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Title: A History of Art in Chaldæa & Assyria, v. 1
Author: Perrot, Georges, 1832-1914, Chipiez, Charles, 1835-1901
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A History of Art in Chaldæa & Assyria, v. 1" ***











  London: CHAPMAN AND HALL, Limited.



In face of the cordial reception given to the first two volumes of MM.
Perrot and Chipiez's History of Ancient Art, any words of introduction from
me to this second instalment would be presumptuous. On my own part,
however, I may be allowed to express my gratitude for the approval
vouchsafed to my humble share in the introduction of the History of Art in
Ancient Egypt to a new public, and to hope that nothing may be found in the
following pages to change that approval into blame.

                W. A.

  _October 10, 1883._





  § 1. Situation and Boundaries of Chaldæa and Assyria              1-8

  § 2. Nature in the Basin of the Euphrates and Tigris             8-13

  § 3. The Primitive Elements of the Population                   13-21

  § 4. The Wedges                                                 21-33

  § 5. The History of Chaldæa and Assyria                         33-55

  § 6. The Chaldæan Religion                                      55-89

  § 7. The People and Government                                 89-113



  § 1. Materials                                                114-126

  § 2. The General Principles of Form                           126-146

  § 3. Construction                                             146-200

  § 4. The Column                                               200-221

  § 5. The Arch                                                 221-236

  § 6. Secondary Forms                                          236-260

  § 7. Decoration                                               260-311

  § 8. On the Orientation of Buildings and Foundation
        Ceremonies                                              311-322

  § 9. Mechanical Resources                                     322-326

  § 10. On the Graphic Processes Employed in the Representations
        of Buildings                                            327-334



  § 1. Chaldæan and Assyrian Notions as to a Future Life        335-355

  § 2. The Chaldæan Tomb                                        355-363



  § 1. Attempts to Restore the Principal Types                  364-382

  § 2. Ruins of Staged Towers                                   382-391

  § 3. Subordinate Types of the Temple                          391-398



    I. Babil                                        _To face page_  154

   II. Rectangular Chaldæan temple                                  370

  III. Square double-ramped Chaldæan temple                         378

   IV. Square Assyrian temple                                       380

  FIG.                                                             PAGE

  1. Brick from Erech                                                24

  2. Fragment of an inscription engraved upon the back of a statue
        from Tello                                                   25

  3. Seal of Ourkam                                                  38

  4. Genius in the attitude of adoration                             42

  5. Assurbanipal at the chase                                       45

  6. Demons                                                          61

  7. Demons                                                          62

  8. Eagle-headed divinity                                           63

  9. Anou or Dagon                                                   64

  10. Stone of Merodach-Baladan I                                    73

  11. Assyrian cylinder                                              74

  12. Assyrian cylinder                                              74

  13. Gods carried in procession                                     75

  14. Gods carried in procession                                     76

  15. Statue of Nebo                                                 81

  16. Terra-cotta statuette                                          83

  17. A Chaldæan cylinder                                            84

  18. The winged globe                                               87

  19. The winged globe with human figure                             87

  20. Chaldæan cylinder                                              95

  21. Chaldæan cylinder                                              95

  22. The King Sargon and his Grand Vizier                           97

  23. The suite of Sargon                                            99

  24. The suite of Sargon                                           101

  25. Fragment of a bas-relief in alabaster                         105

  26. Bas-relief of Tiglath Pileser II                              106

  27. Feast of Assurbanipal                                         107

  28. Feast of Assurbanipal                                         108

  29. Offerings to a god                                            109

  30. Convoy of prisoners                                           111

  31. Convoy of prisoners                                           112

  32. Babylonian brick                                              118

  33. Brick from Khorsabad                                          119

  34. Temple                                                        128

  35. Tell-Ede, in Lower Chaldæa                                    129

  36. Haman, in Lower Chaldæa                                       131

  37. Babil, at Babylon                                             135

  38. A fortress                                                    138

  39. View of a town and its palaces                                140

  40. House in Kurdistan                                            141

  41. Temple on the bank of a river, Khorsabad                      142

  42. Temple in a royal park, Kouyundjik                            143

  43. View of a group of buildings, Kouyundjik                      145

  44. Plan of angle, Khorsabad                                      147

  45. Section of wall through AB in Fig. 44                         147

  46. Elevation of wall, Khorsabad                                  148

  47. Section in perspective through the south-western part of
        Sargon's palace at Khorsabad                                149

  48. Temple at Mugheir                                             154

  49. Upper part of the drainage arrangements of a mound            159

  50. Present state of one of the city gates, Khorsabad             161

  51. Fortress; from the Balawat gates, in the British Museum       164

  52. The palace at Firouz-Abad                                     170

  53. The palace at Sarbistan                                       170

  54. Section through the palace at Sarbistan                       171

  55. Restoration of a hall in the harem at Khorsabad               174

  56. Royal tent, Kouyundjik                                        175

  57. Tent, Kouyundjik                                              175

  58. Interior of a Yezidi house                                    178

  59. Fortress                                                      180

  60. Crude brick construction                                      181

  61. Armenian "lantern"                                            183

  62-65. Terra-cotta cylinders in elevation, section and plan       184

  66. Outside staircases in the ruins of Abou-Sharein               191

  67. Interior of the royal tent                                    193

  68. Tabernacle; from the Balawat gates                            194

  69. The seal of Sennacherib                                       196

  70. Type of open architecture in Assyria                          197

  71. Homage to _Samas_ or _Shamas_                                 203

  72. Sheath of a cedar-wood mast, bronze                           205

  73. Interior of a house supported by wooden pillars; from the
        gates of Balawat                                            206

  74. Assyrian capital, in perspective                              207

  75. Capital; from a small temple                                  209

  76. View of a palace                                              210

  77. Capital; from a small temple                                  212

  78. Capital                                                       212

  79. Chaldæan tabernacle                                           212

  80. Ivory plaque found at Nimroud                                 212

  81. The _Tree of Life_                                            213

  82. Ornamental base, in limestone                                 214

  83. Model of a base, side view                                    215

  84. The same, seen from in front                                  215

  85. Winged Sphinx carrying the base of a column                   216

  86. Façade of an Assyrian building                                216

  87, 88. Bases of columns                                          217

  89. Tomb-chamber at Mugheir                                       222

  90. Interior of a chamber in the harem of Sargon's palace at
        Khorsabad                                                   225

  91. Return round the angle of an archivolt in one of the gates
        of Dour-Saryoukin                                           227

  92. Drain at Khorsabad, with pointed arch                         229

  93. Sewer at Khorsabad, with semicircular vault                   232

  94. Sewer at Khorsabad, with elliptical vault                     233

  95. Decorated lintel                                              238

  96. Sill of a door, from Khorsabad                                240

  97. Bronze foot, from the Balawat gates, and its socket           243

  98, 99. Assyrian mouldings. Section and elevation                 245

  100. Façade of a ruined building at Warka                         246

  101. Decoration of one of the harem gates, at Khorsabad           247

  102. View of an angle of the _Observatory_ at Khorsabad           249

  103. Lateral façade of the palace at Firouz-Abad                  251

  104. Battlements from an Assyrian palace                          251

  105. Battlements from the Khorsabad _Observatory_                 252

  106. Battlements of Sargon's palace at Khorsabad                  255

  107. Altar                                                        255

  108. Altar in the Louvre                                          256

  109. Altar in the British Museum                                  257

  110. Stele from Khorsabad                                         258

  111. The obelisk of Shalmaneser II. in the British Museum         258

  112. Rock-cut stele from Kouyundjik                               259

  113. Fragment from Babylon                                        263

  114. Human-headed lion                                            267

  115. Bas-relief with several registers                            269

  116. Ornament painted upon plaster                                275

  117. Ornament painted upon plaster                                275

  118. Ornament painted upon plaster                                276

  119. Plan and elevation of part of a façade at Warka              278

  120. Cone with coloured base                                      279

  121, 122. Rosettes in glazed pottery                              290

  123. Detail of enamelled archivolt                                291

  124. Detail of enamelled archivolt                                292

  125. Enamelled brick in the British Museum                        293

  126. Ornament upon enamelled brick                                294

  127. Fragment of a glazed brick                                   295

  128. Fragment of a glazed brick                                   297

  129. Ivory tablet in the British Museum                           301

  130. Fragment of an ivory tablet                                  301

  131. Threshold from Kouyundjik                                    303

  132. Rosette                                                      304

  133. Bouquet of flowers and buds                                  305

  134. Painted border                                               306

  135. Fragment of a threshold                                      306

  136. Door ornament                                                307

  137. Palmette                                                     308

  138. Goats and palmette                                           308

  139. Winged bulls and palmette                                    309

  140. Stag upon a palmette                                         310

  141. Winged bull upon a rosette                                   311

  142. Stag, palmette, and rosette                                  311

  143. Plan of a temple at Mugheir                                  312

  144. Plan of the town and palace of Sargon at Khorsabad           313

  145. General plan of the remains at Nimroud                       314

  146. Bronze statuette                                             316

  147. Bronze statuette                                             317

  148. Bronze statuette                                             318

  149. Terra-cotta cone                                             319

  150. Terra-cotta cylinder                                         320

  151. The transport of a bull                                      324

  152. Putting a bull in place                                      326

  153. Chaldæan plan                                                327

  154. Assyrian plan; from the Balawat gates in the British
        Museum                                                      329

  155. Plan and section of a fortress                               329

  156. Plan, section, and elevation of a fortified city             330

  157. Plan and elevation of a fortified city                       331

  158. Fortress with its defenders                                  333

  159, 160. Vases                                                   342

  161. Plaque of chiselled bronze. Obverse                          350

  162. Plaque of chiselled bronze. Reverse                          351

  163. Tomb at Mugheir                                              357

  164. Tomb at Mugheir                                              358

  165. Tomb at Mugheir                                              358

  166. Tomb, or coffin, at Mugheir                                  359

  167. Map of the ruins of Mugheir                                  362

  168. View of the Birs-Nimroud                                     367

  169-171. Longitudinal section, plan, and horizontal section of
        the rectangular type of Chaldæan temple                     370

  172. Map of Warka, with its ruins                                 371

  173. Type of square, single-ramped Chaldæan temple                375

  174-176. Transverse section, plan, and horizontal section of a
        square, single-ramped, Chaldæan temple                      377

  177-179. Transverse section, plan, and horizontal section of a
        square, double-ramped Chaldæan temple                       378

  180-182. Square Assyrian temple. Longitudinal section, horizontal
        section, and plan                                           380

  183. Map of the ruins of Babylon                                  383

  184. Actual condition of the so-called _Observatory_, at
        Khorsabad                                                   387

  185. The _Observatory_, restored. Elevation                       388

  186. The _Observatory_, restored. Plan                            389

  187. The _Observatory_. Transverse section through A B            390

  188. Plan of a small temple at Nimroud                            393

  189. Plan of a small temple at Nimroud                            393

  190. Temple with triangular pediment                              394


  Lion's head, gold (French National Library)              _Title-page_

  Lion's head, glazed earthenware (Louvre)                          113

  Two rabbits' heads, ivory (Louvre)                                334

  Cow's head, ivory (British Museum)                                363

  Eagle, from a bas-relief (British Museum)                         398






§ 1.--_Situation and Boundaries of Chaldæa and Assyria._

The primitive civilization of Chaldæa, like that of Egypt, was cradled in
the lower districts of a great alluvial basin, in which the soil was stolen
from the sea by long continued deposits of river mud. In the valley of the
Tigris and Euphrates, as in that of the Nile, it was in the great plains
near the ocean that the inhabitants first emerged from barbarism and
organized a civil life. As the ages passed away, this culture slowly
mounted the streams, and, as Memphis was older by many centuries than
Thebes, in dignity if not in actual existence, so Ur and Larsam were older
than Babylon, and Babylon than Nineveh. The manners and beliefs, the arts
and the written characters of Egypt were carried into the farthest recesses
of Ethiopia, partly by commerce but still more by military invasion; so too
Chaldaic civilization made itself felt at vast distances from its
birthplace, even in the cold valleys and snowy plateaux of Armenia, in
districts which are separated by ten degrees of latitude from the burning
shores where the fish god Oannes showed himself to the rude fathers of the
race, and taught them "such things as contribute to the softening of
life."[1] In Egypt progressive development took place from north to south,
while in Chaldæa its direction was reversed. The apparent contrast is,
however, but a resemblance the more. The orientation, if such a term may be
used, of the two basins, is in opposite directions, but in each the spread
of religion with its rites and symbols, of written characters with their
adaptation to different languages, and of all those arts and processes
which, when taken together, make up what we call civilization, advanced
from the seaboard to the river springs.

In these two countries the conscience of man seems to have been first
awakened to his innate power of bettering his own condition by well
directed observation, by the elaboration of laws, and by forethought for
the future. Between Egypt on the one hand, and Chaldæa with that Assyria
which was no more than its offshoot and prolongation, on the other, there
are strong analogies, as will be clearly seen in the course of our study,
but there are also differences that are not less appreciable. Professor
Rawlinson shows this very clearly in a page of descriptive geography which
he will allow us to quote as it stands. It will not be the last of our
borrowings from his excellent work, _The Five Great Monarchies of the
Ancient Eastern World_, a book that has done so much to popularize the
discoveries of modern scholars.[2]

"The broad belt of desert which traverses the eastern hemisphere, in a
general direction from west to east (or, speaking more exactly, of W.S.W.
to N.E.E.) reaching from the Atlantic on the one hand nearly to the Yellow
Sea on the other, is interrupted about its centre by a strip of rich
vegetation, which at once breaks the continuity of the arid region, and
serves also to mark the point where the desert changes its character from
that of a plain at a low level to that of an elevated plateau or
table-land. West of the favoured district, the Arabian and African wastes
are seas of land seldom raised much above, often sinking below the level of
the ocean; while east of the same, in Persia, Kerman, Seistan, Chinese
Tartary, and Mongolia, the desert consists of a series of plateaux, having
from 3,000 to nearly 10,000 feet of elevation. The green and fertile region
which is thus interposed between the 'highland' and 'lowland' deserts,[3]
participates, curiously enough, in both characters. Where the belt of sand
is intersected by the valley of the Nile, no marked change of elevation
occurs; and the continuous low desert is merely interrupted by a few miles
of green and cultivable surface, the whole of which is just as smooth and
as flat as the waste on either side of it. But it is otherwise at the more
eastern interruption. Then the verdant and productive country divides
itself into two tracts, running parallel to each other, of which the
western presents features, not unlike those that characterize the Nile
valley, but on a far larger scale; while the eastern is a lofty mountain
region, consisting for the most part of five or six parallel ranges, and
mounting in many places far above the level of perpetual snow.

"It is with the western or plain tract that we are here concerned. Between
the outer limits of the Syro-Arabian desert and the foot of the great
mountain range of Kurdistan and Luristan intervenes a territory long famous
in the world's history, and the chief site of three out of the five empires
of whose history, geography, and antiquities, it is proposed to treat in
the present volumes. Known to the Jews as Aram-Naharaim, or 'Syria of the
two rivers'; to the Greeks and Romans as Mesopotamia, or 'the between-river
country'; to the Arabs as Al-Jezireh, or 'the island,' this district has
always taken its name from the streams which constitute its most striking
feature, and to which, in fact, it owes its existence. If it were not for
the two great rivers--the Tigris and Euphrates--with their tributaries, the
more northern part of the Mesopotamian lowland would in no respect differ
from the Syro-Arabian desert on which it adjoins, and which, in latitude,
elevation, and general geological character, it exactly resembles. Towards
the south the importance of the rivers is still greater; for of Lower
Mesopotamia it may be said, with more truth than of Egypt,[4] that it is
'an acquired land,' the actual 'gift' of the two streams which wash it on
either side; being as it is, entirely a recent formation--a deposit which
the streams have made in the shallow waters of a gulf into which they have
flowed for many ages.[5]

"The division, which has here forced itself upon our notice, between the
Upper and the Lower Mesopotamian country, is one very necessary to engage
our attention in connection with ancient Chaldæa. There is no reason to
think that the term Chaldæa had at any time the extensive signification of
Mesopotamia, much less that it applied to the entire flat country between
the desert and the mountains. Chaldæa was not the whole, but a part, of the
great Mesopotamian plain; which was ample enough to contain within it three
or four considerable monarchies. According to the combined testimony of
geographers and historians,[6] Chaldæa lay towards the south, for it
bordered upon the Persian Gulf, and towards the west, for it adjoined
Arabia. If we are called upon to fix more accurately its boundaries, which,
like those of most countries without strong natural frontiers, suffered
many fluctuations, we are perhaps entitled to say that the Persian Gulf on
the south, the Tigris on the east, the Arabian desert on the west, and the
limit between Upper and Lower Mesopotamia on the north, formed the natural
bounds, which were never greatly exceeded, and never much infringed upon.
These boundaries are for the most part tolerably clear, though the northern
only is invariable. Natural causes, hereafter to be mentioned more
particularly, are perpetually varying the course of the Tigris, the shore
of the Persian Gulf and the line of demarcation between the sands of Arabia
and the verdure of the Euphrates valley. But nature has set a permanent
mark, half way down the Mesopotamian lowland, by a difference of a
geological structure, which is very conspicuous. Near Hit on the Euphrates,
and a little below Samarah on the Tigris,[7] the traveller who descends the
streams, bids adieu to a somewhat waving and slightly elevated plain of
secondary formation, and enters on the dead flat and low level of the new
alluvium. The line thus formed is marked and invariable; it constitutes the
only natural division between the upper and lower portions of the valley;
and both probability and history point to it as the actual boundary between
Chaldæa and her northern neighbour."[8]

Whether the two States had independent and separate life, or whether, as in
after years, one of the two had, by its political and military superiority
reduced the other to the condition of a vassal, the line of demarcation was
constant, a line traced in the first instance by nature and rendered more
rigid and ineffaceable by historical developments. Even when Chaldæa became
nominally a mere province of Assyria, the two nationalities remained
distinct. Chaldæa was older than Assyria. The centres of her civil life
were the cities built upon the alluvial lands between the thirty-first and
thirty-third degree of latitude. The most famous of these cities was
Babylon. Those whom we call Assyrians, a people who rose to power and glory
at a much more recent date, drew the seeds of their civilization from their
more precocious neighbour.

These expressions, Assyria and Chaldæa, are now employed in a sense far
more precise than they ever had in antiquity. For Herodotus Babylonia was a
mere district of Assyria;[9] in his time both States were comprised in the
Persian Empire, and had no distinct existence of their own. Pliny calls the
whole of Mesopotamia Assyria.[10] Strabo carries the western frontier of
Assyria as far as Syria.[11] To us these variations are of small
importance. The geographical and historical nomenclature of the ancients
was never clearly defined. It was always more or less of a floating
quantity, especially for those countries which to Herodotus or Diodorus, to
Pliny or to Tacitus, were dimly perceptible on the extreme limits of their

It would, however, be easy to show that in assigning a more definite value
to the terms in question--a proceeding in which we have the countenance of
nearly every modern historian--we do not detach them from their original
acceptation; at most we give them more constancy and precision than the
colloquial language of the Greeks and Romans demanded.[12] The expressions
_Khasdim_ and _Chaldæi_ were used in the Bible and by classic authors
mainly to denote the inhabitants of Babylon and its neighbourhood; and we
find Strabo attaching with precision the name _Aturia_, which is nothing
but a variant upon Assyria, to that district watered and bounded by the
Tigris in which Nineveh was situated.[13] Our only aim is to adopt, once
for all, such terms as may be easily understood by our readers, and may
render all confusion impossible between the two kingdoms, between the
people of the north and those of the south.

In order to define Assyria exactly we should have to determine its
frontiers, and that we can only do approximately. As the nation grew its
territory extended in certain directions. To the east, however, where the
formidable rampart of the Zagros forbade all progress, no such extension
took place. Those lofty and precipitous chains which we now call the
mountains of Kurdistan, were only to be crossed in two or three places, and
by passes which during their few months of freedom from snow and floods
gave access to the high-lying plains of Media. These narrow defiles might
well be traversed by an army in a summer campaign, but neither dwellings
nor cultivated lands could invade such a district with success; at most
they could take possession of the few spots of fertile soil which lay at
the mouth of the lateral valleys; such, for example, was the plain of
Arbeles which was watered by the great Zab before its junction with the
Tigris. Towards the south there was no natural barrier, but in that
direction all development was hindered by the density of the Chaldee
population which was thickly spread over the country above Babylon and
about the numerous towns and villages which looked towards that city as
their capital. To the north, on the other hand, the wide terraces which
mounted like steps from the plains of Mesopotamia to the mountains of
Armenia offered an ample field for expansion. To the west there was still
more room. Little by little rural and urban life overflowed the valley of
the Tigris into that of the Chaboras or Khabour, the principal affluent of
the Euphrates, until at last it reached the banks of the great western
river itself. In all Northern Mesopotamia, between the hills of the Sinjar
and the last slopes of Mount Masius, the Assyrians encountered only nomad
tribes whom they could drive when they chose into the Syrian desert. Over
all that region the remains of artificial mounds have been found which must
at one time have been the sites of palaces and cities. In some cases the
gullies cut in their flanks by the rain discover broken walls and fragments
of sculpture whose style is that of the Ninevitish monuments.[14]

In the course of their victorious career the Assyrians annexed several
other states, such as Syria and Chaldæa, Cappadocia and Armenia, but those
countries were never more than external dependencies, than conquered
provinces. Taking Assyria proper at its greatest development, we may say
that it comprised Northern Mesopotamia and the territories which faced it
from the other bank of the Tigris and lay between the stream and the lower
slopes of the mountains. The heart of the country was the district lying
along both sides of the river between the thirty-fifth and thirty-seventh
degree of latitude, and the forty-first and forty-second degree of
longitude, east. The three or four cities which rose successively to be
capitals of Assyria were all in that region, and are now represented by the
ruins of Khorsabad, of Kouyundjik with Nebbi-Younas, of Nimroud, and of
Kaleh-Shergat. One of these places corresponds to _Ninos_, as the Greeks
call it, or Nineveh, the famous city which classic writers as well as
Jewish prophets looked upon as the centre of Assyrian history.

To give some idea of the relative dimensions of these two states Rawlinson
compares the surface of Assyria to that of Great Britain, while that of
Chaldæa must, he says, have been equal in extent to the kingdom of
Denmark.[15] This latter comparison seems below the mark, when, compass in
hand, we attempt to verify it upon a modern map. The discrepancy is caused
by the continual encroachments upon the sea made by the alluvial deposits
from the two great rivers. Careful observations and calculations have shown
that the coast line must have been from forty to forty-five leagues farther
north than it is at present when the ancestors of the Chaldees first
appeared upon the scene.[16] Instead of flowing together as they do now to
form what is called the _Shat-el-Arab_, the Tigris and Euphrates then fell
into the sea at points some twenty leagues apart in a gulf which extended
eastwards as far as the last spurs thrown out by the mountains of Iran, and
westwards to the foot of the sandy heights which terminate the plateau of
Arabia. "The whole lower part of the valley has thus been made, since the
commencement of the present geological period, by deposits from the Tigris,
the Euphrates, and such minor streams as the Adhem, the Gyndes, the
Choaspes, streams which, after having long enjoyed an independent existence
and having contributed to drive back the waters into which they fell, have
ended by becoming mere feeders of the Tigris."[17] We see, therefore, that
when Chaldæa received its first inhabitants it was sensibly smaller than it
is to-day, as the district of which Bassorah is now the capital and the
whole delta of the Shat-el-Arab were not yet in existence.


[1] BEROSUS, fragment No. 1, in the _Essai de Commentaire sur les Fragments
cosmogoniques de Bérose d'après les Textes cunéiformes et les Monuments de
l'Art Asiatique_ of FRANÇOIS LENORMANT (Maisonneuve, 1871, 8vo.).

[2] _The Five Great Monarchies of the Ancient Eastern World; or, The
History, Geography, and Antiquities of Chaldæa, Assyria, Babylon, Media,
and Persia. Collected and Illustrated from Ancient and Modern Sources_, by
GEORGE RAWLINSON. Fourth edition, 3 vols., 8vo., with Maps and
Illustrations (Murray, 1879).

[3] HUMBOLDT, _Aspects of Nature_, vol. i. pp. 77, 78.--R.

[4] HERODOTUS, ii. 5.

[5] LOFTUS'S _Chaldæa and Susiana_, p. 282.--R.

[6] See STRABO, xvi. 1, § 6; PLINY, H.N. vi. 28; PTOLEMY, v. 20; BEROSUS,
pp. 28, 29.--R.

[7] Ross came to the end of the alluvium and the commencement of the
secondary formation in lat. 34°, long. 44° (_Journal of Geographical
Society_, vol. ix. p. 446). Similarly, Captain Lynch found the bed of the
Tigris change from pebbles to mere alluvium near Khan Iholigch, a little
above its confluence with the Aahun (_Ib._ p. 472). For the point where the
Euphrates enters on the alluvium, see Fraser's _Assyria and Mesopotamia_,
p. 27.--R.

[8] RAWLINSON. _The Five Great Monarchies_, &c., vol. i., pp. 1-4. As to
the name and boundaries of Chaldæa, see also GUIGNAUT, _La Chaldée et les
Chaldéens_, in the _Encyclopédie Moderne_, vol. viii.

[9] HERODOTUS, i. 106, 192; iii. 92.

[10] PLINY, _Nat. Hist._ vi. 26.

[11] STRABO, xvi. i. § 1.

[12] _Genesis_ xi. 28 and 31; _Isaiah_ xlvii. 1; xiii. 19, &c.; DIODORUS
ii. 17; PLINY, _Nat. Hist._ vi. 26; the Greek translators of the Bible
rendered the Hebrew term Khasdim by Chaldaioi; both forms seem to be
derived from the same primitive word.

[13] STRABO, xvi. i. 1, 2, 3.

[14] LAYARD, _Nineveh and its Remains_, vol. i. pp. 312, 315;
_Discoveries_, p. 245.

[15] RAWLINSON, _Five Great Monarchies_, vol. i. pp. 4, 5.

[16] LOFTUS, in the _Journal of the Geographical Society_, vol. xxvi. p.
142; _Ib._, Sir HENRY RAWLINSON, vol. xxvii. p. 186.

[17] MASPERO, _Histoire Ancienne des Peuples de l'Orient_, p. 137.

§ 2.--_Nature in the Basin of the Euphrates and Tigris._

The inundation of the Nile gives renewed life every year to those plains of
Egypt which it has slowly formed, and so it is with the Tigris and
Euphrates. Lower Mesopotamia is entirely their creation, and if the time
were to come when their vivifying streams were no longer to irrigate its
surface, it would very soon be changed into a monotonous and melancholy
desert. It hardly ever rains in Chaldæa.[18] There are a few showers at the
changes of the season, and, in winter, a few days of heavy rain. During the
summer, for long months together, the sky remains inexorably blue while the
temperature is hot and parching. In winter, clouds are almost as rare; but
winds often play violently over the great tracts of unbroken country. When
these blow from the south they soon lose their warmth and humidity at the
contact of a soil which, but a short while ago, was at the bottom of the
sea, and is, therefore, in many places still strongly impregnated with salt
which acts as a refrigerant.[19] Again, when the north wind comes down from
the snowy summits of Armenia or Kurdistan, it is already cold enough, so
that, during the months of December and January, it often happens that the
mercury falls below freezing point, even in Babylonia. At daybreak the
waters of the marshes are sometimes covered with a thin layer of ice, and
the wind increases the effect of the low temperature. Loftus tells us that
he has seen the Arabs of his escort fall benumbed from their saddles in the
early morning.[20]

It is, then, upon the streams, and upon them alone, that the soil has to
depend for its fertility; all those lands to which they never reach are
doomed to barrenness and death. It is fortunate for the prosperity of the
country through which they flow, that the Tigris and Euphrates swell and
rise annually from their beds, not indeed like the Nile, almost on a stated
day, but ever in the same season, about the commencement of spring. Without
these periodical floods many parts of the plain of Mesopotamia would be
beyond the reach of irrigation, but their regular occurrence allows water
to be stored in sufficient quantities for use during the months of drought.
To obtain the full advantage of this precious capital, the inhabitants
must, however, take more care and expend more labour than is necessary in
Egypt. The rise of the Euphrates and of the Tigris is neither so slow nor
so regular as that of the Nile. The waters do not spread so gently over the
soil, neither do they stay upon it so long;[21] since they have been
abandoned to themselves as they are at present, a great part of them are
lost, and, far from rendering a service to agriculture, they turn vast
regions into dangerous hot-beds of infection.

It was to the west of the double basin that the untoward effects of the
territorial conformation were chiefly felt. The valley of the Euphrates is
not like that of the Nile, a canal hollowed out between two clearly marked
banks. From the northern boundary of the alluvial plain to the southern,
the slope is very slight, while from east to west, from the plains of
Mesopotamia to the foot of the Arabian plateau, there is also an
inclination. When the river is in flood the right bank no longer exists.
Where it is not raised and defended by dykes, the waters flow over it at
more than one point. They spread through large breaches into a sort of
hollow where they form wide marshes, such as those which stretch in these
days from the country west of the ruins of Babylon almost to the Persian
Gulf. In the parching heat of the summer months the mud blackens, cracks,
and exhales miasmic vapours, so that a long acclimatization, like that of
the Arabs, is necessary before one can live in the region. Some of these
Arabs live in forests of reeds like those represented in the Assyrian

Their huts of mud and rushes rise upon a low island in the marshes; and all
communication with neighbouring tribes and with the town in which they sell
the product of their rice-fields, is carried on by boats. The brakes are
more impenetrable than the thickest underwood, but the natives have cut
alleys through them, along which they impel their large flat-bottomed
_teradas_ with poles.[23] Sometimes a sudden rise of the river will raise
the level of these generally stagnant waters by a yard or two, and during
the night the huts and their inhabitants, men and animals together, will be
sent adrift. Two or three villages have been destroyed in this fashion amid
the complete indifference of the authorities. The tithe-farmer may be
trusted to see that the survivors pay the taxes due from their less
fortunate neighbours.

The masters of the country could, if they chose, do much to render the
country more healthy, more fertile, more capable of supporting a numerous
population. They might direct the course of the annual floods, and save
their excess. When the land was managed by a proprietory possessing
intelligence, energy, and foresight, it had, especially in minor details, a
grace and picturesque beauty of its own. When every foot of land was
carefully cultivated, when the two great streams were thoroughly kept in
hand, their banks and those of the numerous canals intersecting the plains
were overhung with palms. The eye fell with pleasure upon the tall trunks
with their waving plumes, upon the bouquets of broad leaves with their
centre of yellow dates; upon the cereals and other useful and ornamental
plants growing under their gentle shade, and forming a carpet for the rich
and sumptuous vegetation above. Around the villages perched upon their
mounds the orchards spread far and wide, carrying the scent of their orange
trees into the surrounding country, and presenting, with their masses of
sombre foliage studded with golden fruit, a picture of which the eye could
never grow weary.

No long series of military disasters was required to destroy all this
charm; fifty years, or, at most, a century, of bad administration was
enough.[24] Set a score of Turkish pachas to work, one after the other, men
such as those whom contemporary travellers have encountered at Mossoul and
Bagdad; with the help of their underlings they will soon have done more
harm than the marches and conflicts of armies. There is no force more
surely and completely destructive than a government which is at once idle,
ignorant, and corrupt.

With the exception of the narrow districts around a few towns and villages,
where small groups of population have retained something of their former
energy and diligence, Mesopotamia is now, during the greater part of the
year, given over to sterility and desolation. As it is almost entirely
covered with a deep layer of vegetable earth, the spring clothes even its
most abandoned solitudes with a luxuriant growth of herbs and flowers.
Horses and cattle sink to their bellies in the perfumed leafage,[25] but
after the month of May the herbage withers and becomes discoloured; the
dried stems split and crack under foot, and all verdure disappears except
from the river-banks and marshes. Upon these wave the feathery fronds of
the tamarisk, and in the stagnant or slowly moving water which fills all
the depressions of the soil, aquatic plants, water-lilies, rushes, papyrus,
and gigantic reeds spring up in dense masses, and make the low-lying
country look like a vast prairie, whose native freshness even the sun at
its zenith has no power to destroy. Everywhere else nature is as dreary in
its monotony as the vast sandy deserts which border the country on the
west. In one place the yellow soil is covered with a dried, almost
calcined, stubble; in another, with a grey dust which rises in clouds
before the slightest breeze; in the neighbourhood of the ancient townships
it has received a reddish hue from the quantity of broken and pulverized
brick with which it is mixed. These colours vary in different places, but
from Mount Masius to the shores of the Persian Gulf, from the Euphrates to
the Tigris, the traveller is met almost constantly by the one melancholy
sight--of a country spreading out before him to the horizon, in which
neglect has gone on until the region which the biblical tradition
represents as the cradle of the human race has been rendered incapable of
supporting human life.[26]

The physiognomy of Mesopotamia has then been profoundly modified since the
fall of the ancient civilization. By the indolence of man it has lost its
adornments, or rather its vesture, in the ample drapery of waving palms and
standing corn that excited the admiration of Herodotus.[27] But the general
characteristics and leading contours of the landscape remain what they
were. Restore in thought one of those Babylonian structures whose lofty
ruins now serve as observatories for the explorer or passing traveller.
Suppose yourself, in the days of Nebuchadnezzar, seated upon the summit of
the temple of Bel, some hundred or hundred and twenty yards above the level
of the plain. At such a height the smiling and picturesque details which
were formerly so plentiful and are now so rare, would not be appreciated.
The domed surfaces of the woods would seem flat, the varied cultivation,
the changing colours of the fields and pastures would hardly be
distinguished. You would be struck then, as you are struck to-day, by the
extent and uniformity of the vast plain which stretches away to all the
points of the compass.

In Assyria, except towards the south where the two rivers begin to draw in
towards each other, the plains are varied by gentle undulations. As the
traveller approaches the northern and eastern frontiers, chains of hills,
and even snowy peaks, loom before him. In Chaldæa there is nothing of the
kind. The only accidents of the ground are those due to human industry; the
dead level stretches away as far as the eye can follow it, and, like the
sea, melts into the sky at the horizon.


[18] HERODOTUS, i. 193: Hê de gê tôn Assuriôn huetai men oligôi.

[19] LOFTUS, _Susiana and Chaldæa_, i. vol. 8vo. 1857, London, p. 73.

[20] LOFTUS, _Susiana and Chaldæa_, p. 73; LAYARD, _Discoveries in the
Ruins of Nineveh and Babylon_, p. 146 (i. vol. 8vo. 1853).

[21] HERODOTUS, exaggerates this difference, but it is a real one. "The
plant," he says, "is nourished and the ears formed by means of irrigation
from the river. For this river does not, as in Egypt, overflow the
cornlands of its own accord, but is spread over them by the hand or by the
help of engines," i. 193. [Our quotations are from Prof. Rawlinson's
_Herodotus_ (4 vols. 8vo. 1875; Murray); Ed.] The inundations of the Tigris
and Euphrates do not play so important a _rôle_ in the lives of the
inhabitants of Mesopotamia, as that of the Nile in those of the Egyptians.

[22] LAYARD, _A Second Series of the Monuments of Nineveh_, plate 27
(London, oblong folio, 1853).

[23] LAYARD, _Discoveries_, pp. 551-556; LOFTUS, _Chaldæa and Susiana_,
chap. x.

[24] LAYARD (_Discoveries_, pp. 467, 468 and 475) tells us what the Turks
"have made of two of the finest rivers in the world, one of which is
navigable for 850 miles from its mouth, and the other for 600 miles."

[25] LAYARD, _Nineveh and its Remains_, vol. i. p. 78 (1849). "Flowers of
every hue enamelled the meadows; not thinly scattered over the grass as in
northern climes, but in such thick and gathering clusters that the whole
plain seemed a patch-work of many colours. The dogs as they returned from
hunting, issued from the long grass dyed red, yellow, or blue, according to
the flowers through which they had last forced their way."

[26] LAYARD, _Nineveh and its Remains_, vol. ii. pp. 68-75.

[27] HERODOTUS, i. 193. "Of all the countries that we know, there is none
which is so fruitful in grain. It makes no pretension indeed, of growing
the fig, the olive, the vine, or any other trees of the kind; but in grain
it is so fruitful as to yield commonly two hundredfold, and when the
production is greatest, even three hundredfold. The blade of the wheat
plant and barley is often four fingers in breadth. As for millet and the
sesame, I shall not say to what height they grow, though within my own
knowledge; for I am not ignorant that what I have already written
concerning the fruitfulness of Babylonia, must seem incredible to those who
have never visited the country.... Palm trees grow in great numbers over
the whole of the flat country, mostly of the kind that bears fruit, and
this fruit supplies them with bread, wine, and honey."

§ 3.--_The Primitive Elements of the Population._

The two great factors of all life and of all vegetable production are water
and warmth, so that of the two great divisions of the country we have just
described, the more southern must have been the first inhabited, or at
least, the first to invite and aid its inhabitants to make trial of

In the north the two great rivers are far apart. The vast spaces which
separate them include many districts which have always been, and must ever
be, very difficult of irrigation, and consequently of cultivation. In the
south, on the other hand, below the thirty-fourth degree of latitude, the
Tigris and Euphrates approach each other until a day's march will carry the
traveller from one to the other; and for a distance of some eighty leagues,
ending but little short of the point of junction, their beds are almost
parallel. In spite of the heat, which is, of course, greater than in
northern Mesopotamia, nothing is easier than to carry the blessings of
irrigation over the whole of such a region. When the water in the rivers
and canals is low, it can be raised by the aid of simple machines, similar
in principle to those we described in speaking of Egypt.[28]

It is here, therefore, that we must look for the scene of the first
attempts in Asia to pass from the anxious and uncertain life of the
fisherman, the hunter, or the nomad shepherd, to that of the sedentary
husbandman, rooted to the soil by the pains he has taken to improve its
capabilities, and by the homestead he has reared at the border of his
fields. In the tenth and eleventh chapters of Genesis we have an echo of
the earliest traditions preserved by the Semitic race of their distant
origin. "And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they
found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there."[29] The _land_
of SHINAR is the Hebrew name of what we call Chaldæa. There is no room for
mistake. When the sacred writer wishes to tell us the origin of human
society, he transports us into Lower Mesopotamia. It is there that he
causes the posterity of Noah to build the first great city, Babel, the
prototype of the Babylon of history; it is there that he tells us the
confusion of tongues was accomplished, and that the common centre existed
from which men spread themselves over the whole surface of the earth, to
become different nations. The oldest cities known to the collector of these
traditions were those of Chaldæa, of the region bordering on the Persian

"And Cush begat Nimrod: he began to be a mighty one in the earth.

"He was a mighty hunter before the Lord: wherefore it is said, '_Even as
Nimrod, the mighty hunter before the Lord_.'

"And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, and Erech, and Accad, and
Calneh, in the land of Shinar.

"Out of that land went forth Asshur, and builded Nineveh, and the city
Rehoboth, and Calah,

"And Resen between Nineveh and Calah: the same is a great city."[30]

These statements have been confirmed by the architectural and other remains
found in Mesopotamia. Inscriptions from which fresh secrets are wrested day
by day; ruins of buildings whose dates are to be approximately divined from
their plans, their structure, and their decorations; statues, statuettes,
bas-reliefs, and all the various _débris_ of a great civilization, when
studied with the industrious ardour which distinguishes modern science,
enable the critic to realize the vast antiquity of those Chaldæan cities,
in which legend and history are so curiously mingled.

Even before they could decipher their meaning Assyriologists had compared,
from the palæographic point of view, the different varieties of the written
character known as _cuneiform_--a character which lent itself for some two
thousand years, to the notation of the five or six successive languages,
at least, in which the inhabitants of Western Asia expressed their
thoughts. These wedge-shaped characters are found in their most primitive
and undeveloped forms in the mounds dotted over the southern districts of
Mesopotamia, in company with the earliest signs of those types which are
especially characteristic of the architecture, ornamentation, and plastic
figuration of Assyria.

There is another particular in which the monumental records and the
biblical tradition are in accord. During those obscure centuries that saw
the work sketched out from which the civilization of the Tigris and
Euphrates basin was, in time, to be developed, the Chaldæan population was
not homogeneous; the country was inhabited by tribes who had neither a
common origin nor a common language. This we are told in Genesis. The
earliest chiefs to build cities in Shinar are there personified in the
person of Nimrod, who is the son of Cush, and the grandson of Ham. He and
his people must be placed, therefore, in the same family as the Ethiopians,
the Egyptians, and the Libyans, the Canaanites and the Phoenicians.[31]

A little lower down in the same genealogical table we find attached to the
posterity of Shem that Asshur who, as we are told in the verses quoted
above, left the plains of Shinar in order to found Nineveh in the upper
country.[32] So, too, it was from Ur of the Chaldees that Terah, another
descendant of Shem, and, through Abraham, the ancestor of the Jewish
people, came up into Canaan.[33]

The world has, unhappily, lost the work of Berosus, the Babylonish priest,
who, under the Seleucidæ, did for Chaldæa what Manetho was doing almost at
the same moment for Egypt.[34] Berosus compiled the history of Chaldæa
from the national chronicles and traditions. The loss of his work is still
more to be lamented than that of Manetho. The wedges may never, perhaps, be
read with as much certainty as the hieroglyphs; the remains of
Chaldæo-Assyrian antiquity are much less copious and well preserved than
those of the Egyptian civilization, while the gap in the existing documents
are more frequent and of a different character. And yet much precious
information, especially in these latter days, has been drawn from those
fragments of his work which have come down to us. In one of these we find
the following evidence as to the mixture of races: "At first there were at
Babylon a great number of men belonging to the different nationalities that
colonized Chaldæa."[35]

How far did that diversity go? The terms used by Berosus are vague enough,
while the Hebraic tradition seems to have preserved the memory of only two
races who lived one after the other in Chaldæa, namely, the Kushites and
the Shemites. And may not these groups, though distinct, have been more
closely connected than the Jews were willing to admit? We know how bitterly
the Jews hated those Canaanitish races against whom they waged their long
and destructive wars; and it is possible that, in order to mark the
separation between themselves and their abhorred enemies, they may have
shut their eyes to the exaggeration of the distance between the two
peoples. More than one historian is inclined to believe that the Kushites
and Shemites were less distantly related than the Hebrew writers pretend.
Almost every day criticism discovers new points of resemblance between the
Jews before the captivity and certain of their neighbours, such as the
Phoenicians. Almost the same language was spoken by each; each had the same
arts and the same symbols, while many rites and customs were common to
both. Baal and Moloch were adored in Judah and Israel as well as in Tyre
and Sidon. This is not the proper place to discuss such a question, but,
whatever view we may take of it, it seems that the researches of
Assyriologists have led to the following conclusion: That primitive Chaldæa
received and retained various ethnic elements upon its fertile soil; that
those elements in time became fused together, and that, even in the
beginning, the diversities that distinguished them one from another were
less marked than a literal acceptance of the tenth chapter of Genesis might
lead us to believe.

We cannot here undertake to explain all the conjectures to which this point
has given rise. We are without some, at least, of the qualifications
necessary for the due appreciation of the proofs, or rather of the
probabilities, which are relied on by the exponents of this or that
hypothesis. We must refer curious readers to the works of contemporary
Assyriologists; or they may, if they will, find all the chief facts brought
together in the writings of MM. Maspero and François Lenormant, whom we
shall often have occasion to quote.[36] We shall be content with giving, in
as few words as possible, the theory which appears at present to be
generally admitted.

There is no doubt as to the presence in Chaldæa of the Kushite tribes. It
is the Kushites, as represented by Nimrod, who are mentioned in Genesis
before any of the others; a piece of evidence which is indirectly confirmed
by the nomenclature of the Greek writers. They often employed the terms
Kissaioi and Kissioi to denote the peoples who belonged to this very part
of Asia,[37] terms under which it is easy to recognize imperfect
transliterations of a name that began its last syllable in the Semitic
tongues with the sound we render by _sh_. As the Greeks had no letters
corresponding to our _h_ and _j_, they had to do the best they could with
breathings. Their descendants had to make the same shifts when they became
subject to the Turks, and had to express every word of their conqueror's
language without possessing any signs for those sounds of _sh_ and _j_ in
which it abounded.

The same vocable is preserved to our day in the name borne by one of the
provinces of Persia, Khouzistan. The objection that the Kissaioi or Kissioi
of the classic writers and poets were placed in Susiana rather than in
Chaldæa will no longer be made. Susiana borders upon Chaldæa and belongs,
like it, to the basin of the Tigris. There is no natural frontier between
the two countries, which were closely connected both in peace and war. On
the other hand, the name of Ethiopians, often applied by the same authors
to the dwellers upon the Persian Gulf and the Sea of Oman, recalls the
relationship which attached the Kushites of Asia to those of Africa in the
Hebrew genealogies.

We have still stronger reasons of the same kind for affirming that the
Shemites or Semites occupied an important place in Chaldæa from the very
beginning. Linguistic knowledge here comes to the aid of the biblical
narrative and confirms its ethnographical data. The language in which most
of our cuneiform inscriptions are written, the language, that is, that we
call Assyrian, is closely allied to the Hebrew. Towards the period of the
second Chaldee Empire, another dialect of the same family, the Aramaic,
seems to have been in common use from one end of Mesopotamia to the other.
A comparative study of the rites and religious beliefs of the Semitic races
would lead us to the same result. Finally, there is something very
significant in the facility with which classic writers confuse such terms
as Chaldæans, Assyrians, and Syrians; it would seem that they recognized
but one people between the Isthmus of Suez on the south and the Taurus on
the north, between the seaboard of Phoenicia on the west and the table
lands of Iran in the east. In our day the dominant language over the whole
of the vast extent of territory which is inclosed by those boundaries is
Arabic, as it was Syriac during the early centuries of our era, and Aramaic
under the Persians and the successors of Alexander. From the commencement
of historic times the Semitic element has never ceased to play the chief
_rôle_ from one end of that region to the other. For Syria proper, its
pre-eminence is attested by a number of facts which leave no room for
doubt. Travellers and historians classed the inhabitants of Mesopotamia
with those of Phoenicia and Palestine, because, to their unaccustomed ears,
the differences between their languages were hardly perceptible, while
their personal characteristics were practically identical. Such affinities
and resemblances are only to be explained by a common origin, though the
point of junction may have been distant.

It has also been asserted that an Aryan element helped to compose the
population of primitive Chaldæa, that sister tribes to those of India and
Persia, Armenia and Asia Minor furnished their contingents to the mixed
population of Shinar. Some have even declared that a time came when those
tribes obtained the chief power. It may have been so, but the evidence upon
which the hypothesis rests is very slight. Granting that the Aryans did
settle in Chaldæa, they were certainly far less numerous than the other
colonists, and were so rapidly absorbed into the ranks of the majority that
neither history nor language has preserved any sensible trace of their
existence. We may therefore leave them out of the argument until fresh
evidence is forthcoming.

But the students of the inscriptions had another, and, if we accept the
theories of MM. Oppert and François Lenormant, a better-founded, surprise
in store for us. It seemed improbable that science would ever succeed in
mounting beyond those remote tribes, the immediate descendants of Kush and
Shem, who occupied Chaldæa at the dawn of history; they formed, to all
appearance, the most distant background, the deepest stratum, to which the
historian could hope to penetrate; and yet, when the most ancient
epigraphic texts began to yield up their secrets, the interpreters were
confronted, as they assure us, with this startling fact: the earliest
language spoken, or, at least, written, in that country, belonged neither
to the Aryan nor to the Semitic family, nor even to those African languages
among which the ancient idiom of Egypt has sometimes been placed; it was,
in an extreme degree, what we now call an _agglutinative language_. By its
grammatical system and by some elements of its vocabulary it suggests a
comparison with Finnish, Turkish, and kindred tongues.

Other indications, such as the social and religious conditions revealed by
the texts, have combined with these characteristics to convince our
Assyriologists that the first dwellers in Chaldæa--the first, that is, who
made any attempt at civilization--were Turanians, were part of that great
family of peoples who still inhabit the north of Europe and Asia, from the
marshes of the Baltic to the banks of the Amoor and the shores of the
Pacific Ocean.[38] The languages of all those peoples, though various
enough, had certain features in common. No one of them reached the delicate
and complex mechanism of internal and terminal inflexion; they were
guiltless of the subtle processes by which Aryans and Semites expressed the
finest shades of thought, and, by declining the substantive and conjugating
the verb, subordinated the secondary to the principal idea; they did not
understand how to unite, in an intimate and organic fashion, the root to
its qualifications and determinatives, to the adjectives and phrases which
give colour to a word, and indicate the precise _rôle_ it has to play in
the sentence in which it is used. These languages resemble each other
chiefly in their lacunæ. Compare them in the dictionaries and they seem
very different, especially if we take two, such as Finnish and Chinese,
that are separated by the whole width of a continent.

It is the same with their physical types. Certain tribes whom we place in
the Turanian group have all the distinctive characteristics of the white
races. Others are hardly to be distinguished from the yellow nations.
Between these two extremes there are numerous varieties which carry us,
without any abrupt transition, from the most perfect European to the most
complete Chinese type.[39] In the Aryan family the ties of blood are
perceptible even between the most divergent branches. By a comparative
study of their languages, traditions, and religious conceptions, it has
been proved that the Hindoos upon the Ganges, the Germans on the Rhine, and
the Celts upon the Loire, are all offshoots of a single stem. Among the
Turanians the connections between one race and another are only perceptible
in the case of tribes living in close neighbourhood to one another, who
have had mutual relations over a long course of years. In such a case the
natural affinities are easily seen, and a family of peoples can be
established with certainty. The classification is less definitely marked
and clearly divided than that of the Aryan and Semitic families; but,
nevertheless, it has a real value for the historian.[40]

According to the doctrine which now seems most widely accepted, it was from
the crowded ranks of the immense army which peopled the north that the
tribes who first attempted a civilized life in the plains of Shinar and the
fertile slopes between the mountains and the left bank of the Tigris, were
thrown off. It is thought that these tribes already possessed a national
constitution, a religion, and a system of legislation, the art of writing
and the most essential industries, when they first took possession of the
lands in question.[41] A tradition still current among the eastern Turks
puts the cradle of the race in the valleys of the Altaï, north of the
plateau of Pamir.[42] Whether the emigrants into Chaldæa brought the
rudiments of their civilization with them, or whether their inventive
faculties were only stirred to action after their settlement in that
fertile land, is of slight importance. In any case we may say that they
were the first to put the soil into cultivation, and to found industrious
and stationary communities along the banks of its two great rivers. Once
settled in Chaldæa, they called themselves, according to M. Oppert, the
people of SUMER, a title which is continually associated with that of "the
people of ACCAD" in the inscriptions.[43]


[28] _History of Art in Ancient Egypt_, vol. i. p. 15 (London, 1883,
Chapman and Hall). Upon the Chaldæan _chadoufs_ see LAYARD, _Discoveries_,
pp. 109, 110.

[29] _Genesis_ xi. 2.

[30] _Genesis_ x. 8-12.

[31] _Genesis_ x. 6-20.

[32] _Genesis_ x. 22: "The children of Shem."

[33] _Genesis_ xi. 27-32.

[34] In his paper upon the _Date des Écrits qui portent les Noms de Bérose
et de Manéthou_ (Hachette, 8vo. 1873), M. ERNEST HAVET has attempted to
show that neither of those writers, at least as they are presented in the
fragments which have come down to us, deserve the credence which is
generally accorded to them. The paper is the production of a vigorous and
independent intellect, and there are many observations which should be
carefully weighed, but we do not believe that, as a whole, its
hypercritical conclusions have any chance of being adopted. All recent
progress in Egyptology and Assyriology goes to prove that the fragments in
question contain much authentic and precious information, in spite of the
carelessness with which they were transcribed, often at second and third
hand, by abbreviators of the _basse époque_.

[35] See § 2 of Fragment 1. of BEROSUS, in the _Fragmenta Historicorum
Græcorum_ of CH. MÜLLER (_Bibliothèque Grecque-Latine_ of Didot), vol. ii.
p. 496; En de tê Babulôni polu plêthos anthrôpôn genesthai alloethnôn
katoikêsantôn tên Chaldaian.

[36] Gaston MASPERO, _Histoire ancienne des Peuples de l'Orient_, liv. ii.
ch. iv. _La Chaldée_. François LENORMANT, _Manuel d'Histoire ancienne de
l'Orient_, liv. iv. ch. i. (3rd edition).

[37] The principal texts in which these terms are to be met with are
brought together in the _Wörterbuch der griechischen Eigennamen_ of PAPE
(3rd edition), under the words Kissia, Kissioi, Kossaioi.

[38] A single voice, that of M. Halévy, is now raised to combat this
opinion. He denies that there is need to search for any language but a
Semitic one in the oldest of the Chaldæan inscriptions. According to him,
the writing under which a Turanian idiom is said to lurk, is no more than a
variation upon the Assyrian fashion of noting words, than an early form of
writing which owed its preservation to the quasi-sacred character imparted
by its extreme antiquity. We have no intention of discussing his thesis in
these pages; we must refer those who are interested in the problem to M.
HALÉVY'S dissertation in the _Journal Asiatique_ for June 1874:
_Observations critiques sur les prétendus Touraniens de la Babylonie_. M.
Stanislas Guyard shares the ideas of M. Halévy, to whom his accurate
knowledge and fine critical powers afford no little support.

[39] MASPERO, _Histoire ancienne_, p. 134. Upon the etymology of
_Turanians_ see MAX MÜLLER'S _Science of Language_, 2nd edition, p. 300,
_et seq._ Upon the constituent characteristics of the Turanian group of
races and languages other pages of the same work may be consulted.... The
distinction between Turan and Iran is to be found in the literature of
ancient Persia, but its importance became greater in the Middle Ages, as
may be seen by reference to the great epic of Firdusi, the _Shah-Nameh_.
The kings of Iran and Turan are there represented as implacable enemies. It
was from the Persian tradition that Professor Müller borrowed the term
which is now generally used to denote those northern races of Asia that are
neither Aryans nor Semites.

[40] This family is sometimes called _Ural-Altaïc_, a term formed in
similar fashion to that of _Indo-Germanic_, which has now been deposed by
the term Aryan. It is made up of the names of two mountain chains which
seem to mark out the space over which its tribes were spread. Like the word
_Indo-Germanic_, it made pretensions to exactitude which were only
partially justified.

[41] This is the opinion of M. OPPERT. He was led to the conclusion that
their writing was invented in a more northern climate than that of Chaldæa,
by a close study of its characters. There is one sign representing a bear,
an animal which does not exist in Chaldæa, while the lions which were to be
found there in such numbers had to be denoted by paraphrase, they were
called _great dogs_. The palm tree had no sign of its own. See in the
_Journal Asiatique_ for 1875, p. 466, a note to an answer to M. Halévy
entitled _Summérien ou rien_.

[42] MASPERO, _Histoire ancienne_, p. 135.

[43] These much disputed terms, Sumer and Accad, are, according to MM.
Halévy and Guyard, nothing but the geographical titles of two districts of
Lower Chaldæa.

§ 4.--_The Wedges._

The writing of Chaldæa, like that of Egypt, was, in the beginning, no more
than the abridged and conventionalized representation of familiar objects.
The principle was identical with that of the Egyptian hieroglyphs and of
the oldest Chinese characters. There are no texts extant in which images
are exclusively used,[44] but we can point to a few where the ideograms
have preserved their primitive forms sufficiently to enable us to recognize
their origin with certainty. Among those Assyrian syllabaries which have
been so helpful in the decipherment of the wedges, there is one tablet
where the primitive form of each symbol is placed opposite the group of
strokes which had the same value in after ages.[45]

This tablet is, however, quite exceptional, and, as a rule, the cuneiform
characters cannot thus be traced to their primitive form. But
well-ascertained and independent facts allow us to come to certain
conclusions which even this scanty evidence is enough to confirm.

In inventing the process of writing and bringing it to perfection, the
human intellect worked on the same lines among the Turanians of Chaldæa as
it did everywhere else. The point of departure and the early stages have
been the same for all peoples, although some have stopped half-way and
others when three-fourths of the journey were complete. The supreme
discovery which should crown the effort is the attribution of a special
sign to each of the elementary articulations of the human voice. This final
object, an object towards which the most gifted nations of antiquity were
working for so many centuries, was just missed by the Egyptians. They were,
we may say, wrecked in port, and the glory of creating the alphabet that
men will use as long as they think and write was reserved for the

Even when their civilization was at its height the Babylonians never came
so near to alphabetism as the Egyptians. This is not the place for an
inquiry into the reasons of their failure, nor even for an explanation how
signs with a phonetic value forced themselves in among the ideograms, and
became gradually more and more important. Our interest in the two kinds of
writing is of a different nature; we have to learn and explain their
influence upon the plastic arts in the countries where they were used.

In our attempt to define the style of Egyptian sculpture and to give
reasons for its peculiar characteristics, we felt obliged to attribute
great importance to the habits of eye and hand suggested and confirmed by
the cutting and painting of the hieroglyphs. In their monumental
inscriptions, if nowhere else, the symbols of the Egyptian system retained
their concrete imagery to the end; and the images, though abridged and
simplified, never lost their resemblance;[46] and if it is necessary to
know something more than the particular animal or thing which they
represent before we can get at their meaning, that is only because in most
cases they had a metaphorical or even a purely phonetic signification as
well as their ideographic one. For the most part, however, it is easy to
recognize their origin, and in this they differ greatly from the symbols of
the first Chaldæan alphabet. In the very oldest documents there are certain
ideograms that, when we are warned, remind us of the natural objects from
which their forms have been taken, but the connection is slight and
difficult of apprehension. Even in the case of those characters whose forms
most clearly suggest their true figurative origin, it would have been
impossible to assign its prototype to each without the help of later texts,
where, with more or less modification, they formed parts of sentences whose
general significance was known. Finally, the Assyrian syllabaries have
preserved the meaning of signs, that, so far as we can judge, would
otherwise have been stumbling-blocks even to the wise men of Nineveh when
they were confronted with such ancient inscriptions as those whose
fragments are still found among the ruins of Lower Chaldæa.

Even in the remote days that saw the most venerable of these inscriptions
cut, the images upon which their forms were based had been rendered almost
unrecognizable by a curious habit, or caprice, which is unique in history.
Writing had not yet become entirely _cuneiform_, it had not yet adopted
those triangular strokes which are called sometimes nails, sometimes
arrow-heads, and sometimes wedges, as the exclusive constituents of its
character. If we examine the tablets recovered by Mr. Loftus from the ruins
of Warka, the ancient Erech (Fig. 1), or the inscriptions upon the diorite
statues found at Tello by M. de Sarzec (Fig. 2), we shall find that in the
distant period from which those writings date, most of the characters had
what we may call an unbroken trace.[47] This trace, like that of the
hieroglyphs, would have been well fitted for the succinct imitation of
natural objects but for a rigid exclusion of those curves of which nature
is so fond. This exclusion is complete, all the lines are straight, and cut
one another at various angles. The horror of a curve is pushed so far that
even the sun, which is represented by a circle in Egyptian and other
ideographic systems, is here a lozenge.

[Illustration: FIG. 1.--Brick from Erech.]

It is very unlikely that even the oldest of these texts show us Chaldæan
writing in its earliest stage. Analogy would lead us to think that these
figures must at one time have been more directly imitative. However that
may have been, the image must have been very imperfect from the day that
the rectilinear trace came into general use. Figures must then have rapidly
degenerated into conventional signs. Those who used them could no longer
pretend to actually represent the objects they wished to denote. They must
have been content to suggest their ideas by means of a character whose
value had been determined by usage. This transformation would be
accelerated by certain habits which forced themselves upon the people as
soon as they were finally established in the land of Shinar.

[Illustration: FIG. 2.--Fragment of an inscription engraved upon the back
of a statue from Tello. Louvre. (Length 10-1/4 inches.)]

We are told that there are certain expressions in the Assyrian language
which lead to the belief that the earliest writing was on the bark of
trees, that it offered the first surface to the scribe in those distant
northern regions from which the early inhabitants of Chaldæa were
emigrants. It is certain that the dwellers in that vast alluvial plain were
compelled by the very nature of the soil to use clay for many purposes to
which no other civilization has put it. In Mesopotamia, as in the valley of
the Nile, the inhabitants had but to stoop to pick up an excellent
modelling clay, fine in texture and close grained--a clay which had been
detached from the mountain sides by the two great rivers, and deposited in
inexhaustible quantities over the whole width of the double valley. We
shall see hereafter what an important part bricks, crude, fired, and
enamelled, played in the construction and decoration of Chaldæan buildings.
It was the same material that received most of their writing.

Clay offered a combination of facility with durability which no other
material could equal. While soft and wet it readily took the shape of any
figure impressed upon it. The deftly-handled tool could engrave characters
upon its yielding surface almost as fast as the reed could trace them upon
papyrus, and much more rapidly than the chisel could cut them in wood.
Again, in its final condition as solid terra-cotta, it offered a chance of
duration far beyond that of either wood or papyrus. Once safely through the
kiln it had nothing to fear short of deliberate destruction. The message
intrusted to a terra-cotta slab or cylinder could only be finally lost by
the reduction of the latter to powder. At _Hillah_, the town which now
occupies a corner of the vast space once covered by the streets of Babylon,
bricks are found built into the walls to this day, upon which the Assyrian
scholar may read as he runs the royal style and titles of

As civilization progressed, the dwellers upon the Persian Gulf felt an
ever-increasing attraction towards the art of writing. It afforded a
medium of communication with distant points, and a bond of connection
between one generation and another; by its means the son could profit by
the accumulated experience of the father. The slab of terra-cotta was the
most obvious material for its reception. It cost almost nothing, while such
an elaborate substance as the papyrus of Egypt can never have been very
cheap. It lent itself kindly to the service demanded of it, and the writer
who had confided his thoughts to its surface had only to fire it for an
hour or two to secure them a kind of eternity. This latter precaution did
not require any very lengthy journey; brick kilns must have blazed day and
night from one end of Chaldæa to another.

If we consider for a moment the properties of the material, and examine the
remains which have come down to us, we shall understand at once what
writing was certain to become under the triple impulse of a desire to write
much, to write fast, and to use clay as we moderns use paper. Suppose
oneself compelled to trace upon clay figures whose lines necessitated
continual changes of direction; at each angle or curve it would be
necessary to turn the hand, and with it the tool, because the clay surface,
however tender it might be, would still afford a certain amount of
resistance. Such resistance would hardly be an obstacle, but it would in
some degree diminish the speed with which the tool could be driven. Now, as
soon as writing comes into common use, most of those who employ it in the
ordinary matters of life have no time to waste. It is important that all
hindrances to rapid work should be avoided. The designs of the old writing
with their strokes sometimes broken, sometimes continuous, sometimes thick,
and sometimes thin, wearied the writer and took much time, and at last it
came about that the clay was attacked in a number of short, clear-cut
triangular strokes each similar in form to its fellow. As these little
depressions had all the same depth and the same shape, and as the hand had
neither to change its pressure nor to shift its position, it arrived with
practice at an extreme rapidity of execution.

Some have asserted that the instrument with which these marks were made has
been found among the Mesopotamian ruins. It is, we are told, a small style
in bone or ivory with a bevelled triangular point.[49] And yet when we look
with attention at these terra-cotta inscriptions, we fall to doubting
whether the hollow marks of which they are composed could have been made by
such a point. There is no sign of those scratches which we should expect to
find left by a sharp instrument in its process of cutting out and removing
part of the clay. The general appearance of the surface leads us rather to
think that the strokes were made by thrusting some instrument with a sharp
ridge like the corner of a flat rule, into the clay, and that nothing was
taken away as in the case of wood or marble, but an impression made by
driving back the earth into itself.[50] However this may be, the first
element of the cuneiform writing was a hollow incision made by a single
movement of the hand, and of a form which may be compared to a greatly
elongated triangle. These triangles were sometimes horizontal, sometimes
vertical, sometimes oblique, and when arranged in more or less complex
groups, could easily furnish all the necessary symbols. In early ages, the
elements of some of these ideographic or phonetic signs--signs which
afterwards became mere complex groups of wedges--were so arranged as to
suggest the primitive forms--that is, the more or less roughly blocked out
images--from which they had originally sprung. The _fish_ may easily be
recognized in the following group [Illustration]: while the character that
stands for the _sun_, [Illustration], reminds us of the lozenge which was
the primitive sign for that luminary. In the two symbols [Illustration] and
[Illustration], we may, with a little good will, recognize a _shovel_ with
its handle, and an _ear_. But even in the oldest texts the instances in
which the primitive types are still recognizable are very few; the wedge
has in nearly every case completely transfigured, and, so to speak,
decomposed, their original features.

This is the case even in what is called the Sumerian system itself, and
when its signs and processes were borrowed by other nations, the tendency
to abandon figuration was of course still more marked. It has now been
clearly proved that the wedges have served the turn of at least four
languages beside that of the people who devised them, and that in passing
from one people to another their groups never lost the phonetic value
assigned to them by their first inventors.[51]

In the absence of this extended employment all attempts to decipher the
wedges would have been condemned to almost certain failure from the first,
but as soon as its existence had been placed beyond doubt, there was every
reason to count upon success. It allowed the words of a text to be
transliterated into phonetic characters, and that being done, to discover
their meaning was but an affair of time, patience, and method.

       *       *       *       *       *

We see then, that the system of signs invented by the first inhabitants of
Chaldæa had a vogue similar to that which attended the alphabet of the
Phoenicians in the Mediterranean basin. For all the peoples of Western Asia
it was a powerful agent of progress and civilization. We can understand,
therefore, how it was that the wedge, the essential element of all those
groups which make up cuneiform writing, became for the Assyrian one of the
holy symbols of the divine intelligence. Upon the stone called the _Caillou
Michaud_, from the name of its discoverer, it is shown standing upon an
altar and receiving the prayers and homage of a priest.[52] It deserved all
the respect it received; thanks to it the Babylonian genius was able to
rough out and hand down to posterity the science from which Greece was to
profit so largely.

And yet, in spite of all the services it had rendered, this form of writing
fell into disuse towards the commencement of our era; it was supplanted
even in the country of its origin by alphabets derived from that of the
Phoenicians.[53] It had one grave defect: its phonetic signs always
represented syllables. No one of the wedge-using communities made that
decisive step in advance of which the honour belongs to the Phoenicians
alone. No one of them carried the analysis of language so far as to reduce
the syllable to its elements, and to distinguish the consonant, mute by
itself, from the vowel upon which it depends, if we may say so, for an
active life.

All those races who have not borrowed their alphabet _en bloc_ from their
neighbours or predecessors but have invented it for themselves, began with
the imitation of objects. At first we have a mere outline, made to gratify
some special want.[54] The more these figures were repeated, the more they
tended towards a single stereotyped form, and that an epitomized and
conventional one. They were only signs, so that it was not in the least
necessary to painfully reproduce every feature of the original model, as if
the latter were copied for its plastic beauty. As time passed on, writing
and drawing won separate existences; but at first they were not to be
distinguished one from the other, the latter was but a use of the former,
and, in a sense, we may even say that writing was the first and simplest of
the plastic arts.

In Egypt this art remained more faithful to its origin than elsewhere. Even
when it had attained the highest development it ever reached in that
country, and was on the point of crowning its achievements by the invention
of a true alphabet, it continued to reproduce the general shapes and
contours of objects. The hieroglyphs were truly a system of writing by
which all the sounds of the language could be noted and almost reduced to
their final elements; but they were also, up to their last day, a system of
design in which the characteristic features of genera and species, if not
of individuals, were carefully distinguished.

Was it the same in Chaldæa? Had the methods, and what we may call the style
of the national writing, any appreciable influence upon the plastic arts,
upon the fashion in which living nature was understood and reproduced? We
do not think it had, and the reason of the difference is not far to seek.
The very oldest of the ideographic signs of Chaldæa are much farther
removed from the objects upon which they were based than the Egyptian
hieroglyphs; and when the wedge became the primary element of all the
characters, the scribe ceased to give even the most distant hint of the
real forms of the things signified. Throughout the period which saw those
powerful empires flourishing in Mesopotamia whose creations were admired
and copied by all the peoples of Western Asia, the more or less complex
groups and arrangements of the cuneiform writing, to whatever language
applied, had no aim but to represent sometimes whole words, sometimes the
syllables of which those words were composed. Under such conditions it
seems unlikely that the forms of the written characters can have
contributed much to form the style of artists who dealt with the figures of
men and animals. We may say that the sculptors and painters of Chaldæa were
not, like those of Egypt, the scholars of the scribes.

And yet there is a certain analogy between the handling of the inscriptions
and that of the bas-reliefs. It is doubtless in the nature of the materials
employed that we must look for the final explanation of this similarity,
but it is none the less true that writing was a much earlier and a much
more general art than sculpture. The Chaldæan artist must have carried out
his modelling with a play of hand and tool learnt in cutting texts upon
clay, and still more, upon stone. The same chisel-stroke is found in both;
very sure, very deep, and a little harsh.

However this may be, we cannot embark upon the history of Art in Chaldæa
without saying a word upon her graphic system. If there be one proof more
important than another of the great part played by the Chaldæans in the
ancient world, it is the success of their writing, and its diffusion as far
as the shores of the Euxine and the eastern islands of the Mediterranean.
Some cuneiform texts have lately been discovered in Cappadocia, the
language of which is that of the country,[55] and the most recent
discoveries point to the conclusion that the Cypriots borrowed from
Babylonia the symbols by which the words of the Greek dialect spoken in
their island were noted.[56]

We have yet to visit more than one famous country. In our voyage across
the plains where antique civilization was sketched out and started on its
long journey to maturity, we shall, whenever we cross the frontiers of a
new people, begin by turning our attention for a space to their
inscriptions; and wherever we are met by those characters which are found
in their oldest shapes in the texts from Lower Chaldæa, there we shall
surely find plastic forms and motives whose primitive types are to be
traced in the remains of Chaldæan art. A man's writing will often tell us
where his early days were passed and under what masters his youthful
intellect received the bent that only death can take away.


[44] We are told that there is an inscription at Susa of this character. It
has been examined but not as yet reproduced. We can, therefore, make no use
of it. See François LENORMANT, _Manuel d'Histoire ancienne_, vol. ii. p.

[45] M. LENORMANT reproduces this tablet in his _Histoire ancienne de
l'Orient_ (9th edition, vol. i. p. 420). The whole of the last chapter in
this volume should be carefully studied. It is well illustrated, and
written with admirable clearness. The same theories and discoveries are
explained at greater length in the introduction to M. LENORMANT'S great
work entitled _Essai sur la Propagation de l'Alphabet phenicien_, of which
but one volume has as yet appeared (Maisonneuve, 8vo., 1872). At the very
commencement of his investigations M. OPPERT had called attention to the
curious forms presented by certain characters in the oldest inscriptions.
See _Expédition scientifique de Mésopotamie_, vol. ii. pp. 62, 3, notably
the paragraph entitled _Origine Hiéroglyphique de l'Écriture anarienne_.
The texts upon which the remarks of MM. Oppert and Lenormant were mainly
founded were published under the title of _Early Inscriptions from Chaldæa_
in the invaluable work of Sir Henry RAWLINSON (_A Selection from the
Historical Inscriptions of Chaldæa, Assyria, and Babylonia_, prepared for
publication by Major-General Sir Henry Rawlinson, assisted by Edwin Norris,
British Museum, folio, 1861).

[46] See the _History of Art in Ancient Egypt_, vol. ii. pp. 350-3 (?).

[47] This peculiarity is still more conspicuous in the engraved limestone
pavement which was discovered in the same place, but the fragments are so
mutilated as to be unfit for reproduction here.

[48] LAYARD, _Discoveries in the Ruins of Nineveh and Babylon_, p. 506.

[49] OPPERT, _Expédition scientifique de Mésopotamie_, vol. ii. pp. 62, 3.

[50] LAYARD, _Nineveh and its Remains_, vol. ii. p. 180.

[51] A list of these languages, and a condensed but lucid explanation of
the researches which have led to the more or less complete decipherment of
the different groups of texts will be found in the _Manuel de l'Histoire
ancienne de l'Orient_ of LENORMANT, 3rd edition, vol. ii. pp. 153,
&c.--"Several languages--we know of five up to the present moment--have
given the same phonetic value to these symbols. It is clear, however, that
a single nation must have invented the system," OPPERT, _Journal
Asiatique_, 1875, p. 474. M. Oppert has given an interesting account of the
mode of decipherment in the _Introduction_ and in _Chapter 1._ of the first
volume of his _Expédition scientifique de Mésopotamie_.

[52] A reproduction of this stone will be found farther on. The detail in
question is engraved in LAYARD'S _Nineveh and its Remains_, vol. ii. p.

[53] The latest cuneiform inscription we possess dates from the time of
Domitian. It has been published by M. OPPERT, _Mélanges d'Archéologie
égyptienne et assyrienne_, vol. i. p. 23 (Vieweg, 1873, 4to.). Some very
long ones, from the time of the Seleucidæ and the early Arsacidæ, have been

[54] Hence the name _pictography_ which some scholars apply to this
primitive form of writing. The term is clear enough, but unluckily it is
ill composed: it is a hybrid of Greek and Latin, which is sufficient to
prevent its acceptance by us.

[55] See the _Proceedings of the Society of Biblical Archæology_, twelfth
session, 1881-2.

[56] See MICHEL BRÉAL, _Le Déchiffrement des Inscriptions cypriotes_
(_Journal des Savants_, August and September, 1877). In the last page of
his article, M. Bréal, while fully admitting the objections, asserts that
it is "difficult to avoid recognizing the general resemblance (difficile de
méconnaître la ressemblance générale)." He refers us to the paper of Herr
DEECKE, entitled _Der Ursprung der Kyprischen Sylbenschrift, eine
palæographische Untersuchung_, Strasbourg, 1877. Another hypothesis has
been lately started, and an attempt made to affiliate the Cypriot syllabary
to the as yet little understood hieroglyphic system of the Hittites. See a
paper by Professor A. H. SAYCE, _A Forgotten Empire in Asia Minor_, in No.
608 of _Fraser's Magazine_.

§ 5.--_The History of Chaldæa and Assyria._

We cannot here attempt even to epitomize the history of those great empires
that succeeded one another in Mesopotamia down to the period of the Persian
conquest. Until quite lately their history was hardly more than a tissue of
tales and legends behind which it was difficult to catch a glimpse of the
few seriously attested facts, of the few people who were more than shadows,
and of the dynasties whose sequence could be established. The foreground
was taken up by fabulous creatures like Ninus and Semiramis, compounded by
the lively imagination of the Greeks of features taken from several of the
building and conquering sovereigns of Babylon and Nineveh. So, in the case
of Egypt, was forged the image of that great Sesostris who looms so large
in the pages of the Greek historians and combines many Pharaohs of the
chief Theban dynasties in his own person. The romantic tales of Ctesias
were united by Rollin and his emulators with other statements of perhaps
still more doubtful value. The book of Daniel was freely drawn upon, and
yet it is certain that it was not written until the year which saw the
death of Antiochus Epiphanes. The book of Daniel is polemical, not
historical; the Babylon in which its scene is laid is a Babylon of the
imagination; the writer chose it as the best framework for his lessons to
the Israelites, and for the menaces he wished to pour out upon their
enemies.[57] Better materials are to be found in other parts of the Bible,
in _Kings_, in the _Chronicles_, and in the older prophets. But it would be
an ungrateful task for the critic to attempt to work out an harmonious
result from evidence so various both in origin and value. The most skilful
would fail in the endeavour. With such materials it would be impossible to
arrive at any coherent result that would be, we do not say true, but

The discovery of Nineveh, the exploration of the ruins in Chaldæa, and the
decipherment of the cuneiform inscriptions, have changed all this, although
much of the detail has yet to be filled in, especially so far as the
earlier periods are concerned. We are now able to trace the leading lines,
to mark the principal divisions, in a word, to put together the skeleton of
a future history. We are no longer ignorant of the origin of Babylonish
civilization nor of the directions in which it spread; we can grasp both
the strong differences and the close bonds of connection between Assyria
and Chaldæa, and understand the swing of the pendulum that in the course of
two thousand years shifted the political centre of the country backwards
and forwards from Babylon to Nineveh, while from the mountains of Armenia
to the Persian Gulf, beliefs, manners, arts, spoken dialects, and written
characters, preserved so many striking resemblances as to put their common
origin beyond a doubt.

Not a year passes but the discovery of fresh documents and the process of
translation allows us to retouch and complete the story. MM. Maspero and
Lenormant have placed it before us as shaped by their most recent studies,
and we shall take them for our guide in a rapid indication of the ruling
character and approximate duration of each of those periods into which the
twenty centuries of development may be divided. We shall then have some
fixed points by which to guide our steps in the vast region whose monuments
we are about to explore. So that if we say that a certain fragment belongs
to the _first_ or _second Chaldæan Empire_, our readers will know, not
perhaps its exact date, but at least its relative age, and all risk of
confusing the time of Ourkam or Hammourabi with that of Nebuchadnezzar
will be avoided.

       *       *       *       *       *

When we attempt to mount the stream of history and to pierce the mists
which become ever thicker as we near its source, what is it that we see? We
see the lower part of the basin through which the twin rivers make their
way, entirely occupied by tribes of various origin and blood whose ethnic
characteristics we have endeavoured to point out. These mixed populations
are divided by the Tigris into two distinct groups. These groups often came
into violent collision, and in spite of mutual relations kept up through a
long series of years, the line of demarcation between them ever remained

Towards the east, in the plain which borders the river, and upon the
terraces which rise one above the other up to the plateau of Iran, we have
the country called by the Greeks Susiana, and by the Hebrews the kingdom of
Elam. West of the Tigris, in Mesopotamia, the first Chaldæan Empire is
slowly taking shape.

The eastern state, that of which Susa was the capital, was, at intermittent
periods, a great military power, and more than once poured its hosts, not
only over Babylonia, but over the Syrian provinces to the west of the
Euphrates. But in these momentary successes, nevertheless, the part played
by this state was, on the whole, a subordinate one. It spent itself in
bloody conflicts with the Mesopotamian empires, to which it became subject
in the end, while at no time does it appear to have done anything to
advance civilization either by isolated inventions or by general
perseverance in the ways of progress. We know very little of its internal
history, and nothing to speak of about its religion and government, its
manners and laws; but the few monuments which have been discovered suffice
to prove that its art had no independent existence, that it was never
anything better than a secondary form of Chaldæan art, a branch broken off
from the parent stem.

We are better, or, rather, less ill, informed, in the case of the first
Chaldee Empire. The fragments of Berosus give us some knowledge of its
beginnings, so far, at least, as the story was preserved in the national
traditions, and the remains by which tradition can be tested and corrected
are more numerous than in the case of Susiana.

The chronicles on which Berosus based his work began with a divine
dynasty, which was succeeded by a human dynasty of fabulous duration. These
legendary sovereigns, like the patriarchs of the Bible, each lived for many
centuries, and to them, as well as to the gods who preceded them, certain
myths were attached of which we find traces in the surviving monuments.
Such myths were the fish god, Oannes, and the Chaldaic deluge with its
Noah, Xisouthros.[58]

This double period, with its immoderate duration, corresponds to those dark
and confused ages during which the intellect of man was absorbed in the
constant and painful struggle against nature, during which he had no
leisure either to take note of time or to count the generations as they
passed. After this long succession of gods and heroes, Berosus gives what
he calls a _Medic_ dynasty, in which, it has been thought, the memory of
some period of Aryan supremacy has survived. In any case, we have serious
reasons for thinking that the third of the dynasties of Berosus, with its
eleven kings, was of Susian origin. Without speaking of other indications
which have been ingeniously grouped by modern criticism, a direct
confirmation of this hypothesis is to be found in the evidence of the
Bible. In the latter we find Chedorlaomer, king of Elam, master of the
whole basin of the Tigris and Euphrates in the time of Abraham. Among his
vassals were Amraphel, king of Shinar, and Arioch, king of Ellasar, the two
principal cities of Assyria.[59] All doubts upon this point have been
banished since the texts in which Assurbanipal, the last of the Ninevite
conquerors, vaunts his exploits, have been deciphered. In two of these
inscriptions he tells us how he took Susa 1,635 years after
Chedornakhounta, king of Elam, had conquered Babylon; he found, he says, in
that city sacred statues which had been carried off from Erech by the king
of Elam. He brought them back again to Chaldæa and re-established them in
the sanctuary from which they had been violently removed.[60]

Assurbanipal took Susa in 660. All antiquity declares that the Babylonians
and the Syrians had a taste for chronology at a very early period. This is
proved by the eponymous system of the Assyrians, a system much to be
preferred to the Egyptian habit of dating their monuments with the year of
the current reign only.[61] Moreover, have not the ancients perpetuated the
fame of the astronomical tables drawn up by the Chaldæans and founded upon
observations dating back to a very remote epoch? Such tables could not have
been made without a strict count of time. We have, then, no reason to doubt
the figure named by Assurbanipal, and his chronicle may be taken to give
the oldest date in the history of Chaldæa, B.C. 2,295, as the year of the
Susian conquest.

The Elamite dynasty was succeeded, according to Berosus, by a native
Chaldæan dynasty. Berosus--and his dates are held in great respect--places
the appearance of this new royal family in 2,047, giving it forty-nine
sovereigns and 458 years of duration. We are thus brought down to the
conquest of Mesopotamia by the Egyptian Pharaohs of the eighteenth dynasty.
The names of the Chaldæan princes have been transcribed by those Byzantine
chroniclers to whom we owe the few and short fragments of Berosus that are
still extant.

On the other hand, inscriptions dug up upon the sites of the Chaldæan
cities have furnished us with fifty royal names which may, it is thought,
be ascribed to the period whose chief divisions we have just laid down.
Assyriologists have classed them as well as they could--from the more or
less archaic characters of their language and writing, from the elements of
which the proper names are composed, and from the relationships which some
of the texts show to have existed between one prince and another--but they
are still far from establishing a continuous series such as those that have
been arranged for the Pharaohs even of the Ancient Empire. Interruptions
are frequent, and their extent is beyond our power even to guess. Primitive
Chaldæa has unluckily left behind it no document like the list of Manetho
to help us in the arrangement of the royal names with which the monuments
are studded.

We do not even know how the earliest royal name upon the inscriptions
should be read; it is more to avoid speaking of him by a paraphrase than
for any other reason that the name Ourkam has been assigned to the prince
whose traces are to be found sprinkled over the ruins of most of the
southern cities. The characters of the texts stamped upon bricks recovered
from buildings erected by him, have, as all Assyriologists know, a peculiar
physiognomy of their own. Ourkam is the Menes of Chaldæa, and his date is
put long before that Susian conquest of which we have spoken above. The
seals of Ourkam (see Fig. 3) and of his son Ilgi[62] have been found. The
name of the latter occurs almost as often as that of his father among the
ruins of Southern Chaldæa.

[Illustration: FIG. 3.--Seal of Ourkam.]

The oldest cities of Lower Chaldæa date from this remote epoch, namely, Ur,
now _Mugheir_ or the _bituminous_, Urukh now _Warka_, Larsam (_Senkerch_),
Nipour (_Niffer_), Sippara, Borsippa, Babylon, &c. Ur, on the right bank of
the Euphrates and near its ancient mouth, seems to have been the first
capital of the country and its chief commercial centre in those early
times. The premiership of Babylon as a holy city and seat of royalty cannot
have been established until much later. The whole country between Hillah
and Bassorah is now little removed from a desert. Here and there rise a few
tents or reed huts belonging to the Montefik Arabs, a tribe of savage
nomads and the terror of travellers. Europeans have succeeded in exploring
that inhospitable country only under exceptional circumstances.[63] And yet
it was there, between two or three thousand years before our era, that the
intermingling of ideas and races took place which gave birth to the
civilization of Chaldæa.

In order to find a king to whom we can give a probable date we have to come
down as far as Ismi-Dagan, who should figure in the fourth dynasty of
Berosus. Tiglath-Pileser the First, who reigned in Assyria at the end of
the twelfth century, has left us an official document in which he recounts
how he had restored in Ellasar (now _Kaleh-Shergat_), a temple of Oannes
founded by Ismi-Dagan seven hundred years before. We are led therefore to
place the latter king about 1800.[64] We learn at the same time that
Assyria was inhabited, in the days of Ismi-Dagan, by a people who borrowed
their gods from Chaldæa, and were dependents of the sovereign of the latter
country. It was in fact upon the shores of the Persian Gulf, far enough
from Assyria, that Oannes made his first revelation, and it is at Ur in the
same region that the names of Ismi-Dagan and of his sons Goun-goun and
Samsibin are to be found stamped upon the bricks. We may, therefore, look
upon their epoch as that in which the first Chaldee Empire reached its
apogee. It then embraced all Mesopotamia, from the slopes of Mount Zagros
to the out-fall of the two great rivers.

The sovereigns of Chaldæa, like the Pharaohs of Egypt, toiled with
intelligence and unremitting perseverance to develop the resources of the
vast domain of which they found themselves masters. They set on foot great
public works whose memory survives here and there, to this day. From the
moment when the first colonists, of whatever race, appeared in the
country, they must have set about regulating the water courses; they must
have taken measures to profit by the floods to form reserves, and to
utilize the natural fall of the land, slight though it was, for the
distribution of the fertilizing liquid. The first groups of agriculturists
were established in the immediate neighbourhood of the Tigris and
Euphrates, where nothing more was required for the irrigation of the fields
than a few channels cut through the banks of the stream, but when the time
arrived for the settlement of the regions at some distance from both
rivers, more elaborate measures had to be taken; a systematic plan had to
be devised and carried out by concerted action. That the kings of Chaldæa
were quite equal to the task thus laid upon them is proved by the
inscriptions of HAMMOURABI, one of the successors of Ismi-Dagan, which have
been translated and commented upon by M. Joachim Ménant.[65]

The canal to which this king boasts of having given his name, the
_Nahar-Hammourabi_, was called in later days the royal canal,
_Nahar-Malcha_. Herodotus saw and admired it, its good condition was an
object of care to the king himself, and we know that it was considerably
repaired by Nebuchadnezzar. It may be compared to a main artery; smaller
vessels flowed from it right and left, throwing off in their turn still
smaller branches, and ending in those capillaries which carried refreshment
to the roots of each thirsty palm. Even in our day the traveller in the
province of Bagdad may follow one of these ancient beds for an hour or two
without turning to the right or the left, and their banks, though greatly
broken in many places, still rise above the surrounding soil and afford a
welcome causeway for the voyager across the marshy plains.[66] All these
apparent accidents of the ground are vestiges left by the great hydraulic
works of that Chaldee Empire which began to loom through the shadows of the
past some twenty years ago, and has gradually been taking form ever since.
When civilization makes up its mind to re-enter upon that country, nothing
more will be needed for the re-awakening in it of life and reproductive
energy, than the restoration of the great works undertaken by the
contemporaries of Abraham and Jacob.

       *       *       *       *       *

According to all appearance it was the Egyptian conquest about sixteen
centuries B.C., that led to the partition of Mesopotamia. Vassals of
Thothmes and Rameses, called by Berosus the "Arab kings," sat upon the
throne of Babylon. The tribes of Upper Mesopotamia were farther from Egypt,
and their chiefs found it easier to preserve their independence. At first
each city had its own prince, but in time one of these petty kingdoms
absorbed the rest, and Nineveh became the capital of an united Assyria. As
the years passed away the frontiers of the nation thus constituted were
pushed gradually southwards until all Mesopotamia was brought under one
sceptre. This consummation appears to have been complete by the end of the
fourteenth century, at which period Egypt, enfeebled and rolled back upon
herself, ceased to make her influence felt upon the Euphrates. Even then
Babylon kept her own kings, but they had sunk to be little more than
hereditary satraps receiving investiture from Nineveh. Over and over again
Babylon attempted to shake off the yoke of her neighbour; but down to the
seventh century her revolts were always suppressed, and the Assyrian
supremacy re-established after more or less desperate conflicts.

During nearly half a century, from about 1060 to 1020 B.C., Babylon seems
to have recovered the upper hand. The victories of her princes put an end
to what is called the FIRST ASSYRIAN EMPIRE. But after one or two
generations a new family mounted the northern throne, and, toiling
energetically for a century or so to establish the grandeur of the
monarchy, founded the SECOND ASSYRIAN EMPIRE. The upper country regained
its ascendency by the help of military institutions whose details now
escape us, although their results may be traced throughout the later
history of Assyria. From the tenth century onwards the effects of these
institutions become visible in expeditions made by the armies of Assyria,
now to the shores of the Persian Gulf or the Caspian, and now through the
mountains of Armenia into the plains of Cappadocia, or across the Syrian
desert to the Lebanon and the coast cities of Phoenicia. The first princes
whose figured monuments--in contradistinction to mere inscriptions--have
come down to us, belonged to those days. The oldest of all was
ASSURNAZIRPAL, whose residence was at CALACH (_Nimroud_). The bas-reliefs
with which his palace was decorated are now in the Louvre and the British
Museum, most of them in the latter.[67] They may be recognized at once by
the band of inscription which passes across the figures and reproduces one
text again and again (Fig. 4). To Assurnazirpal's son SHALMANESER III.
belongs the obelisk of basalt which also stands in the British Museum. Its
four faces are adorned with reliefs and with a running commentary engraved
with extreme care.[68]

[Illustration: FIG. 4.--Genius in the attitude of adoration. From the
North-west Palace at Nimroud. Louvre. Drawn by Saint-Elme Gautier.]

Shalmaneser was an intrepid man of war. The inscriptions on his obelisk
recall the events of thirty-one campaigns waged against the neighbouring
peoples under the leadership of the king himself. He was always victorious,
but the nations whom he crushed never accepted defeat. As soon as his back
was well turned they flew to arms, and again drew him from his repose in
the great palace which he had built at Calach, close to that of his

Under the immediate successors of Shalmaneser the Assyrian _prestige_ was
maintained at a high level by dint of the same lavish bloodshed and
truculent energy; but towards the eighth century it began to decline. There
was then a period of languor and decadence, some echo of which, and of its
accompanying disasters, seems to have been embodied by the Greeks in the
romantic tale of Sardanapalus. No shadow of confirmation for the story of a
first destruction of Nineveh is to be found in the inscriptions, and, in
the middle of the same century, we again find the Assyrian arms triumphant
under the leadership of TIGLATH PILESER II., a king modelled after the
great warriors of the earlier days. This prince seems to have carried his
victorious arms as far east as the Indus, and west as the frontiers of

And yet it was only under his second successor, SARYOUKIN, or, to give him
his popular name, SARGON, the founder of a new dynasty, that Syria, with
the exception of Tyre, was brought into complete submission after a great
victory over the Egyptians (721-704).[70] In the intervals of his campaigns
Sargon built the town and palace which have been discovered at Khorsabad,
_Dour-Saryoukin_, or the "town of Sargon."

His son SENNACHERIB equalled him both as a soldier and as a builder. He
began by crushing the rebels of Elam and Chaldæa with unflinching severity;
in his anger he almost exterminated the inhabitants of Babylon, the
perennial seat of revolt; but, on the other hand, he repaired and restored
Nineveh. Most of his predecessors had been absentees from the capital, and
had neglected its buildings. They had preferred to place their own
habitations where they could escape from the crowd and the dangers it
implied. But Sennacherib was of another mind. He chose a site well within
the city for the magnificent palace which Mr. Layard has been the means of
restoring to the world. This building is now known as _Kouyundjik_, from
the name of the village perched upon the mound within which the buildings
of Sennacherib were hidden.[71]

Sennacherib rebuilt the walls, the towers, and the quays of Nineveh at the
same time, so that the capital, which had never ceased to be the strongest
and most populous city of the empire, again became the residence of the
king--a distinction which it was to preserve until the fast approaching
date of its final destruction.

The son of Sennacherib, ESARHADDON, and his grandson, ASSURBANIPAL, pushed
the adventures and conquests of the Assyrian arms still farther. They
subdued the whole north of Arabia, and invaded Egypt more than once. They
took and retook Memphis and Thebes, and divided the whole valley of the
Nile, from the Ethiopian frontier to the sea, into a number of vassal
principalities, whose submission was insured by the weakness and mutual
jealousies of their lords. Ever prompt in revolt, Babylon again exposed
itself to sack, and Susiana, which had helped the insurrection, was
pillaged, ravaged, and so utterly crushed that it was on the point of
disappearing for ever from the scene as an independent state. There was a
moment when the great Semitic Empire founded by the Sargonides touched even
the Ægæan, for Gyges, king of Lydia, finding himself menaced by the
Cimmerians, did homage to Assurbanipal, and sued for help against those
foes to all civilization.[72]

[Illustration: FIG. 5.--Assurbanipal at the chase. Kouyundjik. British
Museum. Drawn by Saint-Elme Gautier.]

Like their ancestors, these great soldiers were also great builders. In one
of his inscriptions Esarhaddon boasts of having built ten palaces and
thirty-six temples in Assyria and Chaldæa.[73] Some traces of one of these
palaces have been found within the _enceinte_ of Nineveh, at Nebbi-Younas;
but it was chiefly upon Nimroud that Esarhaddon left marks of his
magnificence. The palace called the South-western Palace, in consequence of
its position in the mound, was commenced by him. It was never finished, but
in plan it was more grandiose than any other of the royal dwellings. Had it
been complete it would have included the largest hall ever provided by an
Assyrian architect for the pomps of the Ninevitish court.

Assurbanipal was cruel in victory and indefatigable in the chase. Judging
from his bas-reliefs he was as proud of the lions he killed by hundreds in
his hunts, as of the men massacred by thousands in his wars and military
promenades, or of the captives driven before him, like herds of helpless
cattle, from one end of Asia to the other. He appears also to have been a
patron of literature and the arts. It was under his auspices that the
collection of inscribed terra-cotta tablettes was made in the palace at
Kouyundjik,[74] of which so many fragments have now been recovered. He
ordered the transcription of several ancient texts which had been first
cut, many centuries before, at Ur of the Chaldees. In fact, he collected
that royal library whose remains, damaged by time though they be, are yet
among the most valued treasures of the British Museum. Documents of many
kinds are to be found among them: comparative vocabularies, lists of
divinities with their distinguishing epithets, chronological lists of kings
and eponymous heroes, grammars, histories, tables of astronomical
observations, scientific works of various descriptions, &c., &c. These
tablets were classified according to subject and arranged in several rooms
of the upper story, so that they suffered much in the fall of the floors
and roofs. Very few are quite uninjured but in many cases the pieces have
been successfully put together. When first discovered these broken remains
covered the floors of the buried palace to the depth of about two feet.[75]

The building was no less remarkable for the richness and beauty of its
bas-reliefs. We shall have occasion to reproduce more than one of the
hunting scenes which are there represented, and of which we give a first
illustration on the opposite page. Some remains of another palace built by
the same prince have been discovered in the mound of Nebbi-Younas.

Never had the empire seemed more strong and flourishing than now, and yet
it was close to its fall. The Sargonids understood fighting and pillage,
but they made no continuous effort to unite the various peoples whom they
successfully conquered and trampled underfoot. The Assyrians have been
compared to the Romans, and in some respects the parallel is good. They
showed a Roman energy in the conduct of their incessant struggles, and the
soldiers who brought victory so often to the standards of the Sennacheribs
and Shalmanesers must have been in their time, as the legions of the
consuls and dictators were in later years, the best troops in Asia: they
were better armed, better disciplined, and better led than those of
neighbouring states, more used to fatigue, to long marches and rapid
evolutions. The brilliance of their success and its long duration are thus
explained, for the chiefs of the empire never seem to have had the faintest
suspicion of the adroit policy which was afterwards to bind so many
conquered peoples to the Roman sceptre. The first necessity for civilized
man is security: the hope, or rather the certainty, of enjoying the fruits
of his own industry in peace. When this certainty is assured to him he
quickly pardons and forgets the injuries he has suffered. This fact has
been continually ignored by Oriental conquerors and by Assyrian conquerors
more than any others. The Egyptians and Persians appear now and then to
have succeeded in reconciling their subject races, and in softening their
mutual hatreds by paying some attention to their political wants. But the
Assyrians reckoned entirely upon terror. And yet one generation was often
enough to obliterate the memory of the most cruel disasters. Sons did not
learn from the experience of their fathers, and, although dispersed and
decimated times without number, the enemies of Assyria never acquiesced in
defeat. In the subjection imposed upon them they panted for revenge, and
while paying their tributes they counted the hours and followed with
watchful eye every movement of their master. Let him be carried into any
distant province, or engaged in lengthened hostilities, and they at once
flew to their arms. If the prince were fighting in Armenia, or on the
borders of the Caspian, Chaldæa and Susiana would rise against him: if
disputing the Nile Valley with the Ethiopians, Syria would revolt in his
rear and the insurrection would spread across the plains of Asia with the
rapidity of a prairie fire.

Thus no question received a final settlement. On the morrow of the hardest
won victory the fight had to begin anew. The strongest and bravest
exhausted themselves at such a game. Each campaign left gaps in the ranks
of the governing and fighting classes, and in time, their apparent
privilege became the most crushing of burdens. The same burden has for a
century past been slowly destroying the dominant race in modern Turkey. Its
members occupy nearly all the official posts, but they have to supply the
army as well. Since the custom of recruiting the latter with the children
of Christians, separated from their families in infancy and converted to
Islamism has been abandoned, the military population has decreased year by
year. One or two more wars like the last and the Ottoman race will be

Losses in battle were then a chief cause of decadence in a state which
failed to discipline its subject peoples and to incorporate them in its
armies. A further explanation is to be found in the lassitude and
exhaustion which must in time overtake the most warlike princes, the
bravest generals, and the most highly tempered of conquering races. A few
years of relaxed watchfulness, an indolent and soft-hearted sovereign, are
enough to let loose all the pent up forces of insubordination and to unite
them into one formidable effort. We thus see that, in many respects,
nothing could be more precarious than the prosperity of that Assyria whose
insolent triumphs had so often astonished the world since the accession of

The first shock came from the north. About the year 632 all western Asia
was suddenly overrun by the barbarians whom the Greeks called the Cimmerian
Scythians. With an _élan_ that nothing could resist, they spread
themselves over the country lying between the shores of the Caspian and the
Persian Gulf; they even menaced the frontiers of Egypt. The open towns were
pillaged and destroyed, the fields and agricultural villages ruthlessly
laid waste. Thanks to the height and thickness of their defending walls
Nineveh, Babylon, and a few other cities escaped a sack, but Mesopotamia as
a whole suffered cruelly. The dwellers in its vast plains had no
inaccessible summits or hidden valleys to which they could retreat until
the wave of destruction had passed on. At the end of a few years the
loot-laden Scythians withdrew into those steppes of central Asia whence
their descendants were again, some six centuries later, to menace the
existence of civilization; and they left Assyria and Chaldæa half stripped
of their inhabitants behind them.

The work begun by the Scythians was finished by the Medes. These were Aryan
tribes, long subject to the Assyrians, who had begun to constitute
themselves a nation in the first half of the seventh century, and, under
the leadership of CYAXARES, the real founder of their power, had already
attacked Nineveh after the death of Assurbanipal. This invasion brought on
a kind of forced truce, but when the Medes had compelled the Scythians to
retreat to their deserts by the bold stroke which Herodotus admires so
much, they quickly resumed the offensive[76]. We cannot follow all the
fluctuations of the conflict; the information left by the early historians
is vague and contradictory, and we have no cuneiform inscriptions to help
us out. After the fall of Nineveh cylinders of clay and alabaster slabs
were no longer covered with wedges by the Assyrian scribes. They had
recounted their victories and conquests at length, but not one among them,
so far as we know, cared to retrace the dismal history of final defeat.

All that we can guess is that the last sovereign of Nineveh fell before a
coalition in which Media and Chaldæa played the chief parts[77].
NABOPOLASSAR, the general to whom he confided the defence of Babylon,
entered into an alliance with Cyaxares. ASSUREDILANI shut himself up in his
capital, where he resisted as long as he could, and finally set fire to his
palace and allowed himself to be burned alive rather than fall living into
the hands of his enemies (625 B.C.). Nineveh, "the dwelling of the lions,"
"the bloody city," saw its last day; "Nineveh is laid waste," says the
prophet Nahum, "who will bemoan her?"[78]

The modern historian will feel more pity for Assyria than the Jewish poet,
the sincere interpreter of a national hatred which was fostered by frequent
and cruel wounds to the national pride. We can forgive Nineveh much,
because she wrote so much and built so much, because she covered so much
clay with her arrow-heads, and so many walls with her carved reliefs. We
forgive her because to the ruins of her palaces and the broken fragments of
her sculpture we owe most of our present knowledge of the great
civilization which once filled the basin of the Tigris and Euphrates. The
kings of Assyria went on building palaces up to the last moment. Each reign
added to the series of royal dwellings in which every chamber was filled
with inscriptions and living figures. Some of these structures were raised
in Nineveh itself, some in the neighbouring cities. At the south-east angle
of the mound at Nimroud, the remains of a palace begun by Assuredilani have
been excavated. Its construction had been interrupted by the Medes and
Scythians, for it was left unfinished. Its proposed area was very small.
The rooms were narrow and ill arranged, and their walls were decorated at
foot with slabs of bare limestone instead of sculptured alabaster. Above
the plinth thus formed they were covered with roughly executed paintings
upon plaster, instead of with enamelled bricks. Both plan and decoration
show evidence of haste and disquiet. The act of sovereignty had to be done,
but all certainty of the morrow had vanished. From the moment in which
Assyrian sculpture touched its highest point in the reign of Assurbanipal,
the material resources of the kingdom and the supply of skilled workmen had
slowly but constantly diminished.[79]

Nineveh destroyed, the empire of which it was the capital vanished with it.
The new Babylonian empire, the Empires of the Medes and of the Persians
followed each other with such rapidity that the Assyrian heroes and their
prowess might well have been forgotten. The feeble recollections they left
in men's minds became tinged with the colours of romance. The Greeks took
pleasure in the fable of Sardanapalus: they developed it into a moral tale
with elaborate conceits and telling contrasts, but they did not invent it
from the foundation. The first hint of it must have been given by legends
of the fall and destruction of Nineveh current in the cities of Ecbatana,
Susa, and Babylon when Ctesias was within their walls.

       *       *       *       *       *

After the obliteration of Nineveh the Medes and Chaldæans divided western
Asia between them. A family alliance was concluded between Nabopolassar and
Cyaxares at the moment of concerting the attack which was to have such a
brilliant success, and either in consequence of that alliance or for some
unknown motive, the two nations remained good friends after their common
victory. The Medes kept Assyria, and extended themselves to the north, over
the whole country between the Caspian and the Black Sea. They would have
carried their frontiers to the Ægæan but for the existence of the Lydian
monarchy, which arrested them on the left bank of the Halys. To the south
of these regions the SECOND CHALDÆAN EMPIRE took shape (625-536 B.C.). It
made no effort to expand eastwards over that plateau of Iran where the
Aryan element, as represented by the Medes and soon afterwards by the
Persians, had acquired an ever-increasing preponderance, but it pretended
to the sovereignty of Egypt and Syria. In the former country, however, the
Saite princes had rekindled the national spirit, and the frontiers were
held successfully against the invaders. It was otherwise with the Jewish
people. Sargon had taken Samaria and put an end to the Israelitish kingdom;
that of Judah was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar. Thanks to its insular
position, Tyre escaped the lot of Jerusalem, but the rest of Phoenicia and
all northern Syria were subdued by Babylon.

In all this region the Semitic element had long been encroaching upon those
other elements which had preceded and been associated with it at the
commencement. In all Mesopotamia only one tongue was spoken and written,
the tongue we now know as _Assyrian_, but should call _Assyro-Chaldæan_.
The differences of dialect between north and south were of little
importance, and the language in question is that of the inscriptions in
both countries.

Another change requires to be mentioned. Our readers will remember the
names of Ur, Erech, and many other cities which played a great part in the
early history of the country, and were all capitals in turn. Babylon,
however, in time acquired an unquestioned supremacy over them all. The
residence of the Assyrian viceroys during the supremacy of the northern
kingdom, it became the metropolis of the new empire after the fall of
Nineveh. Without having lost either their population or their prosperity,
the other cities sunk to the condition of provincial towns.

For some hundred years Babylon had been cruelly ill-treated by the
Assyrians, and never-ending revolts had been the consequence. Nabopolassar
began the work of restoration, and his son NEBUCHADNEZZAR, the real hero of
the Second Chaldee Empire, carried it on with ardour during the whole of
his long reign. "He restored the canals which united the Tigris to the
Euphrates above Babylon; he rebuilt the bridge which gave a means of
communication between the two halves of the city; he repaired the great
reservoirs in which the early kings had caught and stored the superfluous
waters of the Euphrates during the annual inundation. Upon these works his
prisoners of war, Syrians and Egyptians, Jews and Arabs, were employed in
vast numbers. The great wall of Babylon was set up anew; so was the temple
of Nebo at Borsippa; the reservoir at Sippara, the royal canal, and a part
at least of Lake Pallacopas, were excavated; Kouti, Sippara, Borsippa,
Babel, rose upon their own ruins. Nebuchadnezzar was to Chaldæa what
Rameses II. was to Egypt, and there is not a place in Babylon or about it
where his name and the signs of his marvellous activity cannot be

Nebuchadnezzar reigned forty-three years (604-561), and left Babylon the
largest and finest city of Asia. After his death the decadence was rapid. A
few years saw several kings succeed one another upon the throne, while a
revolution was being accomplished upon the plateau of Iran which was
destined to be fatal to Chaldæa. The supremacy in that region passed from
the feeble and exhausted Medes into the hands of the Persians, another
people of the same stock. The latter were a tribe of mountaineers teeming
with native energy, and their strength had been systematically organized by
a young and valiant chief, in whom they had full confidence because he had
given them confidence in themselves. CYRUS began by leading them to the
conquest of Media, Assyria, and Asia Minor, and by forcing the nations who
dwelt between the southern confines of Persia and the mountains of Upper
India to acknowledge his supremacy. Finally, he collected his forces for an
attack upon Chaldæa, and, in 536, Babylon fell before his arms.

       *       *       *       *       *

And yet Babylon did not disappear from history in a day; she was not
destroyed, like Nineveh, by a single blow. Cyrus does not appear to have
injured her. She remained, under the Persian kings, one of the chief cities
of the empire. But she did not give up her habit of revolting whenever she
had a chance, and DARIUS, the son of Hystaspes, tired of besieging her,
ended by dismantling her fortifications, while XERXES went farther, and
pillaged her temples. But the chief buildings remained standing. Towards
the middle of the fifth century they excited the admiration of Herodotus,
and, fifty years later, that of Ctesias. Strabo, on the other hand, found
the place almost a desert.[81] Babylon had been ruined by the foundation of
Seleucia, on the Tigris, at a distance of rather more than thirty miles
from the ancient capital. Struck by the beauty of its monuments and the
advantages of its site, ALEXANDER projected the restoration of Babylon, and
proposed to make it his habitual residence; but he died before his
intention could be carried out, and SELEUCUS NICATOR preferred to build a
town which should be called after himself, and should at least perpetuate
his name. The new city had as many as six hundred thousand inhabitants.
Under the Parthians Ctesiphon succeeded to Seleucia, to be replaced in its
turn by Bagdad, the Arab metropolis of the caliphs. This latest comer upon
the scene would have equalled its predecessors in magnificence had the
routes of commerce not changed so greatly since the commencement of the
modern era, and, above all, had the Turks not been masters of the country.
There can be no doubt that the next generation will see the civilization of
the West repossess itself of the fertile plains in which it was born and
nursed, and a railway carried from the shores of the Mediterranean to those
of the Persian Gulf. Such a road would be the most direct route from Europe
to India, and its construction would awake Chaldæa to the feverish activity
of our modern life. Peopled, irrigated, and tilled into her remotest
corners, she would again become as prolific as of old. Her station upon the
wayside would soon change her towns into cities as populous as those of
Nebuchadnezzar, and we may even guess that her importance in the future
would reduce her past to insignificance, and would make her capital such a
Babylon as the world has not yet seen.


[57] TH. NOELDEKE, _Histoire littéraire de l'ancien Testament_, French
version. See chapter vii.

[58] This account of the fabulous origin of civilization in Chaldæa and
Assyria will be found in the second book of BEROSUS. See _Fragmenta
Historicorum Græcorum_ of Ch. MÜLLER, vol. i. fr. 4, 13. Book i. is
consecrated to the cosmogony, Book iii. to the Second Chaldee Empire.

[59] _Genesis_ xiv.

[60] F. LENORMANT, _Manuel de l'Histoire ancienne_, vol. ii. p. 24. SMITH
(_Assyrian Discoveries_, p. 224) puts the capture of Susa in 645, and thus
arrives at the date 2280 B.C.

[61] LENORMANT, _Manuel de l'Histoire ancienne_, vol. ii. p. 65, gives an
account of the system under which special magistrates gave their name to
each year, and of the lists which have been preserved.

[62] This was lately found at Bagdad after long being supposed to be lost.
It is now in the British Museum.

[63] It was visited under the best conditions, and has been best described
by W. KENNETH LOFTUS who was in it from 1849 to 1852. Attached as geologist
to the English mission, commanded by Colonel, afterwards General Sir
Fenwick Williams of Kars, which was charged with the delimitation of the
Turco-Persian frontier, he was accompanied by sufficient escorts and could
stay wherever he pleased. He was an ardent traveller and excellent
observer, and science experienced a real loss in his death. The only work
which he has left behind him may still be read with pleasure and profit,
namely, _Travels and Researches in Chaldæa and Susiana, with an Account of
Excavations at Warka, the "Ereich" of Nimrod, and Shúsh, "Shushan the
palace" of Esther_, 8vo, London: 1857. The articles contributed by J. E.
TAYLOR, English vice-consul at Bassorah, to vol. xv. of the _Journal of the
Asiatic Society_ (1855), may also be read with advantage. He passed over
the same ground, and also made excavations at certain points in Lower
Chaldæa which were passed over by Mr. Loftus. Finally, M. de Sarzec, the
French consul at Bassorah, to whom we owe the curious series of Chaldæan
objects which have lately increased the riches of the Louvre, was enabled
to explore the same region through the friendship of a powerful Arab chief.
It is much to be desired that he should give us a complete account of his
sojourn and of the searches he carried on.

[64] LENORMANT, _Manuel de l'Histoire ancienne_, vol. ii. p. 30.

[65] J. MÉNANT, _Inscriptions de Hammourabi, Roi de Babylone_; 1863, Paris.
These inscriptions are the oldest documents in phonetic character that have
come down to us. See OPPERT, _Expédition scientifique_, vol. i. p. 267.

[66] KER PORTER, _Travels in Georgia, Persia_, etc., 4to., vol. ii. p. 390.
LAYARD, _Discoveries in the Ruins of Nineveh and Babylon_, p. 535.
"Alexander, after he had transferred the seat of his empire to the east, so
fully understood the importance of these great works that he ordered them
to be cleansed and repaired and superintended the work in person, steering
his boat with his own hands through the channels."

[67] This palace was the one called the _North-western Palace_.

[68] LAYARD, _The Monuments of Nineveh, from Drawings made on the spot,
Illustrated in one Hundred Plates_ (large folio, London: 1849), plates

[69] It is now called the _Central Palace at Nimroud_.

[70] The chief work upon this period, the most brilliant and the best known
in Assyrian history, is the _Faites de Sargon_ of MM. OPPERT and MÉNANT
(Paris: 1865).

[71] The palace occupied the whole of the south-western angle of the mound.

[72] MASPERO (_Histoire ancienne_, p. 431) refers us to the authors by whom
the inscription, in which these relations between the kings of Lydia and
Assyria are recounted, was translated and explained. The chief of these is
George SMITH, who, in his _History of Assurbanipal_, has brought together
and commented upon the different texts from which we learn the facts of
this brilliant reign. The early death of this young scholar can never be
too much regretted. In spite of his comparative youth he added much to our
knowledge of Assyria, and, moreover, to him belongs the credit of having
recognized the true character of the Cypriot alphabet.

[73] RAWLINSON, _The Five Great Monarchies_, vol. ii. p. 196.

[74] The _Northern Palace_.

[75] This library has always attracted the attention of Assyriologists, and
the best preserved of its texts have been published at various times under
the supervision of Sir Henry RAWLINSON and George SMITH. These texts have
been translated into English, French, and German, and much discussed by the
scholars of all three nations. The reader may also consult the small volume
contributed by M. J. MÉNANT to the _Bibliothèque oriental elzévirienne_
under the title: _La Bibliothèque du Palais de Ninive_. 1 vol. 18mo., 1880
Ernest Leroux.

[76] HERODOTUS, i. 106.

[77] HERODOTUS (i. 106) alludes to this capital event only in a word or
two, in which he promises to give a more complete account of the whole
matter in another work--en heteroisi logoisi--doubtless in that _History of
Assyria_ ("Assurioi logoi" i. 184) which was either never written or soon
lost. Diodorus, who gives circumstantial details both of the coalition and
the siege, dates it a century too early, changes all the names, and mixes
up many fables with his recital (ii. 23-28). In forming a just idea of the
catastrophe and of its date we have to depend chiefly upon the lost
historians, such as Abydenus and Alexander Polyhistor, fragments of whose
works have been preserved for us by Eusebius and Georgius Syncellus. See
RAWLINSON, _The Five Great Monarchies_, etc., vol. ii. pp. 221-232.

[78] _Nahum_ ii. 11; iii. 1, 7.

[79] LAYARD, _Nineveh and its Remains_, vol. ii. pp. 38-39. _Discoveries_,
p. 655.

[80] MASPERO, _Histoire ancienne_, p. 506.

[81] STRABO, xvi. i. 5.

§ 6.--_The Chaldæan Religion._

We know much less about the religion of Chaldæa than about that of Egypt.
The religious monuments of Mesopotamia are much fewer than those of the
Nile valley, and their significance is less clear. Their series are neither
so varied nor so complete as those of the earlier civilization. Certain
orders of subjects are repeated to satiety, while others, which would be
more interesting, are completely absent.

It is in funerary inscriptions that the heart of man, touched by the
mystery of the tomb, lays bare its aspirations with the greatest frankness
and simplicity. Moved by the desire to escape annihilation on the one hand
and posthumous sufferings on the other, it is there that he addresses his
most ardent appeals to the supreme power, and allows us to arrive at a
clear understanding of his ideas as to the action, the character, and the
power of the divinity. At Memphis, Abydos, and Thebes, documents of this
kind have been found in thousands, the figures accompanying them serving as
commentaries upon their text, and helping us to clear up all doubts as to
their nature. We thus have voices speaking from the depths of every
Egyptian tomb; but the Chaldæan sepulchre is mute. It has neither
inscriptions, nor bas-reliefs, nor paintings. No Assyrian burial-place has
yet been found.

Dedications, phrases of homage to this or that divinity, the names and
distinguishing epithets of the gods, all these have been met with in
Mesopotamia; sometimes _in situ_, as artistic decorations, sometimes in
engraved fragments of unknown origin. We may say the same of the different
divine types. Sometimes we find them in monumental sculpture, more often on
those seals which we call _cylinders_. But how obscure, incomplete, and
poor such documents are in comparison with the long pages of hieroglyphs in
which the Pharaohs address their gods or make them speak for themselves!
How infinitely inferior in expression and significance to the vast pictures
which cover the walls of the Theban temples and bring all the persons of
the Egyptian pantheon before us in their turn! What hope is there that
excavations in Chaldæa and Assyria will ever provide us with such remains
as those groups of statues which fill our museums, in which the effigy of a
single god is repeated hundreds of times with every variation of type,
pose, and attribute given to it by the Egyptian theosophy? On the one hand,
what abundance, we may say what super-abundance; on the other, what
poverty, what gaping breaches in the chain of material history! Among the
gods and genii, whose names have come down to us, how few there are whose
images we can surely point to; and, again, what a small number of figures
we have upon which we can put a name without fear of error!

To write the history of these beliefs is a difficult task, not only because
the _idols_, as they would once have been called, are few, and the
Chaldæo-Assyrian inscriptions historical and narrative rather than
religious and dogmatic, but also because the interpretation of the texts,
especially of the most ancient, is much less advanced than that of the
hieroglyphs. When documents in the old language, or at least written in the
primitive ideographic characters, are attacked, the process is one of
divination rather than of translation in the strict sense of the word.

Another difficulty has to be noticed; classic literature does little or
nothing to help us in filling up these voids and dissipating the
obscurities they cause. The Greeks were guilty of many errors when they
attempted to understand and describe foreign religions, but their relations
with the Egyptians and Phoenicians were so prolonged, and, towards the end,
so intimate, that at last they did succeed in grasping some of the doctrine
taught in the sanctuaries of Heliopolis and Thebes, of Byblos and
Hierapolis. With their lively intellects they could hardly frequent the
temples, examine the sacred images, and question the priests as to the
national rites and ceremonies without discovering at least a part of the
truth. It was not so with Chaldæa. Babylon was too far off. Until the time
of Alexander's conquests the boldest travellers did no more than glance
into its streets and monumental buildings, and by that time Nineveh had
long ceased to exist. It was only under the first of the Seleucidæ, when a
Macedonian kingdom was established in the centre of Mesopotamia, that the
curiosity of the Greeks led them to make inquiries similar to those they
had pursued for some three centuries in the valley of the Nile. We cannot
doubt that this desire for information arose among the followers of those
princes themselves; many of them were very intelligent men; and when
Berosus determined to write his history in Greek, he may have wished to
answer the questions asked in his hearing by the Greek writers and
philosophers; by those Alexandrians who were not all at Alexandria.
Unfortunately, nearly the whole of his work has been lost.

At the end of a century and a half Babylon shook off Hellenism, and
Mesopotamia fell into the hands of the Parthians. These people affected, in
some degree, the poetry and arts of Greece, but at bottom they were nothing
more than Oriental barbarians. Their capital, Ctesiphon, seems never to
have attracted learned men, nor ever to have been a seat of those inquiries
into the past of the older races in which the cultured cities of the Greek
world took so great a pleasure. When Rome became the heir of Greece and the
perpetuator of her traditions, we may believe that, under Trajan, she set
about establishing herself in the country; but she soon found it necessary
to withdraw within the Euphrates, and it was her loss when the Parthians
fell from power to be succeeded in the lordship of Mesopotamia by the

We see, then, that, with the exception of one short period, Chaldæa was
what the Greeks called a barbarous country after the fall of its native
royalty, and that it will help us little in our endeavour to grasp the
nature and extent of its religious beliefs. The last of the Athenian
philosophers, Damascius, has certainly left us some information as to the
Babylonish deities which seems to have been taken from authentic
sources.[83] This, together with a few fragments from the work of Berosus,
is all that Hellenic tradition has handed down to us. There is nothing here
which can be even remotely compared to the treatises upon Isis and Osiris
and the Goddess of Syria preserved under the names of PLUTARCH and LUCIAN.

But we cannot enter upon the discussion of Chaldæan art without making an
effort to describe the gist of the national religion and its principal
personages. In every country the highest function of art is to translate
the religious conceptions of its people into visible forms. The architect,
the sculptor, the painter, each in his own fashion, carries out this idea;
the first by the dimensions he gives to his temples, by their plan, and by
the decoration of their walls; the second and third by their choice of
feature, expression and attribute for the images in which the gods become
visible to the people. The clearness and precision with which this
embodiment of an idea is carried out will depend upon the natural aptitudes
of the race and the assistance it receives from the capabilities of the
materials at hand. Plastic creations, from their very nature, must always
be inferior to the thought they are meant to express; by no means can they
go beyond it. This truth is nowhere more striking than in the art of
Greece. Fortunately we are there able to see how a single theme is treated,
in the first place, in poetry,--the interpreter of the popular
beliefs,--and afterwards in art; we can discover how Phidias and
Praxiteles, to speak only of sculptors, treated the types created by Homer
and Hesiod. In the case of Chaldæa we have no such opportunity. She has
left us neither monuments of sacerdotal theology like those we have
inherited in such countless numbers from Egypt, nor the brilliant imagery
in which the odes and epics of the Greeks sketched the personalities of
the gods. But even in Chaldæa art was closely united with religion, and, in
spite of the difficulty of the task, the historian of art must endeavour to
pierce the shadows that obscure the question, and discover the bond of
union between the two.

Thanks to the more recently deciphered texts, we do know something of the
religious rites and beliefs of the oldest nation that inhabited Mesopotamia
and left its trace in history. Whether we call them Accads or Sumirs, or by
both names at once, we know that to them the whole universe was peopled by
a vast crowd of spirits, some dwelling in the depths of the earth, some in
the sea, while others floated on the wind and lighted in the sky the fires
of the day and night.[84]

As, among men, some are good and some bad, so among these spirits some were
beneficent and others the reverse, while a third class was helpful or
mischievous according as it was propitiated by offerings or irritated by
neglect. The great thing was to know how to command the services of the
spirits when they were required. The employment of certain gestures,
sounds, and articulate words had a mysterious but irresistible effect upon
these invisible beings. How the effect was produced no one asked, but that
it was produced no one doubted. The highest of the sciences was magic, for
it held the threads by which the denizens of the invisible world were
controlled; the master of the earth was the sorcerer who could compel them
to obey him by a nod, a form of words, or an incantation. We can form some
idea of the practical results of such a system from what we know of the
manners and social condition of those Turanian races in Asiatic Russia who
profess what is called _chamanism_, and from the condition of most of the
negro tribes and Polynesian islanders. Among all these people, who still
remain in a mental condition from which the rest of the species has long
escaped, we find the highest places occupied by priest-magicians. Now and
then popular fury makes them pay cruelly for the ill-success of their
conjurations, but as a rule their persons and the illimitable power
ascribed to them inspire nothing but abject fear.

Fear is, indeed, the ruling sentiment in all religions in which a belief in
spirits finds a place. A man can never be sure that, in spite of all his
precautions, he has not incurred the displeasure of such exacting and
capricious masters. Some condition of the bargain which is being
perpetually driven with protectors who give nothing for nothing, may have
been unwittingly omitted. "The spirits and their worshippers are equally
selfish. As a general rule, the mischievous spirits receive more homage
than the good ones; those who are believed to live close at hand are more
dreaded than those at a distance; those to whom some special _rôle_ is
assigned are considered more important than spirits with a wider but less
definite authority."[85]

There were, of course, moments when men turned with gratitude towards the
hidden benefactor to whom they believed themselves indebted for some
unhoped-for cure or unexpected success, when joy and confidence moved their
hearts at the thought of the efficacious protection they had secured
against future ills; but such moments were few and short. The habitual
feeling was one of disquietude, we might almost say of terror, so that when
the imagination endeavoured to give concrete forms to the beings in
question, it figured them rather as objects of fear than love. The day
arrived for art to attempt the material realization of the dreams which
until then had been dimly seen in sleep or in the still more confused
visions of the waking hours, and for this hideous and threatening features
were naturally chosen. It is thus that the numerous figures of demons found
in Chaldæa and Assyria, sometimes in the bas-reliefs, sometimes in the
shape of small bronzes and terra-cottas, are accounted for. A human body is
crowned with the head of an angry lion, with dog's ears and a horse's mane;
the hands brandish long poignards, the feet are replaced by those of a bird
of prey, the extended claws seeming to grasp the soil (Fig. 6). The
gestures vary; the right arm is sometimes stretched downwards at full
length, sometimes bent at the elbow, but the combination of forms, the
character of the figure and its intention is always the same. We shall
encounter this type again when we come to speak of Cappadocia.

[Illustration: FIG. 6.--Demons; from the palace of Assurbanipal at
Kouyundjik. British Museum. Drawn by Saint-Elme Gautier.]

This belief in spirits is the second phase that the primitive religion,
which we studied in Egypt under the name of _fetishism_ or _animism_, has
to pass through.[86] In the beginning mere existence is confounded with
life. All things are credited with a soul like that felt by man within
himself. Such lifeless objects as stones and mountains, trees and rivers,
are worshipped; so too are both useful and noxious animals.[87] Childish as
it seems to us the worship of spirits is at least an advance upon this. It
presupposes a certain power of reflection and abstraction by which men were
led to conclude that intelligence and will are not necessarily bound up
with a body that can be seen and touched. Life has been mobilized, if we
may use such a phrase, and thus we arrive at _polydemonism_; by which we
mean the theory that partitions the government of the world among a crowd
of genii, who, though often at war among themselves, are always more
powerful than man, and may do him much harm unless he succeeds in winning
their help and good will.

[Illustration: FIG. 7.--Demons. Louvre.]

The worship of stars is but one form of this religious conception. The
great luminaries of night and day were of course invested with life and
power by men who felt themselves in such complete dependence upon them.

[Illustration: FIG. 8.--Eagle-headed divinity, from Nimroud. Louvre.
Alabaster. Height forty inches. Drawn by Saint-Elme Gautier.]

So far as we can judge, the primitive form of fetishism left but feeble
traces in the religion of civilized Chaldæa and Assyria. The signs are few
of that worship of sacred stones which played such an important part among
the Semites of the west, and even among the Greeks,[88] neither can we find
that either fear or gratitude ever led to the worship of animals, the
docile helpers or the redoubtable enemies of man, in the same degree as it
did in Egypt. And yet Chaldæa and Assyria followed the example of Egypt in
mixing up the forms of men with those of animals in their sacred statues.
This we know both from the texts and the figured monuments. But it was not
only in the budding art of a primitive population that such combinations
were employed, and it was not only the inferior genii that were
represented in such singular fashion. When, by the development of religion,
the capricious and unruly multitude of spirits had been placed under the
supremacy of a small number of superior beings, these, whom we may call the
sovereign gods, were often figured with the heads of lions or eagles (see
Fig. 8). Before any of these images had been found we already knew from
Berosus what the deity was like by whom the first germs of art and letters
had been sown upon the earth. "He had the whole body of a fish, but beneath
his fish's head he had another head [that of a man], while human feet
appeared below his fish's tail. He had also the voice of a man, and his
images are yet to be found."[89] More than one sculptural type has been
found answering to this description (see Fig. 9).

[Illustration: FIG. 9.--Anou or Dagon. Nimroud. Layard, _Discoveries_, p.

Why did art, in creating divine types, give such prominence to features
borrowed from the lower animals? Was it impelled by mere inability to
distinguish, by varieties of feature, form and attitude, between the
different gods created by the imagination? Or must we look upon the
attribution to this or that deity, of forms borrowed from the bull, the
lion, or the eagle, as a deliberate act of symbolism, meant to suggest that
the gods in question had the qualities of the animals of which their
persons were partly made up? In order to arrive at a just conclusion we
must, of course, take account both of the resistance of the material and of
the facilities which a transparent system of allegory would give to the
artist in the working out of his thought; we must also admit perhaps that
the national intelligence had been prepared to look for and admire such
combinations. It may have been predisposed towards them by the habits of
admiration for the patient strength of the draught-ox and the destructive
vigour of the eagle and the lion contracted during a long series of years.

Both historical analogy and the examination of sculptured types lead us to
think that the tribes of Mesopotamia passed through the same religious
phases as those of the Nile valley, but it would appear that the most
primitive beliefs were less long-lived in Chaldæa than in Egypt, and that
they were engraved less deeply upon the heart of the nation.

The belief in sorcery never died out in Chaldæa; up to the very last days
of antiquity it never lost its empire at least over the lower orders of the
people. As time passed on the priests joined the practice of astrology to
that of magic. How the transition took place may readily be understood. The
magician began by seeking for incantations sufficiently powerful to compel
not only the vulgar crowd of genii to obedience, but also those who, in the
shape of stars great and small, inhabited the celestial spaces and revealed
themselves to man by the brilliance of their fires. Supposing him to be
well skilled in his art his success would be beyond doubt so far as his
clients were concerned.

Many centuries after the birth of this singular delusion even the Greeks
and Romans did not refuse to believe that magic formulæ had sometimes the
powers claimed for them. "Incantation," cries an abandoned lover in Virgil,
"may bring down the very moon from the sky:"

     "_Carmina vel cælo possunt deducere lunam._"[90]

Although simple minds allowed themselves to believe that such prodigies
were not quite impossible, skilled men could not have failed to see that in
spite of the appeals addressed to them by priests and magicians, neither
sun nor moon had ever quitted their place in the firmament or interrupted
their daily course. As the hope of influencing the action of the stars died
away, the wish to study their motions grew stronger. In the glorious nights
of Chaldæa the splendour of the sky stirred the curiosity as well as the
admiration of mankind, and the purity of the air made observation easy.
Here and there, in the more thickly inhabited and best irrigated parts of
the plain, gentle mists floated over the earth at certain periods, but they
were no real hindrance to observation. To escape them but a slight
elevation above the plain was required. Let the observer raise himself a
few feet above the tallest palm trees, and no cloud interposed to prevent
his eyes from travelling from the fires that blazed in the zenith to the
paler stars that lay clustered upon the horizon. There were no accidents of
the ground by which the astronomer could lift himself above the smoke of
cities or the mists hanging over the lakes and canals, and to make up for
their absence the massive and many-storied towers which men began to
construct as soon as they understood how to make bricks and set them, must
soon have come into use. These towers were built upon artificial mounds
which were in themselves higher than the highest house or palm. The
platforms on their summits gave therefore the most favourable conditions
possible for the interrogation of the heavens before the invention of the

Thanks to the climate and to these great observatories which rose very
early in Chaldæan history all over the plain, the skies could be read like
an open book; and the Chaldæans were fond of such reading, because it
afforded them, as they thought, a sure means of predicting the future. They
had no great belief in the power of their most formidable conjurations to
affect the majestic regularity of the heavenly movements--a regularity
which must have impressed each generation more strongly than the last, as
it compared its own experience with the registered observations of those
that had gone before it. But they could not persuade themselves that the
powerful genii who guided those great bodies on their unending voyage could
be indifferent to the destinies of man, and that there was no bond of
union, no mysterious connection, between him and them. They pretended to
discover this hidden bond. When a child uttered its first cry, an intimate
relation, they declared, was established between the new life and some one
of the countless bodies that people space. The impassive star, they said,
governed the life and fortune of the mortal who, perhaps, ignorantly looked
upon himself as his own master and the master of some of those about him.
The future of each man was decided by the character of the star that
presided at his birth, and according to the position occupied by it in the
sky at the time of any important action of his life, that action would be
fortunate in its issue or the reverse.[92] These statements contain the
germ of all the future developments of astrology. Among all civilized
peoples this imaginary science has at last fallen from its former repute.
From the remotest antiquity down to the end of the sixteenth century, and,
in some places, to a much later date, it enjoyed a rare power and prestige.
Traces of these are yet to be found in more than one familiar expression
recalling the beliefs and ideas that took shape in the plains of
Mesopotamia long before the palaces of Babylon and Nineveh were raised upon
the banks of its two great rivers.

Astrology could not fail to smooth the way for astronomy, its successor. In
order to profit by the indications of the stars, it was necessary to
foresee the positions they would occupy in the sky on a given day or hour.
There are many undertakings which succeed only when they are carefully
matured. If some great risk is to be run, it is not of much use to receive
the advice and warnings of the stars at the last moment, when the decisive
step has, perhaps, been made, and no retreat is possible. It would then be
too late to think about the chances of success, and a sudden withdrawal
from an action already begun or an equally sudden acceptance of a task for
which no sufficient preparation had been made, would be the too frequent

There was only one mode of escaping such a danger or embarrassment as this,
and that was, first, to arrive by repeated observation at an exact
knowledge of the route followed by the stars across the sky, and of the
rapidity of their march; secondly, to distinguish them one from another, to
know each by its own name, to recognize its physiognomy, character, and
habits. The first duty of the astrologer was to prepare such an inventory,
and to discover the principle of these movements; then, and then only,
would he be in a position to give a satisfactory answer to one asking where
any particular star would be at the end of any specified number of days,
weeks, or months. Thanks to such information, his client could fix upon
some happy conjunction of the heavenly bodies, or at least avoid a moment
when their influence would be on the side of disaster. In every undertaking
of any importance the most favourable hour could be selected long before by
the person chiefly concerned, the hour in which his star would be in the
best quarter of the sky and in the most propitious relations with its

The phenomena produced in Chaldæa by these studies have been repeated more
than once in the history of civilization; they embody one of those
surprises to which humanity owes much of its progress. The final object of
all this patient research was never reached, because the relations upon
which a belief in its feasibility was based were absolutely chimerical, but
as a compensation, the accessory and preliminary knowledge, the mere means
to a futile end, have been of incalculable value. Thus, in order to give an
imposing and apparently solid basis to their astrological doctrines, the
Chaldæans invented such a numeration as would permit really intricate
computations to be made. By the aid of this system they sketched out all
the great theories of astronomy at a very early age. In the course of a few
centuries, they carried that science to a point never reached by the

The chief difficulty in the way of a complete explanation of the Chaldæan
system of arithmetic lies in the interpretation of the symbols which served
it for ciphers, which is all the greater as it would seem that they had
several different ways of writing a single number. In some cases the
notation varied according to the purpose of the calculation. A
mathematician used one system for his own studies, and another for
documents which had to be read by the public. The doubts attending the
question are gradually being resolved, however, by the combined efforts of
Assyriologists and mathematicians. At the beginning of their civilization
the Chaldæans did as other peoples have done when they have become
dissatisfied with that mere rough opposition of unity to plurality which is
enough for savage races, and have attempted to establish the series of
numbers and to define their properties. "They also began by counting on
their fingers, by _fives_ and _tens_, or in other words by units of _five_;
later on they adopted a notation by _sixes_ and _twelves_ as an improvement
upon the primitive system, in which the chief element, the _ten_, could be
divided neither into three nor four equal parts."[94] Two regular series
were thus formed, one in units of six, the other in units of five. Their
commonest terms were, of course, those that occur in both series. We know
from the Greek writers that the Chaldæans counted time by _sosses_ of
sixty, by _ners_ of 600, and by _sars_ of 3,600, years, and these terms
were not reserved for time, they were employed for all kinds of quantities.
The _sosse_ could be looked at either as _five twelves_ or _six tens_. So,
too, with the _ner_ (600) which represents _six hundreds_, or a _sosse_ of
_tens_, or _ten sosses_ or _fifty twelves_. The _sar_ may be analysed in a
similar fashion.

A system of numeration was thus established which may be looked at from a
double point of view; in the first place from its _sexagesimal_ base, which
certainly adapts itself to various requirements with greater ease than any
other;[95] in the second from the extreme facility with which not only
addition, but all kinds of complex calculations may be made by its use.[96]

With but two symbols, one for the units, the other for the tens, every
number could be expressed by attending to a rule of position like that
governing our written numeration; at each step to the left, a single sign,
the vertical _wedge_, increased sixty-fold in value; the tens were placed
beside it, and a blank in this or that column answered to our zero.

Founded upon a sexagesimal numeration, the metrical system of Babylon and
Nineveh was "the most scientific of all those known and practised by the
ancients: until the elaboration of the French metrical system, it was the
only one whose every part was scientifically co-ordinated, and of which the
fundamental conception was the natural development of all measures of
superficies, of capacity, or of weight, from one single unit of length, a
conception which was adopted as a starting point by the French commission
of weights and measures."

The cubit of 525 millimetres was the base of the whole system.[97] We shall
not here attempt to explain how the other measures--itinerary, agrarian, of
capacity, of weight--were derived from the cubit; to call attention to the
traces left in our nomenclature by the duodecimal or sexagesimal system of
the Babylonians, even after the complete triumph of the decimal system, is
sufficient for our purposes. It is used for instance in the division of the
circle into degrees, minutes, and seconds, in the division of the year into
months, and of the day into hours and their fractions.

This convenient, exact, and highly developed system of arithmetic and
metrology enabled the Chaldæans to make good use of their observations, and
to extract from them a connected astronomical doctrine. They began by
registering the phenomena. They laid out a map of the heavens and
recognized the difference between fixed stars and those movable bodies the
Greeks called planets--among the latter they naturally included the sun and
the moon, the most conspicuous of them all both in size and motion, whose
courses were the first to be studied and described. The apparent march of
the sun through the crowded ranks of the celestial army was defined, and
its successive stages marked by those twelve constellations which are still
called the _Signs of the Zodiac_. In time even these observations were
excelled, and it now appears certain that the Chaldæans recognized the
annual displacement of the equinoctial point upon the ecliptic, a discovery
that is generally attributed to the Greek astronomers. But, like
Hipparchus, they made faults of calculation in consequence of the defects
of their instruments.[98]

It was the same with the moon. They succeeded in determining its mean daily
movements, and when they had established a period of two hundred and
twenty-three lunations, they contrived to foretell its eclipses. Eclipses
of the sun presented greater difficulties, and the Chaldæans were content
with noting their occurrence. They were acquainted with the solar year of
three hundred and sixty-five days and a quarter; they used it in their
astronomical calculations; but their religious and civil year was one
composed of twelve lunar months, alternately full and short, that is, of
twenty-nine and thirty days respectively. The lunar and solar years were
brought into agreement by an intercalary cycle of eight years.[99]

The assertion of the philosopher Simplicius has been called in question for
very plausible reasons. Simplicius declares, upon the faith of Porphyrius,
that Callisthenes sent from Babylon to his uncle Aristotle, a copy of
Chaldæan observations dating back as far as 1903 years before the entry of
Alexander into Mesopotamia, that is, to more than twenty-two centuries
before our era.[100]

However this may be, all ancient writers are agreed in admitting that the
Chaldæans had begun to observe and record astronomical phenomena long
before the Egyptians;[101] moreover the remains of those clay tablets have
been found in various parts of Chaldæa and Assyria upon which, as Pliny
tells us upon the authority of the Greek astronomer Epigenes, the Chaldæans
had inscribed and preserved the astronomical observations of seven hundred
and eighty thousand years.[102] We need not dwell upon the enormity of this
figure; it matters little whether it is due to the mistakes of a copyist or
to the vanity of the Chaldæans, and the too ready credulity of the Greeks;
the important point is the existence of the astronomical tablets, and
those Epigenes himself saw. The library of Assurbanipal at Nineveh included
catalogues of stellary and planetary observations, among others the times
of Venus, Jupiter and Mars, and the phases of the moon, for every day in
the month.[103] Tablets have also been recently discovered giving the
arrangement of the stars in the sky for each season and explaining the rule
to be followed in the insertion of the intercalary months. Finally, a
fragment of an Assyrian planisphere has been found in the palace of

Even if classic authors had been silent on the subject, and all the
original documents had disappeared, we might have divined from the
appearance of the figured monuments alone, how greatly the Chaldæans
honoured the stars and how much study and research they devoted to them; we
might have guessed that they lived with their eyes fixed upon the firmament
and upon the sources of light. Look at the steles that bear royal effigies,
at the representations upon contracts and other documents of that kind (see
Fig. 10), at the cylindrical or conical seals which have gravitated in
thousands into our museums (Figs. 11 and 12); you will see a personage
adoring a star, still oftener you will find the sun's disk and the crescent
moon figured upon the field, with, perhaps, one or several stars. These
images are only omitted upon reliefs that are purely narrative and
historical, like most of those in the Assyrian palaces. Everywhere else,
upon every object and in every scene having a religious and sacred
character, a place is reserved for the symbols in question, if we may call
them so. Their presence is evidence of the homage rendered by the Chaldæans
to the stars, and of the faith they placed in their supposed revelations.
Further evidence to the same effect is given by the ancient writing, in
which the ideogram for _king_ was a star.

"The imaginations of the Egyptians were mainly impressed by the daily and
annual circlings of the sun. In that body they saw the most imposing
manifestation of the Deity and the clearest exemplification of the laws
that govern the world; to it, therefore they turned for their
personifications of the divine power."[105] The attention of the Chaldæans,
on the other hand, was not so absorbed, and, so to speak, lost, in the
contemplation of a single star, superior though it was to all others in
its power for good or ill, and in its incomparable splendour. They watched
the sky with a curiosity too lively and too intelligent to permit of a
willing sacrifice of all the stars to one. _Samas_, the sun, and _Sin_, the
moon-god, played an important _rôle_ in their religion and theology, but it
does not appear that the gods of the other five planets were inferior to
them in rank. If we accept the parallels established by the Greeks and
Romans, these were _Adar_ (Saturn), _Merodach_ (Jupiter), _Nergal_ (Mars),
_Istar_ (Venus), and _Nebo_ (Mercury).

[Illustration: FIG. 10.--Stone of Merodach-Baladan I. (Smith's _Assyrian

The chief atmospheric phenomena were also personified; of this we may give
one example. All travellers in Chaldæa agree in their descriptions of those
sudden storms which burst on the country from a clear sky, especially
towards the commencement of summer. Without a single premonitory symptom, a
huge, black water-spout advances from some point on the horizon, its flanks
shooting lightnings and thunder. In a few minutes it reaches the traveller
and wraps him in its black vapours; the sand-laden wind blinds him, the
rain pours upon him in solid sheets; but he has hardly realized his
position before the storm is past and the sun is again shining in the blue
depths above. But for torn and overthrown tents and trees uprooted or
struck by the electric fluid, a stranger to the country might almost
believe himself to have been the sport of a dream.[106]

[Illustration: FIG. 11.--Assyrian Cylinder, in the National Library, Paris.

[Illustration: FIG. 12.--Assyrian Cylinder, in the National Library, Paris.

The force and suddenness of these visitations could hardly fail to impress
the imagination of a people exposed to them, and it is not surprising that
Mesopotamia had its god of storms and thunder. He, Raman, it is, perhaps,
who is figured in the bas-relief from Nimroud reproduced below (Figs. 13
and 14),[107] in which a god appears bearing an axe in his right hand, and,
in his left, a kind of faggot, whose significance might have escaped us but
for the light thrown upon it by classic sculpture. The latter no doubt
borrowed a well-known form from the east, and the object in question is
nothing less than the thunderbolt given by Greek artists to their Zeus.

[Illustration: FIG. 13.--Gods carried in procession; from Layard's
_Monuments of Nineveh_, first series, pl. 65.]

It was this adoration of the stars and planets that led by degrees to what
we call polytheism. Man partitioned those terrible powers of nature of
which he felt himself the sport, between a vast number of agents, between
crowds of genii upon whose mercies he thought himself dependent, and whom
he did his best to propitiate by gifts and to compel by magic. Little by
little, intelligence perfected that work of abstraction and simplification
by which all races but those who have stuck fast in the conceptions of
their infancy have arrived at a single conclusion. Without ceasing to
believe in the existence of genii, they invented the gods, a race of beings
far more powerful, not only than short-lived man, but even than the
confused army of demons, of those beings who enjoyed the control of not a
few of the mysterious agencies whose apparent conflict and final accord are
the causes of the life, movement, and equilibrium of the world.

[Illustration: FIG. 14.--Gods carried in procession; from Layard's
_Monuments of Nineveh_, first series, pl. 65.]

When the intellect had arrived at this doctrine, calmness and serenity fell
upon it. Each deity became a person with certain well-defined powers and
attributes, a person who could not escape the apprehension and the appeals
of mankind with the facility of the changing and fantastic crowd of demons.
His dwelling-place could be pointed out to the faithful, whether it were in
his own peculiar star, among the eternal snows upon the summits of the
distant mountains, or near at hand, in the temple built for him by his
worshippers. Such a deity could be approached like a sovereign whose honour
and interest are bound up with his word. So long as by prayer, and still
more by sacrifices, the conditions were observed on the suppliant's side,
the god, invisible though he was, would do his duty and protect those with
whom he had entered into an unwritten contract.

But in order to establish this mutual relationship between gods and men, it
was necessary that the former should be brought within reach of the
latter. With the development of the religious sentiment and of definite and
clear ideas as to the gods, the plastic faculty was called upon for greater
efforts than it had before made.

Something beside grimacing and monstrous images of genii was asked from it.
Figures were demanded which should embody something of the nobility and
majesty attributed to the eternal masters of the world. The divine effigy
was the incarnation of the deity, was one of the forms in which he
manifested himself, it was, as the Egyptians would say, one of his
_doubles_. Such an effigy was required to afford a worthy frame for the
supreme dignity of the god, and the house built by man's hands in which he
condescended to dwell had to be such that its superior magnificence should
distinguish it at a glance from the comparatively humble dwellings in which
mortals passed their short and fugitive lives.

It was thus that the temples and statues of the gods took form when the
various deities began to be clearly distinguished from one another, and, by
a process of mental condensation, to acquire a certain amount of
consistence and solidity. The Chaldæan temples, unlike those of Egypt and
Greece, have succumbed to time, and the ancient texts in which they are
described are short and obscure. Their ruins are little more than shapeless
heaps of _débris_. In endeavouring to arrive at a clear understanding of
the Chaldæan notions as to the gods, we are unable to study, as we did
elsewhere, the forms of their religious edifices, with their plans,
dimensions, and the instructive variety of decorative symbols and figures
with which the sanctuary and its dependencies were overspread.

On the other hand a sufficient number of figures of the gods have come down
to us. They abound upon small objects, such as cylinders, engraved stones,
cones, scarabæi, the bezels of rings, terra-cotta tablets and statuettes.
They are also found, though less frequently, among the _débris_ of
monumental sculpture, in the bas-reliefs of the Ninevite palaces, and even
among certain figures in the round which have been recovered from the ruins
of these latter buildings. We can therefore easily find out the particular
attributes given by the artist as the interpreter of the national beliefs
to those gods whose visible bodies it was his office to create; we can see
what choice and combination of forms he thought best fitted to solve the
problem presented to him. But as yet we are not in a position to put a
name to each even of the figures that recur most frequently. In the case of
Egypt there is no such difficulty: when we encounter the image of one of
her gods upon the walls of a temple or in the cases of a museum, we can say
without hesitation, "This is Osiris or Ptah," as the case may be, "Amen or
Horus, Isis, Sekhet, or Hathor." It is not so with Chaldæa. Figures are
there often found uninscribed, and even when an inscription is present it
not seldom offers difficulties of interpretation which have not yet been
cleared up; for the divine names are usually ideograms. Only a few have
been identified beyond all doubt, those namely of which we have Hebrew or
Greek transcriptions, preserving for us the real Chaldæan original; Ilou,
Bel, Nisroch, Beltis, Istar, are examples of this. Hence it results that
Assyriologists often feel no little embarrassment when they are asked to
point out upon the monuments the figures even of those gods of whose names
they are the least doubtful. The Assyrians and Chaldæans, like other
nations of antiquity, had what we should now call their _figured
mythology_, but we are still imperfectly acquainted with it. Even for those
whom we may call the most exalted personages of the Chaldæan Olympus,
scholars have hardly succeeded in illustrating the texts by the monuments
and explaining the monuments by the texts; and we are yet far from being
able to institute a perpetual and standard comparison as we have done in
the case of Egypt and still more in that of Greece, between the divine
types as they appear in religious formulæ and in the national poetry, and
the same types when embodied by the imagination of the artist.

A long time may elapse before a mythological gallery for Chaldæa, in which
all the important members of the Mesopotamian pantheon shall take their
places and be known by the names they bore in their own day, can be formed,
but even now the principles upon which they were represented by art may be
stated. The images of the various gods were built up in great part by the
aid of combinations similar to those made use of in realizing the minor
demons. A natural bent towards such a method of interpretation was perhaps
inherited from the days in which the _naïve_ adoration of all those animals
which help or hurt mankind formed a part of the national worship; again,
certain animals were, by their shapes and constitution, better fitted than
others to personify this or that quality which, in its fulness, was
considered divine. It was natural, therefore, that the artist should, in
those early days, have indicated the powers of a deity by forms borrowed
from the strongest, the most beautiful, or the most formidable of animals.
Nothing could suggest the instantaneous swiftness of a god better than the
spreading wings of an eagle or vulture, or his destructive and irresistible
power better than their beaks and talons, the horns and dewlap of the bull,
or the mane and claws of the lion.

The sculptor had, therefore, a good reason for employing these forms and
many others offered to him by the fauna of the regions he inhabited. He
introduced them into his work with skill and decision, and obtained
composite types by their aid which we may compare to those of Egypt. But
there were some differences which deserve to be remembered. The human face
received more consideration from the Mesopotamian sculptors than from those
of Egypt. Except in the sphinxes and in two or three less important types
the Egyptians, as our readers will remember, crowned a human body with the
head of a snake, a lion, or a crocodile, an ibis or a hawk, and sometimes
of a clumsy beast like the hippopotamus,[108] and their figures are
dominated and characterized by the heads thus given to them. At Babylon and
Nineveh the case is reversed. Animals' heads are only found, as a rule,
upon the shoulders of those figures which are looked upon by common consent
as genii rather than gods. In the latter a contrary arrangement prevails.
They may have, like Dagon, a fish's tail hanging down their backs, or, like
the colossal guardians of the king's palace, the body and limbs of a lion
or bull with the wings of an eagle, but the head is that of a man and the
sculptor has given it all the beauty he could compass. To this, we believe,
there is but one exception--the eagle-headed god to whom Assyriologists
have assigned the name of Nisroch. He seems to have occupied a high place
among the Mesopotamian divinities (Fig. 8).

But the difference between the two systems does not end here. There are a
few deities, such as Ptah, Osiris, and Amen, to whom the Egyptians gave a
human form in its simple entirety; but even in such cases it was not
reproduced in its native elegance and nobility. The extremities of Ptah and
Osiris were enveloped in a kind of sheath, which made their figures look
more like mummies than beings with the power of life and motion. It was
not so in Chaldæa, as we shall see if we examine the procedure of the
Mesopotamian artist when he had to figure the greater gods, those in whom
the highest efforts of mental abstraction found concrete expression. Take,
for instance, Nebo, the god of intelligence and prophecy, and Istar, the
personification of the earth's fertility, of its power of creation and
destruction and its inexhaustible energy. Nebo stands upright, his head
covered with a horned tiara: his ample beard is gathered into three rows of
close curls: he wears a long robe falling straight to the ground (Fig. 16).
As for Istar, she is a young woman, nude, large-hipped, and pressing her
breasts with her hands (Fig. 15). The awkwardness and rudeness which to
some extent characterizes these figures is due to the inexperience of the
artist; his intentions were good, but his skill was hardly equal to giving
them full effect. His Nebo was meant to be as majestic as a king or high
priest; his Istar is the spouse, the mother, the nurse; she is the goddess
"who," as the inscriptions say,[109] "rejoices mankind," who, when
fertilized by love, assures the duration and perpetuity of the species. It
was this method of interpretation that was in later years to lead to those
great creations of Greek art whose beauty is still the wonder of mankind.
Between these Chaldæan figures and those of the Greek sculptors the
difference was one of degree. The anthropomorphism of the Chaldees was
franker than that of the Egyptians, and so far the art of Chaldæa was an
advance upon that of Egypt, although it was excelled by the latter in
executive qualities. The method to which it had committed itself, the
diligent and passionate study of the human figure, was the royal road to
all excellence in the plastic arts.

[Illustration: FIG. 15.--Statue of Nebo; from Nimroud. British Museum.
Calcareous stone. Height 6 feet 5 inches.]

But our present business is to discover this people's real conceptions of
its gods and to get a clear idea of their characteristic qualities. We
shall not attempt, therefore, to show how most of them belonged to one of
those divine triads which are to be found, it is believed, in Chaldæa as
well as in Egypt: we shall not ask how these triads were subordinated,
first, one to another, and secondly, to a single supreme being, who, in
Mesopotamia as elsewhere, was in time perceived more or less clearly and
placed at the head of the divine hierarchy. These triads are nearly
always found in polytheistic religions, and that for sufficiently
obvious reasons.

[Illustration: FIG. 16.--Terra-cotta Statuette; from Heuzey's _Figurines
antiques du Musée du Louvre_.]

The most simple relationship offered by the organic world to the mind of
man is the relationship of the sexes, their contrast, and the necessity for
their union. Wherever religious conceptions spring up gods and goddesses
are created together. All the forces divined by human intelligence are
doubled into two persons, closely united, the one the complement of the
other. The one has the active, the other the passive _rôle_. Egypt,
Chaldæa, Greece, all had these divine couples; Apsou, or, as Damascius
calls him, Apason and Tauthé; Anou and Antou, the Anaïtis of the Greek
writers; Bel and Belit, or Beltu, perhaps the Greek Mylitta; Samas, the
sun, and Allat, the queen of the dead; Merodach (or Marduk) and Zarpanit, a
goddess mother who protected unborn infants and presided at births; Nabou
and Nana; Assur and Istar; Dumouzi and Istar. Precise details as to the
status of these divinities are still wanting. Several among them seem to
have been at one time endowed with a distinct individuality, and at other
periods to have been almost indistinguishable from some other deity. They
were without the distinct features and attributes of the inhabitants of
Olympus, but we are left in no doubt as to the binary divisions of which we
have been speaking.

The attraction of desire and the union of the sexes leads to the birth of
the child; with the appearance of the latter the family is complete, and,
with it, the type upon which the triple classification of the gods was
founded. But even when we attempt to trace the composition of a single
group and to assign his proper place to each of its members, the
embarrassment is great. We find a single god sometimes filling, to all
appearance, the _rôle_ of husband and father, and sometimes that of the
son; or a single goddess acting at different times as the wife and daughter
of one and the same god. Some of these apparent contradictions must be
referred to the want of certainty in our interpretation of the
inscriptions, some to the floating quality of the conceptions to which they
relate. It may never, perhaps, be possible to make out a complete list, or
one which shall not be obnoxious to criticism on other grounds; moreover,
the historian of art has no need to enter into any such discussion, or to
give the details of a nomenclature as to which Assyriologists themselves
have many doubts. It suffices that he should point out the multiplicity of
couples and triads, the extreme diversity of deities, and thus indicate a
reason for the very peculiar aspect of the cylinders and engraved stones of
Chaldæa, for the complex forms of the gods, and for the multitude of varied
symbols which encumber the fields of her sculptured reliefs. Some of the
figures that crowd these narrow surfaces are so fantastic that they
astonish the eye as much as they pique the curiosity (see Fig. 17).

[Illustration: FIG. 17.--A Chaldæan Cylinder: from Ménant's _La Bible et
les Cylindres Chaldéens_.]

The number of divine types and the consequent difficulties of
classification are increased, as in Egypt, by the fact that every important
town had its local deities, deities who were its own peculiar gods. In the
course of so many centuries and so many successive displacements of the
political centre of gravity, the order of precedence of the Mesopotamian
gods was often changed. The dominant city promoted its own gods over the
heads of their fellows and modified for a time which might be long or
short, the comparative importance of the Chaldæan divinities. Sin, the moon
god, headed the list during the supremacy of Ur, Samas during that of
Larsam. With the rise of Assyria its national god, Assur, doubtless a
supreme god of the heavens, acquired an uncontested pre-eminence. It was in
his name that the Assyrians subdued all Asia and shed such torrents of
blood. Their wars were the wars of Assur; they were undertaken to extend
his empire and to glorify his name. Hence the extreme rigour, the hideous
cruelty, of the punishments inflicted by the king on his rebellious
subjects; he was punishing heretics and apostates.[110]

In the religious effusions of Mesopotamia, we sometimes find an accent of
exalted piety recalling the tone of the Hebrew scriptures; but it does not
appear that the monotheistic idea towards which they were ever tending, but
without actually reaching it and becoming penetrated by its truth, had ever
acquired sufficient consistence to stimulate the Chaldæan artist to the
creation of a type superior in beauty and nobility to those of gods in the
second rank. The fact that the idea did exist is to be inferred from the
use of certain terms rather than from any mention of it in theological
forms or embodiment in the plastic arts.

At Nineveh, Assur was certainly looked upon as the greatest of the gods, if
not as the only god. Idols captured from conquered nations were sometimes
restored to their worshippers, but not before they had been engraved with
the words, "_To the glory of Assur_." Assur was always placed at the head
of the divine lists. He is thought to be descended from Anou or Sin: but he
was raised to such a height by his adoption as the national deity, that it
became impossible to trace in him the distinguishing characteristics of his
primary condition as a god of nature; he became, like the Jehovah of the
Israelites, a god superior to nature. His attributes were of a very general
kind, and were all more or less derived from his dignity as chief leader
and father, as master of legions and as president in the assemblies of the
gods. He was regarded as the supreme arbiter, as the granter of victory and
of the spoils of victory, as the god of justice, as the terror of evil
doers and the protector of the just. The great god of the Assyrians was, of
course, the god of battles, the director of armies, and in that capacity,
the spouse of Istar, who was no less warlike than himself. His name was
often used, in the plural, to signify the gods in general, as that of Istar
was used for the goddesses. No myth has come down to us in which he plays
the principal part, a fact which is to be accounted for by his
comparatively late arrival at a position of abstract supremacy.[111]

In the Babylon of the second Chaldee empire there was, it would seem, a
double embodiment of the divine superiority, in Merodach, the warrior god,
the god of royalty, and Nebo the god of science and inspiration. In Chaldæa
the power of the priests and learned men did not yield before that of the
monarch. And yet a certain latent and instinctive monotheism may be traced
in its complex religion. There were, indeed, many gods, but one was raised
above all the others, and, whether they turned to Merodach or Nebo, the
kings loved to style themselves the worshippers of the "Lord of Lords,"
_Bel Beli_.[112]

Like Assur at Nineveh, this supreme deity was sometimes called, by
abbreviation, _Ilou_, or god, a term which was employed, with slight
variants, by every nation speaking a Semitic tongue.[113]

But in spite of their aspirations and the august _rôle_ assigned to their
Merodach, their Nebo, and their Assur, Chaldæa and Assyria succeeded no
better than Egypt in giving a fit embodiment to the sovereign moderator of
the universe, to the king and common parent of gods and men. Their art was
without the skill and power required for the creation of an image which
should be worthy of the mental idea. Neither the temples of Nineveh nor
those of Babylon had an Olympian Jove.

Assur came nearer to the acquisition of a supreme and unique godhead than
any of his rivals, but we do not know with any certainty what features were
his in plastic representations. Some have recognized him in a group which
often occurs on the historic bas-reliefs and cylinders, here floating over
a field of battle, there introduced into some scene of adoration. You are
at once struck by the similarity of the group in question to one of the
commonest of Egyptian symbols--the winged globe on the cornice of almost
every temple in the Nile valley. Long before they had penetrated as
conquerors to Thebes and Memphis, the Assyrians may have found this motive
repeated a thousand times upon the ivories, the jewels, the various objects
of luxury which Phoenician merchants carried from the ports of the Delta to
distribute over every neighbouring country.[114]

[Illustration: FIG. 18.--The winged globe; from Layard.]

The Assyrians appropriated the emblem in question, sometimes with hardly a
modification upon its Egyptian form (Fig. 18), but more often with an
alteration of some significance. In the centre of the symbol and between
the outspread wings, appears a ring, and, within it, the figure of a man
draped in flowing robes and covered with a tiara. He is upright, in some
cases his right hand is raised as if in prayer, while his left grasps a
strong bow (Fig. 19); in others he is stretching his bow and about to
launch a triple-headed arrow, which can be nothing but a thunderbolt.

[Illustration: FIG. 19.--The winged globe with human figure; from Layard.]

The meaning attached to this plastic group by the Assyrians is made clear
to us by the important place it held in the religious imagery of the Aryans
of Media and Persia. These people, the last born of the ancient Asiatic
world, borrowed nearly the whole of their artistic motives from their
predecessors; they only modified their significance when the difference
between their religious notions and those of the inventors required it.
Now, we find this symbol upon the rocks of Behistan and Persepolis, where,
according to texts the meaning of which is beyond a doubt, it represents
Ahura-Mazda. The name has changed, but we may fairly conclude that the idea
and intention remained the same. Both in Mesopotamia and in Iran this group
was meant to embody the notion of a supreme being, the master of the
universe, the clement and faithful protector of the chosen race by whom his
images were multiplied to infinity.

       *       *       *       *       *

In this rapid analysis of the beliefs held by the dwellers on the Tigris
and Euphrates, we have made no attempt to discriminate between Chaldæa and
Assyria. To one who looks rather to similarities than to differences, the
two peoples, brothers in blood and language, had, in fact, but one religion
between them. We possess several lists of the Assyrian gods and goddesses,
and when we compare them we find that they differ one from the other both
in the names and numbers of the deities inscribed upon them; but, with the
exception of Assur, they contain no name which does not also belong to
Chaldæa. Nothing could be more natural. Chaldæa was the mother-country of
the Assyrians, and the intimate relations between the two never ceased for
a day. Even when their enmity was most embittered they could not dispense
the one with the other. Babylon was always a kind of holy city for the
kings of Assyria; those among them who chastised the rebellious Chaldæans
with the greatest severity, made it a point of honour to sacrifice to their
gods and to keep their temples in repair. It was in Babylon, at Borsippa,
and in the old cities near the coast, that the priests chiefly dwelt by
whom the early myths had been preserved and the doctrines elaborated to
which the inhabitants of Mesopotamia owed the superiority of their
civilization. The Assyrians invented nothing. Assur himself seems only to
have been a secondary form of some Chaldæan divinity, a parvenu carried to
the highest place by the energy and good fortune of the warlike people
whose patron he was, and maintained there until the final destruction of
their capital city. When Nineveh fell, Assur fell with her, while those
gods who were worshipped in common by the people of the north and those of
the south long preserved their names, their fame, and the sanctity of
their altars.

The religion of Nineveh differed from that of Babylon, however, in minor
particulars, to which attention has already been called.[115] A single
system of theology is differently understood by men whose manner and
intellectual bent are distinct. Rites seem to have been more voluptuous and
sensual at Babylon than at Nineveh; it was at the former city that
Herodotus saw those religious prostitutions that astonished him by their
immorality.[116] The Assyrian tendency to monotheism provoked a kind of
fanaticism of which no trace is to be found in Chaldæa. The Ninevite
conquerors set themselves to extend the worship of their great national
god; they sacrificed by hecatombs the presumptuous enemies who blasphemed
the name of Assur. The sacrifice of chastity was in favour at Babylon, that
of life seemed to the Assyrians a more effectual offering. A soldier
people, they were hardened by the strife of centuries, by the perpetual
hardships of the battlefield, by the never-ending conflicts in which they
took delight. Their religious conceptions were, therefore, narrower and
more stern, their rites more cruel than those of their southern neighbours.
The civilization of Babylon was more refined, men gave themselves more
leisure for thought and enjoyment; their manners were less rude, their
ideas less rigid and conservative; they were more inclined towards
intellectual analysis and speculation. So that when we find traces of the
beliefs and useful arts of Mesopotamia on the coasts, and even among the
isles, of the Ægæan, the honour of them must be given to Babylon rather
than to Nineveh.


[82] The _History of the Assyrians and Medes_, which EUSEBIUS (_Préparation
évangélique_, 1, 12, and 41) attributes to the writer whom he calls
ABYDENUS, dates perhaps from the period when the Roman Empire turned its
attention to the basin of the Euphrates and attempted to regain possession
of it. The few extant fragments of this author have been collected in Ch.
MÜLLER'S _Fragmenta Historicorum Græcorum_, vol. iv. p. 279. We know
nothing as to when he lived, but he wrote in the Ionian dialect, as did
ARRIAN in his book on India, and it would seem difficult to put him later
than the second century. It is probable that his undertaking belonged to
that movement towards research which began in the reign of Augustus and was
prolonged to the last years of the Antonines.

[83] Damaskiou diadochou aporiai kai luseis peri tôn prôtôn archôn (edition
published by Kopp, Frankfort-on-the-Main, 1826, 8vo), ch. 125. Ch. Émile
RUELLE, _Le Philosophe Damascius; Étude sur sa Vie et ses Ouvrages, suivie
de neuf Morceaux inédits, Extraits du Traité des premiers Principes et
traduits en Latin_ (in the _Revue archéologique_, 1861), fragments i. and

[84] On this subject the reader should consult M. Fr. LENORMANT'S _La Magie
chez les Chaldéens et les Origines Accadiennes_, Paris: 1874, 8vo. The
English translation, dated 1877, or, still better, the German version
published at Jena in 1878 (_Die Magie und Wahrsagekunst der Chaldæer_,
8vo), will be found more useful than the French original. Both are, in
fact, new editions, with fresh information.

[85] TIELE, _Manuel de l'Histoire des Religions_ (Leroux, 1880, 8vo). In
our explanation of the Chaldæo-Assyrian religions we shall follow this
excellent guide, supplementing it by information taken from another work by
the same author, _Histoire comparée des anciennes Religions de l'Égypte et
des Peuples Sémitiques_--both from the Dutch.

[86] _A History of Art in Ancient Egypt_, vol. i. pp. 47-57.

[87] At Erzeroum Mr. LAYARD heard of some Kurdish tribes to the south-west
of that place who, he was told, "are still idolatrous, worshipping
venerable oaks, great trees, huge solitary rocks, and other grand features
of nature." _Discoveries_, p. 9.

[88] François LENORMANT, _Les Bétyles_ (extracted from the _Revue de
l'Histoire des Religions_, p. 12):--"The cuneiform inscriptions mention the
seven black stones worshipped in the principal temple of Urukh in Chaldæa,
which personify the seven planets." In the same paper a vast number of
facts are brought together which show how widely spread this worship was in
Syria and Arabia, and with what persistence it maintained itself, at least
until the preaching of Islamism. It would be easy to show that it still
subsists in the popular superstitions. As to this worship among the Greeks,
see also the paper by M. HEUZEY, entitled, _La Pierre sacrée d'Antibes_
(_Mémoires de la Société des Antiquaires de France_, 1874, p. 99).

[89] BEROSUS, fragment 1. § 3. in the _Fragmenta Historicorum Græcorum_ of
CH. MÜLLER, vol. ii. p. 496.

[90] VIRGIL, _Bucolics_, viii. 69. See in the edition of Benoist
(Hatchette, 8vo, 1876) passages cited from Horace and Ovid, which prove
that the superstition in question was then sufficiently widespread to
enable poets to make use of it without too great a violation of

[91] This was very clearly seen by the ancients. It could not be put better
than by Cicero: "Principio Assyrii, propter planitiem magnitudinemque
regionum quas incolebant, cum cælum ex omni parte patens et apertum
intuerentur, trajectiones motusque stellarum observaverunt."--_De
Divinatione_, i. 1, 2.

[92] "Chaldæi ... diuturnâ observatione siderum scientiam putantur
effecisse, ut prædeci posset quid cuique eventurum et quo quisque fato
natus esset."--CICERO, _De Divinatione_, i. 1, 2.

[93] This has been clearly shown by LAPLACE in the _Précis de l'Histoire de
l'Astronomie_, which forms the fifth book of his _Exposition du Système du
Monde_ (fifth edition). He gives a _résumé_ of what he believes to have
been the chief results obtained by the Chaldæan astronomers (pp. 12-14 in
the separate issue of the _Précis_ 1821, 8vo). It would now, perhaps, be
possible, thanks to recent discoveries, to give more precise and
circumstantial details than those of Laplace.

[94] AURÈS, _Essai sur le Système métrique assyrien_, p. 10 (in the
_Recueil de Travaux relatifs à la Philologie et à l'Archéologie égyptiennes
et assyriennes_, vol. iii. Vieweg, 4to, 1881). We refer those who are
interested in these questions to this excellent paper, of which but the
first part has as yet been published (1882). All previous works upon the
subject are there quoted and discussed.

[95] "Sixty may be divided by any divisor of ten or twelve. Of all numbers
that could be chosen as an invariable denominator for fractions, it has
most divisors."--FR. LENORMANT, _Manuel d'Histoire ancienne_, vol. ii. p.
177, third edition.

[96] AURÈS, _Sur le Système métrique assyrien_, p. 16. A terra-cotta
tablet, discovered in Lower Chaldæa among the ruins of Larsam, and believed
with good reason to be very ancient, bears a list of the squares of the
fractionary numbers between 1/60 2 and 60/60 2, or 1/60, calculated with
perfect accuracy (LENORMANT, _Manuel_, &c. vol. ii. p. 37). See also SAYCE,
_Babylonian Augury by means of Geometrical Figures_, in the _Transactions
of the Society of Biblical Archæology_, vol. iv. p. 302.

[97] LENORMANT, _Manuel_, &c. vol. ii. p. 177, third edition.

[98] _Ibid._ p. 37.

[99] LENORMANT, _Manuel_, vol. ii. pp. 175, 178, 180. G. SMITH, _Assyrian
Discoveries_ (London, 1876, 8vo), pp. 451, 452. RAWLINSON, _Ancient
Monarchies_, vol. i. pp. 100, 101, fourth edition. We know that the
_Astronomical Canon_ of Ptolemy begins with the accession of a king of
Babylon named Nabonassar, in 747 B.C. M. Fr. LENORMANT thinks that the date
in question was chosen by the Alexandrian philosopher because it coincided
with the substitution, by that prince, of the solar for the lunar year.
Astronomical observations would thus have become much easier to use, while
those registered under the ancient system could only be employed after long
and difficult calculations. A reason is thus given for Ptolemy's
contentment with so comparatively modern a date. (_Essai sur les Fragments
cosmogoniques de Bérose_, pp. 192-197.)

[100] See the paper by M. T. H. MARTIN, of Rennes, _Sur les Observations
astronomiques envoyées, dit on, de Babylone en Grèce par Callisthène_,
Paris, 1863.

[101] The texts to this effect will be found collected in the essay of M.
Martin. We shall be content here with quoting a phrase from Cicero which
expresses the general opinion: "Chaldæi cognitione siderum sollertiaque
ingeniorum antecellunt." _De Divinatione_, i. 91.

[102] PLINY, _Natural History_, vii. 57, 3. The manuscripts give 720, but
the whole context proves that figure to be far too low, neither does it
accord with the writer's thought, or with the other statements which he
brings together with the aim of showing that the invention of letters may
be traced to a very remote epoch. The copyists have certainly omitted an M
after the DCCXX. Sillig, following Perizonius has introduced this
correction into his text.

[103] LENORMANT, _Manuel_, &c. vol. ii. p. 175.

[104] G. SMITH, _Assyrian Discoveries_, p. 407.

[105] LENORMANT, _Manuel_, &c. vol. ii. p. 181.

[106] LAYARD, _Nineveh and its Remains_, vol. i. p. 124. These storms
hardly last an hour.

[107] Some Assyriologists believe this to represent Merodach.

[108] _History of Art in Ancient Egypt_, vol. i. pp. 56, 57, and figs.

[109] RAWLINSON, _The Five Great Monarchies_, &c. vol. i. p. 139.

[110] TIELE, _Histoire comparée des anciennes Religions de l'Égypte et des
Peuples Sémitiques_, translated by Collins, p. 222. The first volume of an
English translation, by James Ballingal, has been published in Trübner's
Oriental Series.--ED.

[111] _Ibid._ p. 224.

[112] TIELE, _Histoire_, &c. p. 237.

[113] Hence the name Babylon, which has been handed down to us, slightly
modified, by classic tradition. The true Chaldæan form is _Bab-Ilou_,
literally "The Gate of God."

[114] _History of Art in Ancient Egypt_, vol. ii. pp. 399-400 and figs.

[115] TIELE, _Manuel_, &c. pp. 77, 78.

[116] HERODOTUS, i. 99.

§ 7.--_The People and Government._

We have already explained how it is that the religions of Chaldæa and
Assyria are less well known to us than that of Egypt; the insufficiency of
our knowledge of the political and social organization of the two kingdoms
is to be explained by the same reasons. The inscriptions, prolix enough on
some subjects, hardly touch on others that would be much more interesting,
and, moreover, their interpretation is full of difficulty. The Greek
travellers knew nothing of Nineveh, while their visits to Babylon were
paid in its years of decadence. They seem to have been chiefly struck with
the sort of sacerdotal caste to which they gave the name of Chaldaioi.

The origin of this priestly corps has been much discussed. Some see in it
the descendants and heirs of the primitive population, of those whom they
believe to have been Turanians; others believe them to have been Semitic
immigrants, coming from the north and bringing with them arts and doctrines
of which they constituted themselves the guardians and expounders in the
new country. We are hardly qualified to take part in the controversy. It is
certain, on the one hand, that the influence of these quasi-clergy began to
make itself felt at a remote period in the national history, and, on the
other, that they had become, like the population that bowed before them,
Semitic both in race and language at a very early date. The idiom employed
by the Chaldæans belongs to the same family of languages as Arabic, Hebrew,
and Aramæan; their gods are to be found, with slight modifications of name
and attributes, from Yemen in the south to the north of Syria and as far
west as the table-land of Cappadocia.

It is, no doubt, upon the authority of Ctesias, his favourite guide in
matters of oriental history, that Diodorus talks of the _Chaldæans_.
Ctesias may have seen them at Babylon, in the exercise of their functions,
in the time of Artaxerxes Mnemon. "The Chaldæans," writes the historian,
"are the most ancient Babylonians ... (and) hold the same station and
dignity in the commonwealth as the Egyptian priests do in Egypt; for, being
deputed to divine offices, they spend all their time in the study of
philosophy, and are especially famous for the art of astrology. They are
mightily given to divination, and foretell future events, and employ
themselves either by purifications, sacrifices, or other enchantments to
avert evils, or procure good fortune and success. They are skilful,
likewise, in the art of divination by the flying of birds, and interpreting
of dreams and prodigies; and are reputed as the oracles (in declaring what
will come to pass) by their exact and diligent viewing of the entrails of
the sacrifices. But they attain not to this knowledge in the same manner as
the Greeks; for the Chaldæans learn it by tradition from their ancestors,
the son from the father, who are all in the meantime free from all other
public offices and attendances; and because their parents are their tutors,
they both learn everything without envy, and rely with more confidence
upon the truth of what is taught them; and being trained up in this
learning from their very childhood, they become most famous philosophers,
being at the age most capable of learning."[117]

Centuries were required for the growth of such a corporation and for the
firm establishment of its power upon a well-knit system of rites and
doctrines. The institutions described by Ctesias would hardly show any
sensible change from those in force in the same country before the Persian
conquests. In their double character of priests and astrologers the
Chaldæans would enjoy an almost boundless influence over both kings and
private individuals; the general belief in their powers of divination made
them in a sense the masters and arbiters of every destiny. Under the
national kings "members of their caste led the national armies and occupied
all the chief posts in the kingdom." The royal houses that succeeded one
another at Babylon sprang from their ranks both in the days of vassalage to
Assyria and in those of full independence. Their hierarchy was headed by an
archimagus; we do not know his title in the national language, but we do
know that, after the king, he was the chief person in the empire. He
accompanied the sovereign wherever he went, even to the wars, in order to
regulate his actions according to the rules of his art and the indications
of the heavens. When the king died and his successor was not on the spot to
assume the reins of government, the archimagus was regent during the
interregnum, as, for instance, between the death of Nabopolassar and the
accession of Nebuchadnezzar.[118]

The almost theocratic character of this régime had both its advantages and
its inconveniences. These priests were the savants of their time. The
honours that were paid to them must have had their effect in stimulating
intellectual culture and material well being, but, on the other hand, the
constant intervention of a sacerdotal body in public affairs could not but
do something to enfeeble the military spirit and the energy and
responsibility of the commanders. Not that the priests were less penetrated
by the national sentiment than their fellow countrymen. Proud of their
ancient traditions and of the superiority of their science, they added
contempt to the detestation they felt for a foreign master, whether he came
from Babylon or Susa. The priests were the ringleaders in those risings
against Assyria, and, in later years, against Persia, which cost Babylon so
dearly. Once only was the success they promised achieved, and that was in
the time of Nabopolassar, when Nineveh was exhausted by its long succession
of wars and victories. On every other occasion the upper hand remained with
races less instructed, indeed, and less refined, but among whom the power
concentrated in the hands of the sovereign had been utilized to drive all
the vital forces of the kingdom into the practice of war and preparation
for it.

On the other hand, Babylon enjoyed certain elements of prosperity and
guarantees of a long national existence which were wanting to those rivals
under whose yoke she had more than once to pass. The ruling classes in
Chaldæa were quicker in intellect and far better educated than elsewhere.
Their country lent itself to a wide and well-organised system of
cultivation better than the hilly districts of Assyria or the narrow
valleys and sterile plains of Iran. Communication was more prompt and easy
than among the terraces which rise one above another from the left bank of
the Euphrates up to the high lands of Persia and Media: in order to pass
from one of these terraces to another, the bare rock has to be climbed in a
fashion that brings no little danger to the traveller and his patient
beasts of burden.[119] In Chaldæa, on the other hand, the proximity of the
two rivers to each other, and the perfect horizontality of the soil, make
the work of irrigation very easy. The agriculturists were not exposed to
the danger of a complete failure of crops, a misfortune which overtook the
upper regions of Mesopotamia often enough. There the Euphrates and Tigris
are wide apart, and the land between them is far from being a dead level.
Many districts had to depend almost entirely upon the rainfall for
irrigation. Again, when it was a question of journeying from one city to
another or transporting the produce of the fields, the Chaldæan could
choose between the land routes that lay along the banks of the canals, or
the waterways that intersected each other over the whole surface of the
country. In these days the journey between Bagdad and Bassorah, a distance
of some three hundred miles, involves a long detour to the east along the
foot of the mountains, in order to avoid impassable marshes and bands of
wandering Arabs devoted to murder and pillage. The flat country is infested
with mounted brigands who strip unprotected travellers, but in ancient
times it swarmed with traffic, every road was encumbered with the movements
of merchandise and the march of caravans, the fields were crossed in every
direction by canals, and the tall sails of the boats that moved between
their banks rose over the waving crops as they do to-day in the deltas of
the Meuse and the Rhine, for Chaldæa was a southern Holland.

The incomparable situation of Babylon was sure to lead to great industrial
and commercial activity in spite of any shortcomings in her rulers. She
stood in the centre of a marvellously fertile region, between upper and
western Asia. Two great rivers were at her doors, bringing her, without
cost or effort, the products of their upper basins, while, on the other
hand, they placed her in easy communication with the Persian Gulf and the
Indian Ocean. The merchants of Babylon had communication with the people of
the Levant by easy and well-worn roads crossing the fords of the middle
Euphrates. Less direct roads farther to the north were used nearly as much.
Some of these traversed the Cilician passes, crossed the Amanus and Taurus
into the plateau of Asia Minor, and ended at the coasts of the Ægæan and
the Euxine; others passed through Assyria into Media, and through the
Caspian passes up to the central plateau of Asia and into distant Bactria,
whence easy passes led down into the upper valley of the Indus. Babylon was
thus an _entrepôt_ for caravans both from the east and west, and for
navigators coming from the ports of Africa, Arabia, and India.

There are, if we may use the expression, natural capitals and capitals that
are artificial. The sites of the first are determined by the configuration
of the earth. When they perish it is but a temporary death, to be followed
by a life often more full and brilliant than the first. The second owe
their prosperity to the caprice of a sovereign, or to political
combinations that pass away and leave no trace. Thebes and Nineveh were
artificial cities; both have disappeared and left behind them nothing but
their ruins; they have been replaced only by villages and unimportant
towns. On the other hand, Memphis lives again in Cairo, and, when the
depopulation of Babylon was complete, Seleucia and Ctesiphon, Kouffa and
Bagdad sprang up to carry on her work.

The centre of a refined civilization and of wide-stretching commercial
relations, Babylon could not have been without an original art, and one
marked with the peculiar characteristics of the national genius. Unhappily,
the materials at her command were far inferior to those of which the
Egyptians and Greeks could dispose. From this it has resulted that, on the
one hand, her productions never passed a certain level of excellence, and,
on the other, that they have been ill preserved. The Babylonians were not
among those happy peoples whose artists could exercise their tools upon the
one material that gives birth to great sculptors and great architects--a
stone soft enough to yield kindly to the chisel, but hard enough to
preserve to eternity the suggestive forms impressed upon it by the hand of

Our knowledge, therefore, of Chaldæan art will bear no comparison with what
we have discovered as to the art of Egypt and Greece, of Etruria and Rome.
So far as we can form a judgment from the remains that have come down to
us, it was an art much less varied and comprehensive than that of Egypt.
The tombs of Memphis and Thebes, with their pictured walls, reflect, as in
a faithful mirror, the most interesting and most amusing of all spectacles,
the daily life of the oldest of all civilized societies. In Chaldæa there
is nothing of the kind. The Chaldæan tomb gives us, by its arrangement and
furnishing, glimpses of a faith similar at bottom to that of Egypt, but we
find nothing parallel to the representations of daily work and pleasure
which fill the mastabas and the Theban sepulchres; there is nothing that
can be compared to those animated forms and images that play over again on
the tomb walls the long drama of a hundred acts whose first performance
occupied so many centuries and filled a stage stretching from the swamps of
the Delta to the cataracts of Syene. We are more especially grateful to
these funerary scenes for handing down to us, in a safe niche in the temple
of the arts, those poor and humble folk who count for so little in this
world where they bear the heaviest burdens, who depend for remembrance
after death upon the services they render to the great. We shall search in
vain among the scanty remnants of Babylonian sculpture for the attitude,
gestures, and features of the laborious workmen upon whom the prosperity of
the country was built. We shall find neither the tradesmen and artisans of
the towns, nor the agriculturists who cultivated the fields and gave them
the water for which they never ceased to thirst. No hint is given of those
fishermen of the Persian Gulf who lived entirely, according to Herodotus,
upon dried fish ground to powder and made into a kind of cake.[120] The
naive, picturesque, and anecdotic illustrations of common life, which are
so plentiful in Egypt, are almost completely wanting to the art of Chaldæa.

On the other hand, we find, as we might have expected from what we know of
Chaldæan society, continual traces of the sacerdotal spirit, and of the
great part played by the king with the help and under the tutelage of the
priesthood. Upon the walls of palaces, temples, and towns, on the
statuettes of bronze and terra-cotta which were buried under the thresholds
of buildings and placed as votive offerings in the temples, upon cylinders
and engraved stones, we find only complex and varied emblems, fantastic and
symbolic forms, attitudes suggestive of worship and sacrifice (Figs. 20 and
21), images of gods, goddesses, and secondary genii, princes surrounded
with royal pomp and offering their homage to the deity. Hence a certain
poverty and monotony and the want of recuperative power inseparable from an
absorbed contemplation of sacred types and of a transcendental world.

[Illustration: FIG. 20.--Chaldæan Cylinder.]

[Illustration: FIG. 21.--Chaldæan Cylinder; from the British Museum.[121]]

Assyrian society was different in many respects from that of Chaldæa. The
same gods, no doubt, were adored in both countries, and their worship
involved a highly-placed priesthood; but at Nineveh the royal power rested
on the army, and the initiative and independence of the sovereign were
much greater than in the case of Babylon. Assyria was a military monarchy
in the fullest sense of the word. Almost as often as the spring came round
the king led his invincible legions to the conquest of new subjects for
Assur. He traversed deserts, crossed trackless mountain chains, and plunged
into forests full of hidden dangers. He destroyed the walls and towers of
hostile cities, in spite of the rain of arrows, stones, and boiling pitch
that poured upon himself and his hosts; he was at once the skilful captain
and the valiant soldier, he planned the attack and never spared himself in
the _mêlée_. First in danger, he was the first in honour. In person he
implored the good will of the god for whom he braved so many dangers, in
person he thanked him for success and presented to him the spoils of the
conquered enemy. If he was not deified, like the Pharaohs, either alive or
after his death, he was the vicar of Assur upon earth, the interpreter of
his decrees and their executor, his lieutenant and pontif, and the
recipient of his confidences.[122]

There was no room by the side of this armed high priest for a sacerdotal
caste at all equal to him in prestige. The power and glory of the king grew
with every successive victory, and in the vast empire of the Sargonids, the
highest places were filled by men whom the monarch associated with himself
in the never-ending work of conquest and repression. First of all came a
kind of grand vizier, the _Tartan_, or commander-in-chief of the royal
armies. This is the personage we so often find in the bas-reliefs facing
the king and standing in an attitude at once dignified and respectful (see
Fig. 22). Next came the great officers of the palace, the _ministers_ as we
should call them in modern parlance, and the governors of conquered
provinces. Eunuchs were charged with the supervision of the harem and, as
in the modern East, occupied high places at court. They may be recognized
in the bas-reliefs, where they are grouped about the king, by their round,
beardless faces (see Figs. 23 and 24). The _Kislar-Aga_ is, in the
Constantinople of to-day what more than one of these personages must have
been in Nineveh. Read the account given by Plutarch, on the authority of
Ctesias, of the murderous and perfidious intrigues that stained the palace
of Susa in the time of Artaxerxes-Mnemon. You will then have some idea of
the part, at once obscure and preponderant, that the more
intelligent among these miserable creatures were able to play in the
households of the great conquerors and unwearied hunters by whom the
palaces at Khorsabad, Kouyundjik, and Nimroud, were successively occupied.

[Illustration: FIG. 22.--The King Sargon and his Grand Vizier. Bas-relief
from Khorsabad; in the Louvre. Alabaster. Height 116 inches. Drawn by
Saint-Elme Gautier.]

[Illustration: FIG. 23.--The suite of Sargon, _continued_. Bas-relief from
Khorsabad; in the Louvre. Alabaster. Height 90 inches. Drawn by Saint-Elme

[Illustration: FIG. 24.--The suite of Sargon, _continued_. Bas-relief from
Khorsabad. Alabaster. Height 97 inches. Drawn by Saint-Elme Gautier.]

All these military officers and administrators, these priests of the
different gods, and the domestics who were often the most powerful of all,
looked to the hand of the king himself and depended upon no other master.
Courage and military talent must have been the surest roads to advancement,
but sometimes, as under the Arab caliphs and the Ottoman sultans, the
caprice of the sovereign would lead him to raise a man from the lowest
ranks to the highest dignities of the state. The _régime_ of Assyria may be
described in the words applied to that of Russia, it was despotism tempered
with assassination. "And it came to pass, as he (Sennacherib) was
worshipping in the house of Nisroch his god, that Adrammelech and Sharezer
his sons smote him with the sword: and they escaped into the land of
Armenia. And Esarhaddon his son reigned in his stead."[123] Sennacherib's
father, Sargon, perished in the same fashion.

These murders were, perhaps, the revenge for some outrage or punishment
imprudently inflicted in a moment of anger; but however that may have been,
neither in the one case nor the other did they hinder the legitimate heir
from succeeding his father. Sennacherib replaced Sargon, and Esarhaddon
Sennacherib. The Assyrian supremacy was only supported by the constant
presence, at the head of the army, of a king ready for every eventuality; a
few weeks of anarchy or interregnum would have thrown the whole empire into
confusion; the royal power was the keystone of the arch, the element upon
which depended the stability of a colossal edifice subjected to various
strains. In such a society, art could hardly have had a mission other than
the glorification of a power without limit and without control--a power to
which alone the Assyrians had to look for a continuance of their dearly-won
supremacy. The architect, the sculptor, and the painter, exhausted the
resources of their arts, the one in building a palace for the prince on a
high mound raised to dominate the surrounding plain, the others in
decorating it when built and multiplying the images of its almost divine
inhabitant. The exploits of the sovereign, his great and never-ending
achievements as a conqueror and destroyer of monsters, as pontif of Assur
and the founder of palaces and cities--such are the themes to which
Assyrian sculpture devoted itself for many centuries, taking them up and
varying them in countless ways, and that, apparently, without any fear that
he for whom the whole work was intended would ever grow weary of the

Such themes presuppose the actual occurrence of the events represented and
the artists' realization either from personal observation or from
descriptions. This gives rise to a very sensible difference between
Chaldæan sculpture and that of Assyria, so far at least as the latter is to
be studied in the decorations of a palace. In those characteristics and
qualities of execution which permit of a definition, the style is no doubt
the same as in Chaldæa. The artists of Babylon and those of Nineveh were
pupils in one school--they saw nature with the same eyes; the same features
interested and attracted the attention of both; they had the same
prejudices and the same conventions. The symbols and combinations of forms
we have noticed as proper to Chaldæan art are here also; scenes of
invocation to gods and genii; ornamental groups and motives. An instance of
the latter is to be found in the rich embroidery with which the robes of
the Assyrian kings are covered.[124] Finally, we must remember that all
Assyrian art was not included in the adornment of the palace. Before a
complete and definite judgment can be formed upon it the monuments of
religious and industrial art should be passed under review, but, unhappily,
no temple interior, and a very small number of objects of domestic luxury
and daily use, have come down to us. These gaps are to be regretted, but we
must not forget that the bas-reliefs were ordered by the king, that the
thousands of figures they contain were introduced for the sake of giving
_éclat_ to the power, the valour, and the genius of the sovereign, and that
the best artists of which Assyria could boast were doubtless entrusted with
their execution. Under the reserves thus laid down we may, then, devote
ourselves to the study of the Ninevite sculptures that fill the museums of
London and Paris; we may consider them the strongest and most original
creations of Assyrian art.

[Illustration: FIG. 25.--Fragment of a bas-relief in alabaster. Louvre.
Height 23 inches. Drawn by Saint-Elme Gautier.]

Now the sculpture upon the alabaster slabs with which the palace walls of
Shalmaneser and Sargon, of Sennacherib and Assurbanipal, were covered,
confines itself mainly to marches, combats, and sieves, it is more
_realistic_ than the sculpture of Chaldæa, a country that had done less,
especially upon fields of battle, but had invented more and done more
thinking than its bellicose rival. We owe no small debt of gratitude to the
swordsmen of Assyria, in spite of the blood they shed and the horrible
cruelties they committed and delighted in seeing commemorated in the
figured histories of their reigns. The works entrusted to their artists
have left us precious documents and the elements for a restoration of a
vanished world. Philologists may take their time over the decipherment of
the texts inscribed on the reliefs, but the great people of prey who, for
at least four centuries, pillaged all Asia without themselves becoming
softened by the possession of so much accumulated wealth, live,
henceforward, in the long series of pictures recovered for the world by
Layard and Botta. The stern conquerors reappear, armed, helmeted, and
cuirassed, as they passed before the trembling nations thirty centuries
ago. They are short of stature, but vigorous and sturdy, with an
exceptional muscular development. They were, no doubt, prepared for their
military duties from infancy by some system of gymnastic exercises, such as
have been practised by other nations of soldiers. Their noses are high and
hooked, their eyes large, their features as a whole strongly Semitic (see
Fig. 25).

[Illustration: FIG. 26.--Bas-relief of Tiglath Pileser II.; from Nimroud.
British Museum. Height 44 inches. Drawn by Saint-Elme Gautier.]

[Illustration: FIG. 27.--Feast of Assurbanipal; from Kouyundjik. British
Museum. Height 20-3/4 inches. No. 1, The servants of the feast.]

[Illustration: FIG. 28.--Feast of Assurbanipal, _continued_. No. 2, The
king and queen at table. Drawn by Saint-Elme Gautier.]

The moral character of the people is shown with no less clearness. The
ferocity they preserved amid all the luxurious appliances of their
civilization is commemorated. Atrocities of every kind find a place in the
reliefs. Among the prisoners of war the most fortunate are those led by a
cord passed through their lips. Others are mutilated, crucified, flayed
alive. Tiglath Pileser II. is shown to us besieging a city, before whose
walls he has impaled three prisoners taken from the defenders (see Fig.
26). Elsewhere we find scribes counting over heaps of heads before paying
the price for them.[125] When these had come from the shoulders of
important enemies they were carried in procession and treasured as
honourable trophies. In one relief we find Assurbanipal, after his return
to Nineveh from the subjugation of the southern rebels, lying upon a
luxurious couch in the garden of his harem and sharing a sumptuous meal
with a favoured wife. Birds are singing in the trees, an attendant touches
the harp, flowers and palms fill the background, while a head, the head of
the Elamite king, whom Assurbanipal conquered and captured in his last
campaign, hangs from a tree near the right[126] of the scene (see Figs. 27
and 28). The princes who took pleasure in these horrors were scrupulous in
their piety. We find numberless representations of them in attitudes of
profound respect before their gods, and sometimes they bring victims and
libations in their hands (see Fig. 29). Thus, without any help from the
inscriptions, we may divine from the sculptures alone what strange
contrasts were presented by the Assyrian character--a character at once
sanguinary and voluptuous, brutal and refined, mystical and truculent.

[Illustration: FIG. 29.--Offerings to a god; Alabaster relief. Louvre.
Height 10 feet. Drawn by Saint-Elme Gautier.]

It is not only by what it says, it is by what it leaves untold, by what it
forgets to tell, that art has left us such a sincere account of this
singular nation. The king and his lieutenants, his ministers and household
officers, the veterans who formed the strength of his legions and the young
men from whom their numbers were recruited, did not constitute the whole of
the Assyrian nation. There were also the tillers of the soil, the followers
of those countless trades implied by a civilized society--the peasants,
artisans, and merchants of every kind, who fed, clothed, and equipped the
armies; the men who carried on the useful but modest work without which the
fighting machine must soon have come to a standstill. And yet they are
entirely absent from the sculptures in which the artist seems to have
included everything that to him seemed worthy of interest. We meet them
here and there, but only by accident. They may be descried now and then in
the background of some scene of war, acting as labourers or in some other
humble capacity. Otherwise the sculptor ignored their existence. They were
not soldiers, which was much as to say they were nothing. Can any other
instance be cited of an art so well endowed entirely suppressing what we
should call the civil element of life? Neither do we find women in the
bas-reliefs: that in which the queen of Assurbanipal occurs is quite unique
in its way. Except in scenes representing the capture of a town and the
carrying off of its inhabitants as prisoners of war, females are almost
entirely wanting. On those occasions we sometimes find them carried on
mules or in chariots (see Figs. 30 and 31). In certain bas-reliefs of
Assurbanipal, treating of his campaign against Susa, women are playing the
tambourine and singing the king's praises. But all these are exceptions.
Woman, whose grace and beauty were so keenly felt by the Egyptians, is
almost completely absent from the sculpture of Assyria.

[Illustration: FIG. 30.--Convoy of prisoners. Kouyundjik. From Layard.]

By thus limiting its scope, sculpture condemned itself to much repetition
and to a uniformity not far removed from sameness; but its very silences
are eloquent upon the inhuman originality of a system to which Assyria owed
both the splendour of her military successes and the finality of her fall.
The great entrenched camp, of which Nineveh was the centre, once forced;
the veteran ranks, in which constant war, and war without quarter, had made
such wide gaps, once broken, nothing remained of the true Assyria but the
ignorant masses of a second-class state to whom a change of masters had
little meaning, and a few vast buildings doomed soon to disappear under
their own ruins.

[Illustration: FIG. 31.--Convoy of prisoners. Kouyundjik. From Layard.]

When we have completed our examination of Assyrian sculpture, so rich in
some respects, so poor in others, we shall understand the rapidity with
which silence and oblivion overtook so much glory and power; we shall
understand how some two centuries after the victory of Nabopolassar and the
final triumph of Babylon and her allies, Xenophon and his Greeks could
mount the Tigris and gaze upon the still formidable walls of the deserted
cities of Mespila and Larissa without even hearing the name of Nineveh
pronounced. Eager for knowledge as they were, they passed over the ground
without suspecting that the dust thrown up by their feet had once been a
city famous and feared over all Asia, and that the capital of an empire
hardly less great than that of the Artaxerxes whom they had faced at
Cunaxa, had once covered the ground where they stood.


[117] DIODORUS, ii. 29.

[118] Fr. LENORMANT, _Manuel de l'Histoire ancienne de l'Orient_, vol. ii.
p. 252.

[119] LOFTUS, _Travels and Researches in Chaldæa and Susiana_, p. 309. The
Greeks gave the appropriate name of klimakes to those stepped roads that
lead from the valley and the sea coast to the high plains of Persia.

[120] HERODOTUS, i. 200. A similar article of food is in extensive use at
the present day in the western islands of Scotland, and upon other distant
coasts where the soil is poor.--ED.

[121] Upon the subject of this cylinder, in which George Smith wished to
recognize a representation of Adam and Eve tempted by the serpent, see M.
JOACHIM MÉNANT'S paper entitled, _La Bible et les Cylindres Chaldéens_
(Paris, 1880, Maisonneuve, 8vo). M. Ménant makes short work of this forced
interpretation and of several similar delusions which were beginning to win
some acceptance.

[122] Upon the sacred functions of the king, see LAYARD, _Nineveh_, vol.
ii. p. 474.

[123] 2 Kings xix. 37.

[124] LAYARD, _The Monuments of Nineveh_ (folio, 1849), plates 43-50.

[125] LAYARD, _A Second Series of the Monuments of Nineveh_ (folio, 1853),
plates 26 and 27. The scribes in question seem to be writing upon rolls of

[126] Throughout this work the words "right" and "left" refer to the right
and left of the cuts, _not_ of the reader. By this system alone can
confusion be avoided in describing statues and compositions with




§ 1.--_Materials._

Chaldæa was the cradle of the civilization, and consequently of the art,
whose characteristics we have to define. Now the soil of Chaldæa to a great
depth beneath the surface is a fine loose earth, similar to that of the
Nile Delta. At a few points only on the plain, and that near the Persian
Gulf, are there some rocky eminences, the remains of ancient islands which
the gradual encroachment of the two great rivers has joined to the mainland
of Asia. Their importance is so slight that we may fairly ignore their
existence and assert generally that Chaldæa has no stone. Like all great
rivers, the Tigris and Euphrates in the upper and middle parts of their
courses carry down pieces of rock from their native mountains, but after
they enter upon the alluvial ground near the boundary between Assyria and
Chaldæa their streams become sluggish, and these heavy bodies sink to the
bottom and become embedded in the soil; the water no longer carries on with
it anything but the minute particles which with the passage of centuries
form immense banks of clay. In the whole distance between Bagdad and the
sea you may take a spade, and, turn up the soil wherever you please, you
will not find a stone as big as a nut.

In this absence of a natural stone something had to be found to take its
place, and the artificial material we call brick was invented. The human
intellect refuses to give up the contest with nature before the first
obstacles that seem to bar its progress; if it cannot brush them aside it
turns their flank. The least accident is often enough to suggest the
desired expedient. The origin of almost all the great discoveries that are
studded over the history of civilization may be traced to some lucky
chance. The first inhabitants of Chaldæa fashioned rude kitchens for the
cooking of their simple food out of moist and plastic clay, the fires of
reed and broken wood lighted on these simple hearths reddened and hardened
the clay till it became like rock. Some bystander more observant than the
rest noted the change and became the father of ceramics. We use the word in
its widest, in its etymological sense. _Ceramics_ is the art of fashioning
clay and burning it in the fire so as to obtain constructive materials,
domestic utensils, or objects of luxury and ornament.[127]

Even before the first brick or pottery kiln was erected it must have been
recognized that in a climate like that of Chaldæa the soil when dried in
the sun was well fitted for certain uses. Among the _débris_ left by the
earliest pioneers of civilization we find the remains of vases which seem
to have been dried only in the sun. But porous and friable pottery like
this could only be used for a few purposes, and it was finally renounced as
soon as the art of firing the earth, first in the hot ashes of the domestic
hearth, and afterwards in the searching flames of the close oven, was
discovered. It was otherwise with brick. The desiccation produced by the
almost vertical sun of Mesopotamia allowed it to be used with safety and
advantage in certain parts of a building. In that condition it is called
crude brick, to distinguish it from the harder material due to the direct
heat of wood fires.

In any case the clay destined for use as a building material was subject to
a first preparation that never varied. It was freed from such foreign
bodies as might have found their way into it, and, as in Egypt, it was
afterwards mixed with chopped or rather pulverized straw, a proceeding
which was thought to give it greater body and resistance. It was then mixed
with water in the proportions that experience dictated, and kneaded by foot
in wide and shallow basins.[128] The brickmakers of Mossoul go through the
same process to this day.

As soon as the clay was sufficiently kneaded, it was shaped in almost
square moulds. In size these moulds surpassed even those of Egypt: their
surfaces were from 15-1/4 to 15-1/2 inches square, and their thickness was
from 2 to 4 inches.[129] It would seem that these artificial blocks were
given this extravagant size to make up for the absence of stone properly
speaking; the only limit of size seems to have been that imposed by
difficulties of manufacture and handling.

Crude brick never becomes hard enough to resist the action of water. In
Greek history we read how Agesipolis, King of Sparta, when besieging
Mantinea, directed the stream of the Ophis along the foot of its walls of
unburnt brick, and so caused them to crumble away. Cimon, son of Miltiades,
attacked the defences of Eion, on the Strymon, in the same fashion. When
desiccation was carried far enough, such materials could be used, in
interiors at least, so as to fulfil the same functions as stone or burnt
brick. Vitruvius tells us that the magistrates who had charge of building
operations at Utica would not allow brick to be used until it was five
years old.[130] It would seem that neither in Chaldæa nor still less in
Assyria was any such lengthy restriction imposed. It is only by exception
that crude bricks of which the desiccation has been carried to the farthest
possible point have been found in the palaces of Nineveh; almost the only
instance we can give is afforded by the bricks composing the arches of the
palace doorways at Khorsabad. They are rectangular, and into the
wedge-shaped intervals between their faces a softer clay has been poured to
fill up the joints.[131] As a rule things were done in a much less patient
fashion. At the end of a few days, or perhaps weeks, as soon, in fact, as
the bricks were dry and firm enough to be easily handled, they were carried
on to the ground and laid while still soft.

This we know from the evidence of M. Place, who cut many exploring shafts
through the massive Assyrian buildings, and could judge of the condition in
which the bricks had been put in place by the appearance of his
excavations. From top to bottom their sides showed a plain and uniform
surface; not the slightest sign of joints was to be found. Some might think
that the bricks, instead of being actually soft, were first dried in the
sun and then, when they came to be used, that each was dipped in water so
as to give it a momentary wetness before being laid in its place. M. Place
repels any such hypothesis. He points out that, had the Assyrian
bricklayers proceeded in that fashion, each joint would be distinguishable
by a rather darker tint than the rest of the wall. There is nothing of the
kind in fact. The only things that prove his excavations to have been made
through brick and not through a mass of earth beaten solid with the rammer
are, in the first place, that the substance cut is very homogeneous and
much more dense than it would have been had it not been kneaded and pressed
in the moulds; and, secondly, that the horizontal courses are here and
there to be distinguished from each other by their differences of

The art of burning brick dates, in the case of Chaldæa, from a very remote
epoch. No tradition subsisted of a period when it was not practised. After
the deluge, when men wished to build a city and a tower which should reach
to heaven, "they said to one another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn
them throughly; and they had brick for stone, and slime had they for

The Babylonian bricks were, as a rule, one Chaldæan foot (rather more than
an English foot) square. Their colour varies in different buildings from a
dark red to a light yellow,[134] but they are always well burnt and of
excellent quality. Nearly all of them bear an inscription to the following
effect: "Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, restorer of the pyramid and the
tower, eldest son of Nabopolassar, King of Babylon, I." In laying the brick
the face bearing this inscription was turned downwards. The characters were
impressed on the soft clay with a stamp. More than forty varieties have
already been discovered, implying the existence of as many stamps (see Fig.
32). In Assyria these inscriptions were sometimes stamped, sometimes
engraved with the hand (Fig. 33).

Most of the bricks are regular in shape, with parallel and rectangular
faces, but a few wedge-shaped ones have been found, both in Chaldæa and
Assyria. These must have been made for building arches or vaults. Their
obliquity varies according to their destined places in the curve.[135]

The body of the enamelled bricks differs from that of the ordinary kind. It
is softer and more friable, appearing to be scarcely burnt.[136] This
difference, at which M. Place was so much surprised, had its reason. The
makers understood that their enamel colours when vitrified would penetrate
deeper into and be more closely incorporated with the material upon which
they were placed were the latter not so completely hardened.

[Illustration: FIG. 32.--Babylonian brick; from the Louvre. 16 inches
square on face, and 4 inches thick.]

Crude brick, burnt brick, and brick enamelled, those were the only
materials at the command of the architect, in the cities, at least, of
Chaldæa. A few fragments of basalt and diorite have certainly been found in
their ruins, especially at Tello, recently excavated by M. de Sarzec; but
we can easily tell from the appearance of these blocks that they played a
very subordinate part in the buildings into which they were introduced.
Some of them seem to have been employed as a kind of decoration in relief
upon the brick walls; others, and those the most numerous, appear to have
been used in the principal entrances to buildings. Upon one face a
semicircular hollow or socket may be noticed, in which the foot of the
bronze pivots, or rather the pivot shod and faced with bronze, upon which
the heavy timber doors and their casings of metal were hung, had to turn.
The marks of the consequent friction are still clearly visible.[137] The
dimensions of these stones are never great, and it is easy to see that
their employment for building purposes was always of the most restricted
nature. They had indeed to be brought from a great distance. The towns upon
the Persian Gulf might get them from Arabia.[138] Babylon and Nineveh must
have drawn them from the upper valleys of the Tigris and Euphrates.[139]
But quarrying and transport involved an expenditure that prevented any
thought of bringing these volcanic rocks into common use.

[Illustration: FIG. 33.--Brick from Khorsabad; Louvre. 12-2/3 inches
square, and 4-4/5 inches thick.]

Compared with the towns of the lower Euphrates, Babylon was not far from
mountains whence, by means of canals and rivers, she might have easily
obtained a limestone of good quality. Even in these days, when commerce and
industry have fallen so low in those regions, the gypseous alabaster from
the neighbourhood of Mossoul is transported in no unimportant quantities as
far as Bagdad. It is used for lining baths and those _serdabs_ to which the
people retreat in summer.[140]

The remains of the great capital show no trace of dressed stone. And yet it
was used during the second empire in some of the great public works
undertaken by Nabopolassar and more especially by Nebuchadnezzar.
Herodotus, who saw Babylon, declares this in the most formal manner in his
description of the bridge which then united, for the first time, the two
banks of the Euphrates. While the river was bordered by quays of burnt
brick, the bridge, says the historian, "was built of very large stones,
bound together with iron clamps embedded in lead."[141]

That, however, was but one exception, and it was necessitated by the very
nature of the work to be carried out. No cement was to be had which could
resist the action of water for an indefinite period and maintain the
coherence of brickwork subjected to its unsleeping attacks. In order to
obtain piers capable of withstanding the current during the great floods,
it was better too to use blocks of considerable weight, which could be held
together by metal tenons or clasps.

It was but at rare intervals that buildings had to be erected in which the
habits of ages had to be thus abandoned. Why is it that such works have
perished and left no sign? The question may be easily answered. When the
ruins of Babylon began to be used as an open quarry, the stone buildings
must have been the first to disappear. This material, precious by its
rarity and in greater request than any other, was used again and again
until no trace of its original destination or of the buildings in which it
was found remained.

In Assyria long chains of hills traversed the plain and stretched here and
there as far as the borders of the two rivers, besides which the last
buttresses of the mountains of Kurdistan came very near the left bank of
the Tigris. These hills all contained limestone. Two sorts were found: one
fine, hard, close grained, and a little shelly, the other softer and more

For the decoration of his monumental doorways and the lining of his richest
apartments, the architect chose and committed to the sculptor those fine
slabs of gypseous alabaster of which so many examples are to be seen in the
Louvre and British Museum. In the plains gypsum serves as a base or
foundation for the wide banks of clay that spread over the country, and are
much less thick than in the south of Chaldæa. Alabaster is there to be met
with in great quantities, often but little below the surface of the
soil.[142] It is a sulphate of chalk, gray in colour, soft and yet
susceptible of polish. But it has many defects; it breaks easily and
deteriorates rapidly on exposure to the air. The Assyrians, however, did
not fear to use it in great masses, as witness the bulls in the Louvre and
British Museum. Before removal these carved man-headed animals weighed some
thirty-five tons, and some of those remaining at Khorsabad and Kouyundjik
are still larger.

In Assyria as in Chaldæa the dark and hard volcanic rocks have only been
found in a few isolated fragments. They were used by the statuary and
ornamentist rather than by the architect, and we cannot say for certain
where they got them. We know, however, that basalt and other rocks of that
kind were found in the upper valleys of the streams that flowed into the
two great rivers.[143]

The Assyrian architect had therefore only to stretch out his hand to win
stone of a sufficiently varied nature from the soil of his own country or
the flanks of its mountains. It was, of course, mediocre in quality but it
had powers of resistance that fitted it for use in certain positions. At
the first glance it is difficult to understand why so little use was made
of it. But in truth stone was for the Assyrian no more than an accessory
and complementary material; the bodies of his structures were never
composed of it; it was mainly confined to plinths, pavements, and the
internal linings of walls.

In spite of its apparent singularity this determined exclusion is to be
easily explained. The Assyrian invented nothing. His language and his
writing, his religion and his science, came from Chaldæa, and so did his
art. When the kings of Resen, of Calech, and Nineveh, took it into their
heads to build palaces, they imported architects, painters, and sculptors,
from the southern kingdom. Why, it may be asked, did those artists remain
so faithful to the traditions in which they had grown up when they found
themselves planted among such different surroundings? The answer is, that
nothing is more tenacious of life than those professional habits that are
transmitted from one generation to another by the practical teaching of
more or less close corporations, besides which we must remember that the
Chaldæan methods were excellently well fitted for the satisfaction of those
impatient princes at whose orders the works were undertaken. For the
quarrying, dressing, and fixing of stone, a special and rather tedious
education was required. The manufacture and laying of bricks was
comparatively easy. A few weeks were sufficient to learn all that was to be
learnt about the kneading and moulding of the earth, its desiccation in the
sun or burning in the kiln. Provided that experienced men were forthcoming
to superintend the latter operation, millions of good bricks could be made
in the year.[144] All this required no lengthy apprenticeship. Their
arrangement in horizontal courses or grouping at stated intervals, into
those lines of battlements with which every wall was crowned, was done by
the men of the _corvée_. Certain parts of the building, such as arches and
vaults, required more care and skill, and were left, no doubt, to
experienced masons and bricklayers, but, with these exceptions, the whole
work could be confided to the first-comers, to those armies of captives
whom we see in the bas-reliefs labouring in chained gangs like convicts.

Working in this fashion, even the most formidable works could be completed
with singular rapidity. In Assyria, as in Chaldæa, a prince was no sooner
seated firmly upon the throne than his architects set about erecting a
palace which should be entirely his own. He had no wish that any name but
his should be read upon its walls, or that they should display any deeds of
valour but those due to his own prowess. In the life of constant war and
adventure led by these conquering sovereigns, speed was everything, for
they could never be sure of the morrow.

That considerations like these counted for much in the determination of the
Assyrian architects to follow a system that the abundance of durable
materials invited them to cast aside can hardly be doubted. They did not
dare to rouse the displeasure of masters who disliked to wait; they
preferred rather to sacrifice the honour and glory to be won by the
erection of solid and picturesque buildings than to use the slowly worked
materials in which alone they could be carried out.

Assyria was in all respects better provided than Chaldæa. Nature itself
seemed to invite her to throw off her too docile spirit of imitation and to
create an art of her own. Her possession of stone was not her only
advantage over her southern neighbour, she had timber also; at least the
Ninevite architect had to go a much shorter distance than his Babylonian
rival in order to find it. From the summits of the lofty mounds, at whose
feet he established his workshops, he could catch a distant view of
mountain chains, whose valleys were clothed with forests of oak and beech,
pine and cypress. There was nothing of the kind within reach of Lower
Mesopotamia. The nearest mountains, those which ran parallel to the left
bank of the Tigris but at a considerable distance, were more naked, even in
ancient times, than those of Kurdistan and Armenia. From one side of the
plain to the other there were no trees but the palm and the poplar from
which timbers of any length could be cut. The soft and fibrous date-palm
furnishes one of the worst kinds of wood in the world; the poplar, though
more useful, is not much less brittle and light. From materials like these
no system of carpentry could be developed that should allow great spaces to
be covered and great heights to be reached. When Nineveh and, after her,
Babylon, had conquered all Western Asia, she drew, like Egypt before her,
upon the forests of Lebanon. There she obtained the beams and planks for
the ceilings and doors of her sumptuous palaces.[145] The employment,
however, of these excellent woods must always have been rare and
exceptional. Moreover, other habits had become confirmed. When these new
resources were put at the disposition of architecture, the art was too old
and too closely wedded to its traditional methods to accept their aid. In
the use of wood, as in that of brick, Assyria neglected to make the best of
the advantages assured to her by her situation and her natural products.

If Chaldæa was ill-provided with stone and timber, she had every facility
for procuring the useful and precious metals. They were not, of course, to
be found in her alluvial plains, but metals are easy of transport,
especially to a country whose commerce has the command of navigable
highways. The industrial centres in which they are manufactured are often
separated by great distances from the regions where they are won from the
earth. But to procure the more indispensable among them the dwellers upon
the Tigris and Euphrates had no great distance to cover. The southern
slopes of Zagros, three or four days' journey from Nineveh, furnished iron,
copper, lead, and silver in abundance. Mines are still worked in Kurdistan,
or, at least, have been worked in very recent times, which supply these
metals in abundance. The traces of abandoned workings may be recognized
even by the hasty and unlearned traveller, and a skilful engineer would,
no doubt, make further discoveries.[146] Mr. Layard was unable to learn
that any gold had been won in our days; but from objects found in the
excavations, from inscriptions in which the Assyrians boast of their wealth
and prodigality, from Egyptian texts in which the details of tributes paid
by the Roten-nou, that is by the people of Syria and Mesopotamia, are
given, it is clear that in the great days of Nineveh and Babylon those
capitals possessed a vast quantity of gold, and employed it in a host of
different ways. In the course of several centuries of war, victory, and
pillage, princes, officers, and soldiers had amassed enormous wealth by the
simple process of stripping the nations of Western Asia of every object of
value they possessed. These accumulations were continually added to, in the
case of Babylon, by the active commerce she carried on with the
mineral-producing countries, such as the Caucasus, Bactriana, India, and

There are some architectures--that of the Greeks for example--that preserve
a rare nobility even when deprived of their metal ornaments and
polychromatic decoration. The architects of Babylon and Nineveh were
differently situated. Deprived of metals some of their finest effects would
have been impossible. The latter could be used at will in flexible threads
or long, narrow bands, which could be nailed or riveted on to wood or
brick. They may be beaten with the hammer, shaped by the chisel, or
engraved by the burin; their surfaces may be either dead or polished; the
variety of shades of which they are capable, and the brilliance of their
reflections, are among the most valuable resources of the decorator, and
the colouring principles they contain provide the painter and enameller
with some of his richest and most solid tones. In Chaldæa the architect was
condemned by the _force majeure_ of circumstances to employ little more
than crude or burnt brick and bad timber; in Assyria he voluntarily
condemned himself to the limitations they imposed. By the skilful and
intelligent use of metals, he managed to overcome the resulting
disadvantages in some degree, and to mask under a sumptuous decoration of
gold, silver, and bronze, the deficiencies inherent in the material of
which his buildings were mainly composed.


[127] G. CURTIUS is of opinion that the word keramos, and consequently its
derivatives (kerameus, kerameia, kerameikê, &c.,) springs rather from a
root CRA, expressive of the idea to _cook_, than from the word kerannumi,
to mix, knead (_Grundzüge der Griechischen Etymologie_, p. 147, 5th

[128] See _Nahum_ iii. 14.

[129] Even these dimensions were sometimes passed. The Louvre possesses an
Assyrian brick rather more than 17-1/2 inches square. See DE LONGPERIER,
_Notice des Antiquités Assyriennes_ (3rd edition, 1854, 12mo), No. 44.

[130] VITRUVIUS, 1. ii. ch. 3.

[131] PLACE, _Ninive et l'Assyrie_, vol. i. p. 225. The vault of the
gallery discovered by LAYARD in the centre of the tower that occupied a
part of the mound of Nimroud was constructed in the same fashion.
_Discoveries in the Ruins of Nineveh and Babylon_, p. 126.

[132] PLACE, _Ninive et l'Assyrie_, vol. i. pp. 211-224.

[133] _Genesis_ xi. 3.

[134] LAYARD, _Discoveries_, pp. 506 and 531.

[135] See, for Chaldæa, LOFTUS, _Travels and Researches_, p. 133; and for
Assyria, PLACE, _Ninive et l'Assyrie_, vol. i. p. 250, and vol. ii. plates
38 and 39. As an example of the varieties of section presented by these
bricks, we may cite those found by M. de Sarzec in the ruins of Tello,
which belonged to a circular pillar. This pillar was composed of circular
bricks, placed in horizontal courses round a centre of the same material.
Elsewhere triangular bricks, which must have formed the angles of buildings
have been found. TAYLOR, _Notes on the Ruins of Mugheir_ (_Journal of the
Royal Asiatic Society_, vol. xv. p. 266). At Abou-Sharein, this same
traveller found convex-sided bricks (_Journal_, &c., vol. xv. p. 409).

[136] PLACE, _Ninive_, &c., vol. i. p. 233.

[137] Some of these fragments are in the Louvre. They are placed on the
ground in the Assyrian Gallery. Their forms are too irregular to be fitted
for reproduction here. But for the hollow in question, one might suppose
them to be mere shapeless boulders. LAYARD noticed similar remains among
the ruins of Babylon, _Discoveries_, &c., p. 528.

[138] M. OPPERT is even inclined to think that some of them came from the
peninsula of Sinai and the eastern shores of Egypt (_Revue Archéologique_,
vol. xlii. p. 272). The formation of the Arabian hills is not yet very well
known, and we are not in a position to say for certain whence these rocks
may have come. It seems probable however, that they might have been
obtained from certain districts of Arabia, from which they could be carried
without too great an effort to within reach of the canals fed by the
Euphrates, or of some port trading with the Persian Gulf.

[139] LAYARD, _Discoveries_, &c., p. 528.

[140] LAYARD, _Discoveries_, p. 116.

[141] HERODOTUS, i. 186. DIODORUS (ii. viii. 2), quoting Ctesias, speaks in
almost the same terms of this stone bridge, which he attributes to

[142] BOTTA, _Monuments de Ninive_, vol. v. p. 3.

[143] In the valley of the Khabour, the chief affluent of the Euphrates,
LAYARD found volcanoes whose activity seemed only to have been extinguished
at a very recent epoch. Long streams of lava projected from their sides
into the plain. _Discoveries_, p. 307.

[144] As for the simple and rapid nature of the process by which crude
bricks are manufactured to the present day in Persia, see TEXIER,
_L'Arménie et la Perse_, vol. ii. p. 64.

[145] As to the employment in Assyria of cedar from the Lebanon, see
FRANÇOIS LENORMANT, _Histoire Ancienne_, vol. ii. p. 191, and an
inscription of Sennacherib, translated by OPPERT, _Les Sargonides_, pp. 52,
53. Its use in Babylon is proved by several passages of the great text
known as the _Inscription of London_, in which Nebuchadnezzar recounts the
great works he had caused to be carried out in his capital (LENORMANT,
_Histoire_, vol. ii. pp. 228 and 233). We find this phrase among others, "I
used in the chamber of oracles the largest of the trees transported from
the summits of Lebanon." LAYARD (_Discoveries_, pp. 356-7) tells us that
one evening during the Nimroud excavations, his labourers lighted a fire to
dry themselves after a storm, which they fed with timbers taken from the
ruins. The smell of burning cedar, a perfume which so many Greek and Latin
poets have praised (_urit odoratam nocturna in lumina cedrum_, VIRGIL,
_Æneid_, vii. 13), apprised him of what was going on. In the British Museum
(Nimroud Gallery, Case A), fragments of recovered joists may be seen. They
are in such good preservation that they might be shaped and polished anew,
so as to again bring out the markings and the fine dark-yellow tone which
contributed not a little to make the wood so precious. It was sought both
for its agreeable appearance and its known solidity; and experience has
proved that the popular opinion which declared it incorruptible had some

[146] LAYARD, _Nineveh_, vol. i. p. 223, and vol. ii. pp. 415-418.

§ 2.--_The General Principles of Form._

If in our fancy we strip the buildings of Chaldæa and Assyria of all their
accessories, if we take from them their surface ornament and the salience
of their roofs, the bare edifice that remains is what geometricians call a
_rectangular parallelopiped_.

Of all the types created by this architecture, the only one of which we
still possess a few fairly well preserved examples is that of the palace.
It is therefore the best known of them all, and the first to excite
attention and study. Now, upon the artificial mound, the wide terrace, over
which its imposing mass is spread, the palace may be likened to a huge box
whose faces are all either horizontal or vertical (Plate V.). Even in the
many-storied temples, whose general aspect is modified of course to a great
extent by their height, the same element may be traced. We have endeavoured
to restore some of these by collating the descriptions of the ancient
writers with the remains that still exist in many parts of Mesopotamia
(Plates II., III., and IV.). Their general form may be described as the box
to which we have compared the palace repeated several times in vertical
succession, each box being rather smaller than the one below it. By these
means their builders proposed to give them an elevation approaching the
marvellous. The system was in some respects similar to that of the pyramid,
but the re-entering angles at each story gave them a very different
appearance, at least to one regarding them from a short distance. Only now
and then do we find any inclination like that of the sides of a pyramid,
and in those cases it applies to bases alone (Plate IV.). As a rule the
walls or external surfaces are perpendicular to their foundations.

We may, perhaps, explain the complete absence from Chaldæa of a system of
construction that was so universal in Egypt by the differences of climate
and of the materials used. Doubtless it rains less in Mesopotamia than even
in Italy or Greece. But rain is not, as in Upper Egypt, an almost unknown
phenomenon. The changes of the seasons are ushered in by storms of rain
that amount to little less than deluges.[147] Upon sloping walls of
dressed stone these torrents could beat without causing any great damage,
but where brick was used the inconveniences of such a slope would soon be
felt. Water does not fall so fast upon a slope as upon a perpendicular
wall, and a surface made up of comparatively thin bricks has many more
joints than one in which stones of any considerable size are employed. As a
rule the external faces of all important buildings were revetted with very
hard and well burnt bricks. But the rain, driven by the wind, might easily
penetrate through the joints and spread at will through the core of mere
sun-dried bricks within. The verticality of Assyrian and Chaldæan walls was
necessary, therefore, for their preservation. Without it the thin covering
of burnt brick would have been unable to do its proper work of protecting
the softer material within, and the sudden storms by which the plains were
now and again half drowned, would have been far more hurtful than they

The Chaldæan palace, like the Egyptian temple, sought mainly for lateral
development. Its extent far surpassed its elevation, and horizontal lines
predominated in its general physiognomy. There was here a latent harmony
between the architecture of nature and that of man, between the great
plains of Mesopotamia, with their distant horizons, and the long walls,
broken only by their crenellated summits, of the temples and palaces. There
must, however, have been a certain want of relief, of visibility, in
edifices conceived on such lines and built in such a country.

This latter defect was obvious to the Mesopotamians themselves, who raised
the dwellings of their gods and kings upon an artificial mound with a
carefully paved summit.[148] Upon this summit the structure properly
speaking rested, so that, in Chaldæa, the foundations of a great building
instead of being, as elsewhere, sunk beneath the soil, stand so high above
it that the ground line of the palace or temple to which they belong rises
above the plain to a height that leaves the roofs of ordinary houses and
even the summits of the tallest palms far below. This arrangement gave a
clearer salience and a more imposing mass to structures which would
otherwise, on account of their monotony of line and the vast excess of
their horizontal over their vertical development, have had but little

[Illustration: FIG. 34.--Temple; from a Kouyundjik bas-relief. Rawlinson,
vol. i. p. 314.]

Such an arrangement would appear superfluous in the case of those towers in
the shape of stepped pyramids, whose summits could be carried above the
plain to any fanciful height by the simple process of adding story to
story. But the Mesopotamian constructor went upon the same system as in the
case of his palaces. It was well in any case to interpose a dense, firm,
and dry mass between the wet and often shifting soil and the building, and
to afford a base which by its size and solidity should protect the great
accumulation of material that was to be placed upon it from injury through
any settling in the foundations. Moreover, the paved esplanade had its
place in the general economy. It formed a spacious court about the temple,
a sacred _temenos_ as the Greeks would have called it, a _haram_ as a
modern Oriental would say. It could be peopled with statues and decorated
with mystic emblems; religious processions could be marshalled within its

[Illustration: FIG. 35.--Tell-Ede, in Lower Chaldæa. From Rawlinson's _Five
Great Monarchies_.]

The general, we may almost say the invariable, rule in Mesopotamia was that
every structure of a certain importance should be thus borne on an
artificial hill. An examination of the ruins themselves and of the
monuments figured upon the bas-reliefs shows us that these substructures
did not always have the same form. Their faces were sometimes vertical,
sometimes inclined; sometimes again they presented a gentle outward curve
(see Fig. 34); but these purely external differences did not affect the
principle. In all the river basins of Mesopotamia, whether of the
Euphrates, the Tigris, or the smallest affluents of the Persian Gulf,
whenever you see one of these _tells_, or isolated mounds, standing above
the general surface of the plain, you may be sure that if you drive a
trench into it you will come upon those courses of crude brick that
proclaim its artificial origin. Rounded by natural disintegration and
scarred by the rain torrents, such a hillock is apt to deceive the
thoughtless or ignorant traveller, but an instructed explorer knows at a
glance that many centuries ago it bore on its summit a temple, a fortress,
or some royal or lordly habitation (Fig. 35).

The distinguishing feature of the staged towers is their striving after the
greatest possible elevation. It is true that neither from Herodotus nor
Diodorus do we get any definite statements as to the height of the most
famous of these monuments, the temple of Belus at Babylon;[149] Strabo
alone talks of a stade (616 feet), and it may be asked on what authority he
gives that measurement, which has been freely treated as an exaggeration.
In any case we may test it to a certain extent by examining the largest and
best preserved of the artificial hills of which we have spoken,[150] and we
must remember that all the writers of antiquity are unanimous in asserting
its prodigious height.[151] We run small risk of exaggeration, therefore,
in saying that some of these Chaldæan temples were much taller than the
highest of the Gizeh Pyramids. Their general physiognomy was the reverse of
that of the Mesopotamian palaces, but it was no less the result of the
natural configuration of the country. Their architect sought to find his
effect in contrast; he endeavoured to impress the spectator by the strong,
not to say violent, opposition between their soaring lines and the infinite
horizon of the plain. Such towers erected in a hilly country like Greece
would have looked much smaller. There, they would have had for close
neighbours sometimes high mountains and always boldly contoured hills and
rocks; however far up into the skies their summits might be carried, they
would still be dominated on one side or the other. Involuntarily the eye
demands from nature the same scale of proportions as are suggested by the
works of man. Where these are chiefly remarkable for their height, much of
their effect will be destroyed by the proximity of such hills as
Acrocorinthus or Lycabettus, to say nothing of Taygetus or Parnassus.

It is quite otherwise when the surface of the country stretches away on
every side with the continuity and flatness of a lake. In these days none
of the great buildings to which we have been alluding have preserved more
than a half of their original height;[152] all that remains is a formless
mass encumbered with heaps of _débris_ at its foot, and yet, as every
traveller in the country has remarked, these ruined monuments have an
extraordinary effect upon the general appearance of the country. They give
an impression of far greater height than they really possess (Fig. 36). At
certain hours of the day, we are told, this illusion is very strong: in the
early morning when the base of the mound is lost in circling vapours and
its summit alone stands up into the clear sky above and receives the first
rays of the sun; and in the evening, when the whole mass rises in solid
shadow against the red and gold of the western sky. At these times it is
easy to comprehend the ideas by which the Chaldæan architect was animated
when he created the type of these many-storied towers and scattered them
with such profusion over the whole face of the country. The chief want of
his land was the picturesque variety given by accidents of the ground to
its nearest neighbours, a want he endeavoured to conceal by substituting
these pyramidal temples, these lofty pagodas, as we are tempted to call
them, for the gentle slopes and craggy peaks that are so plentiful beyond
the borders of Chaldæa. By their conspicuous elevation, and the enormous
expenditure of labour they implied, they were meant to break the uniformity
of the great plains that lay about them; at the same time, they would
astonish contemporary travellers and even that remote posterity for whom no
more than a shapeless heap of ruins would be left. They would do more than
all the writings of all the historians to celebrate the power and genius of
the race that dared thus to correct and complete the work of nature.

[Illustration: FIG. 36.--Haman, in Lower Chaldæa. From Loftus.]

When the king and his architect had finished one of these structures, they
might calculate upon an infinite duration for it without any great
presumption, and that partly because Chaldæan art, even when most ambitious
and enterprising, never made use of any but the simplest means. The arch
was in more frequent use than in Egypt, but it hardly seems to have been
employed in buildings to which any great height was to be given. Scarcely a
trace of it is to be discovered either in the parts preserved of these
structures or in their sculptured representations. None of those light and
graceful methods of construction that charm and excite the eye, but must be
paid for by a certain loss of stability, are to be found here. Straight
lines are the inflexible rule. The few arches that may be discovered in the
interior exercise no thrust, surrounded as they are on every side by
weighty masses. In theory the equilibrium is perfect; and if, as the event
has proved, the conditions of stability, or at least of duration, were less
favourable than in the pyramids at Memphis or in the temples at Thebes, the
fault lies with the inherent vices of the material used and with the
comparatively unfavourable climate.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the absence of stone the Chaldæan builder was shut off from many of the
most convenient methods of covering, and therefore of multiplying, voids.
Speaking generally, we may say that he employed neither _piers_, nor
_columns_, nor those beams of limestone, sandstone, or granite, which we
know as _architraves_; he was, therefore, ignorant of the _portico_, and
never found himself driven by artistic necessities to those ingenious,
delicate, and learned efforts of invention by which the Egyptians and
Greeks arrived at what we call _orders_. This term is well understood. By
it we mean supports of which the principal parts, base, shaft, and capital,
have certain constant and closely defined mutual relations. Like a
zoological species, each order has a distinctive character and personal
physiognomy of its own. An art that is deprived of such a resource is
condemned to a real inferiority. It may cover every surface with the luxury
of a sumptuous decoration, but, in spite of all its efforts, a secret
poverty, a want of genius and invention, will be visible in its creations.

The varied arrangements of the portico suggested the _hypostyle hall_, with
all the picturesque developments it has undergone at the hands of the
Egyptians, the Greeks, the Romans, and the people of modern Europe. In
their ignorance of the pier and column, the Chaldæans were unable to give
their buildings those spacious galleries and chambers which delight the eye
while they diminish the actual mass of a building. Their towers were
artificial mountains, almost as solid and massive from base to summit as
the natural hills from which their lines were taken.[153] A few small
apartments were contrived within them, near their outer edges, that might
fairly be compared to caves hollowed in the face of a cliff. The weight
upon the lower stories and the substructure was therefore enormous, even to
the point of threatening destruction by sheer pulverisation. The whole
interior was composed of crude brick, and if, as is generally supposed,
those bricks were put in place before the process of desiccation was
complete, the shrinkage resulting from its continuance must have had a bad
effect upon the structure as a whole, especially as the position of the
courses and the more or less favourable aspects of the different external
faces must have caused a certain inequality in the rate at which that
operation went on. The resistance would not be the same at all points, and
settlements would occur by which the equilibrium of the upper stages might
be compromised and the destruction of the whole building prepared.

Another danger lay in the violence of the sudden storms and the diluvial
character of the winter rains. Doubtless the outsides of the walls were
faced with well burnt bricks, carefully set, and often coated with an
impenetrable enamel; but an inclined plane of a more or less gentle
gradient wound from base to summit to give access to the latter. When a
storm burst upon one of these towers, this plane became in a moment the bed
of a torrent, for its outer edge would, of course, be protected by a low
wall. The water would pour like a river over the sloping pavement and
strike violently against each angle. Whether it were allowed to flow over
the edges of the inclined plane or, as seems more probable, directed in its
course so as to sweep it from top to bottom, it must in either case have
caused damage requiring continual watchfulness and frequent repairs. If
this watchfulness were remitted for an instant, some of the external burnt
and enamelled bricks might become detached and leave a gap through which
the water could penetrate to the soft core within, and set up a process of
disintegration which would become more actively mischievous with every year
that passed. The present appearance of these ruins is thus, to a great
extent, to be explained. Travellers in the country agree in describing them
as irregular mounds, deeply seamed by the rains; and the sides against
which the storms and waterspouts that devastate Mesopotamia would chiefly
spend their force are those on which the damage is most conspicuous (see
Fig. 37).

Even in antique times these buildings had suffered greatly. In Egypt, when
the supreme power had passed, after one of those periods of decay that were
by no means infrequent in her long career, into the hands of an energetic
race of princes like those of the eighteenth or twenty-sixth dynasties, all
traces of damage done to the public monuments by neglect or violence were
rapidly effaced. The pyramids could take care of themselves. They had seen
the plains at their feet covered again and again with hordes of barbarians,
and yet had lost not an inch of their height or a stone of their polished
cuirass. Even in the temples the setting up of a few fallen columns, the
reworking of a few bas-reliefs, the restoration of a painting here and
there, was all that was necessary to bring back their former splendour.

[Illustration: FIG. 37.--Babil, at Babylon. From Oppert.]

In Chaldæa the work undertaken by Nabopolassar and his dynasty was far more
arduous. He had to rebuild nearly all the civil and religious buildings
from their foundations, to undertake, as we know from more than one text, a
general reconstruction.[154] A new Babylon was reared from the ground.
Little of her former monuments remained but their foundations and
materials. Temples richer than the first rose upon the lofty mounds, and,
for the sake of speed, were often built of the old bricks, upon which
appeared the names of forgotten kings. Nothing was neglected, no expense
was spared by which the solidity of the new buildings could be increased,
and yet, five or six centuries afterwards, nothing was left but ruins.
Herodotus seems to have seen the great temple of Bel while it was still
practically intact, but Diodorus speaks of it as an edifice "which time had
caused to fall,"[155] and he adds that "writers are not in accord in what
they say about this temple, so that it is impossible for us to make sure
what its real dimensions were." It would seem, therefore, that the upper
stories had fallen long before the age of Augustus. Even Ctesias, perhaps,
who is Diodorus's constant guide in all that he writes on the subject of
Chaldæa and Assyria, never saw the monument in its integrity. In any case,
the building was a complete ruin in the time of Strabo. "The tomb of
Belus," says that accurate and well-informed geographer, "is now
destroyed."[156] Strabo, like Diodorus, attributes the destruction of these
buildings partly to time, partly to the avenging violence of the Persians,
who, irritated by the never-ending revolts of Babylon, ruined the proudest
and most famous of her temples as a punishment. That the sanctuary was
pillaged by the Persians under Xerxes, as Strabo affirms, is probable
enough, but we have some difficulty in believing that they troubled
themselves to destroy the building itself.[157] The effort would have been
too great, and, in view of the slow but sure action of the elements upon
its substance, it would have been labour thrown away. The destruction of an
Egyptian monument required a desperate and long continued attack, it had to
be deliberately murdered, if we may use such a phrase, but the buildings of
Mesopotamia, with their thin cuirasses of burnt brick and their soft
bodies, required the care of an architect to keep them standing, we might
say of a doctor to keep them alive, to watch over them day by day, and to
stop every wound through which the weather could reach their vulnerable
parts. Abandoned to themselves they would soon have died, and died natural

Materials and a system of construction such as those we have described
could only result, in a close style of architecture, in a style in which
the voids bore but a very small proportion to the solids. And such a style
was well suited to the climate. In the long and burning summers of
Mesopotamia the inhabitants freely exchanged light for coolness. With few
and narrow openings and thick walls the temperature of their dwellings
could be kept far lower than that of the torrid atmosphere without.[158]
Thus we find in the Ninevite palaces outer walls of from fifteen to
five-and-twenty feet in thickness. It would have been very difficult to
contrive windows through such masses as that, and they would when made have
given but a feeble light. The difficulty was frankly met by discarding the
use of any openings but the doors and skylights cut in the roofs. The
window proper was almost unknown. We can hardly point to an instance of its
use, either among Assyrian or Chaldæan remains, or in the representations
of them in the bas-reliefs. Here and there we find openings in the upper
stories of towers, but they are loop-holes rather than windows (Fig.

[Illustration: FIG. 38.--A Fortress. From Layard.]

At first we are inclined to pity kings shut up within such blind walls as
these. But we must not be betrayed into believing that they took no
measures to enjoy the evening breeze, or to cast their eyes over the broad
plains at their feet, over the cities that lay under the shadows of the
lofty mounds upon which their palaces were built. At certain times of the
year and day they would retire within the shelter of their thickest walls
and roofs; just as at the present moment the inhabitants of Mossoul,
Bassorah, and Bagdad, take refuge within their _serdabs_ as soon as the sun
is a little high in the heavens, and stay there until the approach of

When the heat was less suffocating the courtyards would be pleasant, with
their encircling porticoes sustaining a light covering inclined towards the
centre, an arrangement required by the climate, and one which is to be
found both at Pompeii and in the Arab houses of Damascus, and is sure to
have been adopted by the inhabitants of ancient Chaldæa. Additional space
was given by the wide esplanades in front of the doors, and by the flat
roofs, upon which sleep was often more successfully wooed than in the rooms
below. And sometimes the pleasures given by refreshing breezes, cool
shadows, and a distant prospect could be all enjoyed together, for in a
certain bas-relief that seems to represent one of those great buildings of
which we possess the ruins, we see an open arcade--a _loggia_ as it would
be called in Italy--rise above the roof for the whole length of the façade
(Fig. 39).[161] There are houses in the neighbourhood of Mossoul in which a
similar arrangement is to be met with, as we may see from Mr. Layard's
sketch of a house in a village of Kurdistan inhabited by Nestorians (Fig.
40). It includes a modified kind of portico, the pillars of which are
suggested or rather demanded by the necessity for supporting the ceiling.

[Illustration: FIG. 39.--View of a Town and its Palaces. Kouyundjik. From

Supposing such an arrangement to have obtained in Mesopotamia, of what
material were the piers or columns composed? Had they been of stone their
remains would surely have been found among the ruins; but no such things
have ever come to light, so we may conclude that they were of timber or
brick; the roof, at least, must have been wood. The joints may have been
covered with protecting plates of metal by which their duration was
assured. We have a curious example of the use of these bronze sheaths in
the remains of gilded palm-trees found by M. Place in front of the _harem_
at Khorsabad. He there encountered a cedar trunk lying upon the ground and
incased in a brass coat on which all the roughnesses of cedar bark were
imitated. The leaves of doors were also protected by metallic bands, which
were often decorated with bas-reliefs.

[Illustration: FIG. 40.--House in Kurdistan; from Layard.]

Must we conclude that stone columns were unknown in Chaldæa and Assyria? As
for Chaldæa, we have no positive information in the matter, but we know
that she had no building stone of her own. The Chaldæan sculptor might
indeed import a few blocks of diorite or basalt, either from Arabia, Egypt,
or the valleys of Mount Zagros, for use in statues which would justify such
expense; but the architect must have been restricted to the use of material
close at hand. In Assyria limestone was always within reach, and yet the
Assyrians never succeeded in freeing themselves from traditional methods
sufficiently to make the column play a part similar to that assigned to it
by the peoples of Egypt and Greece. Their habits, and especially the habit
of respect for the practices and traditions of Chaldæa, were too strong for
them. Their use of the column, though often tasteful and happy, is never
without a certain timidity. One is inclined to think they had an inkling of
the possibilities latent in it, but that they lacked the courage necessary
to give it full play in the interiors and upon the façades of their large
palaces and towers. In the bas-reliefs we find columns used in the kiosques
built upon the river banks (Fig. 41), and in the pavilions or chapels
studded over the royal gardens (Fig. 42). The excavations, moreover, have
yielded pedestals and capitals which, rare as they are, have a double claim
to our regard. The situations in which they have been discovered seem to
show that columns were sometimes used in front of doorways, to support
porches or covered ways extending to the full limits of the esplanade;
secondly, their forms themselves are interesting. Close study will convince
us that, when copied by neighbouring peoples who made frequent and general
use of stone supports, they might well have exercised an influence that
was felt as far as the Ægæan, and had something to do with one of the
fairest creations of Greek art.

We thus catch side glimpses of the column, as it were, in small buildings,
in the porches before the principal doors of palaces, and in the open
galleries with which some of the latter buildings were crowned (Fig. 39).
In all these cases it is nothing but a more or less elegant accessory; we
might if we pleased give a sufficiently full description of Mesopotamian
architecture without hinting at its existence.

[Illustration: FIG. 41.--Temple on the bank of a river, Khorsabad; from

We cannot say the same of the arch, which played a much more important
_rôle_ than it did in Egypt. There it was banished, as we have seen, to the
secondary parts of an edifice. It hardly entered into the composition of
the nobler class of buildings; it was used mainly in store-rooms built near
the temples, in the gateways through the outer walls of tombs, and in
underground cellars and passages.[162] In Mesopotamia, on the other hand,
the arch is one of the real constituent elements of the national

[Illustration: FIG. 42.--Temple in a Royal Park, Kouyundjik; from the
British Museum.]

That the Chaldæan architects were early led to the invention of the arch is
easily understood. They were unable to support the upper parts of their
walls, their ceilings or their roofs, upon beams of stone or timber, and
they had to devise some other means of arriving at the desired result. This
means was not matured all at once. With most peoples the first stage
consisted probably in those corbels or off-sets by which the width of the
space to be covered was reduced course by course, till a junction was
effected at the top; and sometimes this early stage may have been dispensed
with. In some cases, the workman who had to cover a narrow void with small
units of construction may, in trying them in various positions and
combinations, have hit upon the real principle of the arch. This principle
must everywhere have been discovered more or less accidentally; in one
place the accident may have come sooner than in another, and here it may
have been turned to more profit than there. We shall have to describe and
explain these differences at each stage of our journey through the art
history of antiquity, but we may at once state the general law that our
studies and comparisons will bring to light. The arch was soonest
discovered and most invariably employed by those builders who found
themselves condemned, by the geological formation of their country, to the
employment of the smallest units.

The Chaldæans were among those builders, and they made frequent use of the
arch. They built no long arcades with piers or columns for supports, like
those of the Romans, and that simply because such structures would have
been contrary to the general principles of their architecture. They made no
use, as we have already explained, of those isolated supports whose
employment resulted in the hypostyle halls of Egypt and Persia, in the
naves of Greek temples and Latin basilicas. The want of stone put any such
arrangement out of the question. We have, then, no reason to believe that
their arches ever rested upon piers or upon the solid parts of walls freely
pierced for the admission of light. The type from which the modern east has
evolved so many fine mosques and churches was unknown in Chaldæa. In every
building of which we possess either the remains or the figured
representation the archivolts rest upon thick and solid walls.

Under these conditions the vault was supreme in certain parts of the
building. Its use was there so constant as to have almost the character of
an unvarying law. Every palace was pierced in its substructure by drains
that carried the rain water and the general waste from the large population
by which it was inhabited down into the neighbouring river, and nearly all
these drains were vaulted. And it must not be supposed that the architect
deliberately hid his vaults and arches, or that he only used them in those
parts of his buildings where they were concealed and lost in their
surroundings; they occur, also, upon the most careful and elaborate
façades. The gates of cities, of palaces and temples, of most buildings, in
fact, that have any monumental character, are crowned by an arch, the curve
of which is accentuated by a brilliantly coloured soffit. This arch is
continued as a barrel vault for the whole length of the passage leading
into the interior, and these passages are sometimes very long. Vaults would
also, in all probability, have been found over those narrow chambers that
are so numerous in Assyrian palaces were it not for the universal ruin that
has overtaken their superstructures. Finally, certain square rooms have
been discovered which must have been covered with vaults in the shape of
more or less flattened domes.

[Illustration: FIG. 43.--View of a group of buildings; Kouyundjik; from

We must here call attention to the importance of a bas-relief belonging to
the curious series of carved pictures in which Sennacherib caused the
erection of his palace at Nineveh to be commemorated. Look well at this
group of buildings, which seems to rise upon a platform at the foot of a
hill shaded with cypresses and fruit-laden vines (see Fig. 43). The
buildings on the right have flat roofs, those on the left, and they seem
the most important, have, some hemispherical cupolas, and some tall domes
approaching cones in shape. These same forms are still in use over all that
country, not only for public buildings like baths and mosques, but even
here and there for the humblest domestic structures. Travellers have been
often surprised at encountering, in many of the villages of Upper Syria
and Mesopotamia, peasants' houses with sugar-loaf roofs like these.[163]

We need not here go further into details upon this point. In these general
and introductory remarks we have endeavoured to point out as concisely as
possible how the salient characteristics of Assyrian architecture are to be
explained by the configuration of the country, by the nature of the
materials at hand, and by the climate with which the architect had to
reckon. It was to these conditions that the originality of the system was
due; that the solids were so greatly in excess over the voids, and the
lateral over the vertical measurements of a building. In this latter
respect the buildings of Mesopotamia leave those of all other countries,
even of Egypt, far behind. They were carried, too, to an extraordinary
height without any effort to give the upper part greater lightness than the
substructure; both were equally solid and massive. Finally, the nature of
the elements of which Mesopotamian architects could dispose was such that
the desire for elegance and beauty had to be satisfied by a superficial
system of decoration, by paint and carved slabs laid on to the surface of
the walls. Beauty unadorned was beyond their reach, and their works may be
compared to women whose attractions lie in the richness of their dress and
the multitude of their jewels.


[147] OPPERT (_Expédition scientifique_, vol. i. p. 86) gives a description
of one of these storms that he encountered in the neighbourhood of Bagdad
on the 26th of May.

[148] LAYARD, _Nineveh and its Remains_, vol. ii. p. 119. When one of these
mounds is attacked from the top, the excavators must work downwards until
they come to this paved platform. As soon as it is reached no greater depth
need be attempted; all attention is then given to driving lateral trenches
in every direction. In Assyria the mass of crude bricks sometimes rests
upon a core of rock which has been utilized to save time and labour
(LAYARD, _Discoveries_, &c., p. 219).

[149] See HERODOTUS, i. 181-184; and DIODORUS, ii. 9.

[150] By such means M. OPPERT arrives at a height of 250 Babylonian feet,
or about 262 feet English for the monument now represented by the mound in
the neighbourhood of Babylon known as Birs-Nimroud. _Expédition
scientifique de Mésopotamie_, vol. i. pp. 205-209, and plate 8.

[151] Homologeitai d' hupsêlon gegenêsthai kath' huperbolên.--DIODORUS, ii.
9, 4.

[152] The mound called Babil on the site of Babylon (Plate I. and Fig. 37)
is now about 135 feet high, but the Birs-Nimroud, the highest of these
ruins, has still an elevation of not less than 220 feet (LAYARD,
_Discoveries_, p. 495).

[153] See LAYARD'S account of his excavation in the interior of the
pyramidal ruin occupying a part of the platform which now surmounts the
mound of Nimroud. From two sides trenches were cut to the centre; neither
of them encountered a void of any kind (_Nineveh and its Remains_, vol. ii.
p. 107). At a later period further trenches were cut and the rest of the
building explored (_Discoveries_, pp. 123-129). The only void of which any
trace could be found was a narrow, vaulted gallery, about 100 feet long, 6
wide, and 12 high. It was closed at both ends, and appeared never to have
had any means of access from without.

[154] See LENORMANT, _Histoire Ancienne_, vol. ii. pp. 228 and 233.
Translations of several texts in which these restorations are spoken of are
here given.

[155] tou kataskeuasmatos dia tou chronou diapeptôkotos (ii. 9, 4).

[156] STRABO, xvi. 5.

[157] DIODORUS, after describing the treasures of the temple, confines
himself to saying generally, "all this was afterwards spoiled by the king
of Persia" (ii. 9, 19).

[158] According to the personal experience of M. Place, the ancient
arrangements were more suited to the climate of this country than the
modern ones that have taken their place. The overpowering heat from which
the inhabitants of modern Mossoul suffer so greatly is largely owing to the
unintelligent employment of stone and plaster in the construction of
dwellings. During his stay in that town the thermometer sometimes rose, in
his apartments, to 51° Centigrade (90° Fahrenheit). The mean temperature of
a summer's day was from 40° to 42° Centigrade (from 72° to about 76°

[159] See LAYARD, _Monuments of Nineveh_, 2nd series, plates 21 and 40.

[160] The _serdab_ is a kind of cellar, the walls and floor of which are
drenched periodically with water, which, by its evaporation, lowers the
temperature by several degrees.

[161] The town represented on the sculptured slab here reproduced is not
Assyrian but Phoenician; it affords data, however, which may be
legitimately used in the restoration of the upper part of an Assyrian
palace. We can hardly believe that the Mesopotamian artists, in
illustrating the wars of the Assyrian kings, copied servilely the real
features of the conquered towns. They had no sketches by "special artists"
to guide their chisels. They were told that a successful campaign had been
fought in the marshes of the lower Euphrates, or in some country covered
with forests of date trees, and these they had no difficulty in
representing because they had examples before their eyes; so too, when
buildings were in question, we may fairly conclude that they borrowed their
motives from the architecture with which they were familiar.

[162] See the _History of Art in Ancient Egypt_, vol. ii. pp. 77-84.

[163] LAYARD, _Discoveries_, p. 112; GEO. SMITH, _Assyrian Discoveries_, p.

§ 3.--_Construction._

As might have been expected nothing that can be called a structure of
dressed stone has been discovered in Chaldæa;[164] in Assyria alone have
some examples been found. Of these the most interesting, and the most
carefully studied and described are the walls of Sargon's palace at

Even there stone was only employed to case the walls in which the mound was
inclosed--a cuirass of large blocks carefully dressed and fixed seemed to
give solidity to the mass, and at the same time we know by the arrangement
of the blocks that the outward appearance of the wall was by no means lost
sight of. All those of a single course were of one height but of different
depths and widths, and the arrangement followed a regular order like that
shown in Fig. 46. Their external face was carefully dressed.[165]

[Illustration: FIG. 44.--Plan of angle, Khorsabad; from Place.]

[Illustration: FIG. 45.--Section of wall through AB in Fig. 44; from

The courses consist, on plan, of "stretchers" and "headers." We borrow from
Place the plan of an angle (Fig. 44), a section (Fig. 45), and an elevation
(Fig. 46). Courses are always horizontal and joints properly bound. The
freestone blocks at the foot of the wall are very large. The stretchers are
six feet eight inches thick, the same wide, and nine feet long. They weigh
about twenty-three tons. It is astonishing to find the Assyrians, who were
very rapid builders, choosing such heavy and unmanageable materials.

The supporting wall became gradually thinner towards the top, each course
being slightly set back from the one below it on the inner face (see Fig.
45). This arrangement is general with these retaining-walls. The average
diminution is from seven to ten feet at the base, to from three to six at
the top.

The constructor showed no less skill in the use he made of his stretchers
and headers. They not only gave him an opportunity of safely diminishing
the weight of his structure and economising his materials, they afforded a
ready means of adapting his wall exactly to the work it had to do. The
headers penetrated farther into the crude mass within than the stretchers,
and gave to the junction of the two surfaces a solidity similar to that
derived by a wall from its through stones or perpenders.

[Illustration: FIG. 46.--Elevation of wall, Khorsabad; from Place.]

In describing this wall, M. Place also calls attention to the care with
which the angles are built. "The first course," he says, "is composed of
three 'headers' with their shortest side outwards and their length engaged
in the mass behind. Two of these stones lie parallel to each other, the
third crosses their inner extremities."[166] Thanks to this ingenious
arrangement, the weakest and most exposed part of the wall is capable of
resisting any attack.

The surface in contact with the core of crude brick was only roughly
dressed, by which means additional cohesion was given to the junction of
the two materials; but the other sides were carefully worked and squared
and fixed in place by simple juxtaposition. The architect calculated upon
sufficient solidity being given by the mere weight of the stones and the
perfection of their surfaces.[167]

[Illustration: FIG. 47.--Section in perspective through the south-western
part of Sargon's palace at Khorsabad; compiled from Place.]

The total height of this Khorsabad wall was sixty feet--nine feet for the
foundations, forty-six for the retaining-wall, and five for the parapet,
for the wall did not stop at the level of the roofs. A row of battlements
was thought necessary both as a slight fortification and as an
ornament.[168] These were finished at the top with open crenellations in
brick, along the base of which ran apparently a frieze of painted rosettes.
A reference to our Fig. 47 will explain all these arrangements better than
words. It is a bird's-eye view in perspective of the south-western part of
the palace. The vertical sections on the right of the engraving show how
the stones were bonded to the crude brick. The crenellations are omitted
here, but they may be seen in place on the left.

The great size of the stones and the regularity of the masonry, the height
of the wall and the long line of battlements with which it was crowned, the
contrast between the brilliant whiteness of its main surface and the bright
colours of the painted frieze that, we have supposed, defined its
summit--all this made up a composition simple enough, but by no means
devoid of beauty and grandeur.

In the _enceinte_ surrounding the town, stone was also employed, but in a
rather different fashion. It was used to give strength to the foot of the
wall, which consisted of a limestone plinth nearly four feet high,
surmounted by a mass of crude brick, rising to a total height of about
forty-four feet. Its thickness was eighty feet. The bed of stone upon which
the brick rested was made up of two retaining walls with a core of rubble.
In the former, large blocks, carefully dressed and fixed, were used; in the
latter, pieces of broken stone thrown together pell-mell, except towards
the top, where they were so placed as to present a smooth surface, upon
which the first courses of brick could safely rest.[169]

When Xenophon crossed Assyria with the "ten thousand," he noticed this
method of constructing city walls, but in all the _enceintes_ that
attracted his attention, the height of the plinth was much greater than
that of Khorsabad. At Larissa it was twenty, and at Mespila fifty feet, or
respectively a fifth and a third of the total height of the walls.[170]
These figures can only be looked upon as approximate. The Greeks did not
amuse themselves, we may be sure, with measuring the monuments they
encountered on their march, even if Tissaphernes gave them time. But we may
fairly conclude from this evidence that in some of the Assyrian town-walls
the proportion between the plinth and the superstructure was very different
from what it is in the only example that has come down to us.

At Khorsabad, then, stone played a much more important part in the palace
wall than in that of the town, but even in the latter position it is used
with skill and in no inconsiderable quantity; on the other hand, it is only
employed in the interior of the palace for paving, for lining walls, for
the bases, shafts and capitals of columns, and such minor purposes. In the
only palace that has been completely excavated, that of Sargon at
Khorsabad, everything is built of brick. Layard alone speaks of a
stone-built chamber in the palace of Sennacherib at Kouyundjik, but he
gives no details.

It would seem as if the Assyrians were content with showing themselves
passed-masters in the art of dressing and fixing stone, and, that proof
given, had never cared to make use of the material in the main structures
of their buildings. Like the Chaldæans, they preferred brick, into the
management of which, however, they introduced certain modifications of
their own. The crude brick of Nineveh and its neighbourhood was used while
damp, and, when put in place, did not greatly differ from pisé.[171] Spread
out in wide horizontal courses, the slabs of soft clay adhered one to
another by their plasticity, through the effect of the water with which
they were impregnated and that of the pressure exercised by the courses
above.[172] The building was thus, in effect, nothing but a single huge
block. Take it as a whole, put aside certain parts, such as the doorways
and drains, that were constructed on rather different principles, shut your
eyes to the merely decorative additions, and you will have a huge mass of
kneaded earth which might have been shaped by giants in a colossal mould.

The masons of Babylon and of other southern cities made a much more
extensive use of burnt brick than those of the north. In Assyria the masses
of pisé have as a rule no other covering than the slabs of alabaster and
limestone, and above, a thin layer of stucco. In Chaldæa the crude walls of
the houses and towers were cuirassed with those excellent burnt bricks
which the inhabitants of Bagdad and Hillah carry off to this day for use in
their modern habitations.[173] The crude bricks used behind this protecting
epidermis have not lost their individuality, as at Nineveh they seem to
have been used only after complete dessication. They are of course much
more friable than those burnt in the kiln; when they are deprived of their
cuirass and exposed to the weather they return slowly to the condition of
dust, and their remains are seen in the sloping mounds that hide the foot
of every ancient ruin (see Fig. 48), and yet if you penetrate into the
interior of a mass built of these bricks, you will easily distinguish the
courses, and in some instances the bricks have sufficient solidity to allow
of their being moved and detached one from another. They are, in fact,
bricks, and not pisé. But in Chaldæa, as in Assyria, the mounds upon which
the great buildings were raised are not always of crude brick. They are
sometimes made by inclosing a large space by four brick walls, and filling
it with earth and the various _débris_ left by previous buildings.[174] Our
remarks upon construction must be understood as applying to the buildings
themselves, and not to the artificial hills upon which they stood.

[Illustration: FIG. 48.--Temple at Mugheir; from Loftus.]

The Assyrians seem never to have used anything analogous to our mortar or
cement in fixing their materials. On the comparatively rare occasions when
they employed stone they were content with dressing their blocks with great
care and putting them in absolute juxtaposition with one another. When they
used crude brick, sufficient adherence was insured by the moisture left in
the clay, and by its natural properties. Even when they used burnt or well
dried bricks they took no great care to give them a cohesion that would
last, ordinary clay mixed with water and a little straw, was their only
cement.[175] Even in our own day the masons and bricklayers of Mossoul and
Bagdad are content with the same simple materials, and their structures
have no great solidity in consequence.

In Chaldæa, at least in certain times and at certain places, construction
was more careful. In the ruin known as _Babil_, a ruin that represents
one of the principal monuments of ancient Babylon, there is nothing between
the bricks but earth that must have been placed there in the condition of
mud.[176] These bricks may be detached almost without effort. It is quite
otherwise with the two other ruins in the same neighbourhood, called
respectively _Kasr_ and _Birs-Nimroud_. Their bricks are held together by
an excellent mortar of lime, and cannot be separated without breaking.[177]
Elsewhere, at Mugheir for instance, the mortar is composed of lime and

[Illustration: PLATE I. BABYLON


Finally, the soil of Mesopotamia furnished, and still furnishes, a kind of
natural mortar in the bituminous fountains that spring through the soil at
more than one point between Mossoul and Bagdad.[179] It is hardly ever used
in these days except in boatbuilding, for coating the planks and caulking.
In ancient times its employment was very general in the more carefully
constructed buildings, and, as it was found neither in Greece nor Syria, it
made a great impression upon travellers from those countries. They noted it
as one of the characteristics of Chaldæan civilization. In the Biblical
account of the Tower of Babel we are told: "They had brick for stone, and
slime had they for mortar."[180] Herodotus lays stress upon the same detail
in his description of the way in which the walls of Babylon were built: "As
they dug the ditches they converted the excavated earth into bricks, and
when they had enough, they burnt them in the kiln. Finally, for mortar they
used hot bitumen, and at every thirty courses of bricks they put a layer of
reeds interlaced."[181]

Those walls have long ago disappeared. For many centuries their ruins
afforded building materials for the inhabitants of the cities that have
succeeded each other upon and around the site of ancient Babylon, and now
their lines are only to be faintly traced in slight undulations of the
ground, which are here and there hardly distinguishable from the banks
that bordered the canals. But in those deserts of Lower Chaldæa, where the
nomad tent is now almost the only dwelling, structures have been found but
little damaged, in which layers of reeds placed at certain intervals among
the bricks may be easily distinguished. As a rule three or four layers are
strewn one upon the other, the rushes in one being at right angles to those
above and below it. Here and there the stalks may still be seen standing
out from the wall.[182] Fragments of bitumen are everywhere to be picked up
among the _débris_ about these buildings, upon which it must have been used
for mortar. It never seems to have been employed, however, over the whole
of a building, but only in those parts where more than the ordinary
cohesive power was required. Thus, at Warka, in the ruin called
_Bouvariia_, the buttresses that stand out from the main building are of
large burnt bricks set in thick beds of bitumen, the whole forming such a
solid body that a pickaxe has great difficulty in making any impression
upon it.[183]

Travellers have also found traces of the same use of bitumen in the ruins
of Babylon. It seems to have been in less frequent employment in Assyria.
It has there been found only under the two layers of bricks that constitute
the ordinary pavement of roofs, courts, and chambers. The architect no
doubt introduced this coat of asphalte for two purposes--partly to give
solidity to the pavement, partly to keep down the wet and to force the
water in the soil to flow off through its appointed channels. A layer of
the same kind was also spread under the drains.[184]

In spite of all their precautions time and experience compelled the
inhabitants of Mesopotamia to recognize the danger of crude brick as a
building material; they endeavoured, therefore, to supplement its strength
with huge buttresses. Wherever the ruins have still preserved some of their
shape, we can trace, almost without exception, the presence of these
supports, and, as a rule, they are better and more carefully built than the
structures whose walls they sustain. Their existence has been affirmed by
every traveller who has explored the ruins of Chaldæa,[185] and in Assyria
they are also to be found, especially in front of the fine retaining wall
that helps to support the platform on which the palace of Sargon was
built.[186] The architect counted upon the weight of his building, and upon
these ponderous buttresses, to give it a firm foundation and to maintain
the equilibrium of its materials. As a rule there were no foundations, as
we understand the word. At _Abou-Sharein_, in Chaldæa, the monument
described by Taylor and the brick pavement that surrounds it are both
placed upon the sand.[187] Botta noticed something of the same kind in
connection with the palace walls at Khorsabad: "They rest," he says, "upon
the very bricks of the mound without the intervention of any plinth or
other kind of solid foundation, so that here and there they have sunk below
the original level of the platform upon which they are placed."[188]

This was not due to negligence, for in other respects these structures
betray a painstaking desire to insure the stability of the work, and no
little skill in the selection of means. Thus the Chaldæan architect pierced
his crude brick masses with numerous narrow tunnels, or ventilating pipes,
through which the warm and desiccating air of a Mesopotamian summer could
be brought into contact with every part, and the slight remains of moisture
still left in the bricks when fixed could be gradually carried off. These
shafts have been found in the ruins of Babylon and of other Chaldæan
cities.[189] Nothing of the kind has been discovered in Assyria, and for a
very simple reason. It would have been impossible to preserve them in the
soft paste, the kind of pisé, we have described.

Another thing that had to be carefully provided for was the discharge of
the rain water which, unless it had proper channels of escape, would filter
through the cracks and crevices of the brick and set up a rapid process of
disintegration. In the Assyrian palaces we find, therefore, that the
pavements of the flat roofs of the courtyards and open halls had a decided
slope, and that the rain water was thus conducted to scuppers, through
which it fell into runnels communicating with a main drain, from which it
was finally discharged into the nearest river.

It rained less in Chaldæa than in Assyria. But we may fairly conclude that
the Chaldæan architects were as careful as their northern rivals to provide
such safeguards as those we have described; but their buildings are now in
such a condition that no definite traces of them are to be distinguished.
On the other hand, the ruins in Lower Chaldæa prove that even in the most
ancient times the constructor had then the same object in view; but the
means of which he made use were much more simple, although contrived with
no little ingenuity. We shall here epitomize what we have learnt from one
of those few observers to whom we owe all our knowledge of the earliest
Chaldæan civilization.

Mr. J. E. Taylor, British vice-consul at Bassorah, explored not a few of
the mounds in the immediate neighbourhood of the Persian Gulf which mark
the sites of the burying places belonging to the most ancient cities of

The summits of these mounds are paved with burnt brick; their mass consists
of heaped up coffins separated from one another by divisions of the same
material. To insure the preservation of the bodies and of the objects
buried with them liquids of every kind had to be provided with a ready
means of escape. The structures were pierced, therefore, with a vast number
of vertical drains. Long conduits of terra-cotta (see Fig. 49) stretched
from the paved summit, upon which they opened with very narrow mouths, to
the base. They were composed of tubes, each about two feet long and
eighteen inches in diameter. In some cases there are as many as forty of
these one upon another. They are held together by thin coats of bitumen,
and in order to give them greater strength their sides are slightly
concave. Their interiors are filled in with fragments of broken pottery,
which gave considerable support while they in no way hindered the passage
of the water. These potsherds are even placed around the outsides of the
tubes, so that the latter are nowhere in contact with the brick; they have
a certain amount of play, and with the tubes which they encase they form a
series of shafts, like chimneys, measuring about four feet square. Every
precaution was taken to carry off the water left by the storms. They were
not contented with the small opening at the head of each tube. The whole of
its dome-shaped top was pierced with small holes, that made it a kind of
cullender. Either through this or through the interstices of the potsherd
packing, all the moisture that escaped the central opening would find a
safe passage to the level of the ground, whence, no doubt, it would be
carried off to the streams in conduits now hidden by the mass of _débris_
round the foot of every mound.

[Illustration: FIG. 49.--Upper part of the drainage arrangements of a

That these arrangements were well adapted to their purpose has been proved
by the result. Thanks to the drains we have described, these sepulchral
mounds have remained perfectly dry to the present day. Not only the
coffins, with the objects in metal or terra-cotta they contained, but even
the skeletons themselves have been preserved intact. A touch will reduce
the latter to powder, but on the first opening of their coffins they look
as if time had had no effect upon their substance.[190]

By these details we may see how far the art of the constructor was pushed
in the early centuries of the Chaldæan monarchy. They excite a strong
desire in us to discover the internal arrangements of his buildings, the
method by which access was given or forbidden to those chambers of the
Babylonian temples and houses whose magnificence has been celebrated by
every writer that saw them before their ruin. Unhappily nothing has come
down to us of the monuments of Chaldæa, and especially of those of Babylon,
but their basements and the central masses of the staged towers. The
Assyrian palaces are indeed in a better state of preservation, but even in
their case we ask many questions to which no certain answer is forthcoming.

The great difficulty in all our researches and attempts at restoration, is
caused by the complete absence of any satisfactory evidence as to the
nature of the roofs that covered rooms, either small or large. In most
cases the walls are only standing to a height of from ten to fifteen
feet;[191] in no instance has a wall with its summit still in place been

The cut on the opposite page (Fig. 50) gives a fair idea of what a Ninevite
building looks like after the excavators have finished their work. It is a
view in perspective of one of the gates of Sargon's city: the walls are
eighty-eight feet thick, to which the buttresses add another ten feet;
their average height is from about twenty-five to thirty feet, high enough
to allow the archway by which the city was entered to remain intact. This
is quite an exception. In no part of the palace is there anything to
correspond to this happy find of M. Place--any evidence by which we can
decide the forms of Assyrian doorways. The walls are always from about
twelve to twenty-eight feet in thickness (see Fig. 46.) Rooms are
rectangular, sometimes square, but more often so long as to be galleries
rather than rooms in the ordinary sense of the word.

The way in which these rooms were covered in has been much discussed. Sir
Henry Layard believes only in flat roofs, similar to those of modern houses
in Mossoul and the neighbouring villages. He tells us that he never came
upon the slightest trace of a vault, while in almost every room that he
excavated he found wood ashes and carbonized timber.[192] He is convinced
that the destruction of several of these buildings was due in the first
instance to fire. Several pieces of sculpture, those from the palace of
Sennacherib, for instance, may be quoted, which when found were black with
soot. They look like castings in relief that have been long fixed at the
back of a fire-place.

Long and narrow rooms may have been roofed with beams of palm or poplar
resting upon the summits of the walls. As for the large halls, in the
centre they would be open to the sky, while around the opening would run a
portico, similar to that of a Roman atrium, whose sloping roof would
protect the reliefs with which the walls were ornamented.[193]

[Illustration: FIG. 50.--Present state of one of the city gates, Khorsabad.
Perspective compiled from Place's plans and elevations.]

As to this, however, doubt had already been expressed by an attentive and
judicial observer like Loftus; who thought that the arch had played a very
important part in the architecture of Mesopotamia.[194] As he very justly
remarked, the conditions were rather different from those that obtained in
the maritime and mountainous provinces of Persia; there was no breeze from
the gulf or from the summits of snowy mountains, to which every facility
for blowing through their houses and cooling their heated chambers had to
be given; the problem to be solved was how best to oppose an impenetrable
shield against a daily and long continued heat that would otherwise have
been unbearable. Now it is clear that a vault with its great powers of
resistance would have been far better fitted to support a roof whose
thickness should be in some reasonable proportion to the massive walls,
than a ceiling of bad timber. In our day the mosques, the baths, and many
of the private houses of Mossoul and Bagdad have dome-shaped roofs. Without
going as far as Mesopotamia, the traveller in Syria may see how
intelligently, even in the least important towns, the native builder has
employed a small dome built upon a square, to obtain a strong and solid
dwelling entirely suited to the climate, a dwelling that should be warm in
winter and cool in summer.

We must also point out that the state in which the interiors of rooms are
found by explorers, is more consistent with the hypothesis of a domed roof
than with any other. They are covered to a depth of from fifteen to twenty
feet with heaps of _débris_, reaching up to the top of the walls, so far as
the latter remain standing.[195] This rubbish consists of brick-earth mixed
with broken bricks, and pieces of stucco. Granting wooden roofs, how is
such an accumulation to be accounted for? Roofs supported by beams laid
across from one wall to the other, could never have safely upheld any great
weight. They must have been thin and comparatively useless as a defence
against the sun of Mesopotamia. On the other hand if we assume that vaults
of pisé were the chosen coverings, all the rest follows easily. They could
support the flat roof with ease, and the whole upper structure could be
made of sufficient thickness to exclude both the heat and the rain, while
the present appearance of the ruins is naturally accounted for.

Those who have lived in the East, those, even, who have extended a visit to
Athens as far as Eleusis or Megara, must have stretched themselves, more
than once, under the stars, and, on the flat roofs of their temporary
resting-places, sought that rest that was not to be found in the hot and
narrow chambers within. They must then have noticed, as I have more than
once, a large stone cylinder in one corner. In Greece and Asia Minor, it
will be in most cases a "drum" from some antique column, or a funerary
_cippus_, abstracted by the peasantry from some neighbouring ruin. This
morsel of Paros or Pentelic has to perform the office of a roller. When
some heavy fall of rain by wetting and softening the upper surface of the
terrace, gives an opportunity for repairing the ravages of a long drought,
the stone is taken backwards and forwards over the yielding pisé. It closes
the cracks, kills the weeds that if left to themselves would soon transform
the roof into a field, and makes the surface as firm as a threshing-floor.

The roofs of Assyrian buildings must have required the same kind of
treatment, and we know that in the present day it is actually practised. M.
Place mentions rollers of limestone, weighing from two to three
hundredweight, pierced at each end with a square hole into which wooden
spindles were inserted to facilitate their management.[196] A certain
number of these rollers were found within the chambers, into which they
must have fallen with the roofs. As soon as the terraces ceased to receive
the care necessary for keeping down the weeds and shrubs and keeping out
the water, the process of disintegration must have been rapid. The rains
would soon convert cracks into gaping breaches, and at the end of a few
years, every storm would bring down a part of the roof. A century would be
enough to destroy the vaults, and with them the upper parts of the walls to
which they were closely allied by the skill of the constructor. The
disappearance of the archivolts and the great heaps of _débris_ are thus
accounted for. The roof materials were too soft, however, to damage in
their fall the figures in high relief or in the round that decorated the
chambers beneath, or the carved slabs with which their walls were lined. In
spreading itself about these sculptures and burying them out of sight and
memory, the soft clay served posterity more efficiently than the most
careful of packers.

Among the first observers to suspect the truth as to the use of the vault
in Mesopotamia, were Eugène Flandin, who helped Botta to excavate the
palace of Sargon,[197] and Felix Thomas,[198] the colleague of M. Place.
The reasons by which M. Thomas was led to the conclusion that the rooms in
the Ninevite palaces were vaulted, are thus given by M. Place, who may be
considered his mouthpiece.[199]

He does not deny that some of the Khorsabad reliefs bear the marks of fire,
but he affirms, and that after the experience of four digging campaigns,
that the conflagration was much less general than might be supposed from
the statements of some travellers. He failed to discover the slightest
trace of fire in the hundred and eighty-four rooms and twenty-eight courts
that he excavated. The marvellous preservation of the reliefs in many of
the halls is inconsistent, in his opinion, with the supposition that the
palace was destroyed by fire; and if we renounce that supposition the mere
action of time is insufficient to account for the disappearance of such an
extent of timber roofing, for here and there, especially near the doorways,
pieces of broken beams and door panels have been found. "The wood is not
all in such condition as the incorruptible cedar of the gilded palm-trees,
but wherever it certainly existed, traces of it may be pointed out. In
advanced decomposition it is no more consistent than powder, it may be
picked up and thrown aside, leaving a faithful cast of the beam or post to
which it belonged in the more tenacious clay."

[Illustration: FIG. 51.--Fortress; from the Balawat gates, in the British

All this, however, was but negative evidence. The real solution of the
problem was first positively suggested by the discovery of vaults in place,
in the drains and water channels, and in the city gates. The bas-reliefs in
which towns or fortresses are represented also support the belief that
great use was made of arched openings in Assyria, and the countries in its
neighbourhood (see Fig. 51). As soon as it is proved that the Assyrians
understood the principle of the arch, why should it any longer be denied
that they made use of it to cover their chambers? It is obvious that a
vault would afford a much better support for the weight above than any
timber roof.

In the course of the explorations, a probable conjecture was changed into
complete certainty. The very vaults for which inductive reasoning had shown
the necessity were found, if not in place, at least in a fragmentary
condition, and in the very rooms to which they had afforded a cover--and
here we must quote the words of the explorers themselves.

In the most deeply buried quarters of the building, the excavations were
carried on by means of horizontal tunnels or shafts. "I was often obliged,"
says M. Place, "to drive trenches from one side of the rooms to another in
order to get a clear idea of their shape and arrangement. On these
occasions we often met with certain hard facts, for which, at the time, we
could give no explanation. These facts were blocks of clay whose under
sides were hollowed segmentally and covered with a coat of stucco. These
fragments were found sometimes a few feet from the walls, sometimes near
the middle of the rooms. At first I was thoroughly perplexed to account for
them. Our trenches followed scrupulously the inner surfaces of the walls,
which were easily recognizable by their stucco when they had no lining of
carved slabs. What then were we to make of these arched blocks, also coated
with stucco, but found in the centre of the rooms and far away from the
walls? Such signs were not to be disregarded in an exploration where
everything was new and might lead to unforeseen results. Wherever a trace
of stucco appeared I followed it up carefully. Little by little the earth
under and about the stuccoed blocks was cleared away, and then we found
ourselves confronted by what looked like the entrance to an arched cellar.
Here and there these portions of vaulting were many feet in length, from
four to six in span, and three or four from the crown of the arch to the
level upon which it rested. At the first glance the appearance of a vault
was complete, and I thought I was about to penetrate into a cellar where
some interesting find might await me. But on farther examination this
pleasant delusion was dispelled. The pretended cellar came to an abrupt
end, and declared itself to be no more than a section of vaulting that had
quitted its proper place.... The evidence thus obtained was rendered still
more conclusive by the discovery on the under side of several fragments of
paintings which had evidently been intended for the decoration of a

It is clear that these curvilinear and frescoed blocks were fragments of a
tunnel vault that had fallen in; and their existence explains the great
thickness given by the Assyrian constructor not only to his outer walls,
but to those that divided room from room. The thinnest of the latter are
hardly less than ten feet, while here and there they are as much as fifteen
or sixteen. As for the outer walls they sometimes reach a thickness of from
five and twenty to thirty feet.[201] The climate is insufficient to account
for the existence of such walls as these. In the case of the outer walls
such a reason might be thought, by stretching a point, to justify their
extravagant measurements, but with the simple partitions of the interior,
it is quite another thing. This apparent anomaly disappears, however, if we
admit the existence of vaults and the necessity for meeting the enormous
thrust they set up. With such a material as clay, the requisite solidity,
could only be given by increasing the mass until its thickness was
sometimes greater than the diameter of the chambers it inclosed.

M. Place lays great stress upon the disproportion between the length and
width of many of the apartments. There are few of which the greater
diameter is not at least double the lesser, and in many cases it is four,
five, and even seven times as great. He comes to the conclusion that these
curious proportions were forced on the Assyrians by the nature of the
materials at their disposal. Such an arrangement must have been destructive
to architectural effect as well as inconvenient, but a clay vault could not
have any great span, and its abutments must perforce have been kept within
a reasonable distance of each other.

Taken by itself, this argument has, perhaps, hardly as much force as M.
Place is inclined to give it. Doubtless the predilection for an exaggerated
parallelogram agrees very well with the theory that the vault was in
constant use by Mesopotamian architects, but it might be quoted with equal
reason by the supporters of the opposite hypothesis, that of the timber

Our best reason for accepting all these pieces of evidence as corroborative
of the view taken by MM. Flandin, Loftus, Place, and Thomas is, in the
first place, the incontestable fact that the entrances to the town of
Khorsabad were passages roofed with barrel vaults; secondly, the presence
amid the debris of the fragmentary arches above described; thirdly, the
depth of the mass of broken earth within the walls of each chamber;
finally, the singular thickness of the walls, which is only to be
satisfactorily explained by the supposition that the architect had to
provide solid abutments for arches that had no little weight to carry.

It is difficult to say how the Assyrians set about building these arches of
crude brick, but long practice enabled their architects to use that
unsatisfactory material with a skill of which we had no suspicion before
the exhumation of Nineveh. Thanks to its natural qualities and to the
experienced knowledge with which it was prepared, their clay was tough and
plastic to a degree that astonished the modern explorers on more than one
occasion. The arched galleries cut during the excavations--sometimes
segmental, sometimes pointed, and often of a considerable height and
width--could never have stood in any other kind of earth without strong and
numerous supports. And yet M. Place tells us that these very galleries,
exactly in the condition in which the mattock left them, "provided lodging
for the labourers engaged and their families, and ever since they have
served as a refuge for the inhabitants of the neighbouring villages.
Workmen and peasants have taken shelter under vaults similar to those of
the ancient Assyrians. Sometimes we cut through the accidental
accumulations of centuries, where the clay, far from having been carefully
put in place, had rather lost many of its original qualities. Even there,
however, the roof of our galleries remained suspended without any signs of
instability, as if to bear witness that the Assyrian architect knew what he
was about when he trusted so much to the virtues of a fictile

We may refer those who are specially interested in constructive methods to
M. Place's account of the curious fashion in which the workmen of Mossoul
will build a pointed vault without the help of any of those wooden
centerings in use in Europe. In our day, certainly, the masons of Mossoul
use stone and mortar, but their example none the less proves that similar
results may once have been obtained in different materials.[203] A vault
launched into mid-air without any centering, and bearing the workmen who
were building it on its unfinished flanks, was a phenomenon calculated to
astonish an architect. Taking everything into consideration the clay vaults
of Khorsabad are no more surprising than these domes of modern

We cannot say for certain that the Assyrian builders made use of domes in
addition to the barrel vaults, but all the probabilities are in favour of
such an hypothesis.

A dome is a peculiar kind of vault used for the covering of square,
circular, or polygonal spaces. As for circular and polygonal rooms, none
have been found in Assyria, but a few square ones have been disinterred. On
the principal façade of Sargon's palace there are two of a fair size, some
forty-eight feet each way. Thomas did not believe that a barrel vault was
used in these apartments; the span would have been too great. He sought
therefore for some method that would be at once well adapted to the special
conditions and in harmony with the general system. This he found in the
hemispherical dome.

All doubts on the subject were taken away, however, by the discovery of the
bas-relief (Fig. 43) reproduced on page 145, in which we find a group of
buildings roofed, some with spherical vaults, some with elliptical domes
approaching a cone in outline. This proves that the Mesopotamian architects
were acquainted with different kinds of domes, just as they were with
varieties of the barrel vault.

It has been guessed that this bas-relief, which is unique in its way,
merely represents the brick-kilns used in the construction of the palace of
Sennacherib. To this objection there is more than one answer. The Assyrian
sculptures we possess represent but a small part of the whole, and each
fresh discovery introduces us to forms previously unknown. Moreover, had
the sculptor wished to represent the kilns in which the bricks for the
palace were burnt, he would have shown the flames coming out at the top. In
reliefs of burning towns he never leaves out the flames, and in this case,
where they would have served to mark the activity with which the building
operations were pushed on, he would certainly not have omitted them. Again,
is not the building on the left of the picture obviously a flat-roofed
house? If that be so we must believe, before we accept the kiln theory,
that the sculptor made a strange departure from the real proportions of the
respective buildings. The doorways, too, in the relief are exactly like
those of an ordinary house, while they bear no resemblance to the low and
narrow openings which have been used at all times for kilns. Why then
should we refuse to admit that there were vaults in Nineveh, when Strabo
tells us expressly that "all the houses of Babylon were vaulted."[205]

Thomas invokes the immemorial custom of the East to support the evidence of
this curious relief:--the great church of St. Sophia, the Byzantine
churches and the Turkish mosques, all of which had no other roof but a
cupola. In all of these he sees nothing but late examples of a
characteristic method of construction which had been invented and perfected
many centuries before at Babylon and Nineveh.

From the monuments with which those two great cities were adorned nothing
but the foundations and parts of the walls have come down to our day; but
the buildings of a later epoch, of the periods when Seleucia and Ctesiphon
enjoyed the heritage of Babylon, have been more fortunate. In the ruins
which are acknowledged to be those of the palaces built by the Parthian and
Sassanid monarchs, the upper structures are still in existence, and in a
more or less well preserved condition. In these the dome arrangement is
universal. Sometimes, as at Firouz-Abad (Fig. 52), we find the segment of a
sphere; elsewhere, as at Sarbistan (Fig. 53), the cupola is ovoid. Our
section of the latter building will give an idea of the internal
arrangements of these structures, and will show how the architect contrived
to suspend a circular dome over a square apartment.[206]

These monuments of an epoch between remote antiquity and the Græco-Roman
period were built of brick, like the palaces of Nineveh.[207] The
exigencies of the climate remained the same, the habits and requirements of
the various royal families that succeeded each other in the country were
not sensibly modified, while the Sargonids, the Arsacids and the Sassanids
all ruled over one and the same population.

[Illustration: FIG. 52.--The Palace at Firouz-Abad; from Flandin and

[Illustration: FIG. 53.--The palace at Sarbistan; from Flandin and Coste.]

The corporations of architects and workmen must have preserved the
traditions of their craft from century to century, traditions which had
their first rise in the natural capabilities of their materials and in the
data of the problem they had to solve. The historian cannot, then, be
accused of going beyond the limit of fair induction in arguing from these
modern buildings to their remote predecessors. After the conquest of
Alexander, the ornamental details, and, still more, the style of the
sculptures, must have been affected to a certain extent, first by Greek art
and afterwards by that of Rome; but the plans, the internal structure, and
the general arrangement of the buildings must have remained the same.

[Illustration: FIG. 54.--Section through the palace at Sarbistan; from
Flandin and Coste.]

There is nothing hazardous or misleading in these arguments from analogy;
from the palace of Chosroes to that of Sargon is a legitimate step. Some
day, perhaps, we may attempt to pursue the same path in the opposite
direction; we may endeavour to show that the survival of these examples and
traditions may very well have helped to direct architecture into a new path
in the last years of the Roman Empire. We shall then have to speak of a
school in Asia Minor whose works have not yet been studied with the
attention they deserve. The buildings in question are distinguished chiefly
by the important part played in their construction by the vault and the
dome resting upon pendentives; certain constructive processes, too, are to
be found in them which had never, so far as we can tell, been known or
practised in the East. We can hardly believe that the chiefs of the school
invented from the foundation a system of construction whose principles were
so different from those of the Greeks, or even of the later Romans. They
may, indeed, have perfected the system by grafting the column upon it, but
it is at least probable that they took it in the first place from those who
had practised it from time immemorial, from men who taught them the
traditional methods of shortening and facilitating the labour of execution.
The boundaries of Asia Minor "march" with those of Mesopotamia, and in the
latter every important town had buildings of brick covered with domes. The
Romans frequented the Euphrates valley, to which they were taken both by
war and commerce; their victories sometimes carried them even as far as
Ctesiphon on the Tigris, so that there was no lack of opportunity for the
study of Oriental architecture on the very spot where it was born. They
could judge of and admire the beauty it certainly possessed when the great
buildings of Mesopotamia were still clothed in all the richness of their
decoration. The genius of the Greeks had come nigh to exhausting the forms
and combinations of the classic style; it was tired of continuous labour in
a narrow circle and sighed for fresh worlds to conquer. We can easily
understand then, how it would welcome a system which seemed to afford the
novelty it sought, which seemed to promise the elements of a new departure
that might be developed in many, as yet unknown, directions. If we put
ourselves at this point of view we shall see that Isidore and Anthemius,
the architects of St. Sophia, were the disciples and perpetuators of the
forgotten masters who raised so many millions of bricks into the air at the
bidding of Sargon and Nebuchadnezzar.[208]

Whatever may be thought of this hypothesis, there seems to be little doubt
that the Assyrians knew how to pass from the barrel vault to the
hemispherical, and even to the elliptical, cupola. As soon as they had
discovered the principle of the vault and found out easy and expeditious
methods of setting it up, all the rest followed as a matter of course.
Their materials lent themselves as kindly to the construction of a dome as
to that of a segmental vault, and promised equal stability in either case.
As to their method of passing from the square substructure to the dome we
know nothing for certain, but we may guess that the system employed by the
Sassanids (see Fig. 54) was a survival from it. It is unlikely that timber
centerings were used to sustain the vaults during construction. Timber was
rare and bad in Chaldæa and men would have to learn to do without it. M.
Choisy has shown--as we have already mentioned--that the Byzantine
architects built cupolas of wide span without scaffolding of any kind, each
circular course being maintained in place until it was complete by the mere
adherence of the mortar.[209]

M. Place, too, gives an account of how he saw a few Kurd women build an
oven in the shape of a Saracenic dome, with soft clay and without any
internal support. Their structure, at the raising of which his lively
curiosity led him to assist, was composed of a number of rings, decreasing
in diameter as they neared the summit.[210] The domes of crude brick which
surmounted many of the Kurd houses were put together in the same fashion,
and they were often of considerable size. When asked by M. Place as to how
they had learnt to manage brick so skilfully, the oven-builders replied
that it was "the custom of the country," and there is no apparent reason
why that custom should not date back to a remote antiquity. The Assyrians
had recourse to similar means when they built the domes of their great
palaces. They too, perhaps, left a day for drying to each circular course,
and re-wetted its upper surface when the moment arrived for placing the

[Illustration: FIG. 55.--Restoration of a hall in the harem at Khorsabad,
compiled from Place.]

From the existence of domes--which he considers to be almost beyond
question--M. Place deduces that of semi-domes, one of which he assigns to
the principal chamber of the harem in the palace at Khorsabad (Fig. 55).
Feeling, perhaps, that this requires some justification, he finds it in a
modern custom, which he thus describes:--"In the towns of this part of the
East, the inner court of the harem is, as a rule, terminated at one of its
extremities by a vault entirely open at one side, in the form of a huge
niche. It is, in fact, the half of a dome sliced in two from top to
bottom; the floor, which is elevated a few steps above the pavement of the
court, is strewn with carpets and cushions so as to form an open and airy
saloon, in which the women are to be found by their visitors at certain
hours. This divan is protected from rain by the semi-dome, and from the
sun by curtains or mats hung across the arched opening. This arrangement
may very well be dictated by ancient tradition. It is well suited to the
climate, a consideration which never fails to exercise a decisive influence
over architecture."[212]

[Illustration: FIG. 56.--Royal Tent, Kouyundjik. British Museum.]

[Illustration: FIG. 57.--Tent, Kouyundjik. British Museum.]

And yet there would, perhaps, have been room for hesitation had no support
to this induction been afforded by the figured monuments; for the
inhabitants of the province of Mossoul have deserted the traditions of
their ancestors in more than one particular. They have given up the use of
crude brick, for instance, so far, at least as the walls of their houses
are concerned. They have supplied its place with stone and plaster, hence
their dwellings are less fresh and cool than those of their fathers. In
such a question the present throws a light upon the past, but the two have
distinctive features of their own, even when the physical characteristics
of the country have remained the same. The best evidence in favour of the
employment of such an arrangement in Assyria is that of the bas-relief. We
there not infrequently encounter an object like those figured on this page.
Sometimes it is in the midst of what appears to be an entrenched camp,
sometimes in a fortified city. Its general aspect, certain minor details,
and sometimes an accompanying inscription, permit us to recognize in it the
marquee or pavilion of the king.[213] Now the roofs of these structures
evidently consist of two semi-domes, unequal in size and separated by an
uncovered space. If such an arrangement was found convenient for a portable
and temporary dwelling like a tent, why should it not have been applied to
the permanent homes both of the king and his people?

Arches still standing in the city gates, fragments of vaults found within
the chambers of Sargon's palace at Khorsabad, the evidence of the
bas-reliefs and the existing methods of building in Mesopotamia--all concur
in persuading us that the vault played an important part in the
constructions of Assyria, and consequently in those of Chaldæa; but we
should not go so far as to say that all the rooms in the palace at
Khorsabad and elsewhere were covered with barrel vaults, domes, or
semi-domes. Our chosen guides, have, we think, allowed themselves to be a
little too absolute in this particular; it is quite possible that by the
side of the vaulted chambers there were others with wooden roofs. This
conclusion is suggested partly by Sir H. Layard's discovery of considerable
quantities of wood ashes in the palaces he excavated, partly by the
evidence of ancient texts that wood was often used throughout this region
to support the roofs at least of private houses. We may quote, in the first
place, some remarks in Strabo's account of Susiana, which the Greek
geographer borrowed from one of his original authorities: "In order to
prevent the houses from becoming too hot, their roofs are covered with two
cubits of earth, the weight of which compels them to make their dwellings
long and narrow, because although they had only short beams, they had to
have large rooms, so as to avoid being suffocated." This same writer, in
speaking of these roofs, describes a singular property of the palm-tree
beams. The densest and most solid of them, he says, instead of yielding
with age and sinking under the weight they have to support, take a gentle
upward curve so as to become better fitted than at first for the support of
the heavy roof.[214]

The necessity for the presence of a thick roof between the sun and the
inside of the rooms is here very clearly affirmed. It will also be noticed
that the general form of apartments in Susiana and Assyria did not escape
the observer in question. As he saw very clearly, the great disproportion
between their length and their width was to be explained as easily by the
requirements of a wooden roof as by those of a clay vault.

In his attempt to describe Babylon, Strabo says[215]: "In the absence of
timber, properly speaking, beams and columns of palm-wood were used in the
buildings of Babylonia. These pillars were covered with twisted ropes of
rushes, over which several coats of paint were laid. The doors were coated
with asphalte. Both doors and houses were very high. We may add that the
houses were vaulted, in consequence of the absence of wood.... There were,
of course, no tile roofs in countries where it never rains,[216] such as
Babylonia, Susiana and Sittacenia."

Strabo himself never visited Mesopotamia. This we know from the passage in
his introduction, in which he tells us exactly how far his voyages
extended, from north to south, and from east to west.[217] When he had to
describe Asia from the Taurus to India, he could only do so with the help
of passages borrowed from various authors, and in the course of his work it
has sometimes happened that he has brought into juxtaposition pieces of
information that contradict each other.[218] Something of the kind has
happened in the lines we have quoted, in which he first speaks of pillars
and timber roofs, and ends by declaring that all the Chaldæan houses were
vaulted, although vaults and timber could not exist together. The truth is,
in all probability, that one system of covering prevailed here and another
there, and that the seeming contradiction in the text is due to hasty
editing. We may conclude from it that travellers had reported the existence
of both systems, and that each was to be explained by local conditions and
the varying supply of materials.

The two systems still exist side by side over all Western Asia. From Syria
to Kurdistan and the Persian Gulf the hemispherical cupola upon a square
substructure continually occurs. The timber roof is hardly less frequent;
when the apartment in which it is used is of any considerable size it is
carried upon two or three rows of wooden columns. These columns rest upon
cubes of stone, and a tablet of the same material is often interposed
between them and the beams they support. A sort of rustic order is thus
constituted of which the shaft alone is of wood. We reproduce a sketch by
Sir H. Layard in which this arrangement is shown. It is taken from a house
inhabited by Yezidis,[219] in the district of Upper Mesopotamia called
_Sinjar_ (Fig. 58).

[Illustration: FIG. 58.--Interior of a Yezidi house; from Layard.]

We are inclined to think that both systems were occasionally found in a
single building. The tunnel vault and the joisted ceiling were equally well
suited to the long galleries of Assyrian palaces. In one room, or suite of
rooms, nothing but brick may have been used, while in others wood may have
had the preference. Still more probably, one architect may have had a
predilection for timber, while another may have preferred clay vaults. In
either case the general arrangement, what we may call the spirit of the
plan, would remain the same.

When wooden roofs were used were they upheld by wooden uprights or by
columns of any other material? Botta was at first inclined to say yes to
this question, but he did not attempt to conceal that excavation had
discovered little to support such an hypothesis.[220] Such pillars, were
they of stone, would leave traces among the ruins in the shape of broken
columns; were they of burnt bricks (and there could be no question of the
crude material), those bricks would be found on the spot they occupied and
would easily be recognized by their shape, which, as we have already shown,
would have been specially adapted to the work they had to do.[221] The
points of junction with the pavement would also be visible. If we contend
that they were of wood, like those of the house figured above, we must
admit that, at least in the more carefully built houses, such precautions
as even the peasants of the Yezidis do not neglect must have been taken,
and the timber columns raised upon stone bases which would protect them
from the sometimes damp floors. Neither these bases nor any marks of their
existence have been found in any of the ruins; and we are therefore led to
the conclusion that to search for hypostyle halls in the Assyrian palaces,
would be to follow the imagination rather than the reason.

If we admit that architects made no use of columns to afford intermediate
support to the heavy roofs, we may at first be inclined to believe that
wooden ceilings were only used in very narrow apartments, for we can hardly
give a length of more than from twenty-four to twenty-seven feet to beams
that were called upon to support a thick covering of beaten earth as well
as their own weight.[222] Perhaps, however, the skill of their carpenters
was equal to increasing the span and rigidity of the beams used by a few
simple contrivances. One of these is shown in our Fig. 60, a diagram
composed by M. Chipiez to give an idea of the different methods of
construction used by, or, at least, at the command of, the Assyrian

All the rooms were surmounted by flat roofs, and our horizontal sections
show how these roofs were accommodated to the domes or the timber ceilings
by which they were supported. On the left of the engraving semicircular
vaults are shown, on the right a timbered roof. The arrangement of the
latter is taken from an Etruscan tomb at Corneto, where, however, it is
carried out in stone.[223] A frame like this could be put together on the
spot and offered the means of covering a wider space with the same
materials than could be roofed in by a horizontal arrangement. Further back
rises one of those domes over square substructures whose existence seems to
us so probable. Behind this again opens one of the courts by which so much
of the area of the palace was occupied. The composition is completed by a
wall with parapet and flanking towers.

[Illustration: FIG. 59.--Fortress; from Layard's _Monuments_, 1st Series.]

After considering the method employed for roofing the palace apartments, we
come naturally to investigate their system of illumination. In view of the
extravagant thickness of their walls it is difficult to believe that they
made use of such openings as we should call windows. The small loop-holes
that appear in some of the bas-reliefs near the summits of towers and
fortified walls were mere embrasures, for the purpose of admitting a little
air and light to the narrow chambers within which the defenders could find
shelter from the missiles of an enemy and could store their own arms and
engines of war (see Fig. 59). The walls of Khorsabad even now are
everywhere at least ten feet high, and in some parts they are as much as
fifteen, twenty, and five-and-twenty feet, an elevation far in excess of a
man's stature, and they show no trace of a window. Hence we may at least
affirm that windows were not pierced under the same conditions as in modern

[Illustration: FIG. 60.--Crude brick construction; compiled by Charles

And yet the long saloons of the palace with their rich decoration had need
of light, which they could only obtain through the doorways and the
openings left in the roof. When this was of wood the matter was simple
enough, as our diagram (Fig. 60) shows. Botta noticed, during his journey
to his post, another arrangement, of which, he thinks, the Assyrians may
very well have made use.

[Illustration: FIG. 61.--Armenian "Lantern;" from Botta.]

"The houses of the Armenian peasantry," he says, "are sunk into the ground,
so that their walls stand up but little above the level of the soil. They
are lighted by an opening that serves at once for window and chimney, and
is placed, as a rule, in the centre of the roof. The timber frame of this
opening is often ingeniously arranged (Fig. 61). Four thick beams, but very
roughly squared, intersect each other in the middle of the house. Across
their angles slighter joists are placed, and this operation is repeated
till a small dome, open at the top, for the entrance of light and the
escape of smoke, has been erected."[225]

[Illustration: FIGS. 62-65.--Terra-cotta cylinders in elevation, section
and plan; from Place.]

In the case of vaults how are we to suppose that the rooms were lighted? We
can hardly imagine that rectangular openings were left in the crown of the
arch, such a contrivance would have admitted very little light, while it
would have seriously compromised the safety of the structure. According to
M. Place the desired result was obtained in more skilful fashion. In
several rooms he found terra-cotta cylinders similar to those figured
below. These objects, of which he gives a careful description, were about
thirteen and a half inches in diameter and ten inches in height. We may
refer our readers to the pages of M. Place for a detailed account of the
observations by which he was led to conclude that these cylinders were not
stored, as if in a warehouse, in the rooms where they were afterwards
found, but that they formed an integral part of the roof and shared its
ruin. We may say that the evidence he brings forward seems to fairly
justify his hypothesis.

Penetrating the roof at various points these cylinders would afford a
passage for the outer air to the heated chamber within, while a certain
quantity of light would be admitted at the same time. The danger arising
from the rains could be avoided to a great extent by giving them a slightly
oblique direction. To this very day the Turkish bath-houses over the whole
of the Levant from Belgrade to Teheran, are almost universally lighted by
these small circular openings, which are pierced in great numbers through
the low domes, and closed with immovable glasses. Besides which we can
point to similar arrangements in houses placed both by their date and
character, far nearer to those of Assyria. The Sassanide monuments bear
witness that many centuries after the destruction of Nineveh the custom of
placing cylinders of terra-cotta in vaults was still practised. In spite of
its small scale these circles may be distinguished in the woodcut of the
Sarbistan palace which we have borrowed from Coste and Flandin (Fig.

These same writers have ascertained that the architects of Chosroes and
Noushirwan employed still another method of lighting the rooms over which
they built their domes. They gave the latter what is called an "eye," about
three feet in diameter, through which the daylight could fall vertically
into the room beneath. This is the principle upon which the Pantheon of
Agrippa is lighted; the only difference being one of proportion. In
Persia, the diameter of the eye was always very small compared to that of
the dome. If we are justified in our belief that the constructors of the
Parthian and Sassanide palaces were no more than the perpetuators of
systems invented by the architects of Nineveh and Babylon, the Assyrian
domes also may very well have been opened at the summit in this fashion. In
the bas-relief reproduced in our Fig. 42, the two small cupolas are
surmounted with caps around a circular opening which must have admitted the
light. Moreover, the elaborate system of drainage with which the
substructure of an Assyrian palace was honeycombed would allow any rain
water to run off as fast as such a hole would admit it.[227]

Whatever may be thought of these conjectures, it is certain that the
architects of Nineveh--while they did not neglect accessory sources of
illumination--counted chiefly upon the doors to give their buildings a
sufficient supply of light and air. As M. Place says, when we examine the
plans of Sargon's palace at Khorsabad we are as much astonished at the size
of the doorways as at the thickness of the walls.[228]

"There is not a single doorway, even of the smallest chambers, even of the
simple ante-rooms for the use of servants and guards, that is not at least
six feet or more wide; most of them are ten feet, and those decorated with
sculptures even wider still." In their present ruinous state, it is more
difficult to say for certain what their height may have been. Judging,
however, from the ruins and from the usual proportions of height and width
in the voids of Assyrian buildings, the doors at Khorsabad must have risen
to a height of between fifteen and twenty-two feet. "Such measurements are
those of exceptionally vast openings, especially when we remember that most
of them gave access, not to state apartments, but to rooms used for the
most ordinary purposes, store-rooms, ante-rooms, kitchens, serving-rooms of
all kinds, and bedrooms. When we find architects who were so reluctant as
those of Assyria to cut openings of any kind in their outer walls, using
doorways of these extravagant dimensions, we may surely conclude that they
were meant to light and ventilate the rooms as well as to facilitate the
circulation of their inhabitants."[229]

Even in halls, which were lighted at once by a number of circular eyes like
those described and by a wide doorway, there would be no excess of
illumination, and the rooms of Assyria must, on the whole, have been darker
than ours. When we remember the difference in the climates this fact ceases
to surprise us. With our often-clouded skies we seldom have too much light,
and we give it as wide and as frequent passages as are consistent with the
stability of our buildings. The farther north we go the more strongly
marked does this tendency become. In Holland, the proportion of voids to
solids is much greater than it is on the façade of a Parisian house, and
the same tendency may be traced from one end of Europe to the other. But
even in Central Europe, as soon as the temperature rises above a certain
point, curtains are drawn and jalousies closed, that is, the window is
suppressed as far as possible. And is not that enough to suggest a probable
reason for the want of windows characteristic of an Oriental dwelling? An
explanation has been sometimes sought in the life of the harem and in the
desire of eastern sovereigns to withdraw themselves from the eyes of their
subjects. The idleness, almost amounting to lethargy, of the present
masters of the East has also been much insisted on. What, it is asked, do
these men want with light? They neither read nor work, they care nothing
for those games of skill or chance which form so large a part of western
activity; absolute repose, the repose of sleep or stupefaction, is their
ideal of existence.[230]

These observations have hardly the force that has been ascribed to them.
The harem is not the whole palace, and even in the modern East the
_selamlik_, or public part of the house, is very differently arranged from
the rooms set apart for the women. The hunting and conquering kings of
Assyria lived much in public. They appeared too often at the head of their
armies or among the hounds for us to represent them--as the Greek tradition
represented Sardanapalus--shut up within blind walls in distant and almost
inaccessible chambers. We must guard ourselves against the mistake of
seeking analogies too close between the East of to-day and that of the
centuries before the Greek civilization.

The people who now inhabit those countries are in a state of languor and
decay. Life has retired from them; their days are numbered, and the few
they have yet to live are passed in a death-like trance. But it was not
always thus. The East of antiquity, the East in which man's intellect awoke
while it slumbered elsewhere, the East in which that civilization was born
and developed whose rich and varied creations we are engaged in studying,
was another place. Its inhabitants were strangely industrious and
inventive, their intellects were busied with every form of thought, and
their activity was expended upon every art of peace and war. We must not
delude ourselves into thinking that the Chaldæans, who invented the first
methods of science, that the Assyrians, who carried their conquests as far
as the shores of the Mediterranean, that those Phoenicians who have been
happily called "the English of antiquity," had any great resemblance to the
Turks who now reign at Bagdad, Mossoul, and Beyrout.

But the climate has not changed, and from it we must demand the key to the
characteristic arrangements of Mesopotamian palaces. Even now most of the
buildings of Mossoul are only lighted from the door, which is hardly ever
shut. Some rooms have no direct means either of lighting or ventilation,
and these are the favourite retreats in summer. "I was enabled," says M.
Place, "to convince myself personally of this. In the consul's house there
were, on one side of the court, three rooms one within the other, of which
the first alone was lighted from without, and even this had a covered
gallery in front of it, by which the glare was tempered. In the dog-days,
when the mid-day sun rendered all work a punishment, the innermost of these
three rooms was the only habitable part of the house. The serdabs, or
subterranean chambers, are used under the same conditions. They are
inconvenient in some ways, but the narrowness of the openings, through
which light, and with it heat, can reach their depths, gives them
advantages not to be despised."[231]

The crude brick walls of ancient Assyria were far thicker than the rubble
and plaster ones of modern Mossoul, so that more light could be admitted to
the rooms without compromising their freshness. It seems to be proved that
in at least the majority of rooms at Khorsabad the architect provided other
means of lighting and ventilation besides the doorways, wide and high
though the latter were. He pierced the roof with numerous oblique and
vertical openings, he left square wells in the timber ceilings, and
circular eyes in the domes and vaults. If these were to fulfil their
purpose of admitting light and air into the principal rooms, the latter
must have had no upper stories to carry. At Mossoul, walls are much thinner
than at Nineveh, and interiors are simpler in arrangement and decoration.
The twenty or five-and-twenty feet of clay of the Assyrian walls would make
it impossible to give sufficient light through the doors alone to the
sculptures and paintings with which the rooms were adorned. We cannot doubt
that a top light was also required. The rooms of the palaces must,
therefore, have succeeded one another in one horizontal plan. Slight
differences of level between them were connected by short flights, usually
of five carefully-adjusted steps.[232] In spite of all its magnificence the
royal dwelling was no more than a huge ground floor.

With such methods of construction as those we have described, it would have
been very difficult to multiply stories. Neither vaults nor timber ceilings
could have carried the enormous masses of earth of which even their
partition-walls for the most part consisted, so that the architect would
have had no choice but to make his upper chambers identical in size with
those of his ground floors. This difficulty he was not, however, called
upon to face, because the necessity for providing his halls and corridors
with a top light, put an upper floor out of the question. No trace of such
a staircase as would have been required to give access to an upper story
has been discovered in any of the Assyrian ruins,[233] and yet some means
of ascent to the terraced roofs must have been provided, if not for the
inhabitants of the chambers below--who are likely, however, to have passed
the nights upon them in the hot season--at least for the workmen whose duty
it was to keep them in repair.

Some parts of the palace, on the other hand, may have been raised much
above the level of the rest. Sir Henry Layard found the remains of such
chambers in the palace of Assurnazirpal at Nimroud.[234] In the bas-relief
from Kouyundjik, reproduced in our Fig. 39, an open gallery may be noticed
at a great height above the soil. But neither this gallery nor the chambers
discovered at Nimroud form what we should call a "first-floor." Layard did
not conduct his excavations like an architect, and he fails to give us such
information as we have in the case of Khorsabad, but he tells us that the
chambers in question formed the upper part of a sort of tower projecting
from one angle of the façade. In the building represented on the Kouyundjik
relief, the gallery is also upheld by the main wall, and stands upon its
summit. From these observations we may conclude that when the Assyrian
architect wished to erect chambers that should have a command over the
buildings about them and over the surrounding country, he placed them, not
over his ground-floor, but upon solid and independent masses of bricks.

The staircase, then, could not have had the internal importance by which it
is distinguished in architectural systems that make use of several stories.
On the other hand, it must have played a very conspicuous part externally,
in front of the outer doors and the façades through which they were
pierced. Fortresses, palaces, temples, all the great buildings of Chaldæa
and Assyria, were built upon artificial mounds, upon a wide platform that
required an easy communication with the plain below. This could only be
obtained by long flights of steps or by gently inclined planes. Steps would
do for pedestrians, but horses, chariots, and beasts of burden generally
would require the last-named contrivance. All who have attempted
restorations have copied the arrangement of these stairs and sloping roads
from the ruins of Persepolis, where the steps, being cut in the rock
itself, are still to be traced. The brick slopes of Mesopotamia must have
commenced to disappear on the very day that their custodians first began to
neglect their repair.

Some confirmation, however, is to be found, even in the buildings
themselves, of the hypothesis suggested by their situations. At
Abou-Sharein, for instance, in Lower Chaldæa, the staircase figured on the
next page (Fig. 66) may be seen at the foot of the building excavated by
Mr. Taylor; it gave access to the upper terrace of what seems to have been
a temple.[235] Here the steps are no more than about twenty-six inches
wide, but this width must often have been greatly surpassed elsewhere.
Indeed, in the same building the first story was reached by a staircase
about seventy feet long and sixteen wide. The stone steps were twenty-two
inches long, thirteen broad, and one foot deep. They were fixed with great
care by means of bronze clasps. Unfortunately the explorer gives us neither
plan nor elevation of this monumental staircase.

[Illustration: FIG. 66.--Outside staircases in the ruins of Abou-Sharein.]

Layard believed that, in passing the Mesopotamian mounds, he could often
distinguish upon them traces of the flights of steps by which their summits
were reached.[236] On the eastern face of the palace of Sennacherib, he
says, the remains of the wide slopes by which the palace communicated with
the plain were quite visible to him.[237] One of these staircases is
figured in a bas-relief from Nimroud; it seems to rise to a line of
battlements that form, no doubt, the parapet to a flat terrace behind.[238]
Finally, in another relief, the sculptor shows two flights of steps bending
round one part of a mound and each coming to an end at a door into the
temple on its summit. The curve described by this ramp involved the use of
steps, which are given in M. Chipiez's _Restoration_ (Plate IV.). An
interesting series of reliefs, brought to England from Kouyundjik, proves
that in the palace interiors there were inclined galleries for the use of
the servants. The lower edges of the alabaster slabs are cut to the same
slope as that of the corridor upon whose walls they were fixed, and their
sculptures represent the daily traffic that passed and repassed within
those walls.[239] On the one hand, fourteen grooms are leading fourteen
horses down to the Tigris to be watered; on the other, servants are
mounting with provisions for the royal table in baskets on their

The steps of basalt and gypsum, that afford communication between rooms of
different levels at Khorsabad, are planned and adjusted with great skill
and knowledge.[241] The workmen who built those steps took, we may be sure,
all the necessary precautions to prevent men and beasts from slipping on
the paved floors of the inclined galleries. These were constructed upon the
same plan as the ramps of M. Place's observatory, on which the pavement
consists of steps forty inches long, thirty-two inches wide, and less than
an inch high. Such steps as these give an inclination of about one in
thirty-four, and the ramp on which they were used may be more justly
compared to an inclined plane, like that of the Seville Giralda or the Mole
of Hadrian, than to a staircase. One might ascend or descend it on
horseback without any difficulty.[242]

By this example we may see that although the Assyrian builder had no
materials at his command equal to those employed by the Greek or Egyptian,
he knew how to make ingenious and skilful use of those he had.

We should be in a better position to appreciate these qualities of
invention and taste had time not entirely deprived us of that part of the
work of the Mesopotamian architects in which they were best served by their
materials. Assyria, like Egypt, practised construction "by assemblage" as
well as the two methods we have already noticed. She had a light form of
architecture in which wood and metal played the principal part. As might
have been expected, however, all that she achieved in that direction has
perished, and the only evidence upon which we can attempt a restoration is
that of the sculptured monuments, and they, unhappily, are much less
communicative in this respect than those of Egypt. In the paintings of the
Theban tombs the kiosks and pavilions of wood and metal are figured in all
the variety and vivacity derived from the brilliant colours with which they
were adorned. Nothing of the kind is to be found in Mesopotamia. Our only
documents are the uncoloured reliefs which, even in the matter of form, are
more reticent than we could have wished. But in spite of their
simplification these representations allow us to perceive clearly enough
the mingled elegance and richness that characterized the structures in

[Illustration: FIG. 67.--Interior of the Royal Tent; from Layard.]

Thus in a bas-relief at Nimroud representing the interior of a fortress, a
central place is occupied by a small pavilion generally supposed to
represent the royal tent (Fig. 67).[243] The artist could not give a
complete representation of it, with all its divisions and the people it
contained. He shows only the apartment in which the high-bred horses that
drew the royal chariot were groomed and fed. Before the door of the
pavilion an eunuch receives a company of prisoners, their hands bound
behind them, and a soldier at their elbow. Higher up on the relief the
sculptor has figured the god with fish's scales whom we have already
encountered (see Fig. 9). To him, perhaps, the king attributed the capture
of the fortress that has just fallen into his hands.

It is not, however, with an explanation of the scene that we are at
present concerned; our business is with the structure of the pavilion
itself, with the slender columns and the rich capitals at their summits,
with the domed roof, made, no doubt, of several skins sewn together and
kept in place by metal weights. The capitals and the two wild goats perched
upon the shafts must have been of metal.

As for the tall and slender columns themselves, they were doubtless of
wood. The chevrons and vertical fillets with which they are decorated may
either have been carved in the wood or inlaid in metal.

[Illustration: FIG. 68.--Tabernacle; from the Balawat Gates.]

The pavilion we have just described was a civil edifice, the temporary
resting place of the sovereign. The same materials were employed in the
same spirit and with a similar arrangement in the erection of religious
tabernacles (see Fig. 68). The illustration on this page is taken from
those plates of beaten bronze which are known as the _Gates of Balawat_ and
form one of the most precious treasures in the Assyrian Galleries of the
British Museum.[244] They represent the victories and military expeditions
of Shalmaneser II. In the pavilion that we have abstracted from this long
series of reliefs may be recognized the field-chapel of the king. When that
cruel but pious conqueror wished to thank Assur for some great success, he
could cause a tabernacle like this to be raised in a few minutes even upon
the field of battle itself. It is composed of four light columns supporting
a canopy of leather which is kept in form by a fringe of heavy weights.
Rather above the middle of these columns two rings give an opportunity for
a knotted ornament that could also be very quickly arranged, and the
brilliant colours of the knots would add notably to the gay appearance of
the tabernacle. Under the canopy the king himself is shown standing in an
attitude of worship and pouring a libation on the portable altar. The
latter is a tripod, probably of bronze, and upon it appears a dish with
something in it which is too roughly drawn to be identified. On the right
stands a second and smaller tripod with a vessel containing the liquid
necessary for the rite.

The graphic processes of the Assyrian sculptor were so imperfect that at
first we have some difficulty in picturing to ourselves the originals of
these representations; in spite of the care devoted to many of their
details, the real constitution of these little buildings is not easily
grasped. In order to make it quite clear M. Chipiez has restored one of
them, using no materials in the restoration but those for which authority
is to be found in the bas-reliefs (Fig. 70).

M. Chipiez has placed his pavilion upon a salient bastion forming part of a
wide esplanade. Two staircases lead up to it, and the wall by which the
whole terrace is supported and inclosed is ornamented with those vertical
grooves which are such a common motive in Chaldæan architecture. In front
of the pavilion, on the balustrade of the staircase, and in the background
near a third flight of steps, four isolated columns may be seen, the two
former crowned with oval medallions, the two latter with cones. The meaning
of these standards--which are copied from the Balawat Gates[245]--is
uncertain. In the bas-reliefs in question they are placed before a stele
with a rounded top, which is shown at the top of our engraving. This stele
bears a figure of the monarch; another one like it is cut upon a cylinder
of green feldspar found by Layard close to the principal entrance to
Sennacherib's palace (see Fig. 69).[246]

Though practically absent from the great brick palaces, the column here
played an important and conspicuous part. It furnished elegant and richly
decorated supports for canopies of wool that softly rose and fell with the
passing breeze. Fair carpets were spread upon the ground beneath, others
were suspended to cross beams painted with lively colours, and swept the
earth with the long and feathered fringes sewn upon their borders.

[Illustration: FIG. 69.--The Seal of Sennacherib. Cylinder of green
feldspar in the British Museum.]

The difference was great between the massive buildings by which the
Mesopotamian plains were dominated, and these light, airy structures which
must have risen in great numbers in Chaldæa and Assyria, here on the banks
of canals and rivers or in the glades of shady parks, there on the broad
esplanades of a temple or in the courts of a royal palace. Between the
mountains of clay on the one hand and these graceful tabernacles with their
slender supports and gay coverings on the other, the contrast must have
been both charming and piquant. Nowhere else do we find the distinction
between the house and the tent so strongly marked. The latter must have
held, too, a much more important place in the national life than it did
either in Egypt or Greece. The monarch spent most of his time either in
hunting or fighting, and his court must have followed him to the field.
Moreover, when spring covers every meadow with deep herbage and brilliant
flowers, an irresistible desire comes over the inhabitants of such
countries as Mesopotamia to fly from cities and set up their dwellings amid
the scents and verdure of the fields. Again, when the summer heats have
dried up the plains and made the streets of a town unbearable, an exodus
takes place to the nearest mountains, and life is only to be prized when it
can be passed among the breezes from their valleys and the shadows of their
forest trees.

[Illustration: FIG. 70.--Type of open architecture in Assyria; composed by
Charles Chipiez.]

Even in our own day the inhabitants of these regions pass from the house to
the tent with an ease which seems strange to us. At certain seasons some of
the nomad tribes betake themselves within the walls of Bagdad and Mossoul
and there set up their long black tents of goats' hair.[247] Judging from
the bas-reliefs they did the same even in ancient Assyria; in some of these
a few tents may be seen sprinkled over a space inclosed by a line of walls
and towers.[248] Abraham and Lot slept in their tents even when they dwelt
within the walls of a city.[249] Lot had both his tent and a house at
Sodom.[250] Every year the inhabitants of Mossoul and the neighbouring
villages turn out in large numbers into the neighbouring country, and,
during April and May, re-taste for a time that pastoral life to which a
roof is unknown.

The centuries have been unable to affect such habits as these, because they
were suggested, enforced, and perpetuated by nature herself, by the climate
of Mesopotamia; and they have done much to create and develop that light
and elegant form of building which we may almost call the architecture of
the tent. In these days and in a country into whose remotest corners the
decadence has penetrated, the tent is hardly more than a mere shelter; here
and there, in the case of a few chiefs less completely ruined than the
rest, it still preserves a certain size and elegance, but as a rule all
that is demanded of it is to be sufficiently strong and thick to resist the
wind, the rain, and the sun. It was otherwise in the rich and civilized
society with which we are now concerned. Its arrangement and decoration
then called forth inventive powers and a refined taste of which we catch a
few glimpses in the bas-reliefs. It gave an opportunity for the employment
of forms and motives which could not be used at all, or used in a very
restricted fashion, in more solid structures, such as palaces and temples.
Of all these that which most closely results from the necessities of wooden
or metal construction is the column, and we therefore find that it is in
this tent-architecture that it takes on the characteristics that
distinguish it from the Egyptian column and give it an originality of its


[164] The remains of stone walls are at least so rare in Lower Mesopotamia
that we may disregard their existence. In my researches I have only found
mention of a single example. At Abou-Sharein TAYLOR found a building in
which an upper story was supported by a mass of crude brick faced with
blocks of dressed sandstone. The stones of the lower courses were held
together by mortar, those of the upper ones by bitumen. We have no
information as to the "bond" or the size of stones used (_Journal of the
Royal Asiatic Society_, vol. xv. p. 408). The materials for this revetment
must have been quarried in one of those rocky hills--islands, perhaps,
formerly--with which Lower Chaldæa is sparsely studded. TAYLOR mentions one
seven miles west of Mugheir, in the desert that stretches away towards
Arabia from the right bank of the Euphrates (_Journal_, &c. vol. xv. p.

[165] We shall here give a _résumé_ of M. Place's observations (_Ninive et
l'Assyrie_, vol. i. pp. 31-34).

[166] PLACE, _Ninive_, &c. vol. i. p.

[167] _Ibid._ p. 33.

[168] In every country in which buildings have been surmounted by flat
roofs, this precaution has been taken--"When thou buildest a new house,
then thou shalt make a battlement for thy roof, that thou bring not blood
upon thine house, if any man fall from thence." (_Deuteronomy_ xxii. 8).
See also _Les Monuments en Chaldée, en Assyrie et à Babylon, d'après les
récentes découvertes archéologique, avec neuf planches lithographiés_, 8vo,
by H. CAVANIOL, published in 1870 by Durand et Pedone-Lauriel. It contains
a very good _résumé_, especially in the matter of architecture, of those
labours of French and English explorers to which we owe our knowledge of
Chaldæa and Assyria.

[169] PLACE, _Ninive et l'Assyrie_, vol i. p. 64.

[170] XENOPHON, _Anabasis_, iii. 4, 7-11. The identity of Larissa and
Mespila has been much discussed. Oppert thinks they were Resen and
Dour-Saryoukin; others that they were Calech and Nineveh. The question is
without importance to our inquiry. In any case the circumference of six
parasangs (about 20-1/2 miles) ascribed by the Greek writer to his Mespila
can by no means be made to fit Khorsabad.

[171] See the _History of Art in Ancient Egypt_, vol. i. p. 113.

[172] BOTTA tells us how the courses of crude brick were distinguished one
from another at Khorsabad (_Monuments de Ninive_, vol. v. p. 57).

[173] Speaking of Hillah, GEORGE SMITH tells us (_Assyrian Discoveries_, p.
62):--"A little to the south rose the town of Hillah, built with the bricks
found in the old capital. The natives have established a regular trade in
these bricks for building purposes. A number of men are always engaged in
digging out the bricks from the ruins, while others convey them to the
banks of the Euphrates. There they are packed in rude boats, which float
them down to Hillah, and on being landed they are loaded on donkeys and
taken to any place where building is in progress. Every day when at Hillah
I used to see this work going on as it had gone on for centuries, Babylon
thus slowly disappearing without an effort being made to ascertain the
dimensions and buildings of the city, or to recover what remains of its
monuments. The northern portion of the wall, outside the Babil mound, is
the place where the work of destruction is now (1874) most actively going
on, and this in some places has totally disappeared."

[174] LAYARD, _Discoveries_, &c. p. 110.

[175] LAYARD, _Nineveh_, vol. ii. p. 279. "The bricks had no mortar but the
mud from which they had been made," says BOTTA (_Monuments de Ninive_, vol.
v. p. 30).

[176] LAYARD, _Discoveries_, &c. p. 503.

[177] LAYARD, _Discoveries_, pp. 499 and 506.

[178] TAYLOR, _Notes on the Ruins of Mugheir_ (_Journal of the Royal
Asiatic Society_, vol. xv. p. 261). This mortar is still employed in the
country; it is called _kharour_.

[179] The most plentiful springs occur at Hit, on the middle Euphrates.
They are also found, however, farther north, as at Kaleh-Shergat, near the
Tigris. Over a wide stretch of country in that district the bitumen wells
up through every crack in the soil (LAYARD, _Nineveh_, vol. ii. p. 46). As
for the bituminous springs of Hammam-Ali, near Mossoul, see PLACE, _Ninive
et l'Assyrie_, vol. i. p. 236.

[180] _Genesis_ xi. 3.

[181] HERODOTUS, i. 179.

[182] _Warka, its Ruins and Remains_, by W. KENNETH LOFTUS, p. 9. (In the
_Transactions of the Royal Society of Literature_, second series, Part I.)
According to SIR HENRY RAWLINSON this introduction of layers of reeds or
rushes between the courses of brick continued in all this region at least
down to the Parthian epoch. Traces of it are to be found in the walls of
Seleucia and Ctesiphon (RAWLINSON'S _Herodotus_, vol. i. p. 300 note 1).

[183] LOFTUS, _Travels and Researches_, i. p. 169. The abundance of bitumen
in the ruins of Mugheir is such that the modern name of the town has sprung
from it; the word means the _bituminous_ (TAYLOR, _Notes on the Ruins of

[184] PLACE, _Ninive et l'Assyrie_, vol. i. p. 236; LAYARD, _Nineveh_, vol.
ii. p. 261.

[185] LOFTUS, _Warka, its Ruins_, &c. p. 10.

[186] PLACE, _Ninive_, vol. i. pp. 29 and 248.

[187] TAYLOR, _Notes on Abou-Sharein and Tell-el-Lahm_ (_Journal of the
Royal Asiatic Society_, vol. xv. p. 408).

[188] BOTTA, _Monument de Ninive_, vol. v. p. 58.

[189] NIEBUHR (_Voyage en Arabie_, vol. ii. p. 235) noticed this, and his
observations have since been confirmed by many other visitors to the ruins
of Babylon. KER PORTER (vol. ii. p. 391) noticed them in the ruins of
Al-Heimar. See also TAYLOR on "_Mugheir_," &c. (_Journal_, &c. vol. xv. p.
261). At Birs-Nimroud these conduits are about nine inches high and between
five and six wide. They are well shown in the drawing given by FLANDIN and
COSTE of this ruin (_Perse ancienne et moderne_, pl. 221. cf. text 1, p.

[190] TAYLOR, _Notes on the Ruins of Mugheir_ (_Journal of the Royal
Asiatic Society_), vol. xv. pp. 268-269.

[191] At Khorsabad the average height of the alabaster lining is about ten
feet; above that about three feet of brick wall remains.

[192] LAYARD, _Nineveh_, vol. i. pp. 127 and 350; vol. ii. pp. 40 and 350.
As to the traces of fire at Khorsabad, see BOTTA, _Monument de Ninive_,
vol. v. p. 54.

[193] LAYARD, _Nineveh_, vol. ii. pp. 256-264.

[194] LOFTUS, _Travels and Researches_, pp. 181-183.

[195] This accumulation has sometimes reached a height of about 24 feet.
PLACE, _Ninive_, vol. i. p. 294.

[196] PLACE, _Ninive_, vol. i. pp. 293-294.

[197] E. FLANDIN, _Voyage archéologique à Ninive. 1. L'Architecture
assyrienne. 2. La Sculpture assyrienne_ (_Revue des Deux-Mondes_, June 15
and July 1, 1845).

[198] For all that concerns this artist, one of the most skilful
draughtsmen of our time, see the biographical notice of M. de
Girardot:--_Felix Thomas, grand Prix de Rome Architecte, Peintre, Graveur,
Sculpteur_ (Nantes, 1875, 8vo.).

[199] PLACE, _Ninive_, vol. i. pp. 249-269.

[200] PLACE, _Ninive_, vol. i. pp. 254-255.

[201] _Ibid._ p. 246.

[202] PLACE, _Ninive_, vol. i. p. 264.

[203] _Ibid._ p. 265. RICH made similar observations at Bagdad. He noticed
that the masons could mount on the vault a few minutes after each course
was completed (_Narrative of a Journey to the Site of Babylon_).

[204] M. A. CHOISY, well known by his Essays on _L'Art de bâtir chez les
Romains_, shows that the same method was constantly used by the Byzantine
architects. See his _Note sur la Construction des Voûtes sans cintrage
pendant la Période byzantine_ (_Annales des Ponts et Chausées_, 1876,
second period, vol. xii.). See also Mr. FERGUSSON'S account of the erection
of a huge stone dome without centering of any kind, by an illiterate
Maltese builder, at Mousta, near Valetta (_Handbook of Architecture_,
Second Edition, vol. iv. p. 34).--ED.

[205] STRABO, xvi. i. 5, Hoi oikoi kamarôtoi pantes dia tên axulian.

[206] For a description of these buildings see FLANDIN and COSTE, _Voyage
en Perse, Perse ancienne, Text_, pp. 24-27, and 41-43 (6 vols. folio, no
date. The voyage in question took place in 1841 and 1842).

[207] Brick played, at least, by far the most important part in their
construction. The domes and arcades were of well-burnt brick; the straight
walls were often built of broken stone, when it was to be had in the
neighbourhood. At Ctesiphon, on the other hand, the great building known as
the _Takht-i-Khosrou_ is entirely of brick.

[208] See M. AUGUSTE CHOISY'S _Note sur la Construction des Voûtes_, &c. p.
14. This exact and penetrating critic shares our belief in these relations
between the Chaldæan east and Roman Asia.

[209] _Note sur la Construction des Voûtes sans cintrage_, p. 12.

[210] PLACE, _Ninive_, vol. i. pp. 266-267.

[211] As M. CHOISY remarks (_L'Art de bâtir chez les Romains_, p. 80), each
horizontal course, being in the form of a ring, would have no tendency to
collapse inwards, and a dome circular on plan would demand some means for
keeping its shape true rather than a resisting skeleton.

[212] _Ninive_, vol. i. p. 131.

[213] In both the examples here reproduced the sculptor has indicated the
cords by which the canvas walls were kept in place. We find almost the same
profile in a bas-relief at Khorsabad (BOTTA, _Monument de Ninive_, pl.
146), but there it is cut with less decision and there are no cords.
Between the two semi-domes the figure of a man rises above the wall to his
middle, suggesting the existence of a barbette within. Here the artist may
have been figuring a house rather than a tent.

[214] STRABO, xv. 3, 10.

[215] STRABO, xvi. 1, 5.

[216] Keramôi d' ou chrôntai, says Strabo. These words, as Letronne
remarked _à propos_ of this passage, combine the ideas of a tiled roof and
of one with a ridge. The one notion must be taken with the other; hence we
may infer that the Babylonian houses were flat-roofed.

[217] STRABO, ii. 5, 11.

[218] See M. AMÉDÉE TARDIEU'S reflections upon Strabo's method of work, in
his _Géographie de Strabon_ (Hachette, 3 vols, 12mo.), vol. iii. p. 286,
note 2.

[219] As to this singular people and their religious beliefs, the
information contained in the two works of Sir H. LAYARD (_Nineveh_, vol. 1.
pp. 270-305, and _Discoveries_, pp. 40-92) will be read with interest.
Thanks to special circumstances Sir H. Layard was able to become more
intimately acquainted than any other traveller with this much-abused and
cruelly persecuted sect. He collected much valuable information upon
doctrines which, even after his relation, are not a little obscure and
confused. The Yezidis have a peculiar veneration for the evil principle, or
Satan; they also seem to worship the sun. Their religion is in fact a
conglomeration of various survivals from the different systems that have
successively obtained in that part of Asia. They themselves have no clear
idea of it as a whole. It would repay study by an archæologist of

[220] BOTTA, _Monument de Ninive_, vol. v. p. 70.

[221] See above, page 118, note 1.

[222] Some rooms are as much as thirty feet wide. They would require joists
at least thirty-three feet long, a length that can hardly be admitted in
view of the very mediocre quality of the wood in common use.

[223] _Gailhabaud, Monuments anciens et modernes_, vol. i.; plate entitled
_Tombeaux superposés à Corneto_.

[224] PLACE, _Ninive_, vol. i. p. 309. In this passage M. Place affirms
that Mr. Layard discovered in a room of one of the Ninevite palaces,
several openings cut at less than four feet above the floor level. It is,
moreover, certain that these openings were included in the original plan of
the building, because the reliefs are interrupted so as to leave room for
the window without injury to the scenes sculptured upon them; but, adds M.
Place, this example is unique, one of those exceptions that help to confirm
a rule. We have in vain searched through the two works of Sir Henry Layard
for the statement alluded to by M. Place. The English explorer only once
mentions windows, and then he says: "Even in the rooms bounded by the outer
walls there is not the slightest trace of windows" (_Nineveh_, vol. ii. p.

[225] BOTTA, _Monument de Ninive_, vol. v. p. 73.

[226] FLANDIN et COSTE, _Voyage en Perse; Perse ancienne_, plates 28 and
29; and, in the text, page 25. These openings occur in the great Sassanide
palace at Ctesiphon, the _Takht-i-Khosrou_ (_ibid._ pl. 216, and text, p.
175). Here the terra-cotta pipes are about eight inches in diameter.
According to these writers similar contrivances are still in use in Persia.

[227] In the cupola of the palace at Sarbistan (Fig. 54), a window may be
perceived in the upper part of the vertical wall, between the pendentives
of the dome. Such openings may well have been pierced under Assyrian domes.
From many of the illustrations we have given, it will be seen that the
Ninevite architects had no objection to windows, provided they could be
placed in the upper part of the wall. It is of windows like ours, pierced
at a foot or two above the ground, that no examples have been found.

[228] PLACE. _Ninive_, vol. i. pp. 312-314.

[229] PLACE, _Ninive_, vol. i. p. 313.

[230] _Ibid._ p. 310

[231] PLACE, _Ninive_, vol. i. p. 311.

[232] PLACE, _Ninive_, vol. i. p. 307.

[233] See BOTTA, _Monument de Ninive_, vol. v. p. 53; _Place_, _Ninive_,
vol. i. pp. 306, 307.

[234] LAYARD, _Nineveh_, vol. ii. p. 15.

[235] TAYLOR, _Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society_, vol. xv. p. 409.

[236] LAYARD, _Discoveries_, p. 260.

[237] LAYARD, _Discoveries_, pp. 645-6.

[238] LAYARD, _Monuments_, &c., first series, plate 19. This relief is
reproduced in PLACE, _Ninive_, vol. iii. plate 40, fig. 6.

[239] British Museum; Kouyundjik Gallery, Nos. 34-43. See also LAYARD'S
_Monuments_, plates 8 and 9.--ED.

[240] A second inclined gallery of the same kind was found by LAYARD in
another of the Kouyundjik palaces (_Discoveries_, p. 650).

[241] PLACE, _Ninive_, vol. i. pp. 306, 307.

[242] PLACE, _Ninive_, vol. i. p. 140.

[243] As to the great size sometimes reached by the tents of the Arab
chiefs, and the means employed to divide them into several apartments, see
LAYARD, _Discoveries_, p. 313, and the sketch on page 321.

[244] There is a photographic reproduction of these interesting reliefs in
the fine publication undertaken by the Society of Biblical Archæology. This
work, which is not yet (1883) complete, is entitled _The Bronze Ornaments
of the Gates of Balawat_, _Shalmaneser_ II. 859-825, edited, with an
introduction, by Samuel BIRCH, with descriptions and translations by
Theophilus G. PINCHES, folio, London. The three first parts are before us.
The motive reproduced above belongs to the plate marked F, 5.

[245] They are to be found on the sheet provisionally numbered B, 1, in the
publication above referred to.

[246] This cylinder, which is now in the British Museum, was perhaps the
actual signet of the king.

[247] LAYARD, _Nineveh_, vol. ii. p. 272.

[248] LAYARD, _Monuments of Nineveh_, first series, plate 77; second
series, plates 24 and 36.

[249] _Genesis_, xiii. 12.

[250] _Genesis_, xix.

§ 4.--_The Column._

As Chaldæa, speaking broadly, made no use of stone in its buildings, the
stone column or shaft was unknown to its architects; at least not a single
fragment of such a thing has been found among the ruins. Here and there
cylindrical piers built up of small units seem to have been employed. These
are sometimes of specially moulded bricks,[251] sometimes of sandstone
fragments supported by a coat of masonry. Time has separated the stones of
the latter, and it is now only represented by fragments whose shape betrays
their original destination. Taylor, indeed, found one of these piers still
in place during his excavations at Abou-Sharein, but his sketch and
description are so confused that it is quite useless to reproduce

On the other hand, Chaldæa preceded Assyria in the art of raising airy
structures mainly composed of wood and metal, and by them she was led to
the use of slender supports and a decoration in which grace and elegance
were the most conspicuous features. We have a proof of this in a curious
monument recently acquired by the British Museum. It comes from Abou-Abba,
about sixteen miles south-west of Bagdad, and is in a marvellous state of
preservation. Abou-Abba has been recognized as the site of the ancient
Sippara, one of the oldest of Chaldæan towns. Its sanctuaries, in which the
sun-god, Samas, was chiefly adored, always maintained a great importance.

The monument in question is a tablet of very close-grained grey stone
11-1/3 inches long 6 inches high and, in the centre, about 3 inches thick.
Its thickness increases from top to bottom. The edge is grooved. High up
on the obverse there is a bas-relief, beneath this commences a long
inscription which is finished on the reverse.[253] Shorter inscriptions are
engraved on the field of the relief itself. The whole work--figures,
inscriptions, and outer mouldings--is executed with the utmost care. The
laborious solicitude with which the smallest details are carried out is to
be explained by the destination of this little plaque, namely, the temple
in the centre of Sippara in which a triad consisting of Sin, Samas, and
Istar was the object of worship.[254]

The relief itself--which we reproduce from a cast kindly presented to us by
Dr. Birch--occupies rather less than half of the obverse (Fig. 71). It
represents a king called Nabou-Abla-Idin, who reigned about 900, doing
homage to the sun-god.[255] We shall return to this scene and its
composition when the time arrives for treating Chaldæan sculpture. At
present we only wish to speak of the pavilion under which the deity is
enthroned upon a chair supported by two beings half man and half bull.

This kind of tabernacle is bounded, above and at the back of the god, by a
wall of which there is nothing to show the exact nature. Its graceful,
sinuous line, however, seems to exclude the idea, sufficiently improbable
in itself, of a brick vault. It may possibly have been of wood, though it
would not be easy to obtain this elegant curve even in that material.

But such forms as this are given with the greatest ease in metal, and we
are ready to believe that what the artist here meant to represent was a
metal frame, which could at need be hidden under a canopy of leather or
wool, like those we have already encountered in the Assyrian bas-reliefs
(Figs. 67 and 68). The artist has in fact made use of a graphic process
common enough with the Egyptians.[256] He has given us a lateral elevation
of the tabernacle with the god in profile within it, because his skill was
unequal to the task of showing him full front and seated between the two
columns of the façade.

The single column thus left visible has been represented with great skill
and care; the sculptor seems to have taken pleasure in dwelling upon its
smallest details. Slender as it is, it must have been of wood. The markings
upon it suggest the trunk of a palm, but we may be permitted to doubt
whether it was allowed to remain in its natural uncovered state. Even in
the climate of Chaldæa a dead tree trunk exposed to the air would have no
great durability. Sooner or later the sun, the rain, the changes of
temperature, would give a good account of it, and besides, a piece of rough
wood could hardly be made to harmonize with the luxury that must assuredly
have been lavished by the people of Sippara upon the sanctuary of their
greatest divinity.

It is probable, therefore, that the wood was overlaid with plates of gilded
bronze, fastened on with nails.

This hypothesis is confirmed by one of M. Place's discoveries at
Khorsabad.[257] There, in front of the Harem, he found several large
fragments of a round cedar-wood beam almost as thick as a man's body. It
was cased in a bronze sheath, very much oxydized and resembling the scales
of a fish in arrangement (Fig. 72). The metal was attached to the wood by a
large number of bronze nails. Comparing these remains with certain
bas-reliefs in which different kinds of trees appear (Fig. 27) we can
easily see that the Ninevite sculptors meant to represent the peculiar
roughnesses of palm bark. Their usual methods are modified a little by the
requirements of the material and the size of the beam upon which it was
used. Each scale was about 4-1/2 inches high, and according to the
calculations of M. Place, the whole mast must have been from
five-and-thirty to forty feet high. Working for spectators on a lower level
and at some distance, the smith thought well to make his details as regular
and strongly marked as he could; to each scale or leaf he gave a raised
edge to mark its contour and distinguish it from the rest. The general
effect was thus obtained by deliberate exaggeration of the relief and by a
conventionality that was justified by the conditions of the problem to be

[Illustration: FIG. 71.--Homage to _Samas_ or _Shamas_. Tablet from
Sippara. Actual size. Drawn by Saint-Elme Gautier.]

At a little distance from this broken beam M. Place found a leaf of gold
which is now in the Louvre; it presents the same ovoid forms as the bronze
sheathing, and, moreover, the numerous nail holes show that it was meant to
fulfil the same purpose as the bronze plates. The place in which it was
found, its dimensions and form, all combine to prove that it was laid upon
the bronze as we should lay gold leaf. It bears an inscription in cuneiform

[Illustration: FIG. 72.--Sheath of a cedar-wood mast, bronze.]

We are inclined to take these plates for models in restoring the columns of
the Sippara tabernacle. There is nothing in the richness of this double
covering of bronze and gold to cause surprise, as the inscription which
covers part of the face and the whole of the back of the tablet is nothing
but a long enumeration of the gifts made to the shrine of Samas by the
reigning king and his predecessors.

This column has both capital and base. The former cannot have been of
stone; a heavy block of basalt or even of limestone would be quite out of
place in such a situation. As for the base it is hardly more than a
repetition of the capital, and must have been of the same material; and
that material was metal, the only substance that, when bent by the hand or
beaten by the hammer, takes almost of its own motion those graceful curves
that we call _volutes_.

We believe then in a bronze capital gilded. Under the volutes three rings,
or _astragali_, may be seen. By their means the capital was allied to the
shaft. The former consisted of two volutes between which appeared a
vertical point resembling one of the angles of a triangle. The base is the
same except that it has no point, and that the rings are in contact with
the ground instead of with the shaft. These volutes may also be perceived
on the table in front of the tabernacle, where they support the large disk
by which the sun-god is symbolized.

[Illustration: FIG. 73.--Interior of a house supported by wooden pillars;
from the gates of Balawat. British Museum.]

Before quitting this tablet we may point to another difference between the
column of Sippara and the shafts of the same material and proportions that
we have encountered in the Assyrian bas-reliefs (Figs. 67, 68, and 69). In
the latter the column rises above the canopy, which is attached to its
shaft by brackets or nails. At Sippara the canopy rests upon the capital
itself. The same arrangement may be found in Assyrian representations of
these light structures; it will suffice to give one example taken from the
gates of Balawat (Fig. 73). Here, too, the proportions of the columns prove
them to have been of wood. They do not rise above the entablature. The
architrave rests upon them, and, as in Greece and Egypt, its immediate
weight is borne by abaci.

At present our aim is to prove that Assyria derived from Chaldæa the first
idea of those tall and slender columns, the shafts of which were of wood
sheathed in metal, and the capitals of the latter material. The graceful
and original forms of Chaldæan art would have prepared the way for a
columnar architecture in stone, had that material been forthcoming.
Babylon, however, saw no such architecture. Her plastic genius never came
under the influence that would have led her to import stone from abroad;
and the grace and variety of the orders remained unknown to her builders.
Like Egypt, Chaldæa gave lessons but received none. The forms of her art
are to be explained by the inborn characteristics of her people and the
natural conditions among which they found themselves placed.

In Assyria these conditions were rather different. The stone column was
used there, but used in a timid and hesitating fashion. It never reached
the freedom and independence that would have characterized it had it arisen
naturally from the demands of construction.[258]

[Illustration: FIG. 74.--Assyrian capital, in perspective; compiled from

We only possess one column, or rather one fragment of a column, from
Assyria, and that was found by M. Place at Khorsabad (Fig. 74). It is a
block of carefully worked and carved limestone about forty inches high, and
including both the capital and the upper part of the shaft in its single

Such a combination could not long exist in architectonic systems in which
the stone column played its true part. It is a survival from the use of
wood. Another characteristic feature is the complete absence both from this
fragment and from the columns in the sculptured reliefs of vertical lines
or divisions of any kind, no trace of a fluted or polygonal shaft has been

In writing the history of the Egyptian column we explained how the natural
desire for as much light as possible led the architects of Beni-Hassan to
transform the square pier, first into an octagonal prism, secondly into one
with sixteen sides.[260] And to this progressive elaboration of the
polyhedric shaft the flutes seemed to us to owe their origin. On the other
hand, with tall and slender supports such as those afforded by palm trunks
no necessity for reduction and for the shaving of angles would arise, and
those flutes whose peculiar section is owing to the desire for a happy play
of light and shadow, would never have been thought of. If we imitate a
natural timber shaft in stone we have a smooth cylindrical column like that
seen in Fig. 74.

Again, the shafts of the columns in the bas-reliefs, appear slender in
comparison with those of Egypt, or with the doric shafts of the oldest
Greek temples (see Fig. 41 and 42). In the fragmentary column from
Khorsabad (Fig. 74) we have only a small part of the shaft but if we may
judge from the feeble salience of the capital, its proportions must have
been slender rather than heavy and massive.

Wherever the stone column has been used in buildings of mediocre size, the
architect seems to have been driven by some optical necessity to make his
angle columns more thickset than the other supports. Thus it was in
Assyria, in the little temple at Kouyundjik (Fig. 42), where the outer
columns are sensibly thicker than those between them; at Khorsabad (Fig.
41) the same result was obtained by rather different means. The edifice
represented in this bas-relief bears no little similarity to certain
Egyptian temples and to the Greek temple _in antis_.[261] The strength of
these angular piers contrasts happily with the elegance of the columns
between them. The latter are widely spaced, and, as in some Egyptian
buildings, the architrave is but a horizontal continuation of the corner

If we analyse the column and examine its three parts separately we shall be
led to similar conclusions. The stone column no doubt bore the architrave
upon its capital wherever it was used, and both in Chaldæa and Assyria we
find the same arrangement in those light structures which we have classed
as belonging to the architecture of the tent (Figs. 70 and 72). The origin
of the forms employed in stone buildings is most clearly shewn by the
frequent occurrence of the volute, a curvilinear element suggested by the
use and peculiar properties of metal.

[Illustration: FIG. 75.--Capital; from a small temple.]

We find these volutes everywhere, upon shafts of stone and wood
indifferently. We are tempted to think, when we examine the details of our
Fig. 67, that the first idea of them was taken from the horns of the ibex
or the wild goat. The column on the right of this cut bears a fir cone
between its volutes, those on the left have small tablets on which are
perched the very animals whose heads are armed with these horns.

However this may be, the form in question, like all others borrowed from
nature by man, was soon modified and developed by art. The curve was
prolonged and turned in upon itself. In one of the capitals of the little
temple represented at Kouyundjik (Fig. 42), two pairs of these horns may be
recognized one above the other (Fig. 75), but nowhere else do we find such
an arrangement. Whether the column be of wood, as in the Sippara tablet
(Fig. 71), or of stone, as in those buildings in which the weight and
solidity of the entablature points decisively to that material (Figs. 41
and 42), we find a volute in universal use that differs but slightly in its
general physiognomy from the familiar ornament of the Ionic capital.

[Illustration: FIG. 76.--View of a palace; from Layard.]

Let us revert for a moment to the country house or palace of which we gave
a general view in Fig. 39. We shall there find on the highest part of the
building an open loggia supported by small columns many times repeated. We
reproduce this part of the relief on a larger scale (Fig. 76), so that its
details may be more clearly seen. A very slight familiarity with the
graphic processes of the Assyrians is sufficient to inform the reader that
the kind of trellis work with which the bed of the relief is covered is
significant of a mountainous country. The palace rises on the banks of a
river, which is indicated by the sinuous lines in the right lower corner.
The buildings themselves--which are dominated here and there by the round
tops of trees, planted, we may suppose, in the inner courts--stand upon
mounds at various heights above the plain. The lowest of these look like
isolated structures, such as the advanced works of a fortress. Next comes a
line of towers, and then the artificial hill crowned by the palace properly
speaking. The façade of the latter is flanked by tall and salient towers,
across whose summits runs the open gallery to which we have referred.[262]
This is supported by numerous columns which must by their general
arrangement and spacing, have been of wood. The gallery consisted, in all
probability, of a platform upheld by trunks of trees, either squared or
left in the rough and surmounted by capitals sheathed in beaten bronze.

The volute is here quite simple in shape; elsewhere we find it doubled, as
it were, so that four volutes occur between the astragali and the abacus
(Figs. 42 and 77).[263] In other examples, again, it is elongated upwards
until it takes a shape differing but little from the acanthus leaves of the
Corinthian capital (Fig. 78).[264]

This volute is found all over Assyria and Chaldæa. It decorates the angles
of the small temple represented on the stone known as Lord Aberdeen's Black
Stone (Fig. 79). It occurs also on many of the ivories, but these, perhaps,
are for the most part Phoenician. But in any case the Assyrians made
constant use of it in the decoration of their furniture. In an ivory
plaque, of which the British Museum possesses several examples, we find a
man standing and grasping a lotus stem in his left hand (Fig. 80). This
stem rests upon a support which bears a strong resemblance to the Sippara
capital (Fig. 71); it has two volutes separated by a sharp point. The
fondness of the Assyrians for these particular curves is also betrayed in
that religious and symbolic device which has been sometimes called the
_Tree of Life_. Some day, perhaps, the exact significance of this emblem
may be explained, we are content to point out the variety and happy
arrangement of the sinuous lines which surround and enframe the richly
decorated pilaster that acts as its stem. We gave one specimen of this tree
in Fig. 8; we now give another (Fig. 81). The astragali, the ibex horns
and the volutes, may all be easily recognized here.

[Illustration: FIG. 77.--Capital; from a small temple.]

[Illustration: FIG. 78.--Capital.]

[Illustration: FIG. 79.--Chaldæan tabernacle.]

[Illustration: FIG. 80.--Ivory plaque found at Nimroud. Actual size.
British Museum.]

The only stone capital that has come down to us has, indeed, no volutes
(Fig. 74) but it is characterized by the same taste for flowing lines and
rounded forms. Its general section is that of a cyma reversa surmounted by
a flattened torus, and its appearance that of a vase decorated with
curvilinear and geometrical tracery. There is both originality and beauty
in the contours of the profile and the arrangement of the tracery; the
section as a whole is not unlike that of the inverted bell-shaped capitals
at Karnak.[265]

[Illustration: FIG. 81.--_The Tree of Life_; from Layard.]

This type must have been in frequent use, as we find it repeated in four
bases found still in place in front of the palace of Sennacherib by Sir
Henry Layard. They were of limestone and rested upon plinths and a pavement
of the same material (Fig. 82).[266] In these the design of the ornament is
a little more complicated than the festoon on the Khorsabad capital, but
the principle is the same and both objects belong to one narrow class.

We again encounter this same base with its opposing curves in a curious
monument discovered at Kouyundjik by Mr. George Smith.[267] This is a small
and carefully executed model, in yellowstone, of a winged human-headed
bull, supporting on his back a vase or base similar in design to that
figured above. This little object must have served as a model for the
carvers engaged upon the palace walls. We shall not here stop to examine
the attributes and ornaments of the bull, they are well shown in our Figs.
83 and 84, and their types are known by many other examples. Our aim is to
show that we have rightly described the uses to which it was put. These
might have remained obscure but for the discovery, in the south-western
palace at Nimroud, of a pair of winged sphinxes, calcined by fire but still
in their places between two huge lions at one of the doors. Before their
contours disappeared--and they rapidly crumbled away upon contact with the
air--Layard had time to make a drawing of the one that had suffered least
(Fig. 85). In his description he says that between the two wings was a sort
of plateau, "intended to carry the base of a column."[268]

[Illustration: FIG. 82.--Ornamented base, in limestone.]

Surprised at not finding any trace of the column itself, he gives out
another conjecture: that these sphinxes were altars upon which offerings
to the gods, or presents to the king were placed. This hypothesis
encounters many objections. We may easily account for the disappearance of
the column by supposing it to have been of wood. If it was stone, it may
have been carried off for use as a roller by the inhabitants of the
neighbouring villages, before that part of the building to which it
belonged was so completely engulfed and hidden by the ruins as it
afterwards became.[269] Moreover we can point to a certain number of
Assyrian altars, and their shapes are very different from this.

[Illustration: FIG. 83.--Model of a base, side view. Actual size.]

[Illustration: FIG. 84.--The same, seen from in front.]

Finally, all our doubts are removed by a bas-relief from the palace of
Assurbanipal, which is now in the British Museum (Fig. 86). The upper part
of this carved picture is destroyed, but enough remains to show that it
reproduced the façade of some richly decorated building. Four columns
supported on the backs of so many lions, and two flat pilasters upheld in
the same fashion by winged griffins, may readily be distinguished. That
these griffins are not repeated on the left of the relief, is due perhaps
to the haste or laziness of the sculptor. He may have thought he had done
enough when he had shown once for all how these pedestals were composed.
However this may have been, the lions in this relief play exactly the same
_rôle_ as that attributed by us to the little model found by George Smith,
and to the winged sphinx discovered by Sir Henry Layard before one of the
doors at Nimroud. A base in the form of a vase or cushion is inserted
between the back of the animal and the bottom of the shaft. In the
pilaster--if we may believe that the artist took no liberties with
fact--the junction is direct without the interposition of any ornamental

[Illustration: FIG. 85.--Winged Sphinx carrying the base of a column; from

[Illustration: FIG. 86.--Façade of an Assyrian building; from a bas-relief
in the British Museum. Height 10 inches.]

In what M. Place calls the state doorways (_portes ornées_) of Khorsabad,
the arches spring from the backs of the great mitred bulls that guard the
entrance.[270] But, whether the columns rose from the backs of animals real
or fantastic, they always seem to have had a base. Almost the only instance
of its absence is in the open gallery in Fig. 76, and there, perhaps, they
are hidden by a balustrade. Everywhere else we find a more or less
ornamental member interposed between the shaft and the ground. At Khorsabad
(Fig. 41) it is a simple torus (Fig. 87), at Kouyundjik (Fig. 42) it is a
kind of cushion (Fig. 88), which we find represented in not a few of the
bas-reliefs. The curves bear a distant resemblance to the volutes of a
capital; above this base appears a ring or astragal, the origin of which
may be easily guessed. The original timber column, the newly felled tree
that was set up to support the roof of a tent or a house, must have been
placed upon a block of stone or wood, to which it was joined, in some
degree, by hollowing out the latter and setting the foot of the timber beam
in the hollow, and then hiding the junction by those reed bands that, as
travellers tell us, were still used for the same purpose in the last years
of Babylon.[271] In time a ring of metal would take the place of the reeds,
and when stone columns came to be used, a feature which was at first a
necessity, or, at least, a useful expedient and a guarantee of duration and
solidity, came at last to be simply an ornament.

[Illustration: FIGS. 87, 88.--Bases of columns; from the bas-reliefs.]

       *       *       *       *       *

We have now studied the Assyrian column as a whole and in detail. Most of
its features seem to us to be survivals from the methods and processes of
what we have called the architecture of the tent. The stone column had no
place in those structures of crude brick of which the real national
architecture of Mesopotamia consisted; it was not at home there; the
surrounding conditions were unfavourable to its development. And yet, in
time, it did, as we have seen, put in a rare appearance, at least in the
case of that one of the two sister nations by which a sufficient supply of
stone could be obtained, but even then it filled an ornamental and
auxiliary rather than a vital function. Its remains are only to be found by
patient search, and even in the bas-reliefs its representations are few and
far between. By making diligent use of these two channels of information
archæology has succeeded in demonstrating the existence of the Assyrian
column and describing its forms, but at the same time it has been compelled
to recognize how narrow was its use, especially in the great structures on
which Mesopotamian builders lavished all the resources of their art. In
those it was employed mainly for the decoration of outbuildings, and it
will be well to inquire how it acquitted itself of such a task.

       *       *       *       *       *

The column seems to have been introduced in those gateways to which the
Assyrian architect attached so much importance.[272] Read carefully Sir
Henry Layard's description of his discovery of two sphinxes upon one of the
façades of the south-western palace at Kouyundjik (Fig. 83); he gives no
plan of the passage where he found them, but his narrative[273] suggests
the existence of some kind of porch in front of the large opening. It must
have been upheld by a pair of columns on the backs of the two sphinxes, and
may have consisted of one of those wooden canopies which are so common in
the modern architecture of the East.[274]

We are inclined to recognize a pent house of this kind, but of more
complicated construction in the Kouyundjik bas-relief figured above (Fig.
83). No door is shown, but that, perhaps, is due to the sculptor's
inability to suggest a void, or the two central perpendicular lines may
have been joined by a horizontal one on the upper part of the relief, which
is lost, and thus a doorway indicated; it would then have a couple of
pilasters and a couple of columns on each flank.

In classic architecture we find nothing that can be compared with this
curious notion of placing columns and pilasters on the backs of real or
imaginary animals, on a lion, a winged bull, or a sphinx. In the modern
East, however, it is still done. The throne of the Shah, at Teheran, is
supported by columns which, in their turn, stand on the backs of lions.
Singularly enough the same idea found favour with European architects in
the middle ages, who often made use of it in the porches of their Christian
cathedrals.[275] Hence, the old formula often found in judicial documents,
_sedente inter leones_,--sitting between the lions--which, was used of
episcopal judgments delivered in the church porch. In Italy, in buildings
of the Lombardic style, these lions are to be found in great numbers and in
this same situation. At Modena there is one in the south porch of the
cathedral that strongly reminded me by its style and handling of the
figures now existing in Cappadocia, of the lion at Euiuk, for example; in
both instances it is extended on the ground with its fore paws laid upon
some beast it has caught.[276] We could hardly name a motive more dear to
Oriental art than this. Between the predilections of the modern East and
those of Assyria and Chaldæa there are many such analogies. We shall not
try to explain them; we shall be content with pointing them out as they
present themselves.

Various facts observed by Sir Henry Layard and the late George Smith, show
that the column was often employed to form covered alleys stretching from a
door to the edge of the platform, doubtless to the landings on which the
stepped or inclined approaches to the palace came to an end. Sir Henry
Layard[277] found four bases of limestone (Fig. 82) on the north side of
Sennacherib's palace. They were in couples, one couple close to the palace
wall, the other in a line with it but some eight-and-twenty yards farther
from the building. In each pair the distance from centre to centre was 9
feet 3 inches. With such a width the covered way may very well have been
roofed with wood, a hypothesis which is supported by the discovery, at the
same point, of the remains of crude brick walls. The columns would mark in
all likelihood the two extremities of the passage. As for the other
conjecture thrown out by the explorer, it seems to us to be much less
probable. He asks whether these bases may not have been the pedestals of
statues. Many Assyrian statues have been found together with their
pedestals, and these are always simple in the extreme and without any kind
of ornament. Moreover, the statues themselves were made rather to be set up
against a wall than to pass an independent existence in an open courtyard.

Moreover, George Smith saw two of these bases in place at one of the
entrances to the palace of Assurbanipal. Unfortunately he gives no drawing
and his description is wanting in clearness, but he seems to have noticed
the traces left by a cylindrical shaft on the upper surface of one base;
his expression, "a flat circle to receive the column," evidently means that
the latter was sunk into the substance of the base.[278] Here, no doubt was
the end of a gallery, like that in front of Sennacherib's palace.

There must in all probability have been other remains of these columns
besides those noticed by the English explorer, but at Khorsabad alone were
the excavations superintended by a professional architect, there alone were
they watched by the trained eye of a man capable of giving its true meaning
and value to every detail of a ruinous building. At Nimroud, at Kouyundjik,
at Nebbi-Younas, many interesting traces of ancient arrangements may have
been obliterated in the course of the excavations without those who stood
by having the least suspicion of their significance.

We might perhaps, if it were worth while, come upon further representations
of columns on engraved stones, on ivories, and bronzes,[279] but upon such
small objects forms are indicated in a very summary fashion, and, besides,
they would be nothing more than curtailed repetitions of motives shown in
more detail and upon a larger scale elsewhere. Our readers may fairly
judge, from the examples we have placed before them, of the appearance of
those columns of wood and metal, which the Chaldæans used in the light and
graceful tabernacles figured for us on the relief from Sippara, and of the
more durable stone supports of the Assyrians. Long habit and an excessive
respect for tradition, hindered the latter from turning the column to its
fullest use. They stopped half way. They employed the feature with such
timidity that we can point to nothing that can be called an Assyrian order.
They produced nothing to compare with the rich and varied colonnades that
we admired in the hypostyle halls of Egypt. And yet we cannot say that they
showed any lack of originality or invention in their choice of decorations
for the bases and capitals of their columns. Their favourite motive seems
to have been the volute, to which, however, they gave an endless variety.
They used it, no doubt, in many ways that now escape us, and by applying it
now to this purpose and now to that, and sometimes with the happiest
results, they accumulated an amount of experience as to the value of those
graceful curves which was of great value to their successors. Who those
successors were and how they carried to perfection a form which had its
origin on the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates, will be shown in the
course of our history.


[251] See above, p. 118, note 1.

[252] TAYLOR, _Notes on Abou-Sharein, and Tell-el-Lahm_, (_Journal of the
Royal Asiatic Society_, vol. xv. p. 404).--ED.

[253] This inscription is published in full in the _Cuneiform Inscriptions
of Western Asia_, vol. v. part ii.

[254] The names of these three deities are furnished by the inscription
which runs beneath the canopy of the pavilion (see Fig. 71).

[255] The disk upon the table is enough by itself to betray the identity of
the god, but as if to render assurance doubly sure, the artist has taken
the trouble to cut on the bed of the relief under the three small figures,
an inscription which has been thus translated by MM. OPPERT and MÉNANT:
"Image of the Sun, the Great Lord, who dwells in the temple of Bit-para, in
the city of Sippara."

[256] See our _History of Art in Ancient Egypt_, vol. ii. chap. 1, § 1.

[257] PLACE, _Ninive_, vol. i. pp. 120-122, and vol. iii. plate 73.

[258] In this connection Sir H. LAYARD makes an observation to which the
attention of the artist should be drawn. Whenever pictures of _Belshazzar's
Feast_ and the _Last Night of Babylon_ are painted massive Egyptian pillars
are introduced: nothing could be more contrary to the facts (_Discoveries_,
p. 581).

[259] M. PLACE, indeed, encountered an octagonal column on the mound of
Karamles, but the general character of the objects found in that excavation
led him to conclude positively that the column in question was a relic from
the Parthian or Sassanide epoch (_Ninive_, vol. ii. pp. 169, 170).

[260] _History of Art in Ancient Egypt_, vol. ii. p. 95.

[261] _Ibid._ vol. i. p. 397, fig. 230; and vol. ii. p. 105, fig. 84.

[262] The profiles of the capitals in this gallery led Sir H. LAYARD to
speak of "small pillars with capitals in the form of the Ionic volute"
(_Discoveries_, p. 119) (?).

[263] A similar arrangement of volutes may be found on the rough columns
engraved upon one of the ivory plaques found at Nimroud (LAYARD,
_Monuments_, &c., first series, plate 88, fig. 3).

[264] We reproduce this capital from RAWLINSON'S _Five Great Monarchies_
(vol. i. p. 333); but we should have liked to be able to refer either to
the relief in which it occurs, or to the original design which must have
been made in the case of those slabs which had to be left at Nineveh. We
have succeeded in finding neither the relief nor the drawing, so that we
cannot guarantee the fidelity of the image.

[265] See _Art in Ancient Egypt_, vol. ii. p. 120, fig. 95.

[266] LAYARD forgets to give the height of this base: he is content to tell
us that its greatest diameter is 2 feet 7 inches, and its smallest 11-1/2
inches. This latter measurement must have been taken at the junction with
the shaft (_Discoveries_, p. 590).

[267] George SMITH, _Assyrian Discoveries_, sixth edition, 8vo. 1876, p.

[268] LAYARD, _Nineveh_, vol. i. p. 349, at a little distance the explorer
found the bodies of two lions placed back to back, which seemed to have
formed a pedestal of the same kind. Their heads were wanting, and the whole
group had suffered so much from fire, that it was impossible either to
carry it off or to make a satisfactory drawing from it (_ibid._ p. 351).

[269] This suggestion seems inconsistent with the state of the ruin at the
spot where the discovery was made. Sir Henry Layard describes these
sphinxes as buried in charcoal, and so calcined by the fire that they fell
into minute fragments soon after exposure to the air. Anything carried on
their backs must have fallen at the time of the conflagration, and, if a
stone column, it would have been found under the charcoal.--ED.

[270] PLACE, _Ninive_, vol. iii. plate 11.

[271] STRABO, xvi. 1, 5.

[272] Thomas has placed one of these porches in his restoration of Sargon's
palace at Khorsabad. It is supported by two columns, and serves to mark one
of the entrances to the harem. (PLACE, _Ninive_, vol. iii. plate 37 _bis_.)

[273] LAYARD, _Nineveh_, vol. i. pp. 349, 350.

[274] Numerous examples are figured in COSTE and FLANDIN'S _Perse Moderne_,
plates 3, 7, 9, 26, 27, 54, &c. They cast a wide shadow in front of the
doorways, and sometimes run along the whole length of the façade. Some
little support to M. Perrot's theory is afforded by a circumstance on which
Layard dwells strongly in the passage referred to above, namely, that the
sphinxes were found buried over their heads in charcoal, which may very
well have been the remains of such a porch; its quantity seems too great
for those of a ceiling.--ED.

[275] This coincidence struck Professor Rawlinson, who compares one of
these Assyrian columns to a column in the porch of the Cathedral of Trent.
He reproduces them both in his _Five Great Monarchies_, vol. i. p. 313.

[276] See PERROT and GUILLAUME, _Exploration archéologique de la Galatie_,
vol. ii. pl. 57.

[277] _Discoveries_, p. 590.

[278] GEORGE SMITH, _Assyrian Discoveries_, p. 431.

[279] One curious example of this is figured in the work of M. CHIPIEZ,
_Histoire critique de l'Origine et de la Formation des Ordres grecs_, p.
20. See also LAYARD, _Discoveries_, p. 444, where a bas-relief from the
palace of Sennacherib is figured, upon which appears a coffer supported by
a foot in the shape of a column, which ends in a regular volute.

§ 5.--_The Arch._

In the preceding pages we have determined the _rôle_ played by the column
in Assyria, and have explained that in spite of the care and taste lavished
upon some of its details, it never rose above the rank of a secondary and
subordinate member. There is nothing, then, to surprise us in the fact that
the Assyrian architect never placed his arches or vaults upon columns or
piers; he seems never to have had a glimpse of the great possibilities such
a procedure involved, a procedure from which upon the very soil of the
East, his remote descendants were to evolve the architecture of the
Byzantine church and the Arab mosque. His archivolts and the pendentives of
his vaults always rest upon thick walls, and yet almost every variety of
the simple arch or tunnel-vault are to be found among the ruins of his

       *       *       *       *       *

[Illustration: FIG. 89.--Tomb-chamber at Mugheir; from Taylor.]

Like all the other forms of Assyrian architecture the arch was invented in
Chaldæa. The use of small sized materials must have led to its early
discovery in that country. But the only arches now standing occur in the
better preserved monuments of Assyria. On the other hand the tombs of Lower
Chaldæa furnish more than one example of that false, corbelled or off-set
vault, that we have already encountered in Egypt.[280] The chamber figured
below is taken from the necropolis of Mugheir, formerly "Ur of the
Chaldees." It is built of crude brick bound with mud. The vault is
supported by walls sloping upwards and outwards like those of a modern
tunnel (Fig. 89).[281]

Such a method of construction is only adapted to buildings of small
dimensions; it could not be used for chambers with wide roofs, or where any
great weight was to be upheld. The arches upon which, according to both
Strabo and Diodorus,[282] the hanging gardens of Babylon were supported,
must have been real centred arches. As to whether they were of pisé, like
those of Khorsabad, the Greek writers tell us nothing. From what we know of
the habits of the Chaldæan builder we may conclude that they were true
arches with voussoirs either of bricks burnt in the kiln, or so well dried
that they were almost as hard and durable as those that had passed through
the fire. This conjecture is confirmed by the fact that the structures in
question lasted till the Macedonian conquest. Strabo and Diodorus speak of
the great temple of Bel as so ruinous that its original height could not be
guessed, even approximatively. It was otherwise with the hanging gardens.
Of these they give the measurements, on plan, of the platforms and piers,
together with their heights, and the heights of the arches. We should find
it difficult to explain the preciseness of these measurements and their
agreement one with another, unless we supposed that both writers had some
exact authority, such as one of the companions or historians of Alexander,
to refer to. The kings of Persia lived at Babylon for a part of the year.
These princes may well have been indifferent to the preservation of the
national fanes, they may even have hastened their destruction, as Xerxes is
said to have done, in order to punish and humiliate the rebellious
Babylonians. But in their own interest they would see that proper care was
taken of those hanging gardens by which their stay in the city would be
rendered more pleasant than it would otherwise have been, from whose lofty
platforms their watchful eyes could roam over the city and the adjoining
plain, and follow the course of the great river until it disappeared on the
south amid groves of waving palm. After the rise of Seleucia and Ctesiphon,
however, the gardens would rapidly hasten to decay, but they must have been
solidly built in the first instance to last as long as they did. The pisé
vaults of the Ninevite palaces could never have stood so well. In spite of
the layers of lead and bitumen which, as Diodorus tells us, were spread
upon their terraces, the summer rains must in time have found their way
into their walls and set up a process of disintegration which could have
but one end. Real brick with good mortar could alone resist such
influences, and those, no doubt, were the materials used in the Babylonian
gardens. If their substructures should ever be found and laid open, we have
little doubt that arches as carefully built as those of the Assyrian ruins
will be brought to light.

The gateways of the town built by Sargon at the foot of his palace mound
were roofed with semicircular vaults.[283] In order to study their
construction more closely, M. Place demolished one of these arches piece by
piece, the one numbered three on his plan.[284] It was already condemned to
destruction by the necessity for carrying off its sculptures.

The total height from pavement to keystone, was twenty-four feet six
inches, from the centre of the keystone to the springing of the arch itself
was eight feet, the total width of the opening, measured at the feet of the
caryatides, was fourteen feet four inches.

The bricks had not been burnt in a kiln but they had been subjected to a
prolonged desiccation. The system of construction was as simple as
possible. The perpendicular side walls passed into the vault without any
preparation, and the arch when complete had no inward projection and no
structural ornament but the inner faces of the carefully placed voussoirs;
as all the bricks were of the same size and shape something more than their
slightly trapezoidal form was required to keep them in place, and a softer
clay was used to bind them together. With the addition of this rude cement
each brick became a long and narrow wedge and determined the curve of the
vault in which it was placed. Some idea of the appearance of this triple
arch may be formed from the illustration we have compiled from M. Thomas's
elevation of an alcove in one of the harem apartments at Khorsabad (Fig.
90). This vault is not in existence, but its component parts were found
among the ruins of Sargon's palace.[285]

[Illustration: FIG. 90.--Interior of a chamber in the harem of Sargon's
palace at Khorsabad; compiled from Place.]

There is one detail in the decoration of these doorways that should be
carefully noted. Wherever the architect makes use of a round-headed opening
he reinforces its outlines with a kind of semicircular frieze, to which
brilliant colours or bold reliefs would give no little decorative value.
In what M. Place calls _portes ornées_, this ornamental archivolt is of
enamelled bricks, in the subordinate entrances it is distinguished from the
rest of the wall merely by its salience. In neither case, however, does it
end in any kind of impost, it returns horizontally without the arch and
forms an ornament along a line corresponding to the spring of the vault
within. We give an example of this peculiarly Assyrian arrangement from one
of the gateways at Dour-Saryoukin (Fig. 91). Nothing like it is to be
found, so far as we know, among the buildings of any other ancient people.

[Illustration: FIG. 91.--Return round the angle of an archivolt in one of
the gates of Dour-Saryoukin; compiled from Place.]

From the point of view of the special study on which we are now busy, the
inhabited and visible part of an Assyrian building is less interesting than
those channels hidden in the substructures which acted as drains. These
channels existed in all the palaces. Layard encountered them at Nimroud
and Kouyundjik,[286] but it was at Khorsabad that they were found in the
best condition and most carefully studied.[287] We shall make use chiefly
of the observations of MM. Place and Thomas in our explanation of a curious
system of sewers that does, perhaps, more honour to the Ninevite builder
than any other part of his work. Every detail of their construction is full
of interest,--the general arrangement, the choice of materials and the
various methods of vaulting brought into play.

In nearly all the rooms there is an opening in the middle of the pavement
towards which the rest of the floor has a gentle slope. It is a round hole
cut through the centre of a square stone set among the bricks and leading
to a circular brick conduit. In the first specimen described by M. Place,
this descending pipe is five feet four inches deep, and rather more than
eleven inches in diameter. It leads into an almost horizontal conduit with
a similar section and of the same materials. This latter channel is gently
inclined through the whole of its length; it terminates in the main drain
of which the cut on the next page gives a section in perspective (Fig.

The floor of this sewer was formed of large limestone slabs overpassing the
inside width of the channel by several inches. By this means the internal
joints were reduced to a minimum, and a further precaution was taken by
placing the slabs in a bath of asphalte, which was also used to coat the
oblique channels and the foot of the vertical pipe. The low perpendicular
walls upon which the vault was to be placed were built upon the outer edge
of these wide slabs. They were of four-inch bricks, carefully laid.

The most remarkable thing about this drain is the construction of the
vault. The bricks composing it are trapezoidal in shape, two of their edges
being slightly rounded, the one concave, the other convex. The radius of
this curve varies with each brick, being governed by its destined place in
the vault. These bricks go therefore in pairs, and as there are four
courses of bricks on each side of the vault, four separate and different
moulds would be required, besides a fifth, for a brick of which we shall
presently have to speak. The four narrow sides of these bricks differ
sensibly one from another. The two curved faces being at different
distances from the centre, are of unequal lengths, while, as the lower
oblique edge is some inches below the upper in the curve, these two edges
have different directions. In their disinclination to use stone voussoirs,
the Assyrian builders here found themselves compelled to mould bricks of
very complicated form, and the way in which they accomplished their task
speaks volumes for their skill.

[Illustration: FIG. 92.--Drain at Khorsabad, with pointed arch. Section in

If we cast a glance at our Fig. 92 the first thing that strikes us is the
absence of a keystone to the vault. The two rows of voussoirs that are in
full view thrust against each other only by a single sharp edge; there is
no keystone between them. In the row immediately behind, however, there is
a stone (imperfectly seen in our illustration) that seems to play the part
of a key. Thus we find that only at each alternate vertical course was the
arch of burnt and moulded brick complete. The openings left at the summits
of the other courses must have been filled in in some way, and, in fact,
the line of voids which ran along the top of the extrados was filled in
with brick earth, beaten tight and forming the best of keys. So that the
vault was completed and consolidated by the same material as that used to
make its channel impervious to water.[289]

This vault has another strange singularity which at first is very
surprising. The whole structure has a sensible inclination in the direction
of its length, suggesting that some accident had happened to it in course
of erection. Such an explanation must be rejected, however, because at the
moment of discovery the whole arrangement was uninjured, and, moreover, the
filling of clay must have rendered any movement of the kind impossible. M.
Place's explanation seems the best. He thinks the slope was given merely to
facilitate the work of the bricklayers. The first course of voussoirs would
be sloped in this fashion, and would rest upon some mass of crude brick in
the centre of the building. The bricks of the second course would lean
against it, and their weight would be brought in to add cohesion and
solidity to the whole structure instead of being entirely occupied in
adding to the perpendicular thrust, while the ease with which they could be
placed without an internal support would be much increased. Assisted by
this simple expedient, two bricklayers with their labourers could build the
vault at a very rapid rate. We may believe that the notion of building in
this way would never have occurred to the Assyrian architects but for their
habit of dispensing with timber centres.

This slope had an effect upon the arrangement of the bricks which should be
noticed. In all other vaults, such as those of the city gates, the units
are laid upon their longest sides, and a vertical section shows their
shortest diameters. Here, on the other hand, the bricks stand on their
edges, and their largest surfaces are in contact, on each side, with the
next vertical course. If the full benefit of the natural cohesion between
one brick and another was to be obtained, this method of laying them was
absolutely necessary.

Internally, the drain we have been studying was four feet eight inches high
from the floor to the crown of the vault. Its width was three feet nine
inches, and its general slope very slight. It may be followed for a total
length of about 220 feet, after which falls of earth have carried away the
arch and the whole northern part of the esplanade, so that no trace of the
mouth by which it opened on the plain can be traced.

The other sewer described by M. Place may be more summarily dismissed. In
spite of their drawings and minute descriptions, explorers have not yet
succeeded in explaining the eccentricities of construction it presents. It
has two channels, one above the other, which are similar neither in slope
nor section. Moreover this double sewer is abruptly interrupted in the
middle of the artificial mound through which it runs. Must we believe that
it was never finished or used? We shall not attempt to answer this
question, but shall content ourselves with pointing to the similarities
between this tunnel and the last described. The same large stone slabs upon
a layer of bitumen, the same inclination of the body of the vault, the same
bricks formed in different moulds according to their place in the vault,
are found in each.

Our Fig. 93 shows the two channels and their position one above the other.
The pavement of the terrace, which consists of a double bed of large
bricks, rests upon the extrados of the upper channel. This vault is
semicircular; it has three voussoirs on each side, which, with the key,
make seven in each vertical course. But in consequence either of an error
in measurement or of a mistake in calculating the shrinking of the bricks,
there was a gap between the third voussoir on the right and the key. This
gap was filled in by the insertion of a stone cut into the shape of a
wedge. But for this fault--which, however, had no appreciable effect upon
its solidity--the vault would be perfect.[290] The narrow triangular
opening of the lower channel may be seen below it.

The semicircular vault gradually and insensibly changes into an elliptical
one. The side walls become lower, at each yard their height is diminished
by the thickness of a brick, and finally they disappear about the middle
of the total length. At the point shown in our Fig. 94 the arch has lost
its supports and rests directly upon the pavement of the channel. Its
ellipse is composed of eight voussoirs, four on each side, and a key with a
small wedge-shaped stone voussoir on each side of it. Between the two
points shown in our Figs. 93 and 94 the upper and lower sewers have become
one, the vaulted roof of the first and the paved floor of the second being
continued in a single tunnel. At the point where this tunnel comes to a
sudden end it is closed by a wall, through which two small openings are
pierced to serve as outlets for the sewer within (Fig. 94).

[Illustration: FIG. 93.--Sewer at Khorsabad, with semicircular vault;
compiled from Place.]

At different points on the Khorsabad mound, M. Place found other sewers,
some with depressed, some with basket-handle vaults, while, at Nimroud,
channels were discovered which were square in section and covered with
large slabs of limestone.[291] The Assyrian architects seem, however, to
have had a decided preference for the vault in such a situation. They
expected it to give greater solidity, and in that they were not mistaken.
The vaults of burnt brick, though set without cement, have remained
unshaken and close in their joints, and the sewers they inclose are the
only voids that have remained clear in the ruins of the buildings to which
they belong.

[Illustration: FIG. 94.--Sewer at Khorsabad, with elliptical vault;
compiled from Place.]

We may, perhaps, be accused of dwelling too minutely upon these Assyrian
vaults. We have done so because there is no question more interesting or
more novel in the whole history of architecture than the true origin of the
keyed vault and the different uses to which it has been put. Ottfried
Müller looked upon the Etruscans as the inventors of the vault; he believed
that the Greek builders learnt the secret from the early inhabitants of
Italy,[292] and that the arches of the Roman _Cloaca Maxima_ built by the
Tuscan architects of the Tarquins, were the oldest that had come down to
us from antiquity. The archæological discoveries of the last fifty years
have singularly falsified his opinion and given an age to the vault never
before suspected. Even in the days of the Ancient Empire the Egyptians seem
to have understood its principle; in any case the architects of Amenophis,
of Thothmes, of Rameses, made frequent and skilful use of it long before
the Ninevite palaces in which we have found it were erected.[293] But the
possession of stones of enormous size enabled the Egyptians to dispense to
a great extent with the arch, and we need not be surprised, therefore, that
they failed to give it anything like its full development. They kept it in
the background, and while using it when necessary in their tombs, in the
outbuildings of their temples, in their private dwellings and warehouses,
they never made it a conspicuous element of their architectural system.
They may well be admired for the majesty of their colonnades and the
magnificence of their hypostyle halls, but not for the construction of
their vaults, for the imitation of which, moreover, they gave little

In Chaldæa and Assyria the conditions were different. Supposing the
architecture of those two countries to be yet entire, should we find in it
vaults rivalling in age the arch in a tomb at Abydos which Mariette
attributes to the sixth dynasty?[294] Probably not. So far as we can judge,
Chaldæan civilization does not date from so remote a past as that of Egypt,
but it appears certain that the principles of the vault were discovered and
put in practice by the Chaldees long before the comparatively modern times
in which the segmental and pointed arches of Nineveh were erected. The
latter alone are preserved because they have been hidden during all these
centuries under the heaped-up ruins of the buildings to which they
belonged, while those of Chaldæa have been carried away piece by piece, and
their materials used again and again by the modern population of

In spite, however, of the absence of such direct evidence, we may affirm
without fear that the Chaldæan architects soon discovered the principle of
the arch, and used it at least in its simplest and least complex forms. We
are led to these conclusions not only by their restriction to small units
of construction--a restriction which is sure, sooner or later, to lead to
the discovery in question--but also by induction from the monuments we have
just been studying. The arches under the hanging gardens of Babylon, the
vaults of the sewers and gateways, the domes that covered the great square
chambers in the Ninevite palaces--all these were derived, we may be sure,
from the ancient civilization. We cannot believe that such consummate skill
in the management of a difficult matter was arrived at in a day. The purely
empiric knowledge of statics it implies could only have been accumulated by
a long series of more or less happy experiments.

Thus only can we explain the ease with which the Assyrian builder
surmounted difficulties some of which would have puzzled a modern
architect, such as the pisé vaults erected over spacious galleries without
any kind of centering, and the domes over square chambers, for which some
system of pendentives--that is, of arches or other intermediate forces--by
which the base of the cupola could be allied to the top of the supporting
wall, must have been contrived. The accurate calculation of forces between
the thrust of the vaults and the strength of the retaining walls, the
dexterity with which the curves employed are varied and carried insensibly
one into the other, the skill with which the artificial materials are
prepared for their appointed office, are also surprising. By careful
moulding and manipulation the Assyrian builder made his brick voussoirs as
well fitted for their work as the cut stone of our day. Each brick had its
own shape and size, so that it was assigned in advance a particular place
in the vault and its own part in assuring the final stability of the
building. In all this we cannot avoid seeing the results of a patient and
long-continued process of experiment and education carried on through many
centuries in all the workshops of Mesopotamia.

The art of building vaults with small units of construction was, then,
carried farther in Mesopotamia than in Egypt; it was there more frankly
developed; it was there forced with greater success to supply the place of
stone and timber. It was in fact more of an indigenous art in the valley of
the Tigris and Euphrates than anywhere else, more inspired by the permanent
and unchanging conditions of the country--in a word, more national.

In these days the historian sets himself with devotion to follow in all its
involutions the long chain of thought and effort by which man has been led
from his primitive barbarism to the well-being of modern civilization, and
to his domination--every day more complete and more intelligent--over the
minor forces of nature. It is the duty of criticism, as its methods
gradually perfect themselves, to add daily to its perspicacity and powers
of observation, and to lessen as much as possible the occasions, still so
numerous, when the thread of evidence breaks in its hands and the true
relations of facts to each other become obscured. Even yet we cannot say
for certain to which nation of the ancient world the invention of the arch
belongs. In those remote ages the principle may have been discovered more
than once or twice in different and distant countries whose inhabitants
were busied over the same task. We have no reason to believe that Chaldæa
learnt the secret from Egypt, or Etruria from the East. It is none the less
true, however, that the unknown architects of Babylon and Nineveh made full
use of it at an earlier date and in more intelligent fashion than any of
their rivals. To them must be given the credit of being the masters and
art-ancestors of the men who built the Pantheon and the Church of Saint
Sophia, Santa Maria del Fiore, and Saint Peter's in Rome, and more
especially of those great modern engineers to whom the principle of the
arch has been a chief element in their success.


[280] _Art in Ancient Egypt_, vol. ii. p. 82.

[281] This chamber is 7 feet long, 3 feet 7 inches wide, and 5 feet high.
TAYLOR, _Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society_, vol. xv. p. 272.

[282] STRABO, xvi. 1, 5. DIODORUS, ii. 10.

[283] PLACE, _Ninive_, vol. i. pp. 170-182 and 256-259, vol. iii. plates

[284] PLACE, _Ninive_, vol. iii. plate 2.

[285] PLACE, _Ninive_, vol. i. p. 128.

[286] LAYARD, _Nineveh_, vol. i. p. 134; vol. ii. pp. 79 and 261.
_Discoveries_, pp. 162-165.

[287] PLACE, _Ninive_, vol. i. pp. 269-280 and plates 38 and 39.

[288] We have endeavoured to combine M. Thomas's longitudinal elevation,
vertical section, and transverse section (PLACE, _Ninive_, plate 38), in
our single cut.

[289] The same process was employed at Nimroud in a drain or water channel,
of which LAYARD gives a sketch (_Discoveries_, p. 164). In connection with
these vaults we must remember that a pointed arch has no key properly
speaking; the top stone is merely a joint. It looks as if the Assyrian
architect had a kind of instinctive appreciation of the fact.

[290] The slope, the height, and the width of this channel are not the same
throughout. In some places it is wide enough to allow two men to walk
abreast in it.

[291] LAYARD, _Nineveh_, vol. i. p. 79.

[292] OTTFRIED MÜLLER, _Handbuch der Archäologie der Kunst_, § 107 and 168
(3rd edition).

[293] _Art in Ancient Egypt_, vol. i. p. 112, and vol. ii. chap. ii. § 4.

[294] _Ibid._ vol. ii. fig. 44.

§ 6.--_Secondary Forms._

(_Doors, windows, steles, altars, obelisks, mouldings._)

We have been obliged to dwell at length on the arch and the column because
those two elements of construction are of the greatest importance to all
who wish to gain a true idea of Mesopotamian art and of its influence upon
neighbouring peoples and over subsequent developments of architecture. On
the other hand we shall have very little to say upon what, in speaking of
Egyptian art, we called _secondary forms_.[295]

We have already had occasion to speak of some of these, such as windows and
doors. We have explained how the nature of his materials and the heat of
the climate led the architect to practically suppress the former, while,
on the other hand, he gave extravagant dimensions to the latter. It was to
the door that the rooms had mainly to look for the light and air, with
which they could not entirely dispense. We have now to give a few details
as to the fashion in which these large openings were set in the walls that
enframed them. As for salient decorative members--or mouldings, to give
them their right name--their list is very short. We shall, however, find
them in some variety in a series of little monuments that deserve, perhaps,
more attention than they have yet received--we mean altars, steles, and
those objects to which the name of _obelisks_ has, with some inaccuracy,
been given. Some of these objects have no little grace of their own, and
serve to prove that what the Chaldæans and Assyrians lacked was neither
taste nor invention, but the encouragement that the possession of a kindly
material would have given to their genius.

Doorways seem to have been generally crowned with a brick archivolt;
round-headed doors occur oftener than any others on the bas-reliefs, but
rectangular examples are not wanting (see Fig. 43). In the latter case the
lintel must have been of wood, metal, or stone. Naturally the bronze and
timber lintels have disappeared, while in but a single instance have the
explorers found one of stone, namely that discovered by George Smith at the
entrance to a hall in the palace of Sennacherib (Fig. 95). It consists of a
block of richly carved limestone. Its sculptures are now much worn, but
their motives and firm execution may still be admired. Two winged dragons,
with long necks folded like that of a swan, face each other, the narrow
space between them being occupied by a large two-handled vase. Above these
there is a band of carved foliage, the details of which are lost in the
shadow cast by a projecting cornice along the top of the lintel.[296] The
necklace round the throat of the right-hand dragon should be noticed.

It is surprising that stone lintels are so rare, especially as the
corresponding piece, if we may call it so, namely, the sill or threshold,
was generally of limestone or alabaster, at least in the more important and
more richly-decorated rooms.

[Illustration: FIG. 95.--Decorated lintel, 6 feel long and 10 inches high.
British Museum.]

The exploration of the Assyrian palaces has brought three systems of
flooring to light--beaten earth, brick pavements, and pavements of
limestone slabs.[297] In the palace of Sargon nearly every chamber, except
those of the harem, had a floor of beaten earth, like that in a modern
fellah's house. Even the halls in which the painted and sculptured
decoration was most sumptuous were no exceptions to this rule. There is
nothing in this, however, to surprise those who have lived in the East;
like the Turks, Arabs, and Persians of our own time, the Chaldæans and
Assyrians were shod, except when fighting or hunting, with those
_babooshes_ or sandals that are so often figured in the bas-reliefs. These
must have been taken off, as they are to-day, before entering a temple, a
palace, or a harem. Moses was required to take off his shoes before
approaching the burning bush, because the place on which he stood was holy
ground. In the houses of their gods, in those of their kings and rich men,
the floor would be covered with those rich carpets and mats that from one
end of the East to the other conceal from sight the floors of white wood or
beaten earth. In summer the mats are fresh and grateful to the bare feet,
in the winter the carpets are soft and warm. The floors themselves are
hardly ever seen, so that we need feel no surprise at their being left
without ornament. So, too, was it in all probability in the palaces of
Sargon and of other kings, and in the sacred buildings.

Elsewhere, however, we find a pavement constructed with the most scrupulous
care, and consisting of three distinct parts,--two layers of large bricks
with a thick bed of sand interposed between them. The lower course of
bricks is set in a bed of bitumen which separates it from the earth and
prevents any dampness passing either up or down. This system of paving was
used in most of the harem chambers at Khorsabad as well as in the open
courts and upon the terraces. Lastly, in certain rooms of the seraglio and
harem, in a few of the courts, in the vestibules, before the gates of the
city, and in paths across wide open spaces, a limestone pavement has been
found. Wherever this pavement exists, the stones are of the same kind and
placed in the same manner. The limestone is exactly similar to that in the
retaining walls described on page 147. The stones are often more than three
feet square, and from two feet six inches to two feet ten inches thick.
Their shape is not that of a regular solid; it is more like a reversed
cone, the base forming the pavement and the narrow end being buried in the
ground. These stones are simply placed side by side without the use of
mortar or cement of any kind, but their weight and peculiar shape gave a
singular durability to the pavement for which they were used.

Most of the sills belong to this class. And in Assyria where doorways were
several yards deep and two or three wide, these sills were in reality the
pavements of passages or even chambers.[298]

The materials for these pavements were always different from those of the
floors on each side of them. In the entrances to the brick-paved courts
large stones were used; in the passages between rooms floored with beaten
earth bricks were introduced. The stone thresholds were mostly alabaster
like the sculptured slabs upon the chamber walls. As a rule they were of a
single piece, the great extent of surface, sometimes as much as ten or
eleven square yards, notwithstanding. In the entries flanked by the winged
bulls the sills were carved with inscriptions, which were comparatively
rare elsewhere. Sometimes we find a rich and elaborate ornamentation in
place of the wedges; it is made up of geometrical forms and conventional
foliage and flowers; the figures of men and animals are never introduced.
Such an arrangement was in better taste than the mosaic thresholds of the
Romans where men were shown in pictures destined to be trodden under foot.
The Assyrian carver doubtless took his designs from the carpets in the
adjoining chambers.

[Illustration: FIG. 96.--Sill of a door, from Khorsabad. Louvre. Length 40
inches. Drawn by Bourgoin.[299]]

A good idea of these designs may be formed from the slab figured below. The
centre is occupied by a number of interlacing circles, betraying no little
skill on the part of the ornamentist. The "knop and flower" border of
alternately closed and shut lotus flowers is separated from the centre by a
band of rosettes. The whole is distinguished by thought and a severe taste.
The indented corners, where the pivots of the doors were placed, and the
slot for the lower bolt of the door near the centre, should be noticed.
These details prove that in this instance the door was a double one. In
other cases the absence of the slot and the presence of only one pivot hole
show that single doors were also used.[300] The doors always opened
inwards, being folded back either against the sides of the entry itself or
against the walls of the chamber.

Many of these sills or thresholds show no sign of a pivot at either
corner, whence we may conclude that many of the openings were left without
doors, and could only have been closed by those suspended carpets or mats
of which such ready use is made in hot countries.

In very magnificent buildings metal thresholds sometimes replaced those of
stone or brick. In the British Museum there is a huge bronze sill that was
found in a ruined temple at Borsippa, by Mr. Rassam. Its extreme length is
sixty inches, its width twenty, and its thickness about three and a half
inches. It bears an inscription of Nebuchadnezzar the arrangement of which
proves that the sill when complete had double its present length, or about
ten feet. Its upper surface is decorated with large rosettes within square
borders. We need hardly say that it is a solid casting, and that its weight
is, therefore, by no means trifling. The workmen who put in place and those
who cast it must both have thoroughly understood what they were about. Even
now, we are told, the latter operation would be attended by some

The founders who produced this casting could have no difficulty over the
other parts of the door-case, and we have no reason to doubt the statement
of Herodotus, who thus ends his account of how the walls of Babylon were
built: "The walls had a hundred gates, all of bronze; their jambs and
lintels were of the same material."[302]

These lintels and jambs must have been, like the Borsippa threshold, of
massive bronze, or they would soon have been crushed by the weight they had
to support. On the other hand, had doors themselves been entirely of that
metal it would have been very difficult if not impossible to swing them
upon their hinges, especially in the case of city gates like those just
referred to. It is probable, then, that they were of timber, covered and
concealed by plates of bronze. Herodotus indeed narrates what he saw, like
a truthful and intelligent witness, but he was not an archæologist, and it
did not occur to him when he entered the famous city which formed the goal
of his travels, to feel the shining metal and find out how much of it was
solid and how much a mere armour for a softer substance behind.

From fragments found at Khorsabad, M. Place had already divined that the
Assyrians covered the planks of their doors with bronze plates, but all
doubts on the point have been removed by a recent discovery, which has
proved once for all that art profited in the end by what at first was
nothing more than a protection against weather and other causes of
deterioration. In 1878 Mr. Hormuzd Rassam, the fellow traveller of Sir
Henry Layard, found in the course of his excavations in Assyria for the
British Museum, some metallic bands covered with _repoussé_ reliefs and
bearing the name of Shalmaneser III. (895-825). The site of this discovery
was Balawat, an artificial mound about fifteen miles to the east of
Mossoul.[303] As soon as these bands had been examined in London by
competent archæologists, they were recognized as having belonged to the
leaves of a wooden door, which must have been nearly twenty-seven feet high
and about three inches thick. This latter dimension has been deduced from
the length of the nails used to keep the bands in place. At one end these
bands were bent with the hammer round the pivot to which each half of the
door was attached. These pivots, judging from the bronze feet into which
they were "stepped," were about twelve inches in diameter.

It is easy to see from their shape how these feet were fixed and how they
did their work (Fig. 97). The point of the cone was let into a hollow
socket prepared for it in a block cut from the hardest stone that could be
found. Such a material would resist friction better and take a higher
polish than brick, so that it was at once more durable and less holding.
Sockets of flint, basalt, trachyte, and other volcanic rocks have been
found in great numbers both in Assyria and Chaldæa.[304] Instances of the
use of brick in this situation are not wanting,[305] however, and now and
then the greenish marks left by the prolonged contact of metal have been
discovered in the hollows of these sockets.[306]

[Illustration: FIG. 97.--Bronze foot from the Balawat gates and its
socket.[307] British Museum.]

More than one method was in use for fixing the pivots of the doors and
enabling them to turn easily. Sir Henry Layard brought from Nimroud four
heavy bronze rings which must have been used to supplement these hollow
sockets.[308] In one way or another bronze occupied a very important place
in the door architecture of the Assyrians. In those cases where it neither
supplied the door-case nor ornamented its leaves, it was at least used to
fix the latter and to enable them to turn.

In Assyrian façades doors had much greater importance than in those
architectural styles in which walls are broken up by numerous openings.
Their great size, their rich and varied ornamentation, the important
figures in high relief with which the walls about them were adorned, the
solemn tints of bronze lighted up here and there by the glory of gold, the
lively colours of the enamelled bricks that formed their archivolts, and
finally the contrast between the bare and gleaming walls on either side and
their depths of shadow--all these combined to give accent to the doorways
and to afford that relief to the monotony of the walls of which they stood
in so great a need. For Assyrian mouldings are even poorer than those of
Egypt. The softness of crude brick, the brittle hardness of burnt brick,
are neither of them well disposed towards those delicate curves by which a
skilful architect contrives to break the sameness of a façade, and to give
the play of light and shadow which make up the beauty of a Greek or
Florentine cornice.

The only mouldings encountered in Assyria have been found on a few
buildings or parts of buildings in which stone was employed. We may quote
as an instance the retaining wall of the small, isolated structure
excavated by Botta towards the western angle of the Khorsabad mound, and by
him believed to be a temple.[309] The wall in question is built of a
hardish grey limestone, the blocks being laid alternately as stretchers and
headers. The wall is complete with plinth, die and cornice (Figs. 98 and
99). The latter is a true cornice, composed of a small torus or bead, a
scotia, and a fillet. The elements are the same as those of the Egyptian
cornice, except in the profile of the hollow member, which is here a
_scotia_ and in Egypt a _cavetto_, to speak the language of modern
architects. The Egyptian moulding is at once bolder and more simple, while
the vertical grooves cut upon its surface give it a rich and furnished
aspect that its Assyrian rival is without.[310]

We have another example of Assyrian mouldings on the winged sphinx found
by Layard at Nimroud (Fig. 85)--the sphinx, that is, that bore a column on
its back. In section this moulding may be compared to a large _scotia_
divided into two _cavettos_ by a _torus_. Its effect is not happy. The
Assyrians had too little experience in stone-cutting to enable them to
choose the most satisfactory proportions and profiles for mouldings.

We may also point to the entablatures upon the small pavilions reproduced
in our Figs. 41 and 42. They are greatly wanting in elegance; in one
especially--that shown in Fig. 42--the superstructure is very heavy in
proportion to the little temple itself and its columns.

[Illustration: FIGS. 98, 99.--Assyrian mouldings. Section and elevation;
from Botta.]

The only moulding, if we may call it so, borrowed by Assyria from Chaldæa,
and employed commonly in both countries, is a brick one. Loftus was the
first to point it out. He discovered it in the ruined building, doubtless
an ancient temple, in the neighbourhood of Warka, and called by the natives
_Wuswas_. This is his description:--"Upon the lower portion of the building
are groups of seven half-columns repeated seven times--the rudest perhaps
which were ever reared, but built of moulded semicircular bricks, and
securely bonded to the wall. The entire absence of cornice, capital, base
or diminution of shafts, so characteristic of other columnar architecture,
and the peculiar and original disposition of each group in rows like palm
logs, suggest the type from which they sprang."[311]

With his usual penetration, Loftus divines and explains the origin of these
forms. The idea must have been suggested, he thinks, by the palm trunks
that were used set closely together in timber constructions, or at regular
intervals in mud walls. In either case half of their thickness would be
visible externally, and would naturally provoke imitation from architects
in search of ornament for the bald faces of their clay structures.[312]

[Illustration: FIG. 100.--Façade of a ruined building at Warka; from

As to the effect thus obtained, the rough sketch given by Loftus hardly
enables us to decide (see Fig. 100). From Assyria, however, come better
materials for a judgment. We there often find these perpendicular ribs,
generally in groups of seven, in buildings that have been carefully studied
and illustrated upon a sufficient scale. We give an example from one of the
harem gates at Khorsabad (Fig. 101), by which we may see at once that an
ornamental motive of no little value was afforded by these huge vertical
reeds with their play of alternate light and shadow, and the happy contrast
they set up between themselves and the brilliant hues of the painted walls
and enamelled bricks. The whole had a certain elegant richness that can
hardly be appreciated without the restoration, in every line and hue, of
the original composition.

Both at Warka and in the Khorsabad harem, these vertical ribs are
accompanied by another ornament which may, perhaps, have been in even more
frequent use. We mean those long perpendicular grooves, rectangular in
section, with which Assyrian and Chaldæan walls were seamed. In the harem
wall these grooves flank the group of vertical reeds right and left,
dividing each of the angle piers into two quasi-pilasters. At Warka they
appear in the higher part of the façade, above the groups of semi-columns.
They serve to mark out a series of panels, of which only the lower parts
have been preserved. The missing parts of the decoration may easily be
supplied by a little study of the Assyrian remains. The four sides of the
building at Khorsabad, called by M. Place the _Observatory_, are decorated
uniformly in this fashion. The general effect may be gathered from our
restoration of one angle. The architect was not content with decorating his
wall with these grooves alone; he divided it into alternate compartments,
the one salient, the next set back, and upon these compartments he ploughed
the long lines of his decoration. These changes of surface helped greatly
to produce the varied play of light and shadow upon which the architect
depended for relief to the bare masses of his walls. The most ordinary
workmen could be trusted to carry out a decoration that consisted merely in
repeating, at certain measured intervals, as simple a form as can be
imagined, and, in the language of art as in that of rhetoric, there is no
figure more effective in its proper place than repetition.

[Illustration: FIG. 101.--Decoration of one of the harem gates, at
Khorsabad; compiled from Place.]

The necessity for something to break the monotony of the brick
architecture was generally and permanently felt, and in those Parthian and
Sassanide periods in which, as we have said, the traditions of the old
Chaldæan school were continued, we find the panel replaced by wall arcades
in which the arches are divided from each other by tall pilasters. In
general principle and intention the two methods of decoration are

The Egyptian architect had recourse to the same motive, first, in the tombs
of the Ancient Empire for the decoration of the chamber walls in the
mastabas; secondly, for the relief of great brick surfaces. The resemblance
to the Mesopotamian work is sometimes very great.[313]

We have explained this form by one of the transpositions so frequent in the
history of architecture, namely, a conveyance of motives from carpentry to
brickwork and masonry.[314] In the former the openings left in the skeleton
are gradually filled in, and these additions, by the very nature of their
materials, most frequently take the form of panels. The grooves that define
the panels in brick or stone buildings represent the intervals left by the
carpenter between his planks and beams. They could also be obtained very
easily upon the smooth face of beams brought into close contact, either by
means of the gouge or some other instrument capable of cutting into the
wood. We may safely assert that in Chaldæa and Assyria, as in Egypt, it was
with carpentry that the motive in question originated.

On the other hand, if there be a form that results directly from the system
of construction on which it is used, that form is the crenellation with
which, apparently, every building in Mesopotamia was crowned.[315]

[Illustration: FIG. 102.--View of an angle of the observatory at Khorsabad;
compiled from Place.]

The Assyrian brickwork in which so many vast undertakings were carried out
consists of units all of one dimension, and bonded by the simple
alternation of their joints. Supposing a lower course to consist of two
entire bricks, the one above it would be one whole brick flanked on either
side by a half brick. An Assyrian wall or building consists of the infinite
repetition of this single figure. Each whole brick lies upon the joint
between two others, and every perpendicular wall, including parapet or
battlement, is raised upon this system.

[Illustration: FIG. 103.--Lateral façade of the palace at Firouz-Abad; from
Flandin and Coste.]

[Illustration: FIG. 104.--Battlements from an Assyrian palace.]

Far from being modified by the crenellations, this bond regulates their
form, dimensions, and distribution. The crenellations of the palace walls
consist of two rectangular masses, of unequal size, placed one upon the
other. The lower is two bricks'-length, or about thirty-two inches, wide,
and the thickness of three bricks, or about fourteen inches, high. The
upper mass equals the lower in height, while its width is the length of a
single brick, or sixteen inches. The total height of the battlement,
between twenty-eight and twenty-nine inches, is thus divided into two
masses, one of which is twice the size of the other (see Fig. 104). The
battlements are all the same, and between each pair is a void which is
nothing but the space a battlement upside down would occupy. Fill this
space with the necessary bricks, and a section of wall would be restored
identical in bond with that below the battlements, with the one exception
that the highest block of the battlement, being only one brick wide, is
formed by laying three whole bricks one upon the other.[316]

The crenellations we have been describing are those upon the retaining
walls of Sargon's palace at Khorsabad. Those of the _Observatory_ are
slightly different in that they are three stories high instead of two (Fig.
105). The lowest is three bricks wide, the second three, the topmost two.
They are each three bricks high. Why were these battlements given a height
beyond those of the royal palace? That question may be easily answered. The
crenellations of the observatory were destined for a much more lofty
situation than those of the palace. The base of the former monument rose
about 144 feet above the summit of the artificial hill upon which it was
placed; the total elevation was about 190 feet, a height at which ordinary
battlements, especially when for the most part they had nothing but the
face of the higher stories to be relieved against, would be practically

[Illustration: FIG. 105.--Battlements from the Khorsabad _Observatory_.]

Whether composed of two or three stages this battlement was always
inscribed within an isosceles triangle; in fact, when a third story was
added, the height and the width at the base increased in the same
proportions. M. Place lays great stress upon this triangle. He makes it cut
the upper angles of each of the superimposed rectangles, as we have done in
our Figs. 104 and 105, and he points out how such a process gives an
outline similar to that of a palisade cut into points at its summit, a
precaution that is often taken to render the escalade of such an obstacle
more difficult, and M. Place is inclined to think that the idea of these
crenellations was suggested by those of a wooden palisade, a succession of
rectangles being substituted for a triangle in order to meet the special
conditions of the new material. To us, however, it hardly appears necessary
to go back to the details of wooden construction to account for these
forms. We find no sign of M. Place's spiked palisades in the bas-reliefs.
The inclosures of the Mesopotamian fields must have consisted of palm
trunks and strong reeds; planks were hardly to be cut from the trees of the
country. Moreover, the mason and bricklayer saw the forms of these
battlements repeated by their hand every instant. Whenever they began a
fresh course the first brick they placed upon the joint between two units
of the course below was the first step towards a battlement. The decoration
obtained by the use of these battlements was not a survival from a previous
form, it was a natural consequence from the fundamental principle of
Assyrian construction.

It has been thought that some of the buildings represented on the
bas-reliefs have triangular denticulation in place of the battlements
figured on the last page;[317] and there are, in fact, instances in the
reliefs of walls denticulated like a palisade (see Fig. 38), but these must
not, we think, be taken literally. In most cases the chisel has been at the
trouble to show the real shapes of the battlements (Fig. 42), but in some
instances, as in this, it has been content to suggest them by a series of
zig-zags. Here and there we may point out a picture in stone which forms a
transition between the two shapes, in Fig. 41 for example. Such an
abbreviation explains itself. It is, in fact, nothing more than an
imitation of the real appearance of the rectangular battlements when seen
from a distance.[318]

The architect was not content with the mere play of light and shade
afforded by these battlements. He gave them a slight salience over the
façade and a polychromatic decoration. About three feet below the base of
the crenellations the face of the wall was brought forward an inch or two,
so that the battlements themselves, and some eight or ten courses of bricks
below them, overhung the façade by that distance, forming a kind of
rudimentary cornice (see Fig. 106). In very elaborate buildings enamelled
bricks were inserted between the battlements and this cornice. These were
decorated with white rosettes of different sizes upon a blue ground. The
explorers of Khorsabad encountered numberless fragments of these bricks and
some whole ones in the heaps of rubbish at the foot of the external walls.
Their situation proved that they had come from the top of the walls, and on
the whole we may accept the restoration of M. Thomas, which we borrow from
the work of M. Place, as sufficiently justified (Fig. 106).[319]

This method of crowning a wall may seem poor when compared to the Greek
cornice, or even to that of Egypt, but in view of the materials with which
he had to work, it does honour to the architect. The long band of shadow
near the summit of the façade, the bands of brilliantly coloured ornament
above it, and the rich play of light and shade among the battlements, the
whole relieved against the brilliant blue of an Eastern sky, must have had
a fine effect. The uniformity from which it suffered was a defect common to
Mesopotamian architecture as a whole, and one inseparable from the absence
or comparative disuse of stone. But in the details we have been studying we
find yet another illustration of the skill with which these people
corrected, if we may so phrase it, the vices of matter, and by a frank use
of their materials and insistence upon those horizontal and perpendicular
lines which they were best fitted to give, evolved from it an architecture
that proved them to have possessed a real genius for art.

[Illustration: FIG. 106.--Battlements of Sargon's palace at Khorsabad;
compiled from Place.]

The Assyrians seem to have been so pleased with these crenellations that
they placed them upon such small things as steles and altars. In one of the
Kouyundjik reliefs (Fig. 42) there is a small object--a pavilion or altar,
its exact character is not very clearly shown--which is thus crowned.
Another example is to be found in a bas-relief from Khorsabad (Fig. 107).

[Illustration: FIG. 107.--Altar; from Rawlinson.]

We are thus brought to the subject of altars. These are sufficiently varied
in form. In the Kouyundjik bas-relief (Fig. 42) we find those shapes at the
four angles which were copied by the peoples of the Mediterranean, and led
to the expression, "the horns of the altar." In the Khorsabad relief (Fig.
107) the salience of these horns is less marked. On the other hand, the die
or dado below them is fluted. Another altar brought from Khorsabad to the
Louvre is quite different in shape (Fig. 108). It is triangular on plan.
Above a plinth with a gentle salience rises the altar itself, supported at
each angle by the paw of a lion. The table is circular, and decorated
round the edge with cuneiform characters.

[Illustration: FIG. 108.--Altar in the Louvre. Height 32 inches.[320]]

A third type is to be found in an altar from Nimroud, now in the British
Museum (Fig. 109); it dates from the reign of Rammanu-nirari, who appears
to have lived in the first half of the eighth century before our era.[321]
The rolls at each end of this altar are very curious and seem to be the
prototype of a form with which the Græco-Roman sarcophagi have made us

[Illustration: FIG. 109.--Altar in the British Museum. Height 22 inches,
length at base 22 inches.]

The various kinds of steles are also very interesting. The most remarkable
of all is one discovered at Khorsabad by M. Place (Fig. 100). The shaft is
composed of a series of perpendicular bands alternately flat and concave,
exactly similar to the flutes of the Ionic order. The summit is crowned by
a plume of palm leaves rising from a double scroll, like two consoles
placed horizontally and head to head. The grace and slenderness of this
stele are in strong contrast to the usually short and heavy forms affected
by the Assyrian architects, especially when they worked in stone. It is
difficult to say what its destination may have been. It was discovered
lying in the centre of an outer court surrounded by offices and other
subordinate buildings; it has neither figure nor inscription.[322] The base
was quite rough and shapeless, and must have been sunk into the soil of the
court, so that the flutes began at the level of the pavement. M. Place
suggests that it may have been a _milliarium_, from which all the roads of
the empire were measured. We do not know that there is a single fact to
support such an unnecessary guess.

The stele of which we have been speaking is unique, but of another
peculiarly Assyrian type there is no lack of examples, namely, of that to
which the name _obelisk_ has, with some want of discrimination, been
applied. The Assyrian monoliths so styled are much shorter in their
proportions than the lofty "needles" of Egypt, while their summits,
instead of ending in a sharp pyramidion, are "stepped" and crowned with a
narrow plateau. (Fig. 111.) These monoliths were never very imposing in
size, the tallest is hardly more than ten feet high.

[Illustration: FIG. 110.--Stele from Khorsabad. Plan and elevation; from

[Illustration: FIG. 111.--The obelisk of Shalmaneser II. in the British
Museum.[323] Height 78 inches. Drawn by Bourgoin.]

Whatever name we choose to give to these objects, there can be no doubt as
to their purpose. They are commemorative monuments, upon which both writer
and sculptor have been employed to celebrate the glory of the sovereign. A
long inscription covers the base of the shaft, while the upper part of each
face is divided into five pictures, the narrow bands between them bearing
short legends descriptive of the scenes represented. It was, of course,
important that such figured panegyrics should be afforded the best possible
chance of immortality; and we find that most of these obelisks are composed
of the hardest rocks. Of the four examples in the British Museum, three are
of basalt and one only of limestone.

[Illustration: FIG. 112.--Rock-cut Stele from Kouyundjik. British Museum.]

Another type of stele in frequent employment was that with an arched top
and inclosing an image of the king. It is often represented on the
bas-reliefs[324] (Fig. 42), and not a few examples of it are in our
museums. When we come to speak of Assyrian sculpture we shall have to
reproduce some of them. We find a motive of the same kind, but more ornate
and complicated, in the bas-relief from Kouyundjik figured above (Fig.
112). A hunting scene is carved on a wall of rock at the top of a hill. A
lion attacks the king's chariot from behind; the king is about to pierce
his head with an arrow while the charioteer leans over the horses and seems
to moderate the determination with which they fly.[325] The sculpture is
surrounded by a frame arched at the top and inclosed by an architrave with
battlemented cornice. The whole forms a happily conceived little monument;
it is probable that it was originally accompanied by an explanatory

This analysis of what we have called secondary forms has shown how great
was the loss of the Chaldæan architect and of his too docile Assyrian
pupil, in being deprived--by circumstances on the one hand and want of
inclination on the other--of such a material as stone. Without it they
could make use of none of those variations of plan and other contrivances
of the same kind by which the skilful architect suggests the internal
arrangement of his structures on their façades. For such purposes he had to
turn to those constituents of his art to which we shall devote our next


[295] _Art in Ancient Egypt_, vol. ii. ch. ii.

[296] GEORGE SMITH, _Assyrian Discoveries_, pp. 146, 308, 429. This lintel
has been fixed over the south doorway into the Kouyundjik Gallery of the
British Museum. When examined in place, the running ornament in the hollow
of the cornice will be easily recognized--in spite of the mutilation of its
upper edge--as made up of a modified form of the palmette motive, which had
its origin in the fan-shaped head of the date palm. The eight plumes of
which the ornament consists are each formed of three large leaves or loops
and two small pendant ones, the latter affording a means of connecting each
plume with those next to it.--ED.

[297] PLACE, _Ninive_, vol. i. pp. 295-302.

[298] PLACE, _Ninive_, vol. i. pp. 302, 303.

[299] Two much better examples of this same work may be seen in the
Assyrian basement-room of the British Museum.--ED.

[300] PLACE, _Ninive_, vol. i. p. 314.

[301] We here quote the opinion of Mr. Ready, the well-known director of
the museum workshops. In April, 1882, he had examined this curious
monument, which is now placed in the public galleries close to the Balawat

[302] HERODOTUS, ii. 179: Pylai de enestasi perix tou teicheos hekaton,
chalkeai pasa kai stathmoi te kai huperthuma hôsautôs.

[303] An account of the discovery and a short description of the remains,
will be found in an article by Mr. Theo. G. PINCHES, published in the
_Transactions of the Society of Biblical Archæology_, and entitled: _The
Bronze Gates discovered by Mr. Rassam at Balawat_ (vol. vii. part i. pp.
83-118). The sculptured bronze from these gates is not all, however, in the
British Museum. Mr. Rassam's workmen succeeded in appropriating a certain
number in the course of the excavations, and thus M. Gustave Schlumberger
has become possessed of a few pieces, while others of much greater
importance have come into the hands of M. de Clercq. M. F. LENORMANT has
published in the _Gazette Archéologique_ (1878) a description of the pieces
belonging to M. Schlumberger, with two plates in heliogravure. We have
already referred to the great work which is now in course of publication by
the _Society of Biblical Archæology_; it will put an exact reproduction of
this interesting monument in the hands of Assyriologists and those
interested in the history of art. We shall return to these gates when we
come to treat of sculpture.

[304] A number of sockets found by M. de Sarzec in the ruins of Tello are
now deposited in the Louvre. M. PLACE found some at Khorsabad (_Ninive_,
vol. i. p. 314), and Sir Henry LAYARD on the sites of the towns in Upper
Mesopotamia (_Discoveries_, p. 242). The British Museum has a considerable
number found in various places.

[305] In the same case as the Balawat gates there is a brick, which has
obviously been used for this purpose.

[306] PLACE, _Ninive_, vol. i. p. 314.

[307] In the British Museum there are some smaller bronze objects of the
same kind from the palace of Sennacherib. Others were found by M. PLACE in
the palace of Sargon (_Ninive_, plate 70, fig. 6), so that they must have
been in frequent use.

[308] LAYARD (_Discoveries_, p. 163) gives a sketch of one of these
objects. Its internal diameter is about five inches, and its weight 6 lbs.
3-3/4 oz. These rings are now in the British Museum.

[309] BOTTA, _Monument de Ninive_, vol. v. pp. 53-55.

[310] BOTTA, _Monument de Ninive_, plates 149 and 150. See also LAYARD,
_Discoveries_, p. 131, and FERGUSSON, _History of Architecture_, vol. i. p.
185 (2nd edition).

[311] LOFTUS, _Travels and Researches_, p. 175.

[312] M. Place offers a similar explanation of the engaged columns that
were found in many parts of the palace at Khorsabad (_Ninive_, vol. ii. p.
50). He has brought together in a single plate all the examples of
pilasters and half columns that he encountered in that edifice. Similar
attempts to imitate the characteristic features of a log house are found in
many of the most ancient Egyptian tombs. See _Art in Ancient Egypt_, vol.
ii. p. 62 and fig. 37.

[313] See, for instance, in _Art in Ancient Egypt_, vol. i. figs. 123, 124,
201, and in vol. ii. pp. 55-64, and figs. 35-37 and 139.

[314] _Art in Ancient Egypt_, vol. i. p. 117.

[315] We here give a résumé of M. PLACE'S observations on this point. He
made a careful study of these crenellations. _Ninive_, vol. ii. pp. 53-57.

[316] See M. PLACE'S diagrams, _Ninive_, vol. ii. p. 54.

[317] PLACE, _Ninive_, vol. ii. p. 53.

[318] M. Perrot dismisses the evidence of those who believe in a palisade
origin of the Assyrian battlements in what is, perhaps, rather too summary
a fashion. The fact is that the great majority of the crenellated buildings
in the reliefs have triangular battlements, while the theory that they are
merely a hasty way of representing the stepped crenellations is to some
extent discredited by their frequent occurrence side by side with the
latter on the same relief. The Balawat gates, for instance, contain some
nine or ten examples of the triangular, and four or five of the stepped,
shape. In the series of sculptured slabs representing the siege of a city
by Assurnazirpal (10 to 15 in the Kouyundjik gallery at the British
Museum), there are examples of both forms, and in more than one instance
the triangular battlements are decorated with lines and rosettes--similar
in principle to those shown above in fig. 106--that can hardly be
reconciled with the notion that their form is the result of haste on the
part of the artist. In the Assyrian Basement Room in the British Museum
there is an interesting bas-relief representing Assyrian soldiers busy with
the demolition of a fortified wall, probably of some city just taken. The
air is thick with the materials thrown down from its summit, among them a
great number of planks or beams, which seem to suggest that timber was
freely employed in the upper works of an Assyrian wall. If this was so, the
pointed battlements in the reliefs may very well represent those in which
timber was used, and the stepped ones their brick imitations. Both forms
were used as decorations in places where no real battlements could have
existed, as, for instance, on the tent of Sennacherib, in the well-known
bas-relief of the siege of Lachish (see fig. 56).--ED.

[319] PLACE, _Ninive_, vol. ii. p. 85.

[320] There is an altar almost exactly similar to this in the British
Museum. It was found in front of the temple of the War God, Nimroud.--ED.

[321] Upon some other monuments brought from the same place by Mr. Hormuzd
Rassam, and also exhibited in the Nimroud central saloon, we may read by
the side of Rammanu-nirari's name that of his spouse Sammuramat, who seems
to have been associated with him in the government, and to have been the
recipient of particular honours. The name of this princess has caused some
to recognize in her the fabulous Semiramis of the Greek writers. In
consequence of facts that have escaped us she may well have furnished the
first idea for the romantic legends whose echo has come down to our times.

[322] PLACE, _Ninive_, vol. i. p. 96; vol. ii. pp. 71-73.

[323] Besides the obelisk of Shalmaneser II., which is in a marvellous
state of preservation, the British Museum possesses three other objects of
the same kind. Two of these were made for Assurnazirpal; the third, the
most ancient of all, dates from the time of Tiglath Pileser I.; unhappily
only fragments of it remain.

[324] See also BOTTA, _Monument de Ninive_, vol. i. plate 64. We here find
an instance of one of these arched steles erected before a fortress.

[325] ?--ED.

§ 7.--_Decoration._

Mesopotamia was no exception to the general rule that decoration is
governed by construction. To take only one example, and that from an art we
have already studied, the Egyptian temple was entirely of stone, and its
decoration formed a part of the very substance of what we may call the
flesh and blood of the edifice. The elements of that rich and brilliant
decoration are furnished by those mouldings which make up in vigour what
they lack in variety, by the slight relief or the hardly perceptible
intaglio of the shadowless figures cut by the sculptor in stone, and
covered by the painter with the liveliest colours. This sumptuous
decoration, covering every external and internal surface, may no more be
detached from it than the skin of an animal may be detached from its
muscles. The union is even more intimate in this case, the adherence more
complete. So long as the Egyptian walls remain standing, the blocks of
limestone, sandstone, or granite of which they are composed, can never be
entirely freed from the images, that is, from the expression of the
thoughts, cut upon them by the men of forty centuries ago.

In Assyria the case was different. There buildings were of brick, each unit
being in the vast majority of cases a repetition of its neighbour. In very
few instances were the bricks of special shapes, and the buildings in which
they were used could only be decorated by attached ornament, similar in
principle to the mats and hangings we spread over the floors and walls that
we wish to hide. This result they obtained in one of two ways; they either
cased their walls in stone, an expensive and laborious process, or they
covered them with a decoration of many colours.

As soon as stone came into use, it must have offered an irresistible
temptation to the chisel of the sculptor and the ornamentist; and so we
nearly always find it decorated with carvings. Sometimes, as in the lintel
and thresholds described above (Figs. 95 and 96), the motives are purely
ornamental. Elsewhere, in the gates of the Assyrian palaces, and in the
plinths of the walls that surround their courts and halls, we find both
figures in the round and in low relief. In a future chapter we shall
attempt to define the style of these works and to determine their merit.
For the present we must be content with pointing out the part played by
sculpture in the general system of decoration.

In Chaldæa sculpture must have played a very feeble part in the _ensemble_
of a building, stone was too costly in consequence of the distance it had
to be carried. From the ruins of Chaldæa no colossi, like those which
flanked the entrances of the Ninevite palaces, none of those long
inscriptions upon alabaster slabs which have been of such value for the
student of Assyrian history, have been brought. This latter material and
all the facilities it offered to the sculptor was apparently entirely
neglected by the Chaldæans. In Lower Mesopotamia the hard volcanic rocks
were chiefly used. They were preferred, no doubt, for their durability, but
they were little fitted for the execution of figures of any size, and
especially was it impossible to think of using them for such historic
bas-reliefs as those upon which the Assyrians marshalled hundreds, or
rather thousands, of busy figures. Chaldæan doorways may, however, have
been sometimes flanked with lions and bulls,[326] we are indeed tempted to
assign to such a position one monument which has been described by
travellers, namely, the lion both Rich and Layard saw half buried in the
huge ruin at Babylon called the _Kasr_.[327] It is larger than life. It
stands upon a plinth, with its paws upon the figure of a struggling man.
There is a circular hole in its jaw bigger than a man's fist. The
workmanship is rough; so too, perhaps, is that of the basalt lion seen by
Loftus at Abou-Sharein. This latter is about fifty-four inches high and its
original place may very well have been before one of the doorways of the

Of all animal forms, that of the lion was the first to afford materials for
decorative composition of any value, and even after all the centuries that
have passed, the lion has not lost his vogue in the East. We might, if we
chose, multiply examples of this persistence, but we shall be content with
quoting one. In the centre of Asia Minor, at the village of Angora, in
which I passed three months of the year 1861, I encountered these lions at
every turn. A short distance off, in the village of Kalaba, there was a
fountain of Turkish construction in which a lion, quite similar in style to
those of Assyria, had been inserted.[329] In the court of a mosque there
was a lion in the round, a remarkable work by some Græco-Roman
sculptor.[330] There and in other towns of Asia Minor, lions from the
Seljukian period are by no means rare, and even now they are made in
considerable numbers. After the labours of the day we sometimes passed the
evenings in the villas of the rich Greek merchants, which were nearly all
on the east of the town. Most of these houses were of recent construction,
and were filled with mirrors, fine carpets, and engravings. In front of the
house, and in the centre of a large paved and trellised court, there were
fountains, sometimes ornamented with considerable taste, in which, on great
occasions, a slender jet of water would give coolness to the air. The
angles of nearly every one of these fountains were marked with small white
marble lions, heavy and awkward in shape, but nevertheless considered at
Angora to be the last word of art. They are imported from Constantinople
together with the basins of the fountains.

In spite of all this, however, some doubts may be felt as to the
destination of the lions found among the Chaldæan ruins. The only monument
there discovered which seems to have certainly belonged to an
architectural decoration is one found by Sir Henry Layard in his too soon
interrupted explorations in the Kasr. It is a fragment of a limestone slab
from the casing of a façade (Fig. 113). The upper parts of two male figures
support a broken entablature beneath which the name of some divinity is

The chief interest of this fragment lies in the further evidence it affords
of a close connection between the arts of Chaldæa and those of Babylon.
There is nothing either in the costume or features of these individuals
that may not be found in Assyria. The tiara with its plumes and rosettes,
the crimped hair and beard, the baton with its large hilt, are all common
to both countries, while the latter object is to be found on the rocks of
Bavian and as far north as the sculptures of Cappadocia.

[Illustration: FIG. 113.--Fragment from Babylon. British Museum. Height 11
inches, width 9 inches.]

A study of those reliefs in which nothing but purely ornamental motives are
treated, leads us to exactly the same conclusion. Take for instance the
great bronze threshold from Borsippa, of which we have already spoken; the
rosettes placed at intervals along its tread are identical with those
encountered in such numbers in Assyria.

In the extreme rarity of stone in his part of the world the Chaldæan
architect seems to have practically reserved it for isolated statues, for
votive bas-reliefs, for objects of an iconic or religious character, but
nevertheless, we have sufficient evidence to prove that such decorative
sculpture as found a place in the Chaldæan buildings, did not sensibly
differ from that to which Assyria has accustomed us.

From all that we have said as to the distribution of stone, it will be
understood that we must turn to Assyria to obtain a clear idea of the
measures by which buildings of crude brick were rendered more sightly by
ornament in the harder material. We can hardly imagine an Assyrian palace
without those series of bas-reliefs which now line the walls of our museums
much in the same fashion as they covered those of Sargon's and
Sennacherib's palaces, and yet it is unlikely that in the beginning the
Assyrian palaces had these carved walls. The casing of stone and alabaster
must have been originally employed for more utilitarian purposes--to hide
the grey and friable material within, to protect it from damage, and to
offer a surface to the eye which should at least be inoffensive. The upper
parts of the walls would be covered with a coat of stucco, which could be
renewed whenever necessary, but for the lower part, for all that was within
reach of the crowds that frequented the public halls of the seraglio, who
passed through its gates or those of the city itself, some more efficient
protection would be required. The constructor was thus led to encase the
lower parts of his walls in a cuirass of stone imposed upon their brick
cores. The slabs of which he made use for this purpose varied between three
and ten feet in height, and between six and fifteen in width. Their average
thickness was about eight inches.

The way in which these slabs were fixed is hardly worthy of such clever
builders, and, in fact, the Assyrians seem to have never succeeded in
mastering the difficulties inherent in the association of two heterogeneous
materials. The slabs were of gypsum or limestone, the wall of pisé,
materials which are not to be easily combined. The Assyrians contented
themselves with simply placing the one against the other. No trace of any
tie is to be found. A "tooth" has been given to the inner faces of the
slabs by seaming them in every direction with the chisel, and, perhaps,
some plastic substance may at the last moment have been introduced between
them and the soft clay, but no trace of any other contrivance for keeping
the two materials together has been found. After the general mass of the
building--its clay walls and vaults--were complete, a different class of
workmen was brought in to line its chambers and complete their decoration.
The crude brick would by that time have become dry, and no longer in a
condition to adapt itself to the roughnesses of the alabaster slabs. The
liquid clay, like that of an earthenware "body," wets and softens the
surface of the brick while it enters into every hollow of the stone and so
allies the one with the other. We recommend this conjecture to those who
may undertake any future excavation in Assyria. It lies with them to
confirm or refute it.

However this may have been, the constructor made use of more than one
method of giving greater solidity to his walls as a whole. His slabs were
not only let into each other at the angles, in some chambers there were
squared angle pieces of a diameter great enough to allow them to sink more
deeply into the crude brick behind, and thus to offer steady points of
support in each corner. Finally the separate slabs were held together at
the top by leaden dovetails like the metal clamps used to attach coping
stones to each other.

Such precautions were rendered comparatively useless by the fact that the
whole work was faulty at the base. Halls and chambers had no solid
foundation or pavement, so that the heavy slabs of their decoration rested
upon a shifting soil, quite incapable of carrying them without flinching.
In many places they sank some inches into the ground, the soft earth behind
pushing them forward, and in their fall the row to which they belonged was
inevitably involved. The excavators have again and again found whole lines
of bas-reliefs that appeared to have fallen together. Such an accident is a
thing for posterity to rejoice over. Prone upon a soft and yielding soil
the works of the sculptor are better protected than when standing erect,
their upper parts clear, perhaps, of the ruin that covers their feet, and
exposed to the weather at least, and, too often, to the brutality of an
ignorant population.

Such defects are sufficient to prove that these slabs were never meant to
carry any great weight; far from affording a support to the wall behind,
they required one to help them in maintaining their own equilibrium. On the
other hand they protected it, as we have said above, from too rapid

At Khorsabad this stone casing is in very bad condition at many points, in
the halls and passages of the outbuildings and in the courtyards adjoining
the city gates for instance.[332] There the stones are only smoothed down,
and their obvious purpose is merely to protect the crude brick within. The
purely architectural origin of this system of casing is thus clearly shown.

But the presence of these slabs set upright against the wall offered a
temptation to the ambitious architect that he was not likely to resist. The
limestone and alabaster of which they were composed afforded both a kindly
surface for the chisel, and a certain guarantee of duration for the forms
it struck out. In every Assyrian palace we may see that the king, its
builder, had a double object in view, the glorification of the gods, and
the transmission to posterity of his own image and the memory of his reign.
To these ends the architect called in the sculptor, under whose hands the
rudely dressed slabs took the historic forms with which we are familiar.

Of all parts of the palace the doorways were most exposed to injury from
the shocks of traffic, and we find their more solid plinths surmounted by
higher and thicker slabs than are to be found elsewhere. These slabs are
carved with the images of protecting divinities. Huge winged and man-headed
bulls (Plate X)[333] or lions (Fig. 114), the speaking symbols of force and
thought, met the approaching visitor. Sometimes a lion, reproducing with
singular energy the features of the real beast, was substituted for the
human-headed variety (Plate VIII).[334]

These guardians of the gate always had the front part of their bodies
salient in some degree from the general line of the wall. The head and
breast, at least, were outside the arch. Right and left of the passage
were very thick slabs, also carved into the form of winged bulls in
profile, and accompanied by protecting genii. These latter divinities are
sometimes grave and noble in mien, obviously benevolent (Figs. 8 and 29),
sometimes hideous in face, and violent in gesture. In the latter case they
are meant to frighten the profane or the hostile away from the dwelling
they guard (Figs. 6 and 7). All these figures are in much higher relief
than the sculptures in the inner chambers.

[Illustration: FIG. 114.--Human-headed lion. Nimroud; from Layard.]

All this shows that the sculptor thoroughly understood how to make the best
of his opportunities when he was once called in to ornament those massive
door-frames and slabs which at first were no more than additional supports
for the building to which they were applied. He varied the shapes of these
blocks according to their destined sites, and increased their size so as
to give gigantic proportions to his man-headed bulls and lions. Some of the
winged bulls are from sixteen to seventeen feet high.[335] In spite of the
labour expended upon the carving and putting in place of these huge
figures, they are extremely numerous, hardly less so, indeed, than the
Osiride piers of Egypt.[336] In the palace of Sargon at Khorsabad,
twenty-six pairs have been counted; in that of Sennacherib at Kouyundjik,
there were ten upon a single façade.[337]

In those passages, halls, and courtyards, whose destination justified such
a luxury, the sculptor utilized the stone lining of the walls with equal
skill, but in a slightly different spirit. The figures on the façade had to
be seen from a great distance, and were exposed to the full light of the
Mesopotamian sun, so that their colossal proportions and the varied
boldness of their relief had an obvious justification. The sculptures in
the interior were smaller in scale and were strictly _bas-reliefs_. With
the shortening of the distance from which they could be examined, their
scale was made to conform more closely to the real stature of human beings.
In some very spacious halls a few of the figures are larger than life,
while in the narrowest galleries they become very small, the alabaster
slabs being divided into two stories or more (see Fig. 115).[338]

There is another singularity to be noticed _apropos_ of these sculptures.
The themes treated outside are very different from those inside the
palaces. The figures in the former position are religious and supernatural,
those in the interior historical and anecdotic. There is much variety in
the details of these narrative sculptures, but their main theme is always
the glorification, and, in a sense, the biography of the sovereign.

[Illustration: FIG. 115.--Bas-relief with several registers. Width 38
inches. Louvre. Drawn by Bourgoin.]

In the Egyptian temple the figures which form its _illumination_ are spread
indifferently over the whole surface of the walls. In a Greek temple, on
the other hand, sculpture was confined with rare exceptions to the upper
part of the building, to the pediments chiefly, and the frieze. The
Assyrian method was neither that of the Egyptians nor that of the Greeks.
At Nineveh, the sculptor did not, as in Egypt, sow his figures broadcast
over the whole length and breadth of the building, neither did he raise
them, as in Greece, above the heads of the crowd; he marshalled them upon
the lowest part of a wall, upon its plinth. Their feet touched the soil,
their eyes were on a level with those that looked at them; we might say
that they formed an endless procession round every hall and chamber. The
reasons for such an arrangement are to be sought for, not in any æsthetic
tendency of the Assyrian artist, but in the simple fact that only in the
stone cuirass, within which the lower parts of the brick walls were shut
up, could he find the kindly material for his chisel. Nowhere else in the
whole building could the stone, without which his art was powerless, be

But as the lateral development of Assyrian buildings was great, so too was
the field offered to the Assyrian sculptor. It has been calculated that the
sculptured slabs found in the palace of Sargon would, if placed in a row,
cover a distance of nearly a mile and a half. Their superficies is equal to
about an acre and a half. By this it will be seen that sculpture played an
important part in the decoration of an Assyrian palace, but as it was
confined to the lower part of the walls, some other method had to be
invented for ornamenting those surfaces on which the chisel could not be
used. In Chaldæa, where there was so little stone, it was practically the
whole building that had to be thus contrived for. In both countries the
problem was solved in the same fashion--by the extensive use of enamelled
brick and painted stucco, and the elaboration of a rich, elegant, and
withal original system of polychromy.

Explorers are unanimous in the opinion that neither burnt nor sun-dried
brick was ever left without something to cover its nakedness. It was always
hidden and protected by a coat of stucco.[339] At Nineveh, according to M.
Place, this stucco was formed by an intimate mixture of burnt chalk with
plaster, by which a sort of white gum was made that adhered very tightly to
the clay wall.[340] Its peculiar consistence did not permit of its being
spread with a brush; a trowel or board must have been used. The thickness
of this cement was never more than one or two millimetres.[341] Its
cohesive force was so great that in spite of its thinness it acted as an
efficient protector. It has often been found in excellent condition, both
upon flat and curved surfaces, upon the walls of courtyards and chambers,
on the under sides of vaults, wherever in fact a stone casing did not
supply its place.

It would seem that some buildings had no outward ornament beyond the
brilliant whiteness of this stucco, the effect of which may be seen at the
present day in the whitewashed houses of the East. The glare of such a wall
was happily contrasted with the soft verdure that sometimes grew about it,
and the dark blue of the sky against which its summit was relieved. Such a
contrast gives importance and accent to the smallest building, as painters
who treat the landscapes of the South thoroughly understand.

We have reason to believe, however, that as a rule the white stucco served
as a background and support to other colours. No Chaldæan interiors have
come down to us, while the exteriors are in such bad preservation that we
can hardly form any true judgment of the colours and designs with which
they were once adorned. But in the case of Assyria we know pretty well how
the decorator understood his business, and it is probable that, like his
colleagues, the architect and the sculptor, he was content to perpetuate
the traditions of his Chaldæan masters.

In certain cases the decorator makes use of wide unbroken tints. This is
the simplest way of using colour. In the palace of Sargon, for instance,
wherever the sculptured slabs are absent we find a plinth painted black in
distemper. These plinths are from two to nearly four feet high, according
to the extent of the courts or chambers in which they occur. The object of
such a dado is clear; it was to protect the lower part of the wall, if not
against deliberate violence, at least against dirt. A white stucco in such
a position would soon have been disfigured by spots and various marks which
would be invisible on a black background. Moreover, the contrast between
the plinth and the white wall above it must have had a certain decorative

This coloured dado is to be found even in places to which it seems quite
unsuited. At Khorsabad, for instance, it runs across the foot of those
semicircular pilasters we noticed in one of the harem chambers (Fig. 101).
These pilasters stand upon a plinth between three and four feet high, so
that any contact with the dirt of the floor need not have been feared. The
existence of the dado in such a position is to be accounted for by
supposing that the decorator considered it as the regular ornament for the
bottom of a wall. It is more difficult to understand why the alcoves
believed by MM. Place and Thomas to have been bedrooms were in each case
painted with this same band of black.[343]

The most curious example of the employment of unbroken tints to which we
can point, is in the case of M. Place's observatory. The stages of that
building were each about twenty feet high, and each was painted a colour of
its own; the first was white, the second black, the third red, the fourth
white. When the excavations were made, these tints were still easily
visible. The building seems originally to have had seven stages, and the
three upper ones must certainly have been coloured on the same principle as
those below them. In his restoration, Thomas makes the fifth vermilion, the
sixth a silver grey, while he gilds the seventh and last.[344] In this
choice and arrangement of tints there is nothing arbitrary. It is founded
on the description given by Herodotus of Ecbatana, the capital of the
Medes. "The Medes ... built the city now called Agbatana, the walls of
which are of great size and strength, rising in circles one within the
other. The plan of the place is, that each of the walls should out-top the
one beyond it by the battlements. The nature of the ground, which is a
gentle hill, favours this arrangement in some degree, but it was mainly
effected by art. The number of the circles is seven, the royal palace and
the treasuries standing within the last. The circuit of the outer wall is
very nearly the same with that of Athens. Of this wall the battlements are
white, of the next black, of the third scarlet, of the fourth blue, of the
fifth orange; all these are coloured with paint. The two last have their
battlements coated respectively with silver and gold."[345]

Between the series of colours found upon the ruin in question and the list
here given by Herodotus there is, so far as they go, an identity which
cannot be due to chance. The Medes and Persians invented nothing; their
whole art was no more than an eastern offshoot from that of Mesopotamia. It
was in Chaldæa that the number seven first received an exceptional and
quasi sacred character. Our week of seven days is a result from the early
worship of the five great planets and of the sun and moon. There were also
the seven colours of the rainbow. From such indications as these the early
architects of Assyria must have determined the number of stages to be given
to a religious building; they also regulated the order of the colours, each
one of which was consecrated by tradition to one of those great heavenly
bodies. We can easily understand how the silver white of the penultimate
stage was chosen to symbolize the moon, while the glory of the gold upon
the upper story recalled that of the noonday sun.

Thus must we figure the tower with seven stages which Nebuchadnezzar
boasted of having restored in more than its early magnificence. These
arrangements of coloured bands had a double value. Each tint had a symbolic
and traditional signification of its own, and the series formed by the
seven was, so to speak, a phrase in the national theology, an appeal to the
imagination, and a confession of piety. At the same time the chief
divisions of the monument were strongly marked, and the eye was attracted
to their number and significance, while the building as a whole was more
imposing and majestic than if its colour had been a uniform white from base
to summit. The colours must have been frequently renewed.

In the interior, where the temperature was not subject to violent changes,
where there was neither rain nor scorching sun, the architect made use of
painting in distemper to reinforce the decoration in his more luxurious
chambers. Unfortunately these frescoes are now represented by nothing but a
few fragments. In the course of the excavations numerous instances of their
use were encountered, but in almost every case exposure to the air was
rapidly destructive of their tints, and even of their substance. They
occurred chiefly in the rooms whose walls were lined in their lower parts
with sculptured slabs. By dint of infinite painstaking M. Place succeeded
in copying a few fragments of these paintings.[346] According to the
examples thus preserved for us, human figures were mingled with purely
ornamental motives such as plumes, fillets, and rosettes. The colours here
used were black, green, red, and yellow, to which may be added a fifth in
the white of the plaster ground upon which they were laid. Flesh tints were
expressed by leaving this white uncoloured.

[Illustration: FIG. 116.--Ornament painted upon plaster; from Layard.]

[Illustration: FIG. 117.--Ornament painted upon plaster; from Layard.]

Several fragments of these painted decorations have also been preserved by
Sir Henry Layard. The simplest of them all is a broad yellow band edged on
each side by a line of alternately red and blue chevrons separated from
each other by white lines. Down the centre of the yellow band there is a
row of blue and white rosettes (Fig. 116). Another example in which the
same colours are employed is at once more complex and more elegant (see
Fig. 117). Finally, in a third fragment, a slightly simplified version of
this latter motive serves as a lower border to a frieze upon which two
bulls face each other, their white bodies being divided from the yellow
ground by a thick black line. The battlements at the top are dark blue
(Fig. 118). An idea of the tints used in this decoration may be obtained
from Fig. 2 of our plate xiv.

[Illustration: FIG. 118.--Ornament painted upon plaster; from Layard.]

It was upon the upper parts of walls where they were beyond the reach of
accidental injury that these painted decorations were placed. M. Place had
reason to think that they were also used on the under-sides of vaults. In
rooms in which a richer and more permanent kind of ornament was
unnecessary, paint alone was used for decoration. In several chambers
cleared by George Smith at Nimroud, that explorer found horizontal bands of
colour, alternately red, green, and yellow, and where the stone casing of
the lower walls was not sculptured, these stripes were continued over its

The artist to whom the execution of this work was intrusted must have
arranged so that his tints were in harmony with those placed by another
brush on many details of the sculptured slabs. We shall discuss the
question of polychromy in Assyrian sculpture at a future opportunity; at
present we are content with observing that the effect of the reliefs was
strengthened here and there by the use of colour.

The beard, the hair, and the eyebrows were tinted black; such things as the
fringes of robes, baldricks, flowers held in the hand, were coloured blue
and red. The gaiety thus given brought a room into harmony, and prevented
the cool grey of the alabaster slabs from presenting a disagreeable
contrast with the brilliant tones spread over the roofs and upper walls.

We might thus restore the interior of an Assyrian apartment and arrive at a
whole, some elements of which would be certainly authentic and others at
least very probable. The efforts hitherto made in this direction leave much
to be desired, and give many an opportunity to the fault-finding critic;
and that because their makers have failed to completely master the spirit
of Mesopotamian architecture as shown in its remaining fragments.[348]

It would be much less easy, it would in fact be foolhardy, to attempt the
restoration of a hall from a Babylonian palace. Our information is quite
insufficient for such a task. We may affirm, however, that where the
architect had no stone to speak of, the decorations must have had a
somewhat different character from those in which that invaluable material
was freely used. The general tendencies of both countries must have been
the same, but between Nineveh and Babylon, still more between the capital
of Assyria and the towns of Lower Chaldæa, there were differences of which
now and then we may succeed in catching a glance. Compelled to trust almost
entirely to clay, the artist of Chaldæa must have turned his attention to
colour as a decoration much more exclusively than his Assyrian rival.

His preoccupation with this one idea is betrayed very curiously in the
façade of one of those ruined buildings at Warka which Loftus has studied
and described.[349] We borrow his plan and elevation of the detail to which
we refer (Fig. 119).

[Illustration: FIG. 119.--Plan and elevation of part of a façade at Warka;
from Loftus.]

In the first place the reader will recognize those semicircular pilasters
or gigantic reeds to which we have already alluded as strongly
characteristic of Chaldæan architecture, and one of the most certain signs
of its origin. The chevrons, the spiral lines and lozenges of the coloured
decoration with which the semi-columns, and the salient buttress by which
they are divided into two groups, are covered, should be curiously noticed.
The ornament varies with each structural division. Loftus, however, was
chiefly struck by the process used to build up the design. The whole face
of the wall is composed of terra-cotta cones (Fig. 120) engaged in a mortar
composed of mud mixed with chopped straw. The bases of these cones are
turned outwards and form the surface of the wall. Some preserve the natural
colour of the terra-cotta, a dark yellow, others have been dipped--before
fixing no doubt--in baths of red and black colouring matter. By the aid of
these three tints an effect has been obtained that, according to Loftus, is
far from being disagreeable. The process may be compared to that of mosaic,
cones of terra-cotta being substituted for little cubes of coloured stone
or glass.[350]

[Illustration: FIG. 120.--Cone with coloured base; from Loftus.]

Upon the same site M. Loftus found traces of a still more singular
decoration. A mass of crude brick had its horizontal courses divided from
each other by earthenware vases laid so that their open mouths were flush
with the face of the wall. Three courses of these vases were placed one
upon another, and the curious ornament thus made was repeated three times
in the piece of wall left standing. The vases were from ten to fifteen
inches long externally, but inside they were never more than ten inches
deep, so that their conical bases were solid.[351] The dark shadows of
their open mouths afforded a strong contrast with the white plaster which
covered the brickwork about them. The consequent play of light and shadow
unrelieved by colour was pleasing enough. In spite, however, of their thick
walls, these vases could hardly resist successfully the weight of the
bricks above and the various disintegrating influences set up by their
contraction in drying. Most of the vases were broken when Loftus saw them,
though still in place.

Cone mosaics and the insertion of vases among the bricks afforded after
all but a poor opportunity to the decorative architect. Had the builders of
Chaldæa possessed no more efficient means than these of obtaining beauty,
their structures would hardly have imposed themselves as models upon their
rich and powerful neighbours of Assyria so completely as they did. Some
process was required which should not restrict the decorator to the curves
and straight lines of the simpler geometrical figures, which should allow
him to make use of motives furnished by the animal and vegetable kingdom,
by man and those fanciful creations of man's intellect that resulted from
his attempts to figure the gods. We can hardly doubt that the Chaldæans,
like their northern neighbours, made frequent use of paint in the
decoration of the wide plaster walls that offered such a tempting surface
to the brush. No fragment of such work has come down to us, but we have
every reason to believe that the arrangement of motives and the choice of
lines were the same as in Assyria. We may look upon the mural paintings in
the Ninevite palaces as copies preserving for us the leading
characteristics of their Chaldæan originals.

Even in Chaldæa, which had a drier climate than Assyria, paintings in
distemper could not have had any very long life on external walls. They had
not to do with the sky of Upper Egypt where years pass away without the
fall of a single shower. Some means of fixing colour so that it should not
be washed away by the first rain was sought, and it was found in the
invention of enamel, in the coating of the bricks with a coloured material
that when passed with them through the fire would be vitrified and would
sink to some extent into their substance. A brick thus coated could never
lose its colour; the latter became insoluble, and so intimately combined
with the block to which it was attached that one could hardly be destroyed
without the other. Sir H. Layard tells us that many fragments of brick
found in the Kasr were covered with a thick glaze, the colours of which had
in no way suffered with time. Fragments of ornaments and figures could be
distinguished on some of them. The colours most often found were a very
brilliant blue, red, dark yellow, white, and black.[352]

We have again to look to the Assyrian ruins for information as to the way
in which these enamelled bricks were composed into pictures. No explorer
has found anything in the remains of a Chaldæan city that can be compared
to the archivolt of enamelled bricks discovered by M. Place over one of the
gateways of the city founded by Sargon.[353]

We can hardly doubt however that the art of the enameller was discovered in
Chaldæa and thence transported into Assyria. Everything combines to give us
that assurance, an examination of the ruins in Mesopotamia and of the
objects brought from them as well as the explicit statements of the

Every traveller tells that there is not a ruin at Babylon in which hundreds
of these enamelled bricks may not be picked up, and they are to be found
elsewhere in Chaldæa.[354] A certain number of fragments are now in the
British Museum and the Louvre with indications upon them leaving no doubt
as to whence they came.[355] As for the blocks of the same kind coming from
Nineveh and its neighbourhood they are very numerous in our collections. It
is easy therefore to compare the products of Chaldæan workshops with those
of Assyrian origin. The comparison is not to the advantage of the latter.
The enamel on the Babylonian bricks is very thick and solid; it adheres
strongly to the clay, and even when brought to our comparatively humid
climates it preserves its brilliancy. It is not so with bricks from
Khorsabad and Nimroud, which rapidly tarnish and become dull when withdrawn
from the earth that protected them for so many centuries. Their firing does
not seem to have been sufficiently prolonged.[356]

Necessity is the mother of invention, the proverb says. If there be any
country in which clay has been compelled to do all that lay in its power it
must surely be that in which there was no other material for the
construction and decoration of buildings. The results obtained by the
enameller were pretty much the same in Assyria and Chaldæa, and we are
inclined to look upon the older of the two nations as the inventor of the
process, especially as it could hardly have done without it so well as its
younger rival, and in this opinion we are confirmed by the superior quality
of the Babylonian enamel. It is possible that there may be some truth in
the assertion that most of the glazed bricks that have come down to us
belonged to the restorations of Nebuchadnezzar; but even supposing that to
be so, they show a technical skill so consummate and sure of itself that it
must then have been very far removed from its infancy. The fatherland of
the enameller is Southern Mesopotamia and especially Babylonia, where
enamelled bricks seem to have been used in extraordinary quantities.

The wall of Dour-Saryoukin, the town built by Sargon, has been found intact
for a considerable part of its height. As in the retaining wall of the
palace, coloured brick has there been used with extreme discretion. It is
found only over the arches of the principal doors and, perhaps, in the form
of rosettes at the springing of the battlements. The remainder of the great
breadths of crude brick was coated with white plaster.[357]

It was otherwise at Babylon. Ctesias, who lived there for a time, thus
describes the palace on the right bank of the Euphrates: "In the interior
of the first line of circumvallation Semiramis constructed another on a
circular plan, upon which there are all kinds of animals stamped on the
bricks while still unburnt; nature is imitated in these figures by the
employment of colours[358].... The third wall, that in the middle, was
twenty stades round ... on its towers and their curtain-walls every sort
of animal might be seen imitated according to all the rules of art, both as
to their form and colour. The whole represented the chase of various
animals, the latter being more than four cubits (high)--in the middle
Semiramis on horseback letting fly an arrow against a panther and, on one
side, her husband Ninus at close quarters with a lion, which he strikes
with his lance."[359]

Diodorus attributes all these buildings to his fabulous Semiramis. He was
mistaken. It was the palace built by Nebuchadnezzar that he had before him;
his eyes rested upon the works of those sovereigns of the second Chaldee
empire who presided at a real art renaissance--at the re-awakening of a
civilization that was never more brilliant than in the years immediately
preceding its fall. The historian's mistake is of little importance here.
We are mainly interested in the fact that he actually saw the walls of
which he speaks and saw them covered with pictures, the material for which
was furnished by enamelled brick.

These bricks must have been manufactured in no small quantity to permit of
decorations in which there were figures nearly six feet high.[360] We may
form some idea of this frieze of animals from one in the palace of Sargon
at the foot of the wall on each side of the harem doorway (plate xv.).[361]
As for the hunting incidents, we may imagine what they were like from the
Assyrian sculptures (Fig. 5).

At Babylon as at Nineveh the palette of the enameller was very restricted.
Figures were as a rule yellow and white relieved against a blue ground.
Touches of black were used to give accent to certain details, such as the
hair and beard, or to define a contour. The surface of the brick was not
always left smooth; in some cases it shows hollow lines in which certain
colours were placed when required to mark distinctive or complementary
features. As a rule motives were modelled in relief upon the ground, so
that they were distinguished by a gentle salience as well as by colour, a
contrivance that increased their solidity and effect.[362] This may be
observed on the Babylonian bricks brought to Europe by M. Delaporte,
consul-general for France at Bagdad. They are now in the Louvre. On one we
see the three white petals belonging to one of those Marguerite-shaped
flowers that artists have used in such profusion in painted and sculptured
decoration (Figs. 22, 25, 96, 116, 117). Another is the fragment of a wing,
and must have entered into the composition of one of those winged genii
that are hardly less numerous in Assyrian decoration (Figs. 4, 8, and 29).
Upon a third you may recognize the trunk of a palm-tree and on a fourth the
sinuous lines that edge a drapery.[363] M. de Longperier calculated from
the dimensions of this latter fragment that the figure to which it belonged
must have been four cubits high, exactly the height assigned by Ctesias to
the figures in the groups seen by him when he visited the palace of the
ancient kings.[364]

M. Oppert also mentions fragments which had formed part of similar
important compositions. Yellow scales separated from one another by black
lines, reminded him of the conventional figure under which the Assyrians
represented hills or mountains; on others he found fragments of trees, on
others blue undulations, significant, no doubt, of water; on others, again,
parts of animals--the foot of a horse, the mane and tail of a lion. A
thick, black line upon a blue ground may have stood for the lance of a
hunter. Upon one fragment a human eye, looking full to the front, might be
recognized.[365] We might be tempted to think that in these remains M.
Oppert saw all that was left of the pictures which excited the admiration
of Ctesias.

Inscriptions in big letters obtained by the same process accompanied and
explained the pictures. The characters were white on a blue ground. M.
Oppert brought together some fifteen of these monumental texts, but he did
not find a single fragment upon which there was more than one letter. The
inscriptions were meant to be legible at a considerable distance, for the
letters were from two to three inches high. In later days Arab architects
followed the example thus set and pressed the elegant forms of the cufic
alphabet into their service with the happiest skill.[366]

For the composition of one of these figures of men or animals a large
number of units was required, and in order that it might preserve its
fidelity it was necessary not only that the separate pieces should exactly
coincide but that they should be fixed and fitted with extreme nicety. At
Babylon they were attached to the wall with bitumen. On the posterior
surface of several enamelled bricks in the Louvre a thick coat of this
substance may be seen; it has preserved an impression of all the
roughnesses on the surface of the crude mass to which it was applied. It is
impossible to decide whether this natural mortar was allowed to fill the
joints between one enamelled square and another or not. None of these
bricks have been found in place, and none, so far as we know, unbroken. The
coat at the back may have rendered the adherence so complete that no
further precaution was necessary. In Assyria, so far at least as Khorsabad
is concerned, they were content with less trouble. The bricks forming the
enamelled archivolt of which we have spoken are attached to the wall with a
mortar in which there is but little adhesive power.[367] It offered no
resistance when M. Place stripped the archway in order that he might enrich
his own country with the spoils of Sargon. But for an accident that sent
his boats to the bottom of the Tigris not far from Bassorah this beautiful
gateway would have been rebuilt in Paris.[368]

To fit all these squares into their proper places was a delicate operation,
but it was rendered easy by long practice. Signs, or rather numbers, for
the guidance of the workmen, have been noticed upon the uncovered faces of
the crude brick walls.[369] Still more skill was required for the proper
distribution of a figure over the bricks by whose apposition it was to be
created. No retouches were possible, because the bricks were painted before
firing. The least negligence would be punished by the interruption of the
contours, or by their malformation through a failure of junction between a
line upon one brick and its continuation on the next. There was but one way
to prevent such mistakes, and that was by preparing in advance what we
should call a cartoon. On this the proposed design would be traced over a
network of squares representing the junctions of the bricks. The bricks
were then shaped, modelled, and numbered; each was painted according to the
cartoon with its due proportion of ground or figure as the case might be,
and marked with the same number as that on the corresponding square in the
drawing.[370] The colour was laid separately on each brick; this is proved
by the existence on their edges of pigment that has overflowed from the
face and been fired at the same time as the rest.

Thus were manufactured those enamelled bricks upon which the modern visitor
to the ruins of Babylon walks at every step. Broken, ground almost to
powder as they are, they suffice to show how far the art of enamelling was
pushed in those remote days, and how great an industry it must have been.
We can have no doubt that colours fixed in the fire must have formed the
chief element in the decoration of the buildings of Nebuchadnezzar, of that
Babylon whose insolent prosperity so impressed the imagination and provoked
the anger of the Jewish prophets. It was to paintings of this kind that
Ezekiel alluded when he reproved Jerusalem under the name of Aholiba for
its infidelity and its adoption of foreign superstitions: "For when she saw
men portrayed upon the wall, the images of the Chaldæans portrayed with
vermilion, girded with girdles upon their loins, exceeding in dyed attire
upon their heads, all of them princes to look to, after the manner of the
Babylonians of Chaldæa, the land of their nativity."[371]

The "paintings in the temple of Belos," described by Berosus, were in all
probability carried out in the same way. They decorated the walls of the
great temple of Bel Merodach at Babylon, where "all kinds of marvellous
monsters with the greatest variety in their forms" were to be seen.[372]

We see therefore, that both by sacred and profane writers is the important
part played by these paintings in the palaces and temples of the capital
affirmed. And Ctesias, who is not content with allusions, but enters into
minute details, tells us how the work was executed, and how its durability
was guaranteed. The modern buildings of Persia give us some idea as to the
appearance of those of Babylon. No doubt the plan of a mosque differs
entirely from that of a temple of Marduk or Nebo, but the principle of the
decoration was the same. If the wand of an enchanter could restore the
principal buildings of Babylon we should, perhaps, find more than one to
which the following description of the great mosque of Ispahan might be
applied with the change of a word here and there: "Every part of the
building without exception is covered with enamelled bricks. Their ground
is blue, upon which elegant flowers and sentences taken from the Koran are
traced in white. The cupola is blue, decorated with shields and arabesques.
One can hardly imagine the effect produced by such a building on an
European accustomed to the dull uniformity of our colourless buildings; he
is filled with an admiring surprise that no words can express."[373]

If we should set about making such a comparison, the principal difference
to be noticed would be that arising out of the prohibitions of the Koran.
The Persian potter had to content himself with the resources of pure
ornament, resources upon which he drew with an exquisite skill that forbids
us to regret the absence of men and animals from his work. The coloured
surfaces of the Babylonian buildings must have had more variety than those
of the great mosque at Ispahan or the green mosque at Broussa. But the same
groups and the same personages were constantly repeated in the same
attitudes and tints, so that their general character must have been purely
decorative. Even when they were combined into something approaching a
scene, care was taken to guard, by conventionality of treatment and the
frequent repetition of familiar types and groups, against its attracting to
itself the attention that properly belonged to the composition of which it
formed a part. The artist was chiefly occupied with the general effect. His
aim was to give a certain rhythm to a succession of traditional forms whose
order and arrangement never greatly varied, to fill the wide surfaces of
his architecture with contrasts and harmonies of colour that should delight
the eye and prevent its fatigue.

Were the colours as soft and harmonious as we now see them in those
buildings of Persia and Asia Minor that will themselves soon be little more
than ruins? It is difficult to answer this question from the very small
fragments we possess of the coloured decorations of the Babylonian temples
and palaces, but the conditions have remained the same; the wants to be
satisfied and the processes employed a century ago were identical with
those of Babylon and Nineveh; architect and painter were confronted by the
same dazzling sun, and, so far as we can tell, taste has not sensibly
changed over the whole of the vast extent of country that stretches from
the frontiers of Syria to the eastern boundaries of the plateau of Iran.
New peoples, new religions, and new territorial divisions have been
introduced, but industrial habits have remained; in spite of political
revolutions the workman has transmitted the secrets of his trade to his
sons and grandsons. Oriental art is now threatened with death at the hands
of Western competition. Thanks to its machines Europe floods the most
distant markets with productions cheaper than those turned out by the
native workman, and the native workman, discouraged and doubtful of
himself, turns to the clumsy imitation of the West, and loses his hold of
the art he understood so well. Traditions have become greatly weakened
during the last half century, but in the few places where they still
preserve their old vitality they may surely be taken as representative of
the arts and industries of many centuries ago, and as the lineal
descendants of those early products of civilization on which we are
attempting to cast new light. If, as everything leads us to believe, the
colours and patterns worked by the women of Khorassan and Kurdistan on
their rugs and carpets are identical with those on the hangings in the
palaces of Sargon, of Nebuchadnezzar, and of Darius, why should we not
allow that the tints that now delight us on the mosques of Teheran and
Ispahan, of Nicæa and Broussa, are identical with those employed by the
Chaldæan potter?

There is no doubt that both had a strong predilection for blue--for the
marvellous colour that dyed the most beautiful flower of their fields, that
glowed on their distant mountains, in their lakes, in the sea, and in the
profound azure of an almost cloudless sky. Nature seems to have chosen blue
for the background of her changing pictures, and like the artists of modern
Persia those of antique Mesopotamia understood the value of the hint thus
given. In the fragments of Babylonian tiles brought home by travellers blue
is the dominant colour; and blue furnishes the background for those two
compositions in enamelled brick that have been found _in situ_. The blue of
Babylon seems however to have had more body and to have been darker in
shade than that of the Khorsabad tiles.

We have already referred to this inferiority in the Assyrian enamel. It may
be explained by the fact that the Assyrian architect looked to sculpture
for his most sumptuous effects; he used polychromatic decoration only for
subordinate parts of his work, and he would therefore be contented with
less careful execution than that required by his Babylonian rival. The
glazed tiles of Assyria were not, as in Chaldæa, quasi bas-reliefs. Their
tints were put on flat; the only exception to this being in the case of
those rosettes that were made in such extraordinary numbers for use on the
upper parts of walls and round doorways; in these the small central boss is
modelled in low relief (see Figs. 121 and 122).

[Illustration: FIGS. 121, 122.--Rosettes in glazed pottery. Louvre.]

These glazed bricks were chiefly used by the Assyrian architect upon
doorways and in their immediate neighbourhood.[374] M. Place found the
decoration of one of the city gates at Khorsabad almost intact.[375] The
enamel is laid upon one edge of the bricks, which are on the average three
inches and a half thick. Figures are relieved in yellow, and rosettes in
white against the blue ground. A band of green marks the lower edge of the
tiara.[376] The same motives and the same figures were repeated for the
whole length of the band. The figures are winged genii in different
postures of worship and sacrifice. They bear in their hands those metal
seals and pine cones that we so often encounter in the bas-reliefs.
Distributed about the entrance these genii seem to be the protectors of the
city, they are beneficent images, their gesture is a prayer, a promise, a
benediction. On each side of the arch, at its springing, there is one of
greater stature than his companions (Fig. 123). His face is turned towards
the vaulted passage. Upon the curve of the archivolt smaller figures face
one another in couples; each couple is divided from its neighbours by
rosettes (Fig. 124).

[Illustration: FIG. 123.--Detail of enamelled archivolt. Khorsabad. From

The other composition is to be found on a plinth in the doorway of the
harem at Khorsabad. This plinth was about twenty-three feet long, and
rather more than three feet high. Its ornament was repeated on both sides
of the doorway.[377] It consisted of a lion, an eagle, a bull, and a plough
(Plate XV). Upon the returning angles the king appears, standing, on the
one side with his head bare, on the other covered with a tiara. The
background is blue, as in the city gates; green was only used for the
leaves of the tree, in which some have recognized a fig-tree.

[Illustration: FIG. 124.--Detail from enamelled archivolt. Khorsabad. From

In these two examples the decoration is of an extreme simplicity; the
figures are not engaged in any common action; there is, in fact, no
picture. The artist sometimes appears to have been more ambitious. Thus
Layard found at Nimroud the remains of a decoration in which the painter
had apparently attempted to rival the sculptor: he had represented a battle
scene analogous to those we find in such plenty in the bas-reliefs.[378] A
similar motive may be found in a better preserved fragment belonging to the
same structure (Plate XIV, Fig. 1).[379] A single brick bears four
personages, a god, whose arms only are left, the king, his patera in hand,
offering a libation, an eunuch with bow and quiver, and finally an officer
with a lance. George Smith also found a fragment of the same kind at
Nimroud (see Fig. 125). It shows the figure of a soldier, from the knees
upwards, armed with bow and lance, and standing by the wheel of a chariot.
Above his head are the remains of an inscription which must have been
continued on the next brick. The word _warriors_ may still be
deciphered.[380] This figure may have formed part of some attempt on the
part of the decorator to narrate in colour some of the exploits of the king
for whom the palace was built.

[Illustration: FIG. 125.--Enamelled brick in the British Museum.]

There is a difference between such fragments as this and the glazed tiles
of the Khorsabad gates. In the latter the enamelled edges of several bricks
were required to make a single figure. In the bricks from Nimroud on the
other hand, whole figures are painted on their surface, and in fact a
single brick had several figures upon it which were, therefore, on a much
smaller scale. A decoration in which figures were some two and three feet
high, was well suited for use in lofty situations where those restricted to
the surface of a single brick would have been hardly visible. The latter
must, then, have been fixed on the lower parts of the wall, but as none of
them have yet been found in place we cannot say positively that it was so.

Such representations were, moreover, quite exceptional. Most of the pieces
of glazed brick that have been found in the ruins show nothing but the
remains of figures and motives ornamental rather than historical in their
general character.[381] Besides the rosettes of which we have had occasion
to speak so often we encounter at every step a spiral ornament the design
of which remains without much modification, while a certain variety is
given to its general effect by changing the arrangement of its colours. In
the example reproduced in Fig. 126 large black disks, like eyes, are
embraced by a double spiral in which blue and yellow alternate.[382]

[Illustration: FIG. 126.--Ornament upon enamelled brick. British Museum.]

There is one curious class of glazed tiles in which this motive continually
reappears. These tiles are thinner than the ordinary brick. Their shape is
sometimes square but with their sides slightly concave (Fig. 127),
sometimes circular, in the form of a quoit (Fig. 128). In each case similar
designs are employed, flowers, palmettes, &c. These are carried out in
black upon a white ground and arranged symmetrically about a round hole in
the middle of the tile. These things must have been manufactured for some
special purpose, and the name of Assurnazirpal, that may be read upon our
first fragment (Fig. 127), shows that they belonged to some great work of
decoration whose main object was to glorify the name of that sovereign. It
has been guessed that they formed centres for a coffered ceiling, and there
is nothing to negative the conjecture. The opening in the centre may have
been filled with a boss of bronze or silver gilt. As we have already shown,
appliqué work of this kind played a great part in Assyrian decoration;
doors were covered with it and there are many signs that both in Chaldæa
and Assyria many other surfaces were protected in the same fashion.

[Illustration: FIG. 127.--Fragment of a glazed brick. Width 14 inches.
British Museum.]

[Illustration: FIG. 128.--Fragment of a glazed brick. Diameter 17 inches.
British Museum.]

After the careful examination of its ruins Taylor came to the conclusion
that the upper story of a staged tower at Abou-Sharein had gilt walls. He
found a great number of small and very thin gold plates upon the plateau
that formed the summit of the building, and with them the gilded nails with
which they had been fixed.[383] In his life of _Apollonius of Tyana_,
Philostratus gives a description of Babylon that appears taken from
authentic sources, and he notices this employment of metal. "The palaces of
the King of Babylon are covered with bronze which makes them glitter at a
distance; the chambers of the women, the chambers of the men and the
porticoes are decorated with silver, with beaten and even with massive gold
instead of pictures."[384] Herodotus speaks of the silvered and gilded
battlements of Ecbatana[385] and at Khorsabad cedar masts incased in gilded
bronze were found,[386] while traces of gold have been found on some crude
bricks at Nimroud.[387] Seeing that metal was thus used to cover wide
surfaces, and that, as we shall have occasion to show, the forms of
sculpture, of furniture, and of the arts allied to them in Mesopotamia,
prove that the inhabitants of that region were singularly skilled in the
manipulation of metal, whether with the chisel or the hammer, the above
conjecture may very well be true; the sheen of the polished surface would
be in excellent harmony with the enamelled faïence about it.

It has been suggested that some of the carved ivories may have been used
to ornament the coffers. This suggestion in itself seems specious enough,
but I failed to discover a single ivory in the rich collection of the
British Museum whose shape would have fitted the openings in the
tiles.[388] It is certain, however, that ivory was used in the
ornamentation of buildings. "I incrusted," says Nebuchadnezzar, "the
door-posts, the lintel, and threshold of the place of repose with ivory."
The small rectangular plaques with which several cases and many drawers are
filled in the British Museum may very well have been used for the
decoration of doors, and the panels of ceilings and wainscots. They were so
numerous, especially in the palace of Assurnazirpal at Nimroud, that we
cannot believe them all to have come off small and movable pieces of
furniture. We are confirmed in this idea by the fact that none of these
ivories are unique or isolated works of art. In spite of the care and taste
expended on their execution they were in no sense gems treasured for their
rarity and value; they were the products of an active manufactory
delivering its types in series, we might almost say in dozens. The more
elegant and finished among them are represented three, four, and five times
over in the select case in the British Museum. We may safely say that the
examples preserved of any one model are by no means all that were made; in
fact, in the drawers in which the smaller fragments are preserved, we
noticed the remains of more than one piece which had once been similar to
the more perfect specimens exhibited to the public.

Thus there are in the Museum four replicas of the little work shown in our
Fig. 129.[389] The head of a woman, full face, and with an Egyptian
head-dress, is enframed in a narrow window and looks over a balcony formed
of columns with the curious capitals already noticed on page 211. Beside
these four more or less complete examples, the Museum possesses several
detached heads (Fig. 130) which once, no doubt, belonged to similar

[Illustration: FIG. 129.--Ivory tablet in the British Museum. Drawn by
Saint-Elme Gautier.]

The beauty of the ivory surface was often enhanced by the insertion of
coloured enamels and lapis-lazuli in the hollows of the tablet. Traces of
this inlay may be seen on many of the Museum ivories, especially on those
recently brought from Van, in Armenia. The tablets also show traces of

[Illustration: FIG. 130.--Fragment of an ivory tablet.]

All this proves that the Mesopotamian decorator had no contemptible
resources for the ornamentation of his panelled walls and coffered
ceilings. These chiselled, enamelled, and gilded ivories must have been set
in frames of cedar or cypress. The Assyrian texts bear witness in more than
one place to the use of those fine materials, and the Hebrew writers make
frequent allusion to the luxurious carpentry imitated by their own princes
in the temple at Jerusalem.[390] In one of his invectives against Nineveh
Zephaniah cries: "Desolation shall be in the thresholds: for he shall
uncover the cedar work."[391]

The more we enter into detail the richer and more varied does the
decoration of these buildings appear. In our day the great ruins are sad
and monotonous enough. The rain of many centuries has washed away their
paint; their ornaments of metal and faïence, of ivory and cedar, have
fallen from the walls; the hand of man has combined with the slow action of
time to reduce them to their elements, and nothing of their original beauty
remains but here and there a fragment or a hint of colour. And yet when we
bring these scanty vestiges together we find that enough is left to give
the taste and invention of the Assyrian ornamentist a very high place in
our respect. That artist was richly endowed with the power of inventing
happy combinations of lines, and of varying his motives without losing
sight for an instant of his original theme.

We may show this very clearly by a more careful study of two motives
already encountered, the rosette, and the running ornament which is known
in its countless modifications as the "knop and flower pattern." These two
motives are united in those great thresholds which have been found now and
then in such marvellous preservation. They also occur in certain
bas-reliefs representing architectural decorations, so that we are in
possession of all the documents required for the formation of a true idea
of their varied beauties. In the Assyrian Basement Room of the British
Museum there is a fine slab of gypsum of which we reproduce one corner in
our Fig. 131.[392] Besides the daisy shaped rosette which is so
conspicuous, there is one of more elaborate design which we reproduce on a
larger scale and from another example in our Fig. 132. It is inclosed in a
square frame adorned with chevrons. This frame with the rosette it incloses
may be taken as giving some idea of the ceiling panels or coffers.

[Illustration: FIG. 131.--Threshold from Kouyundjik. From Layard.]

In this rosette it should be noticed that beyond the double festoon about
the central star appears the same alternation of bud and flower as in the
straight border. That flower has been recognized as the Egyptian lotus, but
Layard believes its type to have been furnished, perhaps, by a scarlet
tulip which is very common towards the beginning of spring in
Mesopotamia.[393] We ourselves believe rather in the imitation of a motive
from the stuffs, the jewels, the furniture, and the pottery that
Mesopotamia drew from Egypt at a very early date through the intermediary
of the Phoenicians. The Phoenicians themselves appropriated the same motive
and introduced it with their own manufactures not only into Mesopotamia but
into every country washed by the Mediterranean. Our conjecture is to some
extent confirmed by an observation of Sir H. Layard's. This lotus flower is
only to be found, he says, in the most recent of Assyrian monuments, in
those, namely, that date from the eighth and seventh centuries B.C.,
centuries during which the Assyrian kings more than once invaded Phoenicia
and occupied Egypt.[394] In the more ancient bas-reliefs flowers with a
very different aspect--copied in all probability directly from nature--are
alone to be found. Of these some idea may be formed from the adjoining cut.
It reproduces a bouquet held in the hand of a winged genius in the palace
of Assurnazirpal (Fig. 133).

[Illustration: FIG. 132.--Rosette.]

The lotus flower is to be found moreover in monuments much older than those
of the Sargonids, but that does not in any way disprove the hypothesis of
a direct plagiarism. The commercial relations between the valleys of the
Nile and the Euphrates date from a much more remote epoch, and about the
commencement of the eighteenth dynasty the Egyptians seem to have occupied
in force the basin of the Khabour, the principal affluent of the Euphrates.
Layard found many traces of their passage over and sojourn in that
district, among them a series of scarabs, many of which bore the
superscription of Thothmes III.[395] So that the points of contact were
numerous enough, and the mutual intercourse sufficiently intimate and
prolonged, to account for the assimilation by Mesopotamian artists of a
motive taken from the flora of Egypt and to be seen on almost every object
imported from the Nile valley. This imitation appears all the more probable
as in the paintings of Theban tombs dating from a much more remote period
than the oldest Ninevite remains, the pattern with its alternate bud and
flower is complete. Many examples may be found in the plates of Prisse
d'Avennes' great work;[396] one is reproduced in our Fig. 134.

[Illustration: FIG. 133.--Bouquet of flowers and buds; from Layard.]

[Illustration: FIG. 134.--Painted border; from Thebes, after Prisse.]

The Assyrians borrowed their motive from Egypt, but they gave it more than
Egyptian perfection. They gave it the definitive shapes that even Greece
did not disdain to copy. In the Egyptian frieze the cones and flowers are
disjointed; their isolation is unsatisfactory both to the eye and the
reason. In the Assyrian pattern they are attached to a continuous
undulating stem whose sinuous lines add greatly to the elegance of the
composition. The distinctive characters of the bud and flower are also very
well marked by the Assyrian artists. The closed petals of the one the open
ones of the other and the divisions of the calix are indicated in a
fashion that happily combines truth with convention. In our Fig. 135 we
reproduce, on a larger scale, a part of the slab already illustrated at
page 240, so that the merits of its workmanship may be better appreciated.

[Illustration: FIG. 135.--Fragment of a threshold; from Khorsabad. Louvre.
Drawn by Bourgoin.]

[Illustration: FIG. 136.--Door ornament; from Kouyundjik. After Rawlinson.]

The painter also made use of this motive. In a bas-relief from the palace
of Assurbanipal we find the round-headed doorway illustrated in Fig. 136.
Its rich decoration must have been carried out in glazed bricks, similar to
those discovered by M. Place on one of the gates of Khorsabad. Here,
however, the figures of supernatural beings are replaced by rosettes and by
two lines of the knop and flower ornament.

[Illustration: FIG. 137.--Palmette; from Layard.]

[Illustration: FIG. 138.--Goats and palmette; from Layard.]

Vegetable forms brought luck to the Assyrian decorator. Even after taking a
motive from a foreign style of ornament he understood, so to speak, how to
naturalize a plant and to make its forms expressive of his own
individuality. Our only difficulty is to make a choice among the numerous
illustrations of his inventive fertility; we shall confine ourselves to
reproducing the designs embroidered upon the royal robes of Assurnazirpal.
We need hardly say that these robes do not now exist, but the Ninevite
sculptor copied them in soft alabaster with an infinite patience that does
him honour. He has preserved for us every detail with the exception of
colour. The lotus is not to be found in this embroidery; its place is taken
by the palmette or tuft of leaves (Fig. 137), through which appear stems
bending with the weight of the buds they bear. Animals, real and imaginary,
are skilfully mingled with the fan-shaped palmettes; in one place we find
two goats (Fig. 138), in another two winged bulls (Fig. 139). Bulls and
goats are both alike on their knees before the palmette, which seems to
suggest that the latter is an abridged representation of that sacred tree
which we have already encountered and will encounter again in the
bas-reliefs, where it is surrounded by scenes of adoration and sacrifice.
This motive has the double advantage of awakening religious feeling in the
spectators, and of provoking a momentary elegance of line and movement in
the two pairs of animals. On the other hand we can hardly explain the
motive represented in our Figs. 140 and 141--a motive already met with in
the figured architecture of the bas-reliefs and in the glazed tiles--by
anything but an artistic caprice. In some cases the rosette and the
palmette are introduced in a single picture (142).

[Illustration: FIG. 139.--Winged bulls and palmette; from Layard.]

We have ventured to supplement the scanty remains of architectural
decoration by these illustrations from another art, because all Babylonian
ornament, whether for carpets, hangings, or draperies, for works in beaten
metal, in paint or enamelled faïence, is governed by the same spirit and
marked by the same taste. In every form impressed upon matter by the
ancient inhabitants of Mesopotamia the same symbols, the same types, and
the same motives are repeated to infinity. The examples we have brought
together suffice to show the principal characteristics of that decoration.
It had doubtless one great defect, it was too easily separated from the
building to which it belonged; it was fragile, apt to fall, and therefore
unlikely to have any very long duration. But the architect was not to blame
for that. The defect in question was consequent on the poverty of the
material with which he had to work. Given the conditions under which he
laboured, and we cannot deny that he showed great skill in making the best
of them. He understood how to contrast wide unbroken surfaces with certain
important parts of his _ensemble_, such as cornices, plinths, and
especially doorways. Upon these he concentrated the efforts of the painter
and sculptor; upon these he lavished all the hues of the Assyrian palette,
and embellished them with the carved figures of men and gods, of kings and
genii, of all the countless multitudes who had fought and died for Assyria
and its divine protector, the unconquered and unconquerable Assur.

[Illustration: FIG. 140.--Stag upon a palmette; from Layard.]

[Illustration: FIG. 141.--Winged bull upon a rosette; from Layard.]

If, not content with this general view of Assyrian decoration, we enter
into it in detail, we shall find its economy most judiciously arranged and
understood. When the sculptor set himself to carve the slabs that enframe a
door or those that protect the lower parts of a wall, he sought to render
what he saw or imagined as precisely and definitely as possible. He went to
nature for inspiration even when he carved imaginary beings, and copied
her, in fragments perhaps, but with a loyal and vigorous sincerity.
Everywhere, except in certain pictures with a strictly limited function, he
obeyed an imagination over which a sure judgment kept unsleeping watch. His
polychromatic decorations fulfilled their purpose of amusing and delighting
the eye without ever attempting to deceive it. Such is and must always be
the true principle of ornament, and the decorators of the great buildings
of Babylon and Nineveh seem to have thoroughly understood that it was so;
their rich and fertile fancy is governed, in every instance to which we can
point, with unfailing tact, and to them must be given the credit of having
invented not a few of the motives that may yet be traced in the art of the
Medes and Persians, in that of the Syrians, the Phoenicians, the peoples of
Asia Minor, and above all in that of the Greeks--those unrivalled masters
who gave immortality to every artistic combination that they chose to

[Illustration: FIG. 142.--Stag, palmette, and rosette; from Layard.]


[326] The cuneiform texts mention the "two bulls at the door of the temple
E-schakil," the famous staged tower of Babylon. Fr. LENORMANT, _Les
Origines de l'Histoire_, vol. i. p. 114 (2nd edition, 1880).

[327] RICH, _Narrative of a Journey to the Site of Babylon in 1811, and a
Memoir on the Ruins_, p. 64. LAYARD, _Discoveries_, p. 507. According to
Rich, this lion was of grey granite; according to Layard, of black basalt.

[328] LOFTUS says nothing of this lion in those _Travels and Researches_
which we have so often quoted. It was, perhaps, on a later occasion that he
found it. We came upon it in a collection of original sketches and
manuscript notes (_Drawings in Babylonia by W. K. Loftus and H. Churchill_)
in the custody of the keeper of Oriental antiquities at the British Museum.
We have to express our acknowledgments to Dr. Birch for permission to make
use of this valuable collection.

[329] PERROT, GUILLAUME ET DELBET, _Exploration archéologique de la
Galatie_, vol. ii. pl. 32.

[330] _Exploration archéologique_, vol. ii. pl. 11.

[331] LAYARD, _Discoveries_, p. 508.

[332] PLACE, _Ninive_, vol. ii. pp. 68-70.

[333] This character of a tutelary divinity that we attribute to the winged
bull is indicated in the clearest manner in the cuneiform texts: "In this
palace," says Esarhaddon, "the _sedi_ and _lamassi_ (the Assyrian names for
these colossi) are propitious, are the guardians of my royal promenade and
the rejoicers of my heart, may they ever watch over the palace and never
quit its walls." And again: "I caused doors to be made in cypress, which
has a good smell, and I had them adorned with gold and silver and fixed in
the doorways. Right and left of those doorways I caused _sedi_ and
_lamassi_ of stone to be set up, they are placed there to repulse the
wicked." (ST. GUYARD, _Bulletin de la Religion assyrienne_, in the _Revue
de l'Histoire des Religions_, vol. i. p. 43, note.)

[334] PLACE, _Ninive_, vol. iii, plate 21.

[335] Those in the Louvre are fourteen feet high; the tallest pair in the
British Museum are about the same.

[336] _Art in Ancient Egypt_, vol. ii. pt. ii. p. 92, fig. 70.

[337] On the subject of these winged bulls see Fr. LENORMANT, _Les Origines
de l'Histoire_, vol. i. chap. 3.

[338] The bas-relief here reproduced comes from the palace of Assurbanipal
at Kouyundjik. In the fragment now in the Louvre there are three stories,
but the upper story, being an exact repetition of that immediately below
it, has been omitted in our engraving.

[339] LOFTUS, _Travels and Researches_, p. 176. LAYARD, _Discoveries_, pp.
529, 651. BOTTA, _Monument de Ninive_, vol. v. p. 44. In the book of Daniel
the hand that traces the warning words upon the walls of Belshazzar's
palace traces them "_upon the plaster of the wall_" (DANIEL v. 5).

[340] PLACE, _Ninive_, vol. i. p. 77.

[341] At Warka, however, LOFTUS found in the building he calls _Wuswas_ a
layer of plaster which was from two to four inches thick. (_Travels_, p.

[342] PLACE, _Ninive_, vol. ii. pp. 77, 78.

[343] PLACE, _Ninive_, vol. iii. plate 25.

[344] _Ibid._ vol. i. pp. 141-146; vol. ii. pp. 79, 80; vol. iii. plates 36
and 37.

[345] HERODOTUS (Rawlinson's translation), i. 98.

[346] PLACE, _Ninive_, vol. iii. plate 32.

[347] G. SMITH, _Assyrian Discoveries_, pp. 77, 78. LAYARD (_Nineveh_, vol.
ii. p. 130) also says that some rooms had no other decoration.

[348] In writing thus we allude chiefly to the restorations given by Mr.
James Fergusson in _The Palaces of Nineveh and Persepolis Restored_ (1 vol.
8vo. Murray), a work that was launched upon the world at far too early a
date, namely, in 1851. Sir H., then Mr., LAYARD, had not yet published his
second narrative (_Discoveries in the Ruins of Nineveh and Babylon_) nor
the second series of _Monuments of Nineveh_, neither had the great work of
MM. Place and Thomas on the palace of Sargon (a work to which we owe so
much new and authentic information) appeared. In Mr. Fergusson's
restorations the column is freely used and the vault excluded, so that in
many respects his work seems to us to be purely fanciful, and yet it is
implicitly accepted by English writers to this day. Professor RAWLINSON,
while criticising Mr. Fergusson in his text (_The Five Great Monarchies_,
vol. i. p. 303, note 6), reproduces his restoration of the great court at
Khorsabad, in which a colonnade is introduced upon the principle of the
hypostyle halls of Persepolis. Professor Rawlinson would, perhaps, have
been better advised had he refrained from thus popularizing a vision which,
as he himself very justly declares, is quite alien to the genius of
Assyrian architecture.

[349] LOFTUS, _Travels and Researches_, pp. 187-189.

[350] LOFTUS thinks that the process was very common, at least in Lower
Chaldæa. He found cones imbedded in mortar at several other points in the
Warka ruins, but the example we have reproduced is the only one in which
well-marked designs could still be clearly traced. TAYLOR saw cones of the
same kind at Abou-Sharein. They had no inscriptions, and their bases were
black (_Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society_, vol. xv. p. 411). They
formed in all probability parts of a decoration similar to that described
by Loftus. In Egypt we find cones of terra-cotta crowning the façades of
certain Theban tombs (RHIND, _Thebes, its Tombs and their Tenants_, p.
136). Decoratively they seem allied to the cones of Warka, but the
religious formulæ they bear connects them rather with the cones found by M.
de Sarzec at Tello, which bear commemorative inscriptions. To these we
shall return at a later page.

[351] LOFTUS, _Travels and Researches_, pp. 190, 191

[352] LAYARD, _Discoveries_, p. 607. Rich also bears witness to the
abundance of these remains in his _Journey to the Ruins of Babylon_. See
also OPPERT, _Expédition scientifique_, vol. i. p. 143.

[353] A French traveller of the last century, DE BEAUCHAMP (he was consul
at Bagdad), heard an Arab workman and contractor describe a room he had
found in the Kasr, the walls of which were lined with enamelled bricks.
Upon one wall, he said, there was a cow with the sun and moon above it. His
story must, at least, have been founded on truth. No motive occurs oftener
in the Chaldæan monuments than a bull and the twin stars of the day and
night. (See RENNELL, _History of Herodotus_, p. 367.)

[354] LOFTUS collected some fragments of these enamelled bricks at Warka,
"similar to those found," he says, "at Babylon in the ruins of the Kasr"
(_Travels and Researches_, p. 185). TAYLOR also tells us that he found
numerous fragments of brick enamelled blue at Mugheir (_Journal of the
Royal Asiatic Society_, vol. xv. p. 262).

[355] The most interesting of these fragments, those that allow the subject
of which they formed a part to be still divined, have been published by M.
DE LONGPERIER, _Musée Napoléon III._ plate iv.

[356] I examined at the British Museum the originals of the glazed bricks
reproduced by Layard in his first series of _Monuments_, some of which we
have copied in our plates xiii. and xiv. The outlines of the ornament are
now hardly more than distinguishable, while the colour is no more than a
pale reflection.

[357] LOFTUS believes that the external faces of Assyrian walls were not,
as a rule, cased in enamelled bricks. He disengaged three sides of the
northern palace at Kouyundjik without finding any traces of polychromatic
decoration. (_Travels and Researches_, p. 397. note.)

[358] Kath' hon en ômais eti tais plinthois dietetupôto thêria, pantodapa
tê tôn chrômatôn philotechnia tên alêtheian apomimoumena (DIODORUS, ii. 8,
4.) Diodorus expressly declares that he borrows this description from
Ctesias (hôs Ktêsias phêsin), _ibid._ 5.

[359] Enêsan de en tois purgois kai teichesi zôa pantodapa philotechnôs
tois te chrômasi kai tois tôn tupôn apomimasi kataskeuasmena. (DIODORUS,
ii. 8, 6.)

[360] Pantoiôn thêriôn ... hôn êsan ta megethê pleion ê pêchôn tettarôn.
Four cubits was equal to about five feet eight inches. At Khorsabad the
tallest of the genii on the coloured tiles at the door are only 32 inches
high; others are not more than two feet.

[361] PLACE, _Ninive_, vol. iii. plates 24 and 31.

[362] "The painting," says M. OPPERT, "was applied to a kind of roughly
blocked-out relief." (_Expédition scientifique_, vol. i. p. 144.)

[363] De Longperier, _Musée Napoléon III._, plate iv.

[364] This palace was then inhabited for a part of the year by the
Achemenid princes, of whom Ctesias was both the guest and physician.

[365] OPPERT, _Expédition scientifique_, vol. i. pp. 143, 144.

[366] Two of these enamelled letters are in the Louvre. See also upon this
subject, PLACE, _Ninive_, vol. ii. p. 86. I have also seen some in the
collection of M. Piot.

[367] PLACE, _Ninive_, vol. i. p. 236.

[368] Only two rafts arrived at Bassorah; eight left Mossoul, so that only
about a fourth of the antiquities collected reached their destination in
safety. The cases with the objects despatched by the Babylonian mission,
that is by MM. Fresnel, Oppert, and Thomas, were included in the same
disaster. But for this the Assyrian collections of the Louvre would be less
inferior than they are to those of the British Museum.

[369] PLACE, _Ninive_, vol. i. p. 253.

[370] PLACE, _Ninive_, vol. ii. p. 253. These marks were recognized upon
many fragments found at Babylon by MM. Oppert and Thomas (OPPERT,
_Expédition scientifique_, vol. i. pp. 143, 144). LOFTUS has transcribed
and published a certain number of marks of the same kind which he found
upon glazed bricks from the palace at Suza. These are sometimes cut in the
brick with a point, sometimes painted with enamel like that on the face.
(_Travels and Researches_, p. 398.)

[371] EZEKIEL xxiii. 14, 15.

[372] BEROSUS, fragment i. § 4, in vol. ii. of the _Fragmenta Historicorum
Græcorum_ of Ch. MÜLLER.

[373] TEXIER, _Armenie et Perse_, vol. ii. p. 134. In the same work the
details of the magnificent decoration upon the mosque of the Sunnites at
Tauris (which afforded a model for that at Ispahan) will be found
reproduced in their original colours. It is strange that this art of
enamelled faïence, after being preserved so long, should so recently have
become extinct in the East. "At the commencement of the last century," says
M. TEXIER (vol. ii. p. 138), "the art of enamelling bricks was no less
prosperous in Persia than in the time of Shah-Abbas, the builder of the
great mosque at Ispahan (1587-1629); but now the art is completely extinct,
and in spite of my desire to visit a factory where I might see the work in
progress, there was not one to be found from one end of Ispahan to the
other." According to the information I gathered in Asia Minor, it was also
towards the beginning of the present century that the workshops of Nicæa
and Nicomedia, in which the fine enamelled tiles on the mosques at Broussa
were made, were finally closed. In these _fabriques_ the plaques which have
been found in such abundance for some twenty years past in Rhodes and other
islands of the Archipelago were also manufactured. [The manufacture of
these glazed tiles is by no means extinct in India, however. At many
centres in Sindh and the Punjab, glazed tiles almost exactly similar to
those on the mosque at Ispahan, so far as colours and ornamental motives
are concerned, are made in great numbers and used for the same purposes as
in Persia and ancient Mesopotamia. There is a tradition in India that the
art was brought from China, through Persia, by the soldiers of Gingiz-Khan,
but a study of the tiles themselves is enough to show that they are a
survival from the art manufactures of Babylon and Nineveh. For detailed
information on the history and processes used in the manufacture of these
tiles, see Sir George BIRDWOOD'S _Industrial Arts of India_, part ii. pp.
304-310, 321, and 330; also Mr. DRURY FORTNUM'S report on the Sindh pottery
in the International Exhibition of 1871.--ED.]

[374] Sir H. LAYARD noticed this at the very beginning of his explorations:
"Between the bulls and the lions forming the entrances in different parts
of the palace were invariably found a large collection of baked bricks,
elaborately painted with figures of animals and flowers, and with cuneiform
characters" (_Nineveh_, vol. ii. p. 13).

[375] PLACE, _Ninive_, vol. i. p. 234; vol. iii. plates 9 and 17.

[376] _Ibid._ vol. iii. plate 14. We should have reproduced this
composition in colour had the size of our page allowed us to do so on a
proper scale. M. Place was unable to give it all even in a double-page
plate of his huge folio.

[377] PLACE, _Ninive_, vol. iii. plates 23-31.

[378] Layard, _Monuments_, 2nd series, plates 53, 54. Elsewhere
(_Discoveries_, pp. 166-168) Layard has given a catalogue and summary
description of all these fragments, of which only a part were reproduced in
the plates of his great collection.

[379] _Ibid._ plate 55.

[380] GEO. SMITH, _Assyrian Discoveries_, p. 79.

[381] Botta gives examples of some of these bricks (_Monument de Ninive_,
plates 155, 156). Among the motives there reproduced there is one that we
have already seen in the bas-reliefs (fig. 67). It is a goat standing in
the collected attitude he would take on a point of rock. The head of the
ibex is also a not uncommon motive (LAYARD, _Monuments_, first series,
plate 87, fig. 2; see also BOTTA).

[382] Fig. 1 of our Plate XIV. reproduces the same design, but with a more
simple colouration.

[383] J. E. TAYLOR, _Notes on Abou-Sharein_, p. 407 (in the _Journal of the
Royal Asiatic Society_, vol. xv.).

[384] PHILOSTRATUS, _Life of Apollonius_, i. 25. Cf. DIONYSIUS PERIEGETES,
who says of Semiramis (v. 1007, 1008):

    autar ep' akropolêi megan domon eisato Bêlôi
    chrusôi t' êd' elephanti kai agurôi askêsasa.

[385] HERODOTUS, i. 98.

[386] See above, p. 202.

[387] LAYARD, _Nineveh_, vol. ii. p. 264, note 1. Frequent allusions to
this use of metal are to be found in the wedges. In M. LENORMANT'S
translation of the London inscription (_Histoire ancienne_, vol. ii. p.
233, 3rd edition) in which Nebuchadnezzar enumerates the great works he had
done at Borsippa, I find the following words: "I have covered the roof of
Nebo's place of repose with gold. The beams of the door before the oracles
have been overlaid with silver ... the pivot of the door into the woman's
chamber I have covered with silver."

[388] Among the fragments of tiles brought from Nimroud by Mr. George
Smith, and now in the British Museum, there are two like those reproduced
above, to which bosses or knobs of the same material--glazed
earthenware--are attached. The necks of these bosses are pierced with holes
apparently to receive the chain of a hanging lamp, and are surrounded at
their base with inscriptions of Assurnazirpal stating that they formed part
of the decoration of a temple at Calah.--ED.

[389] The size of our engraving is slightly above that of the object

[390] 1 _Kings_ vi. 15; vii. 3.

[391] ZEPHANIAH ii. 14.

[392] The design consists entirely in the symmetrical repetition of the
details here given. [In this engraving the actual design of the pavement
has been somewhat simplified. Between the knop and flower that forms the
outer border and the rosettes there is a band of ornament consisting of the
symmetrical repetition of the palmette motive with rudimentary volutes,
much as it occurs round the outside of the tree of life figured on page
213. In another detail our cut differs slightly from the original. In the
latter there is no corner piece; the border runs entirely across the end,
and the side borders are stopped against it.--ED.]

[393] LAYARD, _Discoveries_, p. 184, note.

[394] LAYARD, _Nineveh_. vol. ii. p. 212, note.

[395] LAYARD, _Discoveries_, p. 281.

[396] PRISSE D'AVENNES, _Histoire de l'Art égyptien d'après les Monuments_
(2 vols folio): see the plates entitled _Couronnements et Frises

§ 8.--_On the Orientation of Buildings and Foundation Ceremonies._

The inhabitants of Mesopotamia were so much impressed by celestial
phenomena, and believed so firmly in the influence of the stars over human
destiny, that they were sure to establish some connection between those
heavenly bodies and the arrangement of their edifices. All the buildings
of Chaldæa and Assyria are orientated; the principle is everywhere
observed, but it is not always understood in the same fashion.

[Illustration: FIG. 143.--Plan of a temple at Mugheir; from Loftus.]

Mesopotamian buildings were always rectangular and often square on plan,
and it is sometimes the angles and sometimes the centres of each face that
are directed to the four cardinal points. It will easily be understood that
the former system was generally preferred. The façades were of such extent
that their direction to a certain point of the horizon was not evident,
while salient angles, on the other hand, had all the precision of an
astronomical calculation; and this the earliest architects of the Chaldees
thoroughly understood. Some of the buildings examined by Loftus and Taylor
on the lower Euphrates may have been restored, more or less, by
Nebuchadnezzar and his successors, but it is generally acknowledged that
the lower and less easily injured parts of most of these buildings date
from the very beginnings of that civilization, and were constructed by the
princes of the early empire. Now both at Warka and at Mugheir one corner of
a building is always turned towards the true north.[397] An instance of
this may be given in the little building at Mugheir in which the lower
parts of a temple have been recognized (Fig. 143). The same arrangement is
to be found in the palace excavated by M. de Sarzec at Tello.[398]

[Illustration: FIG. 144.--Plan of the town and palace of Sargon at
Khorsabad; from Place.]

Most of the Assyrian architects did likewise. See for example the plan of
Sargon's city, Dour-Saryoukin (Fig. 144). Its circumvallation incloses an
almost exact square, the diagonals of which point to the north, south,
east and west respectively.[399] In the large scale plans that we shall
give farther on of the palace and of some of its parts it will be seen that
the parallelograms of which that building was composed also had their
angles turned to the four cardinal points. It was the same with the
structures sprinkled over the summit of the vast mound of Kouyundjik, in
the centre of what once was Nineveh.

[Illustration: FIG. 145.--General plan of the remains at Nimroud; from

1, 2, 3 Trenches, 4 Central palace, 5 Tombs, 6 South-eastern edifice, 7
South-western palace, 8 North-western palace, 9 High pyramidal mound.]

On the other hand in those ruins at Nimroud that have been identified with
the ancient Calah, it is the sides of the mound and of the buildings upon
it that face the four cardinal points (Fig. 145). The plan given by Layard
of the square staged tower disengaged in his last digging campaign at the
north-western angle of the mound shows this more clearly.[400] Nearly half
the northern side is occupied by the salient circular mass that is such a
conspicuous object to one looking at the mound from the plain. We do not
know what caused this deviation from the traditional custom; a reason
should perhaps be sought in the configuration of the ground, and in the
course here followed by the river which then bathed the foot of the
artificial hill upon which stood the royal dwellings of the
Tiglath-Pilesers and Assurnazirpals.

The first of these two methods of orientation had the advantage of
establishing a more exact and well defined relation between the disposition
of the building and those celestial points to which a peculiar importance
was attached. It must also be remembered that such an arrangement gave a
more agreeable dwelling than the other. No façade being turned directly to
the north there was none entirely deprived of sunlight, while at the same
time there was none that faced due south. The sun as it ran its daily
course would light for a time each face in turn.

The religious ideas that led to orientation are revealed in other details,
in the time chosen for commencing the foundations of temples or palaces,
and in certain rites that were accomplished afterwards--doubtless with the
help of the priesthood--in order to place the building under the protection
of the gods and to interest them in its duration. There were ceremonies
analogous to those now practised when we lay foundation stones. In the
Chaldee system the first stone, the seed from which the rest of the edifice
was to spring, was an angle stone, under or in which were deposited
inscribed plaques. These contained the name of the founder, together with
prayers to the gods and imprecations on all who should menace the stability
of the building. This custom dated from the very beginning of Chaldæan
civilization, as is proved by a curious text translated by M. Oppert.[401]
It was discovered at Sippara and dates from the time of Nabounid, one of
the last kings of Babylon. Many centuries before the reign of that prince a
temple raised to the sun by Sagaraktyas, of the first dynasty, had been
destroyed, and its foundations were traditionally said to inclose the
sacred tablets of Xisouthros, who has been identified with the Noah of the
Bible. Nabounid recounts the unsuccessful efforts that had been made before
his time to recover possession of the precious deposit. Two kings of
Babylon, Kourigalzou and Nebuchadnezzar, and one king of Assyria,
Esarhaddon, had made the attempt and failed. One of the three had
commemorated his failure in an inscription to the following effect: "I have
searched for the angle stone of the temple of Ulbar but I have not found
it." Finally Nabounid took up the quest. After one check caused by an
inundation he renewed the search with ardour; he employed his army upon it,
and at last, after digging to a great depth, he came to the angle-stone:
"Thus," he says, "have I recovered the name and date of Sagaraktyas."

[Illustration: FIG. 146.--Bronze statuette. 8-1/4 inches high. Louvre.]

In the ruins of the ancient royal city recovered by M. de Sarzec at Tello
the traces of similar precautions have everywhere been found. In the
middle of the great mass of ruins whose plan we are still awaiting, "I
found," says M. de Sarzec, "at a depth of hardly 30 centimetres (one foot
English) below the original level of the soil four cubical masses
consisting of large bricks cemented with bitumen, and measuring about 80
centimetres across each face. In the centre of each cube there was a cavity
27 centimetres long by 12 wide and 35 deep. In each case this hollow
contained a small bronze statuette packed, as it were, in an impalpable
dust. In one cavity the statuette was that of a kneeling man (Fig. 146), in
another of a standing woman (Fig. 147), in another of a bull (Fig. 148). At
the feet of each statue there were two stone tablets, set in most cases in
the bitumen with which the cavity was lined. One of these tablets was
black, the other white. It was upon the black as a rule that a cuneiform
inscription similar, or nearly so, to the inscriptions on the statuettes
was found."[402]

Abridgments of the same commemorative and devotional form of words are
found upon those cones of terra-cotta that were discovered in such numbers
among the foundations and in the interstices of the structure (Fig.

[Illustration: FIG. 147.--Bronze statuette. 8-1/4 inches high. Louvre.]

The Mesopotamian builder was not satisfied with relying upon talismans
built into the lower part of a building or strewn under the pavements.
Taylor ascertained at Mugheir and Loftus at Sinkara that engraved cylinders
were built into the four angles of the upper stories. A brick had been
omitted, leaving a small niche in which they were set up on end.[404]
Profiting by the hint thus given Sir Henry Rawlinson excavated the angles
of one of the terraces of the Birs-Nimroud at Babylon, and to the
astonishment of his workmen he found the terra-cotta cylinders upon which
the reconstruction of the temple by Nebuchadnezzar is narrated exactly at
the point where he told them to dig.[405] These little tubs are called
cylinders--a not very happy title. As some of them are about three feet
high (Fig. 150) they can take commemorative inscriptions of vastly greater
length than those cut upon small hard-stone cylinders. Some of these
inscriptions have as many as a hundred lines very finely engraved. Many
precious specimens dating from the times of Nebuchadnezzar and his
successors have been found in the ruins of Babylon.[406]

[Illustration: FIG. 148.--Bronze statuette. 10 inches high. Louvre.]

Thus from the beginning to the end of Chaldæan civilization the custom was
preserved of consecrating a building by hiding in its substance objects to
which a divine type and an engraved text gave both a talismanic and a
commemorative value.

As might be supposed the same usage was followed in Assyria. In the palace
of Assurnazirpal at Nimroud, Sir Henry Layard found some alabaster tablets
with inscriptions on both their faces hidden behind the colossal lions at
one of the doorways.[407] The British Museum also possesses a series of
small figures found at Nimroud but in a comparatively modern building, the
palace of Esarhaddon. They have each two pairs of wings, one pair raised,
the other depressed. They had been strewn in the sand under the threshold
of one of the doors.

[Illustration: FIG. 149.--Terra-cotta cone. Height 6 inches. Louvre.]

It was at Khorsabad, however, that the observations were made which have
most clearly shown the importance attached to this ceremony of
consecration. M. Oppert tells us that during the summer of 1854, "M. Place
disinterred from the foundations of Khorsabad a stone case in which were
five inscriptions on five different materials, gold, silver, antimony,
copper and lead. Of these five tablets he brought away four. The leaden one
was too heavy to be carried off at once, and it was despatched to Bassorah
on the rafts with the bulk of the collection, whose fate it shared." The
other four tablets are in the Louvre. Their text is almost identical. M.
Oppert gives a translation of it.[408] According to his rendering, the
inscription--in which the king speaks throughout in the first person--ends
with this imprecation: "May the great lord Assur destroy from the face of
this country the name and race of him who shall injure the works of my
hand, or who shall carry off my treasure!"

A little higher up, where Sargon recounts the founding of the palace,
occurs a phrase which M. Oppert translates: "The people threw their
amulets." What Sargon meant by this the excavations of M. Place have shown.
In the foundations of the town walls, and especially in the beds of sand
between the bases of the sculptured bulls that guard the doorways, he found
hundreds of small objects, such as cylinders, cones, and terra-cotta
statuettes. The most curious of these are now deposited in the Louvre. The
numbers and the character of these things prove that a great number of the
people must have assisted at the ceremony of consecration.

[Illustration: FIG. 150.--Terra-cotta cylinder. One-third of actual size;
from Place.]

Several of these amulets were not without value either for their material
or their workmanship, but the great majority were of the roughest kind,
some being merely shells or stones with a hole through them, which must
have belonged to the poorest class of the community. In many cases their
proper use could be easily divined; the holes with which they were pierced
and other marks of wear showed them to be personal amulets.[409] Those
present at the ceremony of consecrating the foundations must have detached
them from the cords by which they were suspended, and thrown them, upon the
utterance of some propitiatory formula by the priests, into the sand about
to be covered with the first large slabs of alabaster.

The terra-cotta cylinders were in no less frequent use in Assyria than in
Chaldæa. M. Place found no less than fourteen still in place in niches of
the harem walls at Khorsabad. The long inscription they bore contained
circumstantial details of the construction of both town and palace. Like
that on the metal tablets, it ended with a malediction on all who should
dare to raise their hands against the work of Sargon.[410]

As for the cylinders hidden in each angle of a building, none, we believe,
have as yet been found in Assyria; perhaps because no search or an
inefficient search has been made for them.

We have dwelt at some length upon the orientation of buildings, upon the
importance attached to their angle stones, and upon the precautions taken
to place an edifice under the protection of the gods, and to preserve the
name of its founder from oblivion. We can point to no stronger evidence
than that furnished by these proceedings as a whole, of the high
civilization to which the people of Chaldæa and Assyria had attained at a
very early date. The temple and palace did not spread themselves out upon
the soil at the word of a capricious and individual fancy; a constant will
governed the arrangement of its plan, solemn rites inaugurated its
construction and recommended its welfare to the gods. The texts tell us
nothing about the architects, who raised so many noble monuments; we know
neither their names, nor their social condition, but we can divine from
their works that they had strongly established traditions, and that they
could look back upon a solid and careful education for their profession. As
to whether they formed one of those close corporations in which the secrets
of a trade are handed down from generation to generation of their members,
or whether they belonged to the sacerdotal caste, we do not know. We are
inclined to the latter supposition in some degree by the profoundly
religious character of the ceremonies that accompanied the inception of a
building, and by the accounts left by the ancients of those priests whom
they called _the Chaldæans_. It was to these Chaldæans that Mesopotamian
society owed all it knew of scientific methods and modes of thought, and
it is, perhaps, fair to suppose that they turned to the practice of the
arts those intellects which they had cultivated above their fellows.
Architecture especially requires something more than manual skill,
practice, and natural genius. When it is carried so far as it was in
Chaldæa it demands a certain amount of science, and the priests who by
right of their intellectual superiority held such an important place in the
state, may well have contrived to gain a monopoly as architects to the
king. In their persons alone would the scientific knowledge required for
such work be combined with the power to accomplish those sacred rites which
gave to the commencement of a new building the character of a contract
between man and his deity.


[397] LOFTUS, _Travels and Researches_, p. 171.

[398] _Les Fouilles de Chaldée, communication d'une Lettre de M. de Sarzec
par M. Léon Heuzey_, § 2 (_Revue archéologique_, November, 1881).

[399] PLACE, _Ninive_, vol. i. pp. 17, 18. BOTTA had previously made the
same observation (_Monument de Ninive_, vol. v. p. 25).

[400] LAYARD, _Discoveries_, plan 2, p. 123.

[401] OPPERT, _Expédition scientifique de Mésopotamie_, vol. i. p. 273.

[402] _Les Fouilles de Chaldée, communication d'une Lettre de M. de
Sarzec_, by M. Léon HEUZEY (_Revue archéologique_, November, 1881).

[403] As to the notions attached to these cones, whether sprinkled about
the foundations of a building, set up in certain sanctuaries, or carried
upon the person, an article published by M. LEDRAIN, _à propos_ of an agate
cone recently added to the collections of the Louvre, may be read with
advantage. Its full title is _Une Page de Mythologie sémitique_ (_la
Philosophie positive, Revue_, 14th year, 1882, pp. 209-213).

[404] Taylor, _Notes on the Ruins of Mugheir_ (_Journal_, &c. vol. xv., pp.
263, 264). LOFTUS, _Travels_, &c. p. 247.

[405] See the _Athenæum_ for January 20, 1855 (No. 1421), p. 84. "After two
months' excavation Colonel Rawlinson was summoned to the work by the
information that ... a wall had been found and laid bare to a distance of
190 feet, and that it turned off at right angles at each end, to be
apparently carried all round the mound, forming a square of about
twenty-seven feet in height, surmounted by a platform. He immediately rode
to the excavation, examined the spot, where he found the workmen quite
discouraged and hopeless, having laboured long and found nothing. He was
now, however, well aware of these facts, and at once pointed out the spot,
near the corner, where the bricks should be removed. In half an hour a
small hollow was found, from which he immediately directed the head workman
to 'bring out the commemorative cylinder'--a command which, to the wonder
and bewilderment of the people, was immediately obeyed; and a cylinder
covered with inscriptions was drawn out from its hiding-place of
twenty-four centuries, as fresh as when deposited there by the hands,
probably, of Nebuchadnezzar himself! The Colonel added in a note that the
fame of his magical power had flown to Bagdad, and that he was besieged
with applications for the loan of his wonderful instrument to be used in
the discovery of hidden treasures!"

[406] Among these we may mention the Philips cylinder, from which, in
speaking of the great works carried out by Nebuchadnezzar, LENORMANT gives
long extracts in his _Manuel d'Histoire ancienne_, vol. ii. pp. 233 and

[407] LAYARD, _Nineveh_, vol. i. p. 115, and vol. ii. p. 91.

[408] OPPERT, _Expédition en Mésopotamie_, vol. ii. pp. 343-351.

[409] PLACE, _Ninive_, vol. i. p. 188.

[410] OPPERT, _Expédition scientifique_, vol. i. pp. 354 _et seq._

§ 9.--_Mechanical Resources._

The Chaldæans and Assyrians were never called upon to transport such
enormous masses as some of the Egyptian monoliths, such as the obelisks and
the two great colossi at Thebes. But the stone bulls that decorated the
palaces of Nineveh were no light weight, and it was not without difficulty
that the modern explorers succeeded in conveying them to the borders of the
Tigris and loading them on the rafts upon which they began their long
journeys to Paris and London. In moving such objects from place to place
the Assyrians, like the Egyptians, had no secret beyond that of patience,
and the unflinching use of human arms and shoulders in unstinted
number.[411] We know this from monuments in which the details of the
operation are figured even more clearly and with more pictorial power than
in the bas-relief at El-Bercheh, which has served to make us acquainted
with the methods employed in taking an Egyptian colossus from the quarry to
its site.

In Mesopotamia, as in Egypt, there were waterways that could be used at any
season for the transport of heavy masses. Quarries were made as near the
banks of the Euphrates and Tigris as possible, and when a stone monster had
to be carried to a town situated at some distance from both those rivers
the canals by which the country was intersected in every direction supplied
their place. Going down stream, and especially in flood time, no means of
propulsion were required; the course of the boats or rafts was directed by
means of heavy oars like those still used by the boatmen who navigate the
Tigris in _keleks_, or rafts, supported on inflated hides; in ascending the
streams towing was called into play, as we know from one of the Kouyundjik
bas-reliefs.[412] In this the stone in course of transport is oblong in
shape and is placed upon a wide flat boat, beyond which it extends both at
the stern and the bows. It is securely fastened with pieces of wood held
together by strong pins. There are three tow ropes, two fastened to the
stone itself and the third to the bow of the boat.

The towers pull upon these cables by means of smaller cords passed round
the shoulders of each and spliced to the main ropes; by such means they
could bring far more weight to bear than if they had been content to hold
the cable in their hands, as in Egypt. The bas-relief in question is
mutilated, but we may guess that a hundred men were attached to each cable,
which would make three hundred in all obeying the single will of the
superintending engineer who is perched upon the stone and directing their
movements. On each flank of the gang march overseers armed with swords and
rattans that would be quick to descend on the back and loins of any

More than one instance of such punishment may be seen on the bas-relief
reproduced in part in our Fig. 151. In its lower division two or three of
these slave-drivers may be seen with their hands raised against the
workmen; in one case the latter sinks to the ground beneath the blows
rained upon him. The way in which the whole series of operations is
represented in this Kouyundjik relief is most curious. High up in the field
we often find the king himself, standing in his chariot and urging on the
work. The whole occupies several of Layard's large plates. We can only
reproduce the central group, which is the most interesting to the student
of engineering in ancient Mesopotamia.

[Illustration: FIG. 151.--The transport of a bull. Height of the slab, 7
feet 3 inches; British Museum.]

The block of alabaster that we saw a moment ago on a boat towed by hundreds
of human arms has been delivered to the sculptors and has put on, under
their hands, the rough form of a mitred, human-headed bull. It will be
completed after being put in place; the last touches of the chisel and the
brush will then be given to it; but the heaviest part of the work is
already done and the block has lost much of its original size and weight.
Firmly packed with timber, the bull lies upon its side upon a sledge which
is curved in front like a boat, or a modern sleigh. Two cables are fastened
to its prow and two to its stern. The engineer is again seated upon the
stone and claps his hands to give the time, but now he is accompanied by
three soldiers who appear to support his authority by voice and gesture. In
order to prevent friction and to facilitate the movement of the sledge,
rollers are thrust beneath its runners as they progress. Before the huge
mass will start, however, the straining cords and muscles have to be helped
by a thrust from behind. This is given by means of a huge lever, upon which
a number of men pull with all their weight, while its curved foot is
engaged under the sledge. A workman is occupied with the reinforcement of
the fulcrum by thrusting a wedge in between its upper surface and the lower
edge of the lever. When everything is ready a signal will be given, the men
behind will throw their weight upon the lever, the sledge will rise a
little, the ropes will strain and tighten, and the heavy mass will glide
forward upon the greased rollers until arms and legs give out and an
interval for rest is called, to be followed presently by a repetition of
the same process. Every precaution is taken to minimize the effect of any
accident that may take place in the course of the operation. Behind the
sledge spare ropes and levers are carried, some upon men's backs, others on
small handcarts. There are also a number of workmen carrying rollers.

We shall only refer to one more of these reliefs and that the one with
which the series appears to close (Fig. 152). This carved picture has been
thought, not without reason, to represent the erection of the bull[413] in
its destined place. After its slow but uninterrupted march the huge monster
has arrived upon the plateau where it has been awaited. By one great final
effort it has been dragged up an inclined plane to the summit of the mound
and has been set upon its feet. Nothing remains to be done but to pull and
thrust it into its place against the doorway it has to guard and ornament.
The same sledge, the same rollers, the same lever, the same precautions
against accident are to be recognized here as in the last picture. The only
difference is in the position of the statue itself. Standing upright like
this it is much more liable to injury than when prone on its flank. New
safeguards have therefore been introduced. It is packed under its belly
with squares of wood and inclosed in scaffolding to prevent dangerous
vibration. Additional precautions against this latter danger are provided
by gangs of men who walk at each side and hold, some ropes fastened to the
uprights of the scaffolding, others long forked poles engaged under its
horizontal pieces. By these means equilibrium could be restored after any
extra oscillation on the part of the sledge and its burden.

All these manoeuvres are remarkable for the skill and prodigality with
which human strength was employed; of all the scientific tools invented to
economise effort and to shorten the duration of a task, the only one they
seem ever to have used was the most simple of all, the lever, an instrument
that must have been invented over and over again wherever men tried to lift
masses of stone or wood from the ground. Its discovery must, in fact, have
taken place long before the commencement of what we call civilization,
although its theory was first expounded by the Greek mathematicians.

[Illustration: FIG. 152.--Putting a bull in place; from Layard.]

In a relief in the palace of Assurnazirpal at Nimroud, there is a pulley
exactly similar to those often seen over a modern well.[414] A cord runs
over it and supports a bucket. There is no evidence that the Assyrians
employed such a contrivance for any purpose but the raising of water. We
cannot say that they used it to lift heavy weights, but the fact that they
understood its principle puts them slightly above the Egyptians as


[411] As to the simplicity of Egyptian engineering, see the _History of Art
in Ancient Egypt_, vol. ii. p. 72, and fig. 43.

[412] See LAYARD, _Monuments_, 2nd series, plate ii. The same author gives
a detailed description of this picture in his _Discoveries_, pp. 104-106.

[413] LAYARD, _Discoveries_, p. 112.

[414] LAYARD, _Nineveh_, vol. ii. p. 32.

§ 10.--_On the Graphic Processes Employed in the Representations of

The Chaldæans and Assyrians knew as little of perspective as they did of
mechanics. When they had to figure a building and its contents, or a
landscape background, they could not resist the temptation of combining
many things which could not be seen from a single standpoint. Like the
painters and sculptors of Thebes they mixed up in the most naive fashion
those graphic processes that we keep carefully apart. All that they cared
about was to be understood. We need not here reproduce the observations we
made on this subject in the corresponding chapter of Egyptian Art;[415] it
will suffice to give a few examples of the simultaneous employment by
Ninevite sculptors of contradictory systems.

[Illustration: FIG. 153.--Chaldæan plan. Louvre.]

It is not difficult to cite examples of things that may, with some little
ingenuity, be brought within the definition of a plan. The most curious and
strongly marked of these is furnished by one of the most ancient monuments
that have come down to us; we mean a statue found at Tello in Lower Chaldæa
by M. de Sarzec. It represents a personage seated and holding on his knees
an engraved tablet on which two or three different things are represented
(Fig. 153). On the right there is one of those styles with which letters or
images were cut in the soft clay, at the bottom of the tablet there is a
scale which we know from another monument of the same kind to have been
originally 10.8 inches in length, _i.e._ the Babylonian half-cubit or span.
By far the larger part of the field, however, is occupied by an irregular
figure in which the trace of a fortified wall may be easily recognized.
When these monuments were first brought to France this statue was supposed
to be that of an architect. When the inscriptions were interpreted,
however, this opinion had to be modified in some degree. They were found to
contain the same royal title as the other figure of similar style and
material discovered by M. de Sarzec on the same spot, the title, namely, of
the individual whom archæologists have at present agreed to call
Gudea.[416] It therefore seems to represent that prince in the character of
an architect, as the constructor of the building in which his statues were
placed as a sacred deposit. Must we take it to be the plan of his royal
city as a whole, or only of his palace? It is difficult to answer this
question, especially while no precise information has been obtained from
the inscriptions, whose interpretation presents many difficulties. There
can, however, be no doubt that the engraver has given us a plan according
to his lights of a wall strengthened by flanking towers, of which those
with the boldest salience guard the six passages into the interior.

We find a still more simple plan upon an Assyrian monument of much later
date, namely, upon the armour of beaten bronze that formerly protected the
gates of Balawat. In this example (Fig. 154) the doorways, the angles, and
the centres of the two longer curtains are strengthened by towers.

[Illustration: FIG. 154.--Assyrian plan; from the Balawat gates in the
British Museum.]

[Illustration: FIG. 155.--Plan and section of a fortress; from Layard.]

The way in which the sculptor has endeavoured to suggest the crenellations
shows that these plans are not drawn on the same principal as ours; there
is no section taken at the junction with the soil or at a determined
height; the draughtsman in all probability wished to give an idea of the
height of the flanking towers. His representation is an ideal _projection_
similar to those of which we find so many examples in Egypt, only that here
we have the towers laid flat outside the fortification to which they belong
in such a fashion that their summits are as far as possible from the centre
of the structure. We shall see this better in another plan of the same kind
in which the details are more carefully made out (Fig. 155). It comes from
a bas-relief, on which a circular fortress, divided into four equal parts
by walls radiating from its centre, is portrayed.

In this relief we find another favourite process of the Egyptians employed,
namely, that in which a vertical section is combined with a projection, so
that the interior of the building and its arrangements may be laid open to
the spectator. In this instance we can see what is passing in the four
principal chambers of the castle. In each chamber one or two persons are
occupied over what appear to be religious rites.

[Illustration: FIG. 156.--Plan, section, and elevation of a fortified city;
from Layard.]

In another Nimroud bas-relief we find a still greater variety of processes
used upon a single work (Fig. 156). The picture shows the king enthroned in
the centre of a fortified city which he has just captured. Prisoners are
being brought before him; his victorious troops have erected their tents in
the city itself. Beside these tents three houses of unequal size represent
the dwellings of the conquered. The _enceinte_ with its towers is
projected on the soil in the fashion above noticed; a longitudinal section
lays bare the interiors of the tents and shows us the soldiers at their
various occupations. As for the houses, they are represented by their
principal façades, which are drawn in elevation.

[Illustration: FIG. 157.--Plan and elevation of a fortified city; from

When he had to deal with more complicated images, as in the reliefs at
Kouyundjik representing the conquests and expeditions of Assurbanipal, the
artist modified his processes at will so as to combine in the narrow space
at his disposal all the information that he thought fit to give. See for
instance the relief in which the Assyrians celebrate their capture of
Madaktu, an important city of Susiana, by a sort of triumph (Fig. 157).
The town itself, with its towered walls and its suburbs in which every
house is sheltered by a date tree, is figured in the centre. At the top and
sides the walls are projected outwards from the city; at the bottom they
are thrown inwards in order, no doubt, to leave room for the tops of the
date trees. Moreover, the sculptor had to find room for a large building on
the right of his fortification. This is, apparently, the palace of the
king. Guarded by a barbican and surrounded by trees it rises upon its
artificial mound some little distance in front of the city. The artist also
wished to show that palace and city were protected by a winding river
teeming with fish, into which fell a narrower stream in the neighbourhood
of the palace. If he had projected the walls of the palace and its barbican
in the same way as those of the other buildings he would either have had to
encroach upon his streams and to hide their junction or to divert their
course. In order to avoid this he made use of several points of view, and
laid his two chief structures on the ground in such a fashion that they
form an oblique angle with the rest of the buildings. The result thus
obtained looks strange to us, but it fulfilled his purpose; it gave a clear
idea of how the various buildings were situated with respect to each other
and it reproduced with fidelity the topographical features of the conquered

The chief desire of the sculptor was to be understood. That governing
thought can nowhere be more clearly traced than in one of the reliefs
dealing with the exploits of Sennacherib.[417] Here he had to explain that
in order to penetrate into a mountainous country like Armenia, the king had
been compelled to follow the bed of a torrent between high wooded banks. In
the middle of the picture we see the king in his chariot, followed by
horsemen and foot soldiers marching in the water. Towards the summit of the
relief, the heights that overhang the stream are represented by the usual
network. But how to represent the wooded mountains on this side of the
water? The artist has readily solved the question, according to his lights,
by showing the near mountains and their trees upside down, a solution which
is quite on all fours, in principle, with the plans above described. The
hills are projected on each side of the line made by the torrent, so that
it runs along their bases, as it does in fact; but in this case the
topsy-turviness of the trees and hills has a very startling effect. The
intentions of the artist, however, are perfectly obvious; his process is
childish, but it is quite clear.

None of these plans or pictures have, any more than those of Egypt, a scale
by which the proportions of the objects introduced can be judged. The men,
who were more important in the eye of the artist than the buildings, are
always taller than the houses and towers. This will be seen still more
clearly in the figure we reproduce from the Balawat gates (Fig. 158). It
represents a fortress besieged by Shalmaneser II., three people stand upon
the roof of the building; if we restore their lower limbs we shall see that
their height is equal to that of the castle itself.[418]

[Illustration: FIG. 158.--Fortress with its defenders; from the Balawat

This short examination of the spirit and principles of Assyrian figuration
was necessary in order to prevent embarrassment and doubt in speaking of
the architectural designs and other things of the same kind that we may
find reproduced in the bas-reliefs. Unless we had thoroughly understood the
system of which the sculptors made use, we should have been unable to base
our restorations upon their works in any important degree; and, besides, if
there be one touchstone more sure than another by which we may determine
the plastic genius of a people, it is the ingenuity, or the want of it,
shown in the contrivance of means to make lines represent the thickness of
bodies and the distances of various planes. In this matter Chaldæa and
Assyria remained, like Egypt, in the infancy of art. They were even
excelled by the Egyptians, who showed more taste and continuity in the
management of their processes than their Eastern rivals. Nothing so absurd
is to be found in the sculptures of the Nile valley as these hills and
trees turned upside down, and we shall presently see that a like
superiority is shown in the way figures are brought together in the
bas-reliefs. In our second volume on Egyptian art we drew attention to some
Theban sculptures in which a vague suspicion of the true laws of
perspective seemed to be struggling to light. The attempt to apply them to
the composition of certain groups was real, though timid. Nothing of the
kind is to be found in Assyrian sculpture. The Mesopotamian artist never
seems for a moment to have doubted the virtues of his own method, a method
which consisted in placing the numerous figures, whose position in a space
of more or less depth he wished to suggest, one above another on the field
of his relief. He trusted, in fact, to the intelligence of the spectator,
and took but little pains to help the latter in making sense of the images
put before him.


[415] _Art in Ancient Egypt_, vol. ii. chapter i. § 1.

[416] M. J. HALÉVY disputes this reading of the word. As we are unable to
discuss the question, we must refer our readers to his observations (_Les
Monuments Chaldéens et la Question de Sumir et d'Accad_) in the _Comptes
rendus de l'Académie des Inscriptions_, 1882, p. 107. M. Halévy believes it
should be read as the name of the prince Nabou or Nebo. The question is
only of secondary importance, but M. Halévy enlarges its scope by reopening
the whole matter of debate between himself and M. Oppert as to the true
character of what Assyriologists call the Sumerian language and written
character. The _Comptes rendus_ only gives a summary of the paper. The same
volume contains a _résumé_ of M. Oppert's reply (1882, p. 123:
_Inscriptions de Gudéa_, et seq).

[417] LAYARD, _Discoveries_, p. 341.

[418] The same disproportion between men and buildings is to be found in
many other reliefs (see figs. 39, 43, and 60).




§ 1.--_Chaldæan and Assyrian Notions as to a Future Life._

Of the remains that have come down to us from ancient Egypt the oldest, the
most important in some respects, and beyond dispute the most numerous, are
the sepulchres. Of the two lives of the Egyptian, that of which we know the
most is his posthumous life--the life he led in the shadows of that
carefully-hidden subterranean dwelling that he called his "good abode."
While in every other country bodies after a few years are nothing but a few
handfuls of dust, in Egypt they creep out in thousands to the light of day,
from grottoes in the flanks of the mountains, from pits sunk through the
desert sand and from hollows in the sand itself. They rise accompanied by
long inscriptions that speak for them, and make us sharers in their joys
and sorrows, in their religious beliefs and in the promises in which they
placed their hopes when their eyes were about to close for ever. A
peculiarity of which Egypt offers the only instance is thus explained. The
house of the Memphite citizen and the palace of the king himself, can only
now be restored by hints culled from the reliefs and inscriptions--hints
which sometimes lend themselves to more than one interpretation, while the
tombs of Egypt are known to us in every detail of structure and
arrangement. In more than one instance they have come down to us with their
equipment of epitaphs and inscribed prayers, of pictures carved and painted
on the walls and all the luxury of their sepulchral furniture, exactly in
fact as they were left when their doors were shut upon their silent tenants
so many centuries ago.[419]

We are far indeed from being able to say this of Assyria and Chaldæa. In
those countries it is the palace, the habitation of the sovereign, that has
survived in the best condition, and from it we may imagine what the houses
of private people were like; but we know hardly anything of their tombs.
Chaldæan tombs have been discovered in these latter years, but they are
anonymous and mute. We do not possess a single funerary inscription dating
from the days when the two nations who divided Mesopotamia between them
were still their own masters. The arrangements of the nameless tombs in
lower Chaldæa are extremely simple and their furnishing very poor, if we
compare them with the sepulchres in the Egyptian cemeteries. As for
Assyrian burying-places, none have yet been discovered. Tombs have
certainly been found at Nimroud, at Kouyundjik, at Khorsabad, and in all
the mounds in the neighbourhood of Mossoul, but never among or below the
Assyrian remains. They are always in the mass of earth and various _débris_
that has accumulated over the ruins of the Assyrian palaces, which is
enough to show that they date from a time posterior to the fall of the
Mesopotamian Empires. Any doubts that may have lingered on this point have
been removed by the character of the objects found, which are never older
than the Seleucidæ or the Parthians, and sometimes date even from the Roman

What then did the Assyrians do with their dead? No one has attacked this
question more vigorously than Sir Henry Layard. In his attempt to answer it
he explored the whole district of Mossoul, but without result; he pointed
out the interest of the inquiry to all his collaborators, he talked about
it to the more intelligent among his workmen, and promised a reward to
whoever should first show him an Assyrian grave. He found nothing, however,
and neither Loftus, Place, nor Rassam have been more successful. Neither
texts nor monuments help us to fill up the gap. The excavations of M. de
Sarzec have indeed brought to light the fragments of an Assyrian stele in
which a funerary scene is represented, but unfortunately its meaning is by
no means clear.[421] I cannot point to an Assyrian relief in which the same
theme is treated. Among so many battle pictures we do not find a single
scene analogous to those so often repeated in the pictures and sculptures
of Greece. The death and burial of an Assyrian warrior gave a theme to no
Assyrian sculptor. It would appear that the national pride revolted from
any confession that Assyrians could be killed like other men. All the
corpses in the countless battlefields are those of enemies, who are
sometimes mutilated and beheaded.[422]

These despised bodies were left to rot where they fell, and to feed the
crows and vultures;[423] but it is impossible to believe that the
Assyrians paid no honours to the bodies of their princes, their nobles, and
their relations, and some texts recently discovered make distinct allusions
to funerary rites.[424] We can hardly agree to the suggestions of M. Place,
who asks whether it is not possible that the Assyrians committed their
corpses to the river, like the modern Hindoos, or to birds of prey, like
the Guebres.[425] Usages so entirely out of harmony with the customs of
other ancient nations would certainly have been noticed by contemporary
writers, either Greek or Hebrew. In any case some allusion to them would
survive in Assyrian literature, but no hint of the kind is to be found.

But after we have rejected those hypotheses the question is no nearer to
solution than before; we are still confronted by the remarkable fact that
the Assyrians so managed to hide their dead that no trace of them has ever
been discovered. A conjecture offered by Loftus is the most inviting.[426]
He reminds us that although cemeteries are entirely absent from Assyria,
Chaldæa is full of them. Between Niffer and Mugheir each mound is a
necropolis. The Assyrians knew that Chaldæa was the birthplace of their
race and they looked upon it as a sacred territory. We find the Ninevite
kings, even when they were hardest upon their rebellious subjects in the
south, holding it as a point of honour to preserve and restore the temples
of Babylon and to worship there in royal pomp. Perhaps the Assyrians, or
rather those among them who could afford the expenses of the journey, had
their dead transferred to the graveyards of Lower Chaldæa. The latter
country, or, at least, a certain portion of it, would thus be a kind of
holy-land where those Semites whose earliest traditions were connected with
its soil would think themselves assured of a more tranquil repose and of
protection from more benignant deities. The soil of Assyria itself would
receive none but the corpses of those slaves and paupers who, counting for
nothing in their lives, would be buried when dead in the first convenient
corner, without epitaph or sepulchral furnishing.

This hypothesis would explain two things that need explanation--the absence
from Assyria of such tombs as are found in every other country of the
Ancient World, and the great size of the Chaldæan cemeteries. Both Loftus
and Taylor received the same impression, that the assemblages of coffins,
still huge in spite of the numbers that have been destroyed during the last
twenty centuries, can never have been due entirely to the second and third
rate cities in whose neighbourhood they occur. Piled one upon another they
form mounds covering wide spaces of ground, and so high that they may be
seen for many miles across the plain.[427] This district must have been the
common cemetery of Chaldæa and perhaps of Assyria; the dead of Babylon must
have been conveyed there. Is it too much to suppose that by means of rivers
and canals those of Nineveh may have been taken there too? Was it not in
exactly that fashion that mummies were carried by thousands from one end of
the Nile valley to the other, to the places where they had to rejoin there

But we need not go back to Ancient Egypt to find examples of corpses making
long journeys in order to reach some great national burying-place. Loftus
received the first hint of his suggestion from what he himself saw at
Nedjef and at Kerbela, where he met funeral processions more than once on
the roads of Irak-Arabi. From every town in Persia the bodies of Shiite
Mussulmans, who desire to repose near the mortal remains of Ali and his
son, are transported after death into Mesopotamia.[429] According to Loftus
the cemetery of Nedjef alone, that by which the mosque known as
_Meched-Ali_ is surrounded, receives the bodies of from five to eight
thousand Persians every year. Now the journey between Nineveh and Calah and
the plains of Lower Chaldæa was far easier than it is now--considering
especially the state of the roads--between Tauris, Ispahan, and Teheran, on
the one hand and Nedjef on the other. The transit from Assyria to Chaldæa
could be made, like that of the Egyptian mummy, entirely by water, that is
to say, very cheaply, very easily, and very rapidly.

We are brought up, however, by one objection. Although as a rule subject to
the Assyrians, the Chaldæans were from the eleventh to the seventh century
before our era in a constant state of revolt against their northern
neighbours; they struggled hard for their independence and waged long and
bloody wars with the masters of Nineveh. Can the Assyrian kings have dared
to confide their mortal remains to sepulchres in the midst of a people who
had shown themselves so hostile to their domination? Must they not have
trembled for the security of tombs surrounded by a rebellious and angry
populace? And the furious conflicts that we find narrated in the Assyrian
inscriptions, must they not often have interrupted the transport of bodies
and compelled them to wait without sepulture for months and even years?

Further explorations and the decipherment of the texts will one day solve
the problem. Meanwhile we must attempt to determine the nature of
Chaldæo-Assyrian beliefs as to a future life. We shall get no help from
Herodotus. Intending to describe the manners and customs of the Chaldæans
in a special work that he either never wrote or that has been lost,[430] he
treated Mesopotamia in much less ample fashion than Egypt, in his history.
All that he leaves us on the subject we are now studying is this passing
remark, "The Babylonians put their dead in honey, and their funerary
lamentations are very like those of the Egyptians."[431] Happily we have
the Chaldæan cemeteries and the sculptured monuments of Assyria to which we
can turn for information. The funerary writings of the Egyptians allow us
to read their hearts as an open book. We know that the men who lived in the
days of the ancient empire looked upon the posthumous life as a simple
continuation of life in the sun. They believed it to be governed by the
same wants, but capable of infinite prolongation so long as those wants
were supplied. And so they placed their dead in tombs where they were
surrounded by such things as they required when alive, especially by meat
and drink. Finally, they endeavoured to ensure them the enjoyment of these
things to the utmost limit of time by preserving their bodies against
dissolution. If these were to fall into dust the day after they entered
upon their new abode, the provisions and furniture with which it was
stocked would be of no use.

The Chaldæans kept a similar object before them. They neglected nothing to
secure the body against the action of damp, in the first place by making
the sides of their vaults and the coffins themselves water-tight, secondly,
by providing for the rapid escape of rain water from the cemetery,[432]
and, finally, if they did not push the art of embalming so far as the
Egyptians, they entered upon the same path. The bodies we find in the
oldest tombs are imperfect mummies compared with those of Egypt, but the
skeleton, at least, is nearly always in an excellent state of preservation;
it is only when handled that it tumbles into dust. In the more spacious
tombs the body lies upon a mat, with its head upon a cushion. In most cases
the remains of bandages and linen cloths were found about it. Mats,
cushions, and bandages had all been treated with bitumen. A small
terra-cotta model in the British Museum shows a dead man thus stowed in his
coffin; his hands are folded on his breast, and round the whole lower part
of the body the bands that gave him the appearance of a mummy may be

The funerary furniture is far from being as rich and varied as it is in the
tombs of Egypt and Etruria, but the same idea has governed the choice of
objects in both cases. When the corpse is that of a man we find at his
side the cylinder which served him as seal, his arms, arrow heads of flint
or bronze, and the remains of the staff he carried in his hand.[433] In a
woman's tomb the body has jewels on its neck, its wrists and ankles; jewels
are strewn about the tomb and placed on the lid of the coffin. Among other
toilet matters have been found small glass bottles, fragments of a bouquet,
and cakes of the black pigment which the women of the East still employ to
lengthen their eyebrows and enhance their blackness.[434]

[Illustration: FIGS. 159, 160.--Vases; from Warka. British Museum.]

The vases which are always present in well-preserved tombs, show the ideas
of the Mesopotamians on death more clearly than anything else. Upon the
palm of one hand or behind the head is placed a cup, sometimes of bronze,
oftener of terra-cotta. From it the dead man can help himself to the water
or fermented liquors with which the great clay jars that are spread over
the floor of his grave are filled (Figs. 159 and 160). Near these also we
find shallow bowls or saucers, used no doubt as plates for holding food.
Date-stones, chicken and fish bones are also present in great numbers. In
one tomb the snout of a swordfish has been found, in another a wild boar's
skull. It would seem too that the idea of adding imitation viands to real
ones occurred to the Chaldæans as well as to the Egyptians.[435] From one
grave opened by Taylor four ducks carved in stone were taken.

The sepulchres in which the objects we have been mentioning were found, are
the most ancient in Chaldæa--on this all the explorers are agreed. Their
situation in the lowest part of the funerary mounds, the aspect of the
characters engraved upon the cylinders and the style of the things they
contained, all go to prove their age. In similar tombs discovered by M. de
Sarzec at Sirtella, in the same region, a tablet of stone and a bronze
statuette, differing in no important particular from those deposited in
foundation stones, were found. The texts engraved upon them leave no doubt
as to their great antiquity.[436] It is then to the early Chaldæan monarchy
that we must assign these tombs, which so clearly betray ideas and beliefs
practically identical with those that find their freest expression in the
mastabas of the ancient Egyptian Empire.

In Mesopotamia, as in Egypt, the human intellect arrived with the lapse of
time at something beyond this childish and primitive belief. Men did not,
however, repel it altogether as false and ridiculous; they continued to
cherish it at the bottom of their hearts, and to allow it to impose certain
lines of action upon them which otherwise could hardly be explained or
justified. As in Egypt, and in later years in Greece, a new and more
abstract conception was imposed upon the first. Logically, the second
theory was the negation of its predecessor, but where imagination and
sentiment play the principal _rôle_, such contradictions are lost sight of.

We have elsewhere[437] traced the process by which the imagination was led
to sketch out a new explanation of the mystery of death. As man's
experience increased, and his faculty for observation became more powerful,
he had to make a greater mental effort before he could believe in the
immortality of the body, and in a life prolonged to infinity in the
darkness of the tomb. In order to satisfy the craving for perpetuity, a
something was imagined, we can hardly say what, a shade, an _imago_, that
detached itself from the body at the moment of death, and took itself off
with the lightness of a bird. A great space, with no definite size, shape,
or situation, in which these shades of the departed could meet each other
and enjoy greater freedom than in the tomb, was added to the first
conception. This less material belief was better adapted than the first to
the moral instincts of humanity. A material and organic existence passed in
the grave dealt out the same fate to good and bad alike. On the other
hand, nothing was more easy than to divide the kingdom of the shades into
two compartments, into two distinct domains, and to place in one those
whose conduct had been deserving of reward; in the other, those whose
crimes and vices had been insufficiently punished upon earth.

It is not to the Chaldæan sepulchres that we owe our knowledge that the
Semites of Mesopotamia followed in the footsteps of the Egyptians, when
they found themselves in face of the problem of life and death; it is to
the literature of the Assyrians. Among those tablets of terra-cotta from
the library of Assurbanipal that are now preserved in the British Museum,
George Smith discovered, in 1873, a mythological document in which the
descent of Istar to the infernal regions in search of her lover Tammouz is
recounted. Of this he gives a first translation, which is already out of
date. Since his discovery was announced, the most learned Assyriologists
have made a study of the document, and now even those among them who most
seldom think alike, are in agreement as to its meaning except in a few
unimportant particulars.[438] No doubt remains as to the general
significance of the piece; we may even compare it with other documents from
the same library in which there is much to confirm and complete its

Even if there were no evidence to the contrary, we might safely affirm that
the first conception was not effaced from the minds of the Assyrians by the
second. M. Halévy has translated an Assyrian text, whose meaning he thus
epitomizes: "What becomes of the individual deposited in a tomb? A curious
passage in one of the 'books' from the library of Assurbanipal answers this
question, indirectly, indeed, but without any ambiguity. After death the
vital and indestructible principle, the incorporeal spirit, is disengaged
from the body; it is called in Assyrian _ékimmou_ or _égimmou_.... The
_ékimmou_ inhabits the tomb and reposes upon the bed (_zalalu_) of the
corpse. If well treated by the children of the defunct, he becomes their
protector; if not, their evil genius and scourge. The greatest misfortune
that can befall a man is to be deprived of burial. In such a case his
spirit, deprived of a resting-place and of the funerary libations, leads a
wandering and miserable existence; he is exposed to all kinds of
ill-treatment at the hands of his fellow spirits, who show him no mercy."

Here we find certain elements of that primitive belief that would escape us
in a mere examination of the Chaldæan tombs. We see how they understood the
connection between the living and the dead, and why they so passionately
desired to receive due sepulture. These ideas and sentiments are identical
with those which M. Fustel de Coulanges has analysed so deeply in his _Cité
antique_. They subsisted in all their strength in Assyria, and must have
had all the consequences, all the social effects that they had elsewhere,
and yet we find mentioned a home for the dead, a joyless country in which
they could assemble in their countless numbers; as Egypt had its _Ament_
and Greece her _Hades_, so Chaldæa and Assyria had their hell, their place
of departed ghosts. We know from the narrative of Istar that they looked
upon it as an immense building, situated in the centre of the earth and
bounded on every side by the great river whose waters bathe the foundations
of the world. This country of the dead is called the "land where one sees
nothing" (_mat la namari_), or the "land whence one does not return" (_mat
la tayarti_). The government of the country is in the hands of Nergal, the
god of war, and his spouse Allat, the sister of Astarte. The house is
surrounded by seven strong walls. In each wall there is a single door,
which is fastened by a bolt as soon as a new comer has entered. Each door
is kept by an incorruptible guardian. We cannot quote the whole of the
story; we give, however, a few lines in which the chief features of the
Assyrian conception is most clearly shown. Istar speaks:--

    Let me return [toward the house],

           *       *       *       *       *

    [Toward] the house in which Irkalla lives,
    In which the evening has no morning,
    [Towards the country] whence there is no return,
    [Whose inhabitants,] deprived of light,
    [Have dust for food] and mud to nourish them,
    A tunic and wings for vesture,
    [Who see no day,] who sit in the shadows,
    [In the house] into which I must enter,
    [They live there,] (once) the wearers of crowns,
    [The wearers] of crowns who governed the world in ancient days,
    Of whom Bel and Anou have perpetuated the names and memory.
    There too stand the foundations of the earth, the meeting of the
           mighty waters,
    In the palace of dust into which I must come,
    Live the prince and the noble,
    Live the king and the strong man,
    Live the guardians of the depths of the great gods,
    Live Ner and Etana.

A long dialogue follows between Istar and the guardian of the gate, by
which we find that there was a rigorous law compelling all who came to
strip themselves of their clothes before they could enter. In spite of her
resistance, Istar herself was obliged to submit to this law. From other
texts we learn that the entrance to these infernal regions was situated at
the foot of the "northern mountain," a sort of Assyrian Olympus.

According to the fragment above quoted the condition of the dead was truly
piteous; they had no food but dust and mud; their dwelling is sometimes
called _bit-edi_, the "house of solitude," because in the life of misery
and privation they lead no one takes any thought for others, his only care
is to relieve his own troubles. Consequently there are no families nor any
social or common life. The conscience protested against the injustice of
confounding with the crowd those mortals who had distinguished themselves
when alive by their exploits or virtues. Thus we find in a recently copied
passage from the great epic of Izdubar, the Assyrian Hercules, that valiant
soldiers--those no doubt who had fallen in the "Wars of Assur"--were
rewarded for their prowess. As soon as they entered the shadow kingdom they
were stretched upon a soft couch and surrounded by their relations. Their
father and mother supported the head the enemy's sword had wounded, their
wives stood beside them and waited on them with zeal and tenderness. They
were refreshed and had their strength restored by the pure water of life.

The idea of a final reward is expressed in still more unmistakable accents
in a religious song of which two fragments have come down to us. The poet
celebrates the felicity of the just taking his food with the gods and
become a god himself:--

    Wash thy hands, purify thy hands,
    The gods, thine elders, will wash and purify their hands;
    Eat the pure nourishment in the pure disks,
    Drink the pure water from the pure vases;
    Prepare to enjoy the peace of the just!

           *       *       *       *       *

    They have brought their pure water,
    Anat, the great spouse of Anou,
    Has held thee in her sacred arms;
    Iaou has transferred thee into a holy place;
    He has transferred thee from his sacred hands;
    He has transferred thee into the midst of honey and fat,
    He has poured magic water into thy mouth,
    And the virtue of the water has opened thy mouth.

           *       *       *       *       *

As to where this paradise was placed we have no certain information. It
could hardly have been a mere separate district of that abode of shades
that is painted in such sombre colours. We must suppose that it was open to
the sunlight; it was perhaps on one of the slopes of the _Northern
Mountain_, in the neighbourhood of the luminous summit on which the gods
and goddesses had their home.

The idea of a reward for the just carries as its corollary that of a
punishment for the unjust, but in spite of the logical connection between
the two notions, we cannot affirm that the Elysium of these Semites had a
Tartarus by its side. No allusion to such a place has been found in any of
the texts already translated. On the other hand, we find some evidence that
the Assyrians believed in the resurrection of the dead. Marduk and his
spouse Zarpanitu often bear the title of "those who make the dead live
again" (_muballith_ or _muballithat miti_ or _mituti_). The same epithet is
sometimes given to other deities, especially to Istar. As yet we do not
know when and under what conditions renewed life was to be granted.

We need hardly add that the ideas that find expression in the Assyrian
texts were by no means peculiar to the northern people. All Assyriologists
agree that in everything connected with the intellect, the Assyrians
invented nothing; they did nothing but adapt and imitate, translate and
copy from the more prolific Chaldæans, who furnished as it were the bread
upon which their minds were nourished. It is the Chaldee intellect that we
study when we question the texts from the library of Assurbanipal.

Other passages in these terra-cotta books help to complete and illustrate
those from which we have, as it were, gained a first glimpse of the
Assyrian Under-world; but we shall never, in all probability, know it as we
already know that of the Egyptians. This is partly, perhaps, because it was
less complex, and partly because the fascination it exercised over the mind
of man was not so great.

History contains no mention of a people more preoccupied with the affairs
of the grave than the Egyptians. Doubtless the Chaldæans had to give a
certain amount of their attention to the same problem, and we know that it
was resolved in the same sense and by the same sequence of beliefs both on
the banks of the Euphrates and on those of the Nile; but other questions
were more attractive to the peoples of Mesopotamia. Their curiosity was
roused chiefly by the phenomena of the skies, by the complicated
phantasmagoria offered nightly in the depths above. These they set
themselves to observe with patience and exactitude, and it is to the habits
thus formed that they, in part at least, owed their scientific superiority
and the honour they derive from the incontestable fact that they have
furnished to modern civilization elements more useful and more readily
assimilated than any other great people of the remote past.

And yet the Semites of Chaldæa were not without myths relating to the abode
of departed souls of which some features may be grasped. In order to get a
better comprehension of them, we must not only look to the discovery and
translation of new texts, but to the intelligent study of figured
representations. At least this seems to be the lesson of a curious monument
recently discovered.[439]

People may differ as to the significance of this or that detail, but no one
will deny that the plaque is religious and funerary in its general
character, and that, whatever may have been its purpose, it is as a whole
connected with the memory and worship of the dead, and therefore that this
is the place for such remarks as we have to make upon it.

The object in question is a bronze plaque, sculptured on both faces, which
Péretié acquired at Hama in Northern Syria. The dealer from whom he bought
it declared that it came into his hands from a peasant of Palmyra. As to
where the latter found it we know nothing. In any case the oasis of Tadmor
was a dependency of Mesopotamia as long as the power of the Chaldæan and
Assyrian monarchies lasted, and the characteristic features of the work in
question are entirely Assyrian. In that respect neither Péretié nor
Clermont-Ganneau made any mistake.

This plaque is a tall rectangle in shape. At its two upper angles there are
salient rings or staples, apparently meant to receive a cord or chain. At
the bottom it has a slight ledge, suggesting that it stood upon its base
and was suspended at the same time. However this may have been, it should
be carefully noticed that both of its faces were meant to be seen.

The face we call the obverse is entirely occupied by the body of a
fantastic quadruped, partly chiselled in slight relief, partly engraved.
This monster is upright on his hind feet; his back is turned to the
spectator, while the lower part of his body is seen almost in profile. He
clings with his two fore feet to the upper edge of the plaque, and looks
over it as over a wall. His fore paws and his head are modelled in the
round. He has four wings; two large ones with imbricated feathers grow from
his shoulders, while a smaller pair are visible beneath them. This
arrangement we have already encountered in undoubted Assyrian monuments
(see Figs. 8, 29, and 123). If we turn the plaque, we find ourselves face
to face with the beast. His skull is depressed, his features hideous, his
grinning jaws wrinkled like those of a lion or panther. His feline
character is enforced by his formidable claws.

The body, lithe and lean as that of a leopard, is covered with a
reticulated marking. His upturned tail nearly touches his loins, while
another detail of his person exactly reproduces the contours of a
snake.[440] The hind feet are those of a bird-of-prey.

[Illustration: FIG. 161.--Plaque of chiselled bronze. Obverse. From the
_Revue archéologique_.]

We must now describe the reverse of this singular monument (Fig. 162). In
the first place its upper edge is surmounted by the claws and face of the
beast just described, which thus dominates, as it were, the scenes depicted

These scenes are divided by horizontal bands into four divisions, and those
divisions are by no means arbitrary; they show us what the sculptor thought
as to the four regions into which the Assyrian universe was divided. Those
regions are the _heavens_, the _atmosphere_, the _earth_, and _hell_ or

The highest division is the narrowest of all. It only contains the stars
and a few other symbols grouped almost exactly as we find them on not a few
monuments of Mesopotamia.[441] The non-sidereal emblems in this division
are, no doubt, the attributes of gods who live beside the stars in the
depths of the firmament.

[Illustration: FIG. 162.--Plaque of chiselled bronze. Reverse.]

In the second division we find seven animal-headed personages passing from
right to left. We need not stop to describe their appearance or gesture; we
have already encountered them at Nineveh mounting guard at the palace
gates (Figs. 6 and 7); they belong to the class of demons who, according to
circumstances, are alternately the plagues and protectors of mankind. The
place they occupy represents a middle region between heaven and earth,
namely, the atmosphere, which was believed to be entirely peopled by these

The third division contains a funerary scene by which we are at once
transported to earth. On the right there is a standard or candelabrum, and
on the left a group of three figures. One of these appears to be a man, the
other two have lions' heads and resemble the genii of the division above.
The most important group, however, is the one in the middle. A man swathed
in a kind of shroud is stretched on a bed, at the head and foot of which
appear two of those personages, half man and half fish, in which the Oannes
of Berosus has been recognized (Figs. 9 and 67).[442] The figure on the bed
must be that of a corpse wrapped in those linen bandages of which so many
fragments have been found in the tombs of Lower Chaldæa. The two fish-like
gods brandish something over the corpse which appears, so far as it can be
made out, to be a flower or bunch of grass. Their gesture appears to be one
of benediction, like that of a modern priest with the holy-water-sprinkler.

The lowest division is by far the most roomy of the four. It evidently
represents the regions under the earth, and both its size and the
complication of its arrangements show us that it was, in the opinion of the
artist, more important than either of the three above it. The whole of its
lower part is occupied by five fishes all swimming in one direction, a
conventional symbol always employed by Assyrian artists to represent a
river. The left bank is indicated by a raised line running from one side of
the plaque to the other. On this bank towards the left of the relief there
are two shrubs or reeds above which appears a group of objects whose
character is not easily made out. Are they ideographic signs or funeral
offerings? The latter more likely. At any rate we may distinguish vases,
bottles, a small box or comb and especially the foot of a horse drawn with
great precision. At the other end of this division a hideous monster
advances on the river bank. Its semi-bestial, semi-human head is flat and
scarred, with a broad upturned nose and a mouth reaching to the ears. The
upper part of its body is that of a man, although its skin is seamed all
over with short vertical lines meant to indicate hairs. One arm is raised
and the other lowered, like those of the genii in the second division. His
tail is upturned, his feet are those of a bird, and his wings show over his
left shoulder. On the whole, the resemblance between this figure and the
nondescript beast on the obverse of the plaque is so great that we are
tempted to think that they both represent the same being.

Upon the river and in the centre of this division a scene is going forward
that takes up more than a third of the whole field. It is no doubt the main
subject. A small boat glides down the stream, its poop adorned with the
head of a quadruped, its prow with that of a bird. In this boat there is a
horse, seen in profile and with its right fore leg bent at the knee. The
attitude of this animal, which seems born down by a crushing weight, is to
be explained by the rest of the composition. The poor quadruped bears on
his back, in fact, the body of a gigantic and formidable divinity, who
makes use of him not in the orthodox fashion but merely as a kind of
pedestal; his or rather her right knee rests upon the horse's back while
her left foot--which is that of a bird-of-prey--grasps the animal's head.
The legs of this strange monster are human, and so is her body, but here,
as in the personage walking by the river side, we find the short scratches
that denote hair; her head is that of a lioness. For although her sex may
appear doubtful to some it is difficult to explain the action of the two
lion-cubs that spring towards her breasts otherwise than by M.
Clermont-Ganneau's supposition that they are eager for nourishment.

The bosom attacked by the two cubs is seen from in front, but the head
above it is in profile, and so high that it rises above the line that
divides this lower division from the one immediately above it. The jaws are
open, that is to say they grin in harmony with those of the monster looking
over the top of the plaque, with the genii of the third division and that
of the river bank. All this, however, was insufficient to satisfy the
artist's desire for a terror-striking effect, and in each hand of the
goddess he has placed a long serpent which hangs vertically downwards, and
shows by its curves that it is struggling in her grip. Between the limbs of
the goddess and the horse's mane there is something that bears a vague
resemblance to a scorpion.

We cannot pretend to notice every detail of this curious monument as their
explanation would lead us too far, and, with all the care we could give
them, we should still have to leave some unexplained. We shall be satisfied
with pointing out those features of the composition whose meaning seems to
be clear.

In the first place the division of the field into four zones should be
noticed; it coincides with what we know of the Assyrian mode of dividing
the universe among the powers of heaven, the demons, mankind, and the dead.
The chief incident of the third zone shows us that, like the Egyptians, the
Assyrians wished to assure themselves of the protection of some benevolent
deity after death. In the Nile valley that protector was Osiris, in
Mesopotamia Anou, Oannes, or Dagon, the fish god to whom man owed the
advantages of civilization in this world and his safety in the next. The
kingdom of shadows, into which he had to descend after death, was peopled
with monstrous shapes, to give some idea of which sculptors had gone far
afield among the wild beasts of the earth, and had brought together
attributes and weapons that nature never combines in a single animal, such
as the claws of the scorpion, the wings and talons of the eagle, the coils
of the serpent, the mane and muzzle of the great carnivora. The conception
which governs all this is similar to that of which we see the expression in
those Theban tombs where the dead man prosecutes his voyage along the
streams of Ament, and runs the gauntlet of the grimacing demons who would
seize and destroy him but for the shielding presence of Osiris. And the
resemblance is continued in the details. The boat is shaped like the
Egyptian boats;[443] the river may be compared to the subterranean Nile of
the Theban tombs, while it reminds us of the Styx and Acheron of the
Grecian Hades. We remember too the line of the chant we have quoted:

    "There too stand the foundations of the earth, the meeting of the
          mighty waters."

Certain obscure points that still exist in connection with the
Chaldæo-Assyrian _inferno_ and with the personages by whom it is peopled,
will, no doubt, be removed as the study of the remains progresses. We have
been satisfied for the moment to explain, with the help of previous
explorers, the notions of the Semites of Mesopotamia upon death and a
second life, and to show that they did not differ sensibly from those of
the Egyptians or of any other ancient people whose ideas are sufficiently
known to us.


[419] See _Art in Ancient Egypt_, vol. i. chapter 3.

[420] Upon the tombs found at Nimroud see LAYARD, _Nineveh_, vol. i. pp.
17-19 and p. 352; vol. ii. pp. 37, 38. Some funerary urns discovered at
Khorsabad are figured in BOTTA, _Monument_, &c. plate 165. There is one
necropolis in Assyria that, in the employment of terra-cotta coffins,
resembles the graveyards of Chaldæa; it is that of Kaleh-Shergat, which has
long been under process of rifling by the Arabs, who find cylinders,
engraved stones, and jewels among its graves. PLACE judges from the
appearance of the coffins and other objects found that this necropolis
dates from the Parthian times (_Ninive_, vol. ii. pp. 183-185). LAYARD is
of the same opinion (_Nineveh_, vol. ii. pp. 58, 154, 155). Mr. Rassam
found tombs at Kouyundjik, but much too late to be Assyrian (LOFTUS,
_Travels and Researches_, p. 198, note). Loftus found some bones in a
roughly-built vault some seventeen feet below the level of the
south-eastern palace at Nimroud, but he acknowledges he saw nothing to lead
him to assign these remains to the Assyrian epoch more than to any other
(_Travels and Researches_, p. 198). Layard was disposed to see in the long
and narrow gallery cleared by him at Nimroud (in the middle of the staged
tower that rises at the north-western corner of the mound) a sepulchral
vault in which the body of a king must once have been deposited
(_Discoveries_, pp. 126, 128), but he confesses that he found nothing in
it, neither human remains nor any trace of sepulchral furniture. His
conjecture is therefore entirely in the air, and he himself only puts it
forth under all reserve. The difficulty of this inquiry is increased by the
fact that the people of different religions by whom the Assyrians were
succeeded always chose by preference to bury their dead at high levels.
Even in our own day it is, as a rule, upon the heights studded over the
plains that Christians, Mussulmans, and Yezidis establish their cemeteries;
and these have become grave obstacles to the explorer in consequence of the
natural disinclination on the part of the peasantry to disturb what may be
the ashes of their ancestors. BENNDORF (_Gesichtshelme_, plate xiv. figs. 1
and 2) reproduces two golden masks similar to those found at Mycenæ, which
were found, the one at Kouyundjik, the other at some unknown point in the
same district; he mentions (pp. 66, 67) a third discovery of the same kind.
But the character of the objects found with these masks seems clearly to
show that the tombs from which they were taken were at least as late as the
Seleucidæ, if not as the Roman emperors (Cf. HOFFMANN, in the
_Archäologische Zeitung_ for 1878, pp. 25-27).

[421] When we come to speak of Chaldæan sculpture, we shall give a
reproduction of this relief. We cannot make much use of it in the present
inquiry, because its meaning is so obscure. The stone is broken, and the
imperfections of the design are such that we can hardly tell what the
artist meant to represent. The two figures with baskets on their heads for
instance--are they bringing funeral offerings, or covering with earth the
heaped-up corpses on which they mount?

[422] LAYARD, _Monuments_, 1st series, plates 14, 21, 26, 57, 64, &c.

[423] In more than one battle scene do we find these birds floating over
the heads of the combatants (LAYARD, _Monuments_, 1st series, plates 18,
22, 26, &c). We may also refer to the curious monument from Tell-lôh, in
which vultures carrying off human heads and limbs in the clouds are
represented. For an engraving of it see our chapter on Chaldæan sculpture.

[424] See an article published by M. J. HALÉVY in the _Revue
archéologique_, vol. xliv. p. 44, under the title: _L'Immortalité de l'Âme
chez les Peuples sémitiques_.

[425] PLACE, _Ninive_, vol. ii. p. 184.

[426] LOFTUS, _Travels and Researches_, pp. 198, 199.

[427] LOFTUS especially speaks strongly upon this point (_Travels_, &c. p.
199). "By far the most important of these sepulchral cities is Warka, where
the enormous accumulation of human remains proves that it was a peculiarly
sacred spot, and that it was so esteemed for many centuries. It is
difficult to convey anything like a correct notion of the piles upon piles
of human relics which there utterly astound the beholder. Excepting only
the triangular space between the three principal ruins, the whole remainder
of the platform, the whole space between the walls, and an unknown extent
of desert beyond them, are everywhere filled with the bones and sepulchres
of the dead. There is probably no other site in the world which can compare
with Warka in this respect; even the tombs of Ancient Thebes do not contain
such an aggregate amount of mortality. From its foundation by Urukh until
finally abandoned by the Parthians--a period of probably 2,500 years--Warka
appears to have been a sacred burial-place!"

[428] See the curious paper of M. E. LE BLANT entitled: _Tables égyptiennes
à Inscriptions grecques_ (_Revue archéologique_, 1874).

[429] In his sixth and seventh chapters LOFTUS gives a very interesting
account of his visits to the sanctuaries of Nedjef and Kerbela.

[430] The work he alludes to as his Assurioi logoi (i. 184).

[431] HERODOTUS, i. 198.

[432] See above, pp. 158-9 and fig. 49. The details that here follow are
borrowed from the narrations of those who have explored the sepulchral
mounds of lower Chaldæa. Perhaps the most important of these relations is
that of Mr. J. E. TAYLOR, to which we have already referred so often
(_Notes on the Ruins of Mugheir_, to which may be added his _Notes on
Abou-Sharein and Tell-el-Lahm_, p. 413, in the same volume of the
_Journal_). Cf. LOFTUS's eighteenth chapter (_Travels_, &c. p. 198) and the
pages in LAYARD's _Discoveries_, from 556 to 561.

[433] "Each of the Babylonians," says HERODOTUS (i. 195), "carries a seal
and a walking-stick carved at the top into the form of an apple, a rose, a
lily, an eagle, or something similar, for it is not their habit to use a
stick without an ornament."

[434] LOFTUS, _Travels_, p. 212.

[435] See _Art in Ancient Egypt_, vol. i. p. 145, note 3.

[436] _Les Fouilles de Chaldée, communication d'une Lettre de M. de
Sarzec_, par LÉON HEUZEY, § 1 (in the _Revue archéologique_ for November,

[437] _Art in Ancient Egypt_, vol. i. pp. 127 _et seq._

[438] M. OPPERT has translated this text in full in a work entitled:
_L'Immortalité de l'Âme chez les Chaldéens_ (_Annales de philosophie
chrétienne_, vol. viii. 1884), and he has reproduced his version with a few
modifications of detail in _Fragments Mythologiques_ (Quantin, 1881, 18mo).
M. HALÉVY has given long extracts from the same document in an article in
the _Revue des Études Juives_ (October-December, 1881), entitled: _Les
Inscriptions peintes de Citium_, § 2; he has returned to the same subject
in an article in the _Revue archéologique_ (July, 1882), _L'Immortalité de
l'Âme chez les Peuples sémitiques_. We reproduce his translation as the
most recent. Herr SCHRADER has devoted a whole book to the translation and
explanation of this same myth (_Die Hoellenfahrt der Istar_, Giessen,

[439] See M. CLERMONT-GANNEAU'S _L'Enfer assyrien_, first part (_Revue
archéologique_ vol. xxxviii. and plate xxv.). The second article, which
should have contained the explanation of this little monument, has never
appeared, to the great regret of all who appreciate the knowledge and
penetration of that learned writer at their proper value. The first article
is nothing but a detailed description, which we abridge. Certain doubts
were expressed at the time of its publication as to the authenticity of
this object; nothing, however, has happened to confirm them. Both in
composition and execution it is excellent. M. Péretié, moreover, was not
one to be easily deceived. M. Clermont-Ganneau described and illustrated
this bronze plate from photographs, but since his paper appeared he has
again visited the East and seen and handled the original.

[440] M. CLERMONT-GANNEAU reminds us that this peculiarity is repeated in a
monster on one of the Nimroud reliefs (see LAYARD, _Monuments_, series ii.
plate 3).

[441] See above, p. 72, and Figs. 3, 10, 11, 12. See also the notes to M.
Clermont-Ganneau's article. He has no difficulty in showing how general was
the use of these emblems.

[442] See page 65.

[443] Compare Figs. 23, 31, and especially 159 and 209 of _Art in Ancient
Egypt_, vol. i.

§ 2.--_The Chaldæan Tomb._

The principle of the Chaldæan sepulchre was similar to that of the Egyptian
mastaba or hypogeum; it had to supply the same wants and to render the same
services; the task imposed upon the architect was in each case governed by
the same general idea. Why then have we found nothing in Mesopotamia that
may be compared, even at the most respectful distance, with the splendid
tomb-houses of the Theban necropolis, nor even with those of Phoenicia,
Asia Minor, or Etruria? The reason for the difference is easily told; it is
to be found in the nature and configuration of the country itself. There
were no mountains in whose sides tomb-chambers could be cut, and in the
loose permeable soil of the plain it would have been practically impossible
to establish pits that should be at once spacious and durable.

We shall find, no doubt, in almost every country, sepulchres constructed
above the soil like palaces and temples. In Egypt we have already
encountered the pyramid, but even there the tomb-chamber is in most cases
cut in the rock itself, and the huge mass of stone above it is nothing more
than a sort of colossal lid. Funerary architecture is not content, like
that of civil or religious buildings, to borrow its materials from the
rock; it cuts and chisels the living rock itself. In every country the
first idea that seems to occur to man, when he has the mortal remains of
his own people to make away with, is to confide them to the earth. In
mountainous countries rock is everywhere near the soil and rises through it
here and there, especially on the slopes of the hills. It is as a rule both
soft enough to be easily cut with a proper tool, and hard enough, or at
least sufficiently capable of hardening when exposed to the air, faithfully
to preserve any form that may be given to it. As soon as man emerged from
barbarism and conceived the desire to carry with him into the next world
the goods he had enjoyed in this, the hastily cut hole of the savage became
first an ample chamber and then a collection of chambers. It became a
richly furnished habitation, a real palace. But even then the features that
distinguish a house of the living from one of the dead were carefully
preserved. The largest of the tombs in the Biban-el-Molouk is no more than
the development of the primitive grave. As for those tombs in which the
sepulchral chamber is above the ground, as in the famous Mausoleum of
Halicarnassus, they are merely brilliant exceptions, embodiments of
princely caprice or architectural ambition. Funerary architecture is, in
virtue of its destination, a subterranean architecture, an architecture of
the rock. The countries in which it has been managed with the greatest
power and originality are those whose soil lent itself most kindly to the
work of excavation. The limestone and sandstone chains of the Nile valley,
the abrupt flanks of Persian ravines, of Cappadocian and Lycian hillsides,
and the rocky slopes of Greece and Etruria, were excellently fitted for the
work of the funerary architect.

If the civilization of the Mesopotamian Semites had originated in the
country above Nineveh, at the foot of those hills in which the Tigris has
its springs, the fathers of the people would perhaps have cut tomb chambers
like those of Egypt in the soft gypsum, and, in later years, their
descendants, instead of breaking entirely with the traditions of the past
would have raised _tumuli_ in the plains and constructed within them brick
chambers to take the place of vaults cut in the living rock. Chaldæa would
then have been dotted over with sepulchral mounds like those with which the
steppes of central Russia are covered. Nothing of the kind has as yet been
discovered; none of the _tells_ or mounds of sun-dried bricks have yet been
identified as tombs, and that is because, as we have seen, the course of
civilization was from south to north; the first impulse came from the
shores of the Persian Gulf, from the people inhabiting alluvial plains
consisting merely of sand and broken stone. From the very first hour these
people had to compel clay, kneaded and dried in the sun or the brick kiln,
to render the services which are demanded from stone elsewhere. They were
content therefore with entombing their dead either in small brick vaults,
under large terra-cotta covers, or in coffins of the latter material.

The tomb chamber illustrated in our Fig. 89 may be taken as a type. It is
five feet high by seven feet long, and three feet seven inches wide. The
vault is closed at the top by a single row of bricks and at each end by a
double wall of the same material. There are no doors. The tombs once shut
must have been inaccessible. The structure was put together with such care
that neither dust nor water could get within it. Some of these graves, and
among them this particular one, inclosed only one skeleton. Taylor found
fourteen clay vases in it, not to mention other objects such as a walking
stick, rings, cylinders, and bronze cups. Besides these there was a gold
waist-band about an inch wide, showing it to be the grave of a rich man. In
other tombs as many as three, four, and even eleven skeletons were found.
In these the brick under the head and the bronze cup in the hand were
sometimes missing, but the water jars were always there.

[Illustration: FIG. 163.--Tomb at Mugheir; from Taylor.]

In other parts of the same cemetery the dead instead of being placed in a
vault were laid upon an area paved with large well burnt bricks and covered
with a huge terra-cotta lid. These lids were in several pieces, joined
together with reeds soaked in bitumen. We give a section (Fig. 163) and
elevation (Fig. 164) of one of these peculiar sepulchres. The whole was
about seven feet long, three high, and three wide.

The body of the lid is formed of several rings decreasing in thickness with
their distance from the ground. The top is an oval plateau divided into
eight symmetrical compartments by flat bands. The skeleton always lies on
its side, generally the left, the limbs being drawn up as shown in the
engraving (163). Taylor gives a complete list of the objects found in this
tomb together with notes as to their exact position.

[Illustration: FIG. 164.--Tomb at Mugheir; from Taylor.]

[Illustration: FIG. 165.--Tomb at Mugheir; from Taylor.]

Sometimes the covering is more simple in construction and has a domed top
(Fig. 165). Elsewhere in the same necropolis numerous examples of a still
more elementary form of burial were discovered. The skeletons of children
were found between two hollow plates, and full grown bodies in a kind of
double vase into which they could only have been thrust with some
difficulty and that after being doubled up. Still more often coffins were
of the form shown in our Fig. 166. The diameter of these cylindrical jars
was about two feet. The joint between them was sealed with bitumen. At one
end there was a hole to allow the gases generated by decomposition to
escape. None of these coffins contained more than one skeleton, but narrow
as they were room had been found for the vases and dishes. These were
mostly of earthenware, but a few of bronze were also encountered. Each
coffin held an arrow-head of the latter material, while the feet and hands
of the skeleton were adorned with iron rings. In several cases the remains
of gold ornaments, of sculptured ivories and engraved shells, were

[Illustration: FIG. 166.--Tomb, or coffin, at Mugheir; from Taylor.]

Finally the fashion seems to have changed, and a more elegant form of
coffin to have come into use. It was still of terra-cotta, but its surface
was covered with a rich glaze originally blue but now mostly of a dark
green. Here and there, on the parts shielded best from the atmosphere, the
blue has preserved its colour. The general shape of these coffins is that
of a shoe or slipper; the oval opening through which the body was
introduced has a grooved edge for the adjustment of the lid. The small hole
for the escape of gas is at the narrow end. This type seems to date from
the last centuries of antiquity rather than from the time of the Chaldæan
Empire; its examples are found close to the surface of the cemeteries,
whence we may fairly conclude that they were the last accessions. It is
still more significant that the images stamped upon the panels with which
the lids are decorated have little to remind us of the bas-reliefs of
Assyria and Chaldæa, and it is not until we turn to the medals of the
Parthians and Sassanids that we find anything to which they can be readily

In the cemeteries of Lower Chaldæa the various receptacles for human dust
that we have described are heaped vertically one upon another, so that with
the passage of time they have formed huge mounds covering vast spaces and
rising conspicuously above the plain (see Fig. 167, letter c). Loftus tells
us that at Warka he dug trenches between thirty and forty feet deep without
reaching the lowest stratum of sepulchres. There was no apparent order in
their arrangement. Sometimes brick divisions were found for a certain
length, as if used to separate the tombs of one family from those of
another. A layer of fine dust, spread evenly by the winds from the desert,
separated the coffins. Terra-cotta cones inscribed with prayers had been
thrown into the interstices. Sometimes, as at Mugheir, the mound thus
formed is surmounted by a paved platform upon which open the drains that
traverse the mass.[445] In most cases these mounds have been turned over in
all their upper parts by the Arabs. It is probable that in ancient days
each of these huge cemeteries had priests and superintendents told off to
watch over them, to assign his place to each new comer, and to levy fees
like those paid in our day to the mollahs attached to the Mosques of Nedjef
and Kerbela. They guarded the integrity of the mound, and when it had
reached the regulation height, caused it to be paved and finally closed.

In none of these cemeteries has any tomb been discovered that by its size,
richness, or isolation, proclaimed itself the burial place of royalty, and
yet the sovereigns of Mesopotamia must have had something analogous to the
vast and magnificent sepulchres of the Egyptian kings. Their tombs must at
least have been larger and more splendid than those of private individuals.
In the case of Susiana we know that it was so through an inscription of
Assurbanipal. The Assyrian king gives a narrative of his campaign. He tells
us how his soldiers penetrated into the sacred forests and set fire to
them, and then to show more clearly with how stern a vengeance he had
visited the revolted Elamites, he added: "The tombs both of their ancient
and their modern kings, of those kings who did not fear Assur and Istar, my
lords, and had troubled the kings, my fathers, I threw them down, I
demolished them, I let in the light of the sun upon them, then I carried
away their corpses into Assyria. I left their shades without sepulture and
deprived them of the offerings of those who owed them libations."[446]

If the Elamite dynasty had its royal necropolis near Susa, in which
funerary rites were celebrated down to the moment of the Assyrian conquest,
it could hardly have been otherwise with the powerful and pious monarchies
of Chaldæa. History has in fact preserved a few traditions of the royal
sepulchres of that country. Herodotus mentions the tomb of that Queen
Nitocris to whom he attributes so many great works;[447] it is supposed
that she was an Egyptian princess and the wife of Nabopolassar. According
to the historian she caused a sepulchral chamber to be constructed for
herself in the walls of Babylon, above one of the principal gates. So far
as the terms of the inscription are concerned he may have been hoaxed by
the native dragomans, but there is nothing to rouse our scepticism in the
fact of a tomb having been contrived in the thickness of the wall. At
Sinkara Loftus discovered two corbel-vaulted tombs imbedded in a mass of
masonry which had apparently served as basement to a temple rebuilt by

Some of the Babylonian princes, however, were buried in that part of the
Chaldæan territory that was inclosed by the Euphrates and Tigris and
contained most of the cemeteries of which we have been speaking. According
to Arrian, Alexander, on his way back from Lake Pallacopas, passed close to
the tomb of one of the ancient kings, "They say," adds the historian, "that
most of the former kings of Assyria were buried among the lakes and

[Illustration: FIG. 167.--Map of the ruins of Mugheir; from Taylor.

H, H, H, H, circumference of 2,946 yards; _a_, platform of house; _b_,
pavement at edge of platform; _c_, tomb mound; _d, e, g, h, k, l, m_,
points at which excavations were made; _f, f, f, f_, comparatively open
space with very low mounds; _n, n_, graves; _o_, the great two-storied

Loftus suggests that these royal tombs should be sought at Warka, but he
found no ruin to which any such character could be certainly assigned. The
only mention of a royal Assyrian tomb in history is of a kind that tells us
nothing. "Semiramis," says Diodorus, "buried Ninus within the boundary
walls of the palace, she raised a mound of extraordinary size over his
tomb; Ctesias says it was nine stades high and ten wide. The town
stretching to the middle of the plain, near the Euphrates,[450] the
funerary mound was conspicuous at many stades' distance like an acropolis;
they tell me that it still exists although Nineveh was overthrown by the
Medes when they destroyed the Assyrian empire." The exaggerations in which
Ctesias indulged may here be recognized. It is impossible to take seriously
statements which make the tomb of Ninus some 5,500 feet high and 6,100 in
diameter. The history of Ninus and Semiramis as Ctesias tells it, is no
more than a romantic tale like those of the _Shah-Nameh_. All that we may
surely gather from the passage in question is that, at the time of
Ctesias, and perhaps a little later, the remains of a great staged-tower
were to be seen among the ruins of Nineveh. The popular imagination had
dubbed this the tomb of Ninus, just as one of the great heaps of debris
that now mark the site is called the tomb of Jonah.

All that has hitherto been recovered in the way of Mesopotamian tomb
architecture is of little importance so far as beauty is concerned, and we
may perhaps be blamed for dwelling upon these remains at such length in a
history of art. But we had our reasons for endeavouring to reunite and
interpret the scanty facts by which some light is thrown on the subject. Of
all the creations of man, his tomb is that, perhaps, which enables us to
penetrate farthest into his inner self; there is no work of his hands into
which he puts more of his true soul, in which he speaks more naively and
with a more complete acknowledgment of his real beliefs and the bases of
his hopes. To pass over the Chaldæan tomb in silence because it is a
mediocre work of art would be to turn a blind eye to the whole of one side
of the life of a great people, a people whose _rôle_ in the development of
the ancient civilization was such as to demand that we should leave no
stone unturned to make ourselves masters of their every thought.


[444] LOFTUS, _Travels_, &c., pp. 203-4. The British Museum possesses
several fine specimens of these glazed-ware coffins. The details given by
LOFTUS (chapter xx.), upon the necropolis of Sinkara may be read with

[445] See above, p. 158, and fig. 49.

[446] M. Stanislas GUYARD published a translation of this passage in the
_Journal asiatique_, for May-June, 1880, p. 514; some terms which had
remained doubtful, were explained by M. AMIAUD, in the same journal for
August-September, 1881, p. 237.

[447] HERODOTUS, i. 187.

[448] LOFTUS, _Travels_, &c., pp. 248-9.

[449] ARRIAN, _Anabasis_, vii. 22.

[450] DIODORUS, ii. 7, 1-2.




§ 1.--_Attempts to restore the Principal Types._

In spite of all our researches we have not succeeded in finding in the
whole of Mesopotamia a real sepulchre, a tomb on which the talent of the
architect has been lavished as well as the structural skill of the builder.
The Chaldæans and Assyrians made greater efforts when they had to honour a
god than when they were called upon to provide a lodging for their dead. Of
all the structures they raised, their temples seem to have been the most
ambitious in height and in grandeur of proportion though not in extent of
ground covered. This the classic writers tell us, and their assertions are
confirmed in more than one particular by documents written in the Assyrian
language. We can also check their statements to some extent by the study of
the monuments themselves or rather of their somewhat scanty remains.

We shall seek in vain for ruins that may be compared to those of the
Egyptian sanctuaries. The nature of the materials employed in the valley of
the Euphrates made the degradation of a building and the obliteration of
its lines far more rapid than elsewhere. And yet in many cases the almost
formless aspect of structures once so greatly admired, does not prevent
those who know how to crossexamine them from restoring many of their former
arrangements; and both in the bas-reliefs and in some very small monuments
we find certain sculptured sketches that have been recognized as
representing temples.

These sketches are very imperfect and very much abridged: the ruins
themselves are confused; of the Greek and Assyrian texts some are short and
vague, others excite our scepticism. Without wishing to deny the value of
the methods employed or the importance of the results obtained, we can
hardly believe that the certainty with which technical terms are translated
is well founded. There are some of these terms which if they occurred in a
Greek inscription would cause no little embarrassment by their purely
special character, and that even to one who might unite in his single
person the qualifications of a Greek scholar with those of an architect or
sculptor. We hope, though we hardly expect to see our hope realized, that
some day a Mesopotamian temple may be found in good preservation. Until
then we cannot give to our restorations of such buildings anything
approaching the accuracy or completeness so easily attained when the great
religious edifices of Greece or Egypt are in question. We find none of
those well defined elements, those clear and precise pieces of information
which elsewhere allow us to obliterate the injuries worked by time and
human enemies. The foot of every wall is heaped about with such formless
masses of brick and brick dust, that it is almost impossible to make full
explorations or to take exact measurements. One must be content with an
approximation to the truth.

With the one exception of the staged tower at Khorsabad, we shall not
attempt to give a single restoration in the proper sense of the word. Not
that we mean to say that the different temple models given in our Plates
II., III., and IV., and in our Fig. 173, are creations of our fancy. No one
of the four pretends to reconstruct one famous building more than another.
They are abstract types, each representing, in its general features, one of
the varieties into which Assyro-Chaldæan temples may be divided. The
arrangements in which the originality of each type consists were only fixed
by M. Chipiez after long researches. In each case he has taken for his
point of departure either a Greek or Assyrian text, a sculptured relief, or
facts gleaned by the examination of original sites; in most cases he has
been able to supplement and correct the information gained from one of
these sources by that from another. He has thus entered into the spirit of
Mesopotamian architecture, and restored the chief forms it put on in its
religious buildings according to time and district. He cannot say that all
the details figured were found united, as they may be here, on a single
building; but they are not inventions, no one of them is without authority,
and the use to which they are put has been decided by the examination of
actual remains. We may say the same of proportions. These are the result of
study and of the collation of one ruin and one piece of evidence with
another; they have not been taken from any single building. Finally there
were certain details, such as the trace and elevation of the ramps, that
were full of difficulty. M. Chipiez arrived at the solution finally adopted
by an inductive process, by carefully weighing the obvious conditions of
the problem and choosing those arrangements by which its requirements
seemed most simply and conveniently met. In virtue of their general
character M. Chipiez's restorations reach a high degree of probability.
They may be compared, if we may use the expression, to those triumphs of
historical synthesis in which no attempt is made to narrate events as they
occurred and in all their details, but in which a whole people lives, and
the character of a whole century is summed up, in a picture whose every
line and colour is borrowed from reality.[451]

In spite of their apparent variety, all the buildings we shall describe in
the present chapter may be referred to a single fundamental type. They are
each formed of several cubic masses superimposed one upon another and
diminishing in volume in proportion to their height in the monument. We
have already explained how such a system came to be adopted.[452] It was
determined by the limitations of the only material at the architect's
disposal, and it had at least this advantage, that it enabled him to
relieve the monotony of the Chaldæan plains with artificial mountains whose
vast size and boldness of line were calculated to impress the minds of the
people, and to give them a great idea of their master's power and of the
majesty of the deities in whose honour they were raised.

[Illustration: FIG. 168.--View of the Birs Nimroud; after Felix Thomas.]

Mesopotamia was covered, then, by buildings resembling a stepped pyramid in
their general outlines. We find them in the reliefs (Fig. 10), and in the
oldest cities we can frequently recognize the confused ruins of their two
or three lower stories. Our only doubt is connected with the possible use
of these buildings, the _zigguratts_ of the Assyrian texts. We shall not
here stop to recapitulate the evidence in favour of their religious
character; it will suffice to quote the description given by Herodotus of
the temple of Bel or Belus at Babylon. As to whether the ruins of that
building are to be identified with _Babil_ (Fig. 37) or the _Birs-Nimroud_
(Fig. 168) we shall inquire presently. This is the description of

"In the other (fortress) was the sacred precinct of Jupiter Belus, a square
inclosure two furlongs each way with gates of solid brass; which was also
remaining in my time. In the middle of the precinct there was a tower of
solid masonry, a furlong in length and breadth, upon which was raised a
second tower, and on that a third, and so on up to eight. The ascent to the
top is on the outside, by a path which winds round all the towers. When one
is about half way up one finds a resting-place and seats, where persons are
wont to sit some time on their way to the summit. On the topmost tower
there is a spacious temple, and inside the temple stands a couch of unusual
size, richly adorned with a golden table by its side. There is no statue of
any kind set up in the place nor is the chamber occupied of nights by any
one but a single native woman.... Below in the same precinct there is a
second temple, in which is a sitting figure of Jupiter all of gold ...
outside the temple are two altars."[453]

This description is, of course, very short; it omits many details that we
should have wished to find in it; but like nearly all the descriptions of
Herodotus it is very clear. The old historian saw well, and his mind
retained what he saw. From his recital it is plain that this was the finest
of the Babylonian temples, and that even when partly ruinous, under the
successors of Alexander, its colossal dimensions were yet able to astonish
foreign visitors. We may, then, take it as the type of the Chaldæan temple,
as the finest religious building in the first city of Mesopotamia.
Nebuchadnezzar reconstructed it and made it higher and richer in its
ornamentation than before, but he kept to the ancient foundations and made
no change in the general character of the plan. In this single edifice were
gathered up all the threads of a long tradition; it was, as it were, the
supreme effort, the last word of the national art: and Herodotus declares
plainly that it was a staged tower.

Such an assertion puts the matter beyond a doubt, and enables us to point
to the staged tower as the form chosen by these people and made use of
throughout their civilization for the buildings raised in honour of their
gods. And having dismissed this fundamental question we have now to give a
rapid description of the principal varieties of the type as they have been
established by M. Chipiez. And as we go on we shall point out the
authorities for each restoration; whether the ruins themselves, the
inscribed texts, or the sculptured reliefs.

[Illustration: FIGS. 169-171.--Longitudinal section, plan and horizontal
section of the rectangular type of Chaldæan temple.]

In the first line we must place the RECTANGULAR CHALDÆAN TEMPLE (Plate II.
and Figs. 169, 170, and 171). We have put it first because the remains from
which it has been reconstructed have all been found in Lower Chaldæa, that
is, amongst the oldest of the Chaldæan cities. As we learn from the texts,
these temples were repaired under the last kings of Babylon, and it was
their antiquity that made them dear both to the people and their kings. We
may believe, therefore, that in restoring them care was taken to preserve
their ancient features. It would be the upper part of their retaining walls
that required renewal, and these would be rebuilt on their ancient
foundations. Here and there the latter exist even at the present day,
and the names of the earliest Chaldæan princes may be read upon their


Restored by Ch. Chipiez.]

The remains studied by Messrs. Taylor and Loftus at Warka (Fig. 172),
Abou-Sharein, and Mugheir have furnished the chief elements for our
restoration, which bears a strong resemblance to the ruin at Warka called
Bouvariia (A on the map), and one still stronger to that temple at Mugheir
whose present state is shown in our Figs. 48 and 143. This first type is
characterized by the form of its lower, and the situation of its upper,
stages. The latter are not placed in the centre of the platform on which
they stand; they are thrown back much nearer to one of the two shorter
sides than to the other, so that the building has a front and a back. The
front is almost entirely taken up with wide staircases.[455] The staircase
leading from the first story to the second must alone have been concealed
in the interior of the building, an arrangement which avoided the necessity
for breaking up the ample solidity of that imposing stage (see Plate II.).

[Illustration: FIG. 172.--Map of Warka with its ruins; from Loftus.

A, Bouvariia; B, Wuswas; C, ruin from the Parthian epoch; D, building
decorated with coloured cones (see page 279).]

The surroundings of the temple in our plate--the background of slightly
undulating plain, the houses similar to those found by Taylor and Loftus,
in which they discovered vaulted passages traversing the thickness of the
walls[456]--are, of course, purely imaginary.

The temple itself, like the palace at Khorsabad, was raised on a vast
platform upon which the city walls abutted. This platform was reached by
wide flights of steps.[457] Lateral ramps led to a second platform,
inclosed on every side, with which the sacred part of the building, the
Haram, began. We have already spoken of the panelled ornament with which
the great, flat surfaces of its walls were relieved.[458] The lowest stage
of the temple was provided with buttresses like those that still exist in
the temple of Mugheir (Fig. 43). A high, rectangular plinth--decorated in
our restoration with glazed faïence[459]--was interposed between the first
and second stage.[460] A rectangular chapel decorated, in all probability,
with metal plaques and glazed polychromatic bricks, crowned the whole.
Traces of this chapel have been found at Mugheir, and the wealth of its
decoration is attested by many pieces of evidence.[461] At Abou-Sharein
also there are vestiges of a small and richly ornamented sanctuary crowning
the second stage of a ruin whose aspect now bears a distinct resemblance to
that of the temple at Mugheir. The triple row of crenellations we have
given to this sanctuary or chapel was suggested by the altars and obelisks
(Fig. 107 and 111). Here, as at Nineveh, these battlements must have been
the one universal finish to the walls. The use to which we have put them is
quite in harmony with the spirit of Mesopotamian architecture, but there is
no direct evidence of their presence in these buildings. In this particular
our restoration is conjectural.

A glance at our longitudinal section (Fig. 169) will show that we have left
the main body of this great mass of sun-dried brick absolutely solid. It
was in vain that, at Mugheir, trenches and shafts were cut through the
flanks of the ruin, not a sign of any apartment or void of the most
elementary kind was found.[462]

This Mugheir temple rises hardly more than fifty feet above the level of
the plain. The restoration by M. Chipiez, for which it furnished the
elements, shows a height of 135 feet; judging from the proportions of its
remains the building can hardly have been higher than that. But it is
certain that many temples reached a far greater height, otherwise their
size could not have made any great impression upon travellers who had seen
the Egyptian pyramids. Even now the Birs-Nimroud, which has been undergoing
for so many centuries a continual process of diminution, rises no less than
235 feet above the surrounding country,[463] and Strabo, the only Greek
author who says anything precise as to the height of the greatest of the
Babylonian monuments, writes thus: "This monument, which was, they say,
overthrown by Xerxes, was a square pyramid of burnt brick, one stade
(606-3/4 feet) high, and one stade in diameter."[464]

The arrangement by which such a height could be most easily reached would
be the superposition of square masses one upon another, each mass being
centrally placed on the upper surface of the one below it. The weight would
be more equally divided and the risks of settlement more slight than in any
other system. Of this type M. Chipiez has restored two varieties. We shall
first describe the simpler of the two, which we may call the SQUARE
SINGLE-RAMPED CHALDÆAN TEMPLE (Figs. 173, 174, 175, 176).

The principal elements for this restoration have been taken from the staged
tower at Khorsabad known as the _Observatory_, but M. Chipiez has expanded
its dimensions until they almost reach those ascribed to the temple of Bel
by Strabo. Moreover, he had to decide a delicate question which the
discovery of the Khorsabad _Observatory_, where only the four lower stages
remained, had done nothing to solve, namely the plan and inclination of the
ramp. In M. Thomas's restoration of the Khorsabad tower, the last section
of the ramp at the top, is parallel to that at the bottom, and the crowning
platform is not exactly upon the central axis of the building.[465] In M.
Chipiez's restoration the top platform is in the centre, like those below
it, and the upper end of his ramp is vertically over the spot where it
leaves the ground. This result has been obtained by a peculiar arrangement
of the inclined plane which must have been known to the Mesopotamian
architects, seeing how great was their practice and how desirable, in their
eyes, was the symmetrical aspect which it alone could give. We have
suggested the varied colours of the different stages by changes of tone in
our engraving. In spite of the words of Herodotus M. Chipiez has only given
his tower seven stages, because that number seems to have been sacred and
traditional, and Herodotus may very well have counted the plinth or the
terminal chapel in the eight mentioned in his description. Bearing in mind
a passage in Diodorus--"At the summit Semiramis placed three statues of
beaten gold, Zeus, Hera, and Rhea"[466]--we have crowned its apex with such
a group. The phrase of Herodotus, "Below ... there is a second temple," has
led us to introduce chapels contrived in the interior of the mass and
opening on the ramp at the fifth and sixth stories. There is nothing to
forbid the idea that such chambers were much more numerous than this, and
opened, sometimes on one, sometimes on another, of the four faces.

[Illustration: FIG. 173.--Type of square, single-ramped Chaldæan temple.
Compiled by Ch. Chipiez.]

The buildings at the lower part of our engraving are imaginary, but they
are by no means improbable. Among them may be distinguished the wide
flights of steps and inclined planes by which the platform on which the
temple stood was reached.[467] At the foot of the temple on the right of
the engraving there is a palace, on the left two obelisk-shaped steles and
a small temple of a type to be presently described. Behind the tower
stretch away the waters of a lake. Nebuchadnezzar, in one of his
inscriptions, speaks of surrounding the temple he had built with a lake.

[Illustration: FIGS. 174-176.--Transverse section, plan, and horizontal
section of a square, single-ramped, Chaldæan Temple.]

[Illustration: FIGS. 177-179.--Transverse section, plan, and horizontal
section of a square, double-ramped Chaldæan Temple.]

In seeking to vary the effect produced by these external ramps, the idea of
a more complicated arrangement than the one last noticed may have occurred
to the Chaldees. This M. Chipiez has embodied in his restoration of a
179). As in the last model, there are seven stages, each stage being square
on plan, but the difference consists in the use of two ramps leading from
base to summit. Each of these keeps to its own side of the building, only
approaching the other on the front and back façades at the fourth, fifth,
and sixth stages (see Plate III). In order that the building as a whole
should have a symmetrical and monumental appearance, it was necessary that
all its seven stages--with the exception of the first, to which a rather
different _rôle_ was assigned--should be of equal height. But their length
and width differed in proportion to their height in the building. The
continual shortening of the distance within which the incline had to be
packed, would, if we suppose each ramp confined to one side of the tower,
have required the slope to become steeper with each story. Such a want of
parallelism would have been very ugly, and there was but one means of
avoiding it, and that was to continue the ramps nearly to the centre of the
front at the fourth and sixth stages, and to the centre of the posterior
façade at the fifth. The advantages of such an arrangement are obvious.
Banished mostly to the flanks the double ramp left four stages clear
both at front and back, providing an ample promenade. On the other three it
showed itself just sufficiently to "furnish" the building and diversify its
aspect without in any way encumbering it. The whole structure terminated in
a chapel placed on the central axis of the tower, and surmounted by a
cupola. The inscriptions mention the dome covered with leaves of chiselled
gold which crowned at Babylon that temple "to the foundations of the earth"
which was restored by Nebuchadnezzar.[468]


Restored by Ch. Chipiez.]

In these texts another sanctuary included in the same building and placed
half way between the base and summit is mentioned. This was the sepulchral
chamber of Bel-Merodach in which his oracle was consulted; in M. Chipiez's
restoration the entrance to this sanctuary is placed in the middle of the
fifth story.

The vast esplanade about the base of the temple was suggested by the
description of Herodotus. It is borne by two colossal plinths flanked and
retained by buttresses. In our plate the lower of these two plinths is only
hinted at in the two bottom corners. In the distance behind the temple
itself may be seen one of those embattled walls which divided Babylon into
so many fortresses, and, still farther away, another group of large
buildings surrounded by a wall and the ordinary houses of the city.

This double-ramped type is at once the most beautiful and the most
workmanlike of those offered by these staged towers. With a single ramp we
get a tower whose four faces are repetitions of each other, but here we
have a true façade, on which a happy contrast is established between the
unbroken stages and those upon which the ramps appear--between oblique
lines and lines parallel with the soil. The building gains in repose and
solidity, and its true scale becomes more evident than when the eye is led
insensibly from base to summit by a monotonous spiral.

[Illustration: FIGS. 180-182.--Square Assyrian temple. Longitudinal
section, horizontal section and plan.]

We cannot positively affirm that the architects of Mesopotamia understood
and made use of the system just described; there is no positive evidence
on the point.[469] It contains, however, nothing but a logical development
from the premises, nothing but what is in perfect keeping with Mesopotamian
habits, nothing that involves difficulties of execution or construction
beyond those over which we know them to have triumphed. Besides, we have
proofs that they were not content to go on servilely reproducing one and
the same type for twenty centuries; their temples were not all shaped in
the same mould. The type of the Mugheir temple differed sensibly from that
of the Khorsabad _Observatory_. One of the Kouyundjik sculptures reveals a
curious variant of the traditional theme, so far as Assyria was concerned,
in an arrangement of the staged tower that we should never have suspected
but for the survival of this relief (Fig. 34). The picture in question is
no doubt very much abridged and far from true to the proportions of the
original, but yet it has furnished M. Chipiez with the elements of a
restoration in which conjecture has had very little to say. This we have
called the SQUARE ASSYRIAN TEMPLE (see Plate IV. and Figs. 180-182).


Restored by Ch. Chipiez.]

According to the relief the tower itself rises upon a dome-shaped mound in
front of which there are a large doorway and two curved ramps. From all
that we know of Assyrian buildings of this kind we may be sure that the
original of the picture was so placed. The form of the mound may be
described as reproducing the extrados of a depressed arch. This is the only
form on which flights of steps with a curve similar to that here shown
could be constructed. The design of the steps in our plate corresponds
exactly to that indicated more roughly by the sculptor; no other means of
affording convenient access to the base of the tower--at least outside the
mound--could have been contrived. Two doors were pierced at the head of the
steps through the large panels with which the lower stage of the tower
itself was decorated, and from that point, so far as we can tell from the
relief, the ascent was continued by means of internal staircases. The
sculptor has only shown three stages, but--unless the absence of anything
above has been caused by the mutilation of the slab--we may suppose that he
has voluntarily suppressed a fourth.[470] In any case the third story is
too large to have formed the apex of the tower. The general proportions
suggest at least one more stage for the support of the usual chapel. The
latter we have restored as a timber structure covered with metal plates,
skins, or coloured planks. The three stages immediately below the chapel we
have decorated with painted imitations of panels, carried out either in
fresco or glazed brick. As for the internal arrangements we know very
little. The great doorway with which the mound itself is prefaced in the
relief must have led to some apartment worthy of its size and importance;
we have therefore pierced the mass in our section with a suite of several
chambers. At the second story another doorway occurs; it is much smaller
and more simple, and the chamber to which it led must have been
comparatively unimportant. In our Fig. 180 it is restored as the approach
to the internal staircase.

In order to vary the framework of our restorations and to show Assyrian
architecture in as many aspects as possible, we have placed this temple
within a fortified wall, like that of Khorsabad. Within a kind of bastion
towards the left of the plate we have introduced one of those small
temples of which remains have been found at Khorsabad and Nimroud. The
walls of the town form a continuation of those about the temple. In front
of the principal entrance to the sacred inclosure we have set up a
commemorative stele.

       *       *       *       *       *

Aided by these restorations we hope to have given a clearer and more vivid
idea of Chaldæan art than if we had confined ourselves to describing the
scanty remains of their religious buildings. We have now to give a rapid
review of those existing ruins whose former purposes and arrangements may
still to a certain extent be traced.


[451] These restorations of the principal types of Chaldæan temples were
exhibited by M. CHIPIEZ in the Salon of 1879, under the title _Tours à
Étages de la Chaldée et de l'Assyrie_.

[452] Chapter II. § 2.

[453] HERODOTUS, i, 181-3, Rawlinson's version. By Jupiter, or rather Zeus,
we must understand Bel-Merodach. Diodorus calls the god of the temple Zeus

[454] LOFTUS, _Travels_, &c., p. 131. See also TAYLOR's papers in vol. xv.
of the _Royal Asiatic Society's Journal_.

[455] LOFTUS, (p. 129). "It rather struck me, however, from the gradual
inclination from top to base, that a grand staircase of the same width as
the upper story, occupied this side of the structure."

[456] LOFTUS, _Travels_, &c., p. 133.

[457] At Warka, around the ruin called _Wuswas_ by the Arabs, LOFTUS traced
the plan of these great courtyards and platforms (_Travels_, p. 171).

[458] See above, p. 246, figs. 100 and 102.

[459] Numerous pieces of glazed tile were found in these ruins.

[460] The idea of this plinth was suggested to M. Chipiez by a remark made
on page 129 of LOFTUS's _Travels_: "Between the stories is a gradual
stepped incline about seven feet in perpendicular height, which may
however, be accidental, and arise from the destruction of the upper part of
the lower story."

[461] See TAYLOR, _Journal_, &c., pp. 264-5.

[462] LOFTUS, _Travels_, p. 130. It was the same with the _Observatory_ at

[463] LAYARD, _Discoveries_, p. 495.

[464] The authorities made use of by Strabo for his description of Babylon,
all lived in the time of Alexander and his successors; no one of them could
have seen the temple intact and measured its height. Founded upon tradition
or upon the inspection of the remains, the figure given by the geographer
can only be approximate. I should think it is probably an exaggeration.

[465] See PLACE, _Ninive_, vol. iii, plate 37.

[466] DIODORUS, ii, 9, 5.

[467] These courts must have been at certain times of the day the meeting
place of large numbers of the population, like the courtyards of a modern
mosque. Shops in which religious emblems and other _objèts-de-piété_ were
sold would stand about them, just as in the present day the traveller finds
a regular fair in the courtyard of the mosque _Meshed-Ali_. Among the
commodities that change hands in such places, white doves are very common
(LOFTUS, _Travels_, p. 53). In this perhaps, we may recognize the survival
of a pagan rite, the sacrifice of a dove to the Babylonian Istar, the
Phoenician Astarte, and the Grecian Aphrodite. It was in the courtyards of
one of these temples that those sacred prostitutions of which HERODOTUS
speaks, took place (i. 199). The great extent of the inclosures is readily
explained by the crowds they were then required to accommodate.

[468] "I undertook in Bit-Saggatu," says the king, "the restoration of the
chamber of Merodach; I gave to its cupola the form of a lily, and I covered
it with chiselled gold, so that it shone like the day," London inscription,
translated by M. Fr. LENORMANT, in his _Histoire ancienne_, vol. ii. pp.
228-229. See also a text of Philostratus in his life of _Apollonius of
Tyana_, (i. 25). The sophist who seems to have founded his description of
Babylon on good information, speaks of a "great brick edifice plated with
bronze, which had a dome representing the firmament and shining with gold
and sapphires."

[469] The idea has also occurred to M. OPPERT of restricting the ramp to
two sides of the tower, to the exclusion of the others (_Expédition
scientifique_, vol. i. p. 209); but so far as we understand his
system--which he has not illustrated with any figure--he does not double
his incline, he merely alternates its side at each stage, so that part of
it would be on the north-west, part on the south-west face of his tower.

[470] The original of this relief has not been brought to Europe. We are
therefore unable to decide whether Layard's draughtsman has accurately
represented its condition or not.

§ 2.--_Ruins of Staged Towers._

In describing the first of our four types we had occasion to point to the
buildings at Warka and Mugheir, which enabled us to restore what may be
called the Lower Chaldæan form of temple. The mounds formed by the remains
of those buildings had not been touched for thousands of years, they had
entirely escaped such disturbance as the ruins of Babylon have undergone
for so many centuries at the hand of the builders of Bagdad and Hillah; and
it is probable that explorations carried on methodically and with
intelligent patience would give most interesting results. If, for instance,
the foundations of all walls were systematically cleared, we should be
enabled to restore with absolute certainty the plans of the buildings to
which they belonged. To the monuments discovered by the English explorers
we must now add a find made by M. de Sarzec at Tello, of which, however,
full details have yet to be furnished.[471] We take the following from the
too short letter that was read to the Academy of Inscriptions on the 2nd of
December 1881. "Finally, it was in that part of the building marked H that
opens upon the court B that I found the curious structure of which I spoke
to you. This solid mass of burnt brick and bitumen, with diminishing
terraces rising one above the other, reminds us of those
Chaldæo-Babylonian structures whose probable object was to afford a refuge
to the inhabitants from the swarms of insects and burning winds that
devastate these regions for nine months of the year." Here, we believe, M.
de Sarzec is in error; the only refuges against the inflamed breath of the
desert were the _serdabs_, the subterranean chambers with their scanty
light and moistened walls, and the dark apartments of Assyrian palaces with
their walls of prodigious thickness. The great terraces erected at such a
vast expenditure of labour were not undertaken merely to escape the
mosquitoes; we may take M. de Sarzec's words, however, as a proof that at
Sirtella as in all the towns of Lower Chaldæa, the remains of a building
with several stories or stages are to be recognized.

[Illustration: FIG. 183.--Map of the ruins of Babylon; from Oppert.]

The ruins on the site of Babylon may be divided into four principal groups,
each forming small hills that are visible for many miles round; they are
designated on the annexed map by the names under which they are commonly
known. These are, in their order from north to south, _Babil_, _El-Kasr_
(or _Mudjelibeh_) and _Tell-Amran_, on the left bank; on the right bank the
most conspicuous of them all, the _Birs-Nimroud_.[472] Most of those who
have studied the topography of Babylon are disposed to see in the Kasr and
in Tell-Amran the remains of a vast palace, or rather of several palaces,
built by different kings, and those of the famous hanging gardens; while in
Babil (Plate I. and Fig. 37) and the Birs Nimroud (Fig. 168) they agree to
recognize all that is left of the two chief religious buildings of Babylon.
Babil would be the oldest of them all--the _Bit-Saggatu_ or "temple of the
foundations of the earth" which stood in the very centre of the royal city
and was admired and described by Herodotus. The Birs-Nimroud would
correspond to the no less celebrated temple of Borsippa, the _Bit-Zida_,
the "temple of the planets and of the seven spheres."

At Babil no explorations have thrown the least light upon the disposition
of the building. In the whole of its huge mass, which rises to a height of
some 130 feet above the plain, no trace of the separate cubes or of their
dimensions is to be found. All the restorations that have been made are
purely imaginary. At Birs-Nimroud the excavations of Sir Henry Rawlinson in
1854 were by no means fruitless but, unhappily, we are without any detailed
account of their results. So far as we have been told, it would appear that
the existence of at least six of the seven stages had been ascertained and
the monument, which, according to Sir Henry Rawlinson's measurements, is
now 153 feet high; can have lost but little of its original height. We can
hardly believe however, that the violence of man and the storms of so many
centuries have done so little damage.[473] It seems to be more clearly
proved that, in shape, the temple belonged to the class we have described
under the head of THE RECTANGULAR CHALDÆAN TEMPLE.[474] The axis of the
temple, the vertical line upon which the centre of the terminal chapel must
have been placed, was not at an equal distance from the north-western and
south-eastern sides, so that the building had its gentlest slope--taking it
as a whole--towards the south-east.[475] On that side the cubical blocks of
which it was composed were so placed as to leave much wider steps than on
the north-west. The temple therefore had a true façade, in front of which
propylæa, like the one introduced in our restoration from the ruins at
Mugheir, were placed. The difference consists in the fact that here the
stages are square on plan. The lowest stage was 273 feet each way; it
rested upon a platform of sun-dried brick which rose but a few feet above
the level of the plain.

Supposing these measurements to be exact they suggest a building which was
nothing extraordinary either in height or mass. The dimensions furnished by
Rich and Ker-Porter are much greater. Both of these speak of a base a
stade, or about 606 feet, square, which would give a circumference of no
less than 2,424 feet--not much less than half a mile. In any case the
temple now represented by Babil must have been the larger of the two. M.
Oppert mentions 180 metres, or about 600 feet, as one diameter of the
present rather irregular mass. That would still be inferior to the Pyramid
of Cheops, which is 764 feet square at the base, and yet the diameter of
600 feet for Babil is, no doubt, in excess of its original dimensions. The
accumulation of rubbish must have enlarged its base in every direction.

It seems clear, therefore, that the great structures of Chaldæa were
inferior to the largest of the royal tombs of Egypt, both in height and
lateral extent. We do not know how far the subsidiary buildings by which
the staged towers are surrounded and supplemented in our plates may have
extended, but it is difficult to believe that their number or importance
could have made the ensemble to which they belonged a rival to Karnak, or
even to Luxor.

If we may judge from the texts and the existing ruins, the religious
buildings of Assyria were smaller than those of Chaldæa. When the Ten
Thousand traversed the valley of the Tigris in their famous retreat, they
passed close to a large abandoned city, which Xenophon calls Larissa. As to
whether his Larissa was Calah (Nimroud), or Nineveh (Kouyundjik), we need
not now inquire, but his short description of a staged tower is of great
interest: "Near this town," he says, "there was a stone pyramid two plethra
(about 203 feet) high; each side of its base was one plethron in

The tower cleared by Layard at Nimroud is perhaps the very one seen by
Xenophon.[477] The Greek soldier speaks of a stone pyramid while the
Nimroud tower is of brick, but the whole of its substructure is cased with
the finer material to a height of nearly twenty-four feet, which is quite
enough to account for Xenophon's statement. As for his dimensions, they
should not be taken too literally. In their rapid and anxious march the
Greek commanders had no time to wield the plumb-line or the
measuring-chain; they must have trusted mainly to their eyes in arriving at
a notion of the true size of the buildings by which their attention was
attracted. The tower at Nimroud must have been about 150 feet square,
measured along its plinth; the present height of the mound is 141 feet, and
nothing above the first stage now exists. As Layard remarks, one or two
stories more must be taken into the account, and they would easily make up
an original elevation of from 200 to 240 feet, or about that of the Larissa
tower. Xenophon made use of the word pyramid because his language furnished
him with no term more accurate. Like the true pyramid, the staged tower
diminished gradually from base to summit, and there can be no doubt as to
the real character of the building seen by the Greeks, as may be gathered
from their leader's statement, that the "barbarians from the neighbouring
villages took refuge upon it in great numbers." Such buildings as the
pyramids of Egypt and Ethiopia could have afforded no refuge of the kind. A
few could stand upon their summits, supposing them to have lost their
capstones, but it would require the wide ramps and terraces of the staged
tower to afford a foothold for the population of several villages.[478]

Nothing but the first two stages, or rather the plinth and the first stage,
now remain at Nimroud of what must have been the chief temple of Calah.
There is no trace either of the ramp or of the colours with which the
different stories were ornamented. The Khorsabad tower discovered by Place
is more interesting and much more instructive as to the arrangement and
constitution of these buildings.[479]

[Illustration: FIG. 184.--Actual condition of the so-called _Observatory_,
at Khorsabad; from Place.]

This tower was previously hidden under a mass of _débris_, which gave it a
conical form like that at Nimroud. Botta had already noticed its existence,
but he failed to guess its real character, which, indeed, was only divined
by Place when his explorations were far advanced. As soon as all doubt was
removed as to the real character of the monument, M. Place took every care
to preserve all that might yet exist of it, and our Fig. 184 shows the
state of the building after the excavations were complete. Three whole
stages and part of a fourth (to say nothing of the plinth) were still in
existence. The face of each stage was ornamented with vertical grooves,
repeating horizontally the elevation of the Assyrian stepped battlements
(Fig. 102); the coloured stucco, varying in hue from one stage to another,
was still in place, and confirmed the assertions of Herodotus as to the
traditional sequence of tints.[480] The external ramp, with its pavement of
burnt brick and its crenellated parapet, was also found.[481] At its base
the first stage described upon the soil a square of about 143 feet each
way. Each of the three complete stages was twenty feet three inches high.

Upon such data M. Thomas had no difficulty in restoring the whole building.
Evidently the fourth story could not have been the original apex, as it
would have been strange indeed, if, when all the rest of the Khorsabad
palace had lost its upper works, the sun-dried bricks of the _Observatory_
alone had resisted the agents of destruction. Moreover the materials of the
higher stories still exist in the 40,000 cubic yards of rubbish which cover
the surrounding platform to an average depth of about ten feet.

[Illustration: FIG. 185.--The _Observatory_ restored. Elevation.]

How many stages were there? Struck by the importance of the number seven in
Assyrian architecture, M. Thomas fixed upon that number. Even at Khorsabad
itself the figure continually crops up. The city walls had seven gates. One
of the commonest of the ornamental motives found upon the external and
internal walls of the Harem is the band of seven half columns illustrated
on page 247. Herodotus tells us of the seven different colours used on the
concentric walls of Ecbatana. Finally, in assigning seven stories to the
building we get a total elevation of 140 feet, which corresponds so closely
to the 143 feet of the base that we may take the two as identical, and
account for the slight difference between them, amounting only to about
three inches for each story, by the difficulty in taking correct
measurements on a ruined structure of sun-dried brick. And we should
remember that Strabo tells us in a passage already quoted that the height
of the great temple at Babylon was equal to its shorter diameter, an
arrangement that may to some extent have been prescribed by custom.

[Illustration: FIG. 186.--The _Observatory_ restored. Plan.]

So far then as its main features are concerned, we may look upon the
restoration we borrow from M. Place's work as perfectly authentic (Figs.
185 and 186). Our section (Fig. 187) is meant to show that no trace of any
internal chamber or void of the smallest kind was discovered by the French
explorers. It is, however, quite possible that such chambers were contrived
in the upper stories, but we have no evidence of their existence. We may
say the same of the resting-places mentioned by Herodotus in his
description of the temple of Belus. But supposing that edifice to have had
seven stages, its ramp must have been about a thousand yards long, and it
is likely enough that halting places were provided on such a long ascent.

[Illustration: FIG. 187.--The _Observatory_. Transverse section through

It is not until we come to discuss the object of such a building that we
feel compelled to part company with MM. Place and Thomas. They are
inclined to believe that it was an observatory rather than a temple, and
under that title they have described it. Although we have made use of the
name thus given we do not think it has been justified. There is nothing,
says M. Place, among the ruins at Khorsabad to show that the tower ever
bore any chapel or tabernacle upon its apex. But according to their own
hypothesis it has lost its three highest stories, so why should they expect
to find any vestige of such a chapel, seeing that it must have been the
first thing to disappear? There is absolutely nothing to negative the idea
that it may have been of wood, in which case its total disappearance would
not be surprising, even after the platform had been thoroughly explored;
and that is far from being the case at present. Moreover there is some
little evidence that the purpose of the pyramid was religious. Two stone
altars were found in its neighbourhood. Whether they came from its summit
or from the esplanade, they justify us in believing the _Observatory_ to
have been a temple. We are confirmed in this belief by the
similarity--which M. Place himself points out--between it and the chief
monuments of Babylon, as described by Herodotus. It seems to be
incontestable that Chaldæa adopted this form for the largest and most
sumptuous of her temples, and why should we suppose the Assyrians to have
broken with that tradition and to have devoted to a different use buildings
planned and constructed on the same principle?

It is true that tablets have been found in the royal archives at Kouyundjik
upon which reports as to the condition of the heavens are recorded for the
guidance of the king,[482] but there is nothing in these so far as they
have been deciphered to show that the observations were taken from the
summit of a _zigguratt_. It is, however, very probable that the astronomers
availed themselves of such a height above the plain in order to escape from
floating vapours and to gain a wider horizon. The platform of the Khorsabad
tower must have had a superficial extent of about 180 square yards. There
may have been a chapel or tabernacle in the centre, and yet plenty of space
for the astrologers to do their work at their ease. We do not wish to deny,
therefore, that this tower and other monuments of the same kind may have
been used as observatories, but we believe that in Assyria, as in Chaldæa,
their primary object was a religious one--that they were raised so far
above the dwellings of man, even of the king himself, in order to do honour
to the gods whose sanctuaries were to crown their summits.[483]


[471] See _Les Fouilles de Chaldée_ in the _Revue archéologique_ for
November, 1881. M. de Sarzec refers us in his paper to a plan which has not
yet been laid before the Academy. We regret very much that its publication
should have been so long delayed, as we have been prevented from making as
much use as we should have wished of M. de Sarzec's architectural

[472] The clearest and most precise information upon the topography of
Babylon is to be found in Professor RAWLINSON's essay on that subject in
the second volume of his translation of HERODOTUS (p. 570, in the third

[473] In making his calculations, Professor RAWLINSON has certainly
forgotten to take into account the pier or section of wall that still
stands upright upon the surface of the mound (OPPERT, _Expédition
scientifique_, vol. i. pp. 260, _et seq._). It is clearly shown in our
figure--Sir Henry LAYARD leaves us in no doubt on this score: "The
Birs-Nimroud rises to a height of 198 feet, and has on its summit a compact
mass of brickwork thirty-seven feet high by twenty-eight broad, the whole
being thus 235 feet in perpendicular height," _Discoveries_, p. 495. LAYARD
says, however, that the dimensions here given were taken from RICH, as he
had no time to take measurements during his hurried visit. ED.

[474] _Discoveries_, p. 495.

[475] We take these details from Professor RAWLINSON's essay on the
topography of Babylon.

[476] XENOPHON, _Anabasis_, iii, 4, 9.

[477] LAYARD, _Discoveries_, pp. 126-128, and map 2.

[478] At Kaleh Shergat, where the site of an important, but as yet
unidentified Assyrian city has been recognized, there is a conical mound,
recalling in its general aspect the Nimroud tower, which must contain all
that is left of a _zigguratt_; but no deep excavations have yet been made
in it (LAYARD, _Nineveh_, vol. ii. p. 61).

[479] PLACE, _Ninive_, vol. i. pp. 147-148, and plates 36-37.

[480] See above, pp. 272-274.

[481] We have already mentioned the size of its steps; see page 192. The
gradient for the first stage was about one in twenty. In the upper stages
it must have been far steeper, as the circumference of the stages was much
less, while their height remained the same. It never became very abrupt
however, as supposing that the original number of stories was seven, the
gradient would not be more than about one in fourteen close to the summit.

[482] LENORMANT, _Histoire ancienne_, vol. ii. p. 200 (3rd edition).

[483] The position occupied by this staged tower in the plan of the royal
palace at Khorsabad suggests that perhaps neither of the two explanations
of its purpose here alluded to is the true one. It is placed immediately
outside the Harem wall--and as to the identity of the Harem there can be no
doubt--in such a way that any one ascending it must have had an
uninterrupted view into the numerous courts of the women's apartments. Such
a possibility seems inconsistent with the numerous precautions taken to
secure the privacy of that part of the palace (see Vol. II. Chapter I. §
2). Perhaps the real solution of the difficulty is to be found in a
suggestion made, but only to be cast aside, by Mr. FERGUSSON, that this
Khorsabad _zigguratt_ was, in fact, a private oratory for the exclusive use
of Sargon himself (_History of Architecture_, vol. i. p. 173).--ED.

§ 3.--_Subordinate Types of the Temple._

Side by side with these pyramidal temples the Assyrians seem to have placed
others of a less ambitious kind, dedicated, no doubt, to deities of the
second rank. The great staged towers, whose height and mass implied an
effort that could not be often repeated, were devoted to the worship of the
great national gods. Botta believed that he had discovered a temple of this
smaller kind in the building from which we borrowed the example of an
Assyrian moulding reproduced in our Figs. 98 and 99. This edifice is
remarkable, not only for its cornice, but also because it is built of
limestone and decorated with sculptures carved from slabs of basalt, the
only things of the kind that have been discovered in the Khorsabad ruins.
The general arrangements are unlike those of any other part of the palace.
Unfortunately the building is in a very bad condition. Even its plan can
only be restored in part. Thomas is inclined to see in it rather a throne
room, or divan, as it would be called in the modern East, than a temple.
The few bas-reliefs which may be certainly recognized as having belonged to
it are not religious in their character; they represent hunting scenes,
battles and prisoners bringing tribute. Although Thomas's restoration is,
as he himself confesses, entirely conjectural, we have no serious motive
for pronouncing the building to have been a temple.[484]

[Illustration: FIG. 188.--Plan of a small temple at Nimroud; from Layard.]

[Illustration: FIG. 189.--Plan of a small temple at Nimroud; from Layard.]

On the other hand, Layard seems to have had good reasons for recognizing
small temples in the structures he cleared near the great staged tower at
Nimroud.[485] The more important of the two was actually touching that
tower (Fig. 188). The character of the building is at once betrayed by the
nature of its sculptures, which are religious rather than
historical--figures of gods and genii, scenes of adoration and mystic
theology. And it was not without a purpose that it was put into close
juxtaposition with a _zigguratt_, an arrangement that proves it to have
formed a part of a collection of buildings consecrated, by the prince whose
dwelling covered the rest of the platform, to the gods in whose protection
he placed his trust. The second and smaller temple stands about thirty
yards to the east on the very edge of the artificial mound (Fig. 189). An
altar with three feet carved in the shape of lion's paws was found in front
of the entrance.[486] There were no bas-reliefs: the decorations were
carried out in paint. The number of rooms was less, but their general
arrangement was similar to that of the larger building. The chief feature
of both was a large hall (_e_ in the first plan, _c_ in the second) with a
square niche at one of its extremities (_f_ in the first plan, _d_ in the
second). This niche was paved with a single slab of alabaster, of
considerable size and covered upon both faces with a long inscription
describing in detail the reign of the prince by whom the temple was
consecrated. In the larger of the two buildings the slab in question was
twenty-three feet four inches long and seventeen feet eight inches wide;
its thickness was twelve inches. Upon it stood, in all probability, the
statue of the god. The niche must, in fact, have been the _secos_, or
sanctuary properly speaking. The large oblong hall was the _naos_ or
_cella_. In the larger temple its length was forty-six feet seven inches.
It was preceded by a _pronaos_ or vestibule (Fig. 188, _c_). We have no
evidence as to the purpose of the chamber marked _g_ in our plan. It has a
direct entrance of its own from the outside (_h_). The small temple is
rather less complicated. Two doorways (_b_ and _f_) lead immediately into
the principal hall or naos. A small chamber (_e_) behind the sanctuary was,
perhaps, a kind of storeroom or sacristy. It should be noticed that in the
little temple the doors into the naos were so placed that the image in the
sanctuary could not be seen from without.[487] In both buildings the doors
were flanked by winged lions or bulls, like those of the royal palaces. The
walls of the larger temple were decorated with glazed bricks.

[Illustration: FIG. 190.--Temple with triangular pediment; from Botta.]

These temples of the second class lent themselves to a great variety of
forms. Some of them had their façades crowned by a triangular pediment,
like those of the Greek temples (Fig. 190). It is true that the Khorsabad
relief whence we copy this peculiar arrangement deals with the capture of
an Armenian city, Mousasir, called in the narrative of Sargon's conquests
"the dwelling of the god Haldia,"[488] whose temple must be here figured by
the sculptor. Must we believe that the artist has given his temple a form
unfamiliar to himself in deference to the accounts of those who had taken
part in the campaign? Is it not more probable that he copied some model
which would be recognized by every spectator as that of a temple, from its
frequent occurrence in the neighbourhood of the very palace on whose
decoration he was at work? We are inclined to say yes to the latter
question. But even if we look upon this relief as a faithful sketch from an
Armenian temple we shall still believe that it reproduces a type not
unknown to Assyrian art. Everything combines to prove that the inhabitants
of the mountainous countries situated to the east and north of Assyria had
no original and well-marked civilization of their own during any part of
the period with which we are now concerned. Just as Ethiopia borrowed
everything from Egypt, so the Medes and Armenians drew both their arts and
their written character from Chaldæa, by way of Assyria. All the objects
found in the neighbourhood of Lake Van are purely Assyrian in character,
and no question is raised as to the fitness of their place in our museums
side by side with objects from Nimroud and Khorsabad. It is, however, of
little importance whether the temple shown in our woodcut was or was not
copied from nature; if there were such buildings in Armenia it was because
similar ones had previously existed in Assyria, from which the architects
of the semi-barbarous people, who were in turn the enemies, the vassals and
the subjects of the Ninevite monarchs, had borrowed their leading features.

Moreover, we find one of the most characteristic features of Assyrian
architecture occurring in this Armenian monument. The entrance is flanked
by lions similar to those which guard the temples at Nimroud.[489] The
other features of the composition are quite new to us. In front of the
temple two large vases are supported on tripods, of bronze no doubt. They
contained the water required for purifications; we shall encounter them
again in Syria. They remind us of the "molten sea" of Solomon's temple. The
temple stands upon a high plinth, to which access must have been given by
steps omitted by the sculptor. At each side of the door stands a
lance-headed pole, indicating, perhaps, that the temple was dedicated to a
god of war. In front of these lances stand two people in attitudes of
adoration; statues, perhaps, or figures in relief. The façade is formed of
pilasters divided horizontally by narrow bands; upon these pilasters, and
on the wall between them, hang shields or targets, that accord well with
the lances flanking the entrance. From two of the pilasters on the left of
the doorway lions' heads and shoulders seem to issue; these, too, may be
taken as symbolical of the bellicose disposition of the god to whom the
building was dedicated. The pediment with which the façade is crowned is
rather low in its proportions. Its tympanum is filled with a kind of
reticulated ornament made up of small lozenges or meshes. There is nothing
to throw light upon the internal arrangements, but by the aid of this
carved sketch the façade may be easily restored, save, of course, in the
matter of size, at which we can only guess.

The type is chiefly interesting on account of its analogy with the Greek
temple. We have already drawn attention to similar points of likeness in
the small buildings in which the column plays such an important part (Figs.
41 and 42). We have seen that some of those little structures resemble the
Egyptian temples, others the Greek temple _in antis_.[490] For the sake of
completeness we may also mention the pavilion we find so often in the
Chaldæan monuments (Fig. 79). It is crowned with the horned mitre we are
accustomed to see upon the heads of the winged bulls. Our interest has been
awakened in these little chapels chiefly on account of the decorative forms
of which they afford such early examples. It is not to them that we must
look for the distinctive features of Mesopotamian temple architecture.
These we must find in the _staged tower_ or _zigguratt_. Why is it that the
whole of those monuments, with the single exception of the so-called
_Observatory_ of Khorsabad, are now mere heaps of formless dust, fulfilling
to the letter the biblical prophecies as to the fate of Nineveh and
Babylon? One traveller tells us how when he approached the Birs-Nimroud he
saw wolves stretched upon its slopes and basking in the sun. Before they
would lazily rise and make up their minds to decamp, the Arabs of his
escort had to ride forward shouting and shaking their lances.


[484] See PLACE, _Ninive_, vol. i. pp. 149-151, and vol. ii. pp. 6-7, and
36-42. This building is at the western angle of the area occupied by the
Khorsabad ruins (vol. iii. plate 3). The restoration will be found in the
plate numbered 37 _bis_.

[485] _Discoveries_, &c., pp. 348-357, 359-362; and _Monuments_, &c.,
second series, plate 5.

[486] This is now in the British Museum.--ED.

[487] The doors are so arranged that in neither temple can the naos be seen
by one standing outside the building.--ED.

[488] This expedition took place in the eighth year of Sargon's reign. The
passage in which the chief events are recounted, will be found in the long
and important inscription translated by M. OPPERT, under the title:
_Annales de Sargon_ (PLACE, _Ninive_, vol. ii. p. 313).

[489] The sculptor has only introduced one; the other he has left for the
imagination of the spectator to fill in.

[490] Page 142.

§ 4.--_Comparison between the Chaldæan Temple and that of Egypt._

Although the ancients called them both by the same name, there are more
points of difference than of resemblance between the Egyptian pyramids and
the staged towers of Chaldæa. On the borders of the Nile we have the true
pyramid, the solid which bears that name in geometry. In Mesopotamia we
have a series of rectangular prisms placed one upon the other. At a
distance the gradual diminution of their size may give a pyramidal
appearance to the mass of which they form a part, but their walls are
vertical. Finally the contrast between the purposes of the two buildings is
still greater. The Egyptian pyramid is a tomb; its enormous mass is no more
than a monstrous development of the stone envelope to which the sarcophagus
was committed. No means were provided for reaching the summit, and its
height had, so to speak, no _raison d'être_ or practical utility. In spite
of all the art lavished upon it a pyramid was hardly a building in the
proper sense of the word--it was a mere heap of building materials.

It was quite otherwise with the _zigguratt_, whose terminal platform
supported a richly-decorated sanctuary. Astronomers could make use of it
for observing the heavens under better conditions than were possible below;
chapels were also cut in the flanks of its lower stages, so that a
convenient means of approach to every story from top to bottom was
absolutely required. This necessity brought in its train the varied
arrangements of ramp and terrace of which we have endeavoured to give an
idea in our restorations. If we give rein to our imagination and allow it
for a moment to restore their crenellated parapets to the ramps and
terraces; if we set up the resting-places, rebuild the chapels and
pavilions and replace the statues; if we cover the sanctuary with its
vesture of bronze and gold, and the whole edifice with the surface
decoration to which the sun of Mesopotamia gave its fullest value, we shall
then understand how far superior, as an architectonic conception, the
Chaldæan _zigguratt_ was to the Egyptian pyramid. With its smooth and naked
face the latter was in some degree an inorganic mass, as lifeless as the
corpse it crushed with its preposterous weight. The division of the former
into stages had a latent rhythm that was strongly attractive; the eye
followed with no little pleasure the winding slope which, by its easy
gradient, seemed to invite the traveller to mount to the lofty summit,
where, in the extent and beauty of the view he would find so rich a reward
for the gentle fatigues of the ascent.

But we must not forget that the _zigguratt_ was a temple, and that it is to
the temples of Thebes that we must compare it. In such a comparison Egypt
regains all its superiority. How cold and poor a show the towers of Chaldæa
and Assyria make beside the colonnades of the Ramesseum, of Luxor, of
Karnak! In the one case the only possible varieties are those caused by
changes in the position and proportions of the stages, in the slope and
arrangement of the ramps. In the other, what infinite combinations of
courts, pylons, and porticoes, what an ever changing play of light, shadow,
and form among the groves of pictured columns! What a contrast between the
Assyrian sanctuaries lighted only from the door and by the yellow glare of
torches, and the mysterious twilight of the Egyptian halls, where the deep
shadows were broken here and there by some wandering ray of sunshine
shooting downwards from holes contrived in the solid roof, and making some
brilliant picture of Ptah or Amen stand out against the surrounding gloom.
But the Chaldæans might, perhaps would, have equalled the Egyptians had
their country been as rich in stone as the Nile valley; their taste and
instinct for grandeur was no less, and the religious sentiment was as
lively and exalted with the worshippers of Assur and Marduk as with those
of Osiris and Amen-Ra. The inferiority of their religious architecture was
due to the natural formation of their country, which restricted them almost
entirely to the use of a fictile material.






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