Hormuzd Rassam

Hormuzd Rassam

Hormuzd Rassam (1826 – 16 September, 1910) was an Assyriologist and traveller who made a number of important discoveries, including the stone tablets that contained the "Epic of Gilgamesh", the world's oldest literature.


An ethnic Assyrian, Rassam was born in Mosul, Ottoman empire as a Chaldean Catholic to mixed cultural situation. [Damrosch, David (2006). "The Buried Book". Damrosch writes, "Rassam grew up in a mixed cultural situation. Hew as born in Mosul in 1826 as the youngest of eight children of an Iraqi father and a Syrian mother." (p. 87)] His father Anton Rassam was from Mosul and was archdeacon in the Assyrian Church of the East, his mother Theresa was daughter of Ishaak Halabee of Aleppo, Syria. [ [http://www.edessa.com/profiles/rasam.htm "Hormuzd Rassam Assyrian Archaeologist 1826-1910"] .] When he was 20 years old, he was hired by British archaeologist A.H. Layard as a pay master at a nearby dig site. Layard, who was in Mosul on his first expedition (1845-1847), was impressed by the hard-working Rassam and took him under his wing; they would remain friends for life. Layard provided an opportunity for Rassam to travel to England and study at Oxford (Magdalen College), where he stayed for 18 months before accompanying Layard on his second expedition to Iraq (1849–1851).

Layard then began a political career, and Rassam continued field work (1852–1854) at Nimrud and Kuyunjik, where he made a number of important and independent discoveries, including clay tablets that would later be deciphered by George Smith as the "Epic of Gilgamesh", the world's oldest-known example of written literature.

Rassam then returned to England and, with the help of his friend Layard, started a new career in government with a posting to the British Consulate in Aden. In 1866, an international crisis erupted in Ethiopia when British missionaries were taken hostage by Emperor Tewodros II of Ethiopia. England decided to send Rassam as an ambassador with a message from Queen Victoria in the hope of resolving the situation peacefully. However, he, too, was taken prisoner and held for two years until English and Indian troops under Robert Napier in the 1868 Expedition to Abyssinia resolved the standoff by defeating the warlord and his army. Rassam's reputation was damaged because he was unfairly portrayed as weak and ineffectual in dealing with the warlord, in large part due to systemic Victorian prejudices against "Orientals". [Damrosch, David (2006). "The Buried Book".]

His political career in ruins, Rassam resumed his archaeological work. He was sent by the British Museum to Assyria, where he conducted important investigations, especially at Nineveh. During the Russo-Turkish War, he undertook a mission of inquiry to report on the condition of the Christian communities of Asia Minor and Armenia. His archaeological work resulted in many important discoveries and the collection of valuable epigraphical evidence.

After 1882, Rassam lived mainly at Brighton, writing on Assyro-Babylonian exploration, on the Christian sects of the Near East, and on current religious controversies in England. He was a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, the Society of Biblical Archaeology, and the Victoria Institute.

One of his greatest discoveries were the clay tablets that contained the "Epic of Gilgamesh", the world's oldest literature. In addition, he found baked-clay cylinders that are considered to represent the first bill of human rights, issued by Cyrus the Great in 539 BC and referring to the Persian the capture of Babylon. Rassam's important discoveries attracted world-wide attention, and the Royal Academy of Sciences at Turin awarded him the Brazza prize of 12,000 fr. for the four years 1879-82.

His publications include: "The British Mission to Theodore, King of Abyssinia", (1869) and "Asshur and the Land of Nimrod" (1897).

Rassam married an Englishwoman, Anne Eliza Price, and became the father of 7 children. His eldest daughter, Theresa Rassam, born in 1871, was a professional singer who sang with the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company. [ [http://math.boisestate.edu/gas/whowaswho/R/RassamTheresa.htm Profile of Theresa Rassam's career with D'Oyly Carte] ]



* [http://www.edessa.com/profiles/rasam.htm Hormuzd Rassam Assyrian Archaeologist 1826-1910]
*cite book
at Google Books.
*David Damrosch (2006). "The Buried Book". ISBN 0805080295 Chapters 3 and 4 are an essential revised biography of Rassam's life.
*Mogens T Larsen (1997). "The Conquest of Assyria". ISBN 041514356X. ----

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