« ElőzőTovább »
ARTIFICIAL IRRIGATION OF ASSYRIA. — WANT OF RAIN. — PREPARATIONS FOR THE REMOVAL OF A WINGED BULL AND LION. — THE CART. — LOWERING THE WINGED BULL. — ITS REMOVAL FROM THE RUINS. — EXCITEMENT OF THE ARABS. — REMOVAL OF THE LION.—RAFTS FOR THE TRANSPORT OF THE SCULPTURES TO BUSRAH. — EMBARCATION OF THE LION AND BULL. — GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF THE RUINS.
ASSYRIA PROPER, like Babylonia, owed its ancient fertility as much to artificial irrigation, as to the rains which fall during the winter and early spring. The Tigris and Euphrates, unlike the Nile, do not overflow their banks and deposit a rich manure on the face of the land. They rise sufficiently at the time of the melting of the snows in the Armenian hills, to fill the numerous canals led from them into the adjacent country; but these are generally so deep, or their banks so high, that, when the stream returns to its usual level, water can only be raised by artificial means. The great canals dug in the most prosperous period of the Assyrian Empire, and used for many centuries by the inhabitants of the country—even after the Arab invasion—have long since been choked up, and are now useless. When the waters of the rivers are high, it is still only by the labor of man that they can be led into the fields. I have already described the rude wheels constructed for the purpose along the banks of the Tigris. Even these are scarce. The government, or rather the local authorities, levy a considerable tax upon machines for irrigation, and the simple buckets of the Arabs become in many cases the source of exaction and oppression. Few being, consequently, bold enough to make use of them, the land near the rivers, as well as the interior of the country, is entirely dependent for its fertility upon the winter rains, which are amply sufficient to ensure the most plentiful crops; such being the richness of the soil, that even a few heavy showers in the course of the year, at the time of sowing the seed, and when the corn is about a foot above the ground, are sufficient to ensure a good harvest. * Herodotus" describes the extreme fertility of Assyria, and its abundant harvests of corn, the seed producing two and three hundredfold. The blades of wheat and barley, he declares, grew to full four fingers in breadth; and such was the general richness of Babylonia, that it supplied the Persian king and his vast army with subsistence for four months in the year, while the rest of the Persian dominions furnished provisions for the other eight. But in his day the Assyrians depended as much upon artificial irrigation, as upon the winter rains. They were skilful in constructing machines for raising water, and their system of canals was as remarkable for its ingenuity, as for the knowledge of hydraulics it displayed. In the hills, the vine, olive, and fig tree were cultivated anciently as they are now; and Rabshakeh, to tempt the Jews, describes Assyria as “a land of corn and wine, a land of bread and vineyards, a land of olive-oil and of honey.”f It sometimes happens that the season passes without rain. Such was the case this year. During the winter and spring no water fell. The inhabitants of the villages, who had been induced to return by the improved administration and conciliatory measures of the late Pasha, had put their whole stock of wheat and barley into the ground. They now looked in despair upon the cloudless sky. I watched the young grass as it struggled
to break through the parched earth; but it was burnt up almost
at its birth. Sometimes a distant cloud hanging over the solitary hill of Arbela, or rising from the desert in the far west, led to hopes, and a few drops of rain gave rise to general rejoicings. The Arabs would then form a dance, and raise
* Lib. i. c. 192 and 193.
+ 2 Kings, xviii. 32. On a black stone in the possession of Lord Aberdeen, a plough is represented, nearly resembling that now in use in the country.
songs and shouts, the women joining with the shrill tahlehl. But disappointment always ensued. The clouds passed over, and the same pure blue sky was above us. To me the total absence of verdure in spring was very painful. For months my eye had not rested upon a green thing; and that unchanging yellow, barren, waste has a depressing effect upon the spirits. The Jaif, which the year before had been a flower garden and had teemed with life, was now as naked and bare as a desert in the midst of summer. I had been looking forward to the return of the grass to encamp outside the village, and had meditated many excursions to ancient ruins in the desert and the mountains; but I was doomed to disappointment like the rest. The Pasha issued orders that Christians, as well as Mussulmans, should join in a general fast and in prayers. Supplications were offered up in the churches and mosques. The Mohammedans held a kind of three days' Ramazan, starving themselves during the day, and feasting during the night. The Christians abstained from meat for the same length of time. If a cloud were seen on the horizon, the inhabitants of the villages, headed by their mullahs, would immediately walk into the open country to chant prayers and verses from the Koran. Sheikhs—crazy ascetics who wandered over the country, either half clothed in the skins of lions or gazelles, or stark naked— burnt themselves with hot irons, and ran shouting about the streets of Mosul. Even a kind of necromancy was not neglected, and the Cadi and the Turkish authorities had recourse to all manner of mysterious incantations, which were pronounced to have been successful in other parts of the Sultan's dominions on similar occasions. Still there was no rain, and a famine appeared to be inevitable. It was known, however, that there were abundant supplies of corn in the granaries of the principal families of Mosul ; and the fact having been brought to the notice of the Pasha, he at once ordered the stores to be opened, and their contents to be offered for sale in the market at moderate prices, As usual, the orders were given to the very persons who were speculating upon the miseries of the poor and needy—to the cadi, the mufti, and the head people of the town. They proceeded to obey them with great zeal and punctuality, but somehow or another overlooked their own stores and those of their friends, and ransacked the houses of the rest of the inhabitants. In a few days, consequently, those who had saved up a little grain for their own immediate wants, were added to the number of the starving; and the necessities and misery of the town were increased. The Bedouins, who are dependent upon the village for supplies, now also began to feel the effects of the failure of the crops, and were preparing to make up for their sufferings by plundering the caravans of merchants, and the peaceable inhabitants of the districts within reach of the desert. Although the spring had already commenced, the Shammar and other formidable tribes had not yet encamped in the vicinity of Mosul; still casual plundering parties had made their appearance among the villages, and it was predicted that as soon as their tents were pitched nearer the town, the country without the walls would be not only very unsafe, but almost uninhabitable. These circumstances induced me to undertake the removal of the larger sculptures as early as possible. I determined to embark them for Busrah in the month of March or April, foreseeing that as soon as the Bedouins had moved northwards from Babylonia, and had commenced their plundering expeditions in the vicinity of Mosul, I should be compelled to leave Nimroud. The Trustees of the British Museum had not contemplated the removal of either a winged bull or lion, and I had at first believed that, with the means at my disposal, it would have been useless to attempt it. I was directed to leave them, where discovered, until some favorable opportunity of moving them entire might occur; and to heap earth over them, after the excavations had been brought to an end. Being loth, however, to abandon all these fine specimens of Assyrian sculpture, I resolved upon attempting the removal and embarkation of two of the smallest and best preserved, and fixed upon a lion and a bull from the great central hall. Thirteen pairs of these gigantic sculptures, and several fragments of others, had been discovered; but many of them were too much injured to be worth sending to England. I had wished to secure the lions forming the great entrance to the principal chamber of the N.W. palace; the finest specimens of Assyrian sculpture dis. covered in the ruins. But after some deliberation I determined to leave them for the present; as, from their size, the expense attending their conveyance to the river would have been very considerable. I formed various plans for lowering the lion and bull, dragging them to the river, and placing them upon rafts. Each step had its difficulties, and a variety of original suggestions were made by my workmen, and by the good people of Mosul. At last I resolved upon constructing a cart sufficiently strong to bear the sculptures. As no wood but poplar could be procured in the town, a carpenter was sent to the mountains with directions to fell the largest mulberry tree, or any tree of equally compact grain, he could find; and to bring back with him beams of it, and thick slices from the trunk. By the month of March this wood was ready. I purchased from the dragoman of the French Consulate a pair of strong iron axles, formerly used by M. Botta in moving sculptures from Khorsabad. Each wheel was formed of three solid pieces, nearly a foot thick, bound together by iron hoops. Across the axles were laid three beams, and above them several crossbeams. A pole was fixed to one axle, to which were also attached iron rings for ropes, to enable men, as well as buffaloes, to draw the cart. The wheels were provided with moveable hooks for the same purpose. Simple as this cart was, it became an object of wonder in the town. Crowds came to look at it, as it stood in the yard of the vice-consul's khan; and the Pasha's topjis, or artillery-men,