- For other places with the same name, see Babylon (disambiguation).
Babylon is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Iraq, today only ruins; it was once one of the most prominent cities of Ancient Mesopotamia. Alexander the Great chose Babylon to be the capital of the great empire he had created, and died there while planning further conquests; for several centuries after that it was a major center of the Seleucid Empire founded by one of his generals.
It is likely that Babylon (from Bab Ilim, Gate of the Gods) was founded in the third millennium BC and rose to prominence over the next thousand years. By the 18th century BC the city was the centre of the empire of Hammurabi. Various empires controlled Babylon over the following centuries. Babylon briefly regained independence during the Neo-Babylonian empire towards the end of the 7th century BC, most notably under the reign of king Nebuchadnezzar II, but came under Persian rule in the 6th century BC. In the 4th century BC, Alexander the Great captured Babylon. Babylon remained a notable Persian province until the 7th century AD, and then fell into decline.
The ruins of Babylon have suffered greatly due to looting and destructive policies. Parts of Nebuchadnezzar's palace and some of the old city walls remain. Saddam Hussein commissioned a non-scientific, very controversial "restoration" of ancient Babylon on part of the site, in the process destroying much of the ancient site all the way to the foundations. A modern palace was constructed for him on what was purported to have been Nebuchadnezzar's ancient palace.
A reconstruction of Babylon's Ishtar Gate is displayed in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin.
Get in edit
The ruins are located about 5 km (3.1 mi) north from the city of Hillah, the capital of Babylon Province. Hillah is well-connected with overnight trains from Baghdad and Basra as well as highways. Taxi is recommended for travelling from the city to Babylon.
Get around edit
- 1 Ishtar Gate. While the original gate was dismantled and reconstructed in the Pergamon Museum, Berlin, this replica is similar in looks but smaller then the original.
- 2 Lion of Babylon. Built by the Chaldean Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar II (605-562 BC).
- Kasr. Also called Palace or Castle. It is the location of the Neo-Babylonian ziggurat Etemenanki of Nabopolassar and later Nebuchadnezzar and lies in the center of the site.
- 3 Esagila, on a mound called Amran Ibn Ali (to the south). A temple of Marduk which also contained shrines to Ea and Nabu.
- Homera. Reddish colored mound on the west side. Most of the Hellenistic remains are here.
- Babil. In the northern end of the site, about 22 m in height. It has been extensively subject to brick robbing since ancient times. It held a palace built by Nebuchadnezzar.
- 4 Etemenanki. Former ziggurat dedicated to the god Marduk. Constructed sometime between the 14th and 9th century BCE, it was fully destroyed by Alexander the Great in 331 BCE in order to prepare for a large reconstruction. However, the death of Alexander halted further work and it has been a ruin since then. Some scholars have suggested Etemenanki as a possible inspiration to the biblical story of the Tower of Babel.
Modern sights edit
- 5 Saddam Hussein's Babylonian Summer Palace. Ridiculously over sized and out of place, the palace is one of the best examples of the former dictator's hubris. Situating on an hill overlooking the archaeological site, it provides excellent views. Visitors are free to wander within the palace and while some parts are covered in graffiti, many exquisite details such as ornaments remain intact.
Nearby Hillah has several hotels too.
Stay safe edit
See the warning on the Iraq article.