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to his own computations, the Assyrian empire began as above, A. M. 2771, he was absurd indeed; for all writers have unanimously agreed to place Semiramis near the beginning of the empire; but this would be to suppose her in the later ages of it. Sir Isaac Newton himself, who begins the empire with Pul, places Semiramis in the reign of Tiglath-Pileser, whom he supposes to be Pul's successor;* and certainly Herodotus must likewise intend to place her near the times where he begins the empire, as all other writers ever did; and indeed, the works he ascribes to her seem to intimate that he did so too; so that I must suspect there is a misrepresentation of Herodotus' meaning. Herodotus does indeed say, that Semiramis was *sv7s ytmw before Nitocris; but the word y^a has a double acceptation. It is sometimes used to signify a generation or descent, and I am sensible
• Newton's Chronol. p. 278.
Tol. Ii. n
that Herodotus has more than once used it ip this sense; but it sometimes signifies what the Latins call jEtas, or JEvum; or we in English, an age. Now if Herodotus used it in this sense here, then he meant that Semiramis was «v7* ytwwi, quinque jctatilms, (says the Latin translator) before Nitocris; not fire generations or descents, ,hut five ages before her. The ancient writers both before and after Herodotus, computed a generation or age of those who lived in the early times, to be a hundred years. Thus they reckoned Nestor, of whom Tully says, "tertiam aetatem hominum vivebat;"" Horace, that he was "ter aevo functus,"i because it was reported that he had lived three generations or ages, to have lived about three hundred years. Ovid, well expressing the common opinion, makes him say,
A nuns bis centum, nunc tertia viviturarfas. *
i: Lib. de Senectute. * Lib. 2. Ode II.
'Metamorph. lib. 12.
The two ages or generations which he had lived, were computed to be about two hundred years; and he was thought to be going on for the third century. Now, if Herodotus in the place before us used the word *»t«i in this sense, then by Scmiramis being five ages or generations before Nictoris, he meant nothing like what our learned author infer;! from him; but that she was about five hundred years before her. I might add, this seems most probably to be his meaning: because, if we take him in this sense, he will, as all other writers have ever done, place Scmiramis near the time where he begins the Assyrian empire. I have formerly considered Herodotus' opinion, about the rise of this empire, as to the truth of it,1 and I may here from the most learned Dean Prtdeaux add," that " Herodotus having tra-. veiled through Kgypt, Syria, and several other countries, in order to write his history, did, as travellers usually do, put down all re
1 Preface to vol. i.
"Connection, vol. i. book li, puge 15G.
lations upon trust, as he metwith them; and no doubt he was imposed on in many of them," and particularly in the instance before us; but Ctesias living in the court of Persia, and searching the public registers, was able to give a better account than Herodotus, of the Assyrian kings. But whether Herodotus' account be true or false, the whole of it, I am sure, does not favour our learned author's hypothesis; nor, as I apprehend, does the particular cited about Semiramis, if we take the words of Herodotus according to his own meaning.
3. Sir Isaac Newton cites Nehemiah, chap. x. ver. 32.* The words are Now9
therefore, our God Let not all the
trouble seem little before thee, that hath come upon us, on our kings, on our princes^ and on our priests, and on our prophets, and on our fathers, and on all thy people, since the time of the Icings of Assyria unto this day. Our learned author says, since the time of the kings of Assyria—" that is, since
"Newton's Chron. p. 267.
the time of the kingdom of Assyria, or since the rise of that empire; and therefore the Assyrian empire arose, when the kings of Assyria began to afflict the Jews." In answer to this objection, I would observe, that the expression, since the time of the kings of Assyria, or, to render it more strictly, according to the Hebrew words, from the days of the kings of Assyria, is very general, and may signify a time commencing from any part of their times; therefore it is restraining the expression purely to serve a hypothesis, to suppose that the words mean, not from their times in general, but from the very rise or beginning of their times. The heathen writers frequently used a like general expression, the Trojan times, *?" TwTjMXdv, before the Trojan times, is an expression both of Thucydides and Diodorus Siculus;"- yet neither of them meant by it, before the rise of the Trojan peo
"Thucyd. 1. 1. p. 3. Diodor. lib. 1. p. 4, and the same author uses tm ran Tguixuy in the same sense, ibid.