Interesting facts about Babylon

Posted on Mar 12, 2022      442

The city of Babylon was in ancient Mesopotamia. It was founded, according to researchers, no later than the 3rd millennium BC, but at the beginning of our era it declined and was destroyed. From present-day Baghdad, the capital of Iraq, Babylon was about 90 km. Babylon was a real megalopolis of its time; at its peak, its population reached 200,000 people. Even by modern standards, this is not a small town.

The area occupied by the city also boggled the imagination of the inhabitants of the ancient world. According to Herodotus, Babylon spread out on the banks of the Euphrates, had the shape of a huge quadrilateral, each side of which had a length of 22 kilometers. If this is true, its total area was 440 square kilometers. 

The most famous ruler of Babylon was King Hammurabi of the First Babylonian Dynasty. The approximate years of his reign were 1793-1750 B.C. Hammupapi’s laws are the oldest legislative code in the world. At least, of those that are now known. His laws were carved on a stone pillar over two meters high. There were several such pillars, and they were placed in different regions of the Babylonian kingdom.

Hammurabi himself believed that the laws he had established would bring “prosperity to the people forever,” and that whoever did not follow them, or even risked abolishing or changing them, would be severely punished by “the father of the gods, Anu.”

Physicians in Babylon were especially respected, but their work was difficult. For example, a doctor who misdiagnosed a patient had his hand cut off. Therefore, if a doctor understood that he could not cure a disease, he preferred not to treat it. Magical and ritual ceremonies were widely used in medicine.

The Sumerians wrote with wooden sticks on clay tablets. As long as the clay remained soft, it was easy to correct an error in the text. Only in the XIX century German philologist Grotefend could partially decipher the writing of the ancient Sumerians.

In the 4th century B.C., Babylon was conquered by Alexander the Great. The great general was preparing for a major battle, but to his surprise, Babylon surrendered without a fight. The people of Babylon sent ambassadors to Alexander, who invited him to enter the city peacefully; the people of Babylon greeted the Macedonian as a hero. Surprised by this reception, Alexander gave orders - not to plunder the city. On Alexander’s orders, some previously destroyed temples were rebuilt. Babylon was declared the capital of the Asian power of Macedon. It was in Babylon that Alexander the Great died in 323 BC.

The Hanging Gardens of Semiramis are one wonder of the ancient world. Although they are mentioned in the works of several ancient authors, several historians express doubts about their existence. There is a version that the gardens were created by the Babylonian ruler Nebuchadnezzar II for his wife named Amitis. She was born and raised in Midia, accustomed to the lush vegetation that she lacked in Babylon. So Nebuchadnezzar gave his wife such an original gift. But Queen Semiramis, whose name was given to the gardens, had ruled two centuries earlier.

The Bible mentions that the people of Babylon tried to build a tower to the sky, for which they were punished by God, who scattered them all over the world and spoke different languages, so they could not understand each other. In Mesopotamia, several tall structures were built, which were called ziggurats. Religious ceremonies were held in them and astronomical observations were made from the top of the towers. The highest ziggurat was 90 meters high. Many travelers mistook it for the ruins of the famous Tower of Babel.

The exact location of Babylon remained unknown for a long time. Large-scale excavations began only at the end of the XIX century German archaeologist and architectural historian Robert Koldewey. The first reconnaissance expedition Koldewey made here in the winter of 1897/1898. After that, he set a condition before the patrons - to finance excavations for at least five years, to pay for the work of an entire staff of archaeologists and excavators. The total budget for the work was estimated at a stupendous sum for that time - half a million marks. Even a railway track was laid to the excavation site.

The expedition lasted not for five years, as it was initially assumed, but for eighteen. It ended only in 1917, when British troops approached Baghdad. During this time, Kolvedey only three times allowed himself to go on vacation to his homeland. After the work was completed, the archaeologist was appointed Director of External Relations at the Berlin Museum.

The Babylonian numbering system was hexadecimal. That said, its echoes have survived to this day. For example, we still divide one minute into 60 seconds, and one hour into 60 minutes.