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279 BABYLONIA-RELIGION.

279

deities, and to such non-essentials as the matter of names and epithets. Inseveral

instances, the higher god of the Chaldaeans becomes the lower of the Babylonians, and vice

versa. Thus Merodach, who was inferior to Bel in the primitive pantheon, was made his

superior by the priests of Nebuchadnezzar. Nabonadius, however, resented the degradation

of Bel and restored him to his supremacy. In like manner, there was a confusion, and even

blending of the names and offices of Beltis and Ishtar, who are sometimes spoken of as one

and the same divinity.

The three great gods of the. Babylonian system were Bel, Merodach, and Nebo. After these

was Nergal, who had the principal seat of his worship at Cutha. Bel and Merodach were the

supreme deities of Babylon. Here once a year, in the magnificent temple of the former god,

a great festival was celebrated. A splendid procession was formed in his honor, and on the

broad altar in front of his shrine a thousand talents of frankincense were burned. Nebo

was the tutelary deity of Borsippa. His worship was especially popular, and his name was

incorporated in the names of a majority of the Babylonian kings. The great monarchs, Nabo-

polassar, Nebu-chadnezzar, and Nabo-nadius, were so-called after their patron god. The

names of

Nergal and Bel occur in like manner, but less frequently. The worship of the Moon as the

deity of Borsippa, and the Sun at Sippara, has already been described in the Book on

Chaldaea.

In all the Babylonian temples were images of the gods. It does not appear, however, that

the worship conducted before these images was downright idolatry. The theory of the

priests was-as it has ever been--that the mind of the worshiper was fixed upon the deity

by means of the symbol. To many of the ignorant masses, however, the idol was doubtless

the god, and the god the idol. An intermediate class believed that the deity came down at

certain times, and ate and drank the offerings which were left before his image.

The making of idols was a regular trade in the city. The god-smith was in good repute. The

materials used in the fabrication of images were gold, silver, bronze, and stone-according

to the costliness of the temple and shrine wherein the statues were to be placed. Some of

the idols were cast solid; others were of the base metals, or even of clay, overlaid or

plated with gold or silver.

Each one of the Babylonian temples had its retinue of priests. To them the management of

the shrines and images and the conduct of worship were intrusted. These hierarchs lived

either in the temple itself or inadjacent houses assigned to their use. They married and

reared families just as the members of other professions, and their places in the priestly

office were taken by their sons. In many cases, however, the sacred college was recruited

from the ranks of the laity, nor was any marked discrimination made even against

foreigners. In the conduct of the ceremonies of their religion the priests were formal and

dignified. Their dresses were rich to the last