Myths of Babylonia and Assyria, by Donald A. MacKenzie, , at sacred-texts.com
Modern Babylonia--History repeating itself--Babylonian Trade Route in Mesopotamia--Egyptian Supremacy in Syria--Mitanni and Babylonia--Bandits who plundered Caravans--Arabian Desert Trade Route opened--Assyrian and Elamite Struggles with Babylonia--Rapid Extension of Assyrian Empire--Hittites control Western Trade Routes--Egypt's Nineteenth Dynasty Conquests--Campaigns of Rameses II--Egyptians and Hittites become Allies--Babylonian Fears of Assyria--Shalmaneser's Triumphs--Assyria Supreme in Mesopotamia--Conquest of Babylonia--Fall of a Great King--Civil War in Assyria--Its Empire goes to pieces--Babylonian Wars with Elam--Revival of Babylonian Power--Invasions of Assyrians and Elamites--End of the Kassite Dynasty--Babylonia contrasted with Assyria.
IT is possible that during the present century Babylonia may once again become one of the great wheat-producing countries of the world. A scheme of land reclamation has already been inaugurated by the construction of a great dam to control the distribution of the waters of the Euphrates, and, if it is energetically promoted on a generous scale in the years to come, the ancient canals, which are used at present as caravan roads, may yet be utilized to make the whole country as fertile and prosperous as it was in ancient days. When that happy consummation is reached, new cities may grow up and flourish beside the ruins of the old centres of Babylonian culture.
With the revival of agriculture will come the revival of commerce. Ancient trade routes will then be re-opened, and the slow-travelling caravans supplanted by
speedy trains. A beginning has already been made in this direction. The first modern commercial highway which is crossing the threshold of Babylonia's new Age is the German railway through Asia Minor, North Syria, and Mesopotamia to Baghdad. 1 It brings the land of Hammurabi into close touch with Europe, and will solve problems which engaged the attention of many rival monarchs for long centuries before the world knew aught of "the glory that was Greece and the grandeur that was Rome".
These sudden and dramatic changes are causing history to repeat itself. Once again the great World Powers are evincing much concern regarding their respective "spheres of influence" in Western Asia, and pressing together around the ancient land of Babylon. On the east, where the aggressive Elamites and Kassites were followed by the triumphant Persians and Medes, Russia and Britain have asserted themselves as protectors of Persian territory, and the influence of Britain is supreme in the Persian Gulf. Turkey controls the land of the Hittites, while Russia looms like a giant across the Armenian highlands; Turkey is also the governing power in Syria and Mesopotamia, which are being crossed by Germany's Baghdad railway. France is constructing railways in Syria, and will control the ancient "way of the Philistines". Britain occupies Cyprus on the Mediterranean coast, and presides over the destinies of the ancient land of Egypt, which, during the brilliant Eighteenth Dynasty, extended its sphere of influence to the borders of Asia Minor. Once again, after the lapse of many centuries, international
politics is being strongly influenced by the problems connected with the development of trade in Babylonia and its vicinity.
The history of the ancient rival States, which is being pieced together by modern excavators, is, in view of present-day political developments, invested with special interest to us. We have seen Assyria rising into prominence. It began to be a great Power when Egypt was supreme in the "Western Land" (the land of the Amorites) as far north as the frontiers of Cappadocia. Under the Kassite regime Babylonia's political influence had declined in Mesopotamia, but its cultural influence remained, for its language and script continued in use among traders and diplomatists.
At the beginning of the Pharaoh Akhenaton period, the supreme power in Mesopotamia was Mitanni. As the ally of Egypt it constituted a buffer state on the borders of North Syria, which prevented the southern expansion from Asia Minor of the Hittite confederacy and the western expansion of aggressive Assyria, while it also held in check the ambitions of Babylonia, which still claimed the "land of the Amorites". So long as Mitanni was maintained as a powerful kingdom the Syrian possessions of Egypt were easily held in control, and the Egyptian merchants enjoyed preferential treatment compared with those of Babylonia. But when Mitanni was overcome, and its territories were divided between the Assyrians and the Hittites, the North Syrian Empire of Egypt went to pieces. A great struggle then ensued between the nations of western Asia for political supremacy in the "land of the Amorites".
Babylonia had been seriously handicapped by losing control of its western caravan road. Prior to the Kassite period its influence was supreme in Mesopotamia and
middle Syria; from the days of Sargon of Akkad and of Naram-Sin until the close of the Hammurabi Age its merchants had naught to fear from bandits or petty kings between the banks of the Euphrates and the Mediterranean coast. The city of Babylon had grown rich and powerful as the commercial metropolis of Western Asia.
Separated from the Delta frontier by the broad and perilous wastes of the Arabian desert, Babylonia traded with Egypt by an indirect route. Its caravan road ran northward along the west bank of the Euphrates towards Haran, and then southward through Palestine. This was a long detour, but it was the only possible way.
During the early Kassite Age the caravans from Babylon had to pass through the area controlled by Mitanni, which was therefore able to impose heavy duties and fill its coffers with Babylonian gold. Nor did the situation improve when the influence of Mitanni suffered decline in southern Mesopotamia. Indeed the difficulties under which traders operated were then still further increased, for the caravan roads were infested by plundering bands of "Suti", to whom references are made in the Tell-el-Amarna letters. These bandits defied all the great powers, and became so powerful that even the messengers sent from one king to another were liable to be robbed and murdered without discrimination. When war broke out between powerful States they harried live stock and sacked towns in those areas which were left unprotected.
The "Suti" were Arabians of Aramæan stock. What is known as the "Third Semitic Migration" was in progress during this period. The nomads gave trouble to Babylonia and Assyria, and, penetrating Mesopotamia and Syria, sapped the power of Mitanni, until it was unable to resist the onslaughts of the Assyrians and the Hittites.
The Aramæan tribes are referred to, at various periods
and by various peoples, not only as the "Suti", but also as the "Achlame", the "Arimi", and the "Khabiri". Ultimately they were designated simply as "Syrians", and under that name became the hereditary enemies of the Hebrews, although Jacob was regarded as being of their stock: "A Syrian ready to perish", runs a Biblical reference, "was my father (ancestor), and he went down into Egypt and sojourned there with a few, and became there a nation, great, mighty, and populous". 1
An heroic attempt was made by one of the Kassite kings of Babylonia to afford protection to traders by stamping out brigandage between Arabia and Mesopotamia, and opening up a new and direct caravan road to Egypt across the Arabian desert. The monarch in question was Kadashman-Kharbe, the grandson of Ashur-uballit of Assyria. As we have seen, he combined forces with his distinguished and powerful kinsman, and laid a heavy hand on the "Suti". Then he dug wells and erected a chain of fortifications, like "block-houses", so that caravans might come and go without interruption, and merchants be freed from the imposts of petty kings whose territory they had to penetrate when travelling by the Haran route.
This bold scheme, however, was foredoomed to failure. It was shown scant favour by the Babylonian Kassites. No record survives to indicate the character of the agreement between Kadashman-Kharbe and Ashur-uballit, but there can be little doubt that it involved the abandonment by Babylonia of its historic claim upon Mesopotamia, or part of it, and the recognition of an Assyrian sphere of influence in that region. It was probably on account of his pronounced pro-Assyrian tendencies that the Kassites murdered Kadashman-Kharbe,
and set the pretender, known as "the son of nobody", on the throne for a brief period.
Kadashman-Kharbe's immediate successors recognized in Assyria a dangerous and unscrupulous rival, and resumed the struggle for the possession of Mesopotamia. The trade route across the Arabian desert had to be abandoned. Probably it required too great a force to keep it open. Then almost every fresh conquest achieved by Assyria involved it in war with Babylonia, which appears to have been ever waiting for a suitable opportunity to cripple its northern rival.
But Assyria was not the only power which Babylonia had to guard itself against. On its eastern frontier Elam was also panting for expansion. Its chief caravan roads ran from Susa through Assyria towards Asia Minor, and through Babylonia towards the Phœnician coast. It was probably because its commerce was hampered by the growth of Assyrian power in the north, as Servia's commerce in our own day has been hampered by Austria, that it cherished dreams of conquering Babylonia. In fact, as Kassite influence suffered decline, one of the great problems of international politics was whether Elam or Assyria would enter into possession of the ancient lands of Sumer and Akkad.
Ashur-uballit's vigorous policy of Assyrian expansion was continued, as has been shown, by his son Bel-nirari. His grandson, Arik-den-ilu, conducted several successful campaigns, and penetrated westward as far as Haran, thus crossing the Babylonian caravan road. He captured great herds of cattle and flocks of sheep, which were transported to Asshur, and on one occasion carried away 250,000 prisoners.
Meanwhile Babylonia waged war with Elam. It is related that Khur-batila, King of Elam, sent a challenge
to Kurigalzu III, a descendant of Kadashman-Kharbe, saying: "Come hither; I will fight with thee". The Babylonian monarch accepted the challenge, invaded the territory of his rival, and won a great victory. Deserted by his troops, the Elamite king was taken prisoner, and did not secure release until he had ceded a portion of his territory and consented to pay annual tribute to Babylonia.
Flushed with his success, the Kassite king invaded Assyria when Adad-nirari I died and his son Arik-den-ilu came to the throne. He found, however, that the Assyrians were more powerful than the Elamites, and suffered defeat. His son, Na´zi-mar-ut´tash 1, also made an unsuccessful attempt to curb the growing power of the northern Power.
These recurring conflicts were intimately associated with the Mesopotamian question. Assyria was gradually expanding westward and shattering the dreams of the Babylonian statesmen and traders who hoped to recover control of the caravan routes and restore the prestige of their nation in the west.
Like his father, Adad-nirari I of Assyria had attacked the Aramæan "Suti" who were settling about Haran. He also acquired a further portion of the ancient kingdom of Mitanni, with the result that he exercised sway over part of northern Mesopotamia. After defeating Na´zi-mar-ut´tash, he fixed the boundaries of the Assyrian and Babylonian spheres of influence much to the advantage of his own country.
At home Adad-nirari conducted a vigorous policy. He developed the resources of the city state of Asshur by constructing a great dam and quay wall, while he contributed to the prosperity of the priesthood and the
growth of Assyrian culture by extending the temple of the god Ashur. Ere he died, he assumed the proud title of "Shar Kishshate", "king of the world", which was also used by his son Shalmaneser I. His reign extended over a period of thirty years and terminated about 1300 B.C.
Soon after Shalmaneser came to the throne his country suffered greatly from an earthquake, which threw down Ishtar's temple at Nineveh and Ashur's temple at Asshur. Fire broke out in the latter building and destroyed it completely.
These disasters did not dismay the young monarch. Indeed, they appear to have stimulated him to set out on a career of conquest, to secure treasure and slaves, so as to carry out the work of reconstructing the temples without delay. He became as great a builder, and as tireless a campaigner as Thothmes III of Egypt, and under his guidance Assyria became the most powerful nation in Western Asia. Ere he died his armies were so greatly dreaded that the Egyptians and Assyrians drew their long struggle for supremacy in Syria to a close, and formed an alliance for mutual protection against their common enemy.
It is necessary at this point to review briefly the history of Palestine and north Syria after the period of Hittite expansion under King Subbi-luliuma and the decline of Egyptian power under Akhenaton. The western part of Mitanni and the most of northern Syria had been colonized by the Hittites. 1 Farther south, their allies, the Amorites, formed a buffer State on the borders of Egypt's limited sphere of influence in southern Palestine, and of Babylonia's sphere in southern Mesopotamia. Mitanni
was governed by a subject king who was expected to prevent the acquisition by Assyria of territory in the north-west.
Subbi-luliuma was succeeded on the Hittite throne by his son, King Mursil, who was known to the Egyptians as "Meraser", or "Maurasar". The greater part of this monarch's reign appears to have been peaceful and prosperous. His allies protected his frontiers, and he was able to devote himself to the work of consolidating his empire in Asia Minor and North Syria. He erected a great palace at Boghaz Köi, and appears to have had dreams of imitating the splendours of the royal Courts of Egypt, Assyria, and Babylon.
At this period the Hittite Empire was approaching the zenith of its power. It controlled the caravan roads of Babylonia and Egypt, and its rulers appear not only to have had intimate diplomatic relations with both these countries, but even to have concerned themselves regarding their internal affairs. When Rameses I came to the Egyptian throne, at the beginning of the Nineteenth Dynasty, he sealed an agreement with the Hittites, and at a later date the Hittite ambassador at Babylon, who represented Hattusil II, the second son of King Mursil, actually intervened in a dispute regarding the selection of a successor to the throne.
The closing years of King Mursil's reign were disturbed by the military conquests of Egypt, which had renewed its strength under Rameses I. Seti I, the son of Rameses I, and the third Pharaoh of the powerful Nineteenth Dynasty, took advantage of the inactivity of the Hittite ruler by invading southern Syria. He had first to grapple with the Amorites, whom he successfully defeated. Then he pressed northward as far as Tunip, and won a decisive victory over a Hittite army, which
secured to Egypt for a period the control of Palestine as far north as Phoenicia.
When Mursil died he was succeeded on the Hittite throne by his son Mutallu, whom the Egyptians referred to as "Metella" or "Mautinel". He was a vigorous and aggressive monarch, and appears to have lost no time in compelling the Amorites to throw off their allegiance to Egypt and recognize him as their overlord. As a result, when Rameses II ascended the Egyptian throne he had to undertake the task of winning back the Asiatic possessions of his father.
The preliminary operations conducted by Rameses on the Palestinian coast were attended with much success. Then, in his fifth year, he marched northward with a great army, with purpose, it would appear, to emulate the achievements of Thothmes III and win fame as a mighty conqueror. But he underestimated the strength of his rival and narrowly escaped disaster. Advancing impetuously, with but two of his four divisions, he suddenly found himself surrounded by the army of the wily Hittite, King Mutallu, in the vicinity of the city of Kadesh, on the Orontes. His first division remained intact, but his second was put to flight by an intervening force of the enemy. From this perilous position Rameses extricated himself by leading a daring charge against the Hittite lines on the river bank, which proved successful. Thrown into confusion, his enemies sought refuge in the city, but the Pharaoh refrained from attacking them there.
Although Rameses boasted on his return home of having achieved a great victory, there is nothing more certain than that this campaign proved a dismal failure. He was unable to win back for Egypt the northern territories which had acknowledged the suzerainty of Egypt during the Eighteenth Dynasty. Subsequently he was
kept fully engaged in maintaining his prestige in northern Palestine and the vicinity of Phoenicia. Then his Asiatic military operations, which extended altogether over a period of about twenty years, were brought to a close in a dramatic and unexpected manner. The Hittite king Mutallu had died in battle, or by the hand of an assassin, and was succeeded by his brother Hattusil II (Khetasar), who sealed a treaty of peace with the great Rameses.
An Egyptian copy of this interesting document can still be read on the walls of a Theban temple, but it is lacking in certain details which interest present-day historians. No reference, for instance, is made to the boundaries of the Egyptian Empire in Syria, so that it is impossible to estimate the degree of success which attended the campaigns of Rameses. An interesting light, however, is thrown on the purport of the treaty by a tablet letter which has been discovered by Professor Hugo Winckler at Boghaz Köi. It is a copy of a communication addressed by Hattusil II to the King of Babylonia, who had made an enquiry regarding it. "I will inform my brother," wrote the Hittite monarch; the King of Egypt and I have made an alliance, and made ourselves brothers. Brothers we are and will [unite against] a common foe, and with friends in common." 1 The common foe could have been no other than Assyria, and the Hittite king's letter appears to convey a hint to Kadashman-turgu of Babylon that he should make common cause with Rameses II and Hattusil.
Shalmaneser I of Assyria was pursuing a determined policy of western and northern expansion. He struck boldly at the eastern Hittite States and conquered Malatia, where he secured great treasure for the god Ashur. He even founded colonies within the Hittite sphere of influence
on the borders of Armenia. Shalmaneser's second campaign was conducted against the portion of ancient Mitanni which was under Hittite control. The vassal king, Sattuari, apparently a descendant of Tushratta's, endeavoured to resist the Assyrians with the aid of Hittites and Aramæans, but his army of allies was put to flight. The victorious Shalmaneser was afterwards able to penetrate as far westward as Carchemish on the Euphrates.
Having thus secured the whole of Mitanni, the Assyrian conqueror attacked the Aramæan hordes which were keeping the territory round Haran in a continuous state of unrest, and forced them to recognize him as their overlord.
Shalmaneser thus, it would appear, gained control of northern Mesopotamia and consequently of the Babylonian caravan route to Haran. As a result Hittite prestige must have suffered decline in Babylon. For a generation the Hittites had had the Babylonian merchants at their mercy, and apparently compelled them to pay heavy duties. Winckler has found among the Boghaz Köi tablets several letters from the king of Babylon, who made complaints regarding robberies committed by Amoritic bandits, and requested that they should be punished and kept in control. Such a communication is a clear indication that he was entitled, in lieu of payment, to have an existing agreement fulfilled.
Shalmaneser found that Asshur, the ancient capital, was unsuitable for the administration of his extended empire, so he built a great city at Kalkhi (Nimrud), the Biblical Calah, which was strategically situated amidst fertile meadows on the angle of land formed by the Tigris and the Upper Zab. Thither to a new palace he transferred his brilliant Court.
He was succeeded by his son, Tukulti-Ninip I, who was the most powerful of the Assyrian monarchs of the Old Empire. He made great conquests in the north and east, extended and strengthened Assyrian influence in Mesopotamia, and penetrated into Hittite territory, bringing into subjection no fewer than forty kings, whom he compelled to pay annual tribute. It was inevitable that he should be drawn into conflict with the Babylonian king, who was plotting with the Hittites against him. One of the tablet letters found by Winckler at Boghaz Köi is of special interest in this connection. Hattusil advises the young monarch of Babylonia to "go and plunder the land of the foe". Apparently he sought to be freed from the harassing attention of the Assyrian conqueror by prevailing on his Babylonian royal friend to act as a "cat's paw".
It is uncertain whether or not Kashtiliash II of Babylonia invaded Assyria with purpose to cripple his rival. At any rate war broke out between the two countries, and Tukulti-Ninip proved irresistible in battle. He marched into Babylonia, and not only defeated Kashtiliash, but captured him and carried him off to Asshur, where he was presented in chains to the god Ashur.
The city of Babylon was captured, its wall was demolished, and many of its inhabitants were put to the sword. Tukulti-Ninip was evidently waging a war of conquest, for he pillaged E-sagila, "the temple of the high head", and removed the golden statue of the god Merodach to Assyria, where it remained for about sixteen years. He subdued the whole of Babylonia as far south as the Persian Gulf; and ruled it through viceroys.
Tukulti-Ninip, however, was not a popular emperor even in his own country. He offended national susceptibilities by showing preference for Babylonia, and founding
a new city which has not been located. There he built a great palace and a temple for Ashur and his pantheon. He called the city after himself, Kar-Tukulti-Ninip 1.
Seven years after the conquest of Babylonia revolts broke out against the emperor in Assyria and Babylonia, and he was murdered in his palace, which had been besieged and captured by an army headed by his own son, Ashur-natsir-pal I, who succeeded him. The Babylonian nobles meantime drove the Assyrian garrisons from their cities, and set on the throne the Kassite prince Adad-shum-utsur.
Thus in a brief space went to pieces the old Assyrian Empire, which, at the close of Tukulti-Ninip's thirty years' reign, embraced the whole Tigro-Euphrates valley from the borders of Armenia to the Persian Gulf. An obscure century followed, during which Assyria was raided by its enemies and broken up into petty States.
The Elamites were not slow to take advantage of the state of anarchy which prevailed in Babylonia during the closing years of Assyrian rule. They overran a part of ancient Sumer, and captured Nippur, where they slew a large number of inhabitants and captured many prisoners. On a subsequent occasion they pillaged Isin. When, however, the Babylonian king had cleared his country of the Assyrians, he attacked the Elamites and drove them across the frontier.
Nothing is known regarding the reign of the parricide Ashur-natsir-pal I of Assyria. He was succeeded by Ninip-Tukulti-Ashur and Adad-shum-lishir, who either reigned concurrently or were father and son. After a brief period these were displaced by another two rulers, Ashur-nirari III and Nabu-dan.
It is not clear why Ninip-Tukulti-Ashur was deposed.
[paragraph continues] Perhaps he was an ally of Adad-shum-utsur, the Babylonian king, and was unpopular on that account. He journeyed to Babylon on one occasion, carrying with him the statue of Merodach, but did not return. Perhaps he fled from the rebels. At any rate Adad-shum-utsur was asked to send him back, by an Assyrian dignitary who was probably Ashur-nirari III. The king of Babylon refused this request, nor would he give official recognition to the new ruler or rulers.
Soon afterwards another usurper, Bel-kudur-utsur, led an Assyrian army against the Babylonians, but was slain in battle. He was succeeded by Ninip-apil-esharia, who led his forces back to Asshur, followed by Adad-shumutsur. The city was besieged but not captured by the Babylonian army.
Under Adad-shum-utsur, who reigned for thirty years, Babylonia recovered much of its ancient splendour. It held Elam in check and laid a heavy hand on Assyria, which had been paralysed by civil war. Once again it possessed Mesopotamia and controlled its caravan road to Haran and Phoenicia, and apparently its relations with the Hittites and Syrians were of a cordial character. The next king, Meli-shipak, assumed the Assyrian title "Shar Kishshati", "king of the world", and had a prosperous reign of fifteen years. He was succeeded by Marduk-aplu-iddin I, who presided over the destinies of Babylonia for about thirteen years. Thereafter the glory of the Kassite Dynasty passed away. King Zamama-shum-iddin followed with a twelvemonth's reign, during which his kingdom was successfully invaded from the north by the Assyrians under King Ashur-dan I, and from the east by the Elamites under a king whose name has not been traced. Several towns were captured and pillaged, and rich booty was carried off to Asshur and Susa.
Bel-shum-iddin succeeded Zamama-shum-iddin, but three years afterwards he was deposed by a king of Isin. So ended the Kassite Dynasty of Babylonia, which had endured for a period of 576 years and nine months.
Babylonia was called Karduniash during the Kassite Dynasty. This name was originally applied to the district at the river mouths, where the alien rulers appear to have first achieved ascendancy. Apparently they were strongly supported by the non-Semitic elements in the population, and represented a popular revolt against the political supremacy of the city of Babylon and its god Merodach. It is significant to find in this connection that the early Kassite kings showed a preference for Nippur as their capital and promoted the worship of Enlil, the elder Bel, who was probably identified with their own god of fertility and battle. Their sun god, Sachi, appears to have been merged in Shamash. In time, however, the kings followed the example of Hammurabi by exalting Merodach.
The Kassite language added to the "Babel of tongues" among the common people, but was never used in inscriptions. At an early period the alien rulers became thoroughly Babylonianized, and as they held sway for nearly six centuries it cannot be assumed that they were unpopular. They allowed their mountain homeland, or earliest area of settlement in the east, to be seized and governed by Assyria, and probably maintained as slight a connection with it after settlement in Babylonia as did the Saxons of England with their Continental area of origin.
Although Babylonia was not so great a world power under the Kassites as it had been during the Hammurabi Dynasty, it prospered greatly as an industrial, agricultural, and trading country. The Babylonian language was used throughout western Asia as the language of diplomacy and commerce, and the city of Babylon was the most
important commercial metropolis of the ancient world.
Its merchants traded directly and indirectly with far-distant countries. They imported cobalt--which was used for colouring glass a vivid blue--from China, and may have occasionally met Chinese traders who came westward with their caravans, while a brisk trade in marble and limestone was conducted with and through Elam. Egypt was the chief source of the gold supply, which was obtained from the Nubian mines; and in exchange for this precious metal the Babylonians supplied the Nilotic merchants with lapis-lazuli from Bactria, enamel, and their own wonderful coloured glass, which was not unlike the later Venetian, as well as chariots and horses. The Kassites were great horse breeders, and the battle steeds from the Babylonian province of Namar were everywhere in great demand. They also promoted the cattle trade. Cattle rearing was confined chiefly to the marshy districts at the head of the Persian Gulf, and the extensive steppes on the borders of the Arabian desert, so well known to Abraham and his ancestors, which provided excellent grazing. Agriculture also flourished; as in Egypt it constituted the basis of national and commercial prosperity.
It is evident that great wealth accumulated in Karduniash during the Kassite period. When the images of Merodach and Zerpanitum were taken back to Babylon, from Assyria, they were clad, as has been recorded, in garments embroidered with gold and sparkling with gems, while E-sagila was redecorated on a lavish scale with price-less works of art.
Assyria presented a sharp contrast to Babylonia, the mother land, from which its culture was derived. As a separate kingdom it had to develop along different lines. In fact, it was unable to exist as a world power without the enforced co-operation of neighbouring States. Babylonia,
on the other hand, could have flourished in comparative isolation, like Egypt during the Old Kingdom period, because it was able to feed itself and maintain a large population so long as its rich alluvial plain was irrigated during its dry season, which extended over about eight months in the year.
The region north of Baghdad was of different geographical formation to the southern plain, and therefore less suitable for the birth and growth of a great independent civilization. Assyria embraced a chalk plateau of the later Mesozoic period, with tertiary deposits, and had an extremely limited area suitable for agricultural pursuits. Its original inhabitants were nomadic pastoral and hunting tribes, and there appears to be little doubt that agriculture was introduced along the banks of the Tigris by colonists from Babylonia, who formed city States which owed allegiance to the kings of Sumer and Akkad.
After the Hammurabi period Assyria rose into prominence as a predatory power, which depended for its stability upon those productive countries which it was able to conquer and hold in sway. It never had a numerous peasantry, and such as it had ultimately vanished, for the kings pursued the short-sighted policy of colonizing districts on the borders of their empire with their loyal subjects, and settling aliens in the heart of the homeland, where they were controlled by the military. In this manner they built up an artificial empire, which suffered at critical periods in its history because it lacked the great driving and sustaining force of a population welded together by immemorial native traditions and the love of country which is the essence of true patriotism. National sentiment was chiefly confined to the military aristocracy and the priests; the enslaved and uncultured masses of
aliens were concerned mainly with their daily duties, and no doubt included communities, like the Israelites in captivity, who longed to return to their native lands.
Assyria had to maintain a standing army, which grew from an alliance of brigands who first enslaved the native population, and ultimately extended their sway over neighbouring States. The successes of the army made Assyria powerful. Conquering kings accumulated rich booty by pillaging alien cities, and grew more and more wealthy as they were able to impose annual tribute on those States which came under their sway. They even regarded Babylonia with avaricious eyes. It was to achieve the conquest of the fertile and prosperous mother State that the early Assyrian emperors conducted military operations in the north-west and laid hands on Mesopotamia. There was no surer way of strangling it than by securing control of its trade routes. What the command of the sea is to Great Britain at the present day, the command of the caravan roads was to ancient Babylonia.
Babylonia suffered less than Assyria by defeat in battle; its natural resources gave it great recuperative powers, and the native population was ever so intensely patriotic that centuries of alien sway could not obliterate their national aspirations. A conqueror of Babylon had to become a Babylonian. The Amorites and Kassites had in turn to adopt the modes of life and modes of thought of the native population. Like the Egyptians, the Babylonians ever achieved the intellectual conquest of their conquerors.
The Assyrian Empire, on the other hand, collapsed like a house of cards when its army of mercenaries suffered a succession of disasters. The kings, as we have indicated, depended on the tribute of subject States to pay
their soldiers and maintain the priesthood; they were faced with national bankruptcy when their vassals successfully revolted against them.
The history of Assyria as a world power is divided into three periods: (1) the Old Empire; (2) the Middle Empire; (3) the New or Last Empire.
We have followed the rise and growth of the Old Empire from the days of Ashur-uballit until the reign of Tukulti-Ninip, when it flourished in great splendour and suddenly went to pieces. Thereafter, until the second period of the Old Empire, Assyria comprised but a few city States which had agricultural resources and were trading centres. Of these the most enterprising was Asshur. When a ruler of Asshur was able, by conserving his revenues, to command sufficient capital with purpose to raise a strong army of mercenaries as a business speculation, he set forth to build up a new empire on the ruins of the old. In its early stages, of course, this process was slow and difficult. It necessitated the adoption of a military career by native Assyrians, who officered the troops, and these troops had to be trained and disciplined by engaging in brigandage, which also brought them rich rewards for their services. Babylonia became powerful by developing the arts of peace; Assyria became powerful by developing the science of warfare.
357:1 At Carchemish a railway bridge spans the mile-wide river ferry which Assyria's soldiers were wont to cross with the aid of skin floats. The engineers have found it possible to utilize a Hittite river wall about 3000 years old--the oldest engineering structure in the world. The ferry was on the old trade route.
360:1 Deuteronomy, xxvi, 5.
362:1 Pr. u as oo.
363:1 The chief cities of North Syria were prior to this period Hittite. This expansion did not change the civilization but extended the area of occupation and control.
366:1 Garstang's The Land of the Hittites, p. 349.
369:1 "Burgh of Tukulti-Ninip."