Hero thou behold'st
Assyria and her empire's ancient bounds.
Araxes and the Caspian lake thence on
As far as Indus east Euphrates west,
And oft beyond; to south the Persian bay,
And inaccessible th' Arabian drought;
Here Nineveh, of length within her wall
Several days' journey, built by Ninus old,
Of that first golden monarchy the seat.
There Babylon, the wonder of all tongues.
As ancient, but rebuilt by him who twice
Judah and all the race of David's house
Led captive, and Jerusalem laid waste,
Till Cyrus set them free; Persepolis
His city there thou seest, and Bactra there;
Ecbatana her structures vast there shows
And Hecatompylos her hundred gates;
There Susa by Choaspes' amber stream,
The drink of none but kings.—Milton
On the banks of Nile are the most ancient, as well as the most massive of architectural monuments, long antedating the era when tradition merges into history, yet clearly marking the time when civilization, though attended with cruelty and oppression first, as appears even in the building of these monuments, makes its appearance on the face of the earth. Whence came the ancient dwellers by the Nile we know not; nor is there anything that points with certainty to the date of their arrival; for in the oldest of their monumental structures is an art so ingenious and well defined as to point to a condition of society, to a system of government and religion that must have been the result of many previous centuries of development. It can only be said that in some far distant age, very possibly eight or ten thousand years ago, the people of the Pharaohs, crossing the isthmus of Suez,—that bridge of the nations over which primeval races streamed to and fro for conquest—settled in the fertile valley whose river they placed among their gods. Hapi, as they named him, was "the father of the gods, the god of riches, the creator of all good things, who maketh food to be, who giveth life to them that are athirst, who covereth the land with his products, who filleth the granaries to overflowing." So reads an Egyptian hymn; for to this people the Nile was everything, and upon it everything depended. "Do the fingers of the Nile god cease from their labors? Then are all the millions of beings in misery. Doth he wane in heaven? Then the gods themselves and all men perish."
As to the various stages whereby Egyptian, Babylonian, and Assyrian monuments were developed from rude beginnings, few written records remain, except in the writings of Vitruvius, the only classic authority on the subject, though appearing as they did as late as the Augustan era, his works are of no special value. Climate and environment had doubtless much to do not only with the shape of buildings but with the materials used for their construction. Thus, where timber was plentiful, stone was little used, except for temples and other permanent edifices, while even in the earlier temples of the Greeks trunks of trees served for columns and beams and logs resting against or upon each other for members of the entablature. Where timber was scarce and stone abundant, or not far away, as in the delta of the Nile, black marble obelisk, masonry was in common use, and by the dwellers in Babylonian and Assyrian plains bricks were fashioned of sun or kiln-baked clay.
While the pyramids were doubtless the oldest, as they are still the most stupendous of human monuments, even in the great pyramid at Giza, the first one that can be clearly ascribed to the reign of an Egyptian monarch, there is a difference of opinion as to date amounting to as much as two-score centuries. It is probable, however, that Lepsius' estimate, 3095-3032 BC, is not very far from the truth. Unlike other nations, the earlier Egyptians built neither for use nor display, but for eternity; hence in the solid and massive workmanship that bids defiance to time they had no rivals either in the ancient or modern world, while in the grandeur of simplicity they were excelled only by the Greeks. Though as to color and decorative scheme Egyptian architecture ranks below that of other nations of antiquity, in vastness and sublimity of proportion it awakens a feeling of awe akin to that with which we regard the sublime in nature, a deeper feeling even than is aroused by the most massive of Roman monoliths, by the Coliseum, or by the Parthenon.
Yet it is only in technic art that the pyramids stand unrivalled among the works of man, and from an aesthetic point of view there is nothing to commend them. A tower of the same altitude would be much more imposing; for a pyramid always looks smaller than it is, and not until we stand almost at its base can its proportions be realized, since the surface, sloping away from the line of vision, does not challenge observation. This, however, was the form best adapted to the purpose for which the pyramids were built, the one that would longest withstand the ravages of time. As to structural design, they were merely terrace-like masses of rough-hewn masonry laid in horizontal strata, but with an outer casing neatly jointed and of elaborate finish. Within each of them was a sepulchral chamber, reached by a passage, or series of passages, the roof, if not formed by the rock itself, being composed of immense cantilevers of stone, projecting from the walls on which they stood, and either resting against each other or on layers of stone.
The great pyramid of Khufu, or Cheops, was built on the edge of the wind-swept plateau in which terminated the hills of Giza, overlooking the ancient city of the White Wall and the holy city of Heliopolis. It covered a base 764 feet square, and its height was 476 feet, the present dimensions being somewhat reduced by the corrosion of many centuries. Its polished facing of white limestone, almost destroyed since the Arab conquest, was so neatly jointed as almost to present the appearance of a single slab, a movable flagstone working on a pivot serving for entrance, but so effectually concealed that none but the priests and custodians knew of its whereabouts. To conceal the sepulchral chamber such precautions were taken that for and such more than 4,000 years the secret of the pyramid was preserved, was the solidity of workmanship that the stones which wall in the sarcophagus of the king have moved not a hair’s breadth since the day they were placed in position.
There are older pyramids than that of Cheops, as those of Medum and Sakkara, though the latter were rather mastabas, or platforms, gradually assuming pyramidal shape as enlarged by successive accretions of rough masonry and polished casing. Step pyramids are termed these cumulative mastabas, their outlines being broken by successive steps, while the passages encircling the sepulchral chamber, are extremely intricate and of peculiar construction. In some of the Sakkara pyramids both passages and chambers are covered with religious texts in the form of hieroglyphics, painted in bright green colors on faces of white limestone. In one of the two Dashur pyramids, which resemble those at Giza, most of the outer casing has been preserved; in the other the roof of the chambers is carried to a remarkable height through successive overlappings of masonry. As to the long mooted question of inscriptions on the casings of pyramids, it may here be said that none have been found which bear the stamp of antiquity, though travelers without number, from the days of Herodotus downward have left here their superscriptions in many languages.
The mausolea of the Egyptians, like their pyramids, possessed no beauty of form, and were intended not to please but to endure. For the wealthier classes the usual burial place was either a tomb hewn out of the solid rock or a mastaba with chapel and subterranean vaults. The sanctuary was small, and for the most part merely an oblong chamber with a stela set into the western wall, at the foot of which was an alabaster or granite table where were placed offerings of food and drink. In a recess was sometimes a statue of the deceased with smiling features and erect of carriage, as though about to step forth again into the scene of his earthly career. On festal days when dishes from, the family banquet were placed before it in the dim light of flickering torches one, might well imagine that the figure was endowed with life and claimed from his pedestal the homage of his descendants. On the stela prayers were inscribed, together with the name and genealogy of the demised, without which his personality would be lost in the future world where the nameless, dead were believed to be non-existent .
But we need not further linger among Egyptian pyramids and tombs; nor is other than passing mention needed of the sculptural monstrosity known as the sphinx; its features, though still expressive of power and dignity, sorely disfigured by Mameluke cannon-shot. Long before the great pyramid of Cheops was erected, the sphinx, hewn out of the solid rock, stood guard over the valley of the Nile not far from the apex of its delta. Only the merest outline now remains of the weather-worn figure of the lion; but in the eyes is still the deep intensity of thought, and on the lips the smile that scores of centuries have not effaced. Around it temples were built during the later Egyptian dynasties, and around the temples were the common burial grounds of the nation, the bodies of the poor being cast beneath the sand uncoffined and unclad, while for others were constructed small rectangular vaults of yellow brick, void of all decorative features.
The temples of the earlier pyramid builders were almost as plain as the pyramids themselves. One unearthed at Giza, not many years ago, in close proximity to the sphinx, was in the form of a cross, with its principal chamber supported by prism-shaped columns of syenite, without bases or capitals. Except for a wainscoting of alabaster or polished granite, there was no attempt at decoration; nor was there on the walls either sculpture or inscription of any kind. In structural design it was probably the simplest temple building in the world, without moldings, without cornice, and with the merest apology for an architrave.
More stately were the monuments of Thebes, the city of temples and palaces, whose ruins extend over an area of several square miles on either bank of the Nile, though most plentiful on its eastern banks as nearer to the rising of the sun, which the Egyptians worshipped as a god. Surpassing all others in magnificence and beauty of design was the palace temple of Karnak, one of the grandest architectural monuments of all the ages and of enormous dimensions, nearly twice the size of St. Peter’s and four times as large as the largest of medieval cathedrals.
From an avenue lined with colossal sphinxes, an imposing pylon, or gate-house, led into a spacious court rich in columnar ornamentation. Thence, through another entrance of still more majestic proportions was access to the great hypostyle hall erected by Sethos I and his successors in the fifteenth and fourteenth centuries, its stone ceiling supported by scores of columns, of which those in the center, enclosing a lofty nave, were 66 feet in height. Beyond other pylons, in front of which stood granite obelisks, were sanctuaries, courts, and chambers connected by galleries and corridors of intricate design and in labyrinthine complexity of detail. In combination with projecting pillars were sculptured figures suggestive of Egyptian mythology, and on the walls, depicted in richest imagery, religious symbols and ceremonies were blended with the heroic deeds of royalty.
Second to the temple of Karnak, and second only, was the Rameseum, erected in the fifteenth century by Rameses the Great, probably the Pharaoh of the oppression. The principal facade was composed of pyramidal masses of masonry, between which a doorway led into a porticoed courtyard, and this into an inner and more splendid court, on the sides of which were colossi and double rows of circular pillars. The hypostyle hall, inseparable from the larger Egyptian temples of the Pharaonic age, was of remarkable beauty, with figures on its central columns of most elaborate workmanship. Beyond were the apartments of the king and priests, though of some the exact use cannot be clearly ascertained. Among other great buildings was the temple of Luxor, a second rival of the Karnak palace, and in front of which are colossal statues of Rameses the Great. Finally, connecting the various temples were avenues of sphinxes, with enclosing walls and embankments such as were seen nowhere in the land of Egept, save in "hundred-gated Thebes."
Most of the Pharaohs built unto themselves palaces, surrounded with buildings for the accommodation of court and household; for few were content with the mansions which their predecessors had occupied; nor would they dwell in their capital at Memphis, but at some chosen spot at a convenient distance therefrom. Each palace, with its adjacent group, presented the appearance of a fortified town; for nothing less would ii serve for the shelter and protection of the multitudinous host which formed the royal court and retinue. Almost in the center of a rectangular space, enclosed by a battlemented wall, stood the imperial mansion, readily distinguished from the rest by the pillared balconies before which envoys and officials prostrated themselves as they came into the presence of the Pharaoh. Within was the council chamber sometimes entered, as in the palace of Ammon, through doors inlaid with the precious metals and with roof supported by lofty columns of rare and costly woods colored in brilliant hues. The private apartments and apartments of state were numerous, the former being separate from the rest, as also were the quarters of the court nobles and domestics. Yet, notwithstanding its vast proportions, the framework of the edifice was often so badly constructed that while reared, like the pyramids, for eternity, it did not long survive its artificer.
Egyptian lords had also their fortified mansions, imitating on a smaller scale the magnificence of the royal household, with reception halls and numerous apartments for the harem, where surrounded by concubines the legitimate wife, sometimes the daughter of a Pharaoh, enacted the empty role of queen. Within the walled enclosure, as within that of the royal palace, were the offices of the various departments, as of the gold storehouse, the granary, and the storehouse of provisions, where were articles of food and drink collected as tribute in kind by the omnivorous tax-gatherer.
Egyptian towns of ancient origin, such as grew with the chance growth of centuries, were merely a network of narrow, dark, and malodorous alleys, lined with small brick houses built at random and presenting to the street an expanse of bare wall broken only by a narrow entrance way. Those of a later period, founded originally by some Pharaoh or lord, were of more pleasing aspect, with paved and regular thoroughfares bordered by structures which differed not greatly in appearance from the cities of today. In the dwellings of the rich were state apartments and a reception hall, in which rows of octagonal pillars, supporting the roof, were fitted into circular bases of stone. There were also several sleeping apartments and storerooms, especially the one where household treasures were guarded from robbers and tax-collectors. Yet few were of more than one and none were of more than three stories; for the domestic architecture of the Egyptians, and even their palace architecture was of the simplest, the people reserving their wealth for the temples of the gods, as did the Greeks of the classic age.
In all the principal cities of Egypt were temples adorned with costly and often with colossal statuary. Before the enthroned statues of the Pharaohs the people worshiped as before a god; for such they deemed it, believing that here was the spirit of him whose body rested in a sepulchral chamber of the pyramids. The sovereign himself would enter the sanctuary, where was a statue of one of his predecessors, would question it after performing the rites of invocation; the priest returning answer as though inspired from on high. With symbols and hieroglyphics recording what the monarch said on these occasions, what was the response and in what emphatic tones delivered, are covered the walls of Theban temples, furnishing sufficient for many a volume of holy writ. The Pharaoh was endowed with a dual nature, human in the flesh but a god so far as his soul was concerned, and thus it was that he became not only the king but the high-priest of the nation, acting as mediator between heaven and earth. In religious processions he accompanied the images of the gods, pouring out in front of them the mystic libations of wine and milk, and with his own hands offering the victim in sacrifice.
There was also, a subterranean Egypt, the carvings on tombs being no less elaborate than those on temple wall or pillar. Death was to the Egyptian merely a transition to a better and more lasting existence, and secure of this, he prepared for the grave as for his home, ceiling his tomb with porphyry, decking it with brilliant colors, and depicting on its walls the pleasures and pastimes of his happier days. Hence it is that Egyptian art relates almost exclusively to their gods, their kings, their courts, and their sacred ceremonies, though here we may also read the story of their domestic life.
Says a writer on Egyptian sculpture: "The wealthy citizen of Memphis or Thebes had his town house of brick and stucco; his commodious country villa beautified by gardens, fish ponds, and vineyards; his canopied boat, his chariot, his pet gazelles, his carpets and couches, his gay dresses and fine porcelains, his conservatory and band of music. All this and more was reproduced in his sepulchral bas-reliefs. Politically, such pictures also show us dynasties of despots, the ceremonies of the court, the retinue of kings, and the patient labor of their slaves. Sacred subjects, most frequent and elaborate of all, mirror the holy rites of worship, and interpret for us a creed so singular and significant, so mystical and yet so practical, that most of the religions of antiquity drew from it their profoundest thoughts, while the smallest details of daily life found in it their rule and reason.”
In all the tombs were statues called by the natives "kas," varying in number, size, and material according to the means of the deceased, but bearing a close resemblance to him whose sleep they guarded. To the Egyptian the ka was his double or counterpart, which dwelt with him during his earthly life, and after death awaited his spiritual and intellectual faculties to reunite in the immortal life that was to come. The more exact the likeness, the more certain the resurrection, no change of style being tolerated and nothing but accuracy, with strictly conventional methods of treatment, required of the artificer, thus developing a school of portrait sculpture at once unique and powerful. Among the statues preserved in the Egyptian museum is one of a Sheikh- el-Beled, or village mayor, employed as an overseer of public works in the time of the pyramid builders. The figure appears to be advancing, staff in hand, toward the spectator. It is about half the size of life, heavy, thick-set, with massive head and shoulders and smiling, complacent features of commonplace expression, except for the eyes, which, as in all Egyptian statuary, are of remarkable brilliancy, with a fascinating and uncanny expression. The effect was produced by filling the hollowed sockets with a preparation of black and white enamel, a silver pupil reflecting the light as from the glance of the living. Of more dignified aspect are the limestone statues of Ki,—an important personage as it would seem, for in his tomb were nineteen kas,—of Sepa, priest of the White Bull and of Nesa, his wife, arrayed in a tight-fitting V-shaped garment and on whose arms were many bracelets. In the museum of Leyden is one of the oldest of these portrait statues,—that of the wife of Khufu or Cheops, builder of the great pyramid.
It is only from the abodes of the dead that we can form an idea of the household decorations and furniture of the living; for except as depictured in sepulchral chambers, the latter have entirely disappeared.
In the alabaster and diorite vases, the bracelets and necklaces, the footstools, folding chairs and bedsteads of carved, wood, are evidences of finished workmanship, while in the ivory sculptures of jewel cases were bas-reliefs in miniature carved with exceeding delicacy. All these and other articles are represented in Egyptian tombs; for courtiers and lords vied with each other in collecting for use in the future world all the best that architect, artist, and artificer could produce.
Just as the architectural forms of the Egyptians, except for a few minor details altered, but little in thousands of years, so with their sculpture and painting, which were used only in the service of architecture in decorating columns walls, and ceilings, or in erecting colossal statues within the precincts of sanctuaries. In their portraiture the same royal figure is hundreds of times repeated, and in their pillared halls and avenues of sphinxes recur in monotonous repetition images without trace of variety in expression or in symbolic attributes. In their standing figures, so frequent on the fronts of columns, the arms are crossed over the breast, the legs placed close together, and the body leans backward for support in oriental listlessness; in their seated figures the feet are always side by side, the body erect and stiff in attitude, and in all the face leans forward with fixed and earnest gaze. In rendering homage to their gods and god-descended Pharaohs, they attempted to atone by size for lack of artistic spirit, many of the seated Pharaohs being more than 20 feet high, while the statues of Rameses the Great in the temple of Ipsambul are 60 feet, and that of the vocal Memnon 70 feet in height.
Of these colossal monuments it never occurs to us to inquire the name of the artificer; for all are so much alike that at best we can only regard them as a higher form of handicraft. Yet there is something remarkable in the accuracy with which, in an age when iron implements were unknown, these masses of granite, basalt, and porphyry were worked into shape with the utmost fidelity of detail, and polished to a smoothness and brilliancy of surface which modern processes cannot surpass. While sculptures in relief are plentiful, the figures are in effect little better than wall paintings, suggesting a surface adorned with richly colored tapestry; for the slight hollowing of their groundwork affords but a suggestion of plastic life. It was in animal sculpture and painting that the Egyptians most excelled; for though here were always the same figures, landscape features, and other accessories, the effect was harmonious and agreeable. Though whether by brush or graving tool, the subject is always presented in flat relief, the animals are in motion, with the gait and play of limb peculiar to each of the species. Thus with skilful drawing and lifelike expression are reproduced the measured tread of the ox, the graceful step of the gazelle, and the reposeful carriage of the lion, the human figures being the most faulty, little better in truth than anatomical monstrosities.
To rear temples and obelisks was the favorite pastime of kings, whose chariots were ablaze with gold and silver, and whose coats of arms were more richly decorated than those of medieval knights. Hence artists of the higher class were held in high esteem at court, receiving from the monarch substantial marks of favor. One Iritesen, for instance, a worker in the precious metals, in ivory and stone, who lived in the twelfth Theban dynasty, boasts that "he held a place in the king's heart and was his joy from morning until night.” But those who performed the mechanical processes, and who dragged into place the colossal statues of the Pharaohs, were little better than slaves, working in gangs and under fear of the lash. In a painting belonging to this dynasty are represented hundreds of men grouped in pairs hauling by ropes a sledge on which is a mammoth stone figure in seated posture. On the knees of the figure is an engineer who beats time with his hands as he directs the movements of these human draught animals, and at the side are overseers with relays of slaves to supply the places of those who drop from exhaustion.
In the mummy-cloths preserved in museums and in the tomb-pictures which explorers have brought to light, we find the alphabet of painting, an art at least as ancient as the pyramids, though the first attempts were probably mere outlines of face and figure rudely traced on stone. Then came the coloring, with red, green, and blue as the favorite hues of the Egyptians, the women being painted red, the men a darker red, the water blue, and the birds a combination of green and blue. Of the pictures which adorn the walls of temples the themes were selected from the battle and the chase, depicting only the deeds of rulers, while those in the tombs were descriptive of the manners and customs of the life that had been or suggestive of that which was to be. First the wall was measured off in squares, and then the figures were fitted into them, the shape of the body and all its members being regulated by this mechanical process. Thus painting was non-progressive, and though largely in demand for decorative purposes, never became an art. Though changes came with the change of dynasties, these were of brief duration, until we come to the reign of the Ptolemies, followed by that of the Romans, whose works, with some few exceptions, belong rather to classic art, while the mosques of Cairo and other cities of Arabian architecture rank with the monuments of Islam .
In the architecture, as in the art of Chaldea, Babylonia, and Assyria there is much in common, since for a period of nearly 2,000 years, to say nothing of countless ages of tradition, each was alternately in the ascendant until finally all of them fell under the yoke of the Medes or Persians.
Of the earlier Chaldean and Babylonian temples, as those of Erech and Mugheir, the Ur of the Chaldees, little need here be said; for they were merely masses of brickwork, rising in stages one above another with few traces of skilled architectural plan. In what is known as the Birs-Nimrud at Borsippa, a suburb of Babylon, there was some attempt at design; for though the bricks bear the stamp of Nebuchadnezzar, by whom the temple was either repaired or rebuilt there is no, reason to suppose that he altered its original form. Of this building, which was dedicated to the seven planets, the lowest story was in the shape of a square with a side of 270 feet, above which were six other stories each with sides about, 40 feet smaller than the one below, the topmost story forming the sanctuary and probably used also as an observatory. As to the other chambers nothing definite has been ascertained, though they appear to have been the counterparts of those which encircled the temple of Solomon, and are therefore of exceptional interest.
The palaces of Chaldea, in common with their temples, were built on the tops of artificial mounds, the one at Lagash, the capital, rising from a platform 40 feet above the level of the plain, and accessible only by a narrow stairway. It was a squat and heavy structure of rectangular form, two stories high and with plastered walls on which were rough paintings of mythological scenes. Otherwise there was no attempt at decoration, unless we may include in that term the pilasters that broke the wall surface, resembling rather the posts of a palisade, and without bases, capitals, or moldings. Every Chaldean palace was also a citadel, with walls strong enough to withstand a siege and wide enough to shelter the inhabitants of the town or district of which it formed the center. Hence strength and not beauty was the aim of the artificer, and to this all other considerations were sacrificed, comfort being entirely neglected. Gudea, one of the most powerful of princes, contented himself in his Lagash palace with five or six apartments, meanly furnished and lighted only from the door and from a small hole cut in the ceiling. Fronting on the courtyard was a storeroom for provisions, and another chamber served as kitchen, with fireplaces separated by dividing walls to hold the pots and pans. Here were none of the tessellated pavements, the woodwork inlaid with gold discovered in the ruins of Chaldean temples; nor was there anything of the luxury and display that we are accustomed to associate with oriental mansions.
Brick, whether sun-baked, kiln-burnt, or enameled, but always brick, was the material for Chaldean buildings, stone, which must be brought from a distance at great expense, being sparingly used and chiefly for ornamental purposes. For monuments thus constructed constant repairs were needed, neglect causing effacement of outlines followed by speedy dissolution. Thus it is that the ruins of cities by the Euphrates have attracted but little attention as compared with those of the cities by the Nile, forming merely heaps of rubbish hardly distinguishable from the dust from which their founders raised them. In places, however, as at Uruk, sufficient remains have been discovered to show that houses, even of the better class, were built with low arched doorways and vaulted ceilings supported by trunks of trees, openings in the walls admitting light into small rectangular chambers, comfortless and bare of furniture as were the royal palaces. They stood, however, in the midst of gardens and were sufficiently removed from the business center, where shops and bazaars were thickly clustered amid narrow refuse-littered streets.
Better was the condition of affairs in Babylon, at one time a Chaldean city, though it was not until the reign of Nebuchadnezzar and his successors that it became the huge metropolis whose remains, after serving as a quarry for centuries, still rank among the wonders of the world. In truth it was a magnificent city of which the vainglorious monarch exclaimed: "Is not tins great Babylon that I have built for the house of my kingdom, by the might of my power, and for the honor of my majesty?" If we can believe the statement of Ctesias, whose estimate is confirmed by Strabo and others, it was 100 square miles in extent, or more than the ice the size of London, though most of this area was covered with gardens, parks, and other vacant lands.
Around it were two walls, of which, as Herodotus relates, the outer one was 335 feet in height, and with width sufficient for a four-horse chariot to turn in its course. In its construction were used 1,500,000,000 bricks, and it contained 100 brazen gates, while the banks of the Euphrates, which ran through the center of the city, were lined with quays and joined by a bridge upheld by granite piers.
Near the eastern end of the bridge stood the great palace named by Nebuchadnezzar ''The Admiration of Mankind," surrounded by walls seven miles in circumference, as Diodorus relates, the inner one adorned with hunting scenes of which specimens have been preserved. Enclosed in this space were the hanging gardens, one of the seven wonders of the world, though in their construction there was nothing wonderful, for they consisted merely of trees and flowers planted on a series of arches supported by columns and built in the form of a square, a fountain being supplied with water raised from the river, as Strabo says, by means of a screw.
A more remarkable structure was the temple of Bel, or Belus, named by ancient historians the temple of the "Foundations of the Earth”, and probably identical with the tower of Babel, as appears from the ruins now known as the mound of Babil. It was in the form of an irregular pyramid, with eight stages or stories, each narrower than the one below, the basement covering an area 600 feet square. On the summit, reached by a winding pathway, was a sanctuary containing statues of the god in solid gold, one of them 40 feet in height, with a golden table 40 feet long and many other articles fashioned of the same material. At the foot of the tower was another sanctuary also with its images of gold. As tradition states, the tower was restored by Nebuchadnezzar, whose inscriptions read, "I gave to its cupola the form of a lily, and I covered it with chiseled gold, so that it shone like the day."' Herodotus, after describing this temple-tower as he beheld it, adds: "In the days of Cyrus there was in this temple the effigy of a man in solid gold, standing twelve cubits high. Xerxes, the son of Darius, killed the priest who forbade him to move the statue, and carried it away."
Babylonian monuments were nearly all of a sacred character; for as the people were essentially religious, so was their art hieratic, inscriptions and mural paintings relating almost entirely to the worship of the gods. Their palaces were lavishly decorated, and their domestic architecture was far in advance of that of the Chaldeans, many of the houses in Babylon being several stories in height though all were of brick forth, most part cemented with mortar or bitumen.
In sculpture the Babylonians were inferior to the Egyptians and Assyrians, though teaching their art to the latter who were not slow to better the instruction. Yet, there were artists skilled in handling the chisel and graving tool, as is shown, for instance, in a porphyry cylinder representing the mythic hero Gilgames watering the celestial ox. In his hands is a vase from which flow jets of water uniting in a stream which irrigates the land, the ox, with large crescent shaped horns, holding back his head to drink. This belongs probably to the seventh century BC and is a most finished piece of workmanship, with boldness and precision of outline and well suggested motion of the figures.
Famous for their bas-reliefs were the sculptors of Lagash, though noted rather for audacity than for skill in drawing and modeling. In a sacrificial scene a woman is represented as singing to the accompaniment of a musician who plays on a lyre adorned with the figure of a bull. Above them is a man wearing a fringed mantle, holding in one hand a staff and in the other a circular vessel resembling a patten. He is followed by an acolyte with arms upon his breast, behind whom another figure beats time to the music. While all the figures are squat and clumsy, they are not wanting in precision, though contrasting sharply with the more delicate tracery of Egyptian statuary.
There are relics of Accadian statuary—Accadia being the cradle of the Chaldean race—which belong to the time of Abraham was first studied, and in the observatories which surmounted Chaldean ziggurats, or temples, the science of astronomy. In the ruins of Sippara was unearthed a tablet thousands of years old, on which was inscribed the image of Shamash, the sun-god, resplendent among the celestial orbs, while the disk of the sun is repeatedly found on reliefs. Anu, the great father of all, could not be expressed in sculptural forms; but of Bel, the lord of earth, and Ea, the ruler of the deep, there were many representations, the latter being painted on monuments with the body of a man, to which was appended the tail of a fish. Merodach his son, was the friend of the human race, and appears in one of the bas-reliefs as pursuing the demon Tiamat with avenging sword. Of Nebo, the god of astronomy and the son of Merodach, there is a statue in the British museum nearly seven feet in height. Other spirits of heaven and earth were counted by hundreds, appearing on bronzes, seals, and reliefs in various shapes, for the most part malevolent rather than benign. In the Louvre is a bronze statuette of the genius of the southwest wind, such as were hung on doors and windows to scare away the storm fiend at sight of his own deformity. Eagle’s wings extend from the shoulders over an attenuated body surmounted by most repulsive features, above which are the horns of a goat.
The figure of Izdubar frequently appears in archaic art, usually as a mighty hunter in combat with a lion. Nana, the goddess of fertility, of whom it is said an image existed in Babylonia some 2,300 years before Christ, shared or at least reflected the glories of Ishtar, the queen of heaven, who is represented with a star on her forehead when carried in procession by her votaries. Bulls with outspread wings and human heads, on which was an abundance of curled hair surmounted by horned tiaras, kept guard as beneficent deities in front of palace and temple gates. There were also, as memorial offerings to the gods, shaven heads and headless statues of RIG diorite, inscriptions showing that they were sculptured more than forty centuries ago.
Of the pictorial craft of the Babylonians there is little more to be said than is contained in the words of Ezekiel, who speaks of "men portrayed upon the wall; the images of the Chaldeans portrayed with vermilion," the word Chaldean being applied as by other writers to the Babylonians, with whom they became assimilated. Their palace walls were covered with depictions of monarchs, animals, and flowers executed in the brightest of hues; yet the decoration of the palaces of Babylon in the days of its later magnificence belongs rather to Assyrian and Persian art.
In some of the bas-reliefs preserved in the British museum and the Louvre may still be traced the colors with which the Assyrians adorned their sculpture, different hues being applied to the hair, the beard, the eyes and various portions of the attire. This was one of the methods later adopted by the Greeks, whose earlier art was distinctly Assyrian in character, as that of the Assyrians was originally a mere imitation of the Babylonians.
But while there was much in common between the two latter, there was this essential difference, that the one was sacred and the other secular. Nearly all the great monuments of the Babylonians were in the form of temples; but to the Assyrians the temple was merely an adjunct of the palace, for their king was worshipped with greater reverence than were any of their gods. Assur, their god of battles, was the sovereign deity who led his people to victory, and was therefore worshipped above all the rest, his figure appearing on monuments surrounded with a solar disk, winged and with bird-tail appendage, the latter serving for protection and also as a symbol of worship.
It was through the favor of "Assur the lord" that Tiglath-Pileser was victorious over his enemies, bringing home as captives a score of alien gods. The first Assyrian rock sculpture, carved out of a precipice on the bank of the Tigris nearly 3,000 years ago, represents this monarch as pointing the way to new fields of conquest far toward the north and west. Under his successor, Assur-natsir-pal, begins the first era of Assyrian art, the bas-reliefs of this period, especially those of animal figures, showing remarkable simplicity and vigor.
In some respects there is nothing finer in all archaic sculpture than the lion-hunt portrayed in a relief unearthed at Calah, now Nimrud, from the ruins of the Northwest palace, which Layard was the first to excavate. The king in his chariot is hunting a pair of lions, one of which lies prostrate under the horses' feet, while the other charges at the king as he aims the fatal dart. There is no background to the picture, and there is little attempt at perspective; but there is a boldness of conception and a freedom of execution that give to it a more lifelike aspect than anything to be found in later Assyrian art.
Solidity and realism were the chief characteristics of Assyrian sculpture, and especially does this appear in the colossal bulls that stood guard over their palaces as a protection from evil spirits. In later eras, however, mere brute strength and unimaginative energy were relieved by other forms of artistic expression, vegetation being represented with remarkable skill and with some attempt at landscape outline. While in the portrayal of figures there is not the freedom and freshness of the earlier period, these are in a measure compensated by superior grouping and delicacy of finish. But presently these degenerated into effeminacy, scenes from the harem being preferred to those of the battle and the chase, while lions, instead of being hunted, were imprisoned in cages or whipped into activity for royal battues.
In the sculptural and pictorial decoration of Assyrian palaces the lives and deeds of kings are ever present, the sovereign appearing crowned with the tiara and arrayed in flowing and richly embroidered garments, moving with stately step or enthroned amid the officials of his court. There are also warlike themes, as of castles attacked by huge battering rams, and rivers across which the monarch and his chariot are transported on a ferry, his warriors supported by floating bladders, swimming to the opposite shore. To priestly figures a pair of wings and at times an eagle's head give an air of mysterious dignity, while in the colossal guardians of the portal a bearded human head surmounts the body and limbs of a bull, above which are mighty, outstretched pinions.
Of the Northwest palace erected at Nimrud by Assurbanipal, one of the oldest of Assyrian excavations, the following description is probably as accurate as the lapse of nearly thirty centuries will permit. "Its walls were of brick, their inner paneling being of alabaster, on which the sculptures were carved, with rich paintings above the paneling. At the entrances of the principal chambers were colossal winged bulls or human-headed lions, and from these portals open long suites of halls. Processions of royal conquests were arranged along the walls, and lion-hunts, festivities, and all the chronicles of the empire were carefully sculptured and harmoniously colored. Above them was a flat ceiling divided into elegantly bordered square compartments, gay with painted flowers and fantastic animals, gilded and carved in rare woods or inlaid with ivory, while the floors were paved with alabaster slabs profusely carved with inscriptions. Through such environment moved the proud figures of the Assyrian court.”
Of the palace which Sargon built at Khorsabad about 720 BC, intending to make this the capital of the empire, the remains have been thoroughly explored, with the results described in the works of Botta and Victor Place. "Day and night,” says Sargon, "I planned to build that city, in which arose the palace of incomparable splendor erected for the abode of royalty, the palace of ivory, with doors of palm and cyprus, overlaid with shining bronze." In a facade 330 feet in length, were three magnificent portals, the central one guarded by colossal winged bulls, 19 feet in height, between which a giant was strangling a lion. The main court was 315 by 280 feet; on the right were smaller courts surrounded with stables and out-buildings; on the left were storerooms for gold and silver, iron and copper, stuffs dyed with saffron and robes of purple and blue, pearls, ebony, and sandal-wood, all of which, with booty of every description, was contained, as Sargon boasts, within his palace walls. Beyond was the harem, in whose central court were enameled tiles, painted in yellow colors on a blue ground with figures of the king, his courtiers, his lions and eagles. All the principal apartments of the palace were adorned with alabaster slabs embellished with sculptures representing the wars and pastimes of Sargon, the magnificence of his household, and his religious sentiments. There were also landscape backgrounds, and in one of the finest of the bas-reliefs, now contained in the Louvre, the monarch is giving audience to his visitors, with eunuchs following in the train. Galleries formed an upper story with airy and light apartments open to the breeze and affording an excellent view of the country, while the thickness of the walls protected the chambers of state from heat and glare.
Greatest of all Assyrian palaces was that which Sennacherib, son of Sargon, erected at Nineveh on the mound of Kuyunjik, the building of the mound itself, which was 8,000 feet in circuit and 30 in height, being a task of considerable magnitude. In design it closely resembled the Khorsabad structure, but was almost double its size, forming a square with a side 600 feet in length. In front of the main facade were ten winged bulls of enormous dimensions, with a giant between each external pair. A hall nearly 200 feet in length connected two spacious courtyards, one of them affording access to the royal apartments overlooking the Tigris. The decorative scheme was in the most elaborate style of Assyrian art, reliefs arranged in compartments and bordered with horizontal bands representing the royal campaigns, the march of armies, and the countries through which they passed, their physical features, their fauna and flora, their temples and other monuments. In one of the galleries was illustrated the process of moving the colossal bulls from the quarries to the portals of the palace, the king, enthroned in state, witnessing the operation. Boats loaded with huge blocks of stone are hauled by cables, the men who drag them toiling under the lash of the taskmaster, like animals on a tow-path. The artificer then begins his work and when the image is finished, sledges and rollers are placed beneath. Then is built a platform of brick, to the summit of which the statue is dragged and placed in position, the overseers shouting their orders through speaking-trumpets and making good use of the whip.
Nineveh was a city of palaces, no less than ten being ascribed to Esarhaddon, of whom it is written in the second book of Kings: “It came to pass as Sennacherib was worshiping in the house of Nisroch, his god, that Adrammelech and Sharezer, his sons, smote him with the sword, and Esarhaddon, his son, reigned in his stead."
Of his architectural monuments few traces now remain; but from the ruins of the imperial mansion of Assurbanipal, the Sardanapalus of the Greeks, who had also his palace on the Kuyunjik mound, many sculptures have been preserved, their delicate and elaborate carving representing his victorious campaigns, with chariots overthrown and opposing cohorts at the point of the spear amid all the confusion of the battlefield. In a bas-relief in the British museum, entitled the "Feast of Assurbanipal," the monarch and his wife are represented as banqueting in a vine-clad arbor, the queen arrayed in fringed and jeweled robes and seated at the foot of a table from which the perfumes of incense mingle with the rich odors of exotic plants. Both are sipping wine from golden cups, and on the still night air fall the low, soft tones of the harp, all forming a picture in stone of Assyrian luxury. Of the library gathered by this sovereign, including thousands of tablets covered with inscriptions which have been deciphered by European scholars, a description is given in an earlier chapter of this work.
Nowhere probably in the ancient world were there so many imposing monuments as on these mounds of Kuyunjik and Nimrud. Surmounted with gayly colored towers and ziggurats, surrounded with spacious terraces faced with stone, approached by stately flights of steps, and built around courtyards rich in columnar and sculptural ornamentation, they were even more splendid of aspect than later were the classic temples of the Acropolis or the Capitoline hill. The city of Nineveh, as it appeared on the eve of its destruction by Cyaxeres the Mede, near the close of the seventh century, extended for three miles along the eastern bank of the Tigris, the royal quarter, apart from other enclosures, being surrounded with fortifications several miles in circumference, 30 feet in width, 100 in height, and with towers of equal altitude. Here and in the suburbs was the home of 600,000 people, including many thousands of captives employed in the building of palaces and bath, embankments, and artificial hills. In the mansions of the rich was furniture of elaborate design and costly workmanship; there were tables and chairs with carved and feet resembling those of lions; there were embroidered curtains of tapestries, and couches with canopies fashioned from the delicate fabrics of Babylonian looms. The wealth of the Orient was centered in this old-world metropolis, where were stored the products of the mine and the gold and silver gathered as tribute from many nations.
From the Assyrians Persia borrowed much of her earlier art, the winged animals that stood guard over the portals of royal palaces at Persepolis resembling closely those of Nineveh, while almost identical were their sculptures representing long lines of captives and tribute-bearers led in procession to the foot of the throne where the monarch was seated in the midst of his courtiers. In their architecture, however, there was one essential difference,—that stone was used for building material, the Assyrians and Babylonians using only wood and brick. Yet this change was not introduced until after the conquest of Egypt by Cambyses; for Asiatic nations were slow to imitate the Egyptians, who were the first builders in stone.
In the palace ruins of Persepolis are found the choicest specimens of Persian architecture and sculpture; for here it was that Darius and Xerxes reared their stately mansions from platforms approached by marble staircases and terraces adorned with statuary and fluted columns. Amid a group of majestic ruins named the Chihil menare, or forty minarets, now known as the Takhti or throne of Jamschid, stood the great hall of Xerxes with its hundred pillars, covering a rectangular space of more than 100,000 square feet, and both as to design and decoration the finest architectural monument of the Persian Empire. While many of the details resembled those of Assyrian palaces, the entire effect was superior, the scheme of ornamentation being intended to illustrate the divine attributes of the king, together with his conquests and earthly dignities. Less pretentious was the palace of Darius, built rather with a view to residence with substructure stairs, and doors fashioned in blocks of stone, and in front a columnar porch whence the living apartments were entered. Here, as in other buildings, bodyguards are filing in procession toward the throne, side by side with courtiers and nobles in flowing robes.
Though Persian palaces were as rich in plastic ornament as those of the Assyrians, their sculptures in relief were not used, as at Nineveh, for chronicling historic events but to portray the splendors of the royal household, its richly attired retinue, and the envoys and tribute-bearers from subject nations. The king is represented in various postures, at one time seated on his throne with scepter in hand while above him hovers, at another giving audience in Median garb, with curled hair and flowing beard, his guardian spirit. Elsewhere he is grasping by the horns a winged and fantastic monster which he kills with a single blow. Though inferior in vigor of expression and outline to earlier Assyrian sculpture, their statuary had more of dignity and thoughtful conception, combining in its highest development many of the best results of the art of central Asia. A peculiarity in their architectural embellishment was in the capitals of columns, which were in the form of kneeling animals with folded legs and slightly bended heads. In the slender, fluted, marble columns of the Ionic order, later adopted from the Greeks, the capitals often represented the heads and shoulders of unicorns or bulls, others being in the shape of cups from which depended petals or strings of beads.
After its conquest by Cyrus the elder, Babylon became the capital of the Persian monarchs, though at Susa, as at Persepolis, were many royal palaces similar in plan and proportions. Of those at Susa the ruins only of one have been explored, and these had so long been used as a quarry that the few which are left, except for the bases of pillars, are but of little value; yet beneath them are doubtless the buried monuments of long-descended dynasties which deeper excavations will disclose. Both bases and capitals were more elaborately carved than those at Persepolis, the latter being identical in design but altogether too large for the slender shaft. Inscriptions on the bases, executed by order of Artaxerxes Mnemon, read in part as follows: "Says Artaxerxes, the great king, the king of the countries, the king of this earth, Darius my ancestor, built this edifice, and afterward it was repaired by Artaxerxes, my grandfather," this being Artaxerxes Longimanus, the son and successor of Xerxes.
At Pasargadae, once the Persian capital, are the remains of a royal residence, on one of the pillars of which is a portrait with the inscription, “I am Cyrus, the king." Here also is the mausoleum of Cyrus, richly adorned with gold and tapestries until plundered by the Greeks in the time of Alexander the Great. It is a small gable-roofed structure, surrounded with pillars and resting on huge slabs of polished marble laid in terrace-like and pyramidal form.
Of the Median dynasty it has been said that no empire of such extent has left so few traces of its existence, the only sculptural monument found at Ecbatana, the capital, being a colossal but mutilated lion. Yet it was a great city, several miles in circumference, and with a palace and citadel surrounded with seven walls, each one over-topping the other by the height of its battlements. The palace appears to have been more magnificent than those of Susa or Persepolis; for as Polybius relates, it was paved with marble and roofed with silver plates, even the woodwork being coated with the precious metals.
Of Greek, Roman, and Moslem architecture and art, all of which left their impress on the land of Iran, nothing need here be said; for these will be treated in later portions of this work. Of the Parthians, who became masters of the country about the middle of the second century BC there is also much to remind us, especially at Ctesiphon, which they built as the winter residence of their monarchs and later made their capital. Here, during the Sasanian dynasty, was erected the Tak-i-Khosra, or throne of Khosru, in the shape of a palace hall, 400 feet long and 150 in height. In front was a stately portico of marble columns, and on the ceiling were represented in golden stars the signs of the zodiac. Worthy of mention also are the monuments erected by Shah Abbas of the Safi dynasty, whose capital was at Ispahan. Chief among them were his two palaces, profusely decorated with gilding, with mirrors ornamented in arabesque, and with pictures of historic episodes.
The modern capital of Ispahan, some thirty miles in circuit, is one of the most attractive of Persian cities, containing some of the finest and most richly decorated structures of oriental design, as the palace of the Seven Courts, erected in the midst of spacious grounds by the successor of Shah Abbas. Fronting on a central plaza nearly a mile in length, and glittering with ornaments of gold and silver is the great mosque of Mesjid-i- Shah, the most imposing of Persian temples, and near it is that of Luti Ollah, almost as striking and magnificent. Of more than fifty colleges the largest, named after one of the sultans, is approached through a portico of Tabriz marble, with pillars of fantastic design, the courtyard, flanked by a mosque with cupola and minarets, being entered through brazen gates finished in silver and adorned with floral designs. The bazaars of Ispahan, stocked with the richest of fabrics and other wares, extend for miles in almost unbroken line; yet the city is shorn of its old-time splendor, some of its streets being lined only with debris and some of its quarters entirely deserted.
Of Teheran, the former capital, the inner portion is still encircled by the wall of mud which protected it in the days when Nadir Shah returned from the sack of Delhi with the famous Peacock throne, now standing in the treasury of the imperial palace amid the crown jewels and the heirlooms of Persian sovereigns. In this palace dwelt the late Nasr-ed-deen, who through much European travel had acquired progressive ideas, and these he displayed by introducing western elegance into the home of oriental luxury, especially in his audience chamber, the most handsome of Persian halls. By his great-grandfather, Fath Ali, was erected a palace whose inner and private chamber was almost a museum of art, with historic and hunting scenes, and with portraits of all the chief officials of his realm, of envoys from foreign lands, and of the thirty sons of his many wives. But of the modern art of the Persians no mention need here be made; for it is in artistic decoration and manufactures that they most excel, and these will be treated elsewhere in connection with other oriental lands.
To build the causeway on which were hauled from Arabian quarries the stone required for the great pyramid of Cheops required the enforced labor of 100,000 men for a term of ten years, and to build the pyramid itself was the task of an additional score of years. The workmen were changed every three months and were, fed on garlic, onions, and bread. Yet, hard as was their lot it was no, worse than that of the artisan during the reign of the Pharaohs, as appears from the following extract from the descriptions of ancient writers: "The stone-cutter who seeks his living by working in all kinds of durable stone, when at last he has earned something, and his arms are tired he stops; but if at sunrise he remain at rest his legs are tied to his back. Shall I tell thee of the mason how he endures misery? Exposed to all the winds while he builds without any garment but a belt, he is worn out with work and becomes wearied all at once; he is utterly exhausted; for there is always a block to be dragged in this or that building, a block of ten cubits by six; there is always a block to be dragged to the scaffolding poles to which is fixed the bunch of lotus flowers on the completed structures. When his work is quite finished, if he has bread he returns home and during his absence his children have been beaten unmercifully by the tax-gatherer.”
The second pyramid of Giza, built as the mausoleum of Chephren, of the fourth Memphite dynasty, about 3100 BC as estimated by Lepsius, was little inferior in dimensions to the great pyramid, having a base 690 feet square and a height of 447 feet. It is not improbable, however, that its original size was much smaller, certain peculiarities pointing to enlargements, with the addition of a new sepulchral chamber.
Among the finest of Egyptian obelisks were those erected by Hatasu, daughter of Thothmes I, in front of the temple of Jupiter Ammon. They were red granite monoliths, plated in the center with gold and covered with most delicate hieroglyphics.
Heliopolis was probably the most ancient city of the Egyptians, or so at least, as Diodorus relates, it was accounted by its inhabitants. Among its temples was the "Mansion of the Prince;" that is to say of Ra, the sun, who was supposed to have reigned as king of Egypt, making this his dwelling place, Heliopolis being merely the Greek word for Pi-ra, or city of the sun, as it was named by Egyptian priests. Though a small place, it exercised no little influence on the development of civilization, especially through its college, where some of the most famous of Greek philosophers acquired their first knowledge of the natural sciences. All that now marks its site is a red granite obelisk on which is inscribed the name of Usurtesen I, a monarch of the twelfth Theban dynasty, who, according to Lepsius, reigned about 2300 BC.
Sais, on the Rosetta branch of the Nile, the residence of the Saite kings of the twenty-fourth dynasty, was noted for the learning of its priests, the ruins of massive walls marking the enclosure in which stood their sacred edifices. Near the town of El-Mansoorah are the remains of a temple of Isis, 600 feet in length and built entirely of granite which must have been conveyed in boats from a distance of several hundred miles. At the mounds of Tamis, not far from the site of Pelusium, are obelisks whose inscriptions tell of a large temple erected in the twelfth dynasty, and later embellished by Rameses II and his successors. At Bubastis was also an imposing temple of red granite, and here was held, in honor of the goddess of that name, the greatest of Egyptian festivals.
That few remains older than those which belong to the days of Nebuchadnezzar have been discovered on the site of Babylon is due to its destruction by Sennacherib, who, as he says, “pulled down, dug up, and burned with fire the town and the palaces, root and branch, destroyed the fortress and the double wall, the temples of the gods and the towers of brick, and threw the rubbish into the Araxes.” When Alexander entered the city, he found the temple of Bel a mass of shapeless ruins, as later were all its edifices; so that "Babylon the great" became merely a quarry for the building of towns in its neighborhood.
As there was no building stone in Babylonia, except that which was imported, brick was mainly used, as I have said, for building, and in this they were imitated by the Assyrians, notwithstanding that the latter had an abundance of excellent stone, with alabaster for ornamental purposes, while, with the use of the fragile material, their edifices fell rapidly into decay.
From the little that has come down to us of Babylonian art, it appears that they excelled in painting rather than in sculpture, as appears in the images portrayed in brilliant colors on their palace walls, contrasting with the sober tints on those of the Assyrians, who were strongest in sculptural effect.
The dove is a familiar figure in Assyrian and other bas-reliefs of Semiramis, who is often associated with the goddess Ishtar. According to a Greek legend which was accepted as historic until refuted by modern discoveries, Nineveh was founded by Semiramis, daughter of the fish-goddess, who reigned conjointly with her husband Ninus for more than 50 years, and after his death enlarged and beautified the cities of Babylon and Ecbatana. Her son conspiring against her, she was transformed into a dove, and flew away to the "Land of the Silver Sky," where was the mount of the gods.
The ruins on the great platform of Persepolis are among the finest in the world, pointing to the existence of many colossal buildings, with magnificent colonnades and vestibules, all fashioned of the grey marble contained in the mountain nearby. Among them were the palaces destroyed by Alexander, not in the frenzy of drunkenness, as described in Dryden's ode, but as an act of retaliation and for the effect it would produce.
It is related that some of the palace walls of Persian monarchs were covered with plates of gold, the canopy above the golden throne resting on pillars of gold inlaid with gems, while that of his couch was in the shape of a golden vine, precious stones of enormous value representing the grapes. But these are the statements of Greek writers, whose imagination, when discoursing of "the great kings,” often got the better of their discretion. The ancient Persians neglected home industries and arts; for, as they boasted, all the products of the earth were theirs by right of conquest, and thus it is that little but architectural remains have been unearthed from the sites of Persian cities.