From Babylon to Syria
That the people of the later Roman Empire were basically from Syria and Asia Minor is without doubt! These Syrians replaced the old stock of Rome. As plain as this is, however, it is one thing to say that these new Romans were transplanted Syrians, but quite another to prove that they, were basically Babylonians. Realizing that evidence must be given, this portion of the article is designed to fill the gap. We will use Biblical and secular sources to show, without doubt, that Syria in the last centuries before our era was saturated with Babylonian stock. This being shown to be true, it will then follow that the slaves taken to Rome from the Levant area must represent the same general stock. The reality of this Babylonian movement to Italy will be self-evident as we proceed in the article.
Let us first note that the Bible tells us to expect Babylonians in Rome! The Book of Revelation locates the new Babylon on the city of the seven hills. And, as we have seen, the Roman stock which brought about Babylonian religion to Italy, were the people who created those religions. Does this not indicate a Chaldean movement into Italy? It certainly does! These people were primarily from Syria.
It only remains for us to find out who those Syrians were.
The Bible the Key
All have recognized that the Bible gives information about several Babylonian nations being transported into the old hill country of Ephraim into Samaria! But what is not generally known is that scripture reveals these Babylonians as being not only in the Samaritan area they were placed in ALL the areas west of the Euphrates IN ALL OF SYRIA!
We normally restrict the Babylonian colonization of the West only to Samaria, but from the records of the Samaritans, those of the Jews and especially the records of the Bible, we can prove that these Babylonians were not limited alone to Samaria. Babylonian peoples were settled in Syria and Phoenicia as well as Samaria! Let us carefully observe, first, the Biblical record of this matter.
What the Bible Says!
When the Jews were rebuilding the temple right after the Babylonian captivity, the peoples of Samaria came to the Jews and said: Let us build with you: for we seek your God, as ye do; and we do sacrifice unto Him since the days of Esar-haddon king of Assur, which brought us up hither (Ezra 4:2).
The Jews declined this Samaritan petition because of their utterly corrupt religion. This refusal infuriated the Samaritans. They resolved to thwart any attempt to rebuild the temple if they couldn’t have a hand in it. Thereupon, they wrote a letter to the king of Persia asking him to put a stop to the building. The contents of this letter is interesting because it reveals a lot more about the origin of the Samaritans and about where they were living in Palestine than any other Biblical reference. And the Bible has recorded this letter to afford us a key as to the distribution of Babylonians west of the Euphrates. Let us notice what these Samaritans said of themselves.
Then wrote Rehum the chancellor, and Shimshai the scribe, and the rest of their companions; the Dinaites, the Apharsathchites, the Tarpelites, the Apharsites, the Archevites, the Babylonians, the Susanchites, the Dehavites, and the Elamites, and the rest of the nations whom the great and noble Asnapper (Asshur-banipal) brought over, and set in the cities of Samaria, AND THE REST THAT ARE ON THIS SIDE OF THE RIVER (i.e., west of the Euphrates), and at such a time (Ezra 4:9, 10).
Let us first notice that these tribes were all SHEMITES! (Almost all were from Mesopotamia with the exception of some Elamites from Persia). The major core were from the area of Babylon!
And more importantly, note that these nations (they were whole nations) were settled not only in the cities of Samaria, but also in the REST on this side the River that is, the rest of the cities west of the Euphrates. This side the River:
This was the ordinary designation of Syria in the official language of the old Persian Empire (Bevan, The House of Seleucus, vol. I, p. 234).
How clear it all is! These Eastern peoples were brought into the whole region THAT WE NOW CALL SYRIA, and not alone to Samaria. They were brought there to fill up the devastation and the void which hung on the land after the Assyrian wars. Let us remember that Northern Israel was emptied of Israelites the Samaritan portion of these people came in to replace them. On the other hand, we are told that ancient Syria north of Israel was also invaded by Assyrian and that many of the ancient Arameans were taken back to northern Assyria. It was, like the land of Israel, left practically empty! The prophet Amos (Chapter 1:3-5) foretold that the Arameans were to be taken captive by the Assyrians to KIR (the Kir valley area just south of the Caucasus). This prophecy probably does not mean that every single Aramean was taken away even though on the surface that is what the prophecy says. However a good deal of the native stock of ancient Aram were removed, like Israel, from their land. Those few who were left must have amalgamated with the incoming stock from the East. The land of Syria was repopulated, just like the land of Israel, with people allied with Assyria. After all, the eastern seaboard area of the Mediterranean was one of the most strategic to Assyria. They didn’t move exiles or rebellious nations, into the Syrian and Palestine areas that would have been the height of folly. Besides, Syria and Samaria were never regions of exile like the Caucasus and Caspian Sea areas. These people were colonists. Many of them came from regions annexed to Assyria by Esar-haddon, but they were his allies. They came to redevelop the land to strengthen it for Assyria. It would have been a crazy maneuver to place rebellious tribes into an area bordering the naturally rebellious Egypt. Babylonian nations were being granted these lands by Assyria in order to stabilize the western flank of the empire and to make it secure. Later, when the Babylonian empire came along, these very people proved to be even more helpful. During the time of the Persian empire, these Babylonians with a few other Shemitic peoples were still in the Syrian region. They were, as the Bible says in all the areas west of the Euphrates.
Even the records of the Samaritans and the Jews support the above information. Josephus mentions an official letter of the Samaritans which was written to Antiochus Epiphanes in which the Samaritans stated that their forefathers had at one time lived in the northern area near the city of Sidon. See Antiquities, Book XII, ch. 5, sec. 5. In fact, the Samaritans from Babylon had kinfolk all along the northern area of the Phoenician coast. Sidon was the center of this Babylonian influence.
In Assyrian times this ancient city of Sidon had been completely destroyed by Esar-haddon king of Assyria the Sidonian king was killed and all the former people taken captive. Esar-haddon tells how the destruction came about in his own official cuneiform records. He states that after Sidons destruction, he rebuilt the city and, naming it after himself, restocked it with people from the countries of the East. This official record can be checked in The Assyrian Eponym Canon, pp. 137, 138. This cuneiform record is the first of Esar-haddon bringing peoples from the East to the Phoenician seaboard. It agrees remarkably with the Bible record, when the Scriptures state that these Samaritans and their kin had come into the area since the days of Esar-haddon, king of Assur, WHICH BROUGHT US UP HITHER (Ezra 4:2). The Assyrian record and the Bible are speaking about the same peoples!
It was Esar-haddon who brought up these Babylonian and Elamite people; he first put them in his new city of SIDON. It is no wonder that the Samaritans told Antiochus that their original home was the area around SIDON. That is where those from Samaria were first placed. There can be no doubt of this for these Samaritans even asked Antiochus to check the public records. There were state records which clearly showed that the Samaritans were telling the truth in this matter. When Antiochus answered their letter, after having checked those public records, he addressed them as the Sidonians who live at Shechem (ibid.). Even Josephus himself refers to them as SIDONIANS of recent origin (but at the same time saying they anciently came from Eastern countries). Plus all this, the Jewish Targum written about 50 B. C., referring to Genesis 10, calls SIDON a Samaritan city. It calls it Cutha the city of the Cuthites. (Cuthites was, and still is, the name the Jews use for the Samaritans.)
Now what does this all prove? Very much! It serves to indicate that the Samaritan influence was not only limited to the hill country of Ephraim the Samaritans were only a part of many nations brought over from Babylon into Palestine and Syria. Sidon was the first big stronghold of them (they were not called Samaritans in Sidon because the word Samaritan is geographical and can only be used of those in Samaria). These Babylonians who lived in Sidon were called Sidonians, they were, of course, the same stock as the Samaritans. Likewise the transplanted Babylonians in the other cities west of the Euphrates were not called Samaritans, but were still of the same stock. There was a major difference between the Babylonians in Samaria and the Babylonians in Sidon and Syria (not in race but in religion): the Samaritans accepted the Old Testament Law as a basis for their idolatrous religion, while the others, at first, cared little for accepting the Old Testament. This singled out the Samaritans as being somewhat different from the others in Syria but they were all of the same general race.
So, what is the outcome of this? It means that the Bible puts Babylonians in all the cities of Syria and Phoenicia as well as in Samaria, and that the secular records support it. Thus, Babylonian influence in the West was much greater in scope than has hitherto been realized by some historians. But there is more to come!
Syria Becomes the New Babylon
We now come to a matter concerning ancient history that all historians accept. And that is: The Seleucid kingdom (called the kingdom of the north in Daniel) can be designated a Babylonian kingdom! Yes, actually a Babylonian kingdom.
It has been customary to call the Seleucid realm a Greco-Macedonian regime. And, this is true but only on the surface. Let us see.
After Alexander the Great had conquered Asia, he made as capital of this vast eastern domain, the city of Babylon. He planned further African and European conquests but was prevented from carrying out his grandiose designs by his untimely death at Babylon. His death put the government into confusion. There was, however, a treaty between the major claimants to the domain: it was divided into four major areas with rulers over each. After some further bickering between the new rulers, the central area of the former empire fell out to Seleucus, a general of Alexanders army. He took over this central Babylonian region and proclaimed himself the king of Babylon. In a short time he took over all of Syria. And, for over 250 years he and his descendants controlled as the kingdom of the north the areas of Syria and Mesopotamia.
Seleucus, surnamed Nicator, who had received this province (of Syria) in his lot in the division of the Macedonian dominions, raised it into an empire, known in history by the name of the kingdom of Syria or BABYLON (Lemprierres Classical Dictionary, p. 587).
Yes, Seleucus kingdom was called either Syrian or Babylonian. And what is interesting, in later times the kings of the Seleucid empire consistently call themselves not the kings of Syria, but rather THE KINGS OF BABYLON (e.g. Bevan, The House of Seleucus, vol. I, p. 255). They wanted to maintain the historical tradition of the old Babylonian empire that they were its successors not that they were Syrians who had little historical background. And as we will presently see, the Seleucid kings represented their kingdom as a resurrection of the old Babylonian kingdom.
What type of kingdom was this kingdom of the north racially? At first, it was made up of about five per cent Greeks and Macedonians (mainly of soldiers, veterans and a few Greek colonists) while the rest was made up of the native populations of the various countries of the kingdom. Seleucus was very prone to build new cities in his Asian empire. He built no less than thirty. They were all designed on the Greek manner. The architecture was Greek and so were the social institutions. Some few Greek colonists were brought in to give the cities the Greek flavour. And more importantly, Greek was the language imposed on the citizens of this kingdom.
From this, we might imagine that the kingdom was, in fact, a real Greek kingdom. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Greek element became a thin veneer upon the old traditions, religions and society in general. Oh yes, we must say that the old stock saw their own culture through Greek guise especially, they used the Greek language but the real warp and woof of the kingdom was as Oriental as it ever had been. The Greek religions were brought to Syria and Babylon, and they became Babylonian. Some Greek peoples came to the area, and they soon, by amalgamation became Syrians and Babylonians. The Seleucid kingdom was Oriental to the core! These are wide-sweeping statements, but they can be supported by the plain records of history. Let us see.
Dr. W.W. Tarn, one of the authors of the Cambridge Ancient History, shows how this Greek kingdom of Seleucus reverted quickly back to a Babylonian and Syrian kingdom.
Mercenaries settled in Asia (the Seleucid Empire) had from the start taken native wives; certainly by the first century intermarriage and the mixture of peoples in daily life and trade was doing its work, and, precisely as in Egypt at the time, the term Greek sometimes denoted culture, NOT BLOOD; the Greek woman, a Syro-Phoenician BY RACE of Mark 7:26 was such a culture Greek, perhaps with Greek political rights in her city. After the European immigration of the few Greek colonists in the third century B. C. came to an end, first a balance was established, then the Greek began to lose ground, partly through mixing his blood with Asiatic stocks (Hellenistic Culture, p. 139).
The disintegration of this Greek veneer was started very early even with Alexander. He commanded the bulk of his army officers to marry into the native population. This was done on a wide scale. Even Seleucus, the beginner of the new empire centred at Babylon, was married to an Oriental princess. The fruit of that mixed union was Antiochus the First, the king that followed Seleucus to the throne. From that time onward, the deterioration continued to such an extent that Greek blood almost wholly disappeared except in a few isolated districts in the extreme western part of the empire. Certain forms of Greek culture retained their force, and especially the Greek language became the official language of the empire, but the Greek race almost entirely disappeared within a few generations.
The Roman historian Livy reports a statement of a Roman consul to his troops in 189 B.C. Speaking about the submergence of the Greek racial characteristics in the East, he said:
The Macedonians who settled in Alexandria in Egypt, or in Seleucia, or in Babylonia, or in any of their other colonies scattered over the world, have degenerated into Syrians, Parthians, or Egyptians. Whatever is planted in a foreign land, by a gradual change in its nature, degenerates into that by which it is nurtured (Livy, XXXVIII, 17).
Also, even though the armies of Antiochus the Third were sometimes called Greeks, Livy and Plutarch report they were actually all Syrians (Livy, XXXV, 49, 8; Plutarch, Titus, 17).
Let us also recall that Juvenal said the multitudes of Greeks in Italy were not Greeks at all but were from Syria the river Orontes has long flowed into the Tiber (III, 62). This clearly shows, even though the Syrians had Greek names and even some Greek cultural tendencies, they were hardly real Greeks!
In other words, the Greek race in Syria and Babylonia succumbed. This decay was begun by Alexander himself when he encouraged actually ordered his men to marry with eastern stocks. The effect was the complete overwhelming of the Greek minority. By the end of the second century B. C. the Greek racial element was so small as to be non-existent in most regions of the empire. The Seleucid kingdom has virtually reverted to the native stock.
As an example of how this reverting can take place, historians give us a modern equivalent of the Greek invasion and penetration of Syria and Babylon: the British take-over of India. Just like the spread of the Greek language in Nearer Asia, so English became the official tongue of all India. And, as Alexander gave Asia a Greek culture, the British have given India its civil service, its jurisprudence and a form of democracy. However, there is one matter in which the analogy breaks down: Alexander had his men marry into the Asian stock thus deteriorating the race, while the British commanded no such thing, and in fact such intermarriage with the Indians was actively frowned upon. The intermarriage of Alexanders Greeks with the natives, soon extinguished the Greek blood, while in India there are still some British colonies of pure race.
Thus, it can be plainly observed, from the above analogy, and from the historical sources, that the Greek kingdom of Alexander degenerated directly back to its native population.
The records of history prove this conclusively! For example, when Alexander brought his Greek gods and religions to Syria and Babylonia, the natives were willing to call their own gods by some of the Greek names of deity, but to replace the Babylonian gods with the Greek ones, they most emphatically refused. In actual fact, the Greek gods turned into Babylonian ones!
Greece was ready to adopt the gods of the foreigner, but the foreigner rarely reciprocated; Greek Doura (the Greek temple in Mesopotamia) freely admitted the gods of Babylon, but no Greek god entered Babylonian Uruk. Foreign gods might take Greek names; they took little else. They (the Babylonian gods) were the stronger, and the conquest of Asia (by the Greeks) was bound to fail as soon as the East had gauged its own strength and Greek weakness (Tarn, ibid., pp. 301, 302).
Speaking of this retention of indigenous worships in the East, Dr. Cumont remarks:
The native religions retained all their prestige and independence. In their ancient sanctuaries that took rank with the richest and most famous in the world, a powerful clergy continued to practise ancestral devotions according to barbarian rites, and frequently liturgy, everywhere performed with scrupulous respect, remained (in Syria) Semitic (Oriental Religions in Roman Paganism, p. 22).
Yes, the old Babylonian gods of the Syrians were not exchanged for the incoming Greek ones. Besides, as it can be clearly shown, well over ninety-five per cent of the people of Syria and Asia, even at the beginning of the Seleucid empire, were native Orientals. The invading Greeks had little chance of uprooting the basic religions and philosophies of these people. And, by intermarriage and mixture, it was the Greek alien who gave way to the native Oriental. The later Greek kings succumbed almost entirely to Oriental ways especially in religion. The East led its conqueror captive says Dr. Tarn (ibid., p. 306).
The political aspects of the Seleucid kingdom were no less Oriental. They based their administration on the old Assyrian, Babylonian and Persian forms. Thus, there was a historical continuity in government all the way from Assyria to the Seleucid kingdom (Tarn, ibid., p. 118).
One feature of Seleucid rule was the resurrection of Babylonia, whose ancient culture was to the Seleucids what that of Egypt was to the Ptolemies. Cuneiform literature revived (under Persian rule the art had decayed); besides scientific astronomical work and business documents, chronicles of current events were written, and myths were versified. Rituals, incantations, and omen literature were frequently copied and studied, as were Sumerian hymns and their Babylonian translations. . . . The last cuneiform document extant dates from 7 B.C. This activity points to a RELIGIOUS REVIVAL, which was fostered by the early kings. Antiochus I carried to completion Alexanders project of restoring Bels temple at Babylon which Xerxes had destroyed. He re-founded Nebos temple at Borsippa, while Bels priest Berossus dedicated to him (Antiochus) his work on Babylonian history. Under Seleucus a priest of Uruk, possibly at his request, found at Susa and copied the old ritual of the gods at Uruk, whose worship was re-established. The temple of Anu at Uruk was restored in 182 B. C. under Seleucus IV.The priests of Uruk also collected a temple library. Mr. Sidney Smith has suggested to me [Dr. Tarn] that the Seleucids favoured Babylonian religion as a bulwark against Zoroasterianism (ibid., pp. 118, 119).
The Seleucids almost totally abandoned the religious forms of the Olympian gods and reverted to Babylonianism! The Seleucid empire saw, as Dr. Tarn has clearly observed, the resurrection of Babylonia. Even Alexanders policy was to bring back the old Babylonian empire. Alexander presented himself to the Babylonians as the restorer of the old order than as an innovator (Bevan, ibid., vol. I, p. 245). And even though the Greek language became the lingua franca of the kingdom, and though the Babylonian gods took Greek names, the religious and political society remained Babylonian. As an example of this, perhaps we can mention the idol which Antiochus Epiphanes erected in the Holy Place. Native records tell us that it was Baal Shamayim the Babylonian sun-god! See Moses Hadas, Hellenistic Culture, p. 25. The Greek name of the idol was Zeus Olympus, but it was clearly the old Mesopotamian sun-god. The Seleucids adopted Babylonian religion throughout their domain. Throughout Syria, the Seleucids restored temple lands vast territories in some cases to the priests. This was to get the priesthood on their side in governing the people. The co-operation between the priests and the kings was generally very good except when their power got so strong that they, in the time of the later Seleucids, began to dictate to the kings certain policies to be followed.
In short, as Dr. Tarn remarks, the Seleucid kingdom saw the resurrection of, Babylonia. All of the sudden Babylon had come back to prominence. No wonder the Seleucids consistently identified themselves with the ancient Babylonians, and that their kingdom, as Lemprierres Classical Dictionary records, was known as the Kingdom of Babylon (p. 587).
Babylonians and Syrians
Seleucus had his first capital at Babylon. In commemoration of his desire to make a revived Babylonian kingdom, he devised a new standard calendar for his realm. The first year of this new calendar was the year 312 B.C. when he first made Babylon the capital of his empire. Throughout his realm people were required to date all documents from this new era. The new system (based upon the old Babylonian Lunar-Solar calendar) was called the Seleucid calendar, and the first year of it was known as the beginning of the Seleucid Era. All the Jews of Babylon took over this Era for computation of dates subsequent to 312 B. C. it was even followed, later on, by Palestinian Jews. It was only abandoned by official Jews when the creation era was finally adopted in the second century after Christ.
This new calendar of Seleucus was important, for it focused attention upon Seleucus as the new Babylonian king and by virtue of this, the ruler of the central region of Alexanders empire.
A few years after making the city of Babylon his capital, Seleucus decided to build a new capital city some 40 miles north on the Tigris. The reason for the move was mainly brought about by nature. Old Babylon was decaying. The Euphrates was changing its course away from the city. Uncontrollable swamps were beginning to abound in the area. On the other hand, the ravages of wars had their toll on the old city.
Seleucus built a new city, using some of the material of old Babylon. All the population moved to this city on the Tigris it was called Seleucia-on-the-Tigris or new Babylon. Thus, the Babylon of Belshazzar was left empty and very soon, according to the records, taken over by serpents, strange birds and foul animals.
Seleucus, having called this city by his own name, and designed it for an eminent monument thereof in after ages, gave it many privileges above the other cities of the east, and these were a further invitation to the Babylonians to transport themselves to it, and by these means, Babylon became wholly desolated so that nothing was left remaining of it but its walls (Prideaux, Connexion, vol. I, p. 540).
The new city of Seleucus was Greek on the outside, but in the core Babylonian. The ground plan, for instance, was built in the form of an eagle the symbol of the old Babylonian empire.
Although the days were long past when the Babylonians had borne rule in Asia, the Babylonian people and the Babylonian civilization existed still (Bevan, ibid., p. 250).
The new city gathered to it not only the old inhabitants of old Babylon but also people from Assyria, Mesopotamia, Babylonia, Syria, and Judaea that is, from all Mesopotamia! (Smiths Smaller Classical Dictionary, p. 476). This city was new Babylon, the capital of the Seleucid empire. As Bevan says, Babylon was simply transferred to another site (ibid., p. 253). It became common to call the inhabitants of Seleucus-on-the-Tigris as Babylonians (Strabo, XVI, 743).
The Seleucid Capital Moved West to Antioch
It was not long after the building of new Babylon that Seleucus made another important decision. Recognizing that the western part of his kingdom was politically more important than the East, he decided to build a further new city in the West a city which could be his political capital. And thus, the famous city of Antioch was built.
This new city of Antioch represents an important link in our present study of Chaldeans moving into the West into Syria. For just as old Babylon was left desolate when the Babylonians flocked to Seleucia-on-the-Tigris, there were likewise swarms of people from Mesopotamia moving to Antioch when it became the real capital of the kingdom. In fact, Seleucus didn’t stop with building Antioch in the West he built new cities all over Syria. No less than 30 completely new cities were built over his empire and most were in Syria. He invited thousands of people to come from Mesopotamia to populate these cities. Josephus tells us that many of the Jews who were in Mesopotamia flocked to every one of these new western cities (see Antiquities, XII, 3, 1). But Jews weren’t the only ones to move west into this new area of influence, native Mesopotamians also migrated on a large scale. In fact, the region of western Syria had become so racially Babylonian by the end of the Seleucid rule, that Strabo said the peoples of Mesopotamia and those of Syria were a homogenous group they had become the same racial stock with no appreciable differences between them (Book I, ch. II, sec. 34).
The plains of Mesopotamia and Coele-Syria, inhabited by kindred races, extended across frontiers which are not marked out by nature, and, relations between the great temples situated east and west of the Euphrates continued (even in Roman times) without interruption (Cumont, Astrology and Religion Among the Greeks and Romans, pp. 77, 78).
Yes, the priesthoods, and even the peoples, of Mesopotamia and those of Syria near the beginning of our Era were of the same general stock. There can be no doubt of this!
Antioch the New Babylonian Capital
When Seleucus built Antioch, he invited some Greek colonists to the city as well as bringing many Mesopotamian peoples with him as its new inhabitants. The Babylonian priests became the foremost of Antiochs citizens.
Antioch had a high Greek civilization mixed with various Oriental elements and especially with the superstitions of CHALDEAN ASTROLOGY (Smiths Geography, vol. I, p. 143).
It is a simple fact that the Seleucid empire soon became a Chaldean one. This was especially true in the field of religion the Olympian religious forms were abandoned in favour of the original Chaldean ones.
The Seleucids believed in CHALDEAN astrology, and the kings of Commagne, as well as a great number of Syrian cities, had the signs of the zodiac as emblems on their coins. It is certain that this pseudo-science penetrated into those regions (of eastern and western Syria) long before the Hellenistic period. Chaldeanism modified the entire Semitic paganism (Oriental Religions, p. 251).
Speaking of Antioch, the Seleucid capital, and the religious motives which governed the region, Cumont says:
There can be no doubt that Babylonian doctrines exercised decisive influence on this gradual metamorphosis and this latest phase of Semitic religion. The SELEUCID PRINCES OF ANTIOCH showed as great a deference to the science of the Babylonian clergy as the Persian Achaemenids had done before them. We find Seleucus Nicator (the first king) consulting these official soothsayers (i.e. Chaldeans) about the propitious hour for founding Seleucia on the Tigris….The cities of Syria often stamp on their coins certain signs of the zodiac to mark the fact that they stood under their patronage. If the princes and cities (of Syria) thus acknowledged the authority of astrology (the special science of the Chaldeans), we may imagine what was the power of this scientific theology in the temples. We may say that in the age of Alexander IT PERMEATED THE WHOLE OF SEMITIC PAGANISM (Astrology and Religion, pp. 80, 81).
In other words, Syria and the Seleucid empire was saturated with Chaldean teaching. Its religion and philosophies, while using Greek names and Greek cultural words, were nevertheless thoroughly Babylonian. The temperaments of these people demanded such a religion.
It was Babylon that retained the intellectual supremacy, even after its political ruin. The powerful sacerdotal caste ruling it did not fall with the independence of the country, and it survived the conquests of Alexander. The researches of Assyriologists have shown that its ancient worship persisted under the Seleucids, and at the time of Strabo the Chaldeans still discussed cosmology and first principles in the rival schools of Borsippa and Orchoe. The ascendancy of that erudite clergy affected the surrounding regions, but more than anywhere else (it affected) the SYRIANS, who were connected with the Oriental Semites by bonds of language and blood (Cumont, Oriental Religons, p. 122).
And what is interesting, even when the capital of the empire moved to Antioch, the Seleucid kings called themselves not kings of Antioch or Syria but retained the prestige title: KINGS OF BABYLON (e.g. Becan, ibid., vol. 1, p. 255). This was intended to show that though the geographical influence had changed, the historical tradition had not: the Seleucid kingdom was basically a Babylonian one with a Greek veneer.
Now what happened to the population of the Mesopotamian lands, and their economic position after the removal of the capital to Antioch? In both cases there was continual deterioration. First, many people were attracted to the West because political influence was in that direction. Secondly, in the later years of the Seleucid empire, the Mesopotamian area became a war-zone in the struggles between the Parthians and the Seleucids. Thousands of people, who had a natural affinity toward their brethren in the west (many had relatives there), retreated towards the Mediterranean areas. Also, because of the war-zone and the migrations, the irrigation system which had so wonderfully made Mesopotamia a huge garden was beginning to waste away to a considerable extent. Much of the land, near the end of Seleucid rule, was reverting to deserts or into impassable swamps. It was only natural that the people looked for, and went to, the more prosperous areas of the kingdom.
Dr. Cumont explains about the deterioration of Mesopotamia.
Hipparchus saw the ruin of the country (of Babylon) where was born the science (of astrology) which he illumined. Invaded by the Parthians about the year 140 B.C., recaptured by Antiochus VII of Syria in 130 B.C., reconquered soon afterwards by King Phraates, Mesopotamia was terribly ravaged for more than a quarter of a century. Babylon (Seleucia), sacked and burned in 125 B. C., never recovered her former splendour: a progressive decay brought on her a death by slow consumption. Henceforth it is far from the Chaldeans native land, in Syria, in Egypt, and in the West, that we must follow the development of the religious ideas derived from the Chaldea of Antiquity (Astrology and Religion, p. 41).
Yes, the Babylonians of Mesopotamia went into Syria and some into Egypt, and by transplantation even into the West. The first step from Mesopotamia to the West was, of course, Syria. It must be remembered that Syria was much more prosperous in Seleucid times than now. There were huge farms all over Syria, from the Mediterranean eastwards even beyond Palmyra. A Syrian of the second century before Christ, Posidonius, said: All the people of Syria, because of the great plenty which their land afforded, were relieved of any distress regarding the necessaries of life (Athenaeus, Bk. V., 195).
This western region was absorbing the Mesopotamian population. And what is revealing, the eastern Mesopotamian population was deteriorating and the region was turning into desert at the same rate as Syria was growing in population and prosperity. In fact, by Roman times Syria was the most populous area in the whole Roman Empire (Trevor-Roper, The End of Antiquity, The Listener, p. 916), while Mesopotamia had dwindled to remarkable proportions. Actually, by the second century of our era, when the Roman Empire finally annexed Mesopotamia to its rule, they considered the area so unworth anything that they withdrew their legions after only a generation of occupation. Hadrian, conquering the region for Rome, destroyed Seleucus-on-the-Tigris and reduced it to a ghost city. This was the fate of many of the few cities which remained in the region. In actual fact, Mesopotamia in not many generations after became a desert or a semi-desert region, and basically, still is to this day.
Now the important point for us to realize in this present study is that it was western Syria that absorbed most of the Mesopotamian movements of people. This is the plain truth of history. Thus, we can easily see why the kings of the Seleucid realm continued to call themselves the kings of Babylon and their kingdom Babylonian the Babylonian system had now moved westward to Antioch.
It has already been mentioned in chapter one that most of the slaves that came to Italy and later became the citizens of Rome were primarily from our area under discussion Syria. During the decay of the later Seleucid kingdom, thousands of Syrian slaves were taken to Italy as indemnities to the Romans and further multitudes were taken when the Romans carried them off as the booty of war.
Under the Empire the importation of slaves increased. Depopulated Italy needed more and more foreign hands, AND SYRIA furnished a large quota of the forced immigration (Cumont, Oriental Religions, p. 106).
It is certain that the first worshipers of the Syrian goddess in the Latin world were slaves. During the wars against Antiochus the Great (the Seleucid king) a number of prisoners were sent to Italy to be sold at public auction, and the first appearance in Italy of the CHALDAEI has been connected with that event (ibid., p. 105).
After this time, we read of many Chaldeans in Italy especially around Rome. They first came, however, with the Syrian slaves from the Seleucid empire that empire, as we have seen, was filled with Chaldeans.
Another reason why people were taken from the Levant to the West, is simply because Syria was an overpopulated country just before our Era. Italy, on the other hand, after the Punic wars, had a great loss of population. Swarms of slaves were brought from Syria to fill up the void in Italy and Sicily. (It has been proved that almost every slave in Sicily was from Syria. See the Story of the Nations series on Sicily.)
These Syrians who were transported to Rome (many of them, as we have seen, were transplanted Mesopotamians) took their Chaldean religions directly with them.
The importance which the introduction of THE SYRIAN RELIGIONS into the Occident has for us consists in the fact that indirectly they brought certain theological doctrines OF THE CHALDEANS WITH THEM (Cumont, Oriental Religions, p. 124).
The Chaldean astrology, of which the Syrian priests were enthusiastic disciples, had furnished them (the Romans) with the elements of a scientific theology (ibid., p. 199).
By the process of time these Orientals finally becoming the later Romans (as explained in Chapter One), Babylonian sun-worship and the mystery religions became the official religions of Rome. The Syrian religions had spread far and wide in the Occident IDEAS CONCEIVED ON THE DISTANT BANKS OF THE EUPHRATES (ibid., p. 25). Yes, the transplanted Syrians were the primary vehicle which brought pure Babylonianism to the West to Italy! As a matter of fact, the Emperor Aurelian in the third century of our era, had so strongly a temperament of a Syrian that he proclaimed the Syrian sun-god as the official god of the Romans. This Syrian sun-god was even proclaimed as the author of the Roman race, i.e., the new Roman race, of which the later Caesars were representatives.
This Sun-worship was the final form which Roman paganism assumed. In 274 A.D. the emperor Aurelian conferred on it official recognition when, on his return from SYRIA, inspired by what he had seen at Palmyra, he founded a gorgeous temple in honour of Sol Invictus the invincible Sun served by priests (which he had brought with him from Syria) who had precedence even over the members of the ancient Collegium pontificum; and in the following century, the Claudian emperors worshipped the almighty star (the sun) not only as the patron BUT ALSO AS THE AUTHOR OF ITS RACE. The invincible Sun raised to the supreme position in the divine hierarchy, peculiar protector of sovereigns and of the Empire, tends to absorb or subordinate to himself all other divinities (Cumont, Astrology and Religion, p. 133).
The god Bel whom Aurelian brought from Asia to set up as a protector of his states, was in reality a BABYLONIAN who had emigrated to Palmyra [in Syria] (Cumont, Oriental Religions, p. 124).
What an interesting thing! Even the later Roman emperors, who had in their midst primarily a Syrian Oriental race, said that the BABYLONIAN SUN GOD was the author of that Roman race! The later Italians recognized their origin.
Peoples from Syria Transform the Roman Empire
At this juncture we should briefly mention the later influence of Levantine Syrians (those who were not taken as slaves to the West). It is not too much to say that they played one of the most influential of parts in making the Roman Empire great. For one thing, the major part of Roman wealth was in the East. Nearly all manufacturing, industry, and culture remained eastern the West being predominant only in agriculture and soldiery. The Syrians, being in the very center of this prosperous region, capitalized on their propitious situation, manufactured goods and delicacies from the further east were wanted and needed in the West. The Syrians being the natural heirs of the old Syro-Phoenician trading system, stepped into the shoes of their forefathers and became the giants of commerce throughout the Empire they practically had a monopoly in the enterprise! These Syrians established many trading colonies in all the Roman world every major port had colonies of Levantine Syrians (we are not now speaking of the freed Syrians who were making up the general population of Italy and Sicily). The influence of these trading Syro-Phoenicians cannot be over emphasized. The effect they played on later Roman history, particularly in the history of the Middle Ages, was of lasting influence.
Let us now observe what scholars say about these Syrian traders who monopolized trade in the Roman world. Dr. Cumont, who is the recognized authority on comparative religions in Rome, gives an excellent and correct rundown. At the beginning of our Era the Syrian merchants undertook a veritable colonization of the Latin provinces. The Levantine traffic attained a development previously unknown. We can trace the history of the Syrian establishments in the Latin provinces from the first to the seventh century, and recently we have begun to appreciate their economic, social and religious importance at its true value.
The Syrians love of lucre was proverbial. Active, compliant and able, frequently a little scrupulous, they knew how to conclude first small deals, then larger ones, everywhere. Using the special talents of their race to advantage, they succeeded in establishing themselves ON ALL COASTS OF THE MEDITERRANEAN, even in Spain The Italian ports where business was especially active, attracted them in great numbers. But they did not confine themselves to the seashore; they penetrated far into the interior of the countries, wherever they hoped to find profitable trade. They followed the commercial highways and traveled up big rivers. By the way of the Danube they went as far as Pannonia, by the way of the Rhone they reached Lyons.
In Gaul they were especially numerous. (Dr. Tarn says that Southern Gaul and up the Rhone was especially Oriental in race, not Greek or Gallic.) In this new country (Gaul) that had just been opened to commerce fortunes could be made rapidly. The Syrians traveled over the entire province (of Gaul) as far as Treves, where they had a strong colony. Not even the barbarian invasions of the fifth century stopped their immigration. Saint Jerome describes them traversing the entire Roman world amidst the troubles of invasion, prompted by the lust of gain to defy all dangers. In the barbarian society the part played by this civilized and city-bred element was even more considerable. Under the Merovingians in about 591 they had sufficient influence at Paris to have one of their number elected bishop and to gain possession of ALL ecclesiastical offices. (It may be remarked that Syrians also gave the Papacy several popes in the eighth century and even an archbishop of Canterbury, as an example of their commercial importance in England, was a Syrian.)
Those establishments [commercial colonies] exercised a strong influence upon the economic and material life of the Latin provinces, especially in Gaul. As bankers, the Syrians concentrated a large share of the money business in their hands and monopolized the importing of the valuable Levantine commodities as well as of the articles of luxury. Their moral and religious influence was not less considerable: for instance, it has been shown that they furthered the development of monastic life during the Christian period, (these transplanted Syrians were responsible for developing the monastic system the system which virtually governed Medieval Europe for over two hundred years), and that the devotion to the crucifix was introduced into the Occident by them. During the first five centuries Christians felt an unconquerable repugnance to the representation of the Saviour of the world nailed to an instrument of punishment more infamous than the guillotine of today. The Syrians were the first to substitute reality in all its pathetic horror for a vague symbolism (Oriental Religions, pp. 107-109).
Dr. Cumont stops in the eighth century with the story of these commercial peoples. Actually, some of their most important functions came later, for the later commercial cities of Venice, Genoa, Pisa, and Marseilles, and the banking centres of Italy and France, which in the Middle Ages dominated the whole character of European life, were the heirs to and the descendants of these early Syro-Phoenicians. Even the Crusades were brought about, it has been maintained by some historians, by the wish of these commercial cities to open up again traffic into the East. Everyone knows that the Crusades were motivated more by greed and lucre than by the religious spirit. By the end of crusading times, there was some Jewish influence being felt in these commercial cities along with the Syrians.
We have, however, gone too far ahead in the story of how peoples from Syria (by SYRIA we mean the whole Levantine area: Chaldeans, Phoenicians, Samaritans, etc.), so radically changed the character of the later Roman world. We now have to go back to earlier times, for there is still very many important things to be said!
The first chapter showed how Italy was taken over by Orientals mainly coming from Syria. Now we have seen the Biblical evidence which shows that Babylonians came into Syria at the same time they were being placed in Samaria. But later, under the Seleucid kingdom the new Babylonian kingdom there were further migrations from Babylon westward. Upon the fall of Syria to the Romans, these Babylonians (for multitudes of them were outright Babylonians) were taken to Italy where they finally took over, with a little racial mixing, the whole of the country. THUS, from the clear records of history, we should have no problem in showing that new Babylon is literally located on the seven-hilled city of Rome.
In closing, it is interesting to note that the prophet Daniel spoke about the Babylonian image as legs and feet of iron and clay. The image is very top heavy and unstable, but it is one image! Babylon was the head of gold. The Persians, however, inherited all the Babylonian traditions and even established their winter headquarters at Babylon. This was the silver portion of the image. Alexander and his successors were the brass portion of the one image. Their headquarters was also at Babylon the resurrection of Babylonia occurred. Seleucus moved political Babylon and Babylonian people to Antioch. Daniel, from this time onward, calls this government the Kingdom of the North (by this time the Babylonian system had moved directly north of Jerusalem). But the Babylonians later moved or were transported to Italy. Rome the kingdom of iron and clay assumed the role as the last political head, the new Babylon!
Thus, Daniel spoke of one image one society and culture one real political power. There was, of course, a Persian veneer in the silver portion, and a Greek one in the brass, but by later Roman times there was a clear reversal to the original Babylonian society. So we see that the same people were predominant in all sections of the image. No wonder that Daniel saw only one image, not four!