Myths and Legends of Babylonia and Assyria

Page: 155

Bâbil as a Citadel

The mound of Bâbil, to which we have frequently referred in this account of Babylonian excavation, was recognized by the German expedition as a citadel built for defensive purposes by Nebuchadrezzar—a place of refuge to which the King and court could repair in case of the capture of the city itself. It contained the royal stores and treasury, a large armoury and arsenal, and there is reason to believe that the monarch resided there even in times of peace. It was, indeed, a miniature city, a lesser Babylon, containing everything necessary for the royal support and pleasure.

Babylon's Water-Supply

The question of a suitable water-supply agitated municipal Babylon just as keenly as it does any of our own great centres of population, and recent excavations have illustrated the manner in which the Euphrates was utilized for this purpose. Nabopolasser has left inscriptions to show how he rebuilt the walls of a channel called the Arakhtu to lead the river Euphrates past the city boundaries. Nebuchadrezzar built a massive fortification with walls of from fifty to sixty feet in thickness into the bed of the Euphrates to prevent the formation of sandbanks in the river which possibly caused the flooding of the left bank above the temple of E-Sagila. This left a narrow channel between the[Pg 369] new wall and the old quay, and it is probable that this huge construction caused a subsequent change in the course of the Euphrates.

Nebuchadrezzar's Palace

Nebuchadrezzar's palace was situated in the southern citadel on the mound known as the Kasr. On this building he lavished both time and treasure. When he came to the throne he found the site occupied by the residence of his father Nabopolasser, but when he returned from his triumphant Egyptian campaigns he despised the plain old place and, like some modern potentates, resolved to build himself a royal edifice which would symbolize the power and majesty of the empire he had won for himself. He turned his father's palace into a mere platform upon which to rear his own more flamboyant structure, and filled in its rooms, courts, and spaces with rubble.

The Palace without Windows

For the most part the palace was built round open courts, much in the Spanish fashion, and there is no trace of windows, a phenomenon which constantly recurs in ancient buildings in the East, in Egypt, and in Central America. But when we consider the extremes of heat encountered in these latitudes we can appreciate the desire for a cool semi-gloom which called for the windowless chamber. The flat roofs, too, were used for sleeping purposes, so that the inhabitants did not wholly dispense with fresh air.

The Great Throne Room

But by far the most interesting apartment in the palace is the great Throne Room of Nebuchadrezzar,[Pg 370] the apartment upon which he lavished so much personal care and consideration. It stands immediately south of the Great Court, and is much the most spacious room in the palace. In the wall opposite the grand entrance from the court is a deep recess or niche, where it is thought the royal throne must have stood, so that not only the courtiers in the Throne Room but the lesser dignitaries thronging the courtyard without could have had sight of the monarch of the Eastern World seated in all his splendour upon his imperial throne. Strangely enough the walls of this great apartment of state were merely plastered with white gypsum, while the brickwork of the outer façade which faced the court was decorated with brightly coloured enamels displaying the most involved designs, floral and geometrical, in blue, yellow, black, and white. Such ornamentation would probably be banned from the Throne Room because of the high reflections from a brightly polished enamelled surface, and as we have seen heat and light were taboo in Babylonian interiors.