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ancient of all those who have ever aspired after that denomination.
a The Babylonians, as Callisthenes, a philosopher in Alex ander's retinue, wrote to Aristotle, reckoned themselves to be at least of 1903 years standing, when that prince entered triumphant into Babylon; which makes their origin reach back to the year of the world 1771, that is to say, 115 years after the deluge. This computation comes within a few years of the time in which we suppose Nimrod to have founded that city. Indeed this testimony of Callisthenes, as it does not agree with any other accounts of that matter, is not esteemed authentic by the learned; but the conformity we find between it and the holy Scriptures should make us regard it.
Upon these grounds I think we may allow Nimrod to have been the founder of the first Assyrian empire, which subsisted with more or less extent and glory upwards of 1450 years, from the time of Nimrod to that of Sardanapalus, the last king, that is to say, from the year of the world 1800 to the year 3257.
NIMROD. He is the same with d Belus, who was afterwards worshipped as a god under that appellation.
He was the son of Chus, grandson of Cham, and great grandson of Noah. He was, says the scripture, a mighty hunter before the Lord. In applying himself to this laborious and dangerous exercise he had two things in view; the first was, to gain the people's affection by delivering them from the fury and dread of wild beasts; the next was, to train up numbers of young people by this exercise of hunting to endure labour and hardship, to form them to the use of arms, to enure them to a kind of discipline and obedience, that at a proper time after they had been accustomed to his orders, and seasoned in arms, he might make use of them for other purposes more serious than hunting.
In ancient history we find some footsteps remaining of this artifice of Nimrod, whom the writers have confounded with Ninus, his son: ffor Diodorus has these words: "Ninus, "the most ancient of the Assyrian kings mentioned in history, performed great actions. Being naturally of a war"like disposition, and ambitious of the glory that results "from valour, he armed a considerable number of young “men, that were brave and vigorous like himself; trained
a Porphyr. apud Simplic. in lib. ii de cœlo
6 H re I depart from the opinion of Archbishop Usher, my ordinary guide, with espect to the duration of the Assyrian empire, which he supposes, with Herodotus, to have lasted but 520 years; but the time when Nimrod ived and Sardanapalus died I take from hini.
CA. M. 1800. Ant. J. C. 2204. d Belus or Baal signifies Lord. c Gen. я, Lib ii. p. 90.
"them up a long time in laborious exercises and hardships, "and by that means accustomed them to bear the fatigues "of war patiently, and to face dangers with courage and in"trepidity."
• What the same author adds, that Ninus entered into an alliance with the king of the Arabs, and joined forces with him, is a piece of ancient tradition, which informs us, that the sons of Chus, and by consequence the brothers of Nimrod, all settled themselves in Arabia, along the Persian gulf, from Havila to the Ocean; and lived near enough to their brother to lend him succours, or to receive them from him. And what the same historian further says of Ninus, that he was the first king of theAssyrians, agrees exactly with what the Scripture says of Nimrod, that he began to be mighty upon the earth; that is, he procured himself settlements, built cities, subdued his neighbours, united different people under one and the same authority, by the band of the same polity and the same laws, and formed them into one state; which, for those early times, was of a considerable extent, though bounded by the rivers Euphrates and Tigris; and which, in succeeding ages, made new acquisitions by degrees, and at length extended its conquests very far.
The capital city of his kingdom, says the Scripture, was Babylon. Most of the profane historians ascribe the founding of Babylon to Semiramis, others to Belus. It is evident, that both the one and the other are mistaken, if they speak. of the first founding of that city; for it owes its beginning neither to Semiramis, nor to Nimrod, but to the foolish vanity of those persons mentioned in Scripture", who desired to build a tower and a city, that should render their memory immortal.
Josephus relates, upon the testimony of a Sibyl, (who must have been very ancient, and whose fictions cannot be imputed to the indiscreet zeal of any Christians) that the gods threw down the tower by an impetuous wind, or a violent hurricane. Had this been the case, Nimrod's timerity must have been still greater, to rebuild a city and a tower, which God himself had overthrown with such marks of his displeasure. But the scripture says no such thing; and it is very probable, the building remained in the condition it was, when God put an end to the work by the confusion of languages; and that the tower consecrated to Belus, which is described by Herodotus/, was this very tower; which the sons of men pretended to raise to the clouds.
a I.ib. ii. p. 90.
b Gen. x. 10.
c Semiramis eam condiderat, vel, ut plerique tradidere, Belus, cujus regia ostenditur. Q. Curt. lib. v. c. 1.
d Gen. xi. 4. e Hist. Jud. 1. i. c. 4. fLib. i. c. 191.
It is further probable, that this ridiculous design being defeated by such an astonishing prodigy, as none could be the author of but God himself, every body abandoned the place, which had given him offence; and that Nimrod was the first who encompassed it afterwards with walls, settled therein his friends and confederates, and subdued those that lived round about it, beginning his empire in that place, but not confining it to so narrow a compass: Fuit principium regni ejus Babylon. The other cities, which the Scripture speaks of in the same place, were in the land of Shinar, which was certainly the province of which Babylon became the metropolis.
From this country he went into that which has the name of Assyria, and there built Nineveh: " De terrâ illâ egressus est Assur, & ædificavit Nineven. This is the sense in which many learned men understand the word Assur, looking upon it as the name of a province, and not of the first man who possessed it; as if it were, egressus est in Assur, in Assyriam. And this seems to be the most natural construction, for many reasons not necessary to be recited in this place. The country of Assyria, in one of the prophets, is described by the particular character of being the land of Nimrod: Et pascent terram Assur in gladio, & terram Nimrod in lanceis ejus; & liberabit ab Assur, cum venerit in terram nostram. It derived its name from Assur the son of Shem, who without doubt had settled himself and family there, and was probably driven out, or brought under subjection by the usurper Nimrod.
This conqueror having possessed himself of the provinces of Assur, did not ravage them like a tyrant, but filled them with cities, and made himself as much beloved by his new subjects as he was by his old ones; so that the historians d, who have not examined into the bottom of this affair, have thought that he made use of the Assyrians to conquer. the Babylonians. Among other cities he built one more large and magnificent than the rest, which he called Nineveh, from the name of his son Ninus, in order to immortalize his memory. The son in his turn, out of veneration for his father, was willing that they who had served him as their king should adore him as their god, and induce other nations to render him the same worship. For it appears plainly, that Nimrod is the famous Belus of the Babylonians, the first king whom the people deified for his great actions, and who showed others the way to that sort of immortality, which human acquirements are capable of bestowing.
I intend to speak of the mighty strength and greatness of @ Gen. x. 11. b Mic. v. 6. c Gen. x. 11. 12. d Djod. l. ii. p. 90.
the cities of Babylon and Nineveh, under the kings to whom their building is ascribed by profane authors, because the Scripture says little or nothing on that subject. This silence of Scripture, so little satisfactory to our curiosity, may become an instructive lesson for our piety. The holy penman has placed Nimrod and Abraham, as it were, in one view before us; and seems to have put them so near together on purpose, that we should see an example in the former of what is admired and coveted by men, and in the latter of what is acceptable and well-pleasing to God. These two persons, so unlike one another, are the two first and chief citizens of two different cities, built on different motives, and with different principles; the one, self-love, and a desire of temporal advantages, carried even to the contemning of the Deity; the other the love of God, even to the contemning of one's self.
NINUS. I have already observed, that most of the profane authors look upon him as the first founder of the Assyrian empire, and for that reason ascribe to him a great part of his father Nimrod's or Belus's actions.
¿ Having a design to enlarge his conquests, the first thing he did was to prepare troops and officers capable of promoting his designs. And having received powerful succours from the Arabians his neighbours, he took the field, and in the space of 17 years conquered a vast extent of country, from Egypt as far as India and Bactriana, which he did not then venture to attack.
At his return, before he entered upon any new conquests, he conceived the design of immortalizing his name by the building of a city answerable to the greatness of his power; he called it Nineveh, and built it on the eastern banks of the Tigris. Possibly he did no more than finish the work his father had begun. His design, says Diodorus, was to make Nineveh the largest and noblest city in the world, and not leave it in the power of those that came after him ever to build or hope to build such another. Nor was he deceived in his view; for never did any city come up to the greatness and magnificence of this: it was 150 stadia (or 18 miles and three quarters) in length, and 90 stadia (or 11 miles and one quarter) in breadth; and consequently was an oblong square. Its circumference was 480 stadia, or 60 miles. For this reason we find it said in the prophet Jonah, That Nineveh was an exceeding great city, of three days' journey ;
a Fecerunt civitates duas amores duo: terrenam scilicet amor sui usque ad contemptum Dei; cœlestem vero amor Dei usque ad contemptum sui. S. Aug. de Civ. Dei, lib. xiv. c. 28. b Diod. l. ii. p. 90-95. c Diodorus says it was on the bank of the Euphrates, and speaks of it as if it was so, in many places; but he is mistaken. d Jon. iii. 3.
which is to be understood of the whole circuit, or compass of the city. The walls of it were 100 feet high, and of so considerable a thickness, that three chariots might go abreast upon them with ease. They were fortified and adorned with 1500 towers 200 feet high.
After he had finished this prodigious work, he resumed his expedition against the Bactrians. His army, according to the relation of Ctesias, consisted of 1,700,000 foot, 200,000 horse, and about 16,000 chariots, armed with scythes. Diodorus adds, that this ought not to appear incredible, since, not to mention the innumerable armies of Darius and Xerxes, the single city of Syracuse, in the time of Dionysius the Tyrant, furnished 120,000 foot, and 12,000 horse, besides 400 vessels well equipped and provided. And a little before Hannibal's time, Italy, including the citizens and allies, was able to send into the field near 1,000,000 of men. Ninus made himself master of a great number of cities, and at last laid siege to Bactria, the capital of the country. Here he would probably have seen all his attempts miscarry, had it not been for the diligence and assistance of Semiramis, wife to one of his chief officers, a woman of an uncommon courage, and peculiarly exempt from the weakness of her sex. She was born at Ascalon, a city of Syria. I think it needless to recite the account Diodorus gives of her birth, and of the miraculous manner of her being nursed and brought up by pigeons, since that historian himself looks upon it only as a fabulous story. It was Semiramis that directed Ninus how to attack the citadel, and by her means he took it, and thus became master of the city, in which he found an immense treasure. The husband of this lady having killed himself, to prevent the effects of the king's threats and indignation, who had conceived a violent passion for his wife, Ninus married Semiramis.
After his return to Nineveh, he had a son by her, whom he called Ninyas. Not long after this he died, and left the queen the government of the kingdom. She, in honour of his memory, erected a magnificent monument, which remained a long time after the ruin of Nineveh.
I find no appearance of truth in what some authors relate concerning the manner of Semiramis's coming to the throne. According to them, having secured the chief men of the state, and attached them to her interest by her benefactions and promises, she solicited the king with great importunity to put the sovereign power into her hands for the space of
a It is hard to believe that Diodorus does not speak of the bigness of Nineveh with some exaggeration; therefore some learned men have reduced the stadium to little more than one half and reckon 15 of them to the Roman mile instead of eight, the usual computation. b Plut. in Mor. p. 753.