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the estuaries of the Rivers in their boats and, when not dis-
lodged by the Assyrian garrisons, to reoccupy their old
abodes, and thus gradually win back from foreign alle-
giance the land of their fathers. When attacked and
pursued by the troops of Asshur, they found it an easy
task to reach their secure retreats by familiar ways. The
sequel also shows that most of the merchant vessels of


the Babylonian cities ^ must have been at the disposal
of the patriotic freebooters, else Sinacherib would have
availed himself of their aid. The Chaldaean colony across
the Gulf, cut off from ordinary approach by the interven-
ing territory of Elam, and continually strengthened by
accessions of refugees, had become a serious menace to the
Assyrian government, and must at all hazards be broken
up. This was done by means of an ingenious undertaking
carried out in 694 B.C. with the energy and pertinacity so
characteristic of the Assyrian people. The plan and its
execution illustrate at the same time the resources and
organization of the empire better than any other single
recorded action of the time.

§ 737. The wide-spread maritime activity of the Phoeni-
cian people, their enterprise, skill, and courage have been
frequently referred to in this history (§ 66, 97, 206, 683).
It was characteristic of the rulers of Assyria at the height
of its power to utilize not only the products of its various
subject states, but also the genius of their people. The
West-land particularly had from time immemorial been
spoiled of its costliest productions by the ruling dynasties
of the East (§ 96, 99). The cedars of Lebanon and
Amanus were found in every palace and temple of the
great capitals. Modes of Syrian architecture were intro-
duced by jDredecessors of Sinacherib,^ of course under the
direction of Syrian architects. Prisoners had been made
of the maritime western peoples in great numbers in the
preceding years. Phcenician sailors were familiar with
the navigation of the Persian Gulf as well as of the Red
Sea. Here was an opportunity of making a good use of
these clever newly acquired servants of Asshur. They

^ Some idea of the extent of the shipping interests of Babylonia may
be gained from K. 4378 (AL''' 88), Col. v, vi, whei-e a list of the varimis
kinds of vessels is given according to the place of building, form and
style, or dedication to a particular deity ; also of the parts of a ship.
Cf. Isa. xliii. 14.

2 Of. § 341 ; Sarg. Cyl. 04 ; Khors. 10-2, etc.


were set to make ships for the Assyrian overlord, and
then to man them. Nagitu, the asylum of the trouble-
some Chaldsean refugees, was inaccessible by land. The}^
and they alone, could be relied on to reach them by sea.
" Lofty ships, after the model of their own country," were
built on the Tigris, near Nineveh, and at Til-Barsip by the
farthest western course of the Euphrates,^ about seven
hundred miles from the sea !

§ 738. When the ships had been made ready, they were
brought down the Rivers to the shores of the Gulf. The
sailors were sea-faring people, prisoners of war, according
to Sinacherib, from Tyre, Sidon, and Cyprus. The troops
were put on board not far from Babylon, while the king
and his retinue marched along the bank. Here a novel
and unexpected peril threatened the valiant "monarch of
the four quarters of the world." Having made a camp
for the body-guard a few miles from the sea close by
the ships, he and his party were surprised by a flood-
tide, which rose and submerged their tents, so that they
were fain to take to the vessels. Here they had to stay
five days and nights, " as it were in a great cage." After
this experience the king had no mind to try personally
either the shore or the sea route. The soldiers and sailors,
however, after the priestly blessing had been given, and
costly sacrifices of a golden ship and a golden fish had
been made to Ea, the god of the deep, set bravely forth,
arrived without mishap on the Elamitic side of the Gulf,
took and plundered Nagitu, and sundry neighbouring set-
tlements of the hated Chaldseans, brought away much
booty and many prisoners, — but no Merodach-baladan !
By this time, let us hope, he had laid his bones to rest

1 See Par. 141, 263 f. ; KGF. 199 f. Delitzsch (Par. 141) reminds us
of the somewhat similar undertaking of Alexander the Great, who, for
the conquest of Arabia, had ships made in Cyprus and Phcenicia, and
carried overland in sections to Thapsacus on the Euphrates, whence they
were brought on their natural element to Babylon : Arrian, vii, 19, 3 ;
Strabo, xvi, 1, 11.


beside those of his ancestors (§ 734). The Great King, in
his secure position above the highest flood-tide, welcomed
back his trusty warriors and their spoil with his wonted
self-complacency. 1

§ 739. Thus one of the main obstacles to Assyrian pre-
dominance in Babylonia was taken out of the way. But
there still remained the hereditary Elamitic foe, and most
dangerous of all, the patriotic citizens in Babylon, Borsippa,
and Akkad, embittered against Sinacherib and his house
by the dread of national obliteration and the degradation
of their stately worship. Whether the Great King had as
able generals in Babylonia as in the West-land we do not
know. In any case they seem to have left the eastern bor-
der insufficiently guarded. Scarcely had Sinacherib re-
turned with his Chaldoean trophies to Nineveh, when (B.C.
694) the king of Elam overran North Babylonia, took
possession of Sippar (§ 94), and put its inhabitants to the
sword.2 His next step was to dethrone Sinacherib's son,
Asshurnadin-sum, and carry him off to Elam. In his place
he set up a native Babylonian, Nergal-usezib by name, "who
without delay undertook to undo the late Assyrian achieve-
ments in the south. But he had not proceeded far on his
way when he was overtaken by an Assyrian army from the
north, made prisoner, and carried to the land of his cap-
tors. Suzub^ the Chaldcean (§ 733) now seized the oppor-
tunity and seated himself upon the throne of Babylon. As
an enemy of the Assyrians he was as acceptable to the
native patriots as one of their own fellow-citizens. Under
him they enthusiastically joined their forces to those of the
Elamites (692 B.C.), who themselves had in the short inter-
val since 694 passed through two revolutions, and were
now enjoying the rule of Umman-menanu, a man of talent

1 This famous expedition is given most fully in III R. 12 f.

- For accurate information upon tliis and the subsequent events we are
indebted to Bab. Chr. II 39 ff.

8 Called in Bab. Chr. Musezib-Marduk. Either he made the change
after coming to the throne, or the shorter name is an abbreviation.


and resolution.^ His leadership of the allied forces was so
successful that in a great battle fought at Halule, on the
banks of the Tigris (691 B.C.), he administered to Sinach-
erib a severe check,^ if not a defeat, by which he was com-
pelled to retire to Assyria, eager though he was to avenge
the fate of his son and the usurpation of his authority.

§ 740. But the valiant Elamite was disabled by a
stroke of paralj^sis in the spring of 689.^ His protection
of Babylon had, however, been so effective that the Great
King did not venture to reclaim it for two years after the
battle. Now that the land was deprived of its most power-
ful defender, Sinacherib descended upon it in vengeance
and fury. In November of the same year Babylon was
taken and its Chaldaean king carried to Nineveh. The
treatment accorded to the doomed city has placed upon
the record of Sinacherib its darkest blot. His vindictive
cruelty was here only equalled by his almost incredible
impiety. The sacred and venerable city was burned to
ashes and levelled to the ground, its people remorselessly
put to death or sent into captivity, and the waters of the
Euphrates being turned upon its site, reduced it to a marshy
waste. The destruction of Babylon by Sinacherib may be
counted among the calamities of human history. For lack
of detailed description the imagination must supply a pict-
ure of the horrors of the scene, and of the wanton and
irreparable devastation and ruin. The monuments of lit-
erature, art, and science, the annals of temples* and dynas-

1 An opinion which is perhaps confirmed by Sinacherib's statement
(Taylor Cylinder, V, 21 f.), that "he had no sense or judgment."

2 A defeat, according to Bab. Chr. Ill, 18, and the subsequent indica-
tions. It must also be regarded as in some measure confirmatory that
Sinacherib describes the battle (V, 47-VI, 23) with a circumstantiality
and boastfulness worthy of a Falstaff.

2 Bab. Chr. Ill, 19 ff. He was deprived of the power of speech, but
he did not die till eleven months later (III, 25) ; that is, after the capture
of Babylon.

* Each of the great Babylonian temples, apart from its directly relig-
ious functions, was a huge business and scientific institution. With its


ties for thousands of years, the archives of ancient families,
the records of treaties and of legal and business transactions,
the military and astronomical reports, the chronological
notices — all these, and numberless other treasures of Baby-
lonian life, thought, and history, became the prey of a venge-
ful fury more destructive and infinitely less excusable than
the vandalism of Kasshites or Elamites. Doubtless much
that was of religious or historical value was rescued through
the foresight and activity of officials. But this could only
have been little compared with what fell a prey to the
ruthless malignity of the narrow-minded conqueror.^

§ 7-11. Eight years more of life were vouchsafed to the
devastator of Judah and Babylonia. Over the latter country
he proclaimed himself absolute king^ — the first Assyrian
who claimed to rule there by the grace of Asshur and not
by the grace of Bel and Nebo (cf. § 341). We can form
only a general conception of his regime, for no particulars
are as yet made known to us. Nor are we much better
informed as to his activity in other directions. An expedi-
tion to northern Arabia against a certain Hazael, which we
learn of (§ 755) from his son Esarhaddon, was probably not
conducted by him in person. The enterprise itself may
have been undertaken in view of aggression from the side
of Egypt, or with an eye to the subjection of that country,
which was finally accomplished by his son and successor.^
The closing years of his life were, we must believe, mainly

observatory and corps of observers and calculators, it was a centre of
astrological and astronomical study. It was also a proprietor and mana-
ger of gi-eat and numerous properties, with a vast number of employees.
"On the material side it must be conceived of as a combination of landed
property and factory, while at the same time it was kept running as a
bank, a depository of records, and business establishment generally."
Peiser, Babi/lonische Vertrilge (1890), p. xviii.

1 The taking of Babylon is described in the Bavian Inscription, lines
43 ff ; and its ruin, by Esarhaddon the restorer, in I R. 40 Col. I, II.

2 Bab. Chr. Ill, 28, says signiticantly : "Eight years there was no
king in Babylon," that is, it was ruled directly from Nineveh.

3 According to an ingenious hypothesis of Winckler (GBA. p. 254 f. ;
256 ff.), the occurrences described in 2 K. xix. 3-37 are to be connected


occupied with architectural works, for the embellishmeut
of Nineveh, his chosen residence, and the erection and
restoration of temples to his gods — a work which claimed
the constant care of every Assyrian monarch in the inter-
vals of his military campaigns and especially in the later
years of his reign. Insurrections of a minor character
were left to be settled by his generals. It is possible that
his natural self-confidence made him careless as to the suc-
cess of attempts against his person and authority. How-
ever this may be, his life and tyranny were brought to a
sudden end on the 20th of Tebet (December), 681 B.C., by
a conspiracy and insurrection headed by two of his sons.

§ 742. Sinacherib, on account of his prominent place
in Old Testament history, is the best known to moderns
of all the kings of Assyria. His character and disposition,
base, harsh, and cruel to the last degree, give a fair indica-
tion of the tendencies of unlimited power under a military
regime in a semi-barbaric age. Yet Assyria, as a nation,
was capable of some progress in other spheres of thought
and activity than those of mere material interest ; and
Sinacherib had no part in raising it above the level to
which it had been brought by his great predecessors of
the century that closed with his accession. He showed,
indeed, some appreciation of art, at least in its utilitarian
applications. His new canals and aqueducts ^ were numer-
ous and beneficent. His two palaces ^ on the western side
of Nineveh were larger and handsomer than any which
had as yet adorned the city. The more southerly, an
arsenal and barracks, built of hewn stone, followed the

with this expedition. That is to say, the second part of the Biblical nar-
rative has to do with occurrences which took place after the fall of Baby-
lon in 689 and not in 701. The assumption is supported by some plausible
arguments ; but apart from other difficulties in the way of its acceptance,
it is hard for us to believe that facts of history, which were so notorious
among all educated circles in Israel, could have been wilfully and pub-
licly so distorted by the sacred writers.

1 Bavian Inscription, lines 6 ff.

2 Taylor Cylinder, VI, 33 ff. ; Constantinople Cyl. (I R. 44), lines 55 ff.


Syrian style of architecture, which his father had also
favoured (§ 737). These structures could not compete in
grandeur or in wealth of sculptural embellishment with
the magnificent palace erected by Sargon at Khorsabad
(§ 607). But they were notable in the upbuilding of the
city which was to become the greatest repository of Assyr-
ian civilization.

§ 743. Other illustrations of his devotion to Nineveh
wholly repel our sympathy. His policy of centralism,
narrow, illiberal, and reactionary, was carried out not only
with remorseless cruelty, bat with injurious results to his
own proper kingdom, which he sought to aggrandize. His
treatment of Babylonia resembles in one of its aspects
the policy pursued by the present Sultan of Turkey
towards his Christian subjects. In another it reminds us
of that followed by Louis XIV towards the Protestants
of France. It was disastrous to the oppressed and
outraged people ; but it also reacted disastrously upon
himself and his own administration. What Assyria needed
most was the refining and softening influence of intel-
lectual culture and of genial manners. She stood now at
the point of time most favourable for the introduction of
milder influences, Avhen the new empire, welded together
by the force and wisdom of his predecessors, might have
been consolidated on the basis of a just and enlightened
government. Instead of utilizing the artistic skill and
the scientific knowledge of the Babylonians, he dis-
couraged and repelled them. Instead of seeking to con-
ciliate that ancient nationality, which controlled the gate-
ways to the sea and claimed the intellectual homage of
the world, and so forming an august united empire, he
alienated from Assyria the elements that were indis-
pensable to its permanent strength and safety. The two
great divisions of the eastern Semites were henceforth
irreconcilaljle. Babylonia could not be brought to tolerate
Assyrian leadership. And though the wise son and suc-
cessor of Sinacherib reversed this wicked and suicidal


policy, its moral effect was never obliterated. When two
generations later Assyria's hour was come, the Chaldseans
took their share in the terrible work of vengeance.

§ 744. Mean and unworthy as were the parties and the
issues, the death of Sinacherib rises almost to the dignity
of tragedy. The scene and the action, if not moving,
have at least a fascination of their own as an illustration
of the ways and fates of Oriental royalty. The king is
alone at prayer in the chapel which he has erected for
his patron god. For with all his self-glorification he is a
humble votary of the deities of Nineveh, and especially of
Nusku,^ the devastating war-god in whom he sees his own
fond likeness. Two of his sons, Nergal-sar-usur ^ and
Adarmalik, one of them a pretended heir to the throne
and the other his instrument, have been stirring up an
insurrection in Nineveh. They now take the opportunity
of settling the whole matter of the succession by striking
down the old man when bowing before his god.^ Poetic
justice was thus meted out. But justice does not always
nicely choose its instruments ; and the cause of the young
assassins rightly failed to command success. •

1 So read, instead of the unintelligible Nisrok of the Massoretic text
of 2 K. xix. 37. The insertion in the word of i, as accidental repetition
of the final consonant -|, is responsible for this very old error. The
identification with Nusku was, I think, first proposed by Hal^vj'.

2 The Biblical form Sharezer is a common contraction. Bab. Chr. Ill,
34 f., speaks of only one son as the assassin.

3 An inconsiderate reading of 2 K. xix. 37 would create the impression
that Sinacherib's death must have occurred very soon after his retirement
from Palestine instead of twenty years later. And so Winckler (GBA.
258 ; cf. § 741, note) uses the passage as evidence in favour of the hypothesis
that such was actually the case. But, according to the fashion of Hebrew
narrative, which marked but slightly historical cause and effect (cf. § 435),
the juxtaposition only means that his death was a worthy sequel to his
life, which the foregoing episode had duly characterized.



§ 745. The revolt, of which the murder of the king
was the critical episode, was not in itself unwelcome to
the people. Hence the leaders found themselves for a
time at the head of a large following. But they soon had
to reckon with a stronger rival. Esarhaddon (^Asshur-ah-
iddin : " Asshur has given a brother ") was, as the name
implies, not the eldest, but probably the second son of
the royal house. The original heir to the throne had been
carried off by the Elamites (§ 739) thirteen years before,
and Esarhaddon, as the destined successor, had for some
time borne a share in the administration of the empire.
His career and general policy as a monarch show that he
had been subjected to more humanizing influences than
those which had controlled his father. His generous
treatment of Babylonia, and his keen interest in its affairs,
suggest that he had had a prolonged residence in that
province, and that he may have been its administrator. It
is not clear, however, where or how he was employed when
the news of the insurrection reached him.^ In all proba-
bility, however, he was in the northwestern portion of the
Assyrian dominions maintaining order in the turbulent
provinces of that region. As the subject is of Biblical as
well as Assyriological importance, a sketch of the situation
and its issue will not be out of place.

1 Winckler, GBA. p. 335, remarks that according to Bab. Clir., Esar-
haddon \yas proclaimed king in Babylonia immediately after the death of
yinaclierib. But the Chronicle makes no statement to this effect.


§ 746. 2 K. xix. 37 (cf. § 744) says of the young
assassins after the murder of Sinacherib : " they escaped
to the land of Armenia ; and Esarhaddon his son reigned
in his stead." This brief notice, given in the concise
style which marks all the Biblical allusions to extra-
Israelitish affairs, is of essential value in the reconstruc-
tion of the story. The Babylonian Chronicle also gives us
data of importance for the leading motives of the revolu-
tion : 1 " In the month of Tebet, the XX. da}^ Sinacherib
king of Assyria, his son in an insurrection slew him.
XXIII. years Sinacherib administered the kingdom ^ of
Assyria. From the XX. day of the month Tebet until the
II. day of the month Adar the insurrection in Assyria held
together. In the month of Sivan, the XVIII. day, Esarhad-
don his son seated himself in Assyria upon the throne."
The new king's own report of the action taken by him is as
follows : ^ " Like a lion I raged ; and my soul * was in a
tumult. To administer the kingdom of my father's house,
to take charge of my priesthood, towards Asshur, Sin,
Samas, Bel, Nebo, and Nergal, Ishtar of Nineveh, and
Ishtar of Arbela, my hands I lifted, and they deferred to
my words. In their faithful grace an encouraging token
they sent to me : ' Go I Do not stop ! At thy side we are
marching, and we shall subdue thy enemies.' For one
day and ten days I halted not.^ I did not see the faces
of my troops. I did not look backwards. The trappings
of the horses harnessed to the yoke, and my arms and
accoutrements, ^ I did not undo." My travelling ... I
did not pour out(?). The snow and ice of the month

1 Bab. Chr. Ill, 34-38.

- The regular expression for "reigned."

3 III R. 15, 2 ff. ; cf. AL3, 117, etc. See Note 16 in Appendix.

* Literally, "my liver."

5 Literally, "I did not look around" ; cf. Lotz, TiglathpUeser I, p.
112 f.

^ Literally, " my utensils for battle."

" The original, by transposition of wedge-combinations, has the im-
possible form a-Su-^ur instead of a-sidi.


Sabut, and tlie might of the frost I did not fear. Like a
sism bird with outspread wings to overthrow my enemies
I stretched out my hands. The way towards Nineveh
hard and fast I marched. Facing me in the land of Hani-
rabbat, the whole of their doughty warriors took their
stand to oppose ray march, and drew out their weapons.
The fear of the great gods my lords overwhelmed them :
they beheld the shock of my mighty onset, and they became
like beaten men. Ishtar, who presides over war and battle,
who loves my priesthood, stood by my side, broke their
bow,i and shattered their serried array. Through all their
ranks they said : ' Let that man be our king.' At her
august command they came over to my side and said . . ."
§ 747. Only the Biblical account mentions the "escape"
of the assassins to Armenia. The phrase evidently points
to the final result of the civil war. For according to the
*' Chronicle " the insurgents held their own in Nineveh for
about a month and a half, which they could not have done
if their leaders had taken flight at once after the murder.
It was, however, five months (from Tebet or December, 681,
to Sivan or May, 680) after the death of the old king, that
Esarhaddon was proclaimed in Nineveh. We must accord-
ingly assume that the loyal party in Nineveh or their troops
in the neighbourhood succeeded in suppressing the revolt
in the city itself by the second of Adar (February, 680),
but that Esarhaddon was so busily occupied with the
uprisings outside of Assyria proper that he was only free
to enter the city in peace after three months of further
action in the field. His own report speaks of his setting
out towards Nineveh, and then after a forced march in the
snows and frosts of January, meeting the enemy in north-
ern Cappadocia (where " Chanirabbat" was situated). It
is thus apparent that the rebels had their plans carefully
laid, and had spread the disaffection throughout the North
Mesopotamian country over which Esarhaddon had to
march. The success of the legitimate claimant was accel-

1 Cf. rs. xlvi. 9 ; Ixxvi. 3.


eratecl by the desertion to his side of at least a large portion
of the insurgent army. And it was probably the news of
his victory that caused the collapse of the revolt in the cap-
ital. Whether the pretender and his brother were in the
defeated army or not, they would in any case find the way
to Armenia open for their retreat. Moreover, a sympa-
thetic people in that region would give them aid and com-
fort. The reader will remember the alliances between the
northeastern and northwestern districts of the Assyrian
sphere of influence, which were broken by Sargon after
strenuous exertions (§ 626 ff.). The heroic struggles of
the Armenians doubtless lingered in the memory of the

Online LibraryJames Frederick McCurdyHistory, prophecy and the monuments (Volume 2) → online text (page 30 of 39)