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several profane authors, that this tower was all built of bricks and bitumen, as the Scriptures tell us the tower of Babel was. The ascent to the top was by stairs on the outside round it ; that is, perhaps, there was an easy sloping ascent in the side of the outer wall, which, turning by very slow degrees in a spiral line eight times round the tower from the bottom to the top, had the same appearance as if there had been eight towers placed upon one another. In these different stories were many large rooms, with arched roofs supported by pillars. Over the whole, on the top of the tower, was an observatory, by the benefit of which the Babylonians became more expert in astronomy than all other nations, and made in a short time the great progress in it ascribed to them in history.
But the chief use to which this tower was designed was the worship of the god Belus or Baal, as also that of several other deities; for which reason there was a multitude of chapels in different parts of the tower. The riches of this temple in statues, tables, censers, cups, and other sacred vessels, all of massy gold, were immense. Among other images, there was one forty feet high, which weighed a thousand Babylonish talents. The Babylonish talent, according to Pollux in his Onomasticon, contained 7,000 Attic drachmas, and consequently was a sixth part more than the Attic talent, which contains but 6,000 drachmas.
According to the calculation which Diodorus makes of the riches contained in this temple, the sum total amounts to 6,300 Babylonish talents of gold.
The sixth part of 6,300 is 1,050; consequently 6,300 Babylonish talents of gold are equivalent to 7,350 Attic talents of gold.
Now, 7,350 Attic talents of silver are worth upwards of 2,000,000, and 100,0001. sterling. The proportion between gold and silver among the ancients we reckon as ten to one; therefore 7,350 Attic talents of gold amount to above 21,000,000 sterling.
a This temple stood till the time of Xerxes; but he, on his return from his Grecian expedition, demolished it entirely, after having first plundered it of all its immense riches. Alexander, on his return to Babylon from his Indian expedition, purposed to have rebuilt it; and in order thereto, set 10,000 men to work, to rid the place of its rubbish ; but, after they had laboured herein two months, Alexander died, and that put an end to the undertaking.
Such were the chief works which rendered Babylon so famous; the greater part of them are ascribed by profane authors to Semiramis, to whose history it is now time to return
a Herod. I. i. c. 183. Strab. l. xvi. p. 738. Arrian. 1. vii. p. 480.
" When she had finished all these great undertakings, she thought fit to make a progress through the several parts of her empire; and, wherever she came, left monuments of hermagnificence by many noble structures which she erected, either for the conveniency or ornament of her cities; she was particularly careful to have water brought by aqueducts to such places as wanted it, and to make the highways easy, by cutting through mountains, and filling up valleys. In the time of Diodorus, there were still monuments to be seen in many places, with her name inscribed upon them.
The authority this queen had over her people seems very extraordinary, since we find her presence alone capable of appeasing a sedition. One day, as she was dressing herself, word was brought her of a tumult in the city. Whereupon she went out immediately, with her head half dressed, and did not return till the disturbance was entirely appeased. A statue was erected in remembrance of this action, representing her in that very attitude and the undress, which had not hindered her from flying to her duty.
Not satisfied with the vast extent of dominions left her by her husband, she enlarged them by the conquest of a great part of Æthiopia. Whilst she was in that country, she had the curiosity to visit the temple of Jupiter Ammon, to inquire of the oracle how long she had to live. According to Diodorus, the answer she received was, that she should not die till her son Ninyas conspired against her, and that after her death one part of Asia would pay her divine honours.
Her greatest and last expedition was against India; on this occasion she raised an innumerable army out of all the provinces of her empire, and appointed Bactra for the rendezvous. As the strength of the Indians consisted chiefly in their great number of elephants, this artful queen had a multitude of camels accoutred in the form of elephants, in hopes of deceiving the enemy. It is said that Perseus long after used the same stratagem against the Romans; but neither of them succeeded in this artifice. The Indian king having notice of her approach, sent ambassadors to ask her who she was, and with what right, having never received any injury from him, she came out of wantonness to attack his dominions; adding, that her boldness should soon meet with the punishment it deserved. Tell your master (replied the queen) that in a little time I myself will let him know who I am. She advanced immediately towards the ‹ river from which the country takes its name; and having prepared a sufficient number of boats, she attempted to pass it with her army. Their passage was a long time disputed,
& Diod, 1. ii p. 100-103.
but after a bloody battle she put her enemies to flight. Above 1,000 of their boats were sunk, and above 100,000 of their men taken prisoners. Encouraged by this success, she advanced directly into the country, leaving 60,000 men behind to guard the bridge of boats, which she had built over the river. This was just what the king desired, who fled on purpose to bring her to an engagement in the heart of his country. As soon as he thought her far enough advanced, he faced about, and a second engagement ensued, more bloody than the first. The counterfeit elephants could not long sustain the shock of the true ones: these routed her army, crushing whatever came in their way. Semiramis did all that lay in her power to rally and encourage her troops, but in vain. The king, perceiving her engaged in the fight, advanced towards her, and wounded her in two places, but not mortally. The swiftness of her horse soon carried her beyond the reach of her enemies. As her men crowded to the bridge, to repass the river, great numbers of them perished, through the disorder and confusion unavoidable on such occasions. When those that could save themselves were safely over, she destroyed the bridge, and by that means stopt the enemy; and the king likewise, in obedience to an oracle, had given orders to his troops not to pass the river, nor pursue Semiramis any farther. The queen, having made an exchange of prisoners at Bactra, returned to her own dominions with scarce onethird of her army, which (according to Ctesias) consisted of 3,000,000 foot, and 500,000 horse, besides the camels and chariots armed for war, of which she had a very considerable number. I have no doubt that this account is highly exaggerated, or that there is some mistake in the numeral characters. She, and Alexander after her, were the only persons that ever ventured to carry the war beyond the river Indus.
I must own, I am somewhat puzzled with a difficulty which may be raised against the extraordinary things related of Ninus and Semiramis, as they do not seem to agree with the times so near the deluge: I mean, such vast armies, such a numerous cavalry, so many chariots armed with scythes, and such immense treasures of gold and silver; all which seem to be of a later date. The same thing may likewise be said of the magnificence of the buildings, ascribed to them. It is probable the Greek historians, who came so many ages afterwards, deceived by the similarity of names, through their ignorance in chronology, and the resemblance of one event with another, may have ascribed such things to more ancient princes, as belonged to those of a later date; or may have attributed a number of exploits and enterprises
to one, which ought to be divided amongst a series of them succeeding one another.
Semiramis, some time after her return, discovered that her son was plotting against her, and one of her principal officers had offered him his assistance. She then called to mind the oracle of Jupiter Ammon; and believing that her end approached, without inflicting any punishment on the officer, who was taken into custody, she voluntarily abdicated the throne, put the government into the hands of her son, and withdrew from the sight of men, hoping speedily to have divine honours paid to her according to the promise of the oracle. And indeed we are told, she was worshipped by the Assyrians, under the form of a dove. She lived sixtytwo years, of which she reigned forty-two..
There are in the Memoirs of the Academy of Belles Lettres two learned dissertations upon the Assyrian empire, and particularly on the reign and actions of Semiramis.
What Justin says of Semiramis, namely, that after her husband's decease, not daring either to commit the government to her son, who was then too young, or openly to take it upon herself, she governed under the name and habit of Ninyas; and that, after having reigned in that manner above forty years, falling passionately in love with her own son, she endeavoured to induce him to comply with her criminal desires, and was slain by him: all this, I say, is so void of all appearance of truth, that to go about to confute it would be but losing time. It must however be owned, that almost all the authors, who have spoken of Semiramis, give us but a disadvantageous idea of her chastity.
I do not know but that the glorious reign of this queen might partly induce Plato to maintain, in his Commonwealth, that women as well as men ought to be admitted into the management of public affairs, the conducting of armies, and the government of states; and, by necessary, consequence, ought to be trained up in the same exercises as men, as well for the forming of the body as the mind d. Nor does he so much as except those exercises, wherein it was customary to fight stark naked, alleging that the virtue of the sex would be a sufficient covering for them.
It is a just matter of surprise to find a philosopher so judicious in other respects, openly combating the most common and most natural maxims of modesty and decency, which virtues are the principal ornament of the sex, and insisting so strongly upon a principle, sufficiently confuted by the constant practice of all ages, and of almost all nations in the world.
a Vol. iii. p. 343, &c. b Lib. i. c. 2. c Lib. v. de Rep. p. 451–457. Ο Επείσες ἀρετὴν ἀντὶ ἱματίων ἀμφιέσονται.
a Aristotle, wiser in this than his master Plato, without doing the least injustice to the real merit and essential qualities of the sex, has with great judgment marked out the different ends, to which man and woman are ordained, from the different qualities of body and mind, wherewith they are endowed by the Author of nature, who has given the one strength of body and intrepidity of mind to enable him to undergo the greatest hardships, and face the most imminent dangers; whilst the other, on the contrary, is of a weak and delicate constitution, accompanied with a natural softness and modest timidity, which render her more fit for a sedentary life, and dispose her to keep within the precincts of the house, and to employ herself in the concerns of prudent and industrious economy.
Xenophon is of the same opinion with Aristotle; and in order to set off the occupation of the wife, who confines herself within her house, agreeably compares her to the mother bee, commonly called the queen bee, who alone governs and has the superintendance of the whole hive, whe distributes all their employments, encourages their industry, presides over the building of their little cells, takes care of the nourishment and subsistence of her numerous family; regulates the quantity of honey appointed for that purpose, and at fixed and proper seasons sends abroad the new swarms in colonies, to ease and disburthen the hive of its superfluous inhabitants. He remarks, with Aristotle, the difference of constitution and inclinations, designedly made by the Au-` thor of nature between man and woman, to point out to each of them their proper and respective offices and functions.
This allotment, far from degrading or lessening the woman, is really for her advantage and honour, in confiding to her a kind of domestic empire and government, administered only by gentleness, reason, equity, and good nature; and in giving her frequent occasions of concealing the most valuable and excellent qualities under the inestimable veil of modesty and submission. For it must ingenuously be owned, that at all times, and in all conditions, there have been women, who by a real and solid merit have distinguished themselves above their sex; as there have been innumerable instances of men, who by their defects have dishonoured theirs. But these are only particular cases, which form no rule, and which ought not to prevail against an establishment founded in nature, and prescribed by the Creator himself.
NINYAS. This prince was in no respect like those, from whom he received life, and to whose throne he succeeded. Wholly intent upon his pleasures, he kept himself shut a De cura rei sam. 1. i. c. 3, b De administr. dom. p. 839.
e Diod. 1. ii. p. 108.