The Creation, the Deluge, the history of the gods -- The country, its cities its inhabitants, its early dynasties.
|In the time when nothing which was called heaven existed above, and when nothing below had as yet received the name of earth,* Apsu, the Ocean, who first was their father, and Chaos-Tiamat, who gave birth to them all, mingled their waters in one, reeds which were not united, rushes which bore no fruit.|** Life germinated slowly in this inert mass, in which the elements of our world lay still in confusion: when at length it did spring up, it was but feebly, and at rare intervals, through the hatching of divine couples devoid of personality and almost without form. |In the time when the gods were not created, not one as yet, when they had neither been called by their names, nor had their destinies been assigned to them by fate, gods manifested themselves. Lakhmu and Lakhamu were the first to appear, and waxed great for ages; then Anshar and Kishar were produced after them. Days were added to days, and years were heaped upon years: Anu, Inlil, and Ea were born in their turn, for Anshar and Kishar had given them birth.| As the generations emanated one from the other, their vitality increased, and the personality of each became more clearly defined; the last generation included none but beings of an original character and clearly marked individuality. Anu, the sunlit sky by day, the starlit firmament by night; Inlil-Bel, the king of the earth; Ea, the sovereign of the waters and the personification of wisdom.*** Each of them duplicated himself, Anu into Anat, Bel into Belit, Ea into Damkina, and united himself to the spouse whom he had deduced from himself. Other divinities sprang from these fruitful pairs, and the impulse once given, the world was rapidly peopled by their descendants. Sin, Shamash, and Kamman, who presided respectively over the moon, the sun, and the air, were all three of equal rank; next came the lords of the planets, Ninib, Merodach, Nergal, the warrior-goddess Ishtar, and Nebo; then a whole army of lesser deities, who ranged themselves around Anu as round a supreme master. Tiamat, finding her domain becoming more and more restricted owing to the activity of the others, desired to raise battalion against battalion, and set herself to create unceasingly; but her offspring, made in her own image, appeared like those incongruous phantoms which men see in dreams, and which are made up of members borrowed from a score of different animals. They appeared in the form of bulls with human heads, of horses with the snouts of dogs, of dogs with quadruple bodies springing from a single fish-like tail. Some of them had the beak of an eagle or a hawk; others, four wings and two faces; others, the legs and horns of a goat; others, again, the hind quarters of a horse and the whole body of a man. Tiamat furnished them with terrible weapons, placed them under the command of her husband Kingu, and set out to war against the gods.
* In Chaldaea, as in Egypt, nothing was supposed to have a real existence until it had received its name: the sentence quoted in the text means practically, that at that time there was neither heaven nor earth.
** Apsu has been transliterated kiracruv [in Greek], by the author an extract from whose works has been preserved by Damascius. He gives a different version of the tradition, according to which the amorphous goddess Mummu-Tiamat consisted of two persons. The first, Tauthe, was the wife of Apason; the second, Moymis, was the son of Apason and of Tauthe. The last part of the sentence is very obscure in the Assyrian text, and has been translated in a variety of different ways. It seems to contain a comparison between Apsu and Mummu-Tiamat on the one hand, and the reeds and clumps of rushes so common in Chaldaea on the other; the two divinities remain inert and unfruitful, like water-plants which have not yet manifested their exuberant growth.
*** The first fragments of the Chaldaean account of the Creation were discovered by G. Smith, who described them in the Daily Telegraph (of March 4, 1875), and published them in the Transactions of the Society of Biblical Archaeology, and translated in his Chaldaean account of Genesis all the fragments with which he was acquainted; other fragments have since been collected, but unfortunately not enough to enable us to entirely reconstitute the legend. It covered at least six tablets, possibly more. Portions of it have been translated after Smith, by Talbot, by Oppert, by Lenormant, by Schrader, by Sayce, by Jensen, by Winckler, by Zimmern, and lastly by Delitzsch. Since G. Smith wrote The Chaldaean Account, a fragment of a different version has been considered to be a part of the dogma of the Creation, as it was put forth at Kutha.
[Illustration: 006.jpg ONE OF THE EAGLE-HEADED GENII.]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin from an Assyrian bas-relief from Khorsabad
At first they knew not whom to send against her. Anshar despatched his son Anu; but Anu was afraid, and made no attempt to oppose her. He sent Ea; but Ea, like Anu, grew pale with fear, and did not venture to attack her. Merodach, the son of Ea, was the only one who believed himself strong enough to conquer her. The gods, summoned to a solemn banquet in the palace of Anshar, unanimously chose him to be their champion, and proclaimed him king. |Thou, thou art glorious among the great gods, thy will is second to none, thy bidding is Anu; Marduk (Merodach), thou art glorious among the great gods, thy will is second to none,* thy bidding is Anu.** From this day, that which thou orderest may not be changed, the power to raise or to abase shall be in thy hand, the word of thy mouth shall endure, and thy commandment shall not meet with opposition. None of the gods shall transgress thy law; but wheresoever a sanctuary of the gods is decorated, the place where they shall give their oracles shall be thy place.*** Marduk, it is thou who art our avenger! We bestow on thee the attributes of a king; the whole of all that exists, thou hast it, and everywhere thy word shall be exalted. Thy weapons shall not be turned aside, they shall strike thy enemy. O master, who trusts in thee, spare thou, his life; but the god who hath done evil, put out his life like water. They clad their champion in a garment, and thus addressed him: 'Thy will, master, shall be that of the gods. Speak the word, 'Let it be so,' it shall be so. Thus open thy mouth, this garment shall disappear; say unto it, 'Return,' and the garment shall be there.| He spoke with his lips, the garment disappeared; he said unto it, |Return,| and the garment was restored.
* The Assyrian runs, |thy destiny is second to none.| This refers not to the destiny of the god himself, but to the fate which he allots to others. I have substituted, here and elsewhere, for the word |destiny,| the special meaning of which would not have been understood, the word |will,| which, though it does not exactly reproduce the Assyrian expression, avoids the necessity for paraphrases or formulas calculated to puzzle the modern reader.
** Or, to put it less concisely, |When thou commandest, it is Anu himself who commands,| and the same blind obedience must be paid to thee as to Anu.
*** The meaning is uncertain. The sentence seems to convey that henceforth Merodach would be at home in all temples that were constructed in honour of the other gods.
Merodach having been once convinced by this evidence that he had the power of doing everything and of undoing everything at his pleasure, the gods handed to him the sceptre, the throne, the crown, the insignia of supreme rule, and greeted him with their acclamations: |Be King! -- Go! Cut short the life of Tiamat, and let the wind carry her blood to the hidden extremities of the universe.|* He equipped himself carefully for the struggle. |He made a bow and placed his mark upon it;|** he had a spear brought to him and fitted a point to it; the god lifted the lance, brandished it in his right hand, then hung the bow and quiver at his side. He placed a thunderbolt before him, filled his body with a devouring flame, then made a net in which to catch the anarchic Tiamat; he placed the four winds in such a way that she could not escape, south and north, east and west, and with his own hand he brought them the net, the gift of his father Anu. |He created the hurricane, the evil wind, the storm, the tempest, the four winds, the seven winds, the waterspout, the wind that is second to none; then he let loose the winds he had created, all seven of them, in order to bewilder the anarchic Tiamat by charging behind her. And the master of the waterspout raised his mighty weapon, he mounted his chariot, a work without its equal, formidable; he installed himself therein, tied the four reins to the side, and darted forth, pitiless, torrent-like, swift.|
* Sayce was the first, I believe, to cite, in connection with this mysterious order, the passage in which Berossus tells how the gods created men from a little clay, moistened with the blood of the god Belos. Here there seems to be a fear lest the blood of Tiamat, mingling with the mud, should produce a crop of monsters similar to those which the goddess had already created; the blood, if carried to the north, into the domain of the night, would there lose its creative power, or the monsters who might spring from it would at any rate remain strangers to the world of gods and men.
** |Literally, he made his weapon known; |perhaps it would be better to interpret it, |and he made it known that the bow would henceforth be his distinctive weapon.|
[Illustration: 008.jpg BEL-MERODACH, ARMED WITH THE THUNDERBOLT, DOES BATTLE WITH THE TUMULTUOUS TIAMAT.]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin from the bas-relief from Nimrud preserved in the British Museum.
He passed through the serried ranks of the monsters and penetrated as far as Tiamat, and provoked her with his cries. |'Thou hast rebelled against the sovereignty of the gods, thou hast plotted evil against them, and hast desired that my fathers should taste of thy malevolence; therefore thy host shall be reduced to slavery, thy weapons shall be torn from thee. Come, then, thou and I must give battle to one another!' Tiamat, when she heard him, flew into a fury, she became mad with rage; then Tiamat howled, she raised herself savagely to her full height, and planted her feet firmly on the earth. She pronounced an incantation, recited her formula, and called to her aid the gods of the combat, both them and their weapons. They drew near one to another, Tiamat and Marduk, wisest of the gods: They flung themselves into the combat, they met one another in the struggle. Then the master unfolded his net and seized her; he caused the hurricane which waited behind him to pass in front of him, and, when Tiamat opened her mouth to swallow him, he thrust the hurricane into it so that the monster could not close her jaws again. The mighty wind filled her paunch, her breast swelled, her maw was split. Marduk gave a straight thrust with his lance, burst open the paunch, pierced the interior, tore the breast, then bound the monster and deprived her of life. When he had vanquished Tiamat, who had been their leader, her army was disbanded, her host was scattered, and the gods, her allies, who had marched beside her, trembled, were scared, and fled.| He seized hold of them, and of Kingu their chief, and brought them bound in chains before the throne of his father.
He had saved the gods from ruin, but this was the least part of his task; he had still to sweep out of space the huge carcase which encumbered it, and to separate its ill-assorted elements, and arrange them afresh for the benefit of the conquerors. He returned to Tiamat whom he had bound in chains. He placed his foot upon her, with his unerring knife he cut into the upper part of her; then he cut the blood-vessels, and caused the blood to be carried by the north wind to the hidden places. And the gods saw his face, they rejoiced, they gave themselves up to gladness, and sent him a present, a tribute of peace; then he recovered his calm, he contemplated the corpse, raised it and wrought marvels.
[Illustration: 010.jpg A KUFA LADEN WITH STONES, AND MANNED BY A CREW OF FOUR MEN.]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a bas-relief at Koyunjik. Behind the kufa may be seen a fisherman seated astride on an inflated skin with his fish-basket attached to his neck.
He split it in two as one does a fish for drying; then he hung up one of the halves on high, which became the heavens; the other half he spread out under his feet to form the earth, and made the universe such as men have since known it. As in Egypt, the world was a kind of enclosed chamber balanced on the bosom of the eternal waters.* The earth, which forms the lower part of it, or floor, is something like an overturned boat in appearance, and hollow underneath, not like one of the narrow skiffs in use among other races, but a kufa, or kind of semicircular boat such as the tribes of the Lower Euphrates have made use of from earliest antiquity down to our own times.
* The description of the Egyptian world will be found in vol. i. p.21 of the present work. So far the only
systematic attempt to reconstruct the Chaldaean world, since Lenormant, has been made by Jensen, who, after examining all the elements which went to compose it, one after another, sums up in a few pages, and reproduces in a plate, the principal results of his inquiry. It will be seen at a glance how much I have taken from his work, and in what respects the drawing here reproduced differs from his.
[Illustration: 012.jpg THE WORLD AS CONCEIVED BY THE CHALDAEANS]
The earth rises gradually from the extremities to the centre, like a great mountain, of which the snow-region, where the Euphrates finds its source, approximately marks the summit. It was at first supposed to be divided into seven zones, placed one on the top of the other along its sides, like the stories of a temple; later on it was divided into four |houses,| each of which, like the |houses| of Egypt, corresponded with one of the four cardinal points, and was under the rule of particular gods. Near the foot of the mountain, the edges of the so-called boat curve abruptly outwards, and surround the earth with a continuous wall of uniform height having no opening. The waters accumulated in the hollow thus formed, as in a ditch; it was a narrow and mysterious sea, an ocean stream, which no living man might cross save with permission from on high, and whose waves rigorously separated the domain of men from the regions reserved to the gods. The heavens rose above the |mountain of the world| like a boldly formed dome, the circumference of which rested on the top of the wall in the same way as the upper structures of a house rest on its foundations. Merodach wrought it out of a hard resisting metal which shone brilliantly during the day in the rays of the sun, and at night appeared only as a dark blue surface, strewn irregularly with luminous stars. He left it quite solid in the southern regions, but tunnelled it in the north, by contriving within it a huge cavern which communicated with external space by means of two doors placed at the east and the west.* The sun came forth each morning by the first of these doors; he mounted to the zenith, following the internal base of the cupola from east to south; then he slowly descended again to the western door, and re-entered the tunnel in the firmament, where he spent the night,** Merodach regulated the course of the whole universe on the movements of the sun. He instituted the year and divided it into twelve months. To each month he assigned three decans, each of whom exercised his influence successively for a period of ten days; he then placed the procession of the days under the authority of Nibiru, in order that none of them should wander from his track and be lost. |He lighted the moon that she might rule the night, and made her a star of night that she might indicate the days:*** 'From month to month, without ceasing, shape thy disk,**** and at the beginning of the month kindle thyself in the evening, lighting up thy horns so as to make the heavens distinguishable; on the seventh day, show to me thy disk; and on the fifteenth, let thy two halves be full from month to month.'| He cleared a path for the planets, and four of them he entrusted to four gods; the fifth, our Jupiter, he reserved for himself, and appointed him to be shepherd of this celestial flock; in order that all the gods might have their image visible in the sky, he mapped out on the vault of heaven groups of stars which he allotted to them, and which seemed to men like representations of real or fabulous beings, fishes with the heads of rams, lions, bulls, goats and scorpions.
* Jensen has made a collection of the texts which speak of the interior of the heavens (Kirib shami) and of their aspect. The expressions which have induced many
Assyriologists to conclude that the heavens were divided into different parts subject to different gods may be explained without necessarily having recourse to this hypothesis; the |heaven of Ami,| for instance, is an expression which merely affirms Anu's sovereignty in the heavens, and is only a more elegant way of designating the heavens by the name of the god who rules them. The gates of heaven are mentioned in the account of the Creation.
** It is generally admitted that the Chaldaeans believed that the sun passed over the world in the daytime, and underneath it during the night. The general resemblance of their theory of the universe to the Egyptian theory leads me to believe that they, no less than the Egyptians (cf. vol. i. pp.24, 25, of the present work), for along time believed that the sun and moon revolved round the earth in a horizontal plane.
*** This obscure phrase seems to be explained, if we remember that the Chaldaean, like the Egyptian day, dated from the rising of one moon to the rising of the following moon; for instance, from six o'clock one evening to about six o'clock the next evening. The moon, the star of night, thus marks the appearance of each day and |indicates the days.|
**** The word here translated by |disk| is literally the royal cap, decorated with horns, |Agu,| which Sin, the moon- god, wears on his head.
The heavens having been put in order,* he set about peopling the earth, and the gods, who had so far passively and perhaps powerlessly watched him at his work, at length made up their minds to assist him. They covered the soil with verdure, and all collectively |made living beings of many kinds. The cattle of the fields, the wild beasts of the fields, the reptiles of the fields, they fashioned them and made of them creatures of life.|** According to one legend, these first animals had hardly left the hands of their creators, when, not being able to withstand the glare of the light, they fell dead one after the other. Then Merodach, seeing that the earth was again becoming desolate, and that its fertility was of no use to any one, begged his father Ea to cut off his head and mix clay with the blood which welled from the trunk, then from this clay to fashion new beasts and men, to whom the virtues of this divine blood would give the necessary strength to enable them to resist the air and light. At first they led a somewhat wretched existence, and |lived without rule after the manner of beasts. But, in the first year, appeared a monster endowed with human reason named Oannes, who rose from out of the Erythraean sea, at the point where it borders Babylonia. He had the whole body of a fish, but above his fish's head he had another head which was that of a man, and human feet emerged from beneath his fish's tail; he had a human voice, and his image is preserved to this day. He passed the day in the midst of men without taking any food; he taught them the use of letters, sciences and arts of all kinds, the rules for the founding of cities, and the construction of temples, the principles of law and of surveying; he showed them how to sow and reap; he gave them all that contributes to the comforts of life. Since that time nothing excellent has been invented. At sunset this monster Oannes plunged back into the sea, and remained all night beneath the waves, for he was amphibious. He wrote a book on the origin of things and of civilization, which he gave to men.| These are a few of the fables which were current among the races of the Lower Euphrates with regard to the first beginnings of the universe. That they possessed many other legends of which we now know nothing is certain, but either they have perished for ever, or the works in which they were recorded still await discovery, it may be under the ruins of a palace or in the cupboards of some museum.
* The arrangement of the heavens by Merodach is described at the end of the fourth and beginning of the fifth tablets. The text, originally somewhat obscure, is so mutilated in places that it is not always possible to make out the sense with certainty.
** The creation of the animals and then of man is related on the seventh tablet, and on a tablet the place of which, in the series, is still undetermined. I have been obliged to translate the text rather freely, so as to make the meaning clear to the modern reader.
[Illustration: 017.jpg A GOD-FISH]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from an Assyrian bas-relief from Nimrud.
They do not seem to have conceived the possibility of an absolute creation, by means of which the gods, or one of them, should have evolved out of nothing all that exists: the creation was for them merely the setting in motion of pre-existing elements, and the creator only an organizer of the various materials floating in chaos. Popular fancy in different towns varied the names of the creators and the methods employed by them; as centuries passed on, a pile of vague, confused, and contradictory traditions were amassed, no one of which was held to be quite satisfactory, though all found partisans to support them. Just as in Egypt, the theologians of local priesthoods endeavoured to classify them and bring them into a kind of harmony: many they rejected and others they recast in order to better reconcile their statements: they arranged them in systems, from which they undertook to unravel, under inspiration from on high, the true history of the universe. That which I have tried to set forth above is very ancient, if, as is said to be the case, it was in existence two or even three thousand years before our era; but the versions of it which we possess were drawn up much later, perhaps not till about the VIIth century B.C.* It had been accepted by the inhabitants of Babylon because it flattered their religious vanity by attributing the credit of having evolved order out of chaos to Merodach, the protector of their city.** He it was whom the Assyrian scribes had raised to a position of honour at the court of the last kings of Nineveh:*** it was Merodach's name which Berossus inscribed at the beginning of his book, when he set about relating to the Greeks the origin of the world according to the Chaldeans, and the dawn of Babylonian civilization.
* The question as to whether the text was originally written in Sumerian or in the Semitic tongue has frequently been discussed; the form in which we have it at present is not very old, and does not date much further back than the reign of Assurbanipal, if it is not even contemporary with that monarch. According to Sayce, the first version would date back beyond the XXth century, to the reign of Khammurabi; according to Jensen, beyond the XXXth century before our era.
** Sayce thinks that the myth originated at Eridu, on the shores of the Persian Gulf, and afterwards received its present form at Babylon, where the local schools of theology adapted it to the god Merodach.
*** The tablets in which it is preserved for us come partly from the library of Assurbanipal at Nineveh, partly from that of the temple of Nebo at Borsippa; these latter are more recent than the others, and seem to have been written during the period of the Persian supremacy.
Like the Egyptian civilization, it had had its birth between the sea and the dry land on a low, marshy, alluvial soil, flooded annually by the rivers which traverse it, devastated at long intervals by tidal waves of extraordinary violence. The Euphrates and the Tigris cannot be regarded as mysterious streams like the Nile, whose source so long defied exploration that people were tempted to place it beyond the regions inhabited by man. The former rise in Armenia, on the slopes of the Niphates, one of the chains of mountains which lie between the Black Sea and Mesopotamia, and the only range which at certain points reaches the line of eternal snow. At first they flow parallel to one another, the Euphrates from east to west as far as Malatiyeh, the Tigris from the west towards the east in the direction of Assyria. Beyond Malatiyeh, the Euphrates bends abruptly to the south-west, and makes its way across the Taurus as though desirous of reaching the Mediterranean by the shortest route, but it soon alters its intention, and makes for the south-east in search of the Persian Gulf. The Tigris runs in an oblique direction towards the south from the point where the mountains open out, and gradually approaches the Euphrates. Near Bagdad the two rivers are only a few leagues apart. However, they do not yet blend their waters; after proceeding side by side for some twenty or thirty miles, they again separate and only finally; unite at a point some eighty leagues lower down. At the beginning of our geological period their course was not such a long one. The sea then penetrated as far as lat.33 deg., and was only arrested by the last undulations of the great plateau of secondary formation, which descend from the mountain group of Armenia: the two rivers entered the sea at a distance of about twenty leagues apart, falling into a gulf bounded on the east by the last spurs of the mountains of Iran, on the west by the sandy heights which border the margin of the Arabian Desert.* They filled up this gulf with their alluvial deposit, aided by the Adhem, the Diyaleh, the Kerkha, the Karun, and other rivers, which at the end of long independent courses became tributaries of the Tigris. The present beds of the two rivers, connected by numerous canals, at length meet near the village of Kornah and form one single river, the Shatt-el-Arab, which carries their waters to the sea. The mud with which they are charged is deposited when it reaches their mouth, and accumulates rapidly; it is said that the coast advances about a mile every seventy years.** In its upper reaches the Euphrates collects a number of small affluents, the most important of which, the Kara-Su, has often been confounded with it. Near the middle of its course, the Sadjur on the right bank carries into it the waters of the Taurus and the Amanus, on the left bank the Balikh and the Khabur contribute those of the Karadja-Dagh; from the mouth of the Khabur to the sea the Euphrates receives no further affluent. The Tigris is fed on the left by the Bitlis-Khai, the two Zabs, the Adhem, and the Diyaleh. The Euphrates is navigable from Sumeisat, the Tigris from Mossul, both of them almost as soon as they leave the mountains. They are subject to annual floods, which occur when the winter snow melts on the higher ranges of Armenia. The Tigris, which rises from the southern slope of the Niphates and has the more direct course, is the first to overflow its banks, which it does at the beginning of March, and reaches its greatest height about the 10th or 12th of May. The Euphrates rises in the middle of March, and does not attain its highest level till the close of May. From June onwards it falls with increasing rapidity; by September all the water which has not been absorbed by the soil has returned to the river-bed. The inundation does not possess the same importance for the regions covered by it, that the rise of the Nile does for Egypt. In fact, it does more harm than good, and the river-side population have always worked hard to protect themselves from it and to keep it away from their lands rather than facilitate its access to them; they regard it as a sort of necessary evil to which they resign themselves, while trying to minimize its effects.***
* This fact has been established by Ross and Lynch in two articles in the Journal of the Royal Geographical Society, vol. ix. pp.446, 472. The Chaldaeans and Assyrians called the gulf into which the two rivers debouched, Nar Marratum, or |salt river,| a name which they extended to the Chaldaean Sea, i.e. to the whole Persian Gulf.
** Loftus estimated, about the middle of the last century, the progress of alluvial deposit at about one English mile in every seventy years; H. Rawlinson considers that the progress must have been more considerable in ancient times, and estimates it at an English mile in thirty years. Kiepert thinks, taking the above estimate as a basis, that in the sixth century before our era the fore-shore came from about ten to twelve German miles (47 to 56 English) higher up than the present fore-shore. G. Rawlinson estimates on his part that between the thirtieth and twentieth centuries B.C., a period in which he places the establishment of the first Chaldaean Empire, the fore-shore was more than 120 miles above the mouth of Shatt-el-Arab, to the north of the present village of Kornah.
*** Fr. Lenormant has energetically defended this hypothesis in the majority of his works: it is set forth at some length in his work on La Langue primitive de la Chaldee. Hommel, on the other hand, maintains and strives to demonstrate scientifically the relationship of the non-Semitic tongue with Turkish.
The traveller Olivier noticed this, and writes as follows: |The land there is rather less fertile [than in Egypt], because it does not receive the alluvial deposits of the rivers with the same regularity as that of the Delta. It is necessary to irrigate it in order to render it productive, and to protect it sedulously from the inundations which are too destructive in their action and too irregular.|
The first races to colonize this country of rivers, or at any rate the first of which we can find traces, seem to have belonged to three different types. The most important were the Semites, who spoke a dialect akin to Aramaic, Hebrew, and Phoenician. It was for a long time supposed that they came down from the north, and traces of their occupation have been pointed out in Armenia in the vicinity of Ararat, or halfway down the course of the Tigris, at the foot of the Gordysean mountains. It has recently been suggested that we ought rather to seek for their place of origin in Southern Arabia, and this view is gaining ground among the learned. Side by side with these Semites, the monuments give evidence of a race of ill-defined character, which some have sought, without much success, to connect with the tribes of the Urall or Altai; these people are for the present provisionally called Sumerians.* They came, it would appear, from some northern country; they brought with them from their original home a curious system of writing, which, modified, transformed, and adopted by ten different nations, has preserved for us all that we know in regard to the majority of the empires which rose and fell in Western Asia before the Persian conquest. Semite or Sumerian, it is still doubtful which preceded the other at the mouths of the Euphrates. The Sumerians, who were for a time all-powerful in the centuries before the dawn of history, had already mingled closely with the Semites when we first hear of them. Their language gave way to the Semitic, and tended gradually to become a language of ceremony and ritual, which was at last learnt less for everyday use, than for the drawing up of certain royal inscriptions, or for the interpretation of very ancient texts of a legal or sacred character. Their religion became assimilated to the religion, and their gods identified with the gods, of the Semites. The process of fusion commenced at such an early date, that nothing has really come down to us from the time when the two races were strangers to each other. We are, therefore, unable to say with certainty how much each borrowed from the other, what each gave, or relinquished of its individual instincts and customs. We must take and judge them as they come before us, as forming one single nation, imbued with the same ideas, influenced in all their acts by the same civilization, and possessed of such strongly marked characteristics that only in the last days of their existence do we find any appreciable change. In the course of the ages they had to submit to the invasions and domination of some dozen different races, of whom some -- Assyrians and Chaldaeans -- were descended from a Semitic stock, while the others -- Elamites, Cossaaans, Persians, Macedonians, and Parthians -- either were not connected with them by any tie of blood, or traced their origin in some distant manner to the Sumerian branch. They got quickly rid of a portion of these superfluous elements, and absorbed or assimilated the rest; like the Egyptians, they seem to have been one of those races which, once established, were incapable of ever undergoing modification, and remained unchanged from one end of their existence to the other.
* The name Accadian proposed by H. Rawlinson and by Hincks, and adopted by Sayce, seems to have given way to Sumerian, the title put forward by Oppert. The existence of the Sumerian or Sumero-Accadian has been contested by Halevy in a number of noteworthy works. M. Halevy wishes to recognize in the so-called Sumerian documents the Semitic tongue of the ordinary inscriptions, but written in a priestly syllabic character subject to certain rules; this would be practically a cryptogram, or rather an allogram. M. Halevy won over Messrs. Guyard and Pognon in France, Delitzsch and a part of the Delitzsch school in Germany, to his view of the facts. The controversy, which has been carried on on both sides with a somewhat unnecessary vehemence, still rages; it has been simplified quite recently by Delitzcsh's return to the Sumerian theory. Without reviewing the arguments in detail, and while doing full justice to the profound learning displayed by M. Halevy, I feel forced to declare with Tiele that his criticisms |oblige scholars to carefully reconsider all that has been taken as proved in these matters, but that they do not warrant us in rejecting as untenable the hypothesis, still a very probable one, according to which the difference in the graphic systems corresponds to a real difference in. idiom.|
Their country must have presented at the beginning very much the same aspect of disorder and neglect which it offers to modern eyes. It was a flat interminable moorland stretching away to the horizon, there to begin again seemingly more limitless than ever, with, no rise or fall in the ground to break the dull monotony; clumps of palm trees and slender mimosas, intersected by lines of water gleaming in the distance, then long patches of wormwood and mallow, endless vistas of burnt-up plain, more palms and more mimosas, make up the picture of the land, whose uniform soil consists of rich, stiff, heavy clay, split up by the heat of the sun into a network of deep narrow fissures, from which the shrubs and wild herbs shoot forth each year in spring-time. By an almost imperceptible slope it falls gently away from north to south towards the Persian Gulf, from east to west towards the Arabian plateau. The Euphrates flows through it with unstable and changing course, between shifting banks which it shapes and re-shapes from season to season.
[Illustration: 025.jpg GIGANTIC CHALDAEAN REEDS]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from an Assyrian bas-relief of the palace of Nimrud.
The slightest impulse of its current encroaches on them, breaks through them, and makes openings for streamlets, the majority of which are clogged up and obliterated by the washing away of their margins, almost as rapidly as they are formed. Others grow wider and longer, and, sending out branches, are transformed into permanent canals or regular rivers, navigable at certain seasons. They meet on the left bank detached offshoots of the Tigris, and after wandering capriciously in the space between the two rivers, at last rejoin their parent stream: such are the Shatt-el-Hai and the Shatt-en-Nil. The overflowing waters on the right bank, owing to the fall of the land, run towards the low limestone hills which shut in the basin of the Euphrates in the direction of the desert; they are arrested at the foot of these hills, and are diverted on to the low-lying ground, where they lose themselves in the morasses, or hollow out a series of lakes along its borders, the largest of which, Bahr-i-Nedjif, is shut in on three sides by steep cliffs, and rises or falls periodically with the floods. A broad canal, which takes its origin in the direction of Hit at the beginning of the alluvial plain, bears with it the overflow, and, skirting the lowest terraces of the Arabian chain, runs almost parallel to the Euphrates. In proportion as the canal proceeds southward the ground sinks still lower, and becomes saturated with the overflowing waters, until, the banks gradually disappearing, the whole neighbourhood is converted into a morass. The Euphrates and its branches do not at all times succeed in reaching the sea: they are lost for the most part in vast lagoons to which the tide comes up, and in its ebb bears their waters away with it. Reeds grow there luxuriantly in enormous beds, and reach sometimes a height of from thirteen to sixteen feet; banks of black and putrid mud emerge amidst the green growth, and give off deadly emanations. Winter is scarcely felt here: snow is unknown, hoar-frost is rarely seen, but sometimes in the morning a thin film of ice covers the marshes, to disappear under the first rays of the sun.*
* Loftus attributes the lowering of the temperature during the winter to the wind blowing over a soil impregnated with saltpetre. |We were,| he says, |in a kind of immense freezing chamber.|
[Illustration: 027.jpg THE MARSHES ABOUT THE CONFLUENCE OF THE KERKHA AND TIGRIS.]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a sketch by J. Dieulafoy. For six weeks in November and December there is much rain: after this period there are only occasional showers, occurring at longer and longer intervals until May, when they entirely cease, and the summer sets in, to last until the following November. There are almost six continuous months of depressing and moist heat, which overcomes both men and animals and makes them incapable of any constant effort.* Sometimes a south or east wind suddenly arises, and bearing with it across the fields and canals whirlwinds of sand, burns up in its passage the little verdure which the sun had spared. Swarms of locusts follow in its train, and complete the work of devastation. A sound as of distant rain is at first heard, increasing in intensity as the creatures approach. Soon their thickly concentrated battalions fill the heavens on all sides, flying with slow and uniform motion at a great height. They at length alight, cover everything, devour everything, and, propagating their species, die within a few days: nothing, not a blade of vegetation, remains on the region where they alighted.
* Loftus says that he himself had witnessed in the
neighbourhood of Bagdad during the daytime birds perched on the palm trees in an exhausted condition, and panting with open beaks. The inhabitants of Bagdad during the summer pass their nights on the housetops, and the hours of day in passages within, expressly constructed to protect them from the heat.
Notwithstanding these drawbacks, the country was not lacking in resources. The soil was almost as fertile as the loam of Egypt, and, like the latter, rewarded a hundredfold the labour of the inhabitants.* Among the wild herbage which spreads over the country in the spring, and clothes it for a brief season with flowers, it was found that some plants, with a little culture, could be rendered useful to men and beasts. There were ten or twelve different species of pulse to choose from -- beans, 'lentils, chick-peas, vetches, kidney beans, onions, cucumbers, egg-plants, |gombo,| and pumpkins. From the seed of the sesame an oil was expressed which served for food, while the castor-oil plant furnished that required for lighting. The safflower and henna supplied the women with dyes for the stuffs which they manufactured from hemp and flax. Aquatic plants were more numerous than on the banks of the Nile, but they did not occupy such an important place among food-stuffs. The |lily bread| of the Pharaohs would have seemed meagre fare to people accustomed from early times to wheaten bread. Wheat and barley are considered to be indigenous on the plains of the Euphrates; it was supposed to be here that they were first cultivated in Western Asia, and that they spread from hence to Syria, Egypt, and the whole of Europe.** |The soil there is so favourable to the growth of cereals, that it yields usually two hundredfold, and in places of exceptional fertility three hundredfold. The leaves of the wheat and barley have a width of four digits. As for the millet and sesame, which in altitude are as great as trees, I will not state their height, although I know it from experience, being convinced that those who have not lived in Babylonia would regard my statement with incredulity.| Herodotus in his enthusiasm exaggerated the matter, or perhaps, as a general rule, he selected as examples the exceptional instances which had been mentioned to him: at present wheat and barley give a yield to the husbandman of some thirty or forty fold.
* Olivier, who was a physician and naturalist, and had visited Egypt as well as Mesopotamia, thought that Babylonia was somewhat less fertile than Egypt. Loftus, who was neither, and had not visited Egypt, declares, on the contrary, that the banks of the Euphrates are no less productive than those of the Nile.
** Native traditions collected by Berossus confirm this, and the testimony of Olivier is usually cited as falling in with that of the Chaldaean writer. Olivier is considered, indeed, to have discovered wild cereals in Mesopotamia. Pie only says, however, that on the banks of the Euphrates above Anah he had met with |wheat, barley, and spelt in a kind of ravine;| from the context it clearly follows that these were plants which had reverted to a wild state -- instances of which have been observed several times in Mesopotamia. A. de Oandolle admitted the Mesopotamian origin of the various species of wheat and barley.
[Illustration: 030.jpg THE GATHERING OF THE SPATHES OF THE MALE PALM TREE]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a cylinder in the Museum at the Hague. The original measures almost an inch in height.
|The date palm meets all the other needs of the population; they make from it a kind of bread, wine, vinegar, honey, cakes, and numerous kinds of stuffs; the smiths use the stones of its fruit for charcoal; these same stones, broken and macerated, are given as a fattening food to cattle and sheep.| Such a useful tree was tended with a loving care, the vicissitudes in its growth were observed, and its reproduction was facilitated by the process of shaking the flowers of the male palm over those of the female: the gods themselves had taught this artifice to men, and they were frequently represented with a bunch of flowers in their right hand, in the attitude assumed by a peasant in fertilizing a palm tree. Fruit trees were everywhere mingled with ornamental trees -- the fig, apple, almond, walnut, apricot, pistachio, vine, with the plane tree, cypress, tamarisk, and acacia; in the prosperous period of the country the plain of the Euphrates was a great orchard which extended uninterruptedly from the plateau of Mesopotamia to the shores of the Persian Gulf.
The flora would not have been so abundant if the fauna had been sufficient for the supply of a large population. A considerable proportion of the tribes on the Lower Euphrates lived for a long time on fish only. They consumed them either fresh, salted, or smoked: they dried them in the sun, crushed them in a mortar, strained the pulp through linen, and worked it up into a kind of bread or into cakes. The barbel and carp attained a great size in these sluggish waters, and if the Chalaeans, like the Arabs who have succeeded them in these regions, clearly preferred these fish above others, they did not despise at the same time such less delicate species as the eel, murena, silurus, and even that singular gurnard whose habits are an object of wonder to our naturalists. This fish spends its existence usually in the water, but a life in the open air has no terrors for it: it leaps out on the bank, climbs trees without much difficulty, finds a congenial habitat on the banks of mud exposed by the falling tide, and basks there in the sun, prepared to vanish in the ooze in the twinkling of an eye if some approaching bird should catch sight of it. Pelicans, herons, cranes, storks, cormorants, hundreds of varieties of seagulls, ducks, swans, wild geese, secure in the possession of an inexhaustible supply of food, sport and prosper among the reeds. The ostrich, greater bustard, the common and red-legged partridge and quail, find their habitat on the borders of the desert; while the thrush, blackbird, ortolan, pigeon, and turtle-dove abound on every side, in spite of daily onslaughts from eagles, hawks, and other birds of prey.
[Illustration: 032.jpg A WINGED GENIUS HOLDING IN HIS HAND THE SPATHE OF THE MALE DATE-PALM.]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a bas-relief from Nimrud, in the British Museum.
[Illustration: 033.jpg THE HEAVILY MANED LION WOUNDED BY AN ARROW AND VOMITING BLOOD.]
Snakes are found here and there, but they are for the most part of innocuous species: three poisonous varieties only are known, and their bite does not produce such terrible consequences as that of the horned viper or Egyptian uraeus. There are two kinds of lion -- one without mane, and the other hooded, with a heavy mass of black and tangled hair: the proper signification of the old Chaldaean name was |the great 'dog,| and they have, indeed, a greater resemblance to large dogs than to the red lions of Africa.* They fly at the approach of man; they betake themselves in the daytime to retreats among the marshes or in the thickets which border the rivers, sallying forth at night, like the jackal, to scour the country. Driven to bay, they turn upon the assailant and fight desperately. The Chaldaean kings, like the Pharaohs, did not shrink from entering into a close conflict with them, and boasted of having rendered a service to their subjects by the destruction of many of these beasts.
* The Sumerian name of the lion is ur-malch |the great dog.| The best description of the first-mentioned species is still that of Olivier, who saw in the house oL the Pasha of Bagdad five of them in captivity; cf. Layard, Nineveh and Babylon, p.487. Father Scheil tells me the lions have disappeared completely since the last twenty years.
[Illustration: 034.jpg THE URUS IN ACT OF CHARGING]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from an Assyrian bas-relief from Nimrud (Layard, Monuments of Nineveh, 1st series, pi.11).
[Illustration: 035.jpg a herd of onagers pursued by dogs and wounded by arrows.]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a bas-relief in the British Museum.
The elephant seems to have roamed for some time over the steppes of the middle Euphrates;* there is no indication of its presence after the XIIIth century before our era, and from that time forward it was merely an object of curiosity brought at great expense from distant countries. This is not the only instance of animals which have disappeared in the course of centuries; the rulers of Nineveh were so addicted to the pursuit of the urus that they ended by exterminating it. Several sorts of panthers and smaller felidae had their lairs in the thickets of Mesopotamia. The wild ass and onager roamed in small herds between the Balikh and the Tigris. Attempts were made, it would seem, at a very early period to tame them and make use of them to draw chariots; but this attempt either did not succeed at all, or issued in such uncertain results, that it was given up as soon as other less refractory animals were made the subjects of successful experiment.
* The existence of the elephant in Mesopotamia and Northern Syria is well established by the Egyptian inscription of Amenemhabi in the XVth century before our era.
[Illustration: 036.jpg THE CHIEF DOMESTIC ANIMALS OP THE REGIONS OF THE EUPHRATES.]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from an Assyrian bas-relief from Kouyunjik.
The wild boar, and his relative, the domestic hog, inhabited the morasses. Assyrian sculptors amused themselves sometimes by representing long gaunt sows making their way through the cane-brakes, followed by their interminable offspring. The hog remained here, as in Egypt, in a semi-tamed condition, and the people were possessed of only a small number of domesticated animals besides the dog -- namely, the ass, ox, goat, and sheep; the horse and camel were at first unknown, and were introduced at a later period.*
[Illustration: 037.jpg THE SOW AND HER LITTER MAKING THEIR WAY THROUGH A BED OF REEDS.]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a bas-relief from Kouyunjik.
* The horse is denoted in the Assyrian texts by a group of signs which mean |the ass of the East,| and the camel by other signs in which the character for |ass| also appears. The methods of rendering these two names show that the subjects of them were unknown in the earliest times; the epoch of their introduction is uncertain. A chariot drawn by horses appears on the |Stele of the Vultures.| Camels are mentioned among the booty obtained from the Bedouin of the desert.
We know nothing of the efforts which the first inhabitants -- Sumerians and Semites -- had to make in order to control the waters and to bring the land under culture: the most ancient monuments exhibit them as already possessors of the soil, and in a forward state of civilization.* Their chief cities were divided into two groups: one in the south, in the neighbourhood of the sea; the other in a northern direction, in the region where the Euphrates and Tigris are separated from each other by merely a narrow strip of land. The southern group consisted of seven, of which Eridu lay nearest to the coast. This town stood on the left bank of the Euphrates, at a point which is now called Abu-Shahrein. A little to the west, on the opposite bank, but at some distance from the stream, the mound of Mugheir marks the site of Uru, the most important, if not the oldest, of the southern cities. Lagash occupied the site of the modern Telloh to the north of Eridu, not far from the Shatt-el-Hai; Nisin and Mar, Larsam and Uruk, occupied positions at short distances from each other on the marshy ground which extends between the Euphrates and the Shatt-en-Nil. The inscriptions mention here and there other less important places, of which the ruins have not yet been discovered -- Zirlab and Shurippak, places of embarkation at the mouth of the Euphrates for the passage of the Persian Gulf; and the island of Dilmun, situated some forty leagues to the south in the centre of the Salt Sea, -- |Nar-Marratum.| The northern group comprised Nipur, the |incomparable;| Barsip, on the branch which flows parallel to the Euphrates and falls into the Bahr-i-Nedjif; Babylon, the |gate of the god,| the |residence of life,| the only metropolis of the Euphrates region of which posterity never lost a reminiscence; Kishu, Kuta, Agade;** and lastly the two Sipparas, that of Shamash and that of Anunit. The earliest Chaldaean civilization was confined almost entirely to the two banks of the Lower Euphrates: except at its northern boundary, it did not reach the Tigris, and did not cross this river. Separated from the rest of the world -- on the east by the marshes which border the river in its lower course, on the north by the badly watered and sparsely inhabited table-land of Mesopotamia, on the west by the Arabian desert -- it was able to develop its civilization, as Egypt had done, in an isolated area, and to follow out its destiny in peace. The only point from which it might anticipate serious danger was on the east, whence the Kashshi and the Elamites, organized into military states, incessantly harassed it year after year by their attacks. The Kashshi were scarcely better than half-civilized mountain hordes, but the Elamites were advanced in civilization, and their capital, Susa, vied with the richest cities of the Euphrates, Uru and Babylon, in antiquity and magnificence.
* For an ideal picture of what may have been the beginnings of that civilization, see Delitzsch, Die Entstehung des altesten Schriflssystems, p.214, et seq. I will not enter into the question as to whether it did or did not come by sea to the mouths of the Euphrates and Tigris. The legend of the fish-god Oannes (Berossus, frag.1), which seems to conceal some indication on the subject, is merely a mythological tradition, from which it would be wrong to deduce historical conclusions.
** Agade, or Agane, has been identified with one of the two towns of which Sippara is made up, more especially with that which was called Anunit Sippara; the reading Agadi, Agacle, was especially assumed to lead to its identification with the Accad of Genesis x.10, and with the Akkad of native tradition. This opinion has been generally abandoned by Assyriologists, and Agane has not yet found a site. Was it only a name for Babylon?
[Illustration: 040.jpg MAP OF CHALDAEA]
There was nothing serious to fear from the Guti, on the branch of the Tigris to the north-east, or from the Shuti to the north of these; they were merely marauding tribes, and, however troublesome they might be to their neighbours in their devastating incursions, they could not compromise the existence of the country, or bring it into subjection. It would appear that the Chaldseans had already begun to encroach upon these tribes and to establish colonies among them -- El-Ashshur on the banks of the Tigris, Harran on the furthest point of the Mesopotamian plain, towards the sources of the Balikh. Beyond these were vague and unknown regions -- Tidanum, Martu, the sea of the setting sun, the vast territories of Milukhkha and Magan.* Egypt, from the time they were acquainted with its existence, was a semi-fabulous country at the ends of the earth.
* The question concerning Milukhkha and Magan has exercised Assyriologists for twenty years. The prevailing opinion appears to be that which identifies Magan with the Sinaitic Peninsula, and Milukhkha with the country to the north of Magan as far as the Wady Arish and the Mediterranean; others maintain, not the theory of Delitzsch, according to whom Magan and Milukhkha are synonyms for Shumir and Akkad, and consequently two of the great divisions of Babylonia, but an analogous hypothesis, in which they are regarded as districts to the west of the Euphrates, either in Chaldaean regions or on the margin of the desert, or even in the desert itself towards the Sinaitic Peninsula. What we know of the texts induces me, in common with H. Rawlinson, to place these countries on the shores of the Persian Gulf, between the mouth of the Euphrates and the Bahrein islands; possibly the Makse and the Melangitso of classical
historians and geographers were the descendants of the people of Magan (Makan) and Milukhkha (Melugga), who had been driven towards the entrance to the Persian Gulf by some such event as the increase in these regions of the Kashdi (Chaldaeans). The names, emigrated to the western parts of Arabia and to the Sinaitic Peninsula in after-times, as the name of India passed to America in the XVIth century of our era.
How long did it take to bring this people out of savagery, and to build up so many flourishing cities? The learned did not readily resign themselves to a confession of ignorance on the subject. As they had depicted the primordial chaos, the birth of the gods, and their struggles over the creation, so they related unhesitatingly everything which had happened since the creation of mankind, and they laid claim to being able to calculate the number of centuries which lay between their own day and the origin of things. The tradition to which most credence was attached in the Greek period at Babylon, that which has been preserved for us in the histories of Berossue, asserts that there was a somewhat long interval between the manifestation of Oannes and the foundation of a dynasty. The first king was Aloros of Babylon, a Chaldaean of whom nothing is related except that he was chosen by the divinity himself to be a shepherd of the people. He reigned for ten sari, amounting in all to 36,000 years; for the saros is 3600 years, the ner 600 years, and the soss 60 years.
[Illustration: 041.jpg TWO FISH-LIKE DEITIES OF THE CHALDAEANS.]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from an intaglio in the British Museum.
After the death of Aloros, his son Alaparos ruled for three sari, after which Amillaros, of the city of Pantibibla, reigned thirteen sari. It was under him that there issued from the Bed Sea a second Annedotos, resembling Oannes in his semi-divine shape, half man and half fish. After him Ammenon, also from Pantibibla, a Chaldaean, ruled for a term of twelve sari; under him, they say, the mysterious Oannes appeared. Afterwards Amelagaros of Pantibibla governed for eighteen sari; then Davos, the shepherd from Pantibibla, reigned ten sari: under him there issued from the Red Sea a fourth Annedotos, who had a form similar to the others, being made up of man and fish. After him Bvedoranchos of Pantibibla reigned for eighteen sari; in his time there issued yet another monster, named Anodaphos, from the sea. These various monsters developed carefully and in detail that which Oannes had set forth in a brief way. Then Amempsinos of Larancha, a Chalaean, reigned ten sari; and Obartes, also a Chaldaean, of Larancha, eight sari. Finally, on the death of Obartes, his son Xisuthros held the sceptre for eighteen sari. It was under him that the great deluge took place. Thus ten kings are to be reckoned in all, and the duration of their combined reigns amounts to one hundred and twenty sari. From the beginning of the world to the Deluge they reckoned 691,200 years, of which 259,200 had passed before the coming of Aloros, and the remaining 432,000 were generously distributed between this prince and his immediate successors: the Greek and Latin writers had certainly a fine occasion for amusement over these fabulous numbers of years which the Chaldaeans assigned to the lives and reigns of their first kings.
Men in the mean time became wicked; they lost the habit of offering sacrifices to the gods, and the gods, justly indignant at this negligence, resolved to be avenged.* Now, Shamashnapishtim I was reigning at this time in Shurippak, the |town of the ship:| he and all his family were saved, and he related afterwards to one of his descendants how Ea had snatched him from the disaster which fell upon his people.** |Shurippak, the city which thou thyself knowest, is situated on the bank of the Euphrates; it was already an ancient town when the hearts of the gods who resided in it impelled them to bring the deluge upon it -- the great gods as many as they are; their father Anu, their counsellor Bel the warrior, their throne-bearer Ninib, their prince Innugi. The master of wisdom, Ea, took his seat with them,*** and, moved with pity, was anxious to warn Shamashnapishtim, his servant, of the peril which threatened him;| but it was a very serious affair to betray to a mortal a secret of heaven, and as he did not venture to do so in a direct manner, his inventive mind suggested to him an artifice.
* The account of Bcrossus implies this as a cause of the Deluge, since he mentions the injunction imposed upon the survivors by a mysterious voice to be henceforward
respectful towards the gods, [Greek word]. The Chalaean account considers the Deluge to have been sent as a punishment upon men for their sins against the gods, since it represents towards the end (cf. p.52 of this History) Ea as reproaching Bel for having confounded the innocent and the guilty in one punishment.
** The name of this individual has been read in various ways: Shamashnapishtim, |sun of life,| Sitnapishtim, |the saved,| and Pirnapishtim. In one passage at least we find, in place of Shamashnapishtim, the name or epithet of Aclrakhasis, or by inversion Khasisadra, which appears to signify |the very shrewd,| and is explained by the skill with which he interpreted the oracle of Ea. Khasisadra is most probably the form which the Greeks have transcribed by Xisuthros, Sisuthros, Sisithes.
*** The account of the Deluge covers the eleventh tablet of the poem of Gilgames. The hero, threatened with death, proceeds to rejoin his ancestor Shamashnapishtim to demand from him the secret of immortality, and the latter tells him the manner in which he escaped from the waters: he had saved his life only at the expense of the destruction of men. The text of it was published by Smith and by Haupt, fragment by fragment, and then restored consecutively. The studies of which it is the object would make a complete library. The principal translations are those of Smith, of Oppert, of Lenor-mant, of Haupt, of Jensen, of A. Jeremias, of Sauveplane, and of Zimmern.
[Illustration: 045.jpg Page with ONE OF THE TABLETS OF THE DELUGE SERIES.]
Facsimile by Faucher-Gudin, from the photograph published by G. Smith, Chaldaean Account of the Deluge from terra-cotta tablets found at Nineveh.
He confided to a hedge of reeds the resolution that had been adopted:* |Hedge, hedge, wall, wall! Hearken, hedge, and understand well, wall! Man of Shurippak, son of Ubaratutu, construct a wooden house, build a ship, abandon thy goods, seek life; throw away thy possessions, save thy life, and place in the vessel all the seed of life. The ship which thou shalt build, let its proportions be exactly measured, let its dimensions and shape be well arranged, then launch it in the sea.| Shamashnapishtim heard the address to the field of reeds, or perhaps the reeds repeated it to him. |I understood it, and I said to my master Ea 'The command, O my master, which thou hast thus enunciated, I myself will respect it, and I will execute it: but what shall I say to the town, the people and the elders?'| Ea opened his mouth and spake; he said to his servant: |Answer thus and say to them: 'Because Bel hates me, I will no longer dwell in your town, and upon the land of Bel I will no longer lay my head, but I will go upon the sea, and will dwell with Ea my master. Now Bel will make rain to fall upon you, upon the swarm of birds and the multitude of fishes, upon all the animals of the field, and upon all the crops; but Ea will give you a sign: the god who rules the rain will cause to fall upon you, on a certain evening, an abundant rain. When the dawn of the next day appears, the deluge will begin, which will cover the earth and drown all living things.'| Shamashnapishtim repeated the warning to the people, but the people refused to believe it, and turned him into ridicule. The work went rapidly forward: the hull was a hundred and forty cubits long, the deck one hundred and forty broad; all the joints were caulked with pitch and bitumen. A solemn festival was observed at its completion, and the embarkation began.** |All that I possessed I filled the ship with it all that I had of silver, I filled it with it; all that I had of gold I filled it with it, all that I had of the seed of life of every kind I filled it with it; I caused all my family and my servants to go up into it; beasts of the field, wild beasts of the field, I caused them to go up all together. Shamash had given me a sign: 'When the god who rules the rain, in the evening shall cause an abundant rain to fall, enter into the ship and close thy door.' The sign was revealed: the god who rules the rain caused to fall one night an abundant rain. The day, I feared its dawning; I feared to see the daylight; I entered into the ship and I shut the door; that the ship might be guided, I handed over to Buzur-Bel, the pilot, the great ark and its fortunes.|
* The sense of this passage is far from being certain; I have followed the interpretation proposed, with some variations, by Pinches, by Haupt, and by Jensen. The stratagem at once recalls the history of King Midas, and the talking reeds which knew the secret of his ass's ears. In the version of Berossus, it is Kronos who plays the part here assigned to Ea in regard to Xisuthros.
** The text is mutilated, and does not furnish enough information to follow in every detail the building of the ark. From what we can understand, the vessel of
Shamashnapishtim was a kind of immense kelek, decked, but without masts or rigging of any sort. The text identifies the festival celebrated by the hero before the embarkation with the festival Akitu of Merodach, at Babylon, during which |Nebo, the powerful son, sailed from Borsippa to Babylon in the bark of the river Asmu, of beauty.| The embarkation of Nebo and his voyage on the stream had probably inspired the information according to which the embarkation of Shamashnapishtim was made the occasion of a festival Akitu, celebrated at Shurippak; the time of the Babylonian festival was probably thought to coincide with the anniversary of the Deluge.
|As soon as the morning became clear, a black cloud arose from the foundations of heaven. Bamman growled in its bosom; Nebo and Marduk ran before it -- ran like two throne-bearers over hill and dale. Nera the Great tore up the stake to which the ark was moored. Ninib came up quickly; he began the attack; the Anunnaki raised their torches and made the earth to tremble at their brilliancy; the tempest of Ramman scaled the heaven, changed all the light to darkness, flooded the earth like a lake.* For a whole day the hurricane raged, and blew violently over the mountains and over the country; the tempest rushed upon men like the shock of an army, brother no longer beheld brother, men recognized each other no more.
* The progress of the tempest is described as the attack of the gods, who had resolved on the destruction of men. Ramman is the thunder which growls in the cloud; Nebo, Merodach, Nera the Great (Nergal), and Ninib, denote the different phases of the hurricane from the moment when the wind gets up until it is at its height; the Anunnaki represent the lightning which flashes carelessly across the heaven.
[Illustration: 048.jpg SHAMASHNAPISHTIM SHUT INTO THE ARK.]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a Chalaean intaglio.
In heaven, the gods were afraid of the deluge;* they betook themselves to flight, they clambered to the firmament of Anu; the gods, howling like dogs, cowered upon the parapet.** Ishtar wailed like a woman in travail; she cried out, |the lady of life, the goddess with the beautiful voice: 'The past returns to clay, because I have prophesied evil before the gods! Prophesying evil before the gods, I have counselled the attack to bring my men to nothing; and these to whom I myself have given birth, where are they? Like the spawn of fish they encumber the sea! 'The gods wept with her over the affair of the Anunnaki;' the gods, in the place where they sat weeping, their lips were closed.| It was not pity only which made their tears to flow: there were mixed up with it feelings of regret and fears for the future. Mankind once destroyed, who would then make the accustomed offerings? The inconsiderate anger of Bel, while punishing the impiety of their creatures, had inflicted injury upon themselves. |Six days and nights the wind continued, the deluge and the tempest raged. The seventh day at daybreak the storm abated; the deluge, which had carried on warfare like an army, ceased, the sea became calm and the hurricane disappeared, the deluge ceased. I surveyed the sea with my eyes, raising my voice; but all mankind had returned to clay, neither fields nor woods could be distinguished.*** I opened the hatchway and the light fell upon my face; I sank down, I cowered, I wept, and my tears ran down my cheeks when I beheld the world all terror and all sea. At the end of twelve days, a point of land stood up from the waters, the ship touched the land of Nisir:**** the mountain of Nisir stopped the ship and permitted it to float no longer. One day, two days, the mountain of Nisir stopped the ship and permitted it to float no longer.
* The gods enumerated above alone took part in the drama of the Deluge: they were the confederates and emissaries of Bel. The others were present as spectators of the disaster, and were terrified.
** The upper part of the mountain wall is here referred to, upon which the heaven is supported. There was a narrow space between the escarpment and the place upon which the vault of the firmament rested: the Babylonian poet represented the gods as crowded like a pack of hounds upon this parapet, and beholding from it the outburst of the tempest and the waters.
***The translation is uncertain: the text refers to a legend which has not come down to us, in which Ishtar is related to have counselled the destruction of men.
**** The Anunnaki represent here the evil genii whom the gods that produced the deluge had let loose, and whom Ramman, Nebo, Merodach, Nergal, and Ninib, all the followers of Bel, had led to the attack upon men: the other deities shared the fears and grief of Ishtar in regard to the ravages which these Anunnaki had brought about (cf. below, pp.141-143 of this History).
Three days, four days, the mountain of Nisir* stopped the ship and permitted it to float no longer. Five days, six days, the mountain of Nisir stopped the ship and permitted it to float no longer. The seventh day, at dawn, I took out a dove and let it go: the dove went, turned about, and as there was no place to alight upon, came back. I took out a swallow and let it go: the swallow went, turned about, and as there was no place to alight upon, came back. I took out a raven and let it go: the raven went, and saw that the water had abated, and came near the ship flapping its wings, croaking, and returned no more.| Shamashnapishtim escaped from the deluge, but he did not know whether the divine wrath was appeased, or what would be done with him when it became known that he still lived.** He resolved to conciliate the gods by expiatory ceremonies. |I sent forth the inhabitants of the ark towards the four winds, I made an offering, I poured out a propitiatory libation on the summit of the mountain. I set up seven and seven vessels, and I placed there some sweet-smelling rushes, some cedar-wood, and storax.| He thereupon re-entered the ship to await there the effect of his sacrifice.
* I have adopted, in the translation of this difficult passage, the meaning suggested by Haupt, according to which it ought to be translated, |The field makes nothing more than one with the mountain;| that is to say, |mountains and fields are no longer distinguishable one from another.| I have merely substituted for mountain the version wood, piece of land covered with trees, which Jensen has suggested.
** The mountain of Nisir is replaced in the version of Berossus by the Gordyaean mountains of classical geography; a passage of Assur-nazir-pal informs us that it was situated between the Tigris and the Great Zab, according to Delitzsch between 35 deg. and 36 deg. N. latitude. The Assyrian-speaking people interpreted the name as Salvation, and a play upon words probably decided the placing upon its slopes the locality where those saved from the deluge landed on the abating of the waters. Fr. Lenormant proposes to identify it with the peak Rowandiz.
The gods, who no longer hoped for such a wind-fall, accepted the sacrifice with a wondering joy. |The gods sniffed up the odour, the gods sniffed up the excellent odour, the gods gathered like flies above the offering. |When Ishtar, the mistress of life, came in her turn, she held up the great amulet which Anu had made for her.|* She was still furious against those who had determined upon the destruction of mankind, especially against Bel: |These gods, I swear it on the necklace of my neck! I will not forget them; these days I will remember, and will not forget them for ever. Let the other gods come quickly to take part in the offering. Bel shall have no part in the offering, for he was not wise: but he has caused the deluge, and he has devoted my people to destruction.| Bel himself had not recovered his temper: |When he arrived in his turn and saw the ship, he remained immovable before it, and his heart was filled with rage against the gods of heaven. 'Who is he who has come out of it living? No man must survive the destruction!'| The gods had everything to fear from his anger: Ninib was eager to exculpate himself, and to put the blame upon the right person. Ea did not disavow his acts: |he opened his mouth and spake; he said to Bel the warrior: 'Thou, the wisest among the gods, O warrior, why wert thou not wise, and didst cause the deluge? The sinner, make him responsible for his sin; the criminal, make him responsible for his crime: but be calm, and do not cut off all; be patient, and do not drown all. What was the good of causing the deluge? A lion had only to come to decimate the people. What was the good of causing the deluge? A leopard had only to come to decimate the people. What was the good of causing the deluge? Famine had only to present itself to desolate the country. What was the good of causing the deluge? Nera the Plague had only to come to destroy the people. As for me, I did, not reveal the judgment of the gods: I caused Khasisadra to dream a dream, and he became aware of the judgment of the gods, and then he made his resolve.'| Bel was pacified at the words of Ea: |he went up into the interior of the ship; he took hold of my hand and made me go up, even me; he made my wife go up, and he pushed her to my side; he turned our faces towards him, he placed himself between us, and blessed us: 'Up to this time Shamashnapishtim was a man: henceforward let Shamashnapishtim and his wife be reverenced like us, the gods, and let Shamashnapishtim dwell afar off, at the mouth of the seas, and he carried us away and placed us afar off, at the mouth of the seas.'| Another form of the legend relates that by an order of the god, Xisuthros, before embarking, had buried in the town of Sippara all the books in which his ancestors had set forth the sacred sciences -- books of oracles and omens, |in which were recorded the beginning, the middle, and the end. When he had disappeared, those of his companions who remained on board, seeing that he did not return, went out and set off in search of him, calling him by name. He did not show himself to them, but a voice from heaven enjoined upon them to be devout towards the gods, to return to Babylon and dig up the books in order that they might be handed down to future generations; the voice also informed them that the country in which they were was Armenia. They offered sacrifice in turn, they regained their country on foot, they dug up the books of Sippara and wrote many more; afterwards they refounded Babylon.| It was even maintained in the time of the Seleucido, that a portion of the ark existed on one of the summits of the Gordyaean mountains.** Pilgrimages were made to it, and the faithful scraped off the bitumen which covered it, to make out of it amulets of sovereign virtue against evil spells.
[Illustration: 051.jpg THE JUDI MOUNTAINS SOMETIMES IDENTIFIED WITH TUB NTSIB MOUNTAINS.]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a sketch by G. Smith, Assyrian Discoveries, p.108.
* We are ignorant of the object which the goddess lifted up: it may have been the sceptre surmounted by a radiating star, such as we see on certain cylinders. Several Assyriologists translate it arrows or lightning. Ishtar is, in fact, an armed goddess who throws the arrow or lightning made by her father Anu, the heaven.
** Bekossus, fragm. xv. The legend about the remains of the ark has passed into Jewish tradition concerning the Deluge. Nicholas of Damascus relates, like Berossus, that they were still to be seen on the top of Mount Baris. From that time they have been continuously seen, sometimes on one peak and sometimes on another. In the last century they were pointed out to Chardin, and the memory of them has not died out in our own century. Discoveries of charcoal and bitumen, such as those made at Gebel Judi, upon one of the mountains identified with Nisir, probably explain many of these local traditions.
The chronicle of these fabulous times placed, soon after the abating of the waters, the foundation of a new dynasty, as extraordinary or almost as extraordinary in character as that before the flood. According to Berossus it was of Chaldaean origin, and comprised eighty-six kings, who bore rule during 34,080 years; the first two, Evechous and Khomasbelos, reigned 2400 and 2700 years, while the later reigns did not exceed the ordinary limits of human life. An attempt was afterwards made to harmonize them with probability: the number of kings was reduced to six, and their combined reigns to 225 years. This attempt arose from a misapprehension of their true character; names and deeds, everything connected with them belongs to myth and fiction only, and is irreducible to history proper. They supplied to priests and poets material for scores of different stories, of which several have come down to us in fragments. Some are short, and serve as preambles to prayers or magical formulas; others are of some length, and may pass for real epics. The gods intervene in them, and along with kings play an important part. It is Nera, for instance, the lord of the plague, who declares war against mankind in order to punish them for having despised the authority of Anu. He makes Babylon to feel his wrath first: |The children of Babel, they were as birds, and the bird-catcher, thou wert he! thou takest them in the net, thou enclosest them, thou decimatest them -- hero Nera!| One after the other he attacks the mother cities of the Euphrates and obliges them to render homage to him -- even Uruk, |the dwelling of Anu and Ishtar -- the town of the priestesses, of the almehs, and the sacred courtesans; |then he turns upon the foreign nations and carries his ravages as far as Phoenicia. In other fragments, the hero Etana makes an attempt to raise himself to heaven, and the eagle, his companion, flies away with him, without, however, being able to bring the enterprise to a successful issue. Nimrod and his exploits are known to us from the Bible.* |He was a mighty hunter before the Lord: wherefore it is said, Even as Nimrod the mighty hunter before the Lord. And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, and Erech, and Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar.| Almost all the characteristics which are attributed by Hebrew tradition to Nimrod we find in G-ilgames, King of Uruk and descendant of the Shamashnapishtim who had witnessed the deluge.**
* Genesis x.9, 10. Among the Jews and Mussulmans a complete cycle of legends have developed around Nimrod. He built the Tower of Babel; he threw Abraham into a fiery furnace, and he tried to mount to heaven on the back of an eagle. Sayce and Grivel saw in Nimrod an heroic form of Merodach, the god of Babylonia: the majority of living Assyriologists prefer to follow Smith's example, and identify him with the hero Gilgames.
** The name of this hero is composed of three signs, which Smith provisionally rendered Isdubar -- a reading which, modified into Gishdhubar, Gistubar, is still retained by many Assyriologists. There have been proposed one after another the renderings Dhubar, Namrudu, Anamarutu, Numarad, Namrasit, all of which exhibit in the name of the hero that of Nimrod. Pinches discovered, in 1890, what appears to be the true signification of the three signs,Gilgamesh, Gilgames; Sayce and Oppert have compared this name with that of Gilgamos, a Babylonian hero, of whom. AElian has preserved the memory. A. Jeremias continued to reject both the reading and the identification.
Several copies of a poem, in which an unknown scribe had celebrated his exploits, existed about the middle of the VIIth century before our era in the Royal Library at Nineveh; they had been transcribed by order of Assur-banipal from a more ancient copy, and the fragments of them which have come down to us, in spite of their lacunae, enable us to restore the original text, if not in its entirety, at least in regard to the succession of events. They were divided into twelve episodes corresponding with the twelve divisions of the year, and the ancient Babylonian author was guided in his choice of these divisions by something more than mere chance. Gilgames, at first an ordinary mortal under the patronage of the gods, had himself become a god and son of the goddess Aruru: |he had seen the abyss, he had learned everything that is kept secret and hidden, he had even made known to men what had taken place before the deluge.| The sun, who had protected him in his human condition, had placed him beside himself on the judgment-seat, and delegated to him authority to pronounce decisions from which there was no appeal: he was, as it were, a sun on a small scale, before whom the kings, princes, and great ones of the earth humbly bowed their heads.* The scribes had, therefore, some authority for treating the events of his life after the model of the year, and for expressing them in twelve chants, which answered to the annual course of the sun through the twelve months.
* The identity of Gilgames with the Accadian fire-god, or rather with the sun, was recognized from the first by H. Rawlinson, and has been accepted since by almost all Assyriologists. A tablet brought back by G. Smith, called attention to by Fr. Delitzsch, and published by Haupt, contains the remains of a hymn addressed to Gilgames, |the powerful king, the king of the Spirits of the Earth.|
[Illustration: 057.jpg GILGAMES STRANGLES A LION.]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from an Assyrian bas-relief from Khorsabad, in the Museum of the Louvre
The whole story is essentially an account of his struggles with Ishtar, and the first pages reveal him as already at issue with the goddess. His portrait, such as the monuments have preserved it for us, is singularly unlike the ordinary type: one would be inclined to regard it as representing an individual of a different race, a survival of some very ancient nation which had held rule on the plains of the Euphrates before the arrival of the Sumerian or Semitic* tribes.
* Smith (The Chaldaean Account of Genesis, p.194) remarked the difference between the representations of Gilgames and the typical Babylonian: he concluded from this that the hero was of Ethiopian origin. Hommel declares that his features have neither a Sumerian nor Semitic aspect, and that they raise an insoluble question in ethnology.
His figure is tall, broad, muscular to an astonishing degree, and expresses at once vigour and activity; his head is massive, bony, almost square, with a somewhat flattened face, a large nose, and prominent cheek-bones, the whole framed by an abundance of hair, and a thick beard symmetrically curled. All the young men of Uruk, the well-protected, were captivated by the prodigious strength and beauty of the hero; the elders of the city betook themselves to Ishtar to complain of the state of neglect to which the young generation had relegated them. |He has no longer a rival in their hearts, but thy subjects are led to battle, and Gilgames does not send one child back to his father. Night and day they cry after him: 'It is he the shepherd of Uruk, the well-protected, he is its shepherd and master, he the powerful, the perfect and the wise.'| Even the women did not escape the general enthusiasm: |he leaves not a single virgin to her mother, a single daughter to a warrior, a single wife to her master. Ishtar heard their complaint, the gods heard it, and cried with a loud voice to Aruru: 'It is thou, Aruru, who hast given him birth; create for him now his fellow, that he may be able to meet him on a day when it pleaseth him, in order that they may fight with each other and Uruk may be delivered.'When Aruru heard them, she created in her heart a man of Anu. Aruru washed her hands, took a bit of clay, cast it upon the earth, kneaded it and created Babani, the warrior, the exalted scion, the man of Ninib, whose whole body is covered with hair, whose tresses are as long as those of a woman; the locks of his hair bristle on his head like those on the corn-god; he is clad in a vestment like that of the god of the fields; he browses with the gazelles, he quenches his thirst with the beasts of the field, he sports with the beasts of the waters.| Frequent representations of Eabani are found upon the monuments; he has the horns of a goat, the legs and tail of a bull.* He possessed not only the strength of a brute, but his intelligence also embraced all things, the past and the future: he would probably have triumphed over Gilgames if Shamash had not succeeded in attaching them to one another by an indissoluble tie of friendship. The difficulty was to draw these two future friends together, and to bring them face to face without their coming to blows; the god sent his courier Saidu, the hunter, to study the habits of the monster, and to find out the necessary means to persuade him to come down peaceably to Uruk. |Saidu, the hunter, proceeded to meet Eabani near the entrance of the watering-place. One day, two days, three days, Eabani met him at the entrance of the watering-place. He perceived Saidu, and his countenance darkened: he entered the enclosure, he became sad, he groaned, he cried with a loud voice, his heart was heavy, his features were distorted, sobs burst from his breast. The hunter saw from a distance that his face was inflamed with anger,| and judging it more prudent not to persevere farther in his enterprise, returned to impart to the god what he had observed.
* Smith was the first, I believe, to compare his form to that of a satyr or faun; this comparison is rendered more probable by the fact that the modern inhabitants of Chaldaea believe in the existence of similar monsters. A. Jeremias places Eabani alongside Priapus, who is generally a god of the fields, and a clever soothsayer. Following out these ideas, we might compare our Eabani with the Graico-Roman Proteus, who pastures the flocks of the sea, and whom it was necessary to pursue and seize by force or cunning words to compel him to give oracular predictions.
[Illustration: 060.jpg GILGAMES FIGHTS, ON THE LEFT WITH A BULL, ON THE RIGHT WITH EABANI.]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a Chaldaean intaglio in the Museum at the Hague. The original measures about 1 7/10 inch in height.
|I was afraid,| said he, in finishing his narrative,* |and I did not approach him. He had filled up the pit which I had dug to trap him, he broke the nets which I had spread, he delivered from my hands the cattle and the beasts of the field, he did not allow me to search the country through.| Shamash thought that where the strongest man might fail by the employment of force, a woman might possibly succeed by the attractions of pleasure; he commanded Saidu to go quickly to Uruk and there to choose from among the priestesses of Ishtar one of the most beautiful.** The hunter presented himself before Grilgames, recounted to him his adventures, and sought his permission to take away with him one of the sacred courtesans. |'Go, my hunter, take the priestess; when the beasts come to the watering-place, let her display her beauty; he will see her, he will approach her, and his beasts that troop around him will be scattered.'|*** The hunter went, he took with him the priestess, he took the straight road; the third day they arrived at the fatal plain. The hunter and the priestess sat down to rest; one day, two days, they sat at the entrance of the watering-place from whose waters Eabani drank along with the animals, where he sported with the beasts of the water.
* Haupt, Das Babylonische Nimrodepos, p.9, 11.42-50. The beginning of each line is destroyed, and the translation of the whole is only approximate.
** The priestesses of Ishtar were young and beautiful women, devoted to the service of the goddess and her worshippers. Besides the title qadishtu, priestess, they bore various names, kizireti, ukhati, kharimati; the priestess who accompanied Saidu was an ukhat.
*** As far as can be guessed from the narrative, interrupted as it is by so many lacunae, the power of Eabani over the beasts of the field seems to have depended on his
continence. From the moment in which he yields to his passions the beasts fly from him as they would do from an ordinary mortal; there is then no other resource for him but to leave the solitudes to live among men in towns. This explains the means devised by Shamash against him: cf. in the Arabian Nights the story of Shehabeddin.
|When Eabani arrived, he who dwells in the mountains, and who browses upon the grass like the gazelles, who drinks with the animals, who sports with the beasts of the water, the priestess saw the satyr.| She was afraid and blushed, but the hunter recalled her to her duty. |It is he, priestess. Undo thy garment, show him thy form, that he may be taken with thy beauty; be not ashamed, but deprive him of his soul. He perceives thee, he is rushing towards thee, arrange thy garment; he is coming upon thee, receive him with every art of woman; his beasts which troop around him will be scattered, and he will press thee to his breast.| The priestess did as she was commanded; she received him with every art of woman, and he pressed her to his breast. Six days and seven nights, Eabani remained near the priestess, his well-beloved. When he got tired of pleasure he turned his face towards his cattle, and he saw that the gazelles had turned aside and that the beasts of the field had fled far from him. Eabani was alarmed, he fell into a swoon, his knees became stiff because his cattle had fled from him. While he lay as if dead, he heard the voice of the priestess: he recovered his senses, he came to himself full of love; he seated himself at the feet of the priestess, he looked into her face, and while the priestess spoke his ears listened. For it was to him the priestess spoke -- to him, Eabani. |Thou who art superb, Eabani, as a god, why dost thou live among the beasts of the field? Come, I will conduct thee to Uruk the well-protected, to the glorious house, the dwelling of Anu and Ishtar -- to the place where is Gilgames, whose strength is supreme, and who, like a Urus, excels the heroes in strength.| While she thus spoke to him, he hung upon her words, he the wise of heart, he realized by anticipation a friend. Eabani said to the priestess: |Let us go, priestess; lead me to the glorious and holy abode of Anu and Ishtar -- to the place where is Gilgames, whose strength is supreme, and who, like a Urus, prevails over the heroes by his strength. I will fight with him and manifest to him my power; I will send forth a panther against Uruk, and he must struggle with it.|* The priestess conducted her prisoner to Uruk, but the city at that moment was celebrating the festival of Tammuz, and Gilgames did not care to interrupt the solemnities in order to face the tasks to which Eabani had invited him: what was the use of such trials since the gods themselves had deigned to point out to him in a dream the line of conduct he was to pursue, and had taken up the cause of their children. Shamash, in fact, began the instruction of the monster, and sketched an alluring picture of the life which awaited him if he would agree not to return to his mountain home. Not only would the priestess belong to him for ever, having none other than him for husband, but Gilgames would shower upon him riches and honours. |He will give thee wherein to sleep a great bed cunningly wrought; he will seat thee on his divan, he will give thee a place on his left hand, and the princes of the earth shall kiss thy feet, the people of Uruk shall grovel on the ground before thee.| It was by such flatteries and promises for the future that Gilgames gained the affection of his servant Eabani, whom he loved for ever.
* I have softened down a good deal the account of the seduction, which is described with a sincerity and precision truly primitive.
Shamash had reasons for being urgent. Khumbaba, King of Elam, had invaded the country of the Euphrates, destroyed the temples, and substituted for the national worship the cult of foreign deities;* the two heroes in concert could alone check his advance, and kill him. They collected their troops, set out on the march, having learned from a female magician that the enemy had concealed himself in a sacred grove. They entered it in disguise, |and stopped in rapture for a moment before the cedar trees; they contemplated the height of them, they contemplated the thickness of them; the place where Khumbaba was accustomed to walk up and down with rapid strides, alleys were made in it, paths kept up with great care. They saw at length the hill of cedars, the abode of the gods, the sanctuary of Irnini, and before the hill, a magnificent cedar, and pleasant grateful shade.| They surprised Khumbaba at the moment when he was about to take his outdoor exercise, cut off his head, and came back in triumph to Uruk.** |Gilgames brightened his weapons, he polished his weapons. He put aside his war-harness, he put on his white garments, he adorned himself with the royal insignia, and bound on the diadem: Gilgames put his tiara on his head, and bound on his diadem.|
* Khumbaba contains the name of the Elamite god, Khumba, whichenters into the composition of names of towns, like Ti- Khumbi; or into those of princes, as Khumbanigash,
Khumbasundasa, Khumbasidh. The comparison between Khumbaba and Combabos, the hero of a singular legend, current in the second century of our era, does not seem to be admissible, at least for the present. The names agree well in sound, but, as Oppert has rightly said, no event in the history of Combabos finds a counterpart in anything we know of that of Khumbaba up to the present.
** G. Smith places at this juncture Gilgames's accession to the throne; this is not confirmed by the fragments of the text known up to the present, and it is not even certain that the poem relates anywhere the exaltation and coronation of the hero. It would appear even that Gilgames is
recognized from the beginning as King of Uruk, the well- protected.
Ishtar saw him thus adorned, and the same passion consumed her which inflames mortals.* |To the love of Gilgames she raised her eyes, the mighty Ishtar, and she said, 'Come, Gilgames, be my husband, thou! Thy love, give it to me, as a gift to me, and thou shalt be my spouse, and I shall be thy wife. I will place thee in a chariot of lapis and gold, with golden wheels and mountings of onyx: thou shalt be drawn in it by great lions, and thou shalt enter our house with the odorous incense of cedar-wood. When thou shalt have entered our house, all the country by the sea shall embrace thy feet, kings shall bow down before thee, the nobles and the great ones, the gifts of the mountains and of the plain they will bring to thee as tribute. Thy oxen shall prosper, thy sheep shall be doubly fruitful, thy mules shall spontaneously come under the yoke, thy chariot-horse shall be strong and shall galop, thy bull under the yoke shall have no rival.'| Gilgames repels this unexpected declaration with a mixed feeling of contempt and apprehension: he abuses the goddess, and insolently questions her as to what has become of her mortal husbands during her long divine life. |Tammuz, the spouse of thy youth, thou hast condemned him to weep from year to year.** Nilala, the spotted sparrow-hawk, thou lovedst him, afterward thou didst strike him and break his wing: he continues in the wood and cries: 'O, my wings!'*** Thou didst afterwards love a lion of mature strength, and then didst cause him to be rent by blows, seven at a time.**** Thou lovedst also a stallion magnificent in the battle; thou didst devote him to death by the goad and whip: thou didst compel him to galop for ten leagues, thou didst devote him to exhaustion and thirst, thou didst devote to tears his mother Silili.
* Ishtar's declaration to Gilgames and the hero's reply have been frequently translated and summarized since the discovery of the poem. Smith thought to connect this episode with the |Descent of Ishtar to Hades,| which we shall meet with further on in this History, but his opinion is no longer accepted. The |Descent of Ishtar| in its present condition is the beginning of a magical formula: it has nothing to do with the acts of Gilgames.
** Tammuz-Adonis is the only one known to us among this long list of the lovers of the goddess. The others must have been fairly celebrated among the Chaldaeans, since the few words devoted to each is sufficient to recall them to the memory of the reader, but we have not as yet found anything bearing upon their adventures in the table of the ancient Chaldaeo-Assyrian classics, which had been copied out by a Ninevite scribe for the use of Assur-bani-pal, the title of the poems is wanting.
*** The text gives kappi, and the legend evidently refers to a bird whose cry resembles the word meaning |my
wings.| The spotted sparrow-hawk utters a cry which may be strictly understood and interpreted in this way.
**** This is evidently the origin of our fable of the |Amorous Lion.|
Thou didst also love the shepherd Tabulu, who lavished incessantly upon thee the smoke of sacrifices, and daily slaughtered goats to thee; thou didst strike him and turn him into a leopard; his own servants went in pursuit of him, and his dogs followed his trail.* Thou didst love Ishullanu, thy father's gardener, who ceaselessly brought thee presents of fruit, and decorated every day thy table. Thou raisedst thine eyes to him, thou seizedst him: 'My Ishullanu, we shall eat melons, then shalt thou stretch forth thy hand and remove that which separates us.' Ishullanu said to thee: 'I, what dost thou require from me? O my mother, prepare no food for me, I myself will not eat: anything I should eat would be for me a misfortune and a curse, and my body would be stricken by a mortal coldness.' Then thou didst hear him and didst become angry, thou didst strike him, thou didst transform him into a dwarf, thou didst set him up on the middle of a couch; he could not rise up, he could not get down from where he was. Thou lovest me now, afterwards thou wilt strike me as thou didst these.|**
* The changing of a lover, by the goddess or sorceress who loves him, into a beast, occurs pretty frequently in Oriental tales; as to the man changed by Ishtar into a brute, which she caused to be torn by his own hounds, we may compare the classic story of Artemis surprised at her bath by Actseon.
** As to the misfortune of Ishullanu, we may compare the story in the Abrabian Nights of the Fisherman and the Genie shut up in the leaden bottle. The king of the Black Islands was transformed into a statue from the waist to the feet by the sorceress, whom he had married and afterwards offended; he remained lying on a bed, from which he could not get down, and the unfaithful one came daily to whip him.
|When Ishtar heard him, she fell into a fury, she ascended to heaven. The mighty Ishtar presented herself before her father Anu, before her mother Anatu she presented herself, and said: 'My father, Grilgames has despised me. Grilgames has enumerated my unfaithfulnesses, my unfaithfulnesses and my ignominies.' Anu opened his mouth and spake to the mighty Ishtar: 'Canst thou not remain quiet now that Gilgames has enumerated to thee thy unfaithfulnesses, thy unfaithfulnesses and ignominies?'| But she refused to allow the outrage to go unpunished. She desired her father to make a celestial urus who would execute her vengeance on the hero; and, as he hesitated, she threatened to destroy every living thing in the entire universe by suspending the impulses of desire, and the effect of love. Anu finally gives way to her rage: he creates a frightful urus, whose ravages soon rendered uninhabitable the neighbourhood of Uruk the well-protected. The two heroes, Gilgames and Eabani, touched by the miseries and terror of the people, set out on the chase, and hastened to rouse the beast from its lair on the banks of the Euphrates in the marshes, to which it resorted after each murderous onslaught.
[Illustration: 068.jpg GILGAMES AND EABANI FIGHTING WITH MONSTERS.]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a Chaldaean intaglio in the New York Museum. The original is about an inch and a half in height.
A troop of three hundred valiant warriors penetrated into the thickets in three lines to drive the animal towards the heroes. The beast with head lowered charged them; but Eabani seized it with one hand by the right horn, and with the other by the tail, and forced it to rear. Gilgames at the same instant, seizing it by the leg, plunged his dagger into its heart. The beast being despatched, they celebrated their victory by a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and poured out a libation to Sharnash, whose protection had not failed them in this last danger. Ishtar, her projects of vengeance having been defeated, |ascended the ramparts of Uruk the well-protected. She sent forth a loud cry, she hurled forth a malediction: 'Cursed be Gilgames, who has insulted me, and who has killed the celestial urus.' Eabani heard these words of Ishtar, he tore a limb from the celestial urus and threw it in the face of the goddess: 'Thou also I will conquer, and I will treat thee like him: I will fasten the curse upon thy sides.' Ishtar assembled her priestesses, her female votaries, her frenzied women, and together they intoned a dirge over the limb of the celestial urus. Gilgames assembled all the turners in ivory, and the workmen were astonished at the enormous size of the horns; they were worth thirty mimae of lapis, their diameter was a half-cubit, and both of them could contain six measures of oil.| He dedicated them to Shamash, and suspended them on the corners of the altar; then he washed his hands in the Euphrates, re-entered Uruk, and passed through the streets in triumph. A riotous banquet ended the day, but on that very night Eabani felt himself haunted by an inexplicable and baleful dream, and fortune abandoned the two heroes. Gilgames had cried in the intoxication of success to the women of Uruk: |Who shines forth among the valiant? Who is glorious above all men? Gilgames shines forth among the valiant, Gilgames is glorious above all men.| Ishtar made him feel her vengeance in the destruction of that beauty of which he was so proud; she covered him with leprosy from head to foot, and made him an object of horror to his friends of the previous day. A life of pain and a frightful death -- he alone could escape them who dared to go to the confines of the world in quest of the Fountain of Youth and the Tree of Life which were said to be there hidden; but the road was rough, unknown, beset by dangers, and no one of those who had ventured upon it had ever returned. Gilgames resolved to brave every peril rather than submit to his fate, and proposed this fresh adventure to his friend Eabani, who, notwithstanding his sad forebodings, consented to accompany him. They killed a tiger on the way, but Eabani was mortally wounded in a struggle in which they engaged in the neighbourhood of Nipur, and breathed his last after an agony of twelve days' duration.
|Gilgames wept bitterly over his friend Eabani, grovelling on the bare earth.| The selfish fear of death struggled in his spirit with regret at having lost so dear a companion, a tried friend in so many encounters. |I do not wish to die like Eabani: sorrow has entered my heart, the fear of death has taken possession of me, and I am overcome. But I will go with rapid steps to the strong Shamashnapishtim, son of Ubaratutu, to learn from him how to become immortal.| He leaves the plain of the Euphrates, he plunges boldly into the desert, he loses himself for a whole day amid frightful solitudes. |I reached at nightfall a ravine in the mountain, I beheld lions and trembled, but I raised my face towards the moon-god, and I prayed: my supplication ascended even to the father of the gods, and he extended over me his protection.| A vision from on high revealed to him the road he was to take. With axe and dagger in hand, he reached the entrance of a dark passage leading into the mountain of Mashu,* |whose gate is guarded day and night by supernatural beings.|
* The land of Mashu is the land to the west of the
Euphrates, coterminous on one part with the northern regions of the Red Sea, on the other with the Persian Gulf; the name appears to be preserved in that of the classic Mesene, and possibly in the land of Massa of the Hebrews.
[Illustration: 071.jpg THE SCORPION-MEN OF THE MOUNTAINS OF MASHU.]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from an Assyrian intaglio.
|The scorpion-men, of whom the stature extends upwards as far as the supports of heaven, and of whom the breasts descend as low as Hades, guard the door. The terror which they inspire strikes down like a thunderbolt; their look kills, their splendour confounds and overturns the mountains; they watch over the sun at his rising and setting. Grilgames perceived them, and his features were distorted with fear and horror; their savage appearance disturbed his mind. The scorpion-man said to his wife: 'He who comes towards us, his body is marked by the gods.'* The scorpion-woman replied to him: 'In his mind he is a god, in his mortal covering he is a man.' The scorpion-man spoke and said: 'It is as the father of the gods, has commanded, he has travelled over distant regions before joining us, thee and me.'| Gilgames learns that the guardians are not evilly disposed towards him, and becomes reassured, tell them his misfortunes and implores permission to pass beyond them so as to reach |Sha-mashnapishtim, his father, who was translated to the gods, and who has at his disposal both life and death.| The scorpion-man in vain shows to him the perils before him, of which the horrible darkness enveloping the Mashu mountains is not the least: Gilgames proceeds through the depths of the darkness for long hours, and afterwards comes out in the neighbourhood of a marvellous forest upon the shore of the ocean which encircles the world. One tree especially excites his wonder: |As soon as he sees it he runs towards it. Its fruits are so many precious stones, its boughs are splendid to look upon, for the branches are weighed down with lapis, and their fruits are superb.| When his astonishment had calmed down, Gilgames begins to grieve, and to curse the ocean which stays his steps. |Sabitu, the virgin who is seated on the throne of the seas,| perceiving him from a distance, retires at first to her castle, and barricades herself within it. He calls out to her from the strand, implores and threatens her in turn, adjures her to help him in his voyage. |If it can be done, I will cross the sea; if it cannot be done, I will lay me down on the land to die.| The goddess is at length touched by his tears. |Gilgames, there has never been a passage hither, and no one from time immemorial has been able to cross the sea. Shamash the valiant crossed the sea; after Shamash, who can cross it? The crossing is troublesome, the way difficult, perilous the Water of Death, which, like a bolt, is drawn between thee and thy aim. Even if, Gilgames, thou didst cross the sea, what wouldest thou do on arriving at the Water of Death?| Arad-Ea, Shamashnapishtim's mariner, can alone bring the enterprise to a happy ending: |if it is possible, thou shalt cross the sea with him; if it is not possible, thou shalt retrace thy steps.|
* We must not forget that Gilgames is covered with leprosy; this is the disease with which the Chaldaean gods mark their enemies when they wish to punish them in a severe fashion.
[Illustration: 073.jpg GILGAMES AND ARAD-EA NAVIGATING THEIR VESSEL.]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a Chaldaean intaglio in the British Museum. The original measures a little over an inch.
Arad-Ea and the hero took ship: forty days' tempestuous cruising brought them to the Waters of Death, which with a supreme effort they passed. Beyond these they rested on their oars and loosed their girdles: the happy island rose up before them, and Shamashnapishtim stood upon the shore, ready to answer the questions of his grandson.
None but a god dare enter his mysterious paradise: the bark bearing an ordinary mortal must stop at some distance from the shore, and the conversation is carried on from on board. Gilgames narrated once more the story of his life, and makes known the object of his visit; Shamashnapishtim answers him stoically that death follows from an inexorable law, to which it is better to submit with a good grace. |However long the time we shall build houses, however long the time we shall put our seal to contracts, however long the time brothers shall quarrel with each other, however long the time there shall be hostility between kings, however long the time rivers shall overflow their banks, we shall not be able to portray any image of death. When the spirits salute a man at his birth, then the genii of the earth, the great gods, Mamitu the moulder of destinies, all of them together assign a fate to him, they determine for him his life and death; but the day of his death remains unknown to him.| Gilgames thinks, doubtless, that his forefather is amusing himself at his expense in preaching resignation, seeing that he himself had been able to escape this destiny. |I look upon thee, Shamashnapishtim, and thy appearance has not changed: thou art like me and not different, thou art like me and I am like thee. Thou wouldest be strong enough of heart to enter upon a combat, to judge by thy appearance; tell me, then, how thou hast obtained this existence among the gods to which thou hast aspired?| Shamashnapishtim yields to his wish, if only to show him how abnormal his own case was, and indicate the merits which had marked him out for a destiny superior to that of the common herd of humanity. He describes the deluge to him, and relates how he was able to escape from it by the favour of Ea, and how by that of Bel he was made while living a member of the army of the gods. |'And now,' he adds, 'as far as thou art concerned, which one of the Gods will bestow upon thee the strength to obtain the life which thou seekest? Come, go to sleep!' Six days and seven nights he is as a man whose strength appears suspended, for sleep has fallen upon him like a blast of wind. Shamashnapishtim spoke to his wife: 'Behold this man who asks for life, and upon whom sleep has fallen like a blast of wind.' The wife answers Shamashnapishtim, the man of distant lands: 'Cast a spell upon him, this man, and he will eat of the magic broth; and the road by which he has come, he will retrace it in health of body; and the great gate through which he has come forth, he will return by it to his country.' Shamashnapishtim spoke to his wife: 'The misfortunes of this man distress thee: very well, cook the broth, and place it by his head.' And while Gilgames still slept on board his vessel, the material for the broth was gathered; on the second day it was picked, on the third it was steeped, on the fourth Shamashnapishtim prepared his pot, on the fifth he put into it 'Senility,' on the sixth the broth was cooked, on the seventh he cast his spell suddenly on his man, and the latter consumed the broth. Then Gilgames spoke to Shamashnapishtim, the inhabitant of distant lands: 'I hesitated, slumber laid hold of me; thou hast cast a spell upon me, thou hast given me the broth.'| The effect would not have been lasting, if other ceremonies had not followed in addition to this spell from the sorcerer's kitchen: Gilgames after this preparation could now land upon the shore of the happy island and purify himself there. Shamashnapishtim confided this business to his mariner Arad-Ea: |'The man whom thou hast brought, his body is covered with ulcers, the leprous scabs have spoiled the beauty of his body. Take him, Arad-Ea, lead him to the place of purification, let him wash his ulcers white as snow in the water, let him get rid of his scabs, and let the sea bear them away so that at length his body may appear healthy. He will then change the fillet which binds his brows, and the loin-cloth which hides his nakedness: until he returns to his country, until he reaches the end of his journey, let him by no means put off the loin-cloth, however ragged; then only shall he have always a clean one.' Then Arad-Ea took him and conducted him to the place of purification: he washed his ulcers white as snow in the water, he got rid of his scabs, and the sea carried them away, so that at length his body appeared healthy. He changed the fillet which bound his brows, the loincloth which hid his nakedness: until he should reach the end of his journey, he was not to put off the loin-cloth, however ragged; then alone was he to have a clean one.| The cure effected, Gilgames goes again on board his bark, and returns to the place where Shamashnapishtim was awaiting him.
Shamashnapishtim would not send his descendant back to the land of the living without making him a princely present. |His wife spoke to him, to him Shamashnapishtim, the inhabitant of distant lands: 'Gilgames has come, he is comforted, he is cured; what wilt thou give to him, now that he is about to return to his country?' He took the oars, Gilgames, he brought the bark near the shore, and Shamashnapishtim spoke to him, to Gilgames: 'Gilgames, thou art going from here comforted; what shall I give thee, now that thou art about to return to thy country? I am about to reveal to thee, Gilgames, a secret, and the judgment of the gods I am about to tell it thee. There is a plant similar to the hawthorn in its flower, and whose thorns prick like the viper. If thy hand can lay hold of that plant without being torn, break from it a branch, and bear it with thee; it will secure for thee an eternal youth.'Gilgames gathers the branch, and in his joy plans with Arad-Ea future enterprises: 'Arad-Ea, this plant is the plant of renovation, by which a man obtains life; I will bear it with me to Uruk the well-protected, I will cultivate a bush from it, I will cut some of it, and its name shall be, |the old man becomes young by it;| I will eat of it, and I shall repossess the vigour of my youth.'| He reckoned without the gods, whose jealous minds will not allow men to participate in their privileges. The first place on which they set foot on shore, |he perceived a well of fresh water, went down to it, and whilst he was drawing water, a serpent came out of it, and snatched from him the plant, yea -- the serpent rushed out and bore away the plant, and while escaping uttered a malediction. That day Gilgames sat down, he wept, and his tears streamed down his cheeks he said to the mariner Arad-Ba: 'What is the use, Arad-Ea, of my renewed strength; what is the use of my heart's rejoicing in my return to life? It is not myself I have served; it is this earthly lion I have served. Hardly twenty leagues on the road, and he for himself alone has already taken possession of the plant. As I opened the well, the plant was lost to me, and the genius of the fountain took possession of it: who am I that I should tear it from him?'| He re-embarks in sadness, he re-enters Uruk the well-protected, and at length begins to think of celebrating the funeral solemnities of Eabani, to whom he was not able to show respect at the time of his death. He supervises them, fulfils the rites, intones the final chant: |The temples, thou shalt enter them no more; the white vestments, thou shalt no longer put them on; the sweet-smelling ointments, thou shalt no longer anoint thyself with them to envelop thee with their perfume. Thou shalt no longer press thy bow to the ground to bend it, but those that the bow has wounded shall surround thee; thou no longer holdest thy sceptre in thy hand, but spectres fascinate thee; thou no longer adornest thy feet with wings, thou no longer givest forth a sound upon the earth. Thy wife whom thou lovedst thou embracest her no more; thy wife whom thou hatedst thou beatest her no more. Thy daughter whom thou lovedst thou embracest her no more; thy daughter whom thou hatedst, thou beatest her no more. The resounding earth lies heavy upon thee, she who is dark, she who is dark, Tjinazu the mother, she who is dark, whose side is-not veiled with splendid vestments, whose bosom, like a new-born animal, is not covered. Eabani has descended from the earth to Hades; it is not the messenger of Nergal the implacable who has snatched him away, it is not the plague which has carried him off, it is not consumption that has carried him off, it is the earth which has carried him off; it is not the field of battle which has carried him off, it is the earth which has carried him off!| Gilgames dragged himself along from temple to temple, repeating his complaint before Bel and before Sin, and at length threw himself at the feet of the god of the Dead, Nergal: |'Burst open the sepulchral cavern, open the ground, that the spirit of Eabani may issue from the soil like a blast of wind.' As soon as Nergal the valiant heard him, he burst open the sepulchral vault, he opened the earth, he caused the spirit of Eabani to issue from the earth like a blast of wind.| Gilgames interrogates him, and asks him with anxiety what the state of the dead may be: |'Tell, my friend, tell, my friend, open the earth and what thou seest tell it.' -- 'I cannot tell it thee, my friend, I cannot tell it thee; if I should open the earth before thee, if I were to tell to thee that which I have seen, terror would overthrow thee, thou wouldest faint away, thou wouldest weep.' -- 'Terror will overthrow me, I shall faint away, I shall weep, but tell it to me.'| And the ghost depicts for him the sorrows of the abode and the miseries of the shades. Those only enjoy some happiness who have fallen with arms in their hands, and who have been solemnly buried after the fight; the manes neglected by their relatives succumb to hunger and thirst.* |On a sleeping couch he lies, drinking pure water, he who has been killed in battle. 'Thou hast seen him?' -- 'I have seen him; his father and his mother support his head, and his wife bends over him wailing.' 'But he whose body remains forgotten in the fields, -- thou hast seen him?' -- 'I have seen him; his soul has no rest at all in the earth.' 'He whose soul no one cares for, -- thou hast seen him?' -- 'I have seen him; the dregs of the cup, the remains of a repast, that which is thrown among the refuse of the street, that is what he has to nourish him.'| This poem did not proceed in its entirety, or at one time, from the imagination of a single individual. Each episode of it answers to some separate legend concerning Gilgames, or the origin of Uruk the well-protected: the greater part preserves under a later form an air of extreme antiquity, and, if the events dealt with have not a precise bearing on the life of a king, they paint in a lively way the vicissitudes of the life of the people.** These lions, leopards, or gigantic uruses with which Grilgames and his faithful Eabani carry on so fierce a warfare, are not, as is sometimes said, mythological animals.
* Cf. vol. i. pp.160, 161 of this History for analogous ideas among the Egyptians as to the condition of the dead who were neglected by their relatives: the Egyptian double had to live on the same refuse as the Chaldaean soul.
** G. Smith, identifying Gilgames with Nimrod, believes, on the other hand, that Nimrod was a real king, who reigned in Mesopotamia about 2250 B.C.; the poem contains, according to him, episodes, more or less embellished, in the life of the sovereign.
Similar monsters, it was believed, appeared from time to time in the marshes of Chaldaea, and gave proof of their existence to the inhabitants of neighbouring villages by such ravages as real lions and tigers commit in India or the Sahara. It was the duty of chiefs on the border lands of the Euphrates, as on the banks of the Nile, as among all peoples still sunk in semi-barbarism, to go forth to the attack of these beasts single-handed, and to sacrifice themselves one after the other, until one of them more fortunate or stronger than the rest should triumph over these mischievous brutes. The kings of Babylon and Nineveh in later times converted into a pleasure that which had been an official duty of their early predecessors: Gilgames had not yet arrived at that stage, and the seriousness, not to speak of the fear, with which he entered on the fight with such beasts, is an evidence of the early date of the portions of his history which are concerned with his hunting exploits. The scenes are represented on the seals of princes who reigned prior to the year 3000 B.C., and the work of the ancient engraver harmonizes so perfectly with the description of the comparatively modern scribe that it seems like an anticipated illustration of the latter; the engravings represent so persistently and with so little variation the images of the monsters, and those of Gilgames and his faithful Eabani, that the corresponding episodes in the poem must have already existed as we know them, if not in form, at least in their main drift. Other portions of the poem are more recent, and it would seem that the expedition against Khumbaba contains allusions to the Elamite* invasions from which Chaldaea had suffered so much towards the XXth century before our era. The traditions which we possess of the times following the Deluge, embody, like the adventures of Gilganes, very ancient elements, which the scribes or narrators wove together in a more or less skilful manner around the name of some king or divinity.
* Smith thought he could restore from the poem a part of Chaldaean history: he supposed Izdubar-Nimrod to have been, about 2250, the liberator of Babylon, oppressed by Elam, and the date of the foundation of a great Babylonian empire to have coincided with his victory over the Elamites. The annals of Assurbanipal show us, in fact, that an Elamite king, Kudurnankhundi, had pillaged Uruk about 2280 B.C., and had transported to Susa a statue of the goddess Ishtar.
[Illustration: 082.jpg GILGAMES STRUGGLES WITH A LION]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a Chaldaean intaglio in the British Museum. The original measures about 1 2/5 inch in height.
The fabulous chronicle of the cities of the Euphrates existed, therefore, in a piecemeal condition -- in the memory of the people or in the books of the priests -- before even their primitive history began; the learned who collected it later on had only to select some of the materials with which it furnished them, in order to form out of them a connected narrative, in which the earliest ages were distinguished from the most recent only in the assumption of more frequent and more direct interpositions of the powers of heaven in the affairs of men. Every city had naturally its own version, in which its own protecting deities, its heroes and princes, played the most important parts. That of Babylon threw all the rest into the shade; not that it was superior to them, but because this city had speedily become strong enough to assert its political supremacy over the whole region of the Euphrates. Its scribes were accustomed to see their master treat the lords of other towns as subjects or vassals. They fancied that this must have always been the case, and that from its origin Babylon had been recognized as the queen-city to which its contemporaries rendered homage. They made its individual annals the framework for the history of the entire country, and from the succession of its princely families on the throne, diverse as they were in origin, they constructed a complete canon of the kings of Chaldaea.
But the manner of grouping the names and of dividing the dynasties varied according to the period in which the lists were drawn up, and at the present time we are in possession of at least two systems which the Babylonian historians attempted to construct. Berossus, who communicated one of them to the Greeks about the beginning of the IInd century B.C., would not admit more than eight dynasties in the period of thirty-six thousand years between the Deluge and the Persian invasion. The lists, which he had copied from originals in the cuneiform character, have suffered severely at the hands of his abbreviators, who omitted the majority of the names which seemed to them very barbarous in form, while those who copied these abbreviated lists have made such further havoc with them that they are now for the most part unintelligible. Modern criticism has frequently attempted to restore them, with varying results; the reconstruction here given, which passes for the most probable, is not equally certain in all its parts: -- *
[Illustration: 084.jpg CHRONOLOGIC TABLE]
It was not without reason that Berossus and his authorities had put the sum total of reigns at thirty-six thousand years; this number falls in with a certain astrological period, during which the gods had granted to the Chaldaeans glory, prosperity, and independence, and whose termination coincided with the capture of Babylon by Cyrus.** Others before them had employed the same artifice, but they reckoned ten dynasties in the place of the eight accepted by Berossus: --
* After the example of G. B. Niebuhr, Gutschmid admitted here, as Oppert did, 45 Assyrians; he based his view on Herodotus, in which it is said that the Assyrians held sway in Asia for 520 years, until its conquest by the Medes. Upon the improbability of this opinion, see Schrader's
** The existence of this astronomical or astrological scheme on which Berossus founded his chronology, was pointed out by Brandis, afterwards by Gutschmid; it is now generally accepted.
[Illustration: 085.jpg TABLE]
Attempts have been made to bring the two lists* into harmony, with varying results; in my opinion, a waste of time and labour. For even comparatively recent periods of their history, the Chaldaeans, like the Egyptians, had to depend upon a collection of certain abbreviated, incoherent, and often contradictory documents, from which they found it difficult to make a choice: they could not, therefore, always come to an agreement when they wished to determine how many dynasties had succeeded each other during these doubtful epochs, how many kings were included in each dynasty, and what length of reign was to be assigned to each king. We do not know the motives which influenced Berossus in his preference of one tradition over others; perhaps he had no choice in the matter, and that of which he constituted himself the interpreter was the only one which was then known. In any case, the tradition he followed forms a system which we cannot, modify without misinterpreting the intention of those who drew it up or who have handed it down to us. We must accept or reject it just as it is, in its entirety and without alteration: to attempt to adapt it to the testimony of the monuments would be equivalent to the creation of a new system, and not to the correction simply of the old one. The right course is to put it aside for the moment, and confine ourselves to the original lists whose fragments have come down to us: they do not furnish us, it is true, with a history of Chaldaea such as it unfolded itself from age to age, but they teach us what the later Chaldaeans knew, or thought they knew, of that history. Still it is wise to treat them with some reserve, and not to forget that if they agree with each other in the main, they differ frequently in details. Thus the small dynasties, which are called the VIth and VIIth, include the same number of kings on both the tablets which establish their existence, but the number of years assigned to the names of the kings and the total years of each dynasty vary a little from one another: --
* The first document having claim to the title of Royal Canon was found among the tablets of the British Museum, and was published by G. Smith. The others were successively discovered by Pinches; some erroneous readings in them have been corrected by Fr. Delitzsch, and an exact edition has been published by Knudtzon. Smith's list is the fragment of a chronicle in which the VIth, VIIth, and VIIIth dynasties only are almost complete. One of Pinches's lists consists merely of a number of royal names not arranged in any consistent order, and containing their non-Semitic as well as their Semitic forms. The other two lists are actual canons, giving the names of the kings and the years of their reigns; unfortunately they are much mutilated, and the lacunae in them cannot yet be filled up. All of them have been translated by Sayce.
[Illustration: 080.jpg TABLE]
[Illustration: 081.jpg TABLE]
Is the difference in the calculations the fault of the scribes, who, in mechanically copying and recopying, ended by fatally altering the figures? Or is it to be explained by some circumstance of which we are ignorant -- an association on the throne, of which the duration is at one time neglected with regard to one of the co-regents, and at another time with regard to the other; or was it owing to a question of legitimacy, by which, according to the decision arrived at, a reign was prolonged or abbreviated? Cotemporaneous monuments will some day, perhaps, enable us to solve the problem which the later Chaldaeans did not succeed in clearing up. While awaiting the means to restore a rigorously exact chronology, we must be content with the approximate information furnished by the tablets as to the succession of the Babylonian kings.
Actual history occupied but a small space in the lists -- barely twenty centuries out of a whole of three hundred and sixty: beyond the historic period the imagination was given a free rein, and the few facts which were known disappeared almost completely under the accumulation of mythical narratives and popular stories. It was not that the documents were entirely wanting, for the Chaldaeans took a great interest in their past history, and made a diligent search for any memorials of it. Each time they succeeded in disinterring an inscription from the ruins of a town, they were accustomed to make-several copies of it, and to deposit them among the archives, where they would be open to the examination of their archaeologists.* When a prince undertook the rebuilding of a temple, he always made excavations under the first courses of the ancient structure in order to recover the documents which preserved the memory of its foundation: if he discovered them, he recorded on the new cylinders, in which he boasted of his own work, the name of the first builder, and sometimes the number of years which had elapsed since its erection.**
* We have a considerable number of examples of copies of ancient texts made in this manner. For instance, the dedication of a temple at Uruk by King Singashid, copied by the scribe Nabubalatsuikbi, son of Mizirai (|the Egyptian |), for the temple of Ezida; the legendary history of King Sargon of Agade, copied from the inscription on the base of his statue, of which there will be further mention (pp.91- 93 of this History); a dedication of the King Khammurabi; the inscription of Agumkakrimi, which came from the library of Assurbanipal.
** Nabonidos, for instance, the last king of Babylon before the Persian conquest, has left us a memorial of his excavations. He found in this manner the cylinders of Shagashaltiburiash at Sippara, those of Khammurabi, and those of Naramsin.
We act in a similar way to-day, and our excavations, like those of the Chaldaeans, end in singularly disconnected results: the materials which the earth yields for the reconstruction of the first centuries consist almost entirely of mutilated records of local dynasties, isolated names of sovereigns, dedications of temples to gods, on sites no longer identifiable, of whose nature we know nothing, and too brief allusions to conquests or victories over vaguely designated nations.* The population was dense and life active in the plains of the Lower Euphrates. The cities in this region formed at their origin so many individual and, for the most part, petty states, whose kings and patron gods claimed to be independent of all the neighbouring kings and gods: one city, one god, one lord -- this was the rule here as in the ancient feudal districts from which the nomes of Egypt arose. The strongest of these principalities imposed its laws upon the weakest: formed into unions of two or three under a single ruler, they came to constitute a dozen kingdoms of almost equal strength on the banks of the Euphrates. On the north we are acquainted with those of Agade, Babylon, Kuta, Kharsag-Kalama, and that of Kishu, which comprised a part of Mesopotamia and possibly the distant fortress of Harran: petty as these States were, their rulers attempted to conceal their weakness by assuming such titles as |Kings of the Four Houses of the World,| |Kings of the Universe,| |Kings of Shumir and Akkad.| Northern Babylonia seems to have possessed a supremacy amongst them. We are probably wise in not giving too much credit to the fragmentary tablet which assigns to it a dynasty of kings, of which we have no confirmatory information from other sources -- Amilgula, Shamashnazir, Amilsin, and several others: this list, however, places among these phantom rulers one individual at least, Shargina-Sharrukin, who has left us material evidences of his existence. This Sargon the Elder, whose complete name is Shargani-shar-ali, was the son of a certain Ittibel, who does not appear to have been king. At first his possessions were confined to the city of Agade and some undetermined portions of the environs of Babylon, but he soon succeeded in annexing Babylon itself, Sippara, Kishu, Uruk, Kuta, and Nipur: the contemporary records attest his conquest of Elam, Guti, and even of the far-off land of Syria, which was already known to him under the name of Amuru. His activity as a builder was in no way behind his warlike zeal. He built Ekur, the sanctuary of Bel in Nipur, and the great temple Eulbar in Agade, in honour of Anunit, the goddess presiding over the morning star. He erected in Babylon a palace which afterwards became a royal burying-place. He founded a new capital, a city which he peopled with families brought from Kishu and Babylon: for a long time after his day it bore the name which he bestowed upon it, Dur-Sharrukin. This sums up all the positive knowledge we have about him, and the later Chaldseans seem not to have been much better informed than ourselves.
* The earliest Assyriologists, H. Rawlinson, Oppert, considered the local kings as having been, for the most part, kings of all Chaldaea, and placed them in succession one after the other in the framework of the most ancient dynasties of Berossus. The merit of having established the existence of series of local dynasties, and of having given to Chaldaean history its modern form, belongs to G. Smith. Smith's idea was adopted by Menant, by Delitzsch-Murdter, by Tiele, by Winckler, and by all Assyriologists, with modifications suggested by the progress of decipherment.
They filled up the lacunae of his history with legends. As he seemed to them to have appeared suddenly on the scene, without any apparent connection with the king who preceded him, they assumed that he was a usurper of unknown origin, irregularly introduced by the favour of the gods into the lawful series of kings. An inscription engraved, it was said, on one of his statues, and afterwards, about the VIIth century B.C., copied and deposited in the library of Nineveh, related at length the circumstances of his mysterious birth. |Sharrukin, the mighty king, the king of Agade, am I. My mother was a princess; my father, I did not know him; the brother of my father lived in the mountains. My town was Azupirani, which is situated on the bank of the Euphrates. My mother, the princess, conceived me, and secretly gave birth to me: she placed me in a basket of reeds, she shut up the mouth of it with bitumen, she abandoned me to the river, which did not overwhelm me. The river bore me; it brought me to Akki, the drawer of water. Akki, the drawer of water, received me in the goodness of his heart; Akki, the drawer of water, made me a gardener. As gardener, the goddess Ishtar loved me, and during forty-four years I held royal sway; I commanded the Black Heads,* and ruled them.| This is no unusual origin for the founders of empires and dynasties; witness the cases of Cyrus and Bomulus.* Sargon, like Moses, and many other heroes of history or fable, is exposed to the waters: he owes his safety to a poor fellah who works his shadouf on the banks of the Euphrates to water the fields, and he passes his infancy in obscurity, if not in misery. Having reached the age of manhood, Ishtar falls in love with him as she did with his fellow-craftsman, the gardener Ishullanu, and he becomes king, we know not by what means.
* The phrase |Black Heads,| nishi salmat hahhadi, has been taken in an ethnological sense as designating one of the races of Chaldaea, the Semitic; other Assyriologists consider it as denoting mankind in general. The latter meaning seems the more probable.
** Smith had already compared the infancy of Sargon with that of Moses; the comparison with Cyrus, Bacchus, and Romulus was made by Talbot. Traditions of the same kind are frequent in history or folk-tales.
The same inscription which reveals the romance of his youth, recounts the successes of his manhood, and boasts of the uniformly victorious issue of his warlike exploits. Owing to lacunae, the end of the account is in the main wanting, and we are thus prevented from following the development of his career, but other documents come to the rescue and claim to furnish its most important vicissitudes. He had reduced the cities of the Lower Euphrates, the island of Dilmun, Durilu, Elam, the country of Kazalla: he had invaded Syria, conquered Phoenicia, crossed the arm of the sea which separates Cyprus from the coast, and only returned to his palace after an absence of three years, and after having erected his statues on the Syrian coast. He had hardly settled down to rest when a rebellion broke out suddenly; the chiefs of Chaldaea formed a league against him, and blockaded him in Agade: Ishtar, exceptionally faithful to the end, obtains for him the victory, and he comes out of a crisis, in which he might have been utterly ruined, with a more secure position than ever. All these events are regarded as having occurred sometime about 3800 B.C., at a period when the VIth dynasty was flourishing in Egypt. Some of them have been proved to be true by recent discoveries, and the rest are not at all improbable in themselves, though the work in which they are recorded is a later astrological treatise. The writer was anxious to prove, by examples drawn from the chronicles, the use of portents of victory or defeat, of civic peace or rebellion -- portents which he deduced from the configuration of the heavens on the various days of the month: by going back as far as Sargon of Agade for his instances, he must have at once increased the respect for himself on account of his knowledge of antiquity, and the difficulty which the common herd must have felt in verifying his assertions. His zeal in collecting examples was probably stimulated by the fact that some of the exploits which he attributes to the ancient Sargon had been recently accomplished by a king of the same name: the brilliant career of Sargon of Agade would seem to have been in his estimation something like an anticipation of the still more glorious life of the Sargon of Nineveh.* What better proof of the high veneration in which the learned men of Assyria held the memory of the ancient Chaldaean conqueror? Naramsin, who succeeded Sargon about 3750 B.C.** inherited his authority, and to some extent his renown.
* Hommel (Gescamede, p.307) believes that the life of our Sargon was modelled, not on the Assyrian Sargon, but on a second Sargon, whom he places about 2000 B.C. Tiele refuses to accept the hypothesis, but his objections are not weighty, in my opinion; Hilprecht and Sayce accepted the authenticity of the facts in their details, and the recent discoveries have shown that they were right in so doing. There is a distant resemblance between the life of the legendary Sargon and the account of the victories of Ramses II. ending in a conspiracy on his return.
** The date of Naramsin is given us by the cylinder of Nabonidos, who is cited lower down. It was discovered by Pinches. Its authenticity is maintained by Oppert, by Latrille, by Tiele, by Hommel, who felt at first some hesitation, by Delitzsch-Murdter; it has been called in question, with hesitation, by Ed. Meyer, and more boldly by Winckler. There is at present no serious reason to question its accuracy, at least relatively, except the instinctive repugnance of modern critics to consider as legitimate, dates which carry them back further into the past than they are accustomed to go.
The astrological tablets assert that he attacked the city of Apirak, on the borders of Elam, killed the Sing, Rish-ramman, and led the people away into slavery. He conquered at least part, if not the whole of Elam, and one of the few monuments which have come down to us was raised at Sippara in commemoration of his prowess against the mountaineers of the Zagros. He is represented on it overpowering their chief: his warriors follow after him and charge up the hill, carrying everything before their steady onslaught. Another of his warlike expeditions is said to have had as its field of operations a district of Magan, which, in the view of the writer, undoubtedly represented the Sinaitic Peninsula and perhaps Egypt. This expedition against Magan no doubt took place, and one of the few monuments of Naramsin which have reached us refers to it. Other inscriptions tell us incidentally that Naramsin reigned over the |four Houses of the world,| Babylon, Sippara, Nipur, and Lagash. Like his father, he had worked at the building of the Ekur of Nipur and the Bulbar of Agade; he erected, moreover, at his own cost, the temple of the Sun at Sippara.* The latter passed through many and varied vicissitudes. Restored, enlarged, ruined on several occasions, the date of its construction and the name of its founder were lost in the course of ages.
* The text giving us this information is that in which Nabonidos affirms that Naramsin, son of Sargon of Agado, had founded the temple of the Sun at Sippara, 3200 years before himself, which would give us 3750 B.C. for the reign of Naramsin.
The last independent King of Babylon, Nabonaid [Nabonidos], at length discovered the cylinders in which Naramsin, son of Sargon, had signified to posterity all that he had done towards the erection of a temple worthy of the deity to the god of Sippara: |for three thousand two hundred years not one of the kings had been able to find them.| We have no means of judging what these edifices were like for which the Chaldaeans themselves showed such veneration; they have entirely disappeared, or, if anything remains of them, the excavations hitherto carried out have not revealed it. Many small objects, however, which have accidentally escaped destruction give us a fair idea of the artists who lived in Babylon at this time, and of their skill in handling the graving-tool and chisel. An alabaster vase with the name of Naramsin, and a mace-head of exquisitely veined marble, dedicated by Shargani-shar-ali to the sun-god of Sippara, are valued only on account of the beauty of the material and the rarity of the inscription; but a porphyry cylinder, which belonged to Ibnishar, scribe of the above-named Shargani, must be ranked among the masterpieces of Oriental engraving. It represents the hero Gilgames, kneeling and holding with both hands a spherically shaped vase, from which flow two copious jets forming a stream running through the country; an ox, armed with a pair of gigantic crescent-shaped horns, throws back its head to catch one of the jets as it falls. Everything in this little specimen is equally worthy of admiration -- the purity of outline, the skilful and delicate cutting of the intaglio, the fidelity of the action, and the accuracy of form. A fragment of a bas-relief of the reign of Naramsin shows that the sculptors were not a bit behind the engravers of gems. This consists now only of a single figure, a god, who is standing on the right, wearing a conical head-dress and clothed in a hairy garment which leaves his right arm free. The legs are wanting, the left arm and the hair are for the most part broken away, while the features have also suffered; its distinguishing characteristic is a sublety of workmanship which is lacking in the artistic products of a later age. The outline stands out from the background with a rare delicacy, the details of the muscles being in no sense exaggerated: were it not for the costume and pointed beard, one would fancy it a specimen of Egyptian work of the best Memphite period.
[Illustration 096.jpg THE SEAL OF SHARGANI-SHAR-ALI: GILGAMES WATERS THE CELESTIAL OX.]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from Menant.
One is almost tempted to believe in the truth of the tradition which ascribes to Naramsin the conquest of Egypt, or of the neighbouring countries.
[Illustration: 096a.jpg Painting in Color of Charioteer]
Drawn by Boudier, from a photograph published by Father Schiel.
[Illustration: 097.jpg Page image]
Did Sargon and Naramsin live at so early a date as that assigned to them by Nabonidos? The scribes who assisted the kings of the second Babylonian empire in their archaeological researches had perhaps insufficient reasons for placing the date of these kings so far back in the misty past: should evidence of a serious character A constrain us to attribute to them a later origin, we ought not to be surprised. In the mean time our best course is to accept the opinion of the Chaldaeans, and to leave Sargon and Naramsin in the century assigned to them by Nabonidos, although from this point they look down as from a high eminence upon all the rest of Chaldaean antiquity. Excavations have brought to light several personages of a similar date, whether a little earlier, or a little later: Bingani-sharali, Man-ish-turba, and especially Alusharshid, who lived at Kishu and Nipur, and gained victories over Elam.
[Illustration: 098.jpg Page image: the arms op the city and kings of Lagash]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a bas-relief from Lagash, now in the Louvre
After this glimpse of light on these shadowy kings darkness once more closes in upon us, and conceals from us the majority of the sovereigns who ruled afterwards in Babylon. The facts and names which can be referred with certainty to the following centuries belong not to Babylon, but to the southern States, Lagash, Uruk, Uru, Nishin, and Larsam. The national writers had neglected these principalities; we possess neither a resume of their chronicles nor a list of their dynasties, and the inscriptions which speak of their the arms of the city gods and princes are still very rare and kings of Lagash. Lagash, as far as our evidence goes, was, perhaps, the most illustrious of all these cities.* It occupied the heart of the country, and its site covered both sides of the Shatt-el-Hai; the Tigris separated it on the east from Anshan, the westernmost of the Elamite districts, with which it carried on a perpetual frontier war.
* We are indebted almost exclusively to the researches of M. de Sarzec, and his discoveries at Telloh, for what we know of it. The results of his excavations, acquired by the French government, are now in the Louvre. The description of the ruins, the text of the inscriptions, and an account of the statues and other objects found in the course of the work, have been published by Heuzey-Sakzec, Decouvertes en Chaldee. The name of the ancient town has been read Sirpurla, Zirgulla, etc.
All parts of the country were not equally fertile: the fruitful and well-cultivated district in the neighbourhood of the Shatt-el-Hai gave place to impoverished lands ending to the eastward, finally in swampy marshes, which with great difficulty furnished means of sustenance to a poor and thinly scattered population of fisher-folk.
[Illustration: 099.jpg FRAGMENT OF BAS-RELIEF BY URNINA, KING OF LAGASH.]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a stone in the Louvre.
The capital, built on the left bank of the river, stretched out to the north-east and south-west a distance of some five miles. It was not so much a city as an agglomeration of large villages, each grouped around a temple or palace -- Uruazagga, Gishgalla, G-irsu, Nina, and Lagash, which latter imposed its name upon the whole. A branch of the river Shatt-el-Hai protected it on the south, and supplied the village of Nina with water; no trace of an inclosing wall has been found, and the temples and palaces seem to have served as refuges in case of attack. It had as its arms, or totem, a double-headed eagle standing on a lion passant, or on two demi-lions placed back to back. Its chief god was called Ningirsu, that is, the lord of Girsu, where his temple stood: his companion Bau, and his associates Ninagal, Innanna and Ninsia, were the deities of the other divisions of the city. The princes were first called kings, but afterwards vicegerents -- patesi -- when they came under the suzerainty of a more powerful king, the King of Uruk or of Babylon.
The earlier history of this remarkable town is made up of the scanty memoirs of its rulers, together with those of the princes of Gishban -- |the land of the Bow,| of which Ishin seems to have been the principal town. A very ancient document states, that, at the instigation of Inlil, the god of Nipur, the local deities, Ningirsu and Kirsig, set up a boundary between the two cities. In the course of time, Meshilim, a king of Kishu, which, before the rise of Agade, was the chief town in those parts, extended his dominion over Lagash and erected his stele at its border; Ush, vicegerent of Gishban, however, removed it, and had to suffer defeat before he would recognize the new order of things. After the lapse of some years, of which we possess no records, we find the mention of a certain Urukagina, who assumes the title of king: he restored or enlarged several temples, and dug the canal which supplied the town of Nina with water. A few generations later we find the ruling authority in the hands of a certain Urnina, whose father Ninigaldun and grandfather Gurshar received no titles -- a fact which proves that they could not have been reigning sovereigns. Urnina appears to have been of a peaceful and devout disposition, as the inscriptions contain frequent references to the edifices he had erected in honour of the gods, the sacred objects he had dedicated to them, and the timber for building purposes which he had brought from Magan, but there is no mention in them of any war. His son Akurgal was also a builder of temples, but his grandson Idingiranagin, who succeeded Akurgal, was a warlike and combative prince.
[Illustration: 101.jpg IDINGIRANAGIN HOLDING THE TOTEM OF LAGASH.]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from the bas-relief F2 in the Louvre.
It seems probable that, about that time, the kingdom of Gishban had become a really powerful state. It had triumphed not only over Babylonia proper, but over Kish, Uru, Uruk, and Larsam, while one of its sovereigns had actually established his rule in some parts of Northern Syria. Idingiranagin vanquished the troops of Gishban, and there is now in the Louvre a trophy which he dedicated in the temple of Ninglrsu on his return from the campaign.
* Hilpeecht, Bab. Expcd. of the Univ. of Pennsylvania, vol. i., 2nd part, p.47 sqq.
[Illustration: 102.jpg IDINGIRANAGIN IN HIS CHARIOT LEADING HIS TROOPS.]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a bas-relief in the Louvre. The attendant standing behind the king has been obliterated, but we see clearly the contour of his shoulder, and his hands holding the reins. It is a large stele of close-grained white limestone, rounded at the top, and covered with scenes and inscriptions on both its faces. One of these faces treats only of religious subjects. Two warlike goddesses, crowned with plumed head-dresses and crescent-shaped horns, are placed before a heap of weapons and various other objects, which probably represent some of the booty collected in the campaign. It would appear that they accompany a tall figure of a god or king, possibly that of the deity Ningirsu, patron of Lagash and its kings. Ningirsu raises in one hand an ensign, of which the staff bears at the top the royal totem, the eagle with outspread wings laying hold by his talons of two half-lions back to back; with the other hand he brings a, club down heavily upon a group of prisoners, who struggle at his feet in the meshes of a large net.
[Illustration: 103.jpg Page image. VULTURES FEEDING UPON THE DEAD.]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from the fragment of a bas-relief in the Louvre. This is the human sacrifice after the victory, such as we find it in Egypt -- the offering to the national god of a tenth of the captives, who struggle in vain to escape from fate. On the other stele the battle is at its height. Idingiranagin, standing upright in his chariot, which is guided by an attendant, charges the enemy at the head of his troops, and the plain is covered with corpses cut down by his fierce blows: a flock of vultures accompany him, and peck at each other in their struggles over the arms, legs, and decapitated heads of the vanquished. Victory once secured, he retraces his steps to bestow funeral honours upon the dead.
[Illustration: 104.jpg PILING UP THE MOUND OF THE DEAD AFTER THE BATTLE.]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from the fragment of a bas-relief in the Louvre. The bodies raised regularly in layers form an enormous heap: priests or soldiers wearing loin-cloths mount to its top, where they pile the offerings and the earth which are to form the funerary mound. The sovereign, moreover, has, in honour of the dead, consigned to execution some of the prisoners, and deigns to kill with his own hand one of the principal chiefs of the enemy.
The design and execution of these scenes are singularly rude; men and beasts -- indeed, all the figures -- have exaggerated proportions, uncouth forms, awkward positions, and an uncertain and heavy gait. The war ended in a treaty concluded with Enakalli, vicegerent of Grishban, by which Lagash obtained considerable advantages. Idingiranagin replaced the stele of Meshilim, overthrown by one of Enakalli's predecessors, and dug a ditch from the Euphrates to the provinces of Guedln to serve henceforth as a boundary. He further levied a tribute of corn for the benefit of the goddess Nina and her consort Ningirsu, and applied the spoils of the campaign to the building of new sanctuaries for the patron-gods of his city.
[Illustration: 105.jpg KING URNINA AND HIS FAMILY.]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a bas-relief in the Louvre. Cf. another bas-relief of the same king, p.244; and for the probable explanation of these pierced plaques, see p.258 of the present work.
His reign was, on the whole, a glorious and successful one. He conquered the mountain district of Elam, rescued Uruk and Uru, which had both fallen into the hands of the people of Gishban, organized an expedition against the town of Az and killed its vicegerent, in addition to which he burnt Arsua, and devastated the district of Mishime. He next directed an attack against Zuran, king of Udban, and, by vanquishing this Prince on the field of battle, he extended his dominion over nearly the whole of Babylonia.
The prosperity of his dynasty was subjected to numerous and strange vicissitudes. Whether it was that its resources were too feeble to stand the exigencies and strain of war for any length of time, or that intestine strife had been the chief cause of its decline, we cannot say. Its kings married many wives and became surrounded with a numerous progeny: Urnina had at least four sons. They often entrusted to their children or their sons-in-law the government of the small towns which together made up the city: these represented so many temporary fiefs, of which the holders were distinguished by the title of |vicegerents.| This dismemberment of the supreme authority in the interest of princes, who believed for the most part that they had stronger claims to the throne than its occupant, was attended with dangers to peace and to the permanence of the dynasty. The texts furnish us with evidence of the existence of at least half a dozen descendants of Akurgal -- Inannatuma I., Intemena, his grandson Inannatuma II, all of whom seem to have been vigorous rulers who energetically maintained the supremacy of their city over the neighbouring estates. Inannatuma I., however, proved no match in the end against Urlamma, the vicegerent of Gishban, and lost part, at least, of the territory acquired by Idingiranagin, but his son Intemena defeated Urlamma on the banks of the Lumasirta Canal, and, having killed or deposed him, gave the vicegerency of Gishban to a certain Hi, priest of Ninab, who remained his loyal vassal to the end of his days. With his aid Intemena restored the stelae and walls which had been destroyed during the war; he also cleared out the old canals and dug new ones, the most important of which was apparently an arm of the Shatt-el-Hai, and ran from the Euphrates to the Tigris, through the very centre of the domains of Ghirsu.
Other kings and vicegerents of doubtful sequence were followed lastly by Urbau and his son Gudea. These were all piously devoted to Ningirsu in general, and in particular to the patron of their choice from among the divinities of the country -- Papsukal, Dunziranna, and Ninagal. They restored and enriched the temples of these gods: they dedicated to them statues or oblation vases for the welfare of themselves and their families. It would seem, if we are to trust the accounts which they give of themselves, that their lives were passed in profound peace, without other care than that of fulfilling their duties to heaven and its ministers. Their actual condition, if we could examine it, would doubtless appear less agreeable and especially less equable; revolutions in the palace would not be wanting, nor struggles with the other peoples of Chaldaea, with Susiana and even more distant nations. When Agade rose into power in Northern Babylonia, they fell under its rule, and one of them, Lugal-ushum-gal, acknowledged himself a dependant of Sargon. On the decline of Agade, and when that city was superseded by Uru in the hegemony of Babylonia proper, the vicegerents of Lagash were transferred with the other great towns to the jurisdiction of Uru, and flourished under the supremacy of the new dynasty.
Grudea, son of Urbau, who, if not the most powerful of its princes, is at least the sovereign of whom we possess the greatest number of monuments, captured the town of Anshan in Elam, and this is probably not the only campaign in which he took part, for he speaks of his success in an incidental manner, and as if he were in a hurry to pass to more interesting subjects.
[Illustration: 108.jpg THE SACRIFICE]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a stone in the Louvre.
That which seemed to him important in his reign, and which especially called forth the recognition of posterity, was the number of his pious foundations, distinguished as they were by beauty and magnificence. The gods themselves had inspired him in his devout undertakings, and had even revealed to him the plans which he was to carry out. An old man of venerable aspect appeared to him in a vision, and commanded him to build a temple: as he did not know with whom he had to do, Nina his mother informed him that it was his brother, the god Ningirsu. This having been made clear, a young woman furnished with style and writing tablet was presented to him -- Nisaba, the sister of Nina; she made a drawing in his presence, and put before him the complete model of a building. He set to work on it con amore, and sent for materials to the most distant countries -- to Magan, Amanus, the Lebanon, and into the mountains which separate the valley of the Upper Tigris from that of the Euphrates.
[Illustration: 109.jpg SITTING STATUE OF GUDEA]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin
The sanctuaries which he decorated, and of which he felt so proud, are to-day mere heaps of bricks, now returned to their original clay; but many of the objects which he placed in them, and especially the statues, have traversed the centuries without serious damage before finding a resting-place in the Louvre. The sculptors of Lagash, after the time of Idingi-ranagin, had been instructed in a good school, and had learned their business. Their bas-reliefs are not so good as those of Naramsin; the execution of them is not so refined, the drawing less delicate, and the modelling of the parts not so well thought out. A good illustration of their work is the fragment of a square stele which represents a scene of offering or sacrifice. We see in the lower part of the picture a female singer, who is accompanied by a musician, playing on a lyre ornamented with the head of an ox, and a bull in the act of walking. In the upper part an individual advances, clad in a fringed mantle, and bearing in his right hand a kind of round paten, and in his left a short staff. An acolyte follows him, his arms brought up to his breast, while another individual marks, by clapping his hands, the rhythm of the ode which a singer like the one below is reciting. The fragment is much abraded, and its details, not being clearly exhibited, have rather to be guessed at; but the defaced aspect which time has produced is of some service to it, since it conceals in some respect the rudeness of its workmanship. The statues, on the other hand, bear evidence of a precision of chiselling and a skill beyond question. Not that there are no faults to be found in the work. They are squat, thick, and heavy in form, and seem oppressed by the weight of the woollen covering with which the Chaldeans enveloped themselves; when viewed closely, they excite at once the wonder and repulsion of an eye accustomed to the delicate grace, and at times somewhat slender form, which usually characterized the good statues of the ancient and middle empire of Egypt. But when we have got over the effect of first impressions, we can but admire the audacity with which the artists attacked their material. This is of hard dolerite, offering great resistance to the tool -- harder, perhaps, than the diorite out of which the Memphite sculptor had to cut his Khephren: they succeeded in mastering it, and in handling it as freely as if it were a block of limestone or marble.
[Illustration: 111.jpg Plan of the Ruins of Mughier]
The surface of the breast and back, the muscular development of the shoulders and arms, the details of the hands and feet, all the nude portions, are treated at once with a boldness and attention to minutiae rarely met with in similar works. The pose is lacking in variety; the individual, whether male or female, is sometimes represented standing and sometimes sitting on a low seat, the legs brought together, the bust rising squarely from the hips, the hands crossed upon the breast, in a posture of submission or respectful adoration. The mantle passes over the left shoulder, leaving the right free, and is fastened on the right breast, the drapery displaying awkward and inartistic folds: the latter widens in the form of a funnel from top to bottom, being bell-shaped around the lower part of the body, and barely leaves the ankles exposed.
[Illustration: 112.jpg STATUES FROM TELLOH. and HEAD OF ONE OF THE STATUE OF GUDEA.]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from Heuzey-Sarzec.
All the large statues to be seen at the Louvre have lost their heads; fortunately we possess a few separate heads. Some are completely shaven, others wear a kind of turban affording shade to the forehead and eyes; among them all we see the same qualities and defects which we find in the bodies: a hardness of expression, heaviness, absence of vivacity, and yet withal a vigour of reproduction and an accurate knowledge of human anatomy. These are instances of what could be accomplished in a city of secondary rank; better things were doubtless produced in the great cities, such as Uru and Babylon. Chaldaean art, as we are able to catch a glimpse of it in the monuments of Lagash, had neither the litheness, nor animation, nor elegance of the Egyptian, but it was nevertheless not lacking in force, breadth, and originality. Urningirsu succeeded his father Gudea, to be followed rapidly by several successive vicegerents, ending, it would appear, in Gala-lama. Their inscriptions are short and insignificant, and show that they did not enjoy the same resources or the same favour which enabled Gudea to reign gloriously. The prosperity of Lagash decreased steadily under their administration, and they were all the humble vassals of the King of Uru, Dungi, son of Urbau; a fact which tends to make us regard Urbau as having been the suzerain upon whom Gudea himself was dependent. Uru, the only city among those of Lower Chaldaea which stands on the right bank of the Euphrates, was a small but strong place, and favourably situated for becoming one of the commercial and industrial centres in these distant ages. The Wady Eummein, not far distant, brought to it the riches of Central and Southern Arabia, gold, precious stones, gums, and odoriferous resins for the exigencies of worship. Another route, marked out by wells, traversed the desert to the land of the semi-fabulous Mashu, and from thence perhaps penetrated as far as Southern Syria and the Sinaitic Peninsula -- Magan and Milukhkha on the shores of the Red Sea: this was not the easiest but it was the most direct route for those bound for Africa, and products of Egypt were no doubt carried along it in order to reach in the shortest time the markets of Uru. The Euphrates now runs nearly five miles to the north of the town, but from the regions bordering the Black Sea.
[Illustration: 114.jpg Plan of the Ruins of Abu-Shahreyn]
In ancient times it was not so distant, but passed almost by its gates. The cedars, cypresses, and pines of Amamis and the Lebanon,the limestones, marbles, and hard stones of Upper Syria, were brought down to it by boat; and probably also metals -- iron, copper and lead.
The Shatt-el-Hai, moreover, poured its waters into the Euphrates almost opposite the city, and opened up to it commercial relations with the Upper and Middle Tigris. And this was not all; whilst some of its boatmen used its canals and rivers as highways, another section made their way to the waters of the Persian Gulf and traded with the ports on its coast. Eridu, the only city which could have barred their access to the sea, was a town given up to religion, and existed only for its temples and its gods. It was not long before it fell under the influence of its powerful neighbour, becoming the first port of call for vessels proceeding up the Euphrates.
[Illustration: 115.jpg AN ARAB CROSSING THE TIGRIS IN A |KUFA.|]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a sketch by Chesney.
In the time of the Greeks and Romans the Chaldaeans were accustomed to navigate the Tigris either in round flat-bottomed boats, of little draught -- |kufas,| in fact -- or on rafts placed upon inflated skins, exactly similar in appearance and construction to the |keleks| of our own day. These keleks were as much at home on the sea as upon the river, and they may still be found in the Persian Gulf engaged in the coasting trade. Doubtless many of these were included among the vessels of Uru mentioned in the texts, but there were also among the latter those long large rowing-boats with curved stem and stern, Egyptian in their appearance, which are to be found roughly incised on some ancient cylinders. These primitive fleets were not disposed to risk the navigation of the open sea. They preferred to proceed slowly along the shore, hugging it in all cases, except when it was necessary to reach some group of neighbouring islands; many days of navigation were thus required to make a passage which one of our smallest sail-boats would effect in a few hours, and at the end of their longest voyages they were not very distant from their point of departure. It would be a great mistake to suppose them capable of sailing round Arabia and of fetching blocks of stone by sea from the Sinaitic Peninsula; such an expedition, which would have been dangerous even for Greek or Roman Galleys, would have been simply impossible for them. If they ever crossed the Strait of Ormuzd, it was an exceptional thing, their ordinary voyages being confined within the limits of the gulf. The merchants of Uru were accustomed to visit regularly the island of Dilmun, the land of Magan, the countries of Milukhkha and Gubin; from these places they brought cargoes of diorite for their sculptors, building-timber for their architects, perfumes and metals transported from Yemen by land, and possibly pearls from the Bahrein Islands. They encountered serious rivalry from the sailors of Dilmun and Magan, whose maritime tribes were then as now accustomed to scour the seas. The risk was great for those who set out on such expeditions, perhaps never to return, but the profit was considerable.
[Illustration: 117.jpg AN ASSYRIAN KELEK LADEN WITH BUILDING-STONE.]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a bas-relief from |Kouyunjik| (Layard, The Monuments of Nineveh, 2nd series, pi.13; cf. Place, Ninive et l'Assyrie, pl.43, No.1.)
Uru, enriched by its commerce, was soon in a position to subjugate the petty neighbouring states -- Uruk, Larsam, Lagash, and Nipur. Its territory formed a fairly extended sovereignty, whose lords entitled themselves kings of Shumir and Akkad, and ruled over all Southern Chaldaea for many centuries.
Several of these kings, the Lugalkigubnidudu and the Lugalkisalsi, of whom some monuments have been preserved to us, seem to have extended their influence beyond these limits prior to the time of Sargon the Elder; and we can date the earliest of them with tolerable probability. Urbau reigned some time about 2900 B.C. He was an energetic builder, and material traces of his activity are to be found everywhere throughout the country. The temple of the Sun at Larsam, the temple of Nina in Uruk, and the temples of Inlilla and Ninlilla in Nipur were indebted to him for their origin or restoration: he decorated or repaired all structures which were not of his own erection: in Uru itself the sanctuary of the moon-god owes its foundation to him, and the fortifications of the city were his work. Dungi, his son, was an indefatigable bricklayer, like his father: he completed the sanctuary of the moon-god, and constructed buildings in Uruk, Lagash, and Kutha. There is no indication in the inscriptions of his having been engaged in any civil struggle or in war with a foreign nation; we should make a serious mistake, however, if we concluded from this silence that peace was not disturbed in his time. The tie which bound together the petty states of which Uru was composed was of the slightest. The sovereign could barely claim as his own more than the capital and the district surrounding it; the other cities recognized his authority, paid him tribute, did homage to him in religious matters, and doubtless rendered him military service also, but each one of them nevertheless maintained its particular constitution and obeyed its hereditary lords. These lords, it is true, lost their title of king, which now belonged exclusively to their suzerain, and each one had to be content in his district with the simple designation of |vicegerent;| but having once fulfilled their feudal obligations, they had absolute power over their ancient domains, and were able to transmit to their progeny the inheritance they had received from their fathers. Gudea probably, and most certainly his successors, ruled in this way over Lagash, as a fief depending on the crown of Uru. After the manner of the Egyptian barons, the vassals of the kings of Chaldaea submitted to the control of their suzerain without resenting his authority as long as they felt the curbing influence of a strong hand: but on the least sign of feebleness in their master they reasserted themselves, and endeavoured to recover their independence. A reign of any length was sure to be disturbed by rebellions sometimes difficult to repress: if we are ignorant of any such, it is owing to the fact that inscriptions hitherto discovered are found upon objects upon which an account of a battle would hardly find a fitting place, such as bricks from a temple, votive cones or cylinders of terra-cotta, amulets or private seals. We are still in ignorance as to Dungi's successors, and the number of years during which this first dynasty was able to prolong its existence. We can but guess that its empire broke up by disintegration after a period of no long duration. Its cities for the most part became emancipated, and their rulers proclaimed themselves kings once more. We see that the kingdom of Amnanu, for instance, was established on the left bank of the Euphrates, with Uruk as its capital, and that three successive sovereigns at least -- of whom Singashid seems to have been the most active -- were able to hold their own there. Uru had still, however, sufficient prestige and wealth to make it the actual metropolis of the entire country. No one could become the legitimate lord of Shumir and Accad before he had been solemnly enthroned in the temple at Uru. For many centuries every ambitious kinglet in turn contended for its possession and made it his residence. The first of these, about 2500 B.C., were the lords of Nishin, Libitanunit, Gamiladar, Inedin, Bursin I., and Ismidagan: afterwards, about 2400 B.C., Gungunum of Nipur made himself master of it. The descendants of Gungunum, amongst others Bursin II., Gimilsin, Inesin, reigned gloriously for a few years. Their records show that they conquered not only a part of Elam, but part of Syria. They were dispossessed in their turn by a family belonging to Larsam, whose two chief representatives, as far as we know, were Nurramman and his son Sinidinnam (about 2300 B.C.). Naturally enough, Sinidinnam was a builder or repairer of temples, but he added to such work the clearing of the Shatt-el-Hai and the excavation of a new canal giving a more direct communication between the Shatt and the Tigris, and in thus controlling the water-system of the country became worthy of being considered one of the benefactors of Chaldaea.
We have here the mere dust of history, rather than history itself: here an isolated individual makes his appearance in the record of his name, to vanish when we attempt to lay hold of him; there, the stem of a dynasty which breaks abruptly off, pompous preambles, devout formulas, dedications of objects or buildings, here and there the account of some battle, or the indication of some foreign country with which relations of friendship or commerce were maintained -- these are the scanty materials out of which to construct a connected narrative. Egypt has not much more to offer us in regard to many of her Pharaohs, but we have in her case at least the ascertained framework of her dynasties, in which each fact and each new name falls eventually, and after some uncertainty, into its proper place. The main outlines of the picture are drawn with sufficient exactitude to require no readjustment, the groups are for the most part in their fitting positions, the blank spaces or positions not properly occupied are gradually restricted, and filled in from day to day; the expected moment is in sight when, the arrangement of the whole being accomplished, it will be necessary only to fill in the details. In the case of Chaldaea the framework itself is wanting, and expedients must be resorted to in order to classify the elements entering into its composition. Naramsin is in his proper place, or nearly so; but as for Gudea, what interval separates him from Naramsin, and at what distance from Gudea are we to place the kings of Uru? The beginnings of Chaldaea have merely a provisional history: the facts in it are certain, but the connection of the facts with one another is too often a matter of speculation. The arrangement which is put forward at present can be regarded only as probable, but it would be difficult to propose a better until the excavations have furnished us with fresh material; it must be accepted merely as an attempt, without pledging to it our confidence on the one hand, or regarding it with scepticism on the other.