Nineyeh (Gr. mvog; Lat. Ninus; Assyrian Ninua), an ancient city of Asia, the capital of the Assyrian empire, situated on the E. bank of the Tigris, opposite the present city of Mosul, and about 220 m. N. X. W. of Bagdad. The name appears to be formed from that of an Assyrian deity, Nin, occurring in the names of several Assyrian kings, as in Ninus, the mythical founder of the city. According to Schrader, it signified "abode," corresponding to the Hebrew naveh. In the Assyrian inscriptions Nineveh is also supposed to be called the "city of Bel." It is often mentioned in the historical and prophetical books of the Bible; the prophet Jonah warned it to repent; and its overthrow is the principal theme of the prophecies of Nahum. It is mentioned by Herodotus, Ctesias, Strabo, and Diodqrus, among classical writers; but its overthrow and ruin was so complete, that Xenophon, though in 401 B. C. he led the 10,000 Greeks over the ground on which it had stood, does not even mention its name; and though 70 years later Alexander fought the great battle of Arbela in the vicinity, none of his historians allude to. the ruins of the city.
Huge mounds, apparently of mere earth and rubbish, covered its site, the most important of which are known as the mounds of Nimrud, of Ko-yunjik, of Selamiyeh, of Nebi Yunus or the prophet Jonah (so called from the current belief among the people that the sepulchre of the prophet is on its summit, a tradition which probably originated in the former existence on tin- spot of a Christian church dedicated to Jonah), of Keremlis, about 15 m. X. E. of Xim-™, and of Khorsabad, 12 m. X. E. of Mosul. Ihe first accurate description and plan of these ruins was given by Claudius James Rich, who was for several years the English East India company's political agent at Bagdad. In 1820 he made a survey, which was published after his death. From the neighboring inhabitants he learned that not long before his visit sculptured figures of men and animals had been dug out of one of the mounds, and had been destroyed as idols. He collected a few specimens of pottery and brick inscribed with cuneiform or arrow-headed characters.
In 1843 M. Paul Emile Botta, French consul at Mosul, after having examined the mound of Koyunjik without making discoveries of much importance, turned his attention to the mound of Khorsabad, where he soon laid bare the ruins of a magnificent palace which had evidently been destroyed by fire. He found among the remains a series of apartments panelled with slabs of coarse gray alabaster, on which were sculptured in bass relief figures of men and animals, with inscriptions in the cuneiform character. In November, 1845, Austen Henry Layard, an English traveller, began excavations at Nim-rud, which were continued till April, 1847, with great success. He discovered immense quantities of sculptures, inscriptions, pottery, and antiquities of all sorts, by means of which more light has been thrown on the history and civilization of the Assyrians than by all the accounts transmitted to us by the writers of antiquity. Excavations with like results were also made in the mounds of Koyunjik and Nebi Yunus. In the latter part of 1849, under the direction and at the expense of the trustees of the British museum, Mr. Layard resumed his explorations, and continued them for about a year. - Before these explorations the ruins which occupied the presumed site of Nineveh seemed to consist of mere shapeless heaps or mounds of earth and rubbish, with little sign of artificial construction except occasional traces of a rude wall of sun-dried bricks.
Some of the mounds were so large as to seem natural hills, and some had been chosen as sites for villages, or for small mud forts for defence against marauding Bedouins and Kurds. They are spread over a considerable space, and comprise various separate and distinct groups of ruins, four of which certainly are the remains of fortified enclosures, defended by walls and ditches, towers and ramparts. The ruins opposite Mosul consist of an enclosure formed by a continuous line of mounds, marking the remains of a wall the western face of which is interrupted by the two groat mounds of Koyunjik and Nebi Yunus. Eastward is a parallel line of ramparts and moats. The whole enclosure is a quadrangle, the northern side of which is 7,000 ft. long; the western 13,600 ft., forming the chord to the arc of the river, which anciently flowed parallel and close to the wall; the eastern, which is somewhat curved outward, 15,000 ft.; the southern 3,000 ft.; the entire circumference thus being between 7 and 8 m. The general height of this earthen wall is between 40 and 50 ft. Some remains have been found of stone masonry, which faced the walls to a certain height. The wall occasionally rises above the usual height, marking the remains of a gateway or tower.
The mound of Koyunjik is 96 ft. high, nearly 4,000 ft. long from N. to S., and about 1,500 ft. from E. to W. The summit is nearly flat, and was formerly occupied by a small village. The sides are steep and furrowed with occasional watercourses. Koyunjik was once surrounded by a small but deep stream called the Khosr, which now flows around its S. E. side. The mound of Nebi Yunus is about 1,600 ft. from E. to W. and 1,300 ft. from N. to S., but about as high as Koyunjik. Its summit is divided by a depression into two parts. The Turkoman village containing the traditional tomb of Jonah occupies its summit, together with a burial ground held very sacred from its neighborhood. The W. side of the great quadrangle was protected by the Tigris. The E. side was defended in its northern part by the Khosr, which there runs parallel with the wall, and in its southern part by two great moats, which were filled from the Khosr by means of dams that can still be traced. One of these moats was about 200 ft. wide, and cut in the native rock. The outer eastern rampart was of earth, and is 80 ft. high; and some detached towers seemed marked by mounds outside of this outer rampart.
The mounds at Nimrud have an arrangement somewhat similar to those opposite Mosul. They are included in a walled square, somewhat irregular, about 7,000 ft. by 6,285, defended on the west and south by the river, on the north and east by moats, and showing traces of 108 towers; the great mound is on the S. W. face of the enclosure, and 2,100 ft. by 1,200, rising in its N. W. corner in a pyramid 140 ft. high. A group of high mounds, which the Arabs call Athur, is at the S. E. corner of the enclosure. The remains at Khorsabad consist of an enclosure about 6,000 ft. square, with traces of gateways and towers, but no ditches, and in the N. W. side a mound in two parts or stages, the lower about 1,350 ft. by 300, and the upper about 650 ft. square and 30 ft. high, while one corner is marked by a pyramid like that at Nimrud, but smaller. An Arab village formerly occupied the summit of the Khorsabad mounds. - In the three mounds of Nimrud, Koyunjik, and Khorsabad the most of the remains of ancient sculptures and buildings have been found. The mound of Nim-rud contains the ruins of several distinct idifices, erected at different times, materials for the construction of the latest having been taken from an earlier building.
In general plan the ruins consist of a number of halls, chambers, and galleries, panelled with sculptured and inscribed slabs, and opening one into another by doorways, generally formed by pairs of colossal human-headed and winged bulls or lions. The exterior architecture could not be traced. The pyramidal N. W. corner of the mound rises above the ruins of a basement 165 ft. square, walled to the height of 20 ft. with sun-dried bricks, and faced on the four sides by blocks of stone carefully squared, bevelled, and fitted together. This stone plinth corresponds exactly with the description by Xenophon of the deserted city on the Tigris, which he calls Larissa ("Anabasis," iii. 4), and is surmounted by a superstructure of bricks, as he describes, the burnt bricks being generally inscribed. Above this base a succession of platforms probably rose, each smaller than the one below, and the topmost crowned with a shrine or altar. A vaulted gallery, 100 ft. long, 6 broad, and 12 high, crossed the summit of the mound at the level of the top of the stone plinth. This building is identified with the tower described by Xenophon at Larissa. Its builder also erected in the centre of the great mound a second palace, the materials of which have been used for later structures.
In its ruins was found a black obelisk, now in the British museum. A third stood on the W. face of the mound, and was built by Iva-lush,, identified with the Pul of the Hebrew Scriptures. A fourth palace was built mainly with materials taken from older structures by Esarhaddon, about 680 B. C, at the S. W. corner of the platform. A fifth was built at the S. E. corner by his grandson Asshur-emit-ilin, but much smaller than the rest, its chambers being panelled with plain unsculptured slabs; but some detached figures were found here. The largest palace hitherto explored stood at the S. W. corner of the mound of Koyunjik. It was built by Sennacherib about 700 B. C., and had an extent of nearly 100 acres. About 60 courts, halls, rooms, and passages have been discovered; some of the halls are 150 ft. square, and one passage is 200 ft. long; all are panelled with sculptured slabs of alabaster. The winged human-headed lions and bulls at the principal entrances are 20 ft. in height. Layard discovered 27 such doorways. In the same mound are the ruins of a second palace, erected by his son Esarhaddon, in which were discovered a series of sculptures representing a lion hunt, now in the British museum. Somewhat similar remains have been found in the other mounds.
The Assyrian edifices were generally alike in plan, construction, and decoration. They were built upon enormous platforms raised about 40 ft. above the level of the plain, either by heaping up earth and rubbish or by masonry of sun-dried bricks. The platforms were faced with stone, and were ascended by broad flights of steps. The palaces themselves were constructed principally of sun-dried bricks, though kiln-burnt bricks were used for the solider parts, and a coarse alabaster quarried near the city was used for ornament. The walls of these buildings were generally about 15 ft. thick, and were lined with sculptured alabaster slabs from 8 to 10 ft. high, from 3 to 4 ft. broad and about 18 in. thick. On the sculptured figures were inscriptions recording the exploits of the king by whom the building was erected. The apartments were high, and the spaces above the slabs were plastered and painted, or were faced with bricks coated with enamel of elegant designs and brilliant colors. Ivory, bronze, and cedar from Mt. Lebanon were also used for decoration, which was heightened by gilding and painting. The principle of the arch was understood by the Assyrians. In some of the palaces that have been discovered the panelling of sculptured slabs is nearly a, mile in length.
The principal and favorite subjects of these representations are war abroad and state at home. There are separate sculptured histories of each campaign of the king, and delineations of the taking of all the considerable cities that resisted him. These sieges and the treatment of the captives, which was barbarous in the extreme, as they were sometimes flayed alive, and representations of the king or his officers receiving tribute or homage from the conquered people, form the most common scenes of the bass reliefs. Many of the sculptures, however, are of a purely religious nature; some are wholly occupied by scenes of the chase; some are actually landscapes; and many represent thrones, chariots, or domestic furniture and utensils. No Assyrian women ever appear in the sculptures, though women are sometimes represented as captives or as begging for mercy from the walls of a falling city. As only the lower parts of the walls of the palaces of Nineveh have been found, it is uncertain what was the nature and arrangement of the upper parts. The absence of windows makes it difficult to comprehend how the apartments could have been lighted.
Mr. Layard at first supposed them to have consisted of only a single story with apertures in the ceiling to admit light; but he afterward inclined to a plausible theory advanced with great ability and ingenuity by Mr. Fergusson, who maintains that there was an upper story supported.1 by columns and open at the sides to admit light to the rooms below, from which the sunshine could be excluded at pleasure by means of curtains. This open upper story was used in fine weather, and as a balcony from which the king could show himself to his subjects or review his troops. The columns which supported its roof stood some of them on the floor of the lower story, and other shorter ones on the walls of the lower story, whose immense thickness is thus accounted for. These edifices, though not equalling those of the Greeks in elegance and artistic taste, nor those of the Egyptians in solid magnificence and strength, must have been exceedingly gorgeous and beautiful structures. They were in part temples as well as palaces, the king being not only political chief but high priest of the nation, as was the case at one period in Egypt. "The interior of the Assyrian palace," says Mr. Layard, "must have been as magnificent as imposing.
I have led the reader through its ruins, and he may judge of the impression its halls were calculated to make upon the stranger who, in the days of old, entered for the first time the abode of the Assyrian kings, He was ushered in through the portal guarded by the colossal lions or bulls of white alabaster. In the first hall he found himself surrounded by the sculptured records of the empire. Battles, sieges, triumphs, the exploits of the chase, the ceremonies of religion, were portrayed on the walls, sculptured in alabaster and painted in gorgeous colors. Under each picture were engraved, in characters filled up with bright copper, inscriptions describing the scenes represented. Above the sculptures were painted other events - the king, attended by his eunuchs and warriors, receiving his prisoners, entering into alliances with other monarchs, or performing some sacred duty. These representations were enclosed in colored borders of elaborate and elegant design. The emblematic tree, winged bulls, and monstrous animals were conspicuous among the ornaments. At the upper end of the hall was the colossal figure of the king in adoration before the supreme deity, or receiving from his eunuch the holy cup. He was attended by warriors bearing his arms, and by the priests or presiding divinities.
His robes and those of his followers were adorned with groups of figures, animals, and flowers, all painted with brilliant colors. The stranger trod upon alabaster slabs, each bearing an inscription recording the titles, genealogy, and achievements of the great king. Several doorways, formed by gigantic winged lions or bulls, or by the figures of guardian deities, led into other apartments which again opened into more distant halls. On the walls of some were processions of colossal figures - armed men and eunuchs following the king, warriors laden with spoil, leading prisoners, or bearing presents and offerings to the gods. On the walls of others were portrayed the winged priests, or presiding divinities standing before the sacred trees. These edifices were great national monuments, upon the walls of which were represented in sculpture or inscribed in alphabetical characters the chronicles of the empire. He who entered them might thus read the history and learn the glories and triumphs of the nation.
They served at the same time to bring continually to the remembrance of those who assembled within them on festive occasions, or for the celebration of religious ceremonies, the deeds of their ancestors and the power and majesty of their gods." The palaces of Nineveh appear generally to have been destroyed by fire, which however could not injure the incombustible and massive walls of the lower part of the first story. These with their sculptures were probably at once buried by the falling in of the upper stories and of the higher part of their own structure, and the ruins were in time wholly concealed by the accumulation of rubbish from the villages subsequently built on them and by the mould of decaying vegetation, through the course of 3,000 years. Vases, jars, bronzes, glass bottles, carved ivory and mother-of-pearl ornaments, engraved gems, bells, dishes, ear rings, arms, and working implements have been found among the ruins, generally of elegant form, and indicating knowledge of the arts and a refined taste. The latest explorer of Nineveh, George Smith of the British museum, was probably the first visitor to the ruins who could read the inscriptions.
His researches resulted in the collection of nearly 3,000 tablets or fragments of tablets of inscriptions, including among the fragments those of the Chaldean account of the deluge deciphered by him in 1872 from broken tablets in the British museum. He describes the mounds as remaining nearly in the state they were left by Lay-ard. - The history of Nineveh and its sovereigns, as established by the latest researches, will be found in the article Assyria. See Lay-ard, "Nineveh and its Remains," "Nineveh and Babylon," and "Monuments of Nineveh," first and second series (1849-'53); Botta, Monument de Ninke (1849-'50); Fergusson, " Palaces of Nineveh and Persepolis Restored" (1851); Fresnel, Expédition scientifique en Mesopotamie (1858); George Smith, "Assyrian Discoveries " (1875); and the articles Assyria and Cuneiform Inscriptions, and the references there given.
Plan of the Site of Nineveh.
From Entrance of Palace at Koyunjik.