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Βαβυλωνία; in the Assyrian inscriptions called Babilu; in the Persian, Babirush). A plain watered by the lower streams of the Tigris and Euphrates, and forming the modern province of Irak-Arabi. The boundaries of Babylonia varied considerably during the different periods of Babylonian and Assyrian power; but in general the northern boundary consisted partly of the Euphrates and its affluents, and partly of the frontier forts established by the monarchs of Assyria and Babylonia, these forts and their outposts forming in all probability the “Median Wall” of the classical writers. The Tigris River formed a natural eastern boundary-line, though the province of Namri (Kurdistan) lying east of that stream was sometimes included in the Chaldaean Empire. The Euphrates with the desert lying east of it was the western limit, while the territory terminated at the Persian Gulf on the south, this body of water in early times having extended further inland than at present. The country so bounded is spoken of in the Old Testament as Shinar, Babel, and “the land of the Chaldees,” and has always been one of the richest and most fertile districts of Western Asia, so that Herodotus (i. 193) speaks of it as supplying one third of the grain produced by the whole Persian Empire—a fact to which the inscriptions bear witness. A magnificent system of artificial irrigation enhanced this natural productiveness, a network of canals having extended over the entire territory, some of them being still navigable, and the greatest of them—the Nar Malka, which connected the Tigris with the Euphrates —having been used as late as A.D. 700.

Babylonia was divided into several provinces of varying number and extent at different periods. The chief division was into the two large provinces of Sumir (Shinar) or South Babylonia, and Akkad or North Babylonia, which latter extended from the city of Babylon to the Assyrian frontier. Babylon was the capital of Sumir, and the double city Sippara-Akkad (Agade) on both banks of the Euphrates was the capital of North Babylonia. Minor divisions were Gan-Duniyas, Edina (Eden), Gambulu (Afadj) and Mat Kaldu, the land of the Chaldaeans on the Persian Gulf.

Ethnology and Civilization.—Babylonia was a land of mixed races, as is testified both by the sacred and profane writers of antiquity, and by the heterogeneous character of its linguistic and monumental remains. The first population was Ugro-Finnic in its racial affiliations, as is seen by the statues of this period, which exhibit features of a pure Tartar type, with doliocephalic skulls, high cheek-bones, and slanting eyes. This type is ethnically altered to the Proto-Medes and to the Elamites of Susiana. The name of Sumero-Akkadians has been applied to this people, who originally came from the mountains to the northeast, whence the name Akkadai, “mountaineers.” At the time of their immigration into Babylonia they are believed to have brought with them the elements of civilization. Not long after them, the Semites entered Babylonia, their type also appearing in the glyptic remains; and later, other ethnic elements were added to the population by the natural operations of war and commerce. That the Semitic immigrants ultimately attained to a high degree of influence in the land is seen in the fact that as early as B.C. 3800 we find a Semitic line of kings, under Sargon of Akkad, ruling in North Babylonia.

The Babylonian people were possessed of a civilization whose greatness has only of late been properly appreciated; for the meagre notices in Herodotus and other ancient writers give little more than a faint suggestion of the truth. The recovery and decipherment in recent times of many thousands of inscribed tablets from the libraries of the oldest cities of Babylonia, give us a means of reconstructing a very accurate picture of the sociology of their ancient life, and one more clear in its details than that given us by the records of almost any other ancient people, except perhaps of Egypt.

The government was despotic, and of a typically Oriental type. The laws were administered by supreme judges under whom were ordinary judges, who sat in the gates of the temple and at the great gate of the city to hear causes, and gave judgment in strict conformity with precedent, the chief punishments being fines, loss of civic rights, imprisonment, and death. Appeals could be made to the king. The chief taxes were the “king's tax,” or tax on all property; the “army tax”; and the tax levied, like the English “ship-money” of former

Babylonian Brick, with Cuneiform Inscription.

times, upon certain districts for ships. Local taxes were temple-tithes (esritum), the first-fruit tax, the sheep tax, and a tax for the maintenance of roads and canals. A silver currency was employed (talents, manehs, shekels, paras), coined money having been introduced in the reign of Darins. These early coins were perhaps the tetradrachma (q. v.) of the Athenian Greeks.

Women occupied a favourable position, especially after marriage, which was effected by both a religious and a civil ceremony. Offences against a mother were severely punished, sometimes even by mutilation. Women could own slaves and other property in their own right, and could even engage in business. All Chaldaeans of free birth were educated. Slaves were protected by law against harsh treatment from their masters; they could own property; and in fact were often taught trades and other self-supporting occupations by their owners.

Art, Literature, and Manufactures.—The recent explorations of Rassam at Sippara and of De Sarzec at Tel-lô have added immensely to our knowledge of Chaldaean art, which had hitherto been represented by a few engraved cylinders and gems. The statues discovered by these gentlemen have much artistic merit. The largest is nearly life-size, is accurate in its anatomy, and is carved in hard green diorite. Another even more remarkable piece of workmanship is a head cut in red porphyry, the execution making it evident that tools of rare excellence must have been used. Several bronze statuettes attest a knowledge of the art of casting metals. Many talismans and amulets have been found, the stones selected by the lapidaries being green and red jasper, haematite, chalcedony, crystal, carnelian, lapis-lazuli, sardonyx, and onyx. Music was cultivated, as the sculptors prove by their representations of the harp, cymbals, and other instruments.

Among the Sumero-Akkadian population, the scribe caste contained many members of high rank, and literature in consequence was highly esteemed. As has been already stated, every free Babylonian had a certain amount of education, including a knowledge of tablet writing. Libraries were common, and tablets have been found directing the student how to ask for such works as he needed from the libraries; whence it appears that a very careful system of cataloguing prevailed. Various schools of literature are noted as having existed, each influenced by local schools of thought. In the most ancient school of Eridhu, for example, magic was cultivated, with the result that many works on magic and its cognate subjects were written and compiled, among them the series of tablets known as the “books of spells relating to diseases of the head,” and having a remarkable resemblance to the Atharvaveda or Black-Veda of the Aryans. The school of Erech produced the epic poem of Gizdhubar, consisting of twelve books arranged according to the twelve signs of the zodiac. An admirable specimen of Babylonian literature is a tablet, of which both Assyrian and Babylonian versions exist, describing the war in heaven between Merodach (Marduk) and the demon Tiamat. This tablet came from the library of the Temple of Nebo at Borsippa. Besides poetry and magic, the remains of these great libraries have yielded specimens of historical writing, legal, geographical, and religious composition, and tréatises on astrology, divination, astronomy, and mythology, besides fables and proverbs. The greater part of the Chaldaean classics were copied by the Assyrians under Assur-bani-pal, and thus became a part also of the literature of the Northern Empire. See Assyria.

The natural products of Babylonia were very numerons, comprising, besides corn and other cereals, many kinds of fruits, such as grapes and melons, and also vegetables—sesame, onions, garlic, cucumbers, etc. Trades were varied, and the tablets make especial mention of weaving, dyeing, pottery, building, and many other mechanical arts.

Chronology and History.—Hitherto students of Babylonia have been almost entirely dependent upon the fragmentary portions of the Canon of Kings, drawn up by the Graeco-Chaldaean priest Berosus (q.v.), about B.C. 268; but these lists are now confirmed and superseded by Babylonian Canon inscriptions dating from the sixth century before our era. The documents are:


a Canon of Kings by their dynasties, extending from B.C. 2200 until B.C. 647, partly mutilated, but capable of restoration;


the Tablet of Synchronous History of Assyria and Babylonia, which gives the names of the Babylonian kings from about B.C. 1800 to B.C. 732;


a Chronicle Tablet giving the chief events in Babylonia, the month and day being given in most cases, from B.C. 747 to B.C. 660; and


a collection of dated contract tablets extending from B.C. 680 to B.C. 150. This unequalled series of chronological documents gives an almost complete sequence to Babylonian history, and although there are still lacunae, the basis is now much more sure than when we were dependent solely upon the secondhand statements of Ctesias and Berosus.

It is now evident, from the monuments and inscriptions which have been obtained from the traditionally oldest cities of Chaldaea, that the civilization of the ancient people of Babylonia has an antiquity surpassing that of ancient Egypt. The earliest monument of which we can accurately fix the date is a stone whorl in the British Museum, brought from Sepharvaim by Mr. Rassam. It is an oval-shaped stone, inscribed in what is called line writing—that is, writing in which the characters are formed more by lines than by the ordinary wedges, a style that goes back to a time when the hieroglyphic or pictorial system of writing was beginning to be discontinued. The king's name inscribed is that of Sargon I., king of Akkad, who is now universally assigned to the remote antiqurty of B.C. 3800, and other inscriptions of this distant period are to be found in other European museums. Older still, in all probability, are the very archaic records found by M. de Sarzec at Tel-lô, in the neighbourhood of Erech, which, written in the ancient agglutinative dialect of the Sumero-Akkadian inhabitants, must precede the Semitic inscriptions of the northern kingdom of Sargon and his successors. These early inscriptions are mostly of a very short character, containing little more than the names and titles of the kings who ruled the cities, but at the same time they afford us information as to the state of civilization existing in Chaldaea nearly 4000 years before the Christian era. The Empire had not become one consolidated whole, and polyarchy was the most prevalent form of government, each city being ruled by its local king. Thus, Sargon was king of Akkad, and especially styles himself king of “the city.” Ur-bahu and Dungi were rulers of Ur, and others held sway in the cities of Eridhu, Larsa, and Babylon. Some of these early rulers claim the titles of king of Sumir (Shinar) and Akkad, a division which in after-time had the geographical signification of North and South Babylonia, but which in the earlier ages are certainly rather to be regarded as ethnic than local divisions of this early population. Babylon, though always one of the most important cities of the empire, was not the earliest capital, for the cradle of Chaldaean civilization was in the region of the south. Here all the ancient legends connected with Gizdhubar as Nimrod are located, and find their centre in the city of Urn-ki, the Erech of Genesis, the name of which means “the city of the land,” or capital.

The next most important city in this southern region was Ur, the sacred city of the Moon-god, the ruins of which are marked by the mound of Mugheir, on the west bank of the Euphrates, the city from which Abram came. Larsa (Senkereh), the Ellasar of Gen. xiv.; Sergul or Kulunu, the Calneh of Genesis, now known as the site of Zerghul on the Shat-el-Hie; and Eridhu, the most sacred city of South Babylonia, called frequently the “Holy City,” were all seats of local rulers.

The first ruler who succeeded in combining those various city kingdoms into one consolidated whole was Ur-bahu, whose reign must be placed about B.C. 2700. This ruler restored temples in nearly all the above-mentioned cities, and appointed “priest viceroys” to rule in them. He was succeeded by his son Dungi, who has left us a large number of inscriptions. Already Chaldaean civilization had made great progress and was far advanced, and the sciences, especially mathematics and astronomy, were studied; while the ships of Chaldaea navigated the Persian Gulf. The first really historical chronicle belongs to this period, and is found on a statue of Gudea, which shows the Babylonians already at war with Elam and the nations to the west. The wars with Elam form the chief features of the history of this period. In B.C. 2280 a powerful confederation of Elamites under Kudurnakhundi invaded South Chaldaea, and sacked the capital, Erech, carrying away the statue of the divine patroness Nana or Istar. This dynasty lasted until about B.C. 2120, and was very powerful, as shown by the numerous inscriptions of the kings found in various parts of Babylon. Of the kings of this period two are specially important — viz., Kudur-mabug, who appears to have been lord-paramount of the confederation of kings, and who claimed the title of “lord of the west,” or Syria; and his son, Eri-aku, who was ruler of Larsa. This latter ruler is almost universally identified by Assyriologists with the Arioch, king of Ellasar, mentioned in Gen. xiv. This dynasty was overthrown by the powerful usurper, King Khammuragas, who appears not to have been of native Babylonian origin, but rather a Kassite or Cosscan who had settled in the land and availed himself of this period of depression to seize the throne. This Kassite dynasty is one of the most important periods in Babylonian history, as great political changes took place at this time. It was at this time that Babylon began to assume its position as the capital of the whole Empire. Khammuragas rebuilt the temples of Bel at Babylon, Nebo in Borsippa, and restored several of the sacred edifices in South Babylonia—at Ur, Erech, and Larsa —which had suffered at the hands of the Elamite invaders. His greatest public work, however, was the construction of a canal called the river of Khammuragas, “joy of men,” which there is little doubt was the Nar Malka, or Royal River of the classics. This canal crossed North Babylonia, passing through Sippara, and is now represented by the Yusifieh Canal, one of the few ancient canals navigable at the present day. This dynasty lasted about 180 years, the founder himself ruling fortyfive. The very numerous collection of inscriptions of this period in the British Museum shows that at this time Babylonia was occupied by a much mixed population, consisting of Sumero - Akkadians, Elamites, Kassites, and a large Semitic element. The Semites appear principally as traders and merchants.

Babylonian Seal and its Impression. (British Museum.)

The three succeeding dynasties, extending over a period of about 600 years, consisted of a mixture of Semitic and non-Semitic princes, who ruled with Babylon as capital. The history of this period is chiefly to be derived from the Tablet of Synchronous History, and only a few Babylonian records of the period have been preserved. One of the most important is the memorial stone of Nebuchadnezzar I., B.C. 1150—a usurper who seized the throne and waged war against the rising Empire of Assyria. In this inscription the king records the result of a campaign against the Elamite chiefs in the region of Namri or Kurdistan, and on the banks of the Ulai River, on which the city of Shushan was afterwards built. The description of the campaign undertaken in the hot summer months is extremely graphic for so ancient a document: “In the month Tammuz he took the road; the rocks were burning and scorched like fire; from the gardens was burned all vegetation; there was no water in the springs, and cut off were the drinking-places; the strength of the great horses wearied, and to the warlike hero his courage returned.” The writer then describes the battle, in which the Babylonians were undoubtedly worsted, and only saved from complete defeat by the aid of the governor of an adjacent city who refused to surrender to the Elamites. In return for this the city has a charter of freedom granted it, declaring it free from taxes and from the usual levy for men in time of war.

The history is, after this date, chiefly to be derived from Assyrian sources, and it is not until the time of Nabunazir, the Nabonassar of the Canon of Ptolemy, that we have any complete sequence of Babylonian history. Our information is now chiefly derived from the important, but unfortunately fragmentary, Chronicle Tablet already spoken of. Nabonassar, whose reign forms an important epoch in Babylonian history, ascended the throne in B.C. 747, and ruled for fourteen years. During his reign the country was twice invaded by the Assyrians, and, though they claim the victory, they do not seem to have shaken the king on his throne. Nadinu (the Nadinos of Ptolemy), who succeeded to his father's throne in B.C. 734, only ruled for two years, when one of the popular revolts unseated him and placed Ukinziru (the Chimzoros of Ptolemy) on the throne. In the third year the country was invaded by the armies of Tiglath-pileser III., king of Assyria, who drove the Babylonian king from his capital into the marshes of South Babylonia, where he found him and put him to death, ascending his throne under the Babylonian name of Pulu or Pul. This conquest of Babylonia, in B.C. 729, was a very important event in the history of the Kingdom, for it brought the two courts of the north and south kingdoms once more into close relationship. The death of Shalmaneser IV., king of Assyria, and the usurpation of the throne by Sargon the Tartan in B.C. 722, was the opportunity seized by the Babylonians for once more becoming independent, under the leadership of a prince of very ancient descent— Merodach-baladan II. This prince was one of the most popular rulers of the middle Babylonian Kingdom, and was supported by all classes of the people as well as by the Elamite court, who were the most powerful opponents of Assyria. For twelve years the wars in Syria and other parts of the Empire kept the Assyrians from despatching sufficiently strong forces to the south to crush this powerful prince. In B.C. 712, Sargon was purposing to march into Babylonia, when a counteraction was caused by the Babylonian prince sending an embassy to Hezekiah and the other princes of Syria, and raising a revolt which called the invaders a way (2 Kings, xx. 6); but in B.C. 710 the storm broke, and Sargon captured Babylon, proclaiming himself king. On the assassination of Sargon in B.C. 705, Merodach-baladan returned, and after a reign of some nine months was driven from the land by Sennacherib, seeking refuge in the Elamite provinces on the east shore of the Persian Gulf. For some years Babylonia was now ruled by viceroys and princes appointed by the kings of Assyria, although several native princes attempted revolt. In B.C. 688, Sennacherib, after a very severe campaign, in which he defeated the allied Elamites and Babylonians, became sovereign of the two kingdoms. His son and successor, Esarhaddon, attempted to carry out a policy of a more conciliatory kind, and divided his time between the two courts; but the violent opposition of Egypt in Syria weakened his power, and the Elamites and Babylonians constantly harassed him. Shortly before his death he appointed his son Samas-sum-yukin (the Saosduchinos of Ptolemy) ruler, which appointment was confirmed by his son and successor Assur-bani-pal. This prince, tempted by the intrigue of the Babylonian priests, revolted against his brother, and was defeated after a terrible war, in which Babylon, Sippara, and Borsippa were besieged, and burned himself in his palace, B.C. 647. Kandalanu, who succeeded him, was little more than a viceroy, depending in every way upon the Ninevite court, although tablets are dated in his reign. On the disruption of the Assyrian Empire after the death of Assur-banipal, the throne of Babylon was seized by Nabuabla-utzar, or Nabopolassar, the general of the Babylonian garrison, who had married a Median princess, and was himself, no doubt, of collateral descent from the royal line of Babylonian kings.

The general disruption of the states of Western Asia which took place in B.C. 625, subsequent upon the inroad of a large mass of Aryan and other invaders from the east, afforded the Babylonians an opportunity for throwing off the hated yoke of Assyria, and Nabopolassar was proclaimed king in B.C. 625. He was succeeded in B.C. 604 by his son Nebuchadnezzar, one of the greatest sovereigns who ever ruled over the ancient Empire. During a long reign of forty-three years the prince succeeded in recovering the long-lost provinces of the kingdom, and once more making Babylon queen of nations. He not only restored the Empire and rebuilt Babylon, but almost every temple and edifice throughout the land underwent restoration at his hands. It is an astonishing fact that not a single mound throughout Babylonia has as yet been opened by the explorers which has not been found to contain bricks, cylinders, or tablets inscribed with his name. In B.C. 599, he captured Jerusalem, and sent Jehoiakim captive to Babylon; and eleven years later, owing to the still disturbed state of the kingdom (B.C. 588), he destroyed the city, and removed most of the inhabitants to Chaldaea. Nebuchadnezzar was succeeded in B.C. 561 by his son Evil-merodach, who released Jehoiakim, but was murdered by his brother-in-law NergalSharezer, who was the rab makhu, or “chief seer,” of one of the temples. His reign lasted until B.C. 556, his son Labasi-Kudar (the Laborasoarchad of Ptolemy) only ruling a few months. The throne was in B.C. 556 usurped by a powerful and active prince, Nabu-naid or Nabonidus, the son of a “chief seer,” whose reign is the most important, next to that of Nebuchadnezzar, in later Babylonian history. The inscriptions of this king are found in almost all temples, and some of them contain important historical facts. In a cylinder found at Sippara the king records his restoration of the temple at Kharran, which was destroyed by the Scythians, and in his sixth year, B.C. 549, he records the overthrow of Astyages, king of the Medes, and the capture of Ecbatana by Cyrus (q.v.). In the king's seventeenth year the whole land of Babylonia was in revolt against him for neglecting the duties of court and religion, leaving all to his son Belshazzar. During the summer of this year Cyrus invaded Babylonia, advancing from the neighbourhood of the modern Bagdad, and reaching Sippara on the fourteenth day of Tammuz (June), which the garrison yielded without fighting. Two days later, Tammuz 16, Babylon was taken in the same manner. Cyrus appointed Gobryas ruler. Three months later, Nabonidus, who was a prisoner, died, and after a week's mourning by the people was buried on the fourth day of Nisan, B.C. 538. Babylonia now became a Persian province, and under the rule of Cyrus (B.C. 538-529) and Cambyses (529-521) it appears to have been peaceful. On the accession to the throne of Darius, son of Hystaspes, the old rebellious spirit once more asserted itself, and for three years (521-519), the city held out against the Persians under Nadinta-Bel, who claimed to be Nebuchadnezzar, son of Nabonidus. Again, in B.C. 513, the city revolted under Arakha, an Armenian.

With the overthrow of the Persian monarchy Babylonia came under the short-lived dominion of Alexander the Great, who died in the capital (B.C. 323). Seleucus I., to whom it had been promised at the conference of Triparadisus, contested and won the possession of it from Antigonus (B.C. 312). About B.C. 140, it was taken from the Syrian monarchs by the Parthians. It came into the hands of the Romans only temporarily, first under Trajan (A.D. 114); under Septimius Severus (A.D. 199); and, again, under Julian (A.D. 363). When in 650 the successors of Mohammed put an end to the new Persian monarchy of the Sassanides, the province of Babylonia, where Bagdad was built (762-766), became the seat of the califs till 1258. Since 1638, when the Turks, for the second time, took it from the Persians, it has been under the dominion of Turkey, divided into the pachalics of Bagdad and Basra.

Religion.—During its long history many changes took place in the religion of Babylonia. The primitive Sumero-Akkadians had a sort of fetich-worship, regarding every object of nature as the abode of a spirit or living principle (Zî) which governed its relationship to man. The priests of this religion were a class of exorcists dealing only with the malevolent powers of nature— sickness, disease, and others hostile to the life of man. From the libraries of Nineveh the liturgies of these priests have been recovered in the form of magical formulas, incantations, and hymns, from which it appears that the first gods of the SumeroAkkadian theogony are the Spirit of Heaven and the Spirit of Earth—the Dingri, or Creators—the parents of all the other gods. These other gods are very numerous, each locality having its own local pantheon, but in subordination to some one divine patron of the city.

One of the earliest seats of the Babylonian worship was Eridhu on the Persian Gulf, the seat of the worship of Ea, the “lord of the waves” as well as “lord of laws,” and identified with the mysterious fish-divinity of Berosus (q.v.), who relates that he taught the early inhabitants of the land the elements of civilization. The wife of Ea was Dav-kina, the “lady of the earth.” The pair had a son, Tammuz, “the only-begotten,” whose worship is united to that of his sister, Istar, who is also his consort. Next in importance came, among the local deities, the god Mul-lil (Belus or Bel of the Semites), whose sacred city was Nipur (Niffer). He it was who, according to one version of the story of the Deluge, destroyed mankind. His name means “lord of ghost-land,” and his wife, Ninkigat or Allat, is the “lady of ghost-land.” Their child was Namtar, the demon of fever and goddess of fate, who controls the agencies of disease.

Coins with Effigies of the Tyrian Baal.

After the Semitic influence began to prevail, especially in the northern cities, Samas, the sungod, assumes great importance. Many cities had their own local sun-god or solar hero; and in Sippara, where stood the Temple of E Bábara (The House of Lustre), this worship attained its highest development. The great Semitic prince Sargon I. (B.C. 3800) did much to advance the cult of the sun, which as it spread over Chaldaea brought about a gradual change in the religion of the country, resulting in an amalgamation of the Semitic and Akkadian systems. Thus grew up the worship of Bel-Merodach (Marduk) who gradually, from being only a local sun-god, became the great national deity, as Assur was of the Assyrians, so completely overshadowing all the other divinities that the later faith of Babylonia approaches a pure monotheism. His temple, which stood on the eastern side of Babylon, was one of the wonders of the world. (See Babylon.) Other divinities of the later religion are Zirpanit, the wife of Merodach; Nebo (see Assyria) with his spouse Tasmit; Ninep, the god of war; Nergal, the god of death; and Gibil, the fire-god.

Bibliography.—See Layard, Nineveh and Babylon (1867); Lenormant, Manuel d'Histoire Ancienne de l'Orient (9th ed. 1882); id. La Langue Primitive de la Chaldée (1875); Oppert, Histoire des Empires de Chaldée et d'Assyrie (1865); Perrot and Chipiez, History of Art in Chaldaea and Assyria (Eng. trans. 1884); Rawlinson, Cuneiform Inscriptions of Western Asia (Brit. Mus. 1861-84); Sayce, Ancient Empires of the East (1884); id. Fresh Light from the Ancient Monuments (1885); Delitszch, Wo lag das Paradies? (1881). The reader is also referred to the Babylonian and Oriental Record, begun in 1886; and, for a summary of very recent discoveries, to a paper by Prof. Sayce in the Contemporary Review for January, 1897.

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