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hundreds of squares thus formed stood the houses of the inhabitants, rising three or four stories high. The spaces in the centre of the squares were used for gardens or orchards.
4. The Euphrates flowed through the city from north to south. The opposite sides were joined by a bridge thirty feet broad and at the extremities were the two royal palaces, one of them occupying four of the squares already mentioned, the other nine; while the great temple of Belus, which adjoined the old palace, covered another of
5. Among the most interesting objects in Babylon were the famous hanging-gardens or artificial hills, erected by Nebuchadnezzar to gratify his wife, who “delighted in the scenery of mountain regions.” They were within the precincts of the palace, and had the form of a square, each side of which was about 400 feet long. They rose in terraces, one above another, until the uppermost equalled the height of the city walls. The upper terraces were reached by handsome flights of stairs.
6. The whole pile was sustained by a series of arches, strengthened on every side by a wall twenty-two feet thick. The floor of the several terraces was formed of flat stones, sixteen feet long. Then there was a layer of reeds mixed with bitumen, and over it rows of bricks closely cemented together and covered with sheets of lead. The earth of the gardens rested on the lead.
7. The soil, at least in the uppermost terrace, was sufficiently deep for the largest trees to take root in. All the terraces were crowded with every variety of shrub or flower likely to give pleasure to the eye. Water was drawn up from the river by an engine to the highest terrace and thence dispensed for the watering of the whole garden.
8. Other gigantic works of a more useful character were executed by Nebuchadnezzar. The melting of the snows on the mountains of Armenia increased the water in the Euphrates to such an extent that for three months every year both the city and the surrounding country were turned into a swamp. To obviate this, two great canals were cut above the point at which the river entered the city, and along these the overflowings were drained off into the Tigris.
9. Within the city, on either side of the river, a great wall or embankment was built, with brazen gates over against each of the streets where it crossed the river. Flights of stairs led down to the water's edge, enabling the citizens to pass by boat to the opposite side. This was the only passage they had till the bridge was built of which mention has already been made.
10. During the progress of these works the waters of the Euphrates had been led along a canal into an artificial lake which had been formed on the west of the city. This vast reservoir is said to have been 75 feet deep and 160 miles in circumference. It continued to be used long after the embankment of the river was completed. By means of it the surplus waters were stored and thence distributed for irrigating purposes by means of smaller channels. —Compiled from Prideaux, Rawlinson, &c.
Questions on the lesson :—What great King of Babylon did much for the city? Who is the “Father of History”? What does he say of Babylon's walls? The circuit of the city? What is said of the streets—of the gates—of the squares? How was the city divided into two parts? What was the object of the hanging-gardens? How were they formed? What other great works of Nebuchadnezzar are described? How was the bed of the river emptied? What use was afterwards made of the great lake?
The walls of Babylon.—Jeremiah, chap. li., verses 53 and 58, speaks of the broad walls of Babylon and her high gates, and evidently refers to the great height of the walls when he says: “Though Babylon should mount up to heaven, and though she should fortify the height of her strength,” &c.
Bitumen.—“Near unto which town is a valley of pitch very marvellous to behold, and a thing almost incredible, wherein are many springs throwing out abundantly a kind of black substance, like unto tar and pitch, which serveth all the countries thereabouts to make staunch their barks and boats, every one of which springs maketh a noise like a smith's forge in puffing and blowing out the matter, which never ceaseth night nor day, and the noise is heard a mile off, swallowing up all weighty things that come upon it.”—Quoted by Rawlinson.
Nitocris, a queen of Babylon, to whom many of the important works in Babylon were ascribed—such as the embankment of the river on either side, the building of one of its great bridges, &c. By many Nitocris is believed to have been the wife of Nebuchadnezzar.
Nebuchadnezzar became King of Babylon on the death of his father in B.C. 604. In the nineteenth year of his reign he besieged and captured Jerusalem. The King Zedekiah was taken prisoner, the city and temple were burned, and the walls levelled with the ground. Most of the inhabitants were transplanted to the banks of the Euphrates.
Herodotus was probably born about B.C. 484. His history gives an account of “The Persian War of Invasion,”—a war to which belong many of the noblest passages in Greek history, such as the battles of Marathon, Thermopylae, and Salamis.
THE FALL OF BABYLON.
1. Nabonadius the King of Babylon had ample warning of danger to his monarchy from the growing power of Cyrus. The final blow was delayed for fifteen years after it might have been expected to descend. During the interval the Babylonians had not been altogether idle. Progress was made with those great works which put it in the power
of the inhabitants to lay under water, as was done so successfully in the Netherlands long after, the whole country on those sides on which it was assailable.
2. When, however, the crisis arrived the Babylonians resolved to concentrate their efforts on the defence of the capital. The space within its walls was sufficient to receive all the inhabitants of the surrounding country. The enormous walls by which the city was defended warranted them in making light of the most powerful siege operations that might be directed against them, whilst the vast stores of provisions they had been accumulating for years, supplemented by fresh crops which could easily be reared on the wide unoccupied spaces within the walls, made the city virtually impregnable against a lengthened blockade.
3. Cyrus advanced against the city in the spring probably of B.C. 540. The Babylonians awaited his coming, encamped outside their walls. One battle only was fought at a short distance from the city, but they were defeated by the Persians and at once retired within their defences. Time went on, but no progress was made in reducing the fortifications.
4. At length Cyrus had recourse to stratagem-perhaps the boldest ever attempted by any military commanderthat of turning aside the great river Euphrates from its course and making his way into the city along its bed. It is possible that before leaving his capital he had already resolved on this method of overcoming the city. This at least seems the best explanation of what otherwise must be regarded as the silly story of his punishing a refractory stream which he encountered on his way to Babylon. Incensed against the Gyndes for having carried away one of the sacred white horses that accompanied his march, Cyrus took, it is said, the petty revenge of drawing off its waters by numerous trenches which were cut by the army so that "
even women could now cross it without wetting their knees.”
5. To deal with the Euphrates in a similar manner was a much more hazardous undertaking. Some insignificant accident such as “the weakness of a floodgate or the disruption of a dyke”—might have led to the greater part of his army being swept away by the current of the river, and, moreover, had other circumstances not been favourable to his enterprise he would doubtless have found himself in the heart of Babylon shut up in the bed of the river as in a trap from which escape was utterly impossible.
6. For the execution of his plans Cyrus took advantage of a festival which he had learned was annually celebrated in the city with the greatest dissipation. The whole night of the solemnity, he understood, was usually spent in revelling, drunkenness, and all kinds of disorder. Accordingly one division of his men was ordered at the appointed time to break down the great bank or dam which separated the river from the lake described in a former lesson, and thus to turn its current into the lake.
7. One body of troops was placed at the point at which the river entered the city, another where it emerged from it, with orders to enter the channel as soon as it proved passable. Towards evening Cyrus opened the heads of the trenches on both sides of the river above the city, and by this means and the opening of the great dam the river was so drained that before the middle of the night the water was sufficiently low to allow his men to march into the heart of the city. The river gates which in other circumstances would have proved an insuperable obstacle to the assailants of the city had in the general revelry been left open, so that the Persians ascended into the city without opposition. The two divisions of the army,