Page:EB1911 - Volume 03.djvu/125

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108
BABYLONIA AND ASSYRIA

of squares and cubes, calculated from 1 to 60, have been found at Senkera, and a people who were acquainted with the sun-dial, the clepsydra, the lever and the pulley, must have had no mean knowledge of mechanics. A crystal lens, turned on the lathe, was discovered by Layard at Nimrud along with glass vases bearing the name of Sargon; this will explain the excessive minuteness of some of the writing on the Assyrian tablets, and a lens may also have been used in the observation of the heavens.

Art and Architecture.—The culture of Assyria, and still more of Babylonia, was essentially literary; we miss in it the artistic spirit of Egypt or Greece. In Babylonia the abundance of clay and want of stone led to the employment of brick; the Babylonian temples are massive but shapeless structures of crude brick, supported by buttresses, the rain being carried off by drains, one of which at Ur was of lead. The use of brick led to the early development of the pilaster and column, as well as of frescoes and enamelled tiles. The walls were brilliantly coloured, and sometimes plated with bronze or gold as well as with tiles. Painted terra-cotta cones were also embedded in the plaster. Assyria in this, as in other matters, the servile pupil of Babylonia, built its palaces and temples of brick, though stone was the natural building material of the country, even preserving the brick platform, so necessary in the marshy soil of Babylonia, but little needed in the north. As time went on, however, the later Assyrian architect began to shake himself free from Babylonian influences and to employ stone as well as brick. The walls of the Assyrian palaces were lined with sculptured and coloured slabs of stone, instead of being painted as in Chaldaea. We can. trace three periods in the art of these bas-reliefs; it is vigorous but simple under Assur-nazir-pal III., careful and realistic under Sargon, refined but wanting in boldness under Assur-bani-pal. In Babylonia, in place of the bas-relief we have the figure in the round, the earliest examples being the statues from Tello which are realistic but somewhat clumsy. The want of stone in Babylonia made every pebble precious and led to a high perfection in the art of gem-cutting. Nothing can be better than two seal-cylinders that have come down to us from the age of Sargon of Akkad. No remarkable specimens of the metallurgic art of an early period have been found, apart perhaps from the silver vase of Entemena, but at a later epoch great excellence was attained in the manufacture of such jewellery as ear-rings and bracelets of gold. Copper, too, was worked with skill; indeed, it is possible that Babylonia was the original home of copper-working, which spread westward with the civilization to which it belonged. At any rate the people were famous from an early date for their embroideries and rugs. The ceramic history of Babylonia and Assyria has unfortunately not yet been traced; at Susa alone has the care demanded by the modern methods of archaeology been as yet expended on examining and separating the pottery found in the excavations, and Susa is not Babylonia. We do not even know the date of the spirited terra-cotta reliefs discovered by Loftus and Rawlinson. The forms of Assyrian pottery, however, are graceful; the porcelain, like the glass discovered in the palaces of Nineveh, was derived from Egyptian originals. Transparent glass seems to have been first introduced in the reign of Sargon. Stone as well as clay and glass were employed in the manufacture of vases, and vases of hard stone have been disinterred at Tello similar to those of the early dynastic period of Egypt.

Social Life.—Castes were unknown in both Babylonia and Assyria, but the priesthood of Babylonia found its counterpart in the military aristocracy of Assyria. The priesthood was divided into a great number of classes, among which that of the doctors may be reckoned. The army was raised, at all events in part, by conscription; a standing army seems to have been first organized in Assyria. Successive improvements were introduced into it by the kings of the second Assyrian empire; chariots were superseded by cavalry; Tiglath-pileser III. gave the riders saddles and high boots, and Sennacherib created a corps of slingers. Tents, baggage-carts and battering-rams were carried on the march, and the tartan or commander-in-chief ranked next to the king. In both countries there was a large body of slaves; above them came the agriculturists and commercial classes, who were, however, comparatively little numerous in Assyria. The scribes, on the other hand, formed a more important class in Assyria than in Babylonia. Both countries had their artisans, money-lenders, poets and musicians.

The houses of the people contained but little furniture; chairs, tables and couches, however, were used, and Assur-bani-pal is represented as reclining on his couch at a meal while his wife sits on a chair beside him. After death the body was usually partially cremated along with the objects that had been buried with it. The cemetery adjoined the city of the living and was laid out in streets through which ran rivulets of “pure” water. Many of the tombs, which were built of crude brick, were provided with gardens, and there were shelves or altars on which were placed the offerings to the dead. As the older tombs decayed a fresh city of tombs arose on their ruins. It is remarkable that thus far no cemetery older than the Seleucid or Parthian period has been found in Assyria.

Authorities.—See A. H. Layard, Nineveh and Babylon (1853); E. de Sarzec and L. Heuzey, Découvertes en Chaldée (1884 foll.); H. V. Hilprecht, The Babylonian Expedition of the University of Pennsylvania (1893 foll.); J. P. Peters, Nippur (1897); E. Schrader, Keilinschriftliche Bibliothek (1889-1900); Records of the Past (new series, 1888-1892); Th. G. Pinches, “The Babylonian Chronicle,” in Journ. R. A. S. (1887); H. Winckler, Altorientalische Forschungen (1893 foll.), and The Tell-el-Amarna, Letters (1896); G. Maspero, Dawn of Civilization (1896), Struggle of the Nations (1897), and Passing of the Empires (1900); L. W. King, Letters of Khammurabi (1898-1900); H. Radau, Early Babylonian History (1900); R. W. Rogers, History of Babylonia and Assyria (1900); F. Hommel, Grundriss der Geographie und Geschichte des alten Orients (1904); Mitteilungen der deutschen Orientgesellschaft (1899).

 (A. H. S.) 

VIII. Chronological Systems.—The extreme divergence in the chronological schemes employed by different writers on the history of Babylonia and Assyria has frequently caused no small perplexity to readers who have no special knowledge of the subject. In this section an attempt is made to indicate briefly the causes which have led to so great a diversity of opinion, and to describe in outline the principles underlying the chief schemes of chronology that have been suggested; a short account will then be given of the latest discoveries in this branch of research, and of the manner in which they affect the problems at issue. It will be convenient to begin with the later historical periods, and then to push our inquiry back into the earlier periods of Babylonian and Sumerian history.

Up to certain points no difference of opinion exists upon the dates to be assigned to the later kings who ruled in Babylon and in Assyria. The Ptolemaic Canon (see sect. II.) gives a list of the Babylonian, Assyrian and Persian kings who ruled in Babylon, together with the number of years each of them reigned, from the accession of Nabonassar in 747 B.C. to the conquest of Babylon by Alexander the Great in 331 B.C. The accuracy of this list is confirmed by the larger List of Kings and by the principal Babylonian Chronicle; the latter, like the Canon, begins with the reign of Nabonassar, who, it has been suggested, may have revised the calendar and have inaugurated a new epoch for the later chronology. The Ptolemaic Canon is further controlled and its accuracy confirmed by the Assyrian Eponym Lists, or lists of limmi (see sect. II.), by means of which Assyrian chronology is fixed from 911 B.C. to 666 B.C., the solar eclipse of June 15th, 763 B.C., which is recorded in the eponymy of Pur-Sagale, placing the dead reckoning for these later periods upon an absolutely certain basis.

Thus all historians are agreed with regard to the Babylonian chronology back to the year 747 B.C., and with regard to that of Assyria back to the year 911 B.C. It is in respect of the periods anterior to these two dates that different writers have propounded differing systems of chronology, and, as might be imagined, the earlier the period we examine the greater becomes the discrepancy between the systems proposed. This variety of opinion is due to the fact that the data available for settling the chronology often conflict with one another, or are capable of more than one interpretation.

Since its publication in 1884 the Babylonian List of Kings has furnished the framework for every chronological system that has