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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
(Hebrews and Chald. Babel', בָּבֶל, Gr. Βαβυλών ), the name of more than one city in the Scriptures and other ancient writings. (See BABEL).
I. Originally the capital of the country called in Genesis Shinar (שַׁנַעָר ), and in the later Scriptures Chaldaea, or the land of the Chaldeans (כִּשְׂדַּים ). See those articles severally.
1. The Name. — The word Babel seems to be connected in its first occurrence with the Hebrew root בָּלִל, balal', "to confound" (as if by contraction from the reduplicated form בִּלְבֶּל, Balbel'), "because the Lord did there confound the language of all the earth" (Genesis 11:9); but the native etymology (see the Koran, 2, 66) is Bab-il, "the gate of the god Il," or perhaps more simply "the gate of God;" and this no doubt was the original intention of the appellation as given by Nimrod, though the other sense came to be attached to it after the confusion of tongues (see Eichhorn, Biblioth. d. bibl. Lit. 3, 1001). Another derivation deduces the word from בִּאב בֵּל, "the court or city of Belus" (see Abulfeda in Rosenmü ller, Alterth. 2, 60), or בִּראּבֵּל (=בַּיר ), Bel's Hill (Furst, Hebrews Handw. s.v.). A still different etymology is proposed by Tuch (Genesis p. 276), from בֵּית בֵּל, "the house of Bel." Whichever of these etymologies may be regarded as the preferable one, the name was doubtless understood or accommodated by the sacred writer in Genesis so as to be expressive of the disaster that soon befell the founders of the place. In the Bible at a later date the place is appropriately termed "Babylon the Great" (בָּבֶל הָרְחָבָה , Jeremiah 51:58; בָּבֶל רִבּשׁתָא, Daniel 4:27), and by Josephus also (Ant. 8, 6, 1, ἡ μεγάλη Βαβυλών ). The name Babylon is likewise that by which it is constantly denominated in the Sept. and later versions, as well as by the Apocrypha (1 Maccabees 6:4; Susann. 1:5) and New Test. (Acts 7:43), and finally by the ancient Greek and Roman writers (see Smith, Diet. of Class. Geogr. s.v.). On the outlandish name Shesh ik (שֵׁשִׁךְ ), applied to it in Jeremiah 25:26; Jeremiah 51:41, see the various conjectures in Rosenmü ller, Alterth. 1, 2, 50 sq. The Jews believe it is a cabalistic mode of writing by the method known as "Athbash" (q.v.). (See SHISHAK). The word "Babel," besides its original application to the tower (Genesis 11:9), and its usual one (in the original) to the city of Babylon, is also occasionally applied to the whole district of Chaldea, coincident with the plain of Shinar (Isaiah 14:2), as well as to Babylonia, the province of the Assyrian empire of which it was the metropolis (2 Chronicles 32:31; 2 Chronicles 33:11), and eventually to Persia itself (Ezra 5:13; Nehemiah 13:6). (See NINEVEH).
2. Origin and Growth of the City. — This famous city was the metropolis of the province of Babylon and of the Babylonio-Chaldaean empire. It was situated in a wide plain on the Euphrates, which divided it into two nearly equal parts. According to the book of Genesis, its foundations were laid at the same time with those of the Tower of Babel. In the revolutions of centuries it underwent many changes, and received successive reparations and additions. The ancients were not agreed as to the authors or times of these, and any attempt to determine them now with strict accuracy must be fruitless. Semiramis and Nebuchadnezzar are those to whom the city was indebted for its greatest augmentations and its chief splendor. Probably a temple was the first building raised by the primitive nomades, and in the gate of this temple justice would be administered in early times (comp. 2 Samuel 19:8), after which houses would grow up about the gate, and in this way the name would readily pass from the actual portal of the temple to the settlement. According to the traditions which the Greeks derived from the Babylonians in Alexander's age, the city was originally built about the year B.C. 2230. The architectural remains discovered in southern Babylonia, taken in conjunction with the monumental records, seem to indicate that it was not at first the capital, nor, indeed, a town of very great importance. It probably owed its position at the head of Nimrod's cities (Genesis 10:10) to the power and pre-eminence to which it afterward attained rather than to any original superiority that it could boast over the places coupled' with it. Erech, Ur, and Ellasar appear to have been all more ancient than Babylon, and were capital cities when Babil was a provincial village. The first rise of the Chaldaean power was in the region close upon the Persian Gulf, as Berosus indicated by his fish-god Oannes, who brought the Babylonians civilization and the arts out of the sea (ap. Syncell. p. 28, B). Thence the nation spread northward up the course of the rivers, and the seat of government moved in the same direction, being finally fixed at Babylon, perhaps not earlier than B.C. 1700. See ASSYRIA.
3. Its Fall and subsequent Condition. — Under Nabonnadus, the last king, B.C. 538, Babylon was taken by Cyrus, after a siege of two years, in the dead of the night. Having first, by means of its canals, turned the river into the great dry lake west of Babylon, and then marched through the emptied channel, he made his way to the outer walls of the fortified palace on its banks, when, finding the brazen gates incautiously left open by the royal guards while engaged in carousals, he entered with all his train; "‘ the Lord of Hosts was his leader," and Babylon, as an empire, was no more. An insurrection, under Darius Hystaspis (B.C. 500), the object of which was to gain emancipation' from Persian bondage, led that prince to punish the Babylonians by throwing down the walls and gates which had been left by Cyrus, and by expelling them from their homes. Xerxes plundered and destroyed' the temple of Belus, which Alexander the Great would probably, but for his death, have restored. Under Seleucus Nicator the city began to sink speedily, after that monarch built Seleucia on the Tigris, and made it his place of abode. In the time of Strabo and Diodorus Siculus the place lay in ruins. Jerome, in the fourth century of the Christian era, learned that the site of Babylon had been converted into a park or hunting-ground for the recreation of the Persian monarchs, and that, in order to preserve the game, the walls had been from time to time repaired. If the following extract from Rich (p. 30) is compared with these historical facts, the prophecy of Isaiah (Isaiah 13:19) will appear to have been strikingly fulfilled to the letter: "I had always imagined the belief of the existence of satyrs was confined to the mythology of the West; but a choadar who was with me when I examined this ruin (the Mujelibeh) mentioned that in this desert an animal is found resembling a man from the head to the waist, but having the thighs and legs of a sheep or goat; he also said that the Arabs hunt it with dogs, and eat the lower parts, abstaining from the upper, on account of their resemblance to those of the human species." More thorough destruction than that which has overtaken Babylon cannot well be conceived. Rich was unable to discover any traces of its vast walls, and even its site has been a subject of dispute. "On its ruins," says he, "there is not a single tree growing, except an old one," which only serves to make the desolation more apparent. Ruins like those of Babylon, composed of rubbish impregnated with nitre, cannot be cultivated. For a more detailed account of the history of Babylon, see the article (See BABYLONIA).
4. Ancient Descriptions. — The statements respecting the topography and appearance of Babylon which have come down to us in classical writers are derived chiefly from two sources, the works of Herodotus and of Ctesias. These authors were both of them eyewitnesses of the glories of Babylon — not, indeed, at their highest point, but before they had greatly declined — and left accounts of the city and its chief buildings, which the historians and geographers of later times were, for the most part, content to copy. To these accounts are to be added various other details by Quintus Curtius, and Pliny, and a few notices by other ancient visitors.
According to the account of Herodotus (1, 178-186) the walls of Babylon were double, the outer line being 56 miles in circumference, built of large bricks cemented together with bitumen, and raised round the city in the form of an exact square; hence they measured 14 miles along each face. They were 87 feet thick and 350 feet high (Quintus Curtius says four horse-chariots could pass each other on them without danger), protected on the outside by a vast ditch lined with the same material, and proportioned in depth and width to the elevation of the walls. The city was entered by twenty-five gates on each side, made of solid brass, and additionally strengthened by 250 towers, so placed that between every two gates were four towers, and four additional ones at the four corners. From all the gates proceeded streets running in straight lines, each street being nearly fifteen miles in length, fifty in number, and crossing each other at right angles. Other minor divisions occurred, and the whole city contained 676 squares, each about two miles and a quarter in circumference. Herodotus appears to imply that this whole space was covered with houses, which, he observes, were frequently three or four stories high. The river ran through the city from north to south, and on each side was a quay of the same thickness as the walls of the city, and 100 stadia in length. In these quays were gates of brass, and from each of them steps descending into the river. A bridge was thrown across the river, of great beauty and admirable contrivance, a furlong in length and 30 feet in breadth. As the Euphrates overflows during the summer months, through the melting of the snows on the mountains of Armenia, two canals were cut to turn the course of the waters into the Tigris, and vast artificial embankments were raised on each side of the river. On the western side of the city an immense lake, forty miles square, was excavated to the depth, according to Herodotus, of 35 feet, and into this lake the river was turned till the work was completed. At each end of the bridge was a palace, and these had a subterraneous communication. In each division of the town, Herodotus says, there was a fortress or stronghold, consisting in the one case of the royal palace, in the other of the great temple of Belus. This last was a species of pyramid, composed of eight square towers placed one above the other, the dimensions of the basement tower being a stade — or above 200 yards — each way. The height of the temple is not mentioned by Herodotus. A winding ascent, which passed round all the towers, led to the summit, on which was placed a spacious ark or chapel, containing no statue, but regarded by the natives as the habitation of the god. The temple stood in a sacred precinct, two stades (or 400 yards) square, which contained two altars for burntofferings and a sacred ark or chapel, wherein was the golden image of Bel.
According to Ctesias (ap. Diod. Sic. 2, 7 sq.), the circult of the city was a little under 42 miles. It lay, he says, on both sides of the Euphrates, and the two parts were connected together by a stone bridge above 1000 yards long, and 30 feet broad, of the kind described by Herodotus. At either extremity of the bridge was a royal palace, that in the eastern city being the most magnificent of the two. It was defended by a triple enceinte, the outermost 7 miles round; the second, which was circular, 4.5 miles; and the third 2.25 miles. The height of the second or middle wall was 300 feet, and its towers were 420 feet. The elevation of the innermost circuit was even greater than this. The walls of both the second and the third enclosure were made of colored brick, and represented hunting scenes — the chase of the leopard and the lion — with figures, male and female, regarded by Ctesias as those of Ninus and Semiramis. The other palace was inferior both in size and magnificence. It was enclosed within a single enceinte 3.5 miles in circumference, and contained representations of hunting and battle scenes, as well as statues in bronze, said to be those of Ninus, Semiramis, and Jupiter Belus. The two palaces were joined, not only by the bridge, but by a tunnel under the river. Ctesias' account of the temple of Belus has not come down to us. We may gather, however, that he represented its general character in much the same way as Herodotus, but spoke of it as surmounted by three statues, one of Bel, 40 feet high, another of Rhea, and a third of Juno or Beltis.
The account given by Quintus Curtius (v. 1) of the entrance of Alexander into Babylon may serve to enliven the narrative, and, at the same time, make the impression on the reader's mind more distinct. "A great part of the inhabitants of Babylon stood on the walls, eager to catch a sight of their new monarch. Many went forth to meet him. Among these, Bagophanes, keeper of the citadel and of the royal treasure, strewed the entire way before the king with flowers and crowns; silver altars were also placed on both sides of the road, which were loaded not merely with frankincense, but all kinds of odoriferous herbs. He brought with him for Alexander gifts of various kinds — flocks of sheep and horses; lions also and panthers were carried before him in their dens. The magi came next, singing, in their usual manner, their ancient hymns. After them came the Chaldaeans, with their musical instruments, who are not only the prophets of the Babylonians, but their artists. The first are wont to sing the praises of the kings; the Chaldaeans teach the motions of the stars and the periodic vicissitudes of the times and seasons. Then followed, last of all, the Babylonian knights, whose equipment, as well as that of their horses, seemed designed more for luxury than magnificence. The king, Alexander, attended by armed men, having ordered the crowd of the towns-people to proceed in the rear of his infantry, entered the city in a chariot and repaired to the palace. The next day he carefully surveyed the household treasure of Darius, and all his money. For the rest, the beauty of the city and its age turned the eyes not only of the king, but of every one, on itself, and that with good reason." Within a brief period after this Alexander lay a corpse in the palace.
One or two additional facts may aid in conveying a full idea of this great and magnificent city. When Cyrus took Babylon by turning the Euphrates into a neighboring lake, the dwellers in the middle of the place were not for some time aware that their fellow-townsmen who were near the walls had been captured. This, says Herodotus (i. 191), was owing to the magnitude of the city, and to the circumstance that at the time the inhabitants were engaged in carousals, it being a festive occasion. Nor, according to Xenophon, did the citizens of the opposite quarter learn the event till three hours after sunrise, the city having been taken in the night. Alexander had to employ 10,000 men during two months to remove the accumulated ruins precipitated by order of Xerxes nearly 200 years before. From the fallen towers of Babylon have arisen not only all the present cities in its vicinity, but others which, like itself, have long since gone down into the dust. Since the days of Alexander, four capitals, at least, have been built out of its remains: Seleucia, by the Greeks; Ctesiphon, by the Parthians; Al Maidan, by the Persians; and Kufa, by the caliphs; with towns, villages, and caravansaries without number. The necessary fragments and materials were transported along the rivers and the canals. The antiquity of the canals of Babylonia dates from the most remote periods of the Chaldaeo-Babylonian monarchy. The ancient kings of Assyria and Babylonia rwell understood the value of canals, and their empire arose upon alluvial plains, amid a system of irrigation and draining which spread like a net-work over the land. It may be sufficient to specify the Nahr Malikah, or Royal Canal, the origin of which has been referred both to Nimrod and Cush. Abydenus, however, attributes it to Nebuchadnezzar. From the account of Herodotus, it appears to have been of sufficient breadth and depth to be navigable for merchant vessels. It is not, therefore, surprising that some writers have considered it as the ancient bed of the Euphrates. The soil around Babylon is of a light, yielding nature, easily wrought for canals and other purposes, whether of art or war. Cyrus, therefore, would find no great difficulty in digging a trench about the city sufficient to contain the waters of the river (Cyrop. 7). Alexander (Strabo, 16, p. 510), in enlarging one of the canals and forming basins for his fleet, laid open the graves of many buried kings and princes, which shows how readily the soil yields and gives way before the labors of man.
The new palace built by Nebuchadnezzar was prodigious in size and superb in embellishments. Its outer wall embraced six miles; within that circumference were two other embattled walls, besides a great tower. Three brazen gates led into the grand area, and every gate of consequence throughout the city was of brass. In accordance with this fact are the terms which Isaiah (Isaiah 45:1-2) employs when, in the name of Jehovah, he promises Cyrus that the city should fall before him: "I will open before him the two-leaved gates; I will break in pieces the gates of brass;" a prophecy which was fulfilled to the letter when Cyrus made himself master of the place. The palace was splendidly decorated with statues of men and animals, with vessels of gold and silver, and furnished with luxuries of all kinds brought thither from conquests in Egypt, Palestine, and Tyre. Its greatest boast were the hanging gardens, which acquired even from Grecian writers the appellation of one of the wonders of the world. They are attributed to the gallantry of Nebuchadnezzar, who constructed them in compliance with a wish of his queen Amytis to possess elevated groves such as she had enjoyed on the hills around her native Ecbatana. Babylon was all flat; and to accomplish so extravagant a desire, an artificial mountain was reared, 400 feet on each side, while terraces one above another rose to a height that overtopped the walls of the city, that is, above 300 feet in elevation. The ascent from terrace to terrace was made by corresponding flights of steps, while the terraces themselves were reared to their various stages on ranges of regular piers, which, forming a kind of vaulting, rose in succession one over the other td the required height of each terrace, the whole being bound together by a wall of 22 feet in thickness. The level of each terrace or garden was then formed in the following manner: the top of the piers was first laid over with flat stones, 16 feet in length and 4 feet in width; on these stones were spread beds of matting, then a thick layer of bitumen; after which came two courses of bricks, which were covered with sheets of solid lead. The earth was heaped on this platform; and in order to admit the roots of large trees, prodigious hollow piers were built and filled with mould. From the Euphrates, which flowed close to the foundation, water was drawn up by machinery. The whole, says Q. Curtius (v. 5), had, to those who saw it from a distance, the appearance of woods overhanging mountains. Such was the completion of Nebuchadnezzar's work, when he found himself at rest in his house, and flourished in his palace: The king spoke and said, "Is not this great Babylon that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power and the honor of my majesty" (Daniel 4), a picture which is amply justified by the descriptions of heathen writers. Nowhere could the king have taken so comprehensive a view of the city he had so magnificently constructed and adorned as when walking on the highest terrace of the gardens of his palace.
Babylon, as the center of a great kingdom, was the seat of boundless luxury, and its inhabitants were notorious for their addiction to self- indulgence and effeminacy. Q. Curtius (v. 1) asserts that "nothing could be more corrupt than its morals, nothing more fitted to excite and allure to immoderate pleasures. The rites of hospitality were polluted by the grossest and most shameless lusts. Money dissolved every tie, whether of kindred, respect, or esteem. The Babylonians were very greatly given to wine and the enjoyments which accompany inebriety. Women were present at their convivialities, first with some degree of propriety, but, growing worse and worse and worse by degrees, they ended by throwing off at once their modesty and their clothing." Once in her life, according to(Herodotus (1, 199), every native female was obliged to visit the temple of Mylitta, the Babylonian Astarte (q.v.) or Venus, and there receive the embraces of the first stranger who threw a piece of money into her lap; an abominable custom, that is alluded to in the Apocrypha (Baruch 6:43) and by Strabo (vi. 1058). On the ground of their awful wickedness, the Babylonians were threatened with condign punishment, through the mouths of the prophets; and the tyranny with which the rulers of the city exercised their sway was not without a decided effect in bringing on them the terrific consequences of the Divine vengeance. Nor in the whole range of literature is there any thing to be found approaching to the sublimity, force, and terror with which Isaiah and others speak on this painful subject (Isaiah 14:11; Isaiah 47:1; Jeremiah 51:39; Daniel 5:1). Babylon even stands, therefore, in the New Test. (Revelation 17:5) as the type of the most shameless profligacy and idolatry.
5. Investigation of the ancient Topography. — In examining the truth of these descriptions, we shall most conveniently commence from the outer circuit of the town. All the ancient writers appear to agree in the fact of a district of vast size, more or less inhabited, having been enclosed within lofty walls, and included under the name of Babylon. With respect to the exact extent of the circuit they differ. The estimate of Herodotus and of Pliny (H. N. 6, 26) is 480 stades, of Strabo (16, 1:5) 385, of Q. Curtius (v, 1:26) 368, of Clitarchus (ap. Diod. Sic. 2:7) 365, and of Ctesias (ap. eund.) 360 stades. It is evident that here we have merely the moderate variations to be expected in independent measurements, except in the first of the numbers. Setting this aside, the difference between the greatest and the least of the estimates is little more than one half per cent. With this near agreement on the part of so many authors, it is the more surprising that in the remaining case we should find the great difference of one third more, or 33.333 per cent. Perhaps the true explanation is that Herodotus spoke of the outer wall, which could be traced in his time, while the later writers, who never speak of an inner and an outer barrier, give the measurement of Herodotus's inner wall, which may have alone remained in their day. This is the opinion of M. Oppert, who even believes that he has found traces of both enclosures, showing them to have been really of the size ascribed to them. This conclusion is at present disputed, and it is the more general belief of those who have examined the ruins with attention that no vestiges of the ancient walls are to be found, or, at least, that none have as yet been discovered. Still it is impossible to doubt that a line of wall inclosing an enormous area originally existed. The testimony to this effect is too strong to be set aside, and the disappearance of the wall is easily accounted for, either by the constant quarrying, which would naturally have commenced with it (Rich, First .Mem. p. 44), or by the subsidence of the bulwark into the moat from which it was raised. Taking the lowest estimate of the extent of the circuit, we shall have for the space within the rampart an area of above 100 square miles-nearly five times the size of London. It is evident that this vast space cannot have been entirely covered with houses. Diodorus confesses (2, 9, adfin.) that but a small part of the enclosure was inhabited in his own day, and Q. Curtius (5, 1:27) says that as much as nine tenths consisted, even in the most flourishing times, of gardens, parks, paradises, fields, and orchards.
With regard to the height and breadth of the walls there is nearly as much difference of statement as with regard to their extent. Herodotus makes the height 200 royal cubits, or 337.5 feet; Ctesias, 50 fathoms, or 300 feet; Pliny and Solinus, 200 royal feet; Strabo, 50 cubits, or 75 feet. Here there is less appearance of independent measurements than in the estimates of length. The two original statements seem to be those of Herodotus and Ctesias, which only differ accidentally, the latter having omitted to notice that the royal scale was used. The later writers do not possess fresh data; they merely soften down what seems to them an exaggeration-Pliny and Solinus changing the cubits of Herodotus into feet, and Strabo the fathoms of Ctesias into cubits. We are forced, then, to fall back on the earlier authorities, who are also the only eye-witnesses; and, surprising as it seems, perhaps we must believe the statement that the vast enclosed space above mentioned was surrounded by walls which have well been termed "artificial mountains," being nearly the height of the dome of St. Paul's (see Grote's Greece, 3, 397; and, on the other side, Mure's Lit. of Greece, 4, 546). The ruined wall of Nineveh was, it must be remembered, in Xenophon's time. 150 feet high (Anab. 3, 4, 10), and another wall which he passed in Mesopotamia was 100 feet (ib. 2, 4, 12).
The estimates for the thickness of the wall are the following: Herodotus, 50 royal cubits, or nearly 85 feet; Pliny and Solinus, 50 royal, or about 60 common feet; and Strabo, 32 feet. Here again Pliny and Solinus have merely softened down Herodotus; Strabo, however, has a new number. This may belong properly to the inner wall, which, Herodotus remarks (1, 181), was of less thickness than the outer.
According to Ctesias, the wall was strengthened with 250 towers, irregularly disposed, to guard the weakest parts (Diod. Sic. 2:7); and, according to Herodotus, it was pierced with a hundred gates, which were made of brass, with brazen lintels and side-posts (1, 179). The gates and walls are alike mentioned in Scripture, the height of the one and the breadth of the other being specially noticed (Jeremiah 51:58; comp. 1, 15, and 51:53).
Herodotus and Ctesias both relate that the banks of the river, as it flowed through the city, were on each side ornamented with quays. The stream has probably often changed its course since the time of Babylonian greatness, but some remains of a quay or embankment on the eastern side of the stream still exist, upon the bricks of which is read the name of the last king. The two writers also agree as to the existence of a bridge, and describe it very similarly. Perhaps a remarkable mound which interrupts the long flat valley — evidently the ancient course of the river — closing in the principal ruins on the west, may be a trace of this structure.
6. Present Character and Extent of the Ruins of Babylon. — The locality and principal structures of this once famous city are now almost universally admitted to be indicated by the remarkable remains near the modern village of Hillah, which lies on the W. bank of the Euphrates, about 50 miles directly S. of Bagdad.
About five miles above Hillah, on the opposite bank of the Euphrates, occur a series of artificial mounds of enormous size, which have been recognized in all ages as probably indicating the site of the capital of southern Mesopotamia. They consist chiefly of three great masses of building — the high pile of unbaked brickwork called by Rich "Mujellibe," but which is known to the Arabs as "Babil;" the building denominated the
‘ Kasr" or palace; and a lofty mound upon which stands the modern tomb of Amran ibn-Alb (Loftus's Chaldea, p. 17). Besides these principal masses the most remarkable features are two parallel lines of rampart bounding the chief ruins on the east, some similar but inferior remains on the north and west, an embankment along the river side, a remarkable isolated heap in the middle of a long valley, which seems to have been the ancient bed of the stream, and two long lines of rampart, meeting at a right angle, and with the river forming an irregular triangle, within which all the ruins on this side (except Babil) are enclosed. On the west, or right bank, the remains are very slight and scanty. There is the appearance of an enclosure, and of a building of moderate size within it, nearly opposite the great mound of Amran, but otherwise, unless at a long distance from the stream, this side of the Euphrates is absolutely bare of ruins. (See Rawlinson's Herodotus, 2, 473).
Scattered over the country on both sides of the Euphrates, and reducible to no regular plan, are a number of remarkable mounds, usually standing single, which are plainly of the same date with the great mass of ruins upon the river bank. Of these by far the most striking is the vast ruin called the Birs Nimrud, which many regard as the Tower of Babel, situated about six miles to the S.W. of Hillah, and almost that distance from the Euphrates at the nearest point. This is a pyramidical mound, crowned apparently by the ruins of a tower, rising to the height of 1531 feet above the level of the plain, and in circumference somewhat more than 2000 feet. (See BABEL (TOWER OF).) There is considerable reason to believe from the inscriptions discovered on the spot, and from other documents of the time of Nebuchadnezzar, that it marks the site of Borsippa, and may thus have been beyond the limits of Babylon (Beros. Fr. 14).
7. Identification of Sites. — On comparing the existing ruins with the accounts of the ancient writers, the great difficulty which meets us is the position of the remains almost exclusively on the left bank of the river. All the old accounts agree in representing the Euphrates as running through the town, and the principal buildings as placed on the opposite sides of the stream. In explanation of this difficulty, it has been urged, on the one hand, that the Euphrates, having a tendency to run off to the right, has obliterated all trace of the buildings in this direction (Layard's Nin. and Bab. p. 420); on the other, that, by a due extension of the area of Babylon, it may be made to include the Birs Nimrud, and that thus the chief existing remains will really lie on the opposite banks of the river (Rich, Second Memoir, p. 32; Ker Porter, Travels, 2, 383). But the identification of the Birs with Borsippa seems to interfere with this latter theory; while the former is unsatisfactory, since we can scarcely suppose the abrasion of the river to have entirely removed all trace of such gigantic buildings as those which the ancient writers describe. Perhaps the most probable solution is to be found in the fact that a large canal (called Shebil) intervened in ancient times between the Kasr mound and the ruin now called Babil, which may easily have been confounded by Herodotus with the main stream. This would have had the two principal buildings upon opposite sides; while the real river, which ran down the long valley to the west of the Kasr and Amran mounds, would also have separated (as Ctesias related) between the greater and the lesser palace. If this explanation be accepted as probable, we may identify the principal ruins as follows:
1. The great mound of Babil will be the ancient temple of Belus. It is an oblong mass, composed chiefly of unbaked brick, rising from the plain to the height of 140 feet, flattish at the top, in length about 200, and in breadth about 140 yards. This oblong shape is common to the temples, or rather temple-towers of Lower Babylonia, which seem to have had nearly the same proportions. It was originally coated with fine burnt brick laid in an excellent mortar, as was proved by Mr. Layard (Nin. and Bab. p. 452); and was, no doubt, built in stages, most of which have crumbled down, but which may still be in part concealed under the rubbish. The statement of Berosus (Fragm. 14), that it was rebuilt by Nebuchadnezzar, is confirmed by the fact that all the inscribed bricks which have been found in it bear the name of that king. It formed the tower of the temple, and was surmounted by a chapel; but the main shrine, the altars, and no doubt the residences of the priests, were at the foot, in a sacred precinct.
2. The mound of the Kasr will mark the site of the great palace of Nebuchadnezzar. It is an irregular square of about 700 yards each way, and may be regarded as chiefly formed of the old palace platform (which resembles those at Nineveh, Susa, and elsewhere), upon which are still standing certain portions of the ancient residences to which the name of "Kasr" or "palace" especially attaches. The walls are composed of burnt bricks, of a pale yellow color, and of excellent quality, bound together by a fine lime cement, and stamped with the name and titles of Nebuchadnezzar. They contain traces of architectural ornament piers, buttresses, pilasters, etc.; and in the rubbish at their base have been found slabs inscribed by Nebuchadnezzar, and containing an account of the building of the edifice, as well as a few sculptured fragments, and many pieces of enamelled brick of brilliant hues. On these last portions of figures are traceable, recalling the statements of Ctesias (ap. Diodor. Sicul.) that the brick walls of the palace were colored, and represented hunting-scenes. No plan of the palace is to be made out from the existing remains, which are tossed in apparent confusion on the highest point of the mound.
3. The mound of Armran is thought by M. Oppert to represent the "hanging gardens" of Nebuchadnezzar; but this conjecture does not seem to be a very happy one. The mound is composed of poorer materials than the edifices of that prince, and has furnished no bricks containing his name. Again, it is far too lar
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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Babylon'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/b/babylon.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.