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Myths and Legends of Babylonia and Assyria

Page: 102

From the restoration plans with which several explorers have furnished us we can judge how stately[Pg 246] and striking the interior of many of the Babylonian temples must have been. The enamelled bricks, the highly-polished woodwork, the brilliant precious stones, the gold and silver inlaid on the walls and ceilings must indeed have dazzled the beholder. The Semites were prone to the use of bright colours, and as it was the aim of the architects to outshine the sun itself in their interiors, we can judge of the effect. Draperies and rugs were probably also lavishly used. The wooden gates were overlaid with bronze in high relief. Passing through them the worshipper must have been deeply affected by the wonderful play of colour and shadow combined in the interior. The vastness of length and height would inspire him with deep awe, and the curtain screening the holy of holies would be for him the boundary betwixt the human and the divine. Behind this curtain was probably the statue of the god, and the chamber which contained this was known as the papakhu, which means 'shut off.' In all probability no one had access to it but the king and high religious officials. It was indeed the holy of holies. A stone tablet found at Sippar represents the god Shamash seated in such a chamber. He is sitting on a low throne, and before him is an altar containing a symbol of the sun-god. A monarch and priest stand before him. The decoration of such a chamber was lavish in the extreme, the floors, walls, and ceiling being inlaid with precious stones, and in some cases, as that of Merodach in the temple of Babylon, the statue and the altar in front of it were of solid gold.


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