Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

area between seven and eight miles square. The ground between this and the great wall was cultivated, besides which, large plots of ground were probably allotted to all houses of any importance, laid out either as gardens or pleasure-grounds. In one division of the city, not far from the bank of the river, stood the Great Palace, with its hanging gardens.* In the other was placed the Temple of Belus, but in what precise spot, whether near or far from the river, is not mentioned. This temple consisted of a square enclosure, the wall of each side being nearly one thousand feet in length. In the centre of this area stood the Great Tower, or Altar, upon which the sacrifices were made to the god. Its form was pyramidal, composed of eight receding stages, the whole height being five hundred feet, and the base, a square of the same dimensions. At one side of the tower, and also within the enclosure, there was a building inhabited by the priests, and those connected with the rites and mysteries of Belus. The tower was solid, (with the exception of the small chambers, or holy cells,) and was cased with furnace-baked bricks, the lower part being probably built, like the foundation of the city wall, of bricks laid in bitumen,

The chief objection to the descriptions given of Babylon by the ancient writers, has been made to its vast size, and to the difficulty of supporting its enormous population, in a country, one part of which (Arabia) was far from fertile, and in an inland situation, difficult of access to distant countries, and with very imperfect means of obtaining their production.

To take the latter part of the objection first ; -we are perfectly willing to admit that a maritime capital is capable of far greater extension in proportion to the whole country, than a metropolis which is far removed from the coast, or is deprived of the benefit of water carriage; but it must be remembered that Babylon, although not a sea-port, was by no means destitute of this advantage. The productions of Mesopotamia, and a great part of Persia, might be conveyed by the Tigris, and thence into the Euphrates by the Nahr-Malchá, and other canals, which were dug at various periods, from the time of Nebuchadnezzar downwards, to connect those rivers at different points above Babylon; while the produce of the countries to the north of the

The vaulted tunnel under the river, forming a communication from the Great Palace to another palace on the opposite bank, must be rejected as, not resting upon sufficient authority. It is described by Diodorus alone, who is wholly unsupported in his account of the second palace, of the tunnel, and also in the breadth of five stadia which he assigns to the Euphrates,

Persian Gulf, might pass up the Euphrates, together with the food derived from Babylonia itself, at that time one of the most fertile districts of the East. True it is, that rich country is now a desert. The sea is come up upon Babylon; she is covered • with the multitude of the waves thereof; her cities are a deso

lation, a dry land, and a wilderness; a land wherein no man • dwelleth, neither doth any son of man pass thereby.'* “The • Arabian shall not pitch bis tent there. I will make it a possession • for the bittern, and pools of water; and I will sweep it with • the besom of destruction, saith the Lord of Hosts !'+ But in the days of Babylon's prosperity, the surrounding country abounded with the fruits of the earth; it was productive as a garden, and in the time of Herodotus, was regarded as the richest part of the most fertile district of Asia. I so that, taking into account the small quantity of animal food consumed by the inhabitants of southern climates, as compared with those of northern latitudes, we shall find that Babylonia itself might afford vegetable supplies for a population as great as that of Babylon is supposed to have been. In fact, it is impossible in this respect to compare Babylon with London, as some authors have done, and to say,—because it requires so many acres to furnish food for the inhabitants of London, that therefore Babylon, containing so many more, must have wanted a greater extent of cultivated ground than the immediate vicinity afforded. The nature of the food required, and the wants of the consumers, were totally different—the fertility, beyond all comparison, greater in favour of Babylonia. The population, too, instead of being compressed into crowded streets, as in modern cities, was scattered over a space that rather resembled an enclosed district, where each house is a villa, than a closely-built town; and even the area, which, according to Quintus Curtius, was built upon, did not very greatly exceed that upon which London stands, measuring from the end of Whitechapel to Tyburn turnpike, in one direction, and from Pentonville to the southern extremity of Southwark, in the other; and this, too, exclusive of Knightsbridge, Kensington, Bayswater, Kentish-town, and the other suburbs, which might fairly be taken into London, when comparing it with a city built as Babylon was. ♡

* Jeremiah, li. 42, &c.

+ Isaiah, xiv. 23. † Babylon constituted part of the ninth Satrapy of Darius Hystaspes, and paid an annual tribute of one thousand talents of silver, and five hundred young eunuchs.—Her. Thalia. 92. § From Tyburn turnpike to the Regent's Canal at the eastern extre

of Whitechapel, is upwards of six miles ; from the northern side of Then, with respect to the kind of houses-From Herodotus' specifying that there were many of three and four stories high, it is obvious, that by far the greater number were of one or two. No man, describing London or Paris, would say they abounded with houses of three and four stories, when in fact they contain nothing else; besides, in almost all Eastern cities, the houses seldom exceed two stories in height. If the houses of Babylon were in general low, and in the form of courts, it would not only account for the great space of ground required, but also for their speedy decay, as mud and sun-dried bricks, although sufficient for houses of that description, would immediately fall to pieces when uninhabited and exposed to the action of the weather, and the inundations, which were the consequences of the Euphrates overflowing its banks. The same causes would also account for the total disappearance of the walls. Whatever may have been their original height, we know that in Strabo’s time they did not exceed fifty cubits, or seventy-five feet. The great reduction which they underwent from the time of Herodotus, inclines us to believe that the brick-work was not carried to the top, but that the wall was a breast-work of earth, with a casing or retaining wall of brick at its base. When the wall was reduced by Xerxes, the first operation would be to remove the brick facing, and the earth, having then lost its support, would gradually crumble down, till exposure to the rains would in process of time reduce the mound to the level of the desert. Certain it is, that no traces of the wall have been found by any traveller in that country; and equally certain is it, that the walls of Nineveh, four hundred and eighty stadiat in extent, and one hundred feet high, according to Diodorus, are now levelled with the ground, and no vestige of them can be discovered.

One word upon the number of inhabitants—Major Rennell thinks the authorities carry them beyond two millions, which he thinks incredible. Now, to say nothing of the number of inhabitants in China-seventy millions in two provinces alone—we learn from the Bible, f and from all ancient records, that the countries of the East were formerly very thickly peopled.s

Pentonville to Walworth, between five and six ; nearly the whole of this oblong area is closely built upon.

* Bussorah,' (says Cunningham, who visited it in 1785,) is built of • sun-dried bricks, so that after heavy rain the falling of the houses into

the streets is no unusual sight. Bussorah bas corn fields, date groves and 'gardens within its walls, and nearly half the area is built upon:-P. 345. + Diodorus, lib. ii. c. 1.

| Jonah, iv. 11. Ś See Wallace's Dissertation on the Numbers of Mankind, p. 324.

While it appears, therefore, that two millions is by no means so vast as to be incredible, we are inclined to believe that the inbabitants of Babylon, in its most populous time, fell short of that number. From what Strabo says of that city, when comparing it with Seleucia, the greater part was in his time a desert, and Seleucia was larger than what remained of Babylon. Now, seventy years after Strabo wrote, Pliny describes Seleucia as a very large city, containing six hundred thousand inhabitants. I But Seleucia was at this time rapidly decreasing, from Ctesiphon having become the winter residence of the Parthian kings; and therefore when it contained six hundred thousand inhabitants, it was probably considerably less than one-half of Babylon in its original state, which would make the population of Babylon under two millions.

The destruction of Babylon has been referred to the migration of its inhabitants to Seleucia, about three hundred years before Christ. How long it survived the establishment of that colony, does not appear; all we know is, that in the time of Diodorus, the greater portion of its area was ploughed up; and St Jerome, in the fourth century, describes it as a hunting-park of the Parthian kings. After the destruction of the walls and the inferior houses which first fell into decay, the desolation of Babylon appears to have been rapidly completed, and nothing remained but such buildings as, from their size and the solidity of their structure, were likely to resist the hand of the destroyer, and to pass down through succeeding ages, the impaired, but still visible monuments of former greatness. The appearance presented by those remains—the situation they occupy in the country of Babylonia, and their probable identity with the most remarkable buildings of Ancient Babylon, form the second branch of our inquiry.

The very vague and imperfect description given by all writers and travellers who have visited that part of Syria, from the time of St Jerome to the present century, induces us to pass by every account of the ruins of Babylon which has preceded that contained in Mr Rich's first Memoir. We shall therefore take our details from that, and from the no less excellent remarks which are the subject of his second Memoir, as our ground-work, merely using the accounts given by other authors as illustrations to supply what may be wanting.

* See our remarks upon Seleucia, in the article in our last Number upon Major Keppel's Travels, p. 377.

Upon the western bank of the Euphrates, in latitude 32°, 28', stands the town of Hillah, enclosed within a mud wall, and known to have been built in the twelfth century, out of the ruins of some more ancient city. It is 48 miles to the south of Bagdad, 35 southeast of the Nahr-Malcha at its junction with the Tigris, which is the site of Seleucia, and 130 south-west from Hit,

a town on the Euphrates. The country, for miles around, is a perfectly flat and uncultivated waste; but traversed, in different directions, by what appear to be the remains of canals, and by mounds of great magnitude, most of which, upon excavating, are found to contain bricks, some of which are sun-dried, others furnacebaked, and stamped with inscriptions in a very peculiar, but unknown character. The whole of the country seems well adapted for a brick-field. • The soil of the plains of ancient Assyria 6 and Babylonia,' says Major Keppel, i. 118, consists of a fine • clay, mixed with sand, with which, as the waters of the river retire, the shores are covered; this compost, when dried by « the heat of the sun, becomes a hard and solid mass, and forms • the finest material for the beautiful bricks for which Babylon

was celebrated. We all put to the test the adaptation of this mud for pottery, by taking some of it while wet, from the bank of the river, and then moulding it into any form we pleased ; having been exposed to the sun for half an hour, it became as • hard as stone.' Of such bricks is the town of Hillah built; but there are also to be found in many of its buildings, vast quantities of bricks of a much more ancient appearance, stamped with those characters which learned men have ascribed to the Chaldeans, and supposed to represent astronomical observations, and which, found in Assyria, can only be ascribed to Babylonian origin.

The geographical position of Hillab, then, fixes it as standing upon a portion of the site of ancient Babylon. It perfectly agrees in its distance from Hit, or Is, and Seleucia ; and, at this day, the surrounding country is called by the Arabs, El Aredh Babel – the land of Babel.' The land in the neighbourhood, which is in cultivation, is extremely_fertile, producing great quantities of rice, dates, and grain. This fertility is caused by irrigation from the Euphrates, which here flows at from two

* Calisthenes, who went with Alexander into the East, sent to Aris. totle, from Babylon, astronomical observations which he found upon

baked bricks, and which went back to one hundred and fifteen years after the flood. See also Pliny on the inscriptions upon the Babylonian bricks. Hist. Nat. vii. c. 56.

« PoprzedniaDalej »