The legendary splendor of Babylon

In a time long past, the city of Babylon enchanted all those who had the luck to see it. Its name echoed even in faraway lands and its splendour had become a legend, a myth to spread and pass on.
The story of Babylon, also known as Babel, which in Akkadian means “Door of God”, began in the III millennium B.C. and wasn’t but a small village until 2350 B.C. It then began to rapidly grow in size and importance until, from 1700 B.C. on, it became the capital of the Kingdom of Mesopotamia for 10 dynasties. The sixth king of Babylon was Hammurabi, who wrote one of history’s most ancient law codes, the Code of Hammurabi, today kept in the Louvre museum of Paris. The most well-known king was the second of the last dynasty, Nabucodonosor II, the one who destroyed the temple of Jerusalem in 587 B.C. and deported its population. Most of the city remains that lasted to this day come from the time of his reign. The city was conquered by Cyrus II of Persia in 539 B.C., who turned into a Persian province, and in 331 B.C it was annexed to the empire of Alexander the Great, who was stunned by its beauty.
The city was most known for its ziggurat, a tower-like construction made from piled up truncated pyramids, representing man’s will to get closer and closer to the sky. It was most probably this ziggurat that inspired the myth of the Tower of Babel, told in the Genesis book of the Bible. The city was also known for the Ishtar Gate (today rebuilt in the Pergamon Museum of Berlin) and the processional road beyond, for the pyramids, and for the splendid Hanging Gardens, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.  
Babylon, repeatedly cited in the Bible as a metaphor for evil in contrast with the heavenly Jerusalem, was one of the most populated cites of the world and the first historical metropolis to surpass 200.000 inhabitants. Its end was foretold by the prophet Isaiah, but it effectively took place only two centuries after that, in 539 BC.
Today the ruins of Babylon lay in the town of Al Hillah, in Iraq, about 80 kilometres south of Baghdad. Not much is left of its ancient and legendary splendour, but various interesting remains have survived, like the palaces of king Nabucodonosor II, the Procession Street, the Lion of Babylon, the renowed Ishtar Gate, the Temple of Nin Makh and Nabushcari and the amphitheatre. Part of these are kept in museums world-wide. The whole archaeological zone covers a 30 square kilometres area, and the first excavations were conducted by Claudius James Rich in 1811. Unfortunately, during the American invasion if Iraq which began in 2003, the USA forces occupied the site for some time causing irreparable damage to that precious historical heritage…
Babylon's ruins

(Translation by Marco Salvadori
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Oradour Sur Glane

In this southern France village, in the region of Limousin, took place an horrible Nazi massacre, carried out by an SS regiment the 10th of June, 1944. It is yet unknown whether it was for retaliation or to search for something or someone, but that morning an armoured SS regiment detached from the convoy headed to Normandy to fight the Allied troops, and entered Oradour, a village with 800 inhabitants that could in no way represent a military objective.
That morning of 66 years ago, the Nazi troops raided the village, rounded up the population in a park of the town’s plaza and went on to search every house and building, destroying everything.

Be it partisans, refugees, fugitives or hidden weaponry, the soldiers didn’t find what they were looking for. All men were separated from the women and children and brought inside the near barns, where some machine guns had been placed. These were used to shoot the harmless men in the legs, so as not to kill them but to leave them unable to run away. The barns were then burned down, with the wounded still inside.
After this massacre, the SS transferred the women and children inside the town church, and placed the machine guns at the entrance. They then threw a firebomb inside the church, causing more victims, and then gunned down the survivors who tried to escape.
A total of 642 of Oradour’s villagers lost their lives that day: 197 men, 240 women and 205 children. The houses were later burned down and the whole village was destroyed.
About twenty people who had escaped when the Nazis arrived survived and witnessed the atrocities that were carried out that day at Oradour sur Glane. After the war, De Gaulle decided that the village was not to be rebuilt, as testimony of French sufferance under Nazi occupation.
And so, Oradour remained a ghost town. A place worth visiting, for it urges a reflection on the senselessness of human wickedness.

(Translation by Marco Salvadori