James Frederick McCurdy.

History, prophecy and the monuments (Volume 2) online

. (page 25 of 39)
Online LibraryJames Frederick McCurdyHistory, prophecy and the monuments (Volume 2) → online text (page 25 of 39)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

ness prevailed in Palestine till the end of the reign of
Sargon. The importance of his action may be inferred
from the particularizing of time and circumstances ; and
we may well believe that the wearing of a captive's attire
for three years by an aristocrat and patriot like Isaiah, was
the last resort of appeal, remonstrance, and warning. And
yet the consequences, however salutary for the time, were
not permanent. We are devoid of historical notices from
any source for the affairs of Judah for the next four or
five years. But with the death of Sargon and the begin-
ning of a new reign, we find the old conditions restored,
and everything ready for a revolt in the West to be sup-
ported by Egypt.



§ 660. Meanwhile, Sargon was busily occupied in the
East. My readers will recall his earlier campaign which
followed the accession or usurpation of Merodach-baladan
in Babylon, and resulted in the evacuation of the country
by the Assyrians (§ 621 ff.). For nearly twelve years
(721-710) the Chaldsean maintained himself in the ancient
capital, secure in alliance with the Elamites and in the
friendship or fealty of the intervening Aramaean tribes.
Yet he failed to secure what he had gained. The old
established classes he never succeeded in conciliating,
perhaps .because he found it impossible to satisfy the
multitude of hungry adventurers from the sea-land with-
out large levies upon the property-holders, whom, in some
cases, he actually expropriated. Moreover, the priestly
families, who for a time favoured Assyrian protection as
against the Chaldsean barbarians, continued to hold them-
selves aloof from him, in readiness to welcome the advent
of Sargon, as they had formerly greeted the victorious
Tiglathpileser (§ 339).

§ 661. The conduct of this, the most decisive and
important of the wars of Sargon, indicates the progress
he had made during eleven years in military skill and
resource. In 721 the same foe was not nearly so strong
or so well entrenched as he came to be after j-ears of
self-aggrandizement in Babylon, and j^et Sargon then
found it prudent to retire from the field after a short
campaign. The Chaldeean, however, was now deprived of



one very great advantage which he formerly possessed —
the active and prompt assistance of the Elamites, which
was perhaps restrained by the superior force of the Assyr-
ians. Sargon's jjlan of campaign is here more easily fol-
lowed, on the whole, than in most other Assyrian wars.
It embraced two main movements. Babylon itself was
not directly approached. The main endeavour was on
the one hand to crush the immediate source of the enemy's
strength, namely the Chaldsean forces and the Aramseaii
auxiliaries, and on the other to render impossible the
interference of the Elamites. Now, inasmuch as the
most important Aramaean allies of Merodach-baladan had
their camping-grounds along the Tigris directly between
Babylonia and Elam, the occupation of their territory
would at the same time erect a barrier against the
Elamites. It was here, then, that the first blow was
struck. The Gambulians between the Tigris and the
lower reaches of the river Uknu (the modern Kercha),
who had entrenched themselves in a strong fortress, were
overwhelmed, and a great multitude of them taken pris-
oners. The other Aramtean tribes fled eastward over the
Uknu and took refuge in Elamitic territory. Their
domains were made a new Assyrian province, some border
towns in Elam itself were also taken, and the king of
Elam in terror fled to his native mountains.

§ 662. Meanwhile another force of Assyrians, with
Sargon himself at their head, marched against the Chal-
dcean tribes. Bit-dakkuri, not far to the southeast of
Babylon itself, was made the base of operations. The
intervening country submitted to Sargon, and Merodach-
baladan, dreading a revolt in Babylon on the part of
the leading citizens, resolved to escape from the twofold
threateninor dano'er. ITis first reliance was the king of
Elam. If a junction could be effected with his people,
the allies might make head against the Assyrians, as they
had done in the campaign that secured his sovereignty
over Babylonia. But the times, as well as the men, had


changed. Above all, the new king of Elam was no
fighter, especially against odds. Besides, he was already
a fuo-itive in the mountains. The Chaldsean leader be-
took himself to the Aramaean territory of Yatbur, east
of the Tigris and north of the tribes already annexed to
Assyria. Thence he sent to the Elamitic king. The
mission was fruitless, and the helpless Merodach-baladan,
seeing all hope cut off, was obliged to march southward
to his hereditary domain with his small band of faithful

§ 663. The fugitive king of Babylon was now reckoned
as a usurper, and the inhabitants of the city, who seemed
somewhat weary of Chaldsean domination, invited to their
midst by a solemn deputation and gladly welcomed the
great conqueror, who vowed to protect their estates from
spoliation and their temples from desecration. The pious
sacrifices were duly performed by the devout champion
of the ancient cults and the guardian of their immemorial
shrines. By further restoring neglected and decayed
public works, especially the canal which united Borsippa
and Babylon,! ^■^^^[ i^y clearing the neighbourhood of preda-
tory tribes whom the Chaldsean regime had tolerated and
perhaps encouraged, he completely won over the hearts of
the Babylonians. On the next New Year's day, the first of
Nisan, he "clasped the hands of Bel and Nebo" (cf. § 341).

§ 664. Saroron would thus seem to have reached the
goal of his ambition and the summit of his hopes. But
Merodach-baladan was still alive and in armed possession
of his native domains. The capital, Dur-Yakin, he was
able to fortify during the winter months, while Sargon
was occupied in Babylon. There also he placed a garri-
son drawn from Ur, Erech, and other South Babylonian
cities. His fortifications he made exceedingly strong, and
he availed himself especially of that well-tried resource, —
the readiest and surest to beleaguered Chaldseans, — the
digging of moats and canals around the fortress. But all

1 See Par., p. 192.


was of no avail against the overwhelming forces of Sargon,
who succeeded in crossing the canals, defeated the Clial-
dtean troops under the walls, and in a short time thereafter
gained possession of the city itself. Merodach-baladan con-
trived to escape to the inaccessible marshes at the mouth
of the Rivers. (710 B.C.)

§ 665. Sargon had now unlimited opportunity to play
on a grand scale the role of the pious restaurator and the
benefactor of all his subjects, new and old. That the
Chaldsean was a despoiler may be taken for granted, and
the claim of Sargon that he restored to the people of
Babylonia the lands which Merodach-baladan had confis-
cated and given to his barbarian allies is doubtless true
enough. But to give implicit credence to his claim that
he everywhere restored the worship of their own gods to
the cities and temples that had been occupied and dese-
crated by the "■ usurper," is to yield too much. The very
names of the Chakhean rulers attest their own ancestral
worship of Nebo and Merodach ; and it is easier to believe
that Merodach-baladan was an adventurer and a semi-barba-
rian, than that he was a persecutor or iconoclast.^ Every
defeated or dethroned monarch was among the ancient Sem-
ites a despiser of the gods and a subverter of their worship ;
and the successful rival knew well how, by liberal donations
and zeal in building and decorating, to utilize the presumed
favour of his celestial patrons. The bulletins issued by
Merodach-baladan seven years later, when he again as-
sumed the throne of Babylon, doubtless presented the
devout Sargon in an equally unfavourable light.

§ G66. The work of conquest was completed by an act
which patriotic Babylonians should have resented fully as
much as their former subjection to their Chakhean kindred.
Cappadocians were now placed in Bit-Yrdcin and the sur-
rounding country, whose inhabitants were in their turn
deported to the forfeited homes of the new settlers. East-
ern Cappadocia (Kummuch) had been stirred up by the

iHis inscription of 714 b.c. (see KB. HI, 1, 184 ff.) is quite orthodox.


Armenians to revolt, but was overrun and finally converted
into an Assyrian province about the time of the close of
the Chaldajan war. The Moschseans (Muske), who had
not come into direct conflict with Assyria since the days
of Tiglathpileser I (§ 179), but who had been now for
years in active opposition (§ 627 ff.), were also subdued
and wasted by the governor of Cilicia (Kue). An embassy
bearing propitiatory gifts from this people on the north
of the Taurus greeted Sargon upon the frontiers of Media.
There also ambassadors were received from cities in distant
Cyprus (where there has been found a monolith of Sargon
with an inscription, now in the Berlin Museum), and from
the island Dilmun in the Persian Gulf. The other and
later military undertakings of Sargon and his generals are
of a local character and of subordinate importance. He
had now reached the goal which he had set to himself at
the beginning of his career. The old boundaries of the
empire were maintained or enlarged. Babylonia, Syria,
and the northern regions from east to west were made
secure. Egypt and Elam, on the extreme limits of his
possessions, were rendered harmless as rivals or enemies.
Never before in the history of his race, had conquest
been made so sure and effective, or afforded such promise
of permanence.

§ 667. Sargon could now devote himself without fear
of serious interruption to the perpetuation of his fame by
arts of peace. The greatest of his works was the founding
of the city of Dur-Sarrukin (the modern Khorsabad) a few
miles north of Nineveh, whose name was given to it in imi-
tation of the cit}' of Sargon I, situated in the same position
relatively to Babylon. He had previously made, like his
predecessors, his residence at Kalach (Nimrud) where he
had rebuilt the northwest palace of Asshurnasirpal. In
the new city he erected a magnificent palace which has
remained, since its excavation and exploration by Botta
(1843-4) and Place (1852), the most complete representa-
tion of Assyrian architecture which has been preserved to us.


§ 668. This appropriate home for the most powerful
ruler and greatest benefactor whom Assyria had yet known
was not long tenanted by a royal occupant. The inscrip-
tions with which its halls were profusely sculptured were
destined to inform posterity, rather than to remind their
hero, of his achievements and virtues (cf. § 359). It was
duly occupied in 706, and in the summer of the next year
Sargon died by the hand of an assassin.



§ 669. The assassin of Sargon seems to have been a
common soldier, and this fact would suggest that he was
the instrument of a more powerful intriguer. When we
add to this the circumstance that his son and successor
never mentions his name in his numerous inscriptions,
there is possibly ground for the conjecture that he was the
victim of an uprising instigated by the latter. On what
o-round any rival of Sargon could appeal to popular prej-
udice it is difficult to see, since he was undoubtedly one
of the most beneficent of rulers to his immediate subjects.
Possibly the conspiracy was confined to the new city of
Sargon which he had populated, in what seems to us as a
very impolitic fashion, with prisoners taken in " the four
quarters of the world." It was on the twelfth of Ab
(July-August), that Sinacherib ("Sin has increased the
brothers," 705-681) ascended the throne. Sinacherib is
the best known to moderns of all the kings of Assyria on
account of his prominence in Biblical history. His tradi-
tional reputation, based on the Scripture story, is amply
sustained by his own self-betraying inscriptions. He was
boastful, arrogant, cruel, and revengeful to a degree un-
common even in Assyrian kings.

§ 670. Perhaps the most striking evidence of Sinache-
rib's unlikeness to his great predecessor is furnished by his
attitude towards the Babylonian question and his treat-
ment of the Babylonians. That country was the first to
engage his attention. Sargon had trusted the enthusiastic



feelingf manifested towards him at the time of his occu-
pation in 709 (§ 663). With reverence for the ancient
home of Semitic civilization, he refused the honour of
being an actual resident king-, and contented himself with
representation through a vicegerent, who was, however,
not to be an Assyrian vassal. His aim evidently had been
to promote the permanent influence of the Babylonian
temples and schools, and to utilize both of these time-
honoured institutions for the developuicnt and presfir/e of
his own proper country by extending to them his patron-
age and protection. Sinaclierib, on the other hand, who
had immediately quitted the " City of Sargon '' (§ 667),
perhaps on account of the unpleasant associations con-
nected with his father's death, and fixed his residence in
Nineveh, determined to make that city the religious and
intellectual centre of the world, and belittled proportion-
ally the fame and influence of Babylon.

§ 671. It must be confessed, however, that the affairs
of Babylonia at his accession were not in such a condition
as to naturally invite a very considerate or tolerant treat-
ment. It soon appeared indeed that he would have to
choose between letting Babylonia drift outside the sphere
of Assyrian influence or setting things in order with a heavy
hand. It was clear, at an}' rate, that the altogether ex-
ceptional and un-Assyrian regime of home-rule established
by Sargon could not last. The first ruler of Babylonia after
the accession of Sinaclierib, of whom we know anything,
was Marduk-zdkir-sum (" Merodach announces the name ").
We have the authority of Berossus for the statement that
he put aside the brother of Sinaclierib and made himself
king. This was done in defiance of Sinacherib, who was
of course the nominal king for the preceding two years
(705-703), and in fact so appears in the Canon of Ptolemy.
The adventurer's reign lasted, however, but one month,
after which he was, in his turn, thrust out by no less a
personage than the ii'repressible Merodach-baladan himself
(§621 fl;., 637, 660 ff.), who, we may be sure, had been



scheming and intriguing all the preceding six years. Now
seeing that his old kingdom was going so cheap, he thought
it absurd that he should not be foremost among the pre-

§ 672. During his short reign he set about establishing
himself in the old fashion by cementing alliances with the
other Chaldaean princes, to whom he was a natural leader,
and to many of whom he was hereditary over-lord ; also
with the Aramssan chiefs, and the king of Elam. He soon
had sore need of their aid; for Sinacherib, nine months after
the accession of the Chaldsean, descended upon the land,
and meeting him with his allies, not far from Babylon, at a
place called Kish, defeated him utterly. Merodach-baladan
escaped this time also, though Assyrian troops spent five
days in searching for him among the marshes, to which he
had betaken himself.

§ 673. Sinacherib immediately occupied Babylon, where,
apparently in confident reliance upon his recovered author-
ity and his renewed alliance with the Elamites, Merodach-
baladan had left all his treasure and the members of his
household. These became the spoil of the conqueror, who
further proceeded to make all the Chaldsean adherents
throughout Babylonia feel that the Assyrians henceforth
were to be undisputed masters. Cities to the number of
seventy-five, in Chaldsea proper, with four hundred and
twenty neighbouring villages, were taken and spoiled. The
inhabitants of other cities, both in North and in South
Babylonia, who had shown sympathy with the Chaldsean
cause, including the capital itself, were taken away as
prisoners. A like fate was shared by the Aramsean allies,
the number of whose prisoners deported to Assyria was
reckoned at two hundred and eight thousand, along with
nearly a million of large and small cattle. Sinacherib now
set a king over the Babylonians, Bel-ihnl by name (other-
wise Bel-epus), who had been brought up in his own palace
"like a little pet dog," as the inscription phrases it.^ Chal-

1 Bellino Cylinder, line 13. See Note 9 in Appendix.


dsea was, we may assume, put in charge of a military
administrator directly under the king of Assyria. As the
malcontents were found in every corner of the land, the
mock kingship at the capital, by the grace of Asshur, was
intended merely as a compromise and makeshift till the
time should come for the formal annexation of the whole
country. Meanwhile the titular king, whoever he might
be, was always treated as the creature of Sinacherib.

§ 674. Closely upon these undertakings, though whether
immediately or not is uncertain, followed two successful
expeditions, the one directed against the Kasshites, who
had, as in the old times, been harassing the Babylonian
border, and the other against Ellip, a neighbour and ally
of Elam. In both cases hard measure was dealt out to
the inhabitants. The Kasshites received an Assyrian resi-
dent viceroy. Many of them were constrained, by the
burning of their tents and other drastic measures, to relin-
quish their nomadic mode of life and dwell in fixed habi-
tations. The people of Ellip were still more harshly dealt
with for their fidelity to Elam. They had to witness the
desolation of their homes while they themselves were
being dragged into captivity. In the Kasshite war, if his
chronicler is to be trusted, the king showed marvellous
enterprise and endurance, scaling on foot the almost im-
passable mountains, and leading the way to the hitherto
inaccessible retreats of the savage mountaineers. On his
return march from the invasion of Ellip, tribute was sent
him from some of the remote districts of Media, of which
he claims that the very name was unknown to his prede-
cessors. These transactions taken together probably filled
out the years 703 and 702.



§ 675. The year 701 witnessed an enterprise of far
greater imjDortance — a march to the West-land followed
by an ignominious retreat. I cannot do better than to
present the reader at once with the Great King's own
official account of the expedition. It is translated from
his principal inscription, and follows directly upon the
detailed report of the events last described above, which
are assigned to his "second expedition." It reads as
follows (Col. 11,34 &.y: In my third expedition I marched
to the land of the Hettites. ^^ Lull, king of the city
of Sidon — fear of the sheen ^^ of my sovereignty over-
whelmed him, and he fled to a remote place ^" in the midst
of the sea, and I placed his land (under my yoke).
2^ Great Sidon, Little Sidon, ^^ Beth-Ziti, Sarepta, Mahalliba,
^ Usii, Akzibi (Ekdippa), Akko, ^^ his strong cities, his
fortresses, granaries, ^^ reservoirs, and barracks — the miglit
of the weapons '*^of Asshur my lord overwhelmed them
and they submitted ^at my feet. Tuba'al (Ithobal) on
the throne of royalty *^I set over them. Tribute and
offerings of my suzerainty ^^ yearly, without fail, I im-
posed upon him. *' As to Menahem of Samsiruna,
*8 Ithobal of Sidon, ^SAbdili'tu of Arvad, ^^ Urumilku of
Byblos, 51 MitintI of Ashdod, ^^ Pudu'il the Beth-Ammon-
ite, 52 Chemosh-nadab the ISIoabite, ^4 Melekram the
Edomite, ^s all the kings of the West-land, regions ^ wide-
extended, their weighty offerings with (other) belongings

1 III the "Taylor Cylinder," I R. 38, 34-39, 41.


^'they brought before me and kissed my feet. ^^ And
Zedekia, king of Askalon, ^^ who had not submitted to
my yoke — his ancestral gods, himself, ^^his wife, his sons,
his daughters, his brothers, his kindred ^^ I took away and
deported to Assyria. ^^Sarludari son of Rukibtu, their
former king ^^ I set over the people of Askalon : the ren-
dering of tribute ^* and gifts of my sovereignty I imposed
upon him, and so he became my vassal. ^^In the course
of my expedition, Beth-Dagon, ^^Joppa, Banai-Barka,
Azurn, ^'cities of Zedekia, which at my feet ^^had not
promptly submitted, I besieged. I took, I carried off their
spoil. ^^ The lords, the nobles, and people of Ekron,
'''who Padi their king, against their covenants and oath
"1 to Assyria, had cast into iron fetters, and to Hezekiah,
'2 the Judaite had given him up with hostile intent (and
he shut him up in a dungeon) — "-^ their heart was afraid.
The kings of Egypt, '^and the archers, chariots, and horses
of the king of Meliiha, '^a countless army, they invoked,
and they came ''^ to their relief. In view of Elteke " their
battle array was set against me, and they made appeal to
"^ their weapons. With the support of Asshur my lord,
with them '^ I fought and accomplished their defeat.
^^ The captain of the chariots and the sons of the Egyptian
king ^^ along with the captain of the chariots of the king
of Meliiha alive ®'^ my hands took in the thick of the
battle. Elteke *^'^and Timnath I besieged and took and
carried off their spoil. (Col. Ill) ^I drew near to Ekron,
the lords ^and the nobles who had committed sin I slew,
and 2 on stakes round about the city I suspended their
corpses. ■* The people of the city who had done crime and
wickedness ^ I made captive. The rest of them '^ who
had not practised sin and vileness and whose guilt " was
not apparent, I declared acquitted. Pad! ^ their king from
the midst of Jerusalem '-' I brought forth, and upon the
tin-one of dominion over them ^"^ I set, and the tribute of
my suzerainty ^^ I imposed upon him. And Hezekiah ^- the
Judaite who had not submitted to my yoke — ^-^46 of his


fenced cities, and fortresses, and small towns ^*in their
vicinity without number, ^^by breaking them down with
battering-rams and the strokes of ... ^^ the assaults of
the breach-stormers(?) and the blows of axes and hatch-
ets, ^^ I besieged and took. 200,150 persons, small and
great, male and female, ^^ horses, mules, asses, camels, large
cattle, ^^ small cattle, without number, I brought forth
from the midst of them, ^Oand allotted as spoil. As for
himself like a caged bird in Jerusalem ^^his capital city,
I shut him up. Forts against him ^I constructed, and any
who would go out of the city gate I caused ^^ to turn back.
His cities, which I had spoiled, from his land ^^I cut off;
and to Mitinti king of Ashdod, ^^ Padi king of Ekron,
and Sil-Bel -^king of Gaza I gave, and so curtailed his
territory. ^' To the former tribute, their yearly contri-
bution, 28 the gifts due to my sovereignty, I made an
addition and ^9 imposed it upon them. As for Hezekiah
himself, ^*^the fear of the lustre of my sovereignty over-
whelmed him; and ^Hhe Arabs and his (other) devoted
warriors, ^^whom to strengthen Jerusalem his capital city
22 he had introduced there, became seized with panic fear.
2* Together with 30 talents of gold and 800 talents of
silver ^^ . . . great stores of lapis-lazuli, ^6 couches of ivory,
arm chairs of ivory (covered) with elephant hide, ^^ ivory
tusks . . . wood . . . wood, and such like, an immense
treasure, ^^his daughters, his palace-women, men-singers,
29 women-singers, to Nineveh my capital ^^ I made him
bring ; and for the rendering of the tribute *^ and making
homage, he sent his ambassador."

§ 676. So runs the report of the Great King. In order
to understand it we must read it in the light of parallel
accounts from other sources, and also bear in mind that
the Assyrian official records, while correct in the main, are
apt to exaggerate successes and to gloss over reverses, or
omit entirely to mention them. In order to make a fair
comparison with the Biblical story it is necessary to get
from both sources a broad view of the whole international


situation. We must bear in mind that one report is
written from the Assyrian imperial standpoint, and the

Online LibraryJames Frederick McCurdyHistory, prophecy and the monuments (Volume 2) → online text (page 25 of 39)