previous next

Ninus

Νῖνος), Ninĭvé (Νινεύη, Νινευί), in Assyrian Ninua (cf. Herod.i. 193; ii. 150). The name is perhaps derived from the Assyrian nûnu, “fish.” Nineveh, the capital of the great Assyrian monarchy, standing on the eastern side of the Tigris, at the upper part of its course, in the district of Aturia. The prophet Jonah (B.C. 825) describes it as “an exceeding great city, of three days' journey,” and as containing “more than 120,000 persons that cannot discern between their right and their left hand,” which, if this phrase refer to children, would represent a population of 600,000 souls. Diodorus also describes it as an oblong quadrangle of 150 stadia by 90, making the circuit of the walls 480 stadia (more than fifty-five miles); if so, the city was nearly twice as large as London, with its suburbs. In judging of these statements, not only must allowance be made for the immense space occupied by palaces and temples, but also for the Oriental mode of building a city, so as to include large gardens and other open spaces within the walls. The walls of Nineveh are described as 100 feet high, and thick enough to allow three chariots to pass each other on them; with 1500 towers, 200 feet in height. The city is said to have been entirely destroyed by fire when it was taken by the Medes and Babylonians, about B.C. 606; and frequent allusions occur to its desolate state. Under the Roman Empire, however, we again meet with a city Nineva, in the district of Adiabené; but this must have been some later place built among or near the ruins of the ancient Nineveh.

Of all the great cities of the world, none was long thought to have been more utterly lost than the capital of the most ancient of the great monarchies. Tradition pointed out a few shapeless mounds opposite Mosul on the Upper Tigris as all that remained of Nineveh; but within the last fifty years, especially since 1870, those shapeless mounds have been shown to contain the remains of great palaces. The excavations conducted by Layard, Botta, and Smith have brought to light the sculptured remains of immense palaces, not only at the traditional site of Nineveh, namely, Kouyunjik and Nebbi-Younus, opposite to Mosul, and at Khorsabad, about ten miles to the northeast, but also in a mound, eighteen miles lower down the river, in the tongue of land between the Tigris and the Great Zab, which still bears the name of Nimroud. Which of these ruins corresponds to the true site of Nineveh, or whether that vast city may have extended all the way along the Tigris from Kouyunjik to Nimroud and to a corresponding breadth northeast of the river as far as Khorsabad, are questions still under discussion. Some splendid fragments of sculpture, obtained by Layard from Nimroud, are now to be seen in the British Museum. The moat and wall of the city are still discernible, and their ruined temples, a palace built by Shalmaneser I. and destroyed by Sennacherib, a palace of Tiglath-Pileser III. (B.C. 745-727), a palace built by Shalmaneser I. (B.C. 1320), a temple of Nebo, and palaces of Ramman-Nirari and Sennacherib, are among the buildings buried in the vast mound. These palaces were of great magnificence and were adorned with the finest products of Oriental art. See Assyria; Babylonia; Cuneiform Inscriptions.

hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: