Open main menu
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
102
BABYLONIA AND ASSYRIA

determining the age of their predecessors or of past events. Nabonidus (Nabunaid), who was more of an antiquarian than a politician, and spent his time in excavating the older temples of his country and ascertaining the names of their builders, tells us that Naram-Sin, the son of Sargon of Akkad, lived 3200 years before himself (i.e. 3750 B.C.), and Sagarakti-suryas 800 years; and we learn from Sennacherib that Shalmaneser I. reigned 600 years earlier, and that Tiglath-pileser I. fought with Merodach-nadin-akhi (Marduk-nadin-akhē) of Babylon 418 years before the campaign of 689 B.C.; while, according to Tiglath-pileser I., the high-priest Samas-Hadad, son of Isme-Dagon, built the temple of Anu and Hadad at Assur 701 years before his own time. Shalmaneser I. in his turn states that the high-priest Samas-Hadad, the son of Bel-kabi, governed Assur 580 years previously, and that 159 years before this the high-priest Erisum was reigning there. The raid of the Elamite king Kutur-Nakhkhuntē is placed by Assur-bani-pal 1635 years before his own conquest of Susa, and Khammurabi is said by Nabonidus to have preceded Burna-buryas by 700 years.

V. History.—In the earliest period of which we have any Early Sumerian period. knowledge Babylonia was divided into several independent states, the limits of which were defined by canals and boundary stones. Its culture may be traced back to two main centres, Eridu in the south and Nippur in the north. But the streams of civilization which flowed from them were in strong contrast. El-lil, around whose sanctuary Nippur had grown up, was lord of the ghost-land, and his gifts to mankind were the spells and incantations which the spirits of good or evil were compelled to obey. The world which he governed was a mountain; the creatures whom he had made lived underground. Eridu, on the other hand, was the home of the culture-god Ea, the god of light and beneficence, who employed his divine wisdom in healing the sick and restoring the dead to life. Rising each morning from his palace in the deep, he had given man the arts and sciences, the industries and manners of civilization. To him was due the invention of writing, and the first law-book was his creation. Eridu had once been a seaport, and it was doubtless its foreign trade and intercourse with other lands which influenced the development of its culture. Its cosmology was the result of its geographical position: the earth, it was believed, had grown out of the waters of the deep, like the ever-widening coast at the mouth of the Euphrates. Long before history begins, however, the cultures of Eridu and Nippur had coalesced. While Babylon seems to have been a colony of Eridu, Ur, the immediate neighbour of Eridu, must have been colonized from Nippur, since its moon-god was the son of El-lil of Nippur. But in the admixture of the two cultures the influence of Eridu was predominant.

We may call the early civilization of Babylonia Sumerian. The race who first developed it spoke an agglutinative language, and to them was due the invention of the pictorial hieroglyphs which became the running-hand or cuneiform characters of later days, as well as the foundation of the chief cities of the country and the elements of its civilization. The great engineering works by means of which the marshes were drained and the overflow of the rivers regulated by canals went back to Sumerian times, like a considerable part of later Babylonian religion and the beginnings of Babylonian law. Indeed Sumerian continued to be the language of religion and law long after the Semites had become the ruling race.

Arrival of the Semites.—When the Semites first entered the Semitic Influence. Edin or plain of Babylonia is uncertain, but it must have been at a remote period. The cuneiform system of writing was still in process of growth when it was borrowed and adapted by the new comers, and the Semitic Babylonian language was profoundly influenced by the older language of the country, borrowing its words and even its grammatical usages. Sumerian in its turn borrowed from Semitic Babylonian, and traces of Semitic influence in some of the earliest Sumerian texts indicate that the Semite was already on the Babylonian border. His native home was probably Arabia; hence Eridu (“the good city”) and Ur (“the city”) would have been built in Semitic territory, and their population may have included Semitic elements from the first. It was in the north, however, that the Semites first appear on the monuments. Here in Akkad the first Semitic empire was founded, Semitic conquerors or settlers spread from Sippara to Susa, Khana to the east of the Tigris was occupied by “West Semitic” tribes, and “out of” Babylonia “went forth the Assyrian.” As in Assyria, so too in the states of Babylonia the patesi or high-priest of the god preceded the king. The state had grown up around a sanctuary, the god of which was nominally its ruler, the human patesi being his viceregent. In course of time many of the high-priests assumed the functions and title of king; while retaining their priestly office they claimed at the same time to be supreme in the state in all secular concerns. The god remained nominally at its head; but even this position was lost to him when Babylonia was unified under Semitic princes, and the earthly king became an incarnate god. A recollection of his former power survived, however, at Babylon, where Bel-Merodach adopted the king before his right to rule was allowed.

Early Princes.—The earliest monuments that can be approximately Ur-ninā dynasty. dated come from Lagash (Tello). Here we hear of a “king of Kengi,” as well as of a certain Me-silim, king of Kis, who had dealings with Lugal-suggur, high-priest of Lagash, and the high-priest of a neighbouring town, the name of which is provisionally transcribed Gis-ukh (formerly written Gis-ban and confounded with the name of Opis). According to Scheil, Gis-ukh is represented by Jokha, south of Fāra and west of the Shatt el-Hai, and since two of its rulers are called kings of Tē on a seal-cylinder, this may have been the pronunciation of the name.[1] At a later date the high-priests of Lagash made themselves kings, and a dynasty was founded there by Ur-Ninā. In the ruins of a building, attached by him to the temple of Ninā, terra-cotta bas-reliefs of the king and his sons have been found, as well as the heads of lions in onyx, which remind us of Egyptian work and onyx plates. These were “booty” dedicated to the goddess Bau. E-anna-du, the grandson of Ur-Ninā, made himself master of the whole of southern Babylonia, including “the district of Sumer” together with the cities of Erech, Ur and Larsa (?). He also annexed the kingdom of Kis, which, however, recovered its independence after his death. Gis-ukh was made tributary, a certain amount of grain being levied upon each person in it, which had to be paid into the treasury of the goddess Ninā and the god Ingurisa. The so-called “Stele of the Vultures,” now in the Louvre, was erected as a monument of the victory. On this various incidents in the war are represented. In one scene the king stands in his chariot with a curved weapon in his right hand formed of three bars of metal bound together by rings (similar, as M. L. Heuzey has pointed out, to one carried by the chief of an Asiatic tribe in a tomb of the 12th dynasty at Beni-Hasan in Egypt), while his kilted followers with helmets on their heads and lances in their hands march behind him. In another a flock of vultures is feeding on the bodies of the fallen enemy; in a third a tumulus is being heaped up over those who had been slain on the side of Lagash. Elsewhere we see the victorious prince beating down a vanquished enemy, and superintending the execution of other prisoners who are being sacrificed to the gods, while in one curious scene he is striking with his mace a sort of wicker-work cage filled with naked men. In his hand he holds the crest of Lagash and its god—a lion-headed eagle with outstretched wings, supported by two lions which are set heraldically back to back. The sculptures belong to a primitive period of art.

E-anna-du's campaigns extended beyond the confines of Babylonia. He overran a part of Elam and took the city of Az on the Persian Gulf. Temples and palaces were repaired or erected at Lagash and elsewhere, the town of Ninā—which probably gave

  1. They are also called high-priests of Gunammidē and a contract-tablet speaks of “Tē in Babylon,” but this was probably not the Tē of the seal. It must be remembered that the reading of most of the early Sumerian proper names is merely provisional, as we do not know how the ideographs of which they are composed were pronounced in either Sumerian or Assyrian.