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Semirămis

Σεμίραμις) and Ninus (Νῖνος). The mythical founders of the Assyrian Empire of Ninus or Nineveh. Ninus (the Greek name for Rimmon Mirari) was a great warrior, who built the town of Ninus or Nineveh about B.C. 2182, and subdued the greater part of Asia. Semiramis was the daughter of the fish-goddess Derceto of Ascalon in Syria by a Syrian youth; but, being ashamed of her frailty, she made away with the youth, and exposed her infant daughter. But the child was miraculously preserved by doves, who fed her till she was discovered by the shepherds of the neighbourhood. She was then brought up by the chief shepherd of the royal herds, whose name was Simmas, and from whom she derived the name of Semiramis. Her surpassing beauty attracted the notice of Onnes, one of the king's friends and generals, who married her. He subsequently sent for his wife to the army, where the Assyrians were engaged in the siege of Bactra, which they had long endeavoured in vain to take. Upon her arrival in the camp she planned an attack upon the citadel of the town, mounted the walls with a few brave followers, and obtained possession of the place. Ninus was so charmed by her bravery and beauty that he resolved to make her his wife, whereupon her unfortunate husband put an end to his life. By Ninus Semiramis had a son, Ninyas, and on the death of Ninus she succeeded him on the throne. According to another account, Semiramis had obtained from her husband permission to rule over Asia for five days, and availed herself of this opportunity to cast the king into a dungeon, or, as is also related, to put him to death, and thus obtained the sovereign power. Her fame threw into the shade that of Ninus; and later ages loved to tell of her marvellous deeds and her heroic achievements. She built numerous cities, and erected many wonderful buildings; and several of the most extraordinary works in the East, which were extant in a later age, and the authors of which were unknown, were ascribed by popular tradition to this queen. In Nineveh she erected a tomb for her husband, nine stadia high and ten wide; she built the city of Babylon, with all its wonders; and she constructed the hanging gardens of Media, of which later writers give us such strange accounts (cf. Herod.i. 184). Besides conquering many nations of Asia, she subdued Egypt and a great part of Aethiopia, but was unsuccessful in an attack which she made upon India. After a reign of forty-two years she resigned the sovereignty to her son Ninyas, and disappeared from the earth, taking her flight to heaven in the form of a dove. The fabulous nature of this narrative is apparent. It is probable that Semiramis was originally a Syrian goddess, perhaps the same who was worshipped at Ascalon under the name of Astarté, or the Oriental Aphrodité, to whom the dove was sacred. Hence the stories of her voluptuousness, which were current even in the time of Augustus (Ov. Am. i. 5, 11). The stories that were current about Semiramis and Ninus are told by Diodorus Siculus, who drew largely upon Ctesias (q.v.). See Diod. bk. ii.; Var. Hist. vii. 1; and Lenormant, La Légende de Sémiramis (Brussels, 1873). See Ninus.

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