Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

of flutes, cornets, harps, sackbuts, psalteries, and dulcimers; but we are ignorant of their real form; and it is not improbable that they bore some resemblance to those used by the rude band now called the Nokara Khaneh, which in Persia and other Eastern countries plays at stated times over the gateway of the royal palace.

Of their poetry we know nothing; and their total ignorance of medicine may be estimated from the fact that it was their custom to expose their sick publicly in places where every passer-by might see them, in the hope that some one who had been similarly afflicted might communicate the means of cure.

That they were skilful in the working of metals, and in the cutting of stones and gems, appears not only from the uses they made of these substances in their palaces, temples, and houses, but from the fragments which are, even at this remote period, occasionally found among the ruins of Babylon and other cities of Mesopotamia. They were also celebrated for their manufacture of linen and woollen. The cloaks called sindones, usually made of cotton, were highly valued for fineness of texture and brilliancy of colour, insomuch that they were commonly set apart for royal use. Their carpets of finest fabric and most splendid dyes, also their gorgeous drapery and embroideries, were equally famous. The former were in great request in Persia, where every bed and couch were covered with them.

Pliny mentions a suit of Babylonian hangings for a dining-room which cost a sum equal in our money to £6458 6s. 8d.; and Plutarch, in his life of Cato, tells us that the stern patriot, having received in a legacy a Babylonian cloak or mantle, sold it immediately, as being far too costly for him to wear. This people, too, as well as the Assyrians, were celebrated for their purple dye.

That the commerce of ancient Babylon must have been very great, is unquestionable. The riches and luxury of the country alone afford sufficient proof of this; and assuredly no city of that period could boast of a more advantageous position as a trading entrepôt. Built upon one, and commanding the navigation of two noble streams, both leading to the Persian Gulf, and surrounded by populous districts, nothing was wanting to encourage a spirit of adventure; and that such did exist to a very great ex

tent we know, though of the exact nature and particulars of the commerce itself we have no detailed account. The natives were fond of magnificence, and full of artificial wants; costly in dress, perfumes, ornaments, and in their general habits of life. Their own country did not produce the articles they consumed in such abundance, and they must therefore have imported them; and as the land around afforded little to give in return, the means of purchasing must have arisen in part from the profits of trade and barter.

It is known, also, that many of the early sovereigns gave great encouragement to merchandise as well as to agriculture. Gerrha, supposed to have been near the site of the modern El Katif, was a commercial station; Teredon, on the Pallacopas, was founded by Nebuchadnezzar; and Semiramis is said to have built towns upon the banks of the Tigris as marts for Media and Persia.

The land-trade of Babylon is divided by Heeren* into five chief branches: that to the east with Persia and Bactria; to the north with Armenia; to the west with Phonicia and Asia Minor; and, finally, to the south with Arabia.

The great road to the east ran by Ecbatana to the Caspian Gates, through which it led to Hyrcania and Aria, and thence in a northerly direction to Bactra, which last was the entrepôt of Central Asia, Tartary, and the more southern provinces.

The path for western commerce, according to Strabo, passed north through Mesopotamia to Anthemusia on the Euphrates, twenty-five days' journey, where it turned towards the Mediterranean. This line could only be traversed by strong caravans, on account of the Scenite Arabs, who occupied the Desert and plundered all whom they could overpower.

The northern route to Armenia and Asia Minor was the great military communication made by the Median sovereigns, from Susa by Babylon to Sardis. It was divided into 110 stages of five parasangs or about twenty miles each, every one having a splendid caravansera attached to it. Tavernier traced it from Smyrna to Tokat, from whence, in later times, it went to Erivan for the purpose of reaching Ispahan, subsequently the capital of Persia. The

Historical Researches, vol. ii., p. 203.

great road now leads by Erzeroum to Tabreez and the north of Persia.

But the commerce with Armenia was chiefly maintained by the River Euphrates on rafts of timber bound upon inflated hides, or in iude boats. These were loaded with wine and other produce of the country, and when they reached Babylon were sold, together with the commodities which they conveyed, the force of the stream rendering it impossible for them to return up the river. The owners, however, carefully preserved the skins, which were folded upon asses or mules, and carried back by land. This traffic is described as having been prosecuted to a great extent.

But the main branch of trade was undoubtedly that with India and the countries beyond the Gulf. This was carried on, of course, in ships, many of which, it may be presumed, were the property of Chaldean merchants; for that this people possessed a mercantile navy is not only alluded to in Scripture,* but is rendered certain from many incidental notices preserved to us in the Greek writers. Still there is reason, as Heeren observes, for believing that much of this intercourse was conducted by the Phoenicians, who had settlements on the eastern coast of Arabia, and were the great carriers between India and Babylon.t

The principal objects of this trade were frankincense and drugs, spices, especially Ceylon cinnamon, ivory, ebony, fragrant woods, precious stones, pearls, gum-lac for dye, robes, gold and gold-dust, and Indian dogs, which last were greatly in demand all over Central Asia. One of the satraps of Babylon is said to have devoted the revenue of four towns to their maintenance; and Xerxes carried an immense number along with him when he invaded Greece.

The chief places in the East to which this navigation was directed, were on the western coasts of the Indian peninsula: to Crocola, now Curachee; probably to Barygaza, now Baroach; and to Ceylon.

Heeren speaks of certain ports in the gulf which were places at once of produce and of commerce. Tylos, an island, according to Ptolemy, fifty miles from the Bay of Gerrha, supplied walking-sticks, and timber for ship-build

*Isaiah, xliii., 14.

+ Historical Researches, vol. ii., p. 246.

ing, the Aradus and Daden of the Hebrew poets. Bahrein must then, as now, have supplied abundance of pearls. The trade to Persia and Bactria afforded to the Babylonians many articles both of luxury and manufacture. Carmania (Kerman) sent its wool; Bactria, lapis-lazuli, emeralds, rubies, and other precious stones; Cabul, onyxes and sardines; Khorasan, turquoises; and, though not mentioned particularly by any author, there is no doubt that the various commodities which form the lading of caravans at this day were then equally objects of commerce. Their saffron, indigo, and assafoetida, with the various gums and drugs, dyes, and manufactures of Upper India, as well as of the countries between it and Persia, were brought in abundance to Babylon, not only for consumption there, but for transit to the coasts of the Mediterranean. Cotton and wool must have been required to a great extent for their manufactures; and even silk, as some suppose, may have found its way from China.

CHAPTER V.

Antiquities.-Babylon.

Greatest Interest of these Countries attaches to the early Periods of their Existence.-Vestiges of former Greatness everywhere abundant.Ruins of Babylon.-Discussions regarding the Identity of Site of ancient Babel and Babylon.-Denied by Beke, who places the Land of Shinar in Upper Mesopotamia.-Ainsworth's geological Observations, -Tower of Babel.-No Scriptural Authority for supposing that it was destroyed at the time of the Dispersion of Mankind.-Location of the other Cities of Nimrod.-Accad.-Erech.-Calneh.-All Traces of the most ancient Postdiluvian Fabrics probably effaced by subsequent Structures.-Ancient Babylon described.-By what Authors.-Extent. -Height of its Walls according to various Authorities.-Structure.Streets.-Intersected by the Euphrates.-Bridge.-New Palace and hanging Gardens.-Temple of Belus.-Described by Herodotus.Golden Statue.-Other gigantic Works.-Canals.-Artificial Lake.Its Construction attributed to Semiramis, to Nebuchadnezzar, and to Queen Nitocris.-Population.-Space occupied by Buildings.-Scriptural Denunciations against Babylon.

It is obvious, from the slight sketch we have given of the history of the countries under consideration, that the great interest they possess attaches to the early period of

* There is no island of the gulf which now produces any timber.

their existence, when they were the seats of empire, populous and rich, and covered with cities, towns, and villages, of which now, in many cases, not even the names remain. Before, therefore, describing the country in its present decayed condition, it is fit that our attention should be turned to the vestiges of that fallen greatness; the venerable remains of departed prosperity which meet the traveller's eye in every quarter-in the alluvial plains of Babylonia as well as in the rocky mountains of Assyria. In describing the most prominent of these, we shall endeavour, by examining what time has spared, and making use of the imperfect lights which history or tradition presents, to compare, in some degree, the brilliant past with the desolate present, and trace, in the obscure mounds and shattered walls that now encumber the land, the abodes of generations who once were among the wise and mighty of the earth.

Of these vestiges no place affords a more abundant display than Babylonia and Chaldea, the Irak-Arabi of the Mohammedans. Not only are the ruins of the ancient capital, the first and probably the greatest city of the world, to be found within their precincts, together with those of Seleucia, Ctesiphon, Orchoe, and Waasut, but the whole plain is thickly covered with traces of former habitations. Scarcely, indeed, is there a single rood of ground which does not exhibit some fragment of brick, or tile, or glass, or sepulchral urn, to tell that man has lived in a region which now presents to the eye but one vast expanse of arid desert a howling wilderness, where the only evidence that he still exists is afforded by the black Bedouin tent, or the wandering camel which here and there dots its dreary surface.

Among these numerous vestiges, the mounds of ancient Babylon claim, of course, the first place in interest and importance; and we shall accordingly proceed to consider it as it was and is. But, before attempting a description of this great city, there are some preliminary questions which can scarcely fail to suggest themselves as involving considerations of the highest interest, and which it is therefore proper to examine.

In the first place, are we to consider the ruins which are now very generally admitted to be the remains of the Babylon of Nebuchadnezzar, as occupying also the position of

« AnteriorContinuar »