The children of Babel they were as birds, and the bird-catcher thou wert he! Thou takest them in the net thou enclosest them, thou, decimatest, even Uruk, the town of the priestesses, and of the sacred courtesans. Gilgamesh saw the abyss, saw all that was kept secret and hidden, and made known the same to men even all that had come to pass before the deluge. This secret he tells to thee. There is a plant with flower like the hawthorn's, and whose thorns prick like the viper. Lay thine hand hold of the plant, break from it a branch and bear it with thee, and it will secure thee eternal youth. This is the plant of renovation; eat of it and the old become young; eat of it and repossess the vigor of thy youth. Of what use is renewed strength? And why rejoiceth my heart in my return to life? Leave me alone with those who come and go.
That with the creation of the world provision was made for the material well-being of those who were to inherit it, all systems of cosmogony are agreed. In the earliest of traditional theories may be traced the from the laboratories footsteps of wealth-producing powers, of nature's forces to the metal-bearing veins of the mountains and the caverned gems of ocean.
Read the story of Izdubar. Before the gods, before Lakhamu or Kishar, was Chaos. Above, where heaven is, was nothing, and nothing was below. All lay void in the depths of Apsu, the abyss, and Tiamat, the billowy sea, with intermingling elements, where was the germ of life but not life. When from these elements divine beings arose, after unnumbered eons, they were at first without form or personality. But in time were born Anu, god of the firmament, sunlit by day and fretted with stars by night; Inlil, lord of the earth, and Ramman, sovereign of the air, each evolving from himself a spouse from whom descendants followed, peopling the earth.
From the sun-god Shamash cometh the light which dissolves the darkness, and out of the amorphous develop shape and place. In the east, under a sky of silver, is the holy mountain, whose top is in the heavens; on the plains below are fruits and flowers, whatever is good for man; and these in reward for his piety.
And Shamash said, "They shall clothe thee in royal robes; they shall make thee great; they shall enrich thee, and the kings of the earth shall- kiss thy feet." And thus the goddess Ishtar. "Izdubar, be my husband, and I will be thy wife; pledge thy troth to me. Thou shalt drive a chariot of gold and precious stones; thy days shall be marked; kings and princes shall be subject to thee; they shall bring thee tribute from mountain and valley; thy flocks shall multiply; thy mules shall be fleet, and thine oxen strong under the yoke."
But he would not. And they sent against him the sacred bull, whom he slew. Then Ishtar cursed him.
In other systems of cosmogony, from that which Hesiod taught to that in which the New Zealanders believe, heaven and earth are the first of the gods, the authors of all things created. Thus, procreated by heavenly powers, man appears on the scene, though somewhat ill-fitting into place, being at once too great and too small; too great for his inexorable environment and narrowly restricted sphere, too small for his self-consciousness and his longing for immortality. In vain does he seek to fathom the unfathomable, to reach after the unattainable, inventing for himself beings supernal and infernal. Deities dance through his brain, angels descending from the sky and demons rising from the earth, as presently he finds himself afloat upon a sea of creeds and contentions. Yet all agree that after much tribulation there cometh a period of rest for the soul; that from the gods come the good things of life, with the capacity to enjoy; that from the gods come also poverty, pestilence, and the lightning which destroyeth. In the heavens the gods fight for supremacy; on earth men fight for riches. Yet for all there is enough; enough of air and sunshine, of food and drink and raiment; nor is there aught that can be increased or bettered by contention.
When, emerging from their primitive condition, men tired of roaming, they began to prepare for themselves fixed habitations, substituting for tents of skin, dwellings of sticks and mud. Then learning how to make bricks and hew stone, they built unto themselves cities, and settling therein the leaders availed themselves more and more of their superior craft and skill. Property gradually fell into the hands of the strongest and most able; pride of possession increased, and as wealth accumulated it was employed in the acquisition of further wealth. Thus it is that the existence of a community or of a nation begins almost simultaneously with the creation of wealth. And so with the people whom we find settled in the land of Shumir, or southern Chaldea, the Shinar of the Hebrews, where the biblical record of the human race for perhaps a thousand years is condensed into a single sentence—"And it came to pass, as they journeyed in the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar, and they dwelt there."
In tracing the origin and influence of wealth let us begin therefore with Chaldea, though apart from scriptural story there is little that points to Chaldea as the country where man first appears as an element in the procession of things created. In all the legends of the kings of Ur and Accad we search in vain for the name of Chaldea and if used by Berosus, priest of Bel, who translated into Greek the ancient records of his nation it is in a geographical rather than an ethnological sense. Ten kings, says Berosus, reigned before the deluge for some 430,000 years, the first one being Alorus of Babylon and the last Sisuthrus the Chaldean Noah and hero of the flood who after ruling for well nigh 65,000 years lingered a few thousand years longer, and was gathered to his father’s at a ripe old age. Of the eight dynasties which followed, four were Chaldean, the last including six monarchs whose united reign amounted but to four-score years and seven; for now we are in the sixth century of the pre-Christian era, and tradition is giving place to history. In the following century Herodotus is sojourning in Babylon, then under Persian domination, and adds his somewhat doubtful testimony to that of Berosus, whose works have perished, only a few fragments coming down to us in the form of quotations by later authorities, as in the writings of Eusebius, though within recent years collected in more systematic form. It was not until the ninth century that the Caldai, or Chaldeans, a somewhat insignificant tribe dwelling amid the marshes of the Persian Gulf, moved slowly northward until they became masters of the country which later bore their name.
Whence they came we know not; one thing at least appears from recently discovered inscriptions, that they belonged to none of the Noachian races as classified in the book of Genesis, but probably to one much older, and to one which escaped the flood. Yet, like many other nations they had their own story of a local deluge, their own theory of creation, with ages of lengthy living, as we have seen, far surpassing Hebraic tradition. Mighty warriors also they had and mighty hunters, as Urukh, the first wealthy Chaldean, so far as is known, by whom were built the great temple at Urukh, or Erech, now the mound of Warka, and the fortress of Ur, or Uru, his capital city then probably a seaport on the Persian gulf, near the mouth of the Euphrates, and later the southern seat of Chaldean learning. Of the latter, now some 150 miles inland, the buildings were of the rudest workmanship-sun-dried bricks uncemented and of irregular shape and size with inscriptions in rough, bold characters. Yet on the temple-towers of Ur we find the signet-cylinder of Urukh, that is to say, “light of the sun”, styling himself king of Ur and Accad, engraved with figures by no means devoid of art.
It was a fair and fertile land, this land of Shumir, a rich alluvial plain in the low-lying region between the Tigris and Euphrates with soil as bountiful as the banks of Nile. "Of all countries that we know," says Herodotus, "there is none so fruitful in grain. It makes no pretension indeed of producing the fig, the olive, the vine, or any other tree or plant of the kind; but in grain it is so fruitful as to yield commonly two hundred fold, and when the yield is at the highest, even three hundred fold. The blade of the wheat plant and of the barley plant is often four fingers in breadth. As for millet and sesame I shall not say as to the height they grow, though within my own knowledge; for what I have already written concerning the fruitfulness of Babylonia must seem incredible to those who have not visited the country. By Theophrastus, the disciple and successor of Aristotle, who wrote about a century later, it is stated that the grain fields of Chaldca and Babylonia were mown twice a year, and that farm animals were turned into the stubble to keep down the luxuriance of the growth; for otherwise the ear would not kernel. By Pliny a similar statement is made, and Berosus declares that wheat, barley, sesame, with many kinds of fruit grew wild in portions of Chaldea.
Brick-clay lay ready to hand, and of metals there were copper and iron, the latter serving, as did gold, for ornamental purposes. Stone, of which there was little, and that probably imported, was used mainly for carving and sculpture, some recently discovered fragments of the statue of an Accadian king being fashioned of a hard black granite. In the temples there is no trace of skilled architectural design; they were merely masses of brickwork, rising in tiers or stages, all differently colored, and each smaller than the one below, with a chamber at the top which served at once as shrine and observatory; for the Chaldeans were renowned astronomers, and of their system some records have come down to us through the translations of Berosus. A noticeable feature is the number and size of the cemeteries, especially the necropolis of Erech, giving rise to the supposition that the soil of Chaldea was regarded as sacred ground by neighboring countries, whose dead were taken there for burial in countless numbers.
Such a country was well adapted for the seat of primeval civilization, for a nursery of nations which afterward grew to greatness, as did the Hebrews and Assyrians. With a soil and climate that needed only labor and a settled order of things to produce all that man required, where, as in Egypt, moderate toil was requited with large returns, and with other advantages tending to wealth and culture, here it was but natural that the great civilizing power of the ancient world should make its home. As to the origin and development of this civilization, much has been brought to light within recent years through the deciphering of Babylonian and Assyrian inscriptions, much as to social conditions, as to industries and arts, science and literature.
In Accadian vases and lamps is remarkable symmetry of form, and though for the most part made by hand, in some there are traces of the potter s wheel. In the making of pottery they were unquestionably skilled, and bas-reliefs in terra-cotta have been unearthed at Larsam, where was the House of the Sun. In the cutting and carving of gems they were also expert, some of the figures being so minute as to suggest the use of the magnifying glass. At Ur, now Mugheir, a leaden pipe has been discovered; bowls of bronze are numerous, especially in the tombs, and for the most part deftly fashioned; but except in the making of golden ornaments the Chaldeans were not adepts in metallurgic art. Stone implements were still in use, though utensils and weapons of bronze and copper were also plentiful. To Gibil, the God of Fire the following was one of many invocations: “It is thou who mixest tin and copper; it is thou who purifiest silver and gold.” Since in the making of bronze, in which form the metals were first employed, the quality of the product depends on the proper admixture of the ingredients, it was but natural that the fire god should be held in high esteem.
To the Chaldeans coined money was unknown, business transactions being conducted by barter, or by the exchange of commodities for a given quantity of precious metals. Taxes were also paid in gold or silver, in lead or copper, fashioned into bars or ornaments; but more often in grain or fruit, in wine or oil, in slaves or live-stock. Administrators appointed for the various industries gathered the tribute into storehouses, reserving one portion for themselves, another for those employed on public works, and a third for the king, the remainder swelling the reserve that was held in the treasury, to be used only in cases of urgent necessity. Though tradesmen were plentiful, they were seldom rich, most of the shopkeepers preparing their own goods for sale, with the assistance of slaves or apprentices. Each artisan trained his children in his special craft, and these again instructed theirs, thus forming hereditary guilds, or tribes as they were termed, as of carpenters, brick makers, and workers in stone and metal.
Rents were high in Chaldean cities, and in addition the cost of repairs fell on the lessee, leases being usually granted only for a twelve month, but of vacant land for a term of years, at the end of which all improvements reverted to the landlord. As to structures in the wealthier of these cities, it is probable that they differed but little from those which are found at the present day in regions but little affected by European civilization. In Uruk the remains of houses of the better class show that they were made of brick cemented with bitumen with low arched doorways, and lighted by small openings in the upper portion of the walls. Within were small rectangular chambers, their flat or vaulted roofs supported by trunks of trees. The furniture was similar to that of the royal palaces already described. In the courtyard was an oven for baking bread and meats, with flat stones for grinding corn, the kitchen utensils consisting of earthen vessels dishes and plates, wine and water jars, and a few large pans of copper.
The dwellings of the rich were surrounded with gardens and somewhat removed from the squalid residence and business centers, with their huts of clay and reeds, their narrow, winding, refuse-littered streets, their muddy lanes and alleys, where in crowded shops and bazaars each trade had its special quarter, while towering far above this nondescript collection of buildings were temples crowned with gilded ziggurats.
The royal palaces of Chaldea, like those of the earlier Pharaohs, served also as citadels, with walls substantial enough to withstand a siege. They were built on artificial mounds of brick for the one at Lagash, for instance, which was occupied at least until the opening of the Christian era, rising 40 feet above the plain, and accessible only by a steep and narrow staircase. It was a squat and cumbersome structure, two stories in height, and with little attempt at decoration, though this was common enough in more pretentious edifices. Three of the rooms were used as a storehouse or magazine; others were for officials, and the monarch and his household contented themselves with five or six chambers at most. They were lighted only from the door and from a small hole cut in the ceiling, and the walls were covered with plaster, on which, as on the panels, were rudely painted scenes from mythology or civil life. Even the king s apartments were scantily furnished-four-legged stools, wooden stands for lamps and wooden chests for linen and wearing apparel, mats of plaited osiers, and low beds with the thinnest of mattresses, the only articles suggestive of luxury being a few arm-chairs with feet resembling lions' claws, probably imported from Egypt. In other palaces, however, as in that of Uruk, was more of ornamentation, though in none were the costly draperies, the mosaic panels and pavements, and the woodwork of cedar inlaid with gold so frequently traced in the ruins of Chaldean temples. There was also a noble class among the Chaldees, or at least a wealthy aristocracy, standing almost in the same relation to the monarch as did the great lords whom we read of in the days of the Pharaohs, while in both are suggested the feudal system of the middle ages. Their possessions, as well as their titles, if such they had, were bestowed as a reward for military services, the former often including not only gold, grain, cattle, and slaves, but conquered towns and provinces. Slaves were numerous and widely distributed, nearly all families having one or more; for a male could be purchased for ten shekels of silver and a female for less than half that amount. While unrecognized by law and counted as mere cattle by the head, they were for the most part kindly treated. They could marry and rear a family, apprentice their children, and were even established in business by their owners, who allowed them a share of the profits. They were employed as clerks and stewards, as overseers, superintendents, and scribes, the last of these occupations being held in lighter esteem than among the Egyptians. Not infrequently they were the confidential servants of the household. They could accumulate the means with which to purchase their freedom, and this was often bestowed on them as a reward for faithful service, where after they enjoyed all the rights of citizenship. Thus in the treatment of their bondsmen the Chaldeans appear in favorable contrast with other nations of antiquity.
By early writers the name of Babylonia is commonly applied to the land of Shumir, more so even than that of Chaldea, while in speaking of the national religion either word is used, and at times the term Chaldeo-Babylonion; nor is this to be wondered at, considering that the two countries were contiguous, the distance from Ur of the Chaldees to Babylon, or as in the Semitic, Babili, that is to say "the gate of the gods," not exceeding 50 or 60 leagues. No less fertile was Babylonia than the plain of Shinar, with which in scripture it is identified, its fields of waving grain interspersed with pleasant gardens and groves of palms, while in the metropolis were crowded marts of commerce with merchants hurrying to and fro; for here was largely concentered the wealth of the ancient world. And behold it now! "The hindermost of the nations, a wilderness, a dry land, and a desert, a possession for the bittern and pools of water," is today this primeval region of corn and oil and wine, its once fertile vales over spread with moldering debris, and the channel of its irrigating streams choked with the drifting sands.
Many were the names applied to ancient Babylon, among them Gan-Duniyas, or the fortress of Duniyas, whence, as Rawlinson suggests, the etymology of the scriptural Gan-Eden or Garden of Eden. For many centuries it ranked lowest among the four cities which formed the metropolis of Shumar, and it was not until its conquest by Khammuragas, a Cassite or Elamite prince, that it became the capital city, never afterward losing its supremacy except under Assyrian domination. By Hammurabi, who drove out the Elamite invaders. Accad and Shumir, with their time-honored cities and temples, were gathered into a united kingdom with Babylon at its head. Many temples he restored and many new ones he built, devoting himself also to public works of utility, with special regard to agricultural development. Inundations were frequent during the earlier part of his reign, and as a remedy was constructed the canal which bore his name, and later was termed the Royal Canal of Babylon, whence numberless branches spread throughout the plain their fertilizing moisture. No boastful language is that which appears on the inscription: "I have caused to be dug the Nahr-Hammurabi, a benediction for the people of Shumir and Accad. I have changed desert plains into well watered lands. I have given them fertility and made them the abode of happiness. It was the greatest undertaking of the age, and even today would not be lightly esteemed as an engineering feat.
After Hammurabi reigned his son, and then came further Elamite irruptions, followed by Assyrian supremacy, and this again by Persian domination. In the heavy tribute exacted by Persian monarchs, amounting to some $1,200,000 a year in silver with a much larger contribution in kind, is one of the strongest evidences of wealth. The riches accumulated by Persian satraps were enormous, larger even than in the richest provinces allotted to Roman pro-consuls. Herodotus, for instance, mentions a certain viceroy or governor who collected from his satrapy nearly two bushels of silver a day. As a further proof of the fertility of the soil may be mentioned the fear of Artaxerxes Mnemon after the battle of Cunaxa, that the Greeks would settle in the valley of the Tigris where, as Xenophon relates, could be produced with little labor all that was needed for the wants of man.
It was in the days of Nebuchadnezzar and his immediate successors that Babylon developed into the vast metropolis whose remains are still among the wonders of the age, although but a portion of the original ruins, which long were used as a quarry for the building of other towns. Several times plundered by Sargon and razed to the ground by Sennacherib, it became under this monarch the queen city of western Asia and of the world. His wars at an end some time remained to him before his reason was overthrown, and this he used in completing the great works begun during his many years of conquest. The spoils of war afforded abundant means and captives from many nations—Phoenicians, Jews, Egyptians, Syrians, Moabitcs—were settled by thousands in the neighborhood of Babylon, thus furnishing a plentiful supply of labor, the cost of which was merely a scanty dole of food.
By those who came after him the city was further enlarged and beautified, especially by Nabu-nahid, who probably constructed the great walls and hydraulic works ascribed by Herodotus to Queen Nitocris. The latter, as is related, built for herself a tomb aloft above one of the principal gates of the city, and upon it engraved the following inscription: "If any of my successors, the monarchs of Babylon, shall be in need of money, let him open this sepulcher and take whatsoever he requires. But let him beware of opening it except in case of necessity, for then shall it turn to his disadvantage." The tomb was not disturbed until Darius ascended the throne; but to him it appeared as a grievance that the wealth deposited therein should remain without an owner. Opening the sepulcher, he found there—of treasure indeed, nothing, but close to the corpse an inscription to this effect: "If thou hadst not been over greedy for lucre, over covetous of riches, thou wouldst not have molested the depository of the dead.
It was about the year 518 that Darius entered Babylon after quelling a revolt of the Babylonians, for the province was one of the many which were his by right of inheritance. But while one of the ablest of Persian generals and of Persian rulers, we cannot accept his own statement as to his easy victory; “that he won a great battle at Zanzana on the Euphrates, and pursuing the pretender to Babylon, took the city and slew him there." Unfortunately for the monarch's pride, there is sufficient evidence that the resistance was one and desperate, lasting for some twenty months, and then perhaps ended only by treachery. During this time so fierce was the famine that as Herodotus relates, in order to reduce the number of people to be fed, all the women were put to death, except for the mother of each household and one to prepare such food as could be procured.
The Babylonians had profited doubtless by their experience a score of years before, when during the days of Belshazzar, while city and palace were given up to revelry as described in the Book of Daniel, their capital was taken by Cyrus the elder, who reigned there in state almost until the time of his death. In his Cyropaedia, Zenophon thus in part describes a royal procession to the sacred enclosures, soon after the capture of Babylon and while in this account of Cyrus' younger days truth is often sacrificed to effect, it is probable that the description is not unworthy of credit. “Now we will relate how Cyrus for the first time marched out of his palace; for the majesty of this procession seems to me to have been one of those pageants that made his government not liable to contempt. First, therefore, before he made this procession, he called unto him all those, both Persians and others, that were possessed of commands, and distributed to them Median robes, and it was then that the Persians first put on the Median robe.
This done, he told them that he intended to march in procession to those portions of ground that had been chosen and set apart for the gods, and to make a sacrifice accompanied by them. “Attend therefore at the gates,” he said,” before the rising of the sun, and form yourselves as orders shall be given you."
On the following morning all things were in readiness. There were ranks of people on each side of the way, and within these ranks none but men of great dignity were allowed to come. There stood first before the gates 4,000 guards, drawn up four in front; 2,000 on each side of the gates, with chariots arranged in the same manner. When the gates of the palace were opened, first there were led a number of bulls, very beautiful beasts, four abreast, devoted to Jove and to such other of the gods as the magi directed. Next there were horses led for sacrifice to the sun. After these came a white chariot, with its perch of gold, adorned with a crown or wreath around it, and sacred to Jove; then a white chariot sacred to the sun, followed by a third chariot, its horses adorned with scarlet and golden trappings, and behind it men bearing a large altar on which was the sacred fire. Presently Cyrus himself appeared wearing a jeweled turban and diadem, a purple robe, and a vest of purple mingled with white, a mixture which no one else was allowed to wear. All the people paid him adoration, and never before had this been done by Persians. When the chariot of Cyrus advanced, 4,000 of the guards marched in front, and the staff officers followed after in rich apparel and with javelins in their hands. Then were led the horses belonging to Cyrus, with bridles of gold and coverings wrought with raised work in stripes; and there were about 200. In the entire procession there were 70,000 or 80,000 horsemen, Persian, Median, Armenian, Hyrcanian, and Caducian, with hundreds of chariots driven four abreast sacrifices. On reaching the sacred enclosures were offered, bulls and horses being burned entire and other victims slain at the direction of the magi. Then came horse-racing, Cyrus himself taking part in the Persian race, and winning an easy victory, or rather being allowed to win it.
On an inscription confirmed by the statement of Berosus is mentioned the boast of Nebuchadnezzar that in fifteen days he built the great wall of Babylon, inclosing a city 42 miles in circumference, according to Ctesias, physician to Artaxerxes Mnemon, and 56 miles as Herodotus would have us believe. Accepting for the moment the estimate of the former, which is confirmed by Strabo and Curtius, this would make the city more than 100 square miles in extent or about four times the size of London. But of this area, probably less than one—eighth was covered with buildings, many of which were three to four stories in height, the remainder consisting largely of gardens, parks, and orchards, with an abundance of vacant land. The outer wall-for there were two while Ctesias speaks of a third—is said to have been 85 feet in width or wide enough for a four-horse chariot to turn, and according to Herodotus 335 feet in height. While this is not impossible, —for in Xenophon s time, some two centuries later, the ruins of the walls of Nineveh with their surmounting towers were still 150 feet high, —we must accept with due allowance the stories of "the father of history," with his well known propensity for exaggeration, his statements, moreover, being largely derived from ciceroni. For materials, bricks were made of the clay dug from the moat on the outer side, and of this must have been used the equivalent of 500,000,000 cubic feet of masonry, or at least three times that number of bricks. The gates were of brass and of these there were 100, with brazen posts and lintels. The banks of the Euphrates, which ran through the heart of the metropolis, were lined with quays, the two portions being connected by a drawbridge supported on piers of stone.
On the eastern bank of the river was the great palace of Nebuchadnezzar, styled the Admiration of Mankind, and of this it was that Daniel wrote, after speaking of the year of grace granted him "to break off his sins by righteousness, and his iniquities by showing mercy to the poor." “At the end of twelve months, continues the prophet, ''he walked in the palace of the kingdom of Babylon. The king spake and said, is not this 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?" But in that same hour, as we read, the destroyer of Jerusalem was driven forth from men to dwell with the beasts of the field to eat from the dust from which he came and after some lucid intervals to return to the dust to which mankind returneth.
The palace was also surrounded with walls, the outer one more than two leagues in circuit as Diodorus relates. Within this space were the famous hanging gardens of Babylon, not least among the seven wonders of the world, constructed it is said, to gratify the monarch's wife, who, wearied of gazing on the flat Babylonian plains, longed for something to remind her of her native Median hills. They were fashioned in a series of arches or terraces supported by pillars, only the top one probably containing flowers and shrubbery, with sparkling fountains and an artificial grove. To Nebuchadnezzar is also attributed the reservoir near Borsippa, a suburb of Babylon on the western side of the Euphrates. It was at least 40 miles square, more than 100 feet in depth, and intended for irrigation purposes, but first to draw off the waters of the river while its bed was being lined with brick. Here also was a temple of Bel, partially erected by one of the ancient monarchs and completed by Nebuchadnezzar. But the great temple of Bel, or Belus, now the mound of Babil, its ruins identified with the tower of Babel also the native name of the city itself—Babylon being used only by the Greeks—was in the metropolis, and this also the monarch repaired and beautified, all the bricks which bear inscriptions being stamped with the legend of Nebuchadnezzar. It was in the form of a pyramid, built in stages, and on its summit was a shrine with a golden image of the god 40 feet high, a golden table of similar size, with ornaments, sacred vessels, and other objects which bore testimony to the wealth of ancient Babylon.
The Babylonians were essentially a religious people, and their architectural monuments were for the most part of a religious character, nearly all the great buildings whose ruins remain being temples, while the inscriptions engraved by their princes, so far as deciphered, relate almost exclusively to the worship of the gods. As to industries and arts, what has been said of the Chaldeans applies also in a measure to their northern neighbors, the history of both being merged at times into one. Especially were they skilled in the manufacture of textile fabrics and pottery, their carpets, cloths, and figured, for instance, raiment being greatly prized. In the Jewish record, it is related how Achan coveted a Babylonish garment and a wedge of gold, found among the ruins of Jericho, and lost his life thereby. In their metal work and engraving of gems are evidences of skill and care. They excelled in painting rather than in sculpture, covering their walls with figures depicted in vermilion, while their love of bright colors is further exemplified in the hanging gardens of Babylon.
The luxury of the Babylonians during the later empire is a favorite theme with writers both sacred and profane. Their young men, says Ezekiel, made themselves ''as princes to look at, exceeding in dyed attire upon their heads.” Their dining tables groaned under the burden of gold and silver, and in costliness and wealth of decorations their palaces far exceeded those of all contemporary empires. At the historic banquets of Nebuchadnezzar, music was a recognized accompaniment of the feast, bands of performers entering with the wine and entertaining the guests with concerted pieces. For the most part the performers were women, often as many as 150 in number, some of them singing and others playing on the pipe, the harp, the psaltery. Many were doubtless Hebrews, as we read in the Psalms, "They that carried us away captive demanded of us a song, saying sing us one of the songs of Zion." Rich perfumes were exhaled from exotic plants, while the glitter of plate, the figured tapestries, and the brilliant robes of the guests added to the attractions of a scene too often marred by excess.
In touching on the annals of Chaldea and Babylon I have spoken in part of those of Assyria; for the history of all the three countries is more or less interwoven. Not only in an historical, but in a geographical and ethnological sense, the entire region lying between the Euphrates and Tigris forms but a single country, and this is fully recognized by the writers of antiquity, especially by Greek historians, who use the word Assyria somewhat vaguely in speaking of the series of empires that succeeded each other in the region between the two great rivers of western Asia. The Hittites, whom Ragozin terms the natural foes of the Assyrians, were the first to suffer from their warlike and ambitious neighbors, Asshur-Uballit conducting expeditions against them early in the fourteenth century. Other expeditions followed, and as booty and increase of population attended each successive conquest, new settlements arose in the vicinity of the ancient capitals of Asshur and Nineveh. By Shalmaneser I was founded, probably in 1300, the city of Kalao, whose ruins Layard unearthed at Nimrud, this also becoming a capital and the favorite residence of Assyrian monarchs. Thus the three cities were separated only by a few miles, and connected as they were by the waters of the Tigris, appeared like the several quarters of a huge metropolis, their palaces and monuments erected by myriads of captives, the cost of whose labor, though little more than a scanty dole of food, representing a fabulous total. It was about this date that Babylon first succumbed to the Assyrian arms as appears on a signet ring bearing the name and titles of the conqueror, Tukulti-nineb, son of Shalmaneser I and conqueror of Kar-Dunyash.
While less fertile than Babylonia, Assyria was larger in size, and not without productive and well-watered valleys and plains. In mineral wealth it far excelled its southern neighbor; for here were iron, copper, and lead; silver and antimony; sulfur, alum, and salt; bitumen, naphtha, and petroleum. It was peopled by an industrious community, one given to the useful arts, and especially to manufactures, in which they had probably no rivals in the ancient world.
Says Rawlinson in his Five Monarchies, speaking of the reign of Asshurizirpal in the ninth century BC, through whose conquests and spoils the empire waxed rich and prosperous: "The metallurgy which produced the swords, sword-sheaths, daggers ear-rings, necklaces, armlets, and bracelets of this period; the coach-building which constructed the chariots; the saddlery which made the harness of the horses; the embroidery which ornamented the robes, all prove that the Assyrians were already a great and luxurious people, that most of the useful arts not only existed among them but were cultivated to the highest pitch, and that in dress, furniture, jewelry, etc., they were not very much behind the moderns."
Engineering was also well understood as, appears in numerous tunnels and aqueducts, and especially in the irrigating canal at Calah, or Nimrud, where Asshurizirpal erected the Northwest palace and its adjacent temples as described by Layard. The ground plan consisted of a large, open court surrounded with long narrow galleries, and with small square chambers opening into each other. In these galleries are long rows of kings, their figures sculptured in the most finished style of Assyrian art with profiles sharply outlined and with remarkable accuracy of delineation. There are also animal sculptures; winged lions and bulls at some of the entrances and elsewhere hunting scenes and scenes of the battle and the siege. Here in truth is expressed the genius of Nimrud, "the mighty hunter before the Lord," hunter both of men and beasts; for the name of the gods, whether true or false, has ever been invoked, as today it is, to sanctify the despot's cruelty.
Other palaces arose on the platform where now stands the Nimrud mound, each one intended to outdo the others, and all rich in wood carvings, in sculptures, paintings, and gildings, while ziggurats, shrines, and obelisks added to the embellishments of the city, and above all, the lofty temple-tower of Nin, the Assyrian Hercules, gave emphasis to the architectural scheme of these sacred and palatial edifices. In architecture, in the fine arts, and in the application of art to objects of common utility, the Assyrians borrowed largely from the Babylonians, though using instead of brick the building stone which lay ready at hand, with sculptured alabaster for ornamental purposes. In gem cutting they excelled, and in the potters ware unearthed at Nineveh are specimens of ceramic art which rival the Greeks, their lamps especially resembling those which have been found in the tombs of Athens and Syracuse. Their porcelains and colored glass were articles of commerce, the latter with tints that remind us of Venetian ware; in the inlaying of metals they were remarkably expert, and from them the artists of the day have learned the method of covering iron with bronze.
Like the Jews they were essentially a commercial people, their trade, with Nineveh as its center, extending in the seventh century from the coast of Cornwall, where they traded for tin, as did the Phoenicians, eastward to Hindustan, whence came the ivory found at Mugheir, the Ur of the Chaldees. Unlike the Chaldeans, however, their traffic was mainly overland, at least in the earlier period; for it is not until the reign of Sennacherib that mention is made of a fleet. Interest on money was three or four per cent per annum, the latter being the maximum rate and probably fixed by law. Payments were usually in bars of metal, but were also made in kind, and for small amounts in coined money, of which a few specimens still remain. Conquest added largely to the wealth of the Assyrians, which was gathered from various countries. On a black marble obelisk, discovered by Layard, setting forth the seven and twenty campaigns of Shalmaneser II, who in the year 585 succeeded his father, Asshurizirpal, are bas-reliefs representing the king as receiving the tribute of foreign lands, most of it consisting of gold silver and copper in bars and cubes, of goblets fabrics and elephants' tusks. There were also animals of many species; horses and Bactrian camels, the antelope and stag, the lion and wild bull, the monkey and baboon, and "strangest of all" says Rawlinson, "the rhinoceros and the elephant." By Sennacherib it is related that in a single foray he gathered from the tribes of the Euphrates 7,200 horses, 5,230 camels, 11,000 mules, 120,000 oxen, and 800,000 sheep. Other kings speak of their captured animals as "countless as the stars of heaven," and of numberless vessels of gold and silver from the temples of many nations.
In and around Nineveh, long the political and commercial center of Asia, was largely gathered the wealth of Assyria, its neighborhood being rich in mines of iron, copper and lead though the gold so lavishly displayed in Assyrian palaces came either from tribute or from distant mountain regions. Second only to the monumental marvels of the Nile was the architectural grandeur of the cities on the upper Tigris, and especially of the metropolis. The latter fronted three miles on the river, and was surrounded by an inner line of fortifications eight miles in circumference, —this probably for the royal quarter, and with numerous enclosures for suburbs or adjacent towns. We cannot, however, accept the statement of Sennacherib that to make the circuit of Nineveh was a three days journey, nor that of Diodorus who describes it as a city with 135 square miles of area. More accurate is the estimate of the historian placing the height of its walls at 100 feet, with towers twice that height, wide enough for three chariots to drive abreast, and with colossal figures at the entrances elaborately carved in stone. The wails were huge embankments of earth, faced with hewn limestone, and the towers of sun-dried brick. Within them and in the outskirts were in the days of Jonah 600.000 people, the temples, palaces, baths, and artificial hills, each of the last requiring the labor of 10,000 men for three years, attesting to the wealth and luxury of the inhabitants. But property was concentrated in the hands of a few, the common people being trained as with other nations of antiquity to administer to the wants of the rich. Mainly by the enforced labor of captives was built the palace of Sennacherib, covering eight acres, and raised on a foundation 80 feet above the ground.
Let us imagine ourselves in this old world metropolis, about the middle of the seventh century, when, during the reign of Asshurbanipal, presently to be mentioned, Nineveh was in the zenith of her glory, all unconscious that her fall was so near at hand. It is a beautiful spring morning, and the surrounding plain is covered with luxuriant but short-lived vegetation, resplendent beneath the bright rays of the orient sun. Here and there are groves of oleander and myrtle, and soft vernal airs, caressing with velvet touch, are filled with the perfume of flowers and the rich odor of citron trees. Entering the city gates, above which lofty towers cast their waning shadows across the windowless walls of houses surmounted by cone-shaped roofs, we find the people coming forth from their dwellings, each attired according to his station, the laborer in a single garment, bare-headed and bare of foot, the man of wealth in sandals and tunic handsomely fringed. Entering one of the mansions of the rich, we find there costly furniture of chaste design and finished workmanship; chairs and tables with feet resembling the feet of lions or the hoofs of gazelles; couches canopied with the choicest fabrics of Babylonian looms, and curtains of figured tapestry. On a spacious and elevated platform on the western bank of the Tigris is the royal palace of Asshurbanipal, and nearby the still more magnificent palace of Sennacherib, surrounded with parks and hanging gardens. Guarding their portals are colossal figures of lions and bulls, winged and with human heads; the doorways are arched and elaborately sculptured, and the courtyards paved in artistic and variegated patterns. Within, the monarch, arrayed in embroidered robes, is seated in his carved chair of ivory and gold; in his hand a golden scepter, on his head a tiara glittering with golden rosettes, and on his breast an ornament bearing the sacred emblems. Behind him an attendant supports a fringed and curtained canopy, and in front is the grand vizier, awaiting in reverential attitude the royal orders.
Among other cities may be mentioned Khorsabad, founded by Sargon, a military leader whose successful campaigns raised him to the highest power, so that for two years he held court in Babylon, where he was crowned as king. To this point, some ten miles north of Nineveh, it was his intention to remove the site of the Assyrian metropolis with its royal residence, and on the walls of the palace which he built, on clay cylinders, and on tablets backed with gold and silver discovered amid the ruins, is told the story of this ancient pile erected more than 2,500 years ago. In this "palace of incomparable splendor erected for the abode of his royalty,” many kinds of valuable timber were used, the beams encased with enameled tiles; and there was a spiral staircase the design for which was borrowed from a Syrian temple. "My palace," says Sargon, "contains gold and silver, and vessels of both these metals; iron produced from many mines; stuffs dyed with saffron; robes of blue and purple; pearls, sandal-wood, and ebony; skins of sea-calves, horses, mules, camels, and booty of every description.”
Another powerful sovereign who reigned about this time, though as to the exact date there is some uncertainty, was Naramsin, ruler over "the four Houses of the World.”1 At Sippara he built a temple of the Sun, of which no traces now remain, except for a few small objects which attest the skill of Babylonian workmen, for Babylon was one of his possessions.
Among them are an alabaster vase which bears his name, and a mace-head of marble beautifully veined, dedicated to the sun-god by Sharganisharali, the completed name of Sargon. But more remarkable than either is the seal-cylinder of Sargon, one of the finest specimens of oriental engraving. From vessels whence issue the streams that flood the country, Gilgames, the Chaldean Noah, is watering the sacred ox whose huge crescent-shaped horns are held back so that a portion of the water may fall into his mouth.
By Sennacherib, son and successor of Sargon, Judea was subjugated as mentioned in Isaiah's prophecies and the book of Kings. "Now in the fourteenth year of king Hezekiah did Sennacherib, king of Assyria, come up against all the fenced cities of Judah and took them.” As ransom for Jerusalem were paid, as related in the scriptural account, 300 talents of silver and 30 talents of gold, or as stated by Sennacherib himself, 800 talents of silver and 30 of gold. Whatever the amount, it appears to have sorely taxed the resources of the Jews. "And Hezekiah gave him all the silver that was found in the house of the Lord and in the treasures of the king's house. At that time did he cut off the gold from the doors of the house of the Lord and from the pillars." From Judea more than 200,000 persons were carried into captivity, the booty including a countless multitude of horses, asses and camels, oxen and sheep. In the reign of Asshurbanipal, grandson of Sennacherib and the Sardanapalus of the Greeks, the glory of the Assyrian empire reached its culminating point, as did that of Rome in the days of Augustus Caesar. His wars were incessant and chief among them was his campaign against Tirhakah, king of Ethopia, for the possession of Egypt. Thebes he captured during his first campaign in 667-66, and again a year or two later; for more than once the Thebaid rose in rebellion, as did many Egyptian cities of which says their conqueror, “I left not one." Thebes was treated with extreme severity. " They took possession of the whole city,” declares the king, who was not present in person, "and sacked it to its foundations. They carried of f the gold, the silver, the precious stones, all the treasures of the palace, too great to be computed by accountants.” Thebes was at this time one of the richest cities in the world, and the treasure secured from this and other conquests was enormous, filling the storehouses of Nineveh with the products of Asia, and causing its name to be feared throughout the ancient world. But with wealth came luxury, sapping the strength of the nation, and further intensifying the sensuality characteristic of Assyrian monarchs and grandees. Never before were the royal palaces of such magnificent proportions; never before had they been so richly adorned with sculpture; never had they shone so brightly with gold and silver. At the royal banquets, especially when the monarch returned from his wars with countless store of treasure, the festivities, held in the grandest of the sculptured halls, were the climax of barbaric splendor. The tables glittered with vessels of gold and silver containing the most luscious of Assyrian fruits. The richest of meats were served from platters of gold, and from vessels containing the choicest of wines were filled the golden beakers of the guests. On other occasions the king would sup in his garden, with only the queen as companion. Here he reclined on a softly cushioned couch, in his right hand the sacred f lower of Egypt, and his left elbow resting on a figured cushion or pillow, a fashion later imitated by the Greeks. At the foot of a table on which incense was burning sat the queen, the fairest of Assyrian women, resplendent in jeweled robes of elaborate pattern. As from golden cups the wine was sipped, the soft low tones of the harp were wafted on the still night air, filled with the languorous odors of exotic plants.
Nor are there wanting evidences of a higher culture. Art was freely patronized, and from the Chaldeans and Babylonians had been acquired some knowledge of mathematical and astronomical science, while to the Assyrian court had been attracted learned men from many nations. But that which was most remarkable was the possession of a grammatical literature such as we find among no other people of antiquity, save in the Greek and Sanskrit. Of the library found in the palace of Asshurbanipal, Layard gives an interesting account; and while libraries existed before this date, as among the Egyptians and Hindus, there were none so comprehensive, or of such importance, or none at least of which any record remains. It was dedicated to the god and goddess of knowledge, and was probably a public library, as appears from an inscription on the more important books, if such we may call these tablets of clay covered with cuneiform inscriptions, though among them were found the impressions of seals which had also been attached to documents fashioned of papyrus or parchment. The characters, though sometimes so minute as to be almost illegible, are clearly defined, and were traced by a sharp instrument on the moist clay, just as the Romans made use of the stylus to impress their letters on wax.
They related largely to descriptions of wars and expeditions, with royal decrees, calendars, prayers, and lists of gods and of sacred days. But there were also scientific treatises on law and religion, with a collection of hymns bearing strong traces of Hebrew psalmody. In a geographical dictionary are mentioned all the countries and cities, the rivers and mountains familiar to the Assyrians, and a fragment has been preserved of a synchronous history of Assyria and Babylon in parallel columns. Finally there is an Assyrio-Babylonian grammar in encyclopedic form, containing among its parts the conjugation of verbs and a list of Assyrian synonyms. Many of the tablets are covered on both sides; all are numbered like the leaves of a book, and were doubtless arranged along the walls in the order of numbering.
Asshurbanipal is the last of the great Assyrian monarchs, and during the latter year of his reign the kingdom shows signs of dissolution. About the year 652 a general revolt is headed by his own brother, whom he had appointed viceroy of Babylonia; for, though delivered from the yoke of Sargon, that country was again subdued by Sennacherib, and long had striven in vain to free itself from bondage. With Babylonia, Elam, and Arabia, Palestine and Egypt make common cause, and though the last only succeeds in recovering independence, the end of Assyrian domination is near at hand. The death of Asshurbanipal in 625, though placed by some at an earlier date, is the signal for another insurrection. Babylonia and other provinces what at length shake off the yoke. Shorn of its grandeur, remains of the empire is left alone to struggle for a mere existence, under Sarachus, the last of its kings, and the prophecy of Jonah is at length fulfilled: "Yet forty days" and Nineveh shall be destroyed. The seat of power is transferred to her southern rival where under Nebuchadnezzar, as we have seen, it becomes the mistress of the world.
It was about the year 607 that Nineveh was captured and burned by the Medes under Cyaxeres, aided by the Babylonians. At a much earlier date more than 2,000 years before Christ, if we can believe Berosus Babylonia itself, together with a portion of Assyria, fell under the Median yoke, eight Iranian monarchs reigning for a period of 224 years. Of the earlier Iranian or Medo-Persian monarchy there is little information that little being furnished almost entirely by Ctesias and Herodotus, both of whom wrote long after its fall, both telling their story largely from the statements of Orientals while the narrative of Ctesias though the more reliable of the two, has been only partially preserved by later writers, especially by Diodorus. In the days of Cyaxeres the empire was in the zenith of its power. Persia, then a secluded mountain country bordering on the gulf, had been conquered by his predecessor, Phraortes, who added to his domain one Asiatic region after another, until he was slain and his army discomfited in attempting the conquest of Assyria. Cyaxeres also became master of Armenia and Cappadocia but not until he had been himself overthrown by the Scythians with whom he made terms as also with the Lydians, the battle which ended a five year war with the latter being interrupted by the total eclipse of the sun predicted by Thales.
At this time the capital of the Median Empire was at Ecbatana the modern Hamadan, for there were several towns of that name. It was a great city, covering 50 square miles as Diodorus asserts though the moderate estimate which assigns to it about one-tenth of the area is doubtless nearer the truth. Almost in the center was the royal palace, nearly a mile in circumference according to Polybius, but this probably includes the citadel that encompassed it, with seven walls which Herodotus describes as of great size and strength, rising in circles one within the other, and so planned that each out-topped the one in front of it by the battlements only. Within the innermost wall was the palace, somewhat resembling in architectural design the temples of Greece or the royal houses of Susa and Persepolis. As Polybius states it was paved with marble, and on pillars of costly wood was supported a roof of silver plates fashioned in the shape of tiles the beams and woodwork being also coated with laminas of the precious metals.
Conquered by Cyrus the elder, the real founder of the Persian or Achsemenian empire, before whose arms fell Babylon in the days of Belshazzar Media was consolidated with the Persian domain by Darius I in whose system of centralization of legislation and finance is displayed the highest order of administrative ability. Dividing into satrapies or provinces the vast domain bequeathed him by his predecessors, he gathered from them a yearly tribute estimated by Grote at $22,000,000, of which more than two-thirds was paid in silver and the remainder in gold, this probably for the land tax alone. There was also tribute in kind. Media for instance furnishing 100,000 sheep, 3,000 horses, and 4,000 mules; Cappadocia half these numbers; Armenia 20,000 colts, and Cilicia 360 white horses. Then there were special taxes, as water rates and payments for the use of increasing the money value of the crown lands for various purposes, revenue to 550,000,000. With a portion of this revenue Darius established the first pure coinage of which there is any record, his gold darics, bearing the imperial stamp, being worth about $5.50 in modern currency, but with a much larger purchasing power.
With his conquests extending from the shores of Asia Minor eastward into the heart of Hindustan and northward to the banks of the Danube, we are not here concerned but it is probable that in his later years he ruled over a kingdom almost as large as modern Europe, excluding the realms of the tsar. On the richly sculptured tomb excavated in the rocks a few miles from Persepolis are inscribed the names of twenty-eight dependencies, including "Scythia beyond the sea," and to these, had he lived, would probably have been added Greece, notwithstanding the defeat at Marathon for his preparations were on a scale that under able leadership the Greeks would have found it impossible to withstand, most of the Hellenic states being already prepared to tender their submission.
At Susa, the new capital of the empire, Darius built for himself a palace, and in this ancient city, the Shushan of Hebrew story and long the center of the Elamite monarchy, was thenceforth the residence of the Persian kings. It lay in a fertile and well-watered plain, its rivers and artificial waterways affording access to the Persian gulf, so that, as Greek writers relate, it became a metropolis fifteen or twenty miles in circuit, a statement partially confirmed by the extent of its ruins. To Darius and his successors are also attributed the Chihil menare, or forty minarets, now the Takhti Jamschid, names given to the great terrace where are the remains of the lofty palaces of Persepolis, with their massive pillars and imposing colonnades, portions of which are still in existence. Here was the later and last capital of the Persian monarchy as it existed under the Achasmcnian kings; for with the capture of Persepolis and the destruction of the royal palaces by Alexander-in no drunken freak, as is the popular belief, but for the effect it would produce—the dynasty was at an end, and Persia became a province of the Macedonian empire.
Of the incessant wars of the Persians, and especially their wars with the Greeks, of the disastrous expedition of Xerxes, whose useless life Artabanes ended in the seraglio of his palace, of the upward march of the 10,000, followed by their retreat under the able leader who became the historian of the campaign, no further mention need here be made. A word may, however be said as to the wealth and, luxury of the Persians during the period between the reign of Darius, whose death was in 486, and the battle of Arbela, which ended the dynasty in 331. It was in the days of Darius, as I have said, that the unwieldy possessions of his predecessors were organized and fashioned into a firmly welded empire, with a well regulated, if somewhat oppressive system of laws and taxation . To the ability of "the great king" even his enemies paid tribute, and none more so than the Greeks, who of all others had reason to hate him—Aeschylus, for instance, who had fought at Marathon, and fully shared the wrath of his countrymen against their invaders, yet expressing in his Persae the utmost respect for their monarch. If he was a despot, he was less despotic than most of those who came before and after him, and by comparison with theirs his rule was mild.
During his reign and in those of his successors, gold and silver, ivory and gems were even more plentiful than in the most prosperous times of the Babylonians and Assyrians, from both of which nations he collected tribute. The mineral wealth of the kingdom proper included nearly all the more useful metals, while here and in its dependencies were also the precious metals, with nearly all the precious stones of commercial value; emeralds, amethysts rubies, sapphires, opals, carbuncles, agates, garnets, beryls, and these and many others being gathered from more than two-score provinces.
At this time the treasures of many countries were poured into the Persian metropolis. From Babylon and Sardis, from Borsippa, Damascus, and the cities of Egypt came the finest of carpets tapestries and linens from India the richest of shawls from Asia Minor ornamental metal work, and from Phoenicia, especially from Tyre and Sidon, her multiform manufactures. The walls of some of the palaces were covered with plates of gold, and under a canopy supported by pillars of gold, inlaid with precious stones, stood the golden throne of the monarch of all the Persias, while over his bed was a golden vine, the grapes represented by precious gems, each of enormous value. In nothing did the kings take so much delight as in costly and elaborate banquets, one of them it is said feasting 15,000 persons daily within his palace walls. Among satraps and lesser officials luxury and extravagance were also prevalent; for many were rich, the viceroy of Babylonia for instance, receiving an income of $500,000 a year.
Class distinctions were strongly marked, even to modes of salutation for those who were higher or inferior in rank. In the homes of the wealthy were many servants, each with his separate duties, not least among which were the curling of the master's hair and beard, the application of cosmetics, and the care of the perfumes and scented unguents, of which there was always a choice assortment in the households of the rich. There were also those who had charge of the wardrobes, with their f lowered tunics of purple, their embroidered vestments and bejeweled tiaras. Women were held in the strictest seclusion, secluded even from the company of their own relatives, and no greater breach of decorum could be committed than to inquire after the health of a Persian's wife. In early times the Persians were even more abstemious than were the Spartans in the days of Lycurgus, drinking only water and eating but once a day. Later they still eat only once a day but the meal begun at early morn and lasted until late at night; for with wealth came not only luxury but gluttony and drunkenness. Each man not only drank his fill of wine but took a pride in drinking it; so that intoxication was regarded as a fashion and almost as a duty, the king himself setting the example at the royal banquets. They drank from cups of gold and silver, arranged on tables inlaid with the precious metals; on their arms and necks were bracelets and collars of gold sparkling with gems were the golden handles and sheaths of daggers and swords, and of gold were the bits and in part the bridles of their horses, each one striving to outdo his neighbor in barbaric ostentation and display.
It was a common boast of the ancient Persians that for them was no necessity for toil or traffic, since conquest had placed at their disposal all the products of the earth. Thus it is that among their ruins little of value has been discovered apart from architectural remains, a few weapons parts of weapons, a few ornaments, coins, and seal-cylinders being all the smaller articles that have thus far been unearthed. Home industries were neglected; the practical arts were almost unknown, and as to the fine arts little has come down to us, except for drawings and depictions of the monstrous and grotesque. Commerce they held in contempt, and to buy or sell in the way of trade was considered beneath the dignity of the rich.
Most of the wealthier class were land-owners, renting their estates to farmers who lived in settled communities, while there were also many nomad and pastoral tribes. That from the earliest times the cultivation of the soil was esteemed as an honorable pursuit appears from a hymn in the Zend-Avesta, of which the following is a portion: “We beseech the spirit of earth, for the sake of these our best works, to grant us fair and fertile fields; to the believer as well as to the unbeliever, to him who has riches as well as to him who has no possessions."
Such was Persia about the time of the Macedonian conquest, when, after the murder of Darius Codomannus in the Parthian desert, Alexander threw his cloak over the last of the Persian monarchs. Of this monarch it is said that in his f light toward Bactria, at the hands of whose satrap he met his fate, he took with him $12,000,000 in treasure. Yet there remained sufficient to load 5,000 camels and hundreds of mules with spoils amounting to $150,000,000, the total value of the plunder gathered in Persia exceeding $200,000,000, and this Alexander placed in the city of Ecbatana. At his death there lay in the treasury at Babylon, which he made his capital, nearly $60,000,000, and from annual tribute was collected more than half that amount. But this by no means exhausted the resources of the country. Palaces were still erected and canals, irrigation works, and other public improvements were as numerous as ever. Some five centuries later, after the overthrow of the Parthians by Artaxerxes, father of the Sasanian dynasty, the second empire became almost as powerful as the first, dictating terms even to Rome herself.
Allowing for all exaggerations, there were undoubtedly in the four monarchies here considered vast accumulations of wealth. To Persepolis appeared to have been freely transferred the treasures of Nineveh and Babylon, though as to the former our information rests chiefly on the statements of Diodorus and Clitarchus; for the Greeks knew little of the city until after its capture by Alexander. Herodotus for example not even mentioning the Persian capital. Accepting as true the estimates of the spoils collected by Alexander, they would represent a greater value in gold and silver than is usually on deposit in the bank of England, where are largely held the reserves of European centers of finance. It is probable that after his departure little of value was left in the metropolis with which, as the avenger of his country, he dealt most severely, slaying the men and carrying the women into captivity. On this, as on other ancient seats of Asiatic civilization much light has been thrown within recent years through the exploration of ruins and the deciphering of inscriptions. However brutal and barbarous in some respects, we have seen that the nations which they represented possessed a knowledge of the useful arts, that they excelled in many branches of manufacture, that they had a system of commerce and coinage that in literature and the fine arts their efforts were not to be despised while on the architectural designs of the Persians were partially modeled those of the Greeks. But the discoveries thus far made are but an earnest of that which is to come, though already sufficient to show that much of what before was regarded as mythical or traditional must be accepted as sober reality.
In sketching briefly the annals of Chaldea, Babylonia, and Assyria, so far as they concern the purposes of this work, I have stopped for the most part with the overthrow of their ancient dynasties, or at least have not traced their records as far as the Christian era. All of them passed under the domination of other powers, now forming portions of the Turkish Empire, of Arabia, or of modern Persia, and in such connection they will be treated in later chapters. Of Persia, however, much remains to be said for this is still one of the most powerful and one of the wealthiest of Asiatic countries.
But in the later history of Persia we cannot here follow the court intrigues, the cruelties, perfidy, and fraud which were but common incidents in this as in other oriental despotisms, brothers falling by the hand of brothers, queens poisoning their rivals in the royal favor, and eunuchs usurping or bartering the throne for gold, to perish in turn by treachery. On the death of Alexander civil wars ensued, shattering the huge fabric of the Macedonian empire. Though nominally subject to a single ruler with Babylon as the capital city, the eastern possessions of Babylon were divided into satrapies often at variance with each other and always ready for revolt. About the year 315 we find Antigonus at the head of affairs, collecting from his diminished realm 11,000 talents or $12,500,000 of revenue, in addition to war taxes amounting to almost as much. Between 312 and 280 Seleucus Nicator was in power, building on the Tigris a new capital named after himself, but later removing it to Antioch. Many colonies he founded, and many cities he built, hoping to regain possession of the entire domain of Alexander. The explorations projected by the latter were carried into effect an expedition exploring the Caspian Sea, in quest of a north-east passage to India, and proceeding just far enough to confirm the false impression as to its existence. By Antiochus, son of Seleucus other cities were founded, and around the oasis of Mero, on the border land of Iran was built a wall 1,500 stadia, or more than 170 miles in circumference. By Asoka, his successor, walls were dug by the road side trees were planted where nothing before had grown, and hospitals both for man and beast were established throughout the land. Thus for a time longer the Macedonian dynasty continued, to be followed by that of the Parthians, without leaving on its unstable empire, which never found favor among the people, any permanent traces of Hellenism.
It was about the middle of the second century that Iran fell under the Parthian yoke, though long before that date the Seleucids held divided sway with their northern neighbors. By Mithridates, a monarch of exceptional ability, the conquest was completed, his domain extending over all the lands from the Euphrates to the Indian branch of the Caucasus. In the following century Rome appears on the scene. The claims of various aspirants are settled by Pompey, who declines, however, to undertake a Parthian war. In 53 an army of more than 40,000 men, under the command of Crassus, is cut to pieces, only 10.000 making their way back to Syria, which presently becomes a Parthian province. A second expedition, under Mark Antony, fares no better than the first, losing nearly half its numbers, mainly by famine and disease. Finally, more than two centuries later, Roman prestige is reestablished in the east, but not without further reverses, an invading army, for instance, being compelled to purchase peace in the winter of 217 by the payment of 50,000,000 denarii, or nearly $9,000,000, as indemnity.
By Sasan, a Zoroastrian priest, was founded the Sasanian dynasty, his grandson Ardasha ruling over a vast and compact domain, which held together for centuries, in contrast with the loosely jointed empire of the Seleucids. Around the nominal capital at Istakhr, or Persepolis. where was the celebrated temple of the fire-goddess Anahedh and the real metropolis at Ctesiphon, was a large extent of fertile land adjacent to Roman territory for neither city stood on the soil of Iran proper. Long the struggle was continued between the two powers, and in the main on equal terms, the Romans suffering many a humiliating defeat, though under able leadership more than a match for their rivals, by whom were largely adopted the martial method, the civil and political institutions, and the arts and industries of the west.
Ardasha was esteemed as the greatest of Sasanian monarchs, as the best of law-givers, and one who had always at heart the welfare of his people. By his son and successor, Shapur, was taken captive the Roman emperor Valerian, after vainly attempting to ransom his army with gold but the successes of the Persians were seldom prolonged, and without enduring or important consequences. While their kings gathered what to them were large stores of treasure, they were small as compared with those of the mistress of the world, and altogether insufficient for a protracted campaign. Hence their armies could not long be sustained in the field, and their victories, though brilliant, were usually barren of results. Passing over the reigns of sovereigns, in which there is little of interest, in 532, during the time of Khosru, or Chosroes, surnamed the Blessed, a perpetual peace, so-called, was concluded with the Romans, who paid a liberal subsidy in return for the surrender of certain possessions on the eastern shore of the Black sea. But pretexts for war were never wanting, and a few years later Khosru invaded Syria, plundering all the cities which refused to purchase their indemnity, burning Antioch to the ground, and carrying thence a vast amount of spoil. In order to utilize for his own benefit the industrial enterprise of the west he established with his Antiochan captives a Roman quarter near his royal palace at Ctesiphon, and there until the fall of the Sasanian empire they lived in comfort with freedom of, worship and under a Christian mayor.
About the middle of the sixth century we find the Persians and Turks confronting each other on opposite sides of the Oxus, dwelling at first in peace, but not for long, the Romans forming an alliance with the latter, followed by a war which lasted until the death of Khosru in 579. Of Hormizd IV, his son by a Turkish princess, daughter of the khakan, it is related that in answer to the priests, who would have him with- draw his protection from the Christians, he replied: "As our throne cannot stand on its front legs alone, so our rule cannot endure if we turn against us the members of alien religions."
Wars with the Romans or with the Turks and at times with both continued throughout his reign. Though wanting in tact, especially in his treatment of the nobles, his memory was honored for the firmness and impartiality with which he upheld the cause of the poor. Khosru II, styled the Conqueror, but all unworthy of his surname was a weak and boastful monarch avaricious, yet given over to luxury and display, and of whom the best that can be said is that he filled to overflowing an almost empty treasury. Even this he accomplished at the cost of his country, already impoverished by wars, while victories were won by his generals and not by himself. With little opposition the Persian armies marched westward almost, as far as the walls of Constantinople. Damascus and Jerusalem fell and the ruins adjacent to both these cities still bear witness to the desolation of regions where the hosts of Iran had never before set foot.
Then came the conquest of Egypt and in part of Asia Minor, further progress being staid by the arms of Heraclius, who after destroying the most sacred of Persian fire-temples drove Khosru, in panic flight to Ctesiphon. Here he ended his days, his legitimate heir, released from the prison where for years he had languished, being proclaimed king, while the monarch of all the Persias, with no hand raised to help him was carried to the scaffold from the hiding place where craven fear had driven him.
With Yazdegerd, grandson of Khosru, ended the Sasanian dynasty, after a reign of more than four centuries. Already masters of northern Arabia the Moslems were now at the gates of Iran. After several minor engagements, a decisive battle, lasting several days, resulted in the defeat of the Persians, their superior weapons availing nothing against the valor of the foe, while the elephants which always accompanied their armies served only, as with the Carthaginians at Zama, to add to their discomfiture. At a second great battle the last of the Persian hosts was shattered, and Yazdegerd fled without striking another blow, though retaining the semblance of royalty until, in one of the remotest districts of his empire, he met his fate at an assassin’s hand. Meanwhile Ctesiphon, Seleucia, and Susiana had been occupied by the Moslems, to whom, one after another, other cities and provinces yielded.
The spoils of Ctesiphon were almost as great as those which fell to the conquerors of Nineveh or Babylon. After one-fifth of the plunder, together with all works of art, had been set aside as the share of the caliph Omar, there remained sufficient to distribute among his army nearly $100,000,000. Founded early in the Parthian dynasty on the bank of the Tigris, a few leagues south of Bagdad, and with Seleucia on the opposite bank, here was the winter residence of the Parthian monarchs and later the capital of their domain. Within it and around it were parks and pleasure grounds, and though as to its size there are no authentic records, its population at one time probably exceeded a quarter of a million, more than 100,000 being carried away captives by the emperor Severus, ad 232. Among the mounds of sun dried bricks which form its ruins, now known as the tomb of Soliman Pak, the barber of Mohammed, one building only remains to attest its former greatness. This is the Tak-i-Khosra, or throne of Khosru, forming the vaulted hall of a palace more than 400 feet in length, with nearly half that width and 150 feet in height; in front a portico of stately marble pillars, and in the hall itself the signs of the zodiac wrought in golden stars.
For several centuries the Persians remained under Moslem domination, though never as a people becoming assimilated with their conquerors. More than once the work of conquest had to be undertaken anew for Iran would not readily yield to the yoke her spirit remained unbroken, and when finally subjugated her subjection was only in name. Her people were proud of their country, proud of their religion and of the memories of a glorious past. Though in later times accepting the faith of the prophet, it was freely leavened with their own, I and never accepted in its political and national relations. To the Arabian empire they were never an element of strength, but rather a thorn in the flesh, and to them, more than all others, was due the downfall of the Omayads, with which that empire came to an end.
Toward the close of the middle ages we find the most important cities and provinces of Persia included in the vast domain of Timur the Tartar, whose ravages were most severe in what was then the kingdom of Georgia, his successors adding to their possessions all that remained of Iranian territory. Of these the most prominent was Shah Rukh, the fourth of his sons, by whom was rebuilt the citadel of Herat, and in part the city itself, which he made his capital. Here, surrounded by men of letters and science, he held court in true oriental fashion, with boundless store of wealth and all that wealth can procure. By his successor, Ulugh Beg, science and literature were also encouraged and studied, and a college and observatory were built at Samarkand, the astronomical tables which bear his name being accepted by European authorities.
Passing over the Turkman and the earlier portion of the Safi dynasties, we come to the reign of Shah Abbas the Great, beginning in 1586. To a kingdom distracted by wars and insurrections he restored tranquility and peace to his subjects, though his name is tarnished by deeds of blood, he was in the main a gracious and tolerant ruler, devoting himself during the two-score years of his reign to works of public utility and to the development of his country's commerce and resources. By him was regained the rich trade of the Persian gulf, formerly in the hands of the Portuguese, with the isle of Ormuz as its emporium. His capital was at Ispahan, and there he erected some of the finest and most richly decorated structures of oriental design existing to-day in the east. Among them were his two palaces, their grounds and gardens sparkling with fountains, intersected with streams of running water, and shaded with rows of poplars and plane trees, all enclosed with a wall two miles in circuit. In the palaces themselves was a profusion of gilding, of mirrors ornamented in the choicest of arabesque patterns, and of paintings descriptive of Persian history from the hands of Dutch and Italian masters. Nearby were other buildings, occupied by foreign embassies, for at the court of Abbas were the ministers of several European powers. For the accommodation of travelers were built some of the largest caravansaries in the world, still affording rest and shelter to travelers in these latter years of the nineteenth century. While in other Persian cities well-appointed caravansaries are numerous, there are few that will compare with those of Ispahan.
Never perhaps since the days of the Sasanids was Persia more powerful and prosperous than during the reign of Nadir Shah, the last of the Safi dynasty, and one who has been aptly termed the eastern Napoleon. Proclaimed monarch in 1736, he rapidly extended his domain, eastward and to the north as far as the banks of the Indus and Oxus, while on the south his realm was bounded by the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea. Invading India, he received at Delhi the abject submission of Mohammed Shah, a dissolute and effeminate prince, of whom it was a common saying that he was never without a glass in his hand or a mistress in his arms. This city he pillaged, after massacring 120,000 of its inhabitants, returning with spoils gathered here and elsewhere valued as is said, at $2,000,000,000, though one-tenth of that amount is probably nearer the truth.
Among the booty which fell to Nadir Shah were the famous peacock throne, and the still more famous diamond to which he gave the name of Koh-i-noor, or Mountain of Light. Found in the mines of Golconda for thousands, it was worn, as an Indian legend relates, of years by one of the mythic heroes of Hindustan, passing after the lapse of countless centuries into the possession of Zehir-ed-din Mohammed, the founder of the Mogul dynasty. After further changes of ownership it was presented to England's queen, and at the London Exposition of 1851 was the most attractive of all the exhibits crowds, waiting their turn to obtain a momentary glance as they passed between files of policemen. Though of purest water, it originally weighed nearly 800 carats but was reduced by unskillful cutting to 280 and later to 106 carats. To Nadir Shah, probably belonged also the great Orloff diamond, now of 195 carats, cut in rose form as is, the Koh-i-noor, and forming the principal jewel in the scepter of the tsar. After the death of Nadir it was sold to a Greek or Armenian merchant, and by him to Count Orloff for presentation to the empress Catherine, the price being $450,000 in silver roubles, with an annuity of $4.000 and a title of nobility. As both these diamonds are semi-oval in shape, with flat lower face, corresponding to the line of cleavage, it is supposed that the Orloff and Koh-i-noor are portions of the great stone formerly belonging to the Mogul another portion being recovered from a peasant, who, ignorant of its value, had long used it as a flint wherewith to light his pipe. If this be so, the three gems would form together by far the largest diamond in the world, nearly twice as large as the Mattam diamond, belonging to the rajah of Borneo, and weighing as many carats as there are days in the year.
After a period of anarchy and civil war we come to the Kajar, or present dynasty 9mm, of which Nasr-ed-din, the fourth in succession, is now the ruling sovereign. Of this monarch the first thing worthy of note is the number of his children and relatives; for he has about a score of legitimate sons and daughters and of grand-children almost as many, while the princes and princesses of the royal family are counted by the thousand. Next is his wealth, amounting probably to $30,000,000 or $40,000,000, and largely invested in the diamonds and other precious stones included in the crown jewels. The entire revenue of Persia, reduced by the fall in silver from $9,000,000 in 1890 to $6,500,000 in 1895, is at the disposal of the shah, and while most of it is absorbed by the army and by princes and pensioners, no inconsiderable portion finds its way into his treasury. His power is absolute, except that his mandates must not conflict with the doctrines of the Koran, on which all laws are based; for the shah is to his subjects what the pope is to the Christian world. Under him and at his bidding is a ministry with its several departments of foreign affairs, treasury, war, and the rest, as among European and American nations. The country is divided into provinces and these again into districts, the former under governors-general responsible to the crown and the latter under hakims or chiefs, appointed as superintendents, and collectors of revenue.
The population of Persia, estimated at about 10,000,000, is distributed over an area of 630,000 square miles, or less than 16 to the square mile, for most of its surface consists of desert lands. In the northern portion, bordering in part on the Caspian, are forest-covered lowlands, with a damp and fever-laden climate.
There are many races and tribes, of whom a large proportion are Arabian, Kurdish, Turkish, Baluchi and other nomads, but nomads only in, the sense that most of their time is passed in the hills, where year after year they return from the plains to the same pasture-grounds, their flocks and herds including oxen, horses, camels, sheep, and goats. Each tribe is subject to a hereditary chief, whose authority is inferior only to that of the shah, and by whom taxes are collected and paid in money or kind.
While less than one-third of its surface can be classed as agricultural lands, the cereal crops of Persia are sufficient as a rule, for home consumption, though with occasional seasons of famine, caused by the failure of rains. Rice is the staple. Corn and barley are ground by water-mills of primitive construction, and the best wheat flour is inferior to English "middlings.” Opium is the most valuable product, and of this the annual exports amount to 10,000 boxes, valued at $3,750,000. Among others are cotton and tobacco, fruits and vegetables, with henna and other dyes. Sericulture was in former years the most prominent industry more than 20,000 bales of, raw silk, now reduced to one-third of that amount, being shipped to foreign lands, with returns that covered the entire cost of all Persian imports. The vine is everywhere; its fruit of excellent quality and producing wines of more than local repute. Irrigation is fairly developed, and with artificial watering the soil is extremely fertile, entire families subsisting almost without labor, on a very few acres of land.
Of minerals and gems the turquoise is the only one largely utilized, though pearls, gathered in the gulf, are exported to a limited extent. Of gold and silver, iron, lead, copper, coal, and petroleum, the deposits are almost untouched.
Marble and petrifactions that bear that name are fairly plentiful, one of the finest specimens of the former being found in the tomb of Hafiz at Shiraz.
First among Persian manufactures may be; mentioned carpets and rugs, prized as much in the days of ancient Babylon as now they are by the wealthiest of European nations. In Egypt they were found in the palaces of the Pharaohs, and at the banquets of the rich were placed under the couches of guests. At a great feast given by Ptolemy Philadelphus, when Alexandria was one of the most opulent cities in the world, it is related that beneath hundreds of golden couches were placed purple carpets and embroidered rugs of finest and most delicate pattern, thin Persian cloths on which were embroidered the figures of animals covering the central space. Both Persian and Turkish carpets were introduced into western Europe by the Moors, and during the middle ages their costly and elaborate designs were preserved in the illuminated pages of romance. Most famous of all were the choice tapestries of Baldak, or Bagdad, and these were merely carpets whose texture was inwrought with threads of gold and silver. Such fabrics were placed in the halls of royalty, and before the altars of communion tables of churches. They were used as canopies for the host and for men of distinction in religious and other processions, were spread in the chambers of "ladyes faire," were used as coverings for furniture, and were laid on grassy lawns where troubadours discoursed sweet music and song.
Kurdistan carpets are now considered the finest of the thirty or more varieties woven in Persia, and among the finest in the world. Their patterns are worked on both sides, with borders well marked and of brilliant colors, their designs, as of f lowers or fruits, representing objects level with the ground and not in relief, as is common in European fabrics. Next in favor are the products of Karman looms, resembling, but with shorter nap, the finest of velvet pile carpets, and often wrought in realistic fashion with human and animal figures. Karman shawls, made of the under wool of a white sheep raised on the richest of Persian pastures, and little inferior in make or material to those of Kashmir, are also much in demand. Both shawls and carpets are woven by hand, the latter on a frame which holds the warp, into which a woof of short threads is inserted by the fingers; no shuttles being used and the weaver depending on memory for his design. Among other branches of manufacture are wood-carving and metal-work, porcelains and earthenware, silverware, jewelry, and musical instruments.
The commerce and communication of Persia is hampered by the scarcity of wagon and carriage roads and navigable rivers. Of the former there are but three or four in all the empire, none of them as much as a hundred miles in length and the Karun, obstructed, by rapids, is the only stream on which even vessels of small draft can ascend from the Persian Gulf. It was not until 1888 that the first railway was opened, six miles in length, and in 1894 there were less than 50 miles in operation. Of telegraph lines there are about 5,000 miles with more than 100 stations but many of them belong to foreign powers. Mails are conveyed in carts, as also are travelers; for these are almost the only public vehicles. The first regular postal service was established in 1877, and now there is daily communication between Persian cities, weekly with India via Bushire, and semi-weekly with Europe by way of Russia.
Persian exports consist chiefly of opium, raw cotton wool, and silk, with carpets, pearls, and precious stones, valued for 1894 at $37,500,000. Imports are on a smaller scale, and include cotton and woolen fabrics; tea, coffee, and sugar; glassware and petroleum. Russia absorbs a large proportion of the trade, amounting to some 25,000,000 roubles a year, and next are Turkey and Great Britain, the latter exporting largely of textile fabrics. The customs dues, which are five per cent ad valorem on European goods, are farmed to the highest bidders, who realize therefrom a handsome profit.
There are several banks or banking agencies, foremost among which is the Imperial bank of Persia, whose headquarters are at Teheran with branches in all the principal cities. Chartered in 1889, with a capital of $20,000,000 and the exclusive right of notes, it has also the privilege of working all the mineral deposits wheresoever found in any portion of the empire, except those of gold and silver and such as are already conceded.
Teheran, with a population exceeding 200,000, and for more than a century the capital of the empire, has little apart from its size to distinguish it from other Persian cities. It was not until recent years that its streets were paved, or if paved were kept in repair, that its thoroughfares were lighted with gas and lined in part with buildings of modern architecture, contrasting strangely with hovels of mud or structures of mud and brick. Of mud also is the encircling wall, in which are several gates, some of them connected with the citadel, where are the royal and other palaces, with public edifices of the better class. Of mosques, the most pretentious are those of the shah and the shah's mother, the former with enameled facade.
The palace of the shah is a picturesque rather than an imposing edifice, surrounded with shaded courts and gardens, its interior a combination of western elegance with oriental luxury: for Nasr-ed-Deen, the present shah, has travelled much, especially in Europe, and there acquired progressive ideas which he has not been slow to introduce. One of the most attractive features in his palace is the treasury of crown jewels, in which are stored heirlooms transmitted by Persian sovereigns from time immemorial. with presents innumerable and much of the most valuable spoil with which Nadir Shah returned from the sack of Delhi, including the gorgeous Peacock throne, of itself worth at least $15,000,000.
Here are some of the largest and most valuable diamonds in the world, among them one called the Dar-i-Noor, or Sea of Light, with emerald rubies and other gems of corresponding brilliancy. There are crowns and suits of armor, each of which would furnish a prince's ransom; there are swords whose scabbards and hilts are ablaze with precious stones, and there are the choicest specimens of metal and enamel work, of shawls and embroideries.
Worthy of mention also is the palace erected by the shah Path Ah, great-grandfather of the present ruler. Passing through a spacious park between rows of venerable plane trees wreathed with ivy, the visitor comes to a marble tank, by the side of which is a pavilion of cruciform shape with domical roof, its graceful spiral pillars colored in scarlet, green, and gold. Thence he proceeds to the main structure built around an octagonal court, and beyond to the ante-room where dwelt the wives of the shah and in which was his private parlor, its ceiling gorgeously tinted, its panels decorated with hunting scenes, and its walls adorned with portraits of Path Ali. of his thirty sons, of the chief officials of his realm, and of the many envoys who visited his court, their costumes of wellnigh a century ago all reproduced with a fidelity that adds to the historic value of the paintings.
Bazaars are plentiful in Teheran but not remarkable for excellence, while as elsewhere in Persia caravansaries afford at least passable accommodation for travelers. Much of the trade is in the hands of peddlers, or itinerant venders, who drive from house to house the most diminutive of donkeys laden with their goods. Dellals they are called, and seldom a day passes but one or more of them appears at the homes of the wealthy, bowing low and asking permission to display his wares. This granted, they are laid on the floor, and include an assortment hard to resist. There are shawls from Kashmir, the rugs of Kurdistan, and the embroideries of Sharaz; velvets traced with gold and silver thread, and sashes it for royalty to wear; boxes delicately inlaid with ivory and chessmen beautifully carved; salvers and vases, bowls and plaques of elaborate design; bracelets fashioned in gold and coffee sets in silver filigree; diamonds, rubies, pearls, and all manner of precious stones, with antique coins and gems on which verses of the Koran are inscribed. All these the dellal swears by his beard or by his eyes are of the finest quality; but if nothing is bought he shows no signs of resentment, leaving probably two or three of his choicest samples for further inspection.
Ispahan is one of the most sightly of Persian cities, with its buildings and gardens more than thirty miles in circumference its palaces of ancient and modern design, its scores of mosques and colleges and its hand some bazaars stocked with the richest of Persian fabrics. Of the palatial structures erected by Shah Abbas, near the close of the sixteenth century, mention has already been made. Adjoining are other buildings constructed in modern times and among the finest specimens of oriental architecture, some of them occupied by European embassies and others set apart for distinguished guests. Nor should we forget the palace of the Seven Courts, built by Shah Abbas' successor, in the midst of a suburban garden, and one of the fairest of all the fair mansions of Ispahan. Almost in the center of the city is one of the largest plazas in the world, nearly half a mile in length and more than a furlong in width, surrounded with arcades, and formerly used as a permanent fair-ground. In the center of each side is some remark- able edifice, remarkable not only for structural design but as an historic monument. One is the famous mosque of Mesjid-i Shah, the grandest of Persian temples, with its brilliantly colored tiles and glittering ornaments of gold and silver. Another is the mosque of Luti Ollah, second only to its neighbor in beauty and magnificence. A third is the entrance to the royal palace, and the fourth the gate of the great bazaar, above which, in former days, a huge Dutch clock with automatic figures was the pride of the Ispahanis, and where now at rise and set of sun the "trumpet-house" gives forth its shrill, discordant blast.
Of colleges there are more than fifty, altogether out of proportion to the requirements of a population not exceeding 85,000, though many are set apart for the training of Mohammedan priests.
The finest of the college buildings, named after the sultan Hussain, is entered through a spacious portico, fashioned in part of Tabriz marble, the choicest of ornamental building stones, and with lofty pillars twisted in fantastic shapes. Through gates of brass finished in silver, and their surface embossed with floral designs or quotations from the Koran, the visitor enters the college square, on one side of which is a mosque with cupola and minarets the interior of the former faced with parti-colored tiles covered with invocations to the prophet. On two of the remaining sides are small square cells for the students, and on the fourth another portico of more simple and elegant design.
The bazaars of Ispahan extend for several miles in an almost unbroken line of uncovered booths the, crowds that frequent them giving a false impression as to the population of a city, the remainder of which is almost deserted. Here are still exposed for sale the satins silks and brocades; the lacquered boxes, the mirror frames, the keen bladed swords; the damascened gun-barrels and other articles for which in olden days these marts of trade were famous. But of foreign products there are few; for the commerce of the capital, like the capital itself, has fallen into decay. Of all this great city, containing, as is said, during the reign of Shah Abbas more than a million of people, less than one-tenth is to-day inhabited, entire streets being lined with debris and entire quarters deserted.
Tabriz is the principal emporium for the western trade of Persia, and especially the entrepot of commerce with Russia and Turkey, its total imports for 1894 exceeding $2,000,000, with imports of somewhat less than half that amount. In proportion to population few cities have so many public and sacred edifices; for here, with a population of 180,000, are more than 300 mosques, 120 public baths, 170 caravansaries and nearly 4,000 shops. Yet there are few buildings, either in existence or in ruins, that call for special mention. Almost in the center is the ark, or citadel, in which is a cumbersome and gloomy structure, formerly used as the residence of the heir apparent; this with the mosque of Jahan Shah, erected in the fifteenth century, being all that remains of its former splendor. None of the great Persian towns have suffered more from disasters; for in the ancient records of Tabriz is little else than stories of siege and conflict, of destruction by earthquake and pestilence, the latter still invited by the effluvia of its narrow and undrained thoroughfares. At Meshed, the commercial metropolis of northeastern Persia, is the great mosque, with facade of enameled tiles in blue and d white, and with gilded dome and minarets, beneath which is the shrine of Ali Riza, poisoned, as is said, by the caliph and afterward worshipped as a saint. Here, in this Mecca of the Persians, is the most sacred spot in all the empire; for to the marble tomb of their martyred hero, enclosed with rails of silver, pilgrims repair by scores of thousands, and in the service of the sanctuary are more than 2,000 attendants.
Rasht, the capital of the maritime province of Gilan, in northern Persia, is also a place of considerable trade, and especially of the silk trade, whose export value in former times amounted to $3,500,000 a year. It is connected, moreover, with the highways of commerce and travel between Europe and Persia, and communicates by water with the Caspian, from which it is only a few leagues distant. As for the town itself, there is little to be said, the governor's house and the consular residences being the only buildings of importance. In the former is an example of the picturesque effect of modern Persian architecture, with its elaborate but by no means costly decorations.
In conclusion a word may be said as to the national characteristics of the Persians; for the country is peopled by many races, forming a more cosmopolitan community than exists elsewhere in the world, except perhaps for the United States.
Though referring mainly to the wealthier and more cultured classes, my remarks apply also in part to those of inferior degree. As a nation they are noted for their hospitality, especially toward foreigners, their love of home, and their kindly treatment of children and dependents, repaid with an affection and even reverence that to our western notions would appear ridiculous. Etiquette and ceremony arc strictly observed, and the art of flattery, even in its grossest forms, is considered one of the necessary accomplishments of a Persian gentleman. The diplomatist, for instance, may lose the cause which he is advocating by the slightest inadvertence or neglect of trifles which none but a Persian would heed, as by an awkward gesture, a careless mode of salutation, or the pushing of a chair an inch or two beyond its appointed limit. In dress they are as particular as in manners they are punctilious, paying as much attention to the cut and fit of their garments as any American or European dandy.
To take life easily, to enjoy it, and to make the best of it is the characteristic of the Persians as of other oriental nations. Even in their business transactions they strictly adhere to the national maxim expressed in action, if not in words: “Never do to-day what can be put off till tomorrow," and that morrow is long in coming. While their merchants are by no means wanting in commercial morality, they expect, in the fulfillment of their obligations, an indefinite number of days of grace, and will not readily sign a contract which binds the parties to a date. To the poor and to poor relations and dependents they are extremely charitable, and of their charity few save the recipients are aware. Hence there are no almshouses in Persia; for none are needed, and except in seasons of famine no one suffers from actual want. The rich maintain, as pensioners on their bounty, aged servants, most of the former being slaves, though treated rather as members of the household. Between master and bondsman the terms father and child are frequently inter- changed, the one protecting his servitor from injury and wrong, and the other guarding faithfully the property committed to his care. Not infrequently slaves are employed as confidential secretaries and advisers, are entrusted with large sums of money, and with the management of important business affairs.
Young women, purchased at from $50 to $250, are employed in the lightest of housework, and if well- favored may become their masters' concubines or be given in marriage to their sons. Whatever their sex or condition, all are well treated, well clad and fed, and assured of a decent provision for old age. Once purchased, they are never sold, though on rare occasions they may be given away; to discharge them, or give them their liberty, is the greatest punishment that can be inflicted. If slavery is or has been a curse, it is not so considered in Persia: for here is reproduced, so far as is consistent with modern conditions, the patriarchal system of bondage which Abraham sanctioned and which the scriptures nowhere condemn as a sin.
The wealthy Persian is usually a cultured man and kindly disposed to men of letters. Poetry and romance are the realms in which Persians most excel, the origin of their national poetry being traced to the Sasanid dynasty, and the art of rhyme and meter to one of the Sasanian monarchs. In love stories and in depicting the passions of the human heart they have few superiors, and if colored with an oriental tint, these stories are never mawkish or super-sentimental. In history they have contributed much that is of value as in, their stories of India, of Mohammed and the caliphs, and especially in their universal histories, wherein are many curious data. In this department, however, they are somewhat faulty in judgment and florid in style, geography and travel, in biography, in science and philosophy, they are little inferior to European nations, and by Persian writers and translators have been preserved the most valuable collections extant of Sanscrit literature and of Indian folkore and fable.
Miscellany—“The magnitude and magnificence of Babylon,” says Herodotus, who sojourned there about 450 BC, “surpasses every city of which we have any knowledge.” Then in substance he continues; it is filled with houses of three of four stories, forming streets in straight lines and running parallel with each other, the cross streets opening upon the river through gates of brass placed in the breastwork of the river walls. In the center of each portion of the city is an enclosed space; one is occupied by the royal palace, and in that stands the temple of Jupiter Belus, with its brazen gates. The ascent is by a path which is formed on the outside of the towers, and midway in the ascent is a resting place furnished with easy chairs, in which those who ascend repose themselves. The golden image of Bel, Baal, or Belus, the Jupiter of the Babylonians as of the later Tyrians, he places, not as stated in the text in the shrine at the summit of the great temple, but in a smaller edifice within its precincts, where is “an immense golden statue of Jupiter, in a sitting posture; around the statue are large tables, which with the steps and throne are all of gold, and as the Chaldeans affirm contain 800 talents of gold.
Outside this building is a golden altar; there is also another altar of great size on which are offered full grown animals. Once in a every year, when the festival of the god is celebrated, the Chaldeans burn upon the larger altar frankincense valued at 1,000 talents. There was also not long ago in this sacred enclosure a statue of solid gold, twelve cubits in height; so at least the Chaldeans affirmed; but I did not see it myself. This figure Darius Hystaspes would fain have taken, but dared not; yet his son, Xerxes, not only took it, but put to death the priest who tried to prevent its removal. Such was the magnificence of this temple, which contained also many private offerings.”
The Babylonians were much given to feasting in their gaudily decorated banqueting halls. Both host and guests were attired in scarlet robes, and on plates and dishes of gold and silver were served the richest of meats and the most luscious of fruits. They drank deeply of the choicest wines both during and after the feast, and when sufficiently intoxicated sang hymns to the praise and glory of their gods. On the floor were Babylonian carpets, the most costly fabrics of the ancient world; music was furnished by slaves or hired performers, and flowers in chased vases of beautiful workmanship filled the air with perfume.
Herodotus would have us believe that the dead were buried in honey and the daughters sold in marriage by auction, the money received for the more comely maidens serving as dowry for their homelier sisters. Another curious custom was the exposure of the sick in market places, so that those who passed by might inquire into the nature of the disease and suggest such remedies as had proved of benefit to themselves or their friends.
Several hundred diamonds have been found in the ruins of Babylon. Of those mentioned in the text as forming, with other precious stones, the crown jewels of the present shah of Persia, one is of 186 and another of 146 carats. As to the Orloff diamond, said to have belonged to Nadir Shah, and of which the more probable story is given in the text, another version is that it formed the eye of a Hindu idol in a Brahman temple at Pondicherri, from which it was stolen by a French deserter, when England and France were contesting the sovereignty of India.
The normal boundaries of Assyria proper; that is to say the portion containing Assyrian remains, apart from what was merely subjugated, extended from the 34th to the 38th parallel of latitude, with an area of about 75,000 square miles, or about the size of Great Britian.
Tilglath Pileser I, was one of the first Assyrian monarchs who visited Phoenician princes and merchants, probably about the year 1100. At which date that country was the wealthiest in the world, in the zenith of its power, and with colonies extending far into southern Europe. Tilglath was handsomely entertained and doubtless presented with costly gifts by Phoenician princes and merchants, all unaware that the yoke of Asshur was soon to lie heavy and long on their luxurious homes and their warehouses stored with the richest products of the earth. Such glimpses of boundless wealth the Assyrians regarded with covetous eyes; for their greed was insatiable, and of all the nations of antiquity they were the most unscrupulous.
When Asshurbanipal set forth on his wars, he was arrayed in splendid attire and attended by a vast retinue, around whom was his body guard of spearmen in scale armor and pointed helmet, followed by horsemen in coats of mail. His chariot was in the midst of the army, and behind it was the royal throne, seated on which, after battle or siege, he received the spoils and prisoners. With him went the members of his court and his concubines, the latter in closed arabas; nor did he forget his low-wheeled pleasure chair, his drinking cups, and his toilet articles; for while the fiercest of warriors, Asshurbanipal was somewhat given luxury. He was, moreover, a fearless hunter, lions being kept for sport in one of the enclosures of his park, and these, released from their cages, several at a time, he shot with arrows or killed with thrust or spear.
By one Layard’s former assistants were discovered in 1877, within a few miles of Nimrud, portions of the bronze or copper plating of a huge Assyrian gate, the metal of course much the worse for wear, though still could be distinctly traced the bas-reliefs hammered outward from the interior surface as in modern repoussé work. The gates were exceedingly massive and belonged to one of the cities built by Asshurnazirpal.
It was from Susa that Xerxes, who is probably identical with the Ahasuerus of the book of Esther, set forth on his disastrous expedition against the Greeks. In the days of Alexander this city continued to be, as for centuries it had been, a great repository of wealth; so that on entering the Persian capital he found in its treasury, besides an immense sum of money, ingots of silver valued at $35,000,000 with 500,000 pounds of Hermione purple, worth more than all the rest; for this, when on rare occasions it was offered for sale, sold at the rate of $125 a pound.
Six dollars a tile was the cost of the heavily gilded tiling in the awan of Azid al Mulk, and on the minarets and dome of the harem adjacent, the latter being floored with marble covered with the richest of Persian carpets, while one of its doors is plated with gold set with previous stones, and another with a curtain of cashmere fringed with pearls. Above the mausoleum are three canopies, the first of silver, the second of iron, and the third of steel supported on a base of solid silver. This is one of the most popular of shrines, several hundred pounds of rice being daily prepared for the pilgrims who frequent it, with miracles to match.
In the closing years of the 13th century we find Marco Polo sojourning in Persia; and here a passage or two from the stories of this veteran traveler may not be out of place. “They relate,” he says, “that in olden times three kings of that country went away to worship a prophet that was born; and they carried with them three manner of offerings, gold and frankincense and myrrh, in order to ascertain whether the prophet were a heavenly king, an earthly king, or a physician; for, they said, if he take the fold he is an earthly king, if he take the incense he is a god, and if he take the myrrh he is a physician.” And the child took all three, being he claimed, god, king, and physician.
”In this country of Persia there is a great supply of fine horses; and the people take them to India for sale, for they are horses of great price, a single one being worth as much of their money as is equal to 200 lives. Dealers carry their horses to Kisi and Carmosa, two cities on the shore of the sea of India, and there they meet with merchants who take the horses on to India for sale. In the cities there are traders and artisans who live by their labor and crafts, weaving cloths of gold, and silk stuffs of sundry kinds. They have plenty of cotton produced in this country, and abundance of wheat, barley, millet, panick, and wine, with fruit of all kinds.”
In the kingdom of Kerman, he tells us, are founded in the rocks turquoises in great abundance, and in this statement he is endorsed by Ouseley, the orientalist, who cites a manuscript in which Shebavek is mentioned as the site of a turquoise mine. Presently Marco comes to a hot region, where “the fruits are dates, pistachios, and apples of paradise.” The oxen are large, white as snow, with short and smooth hair; short, thick horns, and a hump between the shoulders two palms high. “There are no handsomer creatures in the world. When they have to be loaded they kneel like the camel.” Their load is heavy for they are strong. There are sheep here as big as asses, with large fat tails weighing 30 pounds. On the border of the ocean is Hormuz, whither merchants come from India, with ships loaded with spicery and precious stones, pearls, cloths of silk and gold, elephant teeth, and other articles.
In Mulehet lived Aloadin, the Old Man of the Mountain, who constructed a paradise on earth after the plan of Mohammed. In a beautiful valley enclosed by mountains were plenty of fruits of every kind on the borders of streams flowing with wine and milk and honey and water, and inhabited by charming women who sang and danced divinely. Noble youths were introduced from time to time, while sleeping under the influence of a drug; to these the maidens were subservient; and when the Old Man wishes an earthly murder drone, he brought forth from his paradise a fitting instrument, and would not let him return until his mission was accomplished.
In the system of education obtaining among the Persians in the earlier days of the empire there is much in common with that of the Spartans, except that the former forbade there their sons to steal. At ten years of age or sooner they had learned how to ride and hunt, using the bow and javelin with their horses at full gallop, and rising before dawn to practice these and other exercises. At sixteen they became soldiers; and meanwhile, to prepare them from their profession, were required to make long journeys, sleeping in the open air in all kinds of weather, and receiving at times only one meal every second day. Book learning formed no part of the Persian’s education, the chief aims of which were to teach him how “to ride, to draw the bow, and to speak the truth.”
The Zoroastrianism of the Persians, called also Mazdeism, Mazda being another name for Ormazd, their supreme being, was founded on what was believed to be a direct revelation to Zoroaster, the great Bactrian reformer, probably about 1500 BC. Ormazd was omnipotent, omniscient, the embodiment of wisdom and purity, and the source of all knowledge and happiness. In contrast with him was Ahriman, the spirit of evil, bringing sin and death to man and sterility of earth. Hence it was that agriculture was considered not only an honorable but a sacred calling, as a duty to Ormazd and as thwarting the malice of the spiritual foe. Magism, or the religion of the Medes, was gradually assimilated with that of the Persians, and the magi incorporated with the national priesthood.