The New Student's Reference Work/Assyria

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Assyr′ia was the northernmost of the three great countries which occupied the Mesopotamian plain. The Niphates Mountains of Armenia were on the north, Susiana and Babylonia on the south, Media on the east and the watershed of the Euphrates on the west. It was about 280 miles long from north to south, and about 150 broad from east to west. There are mountain chains in the north and east, and the country is watered by the Tigris. It is a very fertile region and supported in ancient times a large population. That its people reached a high degree of wealth and civilization is shown by the ruins of mighty cities, by canals and means of irrigation, by inscriptions and carefully kept records of its history—especially the Eponym canon, as it is called, which has been found to agree closely with what is said in the Bible about the Assyrians.

The Babylonian monarchy was already growing old before the Assyrian began. The early rulers were mere governors appointed by the Babylonian kings. Little by little Assyria became independent. She began to be powerful about 1320 B. C., but Tiglath-Pileser I (about 1140 B. C.) was the real founder of the first Assyrian empire. He spread the dominion of Assyria over all western Asia, from Elam to the Mediterranean and from the Armenian Mountains to the Persian Gulf. Under his son the empire decayed as rapidly as it had grown, and for two centuries Assyria played no part in history. It was during this time of decay that the Hebrew kingdom arose and was developed under David and Solomon. In 930 B. C., Assyria began once more to become important. Shalmaneser II began to reign in 858 B. C., and for thirty years engaged in wars that established the power of Assyria over all western Asia. It was this king who in 854 B. C. fought against the king of Hamath, Benhadad of Damascus and Ahab of Israel. In 745 B. C., the throne was usurped by a powerful monarch, Pul, a Babylonian, who took the Assyrian name, Tiglath-Pileser II. He made firm the conquests of his predecessors. In earlier times it had been conquest and spoil that formed the policy of the rulers; now the conquered districts were annexed and ruled by Assyrian governors, who saw to it that a fixed tax was sent year by year to Nineveh. Sargon, who was one of Assyria's great generals, was the leader of a successful revolt of the army against a weak prince. It was he who captured Samaria, in 722 B. C., and carried away 27,000 of its best citizens. Sargon's son, Sennacherib, ravaged Judæa, capturing forty-six cities, and besieged Jerusalem, where a pestilence, referred to in the Bible, attacked his army and saved the city. In 681 B. C. began the reign of Assyria's greatest king, Esarhaddon. He at once set on foot the war which resulted in the conquest of Egypt, and which placed the ancient world for twenty years under one rule, thus giving the world the idea of a universal empire. Under Esarhaddon and his son, Asurbanipal (called by the Greeks Sardanapalus), the kingdom in 650 B. C. reached its height. Afterward revolts took place which slowly ruined it.

The modern area of Assyria (Mesopotamia), in Turkey in Asia, comprises the vilayet of Mosul (area 35,130 square miles; population 500,000), Baghdad (area 54,540 square miles; population estimated at 900,000); and Busra (area 53,580 square miles; population 600,000). The town of Mosul on the Tigris is close to the ruins of Nineveh and 220 miles by water (R. Tigris) north of Baghdad. Busra or Basra contains the town of Korna, where the Tigris and Euphrates join their waters, at the southern end of the ancient dominions of Assyria and then find their way by the Shat-el-Arab southward into the Persian Gulf. Northwest of Korna or Kurna and south of Baghdad is the town of Hillah, on the Euphrates, near the ruins of ancient Babylon and the Arab vilayet from which many Babylonian records have in our modern day been shipped.