Babylon Falls, but Her Religion Survives to Dominate the Nations
IN PREVIOUS issues we have covered the fall of Babylon into the hands of Cyrus the Persian in 539 B.C.E. From this time on, Babylon was no longer a political world power. But what about Babylon’s religion? With the passing of Babylon’s political power and the shift of world control from Semitic to Aryan hands, did Babylon’s religion die with her? By no means. Why not?
First of all, the foundation for the practice of Babylon’s religion by all nations except the faithful descendants of Shem was laid in their building of the Tower of Babel in Nimrod’s day. The miraculous confusion of tongues scattered the families but they took their false religious ideas with them.a Babylon afterward was viewed by pagan nations as the center of religion. Secondly, after Babylon’s fall in 539 B.C.E., her priesthood was driven out by the Persians. But they did not have in mind letting Babylonish religion’s traditional authority and supremacy die out. Though Babylon lost her political supremacy, her Nimrod-initiated religion maintained itself as a world empire of religion over all except those who held to Jehovah’s true worship at Jerusalem. Under the adroit maneuvering of Satan the Devil it immediately set its eyes on western horizons to establish a new center for its priesthood and the successorship of Belshazzar. In fact, we shall see that its very essence infiltrated later into apostate Christianity, actually getting control over the section of the earth that came to be called Christendom.
BABYLONISH RELIGION SPREADS TO EUROPE
Long before Babylon fell, the ground had been broken to make it possible to accomplish this transplant of the head of Babylonish religion to Italy. Historian J. H. Breasted, in the book Ancient Times—A History of the Early World, tells us that a race of sea rovers called Etruscans, who probably came from Asia Minor, were settled in Italy by 1000 B.C.E. After 800 B.C.E. they stretched far across northern Italy, and Rome became a city kingdom under an Etruscan king, like the other Etruscan cities that stretched from Capua far north to the harbor of Genoa. These kings governed for two centuries and a half. This would make the line of kings of Rome from about 750 to 500 B.C.E. exclusively Etruscan. The traditional founding of Rome not long before 750 B.C.E. would then correspond to its capture and establishment as a strong kingdom by the Etruscans. Archaeological evidence bears this out, though written documents of Rome during this early period are missing. Although these Etruscan kings introduced improvements into Rome, their cruelty and tyranny finally caused a revolt, and about 500 B.C.E. the career of Rome under kings came to an end. But, says Dr. Breasted, the two and a half centuries of Etruscan rule left their mark on Rome, always discernible in architecture, religion, tribal organization, and some other things.
The Encyclopædia Britannica corroborates, referring to the historian Herodotus, who recounts that in the reign of Atys, son of Manes, there was a great scarcity of food in all Lydia, which lasted eighteen years. Finally, by the king’s arrangement, his son Tyrrhenus took half of the people down to Smyrna and built ships wherein they set out to seek a livelihood and a country, and after sojourning with many nations they came to the Ombrici in Italy, where they founded cities. Of these people, who (according to Herodotus) no longer called themselves Lydians, but Tyrrhenians, the Britannica goes on to say: “From the character of their earlier remains the date of the first permanent settlement may be placed at the end of the 9th century.” What was the religion of the Tyrrhenians? The Britannica relates:
That the Etruscans were orientals or semi-orientals is proved by the whole character of their earliest art, and by many details of their religion and worship. It is an art which shows close contact with Mesopotamia, Syria and Cyprus on the one side and with Egypt on the other. The deities and mythological figures on Etruscan gold-work and jewelry of the 7th century are evidently the heroes and deities of Asiatic mythology. . . . In the sphere of ritual and religion there are many details which are taken direct from Mesopotamia, and the whole feeling and atmosphere are purely oriental. The most striking identities are in the practice of divination and augury; for the custom of divining from the livers of sheep or the flight of birds is purely Chaldean (see DIVINATION). There are models of clay livers from Mesopotamia inscribed in cuneiform which precisely resemble the bronze model of a liver found at Piacenza [in the Province of Emilia, Italy], divided into compartments each of which is labelled in Etruscan with the name of its presiding divinity.b
So archaeology clearly indicates that the Etruscans came from some part of Asia Minor, landing on the seacoast of Tuscany. Veii, in Etruria,c north of Rome, became one of their chief cities. Etruria was finally swallowed up by Rome. A confederacy of twelve cities existed in the sixth century that held its annual meetings at the shrine of Voltumma above Lacus Volsiniensis (Lake of Bolsena), and it seems likely that the confederation confined itself principally to affairs of religion.d All this took place before and up to the time of the fall of Babylon in the sixth century (539 B.C.E.).
So the religion of Babylon gained a strong foothold in Europe, not merely a remote relation from the time of Babel, but a direct-line inheritance. However, we are here mainly interested in the priesthood of Babylon. Just as Satan the Devil had instituted Babylonish religion through Nimrod to oppose true worship, so his spirit motivated the Babylonian priesthood to see to it that the priesthood and the religious successorship to Belshazzar himself should not die out when Babylon was lost as a capital. After Babylon’s defeat, according to the work entitled “Lares and Penates of Cilicia,” by Barker and Ainsworth, chapter 8, page 232, we read: “The defeated Chaldeans fled to Asia Minor and fixed their central college at Pergamos.” This is the Pergamum or Pergamos mentioned in Revelation 2:12, 13 as the location of a Christian congregation much later on, in the first century C.E. As to this shifting of the Chaldean headquarters, Dr. Alexander Hislop says:
Phrygia . . . formed part of the Kingdom of Pergamos. Mysia also was another, and the Mysians, in the Paschal Chronicle, are said to be descended from Nimrod. The words are, “Nebrod [Greek for Nimrod], the huntsman and giant—from whence came the Mysians.” (See Paschal Chronicle, volume I, page 50.) Lydia, also, from which [the historian] Livy and Herodotus say the Etruscans [of Italy] came, formed part of the same kingdom. For the fact that Mysia, Lydia, and Phrygia were constituent parts of the kingdom of Pergamos, see SMITH’S Classical Dictionary, page 542.e
ROME AFFECTED RELIGIOUSLY
This proved to have profound effect on Rome. After the Etruscan cities were overthrown and Rome became a republic (509 B.C.E.), the Romans took over the Etruscan gods, Jupiter, Juno, Minerva and others, and each god was now, for the first time, given a human form and a residence in a temple or shrine. They were identified with the Greek gods. Jupiter, the “sky-father” of the Etruscans, became the Roman version of the Greek Zeus-pater. Mars, the god of war, was the favorite deity of the fighting Romans. The Saturnalia were later taken over by the Christians as their Christmas, and given a new significance. One modern historical workf links the Roman practices directly with the Chaldeans:
The Chaldeans made great progress in the study of astronomy through an effort to discover the future in the stars. This art we call “astrology”. Much information has been systematically collected by the Babylonians and from it we have here the beginning of astronomy. The groups of stars which now bear the name “Twelve Signs of the Zodiac” were mapped out for the first time, and the planets Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn were known. Since these planets were thought to have special powers over the lives of men, they were named for the five leading gods and goddesses. We refer to these planets by their Roman names, but the Romans had adopted the Babylonian terms and simply translated them into their equivalents in Rome. Thus the planet of Ishtar, the goddess of love, became Venus, and that of the god Marduk was changed to Jupiter.
In 133 B.C.E., King Attalus III, on his deathbed, bequeathed Pergamum and all its territory to the Romans, all of which later became a Roman province under the name of Asia. This King Attalus had been selected by the Chaldean Magi as the successor to Belshazzar, as Doctor Hislop goes on to say:
The kings of Pergamos, in whose dominions the Chaldean Magi found an asylum, were evidently by them [by the Magi], and by the general voice of Paganism that sympathised with them, put into the vacant place which Belshazzar and his predecessors had occupied. They were hailed as the representatives of the old Babylonian god. This is evident from the statements by Pausanius. . . . Attalus, in whose dominions the Magi had their chief seat, had been set up and recognized in the very character of Bacchus, the Head of the Magi. Thus the vacant seat of Belshazzar was filled, and the broken chain of the Chaldean succession renewed.—The Two Babylons, pages 240, 241.
WHENCE THE OFFICE OF PONTIFEX MAXIMUS?
In this time when world religions are offering themselves as the hope for world peace, with the Roman Catholic Church taking the lead, we owe it to ourselves next to trace with unbiased mind the origin of the Roman office of Pontifex Maximus. Doctor Hislop cites history on pages 239, 240 of The Two Babylons:
A colony of Etruscans, earnestly attached to the Chaldean idolatry, had migrated, some say from Asia Minor [where Pergamos was located], others from Greece, and settled in the immediate neighborhood of Rome. They were ultimately incorporated in the Roman state, but long before this political union took place they exercised the most powerful influence on the religion of the Romans. From the very first their skill in augury, soothsaying, and all science, real or pretended, that the augurs or soothsayers monopolized, made the Romans look up to them with respect. It is admitted on all hands that the Romans derived their knowledge of augury . . . chiefly from the Tuscans, that is, the people of Etruria, and at first none but natives of that country were permitted to exercise the office of Haruspex which had respect to all the rites essentially involved in sacrifice. . . . the highest of the noble youths of Rome were sent to Etruria to be instructed in the sacred science which flourished there.
The collegeg of Pontiffs was founded by Numa Pompilius, second legendary king of Rome, and regarding Numa, Hislop says: “That god was called in Babylon Nebo, in Egypt Nub or Num, and among the Romans Numa, for Numa Pompilius, the great priest-king of the Romans, occupied precisely the position of the Babylonian Nebo.”h The Sovereign Pontiff that presided over that college, and that controlled all the public and private religious rites of the Roman people in all essential respects, became in spirit and in practice an Etruscan Pontiff. As to this, Dr. Hislop says:
The true legitimate Babylonian Pontiff had his seat beyond the bounds of the Roman empire [which never overran southern Mesopotamia or Chaldea]. That seat, after the death of Belshazzar and the expulsion of the Chaldean priesthood from Babylon by the Medo-Persian kings, was at Pergamos, where afterwards was one of the seven churches of Asia.i
It would be of greatest interest to us in this brief historical consideration to see how this religious connection between Pergamos and Rome, which became the Sixth World Power in the first century B.C.E., was manifested in the office of Pontifex Maximus. It clearly proves that Babylonish religion actually is the source of the office of Pontifex Maximus of the popes of Rome. The Two Babylons gives us an account:
At first the Roman Pontiff had no immediate connection with Pergamos and the hierarchy there; yet, in course of time, the Pontificate of Rome and the Pontificate of Pergamos came to be identified. Pergamos itself became part and parcel of the Roman empire, when Attalus III, the last of the kings, at his death, left by will all his dominions to the Roman people, B.C. 133. . . . When Julius Caesar, who had previously been elected Pontifex Maximus, became also. as Emperor, the supreme civil ruler of the Romans, then, as head of the Roman state, and head of the Roman religion, all the powers and functions of the true legitimate Babylonian Pontiff were supremely vested in him, and he found himself in a position to assert these powers. Then he seems to have laid claim to the divine dignity of Attalus, as well as the kingdom that Attalus had bequeathed to the Romans, as centring in himself; . . . Then, on certain occasions, in the exercise of his high pontifical office, he appeared of course in all the pomp of the Babylonian costume, as Belshazzar himself might have done, in robes of scarlet, with the crozier of Nimrod in his hand wearing the mitre of Dagon [the fish god] and bearing the keys of Janus [the two-faced god] and Cybele [the “mother” goddess]. . . .
. . . until the reign of [Western Emperor] Gratian, who, as shown by [the historian] Gibbon, was the first that refused to be arrayed in the idolatrous pontifical attire, or to sit as Pontifex. . . .
. . . Within a few years after the Pagan title of Pontifex had been abolished, it was revived . . . and was bestowed, with all the Pagan associations clustering around it, upon the Bishop of Rome, who, from that time forward, became the grand agent in pouring over professing Christendom, . . . all the other doctrines of Paganism derived from ancient Babylon. . . .
. . . The circumstances in which that Pagan title was bestowed upon Pope Damasus, were such as might have been not a little trying to the faith and integrity of a much better man than he. Though Paganism was legally abolished in the Western Empire of Rome, yet in the city of the Seven Hills it was still rampant, insomuch that Jerome [translator of the Latin Vulgate], who knew it well, writing of Rome at this very period calls it “the sink of all superstitions.” The consequence was, that, while everywhere else throughout the empire the Imperial edict for the abolition of Paganism was respected, in Rome itself it was, to a large extent, a dead letter. . . .
. . . The man [Pope Damasus I] that came into the bishopric of Rome, as a thief and a robber, over the dead bodies of above a hundred of his opponents, could not hesitate as to the election he should make. The result shows that he had acted in character, that, in assuming the Pagan title of Pontifex, he had set himself at whatever sacrifice of truth to justify his claims to that title in the eyes of the Pagans, as the legitimate representative of their long line of pontiffs. . . .j
. . . The Pope, as he is now, was at the close of the fourth century, the only representative of Belshazzar, or Nimrod, on the earth, for the Pagans manifestly accepted him as such. . . . A.D. 606, when amid the convulsions and confusions of the nations, tossed like a tempestuous sea, the Pope of Rome was made Universal Bishop; and then the ten chief kingdoms of Europe recognized him as Christ’s Vicar upon earth, the only centre of unity, the only source of stability to their thrones.k
BABYLON’S RELIGION FINALLY TO PASS AWAY
In this manner Babylon accomplished her conquest of the Western world. Her worldwide religious empire is called in God’s Word “Babylon the Great, the mother of the harlots and of the disgusting things of the earth.” (Rev. 17:5) This religious empire ruled over Pergamos and even Rome, but of infinitely greater consequence has been her domination of Christendom. Her children, “daughters” or religious organizations, are like her, harlots, having illicit relations with the political element of this world. Her doctrines and the course in which she leads the world powers are as detrimental to humankind and as disgusting and death dealing as ancient Babylon herself. Ancient Babylon left a name of contempt to all generations since. Modern Babylon has led her followers to look to man-made efforts for world peace and has disgusted others with her hypocrisy and corruption, leading the world into a fight against God’s kingdom. The Bible kindly reveals the true picture for our safety and sensible action, and the facts of history verify this picture to the last detail. Why should anyone hesitate to listen to what the Creator of mankind says for his safety? Babylon is exposed, through Jehovah’s undeserved kindness to us. Then flee from modern-day Babylon the Great and learn the truth about her early destruction and the freedom that it brings to mankind through God’s kingdom rule! (Rev. 18:4, 5, 20) How God made pictorial dramas to guide the escape of honest people, to help them to get out of Babylon, will be considered in issues to follow.
a For fuller details see The Watchtower of June 1 and 15, 1964, and the book “Babylon the Great Has Fallen!” God’s Kingdom Rules! by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, Brooklyn, New York.
b Volume 8, edition of 1946, pages 785, 786.
c Also, the Greek word for Etruria was used by Latin writers in the form Tyrrenhia; also Tusca from whence the modern Tuscany.—The Encyclopædia Britannica, 1959, Volume 8, page 783.
d Volume 8, edition of 1946, pages 785, 786.
e That ancient Pergamos (Pergamum) was a city of considerable wealth and stature in the fifth century B.C.E., is seen in the fact that “it had been striking coins since 420 B.C. at latest.” Before Xenophon (about 430-355 B.C.E.) mentions it in his Anabasis, VII, viii, 8, and Hellenica, III, i, 6, little is known of this cosmopolitan city but mythology.—The Encyclopædia Britannica, edition of 1946, Volume 17, page 507; also The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume II, page 666, edition of 1911.
The celebrated and much frequented temple of Aesculapius was located in Pergamos. Aesculapius was called the god of Pergamos, and the mythology in connection with his worship smacks of the religion of Babylon. He was worshiped in the form of a living serpent, fed in the temple and being considered as its divinity.
f See pages 230, 232 of The Dawn of Civilization and Life in the Ancient East (1940) edition, by R. M. Engberg and F. C. Cole.
g The word “college” as used here refers, not to an educational institution, but to a body of not fewer than three, legally constituted under Roman law to carry out a purpose. Our modern-day “corporation” corresponds somewhat to it.
h The Two Babylons, by Hislop, page 256.
i Ibid., page 240.
j Under “Damasus I, pope,” page 652b of Volume 2 of M’Clintock and Strong’s Cyclopædia says the following:
“Damasus I, pope, . . . succeeded Liberius as bishop of Rome A.D. 366. He was opposed by Ursicinus, who claimed the election, and in their disgraceful strifes many people were murdered . . . The emperor Gratian conferred upon [Damascus], in 378, the right to pass judgment upon those clergymen of the other party who had been expelled from Rome, and, at the request of a Roman synod held in the same year, instructed the secular authorities to give to him the necessary support. . . .”
k The Two Babylons, pages 241, 242, 247, 250, 252, 255.