From under the Dust of Ages

by William St. Chad Boscawen | 1886 | 41,453 words

A series of six lectures on the history and antiquities of Assyria and Babylonia, delivered at the British Museum....

Lecture 1 - The Chaldean Temple

Its Construction And Services

IF we would study the history of an ancient city, we must turn to its temple. The position which the temple occupied in the cities of ancient times was one of the highest importance. It was the germ, the heart of the city, and as the city and state grew in power, so the temple increased in wealth and magnificence ; and when trouble and destruction fell upon the city, so were these adversities reflected in the annals, even in the very stones, of the temple itself.

The thorough explorations made by the late M. Mariette of the Temple of Karnak show, when Egypt was at the zenith of her power, how lavish were the offerings, how vast and rich the additions which the Pharaohs made to the shrine of their father, Amon-Pta; while its walls form, as Dr. Brugsch fitly remarks, a

" history of the Theban kings."
" No great cathedral or abbey,"

says Mr. Stuart Poole,

" shows such a vast succession of labour, and so continuous a history. It is not alone a temple, but a library of historic records."

So when the power of the Thebau kings waned, and the Ethiopian and the Assyrian swept over the land, we see, in the paucity of inscribed records on the walls, and the meacre character of the halls and shrines erected, the bruising of the reed of Egypt. In like manner the temple of the Jews reflects the varied phases of the nation's history.

Less than half a century after that most grand and solemn festival, by which the Hebrew King Solomon had dedicated this dwelling, rich with silver and gold and precious cedar, to the Lord his God, in the days when "silver was as stones in Jerusalem" (1 Kings x. 27), we find the Egyptian spoiler Shishak carrying away to Thebes "the treasures of the House of the Lord" (1 Kings xiv. 25). ] Rebellion and dissension had torn in twain that short-lived empire, which for a time reached from the Euphrates to the frontier of Egypt. Repaired by succeeding kings, it is once more pillaged to furnish the bribe to buy off Hazael (2 Kings xii. 18).

The Assyrian invasions of Sargon 1 and Sennacherib left their mark on the temple (2 Kings xviii. 14, 15), and its destruction was synchronous with the captivity (2 Kings xxv. 8). Thus we see the history of the Jewish nation reflected in the history of its temple. The birth of a new city was marked in ancient times by the building of a temple to the protecting god. The origin of the custom is plainly to be seen in the act of proprietorship in land. In the law tablet we [1] See Sayce, "Fresh Light from the Monuments," pp. 117-118. read —

"For the future the Judge shall cause a shrine to be erected in a private demesne;"

l so in like manner was the foundation of the more extended and royal property marked by the erection of a temple.

In Egypt, we find Memphis owing its origin to the foundation of the "House of the worship of Patah," and Thebes to that of Father Anion. We may, I think, see a somewhat similar recognition of the importance of the temple, not only to the religious, but also to the secular life of the people, prompting David, after the capture of the fortress of Zion from the Jebusites (2 Sam. v. 6-9), to remove the ark of the covenant, the Hebrew palladium, thither, and his wish to build in his new capital a house of the Lord (2 Sam. vii. 1). Turning now to Chaldea, we find the strongest evidences of the all-important position of the temple in the life and history of the city as in surrounding lands. The land of Chaldea was a land of temples ; each city had its central fane, " the resting-place " of the patron god ; while some of the more important cities, such as Babylon, Borsippa, and Sippara, had many of these sacred edifices.

The following is a list of some of the most important cities with their temples : —

  City Temple Meaning God
1. Babylon E. Sagilli House of the Lofty Head Bel. Merodach
2. Borsippa E. Zida House of Life Nebo
3. Erech E. Anna House of Heaven Istar Nana
4. Sippara E. Parra House of Light Shamas
5. Ur E. Gir-nu-gal House of Sceptre Sin
6. Kutha E. Tig-abba

House of Bowing down of the Head.

7. Larsa E. Parra House of Light Sham as
8. Sergul E. Ser-gulla House of the Great Flame Fire God
9. Nipur E. En. gi House of Bel Bel
10. Nineveh Bit. Kit muri House of Love Istar


Although we may regard the temple as a most important religious structure, yet we cannot, as I shall show, consider it as the first. The rude altar of a few hastily gathered stones, with the Akkadian and Semetic nomads, as with the Hebrew patriarchs, long preceded the temple ; and it was not until the nomadic life was abandoned that the temple as the "House of the God" w r as built. Possibly intermediate between the two was the sacred enclosure, the temenos, in which the altar stood. This seems to be in some degree implied by some references in ancient Akkadian hymns to the enclosure of Eridhu. The importance attached to the right construction of altars among the early Vedic Aryans is shown by Br Hang, in a paper read before the London Congress of Orientalists, to have originated their first ideas of geometry.

The construction of the Chaldean temple is based essentially on that of the house — it being E-Dingira, the " House of God " of the Akkadians, the Bit-ilu of the Shemites. That its plan and ornamentation were settled at an early period, and adhered to throughout with the strictest of priestly conservatism, is demonstrated by comparing the plans of temples, which the spade of the explorer has brought to light, with the original plan drawn by a Chaldean architect more than forty centuries ago. This important design is now preserved in the Louvre, where it forms one of the most precious treasures of the Assyrian Department. In 1879, M. de Sarzec, the French Consul at Bussorah, undertook, on behalf of the French Government, a series of explorations in Southern Chaldea. Daring his travels in those regions in 1875, his attention had been called to a mound situated about twelve miles south-east of the ruins of Warka, the site of the ancient city of Uruki, the Erech of Genesis, the ancient capital of Chaldea.

The explorations resulted in the recovery of a collection of antiquities, monuments, and inscriptions, which form the most valuable portion of the Assyrian treasures of the Louvre. The chief edifices below the ruins of Tel-Lo were a large temple and palace of simple but massive construction. The only decoration was a series of buttresses at equal distances along the walls, and double buttresses flanking the doorways, similar in style to the ornamentation of the buildings found at Mughier and Warka by Mr Loftus, and by Mr Eassam at Aboo Hubba. In the centre of the ruins was found the statue of the ruler or viceroy who restored the temple, dedicating important gifts to it, and regulating the sacrifices and offerings. This statue is a marvel of antique work, such as Egypt only had hitherto produced. The figure is about 4 feet high, and represents the ruler Gudea, who bears the title of Viceroy of Sergulla, he being an official under Urbahu, the ruler of Erech.

Gudea appears here in his character of chief architect of the temple, like Semnut, the royal architect of the Egyptian Queen Hatasn, that profession being in high repute in Chaldea as in Egypt. He is clad in a long robe reaching to the ankles, and seated on a throne without a back. The hands are folded in a manner peculiar to Chaldean and Assyrian art, and on the knees is a stone tablet, on which is drawn a plan of the temple in which the statue was found. This plan shows a building with buttressed walls and doorways similar to the edifice uncovered by the explorer. The date of this statue cannot be placed later than B.C. 2120 ; and, judging by comparison with other monuments and inscriptions, it may, with a fair degree of accuracy, be placed about B.C. 2500.

It is evident, from the comparison of this early specimen of the draughtsman's art, that Babylonian sacred architecture became stereotyped — at least in plan — at a very early period, as we find the temples discovered by Mr Rassam at Aboo Hubba, at Ballawat and Nimroud, present but slight variation from this ancient plan. That the construction of the ancient buildings, even at the remote period of twenty-five centuries before the Christian era, was a matter of care and mathematical calculation, is proved by this plan of the temple at Sergulla. Upon the side of the tablet, near the right hand of the sacred architect, is the burr or graver with which the plan was supposed to be drawn, and upon the front edge of the tablet is a neatly constructed and sub-divided scale, which, according to the accurate measurements made by Mr Flinders Petrie, gives a cubit of 20,- : ;, inches, corresponding to the cubit of the old Empire of Egypt.

The explorations carried out by Mr Rassam at Aboo Hubba have restored to us the remains of a temple, which Chaldean tradition had always regarded as the most ancient in the land. According to the statements of Berossus, it was in the temple of the Sun god, in the city of Sippara of the Sun, the Chaldean Heliopolis, that Xisuthrus, the Chaldean Noah, buried the records which, by order of the god Cronos, he had written of ante-deluvian times. The explorations which the able explorer has carried out in the mound of Aboo Hubba, situated on the Yussifieh Canal, about thirty miles south-west of Baghdad, have proved that here was the site of this ancient city of Sippara — the Sapharvaini of the Bible.

The citadel occupies the southern portion of the eneienttf, and its highest point on the south-west face was once on the banks either of the Euphrates itself, or of a broad canal communicating with the river, the channel of which is now marked by the Euth-wanyieh Canal. The trenches excavated in the mound soon struck the walls of a building, and, by following the line of this wall, the outer face of a large square edifice was uncovered. The portions of the walls laid bare exhibited a style of architecture and ornamentation similar to the buildings discovered by Mr K. Loftus in the mounds at Mughier and Warka, and by M. de Sarzec at Tel-Lo — the walls being broken at equal distances by projecting buttresses, and decorated with ploughed pannels. Trenches and shafts sunk in the interior showed that within this outer rampart, which in some cases was over 13 feet in thickness, there were over 100 chambers ranged round a central court. In the central portion of the mound, an important pair of chambers were found. Approached from a courtyard, a doorway gave entrance into a large chamber, 100 feet in length, and about 35 feet in width.

In the centre of this chamber, the explorer found the remains of a large brick altar platform, about 30 feet square, upon which, from charred fragments about, it was evident that the altar of burnt-offering of the temple had stood.

The axis of this chamber was north-east and south-west, and at the north-east end a doorway was found, leading into a smaller chamber, measuring 45 feet X 35 feet. The floor of this chamber was paved with a material resembling very closely in composition asphalte. Guided by his former researches at Ballawat and Nimroud, Mr Eassam sank a shaft through this floor in search of foundation records, which were usually buried beneath the floor, and discovered by a terra cotta box containing three inscribed records — namely, a stone tablet with a sculptured pannel, representing the worship of the Sun god, and two inscribed barrel cylinders.

The cylinders were found to bear inscriptions of Nabonidus, king of Babylon, B.C. 555, recording the restoration of this temple in the year B.C. 550, and the stone tablet bore a long and important record of the restoration of the temple by Nabu-abla-iddina,king of Babylon, whom we already know as a contemporary of Assurnazirpal and his son Shalmanesar III., kings of Assyria, and whose date may be given as about B.C. 852. It required but a casual examination of the inscriptions to ascertain the nature of the edifice which the explorers had entered, as on the tablet of Nabu-abla-iddina, above the figure of the Sun god, is the inscription — " The statue of the Sun god — the great lord — dwelling in E. Parra (the House of Light), which is within the city of Sippara."

An examination of this pair of chambers showed them to be in very fair preservation, though all objects of value had been removed, including the statue of the Sun god, which had once stood in the smaller inner chamber. It was most fortunate that so good an example of the Babylonian temple should be thus discovered, and it was soon made all the more important when the inscriptions discovered in the record chest furnished such conclusive evidence of the great antiquity of this temple. In his cylinder inscription, Xabonidus records that in his pious search for the records of his ancestors, who in remote times had restored this temple, he found the cylinders of Naram-Sin, the son of Sargon, who had restored some portions of this edifice 23C0 years before. This, therefore, gives to this edifice a foundation prior to the year - *> 7 -~> B.C.

Additional confirmation of this date is now afforded by the repetition of the same date in a second copy of the same cylinder, and also by the fact that other dates of less remote antiquity in the inscription when compared with the existing canon of Kings, are found to be accurate. Still more important, however, is the discovery, in the lower strata of the temple area, of a small ovoid of pink and white marble, bearing an inscription of Sargon I., the father of lS T aram-Sin, which, from its archaic character, bears strong testimony to the accuracy of this date. We may therefore note that, although this date does not confirm the statement of Berossus as to the ante-deluvian origin of the ancient city and its temple, yet it does establish this great antiquity. I now pass to the subject of the plan and arrangement of the temple, and to explain the symbolism therein.

The temple was called by the Akkadians E-Dingira, " the House of God ; " by the Semetic Babylonians, Bit-ilu, ' the House of God" — the Beth-el of the Hebrews. Many other titles were applied to it, such as " Resting-place of the God," " Dwelling of the God," " Talace of the God," " High Place," &c.

The primary idea of all was, however, that of the temple being the " 8 House of God," just as the palace was " the great house ; " and it requires very little inspection of the plan to see how slightly it differs from the pairs of dwelling chambers which are found in the court-yards of^Assyrian palaces, as at Nimroud, or in the more secular parts of the temple. The outer and larger chamber, in which the altar stood, corresponds to the living room ; while the smaller inner chamber may perhaps be compared with the chamber called the inner chamber, in 2 Kings x. 2, in the commoner class of house, and, as I shall show, to the Harem in the palace. In the cuneiform inscriptions, and especially in the later Babylonian writings of the time of Nebuchadnezzar, we find the name Ekallu, " Palace " or " Great House "-—the Hekal of the Hebrews often applied to the temple. As, for example, in the cylinder (W.A.I., Vol. V., pi. xxxiv., col. i., line 47), we find the great temple of Merodach at Babylon called " The Palace of the Heavens and the Earth, the abode of Justice."

The application of this word to the temple in the Assyrian inscriptions is similar to its use in a general sense in the Books of Kings and the Prophets, where the temple at Jerusalem is called the Heral-Jehovah, " The Palace of Jehovah," though we do not find it applied in the more special sense of the Naos, the larger chamber of the temple. The cella, or inner chamber, of the temple bore several names in the inscriptions, all of which are of importance as throwing light on the ideas embodied in the construction of the temple.

The most common name was Parakku, a word of Akkadian origin, borrowed by the Semetic Babylonians. This word had gone through various changes of meaning. Its primary meaning, on analysis of the construction of the word, was Parakku, " High Altar," and indicates the stage of religious development, of which I have already spoken, when the altar was the chief religious construction. And as the altar was a sacred spot, only to be approached by those who were properly qualified, so at a later time we find it applied to the Harem of the palace, as Sennacherib calls himself in his inscription, "The first-born of the dwellers in the Parrahu — that is, in the Harem."

The further application of the word to the Holy of Holies of the temple embodies the same idea of the sacred character of it in relation to the house of God, as the Harem was of the private house. Indeed, we may say that this word, in its various applications, has undergone almost similar modifications to those of the Arabic word Harem, meaning first a forbidden spot, either the altar or courts of a temple or mosque, and the women's quarter of a house. Two other names applied to this cella, or " Holy of Holies," in the Chaldean temple were Kua and Papakha. The words occur in many cases together as if two closely associated portions of the sacred edifice. As, for example, in the India House inscription of Nebuchadnezzar (col. ii., line 40) — " In E-Sagili, the palace {E. Kal) of his lordship in their beauty, the House of the Oracle (Kua) and shrine (Papakha) of the Lord of the gods, Merodach."

And again in the same inscription (col. iii., line 36) — "The beams of the ceiling of the shrine of Nebo with gold I covered. The cedar planks of the gate of the Oracle (Kua) I covered with bright gold." Comparing these and other passages, we may probably consider the Kua to be the Oracle, equivalent to the Debr of the Jewish temple, while Papakha was the shrine of the god. The cedar wood doors, which divided the holy place from the Holy of Holies in the Chaldean temple, resemble the doors which Solomon made for the entrance to the Oracle — " For the entering of the Oracle he made doors of olive wood, and he carved them with carvings of cherubim and palm trees and open flowers, and overlaid them with gold" (1 Kings vi. 31-32).

The writer of the Book of Chronicles, however, replaces these doors by the vail (2 Chron. iii. 14). The Parraku, or cella, was the most richly decorated portion of the Chaldean temple, and, like the Holy of Holies of the Jewish temple, was often one mass of gold, silver, and precious stones. In the annals of many of the Babylonian kings, we find reference to their lavish decoration of this Holy of Holies of the great temple of Bel Merodaeh. Gold, silver, and cedar from Lebanon were used with most lavish hand, but the most detailed descriptions, though somewhat mutilated in the case of the former, are found in the inscriptions of Assur-bani-abla and Nebuchadnezzar. In a fragment of cylinder, the Assyrian king thus speaks of his restoration of the temple of E-Sagili : — " E-Sagili (the temple) of the lord of the gods I made. I completed its decorations.

The mother Bilat, the protectoress, of Babylon. Hea and Shamas from the midst of the temple ] brought. I caused them to enter into the city of Suanna (the sacred quarter of Babylon). Their noble shrine I adorned with fifty talents of bronze. i adorned ; with bricks I finished and enlarged upon it. 1 caused a ceiling of cedar wood to be made beautiful as the stars of heaven, adorned with beaten gold. Over Merodaeh, the lord of the gods, I rejoiced my heart. I worshipped him, and performed his will.

A noble chariot the carriage of Merodaeh, prince of the gods ; with silver, gold, and precious stones I finished its work. To Merodach, king of the hosts of heaven and earth, the sweeper away of my enemies, a couch of accacia wood, for the holy place adorned with precious stones, silver, and gold, as the resting-place of Bel and Bilat— givers of favour, makers of friendship, skilfully I made."

Not only does this extract from the inscription furnish a very good idea of the magnificence of this great temple, but it also mentions two objects of interest which were stored in that edifice. The first is the sacred chariot of the god. Merodach, as the Divine warrior, as he is called here the " sweeper away of enemies," the opponent of evil, would certainly have his sacred chariot. In Egypt, and among the Greeks and Ptomans, sacred chariots were kept in the temples. In an inscription in the British Museum, mention is made of " sacrificial rams for the yoke of the chariot of the great Lord Merodach dwelling in E-Sagili."

So that there seems to have been a similar idea of his chariot being drawn by rams, as that of Dionysius was drawn by panthers or tigers. The sacred couch here referred to is probably the same as mentioned by Herodotus as one on which those wishing to consult the oracles of Belus slept, The discovery in the temple of the Sun god at Aboo Hubba of the precious records of the royal donors, enclosed in a sacred chest, and of the foundation records of the temple at Ballawat — found, too, in a chest— -affords a close resemblance to the placing of the ark, containing the most precious memorials of the Hebrew religion in the oracle of the temple at Jerusalem. The exist- ence of the large altar of burnt-offering in the outer chamber would seem to indicate that this portion was not roofed — only the cella or Parraku being roofed.

The most important object, however, in the Parraku was the statue of the god in whose honour the temple was erected, which was enshrined within this most holy part of the temple, as the statues of the divinities of Greece were within the cella.

Of statues which in ancient times had occupied the Parraku of Chaldean temples, it is doubtful if we have any authenticated example. The statues discovered by M. de Sarzec at Tel-Lo, and by Sir Henry Layard at Kileh-Shergat, and Mmroud, came from temples ; but we cannot definitely state that they were the images of the gods in whose honour the temples were erected. Still, however, we are not without information regarding such statues. The inscriptions of Agu-kak-rimi, a Kassite king of Babylon ruling in about the 14th century B.C., and the tablet of Nabu-abla-iddina (b.c. 852), already referred to, furnish most detailed and valuable information regarding these sacred images. In the latter inscription, we have the account of the making of one of these sacred images, which the king dedicated to this temple of the Sun god in the city of Sippara, in gratitude of "the aid that divinity had afforded him in defeating the invaders of the land.

The passages relating to this statue are as follows : — " Nabu-abla-iddina, king of Babylon, for the making of this statue, ordered and set his face. This statue he saw, and (with) its front and back he was pleased. For the making of this statue his mind was set, By the wisdom of Hea, (and) by the aid of the Lord of the Bright Eye, the Lord of Gold, &c, of bright alabaster, the statue of the Sun god, the great lord firmly he made." In the presence of Hea and Merodach, the presence of the Sun god in the House of Alabaster, which is on the banks of the Euphrates ; its surface he cleansed, and raised to its seat.

The statue is represented in the bas relief, upon the upper part of the tablet, as a seated figure, clad in a long striped robe, and remarkable for the luxuriant hair and beard. Of the statues associated with temples, those from Tel-Lo and Kileh-Shergat are all seated, and it is evident that, in the early stages of Babylonian art, with few exceptions, and these mere rude blocks, the Babylonians never attempted to represent the full upright figure in the round ; still less did they venture on the reproduction of the nude. Two things seem to have militated seriously against the attainment of beauty in these temple statues, and indeed in all Assyrian art.

The first was the Semetic prejudice against the study and representation of the nude, which M. Perrot has remarked hindered Assyrian art from ever shaking off that stiff, narrow, and conventional style which characterises its work. The second retarding element may be found in the custom, of which ample evidence is afforded in the inscriptions, of clothing the statues with robes, which rendered anatomical correctness of little importance, and converted these early examples of the sculptor's art into a series of lay figures. In the earlier inscription of the Kassite king, which I have mentioned.

we have a number of the adornments of the images of the gods mentioned, such as blue robes, robes woven with gold, and gold " crowns of divinity " set with precious stones ; and, in the inscription of Nabu-abla-iddina, the king dedicates " six beautiful dresses, the portion of the year," for the use of the temple, in which the statue was placed. Among these robes we may notice "striped robes" (Zubat Seria'tu), evidently similar to the one in which the statue is represented ; (Zubat DamJca Kahcibi), a " beautiful starred robe," also " a robe of open work ; " (Zubat Klmllanu) ; and other adornments.

The seated statue placed in the ancient Chaldean temples was copied in slavish manner by the Assyrians, and by them transmitted to the Hittite or Prehellenic tribes in Asia Minor, as shown in the sculptures at Eyuk and the Niobe of Mt. Sisyphus ; and, as Mr Gladstone remarks, the only statue mentioned in the Iliad — that of Pallas Athene — must have been a seated one, as in no other way could the priestess Theano have placed the peplos of Hecuba on its knees (Iliad vi., 302, 303) ; and indeed this ceremony of the Trojan women seems to indicate a similar custom of adorning the gods, being in use in Homeric times.

Assyrian Idol from Khorsabad.

I now pass from the question of the construction of the temple to that of sacrifices and ceremonies which constituted its ritual, and here we find matter of the highest importance to the student of Hebrew and Phoenician customs.

It might naturally be expected that a religious system, whose temples were arranged with such care and attention to symbolism, would have formulated a definite and elaborate sacrificial code. In this we are not disappointed. The information which has been acquired from the inscriptions, and especially from the later discovered examples, throws great light upon the system of sacrifices in Chaldea. The earliest code known is one found engraved on one of the tablets from Tel-Lo, dating from about 2500 B.C., and it is a document of considerable interest, as it is evidently pre-Semetic in character. In that inscription we find only bread, fruit, wine (Sikkaru), fruits, and flour forming the offerings, reminding us, in their primitive character, of the sacrifices of Cain, the " tiller of the soil," in contradistinction to those of Abel, the " keeper of sheep." [2] No mention is made of any animal victims.

The two inscriptions, however, which give us the fullest particulars of the sacrifices are the tablet of Nabu-abla-iddina, from the temple of the Sun god at Sippara (W. A. L, Vol. V., pi. 60), and the Philips cylinder of Nebuchadnezzar (W. A. I., Vol. I., pi. 65). Taking the sacrifices in order, I shall treat first of the victims. These are— " The ox, sheep, and rams." As we read in the Sippara tablet (col. iv. 29-32)—" Victims, the offerings of the heart, of great oxen, rams, fine large white sheep, he offered." (col. v. 16, 17) — " Of the victims of oxen and rams of the offerings.

"Also in the Taylor cylinder of Sennacherib (W. A. L, Vol. I., pi. 37, line 60), we have the following record of the sacrifices appointed by Sennacherib after his victory over Merodach-Baladan — " One ox, ten rams, ten omers of wine, twenty omers of first-fruits, to the gods of Assyria, my lords, I appointed in rotation."

The Sippara tablet gives the portions of the victims to be retained by the priests, the remainder being sacrificed to the gods—" The rump, the tail, the skin, and the flanks, together with choice portions of the stomach and intestines, were to go to the priests, leaving the head and shoulders, with certain portions of fat, for the sacrifices."

Thus we find, as under the Levitical law, a definite portion was set apart out of each offering for the maintenance of the priests (Levit. vii. 28-34 ; Numb, xviii. 8-19), a like provision was made in the sacrificial codes of Carthage and Marseilles. From Sippara, we learn that two classes of sacrifices familiar to us from the Hebrew ritual were in use in Chaldea —

"The offerings and peace-offerings of the temple E-Parra of every kind."

The offerings we may take to be the ordinary burnt-offering, as in Levit. i. 2-14, here called Karibi, literally "an approachment," The peace-offering is called Salma Kurubti, and corresponds to the sacrifice ordered in Levit,, chap. iii. It is evident, from the very emphatic expression already quoted as to the sheep "offered in the temple, which I read Zeni Magaru Damkate Kabrutc — " Sheep pure, large, and well favoured" — that the victims under the Chaldean, as under the Hebrew law, were to be without blemish (Levit. i. 3, 10 ; iii. 1, 6).

The heave-offering, which takes so prominent a part in the Hebrew code, was also in use in the temples of Chaldea, as we infer from two inscriptions in a religious tablet (W. A. I., Vol. IV., pi. 32)—

"A victim he kills, raising -it in the place of his god, worshipping,"

clearly points to the lifting up of the offering in the presence of the gods. Also in the calendar inscription (W. A. I., Vol. V., pi. 48), we have mention of "heaving or lifting up flesh before the statues." The passage I have already quoted speaks of " first-fruits" (Suhqypi Rcscti) ; and among the Egibi tablets from Babylon, and the contract and fiscal tablets from Sippara, are large numbers of receipts for the " first-fruit dues." Passing now to the meat and drink offerings, the above-mentioned cylinder of Nebuchadnezzar contains very full information on these points —

"The portion of the gods of E-Sagili and Babylon, to each a daily portion prepared. I apportioned honey, milk, beautiful butter, and bread made with oil -. l honey wine, sweet syrup drink, and noble wines."

This extract, which is repeated with some variations in the text, is full of matter of interest. The offerings of honey, milk, and butter are peculiar, as all three are excluded from the Hebrew code, and honey is expressly forbidden (Levit. ii. 11).

The Karunuv Dispav, the " honey wine," is evidently the Dibs of the Hebrews, mentioned in Genesis (xliii. 11), as one of the components of the present taken by the children of Jacob into Egypt for Joseph, and also by Ezekiel as one of the objects imported by Palestine into Tyre (Ezek. xxvii. 17). Most commentators regard it as the same as the Arabic Dibs and the Italian Musto Cotto. An important distinction is made here between the Sikar Satu, the Slicker or drink offering of the Hebrews, and the grape wines, which are enumerated. Among the latter, we may notice specially the wine of Khilbunu or Helbon, also mentioned by Ezekiel (Ezek. xxvii. 18).

These various wines and liquors formed the drink offerings of Assyria, and we often see, as in the lion hunt, the king pouring out libations to his gods. Another offering, common alike to the Hebrew [3] and the Chaldean, was the sin offering, as shown "by Mr Pinches in his translation of the Nabonidus Chronicle. He has certainly obtained the right rendering in the phrase, " A sacrifice for sin they made," though its analysis is rather difficult (Trans. Soc. Bib. Arch., Vol. VII., pp. 160-162). "A sacrifice for sin, they made victims in E-Sagili and E-Zida, to the gods over Babylon and Borsippa, for peace he gave," In the Scriptures we often see loaves of bread placed before the altar of the gods, or on small temporary tripod altars. But perhaps we may find a closer resemblance to the tables of shew bread in the series of small altars which Mr Bassam found ranged on either side of the central aisle of the temple of Istar at iSTimroud, one of which is now exhibited in the Nimroud central saloon of the British Museum. I will conclude this resume of the Chaldean sacrifices by a quotation from one of the sacrificial litanies (W. A. I., Vol. IV., pi. 68). I may mention here that the word rendered " offering " in this text is Kurban, the Hebrew Corban, " a gift " (Levit. i. 2, and Matth. vii. 11). The tablet is broken at the commencement : —

After him (the priest) to Nusku in like manner thus he shall say—
"Oh, Nusku, renowned one, counsellor of the wisdom of the great gods, an offering. "

Alter him (the priest) to Adar in like manner thus he shall say —
"Oh, Adar, great lord, the strength of fortresses, an offering."

After him (the priest) to Gala in like manner he shall say—
"Oh, Gula, mother, begetting mankind, an offering."

After him (the priest) in like manner to Bilat he shall say —
"Oh, Bilat, renowned goddess, wife of Bel, an offering."

After him (the priest) in like manner to Bel he shall say —
"Oh, Bel, most high, establisher of laws, an offering."

Another feature in Babylonian religious services is to be noticed. This is the grand processions of the gods, which took place upon festivals or in time of trouble. We have a reference to these processions in the Chronicle tablet I have already quoted, and also on a fine sculptured slab, formerly in the Museum at Bristol, but now in the British Museum, where we have one of these processions represented in which the sods are being carried in their arks or shrines.

Of the vestments worn by the priest, we have as yet little information. The representation of priests fin the seals, notably those on the Egibi tablets, show them with shaven heads, wearing a plain robe resembling the Ephod, bound with a girdle (W. A. I., Vol. V., pi. 56), as did the Jewish priests (Exod. xxviii. 6-12), while the mitre may be contrasted with the curious conical headdress worn by a Babylonian priest in one of the sculptures representing the Babylonian war of Assur-bani-abla (Assyrian Basement, No. 91-94), where a Babylonian priest approaches the king. From an inscription now in the Museum, we learn that the king, in his character of Pontifex Maximus, wore a breast-plate adorned with twelve precious stones. The position which the priests occupied in Chaldea was a very high one. They stood next in precedence to the king, who was himself head of their order, and in Babylonia they were a veritable race of Oriental cardinals, and often very severe thorns in the side of the kings.

The revenue of the priests in Chaldea, as in Egypt and in India, were derived from tithes payable in kind, and also from temple estates, resembling the Wakif Estates, belonging to Arab mosques. In the inscription of Agu-kak-rirni (W. A. I., Vol. V., pi. 33, col. 7), the king speaks of " A band of youths, with a portion of a house, field, and garden," dedicated to the temple of Merodach and Zirat-banit." Also, in the inscription of Nabu-abal-iddina, certain lands are appointed hy the king for the support of the temple of the Sun god in Sippara. The youths, who are called Alii ummani, literally " sons of the army" — that is, those who were capable of bearing arms, formed the temple guard. In a list of guards (W. A. I., Vol. V., pi. 31), we have mention made of the Matzir bit Hi, " the temple guard ; " and in an unpublished fragment, the guard of the great temple of Assur was stated to be twenty-five men.

It was not only in its religious position that the temple was so important a feature in the ancient cities of Chaldea — it was also an important element in the civil polity. The discovery made by Mr Kassam at Aboo Hubba of some thousands of tablets, relating to fiscal, legal, and commercial transactions, show that the temple was the great record office of the State, and that all documents of this character were preserved by the priests. Of the careful way in which such documents committed to their charge were preserved, a remarkable example is again furnished by the result of Mr Eassam's excavations. On the south-east side of the large quadrangle at Aboo Hubba was a smaller square, in which were a series of chambers, evidently offices of the temple. In one of these over thirty thousand tablets were found stored.

They were packed as found, and removed to England ; and when the cases were opened, it was discovered that the majority of the tablets, except where accidentally displaced, were arranged chronologically. Ranging, as these tablets did, from B.C. 625-200, they mast have, for nearly two thousand years, lain buried in the ruins, and quite undisturbed. The temple was also the Court of Justice, and as the Jewish Sanhedrim met in the temple, so did the council (j3ov\ v ) of the "grey-haired ones" meet to answer judgment in the courts of the Chaldean temples. Of this custom, we have a curious example in a tablet dating from about B.C. 2120. In this tablet we have a deed of partnership, which was arranged and ratified before the Judges in the temple of the Sun god, in the city of Larsa, in Southern Chaldea, and in which we meet with the followiDg exposition of brotherly love : —

" Brother from brother should not turn away — should not be
angry over any matter ; a brother to his brother should
converse ; any thing in toto he should not possess."

in concluding this sketch of the Chaldean temple, we may see how much light it throws on the Hebrew temple and its services. Similar in construction, with similar services, sacrifices, and offerings, its prayers expressing the same ideas often in identical words, the information thus acquired cannot be neglected by those who would rightly understand the symbolism and esoteric meaning of the Hebrew ritual. It is also evident, even by such a slight study as we, have been able to devote to it, how very important the temple was in the ancient city and state, and that, if we would seek to restore the life of those long-silent men, it is to the temple that we must first direct our steps. 

Footnotes and references:


Probably to hold the Kudurru or boundary stone, on which the deed of proprietorship was written.


This inscription has been published by Dr Jules Oppert in the Transactions of the International Congress of Orientalists at Berlin, and I read it as follows : —

1 Ephak of Sikkaru drink,
1 Epah of Food (Bread),
½ Epah of Fruit,
½ Epah of Flour.

Each day is measured out.


1 Ahul Samnav— the only rendering I can suggest, Samnav being the Hebrew Semen, " oil" or ' ' fat."

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