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degree, and the public services were pompous and magnificent. The altars were hidden under

clouds of frankincense; costly offerings were laid on the shrine; victims bled to satisfy

the hunger of the gods. The great occasions of religious solemnity were holidays in the

city. Processions were formed and banquets spread in honor of such days. Wine flowed

freely. Priests and people alike gave way to the revel. The gods were said to rejoice and

drink with their worshipers, and all the excesses of the festival were shared in common by

men and deities.^ During such seasons of religious abandonment the esplanade before the

temple of Beltis was more than usually thronged with women and strangers to fulfill the

degrading injunctions of that goddess and her priests.

As among the Egyptians and the Jews, certain requirements were made of the Babylonians

respecting personal cleanliness. Ablutions and the burning of inc6nse were the means

employed to purify those who were defiled. The newly-married were unclean, and were

obliged to sit for a season before a burning censer. The touch of a dead body, and many

other acts analogous to those interdicted by the Egyptian priests and by Moses, rendered

the person unclean; and whatever thing the unclean touched was in like manner defiled.

After the prescribed formula of purification the unclean were restored to purity and

returned to the ordinary duties of life.

The Babylonian priests were mystics. They delighted in the substitution of the symbol for

the thing. Tlicy assigned to their deities, and to many other facts of their religion,

sacred numbers and signs by which the divine things were known in conversation and

writing. Thus the god Anu was numbered 60; Bel, 50; and Hea, 40. The Moon was 30; the Sun,

20; and Vul, 10. Beltis was IS, and Nergal 12. Besides these numbers, which were usually

I It was on occasions of this sort that the priestess of the temple had the splendid gold-

embroidered couch of the inner shrine prepared for herself and for the god who was said to

visit her.

employed instead of 'the sacred names for which they stood, many other signs and symbols

were used in the same mystical manner. The surfaces of the cylinders are in some instances

almost covered with these signs, the same being placed here and there in all the vacant

spaces of the regular inscription. Among such signs may be mentioned the circle crossed

with transverse diameters, which was the symbol of Shamas, god of the Sun; also the six-

rayed star, which was the emblem of Anunit. Vul, the air-god, was represented by a triple

thunderbolt, and Hea by a serpent. Ishtar was symbolized by the female form, and Bar .by a

fish. Besides those signs, the meanings of which have been determined, many more are

found, the significance of which has not yet been determined --and may never be. Prominent

among these uninterpreted symbols are the double cross, the jar, the altar, the lozenge,

and many kinds of beasts and birds. To these may be added the double horn, the sacred

tree, and the spearhead, all of which are many times repeated on the cylinders. It is safe

to infer that all these signs had reference to the theological notions and religious

ceremonies of the Babylonians, that they were understood by the priests and perhaps by the

people, and that the final purpose of such symbolization was to prevent the most sacred

ideas and words of religion from becoming too common by repetition on the lips of the


Most of the great temples of Babylonia had symbolic names, the meanings of which have not

been determined. Such names are nearly always preceded by the syllable bit, and this part

is evidently identical with the Hebrew word beth, meaning a "house." Thus the names of

some of the most noted temples were Bit-Saggath, Bit-Ana, Bit-Parra, Bit-Ulmis, Bit-Tsida,

etc.; but the meanings of these primitive words, Saggath, Parra, Ulmis, etc., are unknown.

The sense and the symbol have sunk together into that oblivious dust from which ^here is

no resurrection.