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278 UNIVERSAL HISTORY-THE ANCIENT WORLD,

of the chief articles of diet, particularly of those living on the borders of the

provincial marshes of the Empire or along; the Gulf. Fishes were taken with hooks and

nets, and were cured in the sun. Sometimes a "fish-cake" was produced by pounding and

straining the fiber and reducing it to a compact mass, like bread.

No people lived more luxuriously, as it respects banqueting and feasting, than did the

ancient Babylonians. The supper of princes was a revel, at which voluptuousness and

intoxication, heightened with music, were the presiding genii. Anorchestra of trained

performers sat conspicuous and discoursed mellifluous strains) while the perfumed guests

were plied with wine. Indeed, the music of the Babylonians, struck from fine instruments

of many sorts and fashions, was a notable feature of social life. Alike in the royal

banqueting halls and in the huts of the peasantry, in the Stores and market-houses as well

as in the painted palaces and the temples of the gods, sweet strains were heard to inspire

the courage or lull the senses of the people.

The position of the women of the Empire was peculiar. It began in abasement and came near

ending in honor. When a maiden became marriageable, which she did at an early age, she

was subject to be

sold by public auction. Her father or brother might thus expose her to the excited

passions of rival bidders. The custom was. commonly practiced, and, as it appears, without

compunction on the part of either seller or buyer. When the creature was thus sold and

delivered over to lawless rapacity, it was with the understanding that she should at

sometime go other own accord to the temple of Beltis and deliver herself up to the first

stranger whom she met. And this Esplanade of Shame was always thronged with visitors!

These two degrading customs apart, the women of Babylonia fared much better than. in most

other Eastern countries. There was no harem, properly so called. Women were apparently

free from that degrading seclusion which oriental despots have contrived to preserve the

purity of the sex! Nor do the annals of the Empire indicate that the wives of the

Babylonian kings and princes: were worse treated or held in less esteem than were the

women of Macedonia or Carthage. From the pictorial sketches found, on the cylinders,

representing the various vocations and pleasures of the Babylonian women, even among the

peasantry, it would not appear that their lot waste* be more deplored than that of the

.men of their age and country.

CHAPTER XXIV-RELIGION.

A FEW paragraphs will suffice to give an outline of the theology and religious rites of

the Babylonians. Their system was so little deflected from that of primitive Chaldaea

that the whole subject might be dismissed with a simple reference to what has been said in

the Second Book respecting the religion of the Chaldees. The original gods of the plains

of Shinar survived the shock of the Assyrian conquest, and revived without a

change of name or feature amid the splendors of the Later Empire. Nebuchadnezzar might

have walked to the temple arm in arm with the shade of Kudur-Lagamer, and the twain would

have found no cause of controversy! True, some subtle distinctions had arisen with which

the elder was unfamiliar in his day, but they were not such as to disturb his faith or

shock his orthodoxy.

The few changes which occurred in the religious development of the Chaldaean into the

Babylonian system had respect to such points as the relative rank of different