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ASSUAN—ASSUR

poetry, has always been held to be a most dangerous practice in prose. Assonance as a conscious art, in fact, is scarcely recognized as legitimate in English literature.  (E. G.) 

ASSUAN, or Aswan, a town of Upper Egypt on the east bank of the Nile, facing Elephantine Island below the First Cataract, and 590 m. S. of Cairo by rail. It is the capital of a province of the same name—the southernmost province of Egypt. Population (1907) 16,128. The principal buildings are along the river front, where a broad embankment has been built. Popular among Europeans as a winter health resort and tourist centre, Assuan is provided with large modern hotels (one situated on Elephantine Island), and there is an English church. South-east of the railway station are the ruins of a temple built by Ptolemy Euergetes, and still farther south are the famous granite quarries of Syene. On Elephantine Island are an ancient nilometer and other remains, including a granite gateway built under Alexander the Great at the temple of the local ram-headed god Chnubis or Chnumis (Eg. Khnum), perhaps on account of his connexion with Ammon (q.v.); two small but very beautiful temples of the XVIIIth Dynasty were destroyed there about 1820. In the hill on the opposite side of the river are tombs of the VIth to XIIth dynasties, opened by Lord Grenfell in 1885–1886. The inscriptions show that they belonged to frontier-prefects whose expeditions into Nubia, &c., are recorded in them. Three and a half miles above the town, at the beginning of the Cataract, the Assuan Dam stretches across the Nile. This great engineering work was finished in December 1902 (see Irrigation: Egypt; and Nile). Above the dam the Nile presents the appearance of a vast lake. Consequent on the rise of the water-level several islands have been wholly and others partly submerged, among the latter Philae (q.v.). On the east bank opposite Philae is the village of Shellal, southern terminus of the Egyptian railway system and the starting point of steamers for the Sudan.

In ancient times the chief city, called Yēb, capital of the frontier nome, the first of the Upper Country, was on the island of Elephantine, guarding the entrance to Egypt. But, owing to the cataract, the main route for traffic with the south was by land along the eastern shore. Here, near the granite quarries—whence was obtained the material for many magnificent monuments—there grew up another city, at first dependent on and afterwards successor to the island town. This city was called Swan, the Mart, whence came the Greek Syene and Arabic Aswan. Syene is twice mentioned (as Seveneh) in the prophecies of Ezekiel, and papyri, discovered on the island, and dated in the reigns of Artaxerxes and Darius II, (464–404 B.C.), reveal the existence of a colony of Jews, with a temple to Yahu (Yahweh, Jehovah), which had been founded at some time before the conquest of Egypt by Cambyses in 523 B.C. They also mention the great frontier garrison against the Ethiopians, referred to by Herodotus. Syene was one of the bases used by Eratosthenes in his calculations for the measurement of the earth. In Roman times Syene was strongly garrisoned to resist the attacks of the desert tribes. Thither, in virtual banishment, Juvenal was sent as prefect by Domitian. In the early days of Christianity the town became the seat of a bishopric, and numerous ruins of Coptic convents are in the neighbourhood. Syene appears also to have flourished under its first Arab rulers, but in the 12th century was raided and ruined by Bedouin and Nubian tribes. On the conquest of Egypt by the Turks in the 16th century, Selim I. placed a garrison here, from whom, in part, the present townsmen descend. As the southern frontier town of Egypt proper, Assuan in times of peace was the entrepôt of a considerable trade with the Sudan and Abyssinia, and in 1880 its trade was valued at £2,000,000 annually. During the Mahdia (1884–1898) Assuan was strongly garrisoned by Egyptian and British troops. Since the defeat of the khalifa at Omdurman and the fixing (1899) of the Egyptian frontier farther south, the military value of Assuan has declined.

For the Jewish colony see A. H. Sayce and A. E. Cowley, Aramaic Papyri discovered at Assuan (Oxford, 1906); E. Sachau, Drei Aramäische papyrus-Urkunden aus Elephantine (Berlin, 1907). For the dam see W. Willcocks, The Nile Reservoir Dam at Assuan (London, 1901).  (F. Ll. G.) 

ASSUMPSIT (“he has undertaken,” from Lat. assumere), a word applied to an action for the recovery of damages by reason of the breach or non-performance of a simple contract, either express or implied, and whether made orally or in writing. Assumpsit was the word always used in pleadings by the plaintiff to set forth the defendant’s undertaking or promise, hence the name of the action. Claims in actions of assumpsit were ordinarily divided into (a) common or indebitatus assumpsit, brought usually on an implied promise, and (b) special assumpsit, founded on an express promise. Assumpsit as a form of action became obsolete after the passing of the Judicature Acts 1873 and 1875. (See further Contract; Pleading and Tort.)

ASSUMPTION, FEAST OF. The feast of the “Assumption of the blessed Virgin Mary” (Lat. festum assumptionis, dormitionis, depositionis, pausationis B. V. M.; Gr. κοίμησις or ἀνάληψις τῆς θεοτόκου) is a festival of the Christian Church celebrated on the 15th of August, in commemoration of the miraculous ascent into heaven of the mother of Christ. The belief on which this festival rests has its origin in apocryphal sources, such as the εἰς τἡν κοίμησιν τῆς ὑπεραγίας δεσποίνης ascribed to the Apostle John, and the de transitu Mariae, assigned to Melito, bishop of Sardis, but actually written about A.D. 400. Pope Gelasius I. (492–496) included them in the list of apocryphal books condemned by the Decretum de libris recipiendis et non recipiendis; but they were accepted as authentic by the pseudo-Dionysius (de nominbus divinis c. 3), whose writings date probably from the 5th century, and by Gregory of Tours (d. 593 or 594). The latter in his De gloria martyrum (i. 4) gives the following account of the miracle: As all the Apostles were watching round the dying Mary, Jesus appeared with His angels and committed the soul of His Mother to the Archangel Michael. Next day, as they were carrying the body to the grave, Christ again appeared and carried it with Him in a cloud to heaven, where it was reunited with the soul. This story is much amplified in the account given by St John of Damascus in the homilies In dormitionem Mariae, which are still read in the Roman Church as the lesson during the octave of the feast. According to this the patriarchs and Adam and Eve also appear at the death-bed, to praise their daughter, through whom they had been rescued from the curse of God; a Jew who touches the body loses both his hands, which are restored to him by the Apostles; and the body lies three days in the grave without corruption before it is taken up into heaven.

The festival is first mentioned by St Andrew of Crete (c. 650), and, according to the Byzantine historian Nicephorus Callistus (Hist. Eccles. xvii. 28), was first instituted by the Emperor Maurice in A.D. 582. From the East it was borrowed by Rome, where there is evidence of its existence so early as the 7th century. In the Gallican Church it was only adopted at the same time as the Roman liturgy. But though the festival thus became incorporated in the regular usage of the Western Church, the belief in the resurrection and bodily assumption of the Virgin has never been defined as a dogma and remains a “pious opinion,” which the faithful may reject without imperilling their immortal souls, though not apparently—to quote Melchior Cano (De Locis Theolog. xii. 10)—without “insolent temerity,” since such rejection would be contrary to the common agreement of the Church. By the reformed Churches, including the Church of England, the festival is not observed, having been rejected at the Reformation as being neither primitive nor founded upon any “certain warrant of Holy Scripture.”

See Herzog-Hauck, Realencyklopädie (ed. 3), s. “Maria”; Mgr. L. Duchesne, Christian Worship (Eng. trans., London, 1904); Wetzer and Welte, Kirchenlexikon, s. “Marienfeste”; The Catholic Encyclopaedia (London and New York, 1907, &c.), s. “Apocrypha,” “Assumption.”

ASSUR (Auth. Vers. Asshur), a Hebrew name, occurring in many passages of the Old Testament, for the land and dominion of Assyria.[1] The country of Assyria, which in the Assyro-Babylonian literature is known as mat Aššur (ki), “land of Assur,” took its name from the ancient city of Aššur, situated at the

  1. The name Assur is not connected with the Asshur of 1 Chron. ii. 24; ii. 45. Note that it is customary to spell the god-name Ašur and the country-name Aššur.