The Assyrian And Neo-babylonian Empires In The Light Of Recent Research

The early history of Assyria has long been a subject on which historians

were obliged to trust largely to conjecture, in their attempts to

reconstruct the stages by which its early rulers obtained their

independence and laid the foundations of the mighty empire over which

their successors ruled. That the land was colonized from Babylonia and

was at first ruled as a dependency of the southern kingdom have long

been rega
ded as established facts, but until recently little was known

of its early rulers and governors, and still less of the condition of

the country and its capital during the early periods of their existence.

Since the excavations carried out by the British Museum at Kala

Sherghat, on the western bank of the Tigris, it has been known that

the mounds at that spot mark the site of the city of Ashur, the first

capital of the Assyrians, and the monuments and records recovered

during those excavations have hitherto formed our principal source of

information for the early history of the country.* Some of the oldest

records found in the course of these excavations were short votive texts

inscribed by rulers who bore the title of ishshakku, corresponding to

the Sumerian and early Babylonian title of patesi, and with some such

meaning as "viceroy." It was rightly conjectured from the title which

they bore that these early rulers owed allegiance to the kings of

Babylon and were their nominees, or at any rate their tributaries. The

names of a few of these early viceroys were recovered from their votive

inscriptions and from notices in later historical texts, but it was

obvious that our knowledge of early Assyrian history would remain very

fragmentary until systematic excavations in Assyria were resumed. Three

years ago (1902) the British Museum resumed excavations at Kuyunjik, the

site of Nineveh. The work was begun and carried out under the direction

of Mr. L. W. King, but since last summer has been continued by Mr. R. C.

Thompson. Last year, too, excavations were reopened at Sherghat by

the Deutsch-Orient Ge-sellschaft, at first under the direction of Dr.

Koldewey, and afterwards under that of Dr. Andrae, by whom they are

at present being carried on. This renewed activity on the sites of the

ancient cities of Assyria is already producing results of considerable

interest, and the veil which has so long concealed the earlier periods

in the history of that country is being lifted.

* For the texts and translations of these documents, see

Budge and King, Annals of the Kings of Assyria, pp. iff.

Shortly before these excavations in Assyria were set on foot an

indication was obtained from an early Babylonian text that the history

of Assyria as a dependent state or province of Babylon must be pushed

back to a far more remote period than had hitherto been supposed. In one

of Hammurabi's letters to Sin-idinnam, governor of the city of Larsam,

to which reference has already been made, directions are given for

the despatch to the king of "two hundred and forty men of 'the King's

Company' under the command of Nannar-iddina... who have left the country

of Ashur and the district of Shitullum." From this most interesting

reference it followed that the country to the north of Babylonia was

known as Assyria at the time of the kings of the First Dynasty of

Babylon, and the fact that Babylonian troops were stationed there

by Hammurabi proved that the country formed an integral part of the

Babylonian empire.

These conclusions were soon after strikingly confirmed by two passages

in the introductory sections of Hammurabi's code of laws which was

discovered at Susa. Here Hammurabi records that he "restored his (i.e.

the god Ashur's) protecting image unto the city of Ashur," and a few

lines farther on he describes himself as the king "who hath made

the names of Ishtar glorious in the city of Nineveh in the temple of

E-mish-mish." That Ashur should be referred to at this period is what we

might expect, inasmuch as it was known to have been the earliest capital

of Assyria; more striking is the reference to Nineveh, proving as it

does that it was a flourishing city in Hammurabi's time and that the

temple of Ishtar there had already been long established. It is true

that Gudea, the Sumerian patesi of Shirpurla, records that he rebuilt

the temple of the goddess Ninni (Ishtar) at a place called Nina. Now

Nina may very probably be identified with Nineveh, but many writers have

taken it to be a place in Southern Babylonia and possibly a district of

Shirpurla itself. No such uncertainty attaches to Hammurabi's reference

to Nineveh, which is undoubtedly the Assyrian city of that name.

Although no account has yet been published of the recent excavations

carried out at Nineveh by the British Museum, they fully corroborate the

inference drawn with regard to the great age of the city. The series of

trenches which were cut deep into the lower strata of Kuyunjik revealed

numerous traces of very early habitations on the mound.

Neither in Hammurabi's letters, nor upon the stele inscribed with his

code of laws, is any reference made to the contemporary governor or

ruler of Assyria, but on a contract tablet preserved in the Pennsylvania

Museum a name has been recovered which will probably be identified

with that of the ruler of Assyria in Hammurabi's reign. In legal and

commercial documents of the period of the First Dynasty of Babylon the

contracting parties frequently swore by the names of two gods (usually

Shamash and Marduk) and also that of the reigning king. Now it has been

found by Dr. Banke that on this document in the Pennsylvania Museum the

contracting parties swear by the name of Hammurabi and also by that of

Shamshi-Adad. As only gods and kings are mentioned in the oath formulas

of this period, it follows that Shamshi-Adad was a king, or at any rate

a patesi or ishshakku. Now from its form the name Shamshi-Adad must

be that of an Assyrian, not that of a Babylonian, and, since he is

associated in the oath formula with Hammurabi, it is legitimate to

conclude that he governed Assyria in the time of Hammurabi as a

dependency of Babylon. An early Assyrian ishshakku of this name, who was

the son of Ishme-Dagan, is mentioned by Tiglath-Pileser I, but he cannot

be identified with the ruler of the time of Hammurabi, since,

according to Tiglath-Pileser, he ruled too late, about 1800 B.C.

A brick-inscription of another Shamshi-Adad, however, the son of

Igur-kapkapu, is preserved in the British Museum, and it is probable

that we may identify him with Hammurabi's Assyrian viceroy. Erishum and

his son Ikunum, whose inscriptions are also preserved in the British

Museum, should certainly be assigned to an early period of Assyrian


The recent excavations at Sherghat are already yielding the names

of other early Assyrian viceroys, and, although the texts of the

inscriptions in which their names occur have not yet been published, we

may briefly enumerate the more important of the discoveries that have

been made. Last year a small cone or cylinder was found which, though

it bears only a few lines of inscription, restores the names of no less

than seven early Assyrian viceroys whose existence was not previously

known. The cone was inscribed by Ashir-rim-nisheshu, who gives his own

genealogy and records the restoration of the wall of the city of Ashur,

which he states had been rebuilt by certain of his predecessors on

the throne. The principal portion of the inscription reads as

follows: "Ashir-rim-nisheshu, the viceroy of the god Ashir, the son of

Ashir-nirari, the viceroy of the god Ashir, the son of Ashir-rabi, the

viceroy. The city wall which Kikia, Ikunum, Shar-kenkate-Ashir, and

Ashir-nirari, the son of Ishme-Dagan, my forefathers, had built, was

fallen, and for the preservation of my life... I rebuilt it." Perhaps no

inscription has yet been recovered in either Assyria or Babylonia which

contained so much new information packed into so small a space. Of the

names of the early viceroys mentioned in it only one was previously

known, i.e. the name of Ikunum, the son of Erishum, is found in a late

copy of a votive text preserved in the British Museum. Thus from these

few lines the names of three rulers in direct succession have been

recovered, viz., Ashir-rabi, Ashir-nirari, and Ashur-rim-nisheshu, and

also those of four earlier rulers, viz., Kikia, Shar-kenkate-Ashir,

Ishme-Dagan, and his son Ashir-nirari. Another interesting point about

the inscription is the spelling of the name of the national god of the

Assyrians. In the later periods it is always written Ashur, but at

this early time we see that the second vowel is changed and that at

first the name was written Ashir, a form that was already known

from the Cappadocian cuneiform inscriptions. The form Ashir is a good

participial construction and signifies "the Beneficent," "the Merciful


Another interesting find, which was also made last year, consists of

four stone tablets, each engraved with the same building-inscription

of Shalmaneser I, a king who reigned over Assyria about 1300 B.C. In

recording his rebuilding of E-kharsag-kurkura, the temple of the god

Ashur in the city of Ashur, he gives a brief summary of the temple's

history with details as to the length of time which elapsed between

the different periods during which it had been previously restored. The

temple was burned in Shalmaneser's time, and, when recording this fact

and the putting out of the fire, he summarizes the temple's history in a

long parenthesis, as will be seen from the following translation of the

extract: "When E-kharsag-kurkura, the temple of Ashur, my lord, which

Ushpia (variant Aushpia), the priest of Ashur, my forefather, had

built aforetime,--and it fell into decay and Erishu, my forefather,

the priest of Ashur, rebuilt it; 159 years passed by after the reign of

Erishu, and that temple fell into decay, and Shamshi-Adad, the priest

of Ashur, rebuilt it; (during) 580 years that temple which Shamshi-Adad,

the priest of Ashur, had built, grew hoary and old--(when) fire broke

out in the midst thereof..., at that time I drenched that temple (with

water) in (all) its circuit."

From this extract it will be seen that Shalmaneser gives us, in Ushpia

or Aushpia, the name of a very early Assyrian viceroy, who in his belief

was the founder of the great temple of the god Ashur. He also tells us

that 159 years separated Erishu from a viceroy named Shamshi-Adad, and

that 580 years separated Shamshi-Adad from his own time. When these

inscriptions were first found they were hailed with considerable

satisfaction by historians, as they gave what seemed to be valuable

information for settling the chronology of the early patesis. But

confidence in the accuracy of Shalmaneser's reckoning was somewhat

shaken a few months afterwards by the discovery of a prism of

Esarhaddon, who gave in it a history of the same temple, but ascribed

totally different figures for the periods separating the reigns

of Erishu and Shamshi-Adad, and the temple's destruction by fire.

Esarhaddon agrees with Shalmaneser in ascribing the founding of the

temple to Ushpia, but he states that only 126 years (instead of 159

years) separated Erishu (whom he spells Irishu), the son of Ilu-shumma,

from Shamshi-Adad, the son of Bel-kabi; and he adds that 434 years

(instead of 580 years) elapsed between Shamshi-Adad's restoration of the

temple and the time when it was burned down. As Shalmaneser I lived over

six hundred years earlier than Esarhaddon, he was obviously in a better

position to ascertain the periods at which the events recorded took

place, but the discrepancy between the figures he gives and those of

Esarhaddon is disconcerting. It shows that Assyrian scribes could make

bad mistakes in their reckoning, and it serves to cast discredit on the

absolute accuracy of the chronological notices contained in other

late Assyrian inscriptions. So far from helping to settle the unsolved

problems of Assyrian chronology, these two recent finds at Sherghat

have introduced fresh confusion, and Assyrian chronology for the earlier

periods is once more cast into the melting pot.

In addition to the recovery of the names of hitherto unknown early

rulers of Assyria, the recent excavations at Sherghat have enabled us to

ascertain the true reading of the name of Shalmaneser I's grandfather,

who reigned a considerable time after Assyria had gained her

independence. The name of this king has hitherto been read as Pudi-ilu,

but it is now shown that the signs composing the first part of the name

are not to be taken phonetically, but as ideographs, the true reading of

the name being Arik-den-ilu, the signification of which is "Long

(i.e. far-reaching) is the judgment of God." Arik-den-ilu was a great

conqueror, as were his immediate descendants, all of whom extended the

territory of Assyria. By strengthening the country and increasing her

resources they enabled Arik-den-ilu 's great-grandson, Tukulti-Ninib I,

to achieve the conquest of Babylon itself. Concerning Tukulti-Ninib's

reign and achievements an interesting inscription has recently been

discovered. This is now preserved in the British Museum, and before

describing it we may briefly refer to another phase of the excavations

at Sherghat.


An early independent King of Assyria, who reigned about B.C.

1350. Photograph by Messrs. Mansell & Co.

The mounds of Sherghat rise a considerable height above the level of

the plain, and are to a great extent of natural and not of artificial

formation. In fact, the existence of a group of high natural mounds at

this point on the bank of the Tigris must have led to its selection

by the early Assyrians as the site on which to build their first

stronghold. The mounds were already so high, from their natural

formation, that there was no need for the later Assyrian kings

to increase their height artificially (as they raised the chief

palace-mound at Nineveh), and the remains of the Assyrian buildings of

the early period are thus only covered by a few feet of debris and not

by masses of unburnt brick and artificially piled up soil. This fact

has considerably facilitated the systematic uncovering of the principal

mound that is now being carried out by Dr. Andrae.


Work has hitherto been confined to the northwest corner of the mound

around the ziggurat, or temple tower, and already considerable traces of

Assyrian buildings have been laid bare in this portion of the site. The

city wall on the northern side has been uncovered, as well as quays with

steps leading down to the water along the river front. Part of the

great temple of the god Ashur has been excavated, though a considerable

portion of it must be still covered by the modern Turkish fort at the

extreme northern point of the mounds; also part of a palace erected

by Ashur-nasir-pal has been identified. In fact, the work at Sherghat

promises to add considerably to our knowledge of ancient Assyrian


The inscription of Tukulti-Ninib I, which was referred to above as

having been recently acquired by the trustees of the British Museum,

affords valuable information for the reconstruction of the history of

Assyria during the first half of the thirteenth century B.C.* It is seen

from the facts summarized that for our knowledge of the earlier

history of the country we have to depend to a large extent on short

brick-inscriptions and votive texts supplemented by historical

references in inscriptions of the later period. The only historical

inscription of any length belonging to the early Assyrian period,

which had been published up to a year ago, was the famous memorial slab

containing an inscription of Adad-nirari I, which was acquired by the

late Mr. George Smith some thirty years ago. Although purchased in

Mosul, the slab had been found by the natives in the mounds at Sherghat,

for the text engraved upon it in archaic Assyrian characters records the

restoration of a part of the temple of the god Ashur in the ancient city

of Ashur, the first capital of the Assyrians, now marked by the

mounds of Sherghat, which have already been described. The object of

Adad-nirari in causing the memorial slab to be inscribed was to record

the restoration of the portion of the temple which he had rebuilt,

but the most important part of the inscription was contained in the

introductory phrases with which the text opens. They recorded

the conquests achieved not only by Adad-nirari but by his father

Arik-den-ilu, his grandfather Bel-nirari, and his great-grandfather

Ashur-uballit. They thus enabled the historian to trace the gradual

extension and consolidation of the Assyrian empire during a critical

period in its early history.

* For the text and translation of the inscription, see King,

Studies it Eastern History, i (1904).

The recently recovered memorial slab of Tukulti-Ninib I is similar to

that of his grandfather Adad-nirari I, and ranks in importance with it

for the light it throws on the early struggles of Assyria. Tukulti-Ninib

's slab, like that of Adad-nirari, was a foundation memorial intended to

record certain building operations carried out by order of the king.

The building so commemorated was not the restoration of a portion of

a temple, but the founding of a new city, in which the king erected

no less than eight temples dedicated to various deities, while he also

records that he built a palace therein for his own habitation, that he

protected the city by a strongly fortified wall, and that he cut a canal

from the Tigris by which he ensured a continuous supply of fresh water.

These were the facts which the memorial was primarily intended to

record, but, like the text of Adad-nirari I, the most interesting events

for the historian are those referred to in the introductory portions of

the inscription. Before giving details concerning the founding of the

new city, named Kar-Tukulti-Mnib, "the Fortress of Tukulti-Mnib,"

the king supplies an account of the military expeditions which he

had conducted during the course of his reign up to the time when the

foundation memorial was inscribed. These introductory paragraphs record

how the king gradually conquered the peoples to the north and northeast

of Assyria, and how he finally undertook a successful campaign against

Babylon, during which he captured the city and completely subjugated

both Northern and Southern Babylonia. Tukulti-Mnib's reign thus marks an

epoch in the history of his country.

We have already seen how, during the early ages of her history, Assyria

had been merely a subject province of the Babylonian empire. Her rulers

had been viceroys owing allegiance to their overlords in Babylon,

under whose orders they administered the country, while garrisons of

Babylonian soldiers, and troops commanded by Babylonian officers, served

to keep the country in a state of subjection. Gradually, however, the

country began to feel her feet and long for independence. The conquest

of Babylon by the kings of the Country of the Sea afforded her the

opportunity of throwing off the Babylonian yoke. In the fifteenth

century the Assyrian kings were powerful enough to have independent

relations with the kings of Egypt, and, during the two centuries which

preceded Tukulti-Mnib's reign.

Assyria's relations with Babylon were the cause of constant friction due

to the northern kingdom's growth in power and influence. The frontier

between the two countries was constantly in dispute, and, though

sometimes rectified by treaty, the claims of Assyria often led to war

between the two countries. The general result of these conflicts was

that Assyria gradually extended her authority farther southwards, and

encroached upon territory which had previously been Babylonian. The

successes gained by Ashur-uballit, Bel-nirari, and Adad-nirari I against

the contemporary Babylonian kings had all resulted in the cession of

fresh territory to Assyria and in an increase of her international

importance. Up to the time of Tukulti-Mnib no Assyrian king had actually

seated himself upon the Babylonian throne. This feat was achieved by

Tukulti-Mnib, and his reign thus marks an important step in the gradual

advance of Assyria to the position which she later occupied as the

predominant power in Western Asia.

Before undertaking his campaign against Babylon, Tukulti-Mnib secured

himself against attack from other quarters, and his newly discovered

memorial inscription supplies considerable information concerning the

steps he took to achieve this object. In his inscription the king does

not number his military expeditions, and, with the exception of the

first one, he does not state the period of his reign in which they

were undertaken. The results of his campaigns are summarized in four

paragraphs of the text, and it is probable that they are not described

in chronological order, but are arranged rather according to the

geographical position of the districts which he invaded and subdued.

Tukulti-Ninib records that his first campaign took place at the

beginning of his sovereignty, in the first year of his reign, and it was

directed against the tribes and peoples inhabiting the territory on the

east of Assyria. Of the tribes which he overran and conquered on this

occasion the most important was the Kuti, who probably dwelt in the

districts to the east of the Lower Zab. They were a turbulent race and

they had already been conquered by Arik-den-ilu and Adad-nirari I, but

on neither occasion had they been completely subdued, and they had soon

regained their independence. Their subjugation by Tukulti-Ninib was

a necessary preliminary to any conquest in the south, and we can well

understand why it was undertaken by the king at the beginning of his

reign. Other conquests which were also made in the same region were the

Ukumani and the lands of Elkhu-nia, Sharnida, and Mekhri, mountainous

districts which probably lay to the north of the Lower Zab. The country

of Mekhri took its name from the mekhru-tree, a kind of pine or fir,

which grew there in abundance upon the mountainsides, and was highly

esteemed by the Assyrian kings as affording excellent wood for building

purposes. At a later period Ashur-nasir-pal invaded the country in the

course of his campaigns and brought back beams of mekhru-wood, which he

used in the construction of the temple dedicated to the goddess Ishtar

in Nineveh.

The second group of tribes and districts enumerated by Tukulti-Ninib as

having been subdued in his early years, before his conquest of Babylon,

all lay probably to the northwest of Assyria. The most powerful among

these peoples were the Shubari, who, like the Kuti on the eastern

border of Assyria, had already been conquered by Adad-nirari I, but had

regained their independence and were once more threatening the border on

this side. The third group of his conquests consisted of the districts

ruled over by forty kings of the lands of Na'iri, which was a general

term for the mountainous districts to the north of Assyria, including

territory to the west of Lake Van and extending eastwards to the

districts around Lake Urmi. The forty kings in this region whom

Tukulti-Ninib boasts of having subdued were little more than chieftains

of the mountain tribes, each one possessing authority over a few

villages scattered among the hills and valleys. But the men of Na'iri

were a warlike and hardy race, and, if left long in undisturbed

possession of their native fastnesses, they were tempted to make raids

into the fertile plains of Assyria. It was therefore only politic for

Tukulti-Ninib to traverse their country with fire and sword, and, by

exacting heavy tribute, to keep the fear of Assyrian power before their

eyes. From the king's records we thus learn that he subdued and crippled

the semi-independent races living on his borders to the north, to the

northwest, and to the east. On the west was the desert, from which

region he need fear no organized attack when he concentrated his army

elsewhere, for his permanent garrisons were strong enough to repel and

punish any incursion of nomadic tribes. He was thus in a position to try

conclusions with his hereditary foe in the south, without any fear of

leaving his land open to invasion in his absence.

The campaign against Babylon was the most important one undertaken by

Tukulti-Ninib, and its successful issue was the crowning point of his

military career. The king relates that the great gods Ashur, Bel, and

Shamash, and the goddess Ishtar, the queen of heaven and earth, marched

at the head of his warriors when he set out upon the expedition. After

crossing the border and penetrating into Babylonian territory he seems

to have had some difficulty in forcing Bitiliashu, the Kassite king who

then occupied the throne of Babylon, to a decisive engagement. But by

a skilful disposition of his forces he succeeded in hemming him in, so

that the Babylonian army was compelled to engage in a pitched battle.

The result of the fighting was a complete victory for the Assyrian arms.

Many of the Babylonian warriors fell fighting, and Bitiliashu himself

was captured by the Assyrian soldiers in the midst of the battle.

Tukulti-Ninib boasts that he trampled his lordly neck beneath his feet,

and on his return to Assyria he carried his captive back in fetters to

present him with the spoils of the campaign before Ashur, the national

god of the Assyrians.

Before returning to Assyria, however, Tukulti-Ninib marched with his

army throughout the length and breadth of Babylonia, and achieved

the subjugation of the whole of the Sumer and Akkad. He destroyed the

fortifications of Babylon to ensure that they should not again be used

against himself, and all the inhabitants who did not at once submit to

his decrees he put co the sword. He then appointed his own officers

to rule the country and established his own system of administration,

adding to his previous title of "King of Assyria," those of "King of

Karduniash (i. e. Babylonia)" and "King of Sumer and Akkad." It was

probably from this period that he also adopted the title of "King of the

Poor Quarters of the World." As a mark of the complete subjugation of

their ancient foe, Tukulti-Ninib and his army carried back with them

to Assyria not only the captive Babylonian king, but also the statue of

Marduk, the national god of Babylon. This they removed from B-sagila,

his sumptuous temple in Babylon, and they looted the sacred treasures

from the treasure-chambers, and carried them off together with the spoil

of the city.

Tukulti-Ninib no doubt left a sufficient proportion of his army in

Babylon to garrison the city and support the governors and officials

into whose charge he committed the administration of the land, but he

himself returned to Assyria with the rich spoil of the campaign, and

it was probably as a use for this large increase of wealth and material

that he decided to found another city which should bear his own name and

perpetuate it for future ages. The king records that he undertook this

task at the bidding of Bel (i.e. the god Ashur), who commanded that he

should found a new city and build a dwelling-place for him therein.

In accordance with the desire of Ashur and the gods, which was thus

conveyed to him, the king founded the city of Kar-Tukulti-Ninib, and

he erected therein temples dedicated not only to Ashur, but also to the

gods Adad, and Sha-mash, and Ninib, and Nusku, and Nergal, and Imina-bi,

and the goddess Ishtar. The spoils from Babylon and the temple treasures

from E-sagila were doubtless used for the decoration of these temples

and the adornment of their shrines, and the king endowed the temples and

appointed regular offerings, which he ordained should be their property

for ever. He also built a sumptuous palace for his own abode when he

stayed in the city, which he constructed on a mound or terrace of earth,

faced with brick, and piled high above the level of the city. Finally,

he completed its fortification by the erection of a massive wall around

it, and the completion of this wall was the occasion on which his

memorial tablet was inscribed.

The memorial tablet was buried and bricked up within the actual

structure of the wall, in order that in future ages it might be read by

those who found it, and so it might preserve his name and fame. After

finishing the account of his building operations in the new city and

recording the completion of the city wall from its foundation to its

coping stone, the king makes an appeal to any future ruler who should

find it, in the following words: "In the days that are to come, when

this wall shall have grown old and shall have fallen into ruins, may

a future prince repair the damaged parts thereof, and may he anoint my

memorial tablet with oil, and may he offer sacrifices and restore

it unto its place, and then Ashur will hearken unto his prayers. But

whosoever shall destroy this wall, or shall remove my memorial tablet or

my name that is inscribed thereon, or shall leave Kar-Tukulti-Ninib, the

city of my dominion, desolate, or shall destroy it, may the lord Ashur

overthrow his kingdom, and may he break his weapons, and may he cause

his warriors to be defeated, and may he diminish his boundaries, and may

he ordain that his rule shall be cut off, and on his days may he bring

sorrow, and his years may he make evil, and may he blot out his name and

his seed from the land!"

By such blessings and curses Tukulti-Ninib hoped to ensure the

preservation of his name and the rebuilding of his city, should it at

any time be neglected and fall into decay. Curiously enough, it was in

this very city that Tukulti-Ninib met his own fate less than seven years

after he had founded it. At that time one of his own sons, who bore the

name of Ashur-nasir-pal, conspired against his father and stirred up the

nobles to revolt. The insurrection was arranged when Tukulti-Ninib was

absent from his capital and staying in Kar-Tukulti-Ninib, where he was

probably protected by only a small bodyguard, the bulk of his veteran

warriors remaining behind in garrison at Ashur. The insurgent nobles,

headed by Ashur-nasir-pal, fell upon the king without warning when

he was passing through the city without any suspicion of risk from a

treacherous attack. The king defended himself and sought refuge in a

neighbouring house, but the conspirators surrounded the building and,

having forced an entrance, slew him with the sword. Thus Tukulti-Ninib

perished in the city he had built and beautified with the spoils of his

campaigns, where he had looked forward to passing a peaceful and secure

old age. Of the fate of the city itself we know little except that its

site is marked to-day by a few mounds which rise slightly above the

level of the surrounding desert. The king's memorial tablet only has

survived. For some 3,200 years it rested undisturbed in the foundations

of the wall of unburnt brick, where it was buried by Tukulti-Ninib on

the completion of the city wall.

Tukulti-Ninib I]

King of Assyria, about B. C. 1275.

Thence it was removed by the hands of modern Arabs, and it is now

preserved in the British Museum, where the characters of the inscription

may be seen to be as sharp and uninjured as on the day when the Assyrian

graver inscribed them by order of the king.

In the account of his first campaign, which is preserved upon

the memorial tablet, it is stated that the peoples conquered by

Tukulti-Ninib brought their yearly tribute to the city of Ashur. This

fact is of considerable interest, for it proves that Tukulti-Ninib

restored the capital of Assyria to the city of Ashur, removing it from

Calah, whither it had been transferred by his father Shalmaneser I. The

city of Calah had been founded and built by Shalmaneser I in the same

way that his son Tukulti-Ninib built the city of Kar-Tukulti-Ninib, and

the building of both cities is striking evidence of the rapid growth

of Assyria and her need of expansion around fresh centres prepared for

administration and defence. The shifting of the Assyrian capital to

Calah by Shalmaneser I was also due to the extension of Assyrian power

in the north, in consequence of which there was need of having the

capital nearer the centre of the country so enlarged. Ashur's recovery

of her old position under Tukulti-Ninib I was only a temporary check to

this movement northwards, and, so long as Babylon remained a conquered

province of the Assyrian empire, obviously the need for a capital

farther north than Ashur would not have been pressing.


But with Tukulti-Ninib's death Babylon regained her independence and

freed herself from Assyrian control, and the centre of the northern

kingdom was once more subject to the influences which eventually

resulted in the permanent transference of her capital to Nineveh. To the

comparative neglect into which Ashur and Calah consequently fell, we

may probably trace the extensive remains of buildings belonging to the

earlier periods of Assyrian history which have been recovered and still

remain to be found, in the mounds that mark their sites.

We have given some account of the results already achieved from the

excavations carried out during the last two years at Sherghat, the site

of the city of Ashur. That much remains to be done on the site of Calah,

the other early capital of Assyria, is evident from even a cursory

examination of the present condition of the mounds that mark the

location of the city. These mounds are now known by the name of Nimrud

and are situated on the left or eastern bank of the Tigris, a short

distance above the point at which it is joined by the stream of the

Upper Zab, and the great mound which still covers the remains of the

ziggurat, or temple tower, can be seen from a considerable distance

across the plain. During the excavations formerly carried out here for

the British Museum, remains of palaces were recovered which had been

built or restored by Shal-maneser I, Ashur-nasir-pal, Shalmaneser II,

Tiglath-pileser III, Sargon, Esarhaddon, and Ashur-etil-ilani. After the

conclusion of the diggings and the removal of many of the sculptures to

England, the site was covered again with earth, in order to protect the

remains of Assyrian buildings which were left in place. Since that time

the soil has sunk and been washed away by the rains so that many of the

larger sculptures are now protruding above the soil, an example of which

is seen in the two winged bulls in the palace of Ashur-nasir-pal. It

is improbable that the mounds of Nimrud will yield such rich results

as Sherghat, but the site would probably well repay prolonged and

systematic excavation.

We have hitherto summarized and described the principal facts,

with regard to the early history of Babylonia and Assyria and the

neighbouring countries, which have been obtained from the excavations

conducted recently on the sites of ancient cities. From the actual

remains of the buildings that have been unearthed we have secured

information with regard to the temples and palaces of ancient rulers and

the plans on which they were designed. Erom the objects of daily life

and of religious use which have been recovered, such as weapons of

bronze and iron, and vessels of metal, stone, and clay, it is possible

for the archaeologist to draw conclusions with regard to the customs of

these early peoples; while from a study of their style and workmanship

and of such examples of their sculpture as have been brought to light,

he may determine the stage of artistic development at which they had

arrived. The clay tablets and stone monuments that have been recovered

reveal the family life of the people, their commercial undertakings,

their system of legislation and land tenure, their epistolary

correspondence, and the administration under which they lived, while the

royal inscriptions and foundation-memorials throw light on the religious

and historical events of the period in which they were inscribed.

Information on all these points has been acquired as the result of

excavation, and is based on the discoveries in the ruins of early cities

which have remained buried beneath the soil for some thousands of years.

But for the history of Assyria and of the other nations in the north

there is still another source of information to which reference must now

be made.

The kings of Assyria were not content with recording their achievements

on the walls of their buildings, on stelae set up in their palaces and

temples, on their tablets of annals preserved in their archive-chambers,

and on their cylinders and foundation-memorials concealed within the

actual structure of the buildings themselves. They have also left

records graven in the living rock, and these have never been buried,

but have been exposed to wind and weather from the moment they

were engraved. Records of irrigation works and military operations

successfully undertaken by Assyrian kings remain to this day on the

face of the mountains to the north and east of Assyria. The kings of

one great mountain race that had its capital at Van borrowed from the

Assyrians this method of recording their achievements, and, adopting the

Assyrian character, have left numerous rock-inscriptions in their own

language in the mountains of Armenia and Kurdistan. In some instances

the action of rain and frost has nearly if not quite obliterated the

record, and a few have been defaced by the hand of man. But as the

majority are engraved in panels cut on the sheer face of the rock, and

are inaccessible except by means of ropes and tackle, they have escaped

mutilation. The photograph reproduced will serve to show the means that

must be adopted for reaching such rock-inscriptions in order to examine

or copy them.


In The Gorge Of The River Gomel, Near Bavian.

The inscription shown in the photograph is one of those cut by

Sennacherib in the gorge near Bavian, through which the river Gomel

flows, and can be reached only by climbing down ropes fixed to the top

of the cliff. The choice of such positions by the kings who caused the

inscriptions to be engraved was dictated by the desire to render it

difficult to destroy them, but it has also had the effect of delaying to

some extent their copying and decipherment by modern workers.


Near Bavian In Assyria.

Considerable progress, however, has recently been made in identifying

and copying these texts, and we may here give a short account of what

has been done and of the information furnished by the inscriptions that

have been examined.

Recently considerable additions have been made to our knowledge of the

ancient empire of Van and of its relation to the later kings of Assyria

by the labours of Prof Lehmann and Dr. Belck on the inscriptions which

the kings of that period caused to be engraved upon the rocks among the

mountains of Armenia.

The flat roofs of the houses of the city of Van may be seen to the left

of the photograph nestling below the rock.

The centre and capital of this empire was the ancient city which stood

on the site of the modern town of Van at the southwest corner of the

lake which bears the same name. The city was built at the foot of a

natural rock which rises precipitously from the plain, and must have

formed an impregnable stronghold against the attack of the foe.

In this citadel at the present day remain the ancient galleries and

staircases and chambers which were cut in the living rock by the kings

who made it their fortress, and their inscriptions, engraved upon the

face of the rock on specially prepared and polished surfaces, enable us

to reconstruct in some degree the history of that ancient empire. From

time to time there have been found and copied other similar texts, which

are cut on the mountainsides or on the massive stones which formed part

of the construction of their buildings and fortifications. A complete

collection of these texts, together with translations, will shortly be

published by Prof. Lehmann. Meanwhile, this scholar has discussed and

summarized the results to be obtained from much of his material, and

we are thus already enabled to sketch the principal achievements of the

rulers of this mountain race, who were constantly at war with the later

kings of Assyria, and for two centuries at least disputed her claim to

supremacy in this portion of Western Asia.

The country occupied by this ancient people of Van was the great

table-land which now forms Armenia. The people themselves cannot

be connected with the Armenians, for their language presents no

characteristics of those of the Indo-European family, and it is equally

certain that they are not to be traced to a Semitic origin. It is true

that they employed the Assyrian method of writing their inscriptions,

and their art differs only in minor points from that of the Assyrians,

but in both instances this similarity of culture was directly borrowed

at a time when the less civilized race, having its centre at Van, came

into direct contact with the Assyrians.


The exact date at which this influence began to be exerted is not

certain, but we have records of immediate relations with Assyria in the

second half of the ninth century before Christ. The district inhabited

by the Vannic people was known to the Assyrians by the name of Urartu,

and although the inscriptions of the earlier Assyrian kings do not

record expeditions against that country, they frequently make mention of

campaigns against princes and petty rulers of the land of Na'iri. They

must therefore for long have exercised an indirect, if not a direct,

influence on the peoples and tribes which lay more to the north.

The earliest evidence of direct contact between the Assyrians and the

land of Urartu which we at present possess dates from the reign of

Ashur-nasir-pal, and in the reign of his son Shalmaneser II three

expeditions were undertaken against the people of Van. The name of the

king of Urartu at this time was Arame, and his capital city, Arzasku,

probably lay to the north of Lake Van. On all three occasions the

Assyrians were victorious, forcing Arame to abandon his capital

and capturing his cities as far as the sources of the Euphrates.

Subsequently, in the year 833 B.C., Shalmaneser II made another attack

upon the country, which at that time was under the sway of Sarduris I.

Under this monarch the citadel of Van became the great stronghold of the

people of Urartu, for he added to the natural strength of the position

by the construction of walls built between the rock of Van and the

harbour. The massive blocks of stone of which his fortifications

were composed are standing at the present day, and they bear eloquent

testimony to the energy with which this monarch devoted himself to the

task of rendering his new citadel impregnable. The fortification and

strengthening of Van and its citadel was carried on during the reigns of

his direct successors and descendants, Ispui-nis, Menuas, and Argistis

I, so that when Tiglath-pile-ser III brought fire and sword into the

country and laid siege to Van in the reign of Sarduris II, he could not

capture the citadel.


It was not difficult for the Assyrian king to assault and capture the

city itself, which lay at the foot of the citadel as it does at the

present day, but the latter, within the fortifications of which Sarduris

and his garrison withdrew, proved itself able to withstand the Assyrian

attack. The expedition of Tiglath-pileser III did not succeed in

crushing the Vannic empire, for Rusas I, the son and successor of

Sarduris II, allied himself to the neighbouring mountain races and gave

considerable trouble to Sargon, the Assyrian king, who was obliged to

undertake an expedition to check their aggressions.

It was probably Rusas I who erected the buildings on Toprak Kala, the

hill to the east of Van, traces of which remain to the present day. He

built a palace and a temple, and around them he constructed a new city

with a reservoir to supply it with water, possibly because the slopes

of Toprak Kala rendered it easier of defence than the city in the

plain (beneath the rock and citadel) which had fallen an easy prey to

Tiglath-pileser III. The site of the temple on Toprak Kala has been

excavated by the trustees of the British Museum, and our knowledge of

Vannic art is derived from the shields and helmets of bronze and small

bronze figures and fittings which were recovered from this building. One

of the shields brought to the British Museum from the Toprak Kala, where

it originally hung with others on the temple walls, bears the name of

Argistis II, who was the son and successor of Rusas I, and who attempted

to give trouble to the Assyrians by stirring the inhabitants of the land

of Kummukh (Kommagene) to revolt against Sargon. His son, Rusas II,

was the contemporary of Esarhaddon, and from some recently discovered

rock-inscriptions we learn that he extended the limits of his kingdom on

the west and secured victories against Mushki (Meshech) to the southeast

of the Halys and against the Hittites in Northern Syria. Rusas III

rebuilt the temple on Toprak Kala, as we know from an inscription of his

on one of the shields from that place in the British Museum. Both he and

Sarduris III were on friendly terms with the Assyrians, for we know that

they both sent embassies to Ashur-bani-pal.

By far the larger number of rock-inscriptions that have yet been found

and copied in the mountainous districts bordering on Assyria were

engraved by this ancient Vannic people, and Drs. Lehmann and Belck have

done good service by making careful copies and collations of all those

which are at present known. Work on other classes of rock-inscriptions

has also been carried on by other travellers. A new edition of the

inscriptions of Sennacherib in the gorge of the Gomel, near the village

of Bavian, has been made by Mr. King, who has also been fortunate enough

to find a number of hitherto unknown inscriptions in Kurdistan on the

Judi Dagh and at the sources of the Tigris. The inscriptions at

the mouth of the Nahr el-Kelb, "the Dog River," in Syria, have

been reexamined by Dr. Knudtzon, and the long inscription which

Nebuchadnezzar II cut on the rocks at Wadi Brissa in the Lebanon,

formerly published by M. Pognon, has been recopied by Dr. Weissbach.

Finally, the great trilingual inscription of Darius Hystaspes on the

rock at Bisutun in Persia, which was formerly copied by the late Sir

Henry Raw-linson and used by him for the successful decipherment of the

cuneiform inscriptions, was completely copied last year by Messrs. King

and Thompson.

Messrs. King and Thompson are preparing a new edition of

this inscription.

The main facts of the history of Assyria under her later kings and of

Babylonia during the Neo-Babylonian and Persian periods were many years

ago correctly ascertained, and recent excavation and research have done

little to add to our knowledge of the history of these periods. It was

hoped that the excavations conducted by Dr. Koldewey at Babylon would

result in the recovery of a wealth of inscriptions and records referring

to the later history of the country, but unfortunately comparatively

few tablets or inscriptions have been found, and those that have been

recovered consist mainly of building-inscriptions and votive texts. One

such building-inscription contains an interesting historical reference.

It occurs on a barrel-cylinder of clay inscribed with a text of

Nabopolassar, and it was found in the temple of Ninib and records the

completion and restoration of the temple by the king. In addition to

recording the building operations he had carried out in the temple,

Nabopolassar boasts of his opposition to the Assyrians. He says: "As for

the Assyrians who had ruled all peoples from distant days and had set

the people of the land under a heavy yoke, I, the weak and humble man

who worshippeth the Lord of Lords (i.e. the god Marduk), through the

mighty power of Nabu and Marduk, my lords, held back their feet from the

land of Akkad and cast off their yoke."

It is not yet certain whether the Babylonians under Nabopolassar

actively assisted Cyaxares and the Medes in the siege and in the

subsequent capture of Nineveh in 606 B.C. but this newly discovered

reference to the Assyrians by Nabopolassar may possibly be taken

to imply that the Babylonians were passive and not active allies of

Cyaxares. If the cylinder were inscribed after the fall of Nineveh we

should have expected Nabopolassar, had he taken an active part in the

capture of the city, to have boasted in more definite terms of his

achievement. On his stele which is preserved at Constantinople,

Nabonidus, the last king of the Neo-Babylonian empire, who himself

suffered defeat at the hands of Cyrus, King of Persia, ascribed the fall

of Nineveh to the anger of Marduk and the other gods of Babylon because

of the destruction of their city and the spoliation of their temples by

Sennacherib in 689 B.C. We see the irony of fate in the fact that Cyrus

also ascribed the defeat and deposition of Nabonidus and the fall of

Babylon to Marduk's intervention, whose anger he alleges was aroused

by the attempt of Nabonidus to concentrate the worship of the local

city-gods in Babylon.

Thus it will be seen that recent excavation and research have not

yet supplied the data for filling in such gaps as still remain in our

knowledge of the later history of Assyria and Babylon. The closing

years of the Assyrian empire and the military achievements of the great

Neo-Babylonian rulers, Nabopolassar, Nerig-lissar, and Nebuchadnezzar

II, have not yet been found recorded in any published Assyrian or

Babylonian inscription, but it may be expected that at any moment

some text will be discovered that will throw light upon the problems

connected with the history of those periods which still await solution.

Meanwhile, the excavations at Babylon, although they have not added

much to our knowledge of the later history of the country, have been

of immense service in revealing the topography of the city during the

Neo-Babylonian period, as well as the positions, plans, and characters

of the principal buildings erected by the later Babylonian kings. The

discovery of the palaces of Nebuchadnezzar II on the mound of the Kasr,

of the small but complete temple E-makh, of the temple of the goddess

Nin-makh to the northeast of the palaces, and of the sacred road

dividing them and passing through the Great Gate of Ishtar (adorned with

representations of lions, bulls, and dragons in raised brick upon its

walls) has enabled us to form some conception of the splendour and

magnificence of the city as it appeared when rebuilt by its last native

rulers. Moreover, the great temple E-sagila, the famous shrine of the

god Marduk, has been identified and partly excavated beneath the huge

mound of Tell Amran ibn-Ali, while a smaller and less famous temple of

Ninib has been discovered in the lower mounds which lie to the eastward.

Finally, the sacred way from E-sagila to the palace mound has been

traced and uncovered. We are thus enabled to reconstitute the scene of

the most solemn rite of the Babylonian festival of the New Year, when

the statue of the god Marduk was carried in solemn procession along this

road from the temple to the palace, and the Babylonian king made his

yearly obeisance to the national god, placing his own hands within those

of Marduk, in token of his submission to and dependence on the divine



Though recent excavations have not led to any startling discoveries

with regard to the history of Western Asia during the last years of

the Babylonian empire, research among the tablets dating from the

Neo-Babylonian and Persian periods has lately added considerably to our

knowledge of Babylonian literature. These periods were marked by great

literary activity on the part of the priests at Babylon, Sippar, and

elsewhere, who, under the royal orders, scoured the country for all

remains of the early literature which was preserved in the ancient

temples and archives of the country, and made careful copies and

collections of all they found. Many of these tablets containing

Neo-Babylonian copies of earlier literary texts are preserved in the

British Museum, and have been recently published, and we have thus

recovered some of the principal grammatical, religious, and magical

compositions of the earlier Babylonian period.

Between The Mound Of The Kasr And Tell Amran Ibn-Ali,

Showing A Section Of The Paved Sacred Way.

Among the most interesting of such recent finds is a series of tablets

inscribed with the Babylonian legends concerning the creation of the

world and man, which present many new and striking parallels to the

beliefs on these subjects embodied in Hebrew literature. We have not

space to treat this subject at greater length in the present work, but

we may here note that discovery and research in its relation to the

later empires that ruled at Babylon have produced results of literary

rather than of historical importance. But we should exceed the space

at our disposal if we attempted even to skim this fascinating field of

study in which so much has recently been achieved. For it is time we

turned once more to Egypt and directed our inquiry towards ascertaining

what recent research has to tell us with regard to her inhabitants

during the later periods of her existence as a nation of the ancient