Myths and Legends of Babylonia and Assyria
Page: 126"Have a care, O my father," he said, "for I am certain that the serpent lurks in yonder carcase for the purpose of destroying you."
But the eagle did not hearken to the warning of his child, but swooped on to the carcase of the wild ox. He so far obeyed the injunctions of his offspring, however, as closely to examine the dead ox for the purpose of discovering whether any trap lurked near it. Satisfied that all was well he commenced to feed upon it, when suddenly the serpent seized upon him and held him fast. The eagle at once began to plead for mercy, but the enraged reptile told him that an appeal to Shamash was irrevocable, and that if he did not punish the king of birds he himself would be punished by the god, and despite the eagle's further protests he tore off his wings and pinions, pulled him to pieces, and finally cast him into a pit, where he perished miserably as the god had decreed.
The tales of the Babylonian and Assyrian kings which we present in this chapter are of value because they are taken at first hand from their own historical accounts of the great events which occurred during their several reigns. On a first examination these tablets appear dry and uninteresting, but when studied more closely and patiently they will be found to contain matter as absorbing as that in the most exciting annals of any country. Let us take for example the wonderful inscriptions of Tiglath-pileser II (950 B.C.) which refer to his various conquests, and which were discovered by George Smith at Nimrûd in the temple of Nebo.
Tiglath commences with the usual Oriental flourish of trumpets. He styles himself the powerful warrior who, in the service of Asshur, has trampled upon his haters, swept over them like a flood, and reduced them to shadows. He has marched, he says, from the sea to the land of the rising sun, and from the sea of the setting sun to Egypt. He enumerates the countless lands that he has conquered. The cities Sarrapanu and Malilatu among others he took by storm and captured the inhabitants to the number of 150,000 men, women, and children, all of whom he sent to Assyria. Much tribute he received from the people of the conquered lands—gold, silver, precious stones, rare woods, and cattle. His custom seems to have been to make his successful generals rulers of the cities he conquered, and it is noticeable that upon a victory he invariably sacrificed to the gods. His methods appear to have been drastic[Pg 300] in the extreme. Irritated at the defiance of the people of Sarrapanu he reduced it to a heap of earth, and crucified King Nabu-Usabi in front of the gate of his city. Not content with this vengeance, Tiglath carried off his wealth, his furniture, his wife, his son, his daughters, and lastly his gods, so that no trace of the wretched monarch's kingdom should remain. It is noticeable that throughout these campaigns Tiglath invariably sent the prisoners to Assyria, which shows at least that he considered human life as relatively sacred. Probably these captive people were reduced to slavery. The races of the neighbouring desert, too, came and prostrated themselves before the Assyrian hero, kissing his feet and bringing him tribute carried by sailors.