur 
were Babylonian deities, and with Assur they formed 
the Assyrian Pantheon. The gods had their corres 
ponding goddesses, but the only important goddess was 

Assur, supreme. 1 


Bel Creative powers. 


Ea Lord of the Deep 

Sin Moon ^ 

Shamas Sun > Celestial powers. 

Rimmon Sky-god 

Marduk Jupiter ~"| 

Ishtar Venus 

Adar Saturn ^ Five planets. 

Nergal Mars 

Nabu Mercury 

Tasmetu The Hearer. 

Nusku Wife of Tasmetu. 

The worship of Anu was of very ancient date, and 
from the earliest times he had a temple in Assur, the 
first Assyrian capital. He was called "the old Anu," 
" the original chief," " the lord of spirits and demons ; " 
and he was in some way connected in the minds of the 
Assyrians with the idea of Death, and thus termed " the 
lord of darkness or death," and " the ruler of the far- 
off city." 

Sin was the Moon-god, and his emblem resembled the 
crescent or new moon. 

Shamas was the Sun-god, and his emblem was the 
four-rayed orb which the king wore round his neck, 
sometimes alone, sometimes conjoined with the emblem 
of the new moon. 

1 This is the most intelligible way of arranging the deities. 


Rimmon was the god of the sky, and hence the 
lord of thunder, lightning, and storms. He was called 
" the destroyer of crops," " the rooter-up of trees," and 
"the scatterer of the harvest." But he was also the 
giver of rain and good seasons, and in this capacity he 
was termed " the lord of fecundity." 

Ishtar was the special goddess of the Assyrian kings, 
who believed that she presided over their favourite 
diversion, the chase. They delighted to do her honour, 
and build temples to her fame, and called her "their 
lady," also " the queen of all the gods," " the mistress 
of earth and heaven." In general features she corres 
ponded with the classical goddess Venus, also the 
Phoenician Astarte, and the Hebrew Ashtoreth ; but she 
also recalls the huntress Diana. 

Adar and Nergal were the gods of hunting and 
war, and consequently very great favourites with their 

The genii were considered to be powers of good and 
evil. Sometimes they are represented in the sculptures 
as benignant spirits, with the head of a hawk upon a 
human body ; sometimes as malignant spirits, monsters, 
half-lion, half-eagle, or monsters having a human figure 
and the head of a lion, and the ears of an ass. The 
greater number of them appear to have belonged to 
the malignant type, and these fight against the gods, or 
contend one with another, armed with maces and daggers. 
The religion of the Assyrians was idolatrous. They 
worshipped the images of the gods, and believed in the 



supernatural power of the emblems. This is proved by 
their carrying off the idols of a country, after conquering 
the inhabitants, and setting up the emblems of Assur 
instead ; for they hoped thus to deprive the people of 
their celestial protectors, and to establish their own god 
as sovereign of the land. Images of Ishtar and Nebo have 

been excavated and brought to England ; 


those repre 
senting Nebo are heavy and deficient in expression, but 
are not without a certain quiet dignity which impresses 
beholders. Numbers of small idols (probably private or 
household ones) have also been discovered ; these are 
made of clay, iron, and bronze. 

The Assyrians worshipped their gods with burnt- 


offerings, usually making a bull the object of sacrifice. 
One relief which has been discovered gives the whole 
of such a sacrificial scene. It portrays a god sitting 
at the entrance of a temple, and before him a priest 
in the act of paying homage. The king stands in front 
of a tall fire-altar, pouring a libation into a large bowl ; 
and a number of priests lead a bull, holding him by a 
rope tied to his fore-legs a little above the hoof. The fire 
burning upon the altar is small, and thus it would appeal- 
that only a part of the animal is to be burnt, and that 
the rest will be consumed by the priests and the people. 

The religious services were conducted with great 
magnificence, and accompanied by music and singing. 
The kings, who united in one the priestly and the regal 
characters, assisted the priests in offering sacrifices ; and 
when engaged in this work, both priests and kings wore 
magnificent robes, embroidered with sacred emblems, such 
as the Feroher, the sacred tree, and the pomegranate ; 
also armlets, necklets, and earrings. Offerings of gold,, 
silver, and precious stones were liberally made by the 
worshippers ; and all was done with a view to please and 
propitiate the superhuman powers, and to show forth 
the glory of the deities. 

Occasionally a religious use was made of fasting. Then 
the king and his nobles put on sackcloth, abstained from 
food, and sprinkled their heads with ashes; the whole 
population suspended ordinary business and joined in 
prayer ; and even the animals within the city walls were 
forced to fast and wear sackcloth. (Jonah iii. 5-9.) 


The Assyrians believed in a future state for the soul 
of man after death, and depicted heaven and hell in vivid 
colours. Heaven they called " the abode of blessedness," 
" the home of life," " the land of the silver sky ; " and 
the life of the blessed they described as an existence in 
which the happy ones reclined on couches, drank pure 
liquors, and fed on rich foods, in the company of friends 
and relatives, and in which the warrior \vas surrounded 
with the spoils he had taken in battle, and had his 
captives constantly paraded before his eyes. 

Hell they called the kingdom of the under-world, and 
the queen who ruled over it the}- named Nin-ki-gal, 
" the lady of the great land." Seven walls encircled 
the realm of darkness, each having a gate and porter, 
the outer wall being a watery moat filled with " the 
waters of death which cleanse not the hands." In the 
innermost circle was situate the Palace of Justice, where 
the judge passed sentence on the souls of the dead. 
Here also rose the stream of "the waters of life," a 
draught of which was supposed to render spirits im 
mortal, and admit purified souls to a happier state. 

It is uncertain whether the Assyrians regarded Hades 
as a place of eternal punishment, or merely a state of 
purgatory in which souls were purified by trial and 
suffering, and thus made fit to enter the house of the 
gods. The poem which describes the descent of Ishtar 
to the under-world tells us that she went to 

" The land of no return, the regions of corruption, the 
house of corruption. 


" To the house whose entrance has no exit. 

" By the road whose going has no return. 

" To the house at whose entrance they bridle in the 

" A place where much dust is their food, their nourish 
ment mud. 

" Where light they see not ; in darkness they dwell. 

" Over whose door and threshold are much dust." 

The souls of the righteous we know were supposed to 
pass at once into " the land of the silver sky ; " for when 
speaking of the death of a good man, the poet exclaims 
of his soul : 

" Like a bird to a lofty place may it fly, 

" To the holy hands of its god may it return." 

And again : 

" Tempest in heaven, lightning on earth are raging. 

" Of the brave man who was so strong the strength 
has departed. 

41 Of the servant righteous his strength returns not. 

" The man in body very sick lies. 

"The divine Ishtar, she with benignity smiles upon 

u Where no one ever dwelt, from her mountain she 

" At the door of the sick man she spoke. 

44 The man moved. Who is there ? Who comes ? 

" Ishtar, daughter of the god Sin. 
The god, son of Bel. 


" The god Marduk. 

" The body of the sick man she approaches. 
" The man, son of his god, let him depart. 
l To the sun, greatest of the gods, be his return. 
" The sun, greatest of the gods, into his hands may 
he the man s soul receive." 



THE greatest architectural work of the Assyrians which 
has yet been discovered is the ruin of the town of Dur- 
sagina, now called Khorsabad, a place ten miles distant 
from Nineveh to the northward. This town was built 
by Sargon about the year 72 1 B.C. The walls formed a 
square over one mile each way, the angles of the square 
facing the four cardinal points. Its outer wall, which 
was nearly forty-six feet thick, and had eight towers, 
was made of unburnt bricks covered externally with 
a coating of calcareous stone, and was raised upon a 
base of stone rubble. 

A palace stood on the north-west side of the town. 
It was surrounded by a strong wall, constructed of blocks 
of hard limestone, and was built upon a platform shaped 
like a ""["> composed of unburnt bricks united with the 
same clay used to make them. The entrance to the 
palace was through an outer court, which lay upon a 
level with the town. This court had two enormous 
gateways ; both spanned across with arches of enamelled 
bricks, and both guarded by colossal animals. An 
inclined plane, or flight of steps, led to the first terrace, 
which was situated about twenty feet above the outer 


court. Here the gate was again guarded by colossal 
creatures, having on either side three gigantic bulls, two 
of them fifteen feet high, and the third nineteen feet 
high ; also by a colossal human figure, representing 
probably the god Adar, but called by most writers 
* the Assyrian Herakles." A suite of small-sized rooms 
occupied the terrace ; these are supposed to have been 
the apartments of the soldiers whose duty it was to 
keep watch over the palace. The royal residence was 
built upon the second terrace, which lay about ten feet 
.above the lower one. It was entered through a gate 
way flanked on either side by a colossal animal, and 
the gate opened into a court three hundred and fifty feet 
long and one hundred and seventy feet wide. Hence 
a passage led into an inner court, a square of one 
hundred and fifty feet. On the left side of this square 
stood the great state apartments, consisting of a suite 
of ten rooms, five of which were large, one long and 
narrow, and the other four either square or oblong. The 
most important of these rooms were two halls, one " the 
Hall of Punishment," in which the sculptures represent 
the king receiving prisoners, and punishing them either 
personally or by deputy ; the other u the Temple Court," 
facing the temple (the remains of the temple are very 
slight) on the south-west, and having on the south-east 
a number of small buildings called " priests rooms." 
The private apartments of the king were entered through 
the Temple Court, and had no other means of com 
munication with the buildirur. 


An observatory was on the westerly side of the palace. 
It was an astronomical temple like the famous pyramids 
of stages in Chaldea, of which Birs Nimrud, known to 
us as " the Tower of Babel," is a familiar instance. The 
number of its stages is not certain, only four remain, and 
the traces of colour shown by these, beginning with the 
lowest stage, indicate that the colours were white, black, 
red and blue, the tints of the Moon, Saturn, Mars, and 

In the Khorsabad Palace, as in the other palaces 
which have been excavated, the ground plans and some 
seventeen feet of their elevation are all that time and fire 
have spared us. The upper portion is wanting in every 
palatial building which has yet been found, and as the 
sculptures give no representations of royal residences r 
we are left in complete ignorance in respect to the height 
and roofing of the palaces. It is a question whether 
the} had or had not any upper stories. All that we 
know about them is that they possessed two terraces 
joined together by some sort of staircase or inclined 
way ; also that they had windows made by letting 
apertures into the thick walls. The buildings represented 
by the sculptures are seldom Assyrian structures, but 
generally foreign ones seen by the artists during military 
campaigns ; and the few native representations shown 
by the reliefs belong to the sacred and not to the 
palatial type. 

Several temples are seen on the reliefs. One from 
Nimroud is remarkable for the pattern on its pillars, and 


its unique capitals. Another from Kouyunjik possesses 
several features of interest. Its body is a columnar 
structure, and it has at either corner a broad pilaster 
surmounted by a capital composed of two sets of volutes 
placed one above the other. Between the pilasters are 
two pillars resting upon rounded bases, and crowned with 
capitals not unlike the Corinthian. Above the pillars is 
a heavy cornice which projects considerably, and which 
is finished at the top by a row of gradines. At one side 
of the building is a small chapel or oratory, also finished 
with gradines ; and in a road leading to the chapel, and 
at a short distance from it, stands an altar. A third kind 
of temple was the tower or ziggurat, which resembled 
the astronomical temple at Khorsabacl. This type was 
built in stages, which varied in number, but which appear 
never to have exceeded seven. A ziggurat temple 
discovered at Nimroucl has a square base one hundred 
and sixty-seven feet six inches each way, and is composed 
of a solid mass of sun-dried brick. Only one stage now 
remains, but from its pyramidal shape, and its general 
analogy to similar towers, it is believed that it must have 
had several stages. In its interior is a species of chamber 
or gallery, the object of which has not yet been explained, 
for it does not resemble the basement chambers so com 
mon in other temples, and which appear to have been 
shrines for the gods, and rooms in which the priests kept 
their vestments and sacred utensils. The decoration of 
the temples, so far as we know, was very similar to that 
of the palaces. The gateways were guarded by colossal 


animals, and ornamented with coloured porcelain bricks 
and inscriptions. The doors turned upon pivots, and 
were either single or folding. Sculptures and coloured 
bricks decorated the passages and the walls of the 
chambers, but sometimes the walls were plastered, and 
then painted afterwards with figures or patterns. Con 
cerning the roofs nothing certain can be said, but 
probably they were made of wood. 

We know nothing of the domestic architecture of 
Assyria ; for neither the inscriptions nor the sculptures 
give us information concerning the private houses of the 

The fortifications of the towns consisted of a single 
battlemented wall, pierced with gates, and guarded by 
projecting towers. This wall surrounded the place, 
and in the sculptures we see it repeated sometimes 
twice or thrice in lines placed one above the other, the 
idea being to represent the defence of a city by two or 
three walls. 

Bricks were almost universally used in Assyria for 
building purposes. This is curious, considering how 
much stone lay ready to hand. It would appear that 
the people had learnt a certain kind of architecture in 
Babylonia, where stone was rare, and lacking originality, 
they kept to the old materials after they settled on the 
banks of the Tigris. The abundance of stone in the 
country led them to use it sometimes for the facings of 
platforms and temples, for pavements, and for the lower 
part of walls ; but in the main they used clay, having 


been familiar with it in Chaldea. These bricks were of 
three kinds : burnt, sun-dried, and enamelled. The art 
of making burnt bricks was known in Babylonia at a 
very early period. Probably it was discovered by a fire 
being lighted on some clay soil, and thus teaching the 
fact that the action of heat renders clay firm and dry. 
These bricks were generally of a dark red or of a bright 
yellow colour, from one to two feet wide, and about 
three inches thick. Sun-dried bricks were made by 
ridding clay of all stones and foreign bodies, mixing it 
with chopped straw, in order to give it material con 
sistence, washing it with water, placing it in square 
moulds, and then exposing it to the action of the sun, 
which had power in that hot climate to harden it within 
a few weeks. These sun-dried bricks seldom became 
quite dry, and when placed one upon another for building 
purposes, and cemented together with further wet clay, 
they soon lost their shape, and formed a thick mass, in 
which the separate bricks could scarcely be distinguished. 
This was the case with the platform of the Khorsabad 
palace, which has the appearance of being one great 
mass of hardened clay. Enamelled bricks were only 
half-baked, the colours being thus allowed to pass 
gradually into the pores of the clay, and spread over 
the whole surface of the bricks. 

Basalt was used for building, but not to any great 
extent ; also calcareous stone, including coarse alabaster. 

Among the architectural works of the Assyrians we 
must notice lastly the transport of colossal human- 


headed animals. This process is shown in the sculptures 
from the first conveyance of the rude stone from the 
quarry, to the raising of the gigantic sculptures in the 
gateways of the palaces and the temples. A boat is 
represented in the reliefs floating upon a river, and in it 
lies a huge block of stone somewhat elongated in form, 
so as to resemble an obelisk in the rough. The block 
exceeds the boat considerably in length, projecting 
beyond both the head and the stern, and is held in its 
place by upright beams fastened firmly to the sides of 
the vessel. Two cables passed through holes cut in the 
stone, and a third cable tied to a strong pin projecting 
from the head of the boat, are held by a number of men, 
who twist the ropes round their shoulders, and thus pull 
the boat up the stream. Some of the men walk in the 
water, some upon the river bank, and they are divided 
into bands, each band mustering about one hundred 
men. Taskmasters urge the workers on with swords 
and staves, while an overseer, seated upon the fore-part 
of the stone, beats time, and thus regulates the whole 
proceeding. The huge stone having been landed, and 
carved by the sculptors into the form of a human-headed 
animal, has then to be conveyed from the river side to 
the palace. To accomplish this, the colossal creature is 
placed horizontally upon a sledge similar in form to the 
boat in which it was carried from the quarry. Its head 
rests on the fore part of the sledge, which is curved 
upwards and strengthened by a thick beam, and its body 
is supported by props placed in different parts of the 


boat, in order to secure an equal pressure at every point. 
The sledge, which stands upon rollers, is pulled by large 
numbers of workmen, probably captives from different 
conquered nations, for they wear different costumes. 
Carts laden with implements, and men bearing coils of 
rope, follow the procession. And the king himself 
surveys the work, seated in his chariot, surrounded by 
state officers. 

Imitative art among the Assyrians consisted of statues, 
statuettes in clay, bas-reliefs, metal-castings, carvings in 
ivory, enamellings on brick, and intaglios on stones 
and gems. 

The Assyrian statues which have been discovered 
are very unsatisfactory artistic productions. They are 
clumsy, coarse, and formal in design, and are generally 
characterized by flatness and want of breadth. The 
best specimen of them is the statue representing Assur- 
nazal-habal, which is now in the British Museum. This 
is smaller than life, being about three and a-half feet 
high. The features arc majestic and well marked, the 
hair and beard elaborately curled, and the arms and 
hands well shaped. The dress descends to the ground, 
and thus all the lower part of the figure is hidden from 

The clay statuettes have little artistic merit. They 
are made of fine terra-cotta, either burnt red or glazed. 
Some represent the goddess Ishtar ; some an old man 
with curled beard and clasped hands, probably the god 
Nebo ; others, which are weights are modelled in the 


form of small ducks and dogs. The dogs are superior 
in workmanship to all the other statuettes, and have 
their names carefully inscribed upon their sides. 

The bas-reliefs are by far the most important of all the 
Assyrian works of art. In them, almost exclusively, we 
can trace progress in style, and the artistic genius of the 

A.SS YR I A N I >.\ S. R KI. I [OF. 

people. Low-relief was the mode in which the Assyrians 
expressed their religious thoughts and feelings, recorded 
the deeds of their kings, imitated animal and vegetable 
forms, illustrated mechanical processes, and depicted 
home -life and domestic occupation, landscapes, and 


architecture. The reliefs may be divided under five 
principal heads : 

1. War scenes, including battles and sieges, naval 
expeditions, and triumphal returns after victories. 

2. Religious scenes. 

3. Processions, generally of tribute-bearers and of 

4. Hunting and sporting scenes. 

5. Scenes of daily life, such as landscapes, gardens, 
temples, the transport of bulls, and other details of 
ordinary existence. 

The earliest reliefs date from the ninth century before 
our era, and these are characterised by much spirit, 
variety, strength, and firmness, but also by heaviness, 
entire ignorance of perspective, and the rendering of 
both human and animal forms solely in profile, the only 
exceptions being, so far as we know, a few instances of 
lions heads, and one human head on the ornamentation 
of a robe. The animals are executed with much more 
skill than the human forms ; and this continued to be a 
characteristic of Assyrian art throughout its history. 
One of the best specimens of this period is a lion hunt, 
found at Nimroud. It is extremely simple and effective. 
The king, sitting in his chariot, forms the principal figure 
in the group, and his attitude is natural and graceful. 
The lion attacking the king is outlined with great spirit, 
and his head is masterly. His noble, upright form 
contrasts admirably with that of his fellow, a dead lion 
with drooping head and tail, which lies in front of the 


royal chariot. The horses are the weakest part of the 
picture, for they show little vigour, and their forelegs 
are too slight. The religious and processional pieces of 
the period are stiff in the extreme ; the battle scenes 
are over-crowded and confused ; and the hunting scenes 
are, as a rule, badly done. 

The second period of Assyrian imitative art extends 
from the latter part of the eighth to nearly the middle of 
the seventh century before Christ, and belongs to the 
reigns of three consecutive kings, Sargon, Sennacherib, 
and Esar-haddon. The chief characteristic of this period 
is the progress made in vegetable forms and in back 
grounds. The trees are still conventional ; but the date- 
palms, firs, and vines arc delineated with skill. Nature 
is studied, and birds arc seen in the woods, and fish in 
the rivers. The horses and other animals are more 
skilfully designed, but the human figures remain much 
as before. The manipulation is improved, and the 
outline is more flowing ; but the scenes have lost their 
grandeur of composition, and have become comparatively 
tame. The highest perfection of Assyrian art is in the 
third period, which extends from 667 B.C. to about 640 B.C., 
and synchronizes with the reign of Assur-bani-pal. The 
human figures at this time are beautifully finished, the 
vegetable forms are less conventional, and the animals arc 
drawn with freedom, spirit, and variety. Assyrian art, so 
far as now known, has nothing finer of animal drawing 
than a relief of this date, which was found at Konyunjik. 
It represents a lion biting a chariot wheel. The king 


of beasts has been wounded ; and in his mad agony 
he springs at the chariot which contains his enemy, 
clutches the \vheel with his two fore-paws, and grinds it 
frantically between his teeth. 

The Assyrians appear to have applied little colour to 
statuary, but to have left the stone much in its natural con 
dition. The slabs exhibit now only faint and occasional 
signs of colour; but the explorers tell us that at the time of 
discovery the traces were much more abundant, and that 
the tints only faded when exposed to the air. Neither the 
flesh of the men nor the bodies of the animals now show 
signs of paint ; and thus it would appear that colour was 
sparingly applied, and was confined to the hair, eyes, and 
beards of the men, the fringes of the dresses, the horses 
trappings, and to foliage. The colours found on the reliefs 
are red, blue, black, and white. The reel is bright, and is 
applied to the claws of birds, to quivers, maces, flowers 
and the fringes of dresses. Blue (probably once green) 
is employed to colour foliage. White is used for the 
inner part of eyes. Black is used for hair and beards. The 
enamelled bricks teach us best the ideas of the Assyrians 
with regard to colour : these arc of varied hues, pale 
green, pale yellow, dark brown, and white ; also of intense 
blue, bright red, and bright green. In every case the 
colours harmonize, are carefully used, give no harsh 
contrasts, and bear a close resemblance to nature. 

The ornamental metal work of the Assyrians is of 
three kinds: I. Figures, or parts of figures, in solid shape; 
2. Castings in low-relief ; 3. Embossed or repousse work, 



beat out with the hammer, and finished afterwards with 
a graver or cutting tool. The solid castings consist 
chiefly of lions, which were used as weights. The cast 
ings in low-relief formed the ornamentation of thrones, 
stools, and perhaps chariots, and represent human and 
animal figures. The embossed work is very curious, and 
is best illustrated by the Balawat Gates and the Nimroud 
bowls, which are in the British Museum. Bronze was 
the material used by the Assyrians for ornamental metal 
work, composed of one part of tin to ten of copper. 
It is supposed that the Phoenicians had a good deal to 
do with this work, also with the ivory-work, which 
bears traces of Egypto-Phcenician art. Probably the 
ivories were sent as Phoenician tribute, and copied from 
Egyptian models. 

The intaglios arc cut upon jasper, agate, cornelian, 
and other stones. The favourite subjects represented 
arc religious scenes, sacred animals, warriors pursuing 
enemies, and the king slaying lions. The stones vary in 
shape, but they arc usually cylindrical. 

Assyrian art is purely imitative. This is accounted 
for by the fact that the Assyrians were a very practical 
people, and sought rather to represent actual things 
than to enter the realms of imagination, and portray 
the ideal and the spiritual. They appreciated the useful 
more than the ornamental, and occupied themselves 
solely with representations of visible objects and scenes. 
They lacked originality, and thus they were content to 
imitate nature, and to create nothing of their own. 


With the exception of a few mythic figures (and these, 
it must be remembered, are copies of those in Babylonia), 
there is nothing in Assyrian art which is not imitated 
from nature. These imitations, however, show us a 
people patient, laborious, and above all, truthful. Thus 
they make colossal animals with five legs, in order that 
from every point of view they may be seen with the 
right number, and in the reliefs they represent ladders 
lying edgeways upon the walls, so that spectators may 
understand that ladders and not poles are represented. 
It is this spirit of faithfulness and honesty which 
strikes us more than anything else in the sculptures 
and reliefs. The careful finish, the minute detail, the 
-elaboration of every particular; these arouse our admira 
tion. Further, the sculptures and reliefs have a boldness, 
a grandeur, a dignity, a strength, an appearance of life 
which excite our surprise, when we remember that the 
works were executed when Greek art was still in its 
infancy. There is, of course, much that is barbaric about 
them ; a want of grace, a want of freedom and correct 
ness of outline ; but all the same, they have a peculiar 
charm, for they appear to have been the work of brave, 
simple-minded men who lived while the civilization of 
the world was yet young. Moreover, we perceive growth 
in them, a promise of better things and higher ex 
cellence ; and their largeness of conception inspires us 
with hope, for it shows art in its infancy, and with all 
the possibilities of the future lying above, beneath, and 

F 2 



THE wars of the Assyrians consisted of annual campaigns 
into the territories of their neighbours. It was the habit 
of the king, early in the summer, to lead his army across 
his own border into the adjacent countries, and then to 
fight until the enemy was overpowered and forced to 
submit, or until he was himself defeated and obliged to 
retreat into his own land again. The monarch usually 
rode in his chariot, dressed in royal apparel, and wearing 
the tiara upon his head. An umbrella-bearer and a 
charioteer occupied the same war carriage. A quiver- 
bearer and a bow-bearer followed upon horseback ; also 
two or three men leading chargers, in order to furnish the 
royal warrior with a means of escape, if it so happened 
that the battle went against him. The army in part 
preceded the cortege of the king, in part followed a 
little behind, and was divided into several corps, consist 
ing of cavalry, infantry, archers, and pioneers. All 
personages in command used chariots. These vehicles 
were probably made of wood. They were drawn by two 
or three horses, one horse in the latter case being 
attached by a rope or thong (like the side horses of the 
Greeks), and regarded as a supernumerary to take the 


place of one of the others if an accident occurred. The 
reins of the horses were fastened to either end of a bit 
resembling our modern snaffle, and each rein was 
separate, all the reins on the right side being grasped in 
one hand of the driver, all those on the left side being 
held by him in his other. 

The seat of the cavalry soldier at an early period was 
very extraordinary. He rode upon the bare back of his 
horse, and instead of allowing his legs to hang naturally 
down the sides of his steed, he drew them up to a level 
with his charger s back, and held on by pressing the 
base of the horse s neck between his knees. At a later 
period the riders made use of saddles, and their seat 
became more natural and graceful. 

The dress of the warriors consisted of a tunic, a 
helmet, and sometimes armour of mail ; and upon their 
feet they wore sandals. Their shields were either large 
ones made of wicker-work, or small round metal shields, 
of iron, bronze, silver, or even plaited gold. Their 
standard was a pole, fixed at the end of a chariot ; it 
had at the top a circular frame containing an artistic 
representation of a god, or a sacred symbol. Sometimes, 
on entering the enemy s country, a river had to be crossed. 
Then the horses were fastened by ropes to poles near 
the sterns of the boats, and were made to swim over ; 
and the soldiers forded the stream sitting upon the 
inflated skins of animals ; they held the necks of the 
floats in their hands, and increased the inflation by 
breathing into the orifices. 


Only the king and his chief officers were allowed to> 
use tents. The common soldiers slept upon the ground,, 
or took shelter in the villages after conquering the foe. 
The tents were open to the sky in the centre, but closed 
in at either end by a semicircular top, and were 
probably made of felt. The camp was carefully watched, 
and a guard was kept round the tent of the king. 

There is no evidence to show how the armies were 
drawn up, and the manner in which the engagements 
took place ; and the sculptures representing battles and 
sieges show the soldiers confusedly mixed up together.. 
This is accounted for by the inability of the Assyrian 
artists to represent troops in perspective, and also by 
their preference for portraying the defeat and pursuit of 
the enemy rather than the preparation for battle or the 
attack. No quarter was given after a victory, for the 
soldiers who carried back heads to the camp were 
rewarded ; and therefore, so soon as an engagement was 
over, the whole army turned to beheading the prisoners, 
and showed no pit}- either to the wounded or to the 

When the enemy could no longer resist in the open 
field, he usually took refuge in his fortified cities, of 
which the defences appear to have been high battle- 
mentcd walls, flanked with towers, pierced with apertures 
for the archers, and guarded by gateways with heavy 
doors. The Assyrians had three modes of attack. 
Sometimes they placed long ladders against the walls of 
a fortress, and sent spearmen and archers up the rungs. 



If this failed they tried the effect of batten ng-rams, 
which had heads shaped like spears or funnels. As a 
final resort, they undermined the foundations of the 
walls with pickaxes and crowbars, and thus forced an 
entrance into the citadel. The besieged, on their part, 
endeavoured to dislodge the ladders ; and, if unable to 
do this, hurled huge stones down upon their assailants. 
They used fire as a weapon to turn away the battering- 
rams, throwing burning torches upon the osier instru- 


ments. Against the miners the}- could do little, for soon 
they felt the walls totter, and knew that their last hour 
had come. When the enemy rushed in the work of 
destruction commenced. The battlements were broken 
down, and the walls were levelled to the earth. The trees 
were destroyed, and carried off as timber to Assyria. 
The whole place was plundered and burnt. The temples 
were entered, and the images of the gods were seized 
and borne to Assyrian shrines. The inhabitants were 


made prisoners, and were brought into the presence of 
the king with their hands manacled either before them or 
behind their backs, and sometimes with fetters attached 
to their feet, and even with rings passed through their 
lips. The monarch sat upon his throne, surrounded by 
his attendants, and received the captives one by one in 
order to pronounce their doom. Upon some he proudly 
placed his foot, others he gave into the hands of the 
executioner, many he sentenced to be carried into 
slavery, and a few he pardoned. The women and 
children were treated with more compassion than the 
men, and, if made slaves, were generally carried to their 
new homes in carts or upon mules, and were seldom 
forced to travel upon foot; moreover, the female captives 
were allowed to take with them their children and 
household goods and chattels, and thus the sculptures 
seldom represent them as exhibiting signs of sorrow. 

The favourite occupation of the king in time of peace 
was the chase. In early days the monarch went out 
hunting in his chariot, dressed as when on a military 
campaign, and accompanied by his charioteer, some 
swordsmen, and a groom holding a led horse. If a lion 
was found the king pursued it in his chariot. He let his 
arrows fly as he went, and sought to pierce the animal 
about the head and breast, defending himself with a 
spear or shield if the infuriated beast turned upon him. 
In later times the king enjoyed the sport on foot, and 
carried a short sword, which he strove to plunge into the 
lion s heart. Or, with a small band of attendants he 


took ship, and while beaters on either side of the river 
started the prey, he allowed himself to be rowed quietly 
down the steam until a lion plunged into the water. 
Then he took aim at the beast with an arrow, while 
his followers defended his person from injury. 

Lions became scarce toward the close of Assyrian 
history. They were then brought in cages to the royal 
hunting-ground, and turned loose, to afford sport for the 
king. The sovereign is represented by the sculptures 
slaying large numbers of them, and strewing the ground 
with their dead bodies. 

The wild bull was also hunted. The reliefs show bulls 
rushing at the king s chariot, and being seized by the 
horns and thus slain. 

The chase of the wild ass, the stag, the ibex, the 
gazelle, and the hare were not usually thought worthy of 
the king s attention, but his household enjoyed the 
pursuit while their sovereign looked on with interest and 
amusement. These animals were hunted with dogs ; 
large and powerful hounds of a type approaching that 
of our modern mastiff, very broad across the chest, strong 
limbed, and with a somewhat heavy neck and head. 

The dress of the king when out hunting, or in the 
battle-field, was an under robe confined at the waist by a 
girdle, an apron ornamented with tassels and fringe, a 
narrow belt to hold daggers, and sandals. In time of 
peace he wore a long flowing robe, a broad belt round 
his waist, a mantle hanging from his shoulders, and a 
fillet, tiara, or mitre upon his head. His jewellery was 


of many kinds, but the only ornament especially worthy 
of notice was the royal collar, from which a number of 
sacred emblems were suspended, namely, the crescent of 
the new moon, the emblem of the moon-god Sin ; the 
four-rayed orb, the emblem of the Sun-god Shamas ; 
the horned cap, the emblem of the king s guardian genius ; 
and the triple bolt, the emblem of Rimmon, the god of 
the sky. 

The officers of the royal household were many in 
number, and among them the Rabshakeh, or prime- 
minister, held the chief place. 

The court ceremonial was stately and imposing. Its 
principal feature was its military air. The king super 
intended all things in person, showed himself freely to 
his subjects, rode in an open chariot, and walked about 
on foot among his people. Nevertheless, the Assyrian 
monarchs were exceedingly haughty and proud, and 
allowed no sort of familiarity. They carried their thrones 
with them wherever they went ; and arc always repre 
sented in the reliefs surrounded by state officers, and 
keeping up the court ceremonial alike at home and in 
the battle-field. 




THF little we know of Assyrian domestic matters is 
chiefly drawn from the time of Assur-bani-pal, about 
the year 650 B.C. 

The dress of the common people at this period is 
represented by the sculptures as being a plain tunic with 
short sleeves, which reached to the knees, and was tied 
round the waist with a girdle. No head-dress was worn, 
but the hair fell in large waves from the forehead to the 
back of the neck, and was considered to afford sufficient 
protection from both sun and rain. 

Men of rank wore long robes, fringed and ornamented 
round the neck and arms. Also head-dresses shaped 
like cones. Women of rank were dressed in tunics 
and cloaks, and wore fillets upon their heads. 

A few toilet articles, such as combs and mirrors, have 
been discovered. Some of these may be seen in the 
British Museum. 

The usual food of the poor consisted of grain, such as 
wheat or barley, moistened with water, kneaded in a 
bowl, and then rolled into cakes. The soldiers appear 
to have eaten meat, for the sculptures show them engaged 
in killing and cooking oxen and sheep when out on 


military campaigns ; but the people at home were 
content with more simple fare. 

The fruits of the country were grapes, citrons, pome 
granates, and apparently pine-apples. These are seen in 
the reliefs in dishes which the attendants hold high 
above their heads, and thus bear to the banquets of the 

The Assyrians drank abundantly at their feasts. They 
were served by attendants, who dipped the wine-cups 
into huge bowls which stood upon the ground, and then 
handed the wine to the guests. The visitors were 
divided into messes of four, and sat upon high stools, 
two and two, facing one another. Each mess had a 
separate table and servant. In one drinking scene 
found at Khorsabad, every guest is represented holding 
a wine-cup in his hand. The cups are of an elegant 
shape, the lower part of them being modelled in the 
form of a lion s head, from which the stem rises in a 
graceful curve. The guests hold the cups upon a level 
with their heads, and appear to be pledging one another 
or else one and all drinking the same toast. 

Music usually accompanied the festivities. The 
Assyrians appear to have delighted in musical sounds. 
They had eight or nine different musical instruments, 
.stringed, wind, and instruments of percussion. In the 
early sculptures we notice the harp, the lyre, and the 
cymbal. Later on the double-pipe, the guitar, the tam 
bourine, and a kind of drum ; also a horn (something like 
the military trumpet of the Greeks and Romans), which 


is used by the overseers in directing the transport of 
colossal animals. We know very little of the character 
of the music, and cannot tell whether the musicians 
used instruments and voices in combination. In the 
single instance in which this is the case the singers are 
Susianians, and not Assyrians. The favourite instrument 
for the performance of religious music was the harp, 
and for festivals the lyre. Bands accompanied pro 
cessions and pageants, and preceded the king on his 
triumphal return from the field of battle. 

Like the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans, the Assy 
rians introduced flowers into their feasts, and the 
attendants are seen in the reliefs bearing jars filled with 
flowers to the king s table. 

The exports of the Assyrians appear to have been 
silk, wool, and cotton. Our only certain knowledge con 
cerning them is derived from the notice of the Prophet 
Kzekiel, which tells us that the Assyrian merchants 
traded with Tyre " in blue clothes, and broidered work, 
and in chests of rich apparel " (Ezekiel xxvii. 23, 24) ; 
the notice of Herodotus, that Assyrian wares had in 
ancient times been conveyed by the Phoenicians to 
Greece and sold to the inhabitants ; and the notice of 
Pliny, that the principal Assyrian export was silk. 

The imports seem to have been ivory, gems, cedar, 
and pearls. All other imports are merely conjectural. 

Some of the native houses had gardens surrounding 
them, and these show the taste of the Assyrians in 
horticultural matters to have resembled that of the 


modern Dutch. The trees are all of similar character, 
and are arranged in rows at equal distances ; the paths 
are straight, and meet each other at right angles. Water 
was abundantly supplied by means of canals from 
neighbouring rivers, or was brought by aqueducts from 
a distance. Hanging gardens were made either by 
planting the banks of a stream with trees of different 
kinds, or else by planting flowers and shrubs upon the 
roofs of the buildings. These gardens were known in 
Assyria in the time of Sennacherib. 

Although the country abounded in rivers, the art of 
fishing was carried on in a very rude way. The fisherman 
held a simple line in his hand, and used neither rod nor 
float. He generally stood by the brink of the river, but 
sometimes he seated himself upon the inflated skin of 
an animal, and floated down the stream, holding the 
orifice of the skin in one hand, and the fishing-rod in 
the other. According to the reliefs, the earliest species 
of boats used were inflated skins ; these were followed 
by rafts, then by boats shaped like Welsh coracles, and 
finally by river-galleys. In galleys the naval architecture 
of the Assyrians appears to have culminated, for sails 
and masts are never seen in the reliefs. 

These few details are almost all that we know concern 
ing the private life of the Assyrians. The literature of 
the nation ignores household matters, and concerns itself 
with greater things. The sculptures also rarely portray 
domestic scenes. 

This does not surprise us, when we consider the 


-character of the people, and study their faces as shown 
by the reliefs. The effigies bear a striking resemblance 
to the Hebrew physiognomy of the present time. The 
straight but rather low forehead, the full brow, the large 
almond-shaped eye, the aquiline nose, the strong firm 
mouth, the rather thick lips, the powerful chin, the 
abundant curly hair and beard, all these recall the chief 
peculiarities of the Hebrew of to-day. The traits are for 
the most part common to the whole Semitic race, and 
are seen now alike in the Arab, the Hebrew, and the 
Chaldean, while anciently they characterized not only 
the Assyrians, but also the Phoenicians, Arabs, Syrians, 
and Hebrews. In form the Assyrians were more robust, 
broad-shouldered, and large-limbed than the present 
Oriental Hebrews, but resembled in make the modern 
Chaldeans. Their limbs, as represented by the reliefs, 
are too large for beauty, but indicate enormous physical 
power, and sjiow the strength and force which rendered 
them so efficient in the field of battle. 

The peculiar characteristics of the Assyrians were 
strength and bravery, also treachery, cruelty (the 
sculptures show the cruelty of the people in a terrible 
manner, and portray scenes of torture too painful to dwell 
upon), and pride. The Hebrew documents endorse this 
estimate of the Assyrian character, for they speak of the 
people as " a fierce people" (Is. xxxiii. 19), and describe 
the nation as "a mighty and strong one, which as a 
tempest of hail and a destroying storm, as a flood of 
mighty waters overflowing, shall cast down to the earth 


with the hand " (Is. xxviii. 2), and call Nineveh " a 
bloody city" (Nahum iii. i). Speaking of Assyrian 
treachery, the Hebrew prophet says, "Woe to thee 
that spoilest, and thou wast not spoiled ; and dealest 
treacherously, and they dealt not treacherously with 
thee" (Is. xxxiii. i); and in the same spirit another 
prophet declares that Nineveh is "all full of lies and 
robbery" (Nahum iii. i). The arrogance of the Assy 
rians draws forth the sternest denunciations of the 
Hebrew prophets, and Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Zephaniah 
alike dwell upon this feature of their character, and call 
down Divine judgments to humble their pride. In the 
emblematic language of Hebrew prophecy, the lion is 
taken as the fittest symbol for Assyria, and the country 
is painted as " the lion that did tear in pieces enough 
for his whelps, and strangled for his lionesses, and 
filled his holes with prey, and his dens with ravin " 
(Nahum ii. 12). 9 

The lion was also the favourite national emblem, and 
accepted by the people as their representative ; and this 
is why the king of animals is so frequently portrayed on 
the Assyrian monuments, cither in his natural form or 
with a human head. 




THE colossal creatures of mixed human and animal form 
which have been excavated in Assyria, stood originally 
in pairs at the doors of the outer halls and the great 
apartments of the temples and palaces. Their office 
was to guard the entrance, to overawe all who sought 
to come in without permission, and to exclude evil 
influences. They were considered guardian genii, and 
were thought to be alive, supernatural powers being 
supposed to reside in the stone effigies. They were no 
idle creations, or works of mere fancy, but embodiments 
of the Assyrian conceptions of supernatural powers, and 
intended to symbolize the union of all possible perfections 
in the nature of the gods. The Assyrians knew no 
better type of intellect and knowledge than the head of 
the man, of strength than the body of the lion or bull, of 
swiftness and motion than the wings of the eagle. Thus 
by these singular forms, partly human, partly animal, 
they tried to convey the idea of the union of the 
greatest intellectual and physical powers, or, as we 
should say, of omniscience, omnipotence, and omni 

Probably the Assyrian symbolical figures were derived 



from those of the Babylonians ; for, according to Berosus, 
there were in the temples of Belus representations of 
men with two wings, and others with four wings, and 
some having two faces ; also bulls with the heads of men, 
and horses with the heads of dogs. The Babylonians, it 
will be remembered, believed in animals endowed with 
reason, and thought that such creatures appeared from 
time to time in the world. Berosus tells us that in early 
clays there came from the Erythraean Sea, which borders 
upon Babylonia, an animal endowed with reason and 
with a human voice. This being gave the Babylonians 
an insight into letters and sciences, and taught them arts 
of every kind, and to found temples, construct cities, 
and compile laws. Other such monsters appeared at 
different periods, and were called "annedoti." These 
mythical Babylonian creatures were in all probability 
embodied in stone effigies, and afterwards improved upon 
by the Assyrians, and made to represent supernatural 
ideas. At any rate, we know that the colossal creatures 
held an important place in the thoughts of a people who 
lived some four thousand years ago ; and their remote 
antiquity strikes our minds with a feeling of awe. After 
being hidden from sight for twenty-five centuries, they 
have been brought once more before human eyes, and 
stand forth in their ancient majesty to bear testimony to 
Assyrian renown and power ; and to prove that although 
now " Nineveh is a desolation, and dry like a wilderness, 
and flocks lie down in the midst of her, and desolation is 
in her thresholds." (Zephaniah ii.) 


" The Assyrian was a cedar in Lebanon, with fair 
branches and with a shadowing shroud, and of a high 
stature ; and his top was among- the thick boughs. 
All the fowls of heaven made their nests in his 
boughs, and under his shadow dwelt all great nations." 
(Ezekiel xxxi.) 

Harrison and Sons, Printers in Ordinary to Her Majesty, St. Martin s 




UNDER this general title THE RELIGIOUS TRACT 
CIETY purposes publishing a Series of Books on 
Jbjects of interest connected with the Bible not 
equately dealt with in the ordinary Handbooks. 

The writers will, in all cases, be those who have 
special acquaintance with the subjects they take up 
and who enjoy special facilities for acquiring the latest 
and most accurate information. 

Each Volume will be complete in itself, and if 
possible, the price will be kept uniformly at kalf.a-crwn 
The Series is designed for general readers, who wish 
o get m a compact and interesting form the fresh know 
-dge that has been brought to light during the last few 
years in so many departments of Biblical study In 
telligent young readers of both sexes, Sunday-school 
teachers, and all Bible students will, it is hoped find 
these Volumes both attractive and useful. 

The order of publication will probably be as follows, 
the titles in some cases being provisional : 

" Oh r? PAT , RA S NEEDLE - A History of the 
Obelisk on the Embankment, a Translation and Exposi- 
:wn of the Hieroglyphics, and a Sketch of the two kings 
whose deeds it commemorates. By Rev. JAMES KING 
M.A Authorized Lecturer to the Palestine Exploration 
runcu / A7 

(J\ow ready.) 


HARKNESS, with an Introduction by REGINALD STUART 
POOLE, of the British Museum. (In October.} 

III. A SKETCH of the most striking Confirmations 
of the Bible, shown in the recent Discoveries and 
Translations of Monuments in Egypt, Babylonia, 
Assyria, etc. By the Rev. A. H. SAYCE, M.A., Fellow 
of Queen s College, and Deputy Professor of Comparative 
Philology in the University of Oxford, Member of the 
Old Testament Revision Committee. 

(In November or December.} 


Illustrated by the Monuments. By MR. BUDGE, 
of the British Museum. 


and the most striking Results of it. 

as Illustrated by the Monuments in the British 


N.B. Other Subjects are in course of prepara 
tion, and will be announced in due course,