Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 2.djvu/28

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ASSYRIA ASSYRIA dynasty. It was made first the royal residence of Sargon, and afterwards became the rival of Nineveh. Its site is represented by the modern Khorsabad. (5) Arbailu, or Arbela, famous in Greek and Persian annals for the decisive victorj' won by Alexander the Great over the formidable army of Darius, King of Persia and Babylon (331 B. c). (6) Nasibina, or Nisibis, famous in the annals of Nestorian Christi- anity. (7) Harran, well known for the worship of Sin," the moon-god. (8) Ingur-Bel, corresponding to the modern Tell-Balawat. (9) Tarbis, corre- sponding to the modern Sherif-IClian. Tlie sites and ruins of all these cities have been explored. Sources of Assyro-Babyloni.

History. — 

These may be grouped as: (1) the Old Testament; (2) the Greek, Latin, and Oriental wTiters; and (3) the monumental records and remains of the Assyrians and Babylonians themselves. In the "first division belong the Fourth (in Author- ized Version, Second) Book of Kings, Paralipomenon (Chronicles), the wTitings of the prophets Isaias, Nahum, Jeremias, Jonas, Ezechiel, and Daniel, as well as the laconic but extremely valuable fragments of information contained in Genesis, x, xi, and xiv. To the second group of sources belong the Chaldeo- Babylonian priest and historian Berosus, who lived in the days of Alexander the Great (356-323 b. c.) and continued to live at least as late as Antiochus I, Soter (280-261 b. c). He wrote in Greek a great work on Babylonian history, under the title of "Babyloniaca", or "Chaldaica". This valuable work, which was based on contemporarj' Babylonian monuments and inscriptions, has unfortunately perished, and only a few excerpts from it have been preserved in later Greek and Latin writers. Then we have the wTitings of Polyliistor, Ctesias, Herodo- tus, Abydenus, ApoUodoriis, Alexander of Miletus, Josephus, Georgius Syncellus, Diodorus Siculus, Euseljius, and otliers. With the exception of Bero- sus, the information derived from all the above- mentioned historians is mostly legendary and un- reliable, and even their quotations from Berosus are to be used mth caution. This is especially true in the case of Ctesias, who lived at the Persian court in Babylonia. To the third categorj' belong the numerous contemporary monuments and inscriptions discovered during the last fifty years in Babylonia, Assyria, Elam, and Egypt, which form an excellent and a most authoritative collection of historical dociunents. For the chronology of Assyria we have some very valuable means of information. These are (1) The "Eponym List", which covers the entire period from the reign of Ramman-nirari II (911-890 B. c.) dovn to that of Asshurbanipal (669-625 B. c). The eponyms, or limmu, were like the eponymous archons at Athens and the consuls at Rome. They were oflScers, or governors, whose term of office lasted but one year, to which year they gave their name; so that if any event was to be recorded, or a contract drawn in the year, e. g. 763 B. c, the number of the year would not be mentioned, but instead we are told that such and such an event took place in the year of Pur-Shagli, who was the lunmu, or gov- ernor, in that year. (2) Another source is found in the chronological notices scattered throughout the historical inscriptions, such as Sennacherib's in- scription engraved on the rock at Bavian, in which he tells us that one of his predecessors, Tiglath-pileser (Douay Version, Theglathphalasar) reigned about 418 years before him, i. e. about 1107 B. c; or that of Tiglath-pileser himself, who tells us that he rebuilt the temple of Anu and Ramman, which sixty years previously had been pulled down by King Asshur- dan because it had fallen into decay in the course of the 641 years since its foundation by King Shamshi- Ramman. This notice, therefore, proves that Asshur-dan must have reigned about the years 1170 or 1180 B. c. So also Sennacherib tells us that a seal of King Tukulti-Ninib I had been brought from Assyria to Babylon, where after 600 years he found it on his conquest of that city. As Sennacherib conquered Babylon twice, once in 702 and again in 689 B. c, it follows that Tukulti-Ninib I must have reigned over Assyria in any case before 1289 b. c, and possibly a few years before 1302 b. c. (3) Another chronological source is to be found in the genealogies of the kings, which they give of them- selves and of their ancestors and predecessors. (4) Further valuable help may be obtained from the so-called "Synchronous History" of Babylonia and Assyria, which consists of a brief summarj' of the relations between the two countries from the earliest times in regard to their respective boundarj' lines. The usefulness of this dociunent consists mainly in the fact that it gives the list of many Babylonian and AssjTian kings who ruled over their respective countries contemporaneously. Assyro-Baby'loni.x Exploration. — As late as 1849, Sir Henry Layard, the foremost pioneer of Assyro-Babylonian explorations, in the preface to his classical work entitled "Nineveh and Its Re- mains", remarked how, previously, with the excep- tion of a few cylinders and gems preserved elsewliere, a case, hardly tliree feet square, in the British Museum, enclosed all that remained not only of the great city, Nineveh, but of Babylon itself. At that time few indeed would have had the presumption even to imagine that within fifty years the exploration of Assyria and Babylonia would have given us the most primitive literature of the ancient world. What fifty years ago belonged to the world of dreams is at the present time a striking reality; for we are now in possession of the priceless libraries of the ancient Assyrians and Babylonians, of their historical annals, civil and military records, State archives, diplomatic correspondences, textbooks and school exercises, grammars and dictionaries, hjTnns, bank accounts and business transactions, laws and contracts, and an extensive collection of geographical, astronomical, mj'thological, magical, and astrological texts and inscriptions. These precious monuments are actually scattered in all the public and private museums and art collections of Europe, America, and Turkey. The total number of tablets, cylinders, and cuneiform inscriptions so far discovered is approximately esti- mated at more than three hundred thousand, which, if published, would easilj- cover 400 octavo volumes of 400 pages each. Unfortunately, only about one-fifth of all the inscriptions discovered have been published so far; but even this contains more than eight times as much hterature as is contained in the Old Testament. The British Museum alone has published 440 folio, and over 700 cjuarto, pages, and about one-half as much more has appeared in various archjeological publications. The British Museum has more than 40,000 cuneiform tablets, the Louvre more than 10,000, the Imperial Museum of Berlin more than 7,000, that of the L^niversity of Pennsyl- vania more than 20,000, and that of Constantinople many thousands more, awaiting the patient toil of our Assyriologists. The period of time covered by these documents is more surprising than their num- ber. They occur from prehistoric times, or about 5000 B. c, down to the first centurj' before the Christian Era. But this is not all, for, according to the unanimous opinion of all modem Assyriologists. by far the largest part of the AssjTO-Babylonian hterature and inscriptions are still buried under the fertile soil of these wonderful regions, which have ever been the land of surprises, awaiting further explorers and decipherers. As has already been remarked, the meagre and often unreliable information concerning Assyria and