Notes on the translation of the book “The Discoveries of Nineveh and Babylon” by Henry Layard

Muhammad Hassan Allawi translated my book by British archaeologist and traveler Austin Henry Layard, who began his travels in 1848, wrote it down in 1853, and issued it in New York in 1853, entitled “The Discoveries of Nineveh and Babylon.” He also translated a pamphlet by the same author entitled “The Court of Nineveh in the Crystal Palace Library.” About Dar Al-Mamoun in the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Antiquities, the first in 2019, and the second in 2021. The first book is one of the books of important British travels and excavations in Mesopotamia; There is a book by the author entitled “The Discoveries of the Ruins of Nineveh and Babylon, with Trips to Armenia, Kurdistan and the Desert: Austin Henry Layard, Translated by Shirin Ibish and Ahmed Ibish, Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Tourism 2012. I think it is the same book, and I have seen it previously, and that is why the translator did not provide any information about it.” A sign, so that the Iraqi reader does not know that or the Iraqi official in the Ministry of Culture.


First of all, I don’t care about the translator’s name or how many books he has translated, but rather I care about his translation, his control of the text, his comments on the translation and his specialized explanations, especially introducing cities, towns, personalities and tribes, not as the translator acted in translating this important and vital book in the history and civilizations of Iraq, the translator acted as if he knew In everything, although he did not have knowledge of the subject of the book, such as rural and Bedouin words, nor the accuracy in translating names and terms, as a result he fell into many mistakes. The book did not include an adequate introduction to the biography of the author, and the book was not presented to a committee or competent references specialized in archeology, to clarify these lapses and unify the names.

The publisher’s word (Dar al-Ma’moon) was shy and short, indicating his ignorance of the subject. As for the translator’s word, it focused on the author (Layard 1817-1894), as he said about him: “Layard continues in this book, which is in twenty-six chapters, to present the excavations and the discovery of important monuments.” (The Discoveries of Nineveh and Babylon: Austin Henry Layard, translated by Muhammad Hassan Allawi, Dar Al-Mamoun, Public Cultural Affairs House Press – Baghdad, 2019) He did not mention to us what Layard’s works were, what was translated from them and what was not translated! Rather, we have increased ambiguity, as is the author’s introduction in which he says: “Since the publication of my first work on the discoveries of Nineveh, great progress has been made in deciphering cuneiform writing.” The book (The Road to Nineveh: Nora Kobe, translated by Muhammad Al-Ani series, Dar Al-Mamoun, Baghdad 1998) can be found.
Although the author focused on (Nineveh) in his excavations, he paid a clear interest in the antiquities he saw near Lake Van and the areas of Deir ez-Zor in the upper Euphrates, although he visited Babylon and many places, because the effects of Nineveh are late and related to the Torah and the Jewish prophets. Especially the Prophet Yunus (John), hence his insistence on many topics to compare them with the Bible.

Bulk Errors

We find confusion in many translations of names and places that he quoted from the writer, but he was unable to understand and translate them in an exact manner, as in “Khalath” in “The Triangle” and sometimes in “Mathana” and he called it first a village, then a city, then he called it “Khilat”. The translator did not make any observations, as the compiler said: “The ancient city of Khilat was the capital of the Armenian province of Biznouni, and it was subjected to the authority of the Muslims as early as the nineteenth century.” Although he said at first that it was a village: “The first view that the traveler sees from above the village of Khlath, of Lake Wan, which descends towards the hills, seems very beautiful.” Then he also described it as a city, saying: “Our feet led us to the ancient gardens of the ancient city of Khalath, which have minarets and pointed shrines protruding above the trees.”
Although Layard is an archaeologist, his religious goals are clear, and the translator often neglects ambiguities, multiple adjectives, and double pronunciation of names, as in the pronunciation of the city of (Bitlis), which he mentioned as (Bitlis) and then continues on the latter; This is repeated later in many names and cities, as it is mentioned once (Tal Afar) and once (Talafar) and calls the sentences (humiliation) with the united (the signifier) ​​with the non-dotted signifier. , says the Bedouin.
He also did the same with the name (Suhaim), which is the name of an Arab poet from the strangers, so he mentioned it (Sahman, Suhaiman) and also translated (Majoul) with (Majyul), and of course he does not distinguish the style of diminutive for some people, for this reason Suhaim, Sahman, Suhaiman, Mjul and Majyul are mentioned.
And the name (Taradah), the small boat in southern Iraq, is translated as (Terada), as if he had not heard of it. Herodotus) translated Mujalabiya (meaning the upturned house), as the common people say, to (Tel Majlab, Tell Maglub, al-Kalbiyya, Maqluba, and al-Majlub). He also translated (Press) as (Byblos, Pers al-Nimrud, Belus Temple. The name of the Jewish traveler who visited Baghdad during the Abbasid era was Benjamin Benjamin). Al-Tatili with (Benjamin Tudela), and Al-Muntafiq and Al-Muntafj on one page, and he translated Lamloum with (Al-Lamouloud), a well-known tribal grouping in Iraq on a road, and translated the upholstery of the cloth into “Tanjeeb” because of its relationship to the yishmagh, and it was translated as Aisheesh, which is a Bedouin name to (Jishish) and Al-Sabbahiya with ( Al-Sabahilik), a type of the Ottoman army, translated fiqh as “Al-Qufa” and translated “Kerkysia” into “Kerkessia” as if it was translated for the Western reader, and there are many poor translations.

If you read Taha Baqir’s book “Introduction to the History of Ancient Civilizations” and his other books, and what was written by Nael Hannoun, Sami Saeed Al-Ahmad and Fadel Abdel Wahed, and with regard to the Ottoman period, what Abbas Al-Azzawi and Imad Abdel Salam Raouf wrote, he would overcome many mixtures. According to the previous perceptions, I think that this book was translated by more than one person, and it was not fully reviewed by a specialist or by the translator who put his name on it, or that the translator translated it with an automatic interpretation, through the available electronic means, and was satisfied with a general, non-discriminatory review. Scientific, and did not bother to refer it to a specialist in archeology to return it, or European trips or Ottoman history, or history in the weakest faith, and this is what confused reading the book, while this description does not fully apply to his book (The Court of Nineveh).
I made sure that these notes were about the confusion in the writer’s text and the translator’s alignment with him without investigation or scrutiny, before entering the importance of the book so that some lapses that hinder receiving and understanding the translated text could be noticed. To avoid this, as well as the case with the linguistic revision, the covenants of Abdul Wahed Abdul Sahib, the general manager, Satea Raji, and others from the work and follow-up team to alleviate this confusion.

The importance of the book

The book has political, economic and social importance, and in describing the nature of the political system in the Ottoman era, and in explaining the most important economies of the countries the researcher passed through, including the customs, traditions and fashion of the Bedouin societies he visited, as well as the situation of minorities and religions in Turkey and Iraq, such as the Kurds, Yazidis, Sabians and the various Christian groups scattered throughout Mosul, and some Iraqi cities, as well as the Armenians in Mardin and Lake Van. The Yazidis received great attention from him, as he lived with them and lived near them, participated in their celebrations and learned many secrets of their religion, especially as he visited them while they were exposed to unfortunate attacks that led to the emigration of many Among them, as stated in the book “Campaigns and Fatwas against the Yezidi Kurds in the Ottoman Era,” Daoud Murad Al-Khatali, Spirez House, Dohuk 2010.
He also refers to the relationship of the Yazidis and Christianity, as they “believe that Christ will come to rule the world, but after that Sheikh Uday will appear, who will give him a mandate, especially over those who speak the Kurdish language, including the Yazidis.” In reference to the relationship of the Savior (Christ) with the Yezidi religion, which is the heir of the Zoroastrian religion.
In addition, he was interested in Arab and non-Arab tribes, referring to the (Lar) or (Rastan) tribe, and they are closer to the Kurds (Filiya) with (Alans) who migrated forcibly or voluntarily since late times to Iraq from countries located on the borders of China, or the borders of Azerbaijan With Persia, their Persian language mixed with impurities from other languages, and one of the leaders of God was able to seize Baghdad, he is (Abu al-Qasim al-Lari), so the Baghdadis set an example with him and said (Your servants Abu al-Qasim al-Lar) in relation to his wretchedness and his enemy from the wretched of Baghdad. The Babylonian captivity of the Jews also constituted an important knot for Layard, as in his explanation of statues containing pictures, inscriptions and plans about the condition of the prisoners. The archaeological, and his description of places and human groups, so that he combines the excavation work with his tendency towards documenting his journey and daily life, and sometimes goes back to ancient dates such as the conquest of Iraq and the history of the Tay tribe and its pride in its leader Hatim Al-Ta’i. He also compared the Iraqi and Egyptian antiquities as the source of civilizations in the East. The writer concluded that there is a relationship between the Assyrian bull in opposite directions, with a cross from Malta (symbolizing the sun) and the seven stars. He concluded that there is an indication symbolizing the Assyrian worship of stars in that other symbols are used during offerings and sacred ceremonies.
The reason for believing in the existence of links between Iraq and Egypt is the presence of proud clay coffins close to the coffins of the Egyptians and Jews in Egypt, centered around the Assyrian belief about death. Perhaps it was the effect of the Assyrian occupation of Egypt and Jerusalem, because the religious belief of the Iraqis about death is related to bereavement and not to return to life or paradise; While the Egyptians believed that man would return to find near him his utensils and needs buried with him, and from here the idea of ​​the pyramids was born. The translator also translated some texts from the Epic of Gilgamesh and did not return to its well-known translations into Arabic, such as those of Taha Baqer, Nael Hanun, Sami Saeed Al Ahmad, Suhail Najm, Abdel Ghaffar Makkawi, Firas Al Sawah… and others.

Iraqi writer