In a recent lecture on "Babylonian and Assyrian Antiquities," at the British Museum by Mr. W. St. Chad Boscawen, the architecture and ornaments of a typical palace were described. The palace, next to the local temple, was, the lecturer said, the most important edifice in the ancient city, and the explorations conducted by Sir Henry Layard, Mr. Rassam, M. Botta, and others, had resulted in the discovery of the ruins of many of the most famous of royal residences in Nineveh and Babylon. The palace was called in the inscriptions the "great house," as the temple was "God's house," though in later times it was also named "the abode of royalty," "the dwelling-place of kings," while the great palace of Nebuchadnezzar at Babylon, the ruins of which are marked by the Kasr mound, was called "the wonder of the earth." The arrangement of the palace was one which varied but little in ancient and modern times, the same grouping of quadrangles, with intermural gardens, being alike common to the Assyrian palace and the Turkish serai.
The earliest of the Assyrian palaces were those built in Assur, which dated probably from the nineteenth century before the Christian era; but the seat of royalty was at an early period transferred from Assur to Calah, the site of which is marked by the great mounds of Nimroud at the junction of the greater Lab and the Tigris. Here large palaces were erected by the kings of the Middle Assyrian Empire, the most lavish of royal builders being Assur-nazir-pal and Shalmanisar; while a third palace was built by Tiglath Pileser II. (B. C. 742). Mr. Boscawen described the explorations carried out by Sir Henry Layard on this site.
The most important chamber in the building was the long gallery or saloon, which had been called the "Hall of Assembly." The various parts of this palace included the royal apartments, the harem, and the temple, with its great seven-stage tower or observatory. The very extensive and systematic explorations carried out by the French explorer M. Botta had restored the remains of one of the most beautiful of the Assyrian palaces. The usurpation of the Assyrian throne by Sargon the Tartar in B. C. 721 placed in power a new dynasty, who were lavish patrons of the arts and who made Nineveh a city of palaces. Probably on account of his violent seizure of the throne, Sargon was afraid to reside in any of the existing places at Nineveh - though he appears for a short time to have occupied the old palace; he built for himself Calah, at a short distance to the northeast of Nineveh, the palace town of Dun Sargina, "the fort of Sargon," one of the most luxurious palaces - the Versailles of Nineveh. The ruins of this palace were buried beneath the mound of Korsabad, and were explored by M. Botta on behalf of the French Government, and the sculptures and inscriptions are now deposited in the Louvre. Compared with all the Assyrian palaces, later or earlier, this royal abode of Sargon stands alone.
The sculptures were more magnificent, while warmth and color were obtained by the extensive use of colored bricks. Some of the cornices and friezes of painted bricks, of which Mr. Boscawen exhibited drawings, were most rich in ornament. The chief colors employed were blue and yellow, and sometimes red and green. Having described the general construction of this remarkable building, Mr. Boscawen proceeded to speak of the character of Assyrian art during the golden age (B.C. 721-625), and he illustrated his remarks by the exhibition of several large drawings. One of the most elaborate of these was the embroidery on the royal robe. The pectoral was covered with scenes taken from Babylonian myths. On the upper part was Isdubar or Nimrod struggling with the lion; below this a splendid representation of Merodach, as the warrior of the gods armed for combat against the demon of evil, while the lower part was covered with representations of the worship of the sacred tree. The general character of Assyrian art, its attention to detail, and the wonderful skill in representing animal life, as exhibited in the hunting scenes, was next spoken of, and Mr. Boscawen concluded by a brief description of the royal library, a most important part of the great palace at Nineveh.