1916-09-01, English, Article, Journal or magazine article edition: The Cradle of Civilization (1 September 1916)

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The Cradle of Civilization (1 September 1916)
 
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  • 4162 words
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  • xna, W. McLeod], 1916-09-01
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  • English

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Title
  • The Cradle of Civilization (1 September 1916)
Appears In
  • The Lone hand., v.6, no.4, 1916-09-01
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  • By JAMES BAIKIE.
Published
  • xna, W. McLeod], 1916-09-01
Physical Description
  • 4162 words
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  • The Lone hand.
  • New Series Vol. 6 No. 4 (1 September 1916)
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Summary
  • The Cradle of Civilization THE HISTORIC LANDS ALONG THE EUPHRATES AND TIGRIS RIVERS, WHERE THE ALLIES ARE FIGHTING THE TURKS. By JAMES BAIKIE. IN the southwestern corner of the great continent of Asia, between the Persian Gulf .the border df that great elbow known as Asia Minor, which the continent thrusts out westward, there lies a land whose influence upon the history of the human race it would scarcely be possible to overestimate. This is the place which is generally recognised nised to have been the original home of the human race, where, in dim and misty ages before history began, men first attempted to form themselves into organised communities, where the Hebrew race found its origin, and whence their first leader, Abraham, went out in search of the land which he should afterward ward receive for an inheritance. It is a long and comparatively narrow stretch of country, running up from the Persian sian Gulf toward the Taurus Mountains and that lofty tableland which we now know as Armenia. On its northern and northeastern side it is bordered by a fringe of mountains, gradually sloping up towards the great northern ern ranges. On the southern and southwestern western side it fades away into the great Arabian desert. Far up in the tableland of Armenia, about 800 miles in a straight line from the gulf, rise two great rivers—the Tigris and the Euphrates. The land traversed by these two rivers has, like the sister river-land of been from time immemorial one of the great historic toric centres of human development. It divides into two portions of fairly equal length. For the first 400 miles the country gradually descends in a gentle slope from the mountains, forming an irregular triangle bfetween the two rivers, within which the land becomes less and less hilly, as it sinks southward, till, as it nears the Euphrates, it becomes a broad steppe, which, beyond the river, rolls off into the desert. This portion is strictly the land called by the Greeks “Mesopotamia.” THE GREAT ALLUVIAL PLAIN. The second division is totally different in character. It is simply a great delta, like that of the Nile—a flat, alluvial plain, which has been entirely formed by the silt brought down from the mountains by the two great rivers. The process of land-making is still going on, and the waters of the Persian Gulf are being pushed back' at the rate of about seventy-two feet per annum. What this slow process may achieve in many centuries is evidenced by the fact that we know that the ancient town of Eridu was still, at about 3000 8.C., an important seaport on the Persian Gulf. It is now 125 miles from the sea. Both lands were entirely dependent for their habitability and fertility on the rivers which traversed them. In Mesopotamia the Tigris and the Euphrates have for long stretches channeled deep into the soil and flow below the level of the land. In the lower district —Babylonia the ordinary level of the rivers is frequently above that of the surrounding plain, so that inundations are of frequent occurrence, and large tracts of the country are now unhealthy marshland. In both cases, therefore, though for opposite ite reasons, the hand of man was needed to make the rivers helpful. In Mesopotamia the water was controlled by dykes and dams, which held it up until it was raised to the level of the land, over which it was then distributed tributed by canals. In Babylonia the surplus water was drawn off directly by a great canal system, the banks of whose ancient arteries still stretch in formidable ridges across the plain. FLOWING WITH MILK AND HONEY. Under the system of irrigation both lands were astonishingly fertile. Even to-day it can be seen that only well-directed work is needed to bring back the ancient fertility. After the spring rains the Mesopotamian slopes are clothed with rich verdure and are gay with flowers. But of old these lands were the wonder of the world for their richness. Of Babylonia the Greek historian Herod- otus wrote 2350 years ago: “This territory is of all that we know the best by far for producing ducing grain; as to trees, it does not even attempt to bear them, either fig or vine or olive; but for producing grain it is so good that it returns as much as two hundred fold for the average, and when it bears at its best, it produces three hundred fold.” You had, then, a land which, in constant human occupation and with constant and organised attention to the details of irrigation, tion, was capable of almost anything; but at the same time it was a land which, left to itself, went back quickly to wilderness. The parching heat of summer withered everything thing on the Mesopotamian uplands; the low levels of Babylonia very speedily became marsh if the waters were not regulated. So, the hand of man being withdrawn or checked, both Mesopotamia and Babylonia went back to the state in which they were originally and in which we see them now. They became great barren wastes, the Mesopotamian potamian slopes clad in spring with a brief beauty, then parched and desolate for the rest of the season; the Babylonian plains covered ered with swamp and jungle, where fever and malaria breed continually. DESOLATION SUCCEEDS LUXURIANCE. The desolation is only accentuated by the melancholy remains of human activity — canals choked and silted up till they have become fever beds instead of arteries; huge mounds of rubbish which once were great historic toric cities, towering up above the plain, shapeless and unsightly. There are few things more remarkable than the way in which this land which had once been supreme in the history of the world, and which for centuries was one of the great moulding forces of human story, passed almost entirely out of thought and memory of civilised man. We know it; of course, from our Bibles. The name of Nineveh, “that great city,” and the story of Nebuchadnezzar’s pride, as he looked round upon palace and temple and tower, and said, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built?” These things are part of our earliest and unforgettable impressions of history. The men who wrote the history and the prophecy of the Old Testament did so'when these lands were living and at the height of their glory. They witnessed Assyria trampling ling down the nations and gathering their treasure “as one gathereth eggs that are forsaken,” saken,” and they saw her fall, exulting over the overthrow of Nineveh, whose cruelty had SIR PERCY LAKE. Commander of the British Forces now in Mesopotamia. passed upon all nations. They saw the second ond rise of Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar, and lived in the midst of its splendors and beheld them all pass away. ""then came .midnight/​" Then came down midnight. So utterly had the local habitation and the name of these great .cities vanished from the memory of man that 400 years before Christ, when Xenophon and the Ten Thousand marched through the land after the battle of Cunaxa, they passed the ruins of Nineveh and never knew of them, and encamped beside the ruins of Kalah, another of the mighty cities of Assyria, and spoke of them as “an ancient city named Larissa.” Wonderful stories and legends, of course, still found their place in the minds of men about these ancient cities and monarchies — legends of Nimrod, of Nimus, and Semiramis, amis, and of the wonderful palace and hang-' ing gardens of Babylon. But where these cities stood and what had become of their glories, these were things utterly forgotten for close on 2000 years. “Babvlon,” said Isaiah, long before (Isaiah xiii: 19-22), “the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldee’s excellency, shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. rah. It shall never be inhabited, neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation, eration, neither shall the Arabian pitch tent there But the wild beasts of the desert shall be there, and their houses shall be full of doleful creatures; and owls shall dwell there, and satyrs shall dance there.” Scripture, of course, places the first beginnings nings of human story in this land. The Garden den of Eden is described in a way that leaves the actual situation which the writer was aiming to indicate very vague; but certainly it is in the neighborhood of the Euphrates, which is definitely named as one of the rivers which water it; and the word “Eden” itself is the ordinary term for a plain in the Sumerian erian speech, the oldest language existing in this region. So the Garden of Eden simply meant the Garden of the Plain, and the first forefathers of our race were believed to have had their home in this most fertile spot. The story of the Deluge moves in the same region, and the Babylonian records preserve a tradition which corresponds almost detail for detail with that of Noah and the Ark. Berosus, the old historian of Babylonia, tells us of kings before the Deluge who reigned for incredible preiods—36,ooo years in one instance —while some of his kings after the Deluge come down to comparatively ively modest spans, such as 2400 and 2700 years. It is easy to ridicule such wild fancies, cies, but not so easy to put facts in their place. Pretty much all that can be said is that somewhere about 4000 B.C. we do seem to get into touch with actual and unmistakable historic facts. That date is at least 1500 years before the date at which Abraham is believed to have gone forth from the land in search of his inheritance. But the pioneers had been at work long before that; for the people whom we meet at 4000 B.C. are already a highly civilised and organised race. Already they had towns of considerable, size and importance, each with its own great temple tower rising high above the houses and dedicated to the town god. LIFE 6000 YEARS AGO. They had a system of government whose unit was not the kingdom, but the city-state —the city, that is, with as much territory around it as it could conveniently lay hands on and protect from its nearest neighbor, the adjoining city. At the head of each community was an official cial who called himself, in his inscriptions, the “patesi,” of his own particular state, and who seems to have been, like Melchizedek, a combination of priest and king. The inhabitants of the city were skilled in various trades and professions; their social fabric was already sharply divided into a considerable siderable variety of classes; and their pottery and the fragments of their sculpture which AGRICULTURE IN MESOPOTAMIA. The soil is tilled to-day in a manner similar to that of Abraham's time. RUINS OF THE PALACE OF CHOSROES AT CTESIPHON. This was the farthest point reached by General Townshend’s army. have survived show us that they were by no means unskilled in the fine arts. Most important of all, they had already evolved a very complete and highly developed system of writing, which in itself must have taken centuries to reach the stage at which it is first found. It began, no doubt, with pure picture-writing, as the Egyptian hieroglyphic glyphic system began; but while the Egyptians tians maintained the pictorial element of their system to the end, developing alongside of it the hieratic and demotic systems of writing for ordinary purposes, the race in question had already, when we first meet with their writing, got away from any trace of the picture stage. Their writing is already the arrow-headed or cuneiform script which persisted right down to the fall of the great empires of the ancient East. WHENCE CAME THE SUMERIANS. The wonderful people who had accomplished plished all this we call now by the name of Sumerians, from their own name for one of the divisions of their land. Whence they came is unknown. In fact, we only see this people through the mists for a short time at the very beginning of things, and then they disappear, driven out of their land, or brought into subjection by a stronger and more warlike race —that Semitic people from whom Abraham and the Hebrews sprang. The Semitic rule makes its appearance in the person of an impressive and romantic figure, ure, one of the first of the great founders of world empires, Shargani-shar-ali, better known as Sargon, King of Akkad. A GARDENER BECOMES KING. Apparently, like many of the great men of history, he was of humble and obscure birth. The Chronicle of Kish states that “at Akkad, Sharrukin, the gardener, warder of the temple of Zamama, became king.” But, whatever his origin, the impression which he made on following ages was great and lasting. ing. When men looked back to the beginnings, nings, they saw the figure of Sargon standing, great and vague, the first man who really counted in their history; and they honored him accordingly. One of the greatest of Assyrian conquerors called himself Sargon also, after this early king, and around the name of the first unifier of the land there grew up a legend which presents sents a curious parallel to the story of the infancy of Moses. This gardener-king was evidently a man of genius and force. Hot only did he- unite Babylonia under his rule, but he carried his conquests westward to the Mediterranean, north and east to Armenia and Elam, and south to Arabia and the islands of the Persian Gulf. His doings were held up as the model for all subsequent kings, and if the omens in any reign were the same as those under which the great Sargon of Akkad had gone forth to victory, any king of Babylon or Assyria would march out, confident that success cess was certain. About 2300 B.C. there rises another great figure, one of the men who mould human history and keep the world moving onward —a man also who, if some scholars are right, came into close contact with Abraham, and, great as he was, found the contact not at all to his advantage. In Genesis xiv we read how “Amraphel, King of Shimar; Arioch, King of Ellasar; Chedorlaomer, King of Elam, and Tidal, King of Goiim,” made war on the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah, who had rebelled against their overlord Chedorlaomer; how Abraham’s nephew, Lot, was captured by them, and how the Patriarch rescued Lot and defeated the invaders. Now these kings may possibly be identified with actual kings of the time. Tidal, King of Goiim, may be Thargal of Gotium: Arioch of Ellasar may be Rim- Sin of Larsam, whose name may also be read Eri-aku; Chedorlaomer is simply Kudur Lagamar, a good Elamite name. THE FIRST GREAT LAW-GIVER. There remains Amraphel, King of Shinar, who is the most; interesting figure of all, if, as seems not unlikely, he is to be identified with Hammurabi, King of Babylon, the first law-giver of the world whose laws have come down to us. At the time of the invasion sion of Palestine it seems as though he and the others were vassals of the Elamite Chedorlaomer. laomer. Perhaps the defeat sustained at Abraham’s hands weakened the Elamite King’s autjiodity. At all events we find Hammurabi firmly seated on the throne of Babylon by about 2297 B.C. , He was one of the first of all kings to understand that a king’s glory is to be the father of his people. And so in his inscriptions, tions, while we read of successful wars, we hear far more of canals dug, and temples restored and city walls built, while his favorite ite titles are “Builder of the Land,” and “King of Righteousness.” His great memorial is the famous Code of Laws, of which a copy, engraved on stone, was found by M. de Morgan at Susa and is now in the Louvre. Hammurabi begins his Code with a little bit of self-glorification, perhans hans not unwarranted. Then follow 282 sections regulating almost every conceivable incident and relationship of life. Not only are the great crimes dealt with and penalised; life is regulated down to its. most minute details. No such complete regulation of the affairs of human life was known elsewhere in ancient days; nor, indeed, it may be said, till Roman law asserted its power over the world. Of course, it does not follow that the glory of all this legislation belongs to Hammurabi, who, in all probability, was merely the codifier of laws already existing. Still, his honor, even on that footing, is not small, and the revelation lation which his Code give us of a wellordered ordered and highly disciplined community is simply amazing. • To us the time of Abraham seems almost incredibly distant, and we can scarcely bring ourselves to believe that civilised life was actually posible then; but the Code of Hammurabi murabi is sufficient to assure us that in Baby- ASHURBANIPAL AND HIS QUEEN ENJOYING A CUP OF WINE. BABYLONIANS AT WAR. This shows the battering ram and the archers with their portable defences, also the impaled victims. lonia, at all events, life in Abraham’s days was practically as thoroughly organised and as carefully regulated as it is in our own. The great law-giver of Babylonia, llammurabi, murabi, founded an empire which endured through five subsequent reigns, and closed about 200 years after the advent of its first founder. The steady average length of the reigns speaks of the permanence and stability ity of the work which had been done by the great and wise man who had united all the wrangling communities of Babylonia into a single strong State. But no human work can endure forever, and the first empire of Babylonia was no exception to the rule. It suffered the fate common to most early empires. The more highly cultured and advanced and more peaceful people were overwhelmed by the descent of a ruder and more warlike race, who had envied the wealth and prosperity of their neighbors. The conquering race, in this instance, was one of those wild mountain people who occupied pied the hill country between the Caspian Sea and the Persian Gulf. Finding a footing on the Babylonian plain near the mouth of the rivers, they gradually advanced, until their chief ascended the throne of Babylon and set up a new dynasty. They were called the Kassites, sites, and for over 570 years they ruled over Babylonia, but a Babylonia that was no longer as it had once been, the one great power in the world of the ancient Orient. A new power, Assyria, had begun to rise above the horizon, and from now onward, with occasional intervals of weakness and decline, this power strides like a Colossus over the whole of the ancient world, terrifying ing the nations by its remorseless cruelty, and crushing down all opposition and all national aspirations by the ruthless force of one of the most tremendous implements of warfare ever forged by the hand of man. FIVE HUNDBED YEAES OF STEIFE. Five centuries or so ensued, filled with more or less constant strife and bickering between the two States. In the meantime, Egypt, under the great soldier Pharaohs of the XYIIIth dynasty, took advantage of the divisions of the only two powers that could have resisted her conquest of all Palestine estine and Syria, and pushed her empire as far as to the banks of the Euphrates. Pharaoh of Egypt is the dominating figure ure of the whole world at this stage, and the kings of the East, whatever their private pride, are, in their public correspondence, his very humble and obedient servants. The balance ance of power, however, was to be readjusted before long. There is no need to wade through the dreary story of Assyrian conquest, save where we find it touching upon the Scripture records. King after king repeats, with monotonous reiteration, the story of endless campaigns, all marked by the same ruthless slaughter, the same ghastly cruelty, and the same lack of permanent results. Apparently it was quite impossible for an Assyrian king to be a peaceful ful sovereign. His State lived by and for the army alone, and if he did not give the army successful employment he was quickly murdered dered to make way for some one who would lead the troops to conquest and plunder. A KING EEVIEWS HIS EEIGN. Take, as a single specimen of an Assyrian conqueror, Ashur-natsir-pal 111, whose magnificent nificent palace at Kalah, with its alabaster slabs exquisitely carved in relief, was excavated ated by Layard in the forties of last century. The slabs are now one of the glories of the British Museum, where also the statue of the great conqueror stands. We have the record of eighteen years of his reign; there is scarcely a year in which he was not at war; and this is the kind of war he made: “To the city of Tela I approached. The city was very strong; three fortress-walls surrounded rounded it. The inhabitants trusted to their strong walls and their numerous army; they did not come down to embrace my feet. With battle and slaughter I attacked the city and captured it. Three thousand of their fighting ing men I slew with the sword; their spoil, their goods, their oxen, and their sheep I carried away; many captives I burned with fire. “I captured many of their soldiers alive: I cut off the hands and feet of some; of others I cut off the noses, the ears, and the fingers; I put out the eyes of many soldiers. I built up a pyramid of the living and a pyramid of the dead. On high I hung up their heads on trees in the neighborhood of their city. Their young men and their maidens I burned with fire. The city I overthrew, dug it up, and burned it with fire; .1 annihilated it.” A STAGGEEING CEUELTY. The imagination is staggered at the very thought of that pyramid of the living — human beings piled one upon another, suffocating, focating, strangling, perishing slowly and miserably before that other pyramid of their more fortunate friends to whom death had PART OF THE RUINS OF BABYLON. come swiftly, and at the thought of the monster ster who not only did this, but gloried in it, and caused the story of his brutality to be written indelibly upon the walls of his house. But this is not the whole of the picture. Side by side with the ruthlessness of this monster you have to place the other aspect of his nature, where you see him, a great and lordly gentleman, with a notable taste for the fine arts, planning and executing some of the most magnificent of buildings. His great palace of Kalah stood 350 feet square on a high platform facing the temple which he had built to the god Ninib. In its centre was a court measuring 125 feet by 100. Round this court were grouped the innumerable rooms and galleries of the great palace, chief among them the throne room, which measured fifty-four feet by thirtythree three feet. The curious narrowness of the chambers is very noticeable, showing the continued tinued prevalence of the old Babylonian tradition, dition, which was due to lack of good building ing stone and scarcity of timber. Round each room ran a range of sculptured alabaster slabs, showing the king at war, at the hunt,* fording the river, or marching through the mountains; while all the cruel details of his merciless warfare were represented sented to the life. Inscriptions ran along the slabs, giving practically a history of the king’s reiofn from year to year. The narrow galleries were roofed with cedar beams, decorated with gold, silver, and bronze, and gay with color. At the doorways ways stood monstrous figures of winged manheaded headed bulls or lions, head and shoulders carefully wrought out as though the creatures were leaping out of the walls, the rest left only suggested in outline. These were the divine spirits whfch guarded the entrance to the king’s house. Such was a great Assyrian monarch on the evidence of his own records, which there is no reason to doubt; surely the strangest combination of absolute brute savagery and luxurious and artistic taste that has ever walked this earth. Multiply Ashur-natsirpal pal by the dozen, and you have some idea of the misery, and the slaughter for which the great Assyrian Empire was responsible during ing a period of at least 500 years. —From The National Geographic Magazine. BABYLONIAN TABLET GIVING THE PAY-ROLL OF A TEMPLE FOR SEVEN MONTHS IN THE FOURTEENTH TEENTH CENTURY, B.C. On one of these tablets it is recorded that a woman took a man's place and received the same rate of pay as the man.
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