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Myths of Babylonia and Assyria

Page: 201

Meanwhile Babylonia was wasted by civil war and invasions. It was entered more than once by the Aramaeans, who pillaged several cities in the north and the south. Then the throne was seized by Adad-aplu-iddina, the grandson of "a nobody", who reigned for about ten years. He was given recognition, however, by the Assyrian king, Ashur-bel-kala, son of Tiglath-pileser I, who married his daughter, and apparently restored to him Sippar and Babylon after receiving a handsome dowry. Ashur-bel-kala died without issue, and was succeeded by his brother, Shamshi-Adad.

An obscure period followed. In Babylonia there were two weak dynasties in less than half a century, and thereafter an Elamite Dynasty which lasted about six years. An Eighth Dynasty ensued, and lasted between fifty and sixty years. The records of its early kings are exceedingly meagre and their order uncertain. During the reign of Nabu-mukin-apli, who was perhaps the fourth monarch, the Aramaeans constantly raided the land and hovered about Babylon. The names of two or three kings who succeeded Nabu-mukin-apli are unknown.

A century and a half after Tiglath-pileser I conquered the north Syrian possessions of the Hittites, the Old Assyrian Empire reached the close of its second and last period. It had suffered gradual decline, under a series of inert and luxury-loving kings, until it was unable to withstand the gradual encroachment on every side of the restless hill tribes, who were ever ready to revolt when the authority of Ashur was not asserted at the point of the sword.

After 950 B.C. the Hittites of North Syria, having shaken off the last semblance of Assyrian authority, revived their power, and enjoyed a full century of independence and prosperity. In Cappadocia their kinsmen had freed themselves at an earlier period from the yoke of the Muski, who had suffered so severely at the hands of Tiglath-pileser I. The Hittite buildings and rock sculptures of this period testify to the enduring character of the ancient civilization of the "Hatti". Until the hieroglyphics can be read, however, we must wait patiently for the detailed story of the pre-Phrygian period, which was of great historical importance, because the tide of cultural influence was then flowing at its greatest volume from the old to the new world, where Greece was emerging in virgin splendour out of the ruins of the ancient Mykenaean and Cretan civilizations.

It is possible that the conquest of a considerable part of Palestine by the Philistines was not unconnected with the revival of Hittite power in the north. They may have moved southward as the allies of the Cilician State which was rising into prominence. For a period they were the overlords of the Hebrews, who had been displacing the older inhabitants of the "Promised Land", and appear to have been armed with weapons of iron. In fact, as is indicated by a passage in the Book of Samuel, they had made a "corner" in that metal and restricted its use among their vassals. "Now", the Biblical narrative sets forth, "there was no smith found throughout all the land of Israel; for the Philistines said, Lest the Hebrews make them swords and spears; but all the Israelites went down to the Philistines, to sharpen every man his share, and his coulter, and his axe, and his mattock".[420] "We are inclined", says Professor Macalister, "to picture the West as a thing of yesterday, new fangled with its inventions and its progressive civilization, and the East as an embodiment of hoary and unchanging traditions. But when West first met East on the shores of the Holy Land, it was the former which represented the magnificent traditions of the past, and the latter which looked forward to the future. The Philistines were of the remnant of the dying glories of Crete; the Hebrews had no past to speak of, but were entering on the heritage they regarded as theirs, by right of a recently ratified divine covenant."[421]


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