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Eth. CHALDAEI (Eth. Χαλδαῖοι), a people who dwelt in Babylonia, taken in the most extensive sense, as extending from above Babylon to the Persian Gulf, who appear before on the stage of history under different and not always reconcileable aspects.


The Chaldaeans would seem to be the inhabitants of Chaldaea Proper, a district in the S. of Babylonia, extending along the Persian Gulf to Arabia Deserta. They were a people apparently in character much akin to the Arabs of the adjoining districts, and living, like them, a wandering and predatory life. As such they are described in Job (1.17), and if Orchoe represent the Ur from which Abraham migrated (now probably Warka), it would be rightly termed “Ur of the Chaldees;” while it is not impossible that the passage in Isaiah (23.13), “Behold the land of the Chaldees: this people was not till the Assyrian founded it for them that dwell in the wilderness,” may have reference to a period when their habits became more settled, and they ceased to be a mere roving tribe.


The name came to be applied without distinction, or at least with little real difference, to the inhabitants of Babylon and the subjects of the Babylonian empire. So in 2 Kings (25.1--4), Nebuchadnezzar is called King of Babylon, but his army are called Chaldees; in Isaiah (17.19) Babylon is termed “the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldees' excellency;” in Isaiah (23.13), the country is called “the land of the Chaldaeans;” and in Dan. (ix. i.), Dareius is king “over the realm of the Chaldaeans.” Agreeably with this view Pliny calls Babylon, “Chaldaicarum gentium caput.” It has been a great question whence the Chaldaeans came, who about the time of Nebuchadnezzar play so important a part in the history of the world: and it has been urged by many modern writers, that some time previous to the reign of that prince, there must have been a conquest of Babylonia by some of the northern tribes, who, under the various names of Carduchi, Chalybes, and Chaldaei, occupied the mountainous region between Assyria and the Euxine. We cannot, however, say that we have been convinced by these arguments, which, as the advocates of these views admit, are not based upon any authentic history. No Chaldaean immigration is any where mentioned or alluded to; while, if there was, as seems most likely, a considerable tribe bearing the name of Chaldaeans at a very early period in S. Babylonia, it is much more natural to suppose that they gradually became the ruling tribe over the whole of Babylonia. The language of Cicero is definite as to his belief in a separate and distinct nation: “Chaldaei non ex artis sed ex gentis vocabulo nominati” (de Div. 1.1).


They were the name of a particular sect among the Babylonians, and a branch of the order of Babylonian Magi. (Χαλδαῖοι γένος Μάγων, Hesych.) In Dan. (2.2) they appear among “the magicians, sorcerers, and astrologers,” and speak in the name of the rest (Dan. 2.10). They are described in Dan. (5.8) as the “king's wise men.” From the pursuit of astronomy and astrology and magical arts, which are ever in early times nearly connected, it came to pass that with many ancient writers, and especially with those of a later period, the name Chaldaeans was applied, not only to the learned men of Babylon (as in Cic. de Div. l.c.; Strab. xv. p.508; Diod. 2.29), but to all impostors and magicians who, professing to interpret dreams, &c., played upon the credulity of mankind. (Joseph. B. J. 2.7.3; Appian. Syr. 100.58; Curt. 1.10, 5.1; Juv. 6.553; Cat. Agr. 5.4, &c.)

There were two principal schools at Borsippa and Orchoe for the study of astronomy, whence the learned Chaldaeans of those places were termed Borsippeni and Orchoeni. (Strab. xvi. p.739.)

(Ideler, über d. Sternkunst d. Chaldäer; Winer, Bibl. Real Worterbuch, art. Chaldäer; Ditmar, über die Vaterland d. Chaldäer.) [V]

hide References (2 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (2):
    • Curtius, Historiarum Alexandri Magni, 5.1
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 2.29
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