Akkadian : Bābili or Babilim;
בבל, Babel; Arabic : بَابِل, Bābil; Hebrew :
בָּבֶל, Bavel) was a major city of ancient
The city was built upon the
Euphrates river and divided in equal parts
along its left and right banks, with steep embankments to contain the
river's seasonal floods.
Babylon was originally a small
dating from the period of the
Akkadian Empire c. 2300 BC.
The town became an independent city-state with the rise of the First
Amorite Babylonian Dynasty in the nineteenth century BC . After the
Hammurabi created a short-lived empire in the 18th
century BC, southern
Mesopotamia became known as
Babylonia and Babylon
Nippur as its "holy city". The empire waned under Hammurabi's
Babylon spent long periods under Assyrian ,
Kassite and Elamite domination. After being destroyed and then rebuilt
by the Assyrians ,
Babylon became the capital of the Neo-Babylonian
Empire from 609 to 539 BC. The
Hanging Gardens of Babylon
Hanging Gardens of Babylon was one of
Seven Wonders of the Ancient World . After the fall of the
Neo-Babylonian Empire, the city came under the rule of the Achaemenid
, Seleucid , Parthian , Roman , and Sassanid empires.
It has been estimated that
Babylon was the largest city in the world
from c. 1770 to 1670 BC, and again between c. 612 and 320 BC. It was
perhaps the first city to reach a population above 200,000. Estimates
for the maximum extent of its area range from 890 to 900 hectares
(2,200 acres). The remains of the city are in present-day
Babil Governorate ,
Iraq , about 85 kilometres (53 mi) south of
Baghdad , comprising a large tell of broken mud-brick buildings and
The main sources of information about Babylon—excavation of the
site itself, references in cuneiform texts found elsewhere in
Mesopotamia, references in the
Bible , descriptions in classical
writing (especially by
Herodotus ), and second-hand descriptions
(citing the work of
Berossus )—present an incomplete and
sometimes contradictory picture of the ancient city even at its peak
in the sixth century.
* 1 Name
* 2 Geography
* 3 Sources
* 3.1 Early references
* 3.2 Classical dating
* 4 History
* 4.1 Old Babylonian period
* 4.2 Middle
* 4.3 Assyrian period
Neo-Babylonian Chaldean Empire
* 4.5 Persian conquest
* 4.7 Renewed Persian rule
* 5 Modern era
* 5.1 Excavation and research
* 5.3 US and Polish occupation
* 5.4 Present day
* 6 Cultural importance
* 6.1 Biblical narrative
* 7 See also
* 8 Notes
* 9 References
* 9.1 Sources
* 9.2 Further reading
* 10 External links
Look up 𒆍𒀭𒊏𒆠 in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
Babylon comes from Greek Babylṓn (Βαβυλών), a
transliteration of the
The Babylonian name in the early
2nd millennium BC
2nd millennium BC had been Babilli
or Babilla, long thought to mean “gate of god” (Bab-Ili ).
Archibald Henry Sayce and others considered "Babili" as the
translation of a Sumerian or Turanian name "Ca-dimirra", meaning gate
of god, based on the characters KA-AN-RA-KI corresponding to
𒆍𒀭𒊏𒆠, or perhaps based on other characters.
The “gate of god” translation is increasingly viewed as a folk
etymology to explain an unknown original non-Semitic placename.
Linguist I.J. Gelb suggested in 1955 that the name Babil is in
reference to an earlier city name, and
Joan Oates claims in her book
Babylon that the rendering Gateway of the gods is no longer accepted
by modern scholars. The name "Babil" could derive from "Bawer" located
Ernst Herzfeld in Ancient Iran.
David Rohl holds that the original
Babylon is to be identified with
Bible , the name appears as Babel (Hebrew :
בָּבֶל, Bavel, Tib. בָּבֶל, Bāvel; Syriac :
ܒܒܠ, Bāwēl), interpreted in the
Hebrew Scriptures ' Book of
Genesis to mean "confusion ", from the verb bilbél (בלבל, "to
confuse"). The modern English verb, to "babble", or to speak
meaningless words, is popularly thought to derive from this name, but
there is no direct connection.
Ancient records in some situations use
Babylon as a name for other
cities, including cities like
Borsippa within Babylon's sphere of
Nineveh for a short period after the Assyrian sack of
Babylon on the
Euphrates River with major
areas within inner and outer walls.
Babylon in 1932
Brick structures in Babylon, photographed in 2016
The remains of the city are in present-day
Hillah , Babil
Iraq , about 85 kilometers (53 mi) south of
comprising a large tell of broken mud-brick buildings and debris. The
Babylon consists of a number of mounds covering an area of
about 2 by 1 kilometer (1.24 mi × 0.62 mi), oriented north to south,
Euphrates to the west. Originally, the river roughly
bisected the city, but the course of the river has since shifted so
that most of the remains of the former western part of the city are
now inundated. Some portions of the city wall to the west of the river
Only a small portion of the ancient city (3% of the area within the
inner walls; 1.5% of the area within the outer walls; 0.05% at the
depth of Middle and Old Babylon) has been excavated. Known remains
* Kasr—also called Palace or Castle, it is the location of the
Etemenanki and lies in the center of the site.
* Amran Ibn Ali—the highest of the mounds at 25 meters, to the
south. It is the site of
Esagila , a temple of
Marduk which also
contained shrines to Ea and
* Homera—a reddish colored mound on the west side. Most of the
Hellenistic remains are here.
* Babil—a mound about 22 meters high at the northern end of the
site. Its bricks have been subject to looting since ancient times. It
held a palace built by Nebuchadnezzar.
Archaeologists have recovered few artifacts predating the
Neo-Babylonian period. The water table in the region has risen greatly
over the centuries and artifacts from the time before the
Neo-Babylonian Empire are unavailable to current standard
archaeological methods. Additionally, the Neo-Babylonians conducted
significant rebuilding projects in the city, which destroyed or
obscured much of the earlier record.
Babylon was pillaged numerous
times after revolting against foreign rule, most notably by the
Elamites in the 2nd millennium, then by the Neo-Assyrian
Empire and the
Achaemenid Empire in the 1st millennium. Much of the
western half of the city is now beneath the river, and other parts of
the site have been mined for commercial building materials.
Only the Koldewey expedition recovered artifacts from the Old
Babylonian period. These included 967 clay tablets, stored in private
houses, with Sumerian literature and lexical documents.
Nearby ancient settlements are Kish ,
Dilbat , and
Sippar were 60 km in either direction along the Euphrates.
Leonard William King of fragment K. 8532, a part
Dynastic Chronicle listing rulers of
Babylon grouped by
Historical knowledge of early
Babylon must be pieced together from
epigraphic remains found elsewhere, such as at
Nippur , and
Information on the
Neo-Babylonian city is available from
archaeological excavations and from classical sources.
described, perhaps even visited, by a number of classical historians
Quintus Curtius Rufus ,
Strabo , and
Cleitarchus . These reports are of variable accuracy and some of the
content was politically motivated, but these still provide useful
References to the city of
Babylon can be found in
Sumerian literature from the late third millennium BC. One of the
earliest is a tablet describing the
Akkadian king Šar-kali-šarri
laying the foundations in
Babylon of new temples for Annūnı̄tum and
Babylon also appears in the administrative records of the Third
Dynasty of Ur , which collected in-kind tax payments and appointed an
ensi as local governor.
The so-called Weidner Chronicle (also known as ABC 19) states that
Sargon of Akkad (c. 23d century BC in the short chronology had built
Babylon "in front of Akkad" (ABC 19:51). A later chronicle states that
Sargon "dug up the dirt of the pit of Babylon, and made a counterpart
Babylon next to Akkad". (ABC 20:18–19). Van de Mieroop has
suggested that those sources may refer to the much later Assyrian king
Sargon II of the
Neo-Assyrian Empire rather than Sargon of Akkad.
Book of Genesis
Book of Genesis , chapter 10, claims that king
Babel, Uruk, and Akkad.
Ctesias , quoted by
Diodorus Siculus and in
George Syncellus 's
Chronographia, claimed to have access to manuscripts from Babylonian
archives, which date the founding of
Babylon to 2286 BC, under the
reign of its first king, Belus . A similar figure is found in the
Berossus , who according to Pliny, stated that
astronomical observations commenced at
Babylon 490 years before the
Greek era of
Phoroneus , indicating 2243 BC. Stephanus of Byzantium
Babylon was built 1002 years before the date given by
Hellanicus of Lesbos for the siege of Troy (1229 BC), which would date
Babylon's foundation to 2231 BC. All of these dates place Babylon's
foundation in the
23rd century BC ; however, cuneiform records have
not been found to correspond with these classical (post-cuneiform)
The Queen of the Night relief. The figure could be an aspect of
Ishtar , Babylonian goddess of sex and love.
By around the
19th century BC
19th century BC , much of southern
Amorites , nomadic tribes from the northern
Northwest Semitic speakers, unlike the native Akkadians of
Assyria , who spoke East Semitic . The
Amorites at first did not practice agriculture like more advanced
Mesopotamians, preferring a semi-nomadic lifestyle, herding sheep.
Amorite grain merchants rose to prominence and established
their own independent dynasties in several south Mesopotamian
city-states, most notably
Lagash , and
Babylon as a state.
OLD BABYLONIAN PERIOD
Map showing the Babylonian territory upon Hammurabi's ascension
in 1792 BC and upon his death in 1750 BC Old Babylonian
cylinder seal , hematite . This seal was probably made in a workshop
Sippar (about 40 miles north of
Babylon on the map above) either
during, or shortly before, the reign of
Hammurabi . It depicts the
king making an animal offering to the Sun god
Linescan camera image of the cylinder seal above (reversed to resemble
According to a Babylonian date list,
Amorite rule in
(c. the 19th or 18th century BC) with a chieftain named
who declared independence from the neighboring city-state of
Sumu-la-El , whose dates may be concurrent with those of Sumu-abum, is
usually given as the progenitor of the
First Babylonian Dynasty . Both
are credited with building the walls of Babylon. In any case, the
records describe Sumu-la-El’s military successes establishing a
regional sphere of influence for Babylon.
Babylon was initially a minor city-state, and controlled little
surrounding territory; its first four
Amorite rulers did not assume
the title of king. The older and more powerful states of Assyria, Elam
Babylon until it became the capital of
Hammurabi 's short lived empire about a century later.
1792–1750 BC) is famous for codifying the laws of
Babylonia into the
Hammurabi . He conquered all of the cities and city states of
southern Mesopotamia, including
Larsa , Ur ,
Eridu , Kish , Adab ,
Akshak , Akkad ,
Girsu , coalescing them into one kingdom,
ruled from Babylon.
Hammurabi also invaded and conquered
Elam to the
east, and the kingdoms of Mari and
Ebla to the north west. After a
protracted struggle with the powerful Mesopotamian king
Assyria, he forced his successor to pay tribute late in his reign,
spreading Babylonian power to Assyria's Hattian and
Asia Minor .
After the reign of Hammurabi, the whole of southern
to be known as
Babylonia , whereas the north had coalesced centuries
Assyria . From this time,
Eridu as the major religious center of Mesopotamia. Hammurabi's empire
destabilized after his death. Assyrians defeated and drove out the
Babylonians and Amorites. The far south of
Mesopotamia broke away,
Sealand Dynasty , and the
Elamites appropriated territory
in eastern Mesopotamia. The
Amorite dynasty remained in power in
Babylon, which again became a small city state.
Texts from Old
Babylon often include references to
Shamash , the
sun-god of Sippar, treated as a supreme deity, and
Marduk , considered
as his son.
Marduk was later elevated to a higher status and Shamash
lowered, perhaps reflecting Babylon’s rising political power
In 1595 BC the city was overthrown by the
Hittite Empire from Asia
Minor . Thereafter,
Kassites from the
Zagros Mountains of north
Ancient Iran captured Babylon, ushering in a dynasty that
lasted for 435 years, until 1160 BC. The city was renamed Karanduniash
during this period. Kassite
Babylon eventually became subject to the
Middle Assyrian Empire (1365–1053 BC) to the north, and
Elam to the
east, with both powers vying for control of the city. The Assyrian
Tukulti-Ninurta I took the throne of
Babylon in 1235 BC.
By 1155 BC, after continued attacks and annexing of territory by the
Assyrians and Elamites, the
Kassites were deposed in Babylon. An
Akkadian south Mesopotamian dynasty then ruled for the first time.
Babylon remained weak and subject to domination by Assyria.
Its ineffectual native kings were unable to prevent new waves of
foreign West Semitic settlers from the deserts of the Levant,
Suteans in the 11th century BC, and finally
the Chaldeans in the 9th century BC, entering and appropriating areas
Babylonia for themselves. The
Arameans briefly ruled in Babylon
during the late 11th century BC.
Assyria during his Babylonian war , relief from
his palace in
During the rule of the
Neo-Assyrian Empire (911–609 BC), Babylonia
was under constant Assyrian domination or direct control. During the
Sennacherib of Assyria,
Babylonia was in a constant state of
revolt, led by a Chaldean chieftain named Merodach-Baladan , in
alliance with the
Elamites , and suppressed only by the complete
destruction of the city of Babylon. In 689 BC, its walls, temples and
palaces were razed, and the rubble was thrown into the Arakhtu, the
sea bordering the earlier
Babylon on the south. Destruction of the
religious center shocked many, and the subsequent murder of
Sennacherib by two of his own sons while praying to the god Nisroch
was considered an act of atonement. Consequently, his successor
Esarhaddon hastened to rebuild the old city and make it his residence
during part of the year. After his death,
Babylonia was governed by
his elder son, the Assyrian prince
Shamash-shum-ukin , who eventually
started a civil war in 652 BC against his own brother,
who ruled in
Shamash-shum-ukin enlisted the help of other
peoples subject to Assyria, including
Persia , Chaldeans and
Suteans of southern Mesopotamia, and the
in the deserts south of
Babylon was besieged by the Assyrians, starved into
surrender and its allies were defeated.
Ashurbanipal celebrated a
"service of reconciliation", but did not venture to "take the hands"
of Bel . An Assyrian governor named
Kandalanu was appointed as ruler
of the city.
Ashurbanipal did collect texts from
Babylon for inclusion
in his extensive library at Ninevah.
After the death of Ashurbanipal, the Assyrian empire destabilized due
to a series of internal civil wars throughout the reigns of Assyrian
Eventually Babylon, like many other parts of the near east, took
advantage of the anarchy within
Assyria to free itself from Assyrian
rule. In the subsequent overthrow of the Assyrian Empire by an
alliance of peoples, the Babylonians saw another example of divine
NEO-BABYLONIAN CHALDEAN EMPIRE
Cuneiform cylinder from reign of
Nebuchadnezzar II honoring the
exorcism and reconstruction of the ziggurat
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Neo-Babylonian Empire Detail of the
reconstruction A reconstruction of the blue-tiled
which was the northern entrance to Babylon. It was named for the
goddess of love and war. Bulls and dragons, symbols of the god Marduk
, decorated the gate.
Nabopolassar , a previously unknown Chaldean chieftain, Babylon
escaped Assyrian rule, and in an alliance with
Cyaxares , king of the
Medes and Persians together with the
finally destroyed the Assyrian Empire between 612 BC and 605 BC.
Babylon thus became the capital of the
Neo-Babylonian (sometimes and
possibly erroneously called Chaldean ) Empire.
With the recovery of Babylonian independence, a new era of
architectural activity ensued, particularly during the reign of his
Nebuchadnezzar II (604–561 BC).
Nebuchadnezzar ordered the
complete reconstruction of the imperial grounds, including the
Etemenanki ziggurat , and the construction of the
Ishtar Gate —the
most prominent of eight gates around Babylon. A reconstruction of the
Ishtar Gate is located in the
Pergamon Museum in
Nebuchadnezzar is also credited with the construction of the Hanging
Babylon —one of the seven wonders of the ancient world
—said to have been built for his homesick wife
Amyitis . Whether the
gardens actually existed is a matter of dispute. German archaeologist
Robert Koldewey speculated that he had discovered its foundations, but
many historians disagree about the location.
Stephanie Dalley has
argued that the hanging gardens were actually located in the Assyrian
Nebuchandnezzar is also notoriously associated with the Babylonian
exile of the Jews, the result of an imperial technique of
pacification, used also by the Assyrians, in which ethnic groups in
conquered areas were deported en masse to the capitol.
Chaldean rule of
Babylon did not last long; it is not clear whether
Neriglissar and Labashi-
Marduk were Chaldeans or native Babylonians,
and the last ruler
Nabonidus (556–539 BC) and his co-regent son
Belshazzar were Assyrians from
In 539 BC, the
Neo-Babylonian Empire fell to
Cyrus the Great , king
Persia , with a military engagement known as the
Battle of Opis .
Babylon's walls were considered impenetrable. The only way into the
city was through one of its many gates or through the
Metal grates were installed underwater, allowing the river to flow
through the city walls while preventing intrusion. The Persians
devised a plan to enter the city via the river. During a Babylonian
national feast, Cyrus' troops diverted the
Euphrates River upstream,
allowing Cyrus' soldiers to enter the city through the lowered water.
The Persian army conquered the outlying areas of the city while the
majority of Babylonians at the city center were unaware of the breach.
The account was elaborated upon by
Herodotus and is also mentioned
in parts of the Hebrew Bible.
Herodotus also described a moat, an enormously tall and broad wall
cemented with bitumen and with buildings on top, and a hundred gates
to the city. He also writes that the Babylonians wear turbans and
perfume and bury their dead in honey, that they practice ritual
prostitution, and that three tribes among them eat nothing but fish.
The hundred gates can be considered a reference to Homer, and
following the pronouncement of
Archibald Henry Sayce in 1883,
Herodotus’s account of
Babylon has largely been considered to
represent Greek folklore rather than an authentic voyage to Babylon.
Dalley and others have recently suggested taking Herodotus’s account
According to 2 Chronicles 36 of the Hebrew
Bible , Cyrus later issued
a decree permitting captive people, including the
Jews , to return to
their own lands. Text found on the
Cyrus Cylinder has traditionally
been seen by biblical scholars as corroborative evidence of this
policy, although the interpretation is disputed because the text only
identifies Mesopotamian sanctuaries but makes no mention of Jews,
Jerusalem, or Judea.
Under Cyrus and the subsequent Persian king
Darius the Great ,
Babylon became the capital city of the 9th Satrapy (
Babylonia in the
south and Athura in the north), as well as a center of learning and
scientific advancement. In
Achaemenid Persia, the ancient Babylonian
arts of astronomy and mathematics were revitalized, and Babylonian
scholars completed maps of constellations. The city became the
administrative capital of the
Persian Empire and remained prominent
for over two centuries. Many important archaeological discoveries have
been made that can provide a better understanding of that era.
The early Persian kings had attempted to maintain the religious
Marduk , but by the reign of
Darius III , over-taxation
and the strain of numerous wars led to a deterioration of Babylon's
main shrines and canals, and the destabilization of the surrounding
region. There were numerous attempts at rebellion and in 522 BC
Nebuchadnezzar III ), 521 BC (
Nebuchadnezzar IV ) and 482 BC
(Bel-shimani and Shamash-eriba) native Babylonian kings briefly
regained independence. However these revolts were quickly repressed
Babylon remained under Persian rule for two centuries, until
Alexander the Great
Alexander the Great 's entry in 331 BC.
"Entry of Alexander into Babylon", a 1665 painting by Charles
LeBrun , depicts Alexander the Great's uncontested entry into the city
of Babylon, envisioned with pre-existing
Hellenistic architecture .
In October of 331 BC,
Darius III , the last
Achaemenid king of the
Persian Empire, was defeated by the forces of the Ancient Macedonian
Alexander the Great
Alexander the Great at the
Battle of Gaugamela . A native
account of this invasion notes a ruling by Alexander not to enter the
homes of its inhabitants.
Babylon again flourished as a center of learning and
commerce. However, following Alexander's death in 323 BC in the palace
Nebuchadnezzar , his empire was divided amongst his generals, the
Diadochi , and decades of fighting soon began. The constant turmoil
virtually emptied the city of Babylon. A tablet dated 275 BC states
that the inhabitants of
Babylon were transported to Seleucia , where a
palace and a temple (
Esagila ) were built. With this deportation,
Babylon became insignificant as a city, although more than a century
later, sacrifices were still performed in its old sanctuary.
RENEWED PERSIAN RULE
Babylonia § Persian_
Under the Parthian and Sassanid Empires ,
Babylon (like Assyria)
became a province of these Persian Empires for nine centuries, until
after AD 650. It maintained its own culture and people, who spoke
Aramaic , and who continued to refer to their homeland as
Babylon. Examples of their culture are found in the Babylonian Talmud
Gnostic Mandaean religion, Eastern Rite
Christianity and the
religion of the prophet Mani .
Christianity was introduced to
Mesopotamia in the 1st and 2nd centuries AD, and
Babylon was the seat
of a Bishop of the
Church of the East
Church of the East until well after the
Arab/Islamic conquest .
Muslim conquest of
In the mid-7th century,
Mesopotamia was invaded and settled by the
Muslim Empire, and a period of
Babylon was dissolved as a province and
Aramaic and Church of the East
Christianity eventually became marginalized. Ibn Hauqal mentions a
small village called Babel in the tenth century; subsequent travelers
describe only ruins.
Babylon is mentioned in medieval Arabic writings as a source of
bricks, said to have been used in cities from
Baghdad to Basra.
European travelers in many cases could not discover the city's
location, or mistook
Fallujah for it. Twelfth-century traveler
Benjamin of Tudela mentions
Babylon but it’s not clear if he really
went there. Others referred to
Babylon or New
described various structures in encountered in the region as the Tower
Pietro della Valle did find the ancient site of
the seventeenth century, and noted the existence of both baked and
dried mudbricks cemented with bitumen , some of which he brought home
From the accounts of modern travellers, I had expected to have
found on the site of
Babylon more, and less, than I actually did.
Less, because I could have formed no conception of the prodigious
extent of the whole ruins, or of the size, solidity, and perfect
state, of some of the parts of them; and more, because I thought that
I should have distinguished some traces, however imperfect, of many of
the principle structures of Babylon. I imagined, I should have said:
“Here were the walls, and such must have been the extent of the
area. There stood the palace, and this most assuredly was the tower of
Belus.” – I was completely decieved: instead of a few insulated
mounds, I found the whole face of the country covered with vestiges of
building, in some places consisting of brick walls surprisingly fresh,
in others merely of a vast succession of mounds of rubbish of such
indeterminate figures, variety and extent, as to involve the person
who should have formed any theory in inextricable confusion. Claudius
J. Rich , Memoir on the Ruins of
Babylon (1815), pp. 1–2. Lion
The eighteenth century saw an increasing flow of travelers to
Carsten Niebuhr and
Pierre-Joseph de Beauchamp , as
well as measurements of its latitude. Beauchamp’s memoir, published
in English translation in 1792, provoked the British East India
Company to direct its agents in
Baghdad and Basra to acquire
Mesopotamian relics for shipment to London.
EXCAVATION AND RESEARCH
Claudius Rich , working for the East India Company in Baghdad,
Babylon in 1811–12 and again in 1817. Robert Mignan
excavated at the site briefly in 1827.
William Loftus visited there
Austen Henry Layard
Austen Henry Layard made some soundings during a brief visit in 1850
before abandoning the site.
Fulgence Fresnel and Julius Oppert
Babylon from 1852 to 1854. However, many of the
fruits of their work was lost when a raft containing over forty crates
of artifacts sank into the Tigris river. Original tiles of the
processional street. Ancient Babylon, Mesopotamia, Iraq.
Sir Henry Rawlinson, 1st Baronet and George Smith worked there
briefly in 1854. The next excavation was conducted by Hormuzd Rassam
on behalf of the
British Museum . Work began in 1879, continuing until
1882, and was prompted by widespread looting of the site. Using
industrial scale digging in search of artifacts, Rassam recovered a
large quantity of cuneiform tablets and other finds. The zealous
excavation methods, common at the time, caused significant damage to
the archaeological context. Many tablets had appeared on the market
in 1876 before Rassam's excavation began. Mušḫuššu
(sirrush) and aurochs on either side of the processional street.
Ancient Babylon, Mesopotamia,
A team from the German Oriental Society led by Robert Koldewey
conducted the first scientific archaeological excavations at Babylon.
The work was conducted daily from 1899 until 1917. Primary efforts of
the dig involved the temple of
Marduk and the processional way leading
up to it, as well as the city wall. Artifacts including pieces
Ishtar Gate and hundreds of recovered tablets were sent back to
Germany, where Koldewey's colleague
Walter Andrae reconstructed them
into displays at Vorderasiatisches Museum
Berlin ., The German
archaeologists fled before oncoming British troops in 1917 and again
many objects went missing in the following years.
Further work by the
German Archaeological Institute was conducted by
Heinrich J. Lenzen in 1956 and Hansjörg Schmid in 1962. Lenzen's work
dealt primarily with the
Hellenistic theatre, and Schmid focused on
the temple ziggurat
More recently, the site of
Babylon was excavated by G. Bergamini on
behalf of the Turin Centre for Archaeological Research and Excavations
in the Middle East and Asia and the Iraqi-Italian Institute of
Archaeological Sciences. This work began with a season of excavation
in 1974 followed by a topographical survey in 1977. The focus was on
clearing up issues raised by re-examination of the old German data.
After a decade, Bergamini returned to the site in 1987–1989. Work at
that time concentrated on the area surrounding the Ishara and Ninurta
temples in the Shu-Anna city-quarter of Babylon.
During the restoration efforts in Babylon, the Iraqi State
Organization for Antiquities and Heritage excavation and clearing, but
wider publication of these archaeological activities has been limited.
Indeed, most of the known tablets from all modern excavation remain
The site of
Babylon has been a cultural asset to
Iraq since the
creation of the modern Iraqi government in 1920. Babylonian images
periodically appear on Iraqi postcards and stamps. In the 1960s a
replica of the
Ishtar gate and a reconstruction of Ninmakh temple were
built on site.
On 14 February 1978, the
Baathist government of
Iraq under Saddam
Hussein began the "Archaeological Restoration of
reconstructing features of the ancient city atop its ruins. These
features included the Southern Palace of Nebuchandnezzar, with 250
rooms, five courtyards, and a 30-meter entrance arch. The project also
reinforced the Processional Way, the Lion of
Babylon , and an
amphitheater constructed in the city's
Hellenistic era. In 1982 the
government minted a set of seven coins displaying iconic features of
Babylon International Festival was held in September 1987,
and annually thereafter until 2002 (excepting 1990 and 1991), to
showcase this work. Proposed reconstruction of the Hanging Gardens and
the great ziggurat never took place.
Hussein installed a portrait of himself and
Nebuchadnezzar at the
entrance to the ruins and inscribed his name on many of the bricks, in
imitation of Nebuchadnezzar. One frequent inscription reads: "This was
built by Saddam Hussein, son of Nebuchadnezzar, to glorify Iraq".
These bricks became sought after as collectors' items after Hussein's
(Consequently, artifacts and other finds may be under the city.)
Similar projects were conducted at
Assur and Hatra
, to demonstrate the magnificence of Arab achievement.
When the 1991
Gulf War ended, Hussein wanted to build a modern palace
called Saddam Hill over some of the old ruins, in the pyramidal style
of a ziggurat . In 2003, he intended the construction of a cable car
line over Babylon, but plans were halted by the 2003 invasion of Iraq
US AND POLISH OCCUPATION
US Marines in front of the rebuilt ruins of Babylon, 2003
World Monuments Fund video on conservation of
Following the 2003 invasion of
Iraq , the area around
under the control of US troops, before being handed over to Polish
forces in September 2003. US forces under the command of General
James T. Conway of the
I Marine Expeditionary Force were criticized
for building the military base "Camp Alpha", with a helipad and other
facilities on ancient Babylonian ruins durning the
Iraq War . US
forces have occupied the site for some time and have caused
irreparable damage to the archaeological record. In a report of the
British Museum 's Near East department, Dr. John Curtis described how
parts of the archaeological site were levelled to create a landing
area for helicopters, and parking lots for heavy vehicles. Curtis
wrote that the occupation forces:
caused substantial damage to the
Ishtar Gate, one of the most famous
monuments from antiquity US military vehicles crushed 2,600-year-old
brick pavements, archaeological fragments were scattered across the
site, more than 12 trenches were driven into ancient deposits and
military earth-moving projects contaminated the site for future
generations of scientists.
A US Military spokesman claimed that engineering operations were
discussed with the "head of the
Babylon museum". The head of the
Iraqi State Board for Heritage and Antiquities, Donny George, said
that the "mess will take decades to sort out" and criticised Polish
troops for causing "terrible damage" to the site. Poland resolved in
2004 to place the city under
Iraq control, and commissioned a report
titled Report Concerning the Condition of the Preservation of the
Babylon Archaeological Site, which it presented at a meeting on
11–13 December 2004. In 2005 the site was handed over to the Iraqi
Ministry of Culture.
In April 2006, Colonel John Coleman, former Chief of Staff for the
1st Marine Expeditionary Force, offered to issue an apology for the
damage done by military personnel under his command. However, he also
claimed that the US presence had deterred far greater damage by other
looters. An article published in April 2006 stated that UN officials
and Iraqi leaders have plans to restore Babylon, making it into a
Two museums and a library, containing replicas of artifacts and local
maps and reports, were raided and destroyed.
In May 2009, the provincial government of Babil reopened the site to
tourists, but not many have come. An oil pipeline runs through an
outer wall of the city. Panoramic view of ruins in Babylon
photographed in 2005 during a tour for U.S. soldiers.
Woodcut in 1493
Nuremberg Chronicle depicting the fall of
Babylon. "The Walls of
Babylon and the Temple of Bel (Or
Babel)", by 19th-century illustrator William Simpson — influenced by
early archaeological investigations.
Before modern archaeological excavations in Mesopotamia, the
Babylon was largely a mystery, and typically envisioned
by Western artists as a hybrid between ancient Egyptian, classical
Greek, and contemporary Ottoman culture.
Due to Babylon's historical significance as well as references to it
Bible , the word "Babylon" in various languages has acquired a
generic meaning of a large, bustling diverse city. Examples include:
Babylon is used in reggae music as a concept in the Rastafari
belief system, denoting the materialistic capitalist world.
Freemasonry , which has its own versions of biblical legends,
Babylon as its birthplace and a haven for
science and knowledge.
Babylon 5 —a science fiction series about a multi-racial
futuristic space station .
Babylon A.D. takes place in New York City, decades in the future.
Babilonas (Lithuanian name for "Babylon")—a real estate
In Genesis 10:10, Babel (Babylon) is described as founded by Nimrod
Uruk , Akkad and perhaps
Calneh —all of them in
("Calneh" is now sometimes translated not as a proper name but as the
phrase "all of them".) Another story is given in Genesis 11, which
describes a united human race, speaking one language, migrating to
Shinar to establish a city and tower—the
Tower of Babel . God
destroys the tower and the city, dispersing humanity across the earth
and requiring to speak mutually unintelligible languages.
Babylon appears throughout the Hebrew
Bible , including descriptions
of the destruction of Jerusalem and of the
Babylonian captivity , and
in several prophecies. Consequently, in
Jewish and Christian
Babylon symbolizes an oppressor against which righteous
believers must struggle. Prophecies sometimes symbolically link the
Lucifer . Nebuchadnezzar, sometimes conflated
with Nabonidus, appears as the foremost ruler in this narrative.
The Revelation of St. John in the
Bible refers to Babylon
many centuries after it ceased to be a major political center. The
city is personified by the “
Whore of Babylon ”, riding on a
scarlet beast with seven heads and ten horns, and drunk on the blood
of the righteous. Some scholars of apocalyptic literature believe this
New Testament “Babylon” to be a dysphemism for the
Roman Empire .
Cities of the ancient Near East
* Jehoiachin\'s Rations Tablets
List of Kings of Babylon
Tomb of Daniel
Tomb of Daniel
* ^ The
Amorites were not native to Mesopotamia, but were
Northwest Semitic invaders from the northern
Levant . They (together with the
Elamites to the east) had originally
been prevented from taking control of the
Akkadian states of southern
Mesopotamia by the intervention of powerful Assyrian kings of the Old
Assyrian Empire during the 21st and 20th centuries BC, intervening
from northern Mesopotamia. However, when the Assyrians turned their
attention to expanding their colonies in
Asia Minor , the Amorites
eventually began to supplant native rulers across the region.
* ^ Please see
Chronology of the ancient Near East for more
discussion on dating events in the
2nd millennium BC
2nd millennium BC , including the
Sack of Babylon.
* ^ A B C The Cambridge Ancient History: Prolegomena & Prehistory:
Vol. 1, Part 1. Accessed 15 Dec 2010.]
* ^ Tertius Chandler. Four Thousand Years of Urban Growth: An
Historical Census (1987), St. David's University Press ("etext.org".
Archived from the original on 2008-02-11. Retrieved 2010-04-18. CS1
maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link )). ISBN 0-88946-207-0 .
Historical urban community sizes .
* ^ Mieroop, Marc van de (1997). The Ancient Mesopotamian City.
Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 95. ISBN 9780191588457 .
* ^ Boiy, T. (2004). Late
Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta. 136. Leuven: Peeters Publishers. p.
233. ISBN 9789042914490 .
* ^ Seymour (2006), pp. 140–142.
* ^ Sayce 1878 , p. 182.
* ^ Dietz Otto Edzard: Geschichte Mesopotamiens. Von den Sumerern
bis zu Alexander dem Großen, Beck, München 2004, p. 121.
Archibald Henry Sayce , "The Origin of Semitic Civilisation,
Chiefly Upon Philological Evidence", Transactions of the Society of
Biblical Archaeology Vol. 1, p. 298; read 2 April 1872.
* ^ A B Sayce, Archibald Henry (1878b). "Babylon—Babylonia".
Encyclopædia Britannica . III (9th ed.). pp. 182–194.
William Muss-Arnolt (1905), “Bābilu”, in A Concise
Dictionary of the Assyrian Language, volume I, Berlin: Reuther London:
Trübner pp. 135–136.
* ^ Liane Jakob-Rost, Joachim Marzahn: Babylon, ed. Staatliche
Museen zu Berlin. Vorderasiatisches Museum, (Kleine Schriften 4), 2.
Auflage, Putbus 1990, p. 2
* ^ A B C Wilfred G. Lambert, “Babylon: Origins”; in
Cancik-Kirschbaum et al. (2011), pp. 71–76.
* ^ Gen. 11:9.
* ^ Magnus Magnusson, BC: The Archaeology of the
Bible Lands. BBC
Publications 1977, pages 198–199.
* ^ "Online Etymology Dictionary – babble".
Stephanie Dalley , "Nineveh,
Babylon and the Hanging Gardens:
Cuneiform and Classical Sources Reconciled";
Iraq 56, 1994.
* ^ A B
Stephanie Dalley ,
Babylon as a Name for other Cities
Including Nineveh, in Proceedings of the 51st Rencontre Assyriologique
Internationale, Oriental Institute SAOC 62, pp. 25–33, 2005
* ^ A B C D E F G H Olof Pedersén, "Excavated and Unexcavated
Libraries in Babylon", in Cancik-Kirschbaum et al. (2011), pp.
* ^ A B MacGinnis, John (1986). "Herodotus\' Description of
Babylon". Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies. 33: 67–86.
Retrieved 18 March 2015.
* ^ Vedeler (2006), pp. 7–8.
* ^ Records of the Past,
Archibald Sayce , 2nd series, Vol. 1,
1888, p. 11.
* ^ N.H. vii. 57
* ^ The Seven Great Monarchies of the Ancient Eastern World, George
Rawlinson , Vol. 4, p. 526-527.
* ^ Al-Gailani Werr, L., 1988. Studies in the chronology and
regional style of Old Babylonian Cylinder Seals. Bibliotheca
Mesopotamica, Volume 23.
* ^ Vedeler (2006), pp. 8–15. “However, this later tradition is
almost certainly a simplification or even a reworking of the actual
events surrounding Sumu-abum, who was never regarded as an actual
ancestor to the other kings of the
Babylon I dynasty (Edzard
1957:122); in reality the relationship of
much more complex. It was long been noted that many of Sumu-abum’s
year names are identical or virtually identical to the year names of
Sumu-la-el, whom we know for certain was king of Babylon. Goddeeris
(2002:319-320) sums these parallels up as follows: Sa 1 and 2 / Sl 5
and 6: building the wall of Babylon. Sa 9 / Sl ‘b’: building the
wall of Dilbat. Sa 13/14 / Sl 20/21: the destruction and seizure of
Albert Houtum-Schindler , "Babylon," Encyclopædia Britannica,
* ^ "170. MMA 86.11.284" in Ira Spar Eisenbrauns, 2014; pp.
* ^ Bradford, Alfred S. (2001). With Arrow, Sword, and Spear: A
History of Warfare in the Ancient World, pp. 47–48. Greenwood
Publishing Group. ISBN 0-275-95259-2 .
* ^ Curtis, Adrian; Herbert Gordon May (2007). Oxford
Oxford University Press
Oxford University Press ISBN 978-0-19-100158-1 p. 122 Google Books
* ^ von Soden, Wilfred; Donald G. Schley (1996). William B.
Eerdmanns ISBN 978-0-8028-0142-5 p. 60 Google Books Search
* ^ Saggs, H.W.F. (2000). Babylonians, p. 165. University of
California Press. ISBN 0-520-20222-8 .
Stephanie Dalley , (2013) The Mystery of the Hanging Garden of
Babylon: an elusive World Wonder traced, OUP ISBN 978-0-19-966226-5
* ^ Seymour (2006), pp. 88–89. “Preventing uprisings on the
fringes of the empire was a major concern for Assyrian kings, and a
number of policies developed to meet this need, among them mass
deportations. When new territory was conquered or a rebellious vassal
crushed, an increased imperial presence in the trouble spot was often
complemented by the removal of large numbers of the indigenous
population to the imperial core, effectively breaking up the
rebellious population and reducing the potential for future
resistance. This practice was effective, and continued throughout the
Neo-Babylonian empires until 539 BC and Cyrus’s
conquest of Babylon. The majority of the immigrant population were not
slaves (Yamauchi 2002: 365), and some did rise to high status
positions at the core of the empire (a possibility reflected in the
career of the biblical Daniel, who rises to the status of trusted
* ^ A B Herodotus, Book 1, ch. 178–200; or see "Herodotus\'
Babylon and the Babylonians".
* ^ Isaiah 44:27
* ^ Jeremiah 50–51
* ^ Seymour (2006), pp. 107–115.
Cyrus Cylinder The British Museum. Retrieved July 23, 2011.
* ^ "Mesopotamia: The Persians". Wsu.edu:8080. 1999-06-06. Archived
from the original on 6 December 2010. Retrieved 2010-11-09.
* ^ Beck, Roger B.; Linda Black; Larry S. Krieger; Phillip C.
Naylor; Dahia Ibo Shabaka (1999). World History: Patterns of
Interaction. Evanston, IL: McDougal Littell. ISBN 0-395-87274-X .
* ^ Sayce 1911 , p. 98
* ^ Seymour (2006), p. 148.
* ^ A B Julian E. Reade, "Disappearance and rediscovery"; in Finkel
* ^ Seymour (2006), p. 148–151.
* ^ Quoted in Seymour (2006), p. 175.
* ^ Seymour (2006), pp. 169 – 173.
* ^ Claudius J. Rich, Memoirs on the Ruins of Babylon, 1815
* ^ Claudius J. Rich, Second memoir on Babylon; containing an
inquiry into the correspondence between the ancient descriptions of
Babylon, and the remains still visible on the site, 1818
* ^ Google Books Search, Robert Mignan, Travels in Chaldæa,
Including a Journey from Bussorah to Bagdad, Hillah, and Babylon,
Performed on Foot in 1827, H. Colburn and R. Bentley, 1829 ISBN
* ^ Google Books Search, William K. Loftus, Travels and Researches
in Chaldaea and Susiana, Travels and Researches in Chaldaea and
Susiana: With an Account of Excavations at Warka, the "Erech" of
Nimrod, and Shush, "Shushan the Palace" of Esther, in 1849–52,
Robert Carter New York: Harper Philadelphia: A. J. Holman and Company,
Hormuzd Rassam , Asshur and the Land of Nimrod: Being an
Account of the Discoveries Made in the Ancient Ruins of Nineveh,
Asshur, Sepharvaim, Calah, , Curts Agnes Sophia Griffith Johns
(translator), The Excavations at Babylon, Macmillan and Co., 1914. "Up
to the present time only about half the work has been accomplished,
although since it began we have worked daily, both summer and winter,
with from 200 to 250 workmen" (p. v).
* ^ R. Koldewey, Die Tempel von
Babylon und Borsippa, WVDOG, vol.
15, pp. 37–49, 1911 (in German)
* ^ R. Koldewey, Das Ischtar-Tor in Babylon, WVDOG, vol. 32, 1918
* ^ F. Wetzel, Die Stadtmauren von Babylon, WVDOG, vol. 48, pp.
* ^ F. Wetzel and F.H. Weisbach, Das Hauptheiligtum des
Esagila und Etemenanki, WVDOG, vol. 59, pp. 1–36, 1938
* ^ F. Wetzel et al., Das
Babylon der Spätzeit, WVDOG, vol. 62,
Gebr. Mann, 1957 (1998 reprint ISBN 3-7861-2001-3 )
* ^ Brittney Garcia, "
Ishtar Gate", Ancient History Encyclopedia,
23 August 2013.
* ^ Can Bilsel, Antiquities on Display: Regimes of the Authentic in
Berlin's Pergamon Museum; Oxford University Press, 2012; ISBN
978-0-19-957055-3 ; pp. 163–183.
* ^ Hansjörg Schmid, Der Tempelturm
Etemenanki in Babylon, Zabern,
1995, ISBN 3-8053-1610-0
* ^ Centro Ricerche Archeologiche e Scavi di Torino per il Medio
Oriente e l'Asia. Projects: IRAQ:
Babylon and The Iraqi-Italian
Institute of Archaeological Sciences and the Iraqi-Italian Centre for
the Restoration of Monuments in Baghdad.
* ^ G. Bergamini, "Levels of
Babylon Reconsidered", Mesopotamia,
vol. 12, pp. 111–152, 1977
* ^ G. Bergamini, "Excavations in Shu-anna
Mesopotamia, vol. 23, pp. 5–17, 1988
* ^ G. Bergamini, "Preliminary report on the 1988–1989 operations
Babylon Shu-Anna", Mesopotamia, vol. 25, pp. 5–12, 1990
* ^ "Excavations in
Iraq 1981–1982", Iraq, vol. 45, no. 2, pp.
* ^ Farouk N. H. Al-Rawi, Nabopolassar's Restoration Work on the
Wall "Imgur-Enlil at Babylon, Iraq, vol. 47, pp. 1–13, 1985
* ^ A B John Curtis, "The Present Condition of Babylon"; in
Cancik-Kirschbaum et al. (2011).
* ^ A B John Curtis, "The Site of
Babylon Today"; in Finkel pp.
* ^ Paul Lewis, "
Babylon Journal; Ancient King\'s Instructions to
Iraq: Fix My Palace" (archive), New York Times, 19 April 1989.
* ^ "Saddam removed from ancient
Babylon \'brick by brick\'", ABC
News 20 April 2003.
* ^ Lawrence Rothfield (1 Aug 2009). The Rape of Mesopotamia:
Behind the Looting of the
Iraq Museum. University of Chicago Press.
* ^ A B McCarthy, Rory; Kennedy, Maev (2016-05-15). "Babylon
wrecked by war". The Guardian. Retrieved 2016-08-20.
* ^ Bajjaly, Joanne Farchakh (2005-04-25). "History lost in dust of
BBC News. Retrieved 2013-06-07.
* ^ Leeman, Sue (January 16, 2005). "Damage seen to ancient
Babylon". The Boston Globe.
* ^ Marozzi, Justin (2016-08-08). "Lost cities #1:
Babylon – how
war almost erased ‘mankind’s greatest heritage site’". The
Guardian. Retrieved 2016-08-20.
* ^ Heritage News from around the world, World Heritage Alert!.
Retrieved April 19, 2008.
* ^ Cornwell, Rupert. US colonel offers
Iraq an apology of sorts
for devastation of Babylon, The Independent, April 15, 2006. Retrieved
April 19, 2008.
* ^ Gettleman, Jeffrey. Unesco intends to put the magic back in
International Herald Tribune
International Herald Tribune , April 21, 2006. Retrieved
April 19, 2008. Archived June 12, 2006, at the
Wayback Machine .
* ^ McBride, Edward. Monuments to Self: Baghdad\'s grands projects
in the age of
Saddam Hussein , MetropolisMag. Retrieved April 19,
2008. Archived December 10, 2005, at the
Wayback Machine .
* ^ Maryam U. Musa, "The Situation of the
Site until 2006", in Cancik-Kirschbaum et al. (2011).
* ^ Arawa Damon, "Bringing
Babylon back from the dead", CNN, 4
* ^ Steven Lee Myers, "
Babylon Ruins Reopen in Iraq, to
Controversy", New York Times, 2 May 2009.
* ^ Liverani 2016, pp. 21–22. "In practice, the solution adopted
to visualize cities which were in fact unknown was a mixture of
classical (Greek) and Egyptian elements, with long colonnades, even
built on more than one level – which will then prove totally foreign
to the unfired brick architecture of Mesopotamian cities – and with
plenty of obelisks and the odd sphinx. To this mixture is added, often
and willingly, something of Ottoman architecture, showing cupolas and
minarets, clearly useful in picturing an unchangeable Near East which
therefore needed to retain elements of remote antiquity in a modern
Albert Mackey , History of
Freemasonry (Vol. 1); New York and
London: Masonic History Company, 1898/1906; p. 61.
* ^ Seymour (2006), pp. 91–101.
* ^ Merrill Tenney: New Testament Survey, Inter-varsity Press,
* Cancik-Kirschbaum, Eva, Margarete van Ess, & Joachim Marzahn, eds.
(2011). Babylon: Wissenskultur in Orient und Okzident. Berlin/Boston:
De Gruyter. ISBN 978-3-11-022212-8 .
* Finkel, I. L. and M. J. Seymour, eds. Babylon. Oxford University
Press, 2009. ISBN 0-19-538540-3 . Exhibition organized by British
Museum, Musée du Louvre & Réunion des Musées Nationaux, and
Staatliche Museen zu Berlin.
* Liverani, Mario . Imagining Babylon: The Modern Story of an
Ancient City. Translated from Italian to English by Alisa Campbell.
Boston: De Gruyter, 2016. ISBN 978-1-61451-602-6 . Originally
published as Immaginare Babele in 2013.
* Sayce, Archibald Henry (1878). "Babel". In Baynes, T.S.
Encyclopædia Britannica . III (9th ed.). New York: Charles Scribner's
Sons. p. 178.
* Sayce, Archibald Henry (1911). "Babylon". In Chisholm, Hugh.
Encyclopædia Britannica . 3 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
* Seymour, Michael John. The Idea of Babylon: Archaeology and
Representation in Mesopotamia. Volume I: Text. PhD dissertation
accepted at University College, London, 2006.
* Vedeler, Harold Torger. A Social and Economic Survey of the Reign
of Samsuiluna of
Babylon (1794-1712 BCE). PhD dissertation accepted at
Yale, May 2006.
Encyclopædia Britannica . 3 (11th ed.). 1911. p. 91.
* Oates, Joan (1986). Babylon. Thames and Hudson. ISBN 0-500-02095-7
. and ISBN 0-500-27384-7 (paperback)
* Maul, Stefan (1997). "The Ancient Middle Eastern Capital
Reflection and Navel of the World". Stanford Presidential Lectures and
Symposia in the Humanities and Arts. — originally published in
German "Die altorientalische Hauptstadt – Abbild und Nabel der Wel".
Die Orientalische Stadt: kontinuitat. Wandel. Bruch. 1 Internationale
Colloquium der Deutschen Orient-Gesellschaft. 9–10. Mai 1996 in
Halle/Saale. Saarbrücker Druckerei und Verlag: 109–124. 1997.
* Rich, Claudius :
* 1815. Memoir on the Ruins of Babylon. Third Edition, 1818.
* 1818. Second Memoir on Babylon.
* 1839. Narrative of a journey to the site of
Babylon in 1811.
Iraq invasion harmed historic Babylon". Associated
Press. 10 July 2009.
Wikivoyage has a travel guide for BABYLON .
Wikimedia Commons has media related to BABYLON .
Babylon on In Our Time at the
* Ancient Babylon
Iraq Image –
Babylon Satellite Observation
* Site Photographs of
Babylon – Oriental Institute
* Encyclopædia Britannica, Babylon