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H. includes (cf. iv. 39. 1) under ‘Assyria’ the whole region between the Iranian plateau, Armenia, and the desert; this province (for its history cf. iii. 92. 1) is called ‘Assyria’ also in the Minaean inscriptions (from South Arabia, which go back to ninth century B. C.). Hence in his Ἀσσύριοι λόγοι (cf. App. II, § 6) H. includes both the Assyrian and the Babylonian Empire (cc. 106, 184). The confusion was natural, owing to (1) H.'s ignorance, especially of Assyria. (2) The identity of their religion and culture. (3) The fact that Babylon was often a vassal of Nineveh. But the two empires were historically and ethnographically distinct. We may compare the similar identification of Medes and Persians by the Greeks.

ἄλλα πολίσματα: this is correct; the land is full of ruins. Cf. a striking passage in Layard, Nineveh and Babylon (1853), p. 245, beginning ‘On all sides, as far as eye could see, rose the grasscovered heaps, marking the site of ancient habitations. The great tide of civilization had long since ebbed, leaving the wrecks on the solitary shore’. This refers to the district west of Mosul, i. e. near the site of Nineveh.

μέγαθος and μέτωπον (= ‘side’; elsewhere κῶλον) are both accusatives of respect. ἐούσης τετραγώνου: a bold anacoluthon.

εἴκοσι καὶ ἑκατόν. There are four main questions as to the walls of Babylon:

I. Are the two walls, outer and inner, mentioned by H., the Imgur Bel and Nimitti Bel of E. I. H. viii. 43-6? Their identity is accepted by Baumstark (u. s.), Maspero (iii. 563), and others, but denied by the recent excavators, e. g. Weissbach (p. 12). This point does not affect H.'s narrative.

II. Had H. seen either or both walls?

(1) Berosus (F. H. G. ii. 508) says that Cyrus ‘arranged to destroy the outer walls’, because Babylon was ‘troublesome and hard to take’. But this statement seems inconsistent with the fact that he entered the city peaceably as a deliverer (App. IV, § 1).

(2) H. himself says (iii. 159. 1) that Darius τὸ τεῖχος περιεῖλε καὶ τὰς πύλας πάσας ἀπέσπασε. This is usually explained as referring to the outer wall, and meaning that this had ceased to exist before H.'s visit. H. then either would be describing the outer wall from hearsay (Baumstark), or (as Lehmann, Klio, i. 274; cf. H. iii. 150. 1 n.) incorporating whole passages from Hecataeus (cf. the tenses of ἐνεστᾶσι 179. 3, and κεῖται 181. 5). But there is no good evidence that Hecataeus had ever been in Babylon, or that H. copied him (Introd. § 20), and either alternative seriously prejudices the credit of H.

(3) It is more natural to suppose, as the words πύλας ... ἀπέσπασε in fact imply, that Darius simply dismantled the outer wall. He left Babylon in the state which Scott (in Quentin Durward) describes at Liége. To remove such enormous masses of brickwork entirely would have been at once difficult and needless. H. throws in touches which rest mainly on hearsay (e. g. 179. 3, the presence of the ‘brazen’ gates), but he had seen enough of the wall to warrant him describing it as existing.

III. The extent of the walls.

(1) H.'s figure of 480 stades is supported by the statement of Philostratus, supposed to be derived from Hellanicus (see P. W. ii. 2693).

Oppert's attempt to trace the line of this great square on the modern site is now given up; Weissbach (p. 30) says it is fifty times too big; but Nikel [Herodot und die Keilschriftforschung (1896), pp. 25-7] points out that the extent of the ruins (roughly fifteen miles by twelve) corresponds to H.'s figures, which are accepted by Baumstark and Lehmann (u. s.). If this is right, the outer wall included the neighbouring town of Borsippa (cf. 181. 2 n.), which had also a wall of its own. Many, however, maintain Borsippa was quite separate from Babylon, following Berosus (F. H. G. ii. 508). The recent excavations render somewhat doubtful the enormous size of Babylon; but as Lehmann points out (u. s.), even if their results were more certain than they are, the literary tradition is very strong, and walls of brick might disappear, leaving little or no trace (cf. 179. 1 n.).

(2) The figures of other Greek writers are smaller, e.g. Ctesias (Ass. fr. 5, p. 397) gives 360 stades, Strabo (738) 365 stades, Cleitarchus (in Diod. ii. 7; he was one of the historians of Alexander) the same; Bähr (Ctesias, pp. 401-4) collects all the evidence. These are taken as being the extent of the inner wall, which (Abydenus, F. H. G. iv. 284) lasted down to the time of Alexander.

Of course all this vast area was not inhabited. At any rate H. is only giving the estimate he had received; he could not have measured even one side (contrast ii. 127. 1). For the size of Babylon cf. Arist. Pol. iii. 3. 5 (1276 A)ἥτις ἔχει περιγραφὴν μᾶλλον ἔθνους πόλεως: ἧς γέ φασιν ἑαλωκυίας τρίτην ἡμέραν οὐκ αἰσθέσθαι τι μέρος τῆς πόλεως”.

IV. The height of the walls.

H.'s estimate, about 335 feet by 85, to some extent agrees with that of Ctesias, who gives 50 fathoms (i.e. 300 feet, Diod. ii. 7). Nebuchadnezzar describes his wall as ‘mountains high’ (E. I. H. viii. 51; cf. Jer. li. 53), and Xenophon makes the ruined wall of Nineveh (with its base, κρηπίς) 150 feet high and 50 feet wide (Anab. iii. 4. 10-11; perhaps he is including the mound on which it stood). Strabo (738, with whom Diod. ii. 7 and Q. Curt. v. 1 agree), however, makes the wall of Babylon only 32 feet thick and 75 high (90 in the towers). H. probably follows the exaggerated figures of his guide. Maspero (iii. 563), who gives a picture of a conjectural restoration, makes the height of Nimitti Bel, the main wall, 30 metres, i. e. not quite 100 feet), and says it ‘resembled rather a chain of mountains with battlements and towers than a boulevard of man's handiwork’. H.'s wall is not broad enough for stability in proportion to its height, and it is possible that he even underestimated its thickness; that of Khorsabad, which is much lower, is nearly 80 feet thick.

He is quite right in saying that there was a walled ditch (178. 3; 179. 2) in front of the outer wall, and that inside there was a second wall ‘of less extent’ (181. 1 στεινότερον). For the walls generally cf. E. I. H. col. 8. To sum up, it may be said that H. gives a striking impressionist picture of this great scheme of fortification, but that it is incorrect in details.

ἐκεκόσμητο. Babylon was undoubtedly the most splendid city in the East, when the great works of Nebuchadnezzar were complete. Cf. E. I. H. pass. and Dan. iv. 30.

For the ‘royal’ and the ‘ordinary cubit’ cf. F. Hultsch, Metrologie (1882), especially pp. 46, 388. H. illustrates the Oriental measures from the Greek; but to us the process is reversed, as we know the Oriental measures, from measurements of Babylonian bricks and buildings, better than the Greek. The ‘royal cubit’ (which was practically the same as the Egyptian royal cubit, though a fraction longer, ib. p. 552) is calculated at from 532 (or 533) to 525 millimetres; the Greek cubit, therefore, being in the relation of 8 to 9 (the ‘finger’ is 7/10 of an inch), was from 473 to 466.6 millimetres. Stein, however, says the relation is 7 to 8, not 8 to 9, basing this on the length of the Attic ell, i. e. 462 millimetres. The Samian cubit was the same as the Egyptian ell (ii. 168. 1); of this there were two kinds, the ‘royal’, about 527 millimetres (Hultsch, p. 355), the smaller about 450. That the Samian corresponded to the former, i. e. the longer ell, has been finally proved by the measurements at the Samian Heraeum (ib. p. 551).

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    • Aristotle, Politics, 3.1276a
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 2.7
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