Assyria (2)

Assyria The recent explorations in that country, especially those of Messrs. Smith' and Rassam, have been so intimately connected with those relating to Babylonia that some of them will be more appropriately considered under that head; but in many respects both countries can conveniently be considered together. Indeed, the two powers were nearly coextensive as to territory, the one merely being the sequel of the other. The separate history of the Assyrian empire is, in fact, but that of Nineveh, its capital, in the treatment of which, in connection with that of the several kings mentioned in Scripture, especially Pul, Tiglath-pileser, Shalmaneser, Sargon, and Sennacherib, details of special Biblical interest are given. We here gather up some additional particulars under general heads.

I. Origin. — The name Assyria itself primarily denoted the small territory immediately surrounding the primitive capital, "the city of Assur" (thought: to be the Ellasar of Genesis), which was built, like the other chief cities of the country, by Turanian tribes, in whose language the word signified " water meadow." It stood, according to the latest Assyriologists, on the right bank of the Tigris, midway between the Greater and the Lesser' Zab, being represented by the modern Kalah Sherghat. It appears to have remained the capital city long after the Assyrians had 'become the' dominant power in Western Asia, but was finally supplanted by Calah (supposed by many to be the present Nimrud), Nineveh (now Nebbi Yunus and Kuyunjik), and DurSargina (now Khorsabad), some sixty miles farther north. SEE NINEVEH. The city of Babylon itself, however, was of earlier origin, and formed the centre of a province or monarchy at times more or less prominent, until it at length rose into imperial importance on the downfall of its rival Nineveh. SEE BABYLON.

II. The Assyrian Monarchy. — Under this head we present a historical abstract in the words of an acknowledged expert (Prof. Sayce, in the last ed. of the Encyclopedia Britannica, s.v. n" Babylonia"), although we dissent from many of its synchronisms;

"Assyria." topical outline.

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

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

Bible concordance for ASSYRIA.

Rimmon, who shortly after succeeded him. Samas-Rimmon (824-811) and Rimmon-Nirari (811-782) preserved the empire of Assyria undiminished; but their principal exploits were in Babylonia, which they wasted with fire and sword and converted into an Assyrian province.

"The first Assyrian empire came to an end in 744, when the old dynasty was overthrown by a usurper, Tiglathpileser, after a struggle of three or four years. 'Once set tied on the throne, however, Tiglath-Pileser proceeded to restore 'and reorganize the empire. Babylonia was first attacked; the Assyrian monarch offered sacrifices and set up his court-in its chief cities; and the multitudinous Arab tribes who encamped along the banks of the Euphrates were reduced to subjection.

See also the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.

"The Chaldai in the south alone held out, and to them belonged the first four kings given in Ptolemy's canon. Indeed, it may be said that from the invasion of Tiglathpileser to the revolt of Nabopolassar Babylonia ceased to have any separate existence. It was governed by Assyrian kings, or the viceroys they appointed, and the only attempts to recover independence were made under the leadership of the Chaldaean chiefs. It becomes nothing more than an important province of Assyria.

"The second Assyrian empire differed from the first in its greater consolidation. The conquered provinces were no longer loosely attached to the central power by the payment of tribute, and ready to refuse it as soon as the Assyrian armies were out of sight; they were changed into satrapies, each with its fixed taxes and military contingent. Assyrian viceroys were nominated wherever possible, and a turbulent population was deported to some distant locality. This will explain the condition in which Babylonia found itself, as well as the special attention which was paid to the countries on the Mediterranean coast. The possession of the barbarous and half- deserted districts on the east was of little profit; the inhabitants were hardy mountaineers, difficult to subdue and without wealth , and, although, Tiglath- pileser penetrated into Sagartia, Ariaan, and Aracosia, and even to the confines of India, the expedition was little more than a display of power. The rich and civilized regions of the west, on the contrary, offered attractions which the politicians of Nineveh were keen to discover. Tiglath- pileser overthrew the ancient kingdoms of Damascus and Hamath, with its nineteen districts and, after receiving tribute from Menaham (which a false reading in the Old Test. ascribes to a non-existent Pul) in 740, placed his vassal Hoshea on the throne of Samaria in 730 in the room of Pekah.

Hamath had been aided by Uzziah of Judah; and on the overthrow of the Syrian city, Judah had to become the tributary of Assyria. Tiglath-pileser seems to have met with a usurper's fate, and to have fallen in a struggle with another claimant of the throne, Shalmaneser. The chief event of Shalmaneser's reign (727-722) was the campaign against Samaria. The capture of that city, however, was reserved for his successor, Sargon, in 720, who succeeded in foundilng a new dynasty. Sargon's reign of seventeen years forms an sera in later Assyrian history. At the very commencement of it he met and defeated the forces of Elam, and so prepared the way for the future conquest of that once predominant monarchy. He came into conflict also with the kingdoms of Ararat and Van in the north; and the policy of the countries beyond the Zagros was henceforth influenced by the swishes of the Assyrian court. But it was in the west that the power of Nineveh was chiefly felt. 'Syria and Palestine were reduced to a condition of vassalage, Hamath was depopulated, and Egypt, then governed by Ethiopian princes, came first into collision, with Assyria. The battle of Raphia in 719. in which the Egyptians and their Philistine allies were defeated, was an omen of the future, and from this time onward the destinies of civilized Asia were fought out between the two great powers of the ancient world. As the one rose the other fell; and just as the climax of Assyrian glory is marked by the complete subjugation of Egypt, so the revolt of Egypt was the first signal of the decline of Assyria. The struggle between the representative states of the East led, as was natural, to the appearance of the Greek upon the time of history. Sargon claims the conquest of Cyprus as well, as Phoenicia, and his effigy, found at Idalitum, remains to this day a witness of the fact. Babylonia, however, was the point of weakness in the empire. It was too like, and yet too unlike, Assyria to be otherwise than a dangerous dependency; and its inhabitants could never forget that they had once been the dominant nation. New blood had. been infused into them by the arrival of the Chaldai, whose leader, Merodich-baladan, the son of Yacin, called Mardokempados in Ptolemy's canon, had taken advantage of the troubles which closed the life of Tiglath-pileser to possess himself of Babylonia; and for twelve years he continued master of the country, until, in 710, Sargon drove him from the province and crowned himself king of Babylon. Merodach-baladan had foreseen the attack, and endeavored to meet it by forming alliances with Egypt and the principalities of Palestine. The confederacy, however, was broken up in a single campaign by the Assyrian monarch; Judaea was overrun and Ashdod razed to the ground. Sargon, who now styled himself king of Assyria and Babylon, of Sumir and Accad, like Tiglath-pileser before him, spent the latter part of his reign in internal reforms and extensive building. A new town called after his name was founded to the north of Nineveh (at the modern Kuyunjik), and a magnificent palace erected there. The library of Calah was restored and enlarged, in imitation of his semi-mythical namesake of Agane, whose astrological works were re-edited, while special attention was given to legislation. In the midst of these labors Sargon was murdered, and his son Senuacherib ascended the throne on the 12th of-Ab, B.C. 705. Sennacherib is a typical representative of the great warriors and builders of the second Assyrian empire, and is familiar to the readers of the Old Test. from his invasion of Judah, which the native monuments assign to the year 701. The check he received at Eltakeh, where he was met by the forces of Egypt and Ethiopia, saved the Jewish king; not, however, before his towns had been ravaged, a heavy tribute laid upon the capital, and his allies in Ascalon and Ekron severely. punished. At the commencement of this campaign, Sennacherib had reduced Tyre and Sidon, and the overthrow of these centres of commerce caused a transfer of trade to Carchemish. Babylonia had shaken off the yoke of Assyria at the death of Sargon under Merodach-baladan, who had escaped from his captivity at Nineveh, but was soon reduced to obedience again and placed under the government of the Assyrian viceroy, Belibus. In 700, however, the year after the Judaean war, Babylon rebelled once more under the indomitable Merodach-baladan and Suzub, another Chaldaean.' Sennacherib was occupied with a naval war the first ever engaged in by the Assyrians-against a body of Chaldaeans who had taken up refuge in Susiana, and the revolt in his rear was stirred up by the Susianian king. But the insurgents were totally defeated; Assur-nadin-sum, Senuacherib's eldest son, was appointed viceroy of the southern kingdom; and the Assyrian monarch felt himself strong enough to carry the war into the heart of Elam, wasting the country with fire and sword. A last attempt made by the Susianians and the Chaldaeans of Babylonia to oppose the power of Assyria was shattered in the hardly contested battle of Khaluli. The interregnunm, however, which marks the last eight years of Sennacherib's rule in Ptolemy's canon shows that Chaldaea still continued to give trouble and resist the Assyrian yoke.

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

"Assur-bani-pal the Sardanapalus of the Greeks, was the 'grand monarque' of ancient Assyria. The empire on his accession was at the height of its glory and magnitude; the treasures and products of the world flowed into Nineveh, and its name was feared from the frontiers of India to the shores of the AEgean. Constant wars asserted the superiority of the Assyrian troops, though they drained the empire of money and men; and the luxury which had come in like a flood was sapping the foundations of the national strength. Assur-bani-pal, in spite of his victories, his buildings, and his patronage of literature, left a diminished inheritance to his son; and the military expeditions formerly conducted by the king in person were now intrusted to his generals. His first work was to check the southward advance of the Cimmerians, who were thus driven upon Asia Minor, and to quell a revolt which had broken out in Egypt. Two campaigns were requisite to effect this, and meanwhile Gyges of Lydia had sent tribute to the formidable Assyrian monarch. War had also broken out with Elam, which ended, after a long and hard struggle, with the complete conquest of the country. It was divided into two states, each ruled by Assyrian vassals. But soon after this (in 652) the first blow was struck which eventually led to the downfall of the empire. A general insurrection then suddenly took place, headed by Assur-bani-pal's own brother, the viceroy of Babylonia. Elam, Arabia, Egypt, and Palestine made common cause against the oppressor. Egypt alone, however, under the guidance of Psammetichus, and with the help of Gyges, succeeded in recovering her independence; the wandering tribes of Northern Arabia-:Kedar, Zobah, Nabathsea, etc. were chastised, and summary vengeance taken on Babylonia and Elam. Babylon and Cutliah were reduced by famine (649), Saunnughes was captured and burned to( death, and fire and sword were carried through Elam. After a protracted war, in which Assur-bani-pal was aided by internal dissensions, Shushan was plundered and razed, and the whole of Susiana reduced to a wilderness. This happened in 643. Assur-baui-pal's buildings were unrivalled for size and grandeur. Assyrian culture reached its culminating point in his reign, and his palaces glittered with the precious metals and were adorned with the richest sculpture. The library which he formed at Nineveh far surpassed any that had ever existed before; literary works were collected from all sides; the study of the dead language of Accad was encouraged, grammars and dictionaries were compiled, and learned men of all nations were attracted to the court. Patron of the arts as he was, Assur- bani-pal's character was stained by cruelty and sensuality. Under his second name of Sin-inadina-pal, he appears as king of Babylon in Ptolemny's list; and the complete amalgamation of Assyria and Babylonia in the later years of his rule is shown by the appearance of a praefect of Babylon among the Assyrian eponyms. He was succeeded in 625 by his son Assur-ebil-ili. His death was the signal for a general revolt. Nabopolassar, the viceroy of Babylonia, made himself independent; and Assyria, shorn of its empire, was left to struggle for bare existence, until, under Saracus, its last monarch, Nineveh was taken and burned by the Babylonians and Medes."

III. Government and Military Operations. — Both the Assyrians and the Babylonians evidently were ruled by an absolute despotism lodged in the hands of a hereditary autocrat, subject to all the caprices and fluctuations of Oriental custom. Revolutions, insurrections, and arbitrary depositions were the natural and frequent consequence. Sargon was evidently a usurper of obscure parentage, and Sennacherib was removed by assassination. In these respects these nations resembled their neighbors or successors the Persians. The king was surrounded by guards and attended by a pompous retinue. His harem was filled with the captives or hostages of conquered royalty. In the kindred passion for hunting, he was a veritable successor of the famous Nimrod.

War was the great occupation of the nation, and bat. tie the favorite theme of the artist. Invasion, rapine, butchery, and enslavement or transportation were the constant policy towards other nations, until they were reduced to vassalage, and a continued system of tribute was relentlessly exacted. Defection was regarded as treason, and a revolted viceroy was flayed alive. The army was thoroughly equipped and trained, both horse (chiefly chariots) and foot; and military engines were in habitual use. Of the field manoeuvres of the troops we have little knowledge, but the siege operations are frequently depicted on the monuments; and of the courage and endurance of the soldiers in engagements we have abundant proof. See each of these topics in its alphabetical place.

IV. Civil and Mercantile Regulations. — Legal transactions are frequently referred to in the records lately exhumed by Mr. Smith from the ruins of Mesopotamia, which show a high degree of advancement in social order. In the family relation, as in the East generally, the mother occupies a ruling influence, and the wife a subordinate position. Wills were made, and contracts were respected. Slaves were common, but were under legal protection. The rate of interest was limited, and debts were secured as well as titles to real estate. Money was coined, and leases executed. The trade of Assyria was chiefly with adjoining or subject provinces, and yet became quite considerable from her position as an entrepot; but the commerce of Babylon was proverbially extensive and lucrative. Both nations imported as well as exported; and the shipping upon the Tigris and Euphrates must have been enormous. SEE COMMERCE.

V. Arts and Sciences. — These included both useful and ornamental branches. Architecture was highly developed; but, from the nature of the two regions, the buildings of the Babylonians were of brick and painted panels, on artificial platforms, and carried up to an imposing height with terraced stories, while those of the Assyrians were of stone (at least for facing), especially the soft. alabaster of the adjoining mountains, carved with elaborate figures, and usually of two stories only. SEE ARCHITECTURE. For similar reasons imposing tombs were common among the Assyrians, while the Babylonians chiefly buried the dead in terra-cotta caskets. SEE BURIAL. The progress of luxury is easily traced in both nations, in the effeminacy of personal ornaments, in the later period. The massive limbs of kings, soldiers, and even private persons are seen on the monuments loaded with jewelry, decked with embroidery; and the hair is always elaborately curled, even to the beard. SEE ORNAMENT. Sculpture and painting were highly cultivated; but there is a total lack of perspective in the productions of both. Intaglio was the favorite method of engraving, and bass-relief in carving. Music was pursued, as the instruments depicted on the monuments show; but under what system remains unknown. The decorative arts were proportionally well developed. Pottery was of an elegant form, and glass was known. Among the metals, gold and copper were highly wrought, but iron appears to have been scarce.

Astronomy was the chief science, and for this Babylon became famous. Observatories were erected in Ur, and the Tower of Belus probably had some such use. The stars were designated, and a calendar was adopted. with an intercalation as often as required. The year, however, was the vague or defective one. Eclipses were calculated, cycles were in use, and the night was divided into watches. The lunar changes were noted, and some traces of meteorological observations are found. Arithmetic was systematized, the unit being 60, and squares and cubes were calculated. The sundial, the clepsydra, the lever, and the pulley were known; and the minuteness of some of the cuneiform inscriptions argues the use of the lens.

VI. Language and Literature. —The speech of the original inhabitants of the Mesopotamian valley is a question of great difficulty and dispute, as is, indeed, their ethnological relation. The extant records, however, are all in the cuneatic character, which, so far as the region in question is concerned, may conveniently be divided into two branches-the Assyrian and the Babylonian dialects-the latter being characterized by a preference for the softer forms and a fuller use of the vowels. Both belong to the Shemitic class of languages, and thus are strongly akin to the Hebrew and the Arabic. With the aid of the texts, grammars, and lexicons now readily accessible, scholars have no difficulty in mastering the elements of the written language of either nation, and in satisfactorily determining the meaning of the literature remaining. (Classes are regularly formed in London for instructing beginners in cuneatic philology.) Much of this has been translated into European languages, and convenient abstracts may be found in Baxter's series of little volumes entitled Records of the Past, and in the Transactions of the (Lond.) Society of Biblical A rchceology. More elaborate works, giving the original texts, have been published by the learned Assyriologists Rawlinson, Oppert, Lenormant, Menant, Schrader, and others. See Sayce, Assyrian Grammar (Lond. 1872), p. 18 sq.

The literature of Assyria and Babylonia, so far as hitherto discovered, is almost entirely buried in the mounds of those ruined cities of that region, and consists of arrow-headed inscriptions on clay tablets, sculptured walls and figures, or engraved gems and cylinders. The late Mr. George Smith succeeded in disinterring and bringing home to England a vast store of the terracotta inscriptions, which. have added immensely to our knowledge of the literature of those lost empires. Among them we may especially mention the records of the early traditions of the nations, on the Fall and the Deluge, which so remarkably illustrate the scriptural narratives; and the remains of what that explorer regarded as the library of Sargon at Nineveh. Manuscripts on papyrus or other materials of a frail character, if they existed among these people, have utterly perished. The works thus far recovered, besides the sculptured inscriptions (which chiefly relate to regal annals), are largely religious, consisting of hymns and mythological poems. Two whole epics have been restored from pieces of different copies-one on the Deluge, and the other on the descent of Ishtar into Hades; while the fragment of a third describes the war of the seven spirits against the moon. See the recent volumes of Mr. Smith and the other works above cited. Other treatises exhumed contain fables, and a few exhibit legal documents and chronological treatises of later date and little interest. See Sayce, Babylonian Literature (Lond. 1878).

VII. Religious Beliefs. — The basis of these appears to have been a polytheistic conception of daemoniacal powers residing in natural objects; and this led to superstitious practices for the purpose of appeasing the supposed spirits. Prominent among these supernatural influences was a sort of triad, consisting of Na or Anna (the sky), Ea (the earth), and Mulge (the underworld). This reveals an astronomical element, which was eventually developed into uranolatry under various new deities allied to the other Oriental forms of idolatry. Thus in Babylon especially, where the mythology was more elaborately refined, Bel as the sun-god was the principal deity; and his female counterpart (under whatever title) was associated with him in power. Subordinate deities innumerable crowd the Pantheon. From the distinction of sex thus introduced, naturally sprang a licentious worship, notices of which abound in all ancient authorities, and traces of which clearly appear in the legend of Ishtar (the Assyrian Venus) above mentioned. The whole system, at length, was characterized by the grossest features of sensuous image-worship. At the same time, the superstitious fears of the ignorant devotees were wrought upon by the sprites and goblins of the nature-deification, and sorcery and magic were the ruling arts of professional experts. SEE DIVINATION.

 
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