Charles Bucke.

Ruins of ancient cities : with general and particular accounts of their rise, fall, and present condition (Volume 1) online

. (page 11 of 36)
Online LibraryCharles BuckeRuins of ancient cities : with general and particular accounts of their rise, fall, and present condition (Volume 1) → online text (page 11 of 36)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

after which it was re-diverted into the former chan-
nel. The lake was, however, still preserved as a
reservoir t.

Perhaps some of our readers may be curi<nis to
know how long it wouM take to fill this lake up.
It is thus stated in the Edinburgh Review J :
" Taking it at the lowest dimensions of a square of
forty miles, by thirty feet deep ; and supposing the

* These canals having been suffered to decay, the water of the
river is much greater now than formerly.

f Herodotus. Megathenes says seventy-five feet. " We relate
the wonders of Babylon," says Roll in, "as they are delivered
down to us by the ancients ; but there are some of them which are
scarce to be comprehended or believed ; of which number is the lake.
I mean in respect to its vast extent."

J Vol. xlviii. 199.



Euphrates to be five hundred feet wide, ten divj>,
and to flow at the rate of two miles an hour, it would
require one thousand and fifty-six days to fill the lake,
allowing no absorption to the sides ; but if absorption
and evaporation are taken into the account, we may
put the time at four years, or thereabouts ; which, no
doubt, would be sufficient, considering the miuilxT
of hands employed, to complete the embankment *."

This lake, the bridge, and the quays of the river
are ascribed to Nitocris, by Herodotus ; but most of
the other wonders of Babylon are ascribed by Jose-
phus to Nebuchadnezzar, her father-in-law. " Per-
haps," says one of the historians, " Nitocris might
only finish what her father had left imperfect at his
death, on which account the historian might give her
the honour of the whole undertaking."

We are now called upon to describe other won-
ders. These are the palaces and hanging gardens.
At each end of the bridge stood a palace ; and those
two palaces had a communication each with the
other by means of a passage under the bed of the
river, vaulted at the time in which it was laid dry t.
The "/./ palace, which stood on the east side of the
river, was three miles and three quarters in compass.
It stood near the temple of Belus. The new palace
stood on the west side. It was much larger than the

* The reviewer then goes on tp say : " By way of comparing
thit with work of modern times, we may notice, that the Bristol
ship canal, one of the late projects, was intended to have been
eighty miles long, one hundred feet wide, and thirty feet deep ; and
the estimated cost was four millions sterling. To be sure, labour
WMS cheaper at Babylon than in London, and well it might be; for
if the Babylonian lake were to be made now in England, it would
cost the trifling sum of four thousand two hundred and twenty-one
millions sterling !"

f The reader will naturally be reminded of the tunnel now con-
strutting under the Thames ; a much more difficult and extensive


old one ; being seven miles and a half in compass*.
It was surrounded with three walls, one within the
other, with considerable spaces between ; and these,
with those at the other palace, were embellished
with an infinite variety of sculptures, representing all
kinds of animals to the life ; amongst which was one
more celebrated than all the rest. This was a
hunting piece, representing Semiramis on horseback
throwing a javelin ; and Ninus, her husband, piercing
a lion.

Near the old palace stood a vast structure, known
from all antiquity, and celebrated in every age as the
most wonderful structure ever yet built ; viz., the
temple of Belus. We have given some account of
it from Herodotus already. A tower of vast size
stood in the middle of it. At its foundation it was
a square of a furlong on each side ; that is, half a
mile in its whole compass, and the eighth part of a
mile in height. It consisted of eight towers, built
one above another, gradually decreasing in size to
the top. Its height exceeded that of the largest of
the pyramids t. It was built of bricks and bitumen.
The ascent to the top was on the outside, by means
of stairs, winding, in a spiral line, eight times round
the tower from the bottom to the top. There were
many large rooms in the different stories, with arched
roofs, supported by pillars. On the top was an
observatory, the Babylonians having been more cele-
brated than any other people of ancient times for
their knowledge of astronomy |.

* Going in and out, we should suppose, with every angle.
Should any one do this with a rule at St. Paul's Cathedral, it
is probable he might compass a mile.

f The largest pyramid is 1 10 feet higher than St. Paul's, with
a base occupying about the same area as Lincoln's Inn Fields.

J The advantageous situation of Babyloi, which was built upou
a wide, extended, flat country, where no mountains bounded the
prospect ; the constant clearness and serenity of the air in that

132 RUINS or \N 11 NT

Notwithstanding the opinions of many, that this
tower was built expressly for astronomical purposes,
it appears certain that it was used as a temple also :
for the riches of it were immense ; consisting of sta-
tues, tables, censers, cups, and other sacred vessels,
all of massy gold. Among these was a statue, weigh-
ing a thousand talents of Babylon, forty feet high.
Indeed, so rich was this temple, that Diodorus does
not hesitate to value all it contained at not less than
six thousand three hundred Babylonian talents of
gold ; which implies a sum equivalent to twenty-one
millions of pounds sterling ! Surely some error must
have crept into the MS.

This temple stood till the time of Xerxes. On the
return of that prince from Greece he plundered it j
and then caused it to be entirely demolished. When
Alexander returned from India, he formed the design
of rebuilding it upon the ancient plan ; and probably,
had he lived, he would have accomplished his wish.
Ten thousand men were put to work to clear away the
rubbish ; but he died in the midst of his preparation.

Many of the chief erections in this city \\
planned and executed by Semiramis. When she had
finished them, she made a progress through the va-
rious divisions of her empire ; and wherever she went
left monuments of her magnificence, by many noble
structures, which she erected, either for the conve-
nience or the ornament of her cities*. She was the
best political economist of ancient times, and may
truly be styled the first utilitarian : for she applied

country, so favourable to the fire contemplation of the heavent ;
perha|>, alto, the extraordinary height of the tower of Babel, which
teems to have been intended for an observatory ; nil these circum-
ttancet were strong motive* to engage thit people to a more nice
obtcrvation of the various motion* of the heavenly bodies, and the
regular course of the ttart. ROLLIN.

* Diodorus states, that in his time many monument* still re-
mained with inscriptions upon them.


herself to the formation of causeways, the improve-
ment of roads, the cutting through mountains, and
the filling up valleys. She applied herself, also, most
particularly, to the forming of aqueducts, in order
that water might be conveyed to such places as
wanted it : in hot climates desiderata of the first

Valerius Maximus* records a circumstance of her,
which paints the influence she possessed over her
people in a very striking manner. One day, as she
was dressing herself, word was brought that a tumult
was raging in the city. Without waiting to dress
herself, she hurried from her palace with her head
half dressed, and did not return till the disturbance
was entirely appeased t.

We now pass on to the dream of Nebuchadnezzar,
because the accomplishment of that dream is con-
nected with the splendid state of Babylon in the time
of its glory. This dream was, that;]; "he saw a tree
in the midst of the earth, whose height was great :
the tree grew, and was strong, and the height of it
reached unto heaven, and the sight thereof to the end
of the earth. The leaves were fair, and the fruit
much ; and in it was meat for all : the beasts of the
field had shadow under it, and the fowls of heaven
dwelt in the boughs thereof, and all flesh was fed of
it. I saw the visions of my head on the bed, and,
behold, a watcher, and an holy one, came down from
heaven ; he cried aloud, and said thus : ' Hew
down the tree, and cut off his branches, shake off his
leaves, and scatter his fruit ; let the beasts get away
from under it, and the fowls from his branches.

* Val. Max. ix. c. 3.

f A statue was erected in memory of this action, representing
her in that very attitude, and the undress, which had not prevented
her from flying to her duty.

J Daniel, c. iv.


Nevertheless, leave the stump of his roots in the
earth, even with a band of iron and brass, in tho
tender grass of the field ; and let it be \vct with the
dew of heaven, and let his portion be with the beasts
in the grass of the earth. Let his heart be chanircd
from man's, and let a beast's heart be given to him.
This matter is by the decree of the watchers, and tho
demand of the word of the holy ones, to the intent
that the living may know, that the Most High
ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth to whom-
soever he will, and sotteth up over it the basest of
men.' "

This dream was expounded by Daniel. *' Let the
dream be to them, O king, that hate thee ; and the
interpretation thereof to thine enemies." The pro-
phet then declared, " that the king should be driven
from the company of men for seven years ; should be
reduced to the fellowship of the beasts of the field,
and feed upon grass like oxen ; that his kingdom
should, nevertheless, be preserved for him, and ho
should repossess his throne, when he should have
learnt to know and acknowledge, that all power is
from above, and comcth from heaven."

At the end of twelve months, as Nebuchadnezzar
was walking in his palace, and admiring the lieauty
and magnificence of his buildings, ho became so
elated at the sight of the structures he had erected,
that he exclaimed " Is not this great Babylon, that
I have built for the house of the kingdom by the
might of my power, and for the honour of my ma-
jesty ?" In an instant, a voice came from heaven
declaratory of his fate, and his understanding was
taken from him. He was driven from men, and did
eat grass like oxen, and his body was wet with the
dew of heaven ; till his hairs were grown like eagles'
feathers, and his nails like birds' claws.

At the expiration of seven years he recovered his


intellectual powers. He was restored to his throne,
and became more powerful than he had been before.
At this period he is supposed to have built the
hanging gardens, which have been so celebrated in
every age. Amytis, his wife, having been bred in
Media, for she was the daughter of Astyages, king
of that country, had been much taken with the
mountains and woody parts of her native country,
and therefore desired to have something like it at
Babylon. To gratify this passion, the king, her
husband, raised the hanging gardens. Diodorus,
however, ascribes them to Cyrus; and states that
he built them to gratify a courtezan.

They are thus described by Quintus Curtius :
" Near the castle are those wonders, which are so
often celebrated by the Greek poets ; gardens ele-
vated in the air, consisting of entire groves of trees,
growing as high as the tops of the towers, marvel-
lously beautiful and pleasant from their height and
shade. The whole weight of them is sustained and
borne up by huge pillars, upon whteh there is a floor
of square stone, that both upholdeth the earth, that
lies deep on the pillar, and also the cisterns with
which it is watered. The trees that grow upon this
are many of them eight cubits in circumference, and
every thing is as fruitful as if they grew on the
natural ground ; and, although process of time de-
stroys things made by mortal hands, and also even
the works of nature, yet this terrace, although op-
pressed with the weight of so much earth, and so
great a multitude of trees, still remains unperished,
being held up by seventy broad walls, distant from
each other about eleven feet. When these trees
(concludes Curtius), are seen afar off, they seem to
be a wood growing upon a mountain." This may
well be, since they comprised a square of about four
hundred feet on every side, and were carried up into


the air in the manner of several large terraces, one
above another, till the highest equalled the height of
the walls of the city. The floors were laid <>ut
thus*: On the top of the arches were first hii<l
large flat stones, sixteen feet long, and four fret
broad ; and over them a layer of reed, mixed with
a great quantity of bitumen ; over which were
two rows of bricks, closely cemented by plaister ;
and then, over all, were laid thick sheets of led ;
and, lastly, upon the lead a vast quantity of mould.
The mould was of sufficient depth to let grow very
large trees, and such were planted in it, together
with other trees, and every description of plant and
flower, that was esteemed proper for shrubberies and
flower-gardens. To improve all this, there was, on
the highest of the terraces, a water-engine, to draw
the water out of the river below, wherewith to water
the whole garden t.

Besides all this, there were magazines for corn
and provision, capable of maintaining the inhabitants
for twenty years ; and arsenals, which supplied with
arms such a number of fighting men, as seemed equal
to the conquest or defence of the whole monarchy.

If Babylon was indebted to Nebuchadnezzar for
many great buildings, it was still more so to his

* Diodorui ; Prideaux.

t " The hanging gardens," says Major Rennell, " ai they are
called, had an area of about tlirce acre* and a half, and in tlirtn
were grown treci of considerable tize ; and it it not improbable,
that they were of a ipeciet different from those of the natural
growth of the alluvial soil of Babylonia, These trees may have been
perpetuated in the same spot where they grew (or seeds from them),
notwithstanding that the terraces may have subsided, by the crum-
bling of the piers and wall* that supported them ; the mins of which
may form the very eminences, spoken of by M. Niebubr, and which
are covered with a particular kind of trees." That is, with trees dif-
ferent from any that grow between the ruins and the Persian gulf,
in which space no other trees are to be found but date and other
fruit trees.


daughter Nitoeris. She erected a great multitude ;
and amongst the rest, one of the gates. On this gate
she caused to be inscribed a command to her succes-
sors, that, when she should be buried under it, none
of them should open the tomb to touch the treasure
which laid there, unless impelled by some great and
overwhelming necessity. Many years passed away,
and no one opened it. At length Darius came to the
city. Reading the inscription, he caused the tomb
to be opened ; but alas ! instead of finding the vast
treasures he had expected, he beheld only this inscrip-
tion : "If thou hadst not an insatiable thirst for
money, and a most sordid avaricious soul, thou
wouldst never have broken open the monuments of the

Astyages, king of the Medes, was succeeded by
Cyaxares, uncle to Cyrus. Cyaxares, learning that
the king of Babylon had made great prepara-
tions against him, sent for Cyrus, son of Cambyses,
king of Persia, and placed him at the head of his
army. Before marching, Cyrus addressed those
officers who had followed him from Persia, in the
following manner. " Do you know the nature of the
enemy you have to deal with ? They are soft, effemi-
nate, enervated men, already half conquered by their
own luxury and voluptuousness ; men not able to
bear either hunger or thirst ; equally incapable of
supporting either the toil of war, or the sight of
danger : whereas you, that are inured, from your
infancy, to a sober and hard way of living ; to you,
I say, hunger and thirst are but as sauce, and the
only sauce, to your meals; fatigues are your pleasure ;
dangers are your delight ; and the love of your coun-
try, and of glory, your only passion. Besides, the
justice of our cause is another considerable advan-
tage. They are the aggressors. It is the enemy that
attacks us ; and it is our friends and allies that require

138 HIT

our aid. Can any thing l>e more just than to repel
the injury they \vouM bring upon us? t Is then- any
thing more honourable, t!i:in t-> fly t<> the assistance
of our friends ? But what ought to be the jirim -i]> il
motive of your confidence is, that I do not engage in
this expedition without having first consulted tin-
gods, and implored their protection ; for you know
it is my custom to begin all my actions, and all my
undertakings, in that manner."

Cyrus, after several battles, laid siege to Babylon.
It was in the days of Belshazzar. That prince was
absorbed in luxury and sloth. A great festival was
to be held within the palace, and Cyrus heard of it.
He prepared himself, therefore, and all his army.
The court, in the meantime, was rife in every species
of dance, feast, and revelry. In the pride of his
heart, Bclshazzar ordered all the gold and silver ves-
sels, which had been taken from the temple of Jeru-
salem, to be brought to the banqueting-room ; and
he and his officers, and his wives and his concubines,
drank out of them. No sooner was this done, than
the fingers of a man's hand came out from the wall,
and wrote over the candlestick upon the plaster.

The king saw the hand ; and when he saw it " his
countenance was changed, and his thoughts troubled
him, so that the joints of his loins were loosed, and
his knees smote one against another."

lie summoned the magi, and made proclamation.
** Whoever shall read this writing, and show me the
interpretation thereof, shall be clothed with scarlet,
and have a chain about his neck, and shall be the
third ruler in the kingdom." Daniel, the prophet,
interpreted this writing. " This is the writing that
was written : M i M: MKNE, TKKEL, U THAKSIN. This
is the interpretation of the thing. .M i M ; God hath
numbered thy kingdom, and finished it. TEKEL, ;
them art weighed in the balances, and found want-


ing. PERES ; thy kingdom is divided, and given to
the Medes and Persians *."

Notwithstanding this interpretation, Belshazzar
continued the feast, and to grace it the more, performed
his promise. He commanded, and " they clothed
Daniel with scarlet, and put a chain of gold about
his neck, and made a proclamation concerning him,
that he should be the third ruler of the kingdom."

In the meantime, Cyrus, well aware of the riot
and luxury prevailing in the king's palace, entered
the city by the river, the waters of which he had
managed to be drawn dry, by means of the sluices.
He and his army entered through the gates of brass,
which opened on the quays. This they did in two
divisions ; then they proceeded through the city ;
met before the palace ; slew the guards ; and some of
the company having come out to see what was the
cause of the noise they heard, the soldiers rushed in
and immediately made themselves masters of the
palace. The king, however, in this last extremity,
acted in a manner more worthy than might have been
expected. He put himself at the head of those who
were inclined to support him; but he was quickly
despatched, and all those that were with him. Thus
terminated the Babylonian empire, after a duration
of two hundred and ten years, from the beginning of
the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, who was its founder ;
and the fate of which had been so truly foretold.

" Babylon, the glory of kingdoms," says Isaiah,
" and the beauty of the Chaldees' excellency, shall
be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah.
It shall never be inhabited : neither shall it be dwelt
in from generation to generation ; neither shall the
Arabians pitcli their tent there ; neither shall the
shepherds make their fold there ; but wild beasts of
the desert shall lie there ; and their houses shall be
* Daiiiel, ch. v., ver. 25.


full of doleful creatures; and owls shall dwell there,
and satyrs shall dance there ; and the wild beasts of
the island shall cry in their desolate houses, aul dra-
gons in their pleasant palaces. I will also make it
a possession for the bittern and pools of water ; ami
I will sweep it with the besom of destruction."
Events answered the prophecy, though not precisely
at this time *.

From this period Babylon belonged to the Persian
kings : but having become greatly affronted by the
transference of the royal court to Susa, the inhabitants
revolted. By this insult, they drew upon them-
selves the whole force of the Persian empire. The
inhabitants had provided themselves with every
necessary to support a siege. But lest it might last
longer than they anticipated, they put the most bar-
barous act in practice that ever had then been heard
of from the creation of the world. They assembled all
their wives and children, and strangled them ; no
man being allowed to preserve more than one wife
and a servant to do the necessary business of his
house. The siege lasted eighteen months. Darius
himself began to despair.

Some friends having taken the liberty, one day, to
propose the question to Darius, who was then holding

* Isaiah xiii. 19, 22 ; xiv. 23, 24. It hu been well observed by
Bishop Newton, that it must afford all reader* of an exalted taste
and generous sentiments, a very sensible pleasure to hear the pro.
phets exulting over such tyrants and oppressors as the kings of
Assyria. " In the fourteenth chapter of Isaiah," continues he,
" there is an Epinikion, or a triumphant ode upon the fall of
Babylon. It represents the infernal mansions as moved, and the
ghosts of deceased tyrants as rising to meet the king of Babylon,
and congratulate bis coming among them." " It is really ad-
mirable for the severest strokes of irony as well as for the sublimest
strains of poetry. The Greek poet Alcvus, who is celebrated for
his hatred to tyrants, and whose odes were animated with the spirit
of liberty no less than with the spirit of poetry, we may presume
to say, never wrote any thing comparable to it."


a pomegranate in his hand : " What good is there
you would wish to multiply as often as that fruit
contains seeds?" "Such friends asZopyrus," answered
the king, without hesitation. This answer threw
Zopyrus into one of those paroxysms of zeal, which
can only be justified by the sentiment that gives
them birth.

One morning the king observed one of his courtierg
make his appearance before him, bathed in blood, with
his ears and nose entirely cut off, and his whole body
wounded in many places. When Darius saw this,
he started from his throne, advanced to the wounded
person, and eagerly inquired of him who had treated
him in so terrible a manner ? " You, yourself, O
king ! " answered Zopyrus. " My wish to render
you a service has put me in this condition. As I
was persuaded that you would never have consented
to this method, I have consulted none but the zeal I
have for your service." He then told the king that
he had formed the plan of going over to the enemy
in that condition.

His plan will be explained in the result. He left
the camp, and proceeded to the walls of Babylon.
When he arrived before the gates, he told the Baby-
lonians who he was. He was immediately admitted
and carried before the governor. There he com-
plained of Darius, accusing him of having reduced
him -to such an unfortunate condition : and that
because he had advised him to give up the siege.
Saying this, he offered his services to the governor
and people of Babylon : stating that his revenge
would be a sufficient stimulus and reward for his
exertions ; and that he would be found fully ade-
quate to cope with the enemy, since he was well
acquainted with all the arts, and discipline, and strata-
gems of the Persians.

When the Babylonians heard all this, and saw the


dreadful condition in which Zopyrus was, they gave
him tht- command of as many troops as he doiivd.
With the-e lie made a sally, and cut oil' more than a
thousand of the enemy : Darius having previously
concerted with him. In a few days he made an-
other sally, when he cut off double the number. In

Online LibraryCharles BuckeRuins of ancient cities : with general and particular accounts of their rise, fall, and present condition (Volume 1) → online text (page 11 of 36)