A History of Art in Chaldaea & Assyria, v. 1
by Georges Perrot
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There is no doubt that both had a strong predilection for blue—for the marvellous colour that dyed the most beautiful flower of their fields, that glowed on their distant mountains, in their lakes, in the sea, and in the profound azure of an almost cloudless sky. Nature seems to have chosen blue for the background of her changing pictures, and like the artists of modern Persia those of antique Mesopotamia understood the value of the hint thus given. In the fragments of Babylonian tiles brought home by travellers blue is the dominant colour; and blue furnishes the background for those two compositions in enamelled brick that have been found in situ. The blue of Babylon seems however to have had more body and to have been darker in shade than that of the Khorsabad tiles.

We have already referred to this inferiority in the Assyrian enamel. It may be explained by the fact that the Assyrian architect looked to sculpture for his most sumptuous effects; he used polychromatic decoration only for subordinate parts of his work, and he would therefore be contented with less careful execution than that required by his Babylonian rival. The glazed tiles of Assyria were not, as in Chaldaea, quasi bas-reliefs. Their tints were put on flat; the only exception to this being in the case of those rosettes that were made in such extraordinary numbers for use on the upper parts of walls and round doorways; in these the small central boss is modelled in low relief (see Figs. 121 and 122).

These glazed bricks were chiefly used by the Assyrian architect upon doorways and in their immediate neighbourhood.[374] M. Place found the decoration of one of the city gates at Khorsabad almost intact.[375] The enamel is laid upon one edge of the bricks, which are on the average three inches and a half thick. Figures are relieved in yellow, and rosettes in white against the blue ground. A band of green marks the lower edge of the tiara.[376] The same motives and the same figures were repeated for the whole length of the band. The figures are winged genii in different postures of worship and sacrifice. They bear in their hands those metal seals and pine cones that we so often encounter in the bas-reliefs. Distributed about the entrance these genii seem to be the protectors of the city, they are beneficent images, their gesture is a prayer, a promise, a benediction. On each side of the arch, at its springing, there is one of greater stature than his companions (Fig. 123). His face is turned towards the vaulted passage. Upon the curve of the archivolt smaller figures face one another in couples; each couple is divided from its neighbours by rosettes (Fig. 124).

The other composition is to be found on a plinth in the doorway of the harem at Khorsabad. This plinth was about twenty-three feet long, and rather more than three feet high. Its ornament was repeated on both sides of the doorway.[377] It consisted of a lion, an eagle, a bull, and a plough (Plate XV). Upon the returning angles the king appears, standing, on the one side with his head bare, on the other covered with a tiara. The background is blue, as in the city gates; green was only used for the leaves of the tree, in which some have recognized a fig-tree.

In these two examples the decoration is of an extreme simplicity; the figures are not engaged in any common action; there is, in fact, no picture. The artist sometimes appears to have been more ambitious. Thus Layard found at Nimroud the remains of a decoration in which the painter had apparently attempted to rival the sculptor: he had represented a battle scene analogous to those we find in such plenty in the bas-reliefs.[378] A similar motive may be found in a better preserved fragment belonging to the same structure (Plate XIV, Fig. 1).[379] A single brick bears four personages, a god, whose arms only are left, the king, his patera in hand, offering a libation, an eunuch with bow and quiver, and finally an officer with a lance. George Smith also found a fragment of the same kind at Nimroud (see Fig. 125). It shows the figure of a soldier, from the knees upwards, armed with bow and lance, and standing by the wheel of a chariot. Above his head are the remains of an inscription which must have been continued on the next brick. The word warriors may still be deciphered.[380] This figure may have formed part of some attempt on the part of the decorator to narrate in colour some of the exploits of the king for whom the palace was built.

There is a difference between such fragments as this and the glazed tiles of the Khorsabad gates. In the latter the enamelled edges of several bricks were required to make a single figure. In the bricks from Nimroud on the other hand, whole figures are painted on their surface, and in fact a single brick had several figures upon it which were, therefore, on a much smaller scale. A decoration in which figures were some two and three feet high, was well suited for use in lofty situations where those restricted to the surface of a single brick would have been hardly visible. The latter must, then, have been fixed on the lower parts of the wall, but as none of them have yet been found in place we cannot say positively that it was so.

Such representations were, moreover, quite exceptional. Most of the pieces of glazed brick that have been found in the ruins show nothing but the remains of figures and motives ornamental rather than historical in their general character.[381] Besides the rosettes of which we have had occasion to speak so often we encounter at every step a spiral ornament the design of which remains without much modification, while a certain variety is given to its general effect by changing the arrangement of its colours. In the example reproduced in Fig. 126 large black disks, like eyes, are embraced by a double spiral in which blue and yellow alternate.[382]

There is one curious class of glazed tiles in which this motive continually reappears. These tiles are thinner than the ordinary brick. Their shape is sometimes square but with their sides slightly concave (Fig. 127), sometimes circular, in the form of a quoit (Fig. 128). In each case similar designs are employed, flowers, palmettes, &c. These are carried out in black upon a white ground and arranged symmetrically about a round hole in the middle of the tile. These things must have been manufactured for some special purpose, and the name of Assurnazirpal, that may be read upon our first fragment (Fig. 127), shows that they belonged to some great work of decoration whose main object was to glorify the name of that sovereign. It has been guessed that they formed centres for a coffered ceiling, and there is nothing to negative the conjecture. The opening in the centre may have been filled with a boss of bronze or silver gilt. As we have already shown, applique work of this kind played a great part in Assyrian decoration; doors were covered with it and there are many signs that both in Chaldaea and Assyria many other surfaces were protected in the same fashion.

After the careful examination of its ruins Taylor came to the conclusion that the upper story of a staged tower at Abou-Sharein had gilt walls. He found a great number of small and very thin gold plates upon the plateau that formed the summit of the building, and with them the gilded nails with which they had been fixed.[383] In his life of Apollonius of Tyana, Philostratus gives a description of Babylon that appears taken from authentic sources, and he notices this employment of metal. "The palaces of the King of Babylon are covered with bronze which makes them glitter at a distance; the chambers of the women, the chambers of the men and the porticoes are decorated with silver, with beaten and even with massive gold instead of pictures."[384] Herodotus speaks of the silvered and gilded battlements of Ecbatana[385] and at Khorsabad cedar masts incased in gilded bronze were found,[386] while traces of gold have been found on some crude bricks at Nimroud.[387] Seeing that metal was thus used to cover wide surfaces, and that, as we shall have occasion to show, the forms of sculpture, of furniture, and of the arts allied to them in Mesopotamia, prove that the inhabitants of that region were singularly skilled in the manipulation of metal, whether with the chisel or the hammer, the above conjecture may very well be true; the sheen of the polished surface would be in excellent harmony with the enamelled faience about it.

It has been suggested that some of the carved ivories may have been used to ornament the coffers. This suggestion in itself seems specious enough, but I failed to discover a single ivory in the rich collection of the British Museum whose shape would have fitted the openings in the tiles.[388] It is certain, however, that ivory was used in the ornamentation of buildings. "I incrusted," says Nebuchadnezzar, "the door-posts, the lintel, and threshold of the place of repose with ivory." The small rectangular plaques with which several cases and many drawers are filled in the British Museum may very well have been used for the decoration of doors, and the panels of ceilings and wainscots. They were so numerous, especially in the palace of Assurnazirpal at Nimroud, that we cannot believe them all to have come off small and movable pieces of furniture. We are confirmed in this idea by the fact that none of these ivories are unique or isolated works of art. In spite of the care and taste expended on their execution they were in no sense gems treasured for their rarity and value; they were the products of an active manufactory delivering its types in series, we might almost say in dozens. The more elegant and finished among them are represented three, four, and five times over in the select case in the British Museum. We may safely say that the examples preserved of any one model are by no means all that were made; in fact, in the drawers in which the smaller fragments are preserved, we noticed the remains of more than one piece which had once been similar to the more perfect specimens exhibited to the public.

Thus there are in the Museum four replicas of the little work shown in our Fig. 129.[389] The head of a woman, full face, and with an Egyptian head-dress, is enframed in a narrow window and looks over a balcony formed of columns with the curious capitals already noticed on page 211. Beside these four more or less complete examples, the Museum possesses several detached heads (Fig. 130) which once, no doubt, belonged to similar compositions.

The beauty of the ivory surface was often enhanced by the insertion of coloured enamels and lapis-lazuli in the hollows of the tablet. Traces of this inlay may be seen on many of the Museum ivories, especially on those recently brought from Van, in Armenia. The tablets also show traces of gilding.

All this proves that the Mesopotamian decorator had no contemptible resources for the ornamentation of his panelled walls and coffered ceilings. These chiselled, enamelled, and gilded ivories must have been set in frames of cedar or cypress. The Assyrian texts bear witness in more than one place to the use of those fine materials, and the Hebrew writers make frequent allusion to the luxurious carpentry imitated by their own princes in the temple at Jerusalem.[390] In one of his invectives against Nineveh Zephaniah cries: "Desolation shall be in the thresholds: for he shall uncover the cedar work."[391]

The more we enter into detail the richer and more varied does the decoration of these buildings appear. In our day the great ruins are sad and monotonous enough. The rain of many centuries has washed away their paint; their ornaments of metal and faience, of ivory and cedar, have fallen from the walls; the hand of man has combined with the slow action of time to reduce them to their elements, and nothing of their original beauty remains but here and there a fragment or a hint of colour. And yet when we bring these scanty vestiges together we find that enough is left to give the taste and invention of the Assyrian ornamentist a very high place in our respect. That artist was richly endowed with the power of inventing happy combinations of lines, and of varying his motives without losing sight for an instant of his original theme.

We may show this very clearly by a more careful study of two motives already encountered, the rosette, and the running ornament which is known in its countless modifications as the "knop and flower pattern." These two motives are united in those great thresholds which have been found now and then in such marvellous preservation. They also occur in certain bas-reliefs representing architectural decorations, so that we are in possession of all the documents required for the formation of a true idea of their varied beauties. In the Assyrian Basement Room of the British Museum there is a fine slab of gypsum of which we reproduce one corner in our Fig. 131.[392] Besides the daisy shaped rosette which is so conspicuous, there is one of more elaborate design which we reproduce on a larger scale and from another example in our Fig. 132. It is inclosed in a square frame adorned with chevrons. This frame with the rosette it incloses may be taken as giving some idea of the ceiling panels or coffers.

In this rosette it should be noticed that beyond the double festoon about the central star appears the same alternation of bud and flower as in the straight border. That flower has been recognized as the Egyptian lotus, but Layard believes its type to have been furnished, perhaps, by a scarlet tulip which is very common towards the beginning of spring in Mesopotamia.[393] We ourselves believe rather in the imitation of a motive from the stuffs, the jewels, the furniture, and the pottery that Mesopotamia drew from Egypt at a very early date through the intermediary of the Phoenicians. The Phoenicians themselves appropriated the same motive and introduced it with their own manufactures not only into Mesopotamia but into every country washed by the Mediterranean. Our conjecture is to some extent confirmed by an observation of Sir H. Layard's. This lotus flower is only to be found, he says, in the most recent of Assyrian monuments, in those, namely, that date from the eighth and seventh centuries B.C., centuries during which the Assyrian kings more than once invaded Phoenicia and occupied Egypt.[394] In the more ancient bas-reliefs flowers with a very different aspect—copied in all probability directly from nature—are alone to be found. Of these some idea may be formed from the adjoining cut. It reproduces a bouquet held in the hand of a winged genius in the palace of Assurnazirpal (Fig. 133).

The lotus flower is to be found moreover in monuments much older than those of the Sargonids, but that does not in any way disprove the hypothesis of a direct plagiarism. The commercial relations between the valleys of the Nile and the Euphrates date from a much more remote epoch, and about the commencement of the eighteenth dynasty the Egyptians seem to have occupied in force the basin of the Khabour, the principal affluent of the Euphrates. Layard found many traces of their passage over and sojourn in that district, among them a series of scarabs, many of which bore the superscription of Thothmes III.[395] So that the points of contact were numerous enough, and the mutual intercourse sufficiently intimate and prolonged, to account for the assimilation by Mesopotamian artists of a motive taken from the flora of Egypt and to be seen on almost every object imported from the Nile valley. This imitation appears all the more probable as in the paintings of Theban tombs dating from a much more remote period than the oldest Ninevite remains, the pattern with its alternate bud and flower is complete. Many examples may be found in the plates of Prisse d'Avennes' great work;[396] one is reproduced in our Fig. 134.

The Assyrians borrowed their motive from Egypt, but they gave it more than Egyptian perfection. They gave it the definitive shapes that even Greece did not disdain to copy. In the Egyptian frieze the cones and flowers are disjointed; their isolation is unsatisfactory both to the eye and the reason. In the Assyrian pattern they are attached to a continuous undulating stem whose sinuous lines add greatly to the elegance of the composition. The distinctive characters of the bud and flower are also very well marked by the Assyrian artists. The closed petals of the one the open ones of the other and the divisions of the calix are indicated in a fashion that happily combines truth with convention. In our Fig. 135 we reproduce, on a larger scale, a part of the slab already illustrated at page 240, so that the merits of its workmanship may be better appreciated.

The painter also made use of this motive. In a bas-relief from the palace of Assurbanipal we find the round-headed doorway illustrated in Fig. 136. Its rich decoration must have been carried out in glazed bricks, similar to those discovered by M. Place on one of the gates of Khorsabad. Here, however, the figures of supernatural beings are replaced by rosettes and by two lines of the knop and flower ornament.

Vegetable forms brought luck to the Assyrian decorator. Even after taking a motive from a foreign style of ornament he understood, so to speak, how to naturalize a plant and to make its forms expressive of his own individuality. Our only difficulty is to make a choice among the numerous illustrations of his inventive fertility; we shall confine ourselves to reproducing the designs embroidered upon the royal robes of Assurnazirpal. We need hardly say that these robes do not now exist, but the Ninevite sculptor copied them in soft alabaster with an infinite patience that does him honour. He has preserved for us every detail with the exception of colour. The lotus is not to be found in this embroidery; its place is taken by the palmette or tuft of leaves (Fig. 137), through which appear stems bending with the weight of the buds they bear. Animals, real and imaginary, are skilfully mingled with the fan-shaped palmettes; in one place we find two goats (Fig. 138), in another two winged bulls (Fig. 139). Bulls and goats are both alike on their knees before the palmette, which seems to suggest that the latter is an abridged representation of that sacred tree which we have already encountered and will encounter again in the bas-reliefs, where it is surrounded by scenes of adoration and sacrifice. This motive has the double advantage of awakening religious feeling in the spectators, and of provoking a momentary elegance of line and movement in the two pairs of animals. On the other hand we can hardly explain the motive represented in our Figs. 140 and 141—a motive already met with in the figured architecture of the bas-reliefs and in the glazed tiles—by anything but an artistic caprice. In some cases the rosette and the palmette are introduced in a single picture (142).

We have ventured to supplement the scanty remains of architectural decoration by these illustrations from another art, because all Babylonian ornament, whether for carpets, hangings, or draperies, for works in beaten metal, in paint or enamelled faience, is governed by the same spirit and marked by the same taste. In every form impressed upon matter by the ancient inhabitants of Mesopotamia the same symbols, the same types, and the same motives are repeated to infinity. The examples we have brought together suffice to show the principal characteristics of that decoration. It had doubtless one great defect, it was too easily separated from the building to which it belonged; it was fragile, apt to fall, and therefore unlikely to have any very long duration. But the architect was not to blame for that. The defect in question was consequent on the poverty of the material with which he had to work. Given the conditions under which he laboured, and we cannot deny that he showed great skill in making the best of them. He understood how to contrast wide unbroken surfaces with certain important parts of his ensemble, such as cornices, plinths, and especially doorways. Upon these he concentrated the efforts of the painter and sculptor; upon these he lavished all the hues of the Assyrian palette, and embellished them with the carved figures of men and gods, of kings and genii, of all the countless multitudes who had fought and died for Assyria and its divine protector, the unconquered and unconquerable Assur.

If, not content with this general view of Assyrian decoration, we enter into it in detail, we shall find its economy most judiciously arranged and understood. When the sculptor set himself to carve the slabs that enframe a door or those that protect the lower parts of a wall, he sought to render what he saw or imagined as precisely and definitely as possible. He went to nature for inspiration even when he carved imaginary beings, and copied her, in fragments perhaps, but with a loyal and vigorous sincerity. Everywhere, except in certain pictures with a strictly limited function, he obeyed an imagination over which a sure judgment kept unsleeping watch. His polychromatic decorations fulfilled their purpose of amusing and delighting the eye without ever attempting to deceive it. Such is and must always be the true principle of ornament, and the decorators of the great buildings of Babylon and Nineveh seem to have thoroughly understood that it was so; their rich and fertile fancy is governed, in every instance to which we can point, with unfailing tact, and to them must be given the credit of having invented not a few of the motives that may yet be traced in the art of the Medes and Persians, in that of the Syrians, the Phoenicians, the peoples of Asia Minor, and above all in that of the Greeks—those unrivalled masters who gave immortality to every artistic combination that they chose to adopt.


[326] The cuneiform texts mention the "two bulls at the door of the temple E-schakil," the famous staged tower of Babylon. Fr. LENORMANT, Les Origines de l'Histoire, vol. i. p. 114 (2nd edition, 1880).

[327] RICH, Narrative of a Journey to the Site of Babylon in 1811, and a Memoir on the Ruins, p. 64. LAYARD, Discoveries, p. 507. According to Rich, this lion was of grey granite; according to Layard, of black basalt.

[328] LOFTUS says nothing of this lion in those Travels and Researches which we have so often quoted. It was, perhaps, on a later occasion that he found it. We came upon it in a collection of original sketches and manuscript notes (Drawings in Babylonia by W. K. Loftus and H. Churchill) in the custody of the keeper of Oriental antiquities at the British Museum. We have to express our acknowledgments to Dr. Birch for permission to make use of this valuable collection.

[329] PERROT, GUILLAUME ET DELBET, Exploration archeologique de la Galatie, vol. ii. pl. 32.

[330] Exploration archeologique, vol. ii. pl. 11.

[331] LAYARD, Discoveries, p. 508.

[332] PLACE, Ninive, vol. ii. pp. 68-70.

[333] This character of a tutelary divinity that we attribute to the winged bull is indicated in the clearest manner in the cuneiform texts: "In this palace," says Esarhaddon, "the sedi and lamassi (the Assyrian names for these colossi) are propitious, are the guardians of my royal promenade and the rejoicers of my heart, may they ever watch over the palace and never quit its walls." And again: "I caused doors to be made in cypress, which has a good smell, and I had them adorned with gold and silver and fixed in the doorways. Right and left of those doorways I caused sedi and lamassi of stone to be set up, they are placed there to repulse the wicked." (ST. GUYARD, Bulletin de la Religion assyrienne, in the Revue de l'Histoire des Religions, vol. i. p. 43, note.)

[334] PLACE, Ninive, vol. iii, plate 21.

[335] Those in the Louvre are fourteen feet high; the tallest pair in the British Museum are about the same.

[336] Art in Ancient Egypt, vol. ii. pt. ii. p. 92, fig. 70.

[337] On the subject of these winged bulls see Fr. LENORMANT, Les Origines de l'Histoire, vol. i. chap. 3.

[338] The bas-relief here reproduced comes from the palace of Assurbanipal at Kouyundjik. In the fragment now in the Louvre there are three stories, but the upper story, being an exact repetition of that immediately below it, has been omitted in our engraving.

[339] LOFTUS, Travels and Researches, p. 176. LAYARD, Discoveries, pp. 529, 651. BOTTA, Monument de Ninive, vol. v. p. 44. In the book of Daniel the hand that traces the warning words upon the walls of Belshazzar's palace traces them "upon the plaster of the wall" (DANIEL v. 5).

[340] PLACE, Ninive, vol. i. p. 77.

[341] At Warka, however, LOFTUS found in the building he calls Wuswas a layer of plaster which was from two to four inches thick. (Travels, p. 176.)

[342] PLACE, Ninive, vol. ii. pp. 77, 78.

[343] PLACE, Ninive, vol. iii. plate 25.

[344] Ibid. vol. i. pp. 141-146; vol. ii. pp. 79, 80; vol. iii. plates 36 and 37.

[345] HERODOTUS (Rawlinson's translation), i. 98.

[346] PLACE, Ninive, vol. iii. plate 32.

[347] G. SMITH, Assyrian Discoveries, pp. 77, 78. LAYARD (Nineveh, vol. ii. p. 130) also says that some rooms had no other decoration.

[348] In writing thus we allude chiefly to the restorations given by Mr. James Fergusson in The Palaces of Nineveh and Persepolis Restored (1 vol. 8vo. Murray), a work that was launched upon the world at far too early a date, namely, in 1851. Sir H., then Mr., LAYARD, had not yet published his second narrative (Discoveries in the Ruins of Nineveh and Babylon) nor the second series of Monuments of Nineveh, neither had the great work of MM. Place and Thomas on the palace of Sargon (a work to which we owe so much new and authentic information) appeared. In Mr. Fergusson's restorations the column is freely used and the vault excluded, so that in many respects his work seems to us to be purely fanciful, and yet it is implicitly accepted by English writers to this day. Professor RAWLINSON, while criticising Mr. Fergusson in his text (The Five Great Monarchies, vol. i. p. 303, note 6), reproduces his restoration of the great court at Khorsabad, in which a colonnade is introduced upon the principle of the hypostyle halls of Persepolis. Professor Rawlinson would, perhaps, have been better advised had he refrained from thus popularizing a vision which, as he himself very justly declares, is quite alien to the genius of Assyrian architecture.

[349] LOFTUS, Travels and Researches, pp. 187-189.

[350] LOFTUS thinks that the process was very common, at least in Lower Chaldaea. He found cones imbedded in mortar at several other points in the Warka ruins, but the example we have reproduced is the only one in which well-marked designs could still be clearly traced. TAYLOR saw cones of the same kind at Abou-Sharein. They had no inscriptions, and their bases were black (Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, vol. xv. p. 411). They formed in all probability parts of a decoration similar to that described by Loftus. In Egypt we find cones of terra-cotta crowning the facades of certain Theban tombs (RHIND, Thebes, its Tombs and their Tenants, p. 136). Decoratively they seem allied to the cones of Warka, but the religious formulae they bear connects them rather with the cones found by M. de Sarzec at Tello, which bear commemorative inscriptions. To these we shall return at a later page.

[351] LOFTUS, Travels and Researches, pp. 190, 191

[352] LAYARD, Discoveries, p. 607. Rich also bears witness to the abundance of these remains in his Journey to the Ruins of Babylon. See also OPPERT, Expedition scientifique, vol. i. p. 143.

[353] A French traveller of the last century, DE BEAUCHAMP (he was consul at Bagdad), heard an Arab workman and contractor describe a room he had found in the Kasr, the walls of which were lined with enamelled bricks. Upon one wall, he said, there was a cow with the sun and moon above it. His story must, at least, have been founded on truth. No motive occurs oftener in the Chaldaean monuments than a bull and the twin stars of the day and night. (See RENNELL, History of Herodotus, p. 367.)

[354] LOFTUS collected some fragments of these enamelled bricks at Warka, "similar to those found," he says, "at Babylon in the ruins of the Kasr" (Travels and Researches, p. 185). TAYLOR also tells us that he found numerous fragments of brick enamelled blue at Mugheir (Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, vol. xv. p. 262).

[355] The most interesting of these fragments, those that allow the subject of which they formed a part to be still divined, have been published by M. DE LONGPERIER, Musee Napoleon III. plate iv.

[356] I examined at the British Museum the originals of the glazed bricks reproduced by Layard in his first series of Monuments, some of which we have copied in our plates xiii. and xiv. The outlines of the ornament are now hardly more than distinguishable, while the colour is no more than a pale reflection.

[357] LOFTUS believes that the external faces of Assyrian walls were not, as a rule, cased in enamelled bricks. He disengaged three sides of the northern palace at Kouyundjik without finding any traces of polychromatic decoration. (Travels and Researches, p. 397. note.)

[358] Kath' hon en omais eti tais plinthois dietetupoto theria, pantodapa te ton chromaton philotechnia ten aletheian apomimoumena (DIODORUS, ii. 8, 4.) Diodorus expressly declares that he borrows this description from Ctesias (hos Ktesias phesin), ibid. 5.

[359] Enesan de en tois purgois kai teichesi zoa pantodapa philotechnos tois te chromasi kai tois ton tupon apomimasi kataskeuasmena. (DIODORUS, ii. 8, 6.)

[360] Pantoion therion ... hon esan ta megethe pleion e pechon tettaron. Four cubits was equal to about five feet eight inches. At Khorsabad the tallest of the genii on the coloured tiles at the door are only 32 inches high; others are not more than two feet.

[361] PLACE, Ninive, vol. iii. plates 24 and 31.

[362] "The painting," says M. OPPERT, "was applied to a kind of roughly blocked-out relief." (Expedition scientifique, vol. i. p. 144.)

[363] De Longperier, Musee Napoleon III., plate iv.

[364] This palace was then inhabited for a part of the year by the Achemenid princes, of whom Ctesias was both the guest and physician.

[365] OPPERT, Expedition scientifique, vol. i. pp. 143, 144.

[366] Two of these enamelled letters are in the Louvre. See also upon this subject, PLACE, Ninive, vol. ii. p. 86. I have also seen some in the collection of M. Piot.

[367] PLACE, Ninive, vol. i. p. 236.

[368] Only two rafts arrived at Bassorah; eight left Mossoul, so that only about a fourth of the antiquities collected reached their destination in safety. The cases with the objects despatched by the Babylonian mission, that is by MM. Fresnel, Oppert, and Thomas, were included in the same disaster. But for this the Assyrian collections of the Louvre would be less inferior than they are to those of the British Museum.

[369] PLACE, Ninive, vol. i. p. 253.

[370] PLACE, Ninive, vol. ii. p. 253. These marks were recognized upon many fragments found at Babylon by MM. Oppert and Thomas (OPPERT, Expedition scientifique, vol. i. pp. 143, 144). LOFTUS has transcribed and published a certain number of marks of the same kind which he found upon glazed bricks from the palace at Suza. These are sometimes cut in the brick with a point, sometimes painted with enamel like that on the face. (Travels and Researches, p. 398.)

[371] EZEKIEL xxiii. 14, 15.

[372] BEROSUS, fragment i. Sec. 4, in vol. ii. of the Fragmenta Historicorum Graecorum of Ch. MUeLLER.

[373] TEXIER, Armenie et Perse, vol. ii. p. 134. In the same work the details of the magnificent decoration upon the mosque of the Sunnites at Tauris (which afforded a model for that at Ispahan) will be found reproduced in their original colours. It is strange that this art of enamelled faience, after being preserved so long, should so recently have become extinct in the East. "At the commencement of the last century," says M. TEXIER (vol. ii. p. 138), "the art of enamelling bricks was no less prosperous in Persia than in the time of Shah-Abbas, the builder of the great mosque at Ispahan (1587-1629); but now the art is completely extinct, and in spite of my desire to visit a factory where I might see the work in progress, there was not one to be found from one end of Ispahan to the other." According to the information I gathered in Asia Minor, it was also towards the beginning of the present century that the workshops of Nicaea and Nicomedia, in which the fine enamelled tiles on the mosques at Broussa were made, were finally closed. In these fabriques the plaques which have been found in such abundance for some twenty years past in Rhodes and other islands of the Archipelago were also manufactured. [The manufacture of these glazed tiles is by no means extinct in India, however. At many centres in Sindh and the Punjab, glazed tiles almost exactly similar to those on the mosque at Ispahan, so far as colours and ornamental motives are concerned, are made in great numbers and used for the same purposes as in Persia and ancient Mesopotamia. There is a tradition in India that the art was brought from China, through Persia, by the soldiers of Gingiz-Khan, but a study of the tiles themselves is enough to show that they are a survival from the art manufactures of Babylon and Nineveh. For detailed information on the history and processes used in the manufacture of these tiles, see Sir George BIRDWOOD'S Industrial Arts of India, part ii. pp. 304-310, 321, and 330; also Mr. DRURY FORTNUM'S report on the Sindh pottery in the International Exhibition of 1871.—ED.]

[374] Sir H. LAYARD noticed this at the very beginning of his explorations: "Between the bulls and the lions forming the entrances in different parts of the palace were invariably found a large collection of baked bricks, elaborately painted with figures of animals and flowers, and with cuneiform characters" (Nineveh, vol. ii. p. 13).

[375] PLACE, Ninive, vol. i. p. 234; vol. iii. plates 9 and 17.

[376] Ibid. vol. iii. plate 14. We should have reproduced this composition in colour had the size of our page allowed us to do so on a proper scale. M. Place was unable to give it all even in a double-page plate of his huge folio.

[377] PLACE, Ninive, vol. iii. plates 23-31.

[378] Layard, Monuments, 2nd series, plates 53, 54. Elsewhere (Discoveries, pp. 166-168) Layard has given a catalogue and summary description of all these fragments, of which only a part were reproduced in the plates of his great collection.

[379] Ibid. plate 55.

[380] GEO. SMITH, Assyrian Discoveries, p. 79.

[381] Botta gives examples of some of these bricks (Monument de Ninive, plates 155, 156). Among the motives there reproduced there is one that we have already seen in the bas-reliefs (fig. 67). It is a goat standing in the collected attitude he would take on a point of rock. The head of the ibex is also a not uncommon motive (LAYARD, Monuments, first series, plate 87, fig. 2; see also BOTTA).

[382] Fig. 1 of our Plate XIV. reproduces the same design, but with a more simple colouration.

[383] J. E. TAYLOR, Notes on Abou-Sharein, p. 407 (in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, vol. xv.).

[384] PHILOSTRATUS, Life of Apollonius, i. 25. Cf. DIONYSIUS PERIEGETES, who says of Semiramis (v. 1007, 1008):

autar ep' akropolei megan domon eisato Beloi chrusoi t' ed' elephanti kai aguroi askesasa.

[385] HERODOTUS, i. 98.

[386] See above, p. 202.

[387] LAYARD, Nineveh, vol. ii. p. 264, note 1. Frequent allusions to this use of metal are to be found in the wedges. In M. LENORMANT'S translation of the London inscription (Histoire ancienne, vol. ii. p. 233, 3rd edition) in which Nebuchadnezzar enumerates the great works he had done at Borsippa, I find the following words: "I have covered the roof of Nebo's place of repose with gold. The beams of the door before the oracles have been overlaid with silver ... the pivot of the door into the woman's chamber I have covered with silver."

[388] Among the fragments of tiles brought from Nimroud by Mr. George Smith, and now in the British Museum, there are two like those reproduced above, to which bosses or knobs of the same material—glazed earthenware—are attached. The necks of these bosses are pierced with holes apparently to receive the chain of a hanging lamp, and are surrounded at their base with inscriptions of Assurnazirpal stating that they formed part of the decoration of a temple at Calah.—ED.

[389] The size of our engraving is slightly above that of the object itself.

[390] 1 Kings vi. 15; vii. 3.

[391] ZEPHANIAH ii. 14.

[392] The design consists entirely in the symmetrical repetition of the details here given. [In this engraving the actual design of the pavement has been somewhat simplified. Between the knop and flower that forms the outer border and the rosettes there is a band of ornament consisting of the symmetrical repetition of the palmette motive with rudimentary volutes, much as it occurs round the outside of the tree of life figured on page 213. In another detail our cut differs slightly from the original. In the latter there is no corner piece; the border runs entirely across the end, and the side borders are stopped against it.—ED.]

[393] LAYARD, Discoveries, p. 184, note.

[394] LAYARD, Nineveh. vol. ii. p. 212, note.

[395] LAYARD, Discoveries, p. 281.

[396] PRISSE D'AVENNES, Histoire de l'Art egyptien d'apres les Monuments (2 vols folio): see the plates entitled Couronnements et Frises fleuronnes.

Sec. 8.—On the Orientation of Buildings and Foundation Ceremonies.

The inhabitants of Mesopotamia were so much impressed by celestial phenomena, and believed so firmly in the influence of the stars over human destiny, that they were sure to establish some connection between those heavenly bodies and the arrangement of their edifices. All the buildings of Chaldaea and Assyria are orientated; the principle is everywhere observed, but it is not always understood in the same fashion.

Mesopotamian buildings were always rectangular and often square on plan, and it is sometimes the angles and sometimes the centres of each face that are directed to the four cardinal points. It will easily be understood that the former system was generally preferred. The facades were of such extent that their direction to a certain point of the horizon was not evident, while salient angles, on the other hand, had all the precision of an astronomical calculation; and this the earliest architects of the Chaldees thoroughly understood. Some of the buildings examined by Loftus and Taylor on the lower Euphrates may have been restored, more or less, by Nebuchadnezzar and his successors, but it is generally acknowledged that the lower and less easily injured parts of most of these buildings date from the very beginnings of that civilization, and were constructed by the princes of the early empire. Now both at Warka and at Mugheir one corner of a building is always turned towards the true north.[397] An instance of this may be given in the little building at Mugheir in which the lower parts of a temple have been recognized (Fig. 143). The same arrangement is to be found in the palace excavated by M. de Sarzec at Tello.[398]

Most of the Assyrian architects did likewise. See for example the plan of Sargon's city, Dour-Saryoukin (Fig. 144). Its circumvallation incloses an almost exact square, the diagonals of which point to the north, south, east and west respectively.[399] In the large scale plans that we shall give farther on of the palace and of some of its parts it will be seen that the parallelograms of which that building was composed also had their angles turned to the four cardinal points. It was the same with the structures sprinkled over the summit of the vast mound of Kouyundjik, in the centre of what once was Nineveh.

On the other hand in those ruins at Nimroud that have been identified with the ancient Calah, it is the sides of the mound and of the buildings upon it that face the four cardinal points (Fig. 145). The plan given by Layard of the square staged tower disengaged in his last digging campaign at the north-western angle of the mound shows this more clearly.[400] Nearly half the northern side is occupied by the salient circular mass that is such a conspicuous object to one looking at the mound from the plain. We do not know what caused this deviation from the traditional custom; a reason should perhaps be sought in the configuration of the ground, and in the course here followed by the river which then bathed the foot of the artificial hill upon which stood the royal dwellings of the Tiglath-Pilesers and Assurnazirpals.

The first of these two methods of orientation had the advantage of establishing a more exact and well defined relation between the disposition of the building and those celestial points to which a peculiar importance was attached. It must also be remembered that such an arrangement gave a more agreeable dwelling than the other. No facade being turned directly to the north there was none entirely deprived of sunlight, while at the same time there was none that faced due south. The sun as it ran its daily course would light for a time each face in turn.

The religious ideas that led to orientation are revealed in other details, in the time chosen for commencing the foundations of temples or palaces, and in certain rites that were accomplished afterwards—doubtless with the help of the priesthood—in order to place the building under the protection of the gods and to interest them in its duration. There were ceremonies analogous to those now practised when we lay foundation stones. In the Chaldee system the first stone, the seed from which the rest of the edifice was to spring, was an angle stone, under or in which were deposited inscribed plaques. These contained the name of the founder, together with prayers to the gods and imprecations on all who should menace the stability of the building. This custom dated from the very beginning of Chaldaean civilization, as is proved by a curious text translated by M. Oppert.[401] It was discovered at Sippara and dates from the time of Nabounid, one of the last kings of Babylon. Many centuries before the reign of that prince a temple raised to the sun by Sagaraktyas, of the first dynasty, had been destroyed, and its foundations were traditionally said to inclose the sacred tablets of Xisouthros, who has been identified with the Noah of the Bible. Nabounid recounts the unsuccessful efforts that had been made before his time to recover possession of the precious deposit. Two kings of Babylon, Kourigalzou and Nebuchadnezzar, and one king of Assyria, Esarhaddon, had made the attempt and failed. One of the three had commemorated his failure in an inscription to the following effect: "I have searched for the angle stone of the temple of Ulbar but I have not found it." Finally Nabounid took up the quest. After one check caused by an inundation he renewed the search with ardour; he employed his army upon it, and at last, after digging to a great depth, he came to the angle-stone: "Thus," he says, "have I recovered the name and date of Sagaraktyas."

In the ruins of the ancient royal city recovered by M. de Sarzec at Tello the traces of similar precautions have everywhere been found. In the middle of the great mass of ruins whose plan we are still awaiting, "I found," says M. de Sarzec, "at a depth of hardly 30 centimetres (one foot English) below the original level of the soil four cubical masses consisting of large bricks cemented with bitumen, and measuring about 80 centimetres across each face. In the centre of each cube there was a cavity 27 centimetres long by 12 wide and 35 deep. In each case this hollow contained a small bronze statuette packed, as it were, in an impalpable dust. In one cavity the statuette was that of a kneeling man (Fig. 146), in another of a standing woman (Fig. 147), in another of a bull (Fig. 148). At the feet of each statue there were two stone tablets, set in most cases in the bitumen with which the cavity was lined. One of these tablets was black, the other white. It was upon the black as a rule that a cuneiform inscription similar, or nearly so, to the inscriptions on the statuettes was found."[402]

Abridgments of the same commemorative and devotional form of words are found upon those cones of terra-cotta that were discovered in such numbers among the foundations and in the interstices of the structure (Fig. 149).[403]

The Mesopotamian builder was not satisfied with relying upon talismans built into the lower part of a building or strewn under the pavements. Taylor ascertained at Mugheir and Loftus at Sinkara that engraved cylinders were built into the four angles of the upper stories. A brick had been omitted, leaving a small niche in which they were set up on end.[404] Profiting by the hint thus given Sir Henry Rawlinson excavated the angles of one of the terraces of the Birs-Nimroud at Babylon, and to the astonishment of his workmen he found the terra-cotta cylinders upon which the reconstruction of the temple by Nebuchadnezzar is narrated exactly at the point where he told them to dig.[405] These little tubs are called cylinders—a not very happy title. As some of them are about three feet high (Fig. 150) they can take commemorative inscriptions of vastly greater length than those cut upon small hard-stone cylinders. Some of these inscriptions have as many as a hundred lines very finely engraved. Many precious specimens dating from the times of Nebuchadnezzar and his successors have been found in the ruins of Babylon.[406]

Thus from the beginning to the end of Chaldaean civilization the custom was preserved of consecrating a building by hiding in its substance objects to which a divine type and an engraved text gave both a talismanic and a commemorative value.

As might be supposed the same usage was followed in Assyria. In the palace of Assurnazirpal at Nimroud, Sir Henry Layard found some alabaster tablets with inscriptions on both their faces hidden behind the colossal lions at one of the doorways.[407] The British Museum also possesses a series of small figures found at Nimroud but in a comparatively modern building, the palace of Esarhaddon. They have each two pairs of wings, one pair raised, the other depressed. They had been strewn in the sand under the threshold of one of the doors.

It was at Khorsabad, however, that the observations were made which have most clearly shown the importance attached to this ceremony of consecration. M. Oppert tells us that during the summer of 1854, "M. Place disinterred from the foundations of Khorsabad a stone case in which were five inscriptions on five different materials, gold, silver, antimony, copper and lead. Of these five tablets he brought away four. The leaden one was too heavy to be carried off at once, and it was despatched to Bassorah on the rafts with the bulk of the collection, whose fate it shared." The other four tablets are in the Louvre. Their text is almost identical. M. Oppert gives a translation of it.[408] According to his rendering, the inscription—in which the king speaks throughout in the first person—ends with this imprecation: "May the great lord Assur destroy from the face of this country the name and race of him who shall injure the works of my hand, or who shall carry off my treasure!"

A little higher up, where Sargon recounts the founding of the palace, occurs a phrase which M. Oppert translates: "The people threw their amulets." What Sargon meant by this the excavations of M. Place have shown. In the foundations of the town walls, and especially in the beds of sand between the bases of the sculptured bulls that guard the doorways, he found hundreds of small objects, such as cylinders, cones, and terra-cotta statuettes. The most curious of these are now deposited in the Louvre. The numbers and the character of these things prove that a great number of the people must have assisted at the ceremony of consecration.

Several of these amulets were not without value either for their material or their workmanship, but the great majority were of the roughest kind, some being merely shells or stones with a hole through them, which must have belonged to the poorest class of the community. In many cases their proper use could be easily divined; the holes with which they were pierced and other marks of wear showed them to be personal amulets.[409] Those present at the ceremony of consecrating the foundations must have detached them from the cords by which they were suspended, and thrown them, upon the utterance of some propitiatory formula by the priests, into the sand about to be covered with the first large slabs of alabaster.

The terra-cotta cylinders were in no less frequent use in Assyria than in Chaldaea. M. Place found no less than fourteen still in place in niches of the harem walls at Khorsabad. The long inscription they bore contained circumstantial details of the construction of both town and palace. Like that on the metal tablets, it ended with a malediction on all who should dare to raise their hands against the work of Sargon.[410]

As for the cylinders hidden in each angle of a building, none, we believe, have as yet been found in Assyria; perhaps because no search or an inefficient search has been made for them.

We have dwelt at some length upon the orientation of buildings, upon the importance attached to their angle stones, and upon the precautions taken to place an edifice under the protection of the gods, and to preserve the name of its founder from oblivion. We can point to no stronger evidence than that furnished by these proceedings as a whole, of the high civilization to which the people of Chaldaea and Assyria had attained at a very early date. The temple and palace did not spread themselves out upon the soil at the word of a capricious and individual fancy; a constant will governed the arrangement of its plan, solemn rites inaugurated its construction and recommended its welfare to the gods. The texts tell us nothing about the architects, who raised so many noble monuments; we know neither their names, nor their social condition, but we can divine from their works that they had strongly established traditions, and that they could look back upon a solid and careful education for their profession. As to whether they formed one of those close corporations in which the secrets of a trade are handed down from generation to generation of their members, or whether they belonged to the sacerdotal caste, we do not know. We are inclined to the latter supposition in some degree by the profoundly religious character of the ceremonies that accompanied the inception of a building, and by the accounts left by the ancients of those priests whom they called the Chaldaeans. It was to these Chaldaeans that Mesopotamian society owed all it knew of scientific methods and modes of thought, and it is, perhaps, fair to suppose that they turned to the practice of the arts those intellects which they had cultivated above their fellows. Architecture especially requires something more than manual skill, practice, and natural genius. When it is carried so far as it was in Chaldaea it demands a certain amount of science, and the priests who by right of their intellectual superiority held such an important place in the state, may well have contrived to gain a monopoly as architects to the king. In their persons alone would the scientific knowledge required for such work be combined with the power to accomplish those sacred rites which gave to the commencement of a new building the character of a contract between man and his deity.


[397] LOFTUS, Travels and Researches, p. 171.

[398] Les Fouilles de Chaldee, communication d'une Lettre de M. de Sarzec par M. Leon Heuzey, Sec. 2 (Revue archeologique, November, 1881).

[399] PLACE, Ninive, vol. i. pp. 17, 18. BOTTA had previously made the same observation (Monument de Ninive, vol. v. p. 25).

[400] LAYARD, Discoveries, plan 2, p. 123.

[401] OPPERT, Expedition scientifique de Mesopotamie, vol. i. p. 273.

[402] Les Fouilles de Chaldee, communication d'une Lettre de M. de Sarzec, by M. Leon HEUZEY (Revue archeologique, November, 1881).

[403] As to the notions attached to these cones, whether sprinkled about the foundations of a building, set up in certain sanctuaries, or carried upon the person, an article published by M. LEDRAIN, a propos of an agate cone recently added to the collections of the Louvre, may be read with advantage. Its full title is Une Page de Mythologie semitique (la Philosophie positive, Revue, 14th year, 1882, pp. 209-213).

[404] Taylor, Notes on the Ruins of Mugheir (Journal, &c. vol. xv., pp. 263, 264). LOFTUS, Travels, &c. p. 247.

[405] See the Athenaeum for January 20, 1855 (No. 1421), p. 84. "After two months' excavation Colonel Rawlinson was summoned to the work by the information that ... a wall had been found and laid bare to a distance of 190 feet, and that it turned off at right angles at each end, to be apparently carried all round the mound, forming a square of about twenty-seven feet in height, surmounted by a platform. He immediately rode to the excavation, examined the spot, where he found the workmen quite discouraged and hopeless, having laboured long and found nothing. He was now, however, well aware of these facts, and at once pointed out the spot, near the corner, where the bricks should be removed. In half an hour a small hollow was found, from which he immediately directed the head workman to 'bring out the commemorative cylinder'—a command which, to the wonder and bewilderment of the people, was immediately obeyed; and a cylinder covered with inscriptions was drawn out from its hiding-place of twenty-four centuries, as fresh as when deposited there by the hands, probably, of Nebuchadnezzar himself! The Colonel added in a note that the fame of his magical power had flown to Bagdad, and that he was besieged with applications for the loan of his wonderful instrument to be used in the discovery of hidden treasures!"

[406] Among these we may mention the Philips cylinder, from which, in speaking of the great works carried out by Nebuchadnezzar, LENORMANT gives long extracts in his Manuel d'Histoire ancienne, vol. ii. pp. 233 and 235.

[407] LAYARD, Nineveh, vol. i. p. 115, and vol. ii. p. 91.

[408] OPPERT, Expedition en Mesopotamie, vol. ii. pp. 343-351.

[409] PLACE, Ninive, vol. i. p. 188.

[410] OPPERT, Expedition scientifique, vol. i. pp. 354 et seq.

Sec. 9.—Mechanical Resources.

The Chaldaeans and Assyrians were never called upon to transport such enormous masses as some of the Egyptian monoliths, such as the obelisks and the two great colossi at Thebes. But the stone bulls that decorated the palaces of Nineveh were no light weight, and it was not without difficulty that the modern explorers succeeded in conveying them to the borders of the Tigris and loading them on the rafts upon which they began their long journeys to Paris and London. In moving such objects from place to place the Assyrians, like the Egyptians, had no secret beyond that of patience, and the unflinching use of human arms and shoulders in unstinted number.[411] We know this from monuments in which the details of the operation are figured even more clearly and with more pictorial power than in the bas-relief at El-Bercheh, which has served to make us acquainted with the methods employed in taking an Egyptian colossus from the quarry to its site.

In Mesopotamia, as in Egypt, there were waterways that could be used at any season for the transport of heavy masses. Quarries were made as near the banks of the Euphrates and Tigris as possible, and when a stone monster had to be carried to a town situated at some distance from both those rivers the canals by which the country was intersected in every direction supplied their place. Going down stream, and especially in flood time, no means of propulsion were required; the course of the boats or rafts was directed by means of heavy oars like those still used by the boatmen who navigate the Tigris in keleks, or rafts, supported on inflated hides; in ascending the streams towing was called into play, as we know from one of the Kouyundjik bas-reliefs.[412] In this the stone in course of transport is oblong in shape and is placed upon a wide flat boat, beyond which it extends both at the stern and the bows. It is securely fastened with pieces of wood held together by strong pins. There are three tow ropes, two fastened to the stone itself and the third to the bow of the boat.

The towers pull upon these cables by means of smaller cords passed round the shoulders of each and spliced to the main ropes; by such means they could bring far more weight to bear than if they had been content to hold the cable in their hands, as in Egypt. The bas-relief in question is mutilated, but we may guess that a hundred men were attached to each cable, which would make three hundred in all obeying the single will of the superintending engineer who is perched upon the stone and directing their movements. On each flank of the gang march overseers armed with swords and rattans that would be quick to descend on the back and loins of any shirker.

More than one instance of such punishment may be seen on the bas-relief reproduced in part in our Fig. 151. In its lower division two or three of these slave-drivers may be seen with their hands raised against the workmen; in one case the latter sinks to the ground beneath the blows rained upon him. The way in which the whole series of operations is represented in this Kouyundjik relief is most curious. High up in the field we often find the king himself, standing in his chariot and urging on the work. The whole occupies several of Layard's large plates. We can only reproduce the central group, which is the most interesting to the student of engineering in ancient Mesopotamia.

The block of alabaster that we saw a moment ago on a boat towed by hundreds of human arms has been delivered to the sculptors and has put on, under their hands, the rough form of a mitred, human-headed bull. It will be completed after being put in place; the last touches of the chisel and the brush will then be given to it; but the heaviest part of the work is already done and the block has lost much of its original size and weight. Firmly packed with timber, the bull lies upon its side upon a sledge which is curved in front like a boat, or a modern sleigh. Two cables are fastened to its prow and two to its stern. The engineer is again seated upon the stone and claps his hands to give the time, but now he is accompanied by three soldiers who appear to support his authority by voice and gesture. In order to prevent friction and to facilitate the movement of the sledge, rollers are thrust beneath its runners as they progress. Before the huge mass will start, however, the straining cords and muscles have to be helped by a thrust from behind. This is given by means of a huge lever, upon which a number of men pull with all their weight, while its curved foot is engaged under the sledge. A workman is occupied with the reinforcement of the fulcrum by thrusting a wedge in between its upper surface and the lower edge of the lever. When everything is ready a signal will be given, the men behind will throw their weight upon the lever, the sledge will rise a little, the ropes will strain and tighten, and the heavy mass will glide forward upon the greased rollers until arms and legs give out and an interval for rest is called, to be followed presently by a repetition of the same process. Every precaution is taken to minimize the effect of any accident that may take place in the course of the operation. Behind the sledge spare ropes and levers are carried, some upon men's backs, others on small handcarts. There are also a number of workmen carrying rollers.

We shall only refer to one more of these reliefs and that the one with which the series appears to close (Fig. 152). This carved picture has been thought, not without reason, to represent the erection of the bull[413] in its destined place. After its slow but uninterrupted march the huge monster has arrived upon the plateau where it has been awaited. By one great final effort it has been dragged up an inclined plane to the summit of the mound and has been set upon its feet. Nothing remains to be done but to pull and thrust it into its place against the doorway it has to guard and ornament. The same sledge, the same rollers, the same lever, the same precautions against accident are to be recognized here as in the last picture. The only difference is in the position of the statue itself. Standing upright like this it is much more liable to injury than when prone on its flank. New safeguards have therefore been introduced. It is packed under its belly with squares of wood and inclosed in scaffolding to prevent dangerous vibration. Additional precautions against this latter danger are provided by gangs of men who walk at each side and hold, some ropes fastened to the uprights of the scaffolding, others long forked poles engaged under its horizontal pieces. By these means equilibrium could be restored after any extra oscillation on the part of the sledge and its burden.

All these manoeuvres are remarkable for the skill and prodigality with which human strength was employed; of all the scientific tools invented to economise effort and to shorten the duration of a task, the only one they seem ever to have used was the most simple of all, the lever, an instrument that must have been invented over and over again wherever men tried to lift masses of stone or wood from the ground. Its discovery must, in fact, have taken place long before the commencement of what we call civilization, although its theory was first expounded by the Greek mathematicians.

In a relief in the palace of Assurnazirpal at Nimroud, there is a pulley exactly similar to those often seen over a modern well.[414] A cord runs over it and supports a bucket. There is no evidence that the Assyrians employed such a contrivance for any purpose but the raising of water. We cannot say that they used it to lift heavy weights, but the fact that they understood its principle puts them slightly above the Egyptians as engineers.


[411] As to the simplicity of Egyptian engineering, see the History of Art in Ancient Egypt, vol. ii. p. 72, and fig. 43.

[412] See LAYARD, Monuments, 2nd series, plate ii. The same author gives a detailed description of this picture in his Discoveries, pp. 104-106.

[413] LAYARD, Discoveries, p. 112.

[414] LAYARD, Nineveh, vol. ii. p. 32.

Sec. 10.—On the Graphic Processes Employed in the Representations of Buildings.

The Chaldaeans and Assyrians knew as little of perspective as they did of mechanics. When they had to figure a building and its contents, or a landscape background, they could not resist the temptation of combining many things which could not be seen from a single standpoint. Like the painters and sculptors of Thebes they mixed up in the most naive fashion those graphic processes that we keep carefully apart. All that they cared about was to be understood. We need not here reproduce the observations we made on this subject in the corresponding chapter of Egyptian Art;[415] it will suffice to give a few examples of the simultaneous employment by Ninevite sculptors of contradictory systems.

It is not difficult to cite examples of things that may, with some little ingenuity, be brought within the definition of a plan. The most curious and strongly marked of these is furnished by one of the most ancient monuments that have come down to us; we mean a statue found at Tello in Lower Chaldaea by M. de Sarzec. It represents a personage seated and holding on his knees an engraved tablet on which two or three different things are represented (Fig. 153). On the right there is one of those styles with which letters or images were cut in the soft clay, at the bottom of the tablet there is a scale which we know from another monument of the same kind to have been originally 10.8 inches in length, i.e. the Babylonian half-cubit or span. By far the larger part of the field, however, is occupied by an irregular figure in which the trace of a fortified wall may be easily recognized. When these monuments were first brought to France this statue was supposed to be that of an architect. When the inscriptions were interpreted, however, this opinion had to be modified in some degree. They were found to contain the same royal title as the other figure of similar style and material discovered by M. de Sarzec on the same spot, the title, namely, of the individual whom archaeologists have at present agreed to call Gudea.[416] It therefore seems to represent that prince in the character of an architect, as the constructor of the building in which his statues were placed as a sacred deposit. Must we take it to be the plan of his royal city as a whole, or only of his palace? It is difficult to answer this question, especially while no precise information has been obtained from the inscriptions, whose interpretation presents many difficulties. There can, however, be no doubt that the engraver has given us a plan according to his lights of a wall strengthened by flanking towers, of which those with the boldest salience guard the six passages into the interior.

We find a still more simple plan upon an Assyrian monument of much later date, namely, upon the armour of beaten bronze that formerly protected the gates of Balawat. In this example (Fig. 154) the doorways, the angles, and the centres of the two longer curtains are strengthened by towers.

The way in which the sculptor has endeavoured to suggest the crenellations shows that these plans are not drawn on the same principal as ours; there is no section taken at the junction with the soil or at a determined height; the draughtsman in all probability wished to give an idea of the height of the flanking towers. His representation is an ideal projection similar to those of which we find so many examples in Egypt, only that here we have the towers laid flat outside the fortification to which they belong in such a fashion that their summits are as far as possible from the centre of the structure. We shall see this better in another plan of the same kind in which the details are more carefully made out (Fig. 155). It comes from a bas-relief, on which a circular fortress, divided into four equal parts by walls radiating from its centre, is portrayed.

In this relief we find another favourite process of the Egyptians employed, namely, that in which a vertical section is combined with a projection, so that the interior of the building and its arrangements may be laid open to the spectator. In this instance we can see what is passing in the four principal chambers of the castle. In each chamber one or two persons are occupied over what appear to be religious rites.

In another Nimroud bas-relief we find a still greater variety of processes used upon a single work (Fig. 156). The picture shows the king enthroned in the centre of a fortified city which he has just captured. Prisoners are being brought before him; his victorious troops have erected their tents in the city itself. Beside these tents three houses of unequal size represent the dwellings of the conquered. The enceinte with its towers is projected on the soil in the fashion above noticed; a longitudinal section lays bare the interiors of the tents and shows us the soldiers at their various occupations. As for the houses, they are represented by their principal facades, which are drawn in elevation.

When he had to deal with more complicated images, as in the reliefs at Kouyundjik representing the conquests and expeditions of Assurbanipal, the artist modified his processes at will so as to combine in the narrow space at his disposal all the information that he thought fit to give. See for instance the relief in which the Assyrians celebrate their capture of Madaktu, an important city of Susiana, by a sort of triumph (Fig. 157). The town itself, with its towered walls and its suburbs in which every house is sheltered by a date tree, is figured in the centre. At the top and sides the walls are projected outwards from the city; at the bottom they are thrown inwards in order, no doubt, to leave room for the tops of the date trees. Moreover, the sculptor had to find room for a large building on the right of his fortification. This is, apparently, the palace of the king. Guarded by a barbican and surrounded by trees it rises upon its artificial mound some little distance in front of the city. The artist also wished to show that palace and city were protected by a winding river teeming with fish, into which fell a narrower stream in the neighbourhood of the palace. If he had projected the walls of the palace and its barbican in the same way as those of the other buildings he would either have had to encroach upon his streams and to hide their junction or to divert their course. In order to avoid this he made use of several points of view, and laid his two chief structures on the ground in such a fashion that they form an oblique angle with the rest of the buildings. The result thus obtained looks strange to us, but it fulfilled his purpose; it gave a clear idea of how the various buildings were situated with respect to each other and it reproduced with fidelity the topographical features of the conquered country.

The chief desire of the sculptor was to be understood. That governing thought can nowhere be more clearly traced than in one of the reliefs dealing with the exploits of Sennacherib.[417] Here he had to explain that in order to penetrate into a mountainous country like Armenia, the king had been compelled to follow the bed of a torrent between high wooded banks. In the middle of the picture we see the king in his chariot, followed by horsemen and foot soldiers marching in the water. Towards the summit of the relief, the heights that overhang the stream are represented by the usual network. But how to represent the wooded mountains on this side of the water? The artist has readily solved the question, according to his lights, by showing the near mountains and their trees upside down, a solution which is quite on all fours, in principle, with the plans above described. The hills are projected on each side of the line made by the torrent, so that it runs along their bases, as it does in fact; but in this case the topsy-turviness of the trees and hills has a very startling effect. The intentions of the artist, however, are perfectly obvious; his process is childish, but it is quite clear.

None of these plans or pictures have, any more than those of Egypt, a scale by which the proportions of the objects introduced can be judged. The men, who were more important in the eye of the artist than the buildings, are always taller than the houses and towers. This will be seen still more clearly in the figure we reproduce from the Balawat gates (Fig. 158). It represents a fortress besieged by Shalmaneser II., three people stand upon the roof of the building; if we restore their lower limbs we shall see that their height is equal to that of the castle itself.[418]

This short examination of the spirit and principles of Assyrian figuration was necessary in order to prevent embarrassment and doubt in speaking of the architectural designs and other things of the same kind that we may find reproduced in the bas-reliefs. Unless we had thoroughly understood the system of which the sculptors made use, we should have been unable to base our restorations upon their works in any important degree; and, besides, if there be one touchstone more sure than another by which we may determine the plastic genius of a people, it is the ingenuity, or the want of it, shown in the contrivance of means to make lines represent the thickness of bodies and the distances of various planes. In this matter Chaldaea and Assyria remained, like Egypt, in the infancy of art. They were even excelled by the Egyptians, who showed more taste and continuity in the management of their processes than their Eastern rivals. Nothing so absurd is to be found in the sculptures of the Nile valley as these hills and trees turned upside down, and we shall presently see that a like superiority is shown in the way figures are brought together in the bas-reliefs. In our second volume on Egyptian art we drew attention to some Theban sculptures in which a vague suspicion of the true laws of perspective seemed to be struggling to light. The attempt to apply them to the composition of certain groups was real, though timid. Nothing of the kind is to be found in Assyrian sculpture. The Mesopotamian artist never seems for a moment to have doubted the virtues of his own method, a method which consisted in placing the numerous figures, whose position in a space of more or less depth he wished to suggest, one above another on the field of his relief. He trusted, in fact, to the intelligence of the spectator, and took but little pains to help the latter in making sense of the images put before him.


[415] Art in Ancient Egypt, vol. ii. chapter i. Sec. 1.

[416] M. J. HALEVY disputes this reading of the word. As we are unable to discuss the question, we must refer our readers to his observations (Les Monuments Chaldeens et la Question de Sumir et d'Accad) in the Comptes rendus de l'Academie des Inscriptions, 1882, p. 107. M. Halevy believes it should be read as the name of the prince Nabou or Nebo. The question is only of secondary importance, but M. Halevy enlarges its scope by reopening the whole matter of debate between himself and M. Oppert as to the true character of what Assyriologists call the Sumerian language and written character. The Comptes rendus only gives a summary of the paper. The same volume contains a resume of M. Oppert's reply (1882, p. 123: Inscriptions de Gudea, et seq).

[417] LAYARD, Discoveries, p. 341.

[418] The same disproportion between men and buildings is to be found in many other reliefs (see figs. 39, 43, and 60).



Sec. 1.—Chaldaean and Assyrian Notions as to a Future Life.

Of the remains that have come down to us from ancient Egypt the oldest, the most important in some respects, and beyond dispute the most numerous, are the sepulchres. Of the two lives of the Egyptian, that of which we know the most is his posthumous life—the life he led in the shadows of that carefully-hidden subterranean dwelling that he called his "good abode." While in every other country bodies after a few years are nothing but a few handfuls of dust, in Egypt they creep out in thousands to the light of day, from grottoes in the flanks of the mountains, from pits sunk through the desert sand and from hollows in the sand itself. They rise accompanied by long inscriptions that speak for them, and make us sharers in their joys and sorrows, in their religious beliefs and in the promises in which they placed their hopes when their eyes were about to close for ever. A peculiarity of which Egypt offers the only instance is thus explained. The house of the Memphite citizen and the palace of the king himself, can only now be restored by hints culled from the reliefs and inscriptions—hints which sometimes lend themselves to more than one interpretation, while the tombs of Egypt are known to us in every detail of structure and arrangement. In more than one instance they have come down to us with their equipment of epitaphs and inscribed prayers, of pictures carved and painted on the walls and all the luxury of their sepulchral furniture, exactly in fact as they were left when their doors were shut upon their silent tenants so many centuries ago.[419]

We are far indeed from being able to say this of Assyria and Chaldaea. In those countries it is the palace, the habitation of the sovereign, that has survived in the best condition, and from it we may imagine what the houses of private people were like; but we know hardly anything of their tombs. Chaldaean tombs have been discovered in these latter years, but they are anonymous and mute. We do not possess a single funerary inscription dating from the days when the two nations who divided Mesopotamia between them were still their own masters. The arrangements of the nameless tombs in lower Chaldaea are extremely simple and their furnishing very poor, if we compare them with the sepulchres in the Egyptian cemeteries. As for Assyrian burying-places, none have yet been discovered. Tombs have certainly been found at Nimroud, at Kouyundjik, at Khorsabad, and in all the mounds in the neighbourhood of Mossoul, but never among or below the Assyrian remains. They are always in the mass of earth and various debris that has accumulated over the ruins of the Assyrian palaces, which is enough to show that they date from a time posterior to the fall of the Mesopotamian Empires. Any doubts that may have lingered on this point have been removed by the character of the objects found, which are never older than the Seleucidae or the Parthians, and sometimes date even from the Roman epoch.[420]

What then did the Assyrians do with their dead? No one has attacked this question more vigorously than Sir Henry Layard. In his attempt to answer it he explored the whole district of Mossoul, but without result; he pointed out the interest of the inquiry to all his collaborators, he talked about it to the more intelligent among his workmen, and promised a reward to whoever should first show him an Assyrian grave. He found nothing, however, and neither Loftus, Place, nor Rassam have been more successful. Neither texts nor monuments help us to fill up the gap. The excavations of M. de Sarzec have indeed brought to light the fragments of an Assyrian stele in which a funerary scene is represented, but unfortunately its meaning is by no means clear.[421] I cannot point to an Assyrian relief in which the same theme is treated. Among so many battle pictures we do not find a single scene analogous to those so often repeated in the pictures and sculptures of Greece. The death and burial of an Assyrian warrior gave a theme to no Assyrian sculptor. It would appear that the national pride revolted from any confession that Assyrians could be killed like other men. All the corpses in the countless battlefields are those of enemies, who are sometimes mutilated and beheaded.[422]

These despised bodies were left to rot where they fell, and to feed the crows and vultures;[423] but it is impossible to believe that the Assyrians paid no honours to the bodies of their princes, their nobles, and their relations, and some texts recently discovered make distinct allusions to funerary rites.[424] We can hardly agree to the suggestions of M. Place, who asks whether it is not possible that the Assyrians committed their corpses to the river, like the modern Hindoos, or to birds of prey, like the Guebres.[425] Usages so entirely out of harmony with the customs of other ancient nations would certainly have been noticed by contemporary writers, either Greek or Hebrew. In any case some allusion to them would survive in Assyrian literature, but no hint of the kind is to be found.

But after we have rejected those hypotheses the question is no nearer to solution than before; we are still confronted by the remarkable fact that the Assyrians so managed to hide their dead that no trace of them has ever been discovered. A conjecture offered by Loftus is the most inviting.[426] He reminds us that although cemeteries are entirely absent from Assyria, Chaldaea is full of them. Between Niffer and Mugheir each mound is a necropolis. The Assyrians knew that Chaldaea was the birthplace of their race and they looked upon it as a sacred territory. We find the Ninevite kings, even when they were hardest upon their rebellious subjects in the south, holding it as a point of honour to preserve and restore the temples of Babylon and to worship there in royal pomp. Perhaps the Assyrians, or rather those among them who could afford the expenses of the journey, had their dead transferred to the graveyards of Lower Chaldaea. The latter country, or, at least, a certain portion of it, would thus be a kind of holy-land where those Semites whose earliest traditions were connected with its soil would think themselves assured of a more tranquil repose and of protection from more benignant deities. The soil of Assyria itself would receive none but the corpses of those slaves and paupers who, counting for nothing in their lives, would be buried when dead in the first convenient corner, without epitaph or sepulchral furnishing.

This hypothesis would explain two things that need explanation—the absence from Assyria of such tombs as are found in every other country of the Ancient World, and the great size of the Chaldaean cemeteries. Both Loftus and Taylor received the same impression, that the assemblages of coffins, still huge in spite of the numbers that have been destroyed during the last twenty centuries, can never have been due entirely to the second and third rate cities in whose neighbourhood they occur. Piled one upon another they form mounds covering wide spaces of ground, and so high that they may be seen for many miles across the plain.[427] This district must have been the common cemetery of Chaldaea and perhaps of Assyria; the dead of Babylon must have been conveyed there. Is it too much to suppose that by means of rivers and canals those of Nineveh may have been taken there too? Was it not in exactly that fashion that mummies were carried by thousands from one end of the Nile valley to the other, to the places where they had to rejoin there ancestors?[428]

But we need not go back to Ancient Egypt to find examples of corpses making long journeys in order to reach some great national burying-place. Loftus received the first hint of his suggestion from what he himself saw at Nedjef and at Kerbela, where he met funeral processions more than once on the roads of Irak-Arabi. From every town in Persia the bodies of Shiite Mussulmans, who desire to repose near the mortal remains of Ali and his son, are transported after death into Mesopotamia.[429] According to Loftus the cemetery of Nedjef alone, that by which the mosque known as Meched-Ali is surrounded, receives the bodies of from five to eight thousand Persians every year. Now the journey between Nineveh and Calah and the plains of Lower Chaldaea was far easier than it is now—considering especially the state of the roads—between Tauris, Ispahan, and Teheran, on the one hand and Nedjef on the other. The transit from Assyria to Chaldaea could be made, like that of the Egyptian mummy, entirely by water, that is to say, very cheaply, very easily, and very rapidly.

We are brought up, however, by one objection. Although as a rule subject to the Assyrians, the Chaldaeans were from the eleventh to the seventh century before our era in a constant state of revolt against their northern neighbours; they struggled hard for their independence and waged long and bloody wars with the masters of Nineveh. Can the Assyrian kings have dared to confide their mortal remains to sepulchres in the midst of a people who had shown themselves so hostile to their domination? Must they not have trembled for the security of tombs surrounded by a rebellious and angry populace? And the furious conflicts that we find narrated in the Assyrian inscriptions, must they not often have interrupted the transport of bodies and compelled them to wait without sepulture for months and even years?

Further explorations and the decipherment of the texts will one day solve the problem. Meanwhile we must attempt to determine the nature of Chaldaeo-Assyrian beliefs as to a future life. We shall get no help from Herodotus. Intending to describe the manners and customs of the Chaldaeans in a special work that he either never wrote or that has been lost,[430] he treated Mesopotamia in much less ample fashion than Egypt, in his history. All that he leaves us on the subject we are now studying is this passing remark, "The Babylonians put their dead in honey, and their funerary lamentations are very like those of the Egyptians."[431] Happily we have the Chaldaean cemeteries and the sculptured monuments of Assyria to which we can turn for information. The funerary writings of the Egyptians allow us to read their hearts as an open book. We know that the men who lived in the days of the ancient empire looked upon the posthumous life as a simple continuation of life in the sun. They believed it to be governed by the same wants, but capable of infinite prolongation so long as those wants were supplied. And so they placed their dead in tombs where they were surrounded by such things as they required when alive, especially by meat and drink. Finally, they endeavoured to ensure them the enjoyment of these things to the utmost limit of time by preserving their bodies against dissolution. If these were to fall into dust the day after they entered upon their new abode, the provisions and furniture with which it was stocked would be of no use.

The Chaldaeans kept a similar object before them. They neglected nothing to secure the body against the action of damp, in the first place by making the sides of their vaults and the coffins themselves water-tight, secondly, by providing for the rapid escape of rain water from the cemetery,[432] and, finally, if they did not push the art of embalming so far as the Egyptians, they entered upon the same path. The bodies we find in the oldest tombs are imperfect mummies compared with those of Egypt, but the skeleton, at least, is nearly always in an excellent state of preservation; it is only when handled that it tumbles into dust. In the more spacious tombs the body lies upon a mat, with its head upon a cushion. In most cases the remains of bandages and linen cloths were found about it. Mats, cushions, and bandages had all been treated with bitumen. A small terra-cotta model in the British Museum shows a dead man thus stowed in his coffin; his hands are folded on his breast, and round the whole lower part of the body the bands that gave him the appearance of a mummy may be traced.

The funerary furniture is far from being as rich and varied as it is in the tombs of Egypt and Etruria, but the same idea has governed the choice of objects in both cases. When the corpse is that of a man we find at his side the cylinder which served him as seal, his arms, arrow heads of flint or bronze, and the remains of the staff he carried in his hand.[433] In a woman's tomb the body has jewels on its neck, its wrists and ankles; jewels are strewn about the tomb and placed on the lid of the coffin. Among other toilet matters have been found small glass bottles, fragments of a bouquet, and cakes of the black pigment which the women of the East still employ to lengthen their eyebrows and enhance their blackness.[434]

The vases which are always present in well-preserved tombs, show the ideas of the Mesopotamians on death more clearly than anything else. Upon the palm of one hand or behind the head is placed a cup, sometimes of bronze, oftener of terra-cotta. From it the dead man can help himself to the water or fermented liquors with which the great clay jars that are spread over the floor of his grave are filled (Figs. 159 and 160). Near these also we find shallow bowls or saucers, used no doubt as plates for holding food. Date-stones, chicken and fish bones are also present in great numbers. In one tomb the snout of a swordfish has been found, in another a wild boar's skull. It would seem too that the idea of adding imitation viands to real ones occurred to the Chaldaeans as well as to the Egyptians.[435] From one grave opened by Taylor four ducks carved in stone were taken.

The sepulchres in which the objects we have been mentioning were found, are the most ancient in Chaldaea—on this all the explorers are agreed. Their situation in the lowest part of the funerary mounds, the aspect of the characters engraved upon the cylinders and the style of the things they contained, all go to prove their age. In similar tombs discovered by M. de Sarzec at Sirtella, in the same region, a tablet of stone and a bronze statuette, differing in no important particular from those deposited in foundation stones, were found. The texts engraved upon them leave no doubt as to their great antiquity.[436] It is then to the early Chaldaean monarchy that we must assign these tombs, which so clearly betray ideas and beliefs practically identical with those that find their freest expression in the mastabas of the ancient Egyptian Empire.

In Mesopotamia, as in Egypt, the human intellect arrived with the lapse of time at something beyond this childish and primitive belief. Men did not, however, repel it altogether as false and ridiculous; they continued to cherish it at the bottom of their hearts, and to allow it to impose certain lines of action upon them which otherwise could hardly be explained or justified. As in Egypt, and in later years in Greece, a new and more abstract conception was imposed upon the first. Logically, the second theory was the negation of its predecessor, but where imagination and sentiment play the principal role, such contradictions are lost sight of.

We have elsewhere[437] traced the process by which the imagination was led to sketch out a new explanation of the mystery of death. As man's experience increased, and his faculty for observation became more powerful, he had to make a greater mental effort before he could believe in the immortality of the body, and in a life prolonged to infinity in the darkness of the tomb. In order to satisfy the craving for perpetuity, a something was imagined, we can hardly say what, a shade, an imago, that detached itself from the body at the moment of death, and took itself off with the lightness of a bird. A great space, with no definite size, shape, or situation, in which these shades of the departed could meet each other and enjoy greater freedom than in the tomb, was added to the first conception. This less material belief was better adapted than the first to the moral instincts of humanity. A material and organic existence passed in the grave dealt out the same fate to good and bad alike. On the other hand, nothing was more easy than to divide the kingdom of the shades into two compartments, into two distinct domains, and to place in one those whose conduct had been deserving of reward; in the other, those whose crimes and vices had been insufficiently punished upon earth.

It is not to the Chaldaean sepulchres that we owe our knowledge that the Semites of Mesopotamia followed in the footsteps of the Egyptians, when they found themselves in face of the problem of life and death; it is to the literature of the Assyrians. Among those tablets of terra-cotta from the library of Assurbanipal that are now preserved in the British Museum, George Smith discovered, in 1873, a mythological document in which the descent of Istar to the infernal regions in search of her lover Tammouz is recounted. Of this he gives a first translation, which is already out of date. Since his discovery was announced, the most learned Assyriologists have made a study of the document, and now even those among them who most seldom think alike, are in agreement as to its meaning except in a few unimportant particulars.[438] No doubt remains as to the general significance of the piece; we may even compare it with other documents from the same library in which there is much to confirm and complete its contents.

Even if there were no evidence to the contrary, we might safely affirm that the first conception was not effaced from the minds of the Assyrians by the second. M. Halevy has translated an Assyrian text, whose meaning he thus epitomizes: "What becomes of the individual deposited in a tomb? A curious passage in one of the 'books' from the library of Assurbanipal answers this question, indirectly, indeed, but without any ambiguity. After death the vital and indestructible principle, the incorporeal spirit, is disengaged from the body; it is called in Assyrian ekimmou or egimmou.... The ekimmou inhabits the tomb and reposes upon the bed (zalalu) of the corpse. If well treated by the children of the defunct, he becomes their protector; if not, their evil genius and scourge. The greatest misfortune that can befall a man is to be deprived of burial. In such a case his spirit, deprived of a resting-place and of the funerary libations, leads a wandering and miserable existence; he is exposed to all kinds of ill-treatment at the hands of his fellow spirits, who show him no mercy."

Here we find certain elements of that primitive belief that would escape us in a mere examination of the Chaldaean tombs. We see how they understood the connection between the living and the dead, and why they so passionately desired to receive due sepulture. These ideas and sentiments are identical with those which M. Fustel de Coulanges has analysed so deeply in his Cite antique. They subsisted in all their strength in Assyria, and must have had all the consequences, all the social effects that they had elsewhere, and yet we find mentioned a home for the dead, a joyless country in which they could assemble in their countless numbers; as Egypt had its Ament and Greece her Hades, so Chaldaea and Assyria had their hell, their place of departed ghosts. We know from the narrative of Istar that they looked upon it as an immense building, situated in the centre of the earth and bounded on every side by the great river whose waters bathe the foundations of the world. This country of the dead is called the "land where one sees nothing" (mat la namari), or the "land whence one does not return" (mat la tayarti). The government of the country is in the hands of Nergal, the god of war, and his spouse Allat, the sister of Astarte. The house is surrounded by seven strong walls. In each wall there is a single door, which is fastened by a bolt as soon as a new comer has entered. Each door is kept by an incorruptible guardian. We cannot quote the whole of the story; we give, however, a few lines in which the chief features of the Assyrian conception is most clearly shown. Istar speaks:—

Let me return [toward the house],

* * * * *

[Toward] the house in which Irkalla lives, In which the evening has no morning, [Towards the country] whence there is no return, [Whose inhabitants,] deprived of light, [Have dust for food] and mud to nourish them, A tunic and wings for vesture, [Who see no day,] who sit in the shadows, [In the house] into which I must enter, [They live there,] (once) the wearers of crowns, [The wearers] of crowns who governed the world in ancient days, Of whom Bel and Anou have perpetuated the names and memory. There too stand the foundations of the earth, the meeting of the mighty waters, In the palace of dust into which I must come, Live the prince and the noble, Live the king and the strong man, Live the guardians of the depths of the great gods, Live Ner and Etana.

A long dialogue follows between Istar and the guardian of the gate, by which we find that there was a rigorous law compelling all who came to strip themselves of their clothes before they could enter. In spite of her resistance, Istar herself was obliged to submit to this law. From other texts we learn that the entrance to these infernal regions was situated at the foot of the "northern mountain," a sort of Assyrian Olympus.

According to the fragment above quoted the condition of the dead was truly piteous; they had no food but dust and mud; their dwelling is sometimes called bit-edi, the "house of solitude," because in the life of misery and privation they lead no one takes any thought for others, his only care is to relieve his own troubles. Consequently there are no families nor any social or common life. The conscience protested against the injustice of confounding with the crowd those mortals who had distinguished themselves when alive by their exploits or virtues. Thus we find in a recently copied passage from the great epic of Izdubar, the Assyrian Hercules, that valiant soldiers—those no doubt who had fallen in the "Wars of Assur"—were rewarded for their prowess. As soon as they entered the shadow kingdom they were stretched upon a soft couch and surrounded by their relations. Their father and mother supported the head the enemy's sword had wounded, their wives stood beside them and waited on them with zeal and tenderness. They were refreshed and had their strength restored by the pure water of life.

The idea of a final reward is expressed in still more unmistakable accents in a religious song of which two fragments have come down to us. The poet celebrates the felicity of the just taking his food with the gods and become a god himself:—

Wash thy hands, purify thy hands, The gods, thine elders, will wash and purify their hands; Eat the pure nourishment in the pure disks, Drink the pure water from the pure vases; Prepare to enjoy the peace of the just!

* * * * *

They have brought their pure water, Anat, the great spouse of Anou, Has held thee in her sacred arms; Iaou has transferred thee into a holy place; He has transferred thee from his sacred hands; He has transferred thee into the midst of honey and fat, He has poured magic water into thy mouth, And the virtue of the water has opened thy mouth.

* * * * *

As to where this paradise was placed we have no certain information. It could hardly have been a mere separate district of that abode of shades that is painted in such sombre colours. We must suppose that it was open to the sunlight; it was perhaps on one of the slopes of the Northern Mountain, in the neighbourhood of the luminous summit on which the gods and goddesses had their home.

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