ASMONEUS, or Asamonaeus (so Josephus), great-grandfather of Mattathias, the father of Judas Maccabaeus. Nothing more is known of him, and the name is only given by Josephus (not in 1 Macc. ii. 1). But the dynasty was known to Josephus and the Mishna (once) as “the sons (race) of the Asamonaeans (of A.)”; and the Targum of 1 Sam. ii. 4 has “the house of the Hashmoneans who were weak, signs were wrought for them and strength.” If not the founder, Asmoneus was probably the home of the family (cf. Heshmon, Jos. xv. 27).
ASNIÈRES, a town of northern France, in the department of Seine, on the left bank of the Seine, about 1½ m. N.N.W. of the fortifications of Paris. Pop. (1906) 35,883. The town, which has grown rapidly in recent years, is a favourite boating centre for the Parisians. The industries include boat-building and the manufacture of colours and perfumery.
ASOKA, a famous Buddhist emperor of India who reigned from 264 to 228 or 227 B.C. Thirty-five of his inscriptions on rocks or pillars or in caves still exist (see Inscriptions: Indian), and they are among the most remarkable and interesting of Buddhist monuments (see Buddhism). Asoka was the grandson of Chandragupta, the founder of the Maurya (Peacock) dynasty, who had wrested the Indian provinces of Alexander the Great from the hands of Seleucus, and he was the son of Bindusāra, who succeeded his father Chandragupta, by a lady from Champā. The Greeks do not mention him and the Brahmin books ignore him, but the Buddhist chronicles and legends tell us much about him. The inscriptions, which contain altogether about five thousand words, are entirely of religious import, and their references to worldly affairs are incidental. They begin in the thirteenth year of his reign, and tell us that in the ninth year he had invaded Kalinga, and had been so deeply impressed by the horrors involved in warfare that he had then given up the desire for conquest, and devoted himself to conquest by “religion.” What the religion was is explained in the edicts. It is purely ethical, independent alike of theology and ritual, and is the code of morals as laid down in the Buddhist sacred books for laymen. He further tells us that in the ninth year of his reign he formally joined the Buddhist community as a layman, in the eleventh year he became a member of the order, and in the thirteenth he “set out for the Great Wisdom” (the Sambodhi), which is the Buddhist technical term for entering upon the well-known, eightfold path to Nirvana. One of the edicts is addressed to the order, and urges upon its members and the laity alike the learning and rehearsal of passages from the Buddhist scriptures. Two others are proclamations commemorating visits paid by the king, one to the dome erected over the ashes of Konāgamana, the Buddha, another to the birthplace of Gotama, the Buddha (q.v.). Three very short ones are dedications of caves to the use of an order of recluses. The rest either enunciate the religion as explained above, or describe the means adopted by the king for propagating it, or acting in accordance with it. These means are such as the digging of wells, planting medicinal herbs, and trees for shade, sending out of missionaries, appointment of special officers to supervise charities, and so on. The missionaries were sent to Kashmir, to the Himalayas, to the border lands on the Indus, to the coast of Burma, to south India and to Ceylon. And the king claims that missions sent by him to certain Greek kingdoms that he names had resulted in the folk there conforming themselves to his religion. The extent of Asoka’s dominion included all India from the thirteenth degree of latitude up to the Himalayas, Nepal, Kashmir, the Swat valley, Afghanistan as far as the Hindu Kush, Sind and Baluchistan. It was thus as large as, or perhaps somewhat larger than, British India before the conquest of Burma. He was undoubtedly the most powerful sovereign of his time and the most remarkable and imposing of the native rulers of India. “If a man’s fame,” says Köppen, “can be measured by the number of hearts who revere his memory, by the number of lips who have mentioned, and still mention him with honour, Asoka is more famous than Charlemagne or Caesar.” At the same time it is probable that, like Constantine’s patronage of Christianity, his patronage of Buddhism, then the most rising and influential faith in India, was not unalloyed with political motives, and it is certain that his vast benefactions to the Buddhist cause were at least one of the causes that led to its decline.
ASOLO (anc. Acelum), a town of Venetia, Italy, in the province of Treviso, about 19 m. N.W. direct from the town of Treviso, and some 10 m. E. of Bassano by road. Pop. (1901) 5847. It is well situated on a hill, 690 ft. above sea-level. Remains of Roman baths and of a theatre have been discovered in the course of excavation (Notizie degli scavi, 1877, 235; 1881, 205; 1882, 289), and the town was probably a municipium. It became an episcopal see in the 6th century. It was to Asolo that Catherine Cornaro, queen of Cyprus, retired on her abdication. Here she was visited by Pietro Bembo, who conceived here his Dialoghi degli Asolani, and by Andrea Navagero (Naugerius). Paulus Manutius was born here. The village of Masèr is 4½ m. to the E., and near it is the Villa Giacomelli, erected by Palladio, containing frescoes by Paolo Veronese, executed in 1566-1568 for Marcantonio Barbaro of Venice, and ranking among his best works.
ASOR (Hebr. for “ten”), an instrument “of ten strings” mentioned in the Bible, about which authors are not agreed. The word occurs only three times in the Bible, and has not been traced elsewhere. In Psalm xxxiii. 2 the reference is to “kinnor, nebel and asor”; in Psalm xcii. 3, to “nebel and asor”; in Psalm cxliv. to “nebel-asor.” In the English version asor is translated “an instrument of ten strings,” with a marginal note “omit” applied to “instrument.” In the Septuagint, the word being derived from a root signifying “ten,” the Greek is ἐν δεκαχορδῷ or ψαλτήριον δεκάχορδον, in the Vulgate in decachordo psalterio. Each time the word asor is used it follows the word nebel (see Psaltery), and probably merely indicates a variant of the nebel, having ten strings instead of the customary twelve assigned to it by Josephus (Antiquities, vii. 12. 3).
ASP (Vipera aspis), a species of venomous snake, closely allied to the common adder of Great Britain, which it represents throughout the southern parts of Europe, being specially abundant in the region of the Alps. It differs from the adder in having the head entirely covered with scales, shields being absent, and in having the snout somewhat turned up. The term “Asp” ἀσπίς seems to have been employed by Greek and Roman writers, and by writers generally down to comparatively recent times, to designate more than one species of serpent; thus the asp, by means of which Cleopatra is said to have ended her life, and so avoided the disgrace of entering Rome a captive, is now generally supposed to have been the cerastes, or horned viper (Cerastes cornutus), of northern Africa and Arabia, a snake about 15 in. long, exceedingly venomous, and provided with curious horn-like protuberances over each eye, which give it a decidedly sinister appearance. The snake, however, to which the word “asp” has been most commonly applied is undoubtedly the haje of Egypt, the spy-slange or spitting snake of the Boers (Naja haje), one of the very poisonous Elarinae, from 3 to 4 ft. long, with the skin of its neck loose, so as to render it dilatable at the will of the animal, as in the cobra of India, a species from which it differs only in the absence of the spectacle-like mark on the back of the neck. Like the cobra, also, the haje has its fangs extracted by the jugglers of the country, who afterwards train it to perform various tricks. The asp (Pethen, פתן) is mentioned in various parts of the Old Testament. This name is twice translated “adder,” but as nothing is told of it beyond its poisonous character and the intractability of its disposition, it is impossible accurately to determine the species.
ASPARAGINE, C4H8N2O3, a naturally occurring base, found in plants belonging to the natural orders Leguminosae and