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
Image gallery on ORIGINAL POST

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