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Assyrian and
Babylonian literature

Robert Francis Harper


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V _

j\ssyrian and Babylonian

Selected Translations

With a Critical Introduction by
Robert Francis Harper


New York

D. Appleton and Company


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ComUGHT, 1900,

bt d. appleton and company.

^ "A ^ "-

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r\ISCOVERY of the Cuneiform Inscriptions.— Tht his-
/^ tory of the ancients has a peculiar charm for us,
which gradually increases as from year to year the
darkness gives way to light through the excavation and
decipherment of the monuments. Until a very recent
date, scholars were accustomed to turn to Egypt for the
beginning of all things. Egyptian literature was the old-
est, Egyptian civilization the earliest, and from the Egyp-
tian hieroglyphs, through the Phoenician, our alphabets
were derived. But the cuneiform inscriptions bring an-
other story, and the seat of the earliest known and most
influential civilization must now be changed from the val-
ley of the Nile to the country between the Tigris and the
Euphrates, southern Mesopotamia, or, in other words,
Babylonia. These inscriptions have opened up to us a
history far more interesting and valuable than that written
on the papyri and monuments of Egypt. It deals with a
nation that played an important part in Old Testament his-
tory and exerted a powerful influence over the chosen
people — with a nation whose literature begins earlier than
that of the Hebrews and runs parallel with it until the latter
are carried into captivity by the former. Although interest-
ing from a general historical standpoint, this literature is
the more valuable because of its striking similarities to the
Hebrew, and because of the help it brings to an understand-
ing of the biblical text.

At the beginning of the present century little was

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known of the ancient capitals of the Assyro-Babylonians
aside from the meagre and imperfect accounts given by the
Jewish and Greek historians. One would have searched his
maps in vain for 'the exact location of Nineveh, the head-
quarters of the Assyrian armies which plundered the Israel-
ites for so many years and finally besieged, captured, and
transported the inhabitants of Samaria. In the case of
Babylon it was no better — ^a city one of whose kings car-
ried into captivity the remnant left by his northern kins-
men, the Assyrians.

Passing the travels and writings of Benjamin of Tudela
(about 1 1 60); Rabbi Pethachiah, of Ratisbon, a short time
after the death of Benjamin; Conti (1444); OrteHus, of Ant-
werp, who published his " Geographical Treasury " in 1596,
in which was incorporated all that was known at that time
of Oriental geography; Hakluyt's collections of travels and
voyages (1599) containing an account, translated from the
Italian, of the travels of Cesare de Federici, who was the
first to give us a description of Akerkuf, identified in re-
cent years as the Dur-Kurigalzu of the inscriptions; Rau-
wolf, of Augsburg, who describes Akerkuf as the Tower of
Babel (1573); about the beginning of the seventeenth cen-
tury, John Cartwright, the first European to attempt a sur-
vey of the ruins of Nineveh; Don Garcia de Silva y Fig^-
eroa, ambassador of Philip III of Spain to the court of
Persia; Pietro della Valle (1621), who still regarded Bagh-
dad as the site of Babylon, and who identified the great
mound near Hilleh ( = Babil) as the site of the Tower of
the Confusion of Tongues; Pedro Teixeita, a Portuguese;
Sir Thomas Herbert (1626); Tavemier, who visited Mosul
in 1644; Pater Vincenzo Maria di Santa Caterina da Siena
(1657), who was the first, since Benjamin of Tudela, to
identify the site of Babylon with Hilleh as over against
Baghdad; Flower (1667); Chardin, who in 1674 copied the
so-called Window inscription, the shortest of the trilingual
Achaemenian inscriptions; Engelbert Kampfer (about
1694), who copied the so-called H^ Persepolis inscription;
Comelis de Bruin (1701); Otter, in 1734, who was the

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first to notice the Behistun inscriptions and reliefs, after-
ward copied by Rawlinson and used in the decipherment
of the inscriptions; Edward Ives (1758); Pater Emmanuel
de Saint Albert, whose report on the " Ruins of Babylon "
to the Duke of Orleans formed the basis of D'Anville's
" Memoir " on the position of Babylon, read before the
French Academy of Inscriptions in 1755; Carsten Niebuhr,
who in 1765 copied several Achaemenian inscriptions, and
from whose plates Grotefend afterward deciphered the
names of Darius and Xerxes, thus opening the way for all
future work in this line; Count Caylus, who in 1762 pub-
lished the celebrated " Vase of Xerxes," with the quadrilin-
gual inscription — in Egyptian (Hieroglyphs), Old Persian,
Susian, and Babylonian — " Xerxes, the Great King " ; and
others, we come to the French scholar, Beauchamp, who,
between 1790 and 1795, shipped to Paris some specimen
bricks covered with Babylonian characters. The excite-
ment occasioned by these short inscriptions, and especially
by the report that the ruins of Babylon had been discov-
ered in the vicinity of Hilleh, caused the East India Com-
pany to issue orders to their agent in Bassorah to obtain
as quickly as possible a collection of these Babylonian in-
scriptions and to send them by Bombay to England. Be-
tween 1801 and 1810 several different collections were
shipped, among which was the famous Nebuchadrezzar
stone in ten columns, called the East India House Inscrip-
tion, and now in the India Office in London.

As yet no systematic work had been done in excavating
these old Assyrian and Babylonian ruins. Claudius James
Rich, an Englishman, the East India Company's repre-
sentative in Baghdad, was the first to beg^n such excava-
tions. Rich commenced his work in 1811, and in 18 12
published his " Memoir on the Ruins of Babylon," and in
1818 his "Second Memoir on Babylon," containing "an
inquiry into the correspondence between the ancient de-
scription and the remains still visible on the site." In this
" Second Memoir " are found copies of several more or less
important Babylonian inscriptions, among which may be

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mentioned as the most important the so-called Borsippa in-
scription of Nebuchadrezzar. Rich continued his work
until 1820, sending at intervals to England such remains of
inscriptions, bricks, sculptures, etc., as were excavated.
In 1820 he made a journey for his health into the Kurdish
mountains, and on his return he spent a few days in Mosul
on the Tigris. From Mosul he saw on the other (or left)
side of the river mounds similar to those at Hilleh, and he
was informed by Arabs that a large stone had been found in
these mounds, covered with engravings of men and ani-
mals. This find had been reported to the governor of
Mosul, and he had ordered it to be broken into a thousand
pieces, because, as he said, it contained engravings of the
ancient gods; and with the Turks idolatry is the most
heinous sin. Rich came to the conclusion that these
mounds opposite Mosul represented the capital of the As-
syrian Empire. On his journey down the Tigris to Bagh-
dad he landed at the mouth of the Upper Zab and ex-
amined the mounds there, called by the Arabs Nimrud.
He collected a number of inscribed bricks, which are now
to be found in the British Museum, but was not able to pur-
sue his investigations further.

After a lapse of twenty years, in the spring of 1840,
Austen Henry Layard visited the ruins of Nineveh as iden-
tified by Rich. In 1842 Layard returned to Mosul without
having made any excavations. Here he met P. C. Botta,
the French consul, who had been interested in this work
by the Orientalist Mohl, at that time professor in Paris.
Layard, being without the means necessary to carry on the
excavations, strongly urged Botta to direct his attention to
the work. Botta himself was without means at this time,
but in 1843 he was enabled to begin, and he continued until
1845, during which time he laid bare the city walls of
Khorsabad and discovered many valuable inscriptions. In
i849-'5i he published his "Monuments of Nineveh," by
order of the French Government, in which are to be found
220 pages of inscriptions.

In the spring of 1845 Sir Stratford Canning, at that

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time the English ambassador at Constantinople, offered
Layard sufficient money to undertake excavations. To-
ward the end of the year Layard began work on the ruins
of Nimrud, five hours south of Mosul (an hour in the East
is from two and three quarters to three English miles).
From the begfinning he was successful. The sum allotted
by Canning gave out in June, 1847, ^^^ Layard was again
compelled to return to England. During the two years
he had, however, laid bare three large Assyrian palaces —
viz., the Northwest palace, that of Ashurnagirpal (884-858
B. c.) ; the Central palace, probably built by the follower of
Ashumaqirpal, Shalmaneser II (858-823 b. c), in which
was found the celebrated Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser
(now in the British Museum); and finally that of Esar-
haddon (680-669 b. c). The richest returns came from
the Northwest palace, and the inscriptions found were in
a much better state of preservation than those excavated by
Botta in Sargon's palace at Khorsabad.

Sir Stratford Canning generously presented the entire
results of Layard's expedition to the British Museum, to
which place they were shipped by the explorer himself.
Layard shortly afterward published an account of his work
in " Nineveh and its Remains." This book created a great
sensation in England, and as a result the English Gov-
ernment became interested in the excavations. In 1849
Layard was given leave of absence from his diplomatic post
in Constantinople and sent back to Assyria, and Hormuzd
Rassam, English consul at Mosul, but a native Arab, was
ordered to join him. During the first expedition, Layard
had confined his operations to Nimrud, but in this, his
second, he began work at Kouyunjik, the site of Nineveh.
Botta had already conducted excavations at this mound,
but with comparatively little success, since his methods
were wholly unscientific. Instead of running trenches here
and there to find walls and then following these walls, Botta
sank perpendicular shafts to no purpose. In his first ex-
pedition Layard had found the Southwest palace of Sen-
nacherib (705-681 B. c), as restored by his grandson Ashur-

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banipal, but he had not been able to carry his work to com-
pletion. In his second trip (i849-'5i) this building was
fully brought to light. This palace was the largest yet
found, containing seventy-three rooms. Excavations were
also made in Nebbi Yunus — ^i. e., the grave of the prophet
Jonah — ^where Layard says that he found Esarhaddon
inscriptions, and in Qal'at Sherkat (the old Asshur).
In Nebbi- Yunus, palaces of Ramman-Nirari (811-782
B. c), Sennacherib, and Esarhaddon were found, while in
Qal'at Sherkat, Layard, or rather Rassam, discovered the
foundations of a palace of Tiglath-pileser I, and here
it was that the large cylinder of eight hundred lines
belonging to Tiglath-pileser I (11 20 B.C.) was found.
During this expedition Layard also visited several sites
in Babylonia, but he was able to accomplish little or

Immediately following and closely connected with
Layard's second expedition was that of Hormuzd Rassam
(1852-54), during which the North palace of Ashurbanipal
was discovered and laid bare. In this was found the cele-
brated " Library of Ashurbanipal," containing thousands of
clay tablets inscribed on both sides.

About the same time with Rassam (1852-54, or rather
1851-55), Victor Place, the French consul at Mosul, took
up the work of excavating at Khorsabad which had been
begun by Botta. While this work was going on in Assyria,
Loftus from 1849, Fresnel and Oppert in 1852, and Tay-
lor from 1852, began excavations in Babylonia. In
i853-'54 Loftus and Taylor visited and afterward described
the ruins of Warka, Senkereh, Ur, etc. The French ex-
pedition was badly managed, but it must be acknowledged
that almost all that we know of the topography of Baby-
lonia dates from this expedition. The boat containing the
results of their excavations was wrecked in the Tigris on
May 23, 1855, and hence the inscriptions never reached
Paris, to which place they were being shipped when lost.
Accounts of both of these expeditions have been given by
Oppert and Loftus respectively. With these expeditions

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what may be called the first period of Assyro-Babylonian
excavations comes to an end.

Before going to the second period, mention must be
made of the discovery and copying of the famous Behistun
inscription by Colonel Rawlinson (later Sir Henry). This
inscription consists of about four hundred lines, and it was
carved, by order of Darius Hystaspes, on a steep mountain
— about seventeen hundred feet high — called Behistun
(near Kermanschah). The English officer not only copied
this inscription for the first time (between the years 1835
and 1837), but he also made the first translation, having
worked at intervals on this inscription from 1835 to 1846,
when he brought his manuscript, containing the copy of
the Babylonian text, to London. The important part
played by this inscription and its discoverer in the history
of the decipherment of the inscriptions will be noted later.
After the close of the first period, no excavations were
made for almost twenty years. During this time Layard
published his " Inscriptions in the Cuneiform Character
from Assyrian Monuments," and the first three volumes of
the " Cuneiform Inscriptions of Western Asia " had ap-
peared, edited by Rawlinson with the help of Edwin Norris
and George Smith.

In 1872 George Smith had the good fortune to dis-
cover some tablets containing the Chaldean account of the
Deluge. The results of his find were laid before the
Society of Biblical Archaeology on December 3, 1872. " In
consequence of the wide interest taken at the time in these
discoveries, the proprietors of the * Daily Telegraph '
newspaper came forward and offered to advance a sum of
one thousand guineas for fresh researches at Nineveh in
order to recover more of these interesting inscriptions, the
terms of agreement being that I should conduct the ex-
pedition, and should supply the ' Telegraph ' from time to
time with accounts of my journeys and discoveries in the
East in return." In January, 1873, with George Smith,
the second period of excavations began. Between 1873
and 1876 Smith made three expeditions, from the last of

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which he never returned, dying on his homeward journey
at Aleppo, August 19, 1876, of a fever contracted in Bagh-
dad. Smith's chief work was to make a more thorough
examination of the palaces in Kouyunjik, and especially of
the Northwest palace discovered by Rassam. Rassam con-
tinued the work begun by Smith, and between 1877 and
1881 made three expeditions. The chief result of the first
was the uncovering of another palace of Ashurnaqirpal at
Nimrud, and the finding of the celebrated Bronze Gates
of Shalmaneser 11. In the same year he visited the palaces
of Sennacherib and Ashurbanipal at Kouyunjik, and
brought back with him about fourteen hundred tablets and
the large ten-column cylinder of Ashurbanipal, known as
the Rassam (R") cylinder. In his second expedition he
directed his attention to Babylon. Besides the so-called
Egibi tablets, contracts, etc., he brought with him this time
inscriptions of Nebuchadrezzar, and, what is more impor-
tant, inscriptions of Nabonidus and of Cyrus. During his
last trip the most important discovery was the Temple of the
Sun at Abu-Habba, the Sephervaim of the Old Testament
and the Sippara of the inscriptions. This site was accident-
ally found while Rassam was hunting for another mound.
It is only seven to eight hours southwest of Baghdad, or less
than twenty-five miles.

From 1876 to 1 88 1, while Rassam was also at work, the
French vice-consul at Bosrah, Ernest de Sarzec, had been
excavating at Tello, the Shirpurla — or Lagash — of the in-
scriptions. The finds were for the most part non-Semitic.
They are now in the Louvre. De Sarzec has been excavat-
ing at Tello at intervals during the last twenty years. He
was there in 1889, and was visited by some of the American
party who were then excavating at Niffer.

The first American expedition to Babylonia was the
Catherine Wolfe (1884-1885), under the direction of Dr.
William Hayes Ward, of " The Independent." The pur-
pose of this party was to explore and to describe sites rather
than to excavate. The most interesting part of the report
is in regard to Anbar, about which Dr. Ward sjiys: " The

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discovery of this city, which represents the Agade, or Sip-
para of Anunit, the Akkad of Genesis x, lo, the Persabora
of classical geographers, and the Anbar of Arabic his-
torians, is of the first importance." Dr. Ward has dis-
cussed this site at length in the January number of " He-
braica," 1886. He recommended Anbar, Niffer, and Warka
for excavation, also mentioning Umm-el-Akarib, and the
neighbouring Yokha as specially promising sites. While
no excavation was attempted by the Catherine Wolfe Ex-
pedition, it laid the foundation for the collection belonging
to the Metropolitan Museum in New York. It is also to
be regarded as the forerunner of the expedition of the
Babylonian Exploration Fund, sent out by the University
of Pennsylvania.

In 1884 the French Government sent M. Dieulafoy and
Messrs. Babin and Houssay upon an archaeological mission
to Susa. This expedition met with success, Dieulafoy sent
the finds to Paris, and a special gallery has been set aside
in the Louvre for their display.

In the winter of 1887 some Fellahin made a very im-
portant discovery at Tel-el- Amarna in Upper Egypt, on the
eastern bank of the Nile, about midway between Minieh
and Siout. These ruins represent the site of the Temple of
Amenophis IV — i. e., Khu-en-Aten, the so-called " Heretic
King" of the eighteenth Egfyptian dynasty, about 1500
B. c. — ^the son of Amenophis III. In the early part of this
century, when the scientific staff attached to the army of
Napoleon, on the expedition to Egypt, were surveying and
searching for materials for a complete map of Egypt —
afterward edited by Jacotin — z mimber of Egyptian an-
tiquities were found at Tel-el-Amarna, which, afterward,
found their way into the different European museums.
However valuable and important these early finds were,
there can not be any comparison between them and the
finds of 1887. No one knows exactly where or when these
tablets were found, since the Arabs, as is customary, took
care to obliterate all traces of their digging after their great
find. During the winter of 1887 and 1888 about two

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hundred of these tablets were offered for sale by native
dealers. Afterward others were found. Various views have
been given as to the total number of these tablets found,
but the outside limit is perhaps three hundred and thirty.
The British Museum secured eighty-two through Dr.
Budge, the Gizeh Museum in Egypt about sixty, and the
Berlin Museum about one hundred and sixty, of which a
very large number are so fragmentary as to give little or no
connected sense. The authorities of the Berlin Museum
have published their collection, together with those at
Gizeh, under the editorship of Drs. Winckler and Abel.
The Tel-el-Amama tablets in the British Museum are
marked Bu. 88-10-13+, or Budge, the 13th of October,
1888. They have been edited by Drs. Bezold and Budge.
In addition to those tablets which were secured by the dif-
ferent museums, a great many passed into the hands of
private individuals, Turkish, Russian, and French officials,
and missionaries.

In April, 1888, Messrs. Humann, Luschan, and Winter
made excavations in Zinjirli under the auspices of the Ber-
lin Oriental Committee. Zinjirli lies at the base of the
Amanus Mountains, called by the Turks Giaour— east of
the ridge — ^facing the Antioch plain. It is one of the nar-
rowest parts of the plain, midway between Antioch and
Marash. The work of excavation was renewed in 1890
and 1891, and extended to Gerjin, a large mound an hour
and a quarter to the east of Zinjirli. The most important
inscriptions discovered were: (i) The Monolith of Esar-
haddon; (2) the Panammu statue, bearing an inscription
in old Aramaic characters similar to those on the Mesha
stone; (3) the Hadad inscriptions; and (4) the Building

The second American expedition to Babylonia was
that of the Babylonian Exploration Fund, under the aus-
pices of the University of Pennsylvania. The sites for ex-
cavation, chosen by Dr. Peters, were Anbar, identified by
the Catherine Wolfe Expedition with Sippar; Birs Nimrud

Online LibraryLawrence Dundas CampbellAssyrian and Babylonian literature → online text (page 1 of 42)