backwards of the re-conquest of the city by Darius Hystaspis. The actual facts were very different. Cyrus had invaded Babylonia from two directions, he himself marching towards the confluence of the Tigris and Diyaleh, while Gobryas, the satrap of Kurdistan, led another body of troops along the course of the Adhem. The portion of the Babylonian army to which the protection of the eastern frontier had been entrusted was defeated at Opis on the banks of the Nizallat, and the invaders poured across the Tigris into Babylonia. On the 14th of Tammuz (June), 538 B.C., Nabonidos fled from Sippara, where he had taken his son’s place in the camp, and the city surrendered at once to the enemy. Meanwhile Gobryas had been despatched to Babylon, which opened its gates to the invader on the 16th of the month “without combat or battle,” and a few days later Nabonidos was dragged from his hiding-place and made a prisoner. According to Berossus he was subsequently appointed governor of Karmania by his conqueror. Belshazzar, however, still held out, and it was probably on this account that Cyrus himself did not arrive at Babylon until nearly four months later, on the 3rd of Marchesvan. On the 11th of that month Gobryas was despatched to put an end to the last semblance of resistance in the country “and the son (?) of the king died.” In accordance with the conciliatory policy of Cyrus, a general mourning was proclaimed on account of his death, and this lasted for six days, from the 27th of Adar to the 3rd of Nisan. Unfortunately the character representing the word “son” is indistinct on the tablet which contains the annals of Nabonidos, so that the reading is not absolutely certain. The only other reading possible, however, is “and the king died,” and this reading is excluded partly by the fact that Nabonidos afterwards became a Persian satrap, partly by the silence which would otherwise be maintained by the “Annals” in regard to the fate of Belshazzar. Considering how important Belshazzar was politically, and what a prominent place he occupied in the history of the period, such a silence would be hard to explain. His death subsequently to the surrender of Babylon and the capture of Nabonidos, and with it the last native effort to resist the invader, would account for the position he assumed in later tradition and the substitution of his name for that of the actual king.
See Th. G. Pinches, P.S.B.A., May 1884; H. Winckler, Zeitschrift für Assyriologie, ii. 2, 3 (1887); Records of the Past, new series, i. pp. 22-31 (1888); A. H. Sayce, The Higher Criticism, pp. 497-537 (1893).
(A. H. S.)
BELT, THOMAS (1832-1878), English geologist and naturalist, was born at Newcastle-on-Tyne in 1832, and educated in that city. As a youth he became actively interested in natural history through the Tyneside Naturalists’ Field Club. In 1852 he went to Australia and for about eight years worked at the gold-diggings, where he acquired a practical knowledge of ore-deposits. In 1860 he proceeded to Nova Scotia to take charge of some gold-mines, and there met with a serious injury, which led to his return to England. In 1861 he issued a separate work entitled Mineral Veins: an Enquiry into their Origin, founded on a Study of the Auriferous Quartz Veins of Australia. Later on he was engaged for about three years at Dolgelly, another though small gold-mining region, and here he carefully investigated the rocks and fossils of the Lingula Flags, his observations being published in an important and now classic memoir in the Geological Magazine for 1867. In the following year he was appointed to take charge of some mines in Nicaragua, where he passed four active and adventurous years—the results being given in his Naturalist in Nicaragua (1874), a work of high merit. In this volume the author expressed his views on the former presence of glaciers in that country. In subsequent papers he dealt boldly and suggestively with the phenomena of the Glacial period in Britain and in various parts of the world. After many further expeditions to Russia, Siberia and Colorado, he died at Denver on the 21st of September 1878.
BELT (a word common to Teutonic languages, the Old Ger. form being balz, from which the Lat. balteus probably derived), a flat strap of leather or other material used as a girdle (q.v.), especially the cinctura gladii or sword-belt, the chief “ornament of investiture” of an earl or knight; in machinery, a flexible strap passing round from one drum, pulley or wheel to another, for the purpose of power-transmission (q.v.). The word is applied to any broad stripe, to the belts of the planet Jupiter, to the armour-belt at the water-line of a warship, or to a tract of country, narrow in proportion to its length, with special distinguishing characteristics, such as the earthquake-belt across a continent.
BELTANE, Beltene, Beltine, or Beal-Tene (Scottish Gaelic, bealltain), the Celtic name for May-day, on which also was held a festival called by the same name, originally common to all the Celtic peoples, of which traces still linger in Ireland, the Highlands of Scotland and Brittany. This festival, the most important ceremony of which in later centuries was the lighting of the bonfires known as “beltane fires,” is believed to represent the Druidical worship of the sun-god. The fuel was piled on a hill-top, and at the fire the beltane cake was cooked. This was divided into pieces corresponding to the number of those present, and one piece was blackened with charcoal. For these pieces lots were drawn, and he who had the misfortune to get the black bit became cailleach bealtine (the beltane carline)—a term of great reproach. He was pelted with egg-shells, and afterwards for some weeks was spoken of as dead. In the north-east of Scotland beltane fires were still kindled in the latter half of the 18th century. There were many superstitions connecting them with the belief in witchcraft. According to Cormac, archbishop of Cashel about the year 908, who furnishes in his glossary the earliest notice of beltane, it was customary to light two fires close together, and between these both men and cattle were driven, under the belief that health was thereby promoted and disease warded off. (See Transactions of the Irish Academy, xiv. pp. 100, 122, 123.) The Highlanders have a proverb, “he is between two beltane fires.” The Strathspey Highlanders used to make a hoop of rowan wood through which on beltane day they drove the sheep and lambs both at dawn and sunset.
As to the derivation of the word beltane there is considerable obscurity. Following Cormac, it has been usual to regard it as representing a combination of the name of the god Bel or Baal or Bil with the Celtic teine, fire. And on this etymology theories have been erected of the connexion of the Semitic Baal with Celtic mythology, and the identification of the beltane fires with the worship of this deity. This etymology is now repudiated by scientific philologists, and the New English Dictionary accepts Dr Whitley Stokes’s view that beltane in its Gaelic form can have no connexion with teine, fire. Beltane, as the 1st of May, was in ancient Scotland one of the four quarter days, the others being Hallowmas, Candlemas, and Lammas.
For a full description of the beltane celebration in the Highlands of Scotland during the 18th century, see John Ramsay, Scotland and Scotsmen in the 18th Century, from MSS. edited by A. Allardyce (1888); and see further J. Robertson in Sinclair’s Statistical Account of Scotland, xi. 620; Thomas Pennant, Tour in Scotland (1769-1770); W. Gregor, “Notes on Beltane Cakes,” Folklore, vi. (1895), p. 2; and “Notes on the Folklore of the North-East of Scotland,” p. 167 (Folklore Soc. vii. 1881); A. Bertrand, La Religion des Gaulois (1897); Jamieson, Scottish Dictionary (1808). Cormac’s Glossary has been edited by O’Donovan and Stokes (1862).
BELUGA (Delphinapterus leucas), also called the “white whale,” a cetacean of the family Delphinidae, characterized by its rounded head and uniformly light colour. A native of the Arctic seas, it extends in the western Atlantic as far south as the river St Lawrence, which it ascends for a considerable distance. In colour it is almost pure white; the maximum length is about twelve feet; and the back-fin is replaced by a low ridge. Examples have been taken on the British coasts; and individuals have been kept for some time in captivity in America and in London. See Cetacea.
BELVEDERE, or Belvidere (Ital. for “fair-view”), an architectural structure built in the upper part of a building or in any elevated position so as to command a fine view. The belvedere assumes various forms, such as an angle turret, a cupola, a loggia or open gallery. The name is also applied to the whole building, as the Belvedere gallery in the Vatican at Rome. For Apollo Belvidere see Greek Art, Plate II. fig. 55.