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The Assyrian Legacy...
Mesopotamia. Inventors. Warriors. These are the
common "buzz words" Assyrians commonly use when describing their
heritage. Yet these simple words cannot begin to describe the legacy of
the descendants from the cradle of civilization. Our forefathers
originated from a land rich with natural resources, the land formed by
the two river valleys of the Tigris and Euphrates. Food production in
the Fertile Crescent rendered a settlement of, and later a migration to
the area dating back well into the sixth millennium. In turn, irrigation
techniques, pottery and
cloth production, building methods and copper
workings developed as villages and towns expanded. The lack of natural
protective boundaries drove Assyrians to become effective sodiers and
military leaders. Fortification walls tell us that there were risks of
attacks from the outside, hence the development of warfare and strategic
planning. This surge in population necessitated social organization,
laws and legislation, and defense tactics so as to protect private
property (evidenced by stamp-seals that were used to mark ownership) and
minimize potential conflicts in the region. The Assyrian empire
flourished as a result of its implementation of a network of
administrative officials, methods of diplomacy and of course, military
One of the most important contributions by the Assyrians
to world history was their policy of deportation of conquered populations; its
long term significance was racial mixing. This process inevitably paved the way
for a growing cultural unification of the entire area, thereby affecting the
subsequent history of the Near East.
Assyriologist Saggs feels that this amalgamation provided a homogeneous
environment which made hellenization possible after Alexander, which in
turn contributed to the spread of Christianity, and later, the spread of
Islam as well. The Assyrians, as rich and powerful as they were, never
considered themselves exclusive nor self-sufficient. Assyrians never
legislated against foreigners, rather they fostered trade with other
peoples. In fact, Assyrians were always open minded and willing to
study, accept and adopt new ideas, methods and skills from abroad. The
unifying factors which preserved the Assyrian culture were language and
religion. The Assyrian language, a dialect of Akkadian, written in
cuneiform and preserved on clay tablets, documents, myths, epics, laws,
astronomical observations, mathematical problems, historical records,
business contracts and more. In ancient Mesopotamia every city had its
own god who was thought of as a being in human form, Ashur being the
foremost national god. Each citizen saw himself in a society where all
the authorities to whom he was subordinate were in the last resort
representatives of a single power-source, the king. Furthermore, all the
gods in this divine world were in the last resort manifestations of, and
accountable to a single god who embraced all the divine powers.
Farming, animal herding and trade were the primary vocations of the Assyrians. The breeding of animals served two purposes: food and land transport. The economy utilized metals, land and grains as media of exchange. Credit practices were also used to facilitate trade, where silver was advanced and later repaid in the form of commodities, sometimes with interest! In Assyria, the marketplace, not government, dictated the price of goods. With trade came the development of technology and a thirst for knowledge which ultimately led to Assyria?s great contributions to society, e.g. a system of roadways and an efficient postal system.
As a result of its geographic position, Assyria served as a forum for international trade. Communities that were not self-contained economically and were vulnerable to crop failure depended upon the surpluses of their neighbors. Hence the direct link between trade and war in ancient Assyria. The abundance of copper, bronze and iron in the region prompted the development of weapons, tools, utensils and even shoes for horses! Assyrians were truly great innovators and masters of their environment. Assyrians were proponents of chemical technology: food preparation utilized heat processes, chemical processes preserved meat by pickling and microbiological processes, using enzymes, bacteria and fungi produced beer, wine, yogurt and cheese. Other chemical processes include glass-making, perfume-making, dyeing, tanning and the preparation of alkalis and soap.
In the arts and sciences, Assyrians exhibited
great talents. From the ground plans of temples and palaces, through
furniture, jewelry, carved ivories and cylinder seals, to sculptures,
wall paintings and reliefs, Assyrians have made a significant
contribution to the humanities. Assyrian astrology related primarily to
affairs of the state, and its predictions were arrived at by applying
traditional interpretations to current events in the heavens, such as
eclipses, rings around the moon or positions of the planets. Assyrian
medicine was comprised of oils, wine, salt and plants. These natural
products were used to alleviate symptoms and cure aliments.
As Nineveh replaced the old Assyrian capital of
Ashur in political and commercial importance, Sennacherib set out to
rebuild the city and make it the new capital. Evidence of small private
individual dwellings signified the importance of family in the social
structure, which was patriarchal in both legal and social aspects. Town
planning, architectural innovations, heating methods, sanitation and the
development of infrastructure were all incorporated in this massive
engineering project...the remains of which are still visible today.
Our history illustrates a people with great vigor,
motivation and conviction. The fact that we remain a people to this day is
indicative of our Assyrian nature. We must recognize the fruitful achievements
and astounding legacy of our forefathers and build upon them. Our ancestors
learned and absorbed from their neighbors in order to strengthen their empire.
In turn, we must continue to strive for intellectual excellence...for it is in
knowledge that lies the power to become a nation united.
Alina F. Sargiss
THE FOLLOWING ARTICLES ARE BROUGHT
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İGRAFEEX , 1993 - 1997. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
The AssyrianInfo is in the
process of gathering and presenting more biographies as they become
available to our staff. The objective is to
build a complete reference directory.
The Following Pages Will Soon Be Available Here
Art Museum *Assyrian
*Assyrian Links *Assyrian Names