What is Nineveh?
(perhaps dwelling of Nin), the capital and greatest city of Assyria. Situation. - The city was founded by Asshur, Gen 10:11, and was situated on the eastern bank of the river Tigris, opposite the modern town of Mosul. It was about 250 miles in a direct line north of the rival city of Babylon, and not far from 550 miles north-west of the Persian Gulf. Extent. - Assyrian scholars are not agreed in respect to the size of this ancient city. Some, as Layard, regard it as covering a large parallelogram, whose sides were each from 18 to 20 miles long, and the ends 12 to 14 miles wide. This view would include the ruins now known as Kouyunjik, Nimrud, Khorsabad, and Keremles. Diodorus Siculus makes the circumference of the city 55 miles, including pastures and pleasure-grounds. See article Assyria, p. 82. This view of the great extent of the city is, on the other hand, sharply disputed by Rawlinson, who thinks it highly improbable that this ancient city should have had an area about ten times that of London. He would reject it on two grounds, the one historical and the other topographical. He maintains that the ruins of Khorsabad, Keremles, Nimrud, and Kouyunjik bear on their bricks distinct local titles, and that these titles are found attaching to distant cities in the historical inscriptions. According to his view, Nimrud would be identified with Calah, and Khorsabad with Dur-sargina, or "the city of Sargon." He further claims that Assyrian writers do not consider these places to be parts of Nineveh, but distinct and separate cities; that Calah was for a long time the capital, while Nineveh was a provincial town; that Dur-sargina was built by Sargon - not at Nineveh, but near Nineveh; and that Scripture similarly distinguishes Calah as a place separate from Nineveh, and so far from it that there was room for a great city between them. See Gen 10:12. He also suggests that a smaller city in extent would answer the requirements of the description in the book of Jonah, which makes it a city of "three days' journey." Jon 3:3. He would limit its extent, therefore, to the ruins immediately opposite Mosul, including two principal mounds, known as Nebi-Yunus and Kouyunjik. The latter mound, which lies about half a mile north-west of the former, is the larger of the two. In shape it is an irregular oval, the sides, sloping at a steep angle, furrowed with numerous ravines, worn out by the rains of thirty centuries. The greatest height of the mound is about 95 feet, and it is estimated to cover an area of 100 acres. The other mound, Nebi-Yunus, is triangular in shape, loftier in height, with more precipitous sides than the other mound, and covers an area of about 40 acres. The reputed tomb of Jonah is on the western side of the mound, while the eastern portion forms a burial-ground for Mohammedans. Nergal's Emblem, the Man-Lion. From Fairbairn. History. - As already stated, Nineveh was founded by Asshur, or, as the marginal reading of Gen 10:11 states, Nimrod. When Nineveh became the capital of Assyria is not definitely known, but it is generally believed it was during the reign of Sennacherib. The prophecies of the books of Jonah and Nahum are chiefly directed against this city. The latter prophet indicates the mode of its capture. Nah 1:8; Am 2:6, Deut 2:8; Nah 3:18. Nineveh was the capital of Assyria during the height of the grandeur of that empire, and in the time of Sennacherib, Esarhaddon, and Assurbanipal. It was besieged for two years by the combined forces of the Medes and Babylonians, was captured, and finally destroyed b.c. 606. Ruins. -According to George Smith, Nineveh is now represented by the mounds of Kouyunjik or Telarmush, Nebi-Yunus, and some surrounding remains. The circuit of the walls, including these ruins, measures about 8 miles. The palace-mounds are on the side next to the river Tigris. Excavations have been made by M. Botta, Layard, Hormuzd Rassam, Loftus, and George Smith. They have brought to light, among others, the following noted buildings: (1) Three ruined temples, built and restored by many kings in different ages; (2) the palace of Shalmaneser, as improved by subsequent rulers; (3) a palace of another ruler, restored by Sennacherib and Esarhaddon: (4) a palace of Tiglath-pileser II.; (5) a temple of Nebo:(6j the south-west palace of Sennacherib; (7) the north-west palace of the same ruler; (8) the city walls built by the latter king and restored by Assurbanipal. For further accounts see Assyria and George Smith's Assyrian Discoveries (N.Y., 1875).