Processional Street

The Processional Way, which has been traced to a length of over half a mile, extended north from the Ishtar Gate and was designed with brick relief images of lions, the symbol of the goddess Ishtar (also known as Inanna) the war goddess, the dragon of Marduk, the lord of the gods, and the bull of Adad, the storm god.

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circa 575 BCE

Through the Ishtar gate ran the Processional Street, which was lined with walls showing about 120 lions, bulls, dragons, and flowers on enameled yellow and black glazed bricks, symbolizing the goddess Ishtar. Friezes with sixty ferocious Babylonian lions representing Ishtar decorated each side of the Processional Way, designed with variations in the color of the fur and the manes. The Processional Way was paved with large stone pieces set in a bed of bitumen and was up to 66 feet wide at some points.

circa 575 BCE

After the glaze firing, the bricks were assembled, leaving narrow horizontal seams from one to six millimeters. The seams were then sealed with a naturally occurring black viscous substance called bitumen, like modern asphalt. The Processional Street and the Ishtar Gate were only one small part of the design of ancient Babylon that also included the palace, temples, an inner fortress, walls, gardens, and other gates. The lavish city was decorated with over 15 million baked bricks, according to estimates.

circa 575 BCE

Worshipped as the Mistress of Heaven, Ishtar represented the power of sexual attraction and was thought to be savage and determined. Symbolized by the star and her sacred animal, the lion, she was also the goddess of war and the protector of ruling dynasties and their armies. The idea of protection of the city is further incorporated into this gateway design by the use of crenelated buttresses along both sides to this entrance into the city.

Notable Structures

circa 575 BCE

The reconstructed Ishtar Gate in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin. The external facade features two columns and five rows of depicted animals on two seperate panels on each side of the entrance portal. Rows on both panels from top to bottom depict aurochs, mušḫuššus, aurochs, mušḫuššus, aurochs respectively. The front of the gate has a low-relief sculpted design with a repeated pattern of images of two of the major gods of the Babylonian pantheon. This is only the top (nearly) half of the outer most gate (illustration).

circa 575 BCE

Today only the lower parts of the Ishtar Gate remain in-situ at the site of ancient Babylonian city, known today as Babil. The gate depicted only gods and goddesses with alternating rows of bas-relief mušḫuššu (dragons), aurochs (bulls), and lions, symbolizing the gods Marduk, Adad, and Ishtar respectively. Total length of the ancient gate is about 45 meters from north-south. Parts of the Ishtar Gate and lions from the Processional Way are in various other museums around the world.

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