The city of Babylon (6th century BC)

The city of Babylon (6th century BC)

The ancient city of Babylon was built on the banks of the Euphrates River in Mesopotamia.

History

Keywords

Babylon, Babel, Mesopotamia, Marduk, Koldewey, Hanging Gardens of Babylon, Ishtar gate, Euphrates, Wonders of the World, Iraq, church, temple district, Assyrians, fortification, Persian rule, Alexander the Great, city-state, building, edifice, gate, empire, defensive wall, clay brick, palace, royal, residence, _javasolt

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Questions

  • On the banks of which river was the city of Babylon located?
  • Who founded the Old Babylonian Empire?
  • Who was the main god of Babylon?
  • When did Hammurabi reign?
  • What was the total length of the walls of Babylon?
  • How high was the Ishtar Gate?
  • Which animal is not depicted on the walls of Babylon?
  • According to Herodotus, how many towers were built along the walls of Babylon?
  • What was the colour of the glazed bricks that covered the walls of Babylon?
  • How many buildings in Babylon are included among the Wonders of the Ancient World?
  • In which present-day country was ancient Babylon located?
  • What were the doors of the Ishtar Gate crafted of?
  • What was walled area where the ziggurat stood called?
  • What was not built in the ancient city of Babylon?
  • Is it true that the walls of Babylon were listed as one of the Wonders of the Ancient World?
  • During the reign of which ruler was the Ishtar Gate completed?
  • What structure was built in the temple district of Babylon?
  • In which century did the Ishtar Gate take its final form?
  • Is it true that the exact location of the Hanging Gardens is unknown?
  • To which goddess was the most monumental and most ornamented gate in Babylon dedicated?
  • Which empire did Nebuchadnezzar II rule?
  • Where was the city of Babylon located?
  • What does the Akkadian word 'Bab-ili' mean?
  • Which Assyrian king had Babylon destroyed?
  • What was the name of the road that led to the Ishtar Gate?
  • Where is a reconstruction of the Ishtar Gate shown today?
  • What are special Mesopotamian type of temples called?
  • Which biblical structure is associated with the Ziggurat of Babylon?
  • To which deity was the ziggurat of Babylon dedicated?
  • To which deity was the temple district of Babylon dedicated?
  • What was Ishtar not a goddess of?

Scenes

Babylon

The ancient city of Babylon was built on the banks of the Euphrates River in Mesopotamia. A settlement may have existed there already in the 4th millennium BC. The city was first mentioned in a 24th century BC historical source as a place of worship of the god Marduk. The name of the city had been changed from the earlier Bāb-ili, meaning 'Gate of God'. The biblical name Babel originates from Babylon's Hebrew name.

The remains of the city are located in present-day Iraq, near the city of Hillah, south of Baghdad.

Extensive archaeological excavations began in the early 20th century, led by the German archaeologist Robert Koldewey. By today, most of the ruins have been excavated and some of the buildings have been reconstructed.

Ishtar Gate

Babylon was surrounded by double walls. The outer wall had several gates, the largest and most magnificent of which was the Ishtar Gate. The Processional Way, leading to the Temple District in the centre of city, went through this gate.

The gate was dedicated to Ishtar, the Akkadian-Babylonian goddess of animals and plants, love, fertility and motherhood, but also of feud and war.

The legendary gate was completed during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar II. The approx. 14 m tall structure was covered with characteristic, blue-glazed tiles and decorated with bas-relief bulls and dragons (Mušḫuššu) of the Akkadian mythology. The door was made of cedarwood.

Although the original gate has not survived, a reconstruction is shown in the Pergamon Museum, Berlin.

Palace

The Royal Palace was located in the northern part of the city, within the outer walls. According to historical sources, the structure, similarly to the Ishtar Gate, took its final form during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar II, the best-known king of the Neo-Babylonian Empire.

Hanging Gardens

The structure known as the 'Hanging Gardens of Babylon' was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Although Greek scholars called the gardens the 'Gardens of Semiramis', attributing them to the legendary Assyrian queen, they might have been commissioned by king Nebuchadnezzar II, around 600 BC.

According to legend, the king had the Hanging Gardens built for his wife, Queen Amytis, because she missed the green hills and valleys of her homeland. So, to please his wife, the king had a grand palace built that resembled a mountain covered with plants.

According to ancient historians, the 'Hanging Gardens' of Babylon were actually a stepped structure, similar to a ziggurat. The terraces were filled with soil and the plants were irrigated by an ingenious system.

The structure was probably called 'hanging' gardens because, when viewed from a distance, it may have looked as if the plants were floating in the air. The exact location of the gardens, however, is still unknown.

Ziggurat

The Processional Way led through the Ishtar Gate to the Temple District. One of the most famous ancient ziggurats, the one dedicated to Marduk, was located in this district. Marduk was the chief god of Babylon; the shrine built atop the ziggurat of the city was the most important place of his worship. The structure was called Etemenanki, 'temple of the foundation of Heaven and Earth'.

Originally, a ziggurat may have been constructed here in the 2nd millennium BC. After Babylon was destroyed in the 7th century by the Assyrians, the temple, along with other buildings in the city, was rebuilt in the 7th-6th centuries BC. According to historical sources, it consisted of seven storeys and measured 91 metres in height. The biblical 'Tower of Babel' is identified with the Temple of Marduk by many.

Centuries later, when the city was deserted by its inhabitants, the ziggurat fell into decay, its clay bricks were carried off by the locals. Excavations in the 20th century could only find its foundations.

Residential district

During the heyday of the Neo-Babylonian Empire, the city may have had a population of several hundred thousand.

The city’s layout was simple, the long roads divided it into long rectangular districts. The residential districts were located further away from the centre.

Walls of Babylon

The city of Babylon was surrounded by high and strong walls. The outer wall, constructed of clay bricks, was probably about 18 km in length and 18 m in height.

According to the ancient Greek historian Herodotus, the walls were thick enough for a four-horse chariot to turn around on the top. Archeological finds, however, indicate that the wall's thickness at the Ishtar Gate may have been about 4 m.

Herodotus also wrote that hundreds of towers were built on top of the walls, making Babylon’s skyline an impressive sight. These mighty walls and the legendary Ishtar Gate inspired ancient historians to mention the structure among the wonders of the ancient world.

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Narration

Babylon, built on the banks of the Euphrates River, played an extremely important role in the history of Mesopotamia. The exact date of Babylon's foundation is unknown. It was originally a small Akkadian-Ammorite city but its importance grew continuously.

By the 18th century BC, under Hammurabi’s reign, the city had become the centre of the Babylonian Empire. Later, in the Assyrian period, its importance decreased. During the reign of Nebuchadnezzar II, Babylon was rebuilt. The flourishing city became the centre of the neo-Babylonian Empire in the 6th century BC.

At that time, Babylon was surrounded by fortified walls, about 18 km in length. The walls were constructed of clay bricks and were about 18 m in height. These mighty walls and the legendary Ishtar Gate inspired ancient historians to list the structure among the wonders of the ancient world.

The Processional Way led through the Ishtar Gate, then passed by the fortress and the palace. The legendary Hanging Gardens might also have stood next to the Processional Way, but the exact location is still unknown. The Processional Way also passed by the walled Temple District, the religious centre of the city. The ziggurat dedicated to Marduk, chief deity of Babylon stood in this district.

The city layout was simple, with narrow but long, straight streets dividing the city into districts. The newer parts of the city were mostly residential districts, where the population of several hundred thousand lived.

In the 2nd half of the 6th century BC Babylon was ruled by the Persians, but remained one of the royal centres. Its importance did not decrease even during the reign of Macedonian king Alexander the Great, after he conquered the Persian Empire. Following his early death, however, Babylon fell into decay and was later abandoned by its inhabitants.

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