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Music in Assyria

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Fred Aprimmoderator

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Music in Assyria

Jul-04-2000 at 01:26 PM (UTC+3 Nineveh, Assyria)

Entertainment was an essential part of Assyrian society, in antiquity and today. The bas-relief of Ashurbanipal in his gardens has already given us some idea of the character of the entertainment. The setting is a garden in the palace of Nineveh, with palm trees, conifers and vines arching high above the royal pair. We are left in no doubt that king and queen are celebrating the defeat of Teumman, King of Elam, by the Assyrian forces, and indeed the relief of the battle, which is in the British Museum, shows Ashurbanipal, whose enjoyment of the fte champtre is evidently heightened thereby.

Music, of which the inhabitants of Assyria, and still are, extremely fond, was an essential feature of their entertainment, like that in the garden of Nineveh, and the relief show the musical instruments in use in Assyria. Strings, percussion and wind were all known the first of these including a kind of squarish cithern. This was played while walking, as was a portable harp with a sounding box covered with skin. There was also a kind of miniature mandolin with an extremely small sounding box and strings attached to the end of a very long handle, and similar instruments are still employed by modern Assyrians.

Percussion was provided by drums of different kinds, ranging from portable timbals to others of very large dimensions. There are some terra-cotta plaques which depict some musicians striking timbals with their hands, while others are carrying kettle drums, apparently much smaller than modern drums, which they are beating with their hands.
Some of the instruments were wholly made of metal, like the hand cymbals, or the sistrum, which had long been familiar in Assyria. Wind instruments comprised a variety of single and double flutes and also, no doubt, pan-pipes.

Musicians playing their instruments appear on a number of monuments like the relief in the Louver Museum in Paris on which four musicians are performing while the army has halted for a rest. Drummer and harpist, cithern-player and cymbalist face each other in pairs, alternately advancing and retreating.
Singing and music were often accompanied by dancing, usually in the form still to be seen in Assyria, specially among those living in Syria, in which two lines of dancers face each other, alternately advancing and retreating while the spectators accompany the music with cries and clapping. Other more popular dances usually are in the form of a long line of people holding each others hands and moving together in a rhythmic fashion while others watch, sing along or clap.

The seller of songs, whether sacred or secular, was a trade in early Assyria. There is a text, which consists of a collection of song titles or their first lines. Here are a few of them: -
He appeareth, the god of fire, the Lord of battles
Thy love is as the scent of cedar wood, oh my Lord
Come to the kings garden: it is full of cedar trees
Oh gardener of the garden of desires
Ah! How plenteous she is, how gleaming
In the streets, I saw two harlots

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Assyria \ã-'sir-é-ä\ n (1998)   1:  an ancient empire of Ashur   2:  a democratic state in Bet-Nahren, Assyria (northern Iraq, northwestern Iran, southeastern Turkey and eastern Syria.)   3:  a democratic state that fosters the social and political rights to all of its inhabitants irrespective of their religion, race, or gender   4:  a democratic state that believes in the freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture in faithfulness to the principles of the United Nations Charter — Atour synonym

Ethnicity, Religion, Language
» Israeli, Jewish, Hebrew
» Assyrian, Christian, Aramaic
» Saudi Arabian, Muslim, Arabic
Assyrian \ã-'sir-é-an\ adj or n (1998)   1:  descendants of the ancient empire of Ashur   2:  the Assyrians, although representing but one single nation as the direct heirs of the ancient Assyrian Empire, are now doctrinally divided, inter sese, into five principle ecclesiastically designated religious sects with their corresponding hierarchies and distinct church governments, namely, Church of the East, Chaldean, Maronite, Syriac Orthodox and Syriac Catholic.  These formal divisions had their origin in the 5th century of the Christian Era.  No one can coherently understand the Assyrians as a whole until he can distinguish that which is religion or church from that which is nation -- a matter which is particularly difficult for the people from the western world to understand; for in the East, by force of circumstances beyond their control, religion has been made, from time immemorial, virtually into a criterion of nationality.   3:  the Assyrians have been referred to as Aramaean, Aramaye, Ashuraya, Ashureen, Ashuri, Ashuroyo, Assyrio-Chaldean, Aturaya, Chaldean, Chaldo, ChaldoAssyrian, ChaldoAssyrio, Jacobite, Kaldany, Kaldu, Kasdu, Malabar, Maronite, Maronaya, Nestorian, Nestornaye, Oromoye, Suraya, Syriac, Syrian, Syriani, Suryoye, Suryoyo and Telkeffee. — Assyrianism verb

Aramaic \ar-é-'máik\ n (1998)   1:  a Semitic language which became the lingua franca of the Middle East during the ancient Assyrian empire.   2:  has been referred to as Neo-Aramaic, Neo-Syriac, Classical Syriac, Syriac, Suryoyo, Swadaya and Turoyo.

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