Abbildungen der Seite

been introduced into this abridgment. I am still inclined to believe that all the ruins explored represent the site of ancient Nineveh, and whilst still assigning the later monuments to the kings mentioned in Scripture, Shalmanezer, Sennacherib, and Essarhadon, I am convinced that a considerable period elapsed between their foundation and the erection of the older palaces of Nimroud. The results of the attempts to decypher the inscriptions are still too uncertain to authorise the use of any actual names for the earlier kings mentioned in them.

September, 1851.


Before submitting the following narrative of my labors in Assyria to the reader, it may not be uninteresting to give a slight sketch of what had been done in the field of Assyrian antiquities, previous to the recent discoveries on the site of Nineveh.

A few fragments scattered amongst ancient authors, and a list of kings of more than doubtful authenticity, is all that remains of a history of Assyria by Ctesias; whilst of that attributed to Herodotus not a trace has been preserved. Of later writers who have touched upon Assyrian history, Diodorus Siculus, a mere compiler, is the principal. In Eusebius, and the Armenian historians, such as Moses of Chorene, may be found a few valuable details and hints, derived, in some instances, from original sources not altogether devoid of authenticity.

It is remarkable that in profane history we meet with only three Assyrian monarchs of whose deeds we have any account,— Ninus, Semiramis, and Sardanapalus. Ninus and his Queen, like all the heroes of primitive nations, appear to have become mythic characters, to whom all great deeds and national achievements were assigned. Although originally historic personages, they were subsequently invested to some extent with divine attributes, and were interwoven with the theology of the race of which they were the first, or amongst the earliest, chiefs. Above thirty generations elapsed between Semiramis and Sardanapalus, during which more than one dynasty of kings occupied the Assyrian throne and maintained the power of the empire. Yet of these kings nothing has been preserved but doubtful names.

The Assyrians are not particularly alluded to in Holy Writ, until the period when their warlike expeditions to the west of the Euphrates brought them into contact with the Jews. Pul, the first king whose name is recorded in Scripture, having reigned between eight and nine hundred years before the Christian era, and about two hundred previous to the fall of the empire, must have been nearly the last of a long succession of kings who had ruled over the greater part of Asia. The later monarchs are more frequently mentioned in the Bible on account of their wars with the Jews, whom they led captive into Assyria. Very little is related of even their deeds unless they particularly concern the Jewish people.

Of modern historians who have attempted to reconcile the discrepancies of Assyrian chronology, and to restore to some extent, from the fragments to which I have alluded, a history of the Assyrian empire, I scarcely know whom to point out. From such contradictory materials, it is not surprising that each writer should have formed a system of his own; and we may, without incurring the charge of scepticism, treat all their efforts as little better than ingenious speculations. In the date alone to be assigned to the commencement of the Assyrian empire, they differ nearly a thousand years; and even when they treat of events which approach the epoch of authentic history, — such as the death of Sardanapalus, the invasion of the Medes, and the fall of the empire, — there is nearly the same comparative discrepancy. The Bactrian and Indian expeditions of Ninus, the wonderful works of Semiramis, and the effeminacy of Sardanapalus, have been described over and over again, and form the standard ingredients of the Assyrian history of modern authors. The narratives framed upon them convey useful lessons, and are, moreover, full of romantic events to excite the imagination. As such they have been repeated, with a warning that their authenticity rests upon a slender basis, and that it is doubtful whether they are to be regarded as history, or to be classed amongst fables. Although the names of Nineveh and Assyria have been familiar to us from childhood, and are connected with the earliest impressions we derive from the Inspired Writings, it is only when we ask ourselves what we really know concerning them, that we discover our ignorance of all that relates to their history, and even to their geographical position.

It is indeed one of the most remarkable facts in history, that the records of an empire, so renowned for its power and civilisation, should have been entirely lost; and that the site of a city as eminent for its extent as its splendour, should for ages have been a matter of doubt: it is not perhaps less curious that an accidental discovery should suddenly lead us to hope that these records may be recovered, and this site satisfactorily identified.

The ruins in Assyria and Babylonia, chiefly huge mounds, apparently of mere earth and rubbish, had long excited curiosity from their size and evident antiquity. They were the only remains of an unknown period, — of a period antecedent to the Macedonian conquest. Consequently they alone could be identified with Nineveh and Babylon, and could afford a clue to the site and nature of those cities. There is, at the same time, a vague mystery


attaching to remains like these, which induces travellers to examine them with more than ordinary interest, and even with some degree of awe. A great vitrified mass of brick-work, surrounded by the accumulated rubbish of ages, was believed to represent the identical tower, which called down the divine vengeance, and was overthrown, according to an universal tradition, by the fires of heaven. The mystery and dread, which attached to the place, were kept up by exaggerated accounts of wild beasts, who haunted the subterraneous passages, and of the no less savage tribes who wandered amongst the ruins. Other mounds in the vicinity were identified with the hanging gardens, and those marvellous structures which tradition has attributed to two queens, Semiramis and Nitocris. The difficulty of reaching these remains, increased the curiosity and interest with which they were regarded; and a fragment from Babylon was esteemed a precious relic, not altogether devoid of a sacred character. The ruins which might be presumed to occupy the site of the Assyrian capital, were even less known, and less visited, than those in Babylonia. Several travellers had noticed the great mounds of earth opposite the modern city of Mosul, and when the inhabitants of the neighbourhood pointed out the tomb of Jonah upon the summit of one of them, it was natural to conclude, at once, that it marked the site of Nineveh. *

* It need scarcely be observed, that the tomb of Jonah could not stand on the ruins of a palace, and that the tradition placing it there is not authenticated by any passage in the Scriptures. It is, however, received by Christians and Mussulmans, and probably originated in the spot having been once occupied by a Christian church or convent, dedicated to the prophet. The building, which is supposed to cover the tomb, is very much venerated, and few Christians have been allowed to enter it. The Jews, in the time ot St. Jerome, pointed out the sepulchre of Jonah at Gath-hepher, in the tribe of Zabulon.

« ZurückWeiter »