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OF THE CONQUESTS AND KINGDOM OF NIMROD.
DURING the first century after the deluge the sons of Noah settled where they pleased, and enjoyed in common the fruits of the undivided soil. This was the golden age of the poets, when the stone was not placed in the furrow, to mark the limits of the cultivated field.
'Non fixus et agris,
T'ib. b. i. El. 3. Virgil says, it was then unlawful to appropriate the surface of the ground* But in the days of Peleg, the silver age commenced, when the fields were divided, and became the private property of individuals, who began to cultivate the soil for their own benefit, and to accumulate wealth for their own families.
“Tum primum subiere domos,' &c. Then the Noachidæ began to construct houses for their private accommodation, and to build the city and the tower of Babel, which excited the righteous anger of Heaven, and procured their dispersion over the face of all the earth. The iron age began with the birth of Nimrod, one of the most remarkable characters * Nec signare quidem aut partiri limite campam
Geor. 1, l. 126.
in the history of our species. He was the youngest son of Cush, and the grandson of Ham; equally distinguished, according to ancient writers, by the gigantic size and strength of his bodily frame, the vigour and extent of his mental powers, and his daring and insatiable ambition. In the presumptuous undertaking at Babel, he seems to have had no participation, and the probability is that the foundations of that amazing structure were laid before he was born. The manner in which the sacred historian introduces him to the notice of his readers, seems to indicate, that though the youngest of the family, he was by far the most remarkable of the sons of Cush. The words of Moses are, “and Cush begat Nimrod ;' as if he alone were deserving of our attention; and this conjecture is greatly strengthened by the next clause, which presents him in the commencement of his career :- He was a mighty hunter before the Lord.' Cherishing, it is probable, from his earliest years, the lust of power and the hope of sovereignty, he advanced towards the grand object of his ambition, with cautious and deliberate steps. He began the execution of his plans, by endeavouring to ingratiate himself with his future subjects. The terrors of the Cushite nation had been excited, and their safety endangered, by numerous beasts of prey from the surrounding deserts ; his first attempt was to extirpate or drive back into the wilderness, those savage disturbers of the peaceful inhabitants, This was deemed in those times a public benefit of the first importance.*
To accomplish this beneficial and necessary purpose,
* So late as the days of Homer, to deliver the people from the dread and ravages of wild beasts, was reckoned an achievement worthy of the most powerful monarchs, and ranked among the highest honours to which they could aspire.
Καρτιστοι μεν εσαν, και καρτιστοις εμαχοντο
Iliad, b. 1, 1. 266.
and to promote, at the same time, his secret designs on the liberty of his nation, he formed a band of resolute young men, at whose head he combated the wild beasts of the forest ; and thus, by enuring his followers to the toils and dangers of the chase, he gradually formed them to the use of arms, reduced them to a state of rude discipline and imperfect submission—that at a proper time, after they had been accustomed to his orders, and seasoned in arms, he might make use of them for other purposes more serious than hunting.'
This artifice of Nimrod, Diodorus mentions, but by mistake ascribes it to Ninus his son. Ninus, the most ancient of the Assyrian kings mentioned in history, performed great actions. Being naturally of a warlike disposition, and ambitious of glory that results from valour, he armed a considerable number of young men, that were brave and vigorous like himself; trained them up a long time in laborious exercises and hardships, and by that means accustomed them to bear the fatigues of war patiently, and to face dangers with courage and intrepidity.” By this means, Nimrod became “a mighty hunter before the Lord ;' renowned above all his associates for skill, intrepidity, and success in clearing his native land of the beasts of prey by which it was annoyed.
Flushed with success, and conscious of his own power, he threw off the mask, refusing any longer to acknowledge the authority of his great grandfather Noah, and with a resolute hand seized the reins of government. That he was guilty of rebellion on this occasion, is intimated by his name, derived from a Hebrew verb which signifies to rebel ; but whether it was prophetic or given him after the event, is not known. Having reduced the Cushite nation to his obedience, he passed the Tigris, and resolved to occupy Shinar. He consolidated and extended his power, by entering into an alliance, if we may credit an ancient
* Hist. vol. i. p. 113.
tradition, with the king of the Arabs, with whom he united his forces. This was probably one of his brothers, all of whom, Rollin supposes, settled in Arabia, and lived near enough their brother to lend him succours, or to receive his assistance. Thus Nimrod, the rebellious descendant of the venerable Noah, in the language of Moses, began to be mighty upon the earth; that is, he formed settlements, subdued his neighbours, united different nations under his authority, and erected them into a state of considerable extent; which, in succeeding ages, by new acquisitions, expanded into one of the most extensive and powerful empires that ever existed.*
Allured, it is probable, by the fruitfulness and beauty of the vale of Shinar, and especially by the numerous and important advantages presented to his penetrating and sagacious mind by the situation of Babel, which, from the confusion of tongues, had, it is generally believed, been resigned to desolation and silence, he took possession of the deserted city, and made it the capital of his empire. The beginning of his kingdom,' says the sacred writer, was Babel.' He was the first that ventured to people it after the dispersion ; the first to finish the city and enclose it with walls : but daring as he certainly was, he did not presume to expose himself, and his new subjects, to the wrath of heaven, by ordering the tower to be finished. The city of Babylon, the foundations of which were laid by the builders of the tower, and probably consisted of a few houses for the accommodation of the workmen, or, perhaps, by Nimrod himself in the vicinity of Babel, was greatly beautified and enlarged by Semiramis, the wife of Ninus, the son and successor of Nimrod. But it rose to the zenith of its glory in the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, who proudly claimed it as his own creation:
* Bochart. Phaleg. lib. iv. c. 12, p. 226; Michaelis Spicil. p. 213215; Rollin's Ancient History, vol. ii. p. 178; Wells' Hist. Geog. vol. i. p. 115.
- Is not this great Babylon that I have built for the house of the kingdom, by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty ??*
This magnificent city, the capital or beginning of Nimrod's kingdom, stood on a large plain, in a deep and rich soil, of a quadrangular form, and divided almost into two equal parts by the river Euphrates. The walls were built of brick, cemented with bitumen, with which the soil seems to have been saturated ; their height was fifty cubits, and the breadth so great, that chariots, drawn by four horses, might pass one another on the top of them without danger. These prodigious walls embraced a circuit of sixty miles; and are said to have been finished in one year by the hands of two hundred thousand workmen, They were strengthened with two hundred and fifty towers, ten feet higher than the walls. Twenty-five gates of solid brass on every side of the great square, terminated an equal number of streets, which ran in straight lines from one side of the city to the other; so that the whole number of the streets were fifty, each fifteen miles long, of which twenty-five went one way, and twenty-five the other, directly crossing each other at right angles.+ [Besides these there were four streets, built only on one side, 200 feet in breadth, surrounding the whole, and fronting towards the outer wall. It was thus intersected into 676 squares, which extended four furlongs and a half on each of their sides, and along which the houses were built of three or four stories in height, and at some distance from each other. These intermediate spaces, as well as the inner parts of the squares, were employed as gardens and pleasure grounds by the inhabitants.] On each side of the river was a quay, and a high wall built of brick and bitumen, of the same thickness as the walls that went round the
* Daniel iv. 30; Bochart. Phaleg. lib. iv. c. 13, p. 230.
| Rollin's Ancient History, vol. ii. p. 185; Prideaux's Connections, vol. i. p. 95, et seq.; Wells' Hist. Geog. vol. i. p. 116.