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Babylonia was a region in Mesopotamia, named after the city of Babylon, more specifically it was only during and after the consolidating reign of Hammurabi when the whole of southern Mesopotamia came to be known as "Babylonia". It was an ancient Akkadian-speaking state and cultural area centered in the city of Babylon in central-southern Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq and parts of Syria). It emerged as an Amorite-ruled state circa 1894 BCE. During the reign of Hammurabi and afterwards, Babylonia was called "the country of Akkad" (Māt Akkadī in Akkadian), a deliberate archaism in reference to the previous glory of the Akkadian Empire.
Ancient Babylonia, a remarkable civilization situated in the fertile lands of Mesopotamia, thrived for centuries along the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. It emerged as one of the most influential and enduring civilizations in the ancient world. The history of Babylonia is a tale of innovation, cultural achievements, and political prowess.
The origins of Babylonia can be traced back to the Sumerians, who settled in the region around 3500 BCE. Their advanced city-states laid the foundation for Babylonian society. The city of Babylon, with its grandeur and sophistication, eventually became the heart of Babylonia. It was under the reign of Hammurabi (1792-1750 BCE) that the Babylonian Empire reached its zenith. Hammurabi is most renowned for his legal code, the "Code of Hammurabi," one of the earliest known legal systems that set forth laws and punishments, promoting justice and social order.
Babylonian culture was marked by significant achievements in various fields. They excelled in mathematics, developing an advanced system of arithmetic and geometry. Their cuneiform writing system, etched into clay tablets, documented religious texts, legal codes, and literary works, preserving a wealth of knowledge. Astronomy was another forte, with Babylonian astronomers making precise observations of celestial objects and movements.
Throughout its history, Babylonia experienced periods of conquest and rule by different empires, including the Hittites and Kassites. However, the city of Babylon remained a cultural and commercial hub. It was during the Neo-Babylonian Empire, under Nebuchadnezzar II (605-562 BCE), that Babylonia reached a second peak of power and influence. Nebuchadnezzar II is renowned for his ambitious architectural projects, including the famed Hanging Gardens of Babylon.
The downfall of Babylonia came with the conquest of Cyrus the Great and the Achaemenid Empire in 539 BCE. Despite its decline as an independent state, the legacy of Babylonia endured through its contributions to science, law, and culture. Its code of laws, mathematical innovations, and literary achievements left an indelible mark on human history, making Babylonia a symbol of ancient wisdom and intellectual progress.
Ancient Ur is one of the most significant archaeological sites in Mesopotamia and is closely associated with the beginnings of civilization. Located in the southern part of Mesopotamia, near the Euphrates River, it was established as a Sumerian city-state in the late fourth millennium BCE, making it one of the world's earliest urban centers. Read more
Founded in the late 4th millennium BCE, around 3500 BCE, Uruk is famously associated with the legendary figure Gilgamesh, a king of Uruk who is the protagonist of the "Epic of Gilgamesh," one of the earliest known works of literature. Uruk was known for its monumental architecture, including ziggurats (stepped pyramids) that served as temples to the city's deities. Read more
As one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in ancient Mesopotamia, Nippur was strategically located near the Euphrates River, contributing to its role as a trade and economic hub. It was an essential center for the exchange of goods and culture between southern and northern Mesopotamia. It was abandoned around the 9th century CE, and buried over time. Read more
The Lion of Babylon is an ancient emblem of Babylonian royalty, symbolizing the King of Babylon. This representation is inspired by the Mesopotamian lion, also known as the Asiatic Lion, which once inhabited the region.
There are indications that some of these lions may have been raised in captivity. Ashurnasirpal II, in an inscription where he proudly boasts about his menagerie, declared: "With my fierce heart I captured 15 lions from the mountains and forests. I took away 50 lion cubs. I herded them into Kalhu (Nimrud) and the palaces of my land into cages. I bred their cubs in great numbers".
It was originally a small Akkadian town, but it rose to prominence during the reign of Hammurabi (1792-1750 BCE). The city boasted grand structures, including the towering ziggurat known as Etemenanki, believed by some to be the inspiration for the biblical Tower of Babel. Its cuneiform writing system, etched onto clay tablets, preserved an array of texts, including religious literature, astronomical observations, and legal documents. Read more
The Ishtar Gate, named after a Mesopotamian goddess of love and war, was one of eight gateways that provided entry to the inner city of Babylon during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar II (reigned 605-562 BCE). It was decorated with glazed blue bricks, thought to be lapis lazuli, that depicted alternating rows of bulls and dragons. The beasts are furnished in yellow and brown tiles, while the bricks surrounding them are blue. The gates measured more than 11.5 meters in height. Through the gatehouse ran a stone- and brick-paved avenue, called the Processional Way, that has been traced over a length of more than half a mile.
The Great Ziggurat of Ur, dating back to the Sumerian civilization of the twenty first century BCE, during the reign of King Ur-Nammu, is one of the most iconic architectural structures of ancient Mesopotamia. The ziggurate, made of sun-dried bricks, was dedicated to the moon god Nanna (or Sin in Akkadian), who was a significant deity in the Sumerian pantheon. Read more
The Processional Street of Babylon, also known as the "Procession Way" or "Street of Processions," was a grand and ceremonial road in the ancient city of Babylon, located in modern-day Iraq. The grand thoroughfare extended for approximately 600 meters from the Ishtar Gate to the Esagila, the main temple dedicated to Marduk. Read more
The White Temple is estimated to have been built around 3200-3000 BCE during the Early Dynastic Period of Mesopotamia. It is one of the earliest known ziggurat-temples and represents the architectural and religious innovations of its time. It served as a shrine dedicated to the Sumerian god Anu, the sky god, and may have also been associated with the goddess Inanna (Ishtar). Read more
The reconstructed ruins of ancient Babylon, also known as the "Babel". The world’s first-known civil code was written here; Alexander the Great is believed to have died here; countless biblical stories take place here.
During Saddam Hussein's era, there were efforts to reconstruct and restore some of the ancient remains of Babylon, the iconic city in Iraq. These reconstruction projects were undertaken with the aim of showcasing Iraq's historical and cultural heritage. During this, various structures were reconstructed and renovated, such as a replica of Ishtar Gate, parts of Nebuchadnezzar's palace, and the Southern Palace.
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