Babylonia (2)

Babylonia The recent explorations into the monuments of this country have led to many new conclusions respecting the early ethnic relations of the Babylonians. These we give in the resume of one of the most accepted exponents (Prof. Sayce, in the last edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica), premising, however, that we do not fully acquiesce in some of them, especially the chronology, and that we do not regard the geographical identifications as fully determined.

"Geographically, as well as ethnologically and historically, the whole district enclosed between the two great rivers of Western Asia, the Tigris and Euphrates, forms but one country. The writers of antiquity clearly recognised this fact, speaking of the whole under the general name of Assyria, though Babylonia, as will be seen, would have been a more accurate designation. It naturally falls into two divisions, the northern being more or less mountainous, while the southern is flat and marshy; and the near approach of the two rivers to one another at a spot where the undulating plateau of the north sinks suddenly into the Babylonian alluvium tends still more completely to separate them. In the earliest times of which we have any record, the northern portion was comprehended under the vague title of Gutinm (the Goyim of Ge 14:1), which stretched from the Euphrates on the west to the mountains of Media on. the east; but it was definitely marked off as Assyria after the rise of that monarchy in the 16th century B.C. Aram-Naharaim, or Mesopotamia, however, though claimed by the Assyrian kings, taid from time to time overrun by them, did not form an integral part of the kingdom until the 9th century B.C.; while the region on the left bank of the Tigris, between that river and the Greater Zab, was not only included in Assyria, but contained the chief capitals of the empire. In this respect the monarchy of the Tigris resembled Chaldea, where some of the most important cities were situated on the Arabian side of the Euphrates. The reason of this preference for the eastern bank of the Tigris was due to its abundant supply of water, whereas the great Mesopotamian plain on the western side had to depend upon the streams which flowed into the Euphrates. This vast flat, the modern El-Jezireh, is about two hundred and fifty miles in length, interrupted only by a single limestone range rising abruptly: out of the plain and branching off from the Zagros mountains under the names of Sarazur, Haimrim, and Sinjar. The numerous remains of old habitations show how thickly this level tract must once have been peopled, though now for the most part a wilderness. North of the plateau rises a well-watered and undulating belt of country, into which run low ranges of limestone hills, sometimes arid, sometimes covered with dwarf-oak, and often shutting in between their northern and northeastern flank and the main mountain line from which they detach themselves rich plains and fertile valleys. Behind them tower the massive ridges of the Niphates and Zagros ranges, where the Tigris and Euphrates take their rise, and which cut off Assyria from Amneia and Kurdistan...

"In contrast with the and plain of Mesopotamia stretched the rich alluvial plain of Chaldea, formed by the deposits of the two great rivers by which it was enclosed. The soil was extremely fertile, and teemed with an industrious population. Eastward .rose the mountains of Elam, southward were the sea-marshes and the ancient kingdom of Nituk or Dilvum (the modern Bender-Dilvum), while on the west the civilization of Babylonia encroached beyond the banks of the Euphrates upon the territory of the Shemitic nomads (or Suti). Here stood Ur (now Mugheir), the earliest capital of the country; and Babylon, with its suburb Borsippa (Birs Nimrud), as well as the two Sipparas (the Sepharvaim of Scripture, now Mosaib), occupied both the Arabian and the Chaldaean side of the river. The Araxes, or River of Babylon, was conducted through a deep valley into the heart of Arabia, irrigating the laud through which it passed; and to the south of it lay the great inland fresh-water sea of Nejef, surrounded by red sandstone cliffs of considerable height, forty miles in length and thirty- five in breadth the widest part. Above and below this sea, from Borsippa to Kufa, extend the famous Chaldaean marshes where Alexander was nearly lost (Arrian, Exp. Al. 7:22; Strabo xvi, 1, 12); but these depend upon the state of the Hindiyah canal, disappearing altogether when it is closed. Between the sea of Nejef and Ur, but on the left side of the Euphrates, was Erech (now Warka), which with Niphur or Calneh (now Niffer), Surippac (Senkereh ?), and Babylon (now Hillah), formed the tetrapolis of Sumir or Shinar. This north-western part of Chaldeea was also called Gan-dumyas or Gun-duni after the accession of the Cassite dynasty. South-eastern Chaldea, on the other hand, was termed .Accad, though the name came also to be applied to the whole of Babylonia. The Caldai, or Chaldaeans, are first met with in the 9th century B.C. as a small tribe on the Persian Gulf, whence they slowly moved northwards, until, under Merodach- Baladan, they made themselves masters of Babylon, and henceforth formed so important an element in the population of the country as in later days to give their name to the whole of it. In the inscriptions, however, Chaldaea represents the marshes on the sea-coast, and Feredon. was one of their ports. The whole territory was thickly studded with-towns, but among all this vast number of great cities, to use the words of Herodotus, Cuthah, or Tiggaba (nowIbrahim), Chilmad (Calwtadah), Is (Hit), and Duraba (Akkerkuf) alone need be mentioned." The cultivation of the country was regulated by canals, the three chief of which carried off the waters of the Euphrates towards the Tigris above Babylon-the 'Royal River,' or Ar- Malch, entering the Tigris a little below Baghdad, the Nahr-Malcha running across to the site of Seleucia, and the Nahr-Kutha passing through Ibrahim. The Pallacopas, on the other side of the Euphrates, supplied an immense lake in the neighborhood of Borsippa. So great was the fertility of the soil that, according to Herodotus (i, 193), grain commonly returned two hundredfold to the sower, and occasionally three hundredfold. Pliny, too (H. N. 18:17), says that wheat was cut twice and afterwards was good keep for sheep; and Berosus remarked that wheat, barley, sesame, ochrys, palms, apples, and many kinds of shelled fruit grew wild, as wheat still does in the neighborhood of Anah. A Persian poem celebrated the three hundred and sixty uses of the palm (Strabo, 16:1, 14); and Ammianus Marcellinus (xxiv, 3) states that from the point reached by Julian's army to the shores of the Persian Gulf was one continuous forest-of verdure. ...

"Babylon." topical outline.

"The primitive population of Babylonia, the builders of its cities, the originators of its culture, and the inventors of its hieroglyphics out of which it gradually developed, belonged to the Turanian or Ural-Altaic family. Their language was highly agglutinative, approaching the modern Mongolian idioms in the simplicity of its grammatical machinery, but otherwise more nearly related to the Ugro-Bulgaric division of the Finnic group; and its speakers were mentally in no way inferior to the Hungarians and Turks of the present day. The country was divided into two halves-the Sumir (Sungir, or Shinar) in the north- west and the Accadin the south-east corresponding most remarkably to the Suomi and Akkara, into which the Finnic race believed itself to have been separated in its first mountain home. Like .Suomi, Sumir signified (the people) of the rivers; and just as Finnic tradition makes Kemi a district of the Suomi, so Came was another name of the Babylonian Snmir; The Accadai, or Accad, were the 'highlanders' who had descended from the mountainous region of Elaln on the east, and it was to them that the Assyrians ascribed the origin of Chaldaean civilization and writing. They were, at all events, the dominant people in Babylonia at the time to which our earliest contemporaneous records reach back, although the Sumir, or people of the home language,' as they are sometimes termed, were named first in the royalties out of respect to their prior settlement in the country.

"The supremacy of Ur had been disputed by its more ancient rival Erech, but had finally given way before the rise of Nisin, or Karrak, a city whose site is uncertain, and Karrak in its turn was succeeded by Laisa. Elamitish conquest seems to have had something to do with these transferences of the seat, of power. In B.C. 2280 the date is fixed by an inscription of Assur-bani-pal's-Cudnr-nankhunldi, the Elamite, conquered Chaldaea at a time when princes with Shemitic names appear to have been already reigning there; and Cudur-mabug not only overran the west, of Palestine, but established a line of monarchs in Babylonia. His son and successor took an Accadian name and extended his way over the whole country. Twice did the Elamitic tribe of Cassi, or Kosseseans, furnish Chaldaea with a succession of kings. At very early period we find one of these Kosseman dynasties claiming homage from Syria, Gutinm, and Northern Arabia, and rededicating the images of native Babylonian gods which had been carried away in war with great splendor and expense. The other Cassitic dynasty was founded by Khamurragas, who established his capital at Babylon, which henceforward continued to be the seat of empire in the south. 'he dynasty is probably to be identified with that called Arabian by Berosus, and it was during its domination that Shemitic came gradually to supersede Accadian as the language of the country. Khammuragas himself assumed a Shemitic name, and .a Shemitic inscription of his is now at the Louvre. A large number of canals were constructed during his reign, more especially the famous Nahr-Malcha, and the embankment built along the banks of the Tigris. The king's attention seems to have been turned to the subject of irrigation by a flood which overwhelmed the important city of Mullias. His first conquests were in the north of Babylonia, and from this base of operations he succeeded in overthrowing Naram-Sin (or Rim-Acn ?) in the south and making himself master of the whole of Chaldsea. Naram-Sin and a queen had been the last representatives of a dynasty which had attained a high degree of glory both in arms and literature. Naram-Sin and his father, Sargon, had not only subdued the rival princes of Babylonia, but had successfully invaded Syria, Palestine, and even, as it would seem, Egypt. At Agarie, a suburb of Sippara, Sargon had founded a library especially famous for its works on astrology and astronomy, copies of which were made in later times for the libraries of Assyria. Indeed, so prominent a place did Sargon take in the early history of Babylonia that his person became surrounded with al atmosphere of myth. Not only was he regarded as a sort of eponymous hero of literature, a Babylonian Solomon, whose title was the deviser of law and prosperity; popular legends told of his mysterious birth-how, like Romulus and Arthur, he knew no father, but was born in secrecy and placed in an ark of reeds and bitumen, and left to the care of the river; how, moreover, this second Moses was carried by the stream to the dwelling of a ferryman, who reared him as his own sin until at last the time came that his rank should be discovered, and Sargon, the constituted king for such is the meaning of his name-took his seat upon the throne of his ancestors. It was while the Cassitic sovereigns were reigning, in the south, and probably in consequence of reverses that they had suffered at the hands of the Egyptians, who, under the monarchs of the 18th dynasty, were pushing eastward, that the kingdom of Assyria took its rise. Its princes soon began to treat with their southern neighbors on equal terms; the boundaries of the two kingdoms were settled, and intermarriages between :the royal families took place, which led more than once to an interference on the part of the Assyrians in the affairs of Babylonia. Finally, in the 14th century B.C., Tiglath-Adar of Assyria captured Babylon and established a Shemitic line of sovereigns there, which contiued until the days of the later Assyrian empire. From this time down to the destruction of Nineveh, Assyria remained the leading power of Western Asia. Occasionally, it is true, a king of Babylon succeeded in defeating his aggressive rival and invading Assyria; but the contrary was more usually the case, and the Assyrians grew more and mole powerful at the expense of the weaker state, until at last Babylonia was reduced to a mere appanage of Assyria." The history of the next period-namely that of Assyrian domination-properly belongs under Asyria. (q.v.). On the downfall of Nineveh, Nabopolassar, the viceroy of Babylonia, who had achieved his independence, transferred the seat of government to the southern kingdom. We continue an account of this later Babylonian empire by an additional extract from the same source, embodying the views of the latest investigators, in whose results, however especially some of their dates, we do not fully concur.

Bible concordance for BABYLON.

"Nabopolassar was followed in 604 by his son Nebuchadnezzar, whose long reign of forty-three years made Babylon the mistress of the world. The whole East was overrun by the armies of Chaldaea, Egypt was invaded, and the city of the Euphrates left without a rival. Until systematic explorations are carried on in Babylonia, however, our knowledge of the history of Nebuchadnezzar's empire must be confined to the notices of ancient writers, although we possess numerous inscriptions which record the restoration or construction of temples, palaces, and other public buildings during its continuance., One of these bears out the boast of Nebuchadnezzar, mentioned by Berosus, that he had built the wall of Babylonia fifteen days. Evil-Merodach succeeded his father in 561, but he was murdered two years after and the crown seized by his brother-in-law, Nergal-sharezer, who calls himself son of Bel-suma-iscun, king of Babylon. Nergal-sharezer reigned four years, and was succeeded by his son, a mere boy, who was put to death after nine months of sovereignty (B.C. 555). The power now passed from the house of Nabopolassar; Nabu-nahid, who was raised to the throne, being of another family. Nebuchadnezzar's empire already began to show signs of decay, and a new enemy threatened it in the person of Cyrus the Persian. The Lydian monarchy, which had extended its sway over Asia Minor and the Greek islands, had some time before come into hostile collision with the Babyloniamns, but the famous eclipse foretold by Thales had parted the combatants and brought about peace. Croesus of Lydia and Nabu-nahid of Babylonia now formed an alliance against the-common foe, who had'subjected Media to his rule, and preparations were made for checking the Persian advance. 'The rashness of Crcesus, however, in meeting Cyrts before his allies had joined him brought on his overthrow: Sardis was taken, and the Persian leader occupied. the next fourteen years in consolidating his power in the north. This respite was employed by Nabu-nahid in fortifying Babylon, and. in constructing those wonderful walls anld hydraulic works which Herodotus ascribes to queen Nitocris. At last, however, the attack was made; and after spending a winter in draining the Guydes, Cyrus appeared in the neighborhood of Babylon. Belshazzar, Nabn-nahid's eldest son, as we learn from an inscription, was left in charge of the city while his father took the field against the invader. But the Jews, who saw in the Persians monotheists and deliverers, formed a considerable element of the army; and Nabu-nahid found himself defeated and compelled to take refuge in Borsippa. By diverting the channel of the Euphrates, the Persians contrived to march along the dry river-bed and enter the city through an unguarded gate. Babylon was taken, and Nabu-nahid shortly afterwards submitted to the conqueror, receiving in return pardon and a residence in Carmania. 'He probably died before the end of Cyrus's reign; at all events, when Babylon tried to recover its independence during the troubles that followed the death of Cambyses, it was under impostors who claimed to be Nebuchadnezzar, the son of Nabunahid.'

Definition of babylonical

See also the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.

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