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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 ap
pearance 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. On digging for the foundation of new houses, sculptured stones were very often uncovered. M. Botta, though often deceived by similar stories, sent an agent with one or two men to test the truth of this information. After a little opposition from the inhabitants, they obtained permission to sink a well in the mound; when, at a small distance from the surface, they came upon the top of a wall. On digging deeper they found that the wall was constructed of sculptured slabs of gypsum. M. Botta, having been informed of this discovery, at once “directed a wider trench to be formed, and to be carried in the direction of the wall. He soon found that he had opened a chamber which was connected with others, and constructed of slabs of gypsum, covered with sculptured representations of battles, sieges, and similar events. His wonder may be easily imagined. A new history had been suddenly opened to him. The records of an unknown people were before him.
The art shown in the sculptures, the dresses of the figures, their arms, and the objects which accompanied them, were all new to him, and afforded no clue to the epoch of the erection of the edifice, and to the people who were its founders. Numerous inscriptions were cut between the bas-reliefs, and evidently contained the explanation of the events thus recorded in sculpture. They were in the cuneiform or arrow-headed character.” Though the meaning of the inscriptions could not then be made out, it was evident that these relics were the work of a very ancient and a very civilized people; and from the geographical position of the remains it was not unnatural to refer them to the Assyrian empire, and to the great city of Nineveh. This was probably the first edifice belonging to that kingdom, that had been exposed to view since the fall of the Assyrian empire.
M. Botta soon discovered that this edifice had unfortunately been exposed to the action of fire. The gypsum, deprived of its water of crystallization, as soon as it was exposed to the air, crumbled into powder. Scarcely could the brittle slabs be held in a state of cohesion long enough to permit a rough sketch to be taken of these early and only memorials of a great nation ;-of their home-life, their worship, their succession of kings, their battles, and their victories. The same fate befell almost every memorial that was discovered in this mound,-a general conflagration seeming to have ruined all that was concealed within it. This reminds us of the statement of the ancient writers, that when the effeminate Sardanapalus, the last king of Assyria, found that there was no hope of victory over the besieging armies, and that his capital was about to be given up to destruction, he erected a vast pile of timber covering four acres, in which he deposited all his riches, with his wife and his concubines, and finally lay down himself in the place prepared for him ; and the flames having been applied to the vast pyre, he was consumed with his palace, leaving no monument but the crumbling remains which now, after twenty-two centuries, were again exposed to the light of day. Very possibly Khorsabad might have covered the palace of Sardanapalus.
M. Botta having communicated an account of his discoveries to the French Academy, ample funds were assigned him by the government, for the purpose of continuing his investigations. He pursued them till the beginning of the year 1845, when the uncovering of this palace was completed, and he returned to Europe with a rich collection of inscriptions and specimens of Assyrian sculpture. The investigations of M. Botta did not extend beyond the mound of Khorsabad.
Mr. Layard, encouraged by the successful endeavors of the French consul, was anxious to pursue these investigations, and especially in the largest mound, called Nimroud, nearly opposite Mosul. Though M. Botta had labored here three months with but slight success, Mr. Layard was impressed with the idea that adequate labor expended on this mound would bring to light objects of great interest to history and to the scientific world. Quite unexpectedly he received letters from Sir Stratford Canning, offering to be responsible for the expense of excavations for that purpose to a limited extent, and expressing the belief that, should these excavations be productive of important results, adequate means would be provided from some source to continue them.
Encouraged by such patronage, Mr. Layard instantly set about the fulfilment of so important and honorable a commission. His first step, on reaching Mosul, was to present his letters to the governor of the province, that he might enjoy his aid and protection. This governor, Mohammed Pasha, was a singular person. He had only one eye, and one ear. He was short and fat, and deeply marked by the small-pox; awkward in gestures and harsh in voice. On taking possession of his government, he had revived many of the odious usages of past times. He particularly insisted on a money compensation, levied on the villages where he was entertained, for the wear and tear of his teeth in masticating the food furnished him by the inhabitants. Having rendered himself unpopular by extravagant demands on the property of his subjects, he took the strange fancy of pretending to be taken suddenly ill, one
afternoon, and was carried half dead to his palace. The next morning when his health was inquired after, the only answer given by his servants was an ominous shake of the head, which they were left to interpret as they best could. In the meantime he had stationed spies in every part of Mosul, that he might learn the effect of the news of his demise. The people were given up to general rejoicing, when suddenly at noon he appeared in the midst of them, and proceeded by pecuniary mulct to punish them for their premature gladness. But notwithstanding his eccentricities, he did Mr. Layard no injury, nor interfered with his operations.
Mr. Layard was able to secure the help of a considerable number of Arabs, and proceeded to the work of excavation at once. Examining the remains of pottery and bricks, and the handfuls of rubbish brought him by the Arabs, and especially a sculptured fragment found on the earth, he was convinced that he should find interesting remains in the mound by digging, and proceeded to search for the most interesting spot to commence. His principal servant soon led him to a place where a piece of alabaster projected above the ground, which could not be started from its bed. On digging downward,
. it was found to be the upper part of a large slab. In the course of the morning, thirteen slabs were discovered, united together, except that one was missing in the northwest corner. These slabs formed a chamber; and where the slab was missing, was doubtless the entrance. He proceeded to dig down the face of the stones, and soon found an inscription in the middle of the slab. Similar inscriptions were found on every one. In the course of the day half the workmen were removed to the southwest corner of the mound, where wall was almost immediately found, bearing the same kind of inscriptions. Here the slabs bore the marks of having been exposed to the action of fire. The day following, having cleared the chamber of rubbish, he found it to be a room built of slabs, eight feet high, and from four to six feet wide, closely fitted together. The room was paved with similar slabs, though smaller, and covered on both sides with inscriptions. These slabs were laid in bitumen, which had received a sharp impress of the inscriptions,-proving that the slabs were laid into it when it was in a liquid state. From this chamber other walls were found to branch out at different angles. Some of the slabs covering them were evidently taken from more ancient buildings,-the edges of the stones, with the inscriptions, being trimmed off, and the face of the 'stones having been reversed. The Orientals are in the habit of digging among the