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A History of Art for Beginners and Students

And near by was an important gateway


We learn that the Assyrians made their religion a prominent part of their lives. The inscriptions of the kings begin and end with praises and prayers to their gods, and on all occasions religious worship is spoken of as a principal duty. We know that the monarchs devoted much care to the temples, and built new ones continually; but it also appears from the excavations that have been made that they devoted the best of their art and the greatest sum of their riches to the palaces of their kings. The temple was far less splendid than the palace to which it was attached as a sort of appendage. This was undoubtedly due to the fact that the Assyrian kings received more than the monarchs of any other ancient people divine honors while still living; so that the palace was regarded as the actual dwelling of a god. The inner ornamentation of the temples was confined to religious subjects represented on sculptured slabs upon the walls, but no large proportion of the wall was decorated, and the rest was merely plastered and painted in set figures. The gateways and entrances were guarded by sacred figures of colossal bulls, or lions (Fig. 16), and covered with inscriptions; there was a similarity between the palace entrances and those of the temples.


The palaces were always built on artificial platforms, which were made of solid brick or stone, or else the outside walls of the platforms were built of these substances and the middle part filled in with dirt and rubbish. Sometimes the platforms, which were from twenty to thirty feet high, were in terraces and flights of steps led up and down from one to another. It also happened that more than one palace was erected on the same platform; thus the size and form of the platforms was much varied, and when palaces were enlarged the platforms were changed also, and their shape was often very irregular. The tops of the platforms were paved with stone slabs or bricks, the last being sometimes as much as two feet square; the pavements were frequently ornamented with artistic designs (Fig. 17), and inscriptions are also found upon them.


At the lower part of the platform there was a terrace on which several small buildings were usually placed, and near by was an important gateway, or, more properly, a propylaeum, through which every one must pass who entered the palace from the city. The next cut (Fig. 18) shows one of these grand entrances decorated with the human-headed bulls and the figure of what is believed to be the Assyrian Hercules, who is most frequently represented in the act of strangling a lion. Much rich ornament was lavished on these portals, and the entrance space was probably protected by an arch.

Below these portals, quite down on a level with the city, there were outer gateways, through which one entered a court in front of the ascent to the lower terrace.

[Illustration: FIG. 19.--PLAN OF PALACE, KHORSABAD.]

The principal apartments of the palaces were the courts, the grand halls, and the small, private chambers. The fine palaces had several courts each; they varied from one hundred and twenty by ninety feet, to two hundred and fifty by one hundred and fifty feet in size, and were paved in the same way as the platforms outside (Fig. 19).

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