Essential Architecture-  Iraq

Ancient City and Walls of Babylon- Hanging Gardens of Babylon

architect

various

location

Babylon (55 miles south of Baghdad)

date

c. 570 BC, restored 1990s.

style

Islamic

construction

brick

type

City
 
  Principal items-
1. Ishtar Gate
2.
Royal Processional Way
3. Esagila Temple
4. Theatre.
 
 
  Above- the theatre.

In 331, the Macedonian conqueror Alexander the Great, who was fighting a war against the Persians, captured Babylon. Later, he intended to make the city his residence, and he ordered several building projects, like a large river port, a theater, and a reconstruction of the Etemenanki. Building activity related to the Esagila is mentioned in several cuneiform sources and continued as late as the early 280's, when the Seleucid crown prince Antiochus used his elephants to remove the debris.

Meanwhile, however, the founder of the Seleucid dynasty, Seleucus I Nicator, had ordered the building of a new city, Seleucia. This was meant as a Greek city, and crown prince Antiochus resettled Europeans that had been left in Babylon in Seleucia. For more than a century, Babylon remained a primarily Babylonian city. It was only Antiochus IV Epiphaness (175-164) who again started a Greek colonizing policy in Babylon.

A generation after the attempt by Antiochus IV Epiphanes to populate Babylon with Europeans, the Parthians conquered Babylonia (141). The city suffered, but remained an important center of learning. For example, the Babylonian astronomers known as Chaldaeans were still studying the skies, and the Akitu festival was still celebrated. The Greek community still celebrated its festivals, followed the Hellenistic religious fashion by introducing the ruler cult, and organized athletic contests (more...). Yet, it appears that the city's decline had begun. When the Roman emperor Trajan invaded Babylonia in 116-117, he was disappointed by the ruins. Still, as late as the late second century, texts were written in the Babylonian language, and the theater was restored.
 
  The royal processional way (see Ishtar Gate).
 
  Model of the Esagila (Pergamonmuseum, Berlin)
 
  The famous temple of Marduk, Esagila, and its ziggurat, Etemenanki, were considered to be the foundation of heaven on earth. In the creation epic Enûma êliš, Babylon is the center of the universe, an idea that is also implied (or parodied?) in the Biblical account of the "tower of Babel", in which the confusion of languages is followed by people spreading all over the world out of Babylon.

The theological fact that Babylon was the center of the world, was reflected in several aspects. One of these was the New Year's Festival (Akitu), during which gods left their cities, visited Marduk, and announced their plans for the new year. Several quarters of Babylon received the name of important Babylonian cities (e.g., Eridu), as if Babylon were some sort of microcosm.
 
  Babylon, Iraq (Mar. 21, 2005) - U.S. Army Soldiers assigned to the 155th Brigade Combat Team (BCT), are given a tour of the historical city of Babylon, Iraq as a gesture of goodwill by the Iraqi people in Babil, Iraq. These periodic tours of the ancient ruins are given to service members to learn more about Iraq's history and help boost morale. U.S. Military Reserve and Active Duty personnel are forward deployed to central Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). This is a digital composite of thirteen images to produce a 180-degree panoramic view of Babylon, Iraq. U.S. Navy photo by Chief Photographer's Mate Edward G. Martens (RELEASED)
 
  Left- Gardens of Semiramis, 20th century interpretation
Centre- A copy of a bas relief from the reign of Sennacherib, depicting royal gardens thought similar to the hanging gardens of babylon.
Right- Babylon in 1932
 
  A 16th-century hand-coloured engraving of the "Hanging Gardens of Babylon" by Dutch artist Martin Heemskerck, with the Tower of Babel in the background.
   
Babylon was the capital of Babylonia, the alluvial plain between the Euphrates and Tigris. After the fall of the Assyrian empire (612 BCE), Babylon became the capital of the ancient Near East, and king Nebuchadnezzar adorned the city with several famous buildings. Even when the Babylonian Empire had been conquered by the Persian king Cyrus the Great (539), Babylon remained a splendid city. Alexander the Great and the Seleucid kings respected the city, but after the mid-second century, the city's decline started.

The Greek word 'Babylon' is a rendering of Babillu, a very old word in an unknown language. When Mesopotamia was infiltrated by people who spoke a Semitic language (Akkadians or Amorites), they recognized their own words Bâb ("gate") and ili ("gods") and concluded that this place was 'the gate of the gods'. (A similar etymology was invented for Arbela.)

The oldest building phase of Babylon can not be recovered. The city was (and the ruins are) situated on the banks of the river Euphrates, and the remains of the oldest city are below groundwater level. From written sources, however, we know that the city became important after the fall of the empire of the Third dynasty of Ur, when the Amorites had invaded the area.

In the first half of the second millennium, especially during the reign of king Hammurabi (1792-1750?), Babylon became the capital of Mesopotamia, and even though the political power of Babylonia had its ups and downs in the next millennium or so, Babylon remained the cultural capital of the ancient Near East.

One of the results was that the hitherto unimportant city god of Babylon, Marduk, gained prestige. He superseded the Sumerian supreme god Enlil, took over many of his attributes, and now became the head of the pantheon. The syncretism is expressed in the words that Marduk is "the enlil of the gods", an expression that is perhaps best translated as "president of the council of gods".


tower of Babel

The famous temple of Marduk, Esagila, and its ziggurat, Etemenanki, were considered to be the foundation of heaven on earth. In the creation epic Enûma êliš, Babylon is the center of the universe, an idea that is also implied (or parodied?) in the Biblical account of the "tower of Babel", in which the confusion of languages is followed by people spreading all over the world out of Babylon.

Babylon

The theological fact that Babylon was the center of the world, was reflected in several aspects. One of these was the New Year's Festival (Akitu), during which gods left their cities, visited Marduk, and announced their plans for the new year. Several quarters of Babylon received the name of important Babylonian cities (e.g., Eridu), as if Babylon were some sort of microcosm.

As cultural capital of the ancient Near East, even a politically powerless Babylon was an important city, which created a problem to the Assyrian kings, who conquered Babylonia in the eighth century. From Tiglath-pileser III (744-727) on, they had themselves enthroned as kings of both Assyria and Babylon: by uniting the city in a personal union with their empire, they wanted to express their respect for the Babylonian civilization, institutions, and science. However, the Babylonians revolted under Marduk-apla-iddin (703; the Biblical Merodach Baladan), and king Sennacherib sacked the city in 689 - an act of terrible impiety, because he broke the "axis" between heaven and earth. Babylon's population was deported to Nineveh and the site was left alone for some time.

King Esarhaddon and his mother attend the refounding of Babylon. Relief from the Louvre, Paris (France). Photo Marco Prins.
King Esarhaddon and his mother (Relief from the Louvre)

Finally, king Esarhaddon (680-669) allowed the people to return. A text says that the gods had decreed the Babylon was to be in ruins for seventy years, but that they regretted their harshness, turned the tablet of destiny upside down, and allowed the people to return after eleven year (in cuneiform, the numbers 70 and 11 relate to each other as our 6 and 9).

A new model of ruling the city and its environs was found by Aššurbanipal (668-631), who appointed his brother Šamaš-šuma-ukin as king, but he revolted too (ABC 15), and again, Babylon was captured. Another brother served as king of Babylon, and in 627, the Assyrian king sent two of his relatives as governors. They were expelled by a Babylonian soldier named Nabopolassar, who had once fought in the Assyrian army but now started a kingdom for himself..

According to the Babylonian chronicle known as ABC 2, he was recognized as king on 23 November 626. This seems to have been the beginning of a series of insurrections against the Assyrians. In 612, Nineveh the Babylonians and Medes sacked Nineveh, and Babylon became the new political capital of the Near East.

The son of Nabopolassar, Nebuchadnezzar, ruled from 605 to 562 (more...) and is credited with rebuilding his capital as the most splendid city in the Near East. The famous blue Ištar Gate is an example. Elsewhere, the royal palace was improved, the Etemenanki reconstructed, and somewhere in the city, a beautiful park seems to have been created, that has become famous as the "Hanging Gardens". Archaeologists have been unable to identify this monument, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, but perhaps this will change. For the time being, scholars believe that this park was either in Nineveh, or is nothing but a fairy tale.

In 539, the brief period of the Babylonian political supremacy came to an end. The Persian king Cyrus the Great (559-530) captured Babylon (texts) and appointed his son Cambyses as king of Babylon. Like the Assyrian king, Cyrus admired Babylon as a cultural capital, and sought a way to rule the city while respecting its importance. In the Achaemenid royal inscription known as Cyrus Cylinder, the Persian conqueror presents himself as the chosen of Marduk - in other words, as a Babylonian.
The god Marduk and his snake dragon. From: J. Black & A. Green, Gods, demons and symbols of ancient Mesopotamia (1992)
Marduk and his snake dragon (from J. Black & A. Green, Gods, demons and symbols ofancient Mesopotamia,1992; ©!!!)

Later Achaemenid kings treated Babylon with just as much respect, although there were insurrections during the reigns of Darius I the Great (by the Babylonian leaders Nidintu-Bêl and Arakha) and Xerxes (in 484, by Bêl-šimânni and Šamaš-eriba). Reports by Greek authors (Herodotus of Halicarnassus and Arrian of Nicomedia) that Xerxes punished Babylon and removed statues are often misinterpreted. Whatever statue Herodotus says was taken away, it was not that of Marduk; the cult in the Esagila continued; and Babylonia remained an important center in the Persian empire. On the other hand, several Babylonian archives end during the reign of Xerxes, and it is possible that when he captured Babylon, the city was looted.

In 331, the Macedonian conqueror Alexander the Great, who was fighting a war against the Persians, captured Babylon. Later, he intended to make the city his residence, and he ordered several building projects, like a large river port, a theater, and a reconstruction of the Etemenanki. Building activity related to the Esagila is mentioned in several cuneiform sources and continued as late as the early 280's, when the Seleucid crown prince Antiochus used his elephants to remove the debris.

Meanwhile, however, the founder of the Seleucid dynasty, Seleucus I Nicator, had ordered the building of a new city, Seleucia. This was meant as a Greek city, and crown prince Antiochus resettled Europeans that had been left in Babylon in Seleucia. For more than a century, Babylon remained a primarily Babylonian city. It was only Antiochus IV Epiphaness (175-164) who again started a Greek colonizing policy in Babylon.

In this period, which is well-known from the Astronomical diaries, we can discern at least five different population groups in the city, who had their own administrative institutions:

The original Babylonian citizens, who were represented by the official named šatammu , i.e., the president of the council (kiništu) of the Esagila, the temple of Marduk.
The Greek citizens (politai), under the authority of a "governor of Babylon" or epistatês. They met in the theater.
The royal slaves, led by "the prefect of the king".
"The people of the land", who are mentioned in our sources, and are probably the indigenous population on the countryside.
The temple slaves.

A generation after the attempt by Antiochus IV Epiphanes to populate Babylon with Europeans, the Parthians conquered Babylonia (141). The city suffered, but remained an important center of learning. For example, the Babylonian astronomers known as Chaldaeans were still studying the skies, and the Akitu festival was still celebrated. The Greek community still celebrated its festivals, followed the Hellenistic religious fashion by introducing the ruler cult, and organized athletic contests (more...). Yet, it appears that the city's decline had begun. When the Roman emperor Trajan invaded Babylonia in 116-117, he was disappointed by the ruins. Still, as late as the late second century, texts were written in the Babylonian language, and the theater was restored.

Babylon was excavated between 1899 and 1917 by Robert Koldewey, a pupil of the great Heinrich Schliemann. Unfortunately, Koldewey still had to identify many structures by using ancient Greek sources like the Histories of Herodotus of Halicarnassus and the Persian History of Ctesias of Cnidus. After all, cuneiform studies were, by then, still in their infancy. We now know that these authors were not very reliable, but still, Koldewey's Das wieder ertstehende Babylon is a fascinating must-read.

After this, a certain neglect of the archaeological remains of Babylon started. The British Museum owns a collection of almost 120,000 cuneiform tablets which are published very slowly, something that is among the greatest academic scandals of the modern age.

In the 1980's, the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein ordered repair works at Babylon, which, however, were not executed by archaeologists and restoration professionals. The result was disastrous, but even worse was to come: after the fall of the dictator in 2003, Polish soldiers used the archaeological site as military base.

Article by Jona Lendering. Source- http://www.livius.org/ba-bd/babylon/babylon.html
 
Babylon

Babylon (Arabic: بابل, Babil; Akkadian: Bābili(m);[1] Sumerian logogram: KÁ.DINGIR.RAKI;[1] Hebrew: בבל, Bābel;[1] Greek: Βαβυλών, Babylōn) was an Akkadian city-state (founded in 1867 BC by an Amorite dynasty) of ancient Mesopotamia, the remains of which are found in present-day Al Hillah, Babil Province, Iraq, about 85 kilometers (55 mi) south of Baghdad. Babylon, along with Assyria to the north, was one of the two Akkadian nations that evolved after the collapse of the Akkadian Empire, although it was rarely ruled by native Akkadians. All that remains of the original ancient famed city of Babylon today is a mound, or tell, of broken mud-brick buildings and debris in the fertile Mesopotamian plain between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. The city itself was built upon the Euphrates, and divided in equal parts along its left and right banks, with steep embankments to contain the river's seasonal floods.

Available historical resources suggest that Babylon was at first a small town which had sprung up by the beginning of the 3rd millennium BC. The town flourished and attained independence with the rise of the First Amorite Babylonian Dynasty in 1894 BC. Claiming to be the successor of the ancient Eridu, Babylon eclipsed Nippur as the "holy city" of Mesopotamia around the time an Amorite king named Hammurabi first created the short lived Babylonian Empire, this quickly dissolved upon his death and Babylon spent long periods under Assyrian, Kassite and Elamite domination. Babylon again became the seat of the Neo-Babylonian Empire from 612 to 539 BC which was founded by Chaldeans and whose last king was an Assyrian. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon were one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. After the fall of Babylon it came under the rules of the Achaemenid, Seleucid, Parthian, Roman and Sassanid empires. It was dissolved as a province after the Arab Islamic conquest of the 7th century AD.

Reconstruction

In 1983, Saddam Hussein started rebuilding the city on top of the old ruins (because of this, artifacts and other finds may well be under the city by now), investing in both restoration and new construction. He 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". This recalls the ziggurat at Ur, where each individual brick was stamped with "Ur-Nammu, king of Ur, who built the temple of Nanna". These bricks became sought after as collectors' items after the downfall of Hussein, and the ruins are no longer being restored to their original state. He also installed a huge portrait of himself and Nebuchadnezzar at the entrance to the ruins, and shored up Processional Way, a large boulevard of ancient stones, and the Lion of Babylon, a black rock sculpture about 2,600 years old.

When the Gulf War ended, Saddam wanted to build a modern palace, also over some old ruins; it was made in the pyramidal style of a Sumerian ziggurat. He named it Saddam Hill. In 2003, he was ready to begin the construction of a cable car line over Babylon when the invasion began and halted the project.

An article published in April 2006 states that UN officials and Iraqi leaders have plans for restoring Babylon, making it into a cultural center.

As of May 2009, the provincial government of Babil has reopened the site to tourism.

Effects of the U.S. military

US forces under the command of General James T. Conway of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force were criticized for building the military base "Camp Alpha", comprising among other facilities a helipad, on ancient Babylonian ruins following the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

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 describes 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. Add to all that the damage caused to nine of the moulded brick figures of dragons in the Ishtar Gate by soldiers trying to remove the bricks from the wall."

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". 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 claimed that the US presence had deterred far greater damage from other looters.

Hanging Gardens of Babylon

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon are considered to be one of the original Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. They were built in the ancient city-state of Babylon, near present-day Al Hillah, Babil, in Iraq. They are sometimes called the Hanging Gardens of Semiramis (in reference to the legendary Queen Semiramis).

The gardens were supposedly built by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar II around 600 BC. He is reported to have constructed the gardens to please his homesick wife, Amytis of Media, who longed for the trees and fragrant plants of her homeland. The gardens were destroyed by several earthquakes after the 2nd century BC.

The lush Hanging Gardens are extensively documented by Greek historians such as Strabo and Diodorus Siculus. Through the ages, the location may have been confused with gardens that existed at Nineveh, since tablets from there clearly show gardens. Writings on these tablets describe the possible use of something similar to an Archimedes screw as a process of raising the water to the required height. Nebuchadnezzar II also used massive slabs of stone, which was unheard of in Babylon, to prevent the water from eroding the ground.

Controversy

There is some controversy as to whether the Hanging Gardens were an actual creation or a poetic creation owing to the lack of documentation of them in the chronicles of Babylonian history. In ancient writings the Hanging Gardens of Babylon were first described by Berossus, a Babylonian priest who lived in the late 4th century BC. These accounts were later elaborated on by Greek historians.

A more recent theory proposes that the gardens were actually constructed under the orders of Sennacherib, who took the throne of Assyria in 705 BC, reigning until 681 BC. During new studies of the location of Nineveh (Located on the eastern bank of the Tigris in ancient Assyria) his gardens were placed close to the entrance of his palace, on the bank of the river Tigris. It is possible that in the intervening centuries, the two sites became confused, and the hanging gardens were attributed to Babylon.

 

links

http://www.livius.org/ba-bd/babylon/babylon.html
www.essential-architecture.com