Babylon in the Days of Nebuchadrezzar

Nebuchadrezzar II c 634 – 562 BC
Nebuchadrezzar II c 634 – 562 BC [Source: Wikipedia]
Continuing my series of articles by British Assyriologist Theophilus G. Pinches on Babylon, the following public domain lecture is now available in PDF.

Theophilus G. Pinches [1856-1934], “Babylon in the Days of Nebuchadrezzar,” Journal of the Transactions of the Victoria Institute 52 (1920): 178-208.

Babylon in the Days of Nebuchadrezzar

Of all the many and renowned rulers that Babylonia, in the centuries of her long history, possessed, there is probably none who attained a greater reputation than he who captured Jerusalem, and led the Jews into captivity at Babylon. This, of course, made his name one of the most prominent in Jewish history. But in addition to this, he was regarded by them as the great builder, or one of the great builders of the Babylon of later days – that great capital of the ancient Eastern world, described for us, among others, by Herodotus, and specially referred to in the Book of Daniel as Nebuchadrezzar’s work. This king, in fact, is represented as congratulating himself upon this great achievement, when, walking about in his palace, he said, “Is not this great Babylon which I have built for the royal dwelling-place, by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?” That he should have imagined himself the builder of a city founded at least 2000 years before his time, might well be regarded as the beginning of his madness, but there is no doubt that not a few of its glories, such as they were, were due to him, as many of his inscriptions show.
Notwithstanding its reputation Babylon, cannot have been a beautiful city, and many of its most celebrated monuments were more massive than grand. Nevertheless, the Babylonians thought much of it, and looked upon its holy places with poetical reverence. Doubtless much has to be done in the way of exploration before we shall get a really good idea of its extent outside the walls. The portion to which most attention has been paid formed the inner city, and is undoubtedly the oldest part. Here stood the royal palaces, including that in which Nebuchadrezzar is said, in the Book of Daniel, to have been walking when he made the memorable utterance referred to above; and in this section, also, were the temple of Belus (Merodach) and the great temple-tower whose erection is described in the 11th chapter of Genesis. In this portion Herodotus’s statement that the streets of the city crossed each other at right angles, and were interrupted by the walls bordering the Euphrates, does not seem to be confirmed. It is therefore probable that the old city, called Susanna, has to be excepted, and this would only be natural, for it may be regarded as a general rule, that the arrangement of primitive settlements, which developed later into cities, was not done in accordance with architectural plans – generally, they had no architects in those early ages – but were dictated by the contour of the ground. Outside the walls of Susanna, however, some attempt at the arrangement described by Herodotus may have been carried out, but extensive excavations can alone settle that point.

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The Story of the Fall of Babylon

Ishtar Gate from ancient Babylon
Ishtar Gate from ancient Babylon [Source: Wikipedia]
The following public domain article is now available on-line in PDF:

Theophilus G. Pinches [1856-1934], “From World Dominion to Subjection; The Story of the Fall of Babylon,” Journal of the Transactions of the Victoria Institute 49 (1917): 107-141.

From World Dominion to Subjection;

The Story of the Fall of Babylon

The romance connected with the power and the wonders of Nineveh and Babylon has for ages attracted the attention of the world, and this romance has, perhaps, been rather increased than diminished by the legendary nature of what has come down to us with regard to the realm of which Babylon was the capital. Surrounded, as it was, by the mystery with which tradition had invested it, hints of other wonders over and above those related by the historians naturally fired the student’s imagination. And that Babylonia was in very deed a country of wonders there can be no doubt. As everyone who has watched the progress of the Expeditionary Force in Mesopotamia knows, the Persian Gulf region is, for Europeans, an inhospitable tract, parched, dry, and rainless in summer, and swampy, notwithstanding drainage (to a certain extent) by innumerable waterways, in winter. In the wet season, malaria reigns, and the stranger finds life altogether too burdensome. Babylonia’s fruitfulness in springtime, and later, is wonderful. It is one of the principal homes of the date-palm-that tree whose fruit both Babylonians and Europeans have always highly appreciated. Otherwise, however, the tract north of the Persian Gulf is a treeless plain, into which all timber which the people need has to be imported. Before the fierce heats of summer it is a land of corn and the fruits of the earth which are able to grow there, and it might become one of the granaries of the world.
Here, in this land of the Middle East, were located, of old, two races-the Sumerians and the Akkadians-non-Semites and Semites respectively; races suited to the soil, who became thoroughly acclimatized to their fruitful but sun-scorched country. Divided, in the beginning, like the Heptarchy in England, into several small states, a great nation ultimately arose by their gradual amalgamation under the military pressure and leadership of Babylon, and became the pioneer of ancient civilization in the Semitic East. The irrigation of their land had made the states of Babylonia great canal-diggers; the dearth of stone made them great users of brick in the constructions and buildings; and the bitumen-springs of Hit supplied them with a substitute for mortar (“slime”). The floods which inundate the country in the early spring, when the snows melt in the Armenian mountains, probably obliged the Babylonians to become geometricians, as they had to find and reinstate the boundaries of their plots. As agriculturists they were, in their day, probably unsurpassed, and they were among the earliest of great cattle-raisers and ass-breeders. Their literature was largely drawn upon by the Greeks and the Romans in the domain of sacred myth and history, and many thousands of documents testify to their knowledge and acuteness as lawyers, their inventiveness as writers and poets, and the wonders of their mythology and their religious system-their teachings in the domain of cosmology and theology. Their trying climate and the other disadvantages under which they laboured do not, therefore, seem to have impaired their energy as workers and as inventors, or their progress in war, art, literature, or such of the sciences as they were acquainted with, for besides agriculture it is probable that not only writing, but also astronomy, began in the Land of Shinar.

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Babylonian Creation and Flood Stories (1915)

A tablet from the Atrahasis Epic - a Babylonian account of the Flood.
A tablet from the Atrahasis Epic – a Babylonian account of the Flood. [Source: Wikipedia]
The following public domain article is now available on-line in pdf:

Theophilus G. Pinches [1856-1934], “The Old and New Versions of the Babylonian Creation and Flood Stories,” Journal of the Transactions of the Victoria Institute 47 (1915): 301-329.

The Old and New Versions of the Babylonian Creation and Flood Stories

Forty years have passed since the late George Smith published his Chaldean Account of Genesis, dedicated to Sir Henry Rawlinson, the great English pioneer of Assyriology. We all remember, or at least realize, what a sensation Smith’s discoveries made, especially the account of the Flood, which traversed the same ground, point by point, as the Hebrew version in Genesis. It was a triumph for our self-taught countryman, and we all know, moreover, to what it led-namely, the despatch of the enterprising Museum – official to the East, first for the Daily Telegraph, and later for the trustees of the British Museum. He was favoured with a fair amount of success, for he found a fragment which was at first supposed to fill a gap of the eleventh tablet of the Gilgames-series, which gives the story of the Flood in reality it was a portion of another version-as well as fragments of Creation-stories. His third and last trip to the nearer East, however, had fatal results, and he never saw his native land again. He had acquired, nevertheless, a large amount of chronological material, and Biblical scholars are his debtors for that as much as for his acquisitions in the realm of Babylonian tradition.

Though the two legends which Smith discovered were written in Semitic Babylonian-now known to be Akkadian-it was clear to all, from the names of the deities and other personages, that they were of non-Semitic or Sumerian origin. The Creation series, which seems to have been written on six tablets, later increased to seven, recorded how everything was at first created and brought forth by Tiawath,” the sea,” and Apsft, “the Deep” or “Ocean.” From these came an only son, named Mummu. Other primeval deities, however, were later regarded as the children of Tiawath-Laymu and Layamu: Ansar and Kisar, the host of heaven and the host of earth; and then came Anu, the god of the heavens (with, it may be supposed, his spouse Anatum). At this point the record breaks off, but Damascius supplies the wanting portion, namely, the information that the successors of Anu were lllinos (cuneiform Illila) and Aos (i.e., Ea or Aa). Of Illila, the god of the earth, the spouse was called Ninlila: and the spouse of Ea or Aa is given by Damascius as Dauke, the Dam-kina of the inscriptions. “And of Aos and Dauke,” adds Damascius, “was born a son called Belos, who, they say, is the fabricator of the world – the Creator.”

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