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Myths of Babylonia and Assyria

Page: 120

A woman who was the "wife of Amon" also slept in that god's temple at Thebes in Egypt. A similar custom was observed in Lycia.

"Below, in the same precinct," continued Herodotus, "there is a second temple, in which is a sitting figure of Jupiter, all of gold. Before the figure stands a large golden table, and the throne whereon it sits, and the base on which the throne is placed, are likewise of pure gold.... Outside the temple are two altars, one of solid gold, on which it is only lawful to offer sucklings; the other, a common altar, but of great size, on which the full-grown animals are sacrificed. It is also on the great altar that the Chaldaeans burn the frankincense, which is offered to the amount of a thousand talents' weight, every year, at the festival of the god. In the time of Cyrus there was likewise in this temple a figure of a man, twelve cubits high, entirely of solid gold.... Besides the ornaments which I have mentioned, there are a large number of private offerings in this holy precinct."[266]

The city wall and river gates were closed every night, and when Babylon was besieged the people were able to feed themselves. The gardens and small farms were irrigated by canals, and canals also controlled the flow of the river Euphrates. A great dam had been formed above the town to store the surplus water during inundation and increase the supply when the river sank to its lowest.

In Hammurabi's time the river was crossed by ferry boats, but long ere the Greeks visited the city a great bridge had been constructed. So completely did the fierce Sennacherib destroy the city, that most of the existing ruins date from the period of Nebuchadnezzar II.[267]

Our knowledge of the social life of Babylon and the territory under its control is derived chiefly from the Hammurabi Code of laws, of which an almost complete copy was discovered at Susa, towards the end of 1901, by the De Morgan expedition. The laws were inscribed on a stele of black diorite 7 ft. 3 in. high, with a circumference at the base of 6 ft. 2 in. and at the top of 5 ft. 4 in. This important relic of an ancient law-abiding people had been broken in three pieces, but when these were joined together it was found that the text was not much impaired. On one side are twenty-eight columns and on the other sixteen. Originally there were in all nearly 4000 lines of inscriptions, but five columns, comprising about 300 lines, had been erased to give space, it is conjectured, for the name of the invader who carried the stele away, but unfortunately the record was never made.

On the upper part of the stele, which is now one of the treasures of the Louvre, Paris, King Hammurabi salutes, with his right hand reverently upraised, the sun god Shamash, seated on his throne, at the summit of E-sagila, by whom he is being presented with the stylus with which to inscribe the legal code. Both figures are heavily bearded, but have shaven lips and chins. The god wears a conical headdress and a flounced robe suspended from his left shoulder, while the king has assumed a round dome-shaped hat and a flowing garment which almost sweeps the ground.


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