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ASSYRIA


14


ASSYRIA


Sargon, a man of commanding ability, was, not- witlistanding his claim to royal ancestrj-, in all probability a usurper. He is one of the greatest figures in Assyrian history, and the founder of the famous Sargonid dj-nasty. which held sway in AssjTia for more than a centurj-, i. e. until the fall of Nineveh and the overthrow of the Assyrian Empire. He liiniself reigned for seventeen years (722-705 B. c.) and proved a most successful warrior and organizer. In everj- battle he was victor, and in everj- difficulty a man of resource. He was also a great builder and patron of the arts. His greatest work was the building of Dur-Sharrukin, or the Castle of Sargon, the modern Ivliorsabad, which was thoroughly explored in 1S44-55 by Botta, Flandin, and Place. It was a large city, situated about ten miles from Nineveh, and capable of accommodating 80,000 in- liabitants. His palace there was a wonder of archi- tecture, panelled in alabaster, adorned with sculp- ture, and inscribed with the records of his exploits. In the same year in which he ascended the throne, Samaria feU (722 B. c), and the Kingdom of Israel was brought to an end. "In the beginning ot my reign, he tells us in his annals, "and in the first year of my reign . , . Samaria I besieged and conquered . , , 27,290 inliabitants I carried off ... I restored it again and made it as before. People from all lands, my prisoners, I settled there. My officials I set over them as governors. Tribute aiid tax I laid on them, as on the .\ssjTians." Sar- gon's second campaign was against the Elamites, whom he subdued. From Elam he marched west- ward, laid Hamath in ruins, and afterwards utterly defeated the combined forces of the Philistines and the Egj-ptians, at Raphia. He made Hanuni, King of Gaza, prisoner, and carried several thousand captives, with verj' rich booty, into AssjTia. Two years later, he attacked Karkemish, the capital of the Hittites, and conquered it, capturing its king, officers, and treasures, and deporting them into AssjTia. He then for fully six years harassed, and finally subdued, all the northern and north-western tribes of Kurdistan, of Armenia (Urartu, or .\rarat), and of Cilicia: the Mannai, the Mushki, the Kum- muklii, the ililidi, the Kammani, the Gamgumi, the SamaU, and many others who li\ed in those wild and inaccessible regions. Soon after this he subdued several Arabian tribes and, afterwards, the Medians, with their forty-two chiefs, or princes.

During the first eleven years of Sargon's reign, the Kingdom of Juda remained peacefully subject to AssjTia, pajdng the stipulated annual tribute. In 711 B. c, however, Ezechias (Hezekiah), King of Juda, partly influenced by Merodach-baladan, of Babylonia, and partly by promises of help from Egj-pt, rebelled against the AssjTian monarch, and in this revolt he was heartily joined by the Pha?ni- cians, the Pliilistines, the Moabites, and the Ammon- ites. Sargon was ever quick to act; he collected a powerful army, marched against the rebels, and dealt them a crushing blow. The fact is recorded in Isaias, xx, 1, where the name of Sargon is expressly mentioned as that of the invader and conqueror. With Palestine and the West pacified and subdued, Sargon, ever energetic and prompt, turned his atten- tion to Babylonia, where Merodach-baladan was ruhng. The Babylonian army was easily routed, and Slerodach-baladan himself abandoned Babylon and fled in terror to Beth-Yakin. his ancestral strong- hold. Sargon entered Babylonia in triumph, and in the follo\\-ing year he pursued the fleeing king, stormed the city of Beth-Vakin, deported its peojile, and compelled all the Babylonians and Elamites to pay him tribute, homage, and obedience. In 705, in the flower of his age and at the zenith of his glon,\ Sargon was assassinated. He was succeeded by his son, Sennacherib (705 to 6S1 b. c), whose


name is so well known to Bible students. He was an exceptionaOy cruel, arrogant, revengeful, and des- potic ruler, but, at the same time, a monarch of wonderful power and abihty. His first militarj- expedition was directed against ilerodach-baladan, of Babylonia, who, at the news of Sargon's death, had returned to Babylonia, a.ssuming the title of king, and murdering Merodach-zakir-shumi, the viceroy appointed by Sargon. Merodach-baladan was, however, easily routed by Sennacherib; fleeing again to Elam and hiding himself in the marshes, but always ready to take advantage of Sennacherib's absence to return to Babylon. In 701, Sennacherib marched eastward over the Zagros mountains and towards the Caspian Sea. There he attacked, defeated, and subdued the Medians and all the neighbouring tribes. In the same year he marched on the Mediterranean coast and received the sub- mission of the Pha?nicians, the Ammonites, the Moabites, and the Edoraites. He conquered Sidon, but was unable to lay hands on TjTe, on account of its impregnable position. Thence he hurried down the coast road, captured Askalon and its king, Sidqa; turning to the north, he struck Ekron and Lachish, and dispersed the Ethiopian-Egj^ptian forces, which had assembled to oppose his march. Ezechias (Hezekiah), King of Juda, who together with the above-mentioned kings had rebelled against Sennacherib, was thus completely isolated, and Sennacherib, finding his way clear, marched against Juda, dealing a terrific blow at the little kingdom. Here is Sennacherib's own account of the event: "But as for Hezekiah of Judah, who had not sulj- mitted to my yoke, forty-six of his strong walled cities and the smaller cities round about them without number, by the battering of rams, and the attack of war-engines [?], by making breaches, by cutting through, and the use of axes, I besieged and captured. Two hundred thousand one hundred and fifty people, small and great, male and female, horses, mules, asses, camels, and sheep ■nithout num- ber I brought forth from their midst and reckoned as spoil. Himself [Hezekiah] I shut up like a caged bird in Jerusalem, his royal city. I threw up forti- fications against him, and whosoever came out of the gates of his city I punished. His cities, which I had plundered, I cut off from his land and gave to Mitinti. King of Ashdod, to Padi, King of Ekron, and to CU-Bel, Iving of Gaza, and [thus] made his territorj- smaller. To the former taxes, paid j'early. tribute, a present for my lordship, I added and im- posed on him. Hezekiah himself was overwhelmed by the fear of the brilliancy of my lordship, and the Arabians and faithful soldiers whom he had brouglit in to strengthen Jerusalem, his royal city, deserted him. Tliirty talents of gold, eight hundred talents of silver, precious stones, guhli daggassi, large lapis lazuli, couches of ivorj-, thrones of elephant skin and ivorj-, ivorj', ushu and iirlarinu woods of every kind, a llea^-J' treasure, and his daughters, his palace women, male and female singers, to Nineveh, my lordship's city, I caused to be brought after me, and he sent his ambassador to give tribute and to pay homage."

The same event is also recorded in IV Kings, xviii and xix, and in Isaias, xxxvi and xxxvii, but in somewhat different manner. According to the Biblical account, Sennacherib, not satisfied with the paj-ment of tribute, demanded from Ezechias the unconditional surrender of Jerusalem, which the Judean king refused. Terrified and bewildered, Ezechias called the prophet Isaias and laid the matter before him, asking him for advice and counsel. The prophet strongly advised the vacillating king to oppose the outrageous demands of the AssjTian. promising him Yahweh's help and protection. Accordingly, Ezechias refused to surrender, and