« VorigeDoorgaan »
PREFACE TO THE Å BRİDGMENT.
The interest felt in the discoveries on the site of Nineveh having been so general, it was suggested to me that an abridgment of my work on Nineveh and its Remains," published in a cheap and popular form, would be acceptable to the public. I had already commenced such an abridgment, when I was called away on a second expedition into Assyria, which left me no leisure for literary occupations.
On my return to England, I found that several inaccurate and incomplete accounts of my first researches had already been published. I determined, therefore, to complete without delay the abridged work which is now presented to the public.
In this abridgment I have omitted the second part of the original work, introducing the principal Biblical and historical illustrations into the narrative, which has thus, I hope, been rendered more useful and complete.
As recent discoveries, and the contents of the inscriptions, as far as they have been satisfactorily deciphered, have confirmed nearly all the opinions expressed in the original work, no changes on any material points have been introduced into this abridgment. I am still inclined to believe that all the ruins explored represent the site of ancient Nineveh, and while still assigning the later monuments to the kings mentioned in Scripture, Shalmanezer, Sennacherib, and Essarhadon, I am convinced that a considerable period elapsed between their foundation and the erection of the older palaces of Nimroud. The results of the attempts to decipher the inscriptions are still too uncertain to authorize the use of any actual names for the earlier kings mentioned in them.
BEFORE submitting the following narrative of my labors in Assyria to the reader, it may not be uninteresting to give a slight sketch of what had been done in the field of Assyrian antiquities, previous to the recent discoveries on the site of Nineveh.
A few fragments scattered among ancient authors, and a list of kings of more than doubtful authenticity, is all that remains of a history of Assyria by Ctesias; while of that attributed to Herodotus not a trace has been preserved. Of later writers who have touched upon Assyrian history, Diodorus Siculus, a mere compiler, is the principal. In Eusebius, and the Armenian historians, such as Moses of Chorene, may be found a few valuable details and hints, derived, in some instances, from original sources not altogether devoid of authenticity.
It is remarkable that in profane history we meet with only three Assyrian monarchs of whose deeds we have any account,-Ninus, Semiramis, and Sardanapalus. Ninus and his queen, like all the heroes of primitive nations, appear to have become mythic characters, to whom all great deeds and national achievements were assigned. Although originally historic personages, they were subsequently invested to some extent with divine attributes, and were interwoven with the theology of the race of which they were the first, or among the earliest, chiefs. Above thirty generations elapsed between Semiramis and Sardanapalus, during which more than one dynasty of kings occupied the Assyrian throne, and maintained the power of the empire. Yet of these kings nothing has been preserved but doubtful names.
The Assyrians are not particularly alluded to in Holy Writ, until the period when their warlike expeditions to the west of the Euphrates brought them into contact with the Jews. Pul, the first king whose name is recorded in Scripture, having reigned between eight and nine hun. dred years before the Christian era, and about two hun. dred previous to the fall of the empire, must have been nearly the last of a long succession of kings who had ruled over the greater part of Asia. The later monarchs are more frequently mentioned in the Bible on account of their wars with the Jews, whom they led captive into Assyria. Very little is related of even their deeds unless they particularly concern the Jewish people.
Of modern historians who have attempted to reconcile the discrepancies of Assyrian chronology, and to restore to some extent, from the fragments to which I have alluded, a history of the Assyrian empire, I scarcely know whom to point out. From such contradictory materials, it is not surprising that each writer should have formed a system of his own; and we may, without incurring the charge of skepticism, treat all their efforts as little better than ingenious speculations. In the date alone to be assigned to the commencement of the Assyrian empire, they differ nearly a thousand years; and even when they treat of events which approach the epoch of authentic history,—such as the death of Sardanapalus, the invasion