Myths and Legends of Babylonia and Assyria
Birs Nimrûd, the Tower of Babel From Nippur, or Exploration and Adventure on the Euphrates, by J. P. Peters.—By permission of Messrs G.P. Putnam's Sons
The legend of the confusion of tongues is to be traced in other folk-lores than that of Babylon. It is found in Central America, where the story runs that Xelhua, one of the seven giants rescued from the deluge, built the great pyramid of Cholula in order to besiege heaven. The structure was, however,[Pg 49] destroyed by the gods, who cast down fire upon it and confounded the language of its builders. Livingstone found some such myth among the African tribes around Lake Ngami, and certain Australian and Mongolian peoples possess a similar tradition.
It is strange that the dispersion of tribes at Babel should be connected with the name of Nimrod, who figures in Biblical as well as Babylonian tradition as a mighty hunter. Epiphanius states that from the very foundation of this city (Babylon) there commenced an immediate scene of conspiracy, sedition, and tyranny, which was carried on by Nimrod, the son of Chus the Æthiop. Around this dim legendary figure a great deal of learned controversy has raged. Before we examine his legendary and mythological significance, let us see what legend and Scripture say of him. In the Book of Genesis (chap. x, 8, ff.) he is mentioned as "a mighty hunter before Yahweh: wherefore it is said, Even as Nimrod the mighty hunter before the Lord." He was also the ruler of a great kingdom. "The beginning of his kingdom was Babel, and Erech, and Accad, and Calneh in the land of Shinar. Out of that land went forth Asshur" (that is, by compulsion of Nimrod) "and builded Nineveh," and other great cities. In the Scriptures Nimrod is mentioned as a descendant of Ham, but this may arise from the reading of his father's name as