, Hdt. 2.17
: Ptol. 6.1.1
; Steph. B. sub voce
. 7.21: Assyria, Tac. Ann. 12.13
; Amm. Marc. 23.6
, Strab.xvi. p. 736; Steph. s. v. Νῖνος
; Dion. Cass. lxviii.; Athurá, on Pers. Cun. Inscr., and Assura, on the Median, Rawl. J. As. Soc. xi. pt. i. p. 10: Eth. Assyrii
, Eth. Ἀσσύριος
, Steph. ; Hdt. 1.193
, Steph.; Eustath. in Dion. de Situ Orbis
, p. 70), a district of Asia, the boundaries of which are variously given in the Greek and Roman writers, but which, in the strictest and most original sense, comprehended only a long narrow territory, divided on the N. from Armenia by M. Niphates, on the W. and SW. from Mesopotamia and Babylonia by the Tigris; on tie SE. from Susiana, and on the E. from Media,by the chain of the Zagrus. Itwas,in fact, nearly the same territory as the modern Pacha-lik of Mosul,
including the plain land below the Kurdistdán
mountains. Its original name, as appears from the Cuneiform Inscriptions, is best represented by Aturia (Ἀτουρία
), which strabo (16.736) says was part of Assyria (as understood at the time when he wrote); although Dio Cassius seems to consider that this form of the name was a barbarous mis-pronunciation.
In later times, as appears from Pliny (6.12
) and Ammianus Marcellinus (23.6
), it bore the name of Adiabene, which was properly a small province between the Tigris, Lycus (or Zabatus), and the Gordiaean mountains. (Dio Cass. lxviii.; Ptol. 6.1.2
In the wider sense Assyria comprehended the whole country which was included in Mesopotamia and Babylonia (Strab. xvi. p.736
), while it was often confounded with adjoining nations by the Greek and Roman writers: thus, in Virg. (Georg.
2.465), “Assyrio veneno” is used for “Tyrio;” in Nonn. Dionys. (41.19) the Libanus is called Assyrian; and in Dion. Perieg. (5.975) the Leuco-Syrians of Pontus and Cappadocia are termed Assyrians.
It is curious that Scylax of Caryanda placed Assyria among the nations on the Pontus Enxinus, between the Chalybes and Paphlagonia, and includes in it the river Thermodon and the Greek towns of Thermodon, Sinope, and Harmene. (Scyl. Car. ap. Hudson. Geogr. Graec. Min.
The author of the Etymologicumn Magnum
has preserved a tradition (Etym. Maqn. in voc.
) from Xenocrates, that this land was originally called Euphratis, then Chaldaea, and lastly, from Assyrus the son of Suses, Assyria: he appears also to consider it as the same as Babylonia.
The chief mountains of ancient Assyria are known under the general name of the chain of Zagrus, which extended, under various denominations, along the whole of its eastern frontier from N. to S., and separated it from Media and Persia.
Its rivers may be all considered as feeders of the Tigris, and bore the names of Zabatus (Ζάβατος
), Zabas, Zerbis, or Lycus, which rose in the N. mountains of Armenia; the Bumádus or Bumódus; the Caprus; the Tornadotus or Physcus (Φύσκος
); the Silla or Delas,--probably the same stream which elsewhere bears the names of Diabas, Durus (Δοῦρος
), and Gorgus (Γόργος
); and the Gyndes. Its provinces are mentioned by Ptolemy and Strabo under the following names: Aturia, Calacene or Calachene, Chazene, Arrhapachitis,Adiabene, Arbelitis, Apolloniatis or Chalonitis, and Sittacene; though there is some difference between the two geographers, both as to their relative extent and as to their positions.
Its chief cities were: Ninus (ἡ Νῖνος
), its most ancient and celebrated capital, Nineveh; Ctesiphon (ἡ Κτησιφῶν
), the seat of government under the Parthian rulers; Arbela (τὰ Ἄρβηλα
), Gaugamela (τὰ Γαυγαμήλα
), Apollonia (Ἀπολλωνία
), Artemita (Ἀρτέμιτα
), Opis (Ὦπις
), Chala (Χάλα
) or Celonae (Κέλωναι
), and Sittace (Σλττάκη
) or Sitta (Σίττα
A full description of these mountains, rivers, provinces, and towns is given under their respective names.
It is of considerable importance to distinguish as accurately as we can between the land or territory comprehended under the name of Assyria, and the kingdom or empire which was established in that country.
The former, as we have seen, was, strictly [p. 1.245]
speaking, only a small province, at first probably little more than the district to the NE. of the junction of the Tigris and the Zabatus.
The latter varied very much, both in power and extent, according to the individual influence and successful conquests of particular kings. For the history of the Assyrian empire the materials at our command are extremely limited, and the sources from which we must draw our conclusions have not--with the exception of the Bible, which only describes the later portion of Assyrian history-been preserved to us in the works of the original writers. Considerable discrepancy, therefore, prevails in the accounts which the copyists of the more ancient documents have left to us; so that it is by no means easy to derive from their comparison a satisfactory view of the origin or progress of this ancient empire.
It seems, however, useful to put together as concisely as possible the results of the narratives which occur in the three principal and differing authorities; so that the amount of real knowledge to be obtained from them may be more readily perceived. We shall therefore state what is known of Assyrian history from: 1. The Bible. 2. Herodotus. 3. Ctesias, and others who have more or less borrowed from his work.
There is no reason to doubt that the earliest notice which we have of Assyria is that in Gen.
10.10, et seq., in which Nimrod, the grandson of Ham, is mentioned as possessing a kingdom at the cities of Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar; and Assur as having gone out from that land, and founded the cities of Nineveh, Rehoboth, Calah, and Resen.
The inference from this statement is that the country round Babel (afterwards called Babylonia) was the elder empire, and Assyria (which, according to universal opinion, has derived its name from Assur) a colony or dependency of Nimrod's original kingdom.
After this first notice a long period elapsed, during which the Bible has no allusion to Assyria at all; for the passages where that name occurs (Num.
73.9) have no historical importance; and it is not till the reign of Menahem, king of Israel, B.C. 769, that we have any mention of an Assyrian king. From that time, however, to the absorption of the empire of Assyria Proper into that of Babylon, we have a line of kings in the Bible, who shall be briefly mentioned here, together with the dates during which they reigned, according to the general consent of chronologers. 1. Pul, the first king of Assyria in Holy Scripture, invaded Palestine about the fortieth year of Uzziah, B.C. 769 (2 Kings,
15.19), but was induced by Menahem to retire, on receiving a present of 1000 talents. 2. Tiglath-pileser, who succeeded Pul, was on the throne before the death of Pekah, king of Israel, B.C. 738, and had previously conquered Syria (2 Kings,
15.29, 16.5--9); though the precise date of his accession is not determinable. 3. About ten years later Shalmaneser was king, in the beginning of the reign of Hoshea, B.C. 730, and he was still living at the capture of Samaria, B.C. 721. (2 Kings,
17.1--9, 18.9--11.) 4. Sennacherib was on the throne eight years after the fall of Samaria, and must therefore have succeeded his father between B.C. 721 and 713. (2 Kings,
He was slain by his sons fifty-five days after his flight from Palestine, B.C. 711. (Clinton, F. H.
p. 273; Tobit,
1.21.) 5. Esarhaddon, his son, succeeded Sennacherib (2 Kings,
19.37), but we have no means of determining from the Bible to what length his reign extended. During some portion of it, it may be inferred from the story of Manasseh (2 Chron.
33.11) that he was master of Babylon. 6. Nabuchodonosor is the last king of Assyria mentioned in the Bible; but whether he immediately succeeded Esarhaddon we have no means of telling.
The date of his accession is fixed to B.C. 650, as it coincided with the forty-eighth year of Manasseh. His reign is remarkable for the overthrow of the Median king Arphaxad (Phraortes), B.C. 634, and the expedition of Holophernes against Judaea in B.C. 633. During the last part of it, also, the invasion of the Scythíans must have occurred. Subsequently to Nabuchodonosor no king of Assyria Proper appears in Holy Scripture, and the Empire of the East is in the hands of the rulers of Babylon.
The fall of Nineveh itself may be determined to the year B.C. 606. [NINUS
The notice in Herodotus of the history of Assyria is very brief; and there seems reason to suppose that it is so because he had already treated of Assyria in another work which is now lost (Her. 1.106--184); if, indeed, we may infer from those passages that Herodotus really did compose a separate work on Assyrian history.
According to him (Her. 1.95), the Assyrian empire had lasted 520 years, when the Medians revolted. Now, it may fairly be inferred, that the Median revolt did not take place till after the death of Sennacherib, in B.C. 711.
According, therefore, to this theory, the Assyrian empire must have dated from about, B.C. 1231. Josephus (J. AJ 10.2
) confirms this for the period of the independence of the Medes; though the subsequent evidence of the Bible proves that the Assyrian empire was not overthrown, as he supposes, by the Median defection. Herodotus mentions afterwards (Her. 1.106) the capture of Ninus (Nineveh) by Cyaxares the Mede; the date of which--allowing for the twenty-eight years of the nomad Scythian invasion--coincides, as we shall see hereafter [NINUS
], with the year B.C. 606. Herodotus says little more about Assyria Proper. When, as in 1.177--178, he speaks of Assyria and the great cities which it contained, it is clear from the context that he is speaking of Babylonia; and when, as in 7.63, he is describing the arms of the Assyrians in the army of Xerxes, he evidently means the inhabitants of N. W. Mesopotamia, for he adds that the people whom the Greeks called Syri, were termed by the Barbarians, Assyrii.
The remains of Assyrian history in Ctesias, preserved by Diodorus (2.1
), differ widely from the Bible and Herodotus.
According to him, Ninus, the first king, was succeeded by Semiramis, and she by her son Ninyas, who was followed by thirty kings, of whom Sardanapalus was the last.
A period of 1306 years is given to these thirty-three reigns, the last of which, according to his chronology, must have been in B.C. 876,--as Ctesias adds four reigns (158 years) to the 128 years which Herodotus gives for the continuance of the separate kingdom of Medes. On this theory, the commencement of the Assyrian empire must have been in B.C. 2182; and, to make the story in Ctesias harmonize at all with the Bible and Herodotus, we must suppose that there were two Median revolts: the first, a partial one, in B.C. 876, when the Medes became independent of Assyria, but did not destroy the seat of go. vernment; and the second, and more complete one, in B.C. 606, when, in conjunction with the Babylonians, they sacked Ninus (Nineveh), and put an end to the [p. 1.246]
separate existence of the Assyrian empire. Ctesias himself imagined that Nineveh was destroyed at the time of the first Median revolt (Diod. 2.7
),--the only one, indeed, mentioned by him.
Many writers have more or less followed Ctesias in assigning a very high antiquity to the Assyrian empire. Thus Strabo (xvi. p.737
)--grouping Assyria and Babylonia together, as countries inhabited by those whom the Greeks called generically Syrians--states that Ninus founded Nineveh, and his wife Semiramis Babylon; and that he bequeathed the empire to his descendants to the time of Sardanapalus and Arbaces.
He adds that it was overthrown by the Medes, and that Ninus (its capital) ceased to exist in consequence (ἠφανίσθη παραχρῆμα μετὰ τὴν τῶν Σύρων κατάλυσιν
(ap. Excerpt. Vales. p. 229) makes Ninus and Semiramis the first rulers of Ninus. Aemilius Sura
(ap. Velleium, 1.1, 6) gives 1995 years as the time from Ninus to Antiochus, which would place the commencement of the empire at B.C. 2185. Justin
(1.1, 3) mentions Ninus, Semiramis, and Ninyas, in succession, and adds that the Assyrians, who were afterwards called Syrians, ruled 1300 years, and that Sardanapalus was their last king. Velleius
(1.6) gives 1070 years for the duration of the Assyrian empire, and makes its transference to the Medes occur 770 years before his time. Duris
(ap. Athenaeum, xii. p. 529a.) mention the names of Arbaces and Sardanapalus, but describes the fate of the latter differently from other writers. Abydenus
(ap. Euseb. Chron. 1.12, p. 36) speaks of Ninus and Semiramis, and places the last king Sardanapalus 67 years before the first Olympiad, or B.C. 840. Castor
(ap. Euseb. Chron. 1.13, p. 36) calls Belus the first Assyrian king in the days of the Giants; and names Ninus, Semiramis, Zames (or Ninyas), and their descendants in order, to Sardanapalus.
--according to Suidas, an historian in the reign of Hadrian (Euseb. Chron.
1.15, p. 41)--followed Ctesias in most particulars, but made Sardanapalus the twenty-sixth king, and placed his accession in the 1013th year of the empire, throwing back the period of the revolt of Arbaces 270 years.
According to him, therefore, the Median independence began in B.C. 1150, and the Assyrian empire in B.C. 2184. Eusebius himself mentions thirty-six kings, and gives 1240 years from Ninus to Sardanapalus; placing the Median revolt forty-three years before O1. 1, er at B.C. 813. (Euseb. Chron.
i. p. 114.) Georgius Syncellus
(p. 92, B.) commences with Belus, and reckons forty-one reigns, and 1460 years; placing the commencement in B.C. 2285, and the termination in B.C. 826. His increased number is produced byinterpolating four reigns after the twenty-seventh king of Eusebius. Lastly, Agathias
(2.25, p. 120) gives 1306, and Augustine (Civ. Dei,
18.21) 1305 years, for the duration of the Assyrian empire.
We have been thus particular in mentioning the views of Ctesias and his successors on the subject of the duration of the Assyrian empire, because it seemed of importance that all which has been handed down to us should be made accessible to students. We do not pretend to maintain that Ctesias has given us the history as it really was,because it is contrary to universal experience that there should be so numerous a succession of kings, reigning in order for the number of years which must on the average have fallen to each,--and this, too, in an Oriental land, where the per-petuity of any one dynasty is far less common than in Europe. Yet, though the list of kings and their number may be wholly imaginary, though there may never have been either a Ninus or Semiramis, the statement of Ctesias--who, as Court Physician to Artaxerxes Mnemon had abundant opportunity of consulting, and did consult the royal records (βασιλικαί διφθέραι
)--is valuable, as indicating a general belief that the Assyrian empire ascended to a far remoter antiquity than that assigned to it by Herodotus.
It is not, indeed, necessary to suppose that the records of Herodotus and Ctesias contradict each other; though, as we have shown, there is considerable discrepancy between them.
A very acute writer (Fergusson, Palaces of Nineveh and Persepolis,
Lond. 1851, p. 43) has conjectured, and, we think with some probability on his side, that the two accounts confirm and elucidate one another, and that one is the necessary complement to the other; though we confess we are not wholly convinced by some of the chronological arguments which he adduces.
According to Mr. Fergusson, the earlier period given by Ctesias to the Median revolt, which that author says took place by the agency of Arbaces the Mede and Belesys the Babylonian, is to be accounted for on the supposition, that the result of the outbreak was the establishment of Arbaces and his descendants on the throne of Ninus, under the name of Arbacidae ; and that Herodotus does not allude to this, because he is speaking only of a native revolution under Deioces, which he placed 100 years later. Mr. Fergusson considers that this theory is proved by a passage which Diodorus quotes from (possibly some lost work of) Herodotus, in which Herodotus states that between the overthrow of the Assyrian empire by the Medes, and the election of Deioces an interregnum of several generations occurred (Diod. 2.32
). We confess, however, that, though much ingenuity has been shown in its defence, we are not converts to this new theory, but are content to believe that the Median revolt did not take place till after the death of Sennacherib B.C. 711, and that even then, agreeably with what the Bible would naturally lead us to suppose, no change of dynasty took place--and that, though Media continued for some years independent of the Assyrian power, it was not till the final overthrow of Ninus (Nineveh) about B.C. 606, that the Medes succeeded in completely subduing the territory which had. belonged for so many years to the Elder Empire.
With regard to the kings of Assyria mentioned in the Bible, commencing with Pul, it may be worth while to state briefly some of the identifications with classical names which have been determined by chronological students. Mr. Clinton (F. H.
vol. i. p. 263--283) has examined this subject with great learning, and to him we are indebted for the outline of what follows.
According to Mr. Clinton, it is clear that the Sennacherib of Holy Scripture does not correspond with the Sennacherib of Polyhistor and Abydenus, who have ascribed to him many acts which are much more likely to be true of his son Esarhaddon. Esarhaddon (under the name of Sardanapalus) loses the Median Empire, and is commemorated as the founder of Tarsus and Anchiale (Schol. in Aristoph. Aves,
5.1022 ; Athen. 12.529
). Again. the Sardanapalus of Abydenus is most likely the Nabuchodonosor of the Book of Judith, who reigned 44 years, and invaded Judaea 27 years before the destruction of Nineveh.
The combined testimony of Hellanicus, Callisthenes, [p. 1.247]
and Clitarchus, go to establish the fact that the ancients believed in two Sardanapali--one, a warlike prince who was reigning when the Medes revolted, and who seems to correspond with the Scriptural Esarhaddon; and the other, named Saracus by Abydenus, but by Ctesias,Sardanapalus,who was luxurious and effeminate in his habits, but who, when his capital was attacked, made a gallant defence, and was burnt in his palace, on the capture of his city. The Bible, as we have seen, does not mention the name of the king who was on the throne at the time of the fall of Nineveh. Again, it appears from Alexander Polyhistor and the Astronomical Canon, that Babylon had always kings of her own from the earliest times: that they were sometimes subject to the Assyrians, and sometimes independent--and that they never acquired extensive dominion till the time of Nebuchadnezzar.
The same view is confirmed as we have seen from the narrative in the Bible (2 Kings
It may be remarked, that Clinton, agreeing with Usher and Prideaux, attempts to distinguish between what he and they call the Assyrian Empire and the Assyrian monarchy, supposing that the first terminated in the revolts of the Medes, but that the latter was continued to the time of the final destruction of Nineveh. We confess that we see no advantage in maintaining any such distinction.
It is clear that an Assyrian Royal house continued exercising great power till the fall of Nineveh, whether we term that power an empire or a monarchy; and we are not convinced that there is any statement of weight in any ancient author from which it may be satisfactorily inferred that there was any change in the ruling dynasty. One great impediment to the correct comparison of the account in the Bible with those in profane authors, is the great variety of names under which the Assyrian rulers are named--add to which the strong probability that at the period of the compilation of the records of the Bible, the name Assyria was not used with its proper strictness, and hence that some rulers who are there called kings of Assyria were really chief governors of Babylonia or Mesopotamia.
The late remarkable discoveries in Assyria, many of them, as may fairly be presumed, upon the site of its ancient capital Ninus, have thrown an unexpected light upon the manners and customs of the ancient people of that land.
The world are greatly indebted to the zeal with which the excavations in that country have been carried on by Mr. Layard and M. Botta, and it is probably only necessary that the numerous inscriptions which have been disinterred should be fully decyphered, for us to know more of the early history of Assyria than we do at present of any other Eastern nation. Already a great step has been made towards this end, and Col. Rawlinson, who has been so honourably distinguished for his remarkable decypherment of the Rock Inscriptions of Dareius the son of Hystaspes, with other scholars in England and France, has made considerable progress in determining the correct interpretation of the Assyrian Cuneiform records.
It is premature here to attempt to lay before the public the results of their investigations, as the constant discovery of new inscriptions tends almost necessarily to change, or at least to modify considerably, previous statements, and earlier theories.
It may, however, be stated generally, that all that has yet been done appears to show that the monuments of ancient Assyria ascend to a very early period; that many towns, known from other sources to have been of very ancient foundation, have been recognised upon the inscriptions, and that it is quite clear that the ruling city Ninus and the kings resident in it possessed a very extensive empire at least as early as the 15th century B.C.
Those who wish to consider the bearing of the discoveries of the inscriptions will find all that has yet been done in Rawlinson, Journ. of As. Soc.
vol. xii. pt. 2, vol. xiv. pt. 1; Hincks, Ibid.
vol. xii. pt. 1; Botta, Mém. sur l'Ecriture Assyr.,
Paris, 8vo. 1848; Lowenstein, Essai de dechiffr. de l'Ecrit. Assyr.
Paris, 4to. 1850. [V