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of his garrisoned places on the frontiers, he halted for the night, intending to commence his diversion in the morning. It happened on this night that some troops arrived to relieve those in garrison; the thought struck him that these, added to the men he had brought, would be sufficient for a hostile attack upon the Medes, by which he might win more glory than in the chace. In pursuance of this sudden fancy, he marched into the territory of his peaceful neighbour, and commenced hostilities and pillage. The Medes in haste assembled their forces; among them was the famous Cyrus, now sixteen years of age; Evil-Merodach and his troop were repulsed and driven back to their own borders. This story, if true, was the probable commencement of animosity between the Medes and the Babylonians, before at peace. But the whole Assyrian history is here so obscure and uncertain, it is impossible to trace the exact truth, even with the more certain aid of Scripture. Evil-Merodach and Belshazzar are both named there, but in a way that leaves it possible they may be the same person, though it does not decide them to be so. Again there is equal uncertainty respecting the manner of Babylon's fall. Some historians give two or three reigns between this prince, the successor of Nebuchadnezzar, and the king who held it when taken by Cyrus—others make the last king to have been Labynetus, a son of Evil-Merodach and Nicotris, who, during the weak reign of her son, is represented to have upheld his sinking kingdom, completed the works of Nebuchadnezzar, and increased the fortifications of Babylon, in apprehension of the approaching assault of the Medes and Persians. It is impossible to unravel these difficulties, and reconcile all these contradictory accounts of events so distant. All that is certain seems to be that the Babylonians were engaged in open hostilities with the Medes and Persians, and either had been or expected to be invaded by them, when some prince, termed in Scripture Belshazzar, was on the throne-whether Evil-Merodach or one of his successors we need not decide. He was an indolent, voluptuous monarch, a wicked and dissolute character. It is told of him by the sacred historian, himself a present witness to the facts he relates, that Belshazzar had given a feast to the pobles of his court. Excited by wine and revelry, in derision of the seemingly vanquished God of Israel, no doubt at that moment the subject of their mirth, he commanded the consecrated vessels that had been rifled from the temple at Jerusalem, to be brought, that they might drink from them: and while they thus triumphantly polluted what had been set apart to holy uses, they praised their own gods of wood and stone, and doubtless profaned the name of Him whose power they supposed to have been subdued by them, when his forsaken people came into their hands. The God of Abraham may be defied and insulted, and sometimes allows himself to be so for a season~but only so long as it pleases him—in this very moment of triumphant mirth, it pleased him, as it became him, to show that he was God. The form or shadow of a man's hand appeared to the king, for it is not told that others saw it, extended where the light from the candlesticks made it distinctly visible, as if writing something on the plaister of the wall. The writing, it appears, remained; but being in Hebrew, or some other characters unknown to the Chaldeans, they could not read it. In the terror and amazement that ensued, all the wise men, as they were called, the magicians, , and soothsayers, and a number of persons whose profession it was to interpret and explain all omens, and prognostics, and visions, &c., concealed from the uninspired, and great numbers of whom were always kept in the service of these Eastern kings, were vainly summoned to explain the mystery, and ease the bosom of the guilty monarch. Daniel, the prophet of Israel, who under similar circumstances had been called in to Nebuchadnezzar was still alive and resident in Babylon; but
forgotten by Belshazzar and his courtiers. The queen
. only, supposed to be Nicotris, remembered what she before had witnessed ; and when she heard what was passing at the feast, at which she was not present, re-, paired to the banqueting room, and advised the king to send for Daniel. We know what ensued—the servant of the living God knew not only the language, which was probably that of his fathers, but also the hidden meaning it was intended to convey; and having first reproached the prince with his profaneness, and with his defiance of a God whose power he had known and probably witnessed in the days of Nebuchadnezzar, he pronounced against him the sentence his impiety had provoked. That night his kingdom departed from his hands and he was slain : but it is by no means certain that it was that night the Medes and Persians took the kingdom and divided it-it has rather been supposed that Darius, though a Mede, was one of the lords of Belshazzar's court, who murdered him at the feast and seized upon his crown; and that several reigns intervened before Cyrus came and took the city of Babylon, and terminated the Assyrian monarchy. Either way the prophetic writing was equally fulfilled-Belshazzar died that night—and either then or a few years after,
the city was taken in the following manner by the Medes and Persians, and the kingdom of Assyria finally absorbed in that of her more powerful neighbours. During the reign of her last king, whoever he may have been, the city had been some time besieged by the forces of Cyrus; but it was considered impregnable, and the Assyrians held their revels in careless security within the walls. These were of amazing strength; an immense multitude were within to defend them ;
and stores are said to have been provided for twenty years, After two years ineffectual siege, the Persians adopted the means of draining off the waters of the river running through the city into a lake, which they had digged, leaving dry its bed—and during the night of some great
festival, when feasting and riot had put the Assyrians off their guard, and the gates were left neglected, they entered at midnight by the bed of the river, reached the palace doors and slew the guard. The palace being opened to know the cause of the confusion without, the Persians rushed in, and slew the king, valiantly but vainly endeavouring to defend himself. B.C. 538.
Thus ended the history of Assyria—one of the first great kingdoms of the earth : in greatness about coeval with Egypt, but by no means equal to it, we should imagine, in any thing, unless it was in warlike achievements; and even in these, though widely successful, they never held settled dominion over the nations : what one prince won, his successor lost: the feats of Semiramis are not authenticated: Nebuchadnezzar was undoubtedly a great conqueror-but with him the monarchy attained its greatness, and with him lost it. We have already spoken of the probable degree of knowledge and civilization attained by the Assyrians, as far as it is possible to trace them: but though fiction has spun out their history, and adorned it with many marvels, we do in fact know very little about them : the Greek historians are the only record-they are not agreed upon many things, and probably had their information fronı doubtful sources. For more particulars of the fable, as well as truth, of Assyrian history, of her cities and works of art, we refer our readers to other writers-again mentioning Rollin as the best we know, within the probable limit of their reading.
MEDĘS AND PERSIANS, FROM B.C. 584 to B.c. 522. We have stated in a former number the
very know of these nations, up to the death of Cyaxares, B.C. 584—four years before the Jews went into captivity. They were at that time separate kingdoms. A king of Persia, Cambyses, had married a daughter of the king of Media, Astyages, and of these was born the renowned Cyrus. · The history of the two nations
thenceforth becomes so closely united, we shall less confuse the events of each, by not again separating them.
Astyages, the son of Cyaxares, called in Scripture Ahasuerus, succeeded his father: he reigned thirty-five years, during which occurred the inroad of the Babylonians under Evil-Merodach, as we have related above. Cyrus then for the first time attended his grandfather to the battle, and greatly distinguished himself.
To him succeeded Cyaxares II., the uncle of Cyrus. In his reign Babylon was taken, and it is said in Scripture to have been taken by the Medes; as Cyrus, during his uncle's life time, held the command of the army and the management of affairs in subserviency to him, who was considered as supreme governor; though to the valour of Cyrus all the victory was attributable. Ancient historians have pleased themselves with adorning the character of Cyrus, and describing in him rather their own ideal of princely perfection, than what they knew this valiant prince to be. The ground-work of their tale and the principal events need not to be doubted, confirmed as they are by the sacred words of Scripture; but most modern criticks, as well as more ancient ones, reject as fable the minute particulars of his education and character. Such as it is, the tale has been most beautifully told, and so often repeated, that we must suppose our readers familiarly acquainted with it; therefore shall speak of it but slightly, and so far as the truth of it is not disputed.
Cyrus appears to have been born B.C.599, one year later than Cyaxares, the brother of his mother Mandane, and afterwards his associate in the kingdom. The first twelve years of his life were passed with his parents in Persia, where he was educated in the Persian manner, nursed to hardships and privations, and such exercise as might fit him for the toils and fatigues of war. When twelve years old he was taken by Mandane to the court of his grandfather, Astyages, in Media. During the time of