Page 0258

258 UNIVERSAL HISTORY-THE ANCIENT WORLD.

colonizing insurrectionary inhabitants was rigorously followed. All the hardships of such

removals were inflicted without mercy. Prisoners taken in battle were either killed or

shamelessly mutilated. The unresisting inhabitants of provinces engaged in revolt were

visited with indiscriminate vengeance. The best interests of the Empire were many times

sacrificed to the blind rage of revenge kindled against those whom a better treatment

might easily have won to loyalty.

In the civil administration of the government the same ferocious methods were employed by

the public officers. The suspected was condemned, and the condemned was executed. A fault

was a crime. The displeasure of the king meant death. His frown was fatal. Torture was

inflicted without mercy upon the objects of the royal wrath. Offenders were cut to pieces

live or were cast bound into fiery furnaces. Such was the spirit, the temper, of this

terrible race of Asiatic conquerors. They spared not anything that opposed them.

Following hard after these dissolute and vengeful methods of peace and war came that

haughty and austere spirit for which the Babylonians were noted. Their successes were such

as to make them deem themselves invincible. Pride came with power, as avarice from gain,

and lust from lawless indulgence. The princes of Babylon walked abroad amid the splendors

of the city, and contemplated with haughty egotism the magnificence of their surroundings.

The city sat as a queen, and her royal broods of pampered idlers found little to check

their selfishness and overweening pride.

These hard, cruel, and relentless features of Babylonian character were little softened by

their religion. Albeit, the traveler visiting the great metropolis would have imagined

that a people so devoted to the worship of the gods would be incapable of the deeds of

cruelty. Temples rose on the right hand and the left. Retinues of priests, engaged in some

work peculiar to their sacred offices, were ever in sight. Costly statutes of the deities

were set up in honor of the unseen, and to attract the

gaze of the pious. In no other country, with the possible exception of Egypt, was the

ceremonial of religion more costly and elaborate. The kings were the chief worshipers.

Princes went devoutly to the temples. Royal favors were poured out without stint in the

maintenance of the national faith. The names of all classes had a religious signification,

containing some sacred syllable from the name of a god. The seals of officers and the

charms worn by men and women of fashion were nearly always embellished -with some

religious' device or emblem. When the feast was spread and the wine was poured and the

banqueters became uproarious, ever and anon a song in honor of the gods was heard above

the rout.

It is said that in the noisy marts of Babylon, where each was striving to sell and get

gain, a certain code of honesty prevailed. Perhaps it was such honesty as was current in

the streets of medieval Venice-a kind of politic observance of one's words and promises.

Commercial transactions necessarily imply a certain kind of good faith which must be

observed by those who trade; and it is rather to this condition than to any subjective

trait of character that the alleged honesty of the Babylonian tradesmen must be referred.

To this must be added another element of temper with which the people of the Empire have

been credited by ancient historians. They are said to have preserved under all

circumstances a calm and placid demeanor, little indicative of the fierce passions which

were burning under the surface. This trait is, indeed^ a quality of Asiatic manners quite

universal in some of the oriental nations. It appears to accord with the character of the

Chinese and Hindus and Turks to conceal under a calm and sometimes benignant demeanor the

fiercest rage and most vindictive purposes of which the human heart is capable; and it is

not unlikely that some race-characteristic of this sort has furnished the basis for the

reputed equanimity of the Babylonians. However this may be, it is of record that they hid

beneath a calm and imperturbable exterior the evil designs and bloody