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A History of Art for Beginners and Students

The Babylonians were famous astronomers


account relates that the gardens were made by Nebuchadnezzar to please his Median queen, Amytis, because the country round about Babylon seemed so barren and desolate to her, and she longed for the lovely scenery of her native land.

What we have said will show that the Babylonians were advanced in the science of such works as come more properly under the head of engineering; their palaces were also fine, and their dwelling-houses lofty; they had three or four stories, and were covered by vaulted roofs. But the Babylonians, like the Egyptians, lavished their best art upon their temples. The temple was built in the most prominent position and magnificently adorned. It was usually within a walled inclosure, and the most important temple at Babylon, called that of Belus, is said to have had an area of thirty acres devoted to it. The chief distinguishing feature of a Babylonish temple was a tower built in stages (Fig. 22).


The number of the stages varied, eight being the largest. At the summit of the tower there was a chapel or an altar, and the ascent was by steps or an inclined plane which wound around the sides of the tower. The Babylonians were famous astronomers, and it is believed that these towers were used as observatories as well as for places of worship. At the base of the tower there was

a chapel for the use of those who could not ascend the height, and near by, in the open air, different altars were placed, for the worship of the Babylonians included the offering of sacrifices.

Very ancient writers describe the riches of the shrines at Babylon as being of a value beyond our belief. They tell of colossal images of the gods of solid gold; of enormous lions in the same precious metal; of serpents of silver, each of thirty talents' weight (a talent equalled about two thousand dollars of our money), and of golden tables, bowls, and drinking-cups, besides magnificent offerings of many kinds which faithful worshippers had devoted to the gods. These great treasures fell into the hands of the Persians when they conquered Babylon.

The Birs-i-Nimrud has been more fully examined than any other Babylonish ruin, and a description of it can be given with a good degree of correctness. As it now stands, every brick in it bears the name of Nebuchadnezzar; it is believed that he repaired or rebuilt it, but there is no reason to think that he changed its plan. Be this as it may, it is a very interesting ruin (Fig. 23). It was a temple raised on a platform and built in seven stages; these stages represented the seven spheres in which the seven planets moved (according to the ancient astronomy), and a particular color was assigned to each planet, and the stages colored according to this idea. That of the sun was golden; the moon, silver; Saturn, black; Jupiter, orange; Mars, red; Venus, pale yellow, and Mercury, deep blue.

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