LATARD'S NINEVEH AND BABYLON..
THE archaeological matter of this volume is even richer than that of its predecessor in specific information relating to the history, arts, and customs of the ancient Assyrian empire. If the discoveries of Hincks, Itawlinson, and De Salcy, in the secret of reading the cuneiform writing can be trusted, the chronology of the buildings, or at least of their inscriptions, is established. Facts of great in- terest are also proved in connexion with the annals ; the truth of the connexion of Assyria and Egypt is shown in circumstances of very curious inferential evidence ; while the historical narra- tives of Scripture are amply and remarkably confirmed as to the conquests of the Assyrians in Judaea, with some additions which would seem to imply that the Hebrew historians, like those of more modern times, made the best of their national disgraces. It is not, however, to be concealed that much of this information rests upon the inscriptions, as yet very imperfectly deciphered, which Mr. Layard brought to light ; and that doctors sometimes differ even as to the reading of what is deciphered. In the sculp- tures of the "storied halls" there can be no mistake. We see the king, the soldiers, the captives, "even in their habit as they lived," with their chariots, horses, and implements of war. The character of the cities, fortresses, and country of the vanquished, is suf- ficiently indicated ; and sometimes, when the lapse of nearly three thousand years has made little difference in the fea- tures of the country and the habits of the people, we can clearly recognize the past by comparing it with the present. The ancient Assyrians do not appear to have been a modest people. 'The palaces of Nineveh, like the palace of Versailles, were pretty much devoted to the glory of their founders. Not only were his military exploits told upon the walls, with accompanying inscriptions, and (if truly translated) in the " Veni, vidi, vici ' style, but the erection of the palace itself was in like manner delineated. The reader can see the different processes employed, from the first quarrying of the stone, and conveying it down the Tigris, till the most important sculpture was finally raised to its place. The Assyrians of that remote age were skilled in the use of the lever and rollers, but not advanced in the application of motive power. They used horses for drawing chariots and a kind of cart ; but men, probably slaves or captives, were yoked to the sledges to draw the materials for the palaces. If the chronology of some of the sculptures is truly rendered, the style of art would con- firm an assertion of Niebuhr—that the living action and lifelike character of Greek art was derivative, not original. The Assyrians did not, indeed, succeed well with the human form, and the deities were monstrous,—combinations of animals, or of man and animals, producing a creature unknown to real existence : but their repre- sentation of animals, as well in life and muscular movement as in form, was vigorous and true.
In addition to public sculptures, cylinders used apparently as seals were discovered, with earthen tablets, covered with in- scriptions, some of which it is conjectured were " tallies " or re- ceipts from the exchequer. The Assyrians would seem to have had a sort of annual register in pottery instead of print. They also appear to have had record offices stored with archives, for Mr. Layard stumbled upon one in the palace of Nineveh.
" I have mentioned elsewhere that the historical records and public docu- ments of the Assyrians were kept on tablets and cylinders of baked clay. Many specimens have been brought to this country. On a large hexagonal cylinder presented by me to the British Museum are the chronicles of Essar- haddon ; on a similar cylinder discovered in the mound of Nebbi Yarns, opposite Mosul, and formerly in the possession of the late Colonel Taylor, are eight years of the annals of Sennacherib ; and on a barrel-shaped cylin- der long since placed in the British Museum, and known as Bellino's, we have part of the records of the same king. The importance of such relics will be readily understood. They present, in a small compass, an abridg- ment or recapitulation of the inscriptions on the great monuments and palace-walls, giving in a chronological series the events of each monarch's reign. The writing is so minute, and the letters are so close one to another, that it requires considerable experience to separate and transcribe them. Fragments of other cylinders have also been discovered, and many inscribed tablets, from three to six inches in length, have been long preserved in Eng- land and in various European collections. The chambers I am describing appear to have been a depository in the palace of Nineveh for such docu- ments. To the height of a foot or more from the floor they were entirely filled with them; some entire, but the greater part broken into many frag- ments, probably by the falling in of the upper part of the building. They were of different sizes; the largest tablets were flat, and measured about 9 inches by flf inches; the smaller were slightly convex, and some were not more than an inch long, with but one or two lines of writing. The cunei- form characters on most of them were singularly sharp and well defined, but so minute in some instances as to be almost illegible without a magnifying-glass. These documents appear to be of various kinds. Many are historical records of wars, and distant expeditions undertaken by the Assyrians ; some seem to be royal decrees, and are stamped with the name of a king, the son of Esser- &midden ; others again, divided into parallel columns by horizontal lines, con- tain lists of the gods, and probably a register of offerings made in their tem- ples. On one Dr. Mucks has detected a table of the value of certain cunei- form letters, expressed by different alphabetical signs, according to various modes of using them ; a most important discovery : on another, apparently a list of the sacred days in each month ; and on a third, what seems to be a calendar. It is highly probable that a record of astronomical observations may exist amongst them, for we know from ancient writers, that the Baby- lonians inscribed such things upon burnt bricks. As we find from the Baleen inscriptions that the Assyrians kept a very accurate computation of time, we may reasonably expect to obtain valuable chronological tables, and some in- formation as to their methods of dividing the year, and even the day. Many • Discoveries in the Ruins of Nineveh and Babylon; with Travels in Armenia, Kurdistan, and the Desert. Being the result of a second Expedition undertaken for, the Trustees of the British Museum, by Austen H. Layard, M.P., Author of Nine- veh and its Remains." with Maps, Plans, and Illustrations. Published by Murray. are sealed with seals, and may prove to be legal contracts or convey- ances of land. Others bear rolled impressions of those engraved cylinders so frequently found in Babylonia and Assyria, by some believed to be amulets. The characters appear to have been formed by a very delicate instrument be- fore the clay was hardened by fire, and the process of accurately making letters so minute and complicated must have required considerable Ingenuity and experience. On some tablets are found Phoenician or cursive Assyrian characters and other signs."
If the art of deciphering the ancient Assyrian and Babylonian writing should ever be thoroughly discovered, here are materials enough for the history of at least an epoch. We should have ori- ginal documents—Assyrian " blue books"; which is more than can be said of either Greece or Rome. It is probable, however, that the proverbial want of lively circumstance may attach to the blue books of three thousand years ago, as well as to those of our own time. Mr. Layard conjectures that all their records will be brief and bare enumeration of facts or tabular results ; deficient in circum- stances, and in all the domestic and individual traits which give such human interest to the Hebrew records. The Assyrian remains compared with those of Egypt are deficient in another way. They do not exhibit the daily employment and amusements of the people. The king is there ; the king's soldiers fighting the king's battles, and the king's workmen doing the king's work, are there ; but the mass of mankind are ignored, except so far as they serve the ends of royalty. To be sure, investigation has been confined to the king's palace ; Mr. Layard did not at Nineveh fall in with the house appointed for all living. Egypt still maintains priority of antiquity. 'Whether we go back to seven or eight or to thirteen centuries before Christ for the list of sovereigns, or to a still earlier period for the foundation of the empire, the existence and the civilization of Egypt are still earlier. It is possible that Egypt herself might originate in some still more distant Eastern civiliza- tion ; but that is only conjecture. Mr. Layard's materials relate not only to the exhumation, so to speak, of a buried history and art ; they illustrate the life of that history, by the nature of the country, the appearance of its ruins, and the character of its natives, when protected by the desert, the mountain, or the marsh, from the changing effects of successive wars, conquests, and tyrannies. In an excursion, made to the Southward of Bagdad to investigate the remains of Babylon and the ruins in its vicinity, Mr. Layard visited the Niffer marshes ; and there, in actual life, he saw the condition of a people whose con- quest had been emblematically and suggestively sculptured at Ni- neveh. There, in relief as in nature, were the enormous reeds ; there was the land for the most part so covered by the waters as to allow of progress only in light boats, poled, not rowed ; and ways were made, not by embankments of earth, but by cut- ting down reeds. The sculptured representation had much of the stiffness of a Chinese or a Mediaeval painting : its emblems, especially the fish, were matter of inference ; till our author saw the very scene itself, on his visit to the Sheikh of Niffer. " Soon after sunrise the Sheikh's own tirade issued from the reeds into the open space. It had been spread with carpets and silken cushions for my re- ception. The baggage was placed in other boats; but the unfortunate horses, under the guidance of a party of naked Arabs, bad to swim the stream, and to struggle through the swamp as they best could. The armed men entered their various vessels; and we all left the shore together. " The tirada in which I sat was skilfully managed by two Arabs with long bamboo poles. It skimmed rapidly over the small lake, and then turned into a broad street, cut through green reeds rising fourteen or fifteen feet on both sides of us. The current, where the vegetation had thus been cleared away, ran at the rate of about two miles an hour, and as we were going towards the Euphrates was against us. We passed the entrance to many lanes branching oft' to the right and to the left : from them came black boats filled with Arab men and women, carrying the produce of their buffalo herds to the souk or market. As we glided along, we occasionally disturbed flocks of water-fowl, and large king-fishers of the most brilliant plumage, seated on the bending rushes, watching their prey. The sharp report of the rifle re- sounded through the marsh, and the whizzing of the ball occasionally re- minded us that the unseen sportsmen were not far distant, though concealed in the brakes. They were shooting the ducks and geese which abound. " Herds of buffalos here and there struggled and splashed amongst the rushes, their unwieldy bodies completely concealed under water, and their hideous heads just visible upon the surface. Occasionally, a small plot of ground, scarcely an inch above the level of the marsh, and itself half a swamp, was covered with huts built of reeds, canes, and bright yellow mats. These were the dwellings of the Afaij ; and as we passed by troops of half- naked men, women, and children, issued from them, and stood on the bank to gaze at the strangers. " The lanes now became more crowded with tiradas. The boatmen, how- ever, darted by the heavier vessels, turned the sharp corners, and managed their frail barks with great skill and ease. The openings in the reeds began to be more numerous, and it required a perfect knowledge of the various windings and streets to follow the right way. This singular scene recalled vividly to my mind the sculptures at Kouyunjik representing the Assyrian wars in marshes of the same nature, and probably formed by the waters of the same river. The streets through the reeds, and the tirades or boats of rushes smeared with bitumen, are faithfully delineated in the bas-reliefs, showing how little the barbarous inhabitants of these great swamps have changed after the lapse of nearly three thousand years. If we may judge, however, from the spoil of furniture and of vessels of metal, probably of gold and silver, carried away from them by the conquerors, the ancient tribes appear to have been more wealthy and mom ingenious than their descend- ants."
Again, see how the antiquarian deduction, the Hebrew Scrip- tures, and modern observation, illustrate each other. " The monuments of Nineveh, as well as the testimony of history, tend to prove that the Assyrian monarch was a thorough Eastern despot, unchecked by popular opinion, and having complete power over the lives and property of his subjects—rather adored as a god than feared as a man, and yet him- self claiming that authority and general obedience in virtue of his reverence for the national deities and the national religion. It was only when the gods themselves seemed to interpose that any check was placed upon the royal pride and lust; and it is probable that when Jonah entered Nineveh, crying to the people to repent, the King, believing him to be a special minis- ter from the supreme deity of the nation, arose from his throne, and laid
his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes.' It was not necessary to the effect of his preaching that Jonah should be of the religion of the people of Nineveh. I have known a Christian priest frighten a whole Mussulinan town to tents and repentance by publicly proclaiming that he bad received a divine mission to announce a coming earthquake or Phigwh"
Three thousand years or more have rolled by since a great civili- zation, bearing little resemblance to modern manners or ideas, was in its zenith ; and scarcely known till our own day save by tradition, and the remains of its edifices still evidently covering the Northern temperate zone, if not the earth. India, Persia, Meso- potamia, Egypt, Greece, Italy, Britain, and probably the North of Europe, as well as America, all exhibit traces of gigantic struc- tures, which, however they may differ among themselves, differ still more widely from classical or modern architecture, and, so far as we can form a judgment from architecture, erected by peoples who had little in common with the sentiments or opinions of Greek,Roman, or Christian European. The law of the world is said to be progress ; and, no doubt, in one very important particular—the condition of woman, and of the masses of men- the world has very greatly advanced. In some other things it seems to have stood still or retrograded. In the power of con- structing public works the ante-historic age was ahead of this boasted time. The Etruscan sewer of Rome, the wonderful ca- nals of Mesopotamia, yet exist to astonish if not to shame the nineteenth century. The pyramids, the temples, the palaces of Egypt and other countries, may be sneered at as useless, but they were deemed proper by the opinion of the country ; and being held so, they were done out of hand. With all our pretentious wealth and discoveries, we cannot even drain London, though declaring it to be essential to health and life. The great hydraulic works which by means of irrigation rendered the arid plains of Mesopo- tamia capable of supporting a dense population, and served at the same time as supports to the central commerce of the then world, were as useful as the keenest utilitarian could desire, and were constructed with a solidity which has defied "the tempest's breath, the battle's rage," and even the slow consuming tooth of Time. In Mr. Layard's opinion, little beyond clearing out their bed is requisite to restore their utility to what it was when Nineveh and Babylon were the wonders of the world. How the traveller, while painting pictures of degradation and desolation, makes the present continually illustrate the history of Assyria and the Hebrew writings, a few collected passages will show.
" The plains between Khan-i-Zad and the Euphrates are covered with a perfect network of ancient canals and water-courses ; but a drought is upon the waters of Bab3lon, and they were dried.' Their lofty embankments, stretching on every aide in long lines until they are lost in the hazy dis- tance, or magnified by the mirage into mountains, still defy the hand of time, and seem rather the work of nature than of man. The face of the country, too, is dotted with mounds and shapeless heaps, the remains of ancient towns and villages. " The inhabitants did not neglect the advantages bestowed upon them by _nature. A system of navigable canals, that may excite the admiration of even the modern engineer, connected together the Euphrates and Tigris, those great arteries of her commerce. With a skill showing no common knowledge of the art of surveying and of the principles of hydraulics, the Babylonians took advantage of the different levels in the plains, and of the periodical rises in the two rivers, to complete the water-communication between all parts of the province, and to fertilize by artificial irrigation an otherwise barren and unproductive soil. Alexander, after he had transferred the seat of his empire to the East, so fully understood the importance of these great works, that he ordered them to be cleansed and repaired, and superintended the work in person, steering his boat with his own hand through the chan- nels. * *
" To the North of the Dujail we wound through a perfect maze of ancient canals now dry. It required the practised eye of the Bedouin to follow the sand-covered track. About eight miles beyond the bridge the embankments suddenly ceased. A high rampart of earth then stretched as far as the eye could see, to the right and to the left. At certain distances were mounds, forming square enclosures, like ruined out-works. A few hundred yards in advance was a second rampart, much lower and narrower than the first. We had reached what some believe to be the famous Median wall, one of the =any wonders of Babylonia, built by the Babylonians from river to river across Mesopotamia, to guard their wealthy city and thickly-peopled pro- vinces against invasion from the North. Captain Jones, however, who has examined these remains with more care and for a greater distance than any other traveller, or than I could do during a hasty journey, is of opinion that they are not those of a wall of defence but merely of an embankment, stretch- ing for miles inland, and originally raised to protect the lower country from inundations and to regulate its irrigation. I confess, that my own impres- sion, even after this explanation, was in favour of the rampart. At any rate, if this be not the Median wall, no traces of which have been as yet found in any other part of Mesopotamia, it appeared to me to be a regular ;line of fortification."
In addition to the discoveries immediately connected with Nineveh, and the excursions which directly illustrate those dis- coveries Mr. Layard's volume has other sections which fall under the head of modern travels. There is a narrative of his journey from Constantinople to his head-quarters at Mosul, including a call upon his old friends the Yezidis or Devil-worshipers. During the sickly season, he travelled Northward from Mosul, for change of air, and visited Lake Van. On another occasion he made an excursion with Arabs to visit an Arab tribe on the banks of the Khabour, in a direction West from Mosul. The whole of these contain pictares of the life and character of Turks, Kurds, Yezidis, Armenians, and other races, with frequent allusions to the present state of the Ottoman empire. The most attractive part is the description of the Arabs. Those sons of the desert are brought 'before the reader with equal novelty and truth. They are no longer the dirty Bedouin of the modern tourist to Egypt and Jerusalem, who pictures them as he and such as he have made them, .dirty, avaricious, and exacting ; nor -do they resemble the tyrant -.Saracen, such as for many agee ignorance and religious prejudices
fancied the countrymen of Mahomet. The real Arab of the desert is poor, and very much of a riever ; but simple, hospitable, true, and imaginative, delighting in poetry and iowers, and when trusted honest to a remarkable degree. Every passage relating to these remarkable people is full of interest and character. From these very attractive sketches of a people whose recorded manners are the oldest in the world, we take one which in its way has also a bearing upon antiquity, if Homer was an Asiatic.
"Amongst the Bedouins who watched our camels was one Saoud, a poet of renown amongst the tribes. With the exception of a few ballads that he had formerly composed in honour of Sofuk, and other celebrated Shammar Sheikhs, he chiefly recited extemporary i stanzas on passing events, or on per- sons who were present. He would sit n my tent of an evening, and sing his verses, in a wild though plaintive strain, to the great delight of the assem- bled guests, and particularly of Mijwell, who, like a true Bedouin, was easily affected by poetry, especially with such as might touch his own passion for the unknown lady. He would sway his body to and fro, keeping time with the measure, sobbing aloud as the poet sang the death of his companions in war, breaking out into loud laughter when the burden of the ditty was a satire upon his friends, making extraordinary noises and grimaces to show his feel- ings, more like a drunken man than a sober Bedouin. But when the bard improvised an amatory ditty, the young chiefs excitement was almost be- yond control. The other Bedouins were scarcely less moved by these rude measures, which have the same kind of effect on the wild tribes of the Per- sian mountains. Such verses, chanted by their self-taught poets, or by the girls of their encampment, will drive warriors to the combat, fearless of death, or prove an ample reward on their return from the dangers of the ghazou or the fight. The excitement they produce exceeds that of the grape. He who would understand the influence of the Homeric ballads in the heroic ages should witness the effect which similar compositions have upon the wild nomades of the East. Amongst the Kurds and Lours I have not met with bards who chanted extemporary verses. Episodes from the great historical epics of Persia, and odes from their favourite poets, are recited during war or in the tents of their chiefs. But the art of improvising seems innate in the Bedouin. Although his metre and mode of recitation are rude to European ears, his rich and sonorous language lends itself to this species of poetry, whilst his exuberant imagination furnishes him with endless beautiful and appropriate allegories. The wars between the tribes, the ghazou, and their struggles with the Turks, are inexhaustible themes for verse, and in an Arab tent there is little else to afford excitement or amusement. The Bedouins have no books ; even a Koran is seldom seen amongst them : it is equally rare to find a wandering Arab who can read. They have no written litera- ture, and their traditional history consists of little more than the tales of a few story-tellers who wander from encampment to encampment, and earn their bread by chanting verses to the monotonous tones of a one-stringed fiddle made of a gourd covered with sheep-skin."
An Arab is nothing without his steed, and some space is devoted to the subject of Arabian horses ; the breed of which is said to be declining, owing in some measure to the trade that has sprung up with India, and Europeans not being so particular about blood. The following particulars will have interest for those who are in- terested in horses.
" The agents of Abbas Pasha' the Viceroy of Egypt, sent into all parts of the Desert to purchase the best horses, have especially sought for mares of this breed. The prices given for them would appear enormous even to the English reader. A Sheikh of the great tribe of the Al Dhofyr was offered and refused for a mare no less than 12001. ; the negotiations being carried on through Fares, Sheikh of the Montefik, who received handsome presents for the trouble he had taken in the matter. As much as a thousand pounds is said to have been given to Sheikhs of the Aneyza for well-known mares. So that, had the Pasha's challenge been accepted, the best blood in Arabia would have been matched against the English racer. During my residence in the Desert I saw several horses which were purchased for the Viceroy. " To understand how a man, who has perhaps not even bread to feed himself and his children, can withstand the temptation of such large sums, it must be remembered that, besides the affection proverbially felt by the Bedouin for his mare, which might perhaps not be proof against such a test, he is entirely dependent upon her for his happiness, his glory, and indeed his very existence. An Arab, possessing a horse unrivalled in speed and en- durance—and it would only be for such that prices like those I have men- tioned would be offered—is entirely his own master, and can defy the world. Once on its back, no one can catch him. He may rob, plunder, fight, and go to and fro as he lists. He believes in the word of his Prophet, that noble and fierce breeds of horses are true riches.' Without his mare, money would be of no value to him : it would either become the prey of some one more powerful and better mounted than himself; would be spent in festivi- ties, or be distributed amongst his kinsmen. He could only keep his gold by burying it in some secret place ; and of what use would it then be to one who is never two days in the same spot, and who wanders over a space ol
three or four hundred miles in the course of a few months ? * *
" The Arab horse is more remarkable for its exquisite symmetry and beauti- ful proportions, united with wonderful powers of endurance, than for extra- ordinary speed. I doubt whether any Arab of the best -blood has ever been brought to England. The difficulty of obtaining them is so great that they are scarcely ever seen beyond the limits of the Desert. "Their colour is generally white, light or dark grey, light chestnut, and bay, with white or black feet. Black is exceedingly rare, and I never re- member to have seen dun, sorrel, or dapple. I refer, of course, to the true- bred Arab, and not to the Turcoman or to Kurdish and Turkish races, which are a cross between the Arab and Persian.
"Their average height is from 14 hands to 144 rarely reaching 15 • 1 have only seen one mare that exceeded it. Notwithstanding the smallness of their stature, they often possess great strength and courage. I was cre- dibly informed that a celebrated mare of the Manekia breed, now dead, car- ried two men in chain-armour beyond the reach of their Aneyza pursuers. But their most remarkable and valuable quality is the power of performing long and arduous marches upon the smallest possible allowance of food and water. It is only the mare of the wealthy Bedouin that gets even a regular feed of about twelve handfuls of barley, or of rice in the husk, once in twenty-four hours. During the spring alone? when the pastures are green, the horses of the Arabs are sleek and beautiful in appearance. At .other times they eat nothing but the withered herbs and scanty hay gathered tfeetil the parched soil, and are lean and unsightly. They are never, placed Ind= cover during the intense heat of an Arabian summer, nor protected from the biting cold of the Desert winds during winter. The saddle .is rarely taken from their backs, nor are they ever cleaned or groomed. Thus' apparently neglected, they are but skin and bone ; and the townsman- mareals at seeing an animal which he would scarcely take the trouble to ride.4ome valued almost beyond price. Although docile as a lamb, and requiring no other guide-than the halter, when the Arab mare hears the war-cry of the tribe, and sees the quivering spear of her rider, her eyes, glitter with fire, her blood-red nostrils open wide, her neck is nobly arched, and her tail and
mane are raised and spread out to the wind. The Bedouin proverb says, that a high-bred mare when at full speed should hide her rider between her neck and her tail."
Although treating of so many important subjects, andpossessing so much curious and interesting matter, Nineveh and Babylon is upon the whole somewhat heavy, owing to want of art in the arrangement and to want of care in the writing. The narrative is too extended and too broken up. The preliminary journey, though well enough for a common book of travels, has an exhaustive effect upon the reader before he reaches the beginning, as it were. As the novelty and wonder of the discovery of the buried palaces ceased with the accounts in Nineveh and tts Remains, the particu- lars of exhumation are pursued too far and too much in chrono- logical order for a popular work : the public requires striking fea- tures and general results, not the details of a surveyor's measuring- book. The chronological order involves a further drawback—that the subject is too often interrupted. When Mr. Bayard makes a trip, the reader is carried from the ruins with the effect of inter- ruption rather than contrast. Haste or preoccupation has over- loaded the composition with trifling particulars or descriptions. But if the author has not succeeded in presenting his work to the best advantage, the publisher has done his part to perfection. Maps and plates are numerous; the page is studded with wood- cut illustrations, spirited representations of living men, scenes, and monuments, or accurate fac-similes of lesser "antiques," capitally engraved, and throwing a light upon the archeology which words could never convey.