The Ancient East by D. G. Hogarth

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No. 92





D. G. HOGARTH, M.A., F.B.A., F.S.A.




















The title of this book needs a word of explanation, since each of its terms can legitimately be used to denote more than one conception both of time and place. “The East” is understood widely and vaguely nowadays to include all the continent and islands of Asia, some part of Africa–the northern part where society and conditions of life are most like the Asiatic–and some regions also of South-Eastern and Eastern Europe. Therefore it may appear arbitrary to restrict it in the present book to Western Asia. But the qualifying term in my title must be invoked in justification. It is the East not of to-day but of antiquity with which I have to deal, and, therefore, I plead that it is not unreasonable to understand by “The East” what in antiquity European historians understood by that term. To Herodotus and his contemporary Greeks Egypt, Arabia and India were the South; Thrace and Scythia were the North; and Hither Asia was the East: for they conceived nothing beyond except the fabled stream of Ocean. It can be pleaded also that my restriction, while not in itself arbitrary, does, in fact, obviate an otherwise inevitable obligation to fix arbitrary bounds to the East. For the term, as used in modern times, implies a geographical area characterized by society of a certain general type, and according to his opinion of this type, each person, who thinks or writes of the East, expands or contracts its geographical area.

It is more difficult to justify the restriction which will be imposed in the following chapters on the word Ancient. This term is used even more vaguely and variously than the other. If generally it connotes the converse of “Modern,” in some connections and particularly in the study of history the Modern is not usually understood to begin where the Ancient ended but to stand only for the comparatively Recent. For example, in History, the ill-defined period called the Middle and Dark Ages makes a considerable hiatus before, in the process of retrospection, we get back to a civilization which (in Europe at least) we ordinarily regard as Ancient. Again, in History, we distinguish commonly two provinces within the undoubted area of the Ancient, the Prehistoric and the Historic, the first comprising all the time to which human memory, as communicated by surviving literature, ran not, or, at least, not consciously, consistently and credibly. At the same time it is not implied that we can have no knowledge at all of the Prehistoric province. It may even be better known to us than parts of the Historic, through sure deduction from archaeological evidence. But what we learn from archaeological records is annalistic not historic, since such records have not passed through the transforming crucible of a human intelligence which reasons on events as effects of causes. The boundary between Prehistoric and Historic, however, depends too much on the subjectivity of individual historians and is too apt to vary with the progress of research to be a fixed moment. Nor can it be the same for all civilizations. As regards Egypt, for example, we have a body of literary tradition which can reasonably be called Historic, relating to a time much earlier than is reached by respectable literary tradition of Elam and Babylonia, though their civilizations were probably older than the Egyptian.

For the Ancient East as here understood, we possess two bodies of historic literary tradition and two only, the Greek and the Hebrew; and as it happens, both (though each is independent of the other) lose consistency and credibility when they deal with history before 1000 B.C. Moreover, Prof. Myres has covered the prehistoric period in the East in his brilliant _Dawn of History_. Therefore, on all accounts, in treating of the historic period, I am absolved from looking back more than a thousand years before our era.

It is not so obvious where I may stop. The overthrow of Persia by Alexander, consummating a long stage in a secular contest, which it is my main business to describe, marks an epoch more sharply than any other single event in the history of the Ancient East. But there are grave objections to breaking off abruptly at that date. The reader can hardly close a book which ends then, with any other impression than that since the Greek has put the East under his feet, the history of the centuries, which have still to elapse before Rome shall take over Asia, will simply be Greek history writ large–the history of a Greater Greece which has expanded over the ancient East and caused it to lose its distinction from the ancient West. Yet this impression does not by any means coincide with historical truth. The Macedonian conquest of Hither Asia was a victory won by men of Greek civilization, but only to a very partial extent a victory of that civilization. The West did not assimilate the East except in very small measure then, and has not assimilated it in any very large measure to this day. For certain reasons, among which some geographical facts–the large proportion of steppe-desert and of the human type which such country breeds–are perhaps the most powerful, the East is obstinately unreceptive of western influences, and more than once it has taken its captors captive. Therefore, while, for the sake of convenience and to avoid entanglement in the very ill-known maze of what is called “Hellenistic” history, I shall not attempt to follow the consecutive course of events after 330 B.C., I propose to add an epilogue which may prepare readers for what was destined to come out of Western Asia after the Christian era, and enable them to understand in particular the religious conquest of the West by the East. This has been a more momentous fact in the history of the world than any political conquest of the East by the West.

* * * * *

In the further hope of enabling readers to retain a clear idea of the evolution of the history, I have adopted the plan of looking out over the area which is here called the East, at certain intervals, rather than the alternative and more usual plan of considering events consecutively in each several part of that area. Thus, without repetition and overlapping, one may expect to convey a sense of the history of the whole East as the sum of the histories of particular parts. The occasions on which the surveys will be taken are purely arbitrary chronological points two centuries apart. The years 1000, 800, 600, 400 B.C. are not, any of them, distinguished by known events of the kind that is called epoch-making; nor have round numbers been chosen for any peculiar historic significance. They might just as well have been 1001, 801 and so forth, or any other dates divided by equal intervals. Least of all is any mysterious virtue to be attached to the millenary date with which I begin. But it is a convenient starting-point, not only for the reason already stated, that Greek literary memory–the only literary memory of antiquity worth anything for early history–goes back to about that date; but also because the year 1000 B.C. falls within a period of disturbance during which certain racial elements and groups, destined to exert predominant influence on subsequent history, were settling down into their historic homes.

A westward and southward movement of peoples, caused by some obscure pressure from the north-west and north-east, which had been disturbing eastern and central Asia Minor for more than a century and apparently had brought to an end the supremacy of the Cappadocian Hatti, was quieting down, leaving the western peninsula broken up into small principalities. Indirectly the same movement had brought about a like result in northern Syria. A still more important movement of Iranian peoples from the farther East had ended in the coalescence of two considerable social groups, each containing the germs of higher development, on the north-eastern and eastern fringes of the old Mesopotamian sphere of influence. These were the Medic and the Persian. A little earlier, a period of unrest in the Syrian and Arabian deserts, marked by intermittent intrusions of nomads into the western fringe-lands, had ended in the formation of new Semitic states in all parts of Syria from Shamal in the extreme north-west (perhaps even from Cilicia beyond Amanus) to Hamath, Damascus and Palestine. Finally there is this justification for not trying to push the history of the Asiatic East much behind 1000 B.C.–that nothing like a sure chronological basis of it exists before that date. Precision in the dating of events in West Asia begins near the end of the tenth century with the Assyrian Eponym lists, that is, lists of annual chief officials; while for Babylonia there is no certain chronology till nearly two hundred years later. In Hebrew history sure chronological ground is not reached till the Assyrian records themselves begin to touch upon it during the reign of Ahab over Israel. For all the other social groups and states of Western Asia we have to depend on more or less loose and inferential synchronisms with Assyrian, Babylonian or Hebrew chronology, except for some rare events whose dates may be inferred from the alien histories of Egypt and Greece.

* * * * *

The area, whose social state we shall survey in 1000 B.C. and re-survey at intervals, contains Western Asia bounded eastwards by an imaginary line drawn from the head of the Persian Gulf to the Caspian Sea. This line, however, is not to be drawn rigidly straight, but rather should describe a shallow outward curve, so as to include in the Ancient East all Asia situated on this side of the salt deserts of central Persia. This area is marked off by seas on three sides and by desert on the fourth side. Internally it is distinguished into some six divisions either by unusually strong geographical boundaries or by large differences of geographical character. These divisions are as follows–

(1) A western peninsular projection, bounded by seas on three sides and divided from the rest of the continent by high and very broad mountain masses, which has been named, not inappropriately, _Asia Minor_, since it displays, in many respects, an epitome of the general characteristics of the continent. (2) A tangled mountainous region filling almost all the rest of the northern part of the area and sharply distinct in character not only from the plateau land of Asia Minor to the west but also from the great plain lands of steppe character lying to the south, north and east. This has perhaps never had a single name, though the bulk of it has been included in “Urartu” (Ararat), “Armenia” or “Kurdistan” at various epochs; but for convenience we shall call it _Armenia_. (3) A narrow belt running south from both the former divisions and distinguished from them by much lower general elevation. Bounded on the west by the sea and on the south and east by broad tracts of desert, it has, since Greek times at least, been generally known as _Syria_. (4) A great southern peninsula largely desert, lying high and fringed by sands on the land side, which has been called, ever since antiquity, _Arabia_. (5) A broad tract stretching into the continent between Armenia and Arabia and containing the middle and lower basins of the twin rivers, Euphrates and Tigris, which, rising in Armenia, drain the greater part of the whole area. It is of diversified surface, ranging from sheer desert in the west and centre, to great fertility in its eastern parts; but, until it begins to rise northward towards the frontier of “Armenia” and eastward towards that of the sixth division, about to be described, it maintains a generally low elevation. No common name has ever included all its parts, both the interfluvial region and the districts beyond Tigris; but since the term _Mesopotamia_, though obviously incorrect, is generally understood nowadays to designate it, this name may be used for want of a better. (6) A high plateau, walled off from Mesopotamia and Armenia by high mountain chains, and extending back to the desert limits of the Ancient East. To this region, although it comprises only the western part of what should be understood by _Iran_, this name may be appropriated “without prejudice.”




In 1000 B.C. West Asia was a mosaic of small states and contained, so far as we know, no imperial power holding wide dominion over aliens. Seldom in its history could it so be described. Since it became predominantly Semitic, over a thousand years before our survey, it had fallen under simultaneous or successive dominations, exercised from at least three regions within itself and from one without.


The earliest of these centres of power to develop foreign empire was also that destined, after many vicissitudes, to hold it latest, because it was the best endowed by nature to repair the waste which empire entails. This was the region which would be known later as Babylonia from the name of the city which in historic times dominated it, but, as we now know, was neither an early seat of power nor the parent of its distinctive local civilization. This honour, if due to any one city, should be credited to Ur, whose also was the first and the only truly “Babylonian” empire. The primacy of Babylonia had not been the work of its aboriginal Sumerian population, the authors of what was highest in the local culture, but of Semitic intruders from a comparatively barbarous region; nor again, had it been the work of the earliest of these intruders (if we follow those who now deny that the dominion of Sargon of Akkad and his son Naram-sin ever extended beyond the lower basins of the Twin Rivers), but of peoples who entered with a second series of Semitic waves. These surged out of Arabia, eternal motherland of vigorous migrants, in the middle centuries of the third millennium B.C. While this migration swamped South Syria with “Canaanites,” it ultimately gave to Egypt the Hyksos or “Shepherd Kings,” to Assyria its permanent Semitic population, and to Sumer and Akkad what later chroniclers called the First Babylonian Dynasty. Since, however, those Semitic interlopers had no civilization of their own comparable with either the contemporary Egyptian or the Sumerian (long ago adopted by earlier Semitic immigrants), they inevitably and quickly assimilated both these civilizations as they settled down.

At the same time they did not lose, at least not in Mesopotamia, which was already half Semitized, certain Bedawi ideas and instincts, which would profoundly affect their later history. Of these the most important historically was a religious idea which, for want of a better term, may be called Super-Monotheism. Often found rooted in wandering peoples and apt long to survive their nomadic phase, it consists in a belief that, however many tribal and local gods there may be, one paramount deity exists who is not only singular and indivisible but dwells in one spot, alone on earth. His dwelling may be changed by a movement of his people _en masse_, but by nothing less; and he can have no real rival in supreme power. The fact that the paramount Father-God of the Semites came through that migration _en masse_ to take up his residence in Babylon and in no other city of the wide lands newly occupied, caused this city to retain for many centuries, despite social and political changes, a predominant position not unlike that to be held by Holy Rome from the Dark Ages to modern times.

Secondly the Arabs brought with them their immemorial instinct of restlessness. This habit also is apt to persist in a settled society, finding satisfaction in annual recourse to tent or hut life and in annual predatory excursions. The custom of the razzia or summer raid, which is still obligatory in Arabia on all men of vigour and spirit, was held in equal honour by the ancient Semitic world. Undertaken as a matter of course, whether on provocation or not, it was the origin and constant spring of those annual marches to the frontiers, of which royal Assyrian monuments vaingloriously tell us, to the exclusion of almost all other information. Chederlaomer, Amraphel and the other three kings were fulfilling their annual obligation in the Jordan valley when Hebrew tradition believed that they met with Abraham; and if, as seems agreed, Amraphel was Hammurabi himself, that tradition proves the custom of the razzia well established under the First Babylonian Dynasty.

Moreover, the fact that these annual campaigns of Babylonian and Assyrian kings were simply Bedawi razzias highly organized and on a great scale should be borne in mind when we speak of Semitic “empires,” lest we think too territorially. No permanent organization of territorial dominion in foreign parts was established by Semitic rulers till late in Assyrian history. The earlier Semitic overlords, that is, all who preceded Ashurnatsirpal of Assyria, went a-raiding to plunder, assault, destroy, or receive submissive payments, and their ends achieved, returned, without imposing permanent garrisons of their own followers, permanent viceroys, or even a permanent tributary burden, to hinder the stricken foe from returning to his own way till his turn should come to be raided again. The imperial blackmailer had possibly left a record of his presence and prowess on alien rocks, to be defaced at peril when his back was turned; but for the rest only a sinister memory. Early Babylonian and Early Assyrian “empire,” therefore, meant, territorially, no more than a geographical area throughout which an emperor could, and did, raid without encountering effective opposition.

Nevertheless, such constant raiding on a great scale was bound to produce some of the fruits of empire, and by its fruits, not its records, we know most surely how far Babylonian Empire had made itself felt. The best witnesses to its far-reaching influence are first, the Babylonian element in the Hittite art of distant Asia Minor, which shows from the very first (so far as we know it, i.e. from at least 1500 B.C.) that native artists were hardly able to realize any native ideas without help from Semitic models; and secondly, the use of Babylonian writing and language and even Babylonian books by the ruling classes in Asia Minor and Syria at a little later time. That governors of Syrian cities should have written their official communications to Pharaohs of the Eighteenth Dynasty in Babylonian cuneiform (as the archives found at Amarna in Upper Egypt twenty years ago show us they did) had already afforded such conclusive proof of early and long maintained Babylonian influence, that the more recent discovery that Hittite lords of Cappadocia used the same script and language for diplomatic purposes has hardly surprised us.

It has been said already that Babylonia was a region so rich and otherwise fortunate that empire both came to it earlier and stayed later than in the other West Asian lands which ever enjoyed it at all. When we come to take our survey of Western Asia in 400 B.C. we shall see an emperor still ruling it from a throne set in the lower Tigris basin, though not actually in Babylon. But for certain reasons Babylonian empire never endured for any long period continuously. The aboriginal Akkadian and Sumerian inhabitants were settled, cultivated and home keeping folk, while the establishment of Babylonian empire had been the work of more vigorous intruders. These, however, had to fear not only the imperfect sympathy of their own aboriginal subjects, who again and again gathered their sullen forces in the “Sea Land” at the head of the Persian Gulf and attacked the dominant Semites in the rear, but also incursions of fresh strangers; for Babylonia is singularly open on all sides. Accordingly, revolts of the “Sea Land” folk, inrushing hordes from Arabia, descents of mountain warriors from the border hills of Elam on the south-eastern edge of the twin river basin, pressure from the peoples of more invigorating lands on the higher Euphrates and Tigris–one, or more than one such danger ever waited on imperial Babylon and brought her low again and again. A great descent of Hatti raiders from the north about 1800 B.C. seems to have ended the imperial dominion of the First Dynasty. On their retirement Babylonia, falling into weak native hands, was a prey to a succession of inroads from the Kassite mountains beyond Elam, from Elam itself, from the growing Semitic power of Asshur, Babylon’s former vassal, from the Hittite Empire founded in Cappadocia about 1500 B.C., from the fresh wave of Arabian overflow which is distinguished as the Aramaean, and from yet another following it, which is usually called Chaldaean; and it was not till almost the close of the twelfth century that one of these intruding elements attained sufficient independence and security of tenure to begin to exalt Babylonia again into a mistress of foreign empire. At that date the first Nebuchadnezzar, a part of whose own annals has been recovered, seems to have established overlordship in some part of Mediterranean Asia–_Martu_, the West Land; but this empire perished again with its author. By 1000 B.C. Babylon was once more a small state divided against itself and threatened by rivals in the east and the north.


During the long interval since the fall of the First Babylonian Dynasty, however, Western Asia had not been left masterless. Three other imperial powers had waxed and waned in her borders, of which one was destined to a second expansion later on. The earliest of these to appear on the scene established an imperial dominion of a kind which we shall not observe again till Asia falls to the Greeks; for it was established in Asia by a non-Asiatic power. In the earlier years of the fifteenth century a Pharaoh of the strong Eighteenth Dynasty, Thothmes III, having overrun almost all Syria up to Carchemish on the Euphrates, established in the southern part of that country an imperial organization which converted his conquests for a time into provincial dependencies of Egypt. Of the fact we have full evidence in the archives of Thothmes’ dynastic successors, found by Flinders Petrie at Amarna; for they include many reports from officials and client princes in Palestine and Phoenicia.

If, however, the word empire is to be applied (as in fact we have applied it in respect of early Babylonia) to a sphere of habitual raiding, where the exclusive right of one power to plunder is acknowledged implicitly or explicitly by the raided and by surrounding peoples, this “Empire” of Egypt must both be set back nearly a hundred years before Thothmes III and also be credited with wider limits than those of south Syria. Invasions of Semitic Syria right up to the Euphrates were first conducted by Pharaohs in the early part of the sixteenth century as a sequel to the collapse of the power of the Semitic “Hyksos” in Egypt. They were wars partly of revenge, partly of natural Egyptian expansion into a neighbouring fertile territory, which at last lay open, and was claimed by no other imperial power, while the weak Kassites ruled Babylon, and the independence of Assyria was in embryo. But the earlier Egyptian armies seem to have gone forth to Syria simply to ravage and levy blackmail. They avoided all fenced places, and returned to the Nile leaving no one to hold the ravaged territory. No Pharaoh before the successor of Queen Hatshepsut made Palestine and Phoenicia his own. It was Thothmes III who first reduced such strongholds as Megiddo, and occupied the Syrian towns up to Arvad on the shore and almost to Kadesh inland–he who by means of a few forts, garrisoned perhaps by Egyptian or Nubian troops and certainly in some instances by mercenaries drawn from Mediterranean islands and coasts, so kept the fear of himself in the minds of native chiefs that they paid regular tribute to his collectors and enforced the peace of Egypt on all and sundry Hebrews and Amorites who might try to raid from east or north.

In upper Syria, however, he and his successors appear to have attempted little more than Thothmes I had done, that is to say, they made periodical armed progresses through the fertile parts, here and there taking a town, but for the most part taking only blackmail. Some strong places, such as Kadesh, it is probable they never entered at all. Their raids, however, were frequent and effective enough for all Syria to come to be regarded by surrounding kings and kinglets as an Egyptian sphere of influence within which it was best to acknowledge Pharaoh’s rights and to placate him by timely presents. So thought and acted the kings of Mitanni across Euphrates, the kings of Hatti beyond Taurus, and the distant Iranians of the Kassite dynasty in Babylonia.

Until the latter years of Thothmes’ third successor, Amenhetep III, who ruled in the end of the fifteenth century and the first quarter of the fourteenth, the Egyptian peace was observed and Pharaoh’s claim to Syria was respected. Moreover, an interesting experiment appears to have been made to tighten Egypt’s hold on her foreign province. Young Syrian princes were brought for education to the Nile, in the hope that when sent back to their homes they would be loyal viceroys of Pharaoh: but the experiment seems to have produced no better ultimate effect than similar experiments tried subsequently by imperial nations from the Romans to ourselves.


Beyond this conception of imperial organization the Egyptians never advanced. Neither effective military occupation nor effective administration of Syria by an Egyptian military or civil staff was so much as thought of. Traces of the cultural influence of Egypt on the Syrian civilization of the time (so far as excavation has revealed its remains) are few and far between; and we must conclude that the number of genuine Egyptians who resided in, or even passed through, the Asiatic province was very small. Unadventurous by nature, and disinclined to embark on foreign trade, the Nilots were content to leave Syria in vicarious hands, so they derived some profit from it. It needed, therefore, only the appearance of some vigorous and numerous tribe in the province itself, or of some covetous power on its borders, to end such an empire. Both had appeared before Amenhetep’s death–the Amorites in mid Syria, and a newly consolidated Hatti power on the confines of the north. The inevitable crisis was met with no new measures by his son, the famous Akhenaten, and before the middle of the fourteenth century the foreign empire of Egypt had crumbled to nothing but a sphere of influence in southernmost Palestine, having lasted, for better or worse, something less than two hundred years. It was revived, indeed, by the kings of the Dynasty succeeding, but had even less chance of duration than of old. Rameses II, in dividing it to his own great disadvantage with the Hatti king by a Treaty whose provisions are known to us from surviving documents of both parties, confessed Egyptian impotence to make good any contested claim; and by the end of the thirteenth century the hand of Pharaoh was withdrawn from Asia, even from that ancient appanage of Egypt, the peninsula of Sinai. Some subsequent Egyptian kings would make raids into Syria, but none was able, or very desirous, to establish there a permanent Empire.



The empire which pressed back the Egyptians is the last but one which we have to consider before 1000 B.C. It has long been known that the Hittites, variously called _Kheta_ by Egyptians and _Heth_ or _Hatti_ by Semites and by themselves, developed into a power in westernmost Asia at least as early as the fifteenth century; but it was not until their cuneiform archives were discovered in 1907 at Boghazkeui in northern Cappadocia that the imperial nature of their power, the centre from which it was exerted, and the succession of the rulers who wielded it became clear. It will be remembered that a great Hatti raid broke the imperial sway of the First Babylonian Dynasty about 1800 B.C. Whence those raiders came we have still to learn. But, since a Hatti people, well enough organized to invade, conquer and impose its garrisons, and (much more significant) its own peculiar civilization, on distant territories, was seated at Boghazkeui (it is best to use this modern name till better assured of an ancient one) in the fifteenth century, we may reasonably believe Eastern Asia Minor to have been the homeland of the Hatti three centuries before. As an imperial power they enter history with a king whom his own archives name Subbiluliuma (but Egyptian records, Sapararu), and they vanish something less than two centuries later. The northern half of Syria, northern Mesopotamia, and probably almost all Asia Minor were conquered by the Hatti before 1350 B.C. and rendered tributary; Egypt was forced out of Asia; the Semitic settlements on the twin rivers and the tribes in the desert were constrained to deference or defence. A century and a half later the Hatti had returned into a darkness even deeper than that from which they emerged. The last king of Boghazkeui, of whose archives any part has come to light, is one Arnaunta, reigning in the end of the thirteenth century. He may well have had successors whose documents may yet be found; but on the other hand, we know from Assyrian annals, dated only a little later, that a people, possibly kin to the Hatti and certainly civilized by them, but called by another name, Mushkaya or Mushki (we shall say more of them presently), overran most, if not all, the Hatti realm by the middle of the twelfth century. And since, moreover, the excavated ruins at both Boghazkeui, the capital of the Hatti, and Carchemish, their chief southern dependency, show unmistakable signs of destruction and of a subsequent general reconstruction, which on archaeological grounds must be dated not much later than Arnaunta’s time, it seems probable that the history of Hatti empire closed with that king. What happened subsequently to surviving detachments of this once imperial people and to other communities so near akin by blood or civilization, that the Assyrians, when speaking generally of western foes or subjects, long continued to call them Hatti, we shall consider presently.


Remains Assyria, which before 1000 B.C. had twice conquered an empire of the same kind as that credited to the First Babylonian Dynasty and twice recoiled. The early Assyrian expansions are, historically, the most noteworthy of the early West Asian Empires because, unlike the rest, they were preludes to an ultimate territorial overlordship which would come nearer to anticipating Macedonian and Roman imperial systems than any others precedent. Assyria, rather than Babylon or Egypt, heads the list of aspirants to the Mastership of the World.

There will be so much to say of the third and subsequent expansion of Assyria, that her earlier empires may be passed over briefly. The middle Tigris basin seems to have received a large influx of Semites of the Canaanitic wave at least as early as Babylonia, and thanks to various causes–to the absence of a prior local civilization as advanced as the Sumerian, to greater distance from such enterprising fomenters of disturbance as Elam and Arabia, and to a more invigorating climate–these Semites settled down more quickly and thoroughly into an agricultural society than the Babylonians and developed it in greater purity. Their earliest social centre was Asshur in the southern part of their territory. There, in proximity to Babylonia, they fell inevitably under the domination of the latter; but after the fall of the First Dynasty of Babylon and the subsequent decline of southern Semitic vigour, a tendency manifested itself among the northern Semites to develop their nationality about more central points. Calah, higher up the river, replaced Asshur in the thirteenth century B.C., only to be replaced in turn by Nineveh, a little further still upstream; and ultimately Assyria, though it had taken its name from the southern city, came to be consolidated round a north Mesopotamian capital into a power able to impose vassalage on Babylon and to send imperial raiders to the Mediterranean, and to the Great Lakes of Armenia. The first of her kings to attain this sort of imperial position was Shalmaneser I, who early in the thirteenth century B.C. appears to have crushed the last strength of the north Mesopotamian powers of Mitanni and Khani and laid the way open to the west lands. The Hatti power, however, tried hard to close the passages and it was not until its catastrophe and the retirement of those who brought it about–the Mushki and their allies–that about 1100 Tiglath Pileser I could lead his Assyrian raiders into Syria, and even, perhaps, a short distance across Taurus. Why his empire died with him we do not know precisely. A new invasion of Arabian Semites, the Aramaeans, whom he attacked at Mt. Bishri (Tell Basher), may have been the cause. But, in any case, the fact is certain. The sons of the great king, who had reached Phoenician Aradus and there embarked vaingloriously on shipboard to claim mastery of the Western Sea, were reduced to little better than vassals of their father’s former vassal, Babylon; and up to the close of the eleventh century Assyria had not revived.


Thus in 1000 B.C., we look round the East, and, so far as our vision can penetrate the clouds, see no one dominant power. Territories which formerly were overridden by the greater states, Babylonia, Egypt, Cappadocia and Assyria, seem to be not only self-governing but free from interference, although the vanished empires and a recent great movement of peoples have left them with altered political boundaries and sometimes with new dynasties. None of the political units has a much larger area than another, and it would not have been easy at the moment to prophesy which, or if any one, would grow at the expense of the rest.

The great movement of peoples, to which allusion has just been made, had been disturbing West Asia for two centuries. On the east, where the well organized and well armed societies of Babylonia and Assyria offered a serious obstacle to nomadic immigrants, the inflow had been pent back beyond frontier mountains. But in the west the tide seems to have flowed too strongly to be resisted by such force as the Hatti empire of Cappadocia could oppose, and to have swept through Asia Minor even to Syria and Mesopotamia. Records of Rameses III tell how a great host of federated peoples appeared on the Asian frontier of Egypt very early in the twelfth century. Among them marched men of the “Kheta” or Hatti, but not as leaders. These strong foes and allies of Seti I and Rameses II, not a century before, had now fallen from their imperial estate to follow in the wake of newcomers, who had lately humbled them in their Cappadocian home. The geographical order in which the scribes of Rameses enumerated their conquests shows clearly the direction from which the federals had come and the path they followed. In succession they had devastated Hatti (i.e. Cappadocia), Kedi (i.e. Cilicia), Carchemish and central Syria. Their victorious progress began, therefore, in northern Asia Minor, and followed the great roads through the Cilician passes to end at last on the very frontiers of Egypt. The list of these newcomers has long interested historians; for outlandish as their names were to Egyptians, they seem to our eyes not unfamiliar, and are possibly travesties of some which are writ large on pages of later history. Such are the Pulesti or Philistines, and a group hailing apparently from Asia Minor and the Isles, Tjakaray, Shakalsha, Danaau and Washasha, successors of Pisidian and other Anatolian allies of the Hittites in the time of Rameses II, and of the Lycian, Achaean and Sardinian pirates whom Egypt used sometimes to beat from her borders, sometimes to enlist in her service. Some of these peoples, from whatever quarters they had come, settled presently into new homes as the tide receded. The Pulesti, if they were indeed the historic Philistines, stranded and stayed on the confines of Egypt, retaining certain memories of an earlier state, which had been theirs in some Minoan land. Since the Tjakaray and the Washasha seem to have sprung from lands now reckoned in Europe, we may count this occasion the first in history on which the west broke in force into the east.

Turn to the annals of Assyria and you will learn, from records of Tiglath Pileser I, that this northern wave was followed up in the same century by a second, which bore on its crest another bold horde from Asia Minor. Its name, Mushki, we now hear for the first time, but shall hear again in time to come. A remnant of this race would survive far into historic times as the Moschi of Greek geographers, an obscure people on the borders of Cappadocia and Armenia. But who precisely the first Mushki were, whence they had originally come, and whither they went when pushed back out of Mesopotamia, are questions still debated. Two significant facts are known about their subsequent history; first, that two centuries later than our date they, or some part of them, were settled in Cappadocia, apparently rather in the centre and north of that country than in the south: second, that at that same epoch and later they had kings of the name Mita, which is thought to be identical with the name Midas, known to early Greek historians as borne by kings of Phrygia.

Because of this last fact, the Mushki have been put down as proto-Phrygians, risen to power after the fall of the Cappadocian Hatti. This contention will be considered hereafter, when we reach the date of the first known contact between Assyria and any people settled in western Asia Minor. But meanwhile, let it be borne in mind that their royal name Mita does not necessarily imply a connection between the Mushki and Phrygia; for since the ethnic “Mitanni” of north Mesopotamia means “Mita’s men,” that name must have long been domiciled much farther east.

On the whole, whatever their later story, the truth about the Mushki, who came down into Syria early in the twelfth century and retired to Cappadocia some fifty years later after crossing swords with Assyria, is probably this–that they were originally a mountain people from northern Armenia or the Caucasus, distinct from the Hatti, and that, having descended from the north-east in a primitive nomadic state into the seat of an old culture possessed by an enfeebled race, they adopted the latter’s civilization as they conquered it and settled down. But probably they did not fix themselves definitely in Cappadocia till the blow struck by Tiglath Pileser had checked their lust of movement and weakened their confidence of victory. In any case, the northern storms had subsided by 1000 B.C., leaving Asia Minor, Armenia and Syria parcelled among many princes.


Had one taken ship with Achaeans or Ionians for the western coast of Anatolia in the year 1000, one would have expected to disembark at or near some infant settlement of men, not natives by extraction, but newly come from the sea and speaking Greek or another Aegean tongue. These men had ventured so far to seize the rich lands at the mouths of the long Anatolian valleys, from which their roving forefathers had been almost entirely debarred by the provincial forces of some inland power, presumably the Hatti Empire of Cappadocia. In earlier days the Cretans, or their kin of Mycenaean Greece in the latest Aegean age, had been able to plant no more than a few inconsiderable colonies of traders on Anatolian shores. Now, however, their descendants were being steadily reinforced from the west by members of a younger Aryan race, who mixed with the natives of the coast, and gradually mastered or drove them inland. Inconsiderable as this European soakage into the fringe of the neighbouring continent must have seemed at that moment, we know that it was inaugurating a process which ultimately would affect profoundly all the history of Hither Asia. That Greek Ionian colonization first attracts notice round about 1000 B.C. marks the period as a cardinal point in history. We cannot say for certain, with our present knowledge, that any one of the famous Greek cities had already begun to grow on the Anatolian coasts. There is better evidence for the so early existence of Miletus, where the German excavators have found much pottery of the latest Aegean age, than of any other. But, at least, it is probable that Greeks were already settled on the sites of Cnidus, Teos, Smyrna, Colophon, Phocea, Cyme and many more; while the greater islands Rhodes, Samos, Chios and Mitylene had apparently received western settlers several generations ago, perhaps before even the first Achaean raids into Asia.

The western visitor, if he pushed inland, would have avoided the south-western districts of the peninsula, where a mountainous country, known later as Caria, Lycia, and Pisidia, was held by primitive hill-men settled in detached tribal fashion like modern Albanians. They had never yet been subdued, and as soon as the rising Greek ports on their coasts should open a way for them to the outer world, they would become known as admirable mercenary soldiery, following a congenial trade which, if the Pedasu, who appear in records of Egyptian campaigns of the Eighteenth Dynasty, were really Pisidians, was not new to them. North of their hills, however, lay broader valleys leading up to the central plateau; and, if Herodotus is to be believed, an organized monarchical society, ruled by the “Heraclids” of Sardes, was already developed there. We know practically nothing about it; but since some three centuries later the Lydian people was rich and luxurious in the Hermus valley, which had once been a fief of the Hatti, we must conclude that it had been enjoying security as far back as 1000 B.C. Who those Heraclid princes were exactly is obscure. The dynastic name given to them by Herodotus probably implies that they traced their origin (i.e. owed especial allegiance) to a God of the Double War-Axe, whom the Greeks likened to Heracles, but we liken to Sandan, god of Tarsus and of the lands of the south-east. We shall say more of him and his worshippers presently.

Leaving aside the northern fringe-lands as ill known and of small account (as we too shall leave them), our traveller would pass up from the Lydian vales to find the Cappadocian Hatti no longer the masters of the plateau as of old. No one of equal power seems to have taken their place; but there is reason to think that the Mushki, who had brought them low, now filled some of their room in Asia Minor. But these Mushki had so far adopted Hatti civilization either before or since their great raiding expedition which Tiglath Pileser I of Assyria repelled, that their domination can scarcely have made much difference to the social condition of Asia Minor. Their capital was probably where the Hatti capital had been–at Boghazkeui; but how far their lordship radiated from that centre is not known.

In the south-east of Asia Minor we read of several principalities, both in the Hatti documents of earlier centuries and in Assyrian annals of later date; and since some of their names appear in both these sets of records, we may safely assign them to the same localities during the intermediate period. Such are Kas in later Lycaonia, Tabal or Tubal in south-eastern Cappadocia, Khilakku, which left its name to historical Cilicia, and Kue in the rich eastern Cilician plain and the north-eastern hills. In north Syria again we find both in early and in late times Kummukh, which left to its district the historic name, Commagene. All these principalities, as their earlier monuments prove, shared the same Hatti civilization as the Mushki and seem to have had the same chief deities, the axe-bearing Sandan, or Teshup, or Hadad, whose sway we have noted far west in Lydia, and also a Great Mother, the patron of peaceful increase, as he was of warlike conquest. But whether this uniformity of civilization implies any general overlord, such as the Mushki king, is very questionable. The past supremacy of the Hatti is enough to account for large community of social features in 1000 B.C. over all Asia Minor and north Syria.


It is time for our traveller to move on southward into “Hatti-land,” as the Assyrians would long continue to call the southern area of the old Hatti civilization. He would have found Syria in a state of greater or less disintegration from end to end. Since the withdrawal of the strong hands of the Hatti from the north and the Egyptians from the south, the disorganized half-vacant land had been attracting to itself successive hordes of half-nomadic Semites from the eastern and southern steppes. By 1000 B.C. these had settled down as a number of Aramaean societies each under its princeling. All were great traders. One such society established itself in the north-west, in Shamal, where, influenced by the old Hatti culture, an art came into being which was only saved ultimately by Semitic Assyria from being purely Hittite. Its capital, which lay at modern Sinjerli, one of the few Syrian sites scientifically explored, we shall notice later on. South lay Patin and Bit Agusi; south of these again, Hamath and below it Damascus–all new Aramaean states, which were waiting for quiet times to develop according to the measure of their respective territories and their command of trade routes. Most blessed in both natural fertility and convenience of position was Damascus (Ubi or Hobah), which had been receiving an Aramaean influx for at least three hundred years. It was destined to outstrip the rest of those new Semitic states; but for the moment it was little stronger than they. As for the Phoenician cities on the Lebanon coast, which we know from the Amarna archives and other Egyptian records to have long been settled with Canaanitic Semites, they were to appear henceforward in a light quite other than that in which the reports of their Egyptian governors and visitors had hitherto shown them. Not only did they very rapidly become maritime traders instead of mere local territorial centres, but (if we may infer it from the lack of known monuments of their higher art or of their writing before 1000 B.C.) they were making or just about to make a sudden advance in social development. It should be remarked that our evidence, that other Syrian Semites had taken to writing in scripts of their own, begins not much later at various points–in Shamal, in Moab and in Samaria.

This rather sudden expansion of the Phoenicians into a maritime power about 1000 B.C. calls for explanation. Herodotus thought that the Phoenicians were driven to take to the sea simply by the growing inadequacy of their narrow territory to support the natural increase of its inhabitants, and probably he was partly right, the crisis of their fate being hastened by Armaean pressure from inland. But the advance in their culture, which is marked by the development of their art and their writing, was too rapid and too great to have resulted only from new commerce with the sea; nor can it have been due to any influence of the Aramaean elements which were comparatively fresh from the Steppes. To account for the facts in Syria we seem to require, not long previous to this time, a fresh accession of population from some area of higher culture. When we observe, therefore, among the earlier Phoenician and south Syrian antiquities much that was imported, and more that derived its character, from Cyprus and even remoter centres of the Aegean culture of the latest Minoan Age, we cannot regard as fantastic the belief of the Cretan discoverer, Arthur Evans, that the historic Phoenician civilization, and especially the Phoenician script, owed their being in great measure to an immigration from those nearest oversea lands which had long possessed a fully developed art and a system of writing. After the fall of the Cnossian Dynasty we know that a great dispersal of Cretans began, which was continued and increased later by the descent of the Achaeans into Greece. It has been said already that the Pulesti or Philistines, who had followed the first northern horde to the frontiers of Egypt early in the twelfth century, are credibly supposed to have come from some area affected by Minoan civilization, while the Tjakaray and Washasha, who accompanied them, were probably actual Cretans. The Pulesti stayed, as we know, in Philistia: the Tjakaray settled at Dor on the South Phoenician coast, where Unamon, an envoy of Rameses XI, found them. These settlers are quite sufficient to account for the subsequent development of a higher culture in mid and south Syria, and there may well have been some further immigration from Cyprus and other Aegean lands which, as time went on, impelled the cities of Phoenicia, so well endowed by nature, to develop a new culture apace about 1000 B.C.


If the Phoenicians were feeling the thrust of Steppe peoples, their southern neighbours, the Philistines, who had lived and grown rich on the tolls and trade of the great north road from Egypt for at least a century and a half, were feeling it too. During some centuries past there had come raiding from the south-east deserts certain sturdy and well-knit tribes, which long ago had displaced or assimilated the Canaanites along the highlands west of Jordan, and were now tending to settle down into a national unity, cemented by a common worship. They had had long intermittent struggles, traditions of which fill the Hebrew Book of Judges–struggles not only with the Canaanites, but also with the Amorites of the upper Orontes valley, and later with the Aramaeans of the north and east, and with fresh incursions of Arabs from the south; and most lately of all they had had to give way for about half a century before an expansive movement of the Philistines, which carried the latter up to Galilee and secured to them the profits of all the Palestinian stretch of the great North Road. But about a generation before our date the northernmost of those bold “Habiri,” under an elective _sheikh_ Saul, had pushed the Philistines out of Bethshan and other points of vantage in mid-Palestine, and had become once more free of the hills which they had held in the days of Pharaoh Menephthah. Though, at the death of Saul, the enemy regained most of what he had lost, he was not to hold it long. A greater chief, David, who had risen to power by Philistine help and now had the support of the southern tribes, was welding both southern and northern Hebrews into a single monarchical society and, having driven his old masters out of the north once more, threatened the southern stretch of the great North Road from a new capital, Jerusalem. Moreover, by harrying repeatedly the lands east of Jordan up to the desert edge, David had stopped further incursions from Arabia; and, though the Aramaean state of Damascus was growing into a formidable danger, he had checked for the present its tendency to spread southwards, and had strengthened himself by agreements with another Aramaean prince, him of Hamath, who lay on the north flank of Damascus, and with the chief of the nearest Phoenician city, Tyre. The latter was not yet the rich place which it would grow to be in the next century, but it was strong enough to control the coast road north of the Galilean lowlands. Israel not only was never safer, but would never again hold a position of such relative importance in Syria, as was hers in a day of many small and infant states about 1000 B.C.: and in later times, under the shadow of Assyria and the menace of Egypt, the Jews would look back to the reigns of David and his successor with some reason as their golden age.

The traveller would not have ventured into Arabia; nor shall we. It was then an unknown land lying wholly outside history. We have no record (if that mysterious embassy of the “Queen of Sheba,” who came to hear the wisdom of Solomon, be ruled out) of any relations between a state of the civilized East and an Arabian prince before the middle of the ninth century. It may be that, as Glaser reckoned, Sabaean society in the south-west of the peninsula had already reached the preliminary stage of tribal settlement through which Israel passed under its Judges, and was now moving towards monarchy; and that of this our traveller might have learned something in Syria from the last arrived Aramaeans. But we, who can learn nothing, have no choice but to go north with him again, leaving to our right the Syrian desert roamed by Bedawis in much the same social state as the Anazeh to-day, owing allegiance to no one. We can cross Euphrates at Carchemish or at Til Barsip opposite the Sajur mouth, or where Thapsacus looked across to the outfall of the Khabur.


No annals of Assyria have survived for nearly a century before 1000 B.C., and very few for the century after that date. Nor do Babylonian records make good our deficiency. Though we cannot be certain, we are probably safe in saying that during these two centuries Assyrian and Babylonian princes had few or no achievements to record of the kind which they held, almost alone, worthy to be immortalized on stone or clay–that is to say, raids, conquests, sacking of cities, blackmailing of princes. Since Tiglath Pileser’s time no “Kings of the World” (by which title was signified an overlord of Mesopotamia merely) had been seated on either of the twin rivers. What exactly had happened in the broad tract between the rivers and to the south of Taurus since the departure of the Mushki hordes (if, indeed, they did all depart), we do not know. The Mitanni, who may have been congeners of the latter, seem still to have been holding the north-west; probably all the north-east was Assyrian territory. No doubt the Kurds and Armenians of Urartu were raiding the plains impartially from autumn to spring, as they always did when Assyria was weak. We shall learn a good deal more about Mesopotamia proper when the results of the German excavations at Tell Halaf, near Ras el-Ain, are complete and published. The most primitive monuments found there are perhaps relics of that power of Khani (Harran), which was stretched even to include Nineveh before the Semitic _patesis_ of Asshur grew to royal estate and moved northward to make imperial Assyria. But there are later strata of remains as well which should contain evidence of the course of events in mid-Mesopotamia during subsequent periods both of Assyrian domination and of local independence.

Assyria, as has been said, was without doubt weak at this date, that is, she was confined to the proper territory of her own agricultural Semites. This state of things, whenever existent throughout her history, seems to have implied priestly predominance, in which Babylonian influence went for much. The Semitic tendency to super-Monotheism, which has already been noticed, constantly showed itself among the eastern Semites (when comparatively free from military tyranny) in a reversion of their spiritual allegiance to one supreme god enthroned at Babylon, the original seat of east Semitic theocracy. And even when this city had little military strength the priests of Marduk appear often to have succeeded in keeping a controlling hand on the affairs of stronger Assyria. We shall see later how much prestige great Ninevite war-lords could gain even among their own countrymen by Marduk’s formal acknowledgment of their sovereignty, and how much they lost by disregarding him and doing injury to his local habitation. At their very strongest the Assyrian kings were never credited with the natural right to rule Semitic Asia which belonged to kings of Babylon. If they desired the favour of Marduk they must needs claim it at the sword’s point, and when that point was lowered, his favour was always withdrawn. From first to last they had perforce to remain military tyrants, who relied on no acknowledged legitimacy but on the spears of conscript peasants, and at the last of mercenaries. No dynasty lasted long in Assyria, where popular generals, even while serving on distant campaigns, were often elevated to the throne–in anticipation of the imperial history of Rome.

It appears then that our traveller would have found Babylonia, rather than Assyria, the leading East Semitic power in 1000 B.C.; but at the same time not a strong power, for she had no imperial dominion outside lower Mesopotamia. Since a dynasty, whose history is obscure–the so-called Pashe kings in whose time there was one strong man, Nabu-Kudur-usur (Nebuchadnezzar) I–came to an inglorious end just about 1000 B.C., one may infer that Babylonia was passing at this epoch through one of those recurrent political crises which usually occurred when Sumerian cities of the southern “Sea-Land” conspired with some foreign invader against the Semitic capital. The contumacious survivors of the elder element in the population, however, even when successful, seem not to have tried to set up new capitals or to reestablish the pre-Semitic state of things. Babylon had so far distanced all the older cities now that no other consummation of revolt was desired or believed possible than the substitution of one dynasty for another on the throne beloved of Marduk. Sumerian forces, however, had not been the only ones which had contributed to overthrow the last king of the Pashe dynasty. Nomads of the _Suti_ tribes had long been raiding from the western deserts into Akkad; and the first king set up by the victorious peoples of the Sea-Land had to expel them and to repair their ravages before he could seat himself on a throne which was menaced by Elam on the east and Assyria on the north, and must fall so soon as either of these found a strong leader.



Two centuries have passed over the East, and at first sight it looks as if no radical change has taken place in its political or social condition. No new power has entered it from without; only one new state of importance, the Phrygian, has arisen within. The peoples, which were of most account in 1000, are still of the most account in 800–the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Mushki of Cappadocia, the tribesmen of Urartu, the Aramaeans of Damascus, the trading Phoenicians on the Syrian coast and the trading Greeks on the Anatolian. Egypt has remained behind her frontier except for one raid into Palestine about 925 B.C., from which Sheshenk, the Libyan, brought back treasures of Solomon’s temple to enhance the splendour of Amen. Arabia has not begun to matter. There has been, of course, development, but on old lines. The comparative values of the states have altered: some have become more decisively the superiors of others than they were two hundred years ago, but they are those whose growth was foreseen. Wherein, then, lies the great difference? For great difference there is. It scarcely needs a second glance to detect the change, and any one who looks narrowly will see not only certain consequent changes, but in more than one quarter signs and warnings of a coming order of things not dreamt of in 1000 B.C.


The obvious novelty is the presence of a predominant power. The mosaic of small states is still there, but one holds lordship over most of them, and that one is Assyria. Moreover, the foreign dominion which the latter has now been enjoying for three-parts of a century is the first of its kind established by an Asiatic power. Twice, as we have seen, had Assyria conquered in earlier times an empire of the nomad Semitic type, that is, a licence to raid unchecked over a wide tract of lands; but, so far as we know, neither Shalmaneser I nor Tiglath Pileser I had so much as conceived the idea of holding the raided provinces by a permanent official organization. But in the ninth century, when Ashurnatsirpal and his successor Shalmaneser, second of the name, marched out year by year, they passed across wide territories held for them by governors and garrisons, before they reached others upon which they hoped to impose like fetters. We find Shalmaneser II, for example, in the third year of his reign, fortifying, renaming, garrisoning and endowing with a royal palace the town of Til Barsip on the Euphrates bank, the better to secure for himself free passage at will across the river. He has finally deprived Ahuni its local Aramaean chief, and holds the place as an Assyrian fortress. Thus far had the Assyrian advanced his territorial empire but not farther. Beyond Euphrates he would, indeed, push year by year, even to Phoenicia and Damascus and Cilicia, but merely to raid, levy blackmail and destroy, like the old emperors of Babylonia or his own imperial predecessors of Assyria.

There was then much of the old destructive instinct in Shalmaneser’s conception of empire; but a constructive principle also was at work modifying that conception. If the Great King was still something of a Bedawi Emir, bound to go a-raiding summer by summer, he had conceived, like Mohammed ibn Rashid, the Arabian prince of Jebel Shammar in our own days, the idea of extending his territorial dominion, so that he might safely and easily reach fresh fields for wider raids. If we may use modern formulas about an ancient and imperfectly realized imperial system, we should describe the dominion of Shalmaneser II as made up (over and above its Assyrian core) of a wide circle of foreign territorial possessions which included Babylonia on the south, all Mesopotamia on the west and north, and everything up to Zagros on the east; of a “sphere of exclusive influence” extending to Lake Van on the north, while on the west it reached beyond the Euphrates into mid-Syria; and, lastly, of a licence to raid as far as the frontiers of Egypt. Shalmaneser’s later expeditions all passed the frontiers of that sphere of influence. Having already crossed the Amanus mountains seven times, he was in Tarsus in his twenty-sixth summer; Damascus was attacked again and again in the middle of his reign; and even Jehu of Samaria paid his blackmail in the year 842.

Assyria in the ninth century must have seemed by far the strongest as well as the most oppressive power that the East had known. The reigning house was passing on its authority from father to son in an unbroken dynastic succession, which had not always been, and would seldom thereafter be, the rule. Its court was fixed securely in midmost Assyria, away from priest-ridden Asshur, which seems to have been always anti-imperial and pro-Babylonian; for Ashurnatsirpal had restored Calah to the capital rank which it had held under Shalmaneser I but lost under Tiglath Pileser, and there the kings of the Middle Empire kept their throne. The Assyrian armies were as yet neither composed of soldiers of fortune, nor, it appears, swelled by such heterogeneous provincial levies as would follow the Great Kings of Asia in later days; but they were still recruited from the sturdy peasantry of Assyria itself. The monarch was an absolute autocrat directing a supreme military despotism. Surely such a power could not but endure. Endure, indeed, it would for more than two centuries. But it was not so strong as it appeared. Before the century of Ashurnatsirpal and Shalmaneser II was at an end, certain inherent germs of corporate decay had developed apace in its system.

Natural law appears to decree that a family stock, whose individual members have every opportunity and licence for sensual indulgence, shall deteriorate both physically and mentally at an ever-increasing rate. Therefore, _pari passu_, an Empire which is so absolutely autocratic that the monarch is its one mainspring of government, grows weaker as it descends from father to son. Its one chance of conserving some of its pristine strength is to develop a bureaucracy which, if inspired by the ideas and methods of earlier members of the dynasty, may continue to realize them in a crystallized system of administration. This chance the Middle Assyrian Kingdom never was at any pains to take. There is evidence for delegation of military power by its Great Kings to a headquarter staff, and for organization of military control in the provinces, but none for such delegation of the civil power as might have fostered a bureaucracy. Therefore that concentration of power in single hands, which at first had been an element of strength, came to breed increasing weakness as one member of the dynasty succeeded another.

Again, the irresistible Assyrian armies, which had been led abroad summer by summer, were manned for some generations by sturdy peasants drawn from the fields of the Middle Tigris basin, chiefly those on the left bank. The annual razzia, however, is a Bedawi institution, proper to a semi-nomadic society which cultivates little and that lightly, and can leave such agricultural, and also such pastoral, work as must needs be done in summer to its old men, its young folk and its women, without serious loss. But a settled labouring population which has deep lands to till, a summer crop to raise and an irrigation system to maintain is in very different case. The Assyrian kings, by calling on their agricultural peasantry, spring after spring, to resume the life of militant nomads, not only exhausted the sources of their own wealth and stability, but bred deep discontent. As the next two centuries pass more and more will be heard of depletion and misery in the Assyrian lands. Already before 800 we have the spectacle of the agricultural district of Arbela rebelling against Shalmaneser’s sons, and after being appeased with difficulty, rising again against Adadnirari III in a revolt which is still active when the century closes.

Lastly, this militant monarchy, whose life was war, was bound to make implacable enemies both within and without. Among those within were evidently the priests, whose influence was paramount at Asshur. Remembering who it was that had given the first independent king to Assyria they resented that their city, the chosen seat of the earlier dynasties, which had been restored to primacy by the great Tiglath Pileser, should fall permanently to the second rank. So we find Asshur joining the men of Arbela in both the rebellions mentioned above, and it appears always to have been ready to welcome attempts by the Babylonian Semites to regain their old predominance over Southern Assyria.


As we should expect from geographical circumstances, Assyria’s most perilous and persistent foreign enemies were the fierce hillmen of the north. In the east, storms were brewing behind the mountains, but they were not yet ready to burst. South and west lay either settled districts of old civilization not disposed to fight, or ranging grounds of nomads too widely scattered and too ill organized to threaten serious danger. But the north was in different case. The wild valleys, through which descend the left bank affluents of the Upper Tigris, have always sheltered fierce fighting clans, covetous of the winter pasturage and softer climate of the northern Mesopotamian downs, and it has been the anxious care of one Mesopotamian power after another, even to our own day, to devise measures for penning them back. Since the chief weakness of these tribes lies in a lack of unity which the subdivided nature of their country encourages, it must have caused no small concern to the Assyrians that, early in the ninth century, a Kingdom of Urartu or, as its own people called it, Khaldia, should begin to gain power over the communities about Lake Van and the heads of the valleys which run down to Assyrian territory. Both Ashurnatsirpal and Shalmaneser led raid after raid into the northern mountains in the hope of weakening the tribes from whose adhesion that Vannic Kingdom might derive strength. Both kings marched more than once up to the neighbourhood of the Urmia Lake, and Shalmaneser struck at the heart of Urartu itself three or four times; but with inconclusive success. The Vannic state continued to flourish and its kings–whose names are more European in sound than Asiatic–Lutipris, Sarduris, Menuas, Argistis, Rusas–built themselves strong fortresses which stand to this day about Lake Van, and borrowed a script from their southern foes to engrave rocks with records of successful wars. One of these inscriptions occurs as far west as the left bank of Euphrates over against Malatia. By 800 B.C., in spite of efforts made by Shalmaneser’s sons to continue their father’s policy of pushing the war into the enemy’s country, the Vannic king had succeeded in replacing Assyrian influence by the law of Khaldia in the uppermost basin of the Tigris and in higher Mesopotamia–the “Nairi” lands of Assyrian scribes; and his successors would raid farther and farther into the plains during the coming age.


Menacing as this power of Urartu appeared at the end of the ninth century to an enfeebled Assyrian dynasty, there were two other racial groups, lately arrived on its horizon, which in the event would prove more really dangerous. One of these lay along the north-eastern frontier on the farther slopes of the Zagros mountains and on the plateau beyond. It was apparently a composite people which had been going through a slow process of formation and growth. One element in it seems to have been of the same blood as a strong pastoral population which was then ranging the steppes of southern Russia and west central Asia, and would come to be known vaguely to the earliest Greeks as Cimmerians, and scarcely less precisely to their descendants, as Scyths. Its name would be a household word in the East before long. A trans-Caucasian offshoot of this had settled in modern Azerbaijan, where for a long time past it had been receiving gradual reinforcements of eastern migrants, belonging to what is called the Iranian group of Aryans. Filtering through the passage between the Caspian range and the salt desert, which Teheran now guards, these Iranians spread out over north-west Persia and southwards into the well-watered country on the western edge of the plateau, overlooking the lowlands of the Tigris basin. Some part of them, under the name Parsua, seems to have settled down as far north as the western shores of Lake Urmia, on the edge of the Ararat kingdom; another part as far south as the borders of Elam. Between these extreme points the immigrants appear to have amalgamated with the settled Scyths, and in virtue of racial superiority to have become predominant partners in the combination. At some uncertain period–probably before 800 B.C.–there had arisen from the Iranian element an individual, Zoroaster, who converted his people from element-worship to a spiritual belief in personal divinity; and by this reform of cult both raised its social status and gave it political cohesion. The East began to know and fear the combination under the name _Manda_, and from Shalmaneser II onwards the Assyrian kings had to devote ever more attention to the Manda country, raiding it, sacking it, exacting tribute from it, but all the while betraying their growing consciousness that a grave peril lurked behind Zagros, the peril of the Medes. [Footnote: I venture to adhere throughout to the old identification of the _Manda_ power, which ultimately overthrew Assyria, with the _Medes_, in spite of high authorities who nowadays assume that the latter played no part in that overthrow, but have been introduced into this chapter of history by an erroneous identification made by Greeks. I cannot believe that both Greek and Hebrew authorities of very little later date both fell into such an error.]


The other danger, the more imminent of the two, threatened Assyria from the south. Once again a Semitic immigration, which we distinguish as Chaldaean from earlier Semitic waves, Canaanite and Aramaean, had breathed fresh vitality into the Babylonian people. It came, like earlier waves, out of Arabia, which, for certain reasons, has been in all ages a prime source of ethnic disturbance in West Asia. The great southern peninsula is for the most part a highland steppe endowed with a singularly pure air and an uncontaminated soil. It breeds, consequently, a healthy population whose natality, compared to its death-rate, is unusually high; but since the peculiar conditions of its surface and climate preclude the development of its internal food-supply beyond a point long ago reached, the surplus population which rapidly accumulates within it is forced from time to time to seek its sustenance elsewhere. The difficulties of the roads to the outer world being what they are (not to speak of the certainty of opposition at the other end), the intending emigrants rarely set out in small bodies, but move restlessly within their own borders until they are grown to a horde, which famine and hostility at home compel at last to leave Arabia. As hard to arrest as their own blown sands, the moving Arabs fall on the nearest fertile regions, there to plunder, fight, and eventually settle down. So in comparatively modern times have the Shammar tribesmen moved into Syria and Mesopotamia, and so in antiquity moved the Canaanites, the Aramaeans, and the Chaldaeans. We find the latter already well established by 900 B.C. not only in the “Sea Land” at the head of the Persian Gulf, but also between the Rivers. The Kings of Babylon, who opposed Ashurnatsirpal and Shalmaneser II, seem to have been of Chaldaean extraction; and although their successors, down to 800 B.C., acknowledged the suzerainty of Assyria, they ever strove to repudiate it, looking for help to Elam or the western desert tribes. The times, however, were not quite ripe. The century closed with the reassertion of Assyrian power in Babylon itself by Adadnirari.


Such were the dangers which, as we now know, lurked on the horizon of the Northern Semites in 800 B.C. But they had not yet become patent to the world, in whose eyes Assyria seemed still an irresistible power pushing ever farther and farther afield. The west offered the most attractive field for her expansion. There lay the fragments of the Hatti Empire, enjoying the fruits of Hatti civilization; there were the wealthy Aramaean states, and still richer Phoenician ports. There urban life was well developed, each city standing for itself, sufficient in its territory, and living more or less on the caravan trade which perforce passed under or near its walls between Egypt on the one hand and Mesopotamia and Asia Minor on the other. Never was a fairer field for hostile enterprise, or one more easily harried without fear of reprisal, and well knowing this, Assyria set herself from Ashurnatsirpal’s time forward systematically to bully and fleece Syria. It was almost the yearly practice of Shalmaneser II to march down to the Middle Euphrates, ferry his army across, and levy blackmail on Carchemish and the other north Syrian cities as far as Cilicia on the one hand and Damascus on the other. That done, he would send forward envoys to demand ransom of the Phoenician towns, who grudgingly paid it or rashly withheld it according to the measure of his compulsion. Since last we looked at the Aramaean states, Damascus has definitely asserted the supremacy which her natural advantages must always secure to her whenever Syria is not under foreign domination. Her fighting dynasty of Benhadads which had been founded, it seems, more than a century before Shalmaneser’s time, had now spread her influence right across Syria from east to west and into the territories of Hamath on the north and of the Hebrews on the south. Ashurnatsirpal had never ventured to do more than summon at long range the lord of this large and wealthy state to contribute to his coffers; but this tributary obligation, if ever admitted, was continually disregarded, and Shalmaneser II found he must take bolder measures or be content to see his raiding-parties restricted to the already harried north. He chose the bold course, and struck at Hamath, the northernmost Damascene dependency, in his seventh summer. A notable victory, won at Karkar on the Middle Orontes over an army which included contingents from most of the south Semitic states–one came, for example, from Israel, where Ahab was now king,–opened a way towards the Aramaean capital; but it was not till twelve years later that the Great King actually attacked Damascus. But he failed to crown his successes with its capture, and reinvigorated by the accession of a new dynasty, which Hazael, a leader in war, founded in 842, Damascus continued to bar the Assyrians from full enjoyment of the southern lands for another century.

Nevertheless, though Shalmaneser and his dynastic successors down to Adadnirari III were unable to enter Palestine, the shadow of Assyrian Empire was beginning to creep over Israel. The internal dissensions of the latter, and its fear and jealousy of Damascus had already done much to make ultimate disaster certain. In the second generation after David the radical incompatibility between the northern and southern Hebrew tribes, which under his strong hand and that of his son had seemed one nation, reasserted its disintegrating influence. While it is not certain if the twelve tribes were ever all of one race, it is quite certain that the northern ones had come to be contaminated very largely with Aramaean blood and infected by mid-Syrian influences, which the relations established and maintained by David and Solomon with Hamath and Phoenicia no doubt had accentuated, especially in the territories of Asher and Dan. These tribes and some other northerners had never seen eye to eye with the southern tribes in a matter most vital to Semitic societies, religious ideal and practice. The anthropomorphic monotheism, which the southern tribes brought up from Arabia, had to contend in Galilee with theriomorphic polytheism, that is, the tendency to embody the qualities of divinity in animal forms. For such beliefs as these there is ample evidence in the Judaean tradition, even during the pre-Palestinian wanderings. Both reptile and bovine incarnations manifest themselves in the story of the Exodus, and despite the fervent missionary efforts of a series of Prophets, and the adhesion of many, even among the northern tribesmen, to the more spiritual creed, these cults gathered force in the congenial neighbourhood of Aramaeans and Phoenicians, till they led to political separation of the north from the south as soon as the long reign of Solomon was ended. Thereafter, until the catastrophe of the northern tribes, there would never more be a united Hebrew nation. The northern kingdom, harried by Damascus and forced to take unwilling part in her quarrels, looked about for foreign help. The dynasty of Omri, who, in order to secure control of the great North Road, had built himself a capital and a palace (lately discovered) on the hill of Samaria, relied chiefly on Tyre. The succeeding dynasty, that of Jehu, who had rebelled against Omri’s son and his Phoenician queen, courted Assyria, and encouraged her to press ever harder on Damascus. It was a suicidal policy; for in the continued existence of a strong Aramaean state on her north lay Israel’s one hope of long life. Jeroboam II and his Prophet Jonah ought to have seen that the day of reckoning would come quickly for Samaria when once Assyria had settled accounts with Damascus.

To some extent, but unfortunately not in all detail, we can trace in the royal records the advance of Assyrian territorial dominion in the west. The first clear indication of its expansion is afforded by a notice of the permanent occupation of a position on the eastern bank of the Euphrates, as a base for the passage of the river. This position was Til Barsip, situated opposite the mouth of the lowest Syrian affluent, the Sajur, and formerly capital of an Aramaean principate. That its occupation by Shalmaneser II in the third year of his reign was intended to be lasting is proved by its receiving a new name and becoming a royal Assyrian residence. Two basaltic lions, which the Great King then set up on each side of its Mesopotamian gate and inscribed with commemorative texts, have recently been found near Tell Ahmar, the modern hamlet which has succeeded the royal city. This measure marked Assyria’s definite annexation of the lands in Mesopotamia, which had been under Aramaean government for at least a century and a half. When this government had been established there we do not certainly know; but the collapse of Tiglath Pileser’s power about 1100 B.C. so nearly follows the main Aramaean invasion from the south that it seems probable this invasion had been in great measure the cause of that collapse, and that an immediate consequence was the formation of Aramaean states east of Euphrates. The strongest of them and the last to succumb to Assyria was Bit-Adini, the district west of Harran, of which Til Barsip had been the leading town.

The next stage of Assyrian expansion is marked by a similar occupation of a position on the Syrian side of the Euphrates, to cover the landing and be a gathering-place of tribute. Here stood Pitru, formerly a Hatti town and, perhaps, the Biblical Pethor, situated beside the Sajur on some site not yet identified, but probably near the outfall of the stream. It received an Assyrian name in Shalmaneser’s sixth year, and was used afterwards as a base for all his operations in Syria. It served also to mask and overawe the larger and more wealthy city of Carchemish, a few miles north, which would remain for a long time to come free of permanent Assyrian occupation, though subjected to blackmail on the occasion of every western raid by the Great King.

With this last westward advance of his permanent territorial holding, Shalmaneser appears to have rested content. He was sure of the Euphrates passage and had made his footing good on the Syrian bank. But we cannot be certain; for, though his known records mention the renaming of no other Syrian cities, many may have been renamed without happening to be mentioned in the records, and others may have been occupied by standing Assyrian garrisons without receiving new names. Be that as it may, we can trace, year by year, the steady pushing forward of Assyrian raiding columns into inner Syria. In 854 Shalmaneser’s most distant base of operations was fixed at Khalman (Aleppo), whence he marched to the Orontes to fight, near the site of later Apamea, the battle of Karkar. Five years later, swooping down from a Cilician raid, he entered Hamath. Six more years passed before he made more ground to the south, though he invaded Syria again in force at least once during the interval. In 842, however, having taken a new road along the coast, he turned inland from Beirut, crossed Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon, and succeeded in reaching the oasis of Damascus and even in raiding some distance towards the Hauran; but he did not take (perhaps, like the Bedawi Emir he was, he did not try to take) the fenced city itself. He seems to have repeated his visit three years later, but never to have gone farther. Certainly he never secured to himself Phoenicia, Coele-Syria or Damascus, and still less Palestine, by any permanent organization. Indeed, as has been said, we have no warrant for asserting that in his day Assyria definitely incorporated in her territorial empire any part of Syria except that one outpost of observation established at Pitru on the Sajur. Nor can more be credited to Shalmaneser’s immediate successors; but it must be understood that by the end of the century Adadnirari had extended Assyria’s sphere of influence (as distinct from her territorial holding) somewhat farther south to include not only Phoenicia but also northern Philistia and Palestine with the arable districts east of Jordan.


When an Assyrian emperor crossed Euphrates and took up quarters in Pitru to receive the submission of the western chiefs and collect his forces for raiding the lands of any who might be slow to comply, he was much nearer the frontiers of Asia Minor than those of Phoenicia or the Kingdom of Damascus. Yet on three occasions out of four, the lords of the Middle Assyrian Kingdom were content to harry once again the oft-plundered lands of mid-Syria, and on the fourth, if they turned northward at all, they advanced no farther than eastern Cilicia, that is, little beyond the horizon which they might actually see on a clear day from any high ground near Pitru. Yet on the other side of the snow-streaked wall which bounded the northward view lay desirable kingdoms, Khanigalbat with its capital, Milid, comprising the fertile district which later would be part of Cataonia; Tabal to west of it, extending over the rest of Cataonia and southern Cappadocia; and Kas, possessing the Tyanitis and the deep Lycaonian plain. Why, then, did those imperial robbers in the ninth century so long hold their hands from such tempting prey? No doubt, because they and their armies, which were not yet recruited from other populations than the Semites of Assyria proper, so far as we know, were by origin Arabs, men of the south, to whom the high-lying plateau country beyond Taurus was just as deterrent as it has been to all Semites since. Tides of Arab invasion, surging again and again to the foot of the Taurus, have broken sometimes through the passes and flowed in single streams far on into Asia Minor, but they have always ebbed again as quickly. The repugnance felt by the Assyrians for Asia Minor may be contrasted with the promptitude which their Iranian successors showed in invading the peninsula, and may be illustrated by all subsequent history. No permanent footing was ever established in Asia Minor by the Saracens, its definite conquest being left to the north-country Turks. The short-lived Arab power of Mehemet Ali, which rebelled against the Turks some eighty years ago, advanced on to the plateau only to recede at once and remain behind the Taurus. The present dividing line of peoples which speak respectively Arabic and Turkish marks the Semite’s immemorial limit. So soon as the land-level of northern Syria attains a mean altitude of 2500 feet, the Arab tongue is chilled to silence.

We shall never find Assyrian armies, therefore, going far or staying long beyond Taurus. But we shall find them going constantly, and as a matter of course, into Cilicia, notwithstanding the high mountain wall of Amanus which divides it from Syria. Cilicia–all that part of it at least which the Assyrians used to raid–lies low, faces south and is shielded by high mountains from northerly and easterly chills. It enjoys, indeed, a warmer and more equable climate than any part of Syria, except the coastal belt, and socially it has always been related more nearly to the south lands than to its own geographical whole, Asia Minor. A Semitic element was predominant in the population of the plain, and especially in its chief town, Tarsus, throughout antiquity. So closely was Cilicia linked with Syria that the Prince of Kue (its eastern part) joined the Princes of Hamath and of Damascus and their south Syrian allies in that combination for common defence against Assyrian aggression, which Shalmaneser broke at Karkar in 854: and it was in order to neutralize an important factor in the defensive power of Syria that the latter proceeded across Patin in 849 and fell on Kue. But some uprising at Hamath recalled him then, and it was not till the latter part of his reign that eastern Cilicia was systematically subdued.

Shalmaneser devoted a surprising amount of attention to this small and rather obscure corner of Asia Minor. He records in his twenty-fifth year that already he had crossed Amanus seven times; and in the year succeeding we find him again entering Cilicia and marching to Tarsus to unseat its prince and put another more pliable in his room. Since, apparently, he never used Cilicia as a base for further operations in force beyond Taurus, being content with a formal acknowledgment of his majesty by the Prince of Tabal, one is forced to conclude that he invaded the land for its own sake. Nearly three centuries hence, out of the mist in which Cilicia is veiled more persistently than almost any other part of the ancient East, this small country will loom up suddenly as one of the four chief powers of Asia, ruled by a king who, hand in hand with Nebuchadnezzar II, negotiates a peace between the Lydians and the Medes, each at the height of their power. Then the mist will close over it once more, and we shall hear next to nothing of a long line of kings who, bearing a royal title which was graecized under the form Syennesis, reigned at Tarsus, having little in common with other Anatolian princes. But we may reasonably infer from the circumstances of the pacific intervention just mentioned that Cilician power had been growing for a long time previous; and also from the frequency with which Shalmaneser raided the land, that already in the ninth century it was rich and civilized. We know it to have been a great centre of Sandan worship, and may guess that its kings were kin of the Mushki race and, if not the chief survivors of the original stock which invaded Assyria in Tiglath Pileser’s time, ranked at least among the chief inheritors of the old Hatti civilization. Some even date its civilization earlier still, believing the Keftiu, who brought rich gifts to the Pharaohs of the eighteenth and succeeding dynasties, to have been Cilicians.

Unfortunately, no scientific excavation of early sites in Cilicia has yet been undertaken; but for many years past buyers of antiquities have been receiving, from Tarsus and its port, engraved stones and seals of singularly fine workmanship, which belong to Hittite art but seem of later date than most of its products. They display in their decoration certain peculiar designs, which have been remarked also in Cyprus, and present some peculiarities of form, which occur also in the earliest Ionian art. Till other evidence comes to hand these little objects must be our witnesses to the existence of a highly developed sub-Hittite culture in Cilicia which, as early as the ninth century, had already been refined by the influence of the Greek settlements on the Anatolian coasts and perhaps, even earlier, by the Cretan art of the Aegean area. Cilician civilization offers a link between east and west which is worth more consideration and study than have been given to it by historians.


Into Asia Minor beyond Taurus we have no reason to suppose that an Assyrian monarch of the ninth century ever marched in person, though several raiding columns visited Khanigalbat and Tabal, and tributary acknowledgment of Assyrian dominance was made intermittently by the princes of both those countries in the latter half of Shalmaneser’s reign. The farther and larger part of the western peninsula lay outside the Great King’s reach, and we know as little of it in the year 800 as, perhaps, the Assyrians themselves knew. We do know, however, that it contained a strong principality centrally situated in the southern part of the basin of the Sangarius, which the Asiatic Greeks had begun to know as Phrygian. This inland power loomed very large in their world–so large, indeed, that it masked Assyria at this time, and passed in their eyes for the richest on earth. On the sole ground of its importance in early Greek legend, we are quite safe in dating not only its rise but its attainment of a dominant position to a period well before 800 B.C. But, in fact, there are other good grounds for believing that before the ninth century closed this principality dominated a much wider area than the later Phrygia, and that its western borders had been pushed outwards very nearly to the Ionian coast. In the Iliad, for example, the Phrygians are spoken of as immediate neighbours of the Trojans; and a considerable body of primitive Hellenic legend is based on the early presence of Phrygians not only in the Troad itself, but on the central west coast about the Bay of Smyrna and in the Caystrian plain, from which points of vantage they held direct relations with the immigrant Greeks themselves. It seems, therefore, certain that at some time before 800 B.C. nearly all the western half of the peninsula owed allegiance more or less complete to the power on the Sangarius, and that even the Heraclid kings of Lydia were not independent of it.

If Phrygia was powerful enough in the ninth century to hold the west Anatolian lands in fee, did it also dominate enough of the eastern peninsula to be ranked the imperial heir of the Cappadocian Hatti? The answer to this question (if any at all can be returned on very slight evidence) will depend on the view taken about the possible identity of the Phrygian power with that obscure but real power of the Mushki, of which we have already heard. The identity in question is so generally accepted nowadays that it has become a commonplace of historians to speak of the “Mushki-Phrygians.” Very possibly they are right. But, by way of caution, it must be remarked that the identification depends ultimately on another, namely, that of Mita, King of the Mushki, against whom Ashurbanipal would fight more than a century later, with Midas, last King of Phrygia, who is mentioned by Herodotus and celebrated in Greek myth. To assume this identity is very attractive. Mita of Mushki and Midas of Phrygia coincide well enough in date; both ruled in Asia Minor; both were apparently leading powers there; both fought with the Gimirrai or Cimmerians. But there are also certain difficulties of which too little account has perhaps been taken. While Mita seems to have been a common name in Asia as far inland as Mesopotamia at a much earlier period than this, the name Midas, on the other hand, came much later into Phrygia from the west, if there is anything in the Greek tradition that the Phryges or Briges had immigrated from south-east Europe. And supported as this tradition is not only by the occurrence of similar names and similar folk-tales in Macedonia and in Phrygia, but also by the western appearance of the later Phrygian art and script, we can hardly refuse it credit. Accordingly, if we find the origin of the Phrygians in the Macedonian Briges, we must allow that Midas, as a Phrygian name, came from Europe very much later than the first appearance of kings called Mita in Asia, and we are compelled to doubt whether the latter name is necessarily the same as Midas. When allusions to the Mushki in Assyrian records give any indication of their local habitat, it lies in the east, not the west, of the central Anatolian plain–nearly, in fact, where the Moschi lived in later historical times. The following points, therefore, must be left open at present: (1) whether the Mushki ever settled in Phrygia at all; (2) whether, if they did, the Phrygian kings who bore the names Gordius and Midas can ever have been Mushkite or have commanded Mushkite allegiance; (3) whether the kings called Mita in records of Sargon and Ashurbanipal were not lords rather of the eastern Mushki than of Phrygia. It cannot be assumed, on present evidence at any rate (though it is not improbable), that Phrygian kings ruled the Mushki of Cappadocia, and in virtue of that rule had an empire almost commensurate with the lost sway of the Hatti.

Nevertheless theirs was a strong power, the strongest in Anatolia, and the fame of its wealth and its walled towns dazzled and awed the Greek communities, which were thickly planted by now on the western and south-western coasts. Some of these had passed through the trials of infancy and were grown to civic estate, having established wide trade relations both by land and sea. In the coming century Cyme of Aeolis would give a wife to a Phrygian king. Ephesus seems to have become already an important social as well as religious centre. The objects of art found in 1905 on the floor of the earliest temple of Artemis in the plain (there was an earlier one in the hills) must be dated–some of them–not later than 700, and their design and workmanship bear witness to flourishing arts and crafts long established in the locality. Miletus, too, was certainly an adult centre of Hellenism and about to become a mother of new cities, if she had not already become so. But, so early as this year 800, we know little about the Asiatic Greek cities beyond the fact of their existence; and it will be wiser to let them grow for another two centuries and to speak of them more at length when they have become a potent factor in West Asian society. When we ring up the curtain again after two hundred years, it will be found that the light shed on the eastern scene has brightened; for not only will contemporary records have increased in volume and clarity, but we shall be able to use the lamp of literary history fed by traditions, which had not had to survive the lapse of more than a few generations.



When we look at the East again in 600 B.C. after two centuries of war and tumultuous movements we perceive that almost all its lands have found fresh masters. The political changes are tremendous. Cataclysm has followed hard on cataclysm. The Phrygian dynasty has gone down in massacre and rapine, and from another seat of power its former client rules Asia Minor in its stead. The strongholds of the lesser Semitic peoples have almost all succumbed, and Syria is a well-picked bone snatched by one foreign dog from another. The Assyrian colossus which bestrid the west Asiatic world has failed and collapsed, and the Medes and the Chaldaeans–these two clouds no bigger than a man’s hand which had lain on Assyria’s horizon–fill her seat and her room. As we look back on it now, the political revolution is complete; but had we lived in the year 600 at Asshur or Damascus or Tyre or Tarsus, it might have impressed us less. A new master in the East did not and does not always mean either a new earth or a new heaven.

Let us see to how much the change really amounted. The Assyrian Empire was no more. This is a momentous fact, not to be esteemed lightly. The final catastrophe has happened only six years before our date; but the power of Assyria had been going downhill for nearly half a century, and it is clear, from the freedom with which other powers were able to move about the area of her empire some time before the end, that the East had been free of her interference for years. Indeed, so near and vital a centre of Assyrian nationality as Calah, the old capital of the Middle Empire, had been taken and sacked, ere he who was to be the last “Great King” of the northern Semites ascended his throne.


For the last hundred and fifty years Assyrian history–a record of black oppression abroad and blacker intrigue at home–has recalled the rapid gathering and slower passing away of some great storm. A lull marks the first half of the ninth century. Then almost without warning the full fury of the cloud bursts and rages for nearly a hundred years. Then the gloom brightens till all is over. The dynasty of Ashurnatsirpal and Shalmaneser II slowly declined to its inevitable end. The capital itself rose in revolt in the year 747, and having done with the lawful heirs, chose a successful soldier, who may have been, for aught we know, of royal blood, but certainly was not in the direct line. Tiglath Pileser–for he took a name from earlier monarchs, possibly in vindication of legitimacy–saw (or some wise counsellor told him) that the militant empire which he had usurped must rely no longer on annual levies of peasants from the Assyrian villages, which were fast becoming exhausted; nor could it continue to live on uncertain blackmail collected at uncertain intervals now beyond Euphrates, now in Armenia, now again from eastern and southern neighbours. Such Bedawi ideas and methods were outworn. The new Great King tried new methods to express new ideas. A soldier by profession, indebted to the sword for his throne, he would have a standing and paid force always at his hand, not one which had to be called from the plough spring by spring. The lands, which used to render blackmail to forces sent expressly all the way from the Tigris, must henceforward be incorporated in the territorial empire and pay their contributions to resident governors and garrisons. Moreover, why should these same lands not bear a part for the empire in both defence and attack by supplying levies of their own to the imperial armies? Finally the capital, Calah, with its traditions of the dead dynasty, the old regime and the recent rebellion, must be replaced by a new capital, even as once on a time Asshur, with its Babylonian and priestly spirit, had been replaced. Accordingly sites, a little higher up the Tigris and more centrally situated in relation to both the homeland and the main roads from west and east, must be promoted to be capitals. But in the event it was not till after the reign of Sargon closed that Nineveh was made the definitive seat of the last Assyrian kings.

Organized and strengthened during Tiglath Pileser’s reign of eighteen years, this new imperial machine, with its standing professional army, its myriad levies drawn from all fighting races within its territory, its large and secure revenues and its bureaucracy keeping the provinces in constant relation to the centre, became the most tremendous power of offence which the world had seen. So soon as Assyria was made conscious of her new vigour by the ease with which the Urartu raiders, who had long been encroaching on Mesopotamia, and even on Syria, were driven back across the Nairi lands and penned into their central fastnesses of Van; by the ease, too, with which Babylonia was humbled and occupied again, and the Phoenician ports and the city of Damascus, impregnable theretofore, were taken and held to tribute–she began to dream of world empire, the first society in history to conceive this unattainable ideal. Certain influences and events, however, would defer awhile any attempt to realize the dream. Changes of dynasty took place, thanks partly to reactionary forces at home and more to the praetorian basis on which the kingdom now reposed, and only one of his house succeeded Tiglath Pileser. But the set-back was of brief duration. In the year 722 another victorious general thrust himself on to the throne and, under the famous name of Sargon, set forth to extend the bounds of the empire towards Media on the east, and over Cilicia into Tabal on the west, until he came into collision with King Mita of the Mushki and held him to tribute.


Though at least one large province had still to be added to the Assyrian Empire, Sargon’s reign may be considered the period of its greatest strength. He handed on to Sennacherib no conquests which could not have been made good, and the widest extent of territory which the central power was adequate to hold. We may pause, then, just before Sargon’s death in 705, to see what the area of that territory actually was.

Its boundaries cannot be stated, of course, with any approach to the precision of a modern political geographer. Occupied territories faded imperceptibly into spheres of influence and these again into lands habitually, or even only occasionally, raided. In some quarters, especially from north-east round to north-west, our present understanding of the terms of ancient geography, used by Semitic scribes, is very imperfect, and, when an Assyrian king has told us carefully what lands, towns, mountains and rivers his army visited, it does not follow that we can identify them with any exactness. Nor should the royal records be taken quite at their face value. Some discount has to be allowed (but how much it is next to impossible to say) on reports, which often ascribe all the actions of a campaign not shared in by the King in person (as in certain instances can be proved) to his sole prowess, and grandiloquently enumerate twoscore princedoms and kingdoms which were traversed and subdued in the course of one summer campaign in very difficult country. The illusion of immense achievement, which it was intended thus to create, has often imposed itself on modern critics, and Tiglath Pileser and Sargon are credited with having marched to the neighbourhood of the Caspian, conquering or holding to ransom great provinces, when their forces were probably doing no more than climbing from valley to valley about the headwaters of the Tigris affluents, and raiding chiefs of no greater territorial affluence than the Kurdish beys of Hakkiari.

East of Assyria proper, the territorial empire of Sargon does not seem to have extended quite up to the Zagros watershed; but his sphere of influence included not only the heads of the Zab valleys, but also a region on the other side of the mountains, reaching as far as Hamadan and south-west Azerbaijan, although certainly not the eastern or northern districts of the latter province, or Kaswan, or any part of the Caspian littoral. On the north, the frontier of Assyrian territorial empire could be passed in a very few days’ march from Nineveh. The shores of neither the Urmia nor the Van Lake were ever regularly occupied by Assyria, and, though Sargon certainly brought into his sphere of influence the kingdom of Urartu, which surrounded the latter lake and controlled the tribes as far as the western shore of the former, it is not proved that his armies ever went round the east and north of the Urmia Lake, and it is fairly clear that they left the northwestern region of mountains between Bitlis and the middle Euphrates to its own tribesmen.

Westwards and southwards, however, Sargon’s arm swept a wider circuit. He held as his own all Mesopotamia up to Diarbekr, and beyond Syria not only eastern and central Cilicia, but also some districts north of Taurus, namely, the low plain of Milid or Malatia, and the southern part of Tabal; but probably his hand reached no farther over the plateau than to a line prolonged from the head of the Tokhma Su to the neighbourhood of Tyana, and returning thence to the Cilician Gates. Beyond that line began a sphere of influence which we cannot hope to define, but may guess to have extended over Cappadocia, Lycaonia and the southern part of Phrygia. Southward, all Syria was Sargon’s, most of it by direct occupation, and the rest in virtue of acknowledged overlordship and payment of tribute. Even the seven princes of Cyprus made such submission. One or two strong Syrian towns, Tyre and Jerusalem, for example, withheld payment if no Assyrian army was at hand; but their show of independence was maintained only on sufferance. The Philistine cities, after Sargon’s victory over their forces and Egyptian allies at Raphia, in 720, no longer defended their walls, and the Great King’s sphere of influence stretched eastward right across the Hamad and southward over north Arabia. Finally, Babylonia was all his own even to the Persian Gulf, the rich merchants supporting him firmly in the interests of their caravan trade, however the priests and the peasantry might murmur. But Elam, whose king and people had carried serious trouble into Assyria itself early in the reign, is hardly to be reckoned to Sargon even as a sphere of influence. The marshes of its south-west, the tropical plains of the centre and the mountains on the east, made it a difficult land for the northern Semites to conquer and hold. Sargon had been wise enough to let it be. Neither so prudent nor so fortunate would be his son and successors.


Such was the empire inherited by Sargon’s son, Sennacherib. Not content, he would go farther afield to make a conquest which has never remained long in the hands of an Asiatic power. It was not only lust of loot, however, which now urged Assyria towards Egypt. The Great Kings had long found their influence counteracted in southern Syria by that of the Pharaohs. Princes of both Hebrew states, of the Phoenician and the Philistine cities and even of Damascus, had all relied at one time or another on Egypt, and behind their combinations for defence and their individual revolts Assyria had felt the power on the Nile. The latter generally did no more in the event to save its friends than it had done for Israel when Shalmaneser IV beleaguered, and Sargon took and garrisoned, Samaria; but even ignorant hopes and empty promises of help cause constant unrest. Therefore Sennacherib, after drastic chastisement of the southern states in 701 (both Tyre and Jerusalem, however, kept him outside their walls), and a long tussle with Chaldaean Babylon, was impelled to set out in the last year, or last but one, of his reign for Egypt. In southern Palestine he was as successful as before, but, thereafter, some signal disaster befell him. Probably an epidemic pestilence overtook his army when not far across the frontier, and he returned to Assyria only to be murdered.

He bequeathed the venture to the son who, after defeating his parricide brothers, secured his throne and reigned eleven years under a name which it has been agreed to write Esarhaddon. So soon as movements in Urartu and south-western Asia Minor had been suppressed, and, more important, Babylon, which his father had dishonoured, was appeased, Esarhaddon took up the incomplete conquest. Egypt, then in the hands of an alien dynasty from the Upper Nile and divided against itself, gave him little trouble at first. In his second expedition (670) he reached Memphis itself, carried it by assault, and drove the Cushite Tirhakah past Thebes to the Cataracts. The Assyrian proclaimed Egypt his territory and spread the net of Ninevite bureaucracy over it as far south as the Thebaid; but neither he nor his successors cared to assume the style and titles of the Pharaohs, as Persians and Greeks, wiser in their generations, would do later on. Presently trouble at home, excited by a son rebelling after the immemorial practice of the east, recalled Esarhaddon to Assyria; Tirhakah moved up again from the south; the Great King returned to meet him and died on the march.


But Memphis was reoccupied by Esarhaddon’s successor, and since the latter took and ruined Thebes also, and, after Tirhakah’s death, drove the Cushites right out of Egypt, the doubtful credit of spreading the territorial empire of Assyria to the widest limits it ever reached falls to Ashurbanipal. Even Tyre succumbed at last, and he stretched his sphere of influence over Asia Minor to Lydia. First of Assyrian kings he could claim Elam with its capital Susa as his own (after 647), and in the east he professed overlordship over all Media. Mesopotamian arts and letters now reached the highest point at which they had stood since Hammurabi’s days, and the fame of the wealth and luxury of “Sardanapal” went out even into the Greek lands. About 660 B.C. Assyria seemed in a fair way to be mistress of the desirable earth.


Strong as it seemed in the 7th century, the Assyrian Empire was, however, rotten at the core. In ridding itself of some weaknesses it had created others. The later Great Kings of Nineveh, raised to power and maintained by the spears of paid praetorians, found less support even than the old dynasty of Calah had found, in popular religious sentiment, which (as usual in the East) was the ultimate basis of Assyrian nationality; nor, under the circumstances, could they derive much strength from tribal feeling, which sometimes survives the religious basis. Throughout the history of the New Kingdom we can detect the influence of a strong opposition centred at Asshur. There the last monarch of the Middle Kingdom had fixed his dwelling under the wing of the priests; there the new dynasty had dethroned him as the consummation of an anti-sacerdotal rising of nobles and of peasant soldiery. Sargon seems to have owed his elevation two generations later to revenge taken for this victory by the city folk; but Sargon’s son, Sennacherib, in his turn, found priestly domination intolerable, and, in an effort to crush it for ever, wrecked Babylon and terrorized the central home of Semitic cult, the great sacerdotal establishment of Bel-Marduk. After his father’s murder, Esarhaddon veered back to the priests, and did so much to court religious support, that the military party incited Ashurbanipal to rebellion and compelled his father to associate the son in the royal power before leaving Assyria for the last time to die (or be killed) on the way to Egypt. Thus the whole record of dynastic succession in the New Kingdom has been typically Oriental, anticipating, at every change of monarch, the history of Islamic Empires. There is no trace of unanimous national sentiment for the Great King. One occupant of the throne after another gains power by grace of a party and holds it by mercenary swords.

Another imperial weakness was even more fatal. So far as can be learned from Assyria’s own records and those of others, she lived on her territorial empire without recognizing the least obligation to render anything to her provinces for what they gave–not even to render what Rome gave at her worst, namely, peace. She regarded them as existing simply to endow her with money and men. When she desired to garrison or to reduce to impotence any conquered district, the population of some other conquered district would be deported thither, while the new subjects took the vacant place. What happened when Sargon captured Samaria happened often elsewhere (Ashurbanipal, for example, made Thebes and Elam exchange inhabitants), for this was the only method of assimilating alien populations ever conceived by Assyria. When she attempted to use natives to govern natives the result was such disaster as followed Ashurbanipal’s appointment of Psammetichus, son of Necho, to govern Memphis and the Western Delta.

Rotten within, hated and coveted by vigorous and warlike races on the east, the north and the south, Assyria was moving steadily towards her catastrophe amid all the glory of “Sardanapal.” The pace quickened when he was gone. A danger, which had lain long below the eastern horizon, was now come up into the Assyrian field of vision. Since Sargon’s triumphant raids, the Great King’s writ had run gradually less and less far into Media; and by his retaliatory invasions of Elam, which Sennacherib had provoked, Ashurbanipal not only exhausted his military resources, but weakened a power which had served to check more dangerous foes.

We have seen that the “Mede” was probably a blend of Scythian and Iranian, the latter element supplying the ruling and priestly classes. The Scythian element, it seems, had been receiving considerable reinforcement. Some obscure cause, disturbing the northern steppes, forced its warlike shepherds to move southward in the mass. A large body, under the name Gimirrai or Cimmerians, descended on Asia Minor in the seventh century and swept it to the western edge of the plateau and beyond; others pressed into central and eastern Armenia, and, by weakening the Vannic king, enabled Ashurbanipal to announce the humiliation of Urartu; others again ranged behind Zagros and began to break through to the Assyrian valleys. Even while Ashurbanipal was still on the throne some of these last had ventured very far into his realm; for in the year of his death a band of Scythians appeared in Syria and raided southwards even to the frontier of Egypt. It was this raid which virtually ended the Assyrian control of Syria and enabled Josiah of Jerusalem and others to reassert independence.

The death of Ashurbanipal coincided also with the end of direct Assyrian rule over Babylon. After the death of a rebellious brother and viceroy in 648, the Great King himself assumed the Babylonian crown and ruled the sacred city under a Babylonian name. But there had long been Chaldaean principalities in existence, very imperfectly incorporated in the Assyrian Empire, and these, inspiring revolts from time to time, had already succeeded in placing more than one dynast on the throne of Babylon. As soon as “Sardanapal” was no more and the Scythians began to overrun Assyria, one of these principalities (it is not known which) came to the front and secured the southern crown for its prince Nabu-aplu-utsur, or, as the Greeks wrote the name, Nabopolassar. This Chaldaean hastened to strengthen himself by marrying his son, Nebuchadnezzar, to a Median princess, and threw off the last pretence of submission to Assyrian suzerainty. He had made himself master of southern Mesopotamia and the Euphrates Valley trade-route by the year 609.

At the opening of the last decade of the century, therefore, we have this state of things. Scythians and Medes are holding most of eastern and central Assyria; Chaldaeans hold south Mesopotamia; while Syria, isolated from the old centre of empire, is anyone’s to take and keep. A claimant appears immediately in the person of the Egyptian Necho, sprung from the loins of that Psammetichus who had won the Nile country back from Assyria. Pharaoh entered Syria probably in 609, broke easily through the barrier which Josiah of Jerusalem, greatly daring in this day of Assyrian weakness, threw across his path at Megiddo, went on to the north and proceeded to deal as he willed with the west of the Assyrian empire for four or five years. The destiny of Nineveh was all but fulfilled. With almost everything lost outside her walls, she held out against the Scythian assaults till 606, and then fell to the Mede Uvakhshatra, known to the Greeks as Kyaxares. The fallen capital of West Asia was devastated by the conquerors to such effect that it never recovered, and its life passed away for ever across the Tigris, to the site on which Mosul stands at the present day.


Six years later,–in 600 B.C.–this was the position of that part of the East which had been the Assyrian Empire. Nebuchadnezzar, the Chaldaean king of Babylon, who had succeeded his father about 605, held the greater share of it to obedience and tribute, but not, apparently, by means of any such centralized bureaucratic organization as the Assyrians had established. Just before his father’s death he had beaten the Egyptians in a pitched battle under the walls of Carchemish, and subsequently had pursued them south through Syria, and perhaps across the frontier, before being recalled to take up his succession. He had now, therefore, no rival or active competitor in Syria, and this part of the lost empire of Assyria seems to have enjoyed a rare interval of peace under native client princes who ruled more or less on Assyrian