History Of Babylon by Edgar Wilson Nye

Story type: Essay

The history of Babylon is fraught with sadness. It illustrates, only too painfully, that the people of a town make or mar its success rather than the natural resources and advantages it may possess on the start.

Thus Babylon, with 3,000 years the start of Minneapolis, is to-day a hole in the ground, while Minneapolis socks her XXXX flour into every corner of the globe, and the price of real estate would make a common dynasty totter on its throne.

Babylon is a good illustration of the decay of a town that does not keep up with the procession. Compare her to-day with Kansas City. While Babylon was the capital of Chaldea, 1,270 years before the birth of Christ, and Kansas City was organized so many years after that event that many of the people there have forgotten all about it, Kansas City has doubled her population in ten years, while Babylon is simply a gothic hole in the ground.

Why did trade and emigration turn their backs upon Babylon and seek out Minneapolis, St. Paul, Kansas City and Omaha? Was it because they were blest with a bluer sky or a more genial sun? Not by any means. While Babylon lived upon what she had been and neglected to advertise, other towns with no history extending back into the mouldy past, whooped with an exceeding great whoop and tore up the ground and shed printers’ ink and showed marked signs of vitality. That is the reason that Babylon is no more.

This life of ours is one of intense activity. We cannot rest long in idleness without inviting forgetfulness, death and oblivion. “Babylon was probably the largest and most magnificent city of the ancient world.” Isaiah, who lived about 300 years before Herodotus, and whose remarks are unusually free from local or political prejudice, refers to Babylon as “the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldic’s excellency,” and, yet, while Cheyenne has the electric light and two daily papers, Babylon hasn’t got so much as a skating rink.

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A city fourteen miles square with a brick wall around it 355 feet high, she has quietly forgotten to advertise, and in turn she, also, is forgotten.

Babylon was remarkable for the two beautiful palaces, one on each side of the river, and the great temple of Belus. Connected with one of these palaces was the hanging garden, regarded by the Greeks as one of the seven wonders of the world, but that was prior to the erection of the Washington monument and civil service reform.

This was a square of 400 Greek feet on each side. The Greek foot was not so long as the modern foot introduced by Miss Mills, of Ohio. This garden was supported on several tiers of open arches, built one over the other, like the walls of a classic theatre, and sustaining at each stage, or story, a solid platform from which the arches of the next story sprung. This structure was also supported by the common council of Babylon, who came forward with the city funds, and helped to sustain the immense weight.

It is presumed that Nebuchadnezzar erected this garden before his mind became affected. The tower of Belus, supposed by historians with a good memory to have been 600 feet high, as there is still a red chalk mark in the sky where the top came, was a great thing in its way. I am glad I was not contiguous to it when it fell, and also that I had omitted being born prior to that time.

“When we turn from this picture of the past,” says the historian, Rawlinson, referring to the beauties of Babylon, “to contemplate the present condition of these localities, we are at first struck with astonishment at the small traces which remain of so vast and wonderful a metropolis. The broad walls of Babylon are utterly broken down. God has swept it with the besom of destruction.”

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One cannot help wondering why the use of the besom should have been abandoned. As we gaze upon the former site of Babylon we are forced to admit that the new besom sweeps clean. On its old site no crumbling arches or broken columns are found to indicate her former beauty. Here and there huge heaps of debris alone indicate that here Godless wealth and wicked, selfish, indolent, enervating, ephemeral pomp, rose and defied the supreme laws to which the bloated, selfish millionaire and the hard-handed, hungry laborer alike must bow, and they are dust to-day.

Babylon has fallen. I do not say this in a sensational way or to depreciate the value of real estate there, but from actual observation, and after a full investigation, I assent without fear of successful contradiction, that Babylon has seen her best days. Her boomlet is busted, and, to use a political phrase, her oriental hide is on the Chaldean fence.

Such is life. We enter upon it reluctantly; we wade through it doubtfully, and die at last timidly. How we Americans do blow about what we can do before breakfast, and, yet, even in our own brief history, how we have demonstrated what a little thing the common two-legged man is. He rises up rapidly to acquire much wealth, and if he delays about going to Canada he goes to Sing Sing, and we forget about him. There are lots of modern Babylonians in New York City to-day, and if it were my business I would call their attention to it. The assertion that gold will procure all things has been so common and so popular that too many consider first the bank account, and after that honor, home, religion, humanity and common decency. Even some of the churches have fallen into the notion that first comes the tall church, then the debt and mortgage, the ice cream sociable and the kingdom of Heaven. Cash and Christianity go hand in hand sometimes, but Christianity ought not to confer respectability on anybody who comes into the church to purchase it.

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I often think of the closing appeal of the old preacher, who was more earnest than refined, perhaps, and in winding up his brief sermon on the Christian life, said: “A man may lose all his wealth and get poor and hungry and still recover, he may lose his health and come down close to the dark stream and still git well again, but, when he loses his immortal soul it is good-bye John.”

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