NINEVEH, NINEVE (nĭn'ĕ-vĕ, Heb. nînewēh). One of the most ancient cities of the world, founded by Nimrod (
Among the great rulers of Assyria may be mentioned Tiglath-Pileser I, who made conquests about 1100 b.c., and Ashurnasirpal and Shalmaneser III, who inaugurated a system of ruthless conquest and deportation of whole populations, which greatly increased the power of Assyria and the influence of Nineveh. It was this latter king (sometimes numbered as II instead of III) who defeated Hazael of Syria and boasted of receiving tribute from Jehu of Israel. The Assyrians, instead of numbering their years, named them from certain rulers; and lists of these “eponyms” have been found, but with a gap of fifty-one years around the beginning of the eighth century, due no doubt to some great calamity and/or the weakness of her kings. It was in this space of time that Jonah was sent of the Lord to warn the people of Nineveh: “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned” (
For many centuries the very location of Nineveh was forgotten, but it has been discovered and excavated (largely by Botta and Layard from a.d. 1843-45), and among its buried ruins the great palace of Sargon, with its wonderful library of cuneiform inscriptions and its still-striking wall ornamentation, has been exhumed. Because the name Sargon was omitted in some of the ancient lists of kings, some of the scholars scoffed (around 1840) at
NINEVEH nĭn’ ə və (נִֽינְוֵ֛ה, LXX Νινευή, G3778; men of Nineveh, Ninevites; Νινενιται,
The ruins of Nineveh lie c. one half m. E of the Tigris River and are now incorporated within the suburbs of modern Mosul, Iraq. The ruins are dominated by two citadel mounds, the larger to the NW, Quyunjiq (“many sheep”), divided from the southwestern, Nebi Yunus (“the prophet Jonah”) by the Khosr River.
The Heb. ninewēh is a faithful transliteration of the Assyrian ninua, a name of the goddess Ishtar written ideographically with the cuneiform sign of a fish within an enclosure. This is not connected with the Heb. nūn, “fish,” but may well have been originally a Hurrian word. The Gr. Ninos is named by assimilation to the name of the hero.
Archeology shows that the site was occupied from prehistoric times (c. 4,500 b.c.) and through the Hassuna-Samarra-Halaf-N. ’Ubaid cultures.
In early Akkad. times the city flourished and was known to Sargon, his sons Manishtusu (c. 2300 b.c.) who restored the temple of Ishtar (Inanna) there, and Naram-Sin. Gudea of Lagash campaigned in the area during the following cent. It appears to have been in constant occupation as a cult and trading center for an independent Assyrian king, Shamshi-Adad I (c. 1800 b.c.). He again restored Ishtar’s temple (Emashmash) as did Hammurabi of Babylon. Statues from this temple were sent by the Mitanni king who then dominated Nineveh to the Egyp. pharaoh. Under strong Middle Assyrian kings, Shalmaneser I and Tukulti-Ninurta I, the city was much enlarged and refortified. It thereafter became, with Ashur and Calah, one of the main centers of royal administration. Thus Tiglath-pileser I (c. 1114-1076), (883-859) and Sargon II (722-705) built their palaces there. The tribute from their wars including that taken from Menahem in 744 b.c. (
At the time of its greatest prosperity, as well described by Jonah, Nineveh itself was enveloped by a circuit wall c. seven and three quarter m. in extent. This “great city” had an area sufficient to house a population of 120,000 (
Early explorers, attracted by the association of the mosque of Nebi Yunus reported the “city of Jonah” and the local traditions, but it was not until John Cartwright (17th cent.) that Nineveh was commonly identified with it. When C. J. Rich published his plans of the ruins in 1820 interest quickened and thus encouraged the Frenchman V. E. Botta who made the first, but abortive, soundings. He abandoned the site, thinking that the more northerly and distinctive ruins of Khorsabad covered the Biblical Nineveh. A. H. Layard and H. Rassam (1845-1854) thereupon stepped in. The immediate discovery of bas-reliefs and cuneiform inscrs. and their publication roused much interest in England, and the British Museum assumed control of their work. George Smith was sent to follow up their lead (1872-1876) but his main aim was to uncover further inscrs. relating to the Babylonian account of the Flood. In this he was successful. Further work was undertaken spasmodically by E. A. W. Budge (1882-1891) and L. W. King (1903-1905). Both found texts to supplement those found earlier in the palace of Ashurbanipal and the temple of Nabu (the god of writing and science) and then being currently published by the British Museum. In 1927 R. Campbell Thompson resumed work, this time systematically clearing the temple of Ishtar and the palace of Ashurnasirpal II on Quyunjiq. The opportunity was taken by M. E. L. Mallowan in 1931, 1932 to make a sounding down to virgin soil and thus gain the first stratification of the prehistoric occupation levels. Since 1966 the Department of Antiquities in Iraq has reopened the Palace of Sennacherib and made additional clearing of that area and of the Nergal and Shamash gates. Road-widening work by Nebi Yunus uncovered Egyp. statues brought back by Ashurbanipal from his capture of Memphis and two campaigns in Egypt.
The royal library.
During the excavations already described more than 16,000 clay tablets or fragments, representing an estimated 10,000 texts, were recovered from Quyunjiq (hence their designation as the [Q]ouyunjiq collection). They originally had been collected by Sargon and his successors but primarily were the work of Ashurbanipal, who boasts that he was one of the few literate monarchs in antiquity. The majority of texts were originals collected in Babylonia or copied in Nineveh by skilled scribes. They cover many genres of lit., among which are the well-known epics of Creation and of the Flood (Gilgamesh) and VSS which include both episodes (Atrahasis). Legends, rituals, religious lit. of all kinds including hymns, prayers, and lists of gods and temples, letters, historical texts of many kinds as well as lexicographical and bilingual documents which have proved of great use in furthering the understanding both of Akkad. and Sumer. Sufficient copies of some texts are now available to enable a detailed comparison to be made with scribal practices throughout the Near E.
A. H. Layard, Nineveh and its Remains (1849); Discoveries in the Ruins of Nineveh and Babylon (1853); G. Smith, Assyrian Discoveries (1875); R. C. Thompson and R. W. Hutchinson, A Century of Exploration at Nineveh (1929); R. C. Thompson, “The Buildings on Quyunjiq, the larger mound of Nineveh,” Iraq, I (1934), 95-104; R. C. Thompson and R. W. Hutchinson, “The site of the palace of Ashurnasirpal at Nineveh,” Liverpool Annals of Archaeology and Anthropology 18 (1931), 79; “The British Museum Excavations on the Temple of Ishtar at Nineveh,” Liverpool Annals A. A. 19 (1932), 55-116; R. C. Thompson and M. E. L. Mallowan, The British Museum Excavations at Nineveh (1931, 1932); Liverpool Annals A. A. 20 (1933), 71-120; A. Parrot, Nineveh and the(1955).
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
I. BEGINNINGS, NAME, POSITION
1. First Biblical Mention
2. Etymology of the Name
3. Position on the Tigris
II. NINEVEH AND ITS SURROUNDINGS
1. Its Walls
2. Principal Mounds and Gateways
3. Extent and Population within the Walls
4. Extent outside the Walls
5. Calah, Resen and Rehoboth-Ir
7. Sherif Khan and Selamieh
III. PALACES AT NINEVEH PROPER
1. The Palace of Sennacherib
2. The Palace of Assur-bani-apli
IV. SENNACHERIB’s DESCRIPTION OF NINEVEH
1. The Walls
2. The Gates--Northwest
3. The Gates--South and East
4. The Gates--West
5. The Outer Wall: the Plantations
6. The Water-Supply, etc.
7. How the Bas-Reliefs Illustrate the King’s Description
8. Nineveh the Later Capital
V. LAST DAYS AND FALL OF NINEVEH
I. Beginnings, Name, Position.
1. First Biblical Mention:
The first Biblical mention of Nineveh is in
2. Etymology of the Name:
The Babylonian Nina was a place where fish were very abundant, and Ishtar or Nina, the goddess of the city, was associated with Nin-mah, Merodach’s spouse, as goddess of reproduction. Fish are also plentiful in the Tigris at Mosul, the modern town on the other side of the river, and this may have influenced the choice of the site by the Babylonian settlers, and the foundation there of the great temple of Ishtar or Nina. The date of this foundation is unknown, but it may have taken place about 3OOO BC.
3. Position on the Tigris:
Nineveh lay on the eastern bank of the Tigris, at the point where the Khosr falls into that stream. The outline of the wall is rectangular on the West, but of an irregular shape on the East. The western fortifications run from Northwest to Southeast, following, roughly, the course of the river, which now flows about 1,500 yards from the walls, instead of close to them, as in ancient times.
II. Nineveh and Its Surroundings.
According to the late G. Smith, the southwestern wall has a length of about 2 1/2 miles, and is joined at its western corner by the northwestern wall, which runs in a northeasterly direction for about 1 1/3 miles.
1. Its Walls:
The northeastern wall, starting here, runs at first in a southeasterly direction, but turns southward, gradually approaching the southwestern wall, to which, at the end of about 3 1/4 miles, it is joined by a short wall, facing nearly South, rather more than half a mile long.
2. Principal Mounds and Gateways:
The principal mounds are Kouyunjik, a little Northeast of the village of `Amusiyeh, and Nebi-Yunas, about 1,500 yards to the Southeast. Both of these lie just within the Southwest wall. Extensive remains of buildings occupy the fortified area. Numerous openings occur in the walls, many of them ancient, though some seem to have been made after the abandonment of the site. The principal gate on the Northwest was guarded by winged bulls (see Layard, Monuments of Nineveh, 2nd series, plural 3; Nineveh and Babylon, 120). Other gates gave access to the various commercial roads of the country, those on the East passing through the curved outworks and the double line of fortifications which protected the northeastern wall from attack on that side, where the Ninevites evidently considered that they had most to fear.
3. Extent and Population within the Walls:
According to G. Smith, the circuit of the inner wall is about 8 miles, and Captain Jones, who made a trigonometrical survey in 1854, estimated that, allotting to each inhabitant 50 square yards, the city may have contained 174,000 inhabitants. If the statement in
4. Extent outside the Walls:
It has therefore been supposed--and that with great probability--that there was a large extension of the city outside its walls. This is not only indicated by
5. Calah, Resen and Rehoboth-Ir:
Concerning the positions of two of the cities mentioned with Nineveh, namely, Calah and Resen, there can be no doubt, notwithstanding that Resen has not yet been identified--Calah is the modern Nimroud, and Resen lay between that site and Nineveh.
The name Rehoboth-Ir has not yet been found in the inscriptions, but Fried. Delitzsch has suggested that it may be the rebit Ninua of the inscriptions, Northeast of Nineveh. If this be the case, the Nineveh of Jonah contained within it all the places in
Taking the outlying ruins from North to South, we begin with Khorsabad (Dur-Sarru-kin or Dur-Sargina), 12 miles Northeast of Kouyunjik, the great palace mound of Nineveh proper. Khorsabad is a great enclosure about 2,000 yards square, with the remains of towers and gateways. The palace mound lies on its northwest face, and consists of an extensive platform with the remains of Sargon’s palace and its temple, with a ziqqurat or temple-tower similar to those at Babylon, Borsippa, Calah and elsewhere. This last still shows traces of the tints symbolical of the 7 planets of which its stages were, seemingly, emblematic. The palace ruins show numerous halls, rooms and passages, many of which were faced with slabs of coarse alabaster, sculptured in relief with military operations, hunting-scenes, mythological figures, etc., while the principal entrances were flanked with the finest winged human-headed bulls which Assyrian art has so far revealed. The palace was built about 712 BC, and was probably destroyed by fire when Nineveh fell in 606 BC, sharing the same fate. Some of the slabs and winged bulls are in the Louvre and the British Museum, but most of the antiquarian spoils were lost in the Tigris by the sinking of the rafts upon which they were loaded after being discovered.
7. Sherif Khan and Selamieh:
Another outlying suburb was probably Tarbicu, now represented by the ruins at Sherif Khan, about 3 miles North of Kouyunjik. In this lay a temple--"palace" Sennacherib calls it--dedicated to Nergal. In ancient times it must have been a place of some importance, as Esarhaddon seems to have built a palace there, as well as a "seat" for his eldest son, Assur-bani-apli. The site of Resen, "between Nineveh and Calah," is thought to be the modern Selamieh, 12 miles South of Nineveh, and 3 miles North of Nimroud (Calah). It is in the form of an irregular enclosure on a high mound overlooking the Tigris, with a surface of about 400 acres. No remains of buildings, sculptures or inscriptions have, however, been found there.
After Nineveh. itself (Kouyunjik), the ruins known as Nimroud, 14 or 15 miles Southeast, are the most important. They mark the site of the ancient Calah, and have already been described under that heading (see p. 539). As there stated, the stone-faced temple-tower seems to be referred to by Ovid, and is apparently also mentioned by Xenophon (see Resen). The general tendency of the accumulated references to these sites supports theory that they were regarded as belonging to Nineveh, if not by the Assyrians themselves (who knew well the various municipal districts), at least by the foreigners who had either visited the city or had heard or read descriptions of it.
III. Palaces at Nineveh Proper.
The palaces at Nineveh were built upon extensive artificial platforms between 30 and 50 ft. high, either of sundried brick, as at Nimroud, or of earth and rubbish, as at Kouyunjik. It is thought that they were faced with masonry, and that access was gained to them by means of flights of deep steps, or sloping pathways. Naturally it is the plan of the basement floor alone that can at present be traced, any upper stories that may have existed having long since disappeared. The halls and rooms discovered were faced with slabs of alabaster or other stone, often sculptured with bas-reliefs depicting warlike expeditions, the chase, religious ceremonies and divine figures. The depth of the accumulations over these varies from a few inches to about 30 ft., and if the amount in some cases would seem to be excessive, it is thought that this may have been due either to the existence of upper chambers, or to the extra height of the room. The chambers, which are grouped around courtyards, are long and narrow, with small square rooms at the ends. The partition walls vary from 6 to 15 ft. in thickness, and are of sun-dried brick, against which the stone paneling was fixed. As in the case of the Babylonian temples and palaces, the rooms and halls open into each other, so that, to gain access to those farthest from the courtyard entrance, one or more halls or chambers had to be traversed. No traces of windows have been discovered, and little can therefore be said as to the method of lighting, but the windows were either high up, or light was admitted through openings in the roof.
1. The Palace of Sennacherib:
The palace of Sennacherib lay in the southeast corner of the platform, and consisted of a courtyard surrounded on all four sides by numerous long halls, and rooms, of which the innermost were capable of being rendered private. It was in this palace that were found the reliefs depicting the siege of Lachish, with the representation of Sennacherib seated on his "standing" throne, while the captives and the spoil of the city passed before him. The grand entrance was flanked by winged bulls facing toward the spectator as he entered. They were in couples, back to back, on each side of the doorway, and between each pair the ancient Babylonian hero-giant, carrying in one hand the "boomerang," and holding tightly with his left arm a struggling lion (Layard, Nineveh and Babylon, 137) was represented, just as at his father Sargon’s palace at Khorsabad. The upper part of these imposing figures had been destroyed, but they were so massive, that the distinguished explorer attributed their overthrow not to the act of man, but to some convulsion of Nature.
2. The Palace of Assur-bani-apli:
In the north of the mound are the ruins of the palace of Assur-bani-apli or Assur-bani-pal, discovered by Hormuzd Rassam. His latest plan (Asshur and the Land of Nimrod, Cincinnati and New York, 1897, plate facing p. 36) does not give the whole of the structure, much of the building having been destroyed; but the general arrangement of the rooms was upon the traditional lines. The slabs with which they were paneled showed bas-reliefs illustrating the Assyrian campaigns against Babylonia, certain Arab tribes, and Elam. As far as they are preserved, the sculptures are wonderfully good, and the whole decorative scheme of the paneled walls, of which, probably, the greater part is forever lost, may be characterized, notwithstanding their defects of perspective and their mannerisms, as nothing less than magnificent. The lion-hunts of the great king, despite the curious treatment of the animals’ manes (due to the sculptors’ ignorance of the right way to represent hair) are admirable. It would be difficult to improve upon the expressions of fear, rage and suffering on the part of the animals there delineated. The small sculptures showing Assur-bani-apli hunting the goat and the wild ass are not less noteworthy, and are executed with great delicacy.
IV. Sennacherib’s Description of Nineveh.
1. The Walls:
In all probability the best description of the city is that given by Sennacherib on the cylinder recording his expedition to Tarsus in Cilicia. From ancient times, he says, the circuit of the city had measured 9,300 cubits, and he makes the rather surprising statement that his predecessors had not built either the inner or the outer wall, which, if true, shows how confident they were of their security from attack. He claims to have enlarged the city by 12,515 (cubits). The great defensive wall which he built was called by the Sumerian name of Bad-imgallabi-lu-susu, which he translates as "the wall whose glory overthrows the enemy." He made the brickwork 40 (cubits) thick, which would probably not greatly exceed the estimate of G. Smith, who reckoned it to have measured about 50 ft. The height of the wall he raised to 180 tipki, which, admitting the estimate of Diodorus, should amount to about 100 ft.
2. The Gates--Northwest:
In this enclosing wall were 15 gates, which he enumerates in full. Three of these were situated in the short northwest wall--the gate of Hadad; the gate of Uru or Hadad of Tarbisu (Sherif Khan), and the gate of the moon-god Nannar, Sennacherib’s own deity. The plans show five openings in the wall on this side, any of which may have been the gate used when going to Tarbicu, but that adorned with winged bulls probably furnished the shortest route.
3. The Gates--South and East:
The gates looking toward the South and the East were the Assur-gate (leading to the old capital); Sennacherib’s Halzi-gate; the gate of Samas of Gagal, the gate of the god Enlil of Kar-Ninlil, and the "covered gate," which seems to have had the reputation of letting forth the fever-demon. After this are mentioned the Sibaniba-gate, and the gate of Halah in Mesopotamia. This last must have been the extreme northeastern opening, now communicating with the road to Khorsabad, implying that Halah lay in that direction.
4. The Gates--West:
The gates on the west or river-side of the city were "the gate of Ea, director of my watersprings"; the quay-gate, "bringer of the tribute of my peoples"; the gate of the land of Bari, within which the presents of the Sumilites entered (brought down by the Tigris from Babylonia, in all probability); the gate of the tribute-palace or armory; and the gate of the god Sar-ur--"altogether 5 gates in the direction of the West." There are about 9 wide openings in the wall on this side, 2 being on each side of the Kouyunjik mound, and 2 on each side of that called Nebi-Yunus. As openings at these points would have endangered the city’s safety, these 4 have probably to be eliminated, leaving 2 only North of Nebi-Yunus, 2 between that and Kouyunjik, and one North of Kouyunjik. Minor means of exit probably existed at all points where they were regarded as needful.
5. The Outer Wall: the Plantations:
To the outer wall of the city Sennacherib gave a Sumerian name meaning, "the wall which terrifies the enemy." At a depth of 54 gar, the underground water-level, its foundations were laid upon blocks of stone, the object of this great depth being to frustrate undermining. The wall was made "high like a mountain." Above and below the city he laid out plantations, wherein all the sweet-smelling herbs of Heth (Palestine and Phoenicia) grew, fruitful beyond those of their homeland. Among them were to be found every kind of mountain-vine, and the plants of all the nations around.
6. The Water-Supply, etc.:
In connection with this, in all probability, he arranged the water-supply, conducting a distant water-course to Nineveh by means of conduits. Being a successful venture, he seems to have watered therewith all the people’s orchards, and in winter 1,000 corn fields above and below the city. The force of the increased current in the river Khosr was retarded by the creation of a swamp, and among the reeds which grew there were placed wild fowl, wild swine, and deer(?). Here he repeated his exotic plantations, including trees for wood, cotton (apparently) and seemingly the olive.
7. How the Bas-Reliefs Illustrate the King’s Description:
Sennacherib’s bas-reliefs show some of the phases of the work which his cylinder inscriptions describe. We see the winged bulls, which are of colossal dimensions, sometimes lying on their sledges (shaped like boats or Assyrian ships), and sometimes standing and supported by scaffolding. The sledges rest upon rollers, and are dragged by armies of captives urged to action by taskmasters with whips. Others force the sledges forward from behind by means of enormous levers whose upper ends are held in position by guy-ropes. Each side has to pull with equal force, for if the higher end of the great lever fell, the side which had pulled too hard suffered in killed and crushed, or at least in bruised, workmen of their number. In the background are the soldiers of the guard, and behind them extensive wooded hills. In other bas-reliefs it is apparently the pleasure grounds of the palace which are seen. In these the background is an avenue of trees, alternately tall and short, on the banks of a river, whereon are boats, and men riding astride inflated skins, which were much used in those days, as now. On another slab, the great king himself, in his hand-chariot drawn by eunuchs, superintends the work.
8. Nineveh the Later Capital:
How long Nineveh had been the capital of Assyria is unknown. The original capital was Assur, about 50 miles to the South, and probably this continued to be regarded as the religious and official capital of the country. Assur-nacir-Apli seems to have had a greater liking for Calah (Nimroud), and Sargon for Khorsabad, where he had founded a splendid palace. These latter, however, probably never had the importance of Nineveh, and attained their position merely on account of the reigning king building a palace and residing there. The period of Nineveh’s supremacy seems to have been from the beginning of the reign of Sennacherib to the end of that of Assur-bani-apli, including, probably, the reigns of his successors likewise--a period of about 98 years (704-606 BC).
V. Last Days and Fall of Nineveh.
Nineveh, during the centuries of her existence, must have seen many stirring historical events; but the most noteworthy were probably Sennacherib’s triumphal entries, including that following the capture of Lachish, the murder of that great conqueror by his sons (the recent theory that he was killed at Babylon needs confirmation); and the ceremonial triumphs of Assur-bani-apli--the great and noble Osnappar (
The standard books on the discovery and exploration of Nineveh are Layard, Nineveh and Its Remains (two volumes, 1849); Nineveh and Babylon (1853); Monuments of Nineveh, 1st and 2nd series (plates) (1849 and 1853); and Hormuzd Hassam, Asshur and the Land of Nimrod (Cincinnati and New York, 1897).