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of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldees' excellency," is indeed "as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. It shall never be inhabited, neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation: .... wild beasts of the desert shall lie there; and their houses shall be full of doleful creatures; and owls shall dwell there, and the wild beasts of the islands shall cry in their desolate houses, and dragons in their pleasant palaces. . . . . How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!"*
It may, however, be interesting to trace with somewhat more distinctness the gradual decay of this magnificent city, after its first capture by Cyrus the Great. Leniently dealt with by that conqueror, who appears to have made it the seat of his government seven months in the year, the inhabitants recovered in a great measure from the effects of the calamity which had stricken their nation, and lived But happily under the protection of their new master. his son Cambyses, a dissolute and cruel prince, having loaded them with heavy taxes, and removed the royal residence entirely to Susa, they took advantage of the troubles consequent on his death, and attempted to throw off the Persian yoke. This called down upon them the vengeance of Darius, his successor, who marched with a powerful army to reduce them to obedience.
Besieged within their walls, the Babylonians had recourse to a very cruel expedient, in order to economize the consumption of their stores. Each man selected from his women the wife he was most attached to, and a single maid-servant; and all the rest of his family, old men and children, fathers, mothers, sisters, and infants, were without distinction strangled. Thus relieved from the fear of want, they not only held the city, but completely baffled every stratagem put in practice by Darius to throw them off their guard. The disgrace of ultimate failure on his part was prevented by the extraordinary self-devotion of one of his chief officers. This man, named Zopyrus, having mutilated himself by cutting off his nose and ears, and mangling his body by stripes, fled to the Babylonians, feigning that he had been thus used by his master for advising him to raise the siege, and had come to them burning for revenge.
* Isaiah, xiii., 19–22; xiv., 12.
Falling into the snare, they at once received and employed him. Some considerable successes over the Persian troops, which Darius connived at to cover the deceit, induced the inhabitants to intrust Zopyrus with a still more important charge, till at length the guard of the city ports was confided to his care. On the next assault, the Cissian and Belidian gates were opened by him to the Persians, who thus, through the wiles of a pretended deserter, became a second time masters of Babylon. Resolved to provide against the chance of future rebellion, Darius crucified three thousand of the principal citizens, and beat down the walls, it is said, from the height of 200 cubits to fifty, which, if we admit the correctness of the former dimensions, may account for the difference on this head between the measurement given by Herodotus and that of Strabo. But he provided for the repopulation of Babylon by sending them 50,000 women to replace those they had murdered; and, to cherish a spirit of loyalty, gave them Zopyrus for their governor.
His son Xerxes was still more cruel and less scrupulous; for we learn from Arrian that, after his return from Greece, he destroyed the temple of Belus and other places consecrated to the national worship, and carried off the great golden image of which Herodotus was told by the Chaldeans.
But it is not easy to reconcile the destruction of the walls by Darius, and of the temple by Xerxes, with the description which the former historian gives as an eyewitness of its condition in his own day, for he speaks of it as it existed at that time, and not merely as it had formerly been. As we hear of no farther violence being inflicted on the city till the time of Alexander, it must appear not a little singular, that then, which was but one century afterward, the temple of Belus should again have become so much dilapidated that the work of ten thousand men should be required for two months merely to remove the fallen ruins. By that time, however, the city also had suffered greatly from its misfortunes; and though we learn, as has just been stated, that the intention of the conqueror was to restore the fane of the national god, and make Babylon his chief residence, his death put a stop to all the measures which he contemplated for carrying his purpose into effect. His successor, Seleucus Nicator, by building
Seleucia on the Tigris, and transferring thither the seat of government, dealt to the waning glories of Babylon a still more deadly blow, the moral effects of which were, no doubt, accelerated by the removal of materials to the modern capital, which is said to have vied in splendour with the more ancient one. Pausanias, indeed, informs us that Seleucus compelled the inhabitants to settle in the new city, and that the walls of Babylon and the temple of Belus had then almost ceased to exist, though there were still a few Chaldeans who continued to dwell around the consecrated edifice. Pliny remarks that the old metropolis, swallowed up by the other, had become quite a wilderness.
From this time we hear little of the condition or fortunes of the great city. A Parthian general is said, about the year B.C. 127, to have destroyed what remained of the public buildings, overturned the temples, and carried off many families to Media, where they were sold as slaves. In the reign of Augustus, as Diodorus informs us, there was but a very small portion of it inhabited. Strabo, who wrote in the reign of the Emperor Tiberius, but who probably never himself visited Mesopotamia, observes that "at the present time Seleucia is actually a much more considerable city than Babylon, which is to a great degree deserted, and to which may be applied, without any hesitation, the words of the comic poet, The great city is a great des
A persecution of the Jews, who had taken refuge in Babylon, in the reign of Caligula, rendered her desolation yet more complete, insomuch that little mention is made in the expeditions of Trajan and Severus of the metropolis once so great; and Lucian of Samosata, who flourished in the time of Marcus Aurelius, speaks of it as formerly remarkable for its vast circumference and numerous dependancies, but which would soon disappear as Nineveh had done.
Saint Jerome, who resided in the East more than thirty years, about the beginning of the fourth century, speaks of Babylon as a preserve of game for the Persian kings; and Theodoret, bishop of Cyprus, who died about A.D. 458, says that the city was no longer inhabited either by Assyrians or Chaldeans, but only by some scattered Jews. He adds, that the Euphrates had changed its course, and no longer passed through the town except by means of a small canal. From this time the city is no more mentioned but as a
collection of shapeless ruins in a howling wilderness, the haunt of venomous creatures and beasts of prey; and so complete is the annihilation of all which might tell of the past, that tradition and science are equally unable to discover, among the heaps of dust and potsherds which attract the traveller's eye, even the site of the celebrated temple of Belus, or the gigantic walls of Babylon.
Origin, Government, Religion, Laws and Customs, &c., of the Ancient Assyrians and Babylonians.
Sources of Information.-Origin of the Assyrians.-Government.-Religion.-Gods of the Assyrians.-Customs and Laws same as those of the Babylonians.-Government of the Babylonians.-Names of their Monarchs, and Derivation.-Their Habits.-Officers and Functionaries. Establishment and Titles.-Laws.-Little known regarding them. Sale of Virgins.-Punishments. - Religion. - Chaldeans.Opinions regarding their Origin.-Regarded as a nomad Race by Heeren and Gesenius.-Faber's Theory of the Progress of their Religion-And of the Dispersion of Mankind after the Flood.-Of the Cuthim or Cushim.-Remarks on Faber's Theory.-Mr. Beke's Theory.Supported by Coincidence of ancient and modern Names.-Bochart.Difficulties of the Subject.-The Chaldeans the dominant People in ancient Babylon.-Origin and Progress of their Religion.-Chaldean Cosmogony and Doctrines according to Berosus.-Its Similarity with the Scriptural Account of the Noachian Deluge.-Mythology.-Pul or Belus. Nebo, Rach, Nego, Merodach, &c.-Grossness and Depravity of their Ceremonies.- Manners and Customs of the Babylonians.Learning. Science.-Astronomy and Astrology.-Mathematics.-Music.-Poetry. Skill in working Metals and Gems-Manufactures.Commerce.
Origin.-Ir will now be proper to place before our readers the little that is known of the origin, government, religion, laws, and customs of the ancient Assyrians and Babylonians. The sources of information on these subjects are much the same as those from whence the general history is derived, and are neither less limited nor imperfect. From Scripture we know that Assyria was occupied by Asshur and his descendants, to whom, no doubt, it owes its name. We have the same authority for believing that a portion, at least, of Mesopotamia was possessed by
Nimrod and his progeny; and an attempt has been made to prove that another section became the abode of Arphaxad, the son of Shem, and his posterity.*
Government.-Of the nature of the Assyrian government we know nothing more than may be gathered from the Bible; that it was an hereditary monarchy, and quite despotic. We are equally in the dark respecting the laws by which it was governed. It is probable they were few and simple, depending chiefly, in their application, on the will of the prince, partaking, in a great degree, of the nature of patriarchal rules, though sometimes harshly enforced by arbitrary power.
Religion. This, there is no doubt, was a polytheistical idolatry; for there is sufficient proof that the nation had various idols. In Scripture, for example, we hear of Sennacherib being slain by his sons while worshipping in the temple of his god. In all probability, the deities and forms of adoration among the Assyrians were nearly the same as those of their neighbours, and particularly the Babylonians, a circumstance which will afterward be more particularly noticed. It may, therefore, be sufficient at present to name such of their divinities as were peculiar to them, of which Nisroch was one. Adrammelech and Anammelech, both mentioned in the Old Testament, appear to have been other names for Moloch, which itself signifies Lord, or supreme power; and they were revered under various representations, as that of a mule, a peacock, a pheasant, or a quail.
Derceto, the reputed mother of Semiramis, though of Mesopotamian origin, was recognised at Ascalon. The Greeks attributed to her several other names; and, like their own Venus, she was represented as half woman, half fish. Hence the Assyrians are said to have had a superstitious reverence for the finny tribes; a feeling which they extended to pigeons, from their having been the nurses of their great queen, who disappeared from the eyes of mankind in the shape of a dove. In fact, it appears that, like other nations of antiquity, they deified all their deceased sovereigns who had in any degree distinguished themselves.
The customs, arts, and trade of Assyria, having, so far as is known, been similar to those of Babylon, require no
* Origines Biblica; or, Researches in Primeval History. By Charles Tilstone Beke; 8vo, Lond., 1834, vol. i., p. 106.