The dire effects of the Tower of Babel

In spite of Biblical records, and the dire effects of the Tower of Babel, the mountaineers did manage to build numerous ziggurats in the image of their universe. To increase the semblance of mountains the wide-terraced steps were planted with trees and grass. Modern excavators have found the drain holes used for watering, and the little temples at the side of the ziggurats were crushed by trunks falling on them from above. No wonder the story has come down to us in the form of "The Hanging Gardens of Babylon"--one of the Seven Wonders of the World. But Babylon was not the only city that could boast a mountain rising from its flat plain. The ziggurat of Nabu at Barsipki was called "The House of the Seven Bonds of Heaven and Earth." It was built in seven stages to represent the seven planets, and painted in the several planetary colors. These seven planets combined to form the yoke of the ecliptics, solar and lunar, and the whole was surmounted by an altar, which bore the horns of the equinoctial bull. Even so far away from home the mountaineers insisted on worshiping gods from their pinnacle of the universe.

Perhaps the dissension among the builders of the Tower of Babel was responsible; certainly the doctrine of the four-square Earth is found in distant countries. In Egypt, it is represented by the pyramids. In later times, Egyptian architecture was rather more oblong than square, with the greater length running from north to south to fit the shape of the Nile Valley. It is to be found in India, surrounding the mountain Meru, about which the Sun and Moon and all the planets moved. As far away as Greece, Xenophanes taught the doctrine that "the motion of the celestial bodies is rectilineal, the circular forms of their daily paths being only an illusion caused by great distance."

Yet gradually the corners of the universe softened. The nostalgia of the mountaineers died away. First eight corners were substituted to allow further complications in theory, then sixteen, and from there it was no very far step to a perfect circle. In the same manner the angular roofs of the columned Parthenon gave way to the Norman arch and the Byzantine dome, and the ziggurats themselves curved into our church spires. The architecture may or may not be a strict analogy, but at least it followed far more slowly the same development. The minds of men created both their theory of the universe, and their places of worship in imitation of what they saw about them.

The mythological stories of the world arose early and survived only in more primitive minds. By the time of Pythagoras the Greek scientists were pulling apart the old theories and trying to find some more satisfactory explanation. Between myth and science stretches a great gap, but without myths to criticize, science could never have arisen.

Gradually, as the vision of the Earth widened out, as traveling became more possible, and as perspective assumed different proportions, no one race could be quite sure that it stood in the center of creation, nor that their wise men alone knew the antiquity of history. A grave blow was dealt to every egotist when the Egyptian priest looked at the lawmaker of Athens and said pityingly, "Oh, Solon, Solon, you Greeks are only children," and then proceeded to describe the marvelous kingdom of Atlantis of which the Greeks had never heard. It was a blow, but the kind that a Greek could accept and wonder about. For a long time the advanced scientists had known that the Earth was a sphere, whose surface has no exact center, and that all other places were equal to Greece-if not in culture and climate--at least in position. But all men thought that the Earth was the hub of the universe. Then one day, in the school of Pythagoras, where atomism and mathematics were both studied, someone had the temerity to suggest that perhaps the Sun did not move around the Earth. Perhaps the Earth moved around the Sun.

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