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ON THE CHALDEAN AND ORIENTAL ZODIACS.
When Omar had condemned to the flames that magnificent library collected with such cost by the Ptolemies at Alexandria, some of his less barbarian followers interceded for its preservation. “ If these books,” replied Omar, " are conformable to the Koran, they are useless, for it contains all truth ; if they are contrary to it, they are detestable.” Thus perished this immense treasure of erudition and genius. Repentance and regret soon followed the execution of this barbarous sentence; for the Arabians not long after perceived their irreparable loss, and that they had thus wantonly deprived themselves of the most precious by far of the fruits of their conquests. In inquiries like the present we are often experiencing such regret, when a single treatise, saved from those ruthless savages, might have laid open the path to ancient science; which we are now obliged cautiously to explore, step by step, with the greatest circumspection. But we know too well the danger of going rashly on; and dare not indulge imagination at all, lest we should fall into some such gross blunders as those which are familiar to all antiquarians. Most of these must have heard of the inscription found in the West of England, which was supposed to be either in the ancient British character, or that of the Phænician traders for tin, till some rustic suggested that they had turned the stone upside down, and that, if read the right way, it was the name and year of an old stone-cutter of the neighbourhood ; and such in fact it proved though the characters intended for Roman were more like Etruscan. Another instance is still more instructive and monitory; for it began, we believe, in sport, and the author had not the courage to confess it an imposition when it was carried by others so much further than he intended. A Welsh antiquary amused himself at an idle hour in making a wooden frame with a verse on each stick; forming the letters, as nearly as he could by
; transverse notches, in exemplification of what he supposed to be the aboriginal British mode of writing. This whim of old Jolo Morganog, concerning which he was unwilling to be questioned closely, is inserted in Fry’s Pantographia, p. 307, and copied into Horne's Introduction, as “an engraved specimen of
' ancient British writing.”—The strange confusion in the accounts of most travellers is another obstacle in our way, which makes our progress slower than it would otherwise be; a confusion which we can account for in no other way than by supposing that the notes made at the time were too scanty, and that in making up the book larger demands were made upon the memory than it was able to answer : for this fault prevails most in the books which are technically said to be "well got up." Take,
in the sun
for instance, Kinneir's Persia, which is one of Murray's finely printed quartos. Here we expected to find an intelligible description of the ruins of Babylon, from one enjoying such opportunities of information. But take his account of the “principal ruin,” p. 273 : “This pyramid is built entirely of brick dried
.. which appeared to me as fresh as if ihey had only been used a few days before. Quantities of furnace-baked brick were, however, scattered at the foot of the pyramid : and it is more than probable, that it was once faced with the latter, which have been removed by the natives for the construction of their houses. The outer edges of the bricks, from being exposed to the weather, have mouldered away: it is, therefore, only on minute examination that the nature of the materials can be ascertained ..... The bricks of which this structure is built, are larger and much inferior to any other I have seen: they have no inscriptions upon them, and are seldon used by the natives, on account of their softness." These contradictory expressions occur within less than 20 lines ; and we confess ourselves unable to comprehend how materials having the freshness of yesterday come to be called inferior to any other; and how the two assertions, of the natives having removed for building materials seldom used by them, tally with each other; or how the assertion, made two lines earlier in the same page, that three of the faces of the pyramid are “still perfect," can be true, if the natives have removed the facing.
Take another account, a little further on, p. 279." From what has already been observed, it must be obvious to the reader that there were several kinds of bricks in use amongst the Babylonians; some of which were burnt by fire, and others dried in the sun. The most common are about a foot square, and three inches thick; with a distich of the characters so common at Persepolis, and similar in appearance to the barb of an arrow.
There are others, of the same size, without inscriptions upon them, similar in appearance to those made in our own country, which are procured in the neighbourhood of Nimrood tower. The latter, as well as a small cylindrical brick, more scarce than any of the others, have in general also small characters upon them.” Here are bricks without inscriptions, which have in general characters inscribed ! Moreover, we wish to know what a distich of characters means: is it a verse, or is it two lines ? We are quite sure no
. verse is there; and we are nearly sure, from attentive examination and extensive inquiry, that no two-lined inscriptions are there. Such inscriptions we believe to be characteristic of Nineveh, and never found on Babylonian bricks, or in proper Babylonian characters. But of any difference between the characters of Nineveh, Babylon, and Persepolis, the author does not seem to be aware.
VOL. VII.--NO, I.
The inscriptions found at Nineveh, though for the most part on stone, and in a larger and bolder character than those of Babylon, from their superior antiquity are more defaced than any others. The radix of the Ninevite character is an equilateral triangle, a broad or blunt arrow-head; and all its combinations are quite distinct from the ordinary Babylonian character; though the small character on cylinders sometimes resembles it. The radical character is the following, and of the same size
The inscriptions on stone are generally long; but as the specimens found are only fragments, no entire one having yet we think been discovered, we do not know the purport of them. The bricks from Nineveh are some of them prodigious in size, and could not have been designed for building. Some of these are eighteen inches square and from five to six inches thick, and would weigh 80 or 100 pounds. The inscriptions on these large bricks are generally of 2 lines, and cover nearly the whole square; the characters being bold and deep, and therefore perfectly legible, though of such great antiquity. But of this large species only fragments remain, as also of similar inscriptions sculptured on stone; and their purport we have to infer, by comparing the several portions with the inscriptions on bricks of the usual size, many of which have been found entire. These bricks are twelve or thirteen inches square, and have their incriptions on the edges, not on the sides ; they are also generally sun-dried, while the large bricks are burnt. The oldest of these incriptions have only ten characters, arranged in two lines; which Kinneir would probably call a distich of pentameters. The more recent are also of two lines, but each line having ten characters. By comparing these entire inscriptions with the fragments of large brick and of stone, it is demonstrable that the same order prevails in the first two lines of all the inscriptions; and that the additional lines are only repetitions of the same series of ten, with slight variations, or intercalations. In their mode of being stamped, also, the Ninevite inscriptions differ from those of Babylon ; which last are impressed from a single stamp, or die, on which the whole inscription is prepared ; but each character, of the Ninevite bricks is stamped singly, the groups being not dressed into line, and some of them being more deeply impressed than others. The Ninevites impressed them singly, and by hand : the Babylonians impressed the whole inscription at once, by a lever, or some power: which is evidenced by a brick in a friend's possession, on which, from a hollow in the clay, the stamp has flown into several pieces under the pressure ; proving that the pressure was great, and that the stamp was of some brittle substance, probably a baked tile: and, this impression being thus imperfect, another impression was made on the other side of the brick, being the only instance we know of a brick with two inscriptions; and proving that the inscriptions were designed to be referred to, and were not the mere name of the maker, or a known verse, or the number for counting the tale ; as Dr. Hager and some others have supposed.
The radix of the character of Babylon is a wedge, or javelinhead: thus
or four together
The characters formed by combinations of this wedge, with the interposition of lines and small barbed arrow-heads, amount, on the bricks, only to ten; with certain occasional substitutes for some of the series. These we were in expectation of having ready for this paper, but must now defer till another Number. The first character, both on the bricks and stones, is this and all the combinations at Babylon are characterized by the intersection and contact of the primary forms; whereas the Persepolitan varieties are formed by the mere juxta-position of three or four characters, with very few instances of intersection or contact.
The Persepolitan character is very beautiful in its form, most nearly resembling the straight horn, or trumpet, of the ancients; and, from being sculptured large, and on stone of a very close grain and durable quality, is in general perfectly fresh and distinct in all its parts : its form and largest size is this
with the interspersion of a very open barbed arrow-head
and both characters occur obliquely, as well as straight, and of various sizes.
There is another application of the characters, which has only come to knowledge since our last publication, though likely to prove as instructive as any, and probably the most capable of satisfactory demonstration, from there being three monuments in existence with just those points of agreement and those characteristic differences, which cannot fail in time to unravel the whole mystery.
Two of these monuments are surmounted by constellations and portions of the Zodiac ; Capricorn, Sagittarius, and Sirius, being common to both ; but Scorpio, Crater, and Hydra, omitted in one of them. The three inscriptions have variations such as these variations in the symbols; and we expect to be able to shew the purport of these inscriptions, to the satisfaction of every one; and to prove them to be local directions for the labours of agriculture, like Hesiod's Works and Days, or the Stellar calendar of Ptolemy; including also the rise and subsidence of the rivers of Mesopotamia. But these records of the phenomena of the heavens and the corresponding return of the seasons, were by the Chaldeans so intimately blended with astrology and supposed planetary influences, that we find it impossible thoroughly to investigate the science of those times without also taking into account the attendant superstitions. The symbols upon those monuments of which we have now been speaking have for some time engaged the attention of Mr. Landseer, to profit by whose researches in this kind we would gladly defer our remarks till after the publication of his opinion. We have derived much information from Mr. Landseer's Sabean Researches, and shall have frequent occasion to shew it, in the course of our further investigations. But we are convinced that it is only on seals, and memorials of individuals, that the follies of astrology and the horoscope are fully chargeable: on the public monuments they have a very inferior place, never forming the ground-work, but only explanatory of the main purpose of the monument, which is, to record astronomical facts and periods for the guidance of the whole community. These public monuments we cannot explain without the help of engravings and types, which are now in preparation, and by means of which we hope to shew that from Chaldea all science came; and that in the days of Abram they knew the great cycles and their subdivisions with an accuracy which the invention of the telescope has scarcely enabled the moderns to surpass. We hope to be able to exhibit their Nerus and Metonic cycle on the East-India inscription, their annual inundations on other monuments, and their monthly calendars on the bricks.
The point towards which all our inquiries tend, is, in a word,