A History of Art in Chaldaea & Assyria, v. 1
by Georges Perrot
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

With such methods of construction as those we have described, it would have been very difficult to multiply stories. Neither vaults nor timber ceilings could have carried the enormous masses of earth of which even their partition-walls for the most part consisted, so that the architect would have had no choice but to make his upper chambers identical in size with those of his ground floors. This difficulty he was not, however, called upon to face, because the necessity for providing his halls and corridors with a top light, put an upper floor out of the question. No trace of such a staircase as would have been required to give access to an upper story has been discovered in any of the Assyrian ruins,[233] and yet some means of ascent to the terraced roofs must have been provided, if not for the inhabitants of the chambers below—who are likely, however, to have passed the nights upon them in the hot season—at least for the workmen whose duty it was to keep them in repair.

Some parts of the palace, on the other hand, may have been raised much above the level of the rest. Sir Henry Layard found the remains of such chambers in the palace of Assurnazirpal at Nimroud.[234] In the bas-relief from Kouyundjik, reproduced in our Fig. 39, an open gallery may be noticed at a great height above the soil. But neither this gallery nor the chambers discovered at Nimroud form what we should call a "first-floor." Layard did not conduct his excavations like an architect, and he fails to give us such information as we have in the case of Khorsabad, but he tells us that the chambers in question formed the upper part of a sort of tower projecting from one angle of the facade. In the building represented on the Kouyundjik relief, the gallery is also upheld by the main wall, and stands upon its summit. From these observations we may conclude that when the Assyrian architect wished to erect chambers that should have a command over the buildings about them and over the surrounding country, he placed them, not over his ground-floor, but upon solid and independent masses of bricks.

The staircase, then, could not have had the internal importance by which it is distinguished in architectural systems that make use of several stories. On the other hand, it must have played a very conspicuous part externally, in front of the outer doors and the facades through which they were pierced. Fortresses, palaces, temples, all the great buildings of Chaldaea and Assyria, were built upon artificial mounds, upon a wide platform that required an easy communication with the plain below. This could only be obtained by long flights of steps or by gently inclined planes. Steps would do for pedestrians, but horses, chariots, and beasts of burden generally would require the last-named contrivance. All who have attempted restorations have copied the arrangement of these stairs and sloping roads from the ruins of Persepolis, where the steps, being cut in the rock itself, are still to be traced. The brick slopes of Mesopotamia must have commenced to disappear on the very day that their custodians first began to neglect their repair.

Some confirmation, however, is to be found, even in the buildings themselves, of the hypothesis suggested by their situations. At Abou-Sharein, for instance, in Lower Chaldaea, the staircase figured on the next page (Fig. 66) may be seen at the foot of the building excavated by Mr. Taylor; it gave access to the upper terrace of what seems to have been a temple.[235] Here the steps are no more than about twenty-six inches wide, but this width must often have been greatly surpassed elsewhere. Indeed, in the same building the first story was reached by a staircase about seventy feet long and sixteen wide. The stone steps were twenty-two inches long, thirteen broad, and one foot deep. They were fixed with great care by means of bronze clasps. Unfortunately the explorer gives us neither plan nor elevation of this monumental staircase.

Layard believed that, in passing the Mesopotamian mounds, he could often distinguish upon them traces of the flights of steps by which their summits were reached.[236] On the eastern face of the palace of Sennacherib, he says, the remains of the wide slopes by which the palace communicated with the plain were quite visible to him.[237] One of these staircases is figured in a bas-relief from Nimroud; it seems to rise to a line of battlements that form, no doubt, the parapet to a flat terrace behind.[238] Finally, in another relief, the sculptor shows two flights of steps bending round one part of a mound and each coming to an end at a door into the temple on its summit. The curve described by this ramp involved the use of steps, which are given in M. Chipiez's Restoration (Plate IV.). An interesting series of reliefs, brought to England from Kouyundjik, proves that in the palace interiors there were inclined galleries for the use of the servants. The lower edges of the alabaster slabs are cut to the same slope as that of the corridor upon whose walls they were fixed, and their sculptures represent the daily traffic that passed and repassed within those walls.[239] On the one hand, fourteen grooms are leading fourteen horses down to the Tigris to be watered; on the other, servants are mounting with provisions for the royal table in baskets on their heads.[240]

The steps of basalt and gypsum, that afford communication between rooms of different levels at Khorsabad, are planned and adjusted with great skill and knowledge.[241] The workmen who built those steps took, we may be sure, all the necessary precautions to prevent men and beasts from slipping on the paved floors of the inclined galleries. These were constructed upon the same plan as the ramps of M. Place's observatory, on which the pavement consists of steps forty inches long, thirty-two inches wide, and less than an inch high. Such steps as these give an inclination of about one in thirty-four, and the ramp on which they were used may be more justly compared to an inclined plane, like that of the Seville Giralda or the Mole of Hadrian, than to a staircase. One might ascend or descend it on horseback without any difficulty.[242]

By this example we may see that although the Assyrian builder had no materials at his command equal to those employed by the Greek or Egyptian, he knew how to make ingenious and skilful use of those he had.

We should be in a better position to appreciate these qualities of invention and taste had time not entirely deprived us of that part of the work of the Mesopotamian architects in which they were best served by their materials. Assyria, like Egypt, practised construction "by assemblage" as well as the two methods we have already noticed. She had a light form of architecture in which wood and metal played the principal part. As might have been expected, however, all that she achieved in that direction has perished, and the only evidence upon which we can attempt a restoration is that of the sculptured monuments, and they, unhappily, are much less communicative in this respect than those of Egypt. In the paintings of the Theban tombs the kiosks and pavilions of wood and metal are figured in all the variety and vivacity derived from the brilliant colours with which they were adorned. Nothing of the kind is to be found in Mesopotamia. Our only documents are the uncoloured reliefs which, even in the matter of form, are more reticent than we could have wished. But in spite of their simplification these representations allow us to perceive clearly enough the mingled elegance and richness that characterized the structures in question.

Thus in a bas-relief at Nimroud representing the interior of a fortress, a central place is occupied by a small pavilion generally supposed to represent the royal tent (Fig. 67).[243] The artist could not give a complete representation of it, with all its divisions and the people it contained. He shows only the apartment in which the high-bred horses that drew the royal chariot were groomed and fed. Before the door of the pavilion an eunuch receives a company of prisoners, their hands bound behind them, and a soldier at their elbow. Higher up on the relief the sculptor has figured the god with fish's scales whom we have already encountered (see Fig. 9). To him, perhaps, the king attributed the capture of the fortress that has just fallen into his hands.

It is not, however, with an explanation of the scene that we are at present concerned; our business is with the structure of the pavilion itself, with the slender columns and the rich capitals at their summits, with the domed roof, made, no doubt, of several skins sewn together and kept in place by metal weights. The capitals and the two wild goats perched upon the shafts must have been of metal.

As for the tall and slender columns themselves, they were doubtless of wood. The chevrons and vertical fillets with which they are decorated may either have been carved in the wood or inlaid in metal.

The pavilion we have just described was a civil edifice, the temporary resting place of the sovereign. The same materials were employed in the same spirit and with a similar arrangement in the erection of religious tabernacles (see Fig. 68). The illustration on this page is taken from those plates of beaten bronze which are known as the Gates of Balawat and form one of the most precious treasures in the Assyrian Galleries of the British Museum.[244] They represent the victories and military expeditions of Shalmaneser II. In the pavilion that we have abstracted from this long series of reliefs may be recognized the field-chapel of the king. When that cruel but pious conqueror wished to thank Assur for some great success, he could cause a tabernacle like this to be raised in a few minutes even upon the field of battle itself. It is composed of four light columns supporting a canopy of leather which is kept in form by a fringe of heavy weights. Rather above the middle of these columns two rings give an opportunity for a knotted ornament that could also be very quickly arranged, and the brilliant colours of the knots would add notably to the gay appearance of the tabernacle. Under the canopy the king himself is shown standing in an attitude of worship and pouring a libation on the portable altar. The latter is a tripod, probably of bronze, and upon it appears a dish with something in it which is too roughly drawn to be identified. On the right stands a second and smaller tripod with a vessel containing the liquid necessary for the rite.

The graphic processes of the Assyrian sculptor were so imperfect that at first we have some difficulty in picturing to ourselves the originals of these representations; in spite of the care devoted to many of their details, the real constitution of these little buildings is not easily grasped. In order to make it quite clear M. Chipiez has restored one of them, using no materials in the restoration but those for which authority is to be found in the bas-reliefs (Fig. 70).

M. Chipiez has placed his pavilion upon a salient bastion forming part of a wide esplanade. Two staircases lead up to it, and the wall by which the whole terrace is supported and inclosed is ornamented with those vertical grooves which are such a common motive in Chaldaean architecture. In front of the pavilion, on the balustrade of the staircase, and in the background near a third flight of steps, four isolated columns may be seen, the two former crowned with oval medallions, the two latter with cones. The meaning of these standards—which are copied from the Balawat Gates[245]—is uncertain. In the bas-reliefs in question they are placed before a stele with a rounded top, which is shown at the top of our engraving. This stele bears a figure of the monarch; another one like it is cut upon a cylinder of green feldspar found by Layard close to the principal entrance to Sennacherib's palace (see Fig. 69).[246]

Though practically absent from the great brick palaces, the column here played an important and conspicuous part. It furnished elegant and richly decorated supports for canopies of wool that softly rose and fell with the passing breeze. Fair carpets were spread upon the ground beneath, others were suspended to cross beams painted with lively colours, and swept the earth with the long and feathered fringes sewn upon their borders.

The difference was great between the massive buildings by which the Mesopotamian plains were dominated, and these light, airy structures which must have risen in great numbers in Chaldaea and Assyria, here on the banks of canals and rivers or in the glades of shady parks, there on the broad esplanades of a temple or in the courts of a royal palace. Between the mountains of clay on the one hand and these graceful tabernacles with their slender supports and gay coverings on the other, the contrast must have been both charming and piquant. Nowhere else do we find the distinction between the house and the tent so strongly marked. The latter must have held, too, a much more important place in the national life than it did either in Egypt or Greece. The monarch spent most of his time either in hunting or fighting, and his court must have followed him to the field. Moreover, when spring covers every meadow with deep herbage and brilliant flowers, an irresistible desire comes over the inhabitants of such countries as Mesopotamia to fly from cities and set up their dwellings amid the scents and verdure of the fields. Again, when the summer heats have dried up the plains and made the streets of a town unbearable, an exodus takes place to the nearest mountains, and life is only to be prized when it can be passed among the breezes from their valleys and the shadows of their forest trees.

Even in our own day the inhabitants of these regions pass from the house to the tent with an ease which seems strange to us. At certain seasons some of the nomad tribes betake themselves within the walls of Bagdad and Mossoul and there set up their long black tents of goats' hair.[247] Judging from the bas-reliefs they did the same even in ancient Assyria; in some of these a few tents may be seen sprinkled over a space inclosed by a line of walls and towers.[248] Abraham and Lot slept in their tents even when they dwelt within the walls of a city.[249] Lot had both his tent and a house at Sodom.[250] Every year the inhabitants of Mossoul and the neighbouring villages turn out in large numbers into the neighbouring country, and, during April and May, re-taste for a time that pastoral life to which a roof is unknown.

The centuries have been unable to affect such habits as these, because they were suggested, enforced, and perpetuated by nature herself, by the climate of Mesopotamia; and they have done much to create and develop that light and elegant form of building which we may almost call the architecture of the tent. In these days and in a country into whose remotest corners the decadence has penetrated, the tent is hardly more than a mere shelter; here and there, in the case of a few chiefs less completely ruined than the rest, it still preserves a certain size and elegance, but as a rule all that is demanded of it is to be sufficiently strong and thick to resist the wind, the rain, and the sun. It was otherwise in the rich and civilized society with which we are now concerned. Its arrangement and decoration then called forth inventive powers and a refined taste of which we catch a few glimpses in the bas-reliefs. It gave an opportunity for the employment of forms and motives which could not be used at all, or used in a very restricted fashion, in more solid structures, such as palaces and temples. Of all these that which most closely results from the necessities of wooden or metal construction is the column, and we therefore find that it is in this tent-architecture that it takes on the characteristics that distinguish it from the Egyptian column and give it an originality of its own.


[164] The remains of stone walls are at least so rare in Lower Mesopotamia that we may disregard their existence. In my researches I have only found mention of a single example. At Abou-Sharein TAYLOR found a building in which an upper story was supported by a mass of crude brick faced with blocks of dressed sandstone. The stones of the lower courses were held together by mortar, those of the upper ones by bitumen. We have no information as to the "bond" or the size of stones used (Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, vol. xv. p. 408). The materials for this revetment must have been quarried in one of those rocky hills—islands, perhaps, formerly—with which Lower Chaldaea is sparsely studded. TAYLOR mentions one seven miles west of Mugheir, in the desert that stretches away towards Arabia from the right bank of the Euphrates (Journal, &c. vol. xv. p. 460).

[165] We shall here give a resume of M. Place's observations (Ninive et l'Assyrie, vol. i. pp. 31-34).

[166] PLACE, Ninive, &c. vol. i. p.

[167] Ibid. p. 33.

[168] In every country in which buildings have been surmounted by flat roofs, this precaution has been taken—"When thou buildest a new house, then thou shalt make a battlement for thy roof, that thou bring not blood upon thine house, if any man fall from thence." (Deuteronomy xxii. 8). See also Les Monuments en Chaldee, en Assyrie et a Babylon, d'apres les recentes decouvertes archeologique, avec neuf planches lithographies, 8vo, by H. CAVANIOL, published in 1870 by Durand et Pedone-Lauriel. It contains a very good resume, especially in the matter of architecture, of those labours of French and English explorers to which we owe our knowledge of Chaldaea and Assyria.

[169] PLACE, Ninive et l'Assyrie, vol i. p. 64.

[170] XENOPHON, Anabasis, iii. 4, 7-11. The identity of Larissa and Mespila has been much discussed. Oppert thinks they were Resen and Dour-Saryoukin; others that they were Calech and Nineveh. The question is without importance to our inquiry. In any case the circumference of six parasangs (about 20-1/2 miles) ascribed by the Greek writer to his Mespila can by no means be made to fit Khorsabad.

[171] See the History of Art in Ancient Egypt, vol. i. p. 113.

[172] BOTTA tells us how the courses of crude brick were distinguished one from another at Khorsabad (Monuments de Ninive, vol. v. p. 57).

[173] Speaking of Hillah, GEORGE SMITH tells us (Assyrian Discoveries, p. 62):—"A little to the south rose the town of Hillah, built with the bricks found in the old capital. The natives have established a regular trade in these bricks for building purposes. A number of men are always engaged in digging out the bricks from the ruins, while others convey them to the banks of the Euphrates. There they are packed in rude boats, which float them down to Hillah, and on being landed they are loaded on donkeys and taken to any place where building is in progress. Every day when at Hillah I used to see this work going on as it had gone on for centuries, Babylon thus slowly disappearing without an effort being made to ascertain the dimensions and buildings of the city, or to recover what remains of its monuments. The northern portion of the wall, outside the Babil mound, is the place where the work of destruction is now (1874) most actively going on, and this in some places has totally disappeared."

[174] LAYARD, Discoveries, &c. p. 110.

[175] LAYARD, Nineveh, vol. ii. p. 279. "The bricks had no mortar but the mud from which they had been made," says BOTTA (Monuments de Ninive, vol. v. p. 30).

[176] LAYARD, Discoveries, &c. p. 503.

[177] LAYARD, Discoveries, pp. 499 and 506.

[178] TAYLOR, Notes on the Ruins of Mugheir (Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, vol. xv. p. 261). This mortar is still employed in the country; it is called kharour.

[179] The most plentiful springs occur at Hit, on the middle Euphrates. They are also found, however, farther north, as at Kaleh-Shergat, near the Tigris. Over a wide stretch of country in that district the bitumen wells up through every crack in the soil (LAYARD, Nineveh, vol. ii. p. 46). As for the bituminous springs of Hammam-Ali, near Mossoul, see PLACE, Ninive et l'Assyrie, vol. i. p. 236.

[180] Genesis xi. 3.

[181] HERODOTUS, i. 179.

[182] Warka, its Ruins and Remains, by W. KENNETH LOFTUS, p. 9. (In the Transactions of the Royal Society of Literature, second series, Part I.) According to SIR HENRY RAWLINSON this introduction of layers of reeds or rushes between the courses of brick continued in all this region at least down to the Parthian epoch. Traces of it are to be found in the walls of Seleucia and Ctesiphon (RAWLINSON'S Herodotus, vol. i. p. 300 note 1).

[183] LOFTUS, Travels and Researches, i. p. 169. The abundance of bitumen in the ruins of Mugheir is such that the modern name of the town has sprung from it; the word means the bituminous (TAYLOR, Notes on the Ruins of Mugheir).

[184] PLACE, Ninive et l'Assyrie, vol. i. p. 236; LAYARD, Nineveh, vol. ii. p. 261.

[185] LOFTUS, Warka, its Ruins, &c. p. 10.

[186] PLACE, Ninive, vol. i. pp. 29 and 248.

[187] TAYLOR, Notes on Abou-Sharein and Tell-el-Lahm (Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, vol. xv. p. 408).

[188] BOTTA, Monument de Ninive, vol. v. p. 58.

[189] NIEBUHR (Voyage en Arabie, vol. ii. p. 235) noticed this, and his observations have since been confirmed by many other visitors to the ruins of Babylon. KER PORTER (vol. ii. p. 391) noticed them in the ruins of Al-Heimar. See also TAYLOR on "Mugheir," &c. (Journal, &c. vol. xv. p. 261). At Birs-Nimroud these conduits are about nine inches high and between five and six wide. They are well shown in the drawing given by FLANDIN and COSTE of this ruin (Perse ancienne et moderne, pl. 221. cf. text 1, p. 181).

[190] TAYLOR, Notes on the Ruins of Mugheir (Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society), vol. xv. pp. 268-269.

[191] At Khorsabad the average height of the alabaster lining is about ten feet; above that about three feet of brick wall remains.

[192] LAYARD, Nineveh, vol. i. pp. 127 and 350; vol. ii. pp. 40 and 350. As to the traces of fire at Khorsabad, see BOTTA, Monument de Ninive, vol. v. p. 54.

[193] LAYARD, Nineveh, vol. ii. pp. 256-264.

[194] LOFTUS, Travels and Researches, pp. 181-183.

[195] This accumulation has sometimes reached a height of about 24 feet. PLACE, Ninive, vol. i. p. 294.

[196] PLACE, Ninive, vol. i. pp. 293-294.

[197] E. FLANDIN, Voyage archeologique a Ninive. 1. L'Architecture assyrienne. 2. La Sculpture assyrienne (Revue des Deux-Mondes, June 15 and July 1, 1845).

[198] For all that concerns this artist, one of the most skilful draughtsmen of our time, see the biographical notice of M. de Girardot:—Felix Thomas, grand Prix de Rome Architecte, Peintre, Graveur, Sculpteur (Nantes, 1875, 8vo.).

[199] PLACE, Ninive, vol. i. pp. 249-269.

[200] PLACE, Ninive, vol. i. pp. 254-255.

[201] Ibid. p. 246.

[202] PLACE, Ninive, vol. i. p. 264.

[203] Ibid. p. 265. RICH made similar observations at Bagdad. He noticed that the masons could mount on the vault a few minutes after each course was completed (Narrative of a Journey to the Site of Babylon).

[204] M. A. CHOISY, well known by his Essays on L'Art de batir chez les Romains, shows that the same method was constantly used by the Byzantine architects. See his Note sur la Construction des Voutes sans cintrage pendant la Periode byzantine (Annales des Ponts et Chausees, 1876, second period, vol. xii.). See also Mr. FERGUSSON'S account of the erection of a huge stone dome without centering of any kind, by an illiterate Maltese builder, at Mousta, near Valetta (Handbook of Architecture, Second Edition, vol. iv. p. 34).—ED.

[205] STRABO, xvi. i. 5, Hoi oikoi kamarotoi pantes dia ten axulian.

[206] For a description of these buildings see FLANDIN and COSTE, Voyage en Perse, Perse ancienne, Text, pp. 24-27, and 41-43 (6 vols. folio, no date. The voyage in question took place in 1841 and 1842).

[207] Brick played, at least, by far the most important part in their construction. The domes and arcades were of well-burnt brick; the straight walls were often built of broken stone, when it was to be had in the neighbourhood. At Ctesiphon, on the other hand, the great building known as the Takht-i-Khosrou is entirely of brick.

[208] See M. AUGUSTE CHOISY'S Note sur la Construction des Voutes, &c. p. 14. This exact and penetrating critic shares our belief in these relations between the Chaldaean east and Roman Asia.

[209] Note sur la Construction des Voutes sans cintrage, p. 12.

[210] PLACE, Ninive, vol. i. pp. 266-267.

[211] As M. CHOISY remarks (L'Art de batir chez les Romains, p. 80), each horizontal course, being in the form of a ring, would have no tendency to collapse inwards, and a dome circular on plan would demand some means for keeping its shape true rather than a resisting skeleton.

[212] Ninive, vol. i. p. 131.

[213] In both the examples here reproduced the sculptor has indicated the cords by which the canvas walls were kept in place. We find almost the same profile in a bas-relief at Khorsabad (BOTTA, Monument de Ninive, pl. 146), but there it is cut with less decision and there are no cords. Between the two semi-domes the figure of a man rises above the wall to his middle, suggesting the existence of a barbette within. Here the artist may have been figuring a house rather than a tent.

[214] STRABO, xv. 3, 10.

[215] STRABO, xvi. 1, 5.

[216] Keramoi d' ou chrontai, says Strabo. These words, as Letronne remarked a propos of this passage, combine the ideas of a tiled roof and of one with a ridge. The one notion must be taken with the other; hence we may infer that the Babylonian houses were flat-roofed.

[217] STRABO, ii. 5, 11.

[218] See M. AMEDEE TARDIEU'S reflections upon Strabo's method of work, in his Geographie de Strabon (Hachette, 3 vols, 12mo.), vol. iii. p. 286, note 2.

[219] As to this singular people and their religious beliefs, the information contained in the two works of Sir H. LAYARD (Nineveh, vol. 1. pp. 270-305, and Discoveries, pp. 40-92) will be read with interest. Thanks to special circumstances Sir H. Layard was able to become more intimately acquainted than any other traveller with this much-abused and cruelly persecuted sect. He collected much valuable information upon doctrines which, even after his relation, are not a little obscure and confused. The Yezidis have a peculiar veneration for the evil principle, or Satan; they also seem to worship the sun. Their religion is in fact a conglomeration of various survivals from the different systems that have successively obtained in that part of Asia. They themselves have no clear idea of it as a whole. It would repay study by an archaeologist of religions.

[220] BOTTA, Monument de Ninive, vol. v. p. 70.

[221] See above, page 118, note 1.

[222] Some rooms are as much as thirty feet wide. They would require joists at least thirty-three feet long, a length that can hardly be admitted in view of the very mediocre quality of the wood in common use.

[223] Gailhabaud, Monuments anciens et modernes, vol. i.; plate entitled Tombeaux superposes a Corneto.

[224] PLACE, Ninive, vol. i. p. 309. In this passage M. Place affirms that Mr. Layard discovered in a room of one of the Ninevite palaces, several openings cut at less than four feet above the floor level. It is, moreover, certain that these openings were included in the original plan of the building, because the reliefs are interrupted so as to leave room for the window without injury to the scenes sculptured upon them; but, adds M. Place, this example is unique, one of those exceptions that help to confirm a rule. We have in vain searched through the two works of Sir Henry Layard for the statement alluded to by M. Place. The English explorer only once mentions windows, and then he says: "Even in the rooms bounded by the outer walls there is not the slightest trace of windows" (Nineveh, vol. ii. p. 260).

[225] BOTTA, Monument de Ninive, vol. v. p. 73.

[226] FLANDIN et COSTE, Voyage en Perse; Perse ancienne, plates 28 and 29; and, in the text, page 25. These openings occur in the great Sassanide palace at Ctesiphon, the Takht-i-Khosrou (ibid. pl. 216, and text, p. 175). Here the terra-cotta pipes are about eight inches in diameter. According to these writers similar contrivances are still in use in Persia.

[227] In the cupola of the palace at Sarbistan (Fig. 54), a window may be perceived in the upper part of the vertical wall, between the pendentives of the dome. Such openings may well have been pierced under Assyrian domes. From many of the illustrations we have given, it will be seen that the Ninevite architects had no objection to windows, provided they could be placed in the upper part of the wall. It is of windows like ours, pierced at a foot or two above the ground, that no examples have been found.

[228] PLACE. Ninive, vol. i. pp. 312-314.

[229] PLACE, Ninive, vol. i. p. 313.

[230] Ibid. p. 310

[231] PLACE, Ninive, vol. i. p. 311.

[232] PLACE, Ninive, vol. i. p. 307.

[233] See BOTTA, Monument de Ninive, vol. v. p. 53; Place, Ninive, vol. i. pp. 306, 307.

[234] LAYARD, Nineveh, vol. ii. p. 15.

[235] TAYLOR, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, vol. xv. p. 409.

[236] LAYARD, Discoveries, p. 260.

[237] LAYARD, Discoveries, pp. 645-6.

[238] LAYARD, Monuments, &c., first series, plate 19. This relief is reproduced in PLACE, Ninive, vol. iii. plate 40, fig. 6.

[239] British Museum; Kouyundjik Gallery, Nos. 34-43. See also LAYARD'S Monuments, plates 8 and 9.—ED.

[240] A second inclined gallery of the same kind was found by LAYARD in another of the Kouyundjik palaces (Discoveries, p. 650).

[241] PLACE, Ninive, vol. i. pp. 306, 307.

[242] PLACE, Ninive, vol. i. p. 140.

[243] As to the great size sometimes reached by the tents of the Arab chiefs, and the means employed to divide them into several apartments, see LAYARD, Discoveries, p. 313, and the sketch on page 321.

[244] There is a photographic reproduction of these interesting reliefs in the fine publication undertaken by the Society of Biblical Archaeology. This work, which is not yet (1883) complete, is entitled The Bronze Ornaments of the Gates of Balawat, Shalmaneser II. 859-825, edited, with an introduction, by Samuel BIRCH, with descriptions and translations by Theophilus G. PINCHES, folio, London. The three first parts are before us. The motive reproduced above belongs to the plate marked F, 5.

[245] They are to be found on the sheet provisionally numbered B, 1, in the publication above referred to.

[246] This cylinder, which is now in the British Museum, was perhaps the actual signet of the king.

[247] LAYARD, Nineveh, vol. ii. p. 272.

[248] LAYARD, Monuments of Nineveh, first series, plate 77; second series, plates 24 and 36.

[249] Genesis, xiii. 12.

[250] Genesis, xix.

Sec. 4.—The Column.

As Chaldaea, speaking broadly, made no use of stone in its buildings, the stone column or shaft was unknown to its architects; at least not a single fragment of such a thing has been found among the ruins. Here and there cylindrical piers built up of small units seem to have been employed. These are sometimes of specially moulded bricks,[251] sometimes of sandstone fragments supported by a coat of masonry. Time has separated the stones of the latter, and it is now only represented by fragments whose shape betrays their original destination. Taylor, indeed, found one of these piers still in place during his excavations at Abou-Sharein, but his sketch and description are so confused that it is quite useless to reproduce them.[252]

On the other hand, Chaldaea preceded Assyria in the art of raising airy structures mainly composed of wood and metal, and by them she was led to the use of slender supports and a decoration in which grace and elegance were the most conspicuous features. We have a proof of this in a curious monument recently acquired by the British Museum. It comes from Abou-Abba, about sixteen miles south-west of Bagdad, and is in a marvellous state of preservation. Abou-Abba has been recognized as the site of the ancient Sippara, one of the oldest of Chaldaean towns. Its sanctuaries, in which the sun-god, Samas, was chiefly adored, always maintained a great importance.

The monument in question is a tablet of very close-grained grey stone 11-1/3 inches long 6 inches high and, in the centre, about 3 inches thick. Its thickness increases from top to bottom. The edge is grooved. High up on the obverse there is a bas-relief, beneath this commences a long inscription which is finished on the reverse.[253] Shorter inscriptions are engraved on the field of the relief itself. The whole work—figures, inscriptions, and outer mouldings—is executed with the utmost care. The laborious solicitude with which the smallest details are carried out is to be explained by the destination of this little plaque, namely, the temple in the centre of Sippara in which a triad consisting of Sin, Samas, and Istar was the object of worship.[254]

The relief itself—which we reproduce from a cast kindly presented to us by Dr. Birch—occupies rather less than half of the obverse (Fig. 71). It represents a king called Nabou-Abla-Idin, who reigned about 900, doing homage to the sun-god.[255] We shall return to this scene and its composition when the time arrives for treating Chaldaean sculpture. At present we only wish to speak of the pavilion under which the deity is enthroned upon a chair supported by two beings half man and half bull.

This kind of tabernacle is bounded, above and at the back of the god, by a wall of which there is nothing to show the exact nature. Its graceful, sinuous line, however, seems to exclude the idea, sufficiently improbable in itself, of a brick vault. It may possibly have been of wood, though it would not be easy to obtain this elegant curve even in that material.

But such forms as this are given with the greatest ease in metal, and we are ready to believe that what the artist here meant to represent was a metal frame, which could at need be hidden under a canopy of leather or wool, like those we have already encountered in the Assyrian bas-reliefs (Figs. 67 and 68). The artist has in fact made use of a graphic process common enough with the Egyptians.[256] He has given us a lateral elevation of the tabernacle with the god in profile within it, because his skill was unequal to the task of showing him full front and seated between the two columns of the facade.

The single column thus left visible has been represented with great skill and care; the sculptor seems to have taken pleasure in dwelling upon its smallest details. Slender as it is, it must have been of wood. The markings upon it suggest the trunk of a palm, but we may be permitted to doubt whether it was allowed to remain in its natural uncovered state. Even in the climate of Chaldaea a dead tree trunk exposed to the air would have no great durability. Sooner or later the sun, the rain, the changes of temperature, would give a good account of it, and besides, a piece of rough wood could hardly be made to harmonize with the luxury that must assuredly have been lavished by the people of Sippara upon the sanctuary of their greatest divinity.

It is probable, therefore, that the wood was overlaid with plates of gilded bronze, fastened on with nails.

This hypothesis is confirmed by one of M. Place's discoveries at Khorsabad.[257] There, in front of the Harem, he found several large fragments of a round cedar-wood beam almost as thick as a man's body. It was cased in a bronze sheath, very much oxydized and resembling the scales of a fish in arrangement (Fig. 72). The metal was attached to the wood by a large number of bronze nails. Comparing these remains with certain bas-reliefs in which different kinds of trees appear (Fig. 27) we can easily see that the Ninevite sculptors meant to represent the peculiar roughnesses of palm bark. Their usual methods are modified a little by the requirements of the material and the size of the beam upon which it was used. Each scale was about 4-1/2 inches high, and according to the calculations of M. Place, the whole mast must have been from five-and-thirty to forty feet high. Working for spectators on a lower level and at some distance, the smith thought well to make his details as regular and strongly marked as he could; to each scale or leaf he gave a raised edge to mark its contour and distinguish it from the rest. The general effect was thus obtained by deliberate exaggeration of the relief and by a conventionality that was justified by the conditions of the problem to be solved.

At a little distance from this broken beam M. Place found a leaf of gold which is now in the Louvre; it presents the same ovoid forms as the bronze sheathing, and, moreover, the numerous nail holes show that it was meant to fulfil the same purpose as the bronze plates. The place in which it was found, its dimensions and form, all combine to prove that it was laid upon the bronze as we should lay gold leaf. It bears an inscription in cuneiform characters.

We are inclined to take these plates for models in restoring the columns of the Sippara tabernacle. There is nothing in the richness of this double covering of bronze and gold to cause surprise, as the inscription which covers part of the face and the whole of the back of the tablet is nothing but a long enumeration of the gifts made to the shrine of Samas by the reigning king and his predecessors.

This column has both capital and base. The former cannot have been of stone; a heavy block of basalt or even of limestone would be quite out of place in such a situation. As for the base it is hardly more than a repetition of the capital, and must have been of the same material; and that material was metal, the only substance that, when bent by the hand or beaten by the hammer, takes almost of its own motion those graceful curves that we call volutes.

We believe then in a bronze capital gilded. Under the volutes three rings, or astragali, may be seen. By their means the capital was allied to the shaft. The former consisted of two volutes between which appeared a vertical point resembling one of the angles of a triangle. The base is the same except that it has no point, and that the rings are in contact with the ground instead of with the shaft. These volutes may also be perceived on the table in front of the tabernacle, where they support the large disk by which the sun-god is symbolized.

Before quitting this tablet we may point to another difference between the column of Sippara and the shafts of the same material and proportions that we have encountered in the Assyrian bas-reliefs (Figs. 67, 68, and 69). In the latter the column rises above the canopy, which is attached to its shaft by brackets or nails. At Sippara the canopy rests upon the capital itself. The same arrangement may be found in Assyrian representations of these light structures; it will suffice to give one example taken from the gates of Balawat (Fig. 73). Here, too, the proportions of the columns prove them to have been of wood. They do not rise above the entablature. The architrave rests upon them, and, as in Greece and Egypt, its immediate weight is borne by abaci.

At present our aim is to prove that Assyria derived from Chaldaea the first idea of those tall and slender columns, the shafts of which were of wood sheathed in metal, and the capitals of the latter material. The graceful and original forms of Chaldaean art would have prepared the way for a columnar architecture in stone, had that material been forthcoming. Babylon, however, saw no such architecture. Her plastic genius never came under the influence that would have led her to import stone from abroad; and the grace and variety of the orders remained unknown to her builders. Like Egypt, Chaldaea gave lessons but received none. The forms of her art are to be explained by the inborn characteristics of her people and the natural conditions among which they found themselves placed.

In Assyria these conditions were rather different. The stone column was used there, but used in a timid and hesitating fashion. It never reached the freedom and independence that would have characterized it had it arisen naturally from the demands of construction.[258]

We only possess one column, or rather one fragment of a column, from Assyria, and that was found by M. Place at Khorsabad (Fig. 74). It is a block of carefully worked and carved limestone about forty inches high, and including both the capital and the upper part of the shaft in its single piece.

Such a combination could not long exist in architectonic systems in which the stone column played its true part. It is a survival from the use of wood. Another characteristic feature is the complete absence both from this fragment and from the columns in the sculptured reliefs of vertical lines or divisions of any kind, no trace of a fluted or polygonal shaft has been found.[259]

In writing the history of the Egyptian column we explained how the natural desire for as much light as possible led the architects of Beni-Hassan to transform the square pier, first into an octagonal prism, secondly into one with sixteen sides.[260] And to this progressive elaboration of the polyhedric shaft the flutes seemed to us to owe their origin. On the other hand, with tall and slender supports such as those afforded by palm trunks no necessity for reduction and for the shaving of angles would arise, and those flutes whose peculiar section is owing to the desire for a happy play of light and shadow, would never have been thought of. If we imitate a natural timber shaft in stone we have a smooth cylindrical column like that seen in Fig. 74.

Again, the shafts of the columns in the bas-reliefs, appear slender in comparison with those of Egypt, or with the doric shafts of the oldest Greek temples (see Fig. 41 and 42). In the fragmentary column from Khorsabad (Fig. 74) we have only a small part of the shaft but if we may judge from the feeble salience of the capital, its proportions must have been slender rather than heavy and massive.

Wherever the stone column has been used in buildings of mediocre size, the architect seems to have been driven by some optical necessity to make his angle columns more thickset than the other supports. Thus it was in Assyria, in the little temple at Kouyundjik (Fig. 42), where the outer columns are sensibly thicker than those between them; at Khorsabad (Fig. 41) the same result was obtained by rather different means. The edifice represented in this bas-relief bears no little similarity to certain Egyptian temples and to the Greek temple in antis.[261] The strength of these angular piers contrasts happily with the elegance of the columns between them. The latter are widely spaced, and, as in some Egyptian buildings, the architrave is but a horizontal continuation of the corner piers.

If we analyse the column and examine its three parts separately we shall be led to similar conclusions. The stone column no doubt bore the architrave upon its capital wherever it was used, and both in Chaldaea and Assyria we find the same arrangement in those light structures which we have classed as belonging to the architecture of the tent (Figs. 70 and 72). The origin of the forms employed in stone buildings is most clearly shewn by the frequent occurrence of the volute, a curvilinear element suggested by the use and peculiar properties of metal.

We find these volutes everywhere, upon shafts of stone and wood indifferently. We are tempted to think, when we examine the details of our Fig. 67, that the first idea of them was taken from the horns of the ibex or the wild goat. The column on the right of this cut bears a fir cone between its volutes, those on the left have small tablets on which are perched the very animals whose heads are armed with these horns.

However this may be, the form in question, like all others borrowed from nature by man, was soon modified and developed by art. The curve was prolonged and turned in upon itself. In one of the capitals of the little temple represented at Kouyundjik (Fig. 42), two pairs of these horns may be recognized one above the other (Fig. 75), but nowhere else do we find such an arrangement. Whether the column be of wood, as in the Sippara tablet (Fig. 71), or of stone, as in those buildings in which the weight and solidity of the entablature points decisively to that material (Figs. 41 and 42), we find a volute in universal use that differs but slightly in its general physiognomy from the familiar ornament of the Ionic capital.

Let us revert for a moment to the country house or palace of which we gave a general view in Fig. 39. We shall there find on the highest part of the building an open loggia supported by small columns many times repeated. We reproduce this part of the relief on a larger scale (Fig. 76), so that its details may be more clearly seen. A very slight familiarity with the graphic processes of the Assyrians is sufficient to inform the reader that the kind of trellis work with which the bed of the relief is covered is significant of a mountainous country. The palace rises on the banks of a river, which is indicated by the sinuous lines in the right lower corner. The buildings themselves—which are dominated here and there by the round tops of trees, planted, we may suppose, in the inner courts—stand upon mounds at various heights above the plain. The lowest of these look like isolated structures, such as the advanced works of a fortress. Next comes a line of towers, and then the artificial hill crowned by the palace properly speaking. The facade of the latter is flanked by tall and salient towers, across whose summits runs the open gallery to which we have referred.[262] This is supported by numerous columns which must by their general arrangement and spacing, have been of wood. The gallery consisted, in all probability, of a platform upheld by trunks of trees, either squared or left in the rough and surmounted by capitals sheathed in beaten bronze.

The volute is here quite simple in shape; elsewhere we find it doubled, as it were, so that four volutes occur between the astragali and the abacus (Figs. 42 and 77).[263] In other examples, again, it is elongated upwards until it takes a shape differing but little from the acanthus leaves of the Corinthian capital (Fig. 78).[264]

This volute is found all over Assyria and Chaldaea. It decorates the angles of the small temple represented on the stone known as Lord Aberdeen's Black Stone (Fig. 79). It occurs also on many of the ivories, but these, perhaps, are for the most part Phoenician. But in any case the Assyrians made constant use of it in the decoration of their furniture. In an ivory plaque, of which the British Museum possesses several examples, we find a man standing and grasping a lotus stem in his left hand (Fig. 80). This stem rests upon a support which bears a strong resemblance to the Sippara capital (Fig. 71); it has two volutes separated by a sharp point. The fondness of the Assyrians for these particular curves is also betrayed in that religious and symbolic device which has been sometimes called the Tree of Life. Some day, perhaps, the exact significance of this emblem may be explained, we are content to point out the variety and happy arrangement of the sinuous lines which surround and enframe the richly decorated pilaster that acts as its stem. We gave one specimen of this tree in Fig. 8; we now give another (Fig. 81). The astragali, the ibex horns and the volutes, may all be easily recognized here.

The only stone capital that has come down to us has, indeed, no volutes (Fig. 74) but it is characterized by the same taste for flowing lines and rounded forms. Its general section is that of a cyma reversa surmounted by a flattened torus, and its appearance that of a vase decorated with curvilinear and geometrical tracery. There is both originality and beauty in the contours of the profile and the arrangement of the tracery; the section as a whole is not unlike that of the inverted bell-shaped capitals at Karnak.[265]

This type must have been in frequent use, as we find it repeated in four bases found still in place in front of the palace of Sennacherib by Sir Henry Layard. They were of limestone and rested upon plinths and a pavement of the same material (Fig. 82).[266] In these the design of the ornament is a little more complicated than the festoon on the Khorsabad capital, but the principle is the same and both objects belong to one narrow class.

We again encounter this same base with its opposing curves in a curious monument discovered at Kouyundjik by Mr. George Smith.[267] This is a small and carefully executed model, in yellowstone, of a winged human-headed bull, supporting on his back a vase or base similar in design to that figured above. This little object must have served as a model for the carvers engaged upon the palace walls. We shall not here stop to examine the attributes and ornaments of the bull, they are well shown in our Figs. 83 and 84, and their types are known by many other examples. Our aim is to show that we have rightly described the uses to which it was put. These might have remained obscure but for the discovery, in the south-western palace at Nimroud, of a pair of winged sphinxes, calcined by fire but still in their places between two huge lions at one of the doors. Before their contours disappeared—and they rapidly crumbled away upon contact with the air—Layard had time to make a drawing of the one that had suffered least (Fig. 85). In his description he says that between the two wings was a sort of plateau, "intended to carry the base of a column."[268]

Surprised at not finding any trace of the column itself, he gives out another conjecture: that these sphinxes were altars upon which offerings to the gods, or presents to the king were placed. This hypothesis encounters many objections. We may easily account for the disappearance of the column by supposing it to have been of wood. If it was stone, it may have been carried off for use as a roller by the inhabitants of the neighbouring villages, before that part of the building to which it belonged was so completely engulfed and hidden by the ruins as it afterwards became.[269] Moreover we can point to a certain number of Assyrian altars, and their shapes are very different from this.

Finally, all our doubts are removed by a bas-relief from the palace of Assurbanipal, which is now in the British Museum (Fig. 86). The upper part of this carved picture is destroyed, but enough remains to show that it reproduced the facade of some richly decorated building. Four columns supported on the backs of so many lions, and two flat pilasters upheld in the same fashion by winged griffins, may readily be distinguished. That these griffins are not repeated on the left of the relief, is due perhaps to the haste or laziness of the sculptor. He may have thought he had done enough when he had shown once for all how these pedestals were composed. However this may have been, the lions in this relief play exactly the same role as that attributed by us to the little model found by George Smith, and to the winged sphinx discovered by Sir Henry Layard before one of the doors at Nimroud. A base in the form of a vase or cushion is inserted between the back of the animal and the bottom of the shaft. In the pilaster—if we may believe that the artist took no liberties with fact—the junction is direct without the interposition of any ornamental motive.

In what M. Place calls the state doorways (portes ornees) of Khorsabad, the arches spring from the backs of the great mitred bulls that guard the entrance.[270] But, whether the columns rose from the backs of animals real or fantastic, they always seem to have had a base. Almost the only instance of its absence is in the open gallery in Fig. 76, and there, perhaps, they are hidden by a balustrade. Everywhere else we find a more or less ornamental member interposed between the shaft and the ground. At Khorsabad (Fig. 41) it is a simple torus (Fig. 87), at Kouyundjik (Fig. 42) it is a kind of cushion (Fig. 88), which we find represented in not a few of the bas-reliefs. The curves bear a distant resemblance to the volutes of a capital; above this base appears a ring or astragal, the origin of which may be easily guessed. The original timber column, the newly felled tree that was set up to support the roof of a tent or a house, must have been placed upon a block of stone or wood, to which it was joined, in some degree, by hollowing out the latter and setting the foot of the timber beam in the hollow, and then hiding the junction by those reed bands that, as travellers tell us, were still used for the same purpose in the last years of Babylon.[271] In time a ring of metal would take the place of the reeds, and when stone columns came to be used, a feature which was at first a necessity, or, at least, a useful expedient and a guarantee of duration and solidity, came at last to be simply an ornament.

* * * * *

We have now studied the Assyrian column as a whole and in detail. Most of its features seem to us to be survivals from the methods and processes of what we have called the architecture of the tent. The stone column had no place in those structures of crude brick of which the real national architecture of Mesopotamia consisted; it was not at home there; the surrounding conditions were unfavourable to its development. And yet, in time, it did, as we have seen, put in a rare appearance, at least in the case of that one of the two sister nations by which a sufficient supply of stone could be obtained, but even then it filled an ornamental and auxiliary rather than a vital function. Its remains are only to be found by patient search, and even in the bas-reliefs its representations are few and far between. By making diligent use of these two channels of information archaeology has succeeded in demonstrating the existence of the Assyrian column and describing its forms, but at the same time it has been compelled to recognize how narrow was its use, especially in the great structures on which Mesopotamian builders lavished all the resources of their art. In those it was employed mainly for the decoration of outbuildings, and it will be well to inquire how it acquitted itself of such a task.

* * * * *

The column seems to have been introduced in those gateways to which the Assyrian architect attached so much importance.[272] Read carefully Sir Henry Layard's description of his discovery of two sphinxes upon one of the facades of the south-western palace at Kouyundjik (Fig. 83); he gives no plan of the passage where he found them, but his narrative[273] suggests the existence of some kind of porch in front of the large opening. It must have been upheld by a pair of columns on the backs of the two sphinxes, and may have consisted of one of those wooden canopies which are so common in the modern architecture of the East.[274]

We are inclined to recognize a pent house of this kind, but of more complicated construction in the Kouyundjik bas-relief figured above (Fig. 83). No door is shown, but that, perhaps, is due to the sculptor's inability to suggest a void, or the two central perpendicular lines may have been joined by a horizontal one on the upper part of the relief, which is lost, and thus a doorway indicated; it would then have a couple of pilasters and a couple of columns on each flank.

In classic architecture we find nothing that can be compared with this curious notion of placing columns and pilasters on the backs of real or imaginary animals, on a lion, a winged bull, or a sphinx. In the modern East, however, it is still done. The throne of the Shah, at Teheran, is supported by columns which, in their turn, stand on the backs of lions. Singularly enough the same idea found favour with European architects in the middle ages, who often made use of it in the porches of their Christian cathedrals.[275] Hence, the old formula often found in judicial documents, sedente inter leones,—sitting between the lions—which, was used of episcopal judgments delivered in the church porch. In Italy, in buildings of the Lombardic style, these lions are to be found in great numbers and in this same situation. At Modena there is one in the south porch of the cathedral that strongly reminded me by its style and handling of the figures now existing in Cappadocia, of the lion at Euiuk, for example; in both instances it is extended on the ground with its fore paws laid upon some beast it has caught.[276] We could hardly name a motive more dear to Oriental art than this. Between the predilections of the modern East and those of Assyria and Chaldaea there are many such analogies. We shall not try to explain them; we shall be content with pointing them out as they present themselves.

Various facts observed by Sir Henry Layard and the late George Smith, show that the column was often employed to form covered alleys stretching from a door to the edge of the platform, doubtless to the landings on which the stepped or inclined approaches to the palace came to an end. Sir Henry Layard[277] found four bases of limestone (Fig. 82) on the north side of Sennacherib's palace. They were in couples, one couple close to the palace wall, the other in a line with it but some eight-and-twenty yards farther from the building. In each pair the distance from centre to centre was 9 feet 3 inches. With such a width the covered way may very well have been roofed with wood, a hypothesis which is supported by the discovery, at the same point, of the remains of crude brick walls. The columns would mark in all likelihood the two extremities of the passage. As for the other conjecture thrown out by the explorer, it seems to us to be much less probable. He asks whether these bases may not have been the pedestals of statues. Many Assyrian statues have been found together with their pedestals, and these are always simple in the extreme and without any kind of ornament. Moreover, the statues themselves were made rather to be set up against a wall than to pass an independent existence in an open courtyard.

Moreover, George Smith saw two of these bases in place at one of the entrances to the palace of Assurbanipal. Unfortunately he gives no drawing and his description is wanting in clearness, but he seems to have noticed the traces left by a cylindrical shaft on the upper surface of one base; his expression, "a flat circle to receive the column," evidently means that the latter was sunk into the substance of the base.[278] Here, no doubt was the end of a gallery, like that in front of Sennacherib's palace.

There must in all probability have been other remains of these columns besides those noticed by the English explorer, but at Khorsabad alone were the excavations superintended by a professional architect, there alone were they watched by the trained eye of a man capable of giving its true meaning and value to every detail of a ruinous building. At Nimroud, at Kouyundjik, at Nebbi-Younas, many interesting traces of ancient arrangements may have been obliterated in the course of the excavations without those who stood by having the least suspicion of their significance.

We might perhaps, if it were worth while, come upon further representations of columns on engraved stones, on ivories, and bronzes,[279] but upon such small objects forms are indicated in a very summary fashion, and, besides, they would be nothing more than curtailed repetitions of motives shown in more detail and upon a larger scale elsewhere. Our readers may fairly judge, from the examples we have placed before them, of the appearance of those columns of wood and metal, which the Chaldaeans used in the light and graceful tabernacles figured for us on the relief from Sippara, and of the more durable stone supports of the Assyrians. Long habit and an excessive respect for tradition, hindered the latter from turning the column to its fullest use. They stopped half way. They employed the feature with such timidity that we can point to nothing that can be called an Assyrian order. They produced nothing to compare with the rich and varied colonnades that we admired in the hypostyle halls of Egypt. And yet we cannot say that they showed any lack of originality or invention in their choice of decorations for the bases and capitals of their columns. Their favourite motive seems to have been the volute, to which, however, they gave an endless variety. They used it, no doubt, in many ways that now escape us, and by applying it now to this purpose and now to that, and sometimes with the happiest results, they accumulated an amount of experience as to the value of those graceful curves which was of great value to their successors. Who those successors were and how they carried to perfection a form which had its origin on the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates, will be shown in the course of our history.


[251] See above, p. 118, note 1.

[252] TAYLOR, Notes on Abou-Sharein, and Tell-el-Lahm, (Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, vol. xv. p. 404).—ED.

[253] This inscription is published in full in the Cuneiform Inscriptions of Western Asia, vol. v. part ii.

[254] The names of these three deities are furnished by the inscription which runs beneath the canopy of the pavilion (see Fig. 71).

[255] The disk upon the table is enough by itself to betray the identity of the god, but as if to render assurance doubly sure, the artist has taken the trouble to cut on the bed of the relief under the three small figures, an inscription which has been thus translated by MM. OPPERT and MENANT: "Image of the Sun, the Great Lord, who dwells in the temple of Bit-para, in the city of Sippara."

[256] See our History of Art in Ancient Egypt, vol. ii. chap. 1, Sec. 1.

[257] PLACE, Ninive, vol. i. pp. 120-122, and vol. iii. plate 73.

[258] In this connection Sir H. LAYARD makes an observation to which the attention of the artist should be drawn. Whenever pictures of Belshazzar's Feast and the Last Night of Babylon are painted massive Egyptian pillars are introduced: nothing could be more contrary to the facts (Discoveries, p. 581).

[259] M. PLACE, indeed, encountered an octagonal column on the mound of Karamles, but the general character of the objects found in that excavation led him to conclude positively that the column in question was a relic from the Parthian or Sassanide epoch (Ninive, vol. ii. pp. 169, 170).

[260] History of Art in Ancient Egypt, vol. ii. p. 95.

[261] Ibid. vol. i. p. 397, fig. 230; and vol. ii. p. 105, fig. 84.

[262] The profiles of the capitals in this gallery led Sir H. LAYARD to speak of "small pillars with capitals in the form of the Ionic volute" (Discoveries, p. 119) (?).

[263] A similar arrangement of volutes may be found on the rough columns engraved upon one of the ivory plaques found at Nimroud (LAYARD, Monuments, &c., first series, plate 88, fig. 3).

[264] We reproduce this capital from RAWLINSON'S Five Great Monarchies (vol. i. p. 333); but we should have liked to be able to refer either to the relief in which it occurs, or to the original design which must have been made in the case of those slabs which had to be left at Nineveh. We have succeeded in finding neither the relief nor the drawing, so that we cannot guarantee the fidelity of the image.

[265] See Art in Ancient Egypt, vol. ii. p. 120, fig. 95.

[266] LAYARD forgets to give the height of this base: he is content to tell us that its greatest diameter is 2 feet 7 inches, and its smallest 11-1/2 inches. This latter measurement must have been taken at the junction with the shaft (Discoveries, p. 590).

[267] George SMITH, Assyrian Discoveries, sixth edition, 8vo. 1876, p. 431.

[268] LAYARD, Nineveh, vol. i. p. 349, at a little distance the explorer found the bodies of two lions placed back to back, which seemed to have formed a pedestal of the same kind. Their heads were wanting, and the whole group had suffered so much from fire, that it was impossible either to carry it off or to make a satisfactory drawing from it (ibid. p. 351).

[269] This suggestion seems inconsistent with the state of the ruin at the spot where the discovery was made. Sir Henry Layard describes these sphinxes as buried in charcoal, and so calcined by the fire that they fell into minute fragments soon after exposure to the air. Anything carried on their backs must have fallen at the time of the conflagration, and, if a stone column, it would have been found under the charcoal.—ED.

[270] PLACE, Ninive, vol. iii. plate 11.

[271] STRABO, xvi. 1, 5.

[272] Thomas has placed one of these porches in his restoration of Sargon's palace at Khorsabad. It is supported by two columns, and serves to mark one of the entrances to the harem. (PLACE, Ninive, vol. iii. plate 37 bis.)

[273] LAYARD, Nineveh, vol. i. pp. 349, 350.

[274] Numerous examples are figured in COSTE and FLANDIN'S Perse Moderne, plates 3, 7, 9, 26, 27, 54, &c. They cast a wide shadow in front of the doorways, and sometimes run along the whole length of the facade. Some little support to M. Perrot's theory is afforded by a circumstance on which Layard dwells strongly in the passage referred to above, namely, that the sphinxes were found buried over their heads in charcoal, which may very well have been the remains of such a porch; its quantity seems too great for those of a ceiling.—ED.

[275] This coincidence struck Professor Rawlinson, who compares one of these Assyrian columns to a column in the porch of the Cathedral of Trent. He reproduces them both in his Five Great Monarchies, vol. i. p. 313.

[276] See PERROT and GUILLAUME, Exploration archeologique de la Galatie, vol. ii. pl. 57.

[277] Discoveries, p. 590.

[278] GEORGE SMITH, Assyrian Discoveries, p. 431.

[279] One curious example of this is figured in the work of M. CHIPIEZ, Histoire critique de l'Origine et de la Formation des Ordres grecs, p. 20. See also LAYARD, Discoveries, p. 444, where a bas-relief from the palace of Sennacherib is figured, upon which appears a coffer supported by a foot in the shape of a column, which ends in a regular volute.

Sec. 5.—The Arch.

In the preceding pages we have determined the role played by the column in Assyria, and have explained that in spite of the care and taste lavished upon some of its details, it never rose above the rank of a secondary and subordinate member. There is nothing, then, to surprise us in the fact that the Assyrian architect never placed his arches or vaults upon columns or piers; he seems never to have had a glimpse of the great possibilities such a procedure involved, a procedure from which upon the very soil of the East, his remote descendants were to evolve the architecture of the Byzantine church and the Arab mosque. His archivolts and the pendentives of his vaults always rest upon thick walls, and yet almost every variety of the simple arch or tunnel-vault are to be found among the ruins of his buildings.

* * * * *

Like all the other forms of Assyrian architecture the arch was invented in Chaldaea. The use of small sized materials must have led to its early discovery in that country. But the only arches now standing occur in the better preserved monuments of Assyria. On the other hand the tombs of Lower Chaldaea furnish more than one example of that false, corbelled or off-set vault, that we have already encountered in Egypt.[280] The chamber figured below is taken from the necropolis of Mugheir, formerly "Ur of the Chaldees." It is built of crude brick bound with mud. The vault is supported by walls sloping upwards and outwards like those of a modern tunnel (Fig. 89).[281]

Such a method of construction is only adapted to buildings of small dimensions; it could not be used for chambers with wide roofs, or where any great weight was to be upheld. The arches upon which, according to both Strabo and Diodorus,[282] the hanging gardens of Babylon were supported, must have been real centred arches. As to whether they were of pise, like those of Khorsabad, the Greek writers tell us nothing. From what we know of the habits of the Chaldaean builder we may conclude that they were true arches with voussoirs either of bricks burnt in the kiln, or so well dried that they were almost as hard and durable as those that had passed through the fire. This conjecture is confirmed by the fact that the structures in question lasted till the Macedonian conquest. Strabo and Diodorus speak of the great temple of Bel as so ruinous that its original height could not be guessed, even approximatively. It was otherwise with the hanging gardens. Of these they give the measurements, on plan, of the platforms and piers, together with their heights, and the heights of the arches. We should find it difficult to explain the preciseness of these measurements and their agreement one with another, unless we supposed that both writers had some exact authority, such as one of the companions or historians of Alexander, to refer to. The kings of Persia lived at Babylon for a part of the year. These princes may well have been indifferent to the preservation of the national fanes, they may even have hastened their destruction, as Xerxes is said to have done, in order to punish and humiliate the rebellious Babylonians. But in their own interest they would see that proper care was taken of those hanging gardens by which their stay in the city would be rendered more pleasant than it would otherwise have been, from whose lofty platforms their watchful eyes could roam over the city and the adjoining plain, and follow the course of the great river until it disappeared on the south amid groves of waving palm. After the rise of Seleucia and Ctesiphon, however, the gardens would rapidly hasten to decay, but they must have been solidly built in the first instance to last as long as they did. The pise vaults of the Ninevite palaces could never have stood so well. In spite of the layers of lead and bitumen which, as Diodorus tells us, were spread upon their terraces, the summer rains must in time have found their way into their walls and set up a process of disintegration which could have but one end. Real brick with good mortar could alone resist such influences, and those, no doubt, were the materials used in the Babylonian gardens. If their substructures should ever be found and laid open, we have little doubt that arches as carefully built as those of the Assyrian ruins will be brought to light.

The gateways of the town built by Sargon at the foot of his palace mound were roofed with semicircular vaults.[283] In order to study their construction more closely, M. Place demolished one of these arches piece by piece, the one numbered three on his plan.[284] It was already condemned to destruction by the necessity for carrying off its sculptures.

The total height from pavement to keystone, was twenty-four feet six inches, from the centre of the keystone to the springing of the arch itself was eight feet, the total width of the opening, measured at the feet of the caryatides, was fourteen feet four inches.

The bricks had not been burnt in a kiln but they had been subjected to a prolonged desiccation. The system of construction was as simple as possible. The perpendicular side walls passed into the vault without any preparation, and the arch when complete had no inward projection and no structural ornament but the inner faces of the carefully placed voussoirs; as all the bricks were of the same size and shape something more than their slightly trapezoidal form was required to keep them in place, and a softer clay was used to bind them together. With the addition of this rude cement each brick became a long and narrow wedge and determined the curve of the vault in which it was placed. Some idea of the appearance of this triple arch may be formed from the illustration we have compiled from M. Thomas's elevation of an alcove in one of the harem apartments at Khorsabad (Fig. 90). This vault is not in existence, but its component parts were found among the ruins of Sargon's palace.[285]

There is one detail in the decoration of these doorways that should be carefully noted. Wherever the architect makes use of a round-headed opening he reinforces its outlines with a kind of semicircular frieze, to which brilliant colours or bold reliefs would give no little decorative value. In what M. Place calls portes ornees, this ornamental archivolt is of enamelled bricks, in the subordinate entrances it is distinguished from the rest of the wall merely by its salience. In neither case, however, does it end in any kind of impost, it returns horizontally without the arch and forms an ornament along a line corresponding to the spring of the vault within. We give an example of this peculiarly Assyrian arrangement from one of the gateways at Dour-Saryoukin (Fig. 91). Nothing like it is to be found, so far as we know, among the buildings of any other ancient people.

From the point of view of the special study on which we are now busy, the inhabited and visible part of an Assyrian building is less interesting than those channels hidden in the substructures which acted as drains. These channels existed in all the palaces. Layard encountered them at Nimroud and Kouyundjik,[286] but it was at Khorsabad that they were found in the best condition and most carefully studied.[287] We shall make use chiefly of the observations of MM. Place and Thomas in our explanation of a curious system of sewers that does, perhaps, more honour to the Ninevite builder than any other part of his work. Every detail of their construction is full of interest,—the general arrangement, the choice of materials and the various methods of vaulting brought into play.

In nearly all the rooms there is an opening in the middle of the pavement towards which the rest of the floor has a gentle slope. It is a round hole cut through the centre of a square stone set among the bricks and leading to a circular brick conduit. In the first specimen described by M. Place, this descending pipe is five feet four inches deep, and rather more than eleven inches in diameter. It leads into an almost horizontal conduit with a similar section and of the same materials. This latter channel is gently inclined through the whole of its length; it terminates in the main drain of which the cut on the next page gives a section in perspective (Fig. 92).[288]

The floor of this sewer was formed of large limestone slabs overpassing the inside width of the channel by several inches. By this means the internal joints were reduced to a minimum, and a further precaution was taken by placing the slabs in a bath of asphalte, which was also used to coat the oblique channels and the foot of the vertical pipe. The low perpendicular walls upon which the vault was to be placed were built upon the outer edge of these wide slabs. They were of four-inch bricks, carefully laid.

The most remarkable thing about this drain is the construction of the vault. The bricks composing it are trapezoidal in shape, two of their edges being slightly rounded, the one concave, the other convex. The radius of this curve varies with each brick, being governed by its destined place in the vault. These bricks go therefore in pairs, and as there are four courses of bricks on each side of the vault, four separate and different moulds would be required, besides a fifth, for a brick of which we shall presently have to speak. The four narrow sides of these bricks differ sensibly one from another. The two curved faces being at different distances from the centre, are of unequal lengths, while, as the lower oblique edge is some inches below the upper in the curve, these two edges have different directions. In their disinclination to use stone voussoirs, the Assyrian builders here found themselves compelled to mould bricks of very complicated form, and the way in which they accomplished their task speaks volumes for their skill.

If we cast a glance at our Fig. 92 the first thing that strikes us is the absence of a keystone to the vault. The two rows of voussoirs that are in full view thrust against each other only by a single sharp edge; there is no keystone between them. In the row immediately behind, however, there is a stone (imperfectly seen in our illustration) that seems to play the part of a key. Thus we find that only at each alternate vertical course was the arch of burnt and moulded brick complete. The openings left at the summits of the other courses must have been filled in in some way, and, in fact, the line of voids which ran along the top of the extrados was filled in with brick earth, beaten tight and forming the best of keys. So that the vault was completed and consolidated by the same material as that used to make its channel impervious to water.[289]

This vault has another strange singularity which at first is very surprising. The whole structure has a sensible inclination in the direction of its length, suggesting that some accident had happened to it in course of erection. Such an explanation must be rejected, however, because at the moment of discovery the whole arrangement was uninjured, and, moreover, the filling of clay must have rendered any movement of the kind impossible. M. Place's explanation seems the best. He thinks the slope was given merely to facilitate the work of the bricklayers. The first course of voussoirs would be sloped in this fashion, and would rest upon some mass of crude brick in the centre of the building. The bricks of the second course would lean against it, and their weight would be brought in to add cohesion and solidity to the whole structure instead of being entirely occupied in adding to the perpendicular thrust, while the ease with which they could be placed without an internal support would be much increased. Assisted by this simple expedient, two bricklayers with their labourers could build the vault at a very rapid rate. We may believe that the notion of building in this way would never have occurred to the Assyrian architects but for their habit of dispensing with timber centres.

This slope had an effect upon the arrangement of the bricks which should be noticed. In all other vaults, such as those of the city gates, the units are laid upon their longest sides, and a vertical section shows their shortest diameters. Here, on the other hand, the bricks stand on their edges, and their largest surfaces are in contact, on each side, with the next vertical course. If the full benefit of the natural cohesion between one brick and another was to be obtained, this method of laying them was absolutely necessary.

Internally, the drain we have been studying was four feet eight inches high from the floor to the crown of the vault. Its width was three feet nine inches, and its general slope very slight. It may be followed for a total length of about 220 feet, after which falls of earth have carried away the arch and the whole northern part of the esplanade, so that no trace of the mouth by which it opened on the plain can be traced.

The other sewer described by M. Place may be more summarily dismissed. In spite of their drawings and minute descriptions, explorers have not yet succeeded in explaining the eccentricities of construction it presents. It has two channels, one above the other, which are similar neither in slope nor section. Moreover this double sewer is abruptly interrupted in the middle of the artificial mound through which it runs. Must we believe that it was never finished or used? We shall not attempt to answer this question, but shall content ourselves with pointing to the similarities between this tunnel and the last described. The same large stone slabs upon a layer of bitumen, the same inclination of the body of the vault, the same bricks formed in different moulds according to their place in the vault, are found in each.

Our Fig. 93 shows the two channels and their position one above the other. The pavement of the terrace, which consists of a double bed of large bricks, rests upon the extrados of the upper channel. This vault is semicircular; it has three voussoirs on each side, which, with the key, make seven in each vertical course. But in consequence either of an error in measurement or of a mistake in calculating the shrinking of the bricks, there was a gap between the third voussoir on the right and the key. This gap was filled in by the insertion of a stone cut into the shape of a wedge. But for this fault—which, however, had no appreciable effect upon its solidity—the vault would be perfect.[290] The narrow triangular opening of the lower channel may be seen below it.

The semicircular vault gradually and insensibly changes into an elliptical one. The side walls become lower, at each yard their height is diminished by the thickness of a brick, and finally they disappear about the middle of the total length. At the point shown in our Fig. 94 the arch has lost its supports and rests directly upon the pavement of the channel. Its ellipse is composed of eight voussoirs, four on each side, and a key with a small wedge-shaped stone voussoir on each side of it. Between the two points shown in our Figs. 93 and 94 the upper and lower sewers have become one, the vaulted roof of the first and the paved floor of the second being continued in a single tunnel. At the point where this tunnel comes to a sudden end it is closed by a wall, through which two small openings are pierced to serve as outlets for the sewer within (Fig. 94).

At different points on the Khorsabad mound, M. Place found other sewers, some with depressed, some with basket-handle vaults, while, at Nimroud, channels were discovered which were square in section and covered with large slabs of limestone.[291] The Assyrian architects seem, however, to have had a decided preference for the vault in such a situation. They expected it to give greater solidity, and in that they were not mistaken. The vaults of burnt brick, though set without cement, have remained unshaken and close in their joints, and the sewers they inclose are the only voids that have remained clear in the ruins of the buildings to which they belong.

We may, perhaps, be accused of dwelling too minutely upon these Assyrian vaults. We have done so because there is no question more interesting or more novel in the whole history of architecture than the true origin of the keyed vault and the different uses to which it has been put. Ottfried Mueller looked upon the Etruscans as the inventors of the vault; he believed that the Greek builders learnt the secret from the early inhabitants of Italy,[292] and that the arches of the Roman Cloaca Maxima built by the Tuscan architects of the Tarquins, were the oldest that had come down to us from antiquity. The archaeological discoveries of the last fifty years have singularly falsified his opinion and given an age to the vault never before suspected. Even in the days of the Ancient Empire the Egyptians seem to have understood its principle; in any case the architects of Amenophis, of Thothmes, of Rameses, made frequent and skilful use of it long before the Ninevite palaces in which we have found it were erected.[293] But the possession of stones of enormous size enabled the Egyptians to dispense to a great extent with the arch, and we need not be surprised, therefore, that they failed to give it anything like its full development. They kept it in the background, and while using it when necessary in their tombs, in the outbuildings of their temples, in their private dwellings and warehouses, they never made it a conspicuous element of their architectural system. They may well be admired for the majesty of their colonnades and the magnificence of their hypostyle halls, but not for the construction of their vaults, for the imitation of which, moreover, they gave little opportunity.

In Chaldaea and Assyria the conditions were different. Supposing the architecture of those two countries to be yet entire, should we find in it vaults rivalling in age the arch in a tomb at Abydos which Mariette attributes to the sixth dynasty?[294] Probably not. So far as we can judge, Chaldaean civilization does not date from so remote a past as that of Egypt, but it appears certain that the principles of the vault were discovered and put in practice by the Chaldees long before the comparatively modern times in which the segmental and pointed arches of Nineveh were erected. The latter alone are preserved because they have been hidden during all these centuries under the heaped-up ruins of the buildings to which they belonged, while those of Chaldaea have been carried away piece by piece, and their materials used again and again by the modern population of Mesopotamia.

In spite, however, of the absence of such direct evidence, we may affirm without fear that the Chaldaean architects soon discovered the principle of the arch, and used it at least in its simplest and least complex forms. We are led to these conclusions not only by their restriction to small units of construction—a restriction which is sure, sooner or later, to lead to the discovery in question—but also by induction from the monuments we have just been studying. The arches under the hanging gardens of Babylon, the vaults of the sewers and gateways, the domes that covered the great square chambers in the Ninevite palaces—all these were derived, we may be sure, from the ancient civilization. We cannot believe that such consummate skill in the management of a difficult matter was arrived at in a day. The purely empiric knowledge of statics it implies could only have been accumulated by a long series of more or less happy experiments.

Thus only can we explain the ease with which the Assyrian builder surmounted difficulties some of which would have puzzled a modern architect, such as the pise vaults erected over spacious galleries without any kind of centering, and the domes over square chambers, for which some system of pendentives—that is, of arches or other intermediate forces—by which the base of the cupola could be allied to the top of the supporting wall, must have been contrived. The accurate calculation of forces between the thrust of the vaults and the strength of the retaining walls, the dexterity with which the curves employed are varied and carried insensibly one into the other, the skill with which the artificial materials are prepared for their appointed office, are also surprising. By careful moulding and manipulation the Assyrian builder made his brick voussoirs as well fitted for their work as the cut stone of our day. Each brick had its own shape and size, so that it was assigned in advance a particular place in the vault and its own part in assuring the final stability of the building. In all this we cannot avoid seeing the results of a patient and long-continued process of experiment and education carried on through many centuries in all the workshops of Mesopotamia.

The art of building vaults with small units of construction was, then, carried farther in Mesopotamia than in Egypt; it was there more frankly developed; it was there forced with greater success to supply the place of stone and timber. It was in fact more of an indigenous art in the valley of the Tigris and Euphrates than anywhere else, more inspired by the permanent and unchanging conditions of the country—in a word, more national.

In these days the historian sets himself with devotion to follow in all its involutions the long chain of thought and effort by which man has been led from his primitive barbarism to the well-being of modern civilization, and to his domination—every day more complete and more intelligent—over the minor forces of nature. It is the duty of criticism, as its methods gradually perfect themselves, to add daily to its perspicacity and powers of observation, and to lessen as much as possible the occasions, still so numerous, when the thread of evidence breaks in its hands and the true relations of facts to each other become obscured. Even yet we cannot say for certain to which nation of the ancient world the invention of the arch belongs. In those remote ages the principle may have been discovered more than once or twice in different and distant countries whose inhabitants were busied over the same task. We have no reason to believe that Chaldaea learnt the secret from Egypt, or Etruria from the East. It is none the less true, however, that the unknown architects of Babylon and Nineveh made full use of it at an earlier date and in more intelligent fashion than any of their rivals. To them must be given the credit of being the masters and art-ancestors of the men who built the Pantheon and the Church of Saint Sophia, Santa Maria del Fiore, and Saint Peter's in Rome, and more especially of those great modern engineers to whom the principle of the arch has been a chief element in their success.


[280] Art in Ancient Egypt, vol. ii. p. 82.

[281] This chamber is 7 feet long, 3 feet 7 inches wide, and 5 feet high. TAYLOR, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, vol. xv. p. 272.

[282] STRABO, xvi. 1, 5. DIODORUS, ii. 10.

[283] PLACE, Ninive, vol. i. pp. 170-182 and 256-259, vol. iii. plates 9-18.

[284] PLACE, Ninive, vol. iii. plate 2.

[285] PLACE, Ninive, vol. i. p. 128.

[286] LAYARD, Nineveh, vol. i. p. 134; vol. ii. pp. 79 and 261. Discoveries, pp. 162-165.

[287] PLACE, Ninive, vol. i. pp. 269-280 and plates 38 and 39.

[288] We have endeavoured to combine M. Thomas's longitudinal elevation, vertical section, and transverse section (PLACE, Ninive, plate 38), in our single cut.

[289] The same process was employed at Nimroud in a drain or water channel, of which LAYARD gives a sketch (Discoveries, p. 164). In connection with these vaults we must remember that a pointed arch has no key properly speaking; the top stone is merely a joint. It looks as if the Assyrian architect had a kind of instinctive appreciation of the fact.

[290] The slope, the height, and the width of this channel are not the same throughout. In some places it is wide enough to allow two men to walk abreast in it.

[291] LAYARD, Nineveh, vol. i. p. 79.

[292] OTTFRIED MUeLLER, Handbuch der Archaeologie der Kunst, Sec. 107 and 168 (3rd edition).

[293] Art in Ancient Egypt, vol. i. p. 112, and vol. ii. chap. ii. Sec. 4.

[294] Ibid. vol. ii. fig. 44.

Sec. 6.—Secondary Forms.

(Doors, windows, steles, altars, obelisks, mouldings.)

We have been obliged to dwell at length on the arch and the column because those two elements of construction are of the greatest importance to all who wish to gain a true idea of Mesopotamian art and of its influence upon neighbouring peoples and over subsequent developments of architecture. On the other hand we shall have very little to say upon what, in speaking of Egyptian art, we called secondary forms.[295]

We have already had occasion to speak of some of these, such as windows and doors. We have explained how the nature of his materials and the heat of the climate led the architect to practically suppress the former, while, on the other hand, he gave extravagant dimensions to the latter. It was to the door that the rooms had mainly to look for the light and air, with which they could not entirely dispense. We have now to give a few details as to the fashion in which these large openings were set in the walls that enframed them. As for salient decorative members—or mouldings, to give them their right name—their list is very short. We shall, however, find them in some variety in a series of little monuments that deserve, perhaps, more attention than they have yet received—we mean altars, steles, and those objects to which the name of obelisks has, with some inaccuracy, been given. Some of these objects have no little grace of their own, and serve to prove that what the Chaldaeans and Assyrians lacked was neither taste nor invention, but the encouragement that the possession of a kindly material would have given to their genius.

Doorways seem to have been generally crowned with a brick archivolt; round-headed doors occur oftener than any others on the bas-reliefs, but rectangular examples are not wanting (see Fig. 43). In the latter case the lintel must have been of wood, metal, or stone. Naturally the bronze and timber lintels have disappeared, while in but a single instance have the explorers found one of stone, namely that discovered by George Smith at the entrance to a hall in the palace of Sennacherib (Fig. 95). It consists of a block of richly carved limestone. Its sculptures are now much worn, but their motives and firm execution may still be admired. Two winged dragons, with long necks folded like that of a swan, face each other, the narrow space between them being occupied by a large two-handled vase. Above these there is a band of carved foliage, the details of which are lost in the shadow cast by a projecting cornice along the top of the lintel.[296] The necklace round the throat of the right-hand dragon should be noticed.

It is surprising that stone lintels are so rare, especially as the corresponding piece, if we may call it so, namely, the sill or threshold, was generally of limestone or alabaster, at least in the more important and more richly-decorated rooms.

The exploration of the Assyrian palaces has brought three systems of flooring to light—beaten earth, brick pavements, and pavements of limestone slabs.[297] In the palace of Sargon nearly every chamber, except those of the harem, had a floor of beaten earth, like that in a modern fellah's house. Even the halls in which the painted and sculptured decoration was most sumptuous were no exceptions to this rule. There is nothing in this, however, to surprise those who have lived in the East; like the Turks, Arabs, and Persians of our own time, the Chaldaeans and Assyrians were shod, except when fighting or hunting, with those babooshes or sandals that are so often figured in the bas-reliefs. These must have been taken off, as they are to-day, before entering a temple, a palace, or a harem. Moses was required to take off his shoes before approaching the burning bush, because the place on which he stood was holy ground. In the houses of their gods, in those of their kings and rich men, the floor would be covered with those rich carpets and mats that from one end of the East to the other conceal from sight the floors of white wood or beaten earth. In summer the mats are fresh and grateful to the bare feet, in the winter the carpets are soft and warm. The floors themselves are hardly ever seen, so that we need feel no surprise at their being left without ornament. So, too, was it in all probability in the palaces of Sargon and of other kings, and in the sacred buildings.

Elsewhere, however, we find a pavement constructed with the most scrupulous care, and consisting of three distinct parts,—two layers of large bricks with a thick bed of sand interposed between them. The lower course of bricks is set in a bed of bitumen which separates it from the earth and prevents any dampness passing either up or down. This system of paving was used in most of the harem chambers at Khorsabad as well as in the open courts and upon the terraces. Lastly, in certain rooms of the seraglio and harem, in a few of the courts, in the vestibules, before the gates of the city, and in paths across wide open spaces, a limestone pavement has been found. Wherever this pavement exists, the stones are of the same kind and placed in the same manner. The limestone is exactly similar to that in the retaining walls described on page 147. The stones are often more than three feet square, and from two feet six inches to two feet ten inches thick. Their shape is not that of a regular solid; it is more like a reversed cone, the base forming the pavement and the narrow end being buried in the ground. These stones are simply placed side by side without the use of mortar or cement of any kind, but their weight and peculiar shape gave a singular durability to the pavement for which they were used.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9     Next Part
Home - Random Browse