By Levi Clancy for Student Reader on
Modern Assyrian history is fed by many strands stretching back millennia, but took its modern form in the 14th to 16th centuries when ecclesiastic disputes caused leadership in the Eastern Orthodox body to fragment into their own competing churches. Among these was the Assyrian Church of the East, which separated from the Chaldean Church in 1692. The new Church, which was situated more around the Nineveh plains, was established in contradistinction to the Chaldean Church with its seat of power to the south. This provides a political context in which the first Assyrian leadership in the 17th century chose to name their church the Assyrian Church of the East. This was an antiquated geographic term by then but represented a desire to use history and regionality to drive validity for its new stakehold.
The modern Assyrians – that is, adherents of that church – were spread across modern-day Turkey, Iran, and Iraq. They suffered by ethnic cleansing from three governments – the Ottoman Empire, the Kingdom of Iraq, and the Republic of Iraq – and also extra-governmental and government-sanctioned assaults by Arabs and Kurds. This drove them across an ever-broader area that includes parts of modern-day Russia. However, despite this broad distribution, by the 20th century their population was mostly concentrated in Iraq. In recent decades in Iraq, they have suffered from ethnic cleansing that has decimated their villages and swelled their diaspora.
In the Ottoman Empire, religious communities were organized into millets that were allowed to execute their own religious jurisprudence over their own communities. The Assyrians did not have their own millet, instead falling under Orthodox or Syriac Orthodox millets. There are three religious groups of Assyrians,
Assyrian Church of the East, est. 1692 as a separation from the Chaldeans.
Ancient Church of the East, est. 1960s as a traditionalist movement against the tilt of the Assyrian Church of the East toward ecclesiastic reforms.
Catholic, est. by Roman Catholic evangelization in the area.
European perceptions of the Assyrians originated from the Bible, and until the 19th century was limited to mentions of the ancient civilization or contemporary regions with that ancient civilization as an eponym. The term Assyrian came to life as a modern nation in European literature with the start of travelogues. Assyrians from across Turkey and Iran were gathered by the British to be their principal fighting force during the British Mandate of Mespotamia. When the British left, many Assyrians from those areas remained in Iraq concentrated around Mosul, alongside other Assyrians who were already there.
Maximalism v minimalism
To grasp the identity of modern Assyrians, it is crucial to understand the maximalist and minimalist perspectives, neither of which is particularly historical. They are described below to understand the tides at work and are not an endorsement nor a negation of their validity,
Ancient Assyrians were a sort of ethnic group from which came their autonomous self-ruling government. Their government collapsed in the 7th century BC but modern Assyrians are their descendants in religion, tradition, language, and bloodline.
Ancient Assyrians existed but it was a civic identity (not an ethnic group) that perished with the collapse of the Neo-Assyrian Emrepire. The modern Assyrians were generally just Nestorian or other Christians who were labeled and organized as Assyrians by the British in the 19th century.
Moden Assyrian ethnicity is founded on the distinctiveness of the ancient Assyrian society giving rise to a nation that persisted under later ruling powers and religious changes. It is a bloodline and intimately attached to its ancient homeland.
Assyrians are ethnically the Aramaic-speaking Christians of the Near East, but the specific Assyrian identity is not ethnic. Assyrian-ism is a political instrument rather than ethnoreligious when compared to other Christian groups today. The Assyrians today may be from the north, especially the Zagros mountains in Turkey and Iran. They are not necessrily originally from the villages they occupy.
Modern Assyrian heritage is rooted in the ancient Assyrian civilization, and the modern Assyrians are stewards of this tremendous inheritance. The museums of the world – with all their ancient Assyrian artifacts – are in fact holding the foundational heritage objects of modern Assyrians.
Assyrians were living in the mountains as ascetics, and in the 19th century convinced by European archaeologists – especially the British – that they were descendants of the greats who created the artworks being excavated at Nineveh. Brits advertised this intriguing narrative of ancient Assyria's lost tribes being rediscovered alongside the artifacts.
Modern Assyrians speak Assyrian and Assyrian and Aramaic or the same or closely related.
Modern Assyrians speak Aramaic like the Syriacs and Chaldeans.
Assyrians have been as such for thousands of years.
Assyrians received this label from British people (and Bible enthusiasts).
Assyrians have their own distinct religious beliefs and practices. They are ancient and pure. They may or may not even exactly be Nestorian.
Assyrians are just Nestorians.
Critically analyzing maximalist and minimalist views
Political issues have transformed the dialogue: being indigenous is viewed as a currency for favor in the international community, with a bitter fight to the end for various Iraqi ethnic and religious groups to win out by invalidating the others on various planes of history. The most sectarian modern Assyrian propagandists have appropriated Mesopotamian history ranging from Mosul to Basra in a maximalist attempt to validate nationalist aspirations. evidence of heritage and historicity. This repugnant approach to history has blurred and diminished the beautiful but much drier ecclesiastical conflicts which distinguished and crystalized the modern nations. It also leaves no space for the fascinating but less compelling use of Assyria as an old geographical term.
It is important to recognize that nearly all Assyrians will have interacted with the maximalist view by hearing it from friends, relatives, leaders, and politicians. There is an absence of strong institutions supporting modern Assyrians' human rights, that have a reason to support anything except maximalist views. This radicalizes the modern interpretation of modern Assyrian identity. Also, challenges to the maximalist view often come from the minimalist perspective in an attempt to erase and undermine modern Assyrians as a distinct and historic ethnoreligious group. For this reason, the scholarly perspective is an important viewpoint but it is inherently politicized in a conversation that situates everything between the wide pivot of two extreme perspectives. It is meant to represent an external and meaningful viewpoint that does not so much bridge as it provides altogether separate common ground that describes various groups to the best of current abilities in a mutually coherent manner.
Assyrians speak Aramaic as their mother tongue. This language originated in the Levant and because it was so easy to read and write it became the most popular language in the whole Near East. The ancient Assyrians used it, the ancient Babylonians used it, and even the Jews used it. The fact that modern Assyrians boast that it was the language of Jesus reflects that Aramaic was a widespread, international, cosmopolitan language. It was neither exclusive to ancient Assyrians nor is it exclusive to modern Assyrians today. Aramaic persists as the mother tongue of modern Assyrians, Syriacs, and Babylonians (and some other groups outside of Iraq as well). For those groups where it remains a mother tongue today, it points to an ancient Near East connection – but does not reflect more nor less than that.
The scholarly perspective is that Aramaic consists of many dialects which broadly correspond to geographic spaces. There is West Aramaic for dialects spoken west of the Euphrates and East Aramaic for dialects spoken east of the Euphrates. These two groupings branch into ever-smaller dialects and sub-dialects, corresponding to smaller regions and sub-regions. The linguistic tree of Aramaic continues branching all the way down to micro-dialects spoken only in specific towns and villages (e.g. Qaraqoshi). The academic view is that dialects are not distinguished along Assyrian, Syriac, or Chaldean divisions – and by extension, no community has an older or more intact dialect. The distinguishing force among the dialects is geographic separation. A single regional sub-dialect may cover various villages neighboring each other but each inhabited by Assyrians, Syriacs, or Chaldeans. Aramaic is the shared Near East heritage of Assyrians, Syriacs, and Chaldeans and over time it naturally fractured into various dialects separated by distance but not ethnoreligious identity.
However, there is a large gap between scholarly perspectives on Aramaic versus popular perceptions among native speakers. It is common to hear a modern Assyrian say We speak Assyrian but this is academically wrong. Modern Assyrians speak Aramaic and as mentioned above, and it has never been exclusive to any group calling themselves Assyrian. To add some irony, the actual ancient Assyrian language (and all other local Mesopotamian languages) went extinct millennia ago in part because Aramaic had emerged as the lingua franca of the subcontinent. However, the common perception among modern Assyrian speakers ranges from the minimalist We speak Aramaic like the Syriacs and Chaldeans all the way to the totally maximalist We speak Assyrian and the others speak Aramaic, which is based on our Assyrian language. The maximalist view here is total misinformation that commits erasure of Syriacs and Chaldeans and wrongly over-centers the Assyrians.
Nonetheless, the modern Assyrian individual will know the landscape of towns and villages inhabited by Assyrians and be able to recognize the micro-dialects particular to those places. This also goes for Syriacs and Chaldeans. This valid personal experience is not incompatible with the academic view. It is simply a syllogism: "The way you speak is unique to that village, and I know that village is inhabited entirely by Assyrians." But from the vantage point of the individual Assyrian, it points to the existence of an Assyrian way of speaking even if the individual micro-dialects of Assyrian villages are by default less related to each other than they are to micro-dialects spoken in nearby villages inhabited by Syriac and Chaldean families. The way the individual prioritizes some information as less relevant (such as physical and linguistic distance in kilometers and nodes) and positions biographical information as primary means that for native speakers there are rich cues in the subtle variations of Aramaic and suggests that these cues are a crucial means of external presentation and internal self-identification.
Assyria is an old term. But the history of Assyrian people today – the Christian, Aramaic-speaking Assyrian people today – is not the same history as the term Assyria in all its different usages over the millennia. We see modern day Assyrians' history often told as a reductive collage that strings together and puts in chronological order every instance where the term Assyria appeared over history.
The term has a vast history and its usage was fluid and varied over time. The history began with a small city-state dedicated to the god Ashur; grew to a broad ethnically mixed (and changing) empire whose territory kept being grown and lost in competition with Babylonians, Medes, Persians, and others; and transformed from a powerful kingdom to an old historical and geographical term used for various provinces in the region. The history of the Assyrian people interacts and overlaps with this word, but is not the same as the history of this word alone.
So how did it come to be? The likely reason that the Assyrian Church of the East took this name is that it was a schism of Church of the East that occurred in the Nineveh plains. When the Church was founded, the term Assyria was an old geographic term unique to the area. It was a thousand years old but had some antiquarian local and biblical gravitas. Also, there was a diffuse ancient Assyrian cultural tradition in language, names, and lore – sometimes refracted through various prisms, with stories of old Sassanian governors of the Assyrian province being referred to as ancient Assyrian kings.
Let us look at other cases where an old term is reused, to better understand it does not mean some tiny group from ancient history had been continually vying to reasserts its unique nationhood.
Using an old term might be done for political reasons, using ancient history to deploy a narrative of historical or dynastic continuity. Examples of this are usurpers to a throne who promulgate a family history and take a name that connects them to the original (even mythological) founders of the kingdom – this way they are returners, not intruders, to the throne. This appropriation is not just for kings to trace their veins to the beating heart of some ancient and glorious past. Modern Islamic religious leaders often claim an uninterrupted family tree going back to the prophet Mohamed and back further to Adam.
Old terms also get used and reused once ancient history has been canonized in a locale's popular consciousness. For example, American sports teams frequently took an indigenous word for their names or mascots. Yyes, this indeed happened within the local indigenous context there, and should absolutely be viewed as one of the cultural impacts of the indigenous civilization (e.g. the Edminton Eskimos or less specific Union City Chiefs). However, it is not evidence of a heritage revival nor does the sports team become the torchbearer or even any sort of avatar of the heritage word. It is not even always a positive marker: for example, we have the epithetical New Jersey Savages or Washington Redskins.
Back to the term Assyria, we see a 17th century Church being established in a context where taking the term Assyria now makes perfect sense. From the ancient history perspective, it is evidence of the impact of ancient Assyria echoing two thousand years later. This is important and should be recognized. But from the modern historical perspective, it was an appropriation of an older term. We should appreciate the word Assyria for the richness of its history and also seek to understand the newness and reasons of its reuse. This is the valid historical and critical perspective.
One time someone told me, "They were not Assyrians, they were just Nestorians." This use of Nestorian as a pejorative comes from the Roman Catholic gaze of many travelers. However, saying the Assyrians are/were just Nestorians is about as specific as saying Kurds are just Sunnis. Europeans referred to all eastern churches as Nestorian. It is not that he preached only in this area, but rather that when he was an Archbishop in Constantinople he preached some radical beliefs and they were accepted in the eastern churches but rejected in the western churches. This followed along the fault line – but was not the source of it – eventually separating the Latin-speaking Roman Catholics from the rest of Christendom. Referring to the Assyrians flatly as Nestorians is at best a metonym totum pro parte and at worst a refusal to acknowledge the meaning of Nestorian in its breadth and limitation.
Part of the maximalist package of beliefs is the nuclear theory of modern Assyrians as coming through history as a single group.
Who really are the modern Assyrians?
The modern Asyrians are defined in the first paragraph, but below is an exercise in the origins of their Assyrian-ness from the lenses of cultural tradition, language, and simple self-identification. It examines the various ways that being Assyrian has been understood over the millennia, and what were the linkages between these that fed into modern Assyrians as an ethnoreligious group. A focus is also taken on those characteristics that define Assyrians not just as a Christian group with Orthodox roots, but as separate from other such groups such as the Chaldeans and Syriacs.
|Characteristic||Description and issues|
The first and most important characteristic of Assyrians is they self-identify as Assyrian. The term itself has a long and convoluted life. The Assyrian identity is not wholly religious, as most Assyrians are Catholic but there are also two Eastern Orthodox churches within the Assyrian community. Also, the Assyrian identity is not wholly geographic as there are modern Assyrians stretching from Iraq to Russia, and the various regions (substantially shifting over time) which were called Assyria and its derivative names had very mixed compositions of people who had assimilated to Assyrian and Babylonian empirical rule, as well as the many groups that had been transplanted to Mesopotamia by those empires (most famously including the Jews of Israel brought to northern Mesopotamia by Assyrians and to Babylon by Babylonians).
Modern Assyrians speak Aramaic, as do Syriacs and Chaldeans. Interestingly, many Assyrians say the speak Assyrian, but that is wrong and a later folkloric legend. However, within the modern context of Assyrian, Syriac, and Chaldean communities the Neo-Aramaic language has been re-analyzed sometimes into Assyrian, Syriac, and Chaldean dialects, respectively. Additionally, some community members refer to their language by the name of their nation (e.g. we speak Assyrian). This has all created confusion among Assyrians themselves and others, and is politicized in modern dialogues over land rights and self-administration. Maximalist understandings of Assyrian identity – including language – have tremendous political value.
Nonetheless, the issue of language in the Aramaic community is nonetheless fascinating and indeed ancient. The ancient Assyrian civilization indeed had its own language which was related to Akkadian, but by the 10th century BC it was surpassed as lingua franca by Aramaic because Aramaic was easier to write. This was transform: literacy became democratized among the general population and was no longer solely for the scribal elites who continued writing actual Assyrian in cuneiform. Aramaic had spread from Phoenicia all the way through Mesopotamia, so it is ironic that when modern Assyrians claim to speak Assyrian they actually speak the continental and international language whose ascent in the ancient Near East spurred the annihilation of spoken and written Assyrian as well all other local Mesopotamia languages. Only the Assyrian government continued to Assyrian in official documents after the 10th century BC, but this was archaic, complicated, and incomprehensible to the populace. The final death blow to the Assyrian language came in the 7th century BC with the collapse of the empire and all its bureaucracy. Nobody has spoken actual Assyrian in thousands of years, aside from a tiny handful of scholars who in the last two centuries have decoded the ancient cuneiform.
The Assyrians identify their nation with the ancient Assyrians and use archaeological findings of the 19th century as symbols of identity. The imagery is potent and has been positively reinforced by 20th and 21st century advances about protecting indigenous people. The popular story among modern Assyrians is this: after the collapse of the Assyrian Empire, the people who were Assyrian subjects stuck together as an Assyrian community under Babylonian, Greek, Persian, and Roman rule; they converted to Christianity in the Roman period and today the modern Assyrians are the surviving descendants of that ethnoreligious group. However, the Assyrian Empire was ethnically mixed and its people were not an ethnic group. They were mixed, diverse, and the Assyrians were constantly practicing population exchange of conquered lands: switching around faraway people to better control them. As mentioned above, this was famously practiced by Assyrians bring Jews from Jerusalem to the Assyrian heartland in Mesopotamia when conquering that city, in order to better politically control the people as exiles. Furthermore, the Assyrian royalty's own ethnicity changed over time – as did the ancient Egyptians, the ancient Babylonians, and so forth. There is really little legitimacy to the idea that after the Assyrian government collapsed in the 7th century BC, that the Assyrians instantly emerged as an ethnic group under that name. Instead, the distinction of a group of people seems rooted in the 14th to 16th centuries CE, described later. However, the Assyrian influence did reverberate after its collapse: names, religious practices, and other traditions persisted for a few or more centuries.
WIth such a mix of villages there is no exactly clear contiguous Assyrian heartland, but instead one that encompasses areas of mixed religious and nationalist ambition. This actually matches really well with positioning the origin of the modern Assyrians in the context of the ecclesiastic disputes of the 14th to 16th centuries, when lines may have drawn not just geographically but across complicated familial and tribal lines that interwove with others.
Third of all is religious identification: although many Assyrians are Catholic, there are also two churches said to be Assyrian.
In fact, the modern Assyrians – a community, a people – are traceable to the 14th to 16th centuries CE, when local patriarchs established a church under that provincial name. Perhaps most important in choosing this name, it had been an old term for the province some centuries earlier, that itself did not actually not corresponded entirely to the seat of the ancient Assyrian Empire for which it had been named. However, it likely had additional cultural influence as until some centuries previously the names recorded in the Assyrian empire continued to be popular among local elites. Whether this and other Assyrian-origin traditions were recognised as Assyrian, or just local, is debatable. However, it must also have had some biblical significance which was not lost. Crucially: Assyrian had never been an ethnic term as the ethnic composition of the Assyrian domain and even of its royalty had been in flux, and the later provinces with the same name were mixed in every regard.
With the establishment of the Assyrian Church of the East and the clear distinctions between different peoples, we thus finally have in the historical record the emergence of a community which can be considered a distinct and hereditary community. Establishing the Assyrian Church of the East in the 14th to 16th centruies CE was against a backdrop of not only schisms within the broader Church of the East, but also attempts to solidify local control by Patriarchs against Catholic missionaries who were successfully converting many of the people to Roman Catholicism (which threatened local control). This was a strong motivation to encourage the development of a standalone community – later absorbing nationalism, and generating its own folkloric history rooted in 19th century archaology – for the financial and ecclesiastic benefit of the church leaders.
This same narrative occurred not just for modern Assyrians but for modern Syriacs and modern Chaldeans as well. The histories of these nations are attached to but distinct from the geographic terms and cultural traditions which the people inherited.
Demise of indepenent Christians
19th to 20th century
It is possible that before this time there were stil indepent clan- and tribe-based units of Christians, following traditions but not necessarily with clear allegiance to a particular patriarchy. Politics perhaps decimated this, with groups organizing at the level of nationhood in order to interact on the international political stage. This is harped on by minimalists because it challenges the nuclear theory of modern Assyrians.
later 19th century
The British thesis on why the UK must forge a link with the Mesopotamian Christians could now formally be found in newspapers, along with examples of the results of this missionary work.
It was in the 1850s that Assyrian archaeology was largely discovered. However, before this the modern Assyrians were still part of the public conscience. They were understood through classical Greek and Roman historians as noted here.
19th - 21st centuries
The term Assyria became famous in the public consciousness in reference to the archaeological discoveries of the ancient Empire. Meanwhile, the Europeans considered some of the Aramaic-speaking people – especially those around Mosul and of the Assyrian Church of the East – to be the Assyrians.
Modern Assyrians emerge
The founding of the church
Louis XIV of France
crowned 1654 Jun 7
The French king began a tradition of French leadership in the Catholicization of the eastern Christians. This would continue until the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, and only began to be challenged by another international church in the mid and late 19th century by the British attempts to enjoin the eastern Christians to the Episcopal church. The British viewed this in the context of gaining power in the region.
14th - 17th cent
Separating from the Church of the East, and facing conversion by Catholics, varius local churches were established using antiquarian names that had geographic and historical significance. This occured during the Ottoman period, but under the local leadership of the ecclesiastical patriarchs. One such group was the Assyrian Church of the East – in their language, known as the eastern church of Athura. This seems to be the most important turning point in establishing a coalesced population unit that would give rise to modern Assyrians. They were likely ethnically mixed descendants of the populations which had existed during the Assyrian Empire and later civilizations, all of which practiced population displacement and replacement on a large scale as a means of poliical control. At the beginning the commoners must have considered themselves Nestorians but affiliated to their respective churches. As the church developed, however, they absorbed nationalist elements especially with the weaking and eventual collapse of Ottoman control. Also, the Assyrians and the concepts of homeland for their budding nation dovetailed with archaeological advancements that defined ancient Assyria in public consciousness.
14th - 20th cent
Mesopotamia (Asoristan) was split into three eyalets of Mosul, Baghdad, and Basra. The ancient Assyrian heartland was within Mosul eyalet. These three eyalets persisted as wilayets when the wilayet system was imposed in the 19th century. However, Assyria continued to be used as an antiquarian geographical term due to its biblical significance.
As historical memory faded, and control was seated further and further away in the Byzantine capital, the province Syria moved further west and the former Asoristan became Euphratensis and Mesopoamia.
386 - 450 CE
Living in the 4th and 5th centuries, Nestorius was the Archbishop of Consantinople. He was somewhat of a radical against church conventions. Most notably, he attempted to reject the title of theotokos (Greek for mother of god) for Mary. This was viewed as an attack on Mary herself and he was formally excommunicated from the church. However, the eastern churches did not reject him and instead accepted his teachings. He would become venerated in the eastern churches and they would collectively become known as Nestorian churches. These were thus a heterogeneous group from the beginning, and the modern belief that the various Iraqi churches (including the Assyrians) were wayward Nestorians and nothing else is a firm result of the European gaze.
226 CE - 637 CE
This province covered all of Mesopotamia like Athura had.
150 BC - 226 CE
The province returned to Pesian control. Notice that Athura was the old Persian name for the province, and its territory seems to match what Pesrians must have perceived. It no longer covered from the Levant to Nineveh but now covered Mesopotamia as when it was called Athura under Achaemenid rule.
116 CE - 118 CE
Latin name for the province when Mesopotamia briefly fell to Roman rule.
312 BC - 150 BC
This province covered the ancient Assyrian heartland around Nineveh but also extended west to the Levant. Seleucids rules from Babylon, suggesting they viewed it so loosely as the land to the north and northwest as this would have perhaps been the local southern (Babylonian) perspective when the ancient Assyrian and Babylonian empires had existed and were warring.
Persian → Greek
330 BC - 312 BC
Alexander the Great ruled the land as part of the Macedonian Empire
530 BC - 330 BC
Persian name for the province covered all of Mesopotamia, including the lands that were Babylonian. Having defeated the Babylonians to wind Mesopotamia, then the older name belonging to a different civilization must have made sense.
until 612 BC
The Assyrian Empire was centered politically around Nineveh, with its principle religious city being Assur, dedicated to the mercurial god of the same name. Its end came amid enduring conflict with Babylonians, Medes, and Persians. The name Ashurayu meant people of the land of Ashur and referred to the land and subjects of the territorial state whose spiritual center was the city Ashur.
Historical sources as they became known to people begins with the Old Testament and classical sources, then includes missionary sources, and finally includes the modern archaeological finds.
Renaudot and Le Brun
American, Protestant Reformed
J P Fletcher
Writing 'Notes from Nineveh'
Austen Henry Layard
International newspapers began publishing about Assyria in earnest from the 1820s onward.
Wrote Betrayal of the Assyrians
Published Assyrie chretienne between 1963 and 1965.
Stockholm, May 10. The Duke of Holstein's Minister here has received positive Advice from Moscow, That his Master's Marriage will be immediately after the Czariana's Coronation; and 'tis believed that the Courier who shall be sent hither with the notification of it, will also bring the Ratification of the Treaty between the Czar and the Porte, by which that the Czar is to preserve all his Conquests along the Caspian Sea, with 80 Worsts of Ground in Breadth, and that the Porte is to have Assyria and Armenia, so that the young Sophi will have nothing left but Old Persia.
This mentions Assyria in the context of biblical history and trade with the East. It was viewed through the lens of history and society, not imbued with personal anecdotes of modern people living in that area. It seems that the issue was purely an academic one.
From the WHITEHALL and GENERAL Evening Posts, &c. June 25.
A Compendious Account of the East-India Trade, from its Beginning to the present Time.
DAVID King of Israel having conquer'd the Kingdom of Edom, and reduced it to a Province of his Empire, set himself upon thinking how to make the best Advantage of two Seaport Towns on the Red Sea, and immediately begun to traffic to the East. There are two Places mentioned in Scripture, Ophir and Tarshish, from whence this Trade was carried on; from the former of which Places David is said to have drawn abundance of Gold and Silver by his Fleets in several Voyages. – After him Solomon carried on the same Traffic, and is said to have gained in one Voyage four hundred and fifty Talents of Gold; and is he gained so much Advantage by sending his Ships once into the East, David had certainly an Opportunity, by so many repeated and successful Voyages, to procure immense Riches, and which, indeed, are mentioned in Holy Writ. However Solomon, not only being wiser, but by a greater Application to Business, improved this Trade, and drew much greater Supplies of Wealth from it than his Father; and as he was not encumbered with War as David had been, he had Leisure to afford it a more diligent and serious Attention: For this purpose he went to some of his Ports, and inspected into the Building of his Ships himself, took care to those Ports, which were serviceable for that Trade, sufficiently fortified, and settled every Thing else which might conduce to secure Success in the Undertaking; not only to Ophir, but to all other Places where the Sea, on which his Ports lay, opened a Passage.
And that he might let nothing be wanting to make by this Traffic the largest Returns of Profit, he invited People from all those Parts which were esteemed the most expert in Navigation, especially the Tyrians; for those People at that Time, and many Ages after, were reckoned the most skilful [sic] of any in Maritime Affairs, so consequently were the properest to navigate the Ships, and conduct his Fleets thro' long Voyages: But the Use of the Compass not being then known, they performed their Navigation only by Coasting, which made it requisite to be out a much longer Time than is necessary by the modern Way of Sailing; since that which might be now finished in three Months, then took up at least three Years. It was from this Spring that Solomon was furnished with such vast Quantities of Gold, that he was looked upon to exceed all the Kings of the Earth as much in Riches as he did in Wisdom.
After the Division of the Kingdom of Judah, the House of David still continued to carry on this Trade, since the Kingdom of Edom fell to the Lot of that House, till the Time of Jehosaphat.
The King enjoyed the same Trade till his Death, but not in so great Perfection as his Predecessors: After him several Changes and Alterations happened init, and was owned by various Masters, till at length it fell into the Hands of the Kings of Assyria, who utterly excluded the Jews from the Benefit of that Traffic, and enjoyed it many Years, even Ages: But at what Place these people fixed their principal Mart for that purpose History is entirely silent.
After them the Tyrians became possessed of that Trade, who by their Skin and Address in Mercantile Employments, made it center at Tyre, though they carried it on from the same Port as the Jews and Assyrians had done before them. From Tyre they furnish'd all the Western Parts of the World with the Wares of Persia, India, Arica, and Arabia; by which means they enriched themselves greatly during the Persian Empire, under the Pavour and Protection of whose Kings they had a full possession of this Trade: But when the Ptolemy's prevailed in Egypt, they by building several Ports on the Western side of the Red Sea, and by sending forth Fleets to all those Countries, with whom the Tyrians traded from Elath, soon drew all this Trade into that Kingdom, and fixed their chief Mart at Alexandria; and which, by this Method, made the greatest Concourse for Merchants in the World. Here it continued for many Ages, and all the Traffick, which the Western parts of the Globe had with Persia, India, Arabia, and the Eastern Coasts of Africa, was wholly carried on through the Red Sea, and the Mouth of the Nile; till a Way was found, a little above 230 Years since, of failing to those parts by the Way of the Cape of Good Hope. After this, the Portuguese for some Time managed this Trade; and after them, it got wholly into the Hands of the English and Dutch; but the late Attack on Madrass makes it doubtful whether the English or French may be said to be in possession of it, as no absolute Accounts have been published, sufficient to set the Matter in a good and clear Light: Exaggerations and Alleviations having been thought to have been tempted at on both sides.
This is a just account of the East-India Trade, from the Time it was first begun by David and Solomon, to the present Age.
This is an excerpt from Zadig, published in 1747 by the writer and philosopher Voltaire. It is a fantastical piece, not too determined with perfect historical accuracy.
Popular historical and cultural assumptions are what serve of particular interest. The passage positions Assyria as bordering Arabia Petraea, which was a Roman province on the Mediterranean coast in the area of modern Israel and Lebanon.
This suggests that in this passage here, Assyria refers to Mesopotamia as a whole. In truth, all of Mesopotamia was known as Assyria sometimes – a sort of synecdoche – and suggests there was a general knowledge among Europeans about the region of the ancient Assyrian heartland and – after that civilization's collapse – the term's afterlife as a geographic term.
The passage suggests that Assyria was under Persian control at the time the story takes place, and that Assyria was in the vicinity of Babylonia. This all works within the historical facts.
Removing some additional quotation marks whereby each line break within a quotation is emphasized with a leading quotation mark, and with the original inconsistent spelling of Astarte/Astrate,
Continuation of ZADIG: or DESTINY. An Eastern History. Extracted from M. DE VOLTAIRE.
On his arriving on the frontiers which separate Arabia Petrea from Assyria, he passed near a pretty strong castle, when he beheld some armed Arabians sally out of it; by whom he was immediately surrounded; these cried out: "All you have belongs to us, and your persons are the property of our master." Zadig answered by drawing his sword; his servant, who was a man of courage, did the same. They overthrew the first Arabians who fell upon them; their number redoubled; they were not astonished, but resolved to die fighting. Two men fought against a multitude, and such a combat could not be of long continuance. The master of the castle, whose name was Arbogad, having seen from a window the prodigies of valour performed by Zadig, felt his mind filled with esteem: He descended in haste, and came himself to call off his men, and to deliver the two travellers. "Whatever passes over my lands is mine," said he, "as well as what I find in the lands of others; but thy bravery shall exempt thee from the common law." He then made him enter into his castle, ordering his men to treat him kindly, and in the evening Zadig supped with Arbogad.
The lord of the castle was an Arabian robber; but amidst a multitude of bad actions, he sometimes performed those that were worthy of praise; he plundered mankind with a furious rapacity; he also behaved with great liberality. He was intrepid in action, of an easy access, a debauchee at his table, gay amidst this debauchery, and above all, had a free and open frankness: He was pleased with Zadig, the gaiety of whole conversation lengthened the repast. Arbogad at last said, "I advise thee to enrol thyself under me; thou canst not do better; my occupation is not a bad one, and thou mayest one day become what I am at present." "I desire to know," said Zadig, "how long thou hast exercised this noble profession?" "From my most tender youth," returned this mighty lord, "I was servant to an Arabian, when my situation was insupportable; I was then in despair at seeing that in the earth, to which all men had an equal claim, my destiny had given me no portion. I told the cause of my vexation to an old Arabian, who said unto me, My son, do not despair, there was formerly a grain of sand which lamented its being an atom unknown in the desarts; [sic] but at the end of some years it became a diamond, and is at present the brightest ornament in the crown of the king of the Indies. This discourse made an impression upon me; I was the grain of sand; I resolved to become the diamond, and began by stealing two horses; I associated to myself companions; I put myself in a condition to rob small caravans; and thus, by little and little, lessened the disproportion there at first appeared between me and other men. I had my share of the good things of this world, and was even recompensed with usury for what I had suffered. I was now greatly respected, and became the captain of a band of robbers. This castle I obtained by violence; the satrape of Assyria resolved to dispossess me, but I was already too rich to have any thing to fear; for by giving money to the satrape, I preserved this castle, and encreased my possessions: He even made me treasurer of the tributes which Arabia Petrea pays to the king of kings. I discharge my office of receiver, but not that of pay-master."
"The great desterham of Babylon sent hither in the name of king Moabdar, an insignificant satrape to see me strangled. This man arrived, bringing with him his master's orders. I was informed of every thing, and caused to be strangled in his presence the four persons he brought with him to pull the bow string, after which I decided to know what he was to have obtained by strangling me. He replied, that his fees would have amounted to about three hundred pieces of gold. I made him see clearly that he would gain more by staying with me; I made him an inferior robber; and he is at present one of my best and richest officers. Believe me, this success will be as great as his. Never was there a better season for robbery, since Moabdar is killed, and all Babylon in infusion." "Moabdar killed!" said Zadig, "then what is become of queen Astrate?" "I cannot inform thee," replied Arbogad: "All I know is, that Moabdar lost his senses, and was killed; that Babylon is a most dangerous place, and that all the empire is laid waste. There are some fine strokes yet to be taken, and, for my part, I have performed those that are admirable." "But the queen," said Zaid, "art thou unacquainted with the fate of the queen?" "I have heard something of a prince of Hircania," replied he, "if she was not slain in the tumult, she is probably one of his concubines; but I am more curious abut obtaining booty than of news. I have taken many women in my excursions, but I keep none of them; when they are beautiful, I sell them dear, without enquiring who they are: Nothing is given on account of rank, and a queen who is ugly, will never find any one inclined to buy her: Perhaps I may have sold the queen Astrate, or perhaps she may be dead, but that is of title importance to me, and I think thou shalt have no more reason to trouble thyself about it than I have." In speaking this, he drank so large a draught, that he confounded all his ideas to such a degree, that Zadig could gain no further information. He remained stunned, oppressed with grief, and immoveable. Arbogad continued drinking, told stories, incessantly repeated that he was the most happy of all men, and exhorted Zadig to become as happy as he. In short, intoxicated by the fumes of wine, he sunk into a tranquil sleep, while Zadig passed the night in the most violent agitations. "What," said he, "the king has then lost his senses! he is slain! I cannot help lamenting his fate. The empire is torn in pieces, and this robber is happy. O fortune! O destiny! A man who lives by rapine is happy, and the most lovely of all nature's works has perhaps perished in a frightful manner, or lives in a state worse than death. O Astarte! wha is become of thee?"
As soon as it was break of day, he examined all those he met in the castle; but all were busy, and nobody made him any answer. During the night a new robbery had been committed, and they were dividing the spoils. All he could obtain in this tumultuous confusion, was the permission to depart, of which he took advantage without delay, and set out with a mind plunged in doleful reflections.
Zadig proceeded with his thoughts agitated, disturbed, and wholly employed on the unhappy Astarte, on the king of Babylon, on his faithful friend Cador, on Arbogad the happy robber, on the woman he found so capricious, whom the Babylonians had seized on the confines of Egypt, and in short, on all the disappointments, and all the misfortunes he had experienced.
At some leagues from the castle of Arbogad, he approached the banks of small river, still lamenting his destiny, and considering himself as the most unfortunate man living. He there saw a fisherman lying by the water-side, scarcely holding with his weak and trembling hand a net, which he seemed to abandon, and lifting up his eyes towards heaven, "I am certainly the most miserable of all mankind," said the fisherman; "I have been in every bodies opinion the most famous dealer in cream cheese in all Babylon, and yet I am ruined. I had the most beautiful wife that a man in my station could possess, and by her I have been forsaken. There still remained my poor house; I have seen it pillaged and destroyed. I have taken shelter in a cabbin; I have no other resource besides fishing, and yet I cannot catch one fish. O my net! I will no more throw thee into the water, it is myself I will throw into it." On his saying these words, he arose, and advanced forward, in the posture of a man who was going to throw himself into the stream, in order to put an end to his life. "What," said Zadig to himself, "are there men more unhappy than I?" His eagerness to save the fisherman was as sudden as this reflection. He ran to him; he stopped him; he examined him with an air pity and compassion. We seem to be less unhappy when we have companions in our misfortunes. According to Zoroaster, this is not thro' a malignant disposition; but thro' necessity: for we then find ourselves drawn to an unfortunate person as to our own likeness. The joy of the happy would be an insult; but two men in distress, are like two weak and slender trees, which leaning together, support each other; and mutually fortify themselves against the storms that blow around them. "Why," said Zadig to the fisherman, "doest thou sink under thy misfortunes?" "Because I find no means of relief," replied he. "I have been the most considerably person in the village of Derlback, near Babylon, and I made, by my wife's assistance, the best cream cheese in the empire of Persia. Queen Astarte, and the famous minister Zadig, admired them extremely. I sent to their houses six hundred cheeses, and one day went to the city to be paid, when I was informed on my arrival in Babylon, that the queen and Zadig had disappeared: I ran to the house of lord Zadig, whom I had never seen, when I found there, the archers belonging to the grand desterham, who being provided with a royal license, plundered it with great loyalty and order. I flew to the queen's cooks, when some of the lords of the mouth, told me that she was dead: others said that she was in prison, others pretended that she was fled; but all assured me that they would not pay for my cheese. I then went with my wife to the lord Orcan's; for he was one of my customers; and we begged his protection in our disgrace. He granted it to my wife, and refused it to me. She was white than the cream cheeses that began my misfortune, and the lustre of the Purple of Tyre is not more shining than the carnation which animated the whiteness; for this reason Orcan detained her, and drove me from him house. I wrote to my dear wife a letter of desperation. She said to the porter, Ha, ha! I know the man who writes to me; I have heard speak of him: they say he makes excellent cream cheese, let him bring me some, and he shall be paid."
"In my misfortune I applied to justice; I had still six ounces of gold, and it was necessary for me to give two ounces to the lawyer whom I consulted, two to the procurator who undertook my affair, and two to the first judge's secretary. When all this was done my business was not yet begun, and yet I had expended more money than my cheese and my wife were worth. Yet I returned to the village with an intention to sell my house, in order to obtain my wife.
"My house was well worth sixty ounces of gold; but as my neighbours saw me poor, and obliged to sell it, the first to whom I addressed myself, offered me thirty; the second twenty, and the third ten. At last, so blind was I, that I was ready to come to a conclusion, when the prince of Hircania came to Babylon, and laid waste all in his passage: then was my house first sacked, and afterwards consumed by fire.
"Having thus lost my money, my wife and my house, I retired into this country where thou seest me. I have endeavored to procure subsistence by fishing; but the fish make a mock of me, like the men; I catch none; I die with hunger; and had it not been for thee, august comforter, I should before now have perished in the river."
The fisherman did not make this long-recital all at once; for at every moment, Zadig, moved and transported, said; "What! dost thou know nothing of the queen's destiny?" "No, my lord," replied the fisherman; "but I know that neither the queen nor Zadig have paid me for my cream cheeses; that my wife is taken from me; and that I am in despair." ["]I flatter myself, said Zadig, "that thou wilt not lose all thy money. I have heard of this Zadig; he is an honest man, and if he returns to Babylon, as he hopes to do, he will give thee more than he owes thee. But as for thy wife, who is not so honest, I advise thee not to seek to regain her. Believe me, go to Babylon: I shall be there before thee, because I am on horseback, and thou wilt walk on foot. Address thyself to the illustrious Cador; tell him that thou hast seen his friend, and wait for me at his house: go, perhaps thou mayest not always be unhappy.
"O powerful Oromazes!" continued he, "thou makest use of me to bestow comfort on this man, whom thou hast ordained to give me comfort." In speaking thus he gave to the fisherman half of the money he had brought from Arabia; and the fisherman, rejoiced and filled with amazement, kissed the feet of the friend of Cador, and said, "Thou art an angel sent to save me."
Zadig, however, still continued to make fresh enquiries, and to shed tears. "What, my lord," cried the fisherman, "art thou than so unhappy, who hast loaded me with benefits?" "I am an hundred times more unhappy than thee," replied Zadig. "But how is it possible," said the good man, "that he who gives, should have more cause for complaint, than he who receives?" "It is because thy greatest misfortunes,["] returned Zadig, ["]arose from thy necessity, and mine from the heart." "Has Orcan taken thy wife?" said the fisherman. This word made Zadig recal[l] the remembrance of all his adventures: he repeated the train of his misfortunes, beginning with the queen's dog, and ending even with his arrival at the castle of the robber Arbogad. "Ah!" said he to the fisherman, ["]Orcan deserves to be punished; but it is commonly such men as these who are the favourites of destiny. However, go to the lord Cador, and wait for me." They separated; the fisherman walked thanking destiny, and Zadig rode constantly accusing the decrees of fate.
[To be continued]
A New and Complete Universal History of the Holy Bible by Reverend Edward Kimpton was published and advertised in multiple places with a list of illustrations including one of Assyrian king Benhadad.
In Jackon's Oxford Journal, 1782 Jan 26, there is an advertisement for a history of the bible by the Reverend Edward Kimpton. It lists as one of its copper plates an illustration of Benhadad being assassinated, described in the advert as king of Assyria.
Some awful guesswork,
CRITICAL OBSERVATIONS on BOOKS. No. XII. CONTENTS – Proofs from Diodorus, that 1460 was the original period of the Assyrian Kingdom, but was shorted to 1300, by the Greeks to agree with their shortened computations concerning Troy – Different calculations of that capture in different Greek ages – The text of Diodorus vindicated against Marsham, &c. – Table in support of Prideaux, proving by dates and actions that the Kings called by Clesias Medes, were the same persons as the Kings of Assyria in Scripture.
Sold by B. White, Fleet-street.
There was this ridiculous mention of the Garden of Eden being near Ohio. This suggests that despite knowing the geographic region of Assyria, that it had not been secured with clear archaeological evidence. Included below with its erratic quotation marks,
GARDEN OF EDEN.
A writer in the Pittsfield Sun, has undertaken to prove that the Garden of Eden stood in the Territory North-West of the Ohio! – He thus accounts for the four rivers which were formed of that which watered the garden: – Pallad.
"AND the name of the first (head) is Pison; that is it which encompasses the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold." If we bear in mind the prominent feature of the Hebrew language, of giving a definition of things by their names, it will assist us in applying this and the subsequent passages." Pison signifies something "that changseth, and "increaseth its dimensions," which is expressive of the Ohio river. – Havilah "suffering, an "exuberant soil," both of which definitions are here exemplified. The many distresses of the Aborigines in this tract, by wars among their different tribes, and the oppressions of their white neighbors, together with the rich and luxuriant country they inhabit, afford a striking comment upon this passage. – "Where there is gold." It might be hazardous to assert that gold was to be found in this Territory; but it would be far more presumtuous [sic] to deny it. The fact is, so little part of the country has been accurately surveyed, that were are unable to come to a decision upon the point. This clause does not impair our hypothesis – much less does the succeeding verse – there is "bdellium and the onyx stone;" for all vestiges of these have long been lost. A thousand explanations have been suggested, but no one satisfactory. Some suppose them emeralds, some one thing and some another – but we are in fact totally ignorant of their nature – so that they make as strongly against all other suppositions as ours. "And the name of the second river is Gihon – it is that which encompasses the whole land of Ethiopia." By Gihon is meant "beautiful, delightful" – figuratively – "the valley of grace." This I should say pointed to the rich and pleasant country watered by the Wabash. It may either be denominated "valley of grace," from the delightful country, or because the inhabitants have less ferocity, and approach nearer to men than their Eastern and Northern neighbors. Ethiopia signifies heat, expressive of the temperature of the climate, where some parts of the season is remarkably sultry. – And the name of the third river is Hiddekel – that is it which goes toward the East of Assyria – and the fourth river is Euphrates." – Hiddekel is "that which gives forth a sharp sound." Which I conceive has refference [sic] to the velocity of the river, impelled forward by the junction of a number of large streams, striking characteristic of the Illinois. [This sentence did not quite make sense.] "Runs toward the East of Assyria." Assyria derived from Assyr, "a prison," "in bonds." This Assyria can be no other than the country west of the Mississippi, towards which the Illinois direct its course. This region was all in subjection to the Mexicans, which is exactly concordant with the derivate of the word. "And the fourth river is Euphrates." By Euphrates is generally supposed the river of that name in Asiatic Syria, which ran through Babylon. Because that river is repeatedly mentioned in scripture, and always under this name, therefore they conclude Moses must have had reference to the same in his description of Eden. – But this deduction is frivolous in the extreme. Euphrates signifies "that which enricheth;" and may with much more propriety be applied to the Nile or Mississippi, than to the pitiful streamlet of Mesopotamia!"
This piece is notable for mentioning the Jewish exile in Assyria. Otherwise, it is not very relevant. Of course, the Jewish exile was well-known from biblical history, but the tone (not the substance) is remarkable here for the mix of ancient biblical and modern political narratives. This, and the bit of classical literature that decorates it, foreshadows the treatment that would later be given to the Christians of Mesopotamia. It is clearly a racist and toxic milieu, and we should be this much more vigilant upon realizing that the very same London will in just a few decades produce the travelers and missionaries who will publish their notes on the Christians.
The quote translates as, "I cannot bear, Oh Romans! a Grecien city."
"—Non possum ferre, Quirites, Gracam urbem."—Juvenal
SIR, — I observe you have not inserted in your Register the dazzling description given by a certain Jew broker of his new palace in Surry, and the magnificent feast he lately gave there to our princes and nobles. Perhaps you think it has been sufficiently published already; and indeed I must confess it has for the last ten days, thrown the affairs of Europe very much into the back ground. But there are so many interesting considerations arising out of all this splendour, that I am persuaded you will not refuse me a corner of your paper to moralize upon it. — But you will observe in passing, that I do not exactly say the description in question was written by the broker himself, any more than that he built his own barouche, or engraved that portrait of him which appears in the shops with both arms loaded, not with omnium, but with vast rolls of his public charities and contributions. So far from being the author himself, I do not suspect him of having ever written a sentence in any language whatsoever. But it is an additional proof of his liberal spirit, that he exercises and rewards the talents of our writers, architects, painters, poets, and musicians, and even charms colonel Pattypan himself to lay down the truncheon and repair to Morden with the rolling pin.—I am not ignorant that Mr. Cumberland, in his Life, solemnly declares that he was not paid a farthing by the synagogue, or any individual Jew, for writing his comedy of that name. This looks like an imputation on the liberality of the race; but Mr. Cumberland should consider, that he had indiscreetly over-done the part; and, that a Jew who gives away his money for the mere pleasure of doing good, without shew or profit, is such a monstrous caricature as no real Jew can see without contempt. It is only with us simpler Christians that the play has had any influence, and I will not dispute with Mr. Cumberland, that it may have assisted us to shake off those suspicions and prejudices which so long held our Jewish inmates in the condition of rats, always persecuted but never extirpated, nor prevented from purloining our victuals.—'Till lately, the richest Jews amongst us affected poverty for fear of envy, and eat their unleavened cakes and counted their usuries in secret. But now they are the companions of our feasts, the pride of our assemblies, the arbiters of our amusements. — This speculation becomes important, when it is considered, that the remarkable changes we have spoken of are chiefly connected with the growth of the commercial spirit among us. Indeed the treatment of the Jews from the beginning, has always been milder in proportion to the commercial advancement of the states in which they lived. How sadly forlorn were they, for example, in the pasturing countries of Assyria and Babylon! How different there the state of the homeless exile, hanging up his harp in despair on the willows, from that of our modern broker, with the military bands of a whole country cheering his feasts on the banks of the Wandle? And, in the same way, France is now giving us a pleasing proof, if any were wanting, of the lamentable condition of her trade, by the harsh measures she is taking with her Jewish citizens. Bonaparte most needs inquire why they do not work and conform to the institutions of his other subjects; whilst, in our commercial state, if they are wealthy, no other question is asked. They may then dig wells, and build houses, and plant trees, on the very soil where our boasted Nelson was wont to relax himself (in far humbler stile, alas!) from his severer labours! — It is likewise obvious, that Bonaparte's funding system must be very different from ours, else he would not dare to discompose the Jews. Let Moses Jacobson say what he pleases about tilling the rocks of Palestine, it is certain the race are not of a temper to submit to agriculture or mechanical trades; and let Bonaparte do what he can, he never shall make them regular artizans, any more than Pharaoh could make them brick makers. We see that every soul of them, male or female, takes with alacrity to traffick, from the children that sell shoe-strings and pick pockets near the Bank, up to the richest of the race. — It is all a nursery of commerce; the fountains of brokerage, exchange, and barter; and the living principle of all kinds of jobbing and huckstery. Tremble, ye statesmen, to touch this hallowed confederationn? A whole ministry may be turned out (all but the commander in chief) and the nation proceed no worse, but the hair of a Jew's beard must not be singed, lest our gold become paper, our paper assignats, lest our stocks vanish into air, and loans become impossible. — Let us not be stunned here with the cry of illiberality. I despise no man for his country, lineage, or religion. If a German, a Frenchman, a Spaniard, or a man of any other country settle amongst us, he soon coalesces and becomes amalgamated with the rest of us, and at any rate his progeny is sure to be English. But a Jew is of no nation, and his children are Jews, never uniting and coalescing with any other race, but making it their religion and their study to remain distinct and separate from all. They are united together though spread in all countries, a mass widely extending amongst other materials, but gravitating uniformly and alone to its own centre. Such an enormous confederacy, like the Jesuits of late, all engaged in one pursuit, and held together by perpetual correspondence, might well be the subject of jealousy, but surely neither requires nor deserves superior indulgence, or fostering kindness. — It is far from me, Sir, to envy any man his riches, neither is my bile moved by the pomp of a Jew broker. But I am grieved that any one should have gained the most amiable and most accomplished of princes to decorate his triumph. Wealth, especially in a land of trade, must always draw its full share of deference and attention, and be sufficiently admired by the multitude. It is, therefore, the proper glory, and, I may say, the duty of our prince, when at any time he steps out of his court, to bend his countenance and favour so as to reward distinguished merit, or to illustrate that which is obscure, I should delight to see him visiting the humble dwelling of DAVID LEVI, or any other Jew eminent of learning and intellect, instead of swelling the state of Abraham Goldsmidt. Or when high rank requires the vicissitudes of humbler society, I am not singular in saying, that I would rather see the heir apparent at the Boar's Head in Eastcheap, (like his great predecessor) "touching the base string of humility" with another Poins, than worshipping (like princes of another race) a thing of gold. But I believe it was an unconsidered and good natured act, and certainly he did not suspect that our prints should be taught to publish to all the world, that he condescended, at a Jewish feast, with the High Chancellor and other great ministers of the king about him, to pronounce studied eulogiums on exchange brokers, and to mix his princely voice with Jews and Jewesses in singing the song of Moses in their tabernacles. — I am, Sir, with very great respect, your obedient humble servant,
This early 19th century publication is important for largely preceding the archaeological discoveries that came later. It describes the Chaldeans as inhabiting the area along the Tigris and extending into the Zagros.
Their capital is at Jolemark, a city which I cannot identify, said to be in the mountains of the Zabat river about four days (~100 miles) from where the Zabat and the Tigris meet. I think the Zabat may be the Greater Zab and that Jolemark may be somewhere near or upstream from Nahla or Harir.
They also have their Patriarch at Koshanis that is upstream from Jolemark; and they possess Amedia (which is well-fortified) and Djeziras (an island near Diarbakir). Koshanis must be Qodchanis, known as Konak in modern Turkey. Amedia is likely Diarbakir (but could be the one near Sulav, as it is downstream from Qodshanis). Djeziras is surely the Cezire in Turkey.
The article remarks on how different are the Armenians and Chaldeans, despite their territories neighboring one another. This suggests the strong ethnoreligious character of Christian denominations in the Near East.
They (and the Armenians) are isolated from the rest of Christendom. This suggests distance, but also lack of contiguous Christian communities from theirs to Christian Europe. They obviously are cut off by the lands of Turkish Muslims through Asia Minor and Arab Muslims through the Levant. They are said to retain a heresy – others refer to them altogether as heretics – given to them by Nestorius that the Virgin Mary is not the mother of god. This perhaps explains partially why Catholics – who venerate her – were so eagerly desperate to convert the Mesopotamian Christians.
Reading between the lines, there are Catholic Patriarchs based in Turkey and there is a non-Catholic (Nestorian) Patriarchs based more in Mesopotamia in the mountains. The non-Catholics are more concentrated in the mountains, perhaps being less accessible to Catholic missionaries. The suggestion that there is one Nestorian Patriarch would be incorrect. The interesting thing is that the general use of Nestorian reflects only the most macro-level knowledge of the Christian groups among Europeans, and is an all-encompassing generality that does not supercede the local ethnoreligious groups and patriarchates. It is about as meaningful as Middle Eastern Christians or Eastern Christians in understandig the individual nations.
Hebed-iesu may be a corruption of Abdisho or Odisho. He is said to have been a great author who in 1550 was invited to Rome and agreed to enter into Catholic oversight. He was appointed Catholic patriarch by the Roman papacy. He wrote many books on the history of the Christians in his region.
With occasionally erratic quotation marks retained,
An Account of the Chaldean Christians,
From the pen of Dr. Walsh, Chaplain to the British embassy at Constantinople, who collected it from the Chaldean Bishop, resident at Pera, and other distinguished Chaldeans.
"A set of Christians, called by themselves Chaldæans< has, from the earliest ages of the gospel, inhabited the country on each side of the Tigris, at the foot and on the sides and summits of the great chain of mountains which lie to the east of that river. Shut out from intercourse with the rest of the world by the nature of the place, they are never visited by traveller. The face of the country is partly plain and partly mountainous; but the mountain tract is by far the most extensive, and so very healthy, that the plague, which sometimes rages in the countries all around, has never been known to infect this district. The population consists of about 500,000 persons, who are all Christians. They are free and independent of the Arabs, Turks, Persians, or Tartars, in the midst of whom they are situated; and though several attempts have been made in different ages to subdue them, they successfully repulsed them all. The last great effort was made by the Turks in the beginning of the 17th century, in which they lost 100,000 mean and five pachas, and have never since attempted to invade them. The Chaldæans constantly live with arms in their hands to preserve their independence, and they do not lay them aside even when they assemble in the churches for divine service on Sundays. Their government is a republican form, at the head of which is a patriarch, who exercises both a spiritual and civil jurisdiction. Their capital is Jolemark. [Where is that?] It is situated in the mountainous region on the banks of the river Zabat, which rises in the mountains, and runs from thence into the Tigris, where it is about four hundred feet broad. The city consists of one great street, passing through the centre, with several others branching from it, and rising up the mountains at each side. It is surrounded by a strong wall, protected by European cannon, which were some time ago furnished to the Patriarch by French engineers. It contains, in winter, about 12,000 inhabitants, the greater part of whom, in summer, emigrate to numerous villages, which are scattered on the neighbouring hills. The distance of the city from the junction of the Zabat with the Tigris, is about four days' journey, or something more than one hundred miles. The Patriarch does not reside at the capital, but at Koshanis, a smaller town, situated higher up on the banks of the Zabat. Besides these, they possess Amedia, and several other towns in the mountains, rendered impregnable as well by art as by the difficult nature of the situations. In the low country their principal city is Djeziras, situated in an island on the Tigris, on the confines of Diarbekir. It is distant about thirty days' journey, or nearly nine hundred miles, from the great city of Bagdat, by land, but not more than half that distance by water. There are no other than occasional wooden bridges in this district, which are often swept away; and when the inhabitants have occasion to pass from one side of the river to the other, they sometimes use rafts, formed of inflated or stuffed skins for the purpose. The mountains in some places approach so close to the Tigris as to hang abruptly over it, and leave no passage between them and the river. This town was formerly as independent as the rest, and exclusively within the jurisdiction of the Patriarch: lying however in a low, exposed situation on the confines of Turkey, it has latterly been obliged to receive a Turkish pacha as a governor. In the other towns a few Turks only occasionally reside. The exercise of their religion is tolerated, but not openly; they have therefore no Minarets, and the Muezzan is never heard calling the people to prayer; and if any Turk is seen in the street on Sunday during divine service, he is immediately put to death.
"They have no schools for the general education of their children, and no printed books among them: their knowledge, therefore, is very limited; and very few, even among the better classes, learn to read. Instruction is confined to the clergy, as the only persons in the community who require it; and when a man is disposed to study, he must become a priest. He is then supplied with such manuscript works as they possess in the different churches and convents. Among these are the Holy Scriptures, translated into their language, which, though not printed, are sufficiently common in written copies.
"They do not themselves know at what time Christianity was first preached among them, or by whom. They pay no particular respect to St. Gregory, the Great Apostle of the East, whom the Armenians revere under the name of Surp Savorich. – And it is remarkable, that the Armenians and Chaldæans, though living in countries in the East nearly contiguous, insulated among Asiatic nations, and separated from the rest of Christendom, should yet be so separated from each other as entirely to differ, not only in language, but in the doctrines and discipline of their churches. Their patriarchs and bishops have not the smallest connexion. The Chaldæans, at an early period, adopted the opinions of Nestorius, who denied that the Virgin Mary was the mother of God, in his divine nature: removed, by their situation, from the control of the Greek church, they retained the heresy in its primitive form, and are perhaps the only sect of Christians at the present day among whom it prevails. But though they are not influenced by the synods of the Greek church, they have not all rejected the authority of the Latin. Very early, missionaries from the college 'de Propaganda Fide,' at Rome, found their way among them; and at present they are divided into two hostile parties – primitive Nestorians, who hold themselves independent of any other church, and converted Catholics, who acknowledge a dependence on the See of Rome. Their church is governed by three Patriarchs;
Simon of Jolemark, a Nestorian
Joseph of Diarbkir, Catholic
Mar Elias of Mousoul, Catholic
[The Catholics are denoted with one large bracket.]
The two latter, though acknowledged by the Chaldæans, are not properly of that nation, but reside in Turkish provinces; but the former is strictly so; and in fact the Chaldæans of the mountains, who are the vast majority, have hitherto rejected all submission to the Church of Rome, which denominates them heretics, as they still retain the discipline and doctrines of their church in their primitive independence. Among the remarkable events of their history, is one which they speak of at this day with considerable interest. At a very early period, a part of the tribe emigrated from their mountains, and proceeded to India, where they settled upon the sea-coast of the hither peninsula. They brought with them the original purity of the Christian doctrine and discipline, before it had been corrupted by heresy; and this purity, they assert, they still retain in their remote situation.
"Though the state of literature is very low at present among the Chaldæans, they have produced many authors, who have written words on various subjects in their language. Among these, the most celebrated is HEBED-IESU, Nestorian Bishop of Soba. About the year 1550, he was induced, when far advanced in years, to visit Rome, under the pontificate of Julius III. Here he abjured the errors of the Nestorians, acknowledged the supremacy of the See of Rome, and was appointed Patriarch of the Eastern Assyrians in the room of Simon Salachi, who had been put to death by the Turks.
"Among other works, Hebed-iesu wrote an account of all the books in the Chaldæan language down to his time, a copy of which is in my possession. He commences with these words: 'By the aid of our memory, O God! and by the prayers of every illustrious just man, and by the Mother of exalted power, I will attempt to write an admirable tract containing divine books, and I will propound to the readers all ecclesiastical and profane compositions of all former and later writers: trusting, therefore, in God, I will begin with Moses.' The catalogue contains the titles of two hundred and twenty books, with some account of their contents and authors, either originals or translations: among the latter are the sacred writings, and Josephus; the former are generally ecclesiastical or controversial. The catalogue also contains History, Poetry, Tragedy, and other subjects. A few are philological, and contain an account of the Chaldæan language, particularly a dissertation on 'Alphabetical Appositions[.]' This states, that 'some languages, such as the Hebrew, Persian, Syriac, Cufite, Elamite, Midianite, Phœnician, Arabic and Chaldee, not having a sufficient number of letters in their Alphabet, were obliged to use points or appositions to explain the sense, which, without them, would be only a subject of conjecture or tradition. These points in Chaldee are two, placed sometimes above and sometimes below the word, and hence called siome, or appositions, serving the use of vowels.' It should appear, from this passage, that the Phœnician, and other Oriental languages, so entirely lost to us, were known to Hebed-iesu.
"Chaldee is read from right to left, like Hebrew, and has a greater affinity with Syriac than any other Oriental tongue; while the Armenian is read from left to right, like the European languages, though the letters have not the remotest affinity with any European character. The following are the sacred books enumerated by Hebed-iesu as the canonical Scriptures of the Chalæans, and translated into their language. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, Samuel, Kings, Paraleipomena, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Wisdom, Barascra or Ecclesiasticus, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Baruch, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Abdeas, Jonas, Micheas, Nahum, Habakkuk, Sophonias, Aggæus, Zecharias, Malachias, Ezra, Tobias and Tobit, Judith, Esther, Daniel Minor, that is, Susanna, Maccabees; Matthew from the Hebrew, Mark from the Latin, Luke and John from the Greek, Acts, Epistles general of James, Peter, John and Jude, fourteen Epistles of St. Paul, and Apocalypse. There is also extant among them a Gospel, compile by Ammonius or Titianus, and called Diatesseram.
"The account which the Chaldæans give of themselves is curiously conformed in some particulars by other testimonies.
"The Ten Thousand Greeks, in their retreat from Persia, passed through the greater part of their country, and Xenophon particularly describes it."
'Xenophon's details accord precisely with the state of the country at the present day, after the interval of 2000 years. It is added to some other observations on the colony, which went to India and still exists among the Ghauts.
"There is every reason to hope that the circumstances of this remote sect of Christians, now so imperfectly known, will soon be better understood, and their spiritual condition improved."
The Bible Society at Constantinople have opened an intercourse with them, and they have expressed great willingness to receive the scriptures.
The print in question is at Austrlia's NSW Gallery and some other collections. The mention of Nahum as a source for the artwork indicates that the public knowledge of Assyria was biblical. The names used are not historically correct as understood from archaeology, but were the popular consensus. Assyria was understood through various sources but not through its own as yet, and is envisioned as a general Oriental fantasy with elements of Grecian and Roman antiquity.
Mr. Martin's Nineveh.
Mr. Martin has finished his picture of Nineveh, which will shortly be exhibited. It is thus flatteringly described in a periodical Journal: – "Mr. Martin's picture of Nineveh is a grand Epic Poem upon canvass. The subject, in itself highly sublime and poetical, is bundled forth in that imaginative and magnificent style for which Mr. Martin is distinguished. You discovery the mighty city before you, canopied with clouds and darkness, and partly on fire; the clouds, which bend over it in heavy masses, like the ribs of an enormous cavern, are reddened below by the glare of the conflagration, and the eye seems to follow with difficulty the last ray of this strange light as it struggles up into the gloom. Over the centre of the picture a portion of the sky is seen, serene and clear, where the stars twinkle, and the moon sheds a silvery light upon the clouds beneath her. On the right is the tomb of Ninus, a vast mound, which rose, according to history, to the height of nine furlongs, and overlooked the city and the neighbouring plains. In the picture it looks like a dusty mountain, and on various parts of it the fires of idolatrous sacrifices to the manes of the departed hero, are seen flashing gloomily through the darkness.
Turning again to the left we behold the prodigious wall of the city, crowned with lofty towers, and running parallel with the Tigris. At a bend of the stream, directly opposite the palace, the waters, raised by the melting of the snows on the mountains of Curdistan, have broken down a part of the wall, and through the breaches we see the invading armies – horses, chariots, elephants, and men, rushing in fierce array; while bridges of galleys thrown over the Tigris are thronged with new myriads following on the heels of those already in the city. It should be observed that these galleys, with those seen on the other part of the river, are perfectly antique in their construction & very picturesque in their effect. On the giddy summit of the wall crowds of Assyrians are seen, pursued by the enemy towards the broken part, where they are plunged down a gulph a hundred feet deep. You see a torrent of human beings dashed from the top of the wall upon the enemy, who are pouring in through the breach. The spectator is supposed to be upon the lofty wall of the palace, whence, looking down, he perceives a part of the Assyrian battle still unbroken, and combating fiercely with the foe, although a torrent of the latter has rushed further into the city, and spread consternation on all sides. On the right hand, and beyond the combatants, some of the most sublime architecture that ever the mind of man conceived, towers up like mountains, and astonishes the imagination. It cannot, however, be described. Pillars, which remind us of the gigantic columns of Thebes or Elora, [could not find Elora] symbolical basso-relievos on the vast pediments, strange sculptures, the hanging gardens, with cedars and the Indian fig-tree, and all the most beautiful trees of the East, in their compartments – all these burst upon the ey, and almost fatigue it with splendour. But, notwithstanding the fancy and richness of invention displayed in this part of the picture, it is the beautiful foreground that charms us the most. Here Sardanapalus, surrounded by the ladies of his harem, is the principal object. The riches of his palace, the treasures of Assyria, are piled in a glittering pyramid before him for his funeral pile, in which an apartment, large enough to contain him and his concubines, is formed. You see the dusky aperture to this room of death, lurking, as death often does, beneath piles of gorgeous splendour; and the eye of many a lovely woman turned towards it with freezing horror. The King himself, roused from the lap of effeminacy, and chafed and baffled by his rebellious satraps, moves in sullen majesty to his death. You discover manhood, bursting through voluptuous langour, in his countenance, and desperate courage mingled with regret. He casts a "longing, lingering look behind," upon the world which he is about to leave forever, and you read in his face what an effort his resolution costs him. He seems, however, to be thinking of the triumph the invaders promise themselves over him, and to be saying within himself, – "but I will disappoint you, yet!" Around him, "submissive in distress," are the lovely ladies of his harem, clothed in oriental splendour, and radiant with beauty. These were the fountains of delight at which he had attempted to slake his unquenchable thirst of pleasure, and he now sees them about to vanish from the earth like a dream. One of his mistresses, apparently the favourite one, has thrown back her head upon his bosom, and attempts, in her agony, to hide the dreadful reality of the scene around her, from herself, by covering her eyes with her arm. The action is natural, and, although it hides the eyes and all the upper part of the face, the quivering lips and rising bosom sufficiently betray the anguish within. This female is a peculiarly lovely and beautiful form. The limbs, apparent through the thin drapery, which seems to resemble the multitia of the Roman ladies, are exquisitely moulded, the neck and bosom are luxuriantly beautiful, and what is seen of the face suggests the most pleasing ideas of the part of it which is concealed. The figures in the foreground may be divided into four principal parts; Sardanapalus, and the ladies pressing around him, form the first. These, determined on self-sacrifice, are plunged in the deepest despair, and have all the conflicting emotions which would arise in their situation depicted on their countenances.
On the right of the picture is the Queen going into captivity, with a troop of lovely devoted females about her. In supposing that the Queen was led off to captivity by her maids, we think Mr. Martin has misinterpreted the following verse of the Bible: "And Huzzab shall be led away captive, she shall be brought up, and her maids shall lead her as with the voice of doves, tabering upon their breasts." Nahum II. 7. The presence of soldiers seems to be implied here, and we think the artist would have gained by introducing them. As Huzzab departs, she turns a look of tenderness and affection upon her dissolute husband, whom her love could not reclaim, and who is now about to pay the forfeit of his crimes or his weakness. Her face is pale; grief has long been preying on it, and draining away the warm tidy of beauty and life that once flowed through it. Contrary to the vulgar apprehension of a Queen, the artist has made the wife of Sardanapalus a timid beauty, one likely to love, "not wisely, but too well," one whom wrongs could not wholly estrange, nor neglect embitter. The Queen, and the maids who surround her, form the second group. The third consists also of ladies, and is placed between the followers of the King and Queen, seemingly undetermined whether to go into exile with the latter, or to death with the former. In this group, the most beautiful female in the picture is found. She is sitting on the earth, and clasping in her arms another female, who appears to be overwhelmed with grief. She also is pierced with sorrow, her eye-brows have lost their curve, and her eyelids are half-closed, but this does not in the least detract from her extraordinary beauty, which is precisely such as one would imagine in an eastern Princess. Her forehead is smooth, and sufficiently high, her nose Grecian, her mouth small, and the outline of her whole face of the finest oval.
The fourth group to which we have alluded, is formed of a number of half-naked soldiers, partly concealed in the shadow of the palace wall, and engaged in drinking. The brawny forms of these men, their wild countenances, now distorted by intoxication, and the passions it awakens, and the bold and striking attitudes in which they are seen, form of themselves an admirable picture, and remind us a good deal of Salvator Ross. These drunkards, Salamenes, with his drawn sword, is attempting to rouse up, to try the effect of a last struggle, but in vain. They resolve to die where they are. While noting the lovely female forms that shed a glory over the foreground of this picture, which nothing else could give it, we should have mentioned one of the most elegant and graceful figures we have ever seen. It is a young lady, whose shoulder and neck only are seen, her face being averted. It is quite a Raphaelesque form.
The scene is lighted up, at the moment in which it is supposed to be visible to the spectator, by a vivid flash of lightning, which throws a sort of miraculous splendor over it. Beneath the path of the lightning, that sheds a sulphurous hue over the shattered thunder-cloud from which it issues, everything stands out as in broad day, while the other parts of the picture are either wrapped in a dull gloom, or illuminated by the moon of the conflagration, or the vast lamps of naptha, which toss about their flames like torches in a stormy night.
Although this picture contains an almost infinite number of objects, there is no confusion. The great action of the piece, the fall of Nineveh, is going on; the agents and the "mortal instruments" are at work; and the effects of this action, the despair of the King, the lamentations of his harem, are already visible. Every group tells its own tale. Every thing springs out of the main action, and advances the catastrophe. A story was never better told on canvass. – Weekly Review
THE LOST TRIBES. — We have read with much gratification, a volume entitled "THE NESTORIANS OR THE LOST TRIBES. Containing Evidence of their Identity, An Account of their Manners, Customs, and Ceremonies, Together with Sketches of Travel in Ancient Assyria, Media, and Mesopotamia, and Illustrations of Scripture Prophecy. By ASAHEL GRANT, M.D."
This is a very interesting work, if considered merely as a book of travels. Dr. Grant was the first foreigner that had ever visited the [sic] "the Nestorians of the Mountains" — the people that were the great object of his enterprise, in the prosecution of which he endured many hardships, and encountered many dangers. His character as a physician — always of the highest importance to a missionary — secured him a favorable and friendly reception, and his account of the regions through which he passed, and of the people, their manners and customs, is of a very entertaining description. He clearly establishes, in our judgment, the very important fact, that the country where the Nestorians reside, was the same to which the "Ten Tribes of Israel," upon their captivity by the Assyrians, were transplanted. And his facts and reasoning intended to show, that the Nestorians of the Mountains are the descendants of those Tribes, are, to say the least, ingenious and plausible.
This work is comprised in a single duodecimo, and will be ready very extensively, and with much interest, we have not a doubt. It is published at New York by Messrs. Harper and Brothers.
There is an interesting article about the popular folklore that the Christians were descended from Israelites, not Assyrians. This is just as plausible as both groups spoke Aramaic. It is also interesting for how it refers to Assyria and Media, with one probably being focused on the northern Iraqi plains and the other extending into the mountains toward Urmia.
The article is also interesting for the negative attitude that the Christians had toward the Jews.
THE TEN LOST TRIBES FOUND.
Dr. Grant's interesting searches in the heart of Persia, just published by the Harpers, spread before us with gratifying fullness the evidence upon which he assumes that he has discovered in the Assyrian mountains the ten lost tribes of Israel, after a period of 2,500 years. The work is among the most valuable publications of the modern press. It appears by the annexed summary that the people have a tradition of their supposed origin:
1. The tradition is general, and universally believed by the Nestorians throughout Assyria and Media. They speak of it of their own accord, in all places and in various circumstances. Smith and Dwight, in the course of their short visit tot he Nestorian Christians, were struck by their singular assertion that they were the descendants of the ten tribes.
2. The hatred existing between the Nestorians and the Jews forbids the idea of the fabrication of the tradition. What motives could lead them to claim affinity with their most implacable enemies! Is it credible that any unfounded tradition of this kind connecting them with a people with whom they will not even eat bread, would have been universally received among all the Nestorian tribes?
3. Their ignorance of prophecy forbids the idea that the tradition originated with their religious preachers, in view of the great temporal blessings promised to the Jews.
4. The secluded situation of the great body of the Nestorians almost precludes the possibility of their having received the idea of a Hebrew ancestry from the neighboring nations. They chiefly inhabit inaccessible mountains, where they are shut out from extraneous influences.
The Nestorians have also another tradition, which though distinct in its nature, is immediately connected with this, and adds not a little to the testimony. It is that their forefathers at some early day, came tot he region now occupied by them from the land of Palestine.
The Jews who dwell among them acknowledge the relationship. The Nestorians are as truly the descendants of the Israelites as themselves.
We cannot charge those Jews with interested motives in giving this testimony. They are ashamed to admit that such apostacy has taken place from the faith of their fathers, and they are reluctant to acknowledge their worst enemies are brethren.
Such testimony, and from a source, requires no comment. What court fo justice would reject it? The Nestorians say to their alienated brethren, the Jews, 'we are children of the same father, will you own us as your brethren?' 'Yes,' they answer; 'you are brethren of the stock of Israel. We are a part of the ten tribes, and you are no less really so.'
We have given the above synopsis of the first argument in the words of our author. Int he second place he proceeds to show that the ten tribes were carried away into the regions now occupied by the Nestorian Christians: and having made this point as manifest as his resources of information will admit, he advances the proof from history that they have never been removed from that country. The inference then follows, that inasmuch as there are very few nominal Jews in that region, and no others disclaiming a Hebrew descent, the Nestorians must be descendants of the lost tribes. To establish these positions essential, of course[,] to the integrity of his argument, he enters upon a critical examination of the historical evidence, and discovers great industry in his researches; after which he draws upon prophetical writings of the Old Testament for inferential testimony to the same point.
The language of the Nestorians is considered in the next place. They speak a dialect of the Syriac, and the same as that of the small portions of the Jews who are still inhabitants of that country, unconverted from Jewism. – One of the most interesting, if not most valuable, proofs of the author's theory, is derived from the frequency of Jewish names among the Nestorian Christians.
The observance by the Nestorians of peculiar rights and customs of Jews, Dr. G. remarks, furnishes very strong evidence of their origin. Sacrifices, still offered on certain occasion, notwithstanding their conversion to christianity [sic]; vows made to God to do something for his glory, first fruits presented to the Lord; the strict observance of the Sabbath; sanctuary or holy places of the temple, the Holy of Holies; the separation of women; the abhorrence of swine's flesh and other meats prohibited by the Levitical code; their fasts and festivals; baptism of infants on eighth day after birth, which the Nestorians suppose takes the place of circumcision and immersion; their living in separate tribes; their form of government; the avenger of blood; the cities of refuge; the peculiar sentiments; their social domestic customs, semblance of identity are urged, with great perspicuity and force, as so many direct and remarkable proofs that the position of the author has not been assumed without evidence for which it maybe difficult to count except by admitting the correctness of his conclusion.
Interestingly, this emphasizes how before the 1840s there was nothing known of Assyrian archaeological remains. Furthermore, it would have been unclear where exactly were the capitals. Earlier European maps indicate that the region of Assyria was known, but the sites and their remains were not. The use of incorrect names for Assyrian kings and the mention that the cuneiform had not yet been deciphered is also notable. Assyrian people are described as having been relegated to the mythical.
Nineveh and its Remains: with an account of a Visit to the Chaldean Christians of Kurdistan and the Yezidis or Devil Worshippers, and an Inquiry into the Manners and Acts of the Ancient Assyrians. By AUSTIN HENRY LAYARD, D.C.L. In two vols. (Murray, 1849. FIRST NOTICE.)
Seven years ago, the only remains of Babylon, Nimroud, Nineveh – those cities of the plain, that cradle of the human race – known to exist, were a few sun-baked bricks covered with cuneiform inscriptions, and a still fewer number of female ornaments in gold or precious stones. Since then, however, thanks to the zeal, the courage, and the penetration of Mr. Layard, the world has been in [sic] put in possession of a description of the palaces of the "mighty hunter" of the Scriptures – Nimrod or Nimroud – and his successors in the reat Assyrian monarchy; and England will shortly rejoice in the presence of some of hte finest specimens of the earliest sculptures of that powerful people, whose knowledge of the fine arts must have been immediately derived from the patriarchs, and mediately, through them, from heaven itself. In the April of 1841, the author and a friend set out together from Aleppo and the Holy Land, whither they had been wandering for the previous two years, and, riding across the continent of Asia, struck the Tigris at Mosul. Penetrated with the conviction that the mounds of brick rubbish which rise out of the plains of the Tigris, in the vicinity of that city, were the remains of ancient seats of civilisation, he set on foot excvations into them, beginning with that known as Nimroud, five hours' journey, or from fifteen to twenty miles, below Mosul, towards Baghdad; and after incredible labours – for a stranger, in a strange land – he succeeded in exposiing the light of that day from which they had been excluded for five and twenty centuries, the ground plan of three distinct palatial residences of different epochs, one of them being, in all human probabbility, the abiding place of Nimroud or Ninus in person, certainly of Semiramis or Nitoocris, their successors. In exposing these magnificent halls, the walls of which to the cornices are still standing, an immense number of labaster slabs, with which the brick surfaces were faced, were also brought to light, man of them covered with sculptures in high and low relief, representing the histories of the race of sovereigns by whom they were erected, and all of them illustrated with inscriptions in the cuneiform or arrow-headed character, the meaning of which is still a hieroglyphic to the learned. Besides these, several colossal figures of divine attributes were awoke from the sleep of ages to which they had been consigned on the destruction of the Assyrian monarchy – among which were a human-headed, winged lion, a most wonderful work of art for expression, for beauty, for truth, and for knowledge of design – a winged, human-headed bull of the same character, an eagle-headed human body, and an immense number and variety of smaller figures, in alabaster, yellow limestone, bronze, and baked clay. The bas-reliefs have been already made mention of; but it may be permitted to add, respecting these monuments of ancient art, that they are likely to become most important pages of ancient history – a record lost before history, as it is known to modern nations, was commenced – and to serve as an elucidation to the ages of civilisation which intervened between the Deluge and the advent of the great Jewish lawgiver, Moses. The winged lions with human heads discovered by Mr. Layard, are worth a century of trouble to a nation; their value in money is priceless. They are about twelve feet in height, and twelve feet in length. "The body and limbs," says the discoverer, "are admirably portrayed; the muscles and bones, although strongly developed to display the strength of the animal, show at the same time, a correct knowledge of its anatomy and for. Expanded wings spring from the shoulders, and spread over the back; a knotted girdle, ending in tassels, encircles the loins." These noble specimens of Assyrian art are happily in perfect preservation; the most minute lines int he details of the wings and in the ornaments are all retained in their original freshness. Not a character is wanting in the inscription. Whether these magnificent monuments of a period and a people relegated to the mythical, during a space of twenty-five hundred years, shall be added to the collection in the British Museum, or left to disintegrate and perish on the shores of the Tigris or at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, is a question that the Government of this country only can answer. To England alone they appertain – England has the sole right to them; and if they be lost to her, it will be from ignorance or apathy on the part of those to whose management her interests are confided. The English people would never grudge the comparatively trifling sum it would cost to convey them from their present situation to this country. "I used," continues Mr. Layard, "I used to contemplate for hours these mysterious emblems, and muse over their extent and history. What more noble forms could have ushered the people into the temples of their gods? What more sublime images could have been borrowed from nature, by men who sought, unaided by the light of revealed religion, to embody their conception of the wisdom, power, and ubiquity of a Supreme Being? They could find no better type of intellect and knowledge than the head of a man; of strength than the body of a lion; of rapidity of motion than the wings of the bird. These winged human headed lions were not idle creations – the offspring of mere fancy; their meaning was written upon them. They had awed and instructed races which flourished 3,000 years ago. Through the portals which they guarded, kings, priests, and warriors had borne sacrifices to their altars, long before the wisdom of the East had penetrated to Greece, and had furnished its mythology with symbols long recognised by the Assyrian votaries. They may have been buried, and their existence may have been unknown before the foundation of the 'Eternal City.' For five and twenty centuries they had been hidden from the eye of man, and they now stood forth once more in their ancient majesty."
Mr. Layard suffered some inconveniences from the ignorance, or the cupidity, of the Turkish pashas, or governors of Mosul; but his dexterous management of these "dogs in office," conjoined with the activity of Sir Stratford Canning, the English Ambassador at the Ottoman Porte, sufficed not only to neutralise their opposition to his researches, but to procure the absolute and inalienable property in the invaluable relics of antiquity brought to light for the English nation. In the intervals of his labours, when interrupted by the interposition of these pashas, or compelled to desist by the intensity of the heat, which ranged in summer as high as 112-115 degrees Fahrenheit in the shade, the author extended his knowledge of the neighbourhood, and his friendship with those nomadic and stationary tribes who now inhabit the seat of ancient Chaldea, by excursions into the mountains. In these excursions he encounters Nestorian Christians, Kurds with scarcely any religion at all, though nominally Moslem, and Yezidis, or Devil Worshippers, a sect known only by tradition, even in the East, though it is probably that their faith is the antecessor of what is termed the Manichean heresy – or worship of the evil principle. His account of the massacres of the Kurds – their slaughter of the simple Nestorian Christians who dwell at the base of the mountains which comprise Kurdistan – is enough to make a man's hair stand on end with horror; while his experience of the votaries of Satan, on the contrary, prefigures a peaceful, happy, ingenuous, hospitable, and harmless community, celebrating rites which resemble more the Chinese feast of lanterns, or the Circassian feast of roses – the latter as described by Tom Moore, the poet – than what every one will expect to be the ceremonial [ceremony] of their worship. Their devil, however, is no Moloch; no little children, nor full-grown women, nor aged men, are immolated on his altars; in the middle watches of the night his votaries dispel the darkness with the light of countless torches, and dnacing through a dense grove, in the centre of which bubbles up a clear cool fountainn, ultimately whirl and cry out like the Corybeetes of the Greeks and ROmans, or the Shakers and Quakers of Christianity, until they sink down exhausted, or until the signal of cessation from the temple of their god puts a sudden period to their wild worship. "The Yezidis, or Devil Worshippers," says Mr. Layard, "have a tradition that they originally came from Busreh (Bassorah) and from the country watered by the lower part of the Euphrates; and that after their emigration they first settled in Syria, and subsequently took possession of the Singar Hill and the districts they now inhabit in Kurdistan." This tradition, with the peculiar nature of their tenets, points to a Sabæan or Chaldæan origin. He admits, however, that it is difficult to come to any conclusion as to the source of their peculiar opinions and observances; though he maintains that Sabæanism is the prevailing feature: and he adds, "It is not improbable that the sect may be a relic of the ancient Chaldees, who have at various times outwardly adopted the forms and tenets of the ruling people to save themselves from persecution and oppression." This doctrine, however, is invalidated by the fact that they live among Mohammedans – the Kurds – and that they are not Mohammedan.
A truncated obelisk of black marble, containing an inscription of 210 lines in length, was discovered in the halls of Nimroud by Mr. Layard, which, in all human probability, contains a record of the history of a portion of the Assyrian Empire. Scarcely a character of the inscription is wanting, and the figures are (or rather were) as sharp and well defined as if they had been carved but a few days before. The author conjectures from the bassi-relievi which ornament this monument, that it is a record of an Indian invasion and conquest, in which he would seem to be right. Possibly, the Bacchus, whose invasion of Eastern Asia has been traditionally preserved by the mythology of the Greeks, was an Assyrian monarch – the monarch whose exploits are here commemorated – through the lapse of ages; and whom the proneness of the human mind to hero-worship, metamorphosed into a god. These speculations might be pursued ad infinitum; but after all, what would they amount to? A proof of the ingenuity of the speculator – nothing more. They are, therefore, suspended upon this occasion. So also is further notice of the present volumes; but for this reason, viz., that every one interested in the progress of the human race and its history – the scholar, the divine, the historian, the artist – yea, and he who is neither only a mere reader for pleasure or for pastime, should have a copy of the work in his possession. To pursue the subject, therefore, would be but to anticipate the delight which all persons must feel in its perusal; a circumstance that would be satisfactory to none of the parties – the reader, the author, or the publisher.
In conclusion for the present, it may be stated that the work is most elegantly "got up;" and that it is as beautiful in its typography and its illustration as it is valuable in the matter of its contents. The subject, however, is one of such interest, and it evokes, moreover, so many remembrances of the past greatness of perished empires, that a second notice is deemed indispensable, to present an adequate view of its contents to the reader.
Interestingly, the Christians are never referred to as Assyrians, only as Chaldeans and Nestorians interchangeably. Mention is made of Renaudot and Le Brun's work on the eastern churches. The notice takes an extremely negative view of the Kurds, and tells a story of Christians massacred by Beder Khan. There is a brief mention — not well explained — that the Chaldean/Nestorian people were thought to be descendants of the ancient Assyrians. There is also a mention of the Roman Catholics of Assyria. This all suggests a poor delineation of terms being used geographically or to refer to a religious sect. The critic mentions many times that Mr. Layard is sectarian and has theological issues, but I do not totally understand what is meant by this in this context. It is suggested that Yezidis, not Chaldean Christians, may in fact be the closest remnants to the ancient Assyrian people.
I had not known that the Assyrian king supposedly self-immolated, along with all their concubines and belongings, when Nineveh was taken.
MR. LAYARD'S "NINEVEH AND ITs REMAINs."
Nineveh and its Remains. By AUSTEN HENRY LAYARD, Esq., D.C.L.
In two volumes. (London: John Murray. 1849.[)]
Mr. Layard's opinion respecting the ruins of Nimroud is, that they were of different dates, the three palaces which he succeeded in excavating; and that the first or most perfect, which must be taken as the type of the most ancient of three cities that stood on the spot, was buried beneath the surface of the soil before the second and third were begun. This first was in all probability the residence of Nimrod, "the mighty hunter before the Lord;" or at least that of his more immediate successors, who may have called it by his name — the name it still bears — in honour of the founder of their race and sovereignty. Mr. Layard believes also that the position of the alabaster slabs found by him in this edifice indicates that the architects of the more modern, or rather less ancient palaces — those to the north-east and south-west of the mound — were aware of the existence of these ruins; inasmuch as there is every reasonable proof that they went to them, as the Romans of the middle ages went to the Coliseum, for materials for their palaces, or the Turks, while in possession of Athens, went to the Parthenon, or the Temple of Theseus, for stones wherewith to construct the fortifications of the citadel of that city. The north-west palace, or temple, for it appears to have been both, was buried long before either of the others in question was raised; the foundations of the more ancient of the latter — the north-east — are on a level with the tops of the wall of the former; while those of that edifice which is with reason supposed to be the less ancient are considerably above both. It is not improbable that a new race, or races, of kings supervened upon the stock of Nimrod, either by fusion or by conquest, and that each built itself a separate residence. The oldest palace is untouched by any agency except time and neglect; the two that stand above and contiguous to it, have been destroyed by fire. There is a clear coincidence between this latter fact and history, for it is stated in ancient records that two Assyrian princes — Sardanapalus first, and one of his successors in the second instance — burnt themselves, along with their women and their treasures, in their palaces, in preference to falling into the hands of the Medes or Scythians, by whom their empire was destroyed.
It is a fact as singular as it is true, that every part of the more ancient of the three palaces excavated by Mr. Layard, at Nimroud, should be more perfect than anything in the more recent edifices — recent, comparatively speaking, be it remembered, inasmuch as they were all destroyed, and the empire or empires connected with them almost forgotten before history, as it exists, commenced to be written. There is more evidence of design in the structural character of this edifice; the sculptures are more masterly by very many degrees of excellence; the architectural and decorative ornaments are not inferior to those of the Greeks, or even to the arabesques so called, invented by Raffaelle; and the scope and hearing of each particular portion is more manifest. What a humiliated reflection this obtrudes upon the modern mind, long accustomed to look upon civilization, as it is now understood, to be a form of social life, unattained to by the ancient races who preceded the Greek and Roman, and to believe itself the inheritor of the accumulated excellence and experience of five or six hundred centuries. We boast of our numbers; but the mountains of Armenia and the plains of Scythia poured forth hosts, ten to one more than the densest modern population, within five hundred years after the birth of Arphaxad, or at the period of the "dispersion" and the confusion of tongues. We extol our greatness; but the Assyrian dominion extended from the Propontis to Afghanistan, when the human family may be said to have been in its infancy. We congratulate ourselves on our skill in the arts, our knowledge of the sciences, our improvements in the circumstances of life; but where are there palaces like those of the founders of the first monarchy known to men after the deluge? where are there sculptures to excel the monuments of Assyrian ingenuity and taste, disinterred by Mr. Layard? and where are the means of making existence more satisfactory in modern times, at all to be compared with those which have been brought to light by his patience and perseverance?
Mr. Layard's journal is a record of the application of those qualities which ensure success in all the affairs of life — viz., patience, perseverance, firmness, and decision. These qualities are exemplified as much n the episodes, if they may be so termed, of his existence in Assyria, as in the prosecution of his invaluable labours. When the heat became so oppressive as to suspend his excavations, or when Turkish pashas gave him so much trouble as to render a brief repose necessary, he is found in the mountains of Kurdistan, in pursuit of health; or in the valleys of those mountains — terra incognita to Europeans — investigating the ethnology of the tribes who inhabit them; or ascertaining, as far as he might, the nature of their religious rites and ceremonials. The Chaldean Christians — commonly called the Nestorians of the Esat — are among those whom he especially favours with his attention in these respects: and assuming his testimony to be unprejudiced, as regards them, they would seeem in every sense of the word not undeserving of respect and esteem at the hands of the traveller. He says that Nestorius followed them, or in other words taught the purer doctrine which they derived from the immediate successors of the Apostles; but Mr. Layard's theology is that part of his work which is most obnoxious to censure. Nestorius preached two distinct persons in Christ, that of God and that of man, maintaining that they were only joined by a moral union — the godhead dwelling as it were in the humanity as in a temple. He likewise denied the necessity of grace, though he taught original sin. But Mr. Layard, while stating that the Chaldean Christians uphold the same doctrine, which affirms that the incarnation, as such, never existed, and that the humanity assumed by God for the purposes of man's redemption was not hypostatical, states also that their creed, in theory as well as in practice, bears the closest analogy to that of the Church of England of any other known form of Christianity. How he can settle this with the "doctors" of the Church may not be predicated. Perhaps if he knew more of ecclesiastical biography he would be less prone to hunt up his heroes among the heresiarchs of the early ages of the Church; and it is not unjust to assume that if he had read the life of the founder, or ostensible founder, of the heresy in question, he would not have "exalted his horn," as he has done in this matter, at the expense of St. Cyril of Alexandria, a father of the Church whose piety and whose orthodoxy have never been doubted. Nestorius was a man of weak mind, full of self-conceit, vain, indolent, and obstinate — so say his contemporaries, Socrates, Theodoret, and Marius Mercator; and he was, moreover, upon being placed in the episcopal chair of Constantinople (A.D. 428) 'a furious persecutor of the Arians, Macedonians, Manicheans, and Quartodecimans, which heretics he finally drove out of his diocese. Mr. Layard has either not discovered all that is known to exist, on the subject of the tenets of the Chaldee Christians, or he has not communicated it to his readers. Besides the liturgy which they possess under the name of Nestorius, they possess also, according to Renaudot and Le Brun, learned French writers, ("Liturgies Orientales," tom. 2, and "Liturgies," tom. 3.) two others which they assert to be more ancient; each of whom, it is on the authority of these historians and critics, contains a clear profession of transubstantiation and the sacrifice of the mass. Be this, however, as it may, the condition of these poor simple people is one which calls for the sympathy of every person professing any of the forms of Christianity. Surrounded by hostile races — they themselves being in all probability a later remnant of the Assyrian people who ruled Asia before Greek or Roman was in existence — they remain exposed without the shadow of protection to the tyranny of the Turks of the plains and the Arabs of the desert on the one hand, and on the other to the fanatical rage and fierce cupidity of the semi-savage Kurdish tribes who dwell in the mountains above them. In fact they are like the flying fish in the fable — there is no resting place for the soles of their feet. There is a village at the foot of the Kurdish hills, known as Lizan; it stands on the river Zab — the Lycus major of the ancients. This village is or was occupied by those Chaldean Christians upon whom the zealous, well-meaning, but indiscreet labours of an American mission, headed by the Rev. Mr. Grant, brought desolation and ruin. "It was near Lizan," says Mr. Layard, "that occurred one of the most terrible incidents of the massacre of 1843, caused by the invasion of Beder Khan Bey, the chief of the adjacent Kurds. Ten thousand men, women, and children, were slaughtered in cold blood on this occasion, and a large number of girls besides were carried into slavery, which is worse than death. An active mountaineer offering to lead me to the spot," he continues, "I followed him up the mountain. Emerging from the gardens, we found ourselves at the foot of an almost perpendicular detritus of loose stones, terminated, about one thousand feet above us, by a wall of lofty rocks. We soon saw evidence of the slaughter. At first a solitary skull rolling down with the rubbish — then heaps of blanched bones; further up fragments of rotting garments. As we advanced, those remains became more frequent — skeletons almost entire, still hung to the dwarf shrubs. I was soon compelled to renounce an attempt to count them. As we approached the walls of rock, the declivity became covered with bones, mangled with the long platted tressacs of the women, shreds of discoloured linen, and well-worn shoes. There were skulls of all ages, from the child unborn to the toothless old man. We could not avoid treading on the bones as we advanced, and rolling them with the loose stones into the valley below. 'This is nothing,' exclaimed my guide, who observed me gazing with wonder on these miserable heaps, 'they are but the remains of those who were thrown, from above, or sought to escape the sword by jumping from the rock.' When the fugitives who had escaped from Asheetha spread the news of the massacre through the valley of Lizan, the inhabitants of the villages around collected such parts of their property as they could carry, and took refuge on a platform at the summit of the rock in question, hoping to escape the notice of the Kurds, or to be able to defend against any numbers, a place almost inaccessible. Beder Khan Bey was not long in discovering their retreat; but being unable to force it, he surrounded the place with his men, and waited until its occupants should be compelled to yield." "The weather," pursues Mr. Layard, "was hot and sultry; the Christians had brought but small supplies of water and provisions: after three days the first began to fail them, and they offered to capitulate. The terms proposed by Beder Khan Bey, and ratified by an oath on the Kuran, were accepted; and the Khurds [sic] were admitted to the platform. But after they had disarmed their prisoners they commenced an indiscriminate slaughter, until weary of using their weapons they hurled the few survivors into the river below." Out of one thousand human beings only one escaped; and yet Beder Khan Bey was never punished for this wholesale destruction of the subjects of his master the Sultaun.[sic]
The Yezidis of Chaldea, the devil worshippers, as they are generally denominated, naturally attracted a considerable share of Mr. Layard's attention; and it is a curious circumstance to remark, how in his case, the prejudices of a sectarian belief have been able to overcome a judgment in other matters as clear as may be conceived. Inferentially upon the testimony of this traveller, these religionists — assuming them to profess a religion — are placed next in point of purity of morals, and it may be deduced therefore of doctrine, to the Chaldean Christians — consequently before the Roman Catholics of Assyria and the Mohammedans, which latter are at least unitarian and monotheist — worshipping one supreme God. he says the Yezidis worship one supreme being; but he adds, "as far as I could learn, they do not offer up any direct prayer or sacrifice to him. Every topic connected with the existence of that deity they appear to shun with superstitious awe. The name of the evil spirit — Sheitan or Satan — is never mentioned by them; and any allusion to it vexes and irritates them so much that it is alleged they have put to death people who wantonly outraged their feelings by its use. When they speak of the devil they do so with reverence, calling him King Peacock, or Mighty Angel. His symbol is a bud, of which they possess a copper figure, occasionally represented in clay or wax. They believe Satan to be the chief of the angelic host, now suffering punishment — but still all powerful, and to be restored hereafter to his high estate in the celestial hierarchy." Hence they argue he must be conciliated and reverenced. Next to Satan in power they name seven archangels, of which three, viz., Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, only are known to the Jewish and Christian Bibles. Christ they believe to have been a great angel also, who had taken the form of man. He did not, however, in their theology, die on the cross, but ascended therefrom to heaven. They hold the Old Testament in high veneration, and they respect the New Testament and the Kuran. Mahommed is looked upon by them as a prophet; so is Abraham. They expect a second coming of Christ. It is doubtful whether their worship is antecedent or subsequent to Christianity; but there is every reason to believe the former. Their rites, as described by Mr. Layard (vide last week's Observer), are of Pagan origin, literally "holding a candle to the devil;" and from certain circumstances it is more than probable they follow a faith, having for its basis the worship of the Assyrian Venus (Astarte), upon whic has been superinduced portions of the religious forms of every nation which has settled down on the plains of Shinaar since the destruction or extiction of the originnal race of Ninus, the son of Belus. Mede, Persian, Greek, Christian, and Moslem observances are all mixed up together in their creed, in so far as it is known at present; which leads to the conclusion that they, and not the Chaldean Christians, are the most ancient representatives of the ancient Assyrian people. This, however, is a question of the solution of which seems wrapped in impenetrable mystery. The only conclusion that can be arrived at from Mr. Layard's account of their habits and customs, their religious ceremonies and moral observances, is that prefigured in the popular adage — "The devil is not so black as he is painted."
All these portions of the author's experience will be read with the interest attachable to adventure directed by ability; nor will the reader peruse with less pleasure his accounts of his experience among the Arab tribes with whom he is brought into contact. Apart, however, from Mr. Layard's theology, which is sectarian to an offensive degree, these volumes are unquestionably the most valuable contributions made for many a long day to the literature of this country.
This is very important for the description it gives of popular understanding of the ancient Assyrians before the excavations. Prior to the excavations, it was not totally clear if the ruins were natural or manmade, and people understood ancient Assyria through various legends about legendary (and not even necessarily true) kings.
NINEVEH AND ITS REMAINS: with an Account of a Visit to the Chaldean Christians of Kurdistan, and the Yezidis, or Devil Worshippers; and an Inquiry into the Manners and Arts of the Ancient Assyrians. By Austen Henry Layard, Esq., D. C. L. 2 vols. New York. George P. Putnam, 155 Broadway.
Over the lands watered by the Euphrates and the Tigris rises ridges of hills and tracts of table lands, grown with corn, or crowned with villages and Arab cemeteries; the chasms, formed by water-courses in the sides of these elevated grounds, are, and for thousands of years have been, the haunts of the hyæna and the jackal; the unlearned traveller looks upon these eminences as the natural inequalities of the country; and their symmetrical forms, which would prove less enormous masses to have been of man's construction, are scarcely sufficient to suggest their real origin to the modern mind, habituated to the pigmy productions of a Wren, or of a Michael Angelo. An energy of investigation, unparalleled in the history of human intellect, after having exhausted the secrets of Egypt, confirming or completing its history, and restoring to us its domestic life, has been recently directed to the more mysterious regions of the capital cities of that great Assyrian monarchy which once extended its dominion over half the world.
Two private individuals, M. Botta and Mr. Layard, have disinterred a history, which has been buried for three thousand years. Five years ago, the traditions of an empire, rivaling in magnitude that of later Rome, consisted of a mass of semi-fabulous stories, arranges themselves around personages of whose very existence there might be reasonable doubt; the stories of Ninus, Semiramis, and Sardanapalus, having claims upon our credit, much like those which are made upon it by the fables of Hercules or Arthur. Besides these traditions, we had the incidental witness of a few verses of the Old Testament, and of notices scattered rarely, here and there, among ancient and dubious Greek authorities. The importance of the Assyrian empire, strange to say, was the accidental cause of this paucity of records concerning it; for Herodotus, who was satisfied with allotting a single niche in his great work to Egypt, and to other considerable nations, intended the history of the Assyrian empire for a separate treatise, which, if it was ever written, has not descended to us. In Mr. Layard's words:
"Although the names of Nineveh and Assyria have been familiar to us from our childhood, and are connected with our earliest impressions derived from the inspired writings, it is only when we ask ourselves what we really know concerning them that we discover our ignorance of all that relates to their history and even to their geographical position. It is indeed one of the most remarkable facts in history that the records of an empire so renowned for its power and civilization should have been entirely lost; and that the site of a city as eminent for its extent as its splendor, should for ages have been a matter of doubt."
Thanks, however, to the labors of Mr. Layard and M. Botta, seconded by those of Major Rawlinson, and the greatest German and French philologists, we are now in a fair way to recover the lost records of Assyria, and of becoming as familiar with the domestic habits, the modes of warfare, the arts, and the religion of that empire, as we are with the customs and worship of Greece and Rome.
Mr. Layard, in the autumn of 1845, induced by the startling discoveries made at Khorsabad by M. Botta, commanded his investigations on the banks of the Tigris with a zeal and resolution worthy of his object. M. Botta, from the mound at Kouyunjik, had dug the first Assyrian monument a year or two before. This was an enviable distinction acquired by himself, and by the government – always liberal in expenditure for the advancement of art – which seconded his efforts. Mr. Rich had already made some interesting observations on the site of Babylon, but they were not of importance enough to abolish M. Botta's claims to be regarded as the first great discoverer of Assyrian antiquities. This gentleman, abandoning Kouyunjik, after slight and superficial examination, directed his labors to the minor ruins at Khorsabad. Here he made the discoveries which, during the last few years, have been the leading subjects of comment among the archæologists of Europe. In the trenches opened by M. Bota were found series of bas-reliefs, the products of a style of art wholly unlike, in many essential points, any style already known. Exhibiting analogies with the arts of Persia, Egypt, and Asia Minor, which render these reliefs of the highest import as additions to, and probably clues to problems in, the history of the origin and progress of arts in these countries, they constitute in themselves an independent chapter of no mean mark in the history of universal art. With an attention to details not inferior to that displayed by the artist of Egypt, the Assyrian sculptor combined a vivacity and truth which is nowhere to be found in the remains that strew the valley of the Nile. We cannot go along with the French critic, who affirms that the Assyrian relics will bear a comparison with the products of Phydias; but we are as little prepared to deny the superiority of some of the best fragments delineated by Mr. Layard to all but the very first efforts of modern art in the same kind. There are conventional forms and a total disregard to literal verisimilitude in the works of the Assyrian which must shock an unprepared and uncultivated taste, and distract it from the appreciation of the real excellence which abounds in them; but real excellence there is, and that, if we mistake not, of a high order. In details the art, as in all true schools, becomes suggestive rather than literally imitative, when literal imitation becomes inconvenient, from limited space, or other causes. In a lion-hunt, for example, the lion rolls dying under the chariot wheels, while the warrior is sending his arrow before him into space. In a siege, the height of the soldiers scaling the walls is out of all proportion to that of the walls themselves; but the lion and horses have true actions; the aspect of the warrior is bold and noble; the incidents of the siege are depicted with invention and power.
So much for the art which has been restored to the world by Messrs. Botta and Layard: and, by the way, let it be understood that we place the French discoverer before the English one, not on account of the magnitude of the discoveries of the first, but only on account of his priority in order of time, Mr. Layard's discoveries being much more numerous and interesting than those of M. Botta. To give our readers a nation of the value of these remains in restoring a picture of Assyrian life and data for Assyrian history, we need only state that the slabs of alabaster, upon which the principal works are executed, are many hundreds in number, and that they contain delineations of incidents of every order associated with the history of this ancient nation. But besides these reliefs, and more important still, for historical purposes, an immense body of inscriptions have been found, and carefully copied, and are not being deciphered by philologists of all countries.
Of course we can treat for the most part only in the most general terms, concerning the contents of Mr. Layard's volumes, but there are two or three details, which are of such commonly appreciable interest, that we must not neglect to mention them in an account which is to contain all that many readers will know, of these wonderful Assyrian revelations. It appears from the investigations of Mr. Layard at Nimroud, that the Assyrians were acquainted with the principle of vaulting by arches, and of supporting roofs by pillars; yet it is very remarkable that neither of these valuable expedients were employed, to any extent, in the enormous Assyrian buildings. – Consequently, all the closed apartments are long galleries, narrow enough to allow of roofing by horizontal beams. Mr. Lyard discovered only one instance of vaulting by the so called "Roman," or semi-circular arc, and that was in a position where it was not demanded by the necessities of construction. A bas-relief of a fishing, or pleasure, house, showed the only trace of columns; and these, it a most interesting and surprising fact, were distinctly "Ionic," showing that the order was the adoption, and not the invention, of the Greek colonists of Asia Minor. From the circumstances of the neglect of the discovery of the arch and the column, Mr. Layard infers that, it was not made until after conventional forms of architecture had been adopted, and an adherence to them, as in the case of Greek architecture, was become [sic] a point of religious feeling. Of the antiquarian results of Mr. Layard's researches, perhaps the most popularly interesting are the determination of the site of Nineveh, and the verification of the extraordinary and coincident descriptions of that city, to be found in the Old Testament and Diodorus Siculus. An oblong space, the angles of which are marked by four great masses of ruins, namely, Nimroud, Kouyunjik, Karamles, and Khorsabad, is covered with lesser mounds and traces of building. This space is about 480 stadia, or three days journey, or 60 miles around, which is the area assigned to Nineveh by Jonah and Diodorus. Moreover, the situation is precisely that ascribed to the city by later writers. – To understand how this immense size was consistent with the comparatively small number of inhabitants, we are to remember that the walls for he Assyrian cities enclosed arable land sufficient to grow corn for all the inmates, in case of invasion or siege. [Obviously not corn.] The other problem that will immediately strike all who think of the matter, namely, the present state of the ruins, which are mere mounds of earth, is satisfied at once by the fact that the bricks, which formed the chief building material, were merely dried in the sun, and were subsequently soon reduced to their parent earth when their thin cases of stone, or baked bricks, fell off, or were destroyed. With such an inherent tendency to ruin, what must have been the size of the separate palaces of Nineveh, when the mountain left by one of them, after the lapse of 3,000 years, is still 3,985 yards round, and 100 feet high!
We close this hasty glance at the antiquarian portions of Mr. Layard's work by the following passage from the letter of a traveller, conveying his first impressions of the sight revealed to him by the excavations at Nimroud:
"I took this opportunity whilst at Mosul of visiting the excavations of Nimroud. But before I attempt to give a short account of them, I may as well say a few words as to the general impressions which those wonderful remains made upon me, on my first visit to them. I should begin by stating that they are all underground. To get to them, Mr. Layard has excavated the earth to the depth of twelve to fifteen feet, where he has come to a building composed of slabs of marble. In this place, which forms the northwestern angle of the mound, he has fallen upon the interior of a large palace, consisting of a labyrinth of halls, chambers and galleries, the walls of which are covered with bas-reliefs and inscriptions in the cuneiform character, all in excellent preservation. The upper part of the walls, which were of bricks, painted with flowers, &c., in the brightest colors, and the roofs, which were of wood, have fallen, but fragments of them are strewn about in every direction. The time of day when I first descended into these chambers happened to be towards evening, the shades of which added, no doubt, to the awe and mystery of the surrounding objects. It was, of course, with no little excitement that I suddenly found myself in the magnificent abode of the old Assyria kings, where, moreover, it needs not the slightest effort of imagination to conjure up visions of their long departed power and greatness. The walls themselves were crowded with phantoms of the past.– In the words of Byron, 'Three thousand years their cloudy wings outspread,' unfolding to view a vivid representation of these who conquered and possessed so large a portion of the earth we now inhabit. They were in the oriental pomp of richly embroidered robes, and quaintly artificial coiffure. There, also, were portrayed their deeds in peace and war, their audiences, battles, sieges, lion hunts, &c. My mind was overpowered by the contemplation of so many strange objects; and some of them the portly forms of kings and viziers, were so life-like, and carved in such fine relief, that they might almost be imagined to be stepping from the walls to question the rash intruder on their privacy. Then, mingled with them, were other monstrous shapes–the old Assyrian deities, with human bodies, long drooping wings, and the heads and beaks of eagles; or, still faithfully guarding the portals of the deserted halls, the colossal forms of winged lions and bulls, with gigantic human faces. All these figures, the idols of a religion long since dead and buried, like themselves, seemed actually in the twilight to be raising their decorated heads from the dust of centuries: certainly the feeling of awe which they inspired me with must have been something akin to that experienced by their brethren votaries."
We have now said quite enough to enable our readers to judge of the almost inestimable value of Mr. Layard's discoveries, for the historian, the antiquary, and the biblical critic. We must take a glance at the matters of more popular interest with which these volumes abound. As a mere "book of travel," it is one of the most attractive we have had the pleasure of perusing; the glimpses which we cath of Arab life are vivid and impressive in the highest degree; the account of the Nestorian or Chaldean Christians, who have lived, untainted by Romish defection from the truth, from the earliest ages of Christianity, among the mountains of Kurdistan, is of the very highest interests for the multitudes of protestants who have clung to the example of the Vandois as being the most consistent historical refutation of the Romish system; the personal dangers to which Mr. Layard was continually exposed, from the neighborhood of the plunderinng Arabs, and sanguinary Kurds, keep constantly alive the lowest kind of interest in which all are capable of partaking; while that gentleman's invincible courage, unwearying perseverance, and admirable management of the strange company he was occasionally cast among, offer a spectacle refreshing to behold, in these days, when, thanks to the new police, we can, most of us, easily dispose with heroism of the sort exhibited by Mr. Layard. We present our readers with a few extracts, which will illustrate our remarks, and show the justice of our praise. Mr. Layard thus begins the description of his wanderings in the desert regions of Nineveh and Kurdistan.
"During the autumn of 1839 and winter of 1840, I had been wandering through Asia Minor and Syria, scarcely leaving untrod one spot hallowed by tradition, or unvisited one ruin consecrated by history. I was accompanied by one no less curious and enthusiastic than myself. We were both equally careless of comfort and unmindful of danger. We rode alone; our arms were our only protection; a valise behind our saddles was our wardrobe; and we tended our own horses, except when relieved from the duty by the hospitable inhabitants of a Turcoman village or an Arab tent. Thus unembarrassed by needless luxuries, and uninfluenced by the opinions and prejudices of others, we mixed amongst the people, acquired without effort their manners, and enjoyed without alloy those emotions which scenes so novel and spots so rich in varied association cannot fail to produce. I look back with feelings of grateful delight to those happy days when, free and unheeded, we left at dawn the humble cottage or cheerful tent, and lingering as we listed, unconscious of distance and of the hour, found ourselves, as the sun went down, under some hoary ruin, tenanted by the wandering Arab, or in some crumbling village still bearing a well known name. No experienced dragoman measured our distances and appointed our stations. We were honored with no conversations by pachas, nor did we seek any civilities from governors. We neither drew tears nor curses from the villagers, by seizing their horses or searching their houses for provisions; their welcome was sincere; their scanty fare was placed before us; we ate, and came, and went in peace."
Again, speaking of the Arab life, Mr. Layard says:
"There is a charm in this wandering existence, whether of the Kurd or the Arab, which can not be described. I have had some experience in it, and look backward with pleasure to the days I have spent in the desert, notwithstanding the occasional inconveniences of such a life, not the least of them being a strong tendency on the part of all nomads to profess a kind of communist philosophy, supposed in Europe to be the result of modern wisdom, but which appears to have been known from the earliest times in the east. Friends and strangers are not always exempted from the rules of this philosophy, and as reciprocity is as little understood in the Asiatic as in the European system, their property is made no less free with than that of Job was by Arabs and Chaldees some four thousand years ago. Still this mode of life has not always a bad effect on human nature; on the contrary, it frequently acts favorably. One cannot but admire the poor half naked Arab, who, entrusted with a letter or message from his sheik to the pasha of Bagdad, walks proudly up to the great man's sofa and seats himself, unbidden, upon it as an equal. He fulfils his errand as if he were half ashamed of it. If it be too late to return to his tent that night, or if business still keep him from the desert, he stretches himself under a tree outside the city gate, that he may not be degraded by sleeping under a roof or within walls. He believes that the town corrupts the wanderer; and he remembers that until the sheik of the desert visited the citizens, and were feasted in the palaces of their governors, oppression and vices most odious to the Arabs were unknown."
The following is an admirable description of an extraordinary scene – one of the annual festivities of the Yezidis, or Devil-worshippers. It is midnight, in a dimly illuminated forest of Kurdistan:
"The tambourines which were struck simultaneously only interrupted at intervals the song of the priests. As the time quickened they broke in more frequently. The chant gradually gave way to a lively melody, which, increasing its measure, was finally lost in a confusion of sounds. The tambourines were beat with extraordinary energy, the flutes poured forth a rapid flood of notes, the voices were raised to their highest pitch, the men outside joined in the cry, while the women made the rocks resound with the shrill tahlehl. The musicians giving way to the excitement, threw their instruments into the air, and strained their limbs into every contortion, until they fell exhausted to the ground. I never heard a more frightful yell than that which rose in the valley. It was midnight. The time and place were well suited to the occasion, and I gazed with wonder upon the extraordinary scene around me. Thus were probably celebrated, ages ago, the mysterious rites of the Corybantes when they met in some consecrated grove. I did not marvel that such wild ceremonies had given rise to those stories of unhallowed rites and obscene mysteries which have rendered the name of Yezidi an abomination in the east. Notwithstanding the uncontrollable excitement which appeared to prevail amongst all present, there were no indecent gestures or unseemly ceremonies. When the musicians and singers were exhausted, the noise suddenly died away. The various groups resumed their previous cheerfulness, and again wandered through the valley or seated themselves under the trees."
The emigration of an Arab tribe is thus described:
"We soon found ourselves in the midst of wide-spreading flocks of sheep and camels. As far as the eye could reach to the right, to the left, and in front, was the same moving crowd. Long lines of assess and bullocks laden with black tents, huge cauldrons and variegated carpets; aged women and men, no longer able to walk, tied on the heap of domestic furniture; infants crammed into saddle-bags – their tiny heads thurst [sic] through the norrow [sic] opening, balanced on the animal's back by kids or lambs tied on the oposite side; young girls clothed only in the close fitting Arab shirt which displayed rather than concealed their graceful forms; mothers with their children on their shoulders; boys driving flocks of lambs; horsemen armed with their long-tufted spears, scouring the plain on their fleet mares; riders urging their dromedaries with their short-hooked sticks, and leading their high bred steeds by the halter; colts galloping amongst the throng; high born ladies seated in the centre of huge wings, which extend like those of a butterfly from each side of the camel's hump, and are no less gaudy and variegated – such was the motley crowd through which we had to wend our way for several hours."
There was also a nearly identical article published with these additional pieces of information. The notion of Abraham engaging with the sculptures is utterly ludicrous and evinces a totally misunderstood historical chronology.
Most of our readers are aware that the remains secured by Mr. Layard are all to be deposited in the British Museum. Many of them are already exhibited; others are only just arrived at the establishment, and others are still upon their way to England. We infer, from Mr. Layard's work, that the least interesting are those which are, at present, open to the public; but there are few persons, we suppose, who have so little curiosity, and feel so little awe, while standing, as it were, in the presence of the Past, as not to have paid, or to be about to pay, a new visit to the British Museum for the purpose of beholding the sculptures upon which the eyes of Ezekiel and Jonah, and possible of Abraham himself, have dwelt.
With the following passage we close our extracts. We understand that Mr. Layard is to continue his Assyrian researches, with assistance from our government. Let us hope that it will be more liberal upon this occasion than upon the last; and that, in the publication of Mr. Layard's future researches, there may be found no such complaints as these:
I had neither knowledge nor experience as a draughtsman; and this I felt to be a great drawback, and, indeed, a disqualification which I could scarcely hope to overcome. Many of the sculptures and monuments discovered were in too dilapidated a condition to be removed, and others threatened to fall to pieces as soon as uncovered. It was only by drawings that the record of them could be preserved. There was no inclination to send an artist to assist me, and I made up my mind to do the best I could – to copy as carefully and as accurately as possible that which I saw before me. I had therefore to superintend the excavations, to draw all the bas-reliefs discovered, to copy and compare the innumerable inscriptions, to take casts of them, and to preside over the movin and packing of the sculptures. As there was no one whom I could trust to overlook the diggers, I was obliged to be continually present, and frequently to remove the earth myself from the face of the slabs, as, through the carelessness and inexperience of the workmen, they were exposed to injury from the blows of the picks.
[End of article]
This publication below is totally bizarre. It is from a prominent abolitionist magazine but the suggestions are vulgar and atrocious. It is useful in one way, however – it mentions Nestorians in a broad sense, which suggests that Americans viewed all the eastern Christians with little granular knowledge. This is coming from someone who seems to be a missionary expert. Also, it mentions the ancient Assyrians with no awareness of the name of Assyria being carried on by any of the eastern Christians. This is despite recent publications at the time of Layard's excavations.
A NEW PLAN OF EMANCIPATION.
It is not so generally known as it ought to be, that large sums of money are annually expended in the conversion of foreign Jews, Hindoos, Budhists, Greeks, Nestorians, and Catholic Christians to the true Episcopal, Baptist, Methodist, or to some other Christian confession. From the records of those propagandists at large, it appears that each proselyte costs to the faithful about two thousand dollars. At Mahometanism these modern apostles dare not venture, for fear of martyrdom, which is out of fashion with them.
The civilization of Africa is a great object of true humanity, indeed; but it seems doubtful whether the dissemination of belief is sufficient. [There is a long dash before 'belief' for some reason.] It is false reasoning to argue that the negroes are void of higher faculties, from the fact of their having never reached such a degree of learning and refinement as the Egyptians, Assyrians, Medes, Greeks and Romans of yore.
Equality of man in a republic is indeed a great principle; but principle for principle, I would soon advocate the purifying of the country from the black Helote-caste altogether.
To unite the two objects of humanity and politics, I propose to the reader the forming of a joint-stock company, with an appropriate capital–
(1.) To purchase colored female children under ten years of age, of such persons as are willing to dispose of them, and to engage also free-born ones.
(2.) To educate these children in the most finished style, and when arrived at maturity, to send them to Liberia, to become the mothers of young Africa.
When the equilibrium between the male and female population is once destroyed, the natural increase of population is greatly prevented, and the final disappearance of the Africans from the soil of the United States might be looked for in a couple of hundred years, without damage or sacrifice to any party.
This exceptional article describes the political motivations for enjoining the eastern Christians to the Church of England. There was anxiety over whether the Ottoman Empire could maintain its grip on lands which were understood to be distinctly non-Turkish. Russia would seize Istanbul and France would seize Mesopotamia and Persia. This article is thus a direct link with the later reality of the UK controlling Mesopotamia and using the Assyrian levies.
There is a fascinating note that the people of the East perceived malevolent spirits as wearing English clothes and speaking English. Meanwhile, the English thought that such spirits would be Oriental in style. This ties in today to modern perceptions of state-destroying structures as being totally exogenous: the high-flying drone-powered state-toppling western powers pushing the Middle East into despair; and the caveman terrorists trying to topple Europe and the MIddle East's cherished culture.
NOTES FROM NINEVEH.*
[*Notes from Nineveh. By the Rev. J. P. Fletcher. Colburn, London. 1850.]
Travels in the East are always acceptable. There exists in every heart a deep interest concerning those distant and mysterious regions wherein the first great scenes of the world are enacted. It is as it were the earliest home of our race; it will be always venerable, and every pilgrim who brings us tidings of its people and its monuments – of its very rocks, and trees, and deserts – will be welcome. Mr. Fletcher has himself performed a pilgrimage of more than ordinary interest; but if in no other point of view, his book would be highly valuable as elucidatory of Dr. Layard's important work. It is remarkable, nevertheless, that Dr. Layard and his great discoveries are passed over almost in silence, while M. Botta and his researches are largely spoken of. To the French explorer sufficient credit has not hitherto been allowed, it is true, for he it was who first detected the existence of the invaluable treasures so long buried beneath the Babylonian sands. But Dr. Layard's successes and their fame so soon eclipsed those of his forerunner that the latter is scarcely now remembered. The Ninevite discoveries will bear the name of Layard, as surely as the new world does that of America instead of Columbus.
The "Memoir of a Babylonian Princes" (which, by the bye, is highly spoken of in these volumes) attracted some attention to the plains of the Tigris and Euphrates. But considerable doubts attached themselves to the name and claims of Madame Asmar. The exploring travels of Colonel Chesney and his gallant companions also attracted public attention in the same direction. From time to time, sorrowful stories of persecuted Nestorians reached us through the newspapers, and awakened unavailing sympathy with their sufferings; but still a profound ignorance concerning the actual state of the land of Nimrod prevailed amongst us. Dr. Layard's interest was very naturally concentrated on the one important spot which imparted such interest to the whole country, and such authenticity to its wondrous history. Mr. Fletcher has the honour of giving us the first satisfactory information relating to the present state of Mesopotamia at large, and we have already observed† on the creditable manner in which his task has been executed. [†In The Morning Chronicle, Sept. 13.] It might have been wished that the first four chapters had been reserved for the inclusion of the work: the reader would then have felt sufficiently acquainted with the traveler to take some interest in the more personal and common-place adventures that he there relates. These are pleasantly enough told, however; and there is some good writing on Malta, but neither the incidents nor the tone in which they are related prepare the reader for the really important subjects that are to follow. There is one observation on French supremacy which deserves especial attention, and which must have struck every eastern traveller. Although we might select a more amusing passage for quotation, we could scarcely find a more important one: –
"The progress which the Church of Rome is making in winning over the members of the Oriental churches to acknowledge her supremacy, and to submit to her jurisdiction, will affect different minds in different ways. By the devout adherent of the See of Rome it will be regarded as the triumph of truth over error and heresy, while those who deem the pretensions of that see alike opposed to reason and scripture, will feel sorrow that the long-maintained independence of the Orientals is but surely yielding to usurpation. Yet, whatever effect it may produce on his mind, no candid observer of the course of events can for an instant deny that the Roman interest is gaining rapidly in these parts, and that ere long, as far as human foresight can foretell the future, the Pontiff of the seven-hilled city will add the patriarchs and bishops of the east to the long list of his tributaries. But there are circumstances mixed up with these triumphs of Romanism which may excite the attention of the statesman, as well as the consideration of the divine. The see [See] of Rome is not single-handed in the conflict: she is aided and sustained by the political power of France. Every French official is more or less, as far as a layman can be, a missionary of the Roman see. The missionaries are everywhere considered as enjoying French protection. Do they embroil themselves with the Government? – the French consul steps forward as their champion. Are they engaged in litigation with a rival set? – French influence is thrown into the scale. Nor is this line of conduct on the part of France a novelty or an accident: it dates from the days of Louis XIV., and has been pursued with steadiness and consistency by monarchical, imperial, consular, and republican Governments. France directs the Christians of the East, through the medium of the Roman missionaries; and in the case of the downfall of the Turkish empire, she will find warm and energetic partisans in those Christians of the East who have yielded obedience to the supremacy of Rome." (p. 188.)
Again we quote, in continuation of the same subject, the following passage, the force of which will be acknowledged by every Englishman who has travelled in the East: –
"The time may come when English politicians will regret their shortsightedness, in neglecting to create a friendly interest in the midst of an empire whose present dynasty must soon surrender to its ancient possessors their ill-used and usurped dominion. When the Russian eagle waves from the towers of Constantinople, and the French standard floats ver the dome of Omar, the rulers of England may feel bottles and unavailing sorrow that they have treated with contempt and indifference the important claims of the Christians of the East." (Vol. i., p. 365.)
Let us now turn from the present to the past, and pause upon the Plains of Shinar to contemplate with our author the
"site of that great and mighty Nineveh, where reigned the first conquerors whom the earth ever knew. Happy might it have been for her children had the era of conquest, spoliation, and violence terminated with the downfall and ruin of that haughty city, which first taught the lessons of ambition and crime to those who too eagerly received and carried them into action. Yet what a moral might be derived from the present condition of the capital of Assur. In lieu of lofty palaces and gorgeous temples, the eye surveys only the mounds composed of their dust, or the miserable collection of huts which have arisen on their site. The gardens where Sardanapalus revelled are wasted and desolate; the sounds of luxurious music that once floated on the soft Assyrian breezes, have yielded to the silence of devastation and decay. Nothing could be more striking, indeed, than the stillness which prevailed. Not a sound interrupted the profound repose of nature and of man. Even the cry of the wild animals which disturbs the solitude of ancient Babylon was not heard here. It was the calmness, the dignified decay of ruined majesty, not the blighting operation of a curse which the crimes and sins of past days had called forth. The relics of Babylon impressed me with awe – almost with terror: those of Nineveh inspired more a feeling of sympathy and mournful regret." (Vol. i., p. 200).
Such was the aspect of the old scenes of Assyrian glory, then wrapped in profound solitude and silence, and now once more visited by strangers from distant lands, in quest of the subterranean wonders so wonderfully brought to light in our days.
The first intelligence of the discovery of old Ninveh will be read with interest. The author is sitting with the Bey of Bagh Sheika, when a Mohammedan enters with the following exclamation:–
"'O, Bey! why are you lingering here, when wonderful things are doing at Khoorsabad? Upon my head, the workmen of the French Balios have discovered the treasure-walls of Nineveh, and the idols which those Kafirs (may the curse of Allah light on their graves!) used to worship.'
"'Surely you jest, O man!' I replied; 'you mean they have found some niches with writing upon them.'
"'No, on my eye,' he answered, 'they are idols, and nothing else. Did I not see them as I passed through?'"
These were M. Botta's first discoveries.
We may observe that the Oriental style of dialogue is admirably maintained in these volumes; indeed, to say the truth, the author's attention in a second edition will be well employed in correcting certain careless expressions, repetitions, and redundancies that offend the critics, though they do not detract from the intrinsic value of the book. We have also to regret an absence of dates, which are essential to the form and interest of a diary. There is a variety of small statistical information that we seek for in vain, and which we have no doubt our author can hereafter afford us with little trouble to himself, even in such matters as distances, prices of provisions; and the value of such commodities as horses, houses, and tents, supply no small degree of interest as well as information. [Strange sentence structure.] Above all, we recommend in future editions of this and similar works on such countries, a tabular view of the author's route, noting the dates, the number of miles travelled each day, and the time employed in doing so.
Having thus exhausted our small stock of censures, we gladly turn to approve. Mr. Fletcher's information on the state of the Christian churches in the East is invaluable. His qualifications for treating that subject are great; his learning is extensive, without pedantry; he is tolerant without lukewarmness, and earnest without being prejudiced. His observations on the supposed Atheism of Protestants (i.e. Englishmen) are well worthy the attention of our great missionary societies. He states, too truly, that, all over the East, where a few, ever so few, members of the Roman or Greek churches are gathered together, their first care is to provide themselves with a priest of their own creed and a decent place of public worship. The Protestant seems contented to have his household gods [goods\ with the rest of his family at home, and, scornfully regarding all forms of faith except his own, he is nevertheless contented to dispense with all its forms. Besides much practical observation, our author furnishes us with some interesting theories on the creeds and topography of the lands in which he sojourned. His views of Assyrian History, and of the difference between the Babel of Genesis and that of later scripture writers, deserve attention. He considers the term "Ararat" as applicable to the whole mountain range abutting on the Plains of Shinar, and this last as identical with the present Saen-Kara, Singara, or Singar. He treats copiously of Oriental superstitions, and remarks that the Djin, or Geni[,] are supposed to wear English dresses and use English oaths. "This differs greatly from our common notions of the supernatural world, according to which we are accustomed to depict immortal forms as resembling Orientals, and clothed in all the flowering drapery of the East." Nevertheless the much-suffering Patriarch of the Nestorians is represented by our author as dressed "in a pair of scarlet pantaloons and a short jacket!" Our author regards the Nestorian creed and its professors with a very favorable eye, and has a good word even for the monks. Indeed his description of the latter contrasts admirable with those of the Syrian and Egyptian. But we must now take leave of our author with the following well-told tale:–
"A certain merchant left in his last testament seventeen horses to be divided among his three sons, according to the following proportion: – The first was to receive half, the second one-third, and the youngest the ninth part of the whole. But, when they came to arrange about the division, it was found that, to comply with the terms of the will without sacrificing one or more of the animals, was impossible. Puzzled in the extreme, they repaired to the Cadi, who, having read the will, observed that such a difficult question required time for deliberation, and commanded them to return after two days. When they again made their appearance the judge said, 'I have considered carefully your case, and I find that I can make such a division of the seventeen horses among you as will give each more than his strict share, and yet not one of the animals shall be injured. Are you content?'
"'We are, O judge,' was the reply.
"'Bring forth the seventeen horses, and let them be placed in the court,' said the Cadi.
"The animals were brought, and the judge ordered his groom to place his own horse with them. He bade the oldest brother count the horses.
"'They are eighteen in number, O judge,' he said.
"'I will now make the decision,' observed the Cadi. 'You, the eldest one, are entitled to half; take then nine of the horses. You, the second son, are entitled to receive one-third; take therefore six. While to you, the youngest, belongs the ninth part, namely two. Thus the seventeen horses are divided among you. You have each more than your share, and I may now take my own steed back again.'
"'Mashallah!' exclaimed the brothers, with delight; 'O Cadi, your wisdom equals that of our Lord, Suleiman Ibn Daood.'"
Here the Assyrian Church seems to refer to the eastern churches in general. This may be a use of Assyrian as a synecdochic term on the basis of geography (Assyria standing for the whole Near East) or on the basis of history (the Assyrians supposedly being the first nation to wholly convert to Christianity and thus stand-in for all the Near East).
CHRISTIANITY IN INDIA. – A lecture in connection with the Church of England Sunday School Institute was delivered last evening, in the Church Society's Rooms, Phillip-street, by the Lord Bishop of Sydney, on the very interesting and important subject of "Christianity in India." The building was tolerably well filled on the occasion, the audience numbering about two hundred persons, including several clergymen and a large proportion of ladies. The right reverend prelate commenced his discourse by stating that, although not immediately connected with such institutions as the Sunday School Institute, the subject which he had chosen for his lecture had nevertheless a practical bearing, inasmuch as everything which called for prayerful acknowledgement in the progress of God's work should stimulate and encourage all who were engaged in the religious education of children. Christianity in India might, he said, be divided into five distinct periods, when being treated of in a lecture like the present. First, there was what might be termed Primitive Christianity. Then the Assyrian Church, the Church of Rome, the Lutheran Church, and lastly, the most important era of all, that religious progress which has been made since the period of the East India Company. Dr. Barker then proceeded to describe the history of these several eras, attributing the primitive or apostolic period to the labors of St. Thomas, whose death was reputed to have occurred in the vicinity of the Mount which bears his name, and whose presence in India was quite as well verified as was the visit of St. Peter to Rome. Following upon this epoch, came the labours of Frumentius, who exerted himself both for the promotion of education and religion, while held by one of the princes, and again subsequently, at the instigation of Athanasius, on whose advice he appears to have returned from Alexandria and established sundry churches on the west coast of the Carnatic. In the year 890, Alfred the Great despatched a mission to the tomb of St. Thomas; but it does not appear that any missionary enterprise resulted, so far as the English were concerned. In 1497, the Portuguese seized, in the name of the Pope, upon the Assyrian churches then existing, and ultimately succeeded in bringing over about one-half of the Hindoo people to the control of the Romish Church. 1599 witnessed the inroad of the Jesuits, who visited the east coast, as western Brahmins, in which chapter they forged the Shaster, or scared volume, and perpetrated many improprieties, which became at last too glaring even for Rome itself, where the authorities began question which were the converts – were the Jesuits turned into Hindoos, or the Hindoos turned to the Romish Church? The Dutch afterwards appeared in India, and worked zealously and with much success. In 1599, the East India Company was established in London, and from this period dates the most important part of Christianity in India. [Not sure how the most important period starts with a dreary blank.] From the year 1600, Christianity in India presents a dreary blank for the space of 200 years – the English having done nothing whatsoever in the work of evangelization, and missionaries being especially prohibited by the East India Company. Chaplains first went out in the reign of Charles II., but for a hundred years little was done. In 1718 there was one church in Madras, and one in Bombay. The English, however, were stirred up by Frederick the Fourth of Denmark, and his relative, Prince George, who instigated England to send contributions for the support of the Danish missions in India. Great progress was made, and in 1756, when the jubilee was held, there were ten mission stations in existence, and there had been 3000 souls converted in the previous ten years. The right rev. prelate then went on to describe the faithful and laborious exertions of Schwartz, extending from 1750 to 1790, and of other eminent Lutheran missionaries. He then passed on to review the career of Keonander, and to his great influence in counteracting the evil spirit engendered by Surajah Dowlah, during the sanguinary excesses committed by that prince. Referring, then, to the progress of the English, he spoke in glowing terms of the Rev. David Brown, the Rev. Charles Simeon, Charles Grant, Henry Thornton, Carey, Scott, Waugh, Marshman, and other men whose names stand out pre-eminent in the noble work of Indian evangelisation up to the close of the last century. Speaking of its present condition, the lecturer observed, there are now twenty-three missions in India and Ceylon, having 400 ordained missionaries and 680 native teachers. The Bible is being printed in all the dialects of India, and, with God's blessing, thought he means are small compared to 180,000,000 souls, there was yet reason to hope that the whole extent of India would be brought within the Christian fold. Good fruit is already evidenced in the moral and social improvement of the Hindoo race. The Suttee is a thing of the past. Infanticide is not practised amongst them, slavery has almost ceased, and the Hindoos themselves are now subscribing £40,000 per annum for the support of Christian missions, whilst their native teachers are spread far and wide, carrying a knowledge of the Redeemer into all parts of this once wholly benighted land. The Bishop concluded with a description of the working of the missions, distinguishing the educational from the parochial means, and concluded with some well timed remarks on the singular statistical fact, that twenty-five per cent. of the population of christianised [lower case] India send their children to school, whereas not more than ten or twelve per cent. of the population of European countries do the same. At the close of the lecture the doxology was sung and the proceedings terminated by pronouncing the apostolic benediction.
Referring to the movement of the Assyrian community toward the Church of England,
The work of the Church in England, for years past, has been gaining immensely. The multiplication of churches and schools has been unexampled, and the activity of the clergy, both individually and collectively, has wonderfully increased. The Assyrian Church has appealed to the Archbishop of Canterbury for aid, and wishes to be represented in the next Lambeth Council. The Eastern Church will be represented at Lambeth before she is at the Vatican.
Very interesting information about attempts to foster a relationship between the Assyrians and the British,
THE OPPRESSED ASSYRIAN CHURCH in ARMENIA. – Deacon ABRAHAM, the Assyrian Minister from Oroomiah, who has been in England nearly three years, endeavouring to enlist sympathy on behalf of his oppressed and persecuted Church and people, is about to return to his home this month. He would be most glad to HEAR of any CLERGYMAN or Layman who would, at his own expense, RETURN WITH HIM to visit the interesting and beautiful mountains and valleys of Khoordistan, to whom he would act as guide and interpreter, introducing him to the chiefs of his Church and people, among whom he is himself by birth a chief. The Deacon is returning to his own land very downcast at the failure of his three years' mission. His people desire greatly to be united to England, both in political and religious bonds. – The Rector of Limehouse will be glad to furnish further information, and to refer inquirers to the Deacon's numerous warm friends in England.
THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND
The Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge propose, at their March meeting, to place £1,250 unconditionally at the disposal of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, in sums of £250 per annum for five years, for the purpose of providing educational machinery for the Assyrian Church.
There was a religious notice,
BY INVITATION of the rector, permission having been granted by Bishop Coxe, the Rev. Ben. Eshoo, a deacon of the Assyria Church, will speak at St. John's Church next Sunday evening, in behalf of the sufferers from the terrible famine at present afflicting the part of Persia from which he comes. Mr. Eshoo will wear the dress of a deacon in his native church. Service begins at 7:45 P. M.
Very interesting notes. Mr. Eshoo says his nation – the Assyrians – was one of the first to convert to Christianity. He says that the Church of Assyria is Protestant, and a branch of the Episcopal Church. He says it is identical to the Anglican and American Episcopal churches. The emphasis on the Assyrians being Protestant may be a means to gain favor at St. John's which was a Lutheran church.
According to Mr. Eshoo, after centuries of persecution by Muslims, then the Assyrians scattered – but it is not exactly clear from where – around Persia, Kurdistan, and elsewhere.
Interestingly, he grew up in Urmia, and said it is the land of ancient Media – so he understood it was not the ancient Assyrian heartland, but its Assyrian inhabitants came there due to persecution. It is remarkable to think of a tradition saying that the three wise men were specifically from Urmia. They were obviously not Christian nor were they Assyrian. They were perhaps Zoroastrian.
It is even more remarkable to think that the Assyrians were some of the lost tribes of Israel. The ancient Assyrians were the exact opposite of the lost tribes: they were the enemies of the Jews. However, perhaps the Jews who were settled in the Assyrian homeland did in part convert and these would then be known as the Assyrian Christians. This is reinforced by later mentions about various similarities between Assyrian and Jewish traditions.
WORDS FROM THE PULPIT.
An Appeal for the Famine-Stricken People of Persia – Visiting Clergymen at Various Churches.
Last evening at the conclusion of the regular service at St. John's church, permission having been granted by Bishop Coxe, the Rev. Benjamin Eshoo, a native of Persia and a deacon of the Assyrian church, addressed the congregation on behalf of his fellow countrymen who are suffering from a terrible famine which is at present prevailing over that part of Persia to which Mr. Eshoo belongs. On coming forward the reverend gentleman who speaks but indifferent English, said it was not his intention to detain them very long; he would merely state as briefly as possible what he had come to say. The country from which he comes was the most ancient one in the world. It was the ancient Media. There was no doubt he was born in the city from which the wisemen journeyed who come up to worship the baby Saviour – our Lord Jesus Christ. It was very interesting he thought to look into the history of this ancient land because it was one of the first countries in which the worship of God was taught. The ancient Church of God was first established in that country, and out of it has sprung the present Church of Assyria, which is one of the branches of the Episcopal Church. There is no real difference between the English Church or the Episcopal Church of America and the Church of Assyria; each alike worships the one Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and in almost the same form. The present Protestant Church of Assyria has survived through centuries of Mohommedan persecution which has scattered its followers far away. Some are to be found in Persia, some far away in Koordistan, others elsewhere. He believed the people of his native town to be one of the ten tribes of Israel. He believed he was one of the lost tribes, and his first reason for believing so, was because among them they have nothing but scripture names, names found all through the Old Testament. His second reason for believing they were one of the ten tribes, was that like the temples of the children of Israel, their churches are divided into five or six different departments, into one of which no one but the bishop or high-priest enters. There is one apartment set aside for baptisms, one for sacrifices – for they use sacrifices somewhat similar to the ancient Jews – another for public worship, and so on, each department having a separate use. They have also bishops, priests and deacons corresponding to the high-priests, priests and elders of the children of Israel, and their marriage and funeral ceremonies are similar to the ancient Hebrew rites. Still their belief is the same as the Protestant churches of England and America; they believe in one Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. At the present time a terrible famine is prevailing over the greater part of Persia, thousands daily dying in the streets for want of the common necessities of life. It was not the Christians alone who suffered, but Turks, Armenians, Koords – all suffered alike. The terrible famine was caused by the failure of the crops, brought on by an unusually dry and hot season. All the streams were dried up, and the people were dying of thirst as well as of hunger. He had come to them as a missionary from the church and from the people, asking their aid in this, their great need. His people, he believed, had already received over $20,000 from American generosity, and England and Germany are collecting some money to send to his suffering countrymen. The services of the Assyrian church, to which he belonged, was, he said, written and read in the same language spoken by our Savior, and the children of Israel.
The reverend Mr. Eshoo having resumed his seat, the rector the Rev. Mr. Hughes gave out a hymn stating that at its conclusion a collection woule [sic] be taken up in behalf of the sufferers by the famine in Persia, and he hoped those present would remember that the unfortunate people whom they are called on to aid were men and brothers, suffering the agony of a hunger they saw no means of appeasing. He hoped they would give liberally, even if necessary depriving themselves of something for a day, remembering the awful need of those on whose behalf the appeal was made. After the singing a collection was accordingly taken.
The Rev. Benjamin Eshoo is a native of Oroomiah, a town of Persia in the province of Azerbijan, 65 miles southwest of Tabriz. He is thirty-five years of age, and the son of a minister of the Assyrian Church. He was educated at a college in Seir, close to his native place, and some seven or eight years ago visited England, where he completed his education at St. Augustin's College. He has since traveled over the continent of Europe, and recently came to America to enlist the sympathies of Americans on behalf of his starving countrymen.
The Rev. Benjamin Eshoo, a deacon of the Assyrian Church, and a native of Ooromiah, Persia, last evening delivered an address at St. John's Church on behalf of the famine-stricken Christians of Persia. A collection was taken for the fund for their relief.
This description by Donabed is wholly maximalist.
Note the interesting way he describes the language. He says that modern Assyrians speak Assyrian (which he acknowledges is sometimes called Aramaic) and that the ancient Assyrians spoke Akkadian and Aramaic. This suggests an uninterrupted inheritance from the ancient Assyrian languages to the modern Assyrian language. Actually, the ancient Assyrians had traditionally spoken Assyrian, a dialect of Akkadian. After the 10th century BC, this was replaced by Aramaic, an international language of the whole Near East. So the relationship is far from clear whether the Aramaic spoken today was from the Neo-Assyrian Empire's linguistic tradition instead of being broadly Near Eastern.
It is also interesting how he collapses various groups into a single Assyrian identity, regardless of how they self-identify.
Geographically, Assyrians are a transnational population indigenous to northern Mesopotamia (effectively ancient Assyria and its environs), part of today's northern Iraq, southeastern Turkey, northwestern Iran and northeastern Syria. They speak Assyrian, sometimes referred to as a modern form of Mesopotamian Aramaic (also more commonly in scholarly parlance as Neo-Aramaic and Neo-Syriac), with a heavy Akkadian influence (both Akkadian and Aramaic were official languages in the ancient Neo-Assyrian Empire, which flourished from 934 BC to approximately 600 BC) as well as utilising classical Syriac as an ecclesiastical tongue. Today many continue to affiliate with one of the following Christian religious communities: the Chaldean Catholic Church, the Assyrian Church of the East (referred to as Nestorian), the Syrian Orthodox Church (referred to as Jacobite and originally in English as Assyrian Apostolic) and the Syrian Catholic Church. In the past two millennia, the Assyrians have been more widely known by their ecclesiastical designations, increasingly balkanised, mostly due to their incorporation into Muslim-dominated states.
Their language and material culture constitutes the oldest continuous tradition in Iraq. From ancient Arba'ilu to Arbela during the Christian period in the ecclesiastical province of Adiabene between the fifth and the fifteenth centuries, the presence and culture of the people of upper Mesopotamia endured. [This sentence was a little confusing.] Adiabene itself included Mosul, Nineveh, Karka d-Beth Slokh (ancient Arrapha and today's Kirkuk), Beth Nuhadra (today's Dohuk) and beyond, but as part of the central authority of the so-called Nestorian Church or Assyrian Church of the East.
Donabed 2015, p 3; Reforging A Forgotten History