Sir Austen Henry Layard : Modern Archaeology – Beacon Lights of History, Volume XIV : The New Era by John Lord

Beacon Lights of History, Volume XIV : The New Era by John Lord

John Lord – Beacon Lights of History, Volume XIV : The New Era

Richard Wagner : Modern Music
John Ruskin : Modern Art
Herbert Spencer : The Evolutionary Philosophy
Charles Darwin : His Place in Modern Science
John Ericsson : Navies of War and Commerce
Li Hung Chang : The Far East
David Livingstone : African Development
Sir Austen Henry Layard : Modern Archaeology
Michael Faraday : Electricity and Magnetism
Rudolf Virchow : Medicine and Surgery

John Lord – Beacon Lights of History, Volume XIV : The New Era
John Lord

Topics Covered
Overthrow of Nineveh and destruction of the Assyrian Empire.
Kingdoms and empires extant and buried before the era of Hebrew and Greek history.
Bonaparte in Egypt, and the impulse he gave to French archaeology.
Champollion and his deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphic inscriptions.
Paul Émile Botta and his discoveries in Assyria.
His excavations of King Sargon’s palace at Khorsabad.
Layard begins his excavations and discoveries at Nineveh.
Sir Stratford Canning’s (Viscount Stratford de Redcliffe) gift to the British
Museum of the marbles of Halicarnassus.
Layard’s published researches, “Nineveh and its Remains,” and “Babylon and Nineveh”.
His work, “The Monuments of Nineveh” (1849-53).
Obelisk and monoliths of Shalmaneser II., King of Assyria, discovered by Layard at Nimroud.
George Smith and his discovery of the Babylonian account of the Deluge.
Light thrown by these discoveries on the Pharaoh of the Bible, and on Melchizedek,
who reigned in Abraham’s day.
Other archaeologists of note, Glaser, De Morgan, De Sarzec, and Botta.
Relics of Buddha, and the Hittite inscriptions.
The Moabite Stone, and work of the English Palestine Exploration Fund at Jerusalem.
Dr. Schliemann’s labors among the ruins of Troy.
Researches and discoveries at Crete.
The mounds, pyramids, and temples of the American aborigines.
The cliff-dwellers and the Mayas, Incas, and Toltecs.
The Calendar Stone and statue of the gods of war and death found in Mexico.
What treasure yet remains to be recovered of a past civilization.

Sir Austen Henry Layard : Modern Archaeology

By William Hayes Ward, D.D., LL.D.

It was twenty-three long centuries ago that a Greek soldier of fortune, who had the honor to be also a disciple of Socrates, was leading ten thousand mercenaries back to their native land after their famous failure to set the Younger Cyrus on the throne of Persia. Clearchus and the other generals had been treacherously murdered. Dispirited, almost hopeless, on their way to the longed-for Black Sea, in anticipation of the perilous and tedious journey, past wild mountains and wilder Kurds, they toiled up the valley of the Tigris River. Of one incident of their journey their historian and leader makes no record. They reached the spot where now stands the city of Mosul. On the bank of the river their eyes fell on a bare and lofty hill. They did not know, they never suspected,–Xenophon wrote no word of it,–that under that hill lay buried the ruins of one of the mightiest conquering cities that had ever ruled the world. From the palaces of that hill, Ninus and Semiramis and Sardanapalus had led their conquering armies, all now covered with silence.

Sir Austen Henry Layard Photograph

Sir Austen Henry Layard Photograph

Two centuries earlier, in 606 B.C., there had occurred one of the most tremendous catastrophes recorded in all the grim annals of war. After a thousand years of primacy in the East, but twenty years after the death of Sardanapalus (the Greek name of Asshurbanapal), who had carried his armies to Egypt and had made his capital the centre of the world’s culture and magnificence, as it was of its cruel and hated power, Nineveh was captured, buried, and utterly desolated by a horde of savage Scythians from the mountains of the north and east, such people as we now call the Kurds. Its palaces had no lofty Greek columns to stand for memorials, as at Palmyra or Persepolis; and when the outer casings of brick and alabaster were cracked away, and the ashes of the upper stories and the clay of the inner constructions, soaked by the rains, covered the ruins of temple and palace, nothing was left to mark the site but the grass-covered hill. No wonder that the learned scholar of Socrates saw nothing, knew nothing of the city, most glorious and most detested of all the cities of the earth. But in its day the overthrow of Nineveh and the destruction of the Assyrian Empire had been the most terrible event in the world’s history. How the Hebrew prophets gloated over it! “Where now is the den of the lions, and the feeding-place of the young lions, where the lion and the lioness walked, the lion’s whelp, and none made them afraid? Wo to the bloody city; it is all full of lies and rapine; the prey departeth not. The noise of the whip, and the noise of the rattling of wheels, and prancing horses, and bounding chariots, the horsemen mounting, and the flashing sword, and the glittering spear, and a multitude of slain, and a great heap of corpses, and there is no end of the bodies. There is no assuaging of the hurt; thy wound is grievous; all that hear the report of thee clap their hands over thee: for upon whom hath not thy wickedness passed continually?” And another prophet had uttered the curse: “The pelican and the porcupine shall lodge in the capitals thereof; their voice shall sound in the windows; desolation shall be in the thresholds; for he hath laid bare the cedar-work. This is the joyous city that dwelt carelessly, that said in her heart, ‘I am, and there is none besides me!’ How is she become a desolation, a place for beasts to lie down in! Every one that passeth by her shall hiss, and wag his hand.”

Thus fell Nineveh, amid the universal rejoicing of the nations, and thus, seventy years later, fell Babylon also, which, in the short interval, Nebuchadnezzar had made more magnificent than even Nineveh had been, beautified for its capture by Cyrus. But before Babylon was the capital of Chaldea, or Nineveh the capital of Assyria, the city of Calah had been the seat of its kings, and a mighty mound–they call it Nimroud now–“as high as St. Paul’s steeple,” old travellers loved to say–marks the place on the east bank of the Tigris, twenty miles south of Nineveh; and, before Calah, Assyria had an earlier capital forty miles still nearer the Babylonian border, at Asshur, now Kalah-Shergat, on the west of the Tigris; and each capital had its palaces and records, and all are now equally buried in clay and utter oblivion. And before the Babylon of Nebuchadnezzar, and long centuries before Nineveh or Calah or Asshur, there had been mighty kingdoms in Babylonia, of which the world had quite forgot the names, only vague rumors remaining in song or legend of Nimrod and Chedorlaomer and Ur of the Chaldees,–only what was preserved in the dimmest records of the Hebrew Scriptures. Empires were lost, buried in chiliads of forgetfulness; would they ever be recovered?

And how much else was lost, what kingdoms, what empires buried before Hebrew or Greek history began to take notice of the world outside and put them in books, no one knew, no one knows even yet, although so much has been found. The fame of Egypt was never quite forgotten, nor all its history, for Egypt was the world’s granary, and closely accessible to the ships of Corinth and Rome; and Egypt never lost her civilization in all her long succession of enslavement. But what memory had been kept of the Ionia and Greece of the days before Homer? What of the early civilization of Cyprus and Crete? Only the name of Minos, a judge in Hell. What of Persia and Elam? Were they uninhabited before the times of Xerxes and Cyrus? And who were these kings, Cyrus and Xerxes, whose names burst upon us with dim light out of a black antiquity? Even they were but shadows on a screen, just seen and disappearing. What kings and kingdoms came before them and passed away? Has history no record? Not a word. Only black vacuity has been left behind them. And there was that other empire of the East, that of the Hittites, which we now know ruled Asia Minor and Syria and contested the rule of the world with Assyria and Egypt centuries before Agamemnon and Achilles, but so utterly buried and forgotten that not a line of its history was left, not even enough to let the sharpest scholar ask a question or suspect that it ever built capitals and fought victories and produced a civilization the harvest of which we still enjoy. Nothing was left of them but their names in a Hebrew list of tribes,–“Amorites and Jebusites and Hivites and Hittites.”

Yet all these lost tribes, nay, lost nations, had left their records behind them, only they were buried under ground and out of sight. What a travesty it is on history and civilization, what an impeachment of the glory of these later Christian centuries, that the lands which these old empires crowded with a busy population should now be among the most desolate and inaccessible on the face of the earth! There we see the curse of the Moslem religion, and still more of the Turkish government. Wherever the Turk has carried the sword and the Koran, there is blight and death. Only as soldiers and scholars of Europe have forced their way into these seats of ancient empires has it been possible to ask and learn what is buried beneath their gray desolation.

The man who did more than any other to awaken the interest of the world in the search for forgotten empires was Sir Henry Layard, the excavator of Nineveh. But before his day another man had startled the world with what we may call the discovery of Egypt. That man was Napoleon Bonaparte, the man whose sword was a ploughshare turning up the fallow fields of Europe, and sowing strange crops of tyranny and liberty, and whose ambition it was to set up a new throne in the land of the Pharaohs and Ptolemies. The mighty ruins of Karnak and the imperishable pyramids filled him with amazement, and he set the scholars of France at work to publish in massive folios the wonders of that most ancient land. Then was found the Rosetta Stone, with its inscription in two languages,–Greek, which any scholar could read, and the Egyptian hieroglyphics, which no living man could read. But here was the key. The words Ptolemy and Cleopatra were in the Greek text, and it was not hard to find what were the combinations of characters that stood for these words in the Egyptian. The letters p, t, and l were in both names. The hieroglyphic signs found in both names must be these three letters. That beginning gave all the other signs in both words, and the rest of the alphabet soon followed. Justly great is the fame of the Frenchman Champollion, who has the honor of having first deciphered and read this lost language, and opened to us the secret treasures of its history and religion.

But with the exploration of Egypt the scholarship of the world was satisfied for fifty years. No one seemed to think to ask what might be hid under the soil of nearer Palestine and Syria and Asia Minor; much less did they seek to uncover the buried capitals of Assyria and Babylonia. Scholarship was devoted to books, to old manuscripts in convent libraries, to recovering what the wise men of Greece and Rome had written, and trying to wrest new facts out of their blundering old compilations of ancient history. It did not occur to them that a hundred kings and ten thousand merchants and priests might have left the stories of their conquests or contracts or liturgies, unrotted in the wet soil, imperishably preserved to be the record of commerce and empires as old and as great as those of Egypt, but far deeper covered with oblivion. But there they were, kept safe for twenty, thirty, fifty centuries, until the man should come whose mission it was to find them.

More than one such man came in the middle of the last century, but one man is pre-eminent, and typical of all the rest, Sir Austen Henry Layard. Before him one Frenchman, M. Paul Emile Botta, had made a fine dash on a palace city a dozen miles north of Nineveh, and had opened wonders such as the world had never seen before. But the man whose energy was fullest of impulse, whose enthusiasm compelled British Ambassadors and Ministers and Parliaments to do his bidding, who aroused the world to the importance of the exploration and disinterment of the monuments of Babylonia and Assyria, was the Englishman Layard.

He had a youthful passion for adventure, and slender means to gratify it. I wish you could see him as he is pictured in the volume which gives the story of his early adventures, before he had settled on his lifework of exploration. There he stands clad in his Bakhtiyari costume, the dress of a mountain tribe in Persia which asserted its independence of Teheran. It is a well-knit frame, fit to endure hardships. He stands holding the tall matchlock, the curved scimetar by his side, and the long pistol and the dagger in his belt. Above the yellow shoes and parti-woven stockings a red silk robe falls to his ankles, and over that a green silk garment reaches to his knees, and yet over that a shorter and richly embroidered coat, with open sleeves, is held close about the body by a wide silken sash woven in the brightest of red and gold, and holding the weapons attached to his waist. On his head is a low flat cap, visorless in front, but with a broad bow in place of a feather, all striped with the richest embroidery, and with a wide tassel of the same material falling far down his back. But the face, with its short beard dyed dark with henna, and its blue eyes, is not that of a warrior, but of a serious scholar or diplomatist. And he needed all the force of courage and all the arts of diplomacy for the work he had to do.

Layard’s early training was in the line of preparation for his life’s work. Much of his boyhood was spent in Italy, where he acquired a taste for the fine arts, and as much knowledge of them as a child could obtain who was constantly in the society of artists and connoisseurs. At about the age of sixteen he was sent to England to study the law, for which he was destined by his parents. After six years in the office of a solicitor, and in the chambers of an eminent conveyancer,–for that is the way that lawyers were educated then,–he determined to leave England and seek a career elsewhere. He had a relative in Ceylon, who gave him hopes of securing a position there, and for Ceylon he started. A friend of his, ten years older, was bound for the same destination, both fond of adventure, and they agreed to go together, and to go as far as they could by land instead of taking the long sea journey around the Cape of Good Hope. Across Europe they passed to Constantinople, through Austria, Dalmatia, Montenegro, Albania, and Bulgaria; thence across Asia Minor to Syria and Palestine; thence to Aleppo and down the Tigris to Baghdad. It was an extraordinary and adventurous journey, often dangerous; but greater danger was to follow. Layard had learned some Turkish, and now he spent the long weeks in Baghdad in the study of Persian; his companion was quite familiar with Arabic. Before they left England they had received good advice from Sir John MacNeill, the British representative at the court of the Shah: “You must either travel as important personages, with a retinue of servants and an adequate escort, or alone, as poor men, with nothing to excite the cupidity of the people amongst whom you will have to mix. If you cannot afford to adopt the first course, you must take the latter.” The latter they were forced to take.

Many a young man has the gift to acquire languages–almost any Oriental can talk three or four–and the ability to rough it and live on the fare of the people, though barbarous; and many a man has the spirit of adventure; but this young man had one peculiar and unusual qualification that directed him to his future career. As a child, he had read the “Arabian Nights” with intense delight, with their stories centred about Baghdad. Then every book of Eastern adventure, every bit of travel in Syria, Arabia, or Persia that he could find he had eagerly devoured. It was his day and night’s longing that he might visit strange lands of history and make explorations and discoveries. So wherever he was, he visited every ruin and tried to copy every inscription. If his companion would not turn aside to visit some region of renown and danger, he would go alone and join him later. As they came down the river Tigris in their boat, they passed the immense mound of Nimroud, and so impressed was Layard by it that he then, scarce twenty-three years old, resolved that some day he would search and learn what was hidden under it; but little did he imagine what wonderful monuments he was to find there only a few years later.

Without a servant, as poor men, in a caravan of fanatical and hostile Persian pilgrims returning from the shrines, just travellers trying to go by land through Persia and Afghanistan to India and Ceylon, they left Baghdad. It was a time of unusual danger, for the British Minister had been recalled from the Persian Court, and war with England was threatened. They were taken for spies, and sent to the presence of the Shah, and forbidden to follow the route they had chosen and which had been marked out for them by the Council of the Royal Geographical Society, to report on rivers and mountains and ruins not yet explored. They were insulted and robbed, and their lives were often in danger; but at last they received from the Shah their firmans. Now they separated. His companion felt that he must go by the quickest route to his destination; but Layard had no definite date before him, and he was anxious to perform the commissions of the Geographical Society, and so he plunged alone into fresh dangers.

But there is no space to tell the rest of the story of his adventures among the Bakhtiyari, of his copying of inscriptions, of his return to Baghdad and his decision to give up the plans of life in Ceylon, and of his return from Baghdad again to Shuster and Persepolis and other ancient cities of Persia, and his exploration of the Karun River and his geographical paper on the subject, his opening of British trade, and his return to Constantinople. At Mosul he found that M. Botta was planning to explore the mounds across the Tigris that covered ancient Nineveh, and he warmly encouraged his plans. At Constantinople he visited Sir Stratford Canning and delivered to him despatches that had been confided to his care, in view of a threatened war between Persia and Turkey. Here he was kept in the service of the British Embassy, and intrusted with important and delicate negotiations and investigations which were so highly appreciated by Sir Stratford that he kept him as his attaché.

Meanwhile M. Botta had begun his excavations of a palace of King Sargon at Khorsabad and was sending his reports and drawings to Paris. They were all sent by way of Constantinople, and, by M. Botta’s generosity, were all seen by Mr. Layard. So deeply was he interested in them, and so intense was his desire to carry on excavations himself, that he secured his release from the Embassy, and also a grant of three hundred dollars from Sir Stratford’s own purse, which, with what he could spare from his own money, would, he hoped, suffice to begin the work, when, if anything of value appeared, it was trusted that funds would be secured from English friends of Oriental learning. Thus, six years after leaving England, Mr. Layard, well equipped in knowledge of the people and in diplomatic experience, was ready to launch on his great career, which brought him fame and earned him the post in later years of British Ambassador at the Porte, which Sir Stratford had held, and–what is far greater–gave to the world the larger part of its knowledge of the lost empires of Assyria and Babylonia.

With these few hundred dollars, and contributing every penny of his own income, in October of 1845, he left Constantinople without companion or servant, went by steamer to Samsoun, and then as fast as post-horses could climb or gallop over mountains and plains, he reached Mosul in twelve days.

Here at last he was fitted for his task, supplied for the accomplishment of his passion. The Arabs say: “I had a horse, but no desert; I had a desert, but no horse; now I have a desert and a horse, and shall I not ride?” His boyhood, with the artists of Italy, and learning the languages of the continent, had fitted him for his task; then his study of all the books of Eastern travel, then half a year wandering with a trained companion through Asia Minor and Syria, scarcely leaving untrod one spot hallowed by tradition, or unvisited one ruin consecrated by history, with no protection but his arms, living with the people and learning their prejudices and customs. Then an irresistible desire had brought him to the regions beyond the Euphrates, and the mystery of Assyria, Babylonia, and Chaldea had fascinated him, so that he had visited the land of Nimrod, seen the site of their old buried capitals, had been the guest in the tents of Shammar and Aneyzah Arabs, and even passed on to see the famous forty columns of Chilminar, old Persian Persepolis, and to penetrate the mountain fastnesses where the Bakhtiyari maintained a perilous freedom. Never was man better trained by enthusiasm and experience for his task, and the late discoveries of M. Botta had inflamed his desire to surpass what his French friend had done.

His plan was not to begin excavations at Nineveh, opposite Mosul, but twenty miles south, at the great mound of Nimroud, which bore the name of the mighty hunter Nimrod. Xenophon and his Ten Thousand had seen and wondered at its pyramid. There he would be free from the army of mischievous spectators that would swarm from Mosul, had he selected the site of Nineveh, and from the constant interference of the Turkish governor. The Pasha at Mosul was a cruel scoundrel, who was robbing and killing the people as his whim or greed prompted, and had reduced the tribes of the neighborhood to a state of terror. Accordingly, Mr. Layard, who was armed with protecting letters from the British Ambassador and the Porte, thought it wise to conceal his purpose, let it be reported that he was going on a hunting expedition; and with a few tools and a supply of guns and spears, on the 8th of November, 1845, accompanied only by his cawass, the soldier attendant detailed for the protection of travellers, a servant, and one laborer, he floated down the Tigris, and in four hours reached the bourne of his long hopes. He had the mound, he had the money, and now he would dig.

The Arabs have strange stories of this ruin. The palace, they say, was built by Athur, the vizier of Nimrod. There Abraham brake in pieces the idols worshipped by the unbelievers. Nimrod was angry and waged war on the holy patriarch. Abraham prayed to God: “Deliver me, O God, from this man who worships stones, and boasts himself to be lord of all kings;” and God said to him, “How shall I punish him?” and the prophet answered, “To thee armies are as nothing, and the strength and power of men likewise. Before the smallest of thy creatures will they perish.” And God was pleased at the faith of his servant, and he sent a gnat that vexed Nimrod day and night, so that he built himself a room of glass in that palace that he might dwell therein and shut out the insect. But the gnat entered also, and passed by his ear into his brain, upon which it fed, and increased day by day, so that the servants of Nimrod beat his head continually with a mallet that he might have some ease from his pain; but he died after suffering these torments four hundred years. And after him the mound was named Nimroud.

It was dark when Layard and his little company reached the place. They found near by a few huts occupied by poor Arabs, who had been harried by the Turkish Pasha. There they slept, or tried to sleep. But the explorer could not sleep. Hear him:–

“Hopes, long cherished, were now to be realized, or were to end in disappointment. Visions of palaces under ground, of gigantic monsters, of sculptured figures, and endless inscriptions, floated before me. After forming plan after plan for removing the earth and extricating these treasures, I fancied myself wandering in a maze of chambers from which I could find no outlet. Then, again, all was reburied, and I was standing on the grass-covered mound. Exhausted, I was at length sinking into sleep, when, hearing the voice of Awad, I rose from my carpet and joined him outside the tent. The day already dawned. The lofty cone and broad mound of Nimroud broke like a distant mountain on the morning sky.”

Awad, his host, was a little chief among the Arabs, and was engaged to take charge of the diggers. The first morning he had six Arabs at work, and found alabaster slabs with cuneiform inscriptions. He was now sure he would succeed.

It is not necessary to give the diary of his work. To be sure, the villanous Pasha forbade him to continue, and recalled him to Mosul, but a new governor was sent from Constantinople, under whom he had no difficulty. A great palace had been found, and chamber after chamber was excavated, the walls covered with bas-reliefs and inscriptions. Then came strange, gigantic lions with human heads, that had been placed by the old Assyrian king to guard the entrances to his court. What was the amazement of the Arabs and Turks cannot be told. First, the head was uncovered. It stood out from the earth, placid and vast. Hear Layard tell the story. He had been away to visit a neighboring chief:–

“I was returning to the mound, when I saw two Arabs urging their mares to the top of their speed. ‘Hasten, O Bey,’ exclaimed one of them, ‘hasten to the diggers, for they have found Nimrod himself. By Allah! it is wonderful, but it is true! We have seen him with our eyes! There is no God but God!’ And both joining in this pious exclamation, they galloped back to the tent.”

Layard hastened to the trench, and there saw what he knew to be the head of a gigantic lion or bull, such as Botta had uncovered at Khorsabad. It was in admirable preservation. The expression was calm, yet majestic, and the outline of the features showed a freedom and knowledge of art that was scarcely to be looked for at so early a period. Says the explorer:–

“I was not surprised that the Arabs had been amazed and terrified at this apparition. It required no stretch of imagination to conjure up the most strange fancies. This gigantic head, blanched with age, thus rising from the bowels of the earth, might well have belonged to one of those fearful beings which are pictured in the traditions of the country as appearing to mortals, slowly ascending from the regions below. ‘This is not the work of men’s hands,’ exclaimed Sheikh Abdurrahman, who had galloped to the mound on the first news, ‘but of those infidel giants of whom the Prophet, peace be with him! has said that they were higher than the tallest date-tree; this is one of the idols which Noah, peace be with him! cursed before the flood!’ In this opinion all the bystanders concurred.”

The Arabs have a ready explanation for every fresh discovery. When some years later Mr. Layard’s assistant and successor in the work of excavation, Mr. Rassam, uncovered, at Abu-habba, a remarkable bas-relief with the figure of the seated Sun-god and three approaching worshippers, the Arab diggers rushed to him, declaring that they had found Noah and his three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japhet, and demanded a sheep to make a feast.

The report of the wonderful discovery of a royal palace, evidently older than those of Nineveh, with magnificent decorations in alabaster and cuneiform inscriptions, reached beyond Mosul to Constantinople. Sir Stratford Canning was delighted with the result of his expedition. He had a passion for discovery as well as diplomacy, and it is to him that the British Museum is indebted for the priceless marbles of Halicarnassus. He now obtained for Mr. Layard a firman, permitting him to make what excavations he wished. Then the news reached London, and the British Museum made a grant to support the work. All difficulties were now removed. Conditions were even more favorable for him than they are now. There was then no Imperial Museum in Constantinople to which all objects found must be taken, but those that dug had the right to carry off their prizes to London or Paris.

The Tower of Babel Painting by Hendrick van Cleve III

The Tower of Babel Painting by Hendrick van Cleve III

To tell the story of the further excavations is unnecessary. It is all given in Layard’s two splendid volumes, “Nineveh and its Remains,” and “Babylon and Nineveh;” and the bas-reliefs, statues, bronzes, ivories, and inscriptions are magnificently reproduced in great folio volumes. From Nimroud he went back to Mosul, and there opened the two mounds opposite of Kuyunjik and Neby-Yunus, the site of old Nineveh. There more palaces and friezes were found of other kings. Then he went back to London, closing his successful campaign, more profitable if not more glorious than those of war, and published the story of his work. Its effect was marvellous. No such popular book of travels had ever appeared; for it was a story of adventure, and also of strange discovery. Mr. Layard had not suspected that he had the literary gift, but he had it in rare measure. He had gained an inner view of the heart of tribes, Moslem and Christian and semi-pagan, by his sympathy with them and his knowledge of their tongues. He had lived in their tents and huts. He had saved them from persecution by Turkish governors. Their gratitude to him was beyond words, and he told their story with affection and enthusiasm. Then his discoveries were in the lands made historic not only by the campaigns of Xenophon and Alexander, but made almost sacred by the Bible history. These were the lands whence came the armies that fought with Israel. These were the kings whose wars are told in the Jewish records; and the annals of these kings were found in their palaces, and they gave full accounts of wars of which the Bible had given the outline. Piety and learning joined to give extraordinary interest to these discoveries and to this report of them. Mr. Layard found himself famous, and the monuments he was bringing to the British Museum were, and still are, the most extraordinary and fascinating in all its corridors.

Of course, a new grant was made in behalf of the British Museum, and of course he went back to continue and extend his researches. Now he wished to go further south, beyond Nimroud to Kalah Shergat, the yet earlier capital of Assyria; and yet further to Babylon, that he might see and test the multitude of mounds of ancient Chaldea, the real land of Nimrod, the seat of Eden, and the Tower of Babel, far more ancient than any one of the three capitals of Assyria. While he did scarce more than to visit and report on the Babylonian mounds, his diggings in Nineveh itself were of vast importance, for there he found the library of Asshurbanabal, on clay tablets, which has given us our chief knowledge of the literature and learning of the ancient East. In 1852 he returned to England to publish his “Monuments of Nineveh,” and left the further exploration to his able lieutenant, Mr. Rassam, and to a noble succession of explorers who should follow, and to a no less noble line of scholars who should interpret the inscriptions and recover the history of the nations; so that we now know more exactly the history of Babylonian and Assyrian kings, and from more authentic records, and more completely the social condition and business life of the countries, than we do the history of Greece, or the life of the Greeks even of the time of Pericles, and that, too, for a period of three thousand years.

To illustrate this fact, let us take the black obelisk of Shalmaneser II., found by Layard at Nimroud. It is a column of basalt seven feet high and about two feet wide at the base, from which it narrows slightly, until near the top it is reduced by three steps. On the four sides is engraved in five rows of bas-reliefs, twenty in all, the pictured history of the royal conquests, the submission of kings, and the presentation of tribute. Above and below, and between, in two hundred and ten lines, was cut an inscription which explained the figures, and gave a full historical and, of course, contemporary and official account of the glorious events of the royal reign. Not a line was defaced; at the British Museum it can be seen to-day as perfect as when engraved twenty-seven centuries ago. Other monuments of Shalmaneser have been found. One is a great monolith with a portrait of the king in all his fine array, and with one hundred and fifty-six lines of text. Another is a series of splendid bronze plates that covered great wooden gates, on which, in repoussé work, were pictures of the royal victories, and inscriptions explaining them. The Bible tells us of the rivalries and jealousies of Ahab and Jehu, kings of Israel, and Benhadad and Hazael, kings of Damascus. How surprising it is to find here not only the story of the successive campaigns of Shalmaneser against these same kings, the number of their chariots and soldiers, but to see pictured before us the tribute sent by Jehu. We learn that Shalmaneser reigned from 859 to 825 B.C., and we have the record of all his successive campaigns, the first twenty-six of which he led in person. There is not another country of which, before the invention of printing, we have so minute a history; and all had been lost, except the mention of a name or two, whether historical or legendary we hardly knew, until Layard and his fellow-explorers opened the mounds of Assyria.

But enough for Layard. He is only one, though the principal one, of all the explorers of the buried records of the empires of the Tigris and Euphrates. And Babylonia and Assyria are not the only countries that history required us to explore. Greece and its neighboring states and islands have not even yet been fairly investigated. Much of Asia Minor is still a virgin field. Syria and Palestine have hardly been scratched with the spade. More has been done in Egypt, but more yet is to be done. And when we go into the further east of Persia and Old Elam, not to speak of the yet farther east of Central Asia, now just beginning to yield strange treasures to daring travellers, and ancient India and China,–how ancient we know not at all,–there is field for centuries of further research. For we must go back past empires and kingdoms and tribal conditions to the very beginning of the human race on the earth, even if so it be, to the first Pithecanthropus which men of science tell us was the link which connected Homo sapiens with the race of primitive simians. And all this, it may well be, is preserved in undecaying records just a few feet under the ground, if one only knew where to dig for it; nay, we now know where to dig for the most and best of it, and we only await the Stratford Cannings, who will give the money, and the Austen Layards, who have the enthusiasm for the work.

After Layard and Rassam, after Rawlinson and Botta, George Smith took flying trips to the site of Nineveh twice that he might gather the remaining fragments of the great library of Asshurbanabal, and he died in the field far from home. It was he that found among Layard’s tablets the Babylonian account of the Deluge, so much like that in the Bible. He was the first of a second generation who, following Rawlinson and Oppert, decipherers as well as explorers, were able to read as they found. I can only mention the names of the Englishmen Taylor and Loftus; of the Frenchmen, Place and De Sarzec; and, later, the Americans, Peters, Hilprecht, and Haynes, who have so faithfully explored the extremely archaic mound of Niffer, which I had the honor to recommend for excavation after I had visited the mounds of Southern Babylonia in the winter of 1884-85. And now the Germans, with scientific as well as commercial and political purpose, with their railroad to pass down the valley through Baghdad to the Persian Gulf, which gives them predominant influence, have sent expeditions well equipped with scholars and engineers to the choicest sites in Babylonia, to Warka, the ancient Erech, and to Babylon itself; and with Teuton thoroughness they are excavating the most famous of ancient ruins and gathering fresh treasures of archaeological research. Nor have they left the land of the Hittites unexplored, for Germany claims the first rights, politically, in all Anatolia, the right of succession and possession when the Turk is expelled, and German archaeological science is bound to be first on that field.

And now what have we found as the fruit of all this labor of exploration? Is it worth the labor and the expense?

Let us look first–it can be only a glance–at Egypt, for Egypt was the land first and most persistently explored. The French Government for scores of years has been at work there. Germans and Italians have explored the ruins; two English societies have for years kept expeditions in the field; and just now a Californian university sends an American Egyptologist to uncover the tombs and read the hieroglyphs of the kings. Not only are the figured monuments of Egypt published in princely folios, but its records have been translated and its lost history recovered to the world’s knowledge. Instead of the bare “Pharaoh” of the Bible, a common designation for all the kings, and in place of a bare list of names and dynasties copied from Manetho, and so altered and corrupted in the copying as to be neither Greek nor Egyptian, we have, on scarab, or gravestone, or pyramid, or rock-sepulchre wall, in his own spelling, the name of almost every king from the latest time of the Ptolemies back to the first king of the first dynasty, five thousand–or was it six thousand?–years before Christ. And not their names only, but the very pictures of their wars. We see how they went up the Nile and fought the blacks of Abyssinia, and brought back the spoils of Punt We see them sending their squadrons into Syrian Asia, and waging a dubious battle with the Hittites before the walls of Hamath, where Rameses in his lion-guarded chariot performs prodigies of valor, and from which he returns not only to paint on sacred walls the picture of his victory, but also to inscribe a copy of the treaty of peace with the Hittite king, the earliest treaty in the preserved annals of diplomacy. Well wrought that Rameses the Great for eternal fame in the sixty years of his reign, fifteen centuries before the birth of our Lord. But what fame had been his, had not explorers and excavators and scholars dug and found and copied and translated what the sands had covered for centuries? And to-day the curious traveller stops in sight of the pyramids on the banks of the Nile, and enters the Bulaq Museum, and there he sees set up before him the very mummy of Rameses himself and of a dozen other royal personages, rifled from their tombs and displayed for your amazement and mine. There is the very Pharaoh–you can see his features, you can touch his coffin–who chased the Children of Israel out of Egypt. There are the household implements, the furniture of their homes, the jewelry their queens wore,–queens who were also sisters of the kings, as Sarah was the sister of Abraham.

Or would you know of some great revolution in Egypt? These decipherers of the inscriptions will tell you how the Shepherd Kings overthrew the native dynasty, coming with their armies from Asia long before Rameses, and changed religion and customs; under whom Jacob and his sons found hospitable welcome, until their hated race was expelled by a stronger native dynasty that knew not Joseph. Or they will tell you of the royal reformer Khuenaten, son of a famous Eastern mother, a queen from the banks of the Euphrates. Taught by her, perhaps, a purer religion, he attempted to replace the worship of Egypt’s bestial gods by the worship of the one only great God, whose symbol was the sun. But the priestly clan was too strong for him, and the succeeding Pharaohs destroyed his records and chiselled out his name where it had been cut in stone that no memory of his sacrilege might be preserved. A royal Moses there could not be. The worshipper of one God, whether king or son of Pharaoh’s daughter, could bring no reformation to Egypt.

Or would you learn how Egypt ruled its subject territory? You can read the correspondence of a dozen local Egyptian governors in Palestine and Syria in the century before Moses led the Hebrew slaves out of Egypt. There is the letter of the King of Jerusalem, where Melchizedek reigned in the times of Abraham; and they tell of rebellions against the fading power of Egypt, and of the fear of the advancing Hittites. The earliest kings, those that built the pyramids, appear before us real in their personality, emerging out of misty legend or myth, and, earlier still, even the prehistoric races that antedated the very beginning of civilization. Whence came that first dynasty? Who invented writing? Were they autochthons? Hardly. These are questions left for further explorers to answer. Probably those first messengers of civilization came from the East, perhaps from Arabia, perhaps from Babylonia, or perhaps the first Babylonians and Egyptians formed a common stock somewhere near the mouth of the Euphrates. Perhaps the Bible is right in saying that the first seat of civilized man was in Eden, and that the Euphrates was the chief river of Paradise. Or was it from Arabia, the immemorial home of the Semitic tribes, that land of sand and mountain and fertile valley, land of changeless culture and tradition, so near the centres of civilization, and yet still the most inaccessible, the least known portion of the inhabited earth,–was it from Arabia that the wiser, stronger multitude came that first overran the valleys of both the Nile and the Euphrates, bringing to Egypt and Chaldea arts and letters? We do not know. Some future explorer must teach us. But the German Glaser has within these few years brought back from hazardous journeys a multitude of inscriptions that tell of kingdoms that fringed its southern coast and extended we know not how far into the interior in those early days when one of the queens of Sheba brought presents to Solomon, and when, earlier still, we are told there were dukes of Edom before there was any king in Israel. They say that a railroad is to be built to Mecca; Arabia is not to be always a closed land, neighbor as it is to Egypt. We shall know one of these days whether, as scholars suspect, out of Arabia and across the Straits of Bab-el-Mandeb, where, at the southern end of the Red Sea, Africa almost touches Asia, there came that mighty flood of more forceful men, bred in the deserts and hills, who, passing down the Nile, first brought history to Egypt; and whether it was this same Semitic people, as scholars suspect again, that spread resistlessly eastward to the Euphrates valley, and did an equal service in conquering and assimilating the black aborigines of these swamps and lagoons. The spade will tell us.

Or was it still further east, in the highlands of Persia, that men first learned how to write and record history? We cannot go back so far in the history of Babylonia–Professor Hilprecht dares to carry us seven thousand years before Christ–that we do not find its kings fighting against Elam. And only in the last decade of the Nineteenth century the Frenchman De Morgan has made marvellous discoveries in the Elamite lands. What a noble passion those Frenchmen have for discovery! For Egypt did not Napoleon provide the most elephantine books of monuments and records that printing-presses have yet issued? And from that time to this have not Frenchmen held the primacy in excavations until, even while England holds and rules Egypt, she leaves, by special convention, the care of its monuments and their exploration to French savants? And before Layard removed a basketful of the earth that covered the palace of Shalmaneser at Nimroud, had not the Frenchman Botta disclosed the friezes and sphinxes of Sargon at Khorsabad; and in these late years is it not the Frenchman De Sarzec who has brought from Telloh to the Louvre the statues of Chaldean kings that lived almost five thousand years ago? And so to France was given the right, for the honor and enrichment of the Louvre, to explore Persia; and De Morgan went to Susa, to Shushan, the palace of Xerxes and Darius, of Ahasuerus and Esther, in search of what was far earlier than they, for another Frenchman and his wife, M. and Mme. Dieulafoy, had already excavated the noble palace of these Persian kings. Far below the palace of Xerxes he has found vastly earlier remains. There is the column set up, if we can believe the Assyriologists who trust the chronology of Nabonidus, the last king of Babylon,–and it is not incredible,–three thousand eight hundred years before Christ, by Naram-Sin, a Babylonian king, to commemorate one of his raids into the land of what were perhaps his stronger enemies. It is a noble composition, with archaic writing, and a stately figure of the king climbing the mountains and slaying his enemies; it shows an art that might well have developed into the best that Greece has produced. But De Morgan has only begun to scratch the surface of the mounds of Elam, and a multitude of scholars believe that out of Elam came the first civilization of Chaldea. We shall find out yet; for the record is in the earth, and only waits the man who will dig it out, and then the man who will read it.

We are tempted to go further east and recall that in India, the land where Alexander made his most distant conquests, a multitude of English scholars have been searching the ruins of old temples for the earliest memorials of the worship of Buddha. Just now they have found his birthplace and precious relics. But that takes us too far afield, and would tempt us to further excursions in Burmah and China. We must come back to Western Asia and the shores of Europe.

As has been indicated, the greatest puzzle of ancient history is that of the Hittite empire, which seems to have ruled all Asia Minor at some uncertain time, and to have extended over Syria and Palestine. No sooner had the greatest Egyptian kings, Thothmes and Rameses, ventured their armies into Asia, perhaps in vengeance on the incursions of Ionian pirates, perhaps in requital of the tyrannies of the hated Shepherd Kings, than they learned of the Hittites on the shores of the Euphrates. Then, a century or two later, a mass of official correspondence sent by the Kings of Palestine and Syria, dug up in Egypt, reports that the Hittites had appeared as invaders from the north and beseeches military aid. But the power of Egypt had waned, and the Hittites were supreme until the Assyrians began and carried on for five centuries the uncertain war which ended in the utter overthrow of the Hittites and all their allies in a great battle at Carchemish. That great mound of Carchemish needs to be thoroughly explored. Already an English expedition has very carelessly just opened the hill and exposed, but not fairly published, some few as fine friezes as are to be found in the Assyrian capitals, with unread Hittite inscriptions, and a fine statue of the Hittite Venus; but much remains to reward the student of Oriental history and art. At Senjirli a German expedition under Von Luschan has done more and better work, handsomely published, but this was a smaller Syrian town, and less was to be expected; and yet here, and near by, were found what was not expected, steles (upright slabs or pillars) with the portraits of kings in high relief, covered over with long inscriptions in Aramaic, the oldest and longest as yet discovered anywhere in that language. It was a magnificent result of very moderate labor,–Hittite friezes, Assyrian and Aramean inscriptions all in one little mound. But for the most part we know the art and writing of the Hittites from what we have found above ground, in their towns and fortresses in the hills, for little digging has been done. At Pterium was a principal sacred capital, and there, on a natural corridor of rock, they carved a procession of gods and kings and soldiers that excites the wonder of scholars. As I write, the announcement comes that Professor Sayce has at last discovered the secret of the Hittite hieroglyphs, and we may hope that very soon it will be possible to read them. But there is vastly more of their records yet to be disinterred.

And there remain the two lands most sacred and beloved in poetry and history,–the land of Israel and the land of Homer. It is amazing that so little search has been made to find out what is hidden under the soil of Palestine. Scholars in plenty have walked over the top of it, and have told all that is on the surface, but almost nothing has been done underground, no such excavations as in Egypt or Assyria. I do not forget that the English Palestine Exploration Fund has followed out, with trenches and tunnels, the walls of Jerusalem, nor that one or two old mounds have been partly explored. But what is this to the great work that needs to be done? There has been found on the surface the Moabite Stone, at the old capital of Dibon, a wonderful record of early kings mentioned in the Bible. And there is the short account in the rock-cut conduit of Siloam, of the success of the workmen in the time of Hezekiah, who, beginning at the two ends, did the fine engineering feat of having their tunnels meet correctly in the solid rock. But when Jerusalem is fully explored, and the northern capitals of Bethel and Tirzah and Samaria, and a hundred other mounds that mark the site of Jewish, Israelite, Philistine, and Amorite cities, we may expect marvellous discoveries that will illumine our Holy Scriptures.

And one region yet remains to be considered, the scattered coasts and islands that owned the Greek speech, and that created the Greek civilization. It is not the Greece of the Parthenon and Pericles that we wish to discover, for that we fairly know; but the arts and the history of those earlier Greeks and Trojans that Homer tells of, the age of Agamemnon and Ulysses, of Helen and Hector and Priam, and of the yet earlier tribes that sailed the Aegean, and settled the Mediterranean islands, and sent their ships to the Egyptian coasts, and sought golden fleeces on the Euxine Sea. All about the coast of Asia Minor they lived, while that Hittite power was ruling the interior; and, intermixed with Phoenician trading-posts, they held the great islands of Crete and Cyprus and the shores of Sicily and Italy. What shall we call them? Were they Dorians, or Heraclidae, Achaeans or Pelasgi? Were they of the same race as the mysterious Etruscans, or shall we name them simply Mycenaeans, as we call the art Mycenaean that ruled the islands and coasts down to the Homeric age, and we know not how many centuries earlier, but certainly as far back as the conquering period of the Eighteenth Egyptian Dynasty of Thothmes? Their soldiers and merchants and their fine vases are pictured on the walls of Egypt, and their pottery has long been studied; but we knew little of them until Dr. Schliemann, the Greek merchant who achieved wealth in the United States, bravely opened the great ruins of Troy, in the full patriotism of his assurance that Homer’s story of the Trojan war was history as well as poetry. As he found one burnt and buried city under another,–for many times was Troy destroyed,–and extended his investigations to Tiryns and other ancient cities, one volume of splendid research followed another, until the trader had compelled the unwilling scholar to confess that he must dig for both history and art. To be sure, his interpretations were quite too literal at first, but the whole world of classical scholarship has learned from him the new method of research. Splendid have been the results. If we are not sure which stratum represents the city of Priam, we do learn how the people lived, and how fine was their work in silver and gold, and how slight their knowledge of letters. Dr. Schliemann has now a multitude of imitators. France and Germany and England and the United States each maintain a school of archaeology in Athens, and each conducts careful explorations. Our American School lost to the French, for lack of money at the right time, the chance to explore Delphi, but it has carried on careful explorations at Corinth and other places. How wonderful was the discovery, not long ago, of a shipload of bronze and marble statues wrecked while being transported as spoil of war from Corinth to Rome!

But the most surprising discoveries in the realm of old Greek history and art are those that have been made in these last two or three years in Crete. Crete was a famous centre of ancient Greek legend. Jupiter was born and reared on Mount Ida. From another mountain summit in Crete the gods watched the battle on the plains of Troy. There ruled Minos, who first gave laws to men, and who at his death was sent by the gods to judge the shades as they entered the lower world. There was the famous Labyrinth, and there the Minotaur devoured his annual tale of maidens until he was slain by Theseus. Was there such a real palace of Minos as the Greek poets sung? The magnificent palace of the Cretan kings at Cnossus has been found, by Mr. Evans, with its friezes, its spiral ornaments, its flounce-petticoated women, its treasuries, and its tablets written in a script so old that it cannot yet be read, but which will be read as surely as scholarship leaves none of its riddles unsolved. The childhood of Greece, its mighty infancy, out of which it grew to be the creator and the example of all the world’s culture, is even now being exposed to our view, safely kept to be recovered by the scholars of our generation.

Of interest rather to the student of the curiosities of history are the mounds and pyramids and temples built by the aborigines of America; for these tribes have had absolutely no part in creating our dominant civilization or developing its art. China and Japan are, at this late day, giving something to the world’s store of beauty and utility; but the mound-builders and cliff-dwellers, the Mayas and Toltecs and Incas, have given absolutely nothing which the world cared to accept. But this does not argue that it is not worth while to learn what we can of the rude civilization of the races whom we have displaced. Their arrowheads and hatchets are in every little museum. Their mounds, sometimes shaped like serpents or tortoises or lizards, are scattered over all the central States, and many of them have been carefully explored with scanty results. The cliff-dwellers have left somewhat richer remains, more baskets and parched corn, yet nothing of artistic value. We have to go to Mexico and Yucatan and further south to Peru, to find the majestic capitals of the Mayas and Incas, who had really reached a fair degree of such civilization as stone and copper, without iron, and the beginnings of picture symbols, without letters, could provide. Humboldt and Stephens, and Lord Kingsborough, and Squier, and Tchudi, and Charnay have made explorations and found vast and wonderful cities, some of them deserted and overgrown before Cortez and Pizarro took possession of the lands for Spain and enslaved the people. Where the city of Mexico now stands was a famous capital, from whose ruins were taken the great Calendar stone and the double statue of the god of war and the god of death. In Palenque and Uxmal, capitals of Yucatan, were immense palaces and temples, with the weird ornamentation of Mayan imagination; and equal wonders exist in the high uplands where the Incas ruled Peru. Even their barbaric art and their unrecorded history must be recovered, to satisfy the curiosity of the more fortunate races whose boasted Christianity visited on them nothing better than cruel slaughter. At least we can give them museums and publish magnificent pictures of their ruins.

So we may bless the ashes and sand that seemed to destroy and bury the monuments of the mighty empires of the ancient world, but which have kindly covered and preserved them, just as we put our treasures away in some safety-vault while absent on a long journey. The fire burned the upper wooden walls of the city, and it fell in ruins, but under those ruins, covered by that ashes, were preserved for two thousand, three thousand, five thousand years uninjured, the choicest sculpture and the most precious records of ancient nations,–retained beyond the reach of vandal hands, until scholarship had grown wise enough to ask questions of forgotten history, and had sent Layard and Schliemann and De Sarzec and Evans and a hundred other men to dig with their competitive spades. But in all the long list of enthusiasts not one deserves a higher honor or has reaped a richer harvest than Sir Henry Layard.


Layard: “Early Adventures;” “Nineveh and its Remains;” “Nineveh and Babylon;” “Monuments of Nineveh.” Botta: “Monument de Ninive.” Loftus: “Chaldea and Susiana.” Y. Place: “Ninive et Assyrie.” Hilprecht: “Babylonian Expedition of the University of Pennsylvania;” “Recent Research in Bible Lands.” Perrot and Chipiez: “History of Art in Antiquity.” J.P. Peters: “Nippur.” R.W. Rogers: “History of Babylonia and Assyria.” F. Lenormant: “Students’ Manual of the Ancient History of the East;” “The Beginnings of History.” Maspero: “Dawn of Civilization;” “Struggle of the Nations;” “Passing of the Empires;” “Egyptian Archaeology;” “Life in Ancient Egypt and Assyria.” C.J. Ball: “Light from the East.” Egypt Exploration Fund’s Publications. F.J. Bliss: “Exploration in Jerusalem;” “A Mound of Many Cities.” Schliemann: “Troy and its Remains;” “Ilios;” “Mycenae;” “Tiryns;” “Troja.” A.J. Evans: “Cnossus;” “Cretan Pictographs.” Tsountas and Manatt: “The Mycenaean Age.”

Edwin J. Houston – Michael Faraday : Electricity and Magnetism

John Lord – Beacon Lights of History, Volume XIV : The New Era