Old Masters Academy


“For very many centuries, the hoary monuments of Egypt—its temples, its obelisks, and its tombs—have presented to the eye of the beholder strange forms of sculpture and of language; the import of which none could tell. The wild valleys of Sinai, too, exhibited upon their rocky sides the unknown writings of a former people; whose name and existence none could trace. Among the ruined halls of Persepolis, and on the rock-hewn tablets of the surrounding regions, long inscriptions in forgotten characters seemed to enrol the deeds and conquests of mighty sovereigns; but none could read the record. Thanks to the skill and persevering zeal of scholars of the 19th century, the key of these locked up treasures has been found; and the records have mostly been read. The monuments of Egypt, her paintings and her hieroglyphics, mute for so many ages, have at length spoken out; and now our knowledge of this ancient people is scarcely less accurate and extensive than our acquaintance with the classic lands of Greece and Rome. The unknown characters upon the rocks of Sinai have been deciphered, but the meagre contents still leave us in darkness as to their origin and purpose. The
cuneiform or arrow-headed inscriptions of the Persian monuments and tablets, have yielded up their mysteries, unfolding historical data of high importance; thus illustrating and confirming the few and sometimes isolated facts preserved to us in the Scriptures and other ancient writings. Of all the works, in which the progress and results of these discoveries have been made known, not one has been reproduced or made generally accessible in this country. The scholar who would become acquainted with them, and make them his own, must still have recourse to the Old World.

“The work of Mr. Layard brings before us still another step of progress. Here we have not to do, with the hoary ruins that have borne the brunt of centuries in the presence of the world, but with a resurrection of the monuments themselves. It is the disentombing of temple-palaces from the sepulchre of ages; the recovery of the metropolis of a powerful nation from the long night of oblivion. Nineveh, the great city ‘of three days’ journey,’ that was ‘laid waste, and there was none to bemoan her,’ whose greatness sank when that of Rome had just begun to rise, now stands forth again to testify to her own splendor, and to the civilization, and power, and magnificence of the Assyrian Empire. This may be said, thus far, to be the crowning historical discovery of the nineteenth century. But the century as yet, is only half elapsed.

“Nineveh was destroyed in the year 606 before Christ; less than 150 years after Rome was founded. Her latest monuments, therefore,
date back not less than five-and-twenty centuries; while the foundation of her earliest is lost in an unknown antiquity. When the ten thousand Greeks marched over this plain in their celebrated retreat, (404 B.C.) they found in one part, a ruined city called Larissa; and in connection with it, Xenophon, their leader and historian, describes what is now the pyramid of Nimroud. But he heard not the name of Nineveh; it was already forgotten in its site; though it appears again in the later Greek and Roman writers. Even at that time, the widely extended walls and ramparts of Nineveh had perished, and mounds, covering magnificent palaces, alone remained at the extremities of the ancient city, or in its vicinity, much as at the present day.

“Of the site of Nineveh, there is scarcely a further mention, beyond the brief notices by Benjamin of Tudela and Abulfeda, until Niebuhr saw it and described its mounds nearly a century ago. In 1820, Mr. Rich visited the spot; he obtained a few square sun-dried bricks with inscriptions, and some other slight remains; and we can all remember the profound impression made upon the public mind, even by these cursory memorials of Nineveh and Babylon.”

Categorized: Elegant Anecdotes , News

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