Journey with the British Museum to 7th century B.C. Nineveh: a former "paradise on earth."


In recent years, every mention of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul conjures up images of uncertainty and, more vividly, of the destruction of monuments and artifacts, when extremist groups enter museums and ancient sites and ignorantly use hammers, drills, explosives and bulldozers to push up Assyrian artifacts and historical sites, their hopes of "silencing history" failing to materialize, yet once again reminding the world of this glorious past.

In the eleventh century B.C., Nineveh was the capital of the Assyrian Empire. It reached its peak of prosperity between the 8th and 7th centuries BC during the reign of the Assyrian king Sinakhrib. When the British Museum was closed due to the epidemic, the interpretation of its collections led the public to the 5th century BC Athens. Rome in the first century A.D. and Edo in the nineteenth century, in this issue of the British Museum's Ancient Mesopotamia curator Gareth Breton ( (GarethBrereton) takes you back 2600 years and into Nineveh. It's a sobering contrast between the prosperity of then and the crumbling walls of today.

Restoration of the Assyrian palace, from Austen Henry Layard's Monuments of Nineveh, 1853, original by James Fergusson (1808-1886)

In recent times, Nineveh has grown rapidly to become the new capital of the powerful Assyrian Empire. Today, it is a vast metropolis, surrounded by a walled city some 12 kilometres long and covering 750 hectares (7.5 square kilometres). ). Although there are no official statistics on the population of Nineveh, it is said that it takes three days to cross the city.

Located on the east bank of the Tigris River, this cosmopolitan city connected the northern highlands with the prosperous lands of Babylon and the Chaldeans in the south.

Relief with "irrigation canal," 7th century B.C.

The fertile land around Nineveh is ideal for growing staple crops such as wheat and barley, enough to meet the city's needs. The city is also located at the confluence of the Kossel and Tigris rivers, which ensures an abundant supply of water as well as an abundant supply of water for the city. The precipitation. Huge "aqueducts" have been built to transport the water to the city's network of canals. In the upper reaches of the city, you'll find orchards of vines, fruit trees and olive trees... all of which make Nineveh look like heaven on earth! .

Nineveh is hot in summer and humid in winter. The best time to visit is in spring and autumn, when the days are warm and the mornings and evenings are cool.

How to reach.


From the north, Nineveh is easily reached via the quppu ferry on the Tigris River, with the quppu boats known for They are woven from reeds and coated with asphalt to waterproof them. If arriving by boat from the south, you'll need to sail against the current; most ferries dock at city docks.

By land.

Thanks to the Assyrian Empire's road network, the city was easily accessible by donkey (or mule). The main routes included the north-south road from the TaurusMountains to Babylon, and the From the Zagros Mountains to the Levantine coast. East-West Road. There were many inns and taverns along the route, and government officials on official business could stay at stagecoaches set up every 20 to 30 kilometers.

Mules carrying hunting equipment, Assyria, 645-640 B.C.

In-town excursions.

Nineveh is large, but most destinations can be reached on foot. If you want to use a donkey (or mule) for transportation, there are many rental spots in the city. Nineveh and its surroundings are famous for its network of canals, so remember to experience the guppuboat or the local The Gondola.

The Walls and Gates

On arrival in the city, you will be amazed at the huge walls and 18 gates flanked by giant human wings carved out of marble! Cow statues. Known as Imassu, they were believed to guard the city.

Sculpture of "Iamassu" from the Assyrian city of Nimrud, 865-860 BC.

Palace of the "Uncrowned King".

This mythical palace was built by the Assyrian king Sinnacherib at the turn of the century (8th to 7th centuries BC), and was a great boon to all the It's a wonder not to be missed. The "Coronation Palace" deserves its name. The palace covers an area of about 500m x 250m and is located on a raised platform overlooking the city. The outer walls of the palace are made of tens of thousands of fired limestone blocks, polished in white and topped with blue glazed tiles. Huge cedar doors are decorated with shining brass bands, and the arches and porticoes are decorated with multicolored glazed tiles.

Remnants of a painting of a city wall, Assyria, 645-640 B.C.

The palace consists of several courtyards surrounded by suites and corridors. Be sure to look out for some bronze columns with lion-shaped pedestals, a technical marvel. Also remember to visit the stylish Bit-hilani room, said to be a perfect replica of the Hittite palace.

Artist's rendition of the Assyrian palace hall in Austin Henry Layard's Monument to Nineveh, 1853

If you are lucky enough to be allowed into the main hall of the Assyrian palace, you will be greeted by a towering façade with a main hall with three Entrance, flanked by huge statues of human-headed winged cows. Beyond the main hall, you will find administrative, ceremonial and family areas, but absolutely no visitors are allowed.

The spacious rooms of the palace are decorated with brightly painted stone wall panel reliefs with carvings of narrative scenes and mythological figures. It is said that if these reliefs were connected, they could stretch for 3 kilometers.

Botanical Garden

The famous Garden of Nineveh is a must-see for any lover of flora and fauna. The terraced palace gardens are said to be modeled after MountAmanus (the Nur mountain range in present-day Turkey). There are various aromatic plants and fruit trees. The botanical gardens outside the city also contain aromatic and fruit trees from the Hittites and from the Chaldean Mountains (Chaldea, present-day Iraq). (South) of the trees. The botanical garden is watered by an intricate network of canals. In the reserve, you will find wild boar and roe deer. If you are lucky enough, you may even spot lions. The botanical gardens are also planted with flowers and a variety of medicinal herbs from all over the Assyrian Empire.

Lion in a lush garden, Assyria, 645-640 B.C.

pyramidal pagoda

This massive temple stands proudly on the hill and can be seen from all corners of the city. The pyramidal pagoda is a pyramidal structure of a building, except that the top is flat. Sun-baked bricks form the core of the pagoda, while baked bricks form the surface structure of the pagoda. The surface is decorated with different colored glazes that may have astrological significance. But unfortunately, the pyramid is not open to general visitors and only priests can enter, so you need to admire its grandeur from a distance! .

The Temple of Ishtar

This temple, dedicated to Ishtar, Nineveh's goddess of war and agriculture, has stood here for a thousand years. The nearby temple of Nabu is dedicated to the goddess of literary wisdom. Both temples are famous for their colourful glazed tile and brick facades, interiors decorated with bas-relief stone panels, and extensive gold and silver decorations! .

Recreational Life.

festive day

Musicians and Priests in Religious Processions, Assyria, 705-681 B.C.

In Nineveh, there are various religious festivals that take place throughout the year. It is essential for visitors to take part in all these colourful events. The devout people of the city take to the streets to enjoy the festivities and also to enjoy fresh bread, beer and honey cakes.

Lion hunting

The park outside Nineveh is famous for its spectacular and savage lion hunts. Through a combination of sport, ritual and drama, Assyrian kings showcase their bravery and military skills by hunting fierce lions on their chariots. The best place to watch the hunt is on the hill next to the hunting grounds - get there early to get a good viewing position.

Cameo depicting King Ashurbanipal hunting lions, Assyria, 645-640 B.C.

The clay seal of the Assyrian king in battle with the lion, 715 B.C.


Not to be missed are the weekly Epic of Gilgamesh, in which dancers and acrobats present the adventures of the hero Gilgamesh, and a monthly reading of the creation epic featuring the Assyrian god Ashur.

Sports and Exercise

Daily exercise is important. The inhabitants of Nineveh love to stroll along the Tigris River in the evening, and the children are always running around playing all kinds of games (but not (including ball games). A horse can be hired on public holidays, although it is expensive, and the holiday parade ground allows for horse racing. Fishing is also popular.


The most popular board game of all time is the game of "Chaoge" (also known as the "Ur-Royalty Game"), a game of tossing that has been around for thousands of years. Still very popular today. High-end shops sell luxurious sets made of gold, ivory and precious stones; however, when bricks are used to draw a grid on the floor, small pebbles are used as chess pieces. The platform for the game can always be set up. Rumor has it that a few years ago, several soldiers painted chess boards on human-headed winged bull statues and were soon punished by going to work in the quarry.

20-gram play, wood and shells, 2600-2400 BCE

victory parade

It has been said that the Assyrian war machine is unstoppable, capable of destroying everything in its path. As prisoners and spoils of war paraded through the streets, you were witnessing an Assyrian victory. But it was not for the faint-hearted, and the eye-opening spectacle was the victory parade that often ended with the severing of the enemy's head hanging from the city walls Up and Ending.


Nineveh was the main trading center of the Assyrian Empire, and the markets throughout the city offered many shopping opportunities, with payment usually made in silver or copper. For the most part, most larger retailers will also accept grains or dates. Many stores also accept pick-up-and-pay if a personal stamp is added as security.

Carpet-like door frame, Assyria, 645-640 B.C.

You can buy local handicrafts in the northwest of the city in the artisanal districts, best entered through Singate or Nergalgate, where Nineveh's bronzes are known for their skill and innovation, and the Assyrian woven carpets and ruffled garments are much sought after.

In the northeast part of the city, especially on the road from HalahhuGate, you can find for sale Highland markets for fresh produce and livestock. Exotic goods and bulk commodities can be found in the city's docks and surrounding merchant districts. Look out for the purple fabrics and ivory from Phoenicia (present-day Lebanon), spices from Arabia. Textiles and timber from Turkey and Iran, and wine from Syria.

Phoenician ivory statue of a human-winged bull

Assyrian literature is also famous for its literary creations, which include various stories, prayers, and epics. While the famous Assyrian Library of Barnabas ( AshurbanipalstateLibraryofAshurbanipal) Scholars Only Make an appointment to visit, but the city's many bookstores are also worth a visit.

Clay tablet with cuneiform writing, Assyrian Library of Barnabas, 7th century BC


The lavish banquets hosted by Assyrian nobility are worth seeing. At the inauguration of a new building, thousands of distinguished guests flock to the city, where they are fed and baptized in a joyous celebration . Hundreds of fat cows, thousands of sheep, and plenty of game (such as deer, ducks, pigeons, turtledoves, etc.) would be served at the banquet.

Relief of a banquet scene in the Queen's Garden of King Barnabas of Assyria, 645-635 B.C.

More modest dishes are sold at street stalls near the market and city docks. There are a variety of broths, pancakes stuffed with lamb and vegetables, cheeses, fresh fruit, honey cakes, sweets and dates from the Chaldeans. Local delicacies include nutritious grilled grasshopper skewers and five-spice grilled fish.

Silver cup decorated with gold leaf, Assyria, 750-700 B.C.

Because of the growth of craft beer, pubs are popping up all over Nineveh, but it's best to know the latest ways to claim a tip first. Local fig beers are a must-try, and the best drinking establishments are located in the northeast part of the city, near the city docks. Taverns offer live music performances. Taverns located in commercial areas have a bad reputation and are best avoided after dark. Wine lovers should go to the northwestern part of the city, near the wealthy districts, where it is customary to drink from bronze and silver bowls. The full-bodied red wines from the cellars of the kingdom of Urartu are also worth tasting.

Practical information.


Although silver, copper and barley "loans" are available at competitive prices in most major temples. However, try not to default on your loan as you may be charged a penalty of over 1000% and suffer humiliation.

Buying a Home

If you are attracted to this wonderful city, consider investing in a property here. All you need to buy a property is a personal stamp and at least two witnesses, and payment is usually made in silver. You can also buy land and build your own house - but you must make sure you don't encroach on the Royal Mile, or you could be sentenced to death.

Local Laws and Customs

Despite its large size, Nineveh is a relatively safe place for tourists. The crime rate in Ninewa is very low due to severe penalties. Violation of state property, theft and kidnapping are usually punishable by stoning. Visitors to the area should always respect local laws.

A 1902 photograph shows a shallow relief bull at the site of ancient Babylon.

This was a 7th century B.C. tourist guide to Nineveh, and the exuberant Assyrian Empire didn't know it at the time. in 612 B.C.. The joint siege of the Iranian highland power of Mydia and the newly emerging kingdom of Neo-Babylon succeeded in capturing Nineveh. The Assyrian Empire officially fell in 605 B.C. and Nineveh fell with it. What is even less expected is that now, 2600 years later, this "paradise on earth" was once the scene of war and turmoil, and that the thousand-year-old The monuments are still no match for ignorance and warfare.

The arches of the Temple of Bel in Palmyra before they were destroyed by the extremist group Islamic State (IS).

The Temple of Bel in Palmyra, Syria, destroyed by the extremist group Islamic State.

The Iraqi-American artist Michael Rakowitz's work, based on the bull with the human head and wings, is on the fourth pedestal in Trafalgar Square, London.

Note: This article was compiled from the British Museum by Gareth Brereton, Curator of Ancient Mesopotamia at the British Museum.

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