National Geographic : 1914 Dec
THE MOST HISTORIC LANDS ON EARTH NO OTHER people possess lands of such wonderful historic inter est as the Turks. Occupying a region only a third as great in area as the United States, they have yet a terri tory within whose boundaries the great est, the most influential events in human history have occurred. The Bible, with little exception, is an account of the doings of people who never got beyond what have hitherto been the confines of Turkey. From a single corner of the Ottoman Empire arose the Babylon that in its day all but ruled the world. From that same region envy and famine conspired to send the children of Abraham into Egypt, which until recently was embraced in the Em pire of the Ottomans. Thence, as they marched back from Africa to Asia, through the Wilderness of Sin to the Promised Land, they never once set foot off of what came to be Turkish soil. And when the Star of Bethlehem arose it stood over a manger, on land that is now Turkish soil. In Asia Minor once dwelt Crcesus, whose name to this day expresses the last degree of wealth. Here was Pergamus, whose library in its period was the finest in the world, making such demands for papyrus that Ptolemy was led to prohibit the exportation of that commodity from Egypt. Under the reign of the Caesars, Asia Minor alone contained 500 popu lous cities, enriched with all the gifts of nature and adorned with all the refine ments of art. The civilization of the Hittites, whose lands finally were occupied by the hosts of Israel; the civilization of Tyre and Sidon, the greatest colonizers of ancient times; the civilization of Egypt, rival of Persia and Chaldea in the value of the heritage it bequeathed to the future; the civilization of Constantinople and the Byzantine Empire, in its day more gor geous than any that had gone before all found their home within the bound aries of what afterward came to be the land of the Turk. Mohammed, and the religion which bears his name, and now claims several hundred million adherents, were also born in the Ottoman Empire. The greatest of these ancient empires was the Babylonian. The Babylonians built their civilization upon an irrigation ditch and made Babylonia a land teeming with people, the seat of magnificent cities, and the home of a world-conquering em pire. Babylonia rivaled the Valley of the Nile in production. Every Greek traveler who wandered that way marveled at the luxuriousness of the crops of Mesopota mia. Even Herodotus hesitated to tell the story in its fulness lest the people for whom he wrote history might regard him as a nature faker. The hanging gardens of Babylon stirred the admiration of the travelers out of the west, so that they wrote them down as one of the seven wonders of the world. Nebuchadnezzar built them for his wife, Amytis, the beautiful Mede, to rescue her from her homesickness for her native Median hills. King Sargon, though he lived at the dawn of history, reviewed his reign much as a President of the United States or a great European sovereign might review his official career. He tells us that he restored ancient ruined cities and colon ized them; that he made barren tracts of land fertile; that he gave his nation a splendid system of reservoirs, dams, and canals; that he protected the needy from want, the weak from oppression, filled the nation's granaries with corn, brought down the high cost of living, and found new markets for the nation's products. Babylon's fortifications are said to have had a circumference of 55 miles, the outer wall of which was 350 feet high and 85 feet thick. The palace of Sargon II covered about 25 acres, and its front was twice as long as that of the United States Capitol. Forty-eight great winged bulls guarded its entrances, and upon its walls were more than two miles of sculp tured slabs telling the story of the king's reign.