Josephus wrote: (The Antiquities of the Jews by Flavius Josephus, translated by William Whiston)
2. Now it was Nimrod who excited them to
such an affront and contempt of God. He was the grandson of Ham,
the son of Noah, a bold man, and of great strength of hand. He
persuaded them not to ascribe it to God, as if it was through
his means they were happy, but to believe that it was their own
courage which procured that happiness. He also gradually changed
the government into tyranny, seeing no other way of turning men
from the fear of God, but to bring them into a constant
dependence on his power. He also said he would be revenged on
God, if he should have a mind to drown the world again; for that
he would build a tower too high for the waters to be able to
reach! and that he would avenge himself on God for destroying
3. Now the multitude were very ready to follow the determination of Nimrod, and to esteem it a piece of cowardice to submit to God; and they built a tower, neither sparing any pains, nor being in any degree negligent about the work: and, by reason of the multitude of hands employed in it, it grew very high, sooner than any one could expect; but the thickness of it was so great, and it was so strongly built, that thereby its great height seemed, upon the view, to be less than it really was. It was built of burnt brick, cemented together with mortar, made of bitumen, that it might not be liable to admit water. When God saw that they acted so madly, he did not resolve to destroy them utterly, since they were not grown wiser by the destruction of the former sinners; but he caused a tumult among them, by producing in them divers languages, and causing that, through the multitude of those languages, they should not be able to understand one another. The place wherein they built the tower is now called Babylon, because of the confusion of that language which they readily understood before; for the Hebrews mean by the word Babel, confusion. The Sibyl also makes mention of this tower, and of the confusion of the language, when she says thus: "When all men were of one language, some of them built a high tower, as if they would thereby ascend up to heaven, but the gods sent storms of wind and overthrew the tower, and gave every one his peculiar language; and for this reason it was that the city was called Babylon." But as to the plan of Shinar, in the country of Babylonia, Hestiaeus mentions it, when he says thus: "Such of the priests as were saved, took the sacred vessels of Jupiter Enyalius, and came to Shinar of Babylonia."
Sir James George Frazer wrote: (Folk-Lore in the Old Testament, Studies in Comparative Religion, Legend & Law, vol 1, chap 5, 1918, which has been edited)
Of two such gigantic temples the huge mouldering remains are to be seen at Babylon to this day, and it is probable that to one or other of them the legend of the Tower of Babel was attached. One of them rises among the ruins of Babylon itself, and still bears the name of Babil; the other is situated across the river at Borsippa, some eight or nine miles away to the south-west, and is known as Birs-Nimrud. The ancient name of the temple in the city of Babylon was E-sagil : it was dedicated to Marduk The ancient name of the temple at Borsippa was E-zida : it was dedicated to Nebo. Scholars are not agreed as to which of these ancient edifices was the original Tower of Babel local and Jewish tradition identifies the legendary tower with the ruins of Birs-Nimrud at Borsippa.
The mound of Babil, once the temple of the chief Babylonian god Bel or Marduk, is now merely an oblong mass composed chiefly of unbaked brick, measuring about two hundred yards in length on the longer northern and southern faces, and rising to a height of at least one hundred and ten feet above the plain. The top is broad and flat, but uneven and broken with heaps of rubbish. While the solid core of the structure was built of crude or sun-dried bricks, its outer faces were apparently coated with walls of burnt bricks, some of which, inscribed with the name of King Nebuchadnezzar, have been found on the spot.2 From Herodotus we learn that the temple rose in a series of eight terraces or solid towers, one on the top of the other, with a ramp winding up on the outside, but broken about half-way up by a landing-place, where there were seats for the rest and refreshment of persons ascending to the summit.3 In the ancient Sumerian language the temple was called E-temen-an-ki or "The House of the Foundation of Heaven and Earth."l Towards the end of the seventh century before our era the temple had fallen into disrepair, if not into ruins, but it was then restored by King Nabopolassar, who reigned 625—604 B.C. In an inscription, which has been preserved, the king describes himself as " the restorer of Esagila and Ezida," and records the restoration of Esagila or Etemenanki as follows:—
"As for Etemenanki, the temple-tower of Babylon, which before my time had become weakened and had fallen in, Marduk the lord commanded me to lay its foundation in the heart of the earth (and) to raise its turrets to heaven. Baskets, spades (?), and U.RU. I made out of ivory, ushu and mismakanna wood ; I caused the numerous workmen assembled in my land to carry them. I set to work (?); I made bricks, I manufactured burnt bricks. Like the downpour of heaven, which cannot be measured, like the massive flood, I caused the Arahtu to carry bitumen and pitch. With the co-operation of Ea, with the insight of Marduk, with the wisdom of Nabu and Nisaba, in the broad understanding with which the god, my creator, had endowed me, with my great ingenuity (?), I came to a decision ; I gave orders to the skilled workmen. With a nindanaku measure I measured the measurements of the aba ash-lam (?). The architects at first made a survey of the ground plot (?). Afterwards I consulted Shamash, Ramman, and Marduk ; to my heart they gave decision, they sanctioned the measurements, the great gods by decree indicated the later stages of the work.
By means of exorcism, in the wisdom of Ea and Marduk, I cleared away that place, (and) on the original site I laid its platform-foundation ; gold, silver, stones from mountain and sea in its foundation I set * * * goodly oil, sweet-smelling herbs, and * * * I placed underneath the bricks. An image of my royalty carrying a dupshikku I constructed ; in the platform-foundation I placed it. Unto Marduk, my lord, I bowed my neck ; I arrayed myself in my gown, the robe of my royalty. Bricks and mortar I carried on my head, a dupshikku of gold and silver I wore and Nebuchadrezzar, the first-born, the chief son, beloved of my heart, I caused to carry mortar mixed with wine, oil, and (other) products along with my workmen. Nabushumlisher, his twin brother, the offspring of my own flesh, the junior, my darling, I ordered to take a basket and spade (?) ; a dupshikku of gold and silver I placed (on him). Unto Marduk, my lord, as a gift, I dedicated him. I built the temple in front of Esharra with joy and rejoicing, and like a mountain I raised its tower aloft; to Marduk, my lord, as in days of old, I dedicated it for a sight to be gazed at.
" O Marduk, my lord, look with favour upon my goodly deeds! At thy exalted command, which cannot be altered, let the performance of my hands endure for ever! Like the bricks of Etemenanki, which are to remain firm for ever, do thou establish the foundation of my throne for all time ! O Etemenanki, grant blessing to the king who has restored thee! When Marduk with joy takes up his abode in thee, O temple, recall to Marduk, my lord, my gracious deeds !"1
Again, the temple was further repaired and adorned by Nabopolassar's son and successor, Nebuchadrezzar the Second, the Nebuchadnezzar of the Bible. To these restorations the great king repeatedly refers in his inscriptions. Thus he says:—
" The temples of Babylon I rebuilt and restored. As for E-temen-an-ki (house of the foundation of heaven and earth) with burnt brick and bright ugnu-stone I raised on high its turrets. To the rebuilding of Esagila my heart incited me ; I held it constantly in mind. I selected the best of my cedar trees, which I had brought from Mount Lebanon, the snow-capped forest, for the roofing of E-kua, the shrine of his lordship, and I decorated with brilliant gold the inner sides of the mighty cedar trunks, used in the roofing of E-kua. I adorned the under side of the roof of cedar with gold and precious stones. Concerning the rebuilding of Esagila I prayed every morning to the king of the gods, the lord of lords."1 Again, in another Babylonian inscription King Nebuchadrezzar II. says: " In Esagila, the majestic shrine, the temple of heaven and earth, the dwelling-place of royalty, I decorated with shining gold E-kua, the shrine of the lord of the gods, Marduk, Bab-Hili-shud, the home of Çarpanit, (and) Ezida in Esagila, the shrine called ' the king of the gods of heaven and earth,' and I made (them) to shine like the day. E-temen-an-ki, the temple-tower of Babylon, I made anew."2 Again, in another inscription the king declares : " Esagila, the temple of heaven and earth, the dwelling-place of the lord of the gods Marduk, and E-kua, his shrine, I adorned with shining gold like a wall. Ezida I built anew, and with silver, gold, precious stones, bronze, palm-wood, cedar-wood I completed its construction. E-temen-an-ki, the temple-tower of Babylon, I built and completed, and with burnt brick and shining ugnu-stone I raised on high its turrets."
The huge pyramidal mound, to which the Arabs give the name of Birs-Nimrud, is a solitary pile rising abruptly from the vast expanse of the desert some eight or nine miles from the ruins of Babylon. Roughly speaking, the mound forms a rectangular oblong, measuring about six hundred and fifty feet on the long sides and four hundred feet on the short sides. The height of its summit above the plain is about one hundred and fifty-three feet. To the ordinary observer at the present time it presents the appearance rather of a natural hill crowned by a ruin than of a structure reared by the hand of man. Yet there appears to be no doubt that the great mound is wholly artificial, being built entirely of bricks, which have to some extent solidified into a single mass. Thirty-seven feet of solid brickwork, looking like a tower, stand exposed at the top, while below this the original building is almost hidden under the masses of rubbish which have crumbled down from the upper portion.
The whole structure, however, is deeply channelled by exposure to the rain, and in places the original brickwork is sufficiently exposed to reveal the true character and plan of the edifice. From the researches carried on by Sir Henry Rawlinson in the year 1854 it appears that the temple, like that of Bel or Marduk in Babylon, was built in a series of receding stages, seven in number, which rose one above the other in a sort of oblique pyramid to a height of about one hundred and fifty-six feet above the plain. The grand entrance was on the north-east, where stood the vestibule, a separate building, of which the remains prolong the mound very considerably in this direction. Such are the mouldering ruins of E-zida, the great temple of Nebo (Nabu), whose shrine probably occupied the summit of the pyramidal or tower-like structure. In its present form the edifice is chiefly the work of King Nebuchadnezzar (Nebuchadrezzar the Second), whose name appears exclusively on the bricks composing it, and on the cylinders deposited at its angles.1 The modern name of Birs-Nimrud preserves in a slightly altered form the first syllable of Borsippa, the ancient name of the city which stood here.
On two of the cylinders found by Sir Henry Rawlinson at the angles of the temple is engraved an inscription, in which King Nebuchadnezzar (Nebuchadrezzar II.) records his restoration of the edifice, which had fallen into ruins before his time. The inscription runs thus :—
" Behold now the building named ' the Stages of the Seven Spheres,' which was the wonder of Borsippa, had been built by a former king. He had completed forty-two ammas (of the height), but he did not finish its head. From the lapse of time it had become ruined ; they had not taken care of the exits of the waters, so the rain and wet had penetrated into the brickwork : the casing of burnt bricks had bulged out, and the terraces of crude brick lay scattered in heaps ; (then) Merodach, my great lord, inclined my heart to repair the building. I did not change its site, nor did I destroy its foundation platform ; but in a fortunate month, and on an auspicious day, I undertook the rebuilding of the crude-brick terraces, and the burnt-brick casing (of the temple). I strengthened its foundation, and I placed a titular record in the part that I had rebuilt. I set my hand to build it up and to finish its summit. As it had been in ancient times, so I built up its structure ; as it had been in former days, thus I exalted its head. Nebo, the strengthener of his children, he who ministers to the gods (?), and Merodach, the supporter of sovereignty, may they cause my work to be established for ever ! May it last through the seven ages ! May the stability of my throne and the antiquity of my empire, secure against strangers and triumphant over many foes, continue to the end of time! "
From this record we learn that the ancient Babylonian king, who began to build the great temple-tower at Borsippa, had left it incomplete, wanting its top. It may have been the sight of the huge edifice in its unfinished state which gave rise to the legend of the Tower of Babel.
However, there were many more such temple-towers in ancient Babylonia, and the legend in question may have been attached to any one of them. For example, the remains of such a temple still exist at Uru, the Ur of the Chaldees, from which Abraham is said to have migrated to Canaan.2 The place is now known as Mukayyar or Muge-yer ; it is situated on the right bank of the Euphrates about a hundred and thirty-five miles south-east of Babylon.3 A series of low mounds, forming an oval, marks the site of the ancient city. The country all around is so flat that often during the annual flood of the Euphrates, from March till June or July, the ruins form an island in a great marsh and can only be approached by boat. Groves of date-palms here line the banks of the river and extend in unbroken succession along its course till it loses itself in the waters of the Persian Gulf. Near the northern end of the site rise the remains of the temple-tower to a height of about seventy feet. The edifice is a rectangular parallelogram, in two stories, with the larger sides facing north-east and southwest, each of them measuring about two hundred feet in length, while the shorter sides measure only one hundred and thirty-three feet.
As in all similar Babylonian buildings, one angle points almost due north. The lower story, twenty-seven feet high, is supported by strong buttresses ; the upper story, receding from thirty to forty-seven feet from the edge of the first, is fourteen feet high, surmounted by about five feet of brick rubbish. The ascent was on the north-east. A tunnel driven into the mound proved that the entire edifice was built of sun-dried bricks in the centre, with a thick coating of massive, partially burnt bricks of a light red colour with layers of reeds between them, the whole, to a thickness of ten feet, being cased with a wall of inscribed kiln-burnt bricks. Inscribed cylinders were discovered at the four corners of the building, each standing in a niche formed by the omission of a single brick in the layer. Subsequent excavations seem to prove that commemorative inscriptions, inscribed on cylinders, were regularly deposited by the builders or restorers of Babylonian temples and palaces at the four corners of the edifices.1
The inscriptions on the cylinders found at Ur" record the restoration of the temple-tower by Nabonidus, the last king of Babylon (555-538 B.C.), and give us in outline a history of the ancient edifice. One of them runs as follows :—
" Nabonidus, King of Babylon, patron of Esagila and Ezida, who fears the great gods, am I.
"As for E-lugal-(?)-si-di, the temple-tower of E-gish-shir-gal, which is in Ur, which Ur-uk, a former king, had built, but had not completed—Dun-gi, his son, completed its construction. From the inscriptions of Ur-uk and Dun-gi, his son, I learned that Ur-uk had built this temple-tower, without completing it, and that Dun-gi, his son, had completed its construction. This temple-tower was now old, and upon the old platform-foundation which Ur-uk and Dun-gi, his son, had built, I undertook the reconstruction of this temple-tower, as of old, with bitumen and burnt brick, and for Sin, the lord of the gods of heaven and earth, the king of the gods, the god of gods, who inhabit the great heavens, the lord of E-gish-shir-gal, which is in Ur, my lord, I founded and built (it).
" O Sin, lord of the gods, king of the gods of heaven and earth, the god of gods, who inhabit the great heavens, upon thy joyful entrance into that temple may the good done to Esagila, Ezida (and) E-gish-shir-gal, the temples of thy great divinity, be established on thy lips!
" And do thou implant the fear of thy great divinity in the heart of its people, that they may not sin against thy great divinity, (and) like the heavens may their foundations stand fast!
" As for me, Nabonidus, King of Babylon, save me from sinning against thy great divinity! A life of far-distant days grant me as a present! And as regards Belshazzar, the first-born son, my offspring, do thou implant in his heart the fear of thy great divinity ! May he not fall into sin ! May he be satisfied with fulness of life ! "
From this inscription we learn that the name of the city was Ur, and that the temple was dedicated to Sin, the Babylonian moon-god. Further we are informed that King Ur-uk or Urengur, as his name should rather be spelt, who built the temple-tower, left it unfinished, and that the edifice was completed by his son, King Dungi. The reign of King Ur-uk or Urengur is variously dated about 2700 B.C. or 2300 B.C. In either case the foundation of the temple preceded, perhaps by hundreds of years, the date which is usually assigned to the birth of Abraham; so that if the patriarch really migrated from Ur to Canaan, as Hebrew tradition relates, this very building, whose venerable ruins exist on the spot to this day, dominating by their superior height the flat landscape through which the Euphrates winds seaward, must have been familiar to Abraham from childhood, and may have been the last object on which his eyes rested when, setting out in search of the Promised Land, he took a farewell look backward at his native city disappearing behind its palm groves in the distance. It is possible that in the minds of his descendants, the conspicuous pile, looming dim and vast through the mists of time and of distance, may have assumed the gigantic proportions of a heaven-reaching tower, from which in days of old the various nations of the earth set out on their wanderings.
Stories which bear a certain resemblance to the legend of the Tower of Babel are reported among several African tribes. Thus, some of the natives of the Zambesi, apparently in the neighbourhood of the Victoria Falls, " have a tradition which may refer to the building of the Tower of Babel, but it ends in the bold builders getting their crowns cracked by the fall of the scaffolding." The story thus briefly referred to by Dr. Livingstone has been more fully recorded by a Swiss missionary. The A-Louyi, a tribe of the Upper Zambesi, say that formerly their god Nyambe, whom they identify with the sun, used to dwell on earth, but that he afterwards ascended up to heaven on a spider's web. From his post up aloft he said to men, "Worship me." But men said, "Come, let us kill Nyambe." Alarmed at this impious threat, the deity fled to the sky, from which it would seem that he had temporarily descended. So men said, "Come", let us make masts to reach up to heaven." They set up masts and added more masts, joining them one to the other, and they clambered up them. But when they had climbed far up, the masts fell down, and all the men on the masts were killed by the fall. That was the end of them.
The Bambala of the Congo say "that the Wan-gongo once wanted to know what the moon was, so they started to go and see. They planted a big pole in the ground, and a man climbed up it with a second pole which he fastened to the end ; to this a third was fixed, and so on. When their Tower of Babel had reached a considerable height, so high in fact that the whole population of the village was carrying poles up, the erection suddenly collapsed, and they fell victims to their ill-advised curiosity. Since that time no one has tried to find out what the moon is." The natives of Mkulwe, in German East Africa, tell a similar tale. According to them, men one day said to each other, "Let us build high, let us reach the moon!" So they rammed a great tree into the earth, and fixed another tree on the top of it, and another on the top of that, and so on, till the trees fell down and the men were killed. But other men said, "Let us not give up this undertaking," and they piled trees one on the top of the other, till one day the trees again fell down and the men were killed. Then the people gave up trying to climb aloft to the moon.
The Ashantees have a tradition that God of old dwelt among men, but that, resenting an affront put on him by an old woman, he withdrew in high dudgeon to his mansion in the sky. Disconsolate at his departure, mankind resolved to seek and find him. For that purpose they collected all the porridge pestles they could find and piled them up, one on the top of the other. When the tower thus built had nearly reached the sky, they found to their dismay that the supply of pestles ran short. What were they to do ? In this dilemma a wise man stood up and said," The matter is quite simple. Take the lowest pestle of all, and put it on the top, and go on doing so till we arrive at God." The proposal was carried, but when they came to put it in practice, down fell the tower, as indeed you might have expected. However, others say that the collapse of the tower was caused by the white ants, which gnawed away the lowest of the pestles. In whichever way it happened, the communication with heaven was not completed, and men were never able to ascend up to God.
The Anal clan of the Kuki tribe, in Assam, tell of an attempt made by a man to climb up into the sky, in order to recover his stolen property. The story is as follows. Once upon a time there was a very pious man who devoted much time to worshipping God, and he had a pet bitch. Envious of his noble qualities, the sun and moon resolved to rob him of his virtue. In pursuit of this nefarious design, they promised to give him their virtue, if only he would first entrust them with his. The unsuspecting saint fell into the trap, and the two celestial rogues made off with his virtue. Thus defrauded, the holy man ordered his dog to pursue and catch the thieves. The intelligent animal brought a long pole and climbed up it to reach the fugitives, and the saint swarmed up the pole behind his dumb friend. Unfortunately he ascended so slowly that, before he reached the sky, the white ants had eaten away the lower end of the pole, so he fell down and broke his neck. But the bitch was more agile ; before the white ants had gnawed through the wood, she had got a footing in the sky, and there the faithful animal is to this day, chasing the sun and moon round and round the celestial vault. Sometimes she catches them, and when she does so, the sun or moon is darkened, which Europeans call an eclipse. At such times the Anals shout to the bitch, " Release! Release ! " meaning, of course, that she is to let go the sun or moon.
A story like the Biblical narrative of the Tower of Babel is told of the great pyramid of Cholula in Mexico, the vastest work of aboriginal man in all America. This colossal fabric, on which the modern traveller still gazes with admiration, stands near the handsome modern city of Puebla, on the way from Vera Cruz to the capital. In form it resembles, and in dimensions it rivals, the pyramids of Egypt. Its perpendicular height is nearly two hundred feet, and its base is twice as long as that of the great pyramid of Cheops. It had the shape common to the Mexican teocallis, that of a truncated pyramid, facing with its four sides the cardinal points and divided into four terraces. Its original outlines, however, have been effaced by time and the weather, while its surface is now covered by an exuberant growth of shrubs and trees, so that the huge pile presents the aspect of a natural hill rather than of a mound reared by human labour. The edifice is built of rows of bricks baked in the sun and cemented together with mortar, in which are stuck quantities of small stones, potsherds, and fragments of obsidian knives and weapons. Layers of clay are interposed between the courses of brick. The flat summit, which comprises more than an acre of ground, commands a superb prospect over the broad fertile valley away to the huge volcanic mountains which encircle it, their lower slopes covered with grand forests their pinnacles of porphyry bare and arid, the highest of them crowned with eternal snow.
A legend concerning the foundation of this huge monument is recorded by the Dominican friar Pedro de los Rios. It runs as follows. Before the great flood, which took place four thousand years after the creation of the world, this country was inhabited by giants. All who did not perish in the inundation were turned into fishes, except seven who took refuge in caves. When the waters had retired, one of the seven, by name Xelhua, surnamed the Architect, came to Cholula, where, in memory of the mountain of Tlaloc, on which he and his six brothers had found safety, he built an artificial hill in the shape of a pyramid. He caused the bricks to be made in the province of Tlalmanalco, at the foot of Mount Cocotl, and in order to transport them to Cholula he set a line of men on the road, who passed the bricks from hand to hand. It was his purpose to raise the mighty edifice to the clouds, but the gods, offended at his presumption, hurled the fire of heaven down on the pyramid, many of the workmen perished, and the building remained unfinished. Afterwards it was dedicated to the great god Quetzalcoatl (a Sun god).
It is said that at the time of the Spanish conquest the inhabitants of Cholula preserved with great veneration a large aerolite, which according to them was the very thunderbolt that fell on the pyramid and set it on fire. A similar tradition, differing somewhat in details, is related by the Spanish historian Duran, who wrote in 1579 "In the beginning," says he, "before the light and sun were created, the earth was in darkness and gloom, void of all created things, quite flat, without hill or dale, encircled by water on every side, without trees and without any other created thing. As soon as the sun and the light were born in the east, some men appeared there, ungainly giants who possessed the land. Wishing to see the rising and the setting of the sun, they agreed to go in search of it ; so dividing into two bands they journeyed, the one band toward the west, and the other toward the east. So they journeyed till they were stopped by the sea. Thence they resolved to return to the place from which they had set out : so they came back to the place called Iztacçulin ineminian. Not knowing how to reach the sun, and charmed with its light and beauty, they decided to build a tower so high that its top should reach the sky. In their search for materials with which to carry out their design they found a clay and a very sticky bitumen with which they began in a great hurry to build the tower. When they had reared it as high as they could, so high that it is said to have seemed to reach the sky, the lord of the heights was angry and said to the inhabitants of heaven, ' Have you seen how the inhabitants of the earth have built a tower so high and so proud to climb up here, charmed as they are with the light and beauty of the sun? Come, let us confound them ; for it is not meet that the people of the earth, who live in bodies of flesh, should mix with us.' In a moment, the inhabitants of heaven, setting out towards the four quarters of the world, overthrew as by a thunderbolt the edifice which the men had built. After that, the giants, scared and filled with terror, separated and scattered in all directions over the earth."
A legend ascribed to the Toltecs of Mexico is as follows. "Ixtlil-xochitl writes of this tradition as follows : They say that the world was created in the year Ce Tecpatl, and this time until the deluge they call Atonatiuh, which means the age of the sun of water, because the world was destroyed by the deluge. It is found in the histories of the Toltecs that this age and first world, as they term it, lasted seven hundred and sixteen years ; that man and all the earth were destroyed by great showers and by lightnings from heaven, so that nothing remained, and the most lofty mountains were covered up and submerged to the depth of caxtolmoletltli, or fifteen cubits, and here they add other fables of how men came to multiply again from the few who escaped the destruction in a toptlipetlacali; which word very nearly signifies a closed chest; and how, after multiplying, the men built a zacuali of great height, and by this is meant a very high tower, in which to take refuge when the world should be a second time destroyed. After this their tongue became confused, and, not understanding each other, they went to different parts of the world." In this legend the coincidences with the Biblical narratives of the flood, the ark, the tower of Babel, and the confusion of tongues seem too numerous to be accidental.
A similar verdict may be pronounced, with even less hesitation, on a tale told by the Karens of Burma, a tribe who display a peculiar aptitude for borrowing Christian legends and disguising them with a thin coat of local colour. Their edition of the Tower of Babel story, as told by the Gaikho section of the tribe, runs as follows. "The Gaikhos trace their genealogy to Adam, and make thirty generations from Adam, to the building of the Tower of Babel, at which time they say they separated from the Red Karens. ... In the days of Pan-dan-man, the people determined to build a pagoda that should reach up to heaven. The place" they suppose to be somewhere in the country of the Red Karens, with whom they represent themselves as associated until this event. When the pagoda was half way up to heaven, God came down and confounded the language of the people, so that they could not understand each other. Then the people scattered, and Than-mau-rai, the father of the Gaikho tribe, came west, with eight chiefs, and settled in the valley of the Sitang."
The Biblical story of the Tower of Babel and the confusion of tongues reappears also among the Mikirs, one of the many Tibeto-Burman tribes of Assam. They say that in days of old the descendants of Ram were mighty men, and growing dissatisfied with the mastery of the earth they aspired to conquer heaven. So they began to build a tower which should reach up to the skies. Higher and higher rose the building, till at last the gods and demons feared lest these giants should become the masters of heaven, as they already were of earth. So they confounded their speech, and scattered them to the four corners of the world. Hence arose all the various tongues of mankind. Again, we find the same old story, in a slightly disguised form, among the Admiralty Islanders. They say that the tribe or family of the Lohi numbered one hundred and thirty souls and had for their chief a certain Muikiu. This Muikiu said to his people, " Let us build a house as high as heaven." So they built it, and when it nearly reached the sky, there came to them from Kali a man named Po Awi, who forbade them to go on with the building. Said he to Muikiu, " Who told you to build so high a house ?" Muikiu answered, " I am master of our people the Lohi. I said, ' Let us build a house as high as heaven.' If I had had my way, our houses should have been as high as heaven. But now, thy will is done, our houses will be low." So saying he took water and sprinkled it on the bodies of his people. Then was their language confounded ; they understood not each other and dispersed into different lands. Thus every land has now its own speech.
Not a few peoples have attempted to explain the diversities of human speech without reference to a Tower of Babel or similar structures.
Thus the Greeks had a tradition that for many ages men lived at peace, without cities and without laws, speaking one language, and ruled by Zeus alone.
At last Hermes introduced diversities of speech and divided mankind into separate nations. So discord first arose among mortals, and Zeus, offended at their quarrels, resigned the sovereignty and committed it to the hands of the Argive hero Phoroneus, the first king of men. The Wa-Sania of British East Africa say that of old all the tribes of the earth knew only one language, but that during a severe famine the people went mad and wandered in all directions, jabbering strange words, and so the different languages arose.
The Maidu Indians of California say that down to a certain time everybody spoke the same language. But once, when the people were having a burning, and everything was ready for the next day, suddenly in the night everybody began to speak in a different tongue, except that each husband and wife talked the same language. That night the Creator, whom they call Earth-Initiate, appeared to a certain man named Kuksu, told him what had happened, and instructed him how to proceed next day when the Babel of tongues would commence. Thus prepared, Kuksu summoned all the people together, for he could speak all the languages. He taught them the names of the different animals and so forth in their various dialects, showed them how to cook and to hunt, gave them their laws, and appointed the times for their dances and festivals. Then he called each tribe by name, and sent them off in different directions, telling them where they were to dwell.
The Quiches of Guatemala told of a time, in the early ages of the world, when men lived together and spoke but one language, when they invoked as yet neither wood nor stone, and remembered naught but the word of the Creator, the Heart of heaven and of earth. However, as years went on the tribes multiplied, and leaving their old home came to a place called Tulan. It was there, according to Quiché tradition, that the language of the tribes changed and the diversity of tongues originated ; the people ceased to understand each other's speech and dispersed to seek new homes in different parts of the world.
An Indian account of Tower of Babel, which is described as a pyramid, is recorded by Sir William Jones in Asiatic Researches, volumes three and eight. The Tower is called the "Padma-mandira" and that mankind was peopled from three brothers who survived an universal deluge.
Sir William Jones is best known today for making and propagating the observation that Sanskrit (the classical language of India) bore a certain resemblance to classical Greek and Latin. In The Sanskrit Language (1786) he suggested that all three languages had a common root, and that indeed they may all be further related, in turn, to the Gothic, Celtic and Persian languages. Jones also noted in his Asiatic Researches, volume 11, of a similarity of some eastern American words with the Sanskrit Language.
Jones third discourse (delivered in 1786 and published in 1788) with the famed "philologer" passage is often cited as the beginning of comparative linguistics and Indo-European studies. This is Sir William Jones' most famously quoted passage:
"The Sanskrit language, whatever be its antiquity, is of a wonderful structure; more perfect than the Greek, more copious than the Latin, and more exquisitely refined than either, yet bearing to both of them a stronger affinity, both in the roots of verbs and the forms of grammar, than could possibly have been produced by accident; so strong indeed, that no philologer could examine them all three, without believing them to have sprung from some common source, which, perhaps, no longer exists". (Emp. ours)
Worldwide tales exist of a great flood and afterwards peoples being dispersed to repopulate the earth.
In Siberia the Yenisei Ostiaks relate such a story. In even in the frozen tundra, the Samoyeds record the flood and dispersion. (Holmberg, Finno-Ugric Siberian Mythology)
Even the Chins of China record a legend of the Tower, an enraged god and dispersal of nations and languages from this event. (Scott, Indo-Chinese Mythology)
In ancient South American stories of a flood, the survival of a family, later the building of a tower which was overthrown by the gods followed by the dispersion and different languages. (Bancroft's Works, vol 3)
Father Duran, in his MS. "Historia Antiqua de la Nueva Espana," A.D. 1585, quotes from the lips of a native of Cholula, over one hundred years old, a version of the legend as to the building of the great pyramid of Cholula. It is as follows:
"In the beginning, before the light of the sun had been created, this land (Cholula) was in obscurity and darkness, and void of any created thing; all was a plain, without hill or elevation, encircled in every part by water, without tree or created thing; and immediately after the light and the sun arose in the east there appeared gigantic men of deformed stature and possessed the land, and desiring to see the nativity of the sun, as well as his occident, proposed to go and seek them. Dividing themselves into two parties, some journeyed to the west and others toward the east; these travelled; until the sea cut off their road, whereupon they determined to return to the place from which they started, and arriving at this place (Cholula), not finding the means of reaching the sun, enamoured of his light and beauty, they determined to build a tower so high that its summit should reach the sky. Having collected materials for the purpose, they found a very adhesive clay and bitumen, with which they speedily commenced to build the tower; and having reared it to the greatest possible altitude, so that they say it reached to the sky, the Lord of the Heavens, enraged, said to the inhabitants of the sky, 'Have you observed how they of the earth have built a high and haughty tower to mount hither, being enamoured of the light of the sun and his beauty? Come and confound them, because it is not right that they of the earth, living in the flesh, should mingle with us.' Immediately the inhabitants of the sky sallied forth like flashes of lightning; they destroyed the edifice, and divided and scattered its builders to all parts of the earth."
(As recorded by Ignatius Donnelly in his book, Atlantis, the Antediluvian World, 1882)
In the ancient Babylonian language Babel meant the "Gate of God", in Hebrew it means babble, or confusion of tongues. "Babel" is composed of two words, "baa" meaning "gate" and "el," "god." Hence, "the gate of god." The related word in Hebrew, "balal" means "confusion."
We have numerous accounts of the Tower and consequent dispersion remembered by the ancients worldwide, exactly as can be expected if the event is true. We also have the testimony of archaeology and ancient tablets discovered in Mesopotamia and the remains of two locations associated with Nimrod, one being the possible Tower of Babel. Such evidence of an event so far back in history is more than ample to prove the case that the Biblical account is a true event of history, when mankind rebelled against God and were dispersed.
We must conclude the reason the Tower of Babel affair is not taught as history is political and not historical. From a historical perspective the evidence is quite clear, with such ample evidence from such numerous sources and worldwide locations, proves beyond reasonable doubt, the events as recorded in the Bible took place as recorded in the Bible. Accordingly the events at Babel should be taught as history.