THE REIGN OF ASSHURBANIPAL
( 668–627 B. C.)
WHEN Esarhaddon was dead there was no war of succession and no difficulty about the passing to his son of all his powers and titles. Ashurbanipal, the Sardanapalus of the Greeks and the Latins, and the Asnapper of the Old Testament, became king in Nineveh, and his brother, Shamash ShumUkin, was likewise everywhere received as king of Babylon. The dual control in the Assyrian empire began with great promise of success, though exposed to the difficulties and dangers already enumerated.
Ashurbanipal was devoted to the collection of books, and equally interested in their production. He took pains that his deeds and his wars, his buildings and his very thoughts and hopes, should be carefully written down. No inscriptions of any previous reign are so beautifully written as his. None are so smooth in their phrases, so glowing in their pictures, so sweeping in their style. But the care as to form was carried so far as to obscure at times the sense, and one wishes for the bald directness of the older monuments. Furthermore, to our present great discomfiture, the inscriptions are not written in annalistic form, with the events of every year carefully blocked out by themselves. We are therefore often at a loss to determine exactly in what year an important event took place. The events are set forth in campaigns, and as the campaigns are not coterminous with the years, it is impossible accurately to date events. To add to the difficulty the Babylonian Chronicle does not help us any longer with its brief notes of events and their exact location in time. The only dates of his reign which have come down to us beyond all doubt are, first, the very central event of the reign, the result of the inevitable conflict with his brother, and, secondly, the date of his death.
We are therefore deprived of any guide to the chronology of the events, and are compelled to view them all as Ashurbanipal has arranged them for us, in the form of campaigns. This is the more unsatisfactory, as we have, at least in one instance, clear proof that the order of the campaigns is logical rather than chronological. Ashurbanipal, or rather his historiographer, has grouped them according to a scheme along which they seemed to his mind to develop. That this order was artificial rather than natural is shown by one brief hint in the Babylonian Chronicle concerning an expedition to Kirbit, a district of Elam. From Kirbit plundering hordes of men had been sweeping down into Emutbal, which was the original home land of Eri Aku before he entered upon rule at Larsa. Emutbal now belonged to Babylonia, and Ashurbanipal must defend it if possible. To discharge this obligation he either led or sent an army against it which soon devastated the land, "dyed the rivers with blood as one dyes wool"—the phrase is Ashurbanipal’s—and plundered the country. This expedition, according to the Chronicles, took place in 667, the first full year of Ashurbanipal’s reign, and was therefore the first expedition actually begun and ended by him. In his inscriptions, however, it figures as the fifth and not as the first campaign. It was, however, of little consequence, and the momentous events of the long and brilliant reign begin with the expeditions to Egypt.
Esarhaddon had died on the way to Egypt, and left the necessary expedition as a part of the inheritance to his son. When he made his brilliant campaign in Egypt he had met with but slight resistance; Tirhaqa had not fought at all, but had fled to Nubia. Esarhaddon did not pursue him thither, but reorganized the administration of the country, and left Tirhaqa, to rest in his own home land. But Tirhaqa waited but a short time to gain accessions of strength, and then entered Egypt again, which he speedily re-conquered. The Assyrian officers, petty princes, and civil servants were unceremoniously driven from the land. Memphis was retaken, and there Tirhaqa set up his court. Egypt was in reality completely torn from Assyrian hands, and the wonderful work of Esarhaddon undone. It was these untoward events which caused the third Egyptian invasion by Esarhaddon, during which he died. All these events are narrated in the inscriptions of Ashurbanipal as though they had taken place in his own reign, and not in the last year of his father's. He has some excuse for this, apart from the desire of further glory for himself. He probably considered himself as the real king from the twelfth day of Iyyar, 668, when he was proclaimed as crown prince.
Ashurbanipal, as soon as lie became king, probably ordered the army, which had already set out for Egypt under the leadership of his father, to proceed. Whether he himself actually took the head or sent it on under command of a Tartan is doubtful The narrative is, as usual, in the first person, and this does not prove the king's actual presence. Before Egypt was entered Ashurbanipal received gifts and protestations of loyalty from twenty-two princes of the seacoast, who joined forces with him. He had not far to march before the army of Tirhaqa was met at Karbanit, in the eastern or central part of the Delta, where it was defeated. Tirhaqa had remained in Memphis, and as soon as he heard of the defeat fled to Thebes. Memphis was occupied by the Assyrians without opposition, and there were received all the princes, prefects, and officers whom Esarhaddon had set in authority in Egypt, but who had fled from their posts on the return of Tirhaqa. They were all reinstated and the Assyrian rule firmly established. Then, laden with heavy plunder from the richest country of the world, the army returned to Assyria. Whether the leaders of the army were suspicious of the restored princes or not, or whether they had received some hint of a conspiracy, we do not know, but they held themselves in readiness for a recall, and did not proceed directly home.
As soon as the faithless governors thought that the Assyrian forces were withdrawn three of them, Sharludari of Pelusium, Pakruru of Pisept, and Necho of Memphis and Sais, began to plot against the Assyrian overlordship. They sent messengers to Tirhaqa asking him to join with them. The Assyrian generals were on the watch and caught the bearers of the traitorous dispatches. With this clear evidence in hand Sharludari and Necho were suddenly arrested, and only Pakruru escaped. Three rebellious cities, Sais, Mendes, and Tanis, all in the Delta, were taken, apparently without the striking of a blow. The inhabitants were slain; some were flayed alive and their skins were spread on the city walls, while the bodies of others were impaled upon stakes about the city. So returned again in the literary days of Ashurbanipal the hideous atrocities of the days of Asshurnazirpal. It may well be asked, What had the centuries of progress done for the Assyrian people? Ferocity and thirst for blood were here found in as full measure as ever. The leaders of the rebellion, however, were much better treated. They were carried in chains to Nineveh, where it is hardly likely that they would be tortured to death. Two are mentioned no more, and one was handsomely forgiven. Necho must have been a man of forceful character, in whom Ashurbanipal recognized a servant too valuable to be lost. In spite of his serious breach of faith he was laden with costly and beautiful presents and returned to his rule at Sais, while his son, Nabu Shezib Anni, whose Assyrian name bears witness to his father's devotion to Assyria, was set to rule over the satrapy of Athribis, also in the Delta north of Memphis.
These events began in 668; they were probably entirely completed in 667, the first official year of the reign of Ashurbanipal. Egypt was once more pacified by force, and there was some hope that this peace might continue. Tirhaqa withdrew again to Nubia. He had long held out against Assyria, and his heart was still hostile. Others might accept Assyrian presents and occupy Assyrian posts, for him there was only a longing for the revenge that never came. Death hurried him away before there was any opportunity for another rebellion against the arch enemy of all the west.
When he was gone from the world of action his policy and his hopes, nevertheless, lived on. Shabaka had left a son, Tanut Amon, whom the Assyrians call Tandamani. He had now come to man's estate and succeeded to such rights and titles as the unfortunate Tirhaqa, his stepfather, had to leave. With the army of Tirhaqa, and accompanied, undoubtedly, by the good wishes of much of Egypt, he came up from Nubia and seized Thebes. That this was so easily accomplished is only another evidence that the real power of Assyria was concentrated in the Delta and could hardly be said to extend much beyond Memphis. With Thebes as a basis Tandamani advanced northward and gained foothold in On, or Heliopolis. How long he might have held this place in spite of attacks from the Assyrian governors in Egypt is doubtful, but when he learned of the advance of the Assyrian army to relieve the city he abandoned it and fell back to Thebes. The Assyrian army then moved on in pursuit, and of the next event there are two variant accounts. According to one, Tandamani fled from the city on the approach of the army, and was overtaken and beaten at Kipkip. According to the other version, he was conquered at Thebes, which he attempted to hold.
The campaign was probably short as well as decisive. By it Ashurbanipal had greatly strengthened the Assyrian hold upon Egypt, but he, nevertheless, came far short of making it at all permanent. In fact, the Assyrians could not hope to hold Egypt so long as a spark of national feeling survived. To accomplish so great a feat, one or the other, and perhaps both, of two expedients would be necessary. The first was colonization upon a scale more extensive than had ever yet been attempted. If tens of thousands of native-born Assyrians could have been transported over distances so great and so exhausting and settled in the country, these might gradually have permeated it with new ideas of trade and commerce so thoroughly that the old national ideas of culture and religious devotion would have given way to a pursuit of wealth. By this means national feeling, and with it desire for the ancient independence, would have slowly burned out. The second expedient was a great army of occupation well distributed over the whole country, commanded not by native princes, but by Assyrians of undoubted loyalty, but, nevertheless, frequently changed to avoid possible entanglements in local intrigues or incitements to overweening personal ambition. Ashurbanipal appears not to have seriously attempted the former plan. The latter was tried on a small scale, but as soon as the great civil war began, which was even now brewing in Babylonia, the troops had to be withdrawn. Necho remained a faithful vassal to his death, but his son, Psammetichus, who succeeded him, declared himself independent even before the year 660. The taking of Egypt had been the most brilliant event in the reign of Esarhaddon. From it the Assyrians had drawn great treasure, on which the standing army had been partially maintained. In spite of trials so great a king such as Sargon or Esarhaddon would probably have held it, but Ashurbanipal was cast in a different mold. It was the first great loss of his reign; others less startling were to follow. The decline of the Assyrian empire had begun.
From his father Ashurbanipal had also inherited a campaign against Tyre as he had one against Egypt. We have already seen how Esarhaddon had besieged the city on the land side, leaving open the sea approach. The siege was maintained steadily, but was long without result, as it was always possible to introduce abundant provisions from the sea. But slowly the cutting off of the land approach choked the commerce of the sea, and Tyre fell by degrees into dire need. At last Baal deemed it the wiser plan to yield, probably soon after the beginning of Ashurbanipal’s reign. The manner of the surrender was characteristic of all the previous history of Tyre. He would buy the favor and pardon of the new king. As a token of his entire submission to Assyrian suzerainty he sent one of his daughters and a number of his nieces to adorn the harem of Ashurbanipal, and his own son, Yahimelek, to be reared at the court, probably with the idea that he should be thoroughly educated in Assyrian ideas. Ashurbanipal sent the son back, but retained the women and the presents which had been sent with them. The fall of Tyre is described as the third campaign of Ashurbanipal, but the city must have yielded as early as 668, since we find Baal contributing troops to the expedition against Egypt. At the same time Yakinlu, king of Arvad, sent his daughter to the harem with gifts, and so indicated his submission to the new tyrant. In like manner, also, Mukallu, a prince of Tabal, and Sandasharme of Cicilia indicated their adherence to the empire.
In close connection with these submissions the historiographer of Ashurbanipal narrates with unction a curious double episode. The first part of it represents Gyges, king of Lydia, in far-off Asia Minor, dangerously pressed by the Cimmerians and dreaming that Ashurbanipal could and would save him. Forthwith he dispatched an embassy to the great king praying his assistance. When the border of Assyria was reached the leader of the horsemen was greeted with the Assyrian question, "Who then, art thou, stranger, thou from whose land no courier has yet made his way?" Unable to speak Assyrian, the ambassadors could make known their mission only by signs, but were at last conducted to Nineveh. After much search a man was found who could unravel the mystery and interpret the story of the dream. Ashurbanipal sent no help in visible form, but was contented with beseeching Asshur and Ishtar to help Gyges against his adversaries. Thus assisted, Gyges attacked the on moving hordes, gained a great victory, and sent two captured chiefs to Assyria as proof of the work wrought by the gods of Assyria. There needed only that the converse should be proven, and the king's faith in his gods would be well fortified. The opportunity for this demonstration arose a little later when Psammetichus of Egypt had declared his independence. Gyges gave him support, and so broke his compact of friendship with Assyria. Ashurbanipal prayed again to his gods, and this time not for, but against, the faithless Gyges whereupon the Cimmerians, whom he had easily conquered before, but were now led by Dugdamme and thoroughly disciplined, fell on him and possessed his entire land, while his dead body was cast out in the way before them. His son, who inherited a broken kingdom, asked the help of the Assyrians and their permission to occupy his heritage.
The fourth campaign was directed against the land of Man, where Akhsheri was king. The circumstances which led to the invasion are not clearly set forth, but there had probably been a rebellion against the monotonous tribute. The land had undoubtedly received many new inhabitants through the Indo-European invasion, and these were not likely to bear the tribute which the previous inhabitants had borne. The Assyrian army soon reduced the province to subjection, and the rebellious Akhsheri was numbered among the slain. His son, Ualli, succeeded to the throne, and upon him was laid a heavier tribute, to be paid in horses.'
At the same time Ashurbanipal made a raid upon Biris Khadri, a Median prince, and upon Sarati and Parikhia, sons of Gagi, prince of Sakhi. It ended with the taking of a few fortified cities and the deportation of the inhabitants. By such raids as this the Medes were being taught to hate the Assyrians, as the west had long since learned to hate them.
Again in the first half of his reign had Ashurbanipal to do with Elam. For a long time there had been peace between the two countries. As we have seen, the people of Elam had laid aside the old-time hostility to the Assyrians and had given over assisting their enemies. Ummanaldash had not received Merodach Baladan when he fled to him for refuge. And, as was still more remarkable, the Assyrians had shown great friendship and charity toward their erstwhile enemies. When a famine arose in Elam, Esarhaddon, displaying again his merciful side, suffered the Elamites who were in hunger to seek refuge in Babylonian territory and permitted the export of grain to others who remained in Elam. When the famine was past he gave a final and remarkable proof of his friendly purposes by arranging for the return to Elam of the temporary exiles. Such peace as this was too good for long continuance, and now was suddenly and rudely broken. We are not informed exactly as to the causes which induced Urtaki, king of Elam, to break the compact of friendship by a hostile invasion of Babylonia. Ashurbanipal did not at once repel the invaders, but delayed until they had reached Babylon itself, when he drove them not only from Babylon, but also over the borders into Elam. Urtaki soon after died, and as a natural oriental consequence there were disturbances in his kingdom immediately afterward. His brother, Teumman, seized the throne, dispossessing both a son of Urtaki and another of the former king, Umman Aldash. These he tried to assassinate, but they, with seventy relatives, made their way to the court of Ashurbanipal, who gave them refuge and refused to deliver them up when demanded by Teumman. Teumman certainly had boldness fortified twice over, for he entered northern Babylonia and threatened the country to induce Ashurbanipal to deliver up the fugitives. Ashurbanipal, who was now celebrating some religious festivals in Assyria, instead of directly attacking and repulsing the invader, sent an army to Dur Ilu, the old outpost against Elam. This move cut off the direct retreat of Teumman and compelled him to return to his capital, Susa, by a road below the river Ulai (modern Karun). The Assyrian army then pursued, and overtaking him before Susa, administered a telling defeat. Teumman was taken soon afterward and killed. The remaining districts of Elam then capitulated, and Ashurbanipal made Ummanigash, one of the fugitives to his court, king; while his brother Tammaritu was set over one of the Assyrian provinces.
During the progress of these two campaigns the tribe of Gambuli was in a state of insurrection. Beliqisha was dead, and his sons, Dunanu and Samagunu, had succeeded him. These as well as Nabunaid and Beletri, sons of Nabushum Eresh, had not given in their allegiance to Assyria. On the return from Elam the victorious Assyrian army marched through their land and destroyed Shapi Bel, the capital city of the Gambuli. The four chiefs were carried in chains to Nineveh.
This series of campaigns against Egypt, the west, and the east filled about fifteen years of the reign of Ashurbanipal. They are a doleful catalogue of plundering raids and of attempts to crush frequent rebellions. Ashurbanipal was holding with extreme difficulty the empire which his fathers had built up. There were ominous cracks in the structure, for Egypt was likely to fall away at any time, while the Medes were already beginning to appreciate their own strength and to understand the weakness of Assyria. In no part of his great borders had Ashurbanipal made any important gain to Assyrian territory. He had introduced no new policy, and was now barely holding his own, surrounded by dangers which menaced the continuance of the empire.
A danger greater than any other was now ready to come to the surface. During all these years there had been an external peace and calm in Babylonia. Shamash Shumukin had been acknowledged as king, in accordance with his father's will, and in his hands were now the internal affairs of Babylonia. This arrangement in the very nature of things could not endure, for the temper of the Babylonian people was utterly foreign to it. It might from certain points of view appear like an almost ideal arrangement. It gave freedom in all matters of local concern, and made it possible for the Babylonians to devote themselves to art, literature, and science, as they had always desired. But the Babylonian people could not be brought to any such devotion of their talents. They remembered the days of old when theirs was the world's chief city, and when the most sacred and solemn rites of religion were closely knit into the framework of their civil administration. How changed was all this! Their present ruler was the son of an Assyrian king, and, in the opinion of their priesthood, was no properly sanctified king at all. He was indeed no king for another reason. Ashurbanipal was a man of such intense personality, of such overweening pride, that there could be no king beside him. Shatnash Shumukin could only be an underlord in charge of the internal affairs of a province. He was not paying tribute as similar princes in other provinces, but in every other particular his rule was that of a petty prince. This division of responsibilities between the two brothers had gone on well for fifteen years. There had been unusual peace and prosperity in Babylonia. There was entire freedom in Assyria for the continuance of war upon rebels, and there was no reason why the arrangement should not be continued as far as Assyria was concerned. Let only Shamash Shumukin continue to play the lesser part and all would be well.
But Shamash-Shumukin was ambitious. There was king's blood in him no less than in his elder brother, and he aspired to be the independent king of an independent kingdom. He saw that this could never be attained by Babylonia acting alone. He must have aid in some form from other states, and he had nothing to offer for their assistance. He began plotting such a series of rebellions against Assyria as would weaken the empire and hence leave him free from all danger of attack. The plan had elements of possible success. He could not get succor in a bold campaign against his brother unless he could offer gold or territory in return for the aid which he received.
But by this method he might stir up Assyrian provinces to rebel, declaring that so they might easily win their independence. If a sufficient number of these rebellions could be started at one time, Assyria could not possibly put them down. Beaten on every side, Ashurbanipal must inevitably permit Shamash Shumukin to set up an independent kingdom. The aid received from the other states through their rebellions would be indirect only, and they would have compensation enough in their own freedom from the oppressor.
The weakness of the plan, however, far exceeded its strength. It was, in the first place, a plan that could not be carried on in secret, and secrecy alone could give it a chance of success. He might easily approach a people who thought that their present interests were rather with Assyria, and would therefore promptly reveal the plot. Once revealed, the Assyrians might readily evidence once more their virtue of promptness and overwhelm the traitorous Babylonians, as they had done before in the days of Merodach Baladan. Still further was the plan weak in that it took no account of the consequences which might follow the breaking up of the Assyrian empire. Assyria had more than once saved Babylonia from Aramaeans or Chaldeans who threatened to engulf the whole land. If the martial arm was now broken, Babylonia would become the instant prey of the Chaldeans. It is difficult to believe that a plot so fraught with dangerous consequences, involving the possible ruin of the land, could have been hatched in a sane mind. It is charitable to suppose that Shamash Shumukin had been utterly carried away by ambition and by national pride, and had not fully weighed the dangers which he was calling into action.
The states which he decided to attempt to draw into rebellion almost completely hemmed in Assyria. The first of them was Accad, the portion of Babylonia, outside of Babylon, which still remained under Assyrian rule. The second was the Chaldean state in the far south—the old enemy not merely of Assyria, but also of Babylonia—and below this also the country of the Sea Lands. To these were added the Aramaeans communities in Babylonia, Elam, and Gutium, under which last was now comprised a great stretch of territory above the Mesopotamian valley, populated by the Indo-Europeans who had entered it in the great migration. Finally he roused all the west land, Syria, Palestine, and Melukhkha. Egypt was already independent, pursuing its own way without Assyrian let or hindrance, and therefore could not be drawn into any such confederation.
As might have been expected in the beginning, Ashurbanipal had knowledge of the plot long before it was ready for execution. He did not, however, take steps for its destruction as promptly as might have been expected. Whether he was only playing a part or did in reality so feel, he at least spent many words in describing his brother's faithlessness as a breach of gratitude. He claims to have done all manner of good deeds for him, and even declares that it was he who gave him the throne, though we have already seen that this act of folly was really done by Esarhaddon. His words have an air of solemn sincerity, and are characteristic of the general tenor of the records of his reign: "In those days Shamash Shumukin, a faithless brother, to whom I had done good, whom I had established in the kingship over Babylon, for whom ... the insignia of royalty I had made and presented; warriors, horses, chariots had I brought together and placed in his hands; cities, fields, gardens, and they who dwelt in them ... had I given him. But he forgot the grace I had wrought for him ..." It is a curious plaint for a king. It might have been expected that Ashurbanipal would have made even the suspicion of a plot excuse sufficient for an invasion of Babylonia and a severe castigation of his brother. He waited, however, until the breach of peace should come from the brother, hoping thereby, probably, to justify himself to the Babylonians as the maker of peace, and not its breaker, when the civil war was over.
Shamash Shumukin struck the first blow, being probably driven to it by the discovery of the plot. He first seized Ur and Uruk, which had Assyrian governors and were directly under the control of Ashurbanipal. He assumed the titles king of Sumer and Accad and king of Amnanu. He added to this high-handed breach of allegiance a notice to Ashurbanipal that he must no longer offer in Babylon and Borsippa the annual sacrifices which he had been giving as the suzerain of Babylon. He must not offer in Sippar to the god Shamash, nor in Kutha to the god Nergal. These cities were then seized, as Ur and Uruk had been, and fortified. Still Ashurbanipal did not attack, waiting now until he should receive from the gods some favorable omen. The omen came in the night, when it was far spent. He saw in a dream the moon bearing an inscription wherein was threatened all manner of famine, wrath, and death against anyone who should plot against Ashurbanipal. He need no longer delay. The army is set in motion and the border crossed. Shamash Shumukin dare not meet that army in open battle; his only hope was successful defense in the siege which soon must come. He bad doubtless hoped for aid from some of his fellow-conspirators, but all failed him but one. This was Ummanigash, king of Elam, who was won over by a present. His act was an act of ingratitude as well as of hostility, for he owed his throne to Ashurbanipal’s appointment. The absence of Ummanigash in Babylonia gave the favorable opportunity for a rebellion in Elam, in which his family was driven out and his brother, Tammaritu, seized the throne. This was a favorable move for Assyria, as it compelled the withdrawal from Babylonia of the Elamite troops. Tammaritu, however, was also no friend of Assyria, and desired rather to make himself an ally of Babylonia. As soon, therefore, as he felt himself secure he likewise sent help to Shamash Shumukin. At once the old swing of the pendulum began in Elam. Another rebellion broke out, Tammaritu was driven from the country, and Indabigash became king of Elam. Tammaritu, as Teumman before him, sought refuge in Assyria, and Indabigash refused to have any share in the insurrection of Shamash Shumukin. The quickness with which these two Elamite rebellions had followed each other, and the manner in which they had finally played into the hands of Ashurbanipal, induce us to believe that he was the real cause of the second at least, if not also of the first.
The withdrawal of the Elamite support left Shamash Shumukin in a sorry plight. He had, indeed, a few troops sent from Arabia, but these were of slight weight. From the west there was no help at all, nor did the Aramaeans of Babylonia or the Chaldeans give aid. Shamash Shumukin held out as long as possible when besieged. At last he was conquered by hunger and disease. So awful was the suffering in Babylon that human flesh was used for food. When despair depressed all minds Shamash Shumukin committed suicide by causing himself to be burned as a sacrifice to the people who had suffered so much for his folly. When the gates were opened and Ashurbanipal entered the rebellious cities there was enacted an orgy of wrath and ferocity. Soldiers who had fought under the orders of Shamash Shumukin were adjudged to have spoken against Asshur and the great king of Assyria whom he had set up. Their tongues were torn from their mouths, and the bodies of their fellows who had died in the siege were cast out, to be devoured by wild beasts and carrion-eating birds. To supply the places of those in Babylon who were given over to horrible deaths men were brought from Kutha and Sippar.
Ashurbanipal had pacified the land of Babylonia as his ancestors would have done; he had given to it the silence of death. There remained only that he should devise now some method by which it could be governed. He decided to have no more government which might tend to a rupture between the two kingdoms, and so had himself proclaimed king under the name of Kandalanu, adopting for Babylonia a different name, as Tiglath Pileser III and Shalmaneser IV had done before him. The first year of his reign in Babylonia, according to the Canon of Ptolemy, was 647 BC.
As soon as these matters were arranged he invaded the south and punished the Chaldeans, the Aramaeans, and the people of the Sea Lands who had given in their pledge to Shamash Shumukin to join in a general rebellion against Assyria. The yoke of bondage was put upon them, Assyrian governors set over them, and they were commanded to pay a regular annual tribute. In this Ashurbanipal gained a distinct advantage, for the territory was now more fully in his hands than it had been since the beginning of his reign.
Now that all Babylonia as far south as the Persian Gulf was entirely in a state of peace and no more uprisings were to be feared, Ashurbanipal determined likewise to punish Elam for having twice assisted the Babylonians in their rebellion. It is true that Indabigash had kept the peace until now with Assyria, but the country must suffer for the madness of its former kings. Another rebellion had broken out in Elam in which Indabigash had fallen and in his place Ummanaldash, son of Attumetu, had become king. There is no certain proof that this Attumetu was the same person as he who led a part of the army which Ummanigash had sent to the assistance of Shamash Shumukin, but the names are the same and the time fits the identity. If they are the same, we may perhaps see in Ummanaldash a man who was made king by the party which sympathized with the Babylonians, and was therefore hostile to Indabigash, who had been pro-Assyrian in his acts, until just before the end of his reign. He had then offended Ashurbanipal by harboring Nabu Bel Shume, a descendant of Merodach Baladan. The latter was in the true line of his family in giving much trouble to the Assyrians. He had received from Ashurbanipal some Assyrian troops to protect his country—the Sea Lands—from Elamite invasion during the war with Shamash Shumukin. Nabu Bel Shume had at first played the part of a devoted friend of Assyria, and at the same time had laid his plans to destroy the faithfulness of his Assyrian guard, win them over to himself, and with this added force prepare to seize what advantage he could when Shamash Shumukin won his independence. The issue did not fall out that way, and he was compelled to flee his country and seek refuge in Elam, whither Merodach Baladan had fled before him.
Before the death of Indabigash Ashurbanipal had demanded of him the surrender of the fugitive Nabu Bel Shume and his renegade Assyrians. Indabigash refused, and Ashurbanipal threatened war. Before he reached Elam with his armies Indabigash was dead and Ummanaldash was on the throne. With him the case was no better. If he was not actually made king, because of his hostility to Assyria, as suggested above, he was in any case as unfriendly as the anti-Assyrian party could desire. In spite, therefore, of the change of rulers in Elam Ashurbanipal pressed on and took Bit Imbi, a fortification on the borders. Ummanaldash was too new to the throne to be able to turn attention to an invasion, and needed his strength to ward off another possible insurrection at home, in which he might lose his life, as had his predecessors. He therefore forsook his chief city, Madaktu, and fled into the mountains, to a place known as Dur Undasi, before which flowed the river Ididi (probably the Disful). The river formed a natural defense, and here Ummanaldash fortified himself as best he might. Ashurbanipal followed, taking the cities one by one as he went, that no dangers might be left in the rear. At last Madaktu fell, and with the other cities between it and the Ididi was thrown down and burned. When the Ididi was reached the river was at flood, and there was a strong reluctance in the army to attempt it. Their fears were overcome by a dream granted to the whole army, in which Ishtar of Arbela spoke and said: "I go before Ashurbanipal, the king, whom mine hands have created". It is interesting to observe how frequently omens, visions, and dreams figure in the records of this latter-day Assyrian king, and how very infrequent they are before his day. Thus encouraged, the troops crossed and Dur Undasi was taken, but Ummanaldash escaped into the mountains. Thereupon the whole land was devastated. Susa, the ancient capital, was taken, and in its palace Ashurbanipal began a work of pillage which it would be difficult to parallel in all the earlier records. From the treasuries were brought forth the gold and silver which the kings of Elam, following Assyrian exemplars, had plundered in raids into Babylonia and elsewhere. Precious stones and costly woolen stuffs, chariots and wagons, horses and animals of various kinds, were sent away to Assyria. The temple, honored and endowed for ages, was broken open and the gods and goddesses with all their treasures were added to the moving mass of plunder. Thirty-two statues of kings wrought in gold, silver, and copper were carried away to Assyria to be added to the glories of the great conquest. Then the mausoleum of the kings was violated in order that even the bones of dead monarchs who vexed Assyria might be carried into the land which they had hated. In the end, when all that might add wealth to Assyria had been taken away, the entire land was left a smoking ruin, from which, in the very phrases of the ruthless destroyer, had been taken away "the voice of men, the tread of cattle and sheep, and the sound of happy music". Such is the record of a campaign led by a civilized monarch, who prided himself on his love of learning. The savagery of Assyria was not dead, but in full vigor; dormant at times it had been, and the acts of some kings had seemed to promise amendment and a serious desire to build up rather than to destroy. These purposes were more clearly shown in Tiglath Pileser III and in Esarhaddon than in any other kings, but even they are limited by their base racial instincts. In Ashurbanipal’s campaign the worst elements had again come to the surface.
It is difficult to see how any national life could survive a ruin such as this, but Elam was not yet quite dead. Ummanaldash returned to Madaktu when the Assyrians had withdrawn, and sat down amid the ruins. To the last he remained faithful to Nabu Bel Shume, who had continued with him. Learning that they were together, Ashurbanipal sent an embassy to demand his surrender. Nabu Bel Shume, thus hounded to death, and looking over a land which had been ruined at least partly for his sake, ordered his armor-bearer to run him through. Worn out with fruitless opposition, Ummanaldash sent the body of the dead man and the head of the armor-bearer who had slain him to Ashurbanipal. Again the brutality of the man was shown. He cut off the head from the dead body and suspended it about the neck of one of Shamash Shum Ukin's followers, and commanded that the poor body should not receive even the honor of a burial.
In the western part of Elam Pae had attempted to gain a position and set up a new kingdom, to control a part of the now ruined land. But an army dispatched against him brought him quickly to his senses. He came to Assyria and offered his allegiance and submission to Ashurbanipal. Soon afterward Ummanaldash lost the throne and was captured by the Assyrians.
So ended the dealings of King Ashurbanipal with the neighboring states, whose civilization was at least as old as that of Assyria, and whose treatment of other nations was not so bad. He did not attempt to supply the land with a new government and with the blessings of good administration, as Tiglath Pileser III would have done. He was content to have deprived it of all possible opportunity of interfering with his own plans by further alliance with rebels in Babylonia. The policy was singularly deficient in farsightedness; it is indeed to be properly characterized as folly. A castigation of Elam may have been necessary from the Assyrian point of view, but its obliteration was stupidity. It formed a good buffer state against the Indo-European population of Media, and should have been made an ally against the new power which must soon become an important factor in the politics of western Asia. Instead of this Ashurbanipal had only opened a way over which the destroyers might march when their hour should come.
In close connection with the Elamite campaigns, and perhaps at the same time, Ashurbanipal undertook the punishment of the Arabians for the assistance, direct and indirect, which they had given to Shamash Shum Ukin. In the extreme northern part of the Arabian peninsula was the kingdom of Aribi, which has often before appeared in the Assyrian story. Yauta, son of Hazael, who ruled in it along with Queen Adiya, had doubly aided Shamash Shum Ukin. He had, according to compact, seized an entire independence for his little kingdom, and with that had also captured a number of localities in Arabia, Edom, Yabrud, Beth Ammon, the Hauran, Moab, Saarri, Khargi, and Subiti. In these places he had settled some of his Arabic hordes who were clamoring for space for expansion beyond his own narrow borders. This movement was an indirect aid to Shamash Shum Ukin of the greatest value, and if similar movements had taken place elsewhere as planned, the empire must have fallen to pieces under the combined assault. Furthermore, Yauta had rendered direct help of first-rate importance by sending an army of Kedarenes (Assyrian, Kadri or Kidri) under the command of two sheikhs, Abiyate and Ayamu. These Kedarenes were driven from Babylonia, and at least one of their leaders was taken. The Arabian settlers were in every case overwhelmed by the local Assyrian troops. The help had indeed availed little for Shamash Shum Ukin, but only because there had been no help from other points whence it had been expected. Yauta fled into the small kingdom of Nabataeans, and Uaite, a nephew of his, gained the throne in Aribi. He dared oppose the Assyrians who came to take revenge for the assistance which his predecessor had given to the Babylonian rebellion. He was captured, bound in chains like a dog, placed in a cage, and carried to Assyria to be set at a door as one might set a watchdog. To such petty and disgusting forms of punishment had an Assyrian king descended.
As a part of the same campaign Ashurbanipal took vengeance also upon Ammuladi, a sheikh of the Kedarenes, because they had been the men sent to Babylonia by the former king of Aribi, on whom they were dependent. Ammuladi had sought refuge in Palestine, where he was conquered and taken. Adiya, the queen of Aribi, was also taken, and Abiyate made king of Aribi.
Abiyate held this post but a short time. The events which led to his removal are not quite clear, but it seems probable that he made some arrangement with Uaite, the son of Bir Dadda, who had declared himself king of Aribi, for later Abiyate appears as sheikh of the Kedarenes.
A new alliance against Ashurbanipal was soon formed, composed of Natnu, king of the Nabataeans Uaite, king of Aribi; and Abiyate, prince of the Kedarenes. The union of these three was a matter of no mean concern, and Ashurbanipal may well have been stirred by it. He led an army into the wilds of Arabia, but did not penetrate into the territory of the Nabataeans. All the conspirators save Natnu were captured and taken to Assyria.
On the return from this campaign the cities of Ushu, belonging to the territory of Sidon, and Akko, which had joined in a rebellion, were severely punished.
One more word only concerning the external relations of Assyria stands written in the records of Ashurbanipal, and it is of peace and not of war. King Sarduris of Urartu sent to Ashurbanipal messengers bearing presents and words of friendliness. Urartu was once more strong enough to maintain some sort of independence. Assyria had abandoned its attempts to wreck the little kingdom, and the two were friendly neighbors. They needed so to be, for each required the help of the other in warding off the Indo-European invasion that could not much longer be postponed. Urartu must soon fall a victim, and the danger to Assyria was scarcely less great.
The Cimmerian swarms who had overwhelmed Gyges, and then possessed the fertile plains and valleys of Asia Minor as far as Sardes, returned later upon their course and harassed the borders of the weakened empire of Ashurbanipal. When Dugdamme was dead his son, Sandakshatra, was still able to control and discipline his followers and hurl them against the Assyrian outposts. Their menace lasted unto the very end of the great king's days.
The closing years of Ashurbanipal’s long and laborious reign were largely spent in works of peace. Even during the stormy years he had had great interest in the erection of buildings and the collection and copying of books for his library. In such congenial tasks his later days were chiefly spent.
It is not possible to determine in every case where the buildings were located which he rebuilt or otherwise beautified. The temple of E-kur Gal Kurra, in Nineveh, he adorned magnificently and supplied with a new statue of the god. The temple of E-Sagila, in Babylon, which Sennacherib had destroyed and Esarhaddon partially rebuilt, he completed and restored to it with elaborate pomp and ceremony the god Marduk and his consort Zarpanit, whom Sennacherib had carried into Assyria. The temple of E-Zida, in Borsippa, also received new ornaments. Long lists of colossal works elsewhere in Babylon, in Arbela, in many a lesser place, which he carried on, have come down to us. Above all these works stood the reconstruction of the vast palace in Nineveh, occupied during his life by Sennacherib. From the foundation stone to the roof was this rebuilt in a style of magnificence never seen before.
In this palace he lived when war did not call him and here he slowly gathered his great library—the chief pride of his life. The two kingdoms were ransacked for the clay books which had been written in days gone by. Works of grammar, of lexicography, of poetry, history, science, and religion were brought from ancient libraries in Babylonia. They were carefully copied in the Assyrian style, with notes descriptive, chronological, or explanatory, by the scholars of the court, and the copies were preserved in the palace, while the originals went back to the place whence they were borrowed. The library thus formed numbered many thousands of books. In it the scholars, whom Ashurbanipal patronized so well, worked carefully on in the writing of new books on all the range of learning of the day. Out of an atmosphere like that came the records of Ashurbanipal’s own reign. Small wonder is it that under such conditions his historical inscriptions should be couched in a style finished, elegant, and rhythmical, with which the bare records of fact of previous reigns may not be compared at all.
In the year 626 Ashurbanipal died, and the kingdom which he left was very unlike the kingdom which he had received of his father. It was, indeed, still the chief power of western Asia, but it was not the only power. The day of its unparalleled glory and honor was past. Its borders had shrunk sadly, for Egypt was lost, Urartu was independent, Syria and Palestine were almost at liberty, and the northeastern provinces were slowly but surely casting in their lot with the Manda. The reign of Ashurbanipal had been one of unexampled glory in the arts and vocations of peace. The temples were larger, more beautiful, more rich in storied liturgy. Science, whether astronomy or mathematics, had reached a higher point than in the history of man before. The literature of Assyria, though laden with a cumbrous system of writing and a monumental style which was inherited from the age when slabs of stone were the only writing material, had, nevertheless, under royal patronage taken on a marvelous development. Books of song and story, of religion and of law, of grammar and of lexicography, were produced in extraordinary numbers and of remarkable style and execution. The pride of the Assyrians swelled as they looked on all these things, and saw beside them the marvelous material prosperity which likewise had exceeded all the old bounds. The Assyrian trader was in all lands, and his wealth was growing apace. In all these things Ashurbanipal had marched in advance of his predecessors.
In war only had he failed. But by the sword the kingdom of Assyria had been founded, by the sword it had added kingdom unto kingdom until it had become a world empire. By the sword it had cleared the way for the advance of its trader, and opened up to civilization great territories, some of which, like Urartu, had even adopted its method of writing. It had held all the vast empire together by the sword, and not by beneficent and unselfish rule. Even unto this very reign barbaric treatment of men who yearned for liberty had been the rule and not the exception. That which had been founded by the sword and maintained by the sword would not survive if the sword lost its keenness or the arm which wielded it lost its strength or readiness. This had happened in the days of Ashurbanipal. He had conquered but little new territory, made scarcely any advance, as most of the kings who preceded him had done. He had not only not made distinct advances, he had actually beaten a retreat, and the empire was smaller. Worse than even this, he had weakened the borders which remained, and had not erected fortresses, as had Sargon and Esarhaddon and even Sennacherib, for the defense of the frontier against aggression. He had gained no new allies, and had shown no consideration or friendship for any people who might have been won to join hands with Assyria when the hour of struggle between the Semites and the Indo-Europeans should come. On the contrary, his brutality, singularly unsuited to his period and his position of growing weakness, his blood-thirstiness, his destructive raids into the territories of his neighbors, had increased the hatred of Assyria into a passion. All these things threatened the end of Assyrian prestige, if not the entire collapse of the empire.
The culture which Ashurbanipal had nurtured and disseminated was but a cloak to cover the nakedness of Assyrian savagery. It never became a part of the life of the people. It contributed not to national patriotism, but only to national enervation. Luxury had usurped the place of simplicity and weakness had conquered strength. The most brilliant color of all Assyrian history was only overlaid on the palace and temple walls. The shadows were growing long and deep, and the night of Assyria was approaching.
THE FALL OF ASSYRIA
ASSHURBANIPAL had maintained internal peace in his empire, and the prosperity which Nineveh had enjoyed was conducive to a quiet passing of the succession. He was followed by his son, Asshur Etil Ili Ukinni, who is also known by the shortened form of his name as Asshur Etil Ili. Of his reign we possess only two inscriptions. The first occurs in a number of copies, and reads only: "I am Asshur Etil Ili, king of Kisshati, king of Assyria, son of Ashurbanipal, king of Kisshati, king of Assyria. I caused bricks to be made for the building of E-Zida in Calah, for the life of my soul I caused them to be made". The second gives his titles and genealogy in the same manner, and adds a note concerning the beginning of his reign, but it is not now legible. Besides these two texts there remain only a few tablets found at Nippur dated in the second and the fourth years of his reign. These latter show that as late as the fourth year of his reign he still held the title of king of Sumer and Accad, and therefore continued to rule over a large portion of Babylonia, if not over the city of Babylon itself.
The ruined remains of his palace at Calah have been found, and it forms a strange contrast to the imposing work of Sargon. Its rooms are small and their ceilings low; the wainscoting, instead of fine alabaster richly carved, was formed only of slabs of roughly cut limestone, and it bears every mark of hasty construction.
We have no other remains of his reign, nor do we know how long it continued. Assyrian records terminate suddenly in the reign of Ashurbanipal, in which we reach at once the summit and the end of Assyrian carefulness in recording the events of reigns and the passage of time. It is, of course, possible that there may be buried somewhere some records yet unfound of this reign, but it is certain that they must be few and unimportant, else would they have been found in the thoroughly explored chambers in which so many royal historical inscriptions have been discovered. It may seem strange at first that an abundant mass of inscription material for this reign should not have been produced; that, in other words, a period of extraordinary literary activity should be suddenly followed by a period in which scarcely anything beyond bare titles should be written. But this is not a correct statement of the case. The literary productivity did not cease with Asshur Etil Ili Ukinni. It had already ceased while Ashurbanipal was still reigning. The story, as above set forth, shows that we have no knowledge of the later years of his reign. The reign of Asshur Etil Ili Ukinni only continued the dearth of record which the later years of Ashurbanipal had begun. As in some other periods of Assyrian history, there was indeed but little to tell. In his later days Ashurbanipal had remained quietly in Nineveh, interested more in luxury and in his tablets or books than in the salvation of his empire. In quietness somewhat similar the reign of his successor probably passed away. He had no enthusiasm and no ability for any new conquests. He could not really defend that which he already had. The air must have been filled with rumors of rebellion and with murmurs of dread concerning the future. The future was out of his power, and he could only await, and not avert, the fate of Assyria. It did not come in his reign, and the helpless empire was handed on to his successor.
There is doubt as to who the next king of Assyria may have been. Mention is found of a certain king whose name was Sin Chum Lishir, who must have reigned during this period, and perhaps it was he who followed the son of Ashurbanipal upon the throne. Whether that be true or not, we have no word of his doings.
The next king of Assyria known to us was Sin Shar Ishkun. He had come to the throne in sorry times, and that he managed for some years to keep some sort of hold upon the falling empire is at least surprising. No historical inscription, in the proper sense of the word, has come down to us from his reign. One badly broken cylinder, for which there are some fragmentary duplicates, has been found in which there are the titles and some words of empty boasting concerning the king's deeds. Besides this we have only three brief business documents found in Babylonia. These are, however, very interesting because they are dated two of them in Sippar and the third in Uruk. The former belong to the second year of the king's reign and the latter to the seventh year. From this interesting discovery it appears that for seven years at least Sin Shar Ishkun was acknowledged as king over a portion of Babylonia, though the city of Babylon was not included in this district.
We have no knowledge of the events of his reign based on a careful record, as we have had before, and what little we do know is learned chiefly from the Babylonian inscriptions. The Greeks and Latins contradict each other so sharply, and are so commonly at variance with facts, amply substantiated in Babylonian documents, that very little can be made out of them. It is a fair inference from the records of Nabonidus, whose historiographers have written carefully of this period, that Sin Shar Ishkun was a man of greater force than his predecessor. He already possessed a part of Babylonia, and desired to make his dominion more strong and compact, and also wished to increase it by taking from the new Chaldean empire, of which there is much to be told later, some of its fairest portions. Nabopolassar was now king of Babylon, and Sin Shar Ishkun invaded the territory of Babylonia when Nabopolassar was absent from his capital city carrying on some kind of campaign in northern Mesopotamia directed against the Subaru. This cut off the return of Nabopolassar, and brought even Babylon itself into danger. What was to be done in order to save his capital but secure allies from some quarter who could assist in driving out the Assyrians? The campaign of Nabopolassar had won for him the title of king of Kisshati, which he uses in 609, at which time he was in possession of northern Mesopotamia. It was probably this year or the year before (610 or 609) that Sin Shar Ishkun attacked the Babylonian provinces. Nabopolassar found it very difficult to secure an ally who would give aid without exacting too heavy a price. If Elam had still been a strong country, it would have formed the natural ally, as it had been traditionally the friend of the Chaldeans. But Elam was a waste land. The only possible hope was in the north and west. To the Umman Mandy must he go for help. At the time of Nabopolassar, and also as late as Nabonidus, the word Manda was used generally as a term for the nomadic peoples of Kurdistan and the far northeastern lands. The Babylonians, indeed, knew very little of these peoples. The Assyrians had come very closely into touch with them at several times since the days of Esarhaddon. They had felt the danger which was threatened by the growth of a new power on their borders, and they had suffered the loss of a number of fine provinces through it. This new power was Indo-European, and the people who founded and led it are confused by the Greek historians of a later day with the Medes. To appeal to the Manda for help in driving out the Assyrians from Babylonia was nothing short of madness. There were many points of approach between Babylonia and Assyria, there were many between Assyria and Chaldea. There was no good reason why these two peoples should not unite in friendship and prepare to oppose the further extension of the power of the Manda. The Assyrians certainly knew that the Manda coveted Assyria and the great Mesopotamian valley, and the Babylonians might easily have learned this if they did not already know it.
But Nabopolassar either did not know of the plans and hopes of the Manda, or, knowing them, hoped to divert them from himself against Assyria, and he ventured to invite their assistance. They came not for the profit of Nabopolassar, the Chaldeans, and Babylonia, but for their own aggrandizement. Sin Shar Ishkun and his Assyrian army were driven back from northern Babylonia into Assyria, and Nabopolassar at once possessed himself of the new provinces. The Manda pushed on after the Assyrians, retreating toward Nineveh. Between them there could only be the deepest hostility. In the forces of the Manda or Scythians there must be inhabitants of provinces which had been ruthlessly ravaged by Assyrian conquerors. They had certainly old grievances to revenge, and were likely to spare not. There is evidence in abundance that Assyria was hated all over western Asia, and probably also in Egypt. For ages she had plundered all peoples within the range of her possible influence. Everywhere that her name was known it was execrated. The voice of the Phoenician cities is not heard as it is lifted in wrath and hatred against the great city of Nineveh, but a Hebrew prophet, Nahum, utters the undoubted feeling of the whole Western world when, in speaking of the ruin of Assyria, he says: "All that hear the bruit of thee the report of thy fall clap the hands over thee: for upon whom bath not thy wickedness passed continually?"
Nabopolassar did not join with the Manda in the pursuit of the Assyrians, for he was anxious to settle and fix his own throne and attend to the reorganization of the provinces which were now added to the empire. If the Manda had needed help, they might easily have obtained it, for many a small or great people would gladly have joined in the undoing of Nineveh for hatred's sake or for the sake of the vast plunder which must have been stored in the city. For centuries the whole civilized world had paid unwilling tribute to the great city, and the treasure thus poured into it had not all been spent in the maintenance of the standing army. Plunder beyond dreams of avarice was there heaped up awaiting the despoiler. The Manda would be willing to dare single-handed an attack on a city which thus promised to enrich the successful. The Babylonians, or rather the Chaldeans, had given up the race, content to secure what might fall to them when Assyria was broken by the onslaught of the Manda. It will later appear in this narrative that Egypt was anxious to share in the division of the spoil of Assyria, and actually dispatched an expedition northward. This step was, however, taken too late, and the Egyptians were not on the ground until the last great scene was over. The unwillingness of Nabopolassar and the hesitancy or delay of other states left the Manda alone to take vengeance upon Assyria. Whether the fleeing Assyrians made a stand at any point before falling back upon the capital or not we do not know. If they did, they were defeated and at last were compelled to take refuge in the capital city. The Manda began a siege. (The memory which the Greeks and Latins handed down from that day represented the Assyrians as so weak that they would fall an easy prey to any people. This was certainly erroneous. There is a basis of truth for the story of weakness, for there were evident signs of decay during the reign of Ashurbanipal. These had, however, not gone so far as to make the power of Assyria contemptible. Weakened though the empire had been by the loss of the northern provinces through the great migrations, and weakened though it had been by the loss of Egypt, and weakened though it had been by the terrible civil war between Ashurbanipal and Shamash Shumukin, it was still the greatest single power in the world. It had, indeed, lost the power of aggression which had swept over mountain and valley, but in defense it would still be a dangerous antagonist).
When the Scythian forces came up to the walls of Nineveh they found before them a city better prepared for defense than any had probably ever been in the world before. The vast walls might seem to defy any engines that the semi-barbaric hordes of the new power could bring to bear. Within was the remnant of an army which had won a thousand fields. If the army was well managed and the city had had some warning of the approaching siege, it would be safe to predict that the contest must be long and bloody. The people of Nineveh must feel that not only the supremacy of western Asia, but their very existence as an independent people, was at stake. The Assyrians would certainly fight with the intensity of despair. We do not know, unfortunately, the story of that memorable siege. A people civilized for centuries was walled in by the forces of a new people fresh, strong, invincible. Then, as often in later days, civilization went down before barbarism. Nineveh fell into the hands of the Scythians. Later times preserved a memory that Sin Shar Ishkun perished in the flames of his palace, to which he had committed himself when he foresaw the end.
The city was plundered of everything of value which it contained, and then given to the torch. The houses of the poor, built probably of unburnt bricks, would soon be a ruin. The great palaces, when the cedar beams which supported the upper stories had been burnt off, fell in heaps. Their great, thick walls, built of unburnt bricks with the outer covering of beautiful burnt bricks, cracked open, and when the rains descended the unburnt bricks soon dissolved away into the clay of which they had been made. The inhabitants had fled to the four winds of heaven and returned no more to inhabit the ruins. A Hebrew prophet, Zephaniah, a contemporary of the great event, has described this desolation as none other: "And he will stretch out his hand against the north, and destroy Assyria; and will make Nineveh a desolation, and dry like the wilderness. And herds shall lie down in the midst of her, all the beasts of the nations: both the pelican and the porcupine shall lodge in the chapiters thereof: their voice shall sing in the windows; desolation shall be in the thresholds: for he hath laid bare the cedar work. This is the joyous city that dwelt carelessly, that said in her heart, I am, and there is none else beside me: how is she become a desolation, a place for beasts to lie down in everyone that passeth by her shall hiss, and wag his hand". Nineveh fell in the year 607 or 606, and the waters out of heaven, or from the overflowing river made the soft clay into a covering over the great palaces and their records. The winds bore seeds into the mass, and a carpet of grass covered the mounds, and stunted trees grew out of them. Year by year the mound bore less and less resemblance to the site of a city, until no trace remained above ground of the magnificence that once had been.
In 401 BC a cultivated Greek leading homeward the fragment of his gallant army of ten thousand men passed by the mounds and never knew that beneath them lay the palaces of the great Assyrian kings. In later ages the Parthians built a fortress on the spot, which they called Ninus, and other communities settled either above the ruins or near to them. Men must have homes, and the ground bore no trace of the great city upon which dire and irreparable vengeance had fallen. But, though cities might be built upon the soil and men congregate where the Assyrian cities had been, there was in reality no healing of the wound which the Manda had given. The Assyrian empire had come to a final end. As they had done unto others so had it been done unto them. For more than a thousand years of time the Assyrian empire had endured. During nearly all of this vast period it had been building and increasing. The best of the resources of the world had been poured into it. The leadership of the Semitic race had belonged to it, and this was now yielded up to the Chaldeans, who had become the heirs of the Babylonians, from whom the Assyrians had taken it. It remained only to parcel out, along with the rest of the plunder, the Assyrian territory. The Manda secured at this one stroke the old territory of Assyria, together with all the northern provinces as far west as the river Halys, in Asia Minor. To the Chaldeans, who were now masters in Babylonia, there came the Mesopotamian possessions and, as we shall later see, the Syro-Phoenician likewise. By this change of ownership the Semites retained the larger part of the territory over which they had long been masters, but the Indo-Europeans had made great gains. (A life-and-death struggle would soon begin between them for the possession of western Asia)