Alexa Ancient Babylon: A city and a civilization

Dhaka, Friday   18 October 2019


Ancient Babylon: A city and a civilization

 Dhrubo Ekramul

 Published: 05:11 PM, 14 September 2019   Updated: 06:25 PM, 14 September 2019

Photo: Collected

Photo: Collected

More or less we everyone heard about the Hanging Garden of Babylon. But, very few of us know about the historical background of the whole Babylon. Babylon is an about 4,000 years old ancient kingdom in which ruins are found in present Iraq (Mesopotamia). If Mesopotamia is the cradle of urban civilization, Babylon is its firstborn child. Today we will know about different sites and facts of Babylon.

Babylon was a kingdom in ancient Mesopotamia, which was founded about 50 miles south from present Baghdad as a small port town on the Euphrates River during the reign of Sargon the Great. He ruled from 2334 to 2279 BC.


But, Babylon’s history mainly roots up Hammurabi. Babylon turned into a major military power under this Amorite king. He began his reign over the city in 1792 B.C. Hammurabi’s empire was known as Babylonia. By 1755 B.C. through war and diplomacy, Hammurabi subdued all of Mesopotamia under Babylonian rule. His empire was drawn from Syria to the Persian Gulf.

Code of Hammurabi:

Hammurabi was famous for his law code. He created one of the world’s earliest and most complete written legal codes, known as the Code of Hammurabi. In his view, the gods sent him to rule, with some level of compassion, over his empire. It focused on improving irrigation and control of water resources, building massive temples and engaging in public works such as enlarging the double walls of the city. It helped Babylon surpass other cities in the region.


Babylon after the death of Hammurabi

Empire of Hammurabi lasted only his lifetime. The control he had established over Mesopotamia fall away until the city was won by the Hittites in 1595 B.C. Later, Kassites, a mountain people group from Iran took the city and conquered the rest of Mesopotamia as well. Under the Kassite dynasty, Babylon became a great cultural center of learning, producing texts on mathematics, medicine, and astrology. The Kassites called Babylon by the name Karanduniash. Kassite controlled the city for 435 years, with periodic episodes of Assyrian.


Babylon was under control of Assyrians from 911 to 608 B.C. Babylon rebelled under the Assyrian king, Sennacherib. Sennacherib destroyed the city, razing its walls, temples, and palaces to the ground. This act shocked the religious peoples of Mesopotamia. Sennacherib was assassinated by his sons to atone for his sin. They then proceeded to rebuild Babylon.

Nabopolassar, a Chaldean king took control of Babylon defeated Assyrians in 612 B.C. He used diplomacy and alliances to build the Neo-Babylonian Empire out of the remains of the fallen Assyrian empire.

His son, King Nebuchadnezzar II, began renovating and building on a grand scale in Babylon until it covered 2,200 acres with a population perhaps reaching 200,000.


Becoming wonders of the world

Babylon enjoyed its heyday during the seventh and sixth centuries B.C. when it was believed to be the largest city in the world.  Lead by Nebuchadnezzar II, Babylon became one of the wonders of the world. He rebuilt the Etemenanki Ziggurat (Tower of Bable), the magnificent Ishtar Gate and is credited with creating the famed Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Scholars, however, dispute whether the Hanging Gardens existed in Babylon or in the Assyrian city of Ninevah.


End of Babylonian rule

The Neo-Babylonian Empire, like the earlier Babylonia, was short-lived. Babylonian rule of Babylon ended in 539 B.C. when the Persian army under Cyrus the Great conquered the city in the Battle of Opis.

Under Persian rule, Babylon flourished as a center of art and education. The legendary Persian  Cyrus the Great and his successors held the city came up with more changes than before. They made it the administrative capital of their empire. For mathematics, cosmology, and astronomy Babylonian became highly popular. It is thought that Thales of Miletus, the first western philosopher may have studied there and that Pythagoras developed his famous mathematical theorem based upon a Babylonian model.

Prophet Daniyal (PBUH)

Daniyal, a noble youth of Jerusalem, he is taken into captivity by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon and serves the king and his successors with loyalty and ability until the time of the Persian conqueror Cyrus, all the while remaining true to the God of Israel. Daniyal is usually considered by Muslims, in general, to have been a prophet and according to Shia Muslim hadith, he was a prophet. Although he is not mentioned in the Qur'an, nor in hadith. The various branches of the Christian church also recognize him as a prophet.


Alexander at Babylon

Alexander the Great conquered the city in 331 B.C. He died there in Nebuchadnezzar’s palace in 323 B.C. The city was taken by the Parthians in 141 B.C., then back to the Persians and finally became part of the Muslim world in the mid-7th century A.D.

Babylon in Jewish History

After the Babylonian conquest of the Kingdom of Judah in the sixth century B.C., Nebuchadnezzar II took thousands of Jews from the city of Jerusalem and held them captive in Babylon for more than half a century.

Many Judeans returned to Jerusalem after the Neo-Babylonian Empire fell to Cyrus the Great’s Persian forces. Some stayed, and a Jewish community flourished there for more than 2,000 years. Many relocated to the newly created Jewish state of Israel in the 1950s.

Tower of Babel

In the book of Genesis, The Tower of Babel is a story about humanity's destruction handed down by the Gods and Ancient Astronaut Theorists say it reveals how extraterrestrials control our future in this clip from Season 9, "The Alien Agenda."

The city of Babylon included in both Hebrew and Christian scriptures. Christian scriptures portray Babylon as a wicked city. Hebrew Scriptures tell the story of the Babylonian exile, portraying Nebuchadnezzar as a captor.


Walls of Babylon

A significant sign of art and architecture of the Babylonian Empire its impenetrable walls. Hammurabi first encircled the city with walls. Nebuchadnezzar II further fortified the city with three rings of walls that were 40 feet tall.


Hanging Gardens of Babylon

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon is more or less famous whole over the world. It is one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. It contained a colossal maze of terraced trees, shrubs, flowers, and manmade waterfalls. Though it is known as ‘hanging’ garden, it is not actually. Yet archaeologists have turned up scant evidence of the gardens. It’s unclear where they were located or whether they ever existed at all.



Ishtar Gate

The main entrance to the inner city of Babylon was called the Ishtar Gate. The portal was decorated with bright blue glazed bricks adorned with pictures of bulls, dragons, and lions. The Ishtar Gate gave way to the city’s great Processional Way, a half-mile decorated corridor used in religious ritual to celebrate the New Year.


Babylon in the eye of Herodotus

The father of History and Greek writer Herodotus wrote about Babylon in the fifth century.  He wrote to describe Babylon, “The city stands on a broad plain, and is an exact square, a hundred and twenty stadia in length each way, so that the entire circuit is four hundred and eighty stadia. While such is its size, in magnificence there is no other city that approaches to it. It is surrounded, in the first place, by a broad and deep moat, full of water, behind which rises a wall fifty royal cubits in width and two hundred in height.”


Babylon Today

No other place in the world has a more historical sound to its name as the city of Babylon in Iraq. Under Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi government excavated Babylonian ruins and attempted to reconstruct certain features of the ancient city, including one of Nebuchadnezzar’s palaces. After the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the United States forces built a military base on the ruins of Babylon. The United Nations cultural heritage agency UNESCO reported the base caused “major damage” to the archaeological site.

Babylon was reopened for the tourists in 2009, but after years of destruction is there not much left these days. You can see the rebuilt ruins from Saddam Hussein’s area and even Saddam Hussein’s castle which overlooks the ruins is now open to the public. But unfortunately, the whole inside of the palace has been looted.

There are no fences around the crumbling ruins, so locals climb all over. They break off small parts of buildings every day, so if nothing is done soon to preserve the ruins, Babylon will be all gone.