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Babylon was the capital city of Babylonia , a kingdom in ancient Mesopotamia , between the 18th and 6th centuries BC. It was built along the left and right banks of the Euphrates river 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. The town became part of a small independent city-state with the rise of the First Babylonian dynasty in the 19th century BC. The Amorite king Hammurabi created a short-lived empire in the 18th century BC. He built Babylon into a major city and declared himself its king. Southern Mesopotamia became known as Babylonia and Babylon eclipsed Nippur as its holy city.
Babylon was described, perhaps even visited, by a number of classical historians including CtesiasHerodotusQuintus Curtius RufusStraboand Cleitarchus. These reports are of variable accuracy and some of the content was politically motivated, but these still provide useful information. References to the city of Babylon can be found in Akkadian and Sumerian literature from the late third millennium BC.
Babylon also appears in the administrative records of the Third Dynasty of Urwhich collected in-kind tax payments and appointed an ensi as local governor.
A later chronicle states that Sargon "dug up the dirt of the pit of Babylon, and made a counterpart of Babylon next to Akkad". ABC - By around the 19th century BCmuch of southern Mesopotamia was occupied by Amoritesnomadic tribes from the northern Levant who were Northwest Semitic speakers, unlike the native Akkadians of southern Mesopotamia and Assyriawho spoke East Semitic. The Amorites at first did not practice agriculture like more advanced Mesopotamians, preferring a semi-nomadic lifestyle, herding sheep.
Over time, Amorite grain merchants rose to prominence and established their own independent dynasties in several south Mesopotamian city-states, most notably IsinLarsaEshnunnaLagashand later, founding Babylon as a state. According to a Babylonian date list, Amorite [a] rule in Babylon began c. Sumu-la-Elwhose dates may be concurrent with those of Sumu-abum, is usually given as the progenitor of the First Babylonian dynasty. Both are credited with building the walls of Babylon.
In any case, the records describe Sumu-la-El's military successes establishing a regional sphere of influence for Babylon. Babylon was initially a minor city-state, and controlled little surrounding territory; its first four Amorite rulers did not assume the title of king.
The older and more powerful states of AssyriaElamIsinand Larsa overshadowed Babylon until it became the capital of Hammurabi 's short lived empire about a century later.
Hammurabi r. Hammurabi also invaded and conquered Elam to the east, and the kingdoms of Mari and Ebla to the northwest. After a protracted struggle with the powerful Assyrian king Ishme-Dagan of the Old Assyrian Empirehe forced his successor to pay tribute late in his reign, spreading Babylonian power to Assyria's Hattian and Hurrian colonies in Asia Minor.
After the reign of Hammurabi, the whole of southern Mesopotamia came to be known as Babyloniawhereas the north had already coalesced centuries before into Assyria. From this time, Babylon supplanted Nippur and Eridu as the major religious centers of southern Mesopotamia.
Hammurabi's empire destabilized after his death.
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Assyrians defeated and drove out the Babylonians and Amorites. The far south of Mesopotamia broke away, forming the native Sealand Dynastyand the Elamites appropriated territory in eastern Mesopotamia. The Amorite dynasty remained in power in Babylon, which again became a small city state. Texts from Old Babylon often include references to Shamashthe sun-god of Sippar, treated as a supreme deity, and Mardukconsidered as his son.
Marduk was later elevated to a higher status and Shamash lowered, perhaps reflecting Babylon's rising political power . The city was renamed Karanduniash during this period. Kassite Babylon eventually became subject to the Middle Assyrian Empire - BC to the north, and Elam to the east, with both powers vying for control of the city. An Akkadian south Mesopotamian dynasty then ruled for the first time. However, Babylon remained weak and subject to domination by Assyria.
Its ineffectual native kings were unable to prevent new waves of foreign West Semitic settlers from the deserts of the Levant, including the Arameans and Suteans in the 11th century BC, and finally the Chaldeans in the 9th century BC, entering and appropriating areas of Babylonia for themselves.
The Arameans briefly ruled in Babylon during the late 11th century BC. During the reign of Sennacherib of Assyria, Babylonia was in a constant state of revolt, led by a chieftain named Merodach-Baladanin alliance with the Elamitesand suppressed only by the complete destruction of the city of Babylon.
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Destruction of the religious center shocked many, and the subsequent murder of Sennacherib by two of his own sons while praying to the god Nisroch was considered an act of atonement. Consequently, his successor Esarhaddon hastened to rebuild the old city and make it his residence during part of the year. Shamash-shum-ukin enlisted the help of other peoples subject to Assyria, including ElamPersiaChaldeansand Suteans of southern Mesopotamia, and the Canaanites and Arabs dwelling in the deserts south of Mesopotamia.
Once again, Babylon was besieged by the Assyrians, starved into surrender and its allies were defeated. Ashurbanipal celebrated a "service of reconciliation", but did not venture to "take the hands" of Bel. An Assyrian governor named Kandalanu was appointed as ruler of the city.
Ashurbanipal did collect texts from Babylon for inclusion in his extensive library at Ninevah. After the death of Ashurbanipal, the Assyrian empire destabilized due to a series of internal civil wars throughout the reigns of Assyrian kings Ashur-etil-ilaniSin-shumu-lishir and Sinsharishkun.
Eventually Babylon, like many other parts of the near east, took advantage of the chaos within Assyria to free itself from Assyrian rule. In the subsequent overthrow of the Assyrian Empire by an alliance of peoples, the Babylonians saw another example of divine vengeance. Under Nabopolassara previously unknown Chaldean chieftain, Babylon escaped Assyrian rule, and in an alliance with Cyaxaresking of the Medes and Persians together with the Scythians and Cimmeriansfinally destroyed the Assyrian Empire between BC and BC.
Babylon thus became the capital of the Neo-Babylonian sometimes and possibly erroneously called the Chaldean Empire. Nebuchadnezzar is also credited with the construction of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon -one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World -said to have been built for his homesick wife Amyitis.
Whether the gardens actually existed is a matter of dispute. German archaeologist Robert Koldewey speculated that he had discovered its foundations, but many historians disagree about the location. Stephanie Dalley has argued that the hanging gardens were actually located in the Assyrian capital, Nineveh.
Nebuchadnezzar is also notoriously associated with the Babylonian exile of the Jews, the result of an imperial technique of pacification, used also by the Assyrians, in which ethnic groups in conquered areas were deported en masse to the capital.
The defeat was also recorded in the Babylonian Chronicles. Babylon's walls were considered impenetrable. The only way into the city was through one of its many gates or through the Euphrates River. Metal grates were installed underwater, allowing the river to flow through the city walls while preventing intrusion.
The Persians devised a plan to enter the city via the river. During a Babylonian national feast, Cyrus' troops upstream diverted the Euphrates River, allowing Cyrus' soldiers to enter the city through the lowered water.
The Persian army conquered the outlying areas of the city while the majority of Babylonians at the city center were unaware of the breach.
The account was elaborated upon by Herodotus   and is also mentioned in parts of the Hebrew Bible. He also writes that the Babylonians wear turbans and perfume and bury their dead in honey, that they practice ritual prostitution, and that three tribes among them eat nothing but fish. The hundred gates can be considered a reference to Homerand following the pronouncement of Archibald Henry Sayce inHerodotus' account of Babylon has largely been considered to represent Greek folklore rather than an authentic voyage to Babylon.
However, recently, Dalley and others have suggested taking Herodotus' account seriously. According to 2 Chronicles 36 of the Hebrew BibleCyrus later issued a decree permitting captive people, including the Jewsto return to their own lands.
Text found on the Cyrus Cylinder has traditionally been seen by biblical scholars as corroborative evidence of this policy, although the interpretation is disputed because the text only identifies Mesopotamian sanctuaries but makes no mention of Jews, Jerusalem, or Judea. Under Cyrus and the subsequent Persian king Darius IBabylon became the capital city of the 9th Satrapy Babylonia in the south and Athura in the northas well as a center of learning and scientific advancement.
In Achaemenid Persia, the ancient Babylonian arts of astronomy and mathematics were revitalized, and Babylonian scholars completed maps of constellations. The city became the administrative capital of the Persian Empire and remained prominent for over two centuries. Many important archaeological discoveries have been made that can provide a better understanding of that era.
The early Persian kings had attempted to maintain the religious ceremonies of Mardukbut by the reign of Darius IIIover-taxation and the strain of numerous wars led to a deterioration of Babylon's main shrines and canals, and the destabilization of the surrounding region. A native account of this invasion notes a ruling by Alexander not to enter the homes of its inhabitants.
Under Alexander, Babylon again flourished as a center of learning and commerce. The constant turmoil virtually emptied the city of Babylon. With this deportation, Babylon became insignificant as a city, although more than a century later, sacrifices were still performed in its old sanctuary. It maintained its own culture and people, who spoke varieties of Aramaicand who continued to refer to their homeland as Babylon. Examples of their culture are found in the Babylonian Talmu the Gnostic Mandaean religion, Eastern Rite Christianity and the religion of the prophet Mani.
In the mid-7th century, Mesopotamia was invaded and settled by the expanding Muslim Empire, and a period of Islamization followed.
Babylon was dissolved as a province and Aramaic and Church of the East Christianity eventually became marginalized. Ibn Hauqal mentions a small village called Babel in the tenth century; subsequent travelers describe only ruins.
Babylon is mentioned in medieval Arabic writings as a source of bricks,  said to have been used in cities from Baghdad to Basra. European travelers in many cases could not discover the city's location, or mistook Fallujah for it. Benjamin of Tudelaa 12th-century traveller, mentions Babylon but it is not clear if he went there. Others referred to Baghdad as Babylon or New Babylon and described various structures encountered in the region as the Tower of Babel.
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Claudius J. RichMemoir on the Ruins of Babylonpp. The eighteenth century saw an increasing flow of travelers to Babylon, including Carsten Niebuhr and Pierre-Joseph de Beauchampas well as measurements of its latitude.
Beauchamp's memoir, published in English translation inprovoked the British East India Company to direct its agents in Baghdad and Basra to acquire Mesopotamian relics for shipment to London. Austen Henry Layard made some soundings during a brief visit in before abandoning the site.
However, many of the fruits of their work were lost when a raft containing over 40 crates of artifacts sank into the Tigris river.
Henry Rawlinson and George Smith worked there briefly in The next excavation was conducted by Hormuzd Rassam on behalf of the British Museum. Work began incontinuing untiland was prompted by widespread looting of the site.
Using industrial scale digging in search of artifacts, Rassam recovered a large quantity of cuneiform tablets and other finds. The zealous excavation methods, common at the time, caused significant damage to the archaeological context. A team from the German Oriental Society led by Robert Koldewey conducted the first scientific archaeological excavations at Babylon. The work was conducted daily from until Primary efforts of the dig involved the temple of Marduk and the processional way leading up to it, as well as the city wall.
Lenzen's work dealt primarily with the Hellenistic theatre, and Schmid focused on the temple ziggurat Etemenanki.
Additional work in - concentrated on the area surrounding the Ishara and Ninurta temples in the Shu-Anna city-quarter of Babylon. During the restoration efforts in Babylon, the Iraqi State Organization for Antiquities and Heritage conducted extensive research, excavation and clearing, but wider publication of these archaeological activities has been limited.
The site of Babylon has been a cultural asset to Iraq since the creation of the modern Iraqi state in Babylonian images periodically appear on Iraqi postcards and stamps. In the s, a replica of the Ishtar Gate and a reconstruction of Ninmakh Temple were built on site.
On 14 Februarythe Ba'athist government of Iraq under Saddam Hussein began the "Archaeological Restoration of Babylon Project": reconstructing features of the ancient city atop its ruins. These features included the Southern Palace of Nebuchandnezzar, with rooms, five courtyards, and a meter entrance arch. The project also reinforced the Processional Way, the Lion of Babylonand an amphitheater constructed in the city's Hellenistic era.
In the government minted a set of seven coins displaying iconic features of Babylon. A Babylon International Festival was held in Septemberand annually thereafter until excepting an to showcase this work. Proposed reconstruction of the Hanging Gardens and the great ziggurat never took place. Hussein installed a portrait of himself and Nebuchadnezzar at the entrance to the ruins and inscribed his name on many of the bricks, in imitation of Nebuchadnezzar.
One frequent inscription reads: "This was built by Saddam Hussein, son of Nebuchadnezzar, to glorify Iraq".
These bricks became sought after as collectors' items after Hussein's downfall. When the Gulf War ended, Hussein wanted to build a modern palace called Saddam Hill over some of the old ruins, in the pyramidal style of a ziggurat. Inhe intended the construction of a cable car line over Babylon, but plans were halted by the invasion of Iraq.
Following the invasion of Iraqthe area around Babylon came under the control of US troops, before being handed over to Polish forces in September Conway of the I Marine Expeditionary Force were criticized for building the military base "Camp Alpha", with a helipad and other facilities on ancient Babylonian ruins during the Iraq War.
US forces have occupied the site for some time and have caused irreparable damage to the archaeological record. John Curtis described how parts of the archaeological site were levelled to create a landing area for helicopters, and parking lots for heavy vehicles.
Curtis wrote of the occupation forces:. They caused substantial damage to the Ishtar Gate, one of the most famous monuments from antiquity [ A US Military spokesman claimed that engineering operations were discussed with the "head of the Babylon museum". In AprilColonel John Coleman, former Chief of Staff for the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, offered to issue an apology for the damage done by military personnel under his command.
However, he also claimed that the US presence had deterred far greater damage by other looters.
Two museums and a library, containing replicas of artifacts and local maps and reports, were raided and destroyed. In Maythe provincial government of Babil reopened the site to tourists, but not many have come as yet. An oil pipeline runs through an outer wall of the city. Before modern archaeological excavations in Mesopotamia, the appearance of Babylon was largely a mystery, and typically envisioned by Western artists as a hybrid between ancient Egyptian, classical Greek, and contemporary Ottoman culture.
Due to Babylon's historical significance as well as references to it in the Biblethe word "Babylon" in various languages has acquired a generic meaning of a large, bustling diverse city.
Just beforepressure from Aramaean immigrants from northern Syria brought administrative dislocation inside Babylon. From this period to the fall of Assyria in the late 7th century bcethere was a continual struggle between Aramaean or associated Chaldean tribesmen and the Assyrians for political control of the city.
Its citizens claimed privileges, such as exemption from forced labourcertain taxes, and imprisonment, which the Assyrians, with a similar background, were usually readier to recognize than were immigrant tribesmen. Furthermore, the citizens, grown wealthy through commerce, benefitted from an imperial power able to protect international trade but suffered economically at the hands of disruptive tribesmen.
Such circumstances made Babylon usually prefer Assyrian to Aramaean or Chaldean rule. From the 9th to the late 7th century Babylon was almost continuously under Assyrian suzerainty, usually wielded through native kings, though sometimes Assyrian kings ruled in person.
Close Assyrian involvement in Babylon began with Tiglath-pileser III - bce as a result of Chaldean tribesmen pressing into city territories, several times usurping the kingship. Disorders accompanying increasing tribal occupation finally persuaded the Assyrian monarch Sennacherib - bce that peaceful control of Babylon was impossible, and in he ordered destruction of the city.
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His son Esarhaddon - bce rescinded that policy, and, after expelling the tribesmen and returning the property of the Babylonians to them, undertook the rebuilding of the city; but the image of Marduk, removed by Sennacherib, was retained in Assyria throughout his reign, probably to prevent any potential usurper from using it to claim the kingship.
In the mid-7th century, civil war broke out between the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal and his brother who ruled in Babylonia southern Mesopotamia as sub-king. Ashurbanipal laid siege to the city, which fell to him in after famine had driven the defenders to cannibalism.
Nebuchadrezzar undertook a vast program of rebuilding and fortification in Babylon, labour gangs from many lands increasing the mixture of the population. When the Persian Achaemenian dynasty under Cyrus II attacked in bcethe capital fell almost without resistance; a legend accepted by some as historical that Cyrus achieved entry by diverting the Euphrates is unconfirmed in contemporary sources.
A revolt against Xerxes I led to destruction of its fortifications and temples and to the melting down of the golden image of Marduk. In Babylon surrendered to the Macedonian king Alexander the Greatwho confirmed its privileges and ordered the restoration of the temples.
Alexander, recognizing the commercial importance of the city, allowed its satrap to coin money and began constructing a harbour to foster trade.
In Alexander died in the palace of Nebuchadrezzar; he had planned to make Babylon his imperial capital. Article Media.
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