NINEVEH, THE MURDEROUS CITY
And all my cash I left behind At the Lamb in Nineveh . . .
THUS BEGAN a German student song often heard in former times. One might assume that a good time was had by all in Nineveh, capital of Assyria, even if there was no inn called the "Golden Lamb" in the city. The prophet Zephaniah, who lived at a time when Nineveh was not yet a desert, also talks of a "rejoicing city".
We do not know whether its inhabitants really led such a gay life, but we may doubt it. Our information about Nineveh is rather sketchy. Herodotus could still stroll around in Babylon and give us a vivid picture of the cosmopolitan city; but Nineveh no longer existed in his time, and nobody would have been able to show the Greek globetrotter even the ruins. The hatred of the entire Orient, which the savage Assyrian kings had drawn upon themselves and upon their strong castle bogging down under all the gold, burst upon them and Nineveh was extinguished from the face of the earth.
Nineveh's development began rather late, its peak was short, its fall sudden.
The greatness of Assyria, the northern neighbour and sworn enemy of Babylonia, originated in Assur, which probably was founded about the middle of the third millennium and was the heart of the country for more than twelve hundred years. The capital, on the west bank of the river Tigris, was towered over by a step pyramid, thirty-four additional temples and several palaces. The largest sanctuary was the temple of Assur, the city god who also was the national god of Assyria. In his honour, the Assyrians pushed ahead in their determination to overpower the entire Orient.
This they did thoroughly, and with a well-devised cruelty and destructiveness. Their religious fanaticism and their lust for power were intensified by envy: The Assyrians, predominantly poor herdsmen in a hilly and less fertile country, looked down with greedy eyes upon the rich plains of Babylonia in the south, and Syria and Canaan in the west.
They created an army of great striking force and developed a new