HISTORY OF EGYPT CHALDEA, SYRIA, BABYLONIA, AND ASSYRIA
By G. MASPERO, Honorable Doctor of Civil Laws, and Fellow of Queen's College, Oxford; Member of the Institute and Professor at the College of France.
Edited by A. H. SAYCE, Professor of Assyriology, Oxford.
Translated by M. L. McCLURE, Member of the Committee of the Egypt Exploration Fund
CONTAINING OVER TWELVE HUNDRED COLORED PLATES AND ILLUSTRATIONS
THE GROLIER SOCIETY
Drawn by Boudier, after J. Dieulafoy. The vignette, which is by Faucher-Gudin, is reproduced from an intaglio in the Cabinet des Medailles.
CHAPTER I—ANCIENT CHALDAEA
The Creation, the Deluge, the history of the gods—The country, its cities its inhabitants, its early dynasties.
"In the time when nothing which was called heaven existed above, and when nothing below had as yet received the name of earth,* Apsu, the Ocean, who first was their father, and Chaos-Tiamat, who gave birth to them all, mingled their waters in one, reeds which were not united, rushes which bore no fruit."** Life germinated slowly in this inert mass, in which the elements of our world lay still in confusion: when at length it did spring up, it was but feebly, and at rare intervals, through the hatching of divine couples devoid of personality and almost without form. "In the time when the gods were not created, not one as yet, when they had neither been called by their names, nor had their destinies been assigned to them by fate, gods manifested themselves. Lakhmu and Lakhamu were the first to appear, and waxed great for ages; then Anshar and Kishar were produced after them. Days were added to days, and years were heaped upon years: Anu, Inlil, and Ea were born in their turn, for Anshar and Kishar had given them birth." As the generations emanated one from the other, their vitality increased, and the personality of each became more clearly defined; the last generation included none but beings of an original character and clearly marked individuality. Anu, the sunlit sky by day, the starlit firmament by night; Inlil-Bel, the king of the earth; Ea, the sovereign of the waters and the personification of wisdom.*** Each of them duplicated himself, Anu into Anat, Bel into Belit, Ea into Damkina, and united himself to the spouse whom he had deduced from himself. Other divinities sprang from these fruitful pairs, and the impulse once given, the world was rapidly peopled by their descendants. Sin, Shamash, and Kamman, who presided respectively over the moon, the sun, and the air, were all three of equal rank; next came the lords of the planets, Ninib, Merodach, Nergal, the warrior-goddess Ishtar, and Nebo; then a whole army of lesser deities, who ranged themselves around Anu as round a supreme master. Tiamat, finding her domain becoming more and more restricted owing to the activity of the others, desired to raise battalion against battalion, and set herself to create unceasingly; but her offspring, made in her own image, appeared like those incongruous phantoms which men see in dreams, and which are made up of members borrowed from a score of different animals. They appeared in the form of bulls with human heads, of horses with the snouts of dogs, of dogs with quadruple bodies springing from a single fish-like tail. Some of them had the beak of an eagle or a hawk; others, four wings and two faces; others, the legs and horns of a goat; others, again, the hind quarters of a horse and the whole body of a man. Tiamat furnished them with terrible weapons, placed them under the command of her husband Kingu, and set out to war against the gods.
* In Chaldaea, as in Egypt, nothing was supposed to have a real existence until it had received its name: the sentence quoted in the text means practically, that at that time there was neither heaven nor earth.
** Apsu has been transliterated kiracruv [in Greek], by the author an extract from whose works has been preserved by Damascius. He gives a different version of the tradition, according to which the amorphous goddess Mummu-Tiamat consisted of two persons. The first, Tauthe, was the wife of Apason; the second, Moymis, was the son of Apason and of Tauthe. The last part of the sentence is very obscure in the Assyrian text, and has been translated in a variety of different ways. It seems to contain a comparison between Apsu and Mummu-Tiamat on the one hand, and the reeds and clumps of rushes so common in Chaldaea on the other; the two divinities remain inert and unfruitful, like water-plants which have not yet manifested their exuberant growth.
*** The first fragments of the Chaldaean account of the Creation were discovered by G. Smith, who described them in the Daily Telegraph (of March 4, 1875), and published them in the Transactions of the Society of Biblical Archaeology, and translated in his Chaldaean account of Genesis all the fragments with which he was acquainted; other fragments have since been collected, but unfortunately not enough to enable us to entirely reconstitute the legend. It covered at least six tablets, possibly more. Portions of it have been translated after Smith, by Talbot, by Oppert, by Lenormant, by Schrader, by Sayce, by Jensen, by Winckler, by Zimmern, and lastly by Delitzsch. Since G. Smith wrote The Chaldaean Account, a fragment of a different version has been considered to be a part of the dogma of the Creation, as it was put forth at Kutha.
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin from an Assyrian bas-relief from Khorsabad
At first they knew not whom to send against her. Anshar despatched his son Anu; but Anu was afraid, and made no attempt to oppose her. He sent Ea; but Ea, like Anu, grew pale with fear, and did not venture to attack her. Merodach, the son of Ea, was the only one who believed himself strong enough to conquer her. The gods, summoned to a solemn banquet in the palace of Anshar, unanimously chose him to be their champion, and proclaimed him king. "Thou, thou art glorious among the great gods, thy will is second to none, thy bidding is Anu; Marduk (Merodach), thou art glorious among the great gods, thy will is second to none,* thy bidding is Anu.** From this day, that which thou orderest may not be changed, the power to raise or to abase shall be in thy hand, the word of thy mouth shall endure, and thy commandment shall not meet with opposition. None of the gods shall transgress thy law; but wheresoever a sanctuary of the gods is decorated, the place where they shall give their oracles shall be thy place.*** Marduk, it is thou who art our avenger! We bestow on thee the attributes of a king; the whole of all that exists, thou hast it, and everywhere thy word shall be exalted. Thy weapons shall not be turned aside, they shall strike thy enemy. O master, who trusts in thee, spare thou, his life; but the god who hath done evil, put out his life like water. They clad their champion in a garment, and thus addressed him: 'Thy will, master, shall be that of the gods. Speak the word, 'Let it be so,' it shall be so. Thus open thy mouth, this garment shall disappear; say unto it, 'Return,' and the garment shall be there." He spoke with his lips, the garment disappeared; he said unto it, "Return," and the garment was restored.
* The Assyrian runs, "thy destiny is second to none." This refers not to the destiny of the god himself, but to the fate which he allots to others. I have substituted, here and elsewhere, for the word "destiny," the special meaning of which would not have been understood, the word "will," which, though it does not exactly reproduce the Assyrian expression, avoids the necessity for paraphrases or formulas calculated to puzzle the modern reader.
** Or, to put it less concisely, "When thou commandest, it is Anu himself who commands," and the same blind obedience must be paid to thee as to Anu.
*** The meaning is uncertain. The sentence seems to convey that henceforth Merodach would be at home in all temples that were constructed in honour of the other gods.
Merodach having been once convinced by this evidence that he had the power of doing everything and of undoing everything at his pleasure, the gods handed to him the sceptre, the throne, the crown, the insignia of supreme rule, and greeted him with their acclamations: "Be King!—Go! Cut short the life of Tiamat, and let the wind carry her blood to the hidden extremities of the universe."* He equipped himself carefully for the struggle. "He made a bow and placed his mark upon it;"** he had a spear brought to him and fitted a point to it; the god lifted the lance, brandished it in his right hand, then hung the bow and quiver at his side. He placed a thunderbolt before him, filled his body with a devouring flame, then made a net in which to catch the anarchic Tiamat; he placed the four winds in such a way that she could not escape, south and north, east and west, and with his own hand he brought them the net, the gift of his father Anu. "He created the hurricane, the evil wind, the storm, the tempest, the four winds, the seven winds, the waterspout, the wind that is second to none; then he let loose the winds he had created, all seven of them, in order to bewilder the anarchic Tiamat by charging behind her. And the master of the waterspout raised his mighty weapon, he mounted his chariot, a work without its equal, formidable; he installed himself therein, tied the four reins to the side, and darted forth, pitiless, torrent-like, swift."
* Sayce was the first, I believe, to cite, in connection with this mysterious order, the passage in which Berossus tells how the gods created men from a little clay, moistened with the blood of the god Belos. Here there seems to be a fear lest the blood of Tiamat, mingling with the mud, should produce a crop of monsters similar to those which the goddess had already created; the blood, if carried to the north, into the domain of the night, would there lose its creative power, or the monsters who might spring from it would at any rate remain strangers to the world of gods and men.
** "Literally, he made his weapon known; "perhaps it would be better to interpret it, "and he made it known that the bow would henceforth be his distinctive weapon."
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin from the bas-relief from Nimrud preserved in the British Museum.
He passed through the serried ranks of the monsters and penetrated as far as Tiamat, and provoked her with his cries. "'Thou hast rebelled against the sovereignty of the gods, thou hast plotted evil against them, and hast desired that my fathers should taste of thy malevolence; therefore thy host shall be reduced to slavery, thy weapons shall be torn from thee. Come, then, thou and I must give battle to one another!' Tiamat, when she heard him, flew into a fury, she became mad with rage; then Tiamat howled, she raised herself savagely to her full height, and planted her feet firmly on the earth. She pronounced an incantation, recited her formula, and called to her aid the gods of the combat, both them and their weapons. They drew near one to another, Tiamat and Marduk, wisest of the gods: They flung themselves into the combat, they met one another in the struggle. Then the master unfolded his net and seized her; he caused the hurricane which waited behind him to pass in front of him, and, when Tiamat opened her mouth to swallow him, he thrust the hurricane into it so that the monster could not close her jaws again. The mighty wind filled her paunch, her breast swelled, her maw was split. Marduk gave a straight thrust with his lance, burst open the paunch, pierced the interior, tore the breast, then bound the monster and deprived her of life. When he had vanquished Tiamat, who had been their leader, her army was disbanded, her host was scattered, and the gods, her allies, who had marched beside her, trembled, were scared, and fled." He seized hold of them, and of Kingu their chief, and brought them bound in chains before the throne of his father.
He had saved the gods from ruin, but this was the least part of his task; he had still to sweep out of space the huge carcase which encumbered it, and to separate its ill-assorted elements, and arrange them afresh for the benefit of the conquerors. He returned to Tiamat whom he had bound in chains. He placed his foot upon her, with his unerring knife he cut into the upper part of her; then he cut the blood-vessels, and caused the blood to be carried by the north wind to the hidden places. And the gods saw his face, they rejoiced, they gave themselves up to gladness, and sent him a present, a tribute of peace; then he recovered his calm, he contemplated the corpse, raised it and wrought marvels.
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a bas-relief at Koyunjik. Behind the kufa may be seen a fisherman seated astride on an inflated skin with his fish-basket attached to his neck.
He split it in two as one does a fish for drying; then he hung up one of the halves on high, which became the heavens; the other half he spread out under his feet to form the earth, and made the universe such as men have since known it. As in Egypt, the world was a kind of enclosed chamber balanced on the bosom of the eternal waters.* The earth, which forms the lower part of it, or floor, is something like an overturned boat in appearance, and hollow underneath, not like one of the narrow skiffs in use among other races, but a kufa, or kind of semicircular boat such as the tribes of the Lower Euphrates have made use of from earliest antiquity down to our own times.
* The description of the Egyptian world will be found in vol. i. p. 21 of the present work. So far the only systematic attempt to reconstruct the Chaldaean world, since Lenormant, has been made by Jensen, who, after examining all the elements which went to compose it, one after another, sums up in a few pages, and reproduces in a plate, the principal results of his inquiry. It will be seen at a glance how much I have taken from his work, and in what respects the drawing here reproduced differs from his.
The earth rises gradually from the extremities to the centre, like a great mountain, of which the snow-region, where the Euphrates finds its source, approximately marks the summit. It was at first supposed to be divided into seven zones, placed one on the top of the other along its sides, like the stories of a temple; later on it was divided into four "houses," each of which, like the "houses" of Egypt, corresponded with one of the four cardinal points, and was under the rule of particular gods. Near the foot of the mountain, the edges of the so-called boat curve abruptly outwards, and surround the earth with a continuous wall of uniform height having no opening. The waters accumulated in the hollow thus formed, as in a ditch; it was a narrow and mysterious sea, an ocean stream, which no living man might cross save with permission from on high, and whose waves rigorously separated the domain of men from the regions reserved to the gods. The heavens rose above the "mountain of the world" like a boldly formed dome, the circumference of which rested on the top of the wall in the same way as the upper structures of a house rest on its foundations. Merodach wrought it out of a hard resisting metal which shone brilliantly during the day in the rays of the sun, and at night appeared only as a dark blue surface, strewn irregularly with luminous stars. He left it quite solid in the southern regions, but tunnelled it in the north, by contriving within it a huge cavern which communicated with external space by means of two doors placed at the east and the west.* The sun came forth each morning by the first of these doors; he mounted to the zenith, following the internal base of the cupola from east to south; then he slowly descended again to the western door, and re-entered the tunnel in the firmament, where he spent the night,** Merodach regulated the course of the whole universe on the movements of the sun. He instituted the year and divided it into twelve months. To each month he assigned three decans, each of whom exercised his influence successively for a period of ten days; he then placed the procession of the days under the authority of Nibiru, in order that none of them should wander from his track and be lost. "He lighted the moon that she might rule the night, and made her a star of night that she might indicate the days:*** 'From month to month, without ceasing, shape thy disk,**** and at the beginning of the month kindle thyself in the evening, lighting up thy horns so as to make the heavens distinguishable; on the seventh day, show to me thy disk; and on the fifteenth, let thy two halves be full from month to month.'" He cleared a path for the planets, and four of them he entrusted to four gods; the fifth, our Jupiter, he reserved for himself, and appointed him to be shepherd of this celestial flock; in order that all the gods might have their image visible in the sky, he mapped out on the vault of heaven groups of stars which he allotted to them, and which seemed to men like representations of real or fabulous beings, fishes with the heads of rams, lions, bulls, goats and scorpions.
* Jensen has made a collection of the texts which speak of the interior of the heavens (Kirib shami) and of their aspect. The expressions which have induced many Assyriologists to conclude that the heavens were divided into different parts subject to different gods may be explained without necessarily having recourse to this hypothesis; the "heaven of Ami," for instance, is an expression which merely affirms Anu's sovereignty in the heavens, and is only a more elegant way of designating the heavens by the name of the god who rules them. The gates of heaven are mentioned in the account of the Creation.
** It is generally admitted that the Chaldaeans believed that the sun passed over the world in the daytime, and underneath it during the night. The general resemblance of their theory of the universe to the Egyptian theory leads me to believe that they, no less than the Egyptians (cf. vol. i. pp. 24, 25, of the present work), for along time believed that the sun and moon revolved round the earth in a horizontal plane.
*** This obscure phrase seems to be explained, if we remember that the Chaldaean, like the Egyptian day, dated from the rising of one moon to the rising of the following moon; for instance, from six o'clock one evening to about six o'clock the next evening. The moon, the star of night, thus marks the appearance of each day and "indicates the days."
**** The word here translated by "disk" is literally the royal cap, decorated with horns, "Agu," which Sin, the moon- god, wears on his head.
The heavens having been put in order,* he set about peopling the earth, and the gods, who had so far passively and perhaps powerlessly watched him at his work, at length made up their minds to assist him. They covered the soil with verdure, and all collectively "made living beings of many kinds. The cattle of the fields, the wild beasts of the fields, the reptiles of the fields, they fashioned them and made of them creatures of life."** According to one legend, these first animals had hardly left the hands of their creators, when, not being able to withstand the glare of the light, they fell dead one after the other. Then Merodach, seeing that the earth was again becoming desolate, and that its fertility was of no use to any one, begged his father Ea to cut off his head and mix clay with the blood which welled from the trunk, then from this clay to fashion new beasts and men, to whom the virtues of this divine blood would give the necessary strength to enable them to resist the air and light. At first they led a somewhat wretched existence, and "lived without rule after the manner of beasts. But, in the first year, appeared a monster endowed with human reason named Oannes, who rose from out of the Erythraean sea, at the point where it borders Babylonia. He had the whole body of a fish, but above his fish's head he had another head which was that of a man, and human feet emerged from beneath his fish's tail; he had a human voice, and his image is preserved to this day. He passed the day in the midst of men without taking any food; he taught them the use of letters, sciences and arts of all kinds, the rules for the founding of cities, and the construction of temples, the principles of law and of surveying; he showed them how to sow and reap; he gave them all that contributes to the comforts of life. Since that time nothing excellent has been invented. At sunset this monster Oannes plunged back into the sea, and remained all night beneath the waves, for he was amphibious. He wrote a book on the origin of things and of civilization, which he gave to men." These are a few of the fables which were current among the races of the Lower Euphrates with regard to the first beginnings of the universe. That they possessed many other legends of which we now know nothing is certain, but either they have perished for ever, or the works in which they were recorded still await discovery, it may be under the ruins of a palace or in the cupboards of some museum.
* The arrangement of the heavens by Merodach is described at the end of the fourth and beginning of the fifth tablets. The text, originally somewhat obscure, is so mutilated in places that it is not always possible to make out the sense with certainty.
** The creation of the animals and then of man is related on the seventh tablet, and on a tablet the place of which, in the series, is still undetermined. I have been obliged to translate the text rather freely, so as to make the meaning clear to the modern reader.
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from an Assyrian bas-relief from Nimrud.
They do not seem to have conceived the possibility of an absolute creation, by means of which the gods, or one of them, should have evolved out of nothing all that exists: the creation was for them merely the setting in motion of pre-existing elements, and the creator only an organizer of the various materials floating in chaos. Popular fancy in different towns varied the names of the creators and the methods employed by them; as centuries passed on, a pile of vague, confused, and contradictory traditions were amassed, no one of which was held to be quite satisfactory, though all found partisans to support them. Just as in Egypt, the theologians of local priesthoods endeavoured to classify them and bring them into a kind of harmony: many they rejected and others they recast in order to better reconcile their statements: they arranged them in systems, from which they undertook to unravel, under inspiration from on high, the true history of the universe. That which I have tried to set forth above is very ancient, if, as is said to be the case, it was in existence two or even three thousand years before our era; but the versions of it which we possess were drawn up much later, perhaps not till about the VIIth century B.C.* It had been accepted by the inhabitants of Babylon because it flattered their religious vanity by attributing the credit of having evolved order out of chaos to Merodach, the protector of their city.** He it was whom the Assyrian scribes had raised to a position of honour at the court of the last kings of Nineveh:*** it was Merodach's name which Berossus inscribed at the beginning of his book, when he set about relating to the Greeks the origin of the world according to the Chaldeans, and the dawn of Babylonian civilization.
* The question as to whether the text was originally written in Sumerian or in the Semitic tongue has frequently been discussed; the form in which we have it at present is not very old, and does not date much further back than the reign of Assurbanipal, if it is not even contemporary with that monarch. According to Sayce, the first version would date back beyond the XXth century, to the reign of Khammurabi; according to Jensen, beyond the XXXth century before our era.
** Sayce thinks that the myth originated at Eridu, on the shores of the Persian Gulf, and afterwards received its present form at Babylon, where the local schools of theology adapted it to the god Merodach.
*** The tablets in which it is preserved for us come partly from the library of Assurbanipal at Nineveh, partly from that of the temple of Nebo at Borsippa; these latter are more recent than the others, and seem to have been written during the period of the Persian supremacy.
Like the Egyptian civilization, it had had its birth between the sea and the dry land on a low, marshy, alluvial soil, flooded annually by the rivers which traverse it, devastated at long intervals by tidal waves of extraordinary violence. The Euphrates and the Tigris cannot be regarded as mysterious streams like the Nile, whose source so long defied exploration that people were tempted to place it beyond the regions inhabited by man. The former rise in Armenia, on the slopes of the Niphates, one of the chains of mountains which lie between the Black Sea and Mesopotamia, and the only range which at certain points reaches the line of eternal snow. At first they flow parallel to one another, the Euphrates from east to west as far as Malatiyeh, the Tigris from the west towards the east in the direction of Assyria. Beyond Malatiyeh, the Euphrates bends abruptly to the south-west, and makes its way across the Taurus as though desirous of reaching the Mediterranean by the shortest route, but it soon alters its intention, and makes for the south-east in search of the Persian Gulf. The Tigris runs in an oblique direction towards the south from the point where the mountains open out, and gradually approaches the Euphrates. Near Bagdad the two rivers are only a few leagues apart. However, they do not yet blend their waters; after proceeding side by side for some twenty or thirty miles, they again separate and only finally; unite at a point some eighty leagues lower down. At the beginning of our geological period their course was not such a long one. The sea then penetrated as far as lat. 33 deg., and was only arrested by the last undulations of the great plateau of secondary formation, which descend from the mountain group of Armenia: the two rivers entered the sea at a distance of about twenty leagues apart, falling into a gulf bounded on the east by the last spurs of the mountains of Iran, on the west by the sandy heights which border the margin of the Arabian Desert.* They filled up this gulf with their alluvial deposit, aided by the Adhem, the Diyaleh, the Kerkha, the Karun, and other rivers, which at the end of long independent courses became tributaries of the Tigris. The present beds of the two rivers, connected by numerous canals, at length meet near the village of Kornah and form one single river, the Shatt-el-Arab, which carries their waters to the sea. The mud with which they are charged is deposited when it reaches their mouth, and accumulates rapidly; it is said that the coast advances about a mile every seventy years.** In its upper reaches the Euphrates collects a number of small affluents, the most important of which, the Kara-Su, has often been confounded with it. Near the middle of its course, the Sadjur on the right bank carries into it the waters of the Taurus and the Amanus, on the left bank the Balikh and the Khabur contribute those of the Karadja-Dagh; from the mouth of the Khabur to the sea the Euphrates receives no further affluent. The Tigris is fed on the left by the Bitlis-Khai, the two Zabs, the Adhem, and the Diyaleh. The Euphrates is navigable from Sumeisat, the Tigris from Mossul, both of them almost as soon as they leave the mountains. They are subject to annual floods, which occur when the winter snow melts on the higher ranges of Armenia. The Tigris, which rises from the southern slope of the Niphates and has the more direct course, is the first to overflow its banks, which it does at the beginning of March, and reaches its greatest height about the 10th or 12th of May. The Euphrates rises in the middle of March, and does not attain its highest level till the close of May. From June onwards it falls with increasing rapidity; by September all the water which has not been absorbed by the soil has returned to the river-bed. The inundation does not possess the same importance for the regions covered by it, that the rise of the Nile does for Egypt. In fact, it does more harm than good, and the river-side population have always worked hard to protect themselves from it and to keep it away from their lands rather than facilitate its access to them; they regard it as a sort of necessary evil to which they resign themselves, while trying to minimize its effects.***
* This fact has been established by Ross and Lynch in two articles in the Journal of the Royal Geographical Society, vol. ix. pp. 446, 472. The Chaldaeans and Assyrians called the gulf into which the two rivers debouched, Nar Marratum, or "salt river," a name which they extended to the Chaldaean Sea, i.e. to the whole Persian Gulf.
** Loftus estimated, about the middle of the last century, the progress of alluvial deposit at about one English mile in every seventy years; H. Rawlinson considers that the progress must have been more considerable in ancient times, and estimates it at an English mile in thirty years. Kiepert thinks, taking the above estimate as a basis, that in the sixth century before our era the fore-shore came from about ten to twelve German miles (47 to 56 English) higher up than the present fore-shore. G. Rawlinson estimates on his part that between the thirtieth and twentieth centuries B.C., a period in which he places the establishment of the first Chaldaean Empire, the fore-shore was more than 120 miles above the mouth of Shatt-el-Arab, to the north of the present village of Kornah.
*** Fr. Lenormant has energetically defended this hypothesis in the majority of his works: it is set forth at some length in his work on La Langue primitive de la Chaldee. Hommel, on the other hand, maintains and strives to demonstrate scientifically the relationship of the non-Semitic tongue with Turkish.
The traveller Olivier noticed this, and writes as follows: "The land there is rather less fertile [than in Egypt], because it does not receive the alluvial deposits of the rivers with the same regularity as that of the Delta. It is necessary to irrigate it in order to render it productive, and to protect it sedulously from the inundations which are too destructive in their action and too irregular."
The first races to colonize this country of rivers, or at any rate the first of which we can find traces, seem to have belonged to three different types. The most important were the Semites, who spoke a dialect akin to Aramaic, Hebrew, and Phoenician. It was for a long time supposed that they came down from the north, and traces of their occupation have been pointed out in Armenia in the vicinity of Ararat, or halfway down the course of the Tigris, at the foot of the Gordysean mountains. It has recently been suggested that we ought rather to seek for their place of origin in Southern Arabia, and this view is gaining ground among the learned. Side by side with these Semites, the monuments give evidence of a race of ill-defined character, which some have sought, without much success, to connect with the tribes of the Urall or Altai; these people are for the present provisionally called Sumerians.* They came, it would appear, from some northern country; they brought with them from their original home a curious system of writing, which, modified, transformed, and adopted by ten different nations, has preserved for us all that we know in regard to the majority of the empires which rose and fell in Western Asia before the Persian conquest. Semite or Sumerian, it is still doubtful which preceded the other at the mouths of the Euphrates. The Sumerians, who were for a time all-powerful in the centuries before the dawn of history, had already mingled closely with the Semites when we first hear of them. Their language gave way to the Semitic, and tended gradually to become a language of ceremony and ritual, which was at last learnt less for everyday use, than for the drawing up of certain royal inscriptions, or for the interpretation of very ancient texts of a legal or sacred character. Their religion became assimilated to the religion, and their gods identified with the gods, of the Semites. The process of fusion commenced at such an early date, that nothing has really come down to us from the time when the two races were strangers to each other. We are, therefore, unable to say with certainty how much each borrowed from the other, what each gave, or relinquished of its individual instincts and customs. We must take and judge them as they come before us, as forming one single nation, imbued with the same ideas, influenced in all their acts by the same civilization, and possessed of such strongly marked characteristics that only in the last days of their existence do we find any appreciable change. In the course of the ages they had to submit to the invasions and domination of some dozen different races, of whom some—Assyrians and Chaldaeans—were descended from a Semitic stock, while the others—Elamites, Cossaaans, Persians, Macedonians, and Parthians—either were not connected with them by any tie of blood, or traced their origin in some distant manner to the Sumerian branch. They got quickly rid of a portion of these superfluous elements, and absorbed or assimilated the rest; like the Egyptians, they seem to have been one of those races which, once established, were incapable of ever undergoing modification, and remained unchanged from one end of their existence to the other.
* The name Accadian proposed by H. Rawlinson and by Hincks, and adopted by Sayce, seems to have given way to Sumerian, the title put forward by Oppert. The existence of the Sumerian or Sumero-Accadian has been contested by Halevy in a number of noteworthy works. M. Halevy wishes to recognize in the so-called Sumerian documents the Semitic tongue of the ordinary inscriptions, but written in a priestly syllabic character subject to certain rules; this would be practically a cryptogram, or rather an allogram. M. Halevy won over Messrs. Guyard and Pognon in France, Delitzsch and a part of the Delitzsch school in Germany, to his view of the facts. The controversy, which has been carried on on both sides with a somewhat unnecessary vehemence, still rages; it has been simplified quite recently by Delitzcsh's return to the Sumerian theory. Without reviewing the arguments in detail, and while doing full justice to the profound learning displayed by M. Halevy, I feel forced to declare with Tiele that his criticisms "oblige scholars to carefully reconsider all that has been taken as proved in these matters, but that they do not warrant us in rejecting as untenable the hypothesis, still a very probable one, according to which the difference in the graphic systems corresponds to a real difference in. idiom."
Their country must have presented at the beginning very much the same aspect of disorder and neglect which it offers to modern eyes. It was a flat interminable moorland stretching away to the horizon, there to begin again seemingly more limitless than ever, with, no rise or fall in the ground to break the dull monotony; clumps of palm trees and slender mimosas, intersected by lines of water gleaming in the distance, then long patches of wormwood and mallow, endless vistas of burnt-up plain, more palms and more mimosas, make up the picture of the land, whose uniform soil consists of rich, stiff, heavy clay, split up by the heat of the sun into a network of deep narrow fissures, from which the shrubs and wild herbs shoot forth each year in spring-time. By an almost imperceptible slope it falls gently away from north to south towards the Persian Gulf, from east to west towards the Arabian plateau. The Euphrates flows through it with unstable and changing course, between shifting banks which it shapes and re-shapes from season to season.
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from an Assyrian bas-relief of the palace of Nimrud.
The slightest impulse of its current encroaches on them, breaks through them, and makes openings for streamlets, the majority of which are clogged up and obliterated by the washing away of their margins, almost as rapidly as they are formed. Others grow wider and longer, and, sending out branches, are transformed into permanent canals or regular rivers, navigable at certain seasons. They meet on the left bank detached offshoots of the Tigris, and after wandering capriciously in the space between the two rivers, at last rejoin their parent stream: such are the Shatt-el-Hai and the Shatt-en-Nil. The overflowing waters on the right bank, owing to the fall of the land, run towards the low limestone hills which shut in the basin of the Euphrates in the direction of the desert; they are arrested at the foot of these hills, and are diverted on to the low-lying ground, where they lose themselves in the morasses, or hollow out a series of lakes along its borders, the largest of which, Bahr-i-Nedjif, is shut in on three sides by steep cliffs, and rises or falls periodically with the floods. A broad canal, which takes its origin in the direction of Hit at the beginning of the alluvial plain, bears with it the overflow, and, skirting the lowest terraces of the Arabian chain, runs almost parallel to the Euphrates. In proportion as the canal proceeds southward the ground sinks still lower, and becomes saturated with the overflowing waters, until, the banks gradually disappearing, the whole neighbourhood is converted into a morass. The Euphrates and its branches do not at all times succeed in reaching the sea: they are lost for the most part in vast lagoons to which the tide comes up, and in its ebb bears their waters away with it. Reeds grow there luxuriantly in enormous beds, and reach sometimes a height of from thirteen to sixteen feet; banks of black and putrid mud emerge amidst the green growth, and give off deadly emanations. Winter is scarcely felt here: snow is unknown, hoar-frost is rarely seen, but sometimes in the morning a thin film of ice covers the marshes, to disappear under the first rays of the sun.*
* Loftus attributes the lowering of the temperature during the winter to the wind blowing over a soil impregnated with saltpetre. "We were," he says, "in a kind of immense freezing chamber."
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a sketch by J. Dieulafoy. For six weeks in November and December there is much rain: after this period there are only occasional showers, occurring at longer and longer intervals until May, when they entirely cease, and the summer sets in, to last until the following November. There are almost six continuous months of depressing and moist heat, which overcomes both men and animals and makes them incapable of any constant effort.* Sometimes a south or east wind suddenly arises, and bearing with it across the fields and canals whirlwinds of sand, burns up in its passage the little verdure which the sun had spared. Swarms of locusts follow in its train, and complete the work of devastation. A sound as of distant rain is at first heard, increasing in intensity as the creatures approach. Soon their thickly concentrated battalions fill the heavens on all sides, flying with slow and uniform motion at a great height. They at length alight, cover everything, devour everything, and, propagating their species, die within a few days: nothing, not a blade of vegetation, remains on the region where they alighted.
* Loftus says that he himself had witnessed in the neighbourhood of Bagdad during the daytime birds perched on the palm trees in an exhausted condition, and panting with open beaks. The inhabitants of Bagdad during the summer pass their nights on the housetops, and the hours of day in passages within, expressly constructed to protect them from the heat.
Notwithstanding these drawbacks, the country was not lacking in resources. The soil was almost as fertile as the loam of Egypt, and, like the latter, rewarded a hundredfold the labour of the inhabitants.* Among the wild herbage which spreads over the country in the spring, and clothes it for a brief season with flowers, it was found that some plants, with a little culture, could be rendered useful to men and beasts. There were ten or twelve different species of pulse to choose from—beans, 'lentils, chick-peas, vetches, kidney beans, onions, cucumbers, egg-plants, "gombo," and pumpkins. From the seed of the sesame an oil was expressed which served for food, while the castor-oil plant furnished that required for lighting. The safflower and henna supplied the women with dyes for the stuffs which they manufactured from hemp and flax. Aquatic plants were more numerous than on the banks of the Nile, but they did not occupy such an important place among food-stuffs. The "lily bread" of the Pharaohs would have seemed meagre fare to people accustomed from early times to wheaten bread. Wheat and barley are considered to be indigenous on the plains of the Euphrates; it was supposed to be here that they were first cultivated in Western Asia, and that they spread from hence to Syria, Egypt, and the whole of Europe.** "The soil there is so favourable to the growth of cereals, that it yields usually two hundredfold, and in places of exceptional fertility three hundredfold. The leaves of the wheat and barley have a width of four digits. As for the millet and sesame, which in altitude are as great as trees, I will not state their height, although I know it from experience, being convinced that those who have not lived in Babylonia would regard my statement with incredulity." Herodotus in his enthusiasm exaggerated the matter, or perhaps, as a general rule, he selected as examples the exceptional instances which had been mentioned to him: at present wheat and barley give a yield to the husbandman of some thirty or forty fold.
* Olivier, who was a physician and naturalist, and had visited Egypt as well as Mesopotamia, thought that Babylonia was somewhat less fertile than Egypt. Loftus, who was neither, and had not visited Egypt, declares, on the contrary, that the banks of the Euphrates are no less productive than those of the Nile.
** Native traditions collected by Berossus confirm this, and the testimony of Olivier is usually cited as falling in with that of the Chaldaean writer. Olivier is considered, indeed, to have discovered wild cereals in Mesopotamia. Pie only says, however, that on the banks of the Euphrates above Anah he had met with "wheat, barley, and spelt in a kind of ravine;" from the context it clearly follows that these were plants which had reverted to a wild state—instances of which have been observed several times in Mesopotamia. A. de Oandolle admitted the Mesopotamian origin of the various species of wheat and barley.
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a cylinder in the Museum at the Hague. The original measures almost an inch in height.
"The date palm meets all the other needs of the population; they make from it a kind of bread, wine, vinegar, honey, cakes, and numerous kinds of stuffs; the smiths use the stones of its fruit for charcoal; these same stones, broken and macerated, are given as a fattening food to cattle and sheep." Such a useful tree was tended with a loving care, the vicissitudes in its growth were observed, and its reproduction was facilitated by the process of shaking the flowers of the male palm over those of the female: the gods themselves had taught this artifice to men, and they were frequently represented with a bunch of flowers in their right hand, in the attitude assumed by a peasant in fertilizing a palm tree. Fruit trees were everywhere mingled with ornamental trees—the fig, apple, almond, walnut, apricot, pistachio, vine, with the plane tree, cypress, tamarisk, and acacia; in the prosperous period of the country the plain of the Euphrates was a great orchard which extended uninterruptedly from the plateau of Mesopotamia to the shores of the Persian Gulf.
The flora would not have been so abundant if the fauna had been sufficient for the supply of a large population. A considerable proportion of the tribes on the Lower Euphrates lived for a long time on fish only. They consumed them either fresh, salted, or smoked: they dried them in the sun, crushed them in a mortar, strained the pulp through linen, and worked it up into a kind of bread or into cakes. The barbel and carp attained a great size in these sluggish waters, and if the Chalaeans, like the Arabs who have succeeded them in these regions, clearly preferred these fish above others, they did not despise at the same time such less delicate species as the eel, murena, silurus, and even that singular gurnard whose habits are an object of wonder to our naturalists. This fish spends its existence usually in the water, but a life in the open air has no terrors for it: it leaps out on the bank, climbs trees without much difficulty, finds a congenial habitat on the banks of mud exposed by the falling tide, and basks there in the sun, prepared to vanish in the ooze in the twinkling of an eye if some approaching bird should catch sight of it. Pelicans, herons, cranes, storks, cormorants, hundreds of varieties of seagulls, ducks, swans, wild geese, secure in the possession of an inexhaustible supply of food, sport and prosper among the reeds. The ostrich, greater bustard, the common and red-legged partridge and quail, find their habitat on the borders of the desert; while the thrush, blackbird, ortolan, pigeon, and turtle-dove abound on every side, in spite of daily onslaughts from eagles, hawks, and other birds of prey.
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a bas-relief from Nimrud, in the British Museum.
Snakes are found here and there, but they are for the most part of innocuous species: three poisonous varieties only are known, and their bite does not produce such terrible consequences as that of the horned viper or Egyptian uraeus. There are two kinds of lion—one without mane, and the other hooded, with a heavy mass of black and tangled hair: the proper signification of the old Chaldaean name was "the great 'dog," and they have, indeed, a greater resemblance to large dogs than to the red lions of Africa.* They fly at the approach of man; they betake themselves in the daytime to retreats among the marshes or in the thickets which border the rivers, sallying forth at night, like the jackal, to scour the country. Driven to bay, they turn upon the assailant and fight desperately. The Chaldaean kings, like the Pharaohs, did not shrink from entering into a close conflict with them, and boasted of having rendered a service to their subjects by the destruction of many of these beasts.
* The Sumerian name of the lion is ur-malch "the great dog." The best description of the first-mentioned species is still that of Olivier, who saw in the house oL the Pasha of Bagdad five of them in captivity; cf. Layard, Nineveh and Babylon, p. 487. Father Scheil tells me the lions have disappeared completely since the last twenty years.
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from an Assyrian bas-relief from Nimrud (Layard, Monuments of Nineveh, 1st series, pi. 11).
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a bas-relief in the British Museum.
The elephant seems to have roamed for some time over the steppes of the middle Euphrates;* there is no indication of its presence after the XIIIth century before our era, and from that time forward it was merely an object of curiosity brought at great expense from distant countries. This is not the only instance of animals which have disappeared in the course of centuries; the rulers of Nineveh were so addicted to the pursuit of the urus that they ended by exterminating it. Several sorts of panthers and smaller felidae had their lairs in the thickets of Mesopotamia. The wild ass and onager roamed in small herds between the Balikh and the Tigris. Attempts were made, it would seem, at a very early period to tame them and make use of them to draw chariots; but this attempt either did not succeed at all, or issued in such uncertain results, that it was given up as soon as other less refractory animals were made the subjects of successful experiment.
* The existence of the elephant in Mesopotamia and Northern Syria is well established by the Egyptian inscription of Amenemhabi in the XVth century before our era.
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from an Assyrian bas-relief from Kouyunjik.
The wild boar, and his relative, the domestic hog, inhabited the morasses. Assyrian sculptors amused themselves sometimes by representing long gaunt sows making their way through the cane-brakes, followed by their interminable offspring. The hog remained here, as in Egypt, in a semi-tamed condition, and the people were possessed of only a small number of domesticated animals besides the dog—namely, the ass, ox, goat, and sheep; the horse and camel were at first unknown, and were introduced at a later period.*
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a bas-relief from Kouyunjik.
* The horse is denoted in the Assyrian texts by a group of signs which mean "the ass of the East," and the camel by other signs in which the character for "ass" also appears. The methods of rendering these two names show that the subjects of them were unknown in the earliest times; the epoch of their introduction is uncertain. A chariot drawn by horses appears on the "Stele of the Vultures." Camels are mentioned among the booty obtained from the Bedouin of the desert.
We know nothing of the efforts which the first inhabitants—Sumerians and Semites—had to make in order to control the waters and to bring the land under culture: the most ancient monuments exhibit them as already possessors of the soil, and in a forward state of civilization.* Their chief cities were divided into two groups: one in the south, in the neighbourhood of the sea; the other in a northern direction, in the region where the Euphrates and Tigris are separated from each other by merely a narrow strip of land. The southern group consisted of seven, of which Eridu lay nearest to the coast. This town stood on the left bank of the Euphrates, at a point which is now called Abu-Shahrein. A little to the west, on the opposite bank, but at some distance from the stream, the mound of Mugheir marks the site of Uru, the most important, if not the oldest, of the southern cities. Lagash occupied the site of the modern Telloh to the north of Eridu, not far from the Shatt-el-Hai; Nisin and Mar, Larsam and Uruk, occupied positions at short distances from each other on the marshy ground which extends between the Euphrates and the Shatt-en-Nil. The inscriptions mention here and there other less important places, of which the ruins have not yet been discovered—Zirlab and Shurippak, places of embarkation at the mouth of the Euphrates for the passage of the Persian Gulf; and the island of Dilmun, situated some forty leagues to the south in the centre of the Salt Sea,—"Nar-Marratum." The northern group comprised Nipur, the "incomparable;" Barsip, on the branch which flows parallel to the Euphrates and falls into the Bahr-i-Nedjif; Babylon, the "gate of the god," the "residence of life," the only metropolis of the Euphrates region of which posterity never lost a reminiscence; Kishu, Kuta, Agade;** and lastly the two Sipparas, that of Shamash and that of Anunit. The earliest Chaldaean civilization was confined almost entirely to the two banks of the Lower Euphrates: except at its northern boundary, it did not reach the Tigris, and did not cross this river. Separated from the rest of the world—on the east by the marshes which border the river in its lower course, on the north by the badly watered and sparsely inhabited table-land of Mesopotamia, on the west by the Arabian desert—it was able to develop its civilization, as Egypt had done, in an isolated area, and to follow out its destiny in peace. The only point from which it might anticipate serious danger was on the east, whence the Kashshi and the Elamites, organized into military states, incessantly harassed it year after year by their attacks. The Kashshi were scarcely better than half-civilized mountain hordes, but the Elamites were advanced in civilization, and their capital, Susa, vied with the richest cities of the Euphrates, Uru and Babylon, in antiquity and magnificence.
* For an ideal picture of what may have been the beginnings of that civilization, see Delitzsch, Die Entstehung des altesten Schriflssystems, p. 214, et seq. I will not enter into the question as to whether it did or did not come by sea to the mouths of the Euphrates and Tigris. The legend of the fish-god Oannes (Berossus, frag. 1), which seems to conceal some indication on the subject, is merely a mythological tradition, from which it would be wrong to deduce historical conclusions.
** Agade, or Agane, has been identified with one of the two towns of which Sippara is made up, more especially with that which was called Anunit Sippara; the reading Agadi, Agacle, was especially assumed to lead to its identification with the Accad of Genesis x. 10, and with the Akkad of native tradition. This opinion has been generally abandoned by Assyriologists, and Agane has not yet found a site. Was it only a name for Babylon?
There was nothing serious to fear from the Guti, on the branch of the Tigris to the north-east, or from the Shuti to the north of these; they were merely marauding tribes, and, however troublesome they might be to their neighbours in their devastating incursions, they could not compromise the existence of the country, or bring it into subjection. It would appear that the Chaldseans had already begun to encroach upon these tribes and to establish colonies among them—El-Ashshur on the banks of the Tigris, Harran on the furthest point of the Mesopotamian plain, towards the sources of the Balikh. Beyond these were vague and unknown regions—Tidanum, Martu, the sea of the setting sun, the vast territories of Milukhkha and Magan.* Egypt, from the time they were acquainted with its existence, was a semi-fabulous country at the ends of the earth.
* The question concerning Milukhkha and Magan has exercised Assyriologists for twenty years. The prevailing opinion appears to be that which identifies Magan with the Sinaitic Peninsula, and Milukhkha with the country to the north of Magan as far as the Wady Arish and the Mediterranean; others maintain, not the theory of Delitzsch, according to whom Magan and Milukhkha are synonyms for Shumir and Akkad, and consequently two of the great divisions of Babylonia, but an analogous hypothesis, in which they are regarded as districts to the west of the Euphrates, either in Chaldaean regions or on the margin of the desert, or even in the desert itself towards the Sinaitic Peninsula. What we know of the texts induces me, in common with H. Rawlinson, to place these countries on the shores of the Persian Gulf, between the mouth of the Euphrates and the Bahrein islands; possibly the Makse and the Melangitso of classical historians and geographers were the descendants of the people of Magan (Makan) and Milukhkha (Melugga), who had been driven towards the entrance to the Persian Gulf by some such event as the increase in these regions of the Kashdi (Chaldaeans). The names, emigrated to the western parts of Arabia and to the Sinaitic Peninsula in after-times, as the name of India passed to America in the XVIth century of our era.
How long did it take to bring this people out of savagery, and to build up so many flourishing cities? The learned did not readily resign themselves to a confession of ignorance on the subject. As they had depicted the primordial chaos, the birth of the gods, and their struggles over the creation, so they related unhesitatingly everything which had happened since the creation of mankind, and they laid claim to being able to calculate the number of centuries which lay between their own day and the origin of things. The tradition to which most credence was attached in the Greek period at Babylon, that which has been preserved for us in the histories of Berossue, asserts that there was a somewhat long interval between the manifestation of Oannes and the foundation of a dynasty. The first king was Aloros of Babylon, a Chaldaean of whom nothing is related except that he was chosen by the divinity himself to be a shepherd of the people. He reigned for ten sari, amounting in all to 36,000 years; for the saros is 3600 years, the ner 600 years, and the soss 60 years.
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from an intaglio in the British Museum.
After the death of Aloros, his son Alaparos ruled for three sari, after which Amillaros, of the city of Pantibibla, reigned thirteen sari. It was under him that there issued from the Bed Sea a second Annedotos, resembling Oannes in his semi-divine shape, half man and half fish. After him Ammenon, also from Pantibibla, a Chaldaean, ruled for a term of twelve sari; under him, they say, the mysterious Oannes appeared. Afterwards Amelagaros of Pantibibla governed for eighteen sari; then Davos, the shepherd from Pantibibla, reigned ten sari: under him there issued from the Red Sea a fourth Annedotos, who had a form similar to the others, being made up of man and fish. After him Bvedoranchos of Pantibibla reigned for eighteen sari; in his time there issued yet another monster, named Anodaphos, from the sea. These various monsters developed carefully and in detail that which Oannes had set forth in a brief way. Then Amempsinos of Larancha, a Chalaean, reigned ten sari; and Obartes, also a Chaldaean, of Larancha, eight sari. Finally, on the death of Obartes, his son Xisuthros held the sceptre for eighteen sari. It was under him that the great deluge took place. Thus ten kings are to be reckoned in all, and the duration of their combined reigns amounts to one hundred and twenty sari. From the beginning of the world to the Deluge they reckoned 691,200 years, of which 259,200 had passed before the coming of Aloros, and the remaining 432,000 were generously distributed between this prince and his immediate successors: the Greek and Latin writers had certainly a fine occasion for amusement over these fabulous numbers of years which the Chaldaeans assigned to the lives and reigns of their first kings.
Men in the mean time became wicked; they lost the habit of offering sacrifices to the gods, and the gods, justly indignant at this negligence, resolved to be avenged.* Now, Shamashnapishtim I was reigning at this time in Shurippak, the "town of the ship:" he and all his family were saved, and he related afterwards to one of his descendants how Ea had snatched him from the disaster which fell upon his people.** "Shurippak, the city which thou thyself knowest, is situated on the bank of the Euphrates; it was already an ancient town when the hearts of the gods who resided in it impelled them to bring the deluge upon it—the great gods as many as they are; their father Anu, their counsellor Bel the warrior, their throne-bearer Ninib, their prince Innugi. The master of wisdom, Ea, took his seat with them,*** and, moved with pity, was anxious to warn Shamashnapishtim, his servant, of the peril which threatened him;" but it was a very serious affair to betray to a mortal a secret of heaven, and as he did not venture to do so in a direct manner, his inventive mind suggested to him an artifice.
* The account of Bcrossus implies this as a cause of the Deluge, since he mentions the injunction imposed upon the survivors by a mysterious voice to be henceforward respectful towards the gods, [Greek word]. The Chalaean account considers the Deluge to have been sent as a punishment upon men for their sins against the gods, since it represents towards the end (cf. p. 52 of this History) Ea as reproaching Bel for having confounded the innocent and the guilty in one punishment.
** The name of this individual has been read in various ways: Shamashnapishtim, "sun of life," Sitnapishtim, "the saved," and Pirnapishtim. In one passage at least we find, in place of Shamashnapishtim, the name or epithet of Aclrakhasis, or by inversion Khasisadra, which appears to signify "the very shrewd," and is explained by the skill with which he interpreted the oracle of Ea. Khasisadra is most probably the form which the Greeks have transcribed by Xisuthros, Sisuthros, Sisithes.
*** The account of the Deluge covers the eleventh tablet of the poem of Gilgames. The hero, threatened with death, proceeds to rejoin his ancestor Shamashnapishtim to demand from him the secret of immortality, and the latter tells him the manner in which he escaped from the waters: he had saved his life only at the expense of the destruction of men. The text of it was published by Smith and by Haupt, fragment by fragment, and then restored consecutively. The studies of which it is the object would make a complete library. The principal translations are those of Smith, of Oppert, of Lenor-mant, of Haupt, of Jensen, of A. Jeremias, of Sauveplane, and of Zimmern.
Facsimile by Faucher-Gudin, from the photograph published by G. Smith, Chaldaean Account of the Deluge from terra-cotta tablets found at Nineveh.
He confided to a hedge of reeds the resolution that had been adopted:* "Hedge, hedge, wall, wall! Hearken, hedge, and understand well, wall! Man of Shurippak, son of Ubaratutu, construct a wooden house, build a ship, abandon thy goods, seek life; throw away thy possessions, save thy life, and place in the vessel all the seed of life. The ship which thou shalt build, let its proportions be exactly measured, let its dimensions and shape be well arranged, then launch it in the sea." Shamashnapishtim heard the address to the field of reeds, or perhaps the reeds repeated it to him. "I understood it, and I said to my master Ea 'The command, O my master, which thou hast thus enunciated, I myself will respect it, and I will execute it: but what shall I say to the town, the people and the elders?'" Ea opened his mouth and spake; he said to his servant: "Answer thus and say to them: 'Because Bel hates me, I will no longer dwell in your town, and upon the land of Bel I will no longer lay my head, but I will go upon the sea, and will dwell with Ea my master. Now Bel will make rain to fall upon you, upon the swarm of birds and the multitude of fishes, upon all the animals of the field, and upon all the crops; but Ea will give you a sign: the god who rules the rain will cause to fall upon you, on a certain evening, an abundant rain. When the dawn of the next day appears, the deluge will begin, which will cover the earth and drown all living things.'" Shamashnapishtim repeated the warning to the people, but the people refused to believe it, and turned him into ridicule. The work went rapidly forward: the hull was a hundred and forty cubits long, the deck one hundred and forty broad; all the joints were caulked with pitch and bitumen. A solemn festival was observed at its completion, and the embarkation began.** "All that I possessed I filled the ship with it all that I had of silver, I filled it with it; all that I had of gold I filled it with it, all that I had of the seed of life of every kind I filled it with it; I caused all my family and my servants to go up into it; beasts of the field, wild beasts of the field, I caused them to go up all together. Shamash had given me a sign: 'When the god who rules the rain, in the evening shall cause an abundant rain to fall, enter into the ship and close thy door.' The sign was revealed: the god who rules the rain caused to fall one night an abundant rain. The day, I feared its dawning; I feared to see the daylight; I entered into the ship and I shut the door; that the ship might be guided, I handed over to Buzur-Bel, the pilot, the great ark and its fortunes."
* The sense of this passage is far from being certain; I have followed the interpretation proposed, with some variations, by Pinches, by Haupt, and by Jensen. The stratagem at once recalls the history of King Midas, and the talking reeds which knew the secret of his ass's ears. In the version of Berossus, it is Kronos who plays the part here assigned to Ea in regard to Xisuthros.
** The text is mutilated, and does not furnish enough information to follow in every detail the building of the ark. From what we can understand, the vessel of Shamashnapishtim was a kind of immense kelek, decked, but without masts or rigging of any sort. The text identifies the festival celebrated by the hero before the embarkation with the festival Akitu of Merodach, at Babylon, during which "Nebo, the powerful son, sailed from Borsippa to Babylon in the bark of the river Asmu, of beauty." The embarkation of Nebo and his voyage on the stream had probably inspired the information according to which the embarkation of Shamashnapishtim was made the occasion of a festival Akitu, celebrated at Shurippak; the time of the Babylonian festival was probably thought to coincide with the anniversary of the Deluge.
"As soon as the morning became clear, a black cloud arose from the foundations of heaven. Bamman growled in its bosom; Nebo and Marduk ran before it—ran like two throne-bearers over hill and dale. Nera the Great tore up the stake to which the ark was moored. Ninib came up quickly; he began the attack; the Anunnaki raised their torches and made the earth to tremble at their brilliancy; the tempest of Ramman scaled the heaven, changed all the light to darkness, flooded the earth like a lake.* For a whole day the hurricane raged, and blew violently over the mountains and over the country; the tempest rushed upon men like the shock of an army, brother no longer beheld brother, men recognized each other no more.
* The progress of the tempest is described as the attack of the gods, who had resolved on the destruction of men. Ramman is the thunder which growls in the cloud; Nebo, Merodach, Nera the Great (Nergal), and Ninib, denote the different phases of the hurricane from the moment when the wind gets up until it is at its height; the Anunnaki represent the lightning which flashes carelessly across the heaven.
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a Chalaean intaglio.
In heaven, the gods were afraid of the deluge;* they betook themselves to flight, they clambered to the firmament of Anu; the gods, howling like dogs, cowered upon the parapet.** Ishtar wailed like a woman in travail; she cried out, "the lady of life, the goddess with the beautiful voice: 'The past returns to clay, because I have prophesied evil before the gods! Prophesying evil before the gods, I have counselled the attack to bring my men to nothing; and these to whom I myself have given birth, where are they? Like the spawn of fish they encumber the sea! 'The gods wept with her over the affair of the Anunnaki;' the gods, in the place where they sat weeping, their lips were closed." It was not pity only which made their tears to flow: there were mixed up with it feelings of regret and fears for the future. Mankind once destroyed, who would then make the accustomed offerings? The inconsiderate anger of Bel, while punishing the impiety of their creatures, had inflicted injury upon themselves. "Six days and nights the wind continued, the deluge and the tempest raged. The seventh day at daybreak the storm abated; the deluge, which had carried on warfare like an army, ceased, the sea became calm and the hurricane disappeared, the deluge ceased. I surveyed the sea with my eyes, raising my voice; but all mankind had returned to clay, neither fields nor woods could be distinguished.*** I opened the hatchway and the light fell upon my face; I sank down, I cowered, I wept, and my tears ran down my cheeks when I beheld the world all terror and all sea. At the end of twelve days, a point of land stood up from the waters, the ship touched the land of Nisir:**** the mountain of Nisir stopped the ship and permitted it to float no longer. One day, two days, the mountain of Nisir stopped the ship and permitted it to float no longer.
* The gods enumerated above alone took part in the drama of the Deluge: they were the confederates and emissaries of Bel. The others were present as spectators of the disaster, and were terrified.
** The upper part of the mountain wall is here referred to, upon which the heaven is supported. There was a narrow space between the escarpment and the place upon which the vault of the firmament rested: the Babylonian poet represented the gods as crowded like a pack of hounds upon this parapet, and beholding from it the outburst of the tempest and the waters.
***The translation is uncertain: the text refers to a legend which has not come down to us, in which Ishtar is related to have counselled the destruction of men.
**** The Anunnaki represent here the evil genii whom the gods that produced the deluge had let loose, and whom Ramman, Nebo, Merodach, Nergal, and Ninib, all the followers of Bel, had led to the attack upon men: the other deities shared the fears and grief of Ishtar in regard to the ravages which these Anunnaki had brought about (cf. below, pp. 141-143 of this History).
Three days, four days, the mountain of Nisir* stopped the ship and permitted it to float no longer. Five days, six days, the mountain of Nisir stopped the ship and permitted it to float no longer. The seventh day, at dawn, I took out a dove and let it go: the dove went, turned about, and as there was no place to alight upon, came back. I took out a swallow and let it go: the swallow went, turned about, and as there was no place to alight upon, came back. I took out a raven and let it go: the raven went, and saw that the water had abated, and came near the ship flapping its wings, croaking, and returned no more." Shamashnapishtim escaped from the deluge, but he did not know whether the divine wrath was appeased, or what would be done with him when it became known that he still lived.** He resolved to conciliate the gods by expiatory ceremonies. "I sent forth the inhabitants of the ark towards the four winds, I made an offering, I poured out a propitiatory libation on the summit of the mountain. I set up seven and seven vessels, and I placed there some sweet-smelling rushes, some cedar-wood, and storax." He thereupon re-entered the ship to await there the effect of his sacrifice.
* I have adopted, in the translation of this difficult passage, the meaning suggested by Haupt, according to which it ought to be translated, "The field makes nothing more than one with the mountain;" that is to say, "mountains and fields are no longer distinguishable one from another." I have merely substituted for mountain the version wood, piece of land covered with trees, which Jensen has suggested.
** The mountain of Nisir is replaced in the version of Berossus by the Gordyaean mountains of classical geography; a passage of Assur-nazir-pal informs us that it was situated between the Tigris and the Great Zab, according to Delitzsch between 35 deg. and 36 deg. N. latitude. The Assyrian-speaking people interpreted the name as Salvation, and a play upon words probably decided the placing upon its slopes the locality where those saved from the deluge landed on the abating of the waters. Fr. Lenormant proposes to identify it with the peak Rowandiz.
The gods, who no longer hoped for such a wind-fall, accepted the sacrifice with a wondering joy. "The gods sniffed up the odour, the gods sniffed up the excellent odour, the gods gathered like flies above the offering. "When Ishtar, the mistress of life, came in her turn, she held up the great amulet which Anu had made for her."* She was still furious against those who had determined upon the destruction of mankind, especially against Bel: "These gods, I swear it on the necklace of my neck! I will not forget them; these days I will remember, and will not forget them for ever. Let the other gods come quickly to take part in the offering. Bel shall have no part in the offering, for he was not wise: but he has caused the deluge, and he has devoted my people to destruction." Bel himself had not recovered his temper: "When he arrived in his turn and saw the ship, he remained immovable before it, and his heart was filled with rage against the gods of heaven. 'Who is he who has come out of it living? No man must survive the destruction!'" The gods had everything to fear from his anger: Ninib was eager to exculpate himself, and to put the blame upon the right person. Ea did not disavow his acts: "he opened his mouth and spake; he said to Bel the warrior: 'Thou, the wisest among the gods, O warrior, why wert thou not wise, and didst cause the deluge? The sinner, make him responsible for his sin; the criminal, make him responsible for his crime: but be calm, and do not cut off all; be patient, and do not drown all. What was the good of causing the deluge? A lion had only to come to decimate the people. What was the good of causing the deluge? A leopard had only to come to decimate the people. What was the good of causing the deluge? Famine had only to present itself to desolate the country. What was the good of causing the deluge? Nera the Plague had only to come to destroy the people. As for me, I did, not reveal the judgment of the gods: I caused Khasisadra to dream a dream, and he became aware of the judgment of the gods, and then he made his resolve.'" Bel was pacified at the words of Ea: "he went up into the interior of the ship; he took hold of my hand and made me go up, even me; he made my wife go up, and he pushed her to my side; he turned our faces towards him, he placed himself between us, and blessed us: 'Up to this time Shamashnapishtim was a man: henceforward let Shamashnapishtim and his wife be reverenced like us, the gods, and let Shamashnapishtim dwell afar off, at the mouth of the seas, and he carried us away and placed us afar off, at the mouth of the seas.'" Another form of the legend relates that by an order of the god, Xisuthros, before embarking, had buried in the town of Sippara all the books in which his ancestors had set forth the sacred sciences—books of oracles and omens, "in which were recorded the beginning, the middle, and the end. When he had disappeared, those of his companions who remained on board, seeing that he did not return, went out and set off in search of him, calling him by name. He did not show himself to them, but a voice from heaven enjoined upon them to be devout towards the gods, to return to Babylon and dig up the books in order that they might be handed down to future generations; the voice also informed them that the country in which they were was Armenia. They offered sacrifice in turn, they regained their country on foot, they dug up the books of Sippara and wrote many more; afterwards they refounded Babylon." It was even maintained in the time of the Seleucido, that a portion of the ark existed on one of the summits of the Gordyaean mountains.** Pilgrimages were made to it, and the faithful scraped off the bitumen which covered it, to make out of it amulets of sovereign virtue against evil spells.
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a sketch by G. Smith, Assyrian Discoveries, p. 108.
* We are ignorant of the object which the goddess lifted up: it may have been the sceptre surmounted by a radiating star, such as we see on certain cylinders. Several Assyriologists translate it arrows or lightning. Ishtar is, in fact, an armed goddess who throws the arrow or lightning made by her father Anu, the heaven.
** Bekossus, fragm. xv. The legend about the remains of the ark has passed into Jewish tradition concerning the Deluge. Nicholas of Damascus relates, like Berossus, that they were still to be seen on the top of Mount Baris. From that time they have been continuously seen, sometimes on one peak and sometimes on another. In the last century they were pointed out to Chardin, and the memory of them has not died out in our own century. Discoveries of charcoal and bitumen, such as those made at Gebel Judi, upon one of the mountains identified with Nisir, probably explain many of these local traditions.
The chronicle of these fabulous times placed, soon after the abating of the waters, the foundation of a new dynasty, as extraordinary or almost as extraordinary in character as that before the flood. According to Berossus it was of Chaldaean origin, and comprised eighty-six kings, who bore rule during 34,080 years; the first two, Evechous and Khomasbelos, reigned 2400 and 2700 years, while the later reigns did not exceed the ordinary limits of human life. An attempt was afterwards made to harmonize them with probability: the number of kings was reduced to six, and their combined reigns to 225 years. This attempt arose from a misapprehension of their true character; names and deeds, everything connected with them belongs to myth and fiction only, and is irreducible to history proper. They supplied to priests and poets material for scores of different stories, of which several have come down to us in fragments. Some are short, and serve as preambles to prayers or magical formulas; others are of some length, and may pass for real epics. The gods intervene in them, and along with kings play an important part. It is Nera, for instance, the lord of the plague, who declares war against mankind in order to punish them for having despised the authority of Anu. He makes Babylon to feel his wrath first: "The children of Babel, they were as birds, and the bird-catcher, thou wert he! thou takest them in the net, thou enclosest them, thou decimatest them—hero Nera!" One after the other he attacks the mother cities of the Euphrates and obliges them to render homage to him—even Uruk, "the dwelling of Anu and Ishtar—the town of the priestesses, of the almehs, and the sacred courtesans; "then he turns upon the foreign nations and carries his ravages as far as Phoenicia. In other fragments, the hero Etana makes an attempt to raise himself to heaven, and the eagle, his companion, flies away with him, without, however, being able to bring the enterprise to a successful issue. Nimrod and his exploits are known to us from the Bible.* "He was a mighty hunter before the Lord: wherefore it is said, Even as Nimrod the mighty hunter before the Lord. And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, and Erech, and Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar." Almost all the characteristics which are attributed by Hebrew tradition to Nimrod we find in G-ilgames, King of Uruk and descendant of the Shamashnapishtim who had witnessed the deluge.**
* Genesis x. 9, 10. Among the Jews and Mussulmans a complete cycle of legends have developed around Nimrod. He built the Tower of Babel; he threw Abraham into a fiery furnace, and he tried to mount to heaven on the back of an eagle. Sayce and Grivel saw in Nimrod an heroic form of Merodach, the god of Babylonia: the majority of living Assyriologists prefer to follow Smith's example, and identify him with the hero Gilgames.
** The name of this hero is composed of three signs, which Smith provisionally rendered Isdubar—a reading which, modified into Gishdhubar, Gistubar, is still retained by many Assyriologists. There have been proposed one after another the renderings Dhubar, Namrudu, Anamarutu, Numarad, Namrasit, all of which exhibit in the name of the hero that of Nimrod. Pinches discovered, in 1890, what appears to be the true signification of the three signs,Gilgamesh, Gilgames; Sayce and Oppert have compared this name with that of Gilgamos, a Babylonian hero, of whom. AElian has preserved the memory. A. Jeremias continued to reject both the reading and the identification.
Several copies of a poem, in which an unknown scribe had celebrated his exploits, existed about the middle of the VIIth century before our era in the Royal Library at Nineveh; they had been transcribed by order of Assur-banipal from a more ancient copy, and the fragments of them which have come down to us, in spite of their lacunae, enable us to restore the original text, if not in its entirety, at least in regard to the succession of events. They were divided into twelve episodes corresponding with the twelve divisions of the year, and the ancient Babylonian author was guided in his choice of these divisions by something more than mere chance. Gilgames, at first an ordinary mortal under the patronage of the gods, had himself become a god and son of the goddess Aruru: "he had seen the abyss, he had learned everything that is kept secret and hidden, he had even made known to men what had taken place before the deluge." The sun, who had protected him in his human condition, had placed him beside himself on the judgment-seat, and delegated to him authority to pronounce decisions from which there was no appeal: he was, as it were, a sun on a small scale, before whom the kings, princes, and great ones of the earth humbly bowed their heads.* The scribes had, therefore, some authority for treating the events of his life after the model of the year, and for expressing them in twelve chants, which answered to the annual course of the sun through the twelve months.
* The identity of Gilgames with the Accadian fire-god, or rather with the sun, was recognized from the first by H. Rawlinson, and has been accepted since by almost all Assyriologists. A tablet brought back by G. Smith, called attention to by Fr. Delitzsch, and published by Haupt, contains the remains of a hymn addressed to Gilgames, "the powerful king, the king of the Spirits of the Earth."
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from an Assyrian bas-relief from Khorsabad, in the Museum of the Louvre
The whole story is essentially an account of his struggles with Ishtar, and the first pages reveal him as already at issue with the goddess. His portrait, such as the monuments have preserved it for us, is singularly unlike the ordinary type: one would be inclined to regard it as representing an individual of a different race, a survival of some very ancient nation which had held rule on the plains of the Euphrates before the arrival of the Sumerian or Semitic* tribes.
* Smith (The Chaldaean Account of Genesis, p. 194) remarked the difference between the representations of Gilgames and the typical Babylonian: he concluded from this that the hero was of Ethiopian origin. Hommel declares that his features have neither a Sumerian nor Semitic aspect, and that they raise an insoluble question in ethnology.
His figure is tall, broad, muscular to an astonishing degree, and expresses at once vigour and activity; his head is massive, bony, almost square, with a somewhat flattened face, a large nose, and prominent cheek-bones, the whole framed by an abundance of hair, and a thick beard symmetrically curled. All the young men of Uruk, the well-protected, were captivated by the prodigious strength and beauty of the hero; the elders of the city betook themselves to Ishtar to complain of the state of neglect to which the young generation had relegated them. "He has no longer a rival in their hearts, but thy subjects are led to battle, and Gilgames does not send one child back to his father. Night and day they cry after him: 'It is he the shepherd of Uruk, the well-protected, he is its shepherd and master, he the powerful, the perfect and the wise.'" Even the women did not escape the general enthusiasm: "he leaves not a single virgin to her mother, a single daughter to a warrior, a single wife to her master. Ishtar heard their complaint, the gods heard it, and cried with a loud voice to Aruru: 'It is thou, Aruru, who hast given him birth; create for him now his fellow, that he may be able to meet him on a day when it pleaseth him, in order that they may fight with each other and Uruk may be delivered.'When Aruru heard them, she created in her heart a man of Anu. Aruru washed her hands, took a bit of clay, cast it upon the earth, kneaded it and created Babani, the warrior, the exalted scion, the man of Ninib, whose whole body is covered with hair, whose tresses are as long as those of a woman; the locks of his hair bristle on his head like those on the corn-god; he is clad in a vestment like that of the god of the fields; he browses with the gazelles, he quenches his thirst with the beasts of the field, he sports with the beasts of the waters." Frequent representations of Eabani are found upon the monuments; he has the horns of a goat, the legs and tail of a bull.* He possessed not only the strength of a brute, but his intelligence also embraced all things, the past and the future: he would probably have triumphed over Gilgames if Shamash had not succeeded in attaching them to one another by an indissoluble tie of friendship. The difficulty was to draw these two future friends together, and to bring them face to face without their coming to blows; the god sent his courier Saidu, the hunter, to study the habits of the monster, and to find out the necessary means to persuade him to come down peaceably to Uruk. "Saidu, the hunter, proceeded to meet Eabani near the entrance of the watering-place. One day, two days, three days, Eabani met him at the entrance of the watering-place. He perceived Saidu, and his countenance darkened: he entered the enclosure, he became sad, he groaned, he cried with a loud voice, his heart was heavy, his features were distorted, sobs burst from his breast. The hunter saw from a distance that his face was inflamed with anger," and judging it more prudent not to persevere farther in his enterprise, returned to impart to the god what he had observed.
* Smith was the first, I believe, to compare his form to that of a satyr or faun; this comparison is rendered more probable by the fact that the modern inhabitants of Chaldaea believe in the existence of similar monsters. A. Jeremias places Eabani alongside Priapus, who is generally a god of the fields, and a clever soothsayer. Following out these ideas, we might compare our Eabani with the Graico-Roman Proteus, who pastures the flocks of the sea, and whom it was necessary to pursue and seize by force or cunning words to compel him to give oracular predictions.
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a Chaldaean intaglio in the Museum at the Hague. The original measures about 1 7/10 inch in height.
"I was afraid," said he, in finishing his narrative,* "and I did not approach him. He had filled up the pit which I had dug to trap him, he broke the nets which I had spread, he delivered from my hands the cattle and the beasts of the field, he did not allow me to search the country through." Shamash thought that where the strongest man might fail by the employment of force, a woman might possibly succeed by the attractions of pleasure; he commanded Saidu to go quickly to Uruk and there to choose from among the priestesses of Ishtar one of the most beautiful.** The hunter presented himself before Grilgames, recounted to him his adventures, and sought his permission to take away with him one of the sacred courtesans. "'Go, my hunter, take the priestess; when the beasts come to the watering-place, let her display her beauty; he will see her, he will approach her, and his beasts that troop around him will be scattered.'"*** The hunter went, he took with him the priestess, he took the straight road; the third day they arrived at the fatal plain. The hunter and the priestess sat down to rest; one day, two days, they sat at the entrance of the watering-place from whose waters Eabani drank along with the animals, where he sported with the beasts of the water.
* Haupt, Das Babylonische Nimrodepos, p. 9, 11. 42-50. The beginning of each line is destroyed, and the translation of the whole is only approximate.
** The priestesses of Ishtar were young and beautiful women, devoted to the service of the goddess and her worshippers. Besides the title qadishtu, priestess, they bore various names, kizireti, ukhati, kharimati; the priestess who accompanied Saidu was an ukhat.
*** As far as can be guessed from the narrative, interrupted as it is by so many lacunae, the power of Eabani over the beasts of the field seems to have depended on his continence. From the moment in which he yields to his passions the beasts fly from him as they would do from an ordinary mortal; there is then no other resource for him but to leave the solitudes to live among men in towns. This explains the means devised by Shamash against him: cf. in the Arabian Nights the story of Shehabeddin.
"When Eabani arrived, he who dwells in the mountains, and who browses upon the grass like the gazelles, who drinks with the animals, who sports with the beasts of the water, the priestess saw the satyr." She was afraid and blushed, but the hunter recalled her to her duty. "It is he, priestess. Undo thy garment, show him thy form, that he may be taken with thy beauty; be not ashamed, but deprive him of his soul. He perceives thee, he is rushing towards thee, arrange thy garment; he is coming upon thee, receive him with every art of woman; his beasts which troop around him will be scattered, and he will press thee to his breast." The priestess did as she was commanded; she received him with every art of woman, and he pressed her to his breast. Six days and seven nights, Eabani remained near the priestess, his well-beloved. When he got tired of pleasure he turned his face towards his cattle, and he saw that the gazelles had turned aside and that the beasts of the field had fled far from him. Eabani was alarmed, he fell into a swoon, his knees became stiff because his cattle had fled from him. While he lay as if dead, he heard the voice of the priestess: he recovered his senses, he came to himself full of love; he seated himself at the feet of the priestess, he looked into her face, and while the priestess spoke his ears listened. For it was to him the priestess spoke—to him, Eabani. "Thou who art superb, Eabani, as a god, why dost thou live among the beasts of the field? Come, I will conduct thee to Uruk the well-protected, to the glorious house, the dwelling of Anu and Ishtar—to the place where is Gilgames, whose strength is supreme, and who, like a Urus, excels the heroes in strength." While she thus spoke to him, he hung upon her words, he the wise of heart, he realized by anticipation a friend. Eabani said to the priestess: "Let us go, priestess; lead me to the glorious and holy abode of Anu and Ishtar—to the place where is Gilgames, whose strength is supreme, and who, like a Urus, prevails over the heroes by his strength. I will fight with him and manifest to him my power; I will send forth a panther against Uruk, and he must struggle with it."* The priestess conducted her prisoner to Uruk, but the city at that moment was celebrating the festival of Tammuz, and Gilgames did not care to interrupt the solemnities in order to face the tasks to which Eabani had invited him: what was the use of such trials since the gods themselves had deigned to point out to him in a dream the line of conduct he was to pursue, and had taken up the cause of their children. Shamash, in fact, began the instruction of the monster, and sketched an alluring picture of the life which awaited him if he would agree not to return to his mountain home. Not only would the priestess belong to him for ever, having none other than him for husband, but Gilgames would shower upon him riches and honours. "He will give thee wherein to sleep a great bed cunningly wrought; he will seat thee on his divan, he will give thee a place on his left hand, and the princes of the earth shall kiss thy feet, the people of Uruk shall grovel on the ground before thee." It was by such flatteries and promises for the future that Gilgames gained the affection of his servant Eabani, whom he loved for ever.