Sunday, December 29, 2013

Nabonidus, Ancient Babylonia's Last King : End of the Chaldean Empire

Esagila Temple Complex : Ziggurat commonly referred to as Tower of Babel on left and temple of Bel-Marduk on right

A contributing factor in the Persian defeat of Babylon was likely Nabonidus's undeniable unpopularity. While researching my current historical I learned that one of Nabonidus's own governors conspired against him and actually joined the Persian army in their attack on Babylon. This cropped up in almost every place I looked yet nowhere could I learn the why of it. Why would a high ranking official betray his king? Finally, in an obscure text that unfortunately burned in our house fire a few years ago, I learned that either Nabonidus or Belshazzar had killed the governor's son. The circumstances were not given, just the fact of his death at the hands of the king. Suddenly it made perfect sense.

Moon god 'Sin'  generally represented as an old man with a flowing beard and his crescent moon symbol - from

Many of Nabonidus's decisions did not endear him to the populace either. He threatened to elevate the moon god, Sin, to a place of pre-eminence, removing Bel-Marduk, the supreme god of the land and patron god of Babylon, from his own temple with the intention of installing Sin in his place.

Excavations of Temple of Bel at Nippur -

Nabonidus left Babylon and remained in Tema for ten years. During his absence from Babylon the annual New Year Festival, necessary for the continued prosperity of both the city and the empire, could not be held. The king was supposed to enter the temple of Bel-Marduk to take part in a ritual in which he would declare that he had cared for Babylon, not neglected the Esagila temple complex nor forgotten its ritual, etc. Unfortunately, Nabonidus had left Babylon, had neglected Esagila and according to cuneiform texts, mixed up the rituals, confused the oracles and uttered unnamed 'blasphemies'.  His contemporaries considered him dangerous to the stability of the country and unfit to be ruler of Babylonia.

As Cyrus and the Persian army advanced into Babylonia, the gods were brought to Babylon, ostensibly for protection. However, Nabonidus ensured the loyalty of the Babylonian cities by keeping their gods in Babylon. A city's loyalty to Nabonidus was guaranteed as long as its gods were held hostage to him in the capital. Put another way: if a god showed support for Nabonidus by fleeing to Babylon, his priests (no matter who appointed them) could not be true to the god and at the same time support Cyrus. A city could not switch outward allegiance from Nabonidus to Cyrus as long as Nobonidus held its gods in his power. (1) Some cities saw through this subterfuge and refused to relinquish their gods.

All in all it is small wonder that the Babylonians may have given little resistance to the incursion of the Persian army.
(1) The Priest and the Great King by Lisbeth S. Fried
Citizens gathering outside Ishtar Gate for procession to Akitu festival house

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Spencer's First Christmas....With Us

When you buy a shelter dog you never know what you're getting. You don't know who their previous owners were or how they were treated. You don't know if they've had a good life or a bad life. You don't know what will trigger a panic attack that sends them running for cover.

Spencer is a shelter dog. We got him this past May. He was found wandering the streets and in need of urgent veterinary care. The day we went to the shelter to look at dogs he'd just completed a course of antibiotics and was cleared for adoption. They judged his age to be around five years old and his breed is mixed, as you can tell - miniature poodle/cocker spaniel.

Spencer fits into our family perfectly. Introducing him to a harness and leash had him wiggling with excitement so we knew he was used to going for walks. He'd never seen a dog door before but, with some assistance, had it down pat after only a few tries. We weren't sure whether or not he'd ever been to a groomer and the groomer come to our home so we could be on hand in case she got into trouble. He was as good as gold, so another tick mark. He'd obviously been to the groomers.

The longer we had him the more we wondered what had happened to him. He's well-behaved and house trained, likes to go for walks and loves people. We're sure someone misses him. Not that we'd give him up now. We figure he probably got loose when tourists were passing through and they couldn't find him so had to leave without him.

When the Christmas season arrived and we took the tree out of the shed (I have asthma so can't have a real tree), we weren't sure how he'd react to it. Some dogs are petrified at this big thing looming high over their heads, some attack it or bark at it. We put it up, got the lights working and draped the skirt around the bottom, all without incident. Spencer just watched. When it was time to start hanging the decorations we realized that not only was he not the least bit apprehensive, he figured it was his. He grabbed his toys and brought them under the tree, where they stayed until we screwed things up for him by laying presents under it.

Now that the decorations are up and there are presents under the tree, he's careful not to step on the gifts. But he races around just under the edges when he's playing and sets the balls swinging and the lights twinkling and rocking.

Yup, Spencer loves Christmas just as much as we do.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Babylon and Babylonia : Has Babylon Always Existed?

A couple of days ago someone asked this question on my post, Writing and Scribes in Ancient Babylon.

Babylon & Babylonia. Has Babylon always existed or did it come out of nowhere when Hammurabi came to rule it? And was it here Babylonia happened? When was Babylon established and when was Babylonian established?

Hammurabi's Babylonia - from Wikimedia Commons

The city of Babylon, according to the Bible, was established after the flood by Noah's great grandson, Nimrod. Genesis 10:10 says about Nimrod, "And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel (Babylon), and Erech (Uruk) and Accad (Akkad) and Calneh, in the land of Shinar."

There is little evidence that Babylon was much more than a small town before the Old Babylonian period (approx. 2000BC - 1600BC) . Sargon of Akkad ruled the whole Euphrates Valley between 2334BC and 2279BC. Texts say he enlarged Babylon and built a palace there.

It was likely only after the collapse of the UrIII empire ( 2112BC - 2004BC) that Babylon became a city. An Amorite chief called Sumu-abum (1894BC - 1881 BC) built the city walls and fortifications and made it the center for his operations. He founded a dynasty which ruled Babylon for 300 years. His aim was to gain control over cities in the immediate neighborhood but the real building program that was to propel Babylon into a major city was begun by Sin-muballit (1812BC - 1793BC) and then, most notably, by his son Hamurabi (1792BC - 1750BC).

Residents visit ancient city of Babylon near Hilla - from 

Geographically, Babylonia refers to the southern portion of the modern country of Iraq, ancient Mesopotamia, encompassing the land roughly between Baghdad (close to the site of ancient Opis) at its northern limit and the head of the Arabian Gulf at its southern limit.

Historically, the term Babylonia reflects a relatively late unification of the country under Babylon's First Dynasty (1894BC - 1595BC), although the word itself is of later origin.  You might say Babylonia became an independent state around 1894BC with Babylon as its capital city during Sumu-abum's reign. From very early times, the northern part of Babylonia was referred to as Akkad and the southern as Sumer.

As to Babylonian, if you're referring to the Babylonian language, it was a dialect of Akkadian, an extinct Semitic language replaced by Aramaic some time during the 8th century BC.

Aeriel view of ancient city of Babylon - from

Hope that's been of some help to you, Rose.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Losing the Christmas Tree Wars

This post is a continuation of the December 2013 Blog Chain at Absolute Write. This month's prompt is "250-Word Story Chain, or, The Blog-O-Phone."

Snowy Road in Forest -

Wiggins ignored the loud 'whump' behind him and continued to give chase, brandishing his empty gas can.

"Nussbaum! Ostafinski! Just wait 'til I get my hands on you!"

Cal decapitated the snowman with a single swing of his axe and leaped over the white heap, Alan close on his heels.

"Stop. Following. Me." Cal panted. "Split up. Can't chase us both."

Alan veered off, stumbled and fell face first into a snowdrift.
"All I wanted was a tree." he moaned, clawing snow out of his eyes and nose.

Cal wove his way around tree after tree, going deeper into the woods. A quick glance back confirmed Wiggins still doggedly floundering in his footsteps.Why did that lousy Wiggins have to follow him?

Cal ducked under a densely branched tree and started backing out of sight. He was about to congratulate himself on outsmarting Wiggins when a low rumbling growl froze him in his tracks.

The other participating bloggers are:

orion_mk3  -
Ralph Pines -
Angyl78 -
MsLaylaCakes -
meowzbark -
BBBurke -

Sunday, December 8, 2013

When Life Paralyzes Creativity

I'd planned to write a rather fun post about dragons and ancient Babylon but my heart just isn't in it. My cousin, who usually paints in oils but did this water color for us last year, is dying of cancer and her days are fast coming to an end. I'm heartbroken. Although other cousins have been in and out of my life over the years, Janet and I have stayed in touch and visits were special times.

She had a big, big heart. When her own mother passed away and she inherited the family home she took in all the strays - people who had nowhere else to go or not enough money to pay rent, had health problems or mental problems. In all the years she housed sometimes dangerous folks, not one of them stole from her or injured her physically, as many of them easily could have done.

Earlier in the year she was diagnosed with liver cancer. After the normal round of chemotherapy she was put on a new treatment option in June. It promised to give her six more good months and it did, practically to the day.
But she won't be with us for much longer and in fact, isn't with us now. Her body is still functioning but her mind is gone. Thankfully she has no pain as they have her constantly on morphine to combat the pain she's unable to articulate.

She will likely be gone before Christmas which is hard to think about. I'm so glad I have this horse painting as well as one she's done of a wolf. She loved animals and was particularly fond of these big guys of ours. It will be a good memory.

I'll post again when I can but right now I need a bit of time to grieve.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Christmas Tree Wars!

Here is the third scene of the December 2013 blog chain at Absolute Write. This month's prompt is "250-word story chain" or "the blog-o-phone".
The opening scene, Into Mossfallow Wood, is written by orion_mk3. The second scene,  Into the Woods, is written by Ralph Pines.

"Hey! Ozzy! Waddya think yer doin?"
Carl Ostafinski bore down on the much smaller man wielding his axe like a medieval claymore. Rooster style, he shoved his size XXX chest against Oswald's. "I saw that tree first and it's mine!"

Ozzy stuck out his chin and got in Carl's face.
"I don't think so Ostafinski."
"Oh yeah?" Carl bellowed.

Carl shoved and held Ozzy against the disputed tree with the head of his axe. "Look Ozzy. If you don't back away from my tree you'll be sorry."
Ozzy snorted. "What're you gonna do about it?"
"You know where I work dontcha?" Carl challenged.
"Doll assembly line. Big deal." Grinning, Ozzy added. "You gonna chuck Barbies at me?"
"No." Carl paused for dramatic effect. "Snowmen."

Ozzy blanched. Now some people were petrified of clowns but Ozzy - snowmen gave him the heebyjeebies. Those phoney stick smiles and cold coal eyes creeped him out. The toy snowmen Carl made were the worst. Their high-pitched maniacal laughter sent chills down his spine.

Ozzy stepped away from the tree and swallowed hard. "It's all yours." he said in strangled tones.
Carl grunted. "I thought so."
He swung the enormous axe with all his strength and sunk it deep into the trunk. The huge tree shuddered and the two men stared upward at the crashing sound that came closer and closer as tree branches began falling all around them.
Carl pointed, eyes wide and staring. "Look! It can't be!"
Further scenes are or will be written by the following bloggers:
Note: maniacal snowmen courtesy of my daughter and son-in-law

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Ancient Babylon: A Hedonistic Society

The idea of ancient Babylonians being a society of pleasure seekers, devoted primarily to sensual self-indulgence, appears well supported.

One of the principal deities of ancient Babylon was the goddess Ishtar who presided over all aspects of sexuality. According to a line in an ancient Mesopotamian poem, the Erra Epic, Ishtar's sacred prostitutes 'frequently do abominable acts to please the heart of Ishtar'. A hymn dedicated to Ishtar declares her to be the supreme Woman, beautiful, desirable, 'with a fondness for sensual pleasures and delights, full of seduction, charm and voluptuousness'. Licentious activities were common in and around her temple precincts and such 'worship' of Ishtar was encouraged. The goddess is usually pictured naked, supporting her breasts with her hands.

Goddess Ishtar 

That the ancient Babylonians saw nothing unusual about the shocking activity of Ishtar's prostitutes, transsexual performers and acts of more or less public copulation, puzzled me a fair bit. It seemed like an almost frenzied attempt to wring as much physical pleasure from life as they could. But why? A bit of research into the society provided possibilities.
First of all, they worshipped a vast number of gods who created man to take over their work so the gods could rest. The gods are almost morbidly ill-tempered, are incapable of gathering together without drinking excess..are violent, gluttonous, uncontrolled, faithless and vindictive.(1)
A person's well-being was tied to the correct worship of these fickle deities and they were lousy role models.
                                  Tiamet, dragon goddess
Secondly, the Babylonians believed their world to be populated by vast numbers of ghosts and demons. Demons were invisible enemies, deformed monsters that compassed them on every side, lying wait for them by day and night, for if a person angered his god through disobedience he would be without any protection from them. There were incubi and succubi whose embraces no man could escape, she-demons who prevented children from being born or killed new-borns, or the 'evil eye' under the influence of which nothing could prosper. There were also spirits of those whose lives had been unhappy, who had been cheated of an expectation, died a violent death or had not enjoyed the happiness they craved. They were much feared as dangerous, vengeful ghosts who haunted the living.
                                        Humbaba, Babylonian demon

Thirdly, the gods reserved eternal life for themselves and decreed death to be man's fate. The Babylonians had no hope of anything being better in the afterlife, no matter how well they'd behaved in this life. Man had to enjoy life on earth while it lasted since life in the underworld was, for the most part, miserable for all. The realm of the dead was described as a dreary place:

"To the gloomy house, seat of the netherworld,
To the house which none leaves who enters,
To the road whose journey has no return,
To the house whose entrants are bereft of light,
Where dust is their sustenance and clay their food,
They see no light but dwell in darkness." (2)

The most they could expect in death was a bit to eat and drink in this dark place, provided by family members at their gravesite. Food was set near the burying place and liquids were poured through a pipe in the ground. The Babylonians were in constant dread of angering a host of unstable gods and being harassed by multitudes of demons and ghosts relentlessly dogging their footsteps. I think it's fairly easy to understand why they might prefer to live by a motto similar to Eat, Drink and Be Merry, For Tomorrow We Die!

Ereshkigal, goddess of underworld and sister of Ishtar

(1) excerpted from Everyday Life in Babylon and Assyria by Georges Contenau 
(2) excerpted from Daily Life in Ancient Mesopotamia by Karen Rhea Nemet-Nejat