Text source: A Popular Account of Discoveries at Nineveh. Austen Henry Layard. J. C. Derby. New York. 1854.
(Page 35) On my return to Mosul in the beginning of January, I found Ismail Pashaw installed in the government. He received me with courtesy, offered no opposition to the continuation of my researches at Nimroud, and directed the irregular troops stationed at Selamiyah to afford me every assistance and protection. The change since my departure had been as sudden as great. A few conciliatory acts on the part of the new governor, an order from the Porte for an inquiry into the sums unjustly levied by the late pashaw, with a view to their repayment, and a promise of a diminution of taxes, had so far encouraged those who had fled to the mountains and the desert, that the inhabitants of the villages were slowly returning to their homes; and even the Arab tribes, whose pasture-grounds are in the districts of Mosul, were again pitching their tents on the banks of the Tigris.
During my absence my agents had not been inactive. Several trenches had been opened in the great mound of Baasheikha; and fragments of sculpture and inscriptions, with entire pottery and inscribed bricks, had been discovered there. At Karamles a platform of brickwork had been uncovered, (Page 36) and the Assyrian origin of the ruin proved by the inscription on the bricks, which contained the name of the Khorsabad king.
I rode to Nimroud on the 17th of January, having first engaged a party of Nestorian Chaldeans to accompany me.
The change that had taken place in the face of the country during my absence, was no less remarkable than that in the political state of the province. To me they were both equally agreeable and welcome. The rains, which had fallen almost incessantly from the day of my departure from Baghdad, had rapidly brought forward the vegetation of spring. The mound was no longer an arid and barren heap; its surface and its sides were covered with verdure. From the summit of the pyramid my eye ranged, on one side, over a broad plain inclosed by the Tigris and the Zab; on the other, over a low undulating country bounded by the snow capped mountains of Kurdistan; but it was no longer the dreary waste I had left a month before; the landscape was clothed in green, the black tents of the Arabs checkered the plain of Nimroud, and their numerous flocks pastured on the distant hills. The Abou-Salman had re-crossed the Zab, and had sought their old encamping grounds. The Jehesh and Shemutti Arabs had returned to their villages, around which the wandering Jebours had pitched their tents, and were now engaged in cultivating the soil. Even on the mound the plow opened its furrows, and corn was sown over the palaces of the Assyrian kings.
Security had been restored, and Nimroud offered a more convenient and agreeable residence than Selamiyah. Hiring, therefore, three huts, I removed to my new dwelling-place. A few rude chairs, a table, and a wooden bedstead, formed the whole of my furniture. My cawass spread his carpet, and hung his tobacco-pouch in the corner of a hovel, which he had appropriated, and spent his days in peaceful contemplation. The servants constructed a rude kitchen, and the grooms shared the stalls with the horses. Mr. Hormuzd Rassam, the brother of the British vice consul, came to reside with me, and undertook (Page 37) the daily payment of the workmen and the domestic arrangements.
My agent, with the assistance of the chief of the hytas, had punctually fulfilled the instructions he had received on my departure. Not only were the counterfeit graves carefully removed, but even others, which possessed more claim to respect, had been rooted out. I entered into an elaborate argument with the Arabs on the subject of the latter, and proved to them that, as the bodies were not turned toward Mecca, they could not be those of true believers. I ordered the remains, however, to be carefully collected, and to be reburied at the foot of the mound.
Since my last visit, a sculptured slab, divided into two compartments, had been discovered in the S. W. ruins.[3.1] The upper bas-relief had been destroyed; the lower contained four figures, carrying supplies for a banquet, or spoil taken from the enemy. The object carried by the foremost figure could not be determined; the second bore either fruit or a loaf of bread; the third a basket and a skin of wine; the fourth a similar skin, and a vessel of not inelegant shape. The four figures were clothed in long fringed robes, descending to the ankles, and wore the conical cap or helmet before described. The slab had been reduced in size, to the injury of the sculpture, and had evidently belonged to another building. It had on either side the usual inscription, and had been so much injured by fire that it could not be moved.
My labors had scarcely been resumed when I received information that the Cadi of Mosul was endeavoring to stir up the people against me, chiefly on the plea that I was carrying away treasure; and, what was worse, finding inscriptions proving that the Franks once held the country, and upon the evidence of which they intended immediately to resume possession of it, exterminating all true believers. These stories, however absurd they may appear, rapidly gained ground in the (Page 38) town. Old Mohammed Emin Pashaw brought out his Yakuti, and confirmed, by that geographer's account of treasures anciently found at Khorsabad, the allegations of the cadi. A representation was ultimately made by the ulema to Ismail Pashaw; and as he expressed a wish to see me, I rode to Mosul. He was not, he said, influenced by the cadi or the mufti, nor did he believe the absurd tales which they had spread abroad. I should shortly see how he intended to treat these troublesome fellows, but he thought it prudent at present to humor them, and made it a personal request that I would, for the time, suspend the excavations. I consented with regret; and once more returned to Nimroud, without being able to gratify the ardent curiosity I felt to explore further the extraordinary building, the nature of which was still a mystery to me.
The Abou-Salman Arabs, who encamp around Nimroud, are known for their thievish propensities, and might have caused me some annoyance. Thinking it prudent, therefore to conciliate their chief, I rode over one morning to their principal encampment. Sheikh Abd-ur-rahman received me at the entrance of his capacious tent of black goat-hair, which was crowded with relations, followers, and strangers, enjoying his hospitality. He was one of the handsomest Arabs I ever saw; tall, robust, and well made, with a countenance in which intelligence was no less marked than courage and resolution. On his head he wore a turban of dark linen, from under which a many-colored kerchief fell over his shoulders; his dress was a simple white shirt, descending to the ankles, and an Arab cloak thrown loosely over it. Contrary to the custom of the Arabs, he had shaved his beard; and, although he could scarcely be much beyond forty, I observed that the little hair which could be distinguished from under his turban was gray. He received me with every demonstration of hospitality, and led me to the upper place in the tent, which was divided by a goat-hair curtain from the harem. The place of reception for the guests was at the same time occupied by two favorite mares and a colt. A few camels were kneeling on the grass around, and the (Page 39) horses of the strangers were tied by their halters to the tent-pins. From the carpets and cushions, which were spread for me, stretched on both sides a long line of men of the most motley appearance, seated on the bare ground. The sheikh placed himself at the furthest end, as is the custom in some of the tribes, to show his respect for his guest; and could only be prevailed upon, after many excuses and protestations, to share the carpet with me. In the center of the group, near a small fire of camel's dung, crouched a half-naked Arab, engaged alternately in blowing up the expiring embers, and in pounding the roasted coffee in a copper mortar, ready to replenish the huge pots which stood near him.
After the customary compliments had been exchanged with all around, one of my attendants beckoned to the sheikh, who left the tent to receive the presents I had brought to him, - a silk gown and a supply of coffee and sugar. He dressed himself in his new attire and returned to the assembly. "Inshallah," said I, "we are now friends, although scarcely a month ago you came over the Zab on purpose to appropriate the little property I am accustomed to carry about me." "Wallah, Bey," he replied, "you say true, we are friends; but listen: the Arabs either sit down and serve his majesty the sultan, or they eat from others, as others would eat from them. Now my tribe are of the Zobeide, and were brought here many years ago by the pashaws of the Abd-el-Jelleel.[3.2] These lands were given us in return for the services we rendered the Turks in keeping back the Tai and the Shammar, who crossed the rivers to plunder the villages. All the great men of the Abou-Salman perished in encounters with the Bedouin,[3.3] and Injeh Bairakdar, Mohammed Pashaw, upon whom God has had mercy, acknowledged our fidelity and treated us with honor. When that blind dog, the son of the Cretan, may curses fall upon him! came to Mosul, I waited upon him, as it is usual for the sheikh; what did (Page 40) he do? Did he give me the cloak of honor? No; he put me, an Arab of the tribe of Zobeide, a tribe which had fought with the prophet, into the public stocks. For forty days my heart melted away in a damp cell, and I was exposed to every variety of torture. Look at these hairs," continued he, lifting up his turban, "they turned white in that time, and I must now shave my beard, a shame among the Arabs. I was released at last; but how did I return to the tribe? - a beggar, unable to kill a sheep for my guests. He took my mares, my flocks, and my camels, as the price of my liberty. Now tell me, O Bey, in the name of God, if the Osmanlis have eaten from me and my guests, shall I not eat from them and theirs?"
The fate of Abd-ur-rahman had been such as he described it; and so had fared several chiefs of the desert and of the mountains. It was not surprising that these men, proud of their origin and accustomed to the independence of a wandering life, had revenged themselves upon the unfortunate inhabitants of the villages, who had no less cause to complain than themselves. However, the sheikh promised to abstain from plunder for the future, and to present himself to Ismail Pashaw, of whose conciliatory conduct he had already heard.
It was nearly the middle of February before I thought it prudent to make fresh experiments among the ruins. To avoid notice I employed only a few men, and confined myself to the examination of such parts of the mound as appeared to contain buildings. My first attempt was in the S. W. corner, where a new wall was speedily discovered, all the slabs of which were sculptured, and uninjured by fire, though they had, unfortunately, been half destroyed by long exposure to the atmosphere.[3.4] On three consecutive slabs was one bas-relief; on others were only parts of a subject. It was evident from the costume, the ornaments, and the general treatment, that these sculptures did not belong either to the same building, or to the same period as those previously discovered. I recognized in them the style of Khorsabad, and in the inscriptions certain characters, which (Page 41) were peculiar to monuments of that age. The slabs, like those in other parts of the edifice, had been brought from elsewhere.
The most perfect of the bas-reliefs was, in many respects, interesting. It represented a king, distinguished by his high conical tiara, raising his extended right hand and resting his left upon a bow. At his feet crouched a warrior, probably a captive enemy or rebel, but more likely the latter as he wore the pointed helmet peculiar to the Assyrians. An eunuch held a fly-flapper or fan over the head of the king, who appeared to be conversing or performing some ceremony with an officer standing in front of him, - probably his vizier or minister.[3.5] Behind this personage, who differed from the king by his head-dress, - a simple fillet confining the hair, - were two attendants, the first an eunuch, the second a bearded figure. This bas-relief was separated from a second above, by an inscription; the upper sculpture had been almost totally destroyed, and I could with difficulty trace a wounded figure, wearing a helmet with a curved crest, resembling the Greek, and horsemen engaged in battle. Both subjects were continued on the adjoining slabs, but they were broken off near the bottom, and the feet of a row of figures, probably other attendants, standing behind the king and his minister, could alone be distinguished.
On the same wall, which had completely disappeared in some places, could be traced a group resembling that just described, and several colossal winged figures in low relief.
Several deep trenches led me to two new walls,[3.6] the sculptures on which were not better preserved than those previously discovered in this part of the mound. Of the lower parts of several colossal figures, some had been purposely defaced by a sharp instrument, others, from long exposure, had been worn almost smooth.
(Page 42) These experiments were sufficient to prove that the building I was exploring had not been entirely destroyed by fire, but had been partly exposed to gradual decay. No sculptures had hitherto been discovered in a perfect state of preservation, and only one or two could bear removal. I determined, therefore, to abandon this corner, and to resume excavations in the north-west ruins near the chamber first opened, where the slabs were uninjured. The workmen were directed to dig behind the remains of the small lions, which appeared to have formed an entrance; and after removing much earth, they discovered a few unsculptured slabs, fallen from their places, and broken in many pieces. The walls of the room of which they had originally formed part could not be traced.
As this part of the building stood on the very edge of the mound, it had probably been more exposed, and had consequently sustained more injury, than any other. I determined, therefore, to open-a trench more in the center of the edifice, and choose for the purpose a deep ravine, which, apparently worn by the winter rains, extended far into the ruins. In two days the workmen reached the top of an entire slab, standing in its original position.[3.7] On one face of it I discovered, to my great satisfaction, two human figures, considerably above the natural size, in low relief, and in admirable preservation. In a few hours the earth and rubbish were completely removed from the sculpture. The ornaments delicately graven on the robes, the tassels and fringes, the bracelets and armlets, the elaborate curls of the hair and beard, were all entire. The figures were back to back, and from the shoulders of each sprang two wings. They appeared to represent divinities, presiding over the seasons, or over particular religious ceremonies. The one, whose face was turned to the east, carried a fallow deer on his right arm, and in his left hand a branch bearing five flowers. Around his temples was a fillet, adorned in front with a rosette. The other held a square vessel, or basket, in the left hand, and an object (Page 43) resembling a fir-cone in the right.[3.8] On his head he wore a (Page 44) rounded cap, ornamented at the lower part by a kind of horn curved upward in front. The garments of both, consisting of a stole falling from the shoulders to the ankles, and a short tunic underneath, descending to the knee, were richly and tastefully decorated with embroideries and fringes. Their hair fell in a profusion of ringlets on their shoulders, and their beards were elaborately arranged in alternate rows of curls. Although the relief was lower, yet the outline was perhaps more careful, and true, than that of the sculptures of Khorsabad. The limbs were delineated with peculiar accuracy, and the muscles and bones faithfully, though somewhat too strongly, marked. In the center of the slab, and crossing the figures, was an inscription .
Adjoining this slab, was a second, cut so as to form a corner, sculptured with an elegant device, in which curved branches, springing from a kind of scroll-work, terminated in flowers of graceful form. As one of the figures last described was turned, as if act of adoration, toward this device, it was evidently a sacred emblem; and I recognized in it the holy tree, or tree of life, so universally adored at the remotest periods in the East, and which was preserved in the religious systems of the Persians to the final overthrow (Page 45) of their empire by the Arabian conquerors. The flowers were formed by seven petals springing from two tendrils, or a double scroll; thus in all its details resembling that tasteful ornament of Ionic architecture known as the honeysuckle. The alternation of this flower with an object resembling a tulip in the embroideries on the garments of the two winged figures just described, and in other bas-reliefs subsequently discovered, establishes, beyond a doubt, the origin of one of the most favorite and elegant embellishments of Greek art. We are also reminded, by the peculiar arrangement of the intertwining branches, of the "network of pomegranates," which was one of the principal ornaments of the temple of Solomon. [3.9] This sculpture and the two winged figures resembled in their style and details several of the fragments built into the S.W. palace, proving at once, from whence the greater part of the materials used in the construction of that building had been obtained.
Adjoining this corner-stone was a figure of singular form. A human body, clothed in robes similar to those of the winged (Page 46) men already described, was surmounted by the head of an eagle or of a vulture.[3.10] The curved beak, of considerable length, was half open, and displayed a narrow tongue, on which were still the remains of red paint. On the shoulders (Page 47) fell the usual curled and bushy hair of the Assyrian images, and comb of feathers rose on the top of the head. Two wings sprang from the back, and in either hand was the square vessel and fir-cone. In a kind of girdle were three daggers, the handle one being in the form of the head of a bull. They may have been of precious metal, but more probably of copper, inlaid with ivory or enamel, as a few days before a copper dagger-handle, precisely similar in form to one of those carried by this figure, hollowed to receive an ornament of some such material, had been discovered in the S.W. ruins, and is now preserved in the British Museum.
This effigy, which probably typified by its mythic form the lion of certain divine attributes, may perhaps be identified with the god Nisroch, in whose temple Sennacherib was slain by his sons[3.11] after his return from his unsuccessful expedition against Jerusalem; the word Nisr signifying, in all Semitic languages, an eagle.[3.12]
On all these figures were traces of color, particularly on the hair, beard, eyes, and sandals, and there can be no doubt that they had been originally painted. The slabs on which they were sculptured had sustained no injury, and they evidently formed part of a chamber, which could be completely explored by digging along the wall, now partly uncovered.
On the morning following these discoveries, I had ridden to the encampment of Sheikh Abd-ur-rahman, and was returning to the mound, when I saw two Arabs of his tribe urging their mares to the top of their speed. On approaching me they stopped. "Hasten, O Bey," exclaimed one of them - "hasten the diggers, for they have found Nimrod himself. Wallah! it is wonderful, but it is true! we have seen him with our eyes. There is no God but God ;" and both joining in this pious (Page 48) exclamation, they galloped off, without further words, in the direction of their tents.
On reaching the ruins I descended into the new trench, and found the workmen, who had already seen me, as I approached, standing near a heap of baskets and cloaks. While Awad advanced and asked for a present to celebrate the occasion, the Arabs withdrew the screen they had hastily constructed, and disclosed an enormous human head sculptured in full out of the alabaster of the country. They had uncovered the upper part of a figure, the remainder of which was still buried in the earth. I saw at once that the head must belong to a winged lion or bull, similar to those of Khorsabad and Persepolis. It (Page 49) was in admirable preservation. The expression was calm, yet majestic, and the outline of the features showed a freedom and knowledge of art, scarcely to be looked for in works of so remote a period. The cap had three horns, and, unlike that of the human-headed bulls hitherto found in Assyria, was rounded and without ornament at the top.
I was not surprised that the Arabs had been amazed and terrified at this apparition. It required no stretch of imagination to conjure up the most strange fancies. This gigantic head, blanched with age, thus rising from the bowels of the earth, might well have belonged to one of those fearful beings which are pictured in the traditions of the country, as appearing to mortals, slowly ascending from the regions below. One of the workmen, on catching the first glimpse of the monster, had thrown down his basket and had run off toward Mosul as fast as his legs could carry him. I learned this with regret, as I anticipated the consequences.
While I was superintending the removal of the earth, which still clung to the sculpture, and giving directions for the continuation of the work, a noise of horsemen was heard, and presently Abd-ur-rahman, followed by half his tribe, appeared the edge of the trench. As soon as the two Arabs had reached the tents, and published the wonders they had seen, every one mounted his mare and rode to the mound to satisfy himself of the truth of these inconceivable reports. When they beheld the head they all cried together, "There is no God but God, and Mohammed is his Prophet!" It was some time before the sheikh could be prevailed upon to descend into the pit, and convince himself that the image he saw was of stone. "This is not the work of men's hands," exclaimed he, "but of those infidel giants of whom the Prophet, peace be with him! has said, that they were higher than the tallest date tree; this is one of the idols which Noah, peace be with him! cursed before the flood." In this opinion, the result of a careful examination, all the by-standers concurred.
I now ordered a trench to be dug due south from the head (Page 50) in the expectation of finding a corresponding figure, and before night-fall reached the object of my search about twelve feet distant. Engaging two or three men to sleep near the sculptures, I returned to the village, and celebrated the day's discovery by a slaughter of sheep, of which all the Arabs near partook. As some wandering musicians chanced to be at Selamiyah, I sent for them, and dances were kept up during the greater part of the night. On the following morning Arabs from the other side of the Tigris, and the inhabitants of the surrounding villages, congregated on the mound. Even the women could not repress their curiosity, and came in crowds, with their children, from afar. My cawass was stationed during the day in the trench, into which I would not allow the multitude to descend.
As I had expected, the report of the discovery of the gigantic head, carried by the terrified Arab to Mosul, had thrown the town into commotion. He had scarcely checked his speed before reaching the bridge. Entering breathless into the bazars, he announced to every one he met that Nimrod had appeared. The news soon got to the ears of the cadi, who called the mufti and the ulema together, to consult upon this unexpected occurrence. Their deliberations ended in a procession to the governor, and a formal protest, on the part of the Mussulmans of the town, against proceedings so directly contrary to the laws of the Koran. The cadi had no distinct idea whether the bones of the mighty hunter had been uncovered, or only his image; nor did Ismail Pashaw very clearly remember whether Nimrod was a true-believing prophet, or an infidel. I consequently received a somewhat unintelligible message from his excellency, to the effect that the remains should be treated with respect, and be by no means further disturbed; that he wished the excavations to be stopped at once, and desired to confer with me on the subject.
I called upon him accordingly, and had some difficulty in making him understand the nature of my discovery. As he requested me to discontinue my operations until the sensation (Page 51) in the town had somewhat subsided, I returned to Nimroud and dismissed the workmen, retaining only two men to dig leisurely along the walls without giving cause for further interference. I ascertained by the end of March the existence of a second pair of winged human-headed lions,[3.13] differing from those previously discovered in form, the human shape being continued to the waist, and being furnished with human arms, as well as with the legs of the lion. In one hand each figure carried a goat or stag, and in the other, which hung down by the side, a branch with three flowers. They formed a northern entrance into the chamber of which the lions previously described were the western portal. I completely uncovered the latter, and found them to be entire. They were about twelve feet in height, and the same number in length. The body and limbs were admirably portrayed; the muscles and bones, although strongly developed to display the strength of the animal, showed at the same time a correct knowledge of its anatomy and form. Expanded wings sprung from the shoulder and spread over the back; a knotted girdle, ending in tassels, encircled the loins. These sculptures, forming an entrance, were partly in full and partly in relief. The head and fore-part, facing the chamber, were in full; but only one side of the rest of the slab was sculptured, the back being placed against the wall of sun-dried bricks. That the spectator might have both a perfect front and side view of the figures, they were furnished with five legs; two were carved on the end of the slab to face the chamber, and three on the side. The relief of the body and limbs was high and bold, and the slab was covered, in all parts not occupied by the image, with inscriptions in the cuneiform character. The remains of color could still be traced in the eyes - the pupils being painted black, and the rest filled up with an opaque white pigment; but on no other parts of the sculpture. These magnificent specimens of Assyrian art were in perfect preservation; the most minute (Page 52) lines in the details of the wings and in the ornaments had been retained with their original freshness.
I used to contemplate for hours these mysterious emblems, and muse over their intent and history. What more noble forms could have ushered the people into the temple of their gods? What more sublime images could have been borrowed from nature, by men who sought, unaided by the light of revealed religion, to embody their conception of the wisdom, power, and ubiquity of a Supreme Being? They could find no better type of intellect and knowledge than the head of the man; of strength, than the body of the lion; of ubiquity, than the wings of the bird. These winged human-headed lions were not idle creations, the offspring of mere fancy; their meaning was written upon them. They had awed and instructed races which flourished 3000 years ago. Through the portals which they guarded, kings, priests, and warriors had borne sacrifices to their altars, long before the wisdom of the East had penetrated to Greece, and had furnished its mythology with symbols recognized of old by the Assyrian votaries. They may have been buried, and their existence may have been unknown, before the foundation of the eternal city. For twenty-five centuries they had been hidden from the eye of man, and they now stood forth once more in their ancient majesty. But how changed was the scene around them! The luxury and civilization of a mighty nation had given place to the wretchedness and ignorance of a few half. barbarous tribes. The wealth of temples, and the riches of great cities, had been succeeded by ruins and shapeless heaps of earth. Above the spacious hall in which they stood, the plow had passed and the corn now waved. Egypt has monuments no less ancient and no less wonderful; but they have stood forth for ages to testify her early power and renown; while those before me had but now appeared to bear witness, in the words of the prophet, that once "the Assyrian was a cedar in Lebanon with fair branches and with a shadowing shroud of an high stature; and his top was among the thick boughs . . . his height was exalted above all the trees of the field, and his(Page 54) boughs were multiplied, and his branches became long, because of the multitude of waters when he shot forth. All the fowls of heaven made their nests in his boughs, and under his branches did all the beasts of the fields bring forth their young, and under his shadow dwelt all great nations;" for now is "Nineveh a desolation, and dry like a wilderness, and flocks lie down in the midst of her: all the beasts of the nations, both the cormorant and bittern, lodge in the upper lintels of it; their voice sings in the windows; and desolation is in the thresholds."[3.14]
The entrance formed by the human-headed lions led into a chamber round which were sculptured winged figures, such as I have already described. They were in pairs facing one another, and separated by the sacred tree. These bas-reliefs were inferior in execution, and finish, to those previously discovered.
During the month of March I received visits from the principal sheikhs of the Jebour Arabs, whose followers had now partly crossed the Tigris, and were pasturing their flocks in the neighborhood of Nimroud, or cultivating millet on the banks of the river. The Jebours are a branch of the ancient tribe of Obeid, and their pasture-grounds are on the banks of the Khabour, from its junction with the Euphrates, - from the ancient Carchemish or Circesium, to its source at Ras-el-Ain. Having been suddenly attacked and plundered a year or two before by the Aneyza, they had left their haunts, and taken refuge in the districts around Mosul. They were at this time divided into three branches obeying different sheikhs. The names of the three chiefs were Abd'rubbou, Mohammed-Emin, and Mohammed-ed-Dagher. Although all three visited me at Nimroud, it was the first with whom I was best acquainted, and who rendered me most assistance. I thought it necessary to give to each a few small presents, a silk dress, or an embroidered cloak, with a pair of capacious boots, as in case of any fresh disturbances in the country, it would be as well to be on friendly terms with the tribe.
The middle of March in Mesopotamia is the brightest epoch (Page 55) of spring. A new change had come over the face of the plain of Nimroud. Its pasture lands, known as the "Jaif," are renowned for their rich and luxuriant herbage. In times of quiet, the studs of the pashaw and of the Turkish authorities, with the horses of the cavalry and of the inhabitants of Mosul, are sent here to graze. Day by day they arrived in long lines. The Shemutti and Jehesh left their huts, and encamped on the greensward which surrounded the villages. The plain, as far as the eye could reach, was studded with the white pavilions of the hytas and the black tents of the Arabs. Picketed around them were innumerable horses in gay trappings, struggling to release themselves from the bonds which restrained them from ranging over the green pastures.
Flowers of every hue enameled the meadows; not thinly scattered over the grass as in northern climes, but in such thick and gathering clusters that the whole plain seemed a patchwork of many colors. The dogs, as they returned from hunting, issued from the long grass dyed red, yellow, or blue, according to the flowers through which they had last forced their way.
The villages of Naifa and Nimroud were deserted, and I remained alone with Said (my host) and my servants. The houses now began to swarm with vermin; we no longer slept under the roofs, and it was time to follow the example of the Arabs. I accordingly encamped on the edge of a large pond on the outskirts of Nimroud. Said accompanied me; and Salah, his young wife, a bright-eyed Arab girl, built up his shed, and watched and milked his diminutive flock of sheep and goats.
I was surrounded with Arabs, who had either pitched their tents, or, too poor to buy the black goat-hair cloth of which they are made, had erected small huts of reeds and dry grass.
In the evening, after the labor of the day, I often sat at the door of my tent, and giving myself up to the full enjoyment of that calm and repose which are imparted to the senses by such scenes as these, gazed listlessly on the varied groups before me. As the sun went down behind the low hills which separate the river from the desert - even their rocky sides had struggled to (Page 56) emulate the verdant clothing of the plain - its receding rays were gradually withdrawn, like a transparent vail of light, from the landscape. Over the pure, cloudless sky was the glow of the last light. The great mound threw its dark shadow far across the plain. In the distance, and beyond the Zab, Keshaf, another venerable ruin, rose indistinctly into the evening mist. Still more distant, and still more indistinct was a solitary hill overlooking the ancient city of Arbela. The Kurdish mountains, whose snowy summits cherished the dying sunbeams, yet struggled with the twilight. The bleating of sheep and lowing of cattle, at first faint, became louder as the flocks returned from their pastures, and wandered among the tents. Girls hurried over the greensward to seek their fathers' cattle, or crouched down to milk those which had returned alone to their well remembered folds. Some were coming from the river bearing the replenished pitcher on their heads or shoulders; others, no less graceful in their form, and erect in their carriage, were carrying the heavy load of long grass which they had cut in the meadows. Sometimes a party of horsemen might have been seen in the distance slowly crossing the plain, the tufts of ostrich feathers which topped their long spears showing darkly against the evening sky. They would ride up to my tent, and give me the usual salutation, "Peace be with you, O Bey," or, "Allah Aienak, God help you." Then driving the end of their lances into the ground, they would spring from their mares, and fasten their halters to the still quivering weapons. Seating themselves on the grass, they related deeds of war and plunder, or speculated on the site of the tents of Sofuk, until the moon rose, when they vaulted into their saddles and took the way of the desert.
The plain now glittered with innumerable fires. As the night advanced, they vanished one by one until the landscape was wrapped in darkness and in silence, only disturbed by the barking of the Arab dog.
Abd-ur-rahman rode to my tent one morning, and offered to take me to a remarkable cutting in the rock, which he described as the work of Nimrod, the giant. The Arabs call it "Negoub," or The Hole. We were two hours in reaching the (Page 57) place, as we hunted gazelles and hares by the way. A tunnel through the rock opens by two low arched outlets, upon the river. It is of considerable length, and is continued for about a mile by a deep channel, also cut in the rock, but open at the top. I suspected at once that this was an Assyrian work, and on examining the interior of the tunnel, discovered a slab covered with cuneiform characters, which had fallen from its place, and had been wedged in a crevice. With much difficulty I ascertained that an inscription had also been cut on the back of the tablet. From the darkness of the place, I could scarcely copy even the few characters which had resisted the wear of centuries. Some days after, others who had casually heard of my visit, and conjectured that some Assyrian remains might have been found there, sent a party of workmen to the spot; who, finding the slab, broke it into pieces, in their attempt to displace it. This wanton destruction of the tablet is much to be regretted; as, from the fragment of the inscription copied, I can perceive that it contained several royal names previously unknown.[3.15]
The tunnel of Negoub is undoubtedly a remarkable work, undertaken, as it would appear from the inscription, during the reign of the builder of the palace at Kouyunjik. Its object is doubtful. It may have led the waters of the Zab into the surrounding country for irrigation; or it may have been the termination of the great canal, which is still to be traced by a double range of lofty mounds near the ruins of Nimroud, and which may have united the Tigris with the neighboring river, and thus fertilized a large tract of land. In either case, the level of the two rivers, as well as the face of the country, must have changed considerably since the period of its construction. At present Negoub is above the Zab, except at the time of the highest floods in spring, and then water is only found in the mouth of the tunnel; all other parts having been much choked up with rubbish and river deposits.
[3.1] No. 12, wall k, plan 2
[3.2] The former hereditary governors of Mosul.
[3.3] The father, uncles, and two or three brothers of Abd-ur-rahman, besides many of his other relations, had been slain as he described.
[3.4] Wall q, plan 2.
[3.5] I shall in future designate this person, who is continually represented in the Assyrian bas-reliefs, the king's vizier or minister. It has been conjectured that he is a friendly or tributary monarch, but as he often occurs among the attendants, aiding the king in his battles, or waiting upon him at the celebration of religious ceremonies, with his hands crossed in front, as is still the fashion in the East with dependents, it appears more probable that he was his adviser or some high officer of the court.
[3.6] s and t, plan 2
[3.7] No. 30, chamber B, plan 3.
[3.8] This square vessel was probably of metal, sometimes made to resemble a basket. It may have contained water, as one of the sacred elements; while the fir-cone, from its inflammable nature, may have typified fire, another holy element. Such is the only explanation I can give of the two objects so generally seen in the Assyrian sculptures..
[3.9] 1 Kings 7: 41, 42. Similar trees, in which the flowers above described were replaced by pomegranates, were afterward discovered in the center palace of Nimroud. Mr. Fergusson, in his "Palace of Nineveh and Persepolis restored," has conjectured that this remarkable object represents the "grove" or "groves" which led the Israelites into idolatry. (Judges 3:7; 1 Kings 14:23; 2 Kings 21:3, 7, &c.) Mr. Fergusson also remarks, with regard to the connection between the ornaments mentioned in the text, and those of Greek architecture, "that it is now impossible to doubt that all that is Ionic in the arts of Greece is derived from the valleys of the Tigris and Euphrates." (P. 340.)
[3.10] It has been suggested that it is the head of a cock, but it is unquestionably that of a carnivorous bird of the eagle tribe.
[3.11] 2 Kings 19:37.
[3.12] The form of this deity was conjectured to be that of an eagle long before the discovery of the Assyrian sculptures. (And. Beyeri ad Joh. Sedeni de Dis Syriis Syntag. addit. p. 325.)
[3.13] Entrance d to chamber B, plan 3.
[3.14] Ezekiel 31:3, &c.; Zephaniah 2:13, 14.
[3.15] I have since been able to restore the greater part of the inscription from the fragments of this tablet. It is of considerable importance, as it gives us the names of the father, and perhaps grandfather of the Khorsabad king with which we were not previously acquainted.
Copyright (c) 1997 by Bruce J. Butterfield
No restrictions are intended for non-profit use