Manual of Oriental Antiquities - Babelon, Ernest. Librarian of the Department of Medals and Antiques in the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris. Manual of Oriental Antiquities, including the Architecture, Sculpture, and Industrial Arts of Chaldæ, Assyria, Persia, Syria, Judæ, Phœnicia, and Carthage. London: H. Grevel and Co. 1906.
The Chaldæn -- Assyria -- Elamites (Archeological Discoveries at Souza) -- The Phœnicians & The Cypriots -- The Hittites
The ruins of Susa, situated at the north of Ahwaz, form a number of immense tells which cover an extent of four and a half to six square miles on both banks of the river Kerkha. The plain, which is dominated by these majestic mounds as far as the banks of the Karun, stretches far to the north, where it is bounded by the Bakhtiyari mountains. Southward it extends to the Shatt al Arab and Lower Chaldæ.
What new material may we draw from this ancient soil of Elam, to provide food for our chimæra-like appetite for universal knowledge; a soil where countless generations [p. 299] of human beings lie buried, piled on each other like so many geological stratifications, and surrounded by all the purtenances of their earthly existence:? The Greeks have merely transmitted to us baseless fables concerning the history of Elam. Ignoring all local traditions, the writers of the Macedonian period related that the mythical founder of this region was Memnon, son of Tithonus, and of Aurora; that he led a body of black warriors to the aid of Troy when besieged by the Greeks, and was slain in a duel by Achilles. Eos, or Aurora, wept for her son, and according to a pretty fiction it is the tears of this inconsolable mother which form the morning dew. Classical antiquity was cradled in such poetic stories of the mysterious regions of the rising sun, without any attempt to discover the actual facts. It is the Bible alone that has preserved the name of one of the kings of Susa, Chedorlaomer, a contemporary of Abraham.
In the present day, however, the power of deciphering the Chaldæn cuneiform texts has rendered us acquainted with isolated episodes of the political relations between the Elamites and the Babylonians and Ninevites.
In 1810 MacDonald Kinnear and Monteith accompanied General Malcolm on his mission to the Shah of Persia; in 1826 Sir Henry Rawlinson, and later again Sir A. H. Layard, visited the tells of Susa, and copied several inscriptions which had been laid bare by the heavy rains. As the monuments emerged from the rubbish, it became evident that only excavation could compel the mounds of Susa to yield the secrets they contained. [p. 300]
These excavations were commenced in 1851 by Sir Kenneth Loftus and Colonel Williams, who cleared the wells of the palace of Darius I., son of Hystaspes. The researches were then abandoned, and it was only in 1885 that the French Government commissioned M. Dieulafoy to carry on the work begun by Loftus. He laid bare the Apadana of Artaxerxes, and deposited in the Louvre Museum the magnificent Achæmenid fragments described in Chapter V. of this volume [p. 146 et seq]. But various remains and fragments of inscriptions of an age far more remote showed that merely the surface of the ruins had been touched, and that it would be necessary to undertake systematic excavations of greater depth. A diplomatic treaty signed May 12th, 1895, renewed and confirmed in Paris in 1900 by the Shah of Persia, accorded to France the exclusive right to carry out arch¾ological excavations over the whole extent of the Persian Empire. M. Jacques de Morgan was appointed Delegate-General of Antiquities in Persia, with a special mission to carry on the researches at Susiana.
After encountering difficulties of every kind, M. de Morgan, accompanied by a number of colleagues, among whom we must mention one of the most eminent of contemporary Assyriologists, Père V. Scheil, arrived at the site of the ruins of Susa on the 16th of December, 1897, and commenced work there. The first results sent to Paris formed a special exhibition at the Grand Palais des Champs Elysées, in the spring of 1901, and occasioned great surprise and admiration. These remains consist of immense numbers of inscribed bricks, of bas-reliefs, of stel¾ covered with [p. 301] cuneiform writing of most archaic appearance, and of works of art of a style hitherto unknown. Thus, in beginning the publication of these monuments, and the translation of the texts, M . Scheil could write without exaggeration or hyperbole: "It is here that the history of the country of Elam begins"; and he then proceeds to deal with those great problems of history, of which the solution had become the question of the moment.
What were the earliest civilizations of the East, and to what period do they carry us back? To what ethnic groups do the Elamites belong: What connection is there between Elam, Anzan, and Susa, and the three names given in the original texts to Susiana? Did there actually exist in that country a combination of institutions, political or religious, of a distinctive and independent character? What languages and what races of mankind met in that region which adjoins the land of the Semites, the Arians, and perhaps the Turanians?
These are questions of deep moment, and they have obtained from the early excavating campaigns a hesitating and partial reply, which does not satisfy our thirst for the whole truth regarding the origins of the earliest civilizations. "The proto-archaic texts," says M. Scheil regretfully, "will show how limited is our knowledge both of the origins, which are continually becoming more remote, and of the primary factors of civilization, the number of which is steadily increasing."
We can only give a general sketch of the achæological results obtained up to July 1905, the date [p. 302] of the inauguration at the Louvre of the gallery devoted to the objects discovered up to that time. The work is still proceeding, and we may hope that it will be brought to a conclusion without interruption. Between January 1, 1897 and April 15, 1905 M. de Morgan has dug more than 280,000 cubic metres of earth and débris of all kinds, and he estimates further that it will be necessary to remove 1,280,000 cubic metres in order to bring the excavations to a final conclusion. Working at the rate of 35,000 cubic metres yearly, the arch¾ological excavations at Susa will occupy not less than 35 years." [In proportion to the amount of the discoveries, the results are published, and the monuments reproduced and commented on, in the vast publication entitled Délégation en Perse, Memories publiès sous la direction de M. J. de Morgan, délégué-général (quarto, Leroux, editeur, Paris). Eight volumes have already appeared, the ninth is in the press (November 1905).]
Chronology of the Ruins According to Recent Discoveries
The researches we have just described, so far as they have been carried at present, show that many of the mounds of Susa, formed at an accumulation of débris and covered with a thin layer of sand deposited by the desert winds, were habited from prehistoric times to the Arab period. The prehistoric remains are found at a depth of over 80 feet, below the evidences of more advanced civilizations.
After digging through the accumulated remains of forty centuries, the virgin soil is reached, and here are found worked flints, primitive pottery, and other objects similar to those found on all prehistoric sites. Above [p. 303] the level of the worked flints, and the rough, hand-made pottery, shaped without the aid of the wheel, another civilization is found, more advanced, although still prehistoric, which produced vases in sandstone and calcite of various sizes, and--far more important and fundamental--seals or stamps, proofs of a culture widely removed from barbarism. These seals are hemispherical in form, and pierced with a hole for suspension. The vase or flat face is decorated with figures of animals engraved in rudimentary fashion by means of the drill and point. The most usual subject is a lion, or lion's head. But nowhere at this level of the remains has the slightest trace of writing been found. The dwellings were huts, made either of beaten earth or of crude bricks.
A thick layer of cinders and other unequivocal indications, enable us to assert that this primitive civilization disappeared owing to the massacre of the habitants and the burning of their dwellings. At this early period, to which it is impossible to assign even an approximate date, Susa suffered from some foreign invasion, and the pillagers installed themselves in place of the indigenous inhabitants, whom they destroyed. It is, therefore, a new civilization we find above the remains of the prehistoric people, and which introduces us to the domain of actual history, the commencement of the Elam-Anzanite period.
It is to this invading race that Susa owes her first written documents. These inscriptions, although they are in a language almost unknown to us, are undoubtedly the most important that this period has hitherto yielded. [p. 304]
The earliest text known is engraved on a bone cylinder [fig. 242]. The mere appearance of the signs strikes us with the remote antiquity to which they must be assigned; they are actually hieroglyphs. Among them apparently there can be distinguished an insect, a double comb, a quadruped, a bird, some grains of wheat, and a man carrying a double load on his shoulders. On the lower part of the cylinder two bulls are depicted, each with his head over a manger.
This object, which so far seems to be the sole representative of the earliest stage of cuneiform writing, and which leads us to question whether this mode of writing was not invented at Susa, is followed by a series of clay tablets ranging in size from 2 1/2 to 9 inches at the sides, and with the principal face covered with writing, of which the signs are almost cuneiform. Dr. Scheil, however, says of these that apparently "we have here a system of cuneiform writing other than that of primitive Chaldæn, or at least the result of an extremely independent evolution, very different to that which has given us the signs known as the Babylonian: evidently [p. 305] these signs, instead of being extremely archaic are linear in character, and geometric rather than hieroglyphic."
Dr. Scheil recognizes that these texts are arithmetical, and he has already been able to distinguish the elements of Elamite numeration [fig. 243]. Anyone studying them from the point of view of workmanship, will notice, as Dr. Scheil again observes, that the signs are inscribed with a neatness and certainty that indicates previous long practice on the part of the scribe. Nowhere can we discern errors or rough work, such as would be the results of early attempts and experiments. Thus we arrive at the conclusion that those texts were written by the invaders, who were already in possession of this system of writing when they arrived at Susa.
It is at this period that we first find cylinders covered with representations of animals, engraved on the surface before the tablets were baked or dried in the sun. These cylinders are of greenish enameled paste and very hard; only a small number has been discovered at present, but impressions made with some of the objects of this class agree for the greater part with the clay tablets. We give a reproduction of one of the most [p. 306] curious of these impressions [fig. 244]. Here we can distinguish giants, leonocephalic and taurocephalic, taming lions and bulls apparently for amusement. In this instance the style is very remarkable, and recalls that of certain animals on the finest of the Chaldæn cylindres.
Of this same civilization there is also a large number of alabaster vases; these are frequently decorated with incised lines, forming geometric designs; in some instances these vases have animal forms, such as ducks, pigs, fish, or seated monkeys, types generally figured in a summary and rudimentary fashion.
Above the proto-Elamite zone the ruins become confused and belong to different periods. It is obvious that the soil of Susa was constantly overturned and pillaged. Happily the beacon light of history now begins to guide our footsteps, and enables us to classify chronologically those remains, which are discovered in disorder. The written texts, which are increasingly numerous, from this time are divided into two main classes; the first written in a Semitic dialect, the second in the Anzanite language. This shows that in the country of Elam at that remote period an ethnic dualism existed, which corresponds with the double name for the capital of Anzan and Susa--a dualism [p. 307] which certain sculptured representations of the human figure also exhibit from the anthropological and ethnological point of view. The Anzanite inscriptions are still only partly decipherable, notwithstanding the insight shown by Dr. Scheil in commencing a study of them.
As to the inscriptions in the Elamite language, over a thousand have been brought to the Louvre. They are on slabs of stone, on blocks which have served as sockets for doors, and yet more are inscribed with a stylus on bricks.
These have been deciphered by Dr. Scheil; they give the names of the kings by whose commands the buildings were erected, in which they were employed. With the help of these clues, and guided by some more explicit texts and by the information about Susa already afforded us is the inscriptions of Chaldæ and Assyria, it has been possible to establish the first landmarks of the history of that powerful Elamite empire, whose complete annals will shortly provide a new chapter of the history of the Ancient world.
After the mythical period, in which such kings as Humbaba and Kudur appear, whose names so far only occur in legendary poems and stories, the earliest historical texts introduce us to the princes of Elam as vassals of the Mesopotamian suzerains. Of these the first is called Ur-iti-Adad, vassal successively of the two kings of Agade, Sargani-sar-ali, and Naram-Sin, about B.C. 3750. One of his successors, Karibu-Sa-Susinak, patesi of Susa, sakkanak of Elam, boasts of having built the temple of the god Sugu "the ancient," and of having constructed the canal of Sidur; he is a [p. 309] vassal of Dungi, king of Ur, and of Gudea, patesi of Sirpurla.
To the rule of the patesis at Elam succeeded that of the Sukal-mah. This was occasioned by a change in the suzerainty, which from being Chaldæn now became Elamite.
About B.C. 2280 the king of Susa, Kudur-Nakhunta, effected the conquest of Mesopotamia and decorated his capital with the spoils of the towns of Chaldæ; notable among these was the statue of the goddess Nana, which he caused to be transported from Uruk [Erech] to Susa.
Long after, Hammurabi, king of Babylon, delivered Chaldæ from the domination of Elam, and one of his successors, Kuri-galsu, even succeeded in entering Susa as a conqueror. But later again the Susians gained their revenge; they took Babylon by assault, and carried away the statue of Bel.
A king of Susa, Shutruk-Nakhunta, boasts of having devatasted Chaldæ, and of having seized the stel¾ of Melishikhu; he records that he took some hundreds of towns, brought back several kings as captives, and built a large number of temples at Susa. His grandson, Shilkhak-in-Shushinak, restored these buildings, where the stel¾, the kudurru, and the statues of Chaldeæn divinities were placed, with all the precious objects taken from the towns of the Tigris valley.
The names of about twenty other Susian kings are known; they belong to two or three different dynasties, and we can trace the existence of conflicting races in Susa itself. This fact is further shown by the [p. 309] variety of languages which are found written in cuneiform character.
By turns conquerors and conquered, the Susians passed from the rôle of oppressors to that of oppressed; raid succeeded to raid, with results as contradictory as the gusts of wind in a gale. The kings of Nineveh, who during the twelfth century B.C. became the most powerful rulers of this part of the world, were the dominating power in Chaldæ and constituted themselves protectors of the country against the incursions of the Susians. Under Sargon, king of Assyria [B.C. 722-705] and his successors there began a mighty struggle, which ended with the ruin of Susa by Assurbanipal in B.C. 647. We must here recall that strange and tragic episode of the annals of the Assyrian monarchy.
The king of Nineveh, relating his conquests in the land of Elam, records that sixteen centuries earlier Kudur-Nakhunta, king of Susa, had invaded Mesopotamia, and carried away the statues of the Chaldæn gods, more especially the image of the great goddess Nan‰, which thus remained prisoner until he, Assurbanipal, went to her rescue: "The King of Elam, Kudur-Nakhunta placed his hands on the temples of the country of Accad, and he carried away the statue of the goddess Nana: His days had been multiplied and his power was very great. The great gods permitted these things, and for the space of 1635 years this image remained in the power of the Elamites. That is wherefore I, Assurbanipal, the prince who adores the great gods, I conquered the land of Elam . . . . The statue of the goddess Nana had been in adversity for 1635 years; she had been carried into captivity in Elam [p. 310] a country which was not consecrated to her. The goddess with the gods, her fathers, proclaimed my name as sovereign of the nations, from this time forth, and she entrusted to me the task of rescuing her statue. She said: Assibanipal will cause me to come forth from Elam, a land of the enemy and will establish me again in the Temple E-anna. This divine command was pronounced in bygone days, but it was only those of my own time who explained it. Then I seized the hands of the statue of the great goddess, and, in order to rejoice her heart, I caused her to take a direct road to the Temple E-anna. The first day of the month of Kislev, I caused her to enter into the city of Uruk, and I reinstated her in the eternal tabernacle of E'anna, the temple of her choice."
The Ninevite bas-reliefs, which accompany these curious inscriptions, effectively represent a procession of Assyrian priests and soldiers, carrying the reconquered ancient idols on their shoulder with great pomp.
At the time of the destruction by Assurbanipal, Elamite Susa contained, not only the objects of art, the statues and valuable monuments relating to the history of Elam and the cult of her gods, but also, under the title of spolia opima, all the valuables which had been brought by the kings of Elam from their expeditions into Chaldæ as trophies of victory. Assurbanipal recovered the greater part of these objects, and replaced them in the towns from which they had been taken; the booty was immense, as he himself records. But much would naturally have been effectually concealed, and this he would be forced to leave behind at the time of the sack [p. 311] of the town; he also left a number of objects of secondary importance, such as certain statues, stel¾, and kudurru, which had originally come from Chaldæ.
Undermining and incendiarism destroyed all that could not be laden on the backs of the soldiery and animals of the Assyrian army, and thus Assurbanipal effected the complete ruin of Susa.
This explains the circumstance that a number of monuments and objects of Chaldææn origin are found in the ruins of Susa among others indigenous to Elam.
The capital of Elam appears to have been built once more after the departure of the Assyrians, for a cylinder of Nebuchadnezzar informs us that this prince built many temples there, as well as at Babylon.
Susa never again really recovered her ancient splendour until the time of the second dynasty of the Ach¾menid kings of Persia. Darius, son of Hystaspes, made it the capital of his realms, and until the rise of Alexandria, Susa remained the most important centre of art, and of Persian civilization [see Chapter V.].
At this period, Susa was once more the theatre of events similar to those which so many centuries before had agitated her existence. When the entire East, Susa, as well as Babylon, and even Sardis, had fallen into the power of the Persian Ach¾menids, and when Darius and, later, Xerxes, invaded Greece in B.C. 492 and 480, the Hellenic sanctuaries were pillaged in their turn. The Persians carried away their treasures, statues, and ex-votos across Asia as far as Susa, and there placed them in their own temples as trophies of their victories. When, in his turn, Alexander in B.C. 331 invaded the East, as avenger of the Hellenic race, he laid a heavy hand on the treasures of Susa; in that capital he discovered the great works of art of Greece, more especially the bronze statues of the Tyrannicides, Harmodius and Aristogiton, which Xerxes had carried away from Athens: these the conquering Macedonians were delighted to restore to the Athenians. The temple of Didyma near MiIletus, like all others, had been pillaged by Darius , and its treasures carried off. What must have been the astonishment of M. de Morgan when he discovered in the course of his excavations a huge bronze knucklebone, weighing more than 152 lb. and bearing a Greek inscription of the seventh century B.C., recording that this singular object was dedicated by a dweller in Miletus to Apollo Didym¾us.
Thus we find an ex-voto from the Temple of Didyma carried to Susa by the Persians under Darius, and which has now found its way to the banks of the Seine, an object of astonishment to visitors to the Louvre. This enormous knuckle-bone is provided with two handles to facilitate transport. The upper one, worn through by long-continued friction, shows traces of the iron bar or hook passed through it for its long journey from Miletus to Susa. Thus history--Proteus with his thousand forms--repeats itself unceasingly under its many transformations; even modern times furnish us with numerous episodes similar to those just related. [p. 313]
The Principles of Building
Speaking generally, there can be no study of the architecture in elevation, as the ruins afford no examples [p. 313] of building in stone. We are forced to confine ourselves to examining the ground plans of the buildings, the pavements, and the foundations. Everything else has fallen to pieces, or been reduced to powder. In some of the tells of Chaldea, however, remains of temples and palaces have been found with the lower courses still in position.
It is in consequence of this that we have been able to give M. de Sarzec's reconstruction of the plan of the palace of Gudea at Tello [fig. 2, p. 9]. The American Archæological Mission has also discovered at Niffer [Nippur] the lower courses of a zikkurat, or staged tower, in excellent preservation. In this region the building materials were frequently kiln-baked bricks, and mortar made of bitumen of such exquisite quality as to render the walls of such consistency that at the present day it is necessary to use powder to demolish them.
At Susa, so far as investigations have been carried at present, it appears that crude bricks were usually employed in building, and without the bitumen mortar, with the result that the walls were easily demolished, both by the pick-axe of the intentional devastator and by the corrosive action of the weather. "Thus on all sides," says M. de Morgan, "reigns the greatest of confusion of piled-up materials."
One exception has thus far been found, a small temple of the god Shushinak, where the plan can be traced, owing to the basement having been constructed of baked bricks, with revetments of glazed sandstone. Large numbers of tiles have also been found, enamelled with yellow or pale green and bearing the name of king Shutruk-Nakhunta. This is the class [p. 314] of decoration which developed during the Achæmenid period, of which we have previously given some specimens. [See p p. 168, 169, 171 [figs 135, 136, 137].
The hiding-places found under the pavement of the temple yielded a number of votive objects, which are exceedingly interesting and valuable. Of these we shall speak later; we must now only mention the brick columns, the principle of which has been studied, and of which we give a representation [fig. 245]. [p. 315]
This column is composed of a number of bricks, all of which bear the name and protocol formula of the royal builder, Shutruk-Nakhuta. Some of these bricks are square, others round, and others are segments of circles. The figure here given sufficiently indicates how they are arranged, and it will be seen that the principle is precisely the same as in the similar constructions at Tello [see p. 10, fig. 3].
Observations made on the spot show that the column was worked over from the foundation after its construction, for many bricks with the name of Sutruk-Nakhunta are reversed, and there are others with names of other kings. To obtain more precise information on Elamite architecture and building, we must wait for further discoveries, which will surely not be long deferred. [p. 316]
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The contents of this site, including all images and text, are for personal, educational, non-commercial use only. The contents of this site may not be reproduced in any form without proper reference to Text, Author, Publisher, and Date of Publication.