BABYLONIAN AND ASSYRIAN HISTORY
Written by Archibald Henry Sayce and originally published in 1894
Different States in Babylonia. More than one kingdom originally existed in Babylonia. Not only were there separate kingdoms in Accad and Sumer, or northern and southern Chaldaea, many of the great cities also once formed separate states. The excavations at Tello, for instance, have revealed the existence of a dynasty which had its seat there, and the ancestral kingdom of Sargon of Accad does not seem to have extended beyond the territory of its chief city. The smaller states were, however, absorbed by the larger ones, and a time came when the whole of Babylonia was united into a single monarchy, whose ruler assumed the imperial title of ‘king of Sumer and Accad.’ As in Egypt, therefore, a recollection of the original dual character of the kingdom was preserved in the title of its kings.
It is probable that the various states of Babylonia were more than once brought into temporary union before the final unification of the monarchy took place. Sargon of Accad, for instance, seems to have claimed supremacy over the rest of Chaldaea, and the dynasties which subsequently arose at Urand other places adopted the imperial title, although the country was not finally united under a single head until the reign of Khammurabi. It was to this early period that the maritime trade and civilizing influence of Eridu chiefly belongs.
The first Empire. Sargon of Accad founded the earliest Semitic empire of which we know. According to Nabonidos he lived more than 3,200 years before the time of the last Babylonian king, that is to say about 3800 B.C. His father, Itti-Bel, had no royal title, and legend gathered around his birth. His uncle, it was said, ruled in the mountains, and his mother concealed her child in an ark of rushes, daubed with pitch, which she entrusted to the waters of the Euphrates. Here he was found by a peasant, who brought him up as his own son. But the goddess Istar loved the peasant lad, and the time at last came when he was able to declare his true character and ascend the throne of his fathers.
A copy has been preserved of the historical annals of Sargon and his son Naram-Sin, which must have been compiled in the reign of the latter, as they break off in the middle of it. We learn from them that Sargon not only established his rule over Babylonia and the adjoining districts, he also defeated the Elamites, and made four expeditions into Syria, ‘the land of the Amorites.’ The last of these expeditions occupied three years, and ended with the erection of images of the Chaldaean king on the shores of the Mediterranean, and with the conquest of the countries ‘of the sea of the setting sun,’ which he united ‘into a single empire.’ His last campaign was against the Aram-Naharaim of Scripture in north-western Mesopotamia. Babylon is already mentioned as one of his seats of power; his capital, however, was at Agade or Accad, where on one occasion he was unsuccessfully besieged by his revolted subjects. Here, too, he founded a famous library, for which the standard work on astronomy and astrology was compiled in seventy-two books. A translation of it into Greek was made in later days by the Chaldaean historian Bêrôssos.
Sargon’s son and successor Naram-Sin continued his father’s victorious career, and Palestine being already secured behind him, marched into the land of Magan, by which name Midian and the Sinaitic peninsula were known, and captured its king. A record of the conquest was engraved on an alabaster vase discovered by the French Expedition to Babylonia, but unfortunately lost in the Tigris. Naram-Sin, like one or two other Babylonian monarchs of the same early epoch, received divine honours.
The monuments of Tello. The oldest monuments found at Tello in southern Chaldaea belong to the age of Sargon and Naram-Sin. But whereas the court of Sargon was Semitic, that of the kings of Tello was Sumerian. At a later date Tello lost its independence, and its rulers became merely patesis or high-priests. One of these was Gudea, whose statue may be seen in the Louvre. In his time building-materials were brought to Chaldaea from all parts of Western Asia; thus cedar beams were imported from Mount Amanus, and diorite from the land of Magan. It was out of this diorite that the statues were cut. Another of the patesis of Tello was the vassal of Dungi, king of Ur, whose father had built or restored the great temple of the Moon-god in that city, and had claimed sovereignty over the whole of Babylonia.
Chronology. These early sovereigns are known to us by the bricks and other objects which they have left behind, but we cannot arrange them in a chronological order. Chronology begins with what is called by the native historians ‘the dynasty of Babylon.’ From this time forward the tablets have preserved the names of the Babylonian kings divided into dynasties, together with the length of each reign as well as of each dynasty. The sixth king of the dynasty of Babylon was Khammurabi, who reigned fifty-five years (B.C. 2356-2301), and whose reign marks an epoch in Babylonian history.
The United Monarchy. When Khammurabi ascended the throne, Babylonia was either wholly or in part under Elamite suzerainty. That portion of it of which Larsa was the capital was governed by Eri-Aku (probably the Arioch of Genesis), who was a son of the Elamite prince Kudur-Mabug. Kudur-Mabug was not himself king, but as he has the title of ‘father of the land of the Amorites’ he must have held rule in Syria. Khammurabi succeeded in overthrowing Eri-Aku and his Elamite allies and in making himself sole king of Babylonia. Babylon, his capital, thus became, and remained, the capital of the united kingdom. It was soon the scene of a great literary revival. The older literature of the country was re-edited, new authors arose, and the court of Khammurabi revived the literary glories of that of Sargon. As his great-grandson still calls himself ‘king of the land of the Amorites’ we may infer that the conquests in Syria were not lost.
The rise of Assyria. The dynasty of Khammurabi was followed by one which came from Tello, whose kings bear Sumerian names. Then Babylonia was conquered by Kassite princes who ruled over it for 576 years and nine months (B.C. 1806-1229). While the Kassite dynasty was reigning, a new kingdom arose in the north, that of Assyria. The high-priests of the city of Assur became kings, the first of whom seems to have been Bel-Kapkapu. The kingdom rapidly grew in power, and although Babylonia exacted tribute from it, its kings began to ally themselves by marriage with the rulers of the southern monarchy. In the fifteenth century B.C. Assuryuballidh of Assyria, like his contemporary Burna-buryas of Babylonia, sent letters and presents to the Egyptian Pharaoh and begged in return for Egyptian gold, and a century later the city of Calah was built (or restored) by Shalmaneser I. His son Tiglath-Uras in the sixth year of his reign marched against Babylonia, captured Babylon and governed it for seven years. He was then driven out of the country and subsequently murdered by his own son. The Kassite dynasty, however, did not last long after the Assyrian invasion. The Assyrian king had entered Babylon in B.C. 1291, and in B.C. 1229 the dynasty came to an end.
Babylon a sacred city. From this time forward for many centuries Assyria, and not Babylonia, occupies the chief place in the history of western Asia. It needed a Nebuchadrezzar to make Babylonia once more a conquering power. But Babylon itself remained the sacred city of the cultured nations of Asia. Its old prestige and hallowed associations clung to it, and it became what Rome was to mediaeval Europe. An Assyrian king, however powerful he might be, could not claim the imperial title until he had ‘taken the hands of Bel’ and thereby been adopted as a son by the god of Babylon. Indeed it was only in this way that usurpers like Tiglath-pileser III and Sargon obtained any recognition of their legitimate right to the throne. The sanction of religion remained with Babylon, though the sword had passed to Assyria.
Tiglath-pileser I. One of the most famous of the early Assyrian conquerors was Tiglath-pileser I (B.C. 1100). He carried his arms in all directions. Eastward he chastised the Kurds, northward he penetrated into the mountains of Armenia and engraved his image at the sources of the Tigris; and in the west he overthrew the Moschians, the Meshech of the Bible, ravaging the land of Komagênê, laying Malatiyeh under tribute, threatening the Hittites in their stronghold at Carchemish, and making his way to the shores of the Mediterranean. Here he sailed over the sea in a ship of Arvad, and received presents from the terrified Pharaoh of Egypt which comprised a crocodile and a hippopotamus. Southward he invaded Babylonia, and though repulsed in his first attack he avenged himself by subsequently over-running the country and capturing Babylon. He was also mighty in the hunting-field as well as in war, and in the neighbourhood of Harran boasts of having slain the wild elephants which then existed there. His own capital Assur he adorned with the spoils of his victories and restored its temples.
The First Assyrian Empire. We have to pass over an interval of two centuries before we find another Assyrian monarch who emulated the distant campaigns of Tiglath-pileser. Assur-natsir-pal (B.C. 883-858) was the first of a line of conquerors who may be regarded as the founders of the first Assyrian empire. From henceforth, too, Assyrian chronology is accurately fixed. The Assyrians counted time by means of certain officers called limmi, who were changed from year to year. The name of a particular limmu consequently indicated the year during which he had held office. Lists of the limmi have been preserved which begin with the reign of Assur-natsir-pal’s father and carry us down to that of Assur-bani-pal. As the annals not only of Tiglath-pileser I, but also of an older king, the father of Shalmaneser I, are dated in the years of office of certain limmi it is clear that the institution went back to an early period, and that lists of the older limmi may yet be recovered, carrying us, it may be, to the very foundation of the Assyrian kingdom.
Calah, instead of Assur, had become the royal residence, and from Calah accordingly the Assyrian armies marched forth year after year to conquer and spoil. The fastnesses of the Kurdish mountains were explored, and the Kurdish tribes compelled to pay tribute to the Assyrian king. The cities of Armenia south of Lake Van were ravaged in repeated campaigns, one effect of which seems to have been the introduction of Assyrian culture and writing, and the rise of the Vannic monarchy. The merchant princes of Carchemish bought off the Assyrian attack with rich gifts, but the states on either bank of the Euphrates were overrun, and Assur-natsir-pal made his way across Amanus to the Gulf of Antioch, and across Lebanon to the Mediterranean. Here he received the tribute of the Phoenician cities, among them being Tyre and Sidon. In imitation of Tiglath-pileser I he hunted in northern Mesopotamia, but the elephant had disappeared from the region, and he had to content himself with the wild bull.
Assur-natsir-pal was succeeded by his son Shalmaneser II, whose reign ended in B.C. 823. His long reign was a series of military campaigns. Countries previously untrodden by Assyrian feet were subdued or ravaged with fire and sword. Assyrian armies made their way through the passes of Kurdistan as far as Lake Urumiyeh and the land of the Minni. The newly-founded kingdom of Ararat was shaken, the Tibareni (called Tubal in Scripture) paid tribute, and Tarsus in Cilicia was compelled to open its gates. The passage of the Euphrates was secured by the capture of the Hittite fortress of Pethor at the junction of the Euphrates and the Sajur, and the whole weight of the Assyrian power was hurled against Syria. The Phoenician cities made their peace with the invader by offering gifts; so too did Jehu (Yahua) of Samaria, whose ambassadors are represented on the Black Obelisk. Hamath and Damascus, more especially the latter, had to bear the brunt of the Assyrian attack. In B.C. 853, thirteen years before the embassy of Jehu, Israel and Assyria had already met in the battle-field. A league had been formed by Hamath, Arvad, Ammon, and other states under the leadership of Hadadezer of Damascus—the Ben-hadad of the Old Testament—to resist the Assyrians, and one of the most important of the allies was ‘Ahab of Israel,’ who brought into the field 2,000 chariots and 10,000 men. But the confederacy was shattered at the battle of Qarqar, though Shalmaneser’s own losses were too serious to allow him to follow up the attack. In B.C. 847 Hadadezer and his allies were again defeated, but without any result on the Assyrian side. Seven years later Hazael appears in the place of Hadadezer. Shalmaneser drove him from his camp into Damascus, where he ‘shut him up,’ taking from him 1,121 chariots and devastating the country as far as the Hauran. It was on this occasion that Jehu offered homage to the conqueror. Shalmaneser had already overrun Babylonia and sacrificed to the gods in Babylon, Borsippa, and Cutha. The Babylonian king was put to death, and the Assyrian troops penetrated into the salt-marshes of the Kaldâ in the extreme south. For a time, therefore, the larger part of western Asia lay at the feet of ‘the great king.’
A time came, however, when Shalmaneser could no longer lead his armies in person, but had to entrust them to the Tartan or commander-in-chief. His own son Assur-dain-pal rebelled against him, and led the chief cities of his kingdom, including Nineveh and Assur, into revolt (B.C. 827). The revolt lasted for more than six years, and during its continuance the old king was succeeded by his son Samsi-Rimmon who eventually suppressed the insurrection. Assur-dain-pal seems to have been the original Sardanapallos of the Greeks. The campaigns of Samsi-Rimmon were principally directed against the Kurds and Medes, but towards the end of his reign he invaded Babylonia and defeated its king, Merodach-balásu-iqbi, the Greek Belesys. His successor Rimmon-nirari III (B.C. 810-781) claims to have overcome Media and Kurdistan, Tyre, Sidon, Samaria, and Palastu, ‘the land of the Philistines,’ under which title the Jews would be included. But his chief exploit was the conquest of Damascus, whose king Marih opened its gates to him and became an Assyrian vassal.
The older Assyrian dynasty, however, was fast coming to an end. In B.C. 753 its last representative, Assur-nirari, mounted the throne. Insurrection had already broken out at the beginning of his predecessor’s reign, and pestilence had been added to insurrection. The old capital Assur had led the revolt, a solar eclipse on June 15, B.C. 763 coinciding with its outbreak. The northern provinces had followed the lead of Assur, and though the revolt was crushed for a while, the flame of discontent still smouldered beneath the surface. The greater part of Assur-nirari’s short reign was passed in inaction, but in B.C. 746 Calah rebelled, and on the 13th of Iyyar in the following year Pulu or Pul, who took the name of Tiglath-pileser III, after that of the great conqueror of the older dynasty, was proclaimed king. With him begins the history of the second Assyrian empire.
The Second Assyrian Empire. With the second Assyrian empire a new political idea entered the world. Most of the campaigns made by the earlier Assyrian kings were mere raids, the object of which was booty and captives. It is true that in some cases cities and districts were annexed to the Assyrian kingdom and Assyrian colonists were planted in distant localities. But this was the exception, not the rule. The conquests made in one year by the Assyrian armies had to be made over again in the next. The campaigns of Tiglath-pileser III and his successors had a different object in view. They aimed at bringing the whole civilized world under the rule of ‘the great king.’ A great political organization was to be built up, which should bring the wealth of Western Asia into the imperial treasury of Nineveh and divert the trade of Phoenicia and Babylon into Assyrian hands. Trade interests had much to do with the wars of the New Empire.
Accordingly, while the frontiers of the kingdom were secured from the wild tribes on the east and north, expedition after expedition was sent westward and southward which pushed steadily forward the Assyrian domination. Satraps and colonists followed in the wake of the generals; and the amount of annual tribute to be paid by each province was defined and rigorously exacted from its governor. The latter was appointed by the king, and held his office at the royal pleasure. At his side were military officers, and under him a body of officials who were responsible to the governor as he was to the king.
The New Empire was thus governed by a vast bureaucracy, at the head of which stood the king. But the bureaucracy was military as well as civil, and the military and civil elements formed a check one upon the other. The military element was, however, predominant, the result of the fact that the empire itself was based on conquest.
The army was carefully trained, well disciplined, and well armed. It thus soon became an irresistible weapon in the hands of a competent master. Before Tiglath-pileser’s reign was half over there was no force in western Asia which was capable of resisting it in open fight.
Tiglath-pileser reigned eighteen years (B.C. 745-727), and his organizing abilities proved to be as great as his military skill. An invasion of Babylonia first tested the strength of his army, and resulted in the subjection of the Aramaean tribes in that country to Assyrian rule. Then followed an expedition into Kurdistan. The Medes were massacred, and the Assyrian army pushed its way far eastward to Bikni, ‘the mountain of the rising sun.’ Next Tiglath-pileser turned to the north-west. Here he was met by a powerful confederacy, at the head of which was the king of Ararat. But the forces of the northern nations were cut to pieces in Komagene, and Arpad, which had become the centre of a hostile Syrian league, was captured after a siege of three years. The league had included Hamath and Azariah of Judah, and Hamath was consequently annexed to the Assyrian empire. The princes of the West hastened to offer homage to the conqueror, among them being Rezon of Damascus and Menahem of Samaria (B.C. 738). Tiglath-pileser was now free to march against Ararat, which had extended its power at the expense of Assyria in the later days of the old dynasty. The country was ravaged up to the gates of its capital, and the Vannic kingdom received a blow from which it never recovered. The Assyrian army next turned eastward to the southern shores of the Caspian, and made its way through Medic and other districts which neither before nor since were trodden by Assyrian feet. The exploit struck terror into the Kurdish tribes, and secured the Assyrian lowlands from their attack.
Meanwhile Ahaz of Judah had been threatened by Rezon of Damascus and Pekah of Israel, and he now appealed to the Assyrian king for help. Tiglath-pileser, nothing loth, marched against the assailants. Rezon was blockaded in his capital, while Samaria, Ammon, Moab, and Philistia were overrun (B.C. 734). Two years later (B.C. 732), Damascus was taken and sacked, Rezon put to death and his kingdom placed under an Assyrian prefect. Pekah, too, had been murdered, and Tiglath-pileser had appointed Hosea king in his place. About the same time Tyre was compelled to purchase peace by the payment of 150 talents.
With his empire consolidated in the west, and the road to the Mediterranean open to Assyrian trade, Tiglath-pileser was now free to legitimize his right to the throne by occupying Babylon and there becoming the adopted son of Bel. It was in B.C. 731 that the Babylonian campaign began; in B.C. 729 Tiglath-pileser, under his original name of Pul, ‘took the hands of Bel,’ and two years later, in the month of December, he died. He had introduced into history the idea of imperial centralization.
On his death the crown was seized by Ululâ, who took the name of Shalmaneser IV. His reign lasted only five years, and when he died (December, B.C. 722) he was pressing the siege of Samaria. The capture of the city and its annexation to Assyria were the work of Sargon. The upper and military classes, amounting in all to 27,280 persons, were carried into captivity; but only fifty chariots were found in the city.
Sargon was a usurper like his two predecessors, but, more fortunate than they, he succeeded in founding a dynasty. He was one of the best generals that Assyria ever produced, and under him the extension and organization of the empire went on apace. The death of Shalmaneser, however, had been the signal for revolt in Babylonia as well as in the west. Merodach-baladan, a Chaldaean from the sea-marshes, had seized Babylon in conjunction with the Elamites, and there reigned as legitimate monarch for twelve years. One of the first tasks of Sargon was to drive the Elamite forces from the Assyrian frontier. Hamath moreover rose in insurrection; but this too was speedily crushed. So also was a league between the Philistines and the Egyptians; the battle of Raphia decided, once for all, the question of Assyrian supremacy in Palestine.
Sargon now had to face a more formidable coalition, that of the northern nations under Ursa of Ararat. The struggle lasted for six years and ended with the complete victory of the Assyrians. Carchemish, the Hittite stronghold on the Euphrates, fell in B.C. 717, leaving the road clear to the west and thus uniting Assyria with its rising empire on the shores of the Mediterranean. In the following year the Minni (to the east of Ararat) were overthrown, and two years later Ursa and his allies were utterly defeated. The fortress of Muzazir near Lake Urumiyeh was captured, thus extending the Assyrian frontier far to the east, and Ursa, in despair, committed suicide. Media was completely subdued in B.C. 713, and Ellip, where Ekbatana afterwards stood, became the vassal of Nineveh. In B.C. 711 a league was formed between Merodach-baladan and the nations of southern Syria to resist the common foe, and to this league Egypt promised assistance. But before the confederates were ready to act, Sargon had fallen upon them separately. Ashdod, the centre of the Palestinian confederacy, was besieged and taken (Isaiah xxi), and its ruler, a certain ‘Greek,’ who had been raised to power by the anti-Assyrian party, fled in vain for refuge to the Arabian desert, while Judah, Edom, and Moab were compelled to pay tribute. In B.C. 709 Merodach-baladan was driven out of Babylonia into his ancestral kingdom of Bit-Yagna. Sargon entered Babylon and there ‘took the hands of Bel.’ Henceforward he ruled by divine right as well as by the right of the sword.
It was by the sword, however, that he perished, being murdered by a soldier in B.C. 705. His son Sennacherib succeeded to the crown on the 12th of Ab (July). Sennacherib was a different man from his father; boastfulness and vanity took the place of military skill, perhaps also of courage. There seems to have been some resemblance between his character and that of Xerxes.
Babylonia was the new king’s first object of attack. Merodach-baladan, who had re-entered Babylon on the news of Sargon’s death, was driven back to the marshes, and Bel-ibni, an Assyrian vassal, appointed king in his place. The next campaign was against the Kassi or Kossaeans, some of whom were forced to descend from their mountain fastnesses and placed under an Assyrian governor. From the Kossaean mountains the Assyrian army marched into Ellip which was wasted with fire and sword. Then, in B.C. 701, came the campaign against Palestine where Hezekiah of Judah, in reliance upon Egypt, had revolted from his Assyrian lord. Elulaeus of Sidon fled to Cyprus, and Phoenicia, Ammon, Moab, and Edom submitted to the Assyrians. Sennacherib thereupon proceeded against the Philistines. A new king was set over Ashkelon, and Hezekiah was compelled to restore to Ekron its former prince whom he had imprisoned in Jerusalem on account of his faithfulness to Assyria. The priests and nobles of Ekron who had abetted Hezekiah were impaled on stakes.
Tirhakah, the Ethiopian king of Egypt, and the king of Melukh (the Arabian desert), who had come to the assistance of the Jewish prince, were defeated at Eltekeh, and Hezekiah vainly endeavoured to buy off the vengeance of his offended suzerain by rich and numerous presents, including 30 talents of gold and 800 talents of silver. The surrender of Jerusalem alone would content Sennacherib, who accordingly devastated Judah, destroying its cities and carrying into captivity 200,150 of its inhabitants. Jerusalem itself was blockaded, Hezekiah being shut up in it ‘like a bird in a cage.’ Then, however, came the catastrophe which obliged Sennacherib to retire without punishing his rebellious vassal, and of which, of course, nothing is said in the inscriptions. But there is no further record of a campaign in the West. In the following year Sennacherib was in Babylonia, where he drove Merodach-baladan out of the marshes and obliged the Chaldaean prince and his subjects to fly in ships across the Persian Gulf to the opposite coast of Elam. Assur-nadin-suma, the son of Sennacherib, was now made king of Babylon. Six years later he was carried off to Elam and a new king, Nergal-yusezib, appointed in his place by the Elamite monarch. This was in return for an unprovoked assault made by Sennacherib on the Chaldaean colony in Elam, to which he had crossed in boats made by Tyrian workmen, and whose inhabitants he sent captive to Assyria.
For a time Elam was all-powerful in Babylonia, though Nergal-yusezib had been defeated and captured in battle by the Assyrians. But in B.C. 691 Sennacherib descended with the full might of Assyria upon the country. The Babylonians had sent the treasures of the temple of Bel to the Elamite monarch, begging his help. The Babylonian and Elamite forces met the army of Assyria at Khalule, and a hard-fought battle was the result. The slaughter was great on both sides, and Sennacherib claims a complete victory, though the Babylonian Chronicle—a cuneiform document compiled from a Babylonian point of view—implies that such was not altogether the case. At all events about two years were needed for the subjugation of Babylonia. In B.C. 689 Babylon was taken, its houses and temples destroyed, the images of its gods broken in pieces, and the ruins of the city thrown into the Arakhtu, the canal of Babylon. For some years Babylon lay desolate, and as there was no longer a temple or image of Bel to legitimize the rule of the Assyrian conqueror, Babylonia remained ‘without kings.’
On the 20th day of Tebet or December, B.C. 681, Sennacherib was murdered by two of his sons who seem to have been jealous of their brother Esar-haddon. Esar-haddon had been given the new name of Assur-etil-mukin-abla (‘Assur the hero is the establisher of my son’), perhaps because he had been destined for the throne, and at the time of his father’s murder he was commanding the Assyrian army in a war against Ararat. For forty-two days the conspirators held the capital; then they were compelled to fly to Erimenas of Ararat and seek his help against their brother. The decisive battle was fought on the 12th of Iyyar (April) near Malatiyeh in Kappadokia; the veterans of Assyria won the day, and at the close of it saluted Esar-haddon as king. He returned to Nineveh and on the 8th of Sivan (May) formally ascended the throne.
Esar-haddon was great in counsel as well as in war, and knew how to conciliate as well as how to conquer. At the outset of his reign he restored Babylon, rebuilt its temples, brought back its gods and people, and made it one of his royal residences. For twelve years he was king alike of Babylonia and Assyria.
A revolt of Sidon, which was easily put down, next occupied his attention. Then came a more formidable event. The Gimirrâ, called Gomer in Genesis, Kimmerians by the Greeks, suddenly appeared out of the north and menaced the civilized world. Esar-haddon met them on the frontier of his empire, defeated their chieftain, the ‘Manda’ or nomad Teuspa, and drove his hordes westward into Asia Minor. It now became necessary to secure the Assyrian frontier on the south. The Assyrian king accordingly marched into the very heart of Arabia, through burning and waterless deserts, and struck terror into the Arabian tribes. The march must have been one of the most remarkable ever made.
Esar-haddon was at last free to complete the policy of Tiglath-pileser III by conquering the ancient kingdom of Egypt. Palestine gave no more trouble; Manasseh of Judah was already an obedient vassal of the Assyrian king. In B.C. 674 ‘the Assyrians marched into Egypt.’ But two more campaigns were needed for its subjection. In B.C. 670 Esar-haddon drove the Egyptian forces before him in fifteen days (from the 3rd to the 18th of Tammuz or June) all the way from the frontier to Memphis, thrice defeating them with heavy loss and wounding Tirhakah their king. Three days later Memphis fell, and Tirhakah fled to Ethiopia, leaving Egypt to the conqueror. Egypt revolted two years afterwards (B.C. 668), and while on the march to reduce it Esar-haddon fell ill, and died on the 10th of Marchesvan or October. Assur-bani-pal, who had already been named as his successor, became king of Assyria, his brother Saul-suma-yukin taking Babylonia as his share. The king of Babylonia, however, was required to admit the supremacy of the Assyrian monarch.
The Egyptian revolt was quickly suppressed and the country was again divided into twenty satrapies, each satrapy being placed under a native prince. But the arrangement answered badly. The satraps quarrelled with one another, intrigued with Tirhakah, and rebelled against Assur-bani-pal. Time after time Assyrian armies had to be sent to reconquer the land. Once Necho, the satrap of Sais, was brought in chains to Nineveh, there, however, to be pardoned and restored to his city. Twice Thebes was captured, once after it had been made for a time the seat of Tirhakah’s government, a second time after the defeat of Urdaman (Rud-Amon), the step-son and successor of Tirhakah. On this occasion the city was utterly destroyed. Its temples and palaces were overthrown, its statues mutilated, and an immense spoil carried away to Nineveh. Among the spoil were two obelisks, over seventy tons in weight. The destruction of Thebes is alluded to by the prophet Nahum (iii. 8).
Assur-bani-pal, the Sardanapallos of the Greeks, was the ‘Grand Monarque’ of Assyria, and a generous patron of literature and learning. But he lacked the warlike instincts of his fathers, and preferred to remain at home while his generals fought in the field. His long wars drained the country of its fighting-men and prepared the way for its downfall. They were waged mainly with Elam, the only civilized country of Western Asia which still preserved its independence, and lasted for several years. At last, however, Elam fell; its capital Shushan was sacked and burned, and a desolated country was added to the Assyrian dominions.
The fame of Assur-bani-pal spread far and wide. Ambassadors came to his court from Ararat, as well as from Gyges of Lydia. At first no interpreter could be found for the latter. Gyges wanted help against the Kimmerians, which, however, ‘the great king’ does not seem to have afforded. The tribute of Gyges was accordingly withdrawn after a time, and he took part in the great rebellion which now shook the Assyrian empire to its foundations.
Saul-suma-yukin put himself at its head, and proclaimed the independence of Babylonia. Psammetikhos, the son of Necho of Sais, imitated his example in Egypt, and with the assistance of Gyges put down the rival satraps, shook off the Assyrian yoke and founded the Twenty-sixth dynasty. Saul-suma-yukin was less fortunate. After a desperate struggle he was captured and put to death by his brother, and Babylonia was once more reduced to servitude. Punishment was also taken upon the tribes of northern Arabia who had joined the rebels.
But the empire was terribly weakened. Egypt was lost to it for ever, and though Elam was added instead, it proved to be a barren possession. When Tuktamme the ‘Manda’ appeared upon the scene he was resisted with difficulty. The empire was tottering to its fall.
Of its closing days we know but little from the monuments. Among the successors of Assur-bani-pal were Assur-etil-ilani-yukin (who still claimed rule in Babylonia), and Sin-sar-iskun. The latter has sometimes been identified with Sarakos, said by the Greek writer Abydênos to have been the last king of Assyria. At all events the fall and destruction of Nineveh may be placed in B.C. 606.
The Babylonian Empire. On its ruins rose the Babylonian empire of Nebuchadrezzar, the son of Nabopolassar. The battle of Carchemish placed him in possession of Syria, which the Egyptians had occupied after the fall of Nineveh. The battle was scarcely over when Nebuchadrezzar was recalled to Babylon by the death of his father (B.C. 605). Unlike the Assyrian kings, he cared but little about recording his successes in war. His inscriptions are occupied with the account of his building operations, of his gifts to the gods, and of his devotion to Bel-Merodach. Under him Babylon became one of the most splendid cities in the world. Its palaces, its temples, its hanging gardens and its walls were alike on a vast and magnificent scale. The temples were roofed with cedar of Lebanon, overlaid with gold and silver, and the ramparts of the royal house were finished in fifteen days. The suburb of Borsippa was included within the fortifications of the city, which were so strong as to be practicably impregnable. At the same time the other cities of Babylonia were not forgotten, and their temples were enlarged and beautified.
In B.C. 568 Nebuchadrezzar marched into Egypt, defeated the Pharaoh Amasis and occupied a part at least of the Delta. ‘Phut of the Ionians’ is mentioned in connexion with this campaign. It is the only military expedition mentioned in the texts we possess; even the monuments of Nebuchadrezzar found in Syria (at the mouth of the Nahr el-Kelb near Beyrout and in the Wadi Brissa near the ancient Riblah) are silent about his wars.
He was a great organizer, a great builder, and above all a man of genuine piety, which breathes through all his inscriptions. When he died, B.C. 562, he was succeeded by his son Evil-Merodach, who reigned only two years. Then the throne was usurped by a certain Nergal-sharezer (the son of Bel-zakir-iskun) who had married the daughter of Nebuchadrezzar. Nergal-sharezer built himself a new palace and died B.C. 556. He was followed by his infant son who reigned only three months, when he was murdered and the throne seized by Nabonidos (Nabu-nahid), the son of Nebo-balasu-iqbi, who was not related to the royal family. Nabonidos was a man of some energy, but he offended a powerful party in Babylonia by attempting to do what Hezekiah had done in Jerusalem—centralize the religious worship of the country and therewith the political power in the capital. Nabonidos was also an antiquarian and caused excavations to be made in the different temples of Babylonia in order to discover the records of their founders.
We are now well acquainted with the history of Nabonidos and the fall of his empire, thanks to three cuneiform documents which have been found in Babylonia. One is an inscription of Nabonidos himself; another an edict issued by Cyrus shortly after his conquest of the country; and the third the annals of the reign of Nabonidos, compiled the year after his overthrow. The empire of Nabonidos, we learn, extended as far westward as Gaza, but the ‘Manda’ or ‘Nomads’ of whom Astyages (Istuvegu) was king had devastated part of Western Asia and had destroyed the temple of the Moon-god at Harran. It was not until Cyrus, ‘the little servant’ of Astyages, had overthrown the Manda that Nabonidos was able to enter Harran and rebuild the ruined shrine.
Cyrus and the Fall of Babylon. Cyrus, like his fathers, was king of Anzan in Elam, not of Persia. Anzan had been first occupied, it would appear, by his great-grandfather Teispes the Achaemenian. The conquest of Astyages and of his capital Ekbatana took place in B.C. 549, and a year or two later Cyrus obtained possession of Persia. In B.C. 538 the population in the south of Babylonia revolted, and Cyrus entered the country, where he was assisted by the native party which was hostile to Nabonidos. The Babylonian army was stationed in northern Babylonia, but it was utterly defeated at Opis in the month of Tammuz or June, and on the 14th of the month Sippara opened its gates to the conqueror. Gobryas, the governor of Kurdistan, was then sent by Cyrus against Babylon, which also opened its gates ‘without fighting,’ and Nabonidos, who had concealed himself, was taken prisoner. Gobryas placed the temple of Bel under a guard, and the daily services there proceeded as usual. The contract-tablets show that there was equally little cessation of business among the mercantile classes. But it was not until the 3rd of Marchesvan (October) that Cyrus himself arrived in Babylon and proclaimed a general amnesty, which was communicated by Gobryas to ‘all the province of Babylon’ of which he had been made governor. Shortly afterwards the wife of Nabonidos died; lamentation was made for her throughout Babylonia, and Kambyses, the son of Cyrus, conducted her funeral in one of the Babylonian temples.
Meanwhile Cyrus had assumed the title of ‘King of Babylon,’ thus claiming to be the legitimate descendant of the ancient Babylonian kings. He announced himself as the devoted worshipper of Bel and Nebo, who by the command of Merodach had overthrown the sacrilegious usurper Nabonidos, and he and his son accordingly offered sacrifices to ten times the usual amount in the Babylonian temples, and restored the images of the gods to their ancient shrines. At the same time he allowed the foreign populations who had been deported to Babylonia to return to their homes along with the statues of their gods. Among these foreign populations, as we know from the Old Testament, were the Jews.
Belshazzar. One of the sons of Nabonidos was Belshazzar, who is mentioned in the contract-tablets as well as by his father. He seems to have been ‘the king’s son’ who commanded the Babylonian army in its camp near Sippara. If so, it would appear that he had died or been slain before the final invasion of Babylonia by Cyrus, since no reference is made to him on that occasion, and the pretenders who afterwards rose against Darius in Babylonia called themselves not Belshazzar but ‘Nebuchadrezzar, the son of Nabonidos.’
Decay of Babylon. It was after the death of Kambyses and of the Pseudo-Smerdis that these revolts took place in B.C. 521 and 515(?). The first was a serious one, and was suppressed only after two engagements in the field and a siege of Babylon. The second revolt also needed a long siege for its suppression, and at its conclusion Darius partially destroyed the walls of the city. But in the reign of Xerxes, during the absence of the king in Greece, Babylon revolted again under a certain Samas-erba, who reigned for about a year. On the fall of this champion of Babylonian independence, the temple of Bel, the rallying-place of Babylonian nationality, was in part destroyed. From this time forward the only kings mentioned in the cuneiform tablets are foreigners, Persians, Greeks, and Parthians. The last dated tablet at present known to us is almost as late as the Christian era. It is an astrological text which is dated in the 168th year of Seleucus and the 232nd year of Arsakes, that is to say in B.C. 80.