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The name of a fortress in Lower Egypt on the right bank of the Nile, opposite the pyramids of Ghizeh. It was said to have been founded by exiles from Babylonia, and under the Romans became a place of considerable importance.


A celebrated city, the capital of the Babylonian (Chaldaean) Empire, situated on the Euphrates. The ancient accounts of its origin and of the structure of the city are extremely confused. The god Belus (q.v.) is spoken of as its founder, and also Semiramis and Nitocris. According to Diodorus (ii. 7), Semiramis employed upon it two million workmen collected from all parts of her realm. It must be understood, however, that nearly all the ancient accounts of Babylon refer not to the primitive city, but to the later capital and residence of Nebuchadnezzar. Herodotus describes it in the first book of his history, as if from his personal observation.

The shape of the city of Babylon was that of a square, traversed each way by twenty-five principal streets, which, of course, intersected each other, dividing the city into 625 squares. These streets were terminated at each end by gates of brass of prodigious size and strength, with a smaller one opening towards the river. Respecting the height and thickness of the walls of Babylon, there are great variations among the ancient writers. Herodotus makes them 200 royal cubits (or 337 feet 8 inches) high and 50 royal cubits (or 84 feet 6 inches) broad, which seems incredible. A difficulty also presents itself with regard to the extent of the walls of Babylon. Herodotus makes them 120 stadia each side, or 480 in circumference. Pliny and Solinus give them the circuit at 60 Roman miles, which, reckoning eight stadia to a mile, agrees with the account of Herodotus. Strabo makes it 385 stadia. Diodorus, from Ctesias, assigns 360, but from Clitarchus, who accompanied Alexander, 365. Curtius gives 368. Taking the circumference of Babylon at 365 stadia, and these at 491 feet, each side of the square (which is equal to 91 1/4 stadia) will be 8.485 British miles, or nearly 8 1/2. This gives an area of 72 miles and an inconsiderable fraction. It is to be remembered, however, that the walls, like those of most Oriental towns, enclosed rather populous districts than mere cities. That the area enclosed by the walls of Babylon was only partly built on is proved by the words of Quintus Curtius (v. 4), who says that “the buildings in Babylon are not contiguous to the walls, but some considerable space was left all around.” Diodorus, moreover, describes a vast space taken up by the palaces and public buildings. The enclosure of one of the palaces was a square of 15 stadia, or near 1 1/2 mile; the other of 5 stadia—here are more than 2 1/2 square miles occupied by the palaces alone. Besides these, there were the Temple and Tower of Belus, of vast extent; and the Hanging Gardens. From all this, and much more that might be adduced, we may collect most clearly that much vacant space remained within the walls of Babylon; and this would seem to do away, in some degree, with the great difficulty respecting the magnitude of the city itself. Nor is it stated as the effect of the subsequent decline of Babylon, but as the actual state of it when Alexander first entered the place, for Curtius leaves us to understand that the system of cultivating a large proportion of the enclosed space originat

Plan of Babylon. (According to Rich.)

ed with the foundation itself; and the history of its two sieges, by Cyrus and Darius Hystaspis, seems to show it (Rennell's Geography of Herodotus, i. 447). The walls of Babylon were built of brick baked in the sun, cemented with bitumen instead of mortar, and were encompassed by a broad and deep ditch, lined with the same materials, as were also the banks of the river in its course through the city, the inhabitants descending to the water by steps through the smaller brass gates already mentioned. Over the river was a bridge, connecting the two halves of the city, which stood, the one on its eastern, the other on its western bank; the river running nearly north and south. The bridge was five furlongs in length and thirty feet in breadth, and had a palace at each end, with, it is said, a subterranean passage beneath the river from one to the other, the work of Semiramis. Of this bridge no traces have yet been found.

Within or near the city was the Temple of Belus, or Baal, which Herodotus describes as a square of two stadia; in the midst of this arose the celebrated tower, to which both the same writer and Strabo give an elevation of one stadium, and the same measure at its base. The whole was divided into eight separate towers, one above another, of decreasing dimensions to the summit, where stood a chapel, containing a couch, table, and other things of gold. Here the principal devotions were performed; and over this, on the highest platform of all, was the observatory, by the help of which the Babylonians are said to have attained to great skill in astronomy. A winding staircase on the outside formed the ascent to this stupendous edifice. The Old Palace, which stood on the east side of the bridge over the river, was 3 3/4 miles in extent. The New Palace, which stood on the west side of the river, opposite to the other, was 7 1/2 miles in extent. It was surrounded with three walls, one within another, with considerable spaces between them. These walls, as also those of the other palace, were embellished with an infinite variety of sculptures, representing all kinds of animals to the life. Among the rest was a curious hunting-piece, in which Semiramis on horseback was throwing her javelin at a leopard, and her husband Ninus piercing a lion. In this last palace were the Hanging Gardens, so celebrated among the Greeks. They contained a square of 400 feet on every side, and were carried up in the manner of several large terraces, one above another, till the height equalled that of the walls of the city. The ascent was from terrace to terrace by stairs ten feet wide. The whole pile was sustained by vast arches raised upon other arches, one above another, and strengthened by a wall, surrounding it on every side, of twenty-two feet in thickness. On the top of the arches were first laid large flat stones, sixteen feet long and four broad; over these was a layer of reeds, mixed with a great quantity of bitumen, upon which were two rows of bricks closely cemented together. The whole was covered with thick sheets of lead, upon which lay the mould of the garden. And all this floorage was contrived to keep the moisture of the mould from running away through the arches. The earth laid thereon was so deep that large trees might take root in it; and with such the terraces were covered, as well as with all other plants and flowers that were proper to adorn a pleasure-garden. In the upper terrace there was an engine, or kind of pump, by which water was drawn up out of the river, and from thence the whole garden was watered. In the spaces between the several arches upon which this whole structure rested were large and magnificent apartments, that were very light, and had the advantage of a beautiful prospect. Amyitis, the wife of Nebuchadnezzar, having been bred in Media (for she was the daughter of Astyages, the king of that country), desired to have something in imitation of her native hills and forests; and the monarch, in order to gratify her, is said to have raised this prodigious structure. Near Babylon was the famous Birs Nimroud. See Babel, Tower of.

Babylon was probably in the zenith of its glory and dominion just before the death of Nebuchadnezzar.

The Mudjelibeh or Kasr. (Rich.)

The spoils of Nineveh, Jerusalem, and Egypt had enriched it; its armies had swept like a torrent over the finest countries of the East, and had at this time no longer an enemy to contend with; the arts and sciences, driven from Phœnicia and Egypt, were centred here; and hither the philosophers of the West came to imbibe instruction. The fall of Babylon, before the victorious arms of Cyrus, occurred B.C. 538. The height and strength of the walls had long baffled every effort of the invader. Having understood, at length, that on a certain day, then near approaching, a great annual festival was to be kept at Babylon, when it was customary for the Babylonians to spend the night in revelling and drunkenness, he thought this a fit opportunity for executing a scheme which he had planned. This was no other than to surprise the city by turning the course of the river—a mode of capture of which the Babylonians, who looked upon the river as one of their greatest protections, had not the smallest apprehension. Accordingly, on the night of the feast, he sent a party of his men to the head of the canal, which led to the great lake made by Nebuchadnezzar to receive the waters of the Euphrates while he was facing the banks of the river with walls of brick and bitumen. This party had directions, as soon as it was dark, to commence breaking down the great bank or dam which kept the waters of the river in their place, and separated them from the canal above mentioned; while Cyrus, in the meantime, dividing the rest of

Section of Temple of the Seven Lights.

his army, stationed one part at the place where the river entered the city, and the other where it came out, with orders to enter the channel of the river as soon as they should find it fordable. This happened by midnight; for, by cutting down the bank leading to the great lake, and making, besides, openings into the trenches which, in the course of the two years' siege, had been dug around the city, the river was so drained of its water that it became nearly dry. When the army of Cyrus entered the channel from their respective stations on each side of the city, they rushed on ward towards the centre of the place; and finding the gates leading towards the river left open in the drunkenness and negligence of the night, they entered them, and met by concert at the palace before any alarm had been given; here the guards, partaking, no doubt, in the negligence and disorder of the night, were surprised and killed. Soon after, the soldiers of Cyrus, having killed the guard, and meeting with no resistance, advanced towards the banqueting-hall, where they encountered Belshazzar, the ill-fated monarch, and slew him, with his armed followers. See, however, Cyrus, p. 460.

Under Cyrus, Babylon was reduced to the rank of a provincial city, and having revolted under Darius Hystaspis was severely punished, and by Xerxes plundered and despoiled, after which it steadily decayed. See Babylonia.

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