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ASSYRIAN LIFE AND HISTORY
M. E. HARKNESS.
BY R. STUART POOLE
THE RELIGIOUS TRACT SOCIETY,
56, PATERNOSTER Row, 65, ST. PAUL S CHURCHYARD,
AND 164, PICCADILLY.
ORIGIN OF THE ANCIENT ASSYRIANS.
Position and extent of Assyria. Rise and fall of the
Assyrian Kingdom. Discovery of the sites of some
famous Assyrian towns n
HISTORY OF THE PRINCIPAL KINGS.
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
ARCHITECTURE AND ART.
The Khorsabad Palace. Temples. Fortifications
of towns. Transport of colossal animals. Statues.
Bas-reliefs. Metal-castings. Carvings. Enamellings.
MILITARY AND HUNTING AFFAIRS.
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
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
REGINALD STUART POOLE.
ASSYRIAN LIFE AND HISTORY.
ORIGIN OF THE ASSYRIANS.
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.
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.
12 ASSYRIAN LIFE AND HISTORY.
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.
ORIGIN OF THE ASSYRIANS. 13
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
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.
HISTORY OF THE PRINCIPAL ASSYRIAN KINGS.
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
PRINCIPAL ASSYRIAN KINGS. 15
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."
1 6 ASSYRIAN LIFE AND HISTORY.
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
PRINCIPAL ASSYRIAN KINGS. I/
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.
1 8 ASSYRIAN LIFE AND HISTORY.
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
MONOLITH OF SHALMANESEK II.
PRINCIPAL ASSYRIAN KINGS. 21
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
22 ASSYRIAN LIFE AND HISTORY.
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.
PRINCIPAL ASSYRIAN KINGS. 23
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
24 ASSYRIAN LIFE AND HISTORY.
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
PRINCIPAL ASSYRIAN KINGS. 25
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
Sargon made war on the kings of Chaldea and Elam,
26 ASSYRIAN LIFE AND HISTORY.
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
PRINCIPAL ASSYRIAN KINGS. 2/
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.
28 ASSYRIAN LIFE AND HISTORY.
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
PRINCIPAL ASSYRIAN KINGS. 29
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
30 ASSYRIAN LIFE AND HISTORY.
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
PRINCIPAL ASSYRIAN KINGS. 31
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
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.
32 ASSYRIAN LIFE AND HISTORY.
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
PRINCIPAL ASSYRIAN KINGS. 3^
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
34 ASSYRIAN LIFE AND HISTORY.
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.
PRINCIPAL ASSYRIAN KINGS. 35
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
ASSYRIAN WRITINGS. 37
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.
38 ASSYRIAN LIFE AND HISTORY.
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
ASSYRIAN WRITINGS. 39
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.
40 ASSYRIAN LIFE AND HISTORY.
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."
ASSYRIAN WRITINGS. 43
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
ASSYRIAN LIFE AND HISTORY.
i! fl 5
MI 3 ^r
n ~ AM
W wJ I
t ~f f U
Ti V ^T *
^ V M i*i
T > V/
1 Ai & j S
4- M fr ? A
AAA >v^ > p
^ A A
AAA A* g:
"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
Part of an Assyrian Cylinder containing Hezekiah s Name.
. - ^
> <T ^. 1*1
* II M M
V- ^ 4- If
ii iii H
^ i n S J
"^ ^ j_ "it
I* It ^
ASSYRIAN LIFE AND HISTORY.
*n ^\ w
? 3 ^
B b a
^ w 5^
I PH "^
rt ^ rj
.s 3 j
^ "rt ^
> <*> p ^
M 5, PH
, rt <-T
P ^3 B^ g
55 jS -PS 1
t ** H "^
T ^ PH
1 -g Q .
*^ IS ^
. rt ^
^. -h w - ^
7 ^ PH ^
- Q ^
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
ASSYRIAN LITERATURE. 51
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
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
52 ASSYRIAN LIFE AND HISTORY.
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
ASSYRIAN LITERATURE. 53
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
54 ASSYRIAN LIFE AND HISTORY.
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
ASSYRIAN LITERATURE. 55
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 :
56 ASSYRIAN LIFE AND HISTORY.
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
ASSYRIAN LITERATURE. 57
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)
58 ASSYRIAN LIFE AND HISTORY.
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
ASSYRIAN LITERATURE. 59
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
" O my lord, my transgression is great ; many are
" 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.
60 ASSYRIAN LIFE AND HISTORY.
" 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
" 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.
ASSYRIAN LITERATURE. 6 1
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
62 ASSYRIAN LIFE AND HISTORY.
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
AN ASSYRIAN BOOK.
ASSYRIAN LITERATURE. 65
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
ASSYRIAN LIFE AND HISTORY.
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
RELIGION OF THE ASSYRIANS.
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
63 ASSYRIAN LIFE AND HISTORY.
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
RELIGION OF THE ASSYRIANS. 69
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
70 ASSYRIAN LIFE AND HISTORY.
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
RELIGION OF THE ASSYRIANS.
Assur, supreme. 1
Bel Creative powers.
Ea Lord of the Deep
Sin Moon ^
Shamas Sun > Celestial powers.
Marduk Jupiter ~"|
Adar Saturn ^ Five planets.
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-
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.
72 ASSYRIAN LIFE AND HISTORY.
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
RELIGION OF THE ASSYRIANS.
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 ;
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-
74 ASSYRIAN LIFE AND HISTORY.
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.)
RELIGION OF THE ASSYRIANS. /5
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.
76 ASSYRIAN LIFE AND HISTORY.
" 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
" 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
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.
RELIGION OF THE ASSYRIANS. 77
" 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."
ARCHITECTURE AND ART.
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
ARCHITECTURE AND ART. 79
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.
80 ASSYRIAN LIFE AND HISTORY.
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
Several temples are seen on the reliefs. One from
Nimroud is remarkable for the pattern on its pillars, and
ARCHITECTURE AND ART. 8 1
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
82 ASSYRIAN LIFE AND HISTORY.
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
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
ARCHITECTURE AND ART. 83
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-
84 ASSYRIAN LIFE AND HISTORY.
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
ARCHITECTURE AND ART. 85
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
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
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
86 ASSYRIAN LIFE AND HISTORY.
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 AND ART. 8/
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
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
<88 ASSYRIAN LIFE AND HISTORY.
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
ARCHITECTURE AND ART. 89
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,
9O ASSYRIAN LIFE AND HISTORY.
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
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.
ARCHITECTURE AND ART. 91
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
MILITARY AND HUNTING AFFAIRS.
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
MILITARY AND HUNTING AFFAIRS. 93
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.
94 ASSYRIAN LIFE AND HISTORY.
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.
MILITARY AND HUNTING AFFAIRS.
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-
SlEGE OK A I lTV.
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
96 ASSYRIAN LIFE AND HISTORY.
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
MILITARY AND HUNTING AFFAIRS. 97
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
98 ASSYRIAN LIFE AND HISTORY.
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 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
ASSYRIAN DOMESTIC AFFAIRS.
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
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
ICO ASSYRIAN LIFE AND HISTORY.
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
ASSYRIAN DOMESTIC AFFAIRS. IOI
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
102 ASSYRIAN LIFE AND HISTORY.
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
This does not surprise us, when we consider the
ASSYRIAN DOMESTIC AFFAIRS. IO3
-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
104 ASSYRIAN LIFE AND HISTORY.
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
106 ASSYRIAN LIFE AND HISTORY.
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.)
COLOSSAL ANIMALS. 1O/
" 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."
Harrison and Sons, Printers in Ordinary to Her Majesty, St. Martin s L.me.
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
II. ASSYRIAN LIFE AND HISTORY. By M. E.
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.}
IV. BABYLONIAN LIFE AND HISTORY, as
Illustrated by the Monuments. By MR. BUDGE,
of the British Museum.
V. THE RECENT SURVEY OF PALESTINE,
and the most striking Results of it.
VI. EGYPT HISTORY, ART, and CUSTOMS,
as Illustrated by the Monuments in the British
VII. UNDERGROUND JERUSALEM.
N.B. Other Subjects are in course of prepara
tion, and will be announced in due course,
LONDON : THE RELIGIOUS TRACT SOCIETY,
56, PATERNOSTER ROW.