Babylon, the Lost City

Babylon, the Lost City

Of all the world’s lost cities, none can compare with the splendor, age and mystery of Babylon. The city was located in a region bounded by the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. The area was known first as Sumer and Akkad, then Assyria, Babylonia and Mesopotamia. Now it is known as Iraq.

Hammurabi was one of the most famous Babylonian kiangs, remembered for his strict code of laws. Anyone who broke these laws was usually punished by death. The laws were carved onto eight-foot-tall stones for all to see.

But the Babylon that thrills even those who are not students of history is the one that came later. It was the Babylon of gold-loving king, Nebuchadnezzar II. His rule started in 605 B.C.

Nebuchadnezzar led a monumental building program. The result was the largest, most glorious city of the ancient world. He built the 300-foot Tower of Babel, mentioned in The Holly Books.

Most of the workers Nebuchadnezzar used were war captives. In 597 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar attacked and seized Jerusalem. Much of the Jewish population was forced to work on the king’s crazy, giant projects.

Herodotus, the ancient Greek historian of the 400s B.C., gave us written details about the city. He describes it as a square city surrounded by huge walls. Temples and palaces were covered in blue-glazed tiles. In daylight, they shimmered with gold, silver and bronze. The most important street was the Processional Way. This paved road ran north through the Ishtar Gate, which was embellished with bulls and dragons sculpted into the surface.

Herodotus also describes the temple of Marduk on the east bank of the Euphrates. The building had bronze gates and was made of eight towers stacked on top of each other. The temple itself was placed on top of the highest tower.

Another historian tells the story behind the Hanging Gardens. These are known as one of the ancient seven wonders of the world. One of the legends says that they were built by Prince Cyrus out of love for a woman. Her homeland was Persia, and the gardens were built to remind her of home. Other accounts say that these terraced gardens were a gift from Nebuchadnezzar to his wife. Some experts believe they were never quite as big as the legends say.

The story of Babylon captures humankind’s best and worst qualities. During the Iraq war, the history of Babylon suddenly burst onto the news. This is no surprise since Babylon shaped our entire human history.

The truth is that Babylon had long been besieged by wars, weather and time. The looting and destruction in 2003 were merely the latest attack on the shrinking remains of the city. Even so, Babylon will always stay in our imagination. It will forever be the origin of our common human history.

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