Babylon (Gr. Heb. Babel), an ancient city in what is now Turkey in Asia, in lat. 32° 39' N., Ion. 44° 30' E., lying on both banks of the Euphrates, or rather, perhaps, of a broad bayou flowing eastward of the main channel, which formerly ran five or six miles to the west of its present course, close under the walls of Borsippa, the site of the mound of Birs Nimrud, identified as the ancient Babel, about 300 miles above the junction of the Euphrates with the Tigris, near the modern village of Hilleh. According to this view it stood on the E. bank of the Euphrates proper, and at such distance from it as to be above reach of its inundation; but the bayou itself, flowing directly through the city, lined with quays, and bordered by great buildings, came to be regarded as the main river. (For the origin and import of the name, see Babel; for the general history of the city, see Assyria, Babylonia, and Chaldea.) Babylon owed its chief greatness to Nebuchadnezzar, who describes it as " the great Babylon that I have built for the house of the kingdom of my power, and for the honor of my majesty." Herodotus, who saw it about 100 years after the death of that monarch, describes it thus: "The city stands on a broad plain, and is an exact square 120 stadia in length each way, so that the entire circuit is 480 stadia.
It is surrounded by a broad and deep moat, full of water, behind which rises a wall 50 royal cubits in width and 200 in height (the royal cubit is longer by three fingers' breadth than the common cubit). . . . On the top, along the edges of the wall, they constructed buildings of a single chamber facing one another, leaving between them room for a four-horse chariot to turn. In the circuit of the wall are a hundred gates, all of brass, with brazen lintels and side posts." As 120 stadia are equal to 14 miles, the walls would measure 56 miles, enclosing an area of 190 sq. m. Other writers reduce the circuit of the walls by a fourth, making it 360 stadia. As we learn that within the walls were included gardens and pasture grounds, it is not beyond belief that their circuit may have been as great as represented. But the height given for the walls seems incredible. It is agreed that the royal cubit was equal to 22'4 inches. The height of the walls would then have been 373 ft. 4 in., thickness 93 ft. 4 in. For all purposes of defence a wall of 60 feet is as good as one of any greater height.
Strabo and the historians of Alexander reduce the 200 cubits to 50, which has led some to suspect that Herodotus wrote palms instead of cubits. "My own belief," says Sir Henry Rawlinson, "is that the height of the walls of Babylon did not exceed 60 or 70 feet."
Herodotus adds that there was an inner wall of less thickness than the first, but very little inferior to it in strength. Of the circuit of this inner wall we are not informed. M. Oppert believes that he has found traces of both walls, and in the plan which he gives it is represented as running parallel to the outer one at a distance of about a mile. Others believe that this was the wall of Nebuchadnezzar's new city, or rather citadel, which had a circuit of five miles. Herodotus also says that "the centre of each division of the town was occupied by the fortress, in one of which stood the palace of the kings, surrounded by a wall of great strength." The ruins of this have been found in one of the three great existing mounds, known as the Kasr. In the other division was "the sacred precinct of Jupiter Belus, a square enclosure of two stadia each way, with gates of solid brass." This has been identified as the ruins now called Babil, a mass of unburned brick rising to the height of 140 feet, which may have been about the height of the original wall. The accounts of different writers may be thus summed up: The Euphrates traversed the city from north to south.
From each of the 25 gates on each side ran a broad street to the opposite gate, dividing the city into G25 squares, each about 2 1/4 miles in circumference. The river bank on each side was guarded by a wall with gateways at the foot of each street, and steps leading down to the river. The usual means of crossing was by boats; but a single bridge was thrown over. This consisted of stone piers sunk in the bed of the stream, connected by wooden platforms which were removed at night. It is said, but apparently on no good authority, that there was also a tunnel under the bed of the river. The famous hanging gardens do not seem to have attracted the attention of Herodotus. According to other writers, they were built by Nebuchadnezzar to gratify his wife Amyitis, a native of Media, who longed for something in this flat country to remind her of her mountain home. They consisted of an artificial mountain 400 ft. on each side, rising by successive terrraces to a height which overtopped the walls of the city. The terraces themselves were formed of a succession of piers, the tops of which were covered by flat stones 16 ft. long and 4 ft. wide. Upon these were spread beds of matting, then a thick layer of bitumen, covered with sheets of lead.
Upon this solid pavement earth was heaped, some of the piles being hollow, so as to afford depth for the roots of the largest trees. Water was drawn from the river to irrigate these gardens, which thus presented to the eye the appearance of a mountain clothed in verdure. Herodotus speaks of writing a special work on the history of As-svria. If this was ever written, it is not now extant. He makes in his general history only a passing reference to the "many sovereigns who had ruled over Babylon, and lent their aid to the building of its walls and the adornment of its temples." He does not even refer to Nebuchadnezzar, whose name was stamped upon the bricks of every important structure. He mentions two queens as having a great share in them. These are Semiramis and Nitocris, of whom the former is a legendary character (See Assyria.) Nitocris seems to have been the daughter of Nebuchadnezzar, and mother of Nabonadius. (See Babylonia.) Herodotus affirms that this queen changed the course of the river above Babylon from a straight to a winding course, so that it came several times in view of the village of Arde-ricca, and a person sailing down the river had to pass three times in as many days | in sight of the same spot.
Sir Henry Raw-linson says that no such cutting ever could have existed; an assertion corroborated by all attempts which have been made to permanently change the course of a great river flowing through an alluvial region. She also dug an immense reservoir 420 stadia in circuit, facing the interior walls with stone. Into this she turned the river, leaving its bed dry at Babylon, so that she could lay there the piers for the bridge. All this was done to shut out the Medes from intercourse with Babylonia. If such an excavation had existed, it is hardly possible that traces of it should not now remain. In a region where for 100 miles not a pebble is to be found, it is difficult to conceive whence these stones could be brought; and if once brought, it is equally difficult to imagine whither they have been carried. They are not there now, and are not to be found among the ruins of Seleucia or Ctesiphon, built from the fragments of Babylon. A careful comparison of existing facts with the relations of the writers from whom the accounts of Babylon have been drawn will evince that these accounts are greatly exaggerated.
Still, there can be no doubt that Babylon as built by Nebuchadnezzar and captured by Cyrus was one of the great cities of the world, though of necessity built mainly of perishable materials. The description given by the great king in his "standard inscription." appears to tell the true story. We quote with abridgments a few passages: "The double enclosure which Nabopolassar, my father, had made, but not completed, I finished. Nabopolassar made its ditch. With two long embankments of brick and mortar he bound its bed. He lined the other side of the Euphrates with brick. He made a bridge over the Euphrates, but did not finish its buttresses. With bricks, burnt as hard as stones, he made a way for the branch of the Shimat to the waters of the Yapur-Shapu, great reservoir of Babylon. I finished the great double wall. With two long embankments of brick and mortar I built the side of its ditch. I strengthened the city. Across the river, to the west, I built the walls of Babylon with brick. The reservoir I filled completely with water. Besides the outer wall, the impregnable fortification, I constructed inside of Babylon a fortification such as no king had ever made before me, namely, a long rampart 4,000 ammas (5 miles) square, as an extra defence.
Against presumptuous enemies, great waters I made use of abundantly. Their depths were like the depths of the vast ocean. I did not allow the waters to overflow; but the fullness of their floods I caused to flow on, restraining them with a brick embankment. Thus I completely made strong the defences of Babylon. May it stand forever." He describes another structure: " Inside the brick fortifications I made another great fortification of long stones of the size of great mountains. And this building I raised for a wonder; for the defence of the people I constructed it." This is the only case in which stone is mentioned. Not improbably this was the structure spoken of as the hanging gardens. He describes his palace called Tapratinisi, "the wonder of the world," which had also been begun by his father. He tells how it used to be flooded by the inundations of the river, and how he raised the platform of brick upon which it stood; and goes on: "I cut off the floods of the water, and the foundations (of the palace) I protected against the water with bricks and mortar. I finished it completely. Long beams I set up to support it. With pillars and beams plated with copper and strengthened with iron I built up its gates.
Silver, and gold, and precious stones, whose names were almost unknown, I stored inside, and placed there the treasure-house of my kingdom." Here again there is nothing but brick and mortar and wooden beams; the gates of the palace itself, which Herodotus saw and supposed to be of solid brass, were of wood plated with copper and strengthened with iron. The shapeless Kasr affords no means for testing the accuracy of the description given by Nebuchadnezzar of his palace; but there is a ruin which in a measure affords such a test. This is Birs Nimrud. (See Babel.) The height of this mound, crowned by a tower, was 153 ft., and as it was beyond doubt among the loftiest of the Babylonian structures, we are enabled to rectify the extravagant heights attributed to the city walls. -
Babil, from the Wert.
Babylon, at least in its later period, after it had sprung up to be the capital of a great empire, was noted for the luxury and depravity of its inhabitants. "Nothing," says Q. Curtius, "could be more corrupt than its morals, nothing more fitted to excite and allure to immoderate pleasures. The rites of hospitality were polluted by the most shameless lusts." Once at least in her life every woman was obliged to prostitute herself in the temple of Belus. Of the population of Babylon there exists no ground for even probable estimate. As a centre of empire and commerce, its population would be limited only by the capacity for subsistence of the fertile region from which its supplies were drawn. Considering its vast extent, but bearing in mind that only a small portion, probably not more than a tenth, was built over, 1,500,000 is not an improbable conjecture. - The site of the ancient Babel was probably at Borsippa (Birs Nimrud), a little below the later Babylon, and on the opposite side of the main Euphrates. Borsippa was a suburb with separate fortifications, for Nabonadius, after being defeated in the field by Cyrus, threw himself into it, leaving Babylon proper in the charge of his son Belshazzar. For an unknown period Babylon was a town of minor importance, the successive capitals of the Chaldean kingdom lying lower down the plain.
Babylon first comes prominently into notice about the time of the foundation of the dynasty of Nabonassar (747 B. C). Babylonia having been reconquered by Sennacherib, it became about G80 one of the two capitals of the Assyrian empire, under Esarhaddon, the son of that conqueror. Its great importance dates from the fall of Nineveh, when Nabopolassar made it the capital of the Chaldean empire, and began that great series of fortifications and public works which were completed by his son Nebuchadnezzar (604-561). The last successor of Nebuchadnezzar, Nabonadius, joined the league formed to check the threatening power of Persia. This brought upon him the invasion by Cyrus. Having associated with himself in the government his son Belshazzar, Nabonadius, leaving him in command of Babylon, advanced to meet Cyrus. Being defeated in the field, he threw himself into Borsippa, while Cyrus advanced to the siege of Babylon. The city was provisioned for a long siege and the strength of its walls defied direct assault. It was taken only by the stratagem of diverting the river from its course, and marching in through its dry bed.
Herodotus relates that Cyrus turned the Euphrates into the great reservoir excavated by Nitocris. This appears incredible; for even assuming the existence of this reservoir, its waters must have been on a level with those of the river, and no cutting could have laid bare the river bed. Xenophon, a much better authority in this matter, says that Cyrus drained the bed by means of two new cuttings of his own, from a point above the city to another below it. If we suppose that the river was not the Euphrates itself, but a bayou or side branch, shallower than the river, the whole operation becomes perfectly comprehensible. He had only to dam up the mouth of the bayou above the city, and deepen the channel below by which it reentered the Euphrates. In an hour after cutting away the bulkhead below, the channel would be dry. This was done in the dead of night. It was a complete surprise. So confident were the besieged in the impregnability of their outer defences that they neglected to close the water gates which fronted the river at the foot of each street, and Belshazzar and his court passed the night in revelry.
When morning dawned the inner defences had all fallen into the hands of the besiegers (538). Cyrus, having dismantled Babylon, moved upon Borsippa, still held by Nabonadius, who surrendered and received kind treatment. Cyrus assigned him a residence and estate in Caramania, where the last king of Babylon ended his days in peace. For a time Babylon was a royal residence of the Persian kings. Two attempts were made to revolt, and each time Babylon stood a siege and was further dismantled. It ceased to be a royal city; its brick walls and palaces fell into decay; and when Alexander the Great took possession, it was comparatively a ruin. He intended to restore the city, and make it his Asiatic capital, but his death prevented the execution of the scheme. His Syrian successors chose for their capital Seleucia, a few miles to the northeast, on the Tigris. A great part of this city was built with materials carried from Babylon; and when Seleucia fell into decay, from its materials the Parthians built Ctesiphon. Besides these great cities, the Persian Madain, the Cufah of the caliphs, and in a measure the more modern Bagdad, have been successively built from the ruins of Babylon. The place had become a ruin in the time of Strabo (about the beginning of the Christian era). St. Jerome, in the 4th century, learned that it had been converted into a hunting ground for the recreation of the Persian monarch, who in order to preserve the game had partially restored the walls.
From that time it passed more and more out of notice, until its very site became forgotten. It is only since 1847 that it has been satisfactorily identified. Its modern representative is the village of Hilleh, with about 7,000 inhabitants. As Birs Nimrud marks the site of Borsippa, the ruins of Babylon proper consist mainly of three mounds: 1. Babil, probably the temple of Belus. This is an oblong mass, 200 yards long, 140 wide, and 140 ft. high. 2. The Kasr, or palace of Nebuchadnezzar. This is an irregular square about 700 yards each way, surmounted with the remains of a square structure, the walls of which are composed of burnt bricks of a pale yellow color, of excellent quality, bound together with a lime cement, and stamped with the name of Nebuchadnezzar. 3. A mound, now called Amran, of an irregular triangular shape, the sides being 1,400, 1,100, and 850 ft. This is supposed to be the ruins of a palace older than Nebuchadnezzar, for bricks have been found there inscribed with the names of more ancient kings.
Besides these there are merely fragments of embankments, which may be parts of some of the walls. - For ancient Babylon the principal authorities are Herodotus and Diodo-rus Siculus; for the history and ruins, Raw-linson's "Herodotus" and "Five Ancient Monarchies," LenormantandChevallier's "Ancient History of the East," Smith's "Ancient History of the East," Loftus's "Chalda?a," and Lay-ard's "Nineveh and Babylon." To these may be added Rich's "Memoirs on the Ruins of Babylon" (1818), and "Narrative of a Journey to England by Bussorah, Bagdad, and the Ruins of Babylon" (182G); Chesney's "Euphrates Expedition" (1850); and Oppert's maps and plans (Paris, 1858).
A Babylonian Brick.