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Document number: 1220
Date: Feb 1856
Recipient: BURGESS Henry
Author: TALBOT William Henry Fox
Collection: PUBLISHED
Last updated: 16th February 2012

[The original has not been located. This is from the printed version, published in 'Correspondence' as 'On the Assyrian Inscriptions. - II.', Journal of Sacred Literature and Biblical Record, v. 3 no. 5, April, 1856. pp. 188-194.]

Dear Sir, -

Some further remarks may be made upon the inscription of Nebuchadnezzar, of which I have translated a small portion in your last number.

In the first column, and again in the ninth column, the king prays thus to his idol Marduk -

"O, Marduk, thou hast created me."

I have since found that these words offer a remarkable illustration of the second chapter of Jeremiah. In that chapter the prophet expostulates most warmly with the princes and people, and even with the priests of Judah. He cries out that the whole nation was fast sinking into idolatry, "The prophets prophesied by Baal" (ver. 8), and idolatrous rites were performed "upon every high hill and under every green tree" (ver. 20). Idols were seen everywhere, and in the utmost profusion: "for according to the multitude of thy cities are thy gods, O Judah" (ver. 28). And then the following remarkable words are found: "The house of Israel is ashamed: Their kings, their princes, their priests, and their prophets: saying to a stock, ' Thou art my father,' and to a stone, ' Thou hast brought me forth.'" It will be observed, from a comparison with the inscription of Nebuchadnezzar, that the idolaters not only thought and believed what the prophet Jeremiah affirms of them, but that they actually addressed their idols in these words.

I now proceed to offer some observations on other parts of the inscription.

Worship of Cybele and Rhea.

In my former communication I suggested the idea that one of the Assyrian goddesses was the Cybele of the Greeks. I now feel almost certain that not only Cybele but Rhea also were worshipped in Assyria, and that the Greeks in very ancient times received from thence the name and worship of those deities.

I have shewn in my last paper that the goddess Gula was so honoured by the Babylonians, that she had three great temples in the single city of Borsippa, besides two in Babylon. But the name which I have written Gula may equally well be transcribed as Kula. And I think that it may have been pronounced Kuvla, or in the mouth of a Greek, Κυβελα.

But be that as it may, I think I may announce with certainty that the great goddess Ri, whose name occurs so often in the inscriptions, is to be identified with Rhea of the Greeks. It appears from comparison of the inscriptions that the goddess Ri was the mother of the gods, and in some sense her worship was identified with that of the moon. And Rhea, as we know from Hesiod, was the mother of the gods.

On the reign of Merodach Baladan.

Merodach Baladan, King of Chaldea, is an interesting personage to the students of Bible history, being conspicuously named in the book of Isaiah. There is a great deal about him in the Assyrian inscriptions, few persons being more frequently named there. His reign was very eventful: he was three times at least conquered by the Kings of Assyria - once by Sargina, and twice by Sennacherib; but nevertheless he always appears again upon the scene as King of Chaldea, from which we may infer that the triumph of the Assyrian arms was less complete than they have chosen to represent. In your last number I translated a passage from the Khorsabad annals, in which Sargina accuses him of "having reigned over Babylon twelve years with impiety." It appears that the King of Chaldea utterly refused to worship Ashur, the supreme god of the Assyrians, and a religious war ensued, in which Ashur triumphed over his adversary. I have since found a remarkable passage in the inscriptions (Botta, plate 151, line 2), in which Sargina says in express terms of the King of Chaldea, that "he doth not worship the name of the lord of Lords."

The original words are la palikhu (he doth not worship) from the Hebrew palach חלפ, to worship; zigir (the name) which is the Hebrew רכו zeker, or zikir, and Bel (a lord), which is repeated in the plural.

On the confusion of tongues in the district of Babel.

The Assyrian records which illustrate so many points of the ancient history of the East, do not touch, so far as known at present, upon any point of patriarchal history: with one remarkable exception, however, that of the confusion of tongues in the neighbourhood of Babylon. Not that the inscriptions contain any direct reference to the Biblical account, but that they use expressions from which it is manifest that a general opinion prevailed of some extraordinary variety of language in that part of the world. The kings of Assyria, when enumerating their titles, frequently say, "The great gods have given to me the kingdom of tongues ( sarrut leshanan weshalimu annima), the word leshanan being the plural of leshan, a tongue, in Hebrew. Now this does not merely mean "I am king over divers countries," but it has a more particular meaning; for in the inscriptions, the province of Babel or Babylon is frequently called the land of Leshan: the two names of Babel and Leshan being interchanged in different copies of the same inscription, as if they had exactly the same meaning. The gods of Babylon were taken prisoners by Sargina in one of his campaigns, and carried off in triumph. Elsewhere they are called the gods of Leshan. Sometimes the country or province of Arbaleshan is spoken of, that is, the country of Four Tongues. I know not whether it is a subdivision of the same country.

Leaving the neighbourhood of Babylon and going northward, we find that an astonishing variety of language prevailed there anciently. We have copious remains of the language of Van, which, though so near to Nineveh, had a totally different language, which was not even Semitic, but Indo-Germanic, as Dr. Hincks has proved. I think this was anciently the land of Vanna, so frequently mentioned in the Assyrian inscriptions, which may also have been sounded Manna, v and m being nearly interchangeable in Assyrian. Passing onwards, we soon come to the country where Mithridates afterwards reigned, and in his time we know that languages or dialects abounded in such profusion, that twenty or thirty are said to have been spoken in his dominions, and he, having acquired a knowledge of them all (so it is said), thence deservedly became the protector, or hero eponymus, of all future linguists.

And in modern times philologers still find a most remarkable diversity of tongues contained in a narrow space, among the Caucasian mountains, where ancient tribes have succeeded in preserving their rude and illiterate independence.

Foreign languages spoken of in the Assyrian inscriptions.

It were much to be wished that the Assyrian records had preserved to us specimens of the various tongues spoken in those days. This they have not done, that I am aware of, except casually, in two or three trifling instances. These, however, may be worth mentioning.

In the description of Sargina's palaces we find mention of a certain object, apparently much used in architecture, called Beth-appati, the first syllable, Beth, meaning a house, or a building. It continues thus: " Beth-appati, which in the tongue of the land of Martu [ in leshan Martu ki] they call Beth-Khilani." There exists a great number of copies of this inscription, but they all repeat the same thing, so that we learn no more upon this interesting subject. It would be desirable to know where this country of Martu was situated, and for what reason it was referred to - probably because it was a land of skilful artificers, or architects. My impression is, derived from other passages of the inscriptions, that it was a district of Syria, on the sea-coast of the Mediterranean. The name of Marathus, in that neighbourhood, is found in classical authors, and I think that Rawlinson has somewhere pronounced the land of Martu to be Marathus. But though it may have included that city within its bounds, it was certainly some large and important province of the sea-coast.

To pass to another example. The Hebrews called ivory "shin ebbit," literally, "tooth of ebbi," whence Gesnius (page 1026) infers that ebbi must have meant an elephant. He shews, moreover, that this is the Sanscrit word ibha, an elephant. I would add that ebu meant an elephant in the Egyptian language, and that it also seems possible that the Latin ebur, ivory, may have been hence derived.

Now it is often said in the inscriptions that a costly gift of gold and silver, and ebbi, or ebbu, was given by the king of Assyria to the image of some deity, and this, I think, was very probably ivory, for what other article was more likely to be joined with gold and silver in the triple present?

Mr. Layard found at Nineveh the remains of an ivory sceptre, figured at p. 195 of his work; also several entire elephants' tusks. He then produces proof from the sculptures of Nimroud that ivory was very abundantly brought to Assyria, and used for the adornment of palaces and temples, as well as for thrones and furniture.

I will now give a very interesting example - that of the occurrence of a Greek word in the inscriptions - the first which has been hitherto observed, but I think that I have detected a few others also.

In the long lists of tribute paid to the Assyrian kings, frequent mention is made of scarlet cloth, the word in the original being " argaman cloth," which was recognized by Dr. Hincks as the Hebrew word argaman, scarlet, of which there can be no doubt. We may translate it royal purple, if we will, but it is now admitted that the royal or imperial purple of the ancients was the colour we now term scarlet. It bore the well-known name of Tyrian purple, because obtained from a shell fish that is found on the sea-coasts in the neighbourhood of Tyre. Ashurakhbal and his successors frequently received tribute from Tyre and Sidon, and all the sea-coast of Ph únicia and Palestine. Tyre is called Tsur in the inscriptions, being the same name it bears in the Hebrew Scriptures, and Sidon appears under its usual name. But in several of the inscriptions an additional epithet is given to the argaman cloth; it is called (cloth) argaman gukhli or kukhli, and in this epithet we may certainly recognize the Greek word κοχλη - a shell-fish. This word, which is sometimes written κοχλις, κοχλιον, κοχλος, &c., &c., has passed into many other languages. It is the Latin cochlea, the French coquille (any kind of shell), the English cockle, restricted to a bivalve shell of a particular kind, &c., &c. If now the reader will take the trouble to refer to Liddell and Scott's Lexicon, or any other, he will find sufficient evidence that the Greeks used this word, and several kindred words of nearly similar sound, first, in the general sense of any shell-fish; secondly, as the name of that particular shell-fish which yielded the celebrated Tyrian dye. The word κοχλος appears in Greek under three other forms, which are all derived from it, or mere dialectic variations, namely, κολχος, καλχη, and κολχη (whence the Latin concha). From the last of these words comes κολχυλιον, any bivalve shell, but especially the purple fish, Latin murex. Dioscorides uses the word for the purple colour itself prepared therefrom; and Galen for wool dyed with purple.

Passing to the form καλχη, we find it explained as the murex or purple shell elsewhere called πορǾυρα; and Strabo uses καλχη for purple dye. The Latin conchylium agrees entirely with κολχυλιον in its meanings, viz., the shell which affords the purple dye, the colour itself, and garments dyed purple. A word so extensively known was probably ancient; I hope that I have shewn with some probability that it was the kukhli of the Assyrians, and that it was known at Nineveh 750 years before Christ. Commerce most probably brought the name thither, along with the highly-prized article itself. If it be asked why it bore a Greek name, the reason does not seem far to seek. It is clear from many consideration that Greek sailors frequented the harbours, and that Greek colonists were extensively settled on the Ph únician coasts. But more than that, the Greek element had certainly penetrated into the interior of Syria as early as the year 900 before Christ; an important subject, which I hope to develope [sic] in a future communication.

Campaigns of Ashurakhbal.

This great conqueror appears to have lived in the ninth century before Christ. He rebuilt the city of Calah, which Divanurish, his remote ancestor, had founded, but which in his time had fallen into complete decay. From this city, which he made the capital of his empire, he appears to have yearly sallied forth at the head of a numerous army, and overrun the countries of Asia, everywhere exacting tribute, or when it was refused, defeating and destroying the armies of the kings who ventured to oppose him, burning their cities, putting their chiefs to death, and carrying off the bulk of the population into slavery. Such has been the career of conquerors in many subsequent times, but there was a peculiar ferocity in the wars of the Assyrians. Very copious annals of his reign have been found and copied by Mr. Layard, but have not yet been published. These I have seen in the British Museum. They are clear historic documents, written in a simple and often lucid style, much more easy to be understood than the inscriptions of the monarchs who flourished one or two centuries afterwards.

In page 63 of Layard's MSS. there is a short account of an expedition undertaken by Ashurakhbal against a certain city named Amidi, which evidently failed, although the king glosses over his discomfiture. Of the exact position of this city I am unaware, but it is said a few lines previously that the king halted his army on the banks of the Tigris. Departing from thence, he destroyed the cities on both banks of the Tigris, and in the land of Arka (which may be the modern Warka). He then advanced against a certain city belonging to the king of Amidi (but not his capital). This city he took and destroyed, and massacred many of the inhabitants. Then comes a passage, of which the following translation may be given: -

"That city I destroyed. I flung my soldiers like lightening upon them. Six hundred of their warriors I seized and executed. Their heads I cut off. Four hundred bands of soldiers I bound as captives. Three thousand women I carried off. That city I gave to my soldiers. The heaps of warriors' heads unto the city Amidi, his royal city, I transported. And I piled up those heaps of heads in front of his great gate. Bands of captive soldiers I impaled on stakes on every side of his city. I made a mitkutzia close to his great gate. His palm-trees I cut down. And from the city Amidi I departed."

A more complete picture of a savage and relentless warrior could hardly be exhibited. But he failed to terrify the inhabitants into submission. It may be that they knew that if they submitted the mercy of the conqueror was not to be trusted.

The city of Jericho.

The city of Jericho, or another city of the same name, is occasionally mentioned in the inscriptions, which I think has not hitherto been observed. For instance, the name occurs in the British Museum series, plate 15, line 36, which relates to the victories of Divanubar, son of Ashurakhbal, which are very remarkable. It is said that the twelve kings of the sea-coast of Palestine combined together, and joining their forces to those of the king of Hamath, gave battle to Divanubar. They were totally defeated, with the loss of 10,000 men. This even took place in the ninth century before Christ.

The city of Gimzo.

A remarkable illustration of Scripture from the Assyrian inscriptions may here be mentioned. In 2 Chronicles xxviii. 16, we are told, "At that time did King Ahaz send unto the kings of Assyria to help him." And at verse 18 we are told the reason. "The Philistines had invaded the cities of the low country, and of the south of Judah, and had taken Beth-Shemesh." Then several more cities are named - "and Gimzo and the villages thereof." This city is, I believe, not much spoken of elsewhere.

Now we read in the inscriptions that Sargina, king of Assyria, made a triumphant campaign in this very country, "the low country and the south of Judah," in which he took Gaza, and many other towns. But I would particularly draw attention to what is said in plate 155, line 10, of Botta (of which there are several other copies extant, containing fuller accounts of the war). It is there said that Sargina's army advanced against the three deities of Ashdod, Gimto, and Ashdod-imma, and took them, and carried away great spoil. Ashdod-imma is a city not mentioned in history. It may possibly mean the lesser Ashdod, or the newer city of that name, most probably not far distant from the parent city. And as the city of Gimto is mentioned between them, its position most probably was also between them. I think there can be no doubt that this city is the Bimzo of the Bible, the position agreeing so accurately. The change of t for z is common in many languages especially in English, as compared with German. It is sufficient to mention our word ten for zehn, tin for zinn, twenty for zwanzig, and many others.

a Some contrivance of destruction.

With these few extracts and observations I conclude for the present,

remaining, dear Sir, Yours very truly,
H. F. Talbot.

Lacock Abbey,
February, 1856.

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