Charles Bucke.

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

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been composed of buildings far superior to all the
rest, which have left traces in the eastern quarter :
the bricks are of the finest description ; and notwith-
standing this is the grand storehouse of them, and
that the greatest supplies have been, and are no\v,
constantly drawn from it, they appear still to be

To the north of this ruin is a ravine, hollowed out
by brick -searchers, about three hundred feet long,
ninety wide, and one hundred and twenty feet deep.
At the north end of this ravine an opening leads to a
subterranean passage, floored and walled with large
bricks, laid in bitumen, and roofed with single slabs
of sand-stone, three feet thick, and from eight to
twelve long. In this passage was found a colossal
piece of sculpture, in black marble. " There 1 dis-
covered," says Mr. Rich, " what Beauchamp saw
imperfectly, and understood from the natives to be
an idol*. I was told the same thing t, and that it

* The words of Beauchamp are : " I employed two men for
three hour* in clearing a (tone, which they supposed to be an idol.
The part, which I got a light of, appeared to be nothing but a shape-
ICM mast : it WA* evident, however, that it was not a simple block,
a* it bore the marks of a rhiscl, and there were pretty deep holes in
it." Sir Robert Ker Porter says, it it a common idea with the
Turks, that the real object with Europeans, in vikiting the banks
of the Euphrates, is not to explore antiquities, as we pietend, but
to make a laborious pilgrimage to these almoftt shapeless relics of
a race of unbelievers more ancient than ourselves ; and to perform
certain mysterious religious rites before them, which excite no uuull
curiosity amongst the Faithful to inquire into.

f It is probable, that many fragments of antiquity, especially of


was discovered by an old Arab in digging, but that,
not knowing what to do with it, he covered it up
again." On sending for the old man, and he having
pointed out the spot, Mr. Rich set a number of men
to work, and, after a day's hard labour, they laid
open enough of the statue to show that it was a lion
of colossal dimensions, standing on a pedestal. Its
material was a gray granite, and it was of rude

The mound, last described, is called by the natives
the palace (El Kasr} *. The walls are eight feet
thick, ornamented with niches, and strengthened by
pilasters and buttresses, all built of fine brick, laid
in lime cement of such tenacity, that it cannot be
separated without breaking. Hence it is, that so
much of it remains perfect. This remarkable ruin is
visible from a considerable distance, and is so fresh,
that it is only upon minute inspection, that Mr. Rich
became satisfied, that it is really a Babylonian remain.
Near this are several hollows, in which several per-
sons have lost their lives ; so that no one will now
venture into them, and their entrances are, therefore,
become choked with rubbish.

There are two paths near this ruin, made by the
workmen, who carry down their bricks to the river
side, whence they are transported to Hillah ; and at
a short distance to the north-north-east the celebrated
tree stands, which is called by the natives Athele,

the larger kind, are lost in this manner. The inhabitants call all
Stones, with inscriptions or figures on them, idols. RICH.

* *' The mass on which the Kasr stands,'' says Sir R. K. Porter,
" is above the general level full seven hundred feet. Its length is
nearly four hundred yards ; its breadth six hundred ; but its
form is now very irregular. Much of the debris, which this interest-
ing spot presented to the Abb& Beauchamp and Mr. Rich in 1811,
have now totally disappeared ; the aspect of the summit and sides
suffering constant changes from the everlasting digging in its appa-
rently inexhaustible quarries for brick of the strongest and finest

ir>6 nti

an 1 \\hii-li they assert to have on.v !l<>m ished in the
IriiiL'in^ i r n- ; ami v%hi<-h they as religiously
believe (iod purposely preserved, that it ini^ht atloul
Mahomet a convenient shade, beneath which to tie
up his horse, after the battle of Ilillah ! It is an
evergreen, of the lignum-vitje species. " Its trunk
has been originally enormous; but at last, worn
away by time, only part of its original circumference,
hollow and shattered, supports the whole of its yet
spreading and evergreen branches. They are parti
cularlv beautiful, being adorned with long tress-like
tendrils, resembling heron- feathers, growing from a
central stem. These slender and delicate sprays.
bending towards the ground, gave the whole an
appearance of a weeping-willow, while their gentle
waving in the wind made a low and melancholy
sound. This tree is revered as holy by the A raits,
from a tradition among them, that the Almighty
preserved it here, from the earliest time, to form a
refuge in after ages for the Caliph AH ; who, fainting
with fatigue from the battle of Ilillah, found a secure
repose under its shade. The battle adverted to was
fought within so short a period after the death of
Mahomet, that, if any credit is to be given to the
rest of the tale, the age of the tree must already have
extended to a thousand years ! "

When Mr. Kinneir visited Ilillah the girth of the
tree was, two feet from the ground, four feet seven
inches. Its height twenty feet.

Nine hundred and fifty yards from the side of the
river, and about a mile to the north of what is called
the palace, stands the most remarkable ruin of the
eastern division. This is called Mukallibe, a word
signifying "overturned." This was visited, in 1616,
by Delia Valle, who determined it to be the tower of
Belus ; and this opinion lias been adopted, errone-
ously, by Rcnnell and other writers. It is of au


oblong shape, irregular in its height and the mea-
surement of its sides, which face the cardinal points;
the northern side being two hundred yards in length ;
the southern side, two hundred and nineteen ; the
eastern, one hundred and eighty-two; and the western,
one hundred and thirty-six. The elevation of the
highest angle, one hundred and forty-one feet. This
mound is a solid mass. Near its summit appears a
low wall, with interruptions, built of unburnt bricks,
laid in clay mortar of great thickness, having a layer
of reeds between every layer of bricks. On the north
side are vestiges of a similar wall. The south-west
angle, which is the highest point, terminates in a
turret ; or, rather, heaps of rubbish, in digging into
which, layers of broken burnt brick, cemented with
mortar, are discovered, and whole bricks, with in-
scriptions on them, are here and there found. The
whole is covered with innumerable fragments of
brick, pottery, pebbles, bitumen, vitrified scoria, and
even shells, bits of glass, and mother-of-pearl ! When
Mr. Rich saw all these, he inquired of the Turk,
that acted as guide, how he imagined the glass and
mother-of-pearl came there ? " They were brought
here by the deluge," answered the Turk.

In describing this mound, Major Keppell says, that
he found it full of large holes. " We entered one of
them, and found them strewed with the carcases and
skeletons of animals recently killed. The ordureof wild
beasts was so strong, that prudence got the better of
curiosity ; for we had no doubt as to the savage
nature of the inhabitants. Our guides, indeed, told
us, that all the ruins abounded in lions and other
wild beasts." Mr. Rich found, also, quantities of
porcupine quills ; and most of the cavities, he says,
are peopled with bats and owls.

The pile on the Mujelibe is called Haroot and
Maroot, by the Arabs ; and they believe that, near

158 nrivs or AM n NT n

the foot of the pyramid, there still exists, though
invisible to mankind, a well, in which tlnt<- two
wicked angels were condemned by the Almighty to
be suspt-nded by the heels until the end of the world,
M a punishment for their vanity and presumption.*

In another part of the ruins \\eiv found a brass
pike and some earthen vessels (one of which was
very thin, and had the remains of fine white varnish
on the outside) ; also a beam of date-tree wood.
Continuing the work downwards, the men arrived at
a passage, in which they discovered a wooden coffin ;
opening which they found a skeleton, perfect in all
its parts. Under the head was placed a round
pebble, and a brass ornament was attached to the
skeleton. On the outside, another braes ornament
was found, representing a bird : and a little farther
on, they discovered the skeleton of a child. No skulls
were found, either here or in the sepulchral urns
that were at the bank of the river.

Mr. Rich, also, found a number of urns, in the
bulwark on the banks of the river. These contained
ashes, and bones in small fragments. Comparing
these remains with the skeletons found in the Muje-
libe. he judiciously remarks, that the two modes of
sepulture decidedly prove what people they were
who were so interred. " There is, I believe," he adds,
" no reason to suppose that the Babylonians burnt
their dead : the old Persians, we know, never did."
It was the common usage with the Greeks. " From
this he infers," says Porter, " that the skeletons in
the Mujelibe were the remains of the ancient people
of Babylon ; and the urns in the embankment con-
tained the ashes of Alexander's soldiers."

* For the story of Haroot and Maroot, ere D'HrrMot and
Richards' Pcnian Dictionary ; also Kinncir't Geographical Memuir
of the 1'cniau Empire.


From the south-east angle of the Mujelibe, a
mound extends in a circular direction, and joins the
Amran at its south-east angle, the diameter of the
sweep being two miles and a half. This is supposed
to have been the fortified enclosure that is described
by Herodotus as encircling the palace.

To the north of the Mujelibe there are no ruins
of any importance. A few low mounds, however,
are observed, occurring at intervals, on each side of
the road from Hillah to Bagdad ; but they are of an
insignificant character, and, from their situation,
they are supposed to have been burying-places out-
side the city, rather than buildings within its walls.

The Mujelibe is supposed to have been a Babylo -
nian mausoleum, rather than a temple of worship.
In respect to the other ruins, it is probable that the
Kasr and adjacent mounds are the remains of the
royal palace, with its hanging gardens, enclosed with
the circular mound, -which formed the outer wall of
the palace mentioned by Herodotus, and described
more in detail by Diodorus.

Two or three miles upwards from the river, are
the remains of what have, hitherto, been considered
remains of canals. A recent traveller*, however,
seems inclined to believe, that they are the remains
of streets. His reasoning is probable. Canals would
go all one way ; but most of these cross each other at
right angles, with immense spaces of open and level
ground on each side of them.

We are now to note something in regard to what
appears on the west side of the Euphrates. " The
loose and inaccurate accounts of some modern travel-
lers," says Mr. llich, " have misled D'Anville and
Rennell into the belief of there being considerable
ruins on the western side of the river, similar to those
on the eastern." This, however, does not appear to

* Buckingham.

IfiO nr IN > OP AN. irvr n ,

In- the case; that is tu-artx th.- river. Hut although
then- an- none in the immediate neighbourhood, ly
far tin- most stupendous and surprising mass of all
tin- ruins of H.ilivlon is situated on this side, about
six niili s from Ilillah. Tliis 18 the tower of Babel,
otherwise the temple of Belus. It is ealled liy the
Ar:i])3,BirgA T emroud; by the Jews Nehuehadnc/'s
Prison. The shape of this vast ruin is oblong bavin;.'
the appearance of a fallen or decayed pyramid, li :-
two thousand two hundred and eighty-six feet in
compass at the base ; and, on the west side, it rises
conically to the height of one hundred and ninety -
eight feet. "I visited the Birs," says Mr. l\ieh,
** under circumstances peculiarly favourable to gran-
deur of effect. The morning was at first stormy, and
threatened a severe fall of rain ; but, as we ap-
proached the object of our journey, the heavy clouds
separating, discovered the Biis frowning over tin-
plain, and presenting the appearance of a circular
hill, crowned by a tower, with a high ridge extend-
ing along the foot of it. It being entirely conceal<-<l
from our view, during the first part of our ride, pre-
vented our acquiring the gradual idea, in <i< n< nil so
prejudicial to effect, and so particularly lamented by
those who visit the pyramids. Just as we were
within the projxr distance, it burst at once upon our
sight, in the midst of rolling masses of thick blaek
clouds, partially obcured by that kind of ha/<- \vlui-i
indistinctness is one great cause of sublimity ; whilst
a few strong catches of stormy light, thrown upon
the desert in the back ground, served to give some
idea of the immense extent, and dreary solitude, of
the wastes in which this remarkable ruin stands."

Two stages of building are visible on the eastern
side. The lowest is sixty feet high, and is broken in
the middle by a deep ravine, and intersected on all
sides by channels, made by the winter rains'. The


summit of this first stage was once flat ; but it is no
longer so ; its margin having crumbled down so as to
give this side the appearance of a cone. The second
stage rises above the first, also, in a conical form, but
much more steep ; the summit being marked by ;i
}>erpendicular fragment of brick work ; which is pro-
bably the base of the third stage.

On the west side, the structure rises at once from
the plain like a pyramid ; the face being broken in
different directions, partly by the torrents, and partly
by what seems to have been some convulsion of na-
ture. At the foot of the northern side, vast masses
of solid brick- work are scattered over the rubbish.
The building is seen to most advantage to the south ;
for on that side it is by far the most perfect. The
tower there rises by high and distinct stages (four),
receding one within another, in proportion to their
respective elevations. " Here is a ruin," says an
elegant writer, " corresponding, in a most surprising
degree, with the tower of Bclus, as described by
Herodotus. The total circumference of the base is
two thousand two hundred and eighty-six feet in-
stead of one thousand nine hundred and sixty, the
square of a stadium. The east and west sides remain
of the original breadth nearly, and a greater portion
of rubbish from the top crumbled down upon their
sides, the north and south are thereby elongated ; the
present height of the ruin, to the top of the wall,
is two hundred and thirty-five feet less than
one-half of the original height consequently the
debris round the base might be expected to be much
more considerable, so as to make the circumference of
the base greater than it appears to be. But it must
be remembered, that Alexander the Great, when he
took possession of Babylon, after the defeat of Darius,
employed ten thousand men for two months in re-


162 itn.Ns or AM n.\ i < i .

moving the rubbish, preparatory to removing the
tower*. It is probable they had only cleared the
south side, before the work was abandoned ; which
would account for the south face being more perfect
than any of the others. If we add to this, that vast
quantities of the bricks have been taken away by
the natives of the country, for building modern
towns, the circumstance that the base so little ex-
ceeds the dimensions, given by Herodotus, will no
longer appear unaccountable."

On Sir Robert Ker Porter's second visit to the Birs
Nimrod, his party descried several dark objects
moving along the summit of its hill, which tiny
construed into dismounted Arabs on the look out,
while their armed brethren were lying concealed
under the southern brow of the mound. " Thinking
this very probable," says Sir Robert, " I took out
my glass to examine, and soon distinguished that
the causes of our alarm were two or three majestic
lions, taking the air upon the height of the pyramid.
Perhaps I had never seen so sublime a picture to
the mind, as well as to the eye. They were a species
of enemy which my party were accustomed to dread
without any panic fear ; and while we continued to
advance, though slowly, the hallooing of the people
made the noble beasts gradually change their posi-
tion, till, in the course of twenty minutes, they
totally disappeared." The party then rode close to
the ruins, every now and then observing the broad
prints of feet the lions had left in the soil. This
naturally brought to Sir Robert's recollection that
part of the scriptures, wherein it is said, "Wild
beasts of the desert shall be there."

At a short distance from the Birs, and parallel
with its eastern face, is a mound, not inferior to that

* Justin, iii. c. 1C.


of the Kasr in elevation, but much longer than it is
broad. " On the top of it are two oratories," says
Mr. Rich. " One, called Mekam Ibrahim Khalib,
and said to be the place where Ibrahim was thrown
into the fire by order of Nemroud, who surveyed the
scene from the Birs; the other, which is in ruins,
Makam Saheb Zeman ; but to what part of Mehdy's
life it relates, I am ignorant."

"They call it," says Sir R. Ker Porter, " 'Babylon,
the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldees'
excellency. The lady of kingdoms, given to plea-
sure, that dwelleth carelessly, and sayeth in her heart,
I am, and there is none else beside me!' But now,
in the same expressive language, we may say, ' She
sits as a widow on the ground. There is no more a
throne for thee, O daughter of the Chaldeans!'
And for the abundance of the country, it has vanished
as clean away as if ' the besom of desolation' had,
indeed, swept it from north to south ; the whole
land, from the outskirts of Bagdad to the farthest
stretch of the sight, lying a melancholy corpse."

Round the Birs are traces of ruins to a consider-
able extent ; and near the town of Hillah there are
several remarkable places ; but as they do not bear
any very particular relation to Babylon, we here
close our account, entirely agreeing with Mr. Rich,
that it is evident, from what remains of that cele-
brated city, and even from the most favourable
account handed down to us, that the public edifices
which adorned it were remarkable more for vastness
of dimensions than elegance of design, and solidity of
fabric than beauty of execution.

Though Babylon has universally been considered
as the largest city that ever existed on the earth,
there are some and even very good reasons to believe,
that it was never so large as Nineveh. " It was



intended, inli - :ie of the histori.i:

Ilahylon should have exeeeded Ninruh in i Aery
thin<_ r ; but Nebuehadne/./ar did not live long enough,
nor the Babylonish cini>irc last lotr_ r eimuidi, to finish
the scheme that had l>een drawn of it." The h>

not contiguous, hut all built with a void space
on each side between house and house, so that the

r part was not built upon. The hou-
Nineveh, however, were contiguous. Nineveh, also,
had a preater population ; for, in the time of Jonah,
it had one hundred and twenty thousand souls.
" who could nor did not know their ri^ht hand
from their left." That is, one hundred and tv
thousand infants*. But though Nineveh was the
oldest city and the largest, Babylon has in all sub-
sequent ages enjoyed the greatest celebrity t.

I he Hebrew Scripture*; Herodotus; Xenophon ; Vain ins
Maxiinn*; Diodorus Siculu* ; Plutarch ; Arrinn ; Quintus Curtiui ;
Justin ; Tcxeira; Rauwolf; Dello Valle ; Pridcaux ; K.-llin ; Up.
m; Bcloe; Rcnncll ; Bcaucharop ; Kinneir ; Porter; Mal-
colm ; Franklin ; Rich ; Buckingham.

r Since this wan written, the following account h.ii appeared
in one of the journal* (The Saturday Magazine): " The pre-
sent population of Hi! lah, which nmy average from six to seven thou-
sand soul*, consist* chiefly of Arabs, who have their own Sheik, hut
the Mutscllim, or governor of the place, is under the pachaof Bagdad,
and resides in a fortress within the town. There are bazaars and
markets on both sides of the river. The shopkeepers are chiefly
Armenians. Turks, and Jews. A most important fact connected with
these traders is, that Manchester and Glasgow goods that were taken
out by the Euphrates expedition as sample*, were engcrly bought
by them, at a profit to the sellers of one hundred per cent. There
is much trade earned on in the town, both by camels from the
interior, and by boats loilcn with rice, dates, tobacco, and other
articles most in demand among the desert tribes. It would be
curious if, in the progress of commerce and civilisation, the neigh-
bourhood of Babylon should again become the scene of jirin- vly
mercantile traffic ; it is described in the Revelations as having once
hccn (xviii. 12, 13), " The merchandise of gold, and silver, and pre-
rious stones, and of pearls, and fine linen, and purple, and silk, and



Those ruined shrines and towers, that seem
The relics of a splendid dream ;

Auiid whoso fairy loveliness
Nought hut the lapwing's cry is heard ;
Nought seen but (when the shadows, flitting
Fast from the moon, uusheath its gleam)
Some purple-winged SULTANA* sitting

Upon a column motionless,
And glittering like an idol bin!.
* * *

But nought can charm the luckless Peri ;
Her soul is sad her wings are weary
Joyless she sees the sun go down
On that great temple, once her own"f ;
Whose lonely columns stand sublime,

Flinging their shadows from on high,"*
Like dials, which the wizard, Time,

Had raided to count his ages by.

These lines lead us to some beautiful observations
by Sir Jobn Malcolm :

" Among the traces of a great nation's former
glory," says he, " there is none upon which the mind
dwells with more serious thought than on the mag-
nificent ruins of its ancient palaces. How forcibly
are we reminded of our condition, when told that an
edifice, in the erection of which a kingdom's wealth
had been exhausted ; which was adorned with every

scarlet, and all thyme wood, and all manner of vessels of ivory, and
all manuer of vessels of most precious wood, and of brass, and iron,
and marble, and cinnamon, and odours, and ointments, and frank-
incense, and wine, and oil, and flour, and wheat, and beasts, and
fchecp, and horses, and chariots," &c.

* That beautiful bird, with plumage of the finest shining blue,
with purple beak and legs, the natural and living ornament of the
temples and porticoes of the Greeks and Romans, which, from the
sUtcliness of its port, as well as the brilliancy of its colours, ha
obtained the title of Sultana. SONNINI.

f The temple of the suu at Balbec.

160 uriN.s or Mcnm MI n>.

ornament that the- art of the world coiilcl supply, and
whose lii>t<>ry \\:i- ii_'r:ivi-n on tlic inijuTishalilc
rocks with which it was constructed, was not only
fallen into decay, hut that its founder was unknown,
and the language in which its history was inscribed
was no longer numbered among the tongues of man !"
These observations are peculiarly applicable to tho
present state of Balbcc.

Thiacity stood in the road between Tyre and Pal-
myra ; its history is, nevertheless, so lost in obscu-
rity, that, considering the splendour and magnifuvmv
of its remains, we are astonished ! Scarcely any thing
of its history is known ; and even its existence ap-
pears to have been unknown for many centuries to
the Romans.

Tradition states that it was built by Solomon ; and
for the truth of this the Jews quote the following
passage from the Book of Chronicles* : " Also he
(Solomon) built Beth-horon the upper, and Beth-
horon the nether, fencied cities, with walls, gates,
and bars ; and Baal-ath."

For the greater confirmation, it is thought that
Balbec is meant when Solomon says " the tower of
Ixibanon, that looketh towards Damascus." The
Arabs go even so far as to assert, that this city was
built by the king as a residence for the Queen of
Sheba ; and Sir William Ouseley quotes a passage,
wherein it is mentioned that a tradition in Persian
implies, that Solomon often passed his day at Balbec,
and his night at Istakr.

The names Heliopolis and Balbec are words of

Online LibraryCharles BuckeRuins of ancient cities : with general and particular accounts of their rise, fall, and present condition (Volume 1) → online text (page 13 of 36)