« ElőzőTovább »
appeared, and we only see a bigh wall of earth. On examining it attentively, we can detect the marks of masonry ; and we soon find that it is a solid structure built of bricks of unbaked clay, now of the same color as the surrounding soil, and scarcely to be distinguished from it.
The slabs of alabaster, fallen from their original position, have, however, been raised; and we tread in the midst of a maze of small bas-reliefs, representing chariots, horsemen, battles, and sieges. Perhaps the workmen are about to raise a slab for the first time; and we watch, with eager curiosity, what new event of Assyrian history, or what unknown custom or religious ceremony, may be illustrated by the sculpture beneath.
Having walked about one hundred feet amongst these scattered monuments of ancient history and art, we reach another door-way, formed by colossal winged bulls in yellow limestone. One is still entire ; but its companion has fallen, and is broken into several pieces — the great human head is at our feet.
We pass on without turning into the part of the building to which this portal leads. Beyond it we see another winged figure, holding a graceful flower in its hand, and apparently presenting it as an offering to the winged bull. Adjoining this sculpture we find a perfect series of highly-finished basreliefs. There is the king, slaying the lion and wild bull, engaged in battles and in sieges, and receiving as captives the chiefs of the conquered people. We have now reached the end of the hall, and find before us an elaborate and beautiful sculpture, representing two kings, standing beneath the emblem of the supreme deity, and attended by winged figures. Between them is the sacred tree. In front of this bas-relief is the great stone platform, upon which, in days of old, may have been placed the throne of the Assyrian monarch, when he received his captive enemies, or his courtiers.
As we gaze upon these singular sculptures the description of Ezekiel is brought vividly to our minds. The prophet, in typifying the corruptions which had crept into the religious system of the Jews, and the idolatrous practices they had borrowed from the strange nations with which they had been brought into contact, thus illustrates the influence of the Assyrians. “She saw men portrayed upon the wall, the images of the Chaldæans portrayed with vermilion, girded with girdles upon their loins, exceeding in dyed attire upon their heads, all of them princes to look to, after the manner of the Babylonians of Chaldæa, the land of their nativity."* The prophet is prophesying on the banks of the Chebar, or Khabour, in the immediate vicinity of Nineveh, previous to the destruction of the Assyrian capital, an event which he most probably witnessed. He points out the rich and highly ornamented head-dress of the sculptured kings, and evidently all'udes to the prevalence of that red color, remains of which are so frequent in the ruins of Nimroud and Khorsabad. Nor can the resemblance between the symbolical figures pictured on the walls and those seen by Ezekiel in his vision fail to strike us. As the prophet had beheld the Assyrian palaces, with their mysterious images and gorgeous decorations, it is highly probable that, when seeking to typify certain divine attributes, and to describe the divine glory, he chose forms that were not only familiar to him, but to the people whom he addressed, captives like himself in the land of Assyria. He chose the four living creatures, with four faces, four wings, and the hands of a man under their wings on the four sides, the faces being those of a man, a lion, an ox, and an eagle,—the four creatures continually introduced on the sculptured walls, - and by them was a wheel, the appearance of which “ was as a wheel in the middle of a wheel.”+ May not this wheel have been the winged circle, or globe, which, hovering above the
* Ch. xxiii. 14, 15. The literal translation of this remarkable passage is “she saw men of sculptured (or painted) workmanship upon the wall, likenesses of the Chaldæans, pictured (or sculptured) in shashar (red ochre or vermilion); girded with girdles on their loins, with colored flowing headdresses upon their heads, with the aspect of princes all of them, the likeness of the sons of Babel-Chaldæa, the land of their nativity.”
† Ezekiel, i. 16.
head of the kings, typifies the Supreme Deity of the Assyrian nation?
Emblem of the Deity. (N.W. Palace, Nimroud.)
To the left of the great bas-relief at the eastern end of the hall is a fourth outlet formed by another pair of lions. We pass between them, and find ourselves on the edge of a deep ravine, to the north of which rises, high above us, the lofty pyramid. Figures of captives bearing objects of tribute, - ear-rings, bracelets, and monkeys,— are sculptured on the walls; and two enormous bulls, with two winged figures above fourteen feet high, are lying prostrate on the ground.
As the ravine bounds the ruins on this side, we must return to the yellow bulls. The entrance formed by them, leads us into a large chamber surrounded by eagle-headed figures: at one end of it is a doorway guarded by two priests or divinities, and in the centre another portal with winged bulls. Whichever way we turn, we find ourselves in the midst of a nest of rooms; and without an acquaintance with the intricacies of the place, we should soon lose ourselves in this labyrinth. The accumulated rubbish being generally left in the centre of the chambers, the whole excavation consists of a number of narrow passages, panelled on one side with slabs of alabaster; and shut in on the other by a high wall of earth, half buried in which may here and there he seen a broken vase, or a brick painted with brilliant colors. We may wander through these galleries for an hour or two, examining the marvellous sculptures, or the numerous inscriptions that surround us. Here we meet long rows of kings, attended by their eunuchs and priests,- there lines of winged figures, carrying fir-cones and religious emblems, and seemingly in adoration before the mystic tree. Other entrances, formed by winged lions and bulls, lead us into new chambers. In every one of them are fresh objects of curiosity and surprise. At length, wearied, we issue from the buried edifice by a passage on the side opposite to that by which we entered, and find ourselves again upon the naked platform. We look around in vain for any traces of the wonderful remains we have just seen, and are half inclined to believe that we have dreamed a dream, or have been listening to some tale of Eastern romance.
Some, who may hereafter tread on the spot when the grass again grows over the ruins of the Assyrian palaces, may indeed suspect that I have been relating a vision
DEPARTURE FROM NIMROUD.-EXCAVATIONS AT KOUYUXJIK.- DISCOVERY OF A PALACE. - BAS-RELIEFS. GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF THE SCULPTURES. — EXCAVATIONS CARRIED ON BY MR. ROSS.-- HIS DISCOVERIES.
A SCULPTURED SLAB AND SARCOPHAGUS. - PREPARATIONS FOR MY RE· TURN TO CONSTANTINOPLE. — LEAVE MOSUL.
The chambers at Nimroud had been filled up with earth, and the sculptures once more concealed from the eye of man. The surrounding country became daily more dangerous from the incursions of the Arabs of the desert, who now began to encamp even on the east bank of the Tigris. It was time, therefore, to leave the village. As a small sum of money still remained at my disposal, I resolved to devote it to an examination of the ruins opposite Mosul; particularly of the great mound of Kouyunjik. Although excavations on a small scale had already been made there, I had not hitherto had time to superintend them myself, and in such researches the natives of the country cannot be trusted. It is well known that almost since the fall of the Assyrian Empire, a city of some extent, representing the ancient Nineveh, although no longer the seat of government, nor a place of great importance, has stood on the banks of the Tigris in this part of its course. The modern city may not have been built above the ruins of the ancient; but it certainly rose in their immediate vicinity, either to the east of the river, or to the west, as the modern Mosul. The slabs, which had once lined the walls of the old palaces, and still remained concealed within mounds of earth, had been frequently exposed by accident or by design. Those who were settling in the neighbourhood soon found that the ruins were an inexhaustible mine of building materials. The alabaster was dug out to be either used in the construction of houses, or to be burnt for lime. A few years before, a bas-relief had been discovered in one part of the ruins, during a search after stones for the repair