Page images
[ocr errors]

961 years—the entire region of Assyria was at first unrecognized, then obscure, and at the last a very humble province. Hence disappear these prominent particulars of the old chronology—the supposed co-antiquity, and the political unity under an Assyrian name, of Assyria and Babylonia, and the long duration of 1306 years for the first Assyrian dynasty.

The leading features, then, of the new scheme of chronology, which is entitled to at least a provisional acceptance, are 1. The establishment of an empire in the southern part of Babylonia, the proper Chaldæa, under a Chaldean dynasty, as early as B. Ć. 2234; 2. The gradual growth of this empire towards the north, till it became, at about B. C. 1861, generically Babylonian, though still under the primitive Chaldæan dynasty; and 3. The at first unrecognized, then subordinate, and finally independent territory of Assyria—the ancient line of Chaldee-Babylonian monarchs, continuing in the south to about the year B. C. 1273; at which date this ancient dynasty is overthrown, and an independent Assyrian kingdom first emerges, soon to attain the proportions of an empire, and exercise a general sway over the whole region of the great Mesopotamian valley.

The date of Assyrian independence as a kingdom, must not be confounded with the date of the Assyrian supremacy as an empire. No legend gives any hint whereby the origin of Assyrian independence can be even conjectured. There is reason to surmise that the last two centuries of the Chaldee-Babylonian ascendancy was a troublous period. Bero sus even speaks of an Arabian conquest during this period; and his list of dynasties gives an Arabian line of nine monarchs, displacing the old Chaldæan line in B. C. 1518, and reigning over all Mesopotamia to the date of the Assyrian epoch in B. C. 1273. The inscriptions give no account of such a dynasty. Yet there may have been Arabian invasions in Babylonia ; and the Assyrians may have embraced the occasion of such a period of Babylonian trouble and weakness to assert their independence. The only point on which the inscriptions seem clear is the fact of an independent Assyrian kingdom as early as B. C. 1273.

A series of testimonies more or less reliable, yet strong in their conjoint force, determines this important date as the commencement of a separate Assyrian power. Herodotus gives, in round numbers, 520 years for the duration of the first Assyrian dynasty-not, let it be kept in mind, for the whole duration of Assyria including its two dynasties,--and as he connects the commencement of this period with a date a generation earlier than the founding of the Lydian monarchy in B. C. 1229, and terminates the period within about a generation after a revolt of the Medes in B. C. 708, it follows that he believed the first Assyrian dynasty to commence at about B. C. 1273. Berosus gives the more precise number of 526 years as the full period of the first Assyrian dynasty; and it is shown by comparing some of his dates with certain well-established Scripture dates, that he regarded the 526 years as commencing about B. C. 1273; and this general date, various other coincidences confirm. A comparison of several inscriptions found upon Assyrian ruins favors the same conclusion ; and hence it is safe to presume, that we have at least an approximation to the period when the first great Assyrian dynasty was established.?

The bricks of Kileh-Shergat disclose the name of probably the first four monarchs who ruled in Assyria, -we say probably, for though the legends recognize other and earlier rulers, their names are Babylonian, and their titles those of Satraps. The old history, as we have seen, gave graphic pictures of Ninus, the builder of Nineveh ; of his great queen and successor Semiramis, who either built or adorned Babylon, and whose conquests made her name the terror of surrounding nations; of the effeminate Sardanapalus,—at a much later period however,--surprised in the midst of his revels by the approach of conquering hosts, and in his despair burning himself, and his confederates in debauchery, with his palace. We may state here, that while the chronological places of Ninus and Semiramis have been entirely removed by the new scheme of chronology, none of the monuments exhibit names or characters at all corresponding to such personages. In the list of the first four monarchs given by the Kileh-Shergat bricks, the names are every way dissimilar to those of Ninus and Semiramis. They are also unaccompanied with events—an improbable circumstance, if they belonged to these personages. These names, therefore, with that of the licentious Sardanapalus, are banished into the region of myth. They do not belong to Assyrian tradition even ; they are, says Rawlinson, the “invention of Greek writers.”

7 The very ingenious scheme of cornbinations and computations by which the general conclusion named above is made very probable, will repay the somewhat perplexing labor of a careful study. See Rawlinson's first volume, pp. 360–364.

The Assyrian legends record but little in the way of events, till we come to the time of Tiglath Pileser I., in about B. C. 1110. This is an important epoch, for at this period the kingdom of Assyria becomes the empire of Assyria ; and the imperial power is extended over all Babylonia even. This monarch, in somewhat lengthy and most important inscriptions, gives an account of himself and his ancestors. He claims to have “subjugated all the earth ; ” that his father was a “subduer of foreign countries, and actually “ reduced all the lands of the Magian world ; that his grandfather was “ established in strength in the government of Assyria ; " that his great-grandfather “ ruled over the people of Bel ;” and that his great-great-grandfather was “the king who first organised the country of Assyria."

Coming down to about B. C. 930, we meet with the great name of a real Sardanapalus — the builder of an enormous palace, 360 feet in length by 300 feet in breadth, and of numerous other buildings. With this name we enter upon a new phase of Assyrian history. The events are more numerous, and are more minutely described. Sardanapalus is succeeded by his son, Shalmaneser, who has a long reign, and whose name is connected with rapid conquests in all parts of Western Asia. We are now upon historical ground. Assyrian events begin to mix with others, fainiliar to the readers of the Bible, in Damascus, in Phænicia, in Israel, in Judea, in Egypt. As the deciphered narrative proceeds, the names of Benhadad, of Jehoram, of Hazael, of Jehu, rise to view.

Passing on to about B. C. 741, the second Tiglath-Pileser, the Scripture monarch of this name, appears. He is probably the founder of the second dynasty ; and the new empire, not included in the 526 years of Berosus, the 520 years of Herodotus, or the 1306 years of Ctesias, is established There is now a rebellion in Babylon, and the celebrated Nabonassar has either founded, or has prepared the way for the foundation of, that splendid but short lived dynasty, which dazzles the world in the person of Nebuchadnezzar, and moves both its pity and contempt in the tragic fate of Belshazzar and the destruction of Babylon.

But though the defection in Babylon seriously reduces, for the time, Assyrian greatness, the nation speedily revives under the second Tiglath-Pileser. Successful war is carried on against Babylonia, whose prince flees into exile, and also against Damascus. He takes tribute from a king of Samaria and of Tyre; receives Ahaz, king of Judah, as a tributary, and has a personal intercourse with him — the first event of the kind in Assyrian and Jewish history, Reaching the date about B. C. 721, we come to the enterprising Sargon, who conquers Babylon, defeats the prince of Gaza, and probably the Egyptian Šabaco I. ; takes tribute from both, and from the queen of Arabia ; carries on wars with the Syrians, Cappadocians, and Medes; and inaugurates, on a grand scale, the policy of carrying off Israelites to colonize other regions — in this anticipating, in the nature of the result, the great “ Babylonish captivity” by Nebuchadnezzar.

A few years later and the great Sennacherib ascends the Assyrian throne. Now, for the first time, in about B. C. 700, mention is made of Nineveh as the Capital. Sennacherib rebuilds the city employing in the work the enormous number of 360,000 prisoners from Chaldæa, Cylicia, Syria, Armenia, and other countries. He builds a palace which covers eight acres; carries on terrible wars in Babylonia, destroying 32 Chaldæan cities and 820 villages, and returns with 200,000 captives; next turns his power against the nations north and east, and compels the Medes to give tribute; then enters Phænecia, the land of the Philistines, Judea and Egypt — in all places victorious ; then beseiges Jerusalem, and extorts tribute from Hezekiah ; and follows up his conquering career till he meets with the miraculous destruction of his

army in Egypt, described in 2 Kings, xix. 35; after which “Sennacherib, king of Assyria, departed, and went and returned, and dwelt in Nineveh,” (verse 36) till his murder by his sons — on which tragic fate the inscriptions throw no light. Esar-haddon, son of Sennacherib, succeeds to the throne

8 2 Kings xvi. 10.

in about B. C. 680. He imitates his father's warlike career, and seems to repeat the same conquests in the same countries. He reigns, in person, in Babylon and also in Nineveh ; builds a great and gorgeous palace, answering, according to Mr. Layard " in its general plan, more than any building yet discovered, to the description in the Bible of the palace of Solomon.”

With the disappearance of Esar-haddon, the glory and power of Assyria depart, never to return. The decline is rapid, fearful, and complete. A few weak, effeminate, helpless monarchs succeed; and at the approach of the Medes, and their confederates, in about B. C. 625, led by Cyaxares, Assyria falls, and Nineveh is given over to the flames. Since that hour there has never been an Assyria,

Of the empire of Later Babylonia,--which seems to have taken root in some mysterious way with Nabonassar in B. C. 747, and to have survived defeat, exile, and the de molition of cities during the second Assyrian dynasty, to spring into full life, greatness, and dominion on the fall of Nineveh in B.C. 625,-—we shall not here descant. Sir Hen ry Rawlinson devotes to the subject an elaborate essay — the seventh appended to the first Book of Herodotus ;-but as the epoch is so largely within the bounds of authentic history, his statements contain necessarily less of novelty than those which he has given us respecting the earlier empires. The reading world is already familiar with the war, like achievements of Nebuchadnezzar against the Egyptian Neco; his long, desperate and finally successful seige of Tyre; his prolonged seiges of Jerusalem, ending in its overthrow, the capture of King Zedekiah, and the transportation of the bulk of the population to the banks of the Euphrates ; with his alleged succeeding triumphant invasions of Egypt, before whose march the Egyptian Apries flees, to be deposed and succeeded by Amasis; with the monster works of Neb

9 The nations conquered by Assyria and Babylonia were never added to the conquering nation. Their form of government was not changed, and their rulers were seldom deposed, or their local adminis. tration interfered with. They were only made to give tribute, generally in money, seldom in any other way. Of course, these nations, thus made tributary, seized every opportunity to throw off even this allegiance. Hence nearly every Assyrian monarch had occasion to repeat the conquests-if conquests they can rightly be called-of his predecessors.

« PreviousContinue »