Myths and Legends of Babylonia and Assyria

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The excavation of the large and important building remains grouped around the temple tower of Bel was, however, Peters' principal task during his second campaign. But his hope of discovering many inscribed tablets while excavating these ruins was not to be realized. He was more fortunate, however, in the triangular mound (that known as 'Mound IV') to the south of the temple, which yielded some 2000 tablets, scientific, literary, and financial manuscripts, and even school exercises being turned up by the spade. About the same time excavations in the south-eastern wing of the large mounds disclosed the presence of thousands of tablets and many figures of Bel and his consort Beltis. Most of the tablets here were commercial,

Ruins of Babylon Uncovered after twelve years' labour by German archæologists, who began excavating in 1900. Copyright by Underwood and Underwood, London.

Recent Research

Recent research in Mesopotamia has centred around the site of Babylon, where results of a most interesting and encouraging description have been achieved. The German Oriental Society commenced work upon the site in the spring of 1899, and after twelve years of incessant labour under the direction[Pg 367] of Dr Robert Koldewey, published the report of their labours in 1911.

The Babylon of Nebuchadrezzar II

The portion of the city laid bare in these twelve years of digging was contemporary with the reigns of Nebuchadrezzar II and Nabonidus, the last native King of Babylon, but certain parts of the ruins unearthed had been built in the much more ancient era of Khammurabi, the great law-maker, and even during the First Dynasty. The later Babylon is known to us from the pages of Herodotus and Ctesias, and the explorers speedily found that the accounts of these writers in nowise squared with the actual topographical conditions of the ruins unearthed and surveyed. Herodotus speaks of a Babylon 53 miles in circumference, and Ctesias is not much more modest in his estimate of over 40 miles. The city wall to the north-east side may still be traced in its entirety, and remains to prove that the city on this side measured not more than 2 3/4 miles, and judging from this, we obtain an approximate circumference of 11 miles—a figure far short of the estimate of the 'Father of History.'

The Outer Wall

The walls themselves are of considerable interest. The outer wall was nearly twenty feet in thickness, and was built of burnt bricks impressed with the royal stamp of Nebuchadrezzar. Here and there its length was broken by towers for outlook or defensive purposes. Herodotus states that so broad was the top of the wall that a four-horse chariot could easily turn upon its surface, and that two of these vehicles had a sufficiency of room to pass one[Pg 368] another without risk to horses or driver. Companies of men could be moved along this mural highway in time of siege, so that a supply of defenders could be brought with dispatch to guard any portion of the defences that was imminently threatened.