Babylon

Babylon
Arabic: بابل
From the foot of Saddam Hussein's summer palace a Humvee is seen driving down a road towards the left. Palm trees grow near the road and the ruins of Babylon can be seen in the background.
A partial view of the ruins of Babylon from Saddam Hussein's Summer Palace
Babylon lies in the center of Iraq
Babylon lies in the center of Iraq
Shown within Iraq
Alternative name
LocationHillah, Babil Governorate, Iraq
RegionMesopotamia
Coordinates32°32′11″N 44°25′15″E / 32°32′11″N 44°25′15″E / 32.53639; 44.42083
CulturesAkkadian, Amorite, Kassite, Assyrian, Chaldean, Achaemenid, Hellenistic, Parthian, Sasanian
Site notes
ArchaeologistsHormuzd Rassam, Robert Koldewey
ConditionRuined
OwnershipPublic
Public accessYes
Official nameBabylon
CriteriaCultural: (iii), (vi)
Designated2019 (43rd 278
State Party Iraq
RegionArab States

Babylon was a key kingdom in ancient Mesopotamia from the 18th to 6th centuries BC. The name-giving capital city was built on the Euphrates river and divided in equal parts along its left and right banks, with steep embankments to contain the river's seasonal floods. Babylon was originally a small Akkadian town dating from the period of the Akkadian Empire c. 2300 BCE.

The town became part of a small independent city-state with the rise of the First Babylonian dynasty in the 19th century BC. After the Amorite king Hammurabi created a short-lived empire in the 18th century BC, he built Babylon up into a major city and declared himself its king, and southern Mesopotamia became known as Babylonia and Babylon eclipsed Nippur as its holy city. The empire waned under Hammurabi's son Samsu-iluna and Babylon spent long periods under Assyrian, Kassite and Elamite domination. After being destroyed and then rebuilt by the Assyrians, Babylon became the capital of the short-lived Neo-Babylonian Empire from 609 to 539 BC. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, although a number of scholars believe these were actually in the Assyrian capital of Nineveh. After the fall of the Neo-Babylonian Empire, the city came under the rule of the Achaemenid, Seleucid, Parthian, Roman, and Sassanid empires.

It has been estimated that Babylon was the largest city in the world c. 1770 – c. 1670 BC, and again c. 612 – c. 320 BC. It was perhaps the first city to reach a population above 200,000.[2] Estimates for the maximum extent of its area range from 890[3] to 900 hectares (2,200 acres).[4]

The remains of the city are in present-day Hillah, Babil Governorate, Iraq, about 85 kilometres (53 mi) south of Baghdad, comprising a large tell of broken mud-brick buildings and debris.

The main sources of information about Babylon—excavation of the site itself, references in cuneiform texts found elsewhere in Mesopotamia, references in the Bible, descriptions in classical writing (especially by Herodotus), and second-hand descriptions (citing the work of Ctesias and Berossus)—present an incomplete and sometimes contradictory picture of the ancient city even at its peak in the sixth century BC.[5]

Name

The English Babylon comes from Greek Babylṓn (Βαβυλών), a transliteration of the Akkadian Bābilim (cuneiform: 𒆍𒀭𒊏𒆠 KA2.DIG̃IR.RAKI).[6][failed verification]

Archibald Sayce, writing in the 1870s, considered Bab-ilu or Bab-ili to be the translation of an earlier Sumerian (formerly thought to be in the obsolete "Turanian" language-family) name Ca-dimirra, meaning "gate of god",[7][8] based on the characters KAN4 DIĜIR.RAKI (corresponding to the Sumerian phrase kan diĝirak "god's gate") or perhaps based on other characters.[9]

According to Professor Dietz-Otto Edzard, the city was originally called Babilla, but by the time of the Third Dynasty of Ur, through a process of etymological speculation, had become Bāb-ili(m) meaning "gate of god" or "god's gate"[10] (Bab-Il). The "gate of god" translation is increasingly viewed as a folk etymology to explain an unknown original non-Semitic placename.[11] Linguist I.J. Gelb suggested in 1955 that Babil/Babilla is the basis of the city name, of unknown meaning and origin, as there were other similarly-named places in Sumer, and there are no other examples of Sumerian place-names being replaced with Akkadian translations. He deduced that it later transformed into Akkadian Bāb-ili(m), and that the Sumerian Ka-dig̃irra was a later translation of that, rather than vice versa.[12][13]

In the Bible, the name appears as Babel (Hebrew: בָּבֶלBavel, Tib. בָּבֶל Bāḇel; Classical Syriac: ܒܒܠBāwēl, Aramaic: בבלBabel; in Arabic: بَابِلBābil), interpreted in the Book of Genesis to mean "confusion",[14] from the verb bilbél (בלבל, "to confuse").[15] The modern English verb, to babble ("to speak meaningless words"), is popularly thought to derive from this name, but there is no direct connection.[16]

Ancient records in some situations use "Babylon" as a name for other cities, including cities like Borsippa within Babylon's sphere of influence, and Nineveh for a short period after the Assyrian sack of Babylon.[17][18]