What's New in Rick Steves'
Paris 2004 Guidebook
|Great museums like the Louvre give us fascinating glimpses into Europe's history and the rest of our planet as well.|
By Gene Openshaw
Rick Steves and his researchers spent more than three months in Europe this year updating Rick's guidebooks and discovering new "Back Doors." The following is new information about the 2,000 years of Iraq history included in the Louvre Tour chapter of Rick Steves' Paris 2004 written by long-time collaborator Gene Openshaw:
Oriental Antiquities (Antiquites Orientales)
Saddam Hussein is only the latest iron-fisted, palace-building conqueror to fall in Iraq's long history, which stretches back to the dawn of civilization. Civilization began 6,000 years ago in Iraq, between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, in the area called the Fertile Crescent.
In the Louvre's Richelieu Wing, you can sweep quickly through 2,000 years of Iraq's history. See how each new civilization toppled the previous one pulling down their statues, destroying their palaces, looting their cultural heritage, and replacing it with victory monuments of their own.
Stela of the Vultures, 2450 B.C. (Stele de victoire d'Eannatum, roi
As old as the pyramids, this stela (ceremonial stone pillar) may be the oldest pictorial depiction of a historical event the battle between the city of Lagash (100 miles north of modern Basra) and its arch-rival Umma.
Bearded King Eannatum waves the eagle flag of Lagash with one hand, while with the other he clubs a puny enemy soldier trapped in a battle net, making his enemies pledge allegiance to Lagash's gods.
Circle around to the flip side of the stela for the rest of the story, "reading" from top to bottom. Top level: A phalanx of helmeted soldiers advances behind their shields, trampling the enemy. They pile the corpses (right) while vultures swoop down from above to pluck the remains. Middle level: The king waves to the crowd from his chariot in the victory parade. Bottom level: They dig a mass grave while a priest gives thanks to the gods. A tethered ox is about to become a burnt sacrifice.
The inscription on the stela is in cuneiform, the world's first written language, invented by the Sumerians.
Ebih-Il, c. 2400 BC
Bald, bearded, blue-eyed Ebih-il (his name is inscribed on his shoulder) sits in his fleece skirt, folds his hands reverently across his chest and gazes rapturously at...Ishtar. Ebih-il was a priest in the goddess Ishtar's temple, and the statue is dedicated to her.
Ishtar was the chief goddess of many Middle Eastern peoples. As goddess of both Love and War, she was a favorite of horny soldiers. She was both a giver of life (this statue is dedicated "to Ishtar the virile") yet also miraculously a virgin, a great hunter with bow and arrow, and a great lover ("Her lips are sweet... her figure is beautiful, her eyes are brilliant... women and men adore her," sang the Hymn to Ishtar, c. 1600 BC).
Ebih-il adores her eternally with his eyes made of seashells and lapis lazuli. The smile on his face reflects the pleasure the goddess has just given him, perhaps through one of the sacred prostitutes who resided in Ishtar's Temple.
Gudea, Prince of Lagash
Gudea (ruled 2141-2122), in his wool stocking cap, folds his hands and prays to the gods to save them from invading barbarians. One of Sumeria's last great rulers, he rebuilt temples (where these statues once stood) to thank the gods for their help.
Stela of Naram-Sin (Stele de victoire de Naram-Sim, roi d'Akkad)
Sumeria was plundered (c. 2250) as the Akkadians became the new king of the mountain. Here, King Naram-Sin climbs up to the sunny heavens, crowned with the horned helmet of a god. His soldiers look up to admire him as he tramples his enemies. Next to him, a victim tries to remove a spear from his neck while another pleads to the conqueror for mercy.
The Code of Hammurabi, c. 1760 BC
Hammurabi (reigned c. 1792-1750 BC) established the next great civilization, ruling as King of Babylon (50 miles south of modern Baghdad). He established 282 laws, inscribed on this 8-foot black basalt stela, perhaps the first formal legal document.
At the top of the stela, Hammurabi (standing and wearing Gudea's hat of kingship) receives the scepter of judgment from the god of justice and the sun, who radiates flames from his shoulders. The inscription begins, "When Anu the Sublime...called me, Hammurabi, by name...I did right, and brought about the well-being of the oppressed."
Next come the laws, covering very specific situations, on everything from lying, theft, and trade to marriage and medical malpractice. Here's a sampling:
#1: If any man ensnare another falsely, he shall be put to death.
#57: If your sheep graze another man's land, you must repay 20 gur of grain.
#129: If a couple is caught in adultery, they shall both be tied up and thrown in the water.
#137: If you divorce your wife, you must pay alimony and child support.
#218: A surgeon who bungles an operation shall have his hands cut off.
#282: If a slave shall say, "You are not my master," the master can cut off his ear.
The most quoted laws summing up the spirit of ancient Middle Eastern justice are #196 ("If a man put out the eye of another man, his eye shall be put out") and #200 (a tooth for a tooth).
Palace of Sargon II
The Assyrian king spared no expense on his palace (see various reconstructions on plaques in Salle 4). In Assyrian society, the palace and the king not the temple and the gods were the focus of life, and each ruler demonstrated his authority with large residences.
Sargon II actually built a whole new city for his palace, just north of the traditional capital of Nineveh (modern-day Mosul). He called it Dur Sharrukin ("Sargonburg"), and its dimensions were 4,000 cubits by oh, excuse me it covered about 150 acres (or about 150 football fields pieced together). The whole city was built on a raised, artificial mound, and the palace itself sat even higher, surrounded by walls, with courtyards, temples, the king's residence, and a pyramidal temple tower dedicated to the god Sin.
Winged Bulls, c. 710 BC
These 30-ton, 14-foot alabaster bulls with human faces once guarded the entrance to the throne room of the Assyrian King Sargon II. A visitor to the palace back then could have looked over the bulls' heads and seen a 15-story ziggurat (a stepped-pyramid temple) towering overhead. The winged bulls were guardian spirits to keep out demons and intimidate liberals.
Between their legs is a cuneiform inscription: "I Sargon, King of
the Universe, built palaces for my royal residence... I had winged
bulls with human heads carved from great blocks of mountain stone, and
I placed them at the doors facing the four winds as powerful divine guardians...
My creation was worthy of great admiration."
o We'll see a few relief panels from the palace, working counter-clockwise around the room. Start with the panel just to the left of the two big bulls.
Panel of Sargon II and a Dignitary
Sargon II (reigned 721-705 BC), wearing a fez-like crown with a cone on the top and straps down the back, holds his staff and receives a foreign ambassador who's come to pay tribute. Sargon controlled a vast empire, consisting of modern-day Iraq and extending westward to the Mediterranean and Egypt.
Before becoming emperor, Sargon was a conquering general who invaded Israel (2 Kings 17:1-6). After a three year siege, he took Jerusalem and deported much of the population, inspiring the legends of the "Lost" Ten Tribes. The prophet Isaiah saw him as God's tool to punish the sinful Israelites, "to seize loot and snatch plunder, and to trample them down like mud in the streets" (Isaiah 10:6).
Transport of the Cedars of Lebanon (Transport du bois de cedre du
Boats carry the finest-quality logs for Sargon's palace, crossing a wavy sea populated with fish, turtles, crabs, and mermen.
Scenes of Court Life
The brown, eroded gypsum panels we see were originally painted and varnished. The panels read like a comic strip, showing the king's men parading in to serve him.
First, bearded warriors sheath their swords and fold their hands reverently. A winged spirit prepares them to enter the king's presence by shaking a pine cone to anoint them with holy perfume. Next, servants hurry to the throne room with the king's dinner, carrying his table, chair, and bowl. Other servants bring in horses and the king's chariots.
From Sargon to Saddam
Sargon II's great empire dissolved over the next few generations. When the Babylonians revolted and conquered their northern neighbors (612 BC), the whole Middle East applauded. As the Bible put it: "Nineveh is in ruins who will mourn for her?... Everyone who hears the news claps his hands at your fall, for who has not felt your endless cruelty?" (Nahum 3:7, 19).
The new capital was Babylon (50 miles south of modern Baghdad), ruled by King Nebuchadnezzar, who conquered Judea (586 BC the Bible's Babylonian Captivity") and built a palace with the Hanging Gardens, one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
Over the succeeding centuries, Babylon/Baghdad fell to Persians (539 BC), Greeks (Alexander the Great, 331 BC), Persians again (2nd century BC), Arab Muslims (A.D. 634), Mongol hordes (Genghis Khan's grandson, 1258), Iranians (1502), Ottoman Turks (1535), British-controlled kings (1921), and military regimes (1958), the most recent headed by Saddam Hussein (1979).
In A.D. 2003, five thousand years of invasions, violence, and regime change finally came to an end when peace, prosperity, and democracy were established in Iraq by the President of the United States of America, George W. Bush.