|Easton's Bible Dictionary|
First mentioned in Genesis 10:11, which is rendered in the Revised Version, "He [i.e., Nimrod] went forth into Assyria and builded Nineveh." It is not again noticed till the days of Jonah, when it is described (Jonah 3:3; 4:11) as a great and populous city, the flourishing capital of the Assyrian empire (2 Kings 19:36; Isaiah 37:37). The book of the prophet Nahum is almost exclusively taken up with prophetic denunciations against this city. Its ruin and utter desolation are foretold (Nahum 1:14; 3:19, etc.). Zephaniah also (2:13-15) predicts its destruction along with the fall of the empire of which it was the capital. From this time there is no mention of it in Scripture till it is named in gospel history (Matthew 12:41; Luke 11:32).
This "exceeding great city" lay on the eastern or left bank of the river Tigris, along which it stretched for some 30 miles, having an average breadth of 10 miles or more from the river back toward the eastern hills. This whole extensive space is now one immense area of ruins. Occupying a central position on the great highway between the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean, thus uniting the East and the West, wealth flowed into it from many sources, so that it became the greatest of all ancient cities.
About B.C. 633 the Assyrian empire began to show signs of weakness, and Nineveh was attacked by the Medes, who subsequently, about B.C. 625, being joined by the Babylonians and Susianians, again attacked it, when it fell, and was razed to the ground. The Assyrian empire then came to an end, the Medes and Babylonians dividing its provinces between them. "After having ruled for more than six hundred years with hideous tyranny and violence, from the Caucasus and the Caspian to the Persian Gulf, and from beyond the Tigris to Asia Minor and Egypt, it vanished like a dream" (Nahum 2:6-11). Its end was strange, sudden, tragic. It was God's doing, his judgement on Assyria's pride (Isaiah 10:5-19).
Forty years ago our knowledge of the great Assyrian empire and of its magnificent capital was almost wholly a blank. Vague memories had indeed survived of its power and greatness, but very little was definitely known about it. Other cities which had perished, as Palmyra, Persepolis, and Thebes, had left ruins to Mark their sites and tell of their former greatness; but of this city, imperial Nineveh, not a single vestige seemed to remain, and the very place on which it had stood was only matter of conjecture. In fulfilment of prophecy, God made "an utter end of the place." It became a "desolation."
In the days of the Greek historian Herodotus, B.C. 400, it had become a thing of the past; and when Xenophon the historian passed the place in the "Retreat of the Ten Thousand," the very memory of its name had been lost. It was buried out of sight, and no one knew its grave. It is never again to rise from its ruins.
At length, after being lost for more than two thousand years, the city was disentombed. A little more than forty years ago the French consul at Mosul began to search the vast mounds that lay along the opposite bank of the river. The Arabs whom he employed in these excavations, to their great surprise, came upon the ruins of a building at the mound of Khorsabad, which, on further exploration, turned out to be the royal palace of Sargon, one of the Assyrian kings. They found their way into its extensive courts and chambers, and brought forth form its hidded depths many wonderful sculptures and other relics of those ancient times.
The work of exploration has been carried on almost continuously by M. Botta, Sir Henry Layard, George Smith, and others, in the mounds of Nebi-Yunus, Nimrud, Koyunjik, and Khorsabad, and a vast treasury of specimens of old Assyrian art has been exhumed. Palace after palace has been discovered, with their decorations and their sculptured slabs, revealing the life and manners of this ancient people, their arts of war and peace, the forms of their religion, the style of their architecture, and the magnificence of their monarchs. The streets of the city have been explored, the inscriptions on the bricks and tablets and sculptured figures have been read, and now the secrets of their history have been brought to light.
One of the most remarkable of recent discoveries is that of the library of King Assur-bani-pal, or, as the Greek historians call him, Sardanapalos, the grandson of Sennacherib (q.v.). (see ASNAPPER.) This library consists of about ten thousand flat bricks or tablets, all written over with Assyrian characters. They contain a record of the history, the laws, and the religion of Assyria, of the greatest value. These strange clay leaves found in the royal library form the most valuable of all the treasuries of the literature of the old world. The library contains also old Accadian documents, which are the oldest extant documents in the world, dating as far back as probably about the time of Abraham. (see SARGON.)
"The Assyrian royalty is, perhaps, the most luxurious of our century [reign of Assur-bani-pa]...Its victories and conquests, uninterrupted for one hundred years, have enriched it with the spoil of twenty peoples. Sargon has taken what remained to the Hittites; Sennacherib overcame Chaldea, and the treasures of Babylon were transferred to his coffers; Esarhaddon and Assur-bani-pal himself have pillaged Egypt and her great cities, Sais, Memphis, and Thebes of the hundred gates...Now foreign merchants flock into Nineveh, bringing with them the most valuable productions from all countries, gold and perfume from South Arabia and the Chaldean Sea, Egyptian linen and glass-work, carved enamels, goldsmiths' work, tin, silver, Phoenician purple; cedar wood from Lebanon, unassailable by worms; furs and iron from Asia Minor and Armenia" (Ancient Egypt and Assyria, by G. Maspero, page 271).
The bas-reliefs, alabaster slabs, and sculptured monuments found in these recovered palaces serve in a remarkable manner to confirm the Old Testament history of the kings of Israel. The appearance of the ruins shows that the destruction of the city was due not only to the assailing foe but also to the flood and the fire, thus confirming the ancient prophecies concerning it. "The recent excavations," says Rawlinson, "have shown that fire was a great instrument in the destruction of the Nineveh palaces. Calcined alabaster, charred wood, and charcoal, colossal statues split through with heat, are met with in parts of the Nineveh mounds, and attest the veracity of prophecy."
Nineveh in its glory was (Jonah 3:4) an "exceeding great city of three days' journey", i.e., probably in circuit. This would give a circumference of about 60 miles. At the four corners of an irregular quadrangle are the ruins of Kouyunjik, Nimrud, Karamless and Khorsabad. These four great masses of ruins, with the whole area included within the parallelogram they form by lines drawn from the one to the other, are generally regarded as composing the whole ruins of Nineveh.
Int. Standard Bible Encyclopedia
nin'-e-ve (nineweh; Nineue, Nineui; Greek and Roman writers, Ninos): I. BEGINNINGS, NAME, POSITION
1. First Biblical Mention
2. Etymology of the Name
3. Position on the Tigris
II. NINEVEH AND ITS SURROUNDINGS
1. Its Walls
2. Principal Mounds and Gateways
3. Extent and Population within the Walls
4. Extent outside the Walls
5. Calah, Resen and Rehoboth-Ir
7. Sherif Khan and Selamieh
III. PALACES AT NINEVEH PROPER
1. The Palace of Sennacherib
2. The Palace of Assur-bani-apli
IV. SENNACHERIB'S DESCRIPTION OF NINEVEH
1. The Walls
2. The Gates-Northwest
3. The Gates-South and East
4. The Gates-West
5. The Outer Wall: the Plantations
6. The Water-Supply, etc.
7. How the Bas-Reliefs Illustrate the King's Description
8. Nineveh the Later Capital
V. LAST DAYS AND FALL OF NINEVEH
I. Beginnings, Name, Position.
1. First Biblical Mention:
The first Biblical mention of Nineveh is in Genesis 10:11, where it is stated that NIMROD (which see) or Asshur went out into Assyria, and builded Nineveh and Rehoboth-Ir, and Calah, and Resen between Nineveh and Calah, with the addition, "the same is the great city." Everything indicates that these statements are correct, for Nineveh was certainly at one time under Babylonian rule, and was at first not governed by Assyrian kings, but by issake or viceroys of Assur, the old capital. To all appearance Nineveh took its name from the Babylonian Nina near Lagas in South Babylonia, on the Euphrates, from which early foundation it was probably colonized. The native name appears as Ninua or Nina (Ninaa), written with the character for "water enclosure" with that for "fish" inside, implying a connection between Nina and the Semitic nun, "fish."
2. Etymology of the Name:
The Babylonian Nina was a place where fish were very abundant, and Ishtar or Nina, the goddess of the city, was associated with Nin-mah, Merodach's spouse, as goddess of reproduction. Fish are also plentiful in the Tigris at Mosul, the modern town on the other side of the river, and this may have influenced the choice of the site by the Babylonian settlers, and the foundation there of the great temple of Ishtar or Nina. The date of this foundation is unknown, but it may have taken place about 3OOO B.C.
3. Position on the Tigris:
Nineveh lay on the eastern bank of the Tigris, at the point where the Khosr falls into that stream. The outline of the wall is rectangular on the West, but of an irregular shape on the East. The western fortifications run from Northwest to Southeast, following, roughly, the course of the river, which now flows about 1,500 yards from the walls, instead of close to them, as in ancient times.
II. Nineveh and Its Surroundings.
According to the late G. Smith, the southwestern wall has a length of about 2 1/2 miles, and is joined at its western corner by the northwestern wall, which runs in a northeasterly direction for about 1 1/3 miles.
1. Its Walls:
The northeastern wall, starting here, runs at first in a southeasterly direction, but turns southward, gradually approaching the southwestern wall, to which, at the end of about 3 1/4 miles, it is joined by a short wall, facing nearly South, rather more than half a mile long.
2. Principal Mounds and Gateways:
The principal mounds are Kouyunjik, a little Northeast of the village of `Amusiyeh, and Nebi-Yunas, about 1,500 yards to the Southeast. Both of these lie just within the Southwest wall. Extensive remains of buildings occupy the fortified area. Numerous openings occur in the walls, many of them ancient, though some seem to have been made after the abandonment of the site. The principal gate on the Northwest was guarded by winged bulls (see Layard, Monuments of Nineveh, 2nd series, plural 3; Nineveh and Babylon, 120). Other gates gave access to the various commercial roads of the country, those on the East passing through the curved outworks and the double line of fortifications which protected the northeastern wall from attack on that side, where the Ninevites evidently considered that they had most to fear.
3. Extent and Population within the Walls:
According to G. Smith, the circuit of the inner wall is about 8 miles, and Captain Jones, who made a trigonometrical survey in 1854, estimated that, allotting to each inhabitant 50 square yards, the city may have contained 174,000 inhabitants. If the statement in Jonah 4:11, that the city contained 120,000 persons who could not discern between their right hand and their left, be intended to give the number of the city's children only, then the population must have numbered about 600,000, and more than three cities of the same extent would have been needed to contain them.
4. Extent outside the Walls:
It has therefore been supposed-and that with great probability-that there was a large extension of the city outside its walls. This is not only indicated by Jonah 3:3, where it is described as "an exceeding great city of three days' journey" to traverse, but also by the extant ruins, which stretch Southeast along the banks of the Tigris as far as Nimroud (Calah) while its northern extension may have been regarded as including Khorsabad.
5. Calah, Resen and Rehoboth-Ir:
Concerning the positions of two of the cities mentioned with Nineveh, namely, Calah and Resen, there can be no doubt, notwithstanding that Resen has not yet been identified-Calah is the modern Nimroud, and Resen lay between that site and Nineveh.
The name Rehoboth-Ir has not yet been found in the inscriptions, but Fried. Delitzsch has suggested that it may be the rebit Ninua of the inscriptions, Northeast of Nineveh. If this be the case, the Nineveh of Jonah contained within it all the places in Genesis 10:11, 12, and Khorsabad besides.
Taking the outlying ruins from North to South, we begin with Khorsabad (Dur-Sarru-kin or Dur-Sargina), 12 miles Northeast of Kouyunjik, the great palace mound of Nineveh proper. Khorsabad is a great enclosure about 2,000 yards square, with the remains of towers and gateways. The palace mound lies on its northwest face, and consists of an extensive platform with the remains of Sargon's palace and its temple, with a ziqqurat or temple-tower similar to those at Babylon, Borsippa, Calah and elsewhere. This last still shows traces of the tints symbolical of the 7 planets of which its stages were, seemingly, emblematic. The palace ruins show numerous halls, rooms and passages, many of which were faced with slabs of coarse alabaster, sculptured in relief with military operations, hunting-scenes, mythological figures, etc., while the principal entrances were flanked with the finest winged human-headed bulls which Assyrian art has so far revealed. The palace was built about 712 B.C., and was probably destroyed by fire when Nineveh fell in 606 B.C., sharing the same fate. Some of the slabs and winged bulls are in the Louvre and the British Museum, but most of the antiquarian spoils were lost in the Tigris by the sinking of the rafts upon which they were loaded after being discovered.
7. Sherif Khan and Selamieh:
Another outlying suburb was probably Tarbicu, now represented by the ruins at Sherif Khan, about 3 miles North of Kouyunjik. In this lay a temple-"palace" Sennacherib calls it-dedicated to Nergal. In ancient times it must have been a place of some importance, as Esarhaddon seems to have built a palace there, as well as a "seat" for his eldest son, Assur-bani-apli. The site of Resen, "between Nineveh and Calah," is thought to be the modern Selamieh, 12 miles South of Nineveh, and 3 miles North of Nimroud (Calah). It is in the form of an irregular enclosure on a high mound overlooking the Tigris, with a surface of about 400 acres. No remains of buildings, sculptures or inscriptions have, however, been found there.
After Nineveh. itself (Kouyunjik), the ruins known as Nimroud, 14 or 15 miles Southeast, are the most important. They mark the site of the ancient Calah, and have already been described under that heading (see p. 539). As there stated, the stone-faced temple-tower seems to be referred to by Ovid, and is apparently also mentioned by Xenophon (see RESEN). The general tendency of the accumulated references to these sites supports theory that they were regarded as belonging to Nineveh, if not by the Assyrians themselves (who knew well the various municipal districts), at least by the foreigners who had either visited the city or had heard or read descriptions of it.
III. Palaces at Nineveh Proper.
The palaces at Nineveh were built upon extensive artificial platforms between 30 and 50 ft. high, either of sundried brick, as at Nimroud, or of earth and rubbish, as at Kouyunjik. It is thought that they were faced with masonry, and that access was gained to them by means of flights of deep steps, or sloping pathways. Naturally it is the plan of the basement floor alone that can at present be traced, any upper stories that may have existed having long since disappeared. The halls and rooms discovered were faced with slabs of alabaster or other stone, often sculptured with bas-reliefs depicting warlike expeditions, the chase, religious ceremonies and divine figures. The depth of the accumulations over these varies from a few inches to about 30 ft., and if the amount in some cases would seem to be excessive, it is thought that this may have been due either to the existence of upper chambers, or to the extra height of the room. The chambers, which are grouped around courtyards, are long and narrow, with small square rooms at the ends. The partition walls vary from 6 to 15 ft. in thickness, and are of sun-dried brick, against which the stone paneling was fixed. As in the case of the Babylonian temples and palaces, the rooms and halls open into each other, so that, to gain access to those farthest from the courtyard entrance, one or more halls or chambers had to be traversed. No traces of windows have been discovered, and little can therefore be said as to the method of lighting, but the windows were either high up, or light was admitted through openings in the roof.
1. The Palace of Sennacherib:
The palace of Sennacherib lay in the southeast corner of the platform, and consisted of a courtyard surrounded on all four sides by numerous long halls, and rooms, of which the innermost were capable of being rendered private. It was in this palace that were found the reliefs depicting the siege of Lachish, with the representation of Sennacherib seated on his "standing" throne, while the captives and the spoil of the city passed before him. The grand entrance was flanked by winged bulls facing toward the spectator as he entered. They were in couples, back to back, on each side of the doorway, and between each pair the ancient Babylonian hero-giant, carrying in one hand the "boomerang," and holding tightly with his left arm a struggling lion (Layard, Nineveh and Babylon, 137) was represented, just as at his father Sargon's palace at Khorsabad. The upper part of these imposing figures had been destroyed, but they were so massive, that the distinguished explorer attributed their overthrow not to the act of man, but to some convulsion of Nature.
2. The Palace of Assur-bani-apli:
In the north of the mound are the ruins of the palace of Assur-bani-apli or Assur-bani-pal, discovered by Hormuzd Rassam. His latest plan (Asshur and the Land of Nimrod, Cincinnati and New York, 1897, plate facing p. 36) does not give the whole of the structure, much of the building having been destroyed; but the general arrangement of the rooms was upon the traditional lines. The slabs with which they were paneled showed bas-reliefs illustrating the Assyrian campaigns against Babylonia, certain Arab tribes, and Elam. As far as they are preserved, the sculptures are wonderfully good, and the whole decorative scheme of the paneled walls, of which, probably, the greater part is forever lost, may be characterized, notwithstanding their defects of perspective and their mannerisms, as nothing less than magnificent. The lion-hunts of the great king, despite the curious treatment of the animals' manes (due to the sculptors' ignorance of the right way to represent hair) are admirable. It would be difficult to improve upon the expressions of fear, rage and suffering on the part of the animals there delineated. The small sculptures showing Assur-bani-apli hunting the goat and the wild ass are not less noteworthy, and are executed with great delicacy.
IV. Sennacherib's Description of Nineveh.
1. The Walls:
In all probability the best description of the city is that given by Sennacherib on the cylinder recording his expedition to Tarsus in Cilicia. From ancient times, he says, the circuit of the city had measured 9,300 cubits, and he makes the rather surprising statement that his predecessors had not built either the inner or the outer wall, which, if true, shows how confident they were of their security from attack. He claims to have enlarged the city by 12,515 (cubits). The great defensive wall which he built was called by the Sumerian name of Bad-imgallabi-lu-susu, which he translates as "the wall whose glory overthrows the enemy." He made the brickwork 40 (cubits) thick, which would probably not greatly exceed the estimate of G. Smith, who reckoned it to have measured about 50 ft. The height of the wall he raised to 180 tipki, which, admitting the estimate of Diodorus, should amount to about 100 ft.
2. The Gates-Northwest:
In this enclosing wall were 15 gates, which he enumerates in full. Three of these were situated in the short northwest wall-the gate of Hadad; the gate of Uru or Hadad of Tarbisu (Sherif Khan), and the gate of the moon-god Nannar, Sennacherib's own deity. The plans show five openings in the wall on this side, any of which may have been the gate used when going to Tarbicu, but that adorned with winged bulls probably furnished the shortest route.
3. The Gates-South and East:
The gates looking toward the South and the East were the Assur-gate (leading to the old capital); Sennacherib's Halzi-gate; the gate of Samas of Gagal, the gate of the god Enlil of Kar-Ninlil, and the "covered gate," which seems to have had the reputation of letting forth the fever-demon. After this are mentioned the Sibaniba-gate, and the gate of Halah in Mesopotamia. This last must have been the extreme northeastern opening, now communicating with the road to Khorsabad, implying that Halah lay in that direction.
4. The Gates-West:
The gates on the west or river-side of the city were "the gate of Ea, director of my watersprings"; the quay-gate, "bringer of the tribute of my peoples"; the gate of the land of Bari, within which the presents of the Sumilites entered (brought down by the Tigris from Babylonia, in all probability); the gate of the tribute-palace or armory; and the gate of the god Sar-ur-"altogether 5 gates in the direction of the West." There are about 9 wide openings in the wall on this side, 2 being on each side of the Kouyunjik mound, and 2 on each side of that called Nebi-Yunus. As openings at these points would have endangered the city's safety, these 4 have probably to be eliminated, leaving 2 only North of Nebi-Yunus, 2 between that and Kouyunjik, and one North of Kouyunjik. Minor means of exit probably existed at all points where they were regarded as needful.
5. The Outer Wall: the Plantations:
To the outer wall of the city Sennacherib gave a Sumerian name meaning, "the wall which terrifies the enemy." At a depth of 54 gar, the underground water-level, its foundations were laid upon blocks of stone, the object of this great depth being to frustrate undermining. The wall was made "high like a mountain." Above and below the city he laid out plantations, wherein all the sweet-smelling herbs of Heth (Palestine and Phoenicia) grew, fruitful beyond those of their homeland. Among them were to be found every kind of mountain-vine, and the plants of all the nations around.
6. The Water-Supply, etc.:
In connection with this, in all probability, he arranged the water-supply, conducting a distant water-course to Nineveh by means of conduits. Being a successful venture, he seems to have watered therewith all the people's orchards, and in winter 1,000 corn fields above and below the city. The force of the increased current in the river Khosr was retarded by the creation of a swamp, and among the reeds which grew there were placed wild fowl, wild swine, and deer(?). Here he repeated his exotic plantations, including trees for wood, cotton (apparently) and seemingly the olive.
7. How the Bas-Reliefs Illustrate the King's Description:
Sennacherib's bas-reliefs show some of the phases of the work which his cylinder inscriptions describe. We see the winged bulls, which are of colossal dimensions, sometimes lying on their sledges (shaped like boats or Assyrian ships), and sometimes standing and supported by scaffolding. The sledges rest upon rollers, and are dragged by armies of captives urged to action by taskmasters with whips. Others force the sledges forward from behind by means of enormous levers whose upper ends are held in position by guy-ropes. Each side has to pull with equal force, for if the higher end of the great lever fell, the side which had pulled too hard suffered in killed and crushed, or at least in bruised, workmen of their number. In the background are the soldiers of the guard, and behind them extensive wooded hills. In other bas-reliefs it is apparently the pleasure grounds of the palace which are seen. In these the background is an avenue of trees, alternately tall and short, on the banks of a river, whereon are boats, and men riding astride inflated skins, which were much used in those days, as now. On another slab, the great king himself, in his hand-chariot drawn by eunuchs, superintends the work.
8. Nineveh the Later Capital:
How long Nineveh had been the capital of Assyria is unknown. The original capital was Assur, about 50 miles to the South, and probably this continued to be regarded as the religious and official capital of the country. Assur-nacir-Apli seems to have had a greater liking for Calah (Nimroud), and Sargon for Khorsabad, where he had founded a splendid palace. These latter, however, probably never had the importance of Nineveh, and attained their position merely on account of the reigning king building a palace and residing there. The period of Nineveh's supremacy seems to have been from the beginning of the reign of Sennacherib to the end of that of Assur-bani-apli, including, probably, the reigns of his successors likewise-a period of about 98 years (704-606 B.C.).
V. Last Days and Fall of Nineveh.
Nineveh, during the centuries of her existence, must have seen many stirring historical events; but the most noteworthy were probably Sennacherib's triumphal entries, including that following the capture of Lachish, the murder of that great conqueror by his sons (the recent theory that he was killed at Babylon needs confirmation); and the ceremonial triumphs of Assur-bani-apli-the great and noble Osnappar (Ezra 4:10). After the reign of Assur-bani-apli came his son Assur-etil-ilani, who was succeeded by Sin-sarra-iskun (Saracos), but the history of the country, and also of the city, is practically non-existent during these last two reigns. The Assyrian and Babylonian records are silent with regard to the fall of the city, but Alexander Polyhistor, Abydenus and Syncellus all speak of it. The best account, however, is that of Diodorus Siculus, who refers to a legend that the city could not be taken until the river became its enemy. Arbaces, the Scythian, besieged it, but could not make any impression on it for 2 years. In the 3rd year, however, the river (according to Commander Jones, not the Tigris, but the Khosr), being swollen by rains, and very rapid in its current, carried away a portion of the wall, and by this opening the besiegers gained an entrance. The king, recognizing in this the fulfillment of the oracle, gathered together his concubines and eunuchs, and, mounting a funeral pyre which he had caused to be constructed, perished in the flames. This catastrophe is supposed to be referred to in Nahum 1:8: "With an over-running flood he (the Lord) will make a full end of her place (i.e. of Nineveh)," and Nahum 2:6: "The gates of the rivers are opened, and the palace is dissolved." The destruction of the city by fire is probably referred to in 3:13, 15. The picture of the scenes in her streets-the noise of the whip, the rattling wheels, the prancing horses, the bounding chariots (3:2;), followed by a vivid description of the carnage of the battlefield-is exceedingly striking, and true to their records and their sculptures.
The standard books on the discovery and exploration of Nineveh are Layard, Nineveh and Its Remains (two volumes, 1849); Nineveh and Babylon (1853); Monuments of Nineveh, 1st and 2nd series (plates) (1849 and 1853); and Hormuzd Hassam, Asshur and the Land of Nimrod (Cincinnati and New York, 1897).
T. G. Pinches
NINEVEH, LIBRARY OF
I. THE DISCOVERY
II. THE LIBRARY
2. Astronomy and Astrology
3. Religious Texts
7. History and Chronology
I. The Discovery.
In the spring of 1850, the workmen of Sir A.H. Layard at Nineveh made an important discovery. In the ruins of the palace of Assur-bani-pal they found a passage which opened into two small chambers leading one into the other. The doorway was guarded on either side by figures of Ea, the god of culture and the inventor of letters, in his robe of fishskin. The walls of the chambers had once been paneled with bas-reliefs, one of which represented a city standing on the shore of a sea that was covered with galleys. Up to the height of a foot or more the floor was piled with clay tablets that had fallen from the shelves on which they had been arranged in order, and the larger number of them was consequently broken. Similar tablets, but in lesser number, were found in the adjoining chambers. After Layard's departure, other tablets were discovered by Mr. Hormuzd Rassam, and then the excavations ceased for many years. The discovery of the Babylonian version of the account of the Deluge, however, by Mr. George Smith in 1873 led the proprietors of the Daily Telegraph to send him to Nineveh in the hope that the missing portions of the story might be found. He had not been excavating there long before he came across a fragment of another version of the story, and then once more the excavations came to an end. Since then expeditions have been sent by the British Museum which have resulted in the recovery of further remains of the ancient library of Nineveh.
II. The Library.
The tablets formed a library in the true sense of the word. Libraries had existed in the cities of Babylonia from a remote date, and the Assyrian kings, whose civilization was derived from Babylonia, imitated the example of Babylonia in this as in other respects. The only true booklover among them, however, was Assur-bani-pal. He was one of the most munificent royal patrons of learning the world has ever seen, and it was to him that the great library of Nineveh owed its existence. New editions were made of older works, and the public and private libraries of Babylonia were ransacked in search of literary treasures.
Fortunately for us the ordinary writing-material of the Babylonians and Assyrians was clay. It was more easily procurable than papyrus or parchment, and was specially adapted for the reception of the cuneiform characters. Hence, while the greater part of the old Egyptian literature, which was upon papyrus, has perished that of Babylonia and Assyria has been preserved. In Babylonia the tablets after being inscribed were often merely dried in the sun; in the damper climate of Assyria they were baked in a kiln. As a large amount of text had frequently to be compressed into a small space, the writing is sometimes so minute as to need the assistance of a magnifying glass before it can be read. It is not surprising, therefore, that in the library-chambers of Nineveh Layard found a magnifying lens of crystal, which had been turned on the lathe.
The subject-matter of the tablets included all the known branches of knowledge. Foremost among them are the philological works. The inventors of the cuneiform system of writing had spoken an agglutinative language, called Sumerian, similar to that of the Turks or Finns today; and a considerable part of the early literature had been written in this language, which to the later Semitic Babylonians and Assyrians was what Latin was to the European nations in the Middle Ages. The student was therefore provided with grammars and dictionaries of the two languages, as well as with reading-books and interlinear translates into Assyrian of the chief Sumerian texts. Besides this, long lists of the cuneiform characters were drawn up with their phonetic and ideographic values, together with lists of Assyrian synonyms, in which, for example, all the equivalents are given of the word "to go." The Assyrian lexicographers at times attempted etymologies which are as wide of the mark as similar etymologies given by English lexicographers of a past generation. Sabattu, "Sabbath," for instance, is derived from the two Sumerian words sa "heart" and bat, "to end," and so is explained to mean "day of rest for the heart." It is obvious that all this implies an advanced literary culture. People do not begin to compile grammars and dictionaries or to speculate on the origin of words until books and libraries abound and education is widespread.
2. Astronomy and Astrology:
Astronomy occupied a prominent place in Assyrian literature, but it was largely mingled with astrology. The Babylonians were the founders of scientific astronomy; they were the first to calculate the dates of lunar and solar eclipses, and to give names to the signs of the Zodiac. Among the contents of the library of Nineveh are reports from the Royal Observatory, relating to the observation of eclipses and the like.
3. Religious Texts:
A knowledge of astronomy was needed for the regulation of the calendar, and the calendar was the special care of the priests, as the festivals of the gods and the payment of tithes were dependent upon it. Most of the religious texts went back to the Sumerian period and were accordingly provided with Assyrian translations. Some of them were hymns to the gods, others were the rituals used in different temples. There was, moreover, a collection of psalms, as well as numerous mythological texts.
The legal literature was considerable. The earliest law books were in Sumerian, but the great code compiled by Hammurabi, the contemporary of Abraham, was in Semitic Babylonian (see HAMMURABI). Like English law, Assyro-Babylonian law was case-made, and records of the cases decided from time to time by the judges are numerous.
Among scientific works we may class the long lists of animals, birds, fishes, plants and stones, together with geographical treatises, and the pseudo-science of omens. Starting from the belief that where two events followed one another, the first was the cause of the second, an elaborate pseudo-science of augury had been built up, and an enormous literature arose on the interpretation of dreams, the observation of the liver of animals, etc. Unfortunately Assur-bani-pal had a special predilection for the subject, and the consequence is that his library was filled with works which the Assyriologist would gladly exchange for documents of a more valuable character. Among the scientific works we may also include those on medicine, as well as numerous mathematical tables.
Literature was largely represented, mainly in the form of poems on mythological, religious or historical subjects. Among these the most famous is the epic of the hero Gilgames in twelve books, the Babylonian account of the Deluge being introduced as an episode in the eleventh book. Another epic was the story of the great battle between the god Merodach and Tiamat, the dragon of chaos and evil, which includes the story of the creation.
7. History and Chronology:
Historical records are very numerous, the Assyrians being distinguished among the nations of antiquity by their historical sense. In Assyria the royal palace took the place of the Bah or Egyptian temple; and where the Babylonian or the Egyptian would have left behind him a religious record, the Assyrian adorned his walls with accounts of campaigns and the victories of their royal builders. The dates which are attached to each portion of the narrative, and the care with which the names of petty princes and states are transcribed, give a high idea of the historical precision at which the Assyrians aimed. The Assyrian monuments are alone sufficient to show that the historical sense was by no means unknown to the ancient peoples of the East, and when we remember how closely related the Assyrians were to the Hebrews in both race and language, the fact becomes important to the Biblical student. Besides historical texts the library contained also chronological tables and long lists of kings and dynasties with the number of years they reigned. In Babylonia time was marked by officially naming each year after some event that had occurred in the course of it; the more historically-minded Assyrian named the year after a particular official, called limmu, who was appointed on each New Year's Day. In Babylonia the chronological system went back to a very remote date. The Babylonians were a commercial people, and for commercial purposes it was necessary to have an exact register of the time.
The library contained trading documents of various sorts, more especially contracts, deeds of sale of property and the like. Now and then we meet with the plan of a building. There were also fiscal documents relating to the taxes paid by the cities and provinces of the empire to the imperial treasury.
One department of the library consisted of letters, some of them private, others addressed to the king or to the high officials. Nearly a thousand of these have already been published by Professor Harper.
The clay books, it need hardly be added, were all carefully numbered and catalogued, the Assyrian system of docketing and arranging the tablets being at once ingenious and simple. The librarians, consequently, had no difficulty in finding any tablet or series of tablets that might be asked for. We may gather from the inscription attached to the larger works copied from Babylonian originals as well as to other collections of tablets that the library was open to all "readers."
A. H. Sayce
LIBRARY OF NINEVEH
See NINEVEH, LIBRARY OF.
Nineveh (23 Occurrences)
Matthew 12:41 The men of Nineveh will stand up in the judgment with this generation, and will condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, someone greater than Jonah is here. (WEB KJV WEY ASV BBE WBS YLT NAS NIV)
Luke 11:30 For just as Jonah became a sign to the men of Nineveh, so the Son of Man will be a token to the present generation. (WEY)
Luke 11:32 The men of Nineveh will stand up in the judgment with this generation, and will condemn it: for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, one greater than Jonah is here. (WEB WEY ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS NIV)
Genesis 10:11 Out of that land he went forth into Assyria, and built Nineveh, Rehoboth Ir, Calah, (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS NIV)
Genesis 10:12 and Resen between Nineveh and Calah (the same is the great city). (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS NIV)
2 Kings 19:36 So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed, and went and returned, and lived at Nineveh. (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS NIV)
Isaiah 37:37 So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed, went away, returned to Nineveh, and stayed there. (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS NIV)
Jonah 1:2 "Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach against it, for their wickedness has come up before me." (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS NIV)
Jonah 3:2 "Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the message that I give you." (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS NIV)
Jonah 3:3 So Jonah arose, and went to Nineveh, according to the word of Yahweh. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, three days' journey across. (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS NIV)
Jonah 3:4 Jonah began to enter into the city a day's journey, and he cried out, and said, "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!" (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS NIV)
Jonah 3:5 The people of Nineveh believed God; and they proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them. (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS)
Jonah 3:6 The news reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and took off his royal robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS NIV)
Jonah 3:7 He made a proclamation and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, "Let neither man nor animal, herd nor flock, taste anything; let them not feed, nor drink water; (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS NIV)
Jonah 4:11 Shouldn't I be concerned for Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred twenty thousand persons who can't discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much livestock?" (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS NIV)
Nahum 1:1 An oracle about Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum the Elkoshite. (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS NIV)
Nahum 1:8 But with an overrunning flood He will make a full end of the place thereof, and darkness shall pursue His enemies. (See NIV)
Nahum 1:11 One has gone out from you who is designing evil against the Lord, whose purposes are of no value. (See NIV)
Nahum 1:14 And commanded concerning thee hath Jehovah, 'No more of thy name doth spread abroad, From the house of thy gods I cut off graven and molten image, I appoint thy grave, for thou hast been vile. (See NIV)
Nahum 2:1 He who dashes in pieces has come up against you. Keep the fortress! Watch the way! Strengthen your waist! Fortify your power mightily! (See NIV)
Nahum 2:8 But Nineveh has been from of old like a pool of water, yet they flee away. "Stop! Stop!" they cry, but no one looks back. (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS NIV)
Nahum 3:7 It will happen that all those who look at you will flee from you, and say,'Nineveh is laid waste! Who will mourn for her?' Where will I seek comforters for you?" (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS NIV)
Zephaniah 2:13 He will stretch out his hand against the north, destroy Assyria, and will make Nineveh a desolation, as dry as the wilderness. (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS NIV)