Easton's Bible Dictionary
First mentioned in Genesis
10:11 , which is rendered in the Revised Version, "He [i.e., Nimrod] went
forth into Assyria and builded Nineveh." It is not again noticed till the days
of Jonah, when it is described ( Jonah
3:3 ; 4:11
) as a great and populous city, the flourishing capital of the Assyrian empire
Kings 19:36 ; Isaiah
37:37 ). The book of the prophet Nahum is almost exclusively taken up with
prophetic denunciations against this city. Its ruin and utter desolation are foretold
1:14 ; 3:19
, etc.). Zephaniah also ( Zephaniah
2:13 - 15
) predicts its destruction along with the fall of the empire of which it was the
capital. From this time there is no mention of it in Scripture till it is named
in gospel history ( Matthew
12:41 ; Luke
This "exceeding great city" lay on the eastern or left bank of the river Tigris,
along which it stretched for some 30 miles, having an average breadth of 10 miles
or more from the river back toward the eastern hills. This whole extensive space
is now one immense area of ruins. Occupying a central position on the great highway
between the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean, thus uniting the East and the
West, wealth flowed into it from many sources, so that it became the greatest
of all ancient cities.
About B.C. 633 the Assyrian empire began to show signs of weakness, and Nineveh
was attacked by the Medes, who subsequently, about B.C. 625, being joined by the
Babylonians and Susianians, again attacked it, when it fell, and was razed to
the ground. The Assyrian empire then came to an end, the Medes and Babylonians
dividing its provinces between them. "After having ruled for more than six hundred
years with hideous tyranny and violence, from the Caucasus and the Caspian to
the Persian Gulf, and from beyond the Tigris to Asia Minor and Egypt, it vanished
like a dream" ( Nahum
2:6 - 11
). Its end was strange, sudden, tragic. It was God's doing, his judgement on Assyria's
pride ( Isaiah
10:5 - 19
Forty years ago our knowledge of the great Assyrian empire and of its magnificent
capital was almost wholly a blank. Vague memories had indeed survived of its power
and greatness, but very little was definitely known about it. Other cities which
had perished, as Palmyra, Persepolis, and Thebes, had left ruins to mark their
sites and tell of their former greatness; but of this city, imperial Nineveh,
not a single vestige seemed to remain, and the very place on which it had stood
was only matter of conjecture. In fulfilment of prophecy, God made "an utter end
of the place." It became a "desolation."
In the days of the Greek historian Herodotus, B.C. 400, it had become a thing
of the past; and when Xenophon the historian passed the place in the "Retreat
of the Ten Thousand," the very memory of its name had been lost. It was buried
out of sight, and no one knew its grave. It is never again to rise from its ruins.
At length, after being lost for more than two thousand years, the city was disentombed.
A little more than forty years ago the French consul at Mosul began to search
the vast mounds that lay along the opposite bank of the river. The Arabs whom
he employed in these excavations, to their great surprise, came upon the ruins
of a building at the mound of Khorsabad, which, on further exploration, turned
out to be the royal palace of Sargon, one of the Assyrian kings. They found their
way into its extensive courts and chambers, and brought forth form its hidded
depths many wonderful sculptures and other relics of those ancient times.
The work of exploration has been carried on almost continuously by M. Botta, Sir
Henry Layard, George Smith, and others, in the mounds of Nebi-Yunus, Nimrud, Koyunjik,
and Khorsabad, and a vast treasury of specimens of old Assyrian art has been exhumed.
Palace after palace has been discovered, with their decorations and their sculptured
slabs, revealing the life and manners of this ancient people, their arts of war
and peace, the forms of their religion, the style of their architecture, and the
magnificence of their monarchs. The streets of the city have been explored, the
inscriptions on the bricks and tablets and sculptured figures have been read,
and now the secrets of their history have been brought to light.
One of the most remarkable of recent discoveries is that of the library of King
Assur-bani-pal, or, as the Greek historians call him, Sardanapalos, the grandson
of Sennacherib (q.v.). (See ASNAPPER.) This library consists of about ten thousand
flat bricks or tablets, all written over with Assyrian characters. They contain
a record of the history, the laws, and the religion of Assyria, of the greatest
value. These strange clay leaves found in the royal library form the most valuable
of all the treasuries of the literature of the old world. The library contains
also old Accadian documents, which are the oldest extant documents in the world,
dating as far back as probably about the time of Abraham. (See SARGON.)
"The Assyrian royalty is, perhaps, the most luxurious of our century [reign of
Assur-bani-pa]...Its victories and conquests, uninterrupted for one hundred years,
have enriched it with the spoil of twenty peoples. Sargon has taken what remained
to the Hittites; Sennacherib overcame Chaldea, and the treasures of Babylon were
transferred to his coffers; Esarhaddon and Assur-bani-pal himself have pillaged
Egypt and her great cities, Sais, Memphis, and Thebes of the hundred gates...Now
foreign merchants flock into Nineveh, bringing with them the most valuable productions
from all countries, gold and perfume from South Arabia and the Chaldean Sea, Egyptian
linen and glass-work, carved enamels, goldsmiths' work, tin, silver, Phoenician
purple; cedar wood from Lebanon, unassailable by worms; furs and iron from Asia
Minor and Armenia" (Ancient Egypt and Assyria, by G. Maspero, page 271).
The bas-reliefs, alabaster slabs, and sculptured monuments found in these recovered
palaces serve in a remarkable manner to confirm the Old Testament history of the
kings of Israel. The appearance of the ruins shows that the destruction of the
city was due not only to the assailing foe but also to the flood and the fire,
thus confirming the ancient prophecies concerning it. "The recent excavations,"
says Rawlinson, "have shown that fire was a great instrument in the destruction
of the Nineveh palaces. Calcined alabaster, charred wood, and charcoal, colossal
statues split through with heat, are met with in parts of the Nineveh mounds,
and attest the veracity of prophecy."
Nineveh in its glory was ( Jonah
3:4 ) an "exceeding great city of three days' journey", i.e., probably in
circuit. This would give a circumference of about 60 miles. At the four corners
of an irregular quadrangle are the ruins of Kouyunjik, Nimrud, Karamless and Khorsabad.
These four great masses of ruins, with the whole area included within the parallelogram
they form by lines drawn from the one to the other, are generally regarded as
composing the whole ruins of Nineveh.
Hitchcock's Dictionary of Bible Names
Smith's Bible Dictionary
(abode of Ninus) The capital of the ancient kingdom and
empire of Assyria. The name appears to be compounded from that of an Assyrian
deity "Nin," corresponding, it is conjectured, with the Greek Hercules, and occurring
in the names of several Assyrian kings, as in "Ninus," the mythic founder, according
to Greek tradition of the city. Nineveh is situated on the eastern bank of the
river Tigris, 50 miles from its mouth and 250 miles north of Babylon. It is first
mentioned in the Old Testament in connection with the primitive dispersement and
migrations of the human race. Asshur, or according to the marginal reading, which
is generally preferred, Nimrod is there described, ( Genesis 10:11 ) as extending
his kingdom from the land of Shinar or Babylonia, in the south, to Assyria in
the north and founding four cities, of which the most famous was Nineveh. Hence
Assyria was subsequently known to the Jews as "the land of Nimrod," cf. ( Micah
5:6 ) and was believed to have been first peopled by a colony from Babylon. The
kingdom of Assyria and of the Assyrians is referred to in the Old Testament as
connected with the Jews at a very early period, as in ( Numbers 24:22 , 24:24
) and Psalms 83:8 but after the notice of the foundation of Nineveh in Genesis
no further mention is made of the city until the time of the book of Jonah, or
the eighth century B.C. In this book no mention is made of Assyria or the Assyrians,
the king to whom the prophet was sent being termed the "king of Nineveh," and
his subjects "the people of Nineveh." Assyria is first called a kingdom in the
time of Menahem, about B.C. 770. Nahum (? B.C. 645) directs his prophecies against
Nineveh; only once against the king of Assyria. ch. ( Nahum 3:18 ) In ( 2 Kings
19:36 ) and Isai 37:37 the city is first distinctly mentioned as the residence
of the monarch. Sennacherib was slain there when worshipping in the temple of
Nisroch his god. Zephaniah, about B.C. 630, couples the capital and the kingdom
together, ( Zephaniah 2:13 ) and this is the last mention of Nineveh as an existing
city. The destruction of Nineveh occurred B.C. 606. The city was then laid waste,
its monuments destroyed and its inhabitants scattered or carried away into captivity.
It never rose again from its ruins. This total disappearance of Nineveh is fully
confirmed by the records of profane history. The political history of Nineveh
is that of Assyria, of which a sketch has already been given. [ASSYRIA] Previous
to recent excavations and researches, the ruins which occupied the presumed site
of Nineveh seemed to consist of mere shapeless heaps or mounds of earth and rubbish.
Unlike the vast masses of brick masonry which mark the site of Babylon, they showed
externally no signs of artificial construction, except perhaps here and there
the traces of a rude wall of sun-dried bricks. Some of these mounds were of enormous
dimensions, looking in the distance rather like natural elevations than the work
of mens hands. They differ greatly in form, size and height. Some are mere conical
heaps, varying from 50 to 150 feet high; others have a broad flat summit, and
very precipitous cliff-like sites furrowed by deep ravines worn by the winter
The principal ruins are--
(1) the group immediately opposite Mosul, including the great mounds of Kouyunjik and Nebbi Yunus ;
(2) that near the junction of the Tigris and Zab comprising the mounds of Nimroud and Athur ;
(3) Khorsabad , about ten miles to the east of the former river;
(4) Shereef Khan , about 5 1/2 miles to the north Kouyunjik; and
(5) Selamiyah , three miles to the north of Nimroud.
The first traveller who carefully examined the supposed site of Nineveh was Mr.
Rich formerly political agent for the East India Company at Bagdad; but his investigations
were almost entirely confined to Kouyunjik and the surrounding mounds of which
he made a survey in 1820. In 1843 M. Botta, the French consul at Mosul, fully
explored the ruins. M. Bottas discoveries at Khorsabad were followed by those
of Mr. Layard at Nimroud and Kouyunjik, made between the years 1846 and 1850.
(Since then very many and important discoveries have been made at Nineveh, more
especially those by George Smith, of the British Museum. He has discovered not
only the buildings, but the remains of fin ancient library written on stone tablets.
These leaves or tablets were from an inch to 1 foot square, made of terra-cotta
clay, on which when soft the inscriptions were written; the tablets were then
hardened and placed upon the walls of the library rooms, so as to cover the walls.
This royal library contained over 10,000 tablets. It was begun by Shalmaneser
B.C. 860; his successors added to it, and Sardanapalus (B.C. 673) almost doubled
it. Stories or subjects were begun on tablets, and continued on tablets of the
same size sometimes to the number of one hundred. Some of the most interesting
of these give accounts of the creation and of the deluge and all agree with or
confirm the Bible. --ED.)
Description of remains.--
The Assyrian edifices were so nearly alike in general plan, construction an decoration
that one description will suffice for all, They were built upon artificial mounds
or platforms, varying in height, but generally from 30 to 50 feet above the level
of the surrounding country, and solidly constructed of regular layers of sun-dried
bricks, as at Nimroud, or consisting merely of earth and rubbish heaped up, as
at Kouyunjik. This platform was probably faced with stone masonry, remains probable
which were discovered at Nimroud, and broad flights of steps or inclined ways
led up to its summit. Although only the general plan of the ground-floor can now
be traced, it is evident that the palaces had several stories built of wood and
sun-dried bricks, which, when the building was deserted and allowed to fall to
decay, gradually buried the lower chambers with their ruins, and protected the
sculptured slabs from the effects of the weather. The depth of soil and rubbish
above the alabaster slabs varied from a few inches to about 20 feet. It is to
this accumulation of rubbish above them that the bas-reliefs owe their extraordinary
preservation. The portions of the edifices still remaining consist of halls, chambers
and galleries, opening for the most part into large uncovered courts. The wall
above the wainscoting of alabaster was plastered, and painted with figures and
ornaments. The sculptured, with the exception of the human headed lions and bulls,
were for the most part in low relief, The colossal figures usually represent the
king, his attendants and the gods; the smaller sculptures, which either cover
the whole face of the slab or are divided into two compartments by bands of inscriptions,
represent battles sieges, the chase single combats with wild beasts, religious
ceremonies, etc., etc. All refer to public or national events; the hunting-scenes
evidently recording the prowess and personal valor of the king as the head of
the people-- "the mighty hunter before the Lord." The sculptures appear to have
been painted, remains of color having been found on most of them. Thus decorated
without and within, the Assyrian palaces must have displayed a barbaric magnificence,
not, however, devoid of a certain grandeur and beauty which probably no ancient
or modern edifice has exceeded. These great edifices, the depositories of the
national records, appear to have been at the same time the abode of the king and
the temple of the gods.
Prophecies relating to Nineveh, and illustrations of the Old Testament.--
These are exclusively contained in the books of Nahum and Zephaniah. Nahum threatens
the entire destruction of the city, so that it shall not rise again from its ruins.
The city was to be partly destroyed by fire. ( Nahum 3:13 Nahum 3:16 ) The gateway
in the northern wall of the Kouyunjik enclosure had been destroyed by fire as
well as the palaces. The population was to be surprised when unprepared: "while
they are drunk as drunkards they shall be devoured as stubble fully dry " ( Nahum
1:10 ) Diodorus states that the last and fatal assault was made when they were
overcome with wine. The captivity of the inhabitants and their removal to distant
provinces are predicted. ( Nahum 3:18 ) The fullest and the most vivid and poetical
picture of Ninevehs ruined and deserted condition is that given by Zephaniah,
who probably lived to see its fall. ( Zephaniah 2:13-15 )
Site of the city--
much diversity of opinion exists as to the identification of the ruins which may
be properly included within the site of ancient Nineveh. According to Sir H. Rawlinson
and those who concur in his interpretation of the cuneiform characters, each group
of mounds already mentioned represents a separate and distinct city. On the other
hand it has been conjectured, with much probability, that these groups of mounds
are not ruins of separate cities, but of fortified royal residences, each combining
palaces, temples, propylaea, gardens and parks, and having its peculiar name;
and that they all formed part of one great city built and added to at different
periods, sad consisting of distinct quarters scattered over a very large and frequently
very distant one from the other. Thus the city would be, as Layard says, in the
form of a parallelogram 18 to 20 miles long by 12 to 14 wide; or, as Diodorus
Siculus says, 55 miles in circumference.
Writing and language.--
The ruins of Nineveh have furnished a vast collection of inscriptions partly carved
on marble or stone slabs and partly impressed upon bricks anti upon clay cylinders,
or sixsided and eight-sided prisms, barrels and tablets, which, used for the purpose
when still moist, were afterward baked in a furnace or kilo. Comp. ( Ezekiel 4:4
) The character employed was the arrow-headed or cuneiform --so called from each
letter being formed by marks or elements resembling an arrow-head or a wedge.
These inscribed bricks are of the greatest value in restoring the royal dynasties.
The most important inscription hitherto discovered in connection with biblical
history is that upon a pair of colossal human-headed bulls from Kouyunjik, now
in the British Museum, containing the records of Sennacherib, and describing,
among other events, his wars with Hezekiah. It is accompanied by a series of bas-reliefs
believed to represent the siege and capture of Lachish. A list of nineteen or
twenty kings can already be compiled, and the annals of the greater number of
them will probably be restored to the lost history of one of the most powerful
empires of the ancient world. and of one which appears to have exercised perhaps
greater influence than any other upon the subsequent condition and development
of civilized man. The people of Nineveh spoke a Shemitic dialect, connected with
the Hebrew and with the so called Chaldee of the books of Daniel and Ezra. This
agrees with the testimony of the Old Testament.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
nin'-e-ve (nineweh; Nineue, Nineui; Greek and Roman writers,
I. BEGINNINGS, NAME, POSITION
1. First Biblical Mention
The first Biblical mention of Nineveh is in Genesis 10:11, where it is stated
that NIMROD (which see) or Asshur went out into Assyria, and builded Nineveh and
Rehoboth-Ir, and Calah, and Resen between Nineveh and Calah, with the addition,
"the same is the great city." Everything indicates that these statements are correct,
for Nineveh was certainly at one time under Babylonian rule, and was at first
not governed by Assyrian kings, but by issake or viceroys of Assur, the old capital.
To all appearance Nineveh took its name from the Babylonian Nina near Lagas in
South Babylonia, on the Euphrates, from which early foundation it was probably
colonized. The native name appears as Ninua or Nina (Ninaa), written with the
character for "water enclosure" with that for "fish" inside, implying a connection
between Nina and the Semitic nun, "fish."
2. Etymology of the Name
The Babylonian Nina was a place where fish were very abundant, and Ishtar or Nina,
the goddess of the city, was associated with Nin-mah, Merodach's spouse, as goddess
of reproduction. Fish are also plentiful in the Tigris at Mosul, the modern town
on the other side of the river, and this may have influenced the choice of the
site by the Babylonian settlers, and the foundation there of the great temple
of Ishtar or Nina. The date of this foundation is unknown, but it may have taken
place about 3OOO BC.
3. Position on the Tigris
Nineveh lay on the eastern bank of the Tigris, at the point where the Khosr falls
into that stream. The outline of the wall is rectangular on the West, but of an
irregular shape on the East. The western fortifications run from Northwest to
Southeast, following, roughly, the course of the river, which now flows about
1,500 yards from the walls, instead of close to them, as in ancient times.
II. NINEVEH AND ITS SURROUNDINGS
According to the late G. Smith, the southwestern wall has a length of about 2
1/2 miles, and is joined at its western corner by the northwestern wall, which
runs in a northeasterly direction for about 1 1/3 miles.
1. Its Walls
The northeastern wall, starting here, runs at first in a southeasterly direction,
but turns southward, gradually approaching the southwestern wall, to which, at
the end of about 3 1/4 miles, it is joined by a short wall, facing nearly South,
rather more than half a mile long.
2. Principal Mounds and Gateways
The principal mounds are Kouyunjik, a little Northeast of the village of 'Amusiyeh,
and Nebi-Yunas, about 1,500 yards to the Southeast. Both of these lie just within
the Southwest wall. Extensive remains of buildings occupy the fortified area.
Numerous openings occur in the walls, many of them ancient, though some seem to
have been made after the abandonment of the site. The principal gate on the Northwest
was guarded by winged bulls (see Layard, Monuments of Nineveh, 2nd series, plural
3; Nineveh and Babylon, 120). Other gates gave access to the various commercial
roads of the country, those on the East passing through the curved outworks and
the double line of fortifications which protected the northeastern wall from attack
on that side, where the Ninevites evidently considered that they had most to fear.
3. Extent and Population within the Walls
According to G. Smith, the circuit of the inner wall is about 8 miles, and Captain
Jones, who made a trigonometrical survey in 1854, estimated that, allotting to
each inhabitant 50 square yards, the city may have contained 174,000 inhabitants.
If the statement in Jonah 4:11, that the city contained 120,000 persons who could
not discern between their right hand and their left, be intended to give the number
of the city's children only, then the population must have numbered about 600,000,
and more than three cities of the same extent would have been needed to contain
4. Extent outside the Walls
It has therefore been supposed--and that with great probability--that there was
a large extension of the city outside its walls. This is not only indicated by
Jonah 3:3, where it is described as "an exceeding great city of three days' journey"
to traverse, but also by the extant ruins, which stretch Southeast along the banks
of the Tigris as far as Nimroud (Calah) while its northern extension may have
been regarded as including Khorsabad.
5. Calah, Resen and Rehoboth-Ir
Concerning the positions of two of the cities mentioned with Nineveh, namely,
Calah and Resen, there can be no doubt, notwithstanding that Resen has not yet
been identified--Calah is the modern Nimroud, and Resen lay between that site
The name Rehoboth-Ir has not yet been found in the inscriptions, but Fried. Delitzsch
has suggested that it may be the rebit Ninua of the inscriptions, Northeast of
Nineveh. If this be the case, the Nineveh of Jonah contained within it all the
places in Genesis 10:11,12, and Khorsabad besides.
Taking the outlying ruins from North to South, we begin with Khorsabad (Dur-Sarru-kin
or Dur-Sargina), 12 miles Northeast of Kouyunjik, the great palace mound of Nineveh
proper. Khorsabad is a great enclosure about 2,000 yards square, with the remains
of towers and gateways. The palace mound lies on its northwest face, and consists
of an extensive platform with the remains of Sargon's palace and its temple, with
a ziqqurat or temple-tower similar to those at Babylon, Borsippa, Calah and elsewhere.
This last still shows traces of the tints symbolical of the 7 planets of which
its stages were, seemingly, emblematic. The palace ruins show numerous halls,
rooms and passages, many of which were faced with slabs of coarse alabaster, sculptured
in relief with military operations, hunting-scenes, mythological figures, etc.,
while the principal entrances were flanked with the finest winged human-headed
bulls which Assyrian art has so far revealed. The palace was built about 712 BC,
and was probably destroyed by fire when Nineveh fell in 606 BC, sharing the same
fate. Some of the slabs and winged bulls are in the Louvre and the British Museum,
but most of the antiquarian spoils were lost in the Tigris by the sinking of the
rafts upon which they were loaded after being discovered.
7. Sherif Khan and Selamieh
Another outlying suburb was probably Tarbicu, now represented by the ruins at
Sherif Khan, about 3 miles North of Kouyunjik. In this lay a temple--"palace"
Sennacherib calls it--dedicated to Nergal. In ancient times it must have been
a place of some importance, as Esarhaddon seems to have built a palace there,
as well as a "seat" for his eldest son, Assur-bani-apli. The site of Resen, "between
Nineveh and Calah," is thought to be the modern Selamieh, 12 miles South of Nineveh,
and 3 miles North of Nimroud (Calah). It is in the form of an irregular enclosure
on a high mound overlooking the Tigris, with a surface of about 400 acres. No
remains of buildings, sculptures or inscriptions have, however, been found there.
After Nineveh. itself (Kouyunjik), the ruins known as Nimroud, 14 or 15 miles
Southeast, are the most important. They mark the site of the ancient Calah, and
have already been described under that heading (see p. 539). As there stated,
the stone-faced temple-tower seems to be referred to by Ovid, and is apparently
also mentioned by Xenophon (see RESEN). The general tendency of the accumulated
references to these sites supports theory that they were regarded as belonging
to Nineveh, if not by the Assyrians themselves (who knew well the various municipal
districts), at least by the foreigners who had either visited the city or had
heard or read descriptions of it.
III. PALACES AT NINEVEH PROPER
The palaces at Nineveh were built upon extensive artificial platforms between
30 and 50 ft. high, either of sundried brick, as at Nimroud, or of earth and rubbish,
as at Kouyunjik. It is thought that they were faced with masonry, and that access
was gained to them by means of flights of deep steps, or sloping pathways. Naturally
it is the plan of the basement floor alone that can at present be traced, any
upper stories that may have existed having long since disappeared. The halls and
rooms discovered were faced with slabs of alabaster or other stone, often sculptured
with bas-reliefs depicting warlike expeditions, the chase, religious ceremonies
and divine figures. The depth of the accumulations over these varies from a few
inches to about 30 ft., and if the amount in some cases would seem to be excessive,
it is thought that this may have been due either to the existence of upper chambers,
or to the extra height of the room. The chambers, which are grouped around courtyards,
are long and narrow, with small square rooms at the ends. The partition walls
vary from 6 to 15 ft. in thickness, and are of sun-dried brick, against which
the stone paneling was fixed. As in the case of the Babylonian temples and palaces,
the rooms and halls open into each other, so that, to gain access to those farthest
from the courtyard entrance, one or more halls or chambers had to be traversed.
No traces of windows have been discovered, and little can therefore be said as
to the method of lighting, but the windows were either high up, or light was admitted
through openings in the roof.
1. The Palace of Sennacherib
The palace of Sennacherib lay in the southeast corner of the platform, and consisted
of a courtyard surrounded on all four sides by numerous long halls, and rooms,
of which the innermost were capable of being rendered private. It was in this
palace that were found the reliefs depicting the siege of Lachish, with the representation
of Sennacherib seated on his "standing" throne, while the captives and the spoil
of the city passed before him. The grand entrance was flanked by winged bulls
facing toward the spectator as he entered. They were in couples, back to back,
on each side of the doorway, and between each pair the ancient Babylonian hero-giant,
carrying in one hand the "boomerang," and holding tightly with his left arm a
struggling lion (Layard, Nineveh and Babylon, 137) was represented, just as at
his father Sargon's palace at Khorsabad. The upper part of these imposing figures
had been destroyed, but they were so massive, that the distinguished explorer
attributed their overthrow not to the act of man, but to some convulsion of Nature.
2. The Palace of Assur-bani-apli
In the north of the mound are the ruins of the palace of Assur-bani-apli or Assur-bani-pal,
discovered by Hormuzd Rassam. His latest plan (Asshur and the Land of Nimrod,
Cincinnati and New York, 1897, plate facing p. 36) does not give the whole of
the structure, much of the building having been destroyed; but the general arrangement
of the rooms was upon the traditional lines. The slabs with which they were paneled
showed bas-reliefs illustrating the Assyrian campaigns against Babylonia, certain
Arab tribes, and Elam. As far as they are preserved, the sculptures are wonderfully
good, and the whole decorative scheme of the paneled walls, of which, probably,
the greater part is forever lost, may be characterized, notwithstanding their
defects of perspective and their mannerisms, as nothing less than magnificent.
The lion-hunts of the great king, despite the curious treatment of the animals'
manes (due to the sculptors' ignorance of the right way to represent hair) are
admirable. It would be difficult to improve upon the expressions of fear, rage
and suffering on the part of the animals there delineated. The small sculptures
showing Assur-bani-apli hunting the goat and the wild ass are not less noteworthy,
and are executed with great delicacy.
IV. SENNACHERIB'S DESCRIPTION OF NINEVEH
1. The Walls
In all probability the best description of the city is that given by Sennacherib
on the cylinder recording his expedition to Tarsus in Cilicia. From ancient times,
he says, the circuit of the city had measured 9,300 cubits, and he makes the rather
surprising statement that his predecessors had not built either the inner or the
outer wall, which, if true, shows how confident they were of their security from
attack. He claims to have enlarged the city by 12,515 (cubits). The great defensive
wall which he built was called by the Sumerian name of Bad-imgallabi-lu-susu,
which he translates as "the wall whose glory overthrows the enemy." He made the
brickwork 40 (cubits) thick, which would probably not greatly exceed the estimate
of G. Smith, who reckoned it to have measured about 50 ft. The height of the wall
he raised to 180 tipki, which, admitting the estimate of Diodorus, should amount
to about 100 ft.
2. The Gates--Northwest
In this enclosing wall were 15 gates, which he enumerates in full. Three of these
were situated in the short northwest wall--the gate of Hadad; the gate of Uru
or Hadad of Tarbisu (Sherif Khan), and the gate of the moon-god Nannar, Sennacherib's
own deity. The plans show five openings in the wall on this side, any of which
may have been the gate used when going to Tarbicu, but that adorned with winged
bulls probably furnished the shortest route.
3. The Gates--South and East
The gates looking toward the South and the East were the Assur-gate (leading to
the old capital); Sennacherib's Halzi-gate; the gate of Samas of Gagal, the gate
of the god Enlil of Kar-Ninlil, and the "covered gate," which seems to have had
the reputation of letting forth the fever-demon. After this are mentioned the
Sibaniba-gate, and the gate of Halah in Mesopotamia. This last must have been
the extreme northeastern opening, now communicating with the road to Khorsabad,
implying that Halah lay in that direction.
4. The Gates--West
The gates on the west or river-side of the city were "the gate of Ea, director
of my watersprings"; the quay-gate, "bringer of the tribute of my peoples"; the
gate of the land of Bari, within which the presents of the Sumilites entered (brought
down by the Tigris from Babylonia, in all probability); the gate of the tribute-palace
or armory; and the gate of the god Sar-ur--"altogether 5 gates in the direction
of the West." There are about 9 wide openings in the wall on this side, 2 being
on each side of the Kouyunjik mound, and 2 on each side of that called Nebi-Yunus.
As openings at these points would have endangered the city's safety, these 4 have
probably to be eliminated, leaving 2 only North of Nebi-Yunus, 2 between that
and Kouyunjik, and one North of Kouyunjik. Minor means of exit probably existed
at all points where they were regarded as needful.
5. The Outer Wall: the Plantations
To the outer wall of the city Sennacherib gave a Sumerian name meaning, "the wall
which terrifies the enemy." At a depth of 54 gar, the underground water-level,
its foundations were laid upon blocks of stone, the object of this great depth
being to frustrate undermining. The wall was made "high like a mountain." Above
and below the city he laid out plantations, wherein all the sweet-smelling herbs
of Heth (Palestine and Phoenicia) grew, fruitful beyond those of their homeland.
Among them were to be found every kind of mountain-vine, and the plants of all
the nations around.
6. The Water-Supply, etc.
In connection with this, in all probability, he arranged the water-supply, conducting
a distant water-course to Nineveh by means of conduits. Being a successful venture,
he seems to have watered therewith all the people's orchards, and in winter 1,000
corn fields above and below the city. The force of the increased current in the
river Khosr was retarded by the creation of a swamp, and among the reeds which
grew there were placed wild fowl, wild swine, and deer(?). Here he repeated his
exotic plantations, including trees for wood, cotton (apparently) and seemingly
7. How the Bas-Reliefs Illustrate the King's Description
Sennacherib's bas-reliefs show some of the phases of the work which his cylinder
inscriptions describe. We see the winged bulls, which are of colossal dimensions,
sometimes lying on their sledges (shaped like boats or Assyrian ships), and sometimes
standing and supported by scaffolding. The sledges rest upon rollers, and are
dragged by armies of captives urged to action by taskmasters with whips. Others
force the sledges forward from behind by means of enormous levers whose upper
ends are held in position by guy-ropes. Each side has to pull with equal force,
for if the higher end of the great lever fell, the side which had pulled too hard
suffered in killed and crushed, or at least in bruised, workmen of their number.
In the background are the soldiers of the guard, and behind them extensive wooded
hills. In other bas-reliefs it is apparently the pleasure grounds of the palace
which are seen. In these the background is an avenue of trees, alternately tall
and short, on the banks of a river, whereon are boats, and men riding astride
inflated skins, which were much used in those days, as now. On another slab, the
great king himself, in his hand-chariot drawn by eunuchs, superintends the work.
8. Nineveh the Later Capital
How long Nineveh had been the capital of Assyria is unknown. The original capital
was Assur, about 50 miles to the South, and probably this continued to be regarded
as the religious and official capital of the country. Assur-nacir-Apli seems to
have had a greater liking for Calah (Nimroud), and Sargon for Khorsabad, where
he had founded a splendid palace. These latter, however, probably never had the
importance of Nineveh, and attained their position merely on account of the reigning
king building a palace and residing there. The period of Nineveh's supremacy seems
to have been from the beginning of the reign of Sennacherib to the end of that
of Assur-bani-apli, including, probably, the reigns of his successors likewise--a
period of about 98 years (704-606 BC).
V. LAST DAYS AND FALL OF NINEVEH
Nineveh, during the centuries of her existence, must have seen many stirring historical
events; but the most noteworthy were probably Sennacherib's triumphal entries,
including that following the capture of Lachish, the murder of that great conqueror
by his sons (the recent theory that he was killed at Babylon needs confirmation);
and the ceremonial triumphs of Assur-bani-apli--the great and noble Osnappar (Ezra
4:10). After the reign of Assur-bani-apli came his son Assur-etil-ilani, who was
succeeded by Sin-sarra-iskun (Saracos), but the history of the country, and also
of the city, is practically non-existent during these last two reigns. The Assyrian
and Babylonian records are silent with regard to the fall of the city, but Alexander
Polyhistor, Abydenus and Syncellus all speak of it. The best account, however,
is that of Diodorus Siculus, who refers to a legend that the city could not be
taken until the river became its enemy. Arbaces, the Scythian, besieged it, but
could not make any impression on it for 2 years. In the 3rd year, however, the
river (according to Commander Jones, not the Tigris, but the Khosr), being swollen
by rains, and very rapid in its current, carried away a portion of the wall, and
by this opening the besiegers gained an entrance. The king, recognizing in this
the fulfillment of the oracle, gathered together his concubines and eunuchs, and,
mounting a funeral pyre which he had caused to be constructed, perished in the
flames. This catastrophe is supposed to be referred to in Nahum 1:8: "With an
over-running flood he (the Lord) will make a full end of her place (i.e. of Nineveh),"
and Nahum 2:6: "The gates of the rivers are opened, and the palace is dissolved."
The destruction of the city by fire is probably referred to in Nahum 3:13 , 15.
The picture of the scenes in her streets--the noise of the whip, the rattling
wheels, the prancing horses, the bounding chariots (Nahum 3:2), followed by a
vivid description of the carnage of the battlefield--is exceedingly striking,
and true to their records and their sculptures.
The standard books on the discovery and exploration of Nineveh are Layard,
Nineveh and Its Remains (two volumes, 1849); Nineveh and Babylon (1853); Monuments
of Nineveh, 1st and 2nd series (plates) (1849 and 1853); and Hormuzd Hassam, Asshur
and the Land of Nimrod (Cincinnati and New York, 1897).
T. G. Pinches
bible commentary, bible history, bible reference, bible study, capital of assyria, city, destruction, jonah, nimroud, nineveh, prophecy of nahum