The kings not gods, but the vicegerents of the gods: their sacerdotal character -- The queens and the women of the royal family: the sons and the order of succession to the throne -- The royal palaces: description of the palace of Gudea at Lagash, the facades, the zigurat, the private apartments, the furniture, the external decoration -- Costume of the men and women: the employees of the palace and the method of royal administration; the military and the great lords.
The scribe and the clay books. -- Cuneiform writing: its hieroglyphic origin; the Protean character of the sounds which may be assigned to the ideograms, grammatical tablets, and dictionaries -- Their contracts, and their numerous copies of them: the finger-nail mark, the seal.
The constitution of the family: the position held by the wife -- Marriage, the contract, the religious ceremonies -- Divorce: the rights of wealthy women; woman and marriage among the lower classes -- Adopted children, their position in the family; ordinary motives for adoption -- Slaves, their condition, their enfranchisement.
The Chaldaean towns: the aspect and distribution of the houses, domestic life -- The family patrimony: division of the inheritance -- Lending on usury, the rate of interest, commercial intercourse by land and sea -- Trade corporations: brick-making, industrial implements in stone and metal, goldsmiths, engravers of cylinders, weavers; the state of the working classes.
Farming and cultivation of the ground: landmarks, slaves, and agricultural labourers -- Scenes of pastoral life: fishing, hunting -- Archaic literature; positive sciences: arithmetic and geometry, astronomy and astrology, the science of foretelling the future -- The physician; magic and its influence on neighbouring countries.
[Illustration: 239.jpg CHAPTER III.]
Drawn by Boudier, from the sketch by Loftus. The initial vignette, which is by Faucher-Gudin, represents a royal figure kneeling and holding a large nail in both hands. The nail serves to keep the figure fixed firmly in the earth. It is a reproduction of the bronze figurine in the Louvre, already published by Heuzey-Sakzeo, Decouvertes en Chaldee, pl.28, No.4.
Royalty -- The constitution of the family and its property -- Chaldaean commerce and industry.
The Chaldaean kings, unlike their contemporaries the Pharaohs, rarely put forward any pretensions to divinity. They contented themselves with occupying an intermediate position between their subjects and the gods, and for the purpose of mediation they believed themselves to be endowed with powers not possessed by ordinary mortals. They sometimes designated themselves the sons of Ea, or of Ninsun, or some other deity, but this involved no belief in a divine parentage, and was merely pious hyperbole: they entertained no illusions with regard to any descent from a god or even from one of his doubles, but they desired to be recognized as his vicegerents here below, as his prophets, his well-beloved, his pastors, elected by him to rule his human flocks, or as priests devotedly attached to his service. While, however, the ordinary priest chose for himself a single master to whom he devoted himself, the priest-king exercised universal sacerdotal functions and claimed to be pontiff of all the national religions. His choice naturally was directed by preference to the patrons of his city, those who had raised his ancestors from the dust, and had exalted him to the supreme rank, but there were other divinities who claimed their share of his homage and expected of him a devotion suited to their importance. If he had attempted to carry out these duties personally in detail, he would have had to spend his whole life at the foot of the altar; even when he had delegated as many of them as he could to the regular clergy, there still remained sufficient to occupy a large part of his time. Every month, every day, brought its inevitable round of sacrifices, prayers, and processions. On the 1st of the second Elul, the King of Babylon had to present a gazelle without blemish to Sin; he then made an offering of his own choosing to Shamash, and cut the throats of his victims before the god. These ceremonies were repeated on the 2nd without any alteration, but from the 3rd to the 12th they took place during the night, before the statues of Merodach and Ishtar, in turn with those of Nebo and Tashmit, of Mullil and Ninlil, of Eamman and of Zirbanit; sometimes at the rising of a particular constellation -- as, for instance, that of the Great Bear, or that of the sons of Ishtar; sometimes at the moment when the moon "raised above the earth her luminous crown." On such a date a penitential psalm or a litany was to be recited; at another time it was forbidden to eat of meat either cooked or smoked, to change the body-linen, to wear white garments, to drink medicine, to sacrifice, to put forth an edict, or to drive out in a chariot. Not only at Babylon, but everywhere else, obedience to the religious rites weighed heavily on the local princes; at Uru, at Lagash, at Nipur, and in the ruling cities of Upper and Lower Chaldaea. The king, as soon as he succeeded to the throne, repaired to the temple to receive his solemn investiture, which differed in form according to the gods he worshipped: at Babylon, he addressed himself to the statue of Bel-Merodach in the first days of the month Nisan which followed his accession, and he "took him by the hands" to do homage to him. From thenceforth, he officiated for Merodach here below, and the scrupulously minute devotions, which daily occupied hours of his time, were so many acts of allegiance which his fealty as a vassal constrained him to perform to his suzerain. They were, in fact, analogous to the daily audiences demanded of a great lord by his steward, for the purpose of rendering his accounts and of informing him of current business: any interruption not justified by a matter of supreme importance would be liable to be interpreted as a want of respect or as revealing an inclination to rebel. By neglecting the slightest ceremonial detail the king would arouse the suspicions of the gods, and excite their anger against himself and his subjects: the people had, therefore, a direct interest in his careful fulfilment of the priestly functions, and his piety was not the least of his virtues in their eyes. All other virtues -- bravery, equity, justice -- depended on it, and were only valuable from the divine aid which piety obtained for them. The gods and heroes of the earliest ages had taken upon themselves the task of protecting the faithful from all their enemies, whether men or beasts. If a lion decimated their flocks, or a urus of gigantic size devastated their crops, it was the king's duty to follow the example of his fabulous predecessors and to set out and overcome them. The enterprise demanded all the more courage and supernatural help, since these beasts were believed to be no mere ordinary animals, but were looked on as instruments of divine wrath the cause of which was often unknown, and whoever assailed these monsters, provoked not only them but the god who instigated them. Piety and confidence in the patron of the city alone sustained the king when he set forth to drive the animal back to its lair; he engaged in close combat with it, and no sooner had he pierced it with his arrows or his lance, or felled it with axe and dagger, than he hastened to pour a libation upon it, and to dedicate it as a trophy in one of the temples. His exalted position entailed on him no less perils in time of war: if he did not personally direct the first attacking column, he placed himself at the head of the band composed of the flower of the army, whose charge at an opportune moment was wont to secure the victory.
What would have been the use of his valour, if the dread of the gods had not preceded his march, and if the light of their countenances had not struck terror into the ranks of the enemy? As soon as he had triumphed by their command, he sought before all else to reward them amply for the assistance they had given him. He poured a tithe of the spoil into the coffers of their treasury, he made over a part of the conquered country to their domain, he granted them a tale of the prisoners to cultivate their lands or to work at their buildings. Even the idols of the vanquished shared the fate of their people: the king tore them from the sanctuaries which had hitherto sheltered them, and took them as prisoners in his train to form a court of captive gods about his patron divinity. Shamash, the great judge of heaven, inspired him with justice, and the prosperity which his good administration obtained for the people was less the work of the sovereign than that of the immortals.
We know too little of the inner family life of the kings, to attempt to say how they were able to combine the strict sacerdotal obligations incumbent on them with the routine of daily life. We merely observe that on great days of festival or sacrifice, when they themselves officiated, they laid aside all the insignia of royalty during the ceremony and were clad as ordinary priests. We see them on such occasions represented with short-cut hair and naked breast, the loin-cloth about their waist, advancing foremost in the rank, carrying the heavily laden "kufa," or reed basket, as if they were ordinary slaves; and, as a fact, they had for the moment put aside their sovereignty and were merely temple servants, or slaves appearing before their divine master to do his bidding, and disguising themselves for the nonce in the garb of servitors. The wives of the sovereign do not seem to have been invested with that semi-sacred character which led the Egyptian women to be associated with the devotions of the man, and made them indispensable auxiliaries in all religious ceremonies; they did not, moreover, occupy that important position side by side with the man which the Egyptian law assigned to the queens of the Pharaohs. Whereas the monuments on the banks of the Nile reveal to us princesses sharing the throne of their husbands whom they embrace with a gesture of frank affection, in Chaldaea the wives of the prince, his mother, sisters, daughters, and even his slaves, remain invisible to posterity.
[Illustration: 244.jpg THE KING URNINA BEARING THE "KUFA."]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from Heuzey Sarzec.
The harem in which they were shut up by custom, rarely opened its doors: the people seldom caught sight of them, their relatives spoke of them as little as possible, those in power avoided associating them in any public acts of worship or government, and we could count on our fingers the number of those whom the inscriptions mention by name. Some of them were drawn from the noble families of the capital, others came from the kingdoms of Chaldaea or from foreign courts; a certain number never rose above the condition of mere concubines, many assumed the title of queen, while almost all served as living pledges of alliances made with rival states, or had been given as hostages at the concluding of a peace on the termination of a war.* As the kings, who put forward no pretensions to a divine origin, were not constrained, after the fashion of the Pharaohs, to marry their sisters in order to keep up the purity of their race, it was rare to find one among their wives who possessed an equal right to the crown with themselves: such a case could be found only in troublous times, when an aspirant to the throne, of base extraction, legitimated his usurpation by marrying a sister or daughter of his predecessor.
* Political marriage-alliances between Egypt and Chaldaea were of frequent occurrence, according to the Tel el-Amarna tablets, and at a later period between Chaldaea and Assyria; among the few queens of the very earliest times, the wife of Nammaghani is the daughter of Urbau, vicegerent of Lagash, and consequently the cousin or niece of her husband, while the wife of Rimsin appears to be the daughter of a nobleman of the name of Rimnannar.
The original status of the mother almost always determined that of her children, and the sons of a princess were born princes, even if their father were of obscure or unknown origin.* These princes exercised important functions at court, or they received possessions which they administered under the suzerainty of the head of the family; the daughters were given to foreign kings, or to scions of the most distinguished families. The sovereign was under no obligation to hand down his crown to any particular member of his family; the eldest son usually succeeded him, but the king could, if he preferred, select his favourite child as his successor even if he happened to be the youngest, or the only one born of a slave. As soon as the sovereign had made known his will, the custom of primogeniture was set aside, and his word became law. We can well imagine the secret intrigues formed both by mothers and sons to curry favour with the father and bias his choice; we can picture the jealousy with which they mutually watched each other, and the bitter hatred which any preference shown to one would arouse in the breasts of all the others. Often brothers who had been disappointed in their expectations would combine secretly against the chosen or supposed heir; a conspiracy would break out, and the people suddenly learn that their ruler of yesterday had died by the hand of an assassin and that a new one filled his place.
* This fact is apparent from the introduction to the inscription in which Sargon I. is supposed to give an account of his life: "My father was unknown, my mother was a princess;" and it was, indeed, from his mother that he inherited his rights to the crown of Agade.
Sometimes discontent spread beyond the confines of the palace, the army became divided into two hostile camps, the citizens took the side of one or other of the aspirants, and civil war raged for several years till some decisive action brought it to a close. Meantime tributary vassals took advantage of the consequent disorder to shake off the yoke, the Blamites and various neighbouring cities joined in the dispute and ranged themselves on the side of the party from which there was most to be gained: the victorious faction always had to pay dearly for this somewhat dubious help, and came out impoverished from the struggle. Such an internecine war often caused the downfall of a dynasty -- at times, indeed, that of the entire state.*
* The above is perfectly true of the later Assyrian and Chalaean periods: it is scarcely needful to recall to the reader the murders of Sargon II. and Sennacherib, or the revolt of Assurdainpal against his father Shalmaneser III. With regard to the earliest period we have merely
The palaces of the Chaldaean kings, like those of the Egyptians, presented the appearance of an actual citadel: the walls had to be sufficiently thick to withstand an army for an indefinite period, and to protect the garrison from every emergency, except that of treason or famine. One of the statues found at Telloh holds in its lap the plan of one of these residences: the external outline alone is given, but by means of it we can easily picture to ourselves a fortified place, with its towers, its forts, and its gateways placed between two bastions. It represents the ancient palace of Lagash, subsequently enlarged and altered by Oudea or one of the vicegerents who succeeded him, in which many a great lord of the place must have resided down to the time of the Christian era. The site on which it was built in the Girsu quarter of. the city was not entirely unoccupied at the time of its foundation. Urbau had raised a ziggurat on that very spot some centuries previously, and the walls which he had constructed were falling into ruin.
[Illustration: 248.jpg THE PLAN OF A PALACE BUILT BY GUDEA.]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from Heuzey-Sarzec. The plan is traced upon the tablet held in the lap of Statue E in the Louvre. Below the plan can be seen the ruler marked with the divisions used by the architect for drawing his designs to the desired scale; the scribe's stylus is represented lying on the left of the plan. [Prof. Petrie has shown that the unit of measurement represented on this ruler is the cubit of the Pyramid-builders of Egypt. -- Te.]
Gudea did not destroy the work of his remote predecessor, he merely incorporated it into the substructures of the new building, thus showing an indifference similar to that evinced by the Pharaohs for the monuments of a former dynasty. The palaces, like the temples, never rose directly from the soil, but were invariably built on the top of an artificial mound of crude brick. At Lagash, this solid platform rises to the height of 40 feet above the plain, and the only means of access to the top is by a single narrow steep staircase, easily cut off or defended.
[Illustration: 249.jpg TERRA-COTTA BARREL-right]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from the facsimile by Place.
The palace which surmounts this artificial eminence describes a sort of irregular rectangle, 174 feet long by 69 feet wide, and had, contrary to the custom in Egypt, the four angles orientated to the four cardinal points. The two principal sides are not parallel, but swell out slightly towards the middle, and the flexion of the lines almost follows the contour of one of those little clay cones upon which the kings were wont to inscribe their annals or dedications. This flexure was probably not intentional on the part of the architect, but was owing to the difficulty of keeping a wall of such considerable extent in a straight line from one end to another; and all Eastern nations, whether Chaldaeans or Egyptians, troubled themselves but little about correctness of alignment, since defects of this kind were scarcely ever perceptible in the actual edifice, and are only clearly revealed in the plan drawn out to scale with modern precision.*
* Mons. Heuzey thinks that the outward deflection of the lines is owing "merely to a primitive method of obtaining greater solidity of construction, and of giving a better foundation to these long facades, which are placed upon artificial terraces of crude brick always subject to cracks and settlements." I think that the explanation of the facts which I have given in the text is simpler than that ingeniously proposed by Mons. Heuzey: the masons, having begun to build the wall at one end, were unable to carry it on in a straight line until it reached the spot denoted on the architect's plan, and therefore altered the direction of the wall when they detected their error; or, having begun to build the wall from both ends simultaneously, were not successful in making the two lines meet correctly, and they have frankly patched up the junction by a mass of projecting brickwork which conceals their unskilfulness.
[Illustration: 250.jpg PLAN OF THE EXISTING BUILDINGS OF TELLOH.]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from Heuzey-Sarzec.
The facade of the building faces south-east, and is divided into three blocks of unequal size. The centre of the middle block for a length of 18 feet projects some 3 feet from the main front, and, by directly facing the spectator, ingeniously masks the obtuse angle formed by the meeting of the two walls. This projection is flanked right and left by rectangular grooves, similar to those which ornament the facades of the fortresses and brick houses of the Ancient Empire in Egypt: the regular alternation of projections and hollows breaks the monotony of the facing by the play of light and shade. Beyond these, again, the wall surface is broken by semicircular pilasters some 17 inches in diameter, without bases, capitals, or even a moulding, but placed side by side like so many tree-trunks or posts forming a palisade.
[Illustration: 251.jpg DECORATION OF COLOURED CONES ON THE FACADE AT URUK]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from the sketch by Loftus.
Various schemes of decoration succeed each other in progressive sequence, less ornate and at greater distances apart, the further they recede from the central block and the nearer they approach to the extremities of the facade. They stop short at the southern angle, and the two sides of the edifice running from south to west, and again from west to north, are flat, bare surfaces, unbroken by projection or groove to relieve the poverty and monotony of their appearance. The decoration reappears on the north-east front, where the arrangement of the principal facade is partly reproduced. The grooved divisions here start from the angles, and the engaged columns are wanting, or rather they are transferred to the central projection, and from a distance have the effect of a row of gigantic organ-pipes. We may well ask if this squat and heavy mass of building, which must have attracted the eye from all parts of the town, had nothing to relieve the dull and dismal colour of its component bricks.
[Illustration: 252.jpg PILASTERS OF THE FACADE OF GUDEA'S PALACE]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from Heuzey-Sarzec
The idea might not have occurred to us had we not found elsewhere an attempt to lessen the gloomy appearance of the architecture by coloured plastering. At Uruk, the walls of the palace are decorated by means of terra-cotta cones, fixed deep into the solid plaster and painted red, black, or yellow, forming interlaced or diaper patterns of chevrons, spirals, lozenges, and triangles, with a very fair result: this mosaic of coloured plaster covered all the surfaces, both flat and curved, giving to the building a cheerful aspect entirely wanting in that of Lagash.
A long narrow trough of yellowish limestone stood in front of the palace, and was raised on two steps: it was carved in relief on the outside with figures of women standing with outstretched hands, passing to each other vases from which gushed forth two streams of water. This trough formed a reservoir, which was filled every morning for the use of the men and beasts, and those whom some business or a command brought to the palace could refresh themselves there while waiting to be received by the master. The gates which gave access to the interior were placed at somewhat irregular intervals: two opened from the principal facade, but on each of the other sides there was only one entrance. They were arched and so low that admittance was not easily gained; they were closed with two-leaved doors of cedar or cypress, provided with bronze hinges, which turned upon two blackish stones firmly set in the masonry on either side, and usually inscribed with the name of the founder or that of the reigning sovereign. Two of the entrances possessed a sort of covered way, in which the soldiers of the external watch could take shelter from the heat of the sun by day, from the cold at night, and from the dews at dawn. On crossing the threshold, a corridor, flanked with two small rooms for porters or warders, led into a courtyard surrounded with buildings of sufficient depth to take up nearly half of the area enclosed within the walls. This court was moreover a semi-public place, to which tradesmen, merchants, suppliants, and functionaries of all ranks had easy access. A suite of three rooms shut off in the north-east angle did duty for a magazine or arsenal. The southern portion of the building was occupied by the State apartments, the largest of which measures only 40 feet in length. In these rooms Gudea and his successors gave audience to their nobles and administered justice. The administrative officers and the staff who had charge of them were probably located in the remaining part of the building. The roof was flat, and ran all round the enclosing wall, forming a terrace, access to it being gained by a staircase built between the principal entrance and the arsenal. At the northern angle rose a ziggurat. Custom demanded that the sovereign should possess a temple within his dwelling, where he could fulfil his religious duties without going into the town and mixing with the crowd. At Lagash the sacred tower was of older date than the palace, and possibly formed part of the ancient building of Urbau. It was originally composed of three stories, but the lower one was altered by Gudea, and disappeared entirely in the thickness of the basal platform. The second story thus became the bottom one; it was enlarged, slightly raised above the neighbouring roofs, and was probably crowned by a sanctuary dedicated to Ningirsu. It was, indeed, a monument of modest proportions, and most of the public temples soared far above it; but, small as it was, the whole town might be seen from the summit, with its separate quarters and its belt of gardens; and beyond, the open country intersected with streams, studded with isolated villages, patches of wood, pools and weedy marshes left by the retiring inundation, and in the far distance the lines of trees and bushes which bordered the banks of the Euphrates and its confluents. Should a troop of enemies venture within the range of sight, or should a suspicious tumult arise within the city, the watchers posted on the highest terrace would immediately give the alarm, and 'through their warning the king would have time to close his gates, and take measures to resist the invading enemy or crush the revolt of his subjects.
[Illustration: 255.jpg STONE SOCKET OF ONE OF THE DOORS IN THE PALACE OF GUDEA.( right)]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from Heuzey-Sarzec.
The northern apartments of the palace were appropriated to Gudea and his family. They were placed with their back to the entrance court, and were divided into two groups; the sovereign, his male children and their attendants, inhabited the western one, while the women and their slaves were cloistered, so to speak, in the northern set. The royal dwelling had an external exit by means of a passage issuing on the north-west of the enclosure, and it also communicated with the great courtyard by a vaulted corridor which ran along one side of the base of the ziggurat: the doors which, closed these two entrances opened wide enough to admit only one person at a time, and to the right and left were recesses in the wall which enabled the guards to examine all comers unobserved, and stab them promptly if there were anything suspicious in their behaviour. Eight chambers were lighted from the courtyard. In one of them were kept all the provisions for the day, while another served as a kitchen: the head, cook carried on his work at a sort of rectangular dresser of moderate size, on which several fireplaces were marked out by little dividing walls of burnt bricks, to accommodate as many pots or pans of various sizes. A well sunk in the corner right down below the substructure provided the water needed for culinary purposes. The king and his belongings accommodated themselves in the remaining five or six rooms as best they could. A corridor, guarded as carefully as the one previously described, led to his private apartments and to those of his wives: these comprised a yard, some half-dozen cells varying in size, a kitchen, a well, and a door through which the servants could come and go, without passing through the men's quarters. The whole description in no way corresponds with the marvellous ideal of an Oriental palace which we form for ourselves: the apartments are mean and dismal, imperfectly lighted by the door or by some small aperture timidly cut in the ceiling, arranged so as to protect the inmates from the heat and dust, but without a thought given to luxury or display. The walls were entirely void of any cedar woodwork inlaid with gold, or panels of mosaic such as we find in the temples, nor were they hung with dyed or embroidered draperies such as we moderns love to imagine, and which we spread about in profusion, when we attempt to reproduce the interior of an ancient house or palace.*
* Mons. de Sarzec expressly states that he was unable to find anywhere in the palace of Gudea "the slightest trace of any coating on the walls, either of colour or glazed brick. The walls appear to have been left bare, without any decoration except the regular joining of the courses of brickwork." The wood panelling was usually reserved for the temples or sacred edifices: Mons. de Sarzec found the remains of carbonized cedar panels in the ruins of a sanctuary dedicated to Ningirsu. According to Mons. Heuzey, the wall-hangings were probably covered with geometrical designs, similar to tho"e formed by the terra-cotta cones on the walls of the palace at Uruk; the inscriptions, however, which are full of minute details with regard to the construction and ornamentation of the temples and palaces, have hitherto contained nothing which would lead us to infer that hangings were used for mural decoration in Chaldoa or Assyria.
The walls had to remain bare for the sake of coolness: at the most they were only covered with a coat of white plaster, on which were painted, in one or two colours, some scene of civil or religious life, or troops of fantastic monsters struggling with one another, or men each with a bird seated on his Wrist. The furniture was not less scanty than the decoration; there were mats on the ground, coffers in which were kept the linen and wearing apparel, low beds inlaid with ivory and metal and provided with coverings and a thin mattress, copper or wooden stands to support lamps or vases, square stools on four legs united by crossbars, armchairs with lions' claw feet, resembling the Egyptian armchairs in outline, and making us ask if they were brought into Chaldaea by caravans, or made from models which had come from some other country. A few rare objects of artistic character might be found, which bore witness to a certain taste for elegance and refinement; as, for instance, a kind of circular trough of black stone, probably used to support a vase. Three rows of imbricated scales surrounded the base of this, while seven small sitting figures lean back against the upper part with an air of satisfaction which is most cleverly rendered. The decoration of the larger chambers used for public receptions and official ceremonies, while never assuming the monumental character which we observe in contemporary Egyptian buildings, afforded more scope for richness and variety than was offered by the living-rooms.
[Illustration: 258.jpg STAND OF BLACK STONE FROM THE PALACE OF TELLOH.]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from Heuzey-Sarzec.
Small tablets of brownish limestone, let into the wall or affixed to its surface by terra-cotta pegs, and decorated with inscriptions, represented in a more or less artless fashion the figure of the sovereign officiating before some divinity, while his children and servants took part in the ceremony by their chanting. Inscribed bricks celebrating the king's exploits were placed here and there in conspicuous places. These were not embedded like the others in two layers of bitumen or lime, but were placed in full view upon bronze statues of divinities or priests, fixed into the ground or into some part of the masonry as magical nails destined to preserve the bricks from destruction, and consequently to keep the memory of the dedicator continually before posterity. Stelaa engraved on both sides recalled the wars of past times, the battle-field, the scenes of horror which took place there, and the return of the victor and his triumph. Sitting or standing figures of diorite, silicious sandstone or hard limestone, bearing inscriptions on their robes or shoulders, perpetuated the features of the founder or of members of his family, and commemorated the pious donations which had obtained for him the favour of the gods: the palace of Lagash contained dozens of such statues, several of which have come down to us almost intact -- one of the ancient Urbau, and nine of Gudea.
To judge by the space covered and the arrangement of the rooms, the vicegerents of Lagash and the chiefs of towns of minor importance must, as a rule, have been content with a comparatively small number of servants; their court probably resembled that of the Egyptian barons who lived much about the same period, such as Khnumhotpu of the nome of the Gazelle, or Thothotpu of Hermopolis. In great cities such as Babylon the palace occupied a much larger area, and the crowd of courtiers was doubtless as great as that which thronged about the Pharaohs. No exact enumeration of them has come down to us, but the titles which we come across show with what minuteness they defined the offices about the person of the sovereign. His costume alone required almost as many persons as there were garments. The men wore the light loin-cloth or short-sleeved tunic which scarcely covered the knees; after the fashion of the Egyptians, they threw over the loin-cloth and the tunic a large "abayah," whose shape and material varied with the caprice of fashion. They often chose for this purpose a sort of shawl of a plain material, fringed or ornamented with a flat stripe round the edge; often they seem to have preferred it ribbed, or artificially kilted from top to bottom.*
* The relatively modern costume was described by Herodotus, i.114; it was almost identical with the ancient one, as proved by the representations on the cylinders and monuments of Telloh. The short-sleeved tunic is more rarely
The favourite material in ancient times, however, seems to have been a hairy, shaggy cloth or woollen stuff, whose close fleecy thread hung sometimes straight, sometimes crimped or waved, in regular rows like flounces one above another. This could be arranged squarely around the neck, like a mantel, but was more often draped crosswise over the left shoulder and brought under the right arm-pit, so as to leave the upper part of the breast and the arm bare on that side. It made a convenient and useful garment -- an excellent protection in summer from the sun, and from the icy north wind in the winter. The feet were shod with sandals, a tight-fitting cap covered the head, and round it was rolled a thick strip of linen, forming a sort of rudimentary turban, which completed the costume.*
*Cf. the head belonging to one of the statues of Telloh, which is reproduced on p.112 of this volume. We notice the same head-dress on several intaglios and monuments, and also on the terra-cotta plaque which will be found on p.330 of this volume, and which represents a herdsman wrestling with a lion. Until we have further evidence, we cannot state, as G. Raw-linson did, that this strip forming a turban was of camel's hair; the date of the introduction of the camel into Chaldoa still remains uncertain.
It is questionable whether, as in Egypt, wigs and false beards formed part of the toilette. On some monuments we notice smooth faces and close-cropped heads; on others the men appear with long hair, either falling loose or twisted into a knot on the back of the neck.* While the Egyptians delighted in garments of thin white linen, but slightly plaited or crimped, the dwellers on the banks of the Euphrates preferred thick and heavy stuffs patterned and striped with many colours. The kings wore the same costume as their subjects, but composed of richer and finer materials, dyed red or blue, decorated with floral, animal, or geometrical designs;** a high tower-shaped tiara covered the forehead,*** unless replaced by a diadem of Sin or some of the other gods, which was a conical mitre supporting a double pair of horns, and sometimes surmounted by a sort of diadem of feathers and mysterious figures, embroidered or painted on the cap. Their arms were loaded with massive bracelets and their fingers with rings; they wore necklaces and earrings, and carried each a dagger in the belt.
* Dignitaries went bareheaded and shaved the chin; see, for example, the two bas-reliefs given on pp.105 and 244 of this volume; cf. the heads reproduced as tailpieces on pp.2, 124. The knot of hair behind on the central figure is easily distinguished in the vignette on p.266 of this volume.
** The details of colour and ornamentation, not furnished by the Chaldaean monuments, are given in the wall-painting at Beni-Nasan representing the arrival of Asiatics in Egypt, which belongs to a period contemporary with or slightly anterior to the reign of Gudea. The resemblance of the stuffs in which they are clothed to those of the Chaldaean garments, and the identity of the patterns on them with the geometrical decoration of painted cones on the palace at Uruk, have been pointed out with justice by H. G. Tomkins
*** The high tiara is represented among others on the head of Mardukna-dinakhe, King of Babylon: cf. what is said of the conical mitre, the headdress of Sin, on pp.14, 169 of this volume.
[Illustration: 262.jpg FEMALE SERVANT BARE TO THE WAIST.(left)]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from the bronze figure in the Louvre, published by Heuzey-Sarzec, Decouvertes en Chaldee, pl.14.
The royal wardrobe, jewels, arms, and insignia formed so many distinct departments, and each was further divided into minor sections for body-linen, washing, or for this or that kind of headdress or sceptre. The dress of the women, which was singularly like that of the men, required no less a staff of attendants. The female servants, as well as the male, went about bare to the waist, at all events while working indoors. When they went out, they wore the same sort of tunic or loin-cloth, but longer and more resembling a petticoat; they had the same "abayah" drawn round the shoulders or rolled about the body like a cloak, but with the women it nearly touched the ground; sometimes an actual dress seems to have been substituted for the "abayah," drawn in to the figure by a belt and cut out of the same hairy material as that of which the mantles were made. The boots were of soft leather, laced, and without heels; the women's ornaments were more numerous than those of the men, and comprised necklaces, bracelets, ankle, finger, and ear rings; their hair was separated into bands and kept in place on the forehead by a fillet, falling in thick plaits or twisted into a coil on the nape of the neck.
[Illustration: 262.jpg COSTUME OF A CHALDAEN LADY (right)]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from the alabaster statuette in the Louvre, published in Heuzey. She holds in her hand the jar full of water, analogous to the streaming vase mentioned above.
A great deal of the work was performed by foreign or native slaves, generally under the command of eunuchs, to whom the king and royal princes entrusted most of the superintendence of their domestic arrangements; they guarded and looked after the sleeping apartments, they fanned and kept the flies from their master, and handed him his food and drink. Eunuchs in Egypt were either unknown or but little esteemed: they never seem to have been used, even in times when relations with Asia were of daily occurrence, and when they might have been supplied from the Babylonian slave-markets.
All these various officials closely attached to the person of the sovereign -- heads of the wardrobe, chamberlains, cupbearers, bearers of the royal sword or of the flabella, commanders of the eunuchs or of the guards -- had, by the nature of their duties, daily opportunities of gaining a direct influence over their master and his government, and from among them he often chose the generals of his army or the administrators of his domains. Here, again, as far as the few monuments and the obscurity of the texts permit of our judging, we find indications of a civil and military organization analogous to that of Egypt: the divergencies which contemporaries may have been able to detect in the two national systems are effaced by the distance of time, and we are struck merely by the resemblances. As all business transactions were carried on by barter or by the exchange of merchandise for weighed quantities of the precious metals, the taxes were consequently paid in kind: the principal media being corn and other cereals, dates, fruits, stuffs, live animals and slaves, as well as gold, silver, lead, and copper, either in its native state or melted into bars fashioned into implements or ornamented vases. Hence we continually come across fiscal storehouses, both in town and country, which demanded the services of a whole troop of functionaries and workmen: administrators of corn, cattle, precious metals, wine and oil; in fine, as many administrators as there were cultures or industries in the country presided over the gathering of the products into the central depots and regulated their redistribution. A certain portion was reserved for the salaries of the employes and the pay of the workmen engaged in executing public works: the surplus accumulated in the treasury and formed a reserve, which was not drawn upon except in cases of extreme necessity. Every palace, in addition to its living-rooms, contained within its walls large store-chambers filled with provisions and weapons, which made it more or less a fortress, furnished with indispensable requisites for sustaining a prolonged siege either against an enemy's troops or the king's own subjects in revolt. The king always kept about him bodies of soldiers who perhaps were foreign mercenaries, like the Mazaiu of the armies of the Pharaohs, and who formed his permanent body-guard in times of peace. When a war was imminent, a military levy was made upon his domains, but we are unable to find out whether the recruits thus raised were drawn indiscriminately from the population in general, or merely from a special class, analogous to that of the warriors which we find in Egypt, who were paid in the same way by grants of land. The equipment of these soldiers was of the rudest kind: they had no cuirass, but carried a rectangular shield, and, in the case of those of higher rank at all events, a conical metal helmet, probably of beaten copper, provided with a piece to protect the back of the neck; the heavy infantry were armed with a pike tipped with bronze ox-copper, an axe or sharp adze, a stone-headed mace, and a dagger; the light troops were provided only with the bow and sling. As early as the third millennium b.c., the king went to battle in a chariot drawn by onagers, or perhaps horses; he had his own peculiar weapon, which was a curved baton probably terminating in a metal point, and resembling the sceptre of the Pharaohs. Considerable quantities of all these arms were stored in the arsenals, which contained depots for bows, maces, and pikes, and even the stones needed for the slings had their special department for storage. At the beginning of each campaign, a distribution of weapons to the newly levied troops took place; but as soon as the war was at an end, the men brought back their accoutrements, which were stored till they were again required. The valour of the soldiers and their chiefs was then rewarded; the share of the spoil for some consisted of cattle, gold, corn, a female slave, and vessels of value; for others, lands or towns in the conquered country, regulated by the rank of the recipients or the extent of the services they had rendered.
[Illustration: 266.jpg A SOLDIER BRINGING PRISONERS AND SPOIL.]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from the Chaldaean intaglio in the British. Museum.
Property thus given was hereditary, and privileges were often added to it which raised the holder to the rank of a petty prince: for instance, no royal official was permitted to impose a tax upon such lands, or take the cattle off them, or levy provisions upon them; no troop of soldiers might enter them, not even for the purpose of arresting a fugitive. Most of the noble families possessed domains of this kind, and constituted in each kingdom a powerful and wealthy feudal aristocracy, whose relations to their sovereign were probably much the same as those which bound the nomarchs to the Pharaoh. The position of these nobles was not more stable than that of the dynasties under which they lived: while some among them gained power by marriages or by continued acquisitions of land, others fell into disgrace and were ruined. As the soil belonged to the gods, it is possible that these nobles were supposed, in theory, 'to depend upon the gods; but as the kings were the vicegerents of the gods upon earth, it was to the king, as a matter of fact, that they owed their elevation. Every state, therefore, comprised two parts, each subject to a distinct regime: one being the personal domain of the suzerain, which he managed himself, and from which he drew the revenues; the other was composed of fiefs, whose lords paid tribute and owed certain obligations to the king, the nature of which we are as yet unable to define.
The Chaldaean, like the Egyptian scribe, was the pivot on which the machinery of this double royal and seignorial administration turned. He does not appear to have enjoyed as much consideration as his fellow-official in the Nile Valley: the Chaldaean princes, nobles, priests, soldiers, and temple or royal officials, did not covet the title of scribe, or pride themselves upon holding that office side by side with their other dignities, as we see was the case with their Egyptian contemporaries. The position of a scribe, nevertheless, was an important one. We continually meet with it in all grades of society -- in the palace, in the temples, in the storehouses, in private dwellings; in fine, the scribe was ubiquitous, at court, in the town, in the country, in the army, managing affairs both small and great, and seeing that they were carried on regularly. His education differed but little from that given to the Egyptian scribe; he learned the routine of administrative or judicial affairs, the formularies for correspondence either with nobles or with ordinary people, the art of writing, of calculating quickly, and of making out bills correctly. We may well ask whether he ever employed papyrus or prepared skins for these purposes. It would, indeed, seem strange that, after centuries of intercourse, no caravan should have brought into Chaldaean any of those materials which were in such constant use for literary purposes in Africa;* yet the same clay which furnished the architect with such an abundant building material appears to have been the only medium for transmitting the language which the scribes possessed. They were always provided with slabs of a fine plastic clay, carefully mixed and kept sufficiently moist to take easily the impression of an object, but at the same time sufficiently firm to prevent the marks once made from becoming either blurred or effaced. When a scribe had a text to copy or a document to draw up, he chose out one of his slabs, which he placed flat upon his left palm, and taking in the right hand a triangular stylus of flint, copper, bronze, or bone,** he at once set to work. The instrument, in early times, terminated in a fine point, and the marks made by it when it was gently pressed upon the clay were slender and of uniform thickness; in later times, the extremity of the stylus was cut with a bevel, and the impression then took the shape of a metal nail or a wedge.
* On the Assyrian monuments we frequently see scribes taking a list of the spoil, or writing letters on tablets and some other soft material, either papyrus or prepared skin. Sayce has given good reasons for believing that the Chaldaeanns of the early dynasties knew of the papyrus, and either made it themselves, or had it brought from Egypt.
** See the triangular stylus of copper or bronze reproduced by the side of the measuring-rule, and the plan on the tablet of Gudea, p.248 of this volume. The Assyrian Museum in the Louvre possesses several large, flat styli of bone, cut to a point at one end, which appear to have belonged to the Assyrian scribes. Taylor discovered in a tomb at Eridu a flint tool, which may have served for the same purpose as the metal or bone styli.
[Illustration: 268.jpg MANUSCRIPT ON PAPYRUS IN HEIROGLYPHICS]
They wrote from left to right along the upper part of the tablet, and covered both sides of it with closely written lines, which sometimes ran over on to the edges. When the writing was finished, the scribe sent his work to the potter, who put it in the kiln and baked it, or the writer may have had a small oven at his own disposition, as a clerk with us would have his table or desk. The shape of these documents varied, and sometimes strikes us as being peculiar: besides the tablets and the bricks, we find small solid cones, or hollow cylinders of considerable size, on which the kings related their exploits or recorded the history of their wars or the dedication of their buildings. This method had a few inconveniences, but many advantages. These clay books were heavy to hold and clumsy to handle, while the characters did not stand out well from the brown, yellow, and whitish background of the material; but, on the other hand, a poem, baked and incorporated into the page itself, ran less danger of destruction than if scribbled in ink on sheets of papyrus. Fire could make no impression on it; it could withstand water for a considerable length of time; even if broken, the pieces were still of use: as long as it was not pulverized, the entire document could be restored, with the exception, perhaps, of a few signs, or 'some scraps of a sentence. The inscriptions which have been saved from the foundations of the most ancient temples, several of which date back forty or fifty centuries, are for the most part as clear and legible as when they left the hands of the writer who engraved them or of the workmen who baked them. It is owing to the material to which they were committed that we possess the principal works of Chaldaean literature which have come down to us -- poems, annals, hymns, magical incantations; how few fragments of these would ever have reached us had their authors confided them to parchment or paper, after the manner of the Egyptian scribes! The greatest danger that they ran was that of being left forgotten in the corner of the chamber in which they had been kept, or buried under the rubbish of a building after a fire or some violent catastrophe; even then the debris were the means of preserving them, by falling over them and covering them up. Protected under the ruins, they would lie there for centuries, till the fortunate explorer should bring them to light and deliver them over to the patient study of the learned.
The cuneiform character in itself is neither picturesque nor decorative. It does not offer that delightful assemblage of birds and snakes, of men and quadrupeds, of heads and limbs, of tools, weapons, stars, trees, and boats, which succeed each other in perplexing order on the Egyptian monuments, to give permanence to the glory of Pharaoh and the greatness of his gods. Cuneiform writing is essentially composed of thin short lines, placed in juxtaposition or crossing each other in a somewhat clumsy fashion; it has the appearance of numbers of nails scattered about at haphazard, and its angular configuration, and its stiff and spiny appearance, gives the inscriptions a dull and forbidding aspect which no artifice of the engraver can overcome.
[Illustration: 271.jpg Page image]
[Illustration: 272.jpg Page Image]
Yet, in spite of their seemingly arbitrary character, this mass of strokes had its source in actual hieroglyphs. As in the origin of the Egyptian script the earliest writers had begun by drawing on stone or clay the outline of the object of which they desired to convey the idea. But, whereas in Egypt the artistic temperament of the race, and the increasing skill of their sculptors, had by degrees brought the drawing of each sign to such perfection that it became a miniature portrait of the being or object to be reproduced, in Chaldaea, on the contrary, the signs became degraded from their original forms on account of the difficulty experienced in copying them with the stylus on the clay tablets: they lost their original vertical position, and were placed horizontally, retaining finally but the very faintest resemblance to the original model. For instance, the Chaldaean conception of the sky was that of a vault divided into eight segments by diameters running from the four cardinal points and from their principal subdivisions [symbol] the external circle was soon omitted, the transverse lines alone remaining [symbol], which again was simplified into a kind of irregular cross [symbol]. The figure of a man standing, indicated by the lines resembling his contour, was placed on its side [symbol] and reduced little by little till it came to be merely a series of ill-balanced lines [symbol] [symbol]. We may still recognize in [symbol] the five fingers and palm of a human hand [symbol]; but who would guess at the first glance that [symbol] stands for the foot which the scribes strove to place beside each character the special hieroglyph from which it had been derived. Several fragments of these still exist, a study of which seems to show that the Assyrian scribes of a more recent period were at times as much puzzled as we are ourselves when they strove to get at the principles of their own script: they had come to look on it as nothing more than a system of arbitrary combinations, whose original form had passed all the more readily into oblivion, because it had been borrowed from a foreign race, who, as far as they were concerned, had ceased to have a separate existence. The script had been invented by the Sumerians in the very earliest times, and even they may have brought it in an elemental condition from their distant fatherland. The first articulate sounds which, being attached to the hieroglyphs, gave to each an unalterable pronunciation, were words in the Sumerian tongue; subsequently, when the natural progress of human thought led thi Chaldaeans to replace, as in Egypt, the majority of the signs representing ideas by those representing sounds, the syllabic values which were developed side by side with the ideographic values were purely Sumerian. The group [symbol] throughout all its forms, designates in the first place the sky, then the god of the sky, and finally the concept of divinity in general. In its first two senses it is read ana, but in the last it becomes dingir, dimir; and though it never lost its double force, it was soon separated from the ideas which it evoked, to be used merely to denote the syllable an wherever it occurred, even in cases where it had no connection with the sky or heavenly things. The same process was applied to other signs with similar results: after having merely denoted ideas, they came to stand for the sounds corresponding to them, and then passed on to be mere syllables -- complex syllables in which several consonants may be distinguished, or simple syllables composed of only one consonant and one vowel, or vice versa. The Egyptians had carried this system still further, and in many cases had kept only one part of the syllable, namely, a mute consonant: they detached, for example, the final u from pu and bu, and gave only the values b and p to the human leg J and the mat Q. The peoples of the Euphrates stopped halfway, and admitted actual letters for the vowel sounds a, i, and u only. Their system remained a syllabary interspersed with ideograms, but excluded an alphabet.
[Illustration: 274.jpg Page image]
It was eminently wanting in simplicity, but, taken as a whole, it would not have presented as many difficulties as the script of the Egyptians, had it not been forced, at a very early period, to adapt itself to the exigencies of a language for which it had not been made. When it came to be appropriated by the Semites, the ideographs, which up till then had been read in Sumerian, did not lose the sounds which they possessed in that tongue, but borrowed others from the new language. For example, "god" was called ilu, and "heaven" called shami: [symbol], when encountered in inscriptions by the Semites, were read [symbol] when the context showed the sense to be "god," and shami when the character evidently meant "heaven." They added these two vocables to the preceding ana, an, dingir, dimir; but they did not stop there: they confounded the picture of the star [symbol] with that of the sky, and sometimes attributed to [symbol], the pronunciation kakkabu, and the meaning of star. The same process was applied to all the groups, and the Semitic values being added to the Sumerian, the scribes soon found themselves in possession of a double set of syllables both simple and compound. This multiplicity of sounds, this polyphonous character attached to their signs, became a cause of embarrassment even to them. For instance, [symbol] when found in the body of a word, stood for the syllables hi or hat, mid, mit, til, ziz; as an ideogram it was used for a score of different concepts: that of lord or master, inu, bilu; that of blood, damu; for a corpse, pagru, shalamtu; for the feeble or oppressed, kahtu, nagpu; as the hollow and the spring, nakbu; for the state of old age, labaru; of dying, matu; of killing, mitu; of opening, pitu; besides other meanings. Several phonetic complements were added to it; it was preceded by ideograms which determined the sense in which it was to be read, but which, like the Egyptian determinatives, were not pronounced, and in this manner they succeeded in limiting the number of mistakes which it was possible to make. With a final [symbol] it would always mean [symbol] bilu, the master, but with an initial [symbol] (thus [symbol]) it denoted the gods Bel or Ea; with [symbol]. which indicates a man [symbol], it would be the corpse, pagru and shalamtu; with [symbol] prefixed, it meant [symbol] -- mutanu, the plague or death and so on. In spite of these restrictions and explanations, the obscurity of the meaning was so great, that in many cases the scribes ran the risk of being unable to make out certain words and understand certain passages; many of the values occurred but rarely, and remained unknown to those who did not take the trouble to make a careful study of the syllabary and its history. It became necessary to draw up tables for their use, in which all the signs were classified and arranged, with their meanings and phonetic transcriptions. These signs occupied one column, and in three or four corresponding columns would be found, first, the name assigned to it; secondly, the spelling, in syllables, of the phonetic values which the signs expressed, thirdly, the Sumerian and Assyrian words which they served to render, and sometimes glosses which completed the explanation.
[Illustration: 276.jpg Tables]
Even this is far from exhausting the matter. Several of these dictionaries went back to a very early date, and tradition ascribes to Sargon of Agade the merit of having them drawn up or of having collected them in his palace. The number of them naturally increased in the course of centuries; in the later times of the Assyrian empire they were so numerous as to form nearly one-fourth of the works in the library at Nineveh under Assurbanipal. Other tablets contained dictionaries of archaic or obsolete terms, grammatical paradigms, extracts from laws or ancient hymns analyzed sentence by sentence and often word by word, interlinear glosses, collections of Sumerian formulas translated into Semitic speech -- a child's guide, in fact, which the savants of those times consulted with as much advantage as those of our own day have done, and which must have saved them from many a blunder.
When once accustomed to the difficulties and intricacies of their calling, the scribes were never at a standstill. The stylus was plied in Chaldaea no less assiduously than was the calamus in Egypt, and the indestructible clay, which the Chaldaeans were as a rule content to use, proved a better medium in the long run than the more refined material employed by their rivals: the baked or merely dried clay tablets have withstood the assaults of time in surprising quantities, while the majority of papyri have disappeared without leaving a trace behind. If at Babylon we rarely meet with those representations, which we find everywhere in the tombs of Saqqara or Gizeh, of the people themselves and their families, their occupations, amusements, and daily intercourse, we possess, on the other hand, that of which the ruins of Memphis have furnished us but scanty instances up to the present time, namely, judicial documents, regulating the mutual relations of the people and conferring a legal sanction on the various events of their life. Whether it were a question of buying lands or contracting a marriage, of a loan on interest, or the sale of slaves, the scribe was called in with his soft tablets to engross the necessary agreement. In this he would insert as many details as possible -- the day of the month, the year of the reigning sovereign, and at times, to be still more precise, an allusion to some important event which had just taken place, and a memorial of which was inserted in official annals, such as the taking of a town, the defeat of a neighbouring king, the dedication of a temple, the building of a wall or fortress, the opening of a canal, or the ravages of an inundation: the names of the witnesses and magistrates before whom the act was confirmed were also added to those of the contracting parties. The method of sanctioning it was curious. An indentation was made with the finger-nail on one of the sides of the tablet, and this mark, followed or preceded by the mention of a name, "Nail of Zabudamik," "Nail of Abzii," took the place of our more or less complicated sign-manuals. In later times, only the buyer and witnesses approved by a nail-mark, while the seller appended his seal; an inscription incised above the impress indicating the position of the signatory. Every one of any importance possessed a seal, which he wore attached to his wrist or hung round his neck by a cord; he scarcely ever allowed it to be separated from his person during his lifetime, and after death it was placed with him in the tomb in order to prevent any improper use being made of it. It was usually a cylinder, sometimes a truncated cone with a convex base, either of marble, red or green jasper, agate, cornelian, onyx or rock crystal, but rarely of metal. Engraved upon it in intaglio was an emblem or subject chosen by the owner, such as the single figure of a god or goddess, an act of adoration, a sacrifice, or an episode in the story of Gilgames, followed sometimes by the inscription of a name and title. The cylinder was rolled, or, in the case of the cone, merely pressed on the clay, in the space reserved for it. In several localities the contracting parties had recourse to a very ingenious procedure to prevent the agreements being altered or added to by unscrupulous persons. When the document had been impressed on the tablet, it was enveloped in a second coating of clay, upon which an exact copy of the original was made, the latter thus becoming inaccessible to forgers: if by chance, in course of time, any disagreement should take place, and an alteration of the visible text should be suspected, the outer envelope was broken in the presence of witnesses, and a comparison was made to see if the exterior corresponded exactly with the interior version. Families thus had their private archives, to which additions were rapidly made by every generation; every household thus accumulated not only the evidences of its own history, but to some extent that of other families with whom they had formed alliances, or had business or friendly relations.*
* The tablets of Tell-Sifr come from one of these family collections. They all, in number about one hundred, rested on three enormous bricks, and they had been covered with a mat of which the half-decayed remains were still visible: three other crude bricks covered the heap. The documents contained in them relate for the most part to the families of Sininana and Amililani, and form part of their archives.
[Illustration: 279.jpg THE TABLET OF TELL-SIFR, BROKEN TO SHOW THE TWO TEXTS.]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from Loftus.
[Illustration: 280.jpg TABLET BEARING THE IMPRESS OF A SEAL]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a sketch by Layard.
The constitution of the family was of a complex character. It would appear that the people of each city were divided into clans, all of whose members claimed to be descended from a common ancestor, who had flourished at a more or less remote period. The members of each clan were by no means all in the same social position, some having gone down in the world, others having raised themselves; and amongst them we find many different callings -- from agricultural labourers to scribes, and from merchants to artisans. No mutual tie existed among the majority of these members except the remembrance of their common origin, perhaps also a common religion, and eventual rights of succession or claims upon what belonged to each one individually. The branches which had become gradually separated from the parent stock, and which, taken all together, formed the clan, possessed each, on the contrary, a very strict organization. It is possible that, at the outset, the woman occupied the more important position, but at an early date the man became the head of the family,* and around him were ranged the wives, children, servants, and slaves, all of whom had their various duties and privileges.
* The change in the condition of women would be due to the influence of Semitic ideas and customs in Chaldaea.
He offered the household worship to the gods of his race, in accordance with special rites which had come down to him from his father; he made at the tombs of his ancestors, at such times as were customary, the offerings and prayers which assured their repose in the other world, and his powers were as extensive in civil as in religious matters. He had absolute authority over all the members of his household, and anything undertaken by them without his consent was held invalid in the eyes of the law; his sons could not marry unless he had duly authorized them to do so. For this purpose he appeared before the magistrate with the future couple, and the projected union could not be held as an actual marriage, until he had affixed his seal or made his nail-mark on the contract tablet. It amounted, in fact, to a formal deed of sale, and the parents of the girl parted with her only in exchange for a proportionate gift from the bridegroom. One girl would be valued at a silver shekel by weight, while another was worth a mina, another much less;* the handing over of the price was accompanied with a certain solemnity. When the young man possessed no property as yet of his own, his family advanced him the sum needed for the purchase. On her side, the maiden did not enter upon her new life empty handed; her father, or, in the case of his death, the head of the family at the time being, provided her with a dowry suited to her social position, which was often augmented by considerable presents from her grandmother, aunts, and cousins.**
* Shamashnazir receives, as the price of his daughter, ten shekels of silver, which appears to have been an average price in the class of life to which he belonged.
** The nature of the dowry in ancient times is clear from the Sumero-Assyrian tablets in which the old legal texts are explained, and again from the contents of the contracts of Tell-Sifr, and the documents on stone, such as the Micliaux stone, in which we see women bringing their possessions into the community by marriage, and yet retaining the entire disposition of them.
The dowry would consist of a carefully marked out field of corn, a grove of date-palms, a house in the town, a trousseau, furniture, slaves, or ready money; the whole would be committed to clay, of which there would be three copies at least, two being given by the scribe to the contracting parties, while the third would be deposited in the hands of the magistrate. When the bride and bridegroom both belonged to the same class, or were possessed of equal fortunes, the relatives of the woman could exact an oath from the man that he would abstain from taking a second wife during her lifetime; a special article of the marriage agreement permitted the woman to go free should the husband break his faith, and bound him to pay an indemnity as a compensation for the insult he had offered her. This engagement on the part of the man, however, did not affect his relations with his female servants. In Chaldaea, as in Egypt, and indeed in the whole of the ancient world, they were always completely at the mercy of their purchaser, and the permission to treat them as he would had become so much of a custom that the begetting of children by their master was desired rather than otherwise: the complaints of the despised slave, who had not been taken into her master's favour, formed one of the themes of popular poetry at a very early period. When the contract tablet was finally sealed, one of the witnesses, who was required to be a free man, joined the hands of the young couple; nothing then remained to be done but to invite the blessing of the gods, and to end the day by a feast, which would unite both families and their guests. The evil spirits, however, always in quest of an easy prey, were liable to find their way into the nuptial chamber, favoured by the confusion inseparable from all household rejoicing: prudence demanded that their attempts should be frustrated, and that the newly married couple should be protected from their attacks. The companions of the bridegroom took possession of him, and, hand to hand and foot to foot, formed as it were a rampart round him with their bodies, and carried him off solemnly to his expectant bride. He then again repeated the words which he had said in the morning: "I am the son of a prince, gold and silver shall fill thy bosom; thou, even thou, shalt be my wife, I myself will be thy husband;" and he continued: "As the fruits borne by an orchard, so great shall be the abundance which I shall pour out upon this woman."* The priest then called down upon him benedictions from on high: "Therefore, O ye (gods), all that is bad and that is not good in this man, drive it far from him and give him strength. As for thee, O man, exhibit thy manhood, that this woman may be thy wife; thou, O woman, give that which makes thy womanhood, that this man may be thy husband." On the following morning, a thanksgiving sacrifice celebrated the completion of the marriage, and by purifying the new household drove from it the host of evil spirits.**
* This part of the ceremony is described on a Sumero- Assyrian tablet, of which two copies exist, discovered and translated by Pinches. The interpretation appears to me to result from the fact that mention is made, at the
** The text that describes these ceremonies was discovered and published by Pinches. As far as I can judge, it contained an exorcism against the "knotting of the tag," and the mention of this subject called up that of the marriage rites. The ceremony commanded on the day following the marriage was probably a purification: as late as the time of Herodotus, the union of man and woman rendered both impure, and they had to perform an ablution before recommencing their occupations.
The woman, once bound, could only escape from the sovereign power of her husband by death or divorce; but divorce for her was rather a trial to which she submitted than a right of which she could freely make use. Her husband could repudiate her at will without any complicated ceremonies. It was enough for him to say: "Thou art not my wife!" and to restore to her a sum of money equalling in value the dowry he had received with her;* he then sent her back to her father, with a letter informing him of the dissolution of the conjugal tie.** But if in a moment of weariness or anger she hurled the fatal formula at him: "Thou are not my husband!" her fate was sealed: she was thrown into the river and drowned.***
* The sum is fixed at half a mina by the text of the Sumerian laws; but it was sometimes less, e.g. ten shekels, and sometimes more, e.g. a whole mina.
** Repudiation of a wife, and the ceremonial connected with it, are summarized, as far as ancient times are concerned, by a passage in the Sumero-Assyrian tablet, published by Rawlinson, and translated by Oppert-Menant. Bertin, on the contrary, takes the same text to be a description of the principal marriage-rites, and from it he draws the
*** This fact was evident from the text of the so-called Sumerian Laws concerning the Organization of the Family, according to the generally received interpretation: according to that proposed by Oppert-Menant, it was the woman who had the right of causing the husband who had wronged her to be thrown into the river. The publication of the contracts of Iltani and of Bashtum appear to have shown conclusively the correctness of the ordinary translation: uncertainty with regard to one word prevents us from knowing whether the guilty wife were strangled before being thrown into the water, or if she were committed to the river alive.
The adulteress was also punished with death, but with death by the sword: and when the use of iron became widespread, the blade was to be of that metal. Another ancient custom only spared the criminal to devote her to a life of infamy: the outraged husband stripped her of her fleecy garments, giving her merely the loin-cloth in its place, which left her half naked, and then turned-her out of the house into the street, where she was at the mercy of the first passer-by. Women of noble or wealthy families found in their fortune a certain protection from the abuse of marital authority. The property which they brought with them by their marriage contract, remained at their own disposal.* They had the entire management of it, they farmed it out, they sold it, they spent the income from it as they liked, without interference from any one: the man enjoyed the comforts which it procured, but he could not touch it, and his hold upon it was so slight that his creditors could not lay their hands on it.
* In the documents of the New Chaldaean Empire we find instances of married women selling their property
If by his own act he divorced his wife, he not only lost all benefit from her property, but he was obliged to make her an allowance or to pay her an indemnity;* at his death, the widow succeeded to these, without prejudice to what she was entitled to by her marriage contract or the will of the deceased. The woman with a dowry, therefore, became more or less emancipated by virtue of her money. As her departure deprived the household of as much as, and sometimes more than, she had brought into it, every care was taken that she should have no cause to retire from it, and that no pretext should be given to her parents for her recall to her old home; her wealth thus obtained for her the consideration and fair treatment which the law had, at the outset, denied to her.
* The restitution of the dowry after divorce is ascertained, as far as later times are concerned, from documents similar to that published by Kohler-Peiser, in which we see the second husband of a divorced wife claiming the dowry from the first husband. The indemnity was fixed beforehand at six silver minae, in the marriage contract published by Oppert.
When, however, the wife was poor, she had to bear without complaint the whole burden of her inferior position. Her parents had no other resource than to ask the highest possible price for her, according to the rank in which they lived, or in virtue of the personal qualities she was supposed to possess, and this amount, paid into their hands when they delivered her over to the husband, formed, if not an actual dowry for her, at least a provision for her in case of repudiation or widowhood: she was not, however, any less the slave of her husband -- a privileged slave, it is true, and one whom he could not sell like his other slaves,* but of whom he could easily rid himself when her first youth was passed, or when she ceased to please him.**
* It appears, however, in certain cases not clearly specified, that the husband could sell his wife, if she were a shrew, as a slave.
** This form of marriage, which was of frequent occurrence in ancient times, fell into disuse among the upper classes, at least of Babylonian society. A few examples, however, are found in late times. It continued in use among the lower classes, and Herodotus affirms that in his time marriage markets were held regularly, as in our own time fairs are held for hiring male and female servants.
In many cases the fiction of purchase was set aside, and mutual consent took the place of all other formalities, marriage then becoming merely cohabitation, terminating at will. The consent of the father was not required for this irregular union, and many a son contracted a marriage after this fashion, unknown to his relatives, with some young girl either in his own or in an inferior station: but the law refused to allow her any title except that of concubine, and forced her to wear a distinctive mark, perhaps that of servitude, namely, the representation of an olive in some valuable stone or in terra-cotta, bearing her own and her husband's name, with the date of their union, which she kept hung round her neck by a cord. Whether they were legitimate wives or not, the women of the lower and middle classes enjoyed as much independence as did the Egyptian women of a similar rank. As all the household cares fell to their share, it was necessary that they should be free to go about at all hours of the day: and they could be seen in the streets and the markets, with bare feet, their head and face uncovered, wearing their linen loin-cloth or their long draped garments of hairy texture.* Their whole life was expended in a ceaseless toil for their husbands and children: night and morning they went to fetch water from the public well or the river, they bruised the corn, made the bread, spun, wove, and clothed the entire household in spite of the frequent demands of maternity.** The Chaldaean women of wealth or noble birth, whose civil status gave them a higher position, did not enjoy so much freedom. They were scarcely affected by the cares of daily life, and if they did any work within their houses, it was more from a natural instinct, a sense of duty, or to relieve the tedium of their existence, than from constraint or necessity; but the exigencies of their rank reduced them to the state of prisoners. All the luxuries and comforts which money could procure were lavished on them, or they obtained them for themselves, but all the while they were obliged to remain shut in the harem within their own houses; when they went out, it was only to visit their female friends or their relatives, to go to some temple or festival, and on such occasions they were surrounded with servants, eunuchs, and pages, whose serried ranks shut out the external world.
* For the long garment of the women, see the statue represented on p.263 of the present work; for the loin- cloth, which left the shoulders and bust exposed, see the bronze figure on p.262. The latter was no doubt the garment worn at home by respectable women; we see by the punishment inflicted on adulteresses that it was an outdoor garment for courtesans, and also, doubtless, for slaves and women of the lower classes.
** Women's occupations are mentioned in several texts and on several ancient monuments. On the seal, an impress of which is given on p.233 of this volume, we see above, on the left, a woman kneeling and crushing the corn, and before her a row of little disks, representing, no doubt, the loaves prepared for baking. The length of time for suckling a child is fixed at three years by the Sumero-Assyrian tablet relating the history of the foundling; protracted suckling was customary also in Egypt.
There was no lack of children in these houses when the man had several mistresses, either simultaneously or successively. Maternity was before all things a woman's first duty: should she delay in bearing children, or should anything happen to them, she was considered as accursed or possessed, and she was banished from the family lest her presence should be a source of danger to it.* In spite of this many households remained childless, either because a clause inserted in the contract prevented the dismissal of the wife if barren, or because the children had died when the father was stricken in years, and there was little hope of further offspring. In such places adoption filled the gaps left by nature, and furnished the family with desired heirs. For this purpose some chance orphan might be brought into the household -- one of those poor little creatures consigned by their mothers to the river, as in the case of Shargani, according to the ancient legend; or who had been exposed at the cross-roads to excite the pity of passers-by,** like the foundling whose story is given us in an old ballad. "He who had neither father nor mother, -- he who knew not his father or mother, but whose earliest memory is of a well -- whose entry into the world was in the street," his benefactor "snatched him from the jaws of dogs -- and took him from the beaks of ravens. -- He seized the seal before witnesses -- and he marked him on the sole of the foot with the seal of the witness, -- then he entrusted him to a nurse, -- and for three years he provided the nurse with flour, oil, and clothing." When the weaning was accomplished, "he appointed him to be his child, -- he brought him up to be his child, -- he inscribed him as his child, -- and he gave him the education of a scribe." The rites of adoption in these cases did not differ from those attendant upon birth. On both occasions the newly born infant was shown to witnesses, and it was marked on the soles of its feet to establish its identity; its registration in the family archives did not take place until these precautions had been observed, and children adopted in this manner were regarded thenceforward in the eyes of the world as the legitimate heirs of the family.
* Divorce for sterility was customary in very early times. Complete sterility or miscarriage was thought to be occasioned by evil spirits; a woman thus possessed with a devil came to be looked on as a dangerous being whom it was necessary to exorcise.
** Many of these children were those of courtesans or women who had been repudiated, as we learn from the Sumero- Assyrian tablet of Rawlinson: "She will expose her child alone in the street, where the serpents in the road may bite it, and its father and mother will know it no more."
People desiring to adopt a child usually made inquiries among their acquaintances, or poor friends, or cousins who might consent to give up one of their sons, in the hope of securing a better future for him. When he happened to be a minor, the real father and mother, or, in the case of the death of one, the surviving parent, appeared before the scribe, and relinquished all their rights in favour of the adopting parents; the latter, in accepting this act of renunciation, promised henceforth to treat the child as if he were of their own flesh and blood, and often settled upon him, at the same time, a certain sum chargeable on their own patrimony. When the adopted son was of age, his consent to the agreement was required, in addition to that of his parents. The adoption was sometimes prompted by an interested motive, and not merely by the desire for posterity or its semblance. Labour was expensive, slaves were scarce, and children, by working for their father, took the place of hired servants, and were content, like them, with food and clothing. The adoption of adults was, therefore, most frequent in ancient times. The introduction of a person into a fresh household severed the ties which bound him to the old one; he became a stranger to those who had borne him; he had no filial obligations to discharge to them, nor had he any right to whatever property they might possess, unless, indeed, any unforeseen circumstance prevented the carrying out of the agreement, and legally obliged him to return to the status of his birth. In return, he undertook all the duties and enjoyed the privileges of his new position; he owed to his adopted parents the same amount of work, obedience, and respect that he would have given to his natural parents; he shared in their condition, whether for good or ill, and he inherited their possessions. Provision was made for him in case of his repudiation by those who had adopted him, and they had to make him compensation: he received the portion which would have accrued to him after their death, and he then left them. Families appear to have been fairly united, in spite of the elasticity of the laws which governed them, and of the divers elements of which they were sometimes composed. No doubt polygamy and frequently divorce exercised here as elsewhere a deleterious influence; the harems of Babylon were constantly the scenes of endless intrigues and quarrels among the women and children of varied condition and different parentage who filled them. Among the people of the middle classes, where restricted means necessarily prevented a man having many wives, the course of family life appears to have been as calm and affectionate as in Egypt, under the unquestioned supremacy of the father: and in the event of his early death, the widow, and later the son or son-in-law, took the direction of affairs. Should quarrels arise and reach the point of bringing about a complete rupture between parents and children, the law intervened, not to reconcile them, but to repress any violence of which either side might be guilty towards the other. It was reckoned as a misdemeanour for any father or mother to disown a child, and they were punished by being kept shut up in their own house, as long, doubtless, as they persisted in disowning it; but it was a crime in a son, even if he were an adopted son, to renounce his parents, and he was punished severely. If he had said to his father, "Thou art not my father!" the latter marked him with a conspicuous sign and sold him in the market. If he had said to his mother, "As for thee, thou art not my mother!" he was similarly branded, and led through the streets or along the roads, where with hue and cry he was driven from the town and province.*
* I have adopted the generally received meaning of this document as a whole, but I am obliged to state that Oppert- Menant admit quite a different interpretation. According to them, it would appear to be a sweeping renunciation of children by parents, and of parents by children, at the close of a judicial condemnation. Oppert has upheld this interpretation against Haupt, and still keeps to his opinion. The documents published by Meissner show that the text of the ancient Sumerian laws applied equally to adopted children, but made no distinction between the insult offered to the father and that offered to the mother: the same penalty was applicable in both cases.
The slaves were numerous, but distributed in unequal proportion among the various classes of the population: whilst in the palace they might be found literally in crowds, it was rare among the middle classes to meet with any family possessing more than two or three at a time. They were drawn partly from foreign races; prisoners who had been wounded and carried from the field of battle, or fugitives who had fallen into the hands of the victors after a defeat, or Elamites or Gutis who had been surprised in their own villages during some expedition; not to mention people of every category carried off by the Bedouin during their raids in distant parts, such as Syria or Egypt, whom they were continually bringing for sale to Babylon and Uru, and, indeed, to all those cities to which they had easy access. The kings, the vicegerents, the temple administration, and the feudal lords, provided employment for vast numbers in the construction of their buildings or in the cultivation of their domains; the work was hard and the mortality great, but gaps were soon filled up by the influx of fresh gangs. The survivors intermarried, and their children, brought up to speak the Chaldaean tongue and conforming to the customs of the country, became assimilated to the ruling race; they formed, beneath the superior native Semite and Sumerian population,an inferior servile class, spread alike throughout the towns and country, who were continually reinforced by individuals of the native race, such as foundlings, women and children sold by husband or father, debtors deprived by creditors of their liberty, and criminals judicially condemned. The law took no individual account of them, but counted them by heads, as so many cattle: they belonged to their respective masters in the same fashion as did the beasts of his flock or the trees of his garden, and their life or death was dependent upon his will, though the exercise of his rights was naturally restrained by interest and custom. He could use them as pledges or for payment of debt, could exchange them or sell them in the market. The price of a slave never rose very high: a woman might be bought for four and a half shekels of silver by weight, and the value of a male adult fluctuated between ten shekels and the third of a mina. The bill of sale was inscribed on clay, and given to the purchaser at the time of payment: the tablets which were the vouchers of the rights of the former proprietor were then broken, and the transfer was completed. The master seldom ill-treated his slaves, except in cases of reiterated disobedience, rebellion, or flight; he could arrest his runaway slaves wherever he could lay his hands on them; he could shackle their ankles, fetter their wrists, and whip them mercilessly. As a rule, he permitted them to marry and bring up a family; he apprenticed their children, and as soon as they knew a trade, he set them up in business in his own name, allowing them a share in the profits. The more intelligent among them were trained to be clerks or stewards; they were taught to read, write, and calculate, the essential accomplishments of a skilful scribe; they were appointed as superintendents over their former comrades, or overseers of the administration of property, and they ended by becoming confidential servants in the household. The savings which they had accumulated in their earlier years furnished them with the means of procuring some few consolations: they could hire themselves out for wages, and could even acquire slaves who would go out to work for them, in the same way as they themselves had been a source of income to their proprietors. If they followed a lucrative profession and were successful in it, their savings sometimes permitted them to buy their own freedom, and, if they were married, to pay the ransom of their wife and children. At times, their master, desirous of rewarding long and faithful service, liberated them of his own accord, without waiting till they had saved up the necessary money or goods for their enfranchisement: in such cases they remained his dependants, and continued in his service as freemen to perform the services they had formerly rendered as slaves. They then enjoyed the same rights and advantages as the old native race; they could leave legacies, inherit property, claim legal rights, and acquire and possess houses and lands. Their sons could make good matches among the daughters of the middle classes, according to their education and fortune; when they were intelligent, active, and industrious, there was nothing to prevent them from rising to the highest offices about the person of the sovereign.
[Illustration: 294.jpg AN EGYPTIAN SLAVE MERCHANT]
If we knew more of the internal history of the great Chaldaean cities, we should no doubt come to see what an important part the servile element played in them; and could we trace it back for a few generations, we should probably discover that there were few great families who did not reckon a slave or a freedman among their ancestors. It would be interesting to follow this people, made up of such complex elements, in all their daily work and recreation, as we are able to do in the case of contemporary Egyptians; but the monuments which might furnish us with the necessary materials are scarce, and the positive information to be gleaned from them amounts to but little. We are tolerably safe, however, in supposing the more wealthy cities to have been, as a whole, very similar in appearance to those existing at the present day in the regions which as yet have been scarcely touched by the advent of European civilization. Sinuous, narrow, muddy streets, littered with domestic refuse and organic detritus, in which flocks of ravens and wandering packs of dogs perform with more or less efficiency the duties of sanitary officers; whole quarters of the town composed of huts made of reeds and puddled clay, low houses of crude brick, surmounted perhaps even in those times with the conical domes we find later on the Assyrian bas-reliefs; crowded and noisy bazaars, where each trade is located in its special lanes and blind alleys; silent and desolate spaces occupied by palaces and gardens, in which the private life of the wealthy was concealed from public gaze; and looking down upon this medley of individual dwellings, the palaces and temples with their ziggurats crowned with gilded and painted sanctuaries. In the ruins of Uru, Eridu, and Uruk, the remains of houses belonging doubtless to well-to-do families have been brought to light. They are built of fine bricks, whose courses are cemented together with a thin layer of bitumen, but they they are only lighted internally by small appertures pierced at irregular distances in the upper part of the walls: the low arched doorway, closed by a heavy two-leaved door, leads into a blind passage, which opens as a rule on the courtyard in the centre of the building.
[Illustration: 208a.jpg Chaldean houses at Uru.]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from the sketch by Taylor.
[Illustration: 208b plans of houses excavated at Eridu and Ubu.]
These plans were drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from sketches by Taylor. The houses reproduced to the left of the plan were those uncovered in the ruins of Uru; those on the right belong to the ruins of Eridu. On the latter, the niches mentioned in the text will be found indicated.
In the interior may still be distinguished the small oblong rooms, sometimes vaulted, sometimes roofed with a flat, ceiling supported by trunks of palm trees;* the walls are often of a considerable thickness, in which are found narrow niches here and there. The majority of the rooms were merely store-chambers, and contained the family provisions and treasures; others served as living-rooms, and were provided with furniture. The latter, in the houses of the richer citizens no less than in those of the people, was of a very simple kind, and was mostly composed of chairs and stools, similar to those in the royal palaces; the bedrooms contained the linen chests and the beds with their thin mattresses, coverings, and cushions, and perhaps wooden head-rests, resembling those found in Africa,** but the Chaldaeans slept mostly on mats spread on the ground.
* Taylor, Notes on the Ruins of Mugeyer, in the Journ. of the Royal As. Soc, vol. xv. p.266, found the remains of the palm-tree beams which formed the terrace still existing. He thinks (Notes on Tel-el-Lahm, etc., in the Journ, of the Royal As. Soc., vol. xv. p.411) with Loftus that some of the chambers were vaulted. Cf. upon the custom of vaulting in Chaldaean houses, Piereot-Cupiez, Histoire de l'Art, vol. ii. p.163, et seq.
** The dressing of the hair in coils and elaborate
An oven for baking occupied a corner of the courtyard, side by side with the stones for grinding the corn; the ashes on the hearth were always aglow, and if by chance the fire went out, the fire-stick was always at hand to relight it, as in Egypt. The kitchen utensils and household pottery comprised a few large copper pans and earthenware pots rounded at the base, dishes, water and wine jars, and heavy plates of coarse ware; metal had not as yet superseded stone, and in the same house we meet with bronze axes and hammers side by side with the same implements in cut flint, besides knives, scrapers, and mace-heads.*
* Implements in flint and other kinds of stone have been discovered by Taylor, and are now in the British Museum. The bronze implements come partly from the tombs of Mugheir, and partly from the ruins explored by Loftus at Tell-Sifr -- that is to say, the ancient cities of Uru and Larsam: the name of Tell-Sifr, the "mound of copper," comes from the quantity of objects in copper which have been discovered there.
[Illustration: 300.jpg CHALDAEAN HOUSEHOLD UTENSILS IN TERRA-COTTA]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from the sketch by G. Rawlinson, and the heliogravure in Heuzey-Sarzec.
At the present day the women of the country of the Euphrates spend a great part of their time on the roofs of their dwellings.* They install themselves there in the morning, till they are driven away by the heat; as soon as the sun gets low in the heavens, they return to their post, and either pass the day on neighbouring roofs whilst they bake, cook, wash and dry the linen; or, if they have slaves to attend to such menial occupations, they sew and embroider in the open air.
* Olivier, Voyage dans l'Empire Othoman, vol. ii. pp.356, 357, 381, 382, 392, 393.
They come down into the interior of the house during the hottest hours of the day. In most of the wealthy houses, the coolest room is one below the level of the courtyard, into which but little light can penetrate. It is paved with plaques of polished gypsum, which resembles our finest grey-and-white marble, and the walls are covered with a coat of delicate plastering, smooth to the touch and agreeable to the eye. This is watered several times during the day in hot weather, and the evaporation from it cools the air. The few ruined habitations which have as yet been explored seem to bear witness to a considerable similarity between the requirements and customs of ancient times and those of to-day. Like the modern women of Bagdad and Mosul, the Chaldaean women of old preferred an existence in the open air, in spite of its publicity, to a seclusion within stuffy rooms or narrow courts. The heat of the sun, cold, rain, and illness obliged them at times to seek a refuge within four walls, but as soon as they could conveniently escape from them, they climbed up on to their roof to pass the greater part of their time there.
Many families of the lower and middle classes owned the houses which they occupied. They constituted a patrimony which the owners made every effort to preserve intact through all reverses of fortune.* The head of the family bequeathed it to his widow or his eldest son, or left it undivided to his heirs, in the assurance, no doubt, that one of them would buy up the rights of the others.
* A house could be let for various lengths of time -- for three months, for a year, for five years, for an indefinite term, but with a minimum of six months, since the rent is payable at the beginning and in the middle of each year.
The remainder of his goods, farms, gardens, corn-lands, slaves, furniture, and jewels, were divided among the brothers or natural descendants, "from the mouth to the gold;" that is to say, from the moment of announcing the beginning of the business, to that when each one received his share. In order to invest this act with greater solemnity, it took place usually in the presence of a priest. Those interested repaired to the temple, "to the gate of the god;" they placed the whole of the inheritance in the hands of the chosen arbitrator, and demanded of him to divide it justly; or the eldest brother perhaps anticipated the apportionment, and the priest had merely to sanction the result, or settle the differences which might arise among the lawful recipients in the course of the operation. When this was accomplished, the legatees had to declare themselves satisfied; and when no further claims arose, they had to sign an engagement before the priestly arbitrator that they would henceforth refrain from all quarrelling on the subject, and that they would never make a complaint one against the other. By dint of these continual redistributions from one generation to another, the largest fortunes soon became dispersed: the individual shares became smaller and smaller, and scarcely sufficed to keep a family, so that the slightest reverse obliged the possessor to have recourse to usurers. The Chaldaeans, like the Egyptians, were unacquainted with the use of money, but from the earliest times the employment of precious metals for purposes of exchange was practised among them to an enormous extent. Though copper and gold were both used, silver was the principal medium in these transactions, and formed the standard value of all purchaseable objects. It was never cut into flat rings or twists of wire, as was the case with the Egyptian "tabnu;" it was melted into small unstamped ingots, which were passed from hand to hand by weight, being tested in the scales at each transaction. "To weigh" was in the ordinary language the equivalent for "payment in metal," whereas "to measure" denoted that the payment was in grain. The ingots for exchange were, therefore, designated by the name of the weights to which they corresponded. The lowest unit was a shekel, weighing on an average nearly half an ounce, sixty shekels making a mina, and sixty minas a talent. It is a question whether the Chaldaeanns possessed in early times, as did the Assyrians of a later period, two kinds of shekels and minas, one heavy and the other light. Whether the loan were in metal, grain, or any other substance, the interest was very high.* A very ancient law fixed it in certain cases at twelve drachmas per mina, per annum -- that is to say, at twenty per cent. -- and more recent texts show us that, when raised to twenty-five per cent., it did not appear to them abnormal.
* We find several different examples, during the Second Chaldaeann Empire, of an exchange of corn for provisions and liquids, or of beams for dates. As a fact, exchange has never completely died out in these regions, and at the present day, in Chaldaea, as in Egypt, corn is used in many cases either to pay Government taxes or to discharge commercial debts.
The commerce of the chief cities was almost entirely concentrated in the temples. The large quantities of metals and cereals constantly brought to the god, either as part of the fixed temple revenue, or as daily offerings, accumulated so rapidly, that they would have overflowed the storehouses, had not a means been devised of utilizing them quickly: the priests treated them as articles of commerce and made a profit out of them.* Every bargain necessitated the calling in of a public scribe. The bill, drawn up before witnesses on a clay tablet, enumerated the sums paid out, the names of the parties, the rate per cent., the date of repayment, and sometimes a penal clause in the event of fraud or insolvency; the tablet remained in the possession of the creditor until the debt had been completely discharged. The borrower often gave as a pledge either slaves, a field, or a house, or certain of his friends would pledge on his behalf their own personal fortune; at times he would pay by the labour of his own hands the interest which he would otherwise have been unable to meet, and the stipulation was previously made in the contract of the number of days of corvee which he should periodically fulfil for his creditor. If, in spite of all this, the debtor was unable to procure the necessary funds to meet his engagements, the principal became augmented by a fixed sum -- for instance, one-third -- and continued to increase at this rate until the total value of the amount reached that of the security:** the slave, the field, or the house then ceased to belong to their former, master, subject to a right of redemption, of which he was rarely able to avail himself for lack of means.***
* It was to the god himself -- Shamash, for example -- that the loan was supposed to be made, and it is to him that the contracts stipulate that the capital and interest shall be paid. It is curious to lind among the most successful money- lenders several princesses consecrated to the sun-god.
** It is easy to foresee, from the contracts of the New Assyrian or Babylonian Empire, how in this manner the original sum lent became doubled and trebled; generally the interest accumulated till it was quadrupled, after which, no doubt, the security was taken by the creditor. They probably calculated that the capital and compound interest was by then equal in value to the person or object given as a security.
*** The creditors protected themselves against this right of redemption by a maledictory formula inserted at the end of the contracts against those who should avail themselves of it; it is generally inscribed on the boundary stones of the First Chaldaean Empire.
The small tradesman or free workman, who by some accident had become involved in debt, seldom escaped this progressive impoverishment except by strenuous efforts and incessant labour. Foreign commerce, it is true, entailed considerable risk, but the chances of acquiring wealth were so great that many individuals launched upon it in preference to more sure but less lucrative undertakings. They would set off alone or in companies for Elam or the northern regions, for Syria, or even for so distant a country as Egypt, and they would bring back in their caravans all that was accounted precious in those lands. Overland routes were not free from dangers; not only were nomad tribes and professional bandits constantly hovering round the traveller, and obliging him to exercise ceaseless vigilance, but the inhabitants of the villages through which he passed, the local lords and the kings of the countries which he traversed, had no scruple in levying blackmail upon him in obliging him to pay dearly for right of way through their marches or territory.** There were less risks in choosing a sea route: the Euphrates on one side, the Tigris, the Ulai, and the Uknu on the other, ran through a country peopled with a rich industrial population, among whom Chaldaean merchandise was easily and profitably sold or exchanged for commodities which would command a good price at the end of the voyage. The vessels generally were keleks or "kufas," but the latter were of immense size.
* We have no information from Babylonian sources relating to the state of the roads, and the dangers which merchants encountered in foreign lands; the Egyptian documents partly supply what is here lacking. The "instructions" contained in the Sallier Papyrus, No. ii., show what were the miseries of the traveller, and the Adventures of Sinuhit allude to the insecurity of the roads in Syria, by the very care with which the hero relates all the precautions which he took for his protection. These two documents are of the XIIth or XIIIth dynasty -- that is to say, contemporaneous with the kings, of Uru and with Gudea.
Several individuals, as a rule, would club together to hire one of these boats and freight it with a suitable cargo.* The body of the boat was very light, being made of osier or willow covered with skins sewn together; a layer of straw was spread on the bottom, on which were piled the bales or chests, which were again protected by a rough thatch of straw. The crew was composed of two oarsmen at least, and sometimes a few donkeys: the merchants then pursued their way up stream till they had disposed of their cargo, and taken in a sufficient freight for their return voyage. The dangers, though apparently not so great as those by the land route, were not the less real. The boat was liable to sink or run aground near the bank, the dwellers in the neighbourhood of the river might intercept it and pillage its contents, a war might break out between two contiguous kingdoms and suspend all commerce: the merchants' career continually vacillated between servitude, death, and fortune.
* The payment demanded was something considerable: the only contract which I know of existing for such a transaction is of the time of Darius I., and exacts a silver shekel per day for the hire of boat and crew.
Business carried on at home in the towns was seldom the means of enriching a man, and sometimes scarcely afforded him a means of livelihood. Rent was high for those who had not a house of their own; the least they could expect to pay was half a silver shekel per annum, but the average price was a whole shekel. On taking possession they paid a deposit which sometimes amounted to one-third of the whole sum, the remainder being due at the end of the year. The leases lasted, as a rule, merely a twelvemonth, though sometimes they were extended for terms of greater length, such as two, three, or even eight years. The cost of repairs and of keeping the house in good condition fell usually upon the lessee, who was also allowed to build upon the land he had leased, in which case it was declared free of all charges for a period of about ten years, but the house, and, as a rule, all he had built, then reverted to the landlord. Most possessors of shops made their own goods for sale, assisted by slaves or free apprentices. Every workman taught his own trade to his children, and these in their turn would instruct theirs; families which had an hereditary profession, or from generation to generation had gathered bands of workmen about them, formed themselves into various guilds, or, to use the customary term, into tribes, governed by chiefs and following specified customs. A workman belonged to the tribe of the weavers, or of the blacksmiths, or of the corn-merchants, and the description of an individual would not have been considered as sufficiently exact, if the designation of his tribe were not inserted after his name in addition to his paternal affiliation. The organization was like that of Egypt, but more fully developed. The various trades, moreover, were almost the same among the two peoples, the exceptions being such as are readily accounted for by the differences in the nature of the soil and physical constitution of the respective countries. We do not meet on the banks of the Euphrates with those corporations of stone-cutters and marble workers which were so numerous in the valley of the Nile. The vast Chaldaean plain, in the absence of mountains or accessible quarries, would have furnished no occupation for them: the Chaldaeans had to go a long way in quest of the small quantities of limestone, alabaster, or diorite which they required, and which they reserved only for details of architectural decoration for which a small number of artisans and sculptors were amply sufficient. The manufacture of bricks, on the other hand, made great progress; the crude bricks were larger than those of Egypt, and they were more enduring, composed of finer clay and better executed; the manufacture of burnt brick too was carried to a degree of perfection to which Memphis or Thebes never attained. An ancient legend ascribes the invention of the bricks, and consequently the construction of the earliest cities, jointly to Sin, the eldest son of Bel, and Ninib his brother: this event was said to have taken place in May-June, and from that time forward the third month of the year, over which the twins presided, was called, Murga in Sumerian, Simanu in the Semitic speech, the month of brick. This was the season which was especially devoted to the processes of their manufacture: the flood in the rivers, which was very great in the preceding months, then began to subside, and the clay which was deposited by the waters during the weeks of overflow, washed and refined as it was, lent itself readily to the operation. The sun, moreover, gave forth sufficient heat to dry the clay blocks in a uniform and gradual manner: later, in July and August, they would crack under the ardour of his rays, and become converted externally into a friable mass, while their interior would remain too moist to allow them to be prudently used in carefully built structures. The work of brick-making was inaugurated with festivals and sacrifices to Sin, Merodach, Nebo, and all the deities who were concerned in the art of building: further religious ceremonies were observed at intervals during the month to sanctify the progress of the work. The manufacture did not cease on the last day of the month, but was continued with more or less activity, according to the heat of the sun, and the importance of the orders received, until the return of the inundation: but the bricks intended for public buildings, temples, or palaces, could not be made outside a prescribed limit of time. The shades of colour produced naturally in the process of burning -- red or yellow, grey or brown -- were not pleasant to the eye, and they were accustomed, therefore, to coat the bricks with an attractive enamel which preserved them from the disintegrating effects of sun and rain. The paste was laid on the edges or sides while the brick was in a crude state, and was incorporated with it by vitrification in the heat of the kiln. The process was known from an early date in Egypt, but was rarely employed there in the decoration of buildings, while in Chaldaea the use of such enamelled plaques was common. The substructures of palaces and the exterior walls of temples were left unadorned, but the shrines which crowned the "ziggurat," the reception-halls, and the headings of doors were covered with these many-coloured tiles. Fragments of them are found to-day in the ruins of the cities, and the analysis of these pieces shows the marvellous skill of the ancient workers in enamel; the shades of colour are pure and pleasant to the eye, while the material is so evenly put on and so solid, that neither centuries of burial in a sodden soil, nor the wear and tear of transport, nor the exposure to the damp of our museums, have succeeded in diminishing their brilliance and freshness.
To get a clear idea of the industrial operations of the country, it would be necessary to see the various corporations at their work, as we are able to do, in the case of Egypt in the scenes of the mastabas of Saqqara, or of the rock-chambers of Beni-Hasan. The manufacture of stone implements gave considerable employment, and the equipment of the dead in the tombs of Uru would have been a matter of small moment, if we were to exclude its flint implements, its knives, cleavers, scrapers, adzes, axes, and hammers. The cutting of these objects is bold, and the final touches show skill, but we rarely meet with that purity of contour and intensity of polish which distinguish similar objects among Western peoples. A few examples, it is true, are of fairly artistic shape, and bear engraved inscriptions: one of these, a flint hammer of beautiful form, belonged to a god, probably Eamman, and seems to have come from a temple in which one of its owners had deposited it.
[Illustration: 311a.jpg CHALDAEAN STONE IMPLEMENTS.]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from the sketches published by Taylor and by 'G. Rawlinson. On the left a scraper and two knives one above the other, an axe in the middle, on the right an axe and a hammer. All these objects were found in Taylor's excavations, and are now in the British Museum.
It is an exception, and a remarkable exception. Stone was the material of the implements of the poor -- implements which were coarse in shape, and cost little: if much care were given to their execution, they would come to be so costly that no one would buy them, or, if sold for a moderate sum, the seller would obtain no profit from the transaction. Beyond a certain price, it was more advantageous to purchase metal implements, of copper in the early ages, afterwards of bronze, and lastly of iron. Among the metal-founders and smiths all kinds of examples of these were to be found -- axes of an elegant and graceful design, hammers and knives, as well as culinary and domestic utensils, cups, cauldrons, dishes, mountings of doors and coffers, statuettes of men, bulls, monsters, and gods -- which could be turned to weapons of all descriptions -- arrow and lance heads, swords, daggers, and rounded helmets with neck-piece or visor.
[Illustration: 311b.jpg CHALDAEAN STONE HAMMER BEARING AN INSCRIPTION.]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from the illustration published by Fr. Lenormant.
[Illustration: CHALDAEN IMPLEMENTS OF BRONZE]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from Rawlinson's Five Great Monarchies. On the right two axes, in the middle a hammer, on the left a knife, and below the head of a lance.
Some of the metal objects manufactured by the Chaldaeans attained large dimensions; for instance, the "brazen seas" which were set up before each sanctuary, either for the purpose of receiving the libations, or for the prescribed rites of purification. As is often the case among half-civilized peoples, the goldsmiths worked in the precious metals with much facility and skill. We have not, succeeded up to the present in finding any of those golden images which the kings were accustomed to dedicate in the temples out of their own possessions, or the spoil obtained from the enemy; but a silver vase dedicated to Ningirsu by Entena, vicegerent of Lagash, gives us some idea of this department of the temple furniture. It stands upright on a small square bronze pedestal with four feet. A piously expressed inscription runs round the neck, and the bowl of the vase is divided horizontally into two divisions, framed above and below by twisted cord-work. Four two-headed eagles, with outspread wings and tail, occupy the lower division; they are in the act of seizing with their claws two animals, placed back to back, represented in the act of walking: the intervals between the eagles are filled up alternatively by two lions, two wild goats, and two stags. Above, and close to the rise of the neck, are disposed seven heifers lying down and all looking in the same direction: they are all engraved upon the flat metal, and are without relief or incrustation. The whole composition is harmoniously put together, the posture of the animals and their general form are well conceived and boldly rendered, but the details of the mane of the lions and the feathers of the eagles are reproduced with a realism and attention to minutio which belong to the infancy of art. This single example of ancient goldsmiths'work would be sufficient to prove that the early Chaldaens were not a whit behind the Egyptians in this handicraft, even if we had not the golden ornaments, the bracelets, ear and finger rings to judge from, with which the tombs have furnished us in considerable numbers.
[Illustration: VASE OF SILVER. AND BULL OF COPPER.]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from Heuzey-Sarzec
Alongside the goldsmiths there must have been a whole army of lapidaries and gem-cutters occupied in the engraving of cylinders. Numerous and delicate operations were required to metamorphose a scrap of crude rock, marble, granite, agate, onyx, green and red jasper, crystal or lapis-lazuli, into one of those marvellous seals which are now found by the hundred scattered throughout the museums of Europe. They had to be rounded, reduced to the proper proportions, and polished, before the subject or legend could be engraved upon them with the burin. To drill a hole through them required great dexterity, and some of the lapidaries, from a dread of breaking the cylinder, either did not pierce it at all, or merely bored a shallow hole into each extremity to allow it to roll freely in its metallic mounting. The tools used in engraving were similar to those employed at the present day, but of a rougher kind. The burin, which was often nothing more than a flint point, marked out the area of the design, and sketched out the figures; the saw was largely employed to cut away the depressions when these required no detailed handling; and lastly, the drill, either worked with the hand or in a kind of lathe, was made to indicate the joints and muscles of the individual by a series of round holes. The object thus summarily dealt with might be regarded as sufficiently worked for ordinary clients; but those who were willing to pay for them could obtain cylinders from which every mark of the tool had been adroitly removed, and where the beauty of the workmanship vied with the costliness of the material.
[Illustration: 315.jpg CHALDAEAN CYLINDER EXHIBITING TRACES OF THE DIFFERENT TOOLS USED BY THE ENGRAVER]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a heliogravure in Menant's Catalogue de la collection de M. de Clercq
The seal of Shargani, King of Agade, that of Bingani-shar-ali, and many others which have been picked up by chance in the excavations, are true bas-reliefs, reduced and condensed, so to speak, to the space of something like a square inch of surface, but conceived with an artistic ingenuity and executed with a boldness which modern engravers have rarely equalled and never surpassed. There are traces on them, it is true, of some of the defects which disfigured the latter work of the Assyrians -- heaviness of form, exaggerated prominence of muscles and hardness of outline -- but there are also all the qualities which distinguish an original and forcible art.
The countries of the Euphrates were renowned in classic times for the beauty of the embroidered and painted stuffs which they manufactured.* Nothing has come down to us of these Babylonian tissues of which the Greek and Latin writers extolled the magnificence, but we may form some idea, from the statues and the figures engraved on cylinders, of what the weavers and embroiderers of this ancient time were capable. The loom which they made use of differed but slightly from the horizontal loom commonly employed in the Nile Valley, and everything tends to show that their plain linen cloths were of the kind represented in the swathings and fragments of clothing still to be found in the sepulchral chambers of Memphis and Thebes. The manufacture of fleecy woollen garments so much affected by men and women alike indicates a great dexterity. When once the threads of the woof had been stretched, those of the warp were attached to them by knots in as many parallel lines -- at regular intervals -- as there were rows of fringe to be displayed on the surface of the cloth, the loops thus formed being allowed to hang down in their respective places: sometimes these loops were retained just as they stood, sometimes they were cut and the ends frayed out so as to give the appearance of a shaggy texture.
* Most modern writers understand by tapestry what the ancients were accustomed to call needle embroidery or painting on stuffs: I can find no indication on the most ancient monuments of Chaldaean or Egypt of the manufacturing of real tapestry.
[Illustration: 316.jpg Egyptian Manuscript]
Part of an Egyptian Manuscript found in the Swathing of a Mummy
[Illustration: 316-text.jpg Egyptian Manuscript]
Most of these stuffs preserved their original white or creamy colour -- especially those woven at home by the women for the requirements of their own toilet, and for the ordinary uses of the household. The Chaldaeans, however, like many other Asiatic peoples, had a strong preference for lively colours, and the outdoor garments and gala attire of the rich were distinguished by a profusion of blue patterns on a red ground, or red upon blue, arranged in stripes, zigzags, checks, and dots or circles. There must, therefore, have been as much occupation for dyers as there was for weavers; and it is possible that the two operations were carried out by the same hands. We know nothing of the bakers, butchers, carriers, masons, and other artisans who supplied the necessities of the cities: they were doubtless able to make two ends meet and nothing more, and if we should succeed some day in obtaining information about them, we shall probably find that their condition was as miserable as that of their Egyptian contemporaries. The course of their lives was monotonous enough, except when it was broken at prescribed intervals by the ordinary festivals in honour of the gods of the city, or by the casual suspensions of work occasioned by the triumphant return of the king from some warlike expedition, or by his inauguration of a new temple.
The gaiety of the people on such occasions was the more exuberant in proportion to the undisturbed monotony or misery of the days which preceded them. As soon, for instance, as Gudea had brought to completion Ininnu, the house of his patron Ningirsu, "he felt relieved from the strain and washed his hands. For seven days, no grain was bruised in the quern, the maid was the equal of her mistress, the servant walked in the same rank as his master, the strong and the weak rested side by side in the city." The world seemed topsy-turvy as during the Roman Saturnalia; the classes mingled together, and the inferiors were probably accustomed to abuse the unusual licence which they momentarily enjoyed: when the festival was over, social distinctions reasserted themselves, and each one fell back into his accustomed position. Life was not so pleasant in Chaldaea as in Egypt. The innumerable promissory notes, the receipted accounts, the contracts of sale and purchase -- these cunningly drawn up deeds which have been deciphered by the hundred -- reveal to us a people greedy of gain, exacting, litigious, of artisans in Egypt. This is taken from a source belonging to the XIIth or possibly the XIIIth dynasty. We may assume, from the fact that the two civilizations were about on the same level, that the information supplied in this respect by the Egyptian monuments is generally applicable to the condition of Chaldaean workmen of the same period.
(Unreadable) and almost exclusively absorbed by material concerns. The climate, too, variable and oppressive in summer and winter alike, imposed upon the Chaldaean painful exactions, and obliged him to work with an energy of which the majority of Egyptians would not have felt themselves capable. The Chaldaean, suffering greater and more prolonged hardships, earned more doubtless, but was not on this account the happier. However lucrative his calling might be, it was not sufficiently so to supply him always with domestic necessities, and both tradespeople and operatives were obliged to run into debt to supplement their straitened means. When they had once fallen into the hands of the usurer, the exorbitant interest which they had to pay kept them a long time in his power. If when the bill fell due there was nothing to meet it, it had to be renewed under still more disastrous conditions; as the pledge given was usually the homestead, or the slave who assisted in the trade, or the garden which supplied food for the family, the mortgagor was reduced to the extreme of misery if he could not satisfy his creditors, This plague of usury was not, moreover, confined to the towns; it raged with equal violence in the country, and the farmers also became its victims.
If, theoretically, the earth belonged to the gods, and under them to the kings, the latter had made, and continued daily to make, such large concessions of it to their vassals, that the greater part of their domains were always in the hands of the nobles or private individuals. These could dispose of their landed property at pleasure, farm it out, sell it or distribute it among their heirs and friends.
They paid on account of it a tax which varied at different epochs, but which was always burthensome; but when they had once satisfied this exaction, and paid the dues which the temples might claim on behalf of the gods, neither the State nor any individual had the right to interfere in their administration of it, or put any restrictions upon them. Some proprietors cultivated their lands themselves -- the poor by their own labour, the rich by the aid of some trustworthy slave whom they interested in the success of his farming by assigning him a certain percentage on the net return. Sometimes the lands were leased out in whole or in part to free peasants who relieved the proprietors of all the worry and risks of managing it themselves. A survey of the area of each state had been made at an early age, and the lots into which it had been divided were registered on clay tablets containing the name of the proprietor as well as those of his neighbours, together with such indications of the features of the land, dykes, canals, rivers, and buildings as would serve to define its boundaries: rough plans accompanied the description, and in the most complicated instances interpreted it to the eye. This survey was frequently repeated, and enabled the sovereign to arrange his scheme of taxation on a solid basis, and to calculate the product of it without material error. Gardens and groves of date-palms, together with large regions devoted to rough attempts at vegetable culture, were often to be met with, especially in the neighbourhood of towns; these paid their contributions to the State, as well as the owners'rent, in kind -- in fruit, vegetables, and fresh or dried dates. The best soil was reserved, for the growth of wheat and other cereals, and its extent was measured in terms of corn; corn was also the standard in which the revenue was reckoned both in public and private contracts. Such and such a field required about fifty litres of seed to the arura. Another needed sixty-two or seventy-five according to the fertility of the land and its locality. Landed property was placed under the guardianship of the gods, and its transfer or cession was accompanied by formalities of a half-religious, half-magical character: the party giving delivery of it called down upon the head of any one who would dare in the future to dispute the validity of the deed, imprecations of which the text was inserted on a portion of the surface of an egg-shaped nodule of flint, basalt, or other hard stone. These little monuments display on their cone-shaped end a series of figures, sometimes arranged in two parallel divisions, sometimes scattered over the surface, which represent the deities invoked to watch over the sanctity of the contract. It was a kind of representation in miniature of the aspect which the heavens presented to the Chaldaeans. The disks of the sun and moon, together with Venus-Ashtar, are the prominent elements in the scene: the zodiacal figures, or the symbols employed to represent them, are arranged in an apparent orbit around these -- such as the Scorpion, the Bird, the Dog, the Thunderbolt of Ramman, the mace, the horned monsters, half hidden by the temples they guard, and the enormous Dragon who embraces in his folds half the entire firmament. "If ever, in the course of days, any one of the brothers, children, family, men or women, slaves or servants of the house, or any governor or functionary whatsoever, arises and intends to steal this field, and remove this landmark, either to make a gift of it to a god, or to assign it to a competitor, or to appropriate it to himself; if he modifies the area of it, the limits and the landmark; if he divides it into portions, and if he says: 'The field has no owner, since there has been no donation of it; ' -- if, from dread of the terrible imprecations which protect this stele and this field, he sends a fool, a deaf or blind person, a wicked wretch, an idiot, a stranger, or an ignorant one, and should cause this stele to be taken away,* and should throw it into the water, cover it with dust, mutilate it by scratching it with a stone, burn it in the fire and destroy it, or write anything else upon it, or carry,it away to a place where it will be no longer seen, -- this man, may Anu, Bel, Ea, the exalted lady, the great gods, cast upon him looks of wrath, may they destroy his strength, may they exterminate his race." All the immortals are associated in this excommunication, and each one promises in his turn the aid of his power.
* All the people enumerated in this passage might, in ignorance of what they were doing, be induced to tear up the stone, and unconsciously commit a sacrilege from which every Chaldaean in his senses would have shrunk back. The formula provides for such cases, and it secures that the curse shall fall not only on the irresponsible instruments, but reach the instigator of the crime, even when he had taken no actual part in the deed.
[Illustration: 322.jpg THE MICHAUX STONE (left)]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin. The original is in the medal cabinet of the Bibliotheque Nationale.
[Illustration: 323.jpg THE OTHER SIDE OF THE MICHAUX STONE (right)]
Merodach, by whose spells the sick are re stored, will inflict upon the guilty one a dropsy which no incantation can cure. Shamas, the supreme judge, will send forth against him one of his inexorable judgments. Sin, the inhabitant of the brilliant heavens, will cover him with leprosy as with a garment. Adar, the warrior, will break his weapons; and Zamama, the king of strifes, will not stand by him on the field of battle. Eamman will let loose his tempest upon his fields, and will overwhelm them. The whole band of the invisibles hold themselves ready to defend the rights of the proprietor against all attacks. In no part of the ancient world was the sacred character of property so forcibly laid down, or the possession of the soil more firmly secured by religion.
In instruments of agriculture and modes of cultivation Chaldaea was no better off than Egypt. The rapidity with which the river rose in the spring, and its variable subsidence from year to year, furnished little inducement to the Chaldaeans to entrust to it the work of watering their lands; on the contrary, they were compelled to protect themselves from it, and to keep at a distance the volume of waters it brought down. Each property, whether of square, triangular, or any other shape, was surrounded with a continuous earth-built barrier which bounded it on every side, and served at the same time as a rampart against the inundation.
[Illustration: 324.jpg TWO ROWS OF SHADUFS ON THE BANK OF A RIVER.]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from an Assyrian bas-relief from Koyunjik.
Rows of shadufs installed along the banks of the canals or streams provided for the irrigation of the lands.* The fields were laid out like a chess-board, and the squares, separated from each other by earthen ridges, formed as it were so many basins: when the elevation of the ground arrested the flow of the waters, these were collected into reservoirs, whence by the use of other shadufs they were raised to a higher level.
* In Mesopotamia and Chaldaea there may still be seen "everywhere ruins of ancient canals; and there are also to be met with, in many places, ridges of earth, which stretch for considerable distances in a straight line, and surround lands perfectly level." (Olivier).
The plough was nothing more than an obliquely placed mattock, whose handle was lengthened in order to harness oxen to it. Whilst the ploughman pressed heavily on the handle, two attendants kept incessantly goading the beasts, or urging them forward with voice and whip, and a third scattered the seed in the furrow. A considerable capital was needed to ensure success in agricultural undertakings: contracts were made for three years, and stipulated that payments should be made partly in metal and partly in the products of the soil.
[Illustration: 325.jpg CHALDAEAN FARMING OPERATIONS.]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a Chaldaean intaglio reproduced in Layard. The original is in the cabinet of medals in the Bibliotheque Nationale.
The farmer paid a small sum when entering into possession, and the remainder of the debt was gradually liquidated at the end of each twelve months, the payment being in silver one year, and in corn the two following. The rent varied according to the quality of the soil and the facilities which it afforded for cultivation: a field, for instance, of three bushels was made to pay nine hundred measures, while another of ten bushels had only eighteen hundred to pay. In many instances the peasant preferred to take the proprietor into partnership, the latter in such case providing all the expenses of cultivation, on the understanding that he should receive two-thirds of the gross product. The tenant was obliged to administer the estate as a careful householder during the term of his lease: he was to maintain the buildings and implements in good repair, to see that the hedges were kept up, to keep the shadufs in working order, and to secure the good condition of the watercourses. He had rarely enough slaves to manage the business with profit: those he had purchased were sufficient, with the aid of his wives and children, to carry on ordinary operations, but when any pressure arose, especially at harvest-time, he had to seek elsewhere the additional labourers he required. The temples were the chief sources for the supply of these. The majority of the supplementary labourers were free men, who were hired out by their family, or engaged themselves for a fixed term, during which they were subject to a sort of slavery, the conditions of which were determined by law. The workman renounced his liberty for fifteen days, or a month, or for a whole year; he disposed, so to speak, of a portion of his life to the provisional master of his choice, and if he did not enter upon his work at the day agreed upon, or if he showed himself inactive in the duties assigned to him, he was liable to severe punishment. He received in exchange for his labour his food, lodging, and clothing; and if an accident should occur to him during the term of his service, the law granted him an indemnity in proportion to the injury he had sustained.
[Illustration: 327.jpg THE FARM OXEN]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a green marble cylinder in the Louvre.
His average wage was from four to six shekels of silver per annum. He was also entitled by custom to another shekel in the form of a retaining fee, and he could claim his pay, which was given to him mostly in corn, in monthly instalments, if his agreement were for a considerable time, and daily if it were for a short period.
The mercenary never fell into the condition of the ordinary serf: he retained his rights as a man, and possessed in the person of the patron for whom he laboured, or whom he himself had selected, a defender of his interests. When he came to the end of his engagement, he returned to his family, and resumed his ordinary occupation until the next occasion. Many of the farmers in a small way earned thus, in a few weeks, sufficient means to supplement their own modest personal income. Others sought out more permanent occupations, and hired themselves out as regular farm-servants.
The lands which neither the rise of the river nor the irrigation system could reach so as to render fit for agriculture, were reserved for the pasture of the flocks in the springtime, when they were covered with rich grass. The presence of lions in the neighbourhood, however, obliged the husbandmen to take precautions for the safety of their flocks. They constructed provisional enclosures into which the animals were driven every evening, when the pastures were too far off to allow of the flocks being brought back to the sheepfold. The chase was a favourite pastime among them, and few days passed without the hunter's bringing back with him a young gazelle caught in a trap, or a hare killed by an arrow. These formed substantial additions to the larder, for the Chaldaeans do not seem to have kept about them, as the Egyptians did, such tamed animals as cranes or herons, gazelles or deer: they contented themselves with the useful species, oxen, asses, sheep, and goats. Some of the ancient monuments, cylinders, and clay tablets reproduce in a rough manner scenes from pastoral life. The door of the fold opens, and we see a flock of goats sallying forth to the cracking of the herdsman's whip: when they reach the pasture they scatter over the meadows, and while the shepherd keeps his eye upon them, he plays upon his reed to the delight of his dog. In the mean time the farm-people are engaged in the careful preparation of the evening meal: two individuals on opposite sides of the hearth watch the pot boiling between them, while a baker makes his dough into round cakes.
[Illustration: 329a.jpg COOKING: A QUARREL.]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from one of the terra-cotta plaques discovered by Loftus.
Sometimes a quarrel breaks out among the comrades, and leads to a stand-up fight with the fists; or a lion, perhaps, in quest of a meal, surprises and kills one of the bulls: the shepherd runs up, his axe in his hand, to contend bravely with the marauder for the possession of his beast. The shepherd was accustomed to provide himself with assistance in the shape of enormous dogs, who had no more hesitation in attacking beasts of prey than they had in pursuing game. In these combats the natural courage of the shepherd was stimulated by interest: for he was personally responsible for the safety of his flock, and if a lion should find an entrance into one of the enclosures.
[Illustration: 329b.jpg SCENES OF PASTORAL LIFE IN CHALDAEA.]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a Chaldaean intaglio from Layard. Another cylinder of the same kind is reproduced at p.233 of the present work; it represents Etana arising to heaven by the aid of his friend the eagle, while the pastoral scene below resembles in nearly all particulars that given above.
[Illustration: 330.jpg FIGHT WITH A LION]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from one of the terra-cotta tablets discovered by Loftus.
Fishing was not so much a pastime as a source of livelihood; for fish occupied a high place in the bill of fare of the common folk. Caught by the line, net, or trap, it was dried,in the sun, smoked, or salted. The chase was essentially the pastime of the great noble -- the pursuit of the lion and the bear in the wooded covers or the marshy thickets of the river-bank; the pursuit of the gazelle, the ostrich, and bustard on the elevated plains or rocky tablelands of the desert. The onager of Mesopotamia is a very beautiful animal, with its grey glossy coat, and its lively and rapid action.
[Illustration: 331.jpg THE DOG IN TUB LEASH]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a terra-cotta tablet discovered by Sir H. Rawlinson in the ruins of Babylon, and now in the British Museum
If it is disturbed, it gives forth a cry, kicks up its heels, and dashes off: when at a safe distance, it stops, turns round, and faces its pursuer: as soon as he approaches, it starts off again, stops, and takes to its heels again, continuing this procedure as long as it is followed. The Chaldaeans found it difficult to catch by the aid of dogs, but they could bring it down by arrows, or perhaps catch it alive by stratagem. A running noose was thrown round its neck, and two men held the ends of the ropes. The animal struggled, made a rush, and attempted to bite, but its efforts tended only to tighten the noose still more firmly, and it at length gave in, half strangled; after alternating struggles and suffocating paroxysms, it became somewhat calmer, and allowed itself to be led. It was finally tamed, if not to the extent of becoming useful in agriculture, at least for the purposes of war: before the horse was known in Chaldaea, it was used to draw the chariot. The original habitat of the horse was the great table-lands of Central Asia: it is doubtful whether it was brought suddenly into the region of the Tigrus and Euphrates by some barbaric invasion, or whether it was passed on from tribe to tribe, and thus gradually reached that country. It soon became acclimatized, and its cross-breeding with the ass led for centuries to the production of magnificent mules. The horse was known to the kings of Lagash, who used it in harness. The sovereigns of neighbouring cities were also acquainted with it, but it seems to have been employed solely by the upper classes of society, and never to have been generally used in the war-chariot or as a charger in cavalry operations.
[Illustration: 332.jpg CHALDAEAN CARRYING A FISH. (left)]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from one of the terra-cotta tablets discovered by Loftus.
The Chaldaeans carried agriculture to a high degree of perfection, and succeeded in obtaining from the soil everything it could be made to yield.
[Illustration: 333.jpg THE ONAGER TAKEN WITH THE LASSO.]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from the Assyrian bas-relief of Nimrud. See p.35 of the present work for an illustration of onagers pierced by arrows in the chase.
Their methods, transmitted in the first place to the Greeks, and afterwards to the Arabs, were perpetuated long after their civilization had disappeared, and were even practised by the people of Iraq under the Abbasside Caliphs. Agricultural treatises on clay, which contained an account of these matters, were deposited in one or other of the sacred libraries in which the priests of each city were long accustomed to collect together documents from every source on which they could lay their hands. There were to be found in each of these collections a certain number of works which were unique, either because the authors were natives of the city, or because all copies of them had been destroyed in the course of centuries -- the Epic of Grilgames, for instance, at Uruk; a history of the Creation, and of the battles of the gods with the monsters at Kutha: all of them had their special collections of hymns or psalms, religious and magical formulas, their lists of words and grammatical phraseology, their glossaries and syllabaries, which enabled them to understand and translate texts drawn up in Sumerian, or to decipher those whose writing presented more than ordinary difficulty. In these libraries there was, we find, as in the inscriptions of Egypt, a complete literature, of which only some shattered fragments have come down to us. The little we are able to examine has produced upon our modern investigators a complex impression, in which astonishment rather than admiration contends with a sense of tedious-ness. There may be recognized here and there, among the wearisome successions of phrases, with their rugged proper names, episodes which seem something like a Chaldaean "Genesis" or "Veda;" now and then a bold flight of fancy, a sudden exaltation of thought, or a felicitous expression, arrests the attention and holds it captive for a time. In the narrative of the adventures of Grilgames, for instance, there is a certain nobility of character, and the sequence of events, in their natural and marvellous development, are handled with gravity and freedom: if we sometimes encounter episodes which provoke a smile or excite our repugnance, we must take into account the rudeness of the age with which they deal, and remember that the men and gods of the later Homeric epic are not a whit behind the heroes of Babylonian story in coarseness. The recognition of divine omnipotence, and the keenly felt afflictions of the soul, awakened in the Chaldaean psalmist feelings of adoration and penitence which still find, in spite of the differences of religion, an echo in our own hearts; and the unknown scribe, who related the story of the descent of Ishtar to the infernal regions, was able to express with a certain gloomy energy the miseries of the "Land without return. "These instances are to be regarded, however, as exceptional: the bulk of Chaldaean literature seems nothing more than a heap of pretentious trash, in which even the best-equipped reader can see no meaning, or, if he can, it is of such a character as to seem unworthy of record. His judgment is natural in the circumstances, for the ancient East is not, like Greece and Italy, the dead of yesterday whose soul still hovers around us, and whose legacies constitute more than the half of our patrimony: on the contrary, it was buried soul and body, gods and cities, men and circumstances, ages ago, and even its heirs, in the lapse of years, have become extinct. In proportion as we are able to bring its civilization to light, we become more and more conscious that we have little or nothing in common with it. Its laws and customs, its methods of action and its modes of thought, are so far apart from those of the present day, that they seem to us to belong to a humanity utterly different from our own. The names of its deities do not appeal to our imagination like those of the Olympian cycle, and no traditional respect serves to do away with the sense of uncouthness which we experience from the jingle of syllables which enter into them. Its artists did not regard the world from the same point of view as we do, and its writers, drawing their inspiration from an entirely different source, made use of obsolete methods to express their feelings and co-ordinate their ideas. It thus happens that while we understand to a shade the classical language of the Greeks and Romans, and can read their works almost without effort, the great primitive literatures of the world, the Egyptian and Chaldaean, have nothing to offer us for the most part but a sequence of problems to solve or of enigmas to unriddle with patience. How many phrases, how many words at which we stumble, require a painstaking analysis before we can make ourselves master of their meaning! And even when we have determined to our satisfaction their literal signification, what a number of excursions we must make in the domain of religious, ethical, and political history before we can compel them to render up to us their full import, or make them as intelligible to others as they are to ourselves! When so many commentaries are required to interpret the thought of an individual or a people, some difficulty must be experienced in estimating the value of the expression which they have given to it. Elements of beauty were certainly, and perhaps are still, within it; but in proportion as we clear away the rubbish which encumbers it, the mass of glossaries necessary to interpret it fall in and bury it so as to stifle it afresh.
While the obstacles to our appreciation of Chaldaeann literature are of such a serious character, we are much more at home in our efforts to estimate the extent and depth of their scientific knowledge. They were as well versed as the Egyptians, but not more, in arithmetic and geometry in as far as these had an application to the affairs of everyday life: the difference between the two peoples consisted chiefly in their respective numerical systems -- the Egyptians employing almost exclusively the decimal system of notation, while the Chaldaeans combined its use with the duodecimal.
[Illustration: 337.jpg Page image]
To express the units, they made use of so many vertical "nails" placed one after, or above, each other, thus [symbols] etc.; tens were represented by bent brackets [symbols], up to 60; beyond this figure they had the choice of two methods of notation: they could express the further tens by the continuous additions of brackets thus, [symbols] or they could represent 50 by a vertical "nail," and add for every additional ten a bracket to the right of it, thus: [symbols]. The notation of a hundred was represented by the vertical "nail" with a horizontal stroke to the right thus [symbols], and the number of hundreds by the symbols placed before this sign, thus [symbols], etc.: a thousand was written [symbols] i.e. ten times one hundred, and the series of thousands by the combination of different notations which served to express units, tens, and hundreds. They subdivided the unit, moreover, into sixty equal parts, and each of these parts into sixty further equal subdivisions, and this system of fractions was used in all kinds of quantitive measurements. The fathom, the foot and its square, talents and bushels, the complete system of Chaldaean weights and measures, were based on the intimate alliance and parallel use of the decimal and duodecimal systems of notation. The sixtieth was more frequently employed than the hundredth when large quantities were in question: it was called a "soss," and ten sosses were equal to a "ner," while sixty ners were equivalent to a "sar;" the series, sosses, ners, and sars, being employed in all estimations of values. Years and measures of length were reckoned in sosses, while talents and bushels were measured in sosses and sars. The fact that these subdivisions were all divisible by 10 or 12, rendered calculations by means of them easy to the merchant and workmen as well as to the mathematical expert. The glimpses that we have been able to obtain up to the present of Chaldaean scientific methods indicate that they were on a low level, but they were sufficiently advanced to furnish practical rules for application in everyday affairs: helps to memory of different kinds, lists of figures with their names phonetically rendered in Sumerian and Semitic speech, tables of squares and cubes, and rudimentary formulas and figures for land-surveying, furnished sufficient instructions to enable any one to make complicated calculations in a ready manner, and to work out in figures, with tolerable accuracy, the superficial area of irregularly shaped plots of land. The Chaldaeans could draw out, with a fair amount of exactness, plans of properties or of towns, and their ambition impelled them even to attempt to make maps of the world. The latter were, it is true, but rough sketches, in which mythological beliefs vitiated the information which merchants and soldiers had collected in their journeys. The earth was represented as a disk surrounded by the ocean stream: Chaldaea took up the greater part of it, and foreign countries did not appear in it at all, or held a position out in the cold at its extremities. Actual knowledge was woven in an extraordinary manner with mystic considerations, in which the virtues of numbers, their connections with the gods, and the application of geometrical diagrams to the prediction of the future, played an important part. We know what a brilliant fortune these speculations attained in after-years, and the firm hold they obtained for centuries over Western nations, as formerly over the Bast. It was not in arithmetic and geometry alone, moreover, that the Chaldaeans were led away by such deceits: each branch of science in its turn was vitiated by them, and, indeed, it could hardly be otherwise when we come to consider the Chaldaean outlook upon the universe. Its operations, in their eyes, were not carried on under impersonal and unswerving laws, but by voluntary and rational agents, swayed by an inexorable fate against which they dared not rebel, but still free enough and powerful enough to avert by magic the decrees of destiny, or at least to retard their execution. From this conception of things each subordinate science was obliged to make its investigations in two perfectly distinct regions: it had at first to determine the material facts within its competence -- such as the position of the stars, for instance, or the symptoms of a malady; it had then to discover the beings which revealed themselves through these material manifestations, their names and their characteristics. When once it had obtained this information, and could lay its hands upon them, it could compel them to work on its behalf: science was thus nothing else than the application of magic to a particular class of phenomena.
The number of astronomical facts with which the Chaldaeans had made themselves acquainted was considerable.
[Illustration: 340.jpg CHALDAEAN MAP OF THE WORLD.]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a sketch by Peiser.
It was a question in ancient times whether they or the Egyptians had been the first to carry their investigations into the infinite depths of celestial space: when it came to be a question as to which of the two peoples had made the greater progress in this branch of knowledge, all hesitation vanished, and the pre-eminence was accorded by the ancients to the priests of Babylon rather than to those of Heliopolis and Memphis.*
* Clement of Alexandria, Lucien, Diogenes Laertius, Macrobius, attribute the origin of astronomy to the Egyptians, and Diodorus Sioulus asserts that they were the teachers of the Babylonians; Josephus maintains, on the contrary, that the Egyptians were the pupils of the Chaldaeans.
[Illustration: 340.jpg ASTRONOMICAL TABLE]
The Chaldaeans had conducted astronomical observations from remote antiquity.* Callisthenes collected and sent to his uncle Aristotle a number of these observations, of which the oldest had been made nineteen hundred and three years before his time -- that is, about the middle of the twenty-third century before our era: he could have transcribed many of a still earlier date if the archives of Babylon had been fully accessible to him.
* Epigenes asserts that their observations extended back to 720,000 years before the time of Alexander, while Berossus and Critodemus limit their antiquity to 490,000 years, which was further reduced to 473,000 years by Diodorus, to 470,000 by Cicero, and to 270,000 by Hipparchus.
The Chaldaean priests had been accustomed from an early date to record on their clay tablets the aspect of the heavens and the changes which took place in them night after night, the appearance of the constellations, their comparative brilliancy, the precise moments of their rising and setting and culmination, together with the more or less rapid movements of the planets, and their motions towards or from one another. To their unaided eyes, sharpened by practice and favoured by the transparency of the air, many stars were visible, as to the Egyptians, which we can perceive only by the aid of the telescope. These thousands of brilliant bodies, scattered apparently at random over the face of the sky, moved, however, with perfect regularity, and the period between their departure from and their return to the same point in the heavens was determined at an early date: their position could be predicted at any hour, their course in the firmament being traced so accurately that its various stages were marked out and indicated beforehand. The moon, they discovered, had to complete two hundred and twenty-three revolutions of twenty-nine days and a half each, before it returned to the point from which it had set out. This period of its career being accomplished, it began a second of equal length, then a third, and so on, in an infinite series, during which it traversed the same celestial houses and repeated in them the same acts of its life: all the eclipses which it had undergone in one period would again afflict it in another, and would be manifest in the same places of the earth in the same order of time.* Whether they ascribed these eclipses to some mechanical cause, or regarded them as so many unfortunate attacks made upon Sin by the seven, they recognized their periodical character, and they were acquainted with the system of the two hundred and twenty-three lunations by which their occurrence and duration could be predicted. Further observations encouraged the astronomers to endeavour to do for the sun what they had so successfully accomplished in regard to the moon.
* This period of two hundred and twenty-three lunations is that described by Ptolemy in the fourth book of his "Astronomy," in which he deals with the average motion of the moon. The Chaldaeans seem not to have been able to make a skilful use of it, for their books indicate the occurrence of lunar eclipses outside the predicted periods.
No long experience was needed to discover the fact that the majority of solar eclipses were followed some fourteen days and a half after by an eclipse of the moon; but they were unable to take sufficient advantage of this experience to predict with certainty the instant of a future eclipse of the sun, although they had been so struck with the connection of the two phenomena as to believe that they were in a position to announce it approximately.* They were frequently deceived in their predictions, and more than one eclipse which they had promised did not take place at the time expected:** but their successful prognostications were sufficiently frequent to console them for their failures, and to maintain the respect of the people and the rulers for their knowledge. Their years were vague years of three hundred and sixty days. The twelve equal months of which they were composed bore names which were borrowed, on the one hand, from events in civil life, such as "Simanu," from the making of brick, and "Addaru," from the sowing of seed, and, on the other, from mythological occurrences whose origin is still obscure, such as "Nisanu," from the altar of Ea, and "Elul," from a message of Ishtar. The adjustment of this year to astronomical demands was roughly carried out by the addition of a month every six years, which was called a second Adar, Blul, or Nisan, according to the place in which it was intercalated.
* Tannery is of opinion that the Chaldaeans must have predicted eclipses of the sun by means of the period of two hundred and twenty-three lunations, and shows by what a simple means they could have arrived at it.
** An astronomer mentions, in the time of Assurbanipal, that on the 28th, 29th, and 30th of the month he prepared for the observation of an eclipse; but the sun continued brilliant, and the eclipse did not take place.
The neglect of the hours and minutes in their calculation of the length of the year became with them, as with the Egyptians, a source of serious embarrassment, and we are still ignorant as to the means employed to meet the difficulty. The months had relations to the signs of the zodiac, and the days composing them were made up of twelve double hours each. The Chaldaens had invented two instruments, both of them of a simple character, to measure time -- the clepsydra and the solar clock, the latter of which in later times became the source of the Greek "polos." The sun-dial served to determine a number of simple facts which were indispensable in astronomical calculations, such as the four cardinal points, the meridian of the place, the solstitial and equinoctial epochs, and the elevation of the pole at the position of observation. The construction of the sundial and clepsydra, if not of the polos also, is doubtless to be referred back to a very ancient date, but none of the texts already brought to light makes mention of the employment of these instruments.*
* Herodotus (ii.109) formally attributes the invention of the sun-dial and polos to the Babylonians. The "polos" was a solar clock. It consisted of a concave hemisphere with a style rising from its centre: the shadow of the style described every day an arc of a circle parallel to the equator, and the daily parallels were divided into twelve or twenty-four equal parts. Smith discovered, in the palace of Sennacherib at Koyunjik, a portion of an astrolabe, which is now in the British Museum.
All these discoveries, which constitute in our eyes the scientific patrimony of the Chaldaeans, were regarded by themselves as the least important results of their investigations. Did they not know, thanks to these investigations, that the stars shone for other purposes than to lighten up the nights -- to rule, in fact, the destinies of men and kings, and, in ruling that of kings, to determine the fortune of empires? Their earliest astronomers, by their assiduous contemplation of the nightly heavens, had come to the conclusion that the vicissitudes of the heavenly bodies were in fixed relations with mundane phenomena and events. If Mercury, for instance, displayed an unusual brilliancy at his rising, and his disk appeared as a two-edged sword, riches and abundance, due to the position of the luminous halo which surrounded him, would be scattered over Chaldaea, while discords would cease therein, and justice would triumph over iniquity. The first observer who was struck by this coincidence noted it down; his successors confirmed his observations, and at length deduced, in the process of the years, from their accumulated knowledge, a general law. Henceforward, each time that Mercury assumed the same aspect it was of favourable augury, and kings and their subjects became the recipients of his bounty. As long as he maintained this appearance no foreign ruler could install himself in Chaldaea, tyranny would be divided against itself, equity would prevail, and a strong monarch bear sway; while the landholders and the king would be confirmed in their privileges, and obedience, together with tranquillity, would rule everywhere in the land. The number of these observations increased to such a degree that it was found necessary to classify them methodically to avoid confusion. Tables of them were drawn up, in which the reader could see at one and the same moment the aspect of the heavens on such and such a night and hour, and the corresponding events either then happening, or about to happen, in Chaldaean, Syria, or some foreign land. If, for instance, the moon displayed the same appearance on the 1st and 27th of the month, Elam was threatened; but "if the sun, at his setting, appears double his usual size, with three groups of bluish rays, the King of Chaldaea is ruined." To the indications of the heavenly bodies, the Chaldaeans added the portents which could be deduced from atmospheric phenomena: if it thundered on the 27th of Tammuz, the wheat-harvest would be excellent and the produce of the ears magnificent; but if this, should occur six days later, that is, on the 2nd of Abu, floods and rains were to be apprehended in a short time, together with the death of the king and the division of his empire. It was not for nothing that the sun and moon surrounded themselves in the evening with blood-red vapours or veiled themselves in dark clouds; that they grew suddenly pale or red after having been intensely bright; that unexpected fires blazed out on the confines of the air, and that on certain nights the stars seemed to have become detached from the firmament and to be falling upon the earth. These prodigies were so many warnings granted by the gods to the people and their kings before great crises in human affairs: the astronomer investigated and interpreted them, and his predictions had a greater influence than we are prepared to believe upon the fortunes of individuals and even of states. The rulers consulted and imposed upon the astronomers the duty of selecting the most favourable moment for the execution of the projects they had in view. From an early date each temple contained a library of astrological writings, where the people might find, drawn up as in a. code, the signs which bore upon their destinies. One of these libraries, consisting of not less than seventy clay tablets, is considered to have been first drawn up in the reign of Sargon of Agade, but to have been so modified and enriched with new examples from time to time that the original is well-nigh lost. This was the classical work on the subject in the VIIth century before our era, and the astronomers-royal, to whom applications were accustomed to be made to explain a natural phenomenon or a prodigy, drew their answers ready-made from it. Astronomy, as thus understood, was not merely the queen of sciences, it was the mistress of the world: taught secretly in the temples, its adepts -- at least, those who had passed through the regular curriculum of study which it required -- became almost a distinct class in society. The occupation was a lucrative one, and its accomplished professors had numerous rivals whose educational antecedents were unknown, but who excited the envy of the experts in their trading upon the credulity of the people. These quacks went about the country drawing up horoscopes, and arranging schemes of birthday prognostications, of which the majority were without any authentic warranty. The law sometimes took note of the fact that they were competing with the official experts, and interfered with their business: but if they happened to be exiled from one city, they found some neighbouring one ready to receive them.
Chaldaea abounded with soothsayers and necromancers no less than with astrologers; she possessed no real school of medicine, such as we find in Egypt, in which were taught rational methods of diagnosing maladies and of curing them by the use of simples. The Chaldaeans were content to confide the care of their bodies to sorcerers and exorcists, who were experts in the art of casting out demons and spirits, whose presence in a living being brought about those disorders to which humanity is prone. The facial expression of the patient during the crisis, the words which escaped from him in delirium, were, for these clever individuals, so many signs revealing the nature and sometimes the name of the enemy to be combated -- the Fever-god, the Plague-god, the Headache-god. Consultations and medical treatment were, therefore, religious offices, in which were involved purifications, offerings, and a whole ritual of mysterious words and gestures. The magician lighted a fire of herbs and sweet-smelling plants in front of his patient, and the clear flame arising from this put the spectres to flight and dispelled the malign influences, a prayer describing the enchantments and their effects being afterwards recited. "The baleful imprecation like a demon has fallen upon a man; -- wail and pain have fallen upon him, -- direful wail has fallen upon him, -- the baleful imprecation, the spell, the pains in the head! -- This man, the baleful imprecation slaughters him like a sheep, -- for his god has quitted his body -- his goddess has withdrawn herself in displeasure from him, -- a wail of pain has spread itself as a garment upon him and has overtaken him!" The harm done by the magician, though terrible, could be repaired by the gods, and Merodach was moved to compassion betimes. Merodach cast his eyes on the patient, Merodach entered into the house of his father Ea, saying: "My father, the baleful curse has fallen like a demon upon the man!" Twice he thus speaks, and then adds: "What this man ought to do, I know not; how shall he be healed?" Ea replies to his son Merodach: "My son, what is there that I could add to thy knowledge? -- Merodach, what is there that I could add to thy knowledge? -- That which I know, thou knowest it: -- go then, my son, Merodach, -- lead him to the house of purification of the god who prepares remedies, -- and break the spell that is upon him, draw away the charm which is upon him, -- the ill which afflicts his body, -- which he suffers by reason of the curse of his father, -- or the curse of his mother, -- or the curse of his eldest brother, -- or by the curse of a murderess who is unknown to the man. -- The curse, may it be taken from him by the charm of Ea, -- like a clove of garlic which is stripped skin by skin, -- like a cluster of dates may it be cut off, -- like a bunch of flowers may it be uprooted! The spell, may heaven avert it, -- may the earth avert it!" The god himself deigned to point out the remedy: the sick man was to take a clove of garlic, some dates, and a stalk bearing flowers, and was to throw them into the fire, bit by bit, repeating appropriate prayers at each stage of the operation. "In like manner as this garlic is peeled and thrown into the fire, -- and the burning flame consumes it, -- as it will never be planted in the vegetable garden, it will never draw moisture from the pond or from the ditch, -- its root will never again spread in the earth, -- its stalk will not pierce the ground and behold the sun, -- it will not serve as food for the gods or the king, -- so may it remove the baleful curse, so may it loose the bond -- of sickness, of sin, of shortcomings, of perversity, of crime! -- The sickness which is in my body, in my flesh, in my muscles, -- like this garlic may it be stripped off, -- and may the burning flame consume it in this day; -- may the spell of the sorcerer be cast out, that I may behold the light!" The ceremony could be prolonged at will: the sick person pulled to pieces the cluster of dates, the bunch of flowers, a fleece of wool, some goats' hair, a skein of dyed thread, and a bean, which were all in turn consumed in the fire. At each stage of the operation he repeated the formula, introducing into it one or two expressions characterizing the nature of the particular offering; as, for instance, "the dates will no more hang from their stalks, the leaves of the branch will never again be united to the tree, the wool and the hair will never again lie on the back of the animal on which they grew, and will never be used for weaving garments." The use of magical words was often accompanied by remedies, which were for the most part both grotesque and disgusting in their composition: they comprised bitter or stinking wood-shavings, raw meat, snake's flesh, wine and oil, the whole reduced to a pulp, or made into a sort of pill and swallowed on the chance of its bringing relief. The Egyptian physicians employed similar compounds, to which they attributed wonderful effects, but they made use of them in exceptional circumstances only. The medical authorities in Chaldaea recommended them before all others, and their very strangeness reassured the patient as to their efficacy: they filled the possessing spirits with disgust, and became a means of relief owing to the invincible horror with which they inspired the persecuting demons. The Chaldaeans were not, however, ignorant of the natural virtues of herbs, and at times made use of them; but they were not held in very high esteem, and the physicians preferred the prescriptions which pandered to the popular craving for the supernatural. Amulets further confirmed the effect produced by the recipes, and prevented the enemy, once cast out, from re-entering the body; these amulets were made of knots of cord, pierced shells, bronze or terra-cotta statuettes, and plaques fastened to the arms or worn round the neck. On each of the latter kind were roughly drawn the most terrible images that they could conceive, a shortened incantation was scrawled on its surface, or it was covered with extraordinary characters, which when the spirits perceived they at once took flight, and the possessor of the talisman escaped the threatened illness.
However laughable, and at the same time deplorable, this hopeless medley of exact knowledge and gross superstition may appear to us at the present day, it was the means of bringing a prosperity to the cities of Chaldaea which no amount of actual science would ever have produced. The neighbouring barbaric peoples were imbued with the same ideas as the Chaldaens regarding the constitution of the world and the nature of the laws which governed it. They lived likewise in perpetual fear of those invisible beings whose changeable and arbitrary will actuated all visible phenomena; they attributed all the reverses and misfortunes which overtook them to the direct action of these malevolent beings; they believed firmly in the influence of stars on the course of events; they were constantly on the look out for prodigies, and were greatly alarmed by them, since they had no certain knowledge of the number and nature of their enemies, and the means they had invented for protecting themselves from them or of overcoming them too often proved inefficient. In the eyes of these barbarians, the Chaldeans seemed to be possessed of the very powers which they themselves lacked. The magicians of Chaldaea had forced the demons to obey them and to unmask themselves before them; they read with ease in the heavens the present and future of men and nations; they interpreted the will of the immortals in its smallest manifestations, and with them this faculty was not a limited and ephemeral power, quickly exhausted by use: the rites and formulas known to them enabled them to exercise it freely at all times, in all places, alike upon the most exalted of the gods and the most dreaded of mortals, without its ever becoming weakened.
[Illustration:352.jpg A CHALDAEAN AMULET.]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a sketch by Loftus. The original is in the British Museum.
A race so endowed with wisdom was, indeed, destined to triumph over its neighbours, and the latter would have no chance of resisting such a nation unless they borrowed from it its manners, customs, industry, writing, and all the arts and sciences which had brought about their superiority. Chaldaeann civilization spread into Elam and took possession of the inhabitants of the shores of the Persian Gulf, and then, since its course was impeded on the south by the sea, on the west by the desert, and on the east by the mountains, it turned in the direction of the great northern plains and proceeded up the two rivers, beside whose lower waters it had been cradled. It was at this very time that the Pharaohs of the XIIIth dynasty had just completed the conquest of Nubia. Greater Egypt, made what she was by the efforts of twenty generations, had become an African power. The sea formed her northern boundary, the desert and the mountains enclosed her on all sides, and the Nile appeared the only natural outlet into a new world: she followed it indefatigably from one cataract to another, colonizing as she passed all the lands fertilized by its waters. Every step which she made in this direction increased the distance between her capitals and the Mediterranean, and brought her armies further south. Asia would have practically ceased to exist, as far as Egypt was concerned, had not the repeated incursions of the Bedouin obliged her to make advances from time to time in that direction; still she crossed the frontier as seldom as possible, and recalled her troops as soon as they had reduced the marauders to order: Ethiopia alone attracted her, and it was there that she firmly established her empire. The two great civilized peoples of the ancient world, therefore, had each their field of action clearly marked out, and neither of them had ever ventured into that of the other. There had been no lack of intercourse between them, and the encounter of their armies, if it ever really had taken place, had been accidental, had merely produced passing results, and up till then had terminated without bringing to either side a decisive advantage.
[Illustration: 354.jpg MAGIC NAIL OF TERRA COTTA]
[Illustration: 355.jpg EGYPTIAN CORNICE BEARING THE CARTOUCHES OF RAMSES I.]