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Study Resources :: Dictionaries :: Babel, Babylon (2)

Dictionaries :: Babel, Babylon (2)

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International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia

Babel, Babylon (2):

@babhel; Assyro-Bab Bab-ili, (Bab-ilani, "gate of god," or "of the gods," rendered in Sumerian as Ka-dingira, "gate of god," regarded as a folk-etymology):

See BABEL, TOWER OF, section 14.

1. Names by Which the City Was Known

2. Probable Date of Its Foundation

3. Its Walls and Gates from Herodotus

4. Its Position, Divisions, Streets and Temple

5. The Works of Semiramis and Nitocris

6. Ctesias' Description-the Palaces and Their Decorated Walls

7. The Temple of Belus and the Hanging Gardens

8. Other Descriptions

9. Nebuchadrezzar's Account

10. Nebuchadrezzar's Architectural Work at Babylon

11. The Royal Palaces

12. Quick Building

13. The Temples Restored by Nebuchadrezzar

14. The Extent of Nebuchadrezzar's Architectural Work

15. Details Concerning the City from Contract-Tablets

16. Details Concerning Babylon from Other Sources

17. Modern Exploration

18. Description of the Ruins-the Eastern Walls

19. The Western Walls

20. The Palaces

21. The Site of Babylon's Great Tower

22. The Central and Southern Ruins

23. A Walk through Babylon

24. The Ishtar-Gate and the Middle Palace

25. The Festival-Street

26. The Chamber of the Fates

27. The Northern Palace and the Gardens

28. Historical References to Babylonian Buildings


1. Names by Which the City Was Known:

The name of the great capital of ancient Babylonia, the Shinar of Ge 10:10; 14:1, other names of the city being Tin- dir, "seat of life," E (ki), probably an abbreviation of Eridu (ki) "the good city" (= Paradise), Babylonia having seemingly been regarded as the Garden of Eden (PSBA, June 1911, p. 161); and Su-anna, "the high-handed" (meaning, apparently, "high- walled," "hand" and "defense" being interchangeable terms). It is possible that these various names are due to the incorporation of outlying districts as Babylon grew in size.

2. Probable Date of Its Foundation:

According to Ge 10:9, the founder of Babylon was Nimrod, but among the Babylonians, it was Merodach who built the city, together with Erech and Niffer (Calneh) and their renowned temples. The date of its foundation is unknown, but it certainly went back to primitive times, and Babylon may even have equaled Niffer in antiquity (the American explorers of that site have estimated that its lowest strata of habitations go back to 8,000 years BC). Babylon's late assumption of the position of capital of the country would therefore be due to its rulers not having attained power and influence at an earlier period. Having once acquired that position, however, it retained it to the end, and its great god, Merodach, became the head of the Babylonian pantheon-partly through the influence of Babylon as capital, partly because the city was the center of his worship, and the place of the great Tower of Babel, concerning which many wonderful things were said.


3. Its Walls and Gates from Herodotus:

According to Herodotus, the city, which lay in a great plain, was square in its plan and measured 120 furlongs (stadia) each way-480 in all. Each side was therefore about 14 miles long, making a circuit of nearly 56 miles, and an area of nearly 196 square miles. As the space enclosed is so great, and traces of the walls would seem to be wanting, these figures may be regarded as open to question. Around the city, Herodotus says, there was a deep and broad moat full of water, and then came a wall 50 royal cubits thick and 200 cubits high, pierced by 100 gateways with brazen gates and lintels. Reckoning the cubit at 18 2/3 inches, this would mean that Babylon's walls were no less than 311 ft. high; and regarding the royal cubit as being equal to 21 inches, their thickness would be something like 87 ft. Notwithstanding that Babylon has been the quarry of the neighboring builders for two millenniums, it is surprising that such extensive masses of brickwork should have disappeared without leaving at least a few recognizable traces.

4. It Position, Divisions, Streets, and Temple:

The city was built on both sides of the Euphrates, and at the point where the wall met the river there was a return-wall running along its banks, forming a rampart. The houses of Babylon were of 3 and 4 stories. The roads which ran through the city were straight, and apparently intersected each other at right angles, like the great cities of America. The river-end of each of the streets leading to the river was guarded by a brazen gate. Within the great outer wall was another, not much weaker, but enclosing a smaller space. Each division of the city contained a great building, the one being the king's palace, strongly fortified around, and the other the temple of Zeus Boles-an erection with brazen gates measuring two furlongs each way. Within this sacred precinct was a solid tower measuring a furlong each way, and surmounted by other towers to the number of eight. An ascent ran around these towers, with a stopping-place about the middle where the visitor might rest. Upou the topmost tower a large cell was built, wherein was a couch and a golden table. No image was placed in the cell, and no one passed the night there, except a woman of the people, chosen by the god. In another cell below was a golden image of Zeus sitting, his seat and footstool being likewise of gold, with, near by, a large golden table. The total weight of the precious metal here was 800 talents. Upon a small golden altar outside the cell young sucklings only were sacrificed, and upon another (not of gold) full-grown animals were offered.

5. The Works of Semiramis and Nitocris:

The hydraulic works of Babylon are attributed by Herodotus to two queens, Semiramis and Nitoeris. The former made banks of earth on the plain which were worth seeing, preventing the river from flooding the plain like a sea. The second, Nitocris, altered the channel of the river in such a way that it flowed three times in its course to the village Andericca, and the traveler by water therefore took three days to pass this spot. She also raised the banks of the river, and dug a great lake above Babylon. The place which was dug out she made into a swamp, the object being to retard the course of the river. The many bends and the swamp were on the shortest route to Media, to prevent the Medes from having dealings with her kingdom and learning of her affairs. Other works were a bridge across the Euphrates, and a tomb for herself over the most frequented gate of the city.

Both Herodotus and Ctesias were eyewitnesses of the glory of Babylon, though only at the period when it had begun to wane. It is exceedingly probable, however, that their accounts will be superseded in the end, by those of the people who best knew the city, namely, the inhabitants of Babylon itself.

6. Ctesias' Description-the Palaces and Their Decorated Walls:

According to Ctesias, the circuit of the city was not 480, but. 360 furlongs-the number of the days in the Babylonian year- -and somewhat under 42 miles. The East and West districts were joined by a bridge 5 furlongs or 1,080 yards long, and 30 ft. broad. At each end of the bridge was a royal palace, that on the eastern bank being the more magnificent of the two. This palace was defended by three walls, the outermost being 60 furlongs or 7 miles in circuit; the second, a circular wall, 40 furlongs (4 1/2 miles), and the third 20 furlongs (2 1/2 miles). The height of the middle wall was 300 ft., and that of its towers 420 ft., but this was exceeded by the height of the inmost wall. Ctesias states that the walls of the second and third enclosures were of colored brick, showing hunting scenes-the chase of the leopard and the lion, with male and female figures, which he regarded as Ninus and Semiramis. The other palace (that on the West bank) was smaller and less ornate, and was enclosed only by a single wall 30 furlongs (3 1/2 miles) in circuit. This also had representations of hunting scenes and bronze statues of Ninus, Semiramis and Jupiter-Belus (Bel-Merodach). Besides the bridge, he states that there was also a tunnel under the river. He seems to speak of the temple of Belus (see BABEL, TOWER OF) as being surmounted by three statues-Bel (Bel-Merodach), 40 ft. high, his mother Rhea (Dawkina, the Dauke of Damascius), and Bel-Merodach's spouse Juno or Beltis (Zer-panitum).

7. The Temple of Belus and the Hanging Gardens:

The celebrated Hanging Gardens he seems to describe as a square of which each side measured 400 ft., rising in terraces, the topmost of which was planted with trees of various kinds. If this was the case, it must have resembled a temple-tower covered with verdure. The Assyrian sculptures, however, indicate something different (see section 27).

8. Other Descriptions:

With regard to the size of the city as given by other authorities, Pliny copies Herodotus, and makes its circuit 480 furlongs (Nat. Hist. vi.26); Strabo (xvi. i. section 5), 385; Q. Curtius (v. i. section 26), 368; Clitarchus (apud Diod. Sic. ii.7), 365. Though the difference between the highest and the lowest is considerable, it is only what might be expected from independent estimates, for it is doubtful whether any of them are based on actual measurements. Diodorus (ii.9, end) states that but a small part of the enclosure was inhabited in his time (he was a contemporary of Caesar and Augustus), but the abandonment of the city must then have been practically completed, and the greater part given over, as he states, to cultivation-even, perhaps, within the space enclosed by the remains of walls today. It is noteworthy that Q. Curtius says (v. i. section 27) that as much as nine-tenths consisted, even during Babylon's most prosperous period, of gardens, parks, paradises, fields and orchards; and this the later contract-tablets confirm. Though there is no confirmation of the height of the walls as given by these different authorities, the name given to the city, Su-anna, "the high walled" (see above), indicated that it was renowned for the height of its defensive structures.

9. Nebuchadrezzar's Account:

Among the native accounts of the city, that of Nebuchadrezzar is the best and most instructive. From this record it would seem that there were two principal defensive structures, Imgur-Enlil and Nemitti-Enlil-"Enlil has been gracious" and "Enlil's foundation" respectively. The construction of these, which protected the inner city only, on the eastern and western sides of the Euphrates, he attributes to his father Nabonidus, as well as the digging of the moat, with the two "strong walls" on its banks, and the embankment of the Arabtu canal. He had also lined the Euphrates with quays or embankments-probably the structures to which the Greek writers refer-but he had not finished the work. Within Babylon itself he made a roadway from Du-azaga, the place where the fates were declared, to Aa-ibur-sabu, Babylon's festival-street, which lay by the gate of Beltis or Mah, for the great New-Year's festival of Merodach and the gods.

10. Nebuchadrezzar's Architectural Work at Babylon:

Nebuchadrezzar, after his accession, completed the two great walls, lined the ditches with brick, and increased the thickness of the two walls which his father had built. He also built a wall, traces of which are apparently extant, on the West side of Babylon (he apparently refers to what may be called the "city," in contradistinction to "greater Babylon"), and raised the level of Aa-ibur-sabu from the "holy gate" to the gate of Nana; together with the gateways (in consequence of the higher level of the pathway) through which it passed. The gates themselves were constructed of cedar overlaid with copper (bronze), most likely in the same manner as the gates of Imgur-Bel (Balawat) in Assyria (reign of Shalmaneser II, circa 850 BC). Probably none of Babylon's gates were of solid bronze, notwithstanding the statements of Herodotus; but the thresholds were wholly of that metal, stone being very rare, and perhaps less durable. These gates were guarded by images of bulls and giant serpents or composite dragons of the same metal. Nebuchadrezzar also built a wall on the East bank of the river, 4,000 cubits distant, "high like a mountain," to prevent the approach of an enemy. This wall also had cedar gates covered with copper. An additional defense made by him was an enormous lake, "like unto the broad sea to cross," which was kept in by embankments.

11. The Royal Palaces:

The royal palaces next claimed the great king's attention. The palace in which Nabopolassar had lived, and wherein, in all probability, Nebuchadrezzar had passed his younger days, had suffered from the floods when the river was high. The foundations of this extensive edifice, which extended from the wall called Imgur-Enlil to Libil-hegala, the eastern canal, and from the banks of the Euphrates to Aa-ibur-sabu, the festival-street, were thoroughly repaired with burnt brick and bitumen, and the doorways, which had become too low in consequence of the raising of that street, were raised to a suitable height. He caused the whole to tower aloft, as he has it, "mountainlike" (suggesting a building more than one story high). The roof of this palace was built of cedar, and the doors were of the same wood covered with bronze. Their thresholds, as in other cases, were bronze, and the interior of the palace was decorated with gold, silver, precious stones and other costly material.

12. Quick Building:

Four hundred and ninety cubits from Nemitti-Enlil lay, as the king says, the principal wall, Imgur-Enlil, and in order to guarantee the former against attack, he built two strong embankments, and an outer wall "like a mountain," with a great building between which served both as a fortress and a palace, and attached to the old palace built by his father. According to Nebuchadrezzar's account, which is confirmed by Berosus (as quoted by Josephus and Eusebius), all this work was completed in 15 days. The decorations were like those of the other palace, and blocks of alabaster, brought, apparently, from Assyria, strengthened the battlements. Other defenses surrounded this stronghold.

13. The Temples Restored by Nebuchadrezzar:

Among the temples which Nebuchadrezzar restored or rebuilt may be mentioned E-kua, the shrine of Merodach within E-sagila (the temple of Belus); the sanctuary called Du-azaga, the place of fate, where, on every New-Year's festival, on the 8th and 9th of Nisan, "the king of the gods of heaven and earth" was placed, and the future of the Babylonian monarch and his people declared. Every whit as important as E-sagila, however, was the restoration of E-temen-an-ki, called "the Tower of Babylon" (see BABEL, TOWER OF), within the city; and connected, as will be seen from the plan, with that structure. Among the numerous temples of Babylon which he rebuilt or restored were E-mah, for the goddess Nin-mah, near the Ishtar-gate; the white limestone temple for Sin, the Moon-god; E-ditur-kalama, "the house of the judge of the land," for Samas, the Sun-god; E-sa-tila for Gula, the goddess of healing; E-hursag-ella, "the house of the holy mountain," etc.

14. The Extent of Nebuchadrezzar's Architectural Work:

The amount of work accomplished by this king, who, when walking on the roof of his palace, lifted up with pride, exclaimed "Is not this great Babylon, which I have built?" (Da 4:30), was, according to his own records and the Greek writers, enormous, and the claim he made fully justified. But if he boasts of the work he did, he is just in attributing much to his father Nabopolassar; though in connection with this it is to be noted that his ascribing the building of the walls of Babylon to his father is not to be taken literally in all probability he only restored them, though he may have added supplementary defenses, as Nebuchadrezzar himself did.

15. Details Concerning the City from Contract-Tablets:

Besides Nebuchadrezzar's inscriptions, various other texts give details concerning the topography of Babylon, among them being the contract-tablets, which mention various districts or quarters of the city, such as Te which is within Babylon; the city of Sula which is within Babylon; the new city which is within Babylon, upon the new canal. Within the city were also several Hussetu-perhaps "farms," such as Hussetu sa Iddina-Marduk, "Iddina-Marduk's farm," etc. The various gates are also referred to, such as the gate of Samas, the city-gate of Uras, and the gate of Zagaga, which seems to have lain in "the province of Babylon," and had a field in front of it, as had also the gate of Enlil.

16. Details Concerning Babylon from Other Sources:

According to an Assyrian and a Babylonian list of gates, the streets bore names connected with those of the gates to which they led. Thus, the street of the gate of Zagaga, one of the gods of war, was called "the street of Zagaga, who expels his enemies"; that of the gate of Merodach was "the street of Merodach, shepherd of his land"; while the street of Ishtar's gate was "the street of Ishtar, patron of her people." The city-gates named after Enlil, Addu (Hadad or Rimmon), Samas the Sun- god, Sin the Moon-god, etc., had streets similarly indicated. Certain of the streets of Babylon are also referred to on the contract-tablets, and such descriptive indications as "the broad street which is at the southern gate of the temple E-tur- kalama" seem to show that they were not in all cases systematically named. If the streets of Babylon were really, as Herodotus states, straight, and arranged at right angles, this was probably outside the walls of the ancient (inner) city, and most likely due to some wise Babylonian king or ruler. Details of the streets have been obtained at the point called Merkes (sec. 22) and elsewhere, and seem to show that the BabyIonians liked the rooms of their houses to be square. Such streets as slanted were therefore full of rectangles, and must have presented a quite peculiar appearance.

17. Modern Exploration:

It is this inner city which has most attracted the attention of explorers, both English and German, and it is on its site that the latter have carried on their systematic excavations. Indeed, it is probable that the houses of the most numerous class of the people-artisans, merchants, workmen, etc-lay outside the walls to which the Babylonian royal inscriptions refer. It may be supposed that the houses in this district were mainly low buildings of unbaked city (of which, indeed, portions of the temples and palaces were built), and these would naturally disappear more easily than if they had been built of baked brick. Even when baked, however, the brick-built ruins of Babylonia Assyria have a tendency to disappear, owing to the value which bricks, both baked and unbaked, have for the erection of new houses in the neighborhood. Concerning the extent of the exterior city much doubt naturally exists, but it may well have covered the tract attributed to it (see section 3, above). Nineveh, at the time of its prosperity, also had enormous suburbs (see NINEVEH).

18. Description of the Ruins-The Eastern Walls:

The ruins of Babylon lie between 80 and 90 kilometers (50 miles or less) from Bagdad. The first thing seen on approaching them is the broad high ridge of Babil, which marks the site of the ruins of the Northern Palace. After some time, the ruins of the ancient walls are reached. They are still several yards high, and slope down gently to the plain. Starting to the North of Babil, the wall stretches for about 875 yds. due East, and then runs southwards for another 930 yds., taking at that point a course to the Southeast for about 2 miles 160 yds. (3,300 meters). A wide gap occurs here, after which it runs to the Southwest, and is lost in the open fields at the end of about miles (2 kilometers). "That this is the old citywall," says Weissbach, "there can be no doubt, and the name Sur, ‘city-wall,' given it by the Arabs, proves that they have fully recognized its nature." At the northern end it exists in its original extent, the plain out of which it rises being the old bed of the Euphrates, which, in the course of the centuries, has become filled up by the desertsand. At the period of Babylon's glory, the river had a much straighter course than at present, but it reoccupies its old bed about 600 meters (656 yds.) South of Babil, leaving it afterward to make a sharp bend to the West. From the point where the city wall first becomes recognizable on the North to its apparent southernmost extremity is about 3 miles.

19. The Western Walls:

On the West side of the river the traces of the wall are much less, the two angles, with the parts adjoining them, being all that is recognizable. Beginning on the North where the Euphrates has reached its midpoint in its course through the city, it runs westward about 547 yds. (500 meters) West-Southwest, and then, bending almost at a right angle South-Southeast, turns East again toward the Euphrates, but is lost in the plain before reaching the river. The distance of the two angles from each other is about 1 mile, 208 yds. (1,800 meters), and its distance from the Euphrates is at most 5/8 of a mile (1 kilometer). The western portion of the city therefore formed a rectangle with an area of about 1.8 miles, and the eastern quarter, with the projection on the North, 6 1/4 square miles. According to Fried. Delitzsch, the size of Babylon was about the same as Munich or Dresden. This, of course, is an estimate from the extant remains-as has been indicated above, there was probably a large suburban extension beyond the walls, which would account for the enormous size attributed to the city by the ancients.

20. The Palaces:

Among the Arabs, the northern ruin is called Babil, though it is only the remains of a palace. Its present height is 30 meters (98 feet, 5 inches), and its rectangular outline is still easily recognizable. Its sides face the cardinal points, the longest being those of the North and South. This building, which measures 100 meters (109 yds.), was well protected by the city wall on the North and East, the Euphrates protecting it on the West. Continuing to the South, the path at present leads through orchards and palm-groves, beyond which is a rugged tract evidently containing the remains of ancient structures, probably of inconsiderable height. After further palm groves, an enormous ruin is encountered, steep on the East and South, sloping on the North and West. This is the Gasr (Qasr), also called Emjellibeh (Mujellibah), "the overturned," identical with the great palace of Nabopolassar and his son Nebuchadrezzar, referred to so prominently by the latter king in his records. Its longest side skirts the old Euphrates bed, and measures 300 meters (328 yds.). Its surface is very uneven, projections of 15 meters (over 49 ft.) alternating with deep depressions. On the Northwest side enormous walls of exceedingly hard yellow brick still tower to a considerable height. South of this the plain, broken only by a few inconsiderable mounds, extends for a distance of half a kilometer (5/16 mile), and terminates on the South with another enormous ruin-mound, called Ishan Amran ibn ‘Ali. It measures 600 meters (656 yds.) from North to South, and 400 (437 yds.) from East to West, its average height being 25 meters (82 ft.). About the middle, and close to each other, are two Moslem domed tombs, the first called Ibrahim al-Khalil ("Abraham the Friend" (of God)-probably a late addition to the name of another Abraham than the Patriarch), and the other Areran ibn ‘Ali, from which the ruin receives its modern name.

21. The Site of Babylon's Great Tower:

Near the South termination of the plain on which the village of Jim-jimeh lies, there is a square depression several yards deep, measuring nearly 100 meters (over 100 yds.) each way. In the middle of this depression, the sides of which do not quite face the cardinal points, there rises, to a height of about 13 ft., a platform of sun-dried brick about 60 meters (197 ft.) each way, its sides being parallel with the outer boundary of the depression. This depression, at present called Sahan, "the dish," is partly filled with foundation-water. Centered in its southern side is a rectangular hollowing-out similarly formed, about 50 meters (164 ft.) long, extending toward the ruin called Areran.

22. The Central and Southern Ruins:

East of the Qasr and Emjellibeh are several mounds bearing the name of Ehmereh, so called from the principal mound on the Southeast, named Ishan al-Oheimar, "the red ruin," from the color of its bricks. Close to the Southeast corner of the Qasr lies the ruin called Merkes, "the central-point," and to the South of that again is a long and irregularly shaped mound bearing the name of Ishan al-Aswad, "the black ruin." From this enumeration of the principal remains on the site of Babylon, it will be easily seen that public buildings in this, the most ancient quarter of the city, were exceedingly numerous. Indeed, the district was regarded as being of such importance that the surrounding walls were not thought altogether sufficient to protect it, so another seemingly isolated rampart, on the East, was built, running North and South, as an additional protection. The remains on the western side of the river are insignificant, the changed course of the river being in all probability responsible for the destruction of at least some of the buildings.

23. A Walk through Babylon:

There is much work to be done before a really complete reconstruction of the oldest quarter of Babylon can be attempted; but somc thing may be said about the sights to be seen when taking a walk through the more interesting portion, which, as we know from Herodotus' narrative, could be visited by strangers, though it is possible that permission had to be obtained beforehand. Entering by the Urash-gate, some distance to the East of the Euphrates, one found oneself in Aa-ibursabu, the Festival-street, which was a continuation of the royal roadway without the inner wall, coming from the South. This street ran alongside the Arahtu canal, on its western bank. After a time, one had the small temple of Ninip on the right (on the other side of the canal), and E-sagila, the great temple of Belus, on the left. This celebrated shrine was dedicated to Merodach and other deities associated with him, notably his spouse Zer-panitum ( = Juno), and Nebo, "the teacher," probably as the one who inculcated Merodach's faith. The shrine of Merodach therein, which was called E-kua, is said by Nebuchadrezzar to have been magnificently decorated, and into the temple itself that king had caused to be brought many costly gifts, acquired by him in the lands over which he had dominion. Connected with E-sagila on the Northwest by a causeway and probably a staircase, was the great temple-tower E-temen-an-ki, which, as is indicated above, is not now represented by a tower, but by a depression, the bricks having been employed, it is said, to repair the Hindiyeh canal. This great building was a striking monument of the city, and must have been visible for a considerable distance, its height being something over 300 ft. The stages of which it was composed are thought to have been colored like those of the similar tower laid bare by the French excavations at Khorsabad (DurSarru-ukin) in Assyria. Causeways or streets united this building with Aa-ibur-sabu, the festival-street along which the traveler is supposed to be proceeding. Continuing to the North, the visitor crossed a canal at right angles, named Libilhegalli, "may he (the god) bring fertility," and found himself immediately opposite the royal palace-the extensive building now known as the Qasr. According to Weissbach, its area occupied no less than 4 1/2 hectares (rather more than 11 acres) and it was divided, as we know from the inscriptions of Nebuchadrezzar, into two parts, connected by a corridor. The building was richly decorated, as the Babylonians understood such things, the interior walls being lined with enameled brick and other material.

Passing along the eastern side of the palace, the visitor came to the Ishtar-gate-a massive doorway faced with enameled brick in Nebuchadrezzar's time, and decorated with colored enameled reliefs of the lion, the bull and the dragon of Babylon. On the right of this gateway was to be seen the temple of the goddess Nin-mah, Merodach's spouse-a temple of sun-dried brick with traces of white coloring. It was a celebrated shrine of the Babylonians, in the usual architectural style with recessed buttresses, but modest from our modern point of view. Nin-mah was the goddess of reproduction, who, under the name of Aruru, had aided Merodach to create mankind, hence the honor in which she was held by the Babylonians.

24. The Ishtar-Gate and the Middle Palace:

The Ishtar-gate was apparently a part of the more ancient fortifications of Babylon, but which portion of the primitive city it enclosed is doubtful. In the time of Nebuchadrezzar it pierced the continuation, as it were, of the wall on the western bank of the river. Passing through this gateway, the visitor saw, on the West, the "middle-palace," an enormous structure, built by Nebuchadrezzar, as he boasts, in 15 days-a statement which seems somewhat of an exaggeration, when we come to consider the massiveness of the walls, some of which have a thickness of several yards. He describes this as having been "a fortress" (duru), "mountainlike" (sadanis), and on its summit he built an abode for himself-a "great palace," which was joined with his father's palace on the South of the intervening wall. It is possibly this latter which was built in 15 days- -not the whole structure, including the fortress. It was raised "high as the forests," and decorated with cedar and all kinds of costly woods, its doors being of palm, cedar, cypress, ebony(?) and ivory, framed in silver and gold, and plated with copper. The thresholds and hinges of its gates were bronze, and the cornice round its top was in (an imitation of) lapis-lazuli. It was a house for men to admire; and it is not improbable that this was the palace upon which he was regarded as having been walking when he referred to "great Babylon," which he had built.

25. The Festival-Street:

But the street Aa-ibur-sabu, along which the visitor is conceived to be walking, was also a highly decorated causeway, fitted for the pathway of the great gods. Its width varied from 11 to 22 yds., and it was paved with regularly hewn and fitted natural stones-limestone and a brownish-red stone with white veins-while its walls were provided with a covering of brick enameled in various colors with representations of lions, some of them in relief. The inscriptions which it bore were white on a rich dark-blue ground, also enameled. There were various other streets in Babylon, but these have still to be identified.

26. The Chamber of the Fates:

At the end of the Procession-street, and at right angle to it, was the Merodach canal, which communicated directly with the Euphrares. At this point also, and forming its end-portion, was the Chamber of Fates (Patak simate), where, yearly, the oracles were asked and declared. In close connection with this was the Temple of Offerings (Bit nike) or festival-house (Bit akiti). Concerning these places more information is needed, but it would seem that, before Nebuchadrezzar's time, the Chamber of Fates was simply decorated with silver-he, however, made it glorious with pure gold. It is at this point that the Procession-street is at its widest. The position of the Temple of Offerings is at present uncertain.

27. The Northern Palace and the Gardens:

What may have lain on the other side of the Arabtu-canal, which here made a bend to the Northwest, and flowed out of the Euphrates somewhat higher up, is uncertain; but in the extreme North of the city was the palace now represented by the ruin called Babil. This was likewise built by Nebuchadrezzar, but it may be doubted whether it was really founded by him. The presence of traces of wells here made Hormuzd Rassam think that this was probably the site of the Hanging Gardens, but further exploration is needed to decide the point, though it may be regarded as not unlikely that this identification is correct. In that case it would represent the palace shown in the Assyrian saloon at the British Museum-a building apparently protected by three walls, and adorned with columns resting on the backs of lions in an attitude of walking. On the adjoining slab is a representation of a small building-also with columns-on a hill. A figure of a king sculptured on a stele is seen on the left, with an altar in front of it, showing that divine honors were paid to him. The hill is thickly wooded with trees which may be olives, poplars, etc., and on the right is a series of arches on which other trees are planted. Irrigation channels stretch in a long stream to the left and in shorter streams to the right. As this belongs to the time of Ashur-bani-apli, about 650 BC, and refers to that king's operations against his brother Samas-sum-ukin, the king of Babylon, it is clear that something similar to the Hanging Gardens existed before the time of Nebuchadrezzar, and therefore, if it was his queen who had them made, before the time of their reputed founder. This would be the point first reached by the Assyrian army when advancing to the attack. Such a park as is represented here with its hills and streams, and thickly planted trees, must have made the palace in the vicinity the pleasantest, in all probability, in all Babylonia, and excited the admiration of every one who visited the sights of the city.

28. Historical References to Babylonian Buildings:

The architectural history of the city of Babylon has still to be written, but something is already known about it, especially its central point of interest, the great temple E-sagila, wherein Merodach was wor shipped. The 5th year of Sumu- la-ila was known as that in which the great fortress of Babylon was built; and his 22nd was that in which a throne of gold and silver was completed and made for Merodach's supreme abode (paramaha). Later on Abil-Sin, in his 17th year, made a throne(?) for Samash of Babylon; and Hammu-rabi, in his 3rd, 12th and 14th years, also made thrones for the gods-Nannar of Babylon (the Moon-god), Zer-panitum, Merodach's consort, and Ishtar of Babylon. Samsuiluna, his son, in his 6th year, placed a "praying statue" in E-sagila before Merodach, followed, in his 8th, by the dedication of some bright-shining object (mace?) of gold and silver, to the god; and on that occasion it is stated that he made E-sagila to shine like the stars of heaven. Passing over many other references to kings who adorned the temples of the city, the work done there by Agukakrime (circa 1480 BC) may be mentioned. This ruler, who belonged to the Kassite dynasty, not only brought back the images of Merodach and Zer-panitum to their temple, but also restored the building and its shrine, and made rich offerings thereto. Later on, after the destruction of the city by Sennacherib, his son Esarhaddon, and his grandsons Samas-sum-ukin, king of Babylon, and Ashurbani-apli, king of Assyria, all took part in the restoration of Babylon's temples and palaces. The work of Nabopolassar and Nebuchadrezzar has already been referred to. In 330 BC (reign of Alexander the Great), an attempt was made, by the tithes of the pious, to clear away the rubbish around E-sangil (E-sagila), but to all appearance no real restorations were made-or, at least, the stage at which they could have been put in hand was not reached. In the year 269 BC Antiochus Soter claims, like Nebuchedrezzar and other Babylonian kings, to have restored the temples E-sagila and E-zida (the latter at Borsippa). Though in late times the temples were more or less dilapidated, the services to all appearance continued to be performed, and may even have gone on until well in the Christian era, Babylonian religion and philosophy being still held in honor as late as the 4th century. The downfall of Babylon as a city began with the founding of Seleucia on the Tigris, in the reign of Seleucus Nicator (after 312 BC). The inhabitants of Babylon soon began to migrate to this new site, and the ruined houses and walls of the old capital ultimately became the haunts of robbers and outlaws. It is said that the walls were demolished by later (Seleucid) kings on that account, and it is not improbable that, with the walls, any houses which may have remained habitable were cleared away. Fortunately, the palaces restored by Nebuchadrezzar were too firmly built to be easily demolished, hence their preservation to the present day.


Fried. Delitzsch, Babel and Bible. 1903; French H. Weissbach, Das Stadtbild von Babylon, 1904; R. Koldeway, Die Tempel von Babylon und Borsippa. 1911.

Written by T. G. Pinches

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