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"The youths that are designed for the great offices of the Turkish empire must be of admirable features, and pleasing looks, well shaped in their bodies, and without any defects of nature; for it is conceived that a corrupt and sordid soul can scarce inhabit in a serene and ingenuous aspect; and I have observed, not only in the seraglio, but also in the courts of great men, their personal attendants have been of comely, lusty youths, well habited, deporting themselves with singular modesty and respect in the presence of their masters. So that, when a pasha, aga, or spahee travels, he is always attended with a comely equipage, followed by flourishing youths, well clothed and mounted, in great numbers; that one may guess of the greatness of this empire, by the retinue, pomp, and number of servants which accompany persons of quality in their journeys."
The whole of the account given of the arrangements for the Hebrew youths, together with the distinction which Daniel, as well as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego ultimately attained, is not only instructive as to the usages of the Chaldean court, but may be illustrated by the customs of Turkey, before the alterations made in the present century. The pages and officers of the court, as well as the greater part of the public functionaries and governors of provinces, were originally youths taken captive in war, or bought or stolen in times of peace. The finest and most able of these were sent to the palace, and, if accepted, were placed under the charge of the chief of the white eunuchs. Those that were accepted, were brought up in the religion of their masters and there were schools in the palace, in which they received such complete instruction in Turkish learning and science, as few others could obtain. Among the accomplishments, great pains were taken to teach them to speak the Turkish language with the greatest purity. The youths were well clothed, but their diet was temperate. They slept in large chambers, where there were rows of beds. Every one slept separately; and between every third or fourth bed lay a white eunuch, whose duty it was to keep a watchful eye upon the conduct of those near him, and report it to his superior. When any of them arrived at a proper age, they were instructed in military exercises, and great pains were taken to render them active, robust, and brave. Every one, also, was taught some mechanical or liberal art, that they might have a resource in time of adversity. When their education was completed, those who had displayed the greatest capacity and
valour were employed about the person of the king, and the rest given to the service of the treasury, and the other offices of the establishment to which they belonged. The more talented were promoted to the various high court offices, which gave them access to the private apartments of the seraglio, so that they could converse at almost any time with their great master. This advantage paved the for their proway motion to the government of provinces, and to military commands; and it often happened, that favourite court officers were promoted to the post of grand vizier, or chief minister, and other high offices of state, without having been previously pashas or military commanders.
A third officer in the court of the Assyrian monarchs, was the prime minister, who resembled the Turkish vizier, and who more immediately represented the person of his great master. To this dignity Daniel was promoted, after he had revealed and interpreted the forgotten dream of Nebuchadnezzar. It is said: "Then the king made Daniel a great man, and gave him many great gifts, and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief of the governors over all the wise men of Babylon. Then Daniel requested of the king, and he set Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, over the affairs of the province of Babylon; but Daniel sat in the gate of the king," Dan. ii. 48, 49. The object for which this officer "sat in the gate," as it is called, was to hear complaints, and to pass judgments; and, therefore, he may be said to have been the representative of the king.
Besides these officers, there seems to have been a master of the magicians at court, whose business it was to satisfy the king upon any subject he might require to know with regard to futurity and prognostications. To this post, also, Daniel was exalted. See Dan. iv. 9.
It has been before recorded, that none was allowed the honour of serving in the monarch's presence that was not remarkable for comeliness of person and excellency of parts. As might be expected, this rule extended to their wives and concubines. Of these latter there appears to have been a great number, as there afterwards was in the Persian court; for it is said of the impious Belshazzar, that he brought "the golden and silver vessels which his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of the temple which was in Jerusalem; that the king, and his princes, his wives, and his concubines, might drink therein," Dan. v. 2.
From this latter quotation, it would appear, that though the
monarchs of this mighty empire considered the whole world as created for their use and service, they nevertheless mingled with their subjects in banqueting and revelling, more espe. cially with the lords and chief men in their dominion. The common style of addressing them was, “O king, live for erer,” Dan ii. 4; v. 10; and those who gained their favour were clothed in purple or scarlet, adorned with chains of gold about their necks, and invested with some government. Thus the guilty Belshazzar, smitten with fear of the handwriting upon the wall, asserted to the wise men, while yet his knees were smiting one against another : “Whosoever shall read this writing, and show me the interpretation thereof, shall be clothed with scarlet, and have a chain of gold about his neck, and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom,” Dan. v. 7.
The exhortation of the psalmist is peculiarly suitable to the circumstance we here relate.
- Put not your trust in princes,
In that very day his thoughts perish.”—Psa. cxlvi. 3, 4.
According to Arrian, when the kings of Assyria died, they were buried in the Lemlun marshes; and Ainsworth in writing of these plains, which the Euphrates expedition explored, says: “ The easterly extent of the valley of the Lemlun marshes leaves a narrow band of soil between the marshes and the Tigris, which is everywhere covered, like the plains of Babylonia and of Chaldea, with the monuments of antique industry and enterprise. Thus the words of Arrian receive confirmation from existing mounds and ruins. This territory, inhabited by the Zobeid Arabs, contains the great mounds of Mizisitha, Ithahr, Cffrin, Jerrah Supli, Nimalah, and many others of minor importance, situated between the more massive, lofty, and extended ruins which belong to Zibliyah, in the north, and to Jayithah Tel Siphr, and Irak, or Erech, on the south On some of these monumental mounds, Messrs. Frazer and Ross found glazed earthen coffins, still more corroborative of the descriptions of Arrian, who says, the monuments or tombs of the kings of Assyria are said to be placed
among these marshes. As in the present day, the reed tombs of a sheik, or holy man, are often to be seen islanded amidst a wilderness of water and of aquatic vegetation."
Here, then, is the sum of human greatness! The mighty of the earth, alike with "the mean man," are brought low, and mingle with the dust.
"Proud royalty! how altered in thy looks!
How blank thy features, and how wan thy hue!
That throbs beneath the sacrificer's knife.
Who could look upon the tombs of the kings of Assyria, buried in the solitude of these marshes, and thirst for human greatness? Rather, they would teach the beholder its vanity, and cause him to exclaim with the psalmist,
"There be many that say, Who will show us any good?
The laws of the Assyrians and Babylonians, as may be inferred from the preceding article, were vague, and entirely dependent on the caprice or pleasure of their monarchs. According to Herodotus, however, there was one law, which ap pears to have been irrevocably fixed. This law was calcu lated to increase the number of the inhabitants, by obliging
all, especially the meaner classes, to marry. But though this law was calculated to increase the power of the empire, it was, nevertheless, one of the most unjust, cruel, and unnatural enactments that has ever been enacted by any state, ancient or modern; for, by one clause, it deprived a parent of exercising his natural right of bestowing his own daughters in marriage. This right was assumed for the king and his officers; and, as soon as they were arrived at the age of maturity, they were exposed in some public place for sale. The most beautiful were put up first, and the highest bidder became the purchaser. When all who had charms were disposed of, the money that was raised by this sale was applied in behalf of some of those to whom nature had not been so lavish of her exterior gifts. These were offered to such as would take the least money with them; and the poor, who valued money more than beauty, were as eager in underbidding each other, as the rich were in overbidding for the beautiful. The result of this was, that their females were all disposed of in marriage: the poor, however, were obliged to give security, that they would take those they had chosen, before they received the sum they agreed to take with them.
Concerning many other customs, and even laws, as recorded by Herodotus and Strabo, we forbear to speak, recalling to memory the sentiments of the apostle with reference to the works of darkness committed by the heathen world: "For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret," Ephes. v. 12. Those which we have recorded, as done openly, are sufficient to make the Christian blush for the honour of humanity, and to call forth the deepest gratitude of Christian parents and their children, for their privileges; which, however, are attended with corresponding duties and responsibilities. But it is to be feared, that many professing Christian parents neglect their duty in this particular. Too many sacrifice the happiness of their offspring at the shrine of the god of this world, Mammon ! An old writer, looking at this evil in a worldly point of view, and aiming a blow at its root, says, "There be two towns in the land of Liege, called Bovins and Dinant, the inhabitants whereof bear an almost incredible hatred one to another; and yet their children, notwithstanding, usually marry together: and the reason is, because their is none other good town or wealthy place near them. Thus parents, for a little pelf, often marry their children to those whose persons they hate; and thus, union betwixt families is not made but the breach rather 8