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The chief city of Babylonia, long the capital of the kingdom and empire that controlled the whole or a large part of the valley of the Tigris and Euphrates.In Hebrew Tradition.
This city has several names or appellatives in the native inscriptions, the chief being "Ka-dingira" and "Babu-ili" ("gate of God" or "gate of gods"), "Tintir" ("seat of life"), and "E" or "E-ki" ("House"). The Hebrew tradition groups it with "Erech, Accad, and Calneh" (Gen. x. 10), and so ascribes to it great antiquity; though it should be added that the beginnings of the city can not be historically determined. No native records give any clue to its origin. It appears to be mentioned in a historical inscription by Agu-kak-rime (about 1650
The ruins which have been identified with ancient Babylon lie about 50 miles south of the city of Bagdad and on the east bank of the Euphrates. They are located between 44° and 45° east longitude, and between 32° and 33° north latitude, and extend over five miles from north to south. The ruins consist of several distinct portions: (a) The most northerly of the ruins consists of a vast mound covering 120,000 square feet and reaching a height of 64 feet. It now bears the name of "Babil" or "El-Maglûbeh"; and near it are the remnants of a once formidable wall. Remains of hydraulic works found beneath it make probable its identification with the famous terraced or hanging gardens. Babil is now being systematically explored by an expedition sent out from Germany. (b) Near by is the mound called "Mujellibeh," identified by Rassam with a palace built by Nabopolassar and Nebuchadnezzar. (c) El-Ḳaṣr, literally, "the castle"; so called, according to the tradition of the neighboring Arabs, from having been the castle of Nebuchadnezzar. Bricks found beneath this mound bear the stamp of Nebuchadnezzar; and, as far as it has been examined, it consists of a maze of walls full of débris. It has now been ascertained through the excavations conducted by the German explorers that Ḳaṣr covers the remains of the famous palace of the great king. (d)Immediately south of El-Ḳaṣr, and practically continuous with it, are the ruins 'Amran ibn Ali, named after a Moslemsaint whose tomb is visited by pilgrims. The ruins cover the site of the great temple of E-sagila. (e) Near the village of Jumjuna are small mounds, from one of which have been taken numbers of business tablets whose inscriptions make it plain that the site was once covered with the offices of the firm of the sons of Egibi. Besides these chief ruins there are numbers of smaller ruin-groups; but their relations to each other are more or less obscure, and identification of the buildings which they mark is either doubtful or wholly lacking. This mound is now being explored by the expedition undertaken by German scientists.Classical Descriptions.
Herodotus (i. 178-187) has described the city with a wealth of detail. He says it formed a vast square 480 stades (55¼ miles) in circumference. Around about the city was a moat filled with running water, and beyond this was a wall built like a rampart, 200 cubits high and 50 broad, the top of which was made into a great street, lined with chambers, and broad enough for a four-horse chariot to turn upon it. In the city were fine streets lined with houses three and four stories in height. The main building was the temple of Belov Marduk, constructed in tower-like form, with a winding ascent on the exterior. There is no mention of the hanging gardens. The description given by Ctesias (quoted by Diodorus Siculus, 2, 7 et seq.) differs considerably from that furnished by Herodotus. According to Ctesias, the circuit of the city was 360 stades (about 41⅓ miles), and the other dimensions were generally smaller than those given by Herodotus. He describes the hanging gardens as being square in construction and of sufficient size to support full-grown trees.Native Descriptions.
The best Babylonian description of the city now extant was written by order of Nebuchadnezzar, the greatest patron of the city. This narrative of the great works of construction and of repair gives a picture of the whole city in his day. It agrees in the main with Herodotus, and seems to support somewhat the contention that he had a first-hand acquaintance with the city. The account of Ctesias is not quite in accord with the Babylonian description, which makes no mention at all of the hanging gardens. It is therefore probable that Ctesias is in error, and that they were erected by some Assyrian king. For the history of Babylon, see Babylonia.In the Old Testament.
The city of Babylon fills a large place in the literature and life of the Hebrew people. It is true that in the literature it is not always possible to distinguish between the city of Babylon and the country of Babylonia, for the same word (
- For the history of the city see bibliography under Babylonia. The ruins are briefly described, and an account of their exploration is given, in Robert W. Rogers, History of Babylonia and Assyria, i., New York, 1900. Fuller accounts of the present state of the ruins are to be found in John P. Peters, Nippur, New York, 1897;
- Eduard Sachau, Am Euphrat und Tigris, Leipsic, 1900. The topography of the city is thoroughly discussed in the article Babylon by Baumstark, in Pauly-Wissowa, Real-Encyclopädie der Classischen Altertumswissenschaft, ii., 1896, with which may be compared the monograph on Babylon by Delitzsch, published as one of the Mittheilungen of the Deutsche Orient. Gesellschaft;
- the various other Mittheilungen of this Society;
- and also Jastrow, The Temple and Palace of Nebuchadnezzar, in Harper's Magazine, April, 1902.
Darius Hystaspes captured the city of Babylon in 516
Xerxes is said to have either plundered or destroyed the temple of Belus, and Alexander the Great labored in vain to restore it; in connection with this, reference is made to his Jewish soldiers (see Babylonia,
- Neubauer, Géographie du Talmud, p. 344;
- Böttger, Lexicon zu Josephus Flavius, p. 48;
- Ritter, Erdkunde, xi. 865;
- I. Halevy, Dorot ha-Rishonim, iii. 102-106; ii. 544, 545, who tries to show that in Talmud Babel is identical with Bagdad.