Throughout classical antiquity Egyptian science was famous. We know that Plato spent some years in Egypt in the hope of penetrating the alleged mysteries of its fabled learning; and the story of the Egyptian priest who patronizingly assured Solon that the Greeks were but babes was quoted everywhere without disapproval. Even so late as the time of Augustus, we find Diodorus, the Sicilian, looking back with veneration upon the Oriental learning, to which Pliny also refers with unbounded respect. From what we have seen of Egyptian science, all this furnishes us with a somewhat striking commentary upon the attainments of the Greeks and Romans themselves. To refer at length to this would be to anticipate our purpose; what now concerns us is to recall that all along there was another nation, or group of nations, that disputed the palm for scientific attainments. This group of nations found a home in the valley of the Tigris and Euphrates. Their land was named Mesopotamia by the Greeks, because a large part of it lay between the two rivers just mentioned. The peoples themselves are familiar to every one as the Babylonians and the Assyrians. These peoples were of Semitic stock—allied, therefore, to the ancient Hebrews and Phoenicians and of the same racial stem with the Arameans and Arabs.

The great capital of the Babylonians during the later period of their history was the famed city of Babylon itself; the most famous capital of the Assyrians was Nineveh, that city to which, as every Bible- student will recall, the prophet Jonah was journeying when he had a much-exploited experience, the record of which forms no part of scientific annals. It was the kings of Assyria, issuing from their palaces in Nineveh, who dominated the civilization of Western Asia during the heyday of Hebrew history, and whose deeds are so frequently mentioned in the Hebrew chronicles. Later on, in the year 606 B.C., Nineveh was overthrown by the Medes[1] and Babylonians. The famous city was completely destroyed, never to be rebuilt. Babylon, however, though conquered subsequently by Cyrus and held in subjection by Darius,[2] the Persian kings, continued to hold sway as a great world-capital for some centuries. The last great historical event that occurred within its walls was the death of Alexander the Great, which took place there in the year 322 B.C.

In the time of Herodotus the fame of Babylon was at its height, and the father of history has left us a most entertaining account of what he saw when he visited the wonderful capital. Unfortunately, Herodotus was not a scholar in the proper acceptance of the term. He probably had no inkling of the Babylonian language, so the voluminous records of its literature were entirely shut off from his observation. He therefore enlightens us but little regarding the science of the Babylonians, though his observations on their practical civilization give us incidental references of no small importance. Somewhat more detailed references to the scientific attainments of the Babylonians are found in the fragments that have come down to us of the writings of the great Babylonian historian, Berosus,[3] who was born in Babylon about 330 B.C., and who was, therefore, a contemporary of Alexander the Great. But the writings of Berosus also, or at least such parts of them as have come down to us, leave very much to be desired in point of explicitness. They give some glimpses of Babylonian history, and they detail at some length the strange mythical tales of creation that entered into the Babylonian conception of cosmogony—details which find their counterpart in the allied recitals of the Hebrews. But taken all in all, the glimpses of the actual state of Chaldean[4] learning, as it was commonly called, amounted to scarcely more than vague wonder-tales. No one really knew just what interpretation to put upon these tales until the explorers of the nineteenth century had excavated the ruins of the Babylonian and Assyrian cities, bringing to light the relics of their wonderful civilization. But these relics fortunately included vast numbers of written documents, inscribed on tablets, prisms, and cylinders of terra-cotta. When nineteenth-century scholarship had penetrated the mysteries of the strange script, and ferreted out the secrets of an unknown tongue, the world at last was in possession of authentic records by which the traditions regarding the Babylonians and Assyrians could be tested. Thanks to these materials, a new science commonly spoken of as Assyriology came into being, and a most important chapter of human history was brought to light. It became apparent that the Greek ideas concerning Mesopotamia, though vague in the extreme, were founded on fact. No one any longer questions that the Mesopotamian civilization was fully on a par with that of Egypt; indeed, it is rather held that superiority lay with the Asiatics. Certainly, in point of purely scientific attainments, the Babylonians passed somewhat beyond their Egyptian competitors. All the evidence seems to suggest also that the Babylonian civilization was even more ancient than that of Egypt. The precise dates are here in dispute; nor for our present purpose need they greatly concern us. But the Assyrio-Babylonian records have much greater historical accuracy as regards matters of chronology than have the Egyptian, and it is believed that our knowledge of the early Babylonian history is carried back, with some certainty, to King Sargon of Agade,[5] for whom the date 3800 B.C. is generally accepted; while somewhat vaguer records give us glimpses of periods as remote as the sixth, perhaps even the seventh or eighth millenniums before our era.

At a very early period Babylon itself was not a capital and Nineveh had not come into existence. The important cities, such as Nippur and Shirpurla, were situated farther to the south. It is on the site of these cities that the recent excavations have been made, such as those of the University of Pennsylvania expeditions at Nippur,[6] which are giving us glimpses into remoter recesses of the historical period.

Even if we disregard the more problematical early dates, we are still concerned with the records of a civilization extending unbroken throughout a period of about four thousand years; the actual period is in all probability twice or thrice that. Naturally enough, the current of history is not an unbroken stream throughout this long epoch. It appears that at least two utterly different ethnic elements are involved. A preponderance of evidence seems to show that the earliest civilized inhabitants of Mesopotamia were not Semitic, but an alien race, which is now commonly spoken of as Sumerian. This people, of whom we catch glimpses chiefly through the records of its successors, appears to have been subjugated or overthrown by Semitic invaders, who, coming perhaps from Arabia (their origin is in dispute), took possession of the region of the Tigris and Euphrates, learned from the Sumerians many of the useful arts, and, partly perhaps because of their mixed lineage, were enabled to develop the most wonderful civilization of antiquity. Could we analyze the details of this civilization from its earliest to its latest period we should of course find the same changes which always attend racial progress and decay. We should then be able, no doubt, to speak of certain golden epochs and their periods of decline. To a certain meagre extent we are able to do this now. We know, for example, that King Khammurabi, who lived about 2200 B.C., was a great law-giver, the ancient prototype of Justinian; and the epochs of such Assyrian kings as Sargon II., Asshurnazirpal, Sennacherib, and Asshurbanapal stand out with much distinctness. Yet, as a whole, the record does not enable us to trace with clearness the progress of scientific thought. At best we can gain fewer glimpses in this direction than in almost any other, for it is the record of war and conquest rather than of the peaceful arts that commanded the attention of the ancient scribe. So in dealing with the scientific achievements of these peoples, we shall perforce consider their varied civilizations as a unity, and attempt, as best we may, to summarize their achievements as a whole. For the most part, we shall not attempt to discriminate as to what share in the final product was due to Sumerian, what to Babylonian, and what to Assyrian. We shall speak of Babylonian science as including all these elements; and drawing our information chiefly from the relatively late Assyrian and Babylonian sources, which, therefore, represent the culminating achievements of all these ages of effort, we shall attempt to discover what was the actual status of Mesopotamian science at its climax. In so far as we succeed, we shall be able to judge what scientific heritage Europe received from the Orient; for in the records of Babylonian science we have to do with the Eastern mind at its best. Let us turn to the specific inquiry as to the achievements of the Chaldean scientist whose fame so dazzled the eyes of his contemporaries of the classic world.


Our first concern naturally is astronomy, this being here, as in Egypt, the first-born and the most important of the sciences. The fame of the Chaldean astronomer was indeed what chiefly commanded the admiration of the Greeks, and it was through the results of astronomical observations that Babylonia transmitted her most important influences to the Western world. "Our division of time is of Babylonian origin," says Hornmel;[7] "to Babylonia we owe the week of seven days, with the names of the planets for the days of the week, and the division into hours and months." Hence the almost personal interest which we of to-day must needs feel in the efforts of the Babylonian star-gazer.

It must not be supposed, however, that the Chaldean astronomer had made any very extraordinary advances upon the knowledge of the Egyptian "watchers of the night." After all, it required patient observation rather than any peculiar genius in the observer to note in the course of time such broad astronomical conditions as the regularity of the moon's phases, and the relation of the lunar periods to the longer periodical oscillations of the sun. Nor could the curious wanderings of the planets escape the attention of even a moderately keen observer. The chief distinction between the Chaldean and Egyptian astronomers appears to have consisted in the relative importance they attached to various of the phenomena which they both observed. The Egyptian, as we have seen, centred his attention upon the sun. That luminary was the abode of one of his most important gods. His worship was essentially solar. The Babylonian, on the other hand, appears to have been peculiarly impressed with the importance of the moon. He could not, of course, overlook the attention-compelling fact of the solar year; but his unit of time was the lunar period of thirty days, and his year consisted of twelve lunar periods, or 360 days. He was perfectly aware, however, that this period did not coincide with the actual year; but the relative unimportance which he ascribed to the solar year is evidenced by the fact that he interpolated an added month to adjust the calendar only once in six years. Indeed, it would appear that the Babylonians and Assyrians did not adopt precisely the same method of adjusting the calendar, since the Babylonians had two intercular months called Elul and Adar, whereas the Assyrians had only a single such month, called the second Adar.[8] (The Ve'Adar of the Hebrews.) This diversity further emphasizes the fact that it was the lunar period which received chief attention, the adjustment of this period with the solar seasons being a necessary expedient of secondary importance. It is held that these lunar periods have often been made to do service for years in the Babylonian computations and in the allied computations of the early Hebrews. The lives of the Hebrew patriarchs, for example, as recorded in the Bible, are perhaps reckoned in lunar "years." Divided by twelve, the "years" of Methuselah accord fairly with the usual experience of mankind.

Yet, on the other hand, the convenience of the solar year in computing long periods of time was not unrecognized, since this period is utilized in reckoning the reigns of the Assyrian kings. It may be added that the reign of a king "was not reckoned from the day of his accession, but from the Assyrian new year's day, either before or after the day of accession. There does not appear to have been any fixed rule as to which new year's day should be chosen; but from the number of known cases, it appears to have been the general practice to count the reigning years from the new year's day nearest the accession, and to call the period between the accession day and the first new year's day 'the beginning of the reign,' when the year from the new year's day was called the first year, and the following ones were brought successively from it. Notwithstanding, in the dates of several Assyrian and Babylonian sovereigns there are cases of the year of accession being considered as the first year, thus giving two reckonings for the reigns of various monarchs, among others, Shalmaneser, Sennacherib, Nebuchadrezzar."[9] This uncertainty as to the years of reckoning again emphasizes the fact that the solar year did not have for the Assyrian chronology quite the same significance that it has for us.

The Assyrian month commenced on the evening when the new moon was first observed, or, in case the moon was not visible, the new month started thirty days after the last month. Since the actual lunar period is about twenty-nine and one-half days, a practical adjustment was required between the months themselves, and this was probably effected by counting alternate months as Only 29 days in length. Mr. R. Campbell Thompson[10] is led by his studies of the astrological tablets to emphasize this fact. He believes that "the object of the astrological reports which related to the appearance of the moon and sun was to help determine and foretell the length of the lunar month." Mr. Thompson believes also that there is evidence to show that the interculary month was added at a period less than six years. In point of fact, it does not appear to be quite clearly established as to precisely how the adjustment of days with the lunar months, and lunar months with the solar year, was effected. It is clear, however, according to Smith, "that the first 28 days of every month were divided into four weeks of seven days each; the seventh, fourteenth, twenty-first, twenty-eighth days respectively being Sabbaths, and that there was a general prohibition of work on these days." Here, of course, is the foundation of the Hebrew system of Sabbatical days which we have inherited. The sacredness of the number seven itself—the belief in which has not been quite shaken off even to this day —was deduced by the Assyrian astronomer from his observation of the seven planetary bodies—namely, Sin (the moon), Samas (the sun), Umunpawddu (Jupiter), Dilbat (Venus), Kaimanu (Saturn), Gudud (Mercury), Mustabarru-mutanu (Mars).[11] Twelve lunar periods, making up approximately the solar year, gave peculiar importance to the number twelve also. Thus the zodiac was divided into twelve signs which astronomers of all subsequent times have continued to recognize; and the duodecimal system of counting took precedence with the Babylonian mathematicians over the more primitive and, as it seems to us, more satisfactory decimal system.

Another discrepancy between the Babylonian and Egyptian years appears in the fact that the Babylonian new year dates from about the period of the vernal equinox and not from the solstice. Lockyer associates this with the fact that the periodical inundation of the Tigris and Euphrates occurs about the equinoctial period, whereas, as we have seen, the Nile flood comes at the time of the solstice. It is but natural that so important a phenomenon as the Nile flood should make a strong impression upon the minds of a people living in a valley. The fact that occasional excessive inundations have led to most disastrous results is evidenced in the incorporation of stories of the almost total destruction of mankind by such floods among the myth tales of all peoples who reside in valley countries. The flooding of the Tigris and Euphrates had not, it is true, quite the same significance for the Mesopotamians that the Nile flood had for the Egyptians. Nevertheless it was a most important phenomenon, and may very readily be imagined to have been the most tangible index to the seasons. But in recognizing the time of the inundations and the vernal equinox, the Assyrians did not dethrone the moon from its accustomed precedence, for the year was reckoned as commencing not precisely at the vernal equinox, but at the new moon next before the equinox.


Beyond marking the seasons, the chief interests that actuated the Babylonian astronomer in his observations were astrological. After quoting Diodorus to the effect that the Babylonian priests observed the position of certain stars in order to cast horoscopes, Thompson tells us that from a very early day the very name Chaldean became synonymous with magician. He adds that "from Mesopotamia, by way of Greece and Rome, a certain amount of Babylonian astrology made its way among the nations of the west, and it is quite probable that many superstitions which we commonly record as the peculiar product of western civilization took their origin from those of the early dwellers on the alluvial lands of Mesopotamia. One Assurbanipal, king of Assyria B.C. 668-626, added to the royal library at Nineveh his contribution of tablets, which included many series of documents which related exclusively to the astrology of the ancient Babylonians, who in turn had borrowed it with modifications from the Sumerian invaders of the country. Among these must be mentioned the series which was commonly called 'the Day of Bel,' and which was decreed by the learned to have been written in the time of the great Sargon I., king of Agade, 3800 B.C. With such ancient works as these to guide them, the profession of deducing omens from daily events reached such a pitch of importance in the last Assyrian Empire that a system of making periodical reports came into being. By these the king was informed of all the occurrences in the heavens and on earth, and the results of astrological studies in respect to after events. The heads of the astrological profession were men of high rank and position, and their office was hereditary. The variety of information contained in these reports is best gathered from the fact that they were sent from cities as far removed from each other as Assur in the north and Erech in the south, and it can only be assumed that they were despatched by runners, or men mounted on swift horses. As reports also came from Dilbat, Kutba, Nippur, and Bursippa, all cities of ancient foundation, the king was probably well acquainted with the general course of events in his empire."[12]

From certain passages in the astrological tablets, Thompson draws the interesting conclusion that the Chaldean astronomers were acquainted with some kind of a machine for reckoning time. He finds in one of the tablets a phrase which he interprets to mean measure-governor, and he infers from this the existence of a kind of a calculator. He calls attention also to the fact that Sextus Empiricus[13] states that the clepsydra was known to the Chaldeans, and that Herodotus asserts that the Greeks borrowed certain measures of time from the Babylonians. He finds further corroboration in the fact that the Babylonians had a time-measure by which they divided the day and the night; a measure called kasbu, which contained two hours. In a report relating to the day of the vernal equinox, it is stated that there are six kasbu of the day and six kasbu of the night.

While the astrologers deduced their omens from all the celestial bodies known to them, they chiefly gave attention to the moon, noting with great care the shape of its horns, and deducing such a conclusion as that "if the horns are pointed the king will overcome whatever he goreth," and that "when the moon is low at its appearance, the submission (of the people) of a far country will come."[14] The relations of the moon and sun were a source of constant observation, it being noted whether the sun and moon were seen together above the horizon; whether one set as the other rose, and the like. And whatever the phenomena, there was always, of course, a direct association between such phenomena and the well-being of human kind—in particular the king, at whose instance, and doubtless at whose expense, the observations were carried out.

From omens associated with the heavenly bodies it is but a step to omens based upon other phenomena of nature, and we, shall see in a moment that the Babylonian prophets made free use of their opportunities in this direction also. But before we turn from the field of astronomy, it will be well to inform ourselves as to what system the Chaldean astronomer had invented in explanation of the mechanics of the universe. Our answer to this inquiry is not quite as definite as could be desired, the vagueness of the records, no doubt, coinciding with the like vagueness in the minds of the Chaldeans themselves. So far as we can interpret the somewhat mystical references that have come down to us, however, the Babylonian cosmology would seem to have represented the earth as a circular plane surrounded by a great circular river, beyond which rose an impregnable barrier of mountains, and resting upon an infinite sea of waters. The material vault of the heavens was supposed to find support upon the outlying circle of mountains. But the precise mechanism through which the observed revolution of the heavenly bodies was effected remains here, as with the Egyptian cosmology, somewhat conjectural. The simple fact would appear to be that, for the Chaldeans as for the Egyptians, despite their most careful observations of the tangible phenomena of the heavens, no really satisfactory mechanical conception of the cosmos was attainable. We shall see in due course by what faltering steps the European imagination advanced from the crude ideas of Egypt and Babylonia to the relatively clear vision of Newton and Laplace.


We turn now from the field of the astrologer to the closely allied province of Chaldean magic—a province which includes the other; which, indeed, is so all- encompassing as scarcely to leave any phase of Babylonian thought outside its bounds.

The tablets having to do with omens, exorcisms, and the like magic practices make up an astonishingly large proportion of the Babylonian records. In viewing them it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the superstitions which they evidenced absolutely dominated the life of the Babylonians of every degree. Yet it must not be forgotten that the greatest inconsistencies everywhere exist between the superstitious beliefs of a people and the practical observances of that people. No other problem is so difficult for the historian as that which confronts him when he endeavors to penetrate the mysteries of an alien religion; and when, as in the present case, the superstitions involved have been transmitted from generation to generation, their exact practical phases as interpreted by any particular generation must be somewhat problematical. The tablets upon which our knowledge of these omens is based are many of them from the libraries of the later kings of Nineveh; but the omens themselves are, in such cases, inscribed in the original Accadian form in which they have come down from remote ages, accompanied by an Assyrian translation. Thus the superstitions involved had back of them hundreds of years, even thousands of years, of precedent; and we need not doubt that the ideas with which they are associated were interwoven with almost every thought and deed of the life of the people. Professor Sayce assures us that the Assyrians and Babylonians counted no fewer than three hundred spirits of heaven, and six hundred spirits of earth. "Like the Jews of the Talmud," he says, "they believed that the world was swarming with noxious spirits, who produced the various diseases to which man is liable, and might be swallowed with the food and drink which support life." Fox Talbot was inclined to believe that exorcisms were the exclusive means used to drive away the tormenting spirits. This seems unlikely, considering the uniform association of drugs with the magical practices among their people. Yet there is certainly a strange silence of the tablets in regard to medicine. Talbot tells us that sometimes divine images were brought into the sick-chamber, and written texts taken from holy books were placed on the walls and bound around the sick man's members. If these failed, recourse was had to the influence of the mamit, which the evil powers were unable to resist. On a tablet, written in the Accadian language only, the Assyrian version being taken, however, was found the following:

1. Take a white cloth. In it place the mamit, 2. in the sick man's right hand. 3. Take a black cloth, 4. wrap it around his left hand. 5. Then all the evil spirits (a long list of them is given) 6. and the sins which he has committed 7. shall quit their hold of him 8. and shall never return.

The symbolism of the black cloth in the left hand seems evident. The dying man repents of his former evil deeds, and he puts his trust in holiness, symbolized by the white cloth in his right hand. Then follow some obscure lines about the spirits:

1. Their heads shall remove from his head. 2. Their heads shall let go his hands. 3. Their feet shall depart from his feet.

Which perhaps may be explained thus: we learn from another tablet that the various classes of evil spirits troubled different parts of the body; some injured the head, some the hands and the feet, etc., therefore the passage before may mean "the spirits whose power is over the hand shall loose their hands from his," etc. "But," concludes Talbot, "I can offer no decided opinion upon such obscure points of their superstition."[15]

In regard to evil spirits, as elsewhere, the number seven had a peculiar significance, it being held that that number of spirits might enter into a man together. Talbot has translated[16] a "wild chant" which he names "The Song of the Seven Spirits."

1. There are seven! There are seven! 2. In the depths of the ocean there are seven! 3. In the heights of the heaven there are seven! 4. In the ocean stream in a palace they were born. 5. Male they are not: female they are not! 6. Wives they have not! Children are not born to them! 7. Rules they have not! Government they know not! 8. Prayers they hear not! 9. There are seven! There are seven! Twice over there are seven!

The tablets make frequent allusion to these seven spirits. One starts thus:

1. The god (—-) shall stand by his bedside; 2. These seven evil spirits he shall root out and shall expel them from his body, 3. and these seven shall never return to the sick man again.[17]

Altogether similar are the exorcisms intended to ward off disease. Professor Sayce has published translations of some of these.[18] Each of these ends with the same phrase, and they differ only in regard to the particular maladies from which freedom is desired. One reads:

"From wasting, from want of health, from the evil spirit of the ulcer, from the spreading quinsy of the gullet, from the violent ulcer, from the noxious ulcer, may the king of heaven preserve, may the king of earth preserve."

Another is phrased thus:

"From the cruel spirit of the head, from the strong spirit of the head, from the head spirit that departs not, from the head spirit that comes not forth, from the head spirit that will not go, from the noxious head spirit, may the king of heaven preserve, may the king of earth preserve."

As to omens having to do with the affairs of everyday life the number is legion. For example, Moppert has published, in the Journal Asiatique,[19] the translation of a tablet which contains on its two sides several scores of birth-portents, a few of which maybe quoted at random:

"When a woman bears a child and it has the ears of a lion, a strong king is in the country." "When a woman bears a child and it has a bird's beak, that country is oppressed." "When a woman bears a child and its right hand is wanting, that country goes to destruction." "When a woman bears a child and its feet are wanting, the roads of the country are cut; that house is destroyed." "When a woman bears a child and at the time of its birth its beard is grown, floods are in the country." "When a woman bears a child and at the time of its birth its mouth is open and speaks, there is pestilence in the country, the Air-god inundates the crops of the country, injury in the country is caused."

Some of these portents, it will be observed, are not in much danger of realization, and it is curious to surmise by what stretch of the imagination they can have been invented. There is, for example, on the same tablet just quoted, one reference which assures us that "when a sheep bears a lion the forces march multitudinously; the king has not a rival." There are other omens, however, that are so easy of realization as to lead one to suppose that any Babylonian who regarded all the superstitious signs must have been in constant terror. Thus a tablet translated by Professor Sayce[20] gives a long list of omens furnished by dogs, in which we are assured that:

1. If a yellow dog enters into the palace, exit from that palace will be baleful. 2. If a dog to the palace goes, and on a throne lies down, that palace is burned. 3. if a black dog into a temple enters, the foundation of that temple is not stable. 4. If female dogs one litter bear, destruction to the city.

It is needless to continue these citations, since they but reiterate endlessly the same story. It is interesting to recall, however, that the observations of animate nature, which were doubtless superstitious in their motive, had given the Babylonians some inklings of a knowledge of classification. Thus, according to Menant,[21] some of the tablets from Nineveh, which are written, as usual, in both the Sumerian and Assyrian languages, and which, therefore, like practically all Assyrian books, draw upon the knowledge of old Babylonia, give lists of animals, making an attempt at classification. The dog, lion, and wolf are placed in one category; the ox, sheep, and goat in another; the dog family itself is divided into various races, as the domestic dog, the coursing dog, the small dog, the dog of Elan, etc. Similar attempts at classification of birds are found. Thus, birds of rapid flight, sea-birds, and marsh-birds are differentiated. Insects are classified according to habit; those that attack plants, animals, clothing, or wood. Vegetables seem to be classified according to their usefulness. One tablet enumerates the uses of wood according to its adaptability for timber-work of palaces, or construction of vessels, the making of implements of husbandry, or even furniture. Minerals occupy a long series in these tablets. They are classed according to their qualities, gold and silver occupying a division apart; precious stones forming another series. Our Babylonians, then, must be credited with the development of a rudimentary science of natural history.


We have just seen that medical practice in the Babylonian world was strangely under the cloud of superstition. But it should be understood that our estimate, through lack of correct data, probably does much less than justice to the attainments of the physician of the time. As already noted, the existing tablets chance not to throw much light on the subject. It is known, however, that the practitioner of medicine occupied a position of some, authority and responsibility. The proof of this is found in the clauses relating to the legal status of the physician which are contained in the now famous code[22] of the Babylonian King Khamurabi, who reigned about 2300 years before our era. These clauses, though throwing no light on the scientific attainments of the physician of the period, are too curious to be omitted. They are clauses 215 to 227 of the celebrated code, and are as follows:

215. If a doctor has treated a man for a severe wound with a lancet of bronze and has cured the man, or has opened a tumor with a bronze lancet and has cured the man's eye, he shall receive ten shekels of silver.

216. If it was a freedman, he shall receive five shekels of silver.

217. If it was a man's slave, the owner of the slave shall give the doctor two shekels of silver.

218. If a physician has treated a free-born man for a severe wound with a lancet of bronze and has caused the man to die, or has opened a tumor of the man with a lancet of bronze and has destroyed his eye, his hands one shall cut off.

219. If the doctor has treated the slave of a freedman for a severe wound with a bronze lancet and has caused him to die, he shall give back slave for slave.

220. If he has opened his tumor with a bronze lancet and has ruined his eye, he shall pay the half of his price in money.

221. If a doctor has cured the broken limb of a man, or has healed his sick body, the patient shall pay the doctor five shekels of silver.

222. If it was a freedman, he shall give three shekels of silver.

223. If it was a man's slave, the owner of the slave shall give two shekels of silver to the doctor.

224. If the doctor of oxen and asses has treated an ox or an ass for a grave wound and has cured it, the owner of the ox or the ass shall give to the doctor as his pay one-sixth of a shekel of silver.

225. If he has treated an ox or an ass for a severe wound and has caused its death, he shall pay one-fourth of its price to the owner of the ox or the ass.

226. If a barber-surgeon, without consent of the owner of a slave, has branded the slave with an indelible mark, one shall cut off the hands of that barber.

227. If any one deceive the surgeon-barber and make him brand a slave with an indelible mark, one shall kill that man and bury him in his house. The barber shall swear, "I did not mark him wittingly," and he shall be guiltless.


Before turning from the Oriental world it is perhaps worth while to attempt to estimate somewhat specifically the world-influence of the name, Babylonian science. Perhaps we cannot better gain an idea as to the estimate put upon that science by the classical world than through a somewhat extended quotation from a classical author. Diodorus Siculus, who, as already noted, lived at about the time of Augustus, and who, therefore, scanned in perspective the entire sweep of classical Greek history, has left us a striking summary which is doubly valuable because of its comparisons of Babylonian with Greek influence. Having viewed the science of Babylonia in the light of the interpretations made possible by the recent study of original documents, we are prepared to draw our own conclusions from the statements of the Greek historian. Here is his estimate in the words of the quaint translation made by Philemon Holland in the year 1700:[23]

"They being the most ancient Babylonians, hold the same station and dignity in the Common-wealth as the Egyptian Priests do in Egypt: For being deputed to Divine Offices, they spend all their Time in the study of Philosophy, and are especially famous for the Art of Astrology. They are mightily given to Divination, and foretel future Events, and imploy themselves either by Purifications, Sacrifices, or other Inchantments to avert Evils, or procure good Fortune and Success. They are skilful likewise in the Art of Divination, by the flying of Birds, and interpreting of Dreams and Prodigies: And are reputed as true Oracles (in declaring what will come to pass) by their exact and diligent viewing the Intrals of the Sacrifices. But they attain not to this Knowledge in the same manner as the Grecians do; for the Chaldeans learn it by Tradition from their Ancestors, the Son from the Father, who are all in the mean time free from all other publick Offices and Attendances; and because their Parents are their Tutors, they both learn every thing without Envy, and rely with more confidence upon the truth of what is taught them; and being train'd up in this Learning, from their very Childhood, they become most famous Philosophers, (that Age being most capable of Learning, wherein they spend much of their time). But the Grecians for the most part come raw to this study, unfitted and unprepar'd, and are long before they attain to the Knowledge of this Philosophy: And after they have spent some small time in this Study, they are many times call'd off and forc'd to leave it, in order to get a Livelihood and Subsistence. And although some, few do industriously apply themselves to Philosophy, yet for the sake of Gain, these very Men are opinionative, and ever and anon starting new and high Points, and never fix in the steps of their Ancestors. But the Barbarians keeping constantly close to the same thing, attain to a perfect and distinct Knowledge in every particular.

"But the Grecians, cunningly catching at all Opportunities of Gain, make new Sects and Parties, and by their contrary Opinions wrangling and quarelling concerning the chiefest Points, lead their Scholars into a Maze; and being uncertain and doubtful what to pitch upon for certain truth, their Minds are fluctuating and in suspence all the days of their Lives, and unable to give a certain assent unto any thing. For if any Man will but examine the most eminent Sects of the Philosophers, he shall find them much differing among themselves, and even opposing one another in the most weighty parts of their Philosophy. But to return to the Chaldeans, they hold that the World is eternal, which had neither any certain Beginning, nor shall have any End; but all agree, that all things are order'd, and this beautiful Fabrick is supported by a Divine Providence, and that the Motions of the Heavens are not perform'd by chance and of their own accord, but by a certain and determinate Will and Appointment of the Gods.

"Therefore from a long observation of the Stars, and an exact Knowledge of the motions and influences of every one of them, wherein they excel all others, they fortel many things that are to come to pass.

"They say that the Five Stars which some call Planets, but they Interpreters, are most worthy of Consideration, both for their motions and their remarkable influences, especially that which the Grecians call Saturn. The brightest of them all, and which often portends many and great Events, they call Sol, the other Four they name Mars, Venus, Mercury, and Jupiter, with our own Country Astrologers. They give the Name of Interpreters to these Stars, because these only by a peculiar Motion do portend things to come, and instead of Jupiters, do declare to Men before-hand the good- will of the Gods; whereas the other Stars (not being of the number of the Planets) have a constant ordinary motion. Future Events (they say) are pointed at sometimes by their Rising, and sometimes by their Setting, and at other times by their Colour, as may be experienc'd by those that will diligently observe it; sometimes foreshewing Hurricanes, at other times Tempestuous Rains, and then again exceeding Droughts. By these, they say, are often portended the appearance of Comets, Eclipses of the Sun and Moon, Earthquakes and all other the various Changes and remarkable effects in the Air, boding good and bad, not only to Nations in general, but to Kings and Private Persons in particular. Under the course of these Planets, they say are Thirty Stars, which they call Counselling Gods, half of whom observe what is done under the Earth, and the other half take notice of the actions of Men upon the Earth, and what is transacted in the Heavens. Once every Ten Days space (they say) one of the highest Order of these Stars descends to them that are of the lowest, like a Messenger sent from them above; and then again another ascends from those below to them above, and that this is their constant natural motion to continue for ever. The chief of these Gods, they say, are Twelve in number, to each of which they attribute a Month, and one Sign of the Twelve in the Zodiack.

"Through these Twelve Signs the Sun, Moon, and the other Five Planets run their Course. The Sun in a Years time, and the Moon in the space of a Month. To every one of the Planets they assign their own proper Courses, which are perform'd variously in lesser or shorter time according as their several motions are quicker or slower. These Stars, they say, have a great influence both as to good and bad in Mens Nativities; and from the consideration of their several Natures, may be foreknown what will befal Men afterwards. As they foretold things to come to other Kings formerly, so they did to Alexander who conquer'd Darius, and to his Successors Antigonus and Seleucus Nicator; and accordingly things fell out as they declar'd; which we shall relate particularly hereafter in a more convenient time. They tell likewise private Men their Fortunes so certainly, that those who have found the thing true by Experience, have esteem'd it a Miracle, and above the reach of man to perform. Out of the Circle of the Zodiack they describe Four and Twenty Stars, Twelve towards the North Pole, and as many to the South.

"Those which we see, they assign to the living; and the other that do not appear, they conceive are Constellations for the Dead; and they term them Judges of all things. The Moon, they say, is in the lowest Orb; and being therefore next to the Earth (because she is so small), she finishes her Course in a little time, not through the swiftness of her Motion, but the shortness of her Sphear. In that which they affirm (that she has but a borrow'd light, and that when she is eclips'd, it's caus'd by the interposition of the shadow of the Earth) they agree with the Grecians.

"Their Rules and Notions concerning the Eclipses of the Sun are but weak and mean, which they dare not positively foretel, nor fix a certain time for them. They have likewise Opinions concerning the Earth peculiar to themselves, affirming it to resemble a Boat, and to be hollow, to prove which, and other things relating to the frame of the World, they abound in Arguments; but to give a particular Account of 'em, we conceive would be a thing foreign to our History. But this any Man may justly and truly say, That the Chaldeans far exceed all other Men in the Knowledge of Astrology, and have study'd it most of any other Art or Science: But the number of years during which the Chaldeans say, those of their Profession have given themselves to the study of this natural Philosophy, is incredible; for when Alexander was in Asia, they reckon'd up Four Hundred and Seventy Thousand Years since they first began to observe the Motions of the Stars."

Let us now supplement this estimate of Babylonian influence with another estimate written in our own day, and quoted by one of the most recent historians of Babylonia and Assyria.[24] The estimate in question is that of Canon Rawlinson in his Great Oriental Monarchies.[25] Of Babylonia he says:

"Hers was apparently the genius which excogitated an alphabet; worked out the simpler problems of arithmetic; invented implements for measuring the lapse of time; conceived the idea of raising enormous structures with the poorest of all materials, clay; discovered the art of polishing, boring, and engraving gems; reproduced with truthfulness the outlines of human and animal forms; attained to high perfection in textile fabrics; studied with success the motions of the heavenly bodies; conceived of grammar as a science; elaborated a system of law; saw the value of an exact chronology—in almost every branch of science made a beginning, thus rendering it comparatively easy for other nations to proceed with the superstructure.... It was from the East, not from Egypt, that Greece derived her architecture, her sculpture, her science, her philosophy, her mathematical knowledge—in a word, her intellectual life. And Babylon was the source to which the entire stream of Eastern civilization may be traced. It is scarcely too much to say that, but for Babylon, real civilization might not yet have dawned upon the earth."

Considering that a period of almost two thousand years separates the times of writing of these two estimates, the estimates themselves are singularly in unison. They show that the greatest of Oriental nations has not suffered in reputation at the hands of posterity. It is indeed almost impossible to contemplate the monuments of Babylonian and Assyrian civilization that are now preserved in the European and American museums without becoming enthusiastic. That certainly was a wonderful civilization which has left us the tablets on which are inscribed the laws of a Khamurabi on the one hand, and the art treasures of the palace of an Asshurbanipal on the other. Yet a candid consideration of the scientific attainments of the Babylonians and Assyrians can scarcely arouse us to a like enthusiasm. In considering the subject we have seen that, so far as pure science is concerned, the efforts of the Babylonians and Assyrians chiefly centred about the subjects of astrology and magic. With the records of their ghost-haunted science fresh in mind, one might be forgiven for a momentary desire to take issue with Canon Rawlinson's words. We are assured that the scientific attainments of Europe are almost solely to be credited to Babylonia and not to Egypt, but we should not forget that Plato, the greatest of the Greek thinkers, went to Egypt and not to Babylonia to pursue his studies when he wished to penetrate the secrets of Oriental science and philosophy. Clearly, then, classical Greece did not consider Babylonia as having a monopoly of scientific knowledge, and we of to-day, when we attempt to weigh the new evidence that has come to us in recent generations with the Babylonian records themselves, find that some, at least, of the heritages for which Babylonia has been praised are of more than doubtful value. Babylonia, for example, gave us our seven-day week and our system of computing by twelves. But surely the world could have got on as well without that magic number seven; and after some hundreds of generations we are coming to feel that the decimal system of the Egyptians has advantages over the duodecimal system of the Babylonians. Again, the Babylonians did not invent the alphabet; they did not even accept it when all the rest of the world had recognized its value. In grammar and arithmetic, as with astronomy, they seemed not to have advanced greatly, if at all, upon the Egyptians. One field in which they stand out in startling pre- eminence is the field of astrology; but this, in the estimate of modern thought, is the very negation of science. Babylonia impressed her superstitions on the Western world, and when we consider the baleful influence of these superstitions, we may almost question whether we might not reverse Canon Rawlinson's estimate and say that perhaps but for Babylonia real civilization, based on the application of true science, might have dawned upon the earth a score of centuries before it did. Yet, after all, perhaps this estimate is unjust. Society, like an individual organism, must creep before it can walk, and perhaps the Babylonian experiments in astrology and magic, which European civilization was destined to copy for some three or four thousand years, must have been made a part of the necessary evolution of our race in one place or in another. That thought, however, need not blind us to the essential fact, which the historian of science must needs admit, that for the Babylonian, despite his boasted culture, science spelled superstition.