THE WORLD'S GREATEST BOOKS
ARTHUR MEE Editor and Founder of the Book of Knowledge
J.A. HAMMERTON Editor of Harmsworth's Universal Encyclopaedia
ANCIENT HISTORY MEDIAEVAL HISTORY
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Table of Contents
MASPERO, GASTON Dawn of Civilization Struggle of the Nations Passing of the Empires
JOSEPHUS, FLAVIUS Antiquities of the Jews Wars of the Jews
MILMAN, HENRY History of the Jews
THUCYDIDES Peloponnesian War
GROTE, GEORGE History of Greece
SCHLIEMANN, HEINRICH Troy and Its Remains
CAESAR, JULIUS Commentaries on the Gallic War
TACITUS, PUBLIUS CORNELIUS Annals
SALLUST, CATOS CRISPUS Conspiracy of Catiline
GIBBON, EDWARD Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
MOMMSEN, THEODOR History of Rome
HOLY ROMAN EMPIRE
GIBBON, EDWARD The Holy Roman Empire
GUIZOT, F.P.G. History of Civilization in Europe
HALLAM, HENRY View of the State of Europe During the Middle Ages
LANE-POOLE, STANLEY Egypt in the Middle Ages
HOLINSHED, RAPHAEL Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland
FREEMAN, E.A. Norman Conquest of England
FROUDE, JAMES ANTHONY History of England
A Complete Index of THE WORLD'S GREATEST BOOKS will be found at the end of Volume XX.
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Acknowledgment and thanks for permitting the use of the following selections—"The Dawn of Civilisation," "The Struggle of the Nations" and "The Passing of the Empires," by Gaston Maspero—which appear in this volume, are hereby tendered to the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, of London, England.
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The Dawn of Civilisation
Gaston Camille Charles Maspero, born on June 23, 1846, in Paris, is one of the most renowned of European experts in philology and Egyptology, having in great part studied his special subjects on Oriental ground. After occupying for several years the Chair of Egyptology in the Ecole des Hautes Etudes at the Sorbonne in Paris, he became, in 1874, Professor of Egyptian Philology and Archaeology at the College de France. From 1881 to 1886 he acted in Egypt as director of the Boulak Museum. It was under his superintendence that this museum became enriched with its choicest antique treasures. Dr. Maspero retired in 1886, but in 1899 again went to Egypt as Director of Excavations. His works are of the utmost value, his skill in marshalling facts and deducting legitimate inferences being unrivalled. His masterpiece is an immense work, with the general title of "History of the Ancient Peoples of the Classic East," divided into three parts, each complete in itself: (1) "The Dawn of Civilisation"; (2) "The Struggle of the Nations"; (3) "The Passing of the Empires."
I.—The Nile and Egypt
A long, low, level shore, scarcely rising above the sea, a chain of vaguely defined and ever-shifting lakes and marshes, then the triangular plain beyond, whose apex is thrust thirty leagues into the land—this, the Delta of Egypt, has gradually been acquired from the sea, and is, as it were, the gift of the Nile. Where the Delta ends, Egypt proper begins. It is only a strip of vegetable mould stretching north and south between regions of drought and desolation, a prolonged oasis on the banks of the river, made by the Nile, and sustained by the Nile. The whole length of the land is shut in by two ranges of hills, roughly parallel at a mean distance of about twelve miles.
During the earlier ages the river filled all this intermediate space; and the sides of the hills, polished, worn, blackened to their very summits, still bear unmistakable traces of its action. Wasted and shrunken within the deeps of its own ancient bed, the stream now makes a way through its own thick deposits of mud. The bulk of its waters keep to the east, and constitutes the true Nile, the "Great River" of the hieroglyphic inscriptions. At Khartoum the single channel in which the river flowed divides, and two other streams are opened up in a southerly direction, each of them apparently equal in volume to the main stream.
Which is the true Nile? Is it the Blue Nile, which seems to come down from the distant mountains? Or is it the White Nile, which has traversed the immense plains of equatorial Africa? The old Egyptians never knew. The river kept the secret of its source from them as obstinately as it withheld it from us until a few years ago. Vainly did their victorious armies follow the Nile for months together, as they pursued the tribes who dwelt upon its banks, only to find it as wide, as full, as irresistible in its progress as ever. It was a fresh-water sea—iauma, ioma was the name by which they called it. The Egyptians, therefore, never sought its source. It was said to be of supernatural origin, to rise in Paradise, to traverse burning regions inaccessible to man, and afterwards to fall into a sea whence it made its way to Egypt.
The sea mentioned in all the tales is, perhaps, a less extravagant invention than we are at first inclined to think. A lake, nearly as large as the Victoria Nyanza, once covered the marshy plain where the Bahr-el-Abiad unites with the Sobat and with the Bahr-el-Ghazal. Alluvial deposits have filled up all but its deepest depression, which is known as Birket Nu; but in ages preceding our era it must still have been vast enough to suggest to Egyptian soldiers and boatmen the idea of an actual sea opening into the Indian Ocean.
Everything is dependent upon the river—the soil, the produce of the soil, the species of animals it bears, the birds which it feeds—and hence it was the Egyptians placed the river among their gods. They personified it as a man with regular features, and a vigorous but portly body, such as befits the rich of high lineage. Sometimes water springs from his breast; sometimes he presents a frog, or libation of vases, or bears a tray full of offerings of flowers, corn, fish, or geese. The inscriptions call him "Hapi, father of the gods, lord of sustenance, who maketh food to be, and covereth the two lands of Egypt with his products; who giveth life, banisheth want, and filleth the granaries to overflowing."
He is evolved into two personages, one being sometimes coloured red, the other blue. The former, who wears a cluster of lotus-flowers on his head, presides over Egypt of the south; the latter has a bunch of papyrus for his headdress, and watches over the Delta. Two goddesses, corresponding to the two Hapis—Mirit Qimait for the Upper, and Mirit-Mihit for the Lower Egypt—personified the banks of the river. They are represented with outstretched arms, as though begging for the water that should make them fertile.
II.—The Gods of Egypt
The incredible number of religious scenes to be found represented on the ancient monuments of Egypt is at first glance very striking. Nearly every illustration in the works of Egyptologists shows us the figure of some deity. One would think the country had been inhabited for the most part by gods, with just enough men and animals to satisfy the requirements of their worship. Each of these deities represented a function, a moment in the life of man or of the universe. Thus, Naprit was identified with the ripe ear of wheat; Maskhonit appeared by the child's cradle at the very moment of its birth; and Raninit presided over the naming and nurture of the newly born.
In penetrating this mysterious world we are confronted by an actual jumble of gods, many being of foreign origin; and these, with the indigenous deities, made up nations of gods. This mixed pantheon had its grades of noble princes and kings, each of its members representing one of the forces constituting the world. Some appeared in human form; others as animals; others as combinations of human and animal forms.
The sky-gods, like the earth-gods, were separated into groups, the one composed of women: Hathor of Denderah, or Nit of Sais; the other composed of men identical with Horus, or derived from him: Anhuri-Shu of Sebennytos and Thinis; Harmerati, or Horus, of the two eyes, at Pharbaethos; Har-Sapedi, or Horus, of the zodiacal light, in the Wady Tumilat; and, finally, Harhuditi at Edfu. Ra, the solar disc, was enthroned at Heliopolis; and sun-gods were numerous among the home deities. Horus the sun, and Ra the sun-god of Heliopolis, so permeated each other that none could say where the one began and the other ended.
Each of the feudal gods representing the sun cherished pretensions to universal dominion. The goddesses shared in supreme power. Isis was entitled lady and mistress of Buto, as Hathor was at Denderah, and as Nit was at Sais. The animal-gods shared omnipotence with those in human form. Each of the feudal divinities appropriated two companions and formed a trinity; or, as it is generally called, a triad. Often the local deity was content with one wife and one son, but often he was united to two goddesses. The system of triads enhanced, rather than lowered, the prestige of the feudal gods. The son in a divine triad had of himself but limited authority. When Isis and Osiris were his parents, he was generally an infant Horus, whose mother nursed him, offering him her breast. The gods had body and soul, like men; they had bones, muscles, flesh and blood; they hungered and thirsted, ate and drank; they had our passions, griefs, joys and infirmities; and they were subject to age, decrepitude and death, though they lived very far beyond the term of life of men.
The sa, a mysterious fluid, circulated through their members, and carried with it divine vigour; and this they could impart to men, who thus might become gods. Many of the Pharaohs became deities. The king who wished to become impregnated with the divine sa sat before the statue of the god in order that this principle might be infused into him. The gods were spared none of the anguish and none of the perils which death so plentifully bestows on men. The gods died; each nome possessed the mummy and the tomb of its dead deity. At Thinis there was the mummy of Anhuri in its tomb, at Mendes the mummy of Osiris, at Heliopolis that of Tumu. Usually, by dying, the god became another deity. Ptah of Memphis became Sokaris; Uapuaitu, the jackal of Siut, was changed into Anubis. Osiris first represented the wild and fickle Nile of primitive times; but was soon transformed into a benefactor to humanity, the supremely good being, Unnofriu, Onnophris. He was supposed to assume the shapes not only of man, but of rams and bulls, or even of water-birds, such as lapwings, herons, and cranes. His companion goddess was Isis, the cow, or woman with cow's horns, who personified the earth, and was mother of Horus.
There were countless gods of the people: trees, serpents and family fetishes. Fine single sycamores, flourishing as if by miracle amid the sand, were counted divine, and worshipped by Egyptians of all ranks, who made them offerings of figs, grapes, cucumbers, vegetables and water. The most famous of them all, the Sycamore of the South, used to be regarded as the living body of Hathor on earth. Each family possessed gods and fetishes, which had been pointed out by some fortuitous meeting with an animal or an object; perhaps by a dream and often by sudden intuition.
III.—Legendary History of Egypt
The legendary history of Egypt begins with the Heliopolitan Enneads, or traditions of the divine dynasties of Ra, Shu, Osiris, Sit and Horus. Great space is taken up with the fabulous history of Ra, the first king of Egypt, who allows himself to be duped and robbed by Isis, destroys rebellious men, and ascends to heaven. He dwelt in Heliopolis, where his court was mainly composed of gods and goddesses. In the morning he went forth in his barque, amid the acclamations of the crowd, made his accustomed circuit of the world, and returned to his home at the end of twelve hours after the journey. In his old age he became the subject of the wiles of Isis, who poisoned him, and so secured his departure from earth. He was succeeded by Shu and Sibu, between whom the empire of the universe was divided.
The fantastic legends concocted by the priests go on to relate how at length Egypt was civilised by Osiris and Isis. By Osiris the people were taught agriculture; Isis weaned them from cannibalism. Osiris was slain by the red-haired and jealous demon, Sit-Typhon, and then Egypt was divided between Horus and Sit as rivals; and so it consisted henceforth of two kingdoms, of which one, that of the north, duly recognised Horus, son of Isis, as its patron deity; the other, that of the south, placed itself under the supreme protection of Sit-Nubiti, the god of Ombos.
Elaborate and intricate and hopelessly confused are the fables relating to the Osirian embalmment, and to the opening of the kingdom of Osiris to the followers of Horus. Souls did not enter it without examination and trial, as it is the aim of the famous Book of the Dead to show. Before gaining access to this paradise each of them had to prove that it had during earthly life belonged to a friend or to a vassal of Osiris, and had served Horus in his exile, and had rallied to his banner from the very beginning of the Typhonian wars.
To Menes of Thinis tradition ascribes the honour of fusing the two Egypts into one empire, and of inaugurating the reign of the human dynasties. But all we know of this first of the Pharaohs, beyond his existence, is practically nothing, and the stories related of him are mere legends. The real history of the early centuries eludes our researches. The history as we have it is divided into three periods: 1. The Memphite period, which is usually called the "Ancient Empire," from the First to the Tenth dynasty: kings of Memphite origin were rulers over the whole of Egypt during the greater part of this epoch. 2. The Theban period, from the Eleventh to the Twentieth dynasty. It is divided into two parts by the invasion of the Shepherds (Sixteenth dynasty). 3. Saite period, from the Twenty-first to the Thirtieth dynasty, divided again into two parts by the Persian Conquest, the first Saite period, from the Twenty-first to the Twenty-sixth dynasty; the second Saite Period, from the Twenty-eighth to the Thirtieth dynasty.
IV.—Political Constitution of Egypt
Between the Fayum and the apex of the Delta, the Libyan range expands and forms a vast and slightly undulating table-land, which runs parallel to the Nile for nearly thirty leagues. The great Sphinx Harmakhis has mounted guard over its northern extremity ever since the time of the followers of Horus. In later times, a chapel of alabaster and rose granite was erected alongside the god; temples were built here and there in the more accessible places, and round these were grouped the tombs of the whole country. The bodies of the common people, usually naked and uncoffined, were thrust into the sand at a depth of barely three feet from the surface. Those of the better class rested in mean rectangular chambers, hastily built of yellow bricks, without ornaments or treasures; a few vessels, however, of coarse pottery contained the provisions left to nourish the departed during the period of his existence. Some of the wealthy class had their tombs cut out of the mountain-side; but the great majority preferred an isolated tomb, a "mastaba," comprised of a chapel above ground, a shaft, and some subterranean vaults.
During the course of centuries, the ever-increasing number of tombs formed an almost uninterrupted chain, are rich in inscriptions, statues, and in painted or sculptured scenes, and from the womb, as it were, of these cemeteries, the Egypt of the Memphite dynasties gradually takes new life and reappears in the full daylight of history. The king stands out boldly in the foreground, and his tall figure towers over all else. He is god to his subjects, who call him "the good-god," and "the great-god," connecting him with Ra through the intervening kings. So the Pharaohs are blood relations of the sun-god, the "divine double" being infused into the royal infant at birth.
The monuments throw full light on the supernatural character of the Pharaohs in general, but tell us little of the individual disposition of any king in particular, or of their everyday life. The royal family was very numerous. At least one of the many women of the harem received the title of "great spouse," or queen. Her union with the god-king rendered her a goddess. Children swarmed in the palace, as in the houses of private citizens, and they were constantly jealous of each other, having no bond of union except common hatred of the son whom the chances of birth had destined to be their ruler.
Highly complex degrees of rank are revealed to us on the monuments of the people who immediately surrounded the Pharaoh. His person was, as it were, minutely subdivided into compartments, each requiring its attendants and their appointed chiefs. His toilet alone gave employment to a score of different trades. The guardianship of the crowns almost approached the dignity of a priesthood, for was not the urseus, which adorned each one, a living goddess? Troops of musicians, singers, dancers, buffoons and dwarfs whiled away the tedious hours. Many were the physicians, chaplains, soothsayers and magicians. But vast indeed was the army of officials connected with the administration of public affairs. The mainspring of all this machinery was the writer, or, as we call him, the scribe, across whom we come in all grades of the staff.
The title of scribe was of no particular value in itself, for everyone was a scribe who knew how to read and write, was fairly proficient in wording the administrative formulas, and could easily apply the elementary rules of book-keeping. "One has only to be a scribe, for the scribe takes the lead of all," said the wise man. Sometimes, however, a talented scribe rose to a high position, like the Amten, whose tomb was removed to Berlin by Lepsius, and who became a favourite of the king and was ennobled.
V.—The Memphite Empire
At that time "the Majesty of King Huni died, and the Majesty of King Snofrui arose to be a sovereign benefactor over this whole earth." All we know of him is contained in one sentence: he fought against the nomads of Sinai, constructed fortresses to protect the eastern frontier of the Delta, and made for himself a tomb in the form of a pyramid. Snofrui called the pyramid "Kha," the Rising, the place where the dead Pharaoh, identified with the sun, is raised above the world for ever. It was built to indicate the place in which lies a prince, chief, or person of rank in his tribe or province. The worship of Snofrui, the first pyramid-builders, was perpetuated from century to century. His popularity was probably great; but his fame has been eclipsed in our eyes by that of the Pharaohs of the Memphite dynasty who immediately followed him—Kheops, Khephren and Mykerinos.
Khufui, the Kheops of the Greeks, was probably son of Snofrui. He reigned twenty-three years, successfully defended the valuable mines of copper, manganese and turquoise of the Sinaitic peninsula against the Bedouin; restored the temple of Hathor at Dendera; embellished that of Babastis; built a sanctuary to the Isis of the Sphinx; and consecrated there gold, silver and bronze statues of Horus and many other gods. Other Pharaohs had done as much or more; but the Egyptians of later dynasties measured the magnificence of Kheops by the dimensions of his pyramid at Ghizel. The Great Pyramid was called Khuit, the "Horizon," in which Kheops had to be swallowed up, as his father, the sun, was engulfed every evening in the horizon of the west. Of Dadufri, his immediate successor, we can probably say that he reigned eight years; but Khephren, the next son who succeeded to the throne, erected temples and a gigantic pyramid, like his father. He placed it some 394 feet to the south-west of that of Kheops, and called it Uiru the Great. It is much smaller than its neighbour, but at a distance the difference in height disappears. The pyramid of Mykerinos, son and successor of Khephren, was considerably inferior in height, but was built with scrupulous art and refined care.
The Fifth dynasty manifested itself in every respect as the sequel and complement of the Fourth. It reckons nine Pharaohs, who reigned for a century and a half, and each of them built pyramids and founded cities, and appear to have ruled gloriously. They maintained, and even increased, the power and splendour of Egypt. But the history of the Memphite Empire unfortunately loses itself in legend and fable, and becomes a blank for several centuries.
VI.—The First Theban Empire
The principality of the Oleander—Naru—comprised the territory lying between the Nile and the Bahr Yusuf, a district known to the Greeks as the island of Heracleopolis. It, moreover, included the whole basin of the Fayum, on the west of the valley. Attracted by the fertility of the soil, the Pharaohs of the older dynasties had from time to time taken up their residence in Heracleopolis, the capital of the district of the Oleander, and one of them, Snofrui, had built his pyramid at Medum, close to the frontier of the nome. In proportion as the power of the Memphites declined, so did the princes of the Oleander grow more vigorous and enterprising; and When the Memphite kings passed away, these princes succeeded their former masters and eventually sat "upon the throne of Horus."
The founder of the Ninth dynasty was perhaps Khiti I., who ruled over all Egypt, and whose name has been found on rocks at the first cataract. His successors seem to have reigned ingloriously for more than a century. The history of this period seems to have been one of confused struggle, the Pharaohs fighting constantly against their vassals, and the nobles warring amongst themselves. During the Memphite and Heracleopolitan dynasties Memphis, Elephantine, El-Kab and Koptos were the principal cities of the country; and it was only towards the end of the Eighth dynasty that Thebes began to realise its power. The revolt of the Theban. princes put an end to the Ninth dynasty; and though supported by the feudal powers of Central and Northern Egypt, the Tenth dynasty did not succeed in bringing them back to their allegiance, and after a struggle of nearly 200 years the Thebans triumphed and brought the two divisions of Egypt under their rule.
The few glimpses to be obtained of the early history of the first Theban dynasty give the impression of an energetic and intelligent race. The kings of the Eleventh dynasty were careful not to wander too far from the valley of the Nile, concentrating their efforts not on conquest of fresh territory, but on the remedy of the evils from which the country had suffered for hundreds of years. The final overthrow of the Heracleopolitan dynasty, and the union of the two kingdoms under the rule of the Theban house, are supposed to have been the work of that Monthotpu, whose name the Egyptians of Rameside times inscribed in the royal lists as that of the founder and most illustrious representative of the Eleventh dynasty.
The leader of the Twelfth dynasty, Amenemhait I., was of another stamp, showing himself to be a Pharaoh conscious of his own divinity and determined to assert it. He inspected the whole land, restored what he found in ruins, crushed crime, settled the bounds of towns, and established for each its frontiers. Recognising that Thebes lay too far south to be a suitable place of residence for the lord of all Egypt, Amenemhait proceeded to establish himself in the heart of the country in imitation of the glorious Pharaohs from whom he claimed descent. He took up his abode a little to the south of Dashur, in the palace of Titoui. Having restored peace to his country, the king in the twentieth year of his reign, when he was growing old, raised his son Usirtasen, then very young, to the co-regency with himself.
When, ten years later, the old king died, his son was engaged in a war against the Libyans. He reigned alone for thirty-two years. The Twelfth dynasty lasted 213 years; and its history can be ascertained with greater certainty and completeness than that of any other dynasty which ruled Egypt, although we are far from having any adequate idea of its great achievements, for unfortunately the biographies of its eight sovereigns and the details of their interminable wars are very imperfectly known.
Uncertainty again shrouds the history of the country after the reign of Sovkhoptu I. The Twentieth dynasty contained, so it is said, sixty kings, who reigned for a period of over 453 years. The Nofirhoptus and Sovkhoptus continued to all appearances both at home and abroad the work so ably begun by the Amenemhaits and the Usirtasens.
During the Thirteenth dynasty art and everything else in Egypt were fairly prosperous, but wealth exercised an injurious effect on artistic taste. During this dynasty we hear nothing of the inhabitants of the Sinaitic Peninsula to the east, or of the Libyans to the west; it was in the south, in Ethiopia, that the Pharaohs expended all their superfluous energy. The middle basin of the Nile as far as Gebel-Barkal was soon incorporated with Egypt, and the population became quickly assimilated. Sovkhoptu III., who erected colossal statues of himself at Tanis, Bubastis and Thebes, was undisputed master of the whole Nile valley, from near the spot where it receives its last tributary to where it empties itself into the sea. The making of Egypt was finally accomplished in his time. The Fourteenth dynasty, however, consists of a line of seventy-five kings, whose mutilated names appear on the Turin Papyrus. These shadowy Pharaohs followed each other in rapid sequence, some reigning only a few months, others for certainly not more than two and three years.
Meantime, during what appears to have been an era of rivalries between pretenders, mutually jealous of and deposing one another, usurpers in succession seizing the crown without strength to keep it, the feudal lords displayed more than their old restlessness. The nomad tribes began to show growing hostility on the frontier, and the peoples of the Tigris and Euphrates were already pushing their vanguards into Central Syria. While Egypt had been bringing the valley of the Nile and the eastern corner of Africa into subjection, Chaldaea had imposed not only language and habits, but also her laws upon the whole of that part of Eastern Asia which separated her from Egypt. Thus the time was rapidly approaching when these two great civilised powers of the ancient world would meet each other face to face and come into fierce and terrible collision.
The Chaldaean account of Genesis is contained on fragments of tablets discovered and deciphered in 1875 by George Smith. These tell legends of 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 was their first 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. In the time when the gods were not created, Lakhmu and Lakhamu were the first to appear and waxed great for ages."
Then came 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 produced from himself. Other divinities sprang from these fruitful pairs, and, the impulse once given, the world was rapidly peopled by their descendants. Sin, Samash and Ramman, who presided respectively over the sun, moon and air, were all three of equal rank; next came the lords of the planets, Ninib, Merodach, Nergal, Ishtar, the warrior-goddess, and Nebo; then a whole army of lesser deities who ranged themselves around Anu as around a supreme master.
Discord arose. The first great battle of the gods was between Tiamat and Merodach. In this fearful conflict Tiamat was destroyed. Splitting her body into halves, the conqueror hung up one on high, and this became the heavens; the other he spread out under his feet to form the earth, and made the universe as men have known it. Merodach regulated the movements of the sun and divided the year into twelve months.
The heavens having been put in order, he set about peopling the earth. Many such fables concerning the cosmogony were current among the races of the lower Euphrates, who seem to have belonged to three different types. The most important were the Semites, who spoke a dialect akin to Armenian, Hebrew and Phoenician. Side by side with these the monuments give evidence of a race of ill-defined character, whom we provisionally call Sumerians, who came, it is said, from some northern country, and brought with them a curious system of writing which, 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. The cities of these Semites and Sumerians were divided into two groups, one in the south, near the sea, the other more to the north, where the Euphrates and the Tigris are separated by a narrow strip of land. The southern group consisted of seven, Eridu lying nearest the coast. Uru was the most important. Lagash was to the north of Eridu. The northern group consisted of Nipur, "the incomparable," Borsip, Babylon (gate of the god and residence of life, the only metropolis of the Euphrates region of which posterity never lost reminiscence), Kishu, Kuta, Agade, and, lastly, the two Sipparas, that of Shamash, and that of Annuit.
The earliest Chaldaean civilisation was confined almost to the banks of the lower Euphrates; except at the northern boundary it did not reach the Tigris and did not cross the river. Separated from the rest of the world, on the east by the vast marshes bordering on the river, on the north by the Mesopotamian table-land, on the west by the Arabian desert, it was able to develop its civilisation as Egypt had done, in an isolated area, and to follow out its destiny in peace.
According to Ferossasi the first king was Aloros of Babylon. He was chosen by the god Oannes, and reigned supernaturally for ten sari, or 36,000 years, each saros being 3,600 years. Nine kings follow, each in this mythical record reigning an enormous period. Then took place the great deluge, 691,000 years after the creation, in consequence of the wickedness of men, who neglected the worship of the gods, and excited their wrath. Shamashnapishtim, king at this time in Shurippak, was saved miraculously in a great ship. Concerning him and his voyage strange fables are recorded. After the deluge, 86 kings ruled during 34,080 years. One of these was Nimrod, the mighty hunter of the Bible, who appears as Gilgamesh, King of Uruk, and is the hero of extraordinary adventures.
History proper begins with Sargon the Elder, king at the first in Agade, who soon annexed Babylon, Sippara, Kishu, Uruk, Kuta and Nipur. His brilliant career was like an anticipation of that of the still more glorious life of Sargon of Nineveh. His son, Naramsin, succeeded him about 3750 B.C. He conquered Elam and was a great builder. After him the most famous king of that epoch was Gudea, of Lagash, the prince of whom we possess the greatest number of monuments. But in these records we have but the dust of history rather than history itself. The materials are scanty in the extreme and the framework also is wanting.
VIII.—The Temples and the Gods of Chaldaea
The cities of the Euphrates attract no attention, like those of Egypt, by the magnificence of their ruins. They are merely heaps of rubbish in which no architectural outline can be traced—mounds of stiff greyish clay, containing the remains of the vast structures that were built of bricks set in mortar or bitumen. Stone was not used as in Egypt. While the Egyptian temple was spread superficially over a large area, the Chaldaean temple strove to attain as high an elevation as possible. These "ziggurats" were composed of several immense cubes piled up on one another, and diminishing in size up to the small shrine by which they were crowned, and wherein the god himself was supposed to dwell.
The gods of the Euphrates, like those of the Nile, constituted a countless multitude of visible and invisible beings, distributed into tribes and empires throughout all the regions of the universe; but, whereas in Egypt they were, on the whole, friendly to man, in Chaldaea they for the most part pursued him with an implacable hatred, and only seemed to exist in order to destroy him. Whether Semite or Sumerian, the gods, like those of Egypt, were not abstract personages, but each contained in himself one of the principal elements of which our universe is composed—earth, air, sky, sun, moon and stars. The state religion, which all the inhabitants of the same city were solemnly bound to observe, included some dozen gods, but the private devotion of individuals supplemented this cult by vast additions, each family possessing its own household gods.
Animals never became objects of worship as in Egypt; some of them, however, as the bull and the lion, were closely allied to the gods. If the idea of uniting all these gods into a single supreme one ever crossed the mind of a Chaldaean theologian, it never spread to the people as a whole. Among all the thousands of tablets or inscribed stones on which we find recorded prayers, we have as yet discovered no document containing the faintest allusion to a divine unity. The temples were miniature reproductions of the arrangements of the universe. The "ziggurat" represented in its form the mountain of the world, and the halls ranged at its feet resembled approximately the accessory parts of the world; the temple of Merodach at Babylon comprised them all up to the chambers of fate, where the sun received every morning the tablets of destiny.
Every individual was placed, from the very moment of his birth, under the protection of a god or goddess, of whom he was the servant, or rather the son. These deities accompanied him by day and by night to guard him from the evil genii ready to attack him on every side. The Chaldaeans had not such clear ideas as to what awaited them in the other world as the Egyptians possessed.
The Chaldaean hades is a dark country surrounded by seven high walls, and is approached by seven gates, each guarded by a pitiless warder. Two deities rule within it—Nergal, "the lord of the great city," and Peltis-Allat, "the lady of the great land," whither everything which has breathed in this world descends after death. A legend relates that Allat reigned alone in hades and was invited by the gods to a feast which they had prepared in heaven. Owing to her hatred of the light she refused, sending a message by her servant, Namtar, who acquitted himself, with such a bad grace, that Anu and Ea were incensed against his mistress, and commissioned Nergal to chastise her. He went, and finding the gates of hell open, dragged the queen by her hair from the throne, and was about to decapitate her, but she mollified him by her prayers and saved her life by becoming his wife.
The nature of Nergal fitted him well to play the part of a prince of the departed; for he was the destroying sun of summer, and the genius of pestilence and battle. His functions in heaven and earth took up so much of his time that he had little leisure to visit his nether kingdom, and he was consequently obliged to content himself with the role of providing subjects for it by dispatching thither the thousands of recruits which he gathered daily from the abodes of men or from the field of battle.
The Chaldaean kings, unlike their contemporaries, the Pharaohs, rarely put forward any pretension to divinity. They contented themselves with occupying an intermediate position between their subjects and the gods. While the ordinary priest chose for himself a single deity as master, the priest-king exercised universal sacerdotal functions. He officiated for Merodach here below, and the scrupulously minute devotions daily occupied many hours. On great days of festival or sacrifice they laid aside all insignia of royalty and were clad as ordinary priests.
Women do not seem to have been honoured in the Euphratean regions as in Egypt, where the wives of the sovereign were invested with that semi-sacred character that led the women to be associated with the devotions of the man, and made them indispensable auxiliaries in all religious ceremonies. Whereas the monuments on the banks of the Nile reveal to us princesses sharing the throne of their husbands, whom they embrace with a gesture of frank affection, in Chaldaea, the wives of the prince, his mother, sisters, daughters and even his slaves, remain absolutely invisible to posterity. The harem in which they were shut up by force of custom rarely, if ever, opened its doors; the people seldom caught sight of them; and we could count on our fingers the number of these whom the inscriptions mention by name.
Life was not so pleasant in Chaldaea as in Egypt. The innumerable promissory notes, the receipted accounts, the contracts of sale and purchase—these cunningly drawn-up deeds which have been deciphered by the hundred, reveal to us a people greedy of gain, exacting, litigious, and almost exclusively absorbed in material concerns. The climate, too, variable and oppressive in summer and winter alike, imposed on the Chaldaean painful exactions, and obliged him to work with an energy of which the majority of Egyptians would not have felt themselves capable. And the plague of usury raged with equal violence in city and country.
In proportion, however, as we are able to bring this wonderful civilisation to light we become more and more conscious that we have indeed little or nothing in common with it. Its laws, customs, habits and character, its methods of action and its modes of thought, are so far apart from those of the present day that they seem to belong to a humanity utterly different from our own. It thus happens that while we understand to a shade the classical language of the Greeks and of the Romans, and can read their works almost without effort, the great primitive literatures of the world, the Egyptian and Chaldaean, have nothing to offer us for the most part but a sequence of problems to solve or of enigmas to unriddle with patience.
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The Struggle of the Nations
Maspero in this work gives us the second volume of his great historical trilogy. He shows in parallel views the part played in the history of the ancient world by the first Chaldaean Empire, by Syria, by the Hyksos, or shepherd kings, of Egypt, and by the first Cossaean kings who established the greatness of Nineveh and the Assyrian Empire. The great Theban dynasty is then exhibited in its romantic rise under the Pharaohs. Maspero writes not as a mere chronicler or reciter of events, but as a philosophical historian. He makes the reader understand how fatally the chronic militarism of these competing empires drained each of its manhood and brought Babylon and Assyria simultaneously into a hopeless condition of national anaemia. Equally pathetic is the picture drawn of the gradual but sure decay of the grand empire of the Pharaohs. Maspero, with masterly skill, passes a processional of these despots before our eyes.
I.—The Chaldaean Empire and the Hyksos
Some countries seem destined from their origin to become the battlefields of the contending nations which environ them. Into such regions neighbouring peoples come to settle their quarrels, and bit by bit they appropriate it, so that at best the only course open to the inhabitants is to join forces with one of the invaders. From remote antiquity this was the experience of Syria, which was thus destined to become subject to foreign rule. Chaldaea, Egypt, Assyria and Persia in turn presided over its destinies. Semites dwelt in the south and the centre, while colonies from beyond the Taurus occupied the north. The influence of Egypt never penetrated beyond the provinces lying nearest the Dead Sea. The remaining populations looked rather to Chaldaea, and received the continuous impress of the kingdoms of the Euphrates.
The lords of Babylon had, ordinarily, a twofold function, the priest at first taking precedence of the soldier, but gradually yielding to the latter as the city increased in power. Each ruler was obliged to go in state to the temple of Bel Merodach within a year of his accession, there to do homage to the divine statue. The long lists of early kings contain semi-legendary names, including those of mythical heroes. Towards the end of the twenty-fifth century, however, before the Christian era, a dynasty arose of which all the members come within the range of history.
The first of these kings, Sumuabim, has left us some contracts bearing the dates of one or other of the fifteen years of his reign. Of the ten kings who followed during the period embraced between the years 2416 B.C. and 2112 B.C., the one who ruled for the longest term was the. famous and fortunate Khammurabi (son of Sinmuballit), who was on the throne for fifty-five years.
While thus the first Chaldean Empire was being established, Egypt, separated from her confines only by a narrow isthmus, loomed on the horizon, and appeared to beckon to her rival. But she had strangely declined from her former greatness, and had been attacked and subdued by invaders appearing like a cloud of locusts on the banks of the Nile, to whom was applied the name Hiq Shausu, from which the Greeks derived the term Hyksos for this people. Modern scholars have put forward many conflicting hypotheses as to the identity of this race of conquerors. The monuments represent them with the Mongoloid type of feature. The problem remains unsolved, and the origin of the Hyksos is as mysterious as ever.
About this time took place that entrance into Egypt of the Beni-Israel, or Israelites, which has since acquired a unique position in the world's history. A comparatively ancient tradition relates that the Hebrews arrived in Egypt during the reign of Aphobis, a Hyksos king, doubtless one of the Apopi. The Hyksos were ousted by a hero named Ahmosis after a war of five years. The XVIIIth Dynasty was inaugurated by the Pharaohs, whose policy was so aggressive that Egypt, attacked by enemies from various quarters, and roused, as it were, to warlike frenzy, hurled her armies across all her frontiers simultaneously, and her sudden appearance in the heart of Syria gave a new turn to human history. The isolation of the kingdoms of the ancient world was at an end; and the conflict of the nations was about to begin.
II.—Beginning of the Egyptian Conquest
The Egyptians had no need to anticipate Chaldaean interference when, forsaking their ancient traditions, they penetrated for the first time into the heart of Syria. Babylonian rule ceased to exercise direct control when the line of sovereigns who had introduced it disappeared. When Ammisatana died, about the year 2099 B.C., the dynasty of Khammurabi became extinct, and kings of the semi-barbarous Cossaean race gained the throne which had been occupied since the days of Khammurabi by Chaldaeans of the ancient stock.
The Cossaean king who seized on Babylon was named Gandish. He and his tribe came from the mountainous regions of Zagros, on the borders of Media. The Cossaean rule over the countries of the Euphrates was doubtless similar in its beginnings to that which the Hyksos exercised at first over the nomes of Egypt. The Cossaean kings did not merely bring with them their army, but their whole nation, who spread over the whole land. As in the case of the Hyksos, the barbarian conquerors thus became merged in the more civilised people which they had subdued. But the successors of Gandish were unable permanently to retain their ascendancy over all the districts and provinces, and several of these withdrew their allegiance. Thus in Syria the authority of Babylon was no longer supreme when the encroachments of Egypt began, and when Thutmosis entered the region the native levies which he encountered were by no means formidable.
The whole country consisted of a collection of petty states, a complex group of peoples and territories which the Egyptians themselves never completely succeeded in disentangling. We are, however, able to distinguish at the present time several of these groups, all belonging to the same family, but possessing different characteristics—the kinsfolk of the Hebrews, the children of Ishmael and Edom, the Moabites and Ammonites, the Arameans, the Khati and the Canaanites. The Canaanites were the most numerous, and had they been able to confederate under a single king, it would have been impossible for the Egyptians to have broken through the barrier thus raised between them and the rest of Asia.
III.—The Eighteenth Theban Dynasty
The account of the first expedition undertaken by Thutmosis I. in Asia, a region at that time new to the Egyptians, would be interesting if we could lay our hands on it. We know that this king succeeded in reaching on his first campaign a limit which none of his successors was able to surpass. The results of the campaign were of a decisive character, for Southern Syria accepted its defeat, and Gaza was garrisoned as the secure door of Asia for future invasions. Freed from anxiety in this quarter, Pharaoh gave his whole time to the consolidation of his power in Ethiopia, where rebellion had become rife. Subduing this southern region and thus extending the supremacy of Egypt in the regions of the upper Nile, Thutmosis was able to end his days in the enjoyment of profound peace. Thutmosis II. did not long survive him. His chief wife, Queen Hatshopsitu, reigned for many years with great ability while the new Pharaoh, Thutmosis III., was still a youth.
After the death of Hatshopsitu, the young Pharaoh set out with his army. It was at the beginning of the twenty-fourth year of his reign that he reached Gaza. Marching forward he reached the spurs of Mount Carmel and won a decisive victory at Megiddo over the allied Syrian princes. The inscriptions at Karnak contain long lists of the titles of the king's Syrian subjects. The Pharaoh had now no inclination to lay down his arms, and we have a record of twelve military expeditions of this king. When the Syrian conquest had been effected, Egypt gave permanency to its results by means of a series of international decrees, which established the constitution of her empire, and brought about her concerted action with the Asiatic powers. She had already occupied an important position among them when Thutmosis III. died in the fifty-fifth year of his reign.
Of his successors the most prosperous was the renowned Amenothes III., who is immortalised by the wonderful monumental relics of his long and peaceful reign. Amenothes devoted immense energy to the building of temples, palaces and shrines, and gave very little of his time to war.
IV.—The Last Days of the Theban Empire
When the male line failed, there was no lack of princesses in Egypt, of whom any one who happened to come to the throne might choose a consort after her own heart, and thus become the founder of a new dynasty. By such a chance alliance Harmhabi, himself a descendant of Thutmosis III., was raised to the kingly office as first Pharaoh of the XIXth Dynasty. He displayed great activity both within Egypt and beyond it, conducting mighty building enterprises and also undertaking expeditions against recalcitrant tribes along the Upper Nile.
Rameses I., who succeeded Harmhabi, was already an old man at his accession. He reigned only six or seven years, and associated his son, Seti I., with himself in the government from his second year of power. No sooner had Seti celebrated his father's obsequies than he set out for war against Southern Syria, then in open revolt. He captured Hebron, marched to Gaza, and then northward to Lebanon, where he received the homage of the Phoenicians, and returned in triumph to Egypt, bringing troops of captives.
By Seti I. were built the most wonderful of the halls at Karaak and Luxor, which render his name for ever illustrious. He associated with him his son, still very young, who became renowned as Ramses II., one of the greatest warriors and builders amongst all the rulers of Egypt The monuments and temples erected by this king also are among the wonders of the world. He married a Hittite princess when he was more than sixty. This alliance secured a long period of peace and prosperity. Syria once more breathed freely, her commerce being under the combined protection of the two Powers who shared her territory.
Ramses II. was, in his youth, the handsomest man of his time, and old age and death did not succeed in marring his face sufficiently to disfigure it, as may be seen in his mummy to-day. Ramses the Great, who was thus the glory of the XIXth Dynasty, reigned sixty-eight years, and lived to the age of 100, when he passed away peacefully at Thebes. Under his successors, Minephtah, Seti II., Amenemis and Siphtah, the nation became decadent, though there were transient gleams of prosperity, as when Minephtah won a great victory over the Libyans. But after the death of Siphtah, there were many claimants for the Crown, and anarchy prevailed from one end of the Nile valley to the other.
V.—The Rise of the Assyrian Empire
Ramses III., a descendant of Ramses II., was the founder of the last dynasty which was able to retain the supremacy of Egypt over the Oriental world. He took for his hero Ramses the Great, and endeavoured to rival him in everything, and for a period the imperial power revived. In the fifth year of his reign he was able to repulse the confederated Libyans with complete success. Victories over other enemies followed, and also peace and prosperity.
The cessation of Egyptian authority over those countries in which it had so long prevailed did not at once do away with the deep impression it had made on their constitution and customs. Syria and Phoenicia had become, as it were, covered with an African veneer, both religion and language being affected by Egyptian influence. But the Phoenicians became absorbed in commercial pursuits, and failed to aspire to the inheritance which the Egyptians were letting slip. Coeval with the decline of the power of the latter was that of the Hittites.
The Babylonian Empire likewise degenerated under the Cossaean kings, and gave way to the ascendancy of Assyria, which came to regard Babylon with deadly hatred. The capitals of the two countries were not more than 185 miles apart. The line of demarcation followed one of the many canals between the Tigris and Euphrates. It then crossed the Tigris and was formed by one of the rivers draining the Iranian table-land—the Upper Zab, the Radanu, or the Turnat. Each of the two states strove by every means in its power to stretch its boundary to the farthest limits, and the narrow area was the scene of continual war.
Assyria was but a poor and insignificant country when compared with that of her rival. She occupied, on each side of the middle course of the Tigris, the territory lying between the 35th and 37th parallels of latitude. This was a compact and healthy district, well watered by the streams running from the Iranian plateau, which were regulated by a network of canals and ditches for irrigation of the whole region. The provinces thus supplied with water enjoyed a fertility which passed into a proverb. Thus Assyria was favoured by nature, but she was not well wooded. The most important of the cities were Assur, Arbeles, Kalakh and Nineveh.
Assur, dedicated to the deity from which it took its name, placed on the very edge of the Mesopotamian desert, with the Tigris behind it, was, during the struggle with the Chaldaean power, exposed to the attacks of the Babylonian armies; while Nineveh, entrenched behind the Tigris and the Zab, was secure from any sudden assault. Thus it became the custom for the kings to pass at Nineveh the trying months of the year, though Assur remained the official capital and chief sanctuary of the empire, which began its aggrandisement under Assurballit, by his victory over the Cossaean kings of Babylon. But the heroic age comes before us in the career of Shalmaneser I., a powerful sovereign who in a few years doubled the extent of his dominions. He beautified Assur, but removed his court to Kalakh. His son, Tukulti-ninip I., made himself master of Babylon, and was the first of his race who was able to assume the title of King of Sumir and Akkad.
This first conquest of Chaldaea did not produce lasting results, for the sons of the hero fought each other for the Crown, and Assyria became the scene of civil wars. The fortunes of Babylon rose again, but the depression of Assyria did not last long. Nineveh had become the metropolis. Confusion was increased in the whole of this vast region of Asia by the invasion and partial triumph of the Elamites over Babylon. But these were driven back when Nebuchadrezzar arose in Babylon. To Merodach he prayed, and "his prayer was heard," and he invaded Elam, taking its king by surprise and defeating him.
Nebuchadrezzar no longer found any rival to oppose him save the king of Assyria, whom he attacked; but now his aggression was checked, for though his forces were successful at first, they were ultimately sent flying across the frontiers with great loss, through the prowess of Assurishishi, who became a mighty king in Nineveh. But his son, Tiglath-pileser, is the first of the great warrior kings of Assyria to stand out before us with any definite individuality. He immediately, on his accession, began to employ in aggressive wars the well-equipped army left by his father, and in three campaigns he regained all the territories that Shalmaneser I. had lost, and also conquered various regions of Asia Minor and Syria. In a rising of the Chaldaeans he met with a severe defeat, which he did not long survive, dying about the year 1100 B.C.
There is only one gleam in the murky night of this period. A certain Assurirba seems to have crossed Northern Syria, and, following in the footsteps of his great ancestor, to have penetrated as far as the Mediterranean; on the rocks of Mount Amanus, facing the sea, he left a triumphal inscription in which he set forth the mighty deeds he had accomplished. His good fortune soon forsook him. The Arameans wrested from him the fortresses of Pitru and Mutkinu, which commanded both banks of the Euphrates near Carchemish.
What were the causes of this depression from which Babylon suffered at almost regular intervals, as though stricken with some periodic malady? The main reason soon becomes apparent if we consider the nature of the country and the material conditions of its existence. Chaldaea was neither extensive nor populous enough to afford a solid basis for the ambition of her princes. Since nearly every man capable of bearing arms was enrolled in the army, the Chaldaean kings had no difficulty in raising, at a moment's notice, a force which could be employed to repel an invasion, or to make a sudden attack on some distant territory; it was in schemes that required prolonged and sustained effort that they felt the drawbacks of their position. In that age of hand-to-hand combats, the mortality in battle was very high; forced marches through forests and across mountains entailed a heavy loss of men, and three or four campaigns against a stubborn foe soon reduced the army to a condition of weakness.
When Nebuchadrezzar I. made war on Assurishishi, he was still weak from the losses he had incurred during the campaign against Elam, and could not conduct his attack with the same vigour as had gained him victory on the banks of the Ulai. In the first year he only secured a few indecisive advantages; in the second he succumbed.
The same reasons which explain the decadence of Babylon show us the causes of the periodic eclipses undergone by Assyria after each outburst of her warlike spirit. The country was now forced to pay for the glories of Assurishishi and of Tiglath-pileser by falling into an inglorious state of languor and depression. And ere long newer races asserted themselves which had gradually come to displace the nations over which the dynasties of Thutmosis and Ramses had held sway as tributary to them. The Hebrews on the east, and the Philistines on the southwest, were about to undertake the conquest of Kharu, as the land which is known to us as Canaan was styled by the Egyptians.
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The Passing of the Empires
Maspero, in the third volume of his great archaeological trilogy, completing his "History of the Ancient Peoples of the Classic East," deals with the passing in succession of the supremacies of the Babylonian, Assyrian, Chaldaean, Medo-Persian and Iranian Empires. The period dealt with in this graphic narrative covers fully five centuries, from 850 B.C. to 330 B.C. M. Maspero in cinematographic style passes before us the actors in many of the most thrilling of historic dramas. One excellent feature of his method is his balancing of evidences. Where Xenophon and Herodotus absolutely differ he tells what each asserts. With consummate skill also he arranges his recital like a series of dissolving views, showing how epochs overlap, and how as Babylon is fading Assyria is rising, and as the latter in turn is waning Media is looming into sight. We are, in this third instalment of Maspero's monumental work, brought to understand how the decline of one mighty Asiatic empire after another, culminating in the overthrow of the Persian dominion by Alexander, prepared at length for the entry of Western nations on the stage, and how Europe became the heir of the culture and civilisation of the Orient.
I.—The Assyrian Revival
Since the extinction of the race of Nebuchadrezzar I. Babylon had been a prey to civil discord and foreign invasion. It was a period of calamity and distress, during which the Arabs or the Arameans ravaged the country, and an Elamite usurper overthrew the native dynasty and held authority for seven years. This intruder having died about the year 1030 B.C., a Babylonian of noble extraction expelled the Elamites and succeeded in bringing the larger part of the dominion under his rule. Five or six of his descendants passed away and another was feebly reigning when war broke out afresh with Assyria, and the two armies encountered each other again on their former battlefield between the Lower Zab and the Turnat. The Assyrians were victorious under their king, Tukulti-ninip II., who did not live long to enjoy his triumph. His son, Assur-nazir-pal, inherited a kingdom which embraced scarcely any of the countries that had paid tribute to former sovereign, for most of these had gradually regained their liberty.
Nearly the whole empire had to be re-conquered under much the same conditions as in the first instance, but Assyria had recovered the vitality and elasticity of its earlier days. Its army now possessed a new element. This was the cavalry, properly so called, as an adjunct to the chariotry. But it must be remembered that the strength and discipline which the Assyrian troops possessed in such high degree were common to the military forces of all the great states—Elam, Damascus, Nairi, the Hittites and Chaldea. Thus, the armies of all these states being, as a rule, both in strength and numbers much on a par, no single power was able to inflict on any of the rest such a defeat as would be its destruction. Twice at least in three centuries a king of Assyria had entered Babylon, and twice the Babylonians had forced the intruder back.
Profiting by the past, Assur-nazir-pal resolutely avoided those conflicts in which so many of his predecessors had wasted their lives. He was content to devote his attention to less dangerous enemies than the people of Babylonia. Invading Nummi, he quickly captured its chief cities, then subdued the Kirruri, attacked the fortress of Nishtu, and pillaged many of the cities around. Bubu, the Chief of Nishtu, was flayed alive. After a reign of twenty-five years he died in 860 B.C.
A summary of the events in the reign of thirty-five years of his successor, Shalmaneser III., is contained on the Black Obelisk of Nimroud, discovered by Layard and preserved in the British Museum. He conquered the whole country round Lake Van, ravaging the country "as a savage bull ravages and tramples under his feet the fertile fields." An attack on Damascus led to a terrible but indecisive battle, Benhadad, King of Syria, proving himself fully a match for the invader. But a war with Babylon, lasting for a period of two years, ended with victory for Assyria, and Shalmaneser, entering the city, went direct to the temple of E-shaggil, where he offered worship to the local gods.
Memorable events followed, first in connection with Damascus, Ahab, King of Israel, Benhadad's ally, and other confederates, had not been faithful to his suzerainty. Ahab had by treaty agreed to surrender the city of Ramoth-gilead to the Syrian monarch and had not fulfilled his pledge. He and Jehoshaphat, King of Judah, had concluded an alliance against Benhadad, who seized the disputed fortress, and the two had organised an expedition, which led to the death of Ahab in battle. Israel lapsed once more into the position of a vassal to Benhadad, and long remained in that subjection.
The last days of Shalmaneser were embittered by the revolt of his son, Assur-dain-pal, and his death occurred in 824 B.C. The kingdom was shaken by the struggle that ensued between his sons. Samsi-ramman IV., the brother of Assurdain-pal, reigned for twelve years; his son, Ramman-nirari III., had married the Babylonian princess Sammuramat, and so had secured peace. He was an energetic and capable ruler. To him at length Damascus made submission and paid tribute. But Menuas, a bold and able King of Urartu, proved himself a thorn in the side of the Assyrian king, for he delivered from the yoke of Nineveh the tribes on the borders of Lake Urmiah and all the adjacent regions.
Everywhere along the Lower Zab, and on the frontier as far as the Euphrates, the Assyrian outposts were driven back by Menuas, who also overcame the Hittites and by his campaigns formed that kingdom of Van, or Armenia, which was quite equal in size to Assyria. He died shortly before the death of Ramman-nirari, in 784 B.C. His son, Argistis, spent the first few years of his reign in completing his conquests in the country north of the Araxes. He was attacked by Shalmaneser IV., son of Ramman-nirari, but defeated the Assyrians.
Misfortunes accumulated for the rulers and people who had exercised so wide a sway, and the end of the Second Assyrian Empire was not far off. Syria was lost under Assur-nirari III., who was also driven from Calah by sedition in 746 B.C. He died some months later and the dynasty came to an end, and in 745 a usurper, the leader of the revolt at Calah, proclaimed himself king under the name of Tiglath-pileser III. The Second Empire had lasted rather less than a century and a half.
II.—To the Destruction of Babylon
Events proved that, at this period at any rate, the decadence of Assyria was not due to any exhaustion of the race or impoverishment of the country, but was owing Mainly to the incapacity of its kings and the lack of energy displayed by their generals. The Assyrian troops had lost none of their former valour, but their leaders had shown less foresight and skill. As soon as Tiglath-pileser assumed leadership, the armies regained their former prestige and supremacy.
The empire still included the original patrimony of Assur and its ancient colonies on the Upper Tigris, but the buffer provinces, containing the tribes on the borders of Syria, Namri, Nairi, Melitene, had thrown off the yoke, as had the Arameans, while Menuas of Armenia and his son Argistis had by their invasions laid waste the Median territory. Sharduris III., son of Argistis, succeeded to the throne of Armenia about 760, and at once overran the district of Babilu, carrying by storm three royal castles, 23 cities, and 60 villages. He also captured the castles of the mountaineers of Melitene. Crossing Mount Taurus about 756, he forced the Hittites to swear allegiance.
It was in the middle of this eighth century B.C., in the days of Tiglath-pileser III. of Assyria, and Sharduris III. of Armenia, that Israel, under Jehoash, and his son Jeroboam II.; inspired by the exhortations of Elisha the prophet, was rehabilitated for a season, winning victories over the Syrians and taking vengeance on Damascus, and then attacking the Moabites. The sudden collapse of Damascus led to the decline of Syria, but though Jeroboam II. seemed to be firmly seated as king in Samaria, the downfall of Israel and Judah alike, as well as of Tyre, Edom, Gaza, Moab, and Ammon, was foretold by the prophet Amos, while from the midst of Ephraim the priest-seer, Hosea, was never weary of reproaching the tribes with their ingratitude and of predicting their coming desolation.
Ere long, Tiglath-pileser began his campaigns against them by attacking the Arameans, dwelling on the banks of the Tigris. He overthrew them at the first encounter. Nabunazir, then king in Babylon, bowed before him and swore fidelity to him, and he visited Sippar, Nipur, Babylon, Borsippa, Kuta, Kishu, Dilbat and Uruk, Babylonian "cities without a peer," and offered sacrifices to all their gods—to Bel Zirbanit, Nebo, Tashmit, and Nir-gal. This settlement took place in 745 B.C.
His next exploit was the rapid conquest of the mountainous and populous regions on the shores of the Caspian. And now he ventured to try conclusions with Armenia and to attack the famous kingdom of Urartu in the difficult fastnesses round Lakes Van and Urumiah. Crossing the Euphrates in the spring of 743 B.C., he captured Arpad, and soon afterwards marched forth to meet the great army of Sharduris. The rout of the latter was complete, and he fled, after losing 73,000 men. The victor was covered with glory; yet the triumph cost him dear, for the forces left him were not sufficient to finish the campaign, nor to extort allegiance from the Syrian princes who had allied themselves with Sharduris.
After spending the winter in Nineveh, reorganising his troops, the Assyrian inaugurated a campaign which ended in the subjugation of Northern Syria and its incorporation in the empire. Only one difficulty foiled Tiglath-pileser. He failed to capture the impregnable fortress of Dhuspas, in which Sharduris had taken refuge. This capital of Urartu held out against a long siege, and at length the Assyrian army withdrew. Sharduris remained king as before, but he was utterly spent, and his power had received a blow from which it never recovered. Since then, Armenia has more than once challenged fortune, but always with the same result; it fared no better under Tigranes in the Roman epoch than under Sharduris in the time of the Assyrians.
As for Egypt at this period, it was ruled over by what is known as the Bubastite dynasty, so called from the city of Bubastis, in the Delta, where the Pharaohs of the time, Osorkon I., his son Takeloti I., and his grandson, Osorkon II., for an interval of fifty years chiefly resided, abstaining from politics, so that the country enjoyed an interval of profound peace. But the old cause brought about the fall of this dynasty also. Military feudalism again developed and Egypt split up into many petty states. The sceptre at length passed to another dynasty, this time of Tanite origin. Petubastis was the first of the line, but the power was really in the hands of the priests, one of whom, Auiti, actually declared himself king, together with Pharaoh.
Sensational events followed. The weakness of Egypt tempted an uprising of the Ethiopians, who overran a great part of the country. And it was at this period that Tiglath-pileser crushed the kingdom of Israel, King Pekah being compelled to flee from Samaria into the mountains, while the inhabitants of Naphtali and Gilead were carried into captivity.
Nabonazir, King of Babylon, who had never swerved from the fidelity he had sworn to his mighty ally after the events of 745, died in 734 B.C., and was succeeded by his son Nabunadinziri, who at the end of two years was assassinated in a popular rising, and one of his sons, Nabushumukin, who was concerned in the rising, usurped the crown. He wore it for two months and twelve days, and then abdicated in favour of a certain Ukinzir, an Aramean chief.
But Tiglath-pileser gave the new dynasty no time to settle itself firmly on the throne. The year after his return from Syria he marched against it. After two years of fighting Ukinzir was overcome and captured. Tiglath-pileser entered Babylon as conqueror, and caused himself to be proclaimed King of Sumir and Akkad within its walls. Many centuries had passed since the two empires had been united under one ruler. His Babylonian subjects seem to have taken a liking for him; but he did not long survive his triumph, dying after having reigned eighteen years over Assyria, and less than two years over Babylon and Chaldaea.
The next great Assyrian name is that of Sargon II., whose origin is not clear. And the incidents of the revolution which raised him to the throne are also unknown. The first few years of his reign, which commenced in 722 B.C., were harassed by revolts among many of the border tribes, but these he resolutely faced at all points, inflicting overwhelming defeats on the Medes and the Armenians. The Philistines were cowed by the storming of Ashdod, and Sargon subdued Phoenicia, carrying his arms to the sea. This great monarch, while wars raged round him, found time for extensive works of a peaceful character, completing the system of irrigation, and erecting buildings at Calah and Nineveh, and raising a magnificent palace at Dur-Sharrukin.
And here he intended in peace to build a great city, but he was, in 105 B.C., assassinated by an alien soldier. Sennacherib, his son, fighting on the frontier, was recalled and proclaimed immediately. He either failed to inherit his father's good fortune, or lacked his ability. Instead of conciliating the vanquished, he massacred entire tribes, and failed to re-people these with captive exiles from other nations. So, towards the end of his reign—which terminated in 681 B.C.—he found himself ruling over a sparsely inhabited desert where his father had left him flourishing and populous cities. Phoenicia and Judah formed an alliance with each other and with Egypt. Sennacherib bestirred himself and Tyre perished. The Assyrian invader then attacked Judah and besieged Jerusalem, where Hezekiah was king and Isaiah was prophesying. Whatever was the cause, half the army perished by pestilence, and Sennacherib led back the remnants of his force to Nineveh.
The disaster was terrible, but not irreparable, for another and an equal host could be raised. And it was needed to quell a great Babylonian revolt led by Merodachbaladan, who had given the signal of rebellion to the mountain tribes also. After a series of terrible conflicts, Babylon was taken. And now Sennacherib, who had shown leniency after two previous revolts, displayed unbounded fury in his triumph. The massacre lasted several days, none being spared of the citizens. Piles of corpses filled the streets. The temples and palaces were pillaged, and finally the city was burnt.
In the midst of his costly and absorbing wars we may well wonder how Sennacherib found time and means for building villas and temples; yet he is, nevertheless, the Assyrian king who has left us the largest number of monuments.
His last years were embittered by the fierce rivalry of his sons. One of these he nominated his successor, Esarhaddon, son of a Babylonian wife. During his absence from Nineveh, on the 20th day of Teleth, 681, his father, Sennacherib, when praying before the image of his god, was assassinated by two other sons, Sharezer and Adrammelech. Esarhaddon, hearing of this tragedy, gathered an army, and in a battle defeated Sharezer and established himself on the throne.
III.—The Crisis of the Assyrian Power
Esarhaddon was personally inclined for peace, for he delighted in building; but unfortunate disturbances did not permit him to pursue his favourite occupation without interruption, and, like his warlike predecessors, he was constrained to pass most of his life on the battlefield. He began his reign by quelling an insurrection of the Cimmerians in the territories on the border of the Black Sea. Sidon rebelled ungratefully, although his father had saved her from desolation by Tyre. He stormed and burnt the city. The Scythian tribes came on the field in 678 B.C., but they were diplomatically conciliated.
Now followed a memorable event. Babylon was rebuilt. Esarhaddon used all the available captives taken in war on the foundations and the fabrication of bricks, erected walls, rebuilt all the temples, and lavishly devoted gold, silver, costly stones, rare woods, and plates of enamel to decoration. The canals were made good for the gardens, and the people, who had been scattered in various provinces, were encouraged to return to their homes.
But fresh foreign complications arose through the support given continually to recalcitrant states in the south of Egypt. Esarhaddon was provoked to undertake the first actual invasion of Egypt in force by Assyria for the purpose of subduing the country. Over a great combination of the Egyptians and Ethiopians he won a crushing victory. Memphis was taken and sacked. Henceforth, Esarhaddon, in his pride, styled himself King of Egypt, and King of the Kings of Egypt, of the Said, and of Ethiopia. But he was not very long permitted to enjoy the glory of his triumph; a determined revolt of the conquered country demanded a fresh campaign. He set out, but was in bad health, and, his malady increasing, he died on the journey in the twelfth year of his reign.
Before starting on the expedition, he had realised the impossibility of a permanent amalgamation of Assyria and Babylon, notwithstanding his personal affection for Babylon. Accordingly, he designated as his successors his two sons. Assurbanipal was to be King of Assyria, and Shamash-shumukin King of Babylon, under the suzerainty of his brother. As soon as Esarhaddon had passed away, the separation he had planned took place automatically, the two sons proclaiming themselves respectively kings of Assyria and Babylon. Thus Babylon regained half its independence. But the Assyrian Empire was now at its zenith. Egypt was quelled by the army of Esarhaddon, and to Assurbanipal submitted in vassalage the nations of the Mediterranean coast.
Now followed years of exhausting warfare and of victory after victory, which fatally wasted the strength of Assyria. Never had the empire been so respected; never had so many nations united under one sceptre. But troubles accumulated. Mutiny in Egypt called for another expedition, which led to the capture and sacking of Thebes. Next came a war with Elam, ending in its subjection to Assyria, for the first time in history.
But with success. Assurbanipal grew arrogant in his attitude to his brother, the King of Babylon, and a fratricidal war resulted in the defeat and death of Shamash-shumukin and the capture of the rival capital. But Assyria was now near one of its recurrent periods of exhaustion, and foes were rising for a formidable attack.
IV.—Fall of Media and Chaldaea
At the very height of his apparent grandeur and prosperity Assurbanipal was attacked by Phraortes, King of the Medes, who paid for his temerity with his life, being left dead, with the greater part of his army, on the field. But the sequel was unexpected, for Cyaxares, son of the slain Mede, stubbornly continued the conflict, patiently reorganising his army, until he won a great victory over the Assyrian generals, and shut up the remnant of their forces in Nineveh.
Assurbanipal, after a reign of forty-two years, died about 625 B.C., and was succeeded by his son, Assuretililani. Against his brother and successor, Sinsharishkin, the standard of rebellion was raised by Nabopolassar, the governor of Babylon, who declared himself independent, and assumed the title of king, but his reign not long after ended with his death, in 605 B.C. Nebuchadrezzar was proclaimed king in Babylon.
His reign was long and prosperous, and, on the whole, a peaceful one. The most notable event in the career of Nebuchadrezzar II., was the capture and destruction of Jerusalem, in consequence of a revolt of Tyre and Judea. The unfortunate king, Zedekiah, saw his sons slain in his presence, and then, his eyes having been put out, he was loaded with chains, and sent to Babylon.
Nebuchadrezzar died in 562 B.C. after a reign of fifty-five years. His successors were weak rulers, and their reigns were brief and inglorious. The army was suffered to dwindle, and the dynasty founded by Nabopolassar came to an end in 555 B.C., when Labashi-marduk, the last of the line, after reigning only nine months, was murdered by Nabonidus, a native Babylonian. This usurper witnessed the rapid rise of the new Iranian power which was to destroy him and Babylon. In 553 B.C., Cyrus, a Persian general, revolted against Astyages, defeated him, and destroyed the Median Empire at one blow.
The only army that was a match for that of Cyrus was the Lydian host under King Croesus. A conflict took place between the two, ending in the defeat of the most powerful potentate of Asia Minor. But Cyrus treated Croesus with consideration, and the Lydian king is said to have become the friend of the mighty Persian. From that day neither Egypt nor Chaldaea had any chance of victory on the battlefield. Nabonidus became a mere vassal of Cyrus, and lived more or less inactively in his palace at Tima, leaving the direction of power at Babylon in the hands of his son, Bel-sharuzu.
At length the Babylonians grew weary of their king. Nabonidus had never been popular, and the discontent of the people at length called for the intervention of the suzerain. In 538 Cyrus moved against Babylon, and Nabonidus now retreated into the city with his troops, and prepared for a siege. But Cyrus, taking advantage of the time of the year when the waters were lowest, diverted the Tigris, so that his soldiers were able to enter the city without striking a blow. Nabonidus surrendered, and Belsharuzur was slain. With him perished the second Chaldaean Empire.
The sagacious conqueror did not pillage the city, and treated the citizens with clemency. Cyrus associated his son Cambyses with himself, making him King of Babylon. Nothing in Babylon was changed, and she remained what she had been since the fall of Assyria, the real capital of the regions between the Mediterranean and the Zapcos. The Persian dominion extended undisputed as far as the Isthmus of Suez. Under Cyrus took place the first return of the Jews to Jerusalem.
According to Xenophon, the great Persian, in 529 B.C., died peaceably on his bed, surrounded by his children, and edifying them by his wisdom; but Herodotus declares that he perished miserably in fighting with the barbarian hosts of the Massagetae, on the steppes of Turkestan, beyond the Arxes. He had believed that his destiny was to found an empire in which all other ancient empires should be merged, and he all but accomplished the stupendous task. When he passed away, Egypt alone remained to be conquered. Cambyses succeeded, took up the enterprise against Egypt; but after a series of successes met with reverses in Ethiopia, which affected his mind, and he is said to have ended his own life. Power fell into the hands of a chief of one of the seven great clans, the famous Darius, son of Hystaspes, whose rival was Nebuchadrezzar III., then King of Babylon.
Once more, in his reign, Babylon was besieged and fell, Nebuchadrezzar being executed. He was an impostor who had pretended to be the son of the great Nebuchadrezzar. And now approached the last days of the greatness of the Eastern world, for the eve of the Macedonian conquest of the Near East had arrived.
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The Antiquities of the Jews
Josephus's "Antiquities of the Jews" traces the whole history of the race down to the outbreak of the great war. He also wrote an autobiography (see Lives and Letters) and a polemical treatise, "Flavius Josephus against Apion." His style is so classically elegant that critics have called him the Greek Livy. The following summary of the "Antiquities of the Jews" contains the substance of the really valuable sections, other portions being little else than a paraphrase of the histories embodied in the Old Testament.
I.—From Alexander to Antiochus
After Philip, King of Macedon, had been treacherously slain by Pausanias, he was succeeded by his son Alexander, who, passing over the Hellespont, overcame the army of Darius, King of Persia, at Granicum. So he marched over Lydia, subdued Ionia, overran Caria and Pamphylia, and again defeated Darius at Issus. The Persian king fled into his own land, and his mother, wife, and children were captured. Alexander besieged and took first Tyre, and then Gaza, and next marched towards Jerusalem.
At Sapha, in full view of the city, he was met by a procession of the priests in fine linen, and a multitude of the citizens in white, the high-priest, Jaddua, being at their head in his resplendent robes. Graciously responding to the salutations of priests and people, Alexander entered Jerusalem, worshipped and sacrificed in the Temple, and then invited the people to ask what favours they pleased of him; whereupon the high-priest desired that they might enjoy the laws of their forefathers, and pay no tribute on the seventh year. All their requests were granted, and Alexander led his army into the neighbouring cities.
Now, when Alexander was dead and his government had been divided among many, Ptolemy, the son of Lagus, by treachery seized Jerusalem, and took away many captives to Egypt, and settled them there. His successor, Ptolemy Philadelphus, restored to freedom 120,000 Jews who had been kept in slavery at the instance of Aristeus, one of his most intimate friends. He also dedicated many gifts to God, and showed great friendship to the Jews in his dominions.
Other kings in Asia followed the example of Philadelphus, conferring honours on Jews who became their auxiliaries, and making them citizens with privileges equal to those enjoyed by the Macedonians and Greeks. In the reign of Antiochus the Great the Jews suffered greatly while he was at war with Ptolemy Philopater, and with his son, called Epiphanes. When Antiochus had beaten Ptolemy, he seized on Judea, but ultimately he made a league with Ptolemy, gave him his daughter Cleopatra to wife, and yielded up to him Celesyria, Samaria, Judea, and Phoenicia by way of dowry. Onias, son of Simon the Just, was then high-priest. He greatly provoked the king by neglecting to pay his taxes, so that Ptolemy threatened to settle his soldiers in Jerusalem to live on the citizens.
But Joseph, the nephew of Onias, by his wisdom brought all things right again, and entered into friendship with the king, who lent him soldiers and sent him to force the people in various cities to pay their taxes. Many who refused were slain. Joseph not only thus gathered great wealth for himself, but sent much to the king and to Cleopatra, and to powerful men at the court of Egypt. He had a son named Hyrcanus, who became noted for his ability, and crossed the Jordan with many followers; he made war successfully on the Arabians, built a magnificent stone castle, and ruled over all the region for seven years, even all the time that Seleucus was king of Syria. But when Seleucus was dead, his brother Antiochus Epiphanes took the kingdom, and Hyrcanus, seeing that Antiochus had a great army, feared he should be taken and punished for what he had done to the Arabians. So he took his own life, Antiochus seizing his possessions.
II.—To the Death of Judas
Antiochus, despising the son of Ptolemy as being but weak, and coveting the possession of Egypt, conducted an expedition against that country with a great force; but was compelled to withdraw by a declaration of the Romans. On his way back from Alexandria he took the city of Jerusalem, entering it without fighting in the 143d year of the kingdom of the Seleucidae. He slew many of the citizens, plundered the city of much money, and returned to Antioch.
After two years he again came up against Jerusalem, and this time left the Temple bare, taking away the golden altar and candlesticks, the table of shewbread, and the altar of burnt offering, and all the secret treasures. He slew some of the people, and carried off into captivity about ten thousand, burnt the finest buildings, erected a citadel, and therein placed a garrison of Macedonians. Building an idol altar in the Temple, he offered swine on it, and he compelled many of the Jews to raise idol altars in every town and village, and to offer swine on them every day. But many disregarded him, and these underwent bitter punishment. They were tortured or scourged or crucified.
Now, at this time there dwelt at Modin a priest named Mattathias, a citizen of Jerusalem. He had five sons, one of whom, Judas, was called Maccabaeus. Mattathias and his sons not only refused to sacrifice as Antiochus commanded, but, with his sons, attacked and slew an apostate Jewish worshipper and Apelles, the king's general, and a few of his soldiers. Then the priest and his five sons overthrew the idol altar, and fled into the desert, followed by many of their followers with their wives and children. About a thousand of these who had hidden in caves were overtaken and destroyed; but many who escaped joined themselves to Mattathias, and appointed him to be the ruler, who taught them to fight, even on the Sabbath. Gathering a great army, he overthrew the idol altars, and slew those who broke the laws. But after ruling one year, he fell into a distemper, and committed to his sons the conduct of affairs. He was buried at Modin, all the people making great lamentation. His son Judas took upon himself the administration of affairs in the 146th year, and with the help of his brothers and others, cast their enemies out of the country and purified the land of its pollutions. Judas celebrated in the Temple at Jerusalem the festival of the restoration of the sacrifices for eight days.
From that time we call the yearly celebration the Feast of Lights. Judas also rebuilt the wall and reared towers of great height. When these things were over he made excursions against adversaries on every side, he and his brothers Simon and Jonathan subduing in turn Idumaea, Gilead, Jazer, Tyre, and Ashdod. Antiochus died of a distemper which overtook him as he was fleeing from Elymais, from which he was driven during an attack upon its gates. Before he died he called his friends about him, and confessed that his calamities had come upon him for the miseries he had brought upon the Jewish nation.