Page 0394

394 UNIVERSAL HISTORY-THE ANCIENT WORLD.

that also was of a vaulted form above, and dimly lighted by a single aperture. It has been

noted that the main apartment within was devoid of ornamentation, and from this fact the

conjecture has been principally formed that the room was devoted to religious worship. The

severe spirit of the Iranians did not permit the religious thought to be distracted from

the contemplation of the Unseen by the interposition of material forms.

The present sketch may serve as an outline of building at its best estate among the

Parthians. While the race may not by any means be compared in its structural abilities

with the Greeks, the Romans, or the Egyptians, it may well be likened to the Persians and

Susianians. The work which we have here described was on the whole substantially and well

done. The building material-a gray-brown limestone-was selected of the proper quality, and

was handled with skill. The cutting was done with great exactitude. No mortar or cement

has been found in any of the walls. It would appear that the builders relied wholly upon

perfect work by the chisel for the fitting and juxtaposition of the materials. Like the

builders of Egypt and Baalbec, they relied upon the accuracy of the line and the

perfection of the work rather than on the uncertain and dubious expedient of mortar.

We have already remarked that the smaller segment within the circular wall of Hatra was

for the most part a necropolis. The surface of this part is marked with many small

structures, square as to their shape, built of stone, but long since fallen into ruins. It

can hardly be doubted that they were the sepulchres of the Parthian citizens dwelling

across the river. In general, the foundations are about twenty feet square, but are

sometimes larger. Doubtless each structure marks the resting-place of the members of a

given family or kindred. The work is plain and solid. The subterranean apartments are of

a peculiar bell-shape, widening to the bottom somewhat after the manner of the modern

cistern. Such underground rooms are carefully walled with stone well laid, plain, and

substantial. It Is quite likely that the vaults were used as a receptacle for the bones

collected from the towers of the dead, where, as already explained, the flesh of the

bodies had been plucked away and devoured by the birds of the air.

It is clear, however, that burial, in the proper sense, came at length to be practiced by

the Parthians. We may well infer that the notions of the Babylonians were to some extent

adopted by the Parthian people of the times of the Empire. At all events coffins are found

not wholly dissimilar to. those of the ancient Chaldees, but there is a sufficient

variation from the type to indicate a change of use and manner. Instead of the so-called

"dish-cover" vessel, the Parthians employed what is known as the "slipper" coffin, so

named from its resemblance in shape to a slipper. Such boxes were of earthenware, a blue-

green in color, and glazed and ornamented in the way of finish. They are found of all

lengths, from three to six feet, are not untasteful in form, and are perhaps among the

most durable sarcophagi ever invented.

The antiquary, by careful examination, has found near the foot of the box an aperture

evidently designed for the escape of the gases generated in putrefaction. As for the

principal opening, that was closed over the face of the dead with a lid, which was no

doubt hermetically sealed in its place. The small art of the Parthians sought expression

on the coffin-lid, which was not infrequently adorned with figures either suggestive of

the life and manners of the dead or emblematical of some of