Sunday, March 3, 2013

The fall of Nineveh

The Fall of Nineveh
John Martin (1789-1854)
Image John Martin Gallery
The happy ending of the city of Nineveh in the Book of Jonah is in stark contrast to the historical reality. The fall of the great city in 612 before the birth of Christ is among the deep tragedies in the history of humanity.

Wikipedia summarizes
Nineveh's greatness was short-lived. In around 627 BC after the death of its last great king Ashurbanipal, the Neo-Assyrian empire began to unravel due to a series of bitter civil wars, and Assyria was attacked by its former vassals, the Babylonians and Medes.

From about 616 BC, in a coalition with the Scythians and Cimmerians, they besieged Nineveh, sacking the town in 612 BC, after which it was razed to the ground. Most of the people in the city who could not escape to the last Assyrian strongholds in the north and west were either massacred or deported out of the city. Many unburied skeletons were found by the archaeologists at the site.

The Assyrian empire then came to an end by 605 BC, the Medes and Babylonians dividing its colonies between them.

Following the defeat in 612 BC, the site remained largely unoccupied for centuries with only a scattering of Assyrians living amid the ruins until the Sassanian period, although Assyrians continue to live in the surrounding area to this day.

The city is mentioned again in the Battle of Nineveh in 627 AD, which was fought between the Eastern Roman Empire and the Sassanian Empire of Persia near the ancient city. From the Arab conquest 637 CE until modern time the city of Mosul on the opposite bank of the river Tigris became the successor of ancient Nineveh.

"The best recounting of the actual battle is taken from the excepts of Persica written by Ctesias, preserved in Diodorus Siculus and Photius, whose account may have been embroidered with accounts of other battles." For additional facts read also the main article on the Battle of Nineveh from wikipedia.

Today, Nineveh's ruins are across the river from the modern-day major city of Mosul, in the Ninawa Governorate of Iraq.

Comment on dating of the Book of Jonah
In light of the utter desolation of Nineveh in Persian period and the dominance of Babylon a 7th century date for the writing of the Book of Jonah would look natural, wouldn't it?

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