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tor. The tradition of which Herodotus speaks has no relation to the coincidence of the equinoxial and eclip. tic lines; that is quite another
affair. The pretended scholars of Egypt said that the sun, in the space of eleven thousand years, had set twice in the east, and risen twice in the west.
When the equator and the ecliptic coincided, and when the days were everywhere equal to the nights, the sun did not on that account change its setting and rising; but the earth turned on its axis from west to east, as at this day, This idea of making the sun set in the east is a chimera only worthy of the brains of the priests of Egypt, and shows the profound ignorance of those jugglers who have had so much reputation. The tale should be classed with those of the satyrs, who sang and danced in the train of Osiris;—with the little boys, whom they would not feed till after they had ran eight leagues, to teach them to conquer the world;—with the two children who cried bec in asking for bread, and who by that means discovered that the Phrygian was the original language;--with King Psammeticus, who gave his daughter to a thief who had dexterously stolen his money, &c. &c.
Ancient history, ancient astronomy, ancient physics, ancient medicine (up to Hippocrates), ancient geography, ancient metaphysics, all are nothing but ancient absurdities, which ought to make us feel the happiness of being born in later times.
There is, no doubt, more truth in two pages of the French Encyclopedia in relation to physics, than in all the library of Alexandria, the loss of which is so much regretted.
Babel signifies among the Orientals, God the Father, the power of God, the gate of God, according to the way in which the word is pronounced. It appears, therefore, that Babylon was the city of God, the holy city. Every capital of a state was a city of God, the sacred city. The Greeks called them all Hieropolis and there were more than thirty of this name. The tower of Babel, then, signifies the tower of God the Father.
Josephus says truly, that Babel signifies confusion ; Calmet says, with others, that Bilba, in Chaldean, signifies confounded; but all the Orientals have been of a contrary opinion. The word confusion would be a strange etymon for the capital of a vast empire. I very much like the opinion of Rabelais, who pretends that Paris was formerly called Lutetia, on account of the ladies' white legs.
Be that as it may, commentators have tormented themselves to know to what height men had raised this famous tower of Babel. St. Jerome gives it twenty thousand feet. The ancient Jewish book, entitled “ Jacult,” gave it eighty-one thousand. Paul Lucas has seen the remains of it, and it is a fine thing to be as keen-sighted as Paul Lucas : but these dimensions are not the only difficulties which have exercised the learned.
People have wished to know how the children of Noah,* after having divided among themselves the islands of the nations and established themselves in divers lands, with each one his particular language, families and people, should all find themselves in the plain of Shinaar, to build there a tower, saying, “ Let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.”+
The book of Genesis speaks of the states which the sons of Noah founded. It has related how the people of Europe, Africa, and Asia, all came to Shinaar speaking one language only, and purposing the same thing.
The vulgate places the Deluge in the year of the world 1656, and the construction of the tower of Babel 1771, that is to say, one hundred and fifteen years after the destruction of mankind, and even during the life of Noah.
Men then must have multiplied with prodigious celerity; all the arts revived in a very little time. When we reflect on the great number of trades which must have been employed to raise a tower so high, we are amazed at so stupendous a work.
* Genesis, chap. X. v. 5.
+ Genesis, chap. xi. v. 2, 4.
The Patriarch Abraham was born, according to the Bible, about four hundred years after the Deluge, and already we see a line of powerful Kings in Egypt and in Asia. Bochart, and other sages, have pleasantly filled their great books with Phænician and Chaldean words and systems which they do not understand. They have learnedly taken Thrace for Cappadocia, Greece for Crete, and the island of Cyprus for Tyre; they sport in an ocean of ignorance, which has neither bottom nor shore. It would have been shorter for them to have avowed that God, after several ages, has given us sacred books to render us better men, and not to make us geographers, chronologists, or etymologists.
Babel is Babylon: it was founded, according to the Persian historians,* by a prince named Tamurath. The only knowledge we have of its antiquities consists in the astronomical observations of nineteen hundred and three years, sent by Callisthenes, by order of Alexander, to his preceptor Aristotle. To this certainty is joined the extreme probability, that a nation which had made a series of celestial observations for nearly two thousand years, had congregated and formed a considerable power several ages before the first of these observations.
It is a pity, that none of the calculations of the ancient profane authors agree with our sacred ones; and that none of the names of the princes who reigned after the different epochs assigned to the Deluge, have been known by either Egyptians, Syrians, Babylonians, or Greeks.
It is no less a pity, that there remains not on the earth, among the profane authors, one vestige of the famous tower of Babel: nothing of this story of the confusion of tongues is found in any book. This memorable adventure was as unknown to the whole universe, as the names of Noah, Methusalem, Cain, and Adam and Eve.
* See the Bibliotheque Orientale,
This difficulty tantalizes our curiosity. Herodotus, who travelled so much, speaks neither of Naoh, or Shem, Reu, Salah, or Nimrod. The name of Nimrod is unknown to all profane antiquity; there are only a few Arabs, and some modern Persians, who have made mention of Nimrod, in falsifying the books of the Jews.
Nothing remains to conduct us through these ancient ruins, unknown to all the nations of the universe during so many ages, but faith in the Bible; and happily that is an infallible guide.
Herodotụs, who has mingled many fables with some truths, pretends that in his time, which was that of greatest power of the Persian sovereigns of Babylon, all the women of the immense city were obliged to go once in their lives to the temple of Mylitta, a goddess which was thought to be the same as Aphrodite, or Venus, in order to prostitute themselves to strangers; and that the law commanded them to receive
money as a sacred tribute, which was paid over to the priesthood of the goddess.
But even this Arabian tale. is more likely than that which the same author tells of Cyrus dividing the Indus into three hundred and sixty canals, which all discharged themselves into the Caspian Sea! What should we say of Mezerai, if he had told us that Charlemagne divided the Rhine into three hundred and sixty canals, which fell into the Mediterranean; and that all the ladies of his court were obliged once in their lives to present themselves at the church of St. Genevieve, to prostitute themselves to all comers for money?
It must be remarked, that such a fable is still more absurd in relation to the time of Xerxes, in which Herodotus lived, than it would be in that of Charlemagne. The Orientals were a thousand times more jealous than the Franks and Gauls. The wives of all the great lords were carefully guarded by eunuchs. This custom subsisted from time immemorial. It is seen even in the Jewish history, that when that little nation wished like the others to have a king, Samuel, to dissuade them from it, and to retain his authority,
said, “ that a king would tyrannise over them, and that he would take the tenths of their vines and corn to give to his eunuchs.” The kings accomplished this prediction ; for it is written in the first book of Kings, that King Ahab had eunuchs, and in the second that Joram, Jehu, Jehoiakim, and Zedekias, had them also.
The eunuchs of Pharaoh are spoken of a long time ! previously, in the book of Genesis ; and it is said that
Potiphar, to whom Joseph was sold, was one of the king's eunuchs. It is clear, therefore, that there were great numbers of eunuchs at Babylon to guard the women. It was not then a duty for them to prostitute
themselves to the first comer, nor was Babylon, the i city of God, a vast brothel, as it has been pretended.
These tales of Herodotus, as well as all others in the same taste, are now so decried by all people of sense;- -reason has made so great a progress, that even
old women and children will no longer believe such i extravagancies,-“Non est vetula quæ credat nec pueri credunt, nisi qui nondum ære lavantur.”
There is in our days only one man who, not par| taking of the spirit of the age in which he lives, would
justify the fable of Herodotus. The infamy appears to him a very simple affair. He would prove, that the Babylonian princesses prostituted themselves through piety to the first passengers, because it is said in the holy writing, that the Ammonites made their children pass through the fire in presenting them to Moloch. But what relation has this custom of some barbarous hordes—this superstition of passing their children through the flames, or even of burning them on piles, in honour of I know not who—of Moloch? These Iroquois horrors of a petty infamous people, to a prostitution so incredible, in a nation known to be the most jealous and orderly of the East? Would what passes among the Iroquois be among us a proof of the customs of the Courts of France and of Spain?
He also brings, in further proof, the Lupercal feast among the Romans, during which, he says, that the young people of quality, and respectable magistrates, ran naked through the city with whips in their hands,