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The name of the Assyrians who formed one wing of this early system of intercourse and commerce, rests chiefly upon the great cities of Nineveh and Babylon. To the Assyrians of Nineveh (as has been already mentioned) is ascribed in early times a very extensive empire, covering much of Upper Asia, as well as Mesopotamia or the country between the Euphrates and the Tigris. Respecting this empire—its commencement, its extent, or even the mode in which it was put down —nothing certain can be affirmed. But it seems unquestionable that many great and flourishing cities—and a population inferior in enterprise, but not in industry, to the Phenicians—were to be found on the Euphrates and Tigris, in times anterior to the first Olympiad. Of these cities, Nineveh on the Tigris and Babylon on tile Euphrates were the chief: the latter being in some sort of dependence, probably, on the sovereigns of Nineveh, yet governed by kings or chiefs of its own, and comprehending an hereditary order of priests named Chaldeans, masters of all the science and literature as well as of the religious ceremonies current among the people, and devoted from very early times to that habit of astronomical observation which their brilliant sky so much favored.

The people called Assyrians or Syrians (for among the Greek authors no constant distinction is maintained between the two) were distributed over the wide territory bounded on the cast by Mount Zagros .and its north-westerly continuation toward Mount Ararat, by which they were separated from the Medes—and extending from thence westward and southward to the Euxine sea, the river Halys, the Mediterranean sea, and the Persian gulf—thus covering the whole course of the Tigris and Euphrates south of Armenia, as well as yria and Syria-Palestine, and the territory eastward of the Halys called Cappadocia. But the Chaldean order of priests appears to have been peculiar to Babylon and other towns in its territory, especi­ally between that city and the Persian gulf. The vast, rich, and lofty temple of Bolus in that city served them at once as a place of worship and an astronomical observatory. It was the paramount ascendency of this order which seems to have caused the Babylonian people generally to be spoken of as Chaldeans—though some writers have supposed, without any good proof, a conquest of Assyrian Babylon by barbarians called Chaldeans from the mountains near the Euxine.

There were exaggerated statements respecting the antiquity of their astronomical observations, which cannot be traced as of definite and recorded date higher than the era of Nabonassar (747 bc), as well as respecting the extent of their acquired knowledge, so largely blended with astrological fancies and occult influences of the heavenly bodies on human affairs. But however incomplete their knowledge may appear when judged by the standard of after times, there can be no doubt, that compared with any of their contemporaries of the sixth century bc (either Egyptians, Greeks, or Asiatics) they stood pre eminent, and had much to teach, not only to Thales and Pythagoras, but even to later inquirers, such as Eudoxus and Aristotle. The conception of the revolving celestial sphere, the gnomon, and the division of the day into twelve parts, are affirmed by Herodotus to have been first taught to the Greeks by the Babylonians; and the continuous observation of the heavens both by the Egyptian and Chaldean priests, had determined with considerable exactness both the duration of the solar year and other longer periods of astronomical recurrence; thus impressing upon intelligent Greeks the imperfection of their own calendars, and furnishing them with a basis not only for enlarged observations of their own, but also for the discovery and application of those mathematical theories whereby astronomy first became a science.

It was not only the astronomical acquisitions of the priestly caste which distinguished the early Babylonians. The social condition, the fertility of the country, the dense population, and the persevering industry of the inhabitants, were not less remarkable. Respecting Nineveh, once the greatest of the Assyrian cities, we have no good information, nor can we safely reason from the analogy of Babylon, inasmuch as the peculiarities of the latter were altogether determined by the Euphrates, while Nineveh was seated considerably farther north, and on the east bank of the Tigris. But Herodotus gives us valuable particulars respecting Babylon as an eye-witness. We may judge by his account, representing its condition after much suffering from the Persian conquest, what it had been a century earlier in the days of its full splendor.

The neighboring territory, receiving but little rain, owed its fertility altogether to the annual overflowing of the Euphrates, on which the labor bestowed, for the purpose of limiting, regularizing, and diffusing its supply of water, was stupendous. Embankments along the river—artificial reservoirs in connection with it to receive an excessive increase—new curvilinear channels dug for the water in places where the stream was loo straight and rapid—broad and deep canals crossing the whole space between the Euphrates and the Tigris, and feeding numerous rivulets or ditches which enabled the whole breadth of land to be irrigated—all these toilsome applications were requisite to insure due moisture for the Babylonian soil. But they were rewarded with an exuberance of produce, m the various descriptions of grain, such as Herodotus hardly dares to particular­ize. The country produced no trees except the date-palm; which was turned to account in many different ways, and from the fruit of which, both copious and of extraordinary size, wine as well as bread was made. Moreover, Babylonia was still more barren of stone than of wood, so that buildings as well as walls were constructed almost entirely of brick, for which the earth was well adapted; while a flow of mineral bitumen, found near the tow n and river of Is, higher up the Euphrates, served for cement. Such persevering and systematic labor applied for the purpose of irrigation, excites our astonishment; yet the description of what was done for defense is still more imposing. Babylon, traversed in the middle by the Euphrates, was surrounded by walls 300 feet in height, seventy-five feet in thickness, and composing a square of which each side was 120 stadia (or nearly fifteen English miles) in length. Around the outside of the walls was a broad and deep moat from whence the material for the bricks composing them had been excavated; while one hundred brazen gates served for ingress and egress. Besides, there was an interior wall less thick, but still very strong; and as a still farther obstruction to invaders from the north and north-east, another high and thick wall was built at some miles from the city, across the space between the Euphrates and the Tigris— called the wall of Media, seemingly a little to the north of that point where the two rivers most nearly approach to each other, and join­ing the Tigris on its west bank. Of the houses many were three or four stories high, and the broad and straight streets, unknown in a Greek town until the distribution of the Peiraeus by Hippodamus near the time of the Peloponnesian war, were well calculated to heighten the astonishment raised by the whole spectacle in a visitor like Herodotus. The royal palace, with its memorable terraces o hanging gardens, formed the central and commanding edifice in one half of the city—the temple of Belus in the other half.

That celebrated temple, standing upon a basis of one square stadium, and inclosed in a precinct of two square stadia in dimension was composed of eight solid towers, built one above the other, am is alleged by Strabo to have been as much as a stadium or furlong high (the height is not specified by Herodotus). It was full of costly decorations, and possessed an extensive landed property. Along the banks of the river, in its passage through the city, were built spacious quays, and a bridge on stone piles—for the placing of which (a Herodotus was told) Semiramis had caused the river Euphrates to be drained off into the large side reservoir and lake constructed higher up its course.

Besides this great town of Babylon itself, there were throughout the neighborhood, between the canals which united the Euphrates and the Tigris, many rich and populous villages, while Borsippa ant other considerable towns were situated lower down on the Euphrates itself. And the industry, agricultural as well as manufacturing, o the collective population was not less persevering than productive Their linen, cotton, and woolen fabrics, and their richly ornamented carpets were celebrated throughout all the eastern regions. Their cotton was brought in part from islands in the Persian gulf. Th flocks of sheep tended by the Arabian Nomads supplied them with wool finer even than that of Miletus or Tarentum. Besides the Chaldean order of priests, there seem to have been among them certain other tribes with peculiar hereditary customs. Thus there were three tribes, probably near the mouth of the river, who restricted them selves to the eating of fish alone; but we have no evidences of a military caste (like that in Egypt) nor any other hereditary profession.

In order to present any conception of what Assyria was in the early days of Grecian history and during the two centuries preceding the conquest of Babylon by Cyrus in 536 bc, we unfortunately have no witness earlier than Herodotus, who did net see Babylon until near a century after that event—about seventy years after its still more disastrous revolt and second subjugation by Darius. Babylonia had become one of the twenty satrapies of the Persian empire, and besides paying a larger regular tribute than any of the other nine teen, supplied, from its exuberant soil, provision for the Great King and his countless host of attendants during one-third part of the year. Yet it was then in a stale of comparative degradation, having had its immense walls breached by Darius, and having afterward undergone the ill-usage of Xerxes, who, since he stripped its temples, and especially the venerated temple of Belus, of some of their richest ornaments, would probably be still more reckless in his mode of dealing with the civic edifices. If, in spite of such inflictions, and in spite of that manifest evidence of poverty and suffering in the people which Herodotus expressly notices, it continued to be what lie describes, still counted as almost the chief city of the Persian empire, both in the time of the younger Cyrus and in that of Alexander—we may judge what it must once have been, without cither foreign satrap or foreign tribute, under its Assyrian kings and Chaldean priests, during the last of the two centuries which intervened between the era of Nabonassar and the capture of the city by Cyrus the Great. Though several of the kings, during the first of these two centuries, had contributed much to the great works of Babylon, yet it was during the second century of the two, after the capture of Nineveh by the Medes, and under Nebuchadnezzar and Nitokris, that the kings attained the maximum of their power and the city its greatest enlargement. It was Nebuchadnezzar who constructed the sea-port Teredon, at the mouth of the Euphrates, and who probably excavated the long ship canal of near 400 miles, which joined it. That canal was perhaps formed partly from a natural western branch of the Euphrates. The brother of the poet Alkaeus—Antimenidas, who served in the Babylonian army, and distinguished himself by his personal valor (600-580 bc)—would have seen it in its full glory. Ho is the earliest Greek of whom we hear individually in connection with the Babylonians. It marks strikingly the contrast between the Persian kings and the Babylonian kings, on whose rum they rose— that while the latter incurred immense expense to facilitate the communication between Babylon and the sea, the former artificially impeded the lower course of the Tigris, in order that their residence at Susa might be out of the reach of assailants.

That which strikes us most, and which must have struck the first Grecian visitors much more, both in Assyria and Egypt, is the unbounded command of naked human strength possessed by these early kings, and the effect of mere mass and indefatigable perseverance, unaided either by theory or by artifice, in the accomplishment of gigantic results. In Assyria the results were in great part exaggerations of enterprises in themselves useful to the people for irrigation and defense: religious worship was ministered to in the like manner, as well as the personal fancies and pomp of their kings: while in Egypt the latter class predominates more over the former. We scarcely trace in either of them the higher sentiment of art, which owes its first marked development to Grecian susceptibility and genius. But the human mind is in every stage of its progress, and most of all in its rude and unreflecting period, strongly impressed by visible and tangible magnitude, and awe-struck by the evidences of great power. To this feeling, for what exceeded the demands of practical convenience and security, the wonders both in Egypt and Assyria chiefly appealed. The execution of such colossal works demonstrates habits of regular industry, a concentrated population under one government, and, above all, an implicit submission to the regal and priestly sway—contrasting forcibly with the email autonomous communities of Greece and western Europe, wherein the will of the individual citizen was so much more energetic and uncon­trolled. The acquisition of habits of regular industry, so foreign to the natural temper of man, was brought about in Egypt and Assyria, in China and Hindustan before it had acquired any footing in Europe; but it was purchased either by prostrate obedience to a despotic rule or by imprisonment within the chain of a consecrated institution of caste. Even during the Homeric period of Greece these countries had attained a certain civilization in mass, without the acquisition of any high mental qualities or the development of an) individual genius. The religious and political sanction, sometimes combined and sometimes separate, determined for every one his mode of life, his creed, his duties, and his place in society, without leaving any scope for the will or reason of the agent himself. Now the Phenicians and Carthaginians manifest a degree of individual impulse and energy which puts them greatly above this type of civilization, though in their tastes, social feelings, and religion they are still Asiatic. And even the Baby Ionian community—though their Chaldean priests arc the parallel of the Egyptian priests, with a less measure of ascendancy—combine with their industrial aptitude and constancy of purpose, something of that strenuous ferocity of character which marks so many people of the Semitic race—Jews, Phenicians, and Carthaginians. These Semitic people stand distinguished as well from the Egyptian life—enslaved by childish caprices and antipathies? and by endless frivolities of ceremonial detail—as from the flexible, many-sided, and self-organizing Greek; the latter not only capable of opening both for himself and for the human race the highest walks of intellect, and the full creative agency of art, but also gentler by far in his private sympathies and dealings than his contemporaries on the Euphrates, the Jordan, or the Nile—for we are not, of course, to compare him with the exigencies of western Europe m the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Both in Babylonia and in Egypt the vast monuments, embankments, and canals, executed by collective industry, appeared the more remarkable to an ancient traveler by contrast with the desert regions and predatory tribes immediately surrounding them. West of the Euphrates the sands of Arabia extended northward, with little interruption, to the latitude of the Gulf of Issus; they even covered the greater part of Mesopotamia, or the country between the Euphrates and the Tigris, beginning a short distance northward of the wall called the wall of Media above-mentioned, which (extending in a direction nearly southward from the Tigris to the Euphrates) had been erected to protect Babylonia against the incursions of the Medes. Eastward of the Tigris again, along the range of Mount Zagros, but at no great distance from the river, were found the Elymeei, Kossaei, Uxii, Paraetakeni, etc.—tribes which (to use the expression of Strabo), “as inhabiting a poor country, were under the necessity of living by the plunder of their neighbors.” Such rude bands of depredators on the one side, and such wide tracts of sand on the two others, without vegetation or water, contrasted powerfully with the industry and productiveness of Babylonia. Babylon itself is to be considered, not as one continuous city, but as a city together with its surrounding district inclosed within immense walls, the height and thickness of which were in themselves a sufficient defense, so that the place was assailable only at its gates. In case of need it would serve as shelter for the persons and property of the village-inhabitants in Babylonia. We shall see hereafter how useful under trying circumstances such a resource was, when we come to review the invasions of Attica by the Peloponnesians, and the mischiefs occasioned by a temporary crowd pouring in from the country, so as to overcharge the intramural accommodations of Athens. Spacious as Babylon was, however, it is affirmed by Strabo that Ninus or Nineveh was considerably larger.