SELEIICID ERA Alexander the Great ordered the clearance of the temple site at Babylon, and this was effected in part in the reign of his posthumous son. Seleucus I. and Antiochus I. paid particular attention to Babylonia, and seem to have aimed at a general restoration of the old religion. Cities were founded for the Mace donian and Greek colonists, and the ruin caused at Babylon by an incursion of Antigonus Monophthalmus led to the removal of most of the civilian population to Seleucia by order of Antiochus; this need not have been due to any deliberate wish of the Mace donians to be rid of the ancient capital, as often represented. ' Rebuilding of the shrine of Nabu at Borsippa was undertaken at Antiochus' command; and the priests of Erech were given facili ties for collecting the secret ritual texts, which had been scattered in Persian times, from Susa and elsewhere. A historical school, gathered round a central personality known in Greek as Berossos, was active in compiling chronicles of the long centuries of Babylo nian history, that these might be translated into Greek for the instruction of their new rulers. The schools of priests who were engaged in astronomical studies were particularly active at this time, and scientific observation and prognostication was the most important advance in this direction. In the south, business docu ments continued to be written in cuneiform ; the latest known cuneiform text contains astronomical observations for the year 9-8 B.C. Even cylinder seals have been found in use so late as the 3rd century, clearly marked with the Seleucid anchor, and the form survived as an exceptional usage into Parthian times ; but it had ceased to be commonly used, and the tablets are sealed with oval ring-bezels bearing typically Greek devices. As the survival of Babylonian religion was one marked feature of the period, the complete disappearance of all native art was another. Stone and bronze statuettes, terra-cotta figurines and plaques, and the pottery and glass ware of the time, betray no survival of native handiwork. All is provincial, classical output, generally tasteless. And as the centuries passed, and Rome occupied the position the Hellenistic kingdoms once had done, until the Parthians drove the mistress of the world out of the Tigris valley, the output be came worse, the last remnant of the old Babylonian civilization, the cuneiform tablets, cease to be found, and darkness settled upon the land for several centuries.
The civilization which has been described in its historical aspect from the archaeological remains, was based upon an agricultural settlement of the lower valleys of the Tigris and Euphrates, only possible for a people acquainted with the method of irrigation nec essary for that land. The problem presented is different from that in the Nile valley, where the annual inundation is welcome. The Tigris, swollen by the molten snows of the northern and eastern hills, floods at the end of March or beginning of April, and an overflow of its banks can do great damage to the sur rounding country in the Baghdad region and southwards. The Euphrates floods about the time the Tigris is subsiding as a rule ; the damage in this case is not due so much to the violence of the stream as to the deposit of salt left on the surface by any temporary flood. To be successful, irrigation must be preceded by a drainage system. The problem was at any rate in part solved by the avoidance of floods ; canal systems sufficient to take the largest possible overflow were devised, and carried out some times, apparently by diverting the course of the Euphrates just north of Babylon. These canals were invariably built by forced labour, the royal corvee ; and from the earliest to the latest times "Irrigator" was a proud title for any king. The derivative, smaller canals, were fed by simple machines ; the shade f still employed was in common use ; there is some evidence for the existence of the -water-wheel in the new Babylonian era. Some part of the history of the canal system is known ; Lagash and Umma were once connected by water with the Tigris, the "Royal Canal" and the "Pallacottas" which lasted throughout the ages until mediaeval centuries were in existence before the time of Nebuchadrezzar II. The rise and fall of the towns was closely connected with the opening and silting up of canals. This silting up, which raises the bed and banks of the river by too considerable a height above the plain, is only avoided by annual cleaning, and that was secured by making the townships and landowners along the banks respon sible. Such a dynasty as that which included Hammurabi, by an energetic personal administration, secured good order in this respect; the invasion of the Aramaean tribesmen in the loth cen tury caused a considerable lapse, with the result that the marsh land was increased. The Chaldaeans, the inhabitants of the marshes, occupied a far more extensive territory in the 7th century than their congeners, the Sea-Land dynasty of Hammurabi's time.
The canals carried commerce in the mean boats required for river traffic. In the earliest days craft had sailed up the Persian Gulf to Ur and even so far north as Agade, somewhere near Babylon, to unload at the brick-built, bitumen-faced quays beside these cities. But the constant recession of the gulf rendered this impossible after the time of the 3rd dynasty of Ur, and thereafter no more is heard of such traffic. The ordinary river boat is a canoe type, propelled by poles, with a high prow f ore and aft. On the Tigris, a circular basket, constructed of wood and skin, of some depth, is coated with bitumen, and will serve to carry large animals, when adequately guided, down stream ; this is the type now called a qu ff ah. On the Euphrates, the raft is used above 'Anah, the modern kelek. The Assyrians on their military cam paigns generally carried skins, which were inflated and used by the individual soldier; but Sennacherib, who undertook a great campaign in the marshes and the gulf, brought Phoenician ships with a bank of oars across to the Euphrates. Constant campaign ing on the Mediterranean coast brought acquaintance with Medi terranean ships, and there is a representation on a 7th century frieze of a Phoenician ship with a ram.
The other principal feature of this civilization was that it de pended upon trade to an exceptional degree. The wealth mani fested by the early Sumerian remains can only have been so obtained ; and the existence of the great city communities always afterwards proves that the trade was very considerable. It is not, therefore, surprising to find that the Babylonian system of minas, shekels and grains was very widely employed, and has had an influence upon distant lands. Only the actual form taken by the weights can be dealt with here. In Babylonia the commonest type of weight took the form of a duck, with its head turned back, modelled in low relief on the back; these were made in all sizes, in all kinds of stone. Another common form was a barrel cylinder, with flattened ends, a type also used in Egypt ; these were gen erally made of haematite, but other hard stones were also em ployed. A more unusual form was a stele-shape, with rounded top, rather thick; an instance, dating from at least the second millennium, was found at Ur; Nebuchadrezzar's copy of Shulgi's weight and Darius' weight have also this shape. The Assyrians commonly used the duck-weight ; but the royal weights of Sargon, found in the gateway of the palace of Khorsabad, take the form of bronze lions, or lionesses, and stone examples of this kind are known ; this lion type was also used in Egypt. The use of the duck-weight and the cylindrical shape is interesting ; they were suspended by wire to the end of a beam, as instances are known in which the wires are still intact. By no means all weights were inscribed : sometimes the weight is written in full, sometimes only a number of lines are marked, the unit not being given. In the case of Sargon's weights, there are both Assyrian and Aramaic inscriptions.
The distinctive feature of the Babylonian weights was their dependence upon the sexagesimal system. The origin of that system has been much disputed; its use is obvious. The chief point about its origin is whether it depended upon a combination of two other systems, a decimal and a duodecimal, or (more probably) of a system dependent upon five with one based on six, or whether it was independent of the five (or ten) unit. Probability points to the former alternative, for the ner unit, 600, can hardly be explained on the second alternative. The obvious advantage of the system, the ready expression of most fractions, gave rise to a system of notation which closely approximates in use to the decimal point. Thus the number 4,275 could be expressed as T i.e., I sar I ner I soss 10+5, or 3,600+ 600+60+15; the value of the number thus depending on the unit implied.