257 BABYLONIA- PEOPLE AND CITIES.
order to know, the hand of Thought must be laid implicitly in the hand of Nature.
In the matter of personal energy and activity the Babylonians held a high rank among the
nations of antiquity. They had the spirit of adventure. Alike on land and sea they went
forth to acquaint them selves with the world and the world with them. They became, after
the Phoenicians, the most distinguished merchants of the age. Their enterprise made them.
first in the marts of Asiatic commerce. Babylon became the great metropolis of Western
Asia. Whatever mankind had to sell was offered, and whatever the needs of the world
demanded was purchasable, in the emporiums of that great city. The life of the capital was
the life of trade and commercial rivalry.
Under these conditions the Babylonians became greedy of gain. Avarice grew upon that on
which it fed, and a covetous spirit dominated almost every other feeling. Whatever would
bring money was for sale. The domestic virtues were recklessly flung away for the means of
further gratification. -Every woman once in her life must offer herself to strangers
publicly before the temple of Beltis; for by this means the crowd of strangers in the city
would be increased. Maidens were sold at auction, for thus the wealthy princes, and
libertines of the surrounding nations would be drawn to the unscrupulous market. The
father or brother, with his daughter or sister, stood ready to barter for money the
pleasures due only to love.
The prime motive of all this avarice was the passion for luxurious living. Babylon was the
paradise of gluttony and lust. Whatever ministered to the appetites and senses was eagerly
sought and enjoyed without scruple. Adornment of the person, rich garments dyed with
costly dyes, jewels of untold value, costly viands gathered perhaps from foreign lands,
fragrant oils for perfuming the body-everything that could excite or appease human desire
was demanded and found and wasted in luxurious and riotous abandonment. The banquet and
the feast brought drunken- ness and revel. The tables were spread
with riches which no appetite could consume. Dark wines were poured into gob- lets of
gold. Tropical fruits were heaped in plates of silver. The palace halls were harems; for
polygamy was the usage of the land and city.
It has not often happened in the history of mankind that such personal traits and habits
as those of the Babylonians were blended-and partly redeemed-with strength and
heroism. In spite of their luxury, the people of the Empire were fearless soldiers. Those
who encountered them in the field found that there was iron under the velvet. The epithets
which were applied to them by foreign historians show that their valor in war was equal to
their abandonments of pleasure. One would have looked in vain among the bronzed cohorts
of Nebuchadnezzar for the fragrant dandies who were recently drunken in Babylonian
Not only were the people brave and war-like, but with these heroic virtues they joined
rapacity and cruelty. The Babylonian soldiery was not only without fear, but also without
mercy. Woe to the enemy against whom the fierce hand was lifted! There was neither quarter
nor compassion. Nearly always engaged in contests with surrounding nations, war became a
profession. Accustomed to bloodshed and rapine, the soldiers of the Empire learned to
destroy without discrimination, to kill without compunction. They rode their horses and
drove, their chariots over living and dead, crushing in an indistinguishable mass the
innocent with the guilty. The tender and outraged form of woman was thrown with contempt
across the brainless bodies of babes. From the mountains that frowned on the thither
borders of Luristan to the gateway of Egypt, this iron-hearted, merciless, lascivious
soldiery carried the banners of the Empire, and the nations cowered in fear before them.
In their methods and usages of war the Babylonians were very little impressed with the
practices of civilized states. Their campaigns were characterized with needless violence
and barbarity. The plan of