WHAT THE BABYLONIANS BELIEVED

ANOTHER Biblical story finds its origin in the stepped temple-tower of the Sumerians, which was somewhat like an American skyscraper in appearance. The origin of this tower is rather curious. The Sumerians in their early highland homes had worshipped their gods on the hilltops. Babylonia, to which they had migrated, is a flat plain, and so, as a substitute, they invented these stepped towers with a spiral ascent running round the outside, and a roof garden (the Hanging Gardens of Babylon) on the top. Their religion was that of all early agriculturists who asked their gods for " earth's increase, foison plenty, barns and garners never empty." To symbolise their hopes, they brought the gods offerings of green date-palm branches (" the tree of life ") set in jars of water. Each city had its own private god, though every one also worshipped the gods who typified natural powersthe Sun God and the Mother Goddess, Ishtar, the giver of life to all. The gods were like human beings, with very human qualities. They had their homes in the temples, where they enjoyed human meals and " married " mortal women. In return for the people's ministrations, they protected their city against its neighbours. The prayers to the gods are not exultant and joyful, but reflect the hard conditions of life, where violent extremes of heat and cold, and bloodthirsty insects plague the flesh. The " Garden of Eden " was very like a hothouse in summer and was swept by bitter winds in winter. British troops in Mesopotamia during the Great War learnt by bitter experience that life there must always be lived on the defensive.