Calah

CALAH (kă'la). A very ancient city of Assyria on the upper reaches of the Tigris River, built originally by Nimrod, who is listed in Gen.10.6-Gen.10.12 as a grandson of Ham, son of Noah. According to KJV, the builder was “Asshur,” from whom Assyria gets it name; but cf. NIV. The city was apparently rebuilt by Shalmanezer I (reigned c. 1456-1436 b.c.), then later abandoned for many centuries till Ashurnasirpal, who is pictured as “Ruthlessness Incarnate” (reigned c. 926-902), restored it. Aside from the mention in the Bible, the city is famous for its immense statuary in the form of winged lions and winged bulls, some of which can be seen in the British Museum today. Several great palaces have been excavated there, and the place is now known as “Nimrud.”


CALAH kā’ lə (כָּֽלַח; Akkad. kalẖu). One of the Assyrian capital cities. Now called Nimrud and located in the NE angle of the confluence of the Tigris and Upper Zab rivers, it is twentyfour m. S of Nineveh on the E bank of the Tigris River.

According to Genesis 10:6-12, Calah was built by Nimrod (KJV “Asshur”). It was apparently rebuilt by Shalmaneser I (1274-1245) and then later abandoned until it was restored by Ashurnasirpal (883-859). The inscrs. of Tiglath-pileser III and Sargon II mention their attacks on Israel and Judah launched from this Assyrian military capital. Sargon II stored his booty here, and later Esarhaddon built himself a palace. Calah fell to the Medes and Babylonians in 612 b.c.

Excavations at this site have revealed immense statuary in the form of winged bulls and lions. Austen Henry Layard began his excavations there in 1845 and immediately found the splendid palace of Ashurnasirpal II, including a statue of the king in a state of perfect preservation. Layard also found the famous Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III which portrays, among other captives, Jehu of Israel. The many antiquities from this site may be found in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the University Museum at Philadelphia, and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

Bibliography

M. E. L. Mallowan, Twenty-five Years of Mesopotamian Discovery (1956); Nimrud and Its Remains (1962).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

The name of one of the great cities of Nimrod (Ge 10:11), or rather, Asshur (text), which formed, with Nineveh, Resen between Calah and Nineveh, and Rehoboth-Ir (probably lying more to the North), Asshur’s great fourfold capital. The meaning of the name is unknown, but if a Sumerian etymology be accepted, some such signification as "Holy Gate" (Ka-lah) or the like--a parallel to Ka-dingira = Bab-ili, "Gate of God" (see BABEL, BABYLON)--might be regarded as possible.

1. Date of the City’s Foundation:

As Nineveh is mentioned by Hammurabi, who reigned about 2000 BC, it is clear that that city was already, in his time, an important place; and the passage in Ge 10:11 implies, though it does not actually prove, that Calah was of about the same period.

2. Early References to the City:

The Assyrian king Assur-nacir-apli (circa 885 BC) states that Calah was made (probably = founded) by Shalmaneser (I) circa 1300 BC, but this is possibly simply an indication that he rebuilt it. Later on, the site seems to have become neglected, for Assur-nacir-apli states that, the city having fallen into ruin, he rebuilt it, and it thereafter became practically the capital of the country, for he not only reerected or restored its shrines and temples--the temple of Ninip, with the god’s image; the temple of "the Lady of the Land," and the temples of Sin, Gula, and Enlil--but he also received tribute there. Among his other works may be mentioned the water-channel Pati-chengala, and the plantations, whose fruits, apparently, he offered to the god Assur (Asshur), and the temples of the city. It also became a favorite place of residence for the later kings of Assyria,’ who built palaces, and restored the city’s temples from time to time.

3. Its Position:

Calah occupied the roughly triangular tract formed by the junction of the Greater Zab with the Tigris, which latter stream in ancient times flowed rather closer to the western wall than it does now, and would seem to have separated the small town represented by Selamiyeh from the extensive ruins of Calah, which now bear the name of Nimroud. The main ruins are situated on a large, rectangular platform on the bank of the old bed of the Tigris.

4. The Temple-Tower:

The most prominent edifice was the great Temple-tower at the Northwest corner--a step-pyramid (ziq-qurat) like the Bah towers, constructed of brick faced with stone, and rising, in stages, to a height of circa 126 ft., probably with a sanctuary at the top (see Tower of Babel). A long vault occupies the basement-stage of this structure, and caused Sir A. H. Layard, its discoverer, to regard it as the probable traditional tomb of Ninus, under whose shadow the tragedy of Pyramis and Thisbe took place. Ovid (Metam. iv.98) describes the tomb of Ninus as having been situated "at the entrance of Nineveh," and, if this be correct, Calah must have been regarded as the southern portion of that great city, which, on a preaching journey, may well have taken three days (Jon 3:3) to traverse, provided Khorsabad was in reality its northern extremity.

5. The Temples and Palaces:

The platform upon which the temple-tower of Calah was situated measures circa 700 x 400 yds., and the portion not occupied by that erection afforded space for temples and palaces. In the center of the East side of this platform lie the remains of the palace of Assur-nacir-apli, the chambers and halls of which were paneled with sculptured and inscribed slabs, the principal doorways being flanked with finely carved winged and human-headed lions and bulls. In the Southeast corner are the remains of the palace of Esarhaddon, built, at least in part, with material taken from the palace of Tiglath-pileser IV, which was situated in the South portion of the platform. The remains of this last are, as a result of this spoliation, exceedingly meager. The Southwest corner of the platform contains the remains of the last palace built on the site--a very inferior erection constructed for Assur-etil-ilani (circa 626 BC).

6. The Temple of Ninip:

One of the temples on this platform was that dedicated to Ninip, situated at the Southwest corner of the temple-tower. The left-hand entrance was flanked by man-headed lions, while the sides of the right-hand entrance were decorated with slabs showing the expulsion of the evil spirit from the temple--a spirited sculpture now in the Nimroud Gallery of the British Museum. On the right-hand side of the entrance was an arch-headed slab with a representation of King Assur-nacir-apli in low relief, standing in the usual conventional attitude. Before it stood a stone tripod altar, implying that Divine honors were paid to this king. (Both these are now in the British Museum.) The remains of another temple were found to the East of this, and there are traces of further buildings at other points of the platform.

7. The Sculptures of Assur-nacir-apli:

The slabs from Assur-nacir-apli’s palace show this king’s warlike expeditions, but as descriptive lettering is wanting, the campaigns cannot be identified. Notwithstanding this disadvantage, however, they are of considerable importance, showing, as they do, incidents of his various campaigns--the crossing of rivers, the march of his armies, the besieging of cities, the reception of tribute, the life of the camp and hunting the lion and the wild bull. The reliefs from the temples, which are much larger and finer, show the king engaged in various religious ceremonies and ritual acts, and are among the most striking examples of Assyrian of sculpture. When looking at these works of art, the student’s thoughts go back with thankfulness to those Assyrians who, through the generations, cared for and preserved these monuments, though the vandalism of Esarhaddon in dressing off the slabs of Tiglath-pileser IV to carve his own bas-reliefs thereon will ever be regretted.

8. The City Walls:

The site is described as being 14 miles South of Kouyunjik (Nineveh) and consists of an enclosure formed of narrow mounds still having the appearance of walls. Traces of no less than 108 towers, the city’s ancient defenses, are said to be visible even now on the North and East, where the walls were further protected by moats. The area which the walls enclose--about 2,331 x 2,095 yards--would contain about 1,000 acres.

Layard, Nineveh and Its Remains, and Nineveh and Babylon, still remain the standard works upon the subject, and his Monuments of Nineveh gives the most complete collection of the sculptures found. See also George Smith, Assyrian Discoveries, and Rassam, Asshur and the Land of Nimrod.