Myths of Babylonia and Assyria

Page: 208

Ashur-natsir-pal approached Suru, a part of its population welcomed him. He entered the city, seized the pretender and many of his followers. These he disposed of with characteristic barbarity. Some were skinned alive and some impaled on stakes, while others were enclosed in a pillar which the king had erected to remind the Aramaeans of his determination to brook no opposition. Akhiababa the pretender was sent to Nineveh with a few supporters; and when they had been flayed their skins were nailed upon the city walls.

Another revolt broke out in the Kirkhi district between the upper reaches of the Tigris and the southwestern shores of Lake Van. It was promoted by the Nairi tribes, and even supported by some Assyrian officials. Terrible reprisals were meted out to the rebels. When the city of Kinabu was captured, no fewer than 3000 prisoners were burned alive, the unfaithful governor being flayed. The city of Damdamusa was set on fire. Then Tela was attacked. Ashur-natsir-pal's own account of the operations runs as follows:--

The city (of Tello) was very strong; three walls surrounded it. The inhabitants trusted to their strong walls and numerous soldiers; they did not come down or embrace my feet. With battle and slaughter I assaulted and took the city. Three thousand warriors I slew in battle. Their booty and possessions, cattle, sheep, I carried away; many captives I burned with fire. Many of their soldiers I took alive; of some I cut off hands and limbs; of others the noses, ears, and arms; of many soldiers I put out the eyes. I reared a column of the living and a column of heads. I hung on high their heads on trees in the vicinity of their city. Their boys and girls I burned up in flames. I devastated the city, dug it up, in fire burned it; I annihilated it.[430]

The Assyrian war-lord afterwards forced several Nairi kings to acknowledge him as their overlord. He was so greatly feared by the Syro-Cappadocian Hittites that when he approached their territory they sent him tribute, yielding without a struggle.

For several years the great conqueror engaged himself in thus subduing rebellious tribes and extending his territory. His military headquarters were at Kalkhi, to which city the Court had been transferred. Thither he drafted thousands of prisoners, the great majority of whom he incorporated in the Assyrian army. Assyrian colonies were established in various districts for strategical purposes, and officials supplanted the petty kings in certain of the northern city States.

The Aramaeans of Mesopotamia gave much trouble to Ashur-natsir-pal. Although he had laid a heavy hand on Suru, the southern tribes, the Sukhi, stirred up revolts in Mesopotamia as the allies of the Babylonians. On one occasion Ashur-natsir-pal swept southward through this region, and attacked a combined force of Sukhi Aramaeans and Babylonians. The Babylonians were commanded by Zabdanu, brother of Nabu-aplu-iddin, king of Babylonia, who was evidently anxious to regain control of the western trade route. The Assyrian war-lord, however, proved to be too powerful a rival. He achieved so complete a victory that he captured the Babylonian general and 3000 of his followers. The people of Kashshi (Babylonia) and Kaldu (Chaldaea) were "stricken with terror", and had to agree to pay increased tribute.

Ashur-natsir-pal reigned for about a quarter of a century, but his wars occupied less than half of that period. Having accumulated great booty, he engaged himself, as soon as peace was secured throughout his empire, in rebuilding the city of Kalkhi, where he erected a great palace and made records of his achievements. He also extended and redecorated the royal palace at Nineveh, and devoted much attention to the temples.

Tribute poured in from the subject States. The mountain and valley tribes in the north furnished in abundance wine and corn, sheep and cattle and horses, and from the Aramaeans of Mesopotamia and the Syro-Cappadocian Hittites came much silver and gold, copper and lead, jewels and ivory, as well as richly decorated furniture, armour and weapons. Artists and artisans were also provided by the vassals of Assyria. There are traces of Phoenician influence in the art of this period.

Ashur-natsir-pal's great palace at Kalkhi was excavated by Layard, who has given a vivid description of the verdant plain on which the ancient city was situated, as it appeared in spring. "Its pasture lands, known as the 'Jaif', are renowned", he wrote, "for their rich and luxuriant herbage. In times of quiet, the studs of the Pasha and of the Turkish authorities, with the horses of the cavalry and of the inhabitants of Mosul, are sent here to graze.... Flowers of every hue enamelled 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 colours. 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.... In the evening, after the labour of the day, I often sat at the door of my tent, giving myself up to the full enjoyment of that calm and repose which are imparted to the senses by such scenes as these.... As the sun went down behind the low hills which separate the river from the desert--even their rocky sides had struggled to emulate the verdant clothing of the plain--its receding rays were gradually withdrawn, like a transparent veil of light from the landscape. Over the pure cloudless sky was the glow of the last light. 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 amongst 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 loads of long grass which they had cut in the meadows."[431]