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On the banks of the Euphrates and the Tigris did the two greatest cities of the ancient world rise into magnificence: Nineveh, which repented in sackcloth and ashes at the preaching of Jonah, and Babylon, the "glory of kingdoms," which, elevated by the proud Nebuchadnezzar to the height of splendour, listened to his impious boastings, and saw his deep humiliation. There did Daniel prophesy, and expound the mysterious warnings of the Most High; and there did Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego experience the signal protection of that Almighty Power whom they feared and obeyed.
By the capture, too, of that superb metropolis was the word of prophecy fulfilled, and the rule of the great Cyrus -an instrument in the Divine hand-consolidated over Asia; and on the field of Arbela was that splendid empire in its turn overthrown by the rising power of the Macedo nian conqueror, who, after his brilliant career, returned to the capital of Assyria to end his days.
In like manner have the plains of Mesopotamia borne witness to the catastrophe of Cunaxa, and the gallant bearing of the indomitable ten thousand; seen the defeat and death of Crassus; the retreat of Marc Antony; the fall of the apostate Julian; the disgraceful peace of his successor; and the changing fortunes of the bold Heraclius.
Events so various and important must invest the countries where they occurred with a deep interest; and that portion of them, in particular, which has reference to the early postdiluvian ages, cannot fail to excite the curiosity of those who delight in marking the moral progress of the human race. But all hope of tracing clearly the events of their early history is checked by the scantiness of means; for, while the annals of more recent times are illustrated by numerous records, the glimpses of light shed from authentic sources upon the remote period to which our views are now directed, serve only to show that, at a very uncertain era after the universal deluge, a monarchy was founded on the Euphrates by Nimrod, the son of Cush, which rose into considerable importance; and that, at some subsequent period, it was overthrown by a neighbouring power, the seat of which was on the banks of the Tigris.
Mesopotamia and Assyria have, from the most ancient times, been so intimately connected, both geographically and politically, that they will be most clearly described
in conjunction with each other., Herodotus, Strabo, and others use the latter appellation, as including both, in conjunction with certain other provinces; and Heeren adverts to this fact when he observes that the Greek historians apply the term generally to several monarchies which flourished in the regions about the Tigris and Euphrates previous to the reign of Cyrus. The Jewish writers, on the other hand, use it to express a distinct nation of conquerors, and the founders of an empire, having the seat of government at Nineveh, and which flourished between the years 800 and 700 B.C.* Hence, to define the limits of Assyria, according to the ideas of ancient historians, would be impossible, because, like those of all Eastern sovereignties, they varied with the fortune of every chief who held the sceptre. But, viewing both countries merely in the light of geographical divisions of Asia, it will not be difficult to indicate their boundaries.
Loosely speaking, Assyria may be considered as terminated on the west by the course of the Tigris, on the north by Armenia, on the northeast and east by Mount Zagros and the Gordyæan range, and on the southeast by the province of Susiana or Kuzistan.
Mesopotamia may be more strictly defined, as embraced by the Tigris and Euphrates, except on the north, where it meets the mountains of Armenia. But it will be proper to specify more exactly the various regions which are to pass under our review.
If a line were drawn from Arghana Madan by Erzen to Sert, along the crest of the intervening heights, and from thence carried behind Amadieh along the tops of Aiagha Dag or Zagros, including Solymaneah and Zohab, till it should reach the Pass of Kerrend, and extended again by a course comprehending Mendali, to a point upon the Tigris somewhat below Ctesiphon, such a line, taken in conjunction with that river from its source to the point where they meet, will circumscribe pretty accurately the ancient Assyria.
Again, if the same line were continued westward to Malatia on the Euphrates, the boundary of Mesopotamia would from thence be indicated, as already observed, by the course
* Manual of Ancient Geography, by A. H. L. Heeren. Oxford, 1829, 8vo, p. 25, 26.
of that river; but as both banks are comprehended in the basin, and may physically, as well as politically, be regarded as connected with each other, we shall include in our description all places of importance on the one as well as on the other.
By Ptolemy, Assyria is divided, from northwest to southeast, into the provinces of Arrapachitis, Adiabene (which is sometimes used to designate the whole country), Arbelitis, Calachene, Apolloniatis, and Sittacene. Aturia or Atyria, Artacene, Chalonitis, and Corduene, are also mentioned by others; but there are no means of distinctly ascertaining their respective boundaries.
Strabo describes it as conterminous with Persia and Susiana, and as comprehending Babylonia and a considerable portion of the surrounding district, the countries of the Elymæans, Parætacenians, and Chalonitis, towards Mount Zagros; the plains in the environs of Nineveh, namely, Dolomenia, Calachenia, Chazenia, and Adiabene; the valleys of the Gordyæans, and the Mygdonians of Nisibis even to Zeugma of the Euphrates; and the vast region beyond the river inhabited by the Arabs, to the Cilicians, Phœnicians, and Libyans, and the portion of the coast comprehending the Sea of Egypt and the Gulf of Issus.t
Herodotus remarks that Babylon and the other parts of Assyria formed the ninth satrapy of Darius; and as by that historian Syria is considered as included in Assyria, this government, in his estimation, must have extended from the Mediterranean to the head of the Persian Gulf, and from Mount Taurus to the Arabian Desert.+
D'Anville assigns to both countries nearly the same limits which we have given them, and describes Mesopotamia as a region between rivers, the Aram Naharaim of the Pentateuch,§ and called "ul Jezeerah," or the Island, by the Arabs.ll
*Or the Bridge, or place for passing the river, the site of the present Roumkala.
+ Strabo, curâ Casauboni. Amst., 1763, folio, lib. xvi., p. 1070.
Herodotus, curâ Wesselingii. Amst., 1763, folio, lib. iii., p. 245.
Beke, in his Origines Biblicæ, disputes this opinion, and conceives, upon grounds which he sets forth, that " Aram Naharaim" of the Pentateuch is to be sought in the land of Damascus, watered by the Rivers Pharphar and Abana.
Géographie Ancienne, par M. D'Anville, 3 tomes, 12mo. Paris, 1768, tome ii., p. 190.
By Strabo, Mesopotamia is declared to be bounded on the north by Taurus, which separates it from Armenia; that it is largest near the mountains, where, between Thapsacus, at the passage of the Euphrates, and the point where Alexander crossed the Tigris, it is 2400 stadia broad; while between Babylon and Seleucia, the space separating the rivers does not exceed 200 stadia. He states that the Mygdonians inhabit the part near the Euphrates and the two Zeugmas; that they possess the city of Nisibis, called also Antiocha Mygdonia, at the foot of Mount Masius, that of Tigranocerta, the districts of Carrhes and Nicephorium, Chordiraza and Sinnaca; that near the Tigris, among the mountains, is the country of the Gordyæans, called by the ancients Carduchi, where also are found the Cossæans, the Parætacenians, and the Elymeans; and that the southern portions of Mesopotamia are inhabited by the Scenite Arabs, a nomade people, who live by plunder, and change their abodes when pasture and booty fail.*
It would be very difficult to assign to these several divisions a place in modern maps. The northern part of Mesopotamia, to the foot of Mount Masius, is certainly the Mygdonia of the Greeks, including Nisibin and Aljezira. To the west, and stretching southward, lies the district of Osroene, including the ancient Edessa, Charræ, and Nicephorium; Circesium (now Karkisia), at the junction of the Khabour with the Euphrates, is rather the name applied to a city than a country; and, excepting the towns upon the river's bank, there appears to have been no place of consequence between Khabour and Babylonia proper: indeed, the tract must have always been in great measure a desert. These limits extended from the Median wall which joined the two rivers, and included all the space between them, which, no doubt, was subdivided into many districts, the names of which have not reached our time. The lower part of this province obtained the designation of Chaldea, because, after the capture of Babylon, many of the inhabitants retired thither, carrying with them their arts and sciences; but this colony must be carefully distinguished from the true and ancient Chaldea, the birthplace of Terah and Abraham, the mother-country of the wise men, and, doubtless, of the race that ruled both there and in Nineveh.
*Strabo, lib. xvi., p. 1082.
Returning to the northern limits of Assyria, we find the districts of Carduchia and Corduene in the mountains between Sert and Julamerik; Arbelitis, of which the capital was Arbela, in the low lands; the plains of Dolomenia and Calachene spread around Mosul; the Gordyæans, Elymæans, and Parætacenians occupied the valleys of the Gordyæan Mountains, at whose foot, towards Kirkook, stretch the plains of Adiabene, Apolloniatis, the present Shahraban, and Chalonitis, which last appears to have been the southeastern district, bordering on Louristan and Susiana. Such, perhaps, according to our present knowledge of the ancient divisions of these provinces, is the nearest adaptation of them to modern maps.
We have now to consider the modern divisions of the countries we have undertaken to describe. The pachalic of Bagdad is at present a dependancy of the Turkish empire, and governed by a pacha sent from Constantinople. It is arranged into the following districts:
To this enumeration must be added the towns on the right bank of the Euphrates, above Rahaba, most of which are included in the pachalic of Aleppo, and have been already adverted to. These, with the districts of Diarbekir, Orfa, Jezirah ul Omar, Sert, Amadieh, Accra, and some others among the Kurdish Mountains, will complete the detail of our limits in so far as territory is concerned. But besides the fixed inhabitants who form the agricultural population, and the dwellers in the towns, there are a vast number of wandering tribes, both Arabs and Kurds, who roam over its surface, paying little regard to any govern