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245 BABYLON IA- THE COUNTRY.

Gaza, Jaffa, and Ashdod, famous alike in myth and history: in myth, for their names are

lost in the shadows of remote ages; in history, for it was through Philistia that the

banners of conquest were borne back and forth in the great wars between Egypt and the

powers of Western Asia.

Next after Palestine, among the countries which Nabopolassar obtained by the Conquest of

Nineveh, may be mentioned the large and irregular region called IDUMJEA, lying next to

Egypt. It was the land of the Amalekites, the terror of Jewry. On the east lay the great

desert; on the south, the mountains of Sinai and the northern arm of the Red Sea; on the

west, the borders of Egypt; on the north, Palestine. The whole region was-and is-an

undulating rocky plain, with a surface of thin soil or gravel, degenerating into a semi-

desert. In some parts there are shrubs and pasturage, whereon the nomads of Arabia,

beating up from the south, sustain their flocks for a season. An occasional grove of palms

relieves the monotorty of the landscape, yields its fruit to the hungry desert man,

furnishes him a shade for his noonday rest. Next to the seashore the country is as an

elevated beach. Further inland, extending from the fissure in which the Dead Sea lies, is

the long depression called the Araba Valley, running down towards Egypt, and gradually

rising to the level of the plain. Still further there are a few barren ranges of

unaspiring hills, from the summit of which the African sunset is seen full and red beyond

the sea of Egypt. The area of ancient Idumaea may be stated approximately at one thousand

six hundred square miles.

The last of the Babylonian provinces here requiring mention was PALMYRA- the Land and City

of Palms. It lay between the valley of the Euphrates and Syria, with the desert of Arabia

on the south. The general character of the country was similar to that of Idumaea and the

region about Damascus. But here the desert is broken at intervals by an oasis. The city of

Palmyra itself was built in one of these oases, among nodding palms, amid fountains and

brooks of life-giving water.

Such, then, is the general outline of the vast dominions ruled by Nebuchadnezzar. From the

extreme east, on the further borders of Luristan, to the western limit, at the gateway of

Egypt, the Empire measured well-nigh one thousand four hundred miles in extent. The

breadth ranged in different parts from one hundred and sixty to two hundred and eighty

miles, giving an aggregate area of nearly two hundred and fifty thousand square miles of

territory- an area about equivalent to the empire of Austria. In shape, it will be

observed, the Babylonian dominions were greatly elongated from east to west, and this fact

became one of the chief obstacles in the administration and maintenance of authority. The

difficulty was heightened, moreover, by the displacement of Babylon, the capital, which

occupied a position almost, at one extremity of the country, being nearly a thousand miles

distant from the western frontier. All the advantages which the great city enjoyed, all

the ancient fame which gathered about that marvelous capital, could hardly counter-balance

the evils arising from its extreme situation.

If beginning on the east, we glance at the rivers by which the Babylonian Empire was

watered, we find first of all the OROATIS, the modern Tab, on the borders of Susiana. Its

headwaters are gathered within the limits of Persia; but in its principal course it

traversed the territory of the great king. The whole length of the stream is over two

hundred miles, and for a considerable distance above the mouth it is navigable for boats

of respectable size. In its upper course the waters are fresh and pure, but near the sea

the influence of the tides and brackish sands convert the current into brine.

A second important river of Susiana Is the JERAHI. This stream gathers its waters from

many fountains on the western slopes of the Zagros. After accumulating a considerable

volume, the river receives the large tributary known as the Abi Zard, or Yellow River, and

pursues his southwesterly course towards the Persian Gulf. Near Dorak the Jerahi enters

the district where irrigation is necessary