Page images

ly, whatever can cast light upon the history, character, and manners of men belonging to remote periods, is invested with a charm such as no modern productions, relating only to the present, can claim. There is no one who does not feel the inspiration coming from a walk in imagination with a traveller in the long-hidden cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum. In those cities, uncovered by modern curiosity, we see the streets, the theatres, the private houses, the halls, the parlors of the inhabitants, the shops devoted to their several handicrafts, and the skeletons of the persons who pursued them, and even the circular mark made by the drinking glasses, as they were set down wet upon the counters of those primitive bar-rooms. The people and the scenes of a distant age are made to pass before us. They have been, in a wonderful manner, preserved by the providence of God, and we now see them just as they were thousands of years ago. Thus, mysterious confirmations of history are dug up out of the earth. Things that were necessary to the illustration of prophecy, and of other portions of divine truth, God has kept hidden under beds of lava, or of ashes, or buried in mounds of earth, until the time when their testimony would be most needed and best appreciated. And thus the searching curiosity of men is often rewarded in an unexpected manner, by discoveries which put life, as it were, into a past world, restore a tongue to the dead, make sculptured marbles speak, explain the allusions of history, and interpret before us the prophetic Word by methods which cannot be resisted.

Modern travel is constantly bringing to light new and interesting things of the kind thus indicated. Every portion of the earth is, in succession, brought under the searching eye of the adventurer. The whole Eastern world especially the first and second cradles of the human race-has attracted the most rigid scrutiny. Almost every foot of ground, consecrated by the legends of classic lore, or sanctified by religious associations, has been upturned, examined, questioned as to its testimony concerning the scenes of a distant epoch. The places where the ancient people of God wandered and rested, where they sat weeping, with their harps“hanged on the willows in the midst thereof,” and where they exulted in their prosperity, are clothed with undying interest; and although hundreds and hundreds have explored them, each new traveller visits the spots with no less enthusiasm than that which animated the old crusaders.

Among these places, a peculiar interest attaches to the city of Nineveh. Nineveh is spoken of very early in the Old Testament records. In Gen. x. 9-11, it is said: "Nimrod was a mighty hunter before the Lord. And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, and Erech, and Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. Out of that land went forth Asshur, and builded Nineveh.Beginning thus early, Nineveh was early delivered over to oblivion. In the time of the last kings of Israel, it was already overthrown. “Nineveh was destroyed,” says Dr. Robinson, “in the year 606 before Christ, less than one hundred and fifty years after Rome was founded. Her latest monuments, therefore, date back not less than five and twenty centuries; while the foundation of her earliest is lost in an unknown antiquity. When the ten thousand Greeks marched over this plain, in their celebrated retreat, (400 B. C.,) they found in one part a ruined city, called Larissa ; and in connection with it, Xenophon, their leader and historian, describes what is now the pyramid of Nimroud. But he heard not the name of Nineveh ; it was already forgotten on its site, though it appears again in the later Greek and Roman writers. Even at that time, the widely extended walls and ramparts of Nineveh had perished ; and mounds, covering magnificent palaces, alone remained at the extremities of the ancient city, or in its vicinity, much as at the present day.”.

Nineveh is made familiar to us, especially, through the history contained in the book of Jonah. It is also made the subject of prophecy, more or less fully, by Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Zephaniah, and especially Nahum, who devotes to it his whole book. In the book of Jonah, it is called “an exceeding great city of three days' journey.” The ruins disinterred by Mr. Layard precisely correspond to these dimensions. Nineveh was situated on the river Tigris, at its junction with the Zab. It was on the eastern bank of the river, below Mosul, or nearly opposite to it. Standing in such a position, it was able to command the trade from above on both rivers. It was also in an exceedingly populous country, being near the original centre of population of both the antediluvian and post-diluvian worlds. The city is described as having been eighteen miles long, and twelve broad, and sixty miles in circumference. Twenty miles being a day's journey in the East, this gives the exact measurement as recorded by Jonah. According to Diodorus Siculus, the walls of Nineveh were one hundred feet high, and so thick that three chariots might be driven abreast upon them. 'On the walls were fifteen hundred towers, each two hundred feet in height. The walls were built of sun-dried brick, or of a rampart of clay, cased with stone. They were erected, according to EustaVOL. XV.-NO. LIX.



thius, in eight years, by 140,000 men. The population of the city in the time of Jonah-which corresponded with the time of Jeroboam, king of Israel-must have been very great. It is said that there were in the city “six-score thousand, who knew not their right hand from their left.” If by these we are to understand children of tender age, then, allowing five to a family—which is a common average—the census must have reached 600,000. Nineveh is supposed to have been commenced by Nimrod, who lived soon after the flood, and several (700) years before Moses. Many regard Nimrod as the same with Belus, the builder of Babylon, and Ninus. It is suggested in Calmet, after the authors of the Universal History, that the passage from Genesis, above quoted, should be rendered : “ And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel

, and Erech, and Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. Out of that land, he went forth to Asshur, i. e., Assyria, and builded Nineveh;” there being no obvious reason why Asshur, a son of Shem, (verse 22,) should be here introduced, and made active among the posterity of Ham. With the tower of Babel, or near it, Nimrod might have commenced Babylon. And, that work being in good progress, he might have proceeded to found Nineveh, the commencement of a new and wider empire.

The kingdom of Assyria, of which Nineveh was the capital, had an eventful career. So few records remain from the early period when it flourished, that an accurate and faultless account can scarcely be expected. The chronologies of the empire are meagre, and often contradictory. And, in the effort to harmonize the conflicting statements of different writers, various expedients, perhaps unwarrantable ones, have been resorted to. The kings of Assyria are said by some writers to have been forty in number. Those who appear in Holy Writ are Pul, (2 Kings xv. 19,) Tiglathpileser, (2 Kings xvi. 5–10,) Shalmaneser, (2 Kings xvii. 3,) Sargon, (Isaiah xx. 1,) Sennacherib, (Isaiah xxxvi. 1,) and Esar-haddon, by some supposed to be the Sardanapalus of profane historians. But to harmonize the different accounts, some writers have combined two of these kings into one, supposing the same person to appear under two different names. Some have supposed two monarchs by the name of Sardanapalus, and even two Ninevehs. These liberties, however, probably exhibit an erroneous view of the case. It was Sennacherib who, on an expedition into Egypt, took the land of Judah in his way, and summoned Jerusalem to surrender to him. The summons to surrender through Rabshakeh is one of the most eloquent, direct, and effective pieces of oratory on record. It is contained in Isaiah, chapters xxxvi. and xxxvii. The forty-sixth Psalm, called Luther's Psalm, is supposed by Hengstenberg to have been written by king Hezekiah after this event. It seems to allude, in every part, to the strongest points in Rabshakeh's harangue, and especially to the awful fate of the Assyrian army, under the avenging hand of Jehovah, the God of battles, and the God of his people. The Psalm, in this view, is wonderfully sublime and graphic. It should be read attentively in connection with the history to which it alludes.


In its latter days, the great empire of Assyria became dismembered, Media and Babylonia having grown into separate sovereignties. Under Sardanapalus, a most effeminate and voluptuous monarch, an alliance was entered into against Assyria, between Astyages, the son of Cyaxares I., king of Media, and Nabopolassar, also called Nebuchadnezzar I., king of Babylon. They captured and destroyed Nineveh, after a siege of two years, and divided the kingdom between them.

It is said by Jahn, in his History of the Hebrew Commonwealth, that the city was never rebuilt. Zephaniah says concerning it, in prophetic vision, (ii. 13–15:) “And he will stretch out his hand against the north, and destroy Assyria; and will make Nineveh a desolation, and dry like a wilderness. And flocks shall lie down in the midst of her, all the beasts of the nations : both the cormorant and the bittern shall lodge in the upper lintels of it; their voice shall sing in the windows; desolation shall be in the thresholds; for he shall uncover the cedar work. This is the rejoicing city that dwelt carelessly, that said in her heart, I am, and there is none beside me: how is she become a desolation, a place for beasts to lie down in! Every one that passeth by her shall hiss and wag his hand.” The prophet Nahum also foretells the ruin of Nineveh as a complete and perpetual desolation. For many years Nineveh remained concealed from the world, a heap of rubbish. Some parts of the city were consumed by fire, agreeably to the prophecy of Nahum, (iii. 13, 15:) “The fire shall devour thy bars. ... There shall the fire devour thee.” Some parts were thrown down, the sculptured slabs, the images, the carved work, the gorgeous palaces, and the other works of art, being reduced to a promiscuous heap. For hundreds of years before the Christian era, no man passed through it, or sought for it, or knew where it had stood. The winds from the desert had swept in upon it, the sand and earth filling the furrows which the ploughshare of desolation had left, and causing it to exhibit only the appearance of a series of irregular mounds. None asked what was buried in those heaps. None had the curiosity to search the interior. None opened this tomb of a populous capital. The people of the valley fed their flocks along the green surface, and the simple shepherds and travellers buried their dead and erected their monuments over the spots where kings once sat in scarlet and swayed a sceptre over a mighty empire.


The attention of antiquarians was first attracted to discoveries on the site of the ancient Nineveh, by the fact that a certain spot was pointed out on a mound on the banks of the Tigris, nearly opposite Mosul, as the tomb of Jonah. There was no authority for supposing this spot to be the tomb of the prophet, beyond mere tradition. But the bare announcement of such an opinion prevailing in that region, suggested the thought that here also might be buried that "exceeding great city.” The impression was strengthened by a story of some of the people in the neighborhood, that a fragment of sculpture had been dug up in a mound in the great inclosure, representing various forms of men and animals. The first person to commence

excavations for the purpose of discovery was Mr. Rich, an officer of the East India Company, resident at Bagdad in the year 1820. His investigations were pursued to only a very slight extent; and a case three feet square, sent to the British Museum, inclosed all that he obtained not only of the great city of Nineveh, but of Babylon itself.

M. Botta, French consul at Mosul about the year 1842, commenced excavations in one of the mounds supposed to contain fragments of the buried city. There are four of these principal mounds, forming the four corners of a quadrangle. These mounds are called Nimroud, Kouyunjik, Khorsabad, and Karamles. Several other mounds are included within this quadrangle, covering as is supposed the remains of palaces and public buildings. But the parallelogram embraced within these four mounds as the 'angles, is regular in shape,

and answers to the dimensions of Nineveh in its palmiest days. M. Botta commenced his excavations in one of these mounds (Kouyunjik) on a small scale, and his labors were rewarded only by a few fragments of brick and alabaster, on which were engraved a few letters in cuneiform characters of unknown signification. While engaged in these labors, a peasant from a distant village, (Khorsabad,) built on one of the other mounds, visited the spot. Seeing that fragments of brick and sculptured stone were carefully preserved by the workmen, he remarked that in the mound on which his village was built remains of this sort were found in considerable quantities.

« PreviousContinue »