Assyrian Historiography
by Albert Ten Eyck Olmstead
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(Sennacherib and Esarhaddon)

Of the sources for the reign of Sennacherib (705-686), [Footnote: The only fairly complete collection of sources for the reign is still Smith-Sayce, History of Sennacherib, 1878, though nearly all the data needed for a study of the Annals are given by Bezold, KB. II. 80 ff. Extracts, Rogers, 340 ff. Cf. also Olmstead, Western Asia in the reign of Sennacherib, Proceedings of Amer. Historical Assn., 1909, 94 ff.] the chief is the Annals, added to at intervals of a few years, and so existing in several editions. As usual, the latest of these, the Taylor inscription, has been accorded the place of honor, so that the earliest edition, the so called Bellino Cylinder, can be called by a well known historian "a sort of duplicate of" the Taylor inscription. [Footnote: Maspero, Histoire, III. 273 n. 1.] As we have seen repeatedly, the exact reverse should be our procedure, though here, as in the case of Ashur nasir apal, the evil results in the writing of history are less serious than in the case of most reigns. This is due to the unusual circumstances that, with comparatively few exceptions, there was little omission or addition of the earlier data. Regularly, the new edition simply added to the old, and, as a result, the form of the mass of clay on which these Annals were written changes with the increased length of the document, the earlier being true cylinders, while the latter are prisms. [Footnote: King, Cuneiform Texts, XXVI. 7 f.] At the same time that the narrative of military events was lengthened, the account of the building operations followed suit. A serious defect is the fact that these documents are dated, not by years, but by campaigns, with the result that there are serious questions in chronology. The increase in the number of our editions, however, has solved many of these, as the date of the campaign can now usually be fixed by observing in which dated document it last occurs.

Of the more than twenty five more or less complete documents, the first is the so called Bellino Cylinder which dates from October, 702. The fact that it has been studied separately has tended to prevent the realization that it is actually only a recension. As a first edition, it is a trifle fuller, but surprisingly little. [Footnote: K. 1680. Grotefend, Abh. Goettingen, Gesell. 1850. L. 63 f. Smith-Sayce, 1 f., 24 ff., cf. 43 ff. Oppert, Exped. I. 297 ff.; Menant, 225 ff.; Talbot, JRAS. XVIII. 76 ff.; Trans. Roy. Soc. Lit. VIII, 369 ff.; RP, I. 23 ff. It is the Bl. of Bezold.] Next comes Cylinder B, now represented by six complete and seven fragmentary cylinders. It includes campaign three and is dated in May, 700. [Footnote: Smith-Sayce, 30, 70 f., cf. 24, 43, 53; Evetts, ZA. III. 311 ff.; for list of tablets, cf. Bezold, l. c.] Cylinder C dates from 697 and contains the fourth expedition. [Footnote: K. 1674; Smith-Sayce, 14, 76, cf. 30, 43, 53, 73, 78. The A 2 of Bezold.] The mutilated date of Cylinder D may be either 697 or 695, but as it has one campaign more than Cylinder C of 697, we should probably date it to the latter year. [Footnote: BM. 22,508; K. 1675; Smith-Sayce, 24, 30, 43, 53, 73, 79; King, Cuneiform Texts, XXVI. 38, cf. p. 10, n. 2. The A 8 of Bezold.] From this recension seems to have been derived the display inscription recently discovered on Mt. Nipur, which was inscribed at the end of campaign five. [Footnote: Inscription at Hasanah (Hassan Agha?) King, PSBA. XXXV. 66 ff.]

Somewhat different from these is the newest Sennacherib inscription, [Footnote: BM. 103,000; King, Cuneiform Texts, XXVI; cf. Pinches, JRAS. 1910, 387 ff.] which marks the transition from the shorter to the longer cylinders. [Footnote: King, op. cit., 9.] After the narrative of the fifth campaign, two others are given, and dated, not by the number of campaign as in the documents of the regular series, but by the eponyms, so that here we have actual chronology. The two campaigns took place in 698 and 695 respectively, the inscription itself being dated in 694. That they are not dated by the campaigns of the king and that they are not given in the later editions is perhaps due to the fact that the king did not conduct them in person. [Footnote: King, op. cit., p. 10.] The occasion for this new edition is not to be found, however, in these petty frontier wars, but in the completion of the new palace, in the increase in the size of the city of Nineveh, in the building of a park, and in the installation of a water supply, as these take up nearly a half of the inscription. The recovery of this document has also enabled us to place in the same group two other fragments, now recognized as duplicates. [Footnote: BM. 102, 996, King, Cuneiform Texts, XXVI. 38; cf. p. 15, n. 1; K. 4492, ibid. 39, not a reference to Tarbisi, as Meiasner-Rost, Bauinschriften, 94f; as is shown by King, p. 18 n. 1.]

At about the same time must be placed the various inscriptions on the bulls which were intended to decorate this new palace. One contains only five expeditions, [Footnote: Bull 2, Smith-Sayce, 3, 24, 30 f., 43, 51 f., 53, 67 f., 73, 78 f.,86. L. 60 ff. (Bull 1 occurs only Smith-Sayce, 3.)] the other has a brief sketch of the sixth, [Footnote: Bull 3, Smith-Sayce, l. c., and also 88 f.] but both have references to the enthronement of the crown prince Ashur nadin shum in Babylon. [Footnote: Smith-Sayce, 30 f.] Still another gives a very full account of the sixth expedition, but there is no mention of Ashur nadin shum. [Footnote: Bull 4, Smith-Sayce, 3 f., 24, 32 ff., 43, 51, 53, 65 ff.; 73, 77 ff., 89 ff.; A. Paterson, Palace of Sinacherib, 5 f.; III R. 12 f.; L. 38 ff.] This dates very closely the inscriptions of the period. The new inscription was written in August of 694. At this time as well as when the inscription was placed on Bull II, the news of the sixth expedition, that across the Persian Gulf to Nagitu, had not yet come in. When this arrived, a brief account was hastily compiled and added to Bull III. But before a fuller narrative could be prepared, news came of the capture of Ashur nadin shum, which took place, as we know, soon after the Nagitu expedition, seemingly in the beginning of November. [Footnote: Bab. Chron. II. 36 ff.; for kat Tashriti in line 40, cf. Delitzsch, Chronik, ad loc.] The inscription on Bull IV accordingly had an elaborate narrative of the Nagitu expedition, but all mention of the captured prince was cut out.

The last in the series of Annals editions is the Taylor Prism of 690, generally taken as the standard inscription of the reign, and substantially the same text is found on seven other prisms. [Footnote: BM. 91,032, often given in photograph, especially in the "Bible Helps." A good photograph, Rogers, 543; Hist. op. 353. I R. 37 ff. Smith-Sayce, passim; Delitzsch, Lesestuecke, 54 ff.; Abel-Winckler, 17 ff. Hoernung, Das Sechsseitige Prisma des Sanherib, 1878; Bezold, KB. II. 80 ff., with numbers of the duplicates; Oppert, Les Ins. Assyr. des Sargonides, 41ff.; Menant, 214 ff.; Talbot, RP, I. 33 ff.; Rogers, RP squared, VI. 80 ff.; Harper, 68 ff. Here also seem to belong the fragments 79-7-8, 305; K. 1665; 1651; S. 1026, as their text inclines toward that of the Taylor Prism.] As has already been made evident, this is of no value for the earlier parts of the reign, since for that we have much better data, but it ranks well up in its class as comparatively little has been omitted or changed. Slightly earlier than the Taylor Cylinder is the Memorial or Nebi Yunus inscription, now at Constantinople, which ends about where the other does. Here and there, it has the same language as the Annals group, but these coincidences are so rare that we must assume that they are due only to the use of well known formulae. In general, it is an abridgement of earlier records, though a few new facts are found. But for the second half of the sixth expedition, the revolt of Babylon, it is our best source. Not only is it fuller than the Taylor prism, it gives a quite different account in which it is not the king but his generals who are the victors. Yet curiously enough, in the seventh expedition the Taylor cylinder is fuller and better. [Footnote: I R. 43; A. Paterson, Palace of Sinacherib, 3; Smith-Sayce, 7 f., 39 f., 68 f., 86 f., 102 ff., lllff., 127 ff.; Bezold, KB. II. 118 f.; cf. King, Cuneiform Texts, XXVI. p. 10 n. 1. Seen at Constantinople in 1907-1908.]

Here too we may discuss the Bavian inscription, the display inscriptions cut in the rock where began the irrigation works constructed to carry water to the capital. In their historical portions, they parallel the last campaign of the Taylor Prism, though in such different fashion that they may be considered separate sources. They then add the final capture and destruction of Babylon, of which they are the only Assyrian authority. [Footnote: III R. 14; Pognon,L'inscription de Bavian, 1879; Smith-Sayce, 129 ff. 157; King, Tukulti Ninib, 114 ff. Menant,Nineve et l'Assyrie, 234 ff.; Pinches, RP, IX. 21ff.; Bezold, KB. II. 116 ff. The order of date is B, C, A, D, Meissner-Rost, Bauinschriften, 67. Squeezes were secured by the Cornell Expedition.] Here too may be mentioned the two fragments from the later part of the reign, on which is based a later expedition of Sennacherib against Palestine, [Footnote: Smith-Sayce, 137 f.; the later fragment, Scheil, OLZ. VII. 69f; Ungnad, Vorderas. Denkmaeler, I. 73 ff.; in Gressmann, I. 121; Rogers, 345 f.] as well as a tablet which seems to be a draft of an inscription to be set up in Kirbit in commemoration of the flight of Merodach Baladan. [Footnote: III R. 4, 4; Strong, JRAS. XXIII. 148 ff.]

To complete our study of the sources for the reign, the more specifically building inscriptions may be noted. [Footnote: Meissner-Rost, Bauinschriften Sanheribs, 1893.] The greater part of what we know concerning the building operations of the reign comes from the documents already discussed. Of the specifically building inscriptions, perhaps the most important is the New Year's House inscription from Ashur, [Footnote: MDOG. 33, 14.] and the excavations there have also given a good number of display inscriptions on slabs [Footnote: KTA. 43 ff., 73 f.; MDOG. 21, 13 ff.; 22, 17 ff.; 26, 27 ff. 43, 31; 44, 29.] and on bricks, [Footnote: I. R. 7, VIII. H; Bezold, KB. 114f; KTA. 46-49; 72; MDOG. 20, 24; 21, 12 ff. 22, 15; 25, 36 f.] as well as some building prisms. [Footnote: MDOG. 21, 37; 25, 22f; 47, 39.]

Esarhaddon (686-668), [Footnote: Inscriptions of the reign collected by Budge,History of Esarhaddon, 1880.] like the others of his dynasty, prepared elaborate Annals. [Footnote: First reference, G. Smith, TSBA. III. 457. Boscawen, ibid. IV. 84 ff.; III R. 35, 4; Budge, 114 ff.; Rogers, Haverford Studies, II. Winckler, Untersuch z. altor. Gesch., 97f; Winckler, Textbuch, 52 ff.; Ungnad, I. 123; Rogers, 357 ff. Cf. also G. Smith, Disc. 311ff.; Delattre, L'Asie, 149; Olmstead, Bull. Amer. Geog. Soc., XLIV. 1912, 434.] It is a poetic justice rarely found in history that the man who so ruthlessly destroyed the Annals of Tiglath Pileser IV is today known to us by still smaller fragments of his own. Aside from five mutilated lines from the ninth expedition, only a part of the first expedition against Egypt has survived and that in a very incomplete manner. We are accordingly dependent for our knowledge of the reign on the display inscriptions, with all their possibilities for error, and only the Babylonian Chronicle gives a little help toward fixing the relative order of events.

The greater part of the history of the reign must be secured from the three most important cylinders. A and C are complete and are practically identical. [Footnote: 48-10-31, 2; L. 20 ff.; I R. 45 ff.; Abel-Winckler, 22 ff.; Budge, 32 ff.; Harper, Hebraica, III. 177 ff. IV. 99 ff. Abel, KB. II. 124 ff.; Oppert, Ins. des Sargonides, 53 ff.; Talbot, Jour. Sacr. Lit., IX. 68 ff. Trans. Roy. Soc. Lit., VII. 551 ff.; RP, III 109 ff.; Menant, 241ff; Harper, 81ff. C was used by R. for restoring A. Text, Harper, Hebraica, IV. 18 ff., with the parallels 80-7-19, 15, and K. 1679. Also King, Supplement, 108 f.] B is broken and was originally considerably fuller, but seems to be from the same general series. [Footnote: 48-11-4, 315; III R. 15 f.; Budge, 20 ff.; 97 ff.; Harper, Hebraica, III. 177 ff.; IV. 146 ff.; Abel-Winckler, 25 f. Winckler, KB, II. 140 ff. Harper, 80 f.; Menant, 248 ff.; Talbot, RP, III. 102 ff.; North Brit. Rev., 1870, quoted Harper, Hebr. l. c.] The date of all three is probably 673. [Footnote: C is dated in the month Abu, cf. Harper, Hebr, IV. 24; B, according to Budge, ad loc., has Abu of the year 673, but Winckler, l. c., omits the month. If the month is to be retained, the identity of month points to identity of year, and there is nothing in B to prevent this conjecture. A is from Nebi Yunus, B from Koyunjik.] In comparing the texts of A-C and B, we note that in the first part, there seem to be no important differences, save that B adds an account of the accession. In the broken part before this, B must have given the introduction and the murder of Sennacherib. Computation of the minimum in each column of B, based on the amount actually preserved in A and C, will give us some idea of what has been lost. Column II of B must have been devoted in part to the final defeat of the rebels and in part to the introduction to the long narrative concerning Nabu zer lishir. As at least four lines were devoted to this introduction in the usually much shorter D, it must have been fairly long in B. Why A omitted all this is a question. That these two events are the first in the reign is made clear by the Babylonian Chronicle, so that thus far the chronological order has been followed. The next event in B and the first in A is the story of the Sidon troubles, and again the Chronicle shows it to be in chronological order. Since A has no less than 49 lines to deal with the events in the lost beginning of column III, it is clear that the much fuller B has here lost much. In the gap in Column IV, we are to place the Aduma narrative and the traces where we can begin to read show that they are in the conclusion of the Median troubles. [Footnote: Shepashun of B. is the elishun ukin is virtually the same as ukin sirushun.] For the lost part of the fifth column, we must count the Iadi and Gambulu expeditions, and a part of the building narrative. About the same building account as in A must be placed at the commencement of column VI. The irregularity in the minimum numbers for the different columns, on the basis of A, shows that B had in some cases much longer accounts than in others, and this is confirmed where B gives a complete list of Arabian and of Syrian kings while A does not. These minimum numbers also indicate that but about one-fourth of B has been preserved. However, the overlapping gives us some reason to hope that nearly all its facts have been preserved in the one or the other edition.

We have already seen that strict chronology is followed by B, strange to relate, in the order, punishment of the assassins, 681, Babylon, 680, and Sidon, 677. Then A gives the Kundu troubles which, according to the Chronicle, follow in 676, and Arzani and the brook of Egypt, which fit well enough with the Egyptian expedition given under 675. These are the only sections we can date chronologically, and the order is chronologically correct. But whether we can assume this for all the events mentioned may be doubted in the light of the disagreement between A and B in their order. In placing the Arabs before Bazu, or the Babylonian Nabu zer lishir before Bit Dakkuri, A is clearly attempting a more geographical order. We shall then use B as our main source whenever preserved, supplemented by A when the former is missing, but we must not forget that all are simply display inscriptions.

Another display inscription of the same type we shall call D. It is close to B as is shown in the story of Nabu zer lishir, is seemingly briefer than that document, but is certainly fuller than A, and is independent of both. The order of events is Babylon, Egypt, Hubushna. As D omits Sidon and the Cilician cities, found in one of the others and proved to the period by the Babylonian Chronicle, it is clear that we have here only extracts, even though the events narrated are given more fully than in A. [Footnote: K. 2671; Winckler, ZA. II. 299 ff.; AOF. I. 522.] Still another document of similar character may be called E. As it mentions the Uabu rebellion which is not in A, it should date after 673, and its order, Chaldaeans, Gambulu, Egypt, Arabs, Sidon, Asia Minor, is not chronological but geographical. It has some striking variants in the proper names, for example, we have here Musur, universally recognized as meaning Egypt, where A has Musri, and thus we have exact proof that Musri does equal Egypt, the advocates of the Musri theory, if any still survive, to the contrary notwithstanding. [Footnote: Cf. Olmstead, Sargon, 56 ff.] It is also longer than A in the River of Egypt section, and than B in the Elam account. As a late document, it is of value only for the Uabu affair. [Footnote: Winckler, ZA. II pl. II; AOF. I. 526 ff.] We may also note here another prism fragment [Footnote: 80-7-19, 15; Winckler, Untersuch. z. altor. Gesch., 98. Cf. King, Supplement, 109.] and a slab with a brief account of many campaigns. The first, that against Bazu, we know dates to 676. The others, to Uruk, to Buesh king of an unknown land, Akku, and the king of Elam, are of doubtful date, but are almost certainly later. [Footnote: K. 8544; Winckler, AOF. I. 532.—I have been unable to see Scheil, Le Prisme S d'Assarhaddon.]

Finally, we must discuss two display inscriptions from the very end of the reign, whose importance is in no small degree due to the locality in which they were found. One is the famous stele discovered amid the ruins of the North Syrian town of Sinjirli. It dates after the capture of Memphis, 671, and seems to have been composed on the spot, as it shows no relationship to other inscriptions. [Footnote: Photograph and text, Schrader, in Luschan, Ausgrabungen in Sendschirli, I. 11 ff., and pl. cf. Rogers, 551; Hist, op. 399; Paterson, Sculptures, 103. Harper, 90 ff. I have been able to consult squeezes in the library of Cornell University.] The same is probably true of the equally famous rock cut inscription at the Dog River (Nahr el Kelb), north of Berut. Though the oldest Assyrian inscription to have a cast taken, it seems never to have been published. It is rapidly disappearing, as the fact that it was cut through a very thin layer of hard rock has caused much flaking. Esarhaddon is called King of Babylon and King of Musur and Kusi, Egypt and Ethiopia, and the expedition against Tarqu, which ended with the capture and sack of Memphis, is given. Thus it agrees with the Sinjirli inscription and may well date from the same year. [Footnote: Translation, G. Smith, Eponym Canon, 167 ff. The text, so far as I know, has never been published, even in connection with the elaborate study of the Nahr el Kelb sculptures by Boscawen, TSBA. VII. 345. I have been able to use the squeeze taken in 1904 in connection with Messrs. Charles and Wrench, but much less can now be seen than what Smith evidently found on the cast. Cast, Bonomi, Trans. Roy. Soc. Lit., III. 105; Nineveh and its Palaces, 5 f. 86. 142 ff., 367.]

We have a considerable number of building inscriptions, but there are few source problems in connection with them. [Footnote: Collected in Meissner-Rost, Beitr. z. Assyr., III. 189 ff. Thureau-Dangin, Rev. Assyr. XI, 96 ff.] Perhaps the most important is the prism which tells so much in regard to the earliest days of Assyria. [Footnote: KTA. 51; MDOG. 25, 33.] Another important document is the Black Stone, a four sided prism with archaistic writing. It was found at Nineveh, though it deals with the rebuilding of Babylon, and seems to date from the first year. [Footnote: I R. 49; Winckler, KB. II. 120 ff.; Meissner-Rost, 218 ff. Oppert, Exped., I. 180 f.; Menant, 248; Babylone et Chaldee, 167 f.; Harper, 88 f. King, Supplement, 38, dates from Aru of accession year.] Two others date after 675 as the one on a stone slab from the south west palace at Kalhu states that he took captive the king of Meluh, [Footnote: L. 19a. Winckler, KB. II. 150 f. Oppert, Exped., I. 324; Menant, 240.] and the other stone tablet gives him Egyptian titles, [Footnote: I R. 48, 5; Winckler, KB. II. 150 f.; Meissner-Rost, 204 ff.; Menant, 249.] so that they must be placed after the capture of that country. We may also mention in conclusion the one which gives the restoration of the Ishtar temple at Uruk [Footnote: 81-6-7, 209: Winckler, KB, II. 120 n. 1; Barton, Proc. Amer. Or. Soc., 1891, cxxx.] and the various ones found at Ashur by the German excavators. [Footnote: KTA. 51-55; 75; MDOG. 20, 26 ff.; 22, 12 f.; 25, 33, 65; 26, 20 f.; 26, 41ff.; 28, 13, 49, 10 f. Weissbach, in Koldewey, Die Tempel von Babylon, 71.]



The reign of Ashur bani apal (668-626), stands preeminent for the mass of material available, and this has twice been collected. [Footnote: G. Smith, History of Assurbanipal, 1871; S. A. Smith, Keilschrifttexte Asurbanipals, 1887 ff.] Yet in spite of all this, the greater number of the inscriptions for the reign are not before us in adequate form, and there are problems which only a renewed study of the originals can solve.

Once again we have the usual Annals as our main source. Earlier scholars have in general satisfied themselves with the publication and study of the latest edition, sometimes supplemented by more or less full extracts from the others. There are reigns, such as that of Sennacherib, where such procedure results in comparatively little distortion of the history. But in no reign is the distortion of the earlier statements more serious, indeed one can hardly recognize the earlier documents in their later and "corrected" form. Accordingly, in no reign is it more imperative that we should disentangle the various sources and give the proper value to each. When we have discovered which document is our earliest and most authentic source for any given event, we have already solved some of the most stubborn problems in the history of the reign. The various conflicting accounts of the Egyptian campaigns, for example, have caused much trouble, but if we recognize that each is a step in the movement toward increasing the credit the king should receive for them, and trust for our history only the first in date, we have at last placed the history of the reign on a firm basis.

Our very earliest document furnishes a beautiful illustration of this principle. It is a detailed narrative of the unimportant Kirbit expedition, which is ascribed to the governor Nur ekalli umu. Cylinder E gives a briefer account and Cylinder F one still shorter. Both vaguely ascribe it to the "governors" but do not attempt to claim it for the king. It remained for Cylinder B, a score of years later, to take the final step, and to inform us that the king in person conducted the expedition. Further, the formal conclusion, which immediately follows the Kirbit expedition in our earliest document, shows that this event, unimportant as it was, was the only one which could be claimed for the "beginning of the reign." This campaign is further fixed by the Babylonian Chronicle to the accession year. Yet later cylinders can place before it no less than two expeditions against Egypt and one against Tyre! Our earliest document alone would be enough to prove that these had been taken over from the reign of his father, even did we not have some of this verified by that father himself. [Footnote: K. 2846; Winckler, AOF. I. 474 ff.]

Next in date and therefore in value we are probably to place Cylinder E, a decagon fragment, which contains a somewhat less full account of the Kirbit campaign, and a picturesque narrative of the opening of diplomatic relations with Lydia. Before these events, it placed an account of the Egyptian expedition. Although only a portion is preserved, it is sufficient to show that the "first Egyptian expedition" at least was credited to his father. [Footnote: G. Smith, 34f, 76 f., 82f; K. 3083 is identical for a line each with Cyl. E and F.]

A third account, which we may call F, gave credit for the earlier half of the Egyptian campaigns to his father and for the latter half to his own lieutenants. The references to Tabal and Arvad indicate that some time had elapsed in which memorable events in his own reign could have taken place, and this is confirmed by the much more developed form of the Lydian narrative, with its dream from Ashur to Gyges, and its order for servitude. That this account is of value as over against the later ones has been recognized, [Footnote: Tiele, Gesch. 372.] but we should not forget that it already represents a developed form of the tradition. [Footnote: K. 2675; III R. 28 f.; G. Smith, 36 ff., 56 ff., 73 ff., 80 ff.; cf. 319 and S. A. Smith, II. 12 ff., for ending giving erection of moon temple at Harran, a proof that we have the conclusion and so can date approximately; Winckler, Untersuch. z. altor. Gesch., 102 ff.; Jensen, KB. II. 236 ff. A fragmentary stone duplicate from Babylon, Delitzsch, MDOG., XVII 2 n.*] Somewhat later would seem to be the account we may call G. Here the Egyptian wars are still counted as one expedition, but a second has been stolen for Ashur bani apal by taking over that campaign of his father against Baal of Tyre which is given in the Sinjirli inscription. [Footnote: K. 3402; G. Smith, 78.]

With Cylinder B, we reach the first of what is practically a new series, so greatly has the older narrative been "corrected" in these later documents. Both the Egyptian wars have now been definitely assigned to the king, and the making of two expeditions into Egypt has pushed the one against Baal of Tyre up to the position of third. The octagon B dates from the midst of the revolt of Shamash shum ukin and is a most highly "corrected" document. [Footnote: G. Smith, passim; Jensen, KB. II. 240 ff.; Menant, 278 ff.; for the duplicate K. 1729 from which most of the B text is taken, cf. Johns, PSBA. XXVII. 97.]

The story of the Shamash shum ukin revolt is continued by Cylinder C, a decagon, whose form points to the fact that it is a fuller edition. In general, its text holds an intermediate position between A and B, the lists of Syrian and Cypriote kings, which are copied verbatim from the Cylinder B of Esarhaddon, [Footnote: V. 13 ff.] being found only in it. [Footnote: Rm. 3; G. Smith, 30 ff., 178 ff., cf. 15, 52, 151, 319; S. A. Smith, II. 25 ff.; Menant, 277 f. Jensen, KB. II. 238 ff., 266 ff.] With C should in all probability be listed two decagons one of which is called Cylinder D. [Footnote: G. Smith, 317 f. K. 1794; III. R. 27a; S. A. Smith, II. 18, cf. G. Smith, 319.] Then comes a document which we may call H, with several duplicates, and as the Ummanaldas episode is dealt with in fuller form than in A, it probably dates earlier. [Footnote: K. 2656; G. Smith, 215 ff. Are the duplicates mentioned here to be found in K. 2833 and K. 3085, G. Smith, 205?] For the Tamaritu events, we have a group of tablets of unknown connections. [Footnote: K. 1364; 3062; 2664; 3101; 2631; G. Smith, 243 ff.-Where we are to place the cylinder Rm. 281, dealing with Urtaki's reign, Winckler, AOF. I. 478 n. 2, cannot be told until it is published.]

All the documents thus far considered are fuller and more accurate in dealing with the events they narrate than is the group which has so long been considered the standard. The first known was Cylinder A, a decagon, whose lines divide the document into thirteen parts. It is dated the first of Nisan (March) in the eponymy of Shamash dananni, probably 644. [Footnote: G. Smith, passim, III R. 17 ff. RP, IX 37 ff.; Menant, 253 ff.] Earlier scholars made this the basis of study, but it has since been supplanted by the so called Rassam cylinder, a slightly better preserved copy, found in the north palace of Nineveh, and dated in Aru (May) of the same year. [Footnote: BM. 91,026; Rm. 1; Photograph, Rogers, 555; Hist. op. 444. V.R. 1-10; Abel-Winckler, 26 ff.; Winckler, Sammlung, III; S.A. Smith, I. Jensen, KB. II. 152 ff. J.M.P. Smith, in Harper, 94 ff.; Lau & Langdon, Annals of Ashurbanapal, 1903.] Still a third is dated in Ululu (September) of this year. [Footnote: G. Smith, 316.]

That this document is by no means impeccable has long been recognized. Already George Smith had written "The contempt of chronology in the Assyrian records is well shown by the fact that in Cylinder A, the account of the revolt of Psammitichus is given under the third expedition, while the general account of the rebellion of [Shamash shum ukin] is given under the sixth expedition, the affair of Nebobelzikri under the eighth expedition, and the Arabian and Syrian events in connection are given under the ninth expedition." [Footnote: Ibid., 202 n.*] If this severe criticism is not justified by a study of the Assyrian sources as a whole, the reference to Cylinder A may well begin our consideration of the shortcomings of that group. The Karbit and Urtaki episodes are entirely omitted. The omission of Karbit has dropped the Manna from the fifth to fourth and the omission of the latter has made the Teumman campaign the fifth instead of the seventh as in B, while the Gambulu expedition is also listed in the fifth though B makes it the eighth! The death of Gyges is added immediately after the other Lydian narrative, without a hint that years had intervened. The elaborate account of Teumman given by B has been cut decidedly and the interesting Ishtar dream is entirely omitted.

The same is true of the Gambulu narrative. While B and C have the data as to the Elamite side of the revolt of Shamash shum ukin, the introduction and conclusion as well as many new details are found only in A. It is curious to find here, for the first time, the greater part of the long list of conquered Egyptian kings, written down when Egypt was forever freed from Assyrian rule. That Cylinder B was not its immediate source is shown by the fact that in the first Egyptian expedition it gives the pardon of Necho, which is not in B, but is found in the earlier F.

Although this document has regularly been presented as the base text, largely because it gives a view of the greater part of the reign, enough should have been said in the preceding paragraph to prove how unworthy of the honor it is. Of all the cases where such procedure has caused damage, this is the worst. For the years from which we have no other data, we must use it, and we may hope that, as this period was nearer the time of its editors, its information may here be of more value. But we should recognize once and for all that the other portions are worthless and worse than worthless, save as they indicate the "corrections" to the actual history thought necessary by the royal scribes.

Later than this in date, in all probability, is the document we may call I. To be sure, the Arabian expedition already occurs in B, but I has also sections which appear only in A, and which therefore probably date later. The one indication that points to its being later than A is the fact that, while A ascribes these actions to his generals, our document speaks of them in the first person. [Footnote: K. 2802; G. Smith, 290 ff.] Still later are the Beltis [Footnote: II R. 66; G. Smith 303 ff.; S. A. Smith, II. 10 ff.; cf. I. 112; Jensen, KB. II. 264 ff.; Menant, 291 ff.] and Nabu inscriptions, [Footnote: S. A. Smith, I. 112 ff.; III. 128 ff.; Strong, RA. II. 20 ff.] though as these are merely display inscriptions, the date matters little. Here too belongs J in spite of its references to the accession. [Footnote: K. 2867; S. A. Smith, II. 1 ff.; cf. Olmstead, Bull. Amer. Geog. Soc., XLIV. 434.—The various British Museum fragments, cited in King, Supplement, seem to be of no special importance for this study as they are duplicates with few variants.] And to this very late period, when the empire was falling to pieces, is to be placed the hymn to Marduk which speaks of Tugdami the Cilician. [Footnote: S. A. Strong, JA. 1893, 1. 368 ff.]

We have already crossed the boundary which divides the really historical narratives from those which are merely sources. Among the latter, and of the more value as they open to us the sculptures, are the frequent notes inscribed over them, [Footnote: Scattered through the work of G. Smith, cf. also Menant, 287 ff.] while a number of tablets give much new historical information from the similar notes which the scribe was to thus incise. [Footnote: K. 2674; III R. 37; G. Smith, 140 ff.; S. A. Smith, III. 1 ff. K. 4457; G. Smith, 191 ff. K. 3096; G. Smith, 295 ff.] The Ishtar prayer is a historic document of the first class, the more so as its author never dreamed that some day it might be used to prove that the king was not accustomed, as his annals declare, to go forth at the head of his armies, that he was, in fact, destitute of even common bravery. [Footnote: K. 2652; III R. 16, 4; G. Smith, 139 f.; S. A. Smith, III. 11 ff.; cf. Jensen, KB. II. 246 ff. Talbot, TSBA. I. 346 ff.]

For the period after the reign of Ashur bani apal, we have only the scantiest data. The fall of the empire was imminent and there were no glories for the scribe to chronicle. Some bricks from the south east palace at Kalhu, [Footnote: I R. 8, 3; Winckler, KB. II. 268f; Menant, 295.] some from Nippur, [Footnote: Hilprecht, ZA. IV. 164; Explorations, 310.] and some boundary inscriptions [Footnote: K. 6223, 6332; Winckler, AOF. II. 4f; Johns. PSBA. XX. 234.] are all that we have from Ashur itil ilani and from Sin shar ishkun only fragments of a cylinder dealing with building. [Footnote: K. 1662 and dupl. I R. 8, 6; Schrader, SB. Berl. Gesell. 1880, 1 ff.; Winckler, Rev. Assyr. II. 66 ff.; KB. II. 270 ff.; MDOG. XXXVIII. 28.] We have no contemporaneous Assyrian sources for the fall of the kingdom, our only certain knowledge being derived from a mutilated letter [Footnote: BM. 51082; Thompson, Late Babylonian Letters 248.] and from a brief statement of the Babylonian king Nabu naid a generation later. [Footnote: Messerschmidt, Mitth. Vorderas. Gesell., 1896. I.]



This concludes our detailed study of the "histories" of the reigns which were set forth with the official sanction. Before summing up our conclusions as to their general character, it will be well to devote a moment to the consideration of certain other sources for the Assyrian period. Many minor inscriptions have been passed by without notice, and a mere mention of the mass of business documents, letters, and appeals to the sun god will here be sufficient, though in a detailed history their help will be constantly invoked to fill in the sketch secured by the study of the official documents, and not infrequently to correct them. Of foreign sources, those of the Hebrews furnish too complicated a problem for study in this place, [Footnote: Cf. Olmstead, AJSL. XXX. Iff.; XXXI, 169 ff. for introduction to these new problems.] and the scanty documents of the other peoples who used the cuneiform characters hardly furnish source problems.

Even the Babylonians have furnished us with hardly a text which demands source study. To the end, as is shown so conspiciously in the case of Nebuchadnezzar, scores of long inscriptions could be devoted to the building activities of the ruler while a tiny fragment is all that is found of the Annals. Even his rock cut inscriptions in Syria, those in the Wadi Brissa and at the Nahr el Kelb, are almost exclusively devoted to architectural operations in far away Babylon! [Footnote: It may be noted that the Cornell Expedition secured squeezes of both these inscriptions.]

Yet if the Babylonians were so deficient in their appreciation of the need of historical annals for the individual reigns, they seem to have been, the superiors of the Assyrians when it came to the production of actual histories dealing with long periods of time. While the Babylonians have preserved to us numerous lists of kings and two excellent works which we have every reason to call actual histories, the Babylonian Chronicle and the Nabunaid-Cyrus Chronicle, the Assyrians have but the Eponym Lists, the so called Assyrian Chronicle, and the so called Synchronous History. The last has already been discussed, and we have seen how little it deserved the title of a real history, yet it marks the greatest advance the Assyrians made along this line. The Eponym lists are merely lists of the officials who dated each year in rotation, and they seem to have been compiled for practical calendar purposes. The so called Assyrian Chronicle is in reality nothing but a chronological table in three columns, the first with the name of the eponym for the year, the second with his office, and the third with the most important event, generally a campaign, of the year. As a historical source, more can be made out of this dry list than has previously been suspected, and this has been pointed out elsewhere. [Footnote: Olmstead, Jour. Amer. Or. 80c., XXXIV. 344 ff.] But, as a contribution to the writing of history, it holds a distinctly low place.

On the other hand, the Babylonian Chronicle is a real, if somewhat crude history. In fact, it can be said without fear of contradiction that it is the best historical production of any cuneiform people. Our present copy is dated in the twenty second year of Darius I of Persia, 500 B.C., but, as it was copied and revised from an earlier exemplar, which could not always be read, its original must be a good bit earlier. Only the first tablet has come down to us, but the mention of the first proves that a second existed. What we have covers the period 745-668, a period of seventy-seven years. The second tablet would cover a period nearer the time of the writer and would naturally deal with the events more in detail, so that a smaller number of years would be given on this tablet. If but two tablets were written, the end of the work would be brought down close to the time when the Assyrian Empire fell (608). It is a tempting conjecture, though nothing more, that it was the fall of Assyria and the interest in the relations between the now dominant Babylonia and its former mistress, excited by this event, which led to the composition of the work. Be that as it may, the author is remarkably fair, with no apparent prejudice for or against any of the nations or persons named. The events chosen are naturally almost exclusively of a military or political nature, but within these limits he seems to have chosen wisely. In general, he confines himself to those events which have an immediate bearing on Babylonian history, but at times, as, for example, in his narration of the Egyptian expeditions, he shows a rather surprising range of interest. If we miss the picturesque language which adds so much to the literary value of the Assyrian royal annals, this can hardly be counted an objection by a generation of historians which has so subordinated the art of historical writing to the scientific discovery of historical facts. In its sobriety of presentation and its coldly impartial statement of fact, it may almost be called modern. [Footnote: Photograph, Rogers, 515, C. T. XXXIV 43 ff. Abstract, Pinches, PSBA. VI. 198 ff. Winckler, ZA. II. 148 ff.; Pinches, JRAS. XIX. 655 ff. Abel-Winckler, 47 f. Duplicates, Bezold, PSBA. 1889, 181; Delitzsch, Lesestuecke, 137 ff. Schrader, KB. II. 274 ff.; Delitzsch, Bab. Chronik; Rogers, 208 ff.; Barta, in Harper, 200 ff. Sarsowsky, Keilschriftliches Urkundenbuch, 49 ff.; Mercer, Extra Biblical Sources, 65 ff.]

We know the name of our other Babylonian historian, and we also know his date, though unfortunately we do not know his work in its entirety. This was Berossus, the Babylonian priest, who prepared a Babyloniaca which was dedicated to Antiochus I. When we remember that it is this same Antiochus who is the only one of the Seleucidae to furnish us with an inscription in cuneiform and to the honor of one of the old gods, [Footnote: Best in Weissbach, Achaemeniden Inschriften, 132 ff., cf. xxx for bibliography.] it becomes clear that this work was prepared at the time when fusion of Greek and Babylonian seemed most possible, and with the desire to acquaint the Macedonian conquerors with the deeds of their predecessors in the rule of Babylonia. The book was characteristically Babylonian in that only the last of the three books into which it was divided, that beginning with the time of Nabonassar, can be considered historical in the strictest sense, and even of this only the merest fragments, abstracts, or traces, have come down to us. And the most important of these fragments have come down through a tradition almost without parallel. Today we must consult a modern Latin translation of an Armenian translation of the lost Greek original of the Chronicle of Eusebius, [Footnote: A, Schoene, "Eusebii Chronicorum libri duo, 1866 ff.; cf. Rogers, Parallels, 347 ff.; J. Karst, Eusebius Werke, V.] who borrowed in part from Alexander Polyhistor who borrowed from Berossus direct, in part from Abydenus who apparently borrowed from Juba who borrowed from Alexander Polyhistor and so from Berossus. To make a worse confusion, Eusebius has in some cases not recognized the fact that Abydenus is only a feeble echo of Polyhistor, and has quoted the accounts of each side by side! And this is not the worst. Although his Polyhistor account is in general to be preferred, Eusebius seems to have used a poor manuscript of that author. Furthermore, there is at least one case, that of the name of one of Sennacharib's sons, which can be secured only by assuming a mistake in the Armenian alphabet.

It is in Eusebius that we find our most useful information, some of the facts being very real additions to our knowledge. But Berossus was also used by the early Apollodorus Chronicle, some time after 144 B. C., from which some of his information may have drifted into other chronological writings. Alexander Polyhistor was used by Josephus, and Abydenus by Cyrillus, Syncellus, and the Armenian historian, the pseudo Moses of Chorene. So in these too, or even in others not here named, may lurk stray trifles from the work of Berossus. Perhaps from this, or from a similar source, comes the Babylonian part of the list of Kings known as the Canon of Ptolemy, which begins, as does the Babylonian Chronicle, with the accession of Nabonassar. [Footnote: The most convenient edition Wachsmuth, Einleitung in das Studium der alten Geschichte, 304 ff.; cf. Rogers, 239.] Though directly of Egyptian origin, as is shown by the system of dating, it undoubtedly goes back to a first class Babylonian source, as do the astronomical data in the Almagest of the same author, though here too the Egyptian calendar is used. [Footnote: Cf. Olmstead, Sargon, 34 f.] Summing up, practically all the authentic knowledge that the classical world has of the Assyrians and Babylonians came from Berossus. [Footnote: Of the literature on Berossus, we may quote here only Mueller, Fragmenta Historicorum Graecorum, II. 495 ff.; and the various articles by Schwartz, on Abydenus, Alexandros 88, and Berossus, in the Pauly-Wissowa Real-encyclopaedie.] Herodotus may furnish a bit and something may be secured from the fragments of the Assyriaca of Ctesias, but it is necessary to test each fact from other sources before it can be accepted.

And now what shall we say by way of summing up the Assyrian writing of history? First of all, it was developed from the building inscription and not from the boast of the soldier. That this throws a new light on the Assyrian character must be admitted, though here is not the place to prove that the Assyrian was far more than a mere man of war. All through the development of the Assyrian historiography, the building operations play a large part, and they dominate some even of the so called Annals. But once we have Annals, the other types of inscriptions may generally be disregarded. The Annals inscriptions, then, represent the height of Assyrian historical writing. From the literary point of view, they are often most striking with their bold similes, and that great care was devoted to their production can frequently be proved. But in their utilization, two principles must constantly be kept in mind. One is that the typical annals inscription went through a series of editions, that these later editions not only omitted important facts but "corrected" the earlier recitals for the greater glory of the ruler, real or nominal, and that accordingly only the earliest edition in which an event is narrated should be at all used. Secondly, we should never forget that these are official documents, and that if we can trust them in certain respects the more because they had better opportunities for securing the truth, all the greater must be our suspicion that they have concealed the truth when it was not to the advantage of the monarch glorified. Only when we have applied these principles in detail to the various documents can we be sure of our Assyrian history and only then shall we understand the mental processes of the Assyrian historians.



L. Abel, H. Winckler, Keilschrifttexte, 1890.


American Journal of Semitic Languages.


A. Amiaud, V. Scheil, Les inscriptions de Salmanassar II, 1890.


H. Winckler, Altorientalische Forschungen, 1893 ff.


British Museum number; special collections are marked K., S., Rm., DT., or by the year, month, and day, as 81-2-3, 79.


E. A. W. Budge, History of Esarhaddon, 1880.


E. A. W. Budge, L. W. King, Annals of Kings of Assyria, I. 1902.

G. Smith

G. Smith, History of Assurbanipal, 1871.


R. F. Harper, Assyrian and Babylonian Literature, 1901.


Journal Asiatique.


Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society.


E. Schrader, Keilinschriftliche Bibliothek, 1889 ff.


L. Messerschmidt, Keilschrifttexte aus Assur, I. 1911.


A. H. Layard, Inscriptions in the Cuneiform Character, 1851.

Le Gac

Y. le Gac, Les inscriptions d'Assur-nasir-apal III, 1907.


Mittheilungen der Deutschen Orient Gesellschaft.


Menant, Annales dee rois d'Assyrie, 1874.


A. H. Layard, Nineveh and its Remains, 1851.


Orientalistische Literaturzeitung.


Proceedings of the Society of Biblical Archaeology.


H. C. Rawlinson, Cuneiform Inscriptions of Western Asia, 1861 ff.


N. Rasmussen, Salmanasser den IPs Indskriften.


R. W. Rogers, Cuneiform Parallels to the Old Testament, 1912.


P. Rost, Keilschrifttexte Tiglat-Pilesers, 1893.


Records of the Past, Ser. I. 1875 ff.; Ser. II. 1889 ff.


Recueil de Travaux.

S. A. Smith

S. A. Smith, Keilschrifttexte Asurbanipals, 1887 ff.


G. Smith, A. H. Sayce, History of Sennacherib, 1878.


Transactions of the Society of Biblical Archaeology.


A. Ungnad, in H. Gressmann, Altorientalische Texte, 1909.


Zeitschrift fuer Assyriologie.


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