276 UNIVERSAL HISTORY.-THE ANCIENT WORLD.
seers. In later times, however, as appears from the distribution of the forces in the army
of Xerxes, the horsemen of Babylonia were less esteemed than the infantry.
The Babylonian infantry was a vast mass of half-disciplined soldiers, made up of natives,
provincials, and foreigners. They were irregular, both in movement and weaponry. Each of
the subject nations sent its own contingent of troops, armed and equipped according to the
manner of the respective countries. It was a courageous host, having an almost fatalistic
contempt of death, inspired by the hope of booty and fired with the lust of conquest. In
marching, the army spread itself over the invaded country, destroying every thing within
reach. The populace was driven before them into the towns. These were besieged and taken
with every accompaniment of violence and barbarity. If the walls were weak, they were soon
leveled with battering-rams. If the ramparts resisted such assault, then mounds of earth
were heaped outside until the fortifications were overtopped, and the infuriated soldiery
poured in to their repast of blood and plunder. Sometimes, when the walls were high and
strong and ably defended, years were consumed in the siege, the vengeance of the besiegers
gathering head to burst with the excess of long-restrained rage upon the fated city. Woe
to the rebellious, and a double woe to them that resisted.
The campaigns of the Babylonians were waged without much regard to political expediency.
The object had in view was rarely, if ever, the national development of the Empire.
Passion was the mainspring of war. When that failed, the priests were called in with their
hocus-pocus to decide what nation should next be invaded In the progress and management of
the invasion the priests were as much relied on as the generals to give direction to the
movements and to explain the failures and successes of the army. The wars, indeed, were
regarded as the avenging bolts of the Babylonian gods, buried against the impudent deities
of other lands. Meanwhile, if a royal indigestion precipitated a bad dream, or if the king
was from any
cause troubled in his cogitations, all must be interpreted and made clear by the clever
gentlemen who wore the robes of the altar. The only compensation to this mutual
superstition was that if the priests failed to satisfy the king's spirit with their
rendering of his troubles, or if they gave advice ending in disaster which could not be
explained away, their gods were rarely able to save them from their master's wrath.
Looking more closely at the priestly profession, not merely in their relations to military
management, but more particularly as to their regular duties in the temples, we find them
as were the priests of Egypt, the possessors of a certain body of learning and traditions.
They had rules and precedents, dogmas and ceremonials. They had methods of purification,
and laws for conducting the sacrifices. They had principles of interpretation, and a canon
of criticism relating to portents and omens. Their wisdom was in high repute. From king to
peasant no one might question the infallibility of their oracles.
It is not certainly known to what extent there was in Babylon a guild of secular scholars
distinct from the priests. There are some reasons for believing that such a class of
persons existed; and the condition of Babylonian learning-a mixture, as we have seen, of
tolerably exact science with gross superstition-seems to warrant the supposition of a
secular as well as a hierarchical brain at work in the problem. The language of
contemporaneous Western writers also, notably the expressions of the prophet Daniel,
indicate quite clearly the existence of several classes of wise men in Nebuchadnezzar's
capital. Some are called simply Chaldasans; some, soothsayers; some, magicians; some,
astrologers. Nor does the language indicate that these are merely different names for the
same group of persons. It could not even be inferred from the recital of Daniel that any
of the classes referred to were priests. Indeed, it would seem clear from the presidency
of Daniel (himself a Hebrew and not a priest) over the Babylonian college that a powerful
non-priestly element existed in the learned body of the city. In all such questions,