« AnteriorContinuar »
searching for ruins on the western side of the river, and found two groups of mounds between the village Anana and the Birs. The largest of these was thirty-five feet high, and the country was dotted with heaps. He asks whether these can be the remains of the lesser palace. He observed also, in proceeding round by the village Thamasia, that for a mile and three quarters before reaching the Birs, the land was covered with the usual vestiges, which continued to the foot of that ruin; and, relying on this fact, he argues that the Birs did actually occupy a space in the city.
Such is the amount of the three best descriptions of the Babylonian remains, written by persons who, in our own day, have enjoyed the most favourable opportunities for carrying on their investigations; and it will be seen that, upon comparing the delineations of ancient writers with the actual state of the ruins, they have all come to the conclusion that the Temple of Belus is represented by the Birs Nimrod, and the palace and hanging gardens by the ruins of the Kasr, in combination, perhaps, with those of the Amran Hill.
To reconcile the positions of these two places, and the present course of the Euphrates, with the details given by Herodotus, Diodorus, Strabo, and others, appears impossible. Yet, from many circumstances, it seems more probable that their writings have been inaccurately copied, or imperfectly understood by us, than that the mounds in question can represent any other buildings of the ancient capital than those now specified. For, in the first place, assuming that the Euphrates has changed its course, the distance of from seven to eleven miles at least-which we find between the Birs* and the Kasr-can never be made to correspond with that which would appear to have existed between these celebrated edifices according to every description of Babylon that has reached our times. On the other hand, it must be admitted that no other structures could have left remains so gigantic as those which have just been described, and are presumed to represent the Temple of Belus and the palace of Nebuchadnezzar.
So great, indeed, is the distance between the principal
* A late traveller, Colonel Chesney, asserts, that the distance of the Birs from Hillah is not less than ten miles; if this be so, it must be eleven, at least, from the Kasr.
mounds, that it seems impossible, by any process of measurement, to bring them within the space assigned to the walls of the old city. For, even supposing the enclosed sections in each division of it-in one of which was the palace, in the other the Temple of Belus, as mentioned by Herodotus-not to have been, mathematically speaking, in the centre of their respective squares, it is scarcely possible to wrest the sense so far as to imagine that either building could have been placed in a corner or at an extremity of the town; and yet, if the Birs and Kasr are assumed to represent the temple and palace described by the Greek historian, such must needs be the case with one of them, supposing the other to have been near the centre of its division.
Some very ingenious antiquaries, in seeking for the boundaries of ancient Babylon, have been inclined to regard the Birs as forming the southwestern angle of the city; Al Heimar as that of the southeast; the Towebah as representing the northeast angle; while the one to the northwest must be looked for in the marshes that stretch westward in that quarter. This, of course, would exclude the Birs from the distinction, which others are disposed to bestow upon it, of representing the Temple of Belus, even if we concede to the metropolis the utmost extent assigned by any historian; but there appears to be no ground for supposing such a theory, nor does actual observation warrant it. The writer of these pages examined great part of the ground between Al Heimar and the river, in a line with the Birs, and northward from Al Heimar towards the Towebah; and the result was, that though great part of the country appeared covered with vestiges of former buildings, he not only failed in detecting any continuous course of mounds, such as might indicate the direction of the wall, but actually observed a greater number of these remains eastward of the imaginary line than to the west of it.
Mr. Buckingham is disposed to regard that conical mound as constituting a portion of the ramparts of Babylon. He probably overlooked the distance between Al Heimar and the Birs-not less than fifteen miles*-which would either shut out his Tower of Belus altogether, or make it nothing more than a corner bastion. Sir Robert
* According to Colonel Chesney, more than twenty.
Porter, with better judgment, is disposed to exclude Al Heimar and all the mounds eastward of it from the space assigned by Herodotus; but even this will not remove the stubborn obstacle, with which every theory for reconciling ancient accounts with modern appearances is met at the threshold, the distance between the principal masses of
A good deal of stress has been laid upon the probability of considerable changes having taken place in the course of the Euphrates; and there can be no doubt that such have occurred, though in what direction and to what extent has not hitherto been ascertained. Its encroachments on the mound, called by Mr. Rich "the embankment," by which so many sepulchral vases have been brought to view, is obvious; and through the whole district, the remains of mason-work on its sides, and even in the water, bear witness to the former existence of building where the river now flows. Colonel Chesney conceives that he saw a former bed of the stream in the tract between its present course and the site of the Birs; and another gentleman, who visited and examined that part of the country with great care, has suggested that there is quite sufficient space between the Birs and the mound of Ibrahim ul Khaleel to admit of the river, or a branch of it, having run between them. In this case, the positions of these two mounds would identify them as the remains of the Temple of Belus and the palace, just in the proper situations at either side of the stream. But the remains of old canals to the eastward, between the Birs and Hillah, would seem to indicate that the Euphrates must of old, as well as now, have run in that direction; and, at all events, we should be equally at a loss what to make of the gigantic ruins on the present eastern bank-the Mujelibé, the Kasr, and others -which must represent some stately fabrics pertaining to the city.
Another conjecture has been hazarded with regard to the Birs, namely, that it may be the remains of a temple of the ancient Borsippa or Bursif, which is mentioned as being near ancient Babylon, if not once forming a section of it. In this place, after the downfall of the Empire, and partial destruction of the great city, a number of the Chaldean priests and artificers took up their abode; and thither also, we learn, Labynetus fled from Cyrus, after the conquest by that prince.
The name Bursif, so easily passing into Birs, seems to favour this idea, which would also account for the otherwise unintelligible appellation by which this remarkable ruin is known; for the word Birs has no signification in Arabic or the cognate languages.
Mr. Rich, it is true, alludes to a collection of mounds, four or five hours south of Hillah, near the village Jerbouiyah, known by the name of Boursa, which may lay claim to being the Borsippa mentioned by Strabo and other writers. But Buckingham casts some doubt on the position, and even on the existence of this Boursa; for it appears, that of all his escort, there was only one man who pretended to any acquaintance with the place, and even he had no clear notions respecting it. Sir R. Porter mentions a station called Boursa Shishara, two hours from Kiahya Khan, on the way from Bagdad to Hillah, where is a true Babylonian mound thirty feet high, with a layer of reeds between each course of bricks; and he speculates on the possibility of this having been the Borsippa where Alexander halted on his way from Ecbatana to Babylon.
But, if the Birs be pronounced a relic of Borsippa and not of Babylon, where are we to look for the Temple of Belus, which, of all the buildings in that metropolis, must, from its uncommon height, have left the most imposing ruins? It has been shown that neither the Mujelibé nor Kasr can pretend to be its representative, and there is none other to fall back upon.
There is, indeed, no small difficulty in reconciling the accounts of historians respecting the state of this celebrated structure from time to time. Herodotus, who describes it as an eyewitness 430 years B.C., though he alludes to the destruction of its walls by Darius, and the partial pillage of its shrines by Xerxes, speaks of it as by no means dilapidated; on the contrary, he describes its two walls as still existing, the outer one castellated and 200 cubits high, and the Temple of Belus as being quite perfect and undesecrated, except by the plunder of its golden image by the Persian prince. Yet barely a century afterward, Alexander, according to Arrian, found it so encumbered by ruins that 10,000 men were not able to remove them in two months; while Berosus, a priest of Belus, who flourished at the same period, writes a history of the Chaldean cosmogony chiefly from the allegorical representations which
he saw on the walls of this very temple. That it must, however, have suffered greatly prior to this time, is certain; and, in tracing the progress of decay, we have witnessed a rapidity of destruction, which is the more impressive, as it corresponds so accurately with all the denunciations of divine wrath which were hurled against the sinful and devoted city. But Providence works by instruments, and it is striking indeed to trace the Almighty hand in the human agents who overwhelmed that mighty city by a rapid succession of attacks; nor need we be surprised at the disappearance of a great part of her ruins, when we reflect that out of them were built, in succession, Seleucia and Ctesiphon, Coché, Cufa, Kerbelah, Meshed Ali, Bagdad old and new, besides many smaller towns and villages. No wonder that, when the more solid materials were carried off, the mud and sun-burned bricks, exposed to the action of rain and wind, should crumble into the soil whence they were taken.
A late and very acute traveller, Mr. Ainsworth, whose work has already been referred to, has suggested a change of names for the several ruins, which he thinks will simplify the investigation. The Mujelibé, he says, ought to be called Babel; and he applies the former term to the Kasr, which last appellation he again bestows upon the mound called by Mr. Rich the embankment. We do not know to what extent he prosecuted his discoveries upon the spot; but it appears to us that, had he inquired minutely, he would scarcely have found grounds on which to rest his new nomenclature. We think he would rather have adopted the conclusion held by other travellers, that the northern mound could never have been much higher than it now is, and, consequently, that it could not be the Tower of Belus; while certainly there is a strong internal evidence that the Kasr, called by him the Mujelibé, represents the palace and hanging gardens. We think him greatly in error, too, in the elevation which he assigns to the several mounds: sixty-four feet to the northernmost, or Mujelibé of Rich; twenty-eight feet to the Kasr of the same author; twenty-three feet to the Amran ibn Ali. In these there can be no doubt of his being mistaken. The Birs, according to him, belonged to the most westerly quarter of Babylon, if not to a distinct city, and is there