Page 0268

268 UNIVERSAL HISTORY-THE ANCIENT WORLD.

sonry. The elevation of the platform was fifty or sixty feet above the surface. The great

mass of the square was constructed of sun-dried bricks, but a thick wall around the

outside and a substantial pavement on the top were of burnt bricks or stone slabs

carefully laid in bitumen. Upon this practically imperishable basis the palace proper was

reared.

The material used in the body of the structure was burnt bricks of the finest and most

durable quality. They were laid in a kind of cement which, if we may judge from the way in

which it has withstood the elements for centuries, was superior to anything of like sort

employed in modern masonry. The walls of the building were of enormous thickness. The

ground-plan was a rectangle, the sides of the square being parallel with those of the

foundation. It is unfortunate that no remains of a Babylonian palace have been discovered

in a state of such preservation as to furnish authentic data for the restoration of the

edifice. Only a few facts can be educed from the crumbling debris on the summits of the

mounds. In general, the walls were straight. They were high enough to be imposing. They

were not pierced with windows or other openings. They were strengthened by buttresses,

built at intervals along the face. They were decorated here and there with sculptured

slabs, set in both the inner .and the outer surface. The figures with which these were

adorned were generally small, but were executed with care and with considerable artistic

skill.

It was rather, however, to the device of color than to the work of the chisel that the

palace walls owed their beauty. On the smooth surface of the bricks the Babylonian

painters exhausted their resources in depicting such scenes from the chase and the fight

as could please the eye or flatter the vanity of the royal occupants. What the splendid

sculptures of Nineveh furnished to the Assyrian kings in the way of artistic pleasures,

that the painter's brush in some measure supplied for the princes of Babylon. An abundance

of these pictorial representations have been found on the great mound of El Kasr.

Curiosity to know the details-the height, the number of stories, the internal arrangement-

of these Babylonian palaces will, perhaps, remain forever ungratified. No doubt, in

altitude, they greatly over- topped the three- and four-story houses. As the king was

lifted lip above his subjects, so his abode and the abodes of his princes and nobles were

raised on high above the unaspiring cityful. Another conjecture is that the palaces were

lighted through the roofless space overhead, and not by means of windows. The extreme

mildness of the climate would justify such a supposition, and the same is attested by the

fact that no windows have been found in the walls. Another feature of the palaces, not

conjectural, is the drainage, which was carefully provided for by subterranean passages in

the basement.

An examination of the meager remains of the bridges across the Euphrates and of the great

wall around the city does not indicate that the Babylonian architects were especially

skillful. The piers of the bridges, however, were correctly built, with a sharp angle

against the current of the river. In general, the buildings of Babylonia, particularly

those of the great capital, were loftier and more imposing than the structures of other

oriental countries. No doubt they were equally superior to those of other nations in

respect to ornamentation and general structure and adaptation.

In the manufacture and preparation of building material, the Babylonians surpassed only in

the production of bricks. Like their ancestors, the Chaldaeans, they had two varieties-

those dried in the sun and those burnt in kilns. The former were used only in the interior

of thick walls and in building great platforms and buttresses, wherein the action of the

elements could not be felt. All the exposed portions of structures were of the kiln-baked

variety-very hard and perfect. The finest were of a yellow color, and were so firm as to

be

I In the present day the houses of the people of the countries described in the text are

rarely, if ever, more than two stories in height. According to Herodotus, those of ancient

Babylon were "three or four stories high."