Babylon

The disintegration of the Sumerian state led to the fact that the political center of Mesopotamia slowly but surely began to move up the Euphrates and established itself in a small city. It was named - Babylon. The growth and enrichment of the city was greatly facilitated by its favorable position at the intersection of trade routes.

The disintegration of the Sumerian state led to the fact that the political center of Mesopotamia slowly but surely began to move up the Euphrates and established itself in a small city. It was named - Babylon

The formation of Babylon began in the first half of the second millennium BC. during the reign of King Sinmuballit. And already with his son, the great king Hammurabi (1792-1750 BC), Babylon reached its first bloom.

After the death of Hammurabi, Babylon remained the capital for another hundred and fifty years, during which five kings of this dynasty ruled here. With the conquest of Babylon, Hittite king Mursilis (circa 1600 BC) began the so-called Dark Period, which lasted until 1594 BC, when Babylon was captured by aliens from the mountain areas - kassits, which dominated the country for more than three hundred years.

The Babylon of Nebuchadnezzar the Second (604-562 BC), the son of Nabopalassar, was the first society of the ancient world to enter the stage of crisis. In it for the first time the vices and plagues of civilization appeared in all their nakedness. From that time Babylon became the image and symbol of every decaying social organism.

At the same time, the reign of Nebuchadnezzar the Second was the period of the heyday of the New Babylonian kingdom. The king of Babylon defeated the Egyptians, destroyed Jerusalem and besieged the Jews, surrounded himself with an unparalleled luxury even in those times and turned Babylon into an impregnable stronghold. He built his capital throughout the forty-three years of his rule.

The last king of Babylon was Nabonidus (556-539 BC). He went down in history thanks to the dramatic history of his struggle with the priests of Esagila, which eventually ended in the death of the king. Be that as it may, the fact remains: one of the main reasons for the fall of Babylon was the betrayal of the priests of Esagila, who simply transferred the country and the capital to the Persian king in order to increase their incomes.

At the turn of the new era, under Parthian rule, the desolation of Babylon began. In the era of the Sassanids (226-636 AD), the city shrank to the size of an insignificant village, and in the Middle Ages only miserable Arab huts remained in its place. The local population looked at the ruins of Babylon as a quarry and took a brick there for their needs. Many existing today in the vicinity of the former Babylon settlements are entirely built of bricks from the epoch of Nebuchadnezzar. And there, where once stood a huge city, stretched an endless series of sandy hills. So the prophecy of the Bible was fulfilled!

The ruins of Babylon attracted the attention of archaeologists since the middle of the 19th century. But only in 1899 systematic excavations of the city began, lasting for eighteen years. They were led by an archaeological expedition led by Robert Koldewey.

The very first excavations of Babylon opened a street paved with large slabs, some of which were covered with inscriptions from the time of King Nebuchadnezzar. Everywhere there were bricks covered with colored enamel and reliefs. They testified that archaeologists discovered the sacred Road of processions - the street for solemn processions in honor of Marduk, the chief deity of the Babylonians.

Until now, several of the descriptions of Babylon, made by contemporaries, have been preserved.

The Assyrian king Asarhaddon, who in 680 began to rebuild Babylon, described it as a square surrounded by walls, with a side of 30 ashl (3600 cubits); therefore, the perimeter of the city walls was 14400 cubits (about 7200 m). According to Herodotus, Babylon had "the appearance of a quadrangle, each side of which contains 120 stages (22,2 km), the number of all the stages that make up the city's circumference is 480 (88,8 km)." As shown by the excavations of R. Koldewey, in fact, Babylon was in terms of an almost regular quadrangle stretched from the west to the east with a perimeter of 8150 m and an area of about 4 square km. The sides of this quadrangle were oriented along four "winds", that is, on four sides of the world, which the Babylonians did not coincide with ours. The river Euphrates, flowing from north to south, divided Babylon into two unequal parts: on the left bank was the Old City, and on the right - the smaller New Town, which, in essence, was the suburb of Babylon. The city center and the most important buildings were on the eastern shore.

Around Babylon there were date and fruit gardens, villas of wealthy townspeople, villages and farms, where farmers and gardeners lived. King Nebuchadnezzar the Second erected around these outskirts on the left bank of the Euphrates an outer wall almost 18 km long. The bewildered Herodotus reports that the defensive walls of Babylon with numerous towers - outer and inner - were so wide that two chariots, drawn by four horses, could freely disengage from them. Archaeological excavations confirmed his testimony. Every fifty meters along the walls there were watchtowers. On the inner wall there were 360, on the outside - 250. This was the most grandiose of all ever existing in the world urban fortifications. If we accept, as in the Middle Ages, that the city is a walled settlement, then Babylon was and remains the largest city that ever existed on Earth. Taking into account the territory within this wall, the total area of the "Big Babylon" reached 10 sq. km. Its population was at least half a million people. In the western half of the Ancient World (without India and China), only Nineveh, Carthage, Alexandria and Rome.

The streets of Babylon, the solemn procession road, palaces and 53 temples amazed with their fabulous splendor. Nebuchadnezzar conducted a huge restoration work on the territory of the Old City. At it the reconstruction of the temples of Emah, Ninuri of the goddess Ishtar began. He renewed the walls of the canal Arakhta, rebuilt and decorated the temple complex of Marduk, the supreme god of Babylon - Esagila.

The predecessors of Nebuchadnezzar used for construction sun-dried raw brick, traditional for the cities of Mesopotamia, Nebuchadnezzar also began to use this burnt brick.

The grandiose Babylonian ziggurat tower, built by the Assyrian architect Aradahdeshu, was located on a sacred piece of land in the south-western corner of Esagila. It had seven tiers and reached a height of about 100 m. The ziggurat was crowned with a sanctuary lined with bluish-lilac glazed bricks glittering in the sun. It was dedicated to the main Babylonian god Marduk and his wife, the goddess of the morning dawn.

The excavation of Esagila and the Tower of Babel of Koldewei began in April 1900. Gradually, the contours of the giant structure began to appear. On a huge quadrangle measuring 450x550 m was the temple of the divine "lord of Babylon" and "lord of the gods" - Bel-Marduk. Nearby were the ruins of the tower. Excavations have found a well-preserved brick tower foundation - a quadrilateral with sides of 91,55 m - and remains of three stairs.

The name of the king of Nebuchadnezzar is also associated with the creation in Babylon of gardens on artificial embankments - the legendary gardens of Queen Semiramis, revered by the Greeks as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. It was a multi-tiered structure with cool chambers on ledges planted with flowers, bushes and trees, irrigated with the help of a huge water-lifting wheel, which the slaves rotated. During the excavations on the site of the gardens an artificial hill was discovered, inside of which there was an amazing water supply system.

In the time of Nebuchadnezzar Babylon had seven gates bearing the names of the main gods of the country. Especially beautiful were the gates of the goddess Ishtar, fully excavated by R. Koldewey, who served as the beginning of the famous Road of processions leading to Esagila. The vaulted entrance was protected by two tall, massive, square in the plan towers, decorated with reliefs from glazed brick. On the blue shining background, 575 reliefs with images of sacred animals stood out clearly: figures of walking bulls - white with yellow mane and yellow with red mane, as well as enigmatic images of the beast "sirrush" - semisweet half-birds with lion's legs, forked tongue, with horn on flat head and body, covered with scales.

From the gate of Ishtar, the most magnificent road in the world, the famous Road of processions ("Aibur Shaba"), took its origin. It was built not for the transport of goods and movement of people - it was marched by the great god Marduk. The road of the processions was paved with square limestone slabs the size of a meter per meter. They lay on a brick floor covered with a layer of asphalt. The edges of the plates were decorated with inlay from red stone, and all the joints between the slabs were covered with asphalt. The width of the street was 23 m. All along it stretched seven-meter fortress walls, laid out of blue glazed brick. On both sides of the procession, a hundred and twenty lions stood in menacing poses, fluttering yellow-red manes and grinning mouths. These relief images adorned the walls every two meters.

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