[Illustration: PLATE 89]
We must conclude from these facts that the Assyrians had made considerable advances in mechanical knowledge, and were, in fact, acquainted, more or less, with most of the contrivances whereby heavy weights have commonly been moved and raised among the civilized nations of Europe. We have also evidence of their skill in the mechanical processes of shaping pottery and glass, of casting and embossing metals, and of cutting intaglios upon hard stones. Thus it was not merely in the ruder and coarser, but likewise in the more delicate processes, that they excelled. The secrets of metallurgy, of dyeing, enamelling, inlaying, glass-blowing, as well as most of the ordinary manufacturing processes, were known to them. In all the common arts and appliances of life, they must be pronounced at least on a par with the Egyptians, while in taste they greatly exceeded, not that nation only, but all the Orientals. Their “high art” is no doubt much inferior to that of Greece; but it has real merit, and is most remarkable considering the time when it was produced. It has grandeur, dignity, boldness, strength, and sometimes even freedom and delicacy; it is honest and painstaking, unsparing of labor, and always anxious for truth. Above all, it is not lifeless and stationary, like the art of the Egyptians and the Chinese, but progressive and aiming at improvement. To judge by the advance over previous works which we observe in the sculptures of the son of Esarhaddon, it would seem that if Assyria had not been assailed by barbaric enemies about his time, she might have anticipated by above a century the finished excellence of the Greeks.
MANNERS AND CUSTOMS.
“Whose arrows are sharp, and all their bows bent, their horses’ hoofs shall be counted like flint, and their wheels like a whirlwind.”—ISA. v. 28.
In reviewing, so far as our materials permit, the manners and customs of the Assyrians, it will be convenient to consider separately their warlike and their peaceful usages. The sculptures furnish very full illustration of the former, while on the latter they throw light far more sparingly.