Part 3 out of 5
that of Babylonia was positive. Abraham was a Babylonian by birth; the
Asiatic world through which he wandered was Babylonian in civilisation
and government, and the Babylonian exile was the final turning-point in
the religious history of Judah. The Semitic Babylonians were allied in
race and language to the Hebrews; they had common ideas and common
points of view. Though Egyptian influence is markedly absent from the
Mosaic Code, we find in it old Semitic institutions and beliefs which
equally characterised Babylonia.
But the Semites were not the first occupants of Babylonia. The
civilisation of the country had been founded by a race which spoke an
agglutinative language, like that of the modern Finns or Turks, and
which scholars have now agreed to call Sumerian. The Sumerians had been
the builders of the cities, the reclaimers of the marshy plain, the
inventors of the picture-writing which developed into the cuneiform or
wedge-shaped characters, and the pioneers of a culture which profoundly
affected the whole of western Asia. The Semites entered upon the
inheritance, adopting, modifying, and improving upon it. The Babylonian
civilisation, with which we are best acquainted, was the result of this
amalgamation of Sumerian and Semitic elements.
Out of this mixture of Sumerians and Semites there arose a mixed people,
a mixed language, and a mixed religion. The language and race of
Babylonia were thus like those of England, probably also like those of
Egypt. Mixed races are invariably the best; it is the more pure-blooded
peoples who fall behind in the struggle for existence.
Recent excavations have thrown light on the early beginnings of
Babylonia. The country itself was an alluvial plain, formed by the silt
deposited each year by the Tigris and Euphrates. The land grows at the
rate of about ninety feet a year, or less than two miles in a century;
since the age of Alexander the Great the waters of the Persian Gulf have
receded more than forty-six miles from the shore. When the Sumerians
first settled by the banks of the Euphrates it must have been on the
sandy plateau to the west of the river where the city of Ur, the modern
Mugheir, was afterwards built. At that time the future Babylonia was a
pestiferous marsh, inundated by the unchecked overflow of the rivers
which flowed through it. The reclamation of the marsh was the first work
of the new-comers. The rivers were banked out and the inundation
regulated by means of canals. All this demanded no little engineering
skill; in fact, the creation of Babylonia was the birth of the science
Settlements were made in the fertile plain which had thus been won, and
which, along with the adjoining desert, was called by the Sumerians the
_Edin_, or "Plain." On the southern edge of this plain, and on what was
then the coast-line of the Persian Gulf, the town of Eridu was built,
which soon became a centre of maritime trade. Its site is now marked by
the mounds of Abu Shahrein or Nowawis, nearly 150 miles from the sea;
its foundation, therefore, must go back to about 7500 years, or 5500
B.C. Ur, a little to the north-west, with its temple of the Moon-god,
was a colony of Eridu.
In the plain itself many cities were erected, which rose around the
temples of the gods. In the north was Nippur, now Niffer, whose great
temple of Mul-lil or El-lil, the Lord of the Ghost-world, was a centre
of Babylonian religion for unnumbered centuries. After the Semitic
conquest Mul-lil came to be addressed as Bel or "Lord," and when the
rise of Babylon caused the worship of its patron-deity Bel-Merodach to
spread throughout the country, the Bel of Nippur became known as the
"older Bel." Nippur was watered by the canal Kabaru, the Chebar of
Ezekiel, and to the south of it was the city of Lagas, now Tello, where
French excavators have brought to light an early seat of Sumerian power.
A little to the west of Lagas was Larsa, the modern Senkereh, famous for
its ancient temple of the Sun-god, a few miles to the north-west of
which stood Erech, now Warka, dedicated to the Sky-god Anu and his
Northward of Nippur was Bab-ili or Babylon, "the Gate of God," a Semitic
translation of its original Sumerian name, Ka-Dimirra. It was a double
city, built on either side of the Euphrates, and adjoining its suburb of
Borsippa, once an independent town. Babylon seems to have been a colony
of Eridu, and its god, Bel-Merodach, called by the Sumerians "Asari who
does good to man," was held to be the son of Ea, the culture-god of
Eridu. E-Saggil, the great temple of Bel-Merodach, rose in the midst of
Babylon; the temple of Nebo, his "prophet" and interpreter, rose hard by
in Borsippa. Its ruins are now known as the Birs-i-Nimrud, in which
travellers have seen the Tower of Babel.
In the neighbourhood of Babylon were Kish (_El-Hymar_) and Kutha
(_Tel-Ibrahim_); somewhat to the north of it, and on the banks of the
Euphrates, was Sippara or Sepharvaim, whose temple, dedicated to the
Sun-god, has been found in the mounds of Abu-Habba. Sippara was the
northern fortress of the Babylonian plain; it stood where the Tigris and
Euphrates approached most nearly one another, and where, therefore, the
plain itself came practically to an end. Upi or Opis, on the Tigris,
still farther to the north, lay outside the boundaries of primaeval
East of Babylonia were the mountains of Elam, inhabited by non-Semitic
tribes. Among them were the Kassi or Kossaeeans, who maintained a rude
independence in their mountain fastnesses, and who, at one time, overran
Babylonia and founded a dynasty there which lasted for several
centuries. The capital of Elam was Susa or Shushan, the seat of an early
monarchy, whose civilisation was derived from the Babylonians.
In the south the Tigris and Euphrates made their way to the region of
salt-marshes, called Marratu in the inscriptions, Merathaim by the
prophet Jeremiah. They were inhabited by the Semitic tribe of the Kalda,
whose princes owned an unwilling obedience to the Babylonian kings. One
of them, Merodach-baladan, succeeded in making himself master of
Babylonia, and from that time forward the Kalda became so integral a
part of the population as eventually to give their name to the whole of
it. For the writers of Greece and Rome the Babylonians are Chaldaeans. It
is probable that Nebuchadrezzar was of Kalda origin; if so, this would
have been a further reason for the extension of the tribal name to the
The settlement of the Kalda in the marshes was of comparatively late
date. Indeed, in the early age of Babylonian history these marshes did
not as yet exist; it was not until Eridu had ceased to be a seaport that
they were reclaimed from the sea. The Kalda were the advance-guard of
the Nabatheans and other Aramaic tribes of northern Arabia, who migrated
into Babylonia and pitched their tents on the banks of the Euphrates,
first of all as herdsmen, afterwards as traders. After the fall of the
Babylonian monarchy their numbers and importance increased, and the
Aramaic they spoke--the so-called "Chaldee"--came more and more to
supersede the language of Babylonia.
When first we get a glimpse of Babylonian history, the country is
divided into a number of small principalities. They are all Sumerian,
and among them the principality of Kish occupies a leading place. The
temple of Mul-lil at Nippur is the central sanctuary, to which they
bring their offerings, and from which a civilising influence emanates.
It is an influence, however, which reflects the darker side of life.
Mul-lil was the lord of the dead; his priests were sorcerers and
magicians, and their sacred lore consisted of spells and incantations.
Supplementing the influence of Nippur, and in strong contrast with it,
was the influence of Eridu. Ea or Oannes, the god of Eridu, was a god
who benefited mankind. He was the lord of wisdom, and his wisdom
displayed itself in delivering men from the evils that surrounded them,
and in teaching them the arts of life. But he was lord also of the
water, and it was told of him how he had arisen, morning after morning,
from the depths of the Persian Gulf, and had instructed the people of
Chaldaea in all the elements of civilisation. Eridu was the home of the
hymns that were sung to the gods of light and life, and which came to be
looked upon as divinely inspired.
It is clear that the myth of Cannes points to foreign intercourse as the
ultimate cause of Babylonian culture. It is natural that such should
have been the case. Commerce is still the great civiliser, and the
traders and sailors of Eridu created tastes and needs which they sought
The small states of Babylonia were constantly at war with each other,
even though they shared in a common civilisation, worshipped the same
gods, and presented their offerings to the same sanctuary of Nippur.
Southern Babylonia--or Kengi, "the land of canals and reeds," as it was
often named--was already divided against the north. At times it
exercised supremacy as far as Nippur. En-sakkus-ana of Kengi conquered
Kis, like one of his predecessors who had dedicated the statue, the
store of silver, and the furniture of the conquered prince to Mul-lil.
Kis claimed sovereignty over the Bedawin "archers," who had their home
in the district now called Jokha. But Kis eventually revenged itself.
One of its rulers made himself master of Nippur, and the kingdom of
Kengi passed away. The final blow was struck by Lugal-zaggi-si, the son
of the high-priest of the city of Opis. Lugal-zaggi-si not only
conquered Babylonia, he also created an empire. On the vases of
delicately-carved stone which he dedicated to the god of Nippur, a long
inscription of one hundred and thirty-two lines describes his deeds, and
tells how he had extended his dominion from the Persian Gulf to the
Mediterranean Sea. It may be that at this time the culture of Babylonia
was first brought to the west, and that his conquests first communicated
a knowledge of the Sumerian language and writing to the nations of
western Asia. With the spoils of his victories the walls of Ur were
raised "high as heaven," and the temple of the Sun-god at Larsa was
enlarged. Erech was made his capital, and doubtless now received its
Sumerian title of "the City" _par excellence_.
The dynasty of Erech was supplanted by the First dynasty of Ur. Erech
was captured by Lugal-kigub-nidudu of Ur, and took the second rank in
the new kingdom. The position of Ur on the western bank of the Euphrates
exposed it to the attacks of the Semitic tribes of northern Arabia, and
thus accustomed its inhabitants to the use of arms, while at the same
time its proximity to Eridu made it a centre of trade. In Abrahamic days
it had long been a place of resort and settlement by Arabian and
How long the supremacy of Ur lasted we do not know. Nor do we know
whether it preceded or was followed by the supremacy of Lagas. The kings
of Lagas had succeeded in overcoming their hereditary enemies to the
north. The so-called "Stela of the Vultures," now in the Louvre,
commemorates the overthrow of the forces of the land of Upe or Opis, and
depicts the bodies of the slain as they lie on the battlefield devoured
by the birds of prey. E-ana-gin, the king of Lagas who erected it, never
rested until he had subjected the rest of southern Babylonia to his
sway. The whole of "Sumer" was subdued, and the memory of a time when a
king of Kis, Mesa by name, had subjected Lagas to his rule, was finally
High-priests now took the place of kings in Kis and the country of Opis.
But a time came when the same change occurred also at Lagas. doubtless
in consequence of its conquest by some superior power. One of the
monuments discovered at Tello, the ancient Lagas, describes the
victories of the "high-priest" Entemena over the ancestral foe, and the
appointment of a certain Ili as "high-priest" of the land of Opis. From
henceforward Kis and Opis disappear from history.
A new power had meanwhile appeared on the scene. While the Sumerian
princes were engaged in mutual war, the Semites were occupying northern
Babylonia, and establishing their power in the city of Agade or Akkad,
not far from Sippara. Here, in B.C. 3800, arose the empire of
Sargani-sar-ali, better known to posterity as "Sargon" of Akkad. He
became the hero of the Semitic race in Babylonia. Legends told how he
had been hidden by his royal mother in an ark of bulrushes daubed with
pitch, and intrusted to the waters of the Euphrates, how he had been
found and adopted as a son by Akki the irrigator, and how the goddess
Istar had loved him and restored him to his kingly estate. At all
events, the career of Sargon was a career of victories. Babylonia was
united under his rule, Elam was subjugated, and three campaigns sufficed
to make "the land of the Amorites," Syria and Canaan, obedient to his
sway. He caused an image of himself to be carved on the shores of the
Mediterranean, and demanded tribute from Cyprus, Uru-Malik or Urimelech
being appointed governor of Syria, as we learn from a cadastral survey
of the district of Lagas. A revolt of the Sumerian states, however,
called him home, and for a time fortune seemed against him. He was
besieged in Akkad, but a successful sally drove back the rebels, and
they were soon utterly crushed. Then Sargon marched into Suri or
Mesopotamia, subduing that country as well as the future Assyria. It was
the last, however, of his exploits. His son Naram-Sin succeeded him
shortly afterwards (B.C. 3750), and continued the conquests of his
father, Canaan was already a Babylonian province, and Naram-Sin now
carried his arms against Magan, or the Sinaitic Peninsula, where he
secured the precious mines of copper and turquoise. Building stone from
Magan had already been imported to Babylonia by Ur-Nina, a king of
Lagas, and grandfather of E-ana-gin, but it must have been brought in
the ships of Eridu.
Naram-Sin's son was Bingani-sar-ali. A queen, Ellat-Gula, seems to have
sat on the throne not many years later, and with her the dynasty may
have come to an end. At any rate, the empire of Akkad is heard of no
more. But it left behind it a profound and abiding impression on western
Asia. Henceforward the culture and art of the west was
Babylonian,--Semitic Babylonian, however, and no longer Sumerian
Babylonian as in the days of Lugal-zaggi-si. Sargon was a patron of
literature as well as a warrior. Standard works on astronomy and
astrology and the science of omens were compiled for the great library
he established at Akkad, where numerous scribes were kept constantly at
work. Sumerian books were brought from the cities of the south and
translated into Semitic; commentaries were written on the older
literature of the country, and dictionaries and grammars compiled. It
was now that that mixed language arose, or at least was admitted into
the literary dialect, which made Babylonian so much resemble modern
English. The lexicon was filled with Sumerian words which had put on a
Semitic form, and Semitic lips expressed themselves in Sumerian idioms.
Art, too, reached a high perfection. The seal-cylinders of the reign of
Sargon of Akkad represent the highest efforts of the gem-cutter's skill
in ancient Babylonia, and a bas-relief of Naram-Sin, found at Diarbekr
in northern Mesopotamia, while presenting close analogies to the
Egyptian art of the Old Empire, is superior to anything of the kind as
yet discovered in Babylonia of either an earlier or a later date. As in
Egypt, so too in Babylonia, the sculpture of later times shows
retrogression rather than advance. It is impossible not to believe that
between the art of Egypt in the age of the Old Empire and that of
Babylonia in the reigns of Sargon and Naram-Sin there was an intimate
connection. The mines of the Sinaitic Peninsula were coveted by both
Sumerian princes still continued to rule in Sumer or southern Babylonia,
but after the era of Sargon their power grew less and less. A Second
Sumerian dynasty, however, arose at Ur, and claimed sovereignty over the
rest of Chaldaea. One of its kings, Ur-Bau, was a great builder and
restorer of the temples, and under his son and successor Dungi (B.C.
2700), a high-priest of the name of Gudea governed Lagas, the monuments
of which have given us an insight into the condition of the country in
his age. His statues of hard diorite from the Peninsula of Sinai are now
in the Louvre; one of them is that of the architect of his palace, with
a copy of its plan upon his lap divided according to scale. Gudea,
though owning allegiance to Dungi, carried on wars on his own behalf,
and boasts of having conquered "Ansan of Elam." The materials for his
numerous buildings were brought from far. Hewn stones were imported from
the "land of the Amorites," limestone and alabaster from the Lebanon,
gold-dust and acacia-wood from the desert to the south of Palestine,
copper from northern Arabia, and various sorts of wood from the Armenian
mountains. Other trees came from Dilmun in the Persian Gulf, from Gozan
in Mesopotamia, and from Gubin, which is possibly Gebal. The bitumen was
derived from "Madga in the mountains of the river Gurruda," in which
some scholars have seen the name of the Jordan, and the naphtha springs
of the vale of Siddim.
The library of Gudea has been found entire, with its 30,000 tablets or
books arranged in order on its shelves, and filled with information
which it will take years of labour to examine thoroughly. Not long after
his death, the Second dynasty of Ur gave way to a Third, this time of
Semitic origin. Its kings still claimed that sovereignty over Syria and
Palestine which had been won by Sargon. One of them, Ine-Sin, carried
his arms to the west, and married his daughters to the "high-priests" of
Ansan in Elam, and of Mer'ash in northern Syria. His grandson,
Gimil-Sin, marched to the ranges of the Lebanon and overran the land of
Zamzali, which seems to be the Zamzummim of Scripture.
But with Gimil-Sin the strength of the dynasty seems to have come to an
end. Babylonia was given over to the stranger, and a dynasty of kings
from southern Arabia fixed its seat at Babylon. The language they spoke
and the names they bore were common to Canaan and the south of Arabia,
and sounded strangely in Babylonian ears. The founder of the dynasty was
Sumu-abi, "Shem is my father," a name in which we cannot fail to
recognise the Shem of the Old Testament. His descendants, however, had
some difficulty in extending and maintaining their authority. The native
princes of southern Babylonia resisted it, and the Elamites harried the
country with fire and sword. In B.C. 2280 Kudur-Nankhundi, the Elamite
king, sacked Erech and carried away the image of its goddess, and not
long afterwards we find another Elamite king, Kudur-Laghghamar or
Chedor-laomer, claiming lordship over the whole of Chaldsea. The western
provinces of Babylonia shared in the fate of the sovereign power, and an
Elamite prince, Kudur-Mabug by name, was made "Father" or "Governor of
the land of the Amorites." His son Eri-Aku, the Arioch of Genesis, was
given the title of king in southern Babylonia, with Larsa as his
capital. Larsa had been taken by storm by the Elamite forces, and its
native king, Sin-idinnam, driven out. He fled for refuge to the court of
the King of Babylon, who still preserved a semblance of authority.
Khammurabi or Amraphel, the fifth successor of Sumu-abi, was now on the
throne of Babylon. His long reign of fifty-five years marked an epoch in
Babylonian history. At first he was the vassal of Kudur-Laghghamar, and
along with his brother vassals, Eri-Aku of Larsa and Tudghula or Tidal
of Kurdistan, had to serve in the campaigns of his suzerain lord in
Canaan. But an opportunity came at last for revolt, it may be in
consequence of the disaster which had befallen the army of the invaders
in Syria at the hands of Abram and his Amorite allies. The war lasted
long, and at the beginning went against the King of Babylon. Babylon
itself was captured by the enemy, and its great temple laid in ruins.
But soon afterwards the tide turned. Eri-Aku and his Elamite supporters
were defeated in a decisive battle. Larsa was retaken, and Khammurabi
ruled once more over an independent and united Babylonia. Sin-idinnam
was restored to his principality, and we now possess several of the
letters written to him by Khammurabi, in which his bravery is praised on
"the day of Kudur-Laghghamar's defeat," and he is told to send back the
images of certain Elamite goddesses to their original seats. They had
doubtless been carried to Larsa when it fell into the hands of the
As soon as Babylonia was cleared of its enemies, Khammurabi set himself
to the work of fortifying its cities, of restoring and building its
temples and walls, and of clearing and digging canals. The great canal
known as that of "the King," in the northern part of the country, was
either made or re-excavated by him, and at Kilmad, near the modern
Bagdad, a palace was erected. Art and learning were encouraged, and a
literary revival took place which brought back the old glories of the
age of Sargon. Once more new editions were made of standard works, poets
arose to celebrate the deeds of the monarch, and books became
multiplied. Among the literary products of the period was the great
Chaldaean Epic in twelve books, recording the adventures of the hero
Gilgames, and embodying the Chaldaean story of the Deluge.
The supremacy over western Asia passed to Khammurabi, along with
sovereignty over Babylonia, and he assumed the title of "King of the
land of the Amorites." So too did his great-grandson, Ammi-ditana. Two
generations later, with Samas-ditana the First dynasty of Babylon came
to an end. It had made Babylon the capital of the country--a position
which it never subsequently lost. It had raised Bel-Merodach, the god of
Babylon, to the head of the pantheon, and it had lasted for 304 years.
It was followed by a Sumerian dynasty from the south, which governed the
country for 368 years, but of which we know little more than the names
of the kings composing it and the length of their several reigns.
It fell before the avalanche of an invasion from the mountains of Elam.
The Kassites poured into the Babylonian plain, and Kassite kings ruled
at Babylon for 576 years and a half. During their domination the map of
western Asia underwent a change. The Kassite conquest destroyed the
Babylonian empire; Canaan was lost to it for ever, and eventually became
a province of Egypt. The high-priests of Assur, now Kaleh Sherghat, near
the confluence of the Tigris and Lower Zab, made themselves independent
and founded the kingdom of Assyria, which soon extended northward into
the angle formed by the Tigris and Upper Zab, where the cities of
Nineveh and Calah afterwards arose. The whole country had previously
been included by the Babylonians in Gutium or Kurdistan.
The population of Assyria seems to have been more purely Semitic than
that of Babylonia. Such at least was the case with the ruling classes.
It was a population of free peasants, of soldiers, and of traders. Its
culture was derived from Babylonia; even its gods, with the exception of
Assur, were of Babylonian origin. We look in vain among the Assyrians
for the peace-loving tendencies of the Babylonians; they were, on the
contrary, the Romans of the East. They were great in war, and in the
time of the Second Assyrian empire great also in law and administration.
But they were not a literary people; education among them was confined
to the scribes and officials, rather than generally spread as in
Babylonia. War and commerce were their two trades.
The Kassite conquerors of Babylonia soon submitted to the influences of
Babylonian civilisation. Like the Hyksos in Egypt, they adopted the
manners and customs, the writing and language, of the conquered people,
sometimes even their names. The army, however, continued to be mainly
composed of Kassite troops, and the native Babylonians began to forget
the art of fighting. The old claims to sovereignty in the west, however,
were never resigned; but the Kassite kings had to content themselves
with intriguing against the Egyptian government in Palestine, either
with disaffected Canaanites, or with the Hittites and Mitannians, while
at the same time they professed to be the firm friends of the Egyptian
Pharaoh. Burna-buryas in B.C. 1400 writes affectionately to his
"brother" of Egypt, begging for some of the gold which in Egypt he
declares is as abundant "as the dust," and which he needs for his
buildings at home. He tells the Egyptian king how his father Kuri-galzu
had refused to listen to the Canaanites when they had offered to betray
their country to him, and he calls Khu-n-Aten to account for treating
the Assyrians as an independent nation and not as the vassals of
The Assyrians, however, did not take the same view as the Babylonian
king. They had been steadily growing in power, and had intermarried into
the royal family of Babylonia. Assur-yuballidh, one of whose letters to
the Pharaoh has been found at Tel el-Amarna, had married his daughter to
the uncle and predecessor of Burna-buryas, and his grandson became king
of Babylon. A revolt on the part of the Kassite troops gave the
Assyrians an excuse for interfering in the affairs of Babylonia, and
from this time forward their eyes were turned covetously towards the
kingdom of the south.
As Assyria grew stronger, Babylonia became weaker. Calah, now _Nimrud_,
was founded about B.C. 1300 by Shalmaneser I., and his son and successor
Tiglath-Ninip threw off all disguise and marched boldly into Babylonia
in the fifth year of his reign. Babylon was taken, the treasures of its
temple sent to Assur, and Assyrian governors set over the country, while
a special seal was made for the use of the conqueror. For seven years
the Assyrian domination lasted. Then Tiglath-Ninip was driven back to
Assyria, where he was imprisoned and murdered by his son, and the old
line of Kassite princes was restored in the person of Rimmon-sum-uzur.
But it continued only four reigns longer. A new dynasty from the town of
Isin seized the throne, and ruled for 132 years and six months.
It was while this dynasty was reigning that a fresh line of energetic
monarchs mounted the Assyrian throne. Rimmon-nirari I., the father of
Shalmaneser I. (B.C. 1330-1300) had already extended the frontiers of
Assyria to the Khabur in the west and the Kurdish mountains in the
north, and his son settled an Assyrian colony at the head-waters of the
Tigris, which served to garrison the country. But after the successful
revolt of the Babylonians against Tiglath-Ninip the Assyrian power
decayed. More than a century later Assur-ris-isi entered again on a
career of conquest and reduced the Kurds to obedience.
His son, Tiglath-pileser I., was one of the great conquerors of history.
He carried his arms far and wide. Kurdistan and Armenia, Mesopotamia and
Comagene, were all alike overrun by his armies in campaign after
campaign. The Hittites paid tribute, as also did Phoenicia, where he
sailed on the Mediterranean in a ship of Arvad and killed a dolphin in
its waters. The Pharaoh of Egypt, alarmed at the approach of so
formidable an invader, sent him presents, which included a crocodile and
a hippopotamus, and on the eastern bank of the Euphrates, near
Carchemish and Pethor, he hunted wild elephants, as Thothmes III. had
done before him. His son still claimed supremacy in the west, as is
shown by the fact that he erected statues in "the land of the Amorites."
But the energy of the dynasty was now exhausted, and Assyria for a time
passed under eclipse. This was the period when David established his
empire; there was no other great power to oppose him in the Oriental
world, and it seemed as if Israel was about to take the place that had
once been filled by Egypt and Babylon. But the opportunity was lost; the
murder of Joab and the unwarlike character of Solomon effectually
checked all dreams of conquest, and Israel fell back into two petty
The military revival of Assyria was as sudden as had been its decline.
In B.C. 885, Assur-nazir-pal II. ascended the throne. His reign of
twenty-five years was passed in constant campaigns, in ferocious
massacres, and the burning of towns. In both his inscriptions and his
sculptures he seems to gloat over the tortures he inflicted on the
defeated foe. Year after year his armies marched out of Nineveh to
slaughter and destroy, and to bring back with them innumerable captives
and vast amounts of spoil. Western Asia was overrun, tribute was
received from the Hittites and from Phoenicia, and Armenia was
devastated by the Assyrian forces as far north as Lake Van. The policy
of Assur-nazir-pal was continued by his son and successor Shalmaneser
II., with less ferocity, but with more purpose (B.C. 860-825). Assyria
became dominant in Asia; its empire stretched from Media on the east to
the Mediterranean on the west. But it was an empire which was without
organisation or permanency. Every year a new campaign was needed to
suppress the revolts which broke out as soon as the Assyrian army was
out of sight, or to supply the treasury with fresh spoil. The campaigns
were in most cases raids rather than the instruments of deliberately
planned conquest. Hence it was that the Assyrian monarch found himself
checked in the west by the petty kings of Damascus and the neighbouring
states. Ben-Hadad and Hazael, it is true, were beaten again and again
along with their allies, while Omri of Israel offered tribute to the
invader, like the rich cities of Phoenicia; but Damascus remained
untaken and its people unsubdued.
The war with Assyria, however, saved Israel from being swallowed up by
its Syrian neighbour. Hazael's strength was exhausted in struggling for
his own existence; he had none left for the conquest of Samaria.
Shalmaneser himself, towards the end of his life, was no longer in a
position to attack others. A great revolt broke out against him, headed
by his son Assur-dain-pal, the Sardanapallos of the Greeks, who
established himself at Nineveh, and there reigned as rival king for
about seven years. His brother Samas-Rimmon, who had remained faithful
to his father, at last succeeded in putting down the rebellion. Nineveh
was taken, and its defenders slain. Henceforth Samas-Rimmon reigned with
an undisputed title.
But Assyria was long in recovering from the effects of the revolt, which
had shaken her to the foundations. The dynasty itself never recovered.
Samas-Rimmon, indeed, at the head of the army which had overcome his
brother, continued the military policy of his predecessors; the tribes
of Media and southern Armenia were defeated, and campaigns were carried
on against Babylonia, the strength of which was now completely broken.
In B.C. 812 Babylon was taken, but two years later Samas-Rimmon himself
died, and was succeeded by his son Rimmon-nirari III. His reign was
passed in constant warfare on the frontiers of the empire, and in B.C.
804 Damascus was surrendered to him by its king Mariha, who became an
Assyrian tributary. In the following year a pestilence broke out, and
when his successor, Shalmaneser III., mounted the throne in B.C. 781, he
found himself confronted by a new and formidable power, that of Ararat
or Van. The eastern and northern possessions of Assyria were taken from
her, and the monarchy fell rapidly into decay. In B.C. 763 an eclipse of
the sun took place on the 15th of June, and was the signal for the
outbreak of a revolt in Assur, the ancient capital of the kingdom. It
spread rapidly to other parts of the empire, and though for a time the
government held its own against the rebels, the end came in B.C. 745.
Assur-nirari, the last of the old dynasty, died or was put to death, and
Pulu or Pul, one of his generals, was proclaimed king on the 13th of
Iyyar or April under the name of Tiglath-pileser III.
Tiglath-pileser III. was the founder of the Second Assyrian empire,
which was based on a wholly different principle from that of the first.
Occupation and not plunder was the object of its wars. The ancient
empire of Babylonia in western Asia was to be restored, and the commerce
of the Mediterranean to be diverted into Assyrian hands. The campaigns
of Tiglath-pileser and his successors were thus carried on in accordance
with a deliberate line of policy. They aimed at the conquest of the
whole civilised world, and the building up of a great organisation of
which Nineveh and its ruler were the head. It was a new principle and a
new idea. And measures were at once adopted to realise it.
The army was made an irresistible engine of attack. Its training,
discipline, and arms were such as the world had never seen before. And
the army was followed by a body of administrators. The conquered
population was transported elsewhere or else deprived of its leaders,
and Assyrian colonies and garrisons were planted in its place. The
administration was intrusted to a vast bureaucracy, at the head of which
stood the king. He appointed the satraps who governed the provinces, and
were responsible for the taxes and tribute, as well as for the
maintenance of order. The bureaucracy was partly military, partly civil,
the two elements acting as a check one upon the other.
But it was necessary that Ararat should be crushed before the plans of
the new monarch could be carried out. The strength of the army was first
tested in campaigns against Babylonia and the Medes, and then
Tiglath-pileser marched against the confederated forces of the Armenian
king. A league had been formed among the princes of northern Syria in
connection with that of the Armenians, but the Assyrian king annihilated
the army of Ararat in Comagene, and then proceeded to besiege Arpad.
Arpad surrendered after a blockade of three years; Hamath, which had
been assisted by Azariah of Judah, was reduced into an Assyrian
province; and a court was held, at which the sovereigns of the west paid
homage and tribute to the conqueror (B.C. 738). Among these were Rezon
of Damascus and Menahem of Samaria. Tiglath-pileser was still known in
Palestine under his original name of Pul, and the tribute of Menahem is
accordingly described by the Israelitish chronicler as having been given
The Assyrian king was now free to turn the full strength of his forces
against Ararat. The country was ravaged up to the very gates of its
capital, the modern Van, and only the strong walls of the city kept the
invader out of it. The Assyrian army next moved eastward to the southern
shores of the Caspian, striking terror into the Kurdish and Median
tribes, and so securing the lowlands of Assyria from their raids. The
affairs of Syria next claimed the attention of the conqueror. Rezon and
Pekah, the new king of Samaria, had attempted to form a league against
Assyria; and, with this end in view, determined to replace Ahaz, the
youthful king of Judah, by a creature of their own. Ahaz turned in his
extremity to Assyrian help, and Tiglath-pileser seized the opportunity
of accepting the vassalage of Judah, with its strong fortress of
Jerusalem, and at the same time of overthrowing both Damascus and
Samaria. Rezon was closely besieged in his capital, while the rest of
the Assyrian army was employed in overrunning Samaria, Ammon, Moab, and
the Philistines (B.C. 734). Pekah was put to death, and Hosea appointed
by the Assyrians in his place. After a siege of two years, Damascus fell
in B.C. 732, Rezon was slain, and his kingdom placed under an Assyrian
satrap. Meanwhile Tyre was compelled to purchase peace by an indemnity
of 150 talents.
Syria was now at the feet of Nineveh. A great gathering of the western
kings took place at Damascus, where Tiglath-pileser held his court after
the capture of the city, and the list of those who came to do homage to
him includes Jehoahaz or Ahaz of Judah, and the kings of Ammon, Moab,
Edom, and Hamath. Hosea, it would seem, was not yet on the Israelitish
The old empire of Babylonia was thus restored as far as the
Mediterranean. All that remained was for the Assyrian usurper to
legitimise his title by occupying Babylon itself, and there receiving
the crown of Asia. In B.C. 731, accordingly, he found a pretext for
invading Babylonia and seizing the holy city of western Asia. Two years
later he "took the hands" of Bel-Merodach, and was thereby adopted by
the god as his own son. But he did not live long to enjoy the fruits of
his victories. He died December B.C. 727, and another usurper, Ulula,
possessed himself of the throne, and assumed the name of Shalmaneser IV.
His reign, however, was short. He died while besieging Samaria, which
had revolted after the death of its conqueror, and in December B.C. 722,
a third general seized the vacant crown. He took the name of the old
Babylonian monarch, Sargon, and the court chroniclers of after-days
discovered that he was a descendant of the legendary kings of Assyria.
His first achievement was the capture of Samaria. Little spoil, however,
was found in the half-ruined city; and the upper classes, who were
responsible for the rebellion, were carried into captivity to the number
of 27,280 persons. The city itself was placed under an Assyrian
Sargon found that the empire of Tiglath-pileser had in great measure to
be re-conquered. Neither Tiglath-pileser nor his successor had been able
to leave the throne to their children, and the conquered provinces had
taken advantage of the troubles consequent on their deaths to revolt.
Babylonia had been lost. Merodach-baladan, the Chaldaean prince, had
emerged from the marshes of the south and occupied Babylon, where he was
proclaimed king immediately after Shalmaneser's death. For twelve years
he reigned there, with the help of the Elamites, and one of the first
tasks of Sargon was to drive the latter from the Assyrian borders.
Sargon had next to suppress a revolt in Hamath, as well as an invasion
of Palestine by the Egyptians. The Egyptian army, however, was defeated
at Raphia, and the Philistines with whom it was in alliance returned to
their allegiance to the Assyrian king.
Now came, however, a more serious struggle. Ararat had recovered from
the blow it had received at the hands of Tiglath-pileser, and had
organised a general confederacy of the northern nations against their
dangerous neighbour. For six years the struggle continued. But it ended
in victory for the Assyrians. Carchemish, the Hittite stronghold which
commanded the road across the Euphrates, was taken in B.C. 717, and the
way lay open to the west. The barrier that had existed for seven
centuries between the Semites of the east and west was removed, and the
last relic of the Hittite conquests in Syria passed away. In the
following year Sargon overran the territories of the Minni between
Ararat and Lake Urumiyeh, and two years later the northern confederacy
was utterly crushed. The fortress of Muzazir, under Mount Rowandiz, was
added to the Assyrian dominions, its gods were carried into captivity,
and the King of Ararat committed suicide in despair. From henceforward
Assyria had nothing to fear on the side of the north. The turn of the
Medes came next. They were compelled to acknowledge the supremacy of
Nineveh; so also was the kingdom of Ellipi, the later Ekbatana. Sargon
could now turn his attention to Babylonia.
Merodach-baladan had foreseen the coming storm, and had done his best to
secure allies. An alliance was made with the Elamites, who were alarmed
at the conquest of Ellipi; and ambassadors were sent to Palestine (in
B.C. 711), there to arrange a general rising of the population,
simultaneously with the outbreak of war between Sargon and the
Babylonian king. But before the confederates were ready to move, Sargon
had fallen upon them separately. Ashdod, the centre of the revolt in the
west, was invested and taken by the Turtannu or commander-in-chief; its
ruler, a certain "Greek," who had been raised to power by the
anti-Assyrian party, fled to the Arabian desert in the vain hope of
saving his life, and Judah, Moab, and Edom were forced to renew their
tribute. The Egyptians, who had promised to assist the rebels in
Palestine, prudently retired, and the Assyrian yoke was fixed more
firmly than ever upon the nations of Syria. Merodach-baladan was left to
face his foe alone. In B.C. 709 he was driven out of Babylon, and forced
to take refuge in his ancestral kingdom in the marshes. Sargon entered
Babylon in triumph, and "took the hands of Bel." His title to rule was
acknowledged by the god and the priesthood, and an Assyrian was once
more the lord of western Asia.
Four years later the old warrior was murdered by a soldier, and on the
12th of Ab, or July, his son Sennacherib was proclaimed king.
Sennacherib was a different man from his father. Sargon had been an able
and energetic general, rough perhaps and uncultured, but vigorous and
determined. His son was weak and boastful, and under him the
newly-formed Assyrian empire met with its first check. It is significant
that the Babylonian priests never acknowledged him as the successor of
their ancient kings; he revenged himself by razing the city and
sanctuary of Bel to the ground.
Merodach-baladan re-entered Babylon immediately after the death of
Sargon in B.C. 705, but he was soon driven back to his retreat in the
Chaldaean marshes, and an Assyrian named Bel-ibni was appointed king in
his place. The next campaign of importance undertaken by Sennacherib was
in B.C. 701. Palestine had revolted, under the leadership of Hezekiah of
Judah. The full strength of the Assyrian army was accordingly hurled
against it. The King of Sidon fled to Cyprus, and Phoenicia, Ammon,
Moab, and Edom hastened to submit to their dangerous foe. Hezekiah and
his Philistine vassals alone ventured to resist.
The Philistines, however, were soon subdued. A new king was appointed
over Ashkelon, and Hezekiah was compelled to restore to Ekron its former
prince, whom he had imprisoned in Jerusalem on account of his loyalty to
Assyria. The priests and nobles of Ekron, who had given him up to
Hezekiah, were ruthlessly impaled. Meanwhile Tirhakah, the Ethiopian
king of Egypt, on whose help Hezekiah had relied, was marching to the
assistance of his ally. Sennacherib met him at Eltekeh, and there the
combined forces of the Egyptians and Arabians were defeated and
compelled to retreat. Hezekiah now endeavoured to make peace by the
offer of rich and numerous presents, including thirty talents of gold
and 800 of silver. But nothing short of the death of the Jewish king and
the transportation of his people would content the invader. Hezekiah
accordingly shut himself up within the strong walls of his capital,
while the Assyrians ravaged the rest of the country and prepared to
besiege Jerusalem. The cities and villages were destroyed, and 200,150
persons were led away into captivity. But at this moment a catastrophe
befell the Assyrians which saved Hezekiah and "the remnant" of Israel.
The angel of death smote the Assyrian army, and it was decimated by a
sudden pestilence. Sennacherib fled from the plague-stricken camp,
carrying with him his spoil and captives, and the scanty relics of his
troops. It was the last time he marched to the west, and his rebellious
vassal remained unpunished.
In the following year troubles in Babylonia called him to the south.
Merodach-baladan was hunted out of the marshes, and fled with his
subjects across the Persian Gulf to the opposite coast of Elam, while a
son of Sennacherib was made king of Babylon. But his reign did not last
long. Six years later he was carried off to Elam, and a new king of
native origin, Nergal-yusezib by name, was proclaimed by the Elamites.
This was in return for an attack made by Sennacherib upon the Chaldaean
colony in Elam, where the followers of Merodach-baladan had found a
refuge. Sennacherib had caused ships to be built at Nineveh by
Phoenician workmen, and had manned them with Tyrian, Sidonian, and
Ionian sailors who were prisoners of war. The ships sailed down to the
Tigris and across the gulf, and then fell unexpectedly upon the
Chaldaeans, burning their settlement, and carrying away all who had
Nergal-yusezib had reigned only one year when he was defeated and
captured in battle by the Assyrians; but the Elamites were still
predominant in Babylonia, and another Babylonian, Musezib-Merodach, was
set upon the throne of the distracted country (B.C. 693). In B.C. 691
Sennacherib once more entered it, with an overwhelming army, determined
to crush all opposition. But the battle of Khalule, fought between the
Assyrians on the one side, and the combined Babylonians and Elamites on
the other, led to no definite result. Sennacherib, indeed, claimed the
victory, but so he had also done in the case of the campaign against
Hezekiah. Two years more were needed before the Babylonians at last
yielded to the superior forces of their enemy. In B.C. 689 Babylon was
taken by storm, and a savage vengeance wreaked upon it. The sacred city
of western Asia was levelled with the dust, the temple of Bel himself
was not spared, and the Arakhtu canal which flowed past it was choked
with ruins. The Babylonian chronicler tells us that for eight years
there were "no kings;" the image of Bel-Merodach had been cast to the
ground by the sacrilegious conqueror, and there was none who could
legitimise his right to rule.
On the 20th of Tebet, or December, B.C. 681, Sennacherib was murdered by
his two sons, and the Babylonians saw in the deed the punishment of his
crimes. His favourite son, Esar-haddon, was at the time commanding the
Assyrian army in a war against Erimenas of Ararat. As soon as the news
of the murder reached him, he determined to dispute the crown with his
brothers, and accordingly marched against them. They were in no position
to resist him, and after holding Nineveh for forty-two days, fled to the
court of the Armenian king. Esar-haddon followed, and a battle fought
near Malatiyeh, on the 12th of Iyyar, or April, B.C. 680, decided the
fate of the empire. The veterans of Esar-haddon utterly defeated the
conspirators and their Armenian allies, and at the close of the day he
was saluted as king. He then returned to Nineveh, and on the 8th of
Sivan, or May, formally ascended the throne.
Esar-haddon proved himself to be not only one of the best generals
Assyria ever produced, but a great administrator as well. He endeavoured
to cement his empire together by a policy of reconciliation, and one of
his first actions was to rebuild Babylon, to bring back to it its gods
and people, and to make it one of the royal residences. Bel acknowledged
him as his adopted son, and for twelve years Esar-haddon ruled over
western Asia by right divine as well as by the right of conquest.
But a terrible danger menaced Assyria and the rest of the civilised
Oriental world at the very beginning of his reign. Sennacherib's
conquest of Ellipi, and the wars against Ararat and Minni, had weakened
the barriers which protected the Assyrian empire from the incursions of
the barbarians of the north. The Gimirra or Kimmerians, the Gomer of the
Old Testament, driven by the Scyths from their seats on the Dniester and
the Sea of Azof, suddenly appeared on the horizon of western Asia.
Swarming through the territories of the Minni to the east of Ararat,
they swooped down upon the Assyrian frontier, along with other northern
nations from Media, Sepharad, and Ashchenaz. While a body of Kimmerians
under Teuspa marched westward, the rest of the allies, under Kastarit or
Kyaxares of Karu-Kassi, attacked the fortresses which defended Assyria
on the north-east. At Nineveh all was consternation, and public prayers,
accompanied by fasting, were ordered to be offered up for a hundred days
and nights to the Sun-god, that he might "forgive the sin" of his
people, and avert the dangers that threatened them. The prayers were
heard, and the invaders were driven into Ellipi. Then Esar-haddon
marched against Teuspa, and forced him to turn from Assyria. The
Kimmerians made their way instead into Asia Minor, where they sacked the
Greek and Phrygian cities, and overran Lydia.
The northern and eastern boundaries of the empire were at length
secured. It was now necessary to punish the Arab tribes who had taken
advantage of the Kimmerian invasion to harass the empire on the south.
Esar-haddon accordingly marched into the very heart of the Arabian
desert--a military achievement of the first rank, the memory of which
was not forgotten for years. The empire at last was secure.
The Assyrian king was now free to complete the policy of Tiglath-pileser
by conquering Egypt. Palestine was no longer a source of trouble. Judah
had returned to its vassalage to Assyria, and the abortive attempts of
Sidon and Jerusalem to rebel had been easily suppressed. True to his
policy of conciliation, Esar-haddon had dealt leniently with Manasseh of
Judah. He had been brought in fetters before his lord at Babylon, and
there pardoned and restored to his kingdom. It was a lesson which
neither he nor his successors forgot, like the similar lesson impressed
a few years later upon the Egyptian prince Necho.
The Assyrian conquest of Egypt has been already described. The first
campaign of Esar-haddon against it was undertaken in B.C. 674; and it
was while on the march to put down a revolt in B.C. 668 that he fell ill
and died, on the 10th of Marchesvan, or October. The empire was divided
between his two sons. Assur-bani-pal had already been named as his
successor, and now took Assyria, while Saul-sum-yukin became king of
Babylonia, subject, however, to his brother at Nineveh. It was an
attempt to flatter the Babylonians by giving them a king of their own,
while at the same time keeping the supreme power in Assyrian hands.
The first few years of Assur-bani-pal's reign were spent in
tranquillising Egypt by means of the sword, in suppressing
insurrections, and in expelling Ethiopian invaders. After the
destruction of Thebes in B.C. 661 the country sullenly submitted to the
foreign rule; its strength was exhausted, and its leaders and priesthood
were scattered and bankrupt. Elam was now almost the only civilised
kingdom of western Asia which remained independent. It was, moreover, a
perpetual thorn in the side of the Assyrians. It was always ready to
give the same help to the disaffected in Babylonia that Egypt was to the
rebels in Palestine, with the difference that whereas the Egyptians were
an unwarlike race, the Elamites were a nation of warriors.
Assur-bani-pal was not a soldier himself, and he would have preferred
remaining at peace with his warlike neighbour. But Elamite raids made
this impossible, and the constant civil wars in Elam resulting from
disputed successions to the throne afforded pretexts and favourable
opportunities for invading it. The Elamites, however, defended
themselves bravely, and it was only after a struggle of many years, when
their cities had fallen one by one, and Shushan, the capital, was itself
destroyed, that Elam became an Assyrian province. The conquerors,
however, found it a profitless desert, wasted by fire and sword, and in
the struggle to possess it their own resources had been drained and
The second Assyrian empire was now at the zenith of its power.
Ambassadors came from Ararat and from Gyges of Lydia to offer homage,
and to ask the help of the great king against the Kimmerian and Scythian
hordes. His fame spread to Europe; the whole of the civilised world
acknowledged his supremacy.
But the image was one which had feet of clay. The empire had been won by
the sword, and the sword alone kept it together. Suddenly a revolt broke
out which shook it to its foundations. Babylonia took the lead; the
other subject nations followed in its train.
Saul-suma-yukin had become naturalised in Babylonia. The experiment of
appointing an Assyrian prince as viceroy had failed; he had identified
himself with his subjects, and like them dreamed of independence. He
adopted the style and titles of the ancient Babylonian mouarchs; even
the Sumerian language was revived in public documents, and the son of
Esar-haddon put himself at the head of a national movement. The Assyrian
supremacy was rejected, and once more Babylon was free.
The revolt lasted for some years. When it began we do not know; but it
was not till B.C. 648 that it was finally suppressed, and
Saul-suma-yukin put to death after a reign of twenty years. Babylon had
been closely invested, and was at last starved into surrender. But,
taught by the experience of the past, Assur-bani-pal did not treat it
severely. The leaders of the revolt, it is true, were punished, but the
city and people were spared, and its shrines, like those of Kutha and
Sippara, were purified, while penitential psalms were sung to appease
the angry deities, and the daily sacrifices which had been interrupted
were restored. A certain Kandalanu was made viceroy, perhaps with the
title of king.
Chastisement was now taken upon the Arabian tribes who had joined in the
revolt. But Egypt was lost to the empire for ever. Psammetikhos had
seized the opportunity of shaking off the yoke of the foreigner, and
with the help of the troops sent by Gyges from Lydia, had driven out the
Assyrian garrisons and overcome his brother satraps.
Assur-bani-pal was in no position to punish him. The war with Elam and
the revolt of Babylonia had drained the country of its fighting men and
the treasury of its resources. And a new and formidable enemy had
appeared on the scene. The Scyths had followed closely on the footsteps
of the Kimmerians, and were now pouring into Asia like locusts, and
ravaging everything in their path. The earlier chapters of Jeremiah are
darkened by the horrors of the Scythian invasion of Palestine, and
Assur-bani-pal refers with a sigh of relief to the death of that "limb
of Satan," the Scythian king Tugdamme or Lygdamis. This seems to have
happened in Cilicia, and Assyria was allowed a short interval of rest.
Assur-bani-pal's victories were gained by his generals. He himself never
appears to have taken the field in person. His tastes were literary, his
habits luxurious. He was by far the most munificent patron of learning
Assyria ever produced; in fact, he stands alone in this respect among
Assyrian kings. The library of Nineveh was increased tenfold by his
patronage and exertions; literary works were brought from Babylonia, and
a large staff of scribes was kept busily employed in copying and
re-editing them. Unfortunately, the superstition of the monarch led him
to collect more especially books upon omens and dreams, and astrological
treatises, but other works were not overlooked, and we owe to him a
large number of the syllabaries and lists of words in which the
cuneiform characters and the Assyrian vocabulary are explained.
When Assur-bani-pal died the doom of the Assyrian empire had already
been pronounced. The authority of his two successors,
Assur-etil-ilani-yukin and Sin-sar-iskun, or Saracos, was still
acknowledged both in Syria and in Babylonia, where Kandalanu had been
succeeded as viceroy by Nabopolassar. One of the contract-tablets from
the north of Babylonia is dated as late as the seventh year of
Sin-sar-iskun. But not long after this the Babylonian viceroy revolted
against his sovereign, and with the help of the Scythian king, who had
established himself at Ekbatana, defeated the Assyrian forces and laid
siege to Nineveh. The siege ended in the capture and destruction of the
city, the death of its king, and the overthrow of his empire. In B.C.
606 the desolator of the nations was itself laid desolate, and its site
has never been inhabited again.
Nabopolassar entered upon the heritage of Assyria. It has been supposed
that he was a Chaldaean like Merodach-baladan; whether this be so or not,
he was hailed by the Babylonians as a representative of their ancient
kings. The Assyrian empire had become the prey of the first-comer. Elam
had been occupied by the Persians, the Scyths, whom classical writers
have confounded with the Medes, had overrun and ravaged Assyria and
Mesopotamia, while Palestine and Syria had fallen to the share of Egypt.
But once established on the Babylonian throne, Nabopolassar set about
the work of re-organising western Asia, and the military abilities of
his son Nebuchadrezzar enabled him to carry out his purpose. The
marriage of Nebuchadrezzar to the daughter of the Scythian monarch
opened the road through Mesopotamia to the Babylonian armies; the
Egyptians were defeated at Carchemish in B.C. 604, and driven back to
their own land. From Gaza to the mouth of the Euphrates, western Asia
again obeyed the rule of a Babylonian king.
The death of Nabopolassar recalled Nebuchadrezzar to Babylon, where he
assumed the crown. But the Egyptians still continued to intrigue in
Palestine, and the Jewish princes listened to their counsels. Twice had
Nebuchadrezzar to occupy Jerusalem and carry the plotters into
captivity. In B.C. 598 Jehoiachin and a large number of the upper
classes were carried into exile; in B.C. 588 Jerusalem was taken after a
long siege, its temple and walls razed to the ground, and its
inhabitants transported to Babylonia. The fortress-capital could no
longer shelter or tempt the Egyptian foes of the Babylonian empire.
The turn of Tyre came next. For thirteen years it was patiently
blockaded, and in B.C. 573 it passed with its fleet into
Nebuchadrezzar's hands. Five years later the Babylonian army marched
into Egypt, the Pharaoh Amasis was defeated, and the eastern part of the
Delta overrun. But Nebuchadrezzar did not push his advantage any
further; he was content with impressing upon the Egyptians a sense of
his power, and with fixing the boundaries of his empire at the southern
confines of Palestine.
His heart was in Babylonia rather than in the conquests he had made. The
wealth he had acquired by them was devoted to the restoration of the
temples and cities of his country, and, above all, to making Babylon one
of the wonders of the world. The temples of Merodach and Nebo were
rebuilt with lavish magnificence, the city was surrounded with
impregnable fortifications, a sumptuous palace was erected for the king,
and the bed of the Euphrates was lined with brick and furnished with
quays. Gardens were planted on the top of arched terraces, and the whole
eastern world poured out its treasures at the feet of "the great king."
His inscriptions, however, breathe a singular spirit of humility and
piety, and we can understand from them the friendship that existed
between the prophet Jeremiah and himself. All he had done is ascribed to
Bel-Merodach, whose creation he was and who had given him the
sovereignty over mankind.
He was succeeded in B.C. 562 by his son Evil-Merodach, who had a short
and inglorious reign of only two years. Then the throne was usurped by
Nergal-sharezer, who had married a daughter of Nebuchadrezzar, and was
in high favour with the priests. He died in B.C. 556, leaving a child,
whom the priestly chroniclers accuse of impiety towards the gods, and
who was murdered three months after his accession. Then Nabu-nahid or
Nabonidos, the son of Nabu-balasu-iqbi, another nominee of the
priesthood, was placed on the throne. He was unrelated to the royal
family, but proved to be a man of some energy and a zealous antiquarian.
He caused excavations to be made in the various temples of Babylonia, in
order to discover the memorial-stones of their founders and verify the
history of them that had been handed down. But he offended local
interests by endeavouring to centralise the religious worship of the
country at Babylon, in the sanctuary of Bel-Merodach, as Hezekiah had
done in the case of Judah. The images of the gods were removed from the
shrines in which they had stood from time immemorial, and the local
priesthoods attached to them were absorbed in that of the capital. The
result was the rise of a powerful party opposed to the king, and a
spirit of disaffection which the gifts showered upon the temples of
Babylon and a few other large cities were unable to allay. The standing
army, however, under the command of the king's son, Belshazzar,
prevented this spirit from showing itself in action.
But a new power was growing steadily in the East. The larger part of
Elam, which went by the name of Anzan, had been seized by the Persians
in the closing days of the Assyrian empire, and a line of kings of
Persian origin had taken the place of the old sovereigns of Shushan.
Cyrus II., who was still but a youth, was now on the throne of Anzan,
and, like his predecessors, acknowledged as his liege-lord the Scythian
king of Ekbatana, Istuvegu or Astyages. His first act was to defeat and
dethrone his suzerain, in B.C. 549, and so make himself master of Media.
A year or two later he obtained possession of Persia, and a war with
Lydia in B.C. 545 led to the conquest of Asia Minor. Nabonidos had
doubtless looked on with satisfaction while the Scythian power was being
overthrown, and had taken advantage of its fall to rebuild the temple of
the Moon-god at Harran, which had been destroyed by the Scythians
fifty-four years before. But his eyes were opened by the conquest of his
ally the King of Lydia, and he accordingly began to prepare for a war
which he saw was inevitable. The camp was fixed near Sippara, towards
the northern boundary of Babylonia, and every effort was made to put the
country into a state of defence.
Cyrus, however, was assisted by the disaffected party in Babylonia
itself, amongst whose members must doubtless be included the Jewish
exiles. In B.C. 538 a revolt broke out in the south, in the old district
of the Chaldaeans, and Cyrus took advantage of it to march into the
country. The Babylonian army moved northward to meet him, but was
utterly defeated and dispersed at Opis in the beginning of Tammuz, or
June, and a few days later Sippara surrendered to the conqueror.
Gobryas, the governor of Kurdistan, was then sent to Babylon, which also
opened its gates "without fighting," and Nabonidos, who had concealed
himself, was taken prisoner. The daily services in the temples as well
as the ordinary business of the city proceeded as usual, and on the 3rd
of Marchesvan Cyrus himself arrived and proclaimed a general amnesty,
which was communicated by Gobryas to "all the province of Babylon," of
which he had been made the prefect. Shortly afterwards, the wife--or,
according to another reading, the son--of Nabonidos died; public
lamentations were made for her, and Kambyses, the son of Cyrus,
conducted the funeral in one of the Babylonian temples. Cyrus now took
the title of "King of Babylon," and associated Kambyses with himself in
the government. Conquest had proved his title to the crown, and the
priests and god of Babylon hastened to confirm it. Cyrus on his side
claimed to be the legitimate descendant of the ancient Babylonian kings,
a true representative of the ancient stock, who had avenged the injuries
of Bel-Merodach and his brother-gods upon Nabonidos, and who professed
to be their devoted worshipper. Offerings to ten times the usual amount
were bestowed on the Babylonian temples, and the favour of the
Babylonian priesthood was secured. The images which Nabonidos had
sacrilegiously removed from their shrines were restored to their old
homes, and the captive populations in Babylonia were allowed to return
to their native soil. The policy of transportation had proved a failure;
in time of invasion the exiles had been a source of danger to the
government, and not of safety.
Each people was permitted to carry back with it its ancestral gods. The
Jews alone had no images to take; the sacred vessels of the temple of
Jerusalem were accordingly given to them. It was a faithful remnant that
returned to the land of their fathers, consisting mostly of priests and
Levites, determined henceforward to obey strictly the laws of their God,
and full of gratitude to their deliverer. In Jerusalem Cyrus thus had a
colony whose loyalty to himself and his successors could be trusted, and
who would form, as it were, an outpost against attacks on the side of
As long as Cyrus and his son Kambyses lived Babylonia also was tranquil.
They flattered the religious and political prejudices of their
Babylonian subjects, and the priesthood saw in them the successors of a
Sargon of Akkad. But with the death of Kambyses came a change. The new
rulers of the empire of Cyrus were Persians, proud of their nationality
and zealous for their Zoroastrian faith. They had no reverence for Bel,
no belief in the claim of Babylon to confer a title of legitimacy on the
sovereign of western Asia. The Babylonian priesthood chafed, the
Babylonian people broke into revolt. In October B.C. 521 a pretender
appeared who took the name of Nebuchadrezzar II., and reigned for nearly
a year. But after two defeats in the field, he was captured in Babylon
by Darius and put to death in August 520. Once more, in B.C. 514,
another revolt took place under a second pretender to the name of
"Nebuchadrezzar the son of Nabonidos." The strong walls of Babylon
resisted the Persian army for more than a year, and the city was at last
taken by stratagem. The walls were partially destroyed, but this did not
prevent a third rebellion in the reign of Xerxes, while the Persian
monarch was absent in Greece. On this occasion, however, it was soon
crushed, and E-Sagila, the temple of Bel, was laid in ruins. But a later
generation restored once more the ancient sanctuary of Merodach, at all
events in part, and services in honour of Bel continued to be held there
down to the time when Babylon was superseded by the Greek town of
Seleucia, and the city of Nebuchadrezzar became a waste of shapeless
Babylonian religion was a mixture of Sumerian and Semitic elements. The
primitive Sumerian had believed in a sort of animism. Each object had
its _zi_ or "spirit," like men and beasts; the _zi_ gave it its
personality, and endowed it, as it were, with vital force. The _zi_
corresponded with the _ka_ or "double" of the Egyptians, which
accompanied like a shadow all things in heaven and earth. The gods
themselves had each his _zi_; it was this alone that made them permanent
and personal. With such a form of religion there could be neither
deities nor priests in the usual sense of the words. The place of the
priest was taken by the sorcerer, who knew the spells that could avert
the malevolence of the "spirits" or bring down their blessings upon
With the progress of civilisation, certain of the "spirits" emerged
above the rest, and became veritable gods. The "spirit" of heaven became
Ana of Erech, the Sky-god; the "spirit" of earth passed into El-lil of
Nippur; and the "spirit" of the deep into Ea of Eridu. The change was
hastened by contact with the Semite. The Semite brought with him a new
religious conception. He believed in a god who revealed himself in the
sun, and whom he addressed as Baal or "Lord." By the side of Baal stood
his colourless reflection, the goddess Baalath, who owed her existence
partly to the feminine gender possessed by the Semitic languages, partly
to the analogy of the human family. But the Baalim were as multitudinous
as their worshippers and the high-places whereon they were adored; there
was little difficulty, therefore, in identifying the gods and "spirits"
of Sumer with the local Baals of the Semitic creed.
El-lil became Bel of Nippur, Asari or Merodach Bel of Babylon. But in
taking a Semitic form, the Sumerian divinities did not lose their old
attributes. Bel of Nippur remained the lord of the ghost-world,
Bel-Merodach the god who "raises the dead to life" and "does good to
man." Moreover, in one important point the Semite borrowed from the
Sumerian. The goddess Istar retained her independent position among the
crowd of colourless female deities. Originally the "spirit" of the
evening-star, she had become a goddess, and in the Sumerian world the
goddess was the equal of the god. It is a proof of the influence of the
Sumerian element in the Babylonian population, that this conception of
the goddess was never forgotten in Babylonia; it was only when
Babylonian culture was handed on to the Semitic nations of the west that
Istar became either the male Atthar of southern Arabia and Moab, or the
emasculated Ashtoreth of Canaan.
The official religion of Babylonia was thus the Baal-worship of the
Semites engrafted on the animism of the Sumerians. It was further
modified by the introduction of star-worship. How far this went back to
a belief in the "spirits" of the stars, or whether it had a Semitic
origin, we do not know; but it is significant that the cuneiform
character which denotes "a god" is a picture of a star, and that the
Babylonians were from the first a nation of star-gazers. In the
astro-theology of a later date the gods of the pantheon were identified
with the chief stars of the firmament, but the system was purely
artificial, and must have been the invention of the priests.
The religion and deities of Babylonia were adopted by the Assyrians. But
in Assyria they were always somewhat of an exotic, and even the learned
class invoked Assur rather than the other gods. Assur was the
personification of the old capital of the country and of the nation
itself, and though the scribes found an etymology for the name in that
of An-sar, the primaeval god of Sumerian cosmogony, the fact was always
remembered. Assur was purely Semitic in his attributes, and, like Yahveh
of Israel or Chemosh of Moab, was wifeless and childless. It is true
that a learned scribe now and then found a wife for him among the
numerous divinities of the Babylonian cult, but the discovery was never
accepted, and Assur for the mass of his worshippers remained single and
alone. It was through trust in him that the Assyrian kings believed
their victories were gained, and it was to punish those who disbelieved
in him that their campaigns were undertaken.
In the worship of Assur, accordingly, a tendency to monotheism reveals
itself. The tendency was even more pronounced in a certain literary
school of thought in Babylonia. We have texts which resolve the deities
of the popular faith into forms of one god; sometimes this is Anu of
Erech, sometimes it is Merodach of Babylon.
Babylonian worship necessitated a large hierarchy of priests. At the
head was the high-priest, who in early times possessed temporal power
and in many states was the predecessor of the king. The king, in fact,
inherited his priesthood from him, and was consequently qualified to
perform priestly functions. Under the high-priest there were numerous
classes of ministers of the gods, such as the "anointers," whose duty it
was to anoint the holy images with oil, the ordinary "priests," the
"seers," and the "prophets." The prophets enjoyed high consideration;
they even accompanied the army to the field, and decided whether the
campaign would result in victory or defeat. Quite apart from all these
were the astrologers, who did not belong to the priesthood at all. On
the contrary, they professed to be men of science, and the predictions
of the future which they read in the stars were founded on the records
and observations of former generations.
A chief part of the duty of the priests consisted in offering sacrifice
and reciting the services. The sacrifices were of two kinds, as in the
Jewish ritual. The same animals and the same fruits of the earth were
offered by both Babylonians and Israelites, and in many cases the
regulations relating to the sacrifices were similar. The services were
elaborate, and the rubrics attached to the hymns and prayers which had
to be recited are minute and complicated. The hymns had been formed into
a sort of Bible, which had in time acquired a divine authority. So
sacred were its words, that a single mispronunciation of them was
sufficient to impair the efficacy of the service. Rules for their
pronunciation were accordingly laid down, which were the more necessary
as the hymns were in Sumerian. The dead language of Sumer had become
sacred, like Latin in the Middle Ages, and each line of a hymn was
provided with a translation in Semitic Babylonian.
In appearance, a Babylonian temple was not very unlike those of Canaan
or of Solomon. The image of the god stood in the innermost shrine, the
Holy of Holies, where also was the mercy-seat, whereon it was believed,
as upon a throne, the deity was accustomed to descend at certain times
of the year. In the little temple of Balawat, near Nineveh, discovered
by Mr. Hormuzd Rassam, the mercy-seat was shaped like an ark, and
contained two written tables of stone; no statue of the god, however,
seems in this instance to have stood beside it. In front of it was the
altar, approached by steps.
In the court of the temple was a "sea" or "deep," like that which was
made by Solomon. An early hymn which describes the construction of one
of them, states that it was of bronze, and that it rested on the figures
of twelve bronze oxen. It was intended for the ablutions of the priests
and the vessels of the sanctuary, and was a representation of that
primaeval deep out of which it was believed that the world originated.
One peculiarity the Babylonian temples possessed which was not shared by
those of the west. Each had its _ziggurat_ or "tower," which served for
the observation of the stars, and in the topmost storey of which was the
altar of the god. It corresponded with the "high-place" of Canaan, where
man imagined himself nearest to the gods of heaven. But in the flat
plain of Babylonia it was needful that the high-place should be of
artificial construction, and here accordingly they built the towers
whose summits "reached to" the sky.
The temples and their ministers were supported partly by endowments,
partly by voluntary gifts, sometimes called _kurbanni_, the Hebrew
_korban_, partly by obligatory contributions, the most important of
which was the _esra_ or "tithe." Besides the fixed festivals, which were
enumerated in the calendar, special days of thanksgiving or humiliation
were appointed from time to time. There was also a weekly Sabattu or
"Sabbath," on the 1st, 7th, 14th, 21st, and 28th days of the month, as
well as on the 19th, the last day of the seventh week from the beginning
of the previous month. The Sabbath is described as "a day of rest for
the heart," and all work upon it was forbidden. The king was not allowed
to change his dress, to ride in his chariot, or even to take medicine,
while the prophet himself was forbidden to utter his prophecies.
The mass of the people looked forward to a dreary existence beyond the
grave. The shades of the dead flitted like bats in the darkness of the
under-world, hungry and cold, while the ghosts of the heroes of the past
sat beside them on their shadowy thrones, and Allat, the mistress of
Hades, presided over the warders of its seven gates. The Sumerians had
called it "the land whence none return," though in the theology of Eridu
and Babylon Asari or Merodach was already a god who, through the wisdom
of his father Ea, "restored the dead to life." But as the centuries
passed, new and less gloomy ideas grew up in regard to the future life.
In a prayer for the Assyrian king the writer asks that he may enjoy an
endless existence hereafter in "the land of the silver sky," and the
realms of the gods of light had been peopled with the heroes of
Babylonian literature at an early date.
The belief in Hades went back to those primitive ages when the Sumerians
of Eridu conceived of the earth as floating on the deep, which
surrounded it as a snake with its coils, while the sky covered it above
like an extinguisher, and was supported on the peak of "the mountain of
the world," where the gods had their abode. This primitive cosmological
conception underwent changes in the course of time, but the underlying
idea of an abyss of waters out of which all things were shaped remained
to the end. The Chaldaean Epic of the Creation declares that "in the
beginning," "the chaos of the deep" had been the "mother" of both heaven
and earth, out of whom first came the primaeval deities Lakhmu and
Lakhamu, and then An-sar and Ki-sar, the upper and lower firmament. Long
ages had to elapse before the Trinity of the later theology--Anu, Ea,
and Bel--were born of these, and all things made ready for the genesis
of the present world. Merodach, the champion of the gods of light and
law, had first to do battle with Tiamat, "the dragon" of "the deep," and
her allies of darkness and disorder. He had proved his powers by
creating and annihilating by means of his "word" alone, and the conflict
which he waged ended in the destruction of the enemy. The body of Tiamat
was torn asunder and transformed into the heaven and earth, her springs
of water were placed under control, and the forces of anarchy and chaos
were banished from the universe. Then followed the creation of the
existing order of things. The sun and moon and stars were fixed in their
places, and laws given to them which they should never transgress,
plants and animals were created, and finally man.
Babylonian literature went back to a remote date. The age of Sargon of
Akkad was already a highly literary one, and the library he founded at
Akkad contained works which continued to be re-edited down to the latest
days of Babylonian literature. Every great city had its library, which
was open to every reader, and where the books were carefully catalogued
and arranged on shelves. Here too were kept the public records, as well
as title-deeds, law-cases, and other documents belonging to private
individuals. The office of librarian was held in honour, and was not
unfrequently occupied by one of the sons of the king. Every branch of
literature and science known at the time was represented. Theology was
naturally prominent, as well as works on omens and charms. The standard
work on astronomy and astrology, in seventy-two books, had been compiled
for the library of Sargon of Akkad; so too had the standard work on
terrestrial omens. There was also a standard work on medicine, in which
medical prescriptions and spells were mixed together. Philological
treatises were numerous. There were dictionaries and grammars for
explaining the Sumerian language to Semitic pupils, interlinear
translations of Sumerian texts, phrase-books, lists of synonyms, and
commentaries on difficult or obsolete words and passages, besides
syllabaries, in which the cuneiform characters were catalogued and
explained. Mathematics were diligently studied, and tables of squares
and cubes have come to us from the library of Larsa. Geography was
represented by descriptions of the countries and cities known to the
Babylonians, natural history by lists of animals and birds, insects and
plants. The Assyrians were endowed with a keen sense of history, and had
invented a system of reckoning time by means of certain officers called
_limmi_, who gave their names to their years of office. The historical
and chronological works of the Assyrian libraries are therefore
particularly important. They have enabled us to restore the chronology
of the royal period of Israelitish history, and to supplement the Old
Testament narrative with the contemporaneous records of the Assyrian
kings. The Babylonians were less historically exact, perhaps because
they had less of the Semitic element in their blood; but they, too,
carefully kept the annals of their kings, and took a deep interest in
the former history of their country.
Contract and other tablets relating to trade and business formed,
however, the larger part of the contents of most Babylonian libraries.
They have revealed to us the inner and social life of the people, so
that the age of Khammurabi, or even of Sargon, in Babylonia, is
beginning to be as well known to us as the age of Perikles in Greece.
Along with the contract-tablets must be counted the numerous legal
documents and records of law-cases which have been preserved. Babylonian
law was, like English law, built upon precedents, and an elaborate and
carefully considered code had been formed at an early date.
Collections of letters, partly royal, partly private, were also to be
found in the libraries. The autograph letters of Khammurabi, the
Amraphel of Genesis, have come down to us, and we even have letters of
his time from a lover to his mistress, and from a tenant to his
landlord, whom he begs to reduce his rent. Boys went to school early,
and learning the cuneiform syllabary was a task that demanded no small
amount of time and application, especially when it is remembered that in
the case of the Semitic Babylonian this involved also acquiring a
knowledge of the dead language of Sumer. One of the exercises of the
Sumerian schoolboy bids him "rise like the dawn, if he would excel in
the school of the scribes."
Purely literary texts were numerous, especially poems, though nothing
corresponding to the Egyptian novel has been met with. The epic of
Gilgames, composed by Sin-liqi-unnini, has already been referred to. Its
twelve books answered to the twelve signs of the Zodiac, and the
eleventh accordingly contains the episode of the Deluge. Gilgames was
the son of a royal mother, whose son was fated to slay his grandfather,
and who was consequently confined in a tower. But an eagle carried him
to a place of safety, and when he grew up he delivered Erech from its
foes, and made it the seat of his kingdom. He slew the tyrant Khumbaba
in the forest of cedars, and by means of a stratagem tempted the satyr
Ea-bant to leave the woods and become his counsellor and friend. Istar
wooed him, but he scorned her offers, and taunted her with her misdeeds
to the hapless lovers who had been caught in her toils. In revenge the
goddess persuaded her father Anu to create a winged bull, which should
work havoc in the country of the Babylonians. But Gilgames destroyed the
bull, an achievement, however, for which he was punished by Heaven.
Ea-bani died of the bite of a gadfly, and his spirit mounted to the
skies, while Gilgames himself was smitten by a sore disease. To heal it
he sailed beyond the mouth of the Euphrates and the river of death,
leaving behind him the deserts of Arabia and the twin-mountain where men
in the shape of huge scorpions guard the gateways of the sun. At last he
found Xisuthros, the hero of the Deluge, and learned from him how he had
escaped death. Cured of his malady, he returned homeward with a leaf of
the tree of life. But as he rested at a fountain by the way it was
stolen by a serpent, and man lost the gift of immortality.
In Babylonia, and to a lesser extent in Assyria, women were practically
on a footing of equality with the men. They could trade in their own
names, could make wills, could appear as witnesses or plaintiffs in
court. We hear of a father transferring his property to his daughter,
reserving only the use of it during his life. Polygamy was not common;
indeed, we find it stipulated in one instance that in the case of a
second marriage on the part of the husband the dowry of the first wife
should be returned to her, and that she should be free to go where she
would. Of course these rules did not apply to concubines, who were often
purchased. Adoptions were frequent, and slaves could be adopted into the
family of a freeman.
The large number of slaves caused the wages of the free labourer to be
low. But the slaves were treated with humanity. From early times it was
a law that if a slave were hired to another, the hirer should pay a
penalty to his master whenever he was incapable of work, thus preventing
"sweating" or overwork. Similarly, injuries to a slave were punished by
a fine. The slave could trade and acquire property for himself, could
receive wages for his work when hired to another, could give evidence in
a court of law, and might obtain his freedom either by manumission, by
purchase, by adoption, or by impressment into the royal service.
Farms were usually held on a sort of _metayer_ system, half the produce
going to the landlord as rent. Sometimes, however, the tenant received
only a third, a fourth, or even a tenth part of the produce, two-thirds
of the annual crop of dates being also assigned to the owner of the
land. The tenant had to keep the farm-buildings in order, and to build
any that were required. House-property seems to have been even more
valuable than farm-land. The deeds for the lease or sale of it enter
into the most minute particulars, and carefully define the limits of the
estate. The house was let for a term of years, the rent being paid
either twice or three times a year. At the expiration of the lease, the
property had to be returned in the state in which the tenant had found
it, and any infringement of the legal stipulations was punished with a
heavy fine. Agents were frequently employed in the sale or letting of
The cities were busy centres of trade. Commercial intercourse was
carried on with all parts of the known world. Wheat was exported in
large quantities, as well as dates and date-wine. The staple of
Babylonian industry, however, was the manufacture of cloths and carpets.
Vast flocks of sheep were kept on the western bank of the Euphrates, and
placed under the charge of Bedawin from Arabia. Their wool was made into
curtains and rugs, and dyed or embroidered fabrics of various kinds.
Even Belshazzar, the heir-apparent of Nabonidos, did not disdain to be a
wool-merchant, and we find him lending twenty manehs, the proceeds of
the sale of some of it, and taking as security for the repayment of the
debt certain house-property in Babylon. It was "a goodly Babylonish
garment," secreted by Achan from among the spoil of Jericho, that
brought destruction upon himself and his family.
Money-lending naturally occupied a prominent place in the transaction of
business. The ordinary rate of interest was 20 per cent, paid in monthly
instalments; in the time of Nebuchadrezzar, however, it tended to be
lower, and we find loans made at 13-1/2 per cent. The penalty was severe
if the capital were not repaid at the specified date. The payment was
occasionally in kind, but money was the usual medium of exchange. It
consisted of rings or tongue-like bars of gold, silver, and copper,
representing manehs and shekels. The maneh was divided into sixty
shekels, and the standard used in later Babylonia had been fixed by
Dungi, king of Ur. One of the standard maneh-weights of stone, from the
mint of Nebuchadrezzar, is now in the British Museum. In the time of the
Second Babylonian empire stamped or coined money was introduced, as well
as pieces of five or more shekels. This was the period when the great
banking firm of Egibi flourished, which anticipated the Rothschilds in
making loans to the State.
The Babylonian cemetery adjoined the cities of the living, and was laid
out in imitation of the latter. The tombs were built of crude bricks,
and were separated from one another by streets, through which flowed
streams of "living water." Gardens were planted by the side of some of
the tombs, which resembled the houses of the living, and in front of
which offerings were made to the dead. After a burial, brushwood was
heaped round the walls of the tomb and set on fire, partially cremating
the body and the objects that were interred with it within. Sanitary
reasons made this partial cremation necessary, while want of space in
the populous plain of Babylonia caused the brick tombs to be built, like
the houses of the towns, one on the top of the other.
Babylonia and Assyria were both administered by a bureaucracy, but
whereas in Assyria the bureaucracy was military, in Babylonia it was
theocratic. The high-priest was the equal and the director of the king,
and the king himself was a priest, and the adopted child of Bel. In
Assyria, on the contrary, the arbitrary power of the monarch was
practically unchecked. Under him was the Turtannu or Tartan, the
commander-in-chief, who commanded the army in the absence of the king.
The Rab-saki, Rab-shakeh, or vizier, who ranked a little below him, was
the head of the civil officials; besides him we hear of the Rab-sa-resi
or Rabsaris, "the chief of the princes," the Rab-mugi or Rab-Mag, "the
court physician," and an endless number of other officers. The governors
of provinces were selected from among the higher aristocracy, who alone
had the privilege of sharing with the king the office of _limmu_, or
eponymous archon after whom the year was named. Most of these officers
seem to have been confined to Assyria; we do not hear of them in the
southern kingdom of Babylonia. There, however, from an early period
royal judges had been appointed, who went on circuit and sat under a
president. Sometimes as many as four or six of them sat on a case, and
subscribed their names to the verdict.
The main attention of the Assyrian government was devoted to the army,
which was kept in the highest possible state of efficiency. It was
recruited from the free peasantry of the country--a fact which, while it
explains the excellence of the Assyrian veterans, also shows why it was
that the empire fell as soon as constant wars had exhausted the native
population. Improvements were made in it from time to time; thus,
cavalry came to supersede the use of chariots, and the weapons and
armour of the troops were changed and improved. Engineers and sappers
accompanied it, cutting down the forests and making roads as it marched,
and the commissariat was carefully attended to. The royal tent was
arranged like a house, and one of its rooms was fitted up as a kitchen,
where the food was prepared as in the palace of Nineveh. In Babylonia it
was the fleet rather than the army which was the object of concern,
though under Nebuchadrezzar and his successors the army also became an
important engine of war. But, unlike the Assyrians, the Babylonians had
been from the first a water-faring people, and the ship of war floated
on the Euphrates by the side of the merchant vessel and the state barge
of the king.
Such then were the kingdoms of Babylonia and Assyria. Each exercised an
influence on the Israelites and their neighbours, though in a different
way and with different results. The influence of Assyria was ephemeral.
It represented the meteor-like rise of a great military power, which
crushed all opposition, and introduced among mankind the new idea of a
centralised world-empire. It destroyed the northern kingdom of Samaria,
and made Palestine once more what it had been in pre-Mosaic days, the
battle-ground between the nations of the Nile and the Tigris. On the
inner life of western Asia it left no impression.
The influence of Babylonia, on the other hand, was that of a venerable
and a widely reaching culture. The Canaan of the patriarchs and the
Canaanitish conquest was a Canaan whose civilisation was derived from
the Euphrates, and this civilisation the Israelites themselves
inherited. Abraham was a Babylonian, and the Mosaic Law is not Egyptian
but Babylonian in character, wherever it ceases to be specifically
Israelite. The influence of Babylonia, moreover, continued to the last.
It was the Babylonish Exile which changed the whole nature of the Jewish
people, which gave it new aims and ideals, and prepared it for the
coming of the Messiah. The Babylonian influence which had been working
in the West for four thousand years received, as it were, a fresh
impulse, and affected the religion and life of Judah in a new and
special manner. Nor has the influence of Babylonian culture vanished
even yet. Apart from the religious beliefs we have received from Israel,
there is much in European civilisation which can be traced back to the
old inhabitants of Chaldaea. It came through Canaanitish hands; perhaps,
too, through the hands of the Etruscans. At all events, the system of
augury which Rome borrowed from Etruria had a Babylonian origin, and the
prototype of the strange liver-shaped instrument by means of which the
Etruscan soothsayer divined, has been found among the relics of a
Our task is finished. We have passed under review some of the facts
which have been won by modern discovery from the monuments of the
nations who helped to create the history of Israel. That history no
longer stands alone like a solitary peak rising from the plain. Egypt,
Babylonia, and Assyria have yielded up their dead; Canaan and even
Arabia are now beginning to do likewise. The Oriental world of the past
is slowly developing before our eyes; centuries which were deemed
pre-historic but a few years ago have now become familiar to us, and we
can study the very letters written by the contemporaries and
predecessors of Abraham, and read the same books as those that were read
by them. A new light has been poured upon the Old Testament; its story
has been supplemented and explained; its statements tested and proved.
The Israelites were but one out of many branches of the same family.
Their history is entwined around that of their brethren, their
characteristics were shared by others of the same race. The Canaan they
occupied was itself inhabited by more than one people, and after the
first few years of invasion, its influence became strong upon them. In
race, indeed, the Jew was by no means pure; at the outset a mixture of
Israelite and Edomite, he was further mingled with Moabite and
Philistine elements. The first king of Judah as a separate kingdom had
an Ammonite mother, and bore an Ammonite name, while the portraits which
surmount the names of Shishak's conquests in southern Palestine show
that the old Amorite population was still predominant there. It was
religion and history that made the Jew, not purity of race.
That Egypt must have exercised an influence upon Israel has long been
known. The Israelites were born as a nation in the land of Goshen, and
the Exodus from Egypt is the starting-point of their national history.
But it is only since the decipherment of the Egyptian inscriptions that
it has been possible to determine how far this influence extended, and
to what extent it prevailed. And the result is to show that it was
negative rather than positive; that the regulations of the Mosaic Code
were directed to preventing the people from returning to Egypt and its
idolatries by suppressing all reference to Egyptian beliefs and customs,
and silently contradicting its ideas and practices. Even the doctrine of
the future life, and the resurrection of the body, which plays so
prominent a part in Egyptian religion, is carefully avoided, and the Ten
Commandments have little in common with the ethical code of Egypt.
But while the influence of Egypt has thus been shown to be negative
rather than positive, the influence of Babylonia has proved to be
overwhelming. Perhaps this is one of the greatest surprises of modern
research, though it might have been expected had we remembered that
Abraham was a native of Babylonia, and that Israelites and Semitic
Babylonians belonged to the same race. We have seen that the early
culture of western Asia was wholly Babylonian, and that Babylonian
influence continued undiminished there down to the days of the Exodus.
The very mode of writing and the language of literature were Babylonian;
the whole method of thought had been modelled after a Babylonian pattern
for unnumbered generations. Israel in Goshen was no more exempt from
these influences than were the patriarchs in Canaan.
Babylonian influence is deeply imprinted on the Mosaic laws. The
institution of the Sabbath went back to the Sumerian days of Chaldaea;
the name itself was of Babylonian origin. The great festivals of Israel
find their counterparts on the banks of the Euphrates. Even the year of
Jubilee was a Babylonian institution, and Gudea, the priest-king of
Lagas, tells us that when he kept it the slave became "for seven days
the equal of his master." It was only the form and application of the
old institutions that were changed in the Levitical legislation. They
were adapted to the needs of Israel, and associated with the events of
its history. But in themselves they were all of Babylonian descent.
There is yet one more lesson to be learnt from the revelations of the
monuments. They have made it clear that civilisation in the East is
immensely old. As far back as we can go we find there all the elements
of culture; man has already invented a system of writing, and has made
some progress in art. It is true that by the side of all this
civilisation there were still races living in the lowest barbarism of
the Stone Age, just as there were Tasmanians who employed stone weapons
of palaeolithic shape less than sixty years ago; but between the
civilised man of the Babylonian plain and the barbarians around him
there existed the same gulf that exists to-day between the European and
the savage. The history of the ancient East contains no record of the
development of culture out of savagery. It tells us, indeed, of
degeneracy and decay, but it knows of no period when civilisation began.
So far as archaeology can teach us, the builders of the Babylonian
cities, the inventors of the cuneiform characters, had behind them no
Egypt was originally divided into several independent principalities.
Eventually these became the kingdoms of Northern (or Lower), and
Southern (or Upper) Egypt. Among the kings of Northern Egypt were (1)
Pu, (2) Ska, (3) Katfu (?), (4) Tau, (5) Thesh, (6) Nenau (?), and (7)
Mekha; among the kings of Southern Egypt was Besh.
The two kingdoms were united by Men or Meni (Menes), king of This, who
builds Memphis and founds the First dynasty of the united monarchy.
DYNASTY I. (THINITE).
2. Teta I.
6. Mer-ba-pa, 73 years.
7. Samsu, 72 years.
8. Qabhu, 83 years.
DYNASTY II. (THINITE).
1. Buzau or Bai-neter, 95 years.
3. Ba-neter-en, 95 years.
4. Uznas, 70 years.
5. Send, 74 years.
6. Per-ab-sen or Ka-Ra (?).
7. Nefer-ka-Ra, 70 years.
DYNASTY III. (MEMPHITE).
1. Nefer-ka-Sokar (2) 8 years, 4 months, 2 days.
2. Hu-zefa, 25 (?) years, 8 months, 4 days.
4. Zazai, 37 years, 2 months, 1 day.
5. Neb-ka-Ra, 19 years.
6. Zoser, 19 years, 2 months.
7. Zoser-teta, 6 years.
9. Nefer-ka-Ra I., 6 years.
10. Huni, 24 years.
DYNASTY IV. (MEMPHITES).
1. Snefru, 24 years.
3. Khufu (Cheops), 23 years.
4. Ra-dad-f, 8 years.
6. Kha-f-Ha (Chephren).
6. Men-kau-Ra (Mykerinos).
DYNASTY V. (ELEPHANTINES).
1. User-ka-f, 28 years.
2. Sahu-Ra, 4 years.
3. Kaka, 2 years.
4. Nefer-ar-ka-Ra I., 7 years.
5. Shepses-ka-Ra, 12 years.
7. Ra-n-user An, 25 years.
8. Men-ka-Hor, 8 years.
9. Dad-ka-Ra Assa, 28 years.
10. Unas, 30 years.
11. Akau-Hor, 7 years.
DYNASTY VI. (ELEPHANTINES).
1. Teta III.
3. Meri-Ra Pepi I., 20 years.
4. Mer-en-Ra Miht-em-saf I., 14 years.
5. Nefer-ka-Ra II. Pepi II., 94 years.
6. Mer-en-Ra Miht-em-saf II., 1 year, 1 month.
7. Neit-aker (Nitokris), a queen.
DYNASTIES VII. AND VIII. (MEMPHITES).
1. Nefer-ka, 2 years, 1 month, 1 day.
2. Neferus, 4 years, 2 months, 1 day.
3. Ab-en-Ra I., 2 years, 1 month, 1 day.
4. ... 1 year, 8 days.
5. Ab-en-Ra II.
Nefer-ka-Ra IV. Nebi.
Nefer-ka-Ra V. Khondu.
Nefer-ka-Ra VI. Terel.
Nefer-ka-Ra VII. Pepi-seneb.
Snefer-ka II. Annu.
DYNASTY IX. (HERAKLEOPOLITES).
1. Khiti or Khruti I. Mer-ab-Ra
DYNASTY X. (HERAKLEOPOLITES).
According to Lauth, the Turin Papyrus gives 19 kings to the Tenth
dynasty, and 185 years.
DYNASTY XI. (THEBAN).
1. Antef I. Seshes-Hor-ap-maa-Ra Antuf-Aa, prince of Thebes.
2. Neb-hotep Mentu-hotep I.
3. Uah-ankh [Ter(?)-] seshes-ap-maa-Ra Antef-Aa II., his son.
4. Seshes-herher-maa-Ra-Antef III., his brother.
5. Neter-nefer Neb-taui-Ra Mentu-hotep II.
6. Nub-kheper-Ra Antauf, more than 50 years.
7. Neb-khru-Ra Mentu-hotep III., more than 46 years.
8. A'a'h, a queen.
9. Antef V., her son.
10. S-ankh-ka-Ra I.
According to Lauth, the Turin Papyrus makes the sum of the Eleventh
dynasty 243 years, Neb-khru-Ra reigning 51 years.
DYNASTY XII. (THEBAN).
1. Amon-em-hat I. S-hotep-ab-Ra, alone 20 years.
With Usertesen I., 10 years.
2. Usertesen I. Kheper-ka-Ra, alone 32 years.
With Amon-em-hat II., 3 years.
3. Amon-em-hat II. Nub-kau-Ra, alone 29 years.
With Usertesen II., 6 years.
4. Usertesen II. Kha-kheper-Ra, 19 years.
5. Usertesen III. Kha-kau-Ra, 3  years.
6. Amon-em-hat III. Maat-en-Ra, 43 years.
7. Amon-em-hat IV. Maa-khru-Ra, 9 years, 3 months, 27 days.
8. Sebek-nefru-Ra, a, queen, 3 years, 10 months, 24 days.
The Turin Papyrus makes the sum of the Twelfth dynasty 213 years, 1
month, 17 days.
DYNASTIES XIII. (THEBAN) AND XIV. (XOITE).
According to the Turin Papyrus:
1. Sebek-hotep I. Sekhem-khu-taui-Ra,
son of Sebek-nefru-Ra,
1 year, 3 months, 24 days.
2. Sekhem-ka-Ra, 6 years.
3. Ra Amon-em-hat V.
4. S-hotep-ab-Ra II.
5. Aufni, 2 years.
G. S-ankh-ab-Ra Ameni Antuf
Amon-em-hat VI., 1 year.
8. S-hotep-ab-Ra III.
9. S-ankh-ka-Ra II.
10, 11. Names lost.
13. Ra Sebek-hotep II.
15. Autu-ab-Ra I. Hor.
17. Sekhem-khu-taui-Ra II.
19. S-menkh-ka-Ra Mer-menfiu.
20. ... ka-Ra.
22. Sokhem-uaz-taui-Ka Sebek-hotep IV.
23. Kha-seshesh-Ra Nefer-hotep,
son of Ra-ankh-f.
25. Kha-nefer-Ra Sebek-hotop V.
27. [Kha-ankh-Ra Sebek-hotep VI.]
28. Kha-hotep-Ra Sebek-hotep
VII., 4 years, 8 months, 29 days.
29. Uab-Ra Aa-ab, 10 years, 8 months, 29 days.
30. Mer-nefer-Ea Ai, 23 (or 13) years, 8 months, 18 days.
31. Mer-hotep-Ra Ana, 2 years, 2 months, 9 days.
32. S-ankh-en-s-uaztu-Ra, 3 years, 2 months.
33. Mer-sekhem-Ra Andu, 3 years, 1 month.
34. S-uaz-ka-Ra Ur, 5 years, ... months, 8 days.
35. Anemen ... Ra.
36-46. Names lost.
48. Mer-kau-Ra Sebek-hotep VIII.
49-53. Names lost.
54. ... mes-Ra.
55. ... mat-Ra Aba.
56. Nefer-uben-Ra I.
57. ... ka-Ra.
59-60. Names lost.
63. Neb-f-autu-Ra, 2 years, 5 months, 15 days.
64. S-heb-Ra, 3 years.
65. Mor-zefa-Ra, 3 years.
66. S-uaz-ka-Ra, 1 year.
67. Neb-zofa-Ra, 1 year.
68. Uben-Ra I.
69-70. Names lost.
71. [Neb-] zefa-Ra II., 4 years.
72. [Nefer-] uben-Ea II.
73. Autu-ab-Ra II.
76-79. Names lost.
82. S-ankh-ka-Ra III.
88. Kha-...-Ra, 2 years.
91-111. Names lost.
About thirty-seven more names are illegible.
DYNASTIES XV., XVI. AND XVII. (HYKSOS).
According to Josephus, quoted from Mauetho:--
1. Salatis, 13 years.
2. Beon or Bnon, 44 years.
3. Apakhnas or Pakhnan, 36 years, 7 months.
4. Apophis, 61 years.
5. Iannas or Annas, 50 years, 1 month.
6. Assis, 49 years, 2 months.
Khian (Iannas) S-user-Set-en-Ra.
Apopi I. Aa-user-Ra (reigned more than 33 years).
Apopi III. Ra-aa-kenen.
A dynasty of Theban princes was contemporary with the Seventeenth Hyksos
dynasty, the last four of whom were independent:
Skenen-Ra Taa I. (revolted against Apopi III.).
Skenen-Ra Taa II. Aa.
Skenen-Ra Taa III. Ken.
Uaz-kheper-Ra Ka-mes and wife Aah-hotep.
DYNASTY XVIII. (THEBAN).
1. Neb-pehuti-Ra Aahmes I. (Amosis), more than 20 years.
2. Ser-ka-Ra Amon-hotep I., his son (Amenophis I,), 20 years, 7 months.
3. Aa-kheper-ka-Ra Dehuti Dehuti-mes I., his son, and queen
4. Aa-kheper-en-Ra Dehuti-mes II., his son (more than 9
years), and wife (and sister) Hatshepsu II. Ma-ka-Ra (daughter of
5. Khnum-Amon Hatshepsu II. Ma-ka-Ra, more than 16 years.
6. Ra-men-kheper Dehuti-mes
(Thothmes) III., her half-brother,
57 years, 11
months, 1 day (B.C. 1503,
March 20, to 1449 February
14, according to Dr. Mahler's
7. Aa-khepru-Ra Amon-hotep II., his son, more than 5 years.
8. Men-khepru-Ra Dehuti-mes IV., his son, more than 7 years.
9. Neb-ma-Ra Amon-hotep III., his son (more than 35 years),
and wife Teie.
10. Neter-khepru-Ra Amon-hotep IV. Khu-n-Aten, his
son, more than 17 years.
11. Ankh-khepru-Ra and wife Meri-Aten.
12. Tut-ankh-Amon Khepru-neb-Ra and wife Ankh-nes-Amon.
14. Ai Kheper-khepru-ar-ma-Ra, more than 4 years.
15. Hor-em-hib (Armais) Mi-Amon Ser-khepru-ka, more than 3 years.
DYNASTY XIX. (THEBAN).
1. Men-pehuti-Ra Ramessu I.
(Ramesses), more than 2 years.
2. Men-ma-Ra Seti I. (Sethos)
Mer-en-Ptah I., more than 27 years.
3. User-ma-Ra (Osymandyas)
Sotep-en-Ra Ramessu II.
(Ramses) Mi-Amon (the
Sesostris of the Greeks), B.C.
1348-1281 (according to Dr.
4. Mer-en-Ptah II. (Ammenephthes)
Hotep-hi-ma Ba-n-Ra Mi-Amon.
5. User-khepru-Ra Seti II. Mer-en-Ptah III.
6. Amon-messu Hik-An Mer-kha-Ra Sotep-en-Ra.
7. Khu-n-Ra Sotop-en-Ra Mer-en-Ptah IV. Si-Ptah and wife Ta-user.
DYNASTY XX. (THEBAN).
1. Set-nekht Merer Mi-Amon (recovered the kingdom from the Canaanite
2. Ramessu III. Hik-an, more than 32 years.
3. Ramessu IV. Hik-Ma Mi-Amon, more than 11 years.
4. Ramessu V. User-ma-s-kheper-en-Ra Mi-Amon, more than 4 years.
5. Ramessu VI. Neb-ma-Ra Mi-Amon Amon-hir-kho-pesh-ef (called Meri-Tum
in northern Egypt).
6. Ramessu VII. At-Amon User-ma-Ra Mi-Amon.
7. Ramessu VIII. Set-hir-kho-pesh-ef Mi-Amon User-ma-Ra Khu-n-Amon.
8. Ramessu IX. Si-Ptah S-kha-n-Ra Mi-Amon, 19 years.
9. Ramessu X. Nefer-ka-Ra Mi-Amon Sotep-en-Ra, more than 10 years.
10. Ramessu XI. Amon-hir-kho-pesh-ef Kheper-ma-Ra Sotep-en-Ra.
11. Ramessu XII. Men-ma-Ra Mi-Amon Sotep-en-Ptah Kha-m-uas, more than 27
DYNASTY XXI. (TANITE).
1. Nes-Bindidi (Smendes) Mi-Amon.
2. P-seb-kha-n I. (Psusennes I.) Mi-Amon Aa-kheper-Ra Sotep-en-Amon.
3. [Nefer-ka-Ra] (Nephelkheres).
4. Amon-em-apt (Amenophthis).
5. ... (Osokhor).
6. Pinezem (?) (Psinakhes).
7. Hor-P-seb-kha-n II. (Psusennes II.).
Contemporary with the Twenty-first dynasty was an illegitimate dynasty
of high-priests at Thebes:--
(1.) Hir-Hor Si-Amon.
(3.) Pinezem I.
(4.) Pinezem II. with title of "king."
(5.) Men-kheper-Ra and wife Isis-em-kheb.
(6.) Pinezem III.
DYNASTY XXII. (BUBASTITE).
1. Shashanq I. (Shishak) Mi-Amon Hez-kheper-Ra Sotep-en-Ra, son of
Nemart, captain of the Libyan mercenaries, more than 21 years.
2. Usarkon I. Mi-Amon Sek-hem-kheper-Ra.
3. Takelet I. Mi-Amon Si-Isis User-ma-Ra Sotep-en-Amon, more than 23
4. Usarkon II. Mi-Amon Si-Bast User-ma-Ra, more than 23 years.
5. Shashanq II. Mi-Amon Sek-hem-kheper-Ra.
6. Takelet II. Mi-Amon Si-Isis Hez-kheper-Ra, more than 15 years.
7. Shashanq III. Mi-Amon Si-Bast User-ma-Ra, 52 years.
8. Pimai Mi-Amon User-ma-Ra Sotep-en-Amon.
9. Shashanq IV. Aa-kheper-Ra, more than 37 years.
1. S-hir-ab-Ra Petu-si-Bast.
2. Usarkon III. Mi-Amon Aa-kheper-Ra Sotep-en-Amon.
3. P-si-Mut User-Ra Sotep-en-Ptah.
Egypt is divided between several princes, including Tef-nekht, father of
Bak-en-ran-ef. It is overrun by Piankhi the Ethiopian, while Usarkon
III. reigns at Bubastis. The son and successor of Piankhi was
DYNASTY XXIV. (SAITE).
Bak-en-ran-ef (Bokkhoris) Uah-ka-Ra, more than 16 years.
DYNASTY XXV. (ETHIOPIAN).
1. Shabaka (Sabako) Nefer-ka-Ra, son of Kashet, 12 years.
2. Shabatoka (Sebikhos) Dad-ka-Ra.
3. Taharka (Tirhakah) Nefer-Tum-khu-Ra, 26 years.
Egypt is conquered by the Assyrian king Esar-haddon, and divided into 20
satrapies, B.C. 672-660. Taharka and his successor Urdamanu (Rud-Amon),
or Tan-damanu (Tuant-Amon), make vain attempts to recover it. Finally,
Psamtik, son of Niku (Necho), satrap of Sais, shakes off the foreign
DYNASTY XXVI. (SAITE).
1. Psamtik I. (Psammeti-khos) Uah-ab-Ra 664
2. Nekau (Necho) Nem-ab-Ra 610
3. Psamtik II. Nefer-ab-Ra 594
4. Uah-ab-Ra (Apries or Hophra) Haa-ab-Ra 589
5. Aahmes II. (Amasis) Si-Nit Khnum-ab-Ra 570
6. Psamtik III. Ankh-ka-n-Ra 526
DYNASTY XXVII. (PERSIAN).