Ancient Empires; Greco-Mesopotamian (Part 1)

Elsewhere we come upon the outlines of a draped female form, sometimes alone, sometimes accompanied by two lions, or of a man clothed in a short tunic, holding a sort of straight sceptre in his hand, and we fancy that we have the image of a god before our eyes, though we cannot say which of the deities handed down by tradition it may represent. The religion of the Phrygians is shrouded in the same mystery as their civilization and their art, and presents a curious mixture of European and Asiatic elements. The old aboriginal races had worshipped from time immemorial a certain mother-goddess, Ma, or Amma, the black earth, which brings forth without ceasing, and nourishes all living things. Her central place of worship seems, originally, to have been in the region of the Anti-taurus, and it was there that her sacred cities–Tyana, Venasa, and the Cappadocian Comana–were to be found as late as Roman times; in these towns her priests were regarded as kings, and thousands of her priestesses spent lives of prostitution in her service; but her sanctuaries, with their special rites and regulations, were scattered over the whole peninsula. She was sometimes worshipped under the form of a meteoric stone, or betyle similar to those found in Canaan;[N1] more frequently she was represented in female shape, with attendant lions, or placed erect on a lion in the attitude of walking.

[N1: E.g. at Mount Dindymus and at Pessinus, which latter place was supposed to possess the oldest sanctuary of Cybele. The Pessinus stone, which was carried off to Rome in 204 B.C., was small, irregular in shape, and of a dark colour. Another stone represented Ida.]

A moon-god, Men, shared divine honours with her, and with a goddess Nana whose son Atys had been the only love of Ma and the victim of her passion. We are told that she compelled him to emasculate himself in a fit of mad delirium, and then transformed him into a pine tree: thenceforward her priests made the sacrifice of their virility with their own hands at the moment of dedicating themselves to the service of the goddess.[N2]

[N2] Nana was made out to be the daughter of the river Sangarios. She is said to have conceived Atys by placing in her bosom the fruit of an almond tree which sprang from the hermaphrodite Agdistis. This was the form–extremely ancient in its main features–in which the legend was preserved at Pessinus.]

The gods introduced from Thrace by the Phrygians showed a close affinity with those of the purely Asianic peoples. Precedence was universally given to a celestial divinity named Bagaios, Lord of the Oak, perhaps because he was worshipped under a gigantic sacred oak; he was king of gods and men, then-father,[N3] lord of the thunder and the lightning, the warrior who charges in his chariot.

[N3: In this capacity he bore the surname Papas.]

He, doubtless, allowed a queen-regent of the earth to share his throne,[N4] but Sauazios, another, and, at first, less venerable deity had thrown this august pair into the shade.

[N4: The existence of such a goddess may be deduced from the passage in which Dionysius of Halicarnassus states that Manes, first king of the Phrygians, was the son of Zeus and Demeter.]

Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a photograph by Perdrizet. The last figure on the left is the god Men; the Sun overlooks all the rest, and a god bearing an axe occupies the extreme right of the picture. The shapes of these ancient aboriginal deities have been modified by the influence of Graeco-Roman syncretism, and I merely give these figures, as I do many others, for lack of better representations.

The Greeks, finding this Sauazios at the head of the Phrygian Pantheon, identified him with their Zeus, or, less frequently, with the Sun; he was really a variant of their Dionysos. He became torpid in the autumn, and slept a death-like sleep all through the winter; but no sooner did he feel the warmth of the first breath of spring, than he again awoke, glowing with youth, and revelled during his summer in the heart of the forest or on the mountain-side, leading a life of riot and intoxication, guarded by a band of Sauades, spirits of the springs and streams, the Sileni of Greek mythology. The resemblances detected by the new-comers between the orgies of Thrace and those of Asia quickly led to confusion between the different dogmas and divinities. The Phrygians adopted Ma, and made her their queen, the Cybele who dwells in the hills, and takes her title from the mountain-tops which she inhabits–Dindymene on Mount Dindymus, Sipylene on Mount Sipylus. She is always the earth, but the earth untilled, and is seated in the midst of lions, or borne through her domain in a car drawn by lions, accompanied by a troop of Corybantes with dishevelled locks. Sauazios, identified with the Asianic Atys, became her lover and her priest, and Men, transformed by popular etymology into Manes, the good and beautiful, was looked upon as the giver of good luck, who protects men after death as well as in life.

This religion, evolved from so many diverse elements, possessed a character of sombre poetry and sensual fanaticism which appealed strongly to the Greek imagination: they quickly adopted even its most barbarous mysteries, those celebrated in honour of the goddess and Atys, or of Sauazios. They tell us but little of the inner significance of the symbols and doctrines taught by its votaries, but have frequently described its outward manifestations. These consisted of aimless wanderings through the forests, in which the priest, incarnate representative of his god, led after him the ministers of the temple, who were identified with the Sauades and nymphs of the heavenly host. Men heard them passing in the night, heralded by the piercing notes of the flute provoking to frenzy, and by the clash of brazen cymbals, accompanied by the din of uproarious ecstasy: these sounds were broken at intervals by the bellowing of bulls and the roll of drums, like the rambling of subterranean thunder.

A Midas followed a Gordios, and a Gordios a Midas, in alternate succession, and under their rule the Phrygian empire enjoyed a period of prosperous obscurity. Lydia led an uneventful existence beside them, under dynasties which have received merely passing notice at the hands of the Greek chroniclers. They credit it at the outset with the almost fabulous royal line of the Atyadae, in one of whose reigns the Tyrseni are said to have migrated into Italy. Towards the twelfth century the Atyadae were supplanted by a family of Heraclido, who traced their descent to a certain Agron, whose personality is only a degree less mythical than his ancestry; he was descended from Heracles through Alcseus, Belus, and Ninus. Whether these last two names point to intercourse with one or other of the courts on the banks of the Euphrates, it is difficult to say. Twenty-one Heraclido, each one the son of his predecessor, are said to have followed Agron on the throne, their combined reigns giving a total of five hundred years.[N5] Most of these princes, whether Atyadae or Heraclidae, have for us not even a shadowy existence, and what we know of the remainder is of a purely fabulous nature. For instance, Kambles is reported to have possessed such a monstrous appetite, that he devoured his own wife one night, while asleep.[N6]

[N5:The number is a purely conventional one, and Gutschmid has shown how it originated. The computation at first comprised the complete series of 22 Heraclidae and 5 Mermnadae, estimated reasonably at 4 kings to a century, i.e. 27 X 25 = 675 years, from the taking of Sardes to the supposed accession of Agron. As it was known from other sources that the 5 Mermnadae had reigned 170 years, these were subtracted from the 675, to obtain the duration of the Heraclidae alone, and by this means were obtained the 505 years mentioned by Herodotus.

 [N6: Another version, related by Nicolas of Damascus, refers the story to the time of Lardanos, a contemporary of Hercules; it shows that the Lydian chronographers considered Kambles or Kamblitas as being one of the last of the Atyad kings.]

The concubine of Meles, again, is said to have brought forth a lion, and the oracle of Telmessos predicted that the town of Sardes would be rendered impregnable if the animal were led round the city walls; this was done, except on the side of the citadel facing Mount Tmolus, which was considered unapproachable, but it was by that very path that the Persians subsequently entered the town. Alkimos, we are told, accumulated immense treasures, and under his rule his subjects enjoyed unequalled prosperity for fourteen years. It is possible that the story of the expedition despatched into Palestine by a certain Akiamos, which ended in the foundation of Ascalon, is merely a feeble echo of the raids in Syrian and Egyptian waters made by the Tyrseni and Sardinians in the thirteenth century B.C. The spread of the Phrygians, and the subsequent progress of Greek colonisation, must have curtailed the possessions of the Heraclidas from the eleventh to the ninth centuries, but the material condition of the people does not appear to have suffered by this diminution of territory. When they had once firmly planted themselves in the ports along the Asianic littoral–at Kyme, at Phocae, at Smyrna, at Clazomenae, at Colophon, at Ephesus, at Magnesia, at Miletus–the Æolians and the Ionians lost no time in reaping the advantages which this position, at the western extremities of the great high-road through Asia Minor, secured to them. They overran all the Lydian settlements in Phrygia–Sardes, Leontocephalos, Pessinus, Gordioon, and Ancyra. The steep banks and the tortuous course of the Halys failed to arrest them; and they pushed forward beyond the mysterious regions peopled by the White Syrians, where the ancient civilization of Asia Minor still held its sway. The search for precious metals mainly drew them on–the gold and silver, the copper, bronze, and above all iron, which the Chalybae found in their mountains, and which were conveyed by caravans from the regions of the Caucasus to the sacred towns of Teiria and Pteria.[N7]

[N7: The site of Pteria has been fixed at Boghaz-keui by Texier, an identification which has been generally adopted; Euyuk is very probably Teiria, a town of the Lcucosyrians, mentioned by Hecatsous of Miletus in his work.]

The friendly relations into which they entered with the natives on these journeys resulted before long in barter and intermarriage, though their influence made itself felt in different ways, according to the character of the people on whom it was brought to bear.

They gave as a legacy to Phrygia one of their alphabets, that of Kyme, which soon banished the old Hittite syllabary from the monuments, and they borrowed in exchange Phrygian customs, musical instruments, traditions, and religious orgies. A Midas sought in marriage Hermodike, the daughter of Agamemnon the Kymsoan, while another Midas, who had consulted the oracle of Delphi, presented to the god the chryselephantine throne on which he was wont to sit when he dispensed justice.

This interchange of amenities and these alliances, however, had a merely superficial effect, and in no way modified the temperament and life of the people in inner Asia Minor. They remained a robust, hardworking race, attached to their fields and woods, loutish and slow of understanding, unskilled in war, and not apt in defending themselves in spite of their natural bravery. The Lydians, on the contrary, submitted readily to foreign influence, and the Greek leaven introduced among them became the germ of a new civilization, which occupied an intermediate place between that of the Greek and that of the Oriental world. About the first half of the eighth century B.C. the Lydians had become organized into a confederation of several tribes, governed by hereditary chiefs, who were again in their turn subject to the Heraclidae occupying Sardes.[N8] This town rose in terraces on the lower slopes of a detached spur of the Tmolus running in the direction of the Hermos, and was crowned by the citadel, within which were included the royal palace, the treasury, and the arsenals. It was surrounded by an immense plain, bounded on the south by a curve of the Tmolus, and on the west by the distant mountains of Phrygia Katake-kaumene. The Maeonians still claimed primacy over the entire race, and the family was chosen from among their nobles. The king, who was supposed to be descended from the gods, bore, as the insignia of his rank, a double-headed axe, the emblem of his divine ancestors. The Greeks of later times said that the axe was that of their Heracles, which was wrested by him from the Amazon Hippolyta, and given to Omphale.[N9]

[N8: Gelzer was the first, to my knowledge, to state that Lydia was a feudal state, and he defined its constitution. Radet refuses to recognise it as feudal in the true sense of the term, and he prefers to see in it a confederation of states under the authority of a single prince.]

 [N9: Gelzer sees in the legend about the axe related by Plutarch, a reminiscence of a primitive gynocracy. The axe is the emblem of the god of war, and, as such, belongs to the king: the coins of Mylasa exhibit it held by Zeus Labraundos.]

SOURCE: History Of Egypt, Chaldaea, Syria, Babylonia, and Assyria, Volume 8 (of 12), by G. Maspero/Translated by M. L. McClure

Deiokes; Rise of the Medes; Ancient Empires


Epic of Ishtar and Izdubar: Heabani Reveals Two Wonderful Visions To The King (Part 38); Assyrian

(One Of Death And Oblivion, And The Other Of Heaven, And Dies In The Arms Of The King)

“But, oh, my King! to thee I now reveal
A secret that my heart would yet conceal,
To thee, my friend, two visions I reveal:
The first I oft have dreamed beneath some spell
Of night, when I enwrapped from all the world,
With Self alone communed.

Unconscious hurled
By winged thought beyond this present life,
I seeming woke in a Dark World where rife
Was Nothingness,–a darksome mist it seemed,
All eke was naught;–no light for me there gleamed;
And floating ‘lone, which way I turned, saw naught;
Nor felt of substance ‘neath my feet, nor fraught
With light was Space around; nor cheerful ray
Of single star. The sun was quenched; or day
Or night, knew not. No hands had I, nor feet,
Nor head, nor body, all was void. No heat
Or cold I felt, no form could feel or see;
And naught I knew but conscious entity.

No boundary my being felt, or had;
And speechless, deaf, and blind, and formless, sad,
I floated through dark space,–a conscious blank!
No breath of air my spirit moved; I sank
I knew not where, till motionless I ceased
At last to move, and yet I could not rest,
Around me spread the Limitless, and Vast.

My cheerless, conscious spirit,–fixed and fast
In some lone spot in space was moveless, stark!
An atom chained by forces stern and dark,
With naught around me. Comfortless I lived
In my dread loneliness! Oh, how I grieved!

And thus, man’s fate in Life and Death is solved
With naught but consciousness, and thus involved
All men in hopes that no fruition have?
And this alone was all that death me gave?
That all had vanished, gone from me that life
Could give, and left me but a blank, with strife
Of rising thoughts, and vain regrets, to float;
Away from life and light, be chained remote!

“Oh, how my spirit longed for some lone crag
To part the gloom beneath, and rudely drag
My senses back! or with its shock to end
My dire existence;–to oblivion send
Me quickly! How I strove to curse, and break
That soundless Void, with shrieks or cries, to wake
That awful silence which around me spread!
In vain! in vain! all but my soul was dead.

And then my spirit soundless cried within:
‘Oh, take me! take me back to Earth again!’
For tortures of the flesh were bliss and joy
To such existence! Pain can never cloy
The smallest thrill of earthly happiness!
‘Twas joy to live on earth in pain! I’ll bless
Thee, gods, if I may see its fields I’ve trod
To kiss its fragrant flowers, and clasp the sod
Of mother Earth, that grand and beauteous world!

From all its happiness, alas! was hurled
My spirit,–then in frenzy–I awoke!
Great Bel! a dream it was! as vanished smoke
It sped! and I sprang from my couch and prayed
To all the gods, and thus my soul allayed.

And then with blessings on my lips, I sought
My couch, and dropped away in blissful thought
In dream the second: “Then the Silver Sky
Came to me. Near the Stream of Life I lie:
My couch the rarest flowers; and music thrills
My soul! How soft and sweet it sounds from rills
And streams, and feathered songsters in the trees
Of Heaven’s fruits!–e’en all that here doth please

The heart of man was there, In a dear spot
I lay, ‘mid olives, spices, where was wrought
A beauteous grotto; and beside me near,
Were friends I loved; and one both near and dear
With me reclined, in blissful converse, sweet
With tender thought, Our joy was full, complete!

The ministering spirits there had spread
Before us all a banquet on the mead,
With Heaven’s food and nectar for our feast;
And oh, so happy! How our joy increased
As moments flew, to years without an end!
To Courts Refulgent there we oft did wend.

“Beside a silver lake, a holy fane
There stood within the centre of the plain,
High built on terraces, with walls of gold,
Where palaces and mansions there enfold
A temple of the gods, that stands within
‘Mid feathery palms and “gesdin”[1] bowers green,
The city rises to a dizzy height,
With jewelled turrets flashing in the light,
Grand mansions piled on mansions rising high
Until the glowing summits reach the sky.

A cloud of myriad wings, e’er fills the sky,
As doves around their nests on earth here fly;
The countless millions of the souls on earth,
The gods have brought to light from mortal birth,
Are carried there from the dark world of doom;
For countless numbers more there still is room.

Through trailing vines my Love and I oft wind,
With arms of love around each other twined.
This day, we passed along the Stream of Life,
Through blooming gardens, with sweet odors rife;
Beneath the ever-ripening fruits we walk,
Along dear paths, and sweetly sing, or talk,
While warbling birds around us fly in view,
From bloom to bloom with wings of every hue;
And large-eyed deer, no longer wild, us pass,
With young gazelles, and kiss each other’s face.

“We now have reached the stately stairs of gold,
The city of the gods, here built of old.
The pearled pillars rise inlaid divine,
With lotus delicately traced with vine
In gold and diamonds, pearls, and unknown gems,
That wind to capital with blooming stems

Of lilies, honeysuckles, and the rose
An avenue of columns in long rows
Of varied splendor, leads to shining courts
Where skilful spirit hands with perfect arts
Have chiselled glorious forms magnificent,
With ornate skill and sweet embellishment.

Their golden sculpture view on every hand,
Or carved images in pearl that stand
In clusters on the floor, or in long rows;
And on the walls of purest pearl there glows
The painting of each act of kindest deed
Each soul performs on earth;–is there portrayed.

“The scenes of tenderness and holy love,
There stand and never end, but onward move,
And fill the galleries of Heaven with joy,
And ever spirit artist hands employ.

The holiest deeds are carved in purest gold,
Or richest gems, and there are stored of old;
Within the inner court a fountain stood,
Of purest diamond moulded, whence there flowed
Into a golden chalice,–trickling cool,
The nectar of the gods,–a sparkling pool,
That murmuring sank beneath an emerald vase
That rested underneath;–the fountain’s base.

“We entered then an arcade arching long
Through saph’rine galleries, and heard the song
That swelling came from temples hyaline;
And passed through lazite courts and halls divine,
While dazzling glories brighter round us shone
How sweet then came the strains! with grander tone!

And, oh, my King! I reached the gates of pearl
That stood ajar, and heard the joyous whirl
That thrilled the sounding domes and lofty halls,
And echoed from the shining jasper walls.

I stood within the gate, and, oh, my friend,
Before that holy sight I prone did bend,
And hid my face upon the jacinth stairs.
A shining god raised me, and bade my fears
Be flown, and I beheld the glorious throne
Of crystaled light; with rays by man unknown.

The awful god there sat with brows sublime,
With robes of woven gold, and diadem
That beamed with blazing splendor o’er his head.
I thus beheld the god with presence dread,
The King of Kings, the Ancient of the Days,
While music rose around with joyous praise.

With awful thunders how they all rejoice!
And sing aloud with one commingled voice!

“What happiness it was to me, my King!
From bower to temple I went oft to sing,
Or spread my wings above the mount divine,
And viewed the fields from heights cerulean.

Those songs still linger on dear memory’s ear,
And tireless rest upon me, ever cheer.
But from the Happy Fields, alas! I woke,
And from my sight the Heavenly vision broke;
But, oh, my King, it all was but a dream!
I hope the truth is such, as it did seem;

If it is true that such a Heavenly Land
Exists with happiness so glorious, grand,
Within that haven I would happy be!
But it, alas! is now denied to me.

For, oh, my King, to Hades I must go,
My wings unfold to fly to Realms of Woe;
In darkness to that other world unknown,
Alas! from joyous earth my life has flown.

“Farewell, my King, my love thou knowest well;
I go the road; in Hades soon shall dwell;
To dwelling of the god Irkalla fierce,
To walls where light for me can never pierce,
The road from which no soul may e’er return,
Where dust shall wrap me round, my body urn,

Where sateless ravens float upon the air,
Where light is never seen, or enters there,
Where I in darkness shall be crowned with gloom;
With crowned heads of earth who there shall come
To reign with Anu’s favor or great Bel’s,
Then sceptreless are chained in their dark cells
With naught to drink but Hades’ waters there,
And dream of all the past with blank despair.

Within that world, I too shall ceaseless moan,
Where dwell the lord and the unconquered one,
And seers and great men dwell within that deep,
With dragons of those realms we all shall sleep;
Where King Etana[2] and god Ner doth reign
With Allat, the dark Under-World’s great queen,
Who reigns o’er all within her regions lone,
The Mistress of the Fields, her mother, prone
Before her falls, and none her face withstands;
But I will her approach, and take her hands,
And she will comfort me in my dread woe.

Alas! through yonder void I now must go!
My hands I spread! as birds with wings I fly!
Descend! descend! beneath that awful sky!”
The seer falls in the arms of Izdubar,
And he is gone;–’tis clay remaineth here.

[Footnote 1:”Gesdin,” the Tree of Life and Immortality.]–[Footnote 2: “Etana,” Lord or King of Hades. He is mentioned in the Creation series of Legends as having reigned before the flood.]

SOURCE: Babylonian and Assyrian Literature; Alcove II, Tablet VII (1901): Translated by Leonidas Le Cenci Hamilton, M.A.

Epic of Ishtar and Izdubar: Contest With The Dragons In The Mountains (Part 37); Assyrian

Epic of Ishtar and Izdubar: Contest With The Dragons In The Mountains (Part 37); Assyrian

(The Seer Is Mortally Wounded–His Calm View Of The Hereafter)

[1]”O Mam-mitu, thou god of fate and death!
Thou spirit of fierce hate and parting breath,
Thou banisher of joy! O ghastly Law,
That gathers countless forces in thy maw!
A phantom! curse! and oft a blessing, joy!
All Heaven and earth thy hands shall e’er employ.

With blessings come, or curses to us bring,
The god who fails not with her hovering wing;
Nor god, nor man thy coming e’er may ken,
O mystery! thy ways none can explain.”

If thou must come in earthquakes, fire, and flood,
Or pestilence and eftsoons cry for blood,
Thou comest oft with voice of sweetest love,
Our dearest, fondest passions, hopes, to move;
And men have worshipped thee in every form,
In fear have praised thee, sought thy feet to charm.

We reck not if you blessings, curses bring,
For men oft change thy noiseless, ghoulish wing.
And yet, thou comest, goddess Mam-mitu,
To bring with thee the feet of Nin-a-zu,
Two sister ghouls, remorseless, tearless, wan,
We fear ye not; ye “bu’i-du”,[2] begone!

Sweet life renews itself in holy love,
Your victory is naught! Ye vainly rove
Across our pathway with yours forms inane,
For somewhere, though we die, we live again.

[3]The soul departed shall in glory shine,
As burnished gold its form shall glow divine,
And Samas there shall grant to us new life;
And Merodac, the eldest son, all strife
Shall end in peace in yonder Blest Abode,
Where happiness doth crown our glorious God.

[4]The sacred waters there shall ever flow,
To Anat’s arms shall all the righteous go;
The queen of Anu, Heaven’s king, our hands
Outstretched will clasp, and through the glorious lands
Will lead us to the place of sweet delights;
The land that glows on yonder blessed heights
Where milk and honey from bright fountains flow.

And nectar to our lips, all sorrows, woe,
Shall end in happiness beside the Stream
Of Life, and Joy for us shall ever gleam;
Our hearts with thankfulness shall sweetly sing
And grander blissfulness each day will bring.

And if we do not reach that spirit realm,
Where bodyless each soul may ages whelm
With joy unutterable; still we live,
With bodies knew upon dear Earth, and give
Our newer life to children with our blood.

Or if these blessings we should miss; in wood,
Or glen, or garden, field, or emerald seas,
Our forms shall spring again; in such as these
We see around us throbbing with sweet life,
In trees or flowerets.

This needs no belief
On which to base the fabric of a dream,
For Earth her children from death doth redeem,
And each contributes to continuous bloom;
So go your way! ye sisters, to your gloom!

Far on their road have come the king of fame
And seer, within the land of Mas[5] they came,
Nor knew that Fate was hovering o’er their way,
In gentle converse they have passed the day.

Some twenty “kaspu” o’er the hills and plain,
They a wild forest in the mountain gain,
In a deep gorge they rode through thickets wild,
Beneath the pines; now to a pass they filed,
And lo! two dragons[6] near a cave contend
Their path! with backs upreared their coils unbend,
Extend their ravenous jaws with a loud roar
That harshly comes from mouths of clotted gore.

The sky overhead with lowering clouds is cast,
Which Anu in his rage above them massed.
Dark tempests fly above from Rimmon’s breath,
Who hovers o’er them with the gods of death;
The wicked seven winds howl wildly round,
And crashing cedars falling shake the ground.

Now Tsil-lattu her black wings spreads o’er all,
Dark shrouding all the forest with her pall,
And from his steed for safety each dismounts,
And o’er their heads now break the ebon founts.

But hark! what is that dreadful roaring noise?
The dragons come! Their flaming crests they poise
Above, and nearer blaze their eyes of fire,
And see! upon them rush the monsters dire.

The largest springs upon the giant Sar,
Who parrying with the sword he used in war,
With many wounds it pierces, drives it back;
Again it comes, renews its fierce attack,
With fangs outspread its victims to devour,
High o’er the monarch’s head its crest doth tower,
Its fiery breath upon his helm doth glow.

Exposed its breast! he strikes! his blade drives through
Its vitals! Dying now it shakes the ground,
And furious lashes all the forest round.
But hark! what is that awful lingering shriek
And cries of woe, that on his ears wild break?
A blinding flash, see! all the land reveals,
With dreadful roars, and darkness quick conceals
The fearful sight, to ever after come
Before his eyes, wherever he may roam.

The King, alas! too late Heabani drags
From the beast’s fangs, that dies beneath the crags
Overhanging near the cave. And now a din
Loud comes from “dalkhi” that around them spin
In fierce delight, while hellish voices rise
In harsh and awful mockery; the cries
Of agony return with taunting groans,
And mock with their fell hate those piteous moans.

Amazed stands Izdubar above his seer,
Nor hears the screams, nor the fierce “dalkhi’s” jeer;
Beneath the flashing lightnings he soon found
The cave, and lays the seer upon the ground.
His breaking heart now cries in agony,
“Heabani! O my seer, thou must not die!
Alas! dread Mam-mitu hath led us here,
Awake for me! arouse! my noble seer!
I would to gods of Erech I had died
For thee! my seer! my strength! my kingdom’s pride!”

The seer at last revives and turns his face
With love that death touched not, his hand doth place
With friendly clasp in that of his dear king,
And says: “Grieve not, beloved friend, this thing
Called death at last must come, why should we fear?
‘Tis Hades’ mist that opens for thy seer!

“The gods us brought, nor asked consent, and life
They give and take away from all this strife
That must be here, my life I end on earth;
Both joy and sorrow I have seen from birth;
To Hades’ awful land, whence none return,
Heabani’s face in sorrow now must turn.
My love for thee, mine only pang reveals,
For this alone I grieve.”

A teardrop steals a cross his features, shining ‘neath the light
The King has lit to make the cavern bright.
“But oh, friend Izdubar, my King, when I
From this dear earth to waiting Hades fly,
Grieve not; and when to Erech you return,
Thou shalt in glory reign, and Zaidu learn
As thy companion all that thine own heart
Desires, thy throne thou wilt to him impart.

The female, Samkha, whom he brought to me
Is false, in league with thine own enemy.
And she will cause thee mischief, seek to drive
Thee from thy throne; but do not let her live
Within the walls of Erech, for the gods
Have not been worshipped in their high abodes.

When thou returnest, to the temple go,
And pray the gods to turn from thee the blow
Of Anu’s fury, the strong god, who reigns
Above, and sent these woes upon the plains.
His anger raised against thee, even thee,
Must be allayed, or thy goods thou shalt see,
And kingdom, all destroyed by his dread power.

But Khasisadra will to thee give more
Advice when thou shalt meet the ancient seer,
For from thy side must I soon disappear.”
The seer now ceased, and on his couch asleep
Spoke not, and Izdubar alone doth weep.

And thus twelve days were past, and now the seer
Of the great change he saw was drawing near
Informed his King, who read to him the prayers,
And for the end each friendly act prepares,
Then said: “O my Heabani, dearest friend,
I would that I thy body could defend
From thy fierce foe that brings the end to thee.

My friend in battle I may never see
Again, when thou didst nobly stand beside
Me; with my seer and friend I then defied
All foes; and must thou leave thy friend, my seer?”
“Alas! my King, I soon shall leave thee here.”

[Footnote 1: We have here quoted an Accadian hymn to the goddess of fate. (“Trans. Soc. of Bib. Arch.,” vol. ii. p. 39.)]–[Footnote 2: “Bu’i-du,” ghosts.]–[Footnote 3: Accadian hymn on the future of the just. (“Trans. Soc. Of Bib. Arch.,” vol. ii. p. 32.)]–[Footnote 4: Assyrian fragmentary hymn (“W.A.I.,” iv. 25, col. v.), translated in “Records of the Past,” vol. xi. pp. 161, 162.]–[Footnote 5: The land of Mas, Mr. Sayce supposes, was situated west of the Euphrates Valley.]–[Footnote 6: “Dragons.” The word for this animal is “tammabuk-ku.” It was probably one of the monsters portrayed on the Babylonian cylinders now in
the British Museum.]

SOURCE: Babylonian and Assyrian Literature; Alcove II, Tablet VII (1901): Translated by Leonidas Le Cenci Hamilton, M.A.

Epic of Ishtar and Izdubar: Heabani Reveals Two Wonderful Visions To The King (Part 38); Assyrian

Epic of Ishtar and Izdubar: The King And Seer Conversing (Part 36); Assyrian

Epic of Ishtar and Izdubar: The King And Seer Conversing (Part 36); Assyrian

(On Their Way To Khasi-Sadra—Interpretation Of The King’s Dream In The Palace On The Night Of The Festival)

“The dream, my seer, which I beheld last night
Within our tent, may bring to us delight.
I saw a mountain summit flash with fire,
That like a royal robe or god’s attire
Illumined all its sides. The omen might
Some joy us bring, for it was shining bright.”
And thus the Sar revealed to him his dream.

Heabani said, “My friend, though it did seem
Propitious, yet, deceptive was it all,
And came in memory of Elam’s fall.

The mountain burning was Khumbaba’s halls
We fired, when all his soldiers from the walls
Had fled;–the “ni-takh-garri”,[1]–on that morn,
Of such deceptive dreams, I would thee warn!”

Some twenty “kaspu” they have passed this day,
At thirty “kaspu” they dismount to pray
And raise an altar, Samas to beseech
That they their journey’s end may safely reach.
The tent now raised, their evening meal prepare
Beneath the forest in the open air;
And Izdubar brought from the tent the dream
He dreamed the festal night when Ishtar came
To him;–he reads it from a written scroll:
“Upon my sight a vision thus did fall:
I saw two men that night beside a god;
One man a turban wore, and fearless trod.

The god reached forth his hand and struck him down
Like mountains hurled on fields of corn, thus prone
He lay; and Izdubar then saw the god
Was Anatu,[2] who struck him to the sod.

The troubler of all men, Samu’s fierce queen,
Thus struck the turbaned man upon the plain.
He ceased his struggling, to his friend thus said:
‘My friend, thou askest not why I am laid
Here naked, nor my low condition heed.
Accursed thus I lie upon the mead;
The god has crushed me, burned my limbs with fire.’

“The vision from mine eyes did then expire.
A third dream came to me, which I yet fear,
The first beyond my sight doth disappear.
A fire-god thundering o’er the earth doth ride;
The door of darkness burning flew aside;
Like a fierce stream of lightning, blazing fire,
Beside me roared the god with fury dire,
And hurled wide death on earth on every side;
And quickly from my sight it thus did glide,
And in its track I saw a palm-tree green
Upon a waste, naught else by me was seen.”

Heabani pondering, thus explained the dream:
“My friend, the god was Samas, who doth gleam
With his bright glory, power, our God and Lord,
Our great Creator King, whose thunders roared
By thee, as through yon sky he takes his way;
For his great favor we should ever pray.

The man thou sawest lying on the plain
Was thee, O King,–to fight such power is vain.
Thus Anatu will strike thee with disease,
Unless thou soon her anger shalt appease;
And if thou warrest with such foes divine,
The fires of death shall o’er thy kingdom shine.

The palm-tree green upon the desert left
Doth show that we of hope are not bereft;
The gods for us their snares have surely weft,[3]
One shall be taken, and the other left.”

[Footnote 1: “Ni-takh-garri,” “the helpers,” or soldiers of Khumbaba.]–[Footnote 2: “Anatu,” the consort of Anu.]–[Footnote 3: “Weft,” weaved.]

SOURCE: Babylonian and Assyrian Literature; Alcove II, Tablet VII (1901): Translated by Leonidas Le Cenci Hamilton, M.A.

Epic of Ishtar and Izdubar: Contest With The Dragons In The Mountains (Part 37); Assyrian

Epic of Ishtar and Izdubar: Escape Of Tammuz From Hades (Part 35); Assyrian

Deiokes; Rise of the Medes; Ancient Empires

As we have already seen, Sennacherib reigned for eight years after his triumph; eight years of tranquility at home, and of peace with all his neighbours abroad. If we examine the contemporary monuments or the documents of a later period, and attempt to glean from them some details concerning the close of his career, we find that there is a complete absence of any record of national movement on the part of either Elam, Urartu, or Egypt.

The only event of which any definite mention is made is a raid across the north of Arabia, in the course of which Hazael, King of Adumu, and chief among the princes of Kedar, was despoiled of the images of his gods. The older states of the Oriental world had, as we have pointed out, grown weary of warfare which brought them nothing but loss of men and treasure; but behind these states, on the distant horizon to the east and north-west, were rising up new nations whose growth and erratic movements assumed an importance that became daily more and more alarming. On the east, the Medes, till lately undistinguishable from the other tribes occupying the western corner of the Iranian table-land, had recently broken away from the main body, and, rallying round a single leader, already gave promise of establishing an empire formidable alike by the energy of its people and the extent of its domain. A tradition afterwards accepted by them attributed their earlier successes to a certain Deiokes, son of Phraortes, a man wiser than his fellows, who first set himself to deal out justice in his own household. The men of his village, observing his merits, chose him to be the arbiter of all their disputes, and, being secretly ambitious of sovereign power, he did his best to settle their differences on lines of the strictest equity and justice.

By these means he gained such credit with his fellow-citizens as to attract the attention of those who lived in the neighbouring villages, who had suffered from unjust judgments, so that when they heard of the singular uprightness of Deiokes and of the equity of his decisions they joyfully had recourse to him until at last they came to put confidence in no one else. The number of complaints brought before him continually increasing as people learnt more and more the justice of his judgments, Deiokes, finding himself now all-important, announced that he did not intend any longer to hear causes, and appeared no more in the seat in which he had been accustomed to sit and administer justice. “‘It was not to his advantage,’ he said, ‘to spend the whole day in regulating other men’s affairs to the neglect of his own.’ Hereupon robbery and lawlessness broke out afresh and prevailed throughout the country even more than heretofore; wherefore the Medes assembled from all quarters and held a consultation on the state of affairs. The speakers, as I think, were chiefly friends of Deiokes. ‘We cannot possibly,’ they said, ‘go on living in this country if things continue as they now are; let us, therefore, set a king over us, so that the land may be well governed, and we ourselves may be able to attend to our own affairs, and not be forced to quit our country on account of anarchy.’ After speaking thus, they persuaded themselves that they desired a king, and forthwith debated whom they should choose. Deiokes was proposed and warmly praised by all, so they agreed to elect him.”

Whereupon Deiokes had a great palace built, and enrolled a bodyguard to attend upon him. He next called upon his subjects to leave their villages, and “the Medes, obedient to his orders, built the city now called Ecbatana, the walls of which are of great size and strength, rising in circles one within the other. The walls are concentric, and so arranged that they rise one above the other by the height of their battlements. The nature of the ground, which is a gentle hill, favoured this arrangement. The number of the circles is seven, the royal palace and the treasuries standing within the last. The circuit of the outer wall is very nearly the same as that of Athens. Of this wall the battlements are white, of the next black, of the third scarlet, of the fourth blue, of the fifth orange. The two last have their battlements coated respectively with silver and gold. All these fortifications Deiokes caused to be raised for himself and his own palace; the people he required to dwell outside the citadel. When the town was finished, he established a rule that no one should have direct access to the king, but that all communications should pass through the hands of messengers. 

It was declared to be unseemly for any one to see the king face to face, or to laugh or spit in his presence. This ceremonial Deiokes established for his own security, fearing lest his compeers who had been brought up with him, and were of as good family and parts as he, should be vexed at the sight of him and conspire against him: he thought that by rendering himself invisible to his vassals they would in time come to regard him as quite a different sort of being from themselves.”

Two or three facts stand out from this legendary background. It is probable that Deiokes was an actual person; that the empire of the Medes first took shape under his auspices; that he formed an important kingdom at the foot of Mount Elvend, and founded Ecbatana the Great, or, at at any rate, helped to raise it to the rank of a capital.

[The existence of Deiokes has been called in question by Grote and by the Rawlinsons. Most recent historians, however, accept the story of this personage as true in its main facts; some believe him to have been merely the ancestor of the royal house which later on founded the united kingdom of the Medes. Its site was happily chosen, in a rich and fertile valley, close to where the roads emerge which cross the Zagros chain of mountains and connect Iran with the valleys of the Tigris and Euphrates, almost on the border of the salt desert which forms and renders sterile the central regions of the plateau. Mount Elvend shelters it, and feeds with its snows the streams that irrigate it, whose waters transform the whole country round into one vast orchard. The modern town has, as it were, swallowed up all traces of its predecessor; a stone lion, overthrown and mutilated, marks the site of the royal palace.]

The chronological reckoning of the native annalists, as handed down to us by Herodotus, credits Deiokes with a reign of fifty-three years, which occupied almost the whole of the first half of the seventh century, i.e. from 709 to 656, or from 700 to 647 B.C.

[Herodotus expressly attributes a reign of fifty-three years to his Deiokes, and the total of a hundred and fifty years which we obtain by adding together the number of years assigned by him to the four Median kings (53 + 22 + 40 + 35) brings us back to 709-708, if we admit, as he does, that the year of the proclamation by Cyrus as King of Persia     (559-558) was that in which Astyages was overthrown; we get 700-699 as the date of Deiokes’ accession, if we separate the two facts, as the monuments compel us to do, and reckon the hundred and fifty years of the Median empire from the fall of Astyages in 550-549.]

The records of Nineveh mention a certain Dayaukku who was governor of the Mannai, and an ally of the Assyrians in the days of Sargon, and was afterwards deported with his family to Hamath in 715; two years later reference is made to an expedition across the territory of Bit-Dayaukku, which is described as lying between Ellipi and Karalla, thus corresponding to the modern province of Hamadan. It is quite within the bounds of possibility that the Dayaukku who gave his name to this district was identical with the Deiokes of later writers.

[The form Deiokes, in place of Daiokes, is due to the Ionic dialect employed by Herodotus. Justi regards the name as an abbreviated form of the ancient Persian “Dahyaupati”–“the master of a province,” with the suffix “-ha”.]

He was the official ancestor of a royal house, a fact proved by the way in which his conqueror uses the name to distinguish the country over which he had ruled; moreover, the epoch assigned to him by contemporary chroniclers coincides closely enough with that indicated by tradition in the case of Deiokes. He was never the august sovereign that posterity afterwards made him out to be, and his territory included barely half of what constituted the province of Media in classical times; he contrived, however–and it was this that gained him universal renown in later days–to create a central rallying-point for the Median tribes around which they henceforth grouped themselves. The work of concentration was merely in its initial stage during the lifetime of Sennacherib, and little or nothing was felt of its effects outside its immediate area of influence, but the pacific character ascribed to the worthy Deiokes by popular legends, is to a certain extent confirmed by the testimony of the monuments: they record only one expedition, in 702, against Ellipi and the neighbouring tribes, in the course of which some portions of the newly acquired territory were annexed to the province of Kharkhar, and after mentioning this the annals have nothing further to relate during the rest of the reign. Sennacherib was too much taken up with his retaliatory measures against Babylon, or his disputes with Blam, to think of venturing on expeditions such as those which had brought Tiglath-pileser III. or Sargon within sight of Mount Bikni; while the Medes, on their part, had suffered so many reverses under these two monarchs that they probably thought twice before attacking any of the outposts scattered along the Assyrian frontier: nothing occurred to disturb their tranquillity during the early years of the seventh century, and this peaceful interval probably enabled Deiokes to consolidate, if not to extend, his growing authority.

But if matters were quiet, at all events on the surface, in this direction, the nations on the north and north-west had for some time past begun to adopt a more threatening attitude. That migration of races between Europe and Asia, which had been in such active progress about the middle of the second millennium before our era, had increased twofold in intensity after the rise of the XXth Egyptian dynasty, and from thenceforward a wave of new races had gradually spread over the whole of Asia Minor, and had either driven the older peoples into the less fertile or more inaccessible districts, or else had overrun and absorbed them.

Many of the nations that had fought against Ramses II. and Ramses III., such as the Uashasha, the Shagalasha, the Zakkali, the Danauna, and the Tursha, had disappeared, but the Thracians, whose appearance on the scene caused such consternation in days gone by, had taken root in the very heart of the peninsula, and had, in the course of three or four generations, succeeded in establishing a thriving state. The legend which traced the descent of the royal line back to the fabulous hero Ascanius proves that at the outset the haughty tribe of the Ascanians must have taken precedence over their fellows; it soon degenerated, however, and before long the Phrygian tribe gained the upper hand and gave its name to the whole nation.

[The name of this tribe was retained by a district afterwards included in the province of Bithynia, viz. Ascania, on the shores of the Ascanian lake: the distribution of place and personal names over the face of the country makes it seem extremely probable that Ascania and the early Ascanians occupied the whole of the region bounded on the north by the Propontis; in other words, the very country in which, according to Xanthus of Lydia, the Phrygians first established themselves after their arrival in Asia.]

Phrygia proper, the country first colonised by them, lay between Mount Dindymus and the river Halys, in the valley of the Upper Sangarios and its affluents: it was there that the towns and strongholds of their most venerated leaders, such as Midaion, Dorylaion, Gordiaion, Tataion, and many others stood close together, perpetuating the memory of Midas, Dorylas, Gordios, and Tatas. Its climate was severe and liable to great extremes of temperature, being bitterly cold in winter and almost tropical during the summer months; forests of oak and pine, however, and fields of corn flourished, while the mountain slopes favoured the growth of the vine; it was, in short, an excellent and fertile country, well fitted for the development of a nation of vinedressers and tillers of the soil. The slaying of an ox or the destruction of an agricultural implement was punishable by death, and legend relates that Gordios, the first Phrygian king, was a peasant by birth. His sole patrimony consisted of a single pair of oxen, and the waggon used by him in bringing home his sheaves after the harvest was afterwards placed as an offering in the temple of Cybele at Ancyra by his son Midas; there was a local tradition according to which the welfare of all Asia depended on the knot which bound the yoke to the pole being preserved intact.

Midas did not imitate his father’s simple habits, and the poets, after crediting him with fabulous wealth, tried also to make out that he was a conqueror. The kingdom expanded in all directions, and soon included the upper valley of the Masander, with its primeval sanctuaries, Kydrara, Colossae, and Kylsenae, founded wherever exhalations of steam and boiling springs betrayed the presence of some supernatural power. The southern shores of the Hellespont, which formed part of the Troad, and was the former territory of the Ascania, belonged to it, as did also the majority of the peoples scattered along the coast of the Euxine between the mouth of the Sangarios and that of the Halys; those portions of the central steppe which border on Lake Tatta were also for a time subject to it, Lydia was under its influence, and it is no exaggeration to say that in the tenth and eleventh centuries before our era there was a regular Phrygian empire which held sway, almost without a rival, over the western half of Asia Minor.

It has left behind it so few relics of its existence, that we can only guess at what it must have been in the days of its prosperity. Three or four ruined fortresses, a few votive stelae, and a dozen bas-reliefs cut on the faces of cliffs in a style which at first recalls the Hittite and Asianic carvings of the preceding age, and afterwards, as we come down to later times, betrays the influence of early Greek art. In the midst of one of their cemeteries we come upon a monument resembling the façade of a house or temple cut out of the virgin rock; it consists of a low triangular pediment, surmounted by a double scroll, then a rectangle of greater length than height, framed between two pilasters and a horizontal string-course, the centre being decorated with a geometrical design of crosses in a way which suggests the pattern of a carpet; a recess is hollowed out on a level with the ground, and filled by a blind door with rebated doorposts. Is it a tomb? The inscription carefully engraved above one side of the pediment contains the name of Midas, and seems to show that we have before us a commemorative monument, piously dedicated by a certain Ates in honour of the Phrygian hero.

SOURCE: History Of Egypt, Chaldaea, Syria, Babylonia, and Assyria, Volume 8 (of 12), by G. Maspero/Translated by M. L. McClure

Ancient Empires; Greco-Mesopotamian (Part 1)

SENNACHERIB (705-681 B.C.): Power Of Assyria At Its Zenith; Esarhaddon And Assur-Bani-Pal

Epic of Ishtar and Izdubar: Tammuz Is Restored To Life By The Waters Of Life (Part 34); Assyrian

(His Song Of Love)
The nectared cup the queen placed to his lips,
And o’er his heaving breast the nectar drips,
And now his arms are folded round his queen,
And her fond kisses he returns again;
And see! they bring to him his harp of gold,
And from its strings, sweet music as of old
His skilful hands wake through the sounding domes;
Oh, how his Song of Love wakes those dark rooms!

“My Queen of Love comes to my arms!
Her faithful eyes have sought for me,
My Love comes to me with her charms;
Let all the world now happy be!
My queen has come again!

Forever, dearest, let me rest
Upon the bosom of my queen!
Thy lips of love are honeyed best;
Come! let us fly to bowering green!
To our sweet bower again.

O Love on Earth! O Love in Heaven!
That dearest gift which gods have given,
Through all my soul let it be driven,
And make my heart its dearest haven,
For Love returns the kiss!

Oh! let me pillow there within
Thy breast, and, oh, so sweetly rest,
My life anew shall there begin;
On thy sweet charms, oh, let me feast!
Life knows no sweeter bliss.

Oh, let me feast upon thy lips,
As honey-bird the nectar sips,
And drink new rapture through my lips,
As honey-bee its head thus drips
In nectarine abyss!

O Love, sweet queen! my heart is thine!
My Life I clasp within mine arms!
My fondest charmer, queen divine!
My soul surrenders to thy charms,
In bliss would fly away.

No dearer joy than this I want;
If love is banished from that life
There bodyless, my soul would pant,
And pine away in hopeless grief,
If love be fled away.

If Love should hide and fold her wings
In bowers of yonder gleaming skies,
Unmeaning then each bard oft sings
Of bliss that lives on earth and dies,–
I want such love as this.

I want thy form, thy loving breast,
Mine arms of love surrounding thee,
And on thy bosom sweetly rest,
Or else that world were dead to me.
No other life is bliss.

If it is thus, my queen, I go
With joy to yonder blissful clime;
But if not so, then let me flow
To soil and streams through changing time,
To me would be more bliss.

For then, in blooming flowerets, I
Could earth adorn, my soul delight,
And never thus on earth could die;
For though I should be hid from sight,
Would spring again with joy!

And sing as some sweet warbling bird,
Or in the breezes wave as grain,
As yellow sun-birds there have whirred
On earth, could I thus live again,
That beauteous world enjoy!

‘Mid safflower-fields or waving cane,
Or in the honeysuckles lie,
In forms of life would breathe again,
Enjoy Earth’s sweetest revelry,
And ever spring again!

Each life to me new joys would bring,
In breast of beast or bird or flower,
In each new form new joys would spring,
And happy, ever, Love would soar!
Triumphant filled with joy!

In jujube or tamarisk
Perhaps would come to life again,
Or in the form of fawns would frisk
‘Mid violets upon the plain;
But I should live again!

And throb beneath the glistening dew,
In bamboo tufts, or mango-trees,
In lotus bloom, and spring anew,
In rose-tree bud, or such as these
On Earth return again!

And I should learn to love my mate,
In beast or singing bird or flower,
For kiss of love in hope could wait;
Perhaps I then would come that hour,
In form I have again!

And love you say, my queen, is there,
Where I can breathe with life anew?
But is it so? My Love, beware!
For some things oft are false, some true,
But I thee trust again!

We fly away! from gates away!
Oh, life of bliss! Oh, breath of balm!
With wings we tread the Silver Way,
To trailing vines and feathery palm,
To bower of love again.”

SOURCE: Babylonian and Assyrian Literature; Alcove II, Tablet VI (1901): Translated by Leonidas Le Cenci Hamilton, M.A.

Epic of Ishtar and Izdubar: Escape Of Tammuz From Hades (Part 35); Assyrian

Epic of Ishtar and Izdubar: Release Of Ishtar (Part 33); Assyrian

Epic of Ishtar and Izdubar: Release Of Ishtar (Part 33); Assyrian

(Her Attempts To Bring To Life Tammuz, Her First Lover)

When Allat saw the flaming herald come,
And his bright light dispelling all her gloom,
She beat her breast; and at him furious foams
In rage, and stamping shakes all Hades’ domes,
Thus cursed the herald, At-su-su-namir:
“Away! thou herald! or I’ll chain thee here
In my dark vaults, and throw thee for thy food
The city’s garbage, which has stagnant stood,
With impure waters for thy daily drink,
And lodge thee in my prison till you sink
From life impaled in yonder dismal room
Of torture; to thy fate so thou hast come?
Thine offspring with starvation I will strike!”

At last obedient doth Allat speak:
“Go, Namtar! and the iron palace strike!
O’er Asherim[1] adorned let the dawn break!
And seat the spirits on their thrones of gold!
Let Ishtar Life’s bright waters then behold,
And drink her fill, and bring her then to me;
From her imprisonment, I send her free.”
And Namtar then goes through the palace walls,
And flings the light through all the darkened halls,
And places all the spirits on their thrones,
Leads Ishtar to the waters near the cones.
She drinks the sparkling water now with joy,
Which all her form doth cleanse and purify.
And he at the first gate her robe returns,
And leads her through the second; where he turns,
And gives her bracelets back;–thus at each door
Returns to her her girdle, gems; then o’er
Her queenly brow he placed her shining crown.
With all her ornaments that were her own,
She stands with pride before the seventh gate,
And Namtar bows to her in solemn state:

“Thou hast no ransom to our queen here paid
For thy deliverance, yet thou hast said
Thy Tammuz thou didst seek within our walls,
Turn back! and thou wilt find him in these halls.
To bring him back to life the waters pour
Upon him; they thy Tammuz will restore;
With robes thou mayst adorn him and a crown
Of jewels, and thy maid with thee alone
Shall give thee comfort and appease thy grief.
Kharimtu, Samkha come to thy relief!”

Now Ishtar lifts her eyes within a room
Prepared for her, and sees her maidens come,
Before a weird procession wrapped in palls,
That soundless glide within and fills the halls.
Before her now they place a sable bier
Beside the fount; and Ishtar, drawing near,
Raised the white pall from Tammuz’s perfect form.
The clay unconscious, had that mystic charm
Of Beauty sleeping sweetly on his face,–
Of agony or sorrow left no trace:
But, oh! that awful wound of death was there
With its deep mark;–the wound, and not the scar.

When Ishtar’s eyes beheld it, all her grief
Broke forth afresh, refusing all relief;
She smote her breast in woe, and moaning cried,
Nor the bright waters to his wound applied:
“O Tammuz! Tammuz! turn thine eyes on me!
Thy queen thou didst adorn, before thee see!
Behold the emeralds and diamond crown
Thou gavest me when I became thine own!
Alas! he answers not: and must I mourn
Forever o’er my love within this bourne?
But, oh! the waters from this glowing stream!
Perhaps those eyes on me with love will beam,
And I shall hear again his song of love.
Oh, quickly let these waters to me prove
Their claim to banish death with magic power!”

Then with her maids, she o’er his form doth pour
The sparkling drops of life–
“He moves! he lives!
What happiness is this my heart receives?
O come, my Tammuz! to my loving arms!”

And on breast his breathing form she warms;
With wondering eyes he stares upon his queen,
And nestling closed his eyes in bliss again.

[Footnote 1: “Asherim,” literally “stone stakes” or “cones,” the symbols of the goddess Asherah or Ishtar (Sayce), but Calmet says that the god Ashima is a deity of very uncertain origin, and that the name “Ashima” may be very well compared with the Persian “asuman” (“heaven”); in “Zend,” “acmano,” so Gesenius in his Man. Lex., 1832. This also, according to the magi, is the name of the angel of death, who separates the souls of men from their bodies, Cal. Dic., p. 106. Cones are to be seen in the British Museum which are probably of the character which represented Elah-Gabalah, the sun-god, adored in Rome during the reign of Heliogabalus. The symbol and worship came from Hamath in Syria.]

SOURCE: Babylonian and Assyrian Literature; Alcove II, Tablet VI (1901): Translated by Leonidas Le Cenci Hamilton, M.A.

Epic of Ishtar and Izdubar: Tammuz Is Restored To Life By The Waters Of Life (Part 34); Assyrian

Epic of Ishtar and Izdubar:The God Of Hope, And Herald Of The Gods (Part 32); Assyrian

SENNACHERIB (705-681 B.C.): Power Of Assyria At Its Zenith; Esarhaddon And Assur-Bani-Pal

(The Medes And Cimmerians: Lydia–The Conquest Of Egypt, Of Arabia, And Of Elam.)

“Last years of Sennacherib–New races appear upon the scene–The Medes: Deiokes and the foundation of Ecbatana, the Bit-Dayaukku and their origin–The races of Asia Minor–The Phrygians, their earliest rulers, their conquests, and their religion–Last of the Heraclidae in Lydia, trade and constitution of their kingdom–The Tylonidae, and Mermnadae—The Cimmerians driven back into Asia by the Scythians–The Treves.”

“Murder of Sennacherib and accession of Esarhaddon: defeat of Sharezer (681 B.C.)–Campaigns against the Kaldd, the Cimmerians, the tribes of Cilicia, and against Sidon (680-679 B.C.); Cimmerian and Scythian invasions, revolt of vie Mannai, and expeditions against the Medes; submission of the northern Arabs (678-676 B.C.)—Egyptian affairs; Taharqa (Tirhakah), his building operations, his Syrian policy–Disturbances on the frontiers of Elam and Urartu.”

“First invasion of Egypt and subjection of the country to Nineveh (670 B.C.)–Intrigues of rival claimants to the throne, and division of the Assyrian empire between Assur-bani-pal and Shamash shumukin (668 B.C.)–Revolt of Egypt and death of Esarhaddon (668 B.C.); accession of Assur-bani-pal; his campaign against Kirbit; defeat of Taharqa and reconstitution of the Egyptian province (667 B.C.)–Affairs of Asia Minor: Gyges (693 B.C.), his tears against the Greeks and Cimmerians; he sends ambassadors to Nineveh (664 B.C.).”

“Tanuatamanu reasserts the authority of Ethiopia in Egypt (664 B.C.), and Tammaritu of Elam invades Karduniash; reconquest of the Said and sack of Thebes–Psammetichus I. and the rise of the XXVIth dynasty–Disturbances among the Medes and Mannai–War against Teumman and the victory of Tulliz (660 B.C.): Elam yields to the Assyrians for the first time–Shamash-shumukin at Babylon; is at first on good terms with his brother, then becomes dissatisfied, and forms a coalition against the Ninevite supremacy.”

“The Uruk incident and outbreak of the war between Karduniash, Elam, and Assyria; Elam disabled by domestic discords–Siege and capture of Babylon; Assur-bani-pal ascends the throne under the name of Kandalanu (648-646 B.C.)–Revolt of Egypt: defeat and death of Gyges (642 B.C. ): Ardys drives out the Cimmerians and Dugdamis is killed in Cilicia–Submission of Arabia.”

“Revolution in Elam–Attack on Indabigash–Tammaritu restored to power–Pillage and destruction of Susa–Campaign against the Arabs of Kedar and the Nabataeans: suppression of the Tyrian rebellion–Dying struggles of Elam–Capture of Madaktu and surrender of Khumban-khaldash–The power of Assyria reaches its zenith.”

Deiokes; Rise of the Medes; Ancient Empires

Sennacherib (705-681 B.C.); (Part 8) Assyrian

Epic of Ishtar and Izdubar:The God Of Hope, And Herald Of The Gods (Part 32); Assyrian


O Hope! thou fleeting pleasure of the mind,
Forever with us stay, our hearts to bind!
We cling to thee till life has fled away;
Our dearest phantom, ever with us stay!
Without thee, we have naught but dread despair,
The worst of all our torments with us here;
Oh, come with thy soft pinions, o’er us shine!
And we will worship thee, a god divine:

The “ignis fatuus” of all our skies
That grandly leads us, vanishes and dies,
And we are left to grope in darkness here,
Without a ray of light our lives to cheer.
Oh, stay! sweet Love’s companion, ever stay!
And let us hope with love upon our way!
We reck not if a phantom thou hast been,
And we repent that we have ever seen
Thy light on earth to lead us far astray;
Forever stay! or ever keep away!

When Papsukul beheld in man’s abodes
The change that spread o’er blasted, lifeless clods,
And heard earth’s wailing through the waning light,
With vegetation passing out of sight,
From the doomed world to Heaven he quickly flies,
While from the earth are rising fearful cries.
To Samas’ throne he speeds with flowing tears,
And of the future dark he pours his fears.
To Sin, the moon-god, Pap-su-kul now cries
O’er Ishtar’s fate, who in black Hades lies;
O’er Earth’s dire end, which with Queen Ishtar dies;
To Hea he appeals with mournful cries:

“O Hea, our Creator, God and King!
Queen Ishtar now is lying prone.
To Earth, our godly queen again, oh, bring!
I trust thy love, O Holy One!
To all the gods who reign o’er us on high
I pray! thus Hope thine aid implores,
Release our queen! To Hades quickly fly!
Thy Pap-su-kul with faith adores.

“The bull hath left the lowing kine bereaved,
And sulking dies in solitude;
The ass hath fled away, his mates hath grieved,
And women are no more imbued
With love, and drive their husbands far away,
And wives enjoy not their caress;
All peace and love have gone from earth this day,
And love on earth knows not its bliss.

“The females die through all the living world,
Among all beasts, and men, and plants;
All love from them on earth have madly hurled,
For blissful love no more each pants;
And Samas’ light is turned away from Earth,
And left alone volcanoes’ fire;
The land is filled with pestilence and dearth,
All life on earth will soon expire.”

When Hea heard the solemn chant of Hope,
From his high throne he let his sceptre drop,
And cried: “And thus, I rule o’er all mankind!
For this, I gave them life, immortal mind;
To earth’s relief, my herald shall quick go,
I hear thy prayer, and song of Ishtar’s woe.”

“Go! At-su-su-namir, with thy bright head!
With all thy light spring forth! and quickly speed;
Towards the gates of Hades, turn thy face!
And quickly fly for me through yonder space.

Before thy presence may the seven gates
Of Hades open with their gloomy grates;
May Allat’s face rejoice before thy sight,
Her rage be soothed, her heart filled with delight;
But conjure her by all the godly names,

And fearless be,–towards the roaring streams
Incline thine ear, and seek the path there spread.
Release Queen Ishtar! raise her godly head!
And sprinkle her with water from the stream;
Her purify! a cup filled to the brim
Place to her lips that she may drink it all.
The herald as a meteor doth fall,
With blazing fire disparts the hanging gloom
Around the gates of that dark world of doom.”

SOURCE: Babylonian and Assyrian Literature; Alcove II, Tablet VI (1901): Translated by Leonidas Le Cenci Hamilton, M.A.

Epic of Ishtar and Izdubar: Release Of Ishtar (Part 33); Assyrian

Epic of Ishtar and Izdubar: Effect Of Ishtar’s Imprisonment In Hades (Part 31); Assyrian

Sennacherib (705-681 B.C.); (Part 8) Assyrian

Years might have elapsed before Sennacherib could have ventured to recommence hostilities: he was not deluded by the exaggerated estimate of his victory in the accounts given by his court historians, and he recognized the fact that the issue of the struggle must be uncertain as long as the alliance subsisted between Elam and Chaldaea. But fortune came to his aid sooner than he had expected. Umman-minanu was not absolute in his dominions any more than his predecessors had been, and the losses he had sustained at Khalule, without obtaining any compensating advantages in the form of prisoners or spoil, had lowered him in the estimation of his vassals; Mushezib-marduk, on the other hand, had emptied his treasuries, and though Karduniash was wealthy, it was hardly able, after such a short interval, to provide further subsidies to purchase the assistance of the mountain tribes. Sennacherib’s emissaries kept him well informed of all that occurred in the enemy’s court, and he accordingly took the field again at the beginning of 689 B.C., and on this occasion circumstances seemed likely to combine to give him an easy victory.

[NOTE: The Assyrian documents insert the account of the capture of Babylon directly after the battle of Khalule, and modern historians therefore concluded that the two events took place within a few months of each other. The information afforded by “Pinches’ Babylonian Chronicle” has enabled us to correct this mistake, and to bring down the date of the taking of Babylon to 689 B.C.]

Mushezib-marduk shut himself up in Babylon, not doubting that the Elamites would hasten to his succor as soon as they should hear of his distress; but his expectation was not fulfilled. Umman-minanu was struck down by apoplexy, on the 15th of Nisan, and though his illness did not at once terminate fatally, he was left paralyzed with distorted mouth, and loss of speech, incapable of action, and almost unfit to govern. His seizure put a stop to his warlike preparations: and his ministers, preoccupied with the urgent question of the succession to the throne, had no desire to provoke a conflict with Assyria, the issue of which could not be foretold: they therefore left their ally to defend his own interests as best he might. Babylon, reduced to rely entirely on its own resources, does not seem to have held out long, and perhaps the remembrance of the treatment it had received on former occasions may account for the very slight resistance it now offered.

The Assyrian kings who had from time to time conquered Babylon, had always treated it with great consideration. They had looked upon it as a sacred city, whose caprices and outbreaks must always be pardoned; it was only with infinite precautions that they had imposed their commands upon it, and even when they had felt that severity was desirable, they had restrained themselves in using it, and humoured the idiosyncrasies of the inhabitants. Tiglath-pileser III, Shalmaneser V., and Sargon had all preferred to be legally crowned as sovereigns of Babylon instead of remaining merely its masters by right of conquest, and though Sennacherib had refused compliance with the traditions by which his predecessors had submitted to be bound, he had behaved with unwanted lenity after quelling the two previous revolts. He now recognised that his clemency had been shown in vain, and his small stock of patience was completely exhausted just when fate threw the rebellious city into his power.

If the inhabitants had expected to be once more let off easily, their illusions were speedily dissipated: they were slain by the sword as if they had been ordinary foes, such as Jews, Tibarenians, or Kalda of Bit-Yakin, and they were spared none of the horrors which custom then permitted the stronger to inflict upon the weaker. For several days the pitiless massacre lasted. Young and old, all who fell into the hands of the soldiery, perished by the sword; piles of corpses filled the streets and the approaches to the temples, especially the avenue of winged bulls which led to E-sagilla, and, even after the first fury of carnage had been appeased, it was only to be succeeded by more organised pillage. Mushezib-marduk was sent into exile with his family, and immense convoys of prisoners and spoil followed him. The treasures carried off from the royal palace, the temples, and the houses of the rich nobles were divided among the conquerors: they comprised gold, silver, precious stones, costly stuffs, and provisions of all sorts.


The sacred edifices were sacked, the images hacked to pieces or carried off to Nineveh: Bel-Marduk, introduced into the sanctuary of Assur, became subordinate to the rival deity amid a crowd of strange gods. In the inmost recess of a chapel were discovered some ancient statues of Kamman and Shala of E-kallati, which Marduk-nadin-akhe had carried off in the time of Tiglath-pileser I., and these were brought back in triumph to their own land, after an absence of four hundred and eighteen years. The buildings themselves suffered a like fate to that of their owners and their gods. “The city and its houses, from foundation to roof, I destroyed them, I demolished them, I burnt them with fire; walls, gateways, sacred chapels, and the towers of earth and tiles, I laid them all low and cast them into the Arakhtu.”

The incessant revolts of the people justified this wholesale destruction. Babylon, as we have said before, was too powerful to be reduced for long to the second rank in a Mesopotamian empire: as soon as fate established the seat of empire in the districts bordering on the Euphrates and the middle course of the Tigris, its well-chosen situation, its size, its riches, the extent of its population, the number of its temples, and the beauty of its palaces, all conspired to make it the capital of the country. In vain Assur, Calah, or Nineveh thrust themselves into the foremost rank, and by a strenuous effort made their princes rulers of Babylon; in a short time Babylon replenished her treasury, found allies, soldiers, and leaders, and in spite of reverses of fortune soon regained the upper hand. The only treatment which could effectually destroy her ascendency was that of leaving in her not one brick upon another, thus preventing her from being re-peopled for several generations, since a new city could not at once spring up from the ashes of the old; until she had been utterly destroyed her conquerors had still reason to fear her. This fact Sennacherib, or his councilors, knew well. If he merits any reproach, it is not for having seized the opportunity of destroying the city which Babylon offered him, but rather for not having persevered in his design to the end, and reduced her to a mere name.


In the midst of these costly and absorbing wars, we may well wonder how Sennacherib found time and means to build villas or temples; yet he is nevertheless, among the kings of Assyria, the monarch who has left us the largest number of monuments. He restored a shrine of Nergal in the small town of Tarbizi; he fortified the village of Alshi; and in 704 B.C. he founded a royal residence in the fortress of Kakzi, which defended the approach to Calah from the south-east. He did not reside much at Dur-Sharrukin, neither did he complete the decoration of his father’s palace there: his pride as a victorious warrior suffered when his surroundings reminded him of a more successful conqueror than himself, and Calah itself was too full of memories of Tiglath-pileser III. and the sovereigns of the eighth century for him to desire to establish his court there. He preferred to reside at Nineveh, which had been much neglected by his predecessors, and where the crumbling edifices merely recalled the memory of long-vanished splendours.

He selected this city as his residence at the very beginning of his reign, perhaps while he was still only crown prince, and began by repairing its ancient fortifications; later on, when the success of his earlier campaigns had furnished him with a sufficient supply of prisoners, he undertook the restoration of the whole city, with its avenues, streets, canals, quays, gardens, and aqueducts: the labour of all the captives brought together from different quarters of his empire was pressed into the execution of his plans–the Kalda, the Aramaeans, the Mannai, the people of Kui, the Cilicians, the Philistines, and the iyrians; the provinces vied with each other in furnishing him with materials without stint,–precious woods were procured from Syria, marbles from Kapri-dargila, alabaster from Balad, while Bit-Yakin provided the rushes to be laid between the courses of brickwork.

The river Tebilti, after causing the downfall of the royal mausolea and “displaying to the light of day the coffins which they concealed,” had sapped the foundations of the palace of Assur-nazir-pal, and caused it to fall in: a muddy pool now occupied the north-western quarter, between the court of Ishtar and the lofty ziggurat of Assur. This pool Sennacherib filled up, and regulated the course of the stream, providing against the recurrence of such-accidents in future by building a substructure of masonry, 454 cubits long by 289 wide, formed of large blocks of stone cemented together by bitumen.

On this he erected a magnificent palace, a Bit-Khilani in the Syrian style, with woodwork of fragrant cedar and cypress overlaid with gold and silver, paneling’s of sculptured marble and alabaster, and friezes and cornices in glazed tiles of brilliant colouring: inspired by the goddess Nin-kurra, he caused winged bulls of white alabaster and limestone statues of the gods to be hewn in the quarries of Balad near Nineveh. He presided in person at all these operations–at the raising of the soil, the making of the substructures of the terrace, the transport of the colossal statues or blocks and their subsequent erection; indeed, he was to be seen at every turn, standing in Ids ebony and ivory chariot, drawn by a team of men. When the building was finished, he was so delighted with its beauty that he named it “the incomparable palace,” and his admiration was shared by his contemporaries; they were never wearied of extolling in glowing terms the twelve bronze lions, the twelve winged bulls, and the twenty-four statues of goddesses which kept watch over the entrance, and for the construction of which a new method of rapid casting had been invented.

Formerly the erection of such edifices cost much in suffering to the artificers employed on them, but Sennacherib brought his great enterprise to a prompt completion without extravagant outlay or unnecessary hardship inflicted on his workmen. He proceeded to annex the neighbouring quarters of the city, relegating the inhabitants to the suburbs while he laid out a great park on the land thus cleared; this park was well planted with trees, like the heights of Amanus, and in it flourished side by side all the forest growths indigenous to the Cilician mountains and the plains of Chaldaea. A lake, fed by a canal leading from the Khuzur, supplied it with water, which was conducted in streams and rills through the thickets, keeping them always fresh and green. Vines trained on trellises afforded a grateful shade during the sultry hours of the day; birds sang in the branches, herds of wild boar and deer roamed through the coverts, in order that the prince might enjoy the pleasures of the chase without quitting his own private grounds.

The main part of these constructions was finished about 700 B.C., but many details were left incomplete, and the work was still proceeding after the court had long been in residence on the spot. Meanwhile a smaller palace, as well as barracks and a depot for arms and provisions, sprang up elsewhere. Eighteen aqueducts, carried across the country, brought the water from the Muzri to the Khuzur, and secured an adequate supply to the city; the Ninevites, who had hitherto relied upon rain-water for the replenishing of their cisterns, awoke one day to find themselves released from all anxiety on this score. An ancient and semi-subterranean canal, which Assur-nazir-pal had constructed nearly two centuries before, but which, owing to the neglect of his successors, had become choked up, was cleaned out, enlarged and repaired, and made capable of bringing water to their doors from the springs of Mount Tas, in the same year as that in which the battle of Khalule took place. [NOTE: Mount Tas is the group of hills enclosing the ravine of Bavian. These works were described in the Bavian inscription, of which they occupy the whole of the first part.] At a later date, magnificent bas-reliefs, carved on the rock by order of Esar-haddon, representing winged bulls, figures of the gods and of the king, with explanatory inscriptions, marked the site of the springs, and formed a kind of monumental facade to the ravine in which they took their rise. [NOTE: The Bavian text speaks of six inscriptions and statues which the king had engraved on the Mount of Tas, at the source of the stream.]

It would be hard to account for the rapidity with which these great works were completed, did one not remember that Sargon had previously carried out extensive architectural schemes, in which he must have employed all the available artists in his empire. The revolutions which had shattered the realm under the last descendants of Assur-nazir-pal, and the consequent impoverishment of the kingdom, had not been without a disastrous effect on the schools of Assyrian sculpture.

Since the royal treasury alone was able to bear the expense of those vast compositions in which the artistic skill of the period could have free play, the closing of the royal workshops, owing to the misfortunes of the time, had the immediate effect of emptying the sculptors’ studios. Even though the period of depression lasted for the space of two or three generations only, it became difficult to obtain artistic workmen; and those who were not discouraged from the pursuit of art by the uncertainty of employment, no longer possessed the high degree of skill attained by their predecessors, owing to lack of opportunity to cultivate it.

Sculpture was at a very low ebb when Tiglath-pileser III. desired to emulate the royal builders of days gone by, and the awkwardness of composition noticeable in some of his bas-reliefs, and the almost barbaric style of the stelae erected by persons of even so high a rank as Belharran-beluzur, prove the lamentable deficiency of good artists at that epoch, and show that the king had no choice but to employ all the surviving members of the ancient guilds, whether good, bad, or indifferent workmen. The increased demand, however, soon produced an adequate supply of workers, and when Sargon ascended the throne, the royal guild of sculptors had been thoroughly reconstituted; the inefficient workmen on whom Tiglath-pileser and Shalmaneser had been obliged to rely had been eliminated in course of time, and many of the sculptures which adorned the palace at Khorsabad display a purity of design and boldness of execution comparable to that of the best Egyptian art. The composition still shows traces of Chaldaean stiffness, and the exaggerated drawing of the muscles produces an occasionally unpleasing-heaviness of outline, but none the less the work as a whole constitutes one of the richest and most ingenious schemes of decoration ever devised, which, while its colouring was still perfect, must have equalled in splendour the great triumphal battle-scenes at Ibsambul or Medinet-Habu.

Sennacherib found ready to his hand a body of well-trained artists, whose number had considerably increased during the reign of Sargon, and he profited by the experience which they had acquired and the talent that many of them had developed. What immediately strikes the spectator in the series of pictures produced under his auspices, is the great skill with which his artists covered the whole surface at their disposal without overcrowding it. They no longer treated their subject, whether it were a warlike expedition, a hunting excursion, a sacrificial scene, or an episode of domestic life, as a simple juxtaposition of groups of almost equal importance ranged at the same elevation along the walls, the subject of each bas-relief being complete in itself and without any necessary connection with its neighbour.

They now selected two or three principal incidents from the subjects proposed to them for representation, and round these they grouped such of the less important episodes as lent themselves best to picturesque treatment, and scattered sparingly over the rest of the field the minor accessories which seemed suitable to indicate more precisely the scene of the action. Under the auspices of this later school, Assyrian foot-soldiers are no longer depicted attacking the barbarians of Media or Elam on backgrounds of smooth stone, where no line marks the various levels, and where the remoter figures appear to be walking in the air without anything to support them. If the battle represented took place on a wooded slope crowned by a stronghold on the summit of the hill, the artist, in order to give an impression of the surroundings, covered his background with guilloche patterns by which to represent the rugged surface of the mountains; he placed here and there groups of various kinds of trees, especially the straight cypresses and firs which grew upon the slopes of the Iranian table-land: or he represented a body of lancers galloping in single file along the narrow woodland paths, and hastening to surprise a distant enemy, or again foot-soldiers chasing their foes through the forest or engaging them in single combat; while in the corners of the picture the wounded are being stabbed or otherwise despatched, fugitives are trying to escape through the undergrowth, and shepherds are pleading with the victors for their lives. It is the actual scene the sculptor sets himself to depict, and one is sometimes inclined to ask, while noting the precision with which the details of the battle are rendered, whether the picture was not drawn on the spot, and whether the conqueror did not carry artists in his train to make sketches for the decorators of the main features of the country traversed and of the victories won. The masses of infantry seem actually in motion, a troop of horsemen rush blindly over uneven ground, and the episodes of their raid are unfolded in all their confusion with unfailing animation.

For the first time a spectator can realise Assyrian warfare with its striking contrasts of bravery and unbridled cruelty; he is no longer reduced to spell out laboriously a monotonous narrative of a battle, for the battle takes place actually before his eyes. And after the return from the scene of action, when it is desired to show how the victor employed his prisoners for the greater honour of his gods and his own glory, the picture is no less detailed and realistic.

There we see them, the noble and the great of all the conquered nations, Chaldaeans and Elamites, inhabitants of Cilicia, Phoenicia, and Judaea, harnessed to ropes and goaded by the whips of the overseers, dragging the colossal bull which is destined to mount guard at the gates of the palace: with bodies bent, pendant arms, and faces contorted with pain, they, who had been the chief men in their cities, now take the place of beasts of burden, while Sennacherib, erect on his state chariot, with steady glance and lips compressed, watches them as they pass slowly before him in their ignominy and misery.

After the destruction of Babylon there is a pause in the history of the conqueror, and with him in that of Assyria itself. It seems as if Nineveh had been exhausted by the greatness of her effort, and was stopping to take breath before setting out on a fresh career of conquest: the other nations also, as if overwhelmed by the magnitude of the catastrophe, appear to have henceforth despaired of their own security, and sought only how to avoid whatever might rouse against them the enmity of the master of the hour. His empire formed a compact and solid block in their midst, on which no human force seemed capable of making any impression.

They had attacked it each in turn, or all at once, Elam in the east, Urartu in the north, Egypt in the south-west, and their efforts had not only miserably failed, but had for the most part drawn down upon them disastrous reprisals. The people of Urartu remained in gloomy inaction amidst their mountains, the Elamites had lost their supremacy over half the Aramaean tribes, and if Egypt was as yet inaccessible beyond the intervening deserts, she owed it less to the strength of her armies than to the mysterious fatality at Libnah. In one half-century the Assyrians had effectually and permanently disabled the first of these kingdoms, and inflicted on the others such serious injuries that they were slow in recovering from them.


The fate of these proud nations had intimidated the inferior states–Arabs, Medes, tribes of Asia Minor, barbarous Cimmerians or Scythians,–all alike were careful to repress their natural inclinations to rapine and plunder. If occasionally their love of booty overpowered their prudence, and they hazarded a raid on some defenceless village in the neighbouring border territory, troops were hastily despatched from the nearest Assyrian garrison, who speedily drove them back across the frontier, and pursuing them into their own country, inflicted on them so severe a punishment that they remained for some considerable time paralysed by awe and terror. Assyria was the foremost kingdom of the East, and indeed of the whole world, and the hegemony which she exercised over all the countries within her reach cannot be accounted for solely by her military superiority.

Not only did she excel in the art of conquest, as many before her had done–Babylonians, Elamites, Hittites, and Egyptians—but she did what none of them had been able to accomplish; she exacted lasting obedience from the conquered nations, ruling them with a firm hand, and accustoming them to live on good terms with one another in spite of diversity of race, and this with a light rein, with unfailing tact, and apparently with but little effort. The system of deportation so resolutely carried out by Tiglath-pileser III. and Sargon began to produce effect, and up to this time the most happy results only were discernible. The colonies which had been planted throughout the empire from Palestine to Media, some of them two generations previously, others within recent years, were becoming more and more acclimatised to their new surroundings, on which they were producing the effect desired by their conquerors; they were meant to hold in check the populations in whose midst they had been set down, to act as a curb upon them, and also to break up their national unity and thus gradually prepare them for absorption into a wider fatherland, in which they would cease to be exclusively Damascenes, Samaritans, Hittites, or Aramaeans, since they would become Assyrians and fellow-citizens of a mighty empire.

The provinces, brought at length under a regular system of government, protected against external dangers and internal discord, by a well-disciplined soldiery, and enjoying a peace and security they had rarely known in the days of their independence, gradually became accustomed to live in concord under the rule of a common sovereign, and to feel themselves portions of a single empire. The speech of Assyria was their official language, the gods of Assyria were associated with their national gods in the prayers they offered up for the welfare of the sovereign, and foreign nations with whom they were brought into communication no longer distinguished between them and their conquerors, calling their country Assyria, and regarding its inhabitants as Assyrians. As is invariably the case, domestic peace and good administration had caused a sudden development of wealth and commercial activity. Although Nineveh and Calah never became such centres of trade and industry as Babylon had been, yet the presence of the court and the sovereign attracted thither merchants from all parts of the world.

SOURCE: History Of Egypt, Chaldaea, Syria, Babylonia, and Assyria, Volume 8 (of 12), by G. Maspero/Translated by M. L. McClure

Sennacherib (705-681 B.C.) Part 7; Assyrian