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Title: A Primer of Assyriology
Author: Sayce, A. H. (Archibald Henry), 1845-1933
Language: English
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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.

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_Present Day Primers_

_Primer of Assyriology_






_First Edition, September, 1894._





Geography--Population and Language--The Chaldaeans--The Kassi--
Natural Products--Canals--Architecture--Asphalt and Naphtha--
Character of the Babylonians and Assyrians                          7



The Site of Babylon--The Site of Nineveh--Excavations--The
Decipherment of the Inscriptions--The Decipherment tested--
Sumerian--Vannic--Other Languages--The origin of the
Cuneiform Syllabary--Simplification of the Syllabary               18



Different States in Babylonia--The first Empire--The monuments
of Tello--Chronology--The United Monarchy--The rise of Assyria--
Babylon a sacred city--Tiglath-pileser I--The First Assyrian
Empire--The Second Assyrian Empire--The Babylonian Empire--Cyrus
and the Fall of Babylon--Belshazzar--Decay of Babylon              42



The religions of Babylonia and Assyria--Differences between
Babylonian and Assyrian religion--Sumerian religion Shamanistic--
Two centres of Babylonian religion--Semitic influence--The goddess
Istar--Bel-Merodach--Other deities--Sacred books and ritual--The
Priests--The Temples--Astro-theology--Sacrifices and offerings--The
Sabbath--Monotheistic tendency--The future life--Cosmology         80



Aids to the reading of the texts--The libraries--Varieties of
literature--The texts autotypes--Astronomy--Mathematics--Medicine
and law--History and mythology--The Chaldaean epic and the
Deluge--Epic of the Creation                                       95



The Contract-tablets--Married Life--Burial--Slavery--Lowness of
Wages--Property--Taxes--Prices--Usury--The Army--Navy--The
Bureaucracy                                                       109


Assyrian Measures of Length--Measures of Capacity--Measures of
Weight and Coinage--The Months of the Year                        118

Babylonian Kings--Assyrian Kings--High Priests of Assur--Kings
of Assyria                                                        120

Synchronisms between Assyrian and Biblical History                125

The Principal Deities of Babylonia and Assyria                    126




Geography.--The civilizations of Babylonia and Assyria grew up on the
banks of the Tigris and Euphrates. The Tigris was called Idikna and
Idikla in the Sumerian or primitive language of Babylonia, from which
the Semites formed the name Idiklat, by means of the feminine suffix
_-t_. In later times the name was shortened into Diklat, and finally
assimilated by the Persians to the word Tigra, which in their language
signified 'an arrow.' It is from Tigra that the classical name Tigris
is derived. In Genesis (ii. 14), however, the ancient name Idikla,
there written Hiddekel, is still preserved. The Euphrates was called
Pura-nun, or 'great water,' in Sumerian, and was frequently known as
simply the Pura or 'Water,' just as the Nile is known to-day to the
modern Egyptians as simply 'the Sea.' Hence it is often spoken of in
the Bible as 'the River,' without the addition of any other name. From
Pura came the Semitic Purat, with the Semitic suffix _-t_; and Purat,
the Perath of the Old Testament, was changed by the Persians into
Ufratu, with a play upon their own word _u_ 'good.' The Persian Ufratu
is the Greek Euphrates.

The alluvial plain of Babylonia was the gift of the two great rivers.
In the early days of Babylonian civilization they both flowed into the
Persian Gulf. But salt marshes already existed at their mouths, and as
time went on the marshes extended further and further to the south.
What had once been sea became dry land, the silt brought down by the
rivers forming an ever-increasing delta in the north of the Gulf.
To-day the two rivers flow into one channel, and the point where they
unite is eighty miles distant from the present line of coast. The
marshes are called 'the country of Marratu' or 'the salt-sea' in the
inscriptions, a name which reappears as Merathaim in Jer. 1. 21.

One of the oldest of Babylonian cities was Eridu, 'the good city,'
which was originally built on the shore of the Persian Gulf, though
Abu-Shahrein, which now marks its site, is far inland, the sea having
retreated from it for a distance of 100 miles. In early times, however,
it was the chief Babylonian port, and through its intercourse with
foreign countries it exercised a great influence on the culture and
religion of Babylonia. Further to the north, but on the western side of
the Euphrates, was Ur, the birth-place of Abraham, whose ruins are now
called Mugheir or Muqayyar; and still further to the north, but on the
opposite side of the river, were Larsa (probably the Ellasar of Gen.
xiv. 1) now Senkereh, and Uruk or Erech (Gen. x. 10) the modern Warka.
Considerably to the north of these again came Nipur (now Niffer), which
played a leading part in the history of Babylonian religion. Nipur
stood at the spot where the Tigris and Euphrates tended to approach one
another, and northward, in the narrowest part of the territory which
lay between them, were the important cities of Babel or Babylon, Kutha,
and Sippara. Babylon, called Bab-ili, 'the gate of God,' on the
monuments, lay on both sides of the Euphrates, its south-western suburb
being Borsippa. The great temple of Bel-Merodach, called Ê-Saggila,
rose within it; that of Nebo, the prophet and interpreter of Merodach,
being at Borsippa. Ê-Zida, the temple of Nebo, is now known as the
Birs-i-Nimrûd. Kutha (now Tell-Ibrahim), to the north of Babylon, was
surrounded by vast cemeteries, which were under the protection of its
patron-god Nergal. Sippara, still further to the north, was a double
city, one part of it, the present Abu-Habba, being termed 'Sippara of
the Sun-god,' while the other half was 'Sippara of the goddess Anunit.'
It is in consequence of this double character that the Old Testament
speaks of it as Sepharvaim 'the two Sipparas.'

Northward of Sippara the Tigris and Euphrates again trend apart from
one another and enclose the great plateau of Mesopotamia. To the east
of the Tigris come the mountains of Elam, 'the highlands,' and to the
north of them the Kurdish ranges, which were known to the primitive
Babylonians under the name of Guti or Gutium. At the foot of these
ranges, and northward of the Lower or Little Zab, the kingdom of
Assyria arose. It took its name from its original capital of Assur, now
Kalah-Sherghat, on the western bank of the Tigris, not far to the north
of the junction of the latter river with the Lower Zab. The supremacy
of Assur afterwards passed to Calah and Nineveh, which lay northward
between the Tigris and the Upper or Greater Zab. Calah (now Nimrûd) was
close to the junction of the two rivers; Nineveh (now Kouyunjik and
Nebi Yunus opposite Mosul) was built along the bank of the Tigris, the
stream of the Khoser flowing through the middle of it. Some miles to
the north, under the shelter of the hills, Sargon built a palace which
he called Dur-Sargon (the modern Khorsabad), and between Nineveh and
Calah lay Res-eni 'the head of the Spring,' the Resen of Gen. x. 12.

Population and Language.--Babylonia already had a long history behind
it when the kingdom of Assyria first arose. The main bulk of the
Assyrian population was Semitic, and the common language of the country
was Semitic also. But it was otherwise in Babylonia. Here the pioneers
of civilization, the builders of the great cities, the inventors of the
cuneiform system of writing, of astronomy, of mathematics, and of other
arts and sciences, belonged to a non-Semitic race and spoke an
agglutinative language. It is in this language that the earliest
records of the country are written and that the older clay-books were
compiled. For want of a better name scholars have called the language
and people to whom it belonged Accadian or Sumerian, or even
Accado-Sumerian. Accad and Sumer were the names given to the northern
and southern divisions of Babylonia respectively, and as it was in
Sumer that the old race and language lingered the longest, 'Sumerian'
would appear to be the best title to apply to them. Indeed it is
possible that the city of Agade or Accad, from which the district of
Accad seems to have derived its name, was of Semitic foundation. In any
case the Semitic element in Accad was from very early times stronger
than that in Sumer, and consequently the Sumerian dialect spoken in the
north was more largely affected by Semitic influence and the resulting
phonetic decay than was the dialect spoken in the south. Sumerian was
agglutinative, like the languages of the modern Finns or Turks, the
relations of grammar being expressed by suffixes (or prefixes) which
retain an independent meaning of their own. Thus _dingir_ is 'god,'
_dingir-ene_ 'gods,' _dingir-ene-ku_ 'to the gods;' _mu-ru_ 'I built,'
_mu-na-ru_ 'I built it.'

The Semitic dialects of Babylonia and Assyria differed very slightly
from one another, and they are therefore called by the common name of
Assyrian. We can trace the history of Assyrian by means of contemporaneous
monuments for nearly 4,000 years, beginning with the records of Sargon
of Accad (B.C. 3800) and ending with documents of the Parthian epoch.
Assyrian belongs to the northern group of Semitic languages, being more
closely related to Hebrew and Aramaic than it is to Arabic or Ethiopic.

The Chaldaeans.--When the Semites first obtained political power in
Babylonia we do not know. The earliest Semitic empire known to us is
that of Sargon of Accad. Babylon did not become the capital of a united
kingdom till much later, Khammurabi (B.C. 2350) being apparently the
first who made it so. Strictly speaking, it is only after this event
that the name of 'Babylonia' is applicable to the whole country. In the
Old Testament the Babylonians are called Kasdim, a word of uncertain
origin. It is rendered 'Chaldaeans' in the Authorized Version; the
classical Chaldaeans, however, took their name from the Kaldâ, a tribe
settled in the salt-marshes, of whom we first hear in an inscription of
the twelfth century B.C. One of their princes was Merodach-baladan
(Isaiah xxxix) who made himself master of all Babylonia. It is probable
that Nebuchadrezzar was also of Kaldâ descent. After the time of
Merodach-baladan the Kaldâ formed so integral a part of the population
as to give their name to the whole of it in the writings of the Greeks
and Romans, and after the fall of Babylonia, when Babylonian astrologers
and fortune-tellers made their way to the west, 'Chaldaean' became
synonymous with 'diviner.'

The Kassi.--Another element in the Babylonian population consisted of
the Kassi (the Kossaeans or Kissians of the Greeks), who came from the
mountains of Elam. They spoke originally a non-Semitic language, and
gave a dynasty of kings to Babylonia which lasted 576 years and nine
months. The dynasty was reigning in the century before the Exodus when
the cuneiform tablets of Tel el-Amarna were written, and we learn from
them that the Babylonians were at that time called Kassi (or Kasi) in

Natural Products.--The soil of Babylonia was exceedingly fertile. It
was the natural home of the wheat which still grows wild in the
neighbourhood of Anah. Herodotus tells us that 'the leaf of the wheat
and barley is as much as four fingers in width, and the stalks of the
millet and sesame are so tall that no one who has never been in that
country would believe me were I to mention their height.' It was
calculated that grain produced on an average a return of two hundred
for one on the seed sown, the return in favourable seasons being as
much as three hundred. The chief tree of the country was the palm.
Prices were frequently calculated in corn and dates, and the dates
among other uses served to make wine. Though vines seem to have been
grown, most of the grape-wine drunk in the country was imported from

Canals.--The whole country was intersected by canals, and carefully
irrigated by means of machines. The canals thus regulated the supply of
water and enabled it to be carried beyond the reach of the rivers. The
two principal canals were called the Nahar-Malcha or Royal River and
the Pallacopas (Pallukat in the inscriptions).

Architecture.--Babylonia was devoid of stone, which had to be brought
from the mountains of Elam or elsewhere. In this respect it offered a
striking contrast to Assyria, where good stone was plentiful. To this
absence of stone may be traced some of the peculiarities of its early
culture. It caused clay to become the common writing material of the
country, the cuneiform characters being impressed with a stylus upon
the tablet while the clay was still moist. It further obliged every
building to be of brick. This led to a great development of columnar
architecture, the wooden columns which supported the roof being
subsequently imitated in brick. The use of brick further led to the use
of stucco and painting. The walls of the Chaldaean houses, as we learn
from Ezekiel (xxiii. 14), were decorated with 'images portrayed with
vermilion,' unlike those of the Assyrian palaces which were lined with
slabs of sculptured alabaster. Assyrian art was, however, borrowed from
that of Babylonia; hence the colouration of the Assyrian bas-reliefs on
stone; hence also the great mounds on which the Assyrian palaces were
built. Such mounds were needful in the flat country of Babylonia where
inundations were frequent; in Assyria they were not required.

Asphalt and Naphtha.--Besides clay, Babylonia also furnishes asphalt
and naphtha. According to Poseidonios the naphtha was partly white,
partly black, the latter being that which was used for lamps. Naphtha
is still found near Hit, 130 miles to the north of Babylon.

Character of the Babylonians and Assyrians.--The contrast between the
physical characteristics of Babylonia and Assyria was paralleled by a
contrast between the characters of their inhabitants. The population of
Babylonia was pre-eminently agricultural and peaceable, that of Assyria
pre-eminently military. Babylonia was the land of letters; in Assyria
the power to read and write was mainly confined to the scribes. Both
Babylonians and Assyrians, however, were keen traders and merchants,
but while 'the cry of the Chaldaeans was in their ships,' the Assyrians
had no taste for the sea. The Babylonians seem to have been a gentler
people, more pious and superstitious; the Assyrians, on the other hand,
had a genius for organization and administrative work. Such differences
may be traced as much to a difference in the conditions under which
they lived as to a difference in race.



The Site of Babylon.--The site of Babylon was never forgotten. In the
twelfth century, Benjamin of Tudela describes the ruins of
Nebuchadrezzar's palace which he saw there, and in 1573 the English
traveller Eldred visited the spot, and found the Tower of Babel in the
Birs-i-Nimrûd, which he states to be a mile in circumference and about
as high as St. Paul's Cathedral. Other travellers have left notices of
the ruins. But the first to explore them scientifically was Rich, the
Resident of the East India Company at Bagdad, who surveyed and made a
map of them. His work on the site of the old city was published in
1811. But it was not until 1850 that the first excavations were made
by Sir A. H. Layard, which were followed in 1851-4 by the French
expedition under Fresnel, Thomas, and Oppert. The fruit of the
expedition was an elaborate memoir by Oppert, which marks an epoch in
the history of cuneiform decipherment, and determined the ancient
topography of Babylon. The excavations were resumed by Sir H. Rawlinson
in 1854, who discovered the architectural records of Nebuchadrezzar, at
the same time that other ancient sites of Babylonian civilization were
being excavated by Loftus and Taylor. At a much later period (in 1879
and 1882) the work of excavation was again taken up by Mr. Hormuzd
Rassam, who discovered the site of Sippara, and disinterred the ancient
temple there of the Sun-god. Equally important were the discoveries
made by the French consul, M. de Sarzec, in 1877-81 at Tello (the
ancient Lagas) in southern Chaldaea. Monuments of the early Sumerian
period of Babylonian history were brought to light, including seated
statues and bas-reliefs, which are now in the Museum of the Louvre.

The Site of Nineveh.--The identification of Nineveh was less easy than
that of Babylon. Its site was lost, although the natives of the
district had not altogether forgotten the name of Nunia, and Niebuhr in
the last century, believed that it marked the site of the Assyrian
capital[1]. But its real discovery was due to Rich. Shortly before his
visit to Mosul a bas-relief had been found on the opposite side of the
Tigris, which the Mohammedans had destroyed as being the work of the
'infidels.' His examination of the mounds from which it had come led to
the discovery of walls and cuneiform inscriptions, which left no doubt
in his mind that the site was that of Nineveh. He accordingly drew up a
map of the ruins, which he sent to Europe along with his collection of
Babylonian and Assyrian antiquities. A single case, three feet in
diameter, was sufficient for their accommodation in the British Museum.

        [1] In Dapper's _Circumstantial Description of Asia_, it is
        stated that opposite Mosul is 'a little town called up to the
        present day by Arab writers Nennouwi, and by the Turks Eski
        Mosul,' or Old Mosul.

Excavations.--These antiquities, however, inspired the French _savant_,
Mohl, with the conviction that if excavations were undertaken at the
place where they had been found, important results would follow.
Accordingly, he induced Botta, who had been sent as French Consul to
Mosul in 1842, to commence digging there the following year. Botta was
led by a native to the mound of Khorsabad, and his labours were soon
rewarded by the discovery of Assyrian sculptures covered with cuneiform
writing. The French government granted funds for the continuation of
the work, and before 1845 the palace of Sargon was laid bare.

Meanwhile Layard had arrived on the spot, and with the help of funds
principally supplied by Sir Stratford Canning, had opened trenches in
the mound of Nimrûd (the ancient Calah). The spoils of the palaces he
found here were transported to England in 1847. Among them was the
famous Black Obelisk, on which mention is made of Jehu of Israel. At
Kouyunjik also, among the ruins of the palaces of Sennacherib and
Assur-bani-pal, excavations had been begun. But it was only after the
return of Sir A. H. Layard to Mosul in 1849, with a grant from the
British Museum, that a systematic exploration of this mound took place.
Assisted by Mr. Hormuzd Rassam, he discovered here the libraries of
clay books from which most of our knowledge of Assyria and Babylonia
is derived. Excavations were further undertaken at Kalah Sherghat
(the ancient Assur), where the records of Tiglath-pileser I were
disinterred, in the ruined palaces of Sennacherib and Esar-haddon at
Nebi Yunus, at Arban on the Khabour (the ancient Sidikan), and at
several other places. When the work was closed in 1852, a new world of
art and literature had been revealed. Nothing further was done till
the beginning of 1873, when George Smith was sent to Nineveh by the
proprietors of the _Daily Telegraph_ in order to search for the missing
portions of the Deluge-tablet, and a year later he was again sent out
to excavate by the British Museum. After his death, near Aleppo, in
1876, the excavations were entrusted to Mr. Hormuzd Rassam, who, in
1878, discovered the bronze gates of Balawât, and three years later the
site of Sippara in Babylonia, as well as a library in the temple of its
Sun-god. A similar library has since been discovered (in 1891) by the
American expedition in the mounds of Niffer, where monuments of Sargon
of Accad (B.C. 3800) have been brought to light.

The Decipherment of the Inscriptions.--The decipherment of the
cuneiform texts has been one of the scientific triumphs of the present
century. The key was given by the inscriptions on the ruined palaces
and tombs of ancient Persia. Travellers at an early date had noticed
these inscriptions at Persepolis and elsewhere, and while some compared
the forms of the characters composing them to arrows, others considered
them to be wedges, _cunei_ in Latin. The latter comparison was the
origin of the term 'cuneiform,' ordinarily applied to them. We find it
already used by Hyde in his _Historia Religionis veterum Persarum_,
which was published at Oxford in 1700[2].

        [2] Hyde's words are 'ductuli pyramidales seu cuneiformes.'

The Italian traveller, Pietro della Valle, in 1621, was the first who
made the characters known in Europe by printing a few of them; at the
same time he put forward the correct suggestion that the inscriptions
were to be read from left to right. A more important collection of
signs, however, was published in 1693, in one of the early volumes (No.
201) of the _Philosophical Transactions_ of the Royal Society from the
papers of Mr. Flower, who had been specially charged by the East India
Company with the duty of investigating the antiquities of Persia. But
it was not till the middle of the eighteenth century that Cornelius van
Bruyn (1714) and Carsten Niebuhr (1774-8), the father of the historian,
first copied and published the inscriptions in anything like a complete
and accurate manner. Niebuhr further pointed out that they comprised
three different systems of cuneiform writing, which in the case of
every text followed one another in a regular order. The first system of
writing was the simplest, as it consisted of only forty-two different
characters, whereas the number of characters in the second and third
systems was very large.

With Niebuhr's publication the work of decipherment became possible.
In 1798, Professor Tychsen, of Rostock, discovered that in the first
system an oblique wedge was used to divide the words from one another,
and in 1802 the Danish Bishop, Münter, starting from this basis,
showed that the language possessed suffixes, pointed out that certain
characters denoted vowels, and even divined the word for 'king,' as
well as the value of two letters, one of them being _a_. He also
maintained that while the first system of writing was alphabetic,
the second was syllabic, and the third ideographic, and that as
the inscriptions were found in Persia and on the buildings of the
Achaemenian kings, the text which always comes first must represent
the language of ancient Persia, which he identified, though
erroneously, with Zend.

It is, however, to George Frederick Grotefend, of Hanover, that the
discovery of the key which has unlocked the secrets of cuneiform
literature is really due. On September 4, 1802, he read before the
Royal Society of Göttingen a Memoir, in which he announced his
discovery of the names of certain Achaemenian kings in the cuneiform
inscriptions, and explained the method by which he had arrived at his
results. By a curious coincidence it was at the same meeting of the
Society that Heyne described the first efforts that had been made
towards deciphering the Egyptian hieroglyphics. Grotefend first showed
convincingly that the inscriptions must be read from left to right, a
portion of a word which ends a line on the right side in one of the
texts beginning the next line on the left side in a duplicate copy of
it. He next pointed out that the analogy of the Sassanian inscriptions,
which had just been deciphered by de Sacy, indicated that the
Persepolitan texts must commence with the names of the kings who had
erected the monuments, followed by their titles, and that a comparison
of the texts one with another made it pretty evident that such was
actually the case. In this way he succeeded in finding (like Münter
before him) the word for 'king,' and in addition to this the royal
names preceding it. Those on the Persepolitan monuments represented a
father and a son, though in certain cases the father added his own
father's name, but without the royal titles. Thanks to the classical
writers, it was known that the monuments were of Achaemenian origin,
and the names of the Achaemenian kings had also been preserved. It only
remained to fit them to the characters in the cuneiform texts.
Hystaspes, Darius, and Xerxes alone suited, since Cyrus was too short
and Artaxerxes too long; moreover, the letters _a_, _r_, and _sh_, in
the names of Darius and Xerxes appeared in their right places if these
names were adopted. So, too, did _a_ and _sh_ in the name of Hystaspes.
Such a coincidence was sufficient to prove that Grotefend was right in
his guess that the words in question represented proper names, for
guess it was, though founded on strong probability and scientific
induction. He had noticed that two of the names (those of Darius and
Xerxes) occurred separately on two particular groups of monuments,
whereas the word which followed them was always the same. It was
natural to conclude that the latter word denoted 'king,' while those
which preceded it were proper names.

The alphabet Grotefend had constructed out of the proper names enabled
him to read the word for 'king,' and thus to show its near affinity to
the corresponding word in Zend. But he was a classical scholar rather
than an orientalist, better known by his Latin grammar than by his
knowledge of Eastern languages, and consequently as soon as his
pioneering work of decipherment was accomplished, he lacked the
philological knowledge which would have allowed him to continue it.
Moreover, he was hampered by the false theory that the language of the
inscriptions was identical with Zend. The next step of importance was
taken by Rask in 1826, who discovered the termination of the genitive
plural and the true reading of the title 'Achaemenian.' Rask was
followed in 1836 by the great Zendic scholar Burnouf at Paris, and
by Lassen at Bonn. Burnouf demonstrated that the language of the
Achaemenian texts was not Zend, but a sister dialect spoken in western
Persia, and his discovery of the names of the satrapies, in one of the
inscriptions copied by Niebuhr, enabled him and Lassen simultaneously
almost to complete what we may henceforth call the Old Persian
alphabet. A few corrections in it were subsequently made by Beer,
Jacquet, Holzmann, and Lassen himself.

Meanwhile a young English officer in the East India Company's service,
now Sir Henry Rawlinson, had been working in Persia unassisted, and at
a distance from libraries, upon the Old Persian texts. He knew that
Grotefend had discovered in them the names of the early Achaemenian
monarchs, and with this clue he set himself to construct an alphabet
and interpret the inscriptions. He soon found means of providing
himself with fuller materials for the work of decipherment than those
at the disposal of scholars in Europe, by copying the great inscription
which Darius had caused to be engraved on the sacred rock of Bagistana
or Behistun in commemoration of his accession to the throne of Persia,
and re-conquest of the empire of Cyrus. The task of copying the
inscription--by far the longest Persian one known--was an arduous
one, and not unattended with danger, and it occupied several years.
Rawlinson first saw the inscription in 1835; it was not till 1839 that
the whole of it was copied. A few years later he revised it again, but
his memoir upon it and upon the other Old Persian texts was not ready
for publication till 1845. In the following year the text was published
by the Royal Asiatic Society, and the translation and commentary
followed in 1849. Dr. Hincks, of Dublin, had already (in 1846) given
the last touch to the decipherment of the Old Persian alphabet by the
discovery that the consonants composing it contained inherent vowels.

As we have seen, Niebuhr had perceived that the Persepolitan
inscriptions were in three different systems of writing. But it was
only after the decipherment of the Persian texts that it was found that
the three systems of writing embodied three separate languages, and
belonged to three separate countries. As in modern Turkey a governor
has to issue an edict in agglutinative Turkish, Semitic Arabic, and
Aryan Persian, so too in ancient Persia a king who wished to be
understood by all his subjects had to appeal to them in the Aryan
language of Persian itself, in the Semitic language of Babylonia and
Assyria, and in the agglutinative language of Susiania or Elam. When
the second and third systems of writing came to be read it was
discovered that the second contained the script and language of
Elam--sometimes, but incorrectly, called Scythian, Medic or Protomedic,
sometimes, more properly, Amardian or Neo-Susian--while the third was
Babylonian. The three capitals of the empire, Persepolis, Susa and
Babylon, were thus each of them represented.

The number of characters used in Amardian, though large, was limited,
and accordingly, with the help of the proper names occurring in the Old
Persian texts, a syllabary, or list of characters each expressing a
syllable, was soon formed and the work of translation commenced.
Westergaard, the Dane, who had already travelled in Persia, and there
copied the inscription on the tomb of Darius at Naksh-i-Rustem, led the
way in 1845. He was followed by Hincks, de Saulcy, and above all Edwin
Norris, the learned Secretary of the Royal Asiatic Society, who
published in 1853 the Amardian (or as he called it the 'Scythic')
version of the Behistun inscription, with an elaborate translation,
commentary, and vocabulary. Further progress, in the study of the
language was made by Oppert, whose book _Le Peuple et la Langue
des Mèdes_ (1879) is a monument of systematic research. Sayce's
decipherment of the inscriptions of Mal-Amir, south-east of Susa, in
1884 (in the Proceedings of the Sixth Oriental Congress), showed that
we must look to that part of Susiania for the origin of the Amardian
syllabary and dialect. The language was, in fact, one of the
agglutinative dialects spoken in Elam, the native language of Susa
itself being closely related to it. Unfortunately, however, there is no
known language with which the dialects of ancient Elam can be compared,
and consequently our knowledge of them hardly extends beyond the help
afforded by the trilingual Persian texts.

The decipherment of the third system of writing long seemed to baffle
the inquirer. The characters were multitudinous, some of them were
plainly ideographs, denoting ideas and not letters or syllables, while
the same character did not always appear to have the same value.
Moreover, the belief that the characters must represent alphabetic
letters long stood in the way of the decipherer. Grotefend had already
observed that they resembled in form the characters found on some of
the antiquities which came from Babylonia, but it was not till after
the excavation of Nineveh that any serious effort was made to decipher
them. Botta and Layard, at the very outset, pointed out that the script
used in Assyria was the same as that of the third Achaemenian system,
and thus attracted fresh attention to the latter. Löwenstern was the
first to attack the problem in 1845. His first essays, however, were
unsuccessful, like those of de Saulcy in 1847, and his second
publication (in 1847) did little more than establish the fact that the
same name might be written with different signs. In the same year de
Longpérier correctly deciphered the words and ideographs denoting
'palace,' 'king,' 'great,' and the like, though without being able to
read phonetically any one of them. But in 1848 Botta published the
numerous inscriptions he had discovered at Khorsabad, at the same time
subjecting them to a careful analysis. He divided them into words,
wherever it was possible, noting the variations in writing the same
word, and drawing up a list of 642 classified characters. He further
proved that the terminations or suffixes of words in the Assyrian texts
agreed with those of the third Achaemenian system, an indication that
the language was the same as well as the script. Finally he made it
clear that the script contained not only phonetic characters, but also
ideographs, and he correctly determined many of these ideographs,
including that which denotes plurality. All that was now needed was to
discover the phonetic equivalents of the characters.

This was done half a year later by de Saulcy, who analyzed the
Babylonian transcript of the Achaemenian inscription at Elwend, and
gave phonetic values to 120 characters. He was, however, still under
the belief that they represented letters instead of syllables, and was
consequently obliged to admit the existence of 'homophones.' The fact
that they really represented syllables,--_ba_, _bi_, _be_, _bu_,
&c.--was discovered by Dr. Hincks immediately afterwards (1847 and
1850). Hincks also discovered the name of Nebuchadrezzar in the
Babylonian inscriptions, and by the further discovery that an
inscription brought from Babylon by Sir Robert Ker-Porter, which was
written in the complicated characters of early Babylonia, was a
duplicate of one in the 'Neo-Babylonian' characters of the Achaemenian
era, he made it possible to read the oldest forms of Babylonian script.
From this time forward the work of decipherment went on apace. The
Semitic character of the Assyro-Babylonian language, which had been
guessed at by Löwenstern, was now put beyond question, and the
well-known laws of Semitic grammar came to the help of the student in
reading the text. In 1851 Rawlinson published the Babylonian text of
the Behistun inscription, and in his commentary upon it announced to a
wondering and incredulous world the existence in Assyrian of
'polyphones.' If the method of decipherment were right, it was
necessary to assume that the same character could have more than one
phonetic value. The cause of this extraordinary fact--which, however,
is paralleled in Old Egyptian as well as in Japanese--was soon made
clear by Oppert, Hincks, and Rawlinson himself. The Assyrian syllabary,
which had originally been a collection of pictorial hieroglyphs, was
not the invention of the Semitic Babylonians, but of an earlier people
who spoke an agglutinative language, and to whom the name of Accadians
or Sumerians was given. When the script was adopted by the Semites, the
Sumerian words denoting the objects or ideas for which the characters
stood became phonetic values; thus _du_ 'to go' and _gub_ 'to stand'
became the phonetic values of the character which had originally been a
picture of a human leg.

The interpretation of the Assyrian and Babylonian texts now advanced
rapidly, in spite of the smallness of the body of students, and the
incredulity of Orientalists, especially in Germany. In 1847 Rawlinson
was able to give a fairly complete account of the several varieties of
cuneiform writing, and in 1850 he published a translation of the long
inscription of Shalmaneser II on the Black Obelisk of Nimrûd. The
translation is on the whole marvellously correct, and proves
conclusively the soundness of the method on which it was based. The
proper names, however, were still but imperfectly read, and it was not
till Hincks discovered the names of Jehu and Omri in the inscription
(in 1851) that the age of it could be fixed. Shortly afterwards Hincks
deciphered the names of Hezekiah and Jerusalem in the texts of
Sennacherib, as well as the name of Sennacherib himself, and thus
showed that Longpérier had been right in his conjecture that the king
of the Khorsabad monuments was Sargon. The foundation of Assyrian
grammar was next laid by Hincks in 1855 in a series of remarkable
articles on the Assyrian verb, to which the progress of discovery has
since added little that is important. A complete and systematic grammar
itself was first written by Dr. Oppert in 1860, and eight years
afterwards M. Ménant analyzed his results and tested their correctness.

The Decipherment tested.--Orientalists, however, still looked askance
at the new science which threatened to dwarf the older Semitic
learning. The Council of the Royal Asiatic Society, accordingly,
determined to subject it to a conclusive test. Copies of the annals of
Tiglath-pileser I, which had been found at Kalah Sherghat, were sent to
Rawlinson, Hincks, Fox Talbot, and Oppert; they were asked to translate
them independently of one another, and send the translations under seal
by a given date to the Secretary of the Society. When the translations
were opened they were found to be in substantial agreement. This was in
1857, a year which we may therefore regard as closing the first epoch
of decipherment.

Sumerian.--The decipherment of the Assyrian texts brought with
it the decipherment of the Sumerian texts. The library of Nineveh was
stocked with tablets intended to facilitate the study of the old
language of Chaldaea. Among them are grammars, vocabularies, and
reading-books, as well as interlinear or parallel translations of
Sumerian texts in the Semitic language of Babylon and Assyria. Oppert
in his _Expédition scientifique en Mésopotamie_ led the way to the
use of them in 1859, and the outlines of Sumerian grammar were first
sketched by Sayce in 1870, followed by Lenormant in 1873. Since then
the labours of Lenormant, Haupt (who demonstrated the existence of two
Accado-Sumerian dialects), Hommel, Amiaud, Ball and others, have given
us an extensive knowledge of the primitive language of Babylonia.

Vannic.--Northward of Assyria, in Ararat, the modern Armenia, the
cuneiform script of Nineveh had been borrowed in the ninth century B.C.
As the characters of the script continued to preserve their Assyrian
values there was no difficulty in transliterating them, and as early as
1852 Hincks read the names of the kings they had been employed to
write, and even used them in determining the values of the characters
found at Nineveh. The majority of the inscriptions, which had been
copied by Schulz at the cost of his life in 1829, and published in
France in 1840, were met with in the neighbourhood of Van; hence the
term 'Vannic' which is usually applied to them. The language in which
they are written was however utterly unknown, and bore no obvious
relationship to any with which we are acquainted; consequently though
the texts could be transliterated they could not be translated. More
than one attempt was made to decipher them, but to no purpose, until
1882 when Guyard pointed out that the formula with which many of them
end corresponds with the imprecation often attached to the Assyrian
inscriptions, and Sayce, following up this clue, with the help of the
ideographs borrowed from Assyria, finally succeeded in solving the
problem. A bilingual text (Assyrian and Vannic), recently discovered by
M. de Morgan in the pass of Kelishin in Kurdistan, has verified the
correctness of his results, which have been further modified or
extended by D. H. Müller, Belck, and Lehmann.

Other Languages.--Yet two more languages written in the cuneiform
syllabary have lately been revealed by the cuneiform tablets found at
Tel el-Amarna in Upper Egypt. One was the language of Mitanni, the
Aram-Naharaim of the Old Testament, in which there is a long letter
from the king of Mitanni to the Egyptian Pharaoh. The other language,
which is quite distinct from that of Mitanni, was spoken at Arzawa in
northern Syria. Both languages are still undeciphered[3].

        [3] For the language of Mitanni, called that of Su(ri) in the
        Assyrian lexical lists, see Jensen, Brünnow, and myself in the
        _Zeitschrift für Assyriologie_, v. 2, 3 (Aug. 1890), and for
        that of Arzawa see my letter to the _Academy_, Aug. 20, 1892,
        pp. 154, 155.

The origin of the Cuneiform Syllabary.--As we have seen, the pictorial
origin of the cuneiform characters was perceived in the early days of
Assyrian decipherment, as well as the cause of their polyphony. Their
wedge-like forms were due to the use of clay as a writing material. The
impression made by the stylus upon it resembled a wedge; curved lines
became angles, and after a time the original picture passed into a
conventional form. In the course of centuries the characters grew more
and more simplified by the omission of unnecessary wedges, the least
complicated being those of the official hand of Assyria, and the later
Babylonian or Persepolitan script. It must not be supposed, however,
that when the system of writing ceased to be pictorial it was already
complete. Down to a comparatively late period new characters were
invented or old characters combined in a new way, while new phonetic
and ideographic values were assigned to the characters which already
existed. Though the syllabary is essentially of Sumerian origin there
is much in it which is traceable to a Semitic source. Many of the
values given to the characters as well as many of their ideographic
meanings are Semitic. Moreover the Sumerians and Semites lived in
contact with one another long after the adoption of Sumerian culture by
the Semitic nomads; consequently not only did the Semites borrow
Sumerian words, the Sumerians borrowed Semitic words, more especially
in the northern part of the country. The early date at which some of
these were borrowed is shown by their having undergone the phonetic
changes which distinguished the northern Accado-Sumerian dialect from
the southern. False etymologizing also has given rise to new values
just as it has given rise to new spellings in English. The Semitic
scribes of a later day were as fond of deriving Semitic words from
Sumerian as our own etymologists used to be of deriving Teutonic words
from Latin, Greek, or Hebrew. Thus the purely Semitic _sabattu_
'Sabbath,' from _sabâtu_ 'to rest,' is derived from the two Sumerian
words _sa_ 'heart' and _bat_ 'to complete,' and interpreted to mean 'a
day of rest for the heart.'

Simplification of the Syllabary.--The script used at Susa before the
overthrow of the kingdom of Elam was the same as the archaic script of
Babylonia. But the Amardian syllabary was a selected one. Not only were
the forms of the characters simplified, a comparatively small number
of them was employed to each of which one value only was assigned. In
the Vannic texts also polyphony was similarly avoided. Characters
expressing open syllables like _ba_ and _ab_ were chosen, to which a
few more denoting closed syllables and ideographs were added; but in no
case was a character allowed to possess more than one value. Large use
was further made of the vowels, the syllable _ba_, for example, being
written _ba-a_, so that the syllabary tended to become an alphabet.
This step was taken in Old Persian, where the forms of the letters were
often so simplified as to lose all resemblance to their primitive
forms. Apart from its alphabet of thirty-six letters Old Persian
retained only one syllabic character (_t[r.]_) and a few ideographs.

The pictorial origin of the syllabary has proved of important
assistance in reading the texts. Certain of the ideographs were used as
'determinatives' for indicating the generic character of the word to
which they are prefixed or affixed. Thus there is a determinative to
denote that the word which follows is the name of a 'city,' and another
which shows that the preceding word is a plural. In this way a glance
at an Assyrian, an Amardian, or a Vannic text will enable us at once to
distinguish the names of men, women, towns, countries, animals, trees,
metals, stones, and the like. It is a help which we look for in vain in
Phoenician or Hebrew inscriptions.



Different States in Babylonia.--More than one kingdom originally
existed in Babylonia. Not only were there separate kingdoms in Accad
and Sumer, or northern and southern Chaldaea, many of the great cities
also once formed separate states. The excavations at Tello, for
instance, have revealed the existence of a dynasty which had its seat
there, and the ancestral kingdom of Sargon of Accad does not seem to
have extended beyond the territory of its chief city. The smaller
states were, however, absorbed by the larger ones, and a time came when
the whole of Babylonia was united into a single monarchy, whose ruler
assumed the imperial title of 'king of Sumer and Accad.' As in Egypt,
therefore, a recollection of the original dual character of the kingdom
was preserved in the title of its kings.

It is probable that the various states of Babylonia were more than once
brought into temporary union before the final unification of the
monarchy took place. Sargon of Accad, for instance, seems to have
claimed supremacy over the rest of Chaldaea, and the dynasties which
subsequently arose at Urand other places adopted the imperial title,
although the country was not finally united under a single head until
the reign of Khammurabi. It was to this early period that the maritime
trade and civilizing influence of Eridu chiefly belongs.

The first Empire.--Sargon of Accad founded the earliest Semitic empire
of which we know. According to Nabonidos he lived more than 3,200 years
before the time of the last Babylonian king, that is to say about 3800
B.C. His father, Itti-Bel, had no royal title, and legend gathered
around his birth. His uncle, it was said, ruled in the mountains, and
his mother concealed her child in an ark of rushes, daubed with pitch,
which she entrusted to the waters of the Euphrates. Here he was found
by a peasant, who brought him up as his own son. But the goddess Istar
loved the peasant lad, and the time at last came when he was able to
declare his true character and ascend the throne of his fathers.

A copy has been preserved of the historical annals of Sargon and his
son Naram-Sin, which must have been compiled in the reign of the
latter, as they break off in the middle of it. We learn from them that
Sargon not only established his rule over Babylonia and the adjoining
districts, he also defeated the Elamites, and made four expeditions
into Syria, 'the land of the Amorites.' The last of these expeditions
occupied three years, and ended with the erection of images of the
Chaldaean king on the shores of the Mediterranean, and with the
conquest of the countries 'of the sea of the setting sun,' which he
united 'into a single empire.' His last campaign was against the
Aram-Naharaim of Scripture in north-western Mesopotamia. Babylon is
already mentioned as one of his seats of power; his capital, however,
was at Agade or Accad, where on one occasion he was unsuccessfully
besieged by his revolted subjects. Here, too, he founded a famous
library, for which the standard work on astronomy and astrology was
compiled in seventy-two books. A translation of it into Greek was made
in later days by the Chaldaean historian Bêrôssos.

Sargon's son and successor Naram-Sin continued his father's victorious
career, and Palestine being already secured behind him, marched into
the land of Magan, by which name Midian and the Sinaitic peninsula were
known, and captured its king. A record of the conquest was engraved on
an alabaster vase discovered by the French Expedition to Babylonia, but
unfortunately lost in the Tigris. Naram-Sin, like one or two other
Babylonian monarchs of the same early epoch, received divine honours.

The monuments of Tello.--The oldest monuments found at Tello in
southern Chaldaea belong to the age of Sargon and Naram-Sin. But
whereas the court of Sargon was Semitic, that of the kings of Tello was
Sumerian. At a later date Tello lost its independence, and its rulers
became merely _patesis_ or high-priests. One of these was Gudea, whose
statue may be seen in the Louvre. In his time building-materials were
brought to Chaldaea from all parts of Western Asia; thus cedar beams
were imported from Mount Amanus, and diorite from the land of Magan. It
was out of this diorite that the statues were cut. Another of the
_patesis_ of Tello was the vassal of Dungi, king of Ur, whose father
had built or restored the great temple of the Moon-god in that city,
and had claimed sovereignty over the whole of Babylonia.

Chronology.--These early sovereigns are known to us by the bricks and
other objects which they have left behind, but we cannot arrange them
in a chronological order. Chronology begins with what is called by the
native historians 'the dynasty of Babylon.' From this time forward the
tablets have preserved the names of the Babylonian kings divided into
dynasties, together with the length of each reign as well as of each
dynasty. The sixth king of the dynasty of Babylon was Khammurabi, who
reigned fifty-five years (B.C. 2356-2301)[4], and whose reign marks an
epoch in Babylonian history.

        [4] The date partly depends upon the number of years assigned
        to the dynasty to which Nabonassar belonged, which unfortunately
        is not stated by the native historians. Consequently, other
        Assyriologists make it, sometimes a little higher, sometimes a
        little lower. For the justification of my date see the _Records
        of the Past_, New Series, pp. viii-xi.

The United Monarchy.--When Khammurabi ascended the throne, Babylonia
was either wholly or in part under Elamite suzerainty. That portion of
it of which Larsa was the capital was governed by Eri-Aku (probably the
Arioch of Genesis), who was a son of the Elamite prince Kudur-Mabug.
Kudur-Mabug was not himself king, but as he has the title of 'father of
the land of the Amorites' he must have held rule in Syria. Khammurabi
succeeded in overthrowing Eri-Aku and his Elamite allies and in making
himself sole king of Babylonia. Babylon, his capital, thus became, and
remained, the capital of the united kingdom. It was soon the scene of
a great literary revival. The older literature of the country was
re-edited, new authors arose, and the court of Khammurabi revived the
literary glories of that of Sargon. As his great-grandson still calls
himself 'king of the land of the Amorites' we may infer that the
conquests in Syria were not lost.

The rise of Assyria.--The dynasty of Khammurabi was followed by one
which came from Tello, whose kings bear Sumerian names. Then Babylonia
was conquered by Kassite princes who ruled over it for 576 years and
nine months (B.C. 1806-1229). While the Kassite dynasty was reigning, a
new kingdom arose in the north, that of Assyria. The high-priests of
the city of Assur became kings, the first of whom seems to have been
Bel-Kapkapu. The kingdom rapidly grew in power, and although Babylonia
exacted tribute from it, its kings began to ally themselves by marriage
with the rulers of the southern monarchy. In the fifteenth century B.C.
Assuryuballidh of Assyria, like his contemporary Burna-buryas of
Babylonia, sent letters and presents to the Egyptian Pharaoh and begged
in return for Egyptian gold, and a century later the city of Calah was
built (or restored) by Shalmaneser I. His son Tiglath-Uras in the sixth
year of his reign marched against Babylonia, captured Babylon and
governed it for seven years. He was then driven out of the country and
subsequently murdered by his own son. The Kassite dynasty, however, did
not last long after the Assyrian invasion. The Assyrian king had
entered Babylon in B.C. 1291, and in B.C. 1229 the dynasty came to an

Babylon a sacred city.--From this time forward for many centuries
Assyria, and not Babylonia, occupies the chief place in the history of
western Asia. It needed a Nebuchadrezzar to make Babylonia once more a
conquering power. But Babylon itself remained the sacred city of the
cultured nations of Asia. Its old _prestige_ and hallowed associations
clung to it, and it became what Rome was to mediaeval Europe. An
Assyrian king, however powerful he might be, could not claim the
imperial title until he had 'taken the hands of Bel' and thereby been
adopted as a son by the god of Babylon. Indeed it was only in this
way that usurpers like Tiglath-pileser III and Sargon obtained any
recognition of their legitimate right to the throne. The sanction of
religion remained with Babylon, though the sword had passed to Assyria.

Tiglath-pileser I.--One of the most famous of the early Assyrian
conquerors was Tiglath-pileser I (B.C. 1100). He carried his arms in
all directions. Eastward he chastised the Kurds, northward he
penetrated into the mountains of Armenia and engraved his image at the
sources of the Tigris; and in the west he overthrew the Moschians, the
Meshech of the Bible, ravaging the land of Komagênê, laying Malatiyeh
under tribute, threatening the Hittites in their stronghold at
Carchemish, and making his way to the shores of the Mediterranean. Here
he sailed over the sea in a ship of Arvad, and received presents from
the terrified Pharaoh of Egypt which comprised a crocodile and a
hippopotamus. Southward he invaded Babylonia, and though repulsed in
his first attack he avenged himself by subsequently over-running the
country and capturing Babylon. He was also mighty in the hunting-field
as well as in war, and in the neighbourhood of Harran boasts of having
slain the wild elephants which then existed there. His own capital
Assur he adorned with the spoils of his victories and restored its

The First Assyrian Empire.--We have to pass over an interval of two
centuries before we find another Assyrian monarch who emulated the
distant campaigns of Tiglath-pileser. Assur-natsir-pal (B.C. 883-858)
was the first of a line of conquerors who may be regarded as the
founders of the first Assyrian empire. From henceforth, too, Assyrian
chronology is accurately fixed. The Assyrians counted time by means
of certain officers called _limmi_, who were changed from year to
year. The name of a particular _limmu_ consequently indicated the year
during which he had held office. Lists of the _limmi_ have been
preserved which begin with the reign of Assur-natsir-pal's father
and carry us down to that of Assur-bani-pal. As the annals not only
of Tiglath-pileser I, but also of an older king, the father of
Shalmaneser I, are dated in the years of office of certain _limmi_ it
is clear that the institution went back to an early period, and that
lists of the older _limmi_ may yet be recovered, carrying us, it may
be, to the very foundation of the Assyrian kingdom.

Calah, instead of Assur, had become the royal residence, and from Calah
accordingly the Assyrian armies marched forth year after year to
conquer and spoil. The fastnesses of the Kurdish mountains were
explored, and the Kurdish tribes compelled to pay tribute to the
Assyrian king. The cities of Armenia south of Lake Van were ravaged in
repeated campaigns, one effect of which seems to have been the
introduction of Assyrian culture and writing, and the rise of the
Vannic monarchy. The merchant princes of Carchemish bought off the
Assyrian attack with rich gifts, but the states on either bank of the
Euphrates were overrun, and Assur-natsir-pal made his way across Amanus
to the Gulf of Antioch, and across Lebanon to the Mediterranean. Here
he received the tribute of the Phoenician cities, among them being Tyre
and Sidon. In imitation of Tiglath-pileser I he hunted in northern
Mesopotamia, but the elephant had disappeared from the region, and he
had to content himself with the wild bull.

Assur-natsir-pal was succeeded by his son Shalmaneser II, whose reign
ended in B.C. 823. His long reign was a series of military campaigns.
Countries previously untrodden by Assyrian feet were subdued or ravaged
with fire and sword. Assyrian armies made their way through the passes
of Kurdistan as far as Lake Urumiyeh and the land of the Minni. The
newly-founded kingdom of Ararat was shaken, the Tibareni (called Tubal
in Scripture) paid tribute, and Tarsus in Cilicia was compelled to open
its gates. The passage of the Euphrates was secured by the capture of
the Hittite fortress of Pethor at the junction of the Euphrates and the
Sajur, and the whole weight of the Assyrian power was hurled against
Syria. The Phoenician cities made their peace with the invader by
offering gifts; so too did Jehu (Yahua) of Samaria, whose ambassadors
are represented on the Black Obelisk. Hamath and Damascus, more
especially the latter, had to bear the brunt of the Assyrian attack. In
B.C. 853, thirteen years before the embassy of Jehu, Israel and Assyria
had already met in the battle-field. A league had been formed by
Hamath, Arvad, Ammon, and other states under the leadership of
Hadadezer of Damascus--the Ben-hadad of the Old Testament--to resist
the Assyrians, and one of the most important of the allies was 'Ahab of
Israel,' who brought into the field 2,000 chariots and 10,000 men. But
the confederacy was shattered at the battle of Qarqar, though
Shalmaneser's own losses were too serious to allow him to follow up the
attack. In B.C. 847 Hadadezer and his allies were again defeated, but
without any result on the Assyrian side. Seven years later Hazael
appears in the place of Hadadezer. Shalmaneser drove him from his camp
into Damascus, where he 'shut him up,' taking from him 1,121 chariots
and devastating the country as far as the Hauran. It was on this
occasion that Jehu offered homage to the conqueror. Shalmaneser had
already overrun Babylonia and sacrificed to the gods in Babylon,
Borsippa, and Cutha. The Babylonian king was put to death, and the
Assyrian troops penetrated into the salt-marshes of the Kaldâ in the
extreme south. For a time, therefore, the larger part of western Asia
lay at the feet of 'the great king.'

A time came, however, when Shalmaneser could no longer lead his armies
in person, but had to entrust them to the Tartan or commander-in-chief.
His own son Assur-dain-pal rebelled against him, and led the chief
cities of his kingdom, including Nineveh and Assur, into revolt (B.C.
827). The revolt lasted for more than six years, and during its
continuance the old king was succeeded by his son Samsi-Rimmon who
eventually suppressed the insurrection. Assur-dain-pal seems to have
been the original Sardanapallos of the Greeks. The campaigns of
Samsi-Rimmon were principally directed against the Kurds and Medes, but
towards the end of his reign he invaded Babylonia and defeated its
king, Merodach-balásu-iqbi, the Greek Belesys. His successor
Rimmon-nirari III (B.C. 810-781) claims to have overcome Media and
Kurdistan, Tyre, Sidon, Samaria, and Palastu, 'the land of the
Philistines,' under which title the Jews would be included. But his
chief exploit was the conquest of Damascus, whose king Marih opened its
gates to him and became an Assyrian vassal.

The older Assyrian dynasty, however, was fast coming to an end. In B.C.
753 its last representative, Assur-nirari, mounted the throne.
Insurrection had already broken out at the beginning of his
predecessor's reign, and pestilence had been added to insurrection. The
old capital Assur had led the revolt, a solar eclipse on June 15, B.C.
763 coinciding with its outbreak. The northern provinces had followed
the lead of Assur, and though the revolt was crushed for a while, the
flame of discontent still smouldered beneath the surface. The greater
part of Assur-nirari's short reign was passed in inaction, but in B.C.
746 Calah rebelled, and on the 13th of Iyyar in the following year Pulu
or Pul, who took the name of Tiglath-pileser III, after that of the
great conqueror of the older dynasty, was proclaimed king. With him
begins the history of the second Assyrian empire.

The Second Assyrian Empire.--With the second Assyrian empire a new
political idea entered the world. Most of the campaigns made by the
earlier Assyrian kings were mere raids, the object of which was booty
and captives. It is true that in some cases cities and districts were
annexed to the Assyrian kingdom and Assyrian colonists were planted in
distant localities. But this was the exception, not the rule. The
conquests made in one year by the Assyrian armies had to be made over
again in the next. The campaigns of Tiglath-pileser III and his
successors had a different object in view. They aimed at bringing the
whole civilized world under the rule of 'the great king.' A great
political organization was to be built up, which should bring the
wealth of Western Asia into the imperial treasury of Nineveh and divert
the trade of Phoenicia and Babylon into Assyrian hands. Trade interests
had much to do with the wars of the New Empire.

Accordingly, while the frontiers of the kingdom were secured from the
wild tribes on the east and north, expedition after expedition was sent
westward and southward which pushed steadily forward the Assyrian
domination. Satraps and colonists followed in the wake of the generals;
and the amount of annual tribute to be paid by each province was
defined and rigorously exacted from its governor. The latter was
appointed by the king, and held his office at the royal pleasure. At
his side were military officers, and under him a body of officials who
were responsible to the governor as he was to the king.

The New Empire was thus governed by a vast bureaucracy, at the head of
which stood the king. But the bureaucracy was military as well as
civil, and the military and civil elements formed a check one upon the
other. The military element was, however, predominant, the result of
the fact that the empire itself was based on conquest.

The army was carefully trained, well disciplined, and well armed. It
thus soon became an irresistible weapon in the hands of a competent
master. Before Tiglath-pileser's reign was half over there was no force
in western Asia which was capable of resisting it in open fight.

Tiglath-pileser reigned eighteen years (B.C. 745-727), and his
organizing abilities proved to be as great as his military skill. An
invasion of Babylonia first tested the strength of his army, and
resulted in the subjection of the Aramaean tribes in that country to
Assyrian rule. Then followed an expedition into Kurdistan. The Medes
were massacred, and the Assyrian army pushed its way far eastward to
Bikni, 'the mountain of the rising sun.' Next Tiglath-pileser turned to
the north-west. Here he was met by a powerful confederacy, at the head
of which was the king of Ararat. But the forces of the northern nations
were cut to pieces in Komagene, and Arpad, which had become the centre
of a hostile Syrian league, was captured after a siege of three years.
The league had included Hamath and Azariah of Judah, and Hamath was
consequently annexed to the Assyrian empire. The princes of the West
hastened to offer homage to the conqueror, among them being Rezon of
Damascus and Menahem of Samaria (B.C. 738). Tiglath-pileser was now
free to march against Ararat, which had extended its power at the
expense of Assyria in the later days of the old dynasty. The country
was ravaged up to the gates of its capital, and the Vannic kingdom
received a blow from which it never recovered. The Assyrian army next
turned eastward to the southern shores of the Caspian, and made its way
through Medic and other districts which neither before nor since were
trodden by Assyrian feet. The exploit struck terror into the Kurdish
tribes, and secured the Assyrian lowlands from their attack.

Meanwhile Ahaz of Judah had been threatened by Rezon of Damascus and
Pekah of Israel, and he now appealed to the Assyrian king for help.
Tiglath-pileser, nothing loth, marched against the assailants. Rezon
was blockaded in his capital, while Samaria, Ammon, Moab, and Philistia
were overrun (B.C. 734). Two years later (B.C. 732), Damascus was taken
and sacked, Rezon put to death and his kingdom placed under an Assyrian
prefect. Pekah, too, had been murdered, and Tiglath-pileser had
appointed Hosea king in his place. About the same time Tyre was
compelled to purchase peace by the payment of 150 talents.

With his empire consolidated in the west, and the road to the
Mediterranean open to Assyrian trade, Tiglath-pileser was now free to
legitimize his right to the throne by occupying Babylon and there
becoming the adopted son of Bel. It was in B.C. 731 that the Babylonian
campaign began; in B.C. 729 Tiglath-pileser, under his original name of
Pul, 'took the hands of Bel,' and two years later, in the month of
December, he died. He had introduced into history the idea of imperial

On his death the crown was seized by Ululâ, who took the name of
Shalmaneser IV. His reign lasted only five years, and when he died
(December, B.C. 722) he was pressing the siege of Samaria. The capture
of the city and its annexation to Assyria were the work of Sargon. The
upper and military classes, amounting in all to 27,280 persons, were
carried into captivity; but only fifty chariots were found in the city.

Sargon was a usurper like his two predecessors, but, more fortunate
than they, he succeeded in founding a dynasty. He was one of the best
generals that Assyria ever produced, and under him the extension and
organization of the empire went on apace. The death of Shalmaneser,
however, had been the signal for revolt in Babylonia as well as in the
west. Merodach-baladan, a Chaldaean from the sea-marshes, had seized
Babylon in conjunction with the Elamites, and there reigned as
legitimate monarch for twelve years. One of the first tasks of Sargon
was to drive the Elamite forces from the Assyrian frontier. Hamath
moreover rose in insurrection; but this too was speedily crushed. So
also was a league between the Philistines and the Egyptians; the battle
of Raphia decided, once for all, the question of Assyrian supremacy in

Sargon now had to face a more formidable coalition, that of the
northern nations under Ursa of Ararat. The struggle lasted for six
years and ended with the complete victory of the Assyrians. Carchemish,
the Hittite stronghold on the Euphrates, fell in B.C. 717, leaving the
road clear to the west and thus uniting Assyria with its rising empire
on the shores of the Mediterranean. In the following year the Minni (to
the east of Ararat) were overthrown, and two years later Ursa and his
allies were utterly defeated. The fortress of Muzazir near Lake
Urumiyeh was captured, thus extending the Assyrian frontier far to the
east, and Ursa, in despair, committed suicide. Media was completely
subdued in B.C. 713, and Ellip, where Ekbatana afterwards stood, became
the vassal of Nineveh. In B.C. 711 a league was formed between
Merodach-baladan and the nations of southern Syria to resist the common
foe, and to this league Egypt promised assistance. But before the
confederates were ready to act, Sargon had fallen upon them separately.
Ashdod, the centre of the Palestinian confederacy, was besieged and
taken (Isaiah xxi), and its ruler, a certain 'Greek,' who had been
raised to power by the anti-Assyrian party, fled in vain for refuge to
the Arabian desert, while Judah, Edom, and Moab were compelled to pay
tribute. In B.C. 709 Merodach-baladan was driven out of Babylonia into
his ancestral kingdom of Bit-Yagna. Sargon entered Babylon and there
'took the hands of Bel.' Henceforward he ruled by divine right as well
as by the right of the sword.

It was by the sword, however, that he perished, being murdered by a
soldier in B.C. 705. His son Sennacherib succeeded to the crown on the
12th of Ab (July). Sennacherib was a different man from his father;
boastfulness and vanity took the place of military skill, perhaps also
of courage. There seems to have been some resemblance between his
character and that of Xerxes.

Babylonia was the new king's first object of attack. Merodach-baladan,
who had re-entered Babylon on the news of Sargon's death, was driven
back to the marshes, and Bel-ibni, an Assyrian vassal, appointed king
in his place. The next campaign was against the Kassi or Kossaeans,
some of whom were forced to descend from their mountain fastnesses and
placed under an Assyrian governor. From the Kossaean mountains the
Assyrian army marched into Ellip which was wasted with fire and sword.
Then, in B.C. 701, came the campaign against Palestine where Hezekiah
of Judah, in reliance upon Egypt, had revolted from his Assyrian lord.
Elulaeus of Sidon fled to Cyprus, and Phoenicia, Ammon, Moab, and Edom
submitted to the Assyrians. Sennacherib thereupon proceeded against the
Philistines. A new king was set over Ashkelon, and Hezekiah was
compelled to restore to Ekron its former prince whom he had imprisoned
in Jerusalem on account of his faithfulness to Assyria. The priests and
nobles of Ekron who had abetted Hezekiah were impaled on stakes.


Tirhakah, the Ethiopian king of Egypt, and the king of Melukh (the
Arabian desert), who had come to the assistance of the Jewish prince,
were defeated at Eltekeh, and Hezekiah vainly endeavoured to buy off
the vengeance of his offended suzerain by rich and numerous presents,
including 30 talents of gold and 800 talents of silver. The surrender
of Jerusalem alone would content Sennacherib, who accordingly
devastated Judah, destroying its cities and carrying into captivity
200,150 of its inhabitants. Jerusalem itself was blockaded, Hezekiah
being shut up in it 'like a bird in a cage.' Then, however, came the
catastrophe which obliged Sennacherib to retire without punishing his
rebellious vassal, and of which, of course, nothing is said in the
inscriptions. But there is no further record of a campaign in the West.
In the following year Sennacherib was in Babylonia, where he drove
Merodach-baladan out of the marshes and obliged the Chaldaean prince
and his subjects to fly in ships across the Persian Gulf to the
opposite coast of Elam. Assur-nadin-suma, the son of Sennacherib, was
now made king of Babylon. Six years later he was carried off to Elam
and a new king, Nergal-yusezib, appointed in his place by the Elamite
monarch. This was in return for an unprovoked assault made by
Sennacherib on the Chaldaean colony in Elam, to which he had crossed in
boats made by Tyrian workmen, and whose inhabitants he sent captive to

For a time Elam was all-powerful in Babylonia, though Nergal-yusezib
had been defeated and captured in battle by the Assyrians. But in B.C.
691 Sennacherib descended with the full might of Assyria upon the
country. The Babylonians had sent the treasures of the temple of Bel to
the Elamite monarch, begging his help. The Babylonian and Elamite
forces met the army of Assyria at Khalule, and a hard-fought battle was
the result. The slaughter was great on both sides, and Sennacherib
claims a complete victory, though the Babylonian Chronicle--a cuneiform
document compiled from a Babylonian point of view--implies that such
was not altogether the case. At all events about two years were needed
for the subjugation of Babylonia. In B.C. 689 Babylon was taken, its
houses and temples destroyed, the images of its gods broken in pieces,
and the ruins of the city thrown into the Arakhtu, the canal of
Babylon. For some years Babylon lay desolate, and as there was no
longer a temple or image of Bel to legitimize the rule of the Assyrian
conqueror, Babylonia remained 'without kings.'

On the 20th day of Tebet or December, B.C. 681, Sennacherib was
murdered by two of his sons who seem to have been jealous of their
brother Esar-haddon. Esar-haddon had been given the new name of
Assur-etil-mukin-abla ('Assur the hero is the establisher of my son'),
perhaps because he had been destined for the throne, and at the time of
his father's murder he was commanding the Assyrian army in a war
against Ararat. For forty-two days the conspirators held the capital;
then they were compelled to fly to Erimenas of Ararat and seek his help
against their brother. The decisive battle was fought on the 12th of
Iyyar (April) near Malatiyeh in Kappadokia; the veterans of Assyria won
the day, and at the close of it saluted Esar-haddon as king. He
returned to Nineveh and on the 8th of Sivan (May) formally ascended the

Esar-haddon was great in counsel as well as in war, and knew how to
conciliate as well as how to conquer. At the outset of his reign he
restored Babylon, rebuilt its temples, brought back its gods and
people, and made it one of his royal residences. For twelve years he
was king alike of Babylonia and Assyria.

A revolt of Sidon, which was easily put down, next occupied his
attention. Then came a more formidable event. The Gimirrâ, called Gomer
in Genesis, Kimmerians by the Greeks, suddenly appeared out of the
north and menaced the civilized world. Esar-haddon met them on the
frontier of his empire, defeated their chieftain, the 'Manda' or nomad
Teuspa, and drove his hordes westward into Asia Minor. It now became
necessary to secure the Assyrian frontier on the south. The Assyrian
king accordingly marched into the very heart of Arabia, through burning
and waterless deserts, and struck terror into the Arabian tribes. The
march must have been one of the most remarkable ever made.

Esar-haddon was at last free to complete the policy of Tiglath-pileser
III by conquering the ancient kingdom of Egypt. Palestine gave no more
trouble; Manasseh of Judah was already an obedient vassal of the
Assyrian king. In B.C. 674 'the Assyrians marched into Egypt.' But two
more campaigns were needed for its subjection. In B.C. 670 Esar-haddon
drove the Egyptian forces before him in fifteen days (from the 3rd to
the 18th of Tammuz or June) all the way from the frontier to Memphis,
thrice defeating them with heavy loss and wounding Tirhakah their king.
Three days later Memphis fell, and Tirhakah fled to Ethiopia, leaving
Egypt to the conqueror. Egypt revolted two years afterwards (B.C. 668),
and while on the march to reduce it Esar-haddon fell ill, and died on
the 10th of Marchesvan or October. Assur-bani-pal, who had already
been named as his successor, became king of Assyria, his brother
Saul-suma-yukin taking Babylonia as his share. The king of Babylonia,
however, was required to admit the supremacy of the Assyrian monarch.

The Egyptian revolt was quickly suppressed and the country was again
divided into twenty satrapies, each satrapy being placed under a native
prince. But the arrangement answered badly. The satraps quarrelled
with one another, intrigued with Tirhakah, and rebelled against
Assur-bani-pal. Time after time Assyrian armies had to be sent to
reconquer the land. Once Necho, the satrap of Sais, was brought in
chains to Nineveh, there, however, to be pardoned and restored to his
city. Twice Thebes was captured, once after it had been made for a time
the seat of Tirhakah's government, a second time after the defeat of
Urdaman (Rud-Amon), the step-son and successor of Tirhakah. On this
occasion the city was utterly destroyed. Its temples and palaces were
overthrown, its statues mutilated, and an immense spoil carried away to
Nineveh. Among the spoil were two obelisks, over seventy tons in
weight. The destruction of Thebes is alluded to by the prophet Nahum
(iii. 8).

Assur-bani-pal, the Sardanapallos of the Greeks, was the 'Grand
Monarque' of Assyria, and a generous patron of literature and learning.
But he lacked the warlike instincts of his fathers, and preferred to
remain at home while his generals fought in the field. His long wars
drained the country of its fighting-men and prepared the way for its
downfall. They were waged mainly with Elam, the only civilized country
of Western Asia which still preserved its independence, and lasted for
several years. At last, however, Elam fell; its capital Shushan was
sacked and burned, and a desolated country was added to the Assyrian

The fame of Assur-bani-pal spread far and wide. Ambassadors came to his
court from Ararat, as well as from Gyges of Lydia. At first no
interpreter could be found for the latter. Gyges wanted help against
the Kimmerians, which, however, 'the great king' does not seem to have
afforded. The tribute of Gyges was accordingly withdrawn after a time,
and he took part in the great rebellion which now shook the Assyrian
empire to its foundations.

Saul-suma-yukin put himself at its head, and proclaimed the
independence of Babylonia. Psammetikhos, the son of Necho of Sais,
imitated his example in Egypt, and with the assistance of Gyges put
down the rival satraps, shook off the Assyrian yoke and founded the
Twenty-sixth dynasty. Saul-suma-yukin was less fortunate. After a
desperate struggle he was captured and put to death by his brother, and
Babylonia was once more reduced to servitude. Punishment was also taken
upon the tribes of northern Arabia who had joined the rebels.

But the empire was terribly weakened. Egypt was lost to it for ever,
and though Elam was added instead, it proved to be a barren possession.
When Tuktamme the 'Manda' appeared upon the scene he was resisted with
difficulty. The empire was tottering to its fall.

Of its closing days we know but little from the monuments. Among the
successors of Assur-bani-pal were Assur-etil-ilani-yukin (who still
claimed rule in Babylonia), and Sin-sar-iskun. The latter has sometimes
been identified with Sarakos, said by the Greek writer Abydênos to
have been the last king of Assyria[5]. At all events the fall and
destruction of Nineveh may be placed in B.C. 606.

        [5] A contract-tablet exists dated at Sippara in the second
        year of Sin-sar-iskun, which shows that the rule of the king
        was acknowledged in Babylonia.

The Babylonian Empire.--On its ruins rose the Babylonian empire of
Nebuchadrezzar, the son of Nabopolassar. The battle of Carchemish
placed him in possession of Syria, which the Egyptians had occupied
after the fall of Nineveh. The battle was scarcely over when
Nebuchadrezzar was recalled to Babylon by the death of his father (B.C.
605). Unlike the Assyrian kings, he cared but little about recording
his successes in war. His inscriptions are occupied with the account of
his building operations, of his gifts to the gods, and of his devotion
to Bel-Merodach. Under him Babylon became one of the most splendid
cities in the world. Its palaces, its temples, its hanging gardens and
its walls were alike on a vast and magnificent scale. The temples were
roofed with cedar of Lebanon, overlaid with gold and silver, and the
ramparts of the royal house were finished in fifteen days. The suburb
of Borsippa was included within the fortifications of the city, which
were so strong as to be practicably impregnable. At the same time the
other cities of Babylonia were not forgotten, and their temples were
enlarged and beautified.

In B.C. 568 Nebuchadrezzar marched into Egypt, defeated the Pharaoh
Amasis and occupied a part at least of the Delta. 'Phut of the Ionians'
is mentioned in connexion with this campaign. It is the only military
expedition mentioned in the texts we possess; even the monuments of
Nebuchadrezzar found in Syria (at the mouth of the Nahr el-Kelb near
Beyrout and in the Wadi Brissa near the ancient Riblah) are silent
about his wars.

He was a great organizer, a great builder, and above all a man of
genuine piety, which breathes through all his inscriptions. When he
died, B.C. 562, he was succeeded by his son Evil-Merodach, who
reigned only two years. Then the throne was usurped by a certain
Nergal-sharezer (the son of Bel-zakir-iskun) who had married the
daughter of Nebuchadrezzar. Nergal-sharezer built himself a new palace
and died B.C. 556. He was followed by his infant son who reigned only
three months, when he was murdered and the throne seized by Nabonidos
(Nabu-nahid), the son of Nebo-balasu-iqbi, who was not related to the
royal family. Nabonidos was a man of some energy, but he offended a
powerful party in Babylonia by attempting to do what Hezekiah had done
in Jerusalem--centralize the religious worship of the country and
therewith the political power in the capital. Nabonidos was also an
antiquarian and caused excavations to be made in the different temples
of Babylonia in order to discover the records of their founders.

We are now well acquainted with the history of Nabonidos and the fall
of his empire, thanks to three cuneiform documents which have been
found in Babylonia. One is an inscription of Nabonidos himself; another
an edict issued by Cyrus shortly after his conquest of the country; and
the third the annals of the reign of Nabonidos, compiled the year after
his overthrow. The empire of Nabonidos, we learn, extended as far
westward as Gaza, but the 'Manda' or 'Nomads' of whom Astyages
(Istuvegu) was king had devastated part of Western Asia and had
destroyed the temple of the Moon-god at Harran. It was not until Cyrus,
'the little servant' of Astyages, had overthrown the Manda that
Nabonidos was able to enter Harran and rebuild the ruined shrine.

Cyrus and the Fall of Babylon.--Cyrus, like his fathers, was king of
Anzan in Elam, not of Persia. Anzan had been first occupied, it would
appear, by his great-grandfather Teispes the Achaemenian. The conquest
of Astyages and of his capital Ekbatana took place in B.C. 549, and a
year or two later Cyrus obtained possession of Persia. In B.C. 538 the
population in the south of Babylonia revolted, and Cyrus entered the
country, where he was assisted by the native party which was hostile to
Nabonidos. The Babylonian army was stationed in northern Babylonia, but
it was utterly defeated at Opis in the month of Tammuz or June, and
on the 14th of the month Sippara opened its gates to the conqueror.
Gobryas, the governor of Kurdistan, was then sent by Cyrus against
Babylon, which also opened its gates 'without fighting,' and Nabonidos,
who had concealed himself, was taken prisoner. Gobryas placed the
temple of Bel under a guard, and the daily services there proceeded as
usual. The contract-tablets show that there was equally little
cessation of business among the mercantile classes. But it was not
until the 3rd of Marchesvan (October) that Cyrus himself arrived in
Babylon and proclaimed a general amnesty, which was communicated by
Gobryas to 'all the province of Babylon' of which he had been made
governor. Shortly afterwards the wife of Nabonidos died; lamentation
was made for her throughout Babylonia, and Kambyses, the son of Cyrus,
conducted her funeral in one of the Babylonian temples.


Meanwhile Cyrus had assumed the title of 'King of Babylon,' thus
claiming to be the legitimate descendant of the ancient Babylonian
kings. He announced himself as the devoted worshipper of Bel and Nebo,
who by the command of Merodach had overthrown the sacrilegious usurper
Nabonidos, and he and his son accordingly offered sacrifices to ten
times the usual amount in the Babylonian temples, and restored the
images of the gods to their ancient shrines. At the same time he
allowed the foreign populations who had been deported to Babylonia to
return to their homes along with the statues of their gods. Among these
foreign populations, as we know from the Old Testament, were the Jews.

Belshazzar.--One of the sons of Nabonidos was Belshazzar, who is
mentioned in the contract-tablets as well as by his father. He seems
to have been 'the king's son' who commanded the Babylonian army in
its camp near Sippara. If so, it would appear that he had died or
been slain before the final invasion of Babylonia by Cyrus, since
no reference is made to him on that occasion, and the pretenders
who afterwards rose against Darius in Babylonia called themselves
not Belshazzar but 'Nebuchadrezzar, the son of Nabonidos.'

Decay of Babylon.--It was after the death of Kambyses and of the
Pseudo-Smerdis that these revolts took place in B.C. 521 and 515(?).
The first was a serious one, and was suppressed only after two
engagements in the field and a siege of Babylon. The second revolt also
needed a long siege for its suppression, and at its conclusion Darius
partially destroyed the walls of the city. But in the reign of Xerxes,
during the absence of the king in Greece, Babylon revolted again under
a certain Samas-erba, who reigned for about a year. On the fall of
this champion of Babylonian independence, the temple of Bel, the
rallying-place of Babylonian nationality, was in part destroyed. From
this time forward the only kings mentioned in the cuneiform tablets are
foreigners, Persians, Greeks, and Parthians. The last dated tablet at
present known to us is almost as late as the Christian era. It is an
astrological text which is dated in the 168th year of Seleucus and the
232nd year of Arsakes, that is to say in B.C. 80.



The religions of Babylonia and Assyria.--The religion of Assyria was
borrowed from that of Babylonia. The deities worshipped in the two
countries were the same, as also were the ritual and the religious
beliefs of the people. Almost the only difference observable in the
religion of the two kingdoms was that whereas Bel-Merodach was the
supreme god of Babylon, Assur, the impersonation of the old capital,
was the supreme god of Assyria.

Differences between Babylonian and Assyrian religion.--But the
different characters of the two populations were reflected in their
religious conceptions. The Assyrians were a nation of warriors, the
Babylonians of traders, agriculturists, and scribes. Assur is
accordingly 'a man of war'; it was in reliance upon him that the
Assyrian armies marched into foreign lands, and compelled their
inhabitants to acknowledge him. Not to believe in Assur was a crime,
since Assur represented Assyria. Assur, too, admitted no rival at his
side: wifeless and childless he stood alone. Once or twice, indeed, an
Assyrian scribe ascribes to him a wife or a child, but this is in
imitation of Babylonian usage and the belief never took root in

Bel-Merodach, on the contrary, was a god of mercy. He is 'the merciful
one' who hearkens to those that call upon him and who 'raises the dead
to life' through trust in his power. Belat, or Beltis, 'the lady,'
stood at his side, a reflection of himself, and the gods were his
children who recognized him as their father and creator.

Sumerian religion Shamanistic.--Babylonian religion was a compound of
Sumerian and Semitic elements. Sumerian religion had originally been
'Shamanistic' in character. That is to say it had no conception of
deities or priests in the usual sense of the words. Each object or
force of nature was believed to have its _zi_ or 'life' like men and
beasts; the _zi_ was a sort of vital principle which caused the arrow
to fly, the knife to wound, or the stars to move through the heaven. A
personality was given to it, and it thus became what we may term a
spirit. With these spirits, accordingly, the sky and earth were
peopled; they were in fact as multitudinous as the objects and forces
of nature to which they owed their birth. Necessarily the greater
number of them were harmful, if not always at any rate at certain
times and in certain places. Magical charms alone could protect man
from their malevolence or bring down their blessing upon him, and
these magical charms and ceremonies were known only to a particular
class of persons. To such sorcerer-priests the name of 'shamans' has
been assigned, the form of religion represented by them being termed

Two centres of Babylonian religion.--In prehistoric times two great
religious centres existed in Babylonia, from which two divergent
streams of religious influence flowed over the country. One of these
was Nipur in the north, the other Eridu in the south. Nipur was the
seat of Shamanism, and its patron deity in later days still retained
the title of Mul-lil or El-lil, 'the lord of the ghost-world.' Eridu,
on the other hand, was brought by its trade and situation into contact
with foreign culture. It thus became the source of a higher and more
spiritual form of faith. The spirit of the water, who had been its
special object of adoration, became the culture-god Ea, the lord of the
abyss, who is called Oannes in the Greek history of Bêrôssos and was
believed to have been the author of Babylonian culture. To him its
laws, its arts, and its sciences were alike traced back. Through his
wisdom his son Asari-mulu-dugga, 'Asari who benefits mankind,' was
enabled to cure the diseases and troubles of men, and teach them how to
avoid evil. His teachings were embodied in writing, and so a sacred
book grew up, half Bible, half Ritual, which contained hymns to the
gods as well as rubrics for the performance of the ceremonies
accompanying their recitation.

Under the influence of Eridu the religion of Babylonia ceased to be so
purely Shamanistic as it once had been. Certain of the spirits tended
to take rank above their fellows and thus to pass into gods. How long
this process of development lasted we do not know.

Semitic Influence.--But a time came when the Semites entered the
country and were brought into close contact, hostile or peaceable, with
its Sumerian inhabitants. The result was a fusion of Sumerian and
Semitic religious ideas. An official religion came into existence which
consisted of a Semitic form of faith grafted upon a Sumerian root.

The religion of the Semite was essentially different from that of the
Sumerian. The primary object of his worship was the Baal, Bel, or
'Lord,' who revealed himself in the sun. Each tribe and each locality
had its own Baal; when the tribes coalesced or when the same tribe
occupied more than one locality the various Baals were regarded as so
many forms of the supreme God.

Each Baal was the father of a family. At his side stood his wife, a
colourless reflection of himself, as the wife was of the husband in the
Semitic family on earth. Like the father of the family on earth, Baal
too in heaven had his children.

Where the religions of the Semite and the Sumerian met and combined,
the Sumerian spirits who had emerged above the rest like Ea of Eridu or
El-lil of Nipur, were assimilated to the Semitic Baalim. El-lil, in
fact, was known throughout the Semitic period as Bel of Nipur. Wherever
it was possible a solar character was given to them; in other cases the
general characteristics of the Semitic deity were attached to the old
Sumerian divinity. The great body of the spirits which had fallen into
the background was grouped together as the 300 spirits of heaven
(_Igigi_) and the 600 spirits of earth (_Anunnaki_).

The goddess Istar.--In one instance, however, it was the Semite rather
than the Sumerian who was affected by the contact between the two forms
of faith. The spirit of the evening star became the goddess Istar, who
retained her independent position by the side of the male deities.
While the other goddesses were absorbed in the persons of their divine
consorts like the wife in the Semitic family, Istar, having no consort,
remained like the wife in the Sumerian family on a footing of equality
with the man. When the name and worship of Istar were passed on to the
Semitic peoples of the West, the anomaly led to more than one change in
her character. In southern Arabia and Moab she was identified with a
male deity; in Canaan her name received the feminine suffix _-th_
(Ashtoreth), and she thus became in large measure an ordinary Semitic

Bel-Merodach.--After the rise of Babylon as the capital of the kingdom,
its patron-god Merodach became the supreme Baal or Bel of Babylonia. He
had already been identified with Asari-mulu-dugga, the son of Ea, and
the attributes of the latter were accordingly transferred to the new
Bel. It was to him that the great temple of Ê-Saggil was erected in
Babylon, while the interpreter of his will to men, Nebo, the divine
'prophet,' had his temple Ê-Zida in the neighbouring suburb of
Borsippa. At Nipur a god whose name has been variously read Uras,
Nin-ip, Bar and Adar, but the true pronunciation of which is still
unknown, stood in much the same relation to El-lil that Nebo did to
Merodach. He was, however, regarded as a solar warrior instead of as a

Other deities.--Nergal was worshipped in Kutha and its cemeteries;
Samas, 'the Sun,' at Sippara; Sin, 'the Moon,' at Ur and Harran; Anu,
'the Sky,' at Erech, where he was associated with Istar. Along with Ea
and Bel of Nipur, Anu formed a triad which represented in the official
religion the three elementary deities of the sea, the earth, and the
heavens. The sea, however, was rather the primordial 'deep' out of
which all things arose than the sea of the actual world, while 'the
heaven of Anu' was beyond the visible sky, and Bel was the prince of
the air and the underworld.


Sacred books and ritual.--Along with the growth of the official
religion went the growth and completion of the Chaldaean Bible and
Prayer-book. The festivals of the gods were numerous; the ceremonies to
be performed by the priests were more numerous still. The ceremonies
were usually accompanied by the recitation of one or more hymns; these
hymns were written in Sumerian, which had now become the sacred
language of Chaldaea just as Latin is the sacred language of the Roman
Church, and since Sumerian was no longer understood by the majority of
the people they were provided with interlinear translations into
Semitic Babylonian. From time to time the pronunciation of the old
Sumerian words was indicated, for just as it was needful that the
inspired words should be handed down without the slightest alteration,
so also was it needful that they should be pronounced aright. An error
even in pronunciation was supposed to invalidate the ceremony. Among
the hymns is a collection of penitential psalms of which the following
lines will give some idea:--

    'O lord, my sins are many, my transgressions are great!
    O my god, my sins are many, my transgressions are great!
    O my goddess, my sins are many, my transgressions are great!

    The lord in the wrath of his heart has regarded me;
    God in the fierceness of his heart has revealed himself to me.
    The goddess has been violent against me, and has put me to grief.

    I sought for help and none took my hand;
    I wept and none stood at my side;
    I cried aloud and there was none that heard me.
    To my god, the merciful one, I turn myself, I utter my prayer.

    O my god, seven times seven are my transgressions: forgive my sins!'

The Priests.--The existence of a hierarchy of gods, of a Bible, and
of a Prayer-book implies the existence of a priesthood. The sorcerer
of prehistoric times became the priest of later Babylonia. The
priests were distinguished into several classes. At the head came the
High-priest who was often the monarch; in Assyria indeed this was
commonly the case. Subordinate to him were other high-priests, and
under them again the 'anointers' (who cleansed the sacred vessels of
the sanctuary), the priests of Istar and the 'elders.' By the side of
them stood the 'prophets' (_asipi_) under a 'chief.' The prophets
could predict the future and were consulted on matters of state. We
hear of armies being accompanied by them into the field, and when
Assur-bani-pal suppressed the revolt of the Babylonians 'by the
command of the prophets,' he says, 'I purified their shrines and
cleansed their chief places of prayer. The angry gods and wrathful
goddesses I soothed with supplications and penitential psalms. I
restored and established in peace their daily sacrifices which they
had discontinued.'

The Temples.--The temples were provided with towers which served for
the observation of the stars, and stood within large courts. In the
shrine was a 'mercy-seat' whereon the god 'seated himself' on certain
occasions. At Balawât near Nineveh the mercy-seat had the form of a
coffer or ark, in which two written tables of stone were placed. In
front of it stood the altar approached by steps. In the court was a
'sea' or large basin of water, which like that of Solomon was, in one
case at all events, supported on bulls of bronze. The images of the
gods were almost invariably of human form.

Astro-theology.--The prominence given to the study of astronomy had
much to do with giving Babylonian religion an astral character. The
stars were worshipped; Istar herself was originally the evening star,
and most of the principal deities were identified with the planets and
chief fixed stars. The importance of the stars for the regulation of
the calendar, moreover, kept them constantly before the eyes of the
priests. But whether Babylonian astrotheology was not really primitive
or whether it went back to the pre-Semitic period we do not yet know.

Sacrifices and offerings.--Sacrifices were offered to the stars, as to
the other divinities. Besides the sacrifices, offerings were also made
of meal, dates, oil, and wine. The sacrifices and offerings must have
been numerous since in the larger temples there was not only 'the
daily sacrifice' but also constant services both by day and night. On
the great festivals, moreover, there were services of a special
character, as also when days of thanksgiving or humiliation were
ordained. The sacrifices and offerings were provided partly by
endowments, partly by voluntary gifts (sometimes called _kurbanni_,
the Hebrew _korban_), partly by obligatory contributions, the most
important of which were the 'tithes.'

The Sabbath.--Besides the festivals of the gods there was a _sabattu_
or 'Sabbath,' observed on the 9th, 14th, 19th, 21st, and 28th day of
the month, on which various kinds of work were forbidden to be done.
Food even was not allowed to be cooked, or medicine to be taken. The
_sabattu_ is described as 'a day of rest for the heart,' and a
'free-will offering' had to be made in the night of it.

Monotheistic tendency.--Among the educated classes religious feeling
seems to have been fervent, and at times the language used approaches
that of monotheism. Thus in an early hymn to the Moon-god which was
composed in the city of Ur, we read:--

    'Father, long-suffering and full of forgiveness, whose hand upholds
      the life of all mankind!...
    First-born, omnipotent, whose heart is immensity, and there is none
      who may fathom it!...
    In heaven, who is supreme? Thou alone, thou art supreme!
    On earth, who is supreme? Thou alone, thou art supreme!'

So, again, Nebuchadrezzar prays as follows to Bel-Merodach:--

    'O prince, thou art from everlasting, lord of all that exists, for
    the king whom thou lovest, whom thou callest by name, as it seems
    good to thee, thou guidest his name aright, thou watchest over him
    in the path of righteousness. I, the prince who obeys thee, am the
    work of thy hands; thou hast created me and hast entrusted to me
    the sovereignty over multitudes of men, according to thy goodness,
    O lord, which thou hast made to pass over them all. Let me love thy
    supreme lordship, let the fear of thy divinity exist in my heart,
    and give what seemeth good to thee, since thou maintainest my

The future life.--The mass of the people, however, were sunk in the
grossest superstition, and the future to which they looked forward was
sufficiently dreary. Hades lay beneath the earth, where the spirits of
the dead flitted about like bats in darkness with dust only for their
food. A happier lot was reserved for the few, and a prayer is made for
an Assyrian king that after death he should ascend to 'the land of the
silver sky.'

Cosmology.--In early Sumerian days the heaven was believed to rest on
the peak of 'the mountain of the world,' in the far north-east, where
the gods had their habitations (cf. Isa. xiv. 13), while an ocean or
'deep' encircled the earth which rested upon its surface. With the
progress of knowledge truer ideas of geography came to prevail. The
later cosmogony is represented in the first tablet of the Creation
story where the old gods are resolved into cosmical elements. The
'deep' is said to have been 'the generator' of the heavens and the
earth, 'Mummu-Tiamat' (the chaos of the sea) being 'the mother of them
all.... At that time the gods had not appeared.... Then the [great]
gods were created, Lakhmu and Lakhamu issued forth the first.' Next
came the creation of An-sar and Ki-sar, 'the upper' and 'lower
firmament,' who in their turn gave birth to Anu, Ea, and Bel. The
struggle between Merodach, the god of light and order, with Tiamat, the
dragon of darkness, chaos, and evil, occupied a prominent place in the
Epic of the Creation. Along with Tiamat there were ranged in battle the
evil creatures of night and destruction, most of whom had composite
forms. The belief in them had been inherited from the age of Shamanism,
and they were regarded as the products of a first and imperfect
creation. Some of them came to symbolize the powers of darkness, others
were transported to the skies, certain of the allies of Tiamat being
the Zodiacal animals, while out of the skin of Tiamat Merodach
constructed the heaven itself. In the Epic Tiamat is identified with
the source of the fountains of the great deep.



Aids to the reading of the texts.--The origin of the cuneiform system
of writing has been already described, as well as its chief
peculiarities. We must now say something about the causes which have
led to our being able to read an ordinary Assyrian text almost as
easily as a page of the Old Testament.

(1) The 'determinatives' have already been mentioned which define so
many words and names.

(2) The ideographs often prove a great assistance, as words of unknown
meaning interchange with ideographs the signification of which is
already known.

(3) The fact that the characters express syllables gives us the precise
pronunciation of the words, and so enables us to read them with a
certainty which is impossible in Hebrew or Phoenician where the vowels
are not denoted in writing.

(4) Assyrian is a Semitic language, and the Semitic languages are as
closely related to one another as are the Romanic languages (French,
Italian, Spanish, &c.) in modern Europe. Consequently most of the words
and grammatical forms found in Assyrian recur in one or other of the
Semitic idioms.

(5) But above all, the Assyrian scribes themselves have provided us
with the most abundant materials for interpreting the inscriptions.

The libraries.--The amount of Assyro-Babylonian literature already
known is very large. If all the texts at present in the museums of
Europe and America could be published, they would rival in extent the
books of the Old Testament. Most of the texts are on tablets of clay
and have come from the libraries of Nineveh and Babylonia. Every great
Babylonian city had at least one library, and the Assyrian kings
established other libraries in their own country in imitation of those
of Babylonia. About two-thirds of the library of Nineveh, which was
largely the creation of Assur-bani-pal, is now in the British Museum.
Scribes were kept constantly at work there copying and re-editing old
texts, and sometimes writing new ones. A considerable proportion of the
texts was brought from Babylonia: a colophon attached to each tablet
usually states from what library the text had originally come. The
texts were carefully edited; when there was a lacuna in the original
the scribe tells us so, and whether it was old or recent; also if the
Babylonian character were one which he did not recognize he confesses
that he could not read it. Besides the clay tablets, the libraries
contained papyri which have now perished.

Varieties of literature.--The texts related to all the branches of
knowledge studied at the time. Astronomy and astrology, mathematics,
geography, medicine, law, history, religion, and mythology, private and
public correspondence, mercantile transactions, political documents,
the pseudo-science of omens, lists of beasts, birds, vegetables, and
stones, are all represented in it, and last, but not least, philology.
The necessity of translating and explaining the Sumerian texts
doubtless gave philology so prominent a place. Under the head of
philology come interlinear and parallel translations of Sumerian
documents, together with commentaries and exercises, reading-books and
grammars of the two languages, endless lists of characters with their
phonetic values and significations, and numerous vocabularies partly
bilingual, partly containing catalogues of Semitic synonyms. The
decipherer thus has at his command a most elaborate system for learning
the Assyrian and Sumerian languages compiled by the Assyrians
themselves. Time after time the signification of a new word is given by
its synonym or synonyms in the lexical lists, and words of uncertain
meaning in Hebrew have more than once been settled by means of their
Assyrian equivalents.

The texts autotypes.--The cuneiform texts further possess an advantage
of which the student of the Old and New Testament Scriptures might well
be envious. They are the autotypes of the scribes who wrote them for
the libraries in the ruins of which they have been found. The texts
have never passed through the hands of later copyists little acquainted
with the language in which they were composed. The corruptions of the
text, such as they are, go back to the scribes of Assur-bani-pal or
Nebuchadrezzar, in some cases to the scribes even of the pre-Semitic


Astronomy.--The great work on astronomy and astrology in seventy-two
chapters or books was originally compiled for the library of Sargon of
Accad. It contained chapters on the eclipses or conjunction of the sun
and moon, on the planets, the fixed stars, and the comets, and proves
that observations of the heavens had been made for a long while
previous to its composition. The path of the sun through the signs of
the Zodiac had already been mapped out: in fact the Zodiacal Signs owe
their origin to the astronomers of Babylonia. At the time they were
first named the vernal equinox began with Taurus.

Mathematics.--Among the mathematical treatises may be mentioned tables
of cube and square roots from the library of Senkereh. The Babylonian
system of notation resembled that of the Romans, but by an ingenious
application of the sexagesimal system high numbers could be expressed
in a very small number of figures.

Medicine and law.--The standard work on medicine was voluminous like
that on astronomy. It contained a vast number of prescriptions for
different diseases, which read very much like modern ones. Law occupied
a large space in Babylonian and Assyrian life, and codes of law, which
protected the slave as well as the woman, went back to Sumerian times.
A considerable part of the law was based on cases which had already
been decided by the judges. The judges were appointed by the king, and,
at all events in a later age, were under a president. Important cases
were heard before several judges at once; thus a case which was tried
at Babylon in B.C. 547 was heard before six judges and registered by
their two clerks.

History and mythology.--Historical documents are numerous and include
the lists of Assyrian eponyms, after whom the successive years were
named, as well as of the dynasties of kings and the number of years
each king reigned. Religious literature, however, was still more
largely represented. As has been stated, a considerable portion of it
consisted of hymns to the gods, psalms, and ritual texts. But there
were also lists of the multitudinous deities and their temples, and
more especially religious myths and legends. One of these described the
visit of the goddess Istar to Hades in search of her dead husband
Tammuz, the Sun-god, and told how she left some of her adornment at
each of its seven gates, until at last she stood stripped and bare
before the mistress of the Underworld, where the waters of life gush
forth. In another the adventures of the first man Adapa are related,
and how he was summoned to heaven to answer the charge of having broken
the wings of the south-wind. We possess two fragments of this myth, the
earlier part being written on a broken tablet which was found in the
library of Nineveh, while the latter part of it has been found on one
of the cuneiform documents discovered at Tel el-Amarna in Egypt, where
it had been copied for Egyptian or Canaanite students some eight
centuries before the library of Nineveh was in existence.

The Chaldaean epic and the Deluge.--One of the most famous of the
legends is the Chaldaean account of the Deluge, which was discovered by
George Smith in 1872. Its close resemblance to the Biblical account of
the same event is well known. It embodied at least two earlier versions
of the story, and in its present form is inserted as an episode in the
great Epic of the Babylonian hero Gilgames. The Epic was composed by
a certain Sin-liqi-unnini in twelve books, and was arranged on an
astronomical principle, the subject of each book corresponding with the
name of a Zodiacal sign. Thus the account of the Deluge is introduced
into the eleventh book, which answers to Aquarius the eleventh sign of
the Zodiac.

Gilgames, it was said, was the fated child of whom it had been
prophesied that he would slay his grandfather. Though his mother had
been confined in a tower, he was nevertheless born and conveyed to
safety on the wings of an eagle. When grown to man's estate he saved
Erech from the enemy and made it the seat of his dominion. He overthrew
Khumbaba the tyrant of the forest of cedars, and found a friend and
guide in the satyr Ea-bani. The goddess Istar wooed him in marriage,
but he reproached her with the woes she had already brought on her
hapless lovers and scorned her beauty. In revenge she besought Anu, her
father, to create a winged bull, which should attack the hero.
Gilgames, however, slew the bull and returned in triumph to Erech with
his spoils. But misfortune fell upon him. Ea-bani was killed by the
bite of a gad-fly, his soul rising up from the ground to the heaven of
heroes, and Gilgames himself was smitten with a sore disease. To heal
it he sailed beyond the mouth of the Euphrates and the river of death,
and here conversed with Xisuthrus, the Chaldaean Noah, who, like Enoch,
had been translated without seeing death. Xisuthrus told him the story
of the Deluge, and instructed him how to cure his malady.

Epic of the Creation.--The Assyrian Epic of the Creation, the discovery
of which was also due to George Smith, has already been alluded to. Its
parallelism with the account of the Creation, in the first chapter of
Genesis, was noticed from the first. The first tablet opens with a
description of the deep or watery chaos, while the fifth tablet
describes the appointment of the heavenly bodies for signs and for
seasons, and in the seventh comes an account of the creation of the
animals. The second and third tablets, however, and possibly the
fourth, were occupied with the story of the struggle between Tiamat the
dragon of darkness, and Merodach the Sun-god, which finds its echo in
the Apocalypse (Rev. xii. 7-9). Out of the skin of Tiamat, Merodach
formed the firmament which 'divided the waters which were under the
firmament from the waters which were above it.' Other accounts of the
Creation existed, which differed essentially from that of the Epic.
Thus there was one that was written for the Library of Kutha and
described an imperfect creation which foreshadowed as it were the
present one. Mr. Pinches, again, has discovered a Sumerian legend of
the origin of things which seems to have been current at Eridu. But in
the Epic a considerable number of the older cosmological legends were
embodied and combined, and a gloss of materialistic philosophy put upon
them. It is this gloss which makes it difficult to believe that the
Epic can be of much antiquity. The materials of which it is composed
doubtless go back to an early period, but in its present form it
belongs to an age when the deities of the old faith were resolved into
philosophical abstractions and the forces of nature. At present, at all
events, we have no reasons for thinking that it is earlier than the
time of the Second Assyrian Empire.

[Illustration: CONTRACT-TABLETS.]



The Contract-tablets.--We have learnt a great deal about the social
life of Babylonia and Assyria from the contract-tablets which have been
found in enormous numbers in Babylonia. A few have also come from the
library of Nineveh, relating for the most part to the sale and lease of
house property. Some of them have Aramaic dockets attached to them,
giving the names of the persons mentioned in the contract and the
nature of its contents. These dockets serve to verify the method of
cuneiform decipherment, and are an indication that in the time of
Tiglath-pileser III and his successors Aramaic was the common language
of trade.

Some of the Babylonian contract-tablets go back to the time of
Khammurabi and his dynasty, and are in Sumerian. But the larger number
are of much later date, and extend from the reign of Kandalanu, the
predecessor of Nabopolassar, to that of Xerxes. For many years we have
a continuous series of documents dated month by month in each year. A
contract-tablet was often enclosed in an envelope of clay, on which its
principal contents were inscribed. They were kept in large jars which
answered to our modern safes.

Married Life.--From the contracts relating to matrimony we learn that
polygamy was very rare, and that the wife enjoyed a considerable amount
of independence. The dowry she brought with her on marriage had to be
restored to her in case of divorce. Moreover the woman could act apart
from her husband, entering into partnership, trading with her money and
conducting law-suits in her own name. In B.C. 555 we find a father
transferring all his property to his daughter, and reserving only the
use of it during the rest of his life. On the other hand wives, like
concubines, could sometimes be purchased, though in this case if the
husband married again he stipulated that he would send his first wife
back to her home along with a certain sum of money. Children could be
adopted, and there was the utmost freedom as regards the devolution of
property, which could be 'tied up' by will.

Burial.--The dead were buried after complete or partial cremation. With
the exception of the kings they were interred in cemeteries outside the
towns, tombs and tombstones being erected over them, with rivulets,
which symbolized 'the water of life,' flowing at their side.

Slavery.--Slavery was an ancient institution, but the slave was
protected by law as far back as the Sumerian period. In later times he
could even appear as party to a suit, and could recover his freedom by
manumission, by purchase, by proving that he had been unlawfully
enslaved, or by his adoption into the family of a citizen. Slaves could
be impressed into the royal service, so that in selling a slave it was
usual to stipulate that the seller should be responsible for any
trouble arising from such a cause. Poor parents sometimes sold their
children into slavery, and the Sumerian law ordered a son who denied
his father to be shorn and sold as a slave.

Lowness of Wages.--Few persons were so poor as not to be able to keep
one slave at least. But the existence of slavery caused wages to be
low, and lowered the character and position of the free labourer. Thus
we find that a skilled labourer, like a coppersmith, received only six
_qas_ (about 8-1/2 quarts) of flour for overlaying a chariot with a
lining of copper, and that only 1_s._ 6_d._ was paid for painting the
stucco of a wall.

Property.--The tenure of a farm was of various kinds. Sometimes the
property belonged half to the landlord, half to the tenant, the tenant
doing all the work and handing the landlord's half of the produce to
his agent. Sometimes while the tenant gave his work, the landlord
provided him with carts, oxen, and other necessaries. At other times
the tenant received only a third, a fourth, or even a tenth of the
produce, besides paying a fixed rent of two-thirds of the dates
gathered from the palms on the estate. The landlord could dismiss the
tenant, who was also required to build the farm house if one did not
already exist.

When house property or land was let or sold it was minutely described,
and numerous witnesses to the deed of sale or lease were required. The
length of the lease as well as the rent had to be stated, any
transgression of the terms of the lease being punished with a severe
fine. The tenant had to return the property in the state in which he
found it. The rent of course depended on the size and value of the
property, and could be paid half-yearly as well as three times a year.
Houses, further, might be bought and sold through the intervention of
an agent.

Taxes.--Taxation was probably heavy. In the time of Sennacherib,
Nineveh had to pay the treasury 30 talents a year, while Carchemish
was assessed at 100 talents. Taxes were also levied in kind, and there
was an _octroi_ duty upon goods entering the town. The metal,--gold,
silver, and bronze,--was measured out by weight, a coinage not making
its appearance until late in Babylonian history, though, as in Egypt,
rings of gold or silver, which took the place of coins, were used at
an early time.

Prices.--The value of grain and dates necessarily varied from time to
time. Under Nebuchadrezzar, the quart of sesame cost a little over a
penny, in the twelfth year of Nabonidos it was a little less than
1-1/2_d._ In the seventh year of Nebuchadrezzar dates were about a
halfpenny a quart, in his thirty-eighth year the quart was only 1/25
of a penny. In the reign of Cambyses a quart of corn cost 2-1/2_d._

The prices of other things were higher. In the reign of Darius a lady
sold 200 sheep for £135, in that of Nebuchadrezzar an ox, sacrificed
in the temple of the Sun-god at Sippara, cost £2. We hear of asses
sold for £7 10_s._, and £2, and of five casks of wine purchased for £1

Usury.--Deeds of partnership are common; so also are deeds relating
to money-lending. The usurer, in fact, was a prominent person in the
trading community of Babylonia. Under Nebuchadrezzar and his successors
the usual rate of interest was 20 per cent., the interest being paid
each month, though we also hear of 13-1/3 per cent. In concluding a
bargain, it was usually stipulated that if the money were not paid by a
specified date, interest should be paid upon it until it was paid in

The Army.--By the side of the commercial class stood a numerous body
of military and civil officials. At the head of the Assyrian army was
the Tartan (_turtannu_) or Commander-in-chief, and under him came a
large staff of officers. The army itself was highly organized. In
addition to the infantry and cavalry there were numerous chariots, in
one of which the king rode when he commanded in person. In the time of
Tiglath-pileser III, saddles, leathern drawers, and high boots were
introduced for the cavalry, and a corps of slingers and pioneers was
created by Sennacherib. The infantry were divided into heavy-armed and
light-armed, many of the heavy-armed wearing coats of mail formed of
metal scales sewn to a leather shirt. Helmets were largely used, as
well as shields. The army carried with it on the march various engines
for attacking the walls of a town--battering-rams, ladders, crow-bars,
and the like--as well as tents. The royal tent was accompanied by a
cooking and a dining-tent, and was elaborately furnished. We learn
from the contract-tablets, that in the reign of Nabonidos, rather more
than 2-1/2 bushels of wheat were furnished to each of the bowmen,
while 54 _qas_ (75 quarts) of beer were provided on a particular day,
'for the troops which had marched from Babylon.'

Navy.--A fleet was kept in Babylonia, and the king had a State-barge on
the Euphrates. The Assyrians, however, were not a naval people, and the
biremes, employed by Sennacherib when he attacked the Chaldaean colony
in the Persian Gulf, were built and manned by Phoenicians.

The Bureaucracy.--The prefects or satraps of the Assyrian provinces
and subject cities were appointed by the king, like the military
officers, and were responsible to him. A certain number of them were
eligible for the post of _limmu_, or eponym, after whom the year was
named--an honour which they shared with the monarch. The office does
not appear to have existed in Babylonia.

Among the tablets which have come from the library of Nineveh are some
which contain long lists of Assyrian officials. They were a very
numerous body, but we need mention only the Rab-shakeh (_Rab-saki_),
'chief of the princes,' or Vizier, the Rab-saris (_Rab-sa-resi_) or
'chief of the nobles,' and the Rab-mag (_Rab-mugi_) or 'chief
physician.' The identification of the two last is due to Mr. Pinches.

The priests and judges have already been alluded to, as also the clerks
or scribes, many of whom, at least in Babylonia, were also priests.
Poets and musicians were attached to the court, and we hear of a grant
of land being made to a court-poet, in Babylonia, for some verses in
which he had doubtless flattered the king. Society, in short, was
highly organized, and the principle of a subdivision of labour was
fully understood.

In one important respect, however, the basis upon which society rested
in Babylonia and in Assyria was different. The government of Babylonia
was theocratic, that of Assyria was military. While Assyria with its
bureaucratic centralization is an anticipation of imperial Rome,
Babylonia with its theocratic constitution is an anticipation of papal
Rome. The king was the adopted son of Bel, and his right to rule was
based on the fact that Bel, the true lord and ruler of the State, had
delegated to him his power.



  60 Uban ('fingers')           1 Ammat ('cubit').
   6 Ammat                      1 Qanu ('reed').
   2 Qanu                       1 Gar.
  60 Gar                        1 Sussu ('soss').
  30 Sussi                      1 Kaspu.


  10 GAR[7]                     1 QA.
  27 QA                         1 AP.
  36 QA                         1 PI (or Persian Ardeb).
  60 QA                         1 Homer.
   3 Homers (or 5 Ardebs)       1 GUR (about 250 quarts).

        [6] As determined by Dr. Oppert.

        [7] Capitals denote that the Semitic pronunciation of the
        ideograph is unknown.


  60 Shekels                    1 Silver Mana ('Mina') = £9.
  60 Silver Manas               1 Silver Talent.
  60 Gold Manas                 1 Gold Talent (£8400).

    The silver shekel was worth about 3_s._


      Assyrian Name.              Sumerian Name.
                    Zodiacal Sign.             Corresponding Months.

   (1) Nisannu (Nisan)        Month of 'the dweller in the Asherah[8]
                      Aries                      March-April.

   (2) Aaru (Iyyar)           'The directing bull'
                      Taurus                     April-May.

   (3) Sivanu (Sivan)         'Bricks' (?)
                      Gemini                     May-June.

   (4) Duzu (Tammuz)          'The growth of seed'
                      Cancer                     June-July.

   (5) Abu (Ab)               'The fiery-hot'
                      Leo                        July-August.

   (6) Ululu (Elul)           'The message of Istar'
                      Virgo                      August-September.

   (7) Tasritu (Tisri)        'The holy mound'
                      Libra                      September-October.

   (8) Arakh-savna            'Opposite the foundation (of the year)
       (Marchesvan, 'the eighth month')
                     Scorpio                     October-November.

   (9) Kisilivu (Chisleu)     'The cloudy'
                     Sagittarius                 November-December.

  (10) Dhabitu (Tebet)        'The cave of the dawn' (?)
                     Capricornus                 December-January.

  (11) Sabadhu (Sebat)        'The curse of rain'
                     Aquarius                    January-February.

  (12) Addaru (Adar)          The month of 'cultivation'
                     Pisces                      February-March.

  (13) Arakh-makhru (Ve-Adar), the intercalary month.

        [8] _Zaggara_, rendered by the Semitic _bit ili_ (Beth-el),
        'house of God,' as well as by _asirtu_, 'the symbol of the
        goddess Asherah' (mistranslated 'grove' in the Authorized
        Version of the Old Testament).


  Sargon of Akkad                                                3800

  Naram-Sin his son                                              3700

   (1) The Dynasty of Babylon: 11 kings for 304 years       2478-2174
      The sixth king of the dynasty was Khammurabi          2356-2301

   (2) The Dynasty of Lagas: 11 kings for 368 years         2174-1806

   (3) The Kassite Dynasty: 36 kings for 576 years 9 months 1806-1229

Among the kings of this dynasty were Burna-buryas (cir. B.C. 1420),
the contemporary of the Egyptian Pharaohs Amenophis III and Amenophis
IV, and Kuri-galzu (cir. B.C. 1400).

The last six kings were:

  Rimmon-nadin-suma                                              1297
  Conquest of Babylon by Tiglath-Uras of Assyria                 1291
  Expulsion of the Assyrians; Rimmon-suma-natsir king            1284
  Meli-sipak                                                     1261
  Merodach-baladan I                                             1246
  Zamama-nadin-sumi                                              1233
  Bel-suma-nadin                                                 1232

   (4) The Dynasty of Isin: 11 kings for 72 years 6 months  1229-1156

   (5) The Dynasty of the Sea-coast: 3 kings for
      21 years 5 months                                     1156-1135

   (6) The Dynasty of Bit-Bazi: 3 kings for
      20 years 3 months                                     1135-1115

   (7) An Elamite usurper for 6 years                       1115-1109

   (8) The 31 [kings] of the Dynasty of Babylon[9]          1109- 730

  Among them were:

      Nebuchadrezzar I                                      1109-1096
      Merodach-nadin-akhi                                   1096-1090
      Merodach-sapik-zirrat                                 cir. 1075
      Nebo-baladan                                           cir. 880
      Merodach-balasu-iqbi                                   cir. 820
      Nabu-natsir (Nabonassar)                                    747
      Nabu-nadin-ziri (Nadios) his son                            733
      Nabu-suma-yukin his son                                     731

   (9) The Dynasty of Sape: Yukin-zira (Chinziros)                730

  (10) The Assyrian Dynasties:
      Pulu (Pul, Pôros), called Tiglath-pileser III in Assyria    727
      Ululâ, called Shalmaneser IV in Assyria                     725
      Merodach-baladan II, the Chaldaean from the Sea-coast       721
      Sargon of Assyria                                           709
      Sennacherib his son                                         704
      Merodach-zakir-sumi for 1 month                             702
      Merodach-baladan III for six months                         702
      Bel-ebus of Babylon                                         702
      Assur-nadin-suma son of Sennacherib                         700
      Nergal-yusezib                                              694
      Musezib-Merodach                                            693
      Sennacherib a second time                                   689
      Esar-haddon his son                                         681
      Samas-suma-yukin (Saosduchinos)                             668
      Kandalanu (Kineladanos)                                     648
      Nabu-pal-utsur (Nabopolassar)                               626
      Nabu-kudurri-utsar (Nebuchadrezzar) his son                 605
      Evil-Merodach his son                                       562
      Nergal-sarra-utsur (Nergalsharezer)                         560
      Laborosoarchod, his son, for 3 months                       556
      Nabu-nahid (Nabonidos)                                      556
      Cyrus conquers Babylon                                      538
      Cambyses his son                                            529
      Gomates (Gaumata) the Magian (the pseudo-Bardes or Smerdis) 521
      Dareios (Dârayavaush) the son of Hystaspes (Vishtâspa)      521
      Xerxes I (Khshayârshâ) his son                              485
      Samas-erba, rebel-king                                      480
      Xerxes restored                                             479
      Artaxerxes I (Artakshatra) Longimanus his son               465
      Xerxes II, his son, for two months                          425
      Sogdianos, his half-brother, for seven months               425
      Dareios II, Nothos (or Okhos) his brother                   424
      Artaxerxes II (Mnêmôn) his son                              405
      Okhos (Uvasu) the son of Artaxerxes                         362
      Arses his son                                               339
      Dareios III, Kodomannos                                     336
      Conquered by Alexander the Great                            330

        [9] The fracture of the tablet makes the arrangement of this
        Dynasty not absolutely certain.


Sargon asserts he was preceded by 330 Assyrian kings.



  Isme-Dagon                                                cir. 1850
  Samas-Rimmon I his son                                         1820

  Igur-Kapkapu                                                      ?
  Samas-Rimmon II his brother                                       ?

  Khallu                                                            ?
  Irisum his son                                                    ?



  Bel-Kapkapu 'the founder of the monarchy'                         ?

  Ada'si                                                            ?
  Bel-basi his son                                                  ?

  Assur-bil-nisi-su, cir.                                        1450
  Buzur-Assur,                                                   1440
  Assur-nadin-akhi,                                              1420
  Assur-yuballidh his son,                                       1400
  Bel-nirari his son,                                            1380
  Pudilu (Pedael) his son,                                       1360
  Rimmon-nirari I his son,                                       1340
  Shalmaneser I his son (founder of Calah),                      1320
  Tiglath-Uras I his son,                                        1300
  Assur-natsir-pal I his son,                                    1280
  Assur-narara,                                                  1270
  Nebo-dân his son,                                              1265

  Bel-kudurri-utsur,                                             1230
  Uras-pileser,                                                  1215
  Assur-dân I his son,                                           1185
  Mutaggil-Nebo his son,                                         1160
  Assur-ris-ilim his son,                                        1140
  Tiglath-pileser I his son,                                     1115
  Assur-bil-kala his son,                                        1090
  Samas-Rimmon I his brother,                                    1070

  Assur-irbi                                                        ?

  Tiglath-pileser II,                                             950
  Assur-dân II his son,                                           930
  Rimmon-nirari II his son,                                  B.C. 911
  Tiglath-Uras II his son,                                        889
  Assur-natsir-pal II his son,                                    883

  Shalmaneser II his son                                          858
  Assur-dain-pal (Sardanapallos), rebel-king                      825
  Samas-Rimmon II his brother                                     823
  Rimmon-nirari III his son                                       810
  Shalmaneser III                                                 781
  Assur-dân III                                                   771
  Assur-nirari                                                    753
  Tiglath-pileser III, Pulu (Pul, Pôros), usurper                 745
  Shalmaneser IV, Ululâ, usurper                                  727
  Sargon usurper                                                  722
  Sennacherib (Sin-akhi-erba) his son                             705
  Esar-haddon I (Assur-akhi-iddina) his son                       681
  Assur-bani-pal (Sardanapallos) his son                          668
  Assur-etil-ilani-yukinni his son                                  ?
  Sin-sarra-iskun (Sarakos)                                         ?
  Destruction of Nineveh                                          606



  Battle of Qarqar; Shalmaneser II defeats Hadadezer of
    Damascus, Ahab of Israel, &c.                                 853
  Campaigns against Hadadezer of Damascus                     850-845
  Campaign against Hazael of Damascus; tribute paid
    to Shalmaneser by Jehu 'the son of Omri'                       41
  Damascus captured by Rimmon-nirari III; tribute paid
    by Samaria                                                    804
  Pul, who takes the name of Tiglath-pileser III, usurps
    the throne, April                                             745
  War with Hamath; submission of Uzziah; fall of Arpad        843-840
  Tribute paid to Tiglath-pileser (Pul) by Menahem of
    Samaria and Rezon of Damascus                                 738
  Damascus besieged; the tribes beyond the Jordan carried
    away; Jehoahaz (Ahaz) of Judah becomes an Assyrian vassal     734
  Pekah put to death; Hosea succeeds                      733 (? 729)
  Damascus captured; Rezon slain; Ahaz at Damascus                732
  Capture of Samaria by Sargon                                    722
  Embassy of Merodach-baladan to Hezekiah                         712
  Capture of Ashdod by the Assyrians                              711
  Campaign of Sennacherib against Judah                           701
  Murder of Sennacherib                                           681
  Manasseh of Judah tributary to Esar-haddon                      676
  Destruction of Thebes (No-Amon) in Egypt by the Assyrians       665
  Babylonian invasion of Egypt                                    567


  Arm (Sumerian Ana), the sky-god of Erech, and wife Anat.

  Bel the elder (Sum. Mul-lil or El-lil), the earth-god of Nipur,
    and wife Beltis.

  Ea, the water-god of Eridu, and wife Dav-kina.

  Bel-Merodach (Maruduk) of Babylon, the son of Ea, and wife Zarpanit.

  Istar, the goddess of the evening-star, the daughter of Sin.

  Sin, the Moon-god of Ur, the son of Bel of Nipur.

  Samas, the Sun-god, the son of Sin; also called Â.

  Rimmon (Rammanu) or Barqu (Sum. Mer), the air-god.

  Uras[10], the warrior-god of Nipur, the minister of the elder Bel.

  Nebo (Nabu), 'the prophet' of Borsippa, the minister of Merodach.

  Tasmit, 'the hearer,' the wife of Nebo.

  Nusku, a Sumerian deity identified with Nebo.

  Nergal, the warrior-god of Kutha.

  Assur, the national-god of Assyria.

        [10] The reading of the name of this god is doubtful. It has
        been variously transcribed Bar, Nin-ip, and Adar, the last of
        which, however, is certainly wrong.



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