by Lewis Spence | 1917 | 108,912 words
Myths and Legends of Babylonia and Assyria, is a book that includes explanations of Babylonian and Assyrian legends and myths as well as the myths themselves. Lewis Spence, in the Preface, describes his purpose in writing the book as providing the reader with "the treasures of romance latent in the subject, the peculiar richness of which has...
THE purpose of this book is to provide not only a popular account of the religion and mythology of ancient Babylonia and Assyria, but to extract and present to the reader the treasures of romance latent in the subject, the peculiar richness of which has been recognized since the early days of archaeological effort in Chaldea. Unfortunately, with few exceptions, writers who have made the field a special study have rarely been able to triumph over the limitations which so often obtrude in works of scholarship and research. It is true that the pages of Rawlinson, Smith, Layard, and Sayce are enlivened at intervals with pictures of Assyrian splendour and Babylonian glory—gleams which escape as the curtains which veil the wondrous past are partially lifted—but such glimpses are only interludes in lengthy disquisitions which too often must be tedious for the general reader.
It was such a consideration which prompted the preparation of this volume. Might not a book be written which should contain the pure gold of Babylonian romance freed from the darker ore of antiquarian research ? So far, so good. But gold in the pure state is notoriously unserviceable, and an alloy which renders it of greater utility may detract nothing from its brilliance. Romance or no romance, in these days it will not do to furnish stories of the gods without attempting some definition of their nature and origin. For more than ever before romance and knowledge are a necessary blend in the making of a satisfactory book on mythology.
Nevertheless, it is anticipated that it will be to the modern reader who loves the romance of antiquity that this book will especially appeal. It is claimed that the greater part of Chaldean romance clusters around the wonderful mythology and religion of that land; it is therefore of these departments of Chaldean lore that this volume chiefly treats. But the history of Babylonia and Assyria has not been neglected. The great names in its records will be found to recur constantly in these pages, in most instances accompanied by a tale or legend which will illuminate the circumstances of their careers and serve to retain these in the mind of the reader. Nor has the Biblical connexion with Chaldea been forgotten ; the reader will find as he proceeds frequent references to the pages of the most picturesque Book in the world.