Page 0270

270 UNIVERSAL HISTORY.-THE ANCIENT WORLD.

the figure are tolerably well preserved, and there is a certain stiff dignity in the

attitude not wholly unmeritorious. The king with the left hand grasps his bow; in the

right he holds his arrow. His eyes are fixed, like .those of Apollo on the typhon-but here

the likeness ends. The whole figure, with the exception of the face and neck and hands, is

covered with elaborate ornamentation, showing all the details of the royal garment.

Turning to animal forms, Babylonian art appears to a better advantage. A common subject of

the artist was the dog. The creature was presented in bas-relief, generally on a black

stone slab. His canine excellency is on guard. He rises on his fore-feet, and will spring

upon the intruder if he advances further. The piece is evidently a kind of cave canern,

suitable for halls and doorways. Another figure, also in relief, is that of a great

bustard, executed with much spirit. The bird strides, and has the manner of nature. On the

cylinders are figures of cows, deer, monkeys, goats-sometimes figured with what may be

called artistic ability.

In the matter of engraved gems, the art of Babylonia is tolerably represented in modern

museums. The peculiarity of such work Is its quaintness. Sometimes the artist seems to

have caricatured the thing represented. In one gem the central figure is that of a man

with two elbow joints in one of his arms! In .the same group two of the figures menace

each other with their fists, while two grotesque animals in another corner make grimaces.

The whole is purposely done in the ridiculous or satirical spirit. In some pieces the

whole group li5 composed of .animals intentionally misshapen and ludicrous. They make

faces. One takes the head of another in his mouth. The wrong head is put on the body. A

bird is finished as a fish, and a goat ends like a monkey. Among these odd conceits a

human figure appears. .He would assert human dignity by kicking out at the well- pleased

monsters around him. It is a mark of grotesque fancy, perhaps .tipped with satire. In

other gems there is a sort of procession of ^nondescript creatures flung

from the fancy of the artist. Some are comical; some, quaint; some, it may be,' serious.

Generally a man brings up the rear--human .intelligence following a nondescript cavalcade

of the lower creatures in the march of folly! It is hard to discover whether the spirit of

the work is that of profound irony or of mere caprice.

One feature of the gem-engraving practiced by the Babylonians may well excite some wonder.

This relates rather to the mechanical than to the artistic part of the process.. By what

means was the cutting of the stones accomplished? In some cases, as when the softer gems

such as lapis-lazuli, serpentine, and alabaster were used, the engraving would be easily

accomplished. But in the case of the hard stones, such as cornelian, jasper, agate,

quartz, syenite, loadstone, and feldspar, it is difficult to understand how the cutting

could be accomplished---what kind of tools and devices could be employed in an

unscientific age to reach the required result. The use of emery seems to have been a

necessary part of the process. From the nature of the work done it appears that revolving

points of steel or some other substance equally hard and tenacious would have been a sine

qua non of the lapidary's bench. It should be observed that the Babylonian gems indicate

clearly the superiority of the mechanical over the artistic part of the process-a rare

fact in the history of ancient art.

Another fact still better calculated to excite our astonishment is the minuteness of much

of the engraving. It seems impossible that it could have been done with- out the use of

magnifying lenses. Indeed, the supposition of the use of such devices is Hot wholly

unwarranted. It is certain that the manufacture of glass was known and practiced by

several of the nations of antiquity, and .the actual discovery by Mr. Layard, at Nineveh,

of a plano-convex lens of rock crystal is proof positive of the existence of such

knowledge in Assyria. Why not in Babylonia? The gem-engraving of that country seems to

have demanded some such scientific expedient.

It is not unlikely that the best and at the same time most peculiar species of Baby-