UNDER this article of Babylonians we shall just give the reader a general sketch of the antiquity of occult learning among the Chaldeans of Babylon, so famous for their speculations in astrology. Diodorus Siculus informs us, that the inhabitants of Babylon assert, that their city was very ancient; for they counted four hundred and seventy-three thousand years, from the first observations of their astrologers to the coming of Alexander. Others say, that the Babylonians boasted of having preserved in their archives the observations which their astrologers had made on nativities for the space of four hundred and seventy thousand years; from hence we ought to correct a passage of Pliny, which some authors make use of improperly, either to confute the antiquity of Babylon, or for other purposes. Aristotle knew without doubt that the Babylonians boasted of having a series of astronomical observations comprehending a prodigious number of centuries. He was desirous to inform himself of the truth of this by means of Calisthenes, who was in Alexander's retinue, but found a great mistake in the account; for it is pretended that Calisthenes assured him that the astronomical observations he had
seen in Babylon, comprehended no more than 1903 years. Simplicius reports this, and borrows it from Porphyry. If Calisthenes has computed right, it must be agreed, that after the deluge men made very great haste to become astrologers; for according to the Hebrew Bible there is but two thousand years 1 to be found from the flood to the death of Alexander. There is reason to question what Simplicius reports, and it is remarkable that all the ancient authors, who have ascribed the building of Babylon to Semiramis, have no authority than that of Ctesias, whose histories abounded in fables. And, therefore, we see that Berosius blames the Greek writers for affirming, that Semiramis built Babylon, and adorned it with the most beautiful structures. The supplement to Moreri quotes Quintus Curtinus, in relation to the immodesty of the Babylonian women 2, who prostituted their bodies to strangers for money, under the idea of performing their devotions required by Venus. Observe, that these sums were afterwards applied to religious uses.
169:1 Epigenus tells us, that amongst the Babylonians there were celestial observations for four hundred and seventy thousand years, inscribed on pillars or tables of bricks. Berosius and Critodemus, who make the least of it, say four hundred and ninety years.
169:2 This lascivious ceremony was very ancient. Jeremiah's letter inserted in the book of Baruch touches something on it, but in an obscure manner, and wants a commentary taken out of Herodotus. Jeremiah's text runs thus:--"The women also with cords about them sat in the ways--but if any of them, drawn by some that passeth by, lie with him, she reproacheth her fellow, that she was not thought as worthy as herself, nor her cord broken." Herodotus informs us, that there was a law in Babylon which obliged all the women of the country to seat themselves near the temple of Venus, and there to wait an opportunity of copulating with a stranger, &c. &c.