Babylonia the Land of Marvels
Babylonia the Land of Marvels
Across the Mesopotamian plain flows two great rivers the rise in the Armenian mountains. These two great streams flowing from different angles, finally unite and enter the Persian Gulf. Here we find a rich alluvial delta like that of the Nile. North of this flat area rises the Chaldean plain, on the Tigris side being called Assyria. It was in the rich lowlands near the confluence of the rivers that the civilization of Western Asia first developed. The Mesopotamian plain is about 250 miles in length. The numerous mounds show how thickly this region was once populated. Babylon like Egypt was a country of the scarcity of rain and depended upon the floods from the snowcapped mountains of Armenia for moisture. The flat low country was subject to overflow and the Babylonians had to like their country. Like Egypt, these landmarks swept away and the knowledge of geometry developed in replacing the ancient dividing lines. Engineering developed from the building of the large and small canals that covered the country like a network, furnishing means of communication and irrigation.
The dams of the country were very ancient and the canals that covered the plains of Shinar must have required incredible skill and labor. They excavated natural lakes more deeply and turned into them the surplus waters of the Euphrates. The earth from the canals diked the rivers. The lakes were faced with stone. These stupendous dikes and canals protected the country from overflow and watered it in seasons of drought. In later days Nitrocris, princess of Egypt, assumed the direction of the great works at Babylon. Herodotus credits her with diverting the channels of the Euphrates to make a stone bridge connecting the two divisions of the city. If in no other way, we would recognize these people as Hamitic by their gigantic engineering achievements. Such works marked all their ancient sites. In India, in Arabia, and in old Ethiopia, are to be found the ruins of similar indefatigable labors. We find lakes faced with heavy mortared stone, immense tanks as big as lakes, that stored water for irrigation. Under Turkish rule, the last vestiges of these ancient works have gone to ruin.
5000 B. C. Mesopotamia was filled with little city republics like those of Greece and Italy. So great was the fertility of the soil that according to Herodotus, the grain commonly returned two hundredfold and occasionally three hundredfold. Pliny said that wheat was cut twice from one sowing and afterward was good keep for sheep. Quintius Curtius declared that the country between the Tigris and the Euphrates was so rich that the cattle were driven from these pastures lest they are destroyed by satiety. Berosus spoke of wheat, barley, sesame, ochres, palms and many kinds of shelled fruits that grew wild, for here some of them originated. The soil needed only moderate labor to produce all that man required. It was natural that here should grow up one of the first populations of the ancient world. Everywhere we see the ancient remains of cities long gone to decay. In our day we have uncovered memorials that prove that the city of Niffer was the center of religious life for more than four thousand years. A period more than twice as long as Rome was the religious center of Catholic Christendom.
Delitzsch in describing Syria says, “As far as the eye can reach mounds may be seen of varying heights. They increase in size and number as we approach Susa. They are the remains of those ancient nations, the Hittites, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, and the Elamites. Their palaces, temples, walls and gates, terraces and towers, lie buried beneath them.” This had been a wide battlefield of the armies of Egypt and western Asia, also it was the territory across which the trading caravans of these nations found their way to India or the Mediterranean. In the earliest ages, the inhabitants of these regions were Ethiopians. Even in historical times, the nations of Persia, Assyria, Mesopotamia, and Syria were largely permeated with this Cushite blood. This race was entirely responsible for the architectural wonders, of these plains. The temples of Elam, Belbec, and Babylon were reared by the same race that built the mighty structures of India and Egypt. At this age, the Turanian race had produced no engineers and builders. The inscriptions of Persepolis are of a race and age preceding the nomadic Persians. The people of the sculptures of Nineveh are of a different lineage from the later Semitic conquerors of Nineveh. The sculptures of the Hittites and Philistines reveal the Ethiopian physiognomy.
The temples and palaces of Babylon were built upon enormous platforms high above the water soaked land. These structures were many acres in extent. They were cemented with bitumen in place of mortar made from lime. This cement has withstood the elements for ages and is superior to anything of the sort in modern masonry. The use of buttresses drains, and external ornamentation shows that architectural knowledge was already advanced. The temple with its huge masses of brickwork, rising stage upon the stage, each brilliantly painted and surmounted by a chamber, which was at once a shrine and an observatory; while the palace stood upon a heap of rubble, with open courts and imposing entrances; but never more than two or three stories high. These structures were made of sun-dried bricks. The outside was of burnt brick. These edifices have sunk down into great heaps mistaken for many centuries as hills. In the middle of the nineteenth century, many were excavated. Magnificent statutes, ruins of great buildings and extensive writings, were revealed. These Sumerian libraries written upon clay tablets were composed of mythologies, religious knowledge, legal forms, astronomical, mathematical and geographical works, revealing all developed civilization.
The material used in the body of the Babylonian structures was burnt brick of the finest and most durable quality. The mortar was so lasting that after the lapse of ages, the bricks can only be separated by heavy blows. In early structures of Babylonia, we can trace the origin of the Doric and Ionic pillars of Greece. Here Gibbon tells us the columns branched out into fantastic forms. These columns were rather an ornament than a support. Like the walls overlaid with plaster and painted with bright colors or overlaid with plates of shining metal. The rain was carried off by elaborately constructed drains, some of which afford us the earliest examples of the arch, and which occasionally consisted of leaden pipes. In Assyria sculpture was adopted instead of painting because they had not attained the brilliance of the colors used in Babylon. The Greeks probably derived this art of painting sculpture from the cultivated populations of the Euphrates. The walls of their cities were of enormous thickness. Herodotus said that the walls of Babylon were fifty-six miles in circumference, which would include an area of two hundred square miles.
The conservative estimate of Ctesias would make Babylon cover five times the area of London. These authorities said the walls were over three hundred feet high With a width of eighty-five feet. These writers were eyewitnesses. Astonishing as is their reports we know that the walls of Nineveh were one hundred and fifty feet high at the time of Xenophon. Quintius Curtius said that four-horse chariots could pass each other on them without danger. The city was entered on each side by twenty-five gates of brass and strengthened by two hundred and fifty towers. Two of the gates were so massive that they were opened and shut with a machine. From all the gates proceeded streets, every 15 miles in length. A river ran through the city from north to south. On each side was a quay as broad as the walls of the city. In these quays, they had constructed brass gates and steps leading down to the river.
A bridge of great beauty and ingenious contrivances was thrown across the river. On the western side of the city, they had excavated an immense, lake forty miles square. Herodotus said it was thirty-five feet deep. Into this lake, the river was turned until the bridge was completed. At the end of the bridge on each side was built a palace and these had subterranean connections. Babylon in those days might have been considered an enclosed district rather than a compact city. In the time of siege, food could be produced from within for the population. Perhaps the most remarkable structure in Babylon was the great temple of Belus. Its height was four hundred and eighty feet, being a few feet less than the Great Pyramid of Egypt. Its summit overtopped the city. From this height, the whole scene of the beautiful city lay spread below as a picture. The shrine on the summit of the temple had contained originally, Ridpath tells us, three colossal statutes of Bel, of Beltis and of Isthar. Here were two great centers and three golden bowls. In front of Beltis were two lions of gold and three silver serpents. These were accompanied by two huge bowls of silver. These splendid treasures were carried away at the time of the Persian conquest. When Herodotus visited the temple they were gone. In their place was a golden table and couch. A second and less pretentious shrine at the base of the temple was also despoiled by the Persians. Here had stood a colossal human figure wrought of solid gold, which was twelve cubits high.
Not as high but greater in ground dimensions was the royal palace. It was a quadrangular building with threefold ramparts of masonry. The outermost being nearly seven miles in extent. The inner wall measured more than two miles around. The basement of the palace was of almost incredible size. There were three bronze gates so heavy, as to require machinery to open and close them. Within the enclosure were constructed the famous hanging gardens of Babylon one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Nebuchadnezzar had constructed them for his Median wife Amyitis, who pined for the mountains of her native land. Babylon was flat. A rectangle was selected four hundred feet on one side. Around this space was built a series of open arches, and upon these serving as piers, other arches were erected. This vast structure was built to the height of seventy-five feet. Terraces rose until they over-topped the walls of my city. Earth was heaped to such depth that large trees could grow. Seeds were sown, flowers and shrubs were then set out and the largest trees transplanted from distant provinces and set up in all their beauty. A huge hydraulic machine was built on the banks of the Euphrates and by this means water was raised in pipes to the summit and distributed about the garden. From a distance, the hanging gardens gave the appearance of woods overhanging mountains. From the highest terrace of his gardens, the king had a perfect view of his magnificently constructed city.
The remains of the palace and gardens formed the vast mound called by the natives Kasr. Continued digging takes place in its inexhaustible quarries for the brick of the finest and strongest quality. An endless succession of curious relics has been taken from this mound. Babylon in her treasury of antiquities became the rich prey of all the nations that were her conquerors. From the fallen towers and ruins of Babylon have been built all the cities of the vicinity, besides others which have gone to dust. Since the days of Alexander the Great, four capitals have been built out of the remains. The palaces of the Babylonians were splendidly decorated with the statutes of men and animals, with vessels of gold and silver and furnished with luxuries of all kinds. In the Assyrian temples, everything was secular but the Chaldeans lavished their treasures upon the gods, showing the depth of their religious nature. The riches that this city possessed and her merchandise easily made her the emporium of the east and the true mistress of the ancient world. The Bible called Babylon the golden city, the glory of kingdoms and the beauty of the Chaldeans.
“Through her magnificent streets swept the chariots of princes and monarchs. Out of her gates of splendor, poured the bronzed cohorts of well-nigh invincible soldiers going forth to conquer. Into these same gates were driven the captives of a hundred vanquished provinces. In the might of her power she saw her rivals one by one expire and in her triumph, she arrogated to herself the rank and title of mistress of the world. In the slow process of destiny, her own time came to suffer humiliation and downfall. No other city reared by the genius and pride of man has suffered a more complete extinction. Babylon is literally in the dust. Only scattered mounds which the rolling years have covered with grass and shrubs remain of the once mighty metropolis of the Babylonians. Birs Nimrud is the ruin of the great temple of Nebo, that the blasts of twenty-five centuries have not sufficed to level. The great temple was the symbolization of Babylonian mythology. The seven platforms were dedicated to the seven planets. To each, a color was assigned. The base was black. The second platform dedicated to Jupiter was painted orange, the third for Mars was red, the fourth a golden square was for the sun, the fifth yellow, for Venus, the sixth a blue platform for Mercury, and the last assigned to the moon was silver.” (Ridpath’s History of the World.)
These colors were laid on in various ways, some being burnt into the surface of the bricks, some painted and the fourth and seventh squares faced with thin layers of gold and silver and probably the shrine itself. This temple like that of the Medes in Ecbatana seen in successive bands of brilliant color, viewed from a distance, as the sun flashed its splendors upon the brilliant hues of the great pyramids or when the full-orbed moon in milder radiance diffused tier light around the gigantic pile, the awe-struck worshiper may have well imagined that Nebo himself was enshrined on the summit. (Ridpath’s History of the World, Vol. 1, pp. 263, 264.) In these temples, the Babylonians offered at stated seasons human sacrifice. In the lowest strata of the excavated temples were found vessels of copper and bronze. Some of the clay were lacquered in red and black in designs seemingly of Greek origin. This peculiar ware was coeval with the products of the Minoan culture which preceded the historic Greek culture, in Hellas and was of itself Ethiopian.
To sum up, Rawlinson supposed these Chaldeans to have resembled the other Ethiopians. He concludes that the Cushites that occupied the country south of Egypt sent their colonies along the shores of Arabia, whence they crept into the Persian Gulf occupying Chaldea, Susiana and the Indus. Baldwin continuing his argument says, “The Bible points toward Africa for the central seat of the Ethiopians. It derives Nimrod from Cush not Cush from Nimrod. The., monuments and traditions of Chaldea present some curious indications of East African origin. Much stress has been placed upon the theory that the Chaldeans were a mixed people but Berosus spoke of -no influx of foreign people. He identifies the Chaldeans of the time of Nebuchadnezzar also with the primitive people of the country. The joint testimony of Berosus and the Scriptures should be sufficient. Babylonian tablets tell of an original race of black men called Admi, the Adites of the Cushite Arabian traditions. Scientists often make the statement that the original inhabitants of the earth were dark. The blond types that we see today may have developed by emigration to northern latitudes and the change was thus made from dark types to the fair-hued races of today. We will deal with the details of this argument later.
The earliest civilization of Babylonia was coeval with the earlier civilization of the Upper Nile. Ross says that Babylonian script goes back to 6000 B. C. Rawlinson mentions a Cushite inscription of 3200 B. C. Bochart points out Genesis X, 7, as showing that Havilah son of Cush peopled the region where the Tigris and Euphrates unite. We know that the Hebrews while in captivity in Babylon secured the authentic genealogies of the first children of men. We would believe that the Babylonians could not have given them incorrect information as to their own origin. Diodorus Siculus said that the Chaldeans were a body of learned men resembling the priests of Egypt (both of the same race). Their whole time was spent in philosophic meditation. The learning of the Chaldeans was a family tradition. The Scriptures speak of them as the “Wise Men of the East.” The son was taught by the father. Almanacs were to be found all over Babylon which was noted for its schools, libraries, and temples, “The Cushite Ethiopians were the absolutely governing class in politics. They commanded the armies and held the offices of state. From them came the royal families of Babylon.” (Diodorus Siculus, Bk. II, Ch. 21.)
These Chaldeans were the same as the priestly race that ruled Egypt for many ages as priests and kings. As Chayas or Casdim they were the superior ruling caste of all Ethiopian colonies. Diodorus continues to speak of their great reputation in astronomy. They foretold the future and thought themselves able to ward off evil and procure benefits by their sacrifices and enchantments. They considered the matter as eternal and that the arrangement and order of the world were the results of divine intelligence. Being of superior caste they inherited the stations of priests, governors, and kings. Their positions of trust and dignity gave to the Babylonian kingdom the name of Chasyas or Chaldeans. Bryant in his Ancient Mythology (Vol. III, p. 226) quotes from Dionysus “The Chaldeans were the most ancient inhabitants of the country called by their name. They seemed to be the earliest constituted and settled of any people on the earth. They seem to have been the only people who did not migrate at the general dispersion. They extended to Egypt westward and eastward to the Ganges. These were the Accadians of Chaldea, who looked to the southwest of the Caspian for the cradle of their race.”