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and Scythians had begun it M^as quite out of the question.
It is difficult to settle the time of the immigration of the
Aryan Medes. There are signs of their presence in sug-
gestions of Ar3-an forms in the names of Median chiefs in
the time of Sargon, about 715 B.c.^ It is, then, most
reasonable to assume that in the earlier half of the eighth
century B.C. the Aryan element was so strong in several
districts as to have assumed the leadership. At any rate,
whatever may haA'e been the original population which
bore the Median name, the element which became a new
combinatory controlling power was the Iranian, which in
its more southerly or Persian immigration was to exhibit
a faculty of organization and of government greater and
more memorable still.

§ 824. Notwithstanding the illustrative material which
has been gathered in recent years, we are still far from
being able to make out a connected history of the early
kingdom of the Medes. Even the brief list of kings sup-
plied by Herodotus must be used with reserve. The earli-
est " king," Deiokes, was probably a powerful chief, who
towards the end of his life was proclaimed king by the
leading tribes. According to Herodotus he reigned from
699-646 B.C. There can be no doubt, at any rate, that about
the middle of the seventh century B.C., the principal Median
communities were united under one sovereignty, with
Ekbatana (Hamadan) as the capital. If we may trust the

1 It will be remembered that a deportation of Samariaiis was made by
him to "cities of Media " (2 K. xvii. G ; § 3G2), a fact which shows that
he confidently expected to completely subdue the country.

- See Note 3 in Appendix.


story learned by Herodotus from Persian sources, the next
king, Phraortes (646-625), extended the new dominion as
far as the borders of Assyria, and even presumed to attack
Nineveh itself. He was, however, defeated and slain in a
battle outside the walls. The year of his death coincides
with the accession of Asshur-etil-ilani (§ 820), and the
tradition has at least a certain measure of confirmation,
from the fact that the alleged attempt was made, according
to the good old custom, at a time of transition in the gov-
ernment.i Phraortes was succeeded by his son Kyaxares.
Still following the story of Herodotus, we learn that he at
once renewed the war upon Assyria, and was engaged in
besieging Nineveh, when he was called home by reason of
an assault of Scythians upon his own capital. He was
tlien occupied for many years in trying to rid his domin-
ions of the intruders. Having finally disposed of them
by combined valour and stratagem, he was at length in a
position to take up what had now become an hereditary
obligation, with the result known to all men, the capture
and destruction of the world-renowned city.

§ 825. This much at least of historical truth is con-
tained in the traditions ; namely, that repeated attempts
were made by the Medes to subdue Assyria before the
capital was finally taken. The whole situation corresponds
admirably with the general facts most commonly held as
to the direct occasions of the great catastrophe. Two tra-
ditions have had currency : one from Berossus, a Bab}^-
lonian, and the other from Herodotus by way of Persian
informants. The former relates that it was by the com-
bined forces of the jMedes and Bab3donians, that Nineveh
was brought to its end ; the latter gives the credit to the
Medes alone. According to Berossus a league was made
between Kyaxares and Nabopalassar and confirmed by the

1 Cf. Tiele, BAG. p. 408. We may notice that the date of this attack
agrees well with our assumption as to the time of the main Scythian inva-
sion (§ 811). The later inroads were more local, and naturally fell most
hardly upon the Median possessions.


marriage of the daughter of the Mede to the son of the
Chakhfan, the crown-prince Nebuchadrezzar. This famous
matrimonial alliance may have been anticipated by a few-
years in the story, but otherwise there is nothing to awaken
our scruples. That Herodotus does not speak of the par-
ticipation of the Chaldteans is obviously to be accounted
for by the fact that the Persian account was the INIedian
tradition, that the Medes had previously been the only
aggressors, and that they moreover played the leading
role in the final campaign.

§ 826. The motive and the progress of the action may
now be outlined as follows. The appointment of Nabo-
palassar the Chaldsean as Assyrian viceroy (§ 822) was
more than a concession to the old revolutionary party in
Babylonia. It was a matter of necessity rather than of
grace on the part of the enfeebled suzerain, — not that
the military force at the disposal of Nabopalassar was
already very formidable, but that the Assyrian guards were
no longer sufficient to repress the next probable uprising.
After a few years these garrisons were either withdrawn
or driven out, or made Babylonian. The old Chaldsean
policy of war against Assyria could, however, not be taken
up safely single-handed. Nineveh was almost impregna-
ble. iNIoreover, it was claimed by the Medes, and a war
with them would be the certain outcome of independent
action. In the old times this would be the natural order
of things ; but the world was growing wider (cf. § 774 f.),
and its leaders were growing wiser. On the other hand,
the Medes were no longer sanguine of the result of an
unsupported attack upon the great fortress. They had
suffered from the Scythian hordes who were still threaten-
ing them, and an ally of Chaldsean temper and steadfastness
was much to be desired. But the negotiations had a view
also to the future. Already the INIedes had contemplated
the sovereignty of the whole upland of Western Asia.
The territory of Nineveh was naturally embraced within
its scope. But Assyria was Semitic, like Babylonia, and


its prescriptive dominion was exercised over the lowlands
from sea to sea. To this dominion the Babylonian rulers
aspired by a kind of immemorial right (§ 93, 116), and they
were preparing to assert their claim. Hence the compro-
mise was proposed which, as all the world knows, was car-
ried out after Assyria was swept out of the way. Perhaps no
moment was more critical for the fate of the Semitic world,
including the people and the hope of Israel, than that in
which Nabopalassar decided to put his sword at the service
of the Medes in the final onslaught upon the hated Assyrian.
§ 827. For the rest, we must in the mean time be con-
tented with the knowledge that the allies succeeded in
their campaign. How long the siege lasted, and what
were its vicissitudes,^ we cannot tell. Even the year of
the capture is not settled beyond controversy. Assyria
was still a power in 608 B.C., when Pharaoh Necho H
undertook that march against Nineveh which had so
strange and tragic a termination (2 K. xxiii. 29). In
605, the date of the battle of Carchemish (Jer. xlvi. 2),
Nineveh was no more, and the heirs had disposed of the
effects. Hence we must place the date either in 607 or in
606 B.C., and probably in the former year. The destruc-
tion of the city was summary and absolute. The world
has not seen its like before nor since. The concentrated
hatred of the long-harassed nations at last found expres-
sion. Though Medes and Chaldseans took the lead, there
were found in the ranks of the besiegers warriors from far

1 A suggestion comes from Nah. ii. 6: "The gates of tLe streams are
opened and the palace is dissolved (with terror)." According to Diodo-
rus (ii, 26), it was a traditional saying that Nineveh could not be taken
unless the river should become the enemy of the city. It has been con-
jectured that the waters of the Choser, which runs southwesterly into the
Tigris through Nineveh, being raised by the spring floods, and the ordi-
nary outlets having been stopped, the whole force of the swollen stream
beat upon and undermined the foundations of the inner wall of the city.
See in Delitzsch and Haupt's Beitrdge zur Assyriologie, III, 1, "Der
Untergang Nineveh's," by A. Jeremias and Col. A. Billerbeck, p. 102 and
146 f. Cf. Rawlinson, Five Monarchies, ii, 397.

Ch. X, § 829 ITS SINGULAR FATE 409

and near, to Avhora the task of vengeance was a militia
sacra. That process of devastation undergone by hun-
dreds of cities at the hands of the remorseless Ninevite
was now reiinacted upon the oppressor with formal exact-
ness. After the sword and fire had done their work, the
city was buried under debris and earth, so that its memory
mio-ht vanish from among- men. The obliteration was
complete. All the ancient fortresses that encircled the
central cit}^ from Khorsabad to Nimrud Avere reduced to
a uniformity of desolation, so that the mound of Nineveh
proper could not be distinguished from the other ruins by
later generations.^

§ 828. And yet the last fate of the devoted capital is
stranger than the first. The very means employed to
consign the city to oblivion were the occasions of its
now assured immortality. No new walls or temples were
constructed from its colossal remains. No wandering
hordes encamped among its ruins for shelter or defence.
Even the slowly destroying elements of nature were ex-
cluded. And so its demolition became its preservation.
Thus it stands to-day, disentombed and self-revealed, tell-
ing to alien peoples, to the ends of the earth, by its own
^^•ritten memorials, its solemn and weighty lessons that break
through the silence of the ages like voices of doom.

§ 829. No event in the history of the nations, except-
ing the fall of Babylon, awakened such interest among

1 Xenophon states {Anah. iii. 4, 9) that in passing close to what we
now know to be the site of Nineveh, he was shown a mass of ruins which
went by the name of Larissa. According to a conjecture of Noldeke,
this was the Resen of Gen. x. 12, which lay between Kalach and Nine-
veh. A. Jeremias, op. cit. p. 114, says that the statement of Xenophon is
"unreliable" {unznverldssig). It would be more correct to say that it
has been misunderstood. At all events, Xenophon does not appear to
have suspected that he was beside the site of Nineveh, and this is the
most significant thing in the passage. In Lucian's famous dialogue,
Charon, Hermes says (§ 23) : "O Ferryman, Nineveli has perished and
not a trace of it remains, nor can any one say where it ever was." This
must be understood in the same sense, and is hardly a "poetical exag-
geration," as Jeremias calls it.


the Prophets of Israel as did the fate of Nineveh. To
this theme one prophetical work is entirely devoted,
while others take it as a leading text. The decline of
Hebrew prophetism after the earlier years of Manasseh
has already been alluded to (§ 800). For forty years the
faith and hope of Israel found no voice among the people.
But when Josiah came to his majority, the religious life,
which had not been dead but only sleeping, awoke again
to earnest expression. The reforms in worship which go
under the name of Josiah were the outcome of this deeper
movement (§ 807). But it had far wider scope and reach
than could be afforded by the mere outward form of ritual.
It was a long break in the line of Prophecy that was made
when INIicah uttered his latest message. And when the
word was taken up by Zephaniah,^ it was as a voice cry-
ing in the wilderness, true and strong as of old, but reach-
ing out widely for companionship among the memorable
voices of the past.

§ 830. Zephaniah has given us one of the most gen-
eral of all prophecies. Without a somewhat close survey
of contemporary affairs we might be inclined to call him
vague and discursive. Our latest studies make clear to us
his outlook among the nations. Since the revolt in which
Manasseh was implicated (§ 801) there had been quiet
in Asia, broken only by the tumultuous inroads of the
Scythians. But to thoughtful observers an upheaval was
impending; and the Hebrew prophet turned his eyes
towards Nineveh as the scene of the great catastrophe.
Hence, though he speaks primarily for Judah and Jeru-
salem, he points his moral also from the sins and fates of
other peoples, the culmination of which is found in the

1 It would seem remarkable that Jeremiah, who has such an open eye
for the events of his time, and who began to prophesy nearly twenty years
before the fall of Nineveh, does not allude to tliat event or its antecedent
occasions. The explanation possibly is, that tlie prophet did not commit
his discourses formally to writing till G04 i?.c. (ch. xxxvi. 1 ff.), and
that those whicli may have been delivered upon this theme were then
passed over as being no longer of special relevance.


iniquitous pride and speedy fall of the Assyrian capital.
The whole world, that is the Semitic world, is to undergo
exemplary punishment, particularly the apostates in Jeru-
salem (i. 1-6). The classes of people to be thus visited
are pointed out, — the royal household, the wealthy trad-
ers, the careless and defiant citizens generally, — and
their chastisement is set forth in language largely figu-
rative (i. 7-18). Then comes the lesson from the nations
(ch. ii.). Unless Jehovah's own people repent in time
(vs. 1-3), their fate shall be the doom that is about to
fall upon the Philistines (vs. 4-7), upon Moab and Am-
nion (vs. 8-11), upon Egypt and Ethiopia (v. 12), and
finally upon Ass3n-ia and Nineveh : " So He will stretch
oat His hand over the north, and shall destroy Ass3'ria,
and make Nineveh a desolation, and an arid waste like a
wilderness ; and herds of beasts shall lie down in her
midst, every animal of (every) nation; pelicans and por-
cupines shall lodge among her pillars,^ their voice shall
sing in the windows; desolation shall be on the thresholds;
for he hath made bare the cedar-work. This is the exult-
ing city that dwelt in security, that said in her heart, ' I
and no one else I ' How has she become a desolation,
a couching-place for beasts I Every one that passeth by
her shall hiss, and wave his hand " (vs. 13-15).

§ 831. It is Nahum, however, that is the chief censor
of Nineveh among the Prophets of Israel. His book,
written apparently about 610 B.C., is entitled, "the oracle
concerning Nineveh." Its ultimate motive is still the
welfare of his own and Jehovah's land ; but to him this
is absolutely involved in the destruction of Assyria. The
decisive event is, moreover, the great tragedy of human
history, so that the fate of no other nation comes under
notice. The doom which was vaguely foreseen by Zepha-
niah, is to Nahum immediately impending. The prophecy

1 Literally, the capitals of the pillars, an illustration of Hebrew synec-
doche; compare "cedar-work," for palaces, temples, and state buildings
in the same verse.


begins with a sublime theopbany like that of Habakkuk,
or of Micah vi., or of Isa. xxx. (§ 718), or of Ps. xviii., or
of Ps. 1. — an intervention of Jehovah demanded by world-
wide issues (i. 1-6). The same Jehovah that is kind to
those who trust to him now comes to devote his enemies
to utter destruction, while Israel, relieved from the tyrant,
shall Avelcome the messenger that brings the tidings of his
fall (i. 7-15). Next comes a description of the assault
upon Nineveh by terrible foes, here unnamed, but whom we
may designate as Medes and Chaldseans. The desperate
measures of defence, all unavailing, the capture and the
spoliation, are set forth in a vivid, excited style, with
ejaculations and abrupt transitions, corresponding to the
actions portrayed (ch. ii.). The struggle within the
walls and the dreadful carnage are the subjects of the next
pen-picture, to which is appended the moral of the story
(iii. 1-7). The destruction of Thebes in Egypt (§ 770) is
cited as an example of what is to befall its conqueror, in
spite of her defences, her wealth, and her military discipline,
which only aggravate the terror of her well-deserved pun-
ishment, her desolation, and her woe (vs. 8-19),

§ 832. The description of the coming siege and the
destruction of city and people is so minutely realistic and
so full of local colouring, that it has been held ^ to have been
written by one personally conversant with the locality.
At all events, Nahum was intimately acquainted with the
modes of warfare and defence emploj^ed by the Assyrians.

1 Namely, by A. Jeremias in the essay above cited in the Beitrdge zur
Assrjriologie. The whole prophecy is there minutely treated, especially
from the Assyriological standpoint, and many suggestive explanations
given of special allusions in the text of the prophecy. The curious reader
is also referred to the appended essay by Billerbeck on the siege, its
antecedents and concomitants, the armaments, the fortifications, and the
defence. An excellent analysis of the prophecy may be found in Farrar,
The Minor Prophets (Nisbet & Co.), p. 148 ff. The main criticism to.be
offered to this and most other expositions is, that ii. 3-5 does not refer,
as is supposed, to a contest in the street or a defeat of the defenders, but
to hurried preparations for defence.


He brings before us the uniform of the soldiers and their
glittering shields ; the burnished chariots gleaming in
their swift career (ii. 3 f.) ; the desperate rush to prevent
a threatened breach in the walls by the erection of a
" mantelet ; " the opening of the river-gates by which the
citadel is reached (ii. 5 f., § 827) ; the terrible conflict in
the streets after the entrance is effected ; the cracking
of whips, the rattle of wheels, the plunging and rearing
horses, the jolting chariots, the charging riders, the flaming
swords, the glittering spears, the heaps of the wounded
and dying, the unnumbered dead (iii. 2 f.). The prophet
declares that the catastrophe of Nineveh is enacted for
the relief of Israel. It sounds like irony. And yet who
would have thought that the only account vouchsafed to
later times of the siege and capture of the great cit}- of
Asshur would be a poetical sketch written beforehand in
a petty subject state, nearly a thousand miles from the
scene, by the servant of a rival and victorious God !

§ 833. At the close of this survey of the achievements
and fate of Assyria two prophetic images rise majestically
into view. They stand worthily beside Isaiah's picture of
the great spoiler harrying the nations and the peoples as
birds are driven from their nests (§ 292, 723). Nahum re-
sorts to the animal kingdom, and finds the counterpart of
the Assyrians in the lion, who has his den in Nineveh stored
with all the prey of the lesser beasts of the forest — " the
lions' lair and the feeding-place of the young lions, where
strode the lion, and where was the lioness and the lion's
brood " (ii. 11 f.). Ezekiel, the learned and reflective
prophet, writing, moreover, twenty years after the fall
of Nineveh, takes a more composed and tranquil view of
the events and movements of his time. Looking back
upon Assyria in her towering prominence among the na-
tions, he chooses an image from the growth and luxuri-
ance of the vegetable world : — " Behold, the Assyrian was
a cedar in Lebanon with fair branches and overshadowing
boughs. He was lofty in stature, and his top stood out


from between his twigs. The waters made him great, and
the water-depths made him tall. ... In his boughs all
the birds of heaven built their nests ; beneath his foliage
all the beasts of the field had their }- oung ; and in his
shadow dwelt many nations. . . . The cedars in the
garden of the Lord could not match him ; nor did the
cypresses have branches like his; nor were the plantains
like him in foliage : no tree was like him for fairness in
the garden of the Lord" (xxxi. 3 ff.).


NOTE 1 (§534)


The kiugly prerogative in Israel- may be illustrated in some
of its important aspects from the modern Mohammedan sultan-
ate. The real character of the caliph's government is well set
forth in the subjoined extract from Lord Salisbury's speech
at Guildliall on November 9, 1895. Speaking of the reforms
that were being pressed upon the Porte by the Powers, the
Prime Minister said, among other things, according to the
cable report : —

" With regard to the result of the negotiations, if the reforms
were carried into effect they would give the Armenians every
prospect that a nation could desire — prosperity, peace, justice,
and safety to life and property. But will they be carried
out ? If the Sultan can be persuaded to give justice to the
Armenians, it will not signify what the exact nature of the
undertaking may be. If he will not heartily resolve to do
justice to them, the most ingenious constitution that can be
framed will not avail to protect or assist the Armenians. Only
through the Sultan can any real permanent blessing be con-
ferred on his subjects. . . . But supposing the Sultan will not
give these reforms, what is to follow? The first answer I
should give is, that above all treaties, all combinations of the
I*owers, in the nature of things, is Providence. God, if you
please to put it so, has determined that persistent and constant
abuse of power must lead the government which follows it to
its doom ; and while I readily admit that it is quite possible


416 APPENDIX Note 1

that the Sultan, if he likes, can govern with justice and be
persuaded, he is not exempt any more than any other potentate
from the law that injustice will bring the highest on earth
to ruin."

Those who would object to a comparison between the con-
stitution of the kingdom of David and that of the Turkish
empire, who confound the idealizing Mosaic economy with the
actual government of Israel, as is done, for example, by the
late Dr. E. C. Wines throughout his learned and elaborate
work. Commentaries on the Laws of the Ancient Hebreivs, may
be referred generally to the later historical books of the Old
Testament. Cf. § 56, 523.

NOTE 2 (§ 623)


See the discussion, Avith references, in Winckler, ST. II, p.
xvii f. The contradiction between the scribes of Sargon and
the Babylonian chronicler is complete throughout. Winckler
makes out too good a case for Sargon, since the statement of
the chronicle that the Elaraites after the battle of Durilu in-
vaded Assyria with most disastrous consequences to the latter,
cannot be a pure fiction. Sargon's first Babylonian expedition
was doubtless an almost utter failure.

NOTE 3 (§ 629, 823)


It is interesting to note in connection with the mention of
the Medes, that names of Indo-European origin are now begin-
ning to appear among the northern tribes. For instance, the
prince of Umildis, one of the tribes of Central Armenia (east of
Lake Van), was called Bagdatta (Annals, 55-57), plainly an
Iranian proper name (= "'God-given," Theodotos, etc.). As
his brother's name Ullusunu is non- Aryan, it is fair to assume
that a Median protectorate of some sort had been exercised
over the district, and a native prefect appointed with a change
of name to denote his new service. In the same Avay we find

Note 4 APPENDIX 417

the Assyrian name Belsliazzar (Bel-sar-usur) as tliat of a rulev
in Northern jNIedia, subcUied by Sargon, whose domain liad
been made tributary by Tigiathpileser III (Wincklev, ST. II,
p. xxiii, note). The hypothesis is confirmed by the fact that
an Assyrian governor in the same region of Manna, who
revolted against Sargon (Annals, 76, 77), bore the familiar
Median name Dayakku (Deiokes, § 824).

NOTE 4 (§ 633)


The expedition to Ashdod is very fully described in Sargon's
Inscriptions. See Annals, 215-228; the great synoptic In-
scription, 90-112 (Winckler, ST. I, pi. 33 f.) ; the Ashdod
Inscription (Winckler, pi. 44, 45 ; cf. Smith, AD., p. 288 ff.).
The last named is the fullest document, but it is unfortunately
broken and incomplete, though it supplies us with some
important details. It dates the expedition in the ninth year
of Sargon, but as the Annals put it in the eleventh, Schrader
(KAT. 401) rightly conjectures that the reckoning in the
former case is made from the eponymate of the king, which
took place two years after his accession (cf. § 358, 360), accord-
ing to established custom.

I append a translation from the Annals : " Azuri, the king of

Online LibraryJames Frederick McCurdyHistory, prophecy and the monuments (Volume 2) → online text (page 37 of 39)