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Myths and Legends of Babylonia and Assyria

Page: 131

A Royal 'Day'

A sketch of a day in the life of an Assyrian or Babylonian king may assist the reader to visualize the habits of royalty in a distant era. The ceremonies of robing and ablution upon rising would necessitate the attendance of numerous special officials, and, the morning repast over, a private religious ceremony[Pg 310] would follow. The business of the court would supervene. Perhaps an embassy from Elam or Egypt would occupy the early hours of the morning, failing which the dictation of letters to the governors of provinces and cities or to distant potentates would be overtaken. As a scholar himself the King would probably carefully scrutinize these productions. A visit might then be paid to a temple in course of construction, where the architect would describe the progress of the building operations, and the King would watch the slow rising of shrine and tower; or, perhaps, the afternoon would be set apart for the pleasures of the chase. Leashes of great dogs, not unlike those of the Danish boarhound breed, would be gathered at a certain point, and setting out in a light but strong chariot, the King would soon arrive at that point where the beaters had assured themselves of the presence of gazelles, wild asses, or even lions. Matters would, of course, be so arranged that the chief glories of the day should be left with royalty. It is not clear whether the King was accompanied by his courtiers in the chase, as was the case in the Middle Ages, or if he was merely attended by professional huntsmen. Be that as it may, when the ceremony of pouring libations over the dead game came to be celebrated, we find no one except the King, the harpers, and professional huntsmen present, for the kings of this virile and warlike race did not disdain to face the lion unattended and armed with nothing but bow and arrows and a short falchion. Unless the inscriptions which they have left on record are altogether mendacious we must believe that many an Assyrian king risked his life in close combat with lions. Great risk attends lion-hunting when the sportsman is [Pg 311]armed with modern weapons of precision, but the risk attending a personal encounter with these savage animals when the hunter is armed with the most rudimentary weapons seems appalling, according to modern civilized ideas.

Or again the afternoon might be occupied by a great ceremonial religious function, the laying of the foundation-stone of a temple, the opening of a religious edifice, or the celebration of a festival. The King, attended by a glittering retinue of courtiers and priests, would be carried in a litter to the place of celebration where hymns to the god in whose honour the function was held were sung to the accompaniment of harps and other instruments, libations to the god were poured out, sacrifices offered up, and prayers made for continued protection.


The Marriage Market from the painting by Edwin Long, R.A.—By permission of the Fine Art Society, Ltd.



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