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EARLIEST AGES TO THE PRESENT TIME;
ILLUSTRATIONS OF THEIR NATURAL HISTORY.
BY J. BAILLIE FRASER, ESQ.,
WITH A MAP AND ENGRAVINGS.
HARPER AND BROTHERS, 82 CLIFF-ST.
In the work now presented to the public, the author has endeavoured to bring under one view all that is known of the history and aspect, moral, physical, and political, of the provinces of Mesopotamia and Assyria; and to give, at the same time, a sketch of the causes that have produced the revolutions of which they have been the theatre. The subject is extensive and complicated, and the difficulty of compressing the matter which it embraces into one volume was proportionally great. That all which might have been done towards the attainment of this object has really been effected, is more than the author ventures to assert; but he can safely affirm that no pains have been spared in collecting the most suitable materials to be found in the writings of others, as well as in applying such as have been furnished by his own acquaintance with those interesting countries.
In point of fact, little original matter can be expected, unless we were to recover some of the lost works of the ancients, or to succeed in deciphering those inscriptions in the cuneiform character which have hitherto baffled the researches of the learned. Late discoveries, indeed, seemed to afford some reasonable hope of success; but it must now be admitted that, though several ingenious conjectures have been made, and some plausible speculations have been hazarded, no accession has been obtained to our knowledge of facts. The subject in general, therefore, remains as dark and uncertain as before.
Nearly all that can be said or known respecting the history, chronology, religion, and manners of these primeval empires, will be found collected in the "Universal Ancient History," a work of very
great learning and research; but those who desire to apply to the original sources of information may, in addition to the sacred Scriptures of the Old Testament, consult the works of Herodotus, Diodorus Siculus, Arrian, Xenophon, Plutarch, and such others as are usually cited by writers on this subject. Cory's "Ancient Fragments" will supply the English reader with what remains of the works of Berosus, Abydenus, Apollodorus, and Alexander Polyhistor. Hyde, Bryant, Jackson, Hales, Usher, and Newton, may be referred to for chronology. Sir William Drummond, Faber, Bochart, and Beke, will afford food enough for those who delight in ingenious speculations; while Prideaux and Russell will show what can be done to connect profane with sacred history.
For light to guide him in geographical description, the inquirer must have recourse to the works of Ptolemy, of Strabo, and of Cellarius, together with the minor geographies of Hudson and Isidore of Charax; to Abulfeda and Ibn Haukul among the Mohammedans; while, for comparative geography, his main help will be found in D'Anville, Rennell, and Vincent. Williams, in his Geographical Memoir, has presented some learned disquisitions; and the researches of Rich, himself a man of classical learning as well as a judicious observer, are of the highest value. The works of Heeren treat of every branch of the ancient history of these regions; and, though we may not agree in all his conclusions, they are entitled to respect as the opinions of a laborious and acute inquirer into Oriental antiquities.
Our information regarding what may be termed the middle ages of those countries—that is, from the destruction of Babylon by Darius down to the Mohammedan era-is greatly more extensive and complete than that which we possess respecting their remoter history. Those who are anxious for a more intimate acquaintance with the events of this period,
will find ample materials in the pages of the Universal History, and in the more eloquent chapters of Gibbon.
In all that relates to the history and condition of the Christian population in those provinces, and of the various sects that have successively sprung up or still continue to exist, the best authority is Assemani, whose Oriental Dictionary is a mine of invaluable information on such subjects. Mosheim and other Church historians may likewise be consulted, as also Bingham, the author of "Origines Ecclesiasticæ," though these all draw chiefly from Assemani.
Of the condition of modern Mesopotamia-that is, from the Mohammedan conquest to the present time-notices are to be found in the works of various travellers, from Rawolf and Benjamin of Tudela downward. But less is known of Assyria, which now constitutes a portion of the Turkish empre; and there is no general account of the present state of the two provinces, although much valuable information may be gathered from the works of Niebuhr, Olivier, Rich, Buckingham, Porter, and Rousseau. These materials, together with what the author has been enabled to glean from other sources, as well as from his own observations, form the basis of this portion of the present work; and he must here take occasion to express his obligations to Colonel Taylor, Political Resident at Bagdad, to whom he has been indebted, not only for the valuable manuscript journal of the late Mr. Elliot, but for much important information on matters connected with the statistics of the country, as well as with the manners of the people.
Much still remains to be done in both provinces, for there are many districts of which, as yet, little or nothing is known. The labours of modern travellers are, however, daily throwing light on their antiquities, natural history, and geography: and when the works of Colonel Chesney, Major Rawlinson,