Anno Urbis - The Year of the City

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That the Babylonians were among the most ingenious of all the nations of antiquity, and had made considerable progress in the arts and sciences before their conquest by the Persians, is generally admitted. The classical writers commonly parallel them with the Egyptians; and though, from their habit of confusing Babylon with Assyria, it is not always quite certain that the inhabitants of the more southern country—the real Babylonians—are meant, still there is sufficient reason to believe that, in the estimation of the Greeks and Romans, the people of the lower Euphrates were regarded as at least equally advanced in civilization with those of the Nile valley and the Delta. The branches of knowledge wherein by general consent the Babylonians principally excelled were architecture and astronomy. Of their architectural works two at least were reckoned among the "Seven Wonders," while others, not elevated to this exalted rank, were yet considered to be among the most curious and admirable of Oriental constructions. In astronomical science they were thought to have far excelled all other nations, and the first Greeks who made much progress in the subject confessed themselves the humble disciples of Babylonian teachers.

In the account, which it is proposed to give, in this place, of Babylonian art and science, so far as they are respectively known to us, the priority will be assigned to art, which is an earlier product of the human mind than science; and among the arts the first place will be given to architecture, as at once the most fundamental of all the fine arts, and the one in which the Babylonians attained their greatest excellence. It is as builders that the primitive Chaldaean people, the progenitors of the Babylonians, first appear before us in history; and it was on his buildings that the great king of the later Empire, Nebuchadnezzar, specially prided himself. When Herodotus visited Babylon he was struck chiefly by its extraordinary edifices; and it is the account which the Greek writers gave of these erections that has, more than anything else, procured for the Babylonians the fame that they possess and the position that they hold among the six or seven leading nations of the old world.

The architecture of the Babylonians seems to have culminated in the Temple. While their palaces, their bridges, their walls, even their private houses were remarkable, their grandest works, their most elaborate efforts, were dedicated to the honor and service, not of man, but of God. The Temple takes in Babylonia the same sort of rank which it has in Egypt and in Greece. It is not, as in Assyria, a mere adjunct of the palace. It stands by itself, in proud independence, as the great building of a city, or a part of a city; it is, if not absolutely larger, at any rate loftier and more conspicuous than any other edifice: it often boasts a magnificent adornment: the value of the offerings which are deposited in it is enormous: in every respect it rivals the palace, while in some it has a decided preeminence. It draws all eyes by its superior height and sometimes by its costly ornamentation; it inspires awe by the religious associations which belong to it; finally, it is a stronghold as well as a place of worship, and may furnish a refuge to thousands in the time of danger.

A Babylonian temple seems to have stood commonly within a walled enclosure. In the case of the great temple of Belus at Babylon, the enclosure is said to have been a square of two stades each way, or, in other words, to have contained an area of thirty acres. The temple itself ordinarily consisted of two parts. Its most essential feature was a ziggurat, or tower, which was either square, or at any rate rectangular, and built in stages, the smallest number of such stages being two, and the largest known number seven. At the summit of the tower was probably in every case a shrine, or chapel, of greater or less size, containing altars and images. The ascent to this was on the outside of the towers, which were entirely solid; and it generally wound round the different faces of the towers, ascending them either by means of steps or by an inclined plane. Special care was taken with regard to the emplacement of the tower, either its sides or its angles being made exactly to confront the cardinal points. It is said that the temple-towers were used not merely for religious purposes but also as observatories, a use with a view to which this arrangement of their position would have been serviceable.

Besides the shrine at the summit of the temple-tower or ziggurat, there was commonly at the base of the tower, or at any rate somewhere within the enclosure, a second shrine or chapel, in which the ordinary worshipper, who wished to spare himself the long ascent, made his offerings. Here again the ornamentation was most costly, lavish use being made of the precious metals for images and other furniture. Altars of different sizes were placed in the open air in the vicinity of this lower shrine, on which were sacrificed different classes of victims, gold being used occasionally as the material of the altar.

The general appearance of a Babylonian temple, or at any rate of its chief feature, the tower or ziggurat, will be best gathered from a more particular description of a single building of the kind; and the building which it will be most convenient to take for that purpose is that remarkable edifice which strikes moderns with more admiration than any other now existing in the country, and which has also been more completely and more carefully examined than any other Babylonian ruins—the Birs-i-Nimrud, or ancient temple of Nebo at Borsippa. The plan of this tower has been almost completely made out from data still existing on the spot; and a restoration of the original building may be given with a near approach to certainty. [PLATE XV., Fig. 1.]

Plate Xv.

Upon a platform of crude brick, raised a few feet above the level of the alluvial plain, was built the first or basement stage of the great edifice, an exact square, 272 feet each way, and and probably twenty-six feet in perpendicular height. On this was erected a second stage of exactly the same height, but a square of only 230 feet; which however was not placed exactly in the middle of the first, but further from its northeastern than its south-western edge, twelve feet only from the one and thirty feet from the other. The third stage, which was imposed in the same way upon the second, was also twenty-six feet high, and was a square of 188 feet. Thus far the plan had been uniform and without any variety; but at this point an alteration took place. The height of the fourth stage, instead of being twenty-six, was only fifteen feet. In other respects however the old numbers were maintained; the fourth stage was diminished equally with the others, and was consequently a square of 146 feet. It was emplaced upon the stage below it exactly as the former stages had been. The remaining stages probably followed the same rule of diminution—the fifth being a square of 104, the sixth one of 24, and the seventh one of 20 feet. Each of these stages had a height of fifteen feet. Upon the seventh or final stage was erected the shrine or tabernacle, which was probably also fifteen feet high, and about the same length and breadth. Thus the entire height of the building, allowing three feet for the crude brick platform, was 150 feet.

The ornamentation of the edifice was chiefly by means of color. The seven stages represented the Seven Spheres, in which moved (according to ancient Chaldaean astronomy) the seven planets. To each planet fancy, partly grounding itself upon fact, had from of old assigned a peculiar tint or hue. The Sun was golden, the Moon silver; the distant Saturn, almost beyond the region of light, was black; Jupiter was orange the fiery Mars was red; Venus was a pale Naples yellow; Mercury a deep blue. The seven stages of the tower, like the seven walls of Ecbatana, gave a visible embodiment to these fancies. The basement stage, assigned to Saturn, was blackened by means of a coating of bitumen spread over the face of the masonry; the second stage, assigned to Jupiter, obtained the appropriate orange color by means of a facing of burnt bricks of that hue; the third stage, that of Mars, was made blood-red by the use of half-burnt bricks formed of a bright red clay; the fourth stage, assigned to the Sun, appears to have been actually covered with thin plates of gold; the fifth, the stage of Venus, received a pale yellow tint from the employment of bricks of that hue; the sixth, the sphere of Mercury, was given an azure tint by vitrifaction, the whole stage having been subjected to an intense heat after it was erected, whereby the bricks composing it were converted into a mass of blue slag; the seventh stage, that of the Moon, was probably, like the fourth, coated with actual plates of metal. Thus the building rose up in stripes of varied color, arranged almost as nature's cunning arranges hues in the rainbow, tones of red coming first, succeeded by a broad stripe of yellow, the yellow being followed by blue. Above this the glowing silvery summit melted into the bright sheen of the sky. [PLATE XVI.]

Plate Xvi.

The faces of the various stages were, as a general rule, flat and unbroken, unless it were by a stair or ascent, of which however there has been found no trace. But there were two exceptions to this general plainness. The basement stage was indented with a number of shallow squared recesses, which seem to have been intended for a decoration. The face of the third stage was weak on account of its material, which was brick but half-burnt. Here then the builders, not for ornament's sake, but to strengthen their work, gave to the wall the support of a number of shallow buttresses. They also departed from their usual practice, by substituting for the rigid perpendicular of the other faces a slight slope outwards for some distance from the base. These arrangements, which are apparently part of the original work, and not remedies applied subsequently, imply considerable knowledge of architectural principles on the part of the builders, and no little ingenuity in turning architectural resources to account.

With respect to the shrine which was emplaced upon the topmost, or silver stage, little is definitely known. It appears to have been of brick; and we may perhaps conclude from the analogy of the old Chaldaean shrines at the summits of towers, as well as from that of the Belus shrine at Babylon, that it was richly ornamented both within and without; but it is impossible to state anything as to the exact character of the ornamentation.

The tower is to be regarded as fronting to the north-east, the coolest side and that least exposed to the sun's rays from the time that they become oppressive in Babylonia. On this side was the ascent, which consisted probably of abroad staircase extending along the whole front of the building. The side platforms (those towards the south-east and north-west)—at any rate of the first and second stages, probably of all—were occupied by a series of chambers abutting upon the perpendicular wall, as the priests' chambers of Solomon's temple abutted upon the side walls of that building. In these were doubtless lodged the priests and other attendants upon the temple service. The side chambers seem sometimes to have communicated with vaulted apartments within the solid mass of the structure, like those of which we hear in the structure supporting the "hanging gardens." It is possible that there may have been internal stair-cases, connecting the vaulted apartments of one stage with those of another; but the ruin has not yet been sufficiently explored for us to determine whether or not there was such communication.

The great Tower is thought to have been approached through a vestibule of considerable size. Towards the north-east the existing ruin is prolonged in an irregular manner and it is imagined that this prolongation marks the site of a vestibule or propylaeum, originally distinct from the tower, but now, through the crumbling down of both buildings, confused with its ruins. As no scientific examination has been made of this part of the mound, the above supposition can only be regarded as a conjecture. Possibly the excrescence does not so much mark a vestibule as a second shrine, like that which is said to have existed at the foot of the Belus Tower at Babylon. Till, however, additional researches have been made, it is in vain to think of restoring the plan or elevation of this part of the temple.

From the temples of the Babylonians we may now pass to their palaces—constructions inferior in height and grandeur, but covering a greater space, involving a larger amount of labor, and admitting of more architectural variety. Unfortunately the palaces have suffered from the ravages of time even more than the temples, and in considering their plan and character we obtain little help from the existing remains. Still, something may be learnt of them from this source, and where it fails we may perhaps be allowed to eke out the scantiness of our materials by drawing from the elaborate descriptions of Diodorus such points as have probability in their favor.

The Babylonian palace, like the Assyrian, and the Susianian, stood upon a lofty mound or platform. This arrangement provided at once for safety, for enjoyment, and for health. It secured a pure air, freedom from the molestation of insects, and a position only assailable at a few points. The ordinary shape of the palace mound appears to have been square; its elevation was probably not less than fifty or sixty feet. It was composed mainly of sun-dried bricks, which however were almost certainly enclosed externally by a facing of burnt brick, and may have been further strengthened within by walls of the same material, which perhaps traversed the whole mound. The entire mass seems to have been carefully drained, and the collected waters were conveyed through subterranean channels to the level of the plain at the mound's base. The summit of the platform was no doubt paved, either with stone or burnt brick—mainly, it is probable, with the latter; since the former material was scarce, and though a certain number of stone pavement slabs have been found, they are too rare and scattered to imply anything like the general use of stone paving. Upon the platform, most likely towards the centre, rose the actual palace, not built (like the Assyrian palaces) of crude brick faced with a better material, but constructed wholly of the finest and hardest burnt brick laid in a mortar of extreme tenacity, with walls of enormous thickness, parallel to the sides of the mound, and meeting each other at right angles. Neither the ground-plan nor the elevation of a Babylonian palace can be given; nor can even a conjectural restoration of such a building be made, since the small fragment of Nebuchadnezzar's palace which remains has defied all attempts to reduce it to system. We can only say that the lines of the building were straight; that the walls rose, at any rate to a considerable height, without windows; and that the flatness of the straight line was broken by numerous buttressses and pilasters. We have also evidence that occasionally there was an ornamentation of the building, either within or without, by means of sculptured stone slabs, on which were represented figures of a small size, carefully wrought. The general ornamentation, however, external as well as internal, we may well believe to have been such as Diodorus states, colored representations on brick of war-scenes, and hunting-scenes, the counterparts in a certain sense of those magnificent bas-reliefs which everywhere clothed the walls of palaces in Assyria. It has been already noticed that abundant remains of such representations have been found upon the Kasr mound. [PLATE XV., Fig. 2.] They seem to have alternated with cuneiform inscriptions, in white on a blue ground, or else with a patterning of rosettes in the same colors.

Of the general arrangement of the royal palaces, of their height, their number of stories, their roofing, and their lighting, we know absolutely nothing. The statement made by Herodotus, that many of the private houses in the town had three or four stories, would naturally lead us to suppose that the palaces were built similarly; but no ancient author tells us that this was so. The fact that the walls which exist, though of considerable height, show no traces of windows, would seem to imply that the lighting, as in Assyria, was from the top of the apartment, either from the ceiling, or from apertures in the part of the walls adjoining the ceiling. Altogether, such evidence as exists favors the notion that the Babylonian palace, in its character and general arrangements, resembled the Assyrian, with only the two differences, that Babylonian was wholly constructed of burnt brick, while in the Assyrian the sun-dried material was employed to a large extent; and, further, that in Babylonia the decoration of the walls was made, not by slabs of alabaster, which did not exist in the country, but mainly—almost entirely—by colored representations upon the brickwork.

Among the adjuncts of the principal palace at Babylon was the remarkable construction known to the Greeks and Romans as "the Hanging Garden." The accounts which, Diodorus, Strabo, and Q. Curtius give of this structure are not perhaps altogether trustworthy; still, it is probable that they are in the main at least founded on fact. We may safely believe that a lofty structure was raised at Babylon on several tiers of arches, which supported at the top a mass of earth, wherein grew, not merely flowers and shrubs, but trees of a considerable size. The Assyrians had been in the habit of erecting structures of a somewhat similar kind, artificial elevations to support a growth of trees and shrubs; but they were content to place their garden at the summit of a single row of pillars or arches, and thus to give it a very moderate height. At Babylon the object was to produce an artificial imitation of a mountain. For this purpose several tiers of arches were necessary; and these appear to have been constructed in the manner of a Roman amphitheatre, one directly over another so that the outer wall formed from summit to base a single perpendicular line. Of the height of the structure various accounts are given, while no writer reports the number of the tiers of arches. Hence there are no sufficient data for a reconstruction of the edifice.

Of the walls and bridge of Babylon, and of the ordinary houses of the people, little more is known than has been already reported in the general description of the capital. It does not appear that they possessed any very great architectural merit. Some skill was shown in constructing the piers of the bridge, which presented an angle to the current and then a curved line, along which the water slid gently. [PLATE XV., Fig. 3.] The loftiness of the houses, which were of three or four stories, is certainly surprising, since Oriental houses have very rarely more than two stories. Their construction, however, seems to have been rude; and the pillars especially—posts of palm, surrounded with wisps of rushes, and then plastered and painted—indicate a low condition of taste and a poor and coarse style of domestic architecture.

The material used by the Babylonians in their constructions seems to have been almost entirely brick. Like the early Chaldaeans, they employed bricks of two kinds, both the ruder sun-dried sort, and the very superior kiln-baked article. The former, however, was only applied to platforms, and to the interior of palace mounds and of very thick walls, and was never made by the later people the sole material of a building. In every case there was at least a revetement of kiln-dried brick, while the grander buildings were wholly constructed of it. The baked bricks used were of several different qualities, and (within rather narrow limits) of different sizes. The finest quality of brick was yellow, approaching to our Stourbridge or fire-brick; another very hard kind was blue, approaching to black; the commoner and coarser sorts were pink or red, and these were sometimes, though rarely, but half-baked, in which case they were weak and friable. The shape was always square; and the dimensions varied between twelve and fourteen inches for the length and breadth, and between three and four inches for the thickness. [PLATE XVII., Fig. 1.] At the corners of buildings, half-bricks were used in the alternate rows, since otherwise the joinings must have been all one exactly over another. The bricks were always made with a mold, and were commonly stamped on one face with an inscription. They were, of course, ordinarily laid horizontally. Sometimes, however, there was a departure from this practice. Rows of bricks were placed vertically, separated from one another by single horizontal layers. This arrangement seems to have been regarded as conducing to strength, since it occurs only where there is an evident intention of supporting a weak construction by the use of special architectural expedients.

Plate Xvii.

plate017a (98K)

The Babylonian builders made use of three different kinds of cement. The most indifferent was crude clay, or mud, which was mixed with chopped straw, to give it greater tenacity, and was applied in layers of extraordinary thickness. This was (it is probable) employed only where it was requisite that the face of the building should have a certain color. A cement superior to clay, but not of any very high value, unless as a preventive against damp, was bitumen, which was very generally used in basements and in other structures exposed to the action of water. Mortar, however, or lime cement was far more commonly employed than either of the others, and was of very excellent quality, equal indeed to the best Roman material.

There can be no doubt that the general effect of the more ambitious efforts of the Babylonian architects was grand and imposing. Even now, in their desolation and ruin, their great size renders them impressive; and there are times and states of atmosphere under which they fill the beholder with a sort of admiring awe, akin to the feeling which is called forth by the contemplation of the great works of nature. Rude and inartificial in their idea and general construction, without architectural embellishment, without variety, without any beauty of form, they yet affect men by their mere mass, producing a direct impression of sublimity, and at the same time arousing a sentiment of wonder at the indomitable perseverance which from materials so unpromising could produce such gigantic results. In their original condition, when they were adorned with color, with a lavish display of the precious metals, with pictured representations of human life, and perhaps with statuary of a rough kind, they must have added to the impression produced by size a sense of richness and barbaric magnificence. The African spirit, which loves gaudy hues and costly ornament, was still strong among the Babylonians, even after they had been Semitized; and by the side of Assyria, her colder and more correct northern sister, Babylonia showed herself a true child of the south—rich, glowing, careless of the laws of taste, bent on provoking admiration by the dazzling brilliancy of her appearance.

It is difficult to form a decided opinion as to the character of Babylonian mimetic art. The specimens discovered are so few, so fragmentary, and in some instances so worn by time and exposure, that we have scarcely the means of doing justice to the people in respect of this portion of their civilization. Setting aside the intaglios on seals and gems, which have such a general character of quaintness and grotesqueness, or at any rate of formality, that we can scarcely look upon many of them as the serious efforts of artists doing their best, we possess not half a dozen specimens of the mimetic art of the people in question. We have one sculpture in the round, one or two modelled clay figures, a few bas-reliefs, one figure of a king engraved on stone, and a few animal forms represented the same material. Nothing more has reached us but fragments of pictorial representations too small for criticism to pronounce upon, and descriptions of ancient writers too incomplete to be of any great value.

The single Babylonian sculpture in the round which has come down to our times is the colossal lion standing over the prostrate figure of a man, which is still to be seen on the Kasr mound, as has been already mentioned. The accounts of travellers uniformly state that it is a work of no merit—either barbarously executed, or left unfinished by the sculptor—and probably much worn by exposure to the weather. A sketch made by a recent visitor and kindly communicated to the author, seems to show that, while the general form of the animal was tolerably well hit off, the proportions were in some respects misconceived, and the details not only rudely but incorrectly rendered. The extreme shortness of the legs and the extreme thickness of the tail are the most prominent errors; there is also great awkwardness in the whole representation of the beast's shoulder. The head is so mutilated that it is impossible to do more than conjecture its contour. Still the whole figure is not without a certain air of grandeur and majesty. [PLATE XVII., Fig. 3.]

The human appears to be inferior to the animal form. The prostrate man is altogether shapeless, and can never, it would seem, have been very much better than it is at the present time.

Modelled figures in clay are of rare occurrence. The best is one figured by Ker Porter, which represents a mother with a child in her arms. The mother is seated in a natural and not ungraceful attitude on a rough square pedestal. She is naked except for a hood, or mantilla, which covers the head, shoulders, and back, and a narrow apron which hangs down in front. She wears earrings and a bracelet. The child, which sleeps on her left shoulder, wears a shirt open in front, and a short but full tunic, which is gathered into plaits. Both figures are in simple and natural taste, but the limbs of the infant are somewhat too thin and delicate. The statuette is about three inches and a half high, and shows signs of having been covered with a tinted glaze. [PLATE XVII., Fig. 2.]

The single figure of a king which we possess is clumsy and ungraceful. It is chiefly remarkable for the elaborate ornamentation of the head-dress and the robes, which have a finish equal to that of the best Assyrian specimens. The general proportions are not bad; but the form is stiff, and the drawing of the right hand is peculiarly faulty, since it would be scarcely possible to hold arrows in the manner represented. [PLATE XVIII., Fig. 2.]

Plate Vxiii.

The engraved animal forms have a certain amount of merit. The figure of a dog sitting, which is common on the "black stones," is drawn with spirit; [PLATE XVIII., Fig. 1.] and a bird, sometimes regarded as a cock, but more resembling a bustard, is touched with a delicate hand, and may be pronounced superior to any Assyrian representation of the feathered tribe. [PLATE XVIII., Fig. 3.] The hound on a bas-relief, given in the first volume of this work, is also good; and the cylinders exhibit figures of goats, cows, deer, and even monkeys, which are truthful and meritorious. [PLATE XIX., Fig. 1.]

Plate Xix.

It has been observed that the main characteristic of the engravings on gems and cylinders, considered as works of mimetic art, is their quaintness and grotesqueness. A few specimens, taken almost at random from the admirable collection of M. Felix Lajard, will sufficiently illustrate this feature. In one the central position is occupied by a human figure whose left arm has two elbow-joints, while towards the right two sitting figures threaten one another with their fists, in the upper quarter, and in the lower two nondescript animals do the same with their jaws. [PLATE XVIII., Fig. 4.] The entire drawing of this design seems to be intentionally rude. The faces of the main figures are evidently intended to be ridiculous; and the heads of the two animals are extravagantly grotesque. On another cylinder three nondescript animals play the principal part. One of them is on the point of taking into his mouth the head of a man who vainly tries to escape by flight. Another, with the head of a pike, tries to devour the third, which has the head of a bird and the body of a goat. This kind intention seems to be disputed by a naked man with a long beard, who seizes the fish-headed monster with his right hand, and at the same time administers from behind a severe kick with his right foot. The heads of the three main monsters, the tail and trousers of the principal one, and the whole of the small figure in front of the flying man, are exceedingly quaint, and remind one of the pencil of Fuseli. [PLATE XIX., Fig. 3.] The third of the designs approaches nearly to the modern caricature. It is a drawing in two portions. The upper line of figures represents a procession of worshippers who bear in solemn state their offerings to a god. In the lower line this occupation is turned to a jest. Nondescript animals bring with a serio-comic air offerings which consist chiefly of game, while a man in a mask seeks to steal away the sacred tree from the temple wherein the scene is enacted. [PLATE XIX., Fig. 4.]

It is probable that the most elaborate and most artistic of the Babylonian works of art were of a kind which has almost wholly perished. What bas-relief was to the Assyrian, what painting is to moderns, that enamelling upon brick appears to have been to the people of Babylon. The mimetic power, which delights in representing to itself the forms and actions of men, found a vent in this curious byway of the graphic art; and the images of the Chaldaeans, portrayed upon the wall, with vermilion, and other hues, formed the favorite adornment of palaces and public buildings, at once employing the artist, gratifying the taste of the native connoisseur, and attracting the admiration of the foreigner.

The artistic merit of these works can only be conjectured. The admiration of the Jews, or even that of Diodorus, who must be viewed here as the echo of Ctesias, is no sure test; for the Jews were a people very devoid of true artistic appreciation; and Ctesias was bent on exaggerating the wonders of foreign countries to the Greeks. The fact of the excellence of Assyrian art at a somewhat earlier date lends however support to the view that the wall-painting of the Babylonians had some real artistic excellence. We can scarcely suppose that there was any very material difference, in respect of taste and aesthetic power, between the two cognate nations, or that the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar fell very greatly short of the Assyrians under Asshur-bani-pal. It is evident that the same subjects—war scenes and hunting scenes—approved themselves to both people; and it is likely that their treatment was not very different. Even in the matter of color, the contrast was not sharp nor strong; for the Assyrians partially colored their bas-reliefs.

Tho tints chiefly employed by the Babylonians in their colored representations were white, blue, yellow, brown, and black. The blue was of different shades, sometimes bright and deep, sometimes exceedingly pale. The yellow was somewhat dull, resembling our yellow ochre. The brown was this same hue darkened. In comparatively rare instances the Babylonians made use of a red, which they probably obtained with some difficulty. Objects were colored, as nearly as possible, according to their natural tints—water a light blue, ground yellow, the shafts of spears black, lions a tawny brown, etc. No attempt was made to shade the figures or the landscape, much less to produce any general effect by means of chiaroscuro; but the artist trusted for his effect to a careful delineation of forms, and a judicious arrangement of simple hues.

Considerable metallurgic knowledge and skill were shown in the composition of the pigments, and the preparation and application of the glaze wherewith they are covered. The red used was a sub-oxide of copper; the yellow was sometimes oxide of iron, sometimes antimoniate of lead—the Naples yellow of modern artists; the blue was either cobalt or oxide of copper; the white was oxide of tin. Oxide of load was added in some cases, not as a coloring matter, but as a flux, to facilitate the fusion of the glaze. In other cases the pigment used was covered with a vitreous coat of an alkaline silicate of alumina.

The pigments were not applied to an entirely flat surface. Prior to the reception of the coloring matter and the glaze, each brick was modelled by the hand, the figures being carefully traced out, and a slight elevation given to the more important objects. A very low bas-relief was thus produced, to which the colors were subsequently applied, and the brick was then baked in the furnace.

It is conjectured that the bricks were not modelled singly and separately. A large mass of clay was (it is thought) taken, sufficient to contain a whole subject, or at any rate a considerable portion of a subject. On this the modeller made out his design in low relief. The mass of clay was then cut up into bricks, and each brick was taken and painted separately with the proper colors, after which they were all placed in the furnace and baked. When baked, they were restored to their original places in the design, a thin layer of the finest mortar serving to keep them in place.

From the mimetic art of the Babylonians, and the branches of knowledge connected with it, we may now pass to the purely mechanical arts—as the art by which hard stones were cut, and those of agriculture, metallurgy, pottery, weaving, carpet-making, embroidery, and the like.

The stones shaped, bored, and engraved by Babylonian artisans were not merely the softer and more easily worked kinds, as alabaster, serpentine, and lapis-lazuli, but also the harder sorts-cornelian, agate, quartz, jasper, sienite, loadstone, and green felspar or amazon-stone. These can certainly not have been cut without emery, and scarcely without such devices as rapidly revolving points, or discs, of the kind used by modern lapidaries. Though the devices are in general rude, the work is sometimes exceedingly delicate, and implies a complete mastery over tools and materials, as well as a good deal of artistic power. As far as the mechanical part of the art goes, the Babylonians may challenge comparison with the most advanced of the nations of antiquity; they decidedly excel the Egyptians, and fall little, if at all, short of the Greeks and Romans.

The extreme minuteness of the work in some of the Babylonian seals and gems raises a suspicion that they must have been engraved by the help of a powerful magnifying-glass. A lens has been found in Assyria; and there is much reason to believe that the convenience was at least as well known in the lower country. Glass was certainly in use, and was cut into such shapes as were required. It is at any rate exceedingly likely that magnifying-glasses, which were undoubtedly known to the Greeks in the time of Aristophanes, were employed by the artisans of Babylon during the most flourishing period of the Empire.

Of Babylonian metal-work we have scarcely any direct means of judging. The accounts of ancient authors imply that the Babylonians dealt freely with the material, using gold and silver for statues, furniture, and utensils, bronze for gates and images, and iron sometimes for the latter. We may assume that they likewise employed bronze and iron for tools and weapons, since those metals were certainly so used by the Assyrians. Lead was made of service in building; where iron was also employed, if great strength was needed. The golden images are said to have been sometimes solid, in which case we must suppose them to have been cast in a mold; but undoubtedly in most cases the gold was a mere external covering, and was applied in plates, which were hammered into shape upon some cheaper substance below. Silver was no doubt used also in plates, more especially when applied externally to walls, or internally to the woodwork of palaces; but the silver images, ornamental figures, and utensils of which we hear, were most probably solid. The bronze works must have been remarkable. We are told that both the town and the palace gates were of this material, and it is implied that the latter were too heavy to be opened in the ordinary manner. Castings on an enormous scale would be requisite for such purposes; and the Babylonians must thus have possessed the art of running into a single mold vast masses of metal. Probably the gates here mentioned were solid; but occasionally, it would seem, the Babylonians had gates of a different kind, composed of a number of perpendicular bars, united by horizontal ones above and below [as in PLATE XIX., Fig. 2.]. They had also, it would appear, metal gateways of a similar character.

The metal-work of personal ornaments, such as bracelets and armlets, and again that of dagger handles, seems to have resembled the work of the Assyrians.

Small figures in bronze were occasionally cast by the Babylonians, which were sometimes probably used as amulets, while perhaps more generally they wore mere ornaments of houses, furniture, and the like. Among these may be noticed figures of dogs in a sitting posture, much resembling the dog represented among the constellations, figures of men, grotesque in character, and figures of monsters. An interesting specimen, which combines a man and a monster, was found by Sir R. Ker Porter at Babylon. [PLATE XX., Fig. 1.]

Plate Xx.

The pottery of the Babylonians was of excellent quality, and is scarcely to be distinguished from the Assyrian, which it resembles alike in form and in material. The bricks of the best period were on the whole better than any used in the sister country, and may compare for hardness and fineness with the best Roman. The earthenware is of a fine terra-cotta, generally of a light red color, and slightly baked, but occasionally of a yellow hue, with a tinge of green. It consists of cups, jars, vases, and other vessels. They appear to have been made upon the wheel, and are in general unornamented. From representations upon the cylinders, it appears that the shapes were often elegant. Long and narrow vases with thin necks seem to have been used for water vessels; these had rounded or pointed bases, and required therefore the support of a stand. Thin jugs were also in use, with slight elegant handles. It is conjectured that sometimes modelled figures may have been introduced at the sides as handles to the vases; but neither the cylinders nor the extant remains confirm this supposition. The only ornamentation hitherto observed consists in a double band which seems to have been carried round some of the vases in an incomplete spiral. The vases sometimes have two handles; but they are plain and small, adding nothing to the beauty of the vessels. Occasionally the whole vessel is glazed with a rich blue color. [PLATE XX., Fig. 3.]

The Babylonians certainly employed glass for vessels for a small size. They appear not to have been very skilful blowers, since their bottles are not unfrequently misshappen. [PLATE XX., Fig. 3.] They generally stained their glass with, some coloring matter, and occasionally ornamented it with a ribbing. Whether they were able to form masses of glass of any considerable size, whether they used it, like the Egyptians, for beads and bugles, or for mosaics, is uncertain. If we suppose a foundation in fact for Pliny's story of the great emerald (?) presented by a king of Babylon to an Egyptian Pharaoh, we must conclude that very considerable masses of glass were produced by the Babylonians, at least occasionally; for the said emerald, which can scarcely have been of any other material, was four cubits (or six feet) long and three cubits (or four and a half feet) broad.

Of all the productions of the Babylonians none obtained such, high repute in ancient times as their textile fabrics. Their carpets especially were of great celebrity, and were largely exported to foreign countries. They were dyed of various colors, and represented objects similar to those found on the gems, as griffins and such like monsters. Their position in the ancient world may be compared to that which is now borne by the fabrics of Turkey and Persia, which are deservedly preferred to those of all other countries.

Next to their carpets, the highest, character was borne by their muslins. Formed of the finest cotton, and dyed of the most brilliant colors, they seemed to the Oriental the very best possible material for dress. The Persian kings preferred them for their own wear; and they had an early fame in foreign countries at a considerable distance from Babylonia. It is probable that they were sometimes embroidered with delicate patterns, such as those which may be seen on the garments of the early Babylonian kings.

Besides woollen and cotton fabrics, the Babylonians also manufactured a good deal of linen cloth, the principal seat of the manufacture being Borsippa. This material was produced, it is probable, chiefly for home consumption, long linen robes being generally worn by the people.

From the arts of the Babylonians we may now pass to their science—an obscure subject, but one which possesses more than common interest. If the classical writers were correct in their belief that Chaldaea was the birthplace of Astronomy, and that their own astronomical science was derived mainly from this quarter, it must be well worth inquiry what the amount of knowledge was which the Babylonians attained on the subject, and what were the means whereby they made their discoveries.

On the broad flat plains of Chaldsea, where the entire celestial hemisphere is continually visible to every eye, and the clear transparent atmosphere shows night after night the heavens gemmed with countless stars, each shining with a brilliancy unknown in our moist northern climes, the attention of man was naturally turned earlier than elsewhere to these luminous bodies, and attempts were made to grasp, and reduce to scientific form, the array of facts which nature presented to the eye in a confused and tangled mass. It required no very long course of observation to acquaint men with a truth, which at first sight none would have suspected—namely, that the luminous points whereof the sky was full were of two kinds, some always maintaining the same position relatively to one another, while others were constantly changing their places, and as it were wandering about the sky. It is certain that the Babylonians at a very early date distinguished from the fixed stars those remarkable five, which, from their wandering propensities, the Greeks called the "planets," and which are the only erratic stars that the naked eye, or that even the telescope, except at a very high power, can discern. With these five they were soon led to class the Moon, which was easily observed to be a wandering luminary, changing her place among the fixed stars with remarkable rapidity. Ultimately, it came to be perceived that the Sun too rose and set at different parts of the year in the neighborhood of different constellations, and that consequently the great luminary was itself also a wanderer, having a path in the sky which it was possible, by means of careful observation, to mark out.

But to do this, to mark out with accuracy the courses of the Sun and Moon among the fixed stars, it was necessary, or at least convenient, to arrange the stars themselves into groups. Thus, too, and thus only, was it possible to give form and order to the chaotic confusion in which the stars seem at first sight to lie, owing to the irregularity of their intervals, the difference in their magnitude, and their apparent countlessness. The most uneducated eye, when raised to the starry heavens on a clear night, fixes here and there upon groups of stars: in the north, Cassiopeia, the Great Bear, the Pleiades—below the Equator, the Southern Cross—must at all times have impressed those who beheld them with a certain sense of unity. Thus the idea of a "constellation" is formed; and this once done, the mind naturally progresses in the same direction, and little by little the whole sky is mapped out into certain portions or districts to which names are given—names taken from some resemblance, real or fancied, between the shapes of the several groups and objects familiar to the early observers. This branch of practical astronomy is termed "uranography" by moderns; its utility is very considerable; thus and thus only can we particularize the individual stars of which we wish to speak; thus and thus only can we retain in our memory the general arrangement of the stars and their positions relatively to each other.

There is reason to believe that in the early Babylonian astronomy the subject of uranography occupied a prominent place. The Chaldaean astronomers not only seized on and named those natural groups which force themselves upon the eye, but artificially arranged the whole heavens into a certain number of constellations or asterisms. The very system of uranography which maintains itself to the present day on our celestial globes and maps, and which is still acknowledged—albeit under protest—in the nomenclature of scientific astronomers, came in all probability from this source, reaching us from the Arabians, who took it from the Greeks who derived it from the Babylonians. The Zodiacal constellations at any rate, or those through which the sun's course lies would seem to have had this origin; and many of them may be distinctly recognized on Babylonian monuments which are plainly of a stellar character. The accompanying representation, taken from a conical black stone in the British Museum [PLATE XX., Fig. 2.], and belonging to the twelfth century before our era, is not perhaps, strictly speaking, a zodiac, but it is almost certainly an arrangement of constellations according to the forms assigned them in Babylonian uranography. [PLATE XXI.] The Ram, the Bull, the Scorpion, the Serpent, the Dog, the Arrow, the Eagle or Vulture may all be detected on the stone in question, as may similar forms variously arranged on other similar monuments.

Plate Xxi.

The Babylonians called the Zodiacal constellations the "Houses of the Sun," and distinguished from them another set of asterisms, which they denominated the "Houses of the Moon." As the Sun and Moon both move through the sky in nearly the same plane, the path of the Moon merely crossing and recrossing that of the Sun, but never diverging from it further than a few degrees, it would seem that these "Houses of the Moon," or lunar asterisms, must have been a division of the Zodiacal stars different from that employed with respect to the sun, either in the number of the "Houses," or in the point of separation between "House" and "House."

The Babylonians observed and calculated eclipses; but their power of calculation does not seem to have been based on scientific knowledge, nor to have necessarily implied sound views as to the nature of eclipses or as to the size, distance, and real motions of the heavenly bodies. The knowledge which they possessed was empirical. Their habits of observation led them to discover the period of 223 lunations or 18 years 10 days, after which eclipses—especially those of the the moon—recur again in the same order. Their acquaintance with this cycle would enable them to predict lunar eclipses with accuracy for many ages, and solar eclipses without much inaccuracy for the next cycle or two.

That the Babylonians carefully noted and recorded eclipses is witnessed by Ptolemy, who had access to a continuous series of such observations reaching back from his own time to B.C. 747. Five of these—all eclipses of the moon—were described by Hipparchus from Babylonian sources, and are found to answer all the requirements of modern science. They belong to the years B.C. 721, 720, 621, and 523. One of them, that of B.C. 721, was total at Babylon. The others were partial, the portion of the moon obscured varying from one digit to seven.

There is no reason to think that the observation of eclipses by the Babylonians commenced with Nabonassar. Ptolemy indeed implies that the series extant in his day went no higher; but this is to be accounted for by the fact, which Berosus mentioned, that Nabonassar destroyed, as far as he was able, the previously existing observations, in order that exact chronology might commence with his own reign.

Other astronomical achievements of the Babylonians were the following. They accomplished a catalogue of the fixed stars, of which the Greeks made use in compiling their stellar tables. They observed and recorded their observations upon occultations of the planets by the sun and moon. They invented the gnomon and the polos, two kinds of sundial, by means of which they were able to measure time during the day, and to fix the true length of the solar day, with sufficient accuracy. They determined correctly within a small fraction the length of the synodic revolution of the moon. They knew that the true length of the solar year was 365 days and a quarter, nearly. They noticed comets, which they believed to be permanent bodies, revolving in orbits like those of the planets, only greater. They ascribed eclipses of the sun to the interposition of the moon between the sun and the earth. They had notions not far from the truth with respect to the relative distance from the earth of the sun, moon, and planets. Adopting, as was natural, a geocentric system, they decided that the Moon occupied the position nearest to the earth; that beyond the Moon was Mercury, beyond Mercury Venus, beyond Venus Mars, beyond Mars Jupiter, and beyond Jupiter, in the remotest position of all, Saturn. This arrangement was probably based upon a knowledge, more or less exact, of the periodic times which the several bodies occupy in their (real or apparent) revolutions. From the difference in the times the Babylonians assumed a corresponding difference in the size of the orbits, and consequently a greater or less distance from the common centre.

Thus far the astronomical achievements of the Babylonians rest upon the express testimony of ancient writers—a testimony confirmed in many respects by the monuments already deciphered. It is suspected that, when the astronomical tablets which exist by hundreds in the British Museum come to be thoroughly understood, it will be found that the acquaintance of the Chaldaean sages with astronomical phenomena, if not also with astronomical laws, went considerably beyond the point at which we should place it upon the testimony of the Greek and Roman writers. There is said to be distinct evidence that they observed the four satellites of Jupiter, and strong reason to believe that they were acquainted likewise with the seven satellites of Saturn. Moreover, the general laws of the movements of the heavenly bodies seem to have been so far known to them that they could state by anticipation the position of the various planets throughout the year.

In order to attain the astronomical knowledge which they seem to have possessed, the Babylonians must undoubtedly have employed a certain number of instruments. The invention of sun-dials, as already observed, is distinctly assigned to them. Besides these contrivances for measuring time during the day, it is almost certain that they must have possessed means of measuring time during the night. The clepsydra, or water-clock, which was in common use among the Greeks as early as the fifth century before our era, was probably introduced into Greece from the East, and is likely to have been a Babylonian invention. The astrolabe, an instrument for measuring the altitude of stars above the horizon, which was known to Ptolemy, may also reasonably be assigned to them. It has generally been assumed that they were wholly ignorant of the telescope. But if the satellites of Saturn are really mentioned, as it is thought that they are, upon some of the tablets, it will follow—strange as it may seem to us—that the Babylonians possessed optical instruments of the nature of telescopes, since it is impossible, even in the clear and vapor-loss sky of Chaldaea, to discern the faint moons of that distant planet without lenses. A lens, it must be remembered, with a fair magnifying power, has been discovered among the Mesopotamian ruins. A people ingenious enough to discover the magnifying-glass would be naturally led on to the invention of its opposite. When once lenses of the two contrary kinds existed, the elements of a telescope were in being. We could not assume from these data that the discovery was made; but if it shall ultimately be substantiated that bodies invisible to the naked eye were observed by the Babylonians, we need feel no difficulty in ascribing to them the possession of some telescopic instrument.

The astronomical zeal of the Babylonians was in general, it must be confessed, no simple and pure love of an abstract science. A school of pure astronomers existed among them; but the bulk of those who engaged in the study undoubtedly pursued it in the belief that the heavenly bodies had a mysterious influence, not only upon the seasons, but upon the lives and actions of men—an influence which it was possible to discover and to foretell by prolonged and careful observation. The ancient writers, Biblical and other, state this fact in the strongest way; and the extant astronomical remains distinctly confirm it. The great majority of the tablets are of an astrological character, recording the supposed influence of the heavenly bodies, singly, in conjunction, or in opposition, upon all sublunary affairs, from the fate of empires to the washing of hands or the paring of nails. The modern prophetical almanac is the legitimate descendant and the sufficient representative of the ancient Chaldee Ephemeris, which was just as silly, just as pretentious, and just as worthless.

The Chaldee astrology was, primarily and mainly, genethlialogical. It inquired under what aspect of the heavens persons were born, or conceived, and, from the position of the celestial bodies at one or other of these moments, it professed to deduce the whole life and fortunes of the individual. According to Diodorus, it was believed that a particular star or constellation presided over the birth of each person, and thenceforward exercised over his life a special malign or benignant influence. But his lot depended, not on this star alone, but on the entire aspect of the heavens at a certain moment. To cast the horoscope was to reproduce this aspect, and then to read by means of it the individual's future.

Chaldee astrology, was not, however, limited to genethlialogy. The Chaldaeans professed to predict from the stars such things as the changes of the weather, high winds and storms, great heats, the appearance of comets, eclipses, earthquakes, and the like. They published lists of luck and unlucky days, and tables showing what aspect of the heavens portended good or evil to particular countries. Curiously enough, it appears that they regarded their art as locally limited to the regions inhabited by themselves and their kinsmen, so that while they could boldly predict storm, tempest, failing or abundant crops, war, famine, and the like, for Syria, Babylonia, and Susiana, they could venture on no prophecies with respect to other neighboring lands, as Persia, Media, Armenia.

A certain amount of real meteorological knowledge was probably mixed up with the Chaldaean astrology. Their calendars, like modern almanacs, boldly predicted the weather for fixed days in the year. They must also have been mathematicians to no inconsiderable extent, since their methods appear to have been geometrical. It is said that the Greek mathematicians often quoted with approval the works of their Chaldaean predecessors, Ciden, Naburianus, and Sudinus. Of the nature and extent of their mathematical acquirements, no account, however, can be given, since the writers who mention them enter into no details on the subject.

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