Join Date: Mar 2008
Location: Point of singularity
I've had a look and found this:
Babylon, the legendary city, is indeed, the most famous ancient city in the whole World. It was the capital of ten Mesopotamian dynasties starting with the dynasty of King Hammurabi (1792-1750 BC); the 6th king of the 1st dynasty; reaching prominence as the capital city of the great kingdom of Babylonia. The last dynasty at which Babylon achieved its zenith, is well known particularly of its 2nd king, Nebuchadnezzar II (605-563 BC), to whom most of Babylon's existing buildings belongs.
Babylon was renowned for its high, well-fortified walls and for the magnificence of its temples and palaces. Its famous Hanging Gardens, built by King Nebuchadnezzar II for his wife Amytas, were one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Amytas was a Medes and her home was in mountainous country, so the King reputedly had the Hanging Gardens built to allay her homesickness.
Nowadays, its ruins covers about 302 km lying on the east bank of Euphrates 90 km south of Baghdad and about 10 km north of Hilla. The most important of the standing monuments of Babylon today are the Summer and Winter Palaces of King Nebuchadnezzar II, the Ziggurat attached to it, the Street of Processions, the Lion of Babylon, and the famous Ishtar Gate.
In Akkadian times, around 2350 BC, Babylon was a small village, which in 5 or 6 centuries had grown in size and importance, mostly during the reign of the 3rd Dynasty, until it rose like a city meteor to deal the coup de grace to Sumerian authority in Mesopotamia under Amorite kings. Babylon itself became a major city-state, as the capital of the great Amorite soldier, the famous king, law-giver and social reformer King Hammurabi, with a code of common law, and a king with genuine concern for the well-being of his subjects- an unusual feature in those times.
Hammurabi's lasting monument is the Code. It was inscribed on eight-foot steles, like the eight-foot black diorite stela, pillaged from Babylon by an Elamite King and found in 1901 by French archaeologists in Susa, the ancient Elamite capital (to the east of modern Amara). The French transported it to the Louvre where you can see it and read, in Babylonian cuneiform writing, the 3000 lines of the Code.
In the next thousand years or so it witnessed the growth of other Mesopotamian cities which surpassed it in power and influence until, in the 2nd Chaldean Kingdom (625-538 BC) it flourished again as the capital of a mighty and prosperous country. King Nebuchadnezzar II rebuilt it in accordance with a new plan that took special care of its fortifications, and Babylon thus became the largest and loveliest city of its time.
As he was pursuing his conquests, Alexander the Great stopped for a time in Babylon and had intended to rebuild. He later returned only to die in it in 322 BC. Seleucus Nicator I, one of his commanders and successors, built Seleucia, south of Baghdad, whereupon Babylon lost its political significance.
Penetrated by the Euphrates from north to south, Babylon was surrounded by a moat and a double wall: the outer wall was 16 km long, the inner, 8 km. Straight, wide streets intercrossed, all paved with bricks and bitumen. The most important was the Street of Processions, which passed through Ishtar's Gate and ended in the Stepped Tower. The remains of this street with its bituminous paving are still there to be seen today.
Nebuchadnezzar's Southern Palace (190 x 300 m) is situated on the west side of this major street, made up of five courtyards each surrounded by halls and a diversity of chambers, one of which is the throne room (52 x 25 m). The Hanging Gardens, the remains of which are still visible nowadays, were part of this palace.
To the east of the Street of Processions lies Nin Makh's Temple, reconstructed recently. To the north are the remains of the Main Palace, where the Lion of Babylon is. It should be noted that many remains lie under the accumulations of later buildings, as the place continued to be inhabited, or have been so submerged by the Euphrates that it is almost impossible to retrieve it.
On the way to Babylon, on the right hand side, is the amphitheater, which dates back to the time of Alexander the Great, who for some years made Babylon the capital of his empire.
Ishtar Gate, in a depression a little short way off the Street of Processions, still has some of its old wall decorations of bulls, symbol of Adad, god of storms, and dragons, symbol of Marduk, the chief god. The dragon here is a composite animal with the physical attributes of snake, lion and eagle. These brick relieves are not glazed, as the beautiful glazed-brick panels figuring bulls, and dragons and lions (symbol of Ishtar) which decorated the Gate, the Palace and the Street of Processions were all taken, prior to World War I, to Berlin by the German expedition which excavated Babylon then. Along the Street, on the left a brick column is seen, which may have had a statue standing on it.
The Lion of Babylon, large and splendidly carved in basalt, reminds us again that the lion was the symbol of the goddess Ishtar. In the sculpture, the lion's back has marks indicating that it was meant for a precious saddle upon which the goddess Ishtar would stand.
To the south of the Street of Processions is a major temple, the Esagila "The Lofty House", leading on to the site of the Stepped Tower of Babylon, which had seven levels rising to a height of 91 meters, on a square base also 91 meters square. The Street runs straight until the bridge across the Euphrates, which rested on bastions 9 meters thick each.
Another temple in the area is Nabushcari, recently dug up with painted murals, the largest temple of its time. And, as you cross the railway line to the city, you will see a rise, which originally was 18 m high with a palace built on it, which archaeologists call the summer palace of Nebuchadnezzar. In the upper parts of the back walls are ventilation apertures, which served the inner rooms and halls of the palace.
and also this:
Lure of Babylon is powerful draw
Iraq, U.N. undertake project to restore city, transform it into center for cultural tourism.
Jeffrey Gettleman / New York Times
BABYLON, Iraq -- In this ancient city, it is hard to tell what are ruins and what is just ruined.
Crumbling brick buildings, some 2,500 years old, look like smashed sand castles at the beach. Famous sites, like the Tower of Babel and the Hanging Gardens, are swallowed up by river reeds. Signs of military occupation are everywhere, including trenches, bullet casings, shiny coils of razor wire and blast walls stamped, "This side Scud protection."
Babylon, the mud-brick city with the million-dollar name, has paid the price of war. It has been ransacked, looted, torn up, paved over, neglected and roughly occupied. Archaeologists said American soldiers even used soil thick with priceless artifacts to stuff sandbags.
But Iraqi leaders and U.N. officials are not giving up. They are working assiduously to restore Babylon and turn it into a cultural center and possibly even an Iraqi theme park. No one is saying this is going to happen any time soon, but what makes the project even conceivable is that the area around Babylon is one of the safest in Iraq -- a beacon of civilization, once again, in a land of chaos.
Ancient Babylon, celebrated as a fount of law, writing and urban living, sits just outside the modern-day city of Hilla, about 60 miles south of Baghdad.
Hilla is neither haunted by Sunni insurgents nor overwhelmed by Shiite militias, and though it has a mix of Shiites and Sunnis, it has not been afflicted by the sectarian violence that has paralyzed so many other parts of Iraq. Factories are churning, Iraqi security forces are patrolling and the streets pulsate with life -- children bounding to school, crowds wading into markets, taxis gliding by.
Emad Lafta al-Bayati, Hilla's mayor, has big plans for Babylon. "I want restaurants, gift shops, long parking lots," he said. God willing, he added, maybe even a Holiday Inn.
The U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is pumping millions of dollars into protecting and restoring Babylon and a handful of other ancient ruins in Iraq. UNESCO has even printed up a snazzy brochure, with Babylon listed as the premier destination, to hand out to wealthy donors.
"Cultural tourism could become Iraq's second-biggest industry, after oil," said Philippe Delanghe, a U.N. official helping with the project. But before Iraq becomes the next Egypt, he said wryly, "a few little things have to happen."
One of those, of course, is better security. The American military still maintains bases near Babylon, but next month, in a sign of how relatively stable the area has become, most troops will pull out and head north to Baghdad, where they are needed more.
Many Iraqis said it was about time. Occupying forces have been blamed for much of Babylon's recent demise.
Donny George, head of Iraq's board of antiquities, said Polish troops dug trenches through an ancient temple and American contractors paved over ruins to make a helicopter landing pad.
"How are we supposed to get rid of the helipad now?" George asked. "With jackhammers? Can you imagine taking a jackhammer to the remains of one of the most important cities in the history of mankind? I mean, come on, this is Babylon."
Babylon. Its name has had a magical ring since Hammurabi, the Babylonian king who ruled from 1792 to 1750 B.C. and is credited with handing down one of the first sets of codified law.
After Hammurabi, the city flourished again under King Nebuchadnezzar II, who ruled from around 605 to 562 B.C. and is best known for the hanging gardens he supposedly built for his wife
I'll see what else I can find, most interesting
"Where everything seems possible and nothing is what it seems"