Another unpleasant feature in the Assyrian character—but one at which we can feel no surprise—was their pride. This is the quality which draws forth the sternest denunciations of Scripture, and is expressly declared to have called down the Divine judgments upon the race. Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Zephaniah alike dwell upon it. It pervades the inscriptions. Without being so rampant or offensive as the pride of some Orientals—as, for instance, the Chinese, it is of a marked and decided color: the Assyrian feels himself infinitely superior to all the nations with whom he is brought into contact; he alone enjoys the favor of the gods; he alone is either truly wise or truly valiant; the armies of his enemies are driven like chaff before him; he sweeps them away, like heaps of stubble; either they fear to fight, or they are at once defeated; he carries his victorious arms just as far as it pleases him, and never under any circumstances admits that he has suffered a reverse. The only merit that he allows to foreigners is some skill in the mechanical and mimetic arts, and his acknowledgment of this is tacit rather than express, being chiefly known from the recorded fact that he employs foreign artists to ornament his edifices.
According to the notions which the Greeks derived from Ctesias, and passed on to the Romans, and through them to the moderns generally, the greatest defect in the Assyrian character—the besetting sin of their leading men—was luxuriousness of living and sensuality. From Ninyas to Sardanapalus—from the commencement to the close of the Empire—a line of voluptuaries, according to Ctesias and his followers, held possession of the throne; and the principle was established from the first, that happiness consisted in freedom from all cares or troubles, and unchecked indulgence in every species of sensual pleasure. This account, intrinsically suspicious, is now directly contradicted by the authentic records which we possess of the warlike character and manly pursuits of so many of the kings. It probably, however, contains a germ of truth. In a flourishing kingdom like Assyria, luxury must have gradually advanced; and when the empire fell under the combined attack of its two most powerful neighbors, no doubt it had lost much of its pristine vigor. The monuments lend some support to the view that luxury was among the causes which produced the fall of Assyria; although it may be questioned whether, even to the last, the predominant spirit was not warlike and manly, or even fierce and violent. Among the many denunciations of Assyria in Scripture, there is only one which can even be thought to point to luxury as a cause of her downfall; and that is a passage of very doubtful interpretation. In general it is her violence, her treachery, and her pride that are denounced. When Nineveh repented in the time of Jonah, it was by each man "turning from his evil way and from the violence which was in their hands." When Nahum announces the final destruction, it is on "the bloody city, full of lies and robbery." In the emblematic language of prophecy, the lion is taken as the fittest among animals to symbolize Assyria, even at this late period of her history. She is still "the lion that did tear in pieces enough for his whelps, and strangled for his lioness, and filled his holes with prey, and his dens with ravin." The favorite national emblem, if it may be so called, is accepted as the true type of the people; and blood, ravin, and robbery are their characteristics in the mind of the Hebrew prophet.
In mental power the Assyrians certainly deserve to be considered as among the foremost of the Asiatic races. They had not perhaps so much originality as the Chaldaeans, from whom they appear to have derived the greater part of their civilization; but in many respects it is clear that they surpassed their instructors, and introduced improvements which gave a greatly increased value and almost a new character to arts previously discovered. The genius of the people will best be seen from the accounts hereafter to be given of their language, their arts, and their system of government. If it must be allowed that these have all a certain smack of rudeness and primitive simplicity, still they are advances upon aught that had previously existed—not only in Mesopotamia—but in the world. Fully to appreciate the Assyrians, we should compare them with the much-lauded Egyptians, who in all important points are very decidedly their inferiors. The spirit and progressive character of their art offers the strongest contrast to the stiff, lifeless, and unchanging conventionalism of the dwellers on the Nile. Their language and alphabet are confessedly in advance of the Egyptian. Their religion is more earnest and less degraded. In courage and military genius their superiority is very striking; for the Egyptians are essentially an unwarlike people. The one point of advantage to which Egypt may fairly lay claim is the grandeur and durability of her architecture. The Assyrian palaces, magnificent, as they undoubtedly were, must yield the palm to the vast structures of Egyptian Thebes. No nation, not even Rome, has equalled Egypt in the size and solemn grandeur of its buildings. But, except in this one respect, the great African kingdom must be regarded as inferior to her Asiatic rival—which was indeed "a cedar in Lebanon, exalted above all the trees of the field—fair in greatness and in the length of his branches—so that all the trees that were in the garden of God envied him, and not one was like unto him in his beauty."
"Fuit et Ninus, imposita Tigri, ad solis occasum spectans, quondam clarissima."—PLIN. H. N. vi. 13.
The site of the great capital of Assyria had generally been regarded as fixed with sufficient certainty to the tract immediately opposite Mosul, alike by local tradition and by the statements of ancient writers, when the discovery by modern travellers of architectural remains of great magnificence at some considerable distance from this position, threw a doubt upon the generally received belief, and made the true situation of the ancient Nineveh once more a matter of controversy. When the noble sculptures and vast palaces of Nimrud were first uncovered, it was natural to suppose that they marked the real site; for it seemed unlikely that any mere provincial city should have been adorned by a long series of monarchs with buildings at once on so grand a scale and so richly ornamented. A passage of Strabo, and another of Ptolemy, were thought to lend confirmation to this theory, which placed the Assyrian capital nearly at the junction of the Upper Zab with the Tigris; and for awhile the old opinion was displaced, and the name of Nineveh was attached very generally in this country to the ruins at Nimrud.
Shortly afterwards a rival claimant started up in the regions further to the north. Excavations carried on at the village of Khorsabad showed that a magnificent palace and a considerable town had existed in Assyrian times at that site. In spite of the obvious objection that the Khorsabad ruins lay at the distance of fifteen miles from the Tigris, which according to every writer of weight anciently washed the walls of Nineveh, it was assumed by the excavator that the discovery of the capital had been reserved for himself, and the splendid work representing the Khorsabad bas-reliefs and inscriptions, which was published in France under the title of "Monument de Ninive," caused the reception of M. Botta's theory in many parts of the Continent.
After awhile an attempt was made to reconcile the rival claims by a theory, the grandeur of which gained it acceptance, despite its improbability. It was suggested that the various ruins, which had hitherto disputed the name, were in fact all included within the circuit of the ancient Nineveh; which was described as a rectangle, or oblong square, eighteen miles long and twelve broad. The remains of Khorsabad, Koyunjik, Nimrud, and Keremles marked the four corners of this vast quadrangle, which contained an area of 216 square miles—about ten times that of London! In confirmation of this view was urged, first, the description in Diodorus, derived probably from Ctesias, which corresponded (it was said) both with the proportions and with the actual distances; and next, the statements contained in the book of Jonah, which (it was argued) implied a city of some such dimensions. The parallel of Babylon, according to the description given by Herodotus, might fairly have been cited as a further argument; since it might have seemed reasonable to suppose that there was no great difference of size between the chief cities of the two kindred empires.
Attractive, however, as this theory is from its grandeur, and harmonious as it must be allowed to be with the reports of the Greeks, we have nevertheless to reject it on two grounds, the one historical and the other topographical. The ruins of Khorsabad, Keremles, Nimrud, and Koyunjik bear on their bricks distinct local titles; and these titles are found attaching to distinct cities in the historical inscriptions. Nimrud, as already observed, is Calah; and Khorsabad is Dur-Sargina, or "the city of Sargon." Keremles has also its own appellation Dur-* * *, "the city of the God [—]." Now the Assyrian writers do not consider these places to be parts of Nineveh, but speak of them as distinct and separate cities. Calah for a long time is the capital, while Nineveh is mentioned as a provincial town. Dur-Sargina is built by Sargon, not at Nineveh, but "near to Nineveh." Scripture, it must be remembered, similarly distinguishes Calah as a place separate from Nineveh, and so far from it that there was room for "a great city" between them. And the geographers, while they give the name of Aturia or Assyria Proper to the country about the one town, call the region which surrounds the other by a distinct name, Calachene. Again, when the country is closely examined, it is found, not only that there are no signs of any continuous town over the space included within the four sites of Nimrud, Keremles. Khorsabad, and Koyunjik, nor any remains of walls or ditches connecting them, but that the four sites themselves are as carefully fortified on what, by the theory we are examining, would be the inside of the city as in other directions. It perhaps need scarcely be added, unless to meet the argument drawn from Diodorus, that the four sites in question are not so placed as to form the "oblong square" of his description, but mark the angles of a rhombus very munch slanted from the perpendicular.
The argument derived from the book of Jonah deserves more attention than that which rests upon the authority of Diodorus and Ctesias. Unlike Ctesias, Jonah saw Nineveh while it still stood; and though the writer of the prophetical book may not have been Jonah himself, he probably lived not very many years later. Thus his evidence is that of a contemporary, though (it may be) not that of an eye-witness; and, even apart from the inspiration which guided his pen, he is entitled to be heard with the utmost respect. Now the statements of this writer, which have a bearing on the size of Nineveh, are two. He tells us, in one place, that it was "an exceeding great city, of three days' journey;" in another, that "in it were more than 120,000 persons who could not discern between their right hand and their left." These passages are clearly intended to describe a city of a size unusual at the time; but both of them are to such an extent vague and indistinct, that it is impossible to draw front either separately, or even from the two combined, an exact definite notion. "A city of three days' journey" may be one which it requires three days to traverse from end to end, or one which is three days' journey in circumference, or, lastly, one which cannot be thoroughly visited and explored by a prophet commissioned to warn the inhabitants of a coming danger in less than three days' time. Persons not able to distinguish their right hand from their left may (if taken literally) mean children, and 120,000 such persons may therefore indicate a total population of 600,000; or, the phrase may perhaps with greater probability be understood of moral ignorance, and the intention would in that case be to designate by it all the inhabitants. If Nineveh was in Jonah's time a city containing a population of 120,000, it would sufficiently deserve the title of "an exceeding great city;" and the prophet might well be occupied for three days in traversing its squares and streets. We shall find hereafter that the ruins opposite Mosul have an extent more than equal to the accommodation of this number of persons.
The weight of the argument from the supposed parallel ease of Babylon must depend on the degree of confidence which can be reposed in the statement made by Herodotus, and on the opinion which is ultimately formed with regard to the real size of that capital. It would be improper to anticipate here the conclusions which may be arrived at hereafter concerning the real dimensions of "Babylon the Great;" but it may be observed that grave doubts are entertained in many quarters as to the ancient statements on the subject, and that the ruins do not cover much more than one twenty-fifth of the space which Herodotus assigns to the city.
We may, therefore, without much hesitation, set aside the theory which would ascribe to the ancient Nineveh dimensions nine or ten times greater than those of London, and proceed to a description of the group of ruins believed by the best judges to mark the true site.
The ruins opposite Mosul consist of two principal Mounds, known respectively as Nebbi-Yunus and Koyunjik. [PLATE XXXVI., Fig. 2.] The Koyunjik mound, which lies to the north-west of the other, at the distance of 900 yards, or a little more than half a mile, is very much the more considerable of the two. Its shape is an irregular oval, elongated to a point towards the north-east, in the line of its greater axis. The surface is nearly flat; the sides slope at a steep angle, and are furrowed with numerous ravines, worn in the soft material by the rains of some thirty centuries. The greatest height of the mound above the plum is towards the south-eastern extremity, where it overhangs the small stream of the Khosr; the elevation in this part being about ninety-five feet. The area covered by the mound is estimated at a hundred acres, and the entire mass is said to contain 14,500,000 tons of earth. The labor of a man would scarcely excavate and place in position more than 120 tons of earth in a year; it would require, therefore, the united exertions of 10,000 men for twelve years, or 20,000 men for six years, to complete the structure. On this artificial eminence were raised in ancient times the palaces and temples of the Assyrian monarchs, which are now imbedded in the debris of their own ruins.
The mound of Nebbi-Ymus is at its base nearly triangular: [PLATE XXXVII., Fig. 1.] It covers an area of about forty acres. It is loftier, and its sides are more precipitous, than Koyunjik, especially on the west, where it abutted upon the wall of the city. The surface is mostly flat, but is divided about the middle by a deep ravine, running nearly from north to south, and separating the mound into an eastern and a western portion. The so-called tomb of Jonah is conspicuous on the north edge of the western portion of the mound, and about it are grouped the cottages of the Kurds and Turcomans to whom the site of the ancient Nineveh belongs. The eastern portion of the mound forms a burial-ground, to which the bodies of Mahometans are brought from considerable distances. The mass of earth is calculated at six and a half millions of tons; so that its erection would have given full employment to 10,000 men for the space of five years and a half.
These two vast mounds—the platforms on which palaces and temples were raised—are both in the same line, and abutted, both of them, on the western wall of the city. Their position in that wall is thought to have been determined, not by chance, but by design; since they break the western face of the city into three nearly equal portions. The entire length of this side of Nineveh was 13,600 feet, or somewhat more than two and a half miles. Anciently it seems to have immediately overhung the Tigris, which has now moved off to the west, leaving a plain nearly a mile in width between its eastern edge and the old rampart of the city. This rampart followed, apparently, the natural course of the river-bank; and hence, while on the whole it is tolerably straight, in the most southern of the three portions it exhibits a gentle curve, where the river evidently made a sweep, altering its course from south-east nearly to south.
The western wall at its northern extremity approaches the present course of the Tigris, and is here joined, exactly at right angles, by the northern, or rather the north-western, rampart, which runs in a perfectly straight line to the north-eastern angle of the city, and is said to measure exactly 7000 feet. This wall is again divided, like the western, but with even more preciseness, into three equal portions. Commencing at the north-eastern angle, one-third of it is carried along comparatively high ground, after which for the remaining two-thirds of its course it falls by a gentle decline towards the Tigris. Exactly midway in this slope the rampart is broken by a road, adjoining which is a remarkable mound, covering one of the chief gates of the city.
At its other extremity the western wall forms a very obtuse angle with the southern, which impends over a deep ravine formed by it winter torrent, and runs in a straight line for about 1000 yards, when it meets the eastern wall, with which it forms a slightly acute angle.
It remains to describe the eastern wall, which is the longest and the least regular of the four. Tins barrier skirts the edge of a ridge of conglomerate rock, which here rises somewhat above the level of the plain, and presents a slightly convex sweep to the north east. At first it runs nearly parallel to the western, and at right angles to the northern wall; but, after pursuing this course for about three quarters of a mile, it is forced by the natural convexity of the ridge to retire a little, and curving gently inwards it takes a direction much more southerly than at first, thus drawing continually nearer to the western wall, whose course is almost exactly south-east. The entire length of this wall is 16,000 feet, or above three miles. It is divided into two portions, whereof the southern is somewhat the longer, by the stream of the Khosr-Su; which coming from the north west, finds its way through the ruins of the city, and then runs on across the low plain to the Tigris.
The enceinte of Nineveh forms thus an irregular trapezium, or a "triangle with its apex abruptly cut off to the south." The breadth, even in the broadest part—that towards the north—is very disproportionate to the length, standing to it as four to nine, or as 1 to 2.25. The town is thus of an oblong shape, and so far Diodorus truly described it; though his dimensions greatly exceed the truth. The circuit of the walls is somewhat less than eight miles, instead of being more than fifty and the area which they include is 1100 English acres, instead of being 112,000!
It is reckoned that in a populous Oriental town we may compute the inhabitants at nearly, if not quite, a hundred per acre. This allows a considerable space for streets, open squares, and gardens, since it assigns but one individual to every space of fifty square yards. According to such a mode of reckoning, the population of ancient Nineveh, within the enceinte here described, may be estimated at 175,000 souls. No city of Western Asia is at the present day so populous.
In the above description of the ramparts surrounding Nineveh, no account has been given of their width or height. According to Diodorus, the wall wherewith Ninus surrounded his capital was 100 feet high, and so broad that three chariots might drive side by side along the top. Xenophon, who passed close to the ruins on his retreat with the Ten Thousand, calls the height 150 feet, and the width 50 feet. The actual greatest height at present seems to be 46 feet; but the debris at the foot of the walls are so great, and the crumbled character of the walls themselves is so evident, that the chief modern explorer inclines to regard the computation of Diodorus as probably no exaggeration of the truth. The width of the walls, in their crumbled condition, is from 100 to 200 feet.
The mode in which the walls were constructed seems to have been the following. Up to a certain height—fifty feet, according to Xenophon—they were composed of neatly-hewn blocks of a fossiliferous limestone, smoothed and polished on the outside. Above this, the material used was sun-dried brick. The stone masonry was certainly ornamented along its top by a continuous series of battlements or gradines in the same material [PLATE XXXVII., Fig. 2] and it is not unlikely that a similar ornamentation crowned the upper brick structure. The wall was pierced at irregular intervals by gates, above which rose lofty towers; while towers, probably of lesser elevation, occurred also in the portions of the wall intervening between one gate and another. A gate in the north-western rampart has been cleared by means of excavation, the form and construction of which will best appear from the annexed ground-plan. [PLATE XXXVII., Fig. 3.] It seems to have consisted of three gateways, whereof the inner and outer were ornamented with colossal human-headed hulls and other figures, while the central one was merely panelled with slabs of alabaster. Between the gateways were two large chambers, 70 feet long by 23 feet wide, which were thus capable of containing a considerable body of soldiers. The chambers and gateways are supposed to have been arched over, like the castles' gates on the bas-reliefs. The gates themselves have wholly disappeared: but the debris which filled both the chambers and the passages contained so much charcoal that it is thought they must have been made, not of bronze, like the gates of Babylon, but of wood. The ground within the gate-way was paved with large slabs of limestone, still bearing the marks of chariot wheels.
The castellated rampart which thus surrounded and guarded Nineveh did not constitute by any means its sole defence. Outside the stone basement wall lay on every side a water barrier, consisting on the west and south of natural river courses; on the north and east, of artificial channels into which water was conducted from the Khosr-su. The northern and eastern walls were skirted along their whole length by a broad and deep moat, into which the Khosr-su was made to flow by occupying its natural bed with a strong dam carried across it in the line of the eastern wall, and at the point where the stream now enters the enclosure. On meeting this obstruction, of which there are still some remains, the waters divided, and while part flowed to the south-east, and reached the Tigris by the ravine immediately to the south of the city, which is a natural water-course, part turned at an acute angle to the north-west, and, washing the remainder of the eastern and the whole of the northern wall, gained the Tigris at the north-west angle of the city, where a second dam kept it at a sufficient height. Moreover, on the eastern face, which appears to have been regarded as the weakest, a series of outworks were erected for the further defence of the city. North of the Khosr, between the city wall and that river, which there runs parallel to the wall and forms a sort of second or outermost moat, there are traces of a detached fort of considerable size, which must have strengthened the defences in that quarter. South and south-east of the Khosr, the works are still more elaborate. In the first place, from a point where the Khosr leaves the hills and debouches upon comparatively low ground, a deep ditch, 200 feet broad, was carried through compact silicious conglomerate for upwards of two miles, till it joined the ravine which formed the natural protection of the city upon the south. On either side of this ditch, which could be readily supplied with water from the Khosr at its northern extremity, was built a broad and lofty wall; the eastern one, which forms the outermost of the defences, rises even now a hundred feet above the bottom of the ditch on which it adjoins. Further, between this outer barrier and the city moat wall interposed a species of demilune, guarded by a double wall and a broad ditch and connected (as is thought) by a covered way with Neneveh itself. Thus the city was protected on this, its most vulnerable side, towards the centre by five walls and three broad and deep moats; towards the north, by a wall, a moat, the Khosr, and a strong outpost; towards the south by two moats and three lines of rampart. The breadth of the whole fortification on this side is 2200 feet, or not far from half a mile. [PLATE XXXVIII.]
Such was the site, and such were the defences, of the capital of Assyria. Of its internal arrangements but little can be said at present, since no general examination of the space within the ramparts has been as yet made, and no ancient account of the interior has come down to us. We can only see that the side of the city which was most fashionable was the western, which immediately overhung the Tigris; since here were the palaces of the kings, and here seem also to have been the dwellings of the richer citizens; at least, it is on this side in the space intervening between Koyunjik and the northern rampart, that the only very evident remains of edifices—besides the great Mounds of Koyunjik and Nebbi-Yunus—are found. The river was no doubt the main attraction; but perhaps the western side was also considered the most secure, as lying furthest frown the quarter whence alone the inhabitants expected to be attacked, namely, the east. It is impossible at present to give any account of the character of the houses or the the direction of the streets. Perhaps the time may not be far distant when more systematic and continuous efforts will be made by the enterprise of Europe to obtain full knowledge of all the remains which still lie buried at this interesting site. No such discoveries are indeed to be expected as those which have recently startled the world but patient explorers would still be sure of an ample reward, were they to glean, after Layard in the field from which he swept so magnificent a harvest.
LANGUAGE AND WRITING.
Greek phrase [—]—HEROD. iv. 137.
There has never been much difference of opinion among the learned with regard to the language spoken by the Assyrians. As the Biblical genealogy connected Asshur with Eber and Aram, while the Greeks plainly regarded the Syrians, Assyrians, and Babylonians as a single race, it was always supposed that the people thus associated must have possessed a tongue allied, more or less closely, to the Hebrew, the Syriac, and the Chaldee. These tongues were known to be dialectic varieties of a single form of speech the Semitic; and it was consequently the general belief, before any Assyrian inscriptions had been disinterred, that the Assyrian language was of this type, either a sister tongue to the three above mentioned, or else identical with some one of them. The only difficulty in the way of this theory was the supposed Medo-Persic or Arian character of a certain number of Assyrian royal names; but this difficulty was thought to be sufficiently met by a suggestion that the ruling tribe might have been of Median descent, and have maintained its own national appellatives, while the mass of the population belonged to a different race. Recent discoveries have shown that this last suggestion was needless, as the difficulty which it was intended to meet does not exist. The Assyrian names which either history or the monuments have handed down to us are Semitic, and not Arian. It is only among the fabulous accounts of the Assyrian Empire put forth by Ctesias that Arian names, such as Xerxes, Arius, Armamithres, Mithraus, etc., are to be found.
Together with the true names of the Assyrian kings, the mounds of Mesopotamia have yielded up a mass of documents in the Assyrian language, from which it is possible that we may one day acquire as full a knowledge of its structure and vocabulary as we possess at present of Greek or Latin. These documents have confirmed the previous belief that the tongue is Semitic. They consist, in the first place, of long inscriptions upon the slabs of stone with which the walls of palaces were panelled, sometimes occupying the stone to the exclusion of any sculpture, sometimes carried across the dress of figures, always carefully cut, and generally in good preservation. Next in importance to these memorials are the hollow cylinders, or, more strictly speaking, hexagonal or octagonal prisms, made in extremely fine and thin terra cotta, which the Assyrian kings used to deposit at the corners of temples, inscribed with an account of their chief acts and with numerous religious invocations. [PLATE XXXIX., Fig. 1.] These cylinders vary from a foot and a half to three feet in height, and are covered closely with a small writing, which it often requires a good magnifying glass to decipher. A cylinder of Tiglath-Pileser I. (about B.C. 1180) contains thirty lines in a space of six inches, or five lines to an inch, which is nearly as close as the type of the present volume. This degree of closeness is exceeded on a cylinder of Asshur-bani-pal's (about B.C. 660), where the lines are six to the inch, or as near together as the type of the Edinburgh Review. If the complexity of the Assyrian characters be taken into account, and if it be remembered that the whole inscription was in every ease impressed by the hand, this minuteness must be allowed to be very surprising. It is not favorable to legibility; and the patience of cuneiform scholars has been severely tried by a mode of writing which sacrifices everything to the desire of crowding the greatest possible quantity of words into the smallest possible space. In one respect, however, facility of reading is consulted, for the inscriptions on the cylinders are not carried on in continuous lines round all the sides, but are written in columns, each column occupying a side. The lines are thus tolerably short; and the whole of a sentence is brought before the eye at once.
Besides slabs and cylinders, the written memorials of Assyria comprise inscribed bulls and lions, stone obelisks, clay tablets, bricks, and engraved seals. Tin seals generally resemble those of the Chaldaeans, which have been already described: but are somewhat more elaborate, and more varied in their character. [PLATE XXXIX., Fig. 2.] They do not very often exhibit any writing; but occasionally they are inscribed with the name of their owner, while in a few instances they show an inscription of some length. The clay tablets are both numerous and curious. They are of various sizes, ranging from nine inches long by six and a half wide, to an inch and a half long by an inch wide, or even less. [PLATE XL., Fig. 2.] Sometimes they are entirely covered with writing; while sometimes they exhibit on a portion of their surface the impressions of seals, mythological emblems, and the like. Some thousands of them have been recovered; and they are found to be of the most varied character. Many are historical, still more mythological; some are linguistic, some geographic, some again astronomical. It is anticipated that, when they are deciphered, we shall obtain a complete eneyclopaedia of Assyrian science, and shall be able by this means to trace a large portion of the knowledge of the Greeks to an Oriental source. Here is a mine still very little worked, from which patient and cautious investigators may one day extract the most valuable literary treasures. The stone obelisks are but few, and are mostly in a fragmentary condition. One alone is perfect—the obelisk in black basalt, discovered by Mr. Layard at Nimrud, which has now for many years been in the British Museum. [PLATE XL., Fig. 1.] This monument is sculptured on each of its four sides, in part with writing and in part with bas-reliefs. It is about seven feet high, and two feet broad at the base, tapering gently towards the summit, which is crowned with three low steps, or gradines. The inscription, which occupies the upper and lower portion of each side, and is also carried along the spaces between the bas-reliefs, consists of 210 clearly cut lines, and is one of the most important documents that has come down to us. It gives an account of various victories gained by the monarch who set it up, and of the tribute brought him by several princes. The inscribed lions and bulls are numerous. They commonly guard the portals of palaces, and are raised in a bold relief on alabaster slabs. The writing does not often trench upon the sculpture, but covers all those portions of the slabs which are not occupied by the animal. It is usually a full account of some particular campaign, which was thus specially commemorated, giving in detail what is far more briefly expressed in the obelisk and slab inscriptions.
This review of the various kinds of documents which have been discovered in the ancient cities of Assyria, seems to show that two materials were principally in use among the people for literary purposes, namely, stone and moist clay. The monarchs used the former most commonly, though sometimes they condescended for some special object to the coarser and more fragile material. Private persons in their business transactions, literary and scientific men in their compositions, employed the latter, on which it was possible to write rapidly with a triangular instrument, and which was no doubt far cheaper than the slabs of fine stone, which were preferred for the royal inscriptions. The clay documents, when wanted for instruction or as evidence, were carefully baked; and thus it is that they have come down to us, despite their fragility, often in as legible a condition, with the letters as clear and sharp, as any legend on marble, stone, or metal that we possess belonging to Greek or even to Roman times. The best clay, skilfully baked, is a material quite as enduring as either stone or metal, resisting many influences better than either of those materials.
It may still be asked, did not the Assyrians use other materials also? Did they not write with ink of some kind on paper, or leather, or parchment? It is certain that the Egyptians had invented a kind of thick paper many centuries before the Assyrian power arose; and it is further certain that the later Assyrian kings had a good deal of intercourse with Egypt. Under such circumstances, can we suppose that they did not import paper from that country? Again, the Persians, we are told, used parchment for their public records. Are not the Assyrians a much more ingenious people, likely to have done the same, at any rate to some extent? There is no direct evidence by which these questions can be determinately answered. No document on any of the materials suggested has been found. No ancient author states that the Assyrians or the Babylonians used them. Had it not been for one piece of indirect evidence, it would have seemed nearly certain that they were not employed by the Mesopotamian races. In some of the royal palaces, however, small humps of fine clay have been found, bearing the impressions of seals, and exhibiting traces of the string by which they were attached to documents, while the documents themselves, being of a different material, have perished. It seems probable that in these instances some substance like paper or parchment was used; and thus we are led to the conclusion that, while clay was the most common, and stone an ordinary writing material among the Assyrians, some third substance, probably Egyptian paper, was also known, and was used occasionally, though somewhat rarely, for public documents.
The number of characters is very great. Sir H. Rawlinson, in the year 1851, published a list of 216, or, including variants, 366 characters, as occurring in the inscriptions known to him. M. Oppei t, in 1858, gave 318 forms as those "most in use." Of course it is at once evident that this alphabet cannot represent elementary sounds. The Assyrian characters do, in fact, correspond, not to letters, according to our notion of letters, but to syllables. These syllables are either mere vowel sounds, such as we represent by our vowels and diphthongs, or such sounds accompanied by one or two consonants.
The vowels are not very numerous. The Assyrians recognize three only as fundamental—a, i, and u. Besides these they have the diphthongs ai, nearly equivalent to e, and au, nearly equivalent to o. The vowels i and u have also the powers, respectively, of y and v.
From these sounds, combined with the simple vowels, comes the Assyrian syllabarium, to which, and not to the consonants themselves, the characters were assigned. In the first place, each consonant being capable of two combinations with each simple vowel, could give birth naturally to six simple syllables, each of which would be in the Assyrian system represented by a character. Six characters, for instance, entirely different from one another, represented pa, pi, pu, ap, ip, up; six others, ka, ki, ke, ak, ik, uk; six others again, ta, ti, tu, at, it, ut.
If this rule were carried out in every case, the sixteen consonant sounds would, it is evident, produce ninety-six characters. The actual number, however, formed in this way, is only seventy-five. Since these are seven of the consonants which only combine with the vowels in one way. Thus we have ba, bi, bu, but not ab, ib, ub; ga, qi, gu, but not ay, iq,ug; and so on. The sounds regarded as capable of only one combination are the mediae, b, q, d; the aspirates kh, tj; and the sibilants ts and z.
Such is the first and simplest syllabarium: but the Assyrian system does not stop here. It proceeds to combine with each simple vowel sound two consonants, one preceding the vowel and the other following it. If this plan were followed out to the utmost possible extent, the result would be an addition to the syllabarium of seven hundred and sixty-eight sounds, each having its proper character, which would raise the number of characters to between eight and nine hundred! Fortunately for the student, phonetic laws and other causes have intervened to check this extreme luxuriance; and the combinations of this kind which are known to exist, instead of amounting to the full limit of seven hundred and sixty-eight, are under one hundred and fifty. The known Assyrian alphabet is, however, in this way raised from eighty, or, including variants, one hundred, to between two hundred and forty and two hundred and fifty characters.
Finally, there are a certain number of characters which have been called "ideographs," or "monograms." Most of the gods, and various cities and countries, are represented by a group of wedges, which is thought not to have a real phonetic force, but to be a conventional sign for an idea, much as the Arabic numerals, 1, 2, 3. etc., are non-phonetic signs representing the ideas, one, two, three, etc. The known characters of this description are between twenty and thirty.
The known Assyrian characters are thus brought up nearly to three hundred! There still remain a considerable number which are either wholly unknown, or of which the meaning is known, while the phonetic value cannot at present be determined. M. Oppert's Catalogue contains fourteen of the former and fifty-nine of the latter class.
It has already been observed that the monumental evidence accords with the traditional belief in regard to the character of the Assyrian language, which is unmistakably Semitic. Not only does the vocabulary present constant analogies to other Semitic dialects, but the phonetic laws and the grammatical forms are equally of this type. At the same time the language has peculiarities of its own, which separate it from its kindred tongues, and constitute it a distinct form of Semitic speech, not a mere variety of any known form. It is neither Hebrew, nor Arabic, nor Phoenician, nor Chaldee, nor Syriac, but a sister tongue to these, having some analogies with all of them, and others, more or fewer, with each. On the whole, its closest relationship seems to be with the Hebrew, and its greatest divergence from the Aramaic or Syriac, with which it was yet, locally, in immediate connection.
To attempt anything like a full illustration of these statements in the present place would be manifestly unfitting. It would be to quit the province of the historian and archeologist, in order to enter upon that of the comparative philologer or the grammarian. At the same time a certain amount of illustration seems necessary, in order to show that the statements above made are not mere theories, but have a substantial basis.
The Semitic character of the vocabulary will probably be felt to be sufficiently established by the following lists:
ARCHITECTURE AND OTHER ARTS.
"Architecti multarum artium solertes."—Mos. CHOR. (De Assyriis) i. 15.
The luxury and magnificence of the Assyrians, and the advanced condition of the arts among them which such words imply, were matters familiar to the Greeks and Romans, who, however, had little ocular evidence of the fact, but accepted it upon the strength of a very clear and uniform tradition. More fortunate than the nations of classical antiquity, whose comparative proximity to the time proved no advantage to them, we possess in the exhumed remains of this interesting people a mass of evidence upon the point, which, although in many respects sadly incomplete, still enables us to form a judgment for ourselves upon the subject, and to believe—on better grounds than they possessed—the artistic genius and multiform ingenuity of the Assyrians. As architects, as designers, as sculptors, as metallurgists, as engravers, as upholsterers, as workers in ivory, as glass-blowers, as embroiderers of dresses, it is evident that they equalled, if they did not exceed, all other Oriental nations. It is the object of the present chapter to give some account of their skill in these various respects. Something is now known of them all; and though in every case there are points still involved in obscurity, and recourse must therefore be had upon occasion to conjecture, enough appears certainly made out to justify such an attempt as the present, and to supply a solid groundwork of fact valuable in itself, even if it be insufficient to sustain in addition any large amount of hypothetical superstructure.
The architecture of the Assyrians will naturally engage our attention at the outset. It is from an examination of their edifices that we have derived almost all the knowledge which we possess of their progress in every art; and it is further as architects that they always enjoyed a special repute among their neighbors. Hebrew and Armenian united with Greek tradition in representing the Assyrians as notable builders at a very early time. When Asshur "went forth out of the land of Shinar," it was to build cities, one of which is expressly called "a great city." When the Armenians had to give an account of the palaces and other vast structures in their country, they ascribed their erection to the Assyrians. Similarly. when the Greeks sought to trace the civilization of Asia to its source, they carried it back to Ninus and Semiramis, whom they made the founders, respectively, of Nineveh and Babylon, the two chief cities of the early world.
Among the architectural works of the Assyrians, the first place is challenged by their palaces. Less religious, or more servile, than the Egyptians and the Greeks, they make their temples insignificant in comparison with the dwellings of their kings, to which indeed the temple is most commonly a sort of appendage. In the palace their art culminates—there every effort is made, every ornament lavished. If the architecture of the Assyrian palaces be fully considered, very little need be said on the subject of their other buildings.
The Assyrian palace stood uniformly on an artificial platform. Commonly this platform was composed of sun-dried-bricks in regular layers; but occasionally the material used was merely earth or rubbish, excepting towards the exposed parts—the sides and the surface which were always either of brick or of stone. In most cases the sides were protected by massive stone masonry, carried perpendicularly from the natural ground to a height somewhat exceeding that of the plat-form, and either made plain at the top or else crowned with stone battlements cut into gradines. The pavement consisted in part of stone slabs, part of kiln-dried bricks of a large size, often as much as two feet square. The stone slabs were sometimes inscribed, sometimes ornamented with an elegant pattern. (See [PLATE XLI., Fig. 2.]) Occasionally the terrace was divided into portions at different elevations, which were connected by staircases or inclined planes. The terrace communicated in the same way with the level ground at its base, being (as is probable) sometimes ascended in a single place, sometimes in several. These ascents were always on the side where the palace adjoined upon the neighboring town, and were thus protected from hostile attack by the town walls. [PLATE XLI., Fig. 1] Where the palace abutted upon the walls or projected beyond them—and the palace was always placed at the edge of a town, for the double advantage, probably, of a clear view and of fresh air—the platform rose perpendicularly or nearly so; and generally a water protection, a river, a moat, or a broad lake, lay at its base, thus rendering attack, except on the city side, almost impossible.
The platform appears to have been, in general shape, a rectangle, or where it had different elevations, to have been composed of a rectangles. The mound of Khorsabad, which is of this latter character, resembles a gigantic T. [PLATE XLII., Fig. 1.]
It must not be supposed, however, that the rectangle was always exact. Sometimes its outline was broken by angular projections and indentations, as in the plan [PLATE XLII., Fig. 21.] where the shaded parts represent actual discoveries. Sometimes it grew to be irregular, by the addition of fresh portions, as new kings arose who determined on fresh erections. This is the ease at Nimrud, where the platform broadens towards its lower or southern end, and still more at Koyunjik and Nebbi Yunus, where the rectangular idea has been so overlaid as to have almost wholly disappeared. Palaces were commonly placed near one edge of the mound—more especially near the river edge probably for the better enjoyment of the prospect, and of the cool air over the water.
The palace itself was composed of three main elements, courts, grand halls, and small private apartments. A palace has usually from two to four courts, which are either square or oblong, and vary in size according to the general scale of the building. In the north-west palace at Nimrud, the most ancient of the edifices yet explored, one court only has been found, the dimensions of which are 120 feet by 90. At Khorsabad, the palace of Sargon has four courts. [PLATE XLII., Fig. 2.] Three of them are nearly square, the largest of these measuring 180 feet each Way, and the smallest about 120 feet; the fourth is oblong, and must have been at least 250 feet long and 150 feet wide. The palace of Sennacherib at Koyunjik, a much larger edifice than the palace of Sargon, has also three courts, which are respectively 93 feet by 84, 124 feet by 90, and 154 feet by 125. Esarhaddon's palace at Nimrud has a court 220 feet long and 100 wide. These courts were all paved either with baked bricks of large size, or with stone slabs, which were frequently patterned. Sometimes the courts were surrounded with buildings; sometimes they abutted upon the edge of the platform: in this latter case they were protected by a stone parapet, which (at least in places) was six feet high.
The grand halls of the Assyrian palaces constitute their most remarkable feature. Each palace has commonly several. They are apartments narrow for their length, measuring from three to five times their own width, and thus having always somewhat the appearance of galleries. The scale upon which they are built is, commonly, magnificent. In the palace of Asshur-izir-pal at Nimrud, the earliest of the discovered edifices, the great hall was 160 feet long by nearly 40 broad. In Sargon's palace at Khorsabad the size of no single room was so great; but the number of halls was remarkable, there being no fewer than five of nearly equal dimensions. The largest was 116 feet long, and 33 wide; the smallest 87 feet long, and 25 wide. The palace of Sennacherib at Koyuhjik contained the most spacious apartment yet exhumed. It was immediately inside the great portal, and extended in length 180 feet, with a uniform width of forty feet. In one instance only, so far as appears, was an attempt made to exceed this width. In the palace of Esarhaddon, the son of Sennacherib, a hall was designed intended to surpass all former ones. [PLATE XLIII., Fig. 2.] Its length was to be 165 feet, and its width 62; consequently it would have been nearly one-third larger than the great hall of Sennacherib, its area exceeding 10,000 square feet. But the builder who had designed this grand structure appears to have been unable to overcome the difficulty of carrying a roof over so vast an expanse. He was therefore obliged to divide his hall by a wall down the middle; which, though he broke it in an unusual way into portions, and kept it at some distance from both ends of the apartment, still had the actual effect of subdividing his grand room into four apartments of only moderate size. The halls were paved with sun-burnt brick. They were ornamented throughout by the elaborate sculptures, now so familiar to us, carried generally in a single, but sometimes in a double line, round the four walls of the apartment. The sculptured slabs rested on the ground, and clothed the walls to the height of 10 or 12 feet. Above, for a space which we cannot positively fix, but which was certainly not less than four or five feet, the crude brick wall was continued, faced here with burnt brick enamelled on the side towards the apartment, pleasingly and sometimes even brilliantly colored. 10 The whole height of the walls was probably from 15 to 20 feet.
By the side of the halls, or at their ends, and opening into them, or sometimes collected together into groups, with no hall near, are the smaller chambers of which mention has been already made. These chambers are in every case rectangular: in their proportions they vary from squares to narrow oblongs. 90 feet by 17, 85 by 16, 80 by 15, and the like. When they are square, the side is never more than about 25 feet. They are often as richly decorated as the halls, but sometimes are merely faced with plain slabs or plastered; while occasionally they have no facing at all, but exhibit throughout the crude brick. This, however, is unusual.
The number of chambers in a palace is very large. In Sennacherib's palace at Koyunjik, where great part of the building remains still unexplored, the excavated chambers amount to sixty-eight—all, be it remembered, upon the ground floor. The space covered by them and by their walls exceeds 40,000 square yards. As Mr. Fergusson observes, "the imperial palace of Sennacherib is, of all the buildings of antiquity, surpassed in magnitude only by the great palace-temple of Karnak; and when we consider the vastness of the mound on which it was raised, and the richness of the ornaments with which it was adorned, it is by no means clear that it was not as great, or at least as expensive, a work as the great palace-temple at Thebes." Elsewhere the excavated apartments are less numerous; but in no case is it probable that a palace contained on its ground floor fewer than forty or fifty chambers.
The most striking peculiarity which the ground-plans of the palaces disclose is the uniform adoption throughout of straight and parallel lines. No plan exhibits a curve of any kind, or any angle but a right angle. Courts, chambers, and halls are, in most cases, exact rectangles; and even where any variety occurs, it is only by the introduction of squared recesses or projections, which are moreover shallow and infrequent. When a palace has its own special platform, the lines of the building are further exactly parallel with those of the mound on which it is placed; and the parallelism extends to any other detached buildings that there may be anywhere upon the platform. When a mound is occupied by more palaces than one, sometimes this law still obtains, as at Nimrud, where it seems to embrace at any rate the greater number of the palaces; sometimes, as at Koyunjik, the rule ceases to be observed, and the ground-plan of each palace seems formed separately and independently, with no reference to any neighboring edifice.
Apart from this feature, the buildings do not affect much regularity. In courts and facades, to a certain extent, there is correspondence; but in the internal arrangements, regularity is decidedly the exception. The two sides of an edifice never correspond; room never answers to room; doorways are rarely in the middle of walls; where a rooms has several doorways, they are seldom opposite to one another, or in situations at all corresponding.
There is a great awkwardness in the communications. Very few corridors or passages exist in any of the buildings. Groups of rooms, often amounting to ten or twelve, open into one another; and we find comparatively few rooms to which there is any access except through some other room. Again, whole sets of apartments are sometimes found, between which and the rest of the palace all communication is cut off by thick walls. Another peculiarity in the internal arrangements is the number of doorways in the larger apartments, and their apparently needless multiplication. We constantly find two or even three doorways leading from a court into a hall, or from one hall into a second. It is difficult to see what could be gained by such an arrangement.
The disposition of the various parts of a palace will probably be better apprehended from an exact account of a single building than from any further general statements. For this purpose it is necessary to select a specimen from among the various edifices that have been disentombed by the labors of recent excavators. The specimen should be, if possible, complete; it should have been accurately surveyed, and the survey should have been scientifically recorded; it should further stand single and separate, that there may be no danger of confusion between its remains and those of adjacent edifices. These requirements, though nowhere exactly met, are very nearly met by the building at Khorsabad, which stands on a mound of its own, unmixed with other edifices, has been most carefully examined, and most excellently represented and described, and which, though not completely excavated, has been excavated with a nearer approach to completeness than any other edifice in Assyria. The Khorsabad building—which is believed to be a palace built by Sargon, the son of Sennacherib—will therefore be selected for minute description in this place, as the palace most favorably circumstanced, and the one of which we have, on the whole, the most complete and exact knowledge. [PLATE XLIV.]
The situation of the town, whereof the palace of Sargon formed a part, has been already described in a former part of this volume. The shape, it has been noted, was square, the angles facing the four cardinal points. Almost exactly in the centre of the north-west wall occurs the palace platform, a huge mass of crude brick, from 20 to 30 feet high, shaped like a T, the upper limb lying within the city walls, and the lower limb (which is at a higher elevation) projecting beyond the line of the walls to a distance of at least 500 feet. At present there is a considerable space between the ends of the wall and the palace mound; but anciently it is provable that they either abutted on the mound, or were separated from it merely by gateways. The mound, or at any rate the part of it which projected beyond the walls, was faced with hewn stone, carried perpendicularly from the plain to the top of the platform, and even beyond, so as to form a parapet protecting the edge of the platform. On the more elevated portion of the mound—that which projected beyond the walls stood the palace, consisting of three groups of buildings, the principal group lying towards the mound's northern angle. On the lower portion of the platform were several detached buildings, the most remarkable being a huge gateway or propylaeum, through which the entrance lay to the palace from the city. Beyond and below this, on the level of the city, the first or outer portals were placed, giving entrance to a court in front of the lower terrace.
A visitor approaching the palace had in the first place to pass through these portals. They were ornamented with colossal human-headed bulls on either side, and probably spanned by an arch above, the archivolte being covered with enamelled bricks disposed in a pattern. Received within the portals, the visitor found himself in front of a long wall of solid stone masonry, the revetement of the lower terrace, which rose from the outer court to a height of at least twenty feet. Either an inclined-way or a flight of steps—probably the latter—must have led up from the outer court to this terrace. Here the visitor found another portal or propylaeum of a magnificent character. [PLATE XLIII., Fig. 1.] Midway in the south-east side of the lower terrace, and about fifty feet from its edge, stood this grand structure, gateway ninety-feet in width, and at least twenty-five in depth, having on each side three winged bulls of gigantic size, two of them fifteen feet high, and the third nineteen feet. Between the two small bulls, which styled back to back, presenting their sides to the spectator, was a colossal figure, strangling a lion—the Assyria Hercules, according to most writers. The larger bulls stood at right angles to these figures, withdrawn within the portal, and facing the spectator. The space between the bulls, which is nearly twenty feet, was (it is probable) arched over. Perhaps the archway led into a chamber beyond which was a second archway and an inner portal, as marked in Mr. Fergusson's plan: but this is at present uncertain.
Besides the great portal, the only buildings as yet discovered on this lower platform, are a suite of not very extensive apartments. They are remarkable for their ornamentation. The walls are neither lined with slabs, nor yet (as is sometimes the case) painted, but the plaster of which they are composed is formed into sets of half pillars or reeding, separated from one another by pilasters with square sunk panels. The former kind of ornamentation is found also in Lower Chaldaea, and has been already represented; the latter is peculiar to this building. It is suggested that these apartments formed the quarters of the soldiers who kept watch over the royal residence.
About 300 feet from the outer edge of the lower terrace, the upper terrace seems to have commenced. It was raised probably about ten feet above the lower one. The mode of access has not been discovered, but is presumed to have been by a flight of steps, not directly opposite the propylaeum, but somewhat to the right, whereby entrance was given to the great court, into which opened the main gateways of the palace itself. The court was probably 250 feet long by 160 or 170 feet wide. The visitor, on mounting the steps, perhaps passed through another propylaeum (b in the plan); after which, if his business was with the monarch, he crossed the full length of the court, leaving a magnificent triple entrance, which is thought to have led to the king's hareem, on his left and making his way to the public gate of the palace, which fronted him when he mounted the steps. The hareem portal, which he passed, resembled in the main the great propylaeum of the lower platform; but, being triple, it was still more magnificent exhibiting two other entrances on either side of the main one, guarded each by a single pair of winged bulls of the smaller size. Along the hareem wall, from the gateway to the angle of the court, was a row of sculptured bas-reliefs, ten feet in height, representing the monarch with his attendant guards and officers. [PLATE XLIII., Fig. 3.] The facade occupying the end of the court was of inferior grandeur. [PLATE XLV., Fig.1. ] Sculptures similar to those along the hareem wall adorned it; but its centre showed only a single gateway, guarded by one pair of the larger bulls, fronting the spectator, and standing each in a sort of recess, the character of which will be best understood by the ground-plan in the illustration. Just inside the bulls was the great door of the palace, a single door made of wood-apparently of mulberry,—opening inwards, and fastened on the inside by a bolt at bottom, and also by an enormous lock. This door gave entrance into a passage, 70 feet long and about 10 feet wide, paved with large slabs of stone, and adorned on either side with inscriptions, and with a double row of sculptures, representing the arrival of tribute and gifts for the monarch. All the figures here faced one way, towards the inner palace court into which the passage led. M. Botta believes that the passage was uncovered; while Mx. Fergusson imagines that it was vaulted throughout. It must in any case have been lighted from above; for it would have been impossible to read the inscriptions, or even to see the sculptures, merely by the light admitted at the two ends.
From the passage in question—one of the few in the edifice—no doorway opened out either on the right hand or on the left. The visitor necessarily proceeded along its whole extent, as he saw the figures proceeding in sculptures, and, passing through a second portal, found himself in the great inner court of the palace, a square of about 100 or 160 feet, enclosed on two sides—the south-east and the south-west-by buildings, on the other two sides reaching to the edge of the terrace, which here gave upon, the open country. The buildings on the south-eastside, looking towards the north-west, and and joining the gateway by which the had entered, were of comparatively minor importance. They consisted of a few chambers suitable for officers of the court, and were approached from the court by two doorways, one on either side of the passage through which he had come. To his left, looking towards the north-east, were the great state apartments, the principal part of the palace, forming a facade, of which some idea may perhaps be formed from the representation. [PLATE XLVI.] The upper part of this representation is indeed purely conjectural; and when we come to consider the mode in which the Assyrian palaces were roofed and lighted, we shall perhaps find reason to regard it as not very near the truth; but the lower part, up to the top of the sculptures, the court itself, and the various accessories, are correctly given, and furnish the only perspective view of this part of the palace which has been as yet published.
The great state apartments consisted of a suite of ten rooms. Five of these were halls of large dimensions; one was a long and somewhat narrow chamber, and the remaining four were square or slightly oblong apartments of minor consequence. All of them were lined throughout with sculpture. The most important seem to have been three halls en-suite (VIII., V., and II. in the plan), which are, both in their external and internal decorations, by far the most splendid of the whole palace. The first lay just within the north-east facade, and ran parallel to it. It was entered by three doorways, the central one ornamented externally. with two colossal bulls of the largest size, one on either side within the entrance, and with two pairs of smaller bulls, back to back, on the projecting pylons; the side ones guarded by winged genii, human or hawk-headed. The length of the chamber was 116 feet 6 inches, and its breadth 33 feet. Its sculptures represented the monarch receiving prisoners, and either personally or by deputy punishing them: [PLATE XLV., Fig. 3.] We may call it, for distinction's sake, "the Hall of Punishment."
The second hall (V. in the plan) ran parallel with the first, but did not extend along its whole length. It measured from end to end about 86 feet, and from side to side 21 feet 6 inches. Two doorways led into it from the first chamber, and two others led from it into two large apartments. One communicated with a lateral hall (marked VI. in the plan), the other with the third hall of the suite which is here the special object of our attention. This third hall (II. in the plan) was of the same length as the first, but was less wide by about three feet. It opened by three doorways upon a square, court, which has been called "the Temple Court," from a building on one side of it which will be described presently.
The sculptures of the second and third halls represented in a double row, separated by an inscribed space about two feet in width, chiefly the wars of the monarch, his battles, sieges, reception of captives and of spoil, etc. The monarch himself appeared at least four times standing in his chariot, thrice in calm procession, and once shooting his arrows against his enemies. [PLATE XLV., Fig. 2.] Besides these, the upper sculptures on one side exhibited sacred ceremonies.
Placed at right angles to this primary suite of three halls were two others, one (IV. in the plan) of dimensions little, if at all, inferior to those of the largest (No. VIII), the other (VI. in the plan) nearly of the same length, but as narrow as the narrowest of the three (No. V.). Of these two lateral halls the former communicated directly with No. VIII., and also by a narrow passage room (III. in the plan with No. II.) The other had direct communication both with No. II and No. V., but none with No. VIII. With this hall (No. VI. ) three smaller chambers were connected (Nos. IX., XI., and XI.); with the other lateral hall, two only (Nos. III. and VII. ). One chamber attached to this block of buildings (I. in the plan) opened only on the Temple Court. It has been suggested that it contained a staircase; but of this there is no evidence.
The Temple Court—a square of 150 feet—was occupied by buildings on three sides, and open on one only—that to the north-west. The state apartments closed it in on the north-east, the temple on the south-west: on the south-east it was bounded by the range of buildings called "Priests' Rooms" in the plan, chambers of less pretension than almost any that have been excavated. The principal facade here was that of the state apartments, on the north-east. On this, as on the opposite side of the palace, were three portals; but the two fronts were not of equal magnificence. On the side of the Temple Court a single pair of bulls, facing the spectator, guarded the middle portals; the side portals exhibited only figures of genii, while the spaces between the portals were occupied, not with bulls, but merely with a series of human figures, resembling those in the first or outer court, of which a representation has been already given. Two peculiarities marked the south-east facade. In the first place, it lay in a perfectly straight line, unbroken by any projection, which is very unusual in Assyrian architecture. In the second place, as if to compensate for this monotony in its facial line, it was pierced by no fewer than five doorways, all of considerable width, and two of them garnished with bulls, of namely, the second and the fourth. The bulls of the second gateway were of the larger, those of the fourth were of the smaller size; they stood in the usual manner, a little withdrawn within the gateways and looking towards the spectator.
Of the curious building which closed in the court on the third or south-west side, which is believed to have been a temple, the remains are unfortunately very slight. It stood so near the edge of the terrace that the greater part of it has fallen into the plain. Less than half of the ground-plan is left, and only a few feet of the elevation. The building may originally have been a square, or it may have been an oblong, as represented in the plan. It was approached from the court by a a flight of stone stops, probably six in number, of which four remain in place. This flight of steps was placed directly opposite to the central door of the south-west palace facade. From the level of the court, to that of the top of the steps, a height of about six feet, a solid platform of crude brick was raised as a basis for the temple; and this was faced, probably throughout its whole extent, with a solid wall of hard black basalt, ornamented with a cornice in gray limestone, of which the accompanying figures are representations. [PLATE. XLV., Fig. 4.] above this the external work has disappeared. Internally, two chambers may be traced, floored with a mixture of stones and chalk; and round one of these are some fragments of bas-reliefs, representing sacred subjects, cut on the same black basalt as that by which the platform is cased, and sufficient to show that the same style of ornamentation prevailed here as in the palace.
The principal doorway on the north-west side of the Temple Court communicated by a passage, with another and similar doorway (d on the plan), which opened into a fourth court, the smallest and least ornamented of those on the upper platform.
The mass of building whereof this court occupied the centre, is believed to have constituted the hareem or private apartments of the monarch. It adjoined the state apartments at its northern angle, but had no direct communication with them. To enter it from them the visitor had either to cross the Temple Court and proceed by the passage above indicated, or else to go round by the great entrance (X in the plan ) and obtain admission by the grand portals on the south-west side of the outer court. These latter portals, it is to be observed, are so placed as to command no view into the Hareem Court, though it is opposite to them. The passages by which they gave entrance into that court must have formed some such angles as those marked by the dotted lines in the plan, the result being that visitors, while passing through the outer court, would be unable to catch any sight of what was going on in the Hareem Court. even if the great doors happened to be open. Those admitted so far into the palace as the Temple Court were more favored or less feared. The doorway (d) on the south-east side of the Hareem Court is exactly opposite the chief doorway on the north-west side of the Temple Court, and there can be no reasonable doubt that a straight passage connected the two.
It is uncertain whether the Hareem Court was surrounded by buildings on every side, or open towards the south-west. M. Botta believed that it was open; and the analogy of the other courts would seem to make this probable. It is to be regretted, however, that this portion of the great Khorsabad ruin still remains so incompletely examined. Consisting of the private apartments, it is naturally less rich in sculptures than other parts; and hence it has been comparatively neglected. The labor would, nevertheless, be well employed which should be devoted to this part of the ruin, as it would give us (what we do not now possess) the complete ground-plan of an Assyrian palace. It is earnestly to be hoped that future excavators will direct their efforts to this easily attainable and interesting object.
The ground-pins of the palaces, and some sixteen feet of their elevations, are all that fire and time have left us of these remarkable monuments. The total destruction of the upper portion of every palatial building in Assyria, combined with the want of any representation of the royal residences upon the bas-reliefs, reduces us to mere conjecture with respect to their height, to the mode in which they were roofed and lighted, and even to the question whether they had or had not an upper story. On these subjects various views have been put forward by persons entitled to consideration; and to these it is proposed now to direct the reader's attention.
In the first place, then, had they an upper story? Mr. Layard and Mr. Fergusson decide this question in the affirmative. Mr. Layard even goes so far as to say that the fact is one which "can no longer be doubted." He rests this conclusion on two grounds first, on a belief that "upper chambers" are mentioned in the Inscriptions, and, secondly, on the discovery by himself, in Sennacherib's palace at Koyunjik, of what seemed to be an inclined way, by which he supposes that the ascent was made to an upper story. The former of these two arguments must be set aside as wholly uncertain. The interpretation of the architectural inscriptions of the Assyrians is a matter of far too much doubt at present to serve as a groundwork upon which theories can properly be raised as to the plan of their buildings. With regard to the inclined passage, it is to be observed that it did not appear to what it led. It may have conducted to a gallery looking into one of the great halls, or to an external balcony overhanging an outer court; or it may have been the ascent to the top of a tower, whence a look-out was kept up and down the river. Is it not more likely that this ascent should have been made for some exceptional purpose, than that it should be the only specimen left of the ordinary mode by which one half of a palace was rendered accessible? It is to be remembered that no remains of a staircase, whether of stone or of wood have been found in any of the palaces, and that there is no other instance in any of them even of an inclined passage. Those who think the palaces had second stories, believe these stories to have been reached by staircases of wood, placed in various parts of the buildings, which were totally destroyed by the conflagrations in which the palaces perished. But it is at least remarkable that no signs have been found in any existing walls of rests for the ends of beams, or of anything implying staircases. Hence M. Botta, the most careful and the most scientific of recent excavators, came to a very positive conclusion that the Khorsabad buildings had had no second story, a conclusion which it would not, perhaps, be very bold to extend to Assyrian edifices generally.
It has been urged by Mr. Fergusson that there must have been an upper story, because otherwise all the advantage of the commanding position of the palaces, perched on their lofty platforms, would have been lost. The platform at Khorsabad was protected, in the only places where its edge has been laid bare, by a stone wall or parapet six feet in height. Such a parapet continued along the whole of the platform would effectually have shut out all prospect of the open country, both from the platform itself and also from the gateways of the palace, which are on the same level. Nor could there well be any view at all from the ground chambers, which had no windows, at any rate within fifteen feet of the floor. To enjoy a view of anything but the dead wall skirting the mound, it was necessary (Mr. Fergusson thinks) to mount to a second story, which he ingeniously places, not over the ground rooms, but on the top of the outer and party walls, whose structure is so massive that their area falls (he observes) but little short of the area of the ground-rooms themselves.
This reasoning is sufficiently answered, in the first place, by observing that we know not whether the Assyrians appreciated the advantage of a view, or raised their palace platforms for any such object. They may have constructed them for security only, or for greater dignity and greater seclusion. They may have looked chiefly for comfort and have reared them in order to receive the benefit of every breeze, and at the same time to be above the elevation to which gnats and mosquitoes commonly rise. Or there may be a fallacy in concluding, from the very slight data furnished by the excavations of M. Botta, that a palace platform was, in any case, skirted along its whole length, by a six-foot parapet. Nothing is more probable than that in places the Khorsabad parapet may have been very much lower than this; and elsewhere it is not even ascertained that any parapet at all edged the platform. On the whole we seem to have no right to conclude, merely on account of the small portions of parapet wall uncovered by M. Botta, that an upper story was a necessity to the palaces. If the Assyrians valued a view, they may easily have made their parapets low in places: if they cared so little for it as to shut it out from all their halls and terraces, they may not improbably have dispensed with the advantage altogether.
The two questions of the roofing and lighting of the Assyrian palaces are so closely connected together that they will most conveniently be treated in combination. The first conjecture published on the subject of roofing was that of M. Flandin. who suggested that the chambers generally—the great halls at any rate—had been ceiled with a brick vault. He thought that the complete filling up of the apartments to the height of fifteen or twenty feet was thus best explained; and he believed that there were traces of the fallen vaulting in the debris with which the apartments were filled. His conjecture was combated, soon after he put it forth, by M. Botta, who gave it as his opinion—first, that the walls of the chambers, notwithstanding their great thickness, would have been unable, considering their material, to sustain the weight, and (still more to bear) the lateral thrust, of a vaulted roof; and, secondly, that such a roof, if it had existed at all, must have been made of baked brick or stone-crude brick being too weak for the purpose—and when it fell must have left ample traces of itself within the apartments, whereas, in none of them, though he searched, could he find any such traces. On this latter point M. Botta and M. Flandin—both eye witnesses—were at variance. M. Flandin believed that he had seen such traces, not only in numerous broken fragments of burnt brick strewn through all the chambers, but in occasional masses of brick-work contained in some of them actual portions, as he thought, of the original vaulting. M. Botta, however, observed—first, that the quantity of baked brick within the chambers was quite insufficient for a vaulted roof; and, secondly, that the position of the masses of brickwork noticed by M. Flandin was always towards the sides, never towards the centres of the apartments; a clear proof that they had fallen from the upper part of the walls above the sculptures, and not from a ceiling covering the whole room. He further observed that the quantity of charred wood and charcoal within the chambers, and the calcined appearance of all the slabs, were phenomena incompatible with any other theory than that of the destruction of the palace by the conflagration of a roof mainly of wood.
To these arguments of M. Botta may be added another from the improbability of the Assyrians being sufficiently advanced in architectural science to be able to construct an arch of the width necessary to cover some of the chambers. The principle of the arch was, indeed, as will be hereafter shown, well known to the Assyrians, but hitherto we possess no proof that they were capable of applying it on a large scale. The widest arch which has been found in any of the buildings is that of the Khorsabad town-gate uncovered by M. Place, which spans a space of (at most) fourteen or fifteen feet. But the great halls of the Assyrian palaces have a width of twenty-five, thirty, and even forty feet. It is at any rate uncertain whether the constructive skill of their architects could have grappled successfully with the difficulty of throwing a vault over so wide an interval as even the least of these.
M. Botta, after objecting, certainly with great force, to the theory of M. Flandin, proceeded to suggest a theory of his own. After carefully reviewing all the circumstances, he gave it as his opinion that the Khorsabad building had been roofed throughout with a flat, earth-covered roofing of wood. He observed that some of the buildings on the bas-reliefs had flat roofs, that flat roofs are still the fashion of the country, and that the debris within the chambers were exactly such as a roof of that kind would be likely, if destroyed by fire, to have produced. He further noticed that on the floors of the chambers, in various parts of the palace, there had been discovered stone rollers closely resembling those still in use at Mosul and Baghdad, for keeping close-pressed and hard the earthen surface of such roofs; which rollers had, in all probability, been applied to the same use by the Assyrians, and, being kept on the roofs, had fallen through during the conflagration.
The first difficulty which presented itself here was one of those regarded as most fatal to the vaulting theory, namely, the width of the chambers. Where flat timber roofs prevail in the East, their span seems never to exceed twenty-five feet. The ordinary chambers in the Assyrian palaces might, undoubtedly, therefore, have been roofed in this way, by a series of horizontal beans laid across them from side to side, with the ends resting upon the tops of the side walls. But the great halls seemed too wide to have borne such a roofing without supports. Accordingly, M. Botts suggested that in the greater apartments a single or a double row of pillars ran down the middle, reaching to the roof and sustaining it. His theory was afterwards warmly embraced by Mr. Fergusson, who endeavored to point out the exact position of the pillars in the three great halls of Sargon at Khorsabad. It seems, however, a strong and almost a fatal objection to this theory, that no bases of pillars have been found within the apartments, nor any marks on the brick floors of such bases or of the pressure of the pillars. M. Botta states that he made a careful search for bases, or for marks of pillars, on the pavement of the north-east hall (No. VIII.) at Khorsabad, but that he entirely failed to discover any. This negative evidence is the more noticeable as stone pillar-bases have been found in wide doorways, where they would have been less necessary than in the chambers, as pillars in doorways could have had but little weight to sustain.