Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

member the former things of old, for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me. My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure ; calling a ravenous bird from the east, the man that executeth my counsel from a far country : yea, I have spoken it, I also will bring it to pass." Here the Assyrian emblem is translated into words. Cyrus, who came from the east, was likened to the bird of prey. The wings might imply swiftness, and the head ferocity, as characteristics of the conqueror. The winged, human-headed lions are objects of great interest. They were carved with great perfection, and stood at an entrance. Mr. Layard remarks concerning them: “I used to contemplate for hours these mysterious emblems, and muse over their intent and history. What more noble forms could have ushered the people into the temple of the gods? What more sublime images could have been borrowed from nature by men who sought, unaided by the light of revealed religion, to embody their conception of the wisdom, power, and ubiquity of the Supreme Being? They could find no better type of intellect and knowledge than the head of a man; of strength, than the body of the lion; of rapidity of motion, than the wings of the bird. These winged, human-headed lions were not idle creations, the offspring of mere fancy; their meaning was written upon them."

The winged, human-headed figure generally appeared with a horned cap, a fir-cone in one hand, and a square basket or vessel in the other. The horned cap may cast light on the manner in which the term horn is several times used in the Scriptures. Daniel's horn is a king. The king and his attendants, having their weapons adorned with the heads of bulls and rams, reminds us of that splendid prophecy of the defeat of the Assyrian troops under Sennacherib, (Isaiah, chap. xxxi. to xxxvii.,) in the course of which the prophet says, (xxxiv. 7:) “ And the unicorns shall come down, and the bullocks with the bulls; and their land shall be soaked with blood, and their dust shall be fat with fatness.” The prisoners of war, with the spoils of the conquered represented over their beads, bring to mind the passage in Isaiah lx. 6, where the eastern nations are described as becoming captives to the Prince of Peace, and bringing to him their treasures. sing

The emblems most in use in the nation may also have given coloring to the prophecies concerning Nineveh. The frequency with which the winged lion is used in the Assyrian sculptures may account for the expression of Nahum, (ii. 11:) “ Where is the dwelling of the lions, and the feeding-place of the young lions; where the lion, even the old lion walked,

tenils and fane" Assyria in the coursha

and the lion's whelp, and none made them afraid. Behold, I am against thee, saith the Lord of hosts, and I will burn her chariots in the smoke, and the sword shall devour thy young lions.” The lions here stand as a symbol of the city and its warriors. The eighteenth chapter of Isaiah commences, “Woe to the land shadowing with wings;"—an obscure passage ;—but if it refer to Assyria, the force of the expression is obvious. Never did a land abound more in sculptured wings, overshadowing beings on which they naturally belonged, and beings on which they were set as symbols. The symbolic tree which often appears on the sculptures, and the fir-cone carried in the hand of the figures, account for the prophecy of Nahum, (ii. 3,) “ The fir-trees shall be terribly shaken,” implying the ruin of the city. The four living creatures seen in Ezekiel's vision (i. 4-28) had the mingled likeness of a man, an ox, an eagle, and a lion, (i. 10,)

—the symbols which seem peculiarly sacred to the Assyrian nation, and all of which assume the greatest prominence in their sculptures. The wings of these living creatures (i. 6, 8, 9) in Ezekiel's vision—wings on beings which naturally are destitute of wings—at once refer us to the symbols we have been contemplating. The figures were familiar to the eyes of the prophet and of his fellow-countrymen in captivity in Assyria, and the symbols in this vision were doubtless as intelligible to them as words are to us. The likeness of the lion under the throne in Ezekiel's vision (i. 10) recalls the throne in the Ninevite sculpture resting on lions' paws. The wheels and the rings of the vision (i. 15–18) evidently correspond to the Assyrian symbols of Divinity, and have the same meaning with Ezekiel which they had with the Assyrians. Ezekiel, however, gives perfection to the idea of Omniscience by describing his rings as “full of eyes round about," (i. 18.) - It may be added to what has been said, that many of the sculptures in the mounds show marks of having been painted, in order to make them in every part more vivid and life-like. The figures accompanied by monkeys, representing a conquered nation coming from a distance, and bringing with them specimens of the spoils of their country, are supposed to be from Africa ; and traces of black paint can be detected on their faces. Gold-leaf was used to some extent. A few almost invisible particles have been found. Blue of a brilliant shade was also employed, and a bright red like vermilion. Hence it is said of Jerusalem, in Ezekiel xxiii. 12-15.: “She doted upon the Assyrians her neighbors, captains and rulers,

clothed mosble young, her whorees of

clothed most gorgeously, horsemen riding upon horses, all of them desirable young men. Then I saw that she was defiled, and that she increased her whoredoms; for when she saw men portrayed upon the wall, the images of the Chaldeans portrayed with vermilion, girded with girdles upon their loins, exceeding with dyed attire upon their heads, all of them princes to look to,.... as soon as she saw them with her eyes she doted on them, and sent messengers unto them into Chaldea." The flame in Ezekiel's vision was of the color of amber, (i. 4,) a color very common as a ground on the sculptures. The appearance of the living creatures was “ like burning coals of fire,” (i. 13.) The throne was “as the appearance of a sapphire stone,” (i. 26,)-a deep blue. “As the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness round about,” (i. 28.) Most of these colors were found by Mr. Layard, traced upon the sculptured walls, or fallen down among the crumbling debris and rubbish.

It would swell this article beyond its proper limits were we to attempt to accompany Mr. Layard through all his labors and discoveries. The work, once begun, went on with the highest degree of success. From one point to another he proceeded in his discoveries among the palaces of the ancient monarchs, till, in the short space of four months, he had examined twenty-eight chambers in the northwest palace. This was the most interesting spot, and secured the most of his time and pains. But a great achievement was his removal of a great winged bull and a winged lion from their places, to be carried by sea to England for the British Museum. This was a work requiring the greatest ingenuity and invention. In order to accomplish'it, Mr. Layard was obliged to make a road from the interior of the mound, at a level with the foot of the sculpture, to the river,—which in some instances required an excavation of twenty feet in depth. The road being finished and the carriage built for the reception of these ponderous burdens, they were dragged down to the river by ropes by about three hundred Arabs, and there, a raft having been constructed for the purpose, were conveyed to English vessels to be sent home. Having accomplished this work, Mr. Layard turned his attention to some of the other large mounds, especially Kouyunjik, where he carried on the work of excavation with great diligence, and with equally satisfactory results.

The sculptures were of the same general character as in the mounds of Nimroud and Khorsabad, but perhaps more various and complicated in their subjects. Having pursued his in

vestigations as far as the means at his command would permit, he covered over again the rare works whose existence he had proved, and whose testimony he had secured to science, history, and art, and prepared to return to his native land. During his labors he had secured, to use his own words, “almost sufficient materials to enable us to restore much of the lost history of the country, and to confirm the vague traditions of the learning and civilization of its people hitherto treated as fabulous."

The details relating to the excavations occupy nearly two thirds of these volumes. Part second shows with great clearness and in a manner highly interesting, what light is cast by the discoveries on the life and habits, arts, civilization and religion of the ancient Assyrians.

The earliest method of making records in Assyria was by engraving them, in a manner more or less ornate, on the face of a rock, or on the walls of temples, palaces, etc. Thus the limits of a conquest were marked by a monumental inscription, either hieroglyphic and pictorial, or in arrow-headed characters. It was a common method in Assyria to use prepared bricks, tiles, or cylinders of clay, which were baked after the inscription was impressed. So God said to Ezekiel, (iv. 1.) “Thou also, son of man, take a tile and lay it before thee, and portray upon it the city, even Jerusalein." It is a remarkable fact that there is scarcely a kiln-burnt brick or a stone employed in the edifices of ancient Assyria, which has not an inscription upon it. These inscriptions are in the wedge-shaped or arrow-headed character, at first unintelligible, but now read with ease by those who have devoted themselves to such investigations. The inscriptions are on the face of the stones and tiles and on the backs, around the figures and often across them, on the drapery, and everywhere except across naked limbs, by which they are generally interrupted. They are on the sides of the chambers and on the pavements. And so often are the records thus repeated, that, by means of the pictures and the inscriptions, it is evident that all the most important points in Assyrian history and life, capable of being transmitted in such a way, are abundantly attested and confirmed. And the figures and inscriptions once looked upon by the eyes of the prophet Ezekiel, now, after the lapse of more than twentytour centuries, are again brought to light for the instruction of the world.

Besides the illustrations of Scripture already alluded to, the Assyrian sculptures shed light on many other passages,

which has not anchaped or arroth ease by those inscriptions

and invest them with new beauty and force. A black fluid was discovered on the slabs forming the entrance of the palace of Nimroud, resembling blood. The Hebrews sprinkled a part of the blood of their sacrifices on the lintel and on the door-posts. The horses of the Assyrians were very richly caparisoned. Around the neck was an embroidered collar, terminating in a bell. Zechariah, foretelling the subjugation of the earth to its rightful Sovereign, says: “In that day there shall be upon the bells of the horses, Holiness to the Lord.” The city of Nineveh, like others similarly situated, was on an alluvial plain. In order to make it an object visible at a distance, and to render it more secure against an enemy, the castle and sometimes the principal edifices of the city were built upon an artificial mound thrown up, resembling a natural hill. Hence in time of a siege it was necessary for the besiegers to cast up a bank or inclined plane to the city, over which they might draw their ponderous machines, in order to bring them to bear against the walls. This is alluded to in Isaiah xxxvi. 3 : “ Thus saith the Lord concerning the king of Assyria, he shall not come into this city, nor shoot an arrow there, nor come before it with shields, nor cast a bank against it.Compare Jeremiah xxxii. 24, xxxiii. 4, lii. 4; Deut. xx. 20; Ezekiel iv. 2. A similar custom existed among the Egyptians. See Ezekiel xvii. 17. When the Assyrians captured a city, they removed the inhabitants to a distant part of their dominions, replacing them by colonies of their own people. Thus it was that the captive Jews were in Babylon and by the river Chebar. A throne was set for the victorious monarch in a conspicuous place in the city, and he there put his feet upon the necks of the captive chiefs, in token of their subjugation. Sometimes the captives were led before the king by a rope fastened to rings passing through the lips and nose,-illustrating what God said to Sennacherib, the Assyrian king, (2 Kings xix. 28 :) “Because thy rage against me and thy tumult is come up into mine ears, therefore I will put my hook in thy nose, and my bridle in thy lips, and I will turn thee back by the way. by which thou camest.” The Assyrian warriors generally carried off from a conquered city the gods of the city, or else broke them in pieces, -as if they would triumph over everything pertaining to it, the human and the divine. So the prophet Jeremiah says, (1. 2:) “Declare ye among the nations, and publish, and set up a standard ; publish and conceal not : say, Babylon is taken, Bel is confounded, Merodach is broken in pieces ; her idols are confounded ;

« AnteriorContinuar »